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  1. Founding an Economic Religion But, what is religion, you fanatics? Your excuse to lie, kill, rape and destroy? You are but fools that learned to play with tricks. Your religion is naught but a failed ploy. Religions are nothing but tools for fear, Means for harmony and forced self-restraint. Abandon the burden that it makes you bear! For none will rely on the strength of the faint Chronicles of the Arelians 54:4-7. “That’s what he wanted you for?” Kurotou mused, as the AI-controlled Nightelf’s seat secured him. Kael looked visibly confused. “I thought it’d be something serious…but every one of his questions centred around games!” “Satoru’s never serious. Don’t let it bother you—except when he’s holding a gun.” Kael nodded grimly and let the co-pilot’s seat secure him as well. The Command from the Air Control Centre came over the radio: “V-4, 90˚ lift.” With a tap, the vehicle rose into the sky, turning towards the Novark and racing off. “People died the last time Oethe went there. Why in the world is he sending us back there?” Kurotou shrugged. “The kid’s crazy, but I’d rather die facing the enemy than facing Satoru’s antics. He put poison in my water and claimed he was probing if I was worth the job! The farther away from him, the better.” Kael shuddered and looked back at the ten Oethe soldiers clad in the black and heavy combat uniform Oethe reserved for special operations. “This time, we’re prepared, don’t you think?” Kurotou smiled. “Black’s the new red.” He looked to the left and gave the accompanying Nightelf a thumbs up. The Nightelves had been refitted for optimal sensory performance and ungodly maximum damage. If anything so much as showed up as hostile, it would be smoking powder in a matter of seconds. A small hologram of Satoru appeared on the control panel. “Hello! Hi, Kael! First, of all, good luck: you’ll need it!” Kael gave him a restrained wave. “Satoru, what’s up?” He smiled mischievously. Well it was meant to be a smile, but it made Kurotou’s hair stand on end. Crap. “I’m declaring myself the Eon of the Aether.” Were it not for the fact that rolling the eyes was something exclusively reserved for women, Kurotou would have. “Congratulations. What is the Aether?” He smiled again, making Kurotou’s hair stand for the second time. “Not what. “Who” is the question you should be asking.” Kurotou gritted his teeth, even as the boy waited for him to ask the question the right way. Kael saved him the embarrassment. “Who is the Aether, Satoru?” “A-ha! I knew you were wondering, but I’m getting tired of talking, so I’ll skip that part and move on to the next thing I want to tell you.” Kael smacked his fore-head with his palm. “I reviewed the potential economy of the Aether with Shiro and Kuro. Guess what?” “You--” Kurotou started before Satoru cut him off. “I’m short on time. We stand to gain a lot from industry and research, given the potential market within Theia and the massive one surrounding the Ark ship.” Kael didn’t say a word, so Kurotou kept quiet and let Satoru continue. “However, research shows that people are more likely to work efficiently under certain guidance…Religious guidance to instil fear and discipline within the concerned populace.” Kael laughed out loud. “So you’re founding an economical religion and proclaiming yourself Lord and Saviour?!” Then, he paused and looked at the hologram grimly. “You’re crazy.” Satoru’s happy face darkened fifty shades. Kael shut up immediately. “I’m crazy, you piece of trash? Keep talking, someday you’ll say something intelligent.” A soldier wolf-whistled from the back. Kael made the wise choice and kept quiet. “Say something, Kael.” Satoru urged, seething with anger that seemed to come from nowhere. I’ve got to stop this kid from turning everyone against him… “Satoru, a thought crossed my mind--” “So, a thought crossed your mind? Must have been a long and lonely journey.” F**k you! “Watch your mouth, Satoru or I’ll put this mission in reverse.” He snickered. “Oh, please. You are proof that evolution can go in reverse.” All of a sudden, he started laughing playfully. Kurotou slammed the hologram and it shut down. Once it vanished, he breathed a hot sigh of relief and irritation. “Son of a b****!” He cursed and wiped his face. Kael looked at him, fury in his eyes. “Why do we obey what he says?” Kurotou glanced at him. “Gee…I don’t know. Perhaps, because I like walking around without a bullet in my skull?” Kael shrugged, obviously seeing the sense in that. “Who are Shiro and Kuro?” It was Kurotou’s turn to shrug. “Some people he always keeps ranting about. I’ve never met them.” Tense silence ensued for a few minutes, neither side wanting to discuss the insults received while the soldiers in the back preferred to silently let both of them burn in the humiliation. To ease the tension, a soldier started playing punk rock. Kurotou couldn’t tell he was mocking them or trying to help. “Where are we headed exactly?” One of the soldiers asked and put the heavy rifle to rest beside him. “To your deaths.” Kurotou’s head snapped back. At the same time, his hands came off the control panel and raised the pistol to his chest. Kael gritted his teeth. “Dammit, Mistral! What are you doing here?!” She cat-walked to the cockpit, slapping a leering soldier across the face. Io flanked her, knocking the same soldier with the butt of his rifle. “What else? I had to know what Satoru’s up to. Now I know: toying with your lives.” Kurotou kept one hand on the fire arm. I don’t like Satoru, but she is on another level entirely… “Welcome to the joy-ride, darling. Did you see the “abandon all hope, ye who enter” tag I sprayed on the Nightelf?” Kurotou asked, putting the firearm in its place. He heard her sigh. “Look. I value my friends more than some mentally challenged kid.” “I know two mentally challenged kids, darling and you’re one of them.” Kael scratched the back of his neck. “We’re barely one month on Alioth and political campaigns have started with the teens. This is bad.” He noted. Mistral got passionate. “This isn’t politics! I’m trying to make…” Kurotou subtly made sure that everyone except for Mistral and Io were strapped in. Then he rolled the aircraft. After hitting their heads against several hard things, there was some silence. “Oh, I’m sorry, darling! Were you saying something?” He heard Io’s rifle power up. Eight more emitted the same sound. Without a doubt, the real soldiers were challenging him to turn up the aggro. “Listen Io, I don’t care if we’re the same age or younger. What I do care about is that you have a nineteen-year-old girl leading you around like a mistress. Whatever happened to your soldier’s honour?” “It went with Eidolon and died with Satoru.” “Sheesh.” Kael busied himself with something that could have waited till later. I need some back up here, Kael! Mistral started talking…again. “What did he send you to do?” “Fasten your harness. Then we can talk.” Both complied and he continued. “Intelligence spotted some monoliths in a swamp not far from here. They--” “Intelligence? Whose Intelligence?” Io asked. Kael looked back. “Mistral’s, of course.” Kurotou could tell that the girl shook her head. “I didn’t send any Intelligence to any swamps.” “No soldiers have gone scouting either for two days.” A soldier named Skellarts added. How did that Satoru know that there were monoliths in a swamp anyway? “Am I the only one who gets the feeling that we’re being played here?” Mistral asked. Kurotou nodded. “Yes, you are. Whether or not Intelligence came here is irrelevant. What matters is that we find out what these monoliths are and— “ A hostile light lit up on the control panel. “I’ve got a bogie!” However, before either aircraft could engage the opponent, the hostile vehicle inexplicably blew up. He cursed. Once again, Mistral had something to say. “Great! Now an offensive aircraft blew up. You know what that means?” Kurotou was getting pretty irritated at her constant bickering, so he chose not to answer. Unfortunately, Skellarts didn’t catch the hint. “You tell me.” “We’ve let everyone know we are in the area. I think Satoru set us up. I mean: The Lhaeryon is here,” Kurotou shrugged. “The Birzai is here as well.” Kael sarcastically clapped for her. “Wait a minute…so am I.” Kael stopped clapping. Then it dawned on Kurotou, even as several enemy crafts came into view. “The bastard set us up…”
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