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The school run by Anira. A general safe haven for supernatural beings, myths and humans, but oddly disaster prone. It both exists on Earth and yet does not and is impossible to find by searching without first being invited. Geared towards anyone willing to learn, regardless of age. Dangerous ground to those with hostility aimed at any of Anira's students, even if the main threat is "slow" to act.

An Oddly Placed... Dragon?Edit

Deep within the wilderness lies a strange school. No one knows why it was built here of all places, but it is said that one of the teachers here is legendary for both his genius and insanity...

A cloaked girl emerges from a rift, looking around. "Oh wow, it really is a forest castle... hmmm.... interesting. I hope master was right about him being nice...."

As she draws closer to the school, she sees a group of people emerge from its front gate. Almost everyone appears to be her age or just a few years younger. Standing out among them is a young man wearing almost entirely all black, with hair of so many shades of green that it looks similar to grass and yellow eyes. He appears to be a few years older than the others and taller. Oddly, he carries two short swords on his waist.

Naki slows to a stop, nervous and trembling slightly. Are they.... going to attack me....?

The people do not initially notice her, but when the green haired man does he calls her over with a wave. He doesn't appear to be unfriendly, more eccentric than intimidating.

She cautiously approaches them, greatly nervous. When she is closer she waves back, but remembers her claws and just as quickly timidly hides her hand in her sleeve, afraid of a possible reaction.

The green haired man seems to glide to her, smiling and extending a hand.

"Ah, I see you're a new face around here," he greets nonchalantly, "My name's Anira, but you can call me Annie or Ishida. You must be... Nagi? I detected your presence and came to greet you, though my class wanted to follow suit, so everyone's here." He appears to be a rather care-free and kind person.

She reluctantly extends her hand timidly. "A-A-Almost, it's Naki. It's uhhhh... a pleasure to m-m-meet you?"

"Same to you," he replies, "I don't know how long you'll be here, but you're welcome to act a as student until you go, Naki." Anira swirls a finger in the air and Naki's cloak is replaced by a simple school uniform. "To help you blend in."

She blinks at the change. "Woah..." She looks at him curiously. "How did....?" She shakes her head with a reluctant smile. "I guess it doesn't matter... ...I've been exposed to enough things like this, I shouldn't be surprised anymore..."

"Nah, I've been around for awhile and things still surprise me every once in a while. I'd recommend talking with the others, they'll help you out and should be willing to talk to you. Appearance isn't important here, so you don't have to worry about that."

She looks around. "I've never been in a school before.... ...my life certainly has changed since I met master...."

"I wonder if the full moon truly has vassals," says Anira mysteriously, "School is interesting, though I didn't get to experience it until I got reincarnated."

"Reincarnated?" She blinks with her iridescent eyes. "Would you show me around by chance?" She asks.

"Long, long story," he says, "I could show you around, but I think on of the students should." He gestures to the teens performing various activities.

She nods slowly. "A-Alright then..." She takes a deep breath and approaches them, looking extremely nervous and shy without the covering of the cloak to give her assurance.

One of the students notices her. He appears to be about Naki's age and has dark brown hair, blue eyes and a tall and thin, yet muscular, form. He wears a black jacket with gold and silver forearm protectors and the standard school uniform underneath it. Most noticeably, however, is his prehensile tail anf the staff it carries.

"Heya, how're you," he asks. "I'm Sol."

She makes a attempt to smile. "H-Hi... my name is Naki. I'm well... I was kind of wondering if you could show me around? I'm kind of new here." She says uncertainly.

"Sure, you have the aura of a good person," Sol answers, "A bit shy, but shy isn't bad... C'mon!" With that Sol begins a perimeter tour around the school, making sure to warn Naki of the dangers of the forest.

"So the forest is a bad place? Why's that?" She asks. "This place seems really nice..." She says in wonder. "I've never been to a school before..."

"Ah, we're in a similar boat then. Is my first time in a school myself," he says, "The forest isn't bad, but it is home to some fearsome monsters... Like the deer or the bear thingy barreling towards us." Sol steps in front Naki and prepares his staff.

She shrinks back behind him, scared. "That thing is huge!"

I wonder if the elements Zwei taught me would be of help... ....probably not... I only just learned to use them...

The bear is easily twice the size of a fully grown grizzly bear and is far more imposing. The coarse, dense fur on its body fades to chipped scales laden with scars and raw patches. Its head looks more akin to a dragon than a bear's, but it is possible to see the resemblance to both.

Sol hurls his staff at the creature.

"Expand," he commands an instant before the staff thickens to just beyond the size of the bear and crashes into it. A pained roar sounds from the other side of the staff and it sounds like the bear has returned to the forest. Sol gestures for the staff to return and catches it with his tail once it returns to its original size. "He's gotta stop coming here. If me or Ishi Sensei aren't the ones to find him, he'll be killed..."

"Shouldn't you just get rid of him if he's such a problem?"

"It's not that simple of a matter," begins Sol, "He's waiting for his master, the god governing this area, to return. According to Ishi Sensei, he's been around for well over one hundred years and has watched over this area as a guardian up until very recently. Basically, he's gone senile, but remembers his duty enough to try to do it... But he doesn't recognize who or what he's supposed to protect beyond an extent. "

"I see... so you two avoid killing him out of pity?" She thinks quietly for a moment while they walk. "So how did you end up at this place?"

"Pity, not so much. It's closer to understanding, " he says absently, "A friend of mine sent me here, he said that if I stayed here for four years, I could join him and the others on their adventure... Though, now that I think about it, I want nothing to do with a quest for revenge. How about you?"

She falls quiet for a moment.

What do I say to him? He seems like a nice person, but I don't know what I should and shouldn't say...

"A person I look up to is having a rough time right now, he's going to cool off for a bit so he brought me here. I don't know what to do with myself though."

"Ah... I hope he can reach inner peace then," he says, looking up, "Hm, class should be starting soon, so maybe you can join us."

Naki nods lightly. "I don't see what else I can do, so I guess I might as well."

What do they even teach here? ....Would they still accept me even if they knew my original self was a human? ....I wonder if I'll like it here...

Sol takes Naki back to Anira, who calls the rest of the class to him.

"Alright, time for class," he yells, "Today, we'll be talking about familiars and attempting to properly make one, then we'll continue our lesson on the history of the Coexistence Movement, followed by a quick Chemistry lesson and lab and finally a bit of time to spar or train." This is met by a mixture of responses, ranging from excited chatter to groans of discontent.

At the word 'familiar' Naki is interested, and Janpu appears inside her shadow, though only his head is visible, the rest of him lies flat against the shadow she makes, his tiny eye occasionally risking opening to take a look around.

She quietly listens to what Anira has to say, not wanting to draw attention to herself.

"Familiars are, in the most basic sense, extentions of one's being given form, at least the summoned ones are. Familiars can be born from one's mind, one's heart, nature or from excess power," he says, "They vary from person to person and have an infinite number of potential abilites that range from combat orientation to support and healing to even time management and task management. No two familiars are the same, even if they look nearly identical..." He continues his explanation, answering any question regarding their nature or abilities until he gets a certain question.

"Anira, what is your familiar," asks a human student who appears to be a year younger than Naki, "If you don't have one, I don't think you should be teaching us about this..."

The teacher gets a thoughtful expression on his face before he responds.

"I could show you my familiar, but only after we get through the summoning exercise," he says, passing everyone a sheet of paper and what appears to be an oversized stylus. "Alright, repeat the symbol I'm about to draw, but say your name in reverse as you do." Anira draws three lines into the air, the first similar to an uppercase 'U', followed by a line similar to a downwards facing arrow missing its left half going through the center of the first line, then finally a second curved line intersecting the other two diagonally.

The moment Anira hands a paper to Naki, Janpu uncoils rapidly and playfully snatches the paper, before disappearing in Naki's shadow.

"One can have multiple familiars," the teacher muses, winking at Naki while the others attempt to copy the symbol he drew, "Apparently someone has over forty in the future... Care to see if you have access to more than one?"

Naki looks down at the shadow. "Janpu! Quit! Give it back!" She lightly hisses at the familiar, and a small hand stretches out and hands it back. "He's always touching things..."

She takes the stylus and begins to carefully replicate the symbol, being slow and precise with her movement.

"Curiousity isn't a bad trait, as long as he doesn't cause trouble," says Anira as the first familiars begin to Manifest around the class. Sounds of awe come from nearly every direction as more and more appear. "Hm, seems like everyone is capable of summoning a familiar..."

Two marks appear, one on each hand of Naki's and a two headed snake appears at her feet, vermilion in color.

"Hmm, quite interesting," notes Anira, before a sounds of awe erupt from behind them. Turning around, they see that the human student from earlier has summoned quite the intimidating familiar.

Standing at equal height to the teacher is a figure clad in heavy grey and black armor. It has spiked pauldrons and pointed gauntlets and carries a large, ebony great sword between its shoulder blades, where two skeletal wings with the occasional black feather still connected to the bone. Its helm is horned and completely obscures its face, save for a trio of glowing blue eyes. It growls deeply as its creator smirks.

"Impressed, teacher," asks the girl, smirking cockily.

"Eh, I rather prefer mine, Serah," responds Sol, sitting atop an eastern dragon with a dark storm cloud for a mane and smoke colored scales. It stretches into the forest and is large enough to carry the entire class on its back with no trouble. Ribbons segmented by magamata trios extend from its mane and wrap around its body, coupled with a large magatama trio ring. It's eyes and talons are gold, though it appears to be much friendlier than Serah's familiar despite its intimidating appearance.

Naki, while impressed by both displays, shows overall indifference, though she does linger on the dragon Sol summoned. The snake becomes a large vermilion scarf that wraps around her neck and shoulders, and she experimentally says the name, "Jue', and the left end of the scarf morphs into a snake head and opens its mouth, and a large spear with a iridescent blade comes out and Naki grabs it, curiously testing its weight, finding it a perfect fit.

"Hm. all three of you have interesting familiars," says Anira, equally indifferent to the display.

"Your turn, teacher," says Serah, her smirk remaining, "Unless you don't have one." She emphasizes the last three words.

"Oh, I do," responds the teacher, "I just never summon him for the most part because he's... large."

"Prove it," sneers the girl.

"If you insist..." Anira shrugs and the air grows thick, "You may wish to step back..."

Naki quietly steps back, a bit more than the others do, putting away the spear and the snake disappears back into her scarf.

A loud crack can be heard as the sky literally shatters, revealing a monstrous dragonic gauntlet larger than the school itself. The gauntlet is coppery in color and has titanic black talons and pointed plates with the occassional cluster of spikes. At the center of the gaunlet's palm floats a sphere of black and purple energy that crackles with lightning.

"This part of Megalo," says Anira, "If I brought all of him into this world, we'd be at the scene of a giant monster movie." Serah only gapes at the enormous part of the teacher's familiar.

Naki gasps. This is what Mythos are capable of... ....this is the world I've been thrown into... ....incredible... ...so terrifying, but so.... ....wonderful.... what are the possibilities?! There's got to be so many.... ....incredible... incredible...!

Sol waves a hand in front of Naki's face, trying to get her attention.

"Um, you're eyes have stars in them. I didn't think that was possible," he says, concerned and amused, "You there, Naki?"

"EEEP!" She jumps back in alarm. "W-What are you talking about? Were you saying something or..." She trails off, now feeling awkward and looks away with a hint of an embarrassed flush.

"...I was trying to say the next lesson has begun, but you kind of missed all of it," he says. "You alright up top?"

Oh boy, not gonna go on that topic.... "Hmm? Oh what was the lesson?" She asks, swiftly attempting to ignore his question.

"It was about the Coexistence Movement and what factors were behind it," Sol says, dropping the other subject, "If the ambassadors from both sides had arrived slightly soon, I think that we'd be able to coexist to a much greater and more positive extent than currently... Oh right, Chemistry was cancelled because we're missing a few chemicals. Apparently someone raided the science hall."

"C-Chemistry canceled?! Awwwww.... so what's going to happen now?" She asks curiously.

"Free period," he responds, smirking at Naki's reaction to the canceled class. "Most people use this time to spar or hone their skills or explore the forest. I do the latter most, I'm trying to see if I can find the Land God for this area or the Land God's Shrine."

"I see..." She sighs, still upset about the canceled class, and sits down, and stares at her taloned feet. "...Still aclimating... still not used to walking like this..." She murmurs, vexed at the limbs, a less than pleased look is on her face as she studies them and occasionally moves a digit as through trying to see how they worked.

"Hm... You need to learn the Transfiguration Spell," says Sol after a moment. "I could teach it to you, I know it, but rarely need to use it."

She blinks. "Oh, thanks for the offer, but I need to become used to my form. It's what I really am now, so I might as well adapt to it. Changing my form would be convenient, but I can't live a lie either."

"Hm... Bird Anatomic Structure?"

She looks away slightly, closing her eyes. "It's.... complicated what I am... I can't really explain. Not sure if I should or am at liberty to." She flexes her feet again. "Perhaps you could say that... I don't know. I know what I am, but I wasn't...." She sighs, not knowing how to explain her situation, also afraid of what he might think of her if he knew her secrets.

"Ah I get ya," he he says, "I was asking if understanding how a bird or a similar animal would help you out in figuring out how your feet work, though... I won't ask how you got turned into a Mythos."

She starts a bit, opening her eyes. "Wait, you... ....did you know or just inferred.... ...I should keep a better watch over my words..." She seems a slight bit distressed.

"Eh, I just know things. Being the Monkey King's descendant has its perks," he says, shrugging. "Don't worry, ninty percent of the people here have no ill will against humans... The ten percent being elitist pricks who hate everyone other than 'people of their status'."

Naki closes her eyes. "Well between living a life as a street rat until my capture and change into what I am now... I'd say I'm not exactly anything worth raising a monocle towards. I bet they'd have a row with me no problem..." She lets out a sigh.

"Do you have any idea how overwhelming everything is? For me? I grew up not being able to even read or write, and suddenly I'm some being with powers I don't understand, and suddenly things I couldn't even imagine have become not only a part of me, but are all around me... ...I'm still trying to process all of it." She lets out another sigh, rubbing her face from slight stress.

"Eh, you could've been raised in an elitist family as the black sheep, kicked out for being picked by soething your older brother was supposed to inherit, forced to duel your older brother because you parents couldn't fathom a magical staff that chooses its owner not choosing the family prodigy, hunted down after defeating said brother fairly, made to change your name twice only to still be found out and deprived of peace of mind because the magical staff likes to talk to you," he says in a single breath, "Somethings take awhile to get used to... Other things, you don't get used to... The world is strange like that, always keeping you on your to-" Sol somersaults through the air, avoiding a slash from Serah's familiar. He lands on his feet and twirls his staff, pointing the weapon at the knight like being.

"Sol, we challenge you and your girlfriend to a duel," says Serah as a teen in a pristine uniform takes her side. He smirks and summons a two headed wolf the size of a bear to his side.

"Sol, I believe you are the rank one student in the school," muses the other male, petting his wolf, "I cannot allow that, especially from one who consorts with commoners as if they were his kin." Sol scoffs.

"Fine, I'll take you both on," he smirks. Serah tsks at him.

"You and the new girl," she repeats, "Oh, I forgot you only learn through being punished..."

Naki closes her eyes. "Not interested. I'm not involved in this and I don't intend to. What's wrong with showing the new girl around on their first day? Oh and... I'm not his girlfriend."

She quietly gets up and puts her hands in her pockets, walking away, though Janpu appears, thicker and bulkier than normal and coils around her, his singular eye watching Naki's rear defense, knowing the danger.

"Don't you turn away from me," growls the other teen, stalking towards Naki only to be hit in the stomch by the staff and collapse, his familiar fading the instant he loses consciousness. Sol turns towards Serah as lightning crackles around him.

"Lightning Extension," he says, having his staff extend as lightning gathers around it, piercing the armored familiar and hitting its master in the stomach, shocking her. He sighs as Serah falls unconscious. "Annoying people are annoying..."

By the time he turns around, Naki is gone and still walking, finding a quiet section of the grounds, though a few people are still strolling around, it's otherwise isolated enough for her to be content, and she pulls out a book from her clothes and starts reading, still very much annoyed. She makes a slight tsk as she turns a page.

"Nothing changes... bullies on the streets, bullies in a schoolyard. Janpu, if anyone gets close, kindly punch them in the face. I'd like to be left alone..."

"I'd rather not be punched in the face for checking on you," says Anira, "appearing beside Naki his a set of Chemistry books, "Here, I noticed you weren't happy to miss the Lab and lesson I had to cancel, so I dug up these guys. Have fun and try not to get banned from laboratories like I was when I made explosive water by accident."

She lowers the book she's reading and looks up at him, Janpu looking at her for permission.

"Down, Janpu. ....Thank you sir. I appreciate it. School is as much as I've heard about and heard rumors of... ...it's funny, but's almost enjoyable." She takes a look at one of the books and smiles faintly, opening it up to read it.

"School is supposed to be enjoyable, not the battleground of jealous girls and holier than thou students," says the teacher, "I'd request that you stay, but its almost time for you to go..."

She closes her eyes. "I see.... I had a lot of fun... it was a great experience sir. Even with the jerks a moment ago, it was still nice. Do you think it would be possible for me to come back though?" She smiles faintly. "It would be nice. Do your students normally live here? Or do they come from other places every day then return?"

"The students live here, there are dorm rooms and housing wings," he says, "And you're welcome at any time, Naki." Anira gets up just as the doctor appears, his eyes no longer crimson.

"Ah, Anira," remarks Volmond, "How are you?"

"I'm well," responds the teacher, "Still attempting figure out how a certain possibility occurred, but I'm otherwise fine."

"My I ask which possibility that is?"

"The one I said you've really dislike."

"Ah... How was Naki?"

"She was a good student, didn't cause trouble. I'd be willing to accept her as a student," says Anira.

"I wonder about that," says the doctor, thoughtfully, "In any case, it is time to go. Naki is there anything you'd like to say or do before we go?"

Naki thinks for a moment, putting away her personal book. "Hmmm.... Mast-.... ....Zwei, do you think that I could learn here?" She looks at Anira. "Would it be possible for me to stay at home with him in the mornings and evenings and come here for lessons?" She looks over at Volmond. "At least then I could still be at home part of the day to keep you company since Miss Shinwa is with her brother now. Do you think I could do that Master?" She asks curiously.

"S-sure, Naki," says the doctor.

"That's feasible," agrees Anira, "You could start tomorrow, I'll handle the necessary paper work."

Naki suddenly gives Volmond a hug. "Thank you!!" She says happily.

She looks at Anira with a sour face. "If those two bother me again, I'm going to have Jue summon a rocket launcher with a nuclear payload on their ass..."

"Eh, I don't think that's allowed," says Anira, "I'd have to check the rule book..."

"...What do you mean you don't know if that's allowed," exclaims Volmond.

"The rule book was boring so I read half of it then quit..."

"..." Volmond grumbles.

"But no worries, I don't even know how to summon anything specific with Jue anyway. I just got him after all. I was just kidding. Anyway, it was nice to meet you Anira." She smiles, then looks at Volmond. "I'm ready to go now master." She says, hugging him again.

The doctor nods. "Let's go then." He teleports them back to his domain, just as Sol arrives.

"You just missed her," says Anira.

"Huh. I meant to hand her a book on birds, but I guess that won't happen," Sol replies.

"Try tomorrow, she'll be back..."

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

Naki stretches her arms and yawns. "Thanks for taking me there Zwei, it was quite enjoyable. Oh, can you teach me how to adjust my appearance so Anira doesn't have to do that again? Also, did I upset you?" She asks.

"Hm? Oh it's nothing," says the doctor before briskly explaining the Minor Transfiguration spell and how it works. "Remember to focus when casting this or else you'll appear as your darkest self."

Naki nods, and quietly focuses, until her feet become human in form, and she lets out a small sigh of content, then begins experimentally checking to see if her digits work correctly, occasionally correcting something slightly.

"That feels right. Thanks Zwei!" She says with a smile, practicing walking around with her feet, before eventually switching to her Etherite form and practicing more on adapting to her taloned feet. She then experiments with the different clothing, the clothing she received from White, the robed form, and the school outfit she got from Anira. Once she is satisfied with the extent of her usage, she resumes her form with White's style.

"Ok, that checks out. Hmmm... got any thing on mechanics and human anatomy?" She asks out of curiosity.

"Yes?" Volmond is somewhat confused, but he produces the books. "Wouldn't an avian or draconic anatomy book be more useful though?"

She opens up some books and begins reading multiple ones at one time. "It's not about my feet. You have pet projects, and I want to do something as well. Once I get the majority of this stuff down, I'll let you in on my idea."

"As long as it isn't Alchemy, it should be fine," he says, shrugging. "And as long as you don't blow yourself up."

"While that is an interesting subject, I'm thinking more mechanical things at the moment."

"My second statement still applies," Volmond says. "Don't blow yourself up."

She smiles. "I won't. I'm just now reading up on this stuff. I won't try it until my research on the subject is thoroughly done. Plus I'm a big girl. I won't take any chances too dangerous to risk."

"Doesn't mean I can't nag you about it anyways," he grumbles. He tosses her a sphere of metal. "This'll be helpful."

"Hmm? What's this?" She says, catching it.

"Multitool. It changes depending on what tools you need."

She smiles. "Thanks. Again, I still have to read up on all of this, but when I'm done I'll be sure to use it. What did you do while I was gone? Or do you not want to talk about it?"

"I'd rather not talk about it... Though it was helpful in finishing up my plan and the event's prologue..."

She gives him an odd look, then shakes her head with a reluctant grin. "Want some coffee? I can get Janpu to go get some."

"Make it strong," he says, "Weak coffee is bad coffee."

Naki nods, and Janpu disappears for a few minutes, then comes back with two really strong coffees nice and hot.

Volmond downs the drink in a gulp, then sighs. "Good stuff. Now, have an idea as to what you want to make?"

Naki looks at the books. "Well, you could say the current target is a device modeled after the human arm and or hand that specializes in optimization and amplification of a user's power, be it physical or magic. As it runs on its own separate power, negating a persons power would be a moot point with the device, as it would allow someone to tap into its reserve via the nerve system. It would be as simple as flexing your fingers to use."

"Ah, sort of like an External Mana Sphere and Mana Aqueduct Theories," says the the doctor, "Neither of those have been proven successfully. Maybe you can do it."

"Perhaps. If you wonder about why I would make such a device, you once said you were human too, right? Didn't you ever feel helpless, like you couldn't achieve anything with your own two hands?" She asks as she reads, looking at diagrams of human hands, observing the fine details carefully.

"No, I was too busy trying to not be killed by people of a 'righteous' cause that was really greed. I only felt what you said when I lost Kokua..."

Naki closes her eyes. "Oh... ...sorry. Bad example. I should be more considerate."

"It's fine..." The doctor sighs and leans back. "So many things have changed since then... It's almost laughable."

"Hmmm... ...right... I'm pretty close to having a round idea of the framework I'll need now... I'll need some metal...."

"What type? We have Bronze, Copper, Alluminum, Iron, Steel, Carbon Steel, Titanium, Chromium, Infinitium, Cosmic Steel, Dragon Forge Metal, Solar Titanium, Singularity Iron, Singularity Steel and Silver."

"Normal steel will be fine. I need only the framework done for the moment."

The doctor has several pieces of steel float towards her. "Tell me if you need more, I have plenty of Steel."

She nods, and begins working on the metal, making reference to the books and sometimes her own hand as she begins to construct something that looks like the rough frame of a glove or hand.

Volmond begins reading an old leathery book, possibly an ancient compendium or spell book.

After a while, with her stomach growling, she manages to finish the framework, and carefully eyes all of the individual components she's crafted. "...Satisfactory... ....hmmm... I would ask if you had rubber wire I can use to make the tendons and 'muscle' of the device, but I'm hungry. How about you?"

"Not particularly, I just had coffee," says the doctor, not looking up as a pile of rubber wires spills into Naki's lap. "If you want something to eat, I'll get it in a moment."

She nods. "Well it's sort of getting late now, just thought you might be hungry. Thanks." She begins attaching bits and pieces together in complex designs, slowly attaching the components together, occasionally welding parts as well. After a while, she pauses and puts it on her hand, flexing her hand and hears a sharp 'click!' as she closes it into a fist, the effort made with ease. "Good... that's what I wanted to hear.... the mechanism works. At least the ignition that is..."

She holds out the skeleton of the device out for Volmond to see her work. "This is the bare bones, the parts that allow movement and the device to be triggered. I'll add more to it later, but you can kinda see the various working pieces aside from the power source and the amplifiers, that sort of thing."

Volmond looks up and nods. "Tweak the angle of the left most bit, it's ever so slightly off tilt."

She blinks, then corrects it. "Thanks. Do you like the design?" She rubs her head for a moment. "After you make some food and I eat, I think I'm gonna sleep for the rest of the evening."

"Mhmm, I want to see the complete deal," he says, getting up. "What do you want to eat?"

She thinks for a moment. "Never had a taco before... maybe that or three cheeseburgers." She takes off the glove, and looks at Janpu. "Can you get me a case for all of this?" Janpu disappears and grabs a decent case, and Naki begins putting away all of her materials and equipment, as well as the glove.

Volmond vanishes, then reappears fiftenn minutes later with three cheeseburgers and a loaded taco. "Here you go, Naki. Have a good night."

Naki nods, and begins eating, thinking silently. When she finishes, she looks over at Volmond and smiles. She gets up and walks over to him, giving him a hug. "Good night. ....You know, I kinda think of you as a father like figure... not sure if that's weird or if you understand... but thanks a lot for day. ...Good night." She gives him a light squeeze, then heads to her room and collapses in bed, thinking about the day's events.

I wonder what will happen tomorrow...?

She slowly drifts off into sleep.

The doctor sits alone for a bit.

"...I never expected to hear that ever... Not outside of that one possibility," he says, smiling wistfully, "If only things were as easy as Anira said they were in that unlikely scenario..." He sighs again, laying back and staring at the ceiling until morning arrives.

Sometime that morning, Naki slowly opens her eyes sleepily, yawning. Janpu appears quickly to greet her. "Good morning... I wonder how Zwei is doing...." She yawns again.

When Naki finds the doctor, he is reading the same book from last night. Sitting across from him is a breakfast platter with orange juice and jam of assorted flavors sitting beside it.

"Good morning Naki, you have twenty-five minutes to eat then get ready for the day," he says.

She sits down and begins eating. "Good morning Zwei. How was your night?"

"Long, I didn't sleep," he says, still reading, "A lot of things were on my mind."

"I'm sorry to hear that... I didn't have anything to do with that right?" She asks, then drinks her orange juice, then keeps eating.

"No, this happens everyone in a while, I'll be fine after a couple of weeks without sleep," he responds, "I never asked you how your day was, I just realized. How was it?"

"Oh it was enlightening. I never got to go to a school before, but it was really nice. There was some nice people, and some... ...not so nice people. Someone tried to start a fight, but Janpu could have just beat the tar out of them. He says he was itching to break their skulls and... ....rip their brains out... ...for trying to attack me. ...Yeah don't do that. Please. But anyway, over all it was nice. The guy Anira is pretty nice too. You two know each other?"

"Mhmm, we met awhile back in a summoning contest," he says while wagging a finger at Janpu, "You can't kill the other students, that'll get you on Anira's bad side very quickly. It's time to go, are you ready?"

Janpu crosses his arms, and Volmond hears it speak in his head. Well they touch Naki, so much as a scratch and I'll show them the meaning of: 'eating their own shit.'

Naki quickly gathers a few things, then nods.

"Janpu, don't get Naki into trouble... An angry Anira is a scary Anira." The doctor opens a portal. "Oh and beware Anira's tests..."

Naki blinks. "Ok... ...I will."

....Fine. ...Horseradish...

She walks through the portal with a wave at Volmond. "See you later!"

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

Outside the school, Anira stands, waiting. "Good morning Naki, ready for your first official day?"

She already has changed appearance to that of the disguise he had given her before, and she nods her head, slightly excited. Janpu is coiled tightly around her body, his head peering out from behind Naki's at Anira in curiosity.

"Good, to the stadium we go," he declares, "There's a test today!"

She blinks and nervously says, "Ok, Sooo what's the test?"

"Eh, Familiars, Elements and basic chemistry."

"...Ok. Let's go then I guess." She waits for him to show her the way.

Anira leads her to a colossium-like stadium where the rest of the class is waiting. "I'll get things set up, you can wait with the others."

Naki walks over to the others, quietly taking her place, though Janpu quietly scans for the boy and the girl who had harassed Naki earlier, quietly seething to Naki. His snake head tail quietly twines around, smelling the scents of the air.

Janpu is able to see Serah, though the other boy is isn't present. He is also able to see Sol, whom the girl seems fixated on. Sol himself seems to be concentrating on something.

Naki gets the feed of information from Janpu and quietly reflects on the information while she waits.

Seems no one is paying me that much attention. Good... rather prefer it that way for the moment. Janpu, feel free to keep an eye out. I don't want to deal with nonsense again. I wonder what exactly how the test will work... though I have a suspicion as to why we're in this stadium.

A loud ding rings out throughout the stadium as lights flicker on. The sound of gears grinding fills the area.

"Got it," exclaims Anira from where he is.

Naki anxiously listens to the gears. Machinery... ...probably relevant, though POSSIBLY just the light system. Highly doubt it.

Janpu is still keeping tabs on the girl, and is also looking for the missing guy, slightly concerned of a threat.

A loud bang fills the area as the center of the stadium slides open and a large platform emerges from the center. Several seconds later, four pillar emerge to support the platform as a large transparent sphere forms above the platform.

Naki suddenly feels energized for some reason...

What's this weird feeling.... ....I think it has something to do with that sphere... ....what is it for though?

"Alright, the testing stage is up and running," echoes Anira, "The first test is a Tournament styled deal. Basically, you're being as flashy as possible with your familiar. I don't expect to see anything on a miraculous scale, but I may be surprised... The seeds have been set!"

The orb above the platform shows a picture of everyone in the class paired with another person. Naki is paired with a student by the name of Selene while Sol is paired with Serah.

Naki quietly glances at her two familiars, and sighs. "Nope. No flashy here..." She mutters to herself.

Janpu whines.

"Oh yes, because fetching coffee is SO flashy, Janpu."

"You should be fine," says Sol, seeming to have materialized beside Naki, "Most people here don't even know how to utilize their familiars, let alone do flashy things." He hands Naki a book about birds.

She jumps. Janpu, your observation skills suck!

Wha- CRAP! Janpu sinks a bit realizing he failed.

After taking a second to relax, she smiles and takes the book. "Oh... thanks." She looks back towards the sphere and sighs a bit. "Good luck, though something makes me doubt you'll need it." She says, not bothering to look at him.

"Good luck to you as well," he says, "For things like this, Ishi Sensei grades based on effort. The more you try, the better of you'll be."

Naki sighs. "Alright, thanks..." She silently waits for her turn.

Ten minutes pass before Naki and Selene are called to the platform. Selene appears to be a mousey person with thick glasses. Her familiar is a frail looking drake with two flickering balls of fire.

Janpu critically looks at the drake with a disapproving eye, quietly sizing it up.

The drake mirrors Janpu's action as the flames around it light properly. Selene summons herself a staff and holds it defensively.

You thinking what I'm thinking Janpu?

Janpu nods. He then stretches out and grows larger and longer, now taller than either girl by a whole torso, and Janpu manifests two balls of fire in its hands, much larger than the fire of the drake's. The fire slowly begins to change colors.

"Alblaz," says Selene and the drake's fireballs vanish. A moment later the wind begins to kick up as it is drawn into a single point above the platform, finally appearing in the form a perfect sphere of iridescent flames. The drake cocks an eye at Janpu as it begins to glow with orange light.

Naki's eyes glance up at Janpu. "Don't go overboard."

Janpu slowly starts to make the two fires spin by making them juggle, and they suddenly become iridescent and enlarge into large iridescent twisting serpents that twist tightly around Naki and himself, after a few rounds of coiling, they burst into shreds of multicolored wisps of fire and ember, the embers sparkling like jewels before extinguishing, and the majority of the burst condenses into tight orbs of iridescent fire in Naki and Janpu's hands, Janpu assisting her in channeling her flames, and she slowly makes them extinguish, and Janpu patiently waits for a response.

The sphere slowly expands, becoming somewhat oval shaped until it peels apart, revealing a brilliant lotus flower composed of static iridescent flames. The flower slowly floats to the ground, gradually losing petals as it descends. The moment it touches the ground, the drake breathes on the flower just as Selene mutters "Alfri" freezing the flower and its still floating petals in place, still gleaming iridescently. The drake continues to glow brighter and brighter, finally releasing the light in a stream that makes rings of rainbows circle and loop continuously around the flower while a golden beam of light shines from the center.

Naki quietly looks at the display, quietly impressed. With my limits of what I even know about magic, might as well give up there. I've not been taught long and I've only practiced it once. Hell, I'm a recent born Mythos. I didn't think I had a chance to begin with. Urrgh, creativity isn't my strong suit... ...damn it.

Naki closes her eyes and crosses her arms, and Janpu shrinks down to his previous size, extinguishing the flame.

If I had more practice, maybe this would be a different story. ...I hope I at least had somewhat of a decent effect.

"Good effort both of you," says Anira from his still unseen position, "That was much better than I expected to see from you two. Naki, you've got excellent synergy with Janpu, Selene, you seem to be really coordinated with..."

"Weyrn," supplies the mousey student, quietly. She appears to dislike being in the spotlight.

"Weyrn. You two are quite the pair. In a few years, you might be able to join the regional Summoning Contest. The same applie to you Naki, Janpu... That being said, while you both pass with flying colors, Selene advances to the next round."

Naki nods, expecting his words, and rejoins the classmates silently, sitting down on the ground, Janpu loosely coiled around her, laying his humanoid torso on the ground with his hands behind his back.

"That was a pretty awesome display," says Sol, "If you had just a bit more 'Umph' I think you'd have advanced... Still, the little guy has some surprises hidden."

"Janpu discussed making a fireworks display, but I told him we should scale back a bit so we would have options." Naki says, closing her eyes. "And thanks, Janpu has alot up his sleeves, as it were. He says if it was a fight that probably would have ended much different. Slightly. He's better with the quick and easy stuff, concentrating for a long while like that bothers him. He's kinda got a short attention span."

"Honestly though for me personally I wouldn't have been able to do that. Right now Janpu has more of the brawn and I have more of the wits. I only started magic a few days ago. ....And my existence as well. Like this at least...." She opens her eyes slightly. "Brother's probably still in that facility... wondering what they did with me... ...probably think's I'm dead."

"...I see," says Sol after awhile, "The caged flower does indeed bloom in company..."

Naki closes her eyes again. "Hmm...." Janpu produces a pillow, and she lays down on the ground, resting her head against it, eventually smirking. "I can almost see those 'friends' of yours coming to cause trouble 'cause you're talking to me... ...not sure I'm worth the trouble. I'm just a lab rat afterall."

"Eh my friends are alright... Oh, THEM... Well, I can handle that... A lab rat trumps being the black sheep among the family of black sheep." Sol balances on his tail and meditates. "Besides the only reason I'm on their radar is because I'm smart like them, but not an elitist." He shrugs the relaxes until his name is called. "That's my cue. I'll be back in a moment." He hefts his staff onto his shoulder and heads towards the platform as a dark storm cloud rolls in.

She opens her eyes slightly, watching him leave. But at least you weren't born to create a weapon to destroy all life. ....I was manufactured as a tool for someone else's vengeance...

She sighs, and sits up to watch.

Sol's match ends in almost an instant. While Serah has her familiar use fancy swordplay and footwork, Sol gracefully dodges and avoids the attacks until he leaps into the air and a complex seal with Magatama and the universal symbol of balance appears beneath him. He lands on his dragon's mane and extends his staff through the seal, gathering a large amount of lightning on its tip before he ascends into the heavens... Only come crashing down in a display of two dragons, one of storm clouds and the other of blue lightning, twining into a singular dragon embodying the fury of a thunderstorm before phasing through the seal with a dozen dragons, each representing a part of nature and balance, that coil around Serah and her knight.

Naki looks at the spectacle in awe, but she cannot help but feel a slight despair. For she learned but knows she could never tell anyone about why she was made. Before Volmond had taken her, Azula had come to her and taken her DNA to the labs below. But before she left, she told Naki everything. The real reason Naki was turned. To provide the dna for a biological superweapon. What Azula was to become... ...and what would have Naki's blood would pump through its veins.

From me shall be spawned nothing but destruction. You have no right to even look at me. I'm a tool meant to usher in the beginning of the end. A black sheep? There is no comparing me to you. I am lower than any of you...

Her eyes begin to close, dimmed with the secret despair within her mind.

The matches continue, ultimately resulting in a final match between Sol and Selene. Sol wins, the match but is close thanks to Selene's syngergy and coordination with Weyrn. Once this test is over, Anira announces a twenty minute break before checking on Naki.

"What's bothering you, Naki," he asks.

She remains silent for a moment. "....The reason why I exist. To be honest, I suspect you know about what I am, how I came to be this way, and why this was done to me." Her eyes fully close. "A possibility that occurred... ....do you see time?" She asks too quietly for anyone else but the teacher to hear.

"Time, parallel lives and possibilities, space, just about any and everything," he says, "In truth I do know of your origin and what happened, but I do not mention what I find to be uncomfortable to others."

She buries her face in her hands. "Those things... ...those beings bred for destruction... have my blood, my power running through their veins... if they succeed in their purpose, it'll be my fault... because they were made from me."

"Naki, unless something extremely idiotic happens, you shouldn't have to worry about that," says Anira, "So unless Admonition royally screws up, we should be in the clear... Besides, the beings you mentioned aren't totally aligned with their... master"

Naki opens her eyes and looks up at Anira. "Admonition? Who's that?"

"You'll see soon," he says, "As soon as both sides are ready, things will make a turn for the interesting."

She sighs, still kind of glum. "I've been trying to stay upbeat for Zwei's sake, but this has been eating me for a while. That the only reason I even have these powers is because someone wanted to use me for a purpose like that.... what's worse is that I could have been so easily just have had my mind made into a vegetable and stuffed in a test tube, along with the other specimens they've gathered. ...And no one would ever know I existed, I'd be lost down there forever."

She wearily watches Sol for a while. "He calls himself a black sheep... ....at least that's better than whatever I am."

"If only you knew his past...," he says, "Zwei isn't the type of person to be unnecessarily cruel. He may seem distant and emotionless at times, but he won't harm anyone without a valid reason nor will he betray your trust... Sol, you could say their origins are very similar, though the Choice has not presented itself... I wonder..."

Naki sighs. "I guess. ...Thanks... I guess." She takes the book Sol gave her earlier and starts reading.

"I'll let you off for the second test, you need some time to yourself for now."

She blinks, shocked. "T-That's not necessary at all! I don't need special treatment."

Anira shrugs, "Alright, you have five minutes before the next test starts."

She relaxes and quietly meditates on each of the elements, slowly focusing for a while on each one, until she has concentrated on 4 different occasions on each of the eight elements.

Anira returns to his concealed position and announces the new test's rules.

"Alright, second test. The rules are simple: Show me that you can manifest at least six of the elements, including the elements easiest and hardest for you to summon. This will be done in alphabetical order."

Naki sweats a bit. "Alright... ...just got to take it nice and easy...." She mutters to herself.

"Ha, it's expected that a commoner like you worry about something as simple as this," says Serah to Naki, a haughty look on her face.

"H-hey, leave her alone," says Selene, "You think because you were born into power, that all things are beneath you! You don't know what real effort is."

"Coming from the person who can barely do anything outside of magic and science, those words mean less than nothing. You can't even do what you're 'good' at."

Naki ignores her, irritated. Janpu gives Serah a dangerous glare, and the snake head hisses venomously.

Serah gives an equally venomous glare to Janpu and the snake, scoffing at them before stalking off.

Naki shakes her head and stands up. "If only she knew what I was... I have blood rarer than she'll ever dream to have..." She mutters to herself.

She looks at Selene. "By the way, ignore her and what she said. The only thing that comes out of the mouths of trash is more trash. She doesn't know what it means to have it rough, and what strength is derived from that."

"I know, it's just her superiority complex talking," says Selene after a moment, "I never formally introduced myself. I'm Selene Maribellum of the Phantom Family."

Naki smiles faintly. "I'm Naki... ....I used to have a family, but they are gone now. Nice to meet you. By the way, what you did back there? It was pretty. I'm still fairly recent at element magic, and well... ....everything to do with having power. I'm not exactly what you'd call a.... ....normal Mythos. Given some practice I could have made things better, but still. Quite incredible compared to what I could do."

"To be honest, I'm not really that fit to do things like that. I was taught combat magic and how to defend myself with the elements, not how to create sculptures and displays. I'm surprised you didn't move to the next round, I thought your display was much more interesting than my frozen lotus..."

Naki smiles. "Your lotus alone is proof of how skilled you and your companion are, anyone can make a bunch of savage fire, but to compress it into such a orderly form, it was beautiful."

"Thank you," says Selene, looking down. "We still have some time before we're called, want to talk for a bit?"

Naki blinks. "Oh, sure. I don't mind. I don't know that many people, so it would be nice." She slides a bookmark into her book and closes it, and hands it to Janpu, who dematerializes the book in his shadow for safekeeping.

Selene begins to talk about the various types of magic and how they can be used in tandem with science.

Naki listens with great interest in the subject. After a while she thinks thoughtfully. "I see... I admit myself to be interested in such things, the application of the unity of science and magic... though my project isn't nearly ready for completion yet. Much less showing off." She smiles wearily. "Right now I'm trying to create a power source that allows for the channeling of magic without the user actually having magical prowess, and apply the concept to a device that can be disguised as an arm or hand."

"Why not a ring or signet? In theory it should be just as effective, if not more subtle in appearance."

Naki closes her eyes. "This device merges with your systems directly. A ring or signet still requires you to actively divert attention to channel from it. With this, you could merely clench your fists, and be a human, yet be perfectly capable of casting magic and going toe to toe with an ogre. Plus you could say it's stage one for potentially more refined devices down the line using similar technology."

"Ah, I understand," she says, nodding. She gets a bright look in her eyes before she appears to draw out a complex equation, but before she can finish Naki's name is called.

Naki waves and then heads back up to the platform, and for a moment concentrates.

With barely any effort at all, a large sphere of darkness forms between her hands, crackling violently with its intensity.

"Good, it seems that darkness is your most affinite element," says Anira, "Five more to display."

She takes a deep breath, and begins to concentrate on the Earth. It takes her a little while, but not nearly as long as last time, but she manages to create a palm shaped rock, much bigger than the pebble she made last time. With a sigh, she places it on the ground and moves straight to fire, the fire coming much quicker and very intense in its energy when it comes out, and Naki quickly restrains it to a palm sized sphere.

"Fire and Earth... Three to go."

She struggles with ice and only produces a small hailstone, then hurriedly moves on to wind, which she manages to make visible not too long after initially summoning it. Light she doesn't do well with at all, a tiny sphere briefly forming before vanishing, and she excels with lighting but has to dispel it due to how much she accidently made. Her water sphere she creates lasts a little while, but it eventually loses energy and splashes to the ground.

"Hmm, You can summon all of the elements... You pass."

Naki leaves the stage and returns to her position before, sitting back down.

Selene is called shortly after Naki returns to her spot. She walks onto the platform, but hesitates for a moment. She steels herself before individually summoning a diamond shaped cluster of ice, a sphere of fire, a beam of light from the heavens, a dallop of seafoam bubbles and a small, smooth stone. She begins to create a ball of wind, when the elements floating around her go berserk and explode violently, sending Selene hurtling into the stands. Luckily, Sol manages to catch her, having moved at such a speed to appear to teleport.

Anira does teleport, appearing beside the two and checking Selene's vitals before sighing with relief. He has Sol set the girl down as he calls for several members of the school's nursing staff. The normally calm teacher now looks extremely angry, his eyes narrowed into golden blades and his normal smile replaced by tightly pursed lips. Naki and Janpu, before Selene is rushed away, detect a malicious aura around the area.

Naki stands up and looks around. What the hell was that....?

Sol and Serah both see Naki and move towards her.

"What the hell was that," exclaims Serah, "I didn't think you'd throw her under the bus or something like that!" Her normal haughty aura is replaced by one of anger.

"Don't point fingers when you're just as likely to be the culprit," hisses Sol, "Besides, Naki doesn't give off the same vibe as whoever did this."

"'Vibe!?' You're basing your argument off of a feeling you get around her!? That's nonsense!"

"Better than pointing fingers without any evidence." The two glare at each other, icy blues meeting stony greys until Serah looks away.

"Fine," she grumbles, looking down, "But she's helping us."

"Us?"

"You really think that you're going to be the only one to investigate this? As much as I dislike people like her, I will not allow my own classmates to be harmed!"

"...So you Do have a heart... Naki, what about you? Do you want to help out?" Serah's eyes narrow at Sol, but she doesn't say a thing.

Naki's eyes narrow at Serah when she hears the accusation, then she looks at the scene of the incident and closes her eyes for a moment.

"....I'm going to try something. I'd appreciate it if you didn't get close when I do this. You'll get hurt. Or worse." She walks over to the area where the element explosion occurred, and Naki's eyes glow slightly as she draws on her secret power of Ether Manipulation to begin using the energy to analyize the energy that was unleashed, trying to sample the origins of the attack. A soft blue energy field surrounds her as she does so.

Naki doesn't detect anything at first, but before she can give up hope she detects a faint the same malicious aura from before, only in a concealed yet more condensed form. The aura gathers into a single spot, forming the outline of a being greatly resembling Volmond, but with a more sinister and less ambiguous presence, that retraces its steps, from phasing into the stadium, to planting what appear to be bombs of pure magical energy around the stadium and on Selene before vanishing into the forest's direction. A moment later, Selene gets on the platform and the first of the bombs detonates...

Naki processes the information, then looks at everyone still in the stadium. "Guys, we need to get out of here now! There's some kind of explosives that went off, and I think there's still more! Quickly! Someone did this on purpose, and it wasn't any of us it was... we need to get out of here and quickly!"

She is already moving quickly toward the others, her aura of energy disappearing.

At first everyone is slow to react, but that quickly changes multiple explosions go off in quick succession, both inside and outside the stadium. It takes less than a second for a large panic to start and soon students and staff are pouring from the school in a frenzied sea. Sol manages to grab Naki and Serah and get them out of harm's way just before they could be swept into the stampede of people.

"I don't know what's going on or who did this, but someone is about to be put a good six feet under," snarling Sol, his canine teeth elongating and his hair growing into a wild, unruly mess while his tail gains a puff of white fur at the end of it.

"Agreed," says Serah, her eyes cold and steeled.

Janpu becomes much more heavily muscled, his single eye glowing red. Come on, come on, come on! The three can hear its angry growls. The snake tail becomes thick and muscled, the snake head gaining very long and deadly looking fangs, and lightning sparks in Janpu's hands.

Naki mutters a name, and a snake head forms and Naki pulls out a staff with two mace heads on each side, a dire mace. The two heads spark with massive currents of electricity, enough to fell an elephant instantly.

"The being strongly reminded me of my master... in terms of appearance. ...I don't know why. The being was very cold and malicious in its energy. I was able to trace its path in the entire stadium. I don't know who it is, but it definitely placed an explosive on Selene." Naki says tightly.

"Any idea where it went after that? I get the feeling it isn't here, at the school," says Sol, closing his eyes and returning to his original appearance. "If you can trace it, I can track it."

Naki thinks for a moment. "It left towards the forest. ...But Sol, I don't think it would be safe to go there alone. Who knows how powerful or how dangerous that thing is? We cannot just charge in recklessly!" She says, and Janpu lightly nods.

Dangerous. Dangerous! It is malicious! Chew you up and spit your bones and then make oatmeal out of them! Then eat them again!

The familiar says in a nervous, frantic tone.

Sol prepares to argue, but Serah interrupts him.

"She has a point. We know nothing about our adversary, it's sui-"

"If I have to, I'll brave the forest myself," he says, "As much as your assistance would be appreciated, I won't put anyone else in harm's way if I can avoid it." He lowers the girls to the ground before crouching onto all fours and sprinting into the forest, quickly ascending the nearest tree. He can be be seen flipping above the next couple of trees before he vanishes from sight completely.

"That idiot," hisses Serah, "He's going to get himself killed!"

Naki quietly says, "Keep back a moment." The same energy field as before covers her, and Naki seems to be quietly focusing.

The image that appears to Naki appears much more quickly this time and moves away quickly as it perfectly mimics Sol's actions until it too disappears from site. Luckily a trail of light is left behind after the aura disappears, allowing Sol to be followed.

"What are you doing," asks Serah.

"Let's just say I'm a rather... unique being. I won't explain, but this aura allows me to recieve information from my enviornment. Don't touch it whatever you do. Let's just say it can.... devour more than just info. I'm tracking where Sol went." To prove her point, she holds a stick to the aura, and it slowly is devoured by the energy. "So please don't touch me right now."

She points in the direction Sol went. "That way."

Strangely, Naki now understands the composition of wood and had gained a slight photosynthetic property, as well as the ability to harden her skin. Serah nods and follows after her, having summoned her familiar.

"Mortis Angelo should be able to protect us from most things in the forest," says Serah, drawing a rapier with an azure blade. "Let's hope we can avoid trouble though..."

This feels weird... does this mean my body will adapt and modify itself if I absorb materials? ...What would happen if I absorbed someone? ....I don't even want to think about that....

After a while, Naki is now getting used to her taloned feet, able to move much more quickly, her body gradually becoming more and more natural with every hour now to use.

"We should probably avoid jumping right in, it could provide a element of advantage if the enemy doesn't expect back up." She continues to scan the environment with her aura, quickly sensing for any possible threats as well as Sol and the being's aura.

Sol's aura is much further ahead than it was moments ago, but the being's aura is still far ahead, barely within Naki's range of perception and rapindly escaping it. Suddenly, Sol's aura stops and begins moving around one location for a while. This continues for a few minutes, after which Sol's aura splits and takes seperate paths.

"He split up... did he sense us?" Naki wonders.

Serah shrugs.

"I don't know, but waiting isn't getting us anywhere. Let's go."

Naki and Serah follow the trail further.


The Cursed ForestEdit

The forest around the secluded school. The area is silent and an eerie calm fills the area. Parts of the verdant area seem to be rotting or obscured by a red mist. The silence almost worse than the sounds of unseen predators prowling the forest.

"This place is starting to give me the creeps... ...something tells me there's more than bears and wolves lurking in this place."

"Those are generally the prey here," mutters Serah, "There's that wild beast and some of the bigger things that've poked their heads out. Still, it is strange that this place is so quiet..."

"...." Naki spreads her aura in an attempt to discern the reason for disturbing quiet.

Naki detects a high concentration of predators in one area, though the number appears to be rapidly dwindling. A moment later, she hears a snap and a spectral voice.

Etheric Knowledge... Accessing...

Naki flinches and rapidly retreats her aura into herself and Janpu begins attempting to fortify her mind and begins wrapping around her like a suit of armor.

The voice continues. Activating Etheric Knowledge... Boosting Exceed Nexus to three thousand percent...

"Is something the matter," asks Serah, readying her weapon as her familiar shifts stances.

"Janpu! Get her out of here now! The school, anywhere, get her away from me!" Naki screams out, and Janpu grabs Serah and her familiar and begins to speed off at violent speeds away from Naki.

Something amiss. Extreme danger. Danger. Danger. Danger. The Exceed Nexus. WIll consume. Escape. Escape. It panics in Serah's head.

Legna! Legna! Legna! Something's happening! Help me! Her mind pleads for him to help her.

The doctor appears instantly, assessing the situation as best he can before his eyes flare a brighter shade of green.

Legna! Don't interfere! The voice directs itself at Volmond as thousands of etheric symbols form a seal in front of him.

"I will not let you utilize another as your host because your form is sealed away, Taea," says the doctor as two blades of energy erupt from his arns and another set from his face. His hair blows with an invisible gale as what appear to be solar systems and stars appear in his hair.

Increasing output to twelve thousand percent!

Get out of my mind! Get out! She screams. Legna help me!!! What's happening?! Her mind panics in fear.

The doctor moves calmly and with purpose, placing a hand on Naki's forehead. Circuit like lines spread across her body and connect to her Exceed Nexus, initially matching the color of the ether, but rapidly shifting from blue to gold to red to black then finally white before fading along with presence in Naki's mind, though a great deal of information and power is left it its stead.

"W-W-What..... what the hell.... just happened to me?!" She shakes violently, choking back tears of fear. She hugs Volmond violently, deathly afraid and now crying.

"Somehow your Exceed Matrix was... Accessed by Taea, an Etherite that could be considered your elder sister. Taea is extremely aggressive and violent, which is why I have her sealed inside of her dreams seeing how aggression removing tactics failed... Yet somehow she was able to connect with you despite being sealed... This was a serious oversight on my part... I have to go quickly, lest she attempt connect with another... Naki, as much as you are probably afraid, I need you to perservere for a bit." Volmond summons a clone of himself. "He'll stay with you until I return."

As Janpu reaches the school, it seems to make a mental sigh. Exceed Matrix stabilized... threat neutralized for the moment... Elder Master has secured safety. Threat contained. Mistress terrified. Threat of mortal danger to mistress and surroundings ceased... Janpu seems slightly more at ease, and puts Serah and her familiar down.

Mistress mind not stable enough to make solid connection. Unable to verify origin of destabilization.

Naki falls to her knees, trembling violently with the shock and fear of what just happened to her, curling up in a tight ball, crying softly.

Why would she do that to me... ...I don't deserve this...! I'm so scared....

"Naki, what just happened will not happen again," says Volmond, "Family is far too important to me to be harmed. I will make sure that Taea understands this..."

"....Are you going to hurt her?" She asks. She privately and cautiously begins sifting through the data her mind had received from the incident, slowly processing all that had happened and what was obtained.

"If that is what is what is required to make her understand, then yes," he says, "If not, I will not."

"...Why must violence be the answer to everything...." Naki mutters, still trying to process all of the information in her head.

"I wish it wasn't but some beings will never learn- rather will ignore- the severity of their actions or lack thereof until violence is used. Violence should never be a first choice... Something I've learned over the years. I will, if possible, avoid violence, but if I must use it, I will."

".....Can you take me back to the school?" She says softly, still trembling.

"What about your friend deeper in the forest," asks the doctor, helping Naki out of the forest, "He's much further in."

"I sensed a being that disturbingly resembled you, Sol went after it. Can you make sure he's alright and get him out of there if he's in danger?" She asks.

Volmond and his clone frown.

"Ah, he's here, I'll have to deal with that as well..." The doctor nods at his clone then vanishes deeper into the forest. The clone looks at Naki.

"I am designated to make sure you remain calm and safe. Please call me Drei or Lessa."

She nods quietly. "Alright... Drei..." She says, an edge of unease still in her voice from the event.

The clone gives her a reassuring nod.

"As long as I stand, you'll be safe, Young One."

She thinks for a while, then sees Serah. "H-Hey, you alright?" She calls out. "I hope I didn't..."

"It's fine," she says, "Just... Watch yourself... Who is he?" Serah refers to Drei.

"I am Drei," says the clone, giving a slight bow.

"He is.... like a clone of my master, he is the one who got my power back under control. He's gone after Sol for us. He seems to know who the entity who attacked the school is as well. Listen... ....I'm really sorry about that. You might have been a jerk and you probably still don't like me, but if I had gotten you caught up in that... ...I wouldn't be able to forgive myself for that." She says quietly.

Serah doesn't answer for awhile. "It's hard you know... Living among being's who, despite your best effort, surpass you and make your effort look like absolutely nothing..."

Naki closes her eyes for a moment. "I know how you feel. I wasn't born a Mythos you know. ...I'm a lab rat. Someone's experiment. Born on the streets as a young girl, had to fight and steal just to get my daily bite to eat. Then my parents and family were killed, my family's killers captured me and experimented on me, turned me into what I am now. The only reason I have gifts, have any power at all is because someone wanted to see what happened when they infected me with the DNA of an extinct race. Without that little science project, I wouldn't be here, nor would I have talent aside from picking someone's pocket and breaking open doors."

She closes her eyes and shrugs. "Even with my power, I don't know how to control it. I can become capable of learning just about anything set before me, but I'm still not as good as you or Selene. I've got gifts, but I admire people who work hard for them."

"Ha, says the person with two familiars and nigh infinite potential," says Serah, bitterness evident in her voice, "While I don't envy how you got your powers, you aren't looked down upon as the scum of the earth by most others nor do you have to deal with pressure of being the sole human in a place filled with what others would call monsters... At least you fit in despite your diversity... My only 'friend' sees me as a tool to further his own ambition."

Naki sighs. "Yes, you're right. I have power. But just now, that power and that nigh infinite potential nearly got a classmate of mine killed. And to be honest, I don't look down on you as scum of the earth. Not for being human at least. I only care about who a person is, not what they can do or what race they are. You shouldn't have to worry about being the only human here, it doesn't really matter does it? You're talented and you want to get better, isn't that right? I've never been to a school so... for me, I'm here just to learn and experience a taste of what it might have been like if I had a proper education. To be honest, the only 'friends' I have are in the forest and in a hospital ward most likely. You, I don't know what to think of you. But at least I know there's more to you than what first impressions imply."

She opens her eyes with a sigh and crosses her arms. "I've never even had friends until this point to be honest. All I've known is... ...unpleasant things. I'd rather be on your side than having this pointless hostility, Serah. You said you don't have any friends, but maybe it's because until now you've not bothered to open to other people? Hell, I'd be glad to help you out if you wanted. But being a crab apple doesn't help anyone. Especially not you."

Serah remains silent, though Mortis Angelo nods fervently, earning a glare from its silent master.

Naki sighs. "Well, it's up to you. Make your mind up about it, though if you want to keep at the current way of things, feel free but don't complain later. Stubbornness won't help you."

She turns back to Drei. "How is master fairing?"

"Hmm... Zwei appears to be at a stalemate with the other being. Your friend's status is injured and another being appears to be helping Zwei against the being, though Zwei has a limited amount of time before he must leave, which will leave his ally and your friend to fend for themselves... This does not bode well."

Naki frowns. "What should we do...." She wonders.

"I'll show you," mutters Serah, stalking into the forest with worried looking Mortis Angelo by her side.

"Hmm... This will create a secondary possibility... Maybe we should go after her," offers Drei.

"Right... Janpu. Let's go." The familiar coils around Naki, and she runs off after Serah.

Drei follows behind them slowly, though he quickly catches up to the two when he senses a formidible presence.

"Class S Komainu-Shisa detected," he says, "You two continue onwards, I'll catch up. No other threats should bar your path until you reach a ruined shrine."

Naki has a worried look on her face. "What is going on here... ....I don't understand any of this..." Janpu is far more muscular now.

"The Guardian for this area is approaching, your best option is to press on," says Drei, "I'll hold the being back for as long as I can, but hurry nonetheless." Loud snapping and cracking can be heard over the sound of the brush shaking violently.

Naki speeds on. "We'll leave it to you."

Serah rushes off after Naki just as a massive bear like creature that appears to be fused with the forest tears through the brush. The last thing they hear is the sound of earth being crushed and a tree being uprooted.

Naki cautiously scans the area in a swift sweep with her power, hoping to avoid having another issue occur, yet at the same time find out the situation ahead.

Naki detects a heavy clashing of auras not too far ahead, three fighting against the single malicious aura.

Janpu's coils grow thick around Naki as they get closer, dangerous flames burning in its palms.

"We're getting close." She says steely.

Serah readies her sword, as does Mortis, as they reach the entrance of the shrine. Just beyond the ruined door lies the sound fighting and a very heavy atmosphere.

"Doesn't seem like we can turn back at this point," states Serah, grimly.

Naki quietly goes down into the shrine, Janpu dimming his fire so their approach won't be given away by the light source, Naki holds her electrified dire mace defensively.

The group quickly reaches the source of the sound of fighting, a large chamber with a broken tiled floor and three pools of water, one of which is glowing green. The four combatants are the doctore, Sol, a man with a black and red cloak and greying hair and a being that heavily resembles Volmond, but with black scelera wild, unkempt hair with roots and plant life growing from it, a mane of ropey vines and an overall sinister aura.

"Is that the best you could do," the being sneers, "I expected more from you, Volmond... Of course I can see that you are holding back to protect the ones around you, too bad that makes my job easier." The doctor growls and the three warriors lunge at the malicious entity, only to be blocked by a rising wall of earth then forced away by root like spikes.

Janpu suddenly splits off from Naki into the shadows, once in position, he fires a bolt of lightning from the side of the room at the figure, while Naki hides for a moment, while she charges a shot of darkness from the shadows of the room.

The figure blocks the lightning with a cluster of roots and returns the favor by having razor sharp vines stab at everyone in the chamber in a wild frenzy.

Naki lets loose a wild firestorm upon the roots and vines in retaliation.

The vines only seem to grow more ferocious once the flames touch them, lashing out in a vicious fury that forces Volmond, Sol and the elder man back, while Serah is shielded by Mortis Angelo.

"Weak," sneers the being, "This power puts me far beyond all of you combined!"

Naki puts her hands together, and Janpu comes to help her and helps her channel energy, and she then lifts her hands to the air as a faint rumble goes off and a blast of lightning pierces straight through the ceiling and blasts the being, knocking a few chunks of the ceiling on top of him as well, the effort makes Naki pant a little.

The figure spears the chunks of the ceiling with its roots and stops the lightning before it can be hit. It flicks its wrist just as Volmond flickers out from the shrine. A sphere within three large spheres forms, then divides into two, then four, followed by eight, sixteen, etc. until a hexagonal pattern repeats within the smallest of the three spheres. The being grins as the three spheres dissolve, sending out a cloud of red particles towards the group...

A cube of steel forms around the figure and the red fog as Janpu slams its fists to the ground, and various symbols meaning 'repel' appear.

Naki scowls. "I think we'd best leave. Janpu says we have five minutes before it wears down."

"We have strike his weakpoint," says Sol, "If this... thing is allowed to remain the Land God of this area, everyone, regardless of if we escape, is screwed."

"The boy is right," affirms the cloaked man, "If I were still in my prime, I could defeat him, but these bones are too old for anything like what I used to be able to do."

"Naki, you're crucial, you take Serah and go, us two'll-" Sol slumps for a moment, but regains his strength, "We'll handle this as best we can..." He uses his staff for support as the elder man readies his black and red rapier esque katana.

Naki narrows her eyes. "Don't try and play hero here! How do you expect to take him on your own? You barely stood a chance in a group! And besides, what do you mean 'I'm crucial'?"

"We'll figure something out," says Sol before rushing the being and extending his staff to perform a series of powerful blows on the being, who shrugs them off while the elder man practically warps to the being and begins making a series of deep gashes into the being's roots only for them to heal almost an instant later. He chuckles before wreching the staff from Sol's hands and batting the duo away.

"To think, you hold one of the greatest weapons, yet don't even know how to do more than the basics with it," he sneers, "You don't even know your weapon's name." He twirls the staff before holding it before him. "Awaken: Ruyi Jingu Bang." The staff explodes with golden light as wavy symbols and inscriptions lost over the many years re-etch themselves upon the now silver staff with golden rings adorning both ends.

"This isn't going to end well, is it," asks Sol drily.

Naki looks at Janpu, who lunges at the being's shadow and binds it with Shadow Paralysis.

"....Suit yourself. Don't get yourself killed..." She begins to leave quickly.

The being is empowered by the darkness based action,but doesn't make much of an effort to try and stop Naki from leaving, instead focusing on combatting its attackers, now up to four including Serah and Mortis Angelo. Outside of the decrepid temple waits Sol's familiar, which picks up Naki and places her on its back before flying towards the school. The Forest itself seems to be angry and vicious, trees block pathways, vines and roots shoot towards the dragon like spears, the earth juts out or fissures, bringing trees and rocks crashing down as the dragon continues its perilous flight.

The forest seems to be unending as the chaos within it increases. A ferocious storm begins to rage overhead, sending down burning rain and sharp hail as ligtningstrikes closer and closer to the dragon and, by extension, Naki. A landslide begins as the earth grows more and more unstable and the wind becomes frigid and more difficult to breath. Finally veins of red light begin to overtake the forest and race after Naki and her mount, just as she reaches the forest's edge... And finds the school in shambles.

Teachers attempt to protect their students from the plants and animals from the forest as the storm rages and the earth gives way. Eventually, Anira directs everyone into the school, just as the landslide reaches the edge of the forest. Luckily, almost everyone is able to reach the school's interior, Naki being tossed in by the dragon just before it winks out from the damage it had taken. The sturdy doors are shut as several teachers and students begin reciting a powerful protective aria to fortify the school and keep it from being displaced...

What seem like hours pass before the storm finally stops and the chanting ends. A curious student opens the doors protecting them from the savage onslaught of nature and sees the complete destruction outside of the building's walls. There is no longer a forest, instead there is a sea of broken and uprooted tress. The ground is a field of mud and rocks with the occasional puddle of water or icy patch visible. Most jarring however is the complete and total silence within the area. Not one bird calls and no insect chirps, making the land appear to be truly desolate... Until a figure emerges from the edge of the forest, followed by another and a rather large beast...

Naki quietly looks at the group with unease.

The two figures turn out to be Sol and Drei, both heavily battered and injured, but alive, while the beast appears to be the bear, albeit no longer a grotesque reptilian hybrid creature. Instead it appears to have become closer to a lion, but with the stature of a bear and some of the features of a dog.

"Are.... are you alright?" Naki asks, running up to Sol.

"I'm alive," he says, leaning on the bear for support, "And I can move, so I'll be alright with a bit of rest." Drei nods, carrying the awakened Ruyi Jingu Bang.

"I was able to patch him up after I found him... That was impossible for the older sir, he would not allow me to do so."

"Wait, what about Serah?" She asks, noticing she is gone.

Sol goes quiet.

"She's the reason we're still here," he says after a moment, "She... She sacrificed her humanity and life to finish off that... thing and became the new Land God... Though since then, she's not stirred and hasn't been able to be moved."

Naki's eyes go wide. "....She..." Her eyes dim and her head bows. "....I see...." She starts to appear weak in the knees. "I... I should have... ..." She collapses on her knees, head bowed.

"....I should have been there... ....she shouldn't have had to make that sacrifice... ...damn it...."

"She is still among the the living," says Drei, "I estimate that she will awaken soon, once her power is stabilized... From what I've gathered, she chose her fate to protect the others and you, she specifically said to accept it as her answer to earlier."

Naki buries her face in her hands. "....What am I even good for if I can't even help my friends when they need me...."

"You tried your best, if anything, I'm to blame for getting you two involved," says Sol. "I should've gone myself... Maybe that would've stopped Serah's and Sir Miren's sacrifices... For all of my wisdom, I'm naught but a fool controlled by his emotions."

"We involved ourselves!" Naki snaps suddenly, looking up and glaring at him. "Don't blame yourself for our decisions! I followed you because I wanted to help you, Serah followed me because she wanted to as well! Don't blame yourself, and don't ever undervalue your emotions! There is nothing good about that, nothing but emptiness! When you cast aside your emotions Sol, you lose everything you are!" She stands up and gets right in his face. "Don't ever forget that!"

Her iridescent eyes have anger, but they are also at the same time incredibly dull. The anger slowly drains out her of her eyes, momentarily making the gaze seem empty, before turns and walks away to Anira, and asks him how she can help the others out best.

The teacher looks up then sighs.

"We need medics and healers, but we're in short supply," he says, "If you know how to heal, then you're golden. If not, search the forest for any more signs of life."

"...Do you have any books specifically on healing magic?" She asks.

"You gained some knowledge on basic Alchemy recently, did you not," asks Anira, "That should be helpful... Still, just in case, check the room to the far left. There should be a few books on healing and restoration."

"...You don't mind if I directly absorb them... do you?" She asks.

"As long as it isn't the oldest set of three. Those books are one of a kind..."

Naki nods, and runs into the room he mentioned, finding an acceptable book that isn't rare but still has all the information she needs, and opens up her Exceed Nexus and places the book inside the energy, and waits for it to be absorbed, bracing for the information rush.

Naki absorbs information regading basic injury treatment and preparation and information regarding both basic to intermediate medical procedures and basic to intermediate restorative magics.

She begins to help heal and treat the wounded, eventually seeing Sol. "Sol, please can you help me with some of these patients?" She asks breathlessly, even as she is treating another patient.

Sol, himself, is busy with healing others using a strange yet relaxing form of green and gold energy, while Drei heals with both magic and medical treatments.

Naki eventually heals the last of her patients and leans against a wall, utterly exhausted, breathing heavy from the effort to heal so many, her skin paler than normal, sweat drenching her forehead, which she wipes away.

Sol tosses Naki a bottle of water, not looking too good himself.

"Here, don't overwork yourself," he says, "The Medical Ward should be up and running soon, so the pressure on us should be reduced to zilch once it is... Then comes the search part and the reconstruction, though I think Ishi Sensei's handling that."

She gladly takes the water, and slowly drinks half of it, wiping her brow again. "I see.... ....you doing ok....?" She asks tiredly.

"I've been worse off," he says, "I can keep going at this pace for a couple more hours before I need to rest... Thank goodness that guy patched me up or I'd be out of it right now."

"I see.... ...What did you mean, I was 'crucial', back there in that shrine?" She asks softly, taking a moment to sit down and rest her weary eyes.

"You were crucial to getting us support and back up," he says after a moment, then sighs, "Though I guess that may or may not've had an effect depending on how long it took."

"The being was pretty much right on top of me in terms of how far I got. I didn't have time to get any help. All I could do is simply take shelter."

"I understand," he says, "I really should've expected that to happen."

"No one can anticipate everything. ....I'm just glad you managed to stop it in the end, before it was too late. ...I'm sorry that I wasn't there."

"It's fine... At least a greater catastrophe was averted..."

"....After we help get things in order, and rest up a bit... ...would you mind taking me to see her? ...If she is awake by that point?" Naki asks quietly.

"....If only I were there... ...she wouldn't have to go through this burden...." She murmurs. "I already was twisted and corrupted.... ...it wouldn't have mattered to me if that was my fate... ...but she... ...she was human... ...she didn't have to go through what I did... ...I could have protected her from being changed into what she's become now..."

"That's fine... Though I doubt she'll agree with your attitude..."

Naki looks up at him tiredly. "...Probably... ...but I just can't help but feel really guilty about it. What did I even do? I left you guys. I feel like a coward for not staying by your guy's side. ....This place... ...was the first place I ever made friends, you know Sol? ....I won't fail again... I won't!" She says, a hint of determination in her voice.

"I told you to go," he says, "You chose to listen to my bad call. Neither of us knew what would happen nor the ultimate outcome. Stop blaming yourself... You aren't the world class buffoon..."

"....." She falls silent, then eventually sighs. "You know you're in a bad mood when even the thought of reading doesn't cheer you up...." She mutters to herself.

Sol shrugs then goes back to tending to the wounded with his strange healing ability.

After a minute longer she also goes back to healing, despite her exhaustion.

An hour or so passes before the Medical Ward is operational. Anira has the trio rest in the ward, disregarding all arguments.

"You need the rest," he says, "You've worked hard."

Naki wearily nods and closes her eyes, too tired to argue against it.

Sol paces around for a while then lays down and goes to sleep for an hour.

Naki dreams for a number of hours, dwelling on much of her past on the streets of Earth, and how long and hard she struggled...

I'm still helpless... ...powerless... ...I couldn't change anything then... ...nothing's changed... ...what good is power if you can't even use it?

Eventually she reluctantly wakes up, her eyes dim with the empty bitterness inside her.

You aren't helpless, just lacking in discipline, Young One.

Aggh! Is someone hacking my brain again?!

Not hacking, I'm not my 'daughter'. I am here to offer knowledge and discipline... If that is what you seek.

I'm both terrified yet terribly curious. Who are you, and how do people keep getting inside my head like this? Naki says with a slight edge of unease and minor panic.Wait... daughter? You don't mean psycho lady do you? What's her name... Taea?

It's because you, I and Taea are connected by bloodlines or genes... You lack a lock on your Exceed Nexus, allowing us to connect to you and vice versa. Unlike Taea, however, I do not seek a host, rather I await the missing fragments of myself to rejoin me, and I wish to aid you as you grow into your power... I am Gaea, the Incomplete Aeon.

I guess I understand... aside from why you want to help me and why Taea is such a psycho... ...man my life just keeps getting more complicated by the day... ...so did master create us from you then?

Partially, yes... He used my DNA and the DNA of a Netherin to create Taea her elder sister, though by accident... Having lived since before the birth of this universe, I can say that interesting is a bill short... As for why I want to help you... Call it both a whim and the role of an elder... I do not like Legna, but I understand the reason behind his actions. Sometimes the vilest of actions conceal the brightest of intentions and sometimes the brightest smile hides the darkest of intentions... Your master is closer to the former.

....I see... Naki slowly sits up in her bed, quietly thinking about everything that has happened to her. There is so much I don't understand... ...I'm starting to lose comprehension of what I even am anymore... ...if I have all of this potential... ...what am I even supposed to do with myself? Will I just keep growing until anything I do becomes trivial? What then? What is my purpose? Arrgghh!

I wish I could get my head around it all... but just when I think I have begun to understand myself, things just keep changing and I have to keep looking at my self in all of these new perspectives.... ....so infuriating!

Your purpose is your own, as is your potential... You can choose to grow to the point that all becomes dull or you can limit yourself... I cannot give you a solid answer to those questions, your answers will come in time. It is best to be patient and let the answers find you. All riddles have their answers, all puzzles their complete form... It is your choice to become overwhelmed or to press on... You determine how you will turn out. If you become overburdened, find a place to gather your thoughts, but don't root yourself until the true answer is found...

Naki looks over towards Sol to see if he is alright. ....Why is Taea like that anyway? There has to be a reason, right?

Part of it is her inner darkness, part is her anger and part is her lack of empathy and sympathy... Taea was born with the Seed of Corruption within her, the sign of the one Legna seeks to destroy. The once serene and gracefully girl slowly lost any dredges of her heart and innocent soul as the Seed ate away at her. Legna attempted to bring that back, but only worsened the situation and was forced to place her in an eternal sleep, though it appears her power and corruption only grew...

She makes a brief grunt, before she takes out the book Sol gave her and begins to read it, waiting for him to wake up. ....Before I get distracted I guess I'll say thanks for the offer and advice...

You are welcome, Young One. If you wish to learn more about your abilities, send a thought in my direction...

Sol continues to sleep for a little while longer, but wakes up with a snap. For a split second his eyes are unfocused and almost feral, but they quickly revert to normal.

"Hey, you ok Sol?" She asks, putting the book down on her lap.

"Hm? Oh, I'm fine... Thought I heard someone calling me in my dreams, that's all," he says, though a strange look enters his eyes. "I'm probably still a little out of it..."

"....Calling you? ...Are you sure you're alright? I'm not sure if that was an actual dream. With this crazy world we live in, I would never doubt anything is just 'normal'..."

"Y-yeah, I'll rest a bit more. I should feel fine after that," he says.

"Sol, what's wrong?" She starts to sound worried. "Is something bothering you?" She asks quietly.

"I'm alright," he insists and a small amount of lightning sparks around him. "I feel a bit off, but I think that's the recoil from using Ki-Ijutsu..." He yawns tiredly. "Yeah... I think I'll sleep for a little while longer."

She looks at him worriedly, but sighs. Why has my life gone so awry? I just wish things could get better...

Sol falls asleep just as Drei enters the room.

"I see that you are well," says the clone, peering over Naki, "Anira has said that Selene has woken up."

She sits up straight and then looks back at Sol with a worried expression. "...Ok. Can you take me to her?" Naki slides out of bed.

Drei leads Naki to the room with Selene. In front of them stand two other people, both in wizard's attire, with the same blue tinted hair as Selene.

"Huh, never thought, Sel would have visitors," says a person behind them. Similar to the people in Selene's room, he has blue tinted hair, but he wears an almost spotless black uniform and has an aura similar to death, compared to the elemental and soothing aura of the other two. "Not like she had much worth to begin with..."

Naki's eyes narrow in suppressed irritation. "If she isn't worth anything, one must wonder why show up at all?" She mutters. She looks back at Selene.

"Hey Selene, are you awake?" She asks softly.

"H-hi, Naki," she rasps with a weak smile, "S-sorry for worrying you..."

"It's your own fault," says the rude student, "I warned you, but you never listen to me, idiot. Now mom and dad are here and you're confined to a bed. I'm not always mean to you for no reason."

"I-it's good to see you t-too, Apollos..."

"Yeah, yeah. I just came to say my piece," he grumbles, "Don't die, I'm not in the mood for Necromancy or Black Magick." With that, he stalks off, vanishing around a corner.

"Don't listen to him, it was not your fault. NOT your fault. Did anyone tell you what happened while you were unconscious?" She asks.

"Y-yeah... That must've been terrible to have experienced," she says, "Apollos means well, h-he's just... prickly..."

"Yeah it was bad, but we pulled through ok. The being that caused that incident is destroyed, at least that's what I think happened to it. Hopefully things will get better soon."

"Hopefully," she says before she yawns. "I'm s-still tired." Without another word, Selene falls asleep.

"So who are you guys?" She asks the two who came before them curiously.

"I am Apollonyr," says the man, bowing, "I am Selene's father."

"I am Thalassa," says the woman, "I am Selene's mother. You are Naki correct? Selene spoke of you highly. She said that you and a boy named Sol were her first friends."

Naki nods. "Yeah my name is Naki. It's nice to meet you Thalassa. To be honest I never really had friends before either. Your daughter is a nice girl."

"The fact that she opened up to someone is amazing, she used to be so shy," says Thalassa, "Apollos used to always coddle her as a child... Times sure have changed..."

"They have," affirms Apollonyr, "Thank you for befriending our daughter, Naki."

"You're welcome, it was my pleasure to meet someone talented and nice as her. She's much better at elemental control than I am. I have a lot to learn."

"She still has a long way to go," says her mother. "She's not aligned with the elements, but something else that has yet to be found... Still, thank you."

"There isn't any need to thank me." She tilts her head in a slight bow. "It was nice to meet you."

The two bow as well before quietly shuffling out of the room.

Naki sighs and looks at Drei for a moment. "Man it's been a long day... ...I'm going to see how Sol's doing...." She walks back over to where Sol is located.

Sol appears to be sleeping peacefully, but once Drei comes into range, Ruyi Jingu begins to glow ominously. The weapon wrenches itself from his hands and flies over to the sleeping boy, resting only once it has taken a spot by his side. Both Naki and Drei hear the sound of countless voices whispering around them.

Naki looks at Drei. "Classic case that something's wrong is when you start hearing voices." She quietly uses her exceed nexus in an attempt to see if she can figure out what's causing the voices.

Strangely, while Naki senses nothing in the area, the whispers grow louder and the area tints blue.

"Oh dear, we appear to be beng pulled into a dream realm," comments Drei.

"....That's bad isn't it...."

"Depends really," says the clone as the world completely distorts around them, resulting in a blue haze completely obscuring their vision...

"I'm getting freaked out now..."

The Broken DreamscapeEdit

A strange realm. It appeared to be a blue void with twinkling stars in the distance and a platform comprised of clouds. Silver pillars floated around the platform, revolving in a semi-uniform pattern. Beyond the pillars floated a golden light, a beacon of sorts in the vacant realm.

"....And just when I complained about life not giving me a break... it goes and does more crap."

"You could have the doctor's luck," comments Drei, now in the form of a spectral tiger.

"Yipee...." She grunts irritably. "Why are you in that form?"

"This was the form that I was granted, upon being brought here," he responds, hopping onto one of the pillars. "It appears that the light is our destination. Let us get there quickly to minimize the amount of time we must be here."

"...Alright..." She proceeds to follow after him, trusting his judgement more than her own.

Drei leaps from pillar to pillar, stopping occasionally to make sure Naki is able to keep up, until he reaches the platform with light. "I cannot interact with this, it is up to you, Young One."

"....Me? Why me? I don't know anything about this or what's going on... what do you even want me to do?" She asks with confusion.

"Touch the light," he says, "For whatever reason, I cannot move closer to it nor interact with it." He extends a paw towards it, but a barrier stops him from moving closer to the light.

She looks over at him for a long moment, then slowly and reluctantly touches the light, afraid.

The light grows brighter and eventually completely encompasses the duo... A moment later, the light fades and the area has changed. The background is no longer a blue void with twinkling stars, but a golden sky with white clouds that are positioned in such a way as to resemble the boundaries of a sphere. The cloud platform and pillars have been replaced by floating hexagonal platforms of two sizes: large enough to be considered a large platform and small enough to be considered smaller, stepping stone platforms. These are arranged in a large spiral upwards, with eight of the larger hexagons being visible and numerous smaller ones floating in between.

Drei has also changed, now resembling a white tiger colored lynx. By his side hovers a vermilion sparrow with a bronze colored beak and talons and a bandaged wing. Above the damaged wing is an incomplete wing composed of rose colored energy. It's eyes are red, though a blue ring can be seen within the irises.

"I have to wonder just what is going on..." Naki mutters. "What's with the bird, Drei?"

"Bird? What do you mean, Naki," asks the sparrow, looking confused. "It's me, Sel- I'm a bird!?" The sparrow beings flapping its wings frantically, creating small bursts of flame.

"Calm down," requests Drei, "It appears that we are to assist the Young One through this area."

"W-who're you?"

"I was the man standing by the Young One when she came to visit you. I am Drei, though you may call me Lessa."

Naki sighs. "I really wish I understood what's happening, though I guess I might as well stop complaining. I guess since Selene is a bird this world has a strange sense of humor... ...but why you guys are appearing as animals is beyond me... is there a reason it would make you appear as animals? She blinks for a moment. Am I like you guys or am I different for some reason?"

"You look like a human girl, Young One," says Drei, stretching, "It explains your lack of power and the arm you carry."

"What he said," nods Selene, still confused by her bird form, "You have a weird sword across your back and a bright light coming from your hand, but I think only we can see that..."

She closes her eyes for a second. "....Odd.... ....this must mean something... ...maybe I'll ask later... ...but now... Okay, I guess you guys help me through this I guess? Do I just navigate these platforms?"

"Yes, thouh I doubt things will stay that easy... Dreams are fickle places," says Drei, "They can change in a snap, so its best to be prepared... Hm, reach the next platform and I'll be able to show you a thing or two about defending yourself here."

She lets out a sigh. "Alright..." She cautiously begins to make her way towards the next platform, weary of any potential surprises that may come her way.

Naki reaches the next platform with no encounters of any sort, with Selene following right behind her. Drei has already reached the platform despite having not accompanied the duo. He raises a paw and a barrier forms around the platform.

"Naki, draw your weapon," he says, using her name for the first time, "I'll be giving you two a tutorial on fighting here, though you should understand the gist of it already, despite the fact that you cannot use your own abilities here. Are you ready?"

"...Alright?" She says, drawing the sword nervously.

The sword has a cloudy blue blade that sparkles and a silver guard that extends on the side facing the blade. The blade's hilt has a trigger and a what appears to be a motorcycle break facing the same direction as the weapon's guard. The blade also appears to have two slits shaped ports on each side. The sword as a whole is styled as a fusion between a katana and a wide rapier. When drawn, the golden light mentioned by Selene becomes visible on her right hand along with a set of golden markings that travel halfway up her forearm before stopping.

Drei nods and lowers his paw, causing the hexagonal platform the three of them are on the shatter then reform into a hexagram made of glowing blue light. Three purple spheres appear in the center of the platform and transform into a trio of wiry armored figures with blades replacing their right arms and needle like feet. None of them do more than shift around in place.

"Try using your sword against these Nights, Young One," says Drei, swaying his tail as he sits on his hind-legs.

"Ok." She attacks the swordsmen with the strange sword, trying to figure out the best way to use it.

The sword isn't very heavy, making Naki's attacks less clumsy than they could've been. Still, the swordsmen block the attacks, but do not change positions.

"Hm, try again, but with more focus and deftness behind your blows," Drei says, "Once you get that down, we'll move on to the next part."

Naki moves with greater focus and speed, though she prefers the feel of a polearm.

"Good," says Drei after Naki defeats the final Night. "I suspect you have a preferred weapon, Young One, but we cannot do anything about that at this point. Onto the next stage. Press your sword's trigger." He raises a paw and a second trio of Nights spawn.

She does so, pointing the sword at them.

Upon pressing the trigger, the light on her other hand begins to glow both gold and deep blue.

"You've activated what could be called Dream Mist or the energy that lies within dreams," explains the lynx, "Hm... it would be better to show you an example of what it can do, would it not?" Drei glows with the same gold and violet light before leaping at the Nights. The closest one attempts to bisect him only for the feline to land on its blade's flat, then catapult off while wreathed in crackling lightning. He becomes a blue and white blur as he ricochets between the three constructed swordsmen before he launches himself high into the air and dispels the lightning in a volley of arcing blasts that launch the Nights upwards as be lands on his padded feet. "That is the power of Dream Mist affiliated with Lightning, something you should be able to use, even if not to that extent, Young One. You concentrate on an attribute, elements being the simplest and easiest to do this with, and the Dream Mist will react according to your will, whether it be armor or a ranged attack or a different weapon. Be warned, however, Dream Mist is not meant for continuous usage as it must regather itself after being used. Try not to exceed actions that will take longer than ten seconds or ten meters... Now, you try it out: Defeat these three then we will move onto the next and second to last basic lesson."

She quickly rushes at the trio, using the Dream Mist to unleash a small fireblast in their midst to defeat them, once they are down she releases the trigger, then backs away.

The three Nights are easily destroyed by the flames, dispersing into blue clouds once Naki moves away. Drei nods.

"Excellent work," he says as he raises a paw. A cage forms around Naki, leaving Selene out with the lynx.

"What are you doing," exclaims the sparrow, "Let her go!"

"Calm yourself, this lesson is for you, Little One," says Drei, summoning a single Night. "Young One, you are to give pointers to the Little One. You should notice that your hand's Beacon is now the same color as her wing. This means that you two are synchronized and that you are able to support her with your Dream Mist, which is more versatile than hers, though lacking in range and power." He turns his head to Selene, "You are able to fly, Little One, making you more nimble and evasive. You also can utilize your spells via Dream Mist, but not much else." A black staff with a feathered plume clatters before Selene, who gingerly grasps it with her beak before flapping her good wing. Unsteadily, she rises into the air, before her energy wing stabilizes her ascent.

"Young One, assist the little one in defeating the Night using commands or advised actions."

"Okay.... ....err... try... blowing up the Night with an explosion...?"

"I'll try," offers Selene as she flies around the Night a few times, narrowly avoiding its strikes in her direction before casting Alblaz on it. For a moment nothing happens, but suddenly the staff flares to life in her beak and the Night is engulfed in an explosive ball of fire. "Huh!? That was much stronger than my normal Alblaz!"

"That is because you are connected to the Young One and because your power has been altered to suit your form," says Drei, dispelling the cage around Naki, "Now for the final lesson before we continue. Young One press both the trigger and break on your sword at the same time."

She does so curiously. "Why?"

The moment Naki presses the break and the trigger, the Beacon on her right hand becomes completely violet and the sword begins to dismantle and reassemble itself into a short spear like lance with cerulean, gold and crimson Dream Mist spiraling around the blade like spinning flames. Naki herself is now covered with the golden glyphs the went up to her her forearm previously and is overflowing with energy. Additionally a large gold and silver seal of energy has formed behind her, depicting a being balancing light and darkness within itself while swords, axes, spears and bows point towards it.

"This is the Dream Buster State," explains Drei, "For a short amount of time, all of your physical and spiritual limiters are bypassed allowing you to perform near impossible feats. The draw back is that once you use this state, it will have to recharge for fifteen to ninety minutes before you can use it again and you will have less effective Dream Mist control for that duration. This state can be passed to anyone you want though you will feel the aftermath if your were the one to activate it and pass it on. Lastly, try not to use a Double Dream Buster, very few can handle the strain from that... Oh, if you simply press the break without the trigger, you can enter a temporary state known as the Knightmare State, which breaks your limiters temporarily, but rapidly drains your energy after a minute of continuous use. Any questions?"

"No, not really. How do you know this stuff though?"

"I share the doctor's knowledge and experiences though I lack his power and the ability to feel emotions for the most part," he says, dispelling the barrier around the platform and walking to the edge, "If that is all, let us continue." He begins hopping to the next large platform.

She follows after Drei cautiously, keeping an even pace.

The next platform is identical to the previous one, minus the fact that a lone Night stands in the center of it. This one has both a sword arm, the blade both shaped like a Flamberge and covered in flames, and a large shield along with armor along its wiry joints. The Night regards Naki with a nod before raising its weapon and shield.

Naki looks at it, then lets out a small sigh. "Go ahead and blast the sucker with water Selene, and I'll shock him. Sound like a plan?"

Selene nods before taking to the sky. "Malqua!" A jet of water blasts towards the Night only to be cut in half and have its force reversed on the sparrow as a wave of steam.

"Whoa," shrieks Selene, barely skirting away from the surprisingly powerful attack. As she tries to regain her bearings, the Night dashes towards Naki, shield up and sword at the ready.

She presses the trigger, and instead of swinging her sword as expected, she instead leaps forward and kicks the shield hard, discharging a large burst of electricity straight into the shield and the Night by extension. From the disorienting move, Naki then takes the initiative and slashes its helm.

The moment Naki gets back within range, Drei cries out.

"Young One, it's a trap!" The words come just as the Night's shield freezes over and it forcefully expels the layer to stun her before detonating a fire ball from the tip of its sword at Naki, following with a bash from its shield.

Naki rolls under the Night and stabs it in the shin from behind, then backs away, now more on guard.

"Aim for the shield," directs the lynx as the Night stabs its sword into the ground and takes a knee. There is something off about this maneuver.

Naki makes a cautious series of attacks, jabbing at various joints, until she abruptly switches targets and stabs the shield with a burst of fire.

The Night weathers through each attack, but freezes the shield's outer layer to mitigate the power and flames of the stab. A faint rumbling is heard...

Naki repeats the attack on the Shield, pressing her attack more aggressively and stronger, increasing the heat of the fire.

Just before Naki can strike the shield, she is encased in an orb of icy water by the Night, but before it can do much more, Selene knocks it off balance with a wind spell.

"Malwin!"

This is just ridiculous... ...why do I get the feeling this just the beginning of the headaches I'll endure today....?

Drei uses this time to shatter Naki's prison. The Night regains its balance and has filled out more, no longer being a wiry figure with armor. It regards Naki with another nod before skipping to the next platform and the one after that until it vanishes from sight.

"That wasn't an expected denizen," remarks Drei, "A Doppelganger... An extremely high ranking Nightmare. Nights I could understand, they are the vanguard of dreams, but are mindless and attack everyone and everything that attampts to enter this realm... But Nightmares? Great, now I'm getting a headache."

"Great... I was right... ....just beginning... ....also, is that thing intelligent?"

"It is," groans the lynx. "We'll be seeing it again later, which will only make things annoying when it returns. Until then, lets head to this area's exit." He doesn't wait for a response. He leaps from platform to platform until he reaches the next major platform, then continues onwards.

Naki follows him, sighing. "You know anything about this Dream Realm or anything Selene?"

"No," she says, "It's my first time here... I think? I don't really know why I'm here, but I'll help you as much as I can."

"Thanks... ...man I wish I knew what was going on..."

"We all do," says Drei once Naki catches up at the last platform. Four regular Nights stand and point their weapons at Naki, protecting the molten beacon in the center of the platform.

Naki looks at them for a moment. "Selene, knock them off their feet?"

"Malwin-Ai," chants the sparrow as an explsion of wind goes off, launching the Nights skyward.

Naki waits for the right moment, then slices two of the Nights in half as they fall down, then manages to catch the other one off guard with a fireblast, and turns towards the last one.

The last Night rushes Naki once it picks itself up, then leaps into the air and spins like a top, generating a vortex of Dream Mist around itself.

Naki looks at Selene. "Can you knock him out?" She prepares to dodge it.

"I can smash him," offers Selene, "Algaea!" A pillar of earth erupts from the platform with enough force to crush the airborn Night and sending it higher into the sky where it disappears like a twinkling star. The Beacon of the platform, an amber sphere of light, glows in resonation withe the golden Beacon on Naki's hand.

"Naki, the Beacon," directs Drei.

She quickly walks up to it and puts her hand upon the beacon.

As with the previous beacon, the light becomes blindingly bright before a new area of the Dreamscape is revealed. This area is rather straight forward as there are only five platforms, these shaped like rings of energy, in a cross formation. The issue is how far out they are spaced, each being hundreds of meters away from the other. The cloud barrier of the background has been replaced with a ring of hexagrams and octagrams.

An annoyed growl comes from Naki's side. Drei, formerly a lynx, is now a white and blue striped tiger cub adorned with black and gold armor on his paws. His blue eyes narrow.

"This is rather bothersome," he says, "Oh, the Little One is gone..."

"Whoa, whoa, whoa, the Dreamscape," exclaims a green, black and gold dragon, with an amber energy mane, about Naki's size, "Huh, never thought I'd get pulled here again..." The voice from the dragon is Anira's.

"Master Anira?! You're here now too? ...." She groans. "What is going onnnnn?!"

"I don't really know, but the majority of the students in my class and another are in a forcefully induced sleep. I came here to figure out the cause myself, but it seems you have the leading role," explains the dragon, "The issue is this place... You aren't about to like this place one bit..."

"....And why wouldn't I? ...For once I'd rather like to be the side actor in this movie...." Naki grumbles.

"Well... You'll see. Orange Areas are always a pain in the Dreamscape," warns Anira, "We should probably move forwards."

"Agreed," nods Drei.

"Okay, so do you have any ideas as to what I actually do?" She asks, taking a few steps to look around.

"Hm, try circling the edge," offers the teacher.

Naki reluctantly starts to approach the edge and begins to circle it.

Once Naki steps on what would be the direct front of the platform, she and the others are warped to tha platform mirroring their platform's position in the formation.

"Oooookay, I take it that this is not going to be as easy as it appears. ...Ok... if that made me go there..." She curiously steps to the edge facing another platform.

Again, Naki and the others are warped... back to their initial platform.

"....It's gonna be one of those, isn't it...." Naki mutters.

"Yeah... I can already see a headache coming," adds Anira, exhaling a plume of smoke. "Let's not complain and power through this."

Naki takes an annoyed breath and tries again.

Again, Naki ends up completely across the formation.

"Right is null," says Anira, "That leaves two, technically three options."

Naki tries going straight instead of right.

Naki ends up back in the center of the current platform.

"...That's two down," comments Anira.

Naki frowns. She then walks to the back of the circle.

Naki and the other end up on the platform to their right, where a strange object floats.

"....Dare I ask what it even is?" Naki asks Anira.

"It's a treasure chest," responds the dragon, "They generally contain all sorts of beneficial objects. Most carry over into the waking world too."

Naki walks over to the chest and touches it curiously.

The chest whirls violently before imploding in on itself and revealing a gold, white and red, polearm version of the sword Naki is wielding.

"Huh, interesting. I guess the Dreamscape is giving you a message or something," says the teacher.

"She does appear to prefer polearms," notes Drei.

She takes a hold of it, testing out the feel of the weapon. "Interesting... I like the feel of it... ....I like pole arms because of the range and time it gives me to think... I can keep back an enemy better and foil their moves as well.... ...hmmm... this place is just full of surprises...."

"Both good and bad," comments the tiger cub, "Now where do we go?"

Naki tries the left.

Naki appears on the platform opposite of the one she was on. This one also has a treasure chest.

Naki touches the chest, curiously.

This chest opens in a similar fashion to the previous one and from within comes a strange scarf with a wing insignia on it.

Naki picks it up curiously. "I wonder what this is..." She looks at it, noting the wing design.

The dragon and tiger cub shrug.

"Keep it, it may be useful in the future," says Drei.

Naki wraps the scarf around her neck snugly. She takes a look around, then tries going forward.

Naki is again warped to the platform she arrived on.

Naki sighs and slowly recalls the path she took, going to the front, then backwards, then left. When she arrives back on the platform she failed at, she tries going left.

Naki is warped to the platform across the formation from the platform she arrived on.

Naki takes a deep exasperated breath. "Okay okay... ....whoever made this realm or whatever is a wonderful tool. I'd love to meet him so I could burn him at the stake...."

She sighs, going backwards, then left, then tries going right.

Naki ends up back in the center of the same platform.

"Last guess.... down?" She tries going down.

Naki ends up on the platform across the formation from her.

Naki lets out a stressed squeal of frustration, letting out a small gasp, then goes right out of sheer lunacy.

Naki and company are returned to the first platform again...

"Maybe we should try a different route," suggests the dragon.

She meekly nods, then goes right.

Naki ends up on the central platform of the formation. A crimson Beacon awaits her.

Naki blinks. "Is.... this it?"

"I believe so," says Anira, with Drei nodding, "Probably the last one too. Red Beacons are the last beacons, unless a Nightmare Scape is born... Well then, to the final area."

Naki holds out her hand to touch the beacon.

Warm red light engulfs the area and when it fades the final area of the Dreamscape is revealed. There are two major platforms, the one Naki is standing on and a much larger, more complicated one in the distance, connected by a bridge of smaller platforms. The platforms appear to be circular magical seals of sorts, though the major ones appear to be far more complex and made of at least seven connected seals. The background is red like flames, but the closer it gets to the other major seal, the closer to black it becomes.

Drei no longer has a solid physical form, instead he appears as a spectral cat comprised of blue energy. Beside him floats a golden sphere.

"I wonder... ...what is it that we do here?" Naki wonders aloud, holding the spear tighter.

The cat only looks ahead.

Naki sighs. "I guess it's up to me then...." She begins to navigate the bridge, making a more firm grip on the spear as she walks across.

Once Naki gets beyond a certain point of the bridge, there is a bright flash and Naki appears to be within a temple of sorts within someone's memory. There are four shadows of children playing around inside of the expansive temple while two larger shadows watch over them. The two larger shadows begin to talk to one another before the vision fades out and Naki is back on the bridge.

She stops, surprised. "Someone's... ....memories? ....I guess it sort of make sense... ....but why all the same.... guess the only answers I'll get are the ones earned by moving forward...." She continues unabated.

At another point of the bridge, another memory flashes before her eyes. Two of the children from the previous memory are playing near a lake under the supervision of a trio of adults. One of the adults starts a conversation, but stops when they see one of the children panicking. They rush over to the lake, only to find that one of the children has fallen in and hasn't returned to the surface. Reacting quickly, the adult calls a gold and silver staff to themselves, stabs it into the ground and ties a rope around it before diving into the water. Several minutes pass before a golden light fills the lake, followed shortly by a golden orb ascending the rope, making it onto the shore before fading and revealing the two shadows that entered the water. The adult seems distraught and checks the child's pulse and screams when they find none...

.....That staff... is that Sol's? ...that would make these something to do with Sol if that's true...

The vision skips ahead, showing the two children at a funeral for the adult, the child who was saved now resembling the adult to an extent. Both appear to be crying as others watch on. Two adults in particular seem to be watch the children with interest, one pointing out something about the two before the vision ends.

Naki frowns. ".....What is all of this....?" She keeps walking, though slightly disturbed.

At the next interval, Naki sees the children, now older, undergoing training within the temple. The one who had fallen into the lake appears to be lagging slightly behind. One of the two adults reprimands him, but he doesn't appear to take it to heart. He continues the training and eventual meditation, where a faint golden aura overtakes him while a blue aura overtakes the other, taller child. Both adults seem to notice this and call for a person holding a concrete looking staff. They take the staff and point it towards the child with the golden aura and get a strong reaction. The same occurs with the child with the blue aura. The two adults look at one another and nod before the vision ends.

She continues walking, slightly weary of what's going on. Why am I seeing these things....?

The next vision shows the two children, now around twelve years old, fighting against one another in what appears to be a battle to the death based on the savagery and brutality of their attacks on one another. The children are no longer shadowy figures, instead they appear to be a younger version of Sol and someone who looks nearly identical, but with wilder, golden hair and more precise, powerful movements compared to Sol's. The two continue to fight ferociously, but is easy to tell that neither wants to continue the fight until Sol is backed into a wall and literally has a hole punched through his chest. He slumps over, but before his life leaves him, an apparition of the figure who saved him from drowning overtakes him. The adult, a woman who Sol highly resembles, engulfs the boy in a bright golden aura that rivals the sun in brilliance before fading away. Sol's injury has been healed though something is far different about his demeanor.

He reinstigates the battle with his opponent and easily overpowers him despite not using anything besides physical skills while the oher uses a plethera of mystical and spiritual techniques, but stops before he deals a fatal blow and leaves the area where the battle took place. He passes the two adults from the previous visions, both whom resemble his opponent, and calls the concrete staff to himself before leaving the temple. Shortly after which, the vision fades.

Naki quietly contemplates the events that happened. "....Sol... ....so this has something to do with him after all... ....is it the staff's doing?" She continues walking.

The next vision shows Sol fleeing through a forest canopy as dozens of people pursue him. He fends off those who get close to him with swift, yet powerful swipes of his staff and he continues, but just as he reaches the forest's edge, the two adults block his path.

"You do not deserve such a treasure, Cursed Brat!"

"Your life is forfeit. Luna should have left you to drown, boy."

"Your brother, he deserves the staff. You are but an usurper, all thanks to that idiotic girl's actions. I was right in plan to abandon you in the forest. I should not have listened to the pleas of a child!"

"Always the shadow, never the one in the light... You're pathetic, even the simplest of things were too difficult for you. That's why Sun surpassed you. You could never do the right thing, not even when the task was as simple as reading a scripture from the Ancient Texts."

"That all ends here. Die, wretched failure, you shall not be missed."

With that, the vision cuts off.

....Poor Sol... ...no wonder he blames himself for what happened... but why is this place only seeming to draw upon Sol's memories? ...is the Dreamscape we're in tied to something happening to Sol...?

She continues forward.

Naki arrives at the final segment of the bridge and sees one last vision. Sol is beaten and battered, covered in his own blood and the blood of his opponents, who like on the ground in broken yet alive forms.

"You're t-too soft... You.... ....greatest flaw...."

"Y-you think that we'll... simply a-allow... you to go...?"

"If anything.... We'll take you with us.........!"

The two begin to glow brightly as energy crackles around them, eventually enveloping their forms.

"Even with us gone..."

"You shall not find peace..."

"Our successors shall hunt you until you die..."

"But need not happen... You will meet your end here!"

"Accept our dying will!"

There is a blinding flash of light before a deafening explosion goes off, ending the vision.

She contemplates what she has seen. How could anyone call themselves 'family' after that? ....My family always stuck together, no matter our problems... ...I guess the downtrodden life is universal...

She continues on.

The moment Naki steps foot on the large platform, she sees a white Beacon, but it is quickly replaced by a person sitting on a yellowed skeletal throne. He wears the standard uniform for the school and holds a bloody skull with flowers growing from it in his hand. His hair is blue, but some sections are so dark that they appear to be black. His eyes are crimson and a sword rests by his side, a more twisted version of the one Naki carries.

"Ah, you've arrived. I didn't expecct that cat to protect you so as you progressed, but it matters not. You will not advance past here," he says, lazily rising from the throne, as if the effort required to do so is beneath him.

13d31a

The figure in the chair... He looks oddly familiar...

She grips her spear tightly and evenly points it at him.

"Who are you? Are the one the one behind this dreamscape nonsense?" She says evenly.

"I wonder," he says, discarding the skull and picking up his sword, "The answer to that question is for me to know."

"What's the point in all of this? What are you trying to acomplish?" She asks, raising her spear defensively.

"Has it occurred to you that maybe, just maybe, I was bored," he asks in return, "Maybe I enjoy messing with people's heads, maybe this is all just a game to me... The answer to that is for me to know." He smiles darkly.

Her eyes narrow slightly, studying him. "Then do something productive other than sit on your ass all day. Work out, take a walk, hell, watch a tv rather than sit on that depressing seat you call a throne! If you're that bored watching me walk around all day is a sign you have a serious need for a damn hobby!"

"Eh, limited options and none are interesting," he mutters, "I tried sewing, golf, embroidery, alchemy, competetive running. All boring. This is at least partially interesting, especially when mouthy people arrive. They make things hilarious."

She launches herself forward using the polearm to cut the distance between them short, then pulling the trigger and causing the blade to charge with lightning as she brings it down on his head.

He ducks under the strike and closes the distance further to knee Naki in the stomach then follow with a palm strike to her chin.

She rolls, then gets up and swipes his head with the flat end of the polearm. "Can either of you help me with this or am I on my own?" He calls out to the cat and the sphere.

The cat shakes its head while the sphere does nothing in particular. The person weaves to the side, then extends his hand, releasing a black gale of wind in her direction before springing into the air and pressing the trigger on his sword.

She dodges the wind and releases the trigger on the blade, waiting for his move.

He makes a cutting gesture in Naki's direction before shouting.

"Elnove, Alnov, Ilmete!" Nothing appears to happen aside from him landing gracefully.

She stabs at him again, but just as he dodges she presses the trigger again and a blade of electricity extends from the tip extending its range enough to still score a direct hit.

Instead of dodging, he redirects the blow with a stone columm then sends jets of water after her from the front and behind.

She twirls the polearm, deflecting the water and then smashing the columm in his face, using the debris as a medium for a surprise attack and blasts a wave of darkness in his face.

The darkness, once it gets within a certain distance of him, falters, then appears to boil before launching itself back at Naki, only much faster than before. He sends the debris towards Naki in a forceful wave as a gale picks up. The platform appears have a slight reddish orange tint to it.

She stabs the spear into the ground, using the momentum to launch herself into the air above the platform and the attacks. She presses the trigger again and sends a blast of wind to deflect the attacks back in his direction.

The person thrusts his empty hand forward, stopping the attacks in place, then jerks his hand down, pulling Naki to the ground with great force. The platform begins to glow brighter.

She stops herself by grabbing onto the still erect polearm. "I'm beginning to resent you now... just a little..." She mutters.

The figure chuckles, "This is rather fun!" The air around the person becomes visible as a black and purple sphere. The sphere begins to spin and Naki feels like it is slowly drawing her towards itself.

She braces herself against the polearm, bracing her feet against the trigger and break, but not actually pressing them.

The pull gets stronger and the platform begins to burn with molten light.

Naki grunts in frustration, and looks down on the trigger and break, and with another grunt presses down on the break.

Naki feels a massive surge of power as her Exceed Nexus sprouts from her arms. Her senses are magnified and her reflexes faster than lightning. See is able to see the multilayered seals rotating around the platform, all flowing into the rapidly darkening sphere around the person. Suddenly, a golden light forms in the center of the sphere.

She quickly launches herself forward with the spear in hand, a large sheathe of Ether coming from the Exceed Nexus and coating the spear as well, she thrusts the blade in front of her as she flies at the person.

Just as Naki reaches the sphere, it explodes violently enough to force her back and engulf the entire area, but she is able to gain knowledge on how to cast Elnove, an extremely powerful explosive spell and a spell called Schwartzweld, which seems to be a controllable singularity. The person appears to be surprised that Naki survived the spell.

Not wasting any of her time, she flies forward at him with the Ether still present and when close enough begins slashing at him with the extended blade of Ether, hoping to score a hit on him while her power is still engaged.

Naki manages to score a few hits on the person before pillars of energy begin to erupt from the platform randomly.

Naki begins to reroute some of her power to defense, keeping a watchful eye out for a sign of danger.

Some of the pillars of energy erupt near her as the person changes his grip on his sword. Naki begins to feel somewhat sluggish compared to a moment ago.

Naki releases the break, retreating a bit from the pillars and the person.

The sluggish feeling worsens, but Naki still retains her heightened abilities to an extent. The person is now surrounded a multitude of seals and balls of energy.

Naki holds the spear in a more defensive position now, waiting for his next move.

The person thrusts his hands in Naki's direction, causing the balls of energy to gather before him and form a very large meteoroid that he fires at her.

Naki dives down under it to avoid it at the last second.

The meteoroid skims over Naki, missing her, but singing her along her back. The figure seems very drained, but Naki feels heavy and sluggish, balancing out the situation.

Naki keeps her spear in a defensive position as she stares at the figure silently, breathing regularly in an attempt to regain some stamina.

The figure points his sword at her, but remains in place. A faint green aura is about him and he seems to be recovering from his fatigue quickly.

"Hm, you aren't the run of the mill, over the top, grandeur crazed, air headed hero...ine," comments the person, "I guess I can grace you with my title... I am of the Phantom Waltz, Lady Charade. I am the Macabre Nacht."

Naki blinks slightly at 'Phantom Waltz', but otherwise remains focused. "That's probably because I don't reckon myself as a hero-ine much. I'm just a girl who keeps getting thrown into things she'd rather be left out of. Not heroic, I know, don't care. To be honest the only reason I'm fighting is because this place annoys me and I want out. I'm Naki, just some misfit reborn as something she doesn't understand, into a world a bit too big for her tastes."

She keeps her spear raised defensively.

"Ah... Hmm... A misundersatnding then. All unnecessary forces should've been removed... No wonder your aura did not match the one known as Sol's completely and yet I sense his presence here," says Macabre, an annoyed look passing over his face. "Disappear, I have no need for you here." A portal opens beside Naki, one that appears to lead to the real world.

Naki doesn't budge. "What do you want with Sol?" She asks flatly.

"He is needed to draw out a certain person, that is all you are allowed to know," he says, his eyes narrowed. "Now go."

"I'm not a hero or anything like that, but that's my friend we're talking about. The throne of skulls doesn't make me strike you as a pleasant person, nor does the attacking me business. So that'll be a no. I already failed a friend once. I'm sure as hell not going to do it again."

"In that case, I must remove you," his eyes narrow further and he fingers both the trigger and break of his sword, "Please perish." He pressed both and explodes with potent negative energy.

She presses both the trigger and break of the pole arm in response. "I am not going down that easy. No matter how much you ask nicely."

Once again, the Beacon on Naki's right hand becomes completely violet and golden glyphs cover her body as a gold and silver seal depicting various weaponry surrounding a being balancing light and darkness appears behind her. Her spear lengthens, its blade broadens and gains an extra blade of the other side as gold, violet and indigo Dream Mist swirls around both blades. Additionally, the scarf she acquired coils around her right arm and back, forming a golden tower shield that floats in front of her arm and for wings of golden Dream Mist.

Macabre has undergone a different transformation. His attire changes into that of chrome armor and his hair becomes black and silken. Additionally, "he" reveals his true nature as a "she". Her sword morphs into a bladed longbow with two triggers and blade, red and gold Dream Mist twines around it. A seal depicting a rampaging beast surrounded by bloody red eyes appears behind her and sharp grey glyphs cover her form.

Naki charges forward, raising her shield and baring her spear, ramming the shield straight into Macabre's face and stabbing at her.

Macabre seems to fall backwards just as Naki attacks, disappearing in a haze. Naki suddenly feels a light, yet staggeringly strong rap to the back of her head.

Naki whirls, spinning her polearm and slicing at Macabre, jumping up in the air and slashing her blade down into the ground to cause a large tornado of fire to consume the space of the platform.

The being counters with her bow, turning one side of it around to make it into a glaive, before flipping over Naki and shattering the platform.

Naki flies up and fires a bolt of magenta lightning at the figure, using the glaive as a lightning rod to guide the strike.

Macabre deflects the bolt of lightning before vanishing suddenly. Naki can hear a faint rumbling sound...

Naki instinctively dodges to one side and fires a blast of gold fire in the direction of the noise.

A massive maw of black and red opens beneath Naki and begins to close, threatening to consume her.

Naki flies up, shooting down a large fireball into the maw and tears apart the maw with the explosion.

Macabre appears behind Naki and performs a near instantaneous slash on the girl before another maw appears.

Naki moves out of the range of the maw and counters the next attack of Macabre and grabs her arm and pulls her in range for a stab to the chest.

Macabre takes the stab, but instead of slowing down or faltering, she uses this to grab Naki and release a brain scrambling pulse of energy before pulling herself off the spear. At this point, the sphere begins to glow.

Naki attempts to keep up the fight, trying to shake off the disorientation.

Macabre uses this time to turn her glaive back into a bow and fire several energy arrows at Naki.

...You... girlie... Who... you... ...Sol? A female voice originates from the orb, addressing Naki.

Naki attempts to block the arrows with her shield.

I'm not Sol... I'm Naki, a friend of Sol though. I don't know why, but this psycho seems to want something from him, and I can't imagine it's good... ....why?

You're a friend of his... Hm, would you like assistance... I... You...Accept?

Naki is able to block most of the arrows, though one gets to her before she can full defend herself. While she doesn't feel much pain, the world inverts for a split second upon impacting with her. Macabre fires more arrows at her before charging up a what appears to be larger, more powerful arrow.

"Gespenst..."

Any help would be great...! Any way you can help, I would greatly appreciate...

She barely manages to block the remaining arrows, still trying to focus.

The sphere glows brightly, almost invitingly, while Macabre continues to charge the arrow...

Naki moves for the sphere as quickly as she can, reaching out for it.

Just as Naki reaches the sphere, Macabre releases the arrow.

"...Schutz" The arrow is more like a high powered laser as it blasts away from the bow, accelerating until it appears as a large beam of energy. Naki's shield manages to block the arrow long enough for her to grab the sphere and be engulfed in golden, warm light. When the light fades, Naki is emitting an aura that rivals the sun and her spear has been replaced by a staff comprised of gold and silver energies.

I had to temporarily overide your spear to fully manifest. Just say the command that comes to mind and we'll end it here.

Macabre seems to be both surprised and frightened by Naki's current state.

Errr... spiral? ....No idea where that came from...

The staff spins in front of Naki before vanishing. Less than a second later, the the sound barrier is shattered by the shrill shriek of an object surpassing light speed as a ferocious twister of horizontal energy shreds through the space in front of Naki, completely overtaking Macabre before she can perform the slightest of actions. The twister continues forward for quite awhile before it rapidly expands and finally disperses, resulting in the reappearance of the staff before Naki. A white Beacon floats slightly further ahead.

"Um, thank you very much for the help... ...I was in a rather tough spot there..."

You claim to be a friend of my brother... Had you not been, you would have died the moment we made contact... Please, tell him to be safe, even if he's grown stronger... The golden aura fades and the staff dissolves back into the spear, giving Naki just enough time to reach the beacon before the Dream Buster state starts to fade.

She wearily touches the beacon after grabbing ahold of the spear.

The Dreamscape dissolves around her, fading to white then finally black before she awakens on a cot. Crowding around her are Anira, Drei, Sol, Selene, a shirtless man with golden blonde hair and lion ears, a somewhat sickly looking woman with pure white hair and crimson eyes, a man with black, red, gold and silver hair with hard blue eyes, an older man with tied back blonde hair and deep grey eyes and, of all people, Serah.

"You're finally awake, Young One," sighs Drei, wiping his forehead. "You had us worried."

"She's the one, Sol," asks the shirtless man curiously. The teen nods and the man nods in return, "The name's Leone. I'm an old friend of the little guy here!" He smiles as he puts Sol in a headlock and ruffles his hair, much to Sol's chagrin.

Naki groans, a killer headache coming over her, she rubs her head in response. "Uggh... can someone explain what happened? That was not pleasant...."

She blinks for a moment. "...Serah?"

"Yeah, I'm back," she replies, flipping a strand of her now green tinted hair. Her eyes are now the same hazel as the doctor's eyes although they seem to have a more primal, savage quality to them. She no longer is wearing the school's uniform, instead wearing skinny jeans without shoes or socks and a vest-like halter top under a flowing floral robe that emits an aura of life, longevity and primal natural power. "I woke up after the forest was restored for the most part and my new home was rebuilt. Apparently, you draw trouble to yourself, getting sucked into one thing after another."

"She means that she's glad that you're alright," says Selene, "Naki, you've been out for awhile and a lot has happened. How long do you think it's been since you got pulled into that place?" Curiously, Selene seems to be back in perfect health.

Naki needs only to hear this and to see these changes to do the most logical thing: groan audibly and immediately seeks to connect her forehead to the nearest wall in a loud thud of aggravation.

"....Let me guess.... ....weeks? Months? Years? In other news, my headache has tripled."

"....Also, yeah, I noticed. I really wish the universe would stop doing that..." She adds, hints of stress lines under her eyes. "...You know what, just hit me with it."

"About three weeks," says Selene, patting Naki on the back. "I woke up after a few days and Mr. Annie did after a week and a half, complaining about teleportation being annoying. You, however, couldn't be woken up, let alone touched up until recently.... Since then, the forest was restored to an extent, the holiday season began, Sol's friends came to check up on him and the school's condition and you... Well..." She seems hesitant about something.

"Just look in a mirror," snaps Serah, vines sprouting from her clothes for a split second and her hair becoming extremely wild before she takes a deep breath. "Sorry, still getting used to these new abilities... But, yeah, you've changed..."

"....Changed....? ....What are you... ....ugh just show me...." Naki groans. Her headache is only mounting with her frustration.

Naki is presented with a hand mirror.

Naki blinks, staring at the image.

Her face is less innocent and more stern, though her eyes still show plenty of her inner self, with a stronger green hue to her iridescent eyes, the iridescence is dulled enough to see it now. Her hair has mixes of brown and blonde, though the light shining off it remains iridescent in color as well. The scarf from before is wrapped around her neck, while a large case is on her back, holding the spear inside. Her clothes are more durable and simple, with armored arm braces, pauldrons, as well as leg braces attached to the clothing. Her claws are long enough to be sharp, but not to stand out or be a nuisance, and her feet are human with small claws instead of nails. Her arm braces are designed in such a way to allow more of her ether from the Exceed Nexus to flow, which she turns off to avoid absorbing anything. Her hair is shorter in the front, but longer and tied up in the back in a well done braided ponytail. Two red markings on both cheeks are visible below her eyes.

"...Why'd this happen... ...Anira, do you know exactly what happened to me? A lot of weird things happened in some sort of dream... ....I had to fight a psycho lady to get out of it..."

"Hmm, I could explain, but it would be very convoluted coming from me," says the teacher, "Zwei might be able to better explain, but he's currently unable to come to this place himself because something big came up."

"I may be able to explain," offers Drei, "Simply put, your form has changed to suit your values and ideals. As for the being you fought... From what I sensed before my connection was severed, you fought a fragment of the whole... Did they have any motives for being there?"

"More than that.... they named themselves. She called herself 'Phantom Waltz, Lady Charade'. She said she was after Sol, why, I have no idea. But my 'involvement' was not anticipated."

The eyes of all of the strangers narrow, upon hearing the name of the one responsible,

"She was here," growls the man with multicolored hair. For an instant his eyes flash red and armor like scales appear on his face, but they quickly vanish and he sighs, "Rest for now, we'll talk tomorrow." We that, he and the others exit the room, leaving Naki with Selene, Serah, Drei and Anira.

"....Well that can't be good..." Naki mutters. "It seems like you're more right than you know Serah... the universe just loves dumping stuff on my head."

"Try not to get yourself dug in too deep," says the fledling Land God. "You aren't in a position to kick the bucket yet."

Naki frowns. "I'm not in a position to kick the bucket? I'm not exactly looking to die so I am not sure where that came from.... anyway, it's nice to see you again. You feeling better too Selene? Now that I think about it, you said I couldn't even be touched?"

"She meant don't get too deeply involved with anything that could get you kill-"

"Stop translating what I'm saying, dammit," snaps Serah.

"-ed, you have too many people who- Ow!" Selene rubs her forehead where Serah flicked her hard.

"Then listen," huffs the other girl.

"Anyways, yeah. No one could get near you without something forcing them away from you, as if there was a barrier isolating you from everyone else," finishes Selene, "Occasionally you would begin to mutter things that made no sense and odd auras would surround you until you finally woke up."

Naki closes her eyes. "Ahh... ....I'm sorry, I wanted to visit you as soon as possible, but ironically it was you who ended up visiting me... ....also, about earlier... ....I'm sorry I wasn't there. I feel like I let you down back then."

"It's fine, I forgive you," says Serah, "Try not to do it again or I'll begin to question whether or not you're simply trying to off me." Selene begins to interpret, but the Land God shoots her a wicked look.

Naki smiles. "I have no intention of doing so again. So who were those people anyway?"

"Friends of Sol," says Selene, "They arrived shortly after Mr. Annie woke up, about a day later. They were... Leone, the lion person, Ark, the guy with multicolored hair, Lucia, the lady with white hair, and Patrikolos, the older looking person."

"I see... ...I can't believe it's been weeks since all of this happened... ....I hope Volmond isn't too worried..."

"He should be coming by in the next few days to check on you," says Anira.

"Yes, the doctor is currently with others, though if you called him, he would no doubt be here within an instant," affirms Drei.

"I miss him, but I'll let him come when he wants to come. I don't want to rush him into anything. You know though, as much inconvinence all this as been, I still don't hate this form of mine anymore. I mean, it's been a real eye opening experince... ....I'm gonna miss my family, and no amount of wishful thinking will change the fact that I lost them to Phoenix... ...but at least I've gotten to meet friends like you guys to help me along. I'm really glad to have met you all..." Naki says with a smile. She takes the case on her back off and opens it, revealing the spear.

"...So I still have this huh? Guess that weird place did have its advantages, despite the loss of a few weeks."

"You win some, you lose some," says Anira.

"Is there anything I can do, or do I need to stay and rest or something?" Naki asks.

"It's quite late actually," says the teacher, "Rest up for tomorrow."

"....Feels weird to go to sleep when I just woke up..."

"I know, but you wouldn't realize how tiring sleeping is," says the teacher before chuckling to himself.

Naki shakes her head. "I guess I'll sleep then... I'll see you later I guess..." She quietly lays down on the cot, smiling up at Serah and Selene. "Talk later I guess?"

"Sure," They say in unison before leaving the room with the teacher. Drei turns into a white cat with blue, almost black stripes and curls up on the floor beside Naki's cot.

"Sleep well, Young One," he mews.

Naki drifts off to sleep, wondering what tomorrow will bring.


Meeting Riot(And Other Awaiting Disasters)Edit

Naki wakes up feeling completely refreshed. Drei raises his head and and gives her a lopsided look.

"You should bathe," he says before laying his head back down and going back to sleep.

She nods, and heads to take a shower, taking some time to relax in the water, then changing into newer clothes. She comes back and stretches with a yawn.

She picks up the case of the spear and straps it to her back, heading down to eat.

On her way, she meets up with Serah.

"You're up, good. You were probably going to get lost," she says, "Follow me, I'm heading to the dining hall."

Naki follows her. "Thanks for the help."

Serah grunts a reply as she leads Naki into a large room filled with people sitting and eating and talking to one another. Serah leads her through this to a short line of people. "They have everything you could imagine and beyond, so ask for what you want and how much of it you want."

Naki ends up asking for four pancakes and a glass of milk with some sausages, then sitting down at a table.

Serah sits down in front of her, her plate loaded with all sorts of foods, some appearing to be nearly indescribable. "Huh, I though you appetite would be bigger..."

Naki smiles. "I'm just going to be focusing on one thing at a time to be honest... won't be as satisfying if I scarf it all down at once."

"More plates next time," suggests the Land God, tearing into her massive amount of food.

Naki shakes her head wearily. "Remind me not to start a eating competition with you..." She eats her pancakes quietly.

"I actually got more than this the day before and more than that the day before that," she says, "If anything my appetite is diminishing... Soon I won't need to eat." A melancholy look crosses her face for a moment, but she shrugs then finishes off her breakfast. "Sol's friends want to talk with you, by the way. I dunno why, but they do."

Naki soon finishes hers as well. "Hmmm... ....I'm guessing it's about that Charade person... I suppose though you can still eat for pleasure though, right?"

Serah shrugs, "Maybe, apparently there are a ton of procedures and customs to follow..."

"Customs and procedures? Also, you know where his friends might be?"

"Yeah, all sorts of rules... I have to meet the lesser deities of the area soon," she says, sighing. "They'll be in the stadium, Sol's friends."

Naki closes her eyes. "I hope things can get better for you Serah... I'll go ahead and see them I guess. It's great to see you again."

"Same to you," she mutters under her breath, "Now get going."

Naki waves goodbye, before making her way to the stadium, while she heads there she reads one of her books.

When Naki arrives, Leone is waiting for her outside.

"Heya," he beams. His attire ia similar to what he wore yesterday, he still lacks a shirt, but is wearing brown cargo pants with crossing belts. "The others are waiting for you inside, but first..." A blue and gold spectral lion forms behind him. "I want to test something. Hit me with your best shot. no strings attached."

Curiously Naki frowns at him. ".....You're asking me to punch you....?"

"Punch, kick, blast with magic, its up to you," he shrugs, "Just hit me with your best shot."

Naki sighs, then punches him with a fairly decent punch towards the stomach.

"Was that really your best," he asks before shrugging, "Well, best not keep Ark waiting."

Naki blinks, then shakes her head and enters the stadium. Can't imagine what he wants, if he was at the room I was sleeping in why couldn't he wait somewhere like the dining hall...? Seems inconvenient... but then again he might be a hot head, so maybe he doesn't always think things through... who knows...

Inside the stadium Naki sees Ark, who gives her a look that cannot be read.

"So you met Charade... Could you go over your encounter in depth," he sks, his tone even, almost monotonous.

Naki takes a deep breath, and recounts all that occurred in the fight to the best of her ability, noting the strength of the person.

"Overall the only reason I fought Charade is because she got in the way of me getting back out of the dream and because she wanted something regarding Sol, I wasn't having that considering she was behind the whole dream thing to begin with. I've already let down too many people to let him down too."

"Explain your last statement," he says.

"The last time I was in a fight like that... I thought it best to seek help from the teacher, and I left Sol and Serah and another behind... ....I thought they would be able to hold out until I got help... but I failed and didn't even have time to get help... all I could do is hide with the others in the school... ...I wasn't there when they needed me, and because of that, Serah sacrificed herself and her humanity... ....I still feel so terrible and guilty for that... ....even if that had never happened, I still would never have just let that being do as it wished. I was a coward, I should have stayed and helped them back then. ...I don't intend to repeat that mistake."

"I see," he says, "Hmm... Your sincerity is genuine. Would you like the power to protect those close to you?" The older man looks confused.

"Arkyle, surely you don't mean a Pact..."

"And if I do, after all I have to try it at least once," says the young man, "Besides, it is of no ill-effect to her."

Naki's face tightens as she automatically starts accessing his meaning. Not immediately coming to a conclusion, she looks at Ark with a sharper eye. "Define... pact."

He shows her a triangular marking with an octagon within it on the back of his left hand.

"A Pact is a gift of power to one who lacks it from the source of said power," he says, "Most of the times the one capable of giving the power asks that you serve them or give up something in exchange. This is no different: In exchange for the power I offer, I want you to become a junior member of Riot, my organization dedicated in part to defeating Charade, though that is not the extent of our activities. I'll give you time to think on it." Before he can dismiss her, the white haired woman speaks up.

"A moment, please," her voice sounds weak, almost sick, but the strength within her eyes belies the frality of her form. "I'd like to speak with her..."

Naki's eyes shift towards the woman, still having the appearance of subtly analyzing the situation. "...What do you want to talk about?"

"My father," she says, "...He was at the shrine..."

"Your father was at the shrine...?" She asks, not understanding where this is going.

"He was in the area and said he felt a disturbance that he would investigate... After that, I never heard back from him..." She coughs a bit.

"Sacrifices..." Naki murmurs, remembering something. "Does... Sir Miren mean anything to you? That's the only name I know of anyone involved, though I do not know what happened to him. Sol said something about a sacrifice regarding him, but I don't know anything... I'm sorry. Wish I could be more helpful than that."

"...I see," she says, looking especially disheartened. "Miren was my father... I'll have to inform mother of his passing."

"....I'm... sorry..." Naki looks toward Ark. "Why are you offering this to me? I'm not a good fighter. Surely there's a reason I'm not aware of?"

"And one I'm probably unaware of," he says, "Though I will admit that your conviction and sincerity was a deciding factor in this. You do not have to decide now, I'll give you two days to mull it over."

Naki rubs her head. "Alright... I'll think about it..." She says with a sigh.

"Until then, be watchful and tells any of us if you notice anything suspicious happening."

Naki quietly nods and walks away.

When Naki gets back into the proper school building, Apollos is waiting.

"Huh, you didn't kick the bucket yet," he says in a deadpan voice, "I guess that's notable or something." On closer inspection, he looks almost identical to the form Macabre took, minus the red eyes. Everything else is spot on."Watch yourself, you're on a ledge of sorts. One false move and the abyss will consume you... Take that as you will."

"You know, you remind me of that bitch from the dream place I fought earlier. I can't imagine that's a coincidence, so if you're threatening me or something, I'd like to point out that there's a group back there who'd love to have a chat with you about Charade. You certainly fit the 'suspicious' image perfectly. Also, mind elaborating? I don't have a tolerance for mind games or riddles. If you can't say it straight, keep your mouth shut." Naki's voice is tight, her eyes vaguely tinted with a shade of red from her irritation.

"Threaten? I have no reason to do so," he says boredly, a purple symbol of a six petaled flower forming in his eyes. "I was simply warning you of something that the spirits of the fallen seem see you as connected to. As for what that is, I will not tell- rather I cannot because I am forbidden to do so by my own Patron... Ask Arkyle what a Patron is, it'll prove to be most enlightening... As for your tolerance and shody detective work, I care not for what annoys or pleases you, just as you do not for me and the one you believe I am associated with... Check closer to yourself, one you trust is or, as of recently, was associated with her... Now you'd best get going, you are needed elsewhere."

Naki walks off silently. Needed? Urgh, What do people think I am? Some sort of fighter? Annoying!!!

Not long afterwatds, Naki runs into Anira.

"Ah, just in time. I have something for you, but the sender specifically said you had to fufill a requirement before I could give it to you," he says, holding up a rather large parcel.

Naki sighs. "Great... what is it?" She rubs her forehead. What is with people and wanting things from me... I just want to live peacefully... why do I keep getting dragged into things? Is it because I'm an Etherite?

"They said to take a break from things for awhile specifically. Read, meditate, learn how to use Qi, just take a break for the next couple of days. If you agree to that, I can give you the parcel."

Naki blinks. "Well, I rather would like a break very much. For me at least, there's been too much at once happening to me."

He hands her the parcel."Open it after you get some peace of mind."

She takes it, and quietly walks off. She eventually finds a tree with a decent amount of shade from the sun, and goes to sit down and read the book Sol gave her.

"That's right... still haven't finished reading this..." She mutters.

Once Naki finishes the book, Sol appears.

"Hey, you alright," he asks as he plops down next to her.

Naki sighs. "No. I'm just tired of getting involved in things. I'm just some girl, I don't want to be involved in these epic grandiose adventures or nonsense. I just want to be at peace. Things were so nice for a few days, but now life has taken those days away.... ...what a sick joke... it teases me with the idea I can finally live a life I would have wanted to live, then it tears that hope down only a few days later!"

"I see... In truth, I don't know what to say besides perservere and take breaks as often as neccessary and possible." He looks at her for a moment and for a few seconds Naki sees the spirit of a woman whom Sol greatly resembles floating beside him. She vanishes just as Sol offers her a back massage. "It may relieve some tension."

Naki looks at him and blinks. "Oh, thank you I guess... perservering I've pretty much booked that... but I've never really gotten a chance to catch a break in my life. Just constantly moving, doing, running, hiding, stealing... pretty much if we wasted any time or had time to ourselves, that was one less minute we had to secure our breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Usually we didn't have lunch though, that was a lucky thing."

Sol nods as he moves into position, placing a hand on each shoulder blade. "This may feel a little uncomfortable at first, just a warning, it depends on how tense you are." Without saying more, he begins to gently massage her upper back as a burning sensation spreads through her. "That's the Qi flowing, the feeling will fade soon."

Naki simply sighs and looks around the school grounds, quietly thinking. I need to figure out that glove at some point... ...how should I power it?

Sol looks confused for a moment, but continues the massage, the burning sensation from earlier having been replaced by soothing warmth.

Naki sighs contently closing her eyes and starts calmly thinking about methods to power the device she has been developing. Janpu appears with a case and opens it, revealing the mechanical device, and Naki quietly opens her eyes and looks at it for a bit, still calculating and thinking about the subject.

"Hm... Explain the device," says Sol, continuing the massage. "You're quite tense, but for good reason."

Naki thinks quietly for a moment. "It's a device meant to allow someone not born with the ability to use magic to channel it. It also would boost magical capacity and physical strength, and couldn't be negated by conventional suppression techniques, as it's not a part of the body. Channeling magic would be simply a matter of how you moved it."

She slowly demonstrates the moving parts to Sol, so he can see the various shifting mechanical bits already comprising the device.

"Would it be locked to a single person," he asks, finishing the massage, "As in, would it only work with a single person once they activated or utilized it?"

"Well that could be an option. Why? Also, thanks Sol, that was... nice."

"No problem," he replies, "As for why, you could possibly power it with a person's Qi or energy assuming the device was receptive enough to it. Qi, if you didn't know, is what allows most mortal beings to function as it helps our bodies function. We are constantly releasing it and gathering it, so it should not be much of an issue to have a workable amount of it..."

"I would guess so, but the problem is what happens if someone's power is surpressed? Would someone still be able to use the glove?"

"Unless that person's life force itself was suppressed and limited, they would be able to continue using it. Qi is directly connected to your life and health, the greater the quality of your Qi, the greater quality of your life... At least in terms of physical health and wellness."

"I suppose that could work... thanks for the suggestion..."

She thinks for a moment. "I've never thought about this until now, but what or who was the Monkey King?" She asks.

"Very long story," says Sol, "Originally, he was a stone in the shape of a monkey in a forest, but eventually gained life...." He recounts the tale of his ancestor with great detail, as if he were telling of his own past experiences instead of recounting the exploits of his ancestor long past.

"I see, you seem to know a lot about him. ....the only thing I know is that the person I'm made from is a real bitch with a bad attitude. I was told something about her being corrupted, but I'm not too sure on the details. Lucky me right? A mind connection with a trigger happy 'sister', whatever she is."

I can hear you, you know...

"Ah, well then," says Sol, "It seems like we both have our fair share of 'family' issues."

Oh no, I offended you! Sorry! ...Not... You know, if you have such a problem with me insulting you, then maybe you should try to be, I don't know, a better, what's the word to describe us...... sibling? Just a thought? Perhaps? You know, trying to take over someone's body is generally not considered a reason to like someone. And on that note, I have more than a quarter of my mind that really is urging me to call master to deal with you before you try that again... in fact I think I'll do that now. Unless you've got something other than 'I'ma swallow your soul!!!' to say.

"Yep, and the best part is, she's back... on that note, let's get some distance from any of the buildings.... I'd rather not have a repeat of the last time me and 'sis' had a 'conversation'."

Sol obliges. "Alright, you lead the way."

Relax, I can't bypass the temp lock that Legna put on you, not that it matters, I've already found a more willing host who hits far closer to home than you do. That being said, your Ether defenses are absolutely terrible miss high and mighty daddy's girl. If Legna hadn't put up the temp lock, I- no ANYONE with enough knowledge and control over Ether- could 'hack' you in an instant, just saying... Oh and I'd just like to point out that you don't know more than a fraction of your 'Master', let alone what sins and great evils he's committed up to this point. I don't need to harm you, you'll be the tool of your own destruction with your ignorance and smart mouth 'sister'. Now be a dear and play nice with your boyfriend while I'm correcting something that you really want to be corrected, even if you don't know what it is at this point.

Naki lets out an irritated mental growl. And who's the older of the two of us? Three of us if you count Gaea? Of course I don't have good Ether control, I've been around for... not counting the trip to dream land, what maybe a week? As an Etherite. I don't have anyone to teach me this, or at least, I haven't had time to learn it either! You're just like the people back at earth... taking advantage of 'trash' just because it's convenient for you...

She thinks for a minute as she walks a bit away from the school.

Besides... I'm not stupid... I've accepted what I am now, but that doesn't mean I actually forgive my master and mistress for what they did to me... she took away my family... I don't even know if my brother is alive. But so what if I were to hate him? What would I do about that Taea? Like you said, I don't have the ability to defend myself properly to live here, nor could I simply leave his realm on a whim. If I didn't live here, or in Legna's realm, where would I go, pray tell, oh so 'wise' and 'clever' 'sister, where would I go? Home? I never had one to begin with, and now that I'm a Myth, humans would never accept me! As much as I hate what I had to go through, the only thing I have left really is Legna! Don't christen me a fool when I'm well aware of my own powerlessness!

Yelling at me gets you nowhere, besides I don't care about how you judge me or my choices. I forge my own path, even in confinement. If anything, you are confined far more than I am, but by chains from the heart rather than physical bindings... That makes you just like Gaea, bound without reason despite emancipation being within your grasp. And if you're so smart, why do you not explore your own abilities? I taught myself how to utilize my abilities, even under restriction and limitation and Gaea acquired them within an instant. We were not taught by others, we taught ourselves. Learn, that is your purpose until you find your true reason for existing. Friendship, comradarie, relationships, bonds, all of those are meaningless aside from the knowledge they give. You don't need the doctor nor do you need anyone else. Go off the grid, vanish, disappear, you don't need anyone at all.

...

...

Done. Enjoy the single favor you'll get from me, not that you'll understand it.

I'll never be like you... I will never give myself up in exchange for knowledge... knowledge only carries you so far... you'll never be fulfilled that way...

....Gaea, you there....?

Naki stops on the edge of a hill and sits down. "I swear Sol... some people are just rotten... promise me you won't ever abandon your feelings, okay? It's not worth it..."

"...Sometimes that's the only way to cope with things," he says after awhile, "Still, I won't abadon mine, only keep them in check... You alright?"

I am here... Do you require my assistance?

"Yeah... it's just that Taea is... ....not like me. She told me to abandon my bonds, everything I hold on to for knowledge. I'm not going to listen to her. I love learning things. A lot. But I don't want to give up who I am for power or knowledge."

Can you teach me more about myself? How to control my powers? There's so much I don't understand or know....

That depends on how much you wish to know, Young One. Some things I can teach you, others Legna or my younger brother of sorts, Anira, would be better off teaching.

"I understand that," Sols says, "I knew a few people like that... Bitter to the end, they were."

Naki nods, but is slightly focused on her conversation. "Sorry if I seem distracted, I'm talking to another like me."

Well... in general I just want to be able to control Ether better, to be able to protect myself, just to understand my overall capacities, I don't want to have to worry about others protecting me anymore, I guess.

Naki feels something akin to a warm smile from Gaea. I see, then let us start with the basics. We shall first go over how to expand your Exceed Nexus without it harming the world around you. Take several steps away from your friend, your first attempt may not be successful. Once you've done that, slowly expand your Exceed Nexus from your arms, but focus on gathering knowledge rather than assimilating it. This may sound easy, but it is not ass you would imagine. The key here is slow and steady.

She does as Gaea asks, and begins to slowly and carefully spreads the Ether around her, trying to focus on gathering knowledge without assimilating it into her, taking her time.

"Just so you know Sol, I'm practicing, keep clear from me ok? I don't want an... accident... to happen."

He nods and releases a green and gold flecked aura. Naki herself has some difficulty maintaining her focus with the high influx of information, but nonetheless is succeeding in not assimilating information.

Alright.... how's this...?

She takes a quick moment to catch her breath, before attempting it again.

You are doing well, Young One. If you are ready to move on, we can.

Sure I guess... what's next?

The next thing to try is branching off your Ether. Imagine it to be like a mane of hair flowing in water, going in every and all directions or something similar to that, but do not focus on a singular part at a time or else you will lose control of the rest. Remember to gather information, but not to assimilate.

Naki begins to try and branch it off like she said, trying to move the energy slowly and carefully.

To be safe, do not become stiff and rigid, let the Ether flow, but within boundaries.

Naki attempts to follow Gaea's instruction as best as she can.

Again, she is able to grasp the concept, but not without some difficulty.

I think it may be best to prioritize these two lessons, but first we should do one last thing.

What is that? She asks.

Your Exceed Nexus is open to just about anything at this point. I want you to try and turn off the extra "feedback" you receive. This will decrease the amount of information you unconsciously take in, but it will also make it more difficult for others to hack into you. This will be a temporary measure until you are ready to create a proper lock on your Ether... This should far easier than the other two excercises.

Alright, turn off the extra feedback... is there a specific way to do that?

Imagine a running faucet, then turning it off or at least making the water pressure and amount decrease. Now substitute water for information.

Naki takes a moment to collect herself, then begins to try to reduce the information flow.

The information flow gradually lessens and lessens until Naki can only gather information withing range of her Ether.

Good work for today. Focus on the first two things for the next couple of days, I don't want to overwhelm you.

Alright... thank you very much Gaea...!

She takes a breath and brings her Ether back to normal. "Well, I got some practice in. Sorry about that Sol."

Think nothing of it.

"It's fine," he says, dispersing his own aura.

Naki sighs. "Ark invited me to make a pact with him and join his group, Riot, I think it was called..."

"Pact? As in with a Patron," questions Sol, confused, "Riot, I guess I could understand him offering you a position... What are your current thoughts on it?"

"Yeah, like that. To be honest, I'd gladly fight to protect my friends and all, but... I don't want to fight for some person I barely know's cause. Power... it just doesn't hold an appeal to me. I mean, this is the first time in my life really I've ever had something that could be considered 'normal'. Not scavaging for food, not stealing and risking getting caught, not fighting a bunch of thugs so I can get home safely... I just don't know really. I don't know anything about it and I... I just don't know."

She looks down at her feet quietly.

Sol shrugs. "It's your life, follow the path you figure is the best unless signs prove that it is less than ideal... I see Ark as a friend, but I disagree with his course of action because revenge will only take him so far... What happens afterwards or if the objective is never met?"

She sighs. "How has Serah been?"

"I get the nagging feeling she likes me... Other than that, she's worried about her appetite, meeting the other deities in the area and not blowing up on them," he says, "In other words, she's stressing out."

Naki nods. "Yeah, I could see that. What are the other ones like? Why would she blow up on them?"

"Apparently, they are extremely... stuffy and snobby and traditional. They also look down on younger beings, so yeah... That meeting isn't going to end without a bang or several."

"Well she shouldn't let them run her show. She just needs to be confident and not let them stomp on her."

"I doubt they'll be the ones doing the stomping..."

Naki laughs. "That's true. Serah would probably tear them a new one."

"We should probably head back in, now. Things have calmed down," he sighs, though he smiles contently.

Naki quietly nods. "Sure thing..." She sighs. "Do you think it's weird that at the same time that I hate my master and mistress, who made me this way and was sort of responsible for me losing my family, yet care about them for everything that I've gotten to experince because this happened to me?"

"Sounds like family to me," Sol says before he clams up. Finally he speaks again. "Family isn't always who you're born with, but the people you meet later on.... Sometimes, a person gets blessed with two families- Two groups of people who care for their wellbeing and happiness. Others... Aren't so lucky."

"Hmmmm...." She ponders what he said, then give him a short hug. "Thank you Sol... meeting you helped me learn how to live a new life... I've never had a friend before I met you... so, umm... ...thanks." She says, getting embarrassed and pulling away with a flush to her face.

"No problem, I'm available if you need me," he replies, "You're the first person in a long time that Ruyi's liked, usually she's shy. That makes three people now..."

Naki smiles faintly and walks with him to the school.

Hmmm... ....Hey Gaea, sorry if I'm bothering you, but do you know how many beings were created from me? I know that White was preparing to do that, but I never knew exactly what she was doing...

Hmm... I sense four from you and three from them, one of them being remarkably similar to Legna and one similar to you...

.....That many...? ...I can't believe it... ...I knew that I was a part of White's plan but... ...for that many.... I feel so vile thinking about the fact that they exist because of me...

Well none of them are completely in line with her plan from what I'm getting, they're being forced for the most part.

I see... still gives me an uneasy feeling...

"What should we do now?" Naki asks as they continue walking to the school.

"Hm, there's the observatory and music wing..."

Naki thinks for a moment. "How about the observatory?" She asks.


A Message from the HeartEdit

As Naki and Sol reach the observatory, a figure with white, gold, silver and black attire appears before them.

"Who're you," asks Sol, his eyes hardening. The person doesn't answer, instead turning to Naki.

Naki looks at him with a critical eye. "You... you're... ...one of them, aren't you?"

"I am," he says, "I have a message for you." So you're Naki... Are you well?

"....What do you want, and what the hell does that mean?" She grabs the case of the spear and steps back from him slightly.

"To deliver a message from Nageki, that's why I'm here."

"Na-Nageki?! He's... he's okay? Wait... how do you know him?!" She grabs the man roughly.

"He's alright... Though he's no longer human, if that explains anything. Besides that, he misses you and wants to see you, something that would end very badly if I brought him along or you back... I'll say that I'm sorry though, if I had a choice in the matter, he wouldn't have been changed."

Her eyes sadden at the news. "I miss him too... why can't I see him?"

"I doubt I could coerce White into allowing you into the fortress without harm to you and I doubt I could get Nageki out of the fortress without her knowing or sending the others after me, then there's Yellow Cloak......! Eureka..."

"....What are we 'Eureka'ing about?" Naki says slowly.

"Naki, if it were possible, would you want to return to being a human? I think it would be possible to reverse a transformation, but I'd probably be drained completely or fully restored... In the event that such a thing is possible I could get Nageki out of the fortress, though you'd owe me assuming I survived the mayhem that would follow."

"...I...At first I hated it but... ...what's happened to me, I've already accepted this as the new me, plus because of it I've learned so much..."

"I see. Heh, you're lucky, ya know? You've got little bro to protect you and people to protect yourself... Oh right, Legna won't be coming by for awhile, he has to recover."

"I guess... ...What happened to him?" She asks.

"We got into an argument, one that... Not too long ago did you feel a large tremor? That's what our argument led to."

"....I see...." She looks away quietly.

"If you have anything to tell Nageki, please tell me."

"Tell him I love him and I wish him well. Also to hold on until I get to see him again. Take care of him for me, you hear? You are based off me, so you could say you owe me for that."

"That's within reason, besides that's something I decided to do anyways, 'Little Sis'."

"Thank you."

Nanashi feels a strange sensation crawl over his neck.

Immediately he manifests his Ether around himself in a form fitting field and, before Naki's eyes, adds a destructive aspect to it.

Identify yourself.

"Naki, get to Anira. Now."

He realizes after a minute the sensation is from a loss of contact with Gurīn, who appears to have somehow dropped from the CE network.

I see... Interesting and hopefully good for her... He sighs before returning to the fortress.

Naki sighs. "Well, that was interesting, you ok Sol?"

"Mhmm, I was assessing the situation before choosing how to act."

Naki looks toward the observatory. "Shall we go?"

He nods, "Yes, let us." He leads her into the large room with a telescope and several maps and charts of the stars. There is also a set of mirrors, a tea set, turtle shells and a large bowl next to a pitcher and hand-held pendulum.

She looks around. "Wow... that's a... telescope, right?"

"Yep, though its best used at night to see the stars and planets," answers Sol.

"Oh! I want to see!" Naki says excitedly.

"It may not be dark enough to see them yet, give it a couple of minutes," he replies.

Naki sighs. "Okay.... hey, how much do you know about Anira anyway?"

"No one here knows much about him, not even the other teachers and staff. He's definitely the oldest person here and is really strong... Other than that and his knack for teaching or helping others, zilch."

"Sounds like a mystery," She remarks dryly. She leans against a wall, and begins silently pondering.

"He doesn't really go on about his past, he's more prone to telling small portions of it that seem to have no real connection what so ever," says Sol, "It should be about time for you to use the telescope."

"Okay, how do I use it?" She says eagerly.

He directs her to the lens on the lower part of the device, near a panel.

"You look through there for the most part. The console next to you allows you to change the magnification, area that you are viewing to a degree and apply or remove filters and effects," he explains.

Naki eagerly tries out the telescope, and begins trying to find a planet.

It takes a few minutes, but Naki spots what appears to be a rather bright yellow star.

"Hmmm... hey Sol, what's this?" She asks, indicating the star.

"Hm... Zoom in on it, it may be Jupiter," he says, squinting at the bright object.

Naki zooms in for him.

As Sol predicted, Jupiter is in sight.

"The king is present in the sky..."

"Can I see?" She asks eagerly.

Sol moves to allow Naki to see.

"That is so cool... the text book has nothing on this!"

"That's often the case, unless the text book is more of a field journal I would think."

"Wow... that's so amazing..." Naki continues to look for various planets and objects. Eventually she stops. "Thanks for taking me here, it was great Sol." She smiles.

"No problem," he replies, "Glad you enjoyed yourself."

Naki thinks for a moment. "I don't really know what to do right now... is there anything you want to do?" She asks.

"Not really, is there anything you want to do?"

"I don't know... do you know where a library would be?"

"I do, follow me," he says, leading Naki out of the Observatory.

She follows him, wondering what books there are to read.

Sol eventually reaches a circular library with thousands upon thousands of books visible on the rounded shelves.

"I think I could die... oh lord I love books...." She purrs.

"H-hey, don't start swooning!... Was that a purr?"

Naki flushes. "Uh, uh, uhh, nope, nope, definitely wasn't! Have no idea what you're talking about!"

"Right... I believe you... Totally." Sol has a rather amused look on his face.

"....Shat up..." She grumbles with her arms crossed, walking into the library.

"It was kind of cute actually," he mutters, trailing behind Naki.

Her face goes red, to her ears in fact, but she with holds any response, as she begins to search for books, embarrassed.

Sol picks out an old tome in a foreign language. "Huh, I forgot this was here."

Naki picks out a few books and sets them down on a table, then opens one to read. "What's that?" She asks absentmindedly, trying not to think about what just happened.

"Old, Old book about the foundations of Qi and its applications. It's really hard to find, even here."

"Hmm, sounds interesting." She says as she reads a book about rare animals.

Sol glances through his book, moving slowly and methodically through the pages. A melancholy smile forms on his face and, without him noticing, a few tears fall from his face.

Naki notices and looks up. "....Hey Sol, are you okay? ...why are you crying?"

"H-huh? Oh... I remembered something from a long time ago... When I lost my elder sister thanks to my own foolishness..."

"....Don't blame yourself for that Sol. ....she wouldn't want you to think that way about yourself." Naki says, remembering what she saw in the dreamscape.

"I shouldn't have been so careless..."

Naki suddenly glares at him and places a hand on his shoulder, sending a current of electricity through him. "Hey, I said don't blame yourself." She lifts her hand. "What happened to your sister wasn't your fault. ...Tell me something, how did she die?"

Sol hisses and Naki feels something akin to a hot needle passing through her arm.

"Tsuki... Luna died because she exchanged places with me. I'd already reached the other side, but it wasn't my time so she exchanged our lives, saving me, but..."

Naki glares at him, holding her arm. "Listen, don't make me repeat myself. She had to do something, I don't blame her. I would do anything to save, to protect my little brother. I would give my life to protect him. I don't want to hear you blaming yourself because of what somewhat else did. What she chose to do is her business, not yours, Sol, so quit blaming yourself for that, before I smack you upside the head, it's not your damn fault!"

"If I hadn't been where I was, it wouldn't have happened iin the first place!"

Naki takes a deep breath. "Sol. I don't care what you think. You're still wrong. That's just life. Sometimes we are just put into situations we don't understand, sometimes we end up at a place we shouldn't, sometimes bad things happen. You need to accept the fact she's gone, and there was nothing you could do about it. It's not your fault, don't ever blame yourself. You were there, it happened, it's in the past. The past can hurt, but don't let it settle in your heart, because I already have enough trouble with the thorns I let grow in my heart. So do yourself a favor and get some weed killer or something for yours, cause I'll be glad to shock some sense into you if that's what you need to cut the crap. As an older sister to a little brother, I would sacrifice myself if it could mean my little brother could live. So I'm telling you what I would tell my brother: don't insult her memory."

"Did you know? I wasn't born with black hair or blue eyes," he says after awhile, "I used to look like my brother, but after Luna died I inherited her hair and eye color... You wouldn't understand the pain of a younger sibling, not to the degree that I do... Especially since your family's hatred was directed towards you, all because you weren't born as the ultimate warrior and successor to your family... I've tried to leave my past where it is, but it always resurfaces... Always."

Naki's eyes get a strange look momentarily, and she pulls something out of her pocket, a photograph. "Four brothers, three sisters. Five cousins, and two aunts and uncles, a mom and a dad. My grandparents and great grand parents. They are all there. We were all there. We always were together, we didn't have anything else but the alleys, the bridges, the abandoned warehouses. And guess what Sol....?

...I'm only the middle child of the lot. I saw my elder and younger brothers and sisters all shot, cut down, and burned. My parents beheaded. I don't need to go on. But quit acting like I don't understand you at all, Sol. I'll be there for you, but don't you dare act like you're the only one. You're not. 'You wouldn't understand', don't be so presumptous! I don't even think you even know me that well to even justify such a thing!" She gets up, and places the books on the return cart, and starts walking out, putting away the photograph after she lets him have a good look.

"You're my first friend Sol, but don't be the one that pushes them away. You worry me sometimes, you know?" She says, not looking back as she walks.

"She doesn't know the half of it," remarks Sol before a shadow dances across his vision, "It's a good thing I don't get too close to others and push them- Damn, already? I thought I'd at least get another few months..." He exits the library swiftly and isn't seen again for the rest of the night. Sorry for not giving you a warning...

Naki quietly walks off to the corner of the yard where she always likes to read, and just sits down with her back against the wall.

Awhile later, Serah walks up to her. "...What happened?"

Naki's eyes are closed, but her head lifts up in her direction. "...What do you mean?" She asks in a dull, disinterested tone.

"Don't play coy with me, I can practically see the annoyance in your aura. Something happened."

"I didn't realize that was a perk," Naki says in a light sarcastic tone, before sighing and opening her eyes. "Sol tried to pull the 'you don't know how I feel' card on me. I didn't appreciate that very much. Wouldn't stop blaming himself over the death of his sister."

"Yeah... He was kind of scarred by his family after that, so he's really touchy about that," nods Serah, "Still, he's got to get over it someday..."

Naki shrugs. "Maybe I'm overreacting, I don't know. All I know is that he's putting himself down when I was chatised for putting myself down about... ...things. I don't care much for hypocrites."

"Maybe he had another reason for it. With him, figuring out his intentions without him directly telling them is practically impossible," shrugs Serah, "You never know, he may have been trying to push you away, but for a reason known only to him..." Whether she's noticed it or not, Serah's tone has become far more cryptic and wise, though only for a moment.

"Well whatever it is, he's a fool to not trust in other people. Things will never change for himself if he refuses to accept help." She says as her eyes narrow with her irritation with Sol.

"I don't think it's a trust thing, actually," says Serah, "I'll look for him and see if I can straighten him out."

"Be sure not to use a curling iron...." Naki mutters loud enough to hear.

"How'd you know I planned on using that on you," replies Serah as she enters the school building. "Oh, I'd get to a room soon, it's nearly midnight."

"...That was a joke, right?" Naki asks hestitantly. "I like my hair straight..."

All she gets is a scoff before the other girl disappears.

Naki sighs. "Won't pretend to understand what that was about..." She quietly walks around, not sure where the rooms are for sleeping. She attempts to find some means of a map to help her.

Drei finds Naki not to long afterwards, still in the form of a cat.

"Follow me," he says simply, as if having read her mind, "...Young One, be careful when the future looks unsure as it does now."

"...What do you mean?" Naki asks. "Unsure?"

"It means the future is in question, more so than usual. Watch yourself when I am unable to."

Naki frowns. "....Ok... I will." She follows him.

He leads her to a room with two beds.

"The other bed belongs to no one. You should rest up for the day, tomorrow may not be as you expect it to be..."

Naki sighs. "Drei, I would hardly expect anything less. Expect the unexpected... ...that's gonna have to be my catchphrase for now on..." She mutters, climbing into bed.

"It could be worse, tomorrow could start early..." The cat curls into a ball and rests.


Family Ties IEdit

The next day begins with Drei waking up Naki.

"Wake up," he says, "...I'll go with you today."

Naki groans, but gets up. "Hmmm...? ...Is something wrong Drei?"

"Call it a hunch..."

Naki sighs. "Alright..." She takes the case of the spear and straps it on her back, wrapping the scarf around her back. "Shall we go then?"

He nods and exits the room, swishing his tail as he does so.

She follows him, then looks down at him. "Why are you still a cat?"

"It's a ploy. Easier to come off as harmless as a small cat than as a human or tiger," he says, not looking back, "It's also rather enlightening."

"How so?" She asks as she walks.

"That's for me to know, it's rather tedious to explain," he says, reaching a door. He looks at the door and it opens, allowing him and Naki to reach the field behind the school where Anira and his class wait.

She walks up with Drei to the rest of the class.

"Ah, you're here," notes Anira, "Curiously, have you seen Sol? He's normally the first one here."

Naki shakes her head. "Not since last night I'm afraid."

"I see. We'll carry on without him then," says Anira, "Today is a practice day. You are to focus on either your studies or honing your abilities to protect yourselves. Anyone feel confident may choose to spar with me, but know that I will not go easy on anyone who does."

Naki chooses to refine her skill with Ether, finding a spot away from the others.

After several moments of high concentration, Naki fully grasps how to control whether or not her Ether damages what it touches.

Naki focuses on continuing her training with Ether for a while longer, before reaching out to Gaea. So I've practiced a while with the training, is there anything else you want me to try? She asks.

Continue with the basics and experiment. You are not yet ready, Young One.

Alright...

She continues practicing, trying out different ways to manage the flow of the Ether.

Before her success can be tested, a loud clamoring begins among her classmates.

Naki looks up at the others, seeing what's creating the noise.

There appears to be a sparring match between Anira and Ark, neither of whom are using weapons. Both launch lightning fast blows at each other and seem to be keeping up with one another with ease. Finally, Ark overshoots a straight, which Anira ducks under and counters with what would've been a fatal blow to the neck had he not stopped the hit from connecting.

The rest of the class cheers and the two shake hands before Drei walks up to Anira in his cat form and issues a challenge. While this happens Leone comes to spectate, as does Apollos and Lucia. The air changes to suspenseful when the cat assumes its regular form.

Naki watches with attentiveness.

The two fighters regard each other with nods as they circle around one another. Then, with no warning, the two spring towards each other and deliver a flurry of swift punches to the other. Anira dodges and weaves through Drei's punches while Drei slips between each of Anira's. All at once Anita launches a roundhouse kick that Drei ducks under, but follows through with a whip kick to catch his opponent off guard.

Drei skips away from the teacher, then leaps forward and performs several hard to follow jabs followed by a powerful straight on Anita, who dodges the final blow and goes in for the game changing blow... Only to find his target in midair, performing an aerial dropkick powered by the momentum of his last punch. The teacher blocks the blow, but is briefly knocked off balance when Drei springs off of his arms into a crouch as he tenses up for a powerful punch.

Catching this, Anira does his best to right himself before launching a punch of similar power at Drei without having to ready himself. Their fists collide and the grass around them flattens from a shockwave emitted from their attacks connecting. Neither appears to be harmed, but it is clear that the battle could go on for hours until both combatants bow and shake hands.

"You're good for a clone," remarks the teacher.

"And you're strong, even as you moderate you're strength," returns Drei. The class erupts into cheers after the two walk away from each other.

Naki looks down, and practices some more, keeping an eye on her surroundings while she does so.

"I would think that you would have a better way to spend your time," comments Apollos, "Aren't there better ways to kill time?"

Naki ignores him, continuing her practice on Ether. "Oh look, Captain Deadpan is here. Look, I don't know if it occurs to you... but some of us have to practice at things we do to get better... I know it's confusing, especially for you, but I think your brain cells can handle it. Do you need something, or should I throw your own words about killing time at you? Because you seem to get a kick out of being snide to me and Selene." She says in a neutral tone, trying to focus.

"Coming from the person who has no sense of danger at all, I should be insulted. Not that I care. I forgot that people like you tend to get so engrossed in their own worlds that they forget that they need to interact and care for others... Of course if a certain person dies, it has no real effect on me, so I guess I shouldn't have come to warn you.

You're right, I am wasting my time telling you that things aren't as they seem. I should really stop doing that, after all I have nothing important to say and nothing I say has any real impact on what will happen next. I'll just return to my studies and prepare for my assignment and promotion next month, oh and continue being snide to idiotic wastes of time with less brain cells than a single celled organism that failed to divide itself. Enjoy the rest of your day and the curly hair." Apollos walks off, but not before he snaps his fingers and Naki's hair curls into ringlets.

Naki's teeth clamp down hard in a snarl. She quietly gets up and heads toward Anira.

"Excuse me but... ...do you think we should go look for Sol? You did say that it's unusual for him to be late."

Anira appears to have a whirlwind around himself.

"Oh, I sent Apollos to investigate that a moment ago," he says, "If you want to help out, follow him."

Naki nods her head reluctantly. "Alright." She looks back in the direction Apollos went, then looks at Drei. "You coming?"

"I am," interjects Leone before Drei can answer, "Could be good exercise."

"Of course, Young One," answers Drei a moment after Leone does, as if he expected the interuption.

Naki shrugs, then goes after Apollos in the attempt to catch up with him as soon as possible.

She finds Apollos waiting at the edge of the forest. "Ah, right on schedule. Follow me and say absolutely nothing once we enter the forest if you want to stay among the living." He walks into the forest, making no noise.

She follows him quietly, though she silently calculates various situations.

Apollos leads Naki and the others through the forest decreetly, occasionally touching the ground and pulsing with dark energy. Eventually they reach the edge of a clearing and Apollos signals for Leone. He whispers something to the older male, who nods before bursting into the clearing wreathed in flames.

Naki grabs ahold of her spear's case quietly. She glances at Apollos questioningly.

He gives Naki a look of disdain before casually ducking under a body that flies into a tree beside him. He continues onward.

Dear... freaking... lord. I hate his guts...

She follows him, though irritably. She decides to output some of her Ether to quietly sense the environment about her.

Most of what Naki senses are traps ahead of them, traps that Apollos avoids without trying. At one point, she senses two presences above them, but they fall to the ground, knocked out, within moments of Apollos looking upwards.

Well I can say he's certainly skilled... ...wish he didn't have to be so nasty to me... ...not to mention he could at least be more direct with others... Mr. Mysticism and all...

She continues scanning the area, not wanting to be caught off guard and give Apollos another reason to give her spite.

Apollos stops abruptly at another clearing. "You handle this area, it's more important to you, I'll take care of the reinforcements. Your guardian is coming with me." He passes the clearing by, leaving Naki and Drei.

"I do not have to follow him, Young One."

"Actually, you do. If you stay, Miss Attitude ends up with a knife in her throat and a sword through her heart." Drei grumbles.

"If I am needed, call for me." He stalks after Apollos. "I shall see if his words carry weight or not."

Naki takes the case and opens it, readying herself as she holds the spear, Janpu appearing around her. She walks toward the clearing, keeping alert.

In the clearing she finds Sol, standing alone.

"Why did you come here?" His tone is harsh as he asks her. "You've only made things more complicated than they need be." He doesn't turn around.

"I came here because I was concerned about you. You weren't around." She says, surprised both to see him and at his tone. "It should be expected that someone would look into someone just up and disappearing."

"Leave, my affairs are of no concern to you," he growls, "Just being here endangers you."

"Ah brother, that isn't how you address a lady," says another person from far above Sol, "I thought you would be nicer, Taiyo, especially to her. Afterall, Ruyi took a liking to her."

"That is none of your concern, Yume," states Sol, readying his staff as a figure wearing a purple cloak drops from a tree. "Leave her out of this."

Naki's Ether flows more freely, and she encases herself in a thick shroud of it, brandishing the spear higher.

"I don't think you understand, which is odd, considering how 'wise' you are. I would have thought you already understood the answer that would come from me. I'm not leaving a friend ever again. You remember, don't you? The last time I went away and left you, remember what happened? Never again. I won't leave my friends when it matters. I thought you were smarter than that than to play the lone wolf, the guy who doesn't need any help. When it comes down to my friends Sol, it becomes my affair, it becomes my business. Or do you not understand me very well? I thought you were good at that." She states flatly.

"You're an insufferable fool, you know that? I'm here, trying to keep you safe by staying away, but you come rushing in despite that," sighs Sol, "This is a matter you don't need to be involved in. Take my advice and go, I don't need you to get hurt."

"I don't think she will," comments Yume, "After all, opinionated obstinant people always crowd around you while Kagerou, Toshiro and I get all of the mindless peons. It's unfortunate that, she'll have to die as well, but that's fate." Sol growls then rapidly extends his staff towrds Yume, who skips out of the way.

"I said, leave her out of this!" Sol rushes the cloaked figure and launches several kicks, but each one misses. "Tch, I forgot how much of an evasive brat you were."

"A girl's gotta stay on top of her business," replies Yume, "Besides, you were always ever so slow brother."

Naki merely stands her ground and increases the size of the field of Ether around her, while Janpu disengages from her and begins to change, becoming more muscular, the snake growing much thicker, while what looks like armor starts growing. Janpu then cracks his knuckles as lightning begins to discharge off the armor. Naki makes several extensions of the Ether, weaving them slightly in front of herself.

"Ooh, a familiar! Best banish that," notes Yume weaving through Sol's attacks. "Taiyo, you're it!" faster than can be seen, Yume kicks Sol into Naki then draws a symbol into the air.

Janpu responds by firing a blast of highly compressed air straight at Yume's chest to knock her off her feet while she is kicking at Sol and disrupt the symbol.

"Nice try, but too slow" calls Yume, saluting Janpu as she floats about the air blast and completes the symbol, "Soul Purging Field." A wave of faint green light quickly covers the area of the clearing and far beyond, forcibly dismissing and sealing all familiars and similar beings within the area.

While she is distracted with the familiar, Naki has created a fine web of Ether tendrils around them, which she has been constricting the area with slowly.

"Hm, that may be a problem... Whatever it is," remarks Yume before she brings a hand to her face, "Ninjutsu: Disruption Pulse!" She hops upwards then releases a piercing scream that puts high pressure on the area it hits, aiming at Naki and Sol.

Naki creates a wall of earth with some difficulty, and from behind the wall she unleashes a barrage of strikes with the larger Ether tendrils she made, swarming at Yume.

"Bunshin!" Yume disappears in a puff of smoke only for several of her to appear in various spots. Each prepares a different technique.

"Kitsunebi!"

"Ten Ikazuchi!"

"Kamaitachi!"

"Yami no Mon!"

"Oho Nami!"

"Tenbatsu!"

"Chikyū no Kuchi!"

"Ikari no Yuki!"

Naki begins to generate a lot more Ether around her and Sol, making sure to prevent it from harming or otherwise absorbing anything from him, focusing on concentrating the energy into a thick barrier between them and the clones.

"Some help would be nice," Naki grunts.

"Try a kick from her yourself before you complain," snarls Sol. "Your best bet is to get out of here, at least out of her line of sight, more targets means more damage from her and she's playing around right now."

"Shin Ryuubi Ken!" The clones of Yume strike identical poses before dashing around the Ether barrier, forming a ring of fire around it before they generate a dragon comprised of fire and have it crash into the shield Naki formed. Seven of the clones are consumed by the flames, boosting the temperature considerably while the last clone signs five symbols in the air.

Naki thinks for a moment. "Out of line of sight huh..." With that, she claps her hands, and a massive rush of cold darkness rushes through the clearing, blanketing the whole area, Naki is now using her sense with Ether to track Yume, and continues constricting the network of Ether around them to pressure Yume closer.

"Jūryoku Bunshin!" More clones of Yume appear, each of which with an equivalent amount of aura and energy.

Naki begins to shrink the Ether network to the point it now is beginning to exclude Naki and Sol, now more spherical and closing in on the clones and Yume, using the darkness to obscure the location of the net from Yume.

Naki feels an abrupt pain in her side, followed by a swift wrenching sensation. Sol is gone, in his place stands Yume, who tilts her head then vanishes.

"Your mistake was thinking that all of my clones were within that field~"

Naki at the last second hardens the skin affected to minimize the damage, but the wound still hurts.

"Tch... you act like such a brat..." She thinks for a moment, calculating certain factors of the air, then lets out a sharp powerful breath that begins to cause a certain odor to become detectable, the smell quickly blowing through a large portion of the clearing.

"That's not good... Hm... Shinu Taiyo." Emerald eyes glow from beneathe Yume's cloak as her clones merge into a singular one then explode into a sphere of light that absorbs the color from the immediate area. Sparks shoot off of it as it shrinks down to the size of a small marble.

"You know what's sad? You. I bet you don't even have the faintest idea of what a family is. Just what is your problem with Sol? The only thing I understand is something to do with a damn staff, let me tell you something. You're pathetic. The whole lot of you, if all you care about is a damn staff. Staff be damned, I'd rather throw the thing in a volcano in spite of you. You people take material greed to a whole new level, it's so damn sick. I don't know if you're trying to kill Sol or what, but he's worth far more than a staff. And worth more than you'll ever be. Kill me or not, at least I protected something more valuable than you'll ever be, or that staff for that matter." She growls, moving away from Yume while making a thick Ether shield.

"Staff? I'm here to avenge mother and father, not fetch some dingy stick," responds Yume, tilting her head in confusion as the sphere gets even smaller, "Taiyo killed them in cold blood then ran away, at least according to Toshiro and he doesn't lie. I don't care about a staff, I care about the loss of my parents. Ruyi may be cool and all, but I'm not here for her."

"Oh, is that what he told you? Everyone lies. You're more of a child than I thought. Besides. You've got your facts mixed up. Your parents offed themselves. Blew themselves up, just to kill Sol, so his brother could have the stupid staff. That's what this is really about. The staff, and only the staff. I bet you that this Toshiro is just like them, using you to off your brother so they can have the staff. They tried to kill him just because he got the staff. There is nothing else to this.

You were lied to kid, that's the real story. Your parents with their dying breaths tried to kill Sol. They despised him. All he's done is defend himself. And now your family's hatred has strung you up like a puppet. It's sad really. I remember the whole thing clear as day. Interesting what can happen and what you can see when you're unconscious for weeks in the Dreamscape."

"You know what else? He's strung up tighter than a bow string about Luna dying, saving his life from that drowning incident. He doesn't need anymore of your crap. And yes, I know about that. Plenty of other things too. Sol has been tormented by his past long enough. Either you get out of the way or I'll fight until I've beaten you beyond recognition. Even if it means I have to sow myself back together, or hell, if I have to die to accomplish it. But at least I'll put another one of you hateful bastards six feet under."

Yume's eyes flicker until they glow the same blue as Sol's. The aura around her becomes far more oppressive and ominously dark. She speaks, though the voice is not hers.

"I see, it seems I made the mistake of not coming myself," "Yume" says, "I never expected that someone aside from Taiyo and Kagerou would know the whole truth of that incident. That makes you more of a liability than I would have thought, girl, and all liabilities must be removed if I am to acquire Ruyi Jingu Bang. Unfortunately, removing you will also cost me one of my better pawns, but one cannot always expect flawless victories in life. Now, to take you up on that offer. Die." The moment the word is uttered, Yume's eyes dull and the area before her withers. Naki feels her blood flow begin to reverse and her heart beat slow.

Naki unleashes a extremely powerful blast of wind at Yume, but it is not for the reason expected, the force is so strong it forces Naki back at a high velocity, the burst sounding like a cannon being shot from its intensity, she goes flying back far from Yume, at the same time the massive gale blasts Yume away from Naki.

Yume flies backwards, unmoving as a searing yet cold sensation fills Naki's chest.

"Drei..." She coughs heavily. She feels a burning sensation on her forehead.

Within an instant, the clone of the doctor and a blood covere Apollos are beside Naki. Apollos looks at her.

"Huh, so close yet so far... Hold on for a few seconds, he'll stabilize you until I get back," he says before walking off. Several moments later, he returns holding Yume and Sol by their collars, both appearing be badly damaged, though Yume is in far worse condition. Meanwhile, Drei works on keeping Naki's heartbeat stable and keeping her bloodflow from completely reversing.

When Apollos returns, he drops the two people he carried at his sides and cups Naki's face, bringning his face very close.

"You're going to fall asleep, that's the only way I can fully repair this damage," he says, his tone almost holding a shred of emotion. He places a hand over her eyes. "Sleep."

When she falls asleep and he removes his hand from her, he catches a glimpse of a red blazing phoenix emblem on her forehead that quickly fades away, Drei notices it had been easier than expected to keep her stable, the disappearance of the emblem causes a momentary dip.

"Another annoying peculiarity, great," sighs Apollos. He turns to Drei, "Carry the others, I'll deal with the Stigma placed on her." The clone nods then picks up Sol and Yume around the time Leone appears. He gauges the situation before opting to assist Drei.

----

Naki wakes up in a cot some time later, wrapped in bandages covered in various symbols. Across from her, in separate cots, lie Sol and Yume, the latter of which covered in similar bandages. Apollos sits at the far end of the room, his head down as he peruses his own thoughts.

"You're awake, I guess that means you are somewhat resilient to things," he says without looking up. "You are in my debt until further notice, no ifs, ands or buts."

Naki grunts in reply. "Arguing with you is as pointless as tightroping over an erupting volcano..." She says with a groan.

"At least you understand you position. Besides arguing would be highly detrimental to you, it'd probably cause your soul to be ripped from your body as of the present."

Naki closes her eyes. "Ok, Mr. Doom. ...Apollos..." She corrects herself after a moment of thought, closing her eyes and letting out a small breath. "What happened anyway...? ...And please tell me I wasn't in another coma again..."

"A Stigma was cast on you, a seven layered one. It would have caused you an agonizing death five times over, tore your soul out of you body, then corrupted what remained into a pawn of the caster. That being said, it was less potent than it couple have been by a long shot, possibly because it was an indirect casting done over a long distance. Still, it was powerful enough to require me to wrap you in several layers of purging seals and cast an Aria in the making on you to prevent you from dying. You're currently in an unstable state, one which would be worse off had I not removed your soul from your body then had it slowing reconnect to your body with Necromancy," explains Apollos, not looking up. "You've been out for ten hours."

"...I see... well I won't be running marathons for a while then, huh?" She makes a weak attempt at a joke, and just lies there.

"I would hope not, I doubt you could manage more than a few meters before fatigue kicked in, then not much more than that before you ended up dead without realizing what happened."

Naki cracks her eyes open and has a faint smile. "Oh lord you take things way too literally... now that's just depressing..." She weakly laughs, the smile fades as she grows quiet for a while.

"Try living in my shoes. Depressing isn't even close to aptly describing my existence at this point."

She stays silent for a while longer, before she turns her head toward him. "...How could anyone be like that? ...All of that for what? Power? What is that even worth in the end? It's things like that..." She stops, closing her eyes. "I couldn't imagine something like that. Tearing each other apart for something that doesn't matter in the end... ...power takes you only so far... I mean, so what if you were to get all the power in the world, what does that really get you?"

"It depends on the person really. Some might want to save the world, others might want to absolutely destroy it," he responds with an uncaring shrug. "Do not judge based on worlds alone, there may be reasons hidden from all but the speaker... Besides, to the people that something does matter to, destroying even family bonds is nothing if it means achieving their goal. As for Sol's family, you do not know the full story so it is best you hold your judgments for now. A time will come when you understand far more than what you saw in the Dreamscape, if you live long enough that is." He shrugs again. "Time will tell with that one."

"...It's official isn't it? I have a curse. They were right when they said I seem to make trouble gravitate toward me... just my luck..." She mutters.

"If you were cursed, you'd be dead," deadpans Apollos, "Stigmas feed off of base negativity, meaning that had a curse been planted on you, the Stigma would have advanced to its final stage instantly any you would have been ripped apart in the cardinal directions after all of your bones snapped, your heart exploded, your blood boiled and your were lacerated internally. You just have possibly the worst luck any has faced. Deal with it, karma will smile upon you at some point... Eventually."

"Pllllleeaaasssse stop talking to me so seriously!" Naki moans. "I think I'm gonna get a headache now..."

"You should rest your eyes then and stop allowing yourself to be riled up. Rather unhealthy for you as you are." The faint smirk on Apollos' face denotes that he's aware of what he's doing. "Besides, would you rather me be literal with you or insult you or do both at once?"

She sighs. "Now I know he has a smart ass option somewhere in his brain... Too much to ask for there to be a 'nice' option up in that head of yours, huh?" She says, closing her eyes irritably.

"You aren't in a state for me to be 'nice'," he says, "That would imply I had an inkling of care for you."

Her only response is a faint grunt as she decides sleep would be a better alternative to listening to him, wearily falling asleep.

"Good riddance." Apollos leaves the room.


Family Ties IIEdit

Several hours later, Yume wakes up. Confused about her surroundings, she tries to remember what happened prior to her arrival and recalls being used as Toshiro's puppet before he tried to kill her and her then opponents. She also remembers what Naki said and part of what her brother said. She balls up a small fist and punches her cot, tears welling from her eyes.

"Damn it Toshi, I trusted you," she seethes, biting her lip and drawing blood. "... No more of a pawn than the ones lower than me were. I was such a fool..."

Naki stirs and looks at her. "Oh, you're up. Don't stress yourself out too much... I think we're all in no condition to be getting worked up... you okay, what's her name... oh, Yume?" She says, her eyes cracked open again, still tired.

"Leave me to my own devices," she snaps before clutching her head.

"Did I not just say not to get worked up? There's nothing you can do about it now, so just lie down and recover." Naki says dully, resting her head. She looks around the roomchains, I'm here in the infirmary. Again. I have a feeling I'll be staring up at this ceiling a couple more times."

"Indeed," says Apollos, entering the room, "You'll be out soon, but from today onward, you are my aid and will listen to what I say without question." His eyes are veiled.

Naki's eyes open more. "Say what now? Aid as in just aiding you in combat or Aide as in your secretary or maid or something like that? Because I'm down for repaying debts and all... ...but is it really that necessary for a life long binding thing or something?"

"I'm sorry, but until your debt is repaid your questions will remain unanswered. It would be advisable to remember what to block and what to avoid today," he says, "Four hours. You'll be in decent shape in four hours, so rest up."

"Wha? Block...? ...Avoid...? Can you make sense please?"

"I am contract bound to not make sense, so no, I cannot."

"One of these days, you're going to drive me insane."

"That will be an interesting day, no doubt," he replies. "I'll be going now. Rest up. You'll have a visitor soon though, I hope your answer is ready."

She sighs in aggravation. "...He better at least not have the audacity to ask me to join him while I'm still in bed... the last thing I need is to be put under pressure when I just get up..."

She shakes her head for a moment, then closes her eyes. "Yume, get some rest too. If my luck says anything, it's probably contagious, and you'll need rest for it in case my bad luck rubs off on you."

The younger girl looks away from Naki and lays down begrudgingly.

"He's more tactful than that, but your answer should be ready beforehand anyways," retorts Apollos before leaving the room.

Naki thinks quietly, as she closes her eyes and slowly drifts off, thinking about what was said.

Three and a half hours later, Ark enters the room and clears his throat lightly.

After a moment, Naki stirs. "...Urggh..." She lifts her head up slightly and opens her eyes. "Yeeep, I knew you'd be coming around here after a while. I gotta tell you though, I have a feeling I'll be looking up at this ceiling a few times..."

"That's the type of world we live in," he says, "If you believe I am here for your answer to my proposition, I am not. I've come to check on you, just to make sure that you're alive, even if not in the best condition you could be in."

She laughs wearily. "Well, I'm alive, though considering I was in a coma or something for a few weeks, and now am bandaged in soul trapping bandages so my soul doesn't get ripped out, I could be better. How about you? How are you holding up?" She asks, as she adjusts herself so she can see him properly.

"I could be better, consoling Lucia is difficult."

"Oh... I see... universally a bad week I guess..." She mutters.

"Universally bad month... Anyways, it's goid that you are at least aliive and in decent shape. You should probably rest up for the future."

"Yeah, I've been told that a few times now."

"It may be the only time of peace you have for awhile, enjoy it." He leaves the room.

Naki closes her eyes with a sigh. "Don't I know it..."

Half an hour later, Apollos enters the room.

"Your soul should no longer be in danger," he says, "Remove the wrappings and dress yourself after you take a shower, then meet me outside the school. Also, I'd hurry to the shower, your current appearance is less than presentable."

She looks up at him groggily. "Whatever..." She rubs her eyes.

"Try not to flash anyone," he says, leaving the room.

She sits up with a groan, then wraps her blanket around herself, grabbing her clothes and enters the shower area, putting her clothes just outside the shower, where she takes off the bandages slowly, then takes a long shower. After which, she quickly dries herself and puts her clothes on, making an attempt to dry and then straighten her hair, before grabbing her weapon case and scarf, putting it around her neck and makes her way outside the school.

"Right on schedule," nods Apollos, dematerializing a pocket watch, "The hair enchantment will only worsen if you mess with it." Naki's hair, if anything is curlier than before.

Naki blinks, then quickly looks at her hair. "...Oh you asshole... why'd you even do that to me anyway?!"

"Because it was interesting and in a world filled with bores, I need some form of entertainment," he says, "That and curly is more interesting than straight. More volume."

"...Blarg... ...Anyway... ...why are we out here?" She asks.

"We're going on a short trip," he replies, "Now follow and be silent, the land of the dead is very sensitive to sound."

"...Land of the dead....?" She sighs.

"Yes, we are visiting an old colleague."

"...Alright..." She says with resignation. She thinks for a moment. "Will I be able to summon Janpu again? That Yume girl did some kind of sealing thing..."

"You should be able to."

"...Alright... I guess we go now?" She asks.

"Indeed." He checks the pocket watch once more, "A minute ahead, but close enough. The gate shall open..." The entrance to the school becomes ashen and gains a more gothic design.

Naki blinks in surprise, her face giving away her question: 'What...?'

"I opened the gate, and now to cross over," he says, "Rules: One, no matter how sleazy or grotesque, be polite. That's the difference between being somewhat surprised and being scarred permanently or killed. Two, in the event that I tell you to run or say absolutely nothing, you will listen without question and without fail. Three, alert me if you suddenly hear bells tolling or chains rattling and the temperature drop, that means a Reaper is coming for you. Four, decline any and all food, drink, trinkets and garbs offered to you unless they come from me. Accept one of any and you'll find yourself as a permanent resident in one way or another. Lastly, do not wander off or follow any voices, even mine, if I am not directly speaking to you and before your eyes. If you think you can't do that, hold onto my jacket. Oh, and don't stare. Understand?"

"...Alright..." She says quietly, nervous.

"Good, now follow me," he says, opening the door, revealing a nightmarish landscape. The air is hazy and the arid land shimmers from sweltering heat. Black rivers flow slowly, dirty ice crusting their banks. Dreary silhouettes dot the horizon, obscured by a smog like haze. The sky is black and glows with burning embers and the occasional flash of red lightning that outline various monstrous entities within the charred heavens.

She nods, then follows him, not bothering to look at anything other than Apollos.

The heat is oppressive and stifling, but Apollos is completely unaffected by it. He takes quick, light steps as he leads Naki across the ruined field.

Another one...

I wonder why he brought her...

A sacrifice maybe?

To the Yama?

Possibly...

Girl...

Trust him not...

Lineage of the Necromancer...

Heir of the destroyer...

The trickster and snake...

Beware...

Naki nervously continues following Apollos.

Apollos carefully crosses over a river, then extends an arm out to her.

A foolish choice...

Why not heed us?

We speak with your best interest in mind...

Do not be tricked by him...

Such a vile presence...

She looks at him for a moment, her eyes alerting him to the fact the voices bother her. She slowly takes his hand.

"Just ignore them or pretend to. Let them know that you can hear them and we'll be swarmed in seconds." He doesn't move his mouth as he says this and pulls her across the river.

I wonder if she knows...

Of course she wouldn't...

That the blood of many stains his hands...

She doesn't know of the fiend before her...

The wolf in sheep's clothing...

Will she die like the others?

If she fails to heed us, it is inevitable.

She nervously follows him, now unsure of Apollos.

The air becomes hotter and the ground cracks and chars as they progress.

Do you think she understands us?

Possibly...

I wonder if she knows of his secret...

Ah yes, the fate of his sister...

A wave of deathly energy grazes past Naki, into the space behind her.

It seems we have angered him...

Not that it matters...

A monster like him deserves no sympathy...

Kill him...

End him without remorse...

She tries her best to ignore them.

Apollos arrives at a large lake of lava. He glances at Naki.

"Do you have a fear of heights?"

"Errr... when I was a kid... ...not so much now..."

He scoops her into his arms.

"Hold on, lava isn't the nicest way to go."

He leaps high into the air, sailing over the lake of molten rock without much trouble.

She still trusts him...

How foolish...

Maybe she's fallen for him?

I wonder...

So childish not to heed us...

Such foolishness...

She will not last long...

Naki has to keep her mouth shut to avoid retorts slipping out of her mind and mouth. She looks at the lava below. Man that would be a bad way to go indeed... She thinks to herself.

He plops her on the ground further away from the lake. He leads her away from the lake, towards a sinister looking forest. "Once we're inside, you can speak freely."

She nods quietly, but follows him.

Upon entering the forest, the voices stop. "Good, you didn't heed them. It wouldn't have ended well if you had chose to."

"What was all of that, and why have you brought me here?"

"That was the entrance area, filled will vengeful spirits you hold a particular grudge towards my great grandfather. You're here because you're my aid."

"...Tch... ...what was that about your sister that they were talking about?"

"Something... personal. Until you know the full story, I will not explain my reasoning."

"And knowing you, I'll never know the full story, cause your lips are tighter than a clam."

"At least you aren't shaking anymore," notes Apollos, a dead and dull expression on his face. "Anything else before we proceed?"

"..." Naki looks away. "No. I might as well stitch my mouth closed rather than bother with you. Sometimes I wonder why I even try."

"Possibly because of your curiosity. Now let us continue, some answers you may seek lie ahead." He continues through the forest, but offers her a hand. "It is rather easy to get lost here, even when following close behind another."

She quietly takes his hand.

The forest grows thicker and on several occasions, faerie-like beings try to offer Naki food and drink, though they seem to curse Apollos upon sight.

"His sister... But a shadow," one of the less spiteful whispers, "He killed her, you know, but for reasons most wouldn't comprehend... I wonder if you will."

Naki ignores them, only for the fact asking questions or being concerned about it is all but pointless now.

Another speaks as the path grows denser and more narrow.

"If I lived with both his blessing and curse, I too would shun all others. I don't blame him, his lineage has never had things easy... Do not feel sorry for him once his tale is known, accept him as he is."

The forest begins to darken as the two progress.

She continues following Apollos quietly.

The forest begins to thin and a faint light can be seen.

"Few have carried his burden and succeeded. To know, yet not be able to tell is..."

"I wonder if you realize how protected you really are... Do you? It would be strange if you did not..."

"We're almost there."

She grunts in reply.

"I wonder, how much would you love the ones who condemned you at birth, only to later be proven wrong in their judgment? Would you respect them or would you seal your heart away?"

"An heirloom unwanted, one that brought ruin and brilliance, then a contract that befuddled and fogged. Have you figured out why?"

"We're here," says Apollos, reaching the entrance of a dark cave. With his free hand, he conjures a ball of blue fire. "... If you don't want to come, you don't have to. It doesn't matter to me."

"You dragged me this whole way, it would be kind of pointless for me to stay. Hell, don't give me a choice to come or not when you already made me come in the first place. Let's just go." She says irritably.

He shrugs. "I'll warn you now, you may want to keep your eyes shut. Thinks here aren't appealing to the eyes like the Wisps were."

"Sure..." She mutters.

"Believe me or don't, it matters not." He proceeds into the cave, and seems to plunge downward before continuing down a spiraling path. The smell of death and mold is heavy in the air.

She follows him closely behind, largely ignoring the surroundings and more focused on what Apollos is doing.

The smell only worsens and the cave grows damp. Apollos is unaffected and carefully treads along the slippery ground. A faint dripping sound can be heard.

"Why can't the land of the dead be, I don't know, a little more clean?" She grumbles.

"Because of my great grandfather. All of the problems here stem from his ambitions and their aftermath," answers Apollos. "That's all you need to know." The sound of running water can be heard further away and the air gains an iron smell to it.

She sighs. "Sounds like a really cheery person..." She says with bitter sarcasm.

"If you call a bloody crusade that completely destroyed the balance within this place before his son sealed him off, yes he was very cheery. How astute of you." The sound of running water gets louder until they arrive at a waterfall strewn with rotting skeletons and rusted weapons. Apollos picks Naki up once more, then leaps across the fall to the other bank. A darker tunnel lies ahead.

Naki sighs. "I keep forgetting you kill the sarcastic mood with ease..."

Apollos shrugs and leads them down the tunnel, arriving at a large gate bound by heavy chains. He waves a hand and the chains shatter, causing the gate to peek open.

Naki doesn't comment, just keeps following him.

Beyond the gate lies a figure chained to a wall with dirty blue hair and glowing red eyes. They are garbed in a tattered dress soaked in red and black blood. Their eyes narrow on Apollos, but they smile nonetheless.

"Apollos, coming to visit so soon," they ask, straining towards him. The stoic young man gives nothing away.

"Have you come to terms with your sentence," he questions.

"Of course I have, dear brother. 'Tis a shame I couldn't have had my body with me... How is Selene I hope she is enjoying her rather temporary time on Earth..."

Naki starts slightly, then her eyes glance toward Apollos.

The figure notices Naki and smiles.

"Ah, gentle Naki... Fiery Naki... You're still as lost as you ever were... Come to visit an old friend?" Apollos takes a step in front of Naki.

"She is not of your concern."

"Ah, but my sentence is. Apollos, for all that you see, you are blind. I will not speak to the one who sent me here, the one who tore my soul from my body and ripped out my heart... You are the spitting image of Apollyon, you know. He still speaks to me, tells me that I was in the right, abhors you for denying your true self... You are his true heir after all." Apollos stiffens.

"Be quiet, Selene," he growls, showing a hint of emotion.

"Apollos, what's going on?" Naki speaks up.

"None of your business," he says, only for Selene to answer for him.

"Apollos, my darling brother and killer, is the one who imprisoned me. He defied his fate and slew me when I deigned to take his place. He couldn't understand why I would follow in Apollyon's footsteps, not with his heart that loves all things that live. He couldn't understand the pleasure derived from extinguishing such menial existences... Ah, the thought give me the shivers."

"Keep your perverse fantasies to yourself."

"...What is... ...how are there two Selene's?!"

"I'm the real Selene," answers the bound figure, struggling against her chains, "The other is just my body reanimated and given personality, courtesy of dear Apollos breaking the single rule binding our family..." Apollos glares at Selene.

"Silence."

Naki remains silent, though her mind is racing.

"The answer you seek Apollos, I will only give if you leave the room," says Selene, "I do not answer to you who denied his heritage and power for a small reason."

"You are attempting to justify the concept of mass genocide for pleasure," retorts Apollos, disgusted. "Do you even hear yourself? Those are not the words of my sister, those are the ramblings of a madwoman who believes that in death comes beauty."

"Yet you understand what I mean. Only you would understand me and Apollyon, not that traitor Alzael or the one who sired us," hisses Selene, her eyes turning black with purple irises as cracks from them spread down her face. A moment later her face returns to normal and she smiles knowingly. "You've lost it, the part of you that made you even slightly different from me and Apollyon and even Alzael. You've developed the eyes..."

"Be silent!"

"I will not!" The chains binding Selene crack as a horrifying amount of killing intent erupts from her.

"Girly, Run," commands Apollos, "If you stay, you'll perish. Do not speak to anyone, unless they identify as a Yama."

Naki bolts, running away as fast as she can. "Damn it, why'd he even bring me here..." She growls to herself.

The path of the cave diverges as she ascends. Tremors can be felt from far behind her.

She hurries to the right, hoping to get more distance in case a collapse happens.

The right path continues upwards and out of the mouth of the cave, into the forest. The tremors increase in power.

Naki keeps running, now worried by the force of the tremors.

Several seconds later the cave implodes and a pillar of dark energy erupts from it. The forest appears to have become hostile as plants try to snag her as a large number of spectral bee like creatures swarm towards her.

Naki runs even faster, trying to outrun the danger. "Why is it always me?!" She growls.

Eventually she reaches a clearing filled with faeries, half of which fly towards her offering various types of food and drink and the occasional trinket. The ones that don't gives her looks of urgency.

She shakes her head venomously, still running.

Some of the beings hiss at Naki and gain more demonic appearances before flying after her. Several do not transform, but fly after her as well, intending to protect her.

"Do not enter the plain, take a right. Now that the Scion of Apollyon is not protecting you, the vengeful spirits there will attempt to devour your soul and take your body for themselves."

Naki makes a hard swerve to the right, not looking back. Man this is a real pain... Aid my ass... the only 'aid' I am is probably for his amusement...

The path leads her to a valley between two mountains.

"We shall protect you here, continue forward."

She does so, beginning to more carefully manage her energy as she runs.

As she reaches the center of the valley, she feels a chill go down her spine and the fades to sepia. The sounds of bells tolling can be heard.

"Damn it Apollos, one of those reapers is after me! I don't need this right now! Gaah!" She runs faster.

The sound of bells tolling comes from in front of her. A ring of spectral fire forms around her, but spreads over a large area as inky darkness seeps into the circle, a few dozen meters away.

"Hey, back off! Last time I checked I'm not old, and haven't had any medical history! I'm not even overweight! Maybe you should, I don't know, find something more productive to do!" She shoots a light empowered fireball at the darkness.

The darkness swallows the fireball before melding into a figure wearing a shadowy cloak and a red mask shaped like a skull. Chains wrap around its cloaked torso, each adorned with several bells. It looks at Naki from beyond the black holes in the mask where its eyes should be before manifesting a scythe adorned with skulls and faces twisted into agonized expressions. "Thou art a hindrance to the balance. Become part of the flow... Perish..."

Before it finishes speaking, Naki has drawn her spear and using light to speed its attack, smashes the end of the pole directly into the mask, then follows up with another jab to where its stomach would be.

The reaper dashes backwards and into the air, becoming a vortex of dark energy. Several red points form around the edges of the vortex.

Naki preemptively begins making evasive movements, while concentrating. "Nue!" She barks, and a symbol on her hand shows up, as a snake forms out of one of her scarves and spits out a energy shield, which Naki attaches to her arm. She continues moving even with the shield.

A moment later, a barrage of blades and barbed hooks connected to chains erupt from the vortex, pulverizing the ground where Naki once stood. The vortex then grows a large central blade and slams into the ground, reeled in by the hooks and blades, generating several rings of scythe blades around itself and causing the ground to quake.

Naki makes a whirlwind to blow the blades away from her, and also raises her up from the ground a bit, making more evasive movements.

The blades do not move from Naki's whirlwind, instead they are drawn back into the ground as the vortex reverts to its original shape as the reaper. It watches Naki before making a downwards raking motion with its right hand, a trail of red energy trailing after its hand a second or so later. Similar red lines of energy form in front of her.

Naki raises the energy shield, which expands and blocks the attacks, sparking, but remaining intact. "Jue!" She barks, and a staff with a large bludgeoning end forms, which she hurls at the Reaper's body, smashing into it with extreme brute force.

From the lines extent crimson scythe blades. The reaper allows the bludgeon to be caught in its cloak and confused before it rakes upwards with its left hand. This time no lines are visible.

Naki dodges to the side as quickly as possible, making the weapon spin wildly abruptly and slam down on the reaper's head hard.

Reaper's mask cracks, but the club explodes from the force required to do so. The reaper seems to be unaffected though moments later it turns itself back into a vortex of dark energy and flies upwards. This time no red points appear within it.

Naki summons another weapon, this time it is a sort of hand cannon with a long barrel, and she begins charging the shield in preparation for its next move.

Another barrage of chained blades and hooks rips into the ground, but instead of the vortex crashing down into the area, it begins to spin ominously. The ground impacted by the chains forms into a dark rift and the chains connecting the two pulse with black and red energy. A red ring forms within the vortex.

Naki prepares to take evasive action, watching carefully, then quickly begins dodging as fast as she can.

Chained blades slowly spiral from the vortex, striking over a much wider range than the first set did, each creating their one dark vortexes that spiral as well.

Janpu appears, and begins wrapping around her body, melding with her form to become a kind of armor, including her head, his singular eye serving as her vision, and she is now able to perceive much faster than earlier.

Naki prepares herself to dodge at the first sign of an attack.

The vortex comes crashing down once more, creating a massive tremor and several waves of dark energy along side nine pillars of black and red energy and a maw of swirling red blades that tear apart the ground around them.

Naki begins moving away as fast as she can possible go at the first sign of danger.

She manages to avoid the majority of the attack, but a stray blade nicks her as a second tremor goes off before the Reaper returns to normal, its mask now more cracked.

As soon as Naki sees the mask, she fires the hand cannon at the Reaper, the cannon rocketing a tungsten rod in less than a second at its mask.

A larger crack forms on the mask before the Reaper's bells begin to chime and rise. They fire a barrage of high speed, piercing lasers of white, blue and gold energy at her, tracking her as best they can.

Janpu uncoils and begins lobbing boulders of steel at the Reaper and the lasers to interrupt and confound the Reaper's line of sight, as well as keep the lasers away from Naki. She fires the cannon again, this time with an even stronger blast.

This time the Reaper expects the blast and phases out of the way, firing the lasers much faster as it does so. Finally, lurches forward, then hops back only to dash towards her at blinding speeds.

Naki evades backwards and to the side, while Janpu fires a blast of pure kinetic energy at its mask.

The Reaper spirals into a thin point, piercing through the blast before diving into the ground, becoming a massive puddle that snakes after Naki.

"GET. A. LIFE." Naki snaps, moving faster with wind. Janpu's snake tail rears, then blasts a wave of corrosive acid, while it blasts a wave of fire at it.

The puddle, if anything, moves faster after the attacks absorbed into it as it hounds Naki.

A burning symbol of a phoenix begins to burn into existence on Naki's forehead, as one of her eyes turns electric blue, and her energy levels jolt up beyond her usual limits, and she moves even faster. While she does so, she suddenly throws the shield at the Reaper, which suddenly changes into a globe shaped barrier that captures the Reaper inside in a sort of seal, her thoughts now more organized and efficient.

The Reaper remains in liquid form and begins to swirl. Red lines begin to appear everywhere within the barrier, some even overlapping.

The shield begins directly blocking the Reaper's attack by using the Reaper's existence as its battery as a counter.

The Reaper glows white for a brief instant and it feels as if everything froze over suddenly. It finally decides to teleport out of the shield and manifests its true scythe before launching scythe blades at Naki from every imaginable angle at extreme speeds.

Janpu wraps around Naki and resumes his armored form, causing the scythe blades to bounce off harmlessly off his armor form, aided by a faint red aura being generated from the emblem now fully formed on Naki's forehead.

The Reaper rushes towards her, its true scythe ready to cleave her in two.

She rushes off to one side, then pretends to leave her side exposed as she goes for a strike to its chest, then once its scythe comes close enough, she pole jumps using her spear to evade the scythe and then at full force slams her fist into the mask with enough force to cause an explosion, knocking it away as it does so, then flips away with her spear in hand.

Naki manages to shatter the mask, albeit the force of doing so nearly splinters every bone in her arm before she is blown back a surge of black energy erupting from the Reaper. The ring of fire flickers out and the sepia tint of the world weakens as energy explodes from the being.

Naki wastes no time in fleeing as fast as she can, using the surplus energy in her to run as fast as possible from it, willing her legs to run faster than she's ever made them go before in desperation. Naki reaches the end of the valley when the feeling of impending death reaches her. The world fades to black and white and everything seems to freeze over. Around that time feathers begin to fall.

D-damn it, what now?!

Naki tries to keep fleeing.

A wall of white greets Naki as she continues forward, blocking her path. She hears church bells tolling as the feeling of death becomes stronger. At that moment, a figure clad in white robes descends from the sky, floating down on skeletal wings that have lost their feathers. Further away lies the Reaper, its cloak now white and laden with more bells and its red skeletal mask replaced by a featureless white mask, with an almost angelic scythe.

"She stagnates the flow... I must purge her."

"I would rather you not. Return to your post, Azrael." The robed figure shakes its head at the Reaper.

"Only because you are above me... I shall obey." The Reaper turns away and vanishes in a ray of light, leaving behind black and white feathers.

Naki steps away from the figure, her heart pounding audibly like a drum, as she tries to keep her spear raised in her good hand, with little success.

"Relax, child, if I were here to judge you, your soul would already be in the place it would spend eternity in. It is not your time yet." The figure turns around, revealing a partially veiled face and clear blue eyes. Strands of silver hair rustle from within the hood of their robe.

"J-judge...?" She falls to her knees as the emblem disappears, the only energy she had left to stand with gone, her body visibly trembling from both fear and exhaustion.

"Yes, I am of the seven Yama. I am Silael, the Light of Judgment. I came when I realized that a mortal was in danger within this realm. You are in no danger around me." The Yama gives her an appraising yet kind look. "My only question is how did you arrive here?"

She trembles still. "I... I was with Apollos, he told me to come with him, as his 'aid'. ...Though I don't even know what he wants from me, so far the only thing I've done is be forced to flee for my life after the cave... ....I hate this..." The last thing she said she mutters to herself.

"Ah, the Scion of Apollyon... He most likely meant well, but he cannot feel or express emotions, at least not positive ones. The fact that he told you to escape from a situation means that he cares for your safety to an extent. After all, few people who have come to this realm with him have ever deigned to fully trust him, instead allowing themselves to be swayed by temptations or untruths... I assume you met his sister."

"....Yes... I did..." Her tone indicates she is not pleased to hear that subject again.

"... If only fate had been nicer to them." Silael's eyes cloud. "Do you know what led to their current state? A simple wish gone wrong. All males in the line of Apollyon are born with power over the dead and souls, Necromancy. Unlike those who practice it, they are born with such mastery and power that it drives them mad if they cannot withstand its temptation. Apollos and his grandfather were able to do so, but not Apollyon himself or his many other sons and their descendants... As for Selene, it is not her fault, her pure heart and desire to help free Apollos of his burden caused her transformation. If she hadn't tried to split the burden, she would not be facing Apollos as she is now, a spirit condemned more than even Apollyon was."

She closes her eyes. "I don't know what to think... how I should think... so much that I don't understand... ....it's infuriating..." After a long pause, she quietly asks, "What was it talking about, stagnating the flow...?"

"Mortals, while they are not barred from this realm, have a peculiar effect on this realm's denizens. Many seek out new bodies to return to the realm of the living or hate the living with a great passion, feelings that are amplified when a mortal enters this realm. You no doubt heard the cries of vengeful spirits and faced the wrath and offers of longing spirits as you and Apollos passed through the area. They wanted you to either perish or become one of them, their hatred or longing corrupting the purification process slowly, something that Reapers and us Yama are sensitive to. You per se are not in the wrong for being here, but you are in danger when without a being of higher rank near you."

She nods quietly. "...What do I even do with myself now...?"

"I would offer to return you to whence you came, but that would leave Apollos unattended... Would you care to hear a story?"

"...I guess. I haven't... much else to do." She leans herself against a rock, tired.

"Once upon a time an angel fell from the heavens, having been consumed by its duties. It descended to the Earth with no memories and its power sealed, lying dormant for many years until a young woman found it and nursed it back to health. For years, it lived with her as a silent guardian, unaware of its developing conscious. Eventually, it realized itself as more than a protector and fell in love with the woman, soon afterwards starting a family with four sons, each gifted with some of the angel's power.

The six of them lived in relative peace for ten years, dealing with any issues they may have had. But one day the peace was broken. Accused of witchcraft, the woman was burned at the stake before the village that they lived in without trial nor evidence and her children condemned for being the children of one who consorted with demons. The angel, saddened and angry at the death of his wife, lost itself in rage when its children were sentenced to be hanged and awakened its original power at the cost of its sanity.

Without morals to stop its fury and logic to temper it, the angel slaughtered all within the village, even the ones it had wanted to save, before reviving them as slaves to its will, minus its children, whom had been possessed by their power already, all but one, the only person within the village to cling to life. The child hid itself away, knowing that its parent would all but kill him in order to force him to his side...

The child wound up here, in the Land of the Dead, seeking to hide itself from the fallen angel and its brothers. Instead, it met persecution and punishment by the lord of this realm, whom had seen it as a nuisance at best until he learned of its power and purpose. Taking the boy under its wing, the lord taught him all that he knew about the boy's power in hopes of grooming him into the next lord of the realm. It was around this time that the angel made its way into the real. and started a war that destroyed both the beauty and balance of the realm within days. The war lasted for years, ending with the former lord of the realm being slain and replaced by the mad angel.

The angel's child, now a man with a wife expecting a child in the near future , went into hiding to hone his power, knowing that someday he and his family would someday have to face the angel, even if it was generations later. Time passed and the angel prepared for a bloody crusade across Earth, while its son mastered and developed powers that rivaled the angel's own, readying for the inevitable clash to come. The battle began three years later, after the man's daughter had been abducted by one of his brothers..."

Naki thinks quietly. "....You're talking about Apollos' family, aren't you....?"

The Yama nods.

"Indeed, Apollyon was once an angel of fearsome power, but that power grew after his corruption... Only his son was able to stop him, but at great cost. History seems to be repeating itself... If you are wondering why I do not intervene, it is because the Scions of Apollyon must solve their own familial issues. That was the pact made with us Yama after the Lord of the Dead, Alzael, slew and sealed Apollyon and sent his daughter to live on Earth, away from the madness that now consumes this realm because of Apollyon's crusade... Apollos is the current Scion of Apollyon, the one who must destroy the branches of his family that have fallen to the curse of Apollyon's power without aid from anyone within this realm or the one that he hails from. He must also deal with his own innate ability to see the past and future of all who enter his line of sight, down to the slimmest of possibilities, his ability to know everything about a person by making prolonged eye contact, his lack of emotions and his own power that surpasses even Lord Alzael's, power that surpasses the boundaries of Necromancy, Demon Mastery and the arts of Destruction, branching into the realm of Chaos."

"....I see. ...I can kinda understand him for that but... I wish he wasn't so vague all the time... I swear it drives me to insanity. I don't even know why I'm here... wouldn't tell me anything... ....I hate that..."

"He's bound by a contract with the Violet Cardinal to be vague. In exchange, his power is limited by a seal that weakens as he is forced to use more than a certain amount of it. The last time he was here, he did not have eyes that could foresee death nor could he stand as much malice as he is now, as he fends off his sister... Hm, that will result in an issue of sorts soon..." As Silael speaks the sky darkens over a specific part of the realm before the clouds wither away. "I see... Soon the others will act... Young One, the other six Yama shall arrive soon. Please stay by my side, a few of the others aren't as accepting of mortals as I am, especially the one who likely authorized the Azrael to go after you."

She sighs. "Figures..." With some effort, she hesitantly gets up and walks over closer to him.

Six flashes of light, ranging from a brilliant blue to a vehement red, occur and six robed figures similar to Silael appear. The first, from the blue flash of light, appears to be a humanoid woman with completely blue eyes, a cyan fiery aura, two branching silver horns with lightning between them and blue-black scaled claws for hands. The second, originating from a green flash, is also humanoid, but of no discernible gender, with leafy green hair, segments of bark with branches and leaves growing from their elbows downward, chlorophyll tinted skin and yellow eyes, one of which adorned by a gold monocle. The third looks less human, stemming from the metallic and crystalline nature of their body and the somewhat serpentine features of their physical structure, stems from an orange flash. From violet comes a black and grey being with eyes like smoldering coals and billowing clouds arcing with lightning flowing around them. From black appears a serpentine dragon with prismatic scales and pure black eyes and similarly black flams licking at its robe. Lastly is the being from the red flash, a hulking brutish being with blood red skin, clawwed hands with sharp black scales, a mane of black hair that crackles with negative energy, lighting and embers, black and golden eyes, a set of five gnarled horns, each wrapped in some form of sealing writs, a pair of tusks that looked sharper than any blade, a forked tail barbed with long black quills and gaping hollow in the center of its chest.

"The Brat of Apollyon is making another mess? Why must we allow him to do as he pleases?" The demonic Yama looks at Silael with visible contempt. "And why is the mortal I sent my Azrael after still among the living?"

"It is interesting... I wonder if he can handle her or will she escape and cause another calamity," ponders the Yama from the green light. It looks at Naki. "I imagine that it is because her time has not come yet, Landol."

"She disrupts the flow! Her very presence agitates the spirits! She must perish or-" Landol directs his anger towards the plantlike being before he is interuptted.

"I do not see it as such a thing." The Yama from the blue flash states. "If anything, she was caught in a situation she had no control over and thus should not be harmed."

"Siding with Silael and Arius as always, Agnea. It's no wonder, you are Silael's plaything." Agnea bristles and her aura explodes outwards before wrapping around her tightly.

"I do not see it as meaningful for this argument to continue," states the dragon, mediating the issue. "Silael, explain the situation at hand please." Silael nods and recounts all that has happened so far that he's noted.

Naki becomes very interested in a rock while they speak, too nervous to even glance up, afraid.

The dragon nods slowly after Silael's explanation.

"I see, most interesting. Child, your voice is required." The dragon addresses Naki in its shifting voice. "Do you wish to return to your previous location or aid the Scion of Apollos? Both have their own costs and benefits."

"Choose quickly! Master Fernadeus has no time to waste on one such as yourself." Landol growls darkly at Naki.

"You will not rush her." Silael's eyes narrow and for a split second Naki feels exactly how dangerous the kind Yama is, far more so than the Azrael sent after her.

"....Well... if I wasn't exhausted and drained from earlier... I... would help him. ...I would, but as I am now I'm too tired to fight... ...I'm not even sure if I would be of any help to begin with. ...but I would regardless... ...though from what I saw, I'm currently not a match at my level... ...tch..."

While she says this, she looks up slightly at the dragon, but once she finishes she looks away.

"I did not mean for you to fight, I only wished to hear your opinion on the matter." The Dragon nods at Naki. "We shall indirectly aid the Scion of Apollyon, we are not forbidden from doing so." The others nod.

"May I suggest something?" The storm shrouded being speaks up. "We could lessen the limiter upon him just enough to allow him an equal chance."

"That seems logical, Gyrim. It would be better than allowing him access to fractions of our power. What about the girl?"

"I shall watch over her for now, until the Scion succeeds or fails. In either case, I will return her to whence she came."

"That's all you're good at anyways." Landol huffs before he and the other Yama glow with their respective colors. Several moments of silence pass before the glow ceases. "Done. Now we what and see if the Brat makes a fool of himself or actually cleans up after himself."

Naki remains quiet, Janpu coiled around her reassuringly.

The Yama watch the sky silently, waiting for an outcome. Finally they all look at one another.

"He tried..."

"Indeed. If only he had been swifter."

"An unwanted outcome, but it appears that this was fated to happen..."

"Indeed, outside interference. How troublesome."

"I can't help but think that Agnea is correct. Fate does seem to be working against him."

"....Is he alright?" Naki asks in concern. I'm still worthless...

"He is, but he was unable to contain hs sister due to outside interference aiding her escape at the last moment... I have no doubt that you wanted to help from your words earlier, but you aren't in such a condition to do so."

"To help Apollos would mean having to grow much stronger in a short period of time. While I do not doubt that you could do such a thing, it is not advisable."

"Let the girl do as she pleases, if she sends herself to an early grave, so be it. If it would get things over with, I'd train her."

"That almost sounded chivilrous, Landol."

"Was that a compliment, Agnea?"

Naki silently closes her eyes, cursing her weakness. I can't get anything done like this. I can't protect anyone... ....I might not have a choice but to accept Ark's offer... ...what if next time, I could have done something but was too weak...? ....I have to get stronger... at least... for the sake of everyone else... ...and he had to protect me... damn it I ran again!

"The hell are you moping about? I sent you away because it was convenient, not because I wanted you to live, idiot. You would've made a good meat shield," Apollos words are harsh upon his appearance, his eyes now scarlet and his hair now sporting a black patch. "Stop crying, we've overstayed our welcome." Despite his harsh sounding words, he pats her on the forehead and helps her up. He spares a glance at the Yama before reciting, "And the gate shall open..." A door appears within the space before them, one which Apollos opens up and enters with Naki, returning to the school. "Go get some rest, you had a long day."

She quietly walks away, holding her damaged arm as she walks without a word.

You could have been nicer...

"As if that would help."

Still, is kindness that difficult?

"If it prevents calamity, I will not act in such a way... I'll be slightly kinder tomorrow."

Naki stops by the shower and washes herself off from the dried sweat and grime from the day's events, grimacing as she carefully washes her broken arm, then after finishing, dries herself off and gets into sleeping attire, sitting on her bed and takes out bandage cloth. Janpu carefully holds her arm steady while Naki painfully wraps her arm up, slowly making a bandage, then treating the limb with healing magic for a few minutes, before tucking herself into bed.

Naki awakens surrounded by the Yama. The environment is nothing like the Land of the Dead, instead being in an alabaster citadel of sorts. None of them speak, instead they stare at her with various levels of interest before the scene warps and an Azrael stands above her, trying to place its mask, lined with sharp debris, on her face.

Naki squirms with alarm trying to swat at the being's hand with all her might.

The scene fades once more, replaced by a burning home. Before Naki lies the lifeless body of Selene surrounded by unnatural shadows that hiss at her.

Tch, is someone screwing with my head now?!

The scene fades once more, shifting to the school but in the future. The forest around it is vibrant and lush, bustling with live. The school looks newer and has a tower next to it. Two figure, both familiar yet foreign stand at the top of the building, watching the sun set.

...Who...?

The visions fade and Naki finds Apollos peering over her.

"Are you planning on getting up any time soon? You've slept through the first half of the day," he says, "You're lucky today is a Saturday or you'd be in hot water."

Her eyes take a moment to register he's there. "....." She gets up and heads to a bathroom and changes into day clothes, then gets her spear upon coming back, then leaves for the tree she always hangs around, and applies more healing magic, all of this done without a response to him.

I thought you said you would be slightly kinder...

"Her hair is no longer curly."

...I really doubt that counts in anyone's book.

"What, do you expect me to smile and be cheerful? The most I'll do is repair her arm, though she'll have to ask for that."

Always the miser for favors...

"You know perfectly well why I'm not nice, stop pretending."

Whatever you say... Just make sure you're fine with reaping what you sow.

Naki under the tree, sucks in a breath and hisses as she readjusts all of the bones in her upper arm back into place so the magic would work better, then applies another round of healing.

Apollos sits on the other side of the tree.

"That seems to be painful," he notes, "Reapers are tough bastards aren't they? The same thing happened when I fought one for the first time, only I had no one send it away... Don't ever let one put its mask on you if you meet one in the future, you'll wish that it had killed you and taken your soul if one does."

Naki visibly starts when she hears the last thing he said, surprise burning in her eyes, enough so to make her lose focus and her healing spell sparks out.

"....coincidence....?" She mutters.

"Hm?" Apollos looks slightly curious, though he refuses to make eye contact in the slightest.

"I saw... ...a Reaper trying to put its mask on me... ...among other things..." She mutters. She edges away from him slightly, a tense sort of aura emitting from her.

"...You jest," he says, his tone icing over, "Yama, Reaper, past, future... Did you see all of that?"

".....my life just got ten times more complicated, didn't it?"

"No, mine did." He swears then paces around, mumbling about interference and unwanted intervention. "Alright, as of today, it seems I'll have to train you in things because everything in the future just got royally screwed over. Meet me at midnight, we'll begin then." He begins to walk off, but stops and grabs Naki's broken arm, healing it within seconds. "That was going to bother you for three more days."

"...Tch, will you at least explain even at a basic level what's happened? I know being vague is part of your 'mission statement' and all, but...."

She buries her head in her hands. "No no, wait, you won't even give me that much." She pauses, then angerly punches the nearby wall in her frustration, the wall cracking a bit.

"Couldn't even if I wanted to, it'd interfere with the future," remarks Apollos, "Midnight, above the Observatory."

Naki grumbles, a faint 'whatever' distinguished from part of her grumbling. She begins to walk off again.

Apollos walks off. I'll have to keep an eye on Selene, make sure that nothing unsavory occurs...

Naki wanders off for a bit, then settles in by a secluded pond in the school grounds, staring into the water with various fish swimming.

Gaea, could you teach me how to conceal my energy from others?

It is a rather difficult thing to master, yet easy to use. Concentrate on drawing all energy you release into yourself. It may take some concentration, but you should be able to do so easily.

Naki takes a breath, then first begins to calm herself and her mind, then slowly begins concentrating on withdrawing all of her energy, make a slow, but steady effort, going for efficiency over speed.

As she gets pretty far into it, for a moment she sees an image of herself in an operating table... ....as a human. White and what she assumes is Volmond are overseeing her procedure, but then she realizes... ...the person isn't Volmond. She can't see his face, but she can see spiky blond hair, and he hears his laugh for a moment, before the image subsides.

What was that just now? She pauses in her training, for some reason the image bothers her.

A DivisionEdit

Naki takes a small breath, then quietly begins finishing the training she started, though now on edge. What's going on?

Possibly a minor form of Psychometry or even minor temporal vision... You could have gained an ability without realizing it.

...I don't know why... ...but that whole thing... felt... ...so real... it couldn't have been though... I mean, there can't have been... ...another me....

You'd be surprised, I have two components of myself running around doing what they please... Hmmm, almost whole...

Naki focuses on completing the concealment practice.

As she does, she is pricked by a sharp object from behind, followed by mischievous laughter.

Naki throws a punch in the direction of the sharp object's owner. "I. AM. NOT. IN. THE. MOOD!" She snaps.

"Aw, but you won't learn if you're so uptight and rigid," whines the owner of the object, unseen and unharmed, "You gotta focus, but be unfocused to succeed ~"

"Why you little... who are you?" She snaps, hair bristling slightly.

"Yume~" The younger girl pops into existence, upsidedown in midair and blowing raspberries at Naki before vanishing, leaving no trace of her presence. "A strange Baa-san told me I could help you out~!"

".....Baa? Oh dear, are you taking orders from sheep now? I think I'm going to die from the sheer stupidity of how that sounds." Naki's voice is still slightly acidic in tone.

"No, another granny, but older than you," Yume's answer echoes around the area. "She was nicer too~"

".....Pardon?" Naki growls, a tinge of a red aura growing.

"A strange, nice granny asked me to help, young, angry granny~ I'm good at Ninjutsu and stealth unlike Taiyo andntye others~"

Naki has a very cross look. "Yeah, thanks but no thanks. I'll figure it out just fine. Concealing my energy can't be that hard." She gets up and starts walking away.

"That's what they all say~" Yume's light tone changes, "Then they find a shinai in their gut. I'm offering to help you, old lady. Gaea asked me too politely."

Janpu appears, his arms crossed, his eye strangely focused on something... I'll eat you...

Naki gives him a look. "Oh calm down... ....Wait... did you say Gaea?"

"You could try, Kageko, but it wouldn't be a good idea. Banishing is only a stepping stone..." Yume returns Janpu's sentiments. "Yup, Gaea Baa-chan told me in a dream that someone needed a little help with Concealment ~"

Naki sighs in aggervation. "Alright fine... just don't poke me again, or Janpu is gonna give you a third eye socket. That's what he says at least..."

"He can try~ The poking is mandatory. If you can concentrate with a distraction such as that of loud noises, you won't leak your presence as much."

"....Fine..." Naki rubs her head for a few moments, trying to calm down. When she is a bit more relaxed, she tries again.

"Ignore the light pokes..." Yume's voice trails off. Several moments later, Naki feels a sharp point press into her artm for a fraction of a second.

Naki tries to ignore the poke as best as she can.

Several seconds later she feels another poke in a different area, then another.

Naki continues focusing, starting to ignore the pokes a little more easily.

The pokes increase in succession and become slightly stronger.

Naki begins to gradually grow largely inattentive, despite the increase in strength.

"Beheader~ Fly!" Naki feels the air around her moving as if something were approaching at high speed.

With a minor thought, Naki instructs Janpu to create a dome of steel, continuing to focus.

The feeling disappears abruptly.

"Hm, Granny can't stand Genjutsu... Anyways, concentrating solely in a single area will get you nowhere. You gotta be able to move at various speeds and maintain your focus while doing so."

Naki has the dome lowered, but the effort needed to maintain her concentration has greatly diminished.

"Now try running while doing so."

Naki starts running, ignoring a twinge of irritation, her concentration dropping a slight amount.

"Oh, there will be distractions as well~ And no barriers, that's a crutch, not an aid." pebbles begin to pelt Naki as dust and dirt are kicked up.

Naki finds it considerably harder to focus, wincing every time the pebbles smack into her.

"This much is easy, there aren't bullets and flash bang grenades being shot to draw you out!" Yume grumbles.

"Yeah, sure, whatever, you were born a Myth, I wasn't!" Naki refocuses her thoughts and concentration, slowly but steadily.

"Grow up, Granny, I'm half your age!" The pebbles fly much faster. "Try not being conceited!"

"Well if I'm a granny, then you're an old lady with no hair and more wrinkled than a walrus!" She says in a retort, still maintaining her concentration.

"And you're as hairy and splotchy as an old Yeti with liver spots, cataracts and ear wax horns!"

"Yeah yeah, at least I'm not a hagfish..." Despite the insult tossing, Naki is slowly adapting to the situation.

"At least I'm not an angler fish faced cougar."

Naki elects to ignore her instead of responding.

"Would both of you please cease your argument? " A completely neutral voice says. "It is not good to allow one's temper to rule them."

"....." Naki sighs. "...Who are you?" She asks.

"Disciplinary Committee Chairman and Vice President of the Student Council, Aeoleus." The owner of the voice rounds a corner, revealing a uniform clad student with a red and black vest instead of the standard jacket. His eyes are the color of steel with a slight greenish blue tint and his hair is the color of gold in the sun. Still, without his voice, it would be rather easy to mistake him for a girl.

Yume has since grown quiet for some reason.

Naki quietly looks at him for a moment, letting go of her concentration for the present moment. "...Alright....? Aeoleus, is that all you need...?" She says, very much not interested in meeting any people at the moment.

"Indeed." He nods slightly. "Please refrain from creating disturbances."

"I make no promises.... life never goes my way anyways..."

"Duly noted. I do not want to have to appear again, I already have to deal with Anira's antics almost every hour."

Naki shrugs her shoulders, not interested in continuing the conversation, above their heads, dark clouds loom and red lightning can be seen.

"..." Aeoleus points towards the sky and draws dozens of triangles in the span of ten seconds, a complex figure comprised of many rotating triangles forming above his hand. "Veritas: Horizon."

"...What's going on? I've never seen red lighting before..."

Aeoleus gives no answer, he appears to be completely entranced.

"Ho... Someone's got firepower," mutters Yume as she draws an ornate gold and silver dagger with a diamond at the base, a second at the tip of the blade and several offshoots. The weapon visibly pulses. "That's on the same level as Vajra at its full power..."

The lightning does not appear to be actively targeting the school, but seems to be the mere byproduct of a powerful being releasing its energy all at once.

"..." Aeoleus keeps his gaze upwards. Yume watches the sky with awe.

After an hour, the storm comes to an end, a light edge is still in the air for a few minutes afterward, but then there is no trace left of the mysterious storm.

"....Just what was that...?" Naki says, looking up at the sky.

"A disturbance." Aeoleus gives a simple answer before striding off.

Naki sighs. "And now I'm just tired, I'm gonna go eat..." Naki walks off.

Aeoleus doesn't react, not even when his head is mounted by Yume.

"..." He silently walks off.

Naki makes her way over to the cafeteria, and gets her lunch, deciding to sit alone for the moment, as she eats she ponders the various things that have happened to her.

Shortly after lunch, Naki is called into Anira's office.

Naki promptly heads to Anira's office. Doubtless there's some urgent issue or something...

"Ah, you're here... This is a rather perplexing question to ask, but... Do you prefer Sol or Apollos?" Anira looks as if he has a world class headache. He reaches for a mug of steaming liquid darker than black in coloration. "Ah right, do you want a cup of coffee? I just brewed some."

Naki gives him a dumbfounded look. "I..... ......have no freaking idea what I was just asked."

"Coffee or no? I'll ask the other one in a moment."

"...I'll pass. I don't really like coffee..."

"More for me." The teacher downs the mug in a gulp. "Anyways, I unfortunately need you to answer this question. Do you prefer Sol or Apollos?"

Naki raises an eyebrow. "Again... ...I don't have any idea what's being asked."

"I'll create a scenario. You are asked to a movie theater by someone special to you. Would that person bring you flowers or something precious to them that would be considered of value to many others, but is rare?"

"I.... I... ....don't know? ....Flowers maybe? I don't know, heck, I don't know anyone who would even be interested in me enough to ask me for such a thing. Besides, with my luck, not only would that never happen, but it would probably end in disaster if it did. No doubt some apocalyptic force will be hell bent on destroying any romance life I have." She says with a weary smile.

"You'd be surprised... The Karmic forces are nice once enough credit accumulates... That's how I met Alisa anyways... Oh! Er, figure ot if you prefer Sol or Apollos, I have to go before a-" An explosion rocks the school, followed by a wall of killing intent directed solely at Anira, who shrinks. "S-She's here... Um, talk to one of the two ASAP, gotta go!" Anira leaps out of his office window, breaking it before running like death itself was chasing him.

Naki blinks for a moment, stupefied. "....Was he just asking me to decide if I... ... ... ...oh... ... ... ...HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO COME UP WITH AN ANSWER TO THAT KINDA QUESTION?!" She snaps.

She then buries her head in her hands. "Noooooooooooooo.... not more damn trauma!"

"...I warned him," states Aeoleus, entering the room. "The best way to answer such a question is to review it logically and examine the facts."

Her only response is a small squeak of distress, before she suddenly gets up and walks out in a very determined manner.

Need to do something, anything, gotta clear my head. Why does it matter what... ....urgh...

Naki wanders the halls, avoiding talking to anyone. Sol, he's always been nice to me, but I don't see him in any major feelings other than he's my friend and I look after my friends. And as for Apollos, well... ...not being judgmental, but I have nothing to base an emotional connection with him either. I would 'prefer' Sol only because I know him and he's actually been open enough for me to kinda understand him, but he... ...I don't truly know him either.

Yume pops up beside Naki. "Maybe communication is key... At least, that's what Leo-chan said." She's holding a metallic sphere. She laughs semi-maniacally before sprinting off, being chased by Aeoleus as she runs.

"Give that back, it's dangerous!"

"Nya~ Catch me if you can, Leo-chan~"

"...Communication is the key... ...blarg..." She bangs her head against the wall.

"The vagueness of everything is going to kill me before any sword does..." She makes a long sigh.

"....Maybe I'll talk to them... ....maybe it'll help clear my mind... ....though Apollos... ...I don't know if I should give him the benefit of the doubt. I mean... ...what all could be possibly feel about me? Tch... no point in talking to yourself... might as well just go..." She slowly begins walking around the school.

"Hm, something bothering you Naki?" Selene pokes her head out of a classroom, "You look perplexed."

"Well Selene, it's pretty much the definition of my existence at this point. My life just keeps on going full steam ahead, and my little head can't process it all. ...It's one thing to soak up data like a sponge, but... ...ugh, it's just a mess, that's what my life is. I just need some time to think, that's all."

"Hmm, well if you need anyone to talk to or to blow off steam, I'm here... That's all I'm good for anyways."

"No it's not! You're a good friend, and you're much better than I at magic. Give yourself more credit Selene!" Naki says, despite her own issues, she'd rather not have Selene beating herself up over anything so pointless.

"...The accolades of a... No, never mind," Selene shakes her head. "I-I'll do my best, Naki!"

Naki gives her a critical look. "I think I should be more worried about you. You just need to be yourself. There's been other things in my life telling me to be someone I'm not. I'm choosing to be myself, because I don't care about power. I care about my friends, and the world around me. I'm not going to shut myself away from others and care about knowledge or power that gives me nothing. If it means you're not you, I don't think anyone should accept that power.

For me, your best is just being you. You're already doing your best, so don't stop being you. Alright?"

"What if my true self is not something that could be accepted," mutters Selene.

Naki starts to get a headache, and around that time Selene notices in a mirror, Naki's reflection is... odd.

"Naki, are you alright?" She summons her staff and begins chanting a restorative spell.

Selene's attention is brought back to the mirror, as the reflection begins standing in a straight posture, unlike the lightly hunched over Naki. It's at this point that she realizes that the figure standing in the mirror has red eyes, black hair, and six jet black wings, scales that appear to leech light from the area, an obsidian black dragon's tail, a energy flowing from her forearms, and taloned feet and clawed hands. The most important feature she sees is the face, which is almost an exact match to Naki's. The figure winks, then it fades, leaving behind Naki's reflection, and the headache stops abruptly.

"....Ow.... ....that's never happened before... where'd that headache come from...?" Naki murmurs, straightening with the pain gone.

Selene goes rigid and for a fraction of a second a dark smile crosses her face before she rubs her temple.

"I don't know, sorry."

"....Selene, look... ...I really don't know how to answer that question you asked but... ...I would think that there is always hope for people, even ones in the wrong path. ...My master, I know he's done... ...not too great things. I don't know what specifically, I just have that feeling... ...but I know that even though others don't see him in a good light, I've seen the good in him so... ...I have faith he'll pull through in the end. ....if you're worried about that Selene... ...the best I can offer you is I guess... ...what I've said before, you know? I'm not gonna abandon my friends. Even if they do go down the wrong path. ...Alright?" She puts a hand on her shoulder.

"Friends stick their necks out for each other, never forget it."

"...If only...No, never mind. I'll need some time to think."

Naki gives her a hug. "See you later, Selene. Take care of yourself for me, alright?"

"Y-You too!" Selene blushes then hurries off.

Naki sighs. "...I hope she'll be okay..."

After thinking for a moment, she decides to continue on, keeping an eye out for Sol and Apollos, not noticing her shadow is slightly darker than it should be.

She runs into Apollos, whom Yume is hiding behind. Aeoleus looks at the girl with a cross expression. He prepares to say something before turning to face Naki.

"Disturbance detected," he says in a monotonous voice as his irises begin to spin and steam flows from his limbs. "Identifying..."

Naki blinks, confused. "Umm, what are you talking about?" The blackness in her shadow quietly fades to normal tone, and a heaviness not detected before fades.

"...What's going on around here... ...great my bad luck must already be kicking into gear," Naki grumbles.

"Disturbance no longer detected," he states, his eyes and limbs returning to normal.

"Ara, Leo-Chan is Kowai-Scary," says Yume, returning the sphere to him. Apollos looks uncaring at the situation and gives Naki a sidelong glance.

"....Hi...." Naki says uncertainly to Apollos, avoiding eye contact slightly.

"What is it? You're acting like a deer caught between headlights."

"....I kinda wanted to talk to you but... ...I don't know what to talk about... ....the fact you're not that talkative doesn't help either... ....gah this is more difficult than I imagined..." She mutters the last part to herself.

"....Okay, I'll try this... ....err... ...look, I'm sorry I've not exactly been... ...nice... ...to deal with. It's just.... ....I kinda have an urge to want to know things, and when people deliberately keep me in the dark, it's really... ....agitating... for me. ...I don't know what I'm really saying, it's just... ....I'll try not to be so pushy about things anymore... I mean, you wouldn't tell me anything I asked anyway, so I guess..."

Naki pauses. "Dear lord am I awkward today, aren't I? I'm sorry, it's just that I felt like I should extend an olive branch or something, you probably look down on me for how I act so I kinda wanted to straighten things out.... .......am I making any sense or am I just flapping my gums like an idiot now?"

"... ..... .......There's a difference between me deliberately hiding things and me protecting you from things to come, just so you know. I'm limited quite a bit on what I can say without it irreparably damaging the future or distorting the timeline. As for me looking down on you, you're just too impulsive for your own good and I react in kind to that, even if harshly."

".....So I guess I'm just an idiot then, huh? I'm sorry if I wasted your time, Apollos."

"Wasting my time is rather hard, so don't worry about that." Apollos sighs, "Devaluing oneself is linked to increasingly bad Karma, so don't do that. It matters not what others say, well most of the time..."

"...So was the point of that whole thing, the you know, dead place, for me to see who we did...? ...Or was there something else?"

"It was, but things didn't go the way they could have. Maybe I was too forceful... Though there was interference from that person..."

"Hmmm.... Well, not everything works out as planned, I guess." Naki says. She looks away for a moment. "...You said protecting me from things to come? Oh, no, I'm not asking what they are. ...But why are you protecting me? We hardly know each other, and for that matter, we've not gotten along very well. So why....?"

"The easiest way to explain it is because it's my job as future headmaster among things," he says, "You and a ton of others are under the range of my scope, but mainly you because you have the luck I had a long time ago and because you will have an important role. That's all I can say without breaching my contract."

Naki looks away, though it's not out of social awkwardness.

An important role....? ...Damn it... I don't want 'an important role'. I just want... ...I just wanted... ...a... I just wanted to have a life where I could belong, I just wanted to know what it is like to have a normal life... ...I thought I could have that... ...but...

Her eyes subtly dim. Am I just not meant to be happy and live a normal life? ....Why is it always me...? I don't want a special role, I just want to be me!

"I-I-I see... ....I-I-I expected as much from you..." She unconvincingly laughs, trying to not to convey the sharpening mental pain of her thoughts.

"Cry or shout or yell, lying is unbecoming," he says, "I may lack emotions for the most part, but I can see them as clear as day."

"...I didn't ask for any of it. There has been nothing 'normal' about my life. Nothing. It never ends. I just want to... ....to be normal." She looks away. "I don't want power, or knowledge, I don't want some role I was fated to...." She covers her face with her hands.

"Let it out," says Apollos, "You never know, your role might be one you'll... Ah, almost broke contract. You get the idea though."

"...My parents always says it hurts worse to cry.... ....I don't want to... ...cry... ....I want to be better than that..."

"Crying gets things out of your system. Yes, it hurts, but you'll feel better afterwards, much better. Tears don' detract from a person's value or character."

"Is Shinigami-san being comforti-AHh!?" Before Yume can complete her statement a tile explodes near her, causing her to immediately vanish from sight.

Naki slowly begins to breakdown into a small fit, crying. After a while, she suddenly gets a stronger, more powerful headache, and she feels sick to her stomach.

"Disturbance detected," states Aeoleus, his irises rotating and his limbs steaming, "Identifying..." Apollos' eyes narrow and Yume draws her ornate dagger.

Naki suddenly collapses, when she's turned over onto her back, a blazing phoenix emblem is on her forehead, only this time an addition of strange burning red runes traveling across her body is seen. It appears to be leeching rather than granting energy.

"Initiating Aura Purge and Curse Purge," intones Aeoleus, blue light cracking around one hand and red light around the other. "Executing." He places both hands on Naki, zapping her with both lights, attempting to deactivate the emblem and runes.

"Fa...l Nee...e," mutters Apollos, a black pin forming between his index and middle fingers.

Suddenly in response to both, a silver aura forms and changes into a sort of barrier with silver runes that flare upon sensing Aeoleus' attempt, completely disrupting it, but the runes remain intact.

They can barely hear a faint feminine laugh, almost a part of the background noise it is so faint.

"Locating source."

"Just extract her soul and put it back in her body after the disturbance leaves," dead pans Apollos as Drei enters the area in cat form, a bell ringing from his newly added collar.

"Out of the way," he states, hopping onto Naki, "Law Breaker: Dispel the permanent and the afflicting ailments within the area of the school." The sound of something shattering reverberates as his fur spikes up.

The barrier disappears along with the markings, and an irritated growl comes from the air, and an aura akin to death becomes apparent.

"....fine... ....you're lucky this time..." A voice like Naki's says abruptly, before the aura vanishes.

"Next time, I'll show you what I can really do," says the cat, unsheatinging his claws before jumping off of Naki.

"Power of an unknown origin perceived... No, perception has failed."

"That's becuase it would scramble your circuits to fully perceive it," says the doctor, appearing before the others out of nowhere.

"Whoa... Absolutely no detectable presence or aura," gapes Yume.

"Indeed, I can't even sense his life force," affirms Apollos.

"Flies will take residence if you leave your mouth open like that," states the the doctor, ignoring Apollos' statement to check on Naki.

She coughs, opening her eyes, one of them appears to have become a red iris, but is quickly dying away back to her green.

"....Zwei....? Is that you?" Her voice is strained, but happy.

"I am here, Naki." He nods softly and pats her forehead. "I'll have to work on solving that issue."

Naki makes an attempt to stand, sliding down once or twice in failure, but doesn't stop until she stands up, and precariously starts to walk off.

"I.... I'll see you at the Observatory," She says to Apollos, then starts walking on, wanting to look for Sol.

Apollos nods and meets the doctor's gaze as Naki walks away.

Sol is nowhere to be found within the school, but people claim to have seen him entering the forest followed by a glowing being.

"....Damn it Sol... I better not find out you're trying to leave again..." She growls to herself, as she begins trying to find him.

She finds no sign if Sol, but it seems as if someone had passed through the area recently.

Naki sighs, and begins extending her Ether out in search for any signs she can use to lead her on.

She senses activity at the shrine.

Naki begins walking in the direction of the shrine, wondering if that is where Sol went.

"I wish this whole thing made sense..." She mutters. "Why is it so important that I chose them? I mean, it's not like I really have... ....those kind of feelings... gosh darn it I sometimes really hate the inconveniences this life causes... at least as a human I didn't have to worry about time seeing people foreseeing my future and all of this crap...."

Naki hears a commotion inside of the shrine. A few seconds later a shadow form flies out of its entrance and into a tree.

Naki stops, and investigates the tree with the Ether, taking her spear out, but also checking her rear for a possible threat.

The tree has a dent in it from the impact, a violet clad form becoming visible. The commotion continues inside the shrine.

Naki's spear raises slightly. "...Who are you?" She says, already becoming defensive.

"..." The person is out cold, a happy yet dazed look on their face.

Naki quietly and cautiously then returns attention toward the shrine, cautiously approaching while keeping an eye out for hidden threats.

A few more people are sent out of the shrine, the same expression present on their faces.

Naki sighs. "Ok... what's going on...?" She cautiously approaches, now focusing her energy on trying to sense what's happening inside.

She senses Sol fighting about thirty people at once, but there is a larger amount of people within, most of which are unconscious or spectating. One in particular seems to be speaking to Sol.

Naki approaches the entrance, avoiding going in case of someone getting sent flying.

As if fated, more people fly out of the shrine, eliciting a crowd's worth of cheers.

Naki sighs. "Janpu, make a shield please." Janpu creates a barrier of wind around Naki, and she carefully makes her way inside, avoiding any flying men.

The center of the shrine, for one reason or another, is shaped like a large arena. Sol seems to be fending off dozens of opponents at a time, making the crowd go wild as he does so with a blindfold on. Occasionally he strikes his opponents in such a way that they are hurled from the arena and out of the shrine.

"Okay, what's going on...?" She mutters.

"Ah, we were summoned to train the kiddo down there," exclaims one of the crowd members. "We thought he was gonna crumble easily, but we were wrong!" The person seems really happy about this.

"....Great... how long is this gonna take?"

"Who knows!? If you wanna speed things up, why not join him?"

"....Great idea... totally a great idea..." She stares at the scene below for a moment, then sighs.

"Okay, fuck it, plan b. Janpu, if you would be so kind?" She asks, and Janpu immediately wraps around her in a form of armor, and she leaps down and smashes one of the combatants over the head with the pole end of her spear.

"Mind if I join you?" She asks Sol.

"...You do what you want," he says, ducking under a slash from one of the combatants, only to sweep several of them off of their feet and shock them with a wall of black and white lightning.

"Alright, Janpu help me a bit here." Naki says as she channels lightning, interestingly taking a blue color this time, and she begins slashing at her opponents with the blue lightning enhanced blade.

It takes very little time to decimate the opposing team, but more opponents enter the arena once the previous wave has been defeated. It should be noted, however, that Sol seems to be avoiding a being resembling a hooded magus.

Naki decides to follow his move and avoids the hooded person, focusing on the combatants instead. She switches elements to wind, focusing on knocking out rather than wounding.

The hooded figure seems to gravitate towards Sol as he takes down several more combatants, reaching towards him only to find the teen further away than before. Sol takes a deep breath and plants his staff into the ground. Various symbols begin to spread across his body, each one gold in coloration.

"Horitsu: Ten no Rasen!" Sol spins around, creating a flow of Wind, Light and Lightning to manipulate the movements of his opponents, creating a highly damaging spiral of the three elements around himself as he spins rapidly.

"Note to self... avoid that..." Naki mutters as she smacks another combatant in the face.

"Horitsu: Yoso no Gekido!" Sol creates a circle with his arms, generating flames of each color to represent the eight elements. He clasps his hands together, causing the flames to flare wildly then jet around him in a chaotic, nigh scornful array that juggles and smashes his enemies into the ground without any discernible pattern or targeting method.

Naki flinches. "Geez... ...Note to self... ....don't piss Sol off..."

"Duck," he warns Naki, grabbing his staff and sweeping it in her direction.

Naki yelps and ducks quickly, Janpu hissing at the sudden movement.

The staff connects with the hood magus, which had been slowly moving towards Naki. It recoils and vanishes in a burst of dark mist.

"Thanks!" She says, as she smashes the kneecaps of a combatant.

The combatant howls in pain and, in a comical fashion, flails around and knocks out a couple of other combatants.

"No problem," he comments, turning his staff into two tonfas with golden rings and ripping through the remaining combatants with the weapons before combining them into a cross shaped staff. "Slay, Ruyi Jingu." A gold and silver crescent shaped blade swirling with blue light forms at the end of the staff, creating what appears to be a double sided scythe.

Naki looks at it for a moment. "Impressive, have you been training your mastery with it then?"

"I had to, it was the only way I could stop being useless in battle with stronger opponents," he says, mowing through the next wave. Although it doesn't seem apparent at first, a lot more time has passed for Sol than two days.

Naki creates whips of air at some, lashing them in the face repeatedly. "Hey, you're more useful than me, that's saying something right?" She says jokingly.

"...I wasn't strong enough to not let you get involved." The arena darkens and one more wave of opponents appears. "Law: Fall from Grace." The energy around Ruyi Jingu coils around it before Sol hurls the transforming weapon into the air. It spins in circles before it falls to the ground, blade aimed towards the ground, and stabs into it. "Punishment." Spears of light bombard the arena, cutting through many of the wave with ease.

"Sol, you're my friend, and I care about you. Idiot I may be, I'm not going to let my friends hide these things from me. The lone wolf crap is stupid, and it will get you killed. Before you ask why I care, it's because you're my friend and that's all the reason I need. I'll get involved no matter how much you don't want it or don't like it. If I need to smash your skull in, I will if that's what it takes. And are you seriously still running on about the wasn't strong enough thing? What happened, happened. There's no point in asking 'well what if' happened. What has happened happened, and you got to stop letting the past eat you alive. It's not worth it. Neither is the lone wolf thing, so stop."

She brings down the pole end of her spear on a combatant's head, enhancing the strike with Earth.

"Naki, what do you know of assassination? Of death because of association? The world you see and the world I live in are vastly different. Friendship makes you a target, trust makes you easy to fool. Everything is an illusion, well almost everything. The only things you can trust are those bound to you by oath or honor and death where I come from. I'm not acting alone because I want to do everything by myself because of pride, I'm doing so to limit the possible casualties, which is why I need to get stronger. You're, for all of your wit and word, too naive and impulsive to follow after me. You wouldn't die in seconds, you'd probably fall to the subtlest of ploys, something I want to avoid. If you can't understand that, you'll never know I've left until I return."

Sol finishes off the last combatants before returning his staff to its original form. On closer inspection, it's easy to notice that he's close to exhausted, but he shakes it off.

"Again, go all out this time." The arena crowd explodes with cheer asSol enters a battle ready stance and is warped away.

".....Naive huh? I wasn't born in your world you know. I don't believe in nonsense like that. The only thing I believe or care about is the strength of bonds. Maybe you're just weak because of your lack of bonds, because you're alone. Alone you're just one timid weak wolf. Together you are a pack. Collective strength is greater than any one person. You're weak because you're on your own. How long have you been running now, Sol?!" She snaps, as a powerful aura of fire envelops her as though she'd been set on fire with gasoline.

"Eh, you're talking to the air," notes a spectator, "He's in the True Arena."

"DAMN IT!" Naki roars, the fire exploding in a wave that runs through the whole arena, then storms out of the shrine, her hair a mane of fire. She quickly returns to the school, and hides herself away in the most secluded area possible she can find, where Janpu covers her in a veil of shadows, and for the next hour she burns and seethes in her isolation.

He never listens! He never gives me a chance, he never trusts me! So what if I'm naive? I want to help him, I don't care about dying fighting to protect him! Why doesn't he understand that?!

....I can't help anyone... ...I'm just worthless right now... ...maybe I should just go with Ark...

"What's bothering you?" The doctor appears beside Naki after awhile. "I sensed your outburst from the library."

Naki just curls up into a ball, Janpu making a soft snarl.

Anger, anger, anger, anger. Too many people distant, afraid. Doesn't want to lose... ...them. Feels helpless, can't change anything. Janpu half whispers, half snarls.

"You cannot dictate another's actions, even if they do things detrimental to themselves. Trying to force their hands only distances them further. Somethings you can't change, some you can, some will change with time."

Naki fades into visible spectrum, her hair returned to normal.

"Anira wants me to make a choice... ...I thought it might help to... ...but I only have more frustrations than answers." Naki says in a hollow voice.

"....I just wanted to be normal... ...I dreamed of living in a nice warm home with food to eat, living like everyone else... ...but now more than ever I feel like that dream is just broken more and more... ...it's the only thing I still have of myself... ...now I don't even know if it's even there now."

"Peace and normality is fleeting... If you wish to be normal, I could arrange for that, but it would have its costs."

"...No... not human normal... ...I just... ...didn't want a life like this. Having to fight... ...I wanted to live in peace, not be a fighter... ...I don't want this life of violence... ...and now Anira wants me to make a choice between two people I... ...don't really have any... ....feelings for. ...I don't understand any of this... ...why me, Zwei?"

"As I said, there are costs associated with that... Anira, didn't phrase that question well, he more likely meant which of the two do you trust more." The doctor's eyes cloud for a moment. "As for why it's you... I cannot provide an answer for you, it isn't something I have access to."

Naki doesn't immediately answer. "....I don't know how to answer that version any better than what he said... ...I don't think Sol would ever put me in harm's way but... ....I don't know what he'll do. ...I don't trust him the same way I did. ...He's just going to run off and leave me behind. Apollos... ....I... ....don't like him but... ....he does what he needs to..."

She buries her head in her hands. "I don't know, it's really hard for me to decide anything... I wanted to say I trust Sol but... ...he's... ...I don't know how to explain it."

"My advice is to talk to them again, maybe it will clear things up to an extent."

"I don't want to talk to them right now... ....Apollos is frustrating to talk to as it is. And Sol doesn't care what I have to say. He never does..." She says quietly, her head still buried in her hands.

"Talk to them when you feel ready to," says the doctor, "Oh and keep this." He hands Naki a small charm. "It'll help with a certain issue. Now, I must go."

She says nothing, but Janpu takes it for her.

The doctor tells Naki to cheer up before vanishing as if he were never there.

After a while, Naki ventures forth and walks over to the tree she likes to sit under, and begins focusing on the eight elements, trying to create orbiting spheres of them, after a few minutes she succeeds, and focuses on the energy concentration, trying to increase the strength with minimum energy waste.

"Hey granny, watcha doin'?" Yume pops out of nowhere with a smile.

The lightning sphere flares and fires a lightning bolt at her, though Naki doesn't react.

"Oh, looks like my proximity defense field works as intended... you know, if it wasn't for me, I think you'd be dead now. So stop calling me granny!" She says as the fire orb flares and lobs a fireball into Yume's face.

Yume's dagger absorbs the lightning bolt and she almost instantaneously bisects the fireball.

"Nah, you're a granny, through and through~." She grins childishly.

Naki casually opens an eye. "You know, I read a book about anatomy to Janpu, and you know, it's really interesting..." She pauses, as Janpu suddenly tackles her, and begins tickling her, his serpent tail coiled around her torso.

"...But I think you should watch your back, because I'm pretty sure he memorized pressure points." Naki says with a laugh.

"Aw~ One thousand years too early to be threatening me with those~." Yume slips out of Janpu's grasp in a rather unnatural fashion, as if despite coiling around her, she was covered in oil. "Today might not be a good day for you. Check your weight~." With that she vanishes.

"Yume! I'm not in the mood for your crap right now! Can you please just stop giving me crap for once?! .....ARRRRGHHHH!" She screams, before quietly just bowing her head as she sinks into an emotional breakdown, crying, and refusing to move from the spot.

"Hmm.... Maybe." The reply comes from nowhere, but the voice is Yume's albeit much more mature sounding. "Quit forcing your views upon others and maybe I'll play nice for once."

"....I... ....just wanted to help... ....what do you have against me...?" She says quietly.

"It doesn't help when you don't give people the space they need. I don't know if you've realized it, but you've been pushing Taiyo away because you seem to think that just because you are friends, that you HAVE to meddle in each other's affairs. Maybe he's trying to keep you safe by keeping you out of the loop, but all you've done is preach to him about being friends. Have you taken how he feels into consideration? If not, it's almost as if you believe that everything revolves around your wants." Yume's tone is frigid and lined with steel not normally associated with children.

".... ....I used to have nothing... ...do you know what it's like to go hungry for a week? To not have clean water, hell, any at all? To not be able to read, to write, to have a roof over your head? Do you know what it's like to almost lose your feet due to them almost getting frozen straight off your body? To nearly die of dehydration? The only thing I had was my family, if that. We didn't so much love each other as NEED each other to survive. The more of us, the more food we collectively could find in a day. The more water we could steal from people's sinks.

....I have things right now I almost only saw in dreams. A bed, for one. But friends...? ...I never knew what it was like. ...I was so happy to have people who care about me, I got scared of the possibility of Sol leaving and not coming back. ...I don't want to be alone. ....But so many things are happening, it feels like everyone is on verge of going away and not coming back. ....Can you blame me for being scared?"

"Two weeks a month with no clean water, left in a blizzard with no shelter to take, being left in a forest with a kunai, a canteen of water and a cyanide tablet, daily assassination attempts, having bones broken for being unable to complete tasks, Cruel drills to teach assassination techniques, isolation, being forced to act twice my age, killing others... That was my childhood before Taiyo ran off. It got harsher afterwards."

Friends? Never had them. Family? I thought I had people I could trust. Reading, writing, a bed? Ha, luxuries like that were scarce or riddled with traps. You believe you've experienced hell? Try experiencing it alone because you were the least favored child and deemed the least likely to survive because you 'lacked the right traits'. Taiyo and Toshirou at least saw the nice side of things, though Toshirou got the most favor. Kagerou and I didn't see any of that kindness without having to practically break our backs to meet the standards of our parents. When they died, that was when we finally got to experience the world that Toshirou lived in, the one filled with luxuries... The one filled with lies." Yume's voice trembles.

"...I never said my life was hell.... ....it was hard though. ....don't undermine the pain of others with your own. It's true you went through hard times, but so did I. Maybe I didn't experience exactly what you did, but you have no right to say I did not suffer. If anything you should be able to understand my pain. Yume... Sol, I understand he wants to protect others by 'keeping them out of the loop'. But tell me how many times has he ran? And in those times, has anything changed? How many times has he fought alone and ended up in the same position? How many times has this happened? Huh? Has anything changed? No."

"I won't stop him from whatever he decides to do. That's his damn choice. I won't stop him... ...but after what he's gone through... ...I just wish that he didn't have to go through it alone. That's all that I want. I want to be able to help him. That's all."

"You really don't understand, do you? Taiyo ran because he wasn't ready, he never was. Did he tell you about the time he tried to take on Toshirou and Kagerou? How he lost his best friend who wanted to aid him and nearly died himself? If it hadn't been for that meddlesome Lion, he'd probably be in the grave. That was when revenge drove him. Now, I can't tell what drives him, but he's not going to sacrifice his ideals or allow another without involvement to aid him, he's that stubborn. If you want to help him, give him room and let him ask before you try to force it upon him. Being overbearing will push him away and insulting his ideals will make him more distant. You can't help a person if they don't want it or reject it, it's a wasted gesture and quite foolish, it'll get you killed if you don't learn to control such an impulse: Not all open mouths deserve to be fed."

Naki opens her eyes, they seem dull, almost grey. "You are the one who doesn't understand. I just told you that I won't stop him. Or are you deaf as you are childish? You don't know what it's like to have friends. So don't talk like you understand. You don't. I won't stop him. But I wish I could do something to help him. ...But I can't. ...He'll never come to me for help. ...He's just going to leave me behind and never look back. I'm done talking. I have things to do..." Her voice is as dull as her eyes, and she gets up and walks to the library, no longer interested in dealing with Yume.

"Have it your way, think of him as you may." The younger girl vanishes. "The upcoming trial is more important than a girl throwing a temper tantrum."


The Trial: SiegeEdit

Naki spends the majority of the day reading various books with various subjects, elements, fighting styles, forms of magic, body regulation. After a while, she stops to finish her device, finally finding a way to use a crystal to tap into a variety of magic sources, such as the environment, the body, others, spiritual energy, and so on. She adds a cover, and notes with satisfaction it is rather well disguised on her arm, barely a seam noticeable.

While this is going on, Yume has entered her own variation of Sol's arena. Apollos reads from three leathery books, two bound in papyrus while the third seems to be bound by actual leather. Sol continues his final trial in the True Arena, while Selene studies from several books with Weyrn and Serah readies for her soon to come trip. Classes have been cancelled until further notice, mainly stemming from the staff investigating the attackers that came with Yume and Anira's absence.

When Naki has finished with the device, she quietly leaves the library, heading off to practice by herself. She doesn't notice that her brown hair has become darker, almost black.

The others continue doing their various tasks, Sol and Yume remaining absent for the next few days due to their training methods. Apollos begins try try out the various things he's learned via the three books, though he doesn't realize that his aura is now visible as black and violet licks of flame. Selene gathers a larger amount of books to study from, reading through thousands of pages in minutes with Weyrn's assistance. Serah enters the forest, heading off to meet the other gods of the area.

Naki begins suppressing her presence in the school, and avoids people for the most part, only really showing up at meal times. During lunch, she finally decides to relax a little more, though her aura feels oddly cold and distant, flaring with a slight bitterness on occasion. While she eats, she mainly focuses on a book she's reading, and doesn't give much of anything else attention.

Apollos picks up on this behavior, but doesn't comment, leaving Naki to her own devices until the time is right. Selene appears to be burying herself in her studies. There is no contact from Yume, Sol or Serah.

Naki soon begins work on a second device like the first, but halfway through appears to stop and instead begins looking into nullification type spells, after a while resuming her work on the device, but remains detached from others, even starting to deliberately move away from people when they come near her.

She works under the tree with Janpu assisting her, focused on her work.

....I'd rather be alone now... ...I should have saw it sooner. They all are going away, turning against me. ...If I couldn't have friends before... ...then I shouldn't have expected it now. ....It's my fault, they're right, I'm just a naive stupid girl. ...I'll just shut myself away where no one will view me as a bother.

She thinks as she works, her irises a dark grey color, with tiny flecks of iridescence scattered through the eyes.

Several days pass before Sol and Yume return, both exhausted from their intense training. Neither says much before showering and resting. Apollos watches over Naki from afar, making sure she doesn't distance herself too much, while ensuring that Selene doesn't overwork herself. Serah has yet to return from her trip.

Naki notices the return of Sol and Yume, but does not seem to really care. Naki quietly gets up from the tree, and heads to the edge of the forest, and sends her Ether out to investigate it.

The forest is absolutely still and quiet, as if nature itself detected something ominous and foreboding in the near future.

Her eyes narrow, and she returns to the school, and Naki walks to the observatory, though remains outside of it, leaning on the building wall, Janpu coiled around her.

"..." Apollos watches silently, paying more attention to the forest than Naki.

Naki keeps attention on the forest, though she appears to be waiting for something, tapping her foot on occasion.

The forest remains dead silent.

Naki keeps her attention on the forest, paying close attention to it.

A moment later, dozens of shadows fly from the forest, scattering and vanishing within seconds of breaking away from the sea of trees. Apollos sighs before his deathly aura flares and he vanishes. Moments later the sound of a major commotion begins and a fire starts within the stadium. The sound of metal clashing against metal and spells being flung becomes audible.

Naki takes her spear out and begins making her way toward the nearest source of commotion, Janpu's arms become larger and more muscular, ready to pound the nearest threat.

The largest commotion comes from the main building where students are barely fighting off swift assassin like figures with weapons ranging from whips, to daggers to hidden blades to short swords. It would seem that their skill and the element of surprise have made the battle less favorable for the students.

Naki looks at Janpu, who nods and slithers into a shadow form and sneaks into the center of the building, and then with a sudden loud roar changes into a massive hulking creature with eight large spider like legs which trample several of the attackers, while its giant torso and arms are incredibly muscular, then proceeds to start violently smashing the other assassins in sight with no rhyme or reason to his attacks, making it almost impossible to predict his movements.

In the confusion, Naki manifests blade like extensions of her Ether and fires them at the assassins as well.

A few of the assassins are surprised and caught by the attacks, but the rest divide their efforts. One group opts to deal with Janpu, whom they refer to as "Kurogumo" while some continue their assault on the students with increased fervor and another group goes after Naki.

Janpu now has a maw filled with wicked teeth, and happily sinks his jaws into several of them, his serpent venom now slightly acidic, and his fists alight with fire as he punches.

Naki meanwhile narrows her eyes and a bolt of lightning smashes into the group coming after her, once it hits one of them, it suddenly branches and becomes Chain Lightning, targeting anything and everything metal.

"Raikiri," says one of the assassins, drawing the lightning towards himself, without any regard towards his allies. It the other group, an assassin does a similar thing, but with the fire from Janpu's punches. The assassin's ranks seem to be thinning, but they've managed to cause a great deal of damage nonetheless and are continuing to do so.

Janpu at this point ignores the others attacking him, and rips a pillar out of place and starts smashing the assassins confronting Naki to bloody pulps.

Naki mean while coats herself in a thick aura of Ether, and sends slashes with her spear of it at the ones that manage to evade Janpu. Two of the assassins vanish without a trace before the remaining assassins begin to glow brightly and move extremely swiftly...

Naki in response makes her Ether expand rapidly without warning, a solid sphere that rushes in all directions, and even more so aggressively at the advancing assassins. The assassins, before the Ether reaches them, explode on a very large scale, rocking and damaging the support of the school along with the outer walls.

Naki diverts her attention to reinforcing the walls, and Janpu assists.

"We'll handle things from here," says one of the students, covered in soot. "You help the others near the observatory or stadium."

Naki makes her way to the stadium, Janpu returning to normal and wrapping around her.

800px-Blood-eyes-skulls-cross-red-short-hair-crowns-anime-boys-scarf-533732

The oddly garbed figure.

The stadium is dead silent. Bodies of teachers, students and assassins are scattered across the area along with countless black feathers. A person of indescernable gender stands near the blaze in the center of the stadium, clad in dark garbs and an odd mask.

"..."

Naki quietly stops, getting in a defensive stance, unsure of what to make of the situation.

The figure raises a hand, sending the corpses and feathers towards Naki with a powerful but slow wave of air. They then close their hand, banishing all summoned beings and items in the area, countless familiars and weapons vanishing on both sides of the conflict.

Naki makes a shield to repel the wind from her. "Who are you?" She asks quietly, raising her spear. She notes the two actions, already analyzing how it works.

"..." The figure vanishes abruptly, reappearing in the air with black avian wings unfurled. They swipe to the left with a hand, creating a slow, but accelerating funnel of wind that grows larger as time passes.

Naki looks up at it with an edge of caution, tightening her grip on the spear.

"I said who are you?!" She says with a more stronger edge.

"..." The figure directs the funnel at Naki with out a word. They watch her from behind the mask that they wear.

Naki creates a pillar of earth at the center of the vortex, causing the vortex to destabilize and rip itself apart instead.

For one reason or another Naki gets the feeling that her action was wanted. The funnels tears itself apart, creating random pockets of wind and flowing, swirling air currents, all of which move erratically.

"..." The figure abruptly vanishes again, reappearing on the ground closer to Naki. The person dashes towards her in bursts, suddenly shifting directions and using odd movements to throw her off.

Naki takes a deep breath before unleashes a massive blast of fire, then violently spins to spin up a whirlwind of fire that engulfs half the arena.

The whirlwind is short lived as it is sucked into itself, along with the majority of the oxygen in the area, by a vacuum formed in its center created by the person. They vanish again, this time appearing behind her to deliver a sudden slash across her back with an invisible blade before taking to the sky with their black wings.

Naki to divert damage had made some earth harden on her back, using the vibrations of the earth to roughly guess his pattern of attack. She then clenches one of her fists tightly, and then suddenly trusts her hand straight up at the figure, suddenly attacking faster than before and punches at the figure, causing a jet stream of pressurized air to rip a giant hole in its left wing.

After the attack pierces the wing, the wind in the area stills. Numerous black feathers of varying sizes fall to the ground like snowflakes drifting to the ground while the person remains afloat, the wing having only been comprised of feathers.

He's a fast one... ....and he's got something up his sleeve... ...if we're being sneaky ones... ...then I'll have to be more sneaky.

She creates an aura of both fire and wind that blow away the feathers, then sits down on the ground and puts her palms together.

The wind aura immediately dies out upon being released with a simple gesture of the person's hand.

"..." They move their mask just slightly and sigh audibly for a long moment before readjusting it and drawing a circle in the air.

The sigh is choked off by concrete molecules which suddenly begin hardening and closing off their throat, and it becomes apparent that the air is heavily contaminated with concrete dust made by Naki, the dust starting to coat their body and hardening as well.

The person glows brightly for a moment, their body and clothing being purged of foreign matter. They make a quick gesture and the particles are carried away as the wind whistles ominously in the distance. The figure tilts their head at Naki.

Naki makes the particles forcefully settle, making the particles defy being repulsed. She slowly begins to stand up, her palms remain together though.

"..." The wind howls shrilly in the distance as the person draws more circles in the air. They create another slow moving wave of wind.

Naki opens her eyes, and lifts her hands up, causing the ground to rise up to him, and as soon as his feet touch the ground, his legs are petrified, and thick metal spikes begin to erupt out of the ground, running him through again and again, and she clenches a fist with her magic amplification device and blasts him with a massive bolt of lightning.

"..." The lightning scatters the feathers on the person before the ground and metal begins to dissolve around them. A dull light glows from their body, which floats upwards limply and gingerly. The wind in the distance roars ferociously and Naki can see twelve pillars of tempestous winds in the distance, each funneling upwards for miles before they become impossible to see.

Naki forces the ground to stay in place, then creates a cloud of sand, and blasts the figure with it, razor sharp grains rip and tear at each inch of his being, while the particles on his body crawl into and plug his mouth and nostrils.

The dull light only intensifies, forming a sphere of sorts that begins to draw in things from around the person with the force of a massive tornado that could tear and lift the stoutest and strongest of earth and rock.

A veil of shadow forms over Naki, and she begins to hover, drifting away from the figure.

The sphere continues to pull in parts of the ground, rising and darkening into a near pitch black sphere, but paying no heed to Naki. The pillars of wind seem to be shrinking in the distance.

The veil of shadow becomes a strong black aura, and a solid set of six wings of shadow seem to sprout from her, the aura and wings seem to drain the light of the area.

The sphere simply floats in place for a while, done drawing in things as feathers begin to fall from it slowly. The pillars shrink further and the air returns to its normal quality. The sphere seems to be shrinking.

A rather foul aura begins to emit from Naki, even as she flies further and higher away, preparing to fire an attack.

The sphere shrinks enough to reveal silvery-black wings with colored rings on them before dispersing into a thick cloud of smoky feathers and dust, the figure gone. Around that moment, Naki begins to feel lighter.

She flies off toward the main building, trying to stave off the effects she feels with magic. When she lands, any of the students would probably be intimidated by her abnormal dark aura, which slowly burns off to show just Naki, though the shadows are still noticeably stronger around her.

"Wh-what did you do? Those guys just suddenly up and left," says one of the students. "At one point a huge horde of them came after us, but a group of weird people subdued the majority of them... You don't look so good?" Naki feels somewhat dizzy, but not to the point that her surroundings are swaying, only enough to give her a slight headache and a prickling sensation over her entire body.

"Get me a healer, as best as anyone available. ...Think the guy did something in the air. Also, send a word out not to go into the stadium, there might be something toxic there. Hurry! I fought against a rather peculiar one... ...but nevermind it doesn't matter. Just... ...hurry up please."

The student nods and rushes off, returning with a girl about Naki's age wearing similar, but distinctly different, attire to the school's uniform.

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The strange new(?) girl.

"Hm? Granny's not feeling well," she questions, touching Naki's forehead before recoiling. "No doubt about it, Kagerou did this... Hold on tight." A soothing violet and indigo aura flows around the girl and Naki as she places her hands on Naki's forehead. The prickling and dizzying feeling gradually fade, though Naki feels heavy and extremely tired afterward.

"...wait.... ....granny....?" Naki's mind processes through the fatigue. "...Yume?"

"Mhmm, yeah it's me," she says, "You get some rest, I purged the poison, but I still haven't gotten down not making people drowsy with my Qi..." She pats Naki on the forehead. "It's good you came out in a single piece."

".....Yeah...." She says quietly, retreating inside to rest.

A cloaked figure apptoaches Yume.

"Is she alright," they ask, earning a nod from Yume. "I underestimat her a bit, maybe I could let her tag along, but I don't think it would go well."

"I agree. Give her a reprieve from the strife and conflict, give her time to get back into the regular swing of things, not used to all of the fighting and conflicts," argues Yume.

"...Eh, you're right," says the cloaked person, scratching the back of their head, "Though, she'll probably react badly once I go... I can finally get those two back with this new power."

"You know I won't-"

"Not an option, Yumeko. You're my kid sister, no matter how you look or feel. Of all the people I could take with me, I wouldn't let you or her come with me past a certain point, but you especially. You could be the strongest person in the world and I still wouldn't let you follow me, you really need to experience the nicer side of things... Maybe I could convince Kagerou and Toshirou of that as well..."

"That's optimistic," sighs Yume, lying Naki's head on her lap, "Maybe Kagerou would follow you, but you never know what's on his mind... Or if he's a he to begin with..."

"I'll take that into account. We have a few days before I go, so I'll try to not let her worry too much," he says, walking off.

After a while, Naki wakes up silently, quietly looking around.

By this point, Yume has fallen asleep and most people have gone inside, having pitched in to keep the main building stable and in tact.

"You're awake," says Apollos, sitting from a stone perch. "It seems like you did something reckless, but it paid off."

Naki looks at him for a moment, then looks away. "...Yeah. If I couldn't handle it, I would get help, if possible. I'm not brain dead. ...Do you need something?"

Little about her has changed, her hair is still black, and her eyes the same dull grey, as well as her voice, which is equally dulled. The shadows have returned to her normal state, but her aura is very ridged and tense, she seems to be heavily keeping a tight check of her emotions.

"Where's your lively hood and life? You're often duller than the dullest of metals and ores as of late... As you are now, I see a meltdown in the future, one that may bring your fears to life," warns Apollos, his eyes bored and tinted with magenta.

"....This is how I was before. I was always like this... ...before I became what I am. How could anyone be truly happy in that life? It's easy to return to what was when nothing has changed. ...Why do you care? ...Oh wait... ...you don't..." She says the last part in a mutter.

"I actually do care, I simply lack the means to express that in a way you or any others would be able to properly comprehend, lacking emotions as I do. My care comes across as aloof, cruel, harsh, cold and incomprehensible, not that anyone would try to understand why I distance myself from everyone despite the fact I could display kindness," he returns. "I distance myself and oversee for a reason, not because I'm simply stoic, vague and cold. Even the emotionless have hearts, so you aren't one to judge or condemn my actions when you bar your own heart from others."

Naki's head dips slightly. "Everyone I know... ...Sol doesn't value me at all... ...even after all the shit I went through..." As she says this, her eyes get a gleam of red. "I fought off that crazy bitch lady Charade, I had to deal with this little jewel," She indicates Yume, "then nearly got my soul ripped out from his unseen brother, and let's not forget the stranger I fought off today! I fought again and again, for my 'friend', to prove myself, and all he's done is discredit and devalue what I was willing to go through, my feelings as a friend, he scorned me!" Her irises are solid red.

".....A friend wouldn't put me through that." She says hollowly, her eyes dimming, though not to grey, a faint greyish blue. Her voice isn't as empty, more on the lines of choking up.

"...You're an idiot," he says, sighing. "I'm not going to defend Sol's actions, but maybe you should see things from his perspective. If you aren't willing to do that, you probably won't understand what's going through his head and why he does what he does. I can tell you this however: Sometimes the harshest things are the greatest of lies used to protect fragile hearts from a worse reality. Think about that before you condemn him and ask yourself why he would do such a thing, not taking what you feel about his actions into account. The answer is blaringly obvious to me."

"....I get it if people want to protect me. ...However, I don't like that. I don't like fighting, I never have. But I grew up with it, because out on the streets, you have to know how to fight. ...I'm not a complete idiot. I know how to judge a situation. And you know, I get it with the understand how he feels crap. If he doesn't want me getting hurt, that's fine. I understand that. ....but I will not just sit and watch. ...I can't sit there and watch."

She gets up and begins to walk away, traces of brown in her black hair now. She pauses after a moment.

"....That's the only reason why I get upset. ...Because I don't want to feel useless. I want to mean something to other people. To always be able to have their back, because I know I would want them to have mine. It's called the Golden Rule. Treat others the way you want to be treated. So I do. I have my friends back, they have mine covered too. It's not fair to them to fight my battles for me."

"What if they want to fight their battles alone? It doesn't make them a bad friend if they do not want assistance. That is a matter of pride or purpose. Tell me, do you believe that all battles must be fought with another's aid? I do not believe so. I believe that somethings should be left to be handled by the one who wants to handle them and unless they ask for help, they should be left be. It is very much foolish and idiotic, but very important at the same time. The Golden Rule only works if both sides are at a mutual understanding with one another, he may not see things the way you do... Hmm, have you ever thought that there might be a greater reason to his want to protect you than to simply fight your battles? One far more personal to him, enough to make him push you away on purpose?"

She seems to freeze, then slowly begins to walk away, not answering, but silently thinks about it. She goes inside to see how the others are holding up with keeping the building stable.

Apollos nods. "She's smart enought to know what that means."

The job of keeping the main building stable has fallen to Drei, who is covered with dried black blood and minor knicks and scrapes, ane Leone. The latter seems to be using constructs of aura to keep the building stable while the former uses elemental magic to repair any damage to the frame work.

She looks at the two of them. "...Do you two need any help?" She asks.

"I'm good," replies the aura user while Drei simply shakes his head.

She walks on, when she finally finds a quiet place, she takes out a book and looks at it for a moment, before sighing and putting it away and pulling out a different one, and begins quietly reading. After a while she goes out to see if anyone needs her help in anything.

Quite a few students are injuried, most of which are students with the ability to heal others. A cloaked person works along side Ark, a now awake Yume and several faculty members to tend to the injuried, but there seem to be far more injured than they can handle.

Naki quickly joins them, helping out as best as she can.

It takes several hours to fully accomplish the task, leaving most people exhausted afterwards. Shortly thereafter, the group disbands.

Naki lets out a sigh, then again goes off to read again, quietly thinking to herself.

Across the school, Naki hears a loud yell of indignation.

"WHO IN THE HELL DID THIS TO MY FOREST TERRITORY!?"

Naki looks up. "....Well Serah's back...." She gets up and heads toward the source of the yell.

She finds Serah fuming, literally. Steam and vapor rises from her as the plants around her wither only to come back to life and grow wildly as she points to a large blackened section of the forest, filled with black feathers, dead leaves and dark mist. Large gashes are carved into tree trunks and shattered branches are strewn across forest floor, all of which is unnaturally blackened and withered. The look on Serah's face is far beyond the realm of livid and reasonable anger.

Naki cautious approaches, and notices the feathers. "....Those feathers..."

"Explain," growls Serah. It seems more so that her nature as a land god is interfering with her regular mental processes, making her emotions go haywaire in this case.

"A strange person attacked me during the battle earlier, they used feathers like these. I didn't find out their purpose though, I assumed they were dangerous though. ...Now I'm seeing it first hand... ....I'm sorry about your forest, Serah."

"It's fine," she says calmly, but the plants raging behind her say otherwise. "I began the restoration process, but it is going slower than anticipated."

"...I see. I imagine it would go faster if there was a way to get rid of the feathers... ...but if they do that, I don't know a safe way to deal with them."

"They'll decompose... I'll see to that."

"Oh... alright... ....so.... ...how did the meeting go?" Naki asks cautiously, her green in her eyes have returned, though they have a greyish tint lingering.

Serah smiles in a scary way. "We got along just fine after a few issues were resolved..."

Naki makes a rare smile. "You totally kicked their ass didn't you?"

"Yep, they asked for it, practically begged for it, so I obliged~."

"Well, it's good to see you back. I was... having a rough time, but I'm feeling better. Anira ran off somewhere, I think he's having... ...relationship issues." She wearily chuckles.

"Him? Eh, he'll be fine, I think," says Serah, "What about you? You seem down and in a slump."

"I guess I was, but like I said, I'm starting to feel.... ....better. More people wanting to kill Sol, school was under attack, I had to fight some strange being that is apparently related to Sol... ...it's starting to become routine. Wake up, get annoyed at Apollos, have Sol not want my help, some crisis happens and I'm dragged into the middle of it, at the very end in some way I get knocked out, then when I wake up, someone comments that I'm awake or did better than I expected, sleep again later, repeat." She makes a small laugh, weary from the day's events.

"To be honest, I just don't know how to feel at this point. ...I don't know..."

A depressed air comes over her. "....I don't know what to do anymore. I'm... ....I'm lost. I don't understand what I'm supposed to do anymore."

Something seems to suddenly snap, and Naki quickly begins walking away toward the school. "....I... I need time to myself." Her voice as she calls back to Serah seems incredibly fragile, as though Naki is going to break down any moment.

"Take some. If anyone tries to bother you, they'll be in for a rude awakening," states Serah, fire igniting in her eyes. "Oh, but if yoou need someone, don't hesitate to ask or call! I have all the time in the world, maybe more."

"Thank you... ....Serah." She says softly, then once she reaches her favorite spot, begins to cry, cursing the feeling of helplessness and worthlessness she feels.

True to her word, Serah repels anyone trying to bother Naki until she feels better or asks for another's assistance, though she has issues keeping Drei away.

Naki quietly remembers how her older brothers, when she was little, would hug and embrace her in their arms to comfort her while she adapted to life as a street child, and almost wishes for someone to comfort her. She slowly also begins dwelling on what Apollos said.

....Did he really mean what I thought he.... ....Sol and Apollos... ...why do they fight? Sol... ....from what Apollos said, it almost sounded like... ...it could be, but it also could not... ...but as for Apollos... ....he basically said he cared, but why would he want to help me? ....either way, none of them feel like talking about their reasons. ...You know... I understand if they want to protect me, but it's too late for shielding me from crap. I already know about Sol's past, at least part of it. The person that took over Yume... ...he knew I was a threat. He'll come after me anyway, regardless if Sol protects me or not. Heck, if Sol leaves to do his thing, who's to say he won't send assassins to kill me to get at Sol? ...though I think maybe Apollos is trying to make up for it with the observatory training... ...I still need to honor that... ...I'll have to apologize to him later...

She sighs wearily. "Everything is such a bother..."

Naki, for a fraction of a second, feels a mass of killining intent and annoyance permeate the area, not aimed at anyone, just there before it fades.

She lifts her head up. "....I guess I'm not the only one annoyed today... ....I guess Master has it worse than me. ...I wonder if I got my bad luck from him? ...Hope things get better for you soon...." She says quietly.

After a moment, she sighs. "Thanks Serah, but I'm fine now. You can stop chasing people off now."

"You got it!" The sound of several things falling becomes noticable.

"....What exactly did you do with them?"

"Suspended them a few meters up because they wouldn't listen or go away, all but the cat got stuck."

Naki exasperatedly looks over toward the source of the noise.

Several random students are tangled on the ground, each with a dazed look on their face. Near them stands Drei in cat form, a symbol glowing on his forehead. His eyes seem glazed and his posture rigid.

"We are calling for you, child," he says in a vaguely familiar, different voice. "Soon the Body of Order shall arrive. Have thine answer ready by then..."

Naki blinks for a moment. "What the... ....Drei....?" The hair on Naki's neck stands up.

"Heed our words, child..." The cat blinks several times and the symbol vanishes. "...I feel drained for whatever reason."

"....And I have a massive headache again." Naki mutters.

"Hmmm..." The cat swishes its tail, then hops onto Naki's shoulder, shrinking to fit. "Things will get better, no trial comes without its rewards."

"....my whole life has been one big trial...." She mutters. "I don't see any reward from it."

"The greatest of rewards are often the most overlooked."

Naki sighs. "If you call this a reward... ....Drei, do you know where Sol is?"

"He was in the area earlier and still is. He's yet to enter the forest again if that's what you mean."

"I want to talk to him." She says firmly.

"I see. I can look for him if that is what you want, Young One."

"I'd appreciate it, and then tell me where he is. ...I really do want to talk."

The cat hops off of her shoulder and goes exploring.

She sighs. "I hope he will listen..."

A few minutes later, the cat returns with a cloaked person.

"I found him."

Naki looks at the figure. "Is that you Sol? Why are you wearing the cloak?"

"Reasons," he says, "I'm supposed to wear this until I fully recover and my power settles. What's up?"

"I..." Naki looks down. "...I'm sorry. I wanted to tell you that. ...I don't understand why you don't want my help personally... ....I know I would want it... ....but just because I don't understand what you decide to do, doesn't mean I will get in the way, so...

...I'm sorry, and I will respect what you decide to do. ...I was just... ...scared. ...Of losing my friends. ...And... ....I'm just not used to people needing to protect me. ...when I lived out on the streets, some of the hoodlums knew me as 'Ironwall Naki', because if they tried to mess with the family, I would stop them in their tracks. If they tried to mess with me, I'd send them packing. ...I just wanted to let you know I was sorry. ...I don't want you to be angry at me because I didn't want to listen to you.

...I won't get in the way anymore."

"It's not that you get in the way... I just don't want you or anyone else important to me getting hurt on my behalf. I lost sis because of my foolishness, Ren because of a surprise attack and Tohka because I charged head first into danger, seeking revenge for the person I considered to be a brother... I don't want that to happen again, I won't let anyone I know get killed because they were associated with me... That's why I don't open up and push others away, not because I don't value them... That's why I put myself through hell to protect and keep what's precious to me, why I need to get stronger. I understand that you want to help, but I can't let you get that involved with the darkness that ate away at my family." Sol sighs.

"...You know, before I fought that... ...Charade? ....I saw part of your past. Not all of it, just pieces but... ...you were there when I fought Yume, weren't you?"

"I was... I'd rather not talk about that."

"Sol, he heard what I said. That's all I'm saying. If your family operates how you say it does, do you think he's going to let that slip by?"

"He won't, but I'm a larger priority, as is Yume. I can handle myself well enough to say that I could stop him... That much I can do."

She looks away. "Nothing is certain..."

"That works both ways."

"Don't make a promise you can't keep. I've already lost too much to lose you or another friend. My family, my humanity, I've even lost hope a few times now. I want to ask... ...why is it that you fight? If you would fight for me, why? And are you fighting for yourself, or for others?"

"I fight for many things," states Sol, "Honor, to protect the people and places I cherish, for peace that cannot be attained with words, for revenge for those felled, to end this familial conflict once and for all, to atone for the consequences of my actions and weakness, to stop Toshirou's plans, to correct the mistakes within my family..."

"...But why would you fight for me?" She asks.

"Because... Because you're precious and important to me and, if I could prevent it, I don't want you to get hurt any further by my issues. You, Yume, Anira, Selene, Serah, you're all important to me and for that reason I want to protect all of you, even if Anira could destroy the sky without his full power or Serah's status as a Land God or your determination and drive. It's against my creed to allow people important to me to get hurt if I can prevent it, which is why I plan to handle this as best I can by myself."

Naki lowers her head and bites her tongue, even though she wants to protest against him.

"Don't worry, I plan on being smart, I've learned a few things in the past couple of days."

She sighs. "If 'smart' was jumping alone into a pit full of hungry wolves stark naked." She quips in a mutter. After a moment she shakes her head. "Anyway... ...if you have anything you want to do then, I won't keep you any longer."

She quietly starts walking off, not looking at him.

"Eh, if you need to talk, I'm free at any time," he says before disappearing with a swift movement.

She sighs. "How am I supposed to make a decision when I don't understand what I am deciding...? ....This just sucks..."

Drei remains silent.

"....Do you know where Apollos is?" She asks Drei.

"Here," says the blue haired teen, appearing from wisps of shadow and violet flame.

"I was meaning to apologize for not going to the observatory like I said I would. I'm sorry for not keeping my word, we can do what you were planning on doing today if you want."

"Same time then," he says, shrugging, "Six hours."

"I'll be there." She says definitively.

"You'd better not keep me waiting," he remarks before vanishing in a similar way to how he appeared.

Naki decides to spend her time practicing combat and refining her Ether control, then when it is close to time, she begins to make her way to the Observatory.

When she arrives, she finds Apollos floating, surrounded by several figures akin to spectral knights, each wielding a sword with electric blue runes engraved upon the blade. Apollos seems to be unworried though the knights appear to be ready to attack him at any moment. He signals for Naki to stay put.

She looks at the knights in confusion.

The knights draw back their weapons and attempt to attack Apollos only to be repelled and scatter into eerie blue dust.

"It seems I forgot that Legion was still untamed," he notes nonchalantly. "Very interesting to know... And you've arrived, good. Don't call out either of your Familiars, they'll be of no help if they can be banished or rejected from reality with a thought."

"I did say I would come. ...But what are we going to do now? You were vague the last time."

"Training. Start by giving me your best shot. Do not worry about letheality or killing me, I've already planned for such attacks."

She takes in a breath, then fires a bolt of fire with as much force as she can muster.

Anime-Guy7 zps286eafc5

"I suppose that was a satisfactory attempt..."

"I suppose that was a satisfactory attempt," Apollos says. his hair and clothes darkened by soot. He brushes himself off. "That gives me an idea of your elemental power range, which, based on the most recent encounter, may be less than satisfactory." He circles around her. "Hmm... I see, Darkness Enchant and Void Incantation would be useful skills in your repetoire, as would Hoarfrost and Soul Snare... Possibly even Hellfire and the Contract of Binding." Completing his circle, he hands Naki two leathery books with old, tattered covers and the remains of gold chaffing off of their dusty bindings, a simple yet intricately complex black robe, a bag of strange herbal materials and bizarre items and a small phial with a dangerous aura. "Read those two books for the next three days, when you are done I want them back," he says, "If you decide to try anything you see within the books, wear the robe and use the pouch rather than trying to find the ingredients asked for if required. The phial is for the chance that somethng goes horribly wrong, shatter it on the ground and do not inhale the vapor that will rise from it if you wish to retain free will and life. That is all, go back to your room and study until I next call you. Dismissed."


Naki looks at the things she has been given, then quietly goes to her room and begins studying the contents of the books, curious to know what exactly he intended for her to learn.

The first book talks about the fundamentals of magic drawn from one's soul and the various possible effects it may have, ranging from beneficial status improvements to powerful spells and sorcery to dangerous aftereffects if not cast correctly. Following this is a page with a short phrase upon it:

driled oru loves rhetfur crepode to:

Denied saps, I am to hits trail- for I, Halls, offer my ward of Dobol. A thin stud of fae, A prod kin and A word of Rhutt shall pay my scot.

A tiny saucer is on the page beneath the riddle and all pages beyond it are blank. The second book has a similar riddle at the very front of it, with all pages beyond the riddle blank as well:

I, ma flegair dan thors, ni lief. whit I ide eions. I, ma...

Naki looks at the books in irritation. "So... a draw of blood, some fae dust, and ink drop, and a word of truth to pay a cost...? ...And I'm guessing the other one is talking about noise?"

For one reason or another, the pouch Apollos gave her begins to heat up as if on fire.

She opens it, already suspecting what the cause is. "Should have guessed that would do something."

Inside, the pouch is far more spacious than it appears, holding dozens of labelled items in phials, flasks, vials and, rarely, ampoules. All of them are labelled in a beautiful, tiny print.

"Okay... so I imagine I just pick out the stuff listed in the riddle..." She begins looking for anything matching what was required by the riddle.

Naki finds a small vial of black ink and a similar vial filled with powder labeled Fae Tears.

She takes the two out carefully. "A draw of blood and a word of truth? ...But what does that mean? Do I have to cut my finger or something...?"

She receives no response.

She sighs, before pricking her finger and letting a drop of blood fall into the saucer.

The words on the pages shift into shining archaic text before the saucer disappears and an ink like substance pours from the page, becoming curling black fog that fills the room. The temperature dips and the fog settles after several minutes. The page with the shining text is now blank.

Naki checks the other pages out of curiosity.

The pages beyond the blank one are filled with texts and diagrams, each page so complex and detailed that merely skimming the pages would do the reader an injustice. The number of pages seems to have grown exponentially, the book growing heavier as this is realized.

Naki sighs. "This is gonna be a long read... probably an all nighter... I can probably use my Ether, just as long as I don't damage the book..." She mutters.

If anything the number of pages is still increasing and the book looks less dogged and worn.

"Yep... definitely gonna need an extra hand on this one..." She starts reading, very very carefully using her Ether to help her study the contents more efficiently and faster as well.

The amount of detail in the book is so overwhelming that after a while Naki's Ether stops retaining information.

"Well, long crunch time it is...." She mutters as she begins reading in earnest, gradually losing track of time.

At somepoint Naki finds herself drifting off, the information having blurred together after a certain point.

Naki pinches herself. "Gotta focus...." She mutters.

By the next dawn, Naki has progressed an eighth through the book.

She sighs when she sees the dawn. "Alright... Janpu, wake me in an hour." She dozes off to rest for a moment, Janpu standing watch.

While Naki is asleep, Apollos opens a gate to the underworld and passes through it, returning about an hour or so later with a hanging inky black cloth releasing a dark miasma of sorts.

When it is about time, Janpu pinches Naki's cheek hard, and she jumps, waking up. "Ow! Oh, right. Thanks. Time to get back to work. Can you get me something to drink? Hot chocolate if they have it?" Janpu leaves for the cafeteria. 

There is indeed hot chocolate, but there is a rather long line to get some in the cafeteria.

Janpu's eye twitches, then subtly begins making the floor have magma right underneath, and some of the students feel like the ground is uncomfortably hot...

"Oi, be patient, Kageko," chastizes Yume from behind the familiar, holding a cup of hot chocolate herself, "There's plenty so wait your turn."

Janpu begins grumbling, then in his agitation to obey orders, dives into the ground and disappears. A few minutes later, Janpu reappears with hot chocolate.

"Oh thanks, where'd you get it?" She asks when Janpu appears in her room.

....I found it.

Yume gives an exasperated sigh. "He's gonna get her into trouble someday..."

Naki begins drinking the hot chocolate, while she studies the book some more.

Naki makes it about a quarter throught the book before things become unintelligable, the words becoming archaic and strange, ladden with mysterious symbols and lettering.

Naki frowns, looking at the symbols in frustration. "Is this magic or something?" She tries to examine the words with Ether.

The moment Naki attempts to use her Ether, she feels a disorienting buzzing in her head and no increase in understanding, as if her Ether was full from all of the information she had absorbed.

"Grrr! Come on, why isn't this working?!" Naki snarls in frustration.

The Ether flickers and fades, sputtering off as if dying. The world around her fades in and out, gradually being replaced by a vacant white space with a single door.

Naki looks around in confusion, then looks at the door, puzzled.

The door is plain and without much detail to it, its only outstanding feature being the worn brass knob gleaming with a faded luster.

Naki reluctantly, but also curiously opens the door, wondering what lay on the other side.

The moment she touches the door, she feels an unnatural chill, burning sensation and shock at once.

Do you truly wish to open the gate to the other side? What lies beyond and ahead... Do you seek it?

I've got to move forward... ....even though I hate it... ...my life will never get easier if I don't protect myself... ...I'll never be able to fight by my friend's sides if I don't...

The only response Naki gets is the sound of a lock clicking open.

Naki opens the door and walks through.

Rather than being able to walk through the dorr, its contents surge into the space as a sea of blue Ether with golden strands of energy that swirls and encompasses the once empty space. Soon afterwards, various rings of green, red, yellow and blue appear around the area, various file like objects float around them. Naki feels her Ether buzz and notices that the shape of her Exceed Nexus has become more like semi-circle arches with  details in the same golden energy from before rather than free flowing blade-like structures that they appeared to be.

"Woah... ...what just happened?" Naki wonders aloud to herself, looking at the change in the space.

Etheric Library Created. Compiling information...

"Etheric Library...?" She wonders. Is this another extension of my powers....?

Compilation complete.

Naki looks at the files and tries opening one.

The file contains information about shifting dermal density and texture.

Interesting... I suppose this is like a extra storage place I guess...

Naki begins looking through the various files.

Naki finds files on certain magics, healing others, photosynthesis, Ether locks, summoning lesser spirits and highspeed movements.

Naki tries to see if she can learn anything else, then looks around. "....How do I get out of here...?"

Responding to her question, the white space fades, returning Naki's conscious to where it was previously. It turns out that she had entered a trance like state that had lasted for a fraction of a second.

She sighs. I wonder if I'll be able to use the Ether again this time around...? She tries the Ether again, hoping for new results.

This time her Ether helps her speed through the pages up to the halfway point, at which it begins to process all gathered information.

Standby phase.

Naki sighs, then looks at Janpu. "Oh, can you get me something to eat? Thanks."

Janpu immediately goes down to find something Naki would like from the cafeteria.

Janpu, again finds a long line of people, rather several of them, in the cafeteria.

Janpu seems to wilt at the sight of the lines, and begins grumbling.

"Patience is a virtue best learned." Apollos stands slightly ahead in line.

"Blue Face should treat mistress better. Why don't you try hard like her?" The familiar grumbles.

"It's not my job to do so, nor does it prove useful in the long run in my case." Apollos has an oddly spectral quality about himself.

"The blue one may see, but is blind. A bridge may be expensive to build over a canyon, but one day that bridge could determine everything."

"Such is useless if building the bridge will result in its destruction shortly thereafter."

Three Days Edit

After Janpu finally gets food for Naki, it looks at Apollos. "Yellow. I see yellow. It will come for her, and there will be no bridge to reach her."

The familiar whisks off to Naki's room.

"I wonder how easy that would be... Even for the Observer."

Naki sees Janpu coming back. "Oh, there you are. I was wondering where you were." It gives her food, grumbling.

"...Fascination with lines drives me to insanity... kheeeeh!"

Naki begins reading and using her Ether after it finishes compiling the data, munching on her food as she does.

The process goes by swiftly until another page with a an Archaic message and saucer appears.

Wrope fro Reside eht morf onrb, Merda a Ma I fro, Kerhan. Ym dobol si grensth, Ym morf si theda...

The rest is garbled and distorted beyond recognition. 

Naki sighs. "Not this nonsense again..." She takes a look at the other book, and cracks it open. 

The second book's riddle is still present though it is easily translated by Naki this time around.

I am Fragile and Short in life. With noise I die... I am...

"...Silence, right?"

The text on the warp begins to spread and warp, forming a new statement.

Indeed, from silence I am born and to silence shall I return when all life is gone. Beyond my walls lie dark texts that few may scry and less may hear. By opening me, that oath has been agreed to. Until thy attain a  level of knowledge if thy speaks of mine secrets to any but the Necromancer and thy is paid in cost for breaking thy word, a word of value equal to thy soul.

"I won't speak of anything."

The page's phrase remains the same.

Naki curiously tries to see what's beyond the page.

The pages beyond the first one are nearly completely black due to the amount of text on each of them and in such tiny print.

Naki sighs. "What is with these books and fine print....?" She grumbles, before attempting to use the Ether to help her study the information.

Attempting to take in all information presented in a short period of time will result in a systematic overload. Recommendation: Space out time spent over a two period and allow for Data Compilation.

She sighs. "I may as well get some fresh air..." Naki stretches and proceeds to put everything back in the bag, and puts the books and bag in a drawer, then proceeds to her usual spot to take in the fresh air.

While Naki relaxes, a shadow passes above her.

"Oi, do you know where Anira's office is," asks a person with an irritated, flat tone.

"Hmmm?" Naki looks up at the person speaking to her. "Well, that's a rather rude way to talk to someone. Why do you ask?"

She finds herself face to face with an extremely tall man who appears to be in his early twenties with grey hair and icy blue eyes. Judging by his expression, his mood is foul. He wears dark jeans with a simple, light top and has several rings emblazoned with skulls, some humanoid others demonic and disfigured. His aura is that of death and decay and his stance is that of annoyance.

"That's my location. Gonna tell me or no?"

"What do you mean, 'that's my location'? If you're related to who I think you are, then stop with the vague talk and just tell me, before I have an aneurysm. I've had enough drama out of the other deathly guy."

"Just tell me where the office is, I'm really not in the mood to have my time wasted." 

"You know, it's partially a matter of not trusting a stranger, and partially because you have that death aura going on. So, I could tell you, but I also would rather want to know who or why you are asking. If anything, you're wasting your own time not answering the question." She says flatly. 

"Whatever, I already know he isn't here, he already told me why he was gone," responds the person, "Always last minute calls from him, no wonder Alisa gets so pissed at him." He walks past Naki, heading towards the main building.

"He could have just answered my question and I would have shown him..."

Several minutes later, the school's PA system turns on, the stranger's voice coming from it.

"Oi, you lot. Until Anira gets back, I'm filling in for him as principal, so I expect just as much respect as he received. I'll lay down three ground rules: One, attend all of your classes or none of them, don't half-ass and skip classes you don't like. Two, don't in-fight without proper supervision from the staff or me personally, or else you'll wish you died a thousand times over. Don't try me, I'll make you regret it. Lastly, obey the other two rules and you'll find yourself with more free time and extra time than before, but only for as long as you stay within the bounds of those rules. Speaking of down time, you have two days before classes begin regularly, so if you have ANYTHING you need to get done, get it done before then unless it is of great priority. Oh and if you have anything against these rules, come to Anira's office and I'll show you why I was left in charge. That's all, scatter and get back to your business."

Naki relaxes until her Ether has finished processing, then makes her way back to her room to study, resuming her studies once she is in the room once more.

The studying goes by slower than before, only because there is more information to compile and absorb, but within a smaller space.

Naki decides once her Ether requires compiling, to practice some of the things she's read, downing the robe Apollos instructed her to.

Compiling... Would you like a compilation log and summation all logged materials?

That would be very helpful.

Logged Information:

Frostbite- Causes necrotic ice damage to a small area of muscular tissue on a target. Ineffective against golems and spirits.

Snap Dragon- Creates several chained bear traps comprised of flames to bite and hinder the target's movement. Especially effective against metallic and stone based organisms.

Poison Gale- Taints the air within an area to cause the affected to vomit uncontrollably and writhe in pain. Caster is unaffected.

Tissue Reanimation- Restores function to damaged tissue and joints, but does not repair damage taken by tissue. Affected Tissue works without limiters, but degrades faster.

Tissue Restoration- Mends and regrows damaged tissue over a small area of the body of the target. Potent effects require longer periods of time.

Frostbite Nettles- Summons Icy Nettles around those within a fifteen meter radius of the place in which the spell was directed. The Nettles contain a neurotoxin that causes hallucinations and reproduces the effects of severe frostbite.

Stygian Daggers- Fires a frozen dagger at the target, with the intent to strike them directly. Should a direct blow land, the target will be trapped in place as a volley spirit absorbing ice shards rains down upon them.

Brimstone Burst- Creates a Stigmatic Brand upon the earth that burns the area. Those who enter the space are snared by searing shadows before being trapped within a sphere of burning, dark energy that ruptures shortly afterwards.

Stigma I- A weak Stigma, able to cause muscular atrophy and decreased immunity towards diseases.

Stigma II- A slightly stronger Stigma that adds migraines to the effects of Stigma I.

Stigma III- A decently strong Stigma that weakens the body's immune and muscular systems, while causing heavy migraines and sensory impairment.

Stigma IV- A stronger Stigma that adds mild internal bleeding and reduces organ functionality to the effects of Stigma III.

Curse of Pain- Ensnares the target in the Seal Brand of the Nail, causing all recent injuries to cease to clot and burn. Drives a spiritual Nail the size of a person's torso into them, restricting most movement.

Curse of Suffering- Ensnares the target in the Seal Brand of the Chains, causing spiritual barbed and hooked chains that tear into the body and soul of the target.

Curse of Revenge- A counter curse for use when large amounts of damage have been dealt to the caster. The more damage taken, the more power the reversal technique will have.

Well... geez that's some interesting stuff...

Curse of Agony- Ensnares the target in the Seal Brand of the Blades, causing needles and knives to impale them from all sides. Cannot kill directly or indirectly, can only cause bleeding and severe pain.

Curse of Hyljgbrkk- Afgghg 3!p~]r Xb^-/hgg1 T4Anna*)}...

Necro Bolt- Fires a bolt of lightning that causes the dermal and muscle layer of the target to undergo the first stage of Necrosis should they not be able to resist its effects.

Soul Snare- Traps the target in a cage of spirit draining ice. The cage can be broken and moved by the one within it, however direct contact with it weakens the soul and will of the trapped.

Hellion Swarm- Summons a cloud of Stinging Hellions to attack the target. Each Hellion has a venomous bite that increases the bitten's pain receptor sensitivity. causes burns and tears through the densest of skin and muscle. A sting from them delivers a burning venom into the target's body, potent enough to stop a human's heart with low concentrations and their wings release a burning powder that chars what it comes in contact with. Being trapped inside of the cloud can prove to be very much fatal, even for the caster, so distance is advised before attempting to cast.

I take it I'll have to read more on this later...

She decides to resume studying the books.

The barrier page from the first book still remains, but the second book is completely open.

Recommendation: Increase Information Retention Level and reduce reading speed.

She follows the recommendation, slowing down her reading.

At a certain point Naki reaches a passage about the Ancient Text and its odd way of displaying itself.

Naki pauses to study the passage in detail.

The passage reads as follows:

"The Ancient Text has been around for thousands of years, often shrouded in mystery or revered by cultures. Its origin has yet to be found, though it can be inferred that the common tongue is a descendant of it. The reason the Ancient Text is so important is because of its connections to the Yions Era, during which it was discovered that the text reacted to Seal Brands and Celestial Circuits, the driving forces behind the magicks utilized by the Angelions and Daemonids, later passed down to the common folk after the great war. The Ancient Text appears to use both mystical systems as catalysts and their effects as mediums, allowing for the messages hidden within the text to be revealed when the right aberration of either system was used or, in special cases, modify and enhance the effects to the aberration(i.e. Transforming Medica into Sancturia, retaining the healing ability of Medica while creating a field that repelled and purified evil intent.). It is theorized that the Ancient Text may actually have the capability to amplify a person's physical abilities and [Mystic System], but tests on this have had lackluster results thus far... The basic alphabet of the Ancient Text is translated as thus..."

What follows is a long chain of symbols and shapes, each with a letter or two near it or numbers. Some foreign symbols are intermingled within the translation as well, but there is no explanation for them.

Naki makes sure to read in detail about it, then after figuring out the alphabet at a basic level, takes another look at the other book.

A large amount of the page still cannot read, but more able to be understood.

If Thou De_i_e po_e_, thou _u_t p_o_e th_ _i__ ___ _t_e_gth o_ he__t... 

The rest is too garbled to properly make out.

Naki decides to take another look at the book she can read to see if she can investigate more of the language, as well as anything else useful.

Going over it again, Naki is able to figure out that some symbols coincide with missing letters from the alphabet given. From this, the letters 's', 'a', 'n', 'd', 'r', 'e', 'm' and 'w'.

Naki reads on a bit more, before returning attention to the other book.

Further study reveals the letters'l', 'f' and 'y'. The phrase now translates to:

If Thou Desire power, thou must prove thy will and strength of heart...

Great... more damn trials.

The rest of the page is still garbled and distorted, but it appears to be the work of magic rather than the symbols themselves.

Naki sighs, then attempts to read the other book, hoping something good will come of more study.

Compiling Information...

As Naki reads, she is able to find out the bare basics for a Seal Brand of sorts, one that greatly differs from the ones used in the Curses.

She takes a break to let the information compile. I hope Anira will be alright... I also hope that sub doesn't end up being an ass... ...though my luck is terrible...

While this is going on, scores of students have crowded around Anira's office, each with the intent to take on and defeat Anira's substitute. Less than five minutes later, all of them are sprawled across the ground, unconscious.

"Not worth the effort," he comments, dusting his hands off.

Naki hears the commotion and sighs. "...Man people must be dumb."

Anira's sub relaxes in his chair and leans back before sighing. "This'll be a headache, hopefully he can get back soon."

After the info had compiled, Naki resumes reading.

The Template Brand is the most recently created Seal Brand and is likely to be the last, the power of the Brands and Circuits having be lost to the public eye. It has the ability  to replicate any effects applied to it, even those of Celestial Circuits, which would cancel the effects of any other Seal Brand or be over powered and vice versa. To utilize the Template Brand, one must-

The rest of the text is distorted and worn by magic.

"Damn it, what am I supposed to do now?!"

Suggestion: Seek alternative sources.

She sighs, rubbing her temples, before getting up to go to the library, Janpu following her, and occasionally throwing beach balls at random people, pulling the balls out of nowhere. The familiar seems to be more mischievous than usual.

"I'm half tempted to Banish all familiars in the area," says Yume, "He's been getting out of hand..."

The library is mostly vacant, a few people occupying the upper level of it. The few people there are deeply engrossed in their studies.

Naki sighs. "He's just eager to fulfill a duty." A beach ball goes flying. "....Okay, so he's a little obnoxious."

"A little? He tried super heating the cafeteria floor because he didn't want to wait in line earlier, then he took someone else's drink," remarks Yume.

"...Okay, I didn't know that. I'll deal with him."

"Good, he's going to dig you into a hole if you don't." Yume walks off.

Naki waves her goodbye, then makes Janpu wilt with a glare, and the familiar looks down at the ground.

"Try not to steal from people, please. Also, unless I tell you, don't hurt someone."

She then begins looking through books.

None of the books on the lower level of the library catch her eye.

Naki then investigates the upper level.

One book on the upper shelf catches her attention, but it appears that someone else is currently reaching for it.

"Oh, excuse me but, can I read that for a while? I need it for studies..."

"Oh sure, no prob," they say, handing the book over without an issue, "Just don't forget to let me read it when you're done with it."

Naki nods, and begins looking into the book's contents.

The majority of the book appears to be random gibberish at first, but by the last few pages Naki notices a faint pattern in the lettering and words.

Naki begins trying to decipher the words and lettering, using the Ether to try and help riddle it out.

The words themselves mean nothing, but the shape they take based on the lettering, a portion of a circle and another shape, seems to be important in one way or another.

....What does this mean....? She focuses in on the patterns.

The pattern itself  is part of a circle, the bottom left most portion, with an incomplete symbol within it and random symbols completely different from the others forming an incomplete ring of sorts around the symbol.

Naki carefully memorizes the structure of symbols and the circle, trying to make sure she misses nothing of importance.

Images saved. Creating subsection: Template Seal, filed under Necromancy Basics.

After giving the book another good look, she gives the book to the other student. "Thank you, here's the book."

"Thank's for letting me see it when you were done, it's the third out of four like it."

"Oh? Well, you're welcome anyways. It's not a big deal."

The student shrugs then walks off with the book.

Naki makes her way back to her room, pondering the design she had seen.

The school seems oddly vacant, though this could be attributed to the growing mass of unconscious students in the infirmary.

On her way, she stops at the office, and peeks in the doorway. "Did they seriously all challenge you?"

"Mhmm, it was annoying, so many people tried to crowd in at once. There was even an omni-directional attack at one point," he says, relaxing in his chair.

".....Dear lord they are all idiots... ....well, I guess Janpu doesn't have to worry about the excessive lines anymore."

"Yeah... Don't let the Shadow thingy get outta line," he warns. "Oh and why do you smell like Necromancy?"

"I won't- ....huh? Necromancy? What would that even smell like? What are you talking about?" Naki's confusion is clear on her face.

"You're serious? I can practically see a Necromatic Aura on you." He looks up, his eyes half lidded in annoyance, "That and all magic has a smell. Necromancy smells like dead flowers and Victorian perfume."

"I've not even touched the stuff once. To my knowledge at least. And I'm pretty sure I don't go raising the dead or anything, that would be in my memory. Maybe you smell the one and only Apollos, I don't know, he's a deathly kinda guy."

"No, he smells of Hymns and Necromancy," responds the teacher, "That and the smell of Order, but that's not relevant. It's you specifically who smells of Necromancy, Ether and Darkness."

"Well the last two I understand, I have an affiliation with darkness as an element and well... the second one is a complicated story. But I have no idea what you're talking about with the first."

Naki decides the conversation has gotten too weird and begins to start walking off to her room again.

"Hm, probably a Grimoire holder then," notes the teacher to himself before leaning back and resting his eyes.

"Hey, you there?"

'Yeah, still on duty."

"Huh. Got sidetracked in Anira's business, the usual."

"That sounds like something that would happen to you... No luck finding her then?"

"Unfortunately. The Angel is searching the Aether for her, but that's had no findings."

Ah, I see. Hopefully you can find her, she's important to you... Unlike me..."

"Hm?"

"Nothing, good luck on your search!"

"Thanks Iyle."

"No prob, Allie."

Naki makes her way back to her room, shaking her head at the strange conversation. "What's with that guy....?" She then proceeds to take a look at both books again once in her room.

The part regarding the Template Brand is still warped, but with the information gathered earlier it seems to take shape. Half of the Brand can be distinguished, resembling a half circle with an incomplete design similar to weaving flames around another, smaller shape. The symbols inside are still nonsensical, however.

"Gah, what am I missing?" She snaps.

Suggested: Additional research with outside resources.

Naki glares at the books, before sighing and emerging, and begins her hunt for Apollos, hoping to find more answers.

She finds Apollos in the middle of sewing together an inky black cloth with wisps of darkness coming from it. The look of focus in his eyes is astonishing, it's as if watching a surgeon performing a precise surgery.

"..."

Naki watches him for a moment, then hesitantly coughs to get his attention.

He stops abruptly and sends her an irritated glare.

"Is it important?"

"Errr.... ....sorry... I was having trouble with some sort of seal formula, I think that's what it is at least. What was it called....? A Template Seal?" She asks hesitantly.

"That's not something you should worry about. Even if you can activate it, the recoil will scramble your brain permanently. I don't know how you got to that point, but that's too advanced for a beginner!"

"Do you even know what I am, Apollos? ...Well, honestly, I don't really understand myself that much. But I love reading and learning... ...it also helps that I have certain abilities... ...but that's not the point. The point is, the pages are garbled and all kinds of messed up due to magic, and that's literally the only thing I've had to go on so far, Apollos. I'm literally stuck at the present time. The majority of what I've been doing is simply reading and not much else. I haven't been practicing, but I have been studying the books, and studying them heavily. Dutifully, I might add. I've only left my room to follow leads on this thing."

"Then you understand nothing of recoil or blowback. You really should have practiced rather than read," he returns, "The last sections are sealed for a reason. There is no easy solution to getting around it without a stronger base than what you have at this point. You may have the ability to learn just about anything, but that's useless if you only know how to do something without ever attempting it and getting a feel for it. Do you even know what bells are for?"

"....Alright... I get the point. I need to practice. I just wanted to get a good read on the whole thing. ...I think they're used for some of the more ranged spells?"

"No, that would be very inefficient if bells were for only for ranged spells."

"The... ...book didn't seem to mention bells."

"Reference Section C, Index iii, letter B," he recites.

"....I guess I'll go do that then..." She starts walking off. "Thanks anyways Apollos."

She gets no response as Apollos returns to his work.

She returns to her research, taking Apollos' advice.

In the exact location that Apollos mentioned, there is a short section on bells, explaining that they are one of the best catalysts that a Dark Magician could use.

Naki then decides to look for bells in the bag, as well as put on the clothing Apollos gave her, and looks for something simple or basic to start with.

Unfortunately, there is no bell in the bag.

Shall I list the spells categorized and placed in the basic section or shall I wait?

Well, everything is a search puzzle today. Fine, go ahead.

Under the basic category are:

Frostbite- Causes necrotic ice damage to a small area of muscular tissue on a target. Ineffective against golems and spirits.

Snap Dragon- Creates several chained bear traps comprised of flames to bite and hinder the target's movement. Especially effective against metallic and stone based organisms.

Poison Gale- Taints the air within an area to cause the affected to vomit uncontrollably and writhe in pain. Caster is unaffected.

Tissue Reanimation- Restores function to damaged tissue and joints, but does not repair damage taken by tissue. Affected Tissue works without limiters, but degrades faster.

Tissue Restoration- Mends and regrows damaged tissue over a small area of the body of the target. Potent effects require longer periods of time.

Necrosis- Fires a burst of energy that causes slight necrosis to dermal tissue. If not treated quickly, it may result in atrophy and severe infection.

"Well, that's great, but no bells... ...well, I guess I'll drop a boulder on Apollos' head as thank you for forgetting that detail..." She ponders what to do.

An object with the properties of a catalyst is on your person. It appears to be in the shape of a charm with otherwise unidentifiable properties. On further investigation, there is an Etheric Seal placed on it, preventing information gathering.

Naki looks at the charm Volmond gave her. "...He said that it would help with a certain problem... ...does that mean it can also help with my studies as well?"

It appears so.

"Well... I guess... I'll try something...?" She cautiously begins picking out one of the spells to use, carefully reading over the details, making sure she has the charm ready.

Tissue Restoration appears to be easy enough.

Naki makes a small cut, then after a moment readies herself and attempts to use the Tissue Restoration.

The charm on Naki's person glows white hot for an instant as the flesh around the cut fuses back together rapidly.

"Well, that seems to have gone well... the charm worked... ...hmmm, should I try anything else....?"

Offensive Skills should be tested in a more secure environment.

Hmmm... suggestions? Perhaps at the stadium? ...I wonder if that place was fixed yet...

Inconclusive information on the area, a visit is necessary.

"Well, in any case, might as well go... ...gonna give someone a thank you for being so careless..." Naki walks out, though on her way, she drops by Apollos again.

"By the way..." A heavy rock falls on his head. "Don't lecture me about not practicing and not knowing what bells were for, when you forgot to put bells in my bag in the first place!" She walks on towards the stadium.

The rock shatters upon impact. Naki then finds herself halfway phased through the floor.

"Oh, an oversight," he says, not looking in her direction, "By the by, a lecture from me is a lesson learned not words of scorn, Impulsive One. Do think about that in the future." He continues sewing together the black cloth.

"...." She glares at the floor for a moment, then looks back at him. "No, in this case, I'm not impulsive, if anything, I have every right to be harping at you for this. You could have gotten me hurt, or worse, that's not an oversight, that's a major lacking in your judgement! If master didn't give me this charm, and I used one of those spells, you could have gotten me hurt, or worse!"

"Indeed, which is why I admitted that it was an oversight. I handed you my spell materials. I'd rather you not start with violence as opposed to simply explaining your grievance, but..." Apollos continues sewing. "You've completely missed my point anyways with the way you interpret my words."

"....If you mean I'm impulsive because I dropped a boulder on your head because of 'oversight', then you earned it. I would have blown up the room instead, but that would be taking it out on the building, and well, the building already had some issues from prior events. And stop saying 'oversight' like it's an appropriate term, it's not! It sounds like you're undervaluing the fact you put me in danger, again. And that really bugs me! .....Grrrrrr.... and let me out of this!"

"You used Tissue Restoration, correct," asks Apollos, ignoring the outburst, "You make it sound as if there were no preventative measures to stop you from killing yourself off. Think back to what I said when I gave you the Grimoires in the first place. Were there not things I told you then to keep you safe? On that topic, no safety comes without danger, no person is immune to mistakes."

Naki in turn ignores him. "Let me out already." A dull throbbing in her head begins.

Naki falls into a lower floor, landing on a rigid, cold mattress in a frigid room.

"OW! Apollos, what was that for?!" She looks to see if she can get out.

There is a door, an unlocked one. Within the room lie three large chests decorated with precious metals and jewels.

Naki looks toward the door, then the chests, then at the door, then at the chests. Finally, with her curiosity mounting, she curiously checks what's in the chests.

In the first chest lies a set of dusty old books bound in leather, none with specific titles or descriptors. In the second chest lies what appears to be a large gourd with the motif of a curling dragon around its rim. something appears to gleam within it. The third chest contains various scroll, a ring made from a silver-black stone, a relic gun of sorts, a thick tome with the initials F.E. inscribed into the cover in a beautiful print bound with golden rings and locked with a clasp, three notebooks, one black and red, another white-silver and the third an earthy green, a spherical object with a sealing mechanism on the outside and an old name plate that feels familiar despite the name being long faded.

"Woah... what is all this? Cool..."

Interference... Inf.... ing is being... mmed...

"...The hell just happened....?" She mutters.

.....

Naki hears static rather than the voice of the Etheric Library.

Naki picks up the stuff in the chests, then suspiciously looks around.

"....Apollos, what the hell is this....?" She growls. She then opens the door, though cautiously.

The corridor is empty and tinted blue for some reason. The shadows are darker than normally, the air had a an ominous chill and an eerie silence settles over the area.

Naki looks about nervously, her hand on her spear handle as she slowly looks around walking through the corridor, trying not to make noise.

A faint light appears in the distance.

"Huh, someone else is here?" The voice is masculine in nature and sounds tired. "Great... just what I needed. Listen kiddo, I don't know how you got here, but I'm not going to answer any questions. It's bad enough that people try to sneak down here to ask me things, but now people are... apparently falling through the ceiling."

"...!" Naki jumps from the voice. "It's not like I did it on purpose! Gaaaaaaah! Where am I anyway? Why does random crap keep happening?!" She growls in frustration.

"Easy, easy, panicking and stress are bad on the heart," says the owner of the voice, sighing, "You'll give yourself a heart attack if that's how you react to things... Look, I'll show you the way back to whatever place you came from, just don't get overly excited."

"...I just get tired of being sent into random dimensions and crap like that... first the dream world, then the land of the dead, now... ....wherever this is..." She mutters.

"Yeah, yeah, let's just go..." The owner voice steps closer, revealing a white lab coat with tassels and added strips of white material. His features are impossible to distinguish, even with the ball of light floating in front of him.

She blinks, having flashbacks of when she was taken to be turned into an Etherite, and a slight unconscious terror momentarily grips her, though the only indication of this is her eyes, whose pupils dilate to thin points momentarily, then she slightly relaxes.

"Y-yeah... ...ok..." She mutters.

The person leads Naki though the long corridor, turning occasionally and always presenting the light before them. Still, it is impossible to make out any of his features other than what clothing he has on.

"Why do people ask you questions anyway? Are you wise or something?"

"They generally come to learn about White Curses and Dark Doctory, mostly for greed or power or fame," he answers after a while. "It's annoying. None of them realize that some knowledge comes with costs they are unwilling to pay. After all, who would want sacrifice their own dreams and hopes to learn something that isn't needed? Some come because they wish to enter into another world, unaware that the world they seek is no different from their own in many ways. Few come because of physical conditions and curses. The least come because they are either lost or simply want to talk...."

"Oh... ...are you lonely then? I'm kinda lost, more ways than one."

"No, I'm fine. I haven't felt lonely in a long time, one of the side effects of my experiences. Being lost is fine, so long as you can find yourself eventually. If you need help, that's fine as well." The corridor begins to lighten and the chill lessens.

"Thanks for the help, I'm sorry about what happened. ...I'm going to have a talk with Apollos later about this..." She grumbles to herself.

"The Scion of Apollyon? That won't do you any good, you'll just end up in a dimension rift or something, maybe even the Abyss if he's mastered the Curse of Expulsion." The person continues onward. "Ah, we're just about there."

"...I have.... no idea what you're talking about. Why would he even do that? And his name is Apollos. He may annoy me sometimes but geez... what's up with titles anyway...."

"It's his given title, being who he is. He himself dislikes it as well, but it's a formality that must be adhered to if you share the same culture." The person stops. "Judging by the way you said your previous statement, I assume you'll likely engage him in some form of combat or banter. He's known for being the most hotheaded of the Scions of Apollyon and the most fickle."

"...Hotheaded....? ....Fickle....? ....Yeah... ....that definitely isn't the mental image that comes to mind when I think of Apollos..." She says slowly, becoming more and more confused.

"Well, compared to Alzael, he can actually express emotions after Awakening... We're here." The figure points to a nexus of light just ahead. "Even when things get tough, try to keep your head level else you'll die for the stupidest of reasons. Oh, and tell the Red One that he'll be meeting someone important soon and also tell the Greying One that his daughter will Awaken soon. Ciao." The person waves a hand and for a split second Naki is able to see dark hair, cobalt eyes and a neutral expression curled into a slight grin before the person vanishes.

"Just who on earth...?" She looks back, confused, before entering the nexus.

Naki reappears on her bed, all of the items that she acquired organized neatly into a pile.

"...The hell happened...?"

Interference no longer present. 

"Thanks for the lack luster observation..." She immediately checks the clock to see if any time has passed since the occurrence.

Fifteen minutes or so have passed.

Strange Anomaly Domain filed as "The Corridor" under Parallel Worlds Section.

Naki sighs. "I guess it's back to previous scheduling... ...though I'll have to have a talk with Apollos later." She sets out for the stadium.

The stadium is empty, the entire area appearing to be burnt and scorched. Metal, stone and plastic have melded into waste and most of the plants are charred completely. A few feathers still linger in the area as an addition reminder of the battle here.

"....Geez, if that was Serah, then ouch. Wouldn't want to be in her way... hmmm... is it safe here though...?"

Minor Hazard in area. Avoid direct contact with "Charred" Materials and feathers.

"Alright then... time to practice I guess... any recommendations?"

Snap Dragon or Frostbite Nettles would fit the area best.

"Hmm, we could try Snap Dragon I guess..." She begins to concentrate on what she needs to do.

The charm on her person flares brightly, orange and yellow tendrils of energy flowing from it as what appear to be a three layered bear trap comprised of flames appears on the ground.

"Well, that appears to be going well... Frostbite Nettles next I guess."

The charm glows brighter before a sphere of icy blue forms in front of Naki.

After a few minutes she sighs. "Alright now let's try..." Her head starts pounding out of nowhere like before.

"Gaaaah... of all the..... AAAAAAAGGHHHHHHH!" She suddenly screams as pain explodes into her head with violent force, and she collapses on the ground, wreathing in agony for several minutes, before it finally stops, but when she opens her eyes...

"Oh no.... oh no.... oh no.... oh no..... why can't I see?!" She screams. She struggles to right herself, but without her vision, she merely collapses onto the ground, unable to coordinate herself.

What's going on?!

Assessing issue... Distress Beacon sent. Recommendation: Calm Mind and Regulate Heart Rate until aid arrives.

Naki hardly registers the message, too terrified to respond properly.

"...Why are you in a place like this," asks Anira's substitute, "Can you calm down before your heart explodes and try to explain the issue?"

"W-w-where are you? I-I... I can't see!" She is trembling violently.

"Ah, your eyes went out then." He puts a hand on her forehead. "Hmm... This is rather peculiar situation you are in...."

Her vision slowly flickers back as another wave of throbbing comes on, though her vision is hazy, and she shakily makes an effort to stand.

"Easy there, you're unstable and near your breaking point."

"W-what's... ...gah...! Going on....?" She trembles.

"I'll put it bluntly, the bonds connecting your body and soul are tearing," he explains, "This is probably because your soul is in a body that it doesn't belong in, namely a body that isn't yours."

"W-What? What are you saying? How can this not be my body? I was born with my body, how could I be in a body that isn't mine?!"

"No, it's a replica of your body, not the real thing. I can't tell you more than that without invading your privacy."

"...This can't be... can't be... ...how can this be even possible, I don't even remember such a thing!"

"Are you absolutely sure about that? Are you certain that you haven't noticed the signs before hand? Nonetheless, this is a truth you cannot hide from now that you know."

"....Why....? ....This can't be.... Why is it always me...." Her trembling begins to get more violent."....Shit...." She forces herself to stand properly, and starts stumbling her way out of the stadium. Once she gets to the entrance however, she stumbles and falls flat on her face, her limbs now stiff and difficult to move.

"You're going to hurt yourself more at this rate. Stay still so I can stabilize you."

She lays there on the ground, doing little more than merely crying.

The substitute puts his hand on Naki's head and an icy energy flows into her being, slowly renewing the bonds between soul and body, but only temporarily.

Naki doesn't move, still crying, unwilling to get up or even lift her head. "Karma dictates eventually things get better my fucking ass..."

"No, it will. Some people experience more misfortune before their luck finally strikes, others avoid the bad side of karma entirely."

"...And some never get anywhere from the start..."

"That's a myth there. Those people don't count their fortune nearly as much as the should."

"....So far in my life, I've been a street rat and poor, always starving, then watched as my family was cut down, separated from my brother, experimented on, and for a small time had something going for me, then that was taken away too by fighting, hatred, getting stuck in a dream for weeks, nearly getting my soul ripped out, then going to the land of the dead, where I was chased by the dead and then barely survived a Reaper, and now let's top it off with the newest exhibit, the fact that apparently this body I've had forever is somehow not mine and I'm slowly losing it.

Yeah, great eighteen years worth of evidence that my luck, and my life, is shit..."

"Coming from a person who was thought to be mentally insane for the first few years of his life, forced to live through two massacres, set on fire, frozen solid, electrocuted, nigh ripped to shreds, petrified, blown up, drowned, eaten, purged, forced to wear the mask of an Azrael, smote and knocked around by primordial forces and concepts over the course of his twenty odd years or so, give or take time travel, that isn't much. Not to say that you haven't had it rough, but others have had equally terrible lives or worse," says the teacher. "Take Anira for example. Ask him about the wars he was part of or what happened to his sister... You wouldn't think it with him, but he's seen things worse than any other I've met and that's only based on what he's told me, not the massive gap between his last reincarnation and this one or any of his other lives. Still, he functions well and doesn't let that get to him most of the time. I'm not saying you have to be like him, else you'd drive everyone up and down the wall with your level of insanity like he already does, but you have to be more resilient than you are now, otherwise what's the point of you having survived all of your hardships in the first place?"

"....." She gets back up, and silently walks off. "....That's the question, isn't it... what the hell is the point in all of this?"

"...She should be fine, though how or rather why did the Yama not prosecute her for her state of existence?" The teacher sighs, then warps back to his office. "Anira, you've once again prepared me a world-class headache..."

Naki retreats to her room, where she collapses on her head and remains silent and motionless for hours, ignoring a reminder from Janpu of the arrival of dinnertime.

"I don't think I could eat again....." She mutters, her face buried in the pillow, which is now wet from tears.

Apollos finishes sewing together the cloth. "Hm, it appears that she's learned of the truth about her current self. Just as time foretold."

.....

In a distant place in space, Eien appears, and opens his eyes. "Hmmmm.... about that time then..." He looks off toward the location of Earth.

"Well, I have time." He begins to drift toward Earth, a small amused smile as he travels.

Perhaps I'll toy with a few more...

.....

"Things are getting ready to go south grandly... great," the teacher sighs as Apollos enters the room. "What do you want, Necromancer?"

"Just to see if you knew what was going on, Judge Alexian," answers Apollos, "Your expression tells me you do."

"Yeah, that girl is about as lucky as a red shirt..."

"Indeed. It is almost time."

"Yeah, yeah, he's ready for some action anyways."

"We can only hope that the intervening force from earlier does not make a move..."

"We'll know if it will when it does. It's immune to your calculations and  time viewing isn't it?"

"Indeed..."

Naki has now sat up in her bed, but hugs her pillow. "....What next, am I gonna be 'Dictator of the Planet'? ....Damn it all..." She buries her face in her pillow again.

"I'll have to call the other two honor students," says Apollos.

"Honor students?"

"It's a title given to the best students here, in both academics and the field," he explains.

"Ah," says Alexian. "Think they'll be helpful?"

"I believe so."

Naki quietly gets up, and walks over to her usual spot, pulling out a book and begins reading, hoping to get some manner of comfort from the book. She still cries on occasion.

Several minutes pass before two students enter the office.

"You called?"

"Is a disturbance on its way?"

"You wouldn't believe it," sighs Apollos.

.....

A yellow cloaked man descends into the forest a great distance from the school, his face obscured.

"Hmmm, farther than I initially expected to land, but regardless... you two are ready?"

Two voices answer him at once.

Yes...

"...Alright then ladies... ...now... ....I sense a Land God within these lands... well, wouldn't want to piss that one off..." He chuckles.

.....

"He's here," notes Alexian, "And he's brought company. I'll handle him, you three mobilize an evacuation and get her to safety."

"Message already sent, should his companions not be combated as well?"

"Don't worry about that," replies another voice, originating from a white tiger. "I'll handle them, you can be back up if you want, but someone needs to guard Naki until the doctor can get here."

"I'll handle that," says one of the two honor students, "Aeoleus, you and Apollos support the tiger."

"It'll probably be the other way around Alicia," replies Apollos as he materializes a black grimoire with blue pages and an onyx bell. He looks towards Aeoleus who appears to be steaming before vanishing in a burst of violet flames, shortly followed by a flash of blue light and a burst of Ether.

"I'll get into position as well," says Alicia, disappearing from the room in an instant.

"Time for me to go as well then." Alexian gets up slowly, opens the window in Anira's office and hops out of it, walking towards the three new presences. "Anira, you better be ready to pay big time, else you'll wish Alisa killed you..."

At the edge of the forest, the yellow cloaked man steps out into plain sight, his hand in pockets. He appears to look up at the school, seemingly ignoring the stand in principal of the school.

"I see you decided to start a party in my honor, touched, I am." He laughs. "Always amusing to see people scrambling upon the arrival of a perceived presence, especially if they have no idea what that presence is planning..."

"Hmm.... ....You're Alexian, 'Judge of the Dead', and an honorary Yama? Impressive. Truly."

"Cut to the chase, Observer," says Alexian, frowning, "There are two basic scenarios for the current situation. Which one are you going for?"

"Well, flatly, or to be blunt, do you think I would come all this way to fight, with barely any back up? When I move, kid, I bring out the big guns...." He chuckles again.

"You could say I was... ...accessing something."

"You mean the girl with the degrading body. I assume her real body is here now," says Alexian. "Besides, what you call barely any back up could be considered a world class threat if you were to let them off of their leashes, judging by the size of their vitality and life force. I'd prefer not to take chances like that, especially when I'm in a place loaned to me."

"A difference in standard, I see. My definition of back up is more... ....instantaneous destruction oriented... besides, if I had any intention of attacking, I would bring the entire set."

"Regardless..." He smiles. "I think I'll let the shell reject her and claim her then. You can only do so much to patch up, and well, patches are not the same as a full throttle repair..." He snickers.

"I could always have her reincarnated," returns Alexian, "That's not outside of my jurisdiction."

The figure snickers again. "And did you really think that would be so simple? You see... ...I'm a man of failsafes... ....and it might have already occurred to me to prevent such a... unfortunate decision from occurring..."

"You seem to think I mean the standard reincarnation" chuckles Alexian, "There are somethings about the Land of the Dead that only a few know."

"...That failsafe involving overriding control of the soul and as soon as the bonds are destroyed, it will immediately return to its original body. So basically, her soul won't even go to the Land of the Dead... it'll just head right for its old body. ...Of course, if you over come that, I can just destroy her soul the moment it gets freed. A wonderful subject, Soul Destruction...

....speaking of which, where is the darling? I haven't seen her since I originally acquired her..."

"Your failsafe would only work if her soul wasn't reaped," comments Alexian, "She should be in a safe place by now."

".....Bring her here."

"Can't, didn't specify where to take her, only that she be safe."

"Either you bring her here, and I play nice, or I go find out, and I start wrecking shit once I do. Believe me, I CAN and WILL find her. It's your choice, you can have her live a tortured three weeks to a month, or I can fix her, (permanently), and we go our merry way."

"You could or you could back off, wait until your aid is wanted, then do your thing," yawns Alexian, "You can threaten me all you want, but I myself have several fail safes in place as well. Personally, I could fix this issue in the next half second without moving from this spot, but that wouldn't be fair to her. Besides, as she exists now, the fact that I haven't destroyed her soul or reaped her already is rather peculiar in its own right... Aside from that, I have a gut feeling telling me that she would appreciate your aid for a grand total of five minutes, give or take."

"....Well then.... tch.... ....I'm rather not fond of impudent fools..."

"And I'd rather not deal with Observers and the like in the first place. Are we done here or is this going to escalate?"

"Have you met Ikania by chance? You know, she's really sweet on the outside, but she's kinda a bitch." As he says this, a wave of grey energy rushes out from behind the figure, as soon as the wave hits Alexian, he feels the vast majority of his powers completely shut down or heavily suppressed, if not weakened.

"Oh, yeah, and that's why." He growls, suddenly kicking Alexian to the ground and pinning him down by the neck with his foot.

"You know, it's sad, but I could have made your defenses crumble right from the start, but I thought I would be nice. Well, this is what you get for pissing me off. And, this is what I was talking about, I'm a man of failsafes. Your powers don't mean jack shit now. Heck, anyone in this campus is pretty much as weak as the average human in terms of special powers.

So, before I start killing your little friends, how about we try this again, ey? Other wise, I might start... 'improving people'. Goodness knows I could use a few more playthings for experiments..."

Alexian only chuckles as the sound of something shattering fills the area and he forces Eien off of him with a sudden burst of energy.

"I was wondering when you would arrive, slow poke," he says, summoning what appears to be a gothic shotgun with a skull decorating the lower barrel.

"I was busy preventing a massive skirmish," retorts the doctor, "Drei filled me in awhile back, so I came to moderate."

"You're as much of an asshole as you were back then."

"And you still pick fights with the worst of people." The doctor gives Eien a sidelong glance.

Alexian rolls his eyes at the doctor before facing Eien.

"If you want to go at it so badly, come at me. I'll show you why you don't underestimate us humans, Observer."

"Oi, I'm just going to apply the effect to you and your allies, the others really are powerless," says the doctor.

"That's perfectly fine, go away."

"You.... ....was that the ability from before...? Doctor... ...I'm going to warn you now. You need to get out and stay out of our business. ...it would be poor for the longevity of both you and... ....those you care about."

"I'm only interfering because one such person is here, if not, I'd not be here. Besides, all I'm doing is evening the odds, nothing beyond that."

"....Well, in case you missed it the first time, I was actually contemplating helping that person out. ...Unfortunately, it's time for you to learn the hard way, Doctor, that we are a force you should NOT have meddled with. I had no intention of revealing the scale of my power to you in our prior fight, and my mistress will not permit it's use here. However, you have crossed a line, and unfortunately, she will no longer tolerate your presence in our affairs. So, you can either remove your assistance and your cock blocking ass, or my mistress will see you to the door. The hard way."

"That's interesting, I could say the same to you, minus the whole mistress thing. In that, shall we say, warning encounter, neither of us showed our true power," the doctor replies, his eyes flickering to a static filled white and grey. "As for her, I estimate her to be strong, but not as strong as my mark and I will not fall to anyone but that being. Oh, by the way, Alexian, the boon is an at will thing. Go to town. As for you, Goldie, I'm well aware of your intentions which is why I've chosen only to even the odds and not join the fray. I'm simply watching, rather than intervening at this point, this is Alexian's battle not my own. If he wins, he does, if you do, you do. I'm not interfering, rather observing things for myself. If I wanted to do more, more would already be done." 

The figure says nothing, but a symbol of a Phoenix appears on his hand.

Alexian's hair gains a black and purple tint while his irises do the same. His shadow fades completely as black and green particles begin to flow around him.

Clash: Vitality v. Force of Death!Edit

"It's your move," says Alexian, swinging the shotgun across his shoulders.

"Are you sure you should be picking a fight with me? Here of all places?" The figure says casually, as a katana appears in his belt.

"You have no idea who you're dealing with, do you, boy? It's very clear that humans overestimate themselves..." He places his hand on the sword.

"That goes both ways," he comments, shifting his weight to one side. "The thing about me is simple: I wouldn't care if you were a god from a different dimension or the king of the skies, to me you're just another opponent."

The figure tightens his grip on the sword, and the entire area begins to rumble as he begins to draw it.

A girl frighteningly familiar appears next to him. "....Are you sure that's appropriate?" She says in an equally familiar voice. She has blond hair with tints of iridescent light, and green eyes with various flakes of iridescent color. Her body and figure nearly exactly mirror Naki's.

"You do know how powerful that weapon is when you get angry," She warns the figure.

"....You done lecturing me, or are you going to do your job?"

"I'm already in the process of completing the task."

"So you're the body then. Necromancer, Seven-Seven-Two-One-Seven." The ground begins to change as the start of a red line forms at the edge of the forest, the soil turning to sand and the plants disappearing. Alexian readies the shotgun, his eyes narrowed but unnervingly calm.

A flash of lightning bursts into Alexian's face, as a second yellow cloaked figure kicks him straight in the face, sending him flying across the whole of the grounds, then smashing straight into the ground in a large crater. The newcomer takes their stance with the first one. The build of the figure suggests it is female.

"Ah, you finally decided to wake up then." The first speaks up.

"Huh, strength in numbers then," says Alexian, standing up with ease. The figure who attack Alexian has oddly lost feeling in their leg and feels a little unstable on their feet. "Shiki, come out." An inky raven emiting smoke from the entirety of its form appears on his shoulder, a blue flame burning from its mouth. "Circle field." The bird flies off as Alexian fires two slugs from his shotgun, both coated with blue and black energy as they tear through the air.

The figure looks up at the bird. "I see someone visited Azayakana. Taking advantage of a lonely young woman then? How shrewd." The gravity changes, causing the bullets to fall upward and miss the figure. Zero appears to becoming transparent.

"Tell that to the transcendant demon who caused the whole familiar acquisition." Alexian glances upwards for a split second. "Hmm, it's just about time..." He fires another two shots, these more so beams of energy than actually slugs, at the figure. His aura seems different, but on a miniscule level.  

Zero completely disappears, her presence gone. The second figure manifests a shield which deflects the shots. The bird begins to struggle to fly, the air is becoming damgerously thin.

"Oi, good work Shiki, it's ready." Alexian signals for the bird to return before snapping his fingers. "I'd tell your friends to go, things aren't going to be the same soon." The aura surrounding Alexian gets stronger, the density of black and green particles increasing greatly. "Good work Necromancer, the package has been received."

Naki meanwhile feels uneasy. "What's going on?!"

"Something you won't remember," says Apollos, putting his hand on Naki's forehead, "You've been safe zoned and put in my care by the Judge. My question is this: Do you wish you had a more fortunate life?"

Naki gives him a look. "What kind of question is that?! What do you mean I won't remember?!"

"Unfortunately, if I were to answer that, you'd die," says Apollos, sighing, "Listen, answer my question and you'll understand the answers to yours."

"I... I... ...yes... But... Why? Look, I don't know what this is about, but I'm not a quiter!"

"Your answer has been given... Well, I hope you can keep that mental strength you pride yourself in, it would rather sad to lose one with such a strong will to the tides of fate..." Apollos and the surroundings begin to grow blurry and distorted. "Some words of advice: Fear is your greatest weapon and mortal enemy, but only if you allow it to be so."

"What are you doing?! Apollos, what is this?!!"

"We'll meet again, farewell until then." Apollos and the rest of the world fade from Naki's view, leaving only an infinite black space. Suddenly, seven lights flare around her, starting at white, then green, blue, red, violet, orange and finally black. A collective voice speaks:

"Thy wish has been heard. Thou shalt experience peace and thy strife and hardships shall be replaced. This is the will of Karma, granted by the grace of Dharma and sanctioned by the Scion and Judge. Be reborn, child..." A nexus of multicolored light surrounds Naki and she feels her pain, anger, sadness and resentments fade away.

The figure, who had been about to draw his sword, stops, abruptly. His eyes come into view, wide eyed and full of rage. ".....what..... .....Have you..... DONE?!?!" He snarls.

"Do you even COMPEHEND what you've done?!" He roars.

"Does it matter?" Alexian's expression is completely neutral.

"You...you didn't completely... Reincarnate her, did you?!" He snarls, as an alarmed Zero appears.

"This isn't what she wanted!" Zero roars.

"You can relax if that's what's got your pants in a twist," says Alexian, "She's no longer in such a convoluted place, she's in a place where her dreams could more easily be realized and achieved, outside of the sphere of your influence and connection. Her body is now hers as opposed to a replica and many things about her are still in tact. As of now, you and the girl are no longer one in the same, you are completely different beings."

"....You absolute idiotic dipshit, that's EXACTLY what I'm talking about! She didn't want life the easy way!" Zero snaps.

"She wanted life the way it was, even if she complained, she wasn't going to quit, no matter how hard it got!"

The figure is deathly quiet. His fists are clenched to the point they are pure white.

"You've misunderstood then. I never said her life would be easy, it's just less complicated than now. She's in a place where her dreams can be more easily realized, not a place where everything caters to her every whim and demand. She'll be tried and tested just as much, but with different opportunities presented to her and less of a mess going on in the background. Even if I wanted to get her an easier life, I wouldn't, it's not something I can do as I am nor is it something I would do. Yell all you want, get angry all you want, attack me, throw everything you have at me, it won't change anything."

"...Another soul whose fate was altered against their own will... ...You misunderstand greatly my wrath.... ....you.... ...I shall destroy you... ...all of you...." The entire region shakes with an unknown force.

"I welcome you to try." The shaking only intensifies as Alexian's neutral gaze becomes serious. "Come."

A massive shadow suddenly blocks the light of the sun. "Try? Oh no. That's my line to you. Just try and stop me. Oh, you might want to look up."

A massive planet is descending upon the Earth.

"You're an idiot," sighs Alexian, "Causing an unrequired planetary collision disrupts the order of things. Advance." He snaps his fingers loudly as the the planet is vaporized by what appears to be a brilliant blue and white light.

"...." The figure is reading a book. "Still got six thousand to go, smartass."

"Advance: Field." Brilliant lights fill the sky and space. "You're still an idiot. Thanks for the compliment by the way."

"...I do believe there's going to be a severe traffic overload in your pretty land of the dead... Every single one had billions of innocent beings, you heartless idiotic murder... Oh, have an instanteous planetary impact."

A massive explosion sudden occurs at Alexian's position.

"Break Cycle." The explosion seems to shatter. "That's where you are wrong, Observer. The planets themselves were vaporized, but the inhabitants were simply displaced. That being said, you're a hypocrite by saying that after sending said planets on a collision course with this one."

"Yet that is still Chaos. In the effort to stop Chaos you instead made Chaos by that very displacement. Ikania, you studying? This'll be on the quiz."

"Oh, please don't speak of hypocrisy, it doesn't suit you or the Doctor."

"Gurīn, how is it on your end?"

The only response is a gust of wind.

"Good."

"Indeed, displacement does bring chaos, however the chaos is only a temporary existence if it births order and rights itself shortly thereafter... Especially when said displacement is to a valid location rather than a breach in space, harper."

"I'd rather you keep me out of your conversation, puppet. The difference between him and I is that I actually have an agenda as opposed to the Death God, who sees this entire thing as a waste of time. Oh, and I'd try not to cause another explosion if I were you, Goldie Locks, you'll not enjoy the outcome of that."

"Don't speak for another, Zwei." Alexian looks at Zero. "Your point being? Hypocrisy fits no one here, not you, me, the floating asshole, yellow belly over there or the other people observing this. You can take your little run on hypocrisy and shove it."

"...you know, Doctor, you act like you are in control of this situation... ....your weakness is obvious. Let's go through some calculations... In order for your ability Law Breaker to work, it would have to be a constant or a force continuously applying itself, correct?"

"Dead wrong," answers the doctor, deadpanning. "That was the very first version of it. This version has gotten rid of that weakness. Oh and by the way, I wasn't threatening you a moment ago, I was warning you that something will go amiss if you manage to damage the forest. Your green friend should know that as well. 'Tis not the best idea to try and set up camp in a Land God's territory, especially a volatile one's..."

"Pfffft.... Tell me, can that Land God create an entire planet from nothing?"

"I'd not tempt fate or anyone that Anira taught. A planet from nothing is worth nothing in the end, whereas something created from something can contain an infinite value. Create all you want, quantity is nothing compared to quality."

"....That could be said about the Order that you try to establish, or the Balance Anira promotes. You spend your days promoting whatever you represent. In the end, it helps no one. The Order of these worlds, bah, nonexistent. The powerful exert their will on the weak and nothing changes.

"Perhaps, I shall tell you what it is... That I'm really after..."

"I wonder about that. The strong will always have power, but the weak hold more power than the strong. The strong guide the weak and teach them strength in turn. It make take generations or millennia, but roles change and shift always. That is the Order of things, not the stagnant system you choose to see. As long as systems and roles exist, Order exists. Without such things, chaos would reign and the universe would completely fall into ruin. Systems do not have to be fair nor do they have have to promote true equality and not all systems are mutually beneficial. Unless said system is bringing ruin upon itself, there is Order. With Order, fairness and equality are novelties. The same can be said for Chaos. Only Balance includes the small things that garner to both sides and neither. In the end, the role of Order is to Advance as opposed to Chaos' role of Regression and Balance's Stability. The size of these effects is on a scale you do not seem to comprehend despite your many years and wit.

"Your plan... A laid plan is often ruined long before it begins."

"As is the Doctor's. Mine relies not just on my own strength, but my comrades. Alone we could not accomplish what we can do apart. Therein lies your weakness.

What I seek is to end the inequality of this universe. The inequality that so allowed the Lord of Inverse to torture you and destroy Kokua. The inequality that made man and myth savage enemies even today. The same inequality that took my sister away from me. The same that lets the Dread Witch live.

I have already begun to establish the ground roots. All that remains to complete this game of chess is the Queen. Were you by chance under the impression that White Five was actually the creator of the CE Project?"

"No, I noticed several things when I encountered my brother," says the Doctor, "Physical contact is a great way to absorb and gather information. I digress however, no matter how much you try there will always be inequality. Someone will always believe that they are the superior and not the inferior. Even if you were to go through with that Soul plan of yours, do you really think that you'd create a purely equal world? I believe not. You may try as hard as you like, but such a world, no such a universe is an impossibility, even if you see yourself in a benevolent light. That is the difference between my plan and yours. Whereas you strive to create what could be considered a utopian world, I seek to destroy the source of my pain at the root. Strength lies in numbers indeed, but why should I bring another to aid me when I am composed of thousands myself?

"That being said, I should leave you a warning: You may cross me and send your hatred towards me, but should you even think of touching a hair on the heads of those under my protection, I can foresee the End, not just of you but everything that dares draw my ire." As the doctor says this, the sky completely blackens and is cleared of clouds, a gloom-like aura setting over the planet.

"I'm not impressed and neither is White Cloak. Save your dramatics for your elementary school show and tell. And another thing: shut up and let me finish.

Now then... You must be wondering, even a little, how Naki and the CE's play a part in all of this. The statement of the project is to create an ultimate being, and to be able to control it. Phoenix would use it to their own ends... But for me... ...The Lambdas are just the very beginning..."

"Hm, you imply that was the one who did that. You'd be a quarter correct. I did partially lose the lid on my temper, but the outburst that is currently disabling the elements was our visitor from beyond the realm. Personally, your ambitions sound more like the rantings of an insane airheaded buffoon whose head can't go beneath the clouds lest they realize that they are destined to fall like all others. That being out of the way, your chimera project will only go so far and I doubt you will reach the point that you want with it, even if you were to find thousands of races to stitch together to create the perfect little monster. At some point you'll mature enough to realize that by attempting to create an entity that surpasses all others, said being will become something entirely different from what you envision and will likely- no definitely- come back to destroy you, the creator, personally before aiming for your various machinations. Now, why don't you shut up and stay silent yourself, running your mouth only proves to irritate others."

"Hohoho... Ot kinth hatt uyo tonecid em so noso, Rekna fo het Stol Creas. Holuds I eb detalfret ro dazema ta royu throwg ni chus a thors pans fo meti?" The feeling of gloom only intensifies as a red haired being with skin the color of granite appears from monochrome static. It wears a black, fur lined overcoat and dark grey slacks with dark boots and grey shirt and is surrounded by a monochrome mist like aura. "I saw delcal yb het Welylo Neo's tutanerce. Who ear ehet, Eien fo het Fae?"

"I had a feeling it would be you," growls the doctor, shooing Alexian away. "The school was aleady moved, no?"

"It was..."

"Good, get the hell out of here before you end up killed or worse."

"I can handle-"

"Gods, Archfiends and Aberrant Beings. You cannot handle this one, Go."

"I sai-" Alexian is unable to finish before he is expelled from the area and the forest seems to dissolve into light.

"....I'm sorry, was that directed at me? I'm sorry, but you need to see more than a specialist for that speech impediment. Also, Doctor, you have the attention span of a fruit bat. It's annoying. Do you think me stupid? I was just about to talk about the very reason that wasn't a problem."

"And you, Static Boy, Named or not, I have no buisness with you. I have no interest in dealing with you, so if you lovely people wouldn't mind having your lover's quarrel elsewhere, that would be nice."

Eien strangely seems covered by a strange energy.

"Coming from the person who's effectively a walking cup of coffee with steroids for expresso, that's almost an insult," replies the doctor. "You're the one who brought him here, by the way. I don't know if it has sank in yet, but names and titles have power. The fact that you mentioned him brought him here, that's what 'I was called by the Yellow One's utterance' means, idiot... Oh and he's going to say something along the lines of 'I have a gift for you, accept it without fail.'"

"Lockeda Neo Eien, I ecom whit a fitg sujt rof ehet sa Rekna ralyead dasi. Rekna, veom galon, huto era edened."

"Last I checked, you aren't my boss, -------." The name the doctor says causes space to rip and the sound is completely drowned out. "That being said, get on with your business and leave."

"Hyw holuds I? Huto era ton ym stamer erethi. Eien fo het Fae, accept ym ginsbels uthiwo fali..." A needle of static appears beside the dark figure.

"I'll be blunt, I'd dodge if I were you," says the doctor, using his sheathed sword as a shield.

The energy around Eien jumps in concentration and as the needle flies Eien moves in such a way, he almost appears to be dragged by the hand of an unseen force.

The energy falters then builds, and Eien appears to be growing translucent. A similar aura appears over Volmond. The energy appears to have no origin, only that it is there.

"The Lady humbly invites you, O' Great and Annoying Doctor. Oh, I'd move on, dear Sparky Boy. As the doctor described it, my Lady hinted something about an 'immune system' on the way. She may have tipped her off..."

"Hohohohoho... The Abominable One. She should be busy in just a moment..."

"That fact that you are speaking coherently to everyone in the area... Eien, if you'd like to not have your subatomic particles ground into fine cosmic dust or otherwise eaten or destroyed, I'd suggest you get a move on. If you can understand him without someone translating, he's going to do something detrimental."

"The wonderful thing about Instant Travel? I'm already gone." He says, disappearing into nothing.

"Oh, invitation still stands." His voice echoes.

"Good."

"Hmm... This place will be no fun without anyone here. I'll take my leave for now..." In the place of the being there is now a large distortion in space and time.

The Empress' ReturnEdit

The school is in shambles from the sudden return from the vacation. The teachers present lead the students indoors while the red haired woman watches the sky, holding a fan out.

Ikania walks quietly among the others, quietly contemplating the sensation she had felt. ...Is it almost time for him to make his plan a reality? I can't believe he is making such a bold move out of nowhere...

"Hmm... It'll be soon..."

"..." She glances toward the source of who had spoken, but continues on.

The inside of the school is massive, filled with interconnected corridors that branch in just about every direction. The teachers present guide students to the halls with their rooms.

"Third hall to the left, tenth room down." Apollos recites the location before returning to the outside.

Ikania follows his directions quietly.

The directions lead to a red wood door with a blank nameplate above it.

She silently opens the door.

The room inside is decently furnished, with a simple bed, two large dressers, a mirror, a closet and a small light fixture. The walls are a creamy tan color and the floor is carpeted with a soft fabric that reacts like memory foam.

"...Whoever made these rooms have good taste." She sits down on the bed with a sigh.

The bed is rather soft, but not special in beyond that.

She lies down with a sigh, pondering all that has happened to her. After a while, she begins to meditate, hoping to unwind.

Ikania's meditation goes undisturbed.

After a while, she begins to read quietly, this time a book on livestock.

After a hour or so, the air feels odd throughout the entire school.

Ikania narrows her eyes, and her Ether flows like thin strings in the room, seeking out information on the change.

The Ether Search comes up inconclusive.

Ikania frowns, then both of her eyes turn pure white as a large shadow billows from her, then disperses into the air of the school, granting her a view of everything in the school not airtight. Her Ether returns to its normal state.

Ikania finds her vision of the rooms of other students blocked. Other than that she sees faint trails of embers flowing out of the main entrance of the building.

What on earth....?

All at once the temperature spikes, then gradually returns to normal within the school.

"...What is going on...?" Ikania becomes tense. The shadow retracts and slowly Ikania's eyes turn normal.

Ikania can feel the presence of two extremely powerful beings at the school's entrance, even without using her Ether. One is nearly incomprehensible compared to the other.

"...This is weird... do the staff know of this?"

The presences remain apparent, but nothing seems to be changing.

...I suppose I should ignore it then...

She begins to read once more, still unsure.

Not much later dies she hear a thunderous boom from outside, followed by a bizarre cry.

"Science, what have you caused?!"

She pauses in her reading, glancing toward her door. ...Dare I...? She ponders opening it to look outside.

The corridor is filled with bizarrely iridescent smoke, easily coming across as weird.

Ikania looks befuddled, her Ether tries to investigate it.

Her Ether Search comes back as a jumbled mess rather than with conclusive answers.

"...Why am I not surprised?" To leave, or not to leave?

"Well, the smoke appears to be non-toxic to Non-Phoenixes..."

"Experiment successful?"

"Nothing that explodes when it should solidify constitutes as a successful experiment..."

Ikania reluctantly sets foot in the hallway, still confused.

The hallway leads to the main entrance, where two figures stand obscured by the smoke.

Ikania is significantly unnerved by what's going on.

"I did warn you not to do anything outside of the science wing..."

"Meh."

"Why is my own mother less mature than me?"

"Why must my daughter always nag?"

Ikania watches the two nervously. Who are these people? ...This is the first time I've ever felt out of my element...

The smoke begins to clear, revealing the red haired woman from before and another red haired woman wearing an ornate white and red dress with gold highlights and wing motifs growing from the back.

"We're getting nowhere."

"You should learn to relax more. Annie had to learn the same thing."

"...Please don't bring my husband into this, mother."

1600x978 20173 Phoenix 2d anime phoenix girl woman picture image digital art

So that woman is related to Anira then... ...and other is her mother? ...These people are certainly to be respected...

"And how are you, little one?" The woman in the more ornate dress calls to Ikania.

"...Confused, which is a first, at least for a while. ...Who are you?"

"Someone interested in your composition."

"Mother, she meant your name..."

"No, Lisa, she would have asked for that directly."

"....."

"...Half credit. But what's your name? ...And my composition?" She thinks back to the talk of 'science'. ...This woman... what exactly is she?

"Just call me Ku," she says. "Mhmm, last I checked, such compositions were rare in nature and far more stitched together."

"...I see." Ikania feels now slightly more awkward than confused.

Ku looks at her for awhile. "Hmmm... Disconjunction of genes..."

"..." She slowly starts to try to head back to her room.

"Rest well and watch out for crashes," calls Ku. "Now, let's set up shop..."

"You aren't serious are you?"

"I'm perfectly serious, Lisa. To the science wing!"

"...Annie isn't going to be happy."

Ikania sighs, returning to her room and returns to rest.



A New Head of AffairsEdit

Ikania sleeps well until morning, her tail serving as a pillow.

Someone knocks on her room's door.

She lets out a groan.

"Whaaaaaaaat...."

"Um, there's an assembly being called and everyone is to attend..."

"Uggghhh... I hate mornings..." She wearily gets up and opens the door.

Outside are a line of students headed down the hall, each in various states of tiredness as they make their way to the same place.

She sighs and joins the rest of them, accidentally clipping a few people with her wings, which she had forgotten to retract. "Sorry," She mutters, half asleep.

She gets a few annoyed grunts in response as the line shuffles along, soon exiting the main building and heading towards an arena like structure.

She folds her wings to avoid smacking anyone else, then continues following everyone else.

Inside the structure waits Ku, who seems to be counting something as the students gather around.

Ikania quietly stands on the outer edge of the student body.

"No need for it after all..." The odd woman mutters to herself before snapping her fingers almost imperceptibly. Everyone in the area feels a jolt as a faint green light spreads throughout the arena structure. "You're probably wondering who I am and why I, not Annie, called you here. It's simple, while he takes care of business elsewhere, I'll be in charge of continuing your education and continued protection from any outside harm."

The statement causes many murmurs within the student body.

"Also, I'll be imposing a new system of sorts for testing and training. Other than that, do as you will for the rest of the day. We'll start officially tomorrow."

"..." Ikania remains quiet, watching.

Ku dismisses the students with a flippant wave of her hand.

Ikania leaves quietly to return to her room.

"...So four related to Death, one aligned with Life, a Hunter and a member of the long forgotten Order of Beowulf... Annie attracts very interesting people." Ku smirks to herself.

Ikania reaches her room and enters, closing the door behind her and begins to read while covered in the blankets.

For the next several hours, Ikania is left in relative peace.

After a while, she reads off her weariness from the morning and goes back outside, and flies up to one of the rooftops on the towers, and simply sits, reading her book again, but also, looking about the scene.

Surrounding the school is nigh endless field, with the tops of trees visible at the horizons edge in all directions.

Ikania reads for a while longer, then begins to silently meditate, while also letting her Ether flow, branching it off into many thin string like threads, using a refined method to absorb purely information, rather than objects. She breathes in and out deeply for a while.

Her Ether hits a wall of sorts around the science wing of the school and the arena like structure.

Not surprised with that woman.

She continues, leaving the wing and the arena be.

For the most part, everything is normal, though there are several blind areas where her Ether picks up nothing, most being mobile.

After a while, she ceases her meditation and ether, and focuses on reading.

Ikania again is left in relative peace.

Ikania notes this, but does little else than read, though one time she nearly blacks out after a strange vision flares across her mind like static.

"Uggh... ...second time in a while..."

It grows quiet outside not much later.

She glances around.

Perched much further away sits a crow masked figure.

Ikania's eyes narrow sharply, her skin darkens from a slight growth of her black scales as a defensive instinct.

"...And you are?"

"..." The figure tilts their head as black bird wings unfold from their side.

"...I hate the silent types..." She says as a dark shroud surrounds her. "What do you want?"

"..." The figure makes a territorial gesture with their wings.

"..." Ikania remains still, her eyes red however.

"..." The figure stares at her behind the mask.

She makes her own wings sprout, in case of an attack.

"You're really getting annoying."

"..." The figure continues to stare.

"..." A spark of purple electricity momentarily dances around Ikania. "Stop staring or go away."

Black wind blows around the figure. "..."

Ikania sighs. "Bored now." She blurs, then appears on the complete opposite side of the campus on a far tower, looking over at the figure in boredom, book still in hand.

The figure sits contently.

Seemingly as an effect of Ikania's mood, it begins to rain over the rooftops, her book unaffected by the water.

The figure doesn't mind the rain, ignoring it was it scans the school grounds.

A thick cold mist forms below them, very unhelpfully obscuring the castle grounds.

The figure doesn't seem to mind the mist either.

One of the clouds rumbles. The figure pays no notice.

The same cloud discharges a bolt of lightning at the figure. Ikania remains oblivious to the weather acting up.

The figure blocks and redirects the bolt with the bizarre black wind it manifested before.

A hexagonal formation barrier redirects it back with a bounce, and it goes faster.

The wind remains around the figure, redirecting the lightning once more.

It reflects off again, striking the roof itself rather than directly at the figure.

The figure is unaffected because of the stone roof. "..."

"I hope you understand that I'm not going to stop bothering you until you explain who you are or what you're doing here, or you leave. ...Hmmm. I think I actually might have a faint idea thinking on it..."

She says, as she closes her book. Her eyes look at him, red with dragonic slits. "You wouldn't happen to be ol' Feather Boy from that one attack on the school, would you?" She faintly smiles.

"..." The figure cocks its head to the side.

"Hmm. Let's try another tactic here then. You're probably here for the one lady who showed up here, am I right?"

"..." The figure turns its head to the other side, then goes back to watching the ground.

"...And I suddenly understand why Naki hated silent people." She flicks her tail in annoyance, and the storm subsides.

"..." The figure continues to watch the ground before fading from view.

Ikania continues to roost on the rooftop for a moment, before floating down with her wings down to the nearest courtyard, electing to sit in a corner.

Ikania hears the clashing of swords in the distance.

Ikania quietly approaches the noise.

She sees Alexian and an armored figure dueling, Alexian wielding a jet black sabre while the other wields a short sword of the finest silver.

"...?" She silently observes the situation.

The two appear to be at a stalemate, neither budging at the other's strike. The atmosphere is deathly calm despite the ferocity of the blows exchanged. The clash abruptly comes to an end when both deflect the other's blow and their secondary weapons are drawn, an odd spear in the armored figure's hand and a black shotgun with a skull motif on it in Alexian's.

"Draw." The armored figure's voice rings hollow through the helm as they withdraw their weapon. Alexian does the same, nodding at the assessment.

"Not half bad, a little repetitive though."

"Hmm... A fair assessment."

"..." Ikania says nothing, not reacting.

"So I'm needed in this Kingdom because the real hero hasn't appeared? More things on my to do list," sighs Alexian, "When do I need to head out?"

"Today is preferable, the royal family cannot wait much longer." The armored figure is to the point. "I shall accompany you, if need be, Dark Knight."

"Fine, I'll set out within the hour." With that, Alexian walks off.

Ikania quietly contemplates the scene. Interesting things seem to always happen here. She muses. She turns to leave quietly.

The courtyard is silent, but misty.

"..." She narrows her eyes, but continues moving.

The mist is cold, but natural, however the lack of people is far less so.

"...Yes... never a dull moment, so it would definitively seem."

"No, quite the opposite. The current atmosphere is as dull as it can get. Then again, shifting out of a Secondary Domain back into a universe is generally considered unsettling because of the overwhelming feeling of loneliness." Ku's voice echoes boredly through the area, as if the message had been repeated many of times before hand. "Solitude is a tight rope to walk. Peace and sanity, on the brink, all because people must recognize the acknowledgement of their own existence, even in perverse or cruel ways. Then again, with too many people an individual risks being swallowed up within the whole and their existence may become but a grain of sand on the beach... Balance is... I have no comment on that... If you must know, it serves a purpose, but is equally an extreme as whatever outliers it is the median of... Truly? Such a world is impossible as you remain. You must become your proper self before you can create such a world, now go..."

Ku's voice is washed away as the fog clears and the school appears to become more lively.

"..." Not going to bother...

She continues walking silently.

Ikania finds several groups of people playing various sports in the plain around the school.

After a moment she stops to watch them, curious.

One group seems to be kicking a ball around, another is throwing a ball around and moving strategically while yet another is throwing frisbees with various techniques.

Ikania elects to watch rather than partake, she sits down and watches the first group the most while quietly weaving fire spells in her palm, then watches the various results, most being a firework like result.

The game being played intensifies as a certain point of the field is reached, the occasional tackle being thrown in.

She continues to watch quietly.

The game only goes back and forth, neither side getting the better of the other.

"Hmm. Evenly matched?" She muses.

The game only continues.

She silently rests against a rock.

Everything seems to be going well until a frisbee collides with her forehead after a sudden gust blows.

"...Ow." She grabs the frisbee with a slightly annoyed expression.

"Sorry about that," calls one of the players of the game and gestures for Ikania to throw the frisbee back.

She flicks her tail, then throws it at a rather high speed toward him.

The person catches it with ease, but gives her an odd look before returning to their game.

"..." She straightens a bit, eyes narrowed slightly. What was that about?

She watches the frisbee players for a moment.

The frisbee players continue to throw frisbees within the wind currents, but occasionally the wind jerks one from their hands and sends it on a different course.

Ikania eventually stands up and begins walking toward them quietly, her face a mask.

The frisbee players continue to play.

"...Any room for another?" She eventually speaks.

"If you can provide your own frisbee, yes," responds one of the players.

"..." She blinks. "I suppose I could make one for myself... weight and material composition, or give me one to model mine."

"Plastic, light, rounded, slightly thicker top and rimmed edges. Ten inch diameter."

Ikania opens her hand and a small light forms in her hand until it takes the shape of a Frisbee, materializing into the appropriate form, mass, and material.

"I believe this will suffice."

"Do you know the rules?"

"No. I've never played games."This should be easy enough. The others, I could get over stimulated and hurt someone... this seems much less engaged.

"Disc golf. There are goals scattered throughout the field, you throw your frisbee at said goals and based on the number of throws needed to reach the goal, you are awarded points. Everyone has the same starting point for each goal they are on."

"Alright. Easy enough to understand."

Someone points to a hoop a feet hundred feet away. "First goal. Take two steps back then make the throw."

She silently begins calculating force, distance, and begins to adjust for wind before she tosses the disk.

The others make their throws from the same point aside from a few who are further down and aiming at different hoops.

Ikania watches her disk fly, hoping for her calculations to be correct.

At the last moment, the wind grows stronger, sending all of the thrown disks off their mark by several meters.

"..." She goes to retrieve the frisbee.

"Second round start." 

"..." She throws the frisbee again.

The wind blows, sending the disks off course again, but to a lesser extent than before.

She frowns, suspecting it to be on purpose, and tries again, not after greatly calculating barometrics in her head at a quick rate, adjusting slightly for any deliberate interference.

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