The Knight Vigilant known as Rexza watched as her quarry disappeared into the sea of humans.
Shikoth watched, and then patted Rexza’s snout. “Conflicted, I imagine.”
Rexza didn’t move. She looked up at the skeletal anzu. “How’d you know?”
Shikoth shrugged. “I can read people, let me just say. And you are just showcasing all kinds of conflictedness.”
More silence, as Rexza’s eyes watched the innocent Siddivata that was no longer there.
“Hey,” Shikoth said again, still patting Rexza’s snout. “I don’t know about you, but that’s still a job to do. ‘Do what others must not, right?’ Come on, I’ll give you some beer to take your mind off of it.”
“I know of,” Shikoth continued. “This great cafe place that serves coffee with alcohol.”
Rexza turned and walked down. The other people — humans, mostly — moved about her, trying to get to their destination, padding down the concrete road, completely oblivious to the Knight turned assassin in their midst.
“Come on. It’s just down the sidewalk.” Shikoth slapped Rexza to motion, and she moved.
She walked down the sidewalk as the Daystar slowly dipped into the horizon, washing the city with its halogen orange, and mixing the sky into leaden gray. As a response, Throne City began activated its lights, alchemical and neon. Red, blue, green, yellow, orange, purple, indigo in a psychedelic mesh of pigments. As the sun dawned, the sapient technologies turned on their concrete, mechanical bonfire, burning with technicolor flame.
Shikoth directed Rexza into the Lo-Fi cafe. The sound of a customer coming again, resonating from nowhere specific. “Welcome, to Lo-Fi.’” the melodious, almost purring noise that still had the heft and grunt of a belgar resonated from behind the counter. Rexza walked up to it. Shikoth never left his makeshift nest on top of Rexza’s head.
The black-furred belgar bartender blinked when she saw Rexza. The Knight regarded her with a tired expression, and then grinned. For her sake.
The belgar smiled. “Not much of the other xenians here,” she said. “What will you be having?”
The glowing emblem of the Knights Vigilant attracted the bartender’s attention, but she only glanced at it without offering a comment.
Shikoth grinned. “Two large cups of Bailiff’s Dissipating Special.”
The bartender opened her mouth, and then her eyes drifted up to the skeletal anzu. She sighed, and then nodded. “Please wait in your seats. What name should I write down?”
“Shikoth,” the skeletal anzu said.
She nodded. “That’d be 10 eagles, sir.”
Shikoth grinned. It was a strange expression, mostly because he technically already was grinning, being just a skeleton.
The Knight nodded, and plopped down ten 1 Eagle Coins. The flat, square pieces of thin copper jangled lightly, with a tinkling noise. The belgar bartender nodded, and dropped them onto the cup connected to a rectangular, holographic registry screen
The coins melded, folded, and then unravelled in datal haze, disappearing into the Datascape. A piece of paper jutted out, as if it were the result of mixing the coins together.
Rexza picked the receipt up and walked away from the counter, the human behind her watching her stomp to a lone table at the corner of the establishment before turning to face the bartender.
Rexza sat, and then slammed her face onto the wooden, circular table. Shikoth nodded sagely, stepped off, and then sat on the chair opposite of her. He leaned against the dark brown, hardwood wall of the Cafe.
They sat like that for a time. Shikoth, unmoving, a skeletal statue. Rexza, not rising from her little face. When the name “Shikoth!” resounded from behind the counter, Rexza stirred, and sat up. She blinked the sleep from her eyes, moved, bringing the receipt with her.
The human behind the counter didn’t ask for her receipt anymore. He just gave her the two mugs of coffee, the blackness tinged with a bright brown, mixing around it as if it were another liquid. Rexza grinned her most amiable grin, but the human only nodded once and turned away.
Rexza took the two mugs and moved over to Shikoth. Shikoth grinned, and then stared down at it.
Rexza sat and took a sip. There was the spike, then a cold intermingled with the warmth of hot coffee. It felt good, felt new. Shikoth watched the belgar, and said, “You liking that?”
Shikoth imperceptibly grinned again. “Good, because you better enjoy it in my stead.”
Rexza grinned then. “Right. You’re a skeleton. Can’t drink this.”
“Yeah,” Shikoth said, the tinge of wist pigmenting his voice. “Yeah.” And he slid his own mug across the wooden table, trailing misty droplets of water on the wood.
Without a shadow of a doubt, Rexza began gulping, warm coffee mixing with icy beer. Soon enough, both mugs were empty, their coffee entrails a brown palimpsest. Shikoth watched her, unmoving, with large, black pits for eyes. “You done?”
Rexza paused, shutting her eyes, and then she swallowed. “Not yet.” And she rose to her feet, pushing the chair with a bit more noise than Shikoth would’ve looked. With blatant disregard to the humans all about her in the cafe, watching her, she turned and walked out of the dimly lit establishment. Shikoth waddled after her.
She emerged out into the pavement, where the Nymph snow set in a chill that froze the bones. She wasn’t bothered by it; her thick hide and fur protected her from the brunt of the elements, like always. Nevertheless, she walked onto the cold pavement, and said, “Reveal to me where they have gone.”
Shikoth nodded. “I still have their scent! Follow me!” And Shikoth took to the skies, bothered not by the slowly fluttering Nymph snow. Rexza nodded, clenched her fists, and followed immediately after the skeletal husk of a sapient.
In her mind, Rexza repeated the mantra of the Knights Vigilant as she turned the dark corner and walked down the neon burning concrete bonfire.
What others cannot, what others will not…
“Okay,” Kasu finished. She scratched the side of her face. “These implants should allow to you to Delve into the Scape. At least, your Consciousness.”
Chrysanthemum looked at herself in the mirror. Kasu had bound up her hair — which she loved — on top of her head and implanted three things that resembled complicated screws to each side of her head. They hurt at first, but when Kasu let her move around with them, she found them to be fine.
“Why can’t you just do that trick you did and send us into the Scape physically?” Oberen inquired, leaning against one wall.
Kasu shrugged, began typing scripts with the script-board. “Too much energy,” she said. “Dissonance. Generally, trying to do big things past my own Datagrove will mess me up. Gotta do it with proper tools.”
Oberen stayed silent, the answer sufficient.
Before long, Kasu had hooked Chrysanthemum up to wireless contraptions, and bound her down to a chair beside the holographic video screen. “Okay, so, I can send myself remotely. It’s my Magick after all. What we’re going to do is access the Pathways that lead to the encrypted datagrove of Rast, where he kept the recorded Contract files.
“Your consciousness is replicated,” Kasu continued, typing away. She straightened, and holographic discs of calculations and data exploded from her vision, reminiscent of Oberen’s mandala Sight trick. “So if you die in the Scape, you just get booted out. Still, be careful. And when we’re in there, make sure to stay behind me. The Scape is my place. I control lots oft things in there.”
Oberen grinned. Chrysanthemum nodded.
“Alright. You ready?” Kasu said, with a slight sigh.
Chrysanthemum nodded. “And here, we—“
All sound, feeling, taste and sight disappeared, suddenly made fuzzy and muted. It felt like falling into the ocean in the middle of the night. Lonely, dark, with the only source of light being the dim glow of the Nightstar. Chrys fell, sinking towards the darkness behind her, and she didn’t bother, she didn’t dare, to turn around. For fear of what she might see.
What a stupid fear. Chrys’ felt Kasu’s voice resonate within her Soul.
“—go.” Voice returned, and there was an aunnatural silence. Chrys found it weird when the punches of silence that would accompany usual conversations in the physical Mund was filled in by the white noise of autochariots ringing and voices from below, shouts of the Intelligent.
Open your eyes, Chrys. Kasu’s voice was deep, melodious, and seemed to resonate from everywhere. As if she was the God in this place, as if she spoke through the Scape itself.
Chrys opened her eyes, and she found herself in the place similar to Kasu’s datagrove. The digitized version of her room, physical components stripped away.
Chrys lifted a hand, and saw a hand composed of light and color and information and data. Was this all her consciousness was? Bits of information, of data?
Technically. Kasu boomed. Chrys understood that she can read her mind. Yeah I can. And yeah. Technically, everything in the entirety of Creation can be summarized as just bits and pieces of information. Nothing more, nothing less.
Chrys nodded. Her mind was a storm.
Anyway. Now the voice seemed to come from somewhere, despite there being an echo that reverberated through the very data of the Scape. Chrys turned around to see Kasu’s figure, made up of a black, glassy outline and poured with a cup filled with iridescent, harshly combining lights that constituted for complex calculations and information that the normal mind cannot fathom.
“Come on,” Kasu said. She turned and walked out of the door. The door here being where the desknode was in the physical world. “We shouldn’t waste time.”
Chrys nodded. She agreed wholeheartedly. She was already beginning to feel a bit fuzzy and floaty. She took a step forward, and followed into the door.
On the other side of the door, spanned the Datascape. And it was an unending storm of data and information, numbers and streams of color that eventually died down and stagnated, turning into fine bits of particles that accumulated below the translucent pathway Chrys and Kasu stood upon, creating a desert of Data.
“Welcome to the Datascape,” said Kasu without looking behind. “Purgatory, Heaven, or Hell. It’s up to you to decide.”
Oberen watched as Chrys and Kasu jumped into the Scape. Kasu stood perfectly still, but her eyes blanched, her irises turning that lilac color. Chrys shook once, and then went limp.
Oberen found that it wasn’t too different from Field Jumps, whenever one would access the Traverse of a particular Field mentally instead of physically.
Oberen whistled. He wondered what he would do to pass the time. He brought out his palmnode, which showed him a notification from his Personal Digital Assistant, or PDA, that told him he had classes on the morrow. He sighed. He was beginning to wonder if he was skipping any classes, when he remembered that today was the end of their Nymph break.
Came a bit too late, he told himself, and pocketed the palmnode. He pushed himself off of the wall and walked over to the refrigerator. Opening it, he found an opened, but unfinished can of OchreOx, a drink that never failed in keeping cramming students awake. He grinned, took it, and downed it with a huge gulp.
He then went back to wondering what he would do to pass the time.
…What others must not.
Shikoth led him to the door of Kasu’s apartment. Rexza had to duck down. Of course they wouldn’t make the hallways fit belgar. She was in Throne, after all.
“You going to do what you set out to do?”
Rexza nodded. “I have one final favor to ask of you,” she said, the tinge of coffee and alcohol swirling like viscous mist in her breath. “Tell the Dean of the Collegium that I’ve succeeded in my job.”
Shiktoh grinned that impossible grin once again. “You got it, Knight, baby!” Shikoth fluttered down and out on invisible wings.
Rexza wasted no time. She knew this would be easy.
She raised a hand and snarled, “Draconic Fury Assault!” The punch that met the door exploded in brush strokes of white, red, and blue light. The door caved in, exploding inward, and shattered in mid-air before slamming against the wall far across the room.
The lune-iron wearing belgar Knight stomped in, with her eyes half-closed.
A man wearing a dark blue jacket over a cyan hoodie turned around. He raised his own eyebrow, peering at Rexza with half closed eyes.
There was a silence. Rexza watched, waiting for him to move.
Whatever he would do, Rexza would kill him anyway.
Oberen grinned a lazy grin. “Well I know what I’m doing in the meantime.” He raised a hand, and Channeled Magick. Rexza could feel it — the rolling thunder, the humidity, and then the knot in your stomach once you feel a person imposing their Will upon reality.
Rexza stepped back. A full, deliberate, rebalancing step.
The oppression, the weight set in.
Oberen raised a hand, and gulped down the last few drops of OchreOx with another. In that one outstretched hand, a ribbon of pure Diwal energy exploded.
And a rapier materialized into his grip. Oberen narrowed his eyes at Rexza.
Rexza clenched her fists, Oberen positioned his rapier…
…and they moved.