Previously on Rising Stars…
In the Cosmic World; the Radiant Alexander Aile is attacked by a strange creature. Narrowly escaping with his thanks to the intervention of the Radiant named Lao. Elsewhere, in an alternate timeline of the Cursed World, the pre-teen vigilante Aranea faces down 6 gangsters who joined together to end his life. Forcing him to activate his Star Core and easily defeat their most powerful member. But his victory is shortlived as one of the criminals transforms into an unholy beast. Forcing him to push his Star Core to its limits to slay it…
Reality stands as a unique patchwork of Nine Realms which are further split into countless worlds which they themselves are sometimes split across divergent timelines. Even then there are numerous dimensions that exist either outside of these Nine Realms or even permeate all of them. The Astral Plane is one such dimension that exists separate from the Nine Realms yet can interact with them all. The source of all magic in reality. Every shade of Aether remained and flowed freely here. All spawning from the Starpulse, a Star larger than one could ever hope to comprehend, which sat in its center. It’s light shining across reality and constantly generating Aether so long as the Star Forgers are able to give it life.
Orbiting the Starpulse was a majestic castle made of feathers. Layer after layer of feather stacked without end. Curving and bending to create an avant-garde castle structure that captivated and intrigued. It was the home of the Star Forgers leader, Sorceress Udona. She was a short black haired woman who wore a slim fitting black long dress that shimmered like galaxies and rose to just below the shoulders. Though the front of her dress was smooth, the back emulated a peacocks tail. Even going so far as to be accompanied by a long trail that broke into 8 different feather trails. The feathers acted as golden accents to the black shimmering dress. Her Star Core shined prominently above her cleavage. Her eyes a soft light red that observed the stadium-sized star map before her.
It was her duty to keep track of all the 108 Star Forgers in reality and do her utmost to coordinate and rebuild their shattered infrastructure. A tiring and arduous task she had to do alone…until recently. This time she was not alone in her observations and worked alongside a recently chosen Radiant. He was an older man in his 50s sealed within a hulking bipedal exoskeleton that stood 12 feet tall. Two massive 3 fingered hands extended in front of him as 8 tentacles with 4 clamps on the end extended out of its upper back. The body of the suit was predominantly jet black while gold accented the forearms and calves. A massive star painted onto the chest while the man had his Star Core embedded in the center of his face. Covering his nose with the side points extending over both his eyes. The top and side points creating a connective glass-like surface between them, resulting in what gave the impression of a half-helmet. Like Sorceress Udona, he glowed with a golden cosmic aura.
“Burning the midnight oil, eh Grant?” Udona asks as she approaches the hulking man.
“Is it night already? I could hardly tell.” Grant’s voice was soft and muffled. Despite becoming a Radiant, he still was confined to his iron lung to stay alive. “I was so engaged in my-”
“Our work love.” Udona rests her hand on his left arm. Gazing at the Star Map that floated between them. Like the larger one, it held 9 massive blue-see through orbs. All but one of which was connected by a series of swirling intertwining paths. These paths, in turn, led back to the shimmering cloud that surrounded each of the orbs. Within the cloud, a single light shined brightly. While his larger arms held this in place, the tentacles each pulled at different points and seemed to be searching for something. “Did you find anything?” she inquires.
“If I’m understanding this correctly…” Grant stops to formulate his thoughts. “That young man Lao has met with Mr. Aile.* He’s sent him on his way and is en route to meet the young man. Uh…Mr. Varg. He seems to still be on his World presently.” **
“And the others?”
“We’re waiting on Radiants that can locate them for us while Lao is away. I’d call Wú, but he’s still busy training the other rookies.” *
*See Star Forgers for more details
“Good work Grant.” Udona congratulates. She floats back down to the floor. Making her way to a door in the back of the Observatory. “If there are any changes, do tell me.”
“Yes Udona.” he thinks briefly and stops his work. “Ms. Udona, why did you chose me to assist you? There must be better options than I.”
“Maybe. Maybe not. Doesn’t matter to me, you’re the one who’s here aren’t you?”
“Yes, I suppose I am.”
“Good, then no more driving that cute little head of yours crazy.” she gently pats Grant on the side of the head. “The Star Core chose you and you answered the call to be here. That’s all the reasoning I need to put my faith in you.”
Having, hopefully, reassured her new Radiant. Udona floats to the back of the Observatory into a castle-like hallway. As the creator of this citadel, the Iridescent Palace, it could change and reform with her will. Although she kept several rooms consistent. She turns the corner and enters one such room. A pearl white infirmary that only had two present. The first was a clean-shaven man with short black hair. He wore a black shendyt, a cloth skirt that wrapped around the waist and extended to his knees. A golden belt is worn atop of it and a long sash wrapped across the chest from the Star Core embedded below his right collarbone. Extending down to the left side of his waist, returning up to the Star Core, and wrapping around his neck like a scarf. Golden wristbands and anklets finishing his look. His shendyt rippling with the faint image of galaxies.
The man lay unconscious on a bed of feathers. Overseeing him was a woman with angelic wings of light. A head full of golden hair parted over her left eye and tied in a ponytail that lay resting on her right shoulder. A golden dress that cut out at her thighs sat atop a tight black bodysuit. The forearms and legs from the knees down a gold much like her dress. Each golden part of her outfit, even her wings, shimmered with the faint image of galaxies. A plain silver staff remained clutched in her left hand. The tip holding her Star Core within a self-contained spherical barrier. She watched over him with silver eyes unwaveringly even as Udona entered the room.
“How’s our friend Sariel?” Udona asks. Walking up to her fellow Radiant and standing next to her.
“My apologies mistress, I’ve no good news to share.” her voice was sad yet still held a glimmer of hope hidden within it. “Though I’ve tended to his physical injuries I’ve little success in purification. At most I’ve only been able to keep it at bay. The creature responsible for this…whatever did this is unlike any I’ve ever encountered before.” *
“Any idea when he might awaken?”
“No, unfortunately…” Sariel replies with a heavy heart. “I know you want me to ensure his safety but-”
“I know Sariel.” she smiles. “You’ve done all you can. Do what you do best.”
“Thank you mistress.” Sariel gives a bow and leaves. Like many Radiants, she did her duty as a Star Forger. But in her World, the World of Deities, Sariel served as an Archangel. Finding wayward souls and healing the injured. A duty she now expanded throughout the multiverse, especially for the Star Cores that travel to…less than hospitable locales…A rarely acknowledged but important duty.
“I wonder how the people before me cleaned up such messes?” she wondered briefly. “They’re dead so I imagine not very well.” With a flick of her wrist, she summons a curving chair of feathers. She inhales before her Star Core faintly glows and activates its communication function. “Hope you aren’t busy right now Yuna.”
“I am, Witch.” A voice replies with disdain.
“Yes I know I’m not your favorite person. Surely your sense of duty outweighs your hatred of me.”
Yuna sighs. “Make it quick witch, what is it you want?”
“I want you to do what you do best. Perform a purification.”
“If that was all you needed you’d not have called on me. What game are you playing at?”
“Come now dear, you wouldn’t believe me if I told you. But perhaps this young man in need of your particular touch could explain it. We’ll be waiting for you.”
Hours pass as Udona waits in the infirmary. The Aether that filled the air humming at her presence. It was soothing to all no matter the hue it took. But deep in the pit of her soul, she knew how fragile it was. How easily it could be tainted and how much damage it could do once that happened. Hours continued to pass until the next day comes. When it does, a knock finally comes to the door. Parting gracefully to reveal a priestess in a black haori over a golden hakama. Straight black hair in a ponytail fastened with a golden ribbon. A small Star Core embedded in the center of her forehead. Jet black socks and sandals lightly stepping into the room. An air of regalness surrounding her that rivaled Udona herself. Her eyes, however, remain closed.
“You took your sweet time.” Udona chuckles to herself.
“Hmph.” she scoffs dismissively. “Is that him?”
Yuna takes a deep breath, walks to the opposite side of the bed, and rests her hand on the unconscious man’s. Her eyes opening slightly to reveal hollow grey eyes with a subtle glow. “Oh my…” As a Priestess, it was her duty to purify those who came to her. But Yuna was no ordinary priestess, she was a skilled and powerful psychic. Using it in conjunction with her purification powers to pinpoint a corruption and utterly remove it while within. Everyone’s mind was different. His was light and darkness fighting for supremacy amidst a maelstrom of wind. “Hello?” she calls out into the void.
“Who’s there?” A voice calls back.
“I’m Lady Yuna. A Radiant like yourself.” she floats through the void towards the voice.
“Dante…where…My brother…where is my brother?” the voice replies.
“Brother?” Yuna asks as she finds the unconscious man drifting through the heart of the maelstrom.
“Dante…Why Dante? Why won’t you…” he looks towards Yuna with eyes crying bloody tears.
“Who is Dante?” Yuna asks as she floats closer to the man and rests her hand on his shoulder. Light passing from her into him. Coursing through his body into the wasp wings tattooed on his back. Glowing brightly as the light begins to overwhelm the maelstrom. A massive wasp the size of a planet opens its wings and dispels the darkness. Forcing Yuna back into reality with a forceful shock.
“Are you okay Lady Yuna?” Udona asks.
“I…” Yuna was unsure of how to respond. Luckily, she didn’t have to as the man opens his eyes and floats into the air ready for battle.
“Where am I?!” he shouts at the pair. His heart pounding in his chest before he realizes he already knows the answer. “Udona?”
“Welcome back Rodin. Sleep well?”
“How did I get here?” Rodin asks as he lands.
“Lao found you half dead drifting between Realms. He’s been quite the busy Radiant. Though I suppose you’d know something about that.” she cheekily lowers her eyelids ever so slightly. Rodin can’t find the words to respond.
“I demand an explanation.” Yuna frowns. “I saw…things in his mind…What is he?”
“I…” Rodin begins but is cut off.
“That is something that will wait for the time being. There are still several guests who need to arrive before he can answer that.”
“Guests?” Yuna says confused.
“It’s a lot to explain but I’ll give you some keynotes for the time being. We do owe you after all.” Udona clears her throat and sits down in her chair. “You know of Angels yes?”
“Tis impossible for me not to.” Yuna replies.
“Good. Well then, it’s quite unpleasant that Angels are escaping the Rift in increasing regularity. But to make matters worse the Aether and Rift Relics they leave behind taint wherever they go. The creatures and objects tainted by them become monstrous Abyssals. Tell me, what do you think happens when an Abyssal becomes too powerful? Or someone too powerful becomes an Abyssal?”
“My god…” It doesn’t take long for Yuna’s to grasp the severity of this possibility.
“Precisely…and Rodin is the key to ensuring this stops. But he can’t do it alone. Hence why we’re waiting for a few guests…The explorer who will guide them to their goal. The vigilante who can keep their sense of hope alive thanks to their youth. The soldier who will lead them. The pilot who will do what he must and of course you, the priestess who will keep their souls bound. My Radiant Pulsars who will together stave off the Abyssal Gods.”