Atria’s blade struck with lightning speed, her body moving with all the benefit of years of close quarters armed combat training and experience. Every move she made, the teenager matched, counter striking with her other knife, forcing Atria into a back and forth that could only end one way if it continued.
The calculation was simple. She was injured. The teenager wasn’t. She had advanced training. The teenager had unnatural speed and agility. But if she could just get one opening to exploit, she could end the fight. If she couldn’t, it was only a matter of time before the teenager finished her off, and then Stella.
Atria gritted her teeth. Not on her watch. No more dear friends were going to die on her watch.
The blades flashed. The back and forth continued. Fatigue began to set in.
Behind the teenager, Atria saw the man in silver land by the orb. She smiled. Now it would be two against one.
It was just the distraction the teenager needed. She lunged in, slicing Atria’s side under her sword arm. Atria staggered back, clutching the wound with her spare hand. Slick blood coated her fingers.
As she watched, the man in silver touched the orb and shuddered. A chunk of masonry flew from one of the piles of debris, striking him in the back of the head and smashing him against one of the remaining walls. The man in silver lay still. The thief descended from the sky, landing in front of the orb.
It was over.
“Please,” she said to the teenager, “spare my friend. Kill me if you must, but let her live.” The teenager looked unmoved and readied her knives for a killing blow.
“We have to leave,” the thief said in English.
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the man in silver shake his head and start rising to his feet.
“But I’m almost done here,” the teenager said.
“The outcome of this battle is still in doubt,” the thief said. He waved his hand, and the two of them floated away, followed by the orb.
Atria closed her eyes, leaned back and slid down the wall, taking several deep, ragged breaths. The blood remained slick on her hand as she clutched the wound. She heard a rush of footsteps. When she opened her eyes, both Stella and Adam were crouched over her.
“That’s a lot of blood,” Adam said in English, adding his hand to hers in applying pressure to the wound.
“I’ve had worse,” Atria stated. “Has anybody seen my gun? I dropped it when I hit that wall.”
Stella looked around. “I think it’s buried under the rubble. Sorry.”
The man in silver stepped over. “That’s a pretty bad wound. I can cauterize it, if you want.”
Atria looked up at him. “You have a first aid kit?”
“Laser eyes, actually,” the man said. “Long story. It will hurt, but I can close that up.”
Atria nodded. “Please do.”
“I need a close look at the wound,” he said, gently moving her and Adam’s hands aside. “You need to hold very still.” She felt the blood flow more freely. Then there was a searing pain. She closed her eyes and gritted her teeth.
“It’s done,” the man said.
Atria opened her eyes and nodded. “Thank you, and thank you for all the other help too, whatever your name is.”
The man held out his hand. “I’m Captain Infinite. I guess you could say I’m a ‘superhero’. You can call me ‘Cap’.”
“You’re supposed to shake it,” Adam whispered in her ear.
Atria shook Captain Infinite’s hand. “A pleasure to meet you, Cap. I’m Major Atria Silversword. Those are my friends Stella and Adam. They’re engaged.”
“That orb you’re trying to recover,” Cap said, “what is it?”
“It’s a power source from my world,” Atria said. “The tall fellow in the silly clothes stole it. We’re trying to get it back to my world before the containment fails, and it explodes.”
“So, I’ve got some bad news, then,” Cap said. “I got hit by radiation from that thing when I touched it. I think the containment is already starting to fail.”
Atria sighed. “Lovely. We need to get back to Kaguyama’s and regroup. I think we can call this engagement a complete failure. Where’s the car?”
“What’s left of it is over here,” Adam said, pointing. “And part of it seems to be over there.”
“So we’re walking then,” Atria said, scabbarding her sword. “Somebody help me up.”
Cap held out his hand. Atria took it and stood up. Her head swam for a moment. “You look like you need more help,” he said.
“Give me a moment,” Atria said. “Do you know what is going on, how you got here, and all that?”
“I know this isn’t my world,” Cap said. “And that you’re trying to recover that orb from somebody who stole it. Otherwise, I’m still figuring everything else out.”
“The short version is that Stella, you, me, that tall person, and the teenager with the knives are all fictional characters,” Atria said. “This is the world of the people who created us. Stella can fill you in on all the rest.”
Cap blinked. “I’m not sure how to take that, or whether to believe it.”
“We can prove it later,” Stella said. “In the meantime, we should start getting back. It’s a long walk.”
They started walking, Atria leaning against Stella as they went. “Does anybody know who that teenager was?” Atria asked.
“I think she’s Jenny Calhoun,” Adam replied. “We watched her show back in Canada. She’s a high school girl who fights monsters and saves the world.”
“She’s a hero?” Atria said. “That’s one pretty unhinged hero.”
“I take it you don’t know who the tall fellow was,” Cap stated.
“We’ve been trying to figure that one out for days,” Adam said. “How did you get here, anyway?”
“I saw that tall fellow poking around in my world, followed by that orb,” Cap replied.
“What did he steal from your world?” Atria asked.
Cap shrugged. “As far as I can tell, nothing. He just seemed to be looking around the city, dressed like some sort of shabby supervillain. And then he just disappeared. It was odd – no signs of teleportation or anything of the sort. I spent the better part of a day looking around the streets to see if he had just ducked into a building or alley, but nothing. Then I landed, and fell right through the ground into this world.”
“Ah,” Atria said. “For me it was a wall.”
“Floor for me,” Stella added. They turned a corner.
“So, there was a flash of light, and then everything was strange. It was New York, but not my New York. The skyscrapers were different. I flew down to my cabin by the lake about fifty miles out of the city, but it wasn’t there – and neither was the lake.”
“Wait,” Adam said. “You commute?”
Cap nodded. “Beats apartment living.”
“Right, sorry,” Adam said. “Please continue.”
“Then I flew to this tower in Antarctica I built back when I first got here in the mid-‘30s. But it wasn’t there, and neither were any of the landmarks around it. After that, I didn’t know what to do. So, I just started flying. I was close to Japan when I started hearing your confrontation with that tall fellow and decided to check it out. You know the rest.”
“Well, thank you for your help,” Atria said. “If you hadn’t arrived when you did, I think that Jenny girl would have killed us.”
“It was my pleasure,” Cap said.
“So, we need to get back to Kaguyama’s and figure out a new plan,” Atria said. “First, though, I think I want to stop by the hotel and grab my street clothes. I think my uniform is done for.”
“If you’ve got a place to stay, have you got room for one more?” Cap asked. “I don’t have anywhere to go at the moment.”
“All of that is going to have to wait,” Adam said as they turned another corner, motioning. A line of soldiers with combat rifles at the ready blocked the street before them.
“They’re Japanese Self-Defence Force,” Cap said. “I worked with these guys back in the ‘80s.”
One of the soldiers stepped forward. “I must ask you to come with us,” he said in heavily accented English.
Atria closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “Guys, I don’t have any fight left in me to get us out of this. I’m sorry.”
“I think we should go with them,” Cap said. “So long as I’m here, nothing bad will happen to any of you, I promise.”
“I’m holding you to that,” Stella said.
As the soldiers took them all into custody and packed them into a truck for transport, they confiscated Atria’s sword. She was too exhausted and sore to even think of resisting.
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!