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The Life and Times

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Growing up, I was close to my mother than my father. When said father is a researcher in a field highly sought after, making time to see your family is difficult. As far as I can remember he wasn’t there constantly in my childhood. He worked for a private company in Parum. So getting time off to see Mom and I at our home in G-Colony was rare. It started off with physical visits on the holidays and birthdays. But it quickly turned into phone calls, then nothing at all.

The loneliness and disappointment I had in him soon turned to anger.

I grew to despise him. I grew to hate the field he worked in. Mom saw that I stopped anticipating his visits, probably sooner than she expected. Her goal had always been to have me think differently. I didn’t understand why he wasn’t home with us. ‘I’d understand when I get older.’

She hoped that with an outlet for my frustrations, I would change my mind. All this was why I started to play the piano. I don’t know if it was my actually channeling those emotions or my sheer determination to be good at something was my driving force but I picked up playing quickly. It became something I could use to escape from my peers. Being a Human with blue hair on top of my lack of social skills thanks to Dad was the subject of being teased a lot. I could have said something to Mom, but I didn’t want to worry her. Being young didn’t stop me from noticing how hard it was for Mom to keep our family together. I didn’t want to make her even more upset with my issues on top of it. A part of me blamed Dad for all of this. If he was here I would be more well rounded. He should be the one responsible for what he’s done.

Thinking on it now, that was a stupid way of thinking. Issues with Dad aside, I should have stood up for myself.

I didn’t have a lot of friends growing up. Said teasing combined with my social skills and the time spent on my piano hobby didn’t leave me a lot of time to be around others my age.

The friends I did manage to have, I learned so much from then.

Kiri and I met during the middle of our time in junior high. She wasn’t popular. Being around me tends to bring down that popularity. But she had the kind of personality that brought people together. I was a work in progress, but her natural charisma helped me to at least know how to be around others. At the very least a lot of our schoolmates had a more positive view of me. I even think she started to help me think positive about my own self.

By having me grow my hair.

“Your facial expressions seem softer with long hair.” she reasoned.

I was surprised at her answer. Did I really have such a harsh expression? I only kept my hair short out of habit that bullies tend to yank on my hair to see if it was naturally blue.

When you have some Newman genes in you, it can happen.

Anyway, I kept her suggestion in mind. I only a young teen at the time so I didn’t take it fully to heart what she was saying then. Mom was ecstatic when she learned I made a friend. She was perceptive than my younger self first thought. But I shouldn’t be surprised, she is a mom. When I older, she told me that she had a small feeling that I was dealing with things.

But she was never worried.

“I had faith that you would find your own answers. Even if you don’t want to hear this, you have your father’s determination.”

Chapter Text

Before high school, I had always gone by the last name “Satomora-Tusakanova”. Mom decided I was old enough to make a decision about what last name I wanted to go by from here on out. Almost no thought went into my decision to go by Mom’s maiden name, Satomora. I was getting older and the feelings towards my dad didn’t change. Some might say it had grown by that point.

But Mom still believed that I would change my mind.

Her being patient about my feelings for Dad wasn’t an excuse to let me say whatever I wanted to say about him.

I remember that I had said something really spiteful about him. She scolded me for so long about that while giving me this look of disappointment. Disappointment and I think sadness. Mom’s a stern person when she needs to be, but never to the point that she was when talking with me about Dad. I couldn’t get out of my mind that look on her face. It broke my heart to see her like this. To have her speak like this to me.

Mom really loved Dad, I realized.

I hadn’t truly considered her feelings on Dad’s rare visits. Having recognize the feelings myself, I understand why she looked at me like that. I was constantly reminding her of a love she couldn’t be around as much. The two had been for each other for a long time, and the young me certainly wasn’t make it easy for her.

If I could go back to that moment, I would have least apologized for my behavior.

A huge misconception about me, I didn’t first started to feel love thanks to Hyuga. Not one bit.

It was someone else entirely. He was a senior while I was junior in high school. I was his substitute during the piano performances of our school’s band. The time I spent with him working on performances together brought these feelings. He was the first guy that I spent time with and he didn’t feel apprehensive towards me. His presence and intellect radiated in my otherwise dim life. I think I fell in love with that, more than the person himself.

I had considered confessing before he graduated.

It would be a hopeless endeavor.

I learned that he was in an arranged marriage before I could plan a confession. I knew there were deeply traditional families that still practiced arranged marriages. Mainly in Neudaiz. I just didn’t think I would have feelings for the one guy whose family still did arrange marriages.

Maybe it was that incident that made me think that love just wasn’t for me?

I was bothered by the fact I couldn’t act on those feelings. It bothered me that the bonds I tried to make that wasn’t my mom were easily broken. I hadn’t spoken to Kiri since she went to school in Parum and now this. I cried over the frustration of it all. I thought then that it was sign I was truly meant to be alone. It was also that incident that brought Mom and I to a closer bond.

I knew she still believed that our family will eventually work.

But she was more considerate of my feelings too.

She didn’t mention Dad as much with me. Something I was grateful for. I took the incident as a sign to get stronger emotionally. Which I think I did.

Maybe to a fault.

I had refused to have any sort of attraction towards anyone that expressing it was troubling. I would even have problems recognizing it. I felt that I didn’t need anyone like that in my life. As long as I had Mom to talk to, I think I could make it out alright.

Fate can be so cruel.

I think about the day Mom died a lot. Even more so now that I have grown as much as I did. So many “What ifs?” ran through my head.

What if we weren’t in Parum when the Seed fell?

What if I wasn’t trying to find Mom that day?

What if we didn’t get confronted by the Seed while trying to escape?

You know I love you deeply right?”

Of course I do Mom.”

Please, forgive Shion. He did what he had to protect us. To protect you. So for my sake, please forgive him.”

Some part of me knew then it was going to be the last time I looked at her with such life in her eyes. The details after that was a bit hazy for me. I remember seeing so much blood. I remember feeling it all on me. Mom’s blood covered me. Watching her body be disregarded so carelessly by the Seed-form.

This woman sacrificed her life for me.

She died to make sure I lived.

Something broke within me in that moment. If it wasn’t for Hildegarde, I think I might had ended up like Mom too. Hildegarde’s a Beast within the Guardians. As the story went, she found me huddled over Mom’s body in shock over what happened and took me to the hospital. She was the constant visitor I had during my hospital stay.

Physically I was okay, only a few scrapes from when Mom shoved me to the ground.

Emotionally...that was something different entirely.

The doctors felt that I was too emotionally unstable to leave so soon. Witnessing the results of a Seed invasion, seeing my mom die to protect me. They were right. As I spent those hospital nights to myself, I knew that there was something wrong with me. Like, there was something empty inside me. I had passed if off as just me coming to terms with Mom’s death.

Hildegarde, rather Hilde as she liked to be called, helped me through the grieving. She would tell me things about the Guardians, like her duty and her missions. At least the ones she could talk about. I learned she had a CAST husband within the AMF. I didn’t talk to her much during the first few days, mainly I was trying to cope with that fact that Mom was gone. I don’t think I was using Hilde as a replacement for her. But her presence was welcomed during this period of time in my life.

Just because I was accepting Mom’s death, didn’t mean I was completely forgiving.

It was about a week later that Dad visited me at the hospital. Back then, I was still angry and blamed him for the reason this situation had happened. In reality, the long wait was because the hospital was simply overwhelmed with Seed attacks and it took longer to make contact with family. My shock probably didn’t help matters either. Seeing Dad flooded all those emotions back in me. All the rage and guilt I felt overflowed into me.

I hate you Shion! I hate that I’m related to you!”

I don’t ever remember seeing Dad looked so dejected at my words.

Ami, I-”

If you weren’t focused on your job and just visited us in G-Colony Mom would still be here. I don’t want to have anything to do with you anymore.”

Ami, you know I can’t let you do that. I’m the only one that can take care of you.”

Ha, right. Like you’ve been doing for the past ten years? Just make me legally independent so you can actually have an excuse to not be involved in my life.”

One thing, Hildegarde slaps pretty hard.

Silence Ami, you don’t ever talk to your father like that.”

You don’t understand Hilde, he-”

He wasn’t there, so what? That’s in the past. If he’s willing to make amends now, then at least hear him out. How would your mother think if she saw you like this?”

Something had clicked within me that moment. I thought about Mom in that moment, remembering that disappointed look when I talked about Dad that time. I didn’t want that feeling on my conscience. More than my personal feelings, I didn’t want to disappoint her.

Mom...she asked that I forgive you. I can’t do it right now...but for her sake I can at least try.”

There we go Ami. At least try. I know you feel guilty about not being able to protect her, maybe you should become stronger. You should enroll in the Guardians.”

I was shocked at Hildegarde’s suggestion. The Guardians? Living in the G-Colony, Guardians wasn’t something new with me. But to actually consider joining them? Especially since with the Seed now, I knew they were going to be one of the main aids in fighting against them. I didn’t think I had what to takes to actually go through it. Hilde must have saw my apprehension and just wanted me to think about it.

I kept thinking about it.

Mom’s funeral was a quiet affair. They did have a big service for those who lost their lives on Parum due to the attack, but Dad and I figured we needed a private time to mourn for her too. I was still pretty mad over Dad and I think he understood that. He didn’t try to insert himself so deeply into a bond. Mourning makes you think about of lot of things. Even though I was still angry at him, a little piece of me was grateful that he worked as hard as he did. I don’t think Mom and I would be able to live the way we did if it wasn’t for his work.

But I was still mad at him.

It came up as a topic about living arrangements. Dad still had a contract with the private firm he was working with, but Mom and I had a home in G-Colony. We took a visit there to clean out Mom’s stuff. I think it got to him how much he missed. Seeing a lot of things that showed how close Mom and I was. I think he understood a bit of my bitterness towards him.

I didn’t know you play piano.”

Mom got me to start playing when I was seven. It was the most feminine thing I could tolerate and she thought it would help me in regards to you.”

It was an awkward silence between us for a long while after that. I wasn’t sure what the exact moment was, but it was then we both realized our faults. I shouldn’t have shouldered all the blame on him. When I was older I could have made time out to talk to him as well. We were both somewhat at fault for the state of our relationship. It was a shame it took the death of Mom to realize that. It was then I knew I had to take Mom’s request seriously.

So we packed up everything and I moved to Parum with Dad.

Now that we were working on our relationship, my future was on my mind. I had started to consider Hildegarde’s suggestion for the Guardians very seriously. I did want to get stronger. Just so that no one had to sacrifice themselves for me like Mom. It was tempting to see how much stronger I can get. But it meant signing away my normal life. It would mean signing away my chance to become a professional musician. Before the Seed, I had an application to go to the performing arts school stationed in Neudaiz. Said to be one of the best in Gurhal. I didn’t think I was that good, but I was given one by my band leader.

The thought to just go to a local university in Parum popped up too, but I wouldn’t know what to study there.

The more I lingered on my choice, the more that signing up with the Guardians was more assured. It only took a few weeks for me to finally decide on it. When I told Dad, he seemed pretty okay with it. Too okay, in my opinion. Even though he signed the consent forms for me to join, he knew the seriousness of it. He basically gave the okay for me to a profession in which I could quite possibly die.

Chances being even higher now that the Seed threat was real.

To be honest, I was scared. Considering who I was, joining the Guardians was the most opposite thing I could do. I was a bit rough, but never a fighting person. Some would call it spur of the moment.

But Hildegarde was right. I needed to be stronger.

I wondered how much stronger the Guardians would make me.

Arriving back at the G-Colony was bittersweet for me. It really wasn’t that long since I moved out to Parum, so the memories was still fresh. I didn’t harp too much on it before going to the Headquarters there. Once I got there, second thoughts were coming in.

Was I really making the right choice?

There were no guarantees that I would even pass the training academy. I wasn’t oblivious that a lot of the new trainees were being sent to the Mobile Defense unit. There was a real possibility that I would be out in the front lines and I wasn’t sure if I was mentally ready for that. The panic of the Seed being a permanent threat was real.

But there was a scene that spurned me on.

I watched as the two talked. About how the older one said that he keeps fighting as a Guardian to make sure the younger one can live her life freely, without the threat of the Seed. I wasn’t sure if the younger one fully understood the older’s words. But I did.

Of course, the two talking were Ethan and Lumia Waber. I just didn’t know it yet.

But hearing his words brought a realization to me. The hidden reason why I wanted to be a Guardian. It was more than me wanting to be stronger, more than me feeling guilty over Mom’s death. I wanted to protect Gurhal. I wanted to make sure there were no more casualties like with Mom. If I have the power to make that a reality, then I should take advantage of that.

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t scared.

No one wanted to die.

I signed all the forms and turned it into Mina, a receptionist of the Guardians. She’s a kind person. At least that’s the impression I got from her. I knew the road from here on was going to be tough. There were going to be times in which I would question myself.

But I had to do this.

No. I wanted to do this.

For Mom. For Dad.

For Gurhal.

Ami Satomora, welcome to the Guardians.”

Chapter Text

I began my training not too long before the initial attack on the Hive. The Guardians Academy was more like a military academy. There were educational courses on top of combat training. There were a lot of people in my general age group who were coming in like me. I didn’t believe the reports that there was an increase of people becoming Guardians.

Not until then.

We all had one goal in mind, defeat the Seed threat. The training was only three months, but those months were some of the toughest I’ve faced so far. I literally had no training, much less had the thought of ever using a weapon. The training was hard and sometimes merciless. They wanted to make sure we were prepared for the Seed. As much as we could be at any rate.

I could recall the callouses forming from constantly holding the weapons.

The bruises from doing hand to hand combat.

The times I went back to my bed exhausted from the day’s activities.

I would be lying if I said I had thoughts of giving up. I had plenty of them. I questioned at times was this all really worth it. But I couldn’t give up. I may not actively go out of my way to do things, but I would never quit on them.

Some would call that being stubborn.

Dad's encouragement was a high point in my training. It was ironic that now that I was away we became closer. He and I would talk during my time off and I wasn't tired. Our conversations would often go to Mom. I would talk about the times at home while he would talk about being with her before I was born. I learned so much about her that I didn't think I would.

I learned Mom was a strong person.

I only hoped to be as strong as her someday.

After training, I was picked up my Mobile Defense. Training had made me realize my ability to adapt into nearly any role. My first offer was to Weapons Research and Development. I started to show some quick understanding of photons and how they work with weapons. Something that was well liked there, their goal being to develop weapons to combat the Seed and all.

I think who I was related to was a factor as well.

Even though Dad and I were getting along, I didn't want to fall into the same position as him. So I declined the offer. Soon I was swept up to Mobile Defense. Dad was a bit uneasy when he learned I was in that department. I would be out there in the field. He did ultimately support me going into Mobile Defense.

While I was in the academy, there was a rumor of a trainee before us in Mobile Defense. Skilled with the saber, to win a tournament. But he was a bit of a flirt.

To be honest, I thought he might have been a male escort at some point.

I didn't expect that the very person would be my orientation instructor. Hyuga Ryght is a very pretty person. Well...'handsome' or 'attractive' would have been a better term, but at the time I thought he was pretty. There was something about his attitude that put me at ease. If a lot of the Guardians I worked with could be this easy to get along with I think I would be fine.

“I can't have you having that mindset. How about one day, if we're both not busy I'll take you to experience Club Commune?”

Until then of course.

Training had gotten me to break out of my shell with other people. But guys were still a trouble spot for me. I knew he was just asking as a colleague, not meant to be looked into. But I couldn't help it. No guy has ever asked me to go anywhere with them before. I didn't say yes right away. This wasn't the me I wanted people to know.

I knew that there was more to me than that.

Once I became a Guardian, when I become the me worth knowing, then I'll gladly go.

Chapter Text

Before I began my field training, I was chosen to be a part of a project for GRM. It was simple, take one of their newest CAST models through basic training. Why would they choose a new graduate of the academy when there's plenty of Guardians to choose from, I don't know. I wasn't in the position to ask why. But if I were to take a guess, it was my combat skills.

Or mainly that I was a quiet person who was the least likely to jeopardize the project.

Though I wondered why they required a full physical before we started. Even taking samples of my blood.

It was more than running through combat simulations I found out. I would also be asked questions by the Cast and answer them the best I could. My interactions with it would have some influence of their personality.

Vivienne was a peculiar Cast. She wasn't created with the CAST supremacy ideas I heard some CASTs have. I remember hearing from Hilde how hard it was for her husband to be in the Alliance Military at times because he's a Cast who married a Beast. I think with Vivienne having so much contact with Humans from the start, those ideas didn't stick.

She was basically a child.

A child that looked about my age, but a child nonetheless.

When we first started, she asked me the simplest of questions. Like what race I was. Then, as she “evolved” her questions would get more personal, like what are my hobbies. Sometimes she would ask me combat based questions. It was never to a point I felt too uncomfortable to answer. She was an inquisitive person, but just didn't know how to go about asking these kinds of questions. I was glad that she didn't have the depth to ask the really personal questions. I wasn't sure if I was ready to discuss my life in that respect.

“What should I call you?”

“Call me?”

“A title or something of that nature.”

“Oh! Ami is just fine.”

“Calling someone by their first name is intimate, is it not?”

“It can be depending on the situation. But I was never one for titles, my first name is easy to remember as it is.”

“If you are sure, Ami.”

“I am. Thank you for asking though Vivi.”

“Vivi?”

“A nickname for you. We're friends now right?”

Seeing Vivi smile like that made me smile. I saw a bit of my younger self in her. Not sure how to go about talking to people. I wonder if this is how Kiri felt when we first became friends? If I could become someone for Vivi to talk comfortably around like Kiri was to me, then I think I'd feel good. She was one of the first friends I had since I decided to become a Guardian.

I received my first reminder that being a Guardian can be a path filled with partings.

Learning that Vivienne would have her memory wiped was hard to take in. We were friends, and she would forget that. Even if it was a short time together. I was glad that Vivi cared enough to object to it. She cherished our friendship as much as I did. Maybe even more.

Despite how much I hated this, I knew it had to be done.

Her memory being wiped was better than the alternative.

It hurt my heart that I understood why so easily. She was ultimately GRM's property. I had no right to tell them what to do with their own CASTs, unless it was illegal. They couldn't risk our bond being a hindrance to whatever they decide for her to do. A hindrance that could lose clients. GRM is a company first and foremost.

I never doubted for a moment that they could deactivate her.

Memories are nothing to losing an existence.

The researchers aren't complete monsters and let us run the simulation one last time. “For memories sake.” they said.

“Why did you agree Ami?”

“If I could, I would fight against it. But I'm just a graduate who hasn't even gotten her Guardians license. I'm powerless against them.”

“But I'll forget all of this! And you!”

“I'll remember though. And somewhere deep in your personality, you will too. You won't remember me or all of this exactly, but you'll remember these feelings.”

“Ami...”

“Just promise me, you'll stay you.”

Vivi seemed to understand what I was saying. I hope she did. We finished the simulation and said our goodbyes. Vivi gave me a gift that day, a replica of the double saber she always used. I cherished it.

Oddly enough I didn't cry when we said goodbye. I had a feeling I shouldn't.

“If, however, some miracle were to occur and Vivienne were to remember you...That would be something completely out of your control, and ours.”

I kept the researcher's words in my mind. Could a bond be strong enough to invoke such a miracle? I'd like to believe that.

I just knew it was another reason for me to become stronger.

Chapter Text

I wasn't given much information about my field instructor. Other than she was a female Beast and was the best fit for my potential. I was a little nervous, to be honest. I encountered very few Beasts other than Hilde and the ones I came across during my time at the academy. I didn't want to make a bad impression on the person who will decide when I get my license. I would be spending the next three months out on the field with them so I hoped that I could at least get along with them. The day after my orientation, I would meet them at Headquarters.

I was a little bit disappointed when I found out that Hyuga wasn't my instructor.

Though, if he was, I wondered if I really learned anything under him…

Anyway I was warned that my instructor was strict. What I wasn't expecting as for her attitude to be so unforgiving.

“You must be Ami Satomora...not a good idea to leave someone waiting.”

“Wait, what? I know I'm not late. And who are you anyway?”

“The academy didn't tell you who I am? They probably didn't want to scare you off. Laia Martinez, your field instructor.”

Laia was really one of the toughest instructors you can have. Only a few years older than me. But she was already such an established Guardian. Based on our first meeting, I wasn't too confident in our ability to get along. I don't take too well to harsh methods and I had a strong feeling her methods would fall into being harsh.

I learned right away that it was best to let her get her moods out of her system. Since I didn't want to be subjected to it.

Our first mission was to Neudaiz. The goal was to find and investigate possible plants infected with the Seed. The area had a low creature count, perfect for a newbie. Once we got formally started, I was in awe of Laia. She's a very strong woman. I know some of it was due to her Beast genetics but also her own training. Seeing her wield an ax so effortlessly was inspiring to someone who's trying to be a physical heavy Guardian. 

I learned that missions can never really be that simple. During our way to the Guardians base, we encountered a female Newman. Judging by her garb and mask, she was a Communion of Gurhal member. She was quiet, even quieter than me. Laia figured that her being unconscious when we found her was the cause. She decided it would be easier if we just took her with us to the base instead of going back to the flyer base.

Laia showed her ability to adapt and make decisions based on missions changes.

Maybe I was judging her too critically?

I would have think about it later. My first encounter with a Zoal Goug came as the three of us was nearly at the base. To say I was nervous about fighting it was an understatement, I was petrified. Sure I've read about them while at the academy. But that was completely different from meeting one in the flesh. The thought of the size difference was enough to overwhelm my mind. I would have to put my nerves aside, since we had a civilian to protect. Laia was surprised that my weapon of choice was twin daggers.

Honestly, I was drawn to them because the photon arts for them was really pretty to see like a dance.

It's hard to explain, but once I learned how to use weapons, something takes over me. It was like I could express myself more freely this way. Even sometimes having fun fighting. It still surprised me that I was capable of pulling off some of the actions I was doing. Maybe I found an outlet to take out my stress.

The battle took until nightfall. Mainly due to the fact our enemy was way larger than us. Laia seemed impressed at me. I must have looked a mess, out of breath and exhausted, but still she smirked at me.

Missions never really go the way you wanted them to.

The newman we were escorting disappeared. This mission was the first time I encountered rogues as well. They had took her while we were busy fighting the Goug. Despite their foolish appearance, they were still rogues and we had to be careful.

Especially when they set up traps to try and slow us down.

Which worked. Unfortunately.

Laia's very aggressive towards rogues. So when we finally caught up with them, she was ready to fight. Even prepared to kill them.

I knew once I started my training to be a Guardian that I would eventually have to kill people. I wasn't expecting it to be my first field mission. I was still a little traumatized by Mom's death, so seeing a body I think wasn't going to go over well with me. But I knew it was necessary.

“Please stop!”

We turned towards the source of the voice. And we were both shocked. We were face to face with the one who helped destroy the Hive. Working with the rogues.

Right in front of us was the Hero of the Seed Invasion, Ethan Waber.

I could see Laia become tense at seeing him. He was wanted for attempted murder of our President of the Guardians.

Everything happened so fast. I don't even remember how another rogue came in before the fight happened. My first mission as a trainee was certainly an eventful one. I didn't think that I would guard a civilian, face a huge dragon, meet rogues and fight against a former Guardian.

Some say that when you clash weapons with someone, you can feel of their spirit. From that moment my twin daggers touched Ethan's sword, I felt I could trust him. I think he was here out of circumstance, rather than having a malicious intent. He had to fight us, but he still had his morals. He could see that I was just a trainee. Almost anyone can see that. But if he was as bad as Laia made him out to be, he would have used this knowledge to his advantage. I think if he used his full strength, my Guardian career would have been over before it actually started.

“Just give it up Ethan.”

“I can't! Not yet!”

“Ethan, just go!”

“But...”

“It's not worth it anymore.”

Who was this newman woman? She knew Ethan and had such an influence over his actions. Laia wanted to know too. But the woman wouldn't talk. The stress of the events were making her exhausted it seems. Laia decided our best course was to bring her back to the Communion. We could have easily kept her in for questioning since she knew a wanted man. But Laia didn't push for it.

'Sometimes it's easier to find out ourselves.' she told me.

“Satomora correct?”

“Yes ma'am.”

“'Laia' is just fine. You did pretty well out there. You're becoming a twin daggers specialist?”

“It's my intention.”

“A suggestion? Cut your hair. It gets in the way of your photon arts. The added weight slows you down, something a twin dagger specialist doesn't need.”

I hadn't considered cutting my hair since Kiri told me I looked nicer with it. I always kept them in braids or low ponytails to make it easier on myself. In some way, I had been looking for a way to drastically change my appearance.

Maybe a haircut was the answer?

Light Master Rutsu was very grateful once we returned the woman to him. He was just as grand and regal in person than I imagined. Only having seeing him on the screens or in pictures, I was a bit starstruck.

My mom was a follower of the Communion of Gurhal, so we would watch a lot of the services.

I wasn't a big of a follower as Mom was, but I held to the core beliefs they had.

So you can believe the absolute shock I had when it was revealed that the woman we brought back was the Divine Maiden herself. But this revelation brought some questions.

Why was she disguised?

Why was she out there?

How did she know Ethan?

These questions I didn't have an answer to. I wasn't sure if I would ever get an answer. Information was missing.

Information I think the Communion was hiding.

I would come to learn that the Communion hiding information wasn't new.

Chapter Text

It would be another few weeks before Laia and I were assigned another field mission. The down time was spent fulfilling requests with her and training. The first time we met after the Neudaiz missions, I revealed I took her suggestion seriously by cutting my hair to my shoulders. It was a lot easier than I imagined to cut. I wanted to prove to her I was serious in learning under her guidance.

She was right, I did notice I was faster in setting up my twin dagger photon arts with the shorter style.

And I felt a bit better too.

Laia would also show me more hand to hand fighting. More than what I learned in the academy. With my intention to master twin daggers and being prepared if I got disarmed, she wanted to make sure I had those skills to fall back on. Needless to say, there were times that I was exhausted from the training to get out of bed. Most times I would be sporting bruises or marks when Laia would hit a bit too hard.

“Ami? Oh my- what happened to your arm?”

“Laia was showing me how to escape from an arm hold.”

“Shouldn't you go to the medical ward?”

“Nah, it doesn't hurt as much as it looks.”

My next field training mission was in Moatoob. The goal was to find information on the missing Ethan Waber. Laia was visibly displeased about the mission. How she saw it, everyone was still giving him the same respect like he was still a Guardian. Despite the fact that he tried to kill the president and attempted to abduct the Divine Maiden. It was a bit of a relief to know that even the president was suspect of the events surrounding Ethan.

“Or denial.” Laia called it.

This time we were accompanied by Lou. Investigation was not really closely connected with Mobile Defense, but Laia felt that I needed to learn that I would be sometimes doing missions that aren't in my field.

The more versatile you are, the more likely you'll get picked up for high ranking missions.

Moatoob is the harshest planet in the Gurhal system. Not only because of the environment, but also the rogues that called the planet home. I didn't know what to expect from the planet. It would be my first visit there. Laia liked Moatoob for that exact harshness. It would bring really good experience.

Moatoob was hot. For it being in the spring, Moatoob felt like is was in the middle of summer. I started to see why Laia preferred sleeveless clothes.

This mission also marked the first time I worked with the Lou units. It's a unique experience. Talking to one conscience but over different bodies. More or less. The information she obtains gets sent to the other Lou units and select high ranked Guardians in real time. Knowing that what we do is watched by so many people can feel a bit overwhelming.

Our search in Dagora City lead us to the Kugu Desert. The information Laia strong-armed from rogues, coincidentally the ones we met on Neudaiz, led to a cave. Supposedly Alfort Tylor's base was located there. Anyway, the path is normally easy to get to. A few hostile creatures but nothing serious.

What made it serious was that we were seeing creatures not native to the planet.

I knew for a fact that Ollakas and Distovas weren't supposed to be found there.

Lou units are limited in their emotions for processing reasons, but this development worried her.

The tip ended up being a false one anyway. Or so Laia thought. We found a base and rogues. But none of them were Ethan or affiliated with Tylor. The thought we were fooled by those goofy looking rogues disappointed her. Officially the mission ended in failure.

There was still the matter with the creatures…

We went to another cave, not too far from our current location. Lou had detected a faint transmission signal coming from there. The area there was a bit more natural in terms of creatures, but the problem was there was still creature smuggling going on. It wasn't long before we reached the source of the signal.

It was a terminal.

A GRM terminal.

“The data seems to be destroyed on purpose. I'll gather what I can.”

It never ceases to amaze me to see how Casts extract data. Especially so quickly. Unfortunately we tipped off the guards with the action. We battled our way out of the cave. This mission was quickly turning into something beyond my depth as a trainee.

We escaped the caves, only to be pushed into another battle.

“Renvolt Magashi of the Endrum Collective.”

“A correction. It is now Renvolt Magashi of the Illuminus!”

We were now facing an enemy who was thought to be dead. This Cast nearly brought Gurhal to destruction thanks to the Hive. I was nearly on the edge of a panic attack. If he survived an armada attack, what chance did we three have? Even more since I wasn't even a Guardian yet.

“Pull it together Ami!”

“Laia, but...”

“We got this. Don't let me regret becoming your instructor.”

I was surprised at Laia's softness. It sounded like scolding, but that moment, she sounded reassuring to me. I found strength in her words.

Laia's a bit brash, maybe mean.

And I don't always agree on how she treated others.

But she was counting on me, I couldn't let her down.

I'll make her proud of me.

Defeating the attack machine Magashi sent out was no easy feat. By a force of our will we were able to defeat the giant machine. Unfortunately for us, Magashi escaped in the confusion of battle. It was such a shame after our initial mission was a failure too.

Though, the Illuminus seemed to be bothering Lou.

The Illuminus; a group that strive for humans to become the superior race again like centuries past. Basically Cast Supremacy for Humans.

Not much is known about them. Those that do know about them and don't agree with their views become a target.

The survival rate of these targets were low.

Why would Magashi, a Cast, join up with a group that looked down on his own race?

That and many questions invaded our thoughts as we made our way back to Headquarters. Due to the risks of knowing about the Illuminus, we were under strict orders to not say anything about them. Not even to fellow Guardians. At this point, it was safe to assume we were their newest targets.

“Ami, you did well today.”

“Praise from Laia? Did you get hit too hard back there?”

“Heh, I'm still your instructor you know.”

“Right...sorry.”

“It's cool. Anyway, considering that the mission became way out of your status as a trainee you adapted well. I think your license is in the near future. Still got to get you more confident in that combat potential.”

I was ecstatic. My goal of becoming an official Guardian was closer than I thought. Soon I'll be out there protecting Gurhal. I couldn't wait.

There was something I learned that day:

Magashi complicated matters.

My career as a Guardian was going to become a complicated road.

Chapter Text

The month leading to my license was a blur. It was, more or less, the same thing I've been doing; training under Laia while doing free missions. The training was still brutal, but Laia had gotten comfortable around me. I think she saw how I was more than a trainee who wanted to fight the Seed.

The day I finally was presented my license, Laia smiled at me.

I wondered about my first mission as a Guardian. What would I be doing? Who's going to be on that mission with me? Where?

I wondered if that Guardian I had orientation with would be ther-

Wait, why would I be thinking that?

That morning, I made my way to Headquarters as fast as I could. Laia had met me just outside the building. There was a different look in her eyes. She wasn't looking at me as a trainee, but as a fellow Guardian, an equal.

“We're no longer instructor and pupil, but fellow Guardians. You're my colleague now Ami.”

“Right, you're in this mission too?”

“I figured I'll stay around a bit longer just to see how serious now that you have your license.”

“I'll try not to let you down then.”

As the two of us got to the lobby floor of Headquarters, Mina smiled at us. She knew how happy I was to finally be an official Guardian. I gave her my license to register the mission. She gave me her congratulations, only to frown soon after.

My first mission required me to sign a Non-Disclosure Document.

To say that Laia was displeased about this development would be an understatement. She was pissed, to be frank. She saw the document as a sign of distrust. Thus she refused to sign it. I didn't care either way so I signed mines. I had to sign a similar form when I was doing the GRM mission for Vivienne so this wasn't new to me. A male butted in the middle of Laia's tirade.

I was surprised at the guy's boldness.

Interrupting Laia is nearly a death threat.

“How rude. You don't even know that I'll be accompanying you on this mission today?”

I couldn't help the shocked expression from appearing on my face as I realized who it was. It was my orientation instructor. I could already feel the blush starting to form on my cheeks.

Why in the world am I feeling like this?

"Oh, you're Hyuga Ryght, Ethan Waber's friend.”

“We're more rivals than friends, if you must know.”

“I rather not.”

Sometimes, I wondered if Laia is jealous of Ethan.

Anyway, there was something different about Hyuga. Then it hit me, he didn't greet me as if we've met before. I shouldn't have been disappointed, but I was. It had been about three to four months since we first met that one mission. And I was sporting shorter hair from the twin braids I was wearing then. Plus I was bit more lean from Laia's regime.

By all counts, it was perfectly reasonable if he didn't recognize me.

But still, I was disappointed that he didn't.

Personal feelings aside, the problem still stood that Laia refused to sign the document.

“What's wrong with you? Did you suddenly forget how to sign your own name? What example are you setting for our new Guardian by behaving like this?”

Hearing him speak like that made me wince.

I would have to remember to be serious when it came to missions around him.

“Oh it's okay Hyuga, she was my instructor.”

“That's exactly right, so mind your business.”

“That's even worse!”

If it wasn't for Fulyen Curtz, the mission would never have gotten started. He somehow got Laia to sign the form and calm down everyone. Now that everyone was cleared, he explained our mission.

We were to deactivate an A-photon generator on a Hive, aptly named Laia. This would be a joint effort from the Alliance Military and the Guardians.

The existence of more Hives were the reason why we had to sign the Non-Disclosure. It was a well kept secret from the public. If it had gotten out, there would be widespread panic. With us trying to get rid of the remaining Seed, that was something we most definitely didn't need.

The ride to the Hive was silent for the most part. The tension from the argument and apprehension of going to a Hive were the main causes. This really wasn't a great start to my first mission.

“Mind if I sit here?”

“Oh, Miss Satomora of course.”

“Please, it's just Ami. We're nearly the same age. Anyway I wanted to apologize for Laia. She's not as bad as she seems.”

“No need, so you were her pupil?”

“Yeah, actually this is my first mission since becoming a full fledged Guardian. I hope my inexperience doesn't hinder you.”

“Don't worry, it wasn't that long ago I was in the same position. I'll protect you.”

I smiled at that. I knew it was just to be polite, but it reassured me. I couldn't figure out why his words had that effect on me. The tension dropped quite a bit after that. As we got closer, he looked to be bored.

...no that's not the right word.

He looked to be deep in thought about something, like his mind was elsewhere.

Arriving at the Hive, I felt ill. This was the place the Seed thrived. The forms that killed Mom. Everything about the area just reminded me of that day. Replaying her death over and over again in my mind. Feeling her blood splash on me. My heart felt like it could beat out of my chest.

I thought I had gotten over Mom's death.

But man, Beast women really do slap stiff.

“What's wrong with you!”

“I...I...”

“I thought I taught you better to control your emotions. I don't need you spacing out and getting yourself killed.”

“Laia! Stop. Obviously something more is making her like this. Are you alright Ami?”

“Whatever, she's a Guardian now. If this has that strong of an effect then she shouldn't have become one in the first place.”

Her words broke me out of my episode. So much so I shoved Hyuga away from me. I shouldn't have been mad. I never did tell her the circumstances of me deciding to become a Guardian. But it was hard hearing that from her.

“Shut up, you don't understand.”

I noticed her eyebrows arched at my response.

“You knew what you were getting into when you signed the papers.”

“Are you serious right now Laia! I didn't think that signing up would have me be on a Hive. And you don't even know how it feels to lose a love one die because you're powerless. You don't understand me at all. If you took the time to ask me these questions then you would have known! So don't you dare tell me that I shouldn't have been a Guardian!”

My eyes widened once I realized what I said. I didn't mean for those words to come out. Well not really. For a moment, none of us said anything. But I noticed the slight glare on Laia's face. I didn't mean to make it personal.

I didn't know it then, but I struck a sore spot for Laia.

“I'm sorry, that was way out of line of me. I don't know what caused that outburst.”

“Whatever.”

“If you want, we can talk about it. We're here to support each other.”

“I rather not. At least, not right here. Anyway we should get going.”

“If you say so.”

“If you two are done flirting, then lets go. Curtz is waiting.”

“Laia!”

Despite her words, she was right. Curtz was waiting for us. I had slowed us down enough. We would have sort our personal issues later. But was then I realized what Laia said. The blush rose up then. I kept it to myself this time. We wasted enough time due to me. The time we were spending with this could have been putting the others in danger.

Fighting on a Hive is different than fighting on any of the planets. Everything feels so confined there.

Hyuga certainly earned the reputation of becoming a master saber specialist. While not aggressively strong, his movements were not wasted. Each slash was calculated for the most efficient damage. Paired up with Laia's hard hitting strikes they got a lot done. Despite their rocky meeting, their styles complimented each other.

While I was providing backup.

It wasn't a bad thing. But I knew my episode and outburst were the cause of this decision. While I was glad they were being considerate of me now, I couldn't help but feel disappointed. I felt like I was being a burden to them. I became a Guardian to get stronger.

I took two steps back instead.

We were approaching the meet up area, before our goggles detected heat signatures the room before it. The obstacle that stood in our way was a Seed-Vitace

This was it, I have to prove myself.

“Stay back, let me do this.”

“Ami, what abou-”

“I have to do this, for myself.”

“Hyuga, let her handle it.”

“Not you as well Laia.”

“She needs this for her own peace of mind. If it gets too much, we'll intervene.”

I gave a thankful glance at Laia before facing down the Seed-form. I could feel the panic trying to set into my being. Every part of my instincts were telling me to run. I couldn't though. I knew I couldn't let myself be hindered so much by my emotions. I readied my twin daggers to attack. I felt a searing pain in my body, almost unbearable. It was protesting that strongly me fighting the Seed. But soon after, the pain disappeared. I think my mind and body were agreeing on wanting to be better. I noticed the tendril coming for me, in the same way that impaled Mom that day. With my new freedom, I sidestepped the tendril and slashed it with my weapon. The attacks came in faster after that, fueled by my pent up rage towards it. I just wanted to release all these feelings inside.

What I didn't realize, was that I subconsciously adapted some moves from Hyuga into my own fighting.

I kept my attacks going, only stopping when someone held me back.

“Stop Ami.”

“I'm not done yet.”

“It's dead, you did enough.”

Soon I realized the full extent of my attacks. The Seed-Vitace was long since dead. I took a look at my twin daggers. The blood was a stark contrast to the photon blades. I looked around the Hive. There I noticed Laia standing there looking at me. Her expression was unreadable.

If Laia was looking at me then the one holding me back was…

I'm embarrassed to admit it, but I screamed at Hyuga touching me. It wasn't unpleasant. Just that it was awkward and unexpected. And I didn't want anyone to see me with so much rage. I don't think I even wanted to see that part of myself.

“If you two are done, lets go.”

“Right.”

“Are you alright now Ami?”

“Uh, yes. Kinda, at least enough to continue the mission.”

Before we reached the checkpoint, the three of us encountered a terminal. It was just like the one Laia and I saw on Moatoob. And just like that one, the data on it looked to be destroyed. It was hard to tell if this was done intentionally or as a result of the plant becoming a Hive.

“It's a GRM terminal.”

“Something wrong with that Hyuga?”

“No. Not really. The terminal being here itself isn't weird. It was an energy plant first. But from what I can gather from this data...”

He had that distracted look on his face as he spoke about the terminals. Just like on the shuttle.

Arriving at the meeting room was terrible. Bodies of fellow Guardians spread the ground. All of them dead. This was like seeing my mom's body multiplied. There wasn't any trauma coming from it. Just the overwhelming feeling of seeing so many dead bodies at once. I noticed Laia had her eyes on a Newman female.

“This one right here.”

“You knew her?”

“I trained her a long time ago. I heard she recently came back from her honeymoon too...”

Laia had contacted Curtz to give our report and to get his status. Turns out it was exactly the same over there. While they were exchanging information, my communit began to beep. The beep was constant and I was surprised by that fact. It got louder as I tried to find the source of it.

In the academy we learned what this meant.

Someone's life support was emitting a distress signal.

“Sorry to interrupt, but there's a survivor here.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah, I picked up their distress signal.”

Leogini Santosa Berafort, one of the best Guardians in Mobile Defense. He's pretty much a model Guardian that we strive for. We found him lying on the Hive floor, in a pool of his own blood. Laia rushed to him at a speed I haven't seen before.

I remembered the conversation we had with Tonnio on Neudaiz.

I wondered if she really did like him more than admiration.

“Laia? And Hyuga?”

“What happened to you?”

“Seed forms...ambushed the area. They slaughtered everyone. It's too late for me.”

“No! You're always saying that we shouldn't give up.”

“You're right.”

“Laia, I need to treat him.”

“Right, hurry up.”

Out of the three of us, I was the one who could treat him. I was part of the new graduates from the academy that was taught more advanced first-aid. I guess the higher ups were secretly trying to get us prepared for missions to the Hive.

On a Hive, or Seed infested areas, it might not be that easy to get a medical unit.

I had never seen Laia looked so worried. So for her sake I would do more than I can. It was difficult work to halt the life support so that my treatments can go through. There was only so much mates and atominizers can do to an injury that Leo has.

It wasn't perfect, but for now he was going to survive until he could get properly seen.

If it wasn't for his experience and Beast genes, he probably would have died a while ago.

“There, I did all I could. But the quicker we get him to a hospital the better his chances.”

“Hyuga, take Leo back to the ship.”

“But Lai-”

“Someone has to take him back in a timely manner. Ami and I are more than enough to rendezvous with Curtz.”

“...alright.”

“One more thing, Leo was once my instructor. If anything happens to him, I'll make you pay Hyuga.”

“Laia! That was uncalled for.”

“No, it's alright Ami. I understand, I'll take care of him.”

That confusing feeling? It was coming back in waves.

Maybe even more confusing.

I stood there watching as Hyuga helped Leo up and used himself as support. As he was was leaving to the transport a thought went through my mind:

I should have told him, “Be careful.”

Laia and I took a break. The turn of events justified one. I was about to run my hands through my hair before I remembered that I still had blood on it. Laia passed me a cloth and I took it in thanks. It was hard doing this. And this was only my first mission. I was starting to see why people didn't eagerly join Mobile Defense.

“You did good out there.”

“Thanks, it's the least I can do.”

“I thought that the academy went soft with some of their new teaching emphasis. But I dunno what I'd do if you weren't here to treat him.”

“Ah ha! So Tonnio was right!”

“S-shut up!”

We laughed. I wasn't sure if it was just a coping mechanism.

But for that moment, we were just two people.

“Laia, about my episode. It was because of my mom. She died during the attack on Parum. She pushed me out of the way of a Seed-Vitace's tendril.”

“I see, are you over it?”

“I don't think over it is a proper way to say it. But I think I can at least try to prevent others to have her fate."

The next area I faced with renewed strength. Telling someone my issues felt refreshing. Laia seemed to understand when I told her. With my issues not having such a huge influence on me, I felt like I can fully become an equal to Laia. I felt like I can do more against the Seed other than panicking or blacking out.

It wasn't long before Laia and I reached where the A-photon reactor was. Only to see a huge form fused with it.

Dulk Fakis, protecting the one item that brings the Seed.

I always wondered why the Seed were attracted to A-photons.

But I digress, Laia and I had our weapons ready to defeat the form. With Curtz coming right behind. When I turned around, I noticed he didn't have his helmet on.

I sometimes forget that more Casts decide to look human.

The three of us faced off against the Dulk Fakis. One disadvantage to being a Twin Dagger user is that I always have to be close to do any damage. Which also gives the enemy the space to damage me too. It's a very defense-influenced issue. But regardless of that I kept going. I had to make sure that it was defeated.

It was a long battle but we eventually took it down. I felt a little better. Even thought it was far from me being one-hundred percent, I was slowly moving on from Mom's death.

“Thank you Laia and Ami. I can do the deactivation from here.”

“Right. Ami lets go check up on Leo.”

“And Hyuga?”

“...and Hyuga.”

Laia gave me the strangest look when I mentioned him.

It took three seconds after that to realize what I said.

We made our way back to the transport shuttle. It was silent during that long walk. I think Laia was trying to figure out why I mentioned Hyuga. I was trying to figure out why I mentioned him. By all accounts he should be fine. If anything went wrong, he would have contacted us. The more I thought about it, the more irritated I realized I was towards Laia's treatment of him.

We could already see that Hyuga just outside of the transport, with Leo.

“What is your problem! Shouldn't Leo be inside!”

“Laia! Stop blaming Hyuga for everything.”

“Ami?”

“She's right. I couldn't board a transport before those on a mission.”

“But you're injured.”

“But still...even injured I have some pride to uphold.”

“Hmph, men.”

After we got Leo back inside we all prepared for home. I sat back in my seat in silence. I was still angry about what just happened. I do recall that the others were talking about today's events. Something didn't add up at all with this mission. And the others Laia and I have went on. The conversation stayed between us four. With the Non-Disclosure in effect we couldn't even talk about it if we wanted.

That and Laia threatening with her fist if we did speak about it.

I wanted this day to end to be honest. I was emotionally exhausted.

“Ami?”

“Oh, it's only you Hyuga.”

“ 'It's only me?' I'm hurt dear Ami.”

“Cut that out. What can I do for you?”

“Thank you.”

“Huh? What for?”

“For today. Given the circumstances, I appreciate you trying to calm Laia down.”

“It's not a problem really. I just disliked how she treated you. Even if she was my instructor.”

“Thank you nonetheless. And Ami?”

“Hmm?”

“Short hair compliments you very well. Though, I liked your hair longer too.”

I was shocked. No, that would be an extreme understatement. I was blown away, metaphoric jaw on the floor surprised at what he said. My mouth might have gaped open before I closed it.

“You remember who I am?”

“I had my suspicions, but the reasoning for me to call you by first name solidified it. All encounters are willed by the Holy Light so I try not to forget them. It seems we finally did go on a mission together as Guardians.”

I was happy. Really happy.

He remembered.

Chapter Text

Once we arrived back at G-Colony, Leo was taken to the hospital. That left Laia, Hyuga, and myself to file our reports from the mission. I was almost certain that Laia noticed the goofy smile on my face. But at that point, I didn't care. After our talk back home, I couldn't help the feeling.

A flashback:

“I need to thank you as well Hyuga. This is the second time you've helped me during my issues.”

“The offer still stands if you want to talk.”

“It's okay right now. Just feels nice to have at least a friend here in the Guardians. Oh! That's if you'll allow me to be one.”

“Of course Ami. It hasn't been easy lately with the situation with Ethan. Being associated with him has its share of problems.”

“I thought you two were rivals?”

“More rivals than friends, I said. But we went through training together since the academy.”

“I saw him on Neudaiz actually.”

“Really? I wonder why? Maybe...”

“Hyuga?”

“It's nothing. I hope he isn't getting into a lot trouble.”

“I don't know. But I know I can trust him.”

Back to the present, Mina looked at our IDs. We had to go through an exam before we could even submit our reports from the mission. She didn't say why. But we all knew it was to make sure we didn't contract the Seed-virus.

Seed-virus is the name given to the illness that causes living beings into Seed-forms. Then, there was no cure for it.

I learned then that Laia didn't like doctors. She almost begged for me to see her once I was done with my examinations. I wasn't too keen on doctors myself, considering my extended stay in one. But I knew when they were necessary. The examinations were simple enough, a simple physical with some blood being drawn. They also gave us an injection. They told us it was a vitamin shot. But later I would find out it was a prototype vaccine for the Seed-virus. After all that we three met in a large meeting room. When I came in, I noticed that Laia was sitting in a chair while Hyuga was staring out the window.

“Ami, you arrived in one piece.”

“Ah, yeah. It was nothing really.”

“But aren't you worried if we contracted...you know...”

“Laia, you shouldn't worry. The Holy Light's divine protection is watching over us.”

“Right, you stay believing in that. I'll keep my thoughts to something real.”

That was it. I had held off my remarks about Laia for long enough. It was one thing on the Hive, but to mock someone's religion when we aren't on a mission was another thing. I was so frustrated I slammed my hands down on the table.

“Laia that's enough!”

“Ami?”

“That was too far. Ever since our mission you've been antagonizing Hyuga for no reason. He's done nothing wrong to warrant it. Maybe except for earlier but that was because we couldn't get the mission started without you signing the NDA.”

“Ami, what-?”

“And this isn't even the first time! I only didn't say anything sooner is because you were my instructor. I just wished you were more considerate of me when we partner up on missions. I can't grow as a proper Guardian if you keep scaring away people I might have to work with on my own.”

“Ami, shut up for a second. I figured something out.”

“What?”

“You're getting awfully defensive over Hyuga. You like him.”

What?

“What? Are you kidding me right now? He's my friend. And I don't like how you treat people.”

“As much as I love to be a topic amongst you two, I don't think this is the proper time or place to discuss this.”

I nearly forgot that Hyuga was right there. I was already getting such a headache from this situation. Today was just an emotional day for me overall and I wanted to hide away after this. Of course it doesn't explain the funny feeling I got when he spoke highly of me. Or when he would try to make me feel comfortable. I was glad the doctor came in not too long after that. The room suddenly got tense. He had the results of our exams.

“Ami Satomora?”

“Right here.”

“Everything checked out okay.”

Thank goodness. I wasn't sure how I would react if I found out I had contracted it.

“Hyuga Ryght?”

“Yes?”

“I'm sorry. We'll need to run some advanced tests.”

My head whipped around to him so fast at the news. I had never seen him with such a surprised look on his face before.

“What happened to that 'divine protection' you were talking about earlier?”

“You'll have to ask the Holy Light about that Laia.”

“Well you should get going. 'Examinations are a part of the job' right?”

“Right...”

I couldn't even properly respond. I was still reeling from Hyuga's results.

That would be the start of something huge.

“Laia Martinez?”

“R-Right here!”

“Please go to Lab Room Three.”

Laia's face paled at the instruction. There was a chance she had contracted the virus as well. But the mission was over and I checked out clean. So what I wanted to do was go back to my barracks and sleep. Today was just too much for me.

Laia was having none of that.

She also has a strong grip.

“Don't go. Can you walk with me?”

It really was surprising to see the strong, snarky Laia be so afraid of doctors and medical centers. She seemed almost approachable like this.

“I shouldn't after what happened. But okay.”

“Thanks.”

The two of us walked to the lab in silence. I was still put off about earlier. When we arrived, there was a Newman woman waiting for us.

“Hey Laia.”

“Maya! You tricked me!”

“ 'Tricked' is such a nasty word. I haven't seen you since we went through training. Since you were here I figured why not?”

Maya Shidow, part of the Guardians Research and Development unit.

Also a researcher on the Seed-virus.

Maya was an opposite of Laia. At what I expected from anyone associated with her. She was more outgoing and friendlier. It amazed me how the two managed to become friends.

“Lets go see Leo from the hospital.”

“What?”

“He's probably out by now. Heard his injuries are going to heal up very well.”

“Is that why you called me?”

“Partially. Come on, don't be like that. You want to go too right..uh Ami isn't it?”

“Sure...”

Why exactly did I want to go to the hospital?

Whatever my reasoning was, the three of us ended up taking a trip to the hospital together. We were coming in as Leo walked out. Laia looked to be so relieved to see him walking on his own. Honestly seeing him how he was on the Hive was very worrying.

“Laia wanted to see you so bad, I just couldn't say no. She can be such a hassle sometimes.”

“I did no such thing Maya!”

“Aww, it's cute how you deny it like that.”

“Hello everyone.”

Everyone went silent when Hyuga emerged. I felt a sharp pain in my chest at seeing him with a solemn expression. Something was bothering him. I remembered the tests earlier.

Was there something more to his results?

“Starting today I'm on medical leave.”

“Was it because of the..you know?”

“Have you experienced any symptoms?”

“Believe me Maya, if I did I would have checked myself in.”

They talked some more, but I wasn't paying attention. My focus was on Hyuga. The news seemed to be affecting him hard than what he was letting on.

Wait, why was I that concern over him?

He's a friend. But I shouldn't be this concerned.

But I think I can sympathize with him.

I mean, at this point it's obvious he has the Seed-Virus.

I would be worried if he accepted it.

“Ami, come on. Maya wants to talk back at the lab.”

I should have went with Laia and Maya. But something was stopping me. Some weird feeling. Like I had to talk with Hyuga. We were all on that Hive. So why was he the only one who got the Seed-virus? I wasn't sure if I was going to get an answer, but I had to ask.

“Can I take a rain check? There's an important errand I need to do.”

“You sure?”

“Yeah, just tell me later.”

He was already gone from the medical center. It took a few minutes of asking around and running to find out that he was heading back to his barracks.

It was then I found out have this ability to bump into people.

Literally.

“Whoa, you okay Ami?”

Now that I found him, I had no idea how to go about this. I must have looked silly to him, out of breath and red in the face.

Wait...red?

“I'm fine. I should be asking you that.”

“I'll be fine. Just that it's a lot to take in right now.”

“We all went to the Hive. So why you?”

I noticed a shift in his expression. My worry over him didn't let me think clearly. It could have been possible that he couldn't tell me. Or that it was none of my concern. We may be around the same age, but he was still my senior in terms of Guardian status.

“I'm sorry, I shouldn't have asked. It was out of line.”

“No, it's fine. It's just that...it's better we discuss this inside.”

“Inside?”

Did I mention that I am completely weird around guys?

“In my barracks. I really am not supposed to tell anyone else. But you've seen the effects first hand.”

During our mission we did encounter another survivor. But we couldn't save them, for they turned into a Seed-form. Hyuga had mentioned that it wasn't the first time he saw such a thing. Professor Kou Taragi was one of the researchers about A-photons. Hyuga mentioned he died during the Hive armada attack. But it wasn't the attack itself, but he had to be purified when the professor turned into a Seed-form.

What did that have to do with him?

Wait a second, did he just invite me to his room?

...he did…

Embarrassment aside, I agreed. Curiosity getting the better of me. I needed to know why was he affected with the virus and not Laia and I. But that didn't help the pounding in my chest as we approached the room. It's actually quite plain.

But I digress.

He told me about the first time he came to the Hive. But it was as a captive. Both him and Maya were captive after a rescue mission for missing researchers. It what spurned Ethan to go on the Hive and become the “Hero of the Seed”. After that, they were under strict orders not to talk about what went on there. It felt weird knowing this information now. In the grand scheme of things it made a lot of other events make sense.

Like how he was infected with the Seed-virus. Since he had longer exposure.

Maybe even intentional.

Who exposed them to the virus? And why?

“Thank you for telling me this. I know it isn't easy.”

“To be honest, I'm glad I can say something about it to a friend.”

Hearing him call me a friend made me smile. Almost immediately, the entire room went dark. Only a few seconds later were we illuminated by dull blue lights.

“Emergency lights.”

“Yeah, I wonder what happened.”

It was likely that the power plant had a glitch and caused the power outage.

“Satomora, can you hear me?”

I was surprised that Lou had called me. Usually she doesn't contact me. It couldn't be for fun either.

“Where is your location?”

“I'm in the barracks.”

“You're not too far. Good, there's been an attack. Take the nearest elevator down.”

With the silence, I knew Hyuga heard my orders. He gave me a quick nod. My questions would have to wait another time. Hopefully I won't have to wait too long.

“Ami, be careful.”

I froze.

That feeling of happiness was welling up inside.

Just like when he remembered who I was.

Why did I feel this way?

“You too.”

Though Lou, I found out that the creatures being used for the Seed-virus research had escaped. Lou deducted that it was a terrorist attack. It wasn't long before I ran into Laia.

“Ami? Where did you go?”

I was about to tell her the truth but then I stopped myself.

I wasn't sure how she would respond if I told her I was in Hyuga's barrack.

So naturally, I changed the subject.

“What's on our agenda now?”

I don't think Laia wanted to change the subject. But for the sake of the situation, she did. That, I'm thankful for.

She informed me of the progress so far. She and Maya were discussing the Seed-virus before the creatures suddenly escaped. They had to rescue civilians while putting down the creatures. And now President Dallgun was somewhere in the area and we needed to find him.

Laia didn't look too pleased about it.

During our search we did slay a few creatures. I noticed that I was more confident in my attacks.

Was it because of Hyuga's talk?

I couldn't really think about that.

The president needed to be found.

Thankfully, we did find him safe. He was finishing off an infected Distova. It was a sight to see President Dallgun in action. He had such fluid motions with using a saber. I had heard stories about how accomplished he was as an active Guardian. Those stories didn't do him justice. Everything about him just exemplified the experience he had over the years.

He even noticed us the moment we stepped into the room.

“Laia?”

“Hey.”

With how casually Laia was speaking with him, they knew each other personally.

“I'm sorry, can you give Laia and I a moment?”

“Su-”

“Not now. Ami and I need to finish purifying the creatures in the area.”

While I wasn't a strong believer of fate back then, I did believe that there was something otherworldly going on with the timing.

“All the creatures have been purified? Alright then, start lifting the protocols.”

I noticed a look in President Dallgun's face. What he wanted to say was private and would appreciate if I left. I was more than willing to give him that. Other than he's my boss, I would have liked that mutual privacy.

Laia noticed the look too and wasn't having it.

“No, Ami stays. Don't treat me special just because you're my father. Whatever you need to say to me, you can say it in her presence.”

I was surprised for two reasons:

Laia thought of me higher than I initially thought.

And Laia was related to the president. His daughter no less.

“Still stubborn. It's been a while.”

“Been busy training this one and all.”

“I see. You could at least make some time out to contact me. I worry about you at times.”

“Once this is all over we'll chat. Anyway Nav is looking for you.”

“I'll hold you to it. I'll go back to Headquarters.”

It seems that Laia and I had more in common than I thought.

I had watched Laia leave, supposedly to meet with the others. I was going to leave too. The mission was over and I was ready to call it a day.

“Wait a moment.”

“Yes sir?”

“Ami Satomora correct? You're Laia's recent trainee.”

“I am.”

“Do me a favor? Not as the president, but as a father. Watch over her for me.”

There was a moment in which I stared at him.

I was suddenly reminded of my mom. I wasn't sure why.

“I'll do my best sir.”

I managed to catch up with Laia. She was talking with Maya about the mission. And alongside Maya was Lucaim Nav. He's an accomplished Cast Guardian, who oversee the cadets in the academy. I had seen him a couple times during my time there. But not as close as I am now.

He has a funny way of saying hello.

“Ouch! Cut that out Headmaster!”

“Ah, Satomora. Your training has benefited more than I anticipated.”

“That sounds weird that you're anticipating these things.”

“It's not a bad thing Satomora. Considering how you placed during graduation...”

“Hey! Cut that out old man. She doesn't need to be traumatized of some old man pinching her butt.”

Even in all my skills, I'm not immune to Headmaster's grabbing skills.

It's seriously creepy that he still does that at his age.

Laia looked ready to fight Headmaster for my honor. Which I was touched by. Before anything could happen, Lou came in on the communit.

“Headmaster, I'm relieved can I can get a hold of you. Professor Tomrain is missing.”

“You think this was all a ploy to kidnap him?”

My road as a Guardian was going to be a long one.

Chapter Text

Professor Kanal Tomrain, the new head researcher on A-photons and the Seed. Taken by the Illuminus. We eventually figure out it was them behind the attacks on the Seed-virus research. It couldn’t have been anyone else. Why they would go so far to kidnap Professor Tomrain and why they wanted him we didn’t have the answers to. But we knew we had to find him, his safety was at stake.

Let me rephrase that. They had to find him.

I was given a couple days off. Headquarters decided that this was too much for a someone who just became a Guardian.

I couldn’t blame them entirely. My first mission as a Guardian was to a Hive, under orders not to discuss it. Only to help control damage from a terrorist attack. And the group responsible was a group I helped discover while being a trainee. Me knowing this made me a target.

They felt it might lead to a mental breakdown.

I wondered if they took a really good look at my medical records and the Hive mission report.

I wanted to help out so much. I wanted to do all I can as a Guardian. But orders were orders. Was I disappointed? Yes. But it was the best for me in the long run.

“Wait Ami.”

It was Maya who called me. She offered to walk back with me to my barracks, no doubt knowing that I was crushed by the news I wasn’t going to help search for the professor. I was grateful for the walk. It gave me time to clear my head. When we reached the Central Table, I was prepared to say goodbye.

“Wait, lets talk for a moment. I’m curious about Laia’s most recent trainee.”

The two of us took a seat near the fountain. It was still empty from the attack earlier. Which now, I’m thankful for. What we discussed, I wasn’t sure if I wanted others to hear.

“You seem like the type of person who’s quiet unless their feelings are on display.”

“Hmm?”

“Laia told me a bit about you in the mission back there. Good things, just that she wants you to be more confident all the time instead of situations.”

“I guess so. Everyone says that.”

“Hey Ami, have you ever been in love?”

I stopped.

Why would she ask that?

“I wouldn’t say love. But I admired someone back then.”

“I see. I was wondering if you only become confident when you’re emotional. Laia told me about how you defended Hyuga. Do you like him?”

“Not in that way. If that’s what you’re implying. He’s my friend. I didn’t like how Laia was treating him. Now with the Seed-virus I wanted to help.”

“Right, I believe you. And thank you, he’s a friend of mines as well so it helps a lot. The Seed-virus is not an easy illness to deal with.”

“If it doesn’t seem too much, can you tell me about your time on the Hive?”

“How did you-”

“I’m sorry, I had asked Hyuga why he had the virus and he told me about the Hive and Professor Taragi.”

Maya seemed surprised at my question. But then she smiled. She told me more about the personal details on the Hive than what Hyuga did. I understood Maya. Someone she loved had died. In turn, I told her about my mom and how she died to protect me. We both were in a sense living for someone. I think it was then Maya and I had this mutual understanding.

“It’s nice to live for the memory of the dead, but having to live for the present with those with us now can be a stronger feeling.”

The way she spoke with such confidence about that made me wonder a bit.

“You sound as if you are doing that.”

“Hmm, I’m not too sure if that’s what it is Ami.”

It was silly but I had a brief thought about what if she was talking about Hyuga.

Yeah, it’s silly.

Even if it was, it was none of my business.

“I’ve got to go.”

“So soon?”

“Yeah, to freshen up. That mission took a lot out of me.”

“I understand completely. Thanks again for the help and talking with me. Make sure you do something fun with your time off.”

“I’ll try. But hey, when you figure out that living thing let me know?”

I didn’t mean to cut Maya’s conversation short. But I started to feel a little irritation rise in me. It wasn’t her. But her words had hit me deeper than I imagined. It wasn’t like on the Hive with Laia. They stuck with me for a while. Now I was grateful for the time off. I wasn’t sure if I could concentrate on any missions with those thoughts in my mind.

It’s odd to suddenly have free time. In the academy, the free time I had gotten was used to study up so I can graduate. And my training with Laia took up my free time when I graduated. To not have anything to do was an odd feeling. I decided to go to Commune. I just needed to be away from the usual places. The club was a quaint place. It wasn’t overly big, but spacious enough to serve its needs. The atmosphere made me feel more at ease. But it wasn’t long before my thoughts came back to what Maya told me. Along with that weird irritation.

Was this jealousy?

No, it couldn’t be. What was there for me to be jealous about?

I had to get my mind off of all of this, so I quickly went to Parum. After the mission on the Hive and the search on the Linear Line I needed an open area. I decided to take on a couple free missions to work out my irritation. And it was a great excuse to sharpen up on my twin dagger skills. I found that I did like working solo on these missions. The pressure of not being under anyone’s standards was a relief. I could do these missions at my own pace and in my own way. I spent the time mostly at Raffon Meadows clearing infected creatures.

It was fairly easy compared to the few I’ve been working on recently.

I hadn’t realized the time but I had clearing creatures all morning long. I felt a bit worn out so I finished the mission and made my way back to Holtes City. I wondered if Dad was up to a surprise visit. But before that I wanted to stop by a cafe.

The same cafe Mom and I went to when we stopped by Parum.

I didn’t even get there before I noticed two familiar faces. Laia and Hildegarde.

“Laia! Hilde! What are you two doing here?”

“Ami, is that you? I didn’t know you took up the Guardians offer. It’s nice to see you again.”

“Yeah, thanks for suggesting them to me Hilde.”

“How has it been?”

“I’m okay. HQ has me taking a few days off.”

I noticed the shift in expression from Hilde. She knew first hand of my trauma. After all, she was the one who found me with Mom’s body and stayed with me at the hospital.

“I’m okay, just that they were concerned about the workload I’ve taken.”

“Hmm. That’s good you’re taking one. I heard the adjustment can be a bit tough on the newbies.”

“Hilde, we need to hurry. Who knows what Maya’s thinking?”

“You two have a mission?”

“Not quite.”

Laia was looking at me. It was like she was deciding to tell me something.

“Well?”

“I shouldn’t. But you’re going to find out anyway. Maya called us this morning, she tried to visit Hyuga but he got transferred to a hospital here. But when she tried to get information about it, they didn’t know he was arriving there. Unofficially, he’s missing.”

I stood there, frozen. Hyuga? Missing? Panic rose through me. There was no way that should happen. It was possible that he left on his own. But he didn’t seem like the type to just up and leave without telling anyone. Even more so now with him having the Seed-virus. There was just a swirl of emotions mixing up inside me.

But I knew one thing:

I had to help find him.

Day off be damned.

“Hilde, Laia I have to go with you. Let me help find him.”

“Why? What about your day off?”

“I don’t know why okay! And the day off can happen another time. I have to help! He’s my friend. Dammit I was just talking to him the other day too...”

I must have sounded like a babbling fool. I don’t think I fully understood why I wanted to go then.

“I wish we could, but Maya only asked for Hilde and I.”

“I...understand. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have asked you like that.”

As much as I wanted to go, there was a reason why I wasn’t going.

It was incredibly selfish of me. But it didn’t shake the feeling that I should be going with them.

“Satomora, can you hear me?”

Ironic, Lou would call me at a time like this.

“I can Lou.”

“Apologies for pulling you on your day off, but you’re needed at Headquarters.”

“Looks like you have your own orders.”

“...yeah.”

I recall Hilde patting my shoulders. Her eyes looking into mines like a mother who’s proud of their child. She smiled at me.

“Don’t worry Ami, we’ll bring him back safe to you.”

At that moment, I stood there shocked.

Maya’s words came into play then. The words hit me so hard I couldn’t even correct her on her statement. I watched as they left to the train. I suddenly understood everything. I couldn’t gauge the depth of this feeling. But I knew it was more complex.

It was then, I think, that I fully began to live with Maya’s words.

Chapter Text

Taking the shuttle back to G-Colony was a quiet one. The realization of my feelings took a mental toll on me. I wasn’t repulsed by the feeling, as I thought I might be. After all, I had decided long ago that these types of feelings weren’t for me. But here I was. If I wasn’t so worried about my friend, I would have laughed at my predicament.

And I might have laughed at the cause of these feelings.

I would begin to develop feelings on him, of all people.

I accepted that easily enough. Sometimes you can’t help it. It does beg the question about my preferences. Now the question was whether I wanted to share those feelings. There was always that possibility that the feelings were one sided. And I didn’t want to risk this new friendship already. I would have to think about it after my mission with Lou.

I gave Mina my card at Headquarters only for her to be surprised.

“You have an appointment with the president.”

Wait, what?

President Dallgun wanted to see me? I wasn’t sure if this mission was good or bad if he was in on it. I was extremely nervous going up the elevator to his floor. It isn’t everyday that he requests to see a newbie Guardian. I gave two swift knocks to let him know I was here. Everything got quiet as I got into the room.

Lou was to the president’s left while Headmaster Nav was to his right.

“Satomora, how good it is to see you again.”

“Y-yes sir.”

He smiled at me, rather at my nerves.

It’s a weird feeling to be honest.

“Relax Miss Ami. You aren’t in any trouble.”

“I’ll try not to be sir.”

“I’m sorry to call you on your day off, but some information came in and it couldn’t wait.”

“It’s fine. It helps me take my mind off other things.”

That being one of my friends is missing…

“I’m sure you know of what’s been going on with the Illuminus.”

“Only what I learned on my missions and what Laia has told me.”

“Good, that makes it a little easier. We think they’re able to do so much is because they have the backing of another group. They shouldn’t have the resources to do what they are doing. But we need to start gathering evidence.”

“And you want me to help with that?”

“That’s correct.”

“If I may be bold to ask, why me? I’m just a new Guardian in Mobile Defense. I’m sure there are people way more qualified than me.”

Lou was the one who answered that question.

“Based on data and mission reports, we suspect that GRM might be the other organization. With the missions that yourself and Laia have been on, there’s been enough consistencies between them to not rule them out.”

I didn’t hide the look of shock on my face then. Suspecting one of the leading manufacturing companies in Gurhal is a pretty bold step. I couldn’t argue with Lou’s logic. Whenever there was something Illuminus related, it bore the GRM logo. Of course it could be they just got the resources from savaging. But it was pretty new, other than the deliberate damage. But I guess that’s why they wanted the evidence.

“That doesn’t really explain why I was called.”

“As you know, those under legal age and wanting to join the Guardians must have a parent or guardian sign a consent form.”

“Yes, I had to get it signed when I joined.”

“We are aware that your father is Shion Tusakanova. His name shows up on employee rosters for GRM almost eighteen years ago.”

Nothing could prepare me for that. First the accusation of GRM helping Illuminus and now this? I didn’t know that Dad had worked for GRM. My whole life I knew he worked for a private firm. At worst, he could still be working for them.

“Are you saying that you’re suspecting my father?”

“No, if that was the case then I don’t think you would be standing here as a Guardian. But we don’t know how far back this relationship between GRM and Illuminus goes or how deep. So we have to look at every angle.”

“I’m sure if you explained the situation to Dad he would cooperate.”

“That has crossed our minds. But there is a chance that the Illuminus could be tipped off. If they are able to infiltrate GRM, then there could be a mole within the Guardians as well. The Illuminus will stop at nothing to silence people. With yourself being a Guardian this is the safest route we can take.”

The short version is that if this got out, the Illuminus would try to kill Dad.

I wouldn’t let that happen.

“I understand.”

“Thank you. I know how hard this will be with family involved. But I appreciate your understanding.”

“Yes sir. But may I make a request?”

“Depending on what it is.”

“That Shion Tusakanova being my father stays between us here. I just don’t want to make it public that I’m related to him. Not yet at least.”

“I can agree to that. I do realize you’re not going by his last name.”

I noticed Lou looked away for a moment.

“Something wrong Lou?”

“No sir, just that there’s information from another matter I need to look into. I would like for Satomora to accompany me.”

“I don’t mind Lou.”

Walking with Lou was quiet. I still don’t know how to fully respond to her. Seeing as there’s more than one of her. I was pretty sure that this Lou I haven’t met before. We walked into a large computer room. Multiple screens with various information filled the walls. It was a bit overwhelming to be around so much information. I kept quiet as Lou scanned the information, no doubt processing them to the other Lou units.

I think she sighed at something.

“Ami, I’m sending you with Leo to Parum.”

“Huh why?”

“It seems that Maya, Laia, and Hildegarde has found Hyuga.”

I was so relieved when I found out that.

“I don’t believe this needs to be said, but the president’s mission is top secret and must not be disclosed to anyone.”

“I understand.”

Leo was definitely surprised that I was meeting with him at the G-Flyer base once I got to Holtes City. I don’t think Lou told him it was me specifically.

“Lou sent me to accompany you.”

“Well the more the merrier.”

“Right.”

I felt a bit at ease riding with him. I had just realized that I was nervous about going to the destination. I would be looking at Hyuga again with different eyes. It’s weird to be honest. Leo and I did talk a bit before we reached our destination.

“I meant to thank you for the Hive mission.”

“Oh, it’s no problem.”

“Still, I have to thank you. They said that your treatment helped the injuries be a little less severe.”

“It's what I do. I’m just glad I was able to help. I...wasn’t my best at that mission.”

“First mission?”

“Yeah.”

“I understand. Everyone has those moments. Just believe in your own skills.”

“Everyone keeps telling me this. But how does one believe in their own skills? Become confident all the time?”

“I don’t think it’s anything you learn exactly. Just that something to live by. You’ll eventually get to that point.”

Leo was really easy to talk to. I could see why so many other Guardians looked up to. Soon, we arrived at the GRM facility. Lou had cleared us to go in beforehand, since we were picking up our comrades. We happened to get there just in time. Laia looked furious at one of the researchers.

“How about I prove how strong I am by snapping your neck!”

“Laia!”

Laia and Maya definitely looked surprised that I was there with Leo. As far as they both knew, I was still on my day off. Hilde on the other hand, she gave a knowing look at me.

I couldn’t help blushing at her stare.

“Ami? What are you doing here?”

“It doesn’t matter why she’s here. Get over here, we’re all going home.”

I remember Tonnio said that Leo’s a father. He was certainly showing those traits now.

One thing I noticed:

For a Guardian, Hyuga knew a bit about the reasoning behind business practices.

At first, I just brushed it off as maybe he was studying that before becoming a Guardian.

The ride back to Holtes was silent due to tension. Even though it was for the sake of a friend, Maya, Laia and Hilde did break quite a few protocols. If the researchers weren’t so lenient, then we would have quite the scandal. We all decided we needed to assess the situation before us. Everything about Hyuga’s situation raised even more flags.

Hilde politely declined.

“One of us has to make a report.”

“Alright. It was nice seeing you again Hilde.”

“And to you as well Ami. Hopefully we’ll go on a mission together.”

Hilde patted me on my shoulder in a knowing way. I think she knew more than she was letting on about me. I wasn’t sure if this was a good or bad thing. When she left we discussed matters. It was without a doubt now that there’s some sort of connection between GRM and the Illuminus. What we couldn’t figure out if it was direct or indirect. From what I learned, Magashi was on the train that Laia, Maya, and Hilde was on to the facility. Even if the researchers didn’t know who Magashi was working for, they knew that it couldn’t have been good.

But maybe they were forced to work with them.

There was the point that there was weapons using the Seed there. Such practices were universally frowned upon. So I was surprised when Maya told me that apparently all three of the planets government had backed this.

“I need to investigate something.”

“What Hyuga?”

“All this information about GRM. Everything we’ve learned so far, I had suspected to be true.”

“You’re better off asking President Dallgun in that case.”

That’s right, he had reached the same conclusion that we did.

I’m a bit worried when all of us have reached it, then it’s most likely true.

“Alright I’ll ask him.”

“Don’t get reckless.”

“I won’t.”

“Wait. I’ll walk back to G-Colony with you.”

Everyone’s eyes were on me when I said that. It wasn’t as if I wanted to be near him. Not really.

“Just as a precaution. Besides I might as well salvage what day off I have left.”

I ignored the stares I got as the two of us got on the PPT shuttle back to G-Colony. We didn’t say much, since we both were still processing all this new information. It was tempting to tell him that the higher ups were most likely going to agree to his request. But Lou wanted this to be done discreetly.

It almost feels a bit like blackmail, since they knew who my dad is.

“Hyuga, wait.”

“Hmm?”

This was make or break. Whether to talk about my feelings or not.

“I’m glad you’re safe.”

On second thought, I should wait a bit.

“Thanks. Though I’m sorry this happened on your day off.”

“No, it’s okay. It’s not like you asked to have your transfer records falsified.”

“I know. Hilde told me how much you wanted to help.”

He took my hands, which felt really odd. It wasn’t a bad feeling...just odd. Then I felt something being transferred into my communit.

It was his partner card.

I never got his actual one during orientation, it was a practice one so I could learn the system.

I stared at the notice for a little while. There was a happiness over me. He trusted me enough to give his partner card. It was such a simple action, but it made happy.

“Contact me anytime you need to talk. Or partner up for missions.”

Even as he left, that feeling stayed with me.

I think I began to learn the feeling of living for the present.

Chapter Text


It has been about a week since Hyuga was missing, then found. Things were starting to get back into a normal flow. I hadn’t been on many huge missions. Mainly just small requests alongside with trying to help with investigations of GRM. At least Dad’s involvement with it. The only things I could pull up myself was Dad’s education background. He was a well accomplished student.

This was going to be harder than I thought.

I was glad that I was called to help do guard patrol for the Holy Light Festa. I would be partnering with someone else for it. It was by coincidence that I met Laia at the mission counter.

“You’re patrolling the grounds?”

“Yeah, with some guy. I’m supposed to be meeting him in Ohtoku later.”

“Him?”

“Well, HQ didn’t give me a lot of details. Just that we were the best fit for this.”

“I see. I’m glad you’re becoming more independent.”

I think I detected some hint of disappointment that she and I weren’t partnered together.

I was a little disappointed too, since I was getting comfortable with being around her.

The Holy Light Festa is a festival the Communion of Gurhal created to celebrate the Holy Light and its deeds. I know Mom talked about it a lot when we were younger. I might have went to a couple too. But I was too small to remember them clearly.

I was a little nervous about partnering up with someone I didn’t know. Everyone I had partnered with Laia was with me. I had hoped I could make a good impression on my own. I arrived at the Neudaiz branch. There were quite a few other Guardians hanging around the area. Most I think were actually stationed at the branch there.

The receptionist, Reina, was easy to get along with like Mina.

But she seemed a bit more professional than Mina.

Age might have something to do with it.

I was told that my partner would be near the Communion of Gurhal headquarters. Seeing as the branch would be crowded the closer to the Festa starting. I noticed that there are a good bit of Guardians patrolling this year.

I guess with the Seed during last year's and the attack on the Maiden the last time the Communion had a public event, they had every reason to be cautious.

Neudaiz will always be my favorite planet of the Gurhal system. It was the planet that kept much of its natural beauty. I loved my visits here as a child. It was the driving force of me considering the performing arts school there instead of Parum.

I found my partner sitting under a canopy. Summer was just starting so the weather was manageable.

The first feature I noticed was his jet black hair was in a ponytail.

“You must be Ami.”

I found it a bit creepy that he knew I was near.

He stood up to meet me proper. He was tall, like really tall. Taller than any guy I’ve met. He was older than me too. But not that much older. Maybe in his early twenties. And his skin was tanned. I wasn’t sure if it was due to genetics or his own efforts. But there were two more things I noticed about him.

He had a faded scar across the bridge of his nose.

And his eyes were a golden yellow, a stark contrast to his skin and hair.

I was a bit intimidated, everything about his visual appearance was overwhelming.

“I-I am.”

“No need to be nervous.”

“I’ll try”

“Hyuga-nii talks about you a lot. I’m Reo.”

Wait.

Hyuga didn’t mention a brother.

Because my mom was a fluent speaker of the Neudaiz language, I could pick up phrases here and there. But the two looked nothing alike. So there was the possibility that he didn’t mean it literally. Just that they were friendly enough to be considered brothers.

The surprise of the statement made me forget to ask why Hyuga talked about me a lot. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a bad thing. But the fact I was a topic of conversation for someone surprised me quite a bit. I didn’t have time to question it. Since we had to get to our post. Our role was to do some plains clothing patrolling. There were already a few Guardians and Alliance Military guarding the parade route undercover. Then the rest of us would be in the crowds. That was Reo and I’s role for this mission.

Though most of the festivities take place in the city, it also extends to the islands south of the mainland. Before we could start our guarding during the parade, Reo and I were to check those area and make sure they were clear of hostile creatures. That in itself was easy, a few stray Sageetas and Ollakas. Reo’s a great person to be around once you get pass his intimidating looks. He rarely talked about his past, but I didn’t mind it. I didn’t talk about mines all too much either.

I was amazed at how he used a sword.

“Do you want to learn how to use one?”

“Ah! Oh I must have been staring. I’m sorry.”

“Don’t worry about it Ami. I’m glad it’s because of that.”

“Okay. But yeah, I’ve heard that swords can be tough because of their size.”

“They can be. But even some high end ones are lighter than expected. I’m sure you can find one that can work with you.”

“I see. My experiences with one weren’t that good. I was overconfident.”

“I can give you some pointers after we finish our mission.”

“I’d appreciate it.”

Reo suddenly stopped. I wasn’t sure why I felt it, but something was different. Like the him from a couple minutes ago was gone.

I could have sworn that his eyes glowed.

The Seed showed up. I was better at fighting the Seed since the Hive mission, but there were times I’m subconsciously flinch. I was grateful it was Reo who was my partner. He had no qualms about striking down the Seed when I had those moments. Even more so when he didn’t ask about my flinches.

But why were the Seed here?

It didn’t make sense.

Lou called us not too long after, telling us to destroy the Seed-forms as we went along. The Festa was canceled for another year. I had to admit, I took out a bit of my frustrations of that on the forms. I was looking forward to participating once our mission was over.

During the purification, we encounted Cast agents.

“They’re from the Illuminus.”

“Wait what? How do you know about the Illuminus? It’s supposed to be classified.”

Reo didn’t answer that.

After we subdued enough forms, we were ordered to go back to Ohtoku. With Illuminus being in the mix the threat was that much more severe. We took the shuttle back in silence. I was still wondering how Reo knew about the Illuminus. It was very possible that he was assigned to investigate them as well, but couldn’t tell anyone.

So I left it alone.

We made it back to Ohtoku city with the crowds being in a panic. At first I thought it was because the Festa was canceled for a second year in a row. But soon I knew it wasn’t the case.

The mountain that was beyond Ohtoku’s horizon was gone.

This wasn’t any normal mountain, the water flowed up instead of down from it. It was one of the great phenomenons the Holy Light made.

But either way it should have been impossible for a mountain to disappear.

“Ami? Can you hear me?”

“Laia?”

“Good, I couldn’t get in touch with you earlier so I was worried.”

“What’s the matter?”

“I’m sure you know the situation at hand.”

“With the Festa being canceled or the mountain being gone.”

“Both. Anyway I think we need some back up so if you can get inside the Communion headquarters.”

“We?”

“Leo and I. And make sure you have Lou connected to your communit once you get inside.”

“I’ll see what I can do.”

Reo seemed to hear my conversation with Laia. Since he went right up to the entrance to the headquarters. I wasn’t surprised about the blunt approach. What I was surprised about was that the guard at the front let Reo through no problems.

I wonder if he came from a Communion background?

“Ami, if you don’t hurry up we’re going to miss our chance.”

The Communion headquarters was a frenzied panic. From what Reo and I gathered, the guard machines were out of control. And there was talk about a room that had to be protected. It was adding up that this was a terrorist attack from Illuminus. Us finding agents and then all of this was no coincidence. We went through the area defeating any machines we came across. Eventually we caught up with Laia and Leo in a grand hall. They looked that they just finished defeating a large machine.

“Sorry we’re late.”

“Ami, and Reo?”

“Laia it’s been a while.”

“Wait, you two know each other?”

“Yeah, but this isn’t the time or place to discuss it. Did you do what I asked?”

“Lou’s been connected to my communit for a while.”

Laia gave us a briefing about what happened. The Illuminus were the ones behind all of this. Even down to the Seed-forms.

It’s a startling though of someone being able to use the Seed.

She mentioned that Ethan came through as well. When they tried to reach out to him that’s when they got stopped by the large machine. I fully expected Laia to get into a rant about Ethan, or even blaming Ethan for the machine attack. But she didn’t. Something must have happened to not let her do that. Regardless of the reason, the four of us pressed on. We went inside another smaller room. Based on how much technology was in there, this might have been the room the guards were talking about.

In the middle of the room was a ring of capsules.

Inside were Sisters of the Holy Light.

“It looks like a mini LSS system.”

“Leo?”

“Ka-I mean the maiden, she used something like this on the armada attack on the Hive.”

Now I knew why Laia wanted me to connect with Lou. This was fishy. That feeling of the Communion hiding something was coming back in waves. It was just like the feeling I had on my training mission. Reo didn’t look too pleased at what he was seeing either. It wasn’t long before we were found out by Rutsu and his guard. By then we had all the footage we needed so we left willingly.

Master Rutsu explained that the mountain disappearing was due to a glitch in the hologram system and had already been fixed.

Ohtoku Mountain was a hologram?

I was surprised. One of the more famous scenery of Neudaiz was fabricated? I knew I couldn’t tell anyone. But this shook me a bit. Does this mean that the Holy Light was a fabrication too? If my suspicion of the Communion wasn’t high then, it was now.

Laia tried to press for more information about the Sisters in the capsules.

“They are merely training to become the next Divine Maiden.”

“What kind of training would involve that?”

“The specifics are only for those of high ranking in the Communion. But I’ll leave it to your imaginations.”

None of us liked that tone he was implying.

Reo was the only one bold enough to do something about it.

“Izuma, you bastard!”

In a flash, Rutsu was on the ground and guard was already surrounding him. Reo had punched him. Pretty hard since some blood was scraped on his cheek. I even heard Laia whistle in approval.

“You know this isn’t what She wanted! She didn’t sacrifice so much for the Communion to be like this.”

“Even with the situation being different, you’re still bothersome to the Communion.”

Reo knew Master Rutsu too?

Those words must have struck him, because Reo was ready to hit him some more. I couldn’t let that happen. Despite the bad feeling I had about this situation, Master Rutsu was the Communion and Reo hitting him could be interpreted as open hostility between the Guardians and the Communion. Something we absolutely didn’t need right now. I held Reo’s arm back.

“Stop, you can’t hit him anymore.”

He looked a bit out of it, so I tried to be a bit gentler.

“It’s not worth your career, let it go.”

I thought I heard him say “Mirei”.

He walked away from all of us. I hoped he would be okay. I would have went after him, but it felt like he needed some space. We were lucky that the Communion didn’t do anything to us. But I guess it was a thanks for destroying their out of control machines and protecting the crowds from the Seed.

But once again I left with more questions than answers.

This time, I would find these answers.

Chapter Text

It had been a week since the mission for the Festa. I had another period of no huge missions. So I took a trip to Parum. Since I had time, I wanted to visit Dad. Mainly to catch up and other to discuss his past with GRM.

I still believed in him.

Before that, I took a trip to a cafe in the city. For old times sake. I hadn’t been there for fun since the initial Seed attack. It was good to see that it was doing well after so many months. I ordered my usual, tea made from leaves in Neudaiz and finger cakes. I was glad to know that the food still taste the same.

“Ami?”

Wait, no way.

I looked up to see a female in the waitress uniform. My eyes widened the more I looked at her. The way her eyes seem to glint and her hair in a ponytail. I smiled at her.

“Kiri, long time no see.”

“I knew it was you! How have you been?”

“Well, for starters I’m a Guardian now.”

She looked definitely surprised when I told her my new profession. Did I really look like the type who wouldn’t join the Guardians? Regardless of that, she looked happy to see me. We caught up as much as we could before she had to get back to her customers. Talking with her helped out a lot in easing my mind. When she left, I got back to assessing my situation at hand.

Dad worked for GRM. With the worst case being he still is.

The relationship between Ethan Waber and the Divine Maiden.

The Illuminus’ true goals and Magashi’s participation.

The reason for Professor Tomrain’s disappearance.

The reason behind Hyuga’s abduction.

Finding the Sisters in the LSS-like system and Master Rutsu’s obvious coverup.

As a rookie Guardian, I shouldn’t be questioning these things as much. But it seems from the get go something wasn’t adding up. It didn’t sit right with me. I felt like I was missing the obvious picture.

“Ami? What a coincidence!”

Seeing Hyuga right there surprised me. I wasn’t expecting to see him so soon. I was glad that I didn’t do anything weird, like knock over my tea or anything like that.

I might have yelped however.

“I’m sorry.”

“No no, I should apologize. I clearly startled you Ami.”

“No, it’s fine. I should be more aware of my surroundings.”

“You mind if I sit here?”

I noticed his eyes honed in on my hands. Rather, the notes in my hands. I didn’t say no so he took a seat across from me. I’m sure he had better things to do than hang around me, but I appreciated the gesture nonetheless. We chatted for a while, mainly just getting to know each other better. Despite his reputation, he’s a dependable person. It really only solidified these feelings I’m keeping inside.

He was the one who questioned my background.

“Ami, this has been on my mind for a while. Are you a Parum native?”

“That came out of nowhere.”

“I was just wondering. You stress out some words like someone from Parum does. Usually you speak with inflection like someone from Neudaiz. Except for some stressful moments.”

“Do I now? If I didn’t know any better you’ve been watching me. But no, I just started living there with my Dad a couple months before I became a Guardian. How do you know this stuff anyway?”

“I’m originally from Parum so it’s easy to pick out.”

“Originally?”

“It’s a long story that I rather not get into. But you’re not from Parum.”

“As far as I know, no. All my childhood memories are me living in G-Colony.”

Eventually our conversation turned to the Festa mission and my experience with Reo as a mission partner. His expression changed when I mentioned the incident between him and Master Rutsu.

“It seems like he still remembers...”

“Remember what?”

“Oh, it’s nothing.”

Oh, he was definitely lying. I could tell.

He was probably the wrong outlet of my anger but I was frustrated. Too many things I’ve been kept out of the loop of. This wasn’t another question I needed unanswered. I slammed my hands down on the table and glared at him.

“Stop that. Ever since I started it’s been one unanswered question after another. I don’t know if it’s because you all don’t trust me or whatever but I refuse to continue this. How in the hell am I supposed to protect Gurhal if I don’t even know what’s going on!”

“Yeah, the dialect really comes out when you’re emotional.”

“Stop dodging my questions.”

I let out a big sigh at it all. I hated that I wasn’t getting an answer from any one. All I wanted to do was leave and get my visit with Dad over with. I was a rookie, why should I be making demands about information. But an abrupt pull stopped me. I noticed it was Hyuga who grabbed me. He looked genuinely concerned about my anger.

So naturally I got flustered.

“I didn’t mean to offend you. I trust you Ami. I can’t say Reo involvement, since it isn’t my story to tell. But you’ve seen enough to at least know the truth. But can we discuss it in private?”

It had to be top secret if we had to do that precaution.

I had hoped to say goodbye to Kiri before leaving. But my curiosity was winning over me. I hoped that she’d understand my leaving. We weren’t that far from the cafe. Just a restaurant a few minutes away. It was a bit more causal than I expected. I don’t remember seeing a place like this before. Hyuga led me through the doors and I was amazed how casual he was speaking with the staff.

“How did you find a place like this?”

“I go here a lot for outings.”

“By outings you mean dates.”

“You’re directness hurts me dear Ami.”

I couldn’t tell if he was being serious or not.

Anyway we took a seat in a private room. Despite this being strictly a necessity for privacy, I couldn’t help the nerves. I had never been to a place so casual before. Much less alone with a guy. After the waiter gave us some drinks, we were silent. Hyuga looked to be in thought. I guess to figure how to start explaining.

“You can just tell me outright. I’m not a delicate flower.”

“It’s not that. Just that, it really is hard to explain without going into too much detail.”

“Is it that bad?”

“Not exactly. But if it got out, it could have large ripples in Gurhal.”

“Hyuga, you trust me right?”

He took a moment to answer that. I wasn’t sure if he was really thinking about it or just the question threw him off. But he nodded.

“Then believe me when I say I won’t say anything unless you want me to.”

“Alright then. It started not too long into my start as a Guardian.”

Hyuga told me everything. He told me that the real divine maiden, Mirei Mikuna, died in an accident. He explained that his instructor, Karen Erra, took Mirei’s place as the Divine Maiden. I was silent as he explained everything. I was devastated.

I had idolized Mirei.

In a weird way, I wished I was her.

While I wasn’t a huge follower of the Communion, her words helped me a lot. I wished I could have been as gentle and feminine as her. I don’t know why, but I started to cry. She was so young and only a select few knew of her death. I didn’t realize that her death would hit me as hard as I did.

Maybe it reminded me of my own mother’s death.

I didn’t even realize that Hyuga was consoling me. I felt a bit embarrassed. I was so set on not letting anyone see me in such a state. Especially someone I had feelings for. But the tears wouldn’t stop. I was grateful Hyuga was silent. Just a small pat on the back to know that he was there.

After a while the tears did stop. It was more like I couldn’t cry anymore. I don’t think I remember the last time I cried like that. Maybe that day the Seed attacked. My chest felt a little bit funny. Not because of Hyuga. Not entirely. Maybe I was recovering a little from my emotional trauma.

Maybe.

“I shouldn’t have cried like that, sorry.”

“Don’t apologize. It’s a lot to take in. I would be worried if you didn’t get some sort of emotion out of it.”

I laughed. I must have been weird from going to a crying mess to laughing. But I laughed hard. I felt better knowing that I wasn’t being judged for my one moment. I knew then I was starting to express my emotions a bit better. It was still a work in progress, but it was a start.

“Ami, you okay? You’re drifting off.”

“Oh yeah I’m fine. I should probably get going, I’ve taken up a lot of your time as it is.”

“You sure?”

Did I...Did I sense disappointment in his voice?

Nah, I think I was imagining things.

“Yeah I’m sure. And Hyuga?”

“Hmm?”

“Thank you. You didn’t have to tell me anything, but I appreciate that you did. You’ve been the only one to tell me what I needed to know.”

“I’ve been told I’m a great judge of character.”

“Right, I believe you. Anyway I’ll see you around.”

The day gave me more than I anticipated. I got some information that helped me see everything in a different light. And I had gotten over a hurdle of moving on from Mom’s death. I had received a call from Lou as I was making my way back to G-Colony, prompting me for my next mission.

“We may have a lead on Professor Tomrain’s whereabouts. Meet Laia in Moatoob as soon as possible.”

Chapter Text

The mission involved the missing Professor Tomrain. Through some earlier investigation we confirmed that it was the Illuminus who abducted him. We didn’t have an exact reason why he was their target. But we can safely assume that it wasn’t a good reason. I took the express shuttle to Dagora from Holtes, I wasn’t sure how long Laia was going to wait for me if I didn’t.

Now that I think about it, I should have asked Lou if Laia knew that I was coming.

It was just as uncomfortable as the last time I was in Moatoob. It seemed to be even hotter. I was given a meeting place. I remember the place well. It was a pub Laia and I went to gather information about Ethan back when I was a trainee.

I just didn’t expect to actually be meeting Ethan there as well.

“So you’re Ami? Laia told me a bit about you. It’s nice to finally meet you under peaceful terms.”

For a wanted criminal, he was really friendly.

But then again, I never really thought of him as a criminal.

From what I was told, Ethan was the one who gave us the lead on Professor Tomrain. The professor was taken due to his knowledge on A-photons. After Professor Taragi’s death, he was highly sought after by the Illuminus.

Their goal was to create the ultimate weapon. The Sochee, a bomb made of A-photons.

A-photons are what attract the Seed.

Everything went back to the Seed.

It’s a startling thought that it’s a real possibility of the Illuminus using the Seed as a weapon. But I digress. Our main focus was to rescue Professor Tomrain. I don’t know why I was called in though. I really should have been working on my intel mission. I wouldn’t argue the assignment. I preferred work that was in the Mobile Defense in the first place.

Due to the secrecy of the mission, we couldn’t go in like we normally would in these missions. Illuminus wasn’t above moving the professor to another location or, worse, kill him. Ethan had led us to a back way to reach a research facility that the Illmunius owned. And with night approaching as we got closer, it was the perfect opportunity to do this.

In my opinion, Moatoob is my least favorite planet.

The sands were hard to clean off.

We arrived on the grounds of the base, only having to take down a few mutated creatures. They were easy to get rid of. But they were definitely infected with the Seed. It was reminding me too much on the mission in which we found Magashi.

We took a small break just outside of the entrance to prepare ourselves.

Laia never wastes opportunities to get some answers.

“Since we’re in a sharing mood, why don’t you answer a few questions for me Ethan.”

“If I can, I’ll try.”

Normally I would stop her. But I had some questions that needed to be answered too.

We spent that break talking. We shared information on the state of Gurhal. For me, I was being caught up on what Laia was doing when we weren’t partnered up.

“What about the relation between you and the Maiden?”

“I don’t know-”

“She spoke with familiarity to you. For someone being abducted, that’s odd.”

I almost forgot that Laia can be blunt.

“I...I can’t say.”

“What? Why?”

“I just can’t. I’m sorry.”

I knew why. The Divine Maiden Laia knew of wasn’t the one now. The maiden now was Karen Erra, Mirei’s twin sister. I wonder if I had a sibling would I go that far for them to keep up the guise.

I did research a bit on Doghi Mikuna when I was making my way to Moatoob.

Rumors had it that he was sent to a mental facility after Mirei’s accident.

I think him being the cause of his daughter’s death just broke him.

I knew all of this, but I kept silent. I promised Hyuga I wouldn’t speak about it unless it was okay by him. I didn’t want to break his trust. I felt a bit ill at the thought him not trusting me anymore.

But in any case, Laia seemed to change over the time we were separated. The old her would have pressed for more information. She let it go. After the break, we went inside.

We never figured for a moment that we would be lead into a trap.

“How good it is to see you Guardians, and Ethan.”

“Magashi!”

“Ethan, lets go home.”

I looked over to Laia. Surely she knew that this was just a ruse.

“Nice try Magashi. I’m not easy to fool.”

I was visibly relieved that Laia was finally believing Ethan. Magashi looked surprised but he quickly covered it up.

“Where’s the professor!”

“Hmph, we have no more use for that old man. The Sochee is finally completed.”

“No!”

“What’s a good field test, than to blow up this very lab!”

Oh, that was so not good.

We couldn’t let this lab blow up. All the evidence against the Illuminus we could use.

“Laia, Ami, go find Professor Tomrain.”

“Huh?”

“We don’t have that much time. Your mission is to find him, I can handle Magashi.”

“You sure?”

“Yeah. I have someone to protect, I won’t die.”

I think in that moment, I saw why Ethan was held in such a high respect by everyone he meets.

He had the heart of a Guardian.

Laia seemed to understand the importance of what needed to be done. So we left. We ran through the hallways as fast as we could. Time was not on our side. We were stopped when our communits suddenly went on. Then we heard a scream before it went to static.

It sounded like Hyuga.

I panicked.

“Hyuga? Hyuga! Answer me!”

“Ami!”

“Respond Hyuga! Dammit!”

“Ami you can worry about him later.”

“But that scream Laia.”

“Focus! Our mission is to find Professor Tomrain. We running on borrowed time as it is. You can worry about your little boyfriend later.”

I was silent.

Of course she was wrong about the boyfriend bit, but she knew I had feelings for him.

For some odd reason, I wasn’t all that surprised. Laia is perceptive.

“...Laia, I...”

“Not now. We can talk later.”

We made our way through the lab to find the holding cells. At the very last one we found Professor Tomrain. He looked to be brooding over something. I went over to disable the locks. I guess when it came to locks and terminals, I had a better understanding of them. Kinda like Dad.

“Miss Martinez?”

“Professor, are you hurt anywhere?”

“No, physically I’m fine.”

“Physically?”

“That’s a complicated answer Miss...”

“Ami. Ami Satomora.”

Professor’s eyes seemed to widen slightly when I told him my name. But he shook it off.

“We can do proper introductions later, we have to get out of here.”

“They activated the Sochee didn’t they?”

“Yeah. Is there any way to disarm it?”

“No, it was meant to be that way. The ultimate weapon of Gurhal and I brought it to life.”

“Dammit, we have no choice but to evacuate.”

“Maybe this is punishment for my sins. First with Melvore and now this. Maybe I’m meant to be erased alongside this lab.”

Ethan has impeccable timing.

Laia explained the situation to Ethan when he connected to our communits. He had already figured we had to leave and sent a signal to our transport, the Landeel. It was the only ship that could get us out of the blast radius of the Sochee. Ethan wanted to talk with Professor Tomrain. I guess to convince him to come with us. I passed the professor my communit. I wasn’t sure what was said but it seemed to lift the professor’s spirits. If only a little. After he passed me back my communit the three of us started our run back to the entrance to meet with Ethan.

We didn’t get that far before we heard a growl.

A tall creature was in our way.

“What is that?”

“A Seed-form?”

“A new type of form?”

Laia tried to attack the form, only for the attack to do nothing to it.

“Our attacks do nothing. Just run, we don’t have the time to find a weakness.”

So we ran. It was quickly following us. It seems like it was targeting Professor Tomrain. Laia was busy at the front defeating the creatures so I was in the back trying to deflect the form from us. When it got too close to my comfort, I shot at it with my handguns or threw a trap at it. We couldn’t purify it, but we could at least stall it. We were all elated to see that the exit wasn’t too far now. And we only had minutes to spare before Sochee went off.

Of course I would trip going up stairs.

“Ami!”

“Miss Satomora!”

That form was posed to attack me. I let out a scream. My mind was quickly going blank, my body going numb. I knew that feeling. I was going into shock from the Seed again. For a moment, I thought I was going to end up like Mom.

This was my very first brush with death since I became a Guardian. I wasn’t ready for it.

I just hoped it would be quick.

Something happened instead.

The Seed-form stopped mid-attack.

I wondered why it stopped. Seed were known for never hesitating like this. I stared at the form while trying to regain my feelings again. Another feeling came in. I didn’t know the feeling. I wouldn’t say a bond, but there was something more.

Something was telling me to go while it was at this state.

It took a few moments before I realized the situation and recovered. We ran again, right into the Landeel. Ethan was already waiting for us inside. I sank to the floor, the reality of the situation was sinking in. I almost died by the Seed, and for some reason it didn’t take that death blow. I was taken out of my thoughts by a loud boom and the Landeel shaking.

The Sochee had finally detonated.

Seeing that blast was a horrible sight to witness. Hopefully something I wouldn’t have to see again.

“What was that!”

“Eh?”

“You were screaming out in pain suddenly!”

Apparently, Laia had gotten a hold of Hyuga while I was trying to make sure I was actually alive. Hyuga had gotten some information about GRM but it wasn’t enough for anything concrete just yet.

As for him screaming?

He accidentally connected to us while on a mission.

This was careless, especially for Hyuga.

“What the hell Hyuga?”

So yeah, I was angry.

“Ami? You’re there?”

“Of course I’m here! You worried me half to death because of that. If that’s your definition of a joke it’s not funny.”

“Your Parum way of speaking is really showing.”

“Stop talking about that before I reach through this screen.”

“At any rate, I need to get going.”

“Fine, whatever. Just don’t it again. Be safe.”

“Duly noted Dear Ami.”

After we disconnected, everyone was looking at me strangely. I needed to stop making scenes. But was it really that odd for me to be this way? I received an incoming message on my communit. While we were running I sent in information about the Seed-form. To at least get a name.

The form we encountered was called Seed-Venas. It had a more human thought pattern than the forms we’ve been dealing with so far.

It’s a startling thought that the Seed was evolving.

Seed-Venas would be playing a bigger role with me.

But not now.

Laia tried to convince Ethan to come back to the Guardians. It was clear now he was still one of us. But he declined.

“There are things I need to do. I can’t do them as a Guardian. For now I have to stay on this path. Maybe I’ll come back.”

I looked back at Professor Tomrain. This development really affect him hard. I felt sad for him. He seems like such a kind man. He really wanted to help Gurhal. I hoped that he would find his inner peace soon.

But the completion of Sochee complicated things.

With the Illuminus able to make it, we were on limited time to take them down for good.

Chapter Text

It was fairly late at night when Laia and I made it back to G-Colony. Professor Tomrain had left with a Lou unit back at Moatoob. I assume to put him back into hiding. Laia and I made our way to Mina. I just wanted to give my report and to go bed.

Unfortunately, I wouldn’t be going to sleep soon.

“Sorry to give this so soon after your previous mission but you’re needed back at Moatoob.”

“Why didn’t they just give us the mission when we were at the Dagora Branch?”

“You had to come back here for an examination and immunization.”

“The previous ones weren’t good?”

“I wouldn’t say that. But it just noted that everyone going on this mission needs another immunization.”

Maya showed up not too long after. She lead us to another medical lab. What happened was that she had made progress on a vaccine so we needed to get another. She didn’t know the details of the mission, just that it was Seed-related thus the shot. After a bit of small talk Laia and I started to the lobby floor.

“Wait Ami.”

“Hmm?”

“We don’t have that much time Maya.”

“I know Laia, it won’t be a few minutes with her.”

“I’ll be quick Laia.”

“Fine, but if you’re late you take your own shuttle.”

I wasn’t sure why Maya needed to talk to me.

“Have you been feeling alright?”

“Yeah, why?”

“You look a bit worn out. You haven’t been a Guardian for long so I wanted to see if you’re okay.”

It took me a moment to realize it. I never had a moment to freshen up after crying earlier in the day. Then having two near death experiences and going into mild shock because of one of them. Only to be sent out on another mission. And my workload had never been easy since I signed up. I knew why Mobile Defense was one of the harder departments to be in. Not only physically but mentally too.

I found no problem with it.

I think I found my purpose within the Guardians.

“I am to be honest. But I can’t complain.”

“You sure?”

“Yeah. We can talk about it later.”

“Right, be careful.”

Laia didn’t scold me for the little conversation, I was glad for that. We arrived back at Dagora City, empty. I had never seen the city become so quiet. It was a little unnerving. We ran back to the Flyer Base. A Cast from the Alliance Military was waiting for us. She informed us that there was an outbreak of Seed-forms near the outskirts of the city. We weren’t the first team to be called. But whenever they thought they had control over the forms, more were multiplying. With the possibility of contracting the Seed-virus, we had to go back to G-Colony to get a vaccine before starting the mission. We were to meet with another person and then purify three-hundred Seed-forms.

This was the start of me absolutely hating these kinds of missions.

Laia and I went to a smaller base to meet up with our partner.

“Never thought I’d be partnered up with a munchkin like you Tonnio.”

“Nice to see that you’re sarcastic, as usual. You gained some femininity yet?”

“Up yours brat.”

Despite their back and forth banter, Tonnio Rhima and Laia are actually good friends.

Tonnio is a small beast, a beastling.

Beastlings are a kind of Beast that looked no older than children, early teens. Tonnio is actually older than Laia.

After introductions, we made our way to the battlefield. Tonnio knew the area we were fighting in well, so that was why he was with us. Given his background as a former gang member, you had to know all the back ways.

Tonnio and I shared our hate for these missions.

“Our goal is three-hundred forms. Man, that’s at least doubled of what we had to do for the Unification Point.”

“I know. The faster we do this the better.”

“Yeah yeah, I hear ya. Don’t let the numbers overwhelm you Ami. Since this is your first mission of this kind.”

“I’ll try.”

We had little time to talk once we started. The Seed were unrelenting. After my encounter with Seed-Venas, the Seed in front of us seemed so small. It seemed easier to attack with my twin daggers. There were a few times in a Megid got too close. But we managed to complete the mission. We opted to take a break. Laia and I were already running on low energy from our earlier mission. It was still dark out, but it looked like the sun was going to rise in a few hours.

Curtz contacted us then. Mainly to get a status report.

But also to inform us of a startling development.

“I’m sorry to be the one to tell you this. But we learned why there’s so many Seed-forms around. Tests show that they were Beasts infected with the Seed-virus.”

“What! You’re telling me that we just killed three-hundred Beasts just now!?”

“I wish I was joking Tonnio.”

“So we basically are committing genocide.”

“By classification, once they turn into Seed, they’re already dead.”

“Don’t you pull the technical crap on me Captain.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Well screw it, I’m not doing this anymore. I can’t keep going knowing this.”

Tonnio and Laia were livid with rage over this. Justified as they are Beasts as well. I was sickened of this idea too. I wasn’t as angry but I refused alongside the two. There was talk of just giving out the vaccine. But it would be impossible. First off, the vaccine wasn’t perfected and could only hold off on the symptoms. And the main issue would be there are more of those infected than vaccine we have.

We only had two choices: Purify the forms, or have them kill us.

I felt a bit disgusted at myself that I understood this so easily. That I could easily justify the killing we’ve done.

I heard that Curtz was a lot more arrogant before meeting Ethan. But whatever made him change to his current personality I was thankful for it. He understood our situation, changing the mission for us to find any survivors. Our search led us to a mining area where we found a Beast boy. He looked so young. Behind him were two Alliance Military Casts.

“Hey! Let that kid go!”

“We were under orders to purify everything in the area.”

“So you’re going to kill a child?”

“Orders are orders.”

“Fine, let us look after the kid then. We were ordered by Curtz to help any survivors.”

“What if this kid turns into a Seed-form under your care?”

“...we’re purify him ourselves then.”

That answer seemed to satisfy them, so they left the kid with us.

Except, the kid left while we were talking.

“Goddammit kid. Don’t he realize if any of the military finds him they are gonna kill him!”

“Calm down Laia. We’ll just have to find him first.”

When I find that kid, he’s gonna get a good slap.

The mines were practically a maze and the teleporting kind of maze too. The worst kind. If you didn’t know what you were doing, you would be going in circles and not even realize it. The kid thought it would be funny to run through these. It would be easier if all the doors were unlocked. But certain sections were cut off. I assume for when creatures appear. We needed to be able to use this to get a hold of the kid.

So naturally, I would be the one to map out how to get the kid.

Normally I wouldn’t complain. But I was running on so little sleep, I had no energy to solve this puzzle.

After a couple hours, trial and error, and a few close calls of one of us screaming in rage we managed to trap the kid. Laia was ready to give the kid a good scolding. And I wasn’t going to stop her. I shouldn’t fault the kid since he was probably running on fear. But I was just so done with this mission.

Something horrible happened instead.

“I don’t feel so good.”

“! That aura! He’s turning into a Seed-form!”

“My body...it feels hot.”

“Laia, get back!”

The Dilnazen was ready to deliver a blow to Laia. I couldn’t let that happen. I took out my sword and blocked the blade-like arm. It was only a Creasaud, but it was more than enough to deflect the attack. I had gotten the sword during the downtime after the Festa mission. After seeing Reo use it so effortlessly, I figured I should try again on the weapon.

But I digress, I ended up getting pushed back from the force of the attack.

I didn’t realize it until later, but it was the first time I didn’t hesitate at a Seed-form.

“Ami!”

“I’m okay...just got the wind knocked out of me.”

“At this rate, that Seed will overpower us.”

“We have to purify him. We said we would if it got to this point.”

“Tonni-”

“You think I like suggesting this! I don’t. But if we don’t, then we die. And risk many more people’s lives in the process. It’s our job as Guardians to make sure that don’t happen.”

‘Sis.’

My eyes widened. It sounded like that kid. He was calling for this sister. This certainly didn’t help our situation. The Seed-form was sentient, at the basic level. I heard the sound of metal meeting flesh. When I looked, it was Laia. She stabbed the form right through the chest with her spear. Her back was towards me, so I couldn’t decipher her emotions.

“Ami, get up and shoot it. The least we can do is grant it a quick death.”

“Laia...I...”

I got up from the ground. I was still from the suggestion. I took out a rifle from my nanotranser. I don’t use it a lot, but it was a weapon I keep just in case I needed to work long distance. I aimed the firearm to shoot. But I hesitated. No matter how much I would try to justify and logic myself, in the end I was about to take the life of a child. I didn’t want this on my conscious. No one would if they had a heart.

I pulled the trigger. Once. Twice.

Laia, Tonnio, and I stood there in silence. We watched as the form dissolve away in photons. Shock from what we just did and just respecting the loss of life overwhelmed us. It took a lot for me to not cry right there. I tried to take my mind off of my building guilt by looking at Laia and Tonnio. But they looked just as distraught. Maybe even more so.

“I was thinking.”

“Hmm.”

“It might have been better just to let the military deal with him. At least then he might have died as himself.”

“It’s too late to think about that.”

“I know...but still.”

After a few minutes, we finally left the mines. We were met with the sun starting to rise. I hoped this was it. I really wanted to go back to G-Colony and rest.

“I’m so glad I was able to reach you three.”

“Lou?”

“It’s an emergency. Machines all over Gurhal are going out of control.”

When you think things couldn’t get any worse, it does.

Chapter Text

Laia, Tonnio, and I were in shock for a moment. It should be near impossible for all the machines in Gurhal to go out of control at the same time.

But it was happening.

We were instructed to go to Holtes since it seemed to originate there. So we quickly made our way there. This was really stressful. Even Laia, who normally can take so much, was looking worn out. It was early morning when we reached the city in Parum. The signal led us just outside of the Guardian’s Branch there. There we saw Grinna Bete C aimed to attack the building. As tired as we all were, we couldn’t let that happen. We kept up a constant attack on the guard machine, basically running on adrenaline.

But it would only be a matter of time before that ran out.

“Was that the last of it?”

“I think so yeah.”

“Everyone, sorry to call you all again.”

Lou called us. I really hoped that she was giving us good news.

“I’m requesting any available Guardians to come to the G-Colony as soon as possible. We have an extreme emergency.”

“What’s the problem?”

“We are being attacked here and are understaffed.”

Nope. That didn’t sound like good news at all.

“We’re on our way.”

We ran to the central square of Holtes. There we saw a few Casts. I recognized a few from when I would take trips to Parum. Laia was talking to them to get a feel for the situation. Or rather, she was trying to. Something seemed odd. They were silent. And not the kind of silent that was meant to be superior. But like they were deactivated.

Then at the same time they all looked at us.

There was a buzzing sound before they attacked.

“Don’t tell me that the Casts are going out of control too?”

Sure enough, they were. We barely managed to subdue them without killing them. There was something more going on. But I couldn’t even think properly. The sleeplessness was catching up with me, making my mind foggy. I vaguely remember Lou confirming that Casts were going out of control too. Tonnio had decided to go back to Moatoob to provide support there. So it was only Laia and I going back to the G-Colony.

“Ami, wake up!”

I didn’t even realized I had dozed off. It was odd having Laia look at me with such concern. She told me that the moment I sat down, I passed out asleep. That was an hour and a half ago. For a moment, Laia was contemplating on something.

“How much longer until we reach the colony?”

“Huh? Oh, about thirty minutes. Thirty-five at the most.”

“Laia you’re thinking about something.”

“You read me so well now Ami. But nothing to concern yourself about.”

I remembered our conversation on Moatoob when I panicked about Hyuga. I was still feeling the embarrassment from my reaction. But since it was some time before we reached the colony and I rather not have it in silence. I figured I could talk to her about it.

She didn’t seem like the type to really know about these feelings.

But I could at least try.

“Hey Laia, about earlier. He’s not my boyfriend.”

“You could have fooled me.”

“He really isn’t. But I dunno. The thought of that doesn’t repulse me though. When he went missing I just wanted to save him. I wanted to protect him. It’s weird to only know him for a short amount of time but have all these emotions. It’s silly.”

“It probably is. But it seems like it’s had a positive influence on you. You’re getting more confident in your skills. Hilde and I talked a bit during that mission and she told me how you were then. If you want my honest opinion, you’re in love with him.”

I stared at Laia for a moment. Me, in love? I knew there was infatuation, attraction even. But straight out love? The realization sobered me up from my foggy state. I would have to think on it more. But love?

“Is that kind of thing allowed?”

“What, dating other Guardians? Yeah, just as long as it doesn’t affect your duties. Leo’s wife is a Guardian you know?”

“I didn’t.”

“Yeah, but she’s inactive while their child is still young.”

I felt better talking this over with Laia. It was refreshing to have a normal conversation with her. I think that shuttle ride we had a bond. I think I could confide in her about my problems.

We arrived on the PPT floor of the colony, to meet with a familiar figure.

Seed-Venas seemed to expect us coming.

“What the hell? I thought that thing was caught up in the Sochee explosion.”

“I thought so too Laia. It is possible it’s not the same one then.”

For some reason, I had a feeling it wasn’t the case.

“Doesn’t matter, run. We got to meet up with Lou at HQ.”

I threw a fireworks trap at the form. Before the Festa, I had gotten a few of them. I had hoped the light them during the fireworks display they do during the night of the Festa. I just simply forgot to put them in my storage. It seemed to distract the Seed-form enough for Laia and I to make a run for Headquarters. We locked the door once it realized we ran from it. The doors shook as Seed-Venas attacked them.

I really hoped that the doors were sturdy enough.

The banging quieted down, soon stopping altogether. For the time being Seed-Venas wasn’t going to bother us. Leo happened to be inside as well, getting the message from Lou. But the problem was that it seemed we three were the only ones to respond to the call.

Soon, that turned to four.

Headmaster Nav somehow disabled the locks and approached us. A few moments later he attacked us as well under the influence of the Seed-virus.

During our shuttle ride to the G-Colony we touched with Lou to get a status report. She deducted that the Seed-virus had evolved to infect Casts too. It seemed that this Lou was the only one not affected. So she quarantined herself to keep herself clean.

Headmaster certainly lived up to his praises. Despite being a perverted old man, he was deadly skilled. We had our hands full avoiding his attacks. We couldn’t attack him and risk killing him. Thankfully his ICS, Instant Crash Syndrome, kicked in to make that choice for us. We didn’t get a breath of freedom before Lou called us again. She wanted us to go down to the lower levels of the G-Colony. She was stationed there with President Dallgun.

Due to the attack, we couldn’t just take the ramps to the Central Table like normal. We had to manipulate the elevators to get down to certain floors. I felt sad as I watched the place crumbling around us and trashed. G-Colony was my childhood home. I would never think I could witness it in such a state. Especially since it seems that Seed-Venas wasn’t the only Seed on here.

How did Seed get here? This is too widespread to be an experiment gone wrong.

We arrived at the Central Table. Immediately we saw a figure on the floor. The closer we got to them, my heart became tighter. We soon realized it was Hyuga who was lying there. Thought went out the window as I ran towards his unconscious form. I placed his head on my lap while I checked him out. He seemed visually fine, no injuries. Just his skin felt a bit clammy to touch. I subconsciously petted his head like my mom did to me when I was feeling sick. Maya arrived not too long after. She told us that she and Hyuga were helping with evacuations and Hyuga volunteered to stay behind.

“It was probably to fight that Seed-Venas.”

“Figures. He’s a bit of an idiot. Pushing himself when he has no business to.”

This recollection of events aren’t quite true. But more on that later.

Maya looked at me strangely. It must have been how I was holding him. Normally, I would not be like this. But I wasn’t completely myself at this point. The tiredness was a huge part. Probably.

“Lou needs us on the lower levels.”

“Well, I need to stay with Hyuga. I need to check his Seed-virus infection.”

“Understandable Maya. Ami, you want to stay too? I can ask Leo to come with me instead.”

I smiled slightly at Laia. I was thankful that she was considerate of my feelings. It was so tempting to say yes. I was exhausted, mentally and physically. But as much as a I would be better off if I stayed, I couldn’t.

“I’ll go Laia.”

“You sure?”

“Yeah, I’d be more useful with you.”

Maya looked at the two of us. I think she knew something happened between Laia and I.

A little hesitantly, I let Leo take Hyuga from me. I knew he was in good hands, but I still worry a little. Laia and I waited until they were out of our sight. I wanted to be absolutely sure the three would be okay.

“I wouldn’t have been mad if you went with them.”

“Nah, I’m fine. We’ll all live through this.”

There was a loud boom then some shaking. It scared me for a moment. I had never experienced such an attack before. I didn’t know what to expect. And the situation had dulled my toughness a little.

“Laia! Ami!”

“Ethan? What are you doing here?”

“I should be asking you two. Didn’t you hear the announcement? An Alliance Military ship hit the colony.”

It was worse than we thought. The Alliance Military was under the influence of the same thing that hit the Casts. It took only a moment for the colony to be bathed in a blood red tint. My eyes widened at seeing the photon particles floating around.

In the academy, we learned that these were signs of a Seed infection happening.

We weren’t alone either. Captain Curtz and two others from his group came down to the Central Table. The three of us were on guard. We weren’t sure of the extent of infection. For a few minutes the six of us were silent, staring at each other.

Then the military attacked us.

Laia and Ethan seemed to have no trouble fighting. I could see why the two are regarded as good Guardians. It was obvious I had a long way to go before I could even grasp their skill level. It did make me feel a little jealous, but now wasn’t the time to stew in it. Eventually we subdued Curtz’s group as well. Lou called us not too long after, wanting to get to the bottom levels as soon as possible. President Dallgun was in combat with Headmaster Nav.

I had read that Headmaster Nav was President Dallgun’s instructor when he was a Guardian.

This had bad feelings all over.

Laia convinced Lou to get someone to pick up Curtz. She realized that the Alliance Military needed him. We all knew this. We weren’t sure how big of an influence he would be once he was okay. But he couldn’t die today.

“Etha..?”

“Lumia?”

“Hu..-ry! Plea-?”

Ethan had to leave after that message. He wanted to help us but his little sister, Lumia Waber who sent that message, needed him. I’m an only child, so I couldn’t fully understand his feelings. Laia seemed to know and told him the true relationship between herself and President Dallgun. They seemed to reach a mutual understanding and parted ways.

Laia and I silently made our way to Lou’s location. After all that’s happened so far, the unknown of what’s to come, talking didn’t seem appropriate. If it was, I couldn’t think of anything to say anyway. With these events being triggered one after another, I didn’t have the mental strength to make small talk. It was clear that little pass out I had on the shuttle wasn’t nearly enough. I felt sluggish. I was ready to sleep anywhere, just as long as long as I can rest my body.

This was clearly a planned attack, whoever did this knew this was the outcome.

Lou’s location was an underground terminal station. President Dallgun looked like he was holding on the best he could. He was favoring his ribs while his free hand was holding on to a saber. Headmaster Nav looked ready to strike again.

There was no way we were going to make it in time.

I had my handgun out, just in case I needed to fire.

Then Headmaster’s ICS kicked in.

This was really too much.

I had my medical equipment ready to treat the president. But he stopped me.

“Thank you Miss Satomora, but I’m fine. Now, for your mission.”

“Hello.”

“This is the host Lou. In her database, she has the codes to separate the Residential section from the rest of the G-Colony.”

“This is my first time out of Headquarters, it’s nice to meet you all.”

“Separate?”

He told us that the extent of the damage on the G-Colony was too great. At that point, the only choice was to separate the residential section from the colony. If we didn’t then everyone was going to crash on Parum. We had already lost so much, we had to prevent any more causalities. Laia and I were to escort the host Lou to the room in which we can do the separation. If she went by herself, then her being killed or infected was high. And if she couldn’t start the separation process, then we would all die.

“Okay we’ll do it. But you’re coming with us.”

“I can’t. I’m a Guardian as well Laia.”

“But the Guardians need you Sir.”

“Don’t worry about me Laia. Before you came I sent for Leo and Tonnio to bring me. Get going.”

Laia was already leaving with Lou. I was getting ready to leave too.

“Satomora, wait.”

“Yes sir?”

“I’m relieving you from your part in the investigation on GRM.”

“Why sir?”

“I’m sorry Ami. It was a bad call to ask a new Guardian that. You’ve become so involved in events you shouldn’t have.”

“Are you talking about me, or Laia?”

He looked surprised for a moment before chuckling.

“Maybe both. It must have been hard to suspect that your father might have something to do with this.”

“Before my mom died, she told me that everything he did was for his family. He wanted to protect his wife and baby girl. I believe in him Sir.”

He smiled at me.

It was still a little odd. But I didn’t care.

“Continue watching over Laia for me. She doesn’t say it but I can tell you’ve had an influence on her too.”

The bad feeling I had came back in full force. Something was going to happen to him. Something significant. It reminded me of moments before Mom pushed me down from the attack.

He couldn’t be thinking of?

“Sir, Leo and Tonnio are coming correct? You are coming back to your daughter right?”

“Satomora, get going. We can’t afford to waste time right now.”

I was worried about that answer.

But I had to believe in him as well.

“Yes sir.”

“Thank you Ami. You’ve become quite the Guardian Ace. You have bright future ahead of you.”

I gave him a salute, it felt proper to do. I would try to live up to being a Guardian Ace then. I caught up with Laia, who was waiting at the next sector for me. She did wonder why I took a while. I assured her it was just a talk with the president about small stuff. I couldn’t tell her my feeling that something was going to happen. If I did, she would have wanted to go back and get him. We couldn’t let that happen. We arrived at a large area. Lou told us that the room we needed to go to wasn’t that far now.

“A valiant effort, if pointless.”

“What? Who’s there?”

It was Magashi. We were surprised. I couldn’t think of a way for Magashi to infiltrate G-Colony. But here he was.

That and then some.

“So it’s safe to confirm that Illuminus planned all of this.”

“If Howzer wishes for it, it will get done.”

“Howzer?”

“An advisor for the Illuminus.”

“Why the attack on the colony?”

“Why not? If you want specifics, then you can ask him yourself. If you survive. But I highly doubt it.”

So we all got into combat. Despite what happened to him during the first Seed invasion, he was still crazy talented. Even against three Guardians, he was able to hold us off with just a twin saber.

It was Two-Headed Ragnus, one of the higher end ones.

But still.

Laia and I would divert his attention while Lou would use her double saber to attack when she saw an opening. It still feels weird to have my daggers hit against metal. Since I can feel the vibrations more closely. I was glad I was doing a lot better than our last encounter. The training I took on the side was paying off.

I did notice he was analyzing me as I got close enough to attack.

It felt so creepy. If this was any other situation, I might have mistook it for checking me out.

I need to scrub that thought from my brain.

“Not bad, for Guardians. Heh heh. I forgot to mention something to you all.”

“What?”

“I’m not any ordinary Cast.”

Goddammit, you’ve got to be kidding me.

Magashi was in fact, a Copy Cast. He was created based on a thought patterns and actions of a person, instead of being an individual. Within the Cast race, Copy Casts are the most inferior. Even non-Casts were ranked higher than them. And because of his status as a Copy Cast, there are many bodies of him. We were soon surrounded by them alongside Illuminus agents. We couldn’t fight them all. It took a while just to fend off against one, dealing with more would be impossible right now.

“How much time we have left Lou?”

“Only minutes.”

“We have to go.”

Laia, Lou, and myself ran through the group of enemy Casts to the terminal. We had to avoid or at least deflect the Seed infected Casts and the Magashi clones. They were so determined to see us fail. They wanted the Guardians to end by the end of this.

By a sheer miracle we got into the room.

I was helping Lou through the process of separating the residential block from the rest of the colony. Laia wasn’t too good at terminals of this scale so she spent her time getting status updates from everyone. Helping Lou was calming in a way.

“You have a latent talent for this Tusakanova.”

“I go by Satomora. But even then call me Ami.”

“Right, that information was in one of the other Lous. I’ll note it for the future.”

“It’s fine. I haven’t heard my other last name in a long while. I’m a bit nostalgic.”

“I can finish the process here. Please rest, you’ve been through a lot.”

The moment I was able to sit, I fully realized how much was taken out of me. I couldn’t even move from my spot. But I was happy, we saved possibly millions of lives.

But, we couldn’t save anyone.

Laia panicked while we were doing the separation. At first I assumed that everything was catching up to her as well. But soon after, she broke down and cried. I was surprised, even in my state. I never saw her cry. Might be sad, might frown, but never cry. I wanted to go over and console her, but my body was staying put.

Lou informed the survivors what just happened.

President Obel Dallgun was killed in action. He sacrificed himself so that we could separate from the rest of the colony.

My breathing seized up as I saw the rest of the colony falling at a high speed. Somewhere in there President Dallgun was inside facing death. The Colony was making contact with Parum.

Dad was in Parum.

I couldn’t tell if he was in the vicinity of the G-Colony crashing.

But I prayed so hard that he wasn’t. I didn’t need to lose my dad today either.

I had to check up on him. Not now though. My body could not function anymore without causing any lasting damage to it. If it hadn’t gotten to that point already.

Before I completely passed out from the lack of energy I had, I wished that Mom’s spirit was protecting him.

Chapter Text

There was a three month gap between the attack on the G-Colony and when I officially was back on duty. Gurhal’s situation had became bleak. You would think that in situations like this, we were rise together.

But it wasn’t the case.

The moment I was cleared to move around I went to Parum to check on Dad. I was really worried that he got caught in the crash radius. To my immense relief, he wasn’t. Other than the prolonged power outage and being off of work because of the crash, he was fine. I pulled some much deserved vacation staying with him. The situation with Laia and President Dallgun made me realize it could have easily been Dad and me too. Dad was the same way. He had heard about the attack on G-Colony and was worried I was among the dead. It seems like a lot of Mobile Defense members were casualties from Illuminus’ attack. We were both pretty lucky.

With President Dallgun dead, the host Lou took temporary command of the Guardians until a permanent replacement was found. Fortunately there was always a plan to upgrade the G-Colony before the incident. We had hoped that the other planets would lend their aid in this.

If the Illuminus’ second goal was to fracture relations on Gurhal, they were on the right track.

Parum was still suffering extensive damage from the old G-Colony crashing on their planet and the out of control Casts. They didn’t have resources to spare on top on trying to help the G-Colony.

Neudaiz was just being it usual self. The relationship between the Communion and Guardians have always have been strained. Even more so when Ethan was there. Unless it directly influenced them, they wouldn’t help. Considering that the LSS would have helped immensely for everyone. Their secrecy was a cause for vocal outcry from the public.

Moatoob, most likely the most damaged of the planets, was in chaos. The Trade Alliance had collapsed with the Seed-virus outbreak. With no organization to bring order, it was a hopeless endeavor to ask them. Even if they did have someone, I don’t think they would help. They were angry at the Guardians and Alliance Military for the slaughter of Beasts. Even if at that point they weren’t Beasts, but Seed-forms.

Everything looked so bleak. It was believed that the end of the Guardians was near. Lou didn’t allow for that to happen. She dipped into the personal funds to help kickstart the reconstruction of G-Colony. It was at the cost that a lot of upgrades and repairs they were planning for our technology had to be delayed.

I hadn’t heard from Laia since I left to Parum. I’ve heard that many of the others tried to contact her with no response. The grief of her losing her father was too much. I guess she just needed time to search for her purpose again.

Leo helped whenever he could. He tried to maintain a sense of hope with the citizens that survived.

Maya was working harder than ever to develop a universal cure to the Seed-virus. The Beasts being infected on Moatoob and the Casts now being able to contract the virus was an awakening of how much we didn’t know about the virus. We were working against the clock before it evolved to a state that a vaccine was useless.

Tonnio stayed on Moatoob at the Dagora Branch. He was helping protecting the base and other Guardians from hostilities towards them.

We couldn’t find Headmaster Nav after the colony crashed. He was believed to be Killed in Action. There was nothing that could hint that he survived. Even a Cast like him couldn’t withstand an impact like that.

Hyuga was transported to the hospital in Parum, for real this time. He was still undergoing treatments for his Seed-virus infection. It was a little frustrating to be honest that we were in the same planet but I could never find time to visit. From what Maya told me on her visits that he was taking to the treatments well. Though nothing concrete could be made about his future.

There was still no word about Ethan. It’s assumed that he’s still doing his own thing.

I finally did question Dad about his history with GRM. It wasn’t for the evidence or anything like that. Now I just needed to know. He didn’t deny that he used to work for them. He was offered a job there not long after he had gotten his degree in Photon Applications. He worked there for a number of years, even when he married Mom. He had became friends with a number of people there, including the founder of GRM. When the founder died unexpectedly, Dad was suspect of the circumstances. Not too long after Mom was carrying me and he felt like GRM was going in a direction that he didn’t want to be a part of. So he resigned and tried to make a new life in G-Colony.

He did show me my birth certificate. I was born on Parum believe it or not. We were intending to move to G-Colony earlier than they did, but I wanted out.

He showed me a wedding picture I hadn’t seen before.

“That’s the founder right there. It really was a shame he died before you were born. I think you have liked him. He was happy when I told him I was intending to raising a family. I think his wife was already carrying when he died. I wonder how she is.”

I was surprised at the photo.

If the founder was a bit younger and more lean, I could have sworn I was looking at Hyuga ten to fifteen years from now.

As nice as it was to hang out with Dad I had a duty to the Guardians to uphold. For a month I would do odd jobs within the Guardians. Sometimes I would help the medical team with minor injuries. Others I would be helping with security detail. Sometimes I would be with Leo to help ease the citizens. It was tiring work but I couldn’t complain. We had to rebuild the Guardians. We had to prove that we would rise from this attack.

One day, I got a message from Mina saying I had a mission. This was odd since we put a temporary freeze on mission requests while we were trying to rebuild ourselves. The way Mina worded the message, it was urgent enough to bypass the freeze.

Maya had requested me on this mission. The future of the Guardians hung in the balance of this one mission.

Chapter Text

When I arrived at the lobby floor of Guardians HQ, Mina was at her usual spot. It felt good to have something usual after everything we’ve all been through the past three months. Out of habit, she asked for my license. Then she remembered the system that was used to scan my license was still down so she couldn’t check me in. But she had informed me that Maya was waiting in the briefing room.

“It’s been a while Ami.”

“Yeah. Sorry I had to pull vacation when you all needed me.”

“I understand, you had to make sure your father was safe. Is he?”

“Yeah, he’s fine. Have you seen Hyuga?”

“A couple weeks ago. He’s doing good. I think now he’s doing some rough treatments and they aren’t allowing any visitors.”

“I see...”

“I think he’d appreciate a visit from more of his friends when they allow it.”

“I’ll think about it. Anyway what’s the mission about?”

Maya got straight to the point when I mentioned the mission. She had gotten a few leads on Laia’s whereabouts. There were sightings of a Beast matching Laia’s description around the crash site. Maya had no doubts that it was her and she wanted me to come with to get her.

She still didn’t tell me why it was important to the Guardians to actually get her.

“Maya, and Ami?”

“Lumia?”

“I did hear that you joined the Guardians recently.”

During the three months, Lumia Waber had enrolled in the Guardians.

“Get trained soon, we’re going to need you out there.”

“Take me with you two.”

What?

Lumia seemed adamant in going. But from a safety standpoint, taking out a, just graduated, trainee was dangerous. Even I had a couple weeks between graduating the academy and beginning my field training.

But we were really understaffed.

“Maya, take her with us.”

“What? Are you sure?”

“We’re understaffed. And I’d feel safer if we were watching her instead of her trying to get there on her own. I’ll take full responsibility for her.”

“You serious?”

“Yeah, now don’t make regret it Lumia.”

Before we could leave, Lumia had to change into something more durable for the mission. Maya had lent her an Amorosso set with matching boots. It was from when she was training.

I gave a slight twitch imagining Maya wearing that outfit.

Anyway, our leads sent us to Parum. We were on the outskirts of Rozemon City, the impact zone of the colony falling. Seeing even the area in ruins was difficult to digest. Parum was the planet in which I was born in. I didn’t want to see it in such a state. It was hard on Lumia too. Her first experience with Parum shouldn’t have been this sight.

We stumbled upon a refuge camp a few miles from where we landed. We could have flown all the way to the supposed location. But we were afraid to tip off Laia. If she was there. We had to take all the precautions. I noticed with the creatures we faced Lumia was more comfortable as a ranged fighter. She was a Technic user. Most Technic users were Newmans, since they were in tuned with the photons than Humans.

It interested me.

She had potential, for having just gotten out of the academy.

If she was in the academy before this then she would have been a prodigy.

Maya saw that too, I think.

Getting to the camp was fairly easy. The creatures that we did see were exhausted from the crash as well. They were more ferocious from their survival instinct kicking in. But nothing compared to what I had to face on the G-Colony attack. When we arrived, Maya started asking the people about Laia. We didn’t any concrete answer to go by. I had just finished making my rounds before I heard shouting. I ran towards the source to see that Lumia and Maya were being confronted by a female Beast.

I vaguely remember her from my visits to Moatoob.

They weren’t good memories.

Goddammit.

“Look at you Guardians. You look like you’ve just had a good meal. I haven’t done had anything substantial in days. If you just did your jobs like you were supposed to.”

“It’s hard for everyone. Just hold on to hope. Just wait a little lo-”

“I’m tired of your empty words!”

I saw her shove Lumia to the ground. Instinct came in to protect Lumia. No matter the situation, I couldn’t let them take it out on her. So naturally I shoved the female right back.

“What the hell is wrong with you!”

“Hmph another Guardian scum I see.”

“So what if I’m Guardian scum. You had no right to place the blame on someone younger than you. Everyone’s lost something because of this. Our situation isn’t better or worse than yours. What exactly are you doing to make it better? Huh! Answer me!”

“Hmph whatever. What are the Guardians doing? Sitting on their thumbs? What are you doing Miss Higher than Thou?”

I think I picked up a bit of my temper from Laia.

I was ready to slap the Beast before Maya stopped me. One look at her and I realized what I was about to do. I let out a sigh before I let myself calm down. We didn’t need this. I didn’t need my emotions to stand in the way of my duty. At least not right now. It was hard to hear her speak so lightly of what we Guardians lost. Comrades lost their lives because of this. People that were parents, siblings, children to someone.

“Everyone’s lost a lot. We don’t need to be blaming one another. That’s exactly what the enemy wants. What we’ve been doing is rebuilding so we can actually fight again. All I can ask for is patience.”

“Right...words are pretty but come to me when you actually back them up.”

“It’s not the Guardians fault.”

Right before the situation could escalate an Alliance Military Cast stumbled into the crowd. He was defending us. By the looks of it he was damaged so badly.

Just what in the hell did this camp do to him?

“I thought you learned your lesson.”

“You three Guardians...go.”

Maya and I understood. He was buying us time from the mob that was starting to form. Lumia didn’t want to leave him. I didn’t want to leave him there either. I understood why, but I didn’t want to do it. I was tired of the sacrifices.

“Lumia. We need to go. We have a mission.”

“But Maya, Ami!”

“I know but we have to. It’s our duty to honor his final wish.”

“But-!”

“Sir, do you know a Constantine De’Motove?”

“Yes?”

“Is he alright?”

“From what I’ve heard, he was damaged, but he’s recovering with his wife.”

I smiled slightly at that. Costantine was Hildegarde’s husband. I hadn’t gotten in touch with Hilde during the downtime so I wondered. I took Lumia by the arm and nearly dragged her away from the scene. The very least I could do was not have Lumia get a visual of the mob beating the Cast to death. Maya was harsh about it, but this was the reason why she didn’t want Lumia to come out here now. This was too much too soon for her. She didn’t need such a harsh reality check. Her views on Gurhal were idealistic at best. As much as we wished we could solve all the problems with words. We couldn’t.

Each day could be our last.

But we were okay with it.

As long as we were protecting those in Gurhal, we were fine with dying.

We took a break to help calm Lumia down. It was hard to see that such a moment changed her already. She started to understand the weight of being a Guardian. I was a little jealous that she got it so quickly while I didn’t until my first mission as an actual Guardian. We started back up on our mission after the break. It was quiet, just letting the scene in the camp sink in. We were about half way through our destination before we stopped. In front of us were ruins.

We were in utter silence once we realized that it was ruins of the G-Colony.

It was a depressing thought that the remains of our comrades were buried underneath that. Never to be retrieved. We heard footsteps approaching. We were slightly tensed, just in case someone decided to be hostile to us.

“Laia!”

It was Laia. She didn’t respond to us. Just kept her eyes on the ruins. It was still a shock to see her with such a depressing look. Her face showed depression, but her eyes reflected anger. Was she angry at us for finding her? Was she angry at the Illuminus for this? Was she angry at herself for not realizing her father’s sacrifice sooner?

Either way, she was not happy to see us.

“What are you doing here?”

Maya and Lumia started to get Laia to come back to the Guardians. Laia was dead set on never returning. To her, the Guardians were a reminder of her deceased father. Her failure to prevent his death. I think we all shared the sentiment in not being able to save him. Especially me since I had a bad feeling.

I remembered the last order he gave me was to take care of Laia.

Even if that meant bringing her back to the Guardians.

For now, that would have to wait. Lumia found a girl about seven or eight shortly after reuniting with Laia. Her story was that she was separated from her mother after a creature attacked their traveling group. Without a second thought Lumia wanted to reunite the two.

Later on, she would tell me the reason she jumped at the chance was that her mother had died while giving birth to her. So she had no memories of her. She didn’t want to see another person without their mom.

Laia didn’t seem impressed by Lumia’s interest in the Guardians. She lacked proper determination, as she worded it. Lumia wanted to prove her wrong. That even though she was younger than a lot of people who usually join the Guardians, she was just as serious.

At moments like those, she really shows being related to Ethan.

The plan was that Lumia, the girl, and myself would lead to the next camp while Maya and Laia took the rear guard. The official reason was to not have any surprise attacks. But Maya saw it as an opportunity to try and convince Laia to come back herself.

With the larger creatures making the route we were taking their new home, the mission was harder. Also coupled with the inherited dangers of escorting someone with no combat experience. I took the mission to gauge Lumia’s skills better. She really was good. She fought the creatures with little trouble and would calm the girl when she got too scared.

Lumia really would have benefited if she had proper training at the academy.

We took down the creatures to reach the camp before nightfall. Laia had pulled me aside as Maya and Lumia went to reunite the girl with her mom.

It was a silent affair.

I didn’t know what to say to her. What could I say to her? A part of me was happy to see her. Another part was mad that she just left without a word. A lot of us thought the worst had happened. I wanted to yell at her for making all of us worry. But then again I understood her need of space.

I lost a parent too after all.

“I take it Maya didn’t convince you to come back?”

“I can’t go back there Ami. After what’s happened, I just don’t know if my heart can be in it.”

“If everyone thought that way, then there wouldn’t be a Guardians.”

“Ami’s right you know.”

Laia and I were surprised to see Ethan again. There wasn’t even a hint that he was near Parum. It really only solidified that he was still a Guardian, even though he wasn’t officially one now. He was the one who explained why it was so important to get Laia back to the Guardians.

Laia was meant to take President Dallgun’s position. She had Human, Beast, Cast, and Newman siblings. All of them adopted by him. He wanted to believe in racial equality being our answer for the troubles Gurhal faced. He wanted to have that in his family first.

The thought of everyone in Gurhal coming together as one.

Something like that just might be the hope we needed to defeat the Illuminus and the Seed.

Laia admitted something to me that day. She was afraid. She was the only one left of her family. Everyone else was killed while serving in the Guardians. That shook her confidence as a person.

Grass Assassins showed up to interrupt our conversation. Though they were easy to kill, it felt right fighting alongside Laia and Ethan again. The feelings I had the last time were gone. I felt like I could step beside them in the fight, instead of behind. The past three months got me to thinking about myself as a Guardian and my skills.

I now felt the confidence that everyone had wanted me to do in the first place.

Maya and Lumia arrived back into the area. Ethan was quite surprised to see that Lumia out in the field. Even more so that she was a Guardian trainee now. The way the two talked about it, it seemed like a discussed issue. But it still didn’t help the fact that Laia was refusing to come back.

Maya pulled out a recording. Apparently, the message Laia heard at the G-Colony when she spoke to President Dallgun wasn’t complete. Laia looked angry that Maya held such information. But to be fair, she disappeared before she could give to her. There was no denying how curious she was about its contents. Maya was pretty confident that the message would convince Laia to come back.

I don’t know how Maya does it.

President Dallgun wished for Laia to take his place as President. He believed that she would be the catalyst to bring everyone together in hopes of defeating the Seed and the Illuminus. He wanted her to know that Ethan was trustworthy and he was an ally. He also had regrets he couldn’t be the father to her like he wished.

We were all quiet after the recording. Taking in President Dallgun’s words. Ethan soon left after Laia decided she was going back. He appreciated Dallgun’s words. It just wasn’t time for him to become a Guardian yet.

“I need to finish this personal mission. Then I might come back.”

“Be careful.”

“You guys too. We’re in for some rough times.”

Everyone in the Guardians welcomed President Martinez with open arms. We were just relieved that she was alright. She made a quick speech. As usual, she was just to the point. To defeat the Illuminus and Seed, we had to work together. We had to think differently.

We had to change ourselves.

Change was something that stuck with me. I had decided right then I would take up the task of being Lumia’s instructor. I’ve only been a Guardian for a year. But I saw the potential in her. It felt like I was the only one who can become her instructor. Laia and Lumia were surprised when I told them this.

“You sure? It’ll be a little while before you’ll officially be one.”

“It’s alright. I think Lumia and I make a good team.”

“Ami is that alright?”

“Yeah. I owe it up to your brother to make sure you’re the best Guardian you can be. I think if he was still a Guardian he would take up your training instead.”

“Thank you Ami, I won’t let you down!”

Yeah, this felt destined.

Chapter Text

A week passed since Laia became president of the Guardians. A week passed since I had begun my journey as an instructor to Lumia. Well, officially I wasn’t. But only because the system used to upgrade my license was still down. But everyone knew my position. To be honest, I was a little nervous about being one. Teaching others was something I’ve never done before. And I was still a new Guardian. Most don’t start instructing until their third year at the earliest. I was learning just as much as Lumia was.

Thankfully, Lumia was understanding of the situation and didn’t expect too much out of me.

Laia seemed to have a better impression of Lumia as well after the mission in Parum. So much so, she had Lumia join her to smooth relations with the New Rogues on Moatoob. The group was led by Alfort Tylor, a rogue nearly everyone respected. Laia did ask me to go. But I declined. I had something else to do.

It wasn’t as important as interplanetary relations.

But it was important to me.

I was going to visit Hyuga.

Maya had suggested I visit him. So I was going to take her up on it. I hadn’t had time during my time off to see him and it made me a bit sad. I wasn’t really being a good friend if I didn’t visit at least once. I needed to change that. That was what lead me in front of the doors of Clyvez City’s hospital.

Something stopped me from taking the step forward.

I hadn’t realized it, but I was shaking. I was afraid of going inside. Not of Hyuga. But what I would see. I remembered when Laia and I found him on the ground during the attack. Seeing him so exhausted and feeling the clammy skin. And maybe a part of myself was scared of being in a hospital after my extended stay.

I knew I couldn’t do it then.

It was selfish of me, I knew this.

I wouldn’t have to wait long to see him anyway. The next day I was called into a mission by Laia. It was going to be in Neudaiz. My partners would be Lumia and Hyuga. Lumia was a given since she was my pupil. I was a little confused by Hyuga. Not that he wasn’t welcomed. But I understood he wasn’t on a lot of missions because of his treatments.

“I figured that since he’s been showing signs of improvement, he can start being on active duty again.”

“Is that the only reason Laia?”

“I’m not Maya, Ami.”

“I know, but I have to ask these questions.”

“What you mean?”

“Nothing Lumia. Anyway the doctors have a positive outlook on his future with the Guardians. Isn’t that right Hyuga?”

“...Huh?”

Huh?

Hyuga’s not usually so distracted.

The mission was simple on paper. Go to the Communion headquarters and get whatever information we could on the LSS. If we can show them they’ve been holding out on Gurhal to protect themselves we were hoping to persuade them to join us. Lumia looked a little less than pleased to basically resorting to blackmail. I explained to her that it needed to be done. That sometimes we have to do the less glamorous jobs to make things easier on everyone.

The three of us took the shuttle to Ohtoku City. During the shuttle ride, something felt off about Hyuga. Call it a woman’s intuition.

“Are you sure you’re okay for this mission Hyuga?”

“Of course. I’m surprised that Lumia is here.”

“She’s my pupil.”

“Oh...three months really change things.”

“It’s only been a week. But yeah, it’s a tough job. I wonder if I’m doing it right.”

“I believe in you Ami. I’m sure Lumia believes in you too.”

I would need to keep my eyes on him.

The hardest part of the mission was actually getting inside the building. The guards wouldn’t easily let us Guardians in for no reason. Our strained relationship was not in our favor. It seemed even more strained since Light Master Rutsu was more involved.

It was a bit frustrating to be honest.

I felt a bit weird. If I hadn’t decided to become a Guardian, I would be in Neudaiz at one of the top performing arts colleges in Gurhal. It’s a little hard, to think how normal my life would be if I did take up that application. It was a dream. Not a huge one, but one nonetheless.

No, I couldn’t think like that.

I decided to join the Guardians with no regrets.

Given the chance to start over, I wouldn’t have changed a thing.

Hyuga and Lumia were having a small disagreement about how to get inside. Lumia wanted to be honest and tell them that Ethan was her brother and there were signs of him inside. Before we left, Laia had briefed us that Ethan was inside the headquarters. She didn’t know the reason, but this was enough for us to get involved. Figuring out that Lumia looked too young to be a Guardian trainee, we could just say we were commissioned by her family to look for him. Hopefully without incident.

Hyuga didn’t believe that would work. Too many red flags.

Like how she got this information?

And why she needed Guardians?

“Oh wait. I get it! You’re going to flirt with the guard right?”

“Lumia!”

I was displeased. No I was pissed. I shouldn’t have been. I knew from the start Hyuga was a flirtatious guy. I knew this before I even knew him. For a moment, I had a thought that he should look at me like that. Jealousy is a stupid emotion. Especially since the cause of my jealousy doesn’t even know how I feel about them.

I did a terrible job of hiding this emotion.

“Ami, are you okay? You seem angry.”

“No Lumia. I’m not angry.”

“But Dear Ami, you’re speaking very Parum-esque.”

“I swear to all that is holy if you talk about my dialect I will smack you.”

“What’s he talking about?”

“I speak like someone from Parum because I am from Parum. Are we done?”

“You are?”

“Yeah, only for a little while. But it was enough. If you’re going to do your flirt thing Hyuga then do it. I don’t have time for this nonsense.”

What I didn’t tell them was that I was also part Newman from my maternal side.

It was a small part. But it explains my hair and eye color.

They didn’t need to know that.

Irritation doesn’t set well with me at all. No one decided to question me so Hyuga flirted with the guard while Lumia and I sneaked into the building. We immediately hid in one of the storage rooms until Hyuga caught up with us. The few minutes waiting gave me time to calm down. I didn’t need my feelings to compromise our mission. I had to maintain a professional attitude with Lumia learning from me. I wanted to be a good example for her. He eventually caught up with us and we began our trek through the building. It was huge, so we had to keep our guard.

I heard that after the incident with the Divine Maiden’s near abduction, Master Rutsu decided to stay in Ohtoku.

I was becoming more weary of him with every interaction.

Missions can never go right with me.

One of the patrolling guards noticed us. We only had a few moments before he was going to alert the others. If we’re found out here, our mission would be significantly harder. So I did the only thing I could. I smashed my palm against his chin and used the moment he was dazed to slam his head into a wall to knock him unconscious.

Those lessons Laia gave me were really coming in handy right now.

“I-Is he dead?”

“No. I don’t kill people unless it’s absolutely necessary. He’ll have a headache and a bruised jaw. But not dead.”

“That was so cool! Where did you learn that?”

“Uh, well being a Twin Dagger specialist learning hand to hand is nearly a must. But Laia taught me a lot too.”

“Will you teach me?”

“Well I can at least teach you some self defense.”

“Need I remind you ladies we have a mission to finish.”

The two of us stared at Hyuga as he went on ahead. Something was definitely up with him. I was getting legitimately pissed off at him. It wasn’t the flirting or anything like that, but he wasn’t himself and it made me mad. But he was right. We had a mission to do. I could let Lumia be in awe of my fighting skills afterward.

“Something’s up with Hyuga. We should keep an eye on him.”

I’m glad I wasn’t the only one who thought something was up.

Even on missions he had time to be friendly. The opposite of what he was now.

We made our way to the LSS generator. It wasn’t easy. We had to quietly stun any guards we met and dismantled their guard machines. But we made it to our target point. Hyuga immediately went over the machines to gather data.

I thought he was more of a business person. Not really into machines.

But with how he was, it was best I leave it alone.

Ethan had showed up not long after. He disclosed the full nature of our mission. Laia knew that Ethan was here. The two had talked and planned this. Ethan was the reason we needed to get inside to see the LSS for ourselves. He learned that Rutsu was forcing the Divine Maiden into powering the LSS. Over time she would become too weak to sustain herself while powering the LSS.

He didn’t want her to die.

That was the reason why I was chosen for this mission. But Ethan was confused why Lumia and Hyuga was there. He heard about Hyuga getting the Seed-virus and was concerned about his health. The two had an odd friendship. It doesn’t show a lot. But when it does it’s kind of funny.

As for Lumia.

“Uh about that. I’m her instructor.”

“Wait what? She’s already out in field training, isn’t that too soon?”

“Actually her field training started when you were in Parum.”

“Are you mad Ethan?”

“Not mad. Surprised. Well I guess since you’re her instructor Ami I can tolerate it. I trust you with her. If it could be anyone else I think you would have been the best fit.”

“I don’t know if I’m touched or scared.”

In reality, I was glad he approved of me being her instructor. Lumia was his only family, so the people he could trust with her was small. We only met a handful of times, but he already trusted me with protecting and training his little sister. It’s a good feeling to be relied on like that.

That happiness was short lived.

I found out that even though a trace of me had Newman genes, I could sense photons. It wasn’t strong, but it felt more like a feeling. Even more so if it was strong photons. I assumed me learning how to use Technics were making the sensing stronger. I started to feel some strong photons taking place. I let my eyes wander over to the source.

No…

No no no!

It couldn’t be happening

It just couldn’t be happening.

The source of the photons were coming from Hyuga. Dark photons were surrounding his body. I’ve been in enough situations to know what was happening. He was turning into a Seed-form. It took all my willpower to not completely lose my mind at seeing this happen to him. I was mortified. I thought the treatments were going well. For the first time since Mom’s death, I was having a severe panic attack.

There was nothing we could do once someone turned into a Seed-form than to purify them.

Purify was just another word for killing.

I would have to kill Hyuga.

No! I couldn’t do that. I wouldn’t do that. I knew I had to get rid of the Seed-form, it’s my duty. But I couldn’t do it knowing that it was Hyuga. I was staring face to face with Seed-Venas.

I didn’t realize that my panic attack made me shout my refusal to fight Hyuga.

Ethan had a look of realization on his face.

He had a feeling that there was something more to my refusal than because Hyuga was my friend.

“Ami. Listen, we have to fight that form.”

“But that’s Hyuga!”

“I know. I know how you feel. But we have to do this. He wouldn’t want us to let him risking innocent lives.”

He was right.

Hyuga would want us to perform our duty as Guardians.

I didn’t like it. I hated it. But I had to do it.

I cried as I started to attack Seed-Venas, attack Hyuga. It was a difficult form. My only experience was running from it two other times. But this form seem to actually be affected by our attacks. Ethan and Lumia backed me up and started attacking as well. I was glad they were with me, I don’t think I could do it alone. For a moment, I was willing to die to make sure Hyuga lived.

We didn’t have to go that route.

Seed-Venas was taken down and reverted back to Hyuga. Thankfully he wasn’t dead, just unconscious. Ethan looked to be in thought at Lumia and I checked on Hyuga’s health. These turns of events were just too much so fast.

“Hey Ami, I had a thought.”

“Yeah?”

“The time in Moatoob and on G-Colony you faced a Seed-Venas right?”

“Yeah.”

“And after that Hyuga was there in some fashion. With the communit incident and finding him on G-Colony.”

“What are you getting at?”

“This whole time, we were fighting him.”

The moment Hyuga transformed into that form that was a possibility. He was acting weird before and after we encountered Seed-Venas. Then I remembered, it didn’t kill me when it had a chance on Moatoob. And the connection I felt. I wonder if subconsciously Hyuga knew it was me and stopped.

We got closer to Hyuga’s body. Even though he was unconscious, it was hard to say what could happen at this point. I felt sad. Why did it have to be him? What did he do to deserve this kind of fate? I wanted to cry from frustration but I couldn’t. Not in front of Lumia and Ethan.

“You might hate me, but we need to go.”

“We’re just going to leave Hyuga here!”

“Lumia, calm down. Saving the maiden takes priority. Hyuga will live. He’s too stubborn to die. Even factoring that, the Communion won’t kill him. They are a lot of things, but they won’t kill an unconscious person.”

“What about Ami’s feelings in this?”

“You’re right. Ami is the mission leader. So the decision falls on her.”

Wait, since when was I decided leader?

Anyway they both brought up good points. My heart was telling me to stay with Hyuga. I didn’t want to leave him alone. My mind knew that this was the only chance to save the maiden, to save Karen. If she died then there’s no stopping Master Rutsu to use those Sisters of the Holy Light to power the LSS. We couldn’t let that happen.

At times, I really hated how I could logic my way out of a decision.

“I don’t like it, but Ethan’s right. We have to rescue Karen.”

“Wait, how did you know about Karen?”

“The abridged version? I pushed Hyuga to tell me. We can discuss specifics later.”

“What about Hyuga, you’re going to leave him here?”

“I have no choice. But if I find out the Communion has harmed him in any way, I’ll kill them. It’s simple.”

I think I scared Lumia a bit when I said that.

Ethan too for that matter.

I was quite serious about my threat.

“Ami! Look out!”

I was too late to react to the sudden force hitting me from behind. I barely registered that Hyuga had woken up while we were talking and attack the LSS machine, making it explode. I was the closest to it so I got hit the hardest. My line shield had protected me from the brunt of the explosion.

I can already feel my hair not making out of this okay.

Worst part, Hyuga was escaping. I couldn’t let him go. I didn’t know if this would be the last time I would see him. Who’s to say that he’ll transform again and he’ll actually be purified? I ran towards him. I was a bit disoriented from the blast, still I kept going. Not even the flames could stop me now. I would have went through literal hell for Hyuga if Ethan didn’t stop me. I watched as Hyuga left. Once again I was unable to prevent another person I care for leave. I kept watching until my vision became hazy and then dark.

When I was aware again, I noticed I was in one of the great halls of the pavilion. It seemed that I overloaded my mind and emotions and my body just shut down. I happened to wake up as Ethan and Lumia had gotten back from a talk. Lumia surprised me by tackling me into a hug. I didn’t return it right away, clearly not used to such affection from anyone who wasn’t family. Ethan looked at me like he just knew.

“Ami you scared us when you passed out!”

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to.”

“I didn’t want to lose another friend today.”

“Don’t worry. I’m not that easy to kill.”

I took a good look at my injuries. My hair that grew to my mid-back was now all clumped together thanks to the fire. I had some burns and scrapes from the explosion. But nothing that needed an immediate trip to the medical center. I separated from Lumia to grab one of my twin daggers. I sighed as I cut my hair. It was bittersweet seeing my hair fall to the ground. It wasn’t going to be as long when I was a rookie, but I really liked having long hair.

And a small part I will deny to my dying breath is that I thought Hyuga liked long-haired girls.

The cut wasn’t perfect and I would definitely need a trip to Lumilass to get it trimmed up.

“You mind explaining what happened back there?”

“Depends on what.”

“Your meltdown and how you know about Karen being the maiden.”

“The meltdown is hard to explain. I guess you can say Hyuga to me is what Karen is to you. Someone I’m willing to do whatever it takes to protect.”

“So you love him?”

“I wouldn’t say love. But I do know I want to protect him. Even though I know he can protect himself. I haven’t fully figured it out yet. Anyway as for Karen being the maiden. Like I said, Hyuga told me after I pressed for answers. I wanted to know why that night she was able to stop you like that. Now I understand. Don’t worry, I haven’t told anyone else.”

The two listened intently. And they didn’t seem to react bad to it. It wasn’t the time or place to have in depth discussions about it. The feelings were there and I wasn’t going to leak it to the media. That was good enough for him.

After a bit more fighting machines and guards we reached where Master Rutsu and the maiden, Karen, was. Rutsu seemed to frown when he saw us.

“Mister Waber, why am I not surprised?”

“Let Karen and the Sisters go Rutsu.”

“Master Rutsu, I am Ami Satomora of the Guardians. I’m here to request your aid against the Seed and Illuminus threat by President Laia Martinez. I have enough evidence gathered that if exposed your followers won’t be so agreeable to the LSS. Please let the Divine Maiden go and assure the safety of the Sisters. I have been authorized to use force if needed be.”

It was tough hearing Master Rutsu talk about Newmans being the superior race. I don’t remember Newmans having a superiority complex. The position Master Rutsu has seems to have clouded him a lot. I wouldn’t let such an esteemed figure spiral down in front of me.

“Master Rutsu, I ask again. Please stop. Any type of supremacy is the wrong kind of thinking. We need to work together.”

“I will stop anyone standing in the way of our will. Come! Alterazgohg!”

Alterazgohg is classified as one of the more powerful species of gohgs. Part of it being that it was genetically created. The dragon like creature easily towered over us. I could tell that Lumia was scared. She never had to face such a huge creature before. I gave her a reassuring smile. I thought that if I could be calm despite everything that’s happened to me, I could inspire her to do the same.

Despite its large frame, once you clip its wings it’s a lot easier to take down.

It was still difficult since it can change its photon affinities on the fly. But it still fell in front of us. Ethan looked proud of Lumia. She really did have potential to be a great Guardian if she really tried.

Even after defeating the creature Master Rutsu would not relent.

I was praying we didn’t have to fight him too. Fighting a comrade who turned into a Seed-form, then a Gohg was taking it’s physical toll on us. To fight a skilled Technic user too, I don’t think we could win.

Luckily Karen managed to get out of the LSS before it could get to that.

After Karen talked to Master Rutsu, he finally surrendered. He agreed to help us in our fight against the Illuminus. I let Karen use my communit to confirm the agreement with Laia. All that was left was to get Parum to agree. That was going to be the hardest. Not only because it’s all been confirmed that GRM is helping the Illuminus. But there was also the Alliance Military, who we didn’t know was still being controlled by the Seed-virus. It would be a good while before we decided our next move.

Ethan opted to stay on Neudaiz. One to protect Karen, and another to keep his eyes on Master Rutsu. Lumia looked a bit sad to be parting from her brother so soon, but he assured her they were going to meet again. We went back to the HQ and reported our mission to Mina. All I wanted to do was sleep. But Lumia was persistent in me getting checked out. Then there was the trip to Lumilass to trim my hair.

Fortunately my injuries really weren’t that bad. They would heal up in about a week or two, and be bandaged during that time.

I was back in my room after the trip to Lumilass. I found out that the fire damage was more than I thought. Another inch had to be cut off, making my hair the shortest it’s been since I was a little kid. It looked quite boyish having it to the nape of my neck. I liked it though. Anyway, I was typing up my formal report for the mission and for my instructors log before I heard my door open. I knew Laia would want those as soon as I could get them done. My mind couldn’t commit to the tasks. With the adrenaline of the mission wearing off the seriousness of our situation was sinking in. One of our own Guardians was out there somewhere under the influence of the Seed-virus. He’s out there doing things he has no control over. If we didn’t stop it soon, then we’d have to take lethal actions.

I didn’t want to raise my weapon at a friend again.

“Someone told me you’d be in here.”

Laia stopped by my room. I wasn’t surprised she got in so easily. She did have the master codes to the barracks.

“Yeah I’m here. Trying to work on reports.”

“Hair looks good. At least you won’t have any issues with your Twin Daggers now.”

“I figured I needed a drastic change. We’ll see how long I keep the style.”

“Ami, I just came by to see how you’re doing. Ethan messaged me what happened.”

“Goddammit Ethan. Anyway yeah. I’m good just sore.”

“How about emotionally?”

“Honestly I feel like shit, excuse my language. But it won’t affect my missions. I told you that it wouldn’t when we talked.”

“I can pull you for a couple days to relax.”

“It’s fine. I let most of it out there. Besides with him missing I’d be better if I was out on missions.”

“Oh you’re the restless type. The mother Rappy worried for her chicks.”

“If you want to say that. I have a request. I will be in the rescue party when he is found.”

“When?”

“I’m not leaving it to ifs. Not with him. Dead or alive I will find Hyuga.”

I was serious about the request. Not because of my feelings for him. Not really. But it was my inability to do more that he got away. The day made me realize I had a lot to change about myself too. I kept using the fact I was new for my shortcomings. I had a pupil to look after now. I had to be stronger for Lumia. Everyone was giving their all towards the fight against the Illuminus.

It was time that I did too.

“Hmm, you’re serious. The most serious I’ve seen you. You’re finally coming into your potential. Alright Guardian Ace, you got it. When we find Hyuga I’ll let you rescue him.”

Chapter Text

The hardest part about finding someone is that the captors think of everything to prevent you finding them. Intelligence had been looking for any leads on Hyuga for about a week since he was missing. His communit was jammed so we couldn’t contact him. The same with his life support register. After I had trained Lumia for the day I would spend my nights helping Lou in the search. There was only so much I could contribute but it put my mind at ease knowing I was doing what I could.

Much to the dismay of the others.

“Ami, you’re at it again?”

“Oh, Laia. Yeah, I figured I’d go over the search information again.”

“You’ve went over it, five times. Have you even been eating?”

“Just in the morning and before I come here.”

“Ami you know that isn’t good for you.”

“I have to do what I can for him.”

“You won’t be any good to him if you’re exhausted either. Don’t make me pull rank and order you time off. Come on, lets get you something.”

I had no say in it anyway so I followed Laia to one of the break rooms of Headquarters. She gave me some coffee and protein bars as the two of us just sat. It was supposed to be a break, but I noticed the stare Laia was giving me. She was analyzing me to see if I really needed the time off.

“I know what you’re doing.”

“I know. But I’m being serious. You can’t let yourself get this worked up. At least not now. Do it when we find him.”

“You don’t know how it felt to be so close but so far. I let him down, I let myself down. I should have done more.”

“I hate saying this, but there was a reason why you couldn’t get him then. If you found him then and he attacked, would you be able to fight him then?”

I stopped mid-sip.

That was a good question. I thought about how I was ready to die if Seed-Venas had dealt a death blow. Could have I really had been so easy to give up then? It felt like a needed slap in the face thinking about that. I think Laia saw the realization on my face.

“It’s okay. You got caught up in a moment of weakness. You not getting him then was a sign that you weren’t ready for that route. A weakness I’m sure the enemy would have taken advantage of.”

“I guess you’re right.”

“When you told me that you’re going to find him dead or alive, I was surprised. I know we’ll find him alive, but the fact that you mentioned it was a possibility made me proud of you. You found your confidence as a Guardian. Kind of a shame that it was out of this. But now that the fire is there, you can only do better from here.”

“Laia...you speaking so poetically is creeping me out.”

“Shut up, I’m trying to be an instructor.”

The two of us laughed.

It was just like the shuttle ride during the attack.

Laia may seem like she doesn’t care. But she does, just not openly. After everything she’s been through the past couple of months, I was glad she was showing this side to me. And I was glad I was able to expose this side of myself to her as well. It felt good to be this emotionally open and not worry about people coddling me.

“Did I help Ami?”

“A lot actually. You’re right, once again. I’ll leave the work of searching to Intel.”

“Good. Just perform your duties until you get called in. And get some sleep and eat something more than the little meals. You better be at peak health when I call you in to rescue him, before I knock you one.”

“I don’t know Laia, I think I can take you now.”

The talk really helped me in the next few days. During that time, there had been talks about how to get Parum to cooperate with us. The planet had been influenced by the Illuminus the most with GRM and the Alliance Military under their control. We had to be cautious. Even with the backings of Moatoob and Neudaiz, we simply didn’t have the means for a large scale attack. If we could somehow manage to get Parum’s forces on our side, it would be a huge step towards our fight against the Illuminus and by extension the Seed.

It was no surprise I was being called in by Laia. I did find it odd that it was just me and not Lumia and myself. It seemed automatic that Lumia would be my partner on any missions I go on because she’s my pupil. This mission might be more dangerous than I thought if Lumia wasn’t partnered with me.

But before I could even register for the mission, I got attacked.

Well, not really.

Somehow, Curtz was staggering into the lobby. It was the first time I’ve seen him since the attack on the G-Colony. He looked well, other than coming towards me. I was prepared to fight him again. I remembered from the last time that I needed to be prepared for his skills. It never got to the point, since he collapsed right at my feet. The situation was even more odd when Tonnio and Leo came into the lobby and got him.

“Sorry about that, he broke through his restraints.”

“Restraints?”

“We’re helping Maya with some tests. Your mission will give you more details.”

“My mission?”

“You should go with them, your briefing is with them anyway.”

When I got to the room, I noticed that Maya and Lumia were already there. The two seemed to be hitting it off great. There was no hiding the look of shock on Maya’s face as she saw my new haircut. I forgot that she hasn’t seen me since the mission to bring Laia back. Speaking of the president, she gave a brisk nod to me before going into the details of the mission. The incident with Curtz earlier was a test to block out photon waves. They figured out the reason behind the machines and Casts going out of control a couple months ago was due to a photon wave being infected by the Seed-virus. That wave was the same one that gets used on the Alliance Military to make sure there’s uniformity during intensive missions.

It was that protocol that the Illuminus took advantage of and caused as much damage as they did.

Our goal was to find the terminal that housed the signal and shut it off. Curtz wasn’t as affected as the others because Maya had coated his behavioral chip in attempt to block out the waves. The tests were going along okay, it just wasn’t cost or resource effective to try and coat every single Cast in Gurhal with the coating.

Shutting down the waves was faster.

Lou, Maya, and myself would go as one group while Lumia, Tonnio, and Leo would be the other group. Lumia needed to learn from others so that was why she wasn’t with me. As much as I was doing as an instructor, I was still a fresh Guardian. Having two people who were Guardians for longer would help her in the long run.

At least, that was the official reason.

The actual reason behind me being in this mission without Lumia in the group was because there were faint signs of Hyuga’s life support registering from the area Lou, Maya and I would go. It didn’t send out a distress signal, so he was still alive. I assume that the photon waves were causing interference so it couldn’t be picked up as strongly. I was visibly relieved at the news. Laia kept her word about putting me in the rescue party. I was grateful. I wasn’t going to let her down in putting me in the rescue team.

“Ami, how are you feeling? I heard the Communion mission left you injured.”

“I’m good. I’m on lighter bandages now so the burns can breathe. I can still use my twin daggers.”

“You know that there’s a possibility that-”

“That he won’t come out of this mission alive. I know. I’m prepared for that. No matter what the outcome is, I will do what I must.”

When we actually got to the Alliance Military headquarters, Maya looked ready to throw up. The waves in the building were at it’s strongest. Since Lou was a Cast, she could shut it out when needed. I was mostly human so I didn’t feel them as strongly. Maybe a feeling from my Newman genes. That was nothing compared to Maya. She was suffering the most from the waves. It was both a blessing and a curse for her. A curse since she looked ill from it, but also a blessing since we could use this to find the source. The sicker she felt, the closer we were to the terminal for the waves. It was really unfortunate that along the way we had to kill Casts. But Lou and Maya agreed that the infection in them was irreversible.

The only thing we could do was give them the peace of death.

I was being reminded too much of my mission on Moatoob.

We made it to the room where the source of the photon waves originated. To Maya’s immense relief. The quicker we got this over with, the better. And we could start on searching for Hyuga.

That was the plan, until we saw him coming into the room as well.

“Hyuga!”

“Maya, wait.”

“Lou?”

“I will do a scan, to make sure it’s him. It’s very possible that someone is using his transer to disguise themselves.”

“That’s ridiculous. Ami, that’s him isn’t it?”

I don’t know how I got pulled into deciding if it’s him or not. I don’t even know if this would be a compliment or an insult. At any rate, I took a good look at him. The more I stared at his form, the more those emotions came in. The need to protect him. The feel when he would see me in a positive light. The small regret that I couldn’t do more to help him from this path.

“It’s him. He’s still under the influence of the Seed. But my heart tells me it’s him.”

“I have completed my scan. There is a 99.99999996% chance that it is him.”

“You’re wrong Cast, that is one-hundred percent Hyuga Ryght before you.”

We were immediately on guard with the man who appeared before us. He looked so much like an older Magashi. The difference was that he was Human. Dressed in white and gray with a scar across his nose. His gold eyes made me feel uneasy. Whoever he was, he was not our ally.

“What an honor to have three esteemed guests in our building. The leading researcher on the Seed-virus, Maya Shidow. The Guardians puppet Cast Lou. And the Guardian Ace who has surprised us all, Ami Satomora.”

“You know who we are?”

“Of course. Magashi’s eyes are my eyes. His ears are my ears.”

“Then it’s safe to assume you are Karl Howzer then.”

“Very perceptive for a Cast. I am he.”

I remembered his name from the attack on G-Colony. Magashi had mentioned him about him planning the attack. In front of us was the man responsible for so many deaths. It took a lot of control to hold back my anger for him. Though, a small part of me felt like I knew him from somewhere.

He informed us that the leader of the Illuminus, Luntz, was dead. Murdered by Howzer himself. Right now we were looking at the new leader of the Illuminus. He told us of his true intentions. He wanted to purge Gurhal of all the weak races, using the Seed as his sword. I felt sick listening to his talk of supremacy.

“Stop being delusional Howzer. You know supremacy never wins.”

“Ah, Satomora. You would say that. You’ve been around fools for so long. President Martinez tries so hard to live up to her father’s wishes. Dallgun was a fool to think that all the races could live in harmony. Complete harmony is an illusion. Oh how he must be rolling in his grave once he realizes that his dreams will never come true.”

I had it with his words, the anger was boiling out of me now.

Without any thoughts I pulled out my handgun and aimed it at him. I heard Maya gasp at my sudden action. I never really showed my anger so openly before. My eyes narrowed into a glare for Howzer. Howzer seemed a little surprised, but not entirely?

“Shut up Howzer. I won’t stand by and let you talk ill of the dead like that. Your ideas killed innocent people. People who had loved ones to go back to.”

My finger was on the trigger. Just one moment would be all it took to end this.

“Ami! Wait!”

My anger turned to surprise. Hyuga was standing in front of Howzer like a shield. I guess since the Seed were being controlled by Howzer in some form, the virus instructed Hyuga to protect him. I knew in that moment I wouldn’t pull the trigger. Even with my careful aiming, there was a large chance I would just hit Hyuga instead.

I said I was ready for the outcome for this.

I thought I was, until I was faced with this choice.

To attack Hyuga as Seed-Venas was one issue. To attack him while he’s his normal self was something different. Too much regret. I couldn’t do that to him. Not to him or myself. Unfortunately Howzer noticed my hesitation as well.

“What’s with the hesitation Dear Ami? You were so intent to shoot me just a few moments ago. One pull of the trigger could end all of this.”

“Don’t you dare call me that! Hyuga is the only man to use that term with me.”

“Ami?”

“You son of a bitch! You planned this! You brought Hyuga here knowing this outcome.”

“Maybe, maybe not. You’re easy to read Satomora, or rather Tusakanova. You wouldn’t dare put yourself in a situation in which you see another loved one become a sacrifice for your future. Megami did it back then. Since then you’ve worked yourself to the bone to be strong enough. You don’t want another death like that on your shoulders. Face it Dear Ami, you’re not meant for that life. Everyone you love will eventually give themselves up for you.”

I felt the tears come down at Howzer’s words. How could this man, who I just met, know all this about me? About Mom? I lowered my handgun. It felt like I was the one being shot.

Was that really my fate?

Was the reason why I had always been so emotionally closed since Mom’s death was because I didn’t want them to die like her? That it took so long for me to realize that word for the feelings I have for Hyuga was because I was scared of having that same outcome. I didn't want him to sacrifice himself for me, or anyone for that matter. If I could, I would give up everything I am for those I care for.

Did I really deserve these feelings?

I didn’t know anymore.

“Satomora. No, Ami.”

Lou calling me by my first name snapped me out of my self-loathing.

“Lou?”

“Do not listen to him. He’s only trying to gain a mental advantage over you. Regardless of the reason that you came to the Guardians, we wouldn’t have gotten this far without your contributions. You are stronger than you realize.”

Even though Lou said it in a monotone, her words touched me. Everyone said that I was a strong person. I just never fully believed it. I soon felt Maya’s hand on my shoulder.

“She’s right Ami. You are strong. Your emotions are what make you strong. You’ve come a long way since the first time I’ve met you.”

I wiped the tears from my face before staring at Howzer again.

“That’s not going to work Howzer. Megami Satomora loved me. She loved me until the day she died. I didn’t ask her to be a sacrifice. She chose to do it because she believed in my future. I will carry on her will and I do it gladly. I will get Hyuga back. My love for him will get him back!”

“It’s a shame you have such conviction in the wrong place. I look forward to our next meeting Dearest Ami. Hyuga! It’s your turn!”

I didn’t have time to gauge the others reaction to Hyuga’s transformation. Or even to my declaration of me being in love. Seeing Hyuga transform again didn’t affect me as strong as when I first saw it. Maya looked just as much as I did back at Neudaiz. I quickly switched from a handgun to twin daggers. Specifically light imbued Gizaha-zashi. I was ready to fight this time. I was mentally prepared for the outcome.

If death was going to be the outcome of this, I’m going to do it on my own terms.

I fared better this time than the fight on Neudaiz. Mainly because I knew where my priorities lie. Even with the new determination, Seed-Venas was still a difficult form. Seed-Venas seemed even more determined to stop us too. After a few attacks and a SUV attack from Lou to finally bring it down. We were running on some serious luck that Hyuga simply transformed back into himself other than dying. Maya quickly walked over to Hyuga to administer the cure for the Seed-virus to him while Lou was working on shutting down the photon waves.

It left me with nothing to do but wait.

If I was honest, I wanted to go after Howzer. The rage he caused in me made me nervous. I never been so mad before at anyone. It was unsettling to have this feeling. But I couldn’t go. One reason was out of concern for Hyuga’s health. Another was that before the two went to do tasks, they both ordered me not to go after the Illuminus leader. I was the party leader, but they were my superiors in terms of rank.

“Ami? You feeling okay now?”

“Maya? Yeah I’m okay. Sorry about earlier.”

“It’s hard right now.”

“I know. Anyway is Hyuga going to be okay?”

“It’s a bit too soon to say, but I have high hopes. He’s had other injections in his body to help with his healing and stamina. The cure should work perfectly.”

“Thank you. That’s one thing off my mind.”

“So you love him? That’s interesting. At first glance I didn’t think you’d go for someone like him. But I’m glad if anyone loves him it’s you.”

“What are you implying?”

“He’s been through a lot recently. Just make him happy.”

Whoa.

“Slow down Maya. I just realized that I love him. He doesn’t even know. As far as I know, he thinks we’re friends.”

“You should tell him. The Guardians is a dangerous job. One of you could have died today.”

“I’ll keep it in mind for the future.”

“Besides, I think he’ll reciprocate.”

I didn’t realize until much later that Maya was speaking from experience.

Lou had shut down the terminal while Tonnio, Leo, and Lumia had informed us that Howzer was completely gone from the building. I was mad that we couldn’t get him. But we had more pressing matters right now. Maya cleared for Hyuga to be moved after the report.

I took the initiative and put him on my back.

Yeah, he was heavy but I wanted to do this. He’s helped me more than he would ever know. This was the least I can do. And in a way, I wanted to know that this was real. Him being here alive was real.

Laia was waiting for us at the PPT gate when we came back from our mission. She looked surprised to see that I was carrying him. The medical personnel were already ready for Hyuga. For a moment I hesitated. I didn’t want to give him away to anyone. My heart didn’t want to anyway. Maya touched my bandaged arm.

“Ami...”

“I know, just...give me a moment.”

I took a moment before I handed him over to them. Laia wanted to see me as soon as possible to discuss the mission. She and I went to her office. I told her about my meeting with Howzer. I left nothing out. The comments he said to me about my feelings and my family. I even revealed to her my full name. She was certainly surprised that I was related to Shion Tusakanova.

The only thing I held from her was that I had a feeling I’ve seen him once before.

After the report, Laia ordered me to get some rest. I nodded for the order, but I didn’t follow it. I felt restless. I don’t like to be alone in my quarters with these feeling swirling inside of me. So I went to do some free mission within the G-Colony. They were very simple ones, but they were enough to vent my anger and work out my emotions. I had wished Lumia was with me, but I needed to be by myself for a moment. After a couple missions I got a call from Lumia.

“Satomora here.”

“Ami! I’m glad I reached you.”

“Is something wrong Lumia?”

“No no. Maya just called me to let me know that they permitted visitors for Hyuga.”

“Already?”

“Yeah, the cure has taken really well to him. I’m going on right now.”

“I’m in the middle of a mission but I’ll see you there.”

I wanted to go right then and there. But I don’t think it would be best if I was there with everyone else. I’d feel more comfortable if I was by myself to see him.

I realized something.

Howzer talked about my mother’s death.

And he knew my full name is Tusakanova-Satomora.

Only a select few people knew about the circumstances of Mom’s death. Even fewer than that knew my full name was Ami Tusakanova-Satomora. The enemy knew both of these facts. I wondered what else they knew about my family. I need to figure it out soon.

After I finished the mission, I figured it had died down enough for me to visit Hyuga. I stopped by a floral shop on the way to the medical center. Normally I’m not one for flowers. But I thought it would be a nice gesture. I noticed Parunian Lilies. They were the flowers you see in Raffon Meadows. I think this simple gesture would help Hyuga with recovery. At least that was my thinking when I bought a few.

By the time I reached to his room, Lumia was just coming out. She looked surprised to see me.

Or rather, the flowers in my hands.

“You got him flowers?”

“Something wrong with that?”

“No, I’m just surprised. You don’t seem like the flowers type.”

“I figured it would help him if he got a reminder of the outside. Is there anyone else in there?”

“Nope, Maya left like ten minutes ago.”

“Good, I think I want to be alone when I go inside.”

“Alright, give me the flowers. I’ll look for a vase for you while you go talk.”

“Thanks Lumia.”

When I walked inside, I couldn’t help but feel some regret. I’m glad he was sleeping. I didn’t want him to see why I feeling so bad. The Seed-virus did take a lot out of him. He was paler than normal and was so exhausted. I saw the faint scarring on his body. Scars aren’t new to the Guardians. It was almost part of the job. Even I carried some scars.

That’s what it meant to be the front lines for the Guardians.

I wondered if the fights as Seed-Venas added to them.

“You scared me. I thought I would never see you like this again.”

I knew he wouldn’t respond. I just needed someone to listen.

“I’m angry. Not at you. But at this situation. I’m angry that this happened to you of all people. I’m angry at how Howzer read me so well. I don’t know what to do. Everyone says I’m strong but I don’t think I am. I couldn’t stop this from happening. I couldn’t protect the people I love. I couldn’t protect you. You’ve done so much for me and I don’t even know how to thank you.”

I don’t know what spurned me on, but I grabbed his hand. I felt the pulse coming from his hand. A little weak but constant. I hoped some of my energy would feed into him to help his recovery. I could already feel the tears coming down my face. I just let myself go and cried in frustration. I wasn’t sure how long I cried. It felt like forever.

That was until I felt someone wiping my tears.

“Hyuga?”

“Don’t cry. You did what you had to.”

I was surprised that he was awake. Well, maybe not fully awake. With his slurred speech, I think the medicines were making him loopy. I don’t think he was really aware of what he was doing. But I couldn’t help the blush forming on my face from his touches.

“Hyuga...I’m sorry. I should have done more.”

“It’s alright, you did what you had to.”

I smiled at Hyuga when he smiled at me. Even when he was feeling like this, he still smiled. He soon went right back to sleep. I lowered my head until our foreheads were touching. His skin still felt clammy to touch, but I didn’t mind. I wasn’t sure how long I stayed like this. The sound of his even breathing was calming me down. With how close we were it was tempting enough to-

No. I couldn’t do that.

Not to him, it wouldn’t be right.

I quickly stood up in realization of what I was about to do. This entire ordeal had made me not myself emotionally. I knew what my next step had to be. He was fighting to get better. I needed to fight too.

I will defeat the Illuminus.

They made this too personal for me.

“Ami, sorry to interrupt.”

“Lumia?”

“We have a mission. I have a vase for you.”

“How long have you been here?”

“I just got here a minute ago.”

I got up and watched as Lumia put the vase on the table. It looked nice in his room. I was going to make this the last time I visit a friend in the hospital. I would make this the last time.

“It’s difficult seeing him like this.”

“I know. I'll be fine.”

“Laia wants us to meet her in the briefing room.”

“Lets go then.”

I stopped at the door frame. I took one more look at Hyuga. The anger had quelled quite a bit since the mission earlier. It was replaced with sadness, and determination. Lumia grabbed my hand to comfort me.

If Hyuga could hear my thoughts, I wished he would get better sooner. When we meet again, I'll be a stronger person.

Someone who would not hesitate to give up everything for him.

“We’ll defeat the Illuminus, for his sake.”

“I know. We will do it. Together.”

Chapter Text

Gurhal was finally moving forward. We had gotten the backing of the Alliance Military, now being lead by Curtz. It was his help that we knew where Mother Brain was. Mother Brain was the main terminal responsible for the photon wave, which we found out was an A-photon wave, that would override the behavior chips. Lumia, Curtz, Lou, and myself went through the underwater base to shut it down. Though we had to separate midway through for Lou to do data collecting on Lumia and myself. I was a little nervous being regarded highly enough to do such a thing for her.

Anyway, with the three major powers of Gurhal helping the Guardians against Illuminus, it was time to start actively defeat them. Our first goal was to defeat Sochee. I still remember the sight of seeing it detonate in Moatoob. We had to get rid of that weapon. The quicker we could, the more even our battlefield would be. We had gotten information on where they were mass producing the bomb and now were going to take over the building.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t going to be a part of that.

Laia saw that it was time for my license to get updated to instructor status. Mostly because the system to actually do it was fully functional again. The downside was that it had months of backlog to go through, so my license was frozen. With a frozen license, I couldn’t register for any missions. The only thing I could do was catch up on paperwork I had missed because of my recent missions.

Through my time as Lumia’s instructor, I have seen her grow so much.

She had really become dependable.

So I decided, in the near future I will put in for her to get her Guardians license.

Of course I needed to wait for my license to update before I could do that.

I had come to Laia to talk to her about everything that has been going on. I hadn’t talked to her since our last meeting. We were all relieved that everything was going to plan so far. We had the three planets working together for a common cause. And we finally had enough evidence to take down GRM employees who were associated with the Illuminus. I didn’t realize how deep it went. Even the current owner of GRM was arrested.

But I had heard that someone had already taken the reigns of GRM after the massive take down of Illuminus supporters in the in company.

It just bothered me that they were keeping their identity a secret.

Anyway, things were going in our way. Our only obstacles was the Illuminus and a Hive. Not long after Laia because president, a new Hive was discovered. Apparently it had been there for a long time already. We didn’t notice it at first was because it hid behind the sun. There was talk to dismantle it like the other Hives, but that wasn’t an option either. It gave out strong A-Photon signatures which made travel to it dangerous. So we had to step back from it for a while until we could solve that problem.

“President Martinez!”

“Ashelyn? You’re back from your mission already?”

“Yes Ma’am, but this is an emergency! Ethan and the headmaster, they are-”

“Wait, take a deep breath and calm down. Explain the situation.”

Ashelyn “Ashe” Flowen was a Guardian in Mobile Defense, just like me. He was the best with Technic combat, since he’s a Newman. One of the first group of trainees becoming Guardians after Laia promotion to President. I hadn’t gone on any missions with him, but from what I saw he’s a nice person. Maybe a bit reserved. He was the one who went in my place with Ethan and Headmaster Nav to infiltrate the Sochee production building. They became trapped by the Illuminus. Somehow Ethan and Headmaster was able to get Ashelyn out so that he could tell Laia what happened.

Apparently, Headmaster Nav wasn’t dead. In some last minute action by late President Dallgun, he had saved Headmaster from being completely destroyed by the colony crash.

Laia had made Ashelyn rest while we took in our current situation. Headmaster had been able to scramble the detonation codes for Sochee while in captivity. With that, we had some time. The Illuminus had sent demands for us to dissolve our partnership with the Communion, New Rogues, and Alliance Military in exchange for the safe return of Ethan and Headmaster Nav.

Two days had passed since then.

“You called for me Laia?”

“Ami, yep. I just came to congratulate you. Your license has been fully updated to Instructor status. Now it will be at your discretion for when Lumia gets her license.”

“Actually, I’ve filled out the paperwork for her to get it. I just haven’t submitted it yet.”

“That’s sooner than expected.”

“Yeah, but she went out on field missions far too soon. And considering the kind of missions she’s been on I believe that she is ready.”

“That is true. She really is a Waber.”

“Yeah.”

“Don’t cut yourself short either. You’ve grown from when you were a trainee. From a quiet girl who would flinch at the Seed to the confident woman before me.”

I smiled hearing the praise. I did come a long way from my trainee days. It still felt a dream that I was doing all of this now. I knew I hadn’t done this alone. It was because of everyone I’ve met. In some way, they have helped me become the person I am now.

“I had a great instructor who believe in me.”

“I feel like that might be it. Heard your instructor was one of the best.”

“Gloating doesn’t suit you.”

“I’m just kidding. Anyway, any developments on Hyuga?”

“That came out of nowhere. But no, I haven’t visited him since that one time.”

“What? With how you were I thought you would visiting everyday?”

“My license is my only ID. I did try but they wouldn’t let me in with a frozen ID. I haven’t tried since.”

“Sorry about that. The timing is just awful. Anyway lets get back to the mission briefing.”

Thanks to Ashelyn’s report we were able to locate where Ethan and Headmaster Nav were captive at. Lumia and myself would go free them while the Alliance Military would distract the Illuminus by disarming Sochee. It was more dangerous with just Lumia and me, but anymore people and the mission would be compromised.

“We leave it up to you and Lumia.”

“We’ll bring them back.”

“Just come back alive.”

Getting inside the base seemed easy. A bit too easy I think. Lumia was nervous about this mission. So was I, if I was being honest. The outcome of this missions had lives directly at stake. If we got caught, I don’t think the Illuminus would hesitate to kill Ethan and Headmaster. It was hitting Lumia the severity of our mission. She was young, too young. But she had decided on this path herself.

But if I could help it I would make sure at the very least she would live through this mission.

Somehow along the way of our training, I bonded with my pupil.

Maybe because she has seen me at my most emotional and understood.

We arrived at what appeared to be a holding area. Lumia and had split up in the room to see if we could find our friend. My search turned up empty. I was really thinking they had already moved Ethan and Headmaster to a new place entirely. Until Lumia called me.

Instead of our comrades, we found a man instead.

“Ami, we should free him. He looks like a prisoner too.”

“I don’t know Lumia. I wouldn’t put it pass Howzer to do this on purpose to ambush us.”

“You two...are Guardians?”

“We are. I am Ami Satomora and this is Lumia Waber.”

The man’s eyes seem to widen at hearing Lumia’s name.

“Take me with you please. There’s another holding sector beyond here. I can take you there.”

“Why are you a captive in here anyway? Illuminus doesn’t seem like the type to just keep anyone here.”

“Ami!”

The man stared right into my eyes.

I felt a shiver.

His eyes reminded me of Ethan’s when I first met him.

I think I could trust him.

“Alright, free him Lumia.”

“Thank you, I won’t slow you down.”

“What’s your name anyway?”

“It’s O..bel...”

“Oh! What a coincidence to have the same first name of Obel Dallgun.”

“You said Dallgun? How is he doing?”

“He died a few months ago thanks to the Illuminus.”

“Ami...”

“Are we done? We need to hurry. Each second we waste we lose our chance to save the others.”

I did have questions about the circumstances of Obel’s imprisonment. But he didn’t answer them. But what I did know was that he was skilled in combat. I felt a bit intimidated to be honest. I don’t know what side he was on, but if we had to fight him I don’t know our chances. We took a break after clearing a few rooms. Mainly to gather our strength back. Obel had asked about my background as a Guardian. I didn’t tell him the specifics but just enough to satisfy his curiosity. He wondered how someone like me got picked to do this mission.

Was I really out of place with the mission?

“What? You’re saying you only just got your Instructor upgrade after a year of being a Guardian?”

“Yeah.”

“You must have had a great instructor.”

“Laia’s one of the best.”

“Dallgun’s daughter? Hmm, I see now. Your career is going to go far. Lumia, you still lack finesse.”

“Sorry, I’ll try harder.”

“As you should. If you don’t put more determination into yourself and your missions, you’ll be slowing Ami down.”

I felt bad that Lumia was getting scolded by this stranger.

And angry.

“Stop that. She isn’t slowing me down at all. She has potential that you don’t even believe. Just like when I was a trainee.”

“Ami, it’s okay I can take it.”

“No it’s not alright Lumia. For an Illuminus prisoner you know a lot about the inner workings of the Guardians Obel.”

“I apologize. I was out of line. You care for you pupil, I should have realized that. We should get going, we’re not that far off from the other sector.”

Just as Obel said, a few minutes later we arrived at the other holding sector. Ethan and Headmaster were in a cell near the end of the hallway. They looked okay, to my relief. They were surprised to see us. Or rather our new member of the party. Ethan was the most surprised.

“Father?”

Wait. Father?

As it turns out, Lumia and I rescued Orson Waber; Ethan and Lumia’s father. I had heard stories of him from some of the older Guardians. But his official records stated he died years ago. This moment was really awkward. I felt a little out of place for this reunion.

“Did I ruin your reunion Arkguard?”

“Howzer!”

“And you brought Guardians. Perfect, I’ll kill you all now.”

The rage I had for Howzer was coming back in full force. He noticed me and looked amused. We instructed for Ethan and Headmaster Nav to leave while Orson and myself dealt with Howzer. We wanted Lumia to go too, but she was determined to stay with us. I think meeting her father she never knew made this personal.

Going against the leader of the Illuminus wasn’t going to be easy. He was crazy skilled. He matched me blow for blow with my twin daggers with his fists. And he was a proficient Technic user. It’s very rare to find someone who can use Technics without an aid as a focus. Having someone like that as an enemy was not a good thing to have.

On the other hand, because of the concentration needed to master Technics without an aid, many people stick to one element.

Just that our luck had to be that Howzer’s preferred element is Dark.

Getting hit with a darkness based technic is not good. Especially a Megid. It leaves no visual injuries but it can completely suffocate your organs. It can happen so suddenly, making it an infamous technic to kill people in one cast.

Most of our fight was avoiding that attack.

The fight was longer than expected because of those factors. There were a few times I thought we weren’t going to win. A few close calls I wished we didn’t have. But Orson and Lumia had pulled through with me. Our tides were changing once Orson did a deep slash of his axe on Howzer’s back. Seeing Howzer fall like that gave me hope. I thought we would make it out of this battle with just some battle weariness.

I shouldn’t be so optimistic when the Illuminus is involved.

I had tried to deal a final blow to Howzer with my twin daggers. I should have used a sword or something with length. When I got close enough Howzer unleashed a high level Megid that covered my entire body. I had never felt such pain in my entire life. It felt like I was drowning in thick dark liquid. I couldn’t finish my attack and crumpled to the floor immediately.

What happened to Orson was worse.

Orson tried to deal the final blow when he saw me fall. Howzer was able to wrench the axe away from him and gave Orson a deep gash across his chest. There was just so much blood gushing from that attack already. Even Mom being impaled by the Seed wasn’t as brutal as that attack. We had to save him and fast.

As much as I wanted to finish Howzer right then and there.

“No!”

Lumia wasn’t having any of that though.

In a rage of seeing two people she cared for get injured she released several Rafoies at Howzer. Seeing her use the attack wasn’t what was surprising. But she was using them without her rod or wand. And they were high powered technics too. The attacks were too much, even to Howzer.

They killed Howzer.

Lumia killed Howzer.

We were all surprised.

Despite the pain my body was feeling I ran over to Orson. All I needed was a quick look to see he was losing too much blood too fast. Even if I did use first-aid, him living was extremely low. He may have the same muscle mass as Leo, but Orson was human. Our bodies were simply not built to take those kinds of attacks. There was only one solution.

I had to give him my scape doll.

Scape dolls weren’t really dolls. They were an injection installed in our life support systems just in case we got blind sighted by an attack. If we received a deadly injury, it would activate and inject into our bodies thus starting a rapid healing process.

It would be extremely risky to give him mines.

Normally a shop owner would be the only ones to install them into our systems.

Trying to take it out could cause my life support to become faulty.

There was a real risk that I could die from this.

I was already propping the cover of my life support from my chest with my dagger blades. I was thinking that Orson had to live. After believing for so long that he was dead, he needed to survive this. The Guardians needed him. Ethan and Lumia needed him. They needed their father.

This sounds hypocritical from me, since my dad and I weren’t exactly a model relationship either.

But I’d like to think that Dad would understand my decision to do this.

“Ami...don’t.”

“Sorry Orson. If anything happens just do me a favor. Reconnect with Lumia. It’s the least I can wish for after I couldn’t do with my dad.”

I think I was doing the right thing.

‘She looks more like you.’

‘What do you want?’

‘As always, I’m looking for Shion. Has he shown up?’

‘I told you, I don’t know where he is. Now leave, I have no business with you.’

‘Mama?’

‘Ami! Go back into the living room okay?’

‘Mama? Who’s that?’

‘A friend of your father’s. Ami is her name? Seems fitting. I wonder if she’ll grow to be just as smart as him?’

‘Leave Howzer! I gave you what I know. Don’t bother me and my daughter again or I will call the Guardians.’

‘A shame. But as you wish Mrs. Tusakanova.’

It was so long ago I had forgotten where.

It was such a small meeting, something I wouldn’t have thought of. But that would explain the slight feeling of familiarity. Howzer was looking for my dad. We had met once before.

I had woken up in a hospital bed. My memory got hazy after the mission. I remember Orson trying to stop me from giving him my scape, but I was having none of it. I remembered giving him the injection, then an intense pain before I passed out. Laia came in at the exact time. She looked so relieved.

But then she was angry.

“Ami are you stupid!”

“Wha-?”

“Didn’t you pay attention in the academy about why you should never tamper with your scape doll!”

“Laia, you’re too loud...”

“I don’t care. You need to get this through your skull. To make sure an attack doesn’t tamper with the life support there’s a shock kickback if anything triggers it. The shock alone would have killed you! Some divine force intervened for your behalf! Dammit Ami, I don’t know if I should be happy that you were careful enough to not trigger the kickback or angry that the first immediate thought for you was to tamper with your life support.”

“Laia...I’m sorry. But I couldn’t let him die. I didn’t want to dash Lumia’s hopes.”

“And you would have made her worse if you died instead! She cares for you a lot Ami. Not as her instructor, but as her friend too. She was almost inconsolable until the doctors told us you’d be fine.”

“I’m sorry.”

“It’s fine. Just don’t do it again. If you do it again I’ll revive you just so that I can kill you myself.”

The doctor came in not long after that. He gave me another scolding about tampering with my life support. After that, I was cleared to go back to my quarters. Laia offered to escort me back. I was glad I was getting out so soon. I don’t admit it a lot but extended stays at the hospital remind me too much of my time there after the Seed attack in Parum.

“Speaking of Lumia, how is she?”

“All things considered, well. She was exhausted from her technic usage but otherwise fine. Probably drained emotionally from what happened afterward. I ordered her to get some rest. She needs it.”

“Thanks Laia, she can take that time to be with her family again.”

“You too Ami, you’re on leave starting now.”

“La-”

“Don’t start. You are in no condition to take up any missions.”

“Fine. Anyway what about Howzer?”

At that she smiled.

“Despite your moment of stupidity, Howzer is dead. Alliance Military has dismantled the production of Sochee. They got the names of all the Illuminus members and doing Gurhal-wide arrest on the members.”

“So, it’s over? Just like that?”

“Not quite. But we have made a large leap forwards to getting there.”

I let out a breath I didn’t even know I was holding. It was a great development indeed. Howzer was dead. With that the Illuminus was dissolved. We had gotten rid of one of our main enemies.

Finally Gurhal can start to move forward.

Chapter Text

A couple days into my forced leave, Dad came to visit. He was my emergency contact so when I was in the hospital the medical team notified him. Then he got another call from the Guardians side that I was released from the hospital. I was a little embarrassed that he came to see me. I hadn’t seen him since my last leave a few months ago. It wasn’t like the lack of contact was on purpose. I was just busy with my missions and being an instructor.

I was relieved too that he decided to visit.

That memory of meeting Howzer was still fresh in my mind. I believed in Dad, but why would Howzer know him?

“I really should expect you to get injured, since you are in Mobile Defense. But that call had me think the worse.”

“I’m sorry Dad. I’ll try not to think so irrationally next time.”

“You’re my only child. I don’t want to lose you too.”

“Right, I don’t think Mom would be happy if I died either.”

“Well, now that I’ve seen you’re okay my mind is at ease.”

“My injuries aren’t the only reason why you’re here?”

“As much as it frustrates you, you do remind me of myself at that age.”

“You came to tell me something.”

“Yeah.”

I was wondering what it could be. It was something important if he had to tell me in person. It could really be anything. It could be that he’s ready to date again. It’s a realistic possibility. I think Mom would be okay if Dad found another love. I wouldn’t stop him either.

“I’m under a new company.”

Oh.

“Oh? You’ve been working with that private company for so long. I’m surprised you moved so suddenly.”

“Well this company I believe needs me more now. I’m just not sure how you’ll take it.”

“Come on Dad, it can’t be that bad.”

“It’s GRM.”

What?

Dad explained that he had received a call from the new president of GRM asking to have him back. Dad was one of the few GRM employees, former or current, with no ties to the Illuminus. Dad had just gotten back from meeting the president when he got the initial call about my hospital stay. And he had accepted. I was a little worried. There was still so little known about this person. I’m not sure if I could trust a person who’s keeping their identity such a secret.

Dad could read my face so well.

“Don’t worry Ami. He’s a really nice fellow. You can trust him.”

If Dad had confidence in him, I would try to as well.

Dad can call people’s characters really well.

Though he wouldn’t give me more information about exactly who the president is.

“He’ll make his official appearance soon.”

Dad offered to take me a restaurant within the G-Colony. I remembered the exact one, it was one Mom and I went to for special occasions. It was a bittersweet moment going into the place. One day she hoped that the three of us would go here. But now, she’s gone.

“Dad? Can I ask you something?”

“Yeah?”

“Did Mom ever tell you that people were looking for you?”

“With my credentials, I’m surprised no one has. Any study related to photons is highly sought after on Gurhal.”

“Even with the Illuminus?”

Dad looked so surprised when I mentioned the group. That look confirmed that he knew about the Illuminus. He was silent for a long moment.

“How did you know about that group?”

“The short story is that I just got swept up knowing them by accident during a training mission. And I’ve been helping bring them down since. I met Howzer not long ago and he knew you were my father. My relation to you is a secret even in the Guardians. When I was unconscious from my injuries, I remembered he was looking for you.”

“I see. I didn’t think they would try asking Megami. Since you know about them, I might as well disclose everything.”

Dad explained everything to me. It wasn’t the first time the Illuminus had asked GRM to help them with their goals. The president at the time had refused to cooperate. Dad believed that his death was tied to the group. In the midst of the change over Dad had left GRM. He felt it wouldn’t have been safe to work there with my addition to the family. And it was that same reason why he never stayed home while I was growing up.

Being a Guardian now, I finally understood his reasons.

I understood now that he didn’t want to leave Mom and I.

But he did it to protect us.

Since then, I took time to call Dad more often. I had a strong feeling I should be closer to him before I got called back into active duty again. The past few missions have been eye opening for me. The bonds I have with people were deeper than I realized. I wanted to protect them all. I wondered if this is what Dad felt when he made his decisions.

Speaking of Dad, a couple weeks later he asked me to tune into the news.

It was the day that the new president of GRM would finally reveal himself. There was just so much speculation about who it is and why they decided to hide their identity until now. I was excited though. I didn’t think I would get excited over a reveal of a president, but still.

Then he came out.

Wait.

What was Hyuga doing there?

My mouth gaped open in shock as it clicked into my head. Hyuga was the new president of GRM. I never thought in a million years that one of my friends, the person I’ve begun to love was the leader of a large company like GRM. I listened intently to his speech. How he talked about his father being the founder and how GRM had lost its way a little since his passing.

Wait a second, Dad spoke about the founder of GRM like a good friend.

My dad knew Hyuga’s dad really well.

This was getting complicated. After his speech I shut off my visiphone. I needed to look at the situation before me. I wasn’t sure how I was going to move forward now that all this has happened. But I knew I wouldn’t tell either my connection to one another. I wouldn’t tell Hyuga that his employee is my dad. Unless you were looking at my registration papers, you would never know my full last name was Tusakanova-Satomora. And I wouldn’t tell Dad that Hyuga and I are friends. Mobile Defense is huge so I think I can get away with vaguely mentioning Hyuga without actually saying him.

I hope.

I just don’t want people to think that Dad got to where he was because I’m friends with the president.

Even with the Illuminus gone, it seems that I still have a lot of inner issues to sort out.

Chapter Text

I never got to completely finish my leave. I was called again into duty the very next day. Laia had called everyone in for a meeting about our next step. I really hoped that if I had to go out on a mission, it would be an easy one. I was still recovering from the Megid attack against Howzer.

The meeting started with Laia being late.

Headmaster Nav assured us that Laia will be coming. Just that her schedule have been full. I wonder how important this meeting was, seeing so many Guardians in one place.

“Ami! Over here!”

“Oh, Lumia hello.”

“Should you be out here?”

“I’m okay. Just sore. I can at the very least do easy missions if I have to. How’s your dad?”

“Father’s doing alright. Mostly resting. I wanted to thank you.”

“Guardians always look out for each other.”

“But don’t do it again, I never want you to die like that.”

“I’ll try to be more careful in the future. Besides I can’t die before you and I go out on a mission as Guardians.”

During my leave I finally pushed through the paperwork to get Lumia her Guardians license. Lumia beamed when I said that. It was hard work, but she really deserved it.

Laia showed up not too long afterward. She looked different, wearing that Guardians Formal suit. It made her face softer. Everyone seemed to be in approval of her change of clothes too.

I did agree with Maya that it looked cute on her frame.

Laia will never know of this thought.

“Alright, alright stop talking about my clothing for a second. Lets get down to why I called you all today.”

Laia had just came back from a meeting with each of the leaders of the three main powers of Gurhal, the Commuion, the Alliance Military, and the New Rogues. They discussed about Rykros. Rykros is the name of the Hive that was discovered near the sun. All research pointed to Rykros being the originator of the Seed. If we wanted to put a permanent end to the Seed, we would need to get rid of Rykros. Our best bet would be to seal it. They planned to do it by having smaller LSS generators to work as a seal all around Gurhal. These would be powered by photons instead of A-photons. Though A-photons were more powerful, they also attract the Seed, something we didn’t need.

For this plan to even get started.

We would need to pick mushrooms.

“What?”

“Are you serious? Mushrooms?”

“I didn’t sign up for the Guardians to pick mushrooms!”

Yep, our mission was to pick special mushrooms in Neudaiz. They only grew on that planet and they gave off a photon signature strong enough to power the generators. It was a better alternative than to use actual people. It would require a lot of mushrooms, but we had to do it. Thus the mission.

To be honest, I’m glad to be picking mushrooms. It won’t strain my body.

After the meeting was over, I waited for Lumia. She was part of my group for the mushroom picking. It wasn’t ideal for our first mission together as Guardians, but it would have to do. She and Laia seemed to be in discussion about something. Then Lumia ran out of the room.

“I hope you didn’t scare her away Laia.”

“Nah, I asked her to run an errand for me. Don’t worry too much.”

“I believe you.”

“How’s your body? I feel a bit guilty that I had to pull you out of leave for this.”

“It’s okay really. This shouldn’t strain me. I think I would have been restless if I wasn’t called sooner or later.”

“I rely on you, maybe too much.”

“It’s okay. I’m glad I can be relied on.”

“Anyway, have you seen Hyuga at all since your license unfroze?”

“Honestly, not at all. I’ve been busy with talking to Dad and then the whole leave thing. By the time I had time he was already released from the center.”

“Sorry about that. But you’ll be happy to know...oh-!”

“Oh?”

“It’s nothing. Just get ready for your mission.”

I didn’t like how Laia just suddenly cut the conversation. But I did what she said and left to get ready. Lumia was already waiting for me at the Central Table. Alongside her was Ethan.

“Hey Ethan. Hmm is something the matter?”

“I’m fine.”

“Stop being so moody Ethan, god.”

“I can’t help it. Laia’s gotta get hard pressed for missions if she’s got us picking mushrooms and all.”

“For someone who isn’t even a Guardian, you got a lot of trash to say Ethan.”

Ethan and I stared at Lumia in shock.

I didn’t know she had a mouth on her.

Lumia had asked for Ethan to join us on our mission to pick the mushroom. He was taking the last mission pretty hard. Lumia thought the mission would be a good way for him to relieve his stress. I agreed to let him come along. I knew his feelings all too well. It might not do much, but at least it would give him something to do to take his mind off of his situation.

“Ah, Ami there you are. Glad I didn’t miss you.”

“Headmaster?”

“Come back up to Headquarters. There’s something I need to ask you there.”

“Yes, Sir.”

Lumia and I agreed to meet each other at the mission site. Though I was a little worried that Ethan might change his mind and leave. Anyway back at Headquarters, Headmaster Nav and Maya were waiting for me in the briefing room.

Them and Karen.

“You’re the Ami I’ve heard Maya talk about.”

“Uh, yes… Maya what did you tell her?”

“Nothing~!”

“I swear to god Maya.”

“Ladies, focus.”

“Alright.”

Headmaster Nav wanted me to add Maya and Karen to my party to pick mushrooms. Maya figured that since Karen will be an important part of the sealing of Rykros, she needed her mind as clear as it can be. A mission might be able to help her relax a little.

Since Karen would be using her powers as a Divine Maiden to channel the photons to seal Rykros, I had no choice to agree really.

I wanted this mission to have as much as an advantage as it can be.

Though I forgot that I already have Ethan and Lumia as part of my group.

“You all know each other, why not just go together?”

“But Headmaster, don’t we have a three person party limit?”

“Normally. But this is one of the times that more people are better, so we’ve temporarily lifted that restriction.”

“In that case, I’ll see you all on Neudaiz then.”

With the party formations set, I took my leave to the mission site. I was still wondering why Laia acted weird when we were talking. I hope she wasn’t hiding anything important from me.

It might be best I don’t question it. If she is hiding something it’s probably not meant for me to know.

I arrived at our site. I had only heard about this area from other Guardians. But seeing it is an experience in itself. It was like a forest made of large mushrooms. I did hear that the area gave out more photon signatures than anywhere else. That and the spores falling made it look like it was snowing.

I really hope the spores don’t stain my clothes.

Lumia was waiting for me at the entrance to our sector where we were going to pick mushrooms. But I didn’t see Ethan. She must have known I was nervous about him skipping out. I really did think this would help him. But she assured me that Ethan just went to do a quick scout of the area.

Then Maya came with Karen.

Despite the Maiden not being Mirei, Lumia was still a big fan of hers. She looked so starstruck being so close to the Divine Maiden. Admittedly, me too. Only a little though. Maya assured us that Karen was coming, she was just getting mentally prepared.

“Hey Maya?”

“Yeah Lumia?”

“Come here for a sec.”

Oh no, them two talking like that can’t be good.

“Yeah I’m up for it.”

“Good. Hey Ami?”

“Yeah?”

“Maya and I are going to go on ahead.”

“Lumia wa-”

“See you later bye!”

...I got ditched by Lumia and Maya. And with terrible timing too. Ethan and Karen showed up at the exact same time. Both were surprised to see each other here. Then then both glared at me.

Let me tell you, having the Divine Maiden and the Hero of the Seed glaring at you is not cool.

At all.

“Explain.”

“I thought you were above this Ami.”

“I am. We were all supposed to go together. Maya and Lumia ditched me too.”

“Psst, Ami.”

“Lumia?”

“Just be your usual quiet self and let them have their alone time.”

“Let them think they’re on a date.”

“Next time you want to talk to Ami, you should set it to private Maya.”

Karen and Ethan were not amused by the turn of events. Neither was I. This was unprofessional of both of them. And even if the mission was simple, there were creatures in the area. This mission still carried a risk of death. The more I thought about it the more I got angry.

And I started to swear in Neudaiz tongue.

I’m sure Ethan looked on in confusion, but Karen’s ears seemed to be tinged red.

Mom was a fluent speaker of the Neudaiz language so I just picked things up.

“Ami, that’s...quite colorful.”

“I’m sorry Karen, I’m just frustrated.”

“Wait what did you say?”

“It’s best you don’t know Ethan.”

“Yeah...Anyway lets just go show them up.”

As soon as we stepped into the area, I felt a buzz in my head. Karen explained that the area has a very high concentration of photons in the air. Being exposed to such counts for a long time could subject us to photon poisoning. To make sure we could actually complete the mission, we would take a break after a few minutes.

Having Karen and Ethan in my party was a blessing. To have two highly regarded former Guardians was a relief to me. I may have tried a little harder in my efforts so I could match them step for step. Karen looked surprised that I was using twin daggers almost as efficiently as her. We had collected mushrooms as a record pace.

Though, the further we went in, the stronger the buzz in my head became. It became a full blown headache.

Next moment I knew, I was falling to the ground. Or rather I would have if Ethan hadn’t caught me.

“You okay Ami?”

“I feel no good.”

“It’s the photon poisoning. I didn’t think she’d be sensitive to the photons.”

“Is it serious?”

“No, it’s not that bad. We definitely have to rest now. The next area should have a lower count so we can rest there.”

I was grateful for the break. I didn’t think I would be able to finish the mission in my current condition anyway. I was drifting in and out of consciousness. But I do remember Ethan laid me by a tree to let me sleep off the poisoning and that he and Karen were discussing things.

The next time I was fully awake, I saw a huge Rappy making its way towards us.

Honestly, I thought I was hallucinating from the photon poisoning.

Rappy Guggs are tougher than their appearance may seem. Especially since they use their large frame to their advantage. I can’t even describe the feeling of almost getting crushed by it. But we had somehow defeated it. I wonder if the photon output here was the cause of their large size.

It’s weird seeing them fly away in defeat though.

Our next destination was to the Relics site nearby to count our collected mushrooms. When we arrived, the three of us saw Lumia and Maya going further inside. The three of us shared a common look.

“It’s time to give them a good scolding.”

“You’re telling me.”

Maya and Lumia looked so surprised that we were at the site so quickly. It couldn’t have been more than thirty minutes since our mission started. But with Karen and Ethan with me, we were pretty efficient in our progress.

“So did you two get some ‘alone time’?”

So basically, they used this mission as a dating service.

“What are you two talking about? Ami was with us the entire time.”

“What! Ami, haven’t you heard that three’s a crowd?”

“I did. But I figured you’d have common sense to not use a mission to get two people to date.”

“Ami, I-”

“No Lumia, be quiet and listen. Our mission formation was for the five of us. Maya and you suddenly ditching me was unprofessional. I could understand if we had to split up to be more efficient in completing our mission. But your reasoning was not only childish but could have been dangerous. There are still creatures here and we have no idea if they were stronger because of the photon levels.”

“Ami, she would have been safe with me.”

“And I understand that Maya. But if something would have happened with any of us, it would have fell on me since I am party leader. I will be damned if the reason why this mission was a failure because you felt like you couldn’t just have them go on a blind date at a restaurant or something.”

“Ami, I’m sorry.”

“Just, think more clearly next time. I understand what you’re doing, but there’s a time and place for it.”

“You’re right Ami.”

“Good. Now I can tell you that Ethan told Karen he loves her.”

Everyone was silent at my statement. Mainly Ethan and Karen were turning red. I was mad, but I still a girl at heart. So of course I would tell them what I heard when I slipping in and out of sleep.

“You heard that? You were awake?”

“Not really. I thought I was still loopy from the poison. You’re not denying you said it?”

I was laughing so hard at how embarrassed the two were.

It was downright adorable seeing two famous people be so shy.

“You girls can be such a bother, I swear.”

Ethan chased Lumia around. It was amusing to see siblings act like this. I heard Lumia collide into something. I really hoped it wasn’t serious.

“You okay? I’m surprised you’re taking the rogue mentality to heart Ethan.”

Rather, she collided into someone.

Right before us was Hyuga. He looked better than the last time I saw him. I was resisting every urge to hug him. I kept my emotions in check this time. But it really was a good thing that he was in high spirits. It was then Ethan had announced that he was going back to the Guardians.

It was good thing, we really did need his help full time.

“Lumia!”

“Laia?”

“What the hell? I check in and see that the party got separated!”

Laia had apparently heard my lecture and checked back on the mission and saw the separation. Oh Laia was fuming. I don’t think I’ve heard her that mad. It made me grateful that when she was scolding me, it wasn’t that bad. After a few minutes Lumia was ordered back to G-Colony and she ran as if something was after her.

“Was that really necessary? I feel bad now.”

“Nah, don’t worry Ethan. I just needed her for nurse duty. But she’ll learn to not do that again.”

“You are so devious Laia.”

“Like you’re one to talk Ami. You’ve neglected to tell anyone that today’s your birthday.”

“Wait, what?”

I looked at my calendar and indeed it was my birthday. I never thought I would forget my own birthday. I guess with everything that’s been going on, it slipped my mind. I was a bit embarrassed to be honest. This was the first birthday I was spending within the Guardians.

“Aha, would you look at that. It is.”

“You forgot?”

“It’s that bad?”

“We need to do something then.”

“No, it’s fine. We have a mission to do.”

“But Ami-”

“No Maya, it’s cool. When we seal Rykros there’ll be plenty more birthdays.”

We all took the time to catch up while going inside to meet Professor Tomrain. Even with our combined efforts we were only able to meet the bare minimum of photons needed. Professor Tomrain seemed to be more optimistic than the last time I saw him in Moatoob, but this worrying him as well. But he was right about one thing. The only action all of us can take was to play our roles to the best of our abilities.

That and hope that it would be enough to work out.

“Miss Laia has asked you Miss Satomora to help clear the Seed from the area to another Relics site. You’re free to choose who you want on your team. The ones that stay behind can help install the generators here.”

“Hmm, purifying the Seed does sound the harder of the two.”

“Then, I’ll go with Ami.”

“Your help is appreciated Ethan.”

“I’ll go with you two as well.”

“Wait Karen! Let Hyuga and I go instead. You still need to prepare for Rykros.”

“It’ll be fine Maya.”

“I’m just being super safe. The more time you have to mentally prepare, the better right?”

“I trust in Karen’s judg-Oh!”

“Right, Hyuga?”

“Yes of course. And with Ami leading the party we won’t have much to worry about. Isn’t that right Dear Ami?”

“I thought I said stop calling me that? But you guys are right. I’d feel better if Karen hung back.”

Maya seemed a bit too happy about my decision.

“Great! Now it’s settled.”

“Ami you wouldn’t go changing the party because of what you heard right?”

“Pfft, Ethan you know me better than that. There is logic in what they say. I would really feel better if Karen was at optimal for this. And you’d be the best fit of protecting her.”

“I can’t argue with the party leader. So we’ll get going. Be safe.”

“You two are good, making them spend time together under a mission.”

Wait.

“Excuse me?”

“You didn’t notice what Maya was hinting at?”

“No...goddammit.”

I wasn’t angry then, but I was surely angry now.

“Why do I even bother with all of you!”

It was a bit a childish, but I stormed out of the site. I hated to be led along just because. It was crucial time for all of us. I wanted to absolutely sure that we were giving our all for this mission and the future ones. If we messed up and people died, it would fall on us.

Maybe I was taking things a bit too seriously.

But we were barely meeting quota for the generators.

“Ami, wait!”

“Leave me alone Maya. I’m not in the mood.”

“What’s wrong?”

“Everything about this mission. I just hate it.”

“Are you jealous?”

“What? No. I’m happy for them really I am. But did you really have to do this now?”

“Maybe, maybe not. But we all have to relax too. We can’t have everyone be so tense. Everything is going to be okay. We’re going to get through this okay?”

“Yeah, whatever.”

“So, did you tell him?”

“No. This is the first time I’ve seen him since my first visit. The time in the hospital he was out of it. I didn’t want to tell him while he’s like that. When he wouldn’t remember it clearly.”

“Do you remember what I told you at the time?”

“Yeah I did. But I don’t think I will now.”

“Why?”

“My dad works for him now.”

“That shouldn’t matter.”

“It does. How weird would it be to say that your dad’s boss is someone you’re in love with.”

“I see a bit of myself in you. Almost frighteningly so. You deserve to go for it.”

“Maya, thanks but not now. If ever. I need time to think about it. After all of this I’ll think about it.”

“I really do think that the sooner the better.”

I was a little angry, but I was touched for Maya’s concern for my emotions. It still feels weird to have strangers care about me so much. It still feels weird that I was capable of doing the same. Hyuga caught up with us a few moments later. After I assured him that I was fine, we got started on our mission. We were on another purifying mission, this time to defeat one-hundred and fifty Seed infected creatures from the area. As we were making progress on our goal, I noticed that something was off with Hyuga. His moves weren’t as precise. Sloppy in some respects.

Maybe he wasn’t as fine as he made everyone believed?

Even with that in mind, we still made good time on our mission. We had cleared all the hostiles, all that was left was to meet at the other Relics site. I felt a sudden rush to my head. The pain was so unbearable, I couldn’t even see clearly from it. I soon fell to the ground. It was like all the sickness I felt earlier was coming back and then some.

“Ami!”

“Ami, are you okay?”

“I don’t feel well. At all.”

“Should we comm a medic team?”

“Hmm, no. Karen told me before we left Ami had photon poisoning earlier. But she shouldn’t be succumbing to it here. This area has a significantly lower photon count. At least not enough to be toxic.”

“I feel like I want to throw up.”

“I really think we should call medics.”

“Ami, are you part Newman?”

“Trace.”

“Hmm?”

“If...if you do a genetic test, I have some Newman genes. From my mom’s side...”

“That’s it then. The poisoning is lingering because of our inherent sensitivity to photons. Being emotional earlier is probably making it worse.”

“That’s good to know. But will she be alright?”

“Yeah. She just needs rest. Stay by her side Hyuga. I’ll go get some water.”

I don’t remember what happened after that. I guess I passed out. When I came around, I noticed that I was in the entrance to the Relics site. I wasn’t sure why, but I felt so much more at ease. Then I looked over to gain my bearings.

I noticed Hyuga was beside me, holding my hand.

Naturally I was surprised.

“Eyaah!”

“Ami, calm down it’s only me.”

“Oh...I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay. Are you feeling better? You gave a scare.”

“I guess? I assume I didn’t throw up?”

“Thankfully no. You never told us you were part Newman?”

“I didn’t know until recently. And even then it’s just a trace. It would explain my hair and eye color. It just wasn’t important until now.”

“You’re right.”

“Thank you for worrying about me.”

“That’s what friends are for right?”

It was silent between us for a while. It wasn’t because I was entirely shy or my feelings. I just didn’t know what to say. I was never a conversationalist. But this silence was too much, even for me.

“So, this might seem insensitive. But do you remember anything from when...you know?”

It’s good to see that Laia’s bluntness for answers has rubbed off on me.

But for a moment, I thought I saw Hyuga blush.

It was adorable.

“Not particularly…”

“I see. Well I just wanted to apologize for what happened those times.”

“Don’t, I wouldn’t be standing here if you didn’t do what you had to. So thank you.”

“That’s what friends do right?”

It was nice to hear him chuckle. This was just like before the whole Seed-virus incident. I felt at ease being around him. It was a moment of peace that I think we all needed.

“Short hair really does compliment you well.”

“Thanks, even though I really didn’t have a choice in the matter. Er, not that I blame you or anything!”

“It’s fine. I know I couldn’t help it.”

“Right! It was the Illuminus and Howzer.”

“Speaking of that, I heard you defeated Howzer?”

“Well Lumia dealt the last blow. But yeah, I got quite the scolding afterward.”

“I’ve heard. You nearly died by giving someone your scape doll. For someone older. I understand it was Lumia and Ethan’s sake but still. A lot of people would have missed you if you died. I would have missed you.”

I was stunned at the confession.

I wonder about him…

Maya arrived not too long afterward. She looked a bit curious at us. She must have saw the shocked looked on my face. I assured her it was nothing she was imagining. I didn’t need her to be using this mission as a date for me too. I couldn’t deal with that. After I got well enough to continue the mission we went deeper into the Relics. There we met with Master Rutsu. I hadn’t seen him personally since we almost fought on Neudaiz. But he seemed like his regal self that I’ve known him for. He and Hyuga talked for a while.

Rutsu was worried about how strong the Communion’s support was going to be.

Our plan required a lot of funding. The cost of the materials of the generators, the cost of building them, the cost of the technology needed to adapt them to photons instead of A-photons. It was going to be hard for the Communion to help financially without them collapsing as a result. Hyuga seemed to be in thought of the situation.

But it really was like Professor Tomrain said, we just have to do our best.

“Ah, Miss Satomora I’m glad to see you.”

“Please Master Rutsu, it’s just Ami.”

“I have to apologize for the time on Neudaiz.”

“There’s no need. Things happen.”

“But I must, I’ve had time to think since then. If your group were to die by my hand that day then I would have regretted it.”

“But you didn’t. That’s all that matters Master Rutsu. Thank you for your concern.”

Just as he was leaving, we received an urgent message from Professor Tomrain. Stateria in our location had just awakened in the deeper parts. We had to go there and defeat them before they compromise the generator being built. We couldn’t afford any of the generators to get damaged. So the three of us rushed to where they had awakened at.

We were in for quite a surprise.

Zamvapas and Rygutass had awakened in the area. They were new Stateria forms, only just recently awakened. I guess they evolved as the Seed threat became more serious. They weren’t easy to take down under normal circumstances. Our party consisted of a Force, someone who was still recovering from a near fatal fight, and someone who’s just recently got back into active duty. Our work was cut out for us.

By some miracle we got rid of them with little injuries.

But something else happened instead.

“What is wrong with me?”

“Hyuga?”

“Ever since the Seed-virus, I just don’t know. Am I still fit to be a Guardian? What have I been doing to help?”

“Hyuga...”

I never heard him speak in such a way. Much less about himself. He was a confident person, maybe into bragging territory at times. But he was confident in his skills. It was really apparent that the Seed-virus left more than a physical imprint on him, but a mental one as well. He was doubting himself. Wondering if he was fully cured from the virus. There was nothing to say that he could be taken over by the virus again.

I think he remembered what happened on Neudaiz.

I wanted to tell him that it was okay that he felt like that. I wanted to let him know I still didn’t think any less of him for being doubtful. That no matter what, I would stay by his side. Just anything to help him feel better. He’s done that for me, so I could at least do it for him.

Maya beat me to it.

Hearing Maya talk to him and his reaction made me realize something. The way he confided in her made me sad. Not at them, but at myself. It was just like in high school. Once again I couldn’t act on my feelings and now someone better has come along. No matter how much I changed, I could never fully be the person Maya was to him. I would always be his friend.

Coming to that conclusion made my chest cold.

My emotions were closing off again. Maybe Howzer was right in the end? Maybe I wasn’t meant for that life? I was meant to stay in the shadows of my heart. They really did look good as a couple. I was glad Leo called soon after, I wasn’t sure how I was going to continue in their presence. Laia had requested me to take Professor Tomrain to Moatoob to check on the progress there. I was to meet him at the shuttle base and I would escort him there.

I was just grateful I had an excuse to leave.

“It must be hard to be relied on so much Ami.”

“It’s alright, it gives me something to do.”

“Take it easy now, you’re only one person.”

“I’ll be fine.”

“Is something wrong Ami? You seem a bit tired. Have you fully recovered from the phot-”

Hyuga touched my shoulder. Instinctively I smacked it away.

“Don’t touch me!”

“Ami...”

I don’t know why I reacted like I did.

“I’m sorry. Just, don’t. I have to get going.”

“Are you sure you’re okay?”

I had to do what was best for everyone.

I put on the best fake smile I could at the two.

“Yeah I’m fine, just tense. But I really need to get going. You two take care of each other.”

Without waiting for a response I ran from them. I didn’t stop until I was completely out of the Relics. I didn’t want them to see the tears that were trying to come down. I looked at the blossom petals to get my thoughts together. I couldn’t afford to break down now. We were so close to the end of our journey. I needed to be strong.

For the sake of Gurhal, I will keep my emotions in check.

I’ll be fine on my own. I had to be.

Chapter Text

I met up with Professor Tomrain at the Ohtoku PPT shuttle station. I would have gotten there faster, but I wanted to make sure I was as normal as I could be for him. Professor Tomrain had so much on his plate already. I didn’t want him to be concerned for me as well.

If he noticed anything, he didn’t speak about it.

The ride to Moatoob was uneventful. We arrived at the site. We tried to go in, but were stopped by rogues. They doubted who were are. I was really getting frustrated that people don’t believe I was a Guardian. But it even gotten to the point these rogues were doubting that this would even work. Professor Tomrain tried to ease their doubts. It was a tough time for all of us, so he tried to give them some comfort.

He ended up on the ground.

“What the hell is your problem?”

I wasn’t in the mood to be polite, at all.

So I maybe might have punched one of them in the jaw.

Not going to lie, it felt good punching someone

“Miss Satomora, there’s no need for strife.”

“No, they had no right to put their hands on you. We’re all risking our lives so that we can have a solid shot at stopping the Seed once and for all. And they thank all our work, all Your work by being unappreciative assholes.”

“Look gir-”

“Don’t you ‘look girl’ me! We’re all busting our asses out here. I’m here just from another physical intensive mission still injured from another mission I was on a couple weeks ago. If I can be out here doing all of this, they very least you can do is help with the goddamn generators. If you don’t want to help, fine then move the hell out of the way and let us through.”

Needless to say, they didn’t take too kindly for this seventeen year old girl talking down to them.

I was ready for a fight.

It diffused quite quickly thanks to some of the other rogues. Namely, the Vol Brothers. I had a couple run ins with them while I was a trainee. By their appearance and actions, they didn’t seem like much. But the way they talked really proved why they are a part of Tylor’s crew. Tonnio and Leo arrived not too long after us. We learned that the generators here were sixty seven percent behind schedule. Even I could tell this was a huge issue. The Vol Brothers took Professor Tomrain to the generators while Leo, Tonnio, and myself cleared the area of creatures that were in there. Thankfully, they didn’t notice my earlier mood shift. Or they chose not to talk about it.

I didn’t want to bring it up now either.

Before the mission was completed we had defeated over one-hundred creatures.

Leo and Tonnio seemed really impressed with my work during it.

“You did great out there Ami. Purification missions are never easy.”

“I know, I did one on Neudaiz before coming here.”

“Really now? And to do another one so soon? It’s safe to assume that you’re a veteran of combat now.”

“Thanks Leo, but I don’t think of myself as a veteran.”

“Are you kidding? I’m going to tell Laia of your progress. She would be happy to know that her pupil is doing so well on her own.”

“You think so Tonnio?”

“Of course. You’ve come a long way since your trainee days.”

I guess I wasn’t fully believing in my progress until they said it. Hearing two older Guardians telling me this made me happy. I was able to forget the feelings I had. If only for a moment.

This was short-lived.

“U-uh guys! We have a problem!”

The Vol Brothers had told us that Professor Tomrain was attacked by a Seed-form while looking at the generator. We got there as quickly as we could to the area. I was ready to perform some first aid if needed, but he refused. Apparently it wasn’t as bad as we initially thought. Over than some scuffs and bruising, he wasn’t in any serious danger. I felt bad that the brothers were being yelled at for not keeping a closer eye on the Professor. Sometimes things happen. Even Professor Tomrain was telling the others that he was the one who put himself in the situation to be attacked.

Tylor had wanted to call a medical team, just to be absolutely sure.

Professor Tomrain wouldn’t allow it, he didn’t want to stop until he did his checks.

Professor Tomrain was a good actor. That attack did more than he let us see. He was simply not trained to take those kinds of attacks.

But I said nothing. If he wanted to work, then I couldn’t stop him.

It was a couple more hours before Professor Tomrain and I went back to G-Colony. My time was spent just waiting around. I tried to get my mind off what happened on Neudaiz. But I would just remember the feeling of never being good enough to love. Never being good enough to be loved. I was feeling quite foolish to think I could be any different.

Though, I shouldn’t have reacted to Hyuga like I did. I’ll send him an apology comm once this is all over.

When we got back, Mina was waiting for us. It seems that despite our issues, we were running pretty close to the planned schedule. Laia wanted to meet with us in about an hour to discuss our next step.

“Oh! Did you two hear the news?”

“Did something happen Miss Mina?”

“Yes, Hyuga became president of GRM. Who would have thought?”

“Oh, that is certainly surprising.”

“Yeah, he seems in good spirits about it.”

“Oh, that’s right he was on Neudaiz with you Ami.”

“Yeah...can we not talk about that?”

“Professor, you’re going back to Neudaiz after this mission right? Give him my best.”

“Of course Miss Mina, anything for young love.”

I know I wasn’t supposed to be outwardly showing my heart, but I wasn’t amused by Tomrain’s statement. Apparently so wasn’t Mina.

“It isn’t like that at all Professor! The only one for me is Eth-I mean no one! Anyway, Ami are you okay?”

“Yeah why?”

“You have this look on your face. Almost scary.”

Professor Tomrain glanced at me for just a second.

“I’m fine Mina, just the back to back missions are wearing me out.”

“I see, well take the time to rest up.”

“I will.”

At least that was initial idea. But Professor Tomrain wanted me to escort him to the medical center. Not as a formal mission, but just like a normal task. It felt a bit awkward to walk with him. Since all my interactions with him had been as a Guardian. To just be myself around him was a little nerve wracking.

“Something is the matter Miss Satomora.”

“I’m okay Professor. I really am just tired.”

“Right, we all forget that you haven’t been a Guardian for long.”

“I’d like to think that I’ve done well of the circumstances.”

“Megami would be proud of you.”

I stilled at that statement. I turned to him in shock. He knew Mom’s name.

“So, you are her daughter. I figured.”

“How did you know about her?”

“I’m sorry, I had asked Laia for the information. I only knew one person with a last name like that a former student was seeing someone with that name. And you looked just like her, so I wondered if you were kin.”

“I see. And you knew Dad too?”

“Back at the university I taught about A-photons. Shion had taken well to the lessons. I am glad that he decided to go into studying of photons instead. How is he?”

“He’s doing fine. He’s working in GRM under Hyuga now.”

“That’s good to hear. When I learned that Megami died, I was wondering about him. He really loves her.”

“It was a tough couple of months, but he’s been accepting of everything.”

“You have Shion’s mannerism now that I know who your parents are. Even down to your emotions.”

“Professor I don’t know wh-”

“I know how you look around Hyuga, Miss Satomora. You have the same look as Shion when he and Megami were first getting to know each other.”

“How much do you know Professor Tomrain?”

“The basics. I was suspect on the Moatoob mission. But I was going to visit him after he was brought back to the colony. You were there. I’m sorry, I heard everything.”

“I’m not mad. Besides it was stupid for me to feel that way towards anyone. If I can protect them by being distant, then I’ll be fi-”

“Don’t finish that Ami.”

I was shocked at how serious Professor Tomrain spoke.

“Ami, you’re a wonderful young woman. You deserve to feel just as much as everyone else. Don’t ever be afraid to express that part of you more. I’m sure you’ll be surprised by who will notice.”

“I...Thank you Professor.”

“I can make the rest of the walk. Go and rest up.”

“I will.”

I was thankful for Professor Tomrain’s talk. He was what I needed to regain my composure. He didn’t really push me one way or another. But just to be myself. I went back to my quarters to rest. The time before I had to meet with Laia went by quickly. I took the time to clean up and put on a fresh set of clothes. I’m sure my old ones were soiled with photon spores. When I arrived in the briefing area, the responses to my visual appearance was surprising.

“I hope I’m not late.”

“No just in time. Professor Tomrain should be here sho-”

“Laia?”

“Ami, is that you?”

“Yeah why?”

“I don’t think I’ve ever recalled you looking so feminine.”

Laia meant well, she really did.

But she has no tact whatsoever.

I didn’t do anything drastic. I think it was my clothes that caused the response. I’ve always worn pants or something a bit more fitting when I on duty. Today I decided to wear a flowing one piece outfit with some leggings. My short hair made the outfit stand out more. Making me more girly I guess? Professor Tomrain came in not too long after. He looked at me and have a shocked look on his face too. Then he smiled at me. I smiled right back at him. I really need to thank him for helping me sort my feelings out.

Anyway, Laia had given us some good news. Through Hyuga’s act as the president of GRM, we were able to get another thirty five generators online and able to connect all the generators together under one system. I hadn’t seen the professor so happy before now. It really was a good feeling. My orders were to escort the professor to the Denes Relics site to switch the photon flow over with Lumia. Once everyone got their orders we started on our way out.

“Oh Hyuga, Mina told me to give it your best for the future.”

“Thank you Professor, I need all the luck I can get.”

“…she’s a lovely young girl isn’t she?”

“Mina? Yes, hasn’t been able to resist my charms since we first met.”

“Are you guys done? I would like to get the professor to his destination as soon as I can.”

“Ami, are you still feeling off from earlier? You sound mad.”

“I’m fine.”

“Are you jealous?”

“What? No. Don’t be delusional.”

“Ami’s a lovely girl too. Isn’t she?”

“P-professor! That’s not funny at all!”

“She is.”

I froze at Hyuga’s answer.

I could already feel the blush creeping up on my face. I couldn’t take the embarrassment so I left. A few minutes later Professor Tomrain appeared and the two of us went to the Relics site. I was surprised that Laia and Curtz was at the site. It seemed that not long after the meeting Laia had went to the site and was finishing up business there. Suddenly we received a report that the photon flow wasn’t working like it should. So someone had to go down and do the switches manually. Laia decided she wanted to and had asked Curtz and myself to come along.

My original mission was to protect Professor Tomrain while Lumia helped with installing the generators in the site. With me going with Laia and Curtz, someone had to take my place in protecting the professor.

I think Lumia has come a long way.

She was no longer the wide-eyed trainee I met many months ago.

She was a capable Guardian now.

“Lumia, I want you take my place in protecting the professor.”

“I’ll do my best.”

“It’s an important mission. So don’t let me down.”

“I won’t! I promise!”

“Good, I believe in you. Well Laia and Curtz lets go.”

With our mission set, we headed into one of the underwater plants to begin establishing the links for the photon flow. I’d like to think that I’m perceptive to behaviors. I couldn’t shake the feeling that Laia was looking at me more carefully than usual. I was a bit nervous to be honest. This was the first time Laia and I partnered up on a mission since she became President. Not to mention I was also with Curtz, who was the lead of the Alliance Military now. Even if I knew them on an informal level, friends even, I was nervous about giving a bad impression on two esteemed people.

It wasn’t long before we finished that objective and the photon flow was fixed. We took a small breather on the outside of the Denes Relics site.

“You really have improved since I last saw you Ami.”

“Thanks Laia. It was because of all the training you gave me.”

“You’re too modest. It’s okay to gloat. If you weren’t serious about improving then my training would have done nothing for you.”

Our conversation was cut short by some shaking. Then we got a message that creatures were invading the area. If we didn’t stop them soon, then the photon flow we just worked on would be shut off. Basically reversing our progress. We couldn’t afford that to happen now. We hurried through the site to the source of the disturbance, defeating any hostilities that were in our way. We arrived at a grand room with a De Ragnus waiting for us.

We were outmatched easily by the sheer size of it.

But we had to defeat it.

We’ve come too far to give up now.

“Curtz! Shoot at its wings. The faster we ground it, the better.”

“Right.”

“Laia and I will distract it. If you find an opening, take it Laia.”

“Ami…?”

“Laia, I promised your dad I would support you. I’m not going to let either of you down. It’s my duty as a Guardian and your pupil to help you.”

“Ami...thanks. You heard her! Lets go!”

I didn’t know what came over me that time. It’s hard to explain. I just knew I couldn’t let the De Ragnus stop us. After all that we’ve been doing, I couldn’t let it stop. So many people died and given up so much for this project and I didn’t want it to be for nothing. We were so close to realizing Gurhal without the Seed.

I wanted to see it through.

By sticking to the plan, the De Ragnus was taken down faster than usual. Given our party formation, it should have been a lot longer. It was difficult, but we had succeeded. Moments after its defeat the area seemed to become brighter. It was actually the photon in the air reacting to the photon flow switching over.

It seems that someone turned on that final switch to complete it.

“It’s finally finished. Whoever turned on that switch just made a huge contribution to saving Gurhal.”

“Yeah, I’m so relieved.”

“Ami, I need to tell you something before we go back. There’s a reason why I asked for you to come on this mission with me. It was to test you.”

“Test? What for?”

“I’m sure you know about the previous commander of your division.”

“Yeah he died in the attack on the G-Colony.”

“I had been looking for a replacement once I got settled in. I had asked Tonnio and Leo. But both of them refused, saying that there’s someone more qualified.”

“Laia? You’re not asking me to-”

“Ami Satomora, I would like to ask you to become the new commander of Mobile Defense.”

Wait.

I was shocked. I almost fainted from her request. Me? A commander over an entire force? I didn’t know if I could do it. I wasn’t a Guardian as long as the previous commander. If I accepted, I would be the youngest on record. I was so surprised that I started to shake.

“A-are you sure Laia? I’m so inexperienced. Ethan would make a way better choice than me.”

“Lets be honest, Ethan is not the commanding type. But I didn’t think to put you in the running at first. Leo and Tonnio highly recommended you. Thinking about your training with me I have to agree. I looked through your records at the academy as well. All that just solidified my choice. You have your faults, I know. I’ve seen them. You wouldn’t be a person without them. But considering that and how you’ve just taken up the mantle and beyond, there’s nothing more proud than you doing this.”

“I really don’t know if I can do this.”

“You can. The way you’ve led us through this battle just proved it. You know I’ll keep asking until you say yes.”

“I know. Don’t regret asking me. But I accept.”

“Well then, lets go Commander.”

“Congratulations Commander Satomora.”

“Thank you Captain, and President. I promise I’ll do my best from here on.”

It’s a shame that such a high point of my career came at such a sad day.

We arrived at the area where the generator was installed at. Instantly we felt something was really wrong. Before us was Lumia and Professor Tomrain on the ground. The professor was covered in blood, his blood I soon discovered. I ran over to him to try and so as much as I could to save him. He looked so frail and it seemed that his body was rejecting the Restas I was doing. He was fading and fast. His bloodied hand laid on top of mines, stopping me from casting another technic with my wand.

“It’s alright Miss Satomora. Lumia is safe.”

“Professor! No! You can’t die. You wanted to go to Rykros? You can’t do that if you’re dead.”

“Professor!”

Ethan and Karen happened to be checking on Parum when they got the call from Laia about Professor Tomrain.

“Don’t...please...”

“Mister Waber, Miss Erra. I think...I think I’ve finally atoned for everything I’ve done.”

“Professor, please...I wanted to prove that I can be myself. That I deserve to be just like the rest.”

“I see it right now Ami. You really do look like Megami.”

“I get that a lot.”

Professor Tomrain requested to see the generator. The “Light of Hope” he called it. So we all helped him to see it. It was such a beautiful light. He made us all promise him that we would see this mission to the end. And that he would be watching over all of us. We all watched as the life faded from his eyes.

He was gone.

Once again, I couldn’t save someone.

Chapter Text

It was a somber ride back to Headquarters. I was riding back by myself. Lumia had went before me to get checked out by the medical team. Ethan and Karen stayed behind to load Professor Tomrain’s body.

The realization that Professor Tomrain was really dead started my tears.

I didn’t know him for very long, but he had such an influence on me the time I did know him. I cried hard from this.

It was more than his death. Just the past few missions finally catching up with me. All the emotions I’ve felt. From joy, to sadness, to anger, and to despair. I just let it all out. I had cried myself into sleep, in an attempt to feel better.

When I was woken up, the shuttle had arrived at G-Colony.

I went straight to my quarters. I just wanted to be alone for a while. The feeling of dread was creeping on me again. I hadn’t felt like this since Mom died. I didn’t want anyone to see me like this. I didn’t want anyone to see the doubt I had about myself.

Would Professor Tomrain be alive if I was there protecting him?

I didn’t blame Lumia for this. I’m sure she tried her hardest to protect him.

I would need to know the full story later.

Laia sent a message to everyone. In a few hours we would hold a short memorial service for Professor Tomrain. We really wanted a longer, proper funeral for him. But there would be no time. Our mission to Rykros was coming up soon. We had to prepare for that before we missed our chance.

I’d like to think that Professor Tomrain would prefer we focus on this mission than to mourn over him.

I spent my time filling out paperwork that needed to be done. As well as catching up Dad on what happened. He seemed surprised that I would meet with one of his old professors. Also saddened that he died. It wasn’t long before I left to myself again. The thoughts of regret filtered into my mind again.

First with Mom.

Then the kid from Moatoob.

Now Professor Tomrain.

I couldn’t prevent any of their deaths. I should have done more. I’m a Guardian. I should be the one out there risking my life for the people. Not the other way around. Realizing this made me cry again. I hated the feeling of doing so much, but feeling so weak.

When I felt like this I went back to my one hobby, playing the piano.

I had a custom keyboard crafted for me so I could not get rusty. Who would have thought that the first time I would use it was now? I started to play the melody I played at Mom’s service. The emotions when I first played it then. Playing has somehow became a way for me to let everything out when nothing else worked. It wasn’t enough. The sadness gave way to anger at myself.

“Dammit, I should have done more! Why did they have to die?”

“Sometimes, it’s just meant to be.”

I was surprised to see Hyuga in my quarters. He told me I left it unlocked and Laia sent for him to get me. I tried to wipe my eyes from the tears. He didn’t need to see me cry like this again.

“It’s okay Ami.”

“No, it isn’t. It’s unbecoming of a Commander.”

“I won’t tell.”

I still refused to cry in front of him and eventually calmed myself down.

“How long until the meeting with Laia?”

“An hour.”

“Okay. I’m going to go freshen up. Help yourself to the coffee on the table.”

It wasn’t full on getting fresh. But it was enough to show I wasn’t an emotional mess earlier and to change into something that shows my new position. As I changed, I realized that I had to be strong now. I would be setting an example for others, so for now any ill feelings I had to push deep inside.

Though, I wasn’t sure if I was ready to see Hyuga again so soon.

There’s no turning back now.

“Sorry about the wait.”

“It’s fine. Also, congratulations on your promotion.”

“Thanks. Though it came at a terrible time.”

“It’s hard for everyone. Just do your best.”

I noticed in his hands was a photo. Rather, a photo of Mom and I. Seeing him hold it was bringing the flutter back into my chest. The silence between us was noticeable.

“Look, I’m sorry for Neudaiz. I was just stressed about things and I took it out on you.”

“It’s already forgiven. Do you want to talk about it?”

“It’s just that Howzer said some things when we rescued you and I guess they affect me more than I anticipated.”

“I understand. Maya told me.”

I froze in my steps.

I really hoped she didn’t say as much as she thought I she did.

“How much?”

“Not every detail. But she told me how hard you worked to save me. And that Howzer brought up some memories for you.”

“I see...it’s hard to say. He mentioned my mother.”

“Your mother?”

“Yeah, that photo you’re holding is of me and Mom. She died last year, she’s the reason why I’m doing all of this.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be. Mom died at that Seed invasion on Parum. If she hadn’t pushed me out of the way, I would have been the one to die. Hilde found me in shock over her body. She suggested that if I wanted to become stronger, I should join the Guardians. I’ve never been quite right since then. I became a Guardian so that I didn’t have to go through that. But in the end I couldn’t prevent anything. I killed a child and I couldn’t protect Professor Tomrain. What kind of Guardian am I if I couldn’t even stop that! Maybe Howzer's right, maybe I should just distant myself from everyone so that they won't sacrifice themselves for my future."

“Ami, that’s enough.”

I was surprised at the serious tone in his voice. At that moment, I wasn’t looking at my friend, I was looking at my superior. Well probably not that anymore since he’s resigning with the Guardians. But still, I stiffened into place.

I was even more surprised when he suddenly brought me into a hug. So much so, that I was rigid against him. I felt his hold get a little tighter on me, not enough to crush me but enough to know he wasn't letting go anytime soon.

“Don’t. Don’t ever say that. It hurts when I see you pity yourself like this. Howzer would have wanted you to feel like this. We’re here for you. I’m here for you. Whatever it is that’s bothering you, we’ll help you through it. You're not alone anymore.”

Hearing him say those words almost brought me to tears again. I didn't cry, instead I returned his hug. In that moment I wasn’t a commander, or even a Guardian. No I was just Ami, a girl who needed to mourn with her friend. The feelings I had tried to keep down for the sake of my job soon came back, maybe even stronger. Soon I separated from him.

If the room wasn't silent before, it was surely that now.

“Thanks...I really needed a friend.”

“That’s what I’m here for right? Maya seems to think I’m the only one you can be truly be yourself around.”

I couldn’t take it about him talking about Maya anymore.

I wouldn’t say jealousy, but I had to ask this now or it was going to bug me to my grave.

“What’s with you and Maya anyway?”

“That was unexpected of you.”

“Don’t change the subject. The way you two interact and talk to one another just makes it seem like you two are seeing each other. As your friend I gotta make sure your girlfriends are good.”

“That’s a bold statement Ami. Anyway, there’s nothing like that going on. We both have gone through some hard times. But she’s one of my dearest friends. I’ve known her since I was a trainee. She’s like a sister to me. Nothing more, nothing less.”

Oh. Well I feel so stupid now.

“Oh.”

“Don’t tell me you were jealous?”

“No, I’m not jealous. But you can’t blame me, the way you two interacted and just talk with one another. One would assume there's some chemistry there.”

“Ami, you can be a terrible liar at times. I know how devoted you are about my well being, even if I wish you'd think about yourself more. But, that isn't to say if you were jea-”

“I swear if you finish that sentence I will smack you. I don’t do jealous.”

“You hurt me Commander.”

“And don’t call me Commander. You’re basically not a Guardian anymore. You know I’ve never been one for titles. Anyway we should get going, I would be making a terrible first impression if I was late.”

“Of course Ami.”

“Also, thank you. I really needed a friend.”

“No problem.”

I did feel lighter stepping out of my quarters. The sorrow was still there, but it was lot more manageable. And maybe that my feeling for Hyuga was still justified. Not that it’s my intention to make anything more than friendship happen.

But it’s nice to dream.

We all met in on of the meeting rooms at Headquarters. It was already quite a few Guardians there as it is. I spotted Lumia by one of the windows. She didn’t look injured but there was something on her mind. I was relieved. I wanted to check up on her right then but Laia came in not too long after.

She gave a small glance at me.

It was plain to see that Professor Tomrain’s death had affected us all. A man who spent the last parts of his life atoning for his past transgressions set an example for us all. We had to uphold his memory by giving our all in this mission.

During the moment of silence for him, I thought many things. Mainly about Mom.

If she were still alive today, would she be proud of me?

“Alright everyone, lets get down to business. We only have one shot at this, so lets make it count. Commander Satomora and Ethan will be on protection detail to make sure Karen gets to her designated spot.”

“Commander?”

“Oh, I nearly forgot. Ami has been recently appointed Commander of the Mobile Defense unit. I know she’s a little young and hasn’t been a Guardian for long but I trust you’ll respect her.”

“Laia, there’s really no need for that...”

It still felt odd to be called Commander. I had no intentions on ever aiming for high positions in the Guardians. But here I am. Fate can be a bit funny at times.

The meeting was wrapped up quickly as Hyuga, Karen and I met with Laia. With Tylor and Curtz via communits we plotted our route to efficiently connect the photon outlets to where Karen was going to focus them. We’ve done it a lot of times with the ones on Parum, Neudaiz, and Moatoob.

On Rykros it would be different.

We had to connect them in a way that there’s one continuous flow.

It took a couple hours with some simulations, but we managed to devise a route that would get us done the fastest. The only thing on the agenda now was to get some rest and wait for the mission to start. It hit me then just how close we were to finishing.

All on this one mission.

I bid everyone goodnight as I left the meeting room. My intention was to head back to the barracks, but I was restless again. I guess I was nervous about this mission. We were going to Rykros, the main stronghold of the Seed. There was a good chance that people could die on this mission.

Almost everyone I’ve met along the way as a Guardian was going to be in this mission.

I had to do my best to make sure everyone came back alive.

I ended up going to the Dallgun viewing plaza. I needed to take my mind off the mission, if only for a few minutes. I was surprised that Lumia was already there. She did look depressed. She really did seem to like Professor Tomrain. So his death weighed heavily on her.

“Ami? It’s a surprise to see you here.”

“I just got out from the meeting with the others. I wasn’t ready to sleep yet. Mission jitters.”

“Tomorrow is going to be it isn’t it? I’m sad that I won’t be there with you.”

“Yeah, I’m in Karen’s party and you know Ethan has to come along.”

“It’s nice to see him be himself again.”

It was silent for a while. Both of us enjoying each others presence. But then Lumia started to shake.

“Lumia? Are you sick?”

“Aren’t you afraid Ami?”

“Afraid?”

“That’s where the Seed are! You could die!”

It really showed how much death affected her. It was a stark reminder that I was like that only a few hours earlier. She told me what happened after I left with Laia and Curtz. She and Professor Tomrain talked a lot. Professor had mention how he had no family of his own because he was hiding from the Illuminus. Lumia cheered him up by becoming his honorary granddaughter.

Then a woman came.

Lumia told me how she couldn’t move thanks to the woman’s technic. Professor Tomrain had been the one who turned on that last photon switch for us. And in a rage the woman killed him. Lumia watched in horror, unable to do anything about it. She watched as someone she grew close to was murdered in front of her. It became too much and she passed out. I guess that’s when we came in.

It was a shocking parallel to the circumstances of Mom’s death and its effect on me.

“That woman is going to be there Ami. I know it.”

“Then let her come. I’ll make her pay for killing Professor Tomrain. She’ll pay for making you go through this.”

“You don’t understand Ami!” I don’t want you to go! I don’t want any of you to go! I don’t want anyone else to die!”

It was then I hugged Lumia.

I knew she was shocked. I wasn’t a hugging person.

But having gone through the same thing, I knew this was what she needed.

“Thank you Lumia. I appreciate you always caring for me. I've known you for a short time, but I feel like you've done so much for me.”

“But Ami.”

“I know how it feels. You felt it was your fault. ‘If only I could have done more.’ I felt like that when my mom died. I still feel like that.”

“Ami, I-”

“I understand. But we have to go. If we don’t then more will end up like Professor Tomrain and my mom. If I can prevent that, then I’m willing to do whatever it takes. It’s always been a possibility with our line of work. I think when I look at it that way, I’m less afraid to die.”

“What’s about your feelings?”

“I mean, I don’t plan to go out of my way to die Lumia. But Hyuga understands. I fight even more because the Seed used him. I can’t let that go.”

“If you say so.”

“But since you’ll be here, can I ask you a favor?”

“Anything Ami.”

“If anything happens and I don’t make it, tell Hyuga I love him. I always will.”

“You love him?”

“Yeah, I do.”

It was in that moment that I fully had come to terms with these feelings I have. I wasn't sure if they could ever be reciprocated, but I would worry about that after this mission to Rykros. Lumia seemed to smile at my declaration. I stayed consoling her for a bit longer. Soon the tiredness caught up with me. I has asked Lumia if she wanted me to escort her back to her quarters but she declined. Saying she wanted more time to herself. I could respect that request.

“Make sure you get some rest soon Lumia. We have a big day ahead of us."

“I will. Goodnight.”

“Goodnight.”

The feeling of dread was coming back as I left and stayed until I went to sleep.

...I really hate it when my feelings are right.

Chapter Text

Waking up to the news of my life wasn’t something I looked forward to when I arrived in Laia’s office the morning of the mission.

While I was sleeping there had been a power outage. During that outage Lumia was abducted. I was mentally kicking myself for letting this happen. If I had stayed with Lumia or urged her go back with me, we wouldn’t be in this position. Of course this would happen right when this important mission was about to start.

“Any news on Lumia?”

“Nothing. But it seems very likely that she has been taken to Rykros.”

“And don’t you be thinking about going after her once you get there.”

“Laia! Why? She was my pupil. I promised Ethan I would look after while she’s my par-”

“Ami focus! Trust me, if we were able to I would get a search team for her. But we don’t have the time. We’re running on a tight schedule as it is. We’ve worked too hard, sacrificed too much for this moment.”

“So we’re just gonna leave her to die?”

“That’s not what I’m sayi-”

“I understand Ma’am.”

“Don’t give me that look Ami. I really wish we could help out.”

I hate that a part of me saw logic in Laia’s words.

The decision to not look for Lumia at all had soured my mood greatly. Right now, they had just decided to have Lumia be another sacrifice. A victim of circumstances. I had to hide my displeasure, for the sake of the mission. Hyuga had contacted us to finalize the agenda before going on to Rykros. He did notice that something was off with me.

If it was any other situation, I would find the fact that he could read me touching.

I assured him that I was okay. Laia and Headmaster had backed me up on the claim too, saying that it was first mission nerves as Commander. After the brief meeting, I received my orders. I was to take Mina to Moatoob with me so she could help out with the generators there. Once I got her there, then I would get on the Landeel and go to Rykros.

Laia had assigned everyone something to do within the Guardians’ network. Even those who wouldn’t normally do field missions. Laia wanted to pour all our resources into this.

But to be honest, I was surprised to see Mina outside of Headquarters.

She’s always been the receptionist, even before I signed up as a Guardian.

Before we actually left to go Moatoob, Lou stopped me. She wanted to speak to me about a private matter. Mina was understanding and was going to meet me at the shuttle before we went to Moatoob.

“I’m happy you agreed to see me Ami.”

“It’s fine. Part of my duties. So what can I help you with?”

“It’s about Lumia.”

“Did you find anything on her?”

“Unfortunately no. But I do want to help you search for her on Rykros.”

“Why? You heard Laia’s orders.”

“Security of the G-Colony is part of my duties. Ultimately, it’s my fault that she was taken. I want to help you to fix this error.”

I was surprised by Lou’s request. She was the absolute last person I thought would help me. I assumed that Lou was the type of person to follow orders down to the letter. Very rarely would she stray from those orders. I didn’t care about the why at this point. She wanted to help and I wouldn’t stop her.

“Of course.”

“I’ll sneak onto an Alliance Military ship and contact you about meeting places.”

“Alright. Thanks Lou.”

“One more thing Ami. May I take a look at your face?”

“That’s an odd request. But yeah do whatever. I’m so grateful for your help.”

One thing I couldn’t shake when Lou looked at me: I felt something familiar resonating within me.

Like someone I had met long ago.

Lou promised that she will see me on Rykros, so I made my way to meet with Mina. Thankfully, she didn’t ask why Lou needed to see me. I guess she thought it was classified. It isn’t everyday that Lou would want to speak with the Commander of Mobile Defense.

We arrived at the port where I would board the Landeel. Liina took Mina to the Relics site while the rest of us prepped for the trip to Rykros. I couldn’t even look at Ethan in the eye knowing that Lumia was missing. He was told that Lumia wasn’t on this mission because her mental state wasn’t suitable for the mission after watching Professor Tomrain get killed.

I didn’t want to lie to him, after so much we all went through.

I couldn’t trust myself to speak so I stayed withdrawn during the ride. I was probably worrying the others, but I had so much on my mind. My main thought was how I was going to meet with Lou. With my duties, there wasn’t going to be an opportunity for me to break away from Karen and Ethan to meet her. It wasn’t long before we reached Rykros.

Of course I ran out before everyone else.

One thought was going through my head: I had to find Lumia. I was going to go further before Ethan stopped me. I think he was picking up on my distress as well. But once again, I assured them I was fine. Even if I really wasn’t. All a part of following my “orders”.

It hadn’t hit me until then, but Rykros looked like a Relics site mixed with a Seed hive.

Karen explained that Professor Tomrain was doing research on the origins of Rykros before his death. What he learned was that Rykros wasn’t originally inhabited by the Seed. It was the trump card for an ancient civilization that was under attack from the Seed’s originator, Dark Falz. Dark Falz eventually took over Rykros, using it to bring the extinction of the ancient race. From there he assumed that Howzer learned of all of this and was able to harness some powers of Dark Falz. It would explain the fights with Dulk Fakis, being the failed attempts. Those attempts awoken the Seed and our current situation.

It’s such a shame that Professor Tomrain isn’t here to give his side of it.

The party formation was that Karen, Ethan and myself would head towards the main roon to prepare Karen for the unification while Tylor and Hyuga worked on getting all the generators online to focus on Karen. After the plan was finalized, we set out.

“Commander Satomora, wait.”

“I thought I told you not to address me that Hyuga? You’re not a Guardian anymore. You don’t have to talk to me like you were.”

“Right. Please be careful.”

For a moment, I faltered.

Something seemed different with Hyuga since the mission on Neudaiz.

It didn’t bother me, just that I couldn’t figure it out.

I would need to ask him about it later.

“I will. You be careful as well. We worked really hard on you to be cured from the virus. So don’t you die.”

“I know. Thank you.”

I heard Ethan snicker at our exchange.

Anyway, my group made our way through our portion of Rykros in record time. It really did help out a lot to practice the path before we left and committed it to memory. By the time we contact Hyuga and Tylor to let them know we were finished, they seemed surprised. They needed more time to set everything up so we were suggested to take a break. We took them up on it before we began our part as escorts to Karen.

Apparently, I wasn’t the only one to notice Hyuga’s behavior.

I would assume that since my partners in this mission were all together during his trainee days, it would be easy for them to pick up on it.

“So I noticed you two are pretty close. Is this a new development in your life?”

“Don’t be stupid Ethan. No it isn’t. I don’t know why he’s changed either.”

After the break, we set back to our mission. This part of it was more difficult because of the more hostile Seed-forms in the area. We had to be more cautious since this part wasn’t as thoroughly explored.

We were almost nearing our destination before I had gotten an incoming message.

I should have known it was off since this was on a private connection.

“Satomora here.”

“Well, well, well. Hello Dearest Ami.”

I stood still at the title.

The voice was definitely female, but it sent a chill down my spine.

Only one person had called me Dearest and I didn’t like it.

“Who are you?”

“The one who knows where your precious pupil is.”

“Lumi-!”

“Shut up Commander. If you value her life you will listen. If you speak another word I will kill her.”

“...”

“Good, I see that you do have some common sense. I’ll be sending you a map with the coordinates of our meeting place. You should already know, but come alone. Tell anyone else or have your group come with you and I’ll kill her. Understood my dear?”

This smells so much like a trap.

But Lumia’s life was at stake.

I had to take my chances. She didn’t deserve any of this.

“Understood.”

“I’m glad you do. Ta-ta for now.”

I stopped for a moment. The problem was trying to separate from Ethan and Karen. Ethan’s a very helpful person. If it could lessen the burden, he would rather do everything himself. So I figured trying to convince Karen I needed to leave alone would give better results.

“Hey guys, Laia had picked up on something and she needed me to investigate.”

“By yourself?”

“Yeah.”

“Are you sure it’s wise to be alone on Rykros?”

“Probably not, but we’re running on a tight schedule. Karen needs to get to her spot and Laia would definitely murder me if she was by herself.”

“I see. Ethan, lets go. Ami’s a commander now. There are going to be times she needs to do things by herself.”

“Thanks Karen.”

“Alright we’ll be going then. But if you need anything call Tylor and Hyuga.”

“Already have them on first priority notification.”

I hated lying to them. I really did.

“Hey Ethan?”

“Yeah Ami?”

I wasn’t sure if I was going to come back from this. But I needed to do it, for my conscience.

“Tell everyone I’m sorry.”

“Huh? What would be sorry for?”

“Just...tell them for me.”

“Okay.”

I ran out of the area as fast as I could. If I stayed, I would end up telling them everything. I couldn’t let that happen. I didn’t want them to worry about me. Strangely enough, I wasn’t encountered by any Seed-forms while going to the place. I had arrived at a medium sized room.

And there was no one there.

“Did I take a wrong turn somewhere?”

“...mi!”

“What?”

“You’re in the right place, Guardian Ace. Or should I call you Commander Tusakanova now?”

That voice...it couldn’t be.

“Ami! Get out of there! It’s a trap!”

“Lumia!”

The comm signal went dead after that.

But in front of me, before my very eyes, was a man I thought died.

“Howzer...why am I not surprised?”

“I’m honored you haven’t forgotten me.”

I wasn’t surprised seeing Howzer standing just before me in this room. Something deep inside told me it wouldn’t be the end until I dealt the final blow myself. So I glared at him with all the hate I could muster. I wouldn’t be stopped from shooting him this time.

If only Hyuga hadn-

No. It wasn’t his fault that I couldn’t take that shot.

“Dearest Ami, is that anyway to treat a family friend.”

“Shut the hell up. You’re no family friend. I understand why Dad hid away when he left GRM.”

“So Shion told you everything? A shame he hid from us for so very long. You would have grown to become a great subordinate.”

“Spare me your talk. Where’s Lumia?”

“Lumia? Oh is that the name of Arkguard’s daughter? She is safe for now. You won’t be reuniting with her today. You’re about to bring me the one item I want.”

Suddenly the area around me was surrounded in laser fences.

Yep, this was a trap all along.

“For you’re about to sacrifice your life in the name of the dark god!”

He shot at me. I didn’t give him the satisfaction of seeing me in pain. I wouldn’t let his view of me be anything else but pure hatred for him. But damn, it hurt so much. He shot at such force I fell to the ground. It felt weird at first, getting shot at. It was a dull pain, but once I hit the ground it just blossomed into my entire body. I remember hearing his laughter as he left.

The bastard left me to die alone.

I soon felt cold and lonely.

No matter how many times you think you’re prepared for it, it doesn’t hit you until you know you were going to die. I was dying in a pool of my own blood. I was going to die and no one would know until it was too late. I couldn’t move below my wound at all. My mind was wandering, just waiting for it to be over with. I didn’t want to focus on my impending death. Not on the pain I was feeling, or the slowness of my breaths.

The thoughts soon turned into realization that I regretted a lot of things in my seventeen years.

I should have apologized to Mom before she died.

I should have reached out to Dad more.

I should have told Ethan the truth from the start about Lumia being captive.

I should have told Hyuga I loved him myself.

The last part made me hurt more. My eyes widened. I couldn't die now. I had to live! At least to tell Hyuga that I loved him. My mind was racing with memories I spent with him. How all the changes I've went through was mostly because of him. Maya was right, I should have been honest with my feelings once I knew what they were. At least then, I would have lived out the rest of my life knowing if he ever felt the same. I could feel my body slowly become still. It was giving up, even though my mind didn't want to just yet. With little strength I had left, I turned my head to the side. If my body was found I didn't want them to see me in such a pitiful state.

Before the world darkened around me, I remember tears were falling down. Whether it was just an automatic response or my feelings, I couldn't tell. I didn't really care.

But there was one overwhelming feeling: Regret.

Chapter Text

I felt like I was floating in the darkness. Being dead, or dead-like, made me see a lot of things. Many different scenarios. Some I wondered if it was real or what I desired to be real. It was weird, being aware of everything and also nothing. It felt like I lived many lifetimes over during this state.

But somehow I had opened my eyes.

I noticed that I was able to sit up and I was breathing. I looked over to my left and saw Lou. She looked like she was ready to cry, which was odd. I knew Lou units were becoming more relaxed in emotions, but crying wasn’t one of those. Regardless of the circumstance, I was extremely happy to see her. She told me that once she got into Rykros she had picked up that my life support was about to send out a distress signal. She jammed it long enough for her to reach me to heal me.

I really was grateful that she came through for me, but something still seemed off.

“Who are you exactly?”

“What do you mean? I’m Lou of the Intel-”

“Don’t. I’ve worked with a lot of Lou units in my time as a Guardian. None are as expressive as you are. Even if they are becoming more human-like.”

She didn’t seem offended my statement. She chuckled instead.

“You’ve become so perceptive since the last time I’ve seen you. I’m sorry, I can’t answer that right now. Just know that I’m here to help you, no matter what happens.”

“...Alright. But I want full answers once this is all over.”

“Of course Commander. May I look at your face again?”

So I let Lou, or the person disguised as Lou, look at my face again.

The feeling that I’ve seen her before was becoming stronger with each moment.

“You look the same, but I can feel so much change has happened with you Ami.”

Lou seemed to know where she was going so I followed her in silence. It’s difficult to easily shake off that moments ago you were technically dead. The fact that it happened wasn’t what bothered me. But it was the fact that I was dying alone. If I had to choose how I went, then I would rather have someone with me.

Lou led us to a raft in the bottom depths of Rykros. Right at the head of the raft was Howzer and the woman who contacted my communit. But I didn’t see Lumia at all. I prayed that they didn’t decide to kill her and dump her body in the water we were surrounded in.

“Oh, so you didn’t die after all Commander.”

I hated how nonchalant Howzer was about almost killing me.

Just in general I hated Howzer. He’s caused so much misfortune on Gurhal and to my personal life. I really wished he would die.

“Thanks for your obvious concern Howzer. I should show you my gratitude by killing you myself.”

“This seems familiar Dearest Ami. Didn’t you try once before and for some reason you couldn’t follow through? Hmm?”

Yeah, I really hated him.

“Your threats don’t bother me, Commander. Seeing that foolish professor die and then being blamed for your supposed death was more than enough to send the little one’s mind into fury and despair.”

“No...”

“A perfect body for Helga to merge with. With her negative emotions, Dark Falz will be fully revived and I will use his power to finally cleanse Gurhal!”

“Helga! Please stop? You don’t want to show your feelings like this!”

Lou knew Helga? Or rather the entity using Lou knew her?

“Hmph, what would a Cast like you know?”

“Oh, I know. Believe me.”

A light filled the area for a brief moment. Once it died down, standing in front of me was an old friend. A friend I thought I would never see again.

“Vi-Vivienne!”

“Long time no see Ami.”

“Vivi! But how? The researcher told us tha-”

“Now isn’t the time to explain.”

Vivienne was right. I would know the details later. Now, we had to focus on getting Lumia back to us. But I wasn’t trained to deal with people who absorbed others. Helga kept her approach towards Howzer. When she was close enough, she stopped. There was a faint smirk on her face before we saw a Crimson saber go through Howzer’s body.

Who actually delivered the attack was more surprising.

“Having that woman absorb stronger forms was your downfall Howzer. It would only be a matter of time before a form would be strong enough to rebel against her will.”

“Renvolt!”

“I’ve been waiting a very long time. Just for this one moment.”

The one who dealt the blow was Magashi himself. I was ready to attack him, if needed be. But Vivienne told me that Magashi wasn’t hostile towards us. There had been no word about Magashi since the attack on the colony so I wondered if he had escaped the Illuminus take down we did. Apparently he and Helga had fought and as a result he was absorbed into her body. Even though he lost his physical body then, his mental strength was strong enough to maintain his individuality.

For supposed Copy Casts, they were surely becoming more individual.

We thought it would be over, both Howzer and Helga wouldn’t be threat.

We were wrong.

“Howzer...I...”

“Go, perform your last duty.”

“Yes sir...”

With the last bit of her strength, Helga merged herself with Howzer as the two fell into the water. It was an eerie silence before the area started to shake. There was another flash of light before we were facing a new Seed-form. Well if I was honest, it looked like a Seed version of De rol Le.

“Dark Falz!”

“You’re telling me that’s Dark Falz?”

“Not his true form. But we should destroy it before it gets to that point.”

Unfortunately, that form of Dark Falz inherited the same properties of a De rol Le. That being the only times you can hit it is with ranged weapons or when it decides to get close enough to attack with melee weapons. Which isn’t that often. With the three of us specializing on melee weapons, that makes this much harder than it should. I did care some ranged weapons, just in case there was a need. But we would have fared much better if someone as actually specialized in ranged attacks. Technics would have helped too, but I wasn’t trained for attack technics. It took a lot longer than I would have liked, but it too fell into the waters.

After a few moments, we took the time to rest. It was then Vivienne told me how she came into the current situation. Her reason for being created was to become Helga’s Copy Cast. Then she was going to be sent to the Guardians as a spy for the Illuminus when her memory got wiped. Apparently, our interactions left a bigger impression on her than any of us could have thought. She had heard about Lumia’s abduction and learned that I was her former instructor. So she felt compelled to help. Even as far as to hijack Lou’s body, a grievous crime a Cast can commit. It seemed like Lou was somewhat okay with it since she didn’t force Vivienne out.

Then we felt some more rumbling.

“The unification!”

“What?”

“I detect a massive signature of photons gathering.”

“Already?”

I was really hoping to get back before the ceremony started. Mainly to lend my support. It couldn’t have been easy on Karen at all to basically have all the photons in Gurhal channeling through you. I felt an overwhelming power, almost enough to make me stagger. As soon as it came it left. Magashi and I looked to Vivienne for her report on the situation. Her face was blank for a moment before she gave a small smile.

“I’m happy to announce that all over Gurhal, Hives are destroying themselves.”

“So it’s over?”

“Seems so.”

“Thank god.”

I wished things were really that easy.

“This feeling…”

“Huh?”

“Oh no.”

“What is it Vivi?”

“Dark Falz.”

Somehow Dark Falz survived the ceremony by hiding in its own nanospace. As soon as it knew it was safe it was starting to look for a new host. How did I know? I felt it. I had never felt so many negative emotions before then. There were so many voices. I wondered if its previous victims were calling out to me.

The voices soon stopped.

“Don’t take them, they are weak. You desire a strong body, yes?”

“Magashi, what are you doing?”

“What does it look like Guardian? I’m letting Dark Falz use my body as a host.”

“But why?”

“You and that other Cast have a future. This is the most I can do.”

“Magashi...”

“This isn’t how I imagined our final battle. But I suppose it can’t be helped.”

“Magashi, don’t do this.”

“Don’t look at me like that Guardian. I rather not be defeated with such a pitiful look on your face.”

I nodded my head. As much as I hated this outcome, it had to be done. I was really hoping we could complete this mission without any sacrifices. In a flash, we were no longer in a cave within the depths of Rykros. It seemed like were in space, right in the center of Gurhal. I could see the three planets revolve around us. It would have been an amazing sight to take in, if it wasn’t for the circumstances of me seeing this. It wasn’t long before Dark Falz was facing us in its more powerful form.

Vivienne and I were ready.

It was a relief to see how much Vivienne has improved since the last time we met. It was a sight to see her wield her namesake double saber so gracefully. The two of us have changed since that VR mission so long ago. We were no longer two fresh out of school people, we both had gone through a lot separately. Experiences that made us who we are now.

Even though we were better than when we first met, we were still facing a dark entity that took down an advanced civilization.

Especially since said dark entity starts throwing meteors at you.

Words couldn’t explain the thought going through my head as I saw that attack head for us. I was grateful that my line shield activated to brush off most of the attack. So the attack wouldn’t kill me in one hit.

“Ami! Are you alright?”

“I’m fine, just a little beat up...”

Every part of my body had hurt so much. But I wasn’t dead. That was the important part.

In my weakened state, I heard the voices from Dark Falz more. It got stronger, trying to use all my doubts and fears to get me to give in. For a brief moment, I almost gave Dark Falz what it wanted. I was worn down. So many people have been lost on our road to bring Gurhal to peace. I just wanted to do whatever it took for it to end.

I was tired of all the death

I was tired of all the sacrifices.

“Don’t give in.”

A voice stopped me.

I suddenly felt a power flood in me. It was like a strong burst of photons that I never recognized.

“You’re not alone.”

“Ami!”

There was a strong flash of light then I heard Dark Falz’s cry. I saw it falling below us, disintegrating in the process. I looked at Vivienne, who was looking at me in surprise.

“Is it gone?”

“Hmm, I don’t sense Dark Falz’s presence anymore. You did it.”

“It seems that you did Guardian.”

Surprisingly, or maybe not, Magashi came out okay.

When I asked what happened, he told me that Lumia managed to separate him from Dark Falz’s consciousness before it was destroyed. I couldn’t help to be proud of her. Even when things seemed hopeless she still managed to save someone.

But I was confused about the “I did it” they were saying. When I asked them, they said that my body was surrounded in a light aura and I had did a Damgrants on Dark Falz. I had dealt the final blow.

I was happy, but there was a problem with that:

I didn’t know any kind of offensive technics, much less a Damgrants.

Whatever the circumstances of it happening, I was glad that it happened. Magashi had confirmed that Lumia was able to separate from Dark Falz’s body as well before it was killed. But the problem now was that she was stuck in his nanospace. She would need to get back before it was closed off for good.

It felt weird to shift through nanospace. But my instincts had guided me through. At least I think it did. When I arrived in Dark Falz’s nanospace, the area seemed familiar with me. I couldn’t tell why I was feeling this way, but the area resonated something deep inside me. It felt like once upon a time in another life I had navigated through this once before. Lumia was further than I had thought so I had to walk the rest the way.

It helped a lot that there were no creatures to fight.

The area seem to shift as I went deeper inside. The forest I started out on seemed to change to a cave, then the cave to a mine and finally the mine to some ruins. Lumia’s presence became stronger as I reached the ruins area. It wasn’t too long before I found her. She was trying to leave the area of her own will.

“It’s no good, I can’t get out on my own.”

“I thought I taught you to never give up.”

“I’m even imagining Ami scolding me. I should have pushed to admit her feelings. She’s so stubborn sometimes.”

“Things like that can’t be rushed Lumia. I told you that.”

In that moment, Lumia turned to look at me. Seeing the smile on her face as she realized it was really me made this entire ordeal worth it.

“Ami, what are you doing here?”

“I came to get you, Lumia.”

“But wh-”

“Because I’m not leaving anyone behind. I’m not leaving you behind. We’re friends, aren’t we?”

“Ami...I...”

“Come on, let’s go home. Everyone’s waiting for us.”

The moment our hands touched, a bright light surrounded us. I wasn’t afraid of the light. I had a feeling it was going to take us home.

Everything would be different once get got home, however.

Chapter Text

The first few days after the mission to Rykros, I couldn’t remember. Lumia and I had spent the first seven days after that mission in a coma. From what I was told, the others hadn’t heard back from me. Orson happened to get this information and took a ship to Rykros. There he found me and Lumia unconscious at the lower levels and took us back to G-Colony. We were never given a concrete reason as to why we were in a coma in the first place.

I personally think that it took longer for our spiritual selves to get back to our physical bodies.

I was the first to wake up from the coma, with Lumia waking up a few hours later. I felt something was different. I wasn’t sure what it was, but I felt that the me who went into Dark Falz’s nanospace wasn’t the me now.

It took a while longer to be medically cleared to go out on missions again. I was ready to fully embrace my role as Commander of Mobile Defense. My first day back, Laia had called me into her office. No one could tell me what the nature of the request was. Just that it was important and I couldn’t put it off. When I got inside, I noticed she was by herself.

Usually Lou or Headmaster Nav would be beside her.

I wasn’t sure if this was a good or bad thing.

“Ami, I can’t tell you how relieved I am to see you standing here.”

“I am too. I don’t really remember what happened when I was in a coma. But I’m just glad I’m awake too.”

“Right. Let’s not waste time and get to why I called you here today.”

The next few minutes would change my life path forever.

“To be blunt, I’m dismissing your position as Commander. Effective immediately.”

It had to be some kind of joke right? She wouldn’t do this right? But Laia doesn’t kid around when it comes to the Guardians.

“But why?”

“I want to say I have no doubts about your skills Ami. I know better than anyone else from having instructing you. You’re a good person. You’re a compassionate person. Perhaps, too much for this job.”

“What do you mean ‘too much’?”

“You disobeyed my orders and went off on your own when I strictly told you not to. We were very fortunate that it was Ethan that was left to take care of Karen. Had it been anyone else, we wouldn’t be here right now. That would have just gave you a talking to. But you aided two Illuminus agents, one who even hijacked a Lou unit. Do you know how serious that is? They could have used the information Lou has in her database against us. And to top it off, you let Magashi escape.”

“Wait, you knew that?”

“The information does get sent in real time to us. Before Vivienne deleted the data, I was aware of what was going on. Normally you would be arrested for these crimes. But because she deleted the data we don’t have the evidence to lock you up, you’re very lucky Ami.”

I didn’t realize that I was getting so angry at Laia’s words.

“So, what Laia? You just expected me to sit by when I knew there was a chance I could save Lumia. Say I followed your orders and the mission still happened. I would have to face Ethan and tell him that his sister, the only reason he became a Guardian, was dead because I followed orders?”

“You didn’t even know if she was alive Ami. They could have said that just to get you separated.”

“Are you even listening to yourself Laia! That’s a bunch of shit and we both know it!”

I slammed my fists hard on the table. I didn’t notice the sudden pain from doing it. I just knew that I was so angry and disappointed at the woman who I thought was my friend. The woman I had confided so much in. It was almost as if I was looking at another person.

“You knew once Lumia was abducted I wanted to look for her. And that whole aiding Illuminus bit I had no choice. I didn’t know it was Vivienne until it was too late to change it. Magashi I thought was dead too. I couldn’t arrest him because I was passed out. You should honestly be thanking the both of them. Vivienne saved my life and revealed what was really going on in Rykros while Magashi delayed Dark Falz’s awakening. If they didn’t help me, that mission would have failed. Dark Falz hid in its nanospace thus skipping the confinement that Karen did. You knew how I felt. You knew I couldn’t keep going until I knew without a doubt about Lumia’s fate. Trap or not.”

“I understand. But being a commander, you surely knew that these decisions were going to be common?”

“Can you look me in the face and tell me that if it was you and I in that position you wouldn’t do what I did?”

She stared at me for a long while, before looking away. I wasn’t sure if I was angry that she wasn’t answering at my question, or disappointed that she wouldn’t try to look for me. But I think anger won out. I hid the shocked look on my face.

“I guess you really haven’t changed at all. Nice to see that side back Laia.”

“Satomora! I will not tolerate that. We had a bond yes, but I am still your superior.”

“So you’re going to pull rank now? Fine okay. I’m sorry President Martinez. I’ll accept your dismissal and go back to my duties.”

“Ami do-”

“Please don’t use my first name like you’re familiar with me President. You clearly want to keep this professional.”

I should have left right after that, but something was nagging me.

“But before I go President, I have a question. Since it seems that this was planned since my stint in the hospital, I assume you already picked my replacement?”

“Yes, it’ll be Orson Waber.”

“You do realize he was once an Illuminus agent as well?”

“He’s changed since then.”

“And Vivi and Magashi can’t? Is it because they are Casts. And don’t you dare say they are Copy Casts. But seriously, don’t answer that I’m just thinking out loud.”

For six months, I tried to get back into my role as just a Guardian. Everyone seemed shocked that I was no longer the commander. Only the highest of Guardians knew the true reason of my demotion. The public reason was that I felt I was too young for such a position and willingly stepped down.

But then it hit me.

I wasn’t sure when it happened, but I suddenly knew why. This wasn’t the Guardians I had signed up for. Sure with Laia’s guidance, the Guardians was going to have a bright future. But I suddenly didn’t see myself in that vision. So I came to the decision to resign. There was really no ties for me to the Guardians. The Seed weren’t spawning and Lumia was becoming a very independent Guardian in her own right. I had done everything I had set out to do within the Guardians.

Laia wasn’t all that pleased when I handed her my resignation papers.

“Ami you can’t be serious.”

“I am President.”

“But why?”

“The short answer is that now evaluating my life, I don’t see myself with the Guardians in the future.”

“Is being dismissed as commander the reason behind this?”

“Yes and no. It hit me to really think about my life for the future. But this isn’t any sort of revenge for that. It’s just, I became a Guardian to be stronger. But more so to avenge my mom. I’ve done both of those now and I feel there’s nothing left for me here anymore. It’s time for me to figure out what I want to do.”

“You sure?”

“I already have most of my belongings back home in Parum.”

“You’re serious. Alright then. I’m sad to see you go Ami. But if you feel it’s for the best then I can’t force you.”

“Thank you.”

A few days after that I was waiting to board the PPT shuttle to Parum. I hadn’t told anyone that I was leaving. I wanted a clean break. The less people that knew I felt would be best. I didn’t want any questions when I left.

“Ami? What a surprise to see you here.”

Sometimes, I really do wonder about my timing.

Ethan had caught sight of me as he was coming back from a mission. It wasn’t a big deal to see him out and about. Ever since going back to the Guardians Ethan had been called for quite a lot of missions.

The only problem was that I was out of uniform.

A couple months after the mission on Rykros, Laia had enforced a uniform policy. They looked nice. But I think Laia had less influence on how they looked than people think she does.

“Oh, hey Ethan. I’m just going home.”

“You’ve been pretty weird since you stepped down from your Commander role.”

A lot of people put Ethan into the not so smart category, but he really is. Just probably not in the way people think the Hero of the Seed should.

I couldn’t lie to him so I told him the truth. He was surprised. I was seemingly just starting at the peak of my career. Expecting me to be there until I retired. But I was surprised that he didn’t try to get me to reconsider.

I think because he left for a time, he understood my feelings about finding my calling.

I really was grateful to have him as a friend.

“Keep in contact okay?”

“No promises, but I’ll do my best.”

Going back home wasn’t the most difficult thing to do. Actually Dad was pretty happy when I told him I was quitting the Guardians. I guess since I wasn’t out there putting my life on the line all the time, he was happy. After doing so much in my short time as a Guardian, the hardest part was adjusting back to a normal life. While I was figuring out my next step, I started to attend college on Parum while helping around the house and doing odd jobs.

Dad was still working all-nighters, now with GRM.

But I didn’t mind it as much now.

I did sometimes wonder about Hyuga, since I never got to say goodbye to him. He apparently, completed his resignation from the Guardians while I was in a coma. I had been tempted to just visit him, but I told myself I wouldn’t reveal that I’m one of his employee’s kid.

For a year and half, life was like this. I went to school, Dad worked, and we hung out on our day offs. It was as normal as the two of us could be. But I liked it.

That isn’t to say my life wasn’t completely normal.

During that time my body began to undergo some changes. My hair and eye colors became a more vivid shade. I noticed I could feel out photons better than before. I think those feelings I had when I traveled through Dark Falz’s nanospace had something to do with it. I still didn’t have the technic proficiency like a Newman’s. I would still need to get weapons adapted for that.

I was finally having a normal life, but something felt missing. It wasn’t a constant thought, but when I was in the Guardians there were times in which I wished to have a normal life. I had wanted life to be how it was before the Seed showed up. Of course it wouldn’t completely be like that since Mom was gone. But here I was a couple years later living that life.

But I was restless.

I’m glad Dad noticed these things without any vocal hints.

It was early morning that day. I remember it so clearly because Dad had just gotten home from another of his late night shifts.

“Back for today Dad?”

“Yeah, have you found your path yet?”

“Not yet, unfortunately.”

What Dad and I talked about next was one of the best conversations I’ve had in a very long time.

For a long while, he had noticed my restlessness. He understood the feeling for when he was younger. He told me that joining the Guardians have awakened my call in life to protect people. Much like how becoming a researcher did for him. As much as his passion caused a rift between us for years.

Ironically enough, I was studying about Photon Applications when I started going to school.

Like father, like daughter.

Anyway, he didn’t know the specifics of my last few months as a Guardian. I chose to keep that a secret. Dad didn’t need to be involved with that. But he knew that protecting Gurhal was my calling in life. So he gave a shuttle pass. He gave me a shuttle pass and his blessing to go travel around Gurhal until I found my place in life.

I didn’t know what to say.

Except for, “Thank you”.

I left a week after that. And for that next year I traveled all over Gurhal as a freelance mercenary. It wasn’t the fact that I needed money which led me to my profession. I was pretty well off financially from my earnings as a Guardian. But I got to travel to places I couldn’t go as a Guardian. I was seeing Gurhal as one of its citizens, not as someone who had a mission to go on. It was calming to be able to see Gurhal in this way.

Just like that, I was just traveling and offering help when needed.

Despite the way I left and how I felt there wasn’t a place for me there, I did miss the Guardians. I wouldn’t be the person I was now if I hadn’t signed up with them.

I had come back home for a month. Mostly to rest and get my weapons adjusted. There was a perk to having a father who knew how photons worked in weapons. I did keep in contact with him over my travels. But nothing beats being home and seeing him in person. It was nice to see that his late night shifts were less now that the new line of weapons from GRM was out.

It was also during that month that a Relics site became open to the public.

Though I wondered why Relic sites were still popping up. The threat the Seed was over.

But work was work, there would be plenty of people who wanted to go deeper into the site but lacked protection.

“Dad, I’m off.”

“Alright, be careful Ami.”

“I’ll try.”

“Next time you come by, I’ll introduce you to everyone at work.”

“It’s alright. I’m sure no one there wants to see me.”

“My boss would like to meet you. He’s curious about knowing someone his age.”

At that mention I blushed. I really hoped that Dad didn’t notice.

“I’ll think about it. Ask me again when I come back.”

“Right right.”

“I really got to get going.”

“Bye Ami.”

“Bye Dad.”

I didn’t know that one trip to the Relics would bring about change in my life.

Chapter Text

That afternoon I arrived at the Relics site. Immediately I noticed that there were plenty of mercenaries in the area. It wasn’t a big problem. But this did lower the chances of me finding a cilent. Despite that, I looked forward to the day. I got to meet fellow workers like myself. I was chatting with a male Cast before I cry ended our conversation.

Well it wasn’t a cry exactly.

More like a complaint.

I didn’t know the cause of it right away. After that the Relics’ defense system became active. Everyone was starting to run towards the exit, not wanting to become trapped. All except for one. I was helping others get to the exit when I discovered her. She was kneeling on the ground looking like she was in pain. I tried to get closer but the ceiling was coming down around me. I couldn’t do much without the risk me being buried under the rubble. It was a while before the area was calm enough for me to do something. I could hear her pounding on the door.

The issue was that there was a chunk of ceiling blocking my way.

Well, it was a good time to test my skills with a sword.

I put on my googles that looked like a pair of glasses. Over my travels, Dad had made some goggles for me that wasn’t a pure digital display like the ones when I was a Guardian. I found them pretty stylish. Anyway also during those travels I picked up tips on how to use a sword. I learned how to use a lot of weapons traveling all over.

Twin daggers will always be my preferred choice.

“Who’s there?”

“Don’t be alarmed, I’m here to help.”

“Oh, so you got stuck here too then?”

“Well not exactly.”

I couldn’t tell her I got stuck trying to check up on her.

Her name was Emilia Percival. She was with her boss before the defense system became active and they got separated. She didn’t even want to come to the site in the first place, but she was ordered to.

Despite her initial reluctance, we had decided to stick together to get out of the place. Even though it was me doing the heavy work while she provided back up. She reminded me a lot of Lumia when I was training her.

I smiled a bit, reminiscing on those good times.

Emilia's outlook on the situation was less than ideal, but without her it would have taken longer for me to navigate through the site. We had reached one of the main platforms in the area.

“Finally! We can leave this place.”

“Be careful Emilia. This seems too convenient.”

If being the Guardians have taught me anything, it’s that if it looks too good to be true it probably is.

Our progress was stopped by a Svaltia. It was my first time fighting this type of Stateria, but if it was like the others then I could quickly uncover its weakness to exploit. I was prepared to fight it.

Emilia on the other hand…

“You expect us to FIGHT that thing?”

“It’s blocking our only way out though. We really have no choice.”

“It’s so huge though.”

“It’ll be fine, I promise. I did do this once before. Sorta kinda.”

“Fine?…Fine? Oh alright, you haven’t led us wrong yet.”

The fight wasn’t as long as I thought it would take. Emilia’s Zonde technics were very helpful when I couldn’t get close enough to attack the Svaltia. She looked so ecstatic seeing that she helped defeat it. Even if I did do most of the attacking, it didn’t feel right to take her joy away from her.

“Ah!”

The Svaltia wasn’t dead like we thought. Without a face, I could tell it was angry with us. If it wasn’t the sound it made, having its claw raised was a sure indicator. Its target was Emilia, seeing that she was the closest target.

Only one thought was in my head the moment I realized that.

‘Protect Emilia, at all costs.’

And that’s what I did, at the cost of my life. It wasn’t like the time on Rykros. It was quick. I don’t even remember when I fell to the floor. I do remember feeling so much blood leaving me at once. I tried to reach out to Emilia with right hand, but I couldn’t.

It was probably because the entire arm was a few feet away from my body.

I was oddly calm about this. A contrast to when I was on Rykros. I noticed Emilia’s face as she was crying. I wanted to let her know it was okay, but I couldn’t speak. I was so tired though. Even with her shaking the promise of sleep was too much.

I don’t remember much after I closed my eyes.

I saw lights, heard voices. But there was always that feeling of absolute nothingness. But there was one voice I clearly remembered.

“I am with you, always.”

When I came aro-

Wait. I was supposed to be dead.

I shouldn’t be awake.

Anyway, when I came around I noticed I was no longer in the Relics. It looked like I was in an office of some sort. I could see a woman Cast with an odd accept talking. She seemed surprised that I was awake.

Something was really off. I felt like I was just sore from a long fight.

Not like I was mortally wounded.

“Boss! Boss! Our guest is awake yes?”

“I heard ya the first time.”

A male beast came to my side. He told me that once the site had calmed down I was found with no ID. He was asked to take me in, since they couldn’t leave me down there. So his group took me to this place, Clad 6.

Clad 6 was one of the many space colonies created after the Seed threat by Skyclad. This one specifically was meant to be a resort colony.

I was offered by the Beast, Crouch, to join Little Wing. Little Wing is a small security firm stationed in Clad 6. I guess you can say they are an organized mercenary group. I had thought about it for a few moments before agreeing. It wasn’t like I could say no right away anyway. I could try it out and if I don’t like it I could leave further down the line. I would need to fill out a registration form before going on any missions. But first I would get my room, since I did spend most of time on the floor. While that was getting situated, my partner would give me the tour.

Crouch didn’t seem too pleased when talking about my partner.

At that exact moment they came in.

“I’m here, I’m here. I don’t know why you called me in here old man.”

“Emilia?”

“Ami? No offense, but aren’t you supposed to be dead?”

I think I was supposed to?

Crouch revealed to me then that Emilia was my partner. Well, more like a babysitter. But if I had somehow got her to be a proper combat partner then that would be a blessing. We didn’t say much as she led me through the different areas of Clad 6. Just enough to give explanations and to show that I was listening. I felt comfortable here. It reminded me of my orientation at the Guardians. At the very least, I wouldn’t need much time to adjust.

Finally Emilia showed me my room since it was ready. It was very plain. But it wouldn’t be long before it had more of my personality in it. Emilia took it upon herself to sleep on my bed. A part of me wanted her off since I think I needed it more. But seeing her and knowing what we just went through stopped me. I could just nap in the cafe if I really wanted to. With no one to talk to, I started to wonder about the Relics site.

Did I really die?

Was all that just a figment of my imagination?

I was going to ponder that before a force stopped me. I’d like to say that my senses had heightened during my travels. It was still feelings instead of full on sensing. But I think I was better at feeling out the kinds. This force felt maternal.

“Please wait.”

A woman surrounded by a golden aura emerged from Emilia’s body. My first feeling was to tense up. I’ve faced many things in my life, but spiritual beings are a first. How would I even begin to handle this?

“Please, don’t be alarmed. I mean no harm.”

“What did you do to Emilia?”

“I wanted to speak with you. While she is sleeping, I’ve taken over her consciousness. She isn’t in any danger, I promise you.”

Mika was her name. She explained to me her situation. She was an Ancient. The Ancients were the civilization that fell to the Seed many millennium ago. As a last resort, they had shed their physical bodies to seal the Seed and purge the universe of the damage their fight had caused. Then they created us Humans. Though the reason behind it wasn’t benevolent. They had created us, hoping we reach the point of evolution they could take our physical bodies. We were almost to that point with the discovery of Subspace.

Mika didn’t want that to happen to us, so she asked for my help.

Even though I was no longer a Guardian, I still get tasked to save the world.

I wondered how I was able to see and speak with her. This really should have been impossible. Then she told me, we were able to communicate because we shared a bond. One that was shared when she repaired my body from the Relics. The voice I remembered was hers.

Remembering that time made my body hurt a little.

I lifted up my shirt and noticed the thin scar running across my stomach. Starting from my right shoulder all the way down to my hip was a jagged line. From where the Svaltia had struck me.

So I really did die. It wasn’t a dream.

I had honestly experienced death.

To say the least, all this information was a lot to take in.

In the end, I accepted Mika’s request to stop the Ancients from taking over. Mika must have saw something in me if she revived me. There was something that only I can contribute to this cause. For her to reach out to me right now.

I wasn’t sure what that was yet. But I was going to give it my all.

Chapter Text

To save Gurhal, I had to enlist the help of many. The first and maybe most important was Emilia. When I told her of my encounter with Mika, she didn’t believe me. She had thought I might have hit my head in the Relics. But after an incident on Moatoob with the seclusive Kasch Clan made her realize that Mika was a real being living inside her.

Now that she believed I can really start training her.

Over time, Emilia and I became close. She reminded me of Lumia at times. They both had that need to get better for my sake. I think a part of it was that she felt guilty I died because of her.

I was never angry at her for that.

I was doing what was right.

Even if Emilia was on our side now, it was still two of us against the rest of the Ancients. Only four people could see Mika. Emilia and myself, since we both had a bond to her and a Newman-Beast Kasch member named Yuto.

The fourth? Someone who wasn’t on our side.

At least not by choice.

With no one else able to see or hear Mika, making people believe that our advancement of subspace was actually putting Gurhal in danger was almost impossible.

It wouldn’t be long before they did.

During our plan to stop the takeover, Emilia and I learned at lot about each other. Most importantly our connection to the Guardians. Everyone in Little Wing eventually found out about my past as a Guardian. The Guardian who helped bring down Dark Falz, no less.

How did they find out?

Lumia.

During a mission to Neudaiz, I had met Lumia again. She had changed since I left two years prior. She reminded me more of Laia when I was a trainee. She was very surprised to see me again, much less actively fighting. I didn’t give her the true reason why I left the Guardians until she pushed for answers.

She did pick up Laia’s bluntness for answers.

I told her the truth about everything. Even the reason behind my resignation as Commander. Even after all this time away and discovering my life beyond the Guardians, it still held a sore spot for me. Lumia was not pleased when I told her this. I thought our bond had ended when we both walked our separate paths. I’m a bit relieved I was mistaken. I asked her to keep it a secret that she found me as a Little Wing member. I believed back then that if they found out, they would try to convince me to come back.

I wouldn’t let myself go back to them.

As time went on, we found out the person behind the plan. Well, the entity. It was Kumhan, the leader of the Ancients one could say. He also happened to be Mika’s husband. It wasn’t a traditional marriage that we on Gurhal knew. There was no love there, especially since Mika was one of his many wives. He had taken host in the body of a male named Shizuru.

We had to act fast if we were to save him and Gurhal.

Emilia rediscovered her true self during this as well. She was in a division overseen by the Guardians since she was a kid genius. She hated it though, the researchers there never treated her like a person. Only as a power source to a super computer. I wondered if Laia or Dallgun had knew about this. It would explain her open hostility towards them, except for me.

Even though she was uncomfortable with her abilities, without them we wouldn’t have been able to find Kumhan’s base, Maghara.

With our destination set and the help of the three major organization within Gurhal; the Communion of Gurhal, the Alliance Military, and the Guardians, we headed there. Inside we faced past enemies created from our memories. They were created in an attempt to stop us. There was even a manifestation of Dark Falz.

I wondered if it was conjured up from my memories.

After a long battle and Shizuru’s determination, we drove Kumhan out of his body. But he had all he needed to make his plan become a reality, even without a host.

Still we kept fighting, even if it felt hopeless.

As long as there were Ancients inside Maghara, Kumhan would keep coming back.

Ultimately, it was Mika who gave us hope. She stopped the flow of Ancients to Kumhan’s body which gave us one more shot to bring him down for good.

I’ve come to realize that saving the world always required a sacrifice of some sort.

First with Mirei.

Then with Professor Tomrain.

Now with Mika.

Because of all the power needed to bring Kumhan down, Mika couldn’t sustain herself anymore. She was fading away right before our very eyes. As much as we could, we couldn’t reverse this. She knew that this would be the result. The most we could do was make our last few moments together as happy as it can be.

Even if we were crying, we tried to smile for her.

Though, before she was completely gone she told me something:

“I had always wondered why your spirit felt so warm. The light is protecting you Ami. Never forget that.”


Her words left me curious.

Six months has passed since then. My main duty is to go with Emilia as she does research all over Gurhal. Sometimes it’s to help with subspace, other times to help out with research in general. I was still her partner, after all. The immediate months after Mika left was hard on her. It was hard on all of us. But mostly her. She considered Mika like the mother she never had.

Even though she’s not that far off. It was Mika’s genetic make up that gave birth to Humans.

In a way, we were all her children.

Emilia was as close to Mika as anyone can get. She always kept the promise to smile for her. Emilia slowly but surely started to embrace her genius traits.

My thoughts on Mika?

I could never forget her. She gave me another chance at life. I know I said before if I were to die I would rather have someone by my side. That’s still true, but I wouldn’t wish anyone to go through what I went through when I lost Mom. Or even seeing Emilia’s face as I died in front of her.

For that realization, I was forever in Mika’s debt.

Everything was finally going back to normal. I was at a place I had no intention of leaving. I was surrounded by new and old friends. Gurhal was at peace finally.

Though, things were going to change. Quickly.

I was sitting in my room, taking some time off from my recent travels. We have traveled to G-Colony to go over some research notes with Maya. Over time, I did let myself be known to the Guardians that I was in Little Wing. I did say pretty bluntly I was never going to return to the Guardians.

Anyway, I was studying on my desk and the contents on it. The desk had items of people that I cared about, a Tethis flower from Mika, a picture of Mirei before her passing, and a Kakawane doll from Emilia. And right beside my bed stand, a picture of Mom. Emilia had came into my room seemingly really happy.

“Ami! Glad you here!”

“I’m not going anywhere anytime soon. So what’s up?”

“I just got some great news! I’ve been asked to research some new material in a lab.”

“That’s good. I guess you coming here means my services are needed?”

“Of course! You’re my partner.”

“Right, right. But you’re more than capable of going on these research trips on your own now. I’m not needed as much.”

“But it isn’t as fun without you. It’s not as if you’re lined up for missions anyway.”

“...yeah, you’re right...”

“Anyway, I’m so happy. I’ve never imagined I would be going to this facility.”

“It must be a technological wonder for you to get this excited.”

“It’s the main GRM research facility in Parum!”

...oh…

If I was holding something, I definitely would have dropped it.

I hadn’t visited anywhere GRM since Hyuga went missing. All the GRM based weapons I had came through from the Guardians, or when I joined Little Wing, the shop there. It wasn’t that I hated going. Just that I was really serious on not letting my dad or Hyuga know they shared a common bond through me.

I never did forget about Hyuga though.

You could never really forget someone you love.

I missed him a lot. Some of the changes I went through was thanks to his influence.

Emilia immediately took notice to my expressions. She tried really hard, but I didn’t tell her why I felt apprehensive about going to the facility. I didn’t have anything else lined up, so I couldn’t refuse unless I had a really good reason. But I would have to be careful about giving myself away. There was a pretty high chance I would meet Hyuga or Dad. Even both at the same time.

Obstacles tend to throw themselves into your life when you never need them to.

Chapter Text

We were going to the GRM facility early in the morning, so there was little to no time for me to get mentally prepared for this. I really shouldn’t be trying so hard to keep my identity a secret. But I did believe then the less connections, the easier it would be.

That and I was pretty convinced that Hyuga would be pissed.

The last time I spoke to him was during the mission on Rykros.

That was nearly four years ago.

It wasn’t like I was purposefully avoiding him. Well not entirely. Just that life happened and before I knew it, it had been that long. I was hoping that if we were to meet again it would take him a while before he realized it was really me. Emilia could tell I was nervous. But I still wouldn’t tell her the real reason why I was feeling this way.

“I told you, my dad works here and I haven’t spoken to him in a while.”

“Hmm I dunno. I have a feeling that isn’t the entire truth.”

“Well it is.”

“If you say so Ami.”

“I just did.”

Emilia being a genius makes it hard to hide stuff from her.

All too soon it was time to depart to Parum. Despite all the nerves, I was glad to be going home. It was my birthplace. A lot of memories happened on that planet.

Some good and some bad.

The shuttle dropped us off at Holtes City. From there we took a flyer to another part of the city which the facility was located at. We would meet with our guide there. My main goal was to make sure that Emilia got there, performed her research and got back to Clad 6 safely. Since she hassled me to come with her, I might as well perform my duty.

We got to the meeting spot simple enough. I didn’t realize until then that GRM facilities are huge. I had expected no less from the largest manufacturing company in Gurhal. But the last time I was in a GRM location, I never took notice. More than that, GRM had recovered so quickly from it being on the verge of collapsing. With a lot of employees in jail for aiding the Illuminus and nearly going bankrupt from helping with the Rykros mission, to see them on the road to its former glory I was proud.

As a Parum native and as a friend.

Of course, it’ll still be a while before it would be back to its full strength without Illuminus aid.

And people still speculate about the company.

Even more so since there was a six month stint of its president being secretive.

“Whoa! Look at all this stuff Ami!”

“You look like you’re in heaven Emilia.”

“Of course! This is a researcher’s dream come true. All the data these machines can input. Hey...you don’t think they would mind if I swip-”

“Don’t even Emilia. We don’t want GRM to be looking down on us already.”

“I’m joking, just joking. You seem better though.”

“Well, yeah. Maybe I overreacted a bit.”

“Pfft, a bit? I doubt that.”

“Shut up. Anyway, you need to keep your wits.”

“Why? Is this place dangerous?”

“No, at least I hope it isn’t. But if we somehow meet with the President keep your guard up. He’s...a very flirtatious guy. You’re probably a bit too young for his tastes, but you can never tell with him.”

“You know this, how?”

“It doesn’t matter how I know.”

“Okay, you’re definitely hiding something from me.”

“Oh? You two are the guests from Little Wing correct? I must apologize for my tardiness, my meeting went longer than expected.”

It seems that I wasn’t the only one who changed after leaving the Guardians.

Seeing Hyuga again felt like I was meeting him for the first time. He looked different than what I last remembered. His skin was paler, almost a porcelain white. And he was slimmer too. Though it kinda worked with how much taller he had gotten. I was only a few inches shorter, but then again, I was wearing shoes that made me a little taller. He also wore glasses now, with a part of his fringe covering an eye completely.

I was so absorbed into realizing his changes, I only picked up bits of the conversation he and Emilia was having.

The most I got was that he was a Duman now. Dumans were a newly discovered race; only just recently being officially classified as a fifth race in Gurhal. It seems that only Humans could become Dumans. Even though Dumans were a result of a genetic mutation, it immediately didn’t mean that there was something wrong with you.

But we can’t help that not everyone thinks that way.

“Your partner has been really quiet Miss Emilia.”

“Emilia is just fine. But he’s right, you have been quieter than usual Ami.”

“I’m fine Emilia, just a lot of things to think about. And thank you for your concern President, it’s been duly noted.”

“Please, just call me Hyuga. Ladies such as yourselves shouldn’t address me so formally. And your name is Ami? That’s a peculiar name, Neudiazian?”

“No, my Mom was from there.”

“Hmm, I see. May I ask for you last name?”

“It’s Sa-”

“That’s quite enough President. It doesn’t matter what my last name is. I’m just here at Emilia’s request and I would like to get this done as soon as possible. I’ve heard of your nature, please don’t make this harder than it should.”

“And you’re very committed to your duty. I’ve truly been blessed by the Holy Light in meeting you two.”

“With all due respect, are you finished Hyuga? I thought this was of utmost importance?”

“Ah? Yes of course. I apologize, seeing as I am female interaction is rare.”

“Too much information sir. Too much information.”

Hyuga gave us a mini tour as we made our way to the reason Emilia was called. Hyuga had talked about a gem that was found on their property a few days ago. After initial analysis, they figured that Emilia would be the best choice to start the more in depth research. From the pictures, it looked like a large black gemstone. The gem was so dark, I could feel it sucking me in.

As we got closer to the room it was housed in, I started to get a bad feeling.

My bad feelings are usually right...unfortunately.

When we got inside, there was a female near the gem. She looked younger than me, but older than Emilia. She was so close to it, whispering to it. A number I think? In a flash of light, the gemstone was gone.

Hyuga readied his saber.

“You’re a beautiful lady, but you’re still trespassing. I must detain you for questioning. Please back down now.”

“Hmph, I would like to see you try.”

They soon began to fight. I was surprised that Hyuga was still as sharp in his skills now that he was no longer in the Guardians. I wondered if he just kept his skills up as a hobby, or his job was more gritty than they let on. I watched in awe of his techniques. It was still so precise. No, maybe even more so since his saber didn’t look to have as high of a photon output than other sabers.

Now I was starting to sound like a newbie Guardian again.

For a good half of the battle, we thought he would win the battle.

Until the female intruder took off her eyepatch.

There’s a rumor that Dumans cover an eye as a sort of power limiter.

Once she took off the eyepatch, the tides of battle shifted. She was faster, her strikes were more powerful. Hyuga was soon on the defensive. And even then, it was taking all he had to just deflect the attacks. There was an attack that he blocked. But the aftershocks of it was so strong it pushed him to a wall, denting it.

That wall was made of reinforced metal.

“Hyuga!”

“President!”

“I’m fine Emilia, Ami.”

That was the last straw.

I could feel my protective nature coming out again. The raw intense need to protect him. I had put away my goggle/sunglasses I was using to hide my eyes. I was already equipping my twin daggers. Emilia seemed to notice the change in my expression too. As far as I know, Emilia had never seen this side of me before.

“Emilia, heal Hyuga. Your Resta is better than mines.”

“Ami?”

“Do it quickly, when you two are ready come in. I’ll distract her until then.”

“Miss Ami, I’m fine. Really I am.”

“A long time ago, you told me to trust you Hyuga. I need you to trust me now. I told myself I would protect you.”

“Wait...Ami? Ami is that you?”

I didn’t answer his question as I went to attack the female. I think she was surprised I was going after her with such fierceness. Now that we were clashing weapons, I had a better look at her. She had pale skin as well, probably paler than Hyuga’s. It really stood out against her black hair and green and red eyes. All accented with a blue rose hair pin.

When we clashes blades, I felt something from her.

Like something incomplete?

It was only a minute or two before Hyuga and Emilia joined as well. I was thankful for the quickness. This female was strong, maybe stronger than me. It took a long while but we managed to drive her into retreating.

Well, more like she did it of her free will. But the point remains that she left.

“I apologize for all of this, in the end you two came here for nothing.”

“It’s fine, you couldn’t help that. That girl was wicked strong, wasn’t she Ami?”

“Yeah, stronger than I like to admit. I hope she isn’t our enemy.”

“Ami? Wait a moment, are you her?”

When you think that the day couldn’t have any more surprises, it likes to remind you that it does.

“Hyuga? I heard that the gemstone is gone.”

“Unfortunately, yes. Oh Emilia, I would like for you to meet Shion Tusakanova.”

“Wait, The Shion Tusakanova. One of the regarded researchers in photon applications.”

“Well I wouldn’t go that far. You must be Emilia Percival. I’ve heard that you’re making quite a statement in the science field.”

“Thank you Professor Tusakanova.”

“Shion you’re too modest. It’s okay to show off every now and then.”

“You’re too much Preside-Ami?”

“Oh, hey Dad.”

“Dad?”

“It’s been a long time Ami. You haven’t called lately, so I got worried. I guess you being here means you’re on a mission?”

“Sorry Dad, been busy. But yeah, I'm Emilia's security escort.”

“Wait wait wait. Ami you said your dad worked here right? You’re telling me your father is Professor Tusakanova? But your last name is Satomora right?”

“Emilia! No!”

“Wait, Satomora?”

God, I wanted to hide after all of this. All of my intentions just backfired in moments. But I couldn’t lie now.

“Fine, fine. My full name is Ami Satomora-Tusakanova. Satomora is my mom’s maiden name. I’ve been legally going by that since I was fourteen.”

“I should have known at first glance. I can’t believe that’s you. You’ve changed.”

“Not seeing each other for years can do that. You look well Hyuga, all things considered.”

“You know Hyuga too?”

“Yeah, we were in the Mobile Defense unit together in the Guardians. We went on a couple missions together and seem to click being friends. Though he’s trouble.”

“Your wit is still on point Dear Ami. I heard from Ethan that you stepped down from being Commander. I was a bit surprised. So you can imagine my surprise when I heard from him you had resigned from the Guardians not long after.”

“Ami you were a commander?”

“Just for the mission to Rykros, yeah. And stepping down from the position was their response. But this isn’t the time or place to discuss the specifics.”

“You were on Rykros!”

I knew how sensitive Emilia was about Rykros. She had died there, met Mika and was brought back to live as a result. When I found out about her death, I was guilty. If the situation had been different, then I might have been able to do something then. She never blamed me for that. We didn’t even know each other then.

“I feel like I’m being interrogated. At any rate, the mission’s over right? I’m going to go back to Clad 6.”

“Ami, wait!”

Emilia tried to get more information about my sudden reveals during our ride back, but I kept quiet. At least for now. I would explain when we got back home, no sooner. The ride gave me time to think about everything. The female who was intruding, I think she was holding back. I had felt there was something hidden inside her.

It was faint, but I thought I heard another voice when we were fighting.

“Hey Ami?”

“I’m not telling you anything until we get home.”

“That’s not it right now.”

“Right now?”

“You’re dodging the subject. Anyway didn’t you hear another voice while you were fighting with that lady?”

“I don’t want to admit it, but yeah I did. So if you heard it too...”

“Then that means...”

“She might be hosting an Ancient.”

I thought the Ancients were done for once we defeated Kumhan. I hope that if it is the case, this Ancient isn’t out for revenge for disrupting their plans of having a physical body again. Shortly after we arrived back at Clad 6. The first thing we did was head straight for the office, where Crouch was waiting for us. No doubt wanted a report on the mission.

“We’re back old man.”

“Yeah I heard you Emilia. Heard your trip was a bust.”

“How did that get back to you? We’ve only left the facility like a couple hours ago.”

“That doesn’t matter. Anyways Ami, I gots a client for you. Asked specifically for ya.”

“Already? Man, I should really retire from the mercenary work sooner or later.”

“You’re too young to retire. I feel like you’d be restless.”

“I think it’s well deserved. But you aren’t entirely wrong.”

“Hush, your client’s here.”

The moment I turned around and met my new charge, life was going to change again.

I just knew it.

“Emilia Percival and Ami Satomora-Tusakanova correct?”

“W-What? Wait a minute! You’re-!”

“Emilia, pipe down.”

“Old Man you don’t understand, she’s-!”

“My name is Nagisa. It’ll be a pleasure to work with you.”