In a watchful spire, high above the clouds at the climax of Blue Ash cities altitude, far from the imaginations of common men, the nobility of Okabe gathers. They sit in their stilted chairs, dressed in the most expensive of suits, ever vigilant and omnipotent, in their own minds. The young high priestess, Lady Kyo rests on her knees in a circle of candles. The surrounding checkered tile floor is painted in bloody signs and symbols from the body of a young girl lying before her. The room has a dull blood red haze as the smoke of incense drifts along in smothering clouds. Her body draped in ornate cloaks, her face covered by a silver mask. Several people stand shadowed by cloaks of their own chanting low droning prayers.

Kyo sings a haunting croon as she gazes into the ever-growing pool of blood flowing from the girl. She drops her arms to her sides and takes a deep breath as her body pales. Kyo lowers her sights to peer back into the scarlet pool. “Tis I that have watched you in your perpetual slumber, I give you this in return, you stood at the edge of the door, yet paradise evades you, your high place, has been brought low, and now you have unlocked and opened the door, but ye found not a habitation, but instead you have given a home to every unclean being and so your nightmare shall begin, tonight you shall be cut free from your seduction, I shall do this favor for you alone and transcend where you have failed.”

“What is this?” Mitsura howls from his ceremonial throne. “Is this a joke? Lady Kyo, you violate our rituals?”

At this Lady Kyo stands. “I have not, you had your chance but your Alchemy was given to a secret weakness. The order of the Okabe family requires swift action, new blood.”

The other men in cloaks draw their daggers. The elder raises his hand putting the cloaked men at ease. Lady Kyo glances at the other men her expression hidden behind her mask. She directs her attention back to Mitsura as she takes a deep audible breath. “All these sacrifices, for years you have performed these rituals without understanding. How many children like her have died, have you not seen the results?” Kyo takes a dagger from her own sleeve, slicing her palm clean open. Blood pours out from her wound. She closes her hand forcing the blood to splash down into the liquid. It reflects like silver as it hits the ground. “You have never understood.”

“She has done it.” one noble applauds.

Mitsura grips the armrests jumping to his feet. “How is that possible?” he barks while the puddle of blood forms into a small stone. She looks up from the pool gazing out over the others. “I have received a vision. The time here has dwindled, what should have been complete, you have failed to do, because of your ignorance the nobility of Okabe has forgotten the great work.”

“You are just a child, you dare speak to your elders this way. Kyo do you think a parlor trick like this impresses us. You have not completed an Azoth either. Look at that stone, it is hardly complete.” Mitsura snidely remarks.

“You would be correct. The time has come to create the new world. That was my call was it not? That is what I shall do. We cannot remain here any longer. The long night is coming and with it an endless nightmare. We have seen the birthing pains of the end. Oblivion has seeped through. If we do not finish the great work, all is lost. I have seen you Lord Mitsura feasting on the bones of your children. All of us will be forced to eat the flesh of the dead; until we too join them. The moon will rise and never set again. We shall be robbed of the light and everything will be removed from its place. I refuse to follow the plans of disaster you have set forth. I know the way to the new world. This Azoth is not complete because it still hungers for what we have forgotten.” Lady Kyo holds out her hand beckoning Lord Mitsura into the circle. “I shall show you.”

Mitsura reluctantly stands from his throne walking across the polished checkered floor. It echoes through the silent room. Kyo grabs Mitsuru’s hand and helps him walk over the body of the girl. He stands in the blood that the Azoth formed in. Lady Kyo places her head on Mitsuru’s shoulder, her warm breath washing on his earlobe. “We used to use, our children, that’s the secret.” a stinging pain enters Mitsuru’s stomach as Lady Kyo plunges her dagger deep into his gut. She tares an open chasm eviscerating his body. Blood sprays out of him spilling onto the floor. He stumbles back a step. Two of the men in cloaks hold Mitsuru’s arms up keeping him in place as he drains out. Gasping in agony Mitsura screams. “Your lack of enthusiasm is troubling Mitsura. I thought you would be more pleased. See the first true Azoth since the old ones corrupted the elder stones.” Mitsura looks down to see the stone growing in size as his blood flows into the red orb.

Lady Kyo forces Mitsuru’s head up exposing his throat. “It’s all in the nobility.” she chirps before carving a nasty laceration in his neck. She turns her back to Mitsura raising her arms in the air shouting “Our great work has begun!” With her hands still in the air, she walks out of the circle of candles dancing over the floor spinning around. Each step she takes leaves a bloody footprint across the black-and-white tiles. The last thing Mitsura hears between his wet gasps is the sound of his cohorts clapping their hands giving a standing ovation for Kyo’s performance.

A white-haired man who appeared to be half dragon slashes a long spear like sword at another red-haired man who blocks the attack with a large blue cross shield. The other man jumps into the air slashing at the horned attacker. He grabs the sword mid air tearing it from the shielded mans hand and knocks him onto the ground. With powerful hack her slices the man through the middle depleting his life bar.

“Ha, I won!” Apricot shouts raising her controller into the air.

Jasper growls “Of course you won. You picked Falaris.” Folding his arms together he looks down at the floor. “He is like a million times better than Brigeld. That is the only reason you won.”

“Want a rematch?” Jasper smiles faintly giving a slow tiny nod. Playing games is always fun when both players have emotion. That satisfied feeling of winning when both players are trying hard wells deep in Apricot’s heart. If truth be told, Jasper is her favorite person to compete against. He had pride but never went too over the top.

“All right, well this time I will pick, that moonstone guy.” Apricot says hovering her cursor over a man in red armor.

“Well, if you are going to pick a Drakr,“ Jasper grins moving his cursor over a big black dragon. “I will pick Valis!” he shouts starting the match.

Apricot get’s wide eyed. “You picked the dragon! How am I going to win?” Jasper sticks out his tongue. “Fine, fine, I will still win and wipe that stupid smile off your face.”

Several matches had occurred between the two, each of them winning a fair bit. “You know Apricot, you should find a husband.” Jasper suggests.

Apricot nearly drops her controller at the random statement. “What!?” she laughs.

“Yeah cause like, you are in danger a lot.” Jasper comments while mashing buttons.

Apricot chuckles. “I have not found the right guy yet.”

“What about Sato?” Apricot’s face turns flush.

“Sato and me!” she shakes her head. “No way, that would never work.”

Jasper looks over to Apricot. “I don’t see why not? I mean you both are into journalism. He could go take the photos and you could write the articles. Plus, you two are really good friends right. I know you think he is cute too. I see the way you look at him. Including, you would be safe. You wouldn’t have to work at the supermarket anymore and you could stay home. It’s not safe out there for a girl anymore. Just let him take care of things.”

Apricot shakes her head. “You’re such a kid sometimes Jasper.”

“What!” Jasper shouts. “What do you mean by that?”

Apricot busts a gut laughing and continues playing the game. “He is concerned about me. That is kind of sweet.” Apricot thinks to herself.

“Where is Mom and Dad?” Jasper asks. Apricot looks up from her desk, a stack of papers and her laptop open to a word processor rests in front of her.

“They’re on a date tonight.” Apricot continues to type while Jasper stands in front of her door. He jumps on top of her bed with a loud slam. “Jasper!” Apricot shouts.

“What?”

“Don’t break my bed you little monster.” she barks.

He rolls onto his back snuggling up under her covers. “I’m not.”

Apricot continues to study her textbook “The role of media in civil society is to control the collective narrative and propel people in a positive direction. The advancement of,”

“Hey Apricot, do you think there will be more terrorist attacks?” Jasper asks.

Apricot puts her book down on her table. “I hope not.”

“Was it scary?”

“Very,” Apricot lets out a sigh picking her book back up. “Jasper, I don’t have time to talk tonight. I got to finish this paper for school.”

“Yeah, I know but, can’t you do it later.”

“No Jasper. I played games with you earlier so now I have to finish my paper.”

“Well, can’t I stay here.”

Apricot groans before saying “Yeah but you got to be quiet.”

“Ok.”

She picks up her book looking at what she last read. “So what is that book about?” Jasper says leaning over her shoulder.

“Out.” Apricot points to her door.

“I was just asking what it was about!” Jasper wines.

“Out Jasper. It is past your bedtime, anyway. Go to your room.” Apricot commands.

Jasper jumps down off the bed running out of the door. “You are such a jerk,” he shouts.

Apricot walks over to her door and shuts it. Before she could make it back to her seat, she hears a knocking at her door. Apricot

walks back over to the door opening it looking down at Jasper. “What do you want now?!”

“There is a dog in my room,” Jasper quakes.

Apricot rolls her eyes. “You have been taking home stray dogs again.”

“No, but my window was open. I think it came in from the window.”

Apricot shakes her head. “On a two-story house. Do you really expect me to believe that? I don’t have time for this Jazz.”

“No, I am not lying. There is a dog in my room. It’s black and has a lot of teeth.” Jasper whines.

“Then go downstairs until it leaves,” Apricot says not believing anything her brother is saying.

“Apricot!” he shouts at her.

A wave of anger rushes over Apricot. She points to the stairs. “Downstairs now, I don’t want you to bother me again Jasper or else when Mom and Dad get home I will tell them to ground you.”

“But Apricot!” Jasper cries.

“No! I have heard enough now go downstairs and let me study.” Apricot stomps her foot once causing Jasper to hurry down the stairs.

Apricot sits back down at her desk with her book in hand. It was not long into her study she heard stirring in Jaspers room. She smiled to herself. “Silly kid. Thought he could pull one over on me.” A few moments later she hears a loud crash come from his room. It sounds as though one of his shelves had been knocked over. Apricot jumps to her feet stomping over towards Jaspers room yelling “What are you doing now?”

Jasper had turned off the lights. “Jasper stop messing around,” she growls flicking the switch on to see Jaspers shelf was in fact on the floor surrounded by the pieces of his models. The light flickers off and a sudden chill fills the room. “Phantom,” Apricot whispers to herself. She reaches beside the door and grabs Jasper’s baseball bat. Looking through the dark with her eyes she spots several red eyes in the shadows. She clutches the bat in hand raising it up to her side. “Just like softball,” Apricot murmurs to herself giving a swing.

The creature appears to be like smoke than flesh. It has many eyes about its head as it prowls across the floor. The room lit only by the light coming from the street through Jasper’s window. The red eyes glowing in the dark.

“Come on!” Apricot roars feeling herself grinding her teeth. Her fear being washed away by a rush of unspeakable anger surging through her body. The wolf monster lunges at her opening its thousand razor teeth. Apricot dives into the creature slamming the bat in its mouth knocking several bloody teeth into the air. It lands on the ground behind her turning its head back to her. “It’s blocking my exit.” Apricot thinks to herself.

The monster stares at her baring it’s teeth as Apricot readies the bat for another blow. The creature once again lunges at her this time biting her in the arm. Apricot works the bottom of the bat and smashes the monster in the head causing its teeth to tare the sleeve of her shirt off. She does not have time to recover as the snarling beast dives into her again. Her bat mauls the creature in the head slamming it down to the ground. Rising to its feet it snaps at her only to be met with another swing that knocks the smokey creature into the wall. It stands up injured snarling at her.

Apricot grips the bat tight drawing back. “Get out of my house!” she screams jumping up slamming the bat as hard as she can onto the monster’s head. The beast crashes onto the floor as Apricot continues her flurry with the bat. Each blow causing smoke to flow out of the creature. It sparks like a blown circuit. When the flashing stops the lights turn back on, the creature nowhere to be seen.

She drops the bat onto the floor before falling on her knees. Sweat pours off her brow. She turns her head to see Jasper staring at her with wide eyes. “I told you there was a dog.” Apricot nods her eyes wide with fear. Jasper’s are much the same. They face each other in silence for several moments.

“We can’t tell Mom or Dad,” she orders.

Jasper nods shaking, “Where did it go?”

“Out the window.” she groans. “Keep your window closed from now on. I will keep mine closed too.”

Jasper looks around his room. “What are we going to tell Mom and Dad?”

The room is an absolute mess, everything was scattered about; broken plastic and model pieces littered the floor. “We have to clean it up before they get home. They can’t know anything about this Jasper. They won’t believe us even if we did and you mister will get in trouble for bringing in a stray dog.”

“But I didn’t!” Jasper yells.

Apricot nods her head. “I know. If I told them it came in from your window, they will think I am covering for you. I might get in trouble too. So we clean up before they get home and forget this ever happened.”

Jasper looks over at Apricot’s arm noticing blood has seeped into her light orange shirt. “It bit you? Are you ok?”

Apricot gives an insouciant glance at her arm “Yeah it got me when I was shooing it out. It’s not a big deal.” Her eyes drift back to her torn sleeve. The wound stung but was not as bad as she expected. The gash amounts to a dull throbbing pain. Gazing around the room Apricot picks up a piece of Jasper’s model. “Come on let’s get this finished up.”

“But you have to study,” Jasper’s voice quivers.

Apricot reaches out grabbing Jasper’s wrist. She rubs his hand letting out a sigh. “That does not matter now.”