[Auckland, North Island, New Zealand 22:00 6/12/2009]
“The area seems secure.” Milford said as he looked around cautiously. The entire grassy mountain side they stood on was covered in the motionless corpses of undead Maori people who’d begun to attack the townspeople in the area. Milford wore protective gear standard for all lower ranked Vanquishers. He and his entire squad had been dispatched here on direct orders from an Archbishop in order to put down this outbreak of undead. Occurrences like these were only becoming more and more frequent and the UMA was beginning to become a bit flustered.
“Looks like it.” One of the other five soldiers who were with Milford replied as he lowered his rifle, letting it hang by the strap. “Good thing, too. It’s getting dark. You know what happens to ghouls at this hour.”
“But where on earth did they come from?” Another soldier asked as he stepped around the corpses in disgust. “They couldn’t have been hiding out without being noticed before now.”
“Probably some rogue trying to reanimate souls again.” Milford muttered bitterly. He picked up his radio transceiver and pressed the ‘talk’ button. “Sir? This is Milford Wilkins reporting in. We’ve vanquished all the demons within the premises. Your orders?”
There was no reply; not even any static in response. Had the squad commander broken his own transceiver?
“The commander’s not responding.” Milford sighed. “Can any of you guys reach him?”
The others tried but failed just like Milford had. They had no choice but to head toward the area where the commander was working for a rendezvous.
And so they trekked down the hill quickly, heading toward the sea in the east. But they had not gotten too far before they were overseeing the sea from a high cliff right above the town they were heading toward. The six of them were shocked to see that the entire town was being plagued by the same undead creatures that they had finished purging on the mountain. They had found a way around them?
One of the soldiers used extremely colorful language as he looked up toward the sea and pointed.
“I found where those freaking ghouls are coming from.” He said along with more swears under his breath. Milford looked up as well and his eyes widened.
“Crap.” Was all he could manage. Within the sea, a mass of bodies were floating in the tide, but not of the villagers. They were the undead, being carried on the waves into the village like driftwood. Was it ungodly bad luck that the current brought them here? And where the hell were they coming from? The Pacific Islands?
“The Commander and the others are probably fighting it out down there while we just sit around and watch.” Milford gritted his teeth as he turned to continue down the mountain slope. “We need to hurr—”
He was cut off by the sound of flesh being bitten into, a scream, and squirting blood. Milford whirled around to see one of his comrades collapse to the floor, covered in his own blood. An undead body laid over his body, ripping his flesh off with his teeth. The first bit had gotten the soldier on the neck, killing him instantly. At least he felt no pain.
Milford shot the undead corpse through the temple and it collapsed onto the ground unmoving. More gunshots fired from his comrades as they aimed at the ghouls slowly making their way toward them through the darkness. The numbers now were nearly eight times what they were before on the mountain side. How had they gotten up the slope so quickly? There was no way these C-ranks could act so well in unison all by coincidence!
Milford fired madly into the crowd of ghouls, fury making his vision go red. But it did no good. He was soon overwhelmed and separated from the others, pushed toward the cliff. Milford had no choice, he realized. If he stayed there, he’d definitely be killed. If he jumped, he’d probably break his neck. But there was still a small chance…
Acting on that whim, he hopped backwards.
[Vatican City, Italy 9:34 the next day]
“You’re being absurd, all of you!” Naoko Masaomi, ambassador of Japan insisted. He was the only of those gathered who was standing, face earnest. “What you are suggesting is completely unwarranted and puts the faith of our own allies in question!”
“The subject is still being debated, Masaomi.” The ancient man sitting in the throne like seat at the end of the table spoke tiredly. “Please, sit down so we may here your side.”
Naoko grimaced as he bowed his head and took his seat.
“What I am saying is that we of Japan cannot accept the suggestion that an S-rank demon is influencing the demons to create these incidents. All known S-rank demons are under the protection of powerful seals and barriers and are constantly surveyed. What you are suggesting is that a mage, one of our own, has freed one of those chaotic creatures!”
Before anyone could respond, the door was pushed open and a man wearing a simple priest’s outfit walked in, face grave. The ancient man frowned as the priest approached him.
“What is it?” He demanded. “We are in the middle of conference.”
“I apologize, but it is urgent.” The priest bowed his head. “It appears that the squad sent to New Zealand was entire wiped out. The C-rank demons overwhelmed them and killed the commander along with the rest of the squad.”
The entire conference room was silent for a long moment. Kafele Kane, ambassador of Egypt, sighed in exasperation as he looked toward Masaomi.
“You were saying, Masaomi?”
Ulysses strode through the hallway of the facility, a brooding expression plastered to his face. While many of the people he passed saluted him as he passed, he barely nodded in response. He had too much on his mind to deal with.
Ulysses stepped through sliding door to walk into a hallway with windows overlooking a playground area. He stopped and watched the ten year old children playing together. But unlike normal children, two of the children were jump roping in midair, suspended as if gravity around them had been turned off. Another child was scrunching his face up in concentration as he pressed his hands together on a wad of wet clay. When he opened his hands again, the clay was a miniature version of The Thinker.
Ulysses turned his dull gaze away from the children as an amiable voice rose up in the otherwise empty corridor, coming from a man in a lab coat who strode with his arms wide apart.
“Director! How wonderful to see you here! Come to see the children, have you?”
“Not this time, Piraeus.” Ulysses replied with a serious tone. “Have you heard the news yet? The UMA is going to be purging Auckland in New Zealand within 24 hours. It was taken over by rogue ghouls.”
“Oh dear. Those useless Vanquishers couldn’t do anything to be of use? Maybe they’ll send their emotionless Executioners to take care of things. Or are those the Executors and the Executioners are the mercenaries? I always mix the two up.”
Ulysses ignored all of Piraeus’ ranting entirely. “They theorize that they weren’t rogue, however. They say an S-rank demon is involved. You understand, don’t you, Piraeus?”
“Yes sir. At the rate things are going, the espers at the level you seek are not far off. We’ll soon have the power to fight off high rank demons ourselves, and maybe even a mage or two.”
Piraeus chuckled at what his strange little joke and Ulysses merely grunted, glancing out the window again.
“Why is that one keeping away from the others?” He asked suddenly, pointing in the direction of a teenage boy sitting under the shade of a tree, huddle in some sort of towel. His eyes were focused on the kids playing, but not with longing. They were simply…observing.
“Oh, that’s one of our older students. He doesn’t play much with others, or even talk.”
“Does he have autism?”
“He was diagnosed with it. He’s simply quiet.”
“Hmm…” Was all Ulysses replied. The boy heaved a heavy sigh and a trail of icy mist floated from between his lips into the air.
[Tombs of Amun-Ra Cairo, Egypt Same Time]
Kushinada stepped into the daylight and shielded her eyes as she closed her grimoise, finishing the text she was writing with the gohei in her hand. The priest who’d been her guide stepped out of the tomb entrance right behind her, shielding his eyes from the sunlight.
“Thank you for your help.” Kushinada said with a smile, speaking in an accented Arabic. “You were a great help.”
“It was my pleasure.” The priest replied with a nod. “The priests of Amun-Ra will always encourage young mages seeking knowledge. Where is you are headed now?”
“I’ll probably seek out Alexandria’s ruins for the time being. Why?”
“The demons are being especially anxious nowadays, even within the West Desert. Be sure to travel only during the day.”
“Thank you for your concern, but I’m fairly used to danger at this point.” Kushinada bowed in thanks before turning and heading off. She opened her grimoire as she did, glancing at the newly burning text she had written shining in gold. One step closer to the unknown, she thought with satisfaction. Progress was always a wonderful feeling.
[Bordeaux, France 18:32]
The dreary sky was letting rain pound from above with total abandon, putting the entire mansion of D’Oiseux into a slightly dreary state, the hallways lit by simple candles. The thunder barely shook the mansion, but the younger of the Oiseaux was enjoying it nonetheless.
“Ring around the rose! A pocket full of posies! Ashes, ashes, we all fall down!”
Little five year old Xavier De Batz Castelmore D’Oiseau laughed manically as thunder cracked in timing with the last line of the nursery rhyme as he ran toward the entrance toward the entrance of the mansion, arms out as if he were flying. His mother strode after him, sighing in anxiety.
“Attends, mon fils!” She cried with exasperation. “Where are you going?”
She came to a stop as she saw Xavier rush into the arms of the person by the door, having just hung his rain coat and hat up. Xavier squealed with delight as his silver eyed brother held the boy up in one of his arms.
“He’s singing such morbid songs at this age?” Clovis chuckled as his mother came forward to embrace him. “Bonsoir, ma maman.”
“By the angels, what on earth are you doing here?” Mme. D’Oiseau exclaimed between smothering her eldest child in affectionate kisses. Xavier attempted to mimic her, but Clovis inadvertently positioned the little boy to make it impossible.
“During times like this, I can’t help but worry about my own family.” Clovis said, his expression suddenly grim. “Is grandfather well?”
[a few years later…]