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Previously

Amy had already started planning the next few days of learning for Aurora, but unbeknownst to her, Fate was turning towards a certain man who was currently peacefully sleeping in his armchair.

Nick woke up with a jolt as he felt a presence behind him and an eerie voice whispering

It’s time


 

A harsh wind blew across the dead terrain as a lone knight fought a losing battle against the shadows. Dodging another blow, he wondered how much longer he would have to hold on, how long would it take them to find him.

Concluding that the sensors were not detecting him yet, he closed his eyes, concentrated.  The shadows stayed back, unable to predict his next move. With a blinding glow, the double edged sword in his hand shot a beam of Cyan light into the sky, lighting up the barren land before  he slumped to the ground in a heap.

The shadows stayed still as they watched his body disintegrate. Nick smiled as he saw the walls of the castle before him as his eyes closed completely.


Aurora felt like she was being jerked awake. Her first session with Peritia had taken a lot out of her. Obviously, she was not meant to be an archer, she had enough cuts on her index finger to prove that.

When the insistent shaking failed to diminish after a full minute of ignoring it, Aurora cracked one eye open and shot up in bed.

“Wh..”, she started to say but the worried attendant beat her to it.

“Her Highness and her companion have requested your attendance in The courtyard immediately. It is of utmost importance.”

Aurora nodded slowly, coming to more fully. Quickly getting out of bed, she hastily donned whatever garment the attendant held out to her and reached for her trusted catapult. She had gotten it made weeks into her acceptance in the Castle. Her Armour wasn’t completely under her control yet and she didn’t trust herself with any version of a bow and arrow, and that’s all she had been able to conjure.

Rushing out of her bedroom, she noticed hushed whispers throughout the corridors as she made her way to the Courtyard. Making her way through the crowd gathered there, she stood beside the Queen and Amy.

The Queen looked worried and Amy seemed to be comforting her, speaking in a low voice so as to avoid prying ears.

“You’re here”, Aurora turned, coming face to face with her eccentric uncle, “This way”, he beckoned to her.

Arderine and Amy were still talking, oblivious to her presence, so she turned and followed Quesios to the Water Sink.

There, lying in a foetal position, was a man in a cloak, head full of dark curls striking against the brilliant Green of the grass.

“He just appeared out of nowhere”, Quesios said as an answer to Aurora’s questioning look.

“Tell her the rest, Quesios”

Aurora looked at the Queen before turning back to Quesios.

Sighing heavily, he explained, “I was attempting to make a beacon to capture your signature to make a sort of Auorora detector. I didn’t bother to refine the parameters since no-one has ever spent longer in Immersion than you have. It beeped half an hour ago to signal the Courtyard. I knew you were sleeping, so I came to see what had caused the disturbance.”

“And found him?”, Aurora questioned.

Quesios nodded.

“Then why haven’t you taken him to the lab already? Maybe he’s like me”, Aurora reached out for the man just as everyone collectively shouted not to.

Unable to retract her arm, she watched in a daze as her body worked without her permission, supporting his dead weight with her own body.

“How?”, Arderine voiced as she reached out to help Aurora.

Before she could make contact, her hand sparked, and with a cry of pain, she stumbled backwards as Amy steadied her.

Quesios’ eyes were wide with disbelief and he quickly steered Aurora towards his lab, mindful not to touch her or the man in any way.


 

Once the stairs to the dungeon were crossed, with a lot of grumbling on Aurora’s side (she seemed to have only lost control of her body, not her voice, Thank the Antiquons.), Quesios asked Maya to set up the full Immersion scan.

Positioning the man’s body such that his head didn’t loll to one side, Aurora stepped back and watched Maya calibrate the head ring while Quesios calibrated the LASERs. It was difficult to believe that this was where she was a few weeks ago.

She watched as Quesios fired up the LASERs and stood back, keeping time through the whole procedure and turned the LASERs off after exactly 60 seconds.

The monitor next to her beeped and she peered at the screen and gasped.

In the same place that had indicated 85 on her report was the number 803.

Eight Hundred Years old, this man looked barely past his 20s, around 25 maybe. He must have gone into Immersion around 775 years ago. Quesios took in a deep breath as he turned to Maya.

Gravely he said, “Tell Arderine to come here. NOW”

Maya didn’t need to be told twice. She had seen the report too.

As Maya ran out of the room, Quesios turned to Aurora, who looked up, “He’s not like me, is he?”

Shaking his head ruefully, he replied, “No, sweetheart, it would have been easier if he was. According to this scan, we stand wrong on something we once thought impossible.”

Both occupants of the room faced the unconscious body of the man, if he was a man, propped up on the chair.

“He survived the Immersion twice”, Quesios whispered.

 


Maya darted through the corridors asking for Amy and the Queen alternately, knowing they would be together right now. She was proven correct as she turned a corner and ran straight into them.

“He survived Immersion twice”, she managed to get out between breathless gasps of air and watched both the girls run full pelt towards the dungeon.


 

“Quesios!”, came Arderine’s voice from the mouth of the dungeon before both she and Amy came barreling in through the door, wide eyes trained on the eccentric man by the machine.

“How can this be possible Quesios?”, Amy asked softly, her voice barely above a breath.

“I don’t know. I can’t even be sure if he is an exception to the rule or our first such encounter”, Quesios said as he ran a hand over his face tiredly before continuing in the same dead tone, “All I can tell you at the moment is that he’s survived the Immersion twice and been in the second stage for around 775 years judging by his looks.”

“Isn’t there any way to determine his age at the time of Immersion? Aurora aged 21 years in there.”, Amy pointed out

“Aurora was 2 when she was put through that. Her mind was not prepared to handle the stress.”, Quesios explained

“He, on the other hand, has been through the Immersion once, and successfully. I can’t predict whether his temporal age is affected by his second Immersion or not”

“How old is he temporally, then?”, Arderine asked finally

Suddenly Aurora gave a shout from the monitor she had been staring at, and the others ran to her side instantly.

On the screen, in various sizes, over and over again was the number 24.

“I think we have our answer”, said Aurora shakily

Fate smiled as she watched the entire scene play out in front of her. Turning to the near comatose girl lying on a bed beside her, she whispered,

It begins

©Sonali Mukherjee

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