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Selena Stone

"Whoever fights monsters should be wary lest he himself become a monster. And should you gaze long into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you."

0 · 875 views · located in Sanctum City

a character in “Gatewatchers”, as played by Solo Wing Pixy

Groups

If Gatewatchers became an Anime, this is how I would picture it.

Description

ImageName: Selena Stone

Age: Physically 18, actually 33.

Nicknames: Stone Cold Selena, Royal

Mana Color: Purple

Preferred Magic Styles:
  • Psychometry - Learning the history of objects or people through touch.
  • Necromancy - Animating and manipulating corpses for various purposes. A mockery of life.
  • Sangromancy - Blood Magic, manipulating blood for offensive or healing effects.
  • Corruption - Offensive and defensive magic in the form of decay, disease, and spell disruption.
  • Eldritch Magic - Often called Gatemagic or Alien Magic. Uses the otherworldly energy from beyond the gateways to induce pain, delirium, and madness in opponents.

Height: 5'6"

Weight: 121 lbs

Eye Color: Dark Blue to normal people, Crimson to Mana users.

Hair Color: Dull black to normal people. Dark violet to Mana users.

Unique Trait: Ageless: Selena hasn't aged a second since her Mana first manifested, fifteen years before the current day.

Strengths: Ruthless, Experienced, Physical Prime, Intelligent.

Weaknesses: Unsociable and distant, can be cruel and callous, looks down on others, sociopath.


Background: Selena Stone was born to Allen and Elaine Stone, millionaires from London. From an early age, Selena was raised in luxury. As an only child, her parents doted on her, getting her the best in private tutors and sparing no expense for her happiness. During her childhood, Selena showed incredible potential. She was smart and sociable, making friends as easily as she smiled or laughed. Everyone loved her, and into her teens she was popular in school, and known for her warmth and kindness.

Although the world was slowly decending into chaos around them, caused by the Gateways, the Stone family was unaffected until Selena's eighteenth birthday. In the dead of night, as the family and their house staff slept, a Gateway opened inside Selena's room. Mana flowed into her, but it wasn't alone. Some horror from beyond the Gateway found it's way into her room, into her head, and began shaping her dreams. That night, she tossed and turned, stuck in a nightmare without end. She remembers it clearly to this day: Insidious whispering, shadows in incomprehensible shapes, the smell of blood and the taste of smoke in her lungs. When she awoke in the early hours of the morning, her family and the help lay dead around her, ritually dismembered and arranged in some alien pattern. The blood was on her hands, her nightclothes stained red. Inside her mind, she felt different. Wrong. Sadness paralyzed her, and she lay in a puddle of blood for what seemed like an eternity, until the Gatewatchers arrived.

When she was finally carried out of the house, whatever was left of the old Selena was gone. The regret of what she had done permeated her mind, a veritable feast for the horror that had caused her madness. It had touched her mind to the void, and drank of her sorrow, draining her of her emotions and replacing them with profound emptiness. She said nothing for days as the Gatewatchers questioned her. She didn't care what happened to her. She had no will to continue existing. The Gatewatchers had to force her to eat and drink, lest she starve.

Selena was silent for two weeks, watched over by Gatewatchers who didn't quite know what to do with her. At last, her previously dormant mana burst forth, warping the walls of her room and shattering the observation window. Realizing that she was a mana user, the Gatewatchers recruited her and trained her to control her magic. Although her emotions never returned, Selena did gain a new purpose. Whatever came to her on her birthday had escaped the Gatewatchers, and she swore to hunt it down and destroy it, along with anything else from the Gateways.

So begins...

Selena Stone's Story

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Selena Stone Character Portrait: Cedric Valentine
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Selena's lips curled in disgust as the reports came in. Voices of people she preferred to keep at a healthy distance, shouting and swearing over the comms like children. Some of them actually were children, a fact which caused a shudder even in a heart as cold as hers. Normally, HQ was perfectly content to let Selena work alone, away from the others. Her chosen fields of magical expertise were esoteric, to say the least, and many of the newer and younger Gatewatchers viewed her gruesome magic as unpalatable and disturbing. Even the highest ranking of Gatewatchers often found her presence unnerving, and though she didn't often see eye to eye with the Council, none could argue her results, and thus she often found herself in dark, forgotten places of the world, where civilization was threadbare and even other Gatewatchers rarely ventured.

Today however, was different. An explosion laced with mana had taken placed at the Eastern Sanctum City HQ, and that meant that every Gatewatcher in the city was required to report in to help. Especially veterans like Selena. It was a pointless summons, at least in her case. There were dozens of Gatewatchers available who could adequately handle the situation, so calling her in was overkill.

Selena's driver pulled the car up to the curb several blocks down from the Atlus Electronics building. He quickly exited the car, prepared an umbrella, and opened the back door for Selena. As she stepped out, he passed her the umbrella.

"Thank you, Dorian." Her voice was monotone, without hint of emotion, and her expression blank of even the slightest smile. Dorian, however, was quite used to it. He smiled his pleasant smile, nodded, and returned to the vehicle.

Selena strode forward, shielded from the rain by her umbrella, with a confident yet casual pace, unlike the worried, panicked movements from the Gatewatchers she passed as she made her way towards the building.

Nearing her destination, Selena stopped as she felt a gateway preparing to form behind her. She turned to face the gateway forming just outside of a parking garage. Another Gatewatcher stood near it, apparently unaware. A recent recruit, judging by his anxious stance, and no older than 15. He was likely left there after the evacuation while the more experienced Gatewatchers went to do perimeter patrols. She could have warned the boy, but instead began preparing her spell for whatever the Gateway decided to spit out.

When it formed, the sudden shock startled the recruit, causing him to stumble and fall to the ground. Half a second later, several long, needle-like projectiles erupted from the Gateway. Caught off guard, the recruit shrieked as two punctured his leg and a third punctured his wrist, shattering the bone and anchoring him to the ground. Meanwhile Selena had taken the time to prepare her defenses, and the needles sent flying towards her crumbled into dust as they came into her field of decay. She started towards the gateway at a casual pace, whispering the preparations for her next spell as she approached, the boy still screaming in the background.

The Gateway lurched, and from it protruded two long, misshapen arms complete with bony, razor-clawed, eight fingered hands. The claws sunk into the concrete like butter, and with an unearthly screech, the creature they belonged to ripped it's way through the gateway and into view.

The creature itself was nothing short of a nightmare. Long, scrawny legs, each with two separate joints connected to a vaguely humanoid torso. The arms also had two joints each, and were even longer than Selena had previously thought. Atop the lanky torso were a pair of jagged, protruding, asymmetrical shoulder blades, and between them, a long thin neck. The creature's head was nearly featureless, save for two nostril like slits, and a gaping mouth that occupied the entire bottom half of the "face". Inside were rows and rows of the long needles, serving as teeth. The whole beast stood roughly nine feet tall, and it's entire body was covered in random patches of crusty fur and seemingly randomly placed bug-like eyeballs, everywhere except the head. Anywhere not covered with fur or eyeballs had the texture of infected skin, similar to a wound after removing a bandage.

It craned it's neck and it's whole body shivered as it peered with it's eyeless face at Selena, and let out another rotten screech. Along with the horrid noise, a torrent of needles shot from it's mouth at Selena, who merely waved her hand in dismissal. Her mana reached out for the alien energy of the Gateway and took hold, warping the air that the needles traveled through, sending them veering off course. Several were deflected into the ground, while the others arced back towards their progenitor, each one spearing the creature in one of it's many eyes. In snarled and cawed in pain, it's "voice" a hollow cacophony, and it staggered back. Selena sneered at the sight of the creature's sickly black blood, and uttered a single word. "Suffer."

At her command, her mana lept from her and into the creature's veins. It erupted into more raspy shrieks, but soon fell silent as blood filled its lungs. It coughed and spat blood, only to sear it's throat as the blood boiled inside it. It's body began to twist in unnatural ways, even for a creature as alien as this. The unmistakable sound of bones snapping drowned out the beast's weak cries as Selena forced it's blood to tear it apart from the inside. At last, the horror crumpled into a heap at the base of the Gateway, which Selena approached and sealed with a quick gesture. The recruit, having witnessed the entire scenario, had stopped screaming, and was staring at Selena with a mixture of awe and fear. He tried to speak, but no words would come out.

"This will hurt. A lot." The boy's eyes grew wide with terror as Selena approached. "Hold still."

With a gesture, the needles protruding from the boy crumbled into dust. Then, Selena set to work with his injuries. She whispered her spell beneath her breath, and the boy began screaming once more. Selena's mana infused with his blood and began the painful process of stitching together his bone and flesh. After a moment, it was done, and the blood seared until completely cauterized, to stop the bleeding. The boy lay on the ground panting, his voice hoarse from screaming.

"You'll live." With that, Selena continued into the parking garage, folding her umbrella up as she left the rain. Within the structure was an entrance to the HQ, and by going this way, she could put off meeting the other Gatewatchers for a bit longer. Unfortunately, as she neared the entrance, she happened upon another Gatewatcher. Cedric Valentine. Of all the Gatewatchers in Sanctum City, Cedric was her favorite. Which wasn't saying much, as although she didn't consider him a friend, she did tolerate him more than most.

She smirked, which was about as close to a smile as she could manage. "Cedric."

Setting

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Character Portrait: Selena Stone Character Portrait: Cedric Valentine
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He nodded as Selena approached. He liked her on account of she was one of the few who seemed to have no problem with the fact that he was a black mana user. She was also emotionless, and honestly people didn't like to work with her either, though she was often off on some mission to some remote part of the world hunting down, what ever it was she was hunting down. Cedric had never felt the need to ask. He figured that was probably one of the reasons they got on alright for all intents and purposes.

"I heard the boy." He gave half a grin, You know there are more pleasant ways to 'fix' people." he didn't expect a reaction, but it was his nature to be quick and flippant with someone he had grown comfortable around. "The blast area was contained by the time I got here, massive amounts of wild mana were encased in the bomb, the user who put a concealment spell on it was immensely powerful to be able to get that much wild mana into the middle of HQ with out a single person noticing. Black mana, but the trail went cold here." He stuffed his hands in his coat pockets and looked around the garage, kicking a bit of trash. It annoyed him that he had lost the trail so quickly.

"That about brings us to where we are as far as inside, everybody else has been shutting down gates, or being lucky enough to have someone else come along to shut them." He turned and began to casually head back into the headquarters. "So here we are, two awkward peas in a pod, the one no one likes and the one who likes no one, summoned, but with nothing to do." He wasn't tapping into his mana sense at the moment, he was trying to get that feeling in the pit of his stomach to subside, and from the looks of things he figured wouldn't need to use any magic in the near future, there were enough gatewatchers roaming around the building at this point to shut whatever gates still lingered about. "Might as well head back up to the main level, there's still enough mana in the containment area that it will need to be siphoned down before we can break containment. The sooner we do that the sooner control will let us all go home. Care to join me?" He extended his hand as an offer to carry her umbrella, another habit of his personality. He didn't necessarily expect her to accept the offer, but he figured she knew him well enough to know that.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Zane Bell Character Portrait: Sillo Deskern Character Portrait: Minori Fukutawa Character Portrait: Damion Gray Character Portrait: Selena Stone Character Portrait: Cedric Valentine
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"Sillo, Damion, any ideas on the origin of that bomb?" the comm crackled with Minori's voice.

Sillo responded first, "Negatory, my dear Minnie! The Gateways started opening before we could even begin to wonder about it. I'll head that way." Carrying the Mana Drainer on his back, he walked towards the headquarters. He was a bit physically fatigued, but nowhere near tired mana-wise. He used his abilities like they were an everyday part of his life...well not visibly in front of people cause he was always worrying they would flip out, but as often as he could. As a result, he'd developed a massive "mana-muscle" as he liked to describe it in such ways that he could probably keep going in a fight longer than most of the other Gatewatchers if not all of them.

He passed the cage with the dead remains of the creatures he'd just fought, thinking immediately that Minori would appreciate the specimen to study. He was about to comm in and ask her where she was when he got his answer.

"Gateway resolved at Hibbett Sports. Any assistance required?"

Sillo walked up to the bars of the cage, speaking in the comm as he did so, "Actually, hey Minnie! I got some specimen for you to experiment with. They're not alive, but maybe you can use them some way. I'll teleport over to you now." He gripped the cage bars and imagined him with the dead beasts and the cage at the Hibbett Sporting Goods store with Minori. He felt the Mana tug him away from the street and send him to the parking lot right outside Hibbetts...

Right on top of the creature Minori was approaching.

Sillo stepped away from the cage, which had crushed the bigfoot creature to death and gestured towards the other dead creatures in the cage, their flesh still smoldering from the lightning bolt that had struck it earlier. "Ta-daaaaaaah!" he gestured with great enthusiasm and fanfare. He gave Minori a thumbs up before teleporting back to where he'd come from. He hadn't even realized he'd squashed her specimen.

As he approached the building, the first thing he noticed was a car he recognized pulling up. The man got out and Sillo recognized him immediately as Cedric Valentine. It was always very uncomfortable to be around Cedric, not because he used Black Mana, but because he had a tendency to not show much emotion. He was one of those people that were hard to read and he didn't want to potentially anger him because he was unsure how he'd react. He'd just let bygones be bygones. Cedric raised the comm to his lips and begin speaking through it. Sure enough, his voice came alive on Sillo's.

"Cedric Valentine on scene, Minori nice work on this containment."

That was the second thing Sillo noticed, with all the ice on the walls to keep the building from completely falling into shambles. He whistled in satisfaction. He was impressed.

He decided that it wasn't worth his time to investigate the scene at the Headquarters. Cedric was much better at that game than Sillo was. He'd just waste space. But Sillo didn't want to go on and leave...not after a bomb goes off in one of the Gatewatchers Headquarters. So he hesitantly walked in there to join Cedric and potentially figure out what had happened.

However, when he finally found the man, he spotted him with Selena, the other Gatewatcher he didn't want to cross paths with. At least Cedric was a wild card in terms of how you interacted with them. Selena was cold and empty and incapable of empathy. Every interaction one had with her was guaranteed to end in some kind of pain, either physical or emotional. But she was damn good at her job that way, putting forth all her effort into it, and so she was where she was...with Cedric.

They'd make a good match for each other...

Sillo decided not to disturb the two as they contemplated the problem. Instead, he walked out of the headquarters and noticed that a few other Gatewatchers were heading somewhere urgently...responding to another Gateway being opened probably. Unfortunately for Sillo, out of the strange array of powers he had, he didn't know how to sense Mana, so he never knew where to go. He'd only found that one because it had opened right behind him. Unless he was lucky or if he was accompanied by someone who could sense mana, he was blind. That and the fact that he didn't have his comm with him 24/7...it wasn't a wonder why he wasn't the highest of ranks.

"There seems to be another Gateway open somewhere," Sillo reported through the comm, "I don't know what all the buzz is about this one though." he started following the others through the concrete jungle that was the center of Sanctum City before reaching the destination.

"Uh, this is actually kind of an issue, guys," Sillo spoke through the comm, "A Gateway is open inside the museum. With civilians and shit in the vicinity." He watched a younger Gatewatcher run through the entrance and get electrocuted immediately. Luckily, two others pulled him out before he got seriously injured, but he was likely out of commission.

"And it's booby trapped?!" Sillo gaped. What was going on with today?

No matter, Sillo decided as he decided he'd teleport directly to the Gateway...except he couldn't. For one, he didn't know where in the museum the Gateway was, nor had he ever been here. But the second reason was more concerning: the fact that he physically couldn't...not even to the doorstep. This wasn't good.

But Sillo could manage walking this one time. Approaching the doorway that the other Gatewatchers gathered around, he remembered that it would shoot lightning the moment it sensed someone walking through the entrance. But there was more than one way to get through it...he didn't even need teleportation. With a casual spring in his step, he went Ghost-Mode and walked through the entrance. No lightning hit him...nor did it shoot out. It was like he wasn't there...because he technically wasn't. Phasing back into reality safely on the other side, he began exploring the museum while ignoring the cries of shock from the other Gatewatchers who didn’t realize he could do that, "Now where are you, Gateway?"

A mighty roar replied to his question. Turning towards the sound, he started running that way. Rounding the corner, he saw something amazingly cool and terrifying at the same time.

Fucking dinosaurs...

Raptors were running amok through the prehistoric exhibit, terrifying civilians of all kinds. The gates were locked, of course, to make his job that much harder. The people were finding whatever shelter and hiding spots they could to protect themselves from the terrifying beasts as they pillaged the room searching for food. Running to the locked gate, he thought of an air bomb exploding in the keyhole. The lock responded with a quiet poof! as the inside of the lock was blasted with a miniature wind storm, causing the tumblers to literally be squashed in the exterior and opening the gate. Pushing them open, he whistled to the people. "Here! Go now!"

Not surprisingly, they all ran to the door without protest. Sillo liked it when the civilian population was smart.

He used his conjuring abilities to produce a staff, made of an incredibly strong metal, and began twirling it, stepping forward to combat the raptors. He didn't have to kill them...just fend them off while the people escaped.

There were four raptors, the biggest one closest to where Sillo stood. It opened it's wide jaws and began to try and take a bite out of a middle-aged fat man in a suit and tie who was not the fastest character among the bunch.

"Oh no you don't," Sillo muttered before propelling himself towards the creature, smacking it on the nose as he flew past. The raptor shook his head from pain and turned towards Sillo's direction.

"No! That's a bad raptor!" Sillo wagged a finger at the raptor. It responded by trying to munch it, to which Sillo had to bring his staff up again and whack the thing on the nose once more. It turned away out of pain, but looked back around with a gleam of hate in it's eye. At least it's attention wasn't on the man any longer.

"Yeah, that's right!" Sillo taunted loudly, getting the attention of the other three raptors in the room, "I'm Chris Pratt, bitches! Come at me!"

They did. Very quickly.

"Not all at once!" Sillo cried as he used air propulsion to leap himself on top of one of the exhibits. He now had a top-down perspective of the room, which was ideal. He was thankful to see that not one civilian was left in the room. Hopefully, the other Gatewatchers had found a way to deactivate the Mana trap at the entrance. But for now, he could focus on getting out of here. Glancing down, he saw the four raptors circling the palm tree he stood on, snapping their jaws at him and hissing. No thank you.

Sillo took the time to brainstorm a plan and came up with one. Remembering a power he'd decided to learn earlier in his life, he conjured a compass and whispered to it, "Show me where the Gateway is." The red needle started moving away from due North and pointed towards the exit on the opposite side which led to the rest of the museum. Super.

But at least he had a way to track the blasted thing, now. The real challenge was how to escape the room without turning into raptor chow...and Sillo had just the answer.

He went over the schematic in his head as he planned out his moves. Okay, it’s simple. Jump off the tree and use air propulsion to hop to the next. The raptors will follow to the other end of the room where I leap off the wall and tornado drill myself through the gate. Ready? Go!

He started running…and slipped off the tree, landing hard on the ground below.

Dammit! Alarm bells started ringing in his head as he realized where he was and bolted for the door. The raptors were very close behind, literally nipping at his heels. He pivoted, smacking the raptor closest to him on the side of the head with the bow staff. Regaining his step, he juked to the right, sending the other three slipping and sliding across the floor. Sillo reached the exit, snapping the gates shut with wind power behind him. The pursuers slammed into the metal gate, which bent but didn’t give.

Sighing from physical exhaustion and a tiny bit of mana exhaustion, Sillo continued onward. The raptors were someone else’s problem now.

He followed the makeshift compass down hallways and up the stairs to the second floor. He passed by many different exhibits which were luckily Plexi-Glassed off so that they couldn’t touch him. There were a few exhibits that weren’t, like the rain forest. Luckily the predators of the amazon had moved to some other part of the museum.

There was another obstacle in his way, however. When Sillo approached the Flora exhibit, he was about to step through when he saw bodies lying on the floor in the hallway. Something told him that they weren’t sleeping.

Sillo rubbed the back of his head in confusion, trying to figure out how to get past this one. Could he possibly push the toxic air out of the hallway?

Maybe. With a grunt of effort, Sillo spun the staff and sent a wave of air cascading through the hallway, blowing away the toxic air. He decided that it would be enough for now, but just in case…

He got on his knees and began crawling through the hallway, underneath the plants. He crawled quickly, wanting to be in that hallway for as little time as possible. That and passing the rigor mortised corpses wasn’t fun either. Finally on the other side, he got up and dusted himself off and turned back to survey the plants once more. They hadn’t moved from their position. Neither had the bodies.

“Okay…never doing that again…” Sillo gagged as he turned back around to find…a wall of thorns blocking his path. He doubted the museum had a rose exhibit so he assumed this was where the Gateway was being kept. Unfortunately, a metal staff wouldn’t do shit against thorns and he couldn’t exactly start a tornado in the exhibit for fear of stabbing himself by stray thorns. Which left one option.

He concentrated hard and phased himself out of reality, walking through the thorns without harm and appearing on the other side in the Egyptian exhibit. Phasing back in, he surveyed the scene.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Selena Stone Character Portrait: Cedric Valentine
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"I heard the boy. You know there are more pleasant ways to 'fix' people." Selena shrugged at Cedric's comment. At least she went out of her way to fix him in the first place.

"The blast area was contained by the time I got here, massive amounts of wild mana were encased in the bomb, the user who put a concealment spell on it was immensely powerful to be able to get that much wild mana into the middle of HQ with out a single person noticing. Black mana, but the trail went cold here." That explained why Cedric was here. He was easily one of the best at tracking black mana, given his attunement with it. She looked around for a moment, attempting to sense any stray black mana he may have missed. Cedric was still talking, but Selena didn't bother to tune in. She sensed hints of it. Black mana, just as he said, but only the barest of wisps remained. She didn't expect to find the trail where Cedric had lost it, but it never hurt to be thorough. Satisfied, she returned her attention to her companion.

"...control will let us all go home. Care to join me?" Cedric's hand extended, offering to carry her umbrella. Selena mused that if he worried less about pleasantries, he'd be much more efficient. She eyed his outstretched hand momentarily, then let out an audible "hmph." In the back of her mind, she sensed another gateway beginning to open in the distance. To far to be bothered. She knew the other Gatewatchers would handle it.

"Another gateway is opening. The others will be responding, leaving us alone." Selena stared into Cedric's, her face expressionless and her voice deadpan. Selena's idea of flirtatious humor usually just unnerved other Gatewatchers, but Cedric usually understood her. "That is acceptable. Lets go."

Setting

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Character Portrait: Selena Stone Character Portrait: Cedric Valentine
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"Another gateway is opening. The others will be responding, leaving us alone. That is acceptable. Lets go."

Cedric raised an eyebrow and cocked his head ever so slightly, "You know Selena, if I didn't know better I'd say you just asked me on a date." He wheeled around on his heel and started off to the blast site. He hadn't felt the gateway since he wasn't taping into his mana, but it didn't seem to be a concern, with the number of gatewatchers in the area there should be little need for either of them to go, besides, if they didn't get a handle of the wild mana still present in the building they were going to keep having problems.

When the two of them finally reached the main level Cedric took a moment to really see all the physical damage. It was bad. No part of the room was completely intact. There were two gaping holes in the roof, he wasn't sure how much the ice containment was supporting and how much was supporting itself at this point. There was a massive hole in the wall near where he had parked where a corner of the building used to be, he realized now that he had actually entered the building through that hole, though he didn't even recall noticing it at the time.

Instinctively rubbing the inside band of his ring he closed his eyes and blinked into the ice containment. Opening his eyes he took in the chaotic debris strewn everywhere, remnants of desks and chairs, computers and filing cabinets, paperwork everywhere. In a world so full of digital technology, why was there even this much paper at the scene, he wondered. After a couple of minutes rummaging he found a large black case that was only superficially damaged by the blast. "At least we use good equipment cases." He said as he flipped the latches. The label had been burned off but he knew there was a Mana Drainer inside. Cedric could absorb some of the mana himself of course, but considering how black mana effected him, and the inconsistent nature of wild mana, it wasn't a combination he enjoyed dabbling with, so he would let technology have its day.

He flipped open the latches and opened the case to find a snugly packed mana drainer, it's various removable parts stored neatly in black foam pockets. Pulling out the main body and control pack Cedric set the drainer up near the center of the area. It a few moments he had the machine humming along, drawing wild mana in. The final step was to hook up a mana rod that would give them drainer an outlet if became overloaded, the concept worked like to an overflow tank but used a method similar to a battery.

Once he was sure the machine draining he left it to it's job.

Then he felt it.

His stomach turned up into his throat, leaving a tight pit where it used to be. Black mana, and not the trace amounts left from whoever planted the bomb. This was powerful, this could have easily concealed the bomb, the wild mana, the entire HQ if they focused enough.

“We need to leave.” Cedric stood only to see a man, floating above the building, staring down at them through the destroyed ceiling. “We need to leave right now!”

He didn't wait, he fully intended to run. He was not afraid to admit it either as his stomach seemed to climb hire in his throat. So much black mana, so much power.

“Well well, what do we have here? A couple of castoffs, not the type to rush off to help your little friends? A black mana user? Interesting, you seem to be confused as to who's side you should be on... never mind though, you are here, and I am here to claim what is mine...” His hands began to raise.

Cedric turned to see Selena standing, looking up at the man, and he threw his arms around her, shutting his eyes tightly and blinking them as far as he could into the corridor leading back to the lower garage exit of the building. He had a sinking feeling it didn't matter how fast they could run, but the man had said something about claiming what was his...

Then he heard the screech, the crumple of steel, concrete cracking and glass shattering. It sounded like the building was being ripped apart...

Setting

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Character Portrait: Selena Stone Character Portrait: Cedric Valentine
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Selena trailed a bit behind Cedric as the two of them made their way into the building and towards the blast sight, casually running her hands over anything that seemed out of place, using simple Psychometry to search each object's memories for clues. Between the various floors, walls, and debris, she got a pretty accurate look at anyone who used that hallway to evacuate, but no one in particular stood out as the bomber. Still useful information, however, and she filed it away neatly in her mind.

The pair of Gatewatchers came to the main level at last, the site of the detonation. Trace amounts of black mana were still detectable, even without looking, and there was a huge concentration of wild mana within a containment field of ice, created by Minori. Cedric blinked himself through the ice, and Selena followed suit. Her mana flared for a moment, and the air around her glimmered and cracked. Space twisted unnaturally, and Selena found herself on the other side of the ice.

Cedric was rummaging through the debris, likely looking for a mana drainer. Selena left him to his work. She sought something specific, something that would give a definite ID on the bomber. After a moment of searching, she found what she was looking for: a shard of the bomb case, mostly burnt but clearly a different material than the rest of the debris in the office. She picked it up and held it between her thumb and forefinger, inspecting it with her eyes as she began prying it's memories.

First to her mind came the explosion. She winced as she felt a small fraction of the heat and mana in her mind, but pressed deeper. What Cedric had said before about a strong concealment spell was right, and prying too far back in it's memories would be impossible. However, Selena was able to look beyond the explosion to the moments before, she saw the room they stood in, the unexploded bomb, and the man who held it. Just then, Cedric's voice drew her back from her vision.

“We need to leave right now!”

Selena looked to Cedric and followed his gaze up to what he was looking at. A man floated above them, peering down through a hole in the roof. The same man from her vision. He radiated black mana like a shadowy sun. The only thing Selena could think of was, 'impressive'. Still, obviously a threat, and so she began her preparations. Her mana ignited in her blood, prickling the inside of her veins with energy, drawing out the adrenaline. Her heart rate quickened, sending the adrenaline pumping through her body. Rarely was this type of effort necessary, but she had a feeling that this man was not going to go down easy. He spoke, a foolish monologue as Selena raised her wards and began murmuring the eldritch incantations under her breath, fully intending to tear sanity from his mind and crumple it like tissue.

“Well well, what do we have here? A couple of castoffs, not the type to rush off to help your little friends? A black mana user? Interesting, you seem to be confused as to who's side you should be on... never mind though, you are here, and I am here to claim what is mine...”

Believing herself adequately prepared, Selena turned her attention to Cedric. She reached her mana towards him, intending to pump up his adrenaline as well, only to find his blood already pumping. A cursory glance confirmed it. Cedric was afraid. Selena was a little surprised at the realization. Cedric was a respected veteran, and he'd fought plenty of rogue mana users before. The man above them raised his hands, preparing his spell. Amateur. Selena's disruption was already primed. His spell would fizzle before it even─

Suddenly, Selena found herself on the floor in the corridor leading towards the parking garage. Clinging to and resting atop her was Cedric, who had grabbed her and teleported them both away. Her eyes narrowed, and she shoved Cedric off. She rose to her feet with catlike grace.

"Coward." She growled her words through gritted teeth in a rare display of anger. "Can't stand your own darkness, so you run?" Cedric had no time to respond. Suddenly, the crash of destruction resounded around them, and the screech of shearing metal and cracking concrete filled the air. The assailant was bringing the building down on top of them. Selena returned to calm apathy once more. She could chastise Cedric later, if he lived.

"Subtlety must not be his forte. Come." She didn't wait for a response. Cedric had forced her hand, now they couldn't fight, and had to flee before the building crushed them. The pair rushed through the corridor towards the parking garage. The walls crumbled around them, and more than once Selena had to warp the two of them forward to avoid being crushed.

Shockwaves of force sent them careening into a concrete wall as they entered the garage. Selena felt a rib crack and a trickle of blood came from her nose, also likely fractured. Another warp saved them from a tumbling support, only to put them in the path of yet another shockwave. The force caught her leg at an awkward angle and sent her to the ground, where her forehead connected squarely with the concrete, dazing her. She rolled onto her back, her vision blurry. She couldn't make out where Cedric was, but the roof of the garage was about to collapse. Luckily for the two Gatewatchers, Selena had prepared her decay ward. She primed it, then sent the energy blasting upwards, turning the segment of collapsing concrete above them into a chalky dust.

Selena lay in silence on the concrete, slowing her breath and heartbeat while she tallied her injuries. Broken rib, fractured nose, cut on forehead, cracked shin, torn ligament. That last one really stung. Her mana sparked through her blood on her command, weaving towards her injuries and repairing the damage as necessary. The process was excruciating, but nothing she hadn't ever done before. She exhaled as she finished, her body aching and her blood burning. She could feel herself tiring, and knew she couldn't keep up that level of mana use without drawing on the eldritch energy of a gateway for sustenance, something even she tried to avoid. Her vision was still blurry, the intense pain of bone reconstruction not helping, and from her position laying on the ground, she couldn't see Cedric. She reached out with her mana to locate his pulse, finding it nearby. Satisfied that he was alive, she resolved to take a moment to recover properly. Cedric, she knew, wasn't exactly a fan of her brand of healing, so if he wanted it, he'd have to ask. Nicely.

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Character Portrait: Selena Stone Character Portrait: Cedric Valentine
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Selena threw him off of her as the reappeared in the corridor, rising with a clear look of disdain in her eyes, she began to berate him but the sounds of the building coming down forced her to hold off. It didn't take any convincing for Cedric to follow Selena's lead deeper into the facility, his stomach was still getting tighter from the sense of how powerful the man was with black mana. He knew she would have fought, and under most circumstances he would have as well, but he had never felt this level of black mana before, he knew they were severely out classed. She could reprimand him later, if they had fought he figured chances are she wouldn't have had the luxury, she still might not. The fact that she had clearly grown angry with his sudden decision to run struck him for a moment, but then other things began to strike him in a much more physical sense.

He felt the strange sensation of being warped through space a number of times, and had to blink himself on more than one occasion as well to avoid being crushed. As he blinked away from a falling beam a shockwave hit him just as he closed his eyes so that when he reappeared a few feet ahead he was careening towards a plate glass window. With no time to even register what was about to happen his body hit the glass which shattered around him, he could feel endless streaks of pain as the shards cut across his body. He blinked away from the scene as quickly as he could, back into the hallway and continued running as adrenaline numbed the burning of the cuts. Pain shot up his left leg as a tendon snapped, no doubt sliced by the glass and finished off by his running. He pressed one hand to his hip with his fingers crossed tightly and focused on sending mana down to hold the tendon together as he ran. The pain was incredible, but he had become accustom to using mana under stress and pain, his ability to focus under the circumstances was very high, the one good thing about the side effects of his black mana reaction.

Another shockwave sent him hard into a crumbling wall, he knew his head hit, he knew he should feel pain in places where he didn't feel pain yet. Before the pain came another warp from Selena moving them both from the bath of a support beam, then a shock wave that hit as soon as Cedrics feet touched the floor. His body was flung like a rag doll into a parked car, he could feel his collar bone snap, his shoulder pop out of socket, and a number of other unpleasant occurrences before finally ending up face down on the ground.

He turned in a daze to see Selena decay the portion of roof that was about to collapse on them, at which point he realized he couldn't get up. His head throbbed, he had multiple broken bones, and he now realized that there was a large hole in his side, something had punctured his lung, and he was bleeding profusely from a multitude of lacerations. He shoved a fist into the hole in his side, knowing he needed to seal the lung, he didn't have time for the nicer ways of healing. Fingers moving in various patterns he probed within his own side to find the puncture, the pain in the side of his head stabbed against the back of his eyes, he didn't know how bad the head trauma was but he feared he was about to black out...

"Sele...Selena I-"









"Cedric, come on now, take a look."

"Wow! There's so much water Grampa! We could go on and on forever!"

"Indeed we could, but out here you must remember to keep your head about you, and remember those men working the ship, she won't run with just a captain! Cedric, remember, with out those men doing the little job, nothing moves, nothing happens, all the money in the world can't make this ship go without them. But with them? Well you can go wherever you desire."

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Character Portrait: Selena Stone Character Portrait: Cedric Valentine
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"Sele...Selena I-"

Cedric's voice annoyingly broke through the peaceful silence Selena had been enjoying.

Silence?

Her eyes shot open, and she glanced around. In an instant, her mind returned to reality.

How long?

Wincing at the pain, Selena rolled onto her stomach and forced herself up off the concrete. Resting on her knees, she surveyed the destruction. Much of the building was in shambles, along with the parking garage they had exited through. Several feet away, Cedric lay in a bloody heap. Selena could still feel his pulse but he was unconscious and losing a lot of blood.

"So much for asking nicely." Selena let loose a heavy sigh as she forced her exhausted body to it's feet. She didn't have the strength in her to save Cedric without invoking the nameless energy of the void beyond the gateways. Looking at the bloody body next to her, she weighed her options. No one would question her if she said he was already dead, and few would miss him. Selena turned away from him and took a single, pained step away before stopping. A memory flashed across her vision, of the corpses of her family in pieces surrounding her. The shock of it dropped her to her knees, and she let out a scream, though her weakness cut it short in a fit of coughing. "I know the cost. I don't need to be taunted."

Selena sighed and shook her head, and began muttering in an unearthly language. She reached to the ground and retrieved a shard of glass. Carefully, she let the sharp edge sink into her left wrist, letting free a stream of blood to trickle down her arm. Then, after dabbing her right index finger in her pooling blood, she began drawing a pattern on her left palm. The pattern. The same one formed by the mutilated bodies of her family fifteen years prior. The moment she finished, the blood on her hand ignited, searing the pattern into her flesh. Unnatural pain, beyond that of the searing blood, wracked her body. An overwhelming feeling of dread came over her like a thick blanket of snow over a forest. She felt the twisted energy scratch at the inside of her skin, a nail-on-chalkboard like sensation that ate away her her from the inside. She could feel it inside her chest and behind her eyes. It ceased being pain. It was no longer fear. It was simply wrong.

The gateway she had closed earlier sparked and crackled to life, and Selena raised her left hand so that the pattern burnt into her skin faced the reopened gateway. A beam of energy, originating at neither her hand nor the gateway, or perhaps at both, twitched into existence. It was the color of a last desperate breath, of extinguished hope. Looking at it hurt. It wasn't supposed to be witnessed by any living being. Selena struggled to remain conscious as the alien light illuminated the streets, yet somehow leaving them darker. Though it lasted perhaps thirty seconds, it felt as if she had been there for days. When it finally sputtered out of existence with a disturbing click, Selena fell to her knees. The gateway closed once more, it's energy stolen, and Selena brimmed with power. It ached inside of her, like her very core had been wrung by a thousand giant hands. In the back of her mind, she could still feel their clammy embrace. She shuddered, and rose to her feet.

"You owe me." Selena's voice was tired, but it echoed with magic, somehow creeping it's way into every nook and cranny before withering into the wind, despite her whispering tone. She knelt beside Cedric and passed her left hand over him, allowing her blood to drip onto his wounds. Her mana, reinforced by the eldritch mana she had stolen, crawled into Cedric's blood, latching onto the cells in his body like a million tiny parasites. She had no doubt that it hurt, even in unconsciousness, and knowing the sort of unnatural pain that came with eldritch magic all to well, she felt an inkling of pity for him. That was an experience she wished on only very few, and certainly not Cedric. Although the man that had done this was well on his way to getting on that list. At her command, his body twisted as the bones were forced back into position. Flesh knitted itself together, while the blood Selena had let fall on Cedric formed new flesh to replace what was lost, closing the hole in his side. Reaching out through the blood, Selena felt Cedric's pulse, weak but still there, and let out a sigh of either disgust or relief. Selena herself didn't know which.

Alone with only unconscious Cedric, Selena found it unnerving that she sensed another presence. No pulse, but then again, she didn't expect it to have one. It was here, but it really wasn't. She could feel it, like a chill at the base of her spine. It was taunting her. She knew the cost.

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Character Portrait: Selena Stone Character Portrait: Cedric Valentine
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Cedric stood at the front of the yacht, the wind whipping his hair, the sun warming his face. Dolphins raced across the bow, chasing the spray and dancing around the boat, jumping high out of the water and blowing geysers of their own spray into the air. Seagulls cried as they coasted lazily above, waiting some stray scrap to swoop down and claim as their own. The crew was still bustling about, finishing up odd tasks that hadn't needed to be accomplished before setting off. They had a week of nothing but ocean and islands and adventure ahead of them and it was a perfect day to start out. His grandfather had planned the trip months ago, and Cedric had been looking forward to it just as long. There was little he enjoyed more than spending time with Marcus.

ɔiɿbɘƆ Ɉʜϱiʇ Ɉ'noႧ

"I'm going to find a pirate ship! I'm going to capture a pirate!" the boy proclaimed loudly as lunch was served. He had visions of tall ships and treasure and Blackbeard playing out in his head. Surely there would be pirates in the islands, and it was obviously his duty to seek them out.

"Capture a pirate?" Marcus laughed, "And what do you intend to do once you've caught him?"

"We'll start an island." was the matter of fact reply, as though that was the most common and proper answer to such a question. What other reason would he have for capturing a pirate? "We won't need to steal money though, because you've got all the money grampa, so I guess we won't be pirates."

Marcus contemplated this logic for a moment, sipping his coffee slowly. Finally he nodded, as though it was indeed a most logical train of thought. "So then you plan on reforming this pirate?"

"Oh no, he don't need to go to school or nothin." Cedric dismissed the question and returned to his lunch.

ni ɘviӘ

"Cedric, stay in the cabin!"

The sky exploded in a white light again and thunder rolled after it. The waves pushed the yacht every direction at once. Cedric latched onto the sofa, staring at the angry sea. Crew ran about making sure valuables were secure and stowed away. Cedric's eyes grew wide as a massive wave approached the broad side of the craft. It had always seemed so very big to him, but now the yacht seemed incredibly small. He was afraid.


"So much for asking nicely."


Rain pelted his face as he stumbled across the deck. Everything was loud, the wind, the rain, the waves. Lightning flashed and a crack of thunder blotted out all other sounds for a moment, shaking Cedric to his bones. He reached out ahead of him, stumbling. A rouge wave crashed into the ship from the stern and sent him sprawling across the deck, slipping dangerously close to the edge.

Flash of light.

Crack of thunder.

Crash of wave.

Endlessly repeated.

Cedric couldn't see, he couldn't remember what had drawn him out of the relative safety of the cabin into the squall. He only knew he had made a mistake. He knew he was scared, his legs hurt, his ears hurt, his body hurt. Another crack, but something was different, this wasn't thunder. Looking up he was met with a jetski that had broken lose of it's bindings, it was nearly on top of him.

"I know the cost. I don't need to be taunted."

Everything seemed to stop. Cedric was still aware of the storm raging, but the sound of thunder was dull and far off, the rain pelting against his skin felt no harder than a spring shower, the waves crashing against the boat didn't upset his balance. The Jetski was stuck motionless, floating a few feet off of the surface of the deck. Cedric stared at it, fear still coursing through his veins, until he finally summoned up the nerve to move. First a step, then two, then a dash towards the cabin door. As he let his focus leave the ski it suddenly continued on its path, crashing through the safety ropes and into the angry sea.

ɿɘvɘɿoʇ nυɿ Ɉ'nɒɔ υoY

"What were you doing out there!?" Marcus rushed to his grandson.

"I, I don't know. I, I was looking for you!" The boy was shaking, scared, embarrassed, and confused. What had happened out on the deck? It had seemed like the entire storm slowed down, like he had been in some sort of bubble. His heart was still racing.

"Oh, boy. Come now, come down, you're alright now. Lets get you dry. Don't you worry, she's survived worse than this." His grandfather wrapped a big towel around the boy and ushered him down towards the staterooms.

nɘqqɒʜ oɈ ϱnioϱ ƨ'ɈI

Cedric started.

He wasn't on the yacht anymore, he was no longer a child. He stared around him, the place was a fog, but somehow familiar. A sinking feeling came over him. He saw shadows, people, he didn't know who they were but he knew them. He tried to speak but couldn't, tried to move, tired to reach out, but he was stuck. Another shadow appeared, he couldn't tell where it had come from, something else was with it, but he wasn't sure what. As it approached one of the figures' faces became clear. Marcus Valentine was standing in his bedroom, smiling at the visitor.

The feeling in the pit of Cedric's stomach intensified, a knot twisting, pulling the feeling out of his arms and legs, his head began to spin. He knew what was going to happen.

He had seen this before.

The shadow moved, a smile turned into confusion, then fear.

Marcus' body fell to the ground. Cedric looked on for what seemed like an eternity as the body fell lifeless. He tried to move, tried to scream out 'STOP! Someone help him! Somebody!" but there was no sound.

He couldn't move, he couldn't speak, he tired to cry but even the tears wouldn't come. He was trapped inside himself.

"You owe me one"





Pain shot through him and the scene disappeared. It was unbelievable, unnatural, even compared to what he felt when he used his mana. It went racing through his veins, burning every inch of him. He felt like his blood was burning him alive and electrocuting him at the same time. He tired to make it stop, tried to cry out, but he was still stuck, still unable to control his own body. Every one of his senses was consumed by it, he couldn't see for it, couldn't hear for it, it was like all that did exist or ever had existed was this pain and his ability to experience it. Thoughts of death began to creep into his mind, not of fear that he was dying, but of hoping that he would.

Then, finally, it all stopped. The pain became natural, pleasantly so, a dull throb compared to what he had experienced. He was aware for a moment that he could hear. Fingers, toes, something against his back. The floor, he was laying on the floor. He remembered, the destruction, running, the hole in his side, the cuts, the broken bones, it all came back to him.

With a gasp of breath he came to. The first thing he was really aware of, before even opening his eyes, was the sweet fact that his lungs were working. Everything was still sore, though decidedly not as broken as it had been when he lost consciousness. He took another deep breath before opening his eyes. There he was, laying on the ground in the middle of a disaster area that made the original bomb seem like child's play. Selena was kneeling over him, but not focused on him at the moment.

"Yeah, I owe you big time." He smiled weakly. "Thanks."

His head began to spin slightly as he sat up slowly and leaned against what was left of the car he had so daftly avoided crashing into. He couldn't help but think about the man, the one man, who had caused all of this destruction. Clearly he wasn't going to be much use half tapping his mana abilities. The thought sent a shiver down his spine, but he knew he would have to risk the consequences.





miʜ lliʞ υoγ ˎɔiɿbɘƆ ˎυoγ ƨi ɈI

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Character Portrait: Selena Stone Character Portrait: Cedric Valentine Character Portrait: Nathan de Vries
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The whole of Atlas Electronics was crowded now that the crisis was over. Any open gateways had been dealt with by the Gatewatchers near by, and once done they had congregated towards the Eastern Sanctum Headquarters like a swarm of ants, herding around and seeing what was to be done. Some where repairing the damages caused by the attack, while others had been drafted out in groups to check the building to see if they could be of any service or if they could find anything that could be of help, all under the watchful eyes of the more experienced Gatewatchers.

Nathan de Vries was on one such team - as part of a group of five, he was sent to survey the now destroyed garages under strict orders to yell for help the moment something happened, seeing as even if he was good with his runes and capable enough to deal with the more difficult threats thanks to training, he was still only a few weeks into the job and therefore not really experienced enough to deal with whoever had set up the trap at HQ.

Then again, they were all suppose to yell for help the moment they spotted anyone suspicious or if another gateway opened, so experience didn't really factor into it.

The short orange-haired boy resisted the urge to groan in frustration and disappointment as he went to search in his area for anything suspicious or in need of repairs. The leader had divided everything into quadrants for them to search, and Nathan's quadrant was part of the outside of the garage, which had been destroyed to rubble. Why couldn't he look inside the ruins?! He wanted to know what an imploded building looked like! Even if it was likely that the enemy could be hiding inside and the whole thing looked like it would implode any second.

Hmph. Nathan scowled as he dusted the grime off his shorts. I really wanted to look, too! Maybe he’ll let me if I finish my quarter? The boy perked up at the thought, a grin forming on his face. He only had one section left, then he could ask! Newly determined to do his job, Nathan turned to the final section of his quarter, ready for anything.

Anything, in this case, turned out to be a bunch of rubble in a non-wooded area. Finally! Nathan thought, grinning as a runic circle formed under him with a yellow glow. Up till now I was in a wooded area so I couldn’t do this spell, but since it’s clear…

The circle seemed to solidify underneath Nathan before slowly shifting upwards, moving the boy standing on it as if he were standing on an elaborate elevator floor. As if responding to Nathan’s thoughts, the circle moved faster, and soon enough he was standing tall enough to see above the rubble and everything in the section.

Nothing much other than rubble at first, but now that Nathan was looking properly he could see two people there, a girl with purple hair and a man leaning against a car. Survivors! Nathan grinned and raised an arm to wave, but before he could something caught the edge of his vision and he turned, curious to see what it was.

A man was standing near the edge of the trees, almost hidden by shadows. He was staring at the two on the ground, but not with relief or anything positive - there was a dark look on his face as if he was contemplating on blowing them up.

A shudder ran down Nathan’s spine at the look. As he stared, the man was joined by a woman dressed in red, roses decorating her clothes. She looked dishevelled and Nathan was too far to see properly, but she had similar-looking features to the man. She grabbed his arm and muttered something to him, and the man nodded, the angry look melting away into a more contemplative one. Leaning down, he kissed her on the forehead in a familial gesture.

Nathan blinked in surprise.

When his eyes opened again, they were gone. Red rose petals that fluttered in the air as if it had taken their place.

Nathan blinked again. And again. Then he rubbed his eyes. What happened?! There was a man and a woman and then poof! Gone! A teleportation spell, but where? And why?

Aggh, he could deal with it later! Report it to the leader or something. For now he had to deal with the survivors. And maybe they know something about that guy… Pressing a button on the com to his ear, he said “Found people! Two of them. They seem ok, though.”

After listening, Nathan nodded. “Got it!” Then he left the communications button on.

Lowering his circle fast enough to look like he was falling, Nathan landed lightly on the ground close to the two. “Hey!” He yelled energetically, waving his hand high in the air as a greeting. He shot a large grin at them, readjusting the black cap on his head as he jogged over to them. “Everything ok?! What happened? I’m part of the rescue team for this area, and HQ’s ok now so all there’s left to do is regroup, so I guess I’m here to transport you guys back to HQ! Anyone in need for healing or anything?”

Dressed in a black shirt under a orange sleeveless jacket and completing the look with high-top orange sneakers, Nathan looked more like a kid than your average rescuer, but it was pretty obvious that it was what he was here to do anyway. Grinning merrily at them, he slipped his hands in his pockets and waited for a response, ready to teleport everyone back to HQ once he got confirmation.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Zane Bell Character Portrait: Sillo Deskern Character Portrait: Minori Fukutawa Character Portrait: Damion Gray Character Portrait: Selena Stone Character Portrait: Aldred Kynn Character Portrait: Cedric Valentine Character Portrait: Nathan de Vries
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"Those glasses... Never let them out of your sight, Zane. Pun unintended."

Just because the pun was unintentional didn't make it any less funny. Sillo found himself shaking his head and laughing as Minori walked towards the exit. At the door, she turned around and continued.

"Whatever we do next, that woman is still out there, and she has allies I'm sure. No field trips without a partner, if we want to be in good health enough to use those catalysts. I'm going back to HQ to dig something out of the basement, if anyone is interested in a lift."

"I'll take that lift," Aldred got up, taking off his shirt to showcase a well-developed body for a teenager, "I need to go back to HQ too, to get a new outfit." He started walking towards Minori, thinking aloud as he did so. "Zane's already got his, so that leaves at least four more to find. Library seems a good idea, we can figure out which ones we need there. Come up with some plans, too, and see what we can find out about her and the people she works with."

Rose...

Yeah, that had been one of the major mysteries of the fight. Who she was and why she wanted the Gatewatchers dead was anyone's guess. It was why he'd asked at the beginning, before the fighting had started. Of course she didn't give a straightforward answer like any logical person, but it didn't hurt to try. It did give Aldred the distraction he needed to make the first blow and that was always welcomed.

"If anyone needs me, I'll be at the training facilities. I'll be working on increasing myself combat-wise before heading to the library. We should probably come up with a rota for field trips so that no one's alone too, and work on increasing our ability to work together before we come across her. Like Damion said, I'd rather we be the one's slaughtering her. Working together would help with that. We should probably ask around too, see if anyone came across her crew. Someone had to be there when the bomb went off at HQ to see that everything went to plan, so we should ask the people at the site if they saw anyone suspicious."

"Sounds good, dude," Sillo said, even though there were so many plan thrown around in there that he caught maybe two of them. "I'll join you at the training facility. I need to become...what's the word?" he paused to ponder before snapping his fingers, "Physical. Yeah, alright. By the way, you guys are doing the whole traveling thing wrong. Here."

He gestured as he walked towards Minori and Aldred, putting both his hands on their shoulders imagining the three of them in front of their beloved HQ. And before they knew it, the trio was whisked away by Blue Mana, leaving Zane and Damion alone at the museum.




Meanwhile, on the first floor of the museum...

RRRRRROOOOOOOOAAAAAAARRRRRRR!!!




With a loud pop! for comedic effect, the three Gatewatchers appeared in front of their HQ...or at least what was left of it. Sillo let go of the two and smiled at them.

"See? Teleportation is the only way to travel. Now we're here in a matter of nanoseconds rather than minutes. You're welcoooOAAAAHOLY MOTHER OF GOD!" his jaw dropped when he saw the HQ was left in literal shambles. In the center of it was Selena and Cedric accompanied by a Gatewatcher he'd yet had the pleasure of meeting.

"Minori, didn't you, like, ice proof the place to keep it from collapsing?" he asked as he ran up the steps towards the three that were there, putting his discomfort for the nature of the two aside for curiosity's sake. "Hey, you guys okay? What happened here?" He gazed at the third one. He looked rather young, given his apparel and his boyish face. But he seemed like good company to be around, noticing that he was an optimist immediately.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sillo Deskern Character Portrait: Minori Fukutawa Character Portrait: Selena Stone Character Portrait: Aldred Kynn Character Portrait: Cedric Valentine Character Portrait: Nathan de Vries
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Despite Cedric rising from unconsciousness and speaking to her, Selena remained distracted. She couldn't shake the feeling of being watched. Even with as much exposure to this type of thing as she had, it was still unsettling feeling. She imagined that Cedric probably felt similar when confronted with the powerful black mana user, which would explain why he immediately turned tail and blinked them out of there. She snorted at the thought. Not everyone can have my nerves.

Selena then turned her gaze to Cedric, who agreed that he owed her for saving his life. She locked eyes with him, her gaze blank and pitiless. Now that they were safe, she could properly chastise the younger man in an older body about his actions earlier. Just as she was about to begin her lecture, another heartbeat entered her small bubble of detection. She turned to face the young boy even before he began his shouting. Before her, a prepubescent brat with orange hair and orange eyes jogged towards them, shouting something that Selena did her best to ignore, waving his hand and grinning like an idiot. That the kid was barely old enough to dress himself apparently did not matter to the Gatewatchers, though that hardly surprised her. The organization was a mess, and the only reason she stuck around was because they kept out of her business and left her to close gateways on her own. At least, usually they did. She began to think that person or people who attacked the Gatewatchers might actually be the heroes.

The kid was in front of Selena and Cedric now. She was about to tell him to be a good child and run along, when yet more heartbeats appeared in the vicinity. She sighed audibly and rolled her eyes, turning to see Sillo, Minori, and a third gatewatcher, a teenaged, yellow-haired boy that she had not yet met. He was shirtless, for some reason, which prompted a momentary look of genuine confusion on Selena's face. For a brief moment, she wondered why that particular detail stuck out to her, before she recalled that she was still stuck in an eighteen year old's body, with eighteen year old chemistry. The thought made her gag a little. Sillo was speaking now, and like with most people, Selena was mostly ignoring him. It occurred to her that she did that often, though it made sense, considering she preferred the thoughts in her head to the voiced ones of others around her. Still, it might do to explain the completely destroyed buildings behind her. She spoke then, caring little that she interrupted the tail end of whatever Sillo was saying.

"The bomber came back." She interjected abruptly and without preamble. It wasn't necessary. "Looking for something. An artifact we keep, perhaps. My partner here decided he was too powerful and blinked us away before I could engage." as Selena spoke, she motioned to Cedric, still shaken,"The bomber, a black mana user, thus had the upper hand, and toppled the building and garage in an attempt to stop our escape."She hesitated and sighed before speaking once more, "His abilities were...above average. Cedric and I sustained injuries, which I've since repaired. Cedric may have briefly died."

Selena's speech ended as sharply as it had begun. She wasn't much for going into detail, and speaking in the presence of multiple people was off-putting for her. Her facial expression was mostly empty, with a hint of disdain mixed with disgust, which was her face's way of looking flustered. She sighed once more. This is not how I pictured today at all.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sillo Deskern Character Portrait: Minori Fukutawa Character Portrait: Selena Stone Character Portrait: Aldred Kynn Character Portrait: Cedric Valentine Character Portrait: Nathan de Vries
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Cedric could tell Selena was preoccupied with something, she seemed distracted. This wasn't her natural blank 'looking through you' gaze, this was a distinct look of having her focus very much on something else nearby. It was slightly alarming as he began to wonder what she could sense that was actively drawing her attention. Eventually she turned her gaze back towards him and the familiar disconnected look returned in an almost comforting change of expression. No doubt his stern talking to for not letting her attempt to fight the mysterious man was forthcoming. He knew she had done her fair share of fighting, she wasn't allowed to go on missions on her own just because she didn't like people after all. She was a powerful gatewatcher, she had faced down any number of things that would turn a younger members stomach in their throat, both figuratively and literally. He expected it, and he would accept it. Perhaps they could have done some damage, after all he was one of those who went off on highly dangerous missions alone more often than not as well, between them they could bring down a lot of things that would take more than a few average gatewatchers if only due to experience. But Cedric knew that the destruction around them was minor compared to what could have been if they had fought, and chances were either or both of them wouldn't have survived to tell the tale. So he was ready for what ever she felt the need to say. However the lecture never came, cut off by the arrival of a new, and almost annoyingly happy, Gatewatcher.

"Well, I suppose that's it for our date then?" Cedric chuckled half heartedly before wincing slightly. His side still hurt, more of a lingering phantom then an actual pain, but it still got an actual reaction. Cedric had never seen the boy who announced himself as part of the rescue party, clearly he was new enough not to know who they were, nobody who knew them could possibly be that happy about running into them alone, much less together, even less in the middle of a completely demolished former Eastern headquarters.

He could tell, more out of experience than anything else, that Selena was just about to shoo the boy away when others arrived. He was surprised to see something, he wasn't quite sure what to call it, some ever so slight expression, cross her face. Turning to see the three new arrivals, Minori he recognized, the other two he had seen before, but didn't know personally. One was shirtless, which seemed completely unnecessary to him, but then again he was wearing enough layers for both of them. Thinking of his layers he realized that his suit was entirely destroyed. The thought disappointed him a little, he had liked this suit.

Selena relayed the necessary information, not unlike a system analysis on a computer would, until "Cedric may have briefly died." Could it have been a joke? Certainly it wouldn't hurt his feelings if it was, he didn't really want to think about how close he may have come to death. He laughed slightly, the kind of laugh someone does when they want a person to know they are laughing at a joke that may not have necessarily been funny. "You know me, living on the edge and such." He shifted his weight before standing slowly.

"I have never sensed so much black mana in one place." Pausing for a moment he remembered just how it felt when he first noticed the mans presence. "Not just in one person, in one place. You could all have black mana and we'd barely be in the same ballpark combined." he cast a quick glance towards Selena. "Above average might be the understatement of your career Sel." He was never sure if that name irked her, but until she crushed him like a bug for using it he would throw it out there every now and again. The others might find that single part of his entire statement to be the most surprising thing they heard. Who in their right mind used a nickname for Selena? Of course, Cedric never claimed to be in his right mind, he just claimed to not be the evil person his mana color would assume.

"All this, it was constant. It felt like a continuous effect, a single spell. On top of that he claimed to be looking for something, he certainly didn't find it in the aftermath, so if he did find it he did it while casting the spell." Cedric let the statement settle. There was a massive amount of destruction here for one spell, let alone one cast while the user was busy rummaging around for some item at the time they were casting it.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sillo Deskern Character Portrait: Minori Fukutawa Character Portrait: Selena Stone Character Portrait: Aldred Kynn Character Portrait: Cedric Valentine
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"I'll take that lift. I need to go back to HQ too, to get a new outfit." Aldred said, taking off his shirt to reveal lean musculature and well-defined abs. "Zane's already got his, so that leaves at least four more to find. Library seems a good idea, we can figure out which ones we need there. Come up with some plans, too, and see what we can find out about her and the people she works with."

The sight of Aldred removing his shirt caused Minori to raise an eyebrow and smirk, the act looking like something one would see at the start of some god awful adult video. She was also the only girl present, so couldn't help but feel as if some of the 'show' was for her own benefit. Being that he was still in high school Minori merely thought it cute, but it did remind her that she'd been locked up in her lab for a while now without much of a social life to speak of. If she was going to die in a few days, she might as well go out having a bit of fun, right? A shame she was surrounded by kids.

Sillo's approach caught her off guard, the teleportation doubly so as she suddenly found herself at the pile of rubble on which their headquarters once stood. She always got vertigo when Sillo did this, feeling her lunch threaten to resurface as she grabbed the young shirted boy by the shoulder and squeezed. She did this both to steady herself, but also to ensure Sillo didn't teleport away without her. She allowed him his freakout, Minori finding the sight of destruction hard to swallow as well, but with what they endured at the museum she wasn't really that shocked. Rose having allies wasn't much of a reveal.

"Minori, didn't you, like, ice proof the place to keep it from collapsing?" Sillo asked as the trio made their way to what used to be the main building, but found only Cedric, Selena, and a young boy Minori assumed was a new Gatewatcher. Hell of a first day, Minori mused.

"I sealed off the room the bomb went off in to keep the mana it released from spreading. It wouldn't have held against anything strong enough to tear the building down," she answered, her attention split between the rubble and the survivors.

She was surprised to see Cedric and Selena, both normally more inclined to solitude though their being together didn't shock her too much. They actually made a cute couple, if she thought Selena would be inclined to such things. After having spent an afternoon fighting dark gods with a bunch of kids, the sight of people of drinking age was actually a welcome sight. She listened intently as Selena recounted what had happened, nodding thoughtfully until Cedric's interjection, eyes widening a bit at the mention of the strength of the black mana user's power, as well as the use of a nickname for Selena. Where the hell had these people been hiding? Before she added to the conversation, she squeezed Sillo's shoulder to get his attention, an unstable smile spreading on her face as she stopped bothering to hide her mental and emotional stress brought on by... well everything.

"Sillo... My car is still at the museum. Be a dear and go get it, would you?" She asked, channeling mana into the hand she was holding Sillo with, his shirt now coated in frost between his right sleeve and the collar. Her grip tightened as she added, "And be sure to focus extra hard. Wouldn't want a repeat of the cage incident, now would we?"

The warm air around them caused smoke to gently emanate from her hand, but Minori let go before her mana could do more than spook the boy. He could appreciate the kind of day she was having, and not everyone could rely on teleporting to get around. Not to mention the payments Minori still needed to make on that car, or the notes she still had within. With her car addressed, she turned to look back at Cedric and Selena.

"Impossibly strong mana users that defy all logic with their capabilities? Seems to be catching," Minori started, looking out over the rubble. She could still feel the fallout from the spell that had been used, and shuddered at how strong it would have had to have been. Selene was not a kind healer, but she was better than most. It was probably the only reason either of them still lived.

"We fought both a ancient egyptian mummy, A mana user from millennia ago, as well as a woman who picked five of us apart without much effort and took two infinity level spells head on with barely a scratch. I'm still not entirely sure why she didn't finish us all off... she wouldn't have needed mana with as bad off as we were. Co-conspirators, but I'm not entirely certain as to their motive," Minori said, looking back out at the rubble.

"There's also the issue of mana users having existed prior to twenty years ago, not to mention the motives of whoever tore the lot of us apart today..." Minori mused, but wound up just face palming and letting out an annoyed sigh.

"Anyone else want to go to a bar? I need to sit down and not have something cataclysmic happen for ten minutes."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sillo Deskern Character Portrait: Minori Fukutawa Character Portrait: Damion Gray Character Portrait: Selena Stone Character Portrait: Aldred Kynn Character Portrait: Cedric Valentine Character Portrait: Nathan de Vries
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"Sounds good, dude," Sillo said, even though there were so many plan thrown around in there that he caught maybe two of them. "I'll join you at the training facility. I need to become...what's the word?" he paused to ponder before snapping his fingers, "Physical. Yeah, alright. By the way, you guys are doing the whole traveling thing wrong."

"Oh, sure!" Aldred said, turning to face Sillo. A faint smile crossed his face, surprised but happy at the offer of a sparring partner. "I'd like to increase my experience against teleporters too. It's going to be tough, but it'll be fu - wait." A look of concern formed on Aldred's face as Sillo reached for them, his eyes widening with the beginnings of panic as the blonde teen figured out what his friend was going to do. "Do you mea-"

“Here.”

Aldred had just enough time to brace himself and squeeze his eyes shut as Sillo grabbed both his and Minori's shoulders. His voice was cut off mid-sentence as they popped out of existence from the Museum, leaving Damion and Zane alone in the Egyptian room… with a Dinosaur on the first floor.

-------------------------------

Nathan had felt the mana gather and was already whirling around to greet the teleporters, but the boy still flinched at the sudden pop and sight of three people suddenly appearing in midair a bit too close for comfort. Taking a quick step back, Nathan let out a small yelp of surprise as the blonde teen shouted in astonishment at the sight of the ruined establishment. Biting his lips to stifle any other noises he might have made, Nathan took another step back and looked wide-eyed at the new arrivals.

A white-haired woman was holding onto a blonde boy’s shoulder, looking like she was about to barf, gross. The blonde boy who had yelled earlier; the one whose hair looked almost white in the light, was gaping at the wreckage that used to be their headquarters. Out of the three he was the only one who didn't look like he was dealing with dizziness - he must be the teleporter then! The other one with darker blonde hair had his eyes scrunched shut to deal with the vertigo that those who weren’t used to teleporting seem to feel. His eyebrows were creased together in what looked like mild annoyance and dizziness from the sudden lack of equilibrium, but otherwise the teen seemed to be taking the teleportation better than the other one.

Oh yeah, professionalism! Crap, he’d forgotten! Nathan quickly schooled his face from wide-eyed surprise and curiosity to a look of neutrality that only lasted for a second before turning into badly disguised curiosity and glee. He took a step back as the two who had been teleported regained their composure, shifting himself to the side while he listened to them talk. They were Gatewatchers like his parents, so they were obviously awesome and knew what they were talking about!

“A little more warning next time, Sillo,” the dark blonde teen was saying. He sounded a bit peeved, but as he slipped his hands into his pockets his tone and expression changed from mildly annoyed to gratitude, mouth curving up into a warm smile. “Thanks for the lift though - holy shit.” the blonde's recently opened eyes widened almost comically at the sight of the trashed HQ, letting out a long low whistle. "Looks like they weren't just targeting the museum...."

Why isn’t he wearing a shirt? Nathan thought. Then he shook his head. Wait, pay attention! Remember what Mom and Dad said - be professional! That means no looking at half-naked people! At that thought he schooled his expression into a well-practiced serious face, the kind of face normally seen on religious old grannies in church during sermon. Focus! What happened?

...Isn’t he cold without a shirt?

“Yes?” Shirtless gave him a questioning look, although there was a distracted look in his eyes. He was still paying attention to the others despite it not seeming like it. Beside him the purple-haired girl talked about what had happened. "The bomber came back..."

“Aren’t you cold?” Nathan blurted out, staring up at the blonde teen with enough curiosity to kill a dozen cats. The conversion continued around them undisturbed as Nathan continued, in a hush tone, “Where’s your shirt? Who are you? Wha-”

“Not really, it’s under my arm, name’s Aldred Kynn and no, I don’t go around shirtless as a way of life,” Aldred answered promptly, moving away far enough that they could talk without disturbing the others while still staying within hearing distance. Nathan followed him, shuffling around from foot to foot. Pulling out what the bundle under his arm, Aldred showed it to Nathan with a resigned sigh. It looked more like a pile of barely connected rags than a shirt. “It got wrecked, so for now I’m getting a new tee shirt and saving the fixing for later.” Stuffing the shirt back under his arm, the teen muttered something that sounded like “No point fixing it if it’s going to get wrecked later.” Then he turned back to Nathan, a puzzled look forming on Aldred’s features. “Uh, no offense, but who are you?”

“Ohh. Oh!” Nathan blinked and nodded as Cedric - the guy who’d been leaning against the car earlier - began to talk ("You know me, living on the edge and such."). “Not what I was wanting to ask, but they're talking about it already so nevermind!" Grinning happily at Aldred, he pointed proudly towards himself. "I’m Nathan van Dries, but you can call me Nate! Why not just fix it now? It’s easy!” An idea popped up in his mind, and Nathan beamed up at Aldred, the smile shining bright and pleased with excitement. “I know! I’ll do it for you! I know how and that way you won’t be shirtless right?”

“Uh.” Aldred raised an eyebrow skeptically, but gave up in the face of sheer optimism in the smile Nathan was sending towards him. Shrugging, he passed the rags over to Nathan. “Sure, I guess...”

*One repair job later*

“Thanks! Good job,” Aldred smiled appreciatively, pulling it on. Nathan grinned with pleasure (He did something useful, yay!) as Aldred patted him gratefully on the head. His hand felt warm as it ruffled through his curls briefly, and they returned back to the group, as silent as they had been when they departed the conversation.

Minori was asking Sillo to get her car for her, mana gathering around her in what felt like a joking threat. Aldred patted Sillo on the shoulder sympathetically - getting on Minori’s bad side was something you didn’t want to do. Better you than me, buddy.

“Zane said something about the woman having a twin brother, and her reactions imply that it’s true.” Aldred said, recalling the fight from earlier. Even with all the talking from before between him and Nathan, the two of them had been paying attention to the conversation. “It could be that he was the one who set off the bomb. As orphans who felt against the world, the two of them would probably be together in whatever goals they have and not like to be separated for too long, so it could be that they set the bombs off - Rose at the museum, her brother at the HQ.” Aldred shrugged. “No hard proof, but if the two of you are able to recall enough for a profile picture we could compare familial resemblances to see if it’s true.”

“There are people doing inventory back at the square so I think once everything is done we could take a look at the list and see what’s missing!” Nathan chirped, flashing them a wide smile. “I could take a look?” He added helpfully, hopefully. “I need to go back to report to Mr Leopold, I could help see what they’ve found!”

It still didn’t explain a lot of things by a long shot, like Minori said - Mana users existing over twenty years ago, the organisation behind the two, their goals and what they had stolen. A few of the things his mentor had said to Aldred was starting to make sense now. Geez, researching this is going to be a pain….

But before that...

“I’d like to join in for a drink and pleasantries, but before that: Sparring!" Despite having gotten out of literal bone-breaking combat less than an hour ago, the sixteen year old teen looked happy at the thought of going back to fighting, even if it was just training instead of deadly combat. "Sorry. Hey, don’t look at me like that, I’ve got a good ID and it’s not like I’ve never drank before.” It was a pretty good one too, Aldred was a bit proud of that card. Smiling cheerily at them, he added “I could join in afterwards though? Getting a drink after a good workout is pretty great. Anyone want to join me in a trip for the training facility?” He smiled hopefully at them, although deep down Aldred was already expecting to be rejected.

It wasn't that Aldred wouldn't mind grabbing a drink (alcoholic or not) to chat and socialise with Cedric and Sel, but in his mind beating the crap out of training simulations was just as much a good way to spend the time as it was with food. Training for revenge could do weird things to a person. He'd promised Sillo, too, but if his friend wanted to grab some food before going to spar then Aldred would be happy to eat first too.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sillo Deskern Character Portrait: Minori Fukutawa Character Portrait: Damion Gray Character Portrait: Selena Stone Character Portrait: Aldred Kynn Character Portrait: Cedric Valentine Character Portrait: Nathan de Vries
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"The bomber came back." Selena interjected right as Sillo said the last word, "Looking for something. An artifact we keep, perhaps. My partner here decided he was too powerful and blinked us away before I could engage."

She shot Cedric a glance, one that he didn't deserve. That didn't resonate well with Sillo. He just saved your life.

"His abilities were...above average. Cedric and I sustained injuries, which I've since repaired. Cedric may have briefly died."

"Same," Sillo said, almost in a joking matter. But no one could deny the truth laced behind those words. Maybe another few seconds and he would have...he shuddered at the thought.

"You know me, living on the edge and such," Cedric joked himself, getting up slowly before continuing. "I have never sensed so much black mana in one place. Not just in one person, in one place. You could all have black mana and we'd barely be in the same ballpark combined. Above average might be the understatement of your career Sel."

Sel? Sillo raised an eyebrow at the "no fun and games" Gatewatcher, taken aback by the nickname. They had gotten closer...at least on Cedric's end.

"Sillo... My car is still at the museum. Be a dear and go get it, would you?" he felt Minori grab his shirt, not even needing to feel the frost she was giving off to hear the ice in her voice. "And be sure to focus extra hard. Wouldn't want a repeat of the cage incident, now would we?"

Cage incident? Sillo didn't exactly know what she was talking about. He knew he'd delivered some specimen to Minori, but he didn't recall the "incident" portion of it. Oh well...

"Not a problem, Min!" Sillo stuck a finger in the air determinedly, "I shall retrieve your car for you! Although be warned. I never learned how to drive." That would surely set her on edge as Sillo popped back to the museum where he 'd arrived previously. Looking up at the structure, he was a bit surprised to see everything on the outside still intact. Not even a window was broken. It was almost like Night at the Museum didn't actually happen in there. There were police and officials sanctioning off the building while officials were trying to explain to people what had happened in the most politically correct way possible. Sillo agreed with it for once. No need for widespread panic.

"Guuuuuys. We may or may not have a missing T-Rex...yeah, I am not equipped to hunt this thing".

Yeah...sometimes you just could't avoid it.

Sillo turned to the sound of Damion's voice and spoke into the com, "Maybe we should save that one for another day. I'm not up for a Dino Hunt right now. And who knows, Maybe the T-Rex is a Buddhist seeking enlightenment or something." All he could imagine in his head was a giant dinosaur meditating in one of the temples with his massive legs criss-crossed in front of it while his minuscule arms held out with claws together in front of him.

Oooohmmmmmmmmmmm...

Sillo approached the car he knew was Minori's as he was accustomed to seeing it parked in the Eastern Gatewatcher Headquarters Parking Lot. Right next to it was a mess. Apparently, someone's black Hummer had been in the way of the dinosaur's path as it went off on it's enlightened journey. It was truly a shame the roof of the hummer could not support the weight of a T-Rex's foot cascading down upon it. Some environment hater was going to hate coming to see this. But Sillo was relieved that it was the Hummer that took the collateral. If it had been Min's car...

Not expanding on that hypothetical, Sillo touched the car and teleported with it to the front of the HQ once more. The car alarm went off as it landed from the jump through...whatever it was that Sillo went through when he teleported. He didn't really know. "Here you are," he gestured towards her vehicle, which was in good shape, before turning back to the conversation.

“I’d like to join in for a drink and pleasantries, but before that: Sparring!"

Aldred gazed around at all the suspicious glances before continuing, "Sorry. Hey, don’t look at me like that, I’ve got a good ID and it’s not like I’ve never drank before. I could join in afterwards though? Getting a drink after a good workout is pretty great. Anyone want to join me in a trip for the training facility?”

"I'll come with you," Sillo offered, walking up next to the now shirted teenager, "Like I said at the museum, I need to be a bit more physical...I guess. Although I don't necessarily know where it is. Mind telling me a landmark close by that I actually know so we can get there in a jiff?" He wagged his fingers in front of Aldred enticingly, giving him a hint of what would happen the moment he did.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sillo Deskern Character Portrait: Minori Fukutawa Character Portrait: Selena Stone Character Portrait: Aldred Kynn Character Portrait: Cedric Valentine Character Portrait: Nathan de Vries
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"Sel."

Selena shuddered ever so slightly, a mix of anger and sorrow muffled by extreme apathy to the point that only the most astute would notice the faint quiver. Sel was the name her parents and friends used to call her, when she was younger. Hearing it brought forth a handful of memories that she would have preferred stay buried.

"Sel! Be careful!" Selena's mother's voice cried out from the passenger seat in honest panic. Seventeen year old Selena sat behind the wheel of her parent's Porsche. Next to her, her mother gripped the leather seats after a particularly sharp turn. "You're going to fail your test if you do that!"

Selena gripped the steering wheel tighter and gritted her teeth. She was determined to prove to her mother that she could drive herself. All of her classmates had their licenses already, and she was turning eighteen in just two weeks. It was embarrassing to not have her license yet. The two of them drove on some back roads in the northern English countryside. The family was staying in their country estate for the summer and Selena was taking this opportunity to prepare for the practical driving test. Luckily, these back roads contained very few other drivers. Unfortunately, they were very curvy, and with each turn, Selena's mother let out another yelp. This continued for twenty minutes, the constant yelping punctuated by shouts of "Slow down!" and "Mom, I know!"

At last, the car came to a stop, although not in a pretty manner. The bright red '69 Porsche 911 sat haphazardly in a ditch, the headlights shattered and the front bumper slightly crumpled. Selena and her mother looked on from the roadside. A retainer and a tow truck were already on the way.

"I'm sorry mum..." Selena looked down at her hands and sighed. "I'm rubbish at this! I'll never get my license, and now I've ruined the car!"

Her mother looked down at her with a loving gaze that only a mother can give. "It's alright Sel. It's just a car, we can replace it. What we can't replace is you, sweeheart. You learned your lesson, right?" Selena sniffled, her cheek wet with a tear.

"Yeah.."

"And you promise you won't drive like that anymore?"

"I promise, mum."

"Good. We'll take one of the other cars for a drive tomorrow. You'll get the hang of it."


"We fought both a ancient Egyptian mummy, A mana user from millennia ago, as well as a woman who picked five of us apart without much effort and took two infinity level spells head on with barely a scratch. I'm still not entirely sure why she didn't finish us all off... she wouldn't have needed mana with as bad off as we were. Co-conspirators, but I'm not entirely certain as to their motive,"

Minori's mention of an ancient mana user drew Selena from her memory. The secret is out, then. The Council will not be pleased. The secret of mana and gateways existing prior to twenty years past has been closely guarded. Even Selena was only aware because she confronted Loki, her immediate superior, after discovering evidence on her own on a mission several months ago. She sighed, more for the trouble this could cause that she would likely need to deal with than in surprise, but the others would likely not know the difference.

"There's also the issue of mana users having existed prior to twenty years ago, not to mention the motives of whoever tore the lot of us apart today..."

What really bothered Selena was the fact that the man who attacked her and Cedric apparently had an accomplice, a woman Minori claims deftly defeated the Gatewatchers who went to the museum. That would be no small feat, and these rogue mana users were seeming more and more impressive the more Selena heard about them.

Selena had fought, and killed, rogue mana users before. They had, almost universally, been complete pushovers. Without formal training, most couldn't even finish a spell before being crushed, exsanguinated or turned inside-out by Selena's magic. The fact that there were now two players with power of that magnitude was a little unsettling. How had the Council not encountered them before now? Selena sunk into thought as the others chattered around her. Their drivel was unimportant, as it almost always was, and she didn't have the patience for it. Instead, she turned her attention to the symbol branded into the flesh of her palm. It tingled, not painfully, but rather like it was being constantly berated by little droplets of water, like from a showerhead. She could feel the raw mana coursing through it, even now, which surprised her. She actually felt more powerful than she could ever recall, which struck her as odd. It was then that she noticed that she no longer ached from the healing she had done to herself. She studied the symbol more closely. It was burnt into her flesh, but she felt no residual pain. Flecks of blood still stained her hands, and the symbol seemed to pulsate under scrutiny.

Selena's lips curled into a slight smile as a realization dawned on her. She actually felt good. It had been so long, the feeling was almost foreign. Then she realized that it was foreign. Her brow furrowed, and her lips returned to their natural state of apathy. Something was very wrong, yet it felt so right.

Any further thoughts were interrupted by the others. Minori had suggested going to the bar, to which the previously shirtless boy agreed, despite the fact that he was not of age. He claimed to have experience with alcohol. Selena spoke then, talking just as Sillo responded to the boy as well, resulting in her comparatively subdued tone being somewhat drowned out by Sillo's louder voice.

"i've never drank before."

Why did I say that? It was true, but it was neither germane nor even their business. If anything, it would prompt even more teasing from Cedric. Speaking of which, she turned to the black mana user and fixed with with a sharp glare that heavily contrasted the absent-minded tone she had just spoken with.

"Unfixing you is much simpler than fixing you, Cedric. Bear that in mind." Selena's tone towards Cedric wasn't even threatening, but rather, it was matter-of-fact, as if turning his insides into paste was no different from pouring a glass of water. She made sure to hold eye contact past a comfortable duration before turning to the others. As she did, she withdrew her cell phone, sending a message to her driver as she spoke.

"If these terrorists are as powerful as you say, Minori, then we have more important things to do than unwind at a pub. Waste your time and money if you wish, I have work to do. You know how to contact me." Dorian, her driver, would pull up in a few moments, and Selena would gladly be relieved of the company of her fellow Gatewatchers. She only hoped that none of them would suddenly have any emergencies in the meantime.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sillo Deskern Character Portrait: Minori Fukutawa Character Portrait: Selena Stone Character Portrait: Aldred Kynn Character Portrait: Cedric Valentine Character Portrait: Nathan de Vries
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Cedric smiled a sly smile, in spite of everything, every so often he could see that emotion flash across Selena's face. Maybe on some level he was trying to bring that out, after all a life with no emotion certainly seemed a waste. He also felt like everyone acted a certain way around her, so he treated her like she was absolutely normal, no doubt a side effect of most people acting differently around him.

Minori sent Sillo off to retrieve her car, a move that Cedric found rather trusting all things considered. Regardless he vanished as quickly as they had appeared while she informed them of what they had all encountered.

Cedric wasn't entirely surprised by the revelation that mana users had existed prior to twenty years ago. Honestly he had always assumed they had, there was just to much evidence strewn about history that suggested it, but Cedric had also spent a fair amount of time outside of the organization studying mana prior to finally allowing himself to be recruited, he also knew the council was less than forthcoming with information. Never the less, the fact that they had encountered an actual mana user from so long ago was intriguing, Cedric had always wondered if the 'reincarnation' theme that was prevalent in some ancient societies, it seemed that at least one Egyptian mana user had in fact mastered the art.

Minori's suggestion of a drink sounded wonderful right now, having nearly died, or temporarily died, which ever was the case. He wasn't entirely excited when Aldred indicated he would like to join them, presented a fake ID, and laid claim to having drank before. Selena's interjection about never having drank before drew a sidelong glance, he was less surprised that she had never had alcohol, more so that she offered up that fact with no prodding what so ever. The next statement was much less surprising.

"Unfixing you is much simpler than fixing you, Cedric. Bear that in mind."

"Of course it's simpler, but friends don't disembowel friends, or any number of other horrible and excruciating things. It's considered rude you know." He turned to Minori, "And friends don't let friends disembowel friends. Right Minori? So when she murders me in my sleep, I'm blaming you. Until then, I could certainly use a drink." he said it as though it was a foregone conclusion that one day Selena would murder him in his sleep.

Sillo had returned with Minori's car, which was currently loudly protesting the abnormal method of transit, and accepted Aldred's suggestion of going to go train before any drinking, which was all the better for him, hanging out with a couple of teenagers wasn't high on his list of things he wanted to do. "Yes, sparing, that's a good choice. Do that." Cedric said, his voice almost dripping the double speak was so thick.

Selena expressed her decidedly anti-drinking decision, not one that surprised him. She might be right, but he had an idea of what he was about to put himself through, he wasn't about to pass up on what might be the last normal drink he would be having for quite some time. "It's my fiscal responsibility to waste money. Entire industries run on Valentine's wasting money." He couldn't help it, he was still trying to ignore the fact that he probably died once today, sarcastic humor was his defense mechanism.

He started towards where he hoped his car was still parked. "I know a place down the east side." Cedric said casually as he passed Minori, "It's a nice place, the owner is kind of a weirdo though. Just let me check on my car, wouldn't want to get a ticket for parking on the sidewalk."

His car waited for him where he had left it, though it now had a brand new iron pipe sticking out of the windshield and a very nice chunk of concrete where the roof used to be. With a heavy sigh he opened the trunk, which to his surprise was relatively unharmed, and retrieved an overcoat. As he put the coat on he noticed some media vans approaching. Of course it was difficult to hide the fact that an entire building had recently been leveled. The organization had ways of dealing with this kind of thing, and he fully intended for them to deal with it, until one of the reporters recognized him.

“Mister Valentine! Mister Valentine can you tell us what happened here?” a microphone was shoved toward his face as a number of others arrived.

“Now now, calm down. We have recently entered into a contract with Atlas Electronics to begin a renovation project in the area, which included the demolition of this building and adjacent parking garage with plans to build a new facility which would include more green space and an entirely updated aesthetic. I can not comment on the demolition process as it is a proprietary secret, but it seems we have had some tampering with the process, resulting in the premature implosion of the structures. There were no injuries.” He buttoned his coat as he said this, not wanting the blood covering his jacket to reveal just how much of a lie that was, “We have reason to believe this was a case of corporate sabotage. There will be an official press release once the proper authorities have completed an investigation.”

Cedric raised a hand to ward off any other questions and turned back to the rubble. Luckily the responding gatewatchers had already set up a perimeter around the destruction. He sighed heavily as he retrieved his phone and dialed a number quickly.

“Yes, Mister Valentine?”

“Have a contract drawn up with the Atlas Electronics company for a new facility, be sure to have it back dated in the system, schedule demolition for a week from today.”

“Will that be all sir?”

“My car was totaled, have the AMG sent to Micheal's in east end, have a suit sent over too.”

“Yes sir.”


Hanging up he stuffed the phone back in his pocket. It wasn't the first time he had used his status in society to act as a shell for Gatewatcher dealings, he didn't doubt that on some level it was one of the reasons Arkangel found him so useful, there were others on the council who would just as soon the black mana user have been crushed in the building.

Finally he returned to where the others had been having only been a few minutes, he shrugged, “Well, they can ticket it if they want, it's done.” he looked at Minori, “So, I guess you're driving?”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sillo Deskern Character Portrait: Minori Fukutawa Character Portrait: Selena Stone Character Portrait: Aldred Kynn Character Portrait: Cedric Valentine
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After being a mana researcher for the Gatewatchers organization for several years, one thing Minori had had to learn on the job was to observe people. No one liked being examined, or prodded with needles, or inconvenienced in general. It especially didn't help matters that Gatewatchers were people with power, literally and figuratively, which brought with it a lovely cocktail of personality quirks such as inflated senses of ego and invincibility that only a person capable of conjuring fire with their mind could have. So if, say, something weird had happened to them and they couldn't conjure as much fire, or maybe more fire than usual, they were prone to be tight-lipped even though such phenomenon were the exact reason Minori's position existed to begin with.

Minori was studying the group as a whole, but Selena caught her attention the quickest. As soon as Aldred and the others chimed in with their field reports, Minori side-eyed the macabre woman as she regarded one of her palms in a way most people without magical weirdness in their bodies decidedly did not. She was in thought, even her expressionless face said that much, but what happened that involved her palm? Selena was already of particular interest to Minori due to her physical changes as a result of obtaining mana, and the unique nature of her powers made her come off as the owner of the Necronomicon rather than a mana user. This didn't even touch on her youthful appearance, who hadn't aged a day since Minori first arrived. Selena would rather slay the whole of the organization than be examined in the ways Minori wished to conduct, but after all the events of the day perhaps she might be more malleable than usual.

Another curiosity was Selena's offering up the information that she'd never drank before. It was cute, in so much as Selena was capable, but even she seemed put off by her own words. She corrected course by threatening Cedric, which snuck a small smile onto Minori's lips. The two had been together, both notorious loners, when the headquarters collapsed, right? Selena was full of surprises today.

"Of course it's simpler, but friends don't disembowel friends, or any number of other horrible and excruciating things. It's considered rude you know," Cedric shot back at Selena "And friends don't let friends disembowel friends. Right Minori? So when she murders me in my sleep, I'm blaming you. Until then, I could certainly use a drink."

Minori smiled. "Cedric, we both know if Selena killed you, she wouldn't waste the energy on quick and painless, especially if you weren't awake for all of it," she said in a teasing tone, reaching into her pocket to grab her keys, aiming the fob up into the air and pressing a button to turn off the alarm of her car as it protested traveling with Sillo.

Sillo and Aldred then chimed in about their post-battle plans, with Aldred expressing interest in drinking but seeming to change his mind when the prospect of training came up. Cedric gently urged the duo to explore that avenue of thought, not wishing to be accompanied by teenagers after the day he'd had today. Minori could sympathize.

"Aldred, text me when you get out of training and I'll let you know if we're still at the bar when you're done. Try not to rough each other up too much. Magical healing, if abused, is hell on a person's mental health," Minori said, tussling the previously shirtless boy's hair and booping Sillo on the nose with her finger as she spoke about magical healing. She'd written about ten papers on the subject, and had pushed for medical facilities to be budgeted for to preserve the mental well-being of gatewatchers who were more injury prone than others. The brain remembering the pain and being unable to see the scars that should be there, coupled with ptsd that came standard with the work hazards of being a field agent was not kind to the psyche of veterans. Some even showed signs of suffering from emotional abuse due to their brains gaslighting themselves over previous injuries, unable to recall if the events they had nightmares about even happened. Dreadful stuff.

"If these terrorists are as powerful as you say, Minori, then we have more important things to do than unwind at a pub. Waste your time and money if you wish, I have work to do. You know how to contact me."

Selena walked off after that, having summoned her driver on her phone just prior. The grin on Minori's face spread slightly as she waved after Selena. "Maybe next time we'll talk you into that first drink! Oh, and if you have any medical concerns from your encounter today, don't hesitate to ask! I'm quite handy with healing magic myself, you know," Minori said, voice filled with cheer as she spoke. She didn't want to out Selena outright over her palm, if in fact it was an issue at all, but perhaps that bit of prodding might elicit a mutually beneficial response. If not, then maybe at least Cedric wouldn't die alone.

Cedric followed suit, leaving Selena with a quip before informing Minori that he had a bar in mind once he checked on the state of his car. Being in any proximity of the building and parking garage that had just collapsed, however, did not bode well for the automobile. Minori took the opportunity to excuse herself from Aldred and Sillo's company, taking a few steps away before reaching up to her comm device and switching the frequency.

"Minori Fukutawa reporting, requesting contact with Artemis of the council at her earliest convenience. Eastern HQ is down and there are issues I believe she might like to be made aware of. Not to mention a transfer request to an HQ with a lab until Eastern can be rebuilt," Minori said, running rough shot over the operator who had answered her hail, and changed frequencies before they could respond. It was a habit of hers when it came to contacting Central Command.

She stepped back to the group once her call was completed, only waiting a few moments before Cedric returned.

“Well, they can ticket it if they want, it's done. So, I guess you're driving?”

"And miss the chance to have a Valentine chauffeur me around in my Mazda?" Minori chuckled, tossing her keys to Cedric as she began to walk towards her car.

"Besides, you had the bar in mind. I know my pale skin suggests I get out a lot, but I don't think I've driven anywhere besides work and home since I joined the organization," she added, though once the duo arrived at her car, she held out a hand to reclaim her keys if Cedric was legitimately opposed to the task. She meant it in teasing, but had no qualms about riding shotgun if Cedric didn't.

Once settled in the car and on the road, Minori regarded Cedric for a moment before letting out a short sigh.

"I didn't want to say before, kids and all, but there's one last issue regarding today that worries me. The bomb was placed for maximum range, and no one reported any suspicious activity. Security had no incident reports, we've not had any break-ins or run-ins with either black mana user encountered today. Whoever our assailant was knew the layout before they got there. Either the enemy received a layout of our building beforehand... or they were already familiar," Minori said coldly.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sillo Deskern Character Portrait: Minori Fukutawa Character Portrait: Selena Stone Character Portrait: Aldred Kynn Character Portrait: Cedric Valentine Character Portrait: Nathan de Vries
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"It's that really old-looking lot at the edge of town that looks like a business construction building!" Nathan answered, "The one a few minutes away from the bus stop beside the rundown restaurant with the rundown sign saying 'WH O RT N H Q' with the picture of a crab at the bottom! They showed us during Orientation."

Sillo inclined his head to the young lad, "Thanks...uh...what's your name, by the way?"

"Oh yeah, my name's Nathan de Vries! You can call me Nate though. Nice to meet you guys and bye!"

He watched as Nate vanished in front of him. Another teleporter...cool.

"Yes, sparing, that's a good choice. Do that."

Sillo raised a quizzical brow at Cedric, noticing the sarcasm in his voice as he spoke, "Well, considering I'm not old enough to do anything with alcohol as of yet, what other option is there? Besides, I don't think a drink will do you much good anyway. Doesn't seem to be working for you. Also, picturing you with a beer belly is just weird."

"If these terrorists are as powerful as you say, Minori, then we have more important things to do than unwind at a pub. Waste your time and money if you wish, I have work to do. You know how to contact me." Selena said patronizingly as she turned to leave them. For once, he agreed with her.

"See, Ceddy," Sillo turned back, "Your girlfriend seems to get the idea." He suddenly stopped, realizing what he'd just implied with that word and quickly accepted Aldred's hand.

"Oh, dear! It seems like we are OUT OF TIME for this episode of 'Who Wants to Be a Millionaire'! Catch us tomorrow for the exciting conclusion!" he quickly remembered Nate's words and recalled the rundown sign as he pictured himself there right at this moment. He disappeared before Cedric could respond in any way, shape, or form.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Zane Bell Character Portrait: Minori Fukutawa Character Portrait: Selena Stone Character Portrait: Cedric Valentine Character Portrait: Maric Boone
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Sneaking in had been relatively easy for Zane. He had examined building security before, so it was a breeze to get through the first few levels undisturbed. Using the mimicry kits, the sensor disruptors, and everything else, he had made it to the top floor, where only the CEO and the top employees got. And he understood why it was only the top employees. He stood there, wide eyed, with his red and white jacket with his hood up, looking at what appeared to be saw blades, lasers, and spikes that shot in and out of walls in the hallway in front of him.

"This guy has insane security" Zane mentioned, as fire erupted in the middle of it all and then dissipated. "Okay, that's just overkill".

Still, Zane could manage it. He examined every moving piece, analyzing it all, memorizing its placement, and then he timed it just right. He dodged the saw blades, jumped through the lasers, during the time the spikes were shooting back in, and right as the fire erupted behind him, got through before the spikes shot out. "Whew, that was interesting".

He walked into the next room, and there it was. The treasure room. However, his Oracle ability let him know something bad was about to happen. He ducked as a giant broadsword swung where his neck used to be, and he jumped back to gain distance. As he did, he spotted the two red gems he had come here for. And on the other side of the room, the Crime Boss Emerian Jones.

"Well well, if it isn't the so called 'Crimson Mage', Zane Bell. The only one to learn Blitz style within two years" he mentioned, as he braced his Broadsword. "I have to admit, I was thinking of eliminating you for awhile now. You and your 'Helping' has caused a lot of damage to my businesses!"

"You mean your crime spree! I know you used Mana to manipulate people to work for you for less then they should, and use hypnosis spells in your commercials to get people to come to you! Truth is, I wanted to hit you for awhile now, but now I have a great excuse" Zane said with a half smile, touching the ground with his index and middle finger before raising back up and facing his opponent, pointing both fingers at him. "Hope you are ready to lose!".

"I don't think so!" he said, swinging his blade around and causing a supersonic slash attack. Two. He used two focuses for the attack, movement and item. Zane barely was able to dodge the attack, and then launched one of his own. He employed fire into both his fists, and then smashed them together, creating a tidal wave of fire. Unfortunately, he used his broadsword to slash through the fire, but this gave Zane an opening to launch a lighting attack that hit him directly. However, he remained standing. "A simple electrical attack? My magical defense is too strong for those kinds of things! Give up now!"

"NEVER!" Zane yelled, unleashing a wave of fire at him, which he just cut through again. However, Zane then appeared behind the slash, taking advantage of a moment of weakness for him to strike with. He managed to get Static Burnfist to hit, but suddenly, the sword came back around and sent him flying. As it did, he appeared over him, smashing Zane down into the ground and inflicting severe damage. Zane sent a massive electric attack at him, but again his magical defense blocked it. It became clear to Zane that he practiced a defense type magic, likely Sho Rho or Battleguard Style.

Alright, alright. So I will need more advanced spells then my lighting bolt. Projectile attacks mean nothing with his broadsword's defensive capabilities, which means I need to score direct hits with lightning fast attacks. His broadsword is also strong enough to break through Dragons Fang...but...I might be able to use...yeah, that's it! Zane summoned a large amount of fire in both hands.

"Don't you know? My wind will blow out your fi-" the man started, then fire and lightning suddenly started to blaze all around Zane. He put both his hands together and intense mana built around him. "What the! What are you doing?"

"Ultimate Spell Technique! The Ultimate Sword of Fire and Lightning, Blazestorm Zero!" he shouted, before slashing with it. "Burning Lightningslash!"

The boss blocked with his broadsword, but he still got hit with some of the attack and was injured. "The fuck? A runt like you can summon Blazestorm Zero? Fine then, guess I will have to fight at full power!"

Good, that's what I wanted. After all, your full power is nothing like her full power. Even knowing her tricks, her power level is immense. I would die if I fought her as I am now. By fighting you, I will grow more powerful. By gaining the gems after that, it will boost my power even more. And then, I will fight on her level. I will beat her! I will! The sheer power of his thoughts combined with his mana, causing a shockwave to emit from the top of the building.

"What the fuck, who are you? Where is all this power coming from?!"

"Its because there is someone in this world stronger then you, and she killed my mother and father. And I intend to end her, one way or another! So there is no fucking way I am losing to a guy like you!"

"No one talks to me like that! I will show you true power! I am more then just a businessman, I am a hunter! I have captured many spirits and creatures, and can draw on their strength!" he shouted, as he pulled out a bracelet. Zane recognized the gem in the center as a Demon Capture Charm. To draw power from a Demon Class Entity was dangerous, not to mention stupid. But somehow, Zane had really pissed the guy off. Zane hoped it wouldn't weaken his battle skills. Zane needed a strong opponent to train him. However, while he was busy charging up on Demon Juice, Zane grabbed the gems and stuffed them into his pants pocket.

"No one steals from me!" he shouted, shattering all the windows. Clearly, Zane might have pushed him a little too far. But, he did want to battle this guy. He was the boss because he was tougher then everyone else. If he beat him, it would prove Zane was ready to take on Rose. Rose was even stronger, so he had to beat this asshole. He had no other choice!

He had to do it for his father.

Suddenly, the man moved at unrealistic speed towards Zane, and his blade was at his neck. He nearly landed a lethal blow, when a burst of red light appeared from his pocket. Suddenly, a phoenix appeared in front of him and deflected the attack. "What the....who are you?"

"I am the Phoenix, Aurell. I was sealed away inside those gemstones, but your mana awoken me from my slumber. Your mana, your emotions, your thoughts. I have heard your pleas, your quest, your heart, and I have decided to join with you on your noble cause!"

Zane wasn't sure what, or how, but he did know why. Phoenixes are known as the Noble Magic Bird. They are known as healers and warriors, defenders of the just by the Mana User society. They exist to help keep the peace. And, they are hopeless romantics and are almost always prey to a bleeding heart story. But, you know, no one is perfect.

Still, Zane had his doubts this wasn't all planned. A staff that works perfectly for him, leading him to gemstones that led to a perfect ally for him? Someone was pulling the strings in the shadows. Someone had carefully managed to manipulate his moves, and that was not easy to do without him noticing for so long. The issue is, whoever was doing it was an ally since they were helping him. So, who is it, and why are they being so elusive?

Still, Zane had to focus on the matter at hand. It was just so annoying, who was this ally who was keeping to the shadows? Who set this all up?

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"Everything going as planned?" Loki asked his mysterious accomplice on the phone. "Good. Continue the operation".

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Artemis would soon be approaching Minori who was with Cedric, to ask her about Rose, and about learning spells the Gatewatchers had kept secret due to their danger....and their strength. All the while, being watched by a stranger in the distance on the phone.

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Rose looked out into the stormclouds, with a phone to her head. "I don't care what anyone says, he must die".

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A man with a cigar looked out towards Zane, watching him while holding a magically infused Revolver in his hand. "Understood. Just keep up your end".

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A mysterious young boy wearing a brown cloak with a hood walks into the outskirts of town, looking at the sunset. He couldn't be very old, but his mana signature was enormous. He was on the phone with someone. "Don't worry, I got everything under control. After all, dead men tell no tales. Just remember your end of the bargain".

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A man with a magically infused Sniper Rifle took aim at Selena, while on the phone. "I am about to complete the job now, just one or two shots and I will disappear. Target locked. Taking aim. Firing in three, two, one...."

Click.

(I bet I got all your attentions now!)

Setting

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Character Portrait: Selena Stone
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Selena lounged in the rich leather back seat of the Escalade, listening intently to the voice on the other end of the phone. Rain pelted the tinted windows erratically, and yet within the chaos, Selena could notice a strange pattern. Dorian was silent, vigilantly watching the road as he navigated the twisty roads that led past the outskirts of the city to where Selena's estate was located.

Selena conversed with the voice on the other end of the line in code for most of the conversation. To anyone not versed in their personal code phrases, it would merely seem like two business partners discussing finance and production in relation to Selena's private business. At last, the black vehicle came to a stop at the gate to the Stone estate. A twelve foot tall stone wall surrounded the vast property, infused with various wards and enchantments set by Selena herself to keep out unwanted visitors, including one preventing teleportation in or out of the compound. Dorian entered a code into the vehicle's computer, which interfaced with the gate, causing it to open. Moments later, they were within site of the manor, a massive building of brick and stone that dated back to the time of the revolutionary war, when her family's ancestor, Thomas Stone, signed the Declaration of Independence. Despite being sold out of the family decades prior and eventually becoming a museum, Selena reacquired the property shortly after she joined the Gatewatchers. Called the Habre de Venture, the house has since been retrofitted to provide both a comfortable and secure living space for Selena, as well as provide the privacy and facilities needed for her personal research and anything else she might need.

She kept a small staff on retainer, including a security force, which made it very concerning when no one was waiting to greet them. As the car parked, a body of one of Selena's security team came in to view.

"I will get back to you," She spoke calmly into the phone. "Someone just made a very big mistake."

Both Selena and Dorian quickly exited the car and moved to the man, revealing a gunshot wound clean through the skull. In an instant, Dorian drew his handgun and Selena began the process of preparing her mana, only to realize it was coming to her noticeably faster and stronger than before. Seemingly in unison, her left palm began to pulsate to a strange rhythm. Then she heard it, a whisper coming from inside her head.

He is about to pull the trigger.

Selena instinctually knew what to do. She jumped onto Dorian just as a shot rang out, tackling him so that they both ended up behind one of the stone dividers. The bullet struck a few paces past where Selena had been standing. It didn't take long for her to realize it would have passed clean through her head as well, had she not moved. Another shot rang out, this one connecting with the stone divider and spraying a bit of dust and debris over Selena.

"Magical rounds." She realized upon sensing the red mana in the air, and immediately told Dorian. His handgun had it's own magically infused bullets, capable of disrupting the mana of anyone they struck, and were even effective against magical barriers. From the direction of the shots, Selena could tell the shooter was in her house, firing from one of the upper floors.

"I'll cover you ma'am. Get inside and flank him. Dorian spoke like former SAS member he was, and as soon as Selena nodded in agreement, he popped up over the divider and began firing at the shooter's window. This gave Selena the opportunity to sprint into the the house itself. Unfortunately, she couldn't simply warp herself into the sniper's room without first dismantling her own wards, however, it did mean that her assailant was trapped, and that did not bode well for him.

Making her way through the house and up to the upper levels, she counted the bodies of three security guards and one of the non-security staff. Hopefully the others had found a safe hiding place. It didn't take long to discover the sniper, as his mana was radiating everywhere. Red mana was Selena's least favorite, because of it's tendency to be emotional.

You'll be feeling very emotional when I get a hold of you.

With a flick of her wrist, the door to the room ahead of her flew open, revealing the shooter just as he was clipped in the shoulder by a shot from Dorian outside. He stumbled backwards and dropped his rifle. Upon noticing Selena, he launched a small fireball at her while simultaneously reaching for the rifle. Selena barely needed to glance at the fireball to snuff it out, and with a snap of her fingers, the rifle cracked and shattered as the shooter frantically grasped at it.

"Didn't your mother ever teach you that it's rude to show up unannounced?"

Selena's voice was monotone and dry, which made it even more chilling. The man, bleeding from his shoulder, muttered something quickly to try and cast another spell at Selena but she stifled that one before it could even leave his hands.

"Silence." At her command, strips of skin from the would-be assassin's cheeks peeled off and wormed the way towards his mouth. He screamed for a moment before the strips interlocked through his lips, sewing them shut. Selena took a seat in one of the armchairs in the room and crossed her legs. "You made the biggest, and last, mistake of your life today. Clearly you don't really know me, so let me introduce myself. I am Selena Stone. Perhaps you've heard of me? International weapons manufacturer, billionaire businesswoman, and last but not least, Gatewatcher operative with a reputation for gruesomely lethal results." The man was trying to scream, but the sound was heavily muffled through his sewn together lips. Blood dripped from his face and shoulder onto the carpet.

"Please try not to bleed on my carpet, it's very expensive." She paused for second, to let the gravity of the man's situation sink in. "It's obvious to me that you don't know me, which means you had no reason to attack me. So, who hired you?" He made a muffled noise and furrowed his brow at her.

"I can't hear you, can you please speak up?"

Another muffled grunt. At this, Selena stood and moved towards the man. He had a knife in his boot, which Selena reached for. He tried to go for it was well, only to have his hand swatted away and magically bound behind his back. Selena took the knife and slid it between his slips, slowly cutting each strip of skin until his mouth was free once more. Then she returned to her seat.

"You fucking bitch! I'm not talking. You might as well kill me!"

Selena laughed out loud, but with her monotone voice and emotionless stare, the laugh was flat, clearly fake, and hung in the air awkwardly. The man looked confused.

Oh, I'm going to kill you. But you get to decide how quickly it happens. I have all day. We are in my house, remember? So I'll ask again: who hired you?

The man spat a thick mixture of saliva and blood at Selena's feet.

"Fine, torture me. You won't get anything. If I talk, they'll kill my family."

Selena smiled her creepy, fake doll smile.

"Family? Oh friend, if you don't talk, you're going to wish I only killed them." She touched her hand to the man's uninjured shoulder, looking into the memories the cells in his body contained. Psychometry on living things was difficult. She saw him take aim at her and Dorian, she heard him speaking on the phone but could not make out the voice on the other end. Then she went back further. He was at home. He had a wife and daughter. She wondered if they even knew their father worked as an assassin. A bit more probing and she had their names and address. She let go of his shoulder and returned to the present.

"Milena is such a pretty name, and she is quite adorable." She looked the man in his eyes, staring past them into his soul. "I was a few years older then her when I awoke in a bloody pile of my own family's mutilated corpses, but I imagine it will leave a similar impression on her. If she's lucky, she'll kill herself before I come back for her. If not, well, I think you can imagine the rest.

"Fuck lady, you're twisted! I...alright I'll tell you what I know. Just...please don't hurt my daughter!"

"Sure, whatever."

"The people that hired me, I never met them. A packaged showed up on my door a week ago, with ten thousand dollars, a phone number, and a promise that I'd get ten times more when it was done. I've done this kind of job before, so I got a burner, called the number, and hammered out the details. The man identified himself as Mr. King."

"That's a fake name, if I've ever heard one."

"Of course it is, I'm not an idiot."

"From where I'm sitting, you are. Please, continue."




A few minutes later, Selena left the room and was greeted by Dorian, smiling politely and offering a fresh new outfit. Behind him stood two of the remaining security guards, and behind them an assorted group of the surviving staff members, looking justifiably shaken. Dorian nodded, and the two security guards moved into the room Selena had just left to take care of the body.

"Thank you Dorian. You performed admirably. However, I will not be needing a new outfit. I have some business to take care of and I feel it will be messy. Have the guards bring the body to my basement study, and then put on some tea. Also arrange to recompense the family's of the dead staffers, give the survivors a month's paid vacation, and have the staff at the flat prepare it for my arrival by tomorrow."

"Yes Ma'am, right away."

With that, Selena made her way to the basement study, where she kept her collection of magical artifacts and books on magic. Nearby, in the same open space but in a distinctly separate portion that resembled a morgue. It was going to be a long night.

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Character Portrait: Selena Stone
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Selena stood in her basement study, the room silent except for the faint whisper of her breath. Before her was Karl Roche, the man who had, forty-five minutes prior, been shooting at her. His corpse was splayed out across a table in the morgue section of the study, his chest neatly excised and split open, revealing the contents within. Selena learned his name, and a myriad of other useless secrets of his by meticulously poring over the memories contained within his flesh and blood. Nothing she learned brought her any closer to the mysterious Mr. King, and now she was certain that her would be assailant did not know anything more about his employer than he divulged before his death. Selena sighed, and wiped a bead of sweat from her brow, leaving a swipe of blood from her hand in it's place.

Blood spatter drenched Selena in a Rorschach pattern, stretching from her breast to her knees, and painted her arms scarlet up to her elbows. Although the excision itself was done with a surgeons precision, the follow up was less methodical. She took a step back from the operating table and sat in a chair to rest. Then, it whispered to her again.

All that blood! All that power! It could be yours. You want it. You need it.

Selena glanced at her left palm, eyeing the brand she had drawn in her own blood and seared into her flesh. It was slick with Karl's blood, gleaming in the sickly, fluorescent light.

My mark is what saved your friend, not your own strength. He was drifting, despairing, dying. And you couldn't save him. You were too weak.

Selena buried her face in her hands, not caring that they stained her face red, and ran them through her hair. Her breathing grew heavier, and she could feel her heart beating, the same strange rhythm as the rain. She inspected the mark again, and found that it too seemed to pulsate to that rhythm.

Thump. Thump. Thump.

You will always be weak! You were nothing before I came to you!

Selena clenched her fists so hard her nails dug into the flesh of her palms and little droplets of blood mixed with Karl's.

Thump. Thump. Thump.

Everything you gave, you gave willingly. You murdered your own family! You tore their bodies to pieces and decorated the room with their blood! All so you could overcome your weakness! They are dead because of you and your failures!

Thump. Thump. Thump.

And for what? Here you sit, still weak. Still unwilling to seize the power that rightfully belongs to you! You are drenched in it, and still you won't accept my gift! The other Gatewatchers should kneel before you, worship at your feet, and tremble in your wake! You deserve it!

Thump. Thump. Thump.

And the man at headquarters? You should have ripped him apart. But we both know that if Cedric didn't pull you out of there, you would have been squashed like an insect! Are you an insect? Are you going to run and hide once more? Or are you worthy of my gift?

"I..." Selena stuttered, her voice cracked and a tear slid down her cheek.

Then take it! Stop being weak! Embrace the strength that you paid for!

Thump. Thump. Thump.

"Yes! Alright Yes! Make it stop please!" Selena screamed. Her chest had grown tight, and her sides felt as if they were splitting. The rhythm pounded in her brain, and it felt as if it was cracking her skull from the inside. Her eyes and throat burned, and she looked down. She was standing over Karl's corpse once more, though she could not recall standing up and crossing the room. There was even more blood drenching her now. She'd been digging deeper into the corpse. In her hand she held a fractured bone. Panicking, she realized she'd been using it to cut her own flesh. Symbols, all like the mark on her hand but all distinct, stretched up her arms, each painstakingly cut with bone. She realized then too that she had torn her shirt from her back, and that the symbols stretched across her chest down to her navel.

Selena dropped the bone. Her hands were shaking. She didn't remember any of this. The last thing she could recall was hearing a faint whisper as she sat down. How long had it been? She looked to the clock, and noticed that nearly an hour had passed. All at once, she began to feel her wounds. The pain was mind-numbing, and her vision became spotty. She fell to her knees, gasping for breath but finding none. Then, for a second, her vision went blank. She could see nothing, hear nothing but her own screams. And crackling.

Her vision came back in time to witness the last dying embers snuff out over what was once her self-inflicted wounds. Now, they were closed, cauterized, their shapes branded into her skin. Selena coughed and spit blood. She lay on her back now, and squinted at the fluorescent light above. Even breathing hurt, and each breath felt like inhaling smoke and exhaling ash. She touched her face and was relieved to find it smooth, albeit sticky with dried blood. Her eyes felt like someone had scrubbed them with a scouring pad, and each bone creaked as she sat up. The room smelled of sulfur and blood, and no matter how much she tried to spit and clear her mouth, she could not shake the taste of iron and chalk. She wondered for a moment why Dorian had not responded to her screaming, before remembering that she had set the magical lock behind her when she came down.

Mustering all the strength she could, Selena crawled to the base of the stairs, an endeavor which grew exponentially harder the closer she came to her goal. She didn't have the time nor the mental stamina to undo the lock, so decided to take a page from the man who attacked HQ and sent forth the strongest wave of energy she could measure, warping gravity and tearing the door, lock and all from it's hinges.

"D-Dorian..." Selena croaked, unable to bring her voice above a hoarse whisper. She tried once more, this time expending some mana to amplify her voice. "Dorian! In a moment, he came to the door and, upon seeing Selena, rushed to her side.

"Ma'am! We need to get you to the hospital! I'll send for an ambulance!

"No...I'm alright. I-" She coughed once more. This time there was no blood. A good sign. "I just need to rest. Please, bring me to my chambers, and fetch water." Dorian nodded, and lifted little Selena into his arms. He carried her to her chambers and laid her gingerly on the bed.

"Dor..." Selena fell unconscious before she could finish her sentence, at last drifting into bliss as the sound and pain of being awake melted away. Just as the last lights of her conscious were flickering and going dark, a whisper echoed within her own mind, laughing.

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Character Portrait: Selena Stone Character Portrait: Cedric Valentine
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Selena stood in front of a mirror, wearing nothing but her underclothes. It was the morning of her eighteenth birthday, and she frowned at what she saw.

"Ugly."

"You have no friends."

"People like you for your money."

She posed herself differently in the mirror, trying to find an angle in which she found herself pretty while cruel words echoed in her imagination. No matter the angle, Selena found herself consistently disappointing. She was envious of many of the girls with which she went to school, and although she was among the most popular of people at her school, she often felt like an outsider.

"Miss Stone, may I enter?" The voice belonged to Katelyn, one of the Stone family's hired help and Selena's personal maid. She was only a year older than Selena herself.

"I...Yes. Come in Kate."

The girl came in, closed the door behind her, and averted her eyes out of politeness.

"Kate, am I pretty?" Selena asked the older girl with more than a hint of nervousness in her tone. Although Kate was employed by her parents, Selena was close friends with her and would often spend time with her while she was not working.

"Of course you are, Miss Stone. You're one of the most beautiful girls I know." Kate kept her professionalism while she worked, and still kept her gaze averted politely.

"Kate stop. You can call me Sel when my parents aren't around, and I don't want the opinion of my maid, I want the opinion of my friend." She stepped away from the mirror and made an exasperated motion with her hands. "And damnit, look at me. You've seen me undressed before, it's alright!"

Kate sighed. "Sel, yes, you're gorgeous, how often do I need to tell you?" She made sure to lock eyes with Selena to let her know she was being serious, and handed her a selection of outfits Selena had approved the night before.

"Ugh I wish I looked like you. You make looking flawless look easy. And not to mention your boobs are bigger." Selena's sly smile hid a hint of playful jealousy, but not well, and she cupped her own breasts together to make them appear larger.

Kate laughed despite herself, and playfully tapped Selena's arm. "What can I say boss, some of us are just born perfect!"





Selena now stood in front of her mirror, examining her torso. Symbols branded into her flesh, from her wrists to her shoulders and down her chest to her navel, a pattern of disturbing, non-euclidean shapes and eldritch runes woven across her upper body like a spider's web. Like the symbol branded into her palm, each of these new runes pulsed with an unseen power. Despite the damage she had inflicted upon herself the night before, she had never felt more magically empowered. While her bones ached, and her skin burned, and a migraine pounded within her skull, she smiled at the artwork she had carved and burned into the canvas that was her flesh.

"Ma'am, may I enter?" Selena knew Dorian had reached the door even before he had spoken, despite not probing for him using magic. Had her natural senses increased?

"Yes." At her command, Dorian entered the room, and averted his eyes. Selena hadn't bother to cover, but she didn't seem to care.

"Look at them Dorian! Nothing in all of my research says anything about any of these symbols, save the one on my palm, naturally. Even that one has no history besides being present during my family's murder."

"They are certainly unique, ma'am." Dorian didn't look up, but rather continued to stare at his hands.

"Unique is an understatement. None of these symbols appear anywhere. Ever. And yet their composition is too precise to be random. The evoke something beyond this world. How did I know how to carve them?" Dorian cringed at the mention of carving flesh. Despite being former special forces, he didn't like to imagine gruesome violence, especially when it concerned his employer. Selena turned to face and stepped towards him.

"Forgive me ma'am, but you say you cut these symbols into your skin and then cauterized them, without knowing anything about them? Is that very wise?

"Dorian, I appreciate your concern, but it is unwarranted. I needed to do this." Selena began to dress as she spoke, somewhat easing Dorian's awkwardness. The pair of them stood in the master bedroom of Selena's apartment in downtown Sanctum City, which they had arrived at several hours earlier. It was still morning, although noon would be upon them sooner or later, and Selena wished to be out before then. "Now, to business. I trust you have already begun the repair process for the estate?" He nodded, allowing her to continue. "Good. Now I need you to contact Cedric. I have business to attend to regarding the gatewatchers and I trust only him to assist." Dorian gave a playful glance towards Selena, indicating that her niceness towards Cedric was out of character. She quickly amended that. "Unfortunately."

With that, Dorian took his leave. Selena finished dressing herself, choosing a long sleeved, black trench coat and black gloves to ensure her new markings were all covered. It was a little much, but it served it's purpose and was still technically fashionable. When she was satisfied, she found her own phone and dialed a number she had memorized. A voice answered after precisely one ring.

"I was worried you might not call me back. I trust you solved your problem yesterday?" Loki's voice on the other end of the phone was somehow crisp and oily. He was the only Councillor that Selena trusted, and she was one of the few that he trusted.

"I learned a few interesting things, concerning the terrorists who bombed HQ as well as your suspected leak. I will forward the relevant information. Also, I'm now free to pursue your other target. The red mana user, Zane. Did you want me to kill him, or interrogate him first?"

"Look at you, so eager to commit violence. No. For now, just watch him. Artemis thinks he could be a valuable ally. I disagree. Just stay close and be ready to take him out when I give the order."

"Fine. As long as I don't have to be his friend."

"I'd never make you stoop so low! And another thing, Artemis thinks she can keep secrets from me. Secrets like Project Icarus. Going through a Gateway is foolish, but she's going to do it with or without council approval. I need you to be my eyes and ears when she does, so get on the team. She's going to ask Cedric to join her, so speak to him."

"Through a gateway?"

"Yes. I imagine you in particular find the prospect fascinating. Imagine what...or who you'll run into. Might find time for some long overdue vengeance?"

"I'll get on the team."

"I knew you'd say yes! Alright, that's it, you're free to go. Don't kill too many people mole hunting! Oh, and one last thing, Maric Boone is in town. You've been warned." With that, Loki terminated the call. Selena sighed. Boone had a reputation. Thankfully, so did she. She wondered if his flirtatiousness was strong enough to tempt him to dare her wrath?