6-13: No Light Without Fire

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6-13
No Light Without Fire
Episode 06
Previous 6-12 (Story)

She has never forgotten about that certain place...
Characters
Backgrounds
Underground Rubble
1
Trapped beneath the ruins, the Doctor talks with FrostNova about her past, her family, and her beliefs.
Then, she makes a small bet with the Doctor.
<Background black>
Doctor Wake up!
??? Wake up!!!
??? ......?
??? Wake up.... Wake up!
??? Come, Adam! Bring warm water!
??? Dad...
Ah...?
??? She's alive! Great, she's alive! Thank the ancestors!
Adam! Move it!
??? Dad...? Dad...?
Dad?
??? ........I........ Yes! I'm Dad!
Yes, yes! I'm Dad, certainly!
Don't sleep. Don't sleep! Hold Daddy's hand and don't let go!
??? Dad.... I'm so........ Cold...?
??? Don't sleep, my daughter! Stay with us!
Her body temperature keeps dropping! Mishka, do something!
No way to tilt the flow?
??? It's cold...! Daddy! I'm cold!
??? ...Daughter... My daughter! Hold on!
??? Daddy, don't.... Don't ever leave me again....
<Background 1>
10:48 A.M.
Ruins of Chernobog "District 14"
Upper superstructure levels
FrostNova ........
Doctor Wake up! / ........ / Hate to be a bother......
FrostNova I'm awake.
You didn't kill me while I was unconscious. Is that confidence or something else?
Doctor This sort of thing has happened before....
I didn't have a choice. / ........ / Can I do that?
FrostNova In any case, you didn't.
<Dialogue branch starts here>
Doctor Probably because you've been talking in your sleep.
FrostNova ........
I'll take that as a sign that you've shown mercy. Now if I don't kill you, I'd call that returning the favor.
<Dialogue branch>
Doctor ........
FrostNova Why the consternation on your face?
Is it because...? You heard everything I saw in my dream?
<Dialogue branch>
Doctor Can I ask you about your life?
FrostNova It seems I really did reveal something very unpleasant in my stupor.
Memories are something you can't lose even if you want to.
<Dialogue branch ends here>
FrostNova Have you explored our surroundings?
Couldn't find a way out, could you?
Looks like we won't be able to leave this place for a while.
........
My father, as I call him, is named Buldrokkas'tee and was once an officer in the Ursus military.
But my real father died a long time ago.
As a child I vaguely remember a man taking a crossbow bolt to protect a woman; and the woman took me in her arms and stopped the second volley of bolts with her spine.
Doctor You witnessed it with your own eyes....
FrostNova I couldn't even comprehend what was happening at the time, and this memory just happened to never fade.
As for what really happened, it was my grandmother who told me all about it later.
When I pressed my grandmother for the meaning of that vision, and she had no more excuses, she told me.
"They were your real parents.... and they died protecting you."
The funny thing is, I don't know them at all. I don't have any memories of them in my mind other than that vision.
My own parents were just forgotten. It's hard for me to even say I have any feelings for them.
........
Doctor So your grandmother raised you.
FrostNova Half and half. The other half was the blood of the Ursus Infected.
Doctor ...What?
FrostNova Ugh....
Background-Tundra.png
FrostNova I was born in a mine in the northwest tundra.
The mine was small and remote, not part of any city, and there are with no settlements around. There was nothing to see but snow all year round.
This mine was hell, built only to spread death and slavery. There are countless such mines in the snowy plains.
My birth parents were miners in that hellish pit.
My grandmother stayed with me through my early years of learning to speak, but she never told me what crimes my parents committed to be sentenced to mine labor.
Later, when I was a little older, I asked around in the mines and learned that both of my parents had opposed the Emperor's wartime plans.
Their arrest was also an accident. The bottom two lines of the arrest warrant were blank, so the sergeant in charge of the search haphazardly copied the name on the door plate.
Without trial, my parents lost their names and moved from their warm little town to the cold Northlands to serve a centuries-long sentence.
Of course, no one would even live to see that, let alone ever leave alive.
My grandmother was sentenced to the mines together as a "harborer" of criminals, and moved with them.
In fact, all the miners there had very similar experiences.
Naturally, both of my parents contracted Oripathy down there. All the miners did.
Now, even if you escaped this mine, no one would believe a word you said. You're just an Infected person, the most horrible, vicious and extreme of the Oripathy patients.
However, the overseer of the mine, a certain Ursus military garrison, believed that the natural death rate of the Infected was still too slow.
They drew straws to decide the fates of the Oripathy sufferers, killing them for fun and sport.
Maybe it was the miners that drove them crazy, rather than the snow. And maybe the Infected didn't count as human in their eyes.
When I was five, my parents drew the black lot.
When I was ten, my grandmother drew the black lot.
When I was eleven, I drew the black lot myself, but it didn't matter, they didn't care about the lottery anymore. They just want to abandon the whole mine.
By that time, all the adult Infected in the mines had died out, and the Emperor's new policies had left the mines starved of people.
Under orders, the Ursus overseers prepared to go ahead and execute the last of the Infected.... A few sick children.
Afterwards they would collapse the mines to serve as mass graves for the infected, to cover up their sins.
I learned later, in my travels, that they do this all the time.
I was sad. I was in pain.
I had broken a lot of ore. I lived with other kids in the mines, we loved each other, and we were all going to die for nothing.
Strong feelings hatched in my chest, the deaths of both my parents and my grandmother played vividly in my mind.
When the execution started, my Arts erupted from within me, killing the four soldiers carrying out the execution..
Of course, I didn't have the power to turn things around.
The children were mere cattle to the overseers, who, as soldiers, carried sharp blades and wore solid armor, and we were like bugs who just managed to sting them.
The cries of my siblings reached my ears just as they knocked me to the ground and the final wave of slaughter was about to begin...
A guerrilla band arrived.
Patriot Saves Yelena.png
FrostNova That was Buldrokkas'tee's team.
All the Ursus soldiers guarding the Infected on the northern tundra have dreams, and this squad is their worst nightmare.
Doctor You seem.... Proud of them.
FrostNova If I could be, I would be.
They killed every last executioner right before us, and the Infected children in the mine escaped.
It's just...
The blood of my less fortunate companions and that of the dead soldiers flowed together and crystallized into ice on the inhumanly white ground.
And I realized something, in that moment...
These Ursus soldiers were just following orders, at first. They shed the same blood as us.
Words and stories and fabricated animosity planted the root of cruelty and indifference in their bodies.
It was Ursus that turned them into this.
<Background 1>
FrostNova Hiss, hmm....
Please.... Do me a favor.
In the left pocket of my jacket, there's are some candies. Take one.
...You can also take one for yourself if you want to try it.
<Dialogue branch starts here>
Doctor Take a candy.
FrostNova Afraid it's poisoned?
Maybe you don't like candy, but you can try it. You can't get this kind of candy in Lungmen.
It's an Ursus specialty. Eat one, and there's one less in the world.
Consider it payback for helping me with the candy. Try it.
<Dialogue branch>
Doctor Take two candies.
FrostNova Oh? Looks like you've got a taste for snacks after all.
Just a warning, the sugar may be completely different from anything you've ever had before.
But life is short. You should try something new, right?
<Dialogue branch ends here>
Doctor Then what?
FrostNova Please put the candy in my mouth. Careful, not to touch my skin.
Doctor It's not right, is it? / ........ / Like this?
FrostNova From my fingertips to my neck, I'm paralyzed. I can only move from the neck up.
But I can still freeze you instantly with even the slightest movement of my tongue.
So don't worry. If you offend me, you'll be dead soon enough.
Doctor (Give FrostNova the candy)
FrostNova Thank you.
<Dialogue branch starts here>
Doctor (Eat the candy)
It tastes very spicy.
<Dialogue branch>
Doctor (Eat the candy)
It tastes extremely spicy.
<Dialogue branch>
Doctor (Eat the candy)
It tastes horrifically spicy.
<Dialogue branch ends here>
FrostNova ........
Doctor ........
FrostNova The look on your face....
Hehehe....
Sorry, couldn't resist teasing you a bit.
I've made that joke so many times that no one falls for it anymore.
And now at last..... I saw a chance. Sorry, I just.... couldn't help myself.
Doctor Why do you eat this stuff?
FrostNova ........
Because I'm cold.
I told you to be careful, because even if you touch just the tiniest bit of my skin, you'll get severe frostbite.
If you had touched me before, I would have been able to tell by your reaction. You didn't. You didn't try to kill me.
Doctor This phenomenon is beyond the accounts of extant academic sources.
FrostNova My cold goes even beyond winter itself.
The heat from the outside world cannot penetrate the bitter cold that surrounds my body. I love hot drinks because I can feel the warmth of the drink as the hot stream slides down my esophagus and into my stomach....
Sadly, my insides get burned by hot drinks.
The only pleasure I have left is this mix of alcohol and stimulating spices, with a little candy, if you can call it that.
This warm feeling, even if it's only a brief illusion, brings me a bit of comfort.
Sorry for teasing you earlier.
Doctor So, you just said it was cold because....
FrostNova Oripathy created this horrible body of mine.
At that moment, however, Buldrokkas'tee held my ice cold body that had never known warmth close to his chest.
He didn't care at all that I'd frozen his unarmored arms to the point of partial necrosis.
I'm not sure if it was the emotions he was feeling at the time that infected me or not.... But I stayed awake and survived in the end.
Doctor So Buldrokkas'tee became your father....
FrostNova He's my whole family. As a young child, he was all I had.
Like I said, I don't remember much about my birth father.... Subconsciously, I did indeed thought of the huge beast as my real family. Hard to say.
It's just that, despite his appearance, he's sentimental and stubborn in places, and isn't it funny that such a man used to be a killing machine for Ursus?
It's not funny, is it? I can't laugh either.
He was once a war hero of Ursus, who retired to a certain city-state in his old age.
Doctor As a soldier of Ursus, but fighting for the Infected?
FrostNova If you don't take Ursus at their word, you'll see that he's in good company. Although, there is only one that the Infected call "Patriot".
His wife died young and he is survived by his son.
By the way, he's a Sarkaz. From the most vicious Sarkaz clan at that. Still, his son became a scholar, a Wendigo scholar.... Perhaps the first in the history of Ursus.
Buldrokkas'tee contracted Oripathy during his last battle.
His men helped him hide his illness, and he had even hidden everything from his own son. He didn't want to drag his son down with him, only to die in some dark corner of the world with the disease.
However, during the "Great Rebellion", his son was campaigning for the rights of the Infected. Long out of touch with his father, the son still sees him as an Ursus puppet.
And he was. They commanded him to keep order in his own ranks at all costs. He allowed the soldiers to use their weapons, conflict erupted, and corpses piled in the snow drifts.
That's who he was.
Then he saw his son on the street, his body by then completely cold.
I wonder if he thought of his son when he hugged me?
His son fought for the Infected in his own way, and Buldrokkas'tee believed he had killed his own son.
His team left with him. Since then, the Northwest Tundra has had a guerrilla force that strikes fear into the hearts of Ursus who dare to abuse the Infected.
........
The old beast never said a word of any of this to me.
He probably does think of me as his daughter. But I also want him to tell me this stuff, in his own words, to me.
I learned it all from his men. But Buldrokkas'tee himself won't speak to anyone.
That monster of a stubborn old man with a fragile and porous heart.
His team had passed through four mines before saving us children.
The kids in those four camps weren't as lucky as us. They found their bodies buried in the collapsed mines, and the company of soldiers that carried out the executions were nowhere to be found.
What did he find in me? Affection? Redemption? Or a little psychological comfort? I'm not sure.
........*Cough*.
Doctor Is coughing and internal bleeding also a symptom of your.... infection?
FrostNova Probably, maybe. Probably just the result of me overusing my Arts.
It got pretty intense today. This sort of thing has only happened once before.
Unconsciousness, general paralysis, and the inability to move around even when conscious, have all happened. I know my own body.
Doctor You can't use your Arts again.
FrostNova Oh are you going to fight for me now?
Rhodes Islander.... What do I call you?
Doctor You can call me what the Rhodes Island operators do.
FrostNova Dr. {nickname}?
Dr. {nickname}.
...I admit that you Rhodes Islanders can fight. But I still don't trust you. Not to mention the fact that you're supposed to be a pharmaceutical company.
Doctor Rhodes Island does a lot of things.
FrostNova What happens outside of combat is none of my business.
I watched you fight in Chernobog. You have a strong stance, something I confirmed with my own eyes, but I couldn't judge your character.
...I heard that Alex died at your hands. It makes me doubt your path.
Now, I can't let you leave Chernobog and cause more harm to Reunion's Infected.
But you're willing to listen to so much of my crap....
I'm going to assume you're not exactly as the other Infected describe.
Doctor They're just scared.
FrostNova Who wouldn't be afraid of the one who brings death?
Dr. {nickname}, are you scared, right now??
<Dialogue branch starts here>
Doctor Yes.
FrostNova It's normal to feel fear.
It means you still have attachment to the world, and you still have much to do.
<Dialogue branch>
Doctor I'm not sure.
FrostNova Do you really feel fear?
I doubt it.
If you look so peaceful in the face of death, then I think maybe you really have no attachments at all.
<Dialogue branch>
Doctor No.
FrostNova Interesting. You are not scared?
I guess those who do not fear death have little love left for the world.
<Dialogue branch ends here>
FrostNova A question I think about all the time....
"Am I afraid of death?"
I've heard that the Ursus garrisons call me the Yeti Princess, the Wintry Death....
The truth is, we were just a few ragtag squads wandering the tundra, barely scraping by.
My Arts were powerful, I proved as much to my enemies and teammates alike.
Of course, my body, as you can see, is only that of an Oripathy sufferer.
I felt special, not because of my illness, but because of the feelings my frost instilled in me.
I saw my ability as a blessing, but Buldrokkas'tee, that grumpy old fart, treated it like a curse.
I couldn't feel the cold as we waded through the deep mud in the swamp, icy water soaking my legs.
The old man wouldn't let go into battle, even as his soldiers took heavy casualties.
He lit his oil lamp and sat quietly at the table by himself. I think he was crying, but I couldn't be sure, and I didn't know if I should comfort him.
In my fifth year, I summoned a cold stream for the first time in the face of the enemy.
One soldier was frozen into a block of ice, another accidentally fell on the block and they both shattered into pieces.
I joined the fight, the soldiers looked at me in awe, my brothers and sisters were proud of me, and other infected said––
"That's our big sister. She saved all our lives."
Did my Arts actually save anyone?
The children from the mine carried the Originium crystals I had made, and we became the "Yeti Squad".
Those crystals radiate my cold, and we bring frost and vengeance to the enemies of the Infected.
But that's really... just cold. The cold of winter that won't birth new life.
Even so, I feel very lucky. For my brothers and sisters could survive.
We could live in this world.
Doctor Have you ever wanted to coexist with ordinary people?
FrostNova Ordinary people....
What do you mean by ordinary people?
The unarmed but cold-eyed citizens of Chernobog who watch the infected being put to death? Or the Ursus conscripts in the mines who take pleasure in shooting us?
Every time I think of the faces of those overseers, I grit my teeth and fantasize about slitting their throats and drinking their blood....
........
But I don't hate the Ursus.
As our guerrillas trudged through the snow, retreated from the valley, and were even chased by the Ursus army....
It was the Ursus who would put a few cups of breadbrew in their windows.
The Ursus have never been cold-blooded creatures. The only enemy I have is the Empire of Ursus that has tormented the Infected so.
I don't think of ordinary people as the enemy. Ursus who are taught to hate the Infected are just ordinary people until they are blinded by that hate.
It's only because "enemies kill each other" that we've fought as we have. That's all.
I'm an Infected person, yes.... But before that, I was a normal person.
Doctor What about what Reunion is doing now?
FrostNova ...My main conflict with Buldrokkas'tee is in his work to protect the Infected community.
"Reunion, first name. That. Infected, can rely on."
"No matter where, Reunion goes. No matter what, it does. We cannot, abandon it. To lose Reunion, is to lose, Infected conviction. Fight for: conviction."
That's what the old man says. That's what the old man believes.
Doctor Why do you keep pausing like that?
FrostNova Because that's how he talks now. I was just, *ahem*, preserving his cadence..
Dr. {nickname}, do you know why Rhodes Island is a nameless pharmaceutical company?
Because you can't take a stand on the world stage. As soon as you take that step, you'll become what Reunion is now.
You will go down this road.
Doctor Maybe. / ........ / Will we really?
FrostNova Hmm.
After a dozen years of rolling around on the tundra, an Infected woman reached out to us. She said, "Come with me, and let us break all chains."
Imagine it: we met in the ruins of an old city that had become a battlefield. She was alone, carrying nothing but her roster and a book of ledgers.
Even the things she said I found impractical to the point of ridiculousness.
But she said to us, "Come with me."
She fought with us, and with her strength and ideals, she became our friend. Together we left the snowy plains and headed for the cities of Ursus.
Whether was the words she spat out after pausing to think, or the swing of her great sword as she slashed alongside me, her power was real, and plenty impressive.
When the wounded needed treatment, she was there. When discussing strategy and philosophy with the Infected, she was there. And when fighting against the Ursus death squads, she was also there.
...We even get to dine with some regular people. She didn't care. There was nothing in her eyes but the purest authenticity.
Our team grew and so did our friendships. The people brought in were good at fighting, and they were good people.
At the time, I considered her my friend. She quietly helped me make these candies, even though she was terrible at it and they tasted worse.
She made a funny face as she ate them. Then she'd force a smile at me.
It was really something. She worked so hard to put on a brave face. It made me laugh.
Everything's different now.
Chernobog was destroyed by a Catastrophe, as you can well see. All the normal people here died or became newly Infected.
Their eyes were dead. No desire to live anymore whatsoever.
If this is what she wanted, then we never should have followed her.
And in case you didn't know, here's a secret....
She's planning to take over Lungmen. She says it won't be like Chernobog, and that the Infected will get their own city instead of a giant ruin like this place.
Would you trust someone like that?
If she's acting, then she's the greatest actress the world has ever seen.
But there's a thought stuck in my head.
"What are my chances of winning if I went up against her?"
Once we part ways, once I find out she's been lying to the Infected, or that she's been plotting against them...
I will fight her. She must know the price of betrayal.
My countless deadly battles with Ursus have cleansed my mind and honed my skills.
I say with the utmost conviction: even if I cannot defeat her, I can let death take her from the world along with me.
The stubborn old man wouldn't agree with me. He's fought too long, and his old age is driving him down a path that leads only to sacrifice.
Doctor You don't agree with your father's ways.
FrostNova He is strong against his enemies and he is loyal to his friends. But when he needs to stand up for them, he will face the reality that his friends make him weak.
The old man who has believed in people all his life.... The old curmudgeon never thinks about what to do after being betrayed.
Maybe he's already taken that bitter pill. He bore the pain of betrayal over and over again his whole life, and he said nothing.
Whether it's an Infected who heard about Reunion and decided to join up, or an Infected who feels they can get away with anything.
Reunion is factionalizing and our leaders are doing nothing to stop it.
I will definitely go back to Chernobog after the Lungmen business is over. This time, I must face her.
Because... I am not long for this world.
...I promised my brothers I'd find a home for everyone. Before I fall, I have to make good on my promise...
Doctor Why are you telling me all this?
FrostNova Because the look in your eyes tells me that you're not just another executioner.
Doctor Maybe. So what? / ........ / I'm not sure if I am.
FrostNova It's best to doubt yourself. It's the only way you won't go through life fanatically convinced of something.
...Do you hear voices outside?
It sounds like they're digging above us.
And my body is....
Well.... I can move my fingers already.
Thank you.
Doctor For what? / ....... / Did I do something?
FrostNova Thanks for helping me pass the time.
Dr. {nickname}, I'd like to make a bet with you.
........
If your people dig us out first...
I will kill all of you in the blink of an eye.
If my brothers and sisters break through first, your life ends here.
Wanna bet?