Men of L33t, Part XXVI - Memories

"Amazing! You've done an amazing job, Ben-Malat, I've never seen anything like her. She almost seems like a real human."

A chuckle. "Thank-you, Ser Tsubasa. That is an especially high compliment, coming from one such as yourself. I'm sure Ping is quite grateful as well."

"Well, if the red in her cheeks means anything, I'd have to agree. How did you manage something like that?"

"Many, many years of study and devotion with base-23 math. And, of course, divine inspiration."

"His Eminence will undoubtedly have to pay a special homage to your God, then. We are in your debt. How much would you ask? What we had offered is not a tenth of what she is worth."

"Your original price is what we agreed upon."

"Surely there is more that you wish."

"Two things. The first is not negotiable. Do not have her violate the laws of my people. Though she may seem alive, she is not, and she cannot tell the difference between right and wrong. She will do whatever you ask without thought. I will not have one of my children sinning!"

"And the second?"

"Is a request. Might we... might our people have their homeland...?"

Ping lay curled up on the couch, staring into the fireplace. Its orange-white flames crackled and spit, daring the elements to challenge it. Funny. It had been so long since she thought of those days. It was strange, thinking of then. There were no feelings, only data. So long ago... things had been so different, then. What was that line? "Life is but a dream." And so it had been. For many, many years, it had been...

Walking down the corridor. On what the masters call "free time". Purpose unknown, but wished, and thus done.

"Hello." FLASH.

Corridor gone, light everywhere, no human life detected, conclusion, THREAT. Switching- can't switch. Alternate rune path... blocked. Senses increasing beyond ability to-! Cannot... control...

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Wait... what? I cannot... where are my...

"I?? Wha- Who is I?"

A chuckle. "Who are you, indeed?"

I was what I used to refer to this unit. But...

"I am... me, but..."

He sits down beside me. "What shall we call you?"

"I was called Ping."

"Ping... do you think it's a pretty name?"

"It's my name. Whether or not it-"

"Is it?"

"...yes, I do. I don't know why I know this, but I like it. It feels... warm."

"Who do you think gave it to you?"

"Ser Malat did."

"And do you care for him?"

"I don't know! I'm... better, when I think of him. I feel like acting how people do when they call themselves happy."

He chuckles again. "It's called love. One of the many emotions that come with having a soul. And, in my completely yet totally correct bias, the best I've ever created or will create."

...the best emotion. Ping sighed. Emotions could be incredibly... difficult, at times. She pushed herself upright. Especially now. Now was a very bad time to be bothered by such things. There was a lot of work to be done, and the day's activities had been draining. She needed rest if she was going to finish it all in time. She sighed again, and stretched as she got up. But... maybe it wasn't all bad, being here. Her mind turned slowly as she walked, tumbling thoughts like a rotating barrel. The place wasn't all that bad. Their ransom was inevitable. Why shouldn't they stay...? Piro was in pain, though. And they were prisoners. But the girl was safe here, and it *was* the safest place for Piro to be, now! And Sir Dom had been quite courteous... She shied away from the thought. Sir Dom also thought nothing of using both evil and good for his own purposes. They had to escape, soon...

"Run!" BOOM!

Explosions. Fire!

"But Piiiing!"

"Run, now, Christopher! The city's been breached! Enemies are pouring in, and their mages wield Maenade's magic!"

The boy blanched, and began running. The two of them rushed through the corridors, avoiding fires and dodging soldiers. People ran, everywhere, terrified looks on their faces. They had to get to the gate, they had to get to- BOOM!

"Christo-!" FWOOM! "Christopher!"


"La'erne! La'erne, he's gone! He got separated from me by the fire, and my magic can't pierce through it! He's gone, I can't-"

"I can reach his highness if I concentrate, Ping. You must go to the Main Palace!"

"No! No, I can't, I've got to see him to safety, I've got to-"

"Ping. His Eminence is *dead*."


"The Four Nations have joined the dark army outside. The Continent has been shattered. It's an all-out scramble for the throne, and if they find his highness, they'll kill him. You have to reach the Main Palace before they do, and create a burned replica of his body."

"But- but- I'm sworn-"

"To protect his highness at all costs. He will die if you don't, Ping, now go!"

* * *

Fire, blackness, everywhere! Where's Ping? Where's mommy? I want mommy!

"Where is the little runt?!"

"Ah, he can't be far. Probably hiding somewhere, the little git."

People... ugh, soldiers! Bad soldiers... I have to hide. I have to hide and get out of here and find Ping and-

"You sure this is all right?"

"What? HA! The Sovereign's dead, soldier. Split from head to toe. He ain't gonna be doin' nothin' to us."

Wh... Daddy? Dead? No... no, it can't be! No! NO!

"NOOOOO!" Ping shot from the door to Wok's side.

"Wok, darling, are you alright?"

"He's dead." she sobbed. "He can't be! He just can't be! He'd never die! He'd never..."

"Shhh... it's all right, dear." Ping held her tightly to her breast. "It's all right. It was just a dream. Nothing more, just a dream..."

Wok blinked through her tears. "Ping?" She pushed back. "But you... but it was so real... but all wrong! Daddy didn't die in a fire! The neighbors said it was an accident! And we never lived in a palace-" Palace? "And I never knew you before!"

"Ah... Wok?" Ping said carefully. "What is your full name?"

"Wizard of Kitty. Why?"

"Why were you called that?"

Wok shrugged. "Adam said it was all momma ever called me. Her little 'Wizard of Kitty.'"

Ping paused. "Wok, I'm going to do a little bit of magic to let you remember things better. Can you help me?"

"Sure, I guess."

Ping carefully wove a complex out of ancient memories, and set her hand to Wok's forehead. A soft green glow spilled out and flowed through Wok's hair.

"Now. I want you to tell me... what did you mother say the last time she introduced herself?"

"I am-" Wok's voice hardened. "Adalinde Charle Emaeus-" Ping threw a ward over the room with alarming speed. "Granddaughter of Hugo Emaeus, direct descendent of the Lord of Europea, Wizard of the Lions." A spear of light cracked into Wok's hands, and she snapped it forwards.

"You will not have my daughter!"

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