~Volume 1 Prologue~
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“Are you sure?”

This was a question coming from a voice dancing on the very edge of my hearing. It was awfully loud, and its unusual cadence jolted me right out my stupor.

“Of course I'm certain!” Snapped a second voice. It was just as ethereal as the first, yet for some reason I couldn't help but find it more masculine than the previous speaker. “I tell you, he got through!”

“Then where is he?” The first voice spoke again.

“How the hell should I know?!” The gruff voice of the second speaker lashed out once again, and I found myself thinking about how I couldn’t feel any sympathy towards the first voice even though I had a feeling I was supposed to do so in this kind of situation. It was a weird thought.

“Now, now. No need to shout.” A new voice entered the fray with the self-assured words of an adult chiding unruly children.” Are you sure he didn't bounce off?” She, for by now I was quite sure it was a woman, inquired with a hint of veiled bemusement.

“Yes,” Came the somewhat uncertain answer from the first voice of ambiguous gender. For the sake of simplicity, I decided to start labeling the speakers, so I mentally tagged him as The Boy. Anyways, he continued by saying; “Five layers were circumvented, three pierced, one completely shattered.”

“That's just nine. What about that special bottom layer of yours?” The latecomer asked, and this time I had to conclude she sounded weirdly familiar. It was probably the tone, a mix of seductiveness, arrogance, and sense of superiority that made the small of my back itch with irritation. The small of my back; I wondered for a moment. Somehow saying that felt subtly wrong. Maybe it had something to do with my head feeling all fuzzy and detached from my senses. Anyways, I christened her The Woman until further information was available.

“It was...completely erased,” The Boy answered meekly, and then quietly added, “Sorry.”

“You better be,” scoffed the abrasive voice of The Man. By the way, that was his label. Yeah, my naming sense was boring but practical. “We’ve been planning this for ages and you blew it!”

“Tch-tch,” The Woman clicked her tongue and I could totally picture her wagging her finger disapprovingly while doing so. “Last time I checked, it was your job to make sure we knew where he was in case he broke through, yet I don't see you looking for him.”

“W-well...” The Man shrunk back for a moment, but then he quickly regained his attitude. “Yeah, I lost him, but it would have never even happened if he did his job and—”

“Hey there people!” Came a sudden exclamation from a newcomer entering the fray, her voice carrying enough enthusiasm for a whole cheer-leading squad. This time I was one hundred and one percent sure that it was a young girl. As for her temporary label, The Girl was fitting enough. I was nothing if not consistent. … Wait. Now that I think about it, what was I anyway…? “What did I miss?”

“He’s in,” The Man answered curtly.

“He got through all those defenses?” Chirped The Girl with childlike glee, finally tearing me away from my moment of existential musing. “He's goooood!”

“Yes, he is,” The Woman, whom I pinpointed as the de-facto leader of the group, said with a hint of bitterness in her voice.

“Where is he now? Let me see!” The Girl yelled, and I could also hear some pitter-patter, so… maybe she was running around the place? What place? Where was this taking place anyway? And where was I? While I pondered, The Girl’s excitement only met with an awkward silence.

“We don't know where he is,” The Boy stated, dispelling the silence and my train of thought at the same time.

“Really?!” The Girl exclaimed and let out a jaunty little whistle. “Damn, he is goooooooooooood!”

“What are we going to do now?” The Boy asked in a mousy voice, and for a few long seconds the entire group fell silent.

“There's not much we can do, now is there?” The Woman at the helm finally broke the silence with a question that sounded entirely rhetorical. “We'll just have to wait for him to make the first move…”

With that, the presence of the group slowly dissolved and… wait, presence? Was I actually feeling their presence all this time? I felt incredibly confused. Then, since there was nothing to see, hear, smell, touch or taste, my consciousness slowly folded in on itself and I drifted into what felt like sleep, none the wiser of what I just witnessed.