After nearly three months of inactivity in the K-ON fandom, I feel guilty for uploading this story instead of the ones listed on my profile. However, Athyra and I felt that this story must be told as soon as possible. This is the product of the S-Project, a collaboration work between Athyra and me to add a different flavor in this fandom.
ghikiJ and Athyra
Summary: How does one kill fear? How does one embrace a shadow? Just how does one deliver a letter written with tears to a recipient bathed in blood? "Are you there?" The fiend smiled brokenly. "No, it is you I fear who doesn't exist." AU. In collaboration with Athyra.
Disclaimer: We do not own K-ON! or any of its characters.
Note: Before reading on, note the genres of this story. Also, this story is set in a fictional rendition of Industrial Age Europe. Of course, given the nature of this story, we took a lot of liberties with the setting. Excuse any historical inaccuracies, if there are any.
Preface: Nuntius Ex Umbra
November 27, 1822
This would be the last time I'll be writing in this journal.
I am going to put this tiny book in this drawer so that, one day, someone might chance upon it with a look of pleasant surprise on their face.
What could be written in these yellowed pages, they might wonder.
Just what is this old and tattered booklet doing in this elegant mansion of a wealthy count, they might ask as they look about this room with a thoughtful frown.
They might even be travelers from far away, looking for a place to settle down and start a new chapter of their lives.
Yet, this manor is no longer fit for living.
There are only despair and hopelessness trapped within these empty corridors, reverberating relentlessly without an exit. Nothing escapes these terrible confines.
As the person most familiar with this disguise of a purgatory, I know that any unfortunate souls who enter this vacant building will be overwhelmed by the grief permeating in the air. Therefore, I have recorded everything I remember in these pages to provide evidence that, once upon a time, this place was filled with laughter.
The mansion's residents were once happy.
I could still see the curves of their lips, radiating in sheer joy, unaware of the calamity that would strike them so cruelly.
I do not want to think that such innocent smiles will never appear in this mansion again. Nothing should be impossible. I just haven't searched hard enough yet.
I can still think.
I can still hope.
As much as it pains me to leave this place I used to call home, I must go on a journey beyond these earthly fences to look for the irreplaceable treasures that were robbed from me. I must escape the confines of past sorrows before the void in my chest can be filled.
What will I find?
What will happen to this place after my departure?
Who will answer the cries disrupting the silence of this mansion?
An acquaintance of mine informed me of a possible destination, or perhaps a temporary stop, in my quest. I plan to go there once I put down this quill.
This is it.
I have no need to ponder any longer.
I will do what I can.
As of this moment, I will become a shadow.
Always wandering yet marching down the path with a purpose in mind.
Always wondering but observing the world with a detached view.
I am here.
Yet I am not here.
"I'll save you! I'll bring you back!"
Words echoed in her mind like a drop of blood dissipating in water. Its color marred the clarity of her mind.
But they were empty words.
Again and again, the voices echoed in her head. Hazy images of people she once knew flashed in her mind.
She hugged her knees, quivering. Wisps of fog left her mouth and gradually dispersed into chilly evening air as her breathing labored under the stress of her troubled psyche. They were back, those horrid memories, those nightmares. Visions of deceitful grins and malevolent irises swam in front of her eyes.
"You're not well, my dear. I will cure you."
She trembled, afraid.
Don't touch me.
She curled her body into a tight ball. She wanted to hide. She wanted the ground to swallow her whole.
However, her tormentors were able to reach her even in the deepest corners of her cognizance. They wrapped their wraith-like fingers around what was left of her soul. They plagued her whenever they wished and she could do nothing to keep them away. She was a helpless victim of their vicious play.
Tears dripped from benumbed, unblinking eyes.
Another flash and another memory showed itself.
"Wake up… you need to wake up!"
"I swear I'll bring you back! I promise… oh, god, I promise."
How she once loved that voice, so gentle and loving…
It was the angel to her life. It was the trumpet that hailed for her sanity to return.
Her dilated eyes struggled to focus.
I've been awake.
I've always been awake.
Even though all I wanted to do was sleep.
The girl dug thick and sharp nails into her legs. She felt a sting. She felt pain but it did little to arouse her consciousness from its deranged stupor.
She stared at the cobblestone floor of this prison she confined herself in. It was smooth, worn away by the years. Many empty shells have been here, imprisoned away from the world. They were probably like her but, at the same time, they were not.
They were not monsters like her.
They were probably murderers, lechers, or thieves, criminals who did earthly crimes. They paid for their transgressions in this place, this dungeon. They atoned for their sins then they were either killed or given another chance at life. They were punished for what they have done, but they were allowed to move on in death or in life.
There were no such sentences for her.
She felt the smooth stones with padded toes and scratched the surfaces with her claws, leaving shallow marks. A small, listless curve formed on her lips, a hollow smile that meant nothing else but disappointment.
Things like her should not exist.
She wished that she just remained dead if the alternative meant she had to live as a Spectre, an apparition that should only exist in nightmares.
She glanced at the prone figure at the edge of her vision. It was the bleached skeleton of a girl she once knew, mangled and dried in this dark place. It was surrounded by indistinguishable pieces of fabrics, torn remains of the girl's clothes. The bones were so old that the joints were not connected anymore, jagged edges of broken ribs jutted out where they should not, and long bones were broken in half, their uneven ends appearing to have been gnawed on. Shallow teeth marks were engraved in the osseous matter as if something had cleaned out the bones. Perhaps without a grave, the body was feasted upon by creatures that existed in this dungeon.
The person the corpse used to be was her only companion, her one true friend. That skeleton was once her most important person.
But even her most important person abandoned her in favor of eternal sleep, sentencing her into solitary damnation.
The Spectre uncurled herself as the voices in her head gradually hushed and the fear that resonated in her limbs ebbed. She then crawled gracelessly towards the dried bones and sat next to it. She gazed at its skull, trying to place the face she remembered onto the hollow sockets staring at her. It was an impossible feat. There was no way such an innocent smile could be superimposed on a morbidly grinning cranium.
Smiling wistfully, the Spectre lifted a heavy hand to touch the skull, as if she would still be able to feel the smooth cheek that was once there. She rested her palm on the skull's dome and tried to imagine the lush locks she used to comb every night but she could not do so. It was smooth and dry bone that she touched, not soft brown hair.
Reality was indeed cruel.
"I told you not to sleep here but you didn't listen." The Spectre spoke softly and yet her voice still echoed back and forth within the space between thick stone walls.
No one could hear her here.
"You never listened… now look what it did to you."
She heard an apologetic chuckle and saw an innocent smile in her mind.
"But I can't help it. There were so many things to do. Sorry, Sister."
She continued to stroke the skeleton's head, her mind lost in the memory of better days. It was her asylum, this fickle mind of hers. It was both her sanctuary and her prison. Within its silence, her phantoms sang haunting hymns from faded memories. There was no need for sound in this place, no need for sights, tastes, and sensations. The steady dripping of water onto the cobblestone was more than enough noise for her.
Drip… drip… drip.
If she tried hard enough, she could silence even that quiet tapping and allow absolute darkness of her living death to consume her.
Yet suddenly, nervous footsteps reverberated in the eerie silence and tore the Spectre away from her imaginations, ripping her away from her dark labyrinth of merged memories, hers and the beast within.
"Look! I brought you some flowers!"
"Aww, thank you. They're so pretty."
"Ehe~ Oh! I saw this kitty out in the gardens!"
"Yeah! It was so cute! I wanted to show it to you but it ran away. Don't worry though, maybe it was just scared. I'm sure it'll come back, and when it does, I'll show it to you. I know you really like cats."
"I-is someone here?" A voice called from beyond the thick iron door of the dungeon.
The Spectre lifted her gaze from the corpse and fixed it onto the rusty doors. No, it couldn't be the girl from her memories. Her beloved angel had already returned to heaven. The skull in the Spectre's hand was more than enough proof.
"Hello?" The voice called once again.
A mixture of fear and rage bubbled inside the Spectre's chest. The voice was that of a woman or a girl, she could not quite tell but she was certain it was no one she knew. She sat still, willing the intruder to leave for no one else belonged here but her. Yet the footsteps continued to pitter-patter on the smooth stone. It drew closer and closer until she could see a torch's glow underneath the gap between the floor and the dungeon's doors. Compared to the dying sunlight that managed to enter the prison through the ventilation holes, the warm orange glow of fire looked so much more treacherous.
The Spectre remained still even though her muscles were already coiling. Maybe the intruder would be wise enough not to open those rusted barriers. No one must see her. No human should be cursed by her presence. She must remain an apparition, a thing of myth.
Should the woman open those doors, the Spectre must kill her.
Don't come in.
The iron hinges of the door creaked and light flooded the entire room.
Eyes seared by the piercing light, the Spectre covered her face with her arms.
The trespasser looked around to investigate this dark cellar-like room she managed to get into, unaware that she just opened a monster's cage. She held out her torch so more of the room was illuminated. She spoke at the first sign of human movement within the ill-lighted room.
"Thank God… I knew there was someone in here. As I thought, this place didn't look as deserted as it did. I'm here to deliver something, a letter." Despite the circumstances, the stranger's speech barely wavered from a tone of practiced professionalism. The only clues that belied her nervousness were the uneasy way she held herself as she stood, and the way she gripped the strap of the cargo she carried.
Still curled up into a protective ball, the Spectre impatiently waited for her eyes, so long used to darkness, to adjust to the invasive light. From the gap between her arms, the Spectre could see that the torch's bearer was indeed a young woman. She wore a long trench coat that made her stature look smaller than it should and a dark scarf was wrapped around her neck. Her long dark hair was tied in a ponytail and on her hip was a bag, slightly bulging with items.
"Are you this place's caretaker?" The woman in the trench coat asked, squinting to see the coiled figure on the other side of the dungeon.
"You shouldn't be here…" The Spectre croaked. She didn't know how she sounded but she fervently hoped that the woman would hear and understand that she was not welcomed in this place.
"My apologies, I just want to deliver this to Miss…" The woman moved the torch so she could read the washed out script on the envelope in her hand. "Yui."
The Spectre went rigid.
She felt something in her awareness snap.
"If I haven't misread the address written in this note then I should in the right place." The courier continued.
The Spectre growled, "Get out."
Get away before I kill you…
Taken aback by the hostility, the woman flustered for a moment before her professional mask covered her surprise once again. She tried to reason, "I will leave as soon as I deliver this letter. I won't impose on you any further after that. The manor's doors were locked and no one answered when I knocked. This is the only entrance I found to be open, and you're the only person here. I must deliver this letter to Miss Yui."
"That does not belong here… neither do you." The Spectre snarled. "Get out of this place!"
The woman became silent and raised her torch to shine more light onto the opposite side of the room where the Spectre was. "Are you Yu—"A startled gasp, "Oh my god…"
The light in the dungeon dimmed the moment the torch landed on the damp floor.
As the darkness reclaimed the surroundings, the Spectre slowly unfurled herself and scraped her claws onto the smooth stone. Darkness was also her friend after all.
A bone chilling screech sliced through the silence as the Spectre's claws ground against the floor.
"W-what are y-you…?" The intruder gawked, stepping away from the approaching unknown.
Meager remnants of the human within the Spectre disappeared.
"What am I?" The Spectre parroted with a hint of sinister humor in her voice. Emboldened by the dying light, she stepped forward into the perimeter of the remaining luminosity provided by the perishing ember. Her clawed and scaled feet first came into view, then her dirty and partially scaled legs. She could see the courier's eyes widen in fear and it pleased her somehow. There was something about that expression of dread that felt so familiar to the Spectre.
"Stay where you are!" The woman barked as she continued to step back. She should just turn and run but instinct told her not to expose her back to this fiend.
The Spectre continued her advance. "But you asked what I am." An empty chuckle left her lips. "I will show you..." She stepped next to the glowing remains of the torch, and it revealed her tattered dress and her clawed fingers. One more step and the vanishing light exposed the uneven protrusions on her head.
The Spectre grinned just before the light was finally snuffed out of existence.
The woman gasped again, horrified, and turned to run.
The monster lunged forward and gripped the woman's arm. The courier, frightened of the thing she found, yelped and tried to pull away but the Spectre had her claws caught in the courier's sleeve.
"Let go!" The woman yelled, afraid, then grabbed whatever she could use against this abomination. Her hands copped a rotting piece of wood near the wall she was almost trapped against and immediately swung it at the Spectre. The makeshift club shattered against the Spectre's scales but it managed to loosen its grip on the courier. The woman's sleeve was not spared, however, and was torn to shreds by monster's sharp claws.
The Spectre's growls became louder.
"How dare you…"
The letter bearer dropped her useless weapon and turned towards the door once again to run and preserve her life. Unfortunately, even though the blow was able to put some distance between her and the fiend, the woman felt a sharp pain that immediately took over her senses.
Something sharp was digging into her left arm.
"How dare you…" The Spectre repeated, voice crazed, "Do you want to break the other one now?" Furious, she dug her claw deeper into the courier's arm.
"Let me go!" The intruder protested even more, striking the Spectre with any limb she could. But the more she struggled, the more the beast clamped down on her.
"Do you not know how much it hurt?"
The Spectre giggled manically, relishing the sensation of hot blood flowing between her fingers.
When was the last time she felt such a thing…?
The woman hissed and used her free hand to frantically search her coat's pocket for a knife she always wished she would never have to use. Pulling the weapon out, she bit its sheath and pulled the blade from its confines. The Spectre's eyes widened, surprised by the subdued glint of the metal, and stepped back just in time before the courier brandished the weapon against her. The Spectre felt the wind of the slash towards her face but, instead of the instinctual fear, animalistic rage flared in her eyes.
She watched the blade the same way a lynx watched for its prey's movements.
The courier held the knife in front of her, eyes blazing in desperation. She gulped, knowing the danger she was in, the peril she unknowingly walked into. She rotated the knife within the grip of her damp gloved hand. The slickness of her hold did nothing to ease her fears. She could barely see anything after all, and the horrific sight she saw merely moments ago made her stomach turn. Just what did she find?
"Don't come any closer." The black-haired woman warned and started to make her way back to the iron door where she came in. The faintest of light could be seen beyond the portal's pathway, and she knew quickly that the light was her only hope to escape.
The Spectre only continued to watch, looking as if she was enticed by the faint glimmer of metal against the last rays of sunlight that managed to shine through the door and the ventilation holes. It looked like a dancing fairy, or maybe a playful firefly. It looked so alive and free. It looked like the very thing she could never be.
She must extinguish it.
The Spectre lunged, uncaring of how she met the sharp blade. The courier tried to evade the Spectre's claws by parrying it with her knife. However, all she was able to do was nick the Spectre's hand before the fiend slapped the weapon away from her hand.
The metal clanged against the cobblestone and slid next to the skeleton on the ground.
Without her only means of protection, the courier bolted towards the door, holding her injured arm. It was her only chance. She must run away.
But the monster would not allow that.
The Spectre grabbed the woman by her ponytail and shoved her face first against the dungeon doors. "You're not leaving. I can't have you tell other humans that I live here, yes?" She whispered into the courier's ear. Her light voice was a stark contrast to the threat she uttered. She then trailed her bloody fingers up her victim's arm and hung her claws on the exposed flesh of the courier's shoulder.
She smiled at the intruder's pained hiss. With a curiosity of a child, the Spectre opened the woman's skin with a sharp claw, wondering if she would be rewarded by an agonizing yelp.
"A-ah!" The courier cried out and then whimpered through gritted teeth. She tried to struggle but the monster's grip was too strong, and she couldn't move anymore.
Pleased, the Spectre licked her lips at the scent of fresh blood dripping down the courier's arm.
"D-don't kill me… p-please." The monster's prey sobbed against the hard iron door.
I don't want to kill you…
"I can't let you get away."
Just for her sheer sadistic entertainment, the Spectre used her other hand to rip her prey's scarf, taking with it a part of fearful woman's clothes. She could hear the loud beating pulse in the human's neck, mocking her. This human was so painfully alive and her very existence ridiculed the Spectre's subsistence.
It angered her.
She must snuff this breathing creature's breath and tame its living human pulse to regain the silence of her asylum. The Spectre smiled, exposing her teeth to the musty air of the cell, and grabbed the courier's neck in her hand.
It fitted so perfectly in her palm.
The Spectre heard a terrified gasp and felt a shaking sob against her body.
She felt a drop of water on her hand.
"You can't die… don't leave me."
"Don't touch her! Haven't you done enough?"
"She's dying because of you!"
They were back, the phantoms that haunted her endlessly.
Lost, the Spectre's hold went lax. Her eyes were unfocused once again. She saw not the trespasser who threatened to disrupt her personal hell but the angel who valiantly tried to defend her. The hands on the courier's shoulder and neck knew that familiar trembling. Her ears knew those sobs well.
She jolted away from the woman as if she was burned.
Unblinking eyes turned towards the prone skeleton on the floor then back towards the shaking woman in a trench coat.
The Spectre took another step back, disgust evident in her face. She looked down at the slick wetness on her palms only to realize that one of her hands had been stained by the woman's blood while the other was wet because of her tears.
Blood and tears.
"Why are you bleeding…?"
"Because of you."
"Why are you crying…?"
"I'm crying for you."
A raking sob shook the Spectre's frame. She closed her hands over her face. Tears she thought to have long dried flowed once again.
What is this feeling…? I don't know anymore…
She collapsed to her knees, defeated by all the frenzied thoughts and emotions that have tortured her for so long. She could not stop crying. She could not stop trembling. She could not stop fearing the chaotic tides of sensations that threatened to drown her.
The Spectre did not even notice that her prey was gone. She did not even care. Whatever was left of her sanity wished that the woman would come back with a group of hunters just so she could finally die. She wished they would butcher her, behead her, and parade her carcass around town like the animal that she had become.
Thud. Thud. Thud.
Her ribs were constricting her, interfering with her desperate quest for air. Broken twigs dug into her skin, rubbing her wound raw and renewing the flow of crimson liquid. Dilated pupils gazed at the mesmerizing droplets as they landed upon the parched soil.
Hysteria drilled into her bones, shocking her hazy mind into alertness once more. Her burning limbs tried to trudge through this invincible swamp of terror. She could still feel the coolness of those claws on her skin, the phantom brush of that stranger's hot breath against her neck –
She clenched her eyes shut and whimpered helplessly as vivid images assaulted her mind.
That was no mere stranger.
That thing, that monster –
She opened her eyes frantically, willing the dying rays of the sun to dispel the darkness invading her senses. She could see the woods thickening and the leaves turning into lush green. She could make it out of this horrific area, far away from this lifeless labyrinth, far away from that dreadful dungeon, far away from that creature.
A pair of tragically dim brown orbs flashed across her mind.
Like a deadened anchor, her bag's sudden weight dragged her down. Her hacking coughs echoed between the drying trees, amplifying the emptiness of this timeless forest. Darkness was drowning her persistently, lulling her into its treacherous embrace. She reached out with her uninjured arm and grasped feebly at the grass before she fell into the abyss of unconsciousness. She struggled to breathe as her vision began to blur. She could barely feel frigid air stroking her stiff and numb arm through her torn sleeve.
I was just delivering a letter.
She blinked at the fallen item in front of her and wondered why it stood out so much, surrounded by these malicious shadows. Maroon stains marred the recipient's name, giving it an eerie sheen.
This three-lettered name seemed to glare at her mockingly, scorning her for her failure to deliver the letter to its rightful recipient.
But how could I stay at that place? I was almost killed!
By what? It didn't matter how human those brown eyes appeared. It didn't matter how terrified that creature looked even as it snarled its threats.
It was amused at her pain.
It relished at the wet warmth of her blood between its claws.
No, that thing could not have been a human!
Tears and sweat trickled down her muddied cheek as her breaths became shallower and more frantic.
I can't faint here. It can catch up to me any moment.
But I can't move.
Before the sun hid behind the horizon, the last bit of light landed upon the insignia embroidered on her glove as if to remind her of her sworn duty.
The small bird glowed, its feathers ablaze, and casted an envisaged warmth upon her.
Revitalized from seeing the symbol of her conviction basking in light, she struggled to reach her precious cargo. Everything would be over if she gave up now. The letter, any letter, contained priceless messages that linked the sender and the recipient. It was by no means just a piece of paper. It meant something to someone. It mattered.
Those priceless messages and the feelings they contain must be conveyed properly.
"A letter for you, miss."
"Thank you. Oh, why does it look so dirty?"
"Ah, truthfully, this letter was supposed to arrive weeks ago but the courier came down with a terrible illness and collapsed in the forest. He was only able to come to the mansion now to deliver the letter. He apologized profusely for its delay."
"I see. At least the courier tried his best. All that matters is that he is fine now, and I received the letter. Thank you, you may go now."
Cold sweat trickled down her temple but it had nothing to do with the fever plaguing her thoughts. She could barely feel her wound because she was pained by the ache in her chest more. Her glazed gaze fixated on the seal of the letter, a tiny circle, just like the one from her memories.
She could still hear that shriek of horror leaving her throat at the content of the letter. She could still recall the ghastly piece of paper harmlessly fluttering towards the ground as nausea consumed her body and soul.
It was already too late.
She found out too late.
Tears of frustration and helplessness gathered at the corners of her eyes as she tried to remember her parents' smiles but she could not do so.
She couldn't even remember what they look like.
It's all because of the timing...
Even though there was no date stamped on this letter, it must be delivered.
Her mind could not handle the possibility of someone else going through the same agony she did.
To go on in life without living…
When her stiff fingers finally closed around the bloody letter, a weak smile graced her weary features. Now, she just had to get up and return to the mansion. What she saw there was just a hallucination. Yes, it must have been the trick of light, caused by those flickering flares. Claws? No, the inhabitant was probably holding a blade or two. She entered the building without permission so, naturally, she was attacked as a trespasser.
Or perhaps everything was my fault, she forced her cloudy mind to think and reason, the person did not do anything until I dropped the torch. I must have startled her. Yes, there has to be an explanation on why that person has horns. Those things were probably just ornaments.
She could vaguely recall the person's furious snarl, filled with distress and mortification at being seen. As a composed and already well-traveled courier despite of her young age, she was used to various reactions from the recipients. Based on her experience, she could decipher people's emotions through their tones and unconscious body movements.
The courier could still see the stranger's huddled, trembling form within the shadows of the room.
The person was terrified.
But why? I did not look threatening, did I?
A spasm of searing pain surged through her left arm and shoulder, temporarily jolting her into wakefulness. That's right…the stranger only lunged at me at first to grab my sleeve. I reacted out of instinct then but that was no excuse. It was within her right to attack me. I entered the perimeter without permission and struck her.
The courier's self-criticizing nature took over as she chuckled humorlessly and continued to examine her conduct. It was an incorrigible habit of hers, but she believed that by doing so she could attain perfection and absolute flawlessness as a messenger. She also had a tendency to blame herself, especially when she needed explanations about things she could not understand. It diminished over the years but she was stripped of her professional mask now, defenseless and alone in this unknown land.
Her only means of protection, the knife, was lost underground during her struggle with the enraged person. However, in spite of the state she was in now, the courier was relieved that the weapon did not injure the recipient. Such blunder would have been irreversible, marking the end of her career. No one could find out of course, but her own conscience would never pardon her action no matter the circumstances.
By violating her way of living, the courier's wandering mind would lose its peace.
She would lose her path.
No. I will not become lost again. I must correct this mistake.
The more she rationalized the stranger's attack, the calmer she became. She did not fear the prospect of going back to that stifling dungeon anymore. All she had to do was to remain calm and apologize for her behavior. After being forgiven, she could perhaps inquire the whereabouts of the recipient, this Miss Yui.
Strength was leaving her though. The sky was now enshrouded in graying magenta and indigo, signaling the arrival of night. The stings from her wounds ebbed away as the sensations gradually faded into ringing numbness.
Before the dulling haze coursed through her vision, she noticed a silhouette under the incorporeal shades of leaves. Hope quenched the despair she felt earlier as a soft voice drifted towards her.
The shadow was crouched in front of a pond, it seemed. She squinted, her breaths coming out in shallow puffs in the frigid air. The stranger was playing with something in the water, judging from the quiet splashes and light laughter. Despite of the fog cloaking her vision and the absence of light, she clearly saw the veiled gaze of this stranger landing on her.
Perhaps she was imagining things again yet, after seeing the figure's soothing smile, she stopped resisting the darkness and allowed it to take over.
There was understanding in those doe-like eyes.
That was enough for her.
End of Preface: Message from the Shadows
Athyra: ghikiJ and I have this idea since January, but it is only until recently that we are able to make any progress on this story at all. It is quite an experience writing a story of such genre, and naturally the characters are quite fun to develop. Well, as this is only the preface, I shall save my comments on the later chapters.
ghikiJ: As Athyra said, it's quite an experience writing in the horror genre. Not only that, it was also quite an experience working on a collaboration piece. This story took weeks to develop from a random set of ideas into a flowing storyline. Truth be told, "Spectre" was supposed to be a long oneshot, a simple means for us to leave our mark in this fandom, but it gradually evolved into a multi-chaptered, and multi-faceted story. I hope you enjoyed this teaser of a preface. We will upload the first chapter as soon as we can.