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Zane Bell

"I will find the answers I seek, I will find the truth, no matter who or what tries to hide it from me".

1 · 585 views · located in Sanctum City

a character in “Gatewatchers”, as played by LookingAtPerks

Groups

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

Description

----------------------------------------------------------===========Gatewatcher Database Profile===========--------------------------------------------------------------------
ImageName: Zane Bell

Age: 10

Nicknames: Kid, Young One, Red, Zay

Mana Color: Red

Preferred Magic Styles: Electricity/Lightning, Fire, Metallurgy, Transmorphic, Alteration,
Energy Projection, Illusion

Height: 4'8

Weight: 70 Lbs. Soaking Wet

Eye Color: Amber to normal people, red to Mana Users

Hair Color: Brown to normal people, red to Mana Users

Unique Trait: Foresight: Zane can see flashes or has dreams/nightmares of things before they
happen, though its always unclear.

Strengths: Strong Willed, Prodigy Magical User, Naturally High Mana Potential and Pool.

Weaknesses: Young, not that physically strong, gets headaches, can be hot headed.

Background: Zane never knew his birth parents, all he knew is that they died in an accident shortly after he was born and they could never identify them for various reasons. As a result, Zane has been an orphan his whole life. But deep down, he knew that something was amiss. He didn't know how, but he knew it was no normal accident.

His powers developed disturbingly early, at age five, and due to the deteriorating conditions of the Social Welfare system with all these unexplained accidents and disasters, was able to easily hide them and practice them on his own. Of course, as a result, he was never trained to accept one unified style like most Mana Users would be, instead adopting an array of Magic Styles he used instead of a specific few. He used his Mana to excel in learning as well, although he rarely went to school since he soon vastly outclassed them all. To him, Mana was something that scared him for all of about five minutes, before he got curious and decided to learn as much about it as possible.

He learned to use his Mana to live on his own, and certainly not in discomfort either. Instead, he used it to thrive. But it was soon after he discovered the Gateways. He had been sensing them all this time, but after seeing one, he realized two things. One was that they were dangerous, and he needed to help stop this danger. The second was that they were the ones behind all the disasters and accidents, and he realized this same feeling was also the feeling he had about his parents accident. And so, he decided to make sure they would stop causing so much pain.

Despite his personality seeming like Blue Mana, its the fact he can still have fun and enjoy life despite all that happened to him and all that he knows that proves he is Red Mana, because he still has his spirit.

So begins...

Zane Bell's Story

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sillo Deskern Character Portrait: Damion Gray Character Portrait: Zane Bell Character Portrait: Minori Fukutawa Character Portrait: Piper Borges
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  1. Let the posting and fun begin!

    by LookingAtPerks

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(Had to prepare a really long intro post so that it was really good and awesome, and got our story going) (Oh, and people can still join and what not. I just wanted to give everyone who already made characters something to do)

The rain poured down outside as Zane watched it safely from inside the train car. Zane hated getting wet, it annoyed him greatly. Though right now, he did have bigger problems. Like finding the truth about what happened to his parents. He knew there was a Gateway responsible for it. But there was this other strange feeling he couldn't figure out. Something happened in the background, something he could not place. But he would find out.

As he sat in the train, he began to doze off a little. He had another nightmare. He was standing outside in the rain, entering through a set of double doors into a large room. Inside the large room was a large machine, equipped with sensors and other recording and analysis devices. In the center was an object. The object was the only thing that changed with each different nightmare. Sometimes, it was a box. Other times, a strange rock. Occasionally, it was a Gateway. And then, he would turn around and see a young girl. Her Mana glowed a bright silver.

Then he woke up. He woke up to screaming and running and the sounds of destruction. And he could sense it, there was a Gateway nearby. It was on the train. Worse, the train was deteriorating itself. It was getting more and more shaky. As Zane made his way towards where he sensed the Gateway, he came across the baggage car. "Well, I guess I won't have to deal with anyone getting in the way".

However, that's when things started to get out of hand, when some of the wheels also started to deteriorate. If he didn't do something soon, this Gateway would derail the whole train! Zane quickly slammed his hands onto the ground, causing his mana to spread out and create a protective field around the wheels and the train so it wouldn't deteriorate any further. He then drew a sealant circle in the air, with the intention of sealing the gateway, when a large burst of energy came out of it. A few seconds later, several humans came in under some sort of control, and tried to grab Zane.

"Its defending itself? BUt the Gateways are not sentient! Unless....a Black Mana user opened this Gateway and created a defense system for it! Which means they are still on the train! But how? How did they open a Gateway? Or could they have just modified it once it opened?" Zane realized, before turning his attention to the goons in front of him. "Alright, sorry about this".

Zane conjured Red Mana Lightning in his hands by snapping his fingers, and blasted them away with it. Another one took a golf club from the storage cart, and swung it at him, but Zane's energy barrier blocked it. He then grabbed the golf club with his electrified hands, and zapped the guy unconscious. Zane could make his lightning either zap people unconscious, or fry them, depending on the force he used in the snap. He then turned his attention back towards the Gateway, only to see that more Wild Mana was flowing from it....and creating a Golem out of the various objects in this place. "Great. Just great. Okay, time for some heavy duty focus".

Zane put his hands together, two fists, and drew them apart while humming, drawing a line of energy in front of him. He then grabbed the energy on one end, and he changed the hum to something more intense, causing the energy to solidfy as he moved it in front of him like a sword, before calling out the command word "Adsol!". The energy solidified into a blade, which he then used to slice at the Golem. It was cut completely in two, but the energy of the slash did more then that. It caused an outward force to erupt from the center and shatter the remains of the Golem.

"Okay, now its time for this one more time" Zane mentioned, as he drew the Sealant Circle in the air again. "Sealant Circle, Activate! Seal this Gateway!".

The Sealant Circle sealed the Gateway, but Wild Mana was still leaking out of it. Sealant Circles were not perfect after all. Nothing could ever truly seal a Gateway except for draining it of Mana, and even then, once enough Wild Mana flows back into it, it might open again. Still, it was better then nothing. Knowing this, Zane proceeded to drain the Gateway of Mana, when the train shook more. His protection spell had been eaten through, the train was going to crash soon if he didn't close this Gateway.

As Zane finished closing the Gateway, the train began to shake more and more. The Gateway was closed, but the damage had been done. This train was going to crash. And for some reason, no one was stopping the train. Unless....Zane quickly thought of something, and ran to the front of the train. When he got there, the entire front car was put to sleep. He saw through the window some sort of incense burner on the ground. "Damnit! Okay, I got this".

Zane drew the Mana symbol for "Air" on the door, and pressed his hand against it. Suddenly, a strong wind forced all the gas from the incense outside the car, and even sealed the incense can. Zane quickly ran it and sealed it again with barrier magic, before moving to the conductor and using some stim magic to wake him up. Unfortunately, Zane was unfamiliar with this magic, and gave him a little too much because he jolted awake. Still, he saw the danger warnings, and quickly stopped the train before things got worse, while Zane snuck out of the car.

"Well, that was exciting. Guess I better get out of here myself, don't want to get caught or anything" Zane mentioned as the train stopped, quickly hopping off and running into the crowd as it rained even harder. As he did, he noticed it. Someone was actively using mana near him. He couldn't pinpoint it though, but something was amiss. Even with intense focus, Zane could not pinpoint it. "Concealment magic?"

As he looked around, another looked at him from a distance. A woman holding an umbrella, as it continued to rain. "Well well, a little Gatewatcher. And here I thought we knew all the players in town. Oh well. Brother, this is your sister. Detonate the bombs we secretly slipped into Gatewatcher headquarters. The train was not derailed as we wanted, and the leader survived, but I did find something interesting...and dangerous. I think I might just need to test this boy".

Atlas Electronics HQ AKA Gatewatcher Eastern Sanctum HQ

The bomb detonated just as planned, causing widespread destruction and chaos, as well coating everything with residual mana. It was part normal bomb, part smoke bomb, so one saw much after the explosion. Even Gatewatchers couldn't, because the smoke was laced with mana. The ultimate smoke bomb.

And now, the one responsible could maintain their distance....and then observe how they reacted.

(Woot!)

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sillo Deskern Character Portrait: Damion Gray Character Portrait: Zane Bell Character Portrait: Minori Fukutawa Character Portrait: Piper Borges
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Rrrrrrrriiiiiiiiiingggg!!!

Of all the bells Sillo had ever heard in his life, the school bell at 3:15 was probably his most favorite. He reached up and stretched his arms as everyone around him got up from their seats, the once quiet classroom now full of bustle and noise. The scraping of chairs. The stuffing of papers and books in their bags. People revising plans due to the weather outside.

"Make sure you read chapter nine tonight and do problems 1-6 at the end of the section!" the teacher called out last minute. Of course, no one would pay attention as they began to filter out the door to enjoy the rest of their day.

Slowly but surely, the room returned to it's previous state of quietness if not quieter than before as people left the room. Before Sillo knew it, all of his classmates' chatter was in the hallways and it was just him and the teacher left in the room. The teacher was in the middle of organizing his own stuff to be put away when he noticed his room still had one other occupant.

"What are you still doing here?" the teacher asked him.

"Oh, I'm just taking a minute before I walk out in the rain," Sillo said, "It's kind of pouring."

The teacher glanced out the window, "Right...did you hear me when I said what the assignment was?"

"Yeah. Chapter 9, problems 1-6. I don't think anyone else heard you though."

The teacher chuckled, "And I suppose you're not going to do it either?"

Sillo just shrugged.

Sighing, the teacher set down his stack of papers and sat down in the desk next to him, "Y'know, your grade could be a lot better if you applied yourself and did your homework."

Oh, here we go.

"You pay attention in class. You pass every test with flying colors. It's evident you know the material. But you don't do your homework. I don't understand it."

Sillo sat there, a bit uncomfortable, wishing he could just phase out already instead of listen to this conversation. But he knew that would make his teacher flip shit and since he didn't want a rumor to be spread...best not to chance it.

The teacher went on, "You know you're a junior, right?"

Sillo grinned, "I haven't forgotten. Not that easy to forget your age."

The teacher rolled his eyes at the witty remark, "You're not too far off from college. Have you considered what your future is going to look like?"

Sillo thought for a moment before replying, "I think whatever it is, I'll just kind of 'show up' in it, if you will."

The teacher sighed again, "I'll take that as a no, then. Well, the ACT is coming up. Maybe that'll tell you a bit more about where your future lies. I hope you're prepared for it."

Sillo began to open his mouth before the teacher held up a finger, "Don't answer that. I'll put my faith in you." He glanced at his watched, widening his eyes slightly as if he was late for something, "Oh, I have to go." He gathered his belongings and made his way before the door, stopping in front of it to look back at Sillo, who hadn't moved. "Y'know, I haven't seen you outside of the school."

Sillo raised a brow, "What do you mean? Us not meeting outside of school is fairly normal."

The teacher shook his head, "No, no, no, no. I mean just outside of school...like by the buses or with the crowd of kids walking home or just hanging out in the school yard. I recognize everyone walking outside of school hours that I've taught to, but I've never seen your face among them. It's like you just kind of...appear here and then disappear."

Sillo shrugged, "Maybe just a coincidence."

The teacher nodded thoughtfully, "Maybe...strange huh? Well, see you tomorrow!" He walked out the door before making one final statement. "And do your homework!"

Sillo laughed before finally getting up and gathering his belongings. At this point, the hallways were just about empty, only the occasional locker slamming shut and the conversations of passerby students interrupted the sound of the rain hitting the roof and the window, the only other sound coexisting.

Sillo probably wouldn't do his homework. He had more important things on his mind...like figuring out these damn Gateways that kept barraging his life with complications. Keeping his parents away from home. Messing up nature around him and causing general damage overall. He was waiting for the day when the school would erupt into a frenzy should a Gateway open up here.

Should be a fun day...

But for now, the only adversary in the natural world at the moment was the rain, something he could easily bypass. Peering out into the yard, he watched the stratus clouds hang low over Sanctum City, shadowing it in gray. The yard itself was drenched and small puddles were growing larger. The colorful umbrellas of the other students who made the mistake of walking to school today were visible. Sillo didn't need to join them.

Sillo checked to make sure he had everything before deciding he was going to the Gatewatchers HQ. He would typically be one of the last ones to show up, given the school Damion and Zane went to let out early while Piper and Minori held to their own agendas.

He concentrated in his mind and released his mana. He visualized the Gatewatchers HQ...the structure of the building, the furniture and technology inside, his four other teammates already conversing when he got there. And then poof! he felt the mana warp him through Sanctum City to their headquarters. Sillo opened his eyes, expecting the scene he imagined in his mind to be waiting for him.

Smoke. Fucking everywhere.

Sillo couldn't help but cough as he tried to gaze around him, not seeing anything through the clouds. The clouds themselves didn't look natural...they looked thicker than they were supposed to be. And he wasn't one with an ability to sense mana, but he could tell when he was in the presence of the stuff. It was like an aura to him...and by golly it was everywhere.

"Wha...*cough*...what happened in here?" Sillo muttered before calling out to people, "Zane? Damion? Minori, Piper, anyone? Who's here?" He didn't want to move in case he ran into something or knocked something over. But something also told Sillo that that was the least of his problems.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Zane Bell
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(might not be able to post later so posting now)

Zane did not take long to get home. The abandoned library that he claimed was not too far from the train station, and it was a great place for his research and what not. He summoned the Dimensional Key, and turned it into the lock of one of the study rooms. He had hidden a room inside the library, and it was impossible to access without his Dimensional Key and his Mana to decrypt the encryption he placed on it.

When he got inside the room was kind of a mess. Probably because Zane never had any guests, so as a result everything but the toilet was located in here. Even the shower was. For the toilet, Zane had placed cleansing spells on the bathrooms inside the library so they stayed oddly clean. Of course, this led to reports of this library being haunted, which to be fair, he did kind of haunt it. He just wasn't a ghost. He also cast a spell that put the library in a sort of legal snafu. No one could buy it, sell it, demolish it, or renovate it. He wasn't sure what it did to cause the legal snafu, but it worked.

He did however have a sort of Magical Analyzer set up, connected to his computer and the Library itself. He put the incense burner in there, and his computer started telling him all about the Magic involved. Apparently, anyone who smelled it would be immediately put to sleep in a second. Additionally, the artifact was Egyptian in nature. "What is the relevance of it being Egyptian?" "Throughout various texts, the Egyptians have made symbols, artifacts, stories, and mentions of portals or 'Gateways'. For instance, the glowing sun you often see in their pyramid walls?" "Wait...that's impossible. According to my research, Gateways have only been opening for the last twenty years". "Well, according to analysis, its plausible they opened up in Ancient Egypt too. This Artifact is infused with ancient Mana, so now its become likely enough to warrant investigation. In addition, for further investigation, there is an Egyptian Room in a nearby museum".

Zane brought up the museum on the map. "Alright, I guess I will have to go investigate the possibility of Ancient Gateways then. As unlikely as it is".

Zane locked the place up. If anyone tried to enter, they would enter an abandoned study. The room remained inaccessible without the key, to the point where anyone who enters just finds an empty study room. Anyways, when he made it outside, he tapped his heels together and turned his shoes into roller skates, and skated off towards the museum. Meanwhile, off in the distance, the woman was watching him. "So....you did take the Incense Sleeper. Which means, you are probably headed there. I wanted to use that trap on a squad of Gatewatchers, but I suppose you will have to do. Unknown elements should be eliminated immediately after all".

Zane rushed through the people at top speeds getting to the museum. After all, Magically charged turbo roller skates did have its advantages. Zane was a firm believer in the freedom of mana, that it should be able to be used by anyone casually. After all, it was a great thing after all. Just too bad the world was not quite ready for it yet. Especially with all the disasters going on.

As Zane arrived at the museum, he found the Egyptian Exhibit, with all sorts of Egyptian stuff. They even had a Sarcophagus belonging to some sort of Egyptian Shaman. "You know, now that I think about it, the Egyptian Pyramids would make a lot more sense if Mana was used to create them...but still, its absurd. What would cause all the Gateways to go away, and then come back twenty years ago? There are obviously pieces of this puzzle we don't know yet, like what caused all the Gateways to start opening in the first place, but still...". Suddenly, Zane's gaze became fixated on one thing in the room. There was a sort of scepter in a glass case, with a dragon figurehead. It was called the "Oracle's Focus", believed to be the rod that the Shaman used to focus his future sight powers through. Zane soon realized why he was drawn to it....it had Red Mana inside of it! In fact, now that he realized this, he could sense it all over. Mana was flowing through this whole museum. But it wasn't just ancient Mana. Concealment mana had been used to conceal Mana traps across this whole museum. And by walking into this room, he had inadvertently activated them all!

Suddenly, out of the corner of his eye, he saw a Rose fly out and hit the center of the room. Soon after, a Gateway opened up right in the Egyptian Exhibit, above where the Rose landed. The woman, hiding from view, smiled. "Well now boy, lets see how you handle all the traps I set. But of course, there are traps for those who will try to enter as well....and this is close enough to Eastern HQ to draw some of them here!"

Gatewatcher Eastern HQ:

Several Gatewatchers would start to sense it. A large Gateway opening up nearby. It would by like honey to draw in a bear....and unknowing to them, into a bear trap. After all, Gateways have been opening up all over just now. It would just be written off as another Gateway opening up from the bomb....as a part of the master plan set by the Woman and her brother.

Sanctum Museum of History:

As the Gateway expanded, walls of what seemed to be spikey Rose vines blocked every exit. To make matters worse, the Sarcophagus was opening. The mana symbol for stasis was glowing on it, but was starting to fade....apparently the Shaman, who had been power hungry, had been sealed inside it as a punishment and left to suffer for thousands of years....and now he was waking up with a really bad headache and a lot of anger. Zane instinctively grabbed the staff, which was still calling out to him, and got ready for battle. Because between the medieval exhibit, the ninja exhibit, the dinosaur exhibit, and the Mana coming from the Gateway itself, it was already bad without a mummy that might have Magical powers that was probably going to dry and drain his life force. But who knows, maybe it would be friendly?

"Yeah, who am I kidding".

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sillo Deskern Character Portrait: Selena Stone Character Portrait: Cedric Valentine Character Portrait: Damion Gray Character Portrait: Zane Bell Character Portrait: Minori Fukutawa
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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

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Character Portrait: Sillo Deskern Character Portrait: Zane Bell Character Portrait: Aldred Kynn
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"Sillo Deskern...holy shit, that sucked! But I got the Gateway closed next to...fuck... Big Joe's Fish Market. Remind me again why we have a friggin' fish market in a city with no oceans or lakes?"

"Because otherwise we'd have no fish to eat otherwise," Aldred replied dryly, looking worriedly at the smoke in the horizon. That looked like it came from Headquarters, he thought, fiddling absentmindedly with the charm bracelet on his wrist. "No fish fingers, no fish and chips, no fish head curry, no seafood fish noodle soup..." Aldred shook his head as he pulled the hood of his jacket up over his head. "And that's all I'm saying about fish, because I'll start to get hungry otherwise."

Over the com, the others were yelling confirmation about closing the gateways that had appeared. Hibbet Sport's, Alleyway next to Harmont's Bakery, Big Joe's Fish Market. Aldred noted, picking up his soccerball. Probably others that weren't bothered to be reported too. All were places where a lot of people went to, which meant...

Aldred's eyes widened as he glanced urgently around his surroundings, brain working at top speed. He was in a small stadium near the soccer field section, which people had fled the moment it had started raining too hard to comfortably play. The stadium itself was popular, and although fewer people had came thanks to the rain it was still bustling quietly with business.

Filled with people, somewhat close to the HQ...Shit. The stadium fit most of the areas the other gateways had appeared in.

As if it was confirming his thoughts, a surge of energy crackled like ball lightning at the center of the soccer field as a gateway swirled open. Aldred was already summoning knives into his hands, as the gateway stabilised into a dark, circular tear in the air, his fingers fast and sure in their work. The symbols glowed purple for an instant before fading, and Aldred was already running towards the large, wingless dragon that was emerging out of the hole, small reptilian eyes jerking around as if it were looking for people to eat.

Unluckily for the dragon, Aldred was the only one on the field, and he didn't like the idea of being lizard food.

The fight was over far too soon. Aldred was nothing if not efficient, and a flame-spewing dragon that was only halfway out of the gateway didn't count as a threat in his book. He'd had to put out the fire on the soccer field though. "Gateway at Gibson Stadium," he said, slightly out of breath as he drained the mana from the Gateway, the scorched earth still steaming from the water he had hurriedly conjured. "Closed it. There's a Gateway at the Museum?" Aldred frowned. He liked the museum, he didn't like the idea of a Gateway disrupting the exhibits. "Heading there ASAP."

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

Gateway drained of mana and his own mana replenished, Aldred took a deep breath and focused, trying to remember the route. "Ok," he muttered to himself, and there was a small boom in the air as he took off, zooming like a somewhat slower Flash through the town towards the Museum.

An enhanced physical body that allowed Aldred to move faster than most humans were able to, amongst other things, was the gift that had been bestowed to him by mana. The fact that he used magic to enhance those traits - for example, his speed - to near supernatural levels was something he had never regretted.

Arriving at the museum in a matter of minutes on what would have been an hour's walk, Aldred veered away from the crowds as he dashed towards the nearest deserted entrance - only to be brought up short by the rose vines that blocked it.

Well, no matter. Physical-enhancing magic wasn't the only type of magic he knew, after all.

Aldred tilted his head to the side and brought his hand out, palm facing the thorny wall as if he was about to fire a laser beam out of his palm. "Burn." He commanded, using his other hand to steady his arm, and fire roared quietly out of his hand onto the roses, emitting enough heat for the air to shimmer in rolling waves. A hole began to form in the center of the wall, but as it burned the vines began to regrow, trying to close the hole Aldred had created.

Biting his lip, Aldred focused on sending more mana into the flames. The fire roaring out of his palm blazed higher, white smoke floating its way up as if he was trying to start a campfire. The hole grew wider until it was large enough for Aldred to go through, but Aldred knew - the moment he deactivated the fire glyph the roses would grow back to seal the hole shut. Once he passed through, he wouldn't be able to get out unless he burned the roses again.

He bit his lip and glanced at the others, then came to a decision. The smoke had already attracted a few Gatekeepers; Aldred shot a harried smile at one who seemed to have understood what he had done and slipped through the hole. Once he was through, he deactivated the fire, and with a swoosh the vines grew back, thick and unyielding as if nothing had happened.

Taking a deep breath, Aldred glanced around curiously - and immediately ducked as a sword sliced an arc where his neck used to be seconds ago. He rolled to the right and continued rolling as arrows rained down, slamming into the ground with enough force to penetrate. Coming to a stop as the arrows came to a stop an inch away from his foot, Aldred had no time to rest as he brought his hands up in a cross just in time to block the spear swinging towards his head.

He winced as the impact sent shockwaves down his arms. "barrier!" he yelled, and the arrow headed straight for his head came to a suden halt, the air rippling from the center of the arrow as if it were a rock tossed into a still pond. Pushing the spear back with a grunt, Aldred brought his leg out in a low sweep, catching his attacker by the shins. Caught off guard, his attacker fell to the floor with a clatter, bringing his fellow ambusher down in the process. Snatching up the spear, Aldred held it with both hands like a staff and finally caught sight of his attackers.

Knights. Three knights, two on the floor where he had knocked them down, one standing on a bulletproof glass casing containing some ancestral bracers pointing a recently loaded crossbow at him - Aldred shifted his head to the right as an arrow flew inches past his ear, passing through the space where his eye had been seconds ago.

Well. This is going to suck. Aldred's eyes narrowed as he brought his fists up. "Glaives," he murmured, and bronze arm bracers formed into reality over his arms, the metal gleaming dimly in the light. Tough leather gloves that didn't exist a second ago encased his hands, and Aldred lowered his torso and spread his legs, settling steadily onto the ground.

The animated knights stared back impassively, standing back on their feet. The one with the crossbow cocked his head and raised the loaded bow, as if it were taking aim.

Aldred hefted the spear as if it were a javelin and threw it towards the knight with the crossbow. It hit the knight dead center and penetrated through the chest. It's crossbow fell out of it's hands as the knight was jerked off its perch by the spear embedded in it, clawing uselessly at its chest as the spear embedded itself into the wall with a thud, the knight still attached to it like a stake through a voodoo doll.

One down.

The blonde teen was already moving to face the two remaining knights, noticing that the shot rang through out of the corner of his eye as he dodged the Sword knight's sword strike. The now Spearless knight followed it up with a punch, but Aldred caught it with one hand. Fluidly, he lowered his waist and pulled while turning to the right, using the momentum the knight had to pull him off balance while using him as a shield against the Sword knight at the same time.

The screeching of a sword edge against metal plate was terrible, like nails up a chalkboard. Aldred gritted his teeth as he completed the movement. Hauling the knight off his feet behind him, Aldred let go for only an instant before slamming his elbow in a vicious jab against the knight's back.

Unable to fight the extra momentum, the Spearless knight flew into the wall with a thud and landed onto the floor in a clatter of face down metal. The elbow-shaped dent on its back was visible as the knight twitched once and went still, its helmet rolling to a stop a few cases away.

Two down.

Whirling to face the Sword knight, Aldred raised an arm just in time to block the sword strike with his bracer. Although the knight had no expressions thanks to its faceplate, Aldred got the feeling that it was glaring at him, as if it were angry about its friends being taken down so easily. Could animated plates of armor really feel anyway?

"My magic is styled to beat people unconscious or dead, physically," Aldred told the armor, feeling that it was expecting an answer. He shrugged and grabbed a hold of the sword, carefully making sure not to dent it as he pulled it away from his face. The knight wretched against it again and again, but Aldred held it still as if the knight was as weak as a newfound lamb. "This means that I have the ability to break your armor in one punch provided I have enough mana," Aldred added breezily, drawing back his fist. "Reinforce."

The knight was still holding the sword when Aldred swung his fist into its gut with an almighty clang. Unable to withstand the force, the straps holding the Knight's gauntlets to the rest of the armor flew apart, leaving the knight's hands still clamping on tightly to the hilt of the sword in Aldred's hand as the rest of its body flew into the wall with a thud that reverberated against the walls. Falling to the floor, the Knight twitched once and went still.

Three down.

Aldred panted for breath. The rest of the knights were trapped in glass, and the people who had been in this exhibit were either outside (the exit to the other exhibits was miraculously open) or dead. Nothing he could do to help the dead, but the living he could help by bringing down the gateway.

Time to start looking, then.

Some time later

"Ah, finally," Aldred muttered as he slipped through the hole he had created in the vines to see the gateway. Privately, he let out a sigh of relief, tapping the charm on his bracelet to deactivate it. He wasn't able to sense mana, but his charm - a memento left by his late mentor, if you could call him that - could sense it for him, provided that they were within radius. Gateways manifested as large gatherings of mana, all spiky and large, although it was easy to be mistaken as a really, uberpowerful spell. The coffin seemed... wrong... too.

Danger, obviously.

Spying the redheaded boy, Aldred grinned. "Hi Zane," Aldred said cheerfully, giving his fellow gatewatcher a small wave. "Do you need help?" Then he spotted Sillos. A faint smile formed over Aldred's face. Sillos was pretty likeable, and it helped that they were around the same age. "Sillos!" he called, giving the teen a greeting wave. "How's life been? What's going on?"

Setting

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Character Portrait: Sillo Deskern Character Portrait: Zane Bell Character Portrait: Minori Fukutawa Character Portrait: Aldred Kynn
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What Minori theorized might in fact be a Yeti, or at the very least a bipedal humanoid mammal from the world from which Mana came, was freshly frozen solid when Sillo appeared. The specimen wasn't so much as squished as it was shattered, with Minori looking on in horror as her perfectly preserved and painstakingly caught new science friend was replaced with a cage filled with deep fried carcasses. At just a glance, Minori knew the meat was cooked if not burned, ruining any examination of the muscle fibers, the eyes had boiled, the guts were probably no longer a solid mass, and decomposition would ruin whatever scientific value these poor souls had left in them by the time she could get them back, frozen or not.

Sillo gestured to the cage, obviously proud of himself, before teleporting away again.

Anger was not an emotion that came to Minori easily. Hours of experimentation leading to dead ends had taught her patience, and she thought with an objective point of view as best as she was able, but not even she could justify the trade off of a perfectly preserved and genuine curiosity to...

"I can't even tell what these things were..." Minori said softly to herself, shoulders slumping in defeat as she stared at the cage, unaware of the first laugh to escape her lips, but before she knew it she was cackling like mad, head thrown back as she let the emotion welling up in her chest out. Her comm hissed something about another gateway at the museum, but the finer details were lost in her manic episode It felt good, she had to admit, but it wouldn't compare to when she saw Sillo again. One way or another, she intended to have a proper specimen to examine today... and the boy was thoughtful enough to provide her with a cage.

"This is Field Researcher Minori requesting a supply evac at my position, as well as disposal for several charred bodies of inhumane origin. I'd also like a Mana Drainer be brought to my lab, if it is still standing, but only once the emergency protocols are over," She said, grinning as she looked from the cage towards the direction of the museum. Sillo was the one that she heard report about the museum if she recalled... The boy had better hope something living walked out of the gates for her to pick apart, or she'd make do with what she had around.

"Sillo, this is Minori. I'm assuming you are at the museum and I'd like you to know I'm on my way. I'd also like you to know that you crushed a still living, freshly preserved bipedal mammal with that cage. I'm telling you this now so you won't be surprised when I start hurling fireballs at you," she said, voice still filled with her upbeat attitude with just a hint of anger that would unsettle those that knew her. She paused for effect to let the teenager sweat for a moment before continuing.

"Kidding, but any creatures you find in that museum, if there are any, are not to be maimed and are to be left alive if possible. I appreciate the thought but aside from how they taste, I can't learn much from something once it's deep fried. Okay, Silly Willy Dilly Billy?" She said in the most obnoxious baby voice she could muster. She did like the kid, he was smart and thoughtful if a tad misguided, but it was situations like these that made her wish for age restrictions on field agents. Skilled or not, maturity was an issue that came up from time to time, and his ability to make her laugh just didn't supersede the potential information that Bigfoot might have provided.

She shook her head and turned so that she couldn't look at the cage anymore and let out a loud sigh before taking off towards where she'd parked her car.

-=-

By the time Minori arrived at the museum, Gatewatchers had mostly cordoned off the area to keep civilians out of harm's way, thought it looked like the local law enforcement was spread too thin with all the chaos to really arrive at the scene, and the ones that had were busy protecting the civilians that had most likely been inside when the gate opened. She had no doubt there was probably a blood bath in there in the room the gate opened.

She parked her car, a beat up old dark blue Mazda, across the street from the building and walked up just after Aldred had carved his way in, or that was what the Gatewatchers personnel told her as she examined the doorway. The building itself felt like one giant spell, and if the concealment magic used at the base was any indicator it very well might have been one. She just hoped that the comms still worked once she walked inside, as she got the feeling her Mana Sense would be useless once she stepped inside the giant concealment spell.

She was relieved to find that Aldred and Sillo had done a good job at securing the way to the gates, it giving her a chance to rest from her earlier spells. She wanted to be at one hundred percent if whoever set the bomb was also in the museum, and the modus operandi seemed identical. As Minori put a hand to the comm device wedged in her ear, she heard Aldred call out to Zane and Sillo through the hiss of the device, which saved her the effort of asking for a report.

"Energy can neither be created nor destroyed," Minori whispered, holding out her hand and sending a short burst of fire at the wall of vines. The burst was small but white hot, catching the vines on fire as soon as it made contact, but with a snap of her fingers the blaze extinguished itself as soon as the opening was big enough for Minori to comfortably walk through.

As soon as she stepped foot within the building she looked about and grimaced. She had heard of the exhibit themed around the Warring States period of Japan, but it seemed the mannequins donned in stereotypical ninja garb and samurai armor had gotten bored and decided to have a walk, though it did relieve her a bit to see the peasant clothes the actual ninja had worn walking about too with kama. Thinking for a moment, however, she frowned.

"I can't help but feel that this is a little racist..." Minori said, shaking her head as she once again whipped out her metal baton and shuddered at the satisfying series of clicks as it extended to its full length.

"This is Minori. I'm at the museum in the Japanese exhibit. I'll be in shortly, so please try not to damage whatever ungodly mana that is over there," she said. She was right in her assumption that her Mana sense was useless, though not even the concealment magic could keep her from noticing whatever THAT was. She had no idea what it was, or where, or even if the others were near it, but she could definitely feel that mana source pulsing with an almost sinister energy.

But first, she had some historical inaccuracies to correct.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sillo Deskern Character Portrait: Damion Gray Character Portrait: Zane Bell Character Portrait: Minori Fukutawa Character Portrait: Aldred Kynn
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(All developments confirmed with Perks)

Damion could feel the mana in the nature (speaking figuratively since they were in the middle of a city) around them begin to settle back down as more and more Gateways were closed. When Minori asked about the location of the bomb, Damion could only hazard a guess. "So, I am not one hundred percent sure, and this is mostly just a guess, but based on the blast pattern and the way the Gateways opened, I might think it was inside the building".

As he said that, he spotted them. One of them was easy to spot. Even without mana sense or using an active mana scanning spell, his attunement to nature let him know for a fact that Black Mana User was around. Damion didn't have anything against him personally, and even once tried to get to know him a little better. But Black Mana had a habit of disrupting nature around it, even if it was slight and usually unnoticeable to most. So Damion actually felt physical discomfort to be around him.

And the other one, well she was not exactly the warm fuzzy type. Actually, Damion could sense something was off or maybe missing, because of how nature and its mana tended to act around her, but since it wasn't actual mana sense and he didn't dare use mana and become noticeable that he was actively scanning her, he couldn't figure out even what it might vaguely be. And he did not want to risk incurring their wraith by prying further into either of them.

Those two were Cedric and Selena, respectively.

Damion then heard about the Gateway in the museum, and began heading in that direction since HQ and the area around it seems to be under control. However, as he arrived at the museum, he felt it. Sure, there was the Gateway, its abnormally large signature was noticeable from far away. But that was not what got Damion. Someone was corrupting the very nature itself here, using Black Mana to manipulate it. Anyone else would not have noticed it, because of the Concealment magic, but Damion's nature affinity allowed him to sense the disruptions. And what he sensed....

"Oh shit. The others, they are in danger!" Damion said in shock. He tried to use his own nature magic to force open the vine barrier, but even with his nature affinity, it would barely budge, and when it did, it would start to move back into place. "Shit shit shit shit shit".

What he had sensed in there, the Black Mana. But more importantly, there was something behind the black mana, or maybe within it. Something worse. Or powerful. Or something. But the sheer power of it. If she had that much power, what was the point of all this? If what he sensed was accurate, she had the power to not just face everyone inside, but slaughter them if she caught them offguard. And with her concealment magic, she could do that easily. Not to mention she has the home field advantage. Damion had to warn them. If he didn't, she would kill them for sure.

"Shit, with so many witnesses around, and so many traps, how can I get inside?" Damion asked himself, when he thought of something. Indirect action reaction. Acting upon a force through an indirect mean. Damion did not go after the vine wall, he went after the ground where the roots were. He drained all the nutrients from the ground around the plant, and then from the roots themselves, weakening the plant to the point the vine wall couldn't regenerate or alter itself. With this, he was able to walk inside.

Once he did though, the door sealed itself shut, and energy barriers with a rose pattern constructed themselves to seal the doors off. Clearly a backup, but meant to only let one person through before activating. Another trap. "So, she planned that far ahead" he muttered, with a hint of fear and worry in his voice. He noticed a severed right arm on the floor in front of him, as well as what looked like part of a large footprint made in blood. "I wonder....a T-Rex? No, thats just crazy. Then again, so are inter-dimensional gateways that pour mana into the world. Right, gotta focus though. Gotta save everyone".

As he took another step further, fear took over his body and wanted to make it freeze or run away. The effect this woman had on nature was....disturbing. She was more powerful then him. She was extremely intelligent. And she had planned most if not all of this to happen. Even this Gateway was a trap, a way to lure a bunch of them into her nest. Even now, he could see that if he had taken another step, there were runic symbols on the floor that would have triggered a trap and possibly killed him. Hold on, there have been no reported deaths yet. Someone of this power and this level of intelligence, to go so far as to disguise this Gateway as a part of the pattern of Gateways that opened near HQ. To set all these traps to lure only a few in at a time, to only trigger once they were inside? By all rights, we should be...hold on, the traps were already active before anyone entered. That was what made this not work. Had they activated while rushing through, had WE been rushing through when they activated, we would have been caught off guard and most of us would be dead by now. But someone triggered the traps BEFORE any Gatewatcher entered, which caused us to take more precautions and only send in our elite instead of everyone all at once. Normally, thats what would happen, because of the fact its in a public place and civilians were in danger. But the traps already being active caused us to act differently, to act in a way that doesn't result in a slaughter. But who? Then it hit him. Zane. Which meant the train incident was also done by this person. That terrified him even more, that she could think this far ahead so easily. That she could anticipate their moves and actions so easily.

He made it to the outside of the Egyptian Room, but another barrier kept him from getting close. Whoever was behind this all did NOT want him getting inside just yet, or at least not to warn the others about her. Even if her traps had been foiled, she was still dangerous on her own. Her Mana Power....it was concealed extraordinarily well, but the effect it had on nature....was stronger then the effect of the Gateway itself.

Every Gatewatcher in that room was in grave danger.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sillo Deskern Character Portrait: Damion Gray Character Portrait: Zane Bell Character Portrait: Minori Fukutawa Character Portrait: Aldred Kynn
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Zane blocked a power Black Mana attack using an energy barrier, but even then it still pushed him into one of the display cases, shattering it. He used the Scepter get back up, as another attack was launched right at him. He used the scepter to deflect the attack, and this time it actually worked...a little too well. It actually destroyed one of the vine walls temporarily.

"What is this thing made of?" Zane wondered. He doubted it was normal gold with mana infused into it. It just helped him deflect a powerful mana attack. Of course, when the two sphinxes came to life that were next to him, that complicated things.

"Okay, I guess its time for a fight" Zane shouted, getting all fired up as the other two arrived. Fire erupted in both of his hands. "Okay Ancient Shaman guy, time to get roasted. Fire Nova Barrage!"

He clasped his hands together as he shouted this, causing a large amount of fire to burst out and attack the Shaman. The Shaman tried to put up a barrier, but the fire actually changed direction and moved around the barrier, scoring a direct hit. The Shaman then summoned various chains that shot out of the ground and attacked the three of them, while the Sphinxes went after them as well. That's when Zane noticed the claws.

"Barriers wont do any good, those Sphinxes have dimensional claws! They exist in every phase and dimension, so they can pass right through barriers!"

Suddenly, the three of them's own shadows rose up and tried to restrain them. Zane cursed a little, because shadow magic is best countered by light magic, which wasn't something he had learned much about yet. Still, he had to try something, so he brought forth a large amount of light magic as he could to repel the shadows and keep them all free.

Suddenly, a strange purple substance launched out at them and hit all three of them. Zane barely managed to cast his protection spell, since the energy passed right through his barrier. Suddenly, the Shaman cackled. "So....English is your language huh? I hope you don't mind, but this is my unique trait. My ability to learn all that my enemy knows with a special spell that cannot be blocked".

"Shit. Did he just learn an entire language with a single spell? That's....wait, guys! He knows all of our magic and stratagies then!" Zane realized. "Alright, that's it. Then I will just have to roast you before you can think of ways to beat us using all of my focuses! Avo! Ultimate Nova Fire Burst!"

Purple fire burst through everything, doing no damage to non-living things but harming the sphinxes and it nearly hit the Shaman, except he created a barrier to protect himself. "Nice try. My turn now. Tri-Spell assault! Dimensional Swords! Strength Tap! Water Bubble!" The Dimensional Swords was aimed at Sillo, the Strength Tap at Aldred, and the Water Bubble at Zane. Each spell with the intention of turning their greatest strengths against them. Strength Tap would not only drain one of their strength, but also cause feedback, meaning the stronger someone is, the more damage the spell does. Dimensional Swords would damage anything, no matter what phase or dimension it would be in. And Water bubble was the ultimate trap for Zane. His fire magic would be useless, his lightning would only hurt himself, he couldn't transmute the bubble without killing himself, and most other spells would be pointless. "You came here to learn more about this idea of Ancient Gateways, little Zane? Well, no harm in giving you your answer since you will die. Yes, Gateways used to exist long ago...except I saw that in the future, they would be sealed away. This would result in me losing my immortality and dying, so I sealed myself away with a spell that would preserve me even after Magic was sealed away. These bandages...are just for show. And since I know everything you do, you can't beat me". This Shaman was a dangerous opponent in his own right....but luckily, Zane had something up his sleeve. Something the Shaman had missed....because of Zane's protection spell.

Suddenly, the water imprisoning Zane fell to the floor....except it wasn't water, but wine. At the same time, before the Shaman could realize what had happened, Zane had disappeared from the bubble...and behind the Shaman! "Illusion technique! False target redirect!" "What? BUt you don't know any illusion magic!" "Dragon Fire Burning Fist!"

Zane hit the Shaman from behind with one of his signature moves, Dragon Fire Burning Fist. Zane's unique trait, his clairvoyance, allowed him to know what would happen before it did, when it worked anyways. "I saw the memory tap coming, and partitioned parts of his brain and knowledge to be immune to the attack. Your attack can't be blocked, but it can be limited on what information it gets! Now..." Zane suddenly grabbed the Shaman. "Stun Grasp!"

THe Shaman was thoroughly stunned via energy pulses. But Zane was not done yet. "Hold on, if that was an illusion, why did it turn to wine?" "I had to give you enough of a shock to distract you for half a second, to land a critical blow. That illusion had a transmutation spell lined inside it for when it was released, so the moment it did, you would be shocked and I could land my blow. Now, let me show you my friend".

Zane put the scepter on his back, and put his two fists up next to each other. He then made the action of drawing a sword, and he ended up drawing an actual sword. "Most Gatewatchers are better at long range combat, but I am also special in that I can easily utilize short range combat. That's why I have had the upper hand since I first hit you. Without any barriers or magical defense, a Magician or Wizard is extremely weak usually to a full magical attack. Ever since I landed my first hit, you have been greatly injured. Then, my second attack disrupted your nerves and body, making it difficult for you to muster any energy thanks to the energy pulses. Oh, and finally..." Zane told him, picking him up with one hand. "Boost Magic. Strength! Lets put you back where you belong!"

Zane then threw him back in the Sarcophagus, and re-sealed it. He then looked back towards the Gateway. "Alright! Well now that he is out of the way, we should probably start our real fight against the true enemy....isn't that right?"

Suddenly, rose petals began to swirl around an empty spot behind Sillo and Aldred, and the mysterious woman suddenly appeared when they dispersed. Teleportation magic. She was wearing a jacket covered in rose designs, rose red boots, holding an umbrella with a rose design, and she had at least three or four different rose tattoo's on her body. "Let me guess, your name is Rose?"

She smiled. Any attack made against her would be instantly deflected by rose vines, and she would retaliate by launching poisoned thorns at them infused with enough magic to make them seek out their target no matter where they went. "Aww, you figured out my name. Well done little orphan".

Zane suddenly became very tense when she said that. It was obvious she had hit a nerve or something. "How did you know that?"

"Simple, its the way you act. I don't need magic to read people like that Shaman you see. The way you act indicates you are strong willed, determined, and highly independent. Clearly your parents weren't around, but you don't show signs of abuse or neglect, so they must be dead and you are on your own. Of course, there were plenty of other factors that clued me in. Of course, you also lack the anger or sorrow one would face if they were simply murdered, or commited suicide, so it must be an accident. But alas, your curiosity with Gateways and magic that led you to become so advanced so quickly isn't just a high intelligence alone. Which means, your parents were killed in an accident involving a Gateway. Oh, and I know you use lightning magic too. Your hands have clear signs of old lightning burns, so while you used to hurt yourself learning it, you no longer do. And finally, you are quick thinking, highly intelligent, and impulsive".

She then faced the other two, and began reading them, but Zane was too freaked out to listen to what she said about them. She read him perfectly. Perfectly. Without using magic, this level of ability to read people's actions and thoughts was scary. She could tell what they thought just by looking at them. They were all in grave danger if she decided to try and kill him.

Or, more accurately, when. "Everyone, stay back from her and maximize magical defense! She will slaughter us if we are not careful!"

Setting

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Character Portrait: Sillo Deskern Character Portrait: Zane Bell Character Portrait: Aldred Kynn
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Aldred ignored the destroyed barrier, although he took a cursory look past it to see if anybody was there before turning his attention back to Zane and the Egyptian mummy.

"Okay, I guess its time for a fight! Ancient Shaman guy, time to get roasted. Fire Nova Barrage!"

Aldred's eyes narrowed at the Mummy Necromancer that Zane was shooting fireballs at, instantly assessing the threat. His body went from relaxed to tense, ready to move at a moment's notice to either dodge or attack, then his eyes widened slightly as he realised who it was. Oh.

"It's Menes Tutankhamon instead of Shaman guy, Zane." he corrected the boy idly, remembering what the exhibit had said. He'd read about it during one of his trips to the museum last week. Menes Tutankhamon, an Egyptian mage who had been thought to have died on his quest for immortality. Aldred remembered thinking that it would have been better to just stick to being a guard instead. People who looked for immortality always died sooner than those who didn't. If he had wanted to live so much, why look for it at all?

Turned out that Menes's had been one of the lucky few after all. If outliving all his loved ones, being stuck in a coffin alive and immobile and awaking in a completely different time dissimilar to his own time period could be considered lucky anyway.

Before Aldred could help Zane out, though, Menes attacked. Thick chains covered in writhing shadows headed his way, moving like live snakes as they tried to wrap around him from head to toe. More and more of the chains veered away from the others to target Aldred as he sidestepped them in a way that was almost like dancing, weaving his way away from the others with a look of concentration in his eyes as the chains tried to grab him, raising a gauntlet-covered hand to block a slash made by a sphinx. The rest where targetting Zane and Sillo, but Aldred couldn't help them - he needed to deal with this one first.

The sphinx growl turned from menacing to puzzled as it tried to pull back its paw for another strike but failed. Aldred looked up at it from where he had grabbed its paw with one hand and stood still as the sphinx struggled, trying to wretch its paw out of his grip or send Aldred flying.

It shouldn't have bothered. Aldred held it still as if it were a kitten trying to pull its paw away from a human's tight grip instead of an ancient Egyptian cat monster that reached up to his shoulders, a thoughtful look on his face. The look of rage on the sphinx's face was almost hilarious as it tried a different tactic - with a roar that masked the voice of Aldred muttering under his breath, it raised its other paw and slammed it down as if it were trying to squash the blonde human holding onto it into tiny pieces. Aldred's knees buckled from under him as the paw landed down on his outstretched arm with enough force to crack cement - and with a yell, he straightened up backwards into a throw with his grip tight onto the Sphinx's paws. Unable to attack or dodge away, the Sphinx had no choice but to fly backwards with a roar right into the chains that had been slithering towards Aldred's way.

The sphinx's roar abruptly cut off into a whimper of surprise and pain as the chains suddenly wrapped around the monster and pulled tight. Bound from head to toe like a badly wrapped present, the Sphinx toppled to the floor with a loud thud. Aldred was too busy beating his shadow into submission with a light-coated fist too (Zane's light-strobe helped too) see too much of what was going on, but out of the corner of his eye he saw the chains shadows glowing black as the Sphinx struggled desperately to escape its deadly embrace. The more it struggled the faster the shadows writhed as the chains wound around it tighter and tighter, layer upon layer upon layer until the Sphinx was trussed up in a giant metallic cocoon of living shadows, cutting the Sphinx off mid-yelp.

As Aldred gave the final punch, the shadows thicken and grew until all the chains were covered from view before going suddenly still. The shadows darkened into a solid sheen, and the cocoon started to shrink until it disappeared into nothingness.

That would not have been a nice way to go. Pausing for breath, Aldred took a moment to rest and regather his energy. The blonde teen had been moving constantly ever since the Gateways had started to go out of control, and it hadn't helped that he'd been playing a football match before it had begun. Although he had been forced to move for longer periods than this, in more deplorable situations (constantly fighting for his right to food and life every second until he couldn't stay conscious any more instead of Gateways and eldritch abominations on a daily basis, for example) that had been ages ago and made him appreciate the opportunity to regather his strength all the more. It didn't help that the light-magic had taken more mana out of him than he liked for such a small spell, either. He would have to practice it more in the future.

Note to self: practice elemental magic once this is over - what was that?

Something purple flashed his way. Aldred dodged to the side as he waved up a barrier instinctively, left arm thrown up as if he was trying to shield himself from harm, but the purple ooze flew through the barrier as if it weren't there and flashed through him. Aldred flinched as heat flashed through him. It faded in seconds, but the damage was done - Aldred whirled around with a snarl on his face as Zane sent fireballs towards the gloating Egyptian Mage, bringing his fists up and close together in both a guard and an offensive position, body tensed as he waited for anything to happen.

"So....English is your language huh? I hope you don't mind, but this is my unique trait. My ability to learn all that my enemy knows with a special spell that cannot be blocked."

He knows everything I know - That bastard! Aldred raised his hands defensively as purple fire exploded around Menes with intent to harm and finished off the remaining sphinxes, a scowl on his face as he readied himself for an attack, priming a light spell just in case any more shadow magic was used. That means he knows all of our spells and memories!

He's going
down.

Aldred had no time to do more than scowl in anger before Menes casted spells that were designed to incapacitate them their way, a gloating smirk on his lips. As he heard the name of the spell, Aldred's scowl darkened - it seemed as if Menes wasn't lying after all. Strength Tap was designed to take down strong opponents such as giants or trolls by turning it against them. Even after the toll that constant running and fighting took on him, the spell would probably cause all of his bones to break while draining his strength away at the same time. And even if Aldred was good enough that any healing magic he casted would cost less mana than it would to others, it'd still take a lot out of his reserves, waste precious time and mana and would still be excruciatingly painful despite the spell doing its best to deaden the pain.

In short, it was an extremely bad idea for Aldred to get hit by the spell.

There has to be something I can do. A look of concentration flashed across Aldred's eyes as he cycled through his options. Calm. Dodge, block - he knows everything I do, something unexpected then. Or... eyes casting around for inspiration, they fell onto Sillo and widened as an idea crossed Aldred's mind. Or swap.

"Sillos!" Aldred yelled to his friend, voice filled with urgency and adrenaline, thrill at the situation outweighed by the need to deal with the situation at hand. He began to sprint towards Sillo, heart thumping in his ears as the spell began to change direction to follow him, slow but unstopping like a glacier. Menes was nothing if not efficient. Steering a clear path away from Zane and pumping his legs even faster to leave a greater distance between him and Strength Tap, Aldred yelled "SWAP!"

Exchange places to deal with the other's spell before dealing with the mage who had invaded their privacy. The spells had been tailored to make them taste defeat, but what if the spell hit another person? Aldred could deal with Dimensional Swords better than he could something that would turn his strength against him, much like how Sillo could deal with Strength Tap better than homing swords that could cut through any dimension.

"Speed boost."

Strength Tap was left miles behind him as Aldred suddenly speed up like a roadrunner. Legs moving so fast he was almost a blur, Aldred zoomed towards and past Sillo towards the other spell. He skidded to a stop in front of the dimensional swords, the spell targeted at him yards behind him as he summoned swords of his own and thrust them out in front of him, glaring with narrowed eyes at the Dimensional Swords in front of him. The spell took the shape of swords made out of glowing hard light, all of them different types and shapes. As one, the swords edges pointed at him as if they wanted to shish-kabab him and moved, stabbing down towards Aldred to run him through.

Using the shortswords he had summoned, Aldred deflected and dodged them all, moving speedily and gracefully through the swords while his mind worked on how to disable the spell.

Swords made out of hard light. Constantly homing in on me. Won't stop attacking. Aldred did a sideways somersault to dodge a few flying daggers and landed with a crouch, his mind clear and rational despite the precarious situation he was in. The broadsword missed his head by inches as it flew above him before swooping back around in an effort to gut him while he parried a katana. With his free hand, Aldred slammed the other shortsword he was holding onto the broadsword hard enough to make cracks. With a small shudder, the cracks spread through the sword before it shattered in a burst of sparkling light, the gleam fading after a few seconds. At the sight, Aldred's eyes gleamed. Breakable.

Moving systematically, Aldred destroyed the swords left like a well-oiled dismantling machine. There were a few close calls, but Aldred didn't stop slashing and hacking and smashing until all the swords were gone. Pausing and panting for breath, Aldred took the moment to pull himself together, eyes flickering up to Zane destroying Menes. Kid can handle it, he thought somewhat tiredly, hands gripping his knees. He was physically athletic, yes, but being in constant melee combat could take a bit out of a person. He did a good job getting out of the water anyway.

Sure enough, Zane handled it. Aldred tried not to grin at the sight and sound of the Egyptian Mage meeting his demise.

That fact became easier when Rose - who obviously took great fun at making a motif out of her namesake - turned up. Eyes narrowing at her, Aldred straightened up, his face and body posture hiding its tenseness behind serene calm as he took in what she had to say.

Setting

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Character Portrait: Sillo Deskern Character Portrait: Zane Bell Character Portrait: Aldred Kynn
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The Egyptian exhibit wasn't the nicest looking of all the exhibits in the museum...especially with a cyclonic Gateway staring Sillo in the face. Not to mention the massive sarcophagus opening up with what he expected weren't puppies and rainbows and most likely death and destruction.

At least he wasn't alone, he caught a glimpse of fiery red and turned to see the familiar face of Zane. As a ten year old boy, he was a Gatewatcher without the title. Sillo had yet to understand why Zane did't join their ranks, but assumed it was for a personal matter and didn't touch the subject. He constantly heard tales about random Gateways appearing and disappearing before any of the Gatewatchers showed up. The cause was this young lad with a spirit as fierce as his hair.

He gave Zane a slight nod of introduction before turning his attention to the other arrival...Aldred. With a cheerful exterior and a deadly interior, Aldred was one of those people who you wanted as a friend and by all means. Luckily, Sillo had somewhat close to that. The two had joined the Gatewatchers at around the same time and seeing that they were close to the same age, they were naturally drawn to each other's presence. Aldred could fool any Gatewatcher of being a Yellow Mana User based on his cheerful demeanor, but Sillo knew that it was purple. Aldred hid a dark past underneath that glowing smile of his and while he didn't want to anger him by bringing it up, Sillo couldn't help but become curious every now and then.

"Sillo!" Aldred waved, "How's life been? What's going on?"

Sillo typically enjoyed his light tone when he talked, but right now...

"Uh, let's talk later," Sillo called back, "Kind of a bad time!"

The sarcophagus opened, revealing the Shaman. Sillo twirled his bow staff around his body, setting himself up for battle while Zane and the Shaman dueled. Chains shot out from underneath his feet and attacked him. Sillo had just enough time to contort his body to avoid them. Leaping away from the chains, Sillo rolled to an upright standing position just in time to see a Sphinx swipe at him. He entered the Ghost reality, but was stunned as the swipe hit him, scratching him across his chest. He cried out, phasing back in and falling to one knee.

"...those Sphinxes have dimensional claws! They exist in every phase and dimension, so they can pass right through barriers!"

"Yeah...thanks!" Sillo replied dryly, annoyed by the inopportune timing. The Sphinx descended on him again. Sillo rolled right, on his feet once more. He ran forward and slid between the Sphinx's feet, dodging a swipe aimed for his head and swinging the staff behind him to sweep the legs. Turning around, he saw the Sphinx recovering quickly and decided that he was done with this fight.

"Yeah, I'm just gonna..." he mumbled as he used telekinesis to lift the Sphinx and launch it headfirst into the Gateway.

"Take that you son of a-OOF!”

Something grabbed him from behind! Ducking and pulling away, he glanced back to see his own shadow twirling a shadow bow staff in front of him. It didn’t have a face, but it could tell by the stance it carried that it meant business.

“Nah man, you’re doin’ it all wrong!” Sillo called back to the Shaman, “He doesn’t have any of my personality!”

Naturally, the Shaman nor the Shadow Sillo responded, but the bow staff did, connecting with his leg and sending Sillos toppling. As he hit the ground, he rolled back landing on his feet and staring at the shadow analytically. He knew he’d need light to hurt it, but he didn’t have any at his disposal. Unfortunately, school didn’t teach him how to cast light spells to cast away shadows, but he did have something that might substitute fairly well…

He concentrated really hard and summoned a giant flashlight. Picking it up, he shone it on the shadow aiming for the chest. The shadow squirmed and wriggled underneath it, but could not escape the beam. Before he knew it, the Shadow Sillo was taken care of no problem. Regular Sillo took the flashlight and shoved it into the Gateway…a fit place for an odd thing.

Without warning, a purple blast of ooze extruded outward in all directions. Sillo hadn’t expected it, catching a quick glimpse before it passed through him with a warm feeling. And then the Shaman spoke:

"So....English is your language huh? I hope you don't mind, but this is my unique trait. My ability to learn all that my enemy knows with a special spell that cannot be blocked."

“Well, that seems a little OP,” Sillos muttered before understanding the full implications of this. The Shaman knew everything about them. All of their spells. All of their battle strategies. All of their strengths.

And all of their weaknesses.

Proving this with a Tri-Spell, Sillo could only watch was the Shaman hurtled Dimensional Swords at him. He’d have to take care of them one way or another…

“Sillo!” the call of Aldred drew his attention as the boy was running towards him, “SWAP!”

Yeah, sure…

Running at full sprint, he propelled himself past Aldred with an air push, spinning the staff in front of him and striking at the Strength Tap with a war cry. The Strength Tap was knocked away from its trajectory and sent spiraling out of control in the room.

Where’s the Staples button when you need it?

“That was easy,” Sillo mumbled before turning back to watch Zane handle the Shaman with a lot of gusto. The Strength Tap followed the Shaman into the Sarcophagus where it presumably quelled him for another thousand years or so. Sillo grinned.

The attention was brought back to the Gateway, which was still throbbing with energy. Sillo turned on the Gateway and began to suck the energy from the portal. Unfortunately, he was interrupted by the woman named Rose, who made her “theatrical” entrance. Listening to her pick apart Zane bit by bit was enough to send him chills.

"Everyone, stay back from her and maximize magical defense! She will slaughter us if we are not careful!"

Sillo understood what he was saying and held his bow staff in front of him, poised for whatever she might throw. It was evident she was the one that caused this museum crisis and while he wasn’t sure, he could probably link Rose to the bomb at HQ as well.

“Why are you doing this?” Sillo asked, narrowing his eyes.

Setting

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Character Portrait: Sillo Deskern Character Portrait: Damion Gray Character Portrait: Zane Bell Character Portrait: Aldred Kynn
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(Parts written with Perks)

"Shit shit shit!" Damion yelled, unable to get past the mana infused vines. But it did make him wonder why. She had more then enough power to wipe the four of them out. Zane's mana was even in a weird flux, which he figured wouldn't help given their luck, so why did she feel the need to keep him away? He couldn't overpower her control...could it be that it was because of what he did outside? How he found a way to work around the Vinewall? Even if, she should still know she is more then powerful enough to deal with them regardless. The levels of difference they had on the natural mana around them, and counting in the fact the concealment magic probably weakened the effect a little still, was so large it was frightening. So what is her reason? Is she doing this just to toy with us?

"Or maybe...it has something to do with the artifacts inside? That dark mana being, he is powerful, and yes there is mana inside these artifacts, but why didn't any Gatewatcher find out about ancient mana before? Gateways only started appearing twenty years ago, just like..." Damion started, when it hit him. "...just like the Gatewatchers. The exact same time. How did..."

"You feeling okay, mister?" a young child asked him, having just walked up to him out of nowhere it seemed. She smiled a little, seemingly unaware of what was going on. Seemingly, that is. Damion could feel it, Mana surging from her body. It was acting strangely though. But this was definitely no accidental meaning, and he would bet she knew exactly who he was. Plus, her white hair seemed kinda off.

"Perfectly fine, but I am sure you already knew that. Who are you, anyways?" Damion asked her, his body ready to snap to combat on a moment's notice.

"Not sure, I have a lot of names and its hard to remember them all. But recently, they call me Dreamy. Well, its mainly just my two friends. Their twins you know! One is named Rose, and her brother is Newton. You know, like that famous guy Issac Newton! Anyways, I was just asking, because I wasn't sure what to do yet" Dreamy told him. "But I knew I had to do this".

So she is allied with them? But she is so young...yet also dangerous... "What do you mean, had to do this?"

"For the best possible outcome currently available, Damion Gray must not make it inside the room. That is what was written. Rose must kill Zane in ten minutes or less. Newton must get the box unopposed. Zane must not leave that room. Sillo or Aldred must survive, but the other must die as well. A better outcome had been predicted before, but an unknown element was introduced and disrupted the original plan. Luckily, Rose has a 98.4% chance of adapting a new plan should something disrupt my visions. However, I gave her all my new information, and with the traps set up for the original plan in place, it will work towards the new plan".

So she is an Oracle, but a weird one. However... "You use the word can or must a lot. Your predictions are not set in stone, they only show what would happen if something else does or does not happen, which means Zane and the others can still defy your predictions and survive. Thanks for..." Then it hit Damion. "Wait Damnit, you were telling me all this to keep me pre-occupied! But clearly you don't have the power to kill me, or you would have already. But wait, her power levels...unless, her Mana is....and that means, your keeping me out because for some reason me entering that room changes the outcome!"

Suddenly, Damion felt the Shaman get re-sealed, and soon after the powerful one, Rose, enter the room. He had to get in there quickly. There was one advantage, one card they had that could be used in a second way in this instance. "Since you only see cans, maybes, and possibilities. Which still means you can see the future. But you have one issue. One factor neither you nor Rose realized. Your predictions can be off, because Zane is an Oracle too".

This put shock and fear into her, and all of a sudden, Damion woke up on the floor. "Dream....right, so your names indicate your main type of magic style." Dreamy was still in shock. An Oracle's predictions had quite a few flaws or weaknesses, but two were more prominent then any others. The first was that a second Oracle could throw them into chaos. The second was the possibility of something happening by chance or fate that not even an Oracle's predictions could factor into. With the young mana user pre-occupied, Zane decided on a new tactic. He broke the wall next to the door, and walked in, just catching the end of what Rose was saying to the three of them. After ripping into Zane, she ripped into both Aldred and Sillo next. Clearly, they already knew just how dangerous she was and how out classed all four of them were. On a side note, Dreamy's mana was no longer disrupting the nearby natural mana, so it was safe to say she left...somehow...

He was about to shout something to help snap their heads into the game, but instead someone did something unexpected that cut him off. Zane, who before had been on edge and guarded, and technically still was, starting laughing. This drew Rose's attention off of Damion who she had spotted who knows when, and onto him. "What the hell is he doing? Or is this a spell? No, no I didn't sense anything. Damnit, I think he is about to do something typical of a Red Mana User...either something brave, something smart but stupid, something stupid, or some combination of those three".

Rose glared at him angrily. "What is so funny exactly?"

"You just have no right to talk is all" Zane said as he stopped laughing, but there was still a smile on his face. "At least to me, seeing as how you are an orphan to".

Rose seemed shocked by what Zane said, but not enough to drop her guard. If anyone tried to attack her during that shock, it would have been a mistake. "What the hell..."

"You did all of us, now let me do you. The fact you immediately concluded I was an orphan without considering other possibilities means your an orphan too. You are both highly analytical and highly intelligent, which most likely means you did not trust the other orphans. But you were not completely alone. Your ability to show off, even if your still on guard while doing so, means you have experience, which means you felt safe and comfortable enough to show off as a child. Since you didn't trust the other orphans, it might have been someone who gained your trust, but its much more likely you were protected by a brother. It has to be a brother, since you felt protected which is more of a brother indicator. Plus, if it was a sister, either she would be here helping you, with such a close bond and being the same gender. He also has to be your twin, because including the way you act, and I don't just mean the acting, he is not here to be protective like an older brother would, nor do you seem worried about him or talked about him. As a twin, he would definitely be involved, so he must be elsewhere. And he protected you, so he couldn't be younger. And as a result, the reason you act so mean and evil, is because you feel like you and your brother were against the world, which is why you joined a group that also seemed to be against the world. Well, got any complaints?"

Now Rose had been completely tensed up and went on guard. But why put her on Guard? Why not a sneak attack? What was Zane up to? No matter, it was clear Damion had to warn them. "Guys, we have to run! She is too powerful!"

Suddenly, Rose was in front of Damion, and hit him in the face with one hand, but with enough strength to send him flying into the back wall. Zane immediately went to check if he was okay. "What the hell were you thinking?"

"We have to run! Now!"

"She will kill us one by one if we run before we ever make it out. But don't worry, I have a plan to beat her" Zane said with a smile.

"There is no beating her, idiot!" Damion shouted at him. "There is only hoping we survive long enough to reach help!"

Zane put his hand on Damion's, and suddenly Damion realized what Zane was thinking. "You are fucking insane, I hope you know that".

"I know. But if it works, it will be cool".

Damion cast a single spell to help change the tides. "If it doesn't, we all die".

"Damion Gray must not make it inside". He doesn't know the why either, or else Rose would have done more then hit me... Right now though, while he could, he had to focus on healing himself.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sillo Deskern Character Portrait: Damion Gray Character Portrait: Zane Bell Character Portrait: Minori Fukutawa Character Portrait: Aldred Kynn
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The mannequins were disappointingly easy to deal with, being made of wood and covered in cloth, and holding metal weapons gave Minori a lot of options to deal with them. The different mannequins even copied the tactics of the historical warriors, the samurai charging her directly with swords raised and the ninja flanking her, striking only when she was otherwise distracted, but one thing the samurai or ninja had to contend with back in the day, was magic.

"Ring of Fire: 5,000 Degrees Celsius"

A ring of white hot flame burst from Minori, shooting off and igniting the ninja and samurai, though the blaze instantly vanished just shy of igniting any of the remaining exhibits or artwork. Their wooden frames and joints almost instantly turned to ash, and though the samurai were the most protected by their armor, the attack slowed them down to the point that Minori was unopposed when she struck at them with her baton. The foes that had not been turned to ash in the intense heat were easily crumpled by the force of her blows, though the intensity of the blaze had taken more out of her than she'd have liked. It wasn't as bad as icing over the room had been, but she was going to try to refrain from using more mana for a minute or two in case the gateway was being guarded by something worth fighting.

With the exhibit cleared of enemies, Minori knelt down and took a moment to both catch her breath and try to figure out where she was going before advancing. Her Mana Sense was useless, it being overpowered by that ungodly mana source and hindered by the concealment spell at the same time, but she had other tricks for tracking things...

ROOOOOOOOAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR

Minori cocked her head to the side in a slight confusion, looking to the right at the hallway leading to the Egyptian exhibit. Tricks were nice, but nothing beat just having information given to you.

"A lion? Or perhaps a sphinx, given how lively the museum is today," Minori mused, smiling at her own joke. She stood once again and started to head off towards the source of the noise, unaware of the battle that was going on in the exhibit itself. However, she stopped as she passed by one of the ninja she had roasted, glancing down at the weapon lying indignantly on the floor. It was a Tanto, a Japanese knife used by samurai and ninja alike as it was perfect for stabbing up between the armor plates so many warriors wore.

"It's no t-shirt, but it will do," Minori mused, taking the blade and its sheath and shoving them down her pants at the small of her back, her new weapon fit snugly at her waistline.

The building rumbled gently, urging Minori to hurry towards the sound of the sphinx's cries. She arrived, annoyed at the sight of a rose vine wall blocking the doorway into the exhibit. The source of the mana currently giving her a migraine was just beyond, as were several gatewatchers by the sounds of it, as well as a woman she didn't recognize.

"Concentrated burst: 1,000 degrees Celsius" Minori calmly said, and as soon as the flames connected with the vines they burned to a crisp, allowing Minori to pass through before the vines regrew. She entered the exhibit around the time Damion was smacked across the room, but as much as she was concerned for her comrade, her eyes were locked with the source of the mana that had been burning at the back of her mind since she set foot in the building. She had thought it was the gateway that had opened, and her eyes widened when she saw that it was, in fact, a person.

'So much power... to think one person could contain so much of it and not be ripped asunder...' Minori thought, but she was surprisingly devoid of terror. It felt more like looking face to face with a blackhole, where her death was so certain that she simply accepted it, and was if anything curious as to what a spell with that much power behind it would look like.

"Ah, finally, the last moth drawn to the flame," The woman said, her voice calm but something in her eyes suggested she was close to being unhinged. The others must have riled her up by fighting back, which was a curious notion. Minori knew if she had that kind of power, nothing shy of a supernova would get under her skin.

"So I have," Minori replied, lacking the same flare for the dramatic her new opponent, or ruler if they failed to defeat her, seemed to have.

Rose walked away from where she'd attacked Damion, her stride exuding confidence, and the increased proximity made Minori weak in the knees due to her senses getting overpowered by the mana the woman had.

"Now now, it'll only hurt for a bit. Does it sound odd being on the other side of that phrase?" The woman asked, stopping and taking a single step back, just short of Minori's pain threshold bringing her to her knees from her mana sense nearly short circuiting. It was almost as if she knew to do that.

"Researcher for the infamous Gatewatchers, but what discoveries have your experiments produced? A leading mind in your field, but you know nothing compared to when you started. All you can find is more questions with no answers... and oh, how you've tried to find answers, right?"

Minori's eyes widened as she realized what she was hinting at.

"That's the one thing that sets you apart from them, you know. Those bloody, bloody hands of yours, but you'd sacrifice anything just to know, wouldn't you?" The woman said, a twisted grin on her face as she glanced over at Sillo and Aldred.

"Would their bodies even be cold before you performed the autopsies?"

"SHUT UP!" Minori shrieked, swinging her baton and launching a bolt of lightning at the woman, but she effortlessly dodged. Time manipulation, or was she just that strong?

"Struck a nerve?" The woman asked, suddenly shooting forward, maybe even teleported, but the next thing Minori knew the woman's hand was around her neck, her grip just shy of crushing it. "Don't worry, I'll strike more than just that in due time," the woman cooed, and effortlessly slung Minori towards Aldred and Sillo, Minori skidding to a painful halt at their feet. Minori knew, even as she lay coughing and gasping for breath, that she could have thrown her clear through to the opposite end of the museum if she'd taken a notion. She was enjoying this, and the way she was just stopping shy of killing blows, of Minori's brain frying due to the mana she possessed... she'd even gone so far as to suppress it when she had her by the throat so that Minori would feel it all. Whoever she was, she was a sadist.

Terror crept up Minori's spine. This woman wasn't a black-hole, an all consuming force of destruction... she was a dark god come to smite the lot of them. Even so, Minori stood after her throat opened back up, neck bruised in ugly shades of black and purple in a hand-print across her neck.

"Even gods... are subject... to the laws... of the universe..." Minori said, fighting through the pain of talking, her voice barely audible from how hoarse it was. She could have healed it, but she was saving her energy. Damion and Zane were off on their own, whispering and conspiring... perhaps her defiance could buy them time.

"And you... are no... god... you cunt".

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sillo Deskern Character Portrait: Damion Gray Character Portrait: Zane Bell Character Portrait: Minori Fukutawa Character Portrait: Aldred Kynn
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(So I got really passionate while writing this post and I may have gone a bit overboard, but its still epic so no worries!)

Zane's plan was probably insane. Suicidal even. But, according to Zane's calculations, it had a one hundred percent chance of working. Granted, this woman was so powerful, its possibly she could defy calculations, but Zane had to stay confident. If he lost his confidence, his plan would fail. He couldn't waver. He ran a final self analysis just to be sure.

Physical Body Damage is minimal, but there is some. That chain attack hit me as well and the shadow attack seemed to have left some sort of shadow poison damage. Mana supply is sufficient with the boost that I should capable. I should have enough life energy to make up the difference, even if it is risking my life doing so. Psychological strength... Zane caught himself at a pause on that one. While he might have managed to return a psychological attack back at her, her own attack on Zane took its toll. His hands were shaking in fear still. Guess I have no choice then. I hope I don't break them...

He took out his most precious possession, the one thing he had of his father. His glasses. It was the only thing that survived. When he put them on, Zane felt...connected...to his father, even if he knew nothing about him. His last name wasn't even his real last name, it was the one given to him. These glasses were the only connection to his father. Which is probably why there is enough protective magic infused in them that it might have protected them from the destruction caused at HQ.

As he put them on, Rose approached the three other Gatewatchers, and simultaneously charged up a powerful spell in her left hand while commanding her rose vines to attack them, each one stronger then the ones used to make the wall, and filled to the brim with poison. Her concealment magic was still in place, but anyone inside the room could feel a trace of her mana due to the power of the spell. And it gave Zane the chill. It was the exact same feeling that he remembered from the night his parents died. She was there....she was there! Could it....it has to be! She killed them!

Zane's mana strength, power, and overall levels suddenly surged, like a typically red mana user would when they got angry or excited...or both. Zane was angry at rose, and excited at a chance for revenge. Screw safety. I will use them both at the same time...

As Rose turned to face Zane, Zane had already moved behind her, his signature sword Dragonfang in hand, and landed a direct hit on Rose's back. But even despite Zane's surge in power, mana, and passion, Rose's power level was still far superior. What is more is that Zane's face, while displaying rage, still had that hint of fear behind it. But yet his body seemed calm, in focus, and synced. He was also for some reason wearing glasses (he has never told anyone about the glasses), which had a magical strength of their own. While normally Minori might unable to see the differences of color between mana, she might be able to sense it....a secondary mana hidden behind countless concealment spells and Zane's own red mana. Different from Zane's, yet similar.

Rose was caught off guard by the attack and was pushed back a little, disrupting her spell. And when she looked at Zane, she saw something she didn't expect. Something that changed everything. Something that made her tense up. Could it be that this boy....is their son? But...they should all be dead! Now I know why Dreamy said he had to die if we were to succeed...he is that person's son.

"Okay, you want to play rough! Lets play rough!" Rose yelled, enraged. It was just a cover though, she couldn't afford to let them realize she didn't just want to kill Zane....she needed to. Still, Minori through her mana levels, Zane through her body language, and Danny through her mana's effect on the natural mana around them would all be capable of telling she was holding back her more powerful spells. She wasn't playing around anymore though, she was out for blood now.

Zane and Rose clashed, Rose, taking out a Rose shaped magical blade to match with Zane's own Dragonfang. However, she was faster then Zane, so Zane utilized his Mana Turbo Skates to get an edge on speed to try and turn things around. However, he could never go on offensive, and had to remain on defensive, consistently having his blade deflected and the tip knocked into the walls or objects behind him because Rose consistently used the block to try and knock the blade out of his hand. Meanwhile, she summoned a giant plant monster to attack the others, and even sent the occasional attack their way so that they wouldn't try anything funny.

Come on! Just a little bit more effort! Zane thought. However, before he could make his move, Rose managed to knock him off his feet by tripping him with a Rose Vine. He fell down to the floor right next to the Gateway, and quickly flipped around so he was on his ass instead of his stomach. "Now you die!"

"Not this time! You are the one who will die this time!" Zane yelled in anger, throwing his sword right at Rose with a magical boost. She easily dodged it though, and it collided with the wall behind her. Now he had no sword, and she was walking right towards him. She was going to stab him through the heart, and end his life.

"Any last words?" she asked with a smile, but didn't even give him a chance by lunging the blade right at him.

However, all of his magical defense blocked it, but only because he focused every ounce of it into that one point to get her stuck, meaning he was defenseless if she attacked him any other way. But Zane didn't plan to give her that chance. "Here it goes! My master plan! 64 Trigram Seal! Archangel of Light, I call upon you and the Celestial Powers of the Heva Plane to weaken her darkness and keep her in place!"

Every point that his sword struck an object or wall suddenly lit up with mana, and formed a perfect spellcircle around her. The shining light didn't damage her, but it was weakening her magic to a degree. That was Phase 1. Now, it was time for Zane to use Phase 2. He stood up, and walked right next to the Gateway. "Now its time for the second part of my plan. I am a little new to these types of spells, but I am a quick learner! Celestial Force, grant me the key!" Something formed in his hands as he extended them upward, and he stuck it right into the Gateway. "Infinity Gate! Open!"

Infinity Gate. Every other Gatewatcher knew that spell, because it was in Gatewatcher history as being one of the few spells they had ever created that could affect Gateways directly. It was also one of the only ten Infinity Spells known in Gatewatcher history. However, Zane never learned Gatewatcher history, so how could he know it? And if people who were not Gatewatcher's knew it, then that would mean....there was an intelligence leak at Gatewatcher HQ, or whoever wrote that made copies Zane somehow got his hands on. Anyways, the Infinity Gate spell used both the Gateway's mana and the Mana users mana to open. It was a spell that was unpredictable, as it would only serve the will of the one who cast it, but in ways the caster could not determine. In this case, it shined a bright light and made a full on direct attack. Rose focused all her mana into barriers, which was an achievement in its own right. Zane got her on the defensive.

More then that, Zane had gotten around to the other side, putting her between himself and the Infinity Gate. "Alright then! The other Infinity Spell I know! Infinity....." he shouted, as a large amount of mana amassed in both his hands, forming into a sphere shape between them. "...Cannon!"

An incredible amount of power....but, Minori would be able to notice Zane ran out of mana while casting the Infinity Gate. He shouldn't even be able to move right now. And Rose knew that as well. Then, she remembered that Zane and Damion had been talking before. "Could it be....a mana link!? But you both use completely different types of magic and have different color manas!"

"That only matters if both of us are casting spells" Zane explained. "A mana link is meant to strengthen two mana users by combining their mana. However, normally two mana users of different color, and especially of different spell type users, would result in their mana clashing and the link hurting them. However, if one of them is not using their mana or spells at all during the fight, then there is no risk at all! And while you hurt Damion's physical body, because you finished him so quickly he still had his mana reserves for me to use!"

Rose wanted to use this opportunity to attack and kill the defenseless Damion, but if she did her defenses would weaken. Zane smiled right at her. I have you in my trap now... "Fire! Go flying right into the Infinity Gate!"

The Infinity Cannon fired, hitting Rose and causing a huge mana explosion. Damion's mana however was completely depleted as well as Zane's. But from all appearances, they did it.

And then, the smoke cleared....and Rose was still standing there. The Gate and Gateway were gone, but she was still there. Even more so, the attack hadn't even caused her to budge one inch. She was standing in the same exact spot! The trigrams were all gone. The gate was gone. Zane and Damion's mana had all been expended....and she only had a few scratches on her. Still, she looked shocked. "A few scratches huh? I am impressed, no one has ever done that much damage to me before...but now, I will kill each and every one of your friends in front of you".

She then moved with unparalleled speed, reaching Minori instantly and unless she had a trick of her own, tossing her right into Sillo and Aldred. She would then launch attacks at them until the point she knocked them to the floor. She was about to go after Damion, when Zane mumbled something. "Sorry, what was that? Were you begging for mercy?"

"No, I was saying you have two choices" Zane managed to say as he struggled to get up. "Stay here and kill us, but spell your own doom, or leave now before the Gatewatchers have you all figured out but letting us live as a result".

"And why the hell should I be worried? I can easily get away before the charge in, and they know nothing about me thanks to..." Rose spoke, but she stopped right in her tracks and fear ran across her face as she realized something.

"Concealment magic will dissipate if one uses too much of their mana at once. My suppressant spells forced you to put more effort into your barriers to make them effective enough. But you see, right before the Infinity Cannon hit you, I dispelled both the Infinity Gate and the Trigram seal. As a result, your mana returned to full effectiveness....which caused you to exert enough mana to dissipate your concealment magic. If you stay here any longer, or use any mana to attack us, the Gatewatcher analysts outside will read your mana like an open book. They will learn all about you, including your weaknesses. They will be more then capable of creating a special spell just to defeat you, and teach it to every Gatewatcher. We might not have won this fight, but you can't kill us or remain here any longer without sealing your own fate".

The whole time...this whole act....he was playing me. "So you..."

"Yeah, I agitated you so that you would stop being so careful about your mana levels, so you would use all the power you could without being detected. By suppressing it, I forced you to use more, but then dispelled it so that all your effort would make your mana levels exceed the limit of concealment magic".

"Fine. You live...this time..." Rose commented, as Rose pedals swirled around her, before dispersing to reveal she had disappeared. However, he was so exaughsted, he hadn't realized. Between hitting Rose with the Infinity Cannon and now, ten minutes had passed by. He had passed out for part of the battle. He looked at the others. "It seems I passed out for a few minutes. How did you do against Rose? You guys are all still alive right? I used up all my mana, so I can't really tell at the moment. I think I did something stupid though and exceeded my limits. Using those two spells together....its too much for me to handle, even with two mana pools to pull from".

Zane was only that strong (and survived) because he had the mana surge from his emotions, Damion's mana pool to pull on, and he had sustained little enough damage during the first fight. And even then, it looked like Minori, Sillo, and Aldred had to hold their own against Rose for a little while after he passed out. He hoped they were all okay. He hoped none of them realized that he nearly killed himself in the process of that attack because he over exerted himself.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sillo Deskern Character Portrait: Damion Gray Character Portrait: Zane Bell Character Portrait: Minori Fukutawa Character Portrait: Aldred Kynn
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(In which I write a post that's over 3000 words to respond to everything, gain permission from Perks to use Rose, the NPC bad guy and also make some assumptions about Sillo's character. Sorry. If anything needs to be edited just, er, pm me or something I guess. And we should honestly discuss plot on the OC.)



Zane was an orphan. Ok. Aldred dismissed the rest of it from his mind to examine later in favour of raising his swords and prepping his magical defences. Zane was a weird kid, but Aldred knew from experience that he tend to be right when it came to magic.

Refreshed from his brief stop, Aldred eyes flickered to Rose (he resisted the urge to add 'pretty obvious, don't you think?' to Zane's sentence) as the woman finished her monologue at Zane and turned to answer them, examining her automatically for any weaknesses.

"Now, now," Rose turned her eyes to Sillo, although Aldred was sure that she'd notice if he so much as twitched a muscle. Her eyebrow arced just enough to indicate contempt, as if Sillo had disappointed her by asking what seemed to her a stupid question. "Isn't it obvious? Anarchy, revenge, taking over the world, maybe even boredom." she listed multiple reasons almost boredly, giving a small absent wave of her hand as if she was brushing the question away. "Does it really matter? I could give my reasons, like one of those villains of those beloved comic books of yours, but let's be honest, boy." A swirl of rose petals was all the warning she gave before she appeared in front of Sillo, a smug smirk on her face as she reached a hand out towards his face. "What kind of villain would I be if I mono-"

Her hand flickered back just seconds before a gleaming silver blur shot through the empty space where her hand had been, inches from Sillo's face. The blur abruptly firmed into the shortsword that Aldred had been holding before crumbling into pieces almost instantly, causing her to lose both her grip on the hilt of the sword and a potential weapon. As the weapon faded away, she took a step back and waved her hand lazily in the air, causing a wall of thorny vines to pop up at her side.

Aldred sliced through her vines with one slice of his blade. Finishing his whirl to face forwards Aldred was just in time to slice rose petals in half as she teleported to a few yards away, the smile on her face entertained and almost amused as if she were dealing with a fumbling child. Skidding to a stop with a small frown on his face, Aldred paused for just a moment to recalibrate himself before he took off again, going from a crouch to a leap towards her face within seconds. Rose took another step back and waved her hand up again, giving a small wiggle with her fingers. Vindictive pleasure could be seen in the deep curl of her red lips as Aldred sliced her recently summoned wall of vines into pieces only to be forced to contort his body mid-air to avoid the thorns flying for his face. The rose thorns flew a little ways away before swooping back around 180 degrees towards Aldred's back, but inches before they pierced through his back the air rippled as the thorns were deflected like balls bouncing off a wall, the barrier rippling once before popping like a bubble.

Turned out that heeding Zane's advice was a good thing after all.

When the thorns came flying back for another round, Aldred sliced them into pieces. They fell to the ground, unmoving. Projectiles dealt with, Aldred muttered under his breath and zoomed towards her with a yell, the normally cheery expression on his face replaced with a ferocious snarl.

Fuck the fact that Zane said they were going get slaughtered if they faced Rose. The exits were down and teleportation was gone (although the ban on teleporting had to have risen, since she'd managed to teleport herself inside), and she'd been the one who'd set the bomb and traps that attracted them to the museum - she said so herself. She was probably aiming to kill them all anyway, even if they didn't attack her first.

But more importantly than that, she could read them like an open book. She'd known more about Zane in one glance than Aldred had ever bothered to find out - and it seemed that she was planning to do the same to the rest of them.

Screw that noise. There was a reason the word privacy existed.

"Aldred, boy, you should really give up." Rose laughed tauntingly. As they fought, it was increasingly clear that the woman was just playing with Aldred. While the blonde teen moved fluid and fast like a martial artistl; unstopping in its assault and yet not wasting any movements, her movements were languid, almost playful as she moved and teleported forever a few steps out of Aldred's reach with an amused smirk on her face and a smug look in her eyes. To those who were watching, it was almost as if she were baiting him while she talked. "I’ll be sharing your secrets whether you like it or not. You're used to fighting, as seen by your movements, but that's nothing compared to me."

"Someone must have taught you how to fight. To kill humans, as your movements are more towards causing fatalities than injuries and I see no hesitation in you, whereas that boy," she glanced at Sillo with something like contempt in her eyes, "Would hesitate at killing me, another human. A mentor, perhaps? Although," She continued thoughtfully, seeing something dark flicker through Aldred's eyes at the mention of the word 'mentor', "He died. A few years ago, if I guess right - ah, but I always do. And it was your fault, or you wouldn't be feeling guilt, would you? Guilt and grief, but also," a smirk crossed her face as Aldred whirled and diced thorns into pieces, coy and knowing and utterly smug. "Anger. You hated him for dying, didn't you?"

No answer, although whether it was because Aldred was too busy battling her plant wards or because he refused to say anything was unclear. But despite his face remaining alarmingly neutral, the aura around Aldred started to darken. Danger and rage began leaking out of the normally harmless-looking boy like smog at her words, the now unsuppressed deadliness shocking anyone who had never seen him battle. It was a bit like suddenly realizing that a teddy bear was still a bear, with sharp claws and teeth and a hunger for meat.

The woman only laughed, loud and ringing and filled with vindictment and satisfaction as if the killing intent he was directing at her was the reaction she was looking for.

Undaunted, the woman continued bringing a hand up to caress her chin in a pose of thoughtfulness. "You hated him for dying, and yet you mourned his death. Contradictory, but that's what you are, aren't you? Always contradictory. You look harmless, but you’ve killed innocent people in cold blood - did you even feel any remorse for doing so? You’re cheerful and happy on the outside, but underneath that you're just a well hidden ball of anger and hatred, aren't you?" She laughed as if she found the whole thing amusing. "Anger and hatred and sadness and guilt all in one huge bundle, but you pretend you don't care. You think that if you act cheerful and friendly enough that it'll go away like water under the bridge, that it'll make up for what you've done. You're doing it right now, in fact - you’re trying to distract me from that other boy like the good friend you're trying to be, aren't you? But it won't. Even after all those years, after your par-”

“And you?”

“Excuse me?” Rose blinked, momentarily confused. For a moment, her eyes flickered to Sillo, but it wasn’t him who spoke - it was Aldred, destroying the last of her thorns with a flash of superheated metal as she laid eyes on him.

The speech she had been giving while they were fighting had been designed to break him and make him angry and continue to attack her, which she would have continued to use to prove just how utterly weak he was before killing him. Aldred was still emitting enough rage and killing intent to stop a lesser man in his tracks, and it was evident from the teen's aura and body posture that he wanted nothing more than to yell at her to shut up, shut up and diediedie, but the blonde boy was doing nothing but standing there, breathing hard from exertion.

This had not gone according to her calculations. Why had he stopped?!

“And you?” Aldred repeated himself tonelessly. His voice was carefully restrained and clear like a carefully banked bonfire, body still tense and angry but relaxed just enough to be on his toes. Pausing in his tracks, Aldred straightened up and pointed his sword at her in a movement that was more like a stab, eyes glaring directly into hers like burning coals.

Aldred really, really wanted to punch her in the face. But even though he had been holding himself back, she had been too, and he had a feeling that if they really went at it she would beat him. Also, it was what she wanted. Rose wanted him to fight at his best and then overpower him after she had broke his spirit and gloated over the pieces, and that. That was something Aldred would never allow.

She wanted him too angry to think, broken by her words. Fuck that. Two could play at that game!

“I could say the same about you. You like to act innocent even when you're strangling people in vines. You're behind the bombs and turned this place into a slaughterhouse for the people inside, but you’re obviously not regretting it.” Aldred grinned fiercely at her, baring his teeth as her eyebrow twitched in annoyance at his assertions. “And even though you act cool you actually aren’t - you lose your temper when something unexpected pops up. You don’t mind dealing with people with you’re own hands if you think it would cause damage, but you prefer using plants and spells instead so that you won’t get you’re own two hands dirty.” Aldred’s eyes sharpened, the purple-green irises hard and unyielding. “You’re not the only one who’s been observing people, you know.”

“Tch.” Rose clicked her tongue testily, making no confirmations or objections at his remarks. ”Making your own assumptions? Interesting. They could be wrong, you know.” Another row of thorns flew at Aldred as she spoke, almost as if she were irritated about what he was doing.

Aldred cleaved through the thorns with the sword he had been using in one slash. The sword gleamed red-hot as it moved swiftly through the air, and as the thorns split into two, they burst into flames just like every other shrubbery that had been in his way. They burnt into ash as Aldred stayed where he was, eyes locked in a gaze with Rose.

Screw you and you're words. You want to break me?! Never.

“Same for you.” He said, certainty in his tone. “You could be wrong about what you said about me too.” Although she had been on the dot for most of it. But Aldred had no desire to just admit it straight out. If she could make assumptions on him, he could make assumptions on her too, even if they were more than likely to be wrong. “You like to analyse people so that you can break them out of some twisted pleasure before killing them - you could've killed me easily but you didn’t. You wanted to break me first, like a bully who wants to see his victims cry. That’s what you are.” He glared triumphantly at her, grinning fiercely as he jabbed his sword in her direction. “You’re just a cowardly sadist who has to break people by talking because you're too weak to kill them otherwise and nothing more, bitch.”

You-!” For the first time since she’d appeared her face broke out into a scowl, her eyes widening in what looked like anger. Aldred’s body tensed, fingers tightening on the hilt of his sword, but then the barrier at the side crumbled to reveal Damien, and Rose scowled and muttered something unprintable under her breath before schooling her features. "I would love to talk more, but something important has come up. Playtime," Rose snapped her fingers, "is over."

Aldred barely had time to dodge as a wall of thorns erupted up from around him. He leaped high in the air as the walls enclosed themselves into a dome inches away from his foot. Landing on the ground on his hand, Aldred quickly did a backflip to avoid the rosebush dome that erupted where his hand had been milliseconds ago, quickly wrenching his hand back to his front to avoid the rapidly growing vines, his eyes sharpening as he quickly took in the situation. He landed lightly on his feet, but the second the tip of his foot made contact with the ground rose vines erupted out of the earth with frightening speed. He jumped away again, but his foot had barely left an inch off the ground before the vines shot up and wrapped themselves around his ankle, trapping his feet before he could get away again.

Aldred’s eyes widened as he looked down to see the roses enveloping its way up his body, the thorns tearing through his clothes as they tightened their grip onto him. They weren’t strong enough to penetrate through the skin thanks to the defenses he had set up, but that was small comfort when he was unable to move.

Shit. Uh -

He had just enough time to mutter a spell under his breath before the roses enveloped the teen’s body and obscured it from view. The vines tightened before expanding into a large dome. Red roses bloomed up frantically across the borders as if it were a rosebush trying to win first place in the flower equivalent of a beauty contest, large and blood-red and beautiful to behold, almost overshadowing its sharp thorns and the person it had swallowed.

Anyone looking would have only seconds to admire the crimson roses before noticing that smoke was coming out of the gaps between the vines. Anyone who noticed the smoke would only a few seconds more to run out of the blast radius before the whole rosebush went up in flames like a firebomb exploding and sending burning roses and twigs flying everywhere.

The fire blazed for only a few minutes, but it burned hard and fast like a flashbang. The vines angrily tried to grow back, but it was a losing battle. The flames burned fiercely as it pushed the vines back and down to its roots, leaving not even ash behind in its conquest to burn down flora until only candle-like twigs were left, stuck in the ground like burning incense. The smell of smoke joined and mingled with the smell of burnt roses in the air, billowing out from the center with a whoosh before settling around it, slowly fading away as the burning foliage lessened. The fog-like smoke faded into a whitish haze before dwindling away completely, leaving behind only white wisps to deal with.

In the middle of the smoke and at center of where the rose bush had been - as evidence by the charred black marks on the floor - someone abruptly sat up and coughed multiple times, waving his hand in front of his face to clear away the wisps. The smoke cleared away to reveal a blonde teen who was singed and covered with first degree burns everywhere his skin was exposed. Aldred's clothes were charred and torn, but his defenses had countered most of the damage from the sword he had superheated to explode into blazing shrapnel.

He was alive. Ha. Not dead yet - aaaagh it hurts to move...

With a groan, Aldred forced himself to stand up and move out of the circle of burning rose twigs. Walking sluggishly towards a pillar a few yards away, Aldred slumped tiredly against it and gasped for breath as he canceled the spell. The flames glowed purple before fading into nothingness like a fire without oxygen. Aldred closed his eyes as the rosebush began to grow back unnaturally fast now that nothing was holding it back, relishing the feeling of cold stone against his back.

After that experience, anything even remotely cold was good.

“Never doing that again,” he wheezed tiredly once he got his breath back. That spell took way too much mana and I still nearly got burned to a crisp, Aldred thought exhaustedly, opening his eyes to see Zane and Rose talking (ha). The burns on his body tingled as his already large healing factor got boosted even more via mana, causing new, unblemished pink skin to form underneath the soot covering his body - it wasn’t a matter of whether he could afford the mana (he could, although at the rate he was going he’d have to be careful not to run on empty), Aldred didn’t want the burns to be infected. He could deal better with no mana than infected wounds. “Never, ever again - owww…”

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

Aldred watched the proceedings as Damion and Minori appeared, quietly gathering his strength as he stored what he’d heard at the back of his mind for later. He forced himself to his feet as Minori got thrown towards them, giving her a faint smile and pushing the tiredness away from his mind. Now wasn’t the time to be tired - he could rest for real once it was all over.

Zane and Damion were planning something. For now, they had to distract the enemy from the two kids the best they could.

He grinned as Minori called Rose a cunt, a brief baring of teeth as his eyes sharpened with vindictiment. “Yup,” he agreed hoarsely, forcing himself to stand steady instead of sway from side to side. Now that she wasn’t holding back, Aldred could vaguely feel Rose’s mana buzzing around his mind and weighing him down, as if he were covered in heavy cloth. He’d been right - they had been messing with each other, but she had more mana than he ever did. Doing his best to ignore it, the battered blonde raised his fists forward in front of him like a boxer, lowering his center of gravity in a low stance.

A distraction, and she angered easily, as seen by his insulting her and Zane's deductions. And Minori had given him an idea, haha. This should work. Probably.

“She’s a bitch with a cunt as large as her ego. Must’ve been because she was whoring herself out,” He taunted, shooting a jeering grin Rose’s way. Discreetly, he took a few steps away from the others and forward, moving himself to the front of the loosely formed trio. Rose’s eyes flashed as her mouth dropped at the insult, and Aldred continued to inch his way away from them as he carried on in his mocking. “Then again, she’s probably the one who has to pay for their services, seeing as she looks like an old ha-”

Jackpot.

Aldred dodged out of the way as a rose vine as thick as his waist slammed into the ground with enough force to crack cement. He dashed towards her and threw a few summoned knives her way with a snarl on his face that rivaled the look of hatred on hers, but after a few minutes of furious battle she had him by the leg and tossed him against the wall closest to Damien and Zane with a thundering crack.

Even with his reinforced body, having an angry woman out for vengeance deliberately breaking the bones in your body before using it to destroy a few pillars at high speed and then slamming into the wall with enough force to leave a cracked indentation would have been enough to take anybody down. Maybe mocking Rose hadn't been such a good idea, but it was the only sure way he could think of to goad her away from the others.

Aldred had just enough time to think, hazily, At least I didn't let her gain satisfaction by hearing me scream. before the pain hit him.

White sparks crossing his vision and in too much hurt to even scream, Aldred silently slid down off the wall and landed onto the ground with a thud face first, having just enough sense to turn his face to the side to avoid a broken nose. Another wave of pain rolled down his body at the landing, and the teen gritted his teeth to hold back whimpers. The last thing he wanted to do was give her what she wanted - his verbalization of his pain.

Broken back, broken leg, cracked ribs and clavicle… Detachedly, Aldred hoped like hell that the others had a plan to stall her because after he used his remaining magic - carefully kept unused from the fight with Rose for after his defeat - to heal himself, he’d be running on empty. Although he could fight just fine without magic thanks to his Unique Trait, he would be at a great disadvantage against the other magic users.

His part in the distraction plan was over. The rest was up to them.

For now, though, he just closed his eyes shut and gritted his teeth through the pain of his broken bones reknitting themselves together.

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

By the time he was finished, the battle was already over. Rose had banished, Zane had saved the day, all that jazz. Propping himself up and ignoring the cracked indentation he had made in the wall, Aldred walked over to Zane, who had just woken up after passing out.

Despite determination helping to magnify his healing spell, he hadn’t had enough mana left to heal a broken wrist, although the rest of him were as good as new saved for being covered in soot, shredded clothes and the deep well of ache and tiredness inside him that tried to pull him to sleep whenever he stopped moving. No time for that, though, he had to see it through to the end.

"It seems I passed out for a few minutes. How did you do against Rose? You guys are all still alive right? I used up all my mana, so I can't really tell at the moment. I think I did something stupid though and exceeded my limits. Using those two spells together....it’s too much for me to handle, even with two mana pools to pull from".

‘We’re alive,” Aldred confirmed dryly, not quite able to keep the weariness, ache and relief out of his voice. Then he corrected himself. “Well, I’m alive, haven't checked on the others yet. And don't worry. You saved the day, congratulations.” He reached out to ruffle Zane lightly on the head with his good hand before the kid passed out again, quietly assessing his condition.

A slight frown crossed his face as he realized just how badly off Zane was. "You should be more careful next time, though," Aldred muttered to him (useless words, as the kid was unconscious), before turning to check on the others. “Thanks for the save, Damion. Let’s get out of here before anything else happens. Uh... “ he blinked and looked around, unsure. “Which exit should we take? Everyone ok?”

As he spoke, Aldred crouched down gingerly, ignoring the creaking pain coursing through his bones from the movement before deepening back into the continuous ache from all his recently recovered wounds. Carefully, he pulled Zane’s arms over his shoulders and stood up again, wincing from the expected pain. Just because he was healed didn’t mean that the aches and pain wouldn’t remain, after all. Using his good hand to act as a seat to hold the unconscious boy steady against his back, he took a careful step towards the others, keeping the bone-deep aches he was feeling off his face in favor of a faint, neutral smile.

There were still many questions left unanswered, yes, but they weren’t important right now. What was important was getting to rest and recovery. Then they could regroup and try to figure out what the hell was going on.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sillo Deskern Character Portrait: Damion Gray Character Portrait: Zane Bell Character Portrait: Minori Fukutawa Character Portrait: Aldred Kynn
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"What kind of villain would I be if I mono-"

The kind you're being right now.

Sillo didn't need to verbalize that thought as Aldred stepped forward, breaking the tension between him and Rose with his own sword. Before he knew it, the fight was on between the enhanced Purple Mana User and the threat to their lives. Sillo watched as the thorns, physical and psychological, flew in all kinds of directions excepts the ones Rose meant for them to travel: into Aldred's skin. He was impressed by Aldred's resolve to hold back his rage against the woman. However, he'd give him the credit that the blondie had more than enough practice holding back his true self.

Still, Sillo couldn't help but figure this would cut his friend....deeply.

When the fire diminished, Aldred remained among the ashes, alive but in a lot of pain. It was clear his battle was finished. Sillo watched with calculative eyes as his friend slumped against a pillar, catching more than his breath. The focus point of battle had moved to Rose and Zane while Damion and Minori stumbled onto the scene. Sillo went over and sat next to Aldred, not necessarily being able to help him with healing as he didn't possess those abilities, but giving him his company was a close second. Meanwhile, he gathered his own strength for the upcoming battle he would inevitably have against the Wicked Bitch of the West.

Gah, it's almost like a Rite of Passage at this point.

Minori called Rose a cunt and even Sillo had to widen his eyes at the word. He knew Minori's analytical side could make her a bit harsh, but he'd never seen her pushed to this level of anger to which she used such vulgar language before. And then he heard the voice of Aldred next to him, egging Rose on.

Dude, don't...

He knew what Aldred was doing and understood that it was a decent distraction. It didn't make him cringe any less when she practically body slammed Aldred into a wall, leaving him broken and battered. Breathing a bit heavier out of hatred for her, he didn't act out upon the sudden urge to bitch slap the woman in her pretty perfect face. Instead, he patiently sat to the side and waited his turn, letting this internal emotion build up and fueling him into the future battle.

Zane took control of the fight...in a major way. If Sillo had been impressed by the was Aldred fought Rose, it was dwarfed by Zane's use of his abilities. He realized that he'd pooled his mana with Damion's in the most creative of ways as he prepared two spells he was sure only other Gatewatchers knew about...until now, that is. The Infinity Spells weren't to be trifled with...they did some serious collateral to the caster if they weren't careful. The result of that showed when Zane collapsed to the floor immediately after firing the Infinity Cannon. Sillo's concern for the redhead turned immediately to disbelief when the smoke cleared, showing Rose's body slightly disheveled and scratched, but mostly unharmed by two of the strongest spells the Gatewatchers knew. It was almost disheartening...almost.

A slow clap broke the silence. Rose turned after her attack on Minori to see Sillo standing in the open, an unmistakable grin on his face. He stopped clapping when he had her attention, holding his hands out and shrugging with apparent disinterest. Rose, despite everything, kept her guard up. Now what was this one up to?

"Good job with that Infinity Cannon, by the way," Sillo's eyes gleamed as he continued, "Very few have been able to even cast the spell as far as I've gathered. Supposedly one of the most powerful. And you came out of it with nothing but a few scratches. That alone deserves our respect towards your marvelous power." He knew he was stroking her ego, which would confuse her even further than she was already.

He shut one eye and concentrated on conjuring...a boom box. More curious glances would be shot his way as Sillo picked it up and set it on one of the pedestals, brushing off an urn and letting it smash on the floor. "Hold on...just prepping some fight music," he held out a finger as a gesture of patience before hitting the "Play" button.

TheFatRat - Do Be Do Be Do

The music started filling the air as Sillo stepped forward, holding the bow staff with his life and preparing for the ass whoopin' to come. He knew he probably wouldn't fare much better than Aldred, Minori, or Zane had. But it was worth a shot, right?

Man or mouse, Sillo?

Squeak.

"Cute," Rose rolled her eyes at the boy's addition of music to the fight, "But it doesn't matter. I'll dance to whatever tune you wish. It won't make watching the life leave your eyes any less satisfying." She brought her curved blade up in front of her face, smirking with cruel satisfaction. "Now, let's dance."

She twitched her empty hand, a vine laced with poisoned thorns ripping out of the ground and shooting towards Sillo. He brought the bow staff up, catching the vine before it got any closer and slammed it into the ground, halting it's momentum. Sillo had just enough time to look up to see another vine coming towards him. He balanced the staff on one end and lifted himself in a one-handed hand stand on top of the other end. The vine whipped below him in the space he'd previously occupied...then looped around. Sillo jumped off the staff as the vine caught it in the middle, pulling it to Rose. Sillo landed on his feet as Rose laughed, catching Sillo's preferred weapon.

"See? Only two meager vines and I've left you defenseless," she tossed the bow staff aside like it was a stick. Sillo watched his weapon clatter on the ground, then suddenly get enveloped by vines and pulled into the ground. He wouldn't be getting that one back. Rose lifted one hand, letting a tangle of vines erupt from the floor behind her. She still held that smirk.

"You're going to need something a bit more useful than a stick to deal with me," she shot her hand forward, the vines launching at Sillo like a pet under Rose's command. The vines swirled around each other like a wave as they approached rapidly. Sillo quickly phased out to his spectator dimension, letting the vines cascade downward on the space he currently occupied and at the same time didn't. He may as well no longer be there.

This time, however, Sillo didn't have time to catch a quick breath before phasing back in. The next thing he knew, he was being lifted by his shirt. Rose was standing in front of him, clearly in the same dimension as he was. She could get here too?

Ah, now that was plain rude.

"Hiding again, are we?" she tsked at him before literally throwing him out of the spectator dimension and back into reality. Sillo hit the ground hard which, coupled with his previous injuries, didn't feel great. He shot up like a rocket and turned around to see Rose standing there, still holding that blade. She hadn't even used it yet.

"I'm not surprised," Rose went on, "Hiding is your specialty, isn't it? When the going get's tough, you just pack it up and run, don't you?" Sillo held up a finger to interject, but Rose stopped him, "And don't say you're just dodging. Dodging and running are the same thing. You don't stop the attack. You just avoid it. Like you avoid all your problems." she brought her hand she held behind her forward in a circle. Vine walls shot up around Sillo, making escape by normal means impossible.

"You don't even know what's going on around you, do you?" he could still hear her voice loud and clear as it rang from behind the walls. "You shield yourself from your problems and act like they don't exist. Well, they do. They're right in front of you!" Suddenly, the walls started to close in on Sillo. "Your problems are always there, staring you right in the face. And they'll squeeze the life out of people like you. You can't dodge them. And like such, I'll let these walls take care of you."

Sillo tried to teleport once more, but no such luck. He tried phasing back into the spectator dimension with no avail. The walls got closer still. He couldn't dodge these vines. His breath picked up. Sillo found himself looking in all directions, looking for a way out. There wasn't one. The walls continued to make his cramped space even smaller with no mercy. In a few seconds, he'd become nothing more than a thorn filled cube.

He couldn't dodge this one. He'd have to face it head on.

So Sillo closed his eyes, exhaled, and thought of the only thing he could think of at the current moment in time: ninjas.

Well, not just a random ninja. More specifically, the ninja exhibit in the museum, one of his favorite places in the building. The part of the exhibit he liked to look at the most, despite the epic history and the cool apparel, were the weapons. He enjoyed the design of the shurikens, the functionality of the ninja-to sword, the adaptability of the nunchakus, and the cleverness of the black egg. However, one weapon stood out to him in particular...the one that would get him out of this situation.

He imagined a weapon similar to that of a bow staff with a single exception...the five inch blade attached to one end. Feeling the weight of the weapon in his hand and getting used to the distribution of said weight in his head, he inhaled sharply and spun a full three hundred and sixty degrees, letting the blade at the end of the weapon do the work as it sliced through the vines. They fell around him, halting their progression a few inches from Sillo's current position.

Sillo stood in front of Rose with a Naginata, a look of pure resentment in his eye. Rose's own eyes lit up as she saw she'd hit a nerve with the boy.

"Oooooo, I'm impressed," Rose said sardonically, "You can make something other than a stick. Well, granted that's still somewhat of a stick. But it's an improvement." She twirled her own blade, holding it a foot in front of her, wagging it back and forth as if baiting him. "Now, do you want me to play fetch, or can you actually not lose your grip on this one?"

Sillo narrowed his eyes and launched himself forward with air propulsion. He held the bladed end of the Naginata behind him and swung forward, using his own momentum as well as a little help from air magic put a lot of force and power behind the blade as it was brought forward. Rose brought her blade up to meet it, the clash resonating through the room. She didn't budge an inch. In fact, she didn't change her look, that same gleam of contempt still left in her eye as she blocked the blow with ease. Sillo flipped over her, his momentum carrying him over her as he landed on the other side, whipping the blade of the Naginata around and aiming for her hip. She didn't even turn to face him, reaching around with her blade to meet his once more and shove it aside before circling her blade around and thrusting it behind her in one fluid motion. Sillo caught it with the other end of the Naginata, shoving her blade aside, but taking more noticeable effort to do so.

And suddenly Sillo teleported. Rose had lifted the Anti-Teleportation barrier. Sillo was too pumped with rage and adrenaline to care as to why this was. If he had taken a moment to think it through, he would have realized it was Rose allowing Sillo to perform at his best so he could break his spirit. But Sillo was in a state of mind he'd never been before...a state of mind Rose brought him into. Thus, he wasn't thinking the way he usually did. But this was a disadvantage for Rose as well. It meant she could no longer predict what Sillo would be doing as he was no longer himself. But this was minor to her.

Sillo's teleportation left him at Rose's five o' clock, jabbing the blade towards her midsection. Her sword's arc was brought to meet the blade, easily casting it aside. Sillo teleported to her eight o' clock, whipping his own blade once more to strike at her. And again, she blocked. Over and over, Sillo teleported to a new position to strike. Over and over, her defense met his offensive strikes like an NBA star blocking a four foot middle school kid's shots. It was apparent that this wasn't working, but Sillo was persistent.

Then, as Sillo swung at her again, she teleported away, letting his own momentum carry him through the swing and causing him to stumble forward and fall. He rolled forward and sprang upright. Rose was laughing, leaning against the hilt of her blade at the corner of the room. She wasn't winded...she hadn't even broken a sweat throughout Sillo's onslaught.

"I give you full reign over your powers and you still can't do anything!" she taunted as Sillo charged at her, swinging his blade in a desire to demolish her. She teleported again, this time behind Sillo, who was panting hard. "Even Aldred gave me something worth fighting against. You are nothing." The word cut through him like a knife, halting his motion forward to strike at her once more. Something snapped in his brain...something that ended his aggressive state of mind. He was back to his former self. He wiped his sweaty forehead with his shirt and replaced his furrowed brow of concentration with that familiar grin of his.

Nearly let myself slip there...

"Whatever," he shrugged as he leaned against his own weapon, more out of exhaustion than out of actual contempt, "You can think that all you want. I matter to people. You can't take that away from me."

Rose's expression turned to one of amusement as her brow shot up, "Really? Is that why your parents are never around? Why you practically had to raise yourself growing up. You may have lived a somewhat normal life compared to your friends, but you might as well be an orphan like your little redheaded friend over there." she motioned towards the passed out form on the ground. This made Sillo laugh back at her.

"You think that's how you hit my buttons? Talk about my parents?" Sillo was laughing so hard he was holding his stomach, "Bitch, don't even start. My parents save lives every day. And they don't even need the fancy powers to do that like I do. I'm proud of them and I know they're proud of me, even when they can't show it. Meanwhile, I haven't even heard of your family. I bet you were such a disappointment to them...like, kicked out of the family tree kind of disappointment. I come from the Deskern family. You don't even have a last name, you worthless cunt." he spat the last word out at her like a jab to her gut. It may as well have bled like an ordinary wound.

And just like that, her relaxed nature turned into a raging inferno. Sillo could even see the flames in her eyes as she roared, "DIE!" She launched forward, blade first, aiming for Sillo's neck. It was clear she wanted to see the room painted with his blood at the moment.

But Sillo wasn't having that. He teleported out of the way before the knife entered his vicinity. He had just enough time to bring the bladed end of the Naginata in front of him before Rose teleported in front of him, the same fluid motion driving her stab forward. He met the blade barely and teleported once more. To a spectator, the next few seconds would look like a fight was taking place across the room, the two combatants appearing and disappearing in front of each other, blades typically clashing at any glimpse they could get of the two. Blade met blade, parries and counters galore. The air might as well have been laced with sharp knives as the glint of silver steel practically made the makeshift arena sparkle.

And then it got complicated. Not to mention the free reign of teleportation Sillo was taking advantage of, he noticed at this rate that Rose was eventually going to land a hit if he kept with this strategy. So, as Rose teleported where Sillo planned to teleport, sword at the ready, he was prepared. When he teleported right into her ambush, he phased into the Spectator Dimension, the flurry of knives striking nothing but air. Growling in frustration, Rose entered the Spectator Dimension ready to slice up some Sillo Sushi. But the slippery fish was already back into reality, teleporting away from the spot he currently was in. The fight continued in such fashion, the multiplicative teleportation between Sillo and Rose as they sword battled now coupled with the Dimensional phasing left a confusingly awesome sight for spectators to behold.

And then the fighting slowed down. Sillo had quite a mana stamina that practically trumped the other Gatewatchers, but he couldn't go on forever. He appeared in the middle of the room, Naginata poised in front of him. Rose smiled wickedly as he appeared in front of him, knocking the Naginata to the side of his body and holding her own curved blade at his throat.

"I'm going to enjoy this," she snarled through clenched teeth, yet the grin remained plastered n Sillo's face.

"Y'know there are two sides to every coin?" Sillo stated in a matter-of-fact tone as he brough the blunt end of the Naginata in front of the curved blade, stopping the forward momentum that would've buried the sharp end into his larynx and ended his life. Grunting with all the effort he had left, he shoved Rose backwards, causing her to stumble and fall onto her feet, while he rapped her knuckles with the blunt end of the Naginata, causing her to let go of her blade. The result was Rose on her elbows staring at Sillo who held the bladed end against her throat. Despite this, she held that vindictive smile.

"Go ahead," she sneered, "End my life. Do it." But she knew he wouldn't. In fact, she'd planned for this. She'd let him get the upper hand so suddenly to give him this ultimatum, knowing what Sillo would choose. He wouldn't dare take the life of another, even of that other was the ultimate evil.

Sure enough, Sillo backed away from her, letting the Naginata fall to the ground beside him. He crossed his arms as he stood over her.

"No. I won't stoop to your level. Not that it's proven itself, given you haven't been able to successfully kill any of us so far." He stood and watched as Rose got up from her prone stance, brushing herself off.

"Allow me to fix that," she said before shooting her hand forward. Her curved blade flung forward at blinding speed, aiming for Sillo's neck. He responded by conjuring a wall of metal in front of him. Still, the blade cut into and through the wall, the blade's momentum finally stopped as it penetrated through the other side, inches away from Sillo's head. But she wasn't done yet.

Rose decided that his own conjuring would be his downfall as she unleashed a massive wave of vines to strike the wall. Luckily for Sillo, he'd ducked just in time for the vine wave to hit the metal wall, causing him to avoid the lethal blade still protruding through the metal. Unfortunately, he couldn't dodge his own makeshift defense measure as the vine wave sent him flying back into the exhibit wall, crushed between the metal wall and the other wall. He gasped as the air left his body and then some. Immeasurable pain filled his rib cage as well as some blood as it was crushed, likely shattered. The metal wall toppled over, taking the immobile Sillo with it. He didn't have any air to even make a sound of agony as he squeezed his eyes shut, wishing for the pain to stop. Finally, he managed to breathe...very slowly and very faintly. From Rose's perspective, he was as good as dead.

"You see?" Rose's expression was smug as he looked over Sillo one last time before turning her attention to the others, "You will be your own demise. You couldn't kill me, even when you had the chance. You failed everyone here. And now, you will die...but only after I've killed them first just so you can see the consequences for your actions." He then turned her attention to the one's left standing.

Sillo couldn't respond. He was in too much pain to. Not when Zane's own wit sent Rose away, unable to complete her job. Not when Zane gave a call out, seeing if everyone was alright. Not even when Aldred asked where they should go next. He wasn't alright. He would likely die within a few hours if they weren't able to get him to someone who could fix him. The fight had practically destroyed him. And so he remained motionless on the metal wall that ultimately led him to his current situation.

Could be worse...I could be actually dead right now...

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sillo Deskern Character Portrait: Damion Gray Character Portrait: Zane Bell Character Portrait: Minori Fukutawa Character Portrait: Aldred Kynn
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Aldred had sprung into action before Minori could really react, not that she was itching to rush the ungodly power that stood before her. She stood by and watched the short bout between Aldred and the woman, apparently named Rose, and winced as she used his body to remodel half the exhibit. Even with him being able to withstand more punishment than most, she could practically hear his bones breaking from the impacts, but Minori was nothing if not objective. Aldred made his choice to rush her, but she couldn't help but to look back at the others. Zane and Damion were still building up for something big, and if Damion were entertaining the idea she believed it to have merit.

Rose watched with sick satisfaction as the pillars crumbled and Aldred flopped onto the tiled floor in a bloody heap, but Minori could sense the healing magic. Her Unique trait was starting to compensate for the concealment spell surrounding them, but it wasn't nearly as strong as it should be and was still nearly in pain from Rose's mere presence.

"All that... power and you... squander it on, what? Displays of... power against... children?" Minori asked calmly, catching Rose's attention before she could advance any closer to Aldred. Her throat still ached from the woman's grip, her voice regaining strength but not enough to talk properly yet.

"Do not speak of that which you are ignorant," Rose replied, more disheveled now than when Minori had called her a cunt. It amused her that the simple insult had gotten under her skin so badly.

Though it would hurt her immensely, Minori still smilled as she took a deep breath.

"Ignorant? I'll have you know... I know a cunt when... I see one!" Minori shouted, rushing to the left so that the backlash would not be forced upon Sillo. He had, very wisely, opted to hang back in this fight. Her mind flashed back to Aldred as she cemented her resolution to end this before any more of the kids got hurt. She had a theory as to how, but she was not a fan of it. Not one bit.

Rose sent a vine her way, a giant and spiked thing lashing at the ground where she had just moments before had been standing.

"Has fear forced you to latch onto the one word? By all means, keep repeating it... It'll serve as fond memories when I rip your tongue from your skull," Rose called, her voice both mocking and furious.

Minori pivoted her weight mid step, ducking underneath a vine meant for her head as she changed direction, running now for Rose. Her Mana was churning within her body for the spell she was about to cast, the ace up her sleeve she kept for when things got really bad. It was why she hadn't healed, why she hadn't fought before now, and why she had refrained from any spells. She had no doubts that the woman could probably copy her spell if she wished, but that was the thing... it would take time.

"Is running all you are good for now? You're worse than the boy!" Rose taunted, but she seemed frustrated at her inaccuracy. Minori was only going to get ten seconds, so she had to be close, but she was already wasting too much energy running in the first place, but if she didn't Rose might lash out at the others.

Minori did not respond to the taunt, but did reach behind her, drawing out the knife she had taken from the Japanese exhibit. Feeling its heft in her hand made her wonder just how many ninja had died doing a similar maneuver? Maybe she would meet them in the afterlife if her plan failed.

Minori ducked out of the way of another vine, but stopped as her eyes widened in realization, smirking at Rose.

"I know I'm not faster or more agile than Aldred," Minori said calmly, the strength in her voice surprising her a little.

Rose smirked as well, crossing her arms as the giant vines coiled back around her.

"Impressive. None of the others have caught my traps... not that observance will do you much good, nor will the knife," Rose said, grinning as the vines suddenly lashed out at full speed, grabbing Minori by the ankle before she could even move and flicked her effortlessly into the air. Minori's mana continued building, begging for a release now. She was primed to go as soon as she had an opening.

The fall itself would have hurt, but a vine whipped her across the back from beneath her, bouncing her back up into the air, this process repeating a few times before Minori was allowed to hit the ground with a sickening and wet splat. The thorns had ripped her skin to shreds, and she felt a sharp pain in her sides, her broken ribs having sliced the meat around them. She instinctively curled into a ball on the hard tiled floor, , coughing up blood to confirm her internal bleeding.

'Perhaps eight seconds will be enough...' Minori thought, her body screaming in protest as she tried to move. Rose hovered just a few feet away from her broken body, an amused look on her face as she watched Minori struggle to get to her knees, muttering under her breath.

"Not even a spell to be cast... what were you planning, you little cu-" Rose started, but Minori cut her off as the healing spell finished its job.

"If space and time are absolute, then the speed of light must be relative, depending upon the speed of the observer. The speed of light is absolute and does not depend upon the speed of the observer, therefore, either space or time must be relative," Minori said, having started the incantation when she was still on her knees. She shot up, knife in hand, as time came to a crawl. Rose's face contorted into surprise, but having to heal herself had cost Minori precious seconds. Rose's frozen form didn't seem to mind when Minori wrapped an arm around her shoulder to support herself.

Her body was broken, unable to lift her arm up level with her shoulder, much less cut into the woman's throat as she had planned, but the human body was an efficient feat of biological engineering, and as such, most of its parts were vital. With all of her strength, Minori stabbed deeply into Rose's side, the woman's body beginning to speed up as she too tried to stop time, but it didn't matter now. For all her mana, she was subject to the laws of the universe just as Minori was. Six seconds had passed before Rose's consciousness caught up with her body in its frozen moment, Minori having stabbed the woman four times by then.

"Your victory will be Pyrrhic, you bitch!" Minori shouted, stabbing once more as time sped back up. The knife dug deep, the woman's clothes stained red and wet with her own blood as Minori let go of the handle and fell to the ground. The exertion had opened the wounds she had healed again, Minori's own blood mixing with the woman's as she lay on the tile.

The pain had, as Minori had feared, not knocked Rose out of her time spell, and she didn't seem bound to the same time limit as Minori. In what felt like an instant, Minori's arm was broken, her back covered in bruises, and her knife now buried into her shoulder. The pain came all at once, and as Minori was about to have a hole stomped through her neck, Rose became distracted by the duo of Zane and Damion.

Minori smiled, making a mental note of the three mana colors she sensed where the two people stood, but she was in no condition to ponder about it right now. She shifted her body, forcing herself to stay awake from the pain, as well as to give her something to focus on so she didn't go into shock. What precious little mana she had left went to healing, but she would need to rest before she could get back to her feet. Rose's sadism had kept her from hitting truly vital areas, so Minori focused on stopping her bleeding. The arm and shoulder wound could come last, and she wouldn't like it but she could live with broken ribs for a little bit. Then, she would leave it to Zane and Damion, and trust that they could stop Rose.

The last thing Minori heard before passing out was Zane using the Infinity Gate spell, and hoping that Rose was having as much fun as she was right now.

-=-

Minori didn't wake up again until she heard Aldred's voice calling out, a sigh of relief at his survival causing Minori to cough. She felt immense pain everywhere, but she didn't feel Rose any longer, which was what she chose to focus on. She also felt mana back in her system, the sleep having replenished some of it. She muttered an incantation and focused, reaching slowly to her shoulder to grab the knife, tears streaming down her face as she slid the blade back out. As soon as it was free, she placed the handle in her mouth, and grabbed as big of handfuls of her lab coat as she could manage to keep her from hurting herself.

Another healing spell, this time aimed at her ribs and arm, sent shockwaves of pain through her body as the bones snapped back into place, Minori's screams muffled by the knife handle in her mouth. The moment took an eternity to pass and Minori felt every iota of the process, but when she finally spit the knife back out, she could breathe without pain, and maybe even stand if she took a notion to.

She heard the others call out their survival, though her own mental checklist proved they were one short.

"Sillo?" She whispered, throat still sore from the battle. She focused her Mana Sense and still felt everyone's mana present, though Sillo's was much weaker than everyone else. Groaning, and still covered in cuts and bruises, Minori struggled back to her feet and looked around, her sense pointing her towards the limp form atop the metal wall at the far side of the exhibit.

"Sillo!" Minori cried, ignoring the pain as she ran towards the still form of the boy. She panicked as she studied the situation, frantically looking from Sillo to his injuries, unsure of how to safely treat either. She did reach out and put a hand on his head, gently caressing his hair, and reached down to take his hand in hers. They both knew this would hurt like hell.

Her free hand gently hovered over his chest, and she muttered an incantation to get her mana flowing, demanding that it heal her friend. All she could manage with her weakened state was to repair his rib-cage, allowing him to breathe without as much difficulty, but she had only just gotten on her feet as well.

She removed the hand on Sillo's chest and put the fingers to the comm somehow still lodged into her ear.

"All units posted outside the museum, primary threat has been eliminated as well as the gate. Medical assistance required, Sillo Deskern is the priority. Copy?" Minori said, some of the panic leaving her body when the teams outside responded.

"Unaware if primary threat was only threat, be advised. Do NOT send in medical unescorted, copy?"

Another affirmative response, and Minori smiled as she collapsed beside of Sillo.

"Before you ask, no, I can't write you a doctor's note for school..." Minori said faintly, exhausted from the battle and using up what mana she'd gotten from her sleep to heal herself and stabilize Sillo. He very well might have the strength to heal himself by this point, it being a spell nearly every gatewatcher knew for situations just like this, but some were better at it than others.

She squeezed her grip on his hand gently to let him know that had been a joke.

"Anyone with the capacity, heal the wounded. A unit is on the way in, but I'd like for everyone to be alive when they get here," Minori called to the others, but her body refused to budge anymore. She was a scientist, goddammit, not some sort of spartan warrior.

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Character Portrait: Sillo Deskern Character Portrait: Damion Gray Character Portrait: Zane Bell Character Portrait: Minori Fukutawa Character Portrait: Aldred Kynn
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Damion was not entirely sure what just happened. From what he could tell, Zane just totally kicked ass....but even then, with all the boosts, Zane was incapable of giving Rose more then a few scratches. At least, that was what he thought at first. When he realized what Zane did, Damion had to admit it was impressive. But still, it required him to tap into two mana sources, and he only barely succeeded. When Rose finished re-applying her concealment spell, she was going to slaughter them all.

She was going to kill everyone.

Damion got up, and noticed that Zane was wearing glasses. This puzzled him for awhile, as he wondered where he got them, but more importantly, why they were laced with Mana that had a different effect on natural mana then Zane's. It almost seemed like it was....in tune.

But what Damion could not believe even more was that Zane knew two Infinity Spells. Infinity Gate, and Infinity Cannon. As he walked up to the others while Zane was passed out, he couldn't help but wonder out loud. "Exactly, who are you Zane?"

Damion could not have participated in the battle. He was too injured, and Zane needed all his mana to do something crazy. Still, there was no way they could stand up to Rose a second time and live.

"So, guys, anyone have any ideas on how to get stronger before Rose returns and kills us all? Anyone? Cause, you know in a day or two, she will be done, come back, and slaughter us all one by one right? Personally, I would rather not be slaughtered" Damion mentioned. "I assume you all feel the same way".

Damion then walked by Minori, and silently asked her something. "You felt it too right? The strange mana energy during the fight? I only felt its impact, so I was wondering....if you knew what it was?"

As he looked around at the results of their battle, he couldn't help but wonder how any boost they got would be enough. Certainly, no matter what boost they acquired, it would not be enough to deal with Rose. They would still need to work together to take her down.

But the question still stands: How are they going to find something to boost their mana power enough to even get close to Rose's level of power.

(So yeah, since Damion couldn't take part in the fight, now as much coming from him. But, hope this was sufficient!)

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Character Portrait: Sillo Deskern Character Portrait: Damion Gray Character Portrait: Zane Bell Character Portrait: Minori Fukutawa Character Portrait: Aldred Kynn
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Zane smiled a little as the others were shown to be all okay. As Aldred walked over to him, he smiled at them all. "Well, I am glad to see you are all okay..." After that however, Zane passed out.

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

Zane woke up in a strange place. He was on a rooftop, and across the whole city, fires were burning. People were screaming. There were Gateways everywhere. And below him was a book. It was titled "A Complete List of Known Spells any Mana User can learn". It looked a little beaten up, but Zane felt like it looked familiar. He skimmed through the book, seeing all sorts of sections. Summoning Spells, Celestial Spells, Fire Spells, Infinity Spells. The Infinity Spells were powerful, but technically any Gatewatcher could learn them. It just took time. Funny enough, like a dream, Zane could not remember where he learned the Infinity Spells.

Then it hit him. A dream. This whole place was a dream. He had just passed out at the museum. As he looked down at the book, he noticed something. The dedication page. "Written by every man and woman who founded the Gatewatchers, to give their children a better future". Zane then watched as his father's glasses fell onto that page. As he picked them up, a voice echoed out behind him. Although he had no memories of it, he knew immediately it was his father's voice. He turned around in excitement, but the man was shrouded in shadows. It was his father, but Zane could not make out his face. "Why are you hiding your face from me, papa?"

"Papa, your first word when you were a baby. Its a shame I could never truly be there for you due to what happened" he told Zane. While his face was shrouded, his voice was clear as day. Zane supposed he should be grateful. "If your wondering how this is possible, its because things have escalated to a dangerous point".

"You are the one who taught me the Infinity Spells, didn't you? I never questioned how I knew them until today" Zane mentioned. "But tell me, how are you contacting me?"

"I am also an Oracle. I left this message ready for you when the time is right. But know I always watch over you. I am proud of how you handled Rose, but there is much you don't know about her yet..."

"I know she is the one responsible for killing you" Zane told him.

"What you don't know is that she was my assistant" he interrupted Zane. "And we both know none of you can handle Rose as is. But listen, I don't have much more time. I can only keep this up for so long. There are several ways you can amplify your magical power before Rose returns. Or before her brother comes after you all. You could seek out power inside a Gateway, but I am afraid that will take too long, so don't do that. What you can do though, is find and complete magical artifacts, or create powerful totems of your own by going through a personal trial and dealing with your past if its applicable. Another way is to learn or unlock forbidden magics, such as the one you learned on accident you chose not to use against Rose. But back on topic. For example, the Scepter you completely forgot to use against Rose..."

Zane blushed at his mistake. He had totally forgotten that it boosted his mana earlier. Had he used it, his body would be in a far better shape. "I guess I got a little carried away..."

"....yeah, well it is only partly complete. In each indent at the end is supposed to be a Red Jewel. Get the Jewels, and it should amplify your power enough that if the others also amplify their power, you should be able to defeat Rose. Now I am sorry, but I am out of time. So be careful. They have someone inside the Gatewatchers...."

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

While Zane was unconscious, his glasses started to fall to the ground. As they did, a voice echoed out of seemingly nowhere. "Infinity Restoration!"

Suddenly, a white orb appeared in the center of the room, and all that were bathed in its light found their wounds healing, and their mana being restored. Once the spell had been cast, the orb disappeared. But there was no doubt. Whoever cast it...was a White Mana User. As the mana faded, Zane woke up. Unfortunately for Zane, everything from his vision was foggy like a dream. He could only remember parts.

"Guys, I think I know how we can power up before Rose returns and kills us all" Zane mentioned as he hopped to his feet. "When I picked up this Scepter...which I may have forgotten about during my fight with Rose and didn't pull out...my mana power increased. Now, its not complete, but I can find the rest easily. But, if we all find or create totems of our own to help channel our mana, much like how Rose had all those Rose symbols, I think if we work together with all of our powers boosted we stand a chance".

Then he noticed his father's glasses were on the floor. He quickly picked them up, and put them away. "Wonder why my dad's glasses were on the floor...I should take better care of them, even if I warded them to some ungodly level". (Fun fact: Between the Mana stored inside from Zane's father, and Zane's own protection spells, those glasses could actually deflect a direct attack from Newton and neither the glasses or the wearer would take any damage. This is also the first time Zane pointed out those glasses were his father's). Zane knew he just had some sort of vision, he could tell, but for some reason it was all fuzzy and impossible to remember the details, just that he learned they would all need to get stronger fast....or be annihilated by Rose.

"By the way, whoever cast this healing spell is amazing. I must have been out for awhile though, because even my mana was fully restored. If the healer isn't here, send them my thanks!" Zane said as he started to walk off, completely oblivious to what just happened. "I have to find the rest of this Scepter so its at full power....and then, you know, remember to use it next time..."

Zane might not be aware of it, but it was likely obvious to the other Gatewatcher's that something involved with Zane's past was involved. The way he got angry at Rose out of nowhere, the fact his glasses eminate white mana but in a way Zane wouldn't notice, and the fact that not only did Zane use two Infinity Spells, but his father's glasses also cast a third. But little did everyone know, that he was not the only one involved in this mystery...

(Well, I would say that was a significant amount of foreshadowing! Hope you all enjoy!)

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sillo Deskern Character Portrait: Damion Gray Character Portrait: Zane Bell Character Portrait: Minori Fukutawa Character Portrait: Aldred Kynn
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Huh...so this is my life now? Fighting ridiculously OP females with infatuations about roses? Come on, life! Couldn't you have given us someone with at least a good sense of humor? Granted, it's really fun to make her mad, but still. Thorny vines aren't exactly my form of amusement. The least she could've done is left a bed of roses for us to lay on before she left. That would've been classy as fuck! But nope, I get my own friggin' metal wall as a cushion. Fucking excellent. Why does metal taste like this anyway? It really annoying. I- OOOOOWWWWWW!

Sillo didn't have the energy to speak what he was thinking, nor did he have the stupidity to move after shattering all of his ribs. So when Minori ran over to his side and slid him onto his back, he couldn't exactly verbalize his protests. But that didn't stop it from hurting any less. A soft touch against his head told him that Minori was examining him, looking for the broken spots. He felt her other hand wrap around his. He gave a very weak squeeze back, letting her know he was alive.

And suddenly the breathing got a bit easier. Gasping from pain and from lack of discomfort, he squeezed his eyes shut and gritted his teeth as a wave of agony washed over him. He knew he needed to be fixed, but at the same time he wanted everything to stop hurting. When the waves stopped, he felt support in his chest once more and found he could breathe somewhat regularly. His insides still felt like mush and the pain there was undeniable, but it was a start.

"Thanks," he whispered faintly to Minori, opening his eyes to look around the rest of the room. Aldred was by Zane, ruffling the redhead's hair as Zane went under once more, his toll of the battle. Damion was sitting at the other end of the room, weakened from the collective mana pool between Zane and himself. Everyone was alive.

"Before you ask, no, I can't write you a doctor's note for school..."

Sillo started chuckling which turned into a fit of coughing followed by an effort to spit. The crimson colored saliva that came out wasn't a reassuring sign to behold. "Yeah...probably not. Who would...believe me anyway?" Sillo started shifting his weight slightly, trying to not look like a helpless puppy, "Yeah, I got my ass handed to by a sixty year old woman who had poor fashion sense and an insatiable blood lust that only my body could quench. Can I not do laps in gym today?" Sillo managed a smile, "I can't see that conversation going over well. Not to mention explaining the bat shit crazy portion of my life would earn me a field trip to the insane asylum. Plan B?"

Yeah, his sense of humor was still there, even in the state Sillo was in. However, there was a glint in his eye...something that hadn't been there when he walked into that Egyptian exhibit earlier today. His eyes carried an intensity to them that not even the most lighthearted humor couldn't hide. Was it anger? Fear? Hatred? Or determination? Sillo didn't know and it was likely that the others wouldn't know except maybe a subtle difference in his aura. But one thing was for sure. Whatever it was that resonated in Sillo's eyes was left there by Rose.

"So, guys, anyone have any ideas on how to get stronger before Rose returns and kills us all? Anyone? Cause, you know in a day or two, she will be done, come back, and slaughter us all one by one right? Personally, I would rather not be slaughtered."

Wasn't I, though?

Still, Damion did have a point. Rose would return to finish the job. They had to act and quickly. Otherwise, the results will be more lethal than before. But how could they get more powerful? Sillo had more Mana Stamina than anyone in the room and he'd used it all unsuccessfully attacking her. It seemed impossible.

"Infinity Restoration!" a voice boomed.

Suddenly, Sillo found the pain subsiding, little by little until it was eaten away by the wave of pleasant energy that flooded his body. Sillo found he not only felt fine...he felt well rested. He lifted his arms to test this, surprised to see that no pain jolted through his biceps as he brought them in front of his face. It was a miracle...or White Mana. Sillo didn't need a mana sensing ability that everyone else had to know when he was in the presence of it. It was a purifying feel, unlike any other mana feeling.

Who cast it?

He glanced over at Zane, the boy who seemed to be full of surprises as of lately, but it appeared the sphere was just now waking the orphan up. None of the other Gatewatchers had moved from their position. So wha-?

Ah, fuck it. He wasn't going to complain about being saved from the brink of death. That was something rich snobs did in cliche movies. Pulling himself to a sitting position, he nodded at Minori, letting her know he was completely better and assuming that she was in the same boat.

"Guys, I think I know how we can power up before Rose returns and kills us all," Zane mentioned as he hopped to his feet. "When I picked up this Scepter...which I may have forgotten about during my fight with Rose and didn't pull out...my mana power increased. Now, its not complete, but I can find the rest easily. But, if we all find or create totems of our own to help channel our mana, much like how Rose had all those Rose symbols, I think if we work together with all of our powers boosted we stand a chance".

Ah, that made sense...

"So we need trinkets to accompany us in battle?" Sillo murmured, more to himself rather than to anyone in particular, "But where am I gonna find mine?" What was worse, he didn't have a place to research what these totems were or where he could find them, given how the Gatewatchers HQ was bombed and such. He stared at Zane's scepter questioningly, wondering how he'd managed to find his in this room. He assumed Rose had led him here, but through what means?

"Well, guess we're going trinket hunting!" Sillo clapped his hands together, "And I'm probably right to believe that each person had a different trinket to search for...but where do we start? The Headquarters is out of commission for the time being until they clean the bomb mess up, so no Gateway History access for us." he thought for a moment before snapping his fingers in epiphany, "The library?"

The library was typically a good place to start, considering that even though it didn't contain plain and simple Gateway history like on a module at the HQ, it had it coded and subtexted in the ink of a majority of history books. Gatewatcher history went back a long ways and it was relatable to any degree through any history point in time. It practically made the backbone for history itself. The module just decoded that information in an efficient way and presented it for them to use quickly, but Sillo had no problem searching for the information he needed the old fashioned way.

Setting

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Character Portrait: Sillo Deskern Character Portrait: Damion Gray Character Portrait: Zane Bell Character Portrait: Minori Fukutawa Character Portrait: Aldred Kynn
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"Yeah...probably not. Who would...believe me anyway? Yeah, I got my ass handed to by a sixty year old woman who had poor fashion sense and an insatiable blood lust that only my body could quench. Can I not do laps in gym today? I can't see that conversation going over well. Not to mention explaining the bat shit crazy portion of my life would earn me a field trip to the insane asylum. Plan B?"

Minori smiled gently as the boy spoke, rolling over to her back to enjoy not being vine whipped or beaten, or stabbed. She didn't want to make breaking her body a habit, but she'd do it again when that woman returned, and then some if she didn't get stronger. Damion vocalized that thought for the group, and asked for suggestions but Minori couldn't tell if the latter was sarcasm or not. She had some ideas, of course, but there was a reason she hadn't attempted any of them.

"Research and Development have been working on Mana Storage tanks, though they don't have a working model as of yet. Artificial mana conversion is proving quite the obstacle..." Minori said, it being one of the projects she'd been occupying her time with as of late. She had been working on studying sealing techniques, believing that infusing the machines with the mana of their user would aid in the process, but the HQ blew up before she could make much progress.

"But a lack of mana isn't the problem, is it?" She asked, sitting up now as she looked around the exhibit. The museum was abandoned and half destroyed, and the group had the building to themselves for the time being. "I wonder if there's any other magical artifacts in here..." She muttered, trying to get to her feet. She felt Damion approaching as she did so, and stayed down on one knee for a moment, staying at the young man's height being an excellent excuse to not strain her already sore muscles.

"You felt it too right? The strange mana energy during the fight? I only felt its impact, so I was wondering....if you knew what it was?"

Minori instantly darted her eyes over towards Zane, brow furrowing as she mulled over how to respond. She'd felt it, she was sure of it, but it was hard to focus when you were bleeding out.

"What it was is the easy part... Zane drew on your mana, and someone else's, to use those spells. My Sense was clouded by the concealment spell, as well as crippling amounts of pain, so I'm not sure where the third mana source came from..." Minori said, closing her eyes in an attempt to focus, but only received a headache for the trouble.

"The source is still near him, but is so faint as to be non-existant. I wouldn't know to focus in on it at all if not for its appearance before... I'm also starting to think Zane's admission to Gatewatchers shouldn't be a request any longer, given what has and will probably transpire," Minori said coldly. Powerful beings were targeting him, he knew their spells... and Minori didn't even want to start with what she had thought the color of that third mana was. The point being, Zane held a lot of answers, and they could protect him much better than he could himself from Rose.

She started to continue, but stopped when a white orb appeared, the mana making it up being very conveniently familiar, and began to release healing waves of magic throughout the room. The healing spell was sophisticated, even taking the ache from her muscles as it washed over her. She took a minute to enjoy the sensation before standing and looking over at Zane, who was just now waking up.

"Guys, I think I know how we can power up before Rose returns and kills us all," Zane mentioned as he hopped to his feet. "When I picked up this Scepter...which I may have forgotten about during my fight with Rose and didn't pull out...my mana power increased. Now, its not complete, but I can find the rest easily. But, if we all find or create totems of our own to help channel our mana, much like how Rose had all those Rose symbols, I think if we work together with all of our powers boosted we stand a chance".

'Oh sure... just run out to the corner store and pick up some magical artifacts,' Minori thought to herself, sighing in frustration. He also drew her attention to the glasses she hadn't realized he'd had, and had to stop herself from running up and yanking them from his hands. As it stood, she merely ran over to him, and very carefully hovered her hands near the glasses in a compromise.

This was the third source.

She stopped herself before she did more with her hands then feel the air around the glasses, shaking her head in an attempt to rid herself of the temptation. An inanimate object with its own mana, complete with unique color... she could run tests on it that she never could on people...

Would their bodies even be cold?

The thought made her step away, hands clenched tight as Rose's words swam in her head.

"Those glasses... Never let them out of your sight, Zane. Pun unintended," She said, and stormed off away from the others. If she were to need a totem or a relic, she had some thoughts as to what she would prefer.

"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", Minori called, stopping at one of the exhibit doors as she awaited a response.

Setting

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Character Portrait: Sillo Deskern Character Portrait: Damion Gray Character Portrait: Zane Bell Character Portrait: Minori Fukutawa Character Portrait: Aldred Kynn
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"Magical artefacts that powerful don't grow on trees, Zane." Aldred sighed, straightening up.

Magical amplifiers depended on the amount of power the mage using it currently had. Many used them, but it mostly amplified their power only by a little thanks to their quality. High quality amplifiers were hard to find thanks to the complexity it took to make them, and finding one powerful enough to defeat someone who had barely been scratched by two infinity spells would be almost impossible to find and pretty rare. Something that powerful would have to be ancient, and it definitely well-guarded.

Although Aldred was considered one of the most physically powerful mages in the Gatewatcher community, Sillo one of the top tier in mana stamina and Minori one of the best (only) researchers around, they weren't that high up the tier of the organisation. He wasn't even sure if the Gatekeeper organisation had those artifacts in storage, although they probably would have considering what they were doing. Aldred didn't think that they would just allow a group of people - two kids, two teens and one young woman - to use something like that even if they were Gatewatchers.

Hmm. Minori was a researcher. If she claimed to be researching the artefacts... Nah. Not that high up in the organisation and we'd all get into trouble.

Stretching his hands up to release tension, Aldred gave a small sigh of relief as his bones popped. He had no clue where the white magic ball came from - it didn't seem to be from Zane or any of them, that's for sure - but it had healed his wounds and restored his magic, getting rid of the aches and pains he'd felt in his bones. Too bad it couldn't do anything about his shirt, though. It was torn almost to shreds, hanging onto his thin frame with only the barest of threads. His jeans were salvageable at least. They were torn and tattered, but he could pass it off as one of those ripped-jeans fashion if he sewed up a few holes.

Still, everything was replenished. it would definitely help in the upcoming fight.

One to two days, three if they were lucky - she seemed to be the type to wait until her mana was full before going after them instead of leaving while it was half-empty after casting the spell. That was how much time they had before the next attack. Alright, time to plan.

"Well, guess we're going trinket hunting!" Sillo clapped his hands together, "And I'm probably right to believe that each person had a different trinket to search for...but where do we start? The Headquarters is out of commission for the time being until they clean the bomb mess up, so no Gateway History access for us." he thought for a moment before snapping his fingers in epiphany, "The library?"

"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. 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. A few faded scars could be seen trailing across his torso, the most obvious one being a large pale pink scar trailing down his back, as if someone had tried to rip him open from behind. Rolling his raged shirt and tucking it under his arm, Aldred walked towards Minori, uncaring that his torso was exposed. "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." he mused, slipping his hands into his pockets. A calculative look formed on his face as he replayed the fight in his head, analysing her movements and his own strategies, trying to see if there was anything he could use. "Come up with some plans, too, and see what we can find out about her and the people she works with."

It wasn't like they could just rely on amplifying their own power to ungodly levels - they would also have to work on increasing their own natural power, getting used to having that amount of power, and come up with strategies of their own. Power was just that - power. To use it effectively, to use it without it backfiring on them or the others... that required hard work, but there wasn't enough time. It wasn't like the enemy would wait for them to be ready, after all.

"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." Aldred's voice had lost its normally light tone for seriousness instead, his eyes dark and calculative like a soldier planning for war. "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."

Grabbing the exhibit door and holding it open for Minori to go through, Aldred waited for her to leave before leaving himself, keeping up by her side.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sillo Deskern Character Portrait: Selena Stone Character Portrait: Cedric Valentine Character Portrait: Damion Gray Character Portrait: Zane Bell Character Portrait: Minori Fukutawa Character Portrait: Aldred Kynn 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.

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Character Portrait: Zane Bell
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There was only one place Zane could go to plan his little break in and get the gems he needed to strengthen his scepter. And that was Alleytown. It was a town hidden inside this city, a town created by mana users. You see, Zane was not the top for office buildings or official training rooms or stuffy shirts. Zane was a street kid, and that meant he had his own way of doing things. And this place was more his style. It was casual, energetic, and chaotic. There was no illusion of order here. The chaos was a part of the order. Everything worked because everyone adapted to the beat. Here was the best place to buy magical tools, new spells, top of the line potions, and there were even a few schools of magic.

Zane had actually learned about magic at one of them. It was where he perfected his own battle art. Its where he was headed first. As he entered, he bowed in respect to his master. Master Otaku, the master of his own style of magic, which he called Blitz Style. Blitz Style involved both short and long ranged attacks. It was mostly about not letting the enemy get a chance to rest, but also taught patience as well. About creating multi-step plans, and both setting them up and setting them off during a battle.

He took off his shoes, and sat in the traditional style. Okay, most of them were casual. But Master Otaki was Zane's one exception "Zane, its been a long time. How is the only student to master my style in two years? Something is troubling you".

"Yes Master. Something troubles me greatly, so I came to get your advice. If you encountered the person who murdered your parents without mercy, without any good reason other then he might be a threat in the future, and this person was also dangerous who threatened to kill both you and your friends, what would you do to her?" Zane asked, as his master handed him some tea. He drank it, and tried to ignore the bitter taste. Still the same old tea.

"I see, this is a situation. Are you sure its her?"

"I have no doubt, Master. And she is that big of a threat".

"And you want to kill her, but you cannot tell whether its because its what you want, or what is needed? Well, to take the life of someone without thought is a dark road, so coming here already is a good sign. But a woman like that, you may not get a choice. If it comes down to it, you must accept the weight of that action to protect others. If you are given the choice however, you will know at that moment what your heart and your mind both want, and you will make the right action".

Zane understood what he meant, and before he left, got in a quick practice session. Then, he went to the one place he knew he could count of for things. She ran a magic tool shop on Elderwood Lane, the only street in Alleytown where Elderwood trees grew. And then, he found her. "Alexis".

The young, blue haired girl smiled at seeing him. "Zane! Its been awhile! How are things?"

"You know that jackass, Emerian Jones, who owns all those artifacts and constantly tries to bully the people of Alleytown? I am planning to rob him to gain powerful gems to increase my power" Zane told her. "So, got anything I could use?"

Alexis smiled. "Oh shoot Zane, you say the nicest things". She snapped her fingers, and suddenly everything around them became white. They had entered Alexis' Pocket Dimension, where she kept all of her top of the line stock. "We got our Mimicry Kits, our Magi-Lock Openers, our Golem Disruptors, and a few other nasty surprises. Need anything else, or will that be enough?"

"No, that's fine. I am all fired up to beat this guy anyways, so I can fight the one I really want" Zane mentioned.

Alexis looked concerned. "So that's it. You know your Mana isn't as strong as it should be. Something has you seriously emotionally disconnected. Its causing you to be less powerful then you should be...".

"Emotionally....disconnected...?" Zane questioned for a second. Then it occurred to him, he normally kept great control, but today they were a bit harder then normal. Hold on, he recalled now, it wasn't just him. Rose's flashy arrival, the way she tore into everyone, even her mana presence alone before even appearing? The way she made them feel inferior. The way she didn't even budge when attacked. And then, during the battle, she....What if....

Zane figured it out now. He knew Rose's secret. He knew how to defeat her, and it wouldn't take that much power if done right. He should still get a power boost probably, but now, he knew it. He knew it for a fact. He knew a way they could defeat Rose.

He smiled, and turned to Alexis. "Thanks for the help. Everything is going to be okay".

As he left Alleytown, he immediately pulled up the Gatewatcher Directory. There was one person he needed to confer with first. One person he had to share his deduction with, one person who he at least hoped would tell him the truth. He needed to know if what he was thinking was possible...even if this person said no, they might be wrong, but he was sure of it and he believed this person would too.

As he approached the building, he made the call. "Hey, I need to ask you something...".

MEANWHILE.....

The Agents of Artemis, plus Artemis himself, would approach the Gatewatchers upon getting stronger, and learning specialized fighting styles, and learning new magics quickly. However, out of all of them....one was on a different mission. A very dangerous mission. But nowhere near as in danger....as the target of the assassin among them.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Selena Stone Character Portrait: Cedric Valentine Character Portrait: Zane Bell Character Portrait: Minori Fukutawa 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

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Cedric Valentine Character Portrait: Zane Bell Character Portrait: Minori Fukutawa Character Portrait: Maric Boone
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As the Phoenix deflected the shot, some strange markings appeared on Zane's skin. Zane recognized the symbol on his right arm, it was the symbol of the Phoenix, bonding the two of them. But the other symbols were written in an Eldrich language he didn't understand. It wasn't Arcanic, it was something stranger, older. But somehow, he could tell, it was fueled by his desire to become stronger. To defeat Rose, his parent's murderer. Aurell looked back at him. "Zane, control your emotions and focus! Those symbols are not something you should use!"

Zane snapped out of it, and withheld the symbols he didn't understand. He clashed blades with Emerian Jones, who was now part demon and whose broadsword burned him with demonic energy. As they clashed though, the demonized man smiled at him. "Those symbols...I see now, so thats who you are...valuable indeed, I guess I should leave you alive after all....once I break every bone in your body!"

"Not...going to...happen!" Zane shouted while under strain, repelling the attack with Blazestorm Zero. Still, he couldn't run. If he didn't win here, he would never beat Rose. But would one battle really give him enough strength to allow him to fight Rose? The jewels alone would strengthen his power, and the Phoenix now moreso, and with his knowledge of Rose's tricks, he would be able to ensure she wouldn't weaken him again. But even then, would it be enough? What if he failed?

Zane quickly realized he got distracted for a second, and tried to react to an attack but was too late. However, before the broadsword struck him, someone else had appeared from nowhere and blocked it...with a revolver. Zane stood in awe as he looked at his mana levels. A spell seemed to have temporarily paralyzed the enemy as well that came from him. "Who...are you?"

"A friend. However, I won't be helping you again. I only stopped that attack because you got distracted with worry you would not get strong enough to fight your real enemy, right? That if you couldn't beat him, you couldn't beat that woman either?"

"How do you know so much?" Zane asked.

The man smiled. "Sorry, secret. But, you have to remember one thing". He took out something and handed it to Zane. Zane looked down at it, and it was a Gatewatcher's ID, Emeregency Beacon, and Enchanted Phone and earpiece. "You are not alone. You might not like all the things they do, but everyone has differences of opinion. You have friends there, so you know this. So stop acting like you will be fighting Rose alone. Even if they are not there physically, their mana, their skills, their friendships, their techniques are always there, helping you get stronger. Because they are the people who you fight for when you cannot fight for your family".

Suddenly, the man disappeared, and the man unfroze. All this time, Zane fought for two things. The truth, and for vengeance. As an orphan, he grew up alone. He was used to being alone. He expected to be alone. He was used to the turmoil inside of him. So never once did he consider this. This man, he hurt a lot of people in Alleytown. He considered that it would help them, but it was never a reason he was here to fight, or he would have shown up sooner. That was different now. Now, it was a reason. Now, it was a part of him.

So when Jones attacked again at full force, he blocked the attack with Blazestorm Zero...using one hand. He wasn't alone. "Aurell. We are not going to be allies. We are going to be friends".

"I have no complaints about that" Aurell mentioned, flying out from Zane's arm and attacking the demon man.

Meanwhile, Jones looked in anger. "How? Blazestorm Zero takes two hands to use at full power! You cannot use it with just one!"

"I can" Zane said. "I can because my friends need me to".

Aurell smiled a little inside. Actually, that is sort of true, but not completely. Your mind is so focused now. Before, you were too distracted by another opponent. By another fight. It was weakening your magical power. But now, you are focused and sharp. There is more then one way to strengthen yourself, just like there is more then one way to weaken an opponent. One's conviction affects their mana strength. And now that Zane is focused, he can use his teachings to their fullest...

Zane meanwhile flashed back to what he learned from his master, about the truth of magical fighting styles. While it certainly helps to learn one, in the end mana is different to each and every person, and so their fighting style differs.

"Something always bothered you about learning Blitz Style. Tell me, what is it Zane?" "Its just, some of what you teach, it seems a little contradictory. And what if I cannot keep up a steady pace of attacks because someone's defense would counter it? What if I have to wait and take time?" "To be honest, Blitz Style does have a secondary method. People hear Blitz and assume a flurry of attacks. But in truth, Blitz style is all about the Blitz of the enemies movements. Figuring out how to keep them on the defense or the retreat, finding the weaknesses in their defense, and then exploiting them. Blitz isn't just about speed. It's about timing. Choosing the right time to attack, and the right time to strike". "Hold on, aren't they the same thing?" "When you are in a battle against a difficult opponent, you will realize what I mean".

I understand now what you mean, Master. And this is my plan of attack for this battle... Suddenly, a large amount of magical energy focused into his free hand, and smashed it into the stomach of Emerian Jones, sending him flying. However, he suddenly sprouted wings, and turned around midair and charged back towards him. The broadsword was going to be a pain, but Zane had no intention of losing. Last time, technically he and the other Gatewatchers lost against Rose. Sure, they left the battle alive, but only barely, and it was certainly a defeat more then a victory. After all, it had been five vs. one. Zane brought his full strength to his next attack, and charged forward. Before the two clashed though, the phoenix flew in front of him. "Phoenix Feather Portal!"

Suddenly, Zane went through a portal and appeared behind Jones. He slashed one of the wings, sending him crashing into the ground, before Zane landed on him again, and stabbed his right arm, causing him to lose grip of his broadsword and drop it to the ground, sliding across the floor to the far wall. Zane stepped back. "Alright, now together! Burning Phoenix Fire Wave!"

"This again, I will just..." Jones started, when he realized he had dropped his broadsword. Was that his intention the whole time? All the sword clashes, had that all been to measure his grip strength? Were all of his attacks simply to prepare for this final strike? After all, Jones' main hand was his right. Furthermore, the wing he hit was the left, which ended up making the right easier to hit. And that was when Jones saw it. There was another mana color underneath the red. There was...white mana. "Just who the fuck is this kid? Is he even human?"

And then the fire wave hit him, full force, with Phoenix energy to increase power. He looked at the Phoenix, and he could see it in its face. "So, thats why it was so easy..."

Jones fell to the ground. Although Zane knew he should have survived the attack, he started to crumble into dust. Zane looked confused. "What is going on? That wasn't a lethal hit, not for a mana user".

"Its the demon's energy. He needed to drain you of your energy so that he could live without the demon class entity. He did this to himself though, your mana would probably have poisoned him anyways. No matter what he did, he was dead the moment he used the demonic power" Aurell told Zane. "His blood is not on your hands".

"His might not, but hers? Hers soon will" Zane told Aurell, as he fit the gemstones into the slots of the scepter. He felt his mana level increase on the spot. "So this is the power of an item focuser infused with mana? It still won't be enough for me to take her on, but....I won't be alone either".

As Zane began to head through the doors, Jones got up with his broadsword recalled towards him and charged towards Zane. Zane made a handsign. "Eight Trigram Seal! Explosive trap!"

Suddenly, the floor Zane had touched earlier at the very beginning of the battle revealed trigrams, and an explosion occured right as Jones went over it, finishing him off.

"You are stronger, and you know Rose's secrets" Aurell commented. "So why are you not happy?"

"Because of two things. One, that man isn't the one behind all this. He wouldn't have revealed himself if he was, he would have been more subtle. And two, there is no way they could prepare this unless one of the Local Council had authorized it. Which means, there is at least two people hiding things from me that I should know" Zane told Aurell. "I don't know what is going on, but its possible I am just a pawn for a bigger scheme. And I don't know if this scheme is something to support, or stop".

"You shouldn't let this distract you" Aurell warned.

"I won't. But before the rematch with Rose, I need answers".

Suddenly, a large influx of power emerged from the center of the room. Music Zane turned around, only to see a Rose stuck in the ground, and a Gateway opening right in front of him. As it did, a strange bubble invisible to those without mana emerged from it, surrounding the whole top of the building. "What the...?"

"Its a Null Zone! Beings from other worlds take exponentially longer to manifest in the real world depending on their power and size, and so the Gateway will project a bubble, known as a Null Zone due to the fact it nullifies the disruptive affects of entering a new world until it is completed, to allow it to stabilize in our world. It means, we have company. Alright, its time to get to work!"

Suddenly, Zane's power spiked even greater. He was focused now, and his focus gave him strength. And he would need it, because his opponent was strong. Dark energy came through the Gateway, and flowed into the remains of Jones, causing a new, monsterous form to be created. It was a demonic figure of untold scariness and power. "Well well, if it isn't a runt".

Zane twitched, and his power spiked further. "Did you just call me a runt!?!? Time you got a taste of Blazestorm Zero!"

"Lets go, runt!" it yelled, as the two charged towards each other. The demon summoned a blade of darkness, and countered the attacks from Bladestorm Zero. All of the attacks. Whatever this demon was, it was even more powerful. The blades clashed, and huge amounts of power vented out, practically putting a mana flare on the building. The power was so intense, the glass completely shattered. They fianlly disengaged the clash, and Zane's power kept increasing. The demon sent various boomerang shaped blades made of shadows at Zane, to tear him to shreds. Zane managed to dodge them all, but then was attacked as they returned from behind. They tore through his chest and arms, ripping his shirt to shreds. "Did you really think that you could face me, boy?"

Zane looked back up with a pissed off expression on his face. The demon scoffed, as his wounds healed themselves. Is this.....could he be.....is this boy even human?! I better kill him quickly! Zane moved up right to his face, and gave a full roundhouse kick to it. Magic was floating through his body. This was one of his Special Arts: Total Boost! The ability to temporarily boost every attribute, though it meant he was spending mana even faster. Still, his supply of mana seemed boundless. The demon was sure of it now, he knew who this boy was. It was him! The Demon launched another powerful blast at Zane. Zane then used another Special Art: Countless Clones. By creating copies using illusion magic, and then projecting energy within them, he could create clones that could do actual damage.

"Lightning Pierce!" they all shouted, as they all used Lightning Pierce on the demon. The demon, in term, took up the broadsword and destroyed a whole swathe of clones. It was now wielding two large blades, which it brought down on Zane. Zane created an neergy barrier, stopping the attack, but only for a few seconds. The demon charged forward, and tried to obliterate Zane with its fist. However, Zane focused all the mana in his body into his right hand, and caught the fist bare handed. He then crushed the demon's hand, shattering every bone in its body.

"Now, explain to me...." Zane started. "Why have I fought two demons today? One I can understand, but two? ANd then an ancient mana user earlier. And then before that, on the train, there was another dark presence I could sense. Tell me, who is following me other then that man?"

"You think I am going to tell you anything? Obliteration..." he shouted as he charged up energy in its mouth. "....Cannon!"

Suddenly, a large amount of dark energy hit Zane full force, but Zane caught it in both hands. "First comes Suppression!" Suddenly, the energy was suppressed, no longer able to cause any harm or influence on other mana. "Then comes Compression!" Then, the energy shrunk into the size of a basketball, with Zane holding it with two hands. "Next comes alteration!" Suddenly, the energy changed color and other powerful energies were mixed in and started radiating out of it. "And now...RETALIATION!" He then threw it with one hand right back at the demon.

The demon took the full brunt of the attack. This Zane was different from before. In fact, Zane's entire mana presence changed. Before, he was just fighting a demonized human. But once he encountered the demon itself, his power level skyrocketed, as well as his magical capabilities. Zane did an uppercut kick, sending the demon sprawling backwards.

The demon then moved behind Zane at lightning speed, and smashed him into the ceiling. Zane's magical defense remained strong enough for him to take the blow. Thankfully, Mana Users had magical defense, or else they would end up flattened, smooshed, or completely totaled, like what should happen to most anime characters.

As the two forces clashed, suddenly the Gateway began to get bigger, and the Null Zone started to fade. Zane could not let this demon escape into the world, it was too dangerous. He pointed out his hand, and suddenly, Blazestorm Zero and his scepter appeared next to each other. He clashed blades with the demon, and the force of their collision did permenant damage to the building. Suddenly, the demon shifted behind Zane, and stabbed him in the back. However, Zane's sword shifted behind the demon, and stabbed it in the back as well. "Special Art: Perfect Mimicry".

"The fuck, how do you know so many Special Arts? You are only a kid!"

"I am not just a kid! I....am....a damn Gatewatcher now!" Zane yelled, as he used a firefist uppercut on the demon. That wound is serious, but I am still in the game. I can use my mana to heal myself once I take down this demon. "Aurell, its time!"

"Fire..."

"Phoenix..."

"Nova..."

"Feather..."

"Storm!"

Suddenly, a barrage of fire and lightning charged feathers errupted towards the demon. It got injured in the attack, and when the smoke cleared, Zane was standing with his blade at its neck. "Now, tell me why you are here! Why are these dark energies following me?!"

"You really don't know? Heh, how hillarious. You don't know a thing about your own bloodline...about your own father".

Zane's anger and curiosity sparked. "What do you know about my father!?"

"I know what he meddled in....I know why he died".

"Tell me everything you know! Tell me right now!"

"Why should I, when I can watch you suffer instead!" he shouted, slashing Zane's back with his claws. Zane quickly dodged the rest of the attack, avoiding a lethal blow, but the scratch still hurt. Suddenly, waves of shadow energy was sent at Zane with such tremendous power that even with a full block, he was injured. Suddenly, the demon was right up in his face, but then he vanished from sight, reappearing behind the demon. Its a fire based technique, where you heat up every cell in your body to bring forth more energy at once, allowing near lightning fast movements. Its called Flashfire.

Zane then brought down a full power magical kick onto the demon's head. Zane then switched to a long range position, and drew a ring of fire in the air. He then pressed the palms of his hands together in front of him, and then directed them outward. "Circle of Flame! Resolute Destruction!"

The demon took several massive hits. Even when he tried to dodge some of the attacks, the tracked him, and when they hit, they exploded in a fire that could burn through steel. Zane then used his mana alone to push the rubble out of the way, and face the demon. "Now, tell me what you know!"

"Never!" the demon raged. "I will never tell you, you brat!"

Suddenly, a large explosion occured behind the demon, sending him flying right into another one of Zane's kicks.

"Okay brat, just what is..." he started, when he saw it. Zane's shoes were covered with impact trigrams. That was why Zane's physical attacks often included kicks. "I see, so thats it. You must have several surprises prepared ahead of time".

"I actually have trigrams set up in most public places I frequent, if not all of them" Zane mentioned. "Now, tell me what you know".

"Not in your life, bloodscum!" it shouted, launching a full power attack at Zane. He managed to dodge it, but as the demon clashed blades again he only barley had time to block. Suddenly, it was in that moment his scepter became a sword".

"What the....oh, I see now. So the Sceptor has various configurations, huh? Well then, lets try configuration three!"

Suddenly, it became a spear that could float on its own in front of Zane. Zane moved his fingers around, and it seemed to respond to that. The demon charged forward, but Zane struck it in the face before it got close, and then knocked it back. The spear floated back to him, and he jumped on it. As he did, the null zone finally broke. "Ha! Now I am at full power!"

"About time" Zane mentioned. "This is training after all, how am I supposed to get stronger without strong opponents? I just had to do enough damage to you so you couldn't run away when you reached full power".

The Demon just looked confused and bewildered. "Hold on, did you just say you let me get to full power?"

"Oh yeah, but I had to wound you enough so things wouldn't go out of hand. You see, I couldn't risk the possibility of you winning, so you kept you just weak enough to prevent that. My calculations are quite adament" Zane said with a smile. "Weak enough for an assured victory, strong enough to be full of experience. Sounds like its time to go full force! Lightning Spear, only this time with a real magical spear!"

Suddenly, an electrified spear stabbed through the demon. "Oh yeah, since its a really cool shape altering weapon, I should give it a name. It shall be known as...Aetherion!"

"SERIOUSLY?!?! THATS THE NAME YOU CHOSE?!?!" the demon yelled. "And you claim to know nothing. I see now, boy. You are the biggest liar of all times, even if you don't realize it. Why don't you look down?"

Zane looked down, and saw he was floating off the ground without realizing. Flight magic, but he never learned flight magic. So how....

Zane just barely dodged the attack done by the demon. THe demon must have caused him to float without him realizing it, to distract him so he could land an attack. Zane was back on the ground now, with his spear spinning between them. "Aetherion, lets try out your fourth configuration!"

Suddenly, Aetherion turned into a powerful Manabow. Zane fired off an arrow from it, which then split into eight arrows, which all exploded with magical energy when they hit their target. Zane also notied seveal other applications for this weapon, he would have to try out later.

"Back to Third Configuration Aetherion, and lets go with a Lightning Joust!"

"Unholy Damnation!" it shouted, laucning a massive shadow attack of unknown levels at them. The shadows ripped through the floor, through the building, through everything. Aurell let loose a barrier, and Zane tried to use his mana to suppress the attack. It was then, at that moment, that symbols in a spiral pattern appeared on Zane's back, and various other symbols appeared on his chest. What trasnspired next was insane. Zane appeared on the other side of of the demon, his eyes empty. Aurell was flying up above. The demon turned to face him, when he saw it. He saw Zane's face. "To think, that is the kind of man his father is....to have used this level of caution and safety",

And then, Aetherion emerged from where the demon's heart would be, returned to Zane, and went back to configuration one. At the same time, the head itself fell off the demon. "Shit. I wanted to question him some more, try and get more information out of him".

Suddenly, the ground exploded underneath Zane. It was a different demon this time, with ice shards sticking out of its body. Zane looked back towards the Gateway. "What the hell? I never saw anything else pass through".

"It must have been when you temporarily lost control" Aurell mentioned.

"That was only for a second though" Zane mentioned, though he was wrong. In fact, he lost control for ten minutes. The fighting during those ten minutes was insane. Zane didn't even register the wounds he got. There was clearly something wrong with him, but something stopped Zane from seeing it. Still, now he had a new demon to deal with. He looked back to the Gateway. "Okay, this thing needs to be...."

Zane lost it again, as another presense became known to him. He quickly jabbed his hand into the Gateway, and began draining it dry faster then normal. Most of the time, Gatewatchers never (for lack of a better word) physically touch the Gateway directly to close it, due to obvious dangers. But Zane had to bypass that, because deep down fear and anger had taken over his body. Something horrible existed inside this Gateway, lurking. Waiting. Hunting. It was after someone. Maybe multiple someones. But its Mana levels....it surpassed Rose by far. If it were to get out...

He ripped out the mana from the Gateway, absorbing it into himself and causing the Gateway to close. It also restored his own magical power. He then turned towards the demon. "Well well, look at what we have here..."

Zane quickly held the demon by the throat, the symbols spreading throughout his body. They started to flow into the demon, and it triggered one of Zane's visions. He saw people entering a Gateway, about a place called Lab 51, and something about blood. And then he saw it. Beyond the Gateways, there was something. A temple. "Why do you demons know so much?! What happened to my father?! Why was he killed!?"

The demon stabbed him through the chest, but not the heart. Even at the distance, Zane had managed to dodge the lethal blow from the ice spike the emerged from its body. Still though, it ran right through him. His hand then crushed the demon's shoulder, and his other broke the ice crystal itself. Zane shouldn't be this strong, but it wasn't him in control right now. Something was wrong with Zane. Something was broken, and its been broken for a long time.

Zane unleashed Static Force on the demon, causing Zane's body to become electrified and zap the demon. He then used Flamefist to uppercut the demon, before kicking it right in the stomach. He was getting really pissed off. All he had were questions, but he had no answer. As a result, by the time he came to, the demon was already smashed, and Aurell had manifested into the Phoenix marking on his arm. "Are you okay? What just happened here?"

"I am not sure. But all I have are more questions" Zane replied. "But right now, I think its time we left".

The room was in fact beyond recognition. As in, most of it was charred, zapped, crushed, or beaten. And lets not bring up a few priceless artifacts in the room. Zane quickly disguised himself and left before anyone could arrive.

"I think its time we started looking for answers...." he said, as the symbols retracted from sight, including the spiral on his back. "But who delivered that rose?"

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Meanwhile, on a different rooftop, a man spied on Zane with binoculars. "Yeah, well I have no opening right now, but I have good news Rose. You can have you rematch with this boy. Once of the pieces we need? Its sealed inside his body. Clever bastard, his father is. Tomorrow, you can kill him, and still be on mission".

"Good" Rose said over the phone, clearly pleased. "I will rip it out of his body, as well as his heart. If he has one to rip out, that is. If it is there, I may crush it while he is alive first".

"Then I shall make my leave, so he does not notice my presence. Him, or that other man..." he said, quickly disappearing into the night.

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Maric got a little bit steamed, embarressed, and defensive all at once. "Hey, hey, I was more focused on the fight then anything else! And I am not a perv! That is a vicious lie spread by Harmony in communications after I tried to hit on her! I am just really eager to find someone who can love me, okay? You try that with this body!"

Artemis nodded. "Uh huh..."

"Now, can we stop beating around the bush. AKA, Stop lying Artemis. I know why you are really here" Maric told her.

Artemis looked stunned. "What do you mean?"

"No offence to either of you, Minori and Cedric, but neither of you are the type to ask about a mole. Minori is too focused on her research, and Cedric people find too suspicious. Which means, you are here to ask them about Project Icarus, which I know you are planning Council knowing or not".

Artemis scowled. "How the hell did you find out about Icarus?"

Maric suddenly teleported to the counter between Minori and Cedric. No one seemed to notice anything, so it was safe to guess Maric coated them with an illusion spell, to prevent eavesdropping and what not. "It was easy. Besides, you know my Spatial Magic will help build the bridge when its time, so you should bring me on anyways, just like how you want to bring Minori and Cedric here". He then looked at the two of them. "Project Icarus is fairly simple. Artemis plans to send a team through a Gateway to the other side. She has been planning it for some time now. Likely using the research from Lab 51, she plans to open a Gateway to the Other Side and send a team there. Not just any Gateway either, but I suspect the very same Gateway as in Lab 51. Its the only logical conclusion".

Artemis was a little bit concerned. How did Maric figure this all out? He has been in town for less then a day, yet he knows secrets that are highly classified. Could he have learned some of this before he transfered. As Artemis considered options, Maric teleported a beer into his hand, and continued drinking. Technically, he was above the legal age, and its not like it could affect him anyways. "Fine Maric, you are on the team. But, there is one other I want to recruit. Zane Bell. GIven the reports I saw, I am convinced he may hold the key to building the Perfect Bridge, a Gateway Link with no danger or ill effects at all, that will allow us to travel to the other side of the Lab 51 Gateway and learn what happened. You see, this is not the first time we attempted this. The first time was at Lab 51, 20 years ago, when Gateway activity suddenly went out of control, and people with no previous connections to mana began to develop mana abilities and what not. To discover this, we connected the Gateway to a place known only as The Hub. Based on accounts from some Visitors, many Gateways lead to this Hub, from all worlds, and it is common to pass through it. Apparently, it takes the shape of a subway terminal. We will open the Gateway to it, create a stable, or maybe even a Perfect Bridge, and cross into it. The research and data we can collect is one goal, but another....we also want to learn the truth about what happened twenty years ago to cause the spike in activity, and Cedric, your power makes you a clear choice for the team. Additionally, we will see things no human has ever seen before. So, you two, what do you say?"

Maric looked at Artemis questioningly. Why the hell did he try to hide the existence of Project Icarus from me?

Suddenly, Artemis punched Maric straight in the face. "And I told you this would happen if you ever followed me. You don't care about hte mole either, at least not as much as you claimed to. Thats not your style. You wanted to question me about Project Icarus, you little perv!"

"I am not a perv!" Maric exclaimed. "And seriously, this body isnt that physically endurant! You gave me a nose bleed, jerk!"

It was clear these two did not get along.