Yeah, you read it right. I'm on a new territory. First Edge. I assume that means this is another world with more than one turning point. Is there a Second Edge and a Third Edge? Or just a Second Edge? Or a Fourth Edge or a Fifth Edge or an Eleventeenth Edge? Or is the future of this world called something else, like how Ibara was Veelox three centuries in the future?
Even stranger, why does this territory even exist? From what I've heard throughout my adventures, there are only ten territories and seven worlds in Halla. Unless all this leaping through time and space has messed up my ability to count, I've already seen all of them. That means that this is the eleventh territory, and the eighth world. And if this is First Edge, there must be even more unexplored territories somewhere down the road.
But these broad questions about Halla don't seem to matter right now, after everything that's happened to me since I first set foot on this territory. As always, I need to find the turning point, find Saint Dane, and find out how he plans to monkey around with this world. And I really, really want to beat him this time. More than usual, even. That's because I've seen a lot of poverty and strife and violence here, and whatever Saint Dane is cooking up is the absolute last thing the inhabitants of First Edge need.
But let's back up. I need to start from the beginning…
After I left your place, Mark, I headed for the Sherwood house. My vacation was over. Man, am I glad that time between the territories isn't relative, because I desperately needed those few days with you two. I wonder…does this whole scrambled time thing mean that Saint Dane can take breaks too? Does he ever need to wind down after he loses a territory? Or celebrate after he wins one? Somehow I don't think so, but it's still kind of funny to imagine Saint Dane relaxing on a beach, sunning that pale-ass skin. Or as funny as anything involving a demon bent on the destruction of all humanity can be.
I didn't know where I was going to go, but I knew that I was going to find out pretty quickly. As you guys know, Saint Dane never sneaks off to a territory. He always lets me know where he's going. I didn't understand this at first, because it would obviously be a lot easier for him to send the territories spiraling into chaos if he gave me the slip. Since then, though, I've realized that his plans aren't just about toppling the territories. He wants to beat the Travelers straight up, fair and square. After all, if he wants to prove that Halla would be better off with him controlling its destiny, he's gotta prove it to someone, right?
Once I reached the flume, however, I couldn't help wondering if maybe Saint Dane had indeed chosen to slip off undetected after all. There was no hint, no clue. I stood there, hoping that he would arrive on Second Earth so the chase could begin. How twisted is that? But he didn't come. Neither did any of the other Travelers. I was just standing there stupidly, looking into the mouth of the tunnel to everywhere, at a loss for what to do next.
In the end, my answer didn't come from the flume. It came from the ring on my fourth finger.
All of a sudden, the ring grew hot. It didn't twitch. This wasn't a familiar sensation. I had never felt anything like it before. I yanked the ring off before it fried my finger and threw it on the floor, as I always did. But the ring didn't expand. It spun. It was gathering speed, becoming a blur. I stepped back uncertainly. You guys described something like this before, Mark and Courtney. You said that your ring did this when the flume in the Sherwood house was created. What was next? Was the ring going to fire a laser beam, like yours did on that particular occasion?
As it turned out, it didn't. Instead, it glowed white. There was a flash, and then everything fell still. I cautiously approached, and picked up the ring again. Nothing seemed to have happened. But then I noticed something strange. The odd symbols carved in a circle around the stone in the ring had changed. They had shifted around, and it looked like there were more of them than there had been. I couldn't even begin to guess what that meant…especially considering that before I had time to think, the ring twitched to life again.
One of the symbols was glowing. This symbol definitely hadn't been on the ring before. I dropped the ring again, and it began to expand. The jumble of sweet musical notes started up. After the fireworks were over, a scroll was lying next to the ring.
I picked up the ring, and uncertainly put it back on my finger, then unfurled the scroll. Written on it were a few hastily scribbled sentences:
"Our world's significance in Halla has changed. We matter more to Saint Dane than we could ever have imagined. Come to First Edge immediately.
My head was spinning. None of this made any sense. What was this First Edge place? An eleventh territory? Who was this Cloud Wolf person that knew about Halla and the Travelers? And what did he mean that his world's significance has changed? Did that mean that Saint Dane originally had no plans to target this territory, but changed his mind? That idea opened up a whole new mess of possibilities. Could there be more to Halla than just what Saint Dane was targeting? Maybe it was simply that by conquering the seven familiar worlds, Saint Dane would grow strong enough to seize the rest without bothering to sway their turning points.
That thought actually gave me confidence. If Saint Dane was deciding to target places that he originally didn't care about, that meant he was getting desperate. The turning points of eight territories have passed. He won Veelox and Quillan, and I suppose you could call Ibara a stalemate, but the Travelers thwarted his plans on every other territory. This is not to say that we're beating him…lately it's become clear that his goals are much more complicated than derailing the natural destiny of each individual territory. I think he's got more going for him than we realize. But still, from where I was standing, this looked like an act of desperation to me. I'm sure there are loads more pieces of the puzzle. But hey, I can hope, can't I?
There was only one thing to do. I took a deep breath, and called out, "First Edge!"
The flume twisted and writhed, the gray walls melting into crystal, as the musical notes grew louder and the pin spot of light appeared in the distance. Soon, I was pulled into the flume, headed on my way to an unfamiliar territory.