Atria took a deep breath as Adam drove towards the industrial park. Her green military tunic felt comforting and snug. Her sword lay across her hip as she sat in the car, her gun holstered and antigrav fully charged. She was as ready as she could be.
Her companions, on the other hand, were a different story.
“Adam, have you ever been in combat?” she asked in English.
“No,” he replied, taking a right turn.
“Right,” Atria began. “Here’s what you need to know. If a fight starts, you’re going to feel a burst of adrenaline. This will trigger your fight-or-flight response. Since you don’t have any training or experience, you won’t know what to do, and this will be paralyzing. This is normal. You need to take measured deep breaths to slow down your heart rate – this will let you think clearly again. Once you’re thinking clearly, follow Stella’s lead and do exactly what she says.”
“It’s been five years since I was last in a battle, but I think I’ll be able to handle myself,” Stella added. “I’ll keep you safe.”
“And don’t feel bad if you urinate or throw up,” Atria said. “Those are normal too for your first time.”
“So, do we have an actual plan here?” Stella asked.
“Find him and try to talk it out,” Atria said. “Explain to him that the orb is dangerous, and ask him to return it. If that doesn’t work, fight him into submission somehow. If things go bad, withdraw and try to figure something else out.”
“And what do you want me to do?” Stella said.
“I want you and Adam on overwatch,” Atria replied. “Adam, do you know what that means? It means I want you two hanging back and keeping an eye on the situation. If something happens that I can’t see, I want you to shout a warning to me. Otherwise, don’t engage unless there is no other option.”
“We’re here,” Adam said, parking the car.
Atria took a deep breath, unbuckled her seatbelt, opened the door, and stepped out. She pulled her sword belt over her shoulder. Then she drew her pistol, checked the chamber, pulled the slide to load a round into it, and re-holstered it.
“So I guess we just walk around,” Stella said, getting out and closing her car door.
“From what I saw on the map, he’s got a long enough walk to get back here that we’ve got a reasonable chance of finding him,” Adam stated. “If we’re lucky, we’ll catch him on his way back, or having just arrived.”
Together, the three of them began to walk around the perimeter of the park, stopping whenever they reached an intersection to look down each street. Once they finished the perimeter, they started searching the interior streets. Occasionally somebody passed by, giving Atria a long look, but she ignored them. Let them think she’s a cosplayer if they want.
“We’ve been here two hours,” Stella said, “I think we missed him.”
“How long do we have until sundown?” Atria asked.
Adam pulled out his phone and checked. “About an hour and a half.”
“Let’s give it another half hour and then call it a day,” Atria said. “We can try again tomorrow if we have to.”
Half an hour later, they began making their way back to the car.
“It was a longshot anyway,” Stella said. “We had to get here before he did, intercept him on his route, and that was all assuming that this is where he’s hiding in the first place.”
They reached the car. Atria was drawing her gun to un-chamber the round when Adam called, “He’s here.”
Atria looked up. Standing in the middle of the street was the thief, still wearing those ridiculous looking clothes. She let the pistol slide back into its holster, raised her hands with palms open, and stepped forward.
“I’m just here to talk,” she said in Japanese. “There are things you need to know.”
“I recognize you,” the thief said. “You were impolite and attacked me in another world.”
“Which you attacked and stole from, and which I am sworn to protect,” Atria said. “But as hard as it is, I’m going to let go of that for now. We need to talk.”
The thief looked at Adam. “I don’t know you.” Then he looked at Stella. “I recognize you,” he said to her. “Greetings, fellow traveller. Thank you for showing me the path to this world.”
Stella gasped. “You followed me here?”
“I saw your path across the heavens,” the thief said. “I decided to follow. You have my gratitude – thank you for revealing all these new worlds to me.”
Atria glanced at Stella. She was pale, steadying herself against the rental car. “This was all my fault?”
“Listen to me,” Atria declared. “That orb needs to be returned to my world. It’s dangerous.”
“I am a higher being,” the thief stated. “I have the powers of a god. There is no danger I cannot handle.”
“You don’t understand,” Atria said. “It must go back!”
The thief raised his hand. A spike of masonry pulled itself from a nearby building. “You would tell a higher being what to do?”
Atria drew her sword and gun, firing twice on the spike. The explosive bullets shattered it into falling rubble. “I’ve seen that trick,” she said, levelling the gun at his head. “If I have to beat you into submission and drag you back to my world, that is what I will do.”
The thief began to rise into the air. “You will try, mortal.”
“Gonna have to ask you to drop that gun there, lady,” a new voice said in English. Atria looked to see a short American teenager is a purple shirt and ripped jeans. On each hip was a long knife. “See, that there’s my guy Roy, and I can’t let you go attacking him. So put the gun down and I won’t have to get stabby.”
“He attacked my world, probably killed dozens of people, and stole that power source,” Atria said in English.
The teenager shrugged. “So what? Your world isn’t real.”
Atria trained the gun on her. “This gun is. Step aside.”
The teenager drew both blades into reverse grips. “Guess I’m getting stabby.”
Atria pulled the trigger. The teenager’s blades flashed, knocking the bullets out of the air. Then she charged. Atria barely had time to raise her sword to block the flashing blades before the teenager was upon her.
Stella stood by the car in shock. It was all because of her. Her fault. She looked at Atria. Whoever the teenager was, her blades flashed towards Atria with inhuman speed...and Atria’s sword flashed back with equal speed. The teenager looked shocked for a moment, and then attacked again, Atria countering each blow. The thief hovered about forty feet above the ground, watching the duel with interest.
Stella looked down at her hands. If only she still had her powers, she could rain down magic destruction upon the thief, or freeze the teenager in place. But she didn’t. Her magic was just a memory now.
Stella blinked. Her powers were long gone...but did the thief know that?
Atria crouched in a combat stance, her sabre before her in guard. The teenager was fast, but her movements were untrained and wild. Still, it was two knives against Atria’s sword in close quarters combat – it was only a matter of time before the teenager got a strike in she couldn’t parry. She needed a clear advantage.
“Nice sword,” the teenager said. “You must be a main character somewhere. Anime, perhaps?”
“I’m Major Atria Silversword of the Hyperborean Army,” Atria said. “I am here to recover my country’s property. I have no quarrel with you – you can still stand down and let me do what I came here to do.”
“That sounds like anime,” the teenager said. “I hate anime.” She lunged in with a flurry of attacks, driving Atria backwards. Atria blocked and pushed the teenager away. With the hand holding her gun, she tapped the antigrav on her belt and jumped, propelling herself twenty feet into the air. She hovered, looking down at the teenager.
The teenager stared up at her with a predatory grin.
Atria took a deep breath, evaluating the situation. Firing directly at the teenager was pointless – she would just knock the bullets out of the air. However, all of Atria’s rounds were high explosive, and asphalt would fragment nicely...
Atria trained her gun and fired, aiming for a semicircle around the teenager’s feet. The teenager recoiled at the flying fragments and began running to get away from them. Atria empted the magazine, and then began to reload.
“Nice trick, anime girl!” the teenager called out, reaching the wall of a building and bracing one foot against it. “But it won’t save you!” And then she launched herself at Atria.
Atria’s eyes widened as the teenager cleared the distance between them and slammed into her, driving them both back into the wall of one of the buildings, the impact disrupting her antigrav. Together, they fell out of the air and hit the ground hard, the teenager using Atria to break her fall. Atria gasped, the wind knocked out of her, and felt the razor edge of one of the teenager’s knives press against her jugular.
“I told you it wouldn’t save you,” the teenager said. “Goodbye, anime girl.”
As Stella watched, the teenager pressed Atria back with a flurry of blows. With a push, Atria drove her back just long enough to hit a device on her belt and propel herself into the air. Then she opened fire, sending a hail of fragments flying around the teenager.
The thief took note and raised his hand. A spike of masonry ripped itself from a building wall, pointing towards Atria. Stella took a deep breath. If she was going to do it, it was now or never. She stepped forward.
“Enough!” Stella shouted at him in Japanese. “I am Princess Stellaria of the Royal House of Arcaniana, Keeper of Lore, combat wizard of the party of the Hero of Prophecy! You will stand down and return the orb at once, or face magical power beyond your imagination!”
The thief turned to look at her and cocked his head.
“I warned you,” Stella snarled, holding out her hand and beginning to cast. “Powers of the universe, hear my prayer: grant me access to the laws of nature and all of its powers. Grant me the power of infinite destruction and the death of gods. Place the magic of all creation in my hands and bind it to my will–” The thief’s expression didn’t change, but the spike of masonry pivoted towards her. “–and I don’t think he’s buying it – run!”
She grabbed Adam and pulled him behind their rental car. The spike of masonry crashed through it, ripping open the cab, the tip stopping only an inch away from her nose. Then the car was ripped away from them and tossed aside by an unseen hand. The thief hovered before them, glaring. “That was very impolite,” he said, raising his hand. A massive spike of masonry ripped itself from a wall, the wall collapsing into a heap of rubble, exposing the building interior. It trained itself directly at her.
Stella grabbed Adam’s hand and squeezed. “I’m sorry, my wonderful love,” she said. “I think I just got us killed.”
The spike accelerated towards her. She closed her eyes.
For over a century, fictional characters have been falling out of their stories into our world. Some, like mech pilot Atria Silversword and isekai protagonist Daiki Yamato, want to go home. Some, like JRPG non-player character Princess Stellaria, want a new life. Some, like superhero Captain Infinite and devil king The Destroyer, want to meet their creators. Some, like monster hunter Jenny Calhoun and super-assassin Jack Death, want justice for their suffering.
And one will fight a bloody war to liberate them all.
New chapter(s) every Friday.
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Art by Foxtail: https://www.deviantart.com/wilsanne07/gallery/
Review by Josh Piedra at The Outerhaven: https://www.theouterhaven.net/2022/05/light-novel-review-reapotheosis/
Print and e-book editions, with a new afterword by the author, will be released on November 21, and are now available for pre-order!