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625 Dramatic Year

    The next morning, Ashlyn awoke with a smile on her face. Her eyes no longer glinted with the usual coldness.

    After freshening up, she donned a yellow skirt and joined Kiba for a lavish breakfast. The entire "family" was present, but the man she worried about the most was missing.

    Taking a glass of orange juice, she looked at Kiba and asked, "Where is Zed?"

    Ashlyn splashed the mouthful of coffee she was drinking.

    Eva smirked, while the eyes of the twins sparkled with excitement.

    As for Kiba... he froze with toast jammed in his throat.

    "Zed?" Kiba repeated while forcefully swallowing the toast.

    Ashlyn nodded.

    She loved Kiba but cared more for Zed. She was really protective of him.

    Because unlike Kiba, Zed was innocent, honest, and a bit gullible. He could be deceived, and with his powers far lesser than Kiba, he was at risk.

    Weeks ago, Kiba had reassured Zed was safe, but not seeing him left her worried.

    "Zed... well..." Kiba was a bit embarrassed as he answered, "He is me, and I am him."

    "?" Ashlyn was bewildered.

    Then her eyes widened, and her lips opened as 'Kiba' transformed into 'Zed.'

    The glass in her hand dropped and shattered while the juice splashed on her.

    But she was incapable of feeling the stains.

    "I wasn't deceiving you," Zed explained with his characteristic polite behavior. "Kiba is my alter ego..."

    In the meantime, Agatha slipped an arm around Ashlyn.

    "You can say he has Multiple Personality Disorder!" Agatha added to soften the blow. "The man in front of us is the good part.. the one we love is the evil part."

    The corners of Zed's lips twitched.

    Ashlyn stared at him while recalling every moment she had shared with him. She then compared it with her memories of Kiba.

    "Innocent is wicked."

    She remarked and closed her eyes, leaving everyone stunned.

    Maybe it was due to her personality, but she could handle the shocking revelation without any extreme reactions.

    But she also knew of someone who wouldn't be able to handle the revelation of Kiba and Zed being one and the same.

    Remembering that eighteen-year-old teenager, she let out a heavy sigh.

    "Poor girl."

    ...

    House of Neville, State of Avalon.

    Sophia was training with her mother - Katherine. A burst of cyan energy rippled out of her hand and morphed into an enormous fist.

    It was about to unleash when her body shook, and she sneezed. The temporary disturbance distorted the fist, leaving her in no state to block the incoming beam.

    Without any surprise, the beam crashed into her, sending her flying into the distance.

    "Sophia!"

    Katherine was startled. She expected her daughter to be able to resist the attack.

    So what happened?

    But now was not the time to think.

    Her figure blurred, and she appeared behind the flying Sophia. She caught her and nullified the destruction from the beam.

    "Are you all right?" Katherine asked.

    "Yes, I lost concentration for a moment," Sophia assured her mom. "But it is strange, though! I'm perfectly fine, so why did I sneeze all of a sudden and felt someone was feeling pity for me?"

    Katherine didn't know how to answer that.

    "Or maybe I was feeling a sense of crisis?"

    Sophia wondered.

    "Could it be that shameless villain? It is even possible that Zed is at risk!"

    She panicked, but Katherine patted her shoulder and said, "You are overthinking! It was just a sneeze!"

    "Right! I'm overthinking!"

    Alas, soon, Katherine would learn her daughter wasn't overthinking.

    ....

    Days turned to weeks to months, and ultimately a year. Like a breeze, a year and a half passed by.

    In that time, many shocking developments took place over the world.

    One of them was about a doctor whose name became legendary.

    Dr. NTR.

    There were far too many sick and injured in the world, and the doctor knew he was needed almost everywhere.

    So, he established clinics in almost every human city, except for the State of Avalon and Lizeana, and used his powers to create thousands of Avatars.

    The patients celebrated in joy and thanked the glorious Creator... for this doctor was magical!

    His treatment left them weak in knees for days, but none ever complained!

    The rise of Dr. NTR's clinics around the globe picked the interest of many. Because not even fame, money, and wealth could make him diagnose a male patient; forget proper diagnosis.

    Many science journals and doctors begged for interviews and internships, to not only learn of his omnipotent methods but also make him answer a few questions:

    1. Why were all his patients only women?

    2. After treatment, why did every patient of his couldn't walk properly for the next few days? Was it related to his technique that was described as mystic arts?

    3. As per a recent survey, a city with Dr. NTR's clinic was more prone to divorce than a city without him. Was his clinic responsible for the bloom in the divorce business?

    4. Why did the divorced husbands - whose former wives benefitted from Dr. NTR's treatment - turned angry yet silent whenever asked to comment on the clinic?

    Sadly, the great doctor refused chances to be interviewed.

    The second shocking development was the rise of a cult.

    Its leader was a man known as Erone, whom the members of the cult called Holy Pope.

    Shockingly, the cult worshipped Dr. NTR!

    The Holy Pope preached about the glorious deeds of the doctor before he became Dr. NTR.

    The deeds were pretty vague as they were in the form of epic poems. Though it seemed the followers of the church knew their meaning.

    Even many boyfriends/ husbands who wanted their girlfriends/ wives to be treated also became followers.

    Not only them, but thousands of other males who had mothers, sisters, or women in life regularly contributed to build what would become Holy Church.

    As for why... none exactly knew the reason.

    The third shocking development affected the entire humanity. Like Ksitigarbha predicted, the seals on World Fragment drastically weakened, giving a few alien lifeforms a chance to escape the unhabitable meteorites and seek new shelters.

    Only the seal on Paradox Dimension remained strong as ever... but none knew till how long that would remain!

    The fourth development affected very few, though it was important in its own ways.

    It was Zed.

    Or, to be precise, the lack of him.

    The Nine Great Families and many other organizations used every means to track him, but availed no success.

    It was like after the destruction of Dream Rise House, he has disappeared from Earth's face. But they knew he was there... as from time to time, he was seen in human cities.

    House of Neville knew about him, and so did House of Eleanor. The former, due to Sophia as she got emails from him from time to time. The latter because of Felicity and Jessica... especially Felicity, as they had video interactions.

    But none of the two houses could find him with all their resources.

    It wasn't all the Nine Families that wanted to find him... there was one that was thankful he was missing.

    It was the House of Parcae.

    Out of The Nine Great Families, House of Hestia was known as the strongest... while House of Parcae was known as the most mysterious.

    None really knew about them in details, except for their affinity with Fate.

    Unknown to Zed, he had interacted with this house when he was nothing but a slum beggar.

    When Akshobhya attacked him years ago, he had relieved his memories. One of those memories dealt with an event when he was eleven years old[1]. (Chapter 105).

    During a charity gala to help slum dwellers, he had requested a group of good-looking teenagers for some food.

    One of them attacked him for offending them by his presence, while the others laughed. It lasted hardly for a minute until Marina - who was part of the group - used her ability to check his "Strings of Fate."

    What she saw left her terrified.

    Something the most outstanding talent from the younger generation of House of Parcae also noticed years later.

    Alice[2]. (Chapter 145).

    While passing through Delta City, she noticed a breach in time!

    Shocked, she had followed a trail that lead her to Dream Rise House. There she saw Zed and tried to check his Strings of Fate. Sadly, unlike her cousin, she suffered a terrifying backlash.

    All thanks to Genesis that was dormant in his brain.

    After a year and a half passed by, Alice sat in the garden of her estate. Next to her kneeled her middle-aged servant. In front sat the head of House of Parcae.

    "Back then... you claimed your fate was connected to that kid."

    The family head said as he prepared herbal tea.

    "Yet, when he went to Desolate Blood Forest... you failed to notice until it was too late. After that, you returned and stayed in seclusion."

    Alice remained silent. The family head handed her a cup, and she graciously accepted it.

    "We already knew that kid was special..."

    The family leader continued, this time with a sigh.

    "After all, one from our family had prophesized about the calamity that will arise - from the union of a Valeriy and a human. It resulted in the imprisonment of that kid's father."

    "...." Alice took a sip from the cup.

    The family head's expression turned bitter as he concluded, "The one who prophesized did it for greater good... Sadly, he forgot that events you try to stop will eventually arise from the very act of stopping!"

    Alice placed the cup down and tucked a strand of pink hair behind her ear.

    She then looked at the family head and said, "Lately, I feel Fate is furious... at me, you, everyone in this universe."

    The family head's expression turned grave, and he nodded.

    "I have been feeling the same, but from the time one wielding Evolution Field fought Hyperion! It happened in Delta City! The same place where you discovered the breach in time!"

    Alice's face changed drastically as she realized the meaning.

    "The child of a Valeriy and a human... He will defy the norms and bring an era of chaos!"

    She repeated a part of the prophecy.

    The family head stared at the sky. He visualized the appearance of old men he hadn't met in years.

    "They committed a blunder when they erased his genetic heritage. While they had no choice as Rebecca had stopped them from chasing after him and Red Fox... that one action will be the contributing factor for the chaos."

    He could feel the world-shocking events were about to start. Far sooner than he expected.

    ...

    The city of Arcadia.

    The penthouse has a private pool filled with crystalline water.

    Kiba stood on the edge, ready to jump when Madison emerged from the pool.

    She was clad in a red bikini, and with her body wet, the fabric clung tightly to her skin.

    Kiba couldn't help but swallow. Looking at her glorious bodies, he felt bikini was only made for her and her sister.

    "Like what you see, daddy?" Madison asked as she flung her wet hair in his direction.

    A spray of water landed on his face as he nodded.

    She knew how much he liked from the look in his eyes.

    She started teasing him by bending forward, showing-off her drool-worthy bursts.

    Kiba had enough of her teasing and felt it was time to teach her a lesson.

    But just then, he sensed a presence that was ancient yet awe-inspiring.

    Madison also felt it, just like Lillian and almost everyone else in the world.

    They all looked in the distance, thousands of kilometers away.

    Above the State of Avalon's border, the sky in the diameter of five kilometers has suddenly disappeared.

    In its place, there was what appeared to be a neverending maze.

    "Infinity Maze."

    Kiba's eyes narrowed.

    He knew about it, not because of his knowledge that he acquired from BSE-79, but because almost everyone knew of it.

    This maze, or whatever it was, was responsible for the success of the one known as Nine Sovereigns.

    The history books propagated by the World Government were full of it.

    "9 Hours, 9 Minutes, and 9 Seconds!"

    Kiba recalled the period for which the maze will remain after it opens.

    "And if I'm not wrong... it will open in an hour!"

    His eyes narrowed further, not because of its sudden - almost random - appearance, but the reason.

    He didn't trust those history books, because as far as he was concerned, history was always written to glorify the winner.

    "Don't tell me...!"

    The realization hit him, and he teleported directly to the warehouse where his lab was. He appeared before the shrine of Princess Scarlet Leila De Rose.

    [1] In Chapter 105, one of the flashbacks was about Zed facing young masters from House of Parcae. When they came to know of his Strings of Fate, they were terrified and ran away after handing him food. They didn't forget to apologize.

    [2] Alice was introduced in Chapter 145 where she noticed the breach in time. I think her last appearance was in Chapter 212 (the same chapter where she senses the arrival of The Cosmic Emperor in Dream Rise House).
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