Chapter 3 – The Sights and Bounds of Nimalia

Chapter 3 – The Sights and Bounds of Nimalia

“Oh wow! I’d almost forgotten what a comfortable bed felt like!”

“Hey, watch it,” Spike admonished, looking on with concern as Sky threw herself onto a large hotel-room bed and began rolling around in it. “You’re still injured, watch the casts!”

“C’mon, don’t be a spoilsport.” Sky stopped and sat up to pout in Spike’s direction, and then began waving around her left arm. While it was still bound in a cast, the plaster that she had worn the previous day had been replaced with a high tech sort of exoskeleton. “This new cast is supposed to heal me within a couple days, and my chest barely hurts anymore. I’m fine!”

Spike eyed her doubtfully. “Still…”

“Don’t ‘still’ me! C’mon, we’re on vacation now!” Sky bounced off of the bed and skipped over to the room’s window, declaring, “I mean, just look at this!”

At the behest of his girlfriend, Spike turned his attention to the lone hotel room window. The room itself was modestly sized and decorated — no different from a hotel room on Earth, really — with the sole exception of the view-port window, which completely dominated the exterior wall. And through the window appeared the towering, snow-capped Nimal Mountains to the south and west, the massive Akian Sea to the east, and the sprawling city of Nimaliaka Central filling the space in between. Skyscrapers of all manner of design filled out the city’s skyline; some of them towering chunks of glass and metal, similar to many skyscrapers found on Earth, while others bore more natural contours, appearing as though they were the trunk of a branchless tree or an artistically organized stack of boulders. Most of the buildings were wreathed with greenery every five to ten floors, a fact that was obvious even from many kilometers away. And then, in contrast with the natural building contours were colored floating dots that zipped through the sky — dots that indicated a city full of life and traffic as the citizenry went about their afternoon business.

From the hotel’s position in the foothills northwest of the core of Nimaliaka Central, Spike could see far more of the city than when he had first arrived in the city’s Gateport two months prior — after all, Nimaliaka Central’s Gateport was located in the southern part of the city, in the downtown area. The lush greenery and breathtaking mountains were of especially stark contrast to the bland, flat, beige wastelands that surrounded Compound Tresnon; when he thought of that, Spike realized that he couldn’t hold Sky’s excitement against her. The vista before them simply was too impressive to ignore.

“See, I’m right, aren’t I?” Sky teased in response to Spike’s silence.

“Yeah, yeah…” he replied dismissively, finally stepping up next to her to join her in admiring the afternoon view. “Sure is impressive… still gotta wonder why this place is called ‘Nimaliaka Central’, though. Ain’t nothin’ central about it. Hell, it’s right on the coast!”

“Names don’t always make the most sense, you know,” Sky retorted, and then lit a small flame on the tip of her right index finger. “I mean, c’mon, my name is ‘Sky’ but my power is fire, instead of air, or flying, or something. So complaining about names seems silly.” She then snuffed the flame and passed her boyfriend a knowing glance. “Right, Spike?”

“Hey, my parents gave me that name, ain’t nothin’ I can do about it,” Spike replied defensively.

“You could make like your sister and go by your middle name.”

“…Think that ship’s sailed by now. ‘Sides, my Dad’s name is Darius. Imagine how confusin’ it’d be if I used that name, too.”

“I suppose. You don’t really seem like a ‘Darius’ to me, anyways,” Sky remarked, and then wrapped her right arm around Spike’s left and sidled up next to him. “…Though you sure aren’t very ‘Spiky’, either!”

“Oi, oi…” Spike passed Sky an annoyed look, but when she offered him a toothy grin, he couldn’t help but smile back. “…Well,” he said, turning his attention back to the world outside — and then to the lone bed. “…It might be afternoon, here, but it’s gotta be nighttime in Tresnon by now. And I’m tired as shit.”

“What? But that’s…!” Sky trailed off as a yawn overcame her. “…Okay, fine, good point. But tomorrow!” She jumped away from Spike and jabbed her right finger into his chest, all while looking him straight in the eye. “Tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that, we’re making the most of our time here, you got that? This is the first time the two of us have gotten to vacation alone in, like, ever! And in such a beautiful place, too!”

Spike chuckled to himself as he gently pushed Sky’s hand aside. “Don’t worry. Still a shame that Austin and Twy didn’t come along, but make no mistake, I’m still lookin’ forward to this.”

“You know, we can still be friends with them without bringing them everywhere with us.”

“Ha! Fair enough. Now if only they’d do somethin’ with each other…”

“Yeah, talk about it! Austin isn’t even going with Twy anywhere, he’s just staying back at Tresnon! How lame.”

“Well, that’s Austin for ya. The man likes his alone time.”

“And Twy’s too willing to let him have it. They’ll never get anywhere like this!”

Spike responded with a resigned shrug as he took a seat on the side of the bed. “It’s a shame, but we decided a long time ago that we’d let this play out organically. They’ll come around one day.”

“I’m starting to doubt,” Sky replied as she plopped down next to Spike. “…But enough about those two! C’mon, it’s just the two of us! Let’s have some fun!”



“Starting tomorrow.” Spike yawned again, and then let himself fall backwards on the bed. “For now, though. Sleep.”

“…Oh, you tease!” Sky retorted, but nonetheless moved to close the blinds and begin preparing for bed herself. “Fine, then. But starting tomorrow, we’re gonna have the times of our lives, I guarantee it!”


“Wow… this place really is just as amazing as the first time we were here.”

“Amazing, sure. But also kinda dreary…” Phoenix muttered, passing an aside glance toward Twy and Kestrel before turning to face the view in front of them: the massive, towering trees of Relédiaka’s Giant’s Forest, and the sprawling city of Lédia built within. Despite a bright afternoon sun shining down through nigh-cloudless skies, the city of Lédia was bathed in the cool shade cast by the wide-reaching forest canopy. Small specks of blue sky could be seen through the leaves here and there, but for the most part, green leaves and brown branches dominated the area above.

“Mm…” Kestrel quietly looked up at the canopy and then removed her hat, her eyes closed, as if taking in the cool, shaded air. “…Nice.”

“That it is,” Twy affirmed, glancing up at Kestrel before finally backing away from the railing overlooking the city of Lédia. “We should probably get going, though. We’re still right outside of the airport…”

“We did only just get here,” Phoenix pointed out, and then hoisted her lone bag. “Guess we should go ahead and check-in at the hotel, though. And tomorrow, we can see about meeting with Rebehka. The sooner we get that business out of the way, the sooner we can focus on actually vacationing!”

“Right…” Twy muttered as she followed Phoenix and Kestrel down the pathway away from the airport. A contemplative, yet apprehensive look crossed Twy’s face — she, Phoenix, and Kestrel weren’t solely in Lédia to travel, after all. In light of the flurry of events over the past two months — between fighting the Bleeders multiple times, witnessing the power of the Chaos State firsthand, and experiencing a Nanocreature outbreak — the three had decided to use this time to seek out additional information on all of these threats. Asking one of the Deans seemed, to them, to be the easiest way to get this information, and Dean Rebehka Tchiréon seemed both the least busy (as they knew she had left Compound Tresnon that morning) as well as the most approachable. Such was the reason they now found themselves in the city of Lédia, the location of Rebehka’s Wanléon-Tchiréon Academy of Chaotics.

“Now the only question is if there’s actually anything new to learn,” Phoenix wondered aloud, drawing Kestrel and Twy’s attention. “Rebehka’s lesson on the ‘metallic infection’ last time seemed pretty comprehensive.” She turned to look at each of Kestrel and Twy. “Do you think there’s anything more she could tell us?”

“There might be,” Twy replied. “One thing I’ve noticed with all the Deans is how reluctant they are to talk about their days as Hero Machina. I mean, that could totally just be because they’re tired of doing so over and over again, but… I kind of wonder if there isn’t something more, there.”

“Hmm, good point. They were involved in the Nanocreature War, weren’t they?” Phoenix mused. “And still, all we really know is the official story. That they fought the leader of the Nanocreatures twice, once at Neticen — which was destroyed — and then once more after that.”

“And who knows how accurate the official story is,” Twy commented as the trio reached the bottom of a long winding path and entered the streets of Lédia proper. “I remember the last time we were here, there was that Dra’kis woman who kept arguing with Rebehka about it. If there’s something more there, then it might be relevant to us, since we’re supposedly meant to fight the Nanocreatures again one day.”

“I think you mean, ‘metallic infection’.”

“What the—?” Phoenix whipped around in surprise, staring wide-eyed at the man who had suddenly appeared behind the trio. After eying his brown bangs and short, tied-low ponytail, however, a look of recognition appeared on her face. “Wait, aren’t you the guy who led us on a tour the first time we were here?”

“…Liéhdan?” Kestrel questioned.

“Ah, so you guys remember me!” Liéhdan replied with a grin as the three women turned around fully to face him. He looked each of them in the eye as he remarked, “it’s been a month! Didn’t think I’d see you guys so soon.”

“A month?!” Twy responded incredulously, “…oh my god, it really has only been a month since we were last here, hasn’t it?”

“Time flies when you’re busy, after all…” Phoenix said with a sigh. She then turned to look at Liéhdan, who stood with a casual — if somewhat slouched — posture as he fiddled with something in his right hand. “What are you doing here, though?” she questioned. “Did you know we were coming?”

“I didn’t know that you, specifically, were coming,” Liéhdan replied. “I just saw that there was a transport inbound from Treséd. I was kinda hoping it was Karísah. Haven’t seen her in a while.”

“If you’re after Karísah, I’m pretty sure her eyes are elsewhere.”

“What?” Liéhdan passed Phoenix a clueless look, only for realization to quickly wash over his face. He then smirked and returned to fiddling with his hand. “Oh, you mean Relia. Yeah, I know about that. And so do you guys, huh? Has there been any development there?”

“I mean, it’s pretty obvious to tell whenever they’re in the same place,” Phoenix pointed out. “But I don’t think they’re together.”

“Yeah, figures. Karísah’s always been kinda passive. I keep telling her that if she wants something to happen, she’s gotta go for it, but, uh…” Liéhdan shrugged. “Only so much you can do.”

“Ah ha ha, yeah…” Twy responded uneasily.

“What’re you guys doing here, though?” Liéhdan questioned, while flicking a small purple object into the air and teleporting it back into his hands over and over again. “Doesn’t look like any of the others are with you. Did something happen?”

“’Did something happen’,” Phoenix scoffed.

“Bleeder attack,” Kestrel stated bluntly.

“What? No shit?” Liéhdan stopped flicking the small bead to stare at Kestrel in surprise. “…Where? Don’t tell me they attacked Compound Tresnon?”

“They did…” Twy muttered.

“…Huh. That’s somethin’. And so you’re here now since it’s safer here?”

“Something like that…”

“Well, we also wanted to meet with Rebehka. Or, uh, Dean Tchiréon,” Phoenix said. “We wanted to ask her a few things…”

“She was in Tresnon, wasn’t she?” Liéhdan questioned as he resumed flicking the bead into the air. “Why didn’t you ask her, then?”

“We didn’t really think to, until after the Bleeder attack,” Twy replied. “And she was busy after that, for obvious reasons.”

“Oh, I see. Something something ‘the attack made everything feel real’ or something, am I right?”

“You’re being awfully cavalier about this,” Phoenix retorted, an annoyed look on her face and her hands on her hips. She then eyed the bead that Liéhdan kept toying with. “And what the hell are you doing with that? What even is that—? Wait a minute…!” She stopped and reached up to grab the long, thin braid that draped down in front of her shoulder — and the purple beads she used to adorn it. The same purple beads as the one Liéhdan was flicking around.

Upon noticing Phoenix examining her hair, Liéhdan broke into a grin. “Finally noticed, huh?”

“What the—!” Phoenix snapped her attention to him, her brow furrowed in both confusion and frustration. “How did you—?!”

“How many times do I have to say this?” Liéhdan replied as he flicked the bead into the air one final time — and then teleported it out of the air and back onto Phoenix’s braid. “I can teleport stuff.”

“And apparently, you’re also a klepto…” Phoenix muttered as she re-examined her thin, beaded braid, carefully counting up the beads.

“Hey, hey, I don’t steal stuff,” Liéhdan quickly refuted. “It was just a harmless little prank, that’s all.”

“Oh, right…” Twy’s own expression fell as she recalled the prank Liéhdan had pulled on her and Austin. “I forgot that was your thing…”

Liéhdan glanced between Twy and Phoenix’s disapproving stares before responding with a shrug. “Sheesh. You guys really need to learn to take a joke.”

“To get back to the reason that we’re here…” Twy commented, “has Rebehka returned, yet? I know she left Tresnon this morning, but we couldn’t get on the same transport as her.”

“Well, yeah. ‘Cause she wasn’t coming back here, she was going elsewhere,” Liéhdan replied.

“Elsewhere? What?” Phoenix echoed in disbelief. “Where else would she go?”

“Tekdecé,” Liéhdan answered. “Specifically, Telsinoka, I think. She has some meetings with some NSD bigwigs that she has to go to. She didn’t tell me why, but it’s easy enough to guess. Still, she won’t be back here ‘til the 32nd, at the earliest.”

“Really?! Damn it…” Phoenix pinched the bridge of her nose. “That’s… what, two days from now? And you aren’t even sure if she’ll be back by then… argh. And here I was hoping we could meet with her, and then get the hell out of this depressing forest…”

“Phoenix…!” Twy muttered, passing Liéhdan a nervous glance.

Liéhdan, however, responded with an amused chuckle. “Ha! No worries,” he remarked, “I hear visitors complain about the lack of sunlight all the time. Besides, I’ve heard that you guys have been doing a lot of travel. I’m sure you already know a couple of the other hot spots on Nimalia.”

“The Anika Falls…” Kestrel commented.

“Oh, you’ve been there?” Liéhdan glanced up at her. “They are pretty cool, I agree. Though if you’ve been there, I take it you’ve met Maeshi, too?”

“Who?” Twy questioned.

“If you’re talking about YCUR’s member of the Elite Six, then no,” Phoenix answered. “Though we did end up fighting a Chaos State Chaotic…”

“What? No shit? …Wait, that was you guys?!” Liéhdan remarked incredulously. “All I’d heard was that there was a Chaos State fight. I just assumed it was Kievkenalis, or Maeshi! But you guys did that? Damn. That’s impressive.”

“Uh, well, all we really did was barely hold on until Kievkenalis could save us…” Twy muttered.

“Hey, that’s still something. I’ve never even fought someone in the Chaos State, personally,” Liéhdan commented. “Honestly, I think the last time a Chaos State fight happened was the Nanocreature War! Huh. This sounds like quite the story, you guys mind shar—?”


“Uh oh.” The Nimalian Spacetechnic glanced over his shoulder, at a group of three individuals running down the street a couple blocks away. “Wow, they found me quick.”

“Uh… who found you?” Phoenix questioned in confusion.

“My teammates for the ACT,” Liéhdan replied airily. “We’re supposed to be practicing for next week’s Bracket Placements, but that’s boring. We’ve already made it in, so who cares where in the bracket we are? All that’s at stake is a single by, that’s nothing. So I’m here, instead.”


“They found me, though, so I guess I have to go now. Talk to you guys later,” Liéhdan remarked with a quick wave, only to disappear into thin air — and immediately reappear next to one of the students that was running after him. Even from a block away, Twy, Phoenix, and Kestrel could see him briefly exchange words with one of the students, and then again disappear, followed by the three students looking at each other in exasperation and turning back the way they came.

“…Well, he’s, uh… quite the guy, huh?” Twy commented uneasily.

“Skipping out on practice because it’s ‘boring’… how unreliable,” Phoenix muttered.

“Good with his ability,” Kestrel stated, while looking down at Phoenix’s beaded braid.

“…I’ll give him that, but that doesn’t excuse him ditching his teammates,” Phoenix countered, and then released a weary sigh as she hefted her bag and began to lead the trio down the street again. “At least he’s out of our hair, now. C’mon. Let’s go find our hotel…”


The soft clacking of the joysticks on a gaming controller hitting their rim filled Austin’s dorm room at WCU as he leaned forward in his chair, his gaze intensely focused on the screen of his laptop before him. Twilight shone through his room’s lone window, adding a furthered sense of solitude to the fact that Austin was now the only one of the Earthian recruits still in Compound Tresnon — a fact that he very much enjoyed.

“C’mon, c’mon…! Alright! Finally!” Austin remarked, a satisfied grin crossing his face as he dealt the final blow to the boss he had been fighting. With a relieved sigh, he sat back in his chair and watched as the game transitioned into the next cutscene, where the main character was promptly thrown back by the boss who appeared to be not even slightly damaged. “Oh, c’mon!” Austin muttered. “The boss wasn’t that hard! Stupid cutscene bullshit…”

He continued to watch the cutscene in annoyed silence; when it wrapped up a minute later and dumped him back into the overworld, he quickly paused and saved the game — at which point he set the controller down on his desk and stood up from his chair. After a quick stretch, he stepped over to his room’s window to look out upon the grounds of WCU; even in the darkening twilight, he could see a handful of students practicing with their abilities on the practice fields, presumably preparing for the next stage of the Annual Chaotic Tournament. Wish we had qualified, Austin though bitterly. …But, oh well. There’s always next year. Not to mention… I guess we really, really weren’t ready, this time…

His thoughts drifted to the Bleeder attack on the compound two nights ago. In the moment, he had been eager to go fight the Bleeders, due in part to Pierce’s taunting — but all he had gotten out of the fight itself was a concussion and a few broken bones. I’m damn lucky that Danielle was around, or I’d be in a cast, just like Sky… Austin thought to himself. I should never have gotten involved. Hell, it not for this conscription bullshit, I wouldn’t have even been here for the attack! …But… I guess no one here really volunteered for the attack, either. I mean, no one ever volunteers to have their home attacked by raiders, duh. This is just something that the Tresédians have to deal with, through no fault of their own…

A knock on his bedroom door stirred Austin out of his thoughts. “Who is it…?” he called out.

“It’s your uncle,” came Luke’s voice. “Just wanted to ask you something real quick.”

“…Alright. Come in.”

Luke promptly opened the door, peeking his head in — at first his attention was on Austin’s desk, but then he quickly shifted his gaze over to where Austin was actually standing, in front of his window. “Oh. You’re not playing your game?” Luke questioned as he stepped into the room.

“Just takin’ a break,” Austin replied, turning around to look at his uncle straight-on.

“A break, huh?” Luke remarked as he casually leaned against the wall across the room from Austin. “…You really do enjoy being all by yourself, don’t you?”

“You’ve known me for my entire life. Are you really surprised?” Austin retorted.

“Heh. Good point. Still, you’re sure you don’t want to go anywhere? See anything?”

“We travel enough as part of our classes. I just want some time to enjoy the remainder of the fall break before next term starts.”

“Fair enough. I hear y’all are going to have actual assignments and tests and such next term, too.”

“Ugh… don’t remind me…”

“Ha!” Luke briefly chuckled to himself. “Anyways, as to why I’m here. I’m fixin’ to go shooting with Selind and Gavon, and I figured I’d see if you wanted to tag along.”

“Shooting? Really?” Austin replied incredulously. “…Don’t you do that, like, a lot?”

“Hey, what can I say. I like shooting guns. And it isn’t often that I run into people like Gavon or Selind, who also like shooting.”

“Aren’t you a professional soldier?”

“Sure, but that doesn’t mean everyone I work with likes to go to a gun range in their free time. And most of them aren’t marksmen, like I am. Selind and Gavon, though, are.”

“Right… well, I appreciate the offer, but I’m not really interested.”

“Figured you’d say that…” Luke replied with a sigh. “What if we did something else? It’s been quite a while since we last hung out, you know.”

Austin regarded his uncle with surprise, only to idly look away a moment later. “…Guess so, huh…”

“Though I fully get if you don’t want to,” Luke quickly added. “You’ve, uh, been through quite a lot, lately… and I know where you stand on the whole, uh, issue of you being here… sorry, I’m just gonna go. Sorry for bothering you.”

“What?” Austin looked back to Luke in surprise again as the latter began to step out of the room. “Wait, hold on!”

Luke paused halfway out the door, and half-turned to look at his nephew. “…What is it?” he questioned tentatively.

“No, it’s just… I’ve been thinkin’…” Austin responded, his gaze drifting away from Luke once more. “After all these attacks, and everythin’, it’s like… well, like things just get more and more real. First it was Goresan — after that, I really thought things couldn’t get much worse. But then there was that infection outbreak in Relédiaka, and then, uh… what happened on Sikalia… and now, that Bleeder attack two days ago. And, like… of course, if I hadn’t been conscripted, then none of that would’ve happened. So I still don’t like that. But, like… ah, what am I saying…”

Luke quietly stepped back into Austin’s room, softly closing the door behind him before taking up his casual lean on the wall once more. His attention remained entirely on his nephew, waiting for Austin to collect his thoughts.

“I think what I’m trying to say, is…” Austin eventually continued, “…I’m still mad about the conscription thing — that part is total bullshit. And I don’t know if I buy into this whole prophecy thing, either. But I can’t really blame you for that. Right? And you’ve made some goods points while we were here, too. Especially back on Sikalia. It’s my own fault that I let Pierce get to me so much…”

“Well, hold on, Pierce shares the blame for what happened, there,” Luke quickly interjected. “You’re right that you shouldn’t have risen to his provocations, but at the same time, I don’t know if I would’ve done any differently, in your shoes.”


“So… if you don’t mind me asking, what brought on this bout of introspection?”

“The attack two days ago. That’s probably obvious, heh…”

“Yeah, true.” Luke slotted his hands into his pockets as he eyed Austin, and the dusky window behind him. “So what was it about the attack that made you stop and think?”

“It’s… two things, I guess. The first, is… when I got involved, that wasn’t because anyone told me to. I mean, yeah, I think I let myself get riled up by Pierce, again… but at the end of the day, I was there because I decided to be. And I ended up getting my ass kicked. Hell, I could’ve died! But I don’t really have anyone to blame for that but myself.”

Austin trailed off again, but Luke remained silent, waiting for his nephew to continue.

“…And the second thing, is…” Austin took a deep breath, his gaze focused on his feet. “When I think about that attack, it’s like… well, the people here in Tresnon didn’t volunteer to get attacked, you know? They were just forced to deal with a situation that they didn’t want to deal with. But, aside from throwing insults at the Bleeders — and rightly so — I don’t think I’ve ever heard any of the Tresédians say that they don’t want to be here. And that’s got me thinkin’, like… maybe I’m just using this conscription thing as a shield, too much. ‘Cause me getting conscripted by SERRCom is a far cry from my home being attacked, you know? So complaining about it now just seems, I don’t know…”

“…I think I get what you’re saying,” Luke eventually commented. “And I appreciate that you have the maturity to realize that, Austin. But don’t swing too far in the other direction.”

Austin regarded his uncle with confusion. “Huh? What do you mean?”

“What I mean, is… ultimately, your conscription is bullshit,” Luke declared. “And just because the Tresédians have problems of their own doesn’t invalidate yours. Their problems are bigger, sure, but don’t feel like you don’t have the right to worry about yourself because of that. If everybody followed that logic, then no one could complain, ever, since someone always has it worse.”


“Having perspective is good, and I’m glad you’ve realized that your own actions can be foolish, sometimes,” Luke continued. “But don’t use that to convince yourself that your current position is okay. If you ever get the chance to go back to having a normal life, to get the hell out of SERRCom, I’d be more than happy to see you do it.”

“Feels weird, hearing that from you…”

“Ha ha, yeah…” Luke chuckled uneasily. “I know I’ve been… a little wishy washy when it comes to your conscription. But I do want you to know that I wish there was more I could do to help. For the most part, I agree with you — you shouldn’t have been conscripted.”

“For the most part?”

“Look, there’s definitely some concerns to be had over people suddenly getting superpowers, and the fact that those same people can potentially go berserk with them… I just think that there has to be a better way to manage that than shoving every Chaotic into a military.”

“Yeah, that berserk stuff is kinda…” Austin uneasily looked down at his hand, and then released a weary sigh. “…Well, I can’t deny that I still wish I wasn’t here, that I hadn’t gotten powers, or any of that… and I’d really rather not get involved in any actual military…”

“Totally fair,” Luke replied. “At least you still have a year here — at least a year — before SERRCom will want to put you on any missions. If you’re lucky, your situation will change by then. And if you’re really lucky, nothing bad will even happen before then!”

“What amazing optimism,” Austin deadpanned. “And now that you’ve pointed it out, all kinds of bad shit is gonna happen, anyways.”

“And there’s the Austin that we all know and love,” Luke remarked cheekily.

“Yeah, yeah…” Austin rolled his eyes. “…I just figure I should probably stick with things until EA is dealt with, at least.”

“Oh, yeah, that is a problem, isn’t it…”

“Has SERRCom not heard anything more about EA?”

“Not that I know of. Which could mean anything, really — he could be biding his time, preparing for galactic conquest; or he could be dead in a ditch, somewhere. We really don’t know. All I know is that he seems to have found a way to whip a ton of robots and a Cruiser out of his ass. If that’s scalable to a whole army — or worse, a navy — then he could be a real problem, soon…”

“Then I guess I need to get a hang of my powers soon, then, huh?”

Luke chuckled as he watched Austin summon his claymore and stare down at it. “It’s good that you have motivation, but don’t get carried away,” Luke said. “Remember what happened on Sikalia, and two nights ago.”

“Yeah…” Austin then side-eyed his uncle. “I’m kinda surprised you haven’t tried to lecture me about joining the fight against the Bleeders…”

“You seem to have thought about it enough on your own, I don’t see how me goin’ on about it would help,” Luke replied. “…I should probably still talk to the others, though.”

“Either way… thanks for stopping by.” Austin took a deep breath of relief. “It felt good to get all that off my chest.”

“And I appreciate you trustin’ me enough to let me listen. But I’m getting the impression that you’d like me to leave, now, so if you’ll excuse me.”

“Hey, you’re not supposed to call that kind of thing out! Read the room.”

“And miss out on a chance to tease my nephew?” Luke replied with a smirk and a wink, already halfway out of Austin’s room. “Still,” he finished, “if you ever change your mind, I’m sure Gavon and Selind would be glad to have you around!”

“Oh, piss off,” Austin retorted. “I haven’t had a chance to be properly alone like this in forever, I’m not about to let it go to waste.”

“Ha! Go figure. See ya later, then, Austin.”

“Yeah. See ya later,” Austin replied in kind, watching his uncle leave his room and shut the door behind him. Austin then readily grabbed his gaming controller and plopped down into his desk chair, more than ready to spend the rest of his evening gaming away.