Chapter 12

Ætherglow #248


🌑

Exhausted, you take its offer and lie down with it.

“Hey Zeta, you still awake?”

“Yeah...”

“Just, thanks for always looking after me,” you say. “And, I’m sorry about last week, letting some cult mind game make me doubt you. If there’s anyone I can trust, I know I can trust you.”

[Zeta liked that]

It turns over to your direction and throws its arm over you to hug you tight.

“Thanks for staying,” it says.

“It’s okay. I didn’t want to be alone tonight either,” you say.

🌒

In the TLA garden, the scent of flowers infuses the air, and only the tranquil sound of the wind through the leaves and branches above reaches your ears. But in front of you is anything but tranquility.

“You’re saying you destroyed half my æthergarden in a training accident?!” Professor Reina signs at you and Akiko in sharp motions. Her natural brown eyes stare down at you--she somehow looks taller than usual. The sunlight hits the white molecular tattoos on her brown skin, and the entwined wires and living vines that run through her transparent brown coat--as if she’s glowing with indignation. Even the insects in the meadow buzz angrily around you.

“Sorry! Sorry!” Akiko signs, bowing deeper than the sign calls for.

“Sorry!” you sign with her.

“The data is irreparably corrupted. I’ll have to launch fresh instances of the plants you destroyed. Those trees were growing generatively for ten years! What the hell kind of EvoTech did you even use to cause that kind of damage? Even the logs were corrupted...” Reina signs.

“I don’t know, I’m new at this! It was probably mostly my fault,” you sign.

“No, it was me too, you know Evocation isn’t my strongest art,” Akiko signs.

“Excuses, excuses, excuses,” Reina signs. “You two will have to help out more with my research while I get the æthergarden fixed up. For the next month, you’re mine.”

“Yes, Professor!” you both sign.

“You’re lucky you’re my favorite student...” Reina turns away to open her toolbox. She throws a device your way, and you catch it--a small handheld instrument with no display or external access port.

“To start with, use the ultrasound scanner and collect images of every tree in grove 3,” Professor Reina signs.

“Grove 3, which is--” you sign, but Akiko interrupts you.

“I know where, I know,” she signs.

“Then get to work.” Reina picks up her box and disappears into the woods behind her, leaving you two alone.

“She’s scary...” you sign.

“We got off easy. The æthergarden is really important to her, I feel so bad about letting it get damaged.” Akiko’s eyes glow a deep blue.

“Then why take me there for the murder-bait ætherdate?” you sign.

“I just wanted to show you my art...”

“It was incredible,” you sign. “I’m sure you’ll get your tree fixed up better than ever too. And then, I’d love to go there again, with no enemies invited.”

With her eyes turning purple, she extends her hand to you, and you slip your fingers in between hers. You feel warmth in her empathic response.

She signs, “Let’s go,” with her other hand, and tries to pull you along with her.

But you stay still a moment, pulling her back toward you, just as night sweeps over the meadow and the crescent Moon shines a shaft of light on you through the treetops.

END CHAPTER TWELVE

Proceed to Chapter 13 >>


“Akiko,” you sign her name sign with your free hand.

1) Hug her: 3 (25.0%)
2) Kiss her: 9 (75.0%)
3) Let go and get to work: 0 (0.0%)
Expired 6 months ago (2023-09-29 08:52:36)