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The Dark Side

Chapter Text

 "When the shadows became real."

When Ye Xiu left the Excellent Era's building, strange things started to happen.
The building was darker, lights always dimmed no matter how many times the light bulbs were changed and a whole instalation was checked. The computers could turn off at any given moment. And shadows...
Oh, God the shadows were moving.
That was something more and more people who worked there claimed.
No one thought about it really until it became bothersome. Distracting. You name it.
People had nightmares.
About a person clad in dark armour, reaching their hand towards the sleeping. At first glance the figure was friendly, stance relaxed, some claimed they saw bloody maple leafs dancing around on the wind. They even thought it is something good, a proof that once Ye Qiu left, everything will cherish.
They couldn't be more wrong.
It all started with Chen Yehui.
Barely few hours after their ex-captain's departure, he became anxious, started to mumble to himself... and was utterly terrified of shadows. He was still doing his job, so none doubted him. Everyone just smiled at him with pity. Some even claimed that their god's leaving shocked him so much.
Again. Wrong.
He was entering the guild room like he always did at the morning only to find turned off computers and no one in sight. After getting closer and trying to turn some of them on, he finally heard the slow typing. Turning his head to the misterious sound, he noticed that one monitor was working, although it had its brightness turned down to bare minimum. He came closer, still seeing nobody who could be typing, yet the sound was getting louder and louder. The typing also increased in speed.
When he got to the computer, the incredibly fast typing AND clicks of mouse stopped.
He looked at the monitor to see an inside of dungeon. The character used was One Autumn Leaf. Cursing their new captain, he tried to log out and take out the card. He failed to do both. When he tried to even touch the card, a voice behind him asked coldly:
"What do you think you are doing?"
He turned around to see nothing but shadows.
The typing and clicking started again. He looked at the station before him. The character was moving again, strolling through the dungeon, not bothered that there was no one sitting in front of the computer. Chen Yehui stared in shock as the keys on keyboard were being pushed in in a very familiar pattern.
He searched for an additional cable, thinking about it as a mere prank.
When he found none. The frantic tapping stopped again. The lights blinked. The computer monitor glitched and the whole computer turned off.
He looked around him.
He was met with an armored hand reaching towards him from the shadows. Unable to dodge his assailant, the guild leader found himself being choked to death. No matter how much he squirmed and tried to hit the hand and the person who should be standing there, all he hit was air.
The only thing that saved him was Liu Hao entering the room. Just like that, all computers turned on and the card disappeared.

 

Chapter Text

 

Tao Xuan knew that the moment Ye Xiu leaves, things will happen. He thought that just lights would flicker and that's all. After all, Sun Xiang should be more than enough to take a hold of One Autumn Leaf.

Oh, how wrong he was.

You see, a lot of people had their own spirits, demons, guardians. If you allow them to linger near you, you can claim them as yours by creating a bond. With a bond comes a card. The one who holds it has control over the spirit tied to it.
When the spirits appeared for the first time in their world, they were being hunted and catched by humans. The first cards that appeared were like trophies. Spirits didn't succumb willingly. However after years of bloodshed and hunt, they started to willingly let themselves be catched.
Without fighting.
With their heads hung low.
The ones that were able to stay in wilderness had a choice to at least chose their future master.

They were powerful and dangerous, so people created a special equipment to thwamp them. They created a cyber plain where they could move without worrying about the damage they would cause. This is how a game "Glory" started. Now all you had to do to get one, you needed to be evaluated by special equipment and the seller would give you an appropriate card.

For many, the spirits were just a bunch of pixels, for some they were a toy, for more than it should be, slaves.

When Tao Xuan first met Ye Xiu, he didn’t have to ask. His card was first edition. It was obvious how it was obtained.
He was so wrong.
He thought that so many years would make the spirit the more obedient as scientists claimed. Sun Xiang easily taking over.
Wrong.
He never asked. He saw One Autumn Leaf in this world only once, when Ye Qiu was making a contract with Excellent Era. After that he saw the avatar only in game. He forgot how imposing was this spirit.
So many mistakes.
The first mistake, was leaving Sun Xiang alone to command over One Autumn Leaf. New master, new contract. The bond had to be made with only the new holder and the spirit in empty room.
The second, was thinking everything will be normal.
The third, was staying in Excellent Era for a bit too long.
He ran through the dark corridors. He stumbled into his office to see even more darkness.
And One Autumn Leaf's card half embed into his desk.
"Impossible." Avatars couldn't hold their own cards but somehow he moved it. Tao Xuan knew how dangerous could be an avatar let loose. He said nothing as the darkness in room was getting thicker. He left before it became solid. And ran. Ran through the darkening corridors as if the devil himself was chasing him. Maybe he was.

This is how Tao Xuan saved his live. By running away as far as he could.

Even after giving a fast conference next day, he didn’t dare to stay even a second longer. One Autumn Leaf was not a mindless creature. If he acted with so many humans seeing him, at least a dozen soldiers from special forces would come to haunt him. Using this small gap, Tao Xuan escaped.
He escaped not without a warning of course. He found his favourite pet torn to pieces lying in his office with a message on the wall written with its blood.
"PK"

One Autumn Leaf also knew that no one will say a thing about it. HIs value is too high to let him be taken away.

From now on, everyone wondered where does Tao Xuan dissappear because his office is always locked and he is nowhere in sight.

 

Chapter Text

Some wonder, how we… powerful, extremely dangerous spirits were made to bow to handlers’ will.

You see… it’s a long story.

Some have been caught and promised a bit of freedom after the bonding. Some were caught and were tortured until they agreed to bond… some perished because humans didn’t know their limits… There were also those that came willingly. These were the ones who saw their brothers and sister die from humans hands and had enough. Avatars for their destructive power were not aggressive towards humans unless attacked.

For few first months after we appeared here, avatars were safe, only a group of 5 wanted to slaughter the human race. This five was enough to bring nothing but sheer suffering on all of us.  

After humans found a way to disable our incorporeality, we could do nothing. The more we killed, the more of them appeared with better weapon and equipment. A never-ending slaughter.

Nowadays, the cards have so many safety measures that it takes a lot to disable them. But ten years ago? There was only a bond between avatar and human, card with basic protection and unyielding mind of the handler. Back then, if someone managed to get hands on the spirit and make it create the bond, one needed to have a strong mind. If not…

At worst cases, the handler’s body would crumble and turn into dust. At best, one would only get injured. Some could preserve for a few years and some just a few minutes.

This is why humans started to create strong cards and overwrite them to accommodate the bond. It was obvious how much damage the spirits could cause, so they created “Glory”. A game.

The avatars’ power was now locked up until you levelled up in a game. Updates and access to higher levels were being granted if there was no danger from avatars. Thanks to their classification, one could choose the class suitable for them. After choosing it, an avatar compatible with you and your choice was given to you.

Of course, some avatar’s power was still above lvl 70. I am one of them.

Time passed and many still ask me how can someone like Ye Xiu have the strength to make me obedient. I only laugh at their idiocy and beat the shit out of them for their audacity to even talk to me. Unless it’s a human. Then I leave it to Ye Xiu. Because if not then he will glare at me and won’t talk to me until I apologize. And I don’t like to apologize.

Ten years passed and I never dared to tell this story to anyone. Well, there is always a first time for everything.

 


 

 

Six months before “Glory”

10km away from Ye residence.

The sun went down a few hours ago. Loud voices could be heard behind him. At the beginning, he tried to simply run away but that only encouraged the hunters. He was hit with 4 tracking bullets but managed to get them out. Fighting attempt and the fact that he was shot, slowed him down. He could feel that they were getting closer and closer. The dense forest not stopping them at all. They tried to chase him with helicopters but he took them all down.

“Damn.” He muttered clutching left side of his stomach. He got shot there three times. The other one lodged into his leg. It definitely wasn’t the nicest sight. He was dirty, covered in his own and others blood, half-running and half-limping. He knew it’s only matter of time until his pursuers reach him.

He silently counted the things he has with him.

‘One lance that will most likely break if use higher ability but still good enough for me to lean on it, last mana potion, no healing ones, shit. No bandages, no food, no communication device, and… oh, I still have one mist grenade and one clay mine. A shame to use it now but… this will give me at least some time to get off their radar.’ He knew that even if he had other things, he wouldn’t be able to use them. Humans learn very fast and accommodate even faster. ‘I need to use both at the same time. This should confuse them enough. They will probably think I changed directions just like the previous time.’

After fast preparation, he dropped these two on the ground. They will activate when someone steps closer to them. At the same time, it will tell him just how far behind him they are.

His side was painfully throbbing. Same for the leg. Still hoping to escape, he pushed forward.

After a few minutes he heard a loud bang.

He grits his teeth and started to run faster. This was his chance. If he runs away far enough and hides, he might survive this encounter.

By the time he got closer to town borders, he was on verge of crying. He ran away but now he had to hide and a city was not a good idea.

Five more steps. Rasping breath. Rounding the corner. Leg finally gave in. He plummeted down into a puddle.

Knowing humans’ curiosity, he didn’t dare to let out a sound.

‘Just how pathetic I am now. I can’t even move properly. I don’t know where I am, no idea where I am going.’ He laid there for five minutes before he gathered his strength to rise again. Each time he did, it was harder and harder to stand up.

All around him were villas and large houses. They obviously belonged to rich humans.

‘That’s bad. The rich jerks have barriers against us. It will be a miracle if I manage to enter a barn, alcove or anything. On the other side… it means fewer guards. It all depends on how strong are the barriers. I entered the town so the newest, stronger ones still weren’t installed. Because of the coating on the bullets, I can’t even phase through things. If I could I would have gone down to the severs.’

After looking around he concluded that this wasn’t even a town. It was one, big residence. Only the richest humans could afford it. It must have been used for summer and winter vacations, considering that it was so close to the forest.

He could carry on forward or change directions again but if he had to run even a few hundred meters, he will fall unconscious from the strain. He might be one of the strongest avatars but even he couldn’t go on materialized like that with such injuries and without supplies. He also couldn’t stay outside. The hunters would bring the drones again to spot him. For now, he took care of all aerial equipment so they had to track him on the ground but who knows when they will call for reinforcements.

One Autumn Leaf sighed.

He really had no plan. Not even an idea what to do next. Somehow, the area felt wrong. It was too quiet. As if something was lurking in shadows to trap him.

He closed his eyes and focused on his surroundings. Clear. There was no one outside. The only problem now would be entering the mansion while avoiding possible humans that might be in there.

‘Risk being caught inside and walk into a trap or stay here and be caught outside by specialised forces and be probably contained or killed in the process?’

He looked around again. ‘Huh?’ He lost sight in his right eye. He remembered being hit by the sonic blast and smacking into a stone wall. ‘As if barely being able to walk wasn’t enough.’ Now his chances to survive definitely dropped to 0%. Without one eye he couldn’t properly estimate distance and aim accurately.

He looked down at his wound. Blood soaked through bandages long time ago. He didn’t even notice that he was standing in a poodle of his own blood. Were it any other avatar, it would be dead a long time ago because of the blood loss.

‘Fuck it. I’m going in. I will die anyway.’ He again propelled himself, this time using both his lance and the wall.

Glancing once again at the surroundings, he moved forward.

‘Right leg. Left leg. Right leg. Left. Right. Left. Right. Left. Left.’ He stumbled forward catching his balance with a lance. ‘Great. Can’t even do such a simple thing. The closest entrance is the main one.’ After walking up the few stairs that were there, he reached the doors handle. The doors opened without resistance.

Carefully, he walked in, closing the doors behind himself. He made few steps forward and fell onto the strangely shining floor. His lance dropped onto the marble flooring with a clatter. The pain was so intense, he started choking.

Before he lost his consciousness, he heard a bunch of footsteps coming down the stairway and a male screaming:

“Honey! It’s our lucky day! You won’t believe what we caught! HA!”

 


 

Pain.

That was the first thing One Autumn Leaf felt when he started to wake up. He took a little bit bigger breath but then started to cough violently. This made it all worse. He gasped as more pain surged through him like a waterfall. A waterfall of pain.

That snapped him from any remains of sleep. He tried to move only to find out that he is chained up for hands onto the ceiling. The chain was long enough to let him kneel. That would explain why his wrists hurt so much. The next thing he noticed was that he was wearing a heavy, metal collar with loose chains attached to the ground. Thankfully his eyesight came back.

With chains clanking loudly in a besides him, empty room he looked down at his wounds. His bandages have been changed and properly applied. Same for the leg. He looked around as much as the bindings let him. The room was made from some smooth grey material. The whole room was huge. The ceiling was at almost 7 meters high. One wall was over 10 meters long. One Autumn Leaf didn’t know what shape this place had but he guessed it was a square. In every corner were a few cameras to cover all the angles.

‘This doesn’t look good.’ He thought.

He heard a door opening behind him. Heavy footsteps were followed by a bit lighter ones and by someone walking in heels.

SMACK!

Something long hit him in his back. He surged forward as far as chains let him. Which wasn’t much. He wheezed as the pain radiated on his backside.

Before him, appeared a large man that could easily rival Desert Dust with his sheer muscle mass. In his hand laid One Autumn Leaf’s lance. Besides that, he had a heavy armour used for avatar hunting.

‘Fucking great.’

Next, standing was a man dressed in a suit. Ordinary looking but clearly he was the one in charge. One with money.

The last one was a woman in a lab coat with a crazed look on her face. When she noticed him looking at her, she started to write frantically on her notepad.

The man in a suit stepped forward with a smile plastered on his face.

“I will be your new master. Form a bond with me and you will be let free.”

One Autumn Leaf looked up at him through his bangs. ‘As if I would believe him.’ “No.”

Apparently, that was a bad answer because the instant he uttered this word, he was slapped so hard that for a second he thought his jaw dislocated. The slap was followed by a hit to his wounded stomach. He hung his head low, gasping loudly.

“Don’t worry Mister Ye. By the time we finish with him, he will beg for you to bond with him. This is what we agreed on after all.” Said the bulky man who hit him.

“Ah, yes. How long will it take? I will need him for my next meeting.” Said the man in a suit.

“This one might be tougher than the ones we usually work with. It survived with such extensive wounds and was also able to deal with at least 1 000 hunters from the special force. When we tame it, it will be beneficial for our country. Moreover…” she looked down at him. “This one might actually possess some intelligence. It was able to mislead its pursuers for a few months. Judging on its state, it will take around a week.” She said with a sickening gleam in her eyes.

“Splendid! I will leave it in your capable hands then!” Said Mister Ye with happiness dancing in his eyes. After saying that he went out.

“Shame it’s so beaten up. I am itching to perform a vivisection.~” Said, woman, while sighing and heading to the doors.

“Let’s just go with the usual and be done with this.” Said the man while following her.

Meanwhile, One Autumn Leaf tried very hard not to panic.

After living through the first wave of torture, his oppressors left him alone. One might think it’s stupid to leave something so dangerous without supervision but One Autumn Leaf was so weak now that he couldn’t even move.

They started slowly. Started with beating, waterboarding and finished with electrocuting him. At the end seeing that he hadn’t started screaming, they left the electric device to send an impulse every 10 seconds. Just so that he won’t fall asleep.

After they left, he could almost hear as the electrical surge went through the collar and chains across his body. At the beginning, they made the dose too high and had to take a break because his spasm reopened his wounds. Now they were perfect.

After what seemed like few days (but was in fact just a few hours), the electrical device was turned off. Not a minute later, someone walked not the room. He didn’t recognise these steps.

He looked up to see a child’s face. ‘A kid too? Just how wicked is the human race?!’ He thought.

He expected that this child will take out some torture device and have his fun but was surprised when a warm hand reached out to sweep the bangs from where they fell to hide his face.

“You poor thing. What did they do to you?” The kid mumbled softly.

One Autumn Leaf stared at him with a mouth opened as this child, no more than 14 years old, tried to open his shackles. He almost succeeded. Almost.

A man in a suit came over with another, similarly looking, child, clutched in his hand.

The humans argued, the older slapped the child and took it out with him. The electrical surges soon came back.

 

One Autumn Leaf couldn’t stop thinking about the little human. After all, it honestly tried to help him get out of here.

For now, he was kind of thankful that he was in such a bad shape. The crazy woman kept complaining about not being able to perform any experiments on him because of that. But that didn’t stop her from groping him everywhere. By everywhere, he meant inside too. When she threw a thick tube down his throat, he honestly started to cry thinking she tries to kill him for good. Turned out she was ‘just’ curious about how his maw works…

After every day, the torture was more and more intense. After the third day, he started to scream. A music to their ears considering their happy faces.

After the fourth one, a loud bang could be heard from above.

Everything around him went dark.

Doors opened. Someone ran in with a flashlight. It was the same child from before. And he didn’t recognise it because of the hand imprint on its cheek but because of the aura.

The child was panicking, fumbling with the keys in its hands. After excruciating minutes, he was freed. After that, he was grabbed by hand and almost dragged away towards the exit. Through all of this, the kid said nothing.

When they reached the ground floor, he found the reason why the child was in such a panic. It seems that some avatar broke loose and started to tear the mansion bit by bit. He could see a body of the bulky guy lying on the floor slowly disintegrating.

One Autumn leaf could see that this spirit lost his mind. A blademaster suddenly stopped and turned around towards them. With a crazed look, the avatar attacked them with a loud battle cry.

One Autumn Leaf quickly hid the kid behind him. It was all he could do as a return for freeing him.

Magic Shield followed by a Falling Flower Palm. The enemy fell down. Fire Chaser formed.

“Ye Xiu! Run!” Screamed a female voice.

He charged at the blademaster. The other clearly has gone mad and will be able to use only basic attacks. One Autumn Leaf might be extremely weak now but it’s still enough for him to beat a crazed avatar with his bare hands and magic.

But something was wrong.

Shadow Steps. The Blademaster suddenly used shadow steps. Thankfully, only 2 afterimages were formed. He didn’t notice another Battlemage coming from behind.

“Look out!” Screamed the child and lunged itself on him, bringing them down just in time to avoid a Double Stab.

‘Ah. The woman must be dead too.’ Right now, they were in extreme danger. He can take on one crazed idiot but two idiots using skills? Impossible.

Somehow, he managed to manoeuvre himself and the child glued to him without gaining any damage.

But that seemed far from over. He was already standing up again with a help of a wall when the kid brought him down again. A light ray swept through, killing the two avatars.

“Thanks… uuh” He said glancing at the child.

“Ye Xiu. You’re welcome.” Ye Xiu said with a small smile. He smiled back.

He looked at the place from where the ray came out and his smile fell instantly. Special anti-avatar hunter unit.

“Stay here.” He said to the child, while slowly rising.

“Stay where the fuck you are standing you DEMON!” A guy with a gun screamed.

“No! There is my child! Don’t shoot!” Screamed a female again. ‘It must be Madame Ye.’

A man standing beside the entrance took out his gun and pointed at him.

BANG!

One Autumn Leaf was staring as Ye Xiu was falling down before him. The kid saved him, while sacrificing its own life. This kid saved him for the third time. This time by paying the highest price. It was as if time itself stopped. ‘No.’ The only person who wasn’t afraid of him and valued his life so high.

‘No. I won’t let it end this way.’

He threw himself forward to catch him. He didn’t hear the chaos around, people screaming, a woman crying. He had eyes only on Ye Xiu.

One Autumn Leaf laid him down on the battered floor and reached for his right hand.

‘If this manages to save him… please let it work.’ He thought with a tear running down his cheek.

After that, a pillar of light so bright formed around them, that it could be spotted from the satellite.

 


 

 

A few weeks later New Ye residence

“Are you crazy?” One Autumn Leaf asked.

“I won’t let Ye Qiu destroy his own life. I at least have a plan.” Told him Ye Xiu while throwing something towards the backpack stolen from Ye Qiu’s room.

“Will you even listen to my arguments?”

“I can listen but won’t consider them. Ah, there it is.”

One Autumn Leaf looked curiously at the small human before him. It was a cookie jar. Ye Xiu looked at him with that face again.

“I am going and you are going with me or else…” One Autumn leaf looked at him slightly afraid of what might he say next.

“I will take all the cookies.” Ye Xiu said with eyes shining in mirth.  

 

And this is how our journey started.

With cookies.

 

Chapter Text

Sun Xiang was extremely smug with what happened. When Ye Xiu gave him One Autumn Leaf’s card, he felt a surge of powerful energy flowing through it. This avatar was truly a strong one. From his previous one, some useless berserker, he felt nothing. But judging on how weak his former team- Conquering Clouds, one couldn’t get their hand on stronger avatar unless he goes and finds one himself. But that’s a hassle. The amount of time you have to put into strengthening the spirit was astronomical. It was much easier for Sun Xiang to transfer into a stronger team with stronger avatars.

Sun Xiang. His grandfather was a spirit hunter before retiring and passing away. An exceptional rookie who debuted in the 7th season. His first spirit was of berserker class. After burning through this avatar, he was given a place in Conquering Clouds and given a stronger spirit, Berserker, Cross Knife. Sun Xiang’s transfer to Excellent Era resulted in abandoning the spirit. Were he to stay as its master any longer, the avatar would have shattered from the strain.

Humans and avatars could affect each other. If spirit grew too strong for its handler to take, it could break free and break havoc. Their ‘master’ end up being injured or disintegrated into a mere dust. There were also cases when handler was weaker but could gain control through “breaking”. In those cases, it was the avatar who was straining to get stronger or else it will perish.

“Breaking”. A simple word for extremely forceful creation of bond at avatar’s weakest point, which was reversing the effect and damaged the avatar instead of the handler. After the card has been given to someone else, the avatar is at its weakest, their overall statistics would be far lower than before being caught. One Autumn Leaf was no exception to this rule. In fact, after being under one player for so long, he was even weaker.

When Sun Xiang saw how Ye Xiu’s hand is trembling, he laughed at the former Glory’s number one. He could barely take a hold of One Autumn Leaf! It was obvious he was past his prime to command this avatar!

After being left alone in a special, empty room, he could finally start. He spins the onyx card in his hands before progressing. The faster he does it the better. Even in this state, he can feel how much energy is being emitted from the card. He laid the card on the floor and walked away a bit. He was wearing his grandfather’s hunter gloves. They were made from a strange material and covered in engravings and tech that enabled to use “breaking” if you know how to properly use them.

He waited for a minute.

Two…

Three…

Seven…

But nothing was happening. After getting a bit closer and waiting for the next four minutes, the card finally started glowing. Oh, Sun Xiang always loved this moment.

A silhouette of One Autumn Leaf appeared before him in all its glory. He had to admit it. From up close the spirit looked even more incredible than from crowd or player seat. And the raw power… incredible. He grinned at his victory as he succeeded in creating the bond. He was so happy that he didn’t notice there was something wrong with it.

After a second, everything faded into darkness.

“-Xiang!” ‘Huh?’

“-get-“ “-there-“ ‘What are those voices?’

“Sun Xiang! Snap out of it!” As if woken up from a dream he blinked rapidly taking in his surroundings. He almost tumbled forward when he noticed that he is standing on a window frame. He fell backwards and was caught by Chen Yehui and Liu Hao. They stared at him extremely worried.

Later he found out what happened. After making the bond he must have blacked out. Once he did so, he was seen walking slowly in a daze towards the closest window. Thankfully, Chen Yehui chose to go to talk with Liu Hao and noticed the strange behaviour and called for help. In the end, these two saved his life.

When he finished listening to their story, he started frantically searching for One Autumn Leaf’s card.

Only to find out he didn’t have it. He rushed back to the room leaving the others confused. He was sure they went to look for Tao Xuan. This had to be reported. When he rushed into the room, he managed to catch a glimpse of the card rotating itself only for it to disappear a moment later.

How can he explain this!? What was even worse, it looked that the bond he managed to establish already started to weaken. He has to find the card in the next two weeks or the bond will break and the avatar will be set free.

‘How it even moved its card!?’


 

 

One Autumn Leaf was grumpily sitting on the roof. He kept glancing in the direction where he was sure, Ye Xiu left. Not to mention he could feel his presence there. He was a bit ashamed of his actions. Not the ones against Excellent Era but those against his Ye Xiu. When he was being handled over he started trashing and clawing so hard that even Ye Xiu’s ever-steady hands started to tremble. Because of that Ye Xiu was ridiculed! And it was his fault!

They knew Excellent Era’s machinations but his handler was really too lenient towards his former friends. When he promised Ye Xiu that he will make them pay, the other only gave him a small, tired smile and said:

“I know.”

What was worse, in his weakened state the brat somehow managed to make a bond with him. He ached from it even now. Now he just have to avoid him for two weeks and he will be free to go. He was sitting here through one day already. Well, that and a few other things. He is still thinking about what to do with Liu Hao. He sighed and focused on the warm, shining aura he grew to love over the years.

‘Ye Xiu.’

‘Give me a minute.’ The other’s thought gently nudged him. He felt something was wrong.

‘Ye Xiu.’

‘I told you to give me a minute.’ Now, something was definitely not right.

‘Ye Xiu!’

‘OK, ok. I am coming out. I need to smoke anyway.’

‘What are you doing? What happened?’

‘Don’t try to play an idiot. We talked about it earlier.’ One Autumn Leaf’s face was now so terrifying that even Desert Dust and Troubling Rain would run away in fear.

They talked about it indeed.

Sometimes a monster appeared in the human world. Only avatars and their handlers from Alliance were sent to deal with them because others were simply too weak. But lately… the monsters were getting stronger and started to develop characteristics from various classes. They were harder and harder to deal with. And it all started because humans started to haunt the spirits. The spirits that were weakening the monsters and make them easy to kill. With them being gone. Monsters grew stronger.

At the beginning, there were nine of avatars. No less, no more. The first four joined humans and wanted to coexists. The other five wanted to destroy humanity. The four were: Desert Dust, Vaccaria, Swoksaar and One Autumn Leaf. The others were almost all killed.

Almost.

One has been caught. It was killing the masters so quickly that it was given to a strong-minded family. Su family. This is why Su Mucheng has no parents. This is why Su Muqiu is dead. Not letting Mucheng succumb to her fate, Ye Xiu took the card himself. And for now, it was working.

The only reason why he could persist for so long was because of One Autumn Leaf. Their bond wasn’t normal. Theirs was called a “Blood Bond”. It tied their lives together. If one lives, the other does too. This is how One Autumn Leaf saved Ye Xiu’s life. By bonding them together. Because of that, there was no strain on either side. A perfect balance. No other spirit was crazy enough to bond its life with a mortal like that. And this was also why almost no one knew about it.

‘You used him.’

“It’s kind of obvious you know?’

‘Have you seen him?’

‘No. It’s as if the card is empty. He must have locked himself down seeing he can’t affect me.’

‘That’s possible.’

‘One Autumn Leaf…’

‘What?’

‘The bond… there is another one.’

‘I know. I couldn’t do anything really. I need to hide from the bleached brat for two weeks for it to fade.’

‘Ah. What about you know…’

‘Gave everyone nightmares. I tried to choke Chen Yehui but Liu Hao walked in. I tried to make the brat commit suicide but both Chen Yehui and Liu Hao interrupted.’

‘What about Tao Xuan?’

‘I killed his rat and wrote “PK” on the wall. I think he got the message because he runs out the moment he saw it. Still didn’t come back. Coward.’

‘Tao Xuan doesn’t have a rat… where did you…?’

‘There was one which was making some strange noises.’

‘Are you serious?’

‘What?!’

‘It’s a dog. A chihuahua.’

‘A rodent.’

‘A dog.’

‘A rat.’

‘A dog.’

‘Meh. Go inside now, kid. It’s getting cold.’

‘I am not a kid anymore.’

‘Ye Xiu... That avatar… please be careful.’

‘I will be. Try to rest and be careful yourself.’ They nodded to each other mentally and Ye Xiu went back inside.

One Autumn Leaf was glaring at the Happy Internet Café.

If Lord Grim tries to even touch Ye Xiu… he won’t show mercy like the last time.

Chapter Text

 

 

Weak.

Fragile.

Humans are weak, filled with hatred and jealousy to each other and everything around them. Selfish, egoistic… I can keep finding more and more negatives about them.

They wage wars on their little pieces of land just because somewhere, sometime, two people couldn’t do something they will do after they spill innocent blood and lose their resources on useless bloodshed. In the end, they will sit down and talk. They claim everyone has the right to live. If so, why do they take it?

They quarrel about everything. About land, about money, about resources, about reputation, about weapons, about the whole lot.

They hate everything that is different.

They only bring suffering to their whole planet and their own species.

I can understand that everyone can make mistakes. Humans claim that it is what makes them human. But this… it’s too much.

When we appeared in their world, we struggled to protect everyone from the monsters emerging in this realm. For some time it was peaceful. At least that was what others thought. I could see how our comrades were being forced or tricked into creating a bond.

Their cries…

I will probably hear their voices until I die.

I talked with my younger brother hence he is the one with the most compassion. He didn’t believe me. When I showed him the proof, he said that not all humans are like that. I tried to warn him that they are building something and that it might be dangerous for us. I saw his eyes blinking in recognition but he said nothing.

This was when I knew I can’t trust him anymore, no matter how much I love him. My little brother cared more about humans than about his own species. Couldn’t he see what majority of these creatures was doing? Couldn’t he see all the flaws?

The more I observed them, the truer was the statement that human existence is an error. I could see humans but no humanity.

With a heavy heart, I made the decision.

I talked with the Council. The rest of the Great Nine. We voted. And I won.

We will kill them all. Their world will burn.

But my brother with three others who voted against it raised their own army. I didn’t know whether to cry at other avatars being killed by their sisters and brothers or that no matter on what side was the spirit, they all were being hunted by humans. Everyone was the target.

Many who fought by my side, fell or has been captured. The others fared no better. The four Council members that were with me were killed by humans. They were capturing us one by one. This is how we learned the real plans humanity had for us. Enslavement.

I was right. I was right all this time. My only regret was not being able to warn everyone faster. If it happened at least 2 weeks earlier, humans wouldn’t have the firepower and the mysterious weapon to threaten us. Even now the strange cannon was a prototype.

The weapon disrupted our ability to phase through solid materials. I saw how my brother got hit with it. The fool didn’t attack those humans, only defending himself and taking attention off the retreating avatars onto himself.

‘So he cares a bit about his own…’

I could see the moment he took a bullet meant for his partner. The girl turned around to help him but he shoved her away and told her to run while still reflecting the oncoming rain of bullets. My little brother was truly a master of lances and spears.

I myself am no specialist. Back then, when I was born, I couldn’t decide which weapon to master so I created myself one that could contain them all. I am the true Jack of all trades.

Just like my brother, I was defending my comrades. Unlike him, I could cover myself. Not to mention I dared to attack them back. I even managed to push them off. My brother fled after seeing everyone from his side escaped. I saw a bunch of new soldiers pouring in and taking aim at him.

“Get down!” I screamed. To my relief, he rolled sideways and evaded the stream of bullets. Our eyes met when he locked his confused gaze with determined mine. We were merely few meters away from each other. I made my decision as well as he did. He moved towards me but I hit him with my Falling Flower Palm. I put most of my strength to push him back towards the visible line of forest. He was turning around mid-air as if to land smoothly on the ground but I used Delivery Gun to push him further towards the forest. The soldiers didn’t manage to surround us fully yet, so it was his chance to run away. I made sure to aim at his furry coat since it could nullify my bullets to some extent.

“Brother!” He screamed while reaching his hand towards me with a pleading look on his face. His sudden movement resulted in grazing his palm with one of them.

I am no fool. The soldiers had their eyes only on me now. So I ran in the opposite direction. I knew that some of them would turn to run after my brother but with me keeping to kill all humans in my way, I will manage to take most of their attention. I ran as far as I could and as fast as the wounds would let me.

 


 

 

Just because I ran, didn’t mean I will go easy on the humans. I killed so many, I stopped counting after 10 000. I managed to run for almost a year now. The goddamn weapon must have left permanent damage because I still couldn’t phase through things. While we are in this state, we have to sleep and eat just like humans do. The only difference was how long we need to sleep and how we eat.

We sleep only for 2 human hours and can eat by taking energy away from living creatures and plants. But of course, eating something solid and drinking real water was also essential.

I had been running on an empty stomach for almost a week now. I didn’t have time to sleep for even longer. I could barely focus on tasks more complicated than running ahead without falling flat and tripping over my own foot. My weapon was attached to my belt because I couldn’t hold her for longer than 5 minutes. One of the bullets must have damaged a tendon or two. Healing didn’t help here.

What made my blood boil was using other spirits to fight me. Some were so broken that they mindlessly swung their blades at me. I killed them painlessly. It was the only merciful thing I could give them. The others, however… they were using all sorts of skills and aimed to kill. So I aimed to kill them too. It wasn’t my fault that my aim was deadly. They were traitors, so they died like traitors. The forces were armed more and more heavily. Their tactics also improved.

I ran through the forest now. I came back to the starting point. And then I heard a roar that shook the earth.

“It can’t be…” A monster must have appeared. I shook my head. I didn’t have the energy to spare for fighting one.

I ran in a different direction. On my way, I stumbled on special unit camping near the spawning point.

‘Shit, I am too close.’ As if reading my thoughts, a ray of bullets hit my left side. Thankfully, at the last moment, I managed to open up my umbrella and cover myself.

I quickly scanned the troops. There were some heavy forces but also… civilians. These obviously had bonded avatars with them. The biggest question was, where are the avatars now. But their shocked faces told me something. The avatars were sent forward. They were exposed to attacks.

I rushed forward. I cut through the heavy forces with ease. I have seen this model of armour so many times, I remember all the weak points. After dealing with them, I ran after the squishy humans.

Triple Slash, 12,11,10, they were all cut to bits,

Circle Swing, 9, 8, 7, cut in half

Collapsing Mountain, 6, 5, it was like killing a fly, a blood flew everywhere from the smash.

I turned to the four trying to run away. I run after them. When I tried to kill a dark-haired boy, my bullet bounced off of him. I lost my rhythm.

‘What happened?’ I aimed once again. Nothing. ‘A barrier? But how…’ The blast sent the other three to the ground.

I stopped and looked at him properly. ‘A child? No… older. Not an adult yet. A teenager?’ I thought. He stood shocked, looking down at his hands. He stood before three others who were hugging each other and crying. All of them were grown, adults. The boy… he was afraid but still stood in one place as if not sure what to do.

I managed to sidestep a Dragon Tooth. An onyx battle lance with a blood red gem flew by me. The wind it generated was strong enough to make me lose my balance. ‘Who puts so much force into this move!’ I panicked and rolled to the side. I didn’t manage to Quick Recover when a Circle Swing knocked me down again. ‘Fuck!’ My weapon flew a few meters away from me. I barely noticed the Shadow Chaser. And then everything stopped.

“It’s you?” I looked up from where I was laying. I could barely believe my eyes. The one who attacked me so fiercely was him…

“One Autumn Leaf?” I winced at how raspy was my voice.

“What are you doing here?” I could only gape at his appearance as he asked. The energy was literally pouring off him. Not only he grew in power but also his appearance changed. The last time I saw him, he had a coat with furry lines, double coloured lance and black fitting leather costume adorned with silver accessories. Now he looked nothing like the person I once knew.

He had a black battle lance with a red gem shining wickedly. Instead of coal-black coat, he had a scarlet cape with a golden clip. Instead of leather and cloth he now wore a jet black light armour and under armour with golden rims.

There was a scowl on his face.

He was healthy. Too healthy for someone who was running away for all this time. That could mean only one thing… I took a quick look at where my weapon was laying and then I looked at the boy behind him. Then it all clicked. The barrier was nothing else but a Magic Shield. ‘Their auras are entwined…’ I noted with horror. A Blood Bond. I grit my teeth.

Traitor.

If you love those humans so much, go die like them you traitor!

Sand Toss! One Autumn Leaf turned his head at the last moment. I lunged for my weapon praying it will survive this clash. Before he could recover, I attacked.

 


 

 

Dragon Tooth. Lord Grim’s attack missed.

Slide Kick! Lord Grim managed to dodge the Falling Flower Palm only to be met with Tyrant's Destruction. Like that he was knocked into the air.

Eagle Stamp! Just as he was about to land a hit on One Autumn leaf, he used Shadow Clone Technique to get behind him. Cut-Throat!

One Autumn Leaf stumbled backwards with a shock. Before he could turn around he felt a stab at his shoulder.

No. A cry from behind.

Not at his shoulder. He could hear reinforcements coming.

He whirled around to immediately use Dragon Rises from the Sea. Now he could see what happened. Lord Grim used Lunge. At the last moment, Ye Xiu managed to take one step to the side. This move saved him from being pierced by the strange weapon. One Autumn Leaf saw red.

His own brother… traitor.

Go die like a traitor you are!


 

Lord Grim couldn’t avoid the barrage of attacks. He couldn’t even raise the Guard or shield himself. His opponent was getting stronger and faster. When he has knocked up again, he was bleeding so hard, that he was barely conscious. And then he saw it.

Rising Dragon Soars the Sky. The Dragon’s head was opening to swallow him. Without thinking, he used Air Jump. The dragon passed by. But then something incredible happened. The dragon’s head turned around.

He screamed as the dragon chomped at him. He only managed to hide his weapon.

He landed on the ground unconscious.


 

One Autumn Leaf was breathing heavily, paralysed from his own attack. His hands trembled as tears run down his cheeks. He was about to land the last hit on Lord Grim when Ye Xiu stopped him.

“Enough!”

Ye Xiu never gave him an order. Until now, he didn’t know how much control have the handlers. It was as if someone slapped him and pulled him away. He stood confused for a moment.

He turned around to see the damage. The reinforcements were standing around in awe at what they witnessed. After that, they immediately took care of Lord Grim. When one of the medics came closer to Ye Xiu, One Autumn Leaf’s lance appeared right before medic’s face.

“I will be alright. Let him pass. He is like… a poor version of cleric! No heals, just bandages.” Ye Xiu said weakly with a small smile that meant to reassure the distressed avatar. Seeing the state his spirit was in, he took his hand to guide him to the temporary tent. While the medic was bandaging his shoulder, One Autumn Leaf was glaring viciously at Lord Grim who was now being taken away. From the lack of furniture, Ye Xiu was made to sit on the floor.

When they were left alone, One Autumn Leaf slowly crept closer and laid his head in Ye Xiu’s lap. Ye Xiu’s other hand slowly run through his hair as his shoulders trembled, trying very hard not to cry.

“I am sorry.” He said after long minutes of silence. Ye Xiu didn’t answer. He knew that One Autumn Leaf wasn’t talking to him.

“I guess that if we weren’t blood bonded, this wouldn’t have happened…” started Ye Xiu.

One Autumn Leaf sighed. After a second he shifted to kneel before the human.

“Ye Xiu, I will tell you this once and won’t repeat it so try to remember my words.” He waited for the boy’s answer. After the other nodded, he started talking.

“No matter what will happen, no matter what dangers we come across, no matter how many times we will argue and no matter how much it will hurt, I will not regret making a Blood Bond with you. ”

“But…”

“I would have fought with him either way. If we weren’t bonded and I would have met him… I would have lost. If not, we would kill each other in a draw. We would fight if we met but I doubt I would even live long enough to do so. If I hadn’t stumbled to your house, we would never meet. I would have died from the wounds sooner or later.” One Autumn Leaf said looking down at his own hands smiling as if he were crazy.

“You know… when I made the bond I didn’t know whether it will work or not. I just heard about it from… and was told to never do it. I am stupid. No, shut up, I am.” He raised his hand when the other wanted to speak up. “ I am stupid and I make mistakes. But making a bond with you wasn’t one. Life for life. I am yours and you are mine. We belong to each other…” Suddenly tears welled up in his eyes.

“I can’t do anything. They will kill him… I tried to kill him. I tried to kill my own brother. I would if you hadn’t have stopped me. He tried to kill everyone. He tried to kill me. He knew about the bond, I saw how he looked at you and figured it out before he lunged at you! He knew what would happen if he kills you!” He hunched forward a bit and curled into himself. He stilled when a hand touched his head and started to run through his hair in soothing circles.

One Autumn Leaf didn’t need words to know what the other is thinking. This seemingly small gesture meant many things.

Tent’s entrance fluttered. A man with a greying hair and face full of wrinkles walked in, smiling softly. He had a cigarette in his mouth.

“Ya all right boy?” He asked looking curiously at the avatar and its handler, ignoring the position they were in.

“Your freaky, dark friend surely knows how to pack a punch! He destroyed the monster with just two hits! And now he made the Dragon turn its head! Are you sure you don’t want to work for us permanently? Ye Qiu! One time chance!” He asked smiling widely.

“No, I will pass Captain Sun.” Answered Ye Xiu, who hoped the other didn’t hear anything.

The captain stilled and blinked in shock at him not believing what he said.

“Can I buy your avatar then? How much do you want?! Give me the price for it!” After witnessing what One Autumn Leaf could do, only a fool wouldn’t have asked.

“He is not for sale.” Ye Xiu stated grimly. His hand fell from the avatar’s head the moment he noticed someone entered the tent. It made the spirit grab its lance and shift into protecting position before him.

“Shaaaaame. Anyway. We’re leavin’ the camp. You and the rest will be paid for your job  and the extra after we come back to HQ. See ya around boy!” He said while walking out and waving his hand.

 


 

 

Sun Xiang stopped reading the last chapter of his grandfather’s journal. He promised to never read this piece unless he finds an avatar that he somehow fails to fully bond. He couldn’t believe what he just read. His grandfather met Ye Qiu once! He skimmed through all previous pages to search for what it meant.

“Blood Bond”

There was no explanation for this term besides what his grandfather heard before he entered the tent.

“Life for life. I am yours and you are mine.” He repeated those words quietly while staring at the ceiling.

He was tricked. Excellent Era’s manager said that this avatar has been tamed a long time ago. Heck, even scientists claimed that after so many years the avatar will be fully obedient. He had no idea where to look for the avatar. He only knew that Tao Xuan ran away screaming profanities and Chen Yehui suddenly started to avoid shadows and dark places.

Uuuugh. He never was the one to think hard. The only side note his grandfather left him was:

“If they part and you see the card, return it to the handler after assuring the avatar that you won’t do anything else.”

‘I screwed up.’ Now he had no avatar and no one to talk to because everyone was avoiding him like a plague.

 




 

 

He never wondered how his insides look like. He was wounded many times but he always managed to heal himself or find a cleric.

He couldn’t move. They strapped him to a cold metal table and cut through his clothes.

He couldn’t scream. They forced something that lodged on his throat. He could still breathe shallowly.

What was worse, they gave him no anaesthetics.

He didn’t need to see this. He didn’t want to see this. He didn’t want to feel this.

He could do nothing.

There was a giant mirror above the table. When they strapped him down, he could see himself in it.

He could manage with being poked over the bruises and their fingers digging into open wounds but this… When he lost consciousness from the pain they forcefully woke him up. When he tried to turn his gaze away from the damn mirror, they forced him to look back.

He could only look and cry when they reached for scalpels and started to slowly cut him apart. At some points, he couldn’t stop to tremble and spasm.

First, they cut his skin, peeled it off from his abdomen and pinned it to the sides. They cut the tendons that attached the muscles to get inside. Then they started to play with intestine.

They kept pulling it out.

And out.

And out.

And when they reached the end and tugged… He could only cry and open his mouth in a silent scream.

Then they cut it.

They cut away half of it and sewn the rest together because apparently, they still wanted him to live.

They cut away his spleen, gallbladder, one of his kidneys, part of his maw…

And he could do nothing but stare at his own reflection and cry.

After they sew this part of him back it was even worse.

They dragged him with nothing but blindfold on him through a few rooms to chain him to one of the walls.

And all of this… was just the beginning.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

Lord Grim didn’t remember how long he has been detained in the facility. Was it a week? A month? A year?

He just knew that every day was worse than the previous one. And he was surprised it was even possible after what they have done to him in the span of the first few days. 

They tried to bond him with some humans but the fools usually disappeared in minutes or days. They tried using “breaking” but he somehow nullified the effect and returned the strain of the bond onto the handler. Even like that, Lord Grim was too strong to be bonded.

When he was conscious enough to look around when they dragged him through the empty corridors, he noted with horror that he wasn’t the only one here. There were others. The ones who fought against him, the ones who fought arm in arm with him and the ones that stayed neutral. All in one place.

Some were relatively fine. Some were clearly dying.

And when he looked at them through the Venice glass, he could see how hopeless they were.

They were broken.

Lord Grim could understand the hatred the humans had for him. After all, he killed thousands. But some of the avatars that he recognised, were pacifists. He didn’t understand why would they torture the innocent ones.

He couldn’t speak because of the strange device but he could see and hear the ‘scientists’ as the humans in white coats called themselves. And he listened.

They really had no idea how avatars work. They knew only the basics. That… and how they can phase through solid objects.

That’s why they were taking apart the spirits now.

He always knew he is deemed to be different from others. After all, he is one of the first ones that appeared in this world. A ‘Prometheus’ generation. He is the only one that is still alive.

Then there were the eight from the first generation. Those were similar to him but yet so different. The main difference was their classes. What was strange through that one of these was created out of part of his own soul. That was how his brother was created.

Then there were next generations. These were also different from the first bunch. He knew that, although it was hard to spot the signs.

He knew.

Yet, knowing it and listening to the list of differences between him and the latest generation was concerning, to say the least.

Lord Grim was a hermaphrodite. He knew that. The latest ones weren’t. He knew that. He was grateful to hear they didn’t manage to get their hands on the first generation. He knew they were like him too.

Apparently, that was a shocking discovery for those humans.

And when he heard what they did to some female spirits… if he could, he would probably puke.

They drugged them, cut them to see the full shape of their reproductive organs. Lord Grim listened with horror when they congratulated themselves on ‘successful artificial penetration and closer examination’.

Twisted motherfuckers.

When they cut him up for 10th? 20th time? They were surprised to see the same organs from both genders. Fully functioning. 

It was too tempting, wasn't it?

.

.

.

One day they took him to a different room after injecting him with some strange substance that made him choke from the increased pain. It was as if he became hypersensitive. At the same time, he couldn't willingly move a muscle. All his moves were purely instinctual and he couldn't control it. They also took away the… the thing that disabled his ability to talk. Not that he could now anyway. But he could finally take a deep breath. And it hurt. He forgot that they cut out part of his lung too. 

The new room… It still had a metal table but it was much narrower. There were even more mirrors that he now knew were actually thick windows. One on ceiling and two on his sides. They took off whatever clothes he had on himself and chained his hands above his head. That hurt quite a bit. His head lolled to the side against his will. He was confused when they chained his legs, not to the table but spread them wide and chained to the ground on each side. They cut him up so many times now, that it was agonizing for his drugged body to be stretched like that.

He couldn’t help but whine from pain. He felt blood trickling down from his nose. That got one of the humans’ attention. He saw one of them hastily grabbing his head to check whether his eyes are dilated before he lost consciousness.

 


 

 

“Hello~ brother~” Lord Grim heard a familiar voice coming from his right side. He sighed tiredly and turned away from his work to look at his younger brother.

WHUMP!

He flew from his chair along with a person that ran at him with full force. He could only hopelessly watch as his meticulously gathered and written notes went flying and scattered everywhere.

“Would it HURT YOU TO SAY HELLO LIKE A NORMAL PERSON!?”

"It would be an unbearable experience.” One Autumn Leaf said grinning like an idiot.

He was so cheerful then.

“What are you working on again?” The other looked around at the notes while still sitting on his older brother who was glaring up at him unamused.

“I WAS working on a new set of armour before you bargained in.” That snatched One Autumn Leaf’s attention back to him.

“Again? For who this time?”

“Let me help gather the notes and get off me, then maybe I will show you.”

One Autumn Leaf happily complied and removed himself from Lord Grim. After gathering all of them, the younger avatar curiously kept looking above his shoulder to see what he was working on.

“Woah.” He said when he saw a set of obsidian armour with golden rims. There were also finished notes about battle lance. “Is it for me? Please say it’s for me!” One Autumn Leaf started whining and shaking his brother, while the other rolled his eyes at his antics and gave him the notes.

“Yes, yes, this is for you. It’s lighter and stronger at the same time. It also covers more body for protection. A bit more and it would be too heavy. The only limitations are materials. They are a nightmare to gather." He said while chuckling at how One Autumn Leaf's eyes sparkled with joy.

 


 

“We are losing him!”

“Give me one of the confiscated red potions! Hurry!”


 

 

“It’s you?” Lord Grim looked up from where he was laying. He could barely believe his eyes. The one who attacked him so fiercely was…

“One Autumn Leaf?” he winced at how raspy was his voice.

“What are you doing here?” Lord Grim could only gape at the other’s appearance when asked. The energy was literally pouring off him. Not only he grew in power but also his appearance changed. The last time he saw his brother, he had a coat with furry lines, double coloured lance and black fitting leather costume adorned with silver accessories. Now he looked nothing like the person he once knew.

He had a black battle lance with a red gem shining wickedly. Instead of a coal-black coat, he had a scarlet cape with a golden clip. Instead of leather and cloth he now wore a jet black light armour and under armour with golden rims.

There was a scowl on his face.

Why did it have to change? What did I do wrong?

 


 

 

“…and never, ever, ever do this bond with a human. Better not to do this bond at all.” Lord Grim finished his long lecture about types of bonds.

“Why not?” One Autumn Leaf looked at him sceptically.

"Because Blood Bond is special. It's life for life. You will be theirs and they will be yours. You would belong to each other. Between avatars, if one dies, the other does too. With human… if the human dies, avatar dies too but if the avatar dies… human will live. That’s a simple waste of one’s life.”

One Autumn Leaf was thinking hard what to say before he asked.

“And what if they are special enough?”

“Blood Bond is like a promise. It’s a promise to live and die together. When we love, we love unconditionally, until death and beyond. Humans just move on and don’t die from this bond. When they die, we die for them but when we die, humans don’t die for us. It says something.”

 


 

“He’s stabilizing!”

“Stabilizing my ass! He has internal bleeding! Where the hell is that potion!”


 

One Autumn Leaf…

He was healthy. Too healthy for someone who was running away for all this time. That could mean only one thing… Lord Grim took a quick look at where his weapon was laying and then he looked at the boy behind One Autumn Leaf. Then it all clicked. The barrier was nothing else but a Magic Shield. ‘Their auras are entwined…’ he noted with horror. A Blood Bond.

 

What did I do wrong!?

 


 [Warning ]

 

Lord Grim woke up with a gasp. Everything hurt. He was still chained in the same position but this time he could move on his own.

He looked around to see that one of the humans was in the middle of chaining down his right leg and finished just in time to see Lord Grim moving it to see the whole range of movement, which he concluded was almost non-existent.

The human looked down at him with a strange look on her face and turned to one of the cameras.

“Subject S-000 is ready for experimentation.”

“Proceed.” Said a baritone voice from the speakers.

The woman nodded after a moment and turned to Lord Grim who was now watching himself in one of the mirrors.

He could see that the red scars faded and he didn’t look as sickly as before. ‘A potion… was I really dying?’

The human came closer to him and injected him with a different substance than previously. This one only heightened his senses and didn't make him weaker as the previous one did. Then he was blindfolded.

He felt as someone ran a finger across his body. This and the cold table made him shiver. He was painfully aware that he was lying naked on a steel table. Not a second later hands in rubber gloves grabbed his thighs and pinned them down.

And then he felt something big and cold being pushed into him.

 


 

 

A blonde man walked into the room in which “scientists” were watching one of the spirits being… well… he wasn’t curious about it.

They were so engrossed in watching and writing down notes that they didn’t notice their guest. He cleared his throat.

One of the men in lab coats turned to him with a smile.

"Oh, Mister Su!” They started nervously. “You are much earlier than we anticipated! If you will excuse us, we are still in the middle of experimentation! Please come back for the subject next week!”

Mister Su only crossed his arms and to the scientists fear, walked closer towards the window. His eyes widened at what he saw.

Seeing the shock on his face, one of the scientists hastily explained not to worry and that this avatar is surprisingly a hermaphrodite.

Another lab coat happily added that the subject was a virgin and they can’t wait to analyse the information gathered from this experiment.

That unfortunately only further drained the colour from their guest’s face.

He came here as a head of a family with one of the highest resistance to avatars’ bond effects. When he asked about the spirit he was to receive, they told him to head here. He didn’t expect to see a naked avatar, with a body littered in so many scars that it scared him, crying, writhing and arching its back in both pain and pleasure.

He hastily walked out to calm down. His wife who arrived with him but headed to ask about some things about to be their new avatar found him in a hallway. They both knew what people do with spirits but actually seeing it is entirely different.

Mister Su could only wonder how an avatar so damaged managed to stay strong enough to decline even a ‘breaking' bond. Not to mention that he was informed about the weapon this avatar carried. According to the hunters, it's an umbrella that changes forms to weapons from all classes. The spirit itself seems to be classless. He heard about such avatars but they were not only extremely weak but also didn't have such a weapon. ‘Interesting.'

So these were his reasons to be here:

  1. To be an aid for his country by claiming and taming a powerful avatar.
  2. To get this weapon.

 

 

 Ye Xiu woke up abruptly, trying to catch his breath. He looked around to see the same cluttered room. He turned his eyes towards the card silently laying on the desk. Lord Grim’s card.

When he first saw this card in Muqiu’s hand, he knew that there is something wrong with it. His intuition was proven right when One Autumn Leaf saw Muqiu working on a strange weapon. An umbrella that could change shape. He barely stopped his avatar from ripping his friend into bits when they walked into Muqiu working on it.

It resulted in One Autumn Leaf not wanting to move away from the card for the next three days and then crying for the next few weeks because it was as if Lord Grim’s aura was barely there, Muqiu being scarred for life after seeing first hand how terrifying his friend's avatar can be, and Ye Xiu having no idea what to do.

Muqiu didn’t know what happened to Lord Grim before his parents gave the card to him and told to keep working on the umbrella. That alone was suspicious. The second suspicious thing was that avatar was locked deep inside the card. The only time One Autumn Leaf did so was when he was heavily wounded and needed some time to regenerate.

Now that he is actually using this card he is more or less bonded to it. Today was even worse than yesterday. It was as if trying to move a giant rock. It felt as if the avatar didn’t want to move. This in itself was a miracle. It meant that the avatar inside is still alive.

After being blood bonded he started receiving dreams that were part of One Autumn Leaf’s life.

He was barely bonded with Lord Grim, so he was surprised to see his point of view. And it only reinforced his second theory about why Lord Grim locked himself deep inside the card.

He was barely alive.

 

 

tbc.

Chapter Text

 

 

Sun Xiang contacted his mother. He was curious about this obvious secret his grandfather kept to himself. Now he knew why he didn't say a word to anyone besides his family that obviously buried this secret as deep as they could.

His grandfather, years after his wife passed away, fell in love with another woman. He received a picture of his grandpa with a lady with silver hair and a laughing wrinkles around her eyes. She was beautiful. They looked happy with each other. Without knowing who was that person, one might have thought they were a happy, married couple. But they were not.

That woman…

Was a spirit.

If someone spotted Sun Xiang right now, they would surely see a steam coming off from his overheated head.

This information was a bit too much for him.

His mother said that this mysterious woman saved his grandfather’s life by sacrificing her own. He was so crestfallen by this loss that he died not a year later. But it’s the first time Sun Xiang saw her or even heard about her.

He could only sigh at his own uselessness. He really was not fit to think so much.

A scream.

Sun Xiang stiffened. Then ran through corridors as if his life depended on it.

He stopped near the stars to see Liu Hao clutching his… abnormally twisted leg.

Sun Xiang ran to the toilet as fast as he could.

He has a too weak stomach for this shit.

 


 

 

One Autumn Leaf could feel many things through his bond with Ye Xiu. But he didn’t know he will see the day when the bond will burn with the human’s hatred, confusion and… betrayal? He could feel a quick but delicate flares of anger and annoyance from time to time but this? This… was concerning.

Not a moment later he heard him talking through their bond.

“How long did you want to hide it from me?” The voice was cold and calculated. He didn’t like it when Ye Xiu was talking like that. Even less when he was the target.

“What are you talking about?” He asked.

“There is no way for me to get dreams about part of his life without a strong bond. Half-bond and temporary bond, even both at once is not enough to cause it."

“…” One Autumn Leaf clenched his jaw. He didn’t expect it to show up now. He was considering it but now he was sure. He nervously swallowed.

“Explain. Now.” One Autumn Leaf nervously fidgeted at the top of the roof he was sitting at.

“Well, I was considering this option but..”

“Go on.”

“But I didn’t know it is really possible.” He didn’t know. Really. He started to think about the bond he made few days after they met Lord Grim and the latter attacked Ye Xiu with a clear killing intent. He and Lord Grim were brothers by blood after all.

“Go on.” He winced when he felt coldness seeping into the bond.

“Well, me and Lord Grim are…  brothers. And it seems that… when I made the bond… he kind of… got bonded too.”

“Go on.” Ok, now Ye Xiu was terrifying. One Autumn Leaf could even imagine the other glaring at him. Something he saw once and never wanted to see again.

“I didn’t know ok?! I swear! It seems that the bond has been dormant through all this time and was renewed the moment you started playing Glory using his card!”

“Does he know?”

“I am not sure… He might be… It would explain a few things…”

“This is why he attacked me then instead of you, isn’t it?” One Autumn Leaf nodded only to slap himself mentally. Ye Xiu couldn’t see him now obviously.

"I think so. He wasn't fully bonded. If he had killed you, the bond would probably shift towards him. I would still live even though you would be dead. I attacked him back because you and I were fully bonded and it automatically makes me attack anyone who well… attacks you. If it weren't for you, I would really kill him. I started to think about it all only a few days after this encounter."

“What changed?” One Autumn Leaf stared ahead in confusion at Ye Xiu’s question.

“What do you mean?”

“You two were pretty close before. Now you are trying to kill each other. I told you about my whole family and all the ties and complications but you always changed the topic when I asked about you. What have you been hiding from me all this time?"

“Nothing really.”

“Stop lying.”

“I don’t know! It just happened!”

“If you don’t want to tell me then at least show me!”

“It’s nothing!”

“Nothing…”

One Autumn Leaf’s eyes widened when he heard this voice. He stood up so fast that he almost fell down from the roof.

“Is he…?”

“Ye Xiu, focus only on me. Don’t divide your concentration. Just me and you. Don’t let him in for now.”

“How did he even…”

“Ye Xiu. Me. You. Just us.” One Autumn Leaf closed his eyes to focus solely on their bond. It looked like a bunch of irregular lines tied around them both, stretched but still as strong as ever. He focused on Ye Xiu’s silhouette and noticed a different coloured line extending towards a tangled shadow he could barely recognise. It was Lord Grim.

He took a steadying breath and focused on the human. Not a moment later he saw a wall between them and Lord Grim.

“What now? Will you show me what happened or not?”

One Autumn Leaf bit his lip. The secret was already out and Ye Xiu won’t stop asking.

“Fine.”

 


 

 

Lord Grim saw his brother training in the forest. It’s always a hassle to find him. He huffed in annoyance and worry. He had a bunch of pictures and reports with him. He unhurriedly crept closer.

One Autumn Leaf was slowly swiping his battle lance around the clearance in the forest. With his eyes closed. After a few more moves, he changed his position as if he was readying to use Rising Dragon Soars the Sky.

“Bend your knees more.”

“Wha-“

OOF!

One Autumn Leaf landed on his ass. He laid on the soft grass while groaning loudly.

"I keep telling this to you but you never listen. If you bend your knees more, you will be more stable." Said, Lord Grim, while staring down at his younger brother with a playful smirk and leaning on his umbrella in lance form. He snorted when One Autumn Leaf pouted in response.

After a moment Lord Grim leaned down and helped his brother to stand up.

“Fine. Show me then.”

Lord Grim twirled his lance and fell into the right position.

“You should do it like… this.” One Autumn Leaf walked around him in circles examining his brother’s pose. When he got behind his back, he swept his leg to destabilize him. But Lord Grim didn’t budge.

“Ok, let me try.”

This time it was Lord Grim who was circling around One Autumn Leaf. The Battlemage was glancing at his older brother from time to time. He really did. But it always surprises him how Lord Grim simply appears out of thin air before him.

"Bend your left one more."

“Like this?”

Lord Grim unexpectedly swept his leg. This time One Autumn Leaf didn’t budge either. The Battlemage gave him an impish smile but it fell when the other gave him only a tired look.

“What brings you here so early anyway? Is Vaccaria being annoying again? I swear that his thinking that he is the most intelligent being out of all will get him someday into trouble. Say a word an I will kick his ass. It has been tempting me for ages.”

Lord Grim shook his head smiling fondly at the imagined scene.

“I wanted to talk with you about humans.” He said slowly.

One Autumn Leaf looked strangely at him but said nothing and only nodded his head before starting to swing his lance again.

"I have reports and photos confirming that they are gathering materials to build some kind of weapon. Moreover, more and more spirits are missing. Some were see-“

“Can you stop for a moment?” Lord Grim looked at him with his mouth awkwardly stuck in mid-sentence before closing it and nodding.

“Don’t get me wrong but… aren’t you getting a bit paranoid?” One Autumn Leaf looked at him with a pity in his eyes.

“Paranoid?!” Lord Grim jerked at the offence.

“You are searching for something that is not there. It might have been easy to overlook at the beginning but now it’s as if you look for any bad thing humans do just to antagonize them.”

“I don’t antagonize them. I am just looking into-“

“Then stop looking into things that are not even there!”

“Brother, I am merely disturbed by avatars’ disappearance. They vanish in the same area, it’s not normal!”

“You are imagining it. Nothing bad is happening!”

“I even have reports and photos with me! Look at them!”

“I won’t be looking at anything!”

"Please, It's important! Life might depend on it!" He was silenced when One Autumn Leaf hit his battle lance into the ground and sent an invisible wave that shook nearby trees.

“Half of the council thinks that you are unable to be in charge anymore because you have become too paranoid.” One Autumn Leaf stated looking straight into Lord Grim’s eyes. “I think so too.”

“Brother, plea-“ “Stop it.” The Battlemage started to glare at him. “And take your hands off me.” He added slapping Lord Grim’s hand away.

The other was looking at him confused as if unable to find proper words.

“But brothe-“ “I told you to stop it!”

Lord Grim swallowed frowning slightly.

“What do you mean?” “Stop calling me that.” “Calling you what?”

One Autumn Leaf looked irritated at him.

“Stop calling me brother. People start to tie me with your every unfavourable behaviour.” “But you ARE my brother! How am I supposed to call you!?” Lord Grim moved closer stretching out his arm towards him.

“Keep your dirty hands to yourself!” One Autumn Leaf slapped them away again and moved back few steps.

Lord Grim blinked and looked down at his hands. “Where do you even see dirt?” He asked.

One Autumn Leaf groaned. “Why can’t you be like everyone else?!” The Battlemage complained.

“What do you mean…”

"Some of us have brothers and sisters but none of them is as annoying as you! Everyone looks at you like at some weirdo and then think I am like you! I want to have a normal brother! Not some freak!” One Autumn Leaf was screaming so loud that he got red in the face.

Lord Grim stood frozen before him, his shoulders visibly slacked.

“Is that all I am to you? A freak?” He asked quietly.

“Yes! Now be nice for once and get away from my sight! Or no, I have a better idea. I will walk away myself.” With that One Autumn Leaf twirled around and marched away.

Lord Grim stood motionlessly looking down at himself. Then he glanced at where One Autumn Leaf went and even made one step as if ready to run after him. But he stopped.

He sniffed, turned around and went in opposite direction.

 


 

 

For a few minutes, there was silence between them.

“Did you seriously say that?!” Asked Ye Xiu.

"I wanted to apologize later but after that, we had a council meeting. They wanted to attack humans before they would attack us. We lost 5 to 4. We gathered an army and etc. but I and other three took half that thought the same as us and well… we had kind of a… internal war. After the first battle, humans appeared and started to hunt us down. When I noticed him on the battlefield I tried to run to him and maybe then apologize but he pushed me away towards the forest, where there was almost no enemy forces. I ran and… you know the rest. I thought he died. Almost everyone was chasing him. And then… after we went for that monster…I was shocked when I got back to you and saw him. I honestly thought he died. And then when humans took him. I again thought that I lost him. It's just… I regret every word I said to him then. I let other’s opinion get to my head.”

He waited for Ye Xiu to say something but the other said nothing.

Suddenly he felt as if someone was chocking him but he knew he was alone here. He could barely take a breath. It could only mean…

‘No.’ He thought in shock.

 .

.

.

Lord Grim got out of his card.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

One Autumn Leaf was confused.

The choking feeling vanished even faster than it appeared.

He didn’t know what was more concerning. The fact that nothing happened after that or that he still couldn’t reach Ye Xiu through the bond. It was as if something was stopping him from reaching out.

That made him lower down his shields just to see if he can reach Ye Xiu if he does. He regretted it immediately. With the last surge of energy, he managed to phase through the roof onto the highest floor along with his card. If he didn’t, then he would have fallen from the roof along with his card.

He was thankful this floor was vacated for a time being. If anyone saw him like this…

‘Why does it hurt so much? I can’t even move!’ His thoughts became more and more chaotic. He didn’t even know when his thoughts started circling about only one thing.

‘Ye Xiu. Ye Xiu. Where is Ye Xiu? Ye Xiu…’

Before he passed out, a pair of shoes, he is sure he saw somewhere,  crept into his tunnelling vision. With a painful gasp, darkness surrounded him.


 

For a few minutes, there was silence between them.

“Did you seriously say that?!” Asked Ye Xiu.

When One Autumn Leaf started talking, Ye Xiu heard it as if he had water in his ears. The voice was getting quieter with every word until he didn’t hear the other talking at all.

Immediately he focused on their bond to see what was wrong with it.

He didn’t expect to see a huge hole in the wall they created not a minute ago. Before he could react, the wisps that belonged to Lord Grim threw some of One Autumn Leaf’s away and their place.

He opened his eyes and turned around to search for Lord Grim’s card.

He didn’t manage to do it. It was too late.

The card shone for a moment before blinding him with the light. He didn't want to risk it and with years of experience, he made a magic shield before him.

Everyone knew that the stronger was the avatar, the more a human gained from the bond. Usually, it was strength and speed but Blood Bond was different. Ye Xiu could use some of One Autumn Leaf’s abilities on his own.

WHUMP!

Right, when he opened his eyes he could see the shield shattering to pieces because of the sheer force that ran into it.

A step backwards.

But was it really just a step back?

No.

Falling Flower Palm!

The strength behind this skill wasn’t great because Ye Xiu didn’t want to create a hole in the wall but it still was strong enough to send Lord Grim flying into an old wooden desk.

But just when Ye Xiu thought that there is something wrong, a hand grabbed him by the neck and pushed him onto his bed.

Gasping at the sudden movement, he finally locked his eyes with the avatar. And he stopped squirming.

Lord Grim…

Ye Xiu stared at the avatar that planted itself above him.

‘Can he even see me?’ He thought, taking note at how the spirit’s eyes were running around, face crumpling and breath visibly fastening in panic. For a moment it looked as if he forgot about the human laying under him until Ye Xiu moved a bit. Lord Grim’s head snapped down and eyesight hovered somewhere to the left of Ye Xiu’s head.

And then he felt himself getting a bit weaker with every passing second. Lord Grim’s grip on his neck and his right hand wasn’t strong but it was enough to keep him firmly in place.

‘If he wanted to kill me, he would have done it right away. He wants energy.’ Even under pressure Ye Xiu kept analysing Lord Grim. He smirked.

‘You want energy, huh?’ He thought before closing his eyes and willing his energy to rush through Lord Grim’s bond. Before he blacked out, he reached out to One Autumn Leaf as much as he could.

 

 

Because he grabbed Lord Grim’s bond so strongly, he received another bunch of memories.

He wished he didn’t.

 

 

After a moment, he opened his eyes, not daring to move even an inch. He looked at his side and wasn’t surprised to see Lord Grim laying beside him. The avatar was unconscious. Still breathing.

Avatars could drain energy continuously in small portions. The rush that made Ye Xiu, would render any spirit useless for at least an hour. Unless it’s One Autumn Leaf or any other avatar from the first generation. They needed half an hour to recuperate. Lord Grim as an even older one, will most likely make it in a shorter time.

Ye Xiu remembered what he saw when he passed out. His head hurt from the onrush of the information.

He sat up and looked down at the avatar. Instead of wearing the gear from Glory, he was wearing just some rough looking material that looked like a shirt and trousers. He also had some shoes but they weren’t looking great either.

Ye Xiu tried really hard not to stare at the scars covering the spirit’s uncovered skin. But he did. What took his attention was something at the base of Lord Grim’s neck. A burned out serial number.

S-000

If he could, Ye Xiu would personally destroy the life of the one who did all of this. Avatars have no right etc. Ok, he gets it. But it's not a reason to do whatever they did to Lord Grim. It looked that thanks to the gained energy, some nasty wounds that were still somewhat not entirely mended, were healing.

Ye Xiu grabbed the blanket that laid nearby and covered the spirit with it.

After a moment, he concentrated to look at their bond.

The first thing he noticed?

No wall.

The second thing he noticed?

He might have taken a tiny little bit too much of energy from One Autumn Leaf.

The third thing he noticed?

He doesn’t necessarily feel bad about it.

Fourth thing he noticed?

Someone is knocking on the door.

‘Ah. It must be my new Boss’

He quickly came back to the real world and went to answer the door after glancing at motionless Lord Grim.

He made up some story about falling boxes and she bought it.

Ye Xiu looked down at the spirit laying on his bed. After a short thought, he fetched a chair standing near the desk and brought it close to the avatar. Far enough to pull up his shield and protect himself just in case. 

He directed some of the energy back to One Autumn Leaf and with the oldest avatar’s card in hand patiently waited for Lord Grim to wake up.


 

Sun Xiang, abandoned by everyone in Excellent Era, was silently laying on his bed. He wanted to train for the oncoming match but he couldn’t. How can one train without a spirit?!

He muffled his loud annoyed groan with a pillow. When he received the invitation to Excellent Era and a place of the captain, he didn't hesitate to grab onto the opportunity. Now it seemed like a big joke. It was an opportunity to die not to win! There were many things that kept gnawing at his mind.

If One Autumn Leaf can walk around and do what he is doing, then how come he didn’t come out with guns blazing in the conference room? Was it because Ye Xiu ordered him not to do it? Was this the reason, why his hand shook while giving up the avatar’s card? Did Excellent Era know about the strange bond between Ye Xiu and the spirit? Why One Autumn Leaf waited for few hours before starting to wreak havoc? Can Ye Xiu stop this madness? Where is he now? Does he know what is happening here? Maybe he was the one who ordered the spirit to take his revenge? How come that nothing like this happened earlier? Where is One Autumn Leaf now?

Beep! Beep!

‘What should I do now?’

Beep! Beep!

"huh?" Sun Xiang turned his gaze to look at his phone. Did someone send him a message? He slowly reached for the device and read the name of the sender.

“Mom?” He scrunched his eyebrows. ‘What she sent me at his hour??’

I found a second journal that belonged to your grandfather some time ago. I just remembered it was somewhere in the attic after we talked. I wanted to send it by mail but decided that I will make scans of it and sent it in a file. I hope that this will help you with whatever you are doing now. Stay safe ;)

To the message was pinned an appendage.

“I have the best mom on the entire planet. It’s just what I needed.”

Truth to his mother’s words, it was the scanned journal. He didn’t remember the last time he went to willingly read something so fast.

After gaining some more information about avatars, bonds, habits etc. and… some… lemon stuff… (he wished that his grandfather marked these pieces somehow because his mind is now tainted) he immediately took off and hid the hunter’s gloves. They were the only thing why the bond between him and One Autumn Leaf is still somewhat there and waiting to be validated. When he did it, the remains of the bond immediately disappeared.

Sun Xiang stared dumbly at the gloves for a few seconds. He didn't know why the bond disappeared so fast. It could be whether the pure hatred the avatar had for him or the spirit had enough strength to break it himself. But judging on the previous encounter it was probably both.

His grandfather wrote that a human with higher sensitivity can feel other avatars. People like that, usually naturally end up with stronger avatars. And this is because stronger avatars are also more sensitive.

It was common to see avatars tearing each other’s throats out just to win and bond with a hypersensitive human. Or rather uncommon. You could count how many of such people were born on your two hands. 

Why would avatars do it?

Because it meant that their handler will understand them without having to talk and would give much more freedom than any other. At the same time, the bond will be stronger and the strain on either side (depends on the bond) will be reduced.

Sun Xiang wasn't that sensitive but he still counted into the upper ledge. Which also wasn't common.

To tell the truth, he was getting annoyed the longer he waited for even a trace of One Autumn Leaf’s energy. He saw it on the first day so he knew that it was impossible for the avatar to disappear into thin air. But surprise, surprise. He, SOMEHOW, disappeared.

Sun Xiang plopped onto his bed again. He turned to lay on his back and kept staring at his ceiling.

‘I don’t get it. I should even automatically look at the place where he is staying at.’

After spending a few hours helplessly tracing the spider making its web near the lamp at the ceiling, he finally stood up to walk it out. If not, he felt that he will sigh himself to death, if it’s possible that is.

So this is how he found himself on the highest floor. Usually, it was a living area for players etc. but now only Su Mucheng was brave enough to live here. Even Sun Xiang’s room was moved downstairs.

Just when he stepped onto the long corridor, he heard a loud crackling.

He jumped away just in time to see a large, dark mass phasing through the roof, materialising in the air and flopped onto the floor. Beside it fell an onyx card.

Sun Xiang couldn’t move a muscle from fear.

Before him, landed no one other than One Autumn Leaf himself.

He didn’t dare to move. The avatar will surely kill him the moment he does.

But the longer he looked, the more concerning was becoming the situation. The avatar wasn’t moving.

Cursing his curiosity again, he slowly lowered himself just enough to take a closer look at the spirit. He frowned in confusion at what he saw. One Autumn Leaf had a grimace etched onto his face, was sickly pale and clearly unconscious.

After rereading his grandfather’s journals, he could swiftly identify the cause.

Energy drop.

With normal bonds, people get hurt because the spirit, besides automatically trying to deny all given orders and straining human mind to keep it in check, also sucks most needed energy out from him.

With breaking bond, where the avatar's mind is assaulted in their weakest point and has no way to recuperate properly, avatar's drain themselves. The stronger the avatar the bigger are resources, the better is energy management and also stronger is the mind.

With a temporary bond, energy is taken from both parties, whether it is needed or not. Same for half-bonds etc.

For blood bonds this is different. Energy is taken and transferred to the other side of the bond if there is such need. If not, there is a minimal constant flow to maintain a stronger bond between both ends.

However, if one was really strong-minded, he could force to lessen the energy absorption to the bare minimum, just enough for it to be replenished naturally in other ways.

Of course, through the years, people managed to lower the energy consumption of the avatars by messing with cards and "strengthening" them. Unlocking them was hard and one had to take full responsibility for doing it.

One Autumn Leaf was obviously one of the strongest avatars in China. It meant that his energy reserves were much larger than the others'. Not to mention that he could recover faster by draining energy from the air, from food etc. and also by taking some from Ye Xiu. By analysing the energy drain given after every match, one could see that Ye Xiu’s reserves are also extreme. This information was available only to the pro players.

It was the most concerning thing in the first few seasons when the cards didn't have as many safety measures as now. One Autumn Leaf's energy drain was enormous. It is still believed that three Championship streak was because the avatar drained Ye Xiu’s energy too much and because of that, no one would see his face since, in meantime, the captain was resting. 

After reading the journal, Sun Xiang was now aware that to make everyone oblivious about their specific bond, they made their energy flow differently. How they managed to lead the China Glory Alliance by the nose for so many years was beyond him.

For One Autumn Leaf to fall unconscious like this…

‘Whatever managed to drain his energy like that… it was done very fast and the energy had to be enormous. Could it be that something happened to Ye Xiu?’ Thought Sun Xiang.

Slowly, he reached down to grab One Autumn Leaf’s card.

But he stopped short when he heard a click of a gun right beside his head.

“You touch his card and I will touch you with my gun.” Said a female voice.

Sun Xiang slowly stood up with his hands raised. He didn’t need to look behind him to know who it is.

And then he heard another, very similar voice from someone who was standing even further from him. This time he looked over his shoulder to see who is aiming at him.

“Touch her and I will touch you with my cannon.”

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

“Oh? In this case… You touch anything or anyone here and I will touch you with my pistol.” Said another voice, this time from in front of him.  

He was surrounded.  

The one who was the nearest and standing with a gun uncomfortably close to his head and with vicious glare was Su Mucheng.  

Behind her with a cannon stood Dancing Rain. When he looked at who was holding another gun, he frowned. 

He didn't know who it is. Sun Xiang knew that he is looking at an avatar but he didn't recognise its name nor class. Was it a Spitfire? He has only one gun. Then he looked at Mucheng’s weapon. It was the same as the unknown’s one. He must be a Sharpshooter then. 

‘It can’t be worse…' He thought. But the world must be hating him. 

"A shame I don’t have a gun. It… it would be more interesting this way.” Said One Autumn Leaf that was slowly standing up while groaning loudly. Sun Xiang took a small step away from the avatar remembering how effortless it was to make him almost commit suicide. Not to mention that reading his grandfather's journal made him conscious of how dangerous was the Battlemage even before joining Excellent Era. One thing is facing an unconscious avatar but it's completely different if it's awake.  

The first generation was truly something to be feared of. 

Su Mucheng hastily threw the gun towards the unknown Spitfire who caught it effortlessly. She practically hauled One Autumn Leaf onto his feet and started to check him over to see whether he was hurt in any way. The avatar closed his eyes and silently endured Mucheng’s groping.  

A mere seconds later he looked much better. As if nothing occurred.  

First time from their previous encounter Sun Xiang locked eyes with One Autumn Leaf. And then he immediately looked away. There was something in avatar’s gaze that made him extremely nervous.  

Sun Xiang almost yelped when a cannon touched his back. And it didn’t help when the Sharpshooter came closer, one hand aiming at his head and other at his chest and positioning himself between One Autumn Leaf who was being almost dragged away from Sun Xiang. 

After that, Sun Xiang tried to look at what is happening but Sharpshooter before him kept blocking his view. He could only hear how Su Mucheng ushered the avatar to go with her inside her room. 

One Autumn Leaf’s card disappeared most likely taken by his teammate. 

Now that he was left with those two avatars, he had no idea what to do. One shot from any of those weapons and he will be nothing more but a pool of blood. 


 

 

One Autumn Leaf was confused as hell.  

From what he could sense, he was most likely laying on the floor. But it wasn't something he cared about now. 

He finally got a message from Ye Xiu. Unfortunately, he couldn’t comprehend it all because he was still regaining lost power. Ye Xiu was giving back energy he took steadily in small amounts to not shock him more than it is necessary. But the fact that he couldn’t move didn’t mean he can’t ask the human what is going on right now. 

One Autumn Leaf didn't know what to say when instead of an answer he got a visual from Ye Xiu.  

The Battlemage remembered his brother very clearly as if their last meeting was a mere moments ago... this is also why he was so horrified to see the state the older avatar was in. Even more rage boiled within him. He didn't know whether be angry at himself, Excellent Era, Sun Xiang, Ye Xiu, his raised-from-the-dead brother, the human race or the whole world. But as soon as he went furious, he felt as the anger left him.  

‘Damn you Ye Xiu.’ He thought. Because he knew that the sudden disappearance of hatred was his doing. It was as if he had a personal emotional sponge. He could only mentally groan in annoyance as he always does.   

After that, he looked closely at their bond. And stared confused at what he is seeing.  

Ye Xiu always was a bit different. When looked at in the way he does now, instead of the human was a burning source of energy. Of course, One Autumn Leaf, with his large appetite for it, literally wrapped him up in his own energy and bond wisps. It also managed to hide Ye Xiu away from other avatars.  

This time, his bond with Ye Xiu was a tad bit weaker, his own few wisps ripped away or nudged aside and in their place were ones that belonged to Lord Grim.  

But he himself had no link with the avatar.  

Ye Xiu was like a buffer between them. At the same time, he felt the fear for his human subside. With such a bond formed, Lord Grim can’t do a thing. Why? One order from Ye Xiu and he will have to do it. Nah. Far from that. He will willingly do it. 

This was the crueller side of the bond. 

Ye Xiu has a very strong mind. If he wills One Autumn Leaf to do something, the avatar won’t even notice that the will is not his own and do it, thinking it was his own idea to do it.  

Lord Grim was extremely stubborn and resilient so he will most likely recognise it's Ye Xiu who wants him to do something but will do it anyway.  

How it works the other way? If One Autumn Leaf wants something, Ye Xiu, as long as it is possible to him and agrees on, will do it. Given his hypersensitivity, he will do it even before the avatar will be aware of it or without the other requesting it. It was like being an empath but only for avatars. This ability was further enhanced with the bond they had. Moreover, it enabled a better communication, basically using telepathy, while other avatars had to verbally communicate with their handlers.  

It also led to funny situations since they could talk even when One Autumn Leaf was inside Glory. 

Anyway... 

One Autumn Leaf sighed and finally managed to move and open up his eyes... only to be greeted by the sight of a human he yearned to die as fast as possible.  

Thankfully, it seemed that Su Mucheng, Dancing Rain and even Autumn Tree was on the sight and stood with their weapons aimed at Sun Xiang.  

Truly a shame he didn’t have a gun to join in. 

He tried to stand up but his energy levels were still quite low. He barely took notice of what was happening around him, fully focused on Ye Xiu and replenishing his own reserves.  

When he finally received over 70%, he started to pay attention to his surroundings. It was the minimum level he could work on. A bad habit of reaching to Ye Xiu the moment he has even a slight energy drop led to increasing the minimum. It wasn't anything good but he never anticipated that the human won't be there to back him up.  

Apparently, he was dragged away by Su Mucheng into her room. Speaking about her... Mucheng was staring intensely at him, her almost ever-present smile was different this time.  

‘Oh shit.’ He thought. 

It was THIS smile. 

The 'you fucked up badly' smile. 

But then it dropped.  

One Autumn Leaf could feel his chances to get out without questioning plummeting and hitting the bottom of hell.  

In a span of one day, he managed to anger Ye Xiu and disappoint him and get on Su Mucheng’s bad side.  

This day was getting better and better.   


 

 

When Lord Grim managed to get to his senses, he felt as if he were about to die. Again.  

Why again...  

He tried to remember what happened but it was all vague.  

He reluctantly checked his energy levels and noticed they were at almost striking 50%! How did he gain so much?! But unfortunately, it was hastily dropping because he used it to heal himself.   

40%  

30%  

10%  

He can work on 1% just fine. After all, it was the amount humans kept him at.  

Then why did it increase?  

It was something that kept gnawing at his mind.  

The pain was still there but he got accused to it. The pain was good. It meant he was still alive. But... he was dying...  

And then he remembered how he is still alive.   

The lockdown on his card was removed when someone started to use it. But to use it, one has to at least give the feel of their energy.  

And he remembered how he latched onto the energy source when it got close enough.  

Lord Grim opened his eyes, not blind anymore, to take in his surroundings.  

The first thing he knew was that he laid in a bed. And holy shit that felt good. Well, anything is better than concrete, steel table and hanging mid-air chained to the ceiling. He still couldn’t move much but his movement wasn’t hindered. Also, this ceiling was much different.  

He looked to the side to see a human staring lazily at him. No lab coat, no evil and wicked grin, no look that made him uncomfortable, not even a gun in hand. And that was confusing. Humans didn’t look like that, right?   

He searched deep down into memory to find that humans not wearing those or a gun truly existed.  

He looked at the background. Was he in some sort of storage?  

He could see but could barely hear what the human was saying. When Lord Grim didn’t answer, the strange person before him shifted and said something again, this time shifting head to the side. When he again didn’t utter a word, the strange man raised his arm.  

The avatar closed his eyes and waited for beating, cutting and probing...  

Only to be further confused.  

With a twinge of curiosity, he opened his eyes to see that the human placed his hand on the bed, just within his reach.   

And then he stared mesmerised and totally confused at the energy dancing on the palm before him. Lord Grim shifted to lay on his side, which he started to regret the moment he did so but it enabled him to get a better look at what he is seeing. He had seen once a human that could manipulate his energy but it didn’t compare to the light show he was now receiving. He didn’t even have to look at the special plane to see the dancing golden tendrils changing into different shapes.   

What was this human doing?  

What did he want to accomplish by doing this?  

Was this some kind of trap?  

But then he thought, what kind of shitty trap it might be if it only gives him more strength to break free.   

Lord Grim lifted his own hand to hover it over the golden marvel.  

What is wrong with this human?  

Is he willingly giving him the energy?  

It looked like that. Even so, Lord Grim was still wary of the human before him and retracted his hand and looking around as if to anticipate something. But there was nothing.  

It was concerning.   

A human not wanting to kill him or cut him or whatever else was already suspicious.  

And then he chose to close his eyes to check something.  

He stared dumbly at the bond between himself and the mysterious human.  

‘Oh, no, no, no, no, no!’ Like hell he is will let himself be bonded!  

So, without even considering it, he tried to break it, stretch it, cut it... but he could do nothing.   

Tears welled up in his eyes. Why he couldn’t break it!? He looked closer at the bond and stopped short when he recognised the type. No wonder he can’t break it.   

A blood bond .  

With a human.  

He looked up at the unmoving presence before him only to make a double take on it. And then he looked to the side. Was that another avatar? It seemed so.   

He frantically tried to remember where did he saw such energy pattern. It was like a fingerprint on avatars. But that wasn’t important now. The type of the bond the other had with the same human...  

A...  

Double bond?  

WHAT!?  

He exited the special plain and recoiled from the man before him, hitting the wall in the process.   

He gasped in agony. He was so tired he wished he could just... die and be over it.  

If he could, he would have jumped as something made a contact with his outstretched hand. He opened his eyes to see that the human leaned closer to him, still stubbornly stretching his hand.   

If it’s a trap and the man before him will try to harm him, he will die this time, right?  

He will die sooner than later without the energy, so FUCK IT.  

He moved his own hand to lay down onto the proposed palm. He closed his eyes in content when the energy started to slowly replenish. He silently thought about another avatar.  

His eyes snapped open when he realised who was it.   

No wonder he has a blood bond without remembering doing so!  

It was someone he never wanted to see again.  

One Autumn Leaf  

 

 

tbc.

Chapter Text

 

 

He wondered what Ye Xiu was doing right now. The human must have blocked connection because he couldn’t reach out for energy. Moreover, it was easy to notice that the bond was working in some kind of overdrive. His energy returned but it was extremely hard for him to concentrate on anything. 
One Autumn Leaf tried very, veeery hard to understand what is Su Mucheng trying to tell him. 

Ok. 

It’s a lie. 

He is that little shit that never listens to her. 

Sue him for this later. 

Ok. 

Only Ye Xiu can get through his thick head and actually sue him. 

But the human is not in Excellent Era now. 

What Ye Xiu doesn’t know, won’t hurt him... probably. 

He is hungry. Ye Xiu is not nearby. Blonde brat is being irritating again. He has to sit and pretend he listens to Mucheng. His older brother is with Ye Xiu and he is not ok with that. 

He is ok with that. 

No. That’s not right. Something’s wrong. 

One Autumn Leaf's felt ill and he didn't know why. His thoughts were all jumbled and he could barely formulate a proper phrase. 
And that monster headache. It was as if someone suddenly dumped a bunch of information onto him and his brain is trying to get through all of it. At. Once. 

The Battlemage closed his eyes and run a hand over his face. 
He felt a small pressure on his left shoulder.  

‘Why is she so blurry?’ he managed to ask himself mentally seeing Su Mucheng hovering over him.  

He felt something damp on his cheeks. He reached and found himself confused. 

‘Why am I crying?’ 

He tried to stand up. 

Worst idea ever. 

It felt as if someone ran a red-hot knife into his gut and twisted it. Over and over. And as if someone cut him open. Over and over. 

‘no.’ 

Over and over. 

‘No.’ 

Pain. 

‘NO! It’s not mine!’ 

Cold. 

‘Stop.’ 

Paralysed. Nowhere to run. 

“I said STOP!!!’ 

And it all stopped. 

Those were memories. Not his. And definitely not Ye Xiu’s.  

They were Lord Grim’s. 

‘What have they done to him...’ 

There was no reason to ask this question. He already knew. 


 

 

Su Mucheng was livid. Excellent Era will definitely pay for everything and it will be because they are greedy idiots. All they need is time. She can wait. 

But guess who had to be a drama queen?!  

One Autumn Leaf of course. 

Su Mucheng was on all avatars’ side. She understood them and respected them. In return, spirits answered the same way. But even she had limits. 

One Autumn Leaf was crossing them from the very moment she laid her eyes on him. She wasn't stupid and could see the real effect of the blood bond. 

When Ye Xiu is angry, the Battlemage is furious and more than ready to kill anything that moves. Where Ye Xiu shows interest, the avatar shows obsession. Sadness? Depression. Amusement? Uncontrollable laugh. Happiness? Euphoria. 

Sometimes it looked as if Ye Xiu was his cage and leash.  

But at what cost? 

Wasn’t it strange that Ye Xiu looked so apathetic? Su Mucheng might not know all the secrets behind blood bond but as a third party, she is able to notice things those two can’t.  

Ye Xiu stifles and hides away all his emotions just not to stimulate anything in One Autumn Leaf. The damn avatar can’t even distinguish his own emotions from his bonded. She blames the spirit for that. And it's beyond irritating when One Autumn Leaf acts on his own or is jumping from one emotion to another in a span of a second.  

If she could, she would happily pack a bullet into his head. But unfortunately, she can’t because Ye Xiu and his pet project are connected.  

She tries to reason with One Autumn Leaf.  

She talks to him just because she is a professional. 

And of course, he doesn’t even bother to listen. 

Su Mucheng was frustrated with him. She would be more than happy to kick him in the face because Ye Xiu wasn’t here to judge her now. 

But when she laid her eyes on him, she knew something was wrong. 

Very wrong. 

She ended up with one of the strongest avatars she knew, curled up against her like a terrified little child.  

Automatically she assumed that something happened to Ye Xiu. After all, he had Lord Grim with him. She couldn’t understand why he kept that rogue avatar. It was dangerous. It literally killed her brother. Wasn’t this reason enough to get rid of it for good?!  

Of course, now she understood why it ended safely in his hands. 

Lord Grim was the first spirit in China. 

A ‘Prometheus’ generation as her brother once said.   

Dangerous. Intelligent. Strong. Odd. Unique. One of a kind. With a weapon just as incredible and complex as the avatar itself. 

The only one that might know why monsters started mutating and increased in their appearance near cities. 

The only one that has all the answers. 

And surprisingly, Lord Grim is or was One Autumn Leaf’s older brother. She could only hope that Ye Xiu knows what to do. Whenever it was something about spirits, he was the best judge of the situation.  

She called Autumn Tree to help her lay (throw) the battlemage onto the bed. Dancing Rain was left to escort/drag Sun Xiang to his room. 

It wasn’t long until One Autumn Leaf started to move around again. Extremely confused but alive and kicking. It also meant that Ye Xiu was alright too.  

Su Mucheng finally let herself relax when the avatar confirmed that no harm was done to ‘his human.' 

That doesn’t mean she let the spirit out of her room without expressing her negative opinion. 

A damn shame she forgot to make a picture of his shocked face. At least he was listening to her now. 


 

 

Ye Xiu could even sense how Lord Grim was frantically trying to piece everything together. He wasn’t surprised when the avatar found out who is the other avatar using the blood bond. 

Ye Xiu backed away from the lying spirit just in time to see the other trying to lunge at him with newfound anger. 

Trying is the key word here. 

Lord Grim slumped back onto the bed the moment Ye Xiu stood up.  

The whole bond was almost bleeding. It was the first time he saw it so overloaded. He internally thanked himself for not giving out anything into it. Right now, Ye Xiu was there only as a connector. He wasn't giving and receiving anything from any of the parties. He can share his energy only by direct touch.  

Ye Xiu took one look at Lord Grim to know what happened. The Unspecialized had almost half of his organs removed. He wasn’t given enough energy and time to heal on his own. One wrong move and something might tear. And it was exactly what happened. It only spiralled from that.  

He hastily fetched one of the potions he took from Excellent Era before he left and went over to the spirit. It seemed that he will have to calm him down first.  

Lord Grim was having a panic attack.  

2 warm blankets and 10 minutes later, he was more or less calm again. More or less.  

Ye Xiu didn’t dare to touch him just in case he makes it worse but it seemed that the blankets did the right job. He also didn’t try to talk to him. His presence was enough. Not to mention that avatars’ minds work differently from humans. It is easy to trigger one in both cases but avatars need only something to ground them. Better not to talk about it with them. It usually makes it even worse and can have permanent effects.  

In Lord Grim’s memories, there was only cold. Fluffy blankets were the exact opposite. The moment Ye Xiu threw them at the avatar, Lord Grim started to calm down.  

Another 10 minutes and he could hear only pained breathing and contained sobs. 

He slowly crept closer. 

“I have a healing potion with me. Drink it. It should help.” Said Ye Xiu, voice barely above a whisper.  

A messy brown hair and shining golden eyes peeked from the blankets to stare at him and at the red potion in his hand.  

A terribly trembling hand reached out. Ye Xiu frowned seeing this.  

“Can you even hold it long enough to drink it?” He asked. The hand dropped down uselessly halfway through his question.  

Keeping his hands in a way Lord Grim could see them, he slowly helped him drink the potion. It’s healing properties kicked in a mere seconds later.  

For a second, Ye Xiu thought to go and bring some food but crossed out this idea the moment it appeared. Until Lord Grim heals, it’s better not to give him anything besides water, potions and pure energy.  

Speaking of the devil... 

The moment the avatar felt better, the bond turned into its usual colour and the spirit turned his whole attention to Ye Xiu. Besides that, Lord Grim didn’t move and kept scowling, whether in thought or in lingering pain, no one will know. Like that, he looked almost like One Autumn Leaf.  

Now he knew from where the Battlemage learned how to pout. The similarities were almost scary. 

An hour of silence and Ye Xiu took out the second potion.  

This time he placed it in Lord Grim’s just barely trembling hand and watched how the spirit started to doze off after draining it till the last drop. He waited patiently until he was sure the unspecialised was deeply asleep.  

Using this moment, he slightly uncovered Lord Grim to check the healing process only to blink stupidly at the rapidly closing and healing wounds. It looked that the avatar was boosting his healing abilities to the maximum by using up energy gained earlier from Ye Xiu, military-grade healing potions he managed to take with him and naturally faster regeneration when sleeping.  

Still. Even One Autumn Leaf has trouble to concentrate enough only on healing to speed it up that much. After covering him up again, he chose to try and contact One Autumn Leaf. Not without figuring out how to block Lord Grim first. He figured it was similar with how he could do it with One Autumn Leaf, only this time he had two avatars, not one to be wary of.  

To tell the truth, it was very surprising to hear the battlemage being so... confused and unsure. It seemed that Lord Grim dumped all his memories tied to his panic attack onto him. He didn’t complain. Didn’t react in anger. He was just... afraid and confused. Lost.  

Like all those years ago when they met. 

But of course, the peace didn’t last and One Autumn Leaf started to complain not a minute later. Just when they were about to disconnect, the battlemage finally asked about Lord Grim.  

“What about... you know...” He couldn’t ask about him in a more awkward way than this, right? 

“What about what?” No, Ye Xiu won't make it easier for him.  

“About... you know...” 

“Please clarify. I am not a mind reader.”  

“em... about...” 

“About?” Ye Xiu is a patient man. He can wait. It’s even amusing how the big, bad battlemage is afraid to ask how his brother is doing. 

“... is it amusing to you?”  

“Not even a bit. You were saying...?” One Autumn Leaf never knows when he is lying. 

“...” 

“...”  

“How is he?” 

“Healing. Rapidly. I’ve never seen that with avatars. Some monsters have rapid healing but never knew spirits can do it that fast too.” Ye Xiu could practically sense relief washing through the bond. But also... fear? 

“How rapidly?” 

"You know his injuries. He literally lit up the whole bond when he moved too suddenly and reopened one of the wounds. The panic attack didn't help him either. It's been less than two hours and there are only scars left. Don't know whether he healed internally but I guess he healed those first as a top priority. He's deep asleep now." 

“Only two hours?! I know the bond was in overdrive but I didn’t know what caused it. Are you ok?!” 

“I had enough conscience to block everything before it happened. Whatever he did, it affected only you. And I told you it was fast." 

“Yes, but he never showed he can heal THAT fast. On the other hand,...” 

“What is it?” 

“...he was never injured that heavily before. To tell the truth, I've never seen him with anything more than a scratch... What about his energy level?” 

“He used the first bunch in mere seconds to heal himself. When he did so, he was left with less than 10%. Even when I gave him more, he kept it at this much and used the rest to boost healing.” Ye Xiu was met with silence. 

“But... we can’t function with less than 30%… he told me himself...” 

"It seems that he is more enigmatic than we thought. Oh, and by the way... you do know that there will be a match in a few days? Finally got over the fact you will be working with Sun Xiang?" 

“...” 

“I take it as a no. Give him a chance.” 

“Like you with Lord Grim?” 

“Yeah. More or less.” 

“...I can try.” 

“Promise?” 

“I... can’t. I don’t like him.” 

“You don’t like anyone.” 

“I like you.” 

“I don’t count. Try and give him a chance.” 

“Fine. But I am not doing this for him.” 

“Alright. Now off you go. And apologise to Su Mucheng. You are always an ass to her whenever I am away.” 

“Wha? I AM NOT! Ye Xiu! … Ye Xiu?... Goddamit not again.” 

Ye Xiu only snorted at One Autumn Leaf's antics. He took one last glance at Lord Grim and sit down on a chair. No sleeping today it seems. No trouble for now it seems.

Or he thought so...

until he heard a loud roar coming from the street.

 

 

tbc.

Chapter Text

 

 

The roar shook the earth. The sirens blared; the sound ominous to everyone who knows what it means.

A monster in a city.

Ye Xiu stiffened when he heard the cry. Was already standing and planning what to do when the first round of sirens could be heard.

One Autumn Leaf was too far for him to get, not to mention that he would also blow his cover. Meeting a bunch of mindless fans and possibly getting them into danger is not on his ‘to-do-list'. Ye Xiu faced many monsters in his life, so he can recognise most of them even by just hearing. This, however, was a surprise for him. Whatever it is, it has to be gigantic.

This brings another issue. How come that something this big got into the city? There are special forces with equipment able to put down most of the monsters or at least with the ability to wound the more resistant ones. With more frequent appearances of higher-level monsters closer to the cities, there are more patrols. They also have avatars to help them. This roar was not a sound made out of pain but one of annoyance.

Another problem? If he can’t fight alongside One Autumn Leaf, then he has to hide along with civilians.

Ye Xiu shifted his gaze towards Lord Grim who stirred awake and started to look around as if searching for whatever woke him up.

The more he looked at Lord Grim, the surer he was that this spirit and One Autumn Leaf were brothers. He can understand the pouting thing he saw earlier. But the same scowl makes him a little uncomfortable. Does Lord Grim also love cookies like his younger brother? He hopes that the answer is no. Ye Xiu’s doesn’t have the money to afford to feed both of them.

Before he could say anything to the awakened avatar, someone banged rashly onto the door to the storage.

“Ye Xiu! Get down and hide in the bunker! Hurry!" Screamed frantically, Chen Guo.

"In a minute! Go, help everyone, I will join you as soon as I can!" Ye Xiu tore his gaze from the avatar and answered.

"Ok! Just hurry up!" And with that, she left.

When Ye Xiu looked back at Lord Grim, he took a hasty step back.

The Unspecialized was sitting at the edge of the bed, staring holes into him. The blankets pooled around the spirit, who clutched at them with a deadly grip. Ye Xiu hoped that there won’t be any holes in them. One Autumn Leaf would throw a fit once he would find out that not only his blankets were taken, thrown to the floor somewhere in the storage and used to snuggle Lord Grim out of all spirits but also that they’ve been destroyed.

Lord Grim opened his mouth to say something but stopped right after, while massaging his throat.

‘No talking, for now, it seems...' Thought Ye Xiu before walking closer to the bed.

“Can you go back into the card? There is a monster alarm and we have to head towards the bunker. You’re injured and while you’re like this, you will attract it...” Before he could finish, Lord Grim disappeared in a flash of light. Ye Xiu was left with his jaw opened from surprise. That was one hell of a light show there. 

With a card in his hand, he ran down the stairs to help with the evacuation and hide.


 

Mad released spirits and wild monsters were a reason for cities to have at least one bunker per street. Happy Internet Café, like many internet café's providing access to Glory, had one for itself. It was a standard requirement. The same rule went for any building that had anything to do with spirits.

 


 

This café's shelter wasn't an actual bunker. It was more like a separate room with a small corridor with stairs. It was all reinforced of course but its look might fool you. The entrance was hidden under a row of computers. Right now, the tables were shoved aside to uncover it. 

Once Ye Xiu helped Chen Guo and other employees hid customers there, they headed there themselves.

Ye Xiu turned towards the doors. He had a sudden urge to hide in a safe place. He went into the shelter as the last one and locked the doors behind him.

The moment he closed them, a loud ‘WHAM!” could be heard and the doors Ye Xiu just closed shook under the force. Heavy footsteps kept making circles around them.

Backing away from the doors, he tried as hard as he could to contact One Autumn Leaf. A pull on his energy informed him that the spirit is currently fighting.

Are you listening?” Asked Ye Xiu.

“I am. A monster is in the city. Already kicking its ass. Are you and... safe?” The Battlemage answered him.

“For now, yes. I am with him in a bunker under the café. Something just hit the door and keeps scratching them. There must be more than one.

“What?! I didn’t see any more than this one! The one I have here is an Elder Shadow Cat on steroids! The HELL! IT.BREATHES.FIRE.!!! It’s a GIANT!

Ye Xiu’s eyes widened at this. ‘Could this be that the monsters started to work together? Maybe those are scavengers? But if it were scavengers, they wouldn’t even try to hunt unless they noticed a dead body.

“The one that is trying to get in is small. Didn’t even break through the front doors.”

"A monster that can open automatic doors? Just great."

Chen Guo ushered everyone to stay quiet but some people wanted to get out and call their spirits for a fight.


 

With an opening of the new server, the Alliance also let some of the avatars to be let out of the confines of the card. Until now, only the ones with special certificates and under special circumstances could be let out. If someone fulfilled a document and give over their spirit for a check, the avatar can now walk among humans like a fancy pet.

One Autumn Leaf is certified and can emerge under dire situations like a monster attack. His is more military orientated. Of course, the Battlemage doesn’t care and likes to pop out of his card at the most unfortunate times.

 


 

“What are we supposed to do now?!”

“Take Sun Xiang and keep fighting. Try to get it away from buildings and crowds. Soldiers should be on their way. Su Mucheng and Dancing Rain should help too just in case. Use Screen Cannon if necessary.”

“But...”

“I will be fine. Just make sure not to use my energy too much. The further away we are from each other, the more you’re using it. Go now.”

With a reluctant tug, One Autumn Leaf’s presence subsided.

Ye Xiu was both nervous and relieved hearing familiar sounds of Dancing Rain’s cannon. He walked over to the doors and looked through a special peephole. Instead of seeing the inside of the Internet café, he saw nothing.

“Is the peephole working properly?” He asked Chen Guo, who kept shushing everyone.

“Shush!” She told him instead before frowning at the question. "Why are you asking? It's in perfect condition."

“I can’t see anything.”

Chen Guo looked sceptically at him and showed him away to look at it herself.

“HUUH?!” She loudly exclaimed.

“SHUSH!” Said everyone.

“Is something wrong?” Someone in the crowd asked. Chen Guo hastily propelled herself and faced a guy that pushed himself to the front.

"No, no, everything is in perfect order. I was checking whether we could see a fight going on outside but it's disappointing. Seems like it takes place somewhere else." She said while shrugging. The customer didn't seem to buy her obviously fake smile but let it go for now anyway.

After a moment she grabbed Ye Xiu and dragged him to a corner where no one would eavesdrop them.

"What the hell is this?!" She half-whispered, half screamed.

“Something is blocking the view. It might be the monster that tried to get inside.” Ye Xiu said calmly.

“How can you be so calm about this!? This is a serious issue! What if it gets in?!” It didn’t take to be a detective to know that she was starting to panic.

"If it could get in, it would have done so a long time ago. Reinforcements should be on their way and Excellent Era's spirits will take care of the bigger threads." He spoke again calm like a cucumber. It seemed that his way of speaking as if he was talking about the weather was both calming and annoying her at the same time.

Chen Guo huffed.

“How can you be so sure it is like this?”

“Ah.” he started. “Isn’t it how it usually goes?”

“This is a serious matter! Don’t joke about it!” She turned red from anger.

“SHUSH!” Someone behind them said.

“Wha-!”

“Shush.” Said Ye Xiu, which only made her even angrier.

WHAM! WHAM!

Something hit the against the doors, making the walls shake. Before Ye Xiu even blinked, Chen Guo used him as a human shield. He could only sigh.

“Everyone, please stay calm and quiet.” Said Ye Xiu to everyone behind him. His calm demeanour in the current situation was certainly a shock for everyone. After all, wasn't Boss Chen shaking behind him, clearly using him as a shield? Even other employees were trying to remain calm but it was clear they weren't. Ye Xiu had an entirely different air around him. Almost a devil-may-care attitude.

"Hey, guys! Look! This is all over the news! Holy shit! Look at them go!" Screamed someone from the middle of the crowd. Some turned towards the person, some chose to use their phones to look it up. Chen Guo did the same. Ye Xiu, as someone, who is rarely seen with a phone, looked over her shoulder.

It seemed that above the city was flying a helicopter from the news. They were showing the battle against the monster.

The Elder Shadow Cat was bigger than the rest of its species. Usually, Elder Shadow Cats were around twice bigger than their normal versions. This one was at least four times larger. And One Autumn Leaf wasn't kidding about the fire either. ‘Aren't Shadow Cats weakened by fire?' He thought.

Currently, a Battlemage and a Launcher were fighting viciously with the monster. Su Mucheng was standing on the roof opposite of Dancing Rain.

Speaking of handlers...

‘Where is Sun Xiang?’ Thought Ye Xiu.


 

“No. Oh, no no nononono.” Started Sun Xiang when he heard the warning.

Dancing Rain and the ‘whatever-was-his-name' Sharpshooter dumped him in his room-old Ye Xiu’s room- and left him there over half an hour ago.

He had no idea what to do. It was clear that even if he tried to somehow work with One Autumn Leaf, the spirit would likely kill him with bare hands rather than even try to tolerate his presence. And they not only will have fight side by side if anything happened – like they should, right now – but also fight inside the Glory. Even now, Sun Xiang had an idea that One Autumn Leaf would do whatever he wants inside the game.

How Ye Xiu managed to make such an avatar listen to him... no... how he managed to create a bond with this spirit is beyond him.

His thoughts made a sharp stop when the strange Sharpshooter barged into the room with a gun in hand.

They stared at each other for a good few seconds, before the avatar grabbed and hauled him over his shoulder. Sun Xiang could only yelp in surprise at being treated like a sack of potatoes.

“What the HELL! ” Spluttered indignantly the human.

“I have to take you to One Autumn Leaf. The publicity can’t see you two separated or we will have a Special Forces banging through Excellent Era’s doors. The more normal you two will behave the less likely for it to happen.” For a second, the avatar stopped talking, choosing to glance once at the human before resuming his monologue. ”You probably figured it out didn’t you? The Blood Bond. You can’t sever it. Whatever stable bond you would like to create with One Autumn Leaf, even at his weakest, won’t stick for long, if at all.” Again the glance. Sun Xiang was starting to get annoyed. Scratch that, He was already pissed off. “For now, you can try to create a half-bond. Ye Xiu and One Autumn Leaf can make it look like a legit, stable bond if they make their energy flow a bit differently. There shouldn’t be any problem with bond checks.” The avatar kept talking and walking slowly as if it was a normal occurrence for him.

“Let me GO!” Screamed Sun Xiang while wiggling viciously. With his anger boiling, he noticed that the spirit made no move to listen to him. Instead, he got another, this time a bit longer, more complicated, but still, a glance. A fucking glance.

"Young man, don't be too rampant.” The spirit said.

“Fuck you! Who ARE YOU!”

The Avatar gave him a good look over as if assessing whether he is worthy of the answer. For Sun Xiang it felt as if time itself stopped and stretched to accommodate them. Whatever the spirit saw in his eyes, made him blink in wonder as if seeing something interesting. Then a nod.

‘What is wrong with this avatar? It was one of the easiest questions!’ He thought.

“My name...” The spirit missed a step but resumed the walk as if nothing happened.

“My name is Autumn Tree.” Said quietly the Sharpshooter, and if Sun Xiang wasn’t so keen on listening, he might have missed it.

‘Autumn Tree... finally a name to attach to a face. But isn’t it familiar? This name...’

It was his turn to look at the avatar in shock, his body rigid as a stone.

‘Autumn Tree... didn’t he die several years ago?!’ He thought.


 

Fire.

After the hit from Armor Crushing Cannon, the Elder Shadow Cat was growling at the ones who dared to stand before them.

The reinforcements arrived.

All sorts of bullets rained down upon it, enraging it further.

Among the rays of missiles and bullets stood One Autumn Leaf. He had a hard time fighting this monster. The overgrown cat kept knocking him up with its tail.

Frown on his face, knees bent...

“Bend your knees more.”

Eyes wide, he stumbled back, almost tripping on the rubble laying around.

The Elder Shadow Cat jumped high and landed hard, which caused a large hole they were currently fighting in. The Battlemage happily watched as one wing of Excellent Era’s building disappeared.

That also meant that One Autumn Leaf was trapped here with the monster. For now, it was distracted by humans and Dancing Rain.

Taking a shaky breath, he reached towards the bond.

It was tranquil.

Until someone grabbed him.

How could anything grab him?! They were all a bunch of energies here!

Diving further into the bond, he was standing in the bond plane.

He looked down and gasped as for the first time in his life he saw himself as... well... himself. Previously, he saw both Ye Xiu and himself as a vine full of energy. Right now, he was staring down at his exact copy. 

At the other end, where usually was Ye Xiu’s energy stood now... Ye Xiu with his eyes closed. Around him coiled black-red chains and almost bleached, colourful whiskers. He looked to his left side and could only stare.

Lord Grim at his finest. Just as he remembered him, safe for the non-present Umbrella. And he never saw him wearing a scarf.

This is when he also noticed, that he had Evil Annihilation sitting heavily in his hand. And Ye Xiu...

Ye Xiu was holding their cards. One onyx, his own, from it, black chains too-tightly wrapped around his arm. In the other, one that kept changing colours depending on the angle you looked at it, from it, whiskers gently coiling around a forearm.

Interesting...” Said Lord Grim, scratching his chin in thought.

One Autumn Leaf finally broke out from his stupor.

“What have YOU DONE!” He screamed, pointing at the other avatar with his lance.

Me? Just cleared the view. No wonder you’ve kept everything tied in vines.” Started Lord Grim, only to be stopped by a tip of the lance pressing into his chest.

“STOP TALKING” Shouted One Autumn Leaf.

You didn’t want him to see it? My, my, look, how black-hearted you are... should I feel proud?” Asked calmly Lord Grim, not minding the threat of being pierced by the lance.

We all should discuss things later. For now... weren’t you fighting a monster?” And with a smirk on his face, Lord Grim pushed him away.

One Autumn Leaf staggered back into reality.

Indeed, he had a giant cat to kill. As he readied himself, the voice he now recognized as Lord Grim’s, started talking again.

It’s been a while since I saw such a big one... aim for whiskers, then for eyes, use rubble around you to your advantage, remember to bend your knees. After you finish here, head to the café. The monsters roaming around are this cat’s young ones.”

Since when, you’re eager to help?”

We don’t know what will happen if one of us dies. And humans are much easier to kill.”

Well, there was some truth in his words, he couldn’t deny it.

Just when he was about to take a step, a whip emerged from a shadow and knocked him up again.

Oh, and... stay away from the shadows... but you already knew that.”

With a howl of rage, One Autumn Leaf charged at the Elder Shadow Cat.

 

 

tbc.ofc.

Chapter Text

 

 

One Autumn Leaf felt more and more fatigued. That Elder Shadow Cat was sturdier than it looked. The battle was already stretching and he felt his muscles burning from exhaustion. The Battlemage could snarl and growl in frustration all he wanted but no amount of it phased the cat. For as he loathed to admit it, Lord Grim’s tips were valuable. From time to time he would hear an exasperated: " Go left.”, “Jump.” “Higher.”, “Dragon Tooth, you idiot.”  and it was grating on his already shattered nerves. However, the most annoying was the fact, that he felt weaker than before. Only when he noticed Su Mucheng not far behind Dancing Rain did he understand.  

One Autumn Leaf needs a great amount of energy to even sustain himself. With a powerhouse such as Ye Xiu, he never had to think hard about it. Now, circumstances had changed.  

Ye Xiu had to back not only One Autumn leaf but also Lord grim. The older avatar might not be doing anything and doesn’t even seem to take much, considering that healing oneself has a price in the energy too but... 

This was why Ye Xiu told him to be careful.  

Well, One Autumn Leaf was never good at listening, even if that someone was Ye Xiu. Now, however, he wanted to go back in time and start the battle with the elder Shadow cat in a calmer manner.  

The Battlemage was jumping and twirling out of the line of the monster's range when a shot to his shoulder tipped him sideways. Already in a bad humour, he had no intention to let this slide. With a wave of his hand, he signalled Dancing Rain to take the cat’s attention.  

‘Now which fucker did it?’ He trailed his eyes towards the probable source until he saw a very unamused Autumn tree and Sun Xiang yapping something at the Sharpshooter. One Autumn Leaf wasted no time to jump over to them. 

“What now.” He snapped at Autumn Tree. 

“Create a half-bond with him. You’re low on energy already and that’s a bad sign.” 

At the mention of his name, Sun Xiang tried his best to hide behind the Sharpshooter. However, said avatar merely grabbed and showed him forward towards the Battlemage. 

Child.’  Piped in Lord Grim. 

“Don’t be a child.” Said Autumn Tree. 

One Autumn Leaf growled mentally and physically. Autumn Tree was like a big brother he always wanted to have but sometimes, like now, he had an urge to kick him right in the face. 

“NO.” He said. 

Do it, you idiot.”  “Do it, you idiot.” Said both Autumn Tree and Lord Grim at the same time. 

One Autumn Leaf’s voice died in his throat at that. They sounded way too similar for his liking.  


 

Ye Xiu was unamused. Lord Grim became a little bit bolder and started snatching a bit more energy than before. The change wasn’t much and wasn’t supposed to BE much, however with One Autumn Leaf literally devouring his energy, it began to be a problem. He could sense, that the Unspecialized was doing something in the bond plane but he was too busy holding the door to check. 

Holding the door? 

Yep, holding the door. 

One of the customers got way too cocky and opened the door to let out his avatar. Instead of diving right into the battle, the spirit merely dropped its weapon out of shock and stared in confusion at the Shadow Kittens, before disappearing back into the card. Of course, the cats used this moment to try and get to humans. Ye Xiu was a bit frustrated at this point.  

The permission to let out their avatars was only hours old and some people already try to force the spirits out, as if the avatars are supposed to know what to do. A spirit that was never outside, won’t know what to do. Ye Xiu frantically tried to form a plan.  

“Lord Grim?” Asked Ye Xiu experimentally through the bond. 

“What?”  Snapped at him the avatar. He didn’t pay any mind to this.  

“Do you think you can take on these cats?” 

“Not without a weapon.”   

Ah, that was one of the questions he wanted to leave for later but since it came up- 

“Don’t bother to ask about it now.”  That was one way to end the topic without even starting it. 

“The previous spirit dropped a pistol.” 

“So what?”  

“You can use it? You are Unspecialized and I know that your Umbrella works as a gun too.” Ye Xiu said despite Lord Grim’s annoyance. 

“I would be surprised if that crap of a pistol would fire. That’s why the avatar dropped it. It must have been already broken in the game. And before you ask, I can sense everything in a small area around you. This is how I know  it’s  useless.”  

Ye Xiu sighed in defeat, hoping that One Autumn Leaf will finally get rid of the danger. 


 

Sun Xiang wanted to run away but couldn't because of the iron grip the avatar had on him. If a look could kill, he would be already a dead man. One Autumn Leaf looked pissed off. Autumn Tree told them to create a half-bond because Ye Xiu is somehow not enough. After a long second, the Battlemage grabbed and handed him his card. Sun Xiang stared at it dumbly.  

'Again, how in the hell did he even managed to lift it and more than that, more around with his own card?!' 

“You scratch it and you’re dead. Capisce?”  

"Yes." Chocked out, Sun Xiang. 

Just like that, One Autumn Leaf dived back down right onto the Elder Shadow Cat. For a second, there was no difference until... 

“Oh, shit.” Huffed out Sun Xiang, almost falling down the pit, was it not for Autumn tree’s hand shooting to grab him in the last moment and dragging him away from the edge. He merely looked in question at the avatar through the haze but the other merely shrugged. They stood in uncomfortably stretching silence. 

“I heard that...” Started Sun Xiang. 

Autumn Tree didn’t even grace him with a look. 

"You heard that I died, a long time ago." The avatar said in a monotone voice as if it wasn't about him. 

“Yyyh, yeah.” Said Sun Xiang, unsure of what to say further. ‘Great small talk beginning Xiang. Let’s talk about the guy’s presumable death, why the hell not. You can’t fuck it up even more.” He thought. 

"Well, I guess they lied." Sun Xiang said after a moment of silence and started berating himself the moment he finished talking. 

Autumn Tree finally looked at him, tearing his gaze from the ongoing battle. The way the spirit looked his way made him shiver. 

“Not entirely, no.” Said Autumn Tree confusing Sun Xiang even further.  

“Not entirely?” 

“...The only thing that keeps me alive is... an old promise... of some sort.” 

"And what it might be? You made a deal with a devil, heh?" Tried to joke Sun Xiang.  

“He might as well be one to some...” trailed off Autumn Tree, visibly stiffening.  

Sun Xiang looked down just in time to see a finishing move of One Autumn Leaf. He had to admit that seeing the Battlemage fight from this close was an entirely different experience. He could sense the coiling energy of the dragon shattering into small particles, making his skin prickle at the sensation. A moment later, One Autumn Leaf smoothly jumped up to them, not even looking at Sun Xiang.  

"I will go and deal with Shadow Kittens." The Battlemage said to the Sharpshooter. Autumn Tree merely raised a brow in silent question. Sun Xiang scrunched his eyebrows. 

“Do you know where they are?” Sun Xiang asked. 

One Autumn Leaf snorted at the question and leaving them with “Of course.”, ran away towards the row of buildings across the street. 

Sun Xiang looked at the card still within his hand that was sucking up his energy without a care in the world.  

"What am I?! A fucking battery?!" He screamed, running down towards the direction the Battlemage went. He scarcely caught a grunt coming from Autumn Tree. 
 


 

Ye Xiu felt a little lightheaded. No wonder, since backing not only one but two spirits of such calibre ought to be exhausting. But this excelled his expectations. Comparing to Lord Grim, One Autumn Leaf was a power glutton.  

Thankfully, a few moments later the sensation subsided. 

“Sun Xiang and One Autumn Leaf formed a half-bond. It should be more than enough for you to recuperate.”  Lord Grim’s calm, yet a sharp voice almost made Ye Xiu jump. 

“How-” 

“These idiots are coming here. They already finished playing around with the Elder Shadow Cat.”  

“How do you know?” 

“I kept an eye on him.”   

Ye Xiu had more and more questions. He could pinpoint One Autumn Leaf’s position but to “keep an eye on him”? Definitely not without fully diving into the bond plane. Was it the action he sensed in the plain before? Most likely. 

“And how did you do that?” Asked Ye Xiu. 

“I used the bond plain to do it. It is possible for you too...”  

“Because I am a midpoint between you and all information between you two goes through me. I figured as much.” 

“... interesting.”  

“What is?” 

“I am sure that now you will be able to use it without having to focus as much as before... as I... cleared the view.”   

He could almost imagine Lord Grim gesticulating slowly in an essentially dismissive fashion as if this knowledge was available for anyone.  

“I will take a look once everything calms down.” Said Ye Xiu, not sure about where this is going.  

After a few seconds of people nervously talking between each other, Lord Grim started talking again. 

“Does the idiot always use so much energy?”  The Unspecialized asked with something akin to irritation and pure exasperation painting his words.  

“I take that it isn’t the first time you see him doing it?” 

“He didn’t change that much in this area but his energy consumption is considerably higher than I remember.”  

“And how much is ‘considerably’ for avatars?” Ye Xiu tried to pry a bit. 

“Around twice as much.”  

“And he is-” 

“Worse.”  

“That’s a... lot.” 

“Indeed.”  

Judging how short were the answers, Ye Xiu chose not to dwell deeper right now. 

I am near, give me a few minutes and I will deal with the kittens.” Abruptly said One Autumn Leaf. 

“Is Sun Xiang with you?” He asked. 

Eeem...” Was the only answer he got from the Battlemage. 

“Please tell me, that you didn’t simply leave him behind.” It was Ye Xiu’s turn to sound exasperated with One Autumn Leaf’s antics. 

“No?” 

“He totally did.”  Lord Grim piped in. 

“I DIDN’T!” One Autumn Leaf roared back. Ye Xiu didn’t know whether to groan or to sigh at this.  

WHAM! 

Something collided with the doors making them tremble in hinges. Everyone inside jumped in an alert. Some of the people holding the entrance ran in the opposite direction, disappearing inside the crowd.  

“What was that?” Asked Ye Xiu through the bond, knowing that One Autumn Leaf is right outside the doors. 

“Guess.”  

Sorry” Mumbled out the Battlemage. 

“Be more careful. These might just be small kittens but-” 

"They are faster and more agile thanks to their size. Moreover-"

“If their mother was an Elder Shadow Cat that could breathe fire, then there is a possibility that the mutated gene carried over.” 

"Shit!" One Autumn Leaf's voice could be heard from behind the doors as the nearest kitty breathed out scorching hot steam in his direction. 

“It seems that they are still too young to breathe fire...”  

“Fuck.” The Battlemage said under his nose as he got scratched by flaming-red claws. 

“Interesting...”  Said slowly the Unspecialized. 

Fuck you and your goddamn comments! You’re not helping!” Screamed One Autumn Leaf through their link.  

"Get them out of the café. In here, they have an advantage. They can just leap around you." Said Ye Xiu, already forming a plan. 

“And how am I supposed to do that?!” 

“This type of Cats loves sweets. There are snacks in the automat nearby...” Said Ye Xiu. 

“This should make them gather in one place. I am pretty sure you can sweep them away with Falling Flower Palm.”  

"Once they are on the street, you will have those right in the open." 

If they could, Lord Grim and Ye Xiu would suspiciously look at each other.  

“...” One Autumn Leaf could only stupidly stare at the kittens before him as this plan was actually working. However, from now on, no matter what he said, Ye Xiu and Lord Grim were quiet.  

He didn’t like it at all. 


 

Lord Grim was once proclaimed to be a genius and one of the greatest strategists among the avatars. It didn't stop him from making many mistakes but the fact that he did gain this title anyway spoke volumes. The only ones who could keep up with his train of thought from time to time were Swoksaar, Peaceful Hermit and Immovable Rock. Maybe some younger avatars too but he didn't have that much opportunity, later on, to keep an eye on all of them. But humans? Never heard of one that gained a similar title in his time on Earth.  

So, meeting one that could basically cut his sentence in the middle and say the exact same thing he wanted EVEN if the plan was one of the most fundamental ones was... 

Interesting.  

Very interesting. 

He kept prodding the human and their bond in the bond plane unable to not admire the amount of energy this 'Ye Xiu’ can contain. He will rather die than admit that it is something impressive.  

If he is stuck with this human, then it is in his best interest to know the bond's limits. Maybe he will find some miracle loophole that will free him from a nightmare of having to live with his idiot brother 24/7? Poor chance but he can dream once in a while. Bullshitting his way through his life seems to be only One Autumn Leaf's ability. 

And so, he kept tugging, prodding, poking around observing his surroundings for any changes. Just when he was about to poke the human in the cheek, Ye Xiu opened his eyes and looked at him from the corner of the eye.  

Lord Grim immediately jumped back, reaching for his weapon, only to remind himself that he didn’t have it. In a second, he straightened himself and turned his gaze away from the human as if the situation a second ago didn’t happen.  

“What is this?” He heard Ye Xiu ask. 

He turned his gaze back to the human, thinking about the right answer. 

“They are our bonds.” Ye Xiu whispered in realization.  

“Indeed, they are.”  Nodded Lord Grim. 

“Why One Autumn Leaf’s looks like this now?” Before Lord Grim could answer, Ye Xiu already answered on his own question again. “Oh, energy consumption.”  

The Unspecialized wondered why he even bothered to try and answer.  

“You really cleared the view. Everything was foggy before.” 

Lord Grim merely shrugged at this and turned away again. 

After a few seconds of silence, he snapped his head back to Ye Xiu as he felt a tugging. The Unspecialized stared with wide-open eyes as the human kept prodding both bonds, before focusing solely on his. Swift fingers kept playing with the colourful strands without caring that the avatar is right before him. As the human crept closer and closer to him, the angrier he became.  

Yet, when he was about to strike from his anger, he stopped immediately as he watched the bright red streak run towards Ye Xiu and for the human to simply yank it from the bond and yeet it into the aether.  

“How... did you do that?”  Asked Lord Grim, astonished at what he saw. 

Ye Xiu froze with his hands still gripping the bond as if only now understanding what he did.  

“Ah, right, sorry, that was rather intrusive.”  

“How did you know how to do that?”  Lord Grim asked quietly. From what he noticed, it had the same effect as what all avatars once could do. Changing their raging emotions and traumas into energies and releasing them into the aether to leave them calm and collected even while facing all kind of monsters. It was something they all could do before humans invented a substance that disabled their ability to phase between levels of realities.  

"One Autumn Leaf told me that you could do it yourself before 'The Purge'. That you're mostly energy-dependent creatures and that the substance used to stop you from phasing through solid objects-" 

“Not only disabled it but also cut us off a part of the higher plain we were using to do it.”  Finished Lord Grim, staring at Ye Xiu with a tiny bit of admiration.  

“Well, yes.” Answered the human a little bit sheepishly.  

"That's pretty brilliant."  Lord Grim said, still astonished until he reeled back. Knowing what he just said, he immediately scrunched his eyebrows as if the whole world just became his enemy. 

"Was that a compliment?" 

“The only one I am EVER going to give you!”  Lord Grim grumpily exclaimed, turning away again.  

Then he peeked over his shoulder to see the human scratch his cheek and still holding his bond. Right when he wanted to berate Ye Xiu for playing around with their bond- 

“Ye Xiuuuuu” One Autumn Leaf’s voice carried out with the most irritating tilt to it Lord Grim had ever experienced. 

“What?” 

I have dealt with the big cat and the kittens. What do I get for that?”  

“My gratitude.” 

“I don’t want your gratitude.” 

“Tough luck, you’re not getting anything else from me.” 

Not even love?” 

“What a bloodsucker.  First my life, then cookies, then energy, now love. What will be next? My body? Speaking of energy, have you seen the bond?” 

I’ve never asked about your body.” 

“But you ask about love. It’s only one step further from that. And don’t change the topic.” 

That’s not what I meant! I know nothing!” 

“Why do you never ask about normal things like flowers or cigarettes. And you know exactly what am I talking about.” 

None of them noticed Lord Grim walking over to the bonds.  With just a small twirl of his wrist, he yanked them both forward. It made One Autumn Leaf stutter and bite his own tongue, while Ye Xiu managed to get a hold of Lord Grim’s bond, steadying himself not without raising an eyebrow at the Unspecialized. 

And Lord Grim... 

He just wanted out and away from everything, especially from their banters. 

Now he knew how other avatars felt when he started one with One Autumn Leaf... 

 

 

tbc.

Chapter Text

 

Are you done? I wish not to hear you banter for days.” Said annoyed Lord Grim. ‘I would gladly play dead but their bantering would wake up anyone, especially the dead.’ 

One Autumn Leaf frowned and turned towards Lord Grim with a dangerous glint in his eyes. Before he could do anything more, Ye Xiu asked a question. 

“Did you leave Sun Xiang alone there?” 

“No, I left him with Autumn Tree. Speaking of Autumn Tree, he kept insisting on tagging along. I don’t know what happened to him. He is terribly annoying today.” Answered the Battlemage with his frustration oozing into the bond. Lord Grim froze hearing this name. He did hear it somewhere but had a hard time identifying it.   

"After your stunts with Excellent Era, I am not surprised." Said Ye Xiu. 

“ Hey, you didn’t say a word to any of that! Don’t blame me now!” One Autumn Leaf immediately rebutted. 

“Because you’re a lost cause. No matter how many times I repeat something, you go and do it anyway.” Said Ye Xiu crossing his arms, preparing for a long debate. 

Who’s Autumn Tree?” Asked Lord Grim quietly, ending the beginning of new banter.  

The Battlemage grabbed his lance more surely and looked with resentment at the other avatar. 

“What’s it to you!?” Before Ye Xiu could react, the blood-red lance was pointed at the Unspecialized. Lord Grim didn't even move from his spot as if knowing that he is well out of range to receive more than a graze. 

“Woah, hey, calm down.” Said Ye Xiu eyeing the bond and sweat dropping when there were no red strings to yank out. 

Nothing. I am just curious. That’s not a crime.” Answered Lord Grim, still unbothered by One Autumn Leaf’s attitude. ‘Why is he so protective over him? Why does this name seem very familiar?’ he wondered. 

“Well, you’d better stop asking.” Snarled One Autumn Leaf, this time taking a step forward and swinging his lance so this time it will unquestionably hit Lord Grim. The lance suddenly changed its course as Ye Xiu chose this moment to kick One Autumn Leaf with full force to make him falter and fall on his ass.  

Lord Grim stared wide-eyed at Ye Xiu. The human certainly knew where to aim as it was the same move, he always used. One Autumn Leaf who rarely listened to advice still had a poor combat stance even many years after. 

Ye Xiu was a human. True. But he was also one of first Avatar's handlers. A pro, to add. The first bunch of masters often trained to try to keep up with their spirits. They weren't great or even helpful at fights but they needed enough speed and stamina to reposition themselves around the battlefield. This way, the energy lost by the transition between spirit and master would be diminished and the duo could hold on for longer. Even with a blood bond, it was a very important matter.   

But Lord Grim didn’t know that as he was stuck inside his card for many years. ‘He must have seen this move somewhere. Still, he is either stupid or brave enough to get in the way of an attacking spirit.’  

“ Why you-!” One Autumn Leaf looked with betrayal at Ye Xiu.  

“I won’t repeat myself twice. What the hell is wrong with you. I know you have a short fuse but today you’re unbearable. What are you hiding from me this time?!” The human asked the Battlemage with irritation painting his voice. 

And then Lord Grim remembered why Autumn Tree seemed familiar. 

‘Oh. He is...’ 

Without informing anyone, he disappeared to materialize in the real world. 

While they talked, the soldiers gave permission to come out of shelters. 


 

Ye Xiu was half paying attention to what is going on around him. Boss Chen received a green light so everyone could come out. While she wrangled with the jammed doors that stopped cooperating after something smacked against them (It was One Autumn Leaf but she had no idea about it. Otherwise she wouldn't be cursing so much right now.) However, she didn't expect to see an avatar right in front of her when she turned to ask for help. A very angry looking spirit might I add.  

“Eeek!" Chen Guo jumped away seeing such a stormy expression. Using her slip up, Lord Grim forcibly shoved open the doors and slipped through. Right after that, Ye Xiu unfroze from his spot. 

“Shit." Murmured Ye Xiu, when he noticed Lord Grim's absence. He barely caught the blood-red scarf sliding through the cracked doors. 

“I will be right back.” He said to Chen Guo, running after the spirit. Before she could say anything, the two already disappeared.  

Dancing Rain, One Autumn Leaf and most of the soldiers hastily vacated the area, so that the city could come back to life. The streets were still empty. With Lord Grim being unable to rush at his top speed, Ye Xiu managed to catch up to him.  

He stopped right before the intersection with collapsed buildings. The Unspecialized stood facing none other than Autumn Tree. The Sharpshooter stared at Lord Grim while in his hands was- 

“Myriad Manifestations Umbrella.” Ye Xiu whispered in shock.  

He was right. It was an umbrella. But it wasn't the one from Glory. This one looked more worn out by years of constant usage. While Su Muqiu's was rather delicate and light with some thought put into making it pretty by adding ornaments on the handle... the one in Autumn Tree's hands looked sturdy and heavy, brutal in its simplicity, with mechanisms covered solely for defensive purposes.  

No, this one wasn’t just Myriad Manifestations Umbrella. It was the original. Lord Grim’s Umbrella. 

With the two standing with just a few meters from each other, Ye Xiu noticed that in some ways, Autumn Tree resembled Lord Grim. The Sharpshooter changed over the years and now looked strangely similar to the avatar before him. Darker hair, slightly different eye colour and shape than it used to be. The changes were so unnoticeable over the years, that not even One Autumn Leaf spotted it. 

“We finally meet.” Said Autumn Tree changing his grip on The Umbrella.  

"You have something that belongs to me." Growled out Lord Grim loud enough to be heard. It was jarring how different he sounded in reality without using the bond to communicate. 

“One Autumn Leaf! Where are you?!” Ye Xiu called through the bond.  

Silence. 

“Don’t bother to call him. He’s safe in the bond plane but won’t answer for now.” Said Lord Grim not sparing Ye Xiu a glance. 

“Wha-” 

“Ye Qiu!”Someone called him. It was Sun Xiang clutching an onyx card in hand. “Where is Su Mucheng?” 

“Back to what is left of Excellent Era’s building.” Ye Xiu stiffened sensing something foreboding. 

“But One Autumn Leaf! He-” the blond-haired master started but stiffened a second after Ye Xiu did. They were both very sensitive so they noticed something almost immediately.  

The killing intent.  

Without hesitation, Ye Xiu grabbed Sun Xiang and ducked to the side.  

Autumn Tree attacked first. 

With a boost from Rapid Fire, the Attack Speed was even higher. Ye Xiu’s eyes widened expecting a bloodbath but he was even more surprised by small movements of Lord Grim that enabled him to miraculously avoid all the bullets rushing his way.   

“Almost like a Z-shake. An S-path?” He said quietly. 

While z-shake can look like a tremble, Lord Grim’s movements were nothing like that. The movement was small, yes, but it wasn't as exhausting and rapid as z-shake. It was more like swaying than shaking. Ye Xiu was actually fascinated even in the current circumstances as he remembered all the failures of One Autumn Leaf attempting to do something similar. After all, it was just avoiding the damage with minimum effort and stamina. The theory was easier than practice.   

“Is that all you have?” Asked Lord Grim, slowly walking back to his previous spot. If Ye Xiu and Sun Xiang still stood behind the Uspecialised, they would be like a piece of swiss cheese.  

Grenades and Burst Firing followed right after.  

The grenades were caught and thrown back while still avoiding most of the bullets. Some of them managed to graze Lord Grim’s arm and a leg but the avatar didn't even flinch.  

Seeing his attacks were ineffective, Autumn Tree used Gatling Gun to gain some distance from the thrown back grenades, immediately preparing to use Laser Rifle. Lord Grim jumped up and then used Air Jump to fully avoid the deadly laser. 

Ye Xiu frowned. Some of the skills weren’t even in Autumn Tree’s skill tree. How come he could use them? 

“Child’s play.” Said Lord Grim looking at the Sharpshooter with disdain. 

“You’re not the one to judge!” Screamed Autumn Tree, firing Smoke Bullet for a cover and following with Floating Bullet. The bullet actually hit Lord Grim this time! 

But Ye Xiu already knew why as the silhouette of real Lord Grim appeared behind the unsuspecting Sharpshooter with a brick in his hand. 

Luck wasn’t on Lord Grim’s side it seems. Autumn Tree saw a shadow holding a suspicious rectangle and turned around, raising his leg for a Knee Attack. 

But Lord Grim merely sidestepped him and threw the brick up in the air. Using close proximity, the Unspecialised used Back Throw. What's the use of uninterruptible Super Armor skill, if you don't hit your target? The skill ended, Super Armor was broken and Autumn Tree couldn’t recover fast enough as Lord Grim caught the brick and threw it aiming for his face. 

Autumn Tree blocked it with Umbrella, which gained a growl from Lord Grim. Using this instance, he immediately stood up and swung his weapon at the Unspecialised. But then- 

Ye Xiu stared at the following chain of attacks in wonder. ‘Those aren’t skills from Glory.’ He noted. 

“Holy shit, since when avatars know Krav Maga?” Sun Xiang asked, still using Ye Xiu as a shield. 


 

Lord Grim and Autumn Tree disengaged a few seconds later but this exchange ended up with Lord Grim taking back the Umbrella. 

"Damn, even like this, you still fight like a damn beast, heh. You won." 

Autumn Tree looked devastated for a moment before starting to hysterically laugh through tears.  

“Autumn Tree?” Asked Ye Xiu, standing up even though Sun Xiang tried to stop him. 

“Heh, good old Ye. Don't worry about me. I was never supposed to live that long anyway." The Sharpshooter looked with a bitter smile at the fallen battle god. 

“What are you-” 

"You always wondered why I remained with my card obviously shattered while your dear friend died. I know what you thought then. I didn't judge you for blaming me for a full five minutes back then. I wouldn't have judged you if you despised me to this day. Because, somehow, it actually was my fault. I survived because..." Autumn Tree lifted his hand that started to fade. "Because I... the thing binding me with this world was not a card. It was this umbrella. A promise to take it back to its owner" Ye Xiu rushed over to him as the avatar staggered but the Sharpshooter waved him away. "Don't. Don't give me the same look you gave Muqiu. After all, ... I am just a failed result of cloning the spirits, heh." Autumn Tree grinned but it wasn't Su Muqiu’s smile anymore like he used to give. Looking right at Ye Xiu he straightened himself and nodded. “Remember what you promised him.”  

Ye Xiu nodded back, lips trembling a little. 

Autumn Tree used last strings of his strength to turn towards Lord Grim and slowly walk up to him. 

“Guilty look doesn’t suit you...” 

The Unspecialised looked unsurely at the approaching Autumn Tree. This dying avatar was using the last bits of his energy to talk to him out of all people. 

"Neither does the face of anger, sadness, revenge and indifference..." 

Autumn Tree stumbled but was caught by Lord Grim. The now almost weightless avatar only smiled again. Next words were only for him to hear. 

“I kept my word. That weapon is back to its rightful partner... But I ask you for a promise in exchange." 

“Just speak.” 

For a second Lord Grim thought that Autumn Tree won’t say anything but was quickly proven wrong. 

“Take care of everyone... and... lead us to glory once again.” 

Lord Grim's face was concealed by his bangs as he pondered over the answer. 

‘Take care of everyone? After all what happened?’ Thought Lord Grim. ‘Who am I supposed to lead? We are not at war anymore-’ 

“Just promise.” 

He couldn’t feel him in his arms anymore. 

“Fine.” 

And with a brilliant smile aimed at Lord Grim, Autumn Tree disappeared. 

The Myriad Manifestations Umbrella felt heavier than he remembered. 


 

One Autumn Leaf was enraged when he figured that he is incapable of coming out of his card. Lord Grim took most of his energy to recover and to challenge Autumn Tree. As a consequence, the Battlemage, who wasn't able to function below 70% was stuck in the bond plane. 

When he found out about Autumn Tree… 

He couldn’t believe it. 

He knew there was something iffy about him but he never anticipated this. Yet, the longer he thought about it, the more real it became. He always thought of the Sharpshooter like of older brother that annoys him from time to time. It turns out that Autumn Tree was a botched clone of Lord Grim all this time. One Autumn Leaf didn't know what to think about it anymore. From one hand he was angry because Lord Grim kind of killed Autumn Tree by taking back his Umbrella but on the other hand, he felt empty. Autumn Tree was Lord_Grim_v.2 but never bothered to tell anyone about this. Well, no one besides Su Muqiu that used The Umbrella to create a better version of it. 

Somehow, after thinking about it all for some time, One Autumn Leaf wasn't angry anymore. After all, if Autumn Tree wanted to keep living, he would have to just run away instead of facing Lord Grim. 

Ye Xiu said that Autumn Tree told Lord Grim something but was unable to hear it. Since then Lord Grim looked as if he was furiously thinking about something.  

‘Whatever it was, it surely left an impression.’ thought the Battlemage, while glancing at the Unspecialised.  

While he looked at his older brother, it reminded him of the old days. Lord Grim would mumble all the strange and complicated calculations to himself not caring about the world around him. One Autumn Leaf would always try to gain his attention by being an annoying brat.  

‘Heh, good times.’ 

A few minutes later, Ye Xiu connected with their plane.  

He had a talk with Su Mucheng and Dancing Rain. Somehow, Sun Xiang wiggled himself into the conversation too and Ye Xiu had to explain everything once again. One Autumn Leaf wasn’t jealous of that exchange at all. He more than happily stayed put. Not that he could come out anyway but still.  

“What are your levels?” Ye Xiu asking him. 

The Battlemage pursed his lips.  

“ 65%”  

“And you?” 

Lord Grim has still mumbled something as he was finishing reassembling his Umbrella. It looked much better than previously and the avatar even added some ornaments. Seems that Su Muxiu’s project did catch his cynical eye. 

“Lord Grim?” 

One Autumn Leaf rolled his eyes so hard it almost hurt and reached for his lance. After a warning glance from Ye Xiu, he huffed, put his lance back and positioned himself in an almost comic stance. Ye Xiu raised an eyebrow at that. 

A second later, One Autumn Leaf was leaping onto the unsuspecting avatar. There was one effective way to gain Lord Grim’s attention after all. 


 

WHUMP! 

One Autumn Leaf landed hard on Lord Grim.  

“Get off!” Said the Unspecialised trying to wiggle himself from beneath the Battlemage. One Autumn Leaf didn’t budge and merely sprawled himself further.  

“Nah, feels comfy.”  

Ye Xiu stood at the side with a mouth slightly open.  

“Get off! Can’t b-breathe! ” It wasn’t that Lord Grim wasn’t trying his best. One Autumn Leaf was not only heavier than he used to be but also his armour was digging uncomfortably into recently healed Lord Grim. His diminished lung capacity didn’t help him either.  

A second later One Autumn Leaf was hefted off him with a force, for which Lord Grim was grateful. For a fraction of a second. Because his saviour was obviously Ye Xiu, so he won’t be grateful for forever. He would totally do it himself. 

“Ye Xiu asked you a question.” reminded him the Battlemage. 

Lord Grim looked surprised at this and then faced the human. 'I was so absorbed in repairing umbrella that I forgot where I am.' He thought. 

“What’s your energy level?” Asked Ye Xiu. 

For all what it’s worth, Lord grim wanted to answer with: Go to hell; but with how One Autumn Leaf was manhandled away from him, he didn’t feel so safe in the bond plane anymore. With a clear view, Ye Xiu was using his status of a master more freely. Only against One Autumn Leaf for now but Lord Grim preferred to stay away from the hit list for a little bit longer. His stunt with pulling energy off the Battlemage and facing Autumn Tree put everyone on the edge already. 

“Around 10%.”  

Silence. 

It seems that everyone expected him to lie or bark a string of curses at them. 

One Autumn Leaf already opened his mouth to say something but Ye Xiu grabbed the younger avatar and sent him to check on Sun Xiang.  

Once the Battlemage left, Ye Xiu walked closer to Lord Grim. 

To his shock, the human sat down right before him.  

"Let's talk." Said Ye Xiu. 

The Unspecialised merely looked at him unamused. 


 

One Autumn Leaf stared at the room before him, while exclusively ignoring a human inside it.  

“You’re going to listen to what I say-” Said Sun Xiang. 

“How about: no?” 

"-and we will be partners from now on." The human finished not bothering with the instant answer. 

“I said no.” 

“Is that so?” 

"You heard me the first time." 

Sun Xiang revealed what he was holding all this time behind his back. It was a bag of cookies. 

“Every time you won’t listen or leave me behind; I will eat one and won't give any to you. If you listen and will be nice, I will give you one." 

… 

“E-eeeEEE?!!" The avatar looked wide-eyed at Sun Xiang. 'Ye Xiu! You sold me out!!!!' Wailed One Autumn Leaf. 
 

 

 

tbc.