Flick obtained Kinetic-Staff. Quarter Staff lesson recommended.
I was awoken the next morning by the sound of a knock at the door. Fumbling my way out from under the twisted up blankets that I had somehow managed to tie in knots around myself as I slept, I fell out of the bed with a yelp. Flushing, I glanced to the other side of the room, only to find that the black wall that Avalon’s privacy screen had erected was gone. Equally gone was my roommate herself. The bed was empty and neatly made to what looked like military specifications. Actually, I was kind of surprised that there wasn’t a mint sitting on the pillow, to be perfectly honest.
Another knock reminded me of why I was awake, and I picked myself off the floor. Yawning, I glanced down at myself to make sure I looked vaguely presentable before heading over to open it a crack.
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My Fanfics :
Fanfics that I have found interesting and have recently been updated:
A Final Fantasy 7 Fanfic
Summary: Cissnei wanted to save Zack that night, only to find that it was too late. Though she couldn’t bring him back to life, she could keep his legacy alive. That was why she refused to abandon Cloud on his journey, despite going against her former friends and colleagues.
A Bleach Fanfic
Summary: A/U: Victory came at a price. Aizen’s defeat left the Soul Society in shambles, and the balance of souls collapsed. So, Ichigo Kurosaki was sent back in time to stop it from ever happening and arrived that same faithful night that Hisana made the biggest mistake of her life. From there things began anew…
A Naruto Fanfic
Summary: A/U: Leaves spiral in the soft eddy as Naruto meets Karin in the Forest of Death. From that moment on, the two bearing the Clan name carried with them the fate of the Uzumaki and would be forever entwined.
A Valvrave Fanfic
Summary: Post Series. The world falls into chaos. A country struggles to form. The Magius seek ways to remain in control. For his part, Tokishima Soichi couldn’t be happier. They really shouldn’t have left the mad scientist alone.
A Pokemon Fanfic
Summary: Time travel, based on the Anime. So, the world ended. That’s bad news. Who best to get to fix it? Well, there is this guy with a track record in world saving… Not entirely serious. T rating may be overdoing it.
A Pokemon Fanfic
Summary: In a different life Ash Ketchum looks upon his world from an unique perspective.
A Naruto Fanfic
Summary: Character study. An accidental meeting brings Zetsu into Naruto’s life as his tutor. With Zetsu trying to sway Naruto to his own philosophy of “the only one you can rely on is yourself”, Naruto discovers that the world isn’t as black and white as his tutor is, that there are at least two sides to every story, and that he has a lot to learn. Hinted NaruIno and NaruTen; grey!Naruto
A Naruto Fanfic
Summary: Our heroes did not come from a future where everything has gone horribly wrong. They did not travel back in time to save the world from a bleak or miserable fate. As a matter of fact, all they want to do is find a way back home as soon as possible. [cracky, epilogue-compliant time travel fic]
A FSN Fanfic
Summary: Sometimes, the tiniest of changes can have the greatest impact on the world. One chance encounter goes in a new direction, and the course of the Holy Grail War is irrevocably changed…
A FSN / Harry Potter Fanfic
Summary: A retelling of Harry Potter books with the titular character, alongside two other ones readers didn’t really care about, being replaced by three characters (Shirou EMIYA Archer, now known as Shirou von Einzbern; Takara Aozaki Daughter of Shiki and Ciel Aozaki from Tsukihime, with her name unchanged; Jester, with his name becoming Galen Salvatore) from one of his earlier works. With Neville Longbottom being the one of whom the prophecy speaks after an infant Harry Potter’s death at the hands of Lord Voldemort, they are trying to fix what is left of the world they knew from books and movies, to have a place to live.
A FSN / Persona Fanfic
Summary: A chance decision leads to an unlikely discovery. The mention of a rumor leads to an unbelievable mystery. And the connection to a long forgotten family leads to an unforgettable experience. Welcome to Inaba, Yu Narukami… or should I say Shirou Emiya? (Co-Authored by Nameless Flame Wielder)
A Sword Art Online/ Dark Souls Fanfiction
Summary: A fic in which Kayaba decides to put the player’s humanity on test as they try to rekindle the flames, constantly struggling against the Kingseeker system that keep amplifying the difficulty.
A Worm/ Dark Souls Fanfiction
Summary: Nadalia, the Child of Dark, escaped the sovereign’s invasion of the Brume tower, finding refuge in the dark chasm. It was from there that her spirit wandered somewhere else. A place beyond the scope of light. Beyond the reach of Dark.Finding a very special mortal girl.Seek strength Taylor. The rest… will follow.
A Worm/ Dishonored Fanfiction
Summary: When Taylor went into the locker, she drew the attention of two beings. One offered an absent thought, and a broken tool that wasn’t even meant for her. The other took a more personal approach.
A Worm/Supreme Commander Fanfiction
Summary: A Worm Fic. Frustrated with her school life, Taylor Hebert dons an unfinished costume and goes off into the night to fight crime as a superhero. She stumbles across an infamous crime lord, Lung, talking about killing some kids. Taylor decides she has no choice but to act……and Lung kicks her ass. Not because she’s weak. Far from it. Taylor Hebert is hamstrung by being a moral person with an exceptionally lethal power set, one with horrifying and even potentially global implications.
A Worm Fanfiction
Summary: A continuation fic focusing on Taylor Hebert’s life following the climactic conclusion of Golden Morning and a lengthy recovery period. Taylor has her feet under her now, and grimly prepares to face a world she had thought beyond her, that of a normal young woman.
A Worm x Ben 10 Fanfiction
Summary: Ben Tennyson finds himself in another world. Another world, where he isn’t the only one out there saving lives and fighting villains. But whatever world he is in, it can always be Hero Time.
A Worm Fanfiction
Summary: For Taylor Hebert, death was just the beginning. Reincarnated into an alternate reality version of herself she awakens to find herself trapped in a very familiar locker. Now armed with knowledge of her previous life and the ability to not just control bugs but also manipulate their biology, Taylor sets off to do what she always wanted to: be a superhero.
A Worm Fanfiction
Summary: In the wake of the Locker Incident, Taylor goes comatose. Wracked with guilt, Emma and Madison trigger. Things spiral from there as they quickly go different routes, both seeking redemption in a different way.
A Worm Fanfiction
Summary: In a world where Eden managed to land safely, Emma Barnes seeks strength to put Taylor in her place as she triggers with Oni Lee’s power. Enter Wyrm.
A Worm Fanfiction
Summary: Taylor triggers with a different power. With the ability to see the auras of those around her, as well as to imbue items with her own emotions, Taylor’s life takes a different direction.
A Worm Fanfiction
Summary: Sequel to Wake and Cenotaph with Taylor as an independent Rogue/Vigilante.
Huh, for a second I thought I was reading Pact again and the kid was a diabolist that made even the Thorburns look tame… *Shudder*
The boy in the dark blue ski cap that failed to entirely contain the nest of wild blond hair stood in the candy aisle of the convenience store. Nail-chewed fingers ran carefully along the brightly colored wrappings as he hemmed and hawed over his choices. Occasionally, the boy consulted the crumpled dollar bills clutched tightly in his other hand as though checking to ensure that more had not spontaneously appeared to spare him from being forced to choose between his treasured treats.
Faced with the reality that magic money wasn’t about to manifest itself, the boy finally chose a single candy bar. Turning on his heel, he walked to the cooler section where the sodas were kept. A man in a hooded raincoat turned away from his own intense perusal of beverages long enough to give the boy a long, penetrating stare. He said nothing, content to simply…
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Privacy Walls, the greatest inventions ever!
For a meal that had been both quicker and more convenient than anything my good old friend, Mr. Microwave could have whipped up, the food here was pretty damn good. Scratch that, it was good regardless of how quickly it had come out. Dad and I had gotten to be decent at putting meals together, but we were still dependent on boxes with things like ‘ready in fifteen minutes’ written on the label.
I scraped the plate clean entirely and was just putting the fork down when the collective scraping of chairs drew my attention back toward the front. The Headmistress was standing again, though she seemed fairly content to wait until everyone looked at her before she began speaking. She drew attention not by demanding it, but simply by expecting it to be given. Force of personality, rather than loud words eventually drew the eyes of every…
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What’s a pet that you don’t have to clean up after? If you guessed ‘a rock’ then congrats.
“And this is what they call the Pathmaker,” Sands announced toward the end of a brief tour of the school grounds some time later. She held a hand up to stop us a few feet away from the entrance of the place, then pivoted around to face us. “Anyone wanna guess what that means?”
Most of what the twins had shown us had been covered earlier by Professor Dare when she had pointed out each of the main buildings. There were also a couple sport fields behind the athletic facilities that I hadn’t noticed, and more gardens than seemed normal for a school to have. But for the most part, everything was seemed to be pretty standard facilities. Except for this particular building.
Up close, the lower case t shape was more pronounced. It was a good eight stories tall, with the horizontal part of the t consisting…
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[-|Back in the Game |-]
Author’s Note: The Broodspider of the Forest used Poison Sting. It’s Super Effective!
[Chapter 3 -o0o- Start]
Shiroe found himself wincing as the Field Boss lashed out while the Swashbuckler was in the middle of his out-of-game attack pattern, striking him full-on with one of its limbs wreathed in a maleficent shade of purple. The weight, combined with its size and the fact that he hadn’t been on the ground, was enough to penetrate his abdomen and leave him skewered upon the outstretched limb.
He had lost a significant chunk of his health but, considering his scream, it was safe to say the pain outweighed that. Made worse was the fact that monster raised him further into the air and was aiming a second leg for his head. Thankfully, Akatsuki leapt from atop the spider and grabbed him, pulling him off the limb-turned-pike in time.
Freed, the Swashbuckler planted his swords into the ground to support his weight as she released him, panting with heated breath. Sweat rolled down his face, stinging his eyes as he fought for breath, and there was a purple stain where the limb had run him through along with the icon for poison displayed near his health bar. The Gain Immunity spell only raised the resistance, but that strike had impaled his avatar and likely had a 100% chance of poisoning.
There was nothing he could do about the ailment until it wore off on its own. ‘Mister Kirito, you should retreat.‘
‘Not yet!‘ The Swashbuckler tightened his grip on his blades as the Field Boss came for him again. Naotsugu moved to intercept it in time, catching the poisonous fangs on his shield despite the fact that it began to ruin the color and smolder upon the metal. It would break soon enough.
Then it brought its front legs around from both sides, as though it was going to close in like a set of pincers with poisoned tips spearing for his unprotected head. He couldn’t retreat with the weight upon his shield, and from the glow forming on it the Shield Bash would likely be a second too slow to stop it.
Akatsuki took the pincer on the left, using her blade in a defensive posture to curve it around and stop it. The one on the right still went unimpeded and would likely have gone through their Tank’s head if not for the black and white blades of the Swashbuckler cleaving through the leg entirely with a critical hit. Naotsugu finished his Shield Bash, using his Avatar’s strength stat and the technique’s knockback to send it backwards three or so steps, allowing them to scatter again as the severed leg barely hindered it with the rest available.
As the battle continued, Shiroe noticed that despite still being in pain, the Swashbuckler’s efficiency with his swordsmanship hadn’t suffered, even if his movements had. That didn’t make any sense. Why was one aspect spared from the debilitating effects of his wound and the poison coursing through his system but not the other?
He used Astral Bind to tangle up the Broodspider of the Forest’s legs as he thought about it more. Shiroe was quite familiar with the benefits of a number of Sub-Classes and the lore behind them. There was one in particular that came into mind, the one that belonged to Soujirou from their time in the Debauchery Tea Party—which reminded him he should check on the other members to see if they were in the game once all of this was over.
Sword Saint was the Sub-Class and the lore expressed proficiency with swords through countless hours of practice and meditation, until they became one with the sword and able to wield it without a loss of skill under even the most dire of situations. In the game that meant the higher the level, the lower the loss of dexterity when using swords despite the condition of the avatar. It seemed that in this world that meant he could use his sword effectively while being injured and poisoned.
Regardless, it seemed they had exhausted all of the Field Boss’ attack patterns now. Having seen it all, Shiroe proceeded to guide them through the rest of the battle until its health dropped to zero. With a burst of prismatic bubbles that rose into the sky, gold coins appeared in a nice pile with some vials, bundles of silk, and what looked to be a pair of Cheliceral Fangs.
The Swashbuckler set it to divide amongst the gathered evenly and then turned to face the trio who had lent him a hand. “Thanks for the assist. I don’t think I could have dealt with it alone after all.”
“Are you okay?” Naotsugu asked as he pointed to the wound that was still stained by the poison.
The Swashbuckler brushed it off nonchalantly while sheathing his swords with a flourish, as though it was of no major consequence. “Not the first time I’ve been run-through.”
Too bad his expression as he finished was more in-tune with how he really felt, making it clear to them he was still in a great deal of pain. Shiroe offered him an elixir. “Here.”
He looked at it with a note of surprise before shrugging his shoulder and drinking it down. His health shot back up and the status condition was erased. He sighed before taking a closer look at them now that they weren’t in the middle of a fight.
“So what did you want to ask me badly enough to follow me this far out?” They all gave him a somewhat surprised look. The Swashbuckler rolled his eyes. “The chances of running into another group of players so quickly after the events that brought us here were next to none, let alone someone willing to throw themselves headfirst into a Field Boss fight where pain is a factor. Not to mention you appeared before the actual fighting started so there was no sound to draw you in, and you didn’t have the aliment-resistance spell in place before entering the clearing which would start the fight. Am I wrong?”
“… Kid’s good,” Naotsugu said, sounding mildly impressed. “Saw right through you, Mastermind.”
Shiroe shot him a minor look of annoyance as he adjusted his glasses, the glint of the morning light obstructing his eyes as he did so. “In truth, we’d hoped to ask you some questions. We didn’t mean any disrespect if it was construed that way.”
He shook his head. “No harm done. That’s how things work. It’s a trade-off. I’ll be happy to answer your questions, but for now let’s head back to the hub city. We don’t know how long it will take for the boss to respawn and I’d rather not do that again so soon.”
They all nodded and used the ‘Call to Home’ spell, vanishing in flashes of light.
[SAO -o0o- LH]
As they touched down right outside of Akiba, Kirito couldn’t help but mull over what this experience had taught him. More than half of what that boss could do wasn’t something that would have been possible when they were still playing from the other side of the screen. It was almost like a Floor Boss in SAO in how it acted. That could prove troublesome if a Field Boss of that caliber out up so much of a fight against four Level 90 players.
“To be formal, I’ll introduce myself properly,” Kirito said to the others, turning to face them once again. “My name is Kirito. I’m a Swashbuckler with the Sub-Class of Sword Saint. As you can probably guess, I’m also a SAO survivor—a former Clearer.”
The Enchanter nodded his head and did the same. “My name is Shiroe. I’m an Enchanter-Scribe.”
“My name is Akatsuki, a Level 90 Assassin-Tracker,” said the girl. She looked young, maybe around eight or nine, though she seemed to carry herself as though she was older. Her build made her seem more like a ninja as well. “I am My Lord’s shadow and protector.”
The Tank was last and the most eager. He pointed his thumb at himself and grinned. “And I’m Naotsugu, a Guardian-Border Patrol.”
“Nice to meet all of you,” Kirito said again. “Now, how can I help you?”
“Would you be willing to tell me, how do these circumstances compare to Sword Art Online?” the Enchanter asked. “I’m trying to gather as much information as I can. I know it can be a sensitive topic, but—”
Kirito shook his head. He would not lie, if asked. He’d learned from his mistakes. No matter how uncomfortable the truth or topic was, he’d be honest. “Right now getting as much information as possible is more important than my comfort. I’ll be as truthful as I can. Ask away.”
“Let’s start with why you’re out here alone?” Shiroe asked.
“Testing the combat system,” Kirito explained. “For a number of reasons, one of which being I needed to see how well I could function here compared to SAO. I messed up because the boss wasn’t staggered or stun-locked, but I’ll be able to make it work with some doing.”
Naotsugu raised his hand to ask the next question. “Weren’t you afraid, fighting like that? Even knowing you would come back to life if you were killed?”
“Mmmm.” He scratched his cheek in thought. “Not as much as I should have, I guess. I’ve been through this before as a Clearer and only a few months have passed since SAO was cleared, so the combat experience hasn’t faded away—deteriorated to an extent, maybe. The fact that I’ll respawn does nothing to deter me on that front.”
“So, if there’s no death, do you think more people will fight?” Shiroe asked. “I mean, if we had to actually clear a raid dungeon in order to fulfill some sort of condition? From what I’ve gathered, that was the case, wasn’t it?”
Kirito shook his head. “During SAO, the majority of the players retired to safe floors and left the clearing of the game to Clearers or Front-Liners. That’s because the majority were terrified of dying, terrified of facing monsters, and left it to others to shoulder the responsibility. In this case, pain is the deterrent rather than death.”
He looked down to his leg and stomach, where he had gotten bitten and pierced respectively. “I can still remember that kind of pain even after being healed, so imagine being eaten alive and feeling the fangs tear into you until you died and then came back. Knowing that it would happen again if you ventured out, how many times could you go through it before you lost the will to fight entirely? We’ll be lucky if more than a tenth of the players go out of designated Safe Zones until they’ve come to terms with it.”
“Hmm, that could be a problem if those same conditions come up then….” Shiroe looked to the sky for a brief moment in thought. “They’ll likely try to wait it out then, thinking it’s still a game.”
“Which leads up to another problem,” Kirito said. “I can’t say it’s exactly like SAO, but the fact is that it’s close enough. No one, especially not the few SAO veterans likely to have been playing when we got sucked in, will believe that outside help will arrive. Not after we had to get out ourselves after two years. The fact that there has been no announcement on the clearing conditions and no clearing goal for people to strive for will eventually take its toll because they don’t see any way for them to get back to their old lives. Strictly speaking, the ones that don’t adapt will either go mad, take it out on others, or… just give up entirely.”
There had been a number of players who did the same in SAO, believing that the one-hundred floors couldn’t be conquered. Those that hoped with all their hearts that being trapped was a lie or had reached the limits of their despair often flung themselves over the edge of the floor to their deaths like Keita. The retired players that never ventured out beyond earning enough for the cheapest living conditions and food, eventually falling prey to either the corrupt members of The Army or going insane.
Naotsugu frowned. “Yeah. I know someone who went through that. It’s rough on them.”
“It gets worse when you think about it,” Kirito added. “Think about the four types of players who participate in this sort of game.”
Naotsugu scratched his head at that while Akatsuki looked towards Shiroe, who frowned. “Bartle’s Taxonomy, you mean?”
Kirito nodded. It was an old method used to determine the types of people who played MMOs and why they did it. It was broken into four groups: Diamonds, Spades, Hearts, and Clubs.
Diamonds were Achievers—people who played the game in order to accomplish something. They wanted beat the game, max their levels, collect the prizes, just things that warranted them going above and beyond the limit. Anything that acknowledged what they had done. The DDD and Silver Sword guilds were fine examples of those types of players.
Spades were Explorers—people who would be willing to traverse the game in order to find new content, finding joy in the vast world. Whether it was discovering how the system worked or treading ground no one else had, they leveled up so that they could go unhindered rather than beating the game. The Debauchery Tea Party was essentially composed of those types of players under Kanami.
Hearts were Socializers—people who used the game as a medium to connect with others. Being a worldwide MMO, Elder Tales easily connected people who were all over the world through the use of different servers and the Fairy Rings. Casual players were likely to fall into this role, using it as a way to remain close to someone distant—like Asuna did with Kirito.
Clubs were the Killers—people who played the game to lord over others, gaining satisfaction by asserting dominance. While trolls and PK’ers were the more common variety, you also had leaders who held power through force, traders who exploited a monopoly, or a guild that locked down and hogged a farming area for their own sake.
Shiroe’s eyes narrowed a bit when it clicked. “You’re afraid those that fall into the Killers-group would take advantage of it.”
Kirito was tight-lipped as he nodded. His thought turned to Coper, and how he had tried to get him killed. He imagined that same scenario playing out here, and how his death would have been far more gruesome as he was devoured in his ambition to gain a good weapon early on. Would that same scene play out here, by chance?
“It took around a year for psychos like those in Laughing Coffin to sprout up in full, but even before then there were others. How long do you think it will take here, when something similar has happened in the past? Especially when you consider how the still-living members got away with murder when the game ended?”
“Hmmm…” Shiroe brought his hand up to his chin and spoke his thoughts aloud. “The Royal Guard will attack any Adventurer inside of the city who strikes someone else, but what about outside of it? What’s stopping someone from robbing others of their goods under the threat of pain? Or torturing them?”
“Exactly,” Kirito said. There were limited and rate items, competition over them was likely to erupt too. And, if the PvP was anything like Kirito remembered, then you could loot corpses before they dissipated and were respawned in the Cathedral. How long before pain no longer became a deterrent but a tool?
“They can’t really do that, can they?” Naotsugu asked.
Shiroe nodded his head. “There’s no law against it because that sort of thing was an out-of-context problem. Unlike Sword Art Online, which had things like a harassment feature, this game was never meant to be played this way. You’re not limited to what you can do behind a keyboard, that fight showed us that much.”
Kirito joined in. “You saw me. I was capable of moving however I pleased and swinging my sword however I wanted. Something like that not being planned for means that it can be abused. Once people get past the initial shock and figure it out, they’ll start jumping into different groups and guilds like gangs, fighting and taking advantage of each other it. I’ve seen it before.”
“Troubling,” Akatsuki said.
“People will do whatever they want unless there’s some way to enforce a set of laws and standards or at least the capability to dole out some measure of proportional punishment,” Shiroe said. “Beyond the Royal Guards, we don’t have that luxury anymore.”
“In SAO, The Army handled most of that—monitoring the jail and such,” Kirito said. “But, under a single person, they became rotten and corrupt. The leader then arranged for his competition to be left for dead in a dungeon and his men were so far gone that they were shaking down a woman who ran the only orphanage in the game and children. It was fortunate that Thinker managed to get out of the trap alive, but what was stopping it from happening again here?”
“There were no checks and balances then.” Shiroe mused softly. “It’s safe to say the very same thing could happen to multiple guilds as well. The larger guilds won’t have any trouble pushing around the smaller ones. Some of them I know have reasonable leaders, but others I can’t be so sure about.”
“Then we knock them around,” Naotsugu stated. “If they’re going to get their rocks off on hurting people because they’re bigger, we hit them harder.”
“No, it won’t be that simple,” Shiroe countered. “We can handle ourselves because we know what we’re doing. Same goes for other veterans. Our stats make things like gender, age, and size non-issue in terms of fighting ability.”
Naotsugu looked down to Akatsuki at that. “Hmm… I guess you got a point. Even a squirt like her could handle—AHHH!”
Akatsuki promptly kicked him before she turned to Shiroe. “My Lord, may I hurt him for insinuating disrespectful things about me?”
“You already did!” Naotsugu pointed out, holding his shin where she had kicked. He was wearing leg guards and it still looked like it hurt. “Ow, geez it was just a joke!”
A sweat-drop appeared on Shiroe’s brow before he turned back to Kirito. “As I was saying, we’ll be fine but what about players who are younger and inexperienced?”
Kirito scowled. “I came into the game with my younger sister and a few others, two of whom aren’t even Level 30. They barely know the basics. If someone stronger wanted to take advantage of them, it would be no trouble at all. I can guarantee you that someone will see all these helpless players and then take advantage of them, trying to make their lives better at the expense of others who will want safety or security, all because they have no clue what’s going on and no goal to aim for.”
“So, in other words, the newbs will need someone to look out for them,” Naotsugu said, still kneeling and holding his shin.
“Not just look out for them,” Kirito told him, thinking back to Sachi and the others. If he had been honest with them, taught them how to spot obvious traps, or trained them, rather than pretending to be their level, would they still be alive? “If we just look over their shoulders and protect them alone, they won’t get stronger or know how to survive in the event something happens. They have to at least be taught, but that requires more than just one person telling them what to do.”
Akatsuki looked pensive herself. “There are a lot more problems than I had considered. It looks quite dire.”
Shiroe dipped his head once in her direction. “Correct Mis—”
“Just. Akatsuki,” she said in a clipped tone, a pout on her face.
“Er, right, Akatsuki.” Shiroe cleared his throat. “And these are just the ones that come to the forefront, not even long term.”
“And there are no solutions to any of them yet,” Kirito finished, a sad smile forming on his face. “If it’s a matter that can be handled with a sword, I can deal with it. But I was a Soloer for most of SAO. I’m not someone who can solve these problems. The best I can do for now is keeping the people closest to me safe. I dragged them into this, so it’s the least I can do.”
Speaking of those people, Klein appeared in the same flash of light they had. He must’ve used the same spell from inside the city after spotting Kirito on his map. The samurai boldly walked up to the younger swordsman and bopped him on the head with the bottom of his fist. “Idiot!”
“What was that for?” Kirito demanded.
“For running off to fight a Field Boss on your own!” he claimed. “Your cousin was worried sick!”
Kirito’s eyes furrowed in mild anger at that. “You told her?”
“I could have told Asuna too,” Klein coolly pointed out. He made the same gesture from SAO to bring up the menu, a sort of mental shorthand from habit no doubt. “In fact—”
Kirito held both hands up in surrender. “Okay, okay. Let’s not go that far.”
“Then go see your sister and Silica,” Klein ordered. “Pronto.”
Kirito sighed before turning back to the trio. “Sorry, but I have to deal with this. I really shouldn’t have left them alone in the first place to run off.”
“Perfectly understandable,” Shiroe said. “Besides, you’ve given me a lot more information than I expected. I’ll be thinking on it for a while.”
Kirito opened his menu and removed himself from the party before he sent them all a request to be added to their list of contacts. They all accepted, albeit it with some hesitation from Shiroe. Kirito then gave Klein a pat on the back that sent him a staggering forward a step.
“If you want even more information about the managing of minor guilds and such, he’ll likely be the one you want to ask,” he told them. “Klein ran one. Anything else, you’re on my contact list now so we can message that way. I’ll keep you updated if I learn anything new. It was pleasure working with you.”
With that said, he ran off towards where he had left the girls. When he arrived, Silica seemed downtrodden, almost lifeless as she sat there while her dragon gently poked and prodded her for a response. He felt even worse now and understood why Klein came to him.
“Onii-chan, you’re back,” Suguha said. “I was so worried about you when he told me you were fighting a Field Boss. I was going to try and send a message, but he said it might distract you in the field.”
“I’m fine, Sugu.” He came to a stop in front of Silica and crouched down. “Silica, what’s wrong?”
“I want to go home,” she said. Her voice was so soft that it barely reached his ears. “I thought after what happened before, it was finally over. And yet, I’m stuck in another strange place all over again. We’re going to have to fight and get hurt to get out again, I just know it.”
This is my fault, Kirito told himself. He invited her into the game because she wanted to stay connected to him. This was the end result.
He licked his lips nervously and took a deep breath. “I won’t force either of you to fight if you’re scared. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to. The last time I did that, it cost someone their life. I won’t make that mistake ever again.”
Once more his thoughts went back to Sachi, and how her death stemmed from what happened with Illfang’s defeat. Kayaba had trapped them, two-thousand people had died, and the other players needed someone to victimize, making it easy for an idiot like Kibaou to lay the blame of the beta-testers taking advantage of the other players.
Given he became corrupt by the end and that beta-testers hadn’t gone past the first few floors, it was stupid and should have stopped being relevant by then. Yet the label and the stigma it carried remained throughout the two years. Looking back, his first mistake was not trying to calm the crowd down and explaining things.
Instead, he tried to take all the blame on his shoulders with that act. He tried to be something he wasn’t, and all it did was make it seem like he was the worst of a bad bunch. He was The Beater, a mantle he had to hide from others, and because he hid it the Moonlit Black Cats were ultimately wiped out.
Had he never met them, would they have gone to explore that dungeon? Would Sachi have just stayed behind and been okay? It didn’t matter in the end. There were no ‘ifs’ when it came to the past. They were all dead because of him.
“I won’t lie to you,” he confessed. “I don’t know how to fix this. I can’t promise that I’ll get us home. The best I can do is promise to try and fight on your behalf if it comes down to it. But you can’t give up and remain like this, lifeless and hollow inside. You have to keep going, so that when the time comes and a way home does open up, you’ll be able to reach it with your own two feet.”
Pina stirred and prodded her again at that, as if compounding his point. She picked her Waterfowl Dragon Pup up and held it tight to her chest. It cooed at her warmth.
“Okay,” she said softly. “I’ll try not to.”
“The same goes for you, Sugu,” he said. “If you don’t want to fight, I won’t make you. But you need to find some reason to keep going on here. Just until we can make it back.”
She seemed uncertain herself, but nodded. “Right…”
[LH -o0o- SAO]
After the Samurai left, the trio wandered about the near-abandoned streets of Akiba with no destination in particular in mind. Shiroe himself was deep in thought, merely trailing behind the others while moving on auto-pilot.
When things do go bad, they’ll go bad in a hurry, Shiroe noted to himself. How long will it be before then? Maybe two or so weeks? Even if he said that no one would believe in the government to get them out, they’ll hold onto whatever they can out of desperation. So once those faint glimmers of hope at a rescue die down….
“My Lord,” Akatsuki called, snapping him out of it. “You looked troubled.”
He gave her a half-hearted smile. “While it was fortunate Mister Kirito and Mister Klein were so forthcoming, it’s given me a lot to think about.”
“It does paint an ugly picture,” Naotsugu said as he walked ahead, hands on the back of his head. “Makes you wonder who’d want to put a bunch of people into a game again after that happened?”
“That’s working on the assumption we’re still in a game,” Shiroe said. “For all we know, we could have been pulled into another world entirely.”
Natosugu craned his head around at that. “What makes you think that?”
“Just a thought that came to mind,” he said. “No conclusive evidence, but I’m considering all the possibilities at this point. Besides—”
“Shiroeeee!” said a bell-like voice in the somber quiet surrounding them. They turned towards the source of the voice, a slender and well-endowed elf heading towards them. “I finally found you!”
“Maryelle?” Shiroe blinked, somewhat dumbfounded. “What are you doing out here?”
“I was looking for you,” she said, placing a hand on her chest as she huffed. “Someone said they saw you leaving town and so I thought that meant you had found something out.”
“Have you been searching for me all this time?” he asked.
“That’s right!” She glomped him enthusiastically as he stood there. “I couldn’t find you and I was worried I didn’t know what to do!”
“Hello, Pretty Lady.” Naotsugu stepped forward and put on a smile. “I don’t think we’ve had the pleasure of meeting, have we?”
She looked him up and down, resting her hand against her cheek. “You’re quite buff, aren’t you?”
“Uh, as riveting as this is, what’s so important you spent all this time searching for me?” Shiroe asked. “And you could have just called me, you know?”
“Well there’s no point in dwelling on that now.” She tugged the Enchanter along with her. “Come on, we can talk at my Guild Hall. Henrietta wants to see you too.”
The other two watched as she dragged him along before shooting one another a glance. Akatsuki then darted ahead to remain next to her lord’s side as Maryelle led them to her Guild. Naotsugu shrugged his shoulders, placed his hands back behind his head, and went after them at a leisurely pace.
[Chapter 3 -o0o- End]
Notes: The main advantage that the SAO Clearers and ALO Veterans is that they know how to fight within the confines of the game world and can adapt to the sudden shift in ability. To quote Shiroe from the English Dub of Episode 2:
‘Using the system and mastering it are two different things entirely.‘
Likewise, they are less fearful of fighting monsters because they are used to it. However, this distinction is only relevant for the first few months or so as the others players become more accustomed to combat and danger. The addition of pain will also play a factor, as mentioned above.
We gain a bit more insight into Lucifer’s character in the first issue of the main series alone, where she resolves to kill Dietrich because he would kill Val before he would let her pay off her debt. She hates having to defile a corpse in order to access a demonic realm using a knife called an eye-tooth, but advises the poor coroner who witnesses her come out to not bother reporting it because she’d be long gone and no one would believe him. It’s made evident in the second issue that’s she’s lived a hard enough life on the street that she knows how to fight dirty. So from the beginning we know that she can be spiteful to those that cross her, cares about those who love her, and tries to keep civilians out of these matters. When she becomes the Thief, the next Keeper of Secrets after the Harlot, she cites who she was before was dead, but traces of it still leaked in until she eventually gave the mantle to Madam Cymbaline.
Lucifer doesn’t see herself as feminine, not that she can’t play it up, and loathes the idea of wearing dresses. She considers herself a magic-user, but not a witch. The people she works with in both series are her lifeline and strongest ties to morality, and without them she is capable of being just as dangerous as the people she faces. The moment Val is killed and Lucifer loses one of the few remaining connections she has, she immediately stops playing nice and does things that are bad enough that it risks the very world itself and other gods are willing to punish her for it. Despite that, it’s made clear that she doesn’t want to do bad things and the path to redemption isn’t beyond her.
The Harlot is the Keeper of Secrets, an immortal being that is constantly being filled with the knowledge of the world and thus driven either mad or in immense pain by it. Her true identity is Fastrada, a woman born with magical powers hundreds of years ago. With the Witch Hunts going on, her sisters came up with the idea of gaining true power by sacrificing their children, all of whom did except for her. To protect her child, she became the Harlot from the previous Keeper of Secrets and lost her child at the same time. What happens to her child becomes the secret that is kept from her as the Harlot, only to be learned once a new Keeper of Secrets is found.
At some point in the past she marked Lucifer as the next Keeper of Secrets, though the Witchdom book cites Lucifer stole something from her and the Harlot used her as a pawn in turn, marking her after the Keeper of Secrets was the last major power left in the Aether. I’d take it with a grain of salt, but the point I’m making is that whatever reason she marked her and whatever grievances that Lucifer has with her, the Harlot bears with it because in a spiritual sense she does see her as the daughter that she lost as a mortal upon becoming the Harlot.
She doesn’t like being denounced a witch because whereas the rest of her sisters were willing to kill their children to gain power, she was willing to throw her mortal life away in an attempt to protect hers. She comes to realize, after learning that her child died alone and miserable at an early age from illness in an orphanage, Lucifer was the child she was supposed to protect. This is made clear as her final actions in the series serve to protect Lucifer from all those who were willing to harm her at the cost of herself, sucking them into the realm that the Yellow Crown leads to.
Val is an art curator who just so happens to collect dangerous magical artifacts to keep them out of the wrong hands. From beginning to the end, she was a motherly figure to both Raina and Lucifer. She was the first person to refer to Lucifer’s name as being lovely for a girl, and happens to be very protective of the two under her care.
She isn’t afraid to get rough to protect them or herself, proven when she killed Dietrich’s men, gutted Yves with a spear, and confronted the Harlot. The only time she truly gets furious with Lucifer was when she killed herself to get into the Shade. Likewise, she was willing to die in order to keep Lucifer safe and left behind a parting gift—a message telling her that she would await her in Heaven.
Madam Cymbaline is a minor character in the first series, but becomes the main antagonist in the second. She is a powerful figure in the magical community, and both villains before her, Dietrich and Yves, attempt to remove her from power only to fail due to Lucifer’s assistance. Despite that, she still yearns for more power to bring the Graeae back into a position of power they’ve been cast out of by the Harlot.
For the most part, Madam Cymbaline holds no strong feelings against Lucifer initially. She just so happens to be in her way, and killing Lucifer is the most efficient means of being rid of her. Likewise, Lucifer recognizes that she’s an important figure in the community and getting rid of her would do more harm than good. By the end, both absolutely loathe one another because they both crossed lines that the other could no longer tolerate—killing Val for Lucifer, and costing her the chance to become the next Keeper of Secrets for Madam Cymbaline.
Madam Cymbaline is the opposite of the Harlot, both powerful figures in the world of magic whose ties to their sisters bind them to their fate. But while the Harlot managed to resist her sisters, Madam Cymbaline goes along with their plans in order to bring them back to glory. The net result is that she briefly becomes a god and attains her goal, only to lose everything in the end.
Raina is new to all of this and, through circumstances somewhat beyond her control, becomes capable of using Necromancy. Val wanted her to take a break so she didn’t witness what Lucifer and Val were doing, namely going into a painting to pull a security guard named Bob out of it after he had a heart attack and getting him medical treatment. In the process they accidentally freed Yves, who stole Raina’s soul. Lucifer goes into the Shade and uses a mask to retrieve it or something similar and the end result is that Raina owes the Keeper of Secrets a debt. Afterwards, she accompanies Lucifer until she becomes the Thief and then proceeds to work to free her from the role. At the end of the series, she opens an art gallery like Val did with Lucifer at her side.
The overarching plot of both Hexed series serves to show Lucifer’s struggles in the face of the life she’s lived and her efforts to find redemption. She’s done bad things and has had to struggle to survive, but ultimately chooses what’s best for the world over what’s best for herself… right up until it gets someone she loved killed. After that, she becomes lost in her rage and grief, willing to potentially damn the world in an effort to get revenge. Only then we see that the friendships she forged enabled her to escape from the role she took up and give her a chance at true redemption.
She’s someone who’s teetering on the edge despite her best efforts and does eventually jump over the line, but because of the friendship she forged with Raina and Bob, and the matronly figures of the Harlot and Val, she’s given the chance to be free of it all.
The series was magnificent through and through, and I don’t just say that because I like Urban Fantasy of this nature. If you enjoy a story of magic in the modern world, aren’t afraid of blood or death, and the struggles of an experienced protagonist working to go against forces greater than her, I’d suggest giving it a read.
5 out of 5.
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One thing about this place to note: Better weather than Hogwarts.
Moments later, Sands and Scout were leading our little group of bystander-kin out of the lighthouse and back along the trail toward the dorm buildings Professor Dare had pointed out to me. The others were chatting about the things they’d seen, but my mind was stuck on that little revelation.
Right, so the headmistress of this super secret magic school happened to be the woman who had sworn to kill my ancestor however many centuries ago. That in itself raised about a bazillion questions, starting with: how old was she? Was I wrong about how long ago it had been? Their clothing, mannerisms, and everything else said that they were from the medieval era, but she was still alive.
Magic. As soon as I thought the question, the answer came to me. Of course it was magic. Why was I questioning it? I’d just stepped through an empty
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Sometimes you have heroic ancestors. Other times… well, see for yourself.
Professor Dare’s voice faded into the background, transitioning into a distant rumble of thunder. The blinding light gradually lessened, leaving spots on my vision for a few more seconds until I could finally see again. Which was good, except that what I was seeing wasn’t at all what I should have been.
I wasn’t standing at the top of that lighthouse anymore. Instead, my feet were planted firmly on a rocky, volcanic landscape. The ground beneath me was as black as obsidian, and hot enough that I could feel the warmth through my shoes. The area was lit by various fires throughout the rocky, uneven terrain, and I could see a river of lava in the distance that emerged from a dark and utterly forbidding cave.
Spinning in a circle, eyes wide, I searched for anything that might tell me what the hell was going on. Nothing. No…
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The second series, introduced in 2014 brings us back to the story of Lucifer working for Val again to get a rare painting frame. However, this brings her into conflict with mercenaries and a security guard named Bob ends up having a heart attack from witnessing it. Lucifer ends up sealing him inside of the painting and bringing him to Val, who is working with an intern named Raina. The painting turns out to contain a Madam Cymbaline’s brother who wants revenge and steals Raina’s soul, leading to Lucifer to go to the Harlot for a way to retrieve it.
She has to kill herself to get into the Shade and Yves ends up going after Val for an item and gets gutted by her when she has to protect the newly awakened Raina, after learning Lucifer killed herself. Raina makes a deal with the Harlot to bring her back to life, and Yves and Madam Cymbaline end up crashing Val’s gallery and burning it down. Yves is killed and most of Val’s artifacts are confiscated as a result.
Now without her gallery and most of her artifacts confiscated, Val must work out of a less reputable location and get them all back with Lucifer’s help. She also hired Bob to work for her, so there’s that too. However, Lucifer and Val get into an argument over an artifact that Madam Cymbaline covets known as the Yellow Crown, due to it being able to mind control others. Madam Cymbaline is willing to remove her hex for it and makes it clear that she’ll kill Val if Lucifer doesn’t give it to her, but Val doesn’t care for her own life compared to keeping it out of the former’s hands.
In the end, Lucifer tosses it into a realm where the sands of the desert rob you of your memories and Madam Cymbaline kills Val and her cat. Enraged, Lucifer proceeds to kill a number of Madam Cymbaline’s servants and then summons a devil that other gods died to keep out of the mortal realm, knowing full well that the gods would try to punish her for it. So she goes to the Harlot and takes on the role of the Keeper of Secrets.
After this, Raina works with Bob to try and free Lucifer, who is now the Thief, from her role with the help of the former Harlot—whose real name is Fastrada. She was a witch during the 1600s that fell in love with a man only for him to learn that she was a witch after they had a child. This was orchestrated by her sisters, who wanted to complete a ritual that involved sacrificing her baby. In the end, she banished them to the Shade but had to become the Harlot in order to do so, leaving the secret of what happened to her child forever out of her reach.
Lucifer, now the Thief, has this secret but is only willing to give it to her for the Yellow Crown as Madam Cymbaline comes for her. Because Madam Cymbaline managed to get rid of the devil Lucifer summoned, the gods elevated her into being one in order to get revenge on Lucifer. So, while the two of them do battle, Raina and Fastrada retrieve the Yellow Crown at the expense of Bob being trapped inside of the realm where he forgets who he is.
They return with it just as Lucifer is on the verge of defeat and is forced to give up her role as the Keeper of Secrets to buy time long enough for Fastrada to use the Yellow Crown and pull herself, Madam Cymbaline, and her sisters into a realm where they can never harm anyone else. Lucifer tells her the secret she wants, that her daughter had been adopted and lived a long and healthy life, but she knows it’s a lie. Her daughter caught an illness and died in an orphanage, but she recognizes that Lucifer was the child she was meant to look after and protect in her place.
In the end, Lucifer and Raina reopen Val’s art gallery and retrieve Bob, who goes on to his honeymoon. They find out that Val had a painting commissioned for Lucifer, where she finds a message telling her that she’d be waiting for Lucifer in Heaven along with feather from when she had an angel’s wings in the first series.
That’s about it for Part 2. Next week, we’ll look into a summary of the characters and the overarching plot and development the characters go through.
I expected to feel disoriented or nauseous after passing through the doorway. There should have been some physical indication of what had just happened. Yet, in spite of taking the time to brace myself, I felt absolutely no different aside from now being inside rather than outside. I might as well have stepped through a normal doorway for all that my body seemed to notice.
Once it became clear that my stomach wasn’t going to flip over and turn inside out (metaphorically or literally), I let one eye slowly creak open, then the other before looking around. As I did, my mouth fell open, and I made a small noise that probably sounded a bit like a constipated squirrel.
That giant floor to ceiling mirror with the gold border lay in front of me, and when I looked over my shoulder, I found the black bordered one that…
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Chapter 2, coming at you.
The first thing I did, once it was obvious that there was no one around to answer my question, was dig the phone out of my pocket. Right. I had no idea where I was or how I had gotten here, but hopefully I could just call and—no signal. The phone had no connection, which meant that unless I could solve this mystery by playing a virus simulation or word scramble game at it, the thing was completely useless.
Well, not completely. Bringing up the camera app on the device, I took a picture of the bus. Stepping slowly around the thing, I took a series of shots of it from all sides, making sure to show the untouched ground around the bus where there were no tire marks. Then I stood right in front of the door and turned, taking pictures of each part of the massive…
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An awesome new webserial to read. Get started today.
The man in the handsome silver shirt lifted his pistol until the end of the barrel seemed as large as a cannon. His voice was gruff, that of a man who had killed many times before and had no intention of stopping any time soon. “When you get to hell,” he said grimly, “tell your brother I said hi.”
He pulled the trigger, and as the deafening boom filled the room, everything went dark. Half a second passed, and then the screen lit up once more as the names of people who had contributed to this latest Lou Devereux action flick began to scroll upwards, accompanied by pounding rock music.
There were a few spots of scattered applause before the house lights came back on, allowing the audience to begin filing out of the movie theater and back to their average, ordinary, dull lives.
I, on the other hand, stood…
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Vim & Vigor 2
World-Building Note #1: Why is Taylor a Tinker?
Due to the Locker Incident, Taylor gained the Tinker specialization of the ‘Bioshock-verse’ shard because she viewed everyone else and everything as useless in dealing with a long-term problem and thought of ways to resolve it on her own if she had powers—along with some other things. Ironically, she’s initially less dangerous with the Tinker specialization because she’s bottle-necked by needing resources and an external fuel source for powers.
Had she’d known Sophia was Shadow Stalker, she would have likely triggered as a Trump who got to choose from a pool of offensive, defensive, and mobility powers depending on the parahuman she faced, with the shard’s reserves fueling them. For example, against Shadow Stalker she would have had Shock Jockey, Peeping Tom, and Stable Teleportation.
Winslow High School, April 8th
I stepped off the bus and fought off a yawn that had been building up in my throat. The morning air was cool for Spring, but not enough that my breath came out in puff. Mild then. I adjusted the backpack slung over my shoulder and then made my way towards the school entrance.
I had slept well last night, even if I was a little sore by the time that I got back home. Dad was already asleep by then, while Mom was just happy that she thought I was getting out more and having fun. I told her I went to this cafe-bakery place to hang out with a gaming club once a week. It wasn’t exactly a lie since I did enjoy myself.
I got to have powers and be a Cape without any of the bad-stuff needed to be one. I mean it sucked considering that Taylor’s trigger event was… yeah, I’m surprised that the school even reused that locker. I don’t even know where they got so many of those disgusting things from, but it gives me shivers remembering when Taylor had to be taken to the hospital.
That was messed up. Especially since no one tried to get the locker open. I hadn’t been there when she was shoved in and, by the time I managed to hear about it, the janitor had already gotten it open. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone, even if I didn’t like Taylor. That wasn’t to say I didn’t like her—I mean I do like her, a lot.
She’s nice to me, even if she’s a little distant—a bit of a Tsundere without the hitting and physical abuse. But we had a lot of the same interests, like books and computers. She didn’t play as many games as I did, but she was a Tinker and I heard those types of parahumans couldn’t help but keep at it until they forgot to eat sometimes.
Maybe that’s why she looked a little thinner around her sides, now that I thought about it. It’d be easier to tell if she didn’t dress down so much. And I was sure I’d get slapped if I did. I’d seen enough oblivious anime protagonists get a hand-imprint on their faces to know women didn’t like it when you did that.
I decided to wait for her bus to get here. It’s not like Homeroom would start until around eight, and First Period wouldn’t until forty-five after. Plenty of time to go to breakfast and talk.
It was another five minutes before she showed up. Her bus came to a stop and others filed out before she did last. The cast on her right leg stuck out immediately and probably would keep doing so until it came off. She opted to use a set of crutches instead of her wheelchair, citing it was too much of a hassle for getting around inside of the building or using the bathroom.
“Hey Taylor,” I said as she approached. “Wanna get breakfast together in the cafeteria?”
“I ate at home.” She reached for a door. The crutches made it a little hard, so I opened it for her. She sighed. “Don’t hang over me during school or you’ll draw suspicion, Greg. Everything outside of these walls stays outside until the day’s done. ”
Taylor probably didn’t want to draw any attention like she had before. After all, that was how I found her out and got her hurt. “I’ll try.”
She made her way inside and I followed after her until we split to our different Homerooms.
Second Period – World Issues
Mister Gladly was kind of a cool teacher. But sometimes I questioned whether or not he was qualified for his job. I mean, at least with the old teachers you got the sense that they were jaded, but they tended to know what they were doing and kept the class in line. Not so much with him, who reminded me of one of the jocks that was popular with the girls.
It didn’t help that he somehow overlooked Taylor’s usual seat by the door having some kind of glaze to it. Probably invisible glue since that sounds like something they’d pull. Taylor didn’t want me to bother her and draw suspicion, but that was no reason to let her get pranked when I could run interference.
I grabbed the desk and swapped it with the empty one behind hers while one of Madison’s friends watched me. Julia had crinkled red hair that was done up in a way that was cute without going into childish, making it kinda hot. Of course, that was ruined when she gave me a look that basically confirmed my suspicions.
I ignored her and took a seat next to where Taylor would sit as she entered the room on her crutches. She stopped at the desk I had swapped out, no doubt noticing the sheen to it, and then took a seat next to me. I could have sworn I heard a small ‘thanks’ as she sighed, but she didn’t look at me so I wasn’t sure.
Class continued to be boring, so I doodled a bit with some of the printing paper I snuck out of the printer from Homeroom when Miss Crewing wasn’t looking. I needed a better costume once I was fully equipped with as many powers as I could get and working alongside Taylor. Maybe something that would match the one I saw she had that night?
There were a few minutes until the Lunch Bell was getting ready to ring when the teacher announced we’d have homework. He wanted us to list how Capes have impacted the world around us. Since all of us were born after they were a thing, unless someone was older than they looked and had been held back for several years, it wasn’t a hard topic.
“So, what are we doing for the report?” I asked. Mister Gladly always paired me up with her during World Issues, since every other group was basically locked down and he didn’t want to get on anyone’s bad-side. “We’re going to be grouped together, so if I know what the topic is we can split it over the weekend.”
Taylor looked pensive for a moment before she spoke. “I’m thinking the change in Endbringer Engagement and how it affects society since the events of 2008.”
Huh. That sounded interesting enough. “Okay, I’ll cover Scion’s disappearance. You cover the death of Behemoth?”
I went ahead and made an outline of points to cover from my end. Taylor made decent reports and would get her part done easy enough when she started. But mine was a bit trickier since it wasn’t clear if Scion had just gone missing or had died. He was last spotted flying over India when he suddenly started convulsing and then went ‘pop’ like a golden balloon.
Some people speculated he was killed, but that was clearly a lie. No one was dumb enough to attack the golden man who drove off Endbringers. It was more likely he simply reached the end of his lifespan and died instead, if he was dead to begin with and not hibernating or taking a vacation.
There was also the topic of whether or not his ‘death’ was the source of the trigger events that resulted in the death of the parahumans-to-be or turning them into Case 53s. Even if it wasn’t outright stated, his appearance was just before the first superheroes popped up. There had to be some connection there.
It was good that I took this part. There was a lot of speculation rather than facts, and it would take time to sort through them all. Taylor had her hands full enough tinkering, and I could spare a few hours over the weekend to get it out of the way.
When it was time to go to Lunch, I lingered behind to get my thoughts in order for a bit. By the time I left the room, I found Taylor being accosted in the hall by Sophia, Madison, and Emma. You’d think they’d quit while they were ahead with the Locker Incident, but apparently they were finding it just as amusing to bully her when she was crippled.
I never understood the whole appeal of bullying someone. I was gamer and enjoyed beating out others when I played, so I got the thrill there was behind lording over someone because you had higher stats. But I never talked smack or told them how much they sucked, instead offering them some tips on how to do better. It was how I met GstringGirl online and she seemed nice.
But these girls took pleasure in hurting someone emotionally and physically. That was just mean by itself, but doing it when they couldn’t fight back was just… well, cruel. I couldn’t just sit there while she was being picked on because of something I had done. Not anymore.
That was the old Greg Veder. The new Greg Veder went toe-to-toe with two parahumans and came out on top. What were a few High School girls?
“Come on, leave her alone,” I said, standing between them and her. I don’t think any of them were expecting me to speak up because they all looked at me funny. Taylor included. “It’s not funny messing with someone like this.”
The good news was that they quit surrounding Taylor. The bad news was that Emma started circling me and Madison followed, while Sophia just watched with a scowl forming on her face. Okay, no big deal. What was the worse they could do to me?
“Look what we have here. Taylor has a knight-shining armor,” Emma said. “How cute.”
“Not so much a knight as a plump jester,” Madison chimed in. “Maybe she likes them kind of pudgy?”
“It’s an improvement over not having anyone interested in her,” Emma added, giving me a once over and then looking away in disgust. “Barely. Then again, it’s the best she could do. We can’t all be model-material.”
“She’s better than you,” I said. At least I intended to. The words came out so soft that they may have been mumbled when Sophia gave me a look. I was focusing my senses on gathering my power in my left hand and tensed it to fire before I remembered I couldn’t use my powers without Taylor’s energy drink.
That said something about how Sophia unnerved me when I had just tangled with the Merchants last night. Emma was… well, a little intimidating, I guess. The queen bee who could destroy you with a word, but I didn’t have much of a reputation to start with. Good luck making it worse.
Madison didn’t really do much besides add to Emma’s air of authority when it came to others. She was basically her shadow and nothing else, using her cuteness while it lasted. Neither of them was as intimidating as Sophia, who looked like she could beat me up on her own while I had powers—she’d probably like that even more.
“Oh for fuc—Mrs. Knott!” Taylor called. We all turned to see that the Computer-Lit teacher was indeed coming close. “Can I ask you a question?”
I wouldn’t lie. At first I thought the teacher was a man, an honest mistake that led to me calling her ‘Sir’ once. She’d been a little frosty to me ever since then. But she seemed nice enough to Taylor. “How can I help you?”
“Actually, my leg has been in pain for the last few minutes and I was deciding whether or not to head to the Nurse’s Office,” Taylor lied, I hoped. “Would you happen to know if they have over-the-counter pain medication? I don’t want to make the trip and suffer for no reason.”
“I would not,” she said. “However, I would suggest that you send one of your friends to go check.”
Taylor turned to me instantly. “Greg, could you go and check? I’ll be in the computer lab with the teacher, if that’s okay. I want to do some last minute checking on our homework and sit down.”
Mrs. Knott nodded. “No eating in the lab, but fine.”
Smart. For everything that they pulled, none of those girls had the Computer-Lit class that we did, let alone being in the advanced part of it. They couldn’t go after her there without having a very good reason, and Taylor usually sat in a seat that was directly in Mrs. Knott’s line-of-sight. They pulled a lot of crap off, but even they didn’t do anything straightforward with a teacher there to witness it.
I nodded my head and ran off towards the Nurse’s Office, just in case she really did need the pills. They didn’t have any. I hoped she wasn’t serious about her leg being in pain then, I already felt bad enough about it since the cast wasn’t due to come off for over a month. I made my way back to the Computer-Lit—
“Oof!” The next thing I knew, I was hitting the floor as I stepped off the stairs leading to the first floor and the wind was knocked out of me. My chin hit the ground and I felt my teeth bite into the tip of my tongue deep enough to draw blood from the coppery taste.
“I don’t know or care if your balls suddenly decided to drop, but you stay in your place,” a girl’s voice. Sophia when I looked up. “Or the next time you get in my way you’ll find them missing.”
Bitch, I thought as she turned and skulked away. It was only when I heard the slur that I realized I had said it aloud. Maybe it was a good thing I had bit my tongue. She would’ve probably made good on her threat if that came out clear enough for anyone to hear. In a school where there were likely members of different gangs among the students, it was telling she was the scariest one here.
I rose up to my feet to see other people in the hallway, some snickering and others trying to pretend they didn’t notice. God, I didn’t see how Taylor went through with this sort of thing all the time without burning this place to the ground. I kept my head down as I went to the computer lab and took a seat next to Taylor.
She glanced at me, back to the computer, and then back at me again with a focus on my chin. Was it reddened or bruised by the fall? Mom wasn’t going to like that. I’d just say I tripped on the stairs on my own.
“Sophia,” I told Taylor, figuring that was what she wanted to ask but wouldn’t. At least I tried to, but there was still a minor slur. I think she got it anyway.
Taylor rolled her eyes over the frame of her glasses and sighed. “That’s why I told you not to draw attention to yourself or to defend me. You’ll only give them ammunition, Greg. Sophia’s just looking for a reason to lash out.”
“I just wanted to help,” I said. This time it was clear.
“And it made you a target.” Her fingers flew over the keys as she entered something into a calculator program she wrote and refined not too long ago. It didn’t look like anything Mister Quinlan was making us do. “There’s a reason I didn’t fight back—because it’s pointless. Emma, Sophia, and Madison have the teachers wrapped around their little fingers, and picking a fight is only going to get me hurt when they decide to try and gang-up on me before getting off scot-free.”
It made sense. That had to be the only way they could have gotten away with that locker thing. No wonder she didn’t normally try to get a teacher involved, but why not the police? Oh, didn’t I hear once that one of their daddies was a lawyer?
That would probably drag things out, and fighting a legal battle would be expensive… then again, would someone close to the case even be allowed to act if it was brought to court? Maybe not, but a lawyer would know how to squeeze out of a tight scenario. No wonder there were so many evil lawyer jokes.
“That sucks,” was all I could really say after thinking about it. Then things got quiet. I couldn’t stand it and finally asked, “Why not just… you know? Zap them?”
Taylor whipped her head around sharply and gave me an incredulous stare. I knew she said not to mention anything about powers in class, but that was before Sophia threatened to emasculate me for just getting in her way. After a deep breath, she pressed her lips thin, looked over her shoulder to make sure Mrs. Knott wasn’t listening in, and then leaned in close. “If I did it… what do you think would happen?”
The first words that came to mind was ‘zap them until they stopped bothering you,’ but somehow I got the feeling that wouldn’t be the right answer. I thought about it some more, rubbing my left fingers together. It was a bit of a habit I formed from how my hand always felt weird from the different powers. The answer came to me eventually. “The PRT would get involved.”
“Exactly,” she said. “A parahuman attacking a regular person is jail-worthy, and you can bet Emma’s father would try to sue my dad. The PRT would force me into the Wards to put me on a leash and make me a rank-and-file Tinker. They would look over everything I do, criticize it, and force me to bend to their rules. They would decide who got which Vigor and when. I’d be giving up the last bits of my freedom for them when I can do more as an Independent.”
She turned back to the computer and started typing again, still talking. “That’s why I don’t fight back. I’m not going to lose my freedom for petty revenge when I know I’m better than them. What happens here for maybe one or two hours of the time I spend here disappears the moment I get on the bus and get home or to my lab.”
Taylor really thought that out. I couldn’t think of anything to really say except, “Oh.”
I didn’t want to bother her again after that, so I went online to the PHO website to see if what happened last night made any waves. Someone had to have called the police, so someone had to have seen us. Since the Merchants had their own thread it would likely be there.
There actually was something, a shaky camera-phone video taken after I had crashed the van. The discussion led me to the speculation thread on Capes in Brockton Bay in general, where there was currently a mild discussion going on about me. Everyone presumed I was new to it because I had basically gone out in a black-hoodie and pants, with a mask on to cover my face and utility belt around my waist, when common sense dictated having a costume at least—preferably bullet-resistant. I couldn’t fault them there.
What I could fault was the discussion on whether or not I was a hero or a villain—with it leaning heavily in the latter direction. The basis for the argument had been that I stole from the truck and the police retrieved money from it shortly after I left and the Merchant pair got away. Was someone who robbed criminals a criminal himself?
Better not bring it up to Taylor, she looked busy enough now. I didn’t want to break her rhythm. Or get her mad at me again. Besides, it’s not like I didn’t want to go and be a hero.
We needed the money to make new powers and the Merchants were bad people. Not to mention costumes weren’t cheap either. Taking from them and putting it to good use wasn’t a crime. I refused to let Taylor’s work and myself be seen as villainy.
I cracked my fingers and got to typing.
End Notes: I now have a semi-decent outline and plan, so welcome to A/U Ladies and Gentlemen—where Greg is a protagonist, the Golden Idiot is missing as far as the populace knows, and Endbringers can be killed.
Over the next few weeks, I want to talk about a series that recently completed that really interested me. It was called Hexed and, much like my Runaways review, I’ll be going into details about the story and the characters. One thing to note is that there is a prequel book called Hexed: The Sisters of Witchdown that seems to be a prequel to the comic series. Since this isn’t a book review, but a comic review, I won’t go into it.
We’ll start with what Hexed is and cover the first series:
Hexed is the story of a young girl named Lucifer who, sometime in the past, came into contact with a mysterious and powerful being known as the Harlot. The Harlot is the ultimate information broker, and she yearns for a successor to her title to the Keeper of Secrets. For some reason she chose Lucifer for this role and placed hex upon her soul because of it, which will allow her to claim her soul upon death and make her into the next Keeper of Secrets.
Both the 2008 series and the 2014 series tell the story of Luci Jenifer Inacio das Neves, or Lucifer for short, but covers different aspects of her life. The 2008 series gives us a glance into the life she’s lived and mistakes she’s made as a powerful figure intends to use her to eliminate his competition, which would throw the magical society into a war that would bleed over into the regular world. The 2014 series gives us an introspective look into those she cares about and how they feel the same for her, showing how they’ve become her new family and the extent she would go to protect them.
In a way, the series reminds of the Dresden Files, despite having different protagonists. Harry Dresden is a detective by trade, while Lucifer is a thief and proud of that. Both work on supernatural cases and take bad things from bad people to make sure they don’t end up in the wrong hands. Maybe these similarities are why I like it so much?
2008 / 4-Issue Series
The first series, introduced in 2008 had Lucifer working with an art gallery manager named Val in securing magical artifacts that are too dangerous to be out in public. The first few pages introduce us to Lucifer sneaking into the rear entrance of a club, picking a lock, and then opening a safe that’s guarded by a witch-hound that she subsequently seals inside of a pink stuffed doll. This item that she takes is later revealed to be an angel’s wings (this will come up later on) and Val’s people will see to it that it gets back to its proper owner.
Back at home, she comes face-to-face with a former client named Dietrich who she left with a debt of about three-hundred grand because she refused to steal from Nuns that he lied about. Dietrich seems to understand that she doesn’t care for herself, but knows that she doesn’t want people to be hurt because of her, even if it’s happened before. So he sends her on a mission to retrieve a magical item that, when combined with the true name of someone else, can kill them without fail.
She’s forced to retrieve it, but goes to Val to warn her that she’s in danger. Val is willing to die rather than let the magical too be used because it’s caused thousands of deaths, but Lucifer won’t let her and warns her to be careful before Dietrich shows up at her home and she takes him into the Aether where the Harlot dwells in search of the true name of a person known as Madam Cymbaline. When Lucifer refuses, he has the tool attempt to kill Val and threatens to do the same to one person out of the phone book until he does get it back.
Lucifer ends up leading a car chase before being arrested and then summoning a demon who lets her escape through a toilet (yes, really). She finds that Val is alive, having transferred her name to one of Dietrich’s men and slit the others throat, but then Dietrich shows up and shoots Val with the intention of shooting her thirty times unless Lucifer gets him what he wants. To bring things to a close without going into overt details, he shoots Lucifer, Lucifer kills him with the witch-hound, and divine intervention in the form of the angel whose wings she returned ends up saving her life with a reminder that heaven can be found by anyone willing to strive for it.
Next week, we’ll go into the 2014 / 12 – Issue series.