6 There is a Time for Everything

The moonlight glinted on the clock of Zeitmann's tower, whose peak was whiffing out steam. It kept doing its job- ticking and telling the time- not paying heed to the calamity a couple of kilometres West in Derbury forest.


Almost three hours had passed since the collision. Unlike before, the square in front of the tower was completely empty. Most had already fled to their homes- seeking refuge; besides, it was not the time to sightsee either. But two individuals lingered at the spot.

A freckled teenage boy, wearing a shirt and a short pant, was dusting the photosnapper. It was a mid-sized box with three wooden legs- standing at a height of four feet; a cylindrical lens protruded from the front of the box while a black cloth hanged at the back. A fat and unpleasant looking man, dressed in a lavish coat, sat on a chair nearby and counted paper money.

Two figures arrived at the scene. A lady who looked as if she were in her early thirties held the hand of a nine year old boy. His eyes dazzled as he stared at the gigantic clock. His lips were trembling with the rhythms of the ticks- Tick, tick, tick. Though they were wearing clothes staple to Avarynth, their slightly tanned skin said that they were not natives.

"Can you please take a photo of us?" The woman spoke fluent Amarese. Her eyes darted around in wariness as she clenched the purse in her hand harder. If not for her son's insistence, she would never have stepped outside at this time of the night.

"Sorry Ma'am." The teenager gave her a glance. "We are-"

The round man stood up and smacked the boy's head. "Are you the owner, or I, eh?"

"But-" The boy rubbed his head with a grimace, clearly accustomed to this.

"Shut up and prep the snapper!" The man turned to the newcomers and inspected the duo. A smile appeared on his face.

His inspecting gaze, unpleasant face, and the creepy looking smile made the woman subconsciously pull her son closer.

The man's gaze fell on the little boy and his smile widened. "It's amazing, ain't it?"

The boy only nodded in response, his gaze still fixed on the clock.

"Do you know why there's steam coming out from the top?" the fat man asked.

"The clock uses a gravity escapement." The child spoke. "The steam is being used to rewind the weight to its peak."

"A smart boy, ain't he?" The man laughed.

Even though his laugh did not make him look any less heinous, the wariness in the lady's eyes subsided. "Yes, he goes after his father." She gave the boy a look, her lips curving up.

The man stopped laughing, but a smile still lingered on his face. "Do you know the story behind the tower?"

The kid nodded. "Yes," he said, "who doesn't?"

Hans Zeitmann, He was a brilliant mechanist, graduating top of the class from the best institution of his nation. But he had one major flaw- he was lazy. He retired to the countryside and married Hannah Sammlerin, the girl he fell in love with. Life was easy- Hannah managed the food while he repaired the instruments of the neighbours for a bit of money- until that fateful day.

Hannah ventured into Kiboshkev forest to forage. The dense woodland barely let any light through, creating an illusion of night all throughout the day. That day, she disregarded the iron rule of the forest- 'Come back before nightfall.' And she never came back.

Hans was devastated. He vowed to make sure nobody shared the same fate as that of his wife- that nobody lost their sense of time in the forest. He secluded himself in his workshop, and half a year later- he invented the world's first clock. In another half a year, he compressed it to fit in any man's pocket.

With these designs, he started his own company- Zeitmanns Uhren- and led himself to fortunes. In the process, he learned two things- two horrifying truths. First, if he had not stayed idle and put his brain to use from the beginning, Hannah would not have to venture into that hell everyday. He could have provided everything she ever wanted, and most importantly- she would still be there… with him.

And second, mechanists were too rare. Hence, the production cost of the watches were too high. These watches, the tools he created to fulfil his vow, were nothing but luxuries only the richest could afford. Even if he sold his whole company, he could equip a few commoners at most. He almost gave up.

But fate led him to meet Alaister Kingston- a brilliant architect and a self-proclaimed illusionist. Together, they designed the first Kingston-Zeitmann's Tower, shortly- Zeitmann's Tower, a structure that would show time to all, regardless of their class. But that was not enough. What about the people who were out of town?

But Hans Zeitmann, being the ingenious mechanist he was, came up with a plan. He added another complication to the clock design- chimes. When the minute hand pointed straight at the sky, gigantic hammers would strike onto gongs with an 'interval of a second'. The number of strikes would correspond to the position of the hour hand- dinging 3 times if it was 3 o'clock, 12 if it was 12. Moreover, a timekeeper could manually strike the chimes to alarm the advent of nightfalls.

He wanted to build a tower in all the bordering cities of the forest, using his own pocket. But after he built one, the governments of the bordering nations proposed the funding of the projects, which Zeitmann gladly accepted. He made the designs public.

And decades later, every major cities had a Zeitmann's tower built. Not only the deaths in the Kiboshkev forest plummeted over the years, the industrialists could not trick the workers into overtime anymore.

And the hero, the mind behind it all, Hans Zeitmann had left the world long ago, joining his beloved in heaven. But his inventions- they would tick till the end of time.

"Do you know the morale?" the man asked, "it's something he said a lot in the later parts of his lives, and even engraved it in his designs."

"Do it, before time forces you to."

"Good boy!"

The teenager finished his work. "It's done."

"Tsk. You slowpoke." The man grimaced. "Go and help them to the spot."

The boy led the newcomers to their position. They stood between the tower and the photosnapper- a few meters away from the device and a dozen or so meters away from the structure.

The lady let his son stand on the right, so that the moon can shine directly on him. The excited smile the boy had on his face made the smile on her face brighter.

The rounded man bowed down and got beneath the black cloth behind the snapper. "Ready? It will take 20 seconds to capture the photo. Please don't move."

Twenty seconds later, the man came out- a black and white photo in hand.

The mother received the photo and passed it to his son. "Are you happy now?"

The child nodded. A bright smile lingered on his face as he stared at the black and white clock just behind the black and white him and his mother.

The woman turned to the round man and opened her purse. "How much is it?"

"Aye, ma'am. This one's on the house." He took a step back.

She frowned- surprised. "How can-"

"He would be about his age right now," the man smiled and pointed at the child, "if my boy was still alive. He loved this tower too."

The lady's pupils twitched. "I am so sorry."

The man shook his head. "Who knows? He might be apprenticing under Zeitmann now." He turned to clock. "Oh look! It's going to strike 10. You can hear the chimes up close."

Everyone turned to the gigantic clock.




Eulene bent her knees and sprang forth- aiming at Xavier- leaving a cobweb of cracks behind.

Xavier lifted his arm. The ground below the crater rumbled to pieces as tens of carriage sized boulders rose up in the air and blocked her way.

But Eulene danced in the air, dodging the boulders as if they never existed and still remained on her course. Her silver robe fluttered with grace, glinting the equally silver light of the moon.

Halfway through, rootlike ropes emerged from the earth and entwined her ankles. She did not even bother looking down as her physique exploded them into pieces.

In a flash, she reached Xavier and swung her sword straight down at him. The transparent blade cut past Xavier, or it appeared to. His figure glitched to oblivion.

She sensed his presence. He was hovering a hundred meters above the centre of the crater- behind her.

Switching direction in the midst of high speed might be difficult for others, but for her- not so much.

Eulene jumped into the air. As the momentum took her away from Xavier, she kicked the air before her and rocketed herself towards him.

Xavier had his arm high in the air. Tens of hat sized balls of thunder surrounded him. He looked down at the world as if he were the god of lightning and stroke his arm down, commencing the barrage.

The balls of lightning thundered down at Eulene from different angles. But once again, she manoeuvred through everything with grace as she climbed- sometimes rolling, or sometimes just sidestepping.

Every single one of the lightning projectiles failed to hit Eulene, but none of them missed. All of the thunder strikes crashed into the carriage sized boulders that were still rising, bursting them and filling the air with dust.

But it mattered little to Eulene as she charged at Xavier. However, when she was a couple of meters away from him, she kicked the air again and changed course, descending to a certain spot amongst the dust.

She stabbed an empty spot in the air. Xavier appeared out of nowhere, his neck arched a bit to the side. The glittering blade of her sword was millimetres away from his ear. His doppelgänger above, made from light particles, dissipated.

Nevertheless, a small cut appeared on his cheek, only to heal back to normal at a visible pace. His indifferent gaze was fixed on the ever-black eyes of Eulene, who was barely a meter away.

As for pain, he did not feel any. He was using light particles to send orders from his brain to his body parts. Electricity? It was too slow. Time remained until his pain receptors receive the electric signal from the cut.

Eulene looked into the moonlike eyes of Xavier. "You think you can use the same trick twice?" She smiled.

Time froze as they stared into each other's eyes. The dust particles between them remained unmoving, but their gazes pierced through, trying to read everything in each other's minds- their secrets, their trump cards, their next move. But alas, the more they tried to read, the more obscure the other appeared. They kept going on for what seemed like an eternity, but-

Ding! The tower chimed again.

Since the battle started, only a second passed.

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