Part 1: Gathering Stars
Nearly 1000 Years Ago…
A dimensional war.
I stepped through the suffocating darkness, brooding intensely on the subject. My cloak billowed as I walked, casting an occasional flicker in the abysmally dim light. All around me, the sounds of dull explosions echoed, a perpetual reminder of the ongoing strife, and a dismally apt undertone to my deliberation.
What had I done to reach this outcome?
Suddenly, a plume of white flame erupted from the ground, just inches from my feet. But I was gone. And then I was there again, reappearing several meters away, my cloak trailing smoke.
“Did they really send you this far out from the battle just to intercept me?” I asked, looking up at the faint silhouette of my attacker. “You’re all giving me too much credit.”
“I am Vinnia, keeper of the first gate,” my attacker replied, a small glint in the dim light announcing the drawing of her weapon. “Prepare to die.”
“They even sent a gatekeeper. Far too much credit.”
The attacker responded by blasting a colossal torrent of white fire straight at me. I simply raised my perception towards the flame, and its velocity instantly slowed to a crawl. Then I stepped forward, peeling away the fire’s trajectory with long swipes of my hand, scattering the glowing white fragments like loose confetti. I reached my attacker a few seconds later, her body stopped in a similar, nearly-frozen state. I stared at her for a good minute and a half, then I spoke.
“Are you really a gatekeeper?” I finally asked, looking down at the black hooded cloak which hid most of her features. She had a black sword clutched tightly in her hands, but that too was nearly-frozen in place and posed no threat to me. “You didn’t even prepare for time manipulation, and that’s only a basic conceptual technique. Don’t tell me if I had hit you with something like Conceptual Death, you would’ve actually died?”
The attacker, nearly-frozen as she was, didn’t reply.
I sighed. “I almost feel sorry for you. But regardless, I need you to tell me something. In order to end this battle, I need to find the gate, but you gatekeepers decided to hide it away with a flux barrier before we began our attack. Of course, you’d know all of this, since you claim to be a gatekeeper yourself. So, here’s my question.”
I knelt down on one leg, bringing myself to the attacker’s height. “Where is the flux barrier’s generator located?”
There was no reply from the attacker, but she seemed to be struggling against her temporal restraints, her arms and legs trembling slightly.
“Hmm… I guess you’re right,” I said, standing back to full height. “There’s no reason for you to tell me, your enemy, a critical piece of information that could turn the tides of battle. Alright, I’ll have to do it the hard way.”
Then, with a snap of my fingers, I delved into the gatekeeper’s mind.
A storm of hostility and anger immediately smashed into me with the force of a freight train. Not a single active thought existed in the gatekeeper’s mind that wasn’t completely fixated on pummeling me to death. But, just like her physical performance, the gatekeeper’s mental defenses were severely lacking.
I easily navigated through the onslaught, skirting around the furious thoughts like a figure skater playing dodgeball. Then I emerged from the storm, into the ocean of passive thoughts lying dormant at the back of the gatekeeper’s mind. I waded through the placid waters, memories and ideas washing over me as I searched. Then, after several moments, I found the information I was looking for. I immediately committed the data to memory and pulled out of the gatekeeper’s mind.
Back in the darkness, I blinked several times, glancing down at the gatekeeper, still nearly-frozen. Her sword had made several millimeters of progress towards my neck, not that it mattered at all. The distance between us was so great that I could stand completely still for over six weeks and the gatekeeper wouldn’t be able to even touch me. It was a little sad when I thought about it. I gave the gatekeeper a pitying look, then I turned around, a rift opening with a snap of my fingers, and left.
Then, as I exited the rift, reality exploded.
Energy maelstroms whipped around me, tearing at my cloak like rabid moths. Black cloaked figures randomly phased in and out of view, blasting at each other with energy pulses powerful enough to rip the very fabric of reality. The flow of twenty-six different dimensions were caught in the fray, the battle causing momentary overlaps to fluctuate between them. It was enough to cause anyone watching to go insane.
Of course, I was used to it by now.
An enemy phased in nearby, blasting pure energy at me. I sidestepped and promptly waved him into a nearby energy maelstrom, nearly-frozen time drowning out the screams that would resound. Another enemy phased in and charged at me with a gleaming black sword, which promptly melted into liquid cobalt, along with the enemy wielding it. An ally passed close by, giving a quick nod in my direction before firing at another enemy, quickly phasing out as the enemy retaliated.
“Now then,” I said, brushing off my cloak before taking flight. “Where was that location the gatekeeper had in mind?”
I glided through the molten obsidian sky, glancing through dozens of dimensions for the whereabouts of the flux barrier generator. If I could destroy the generator, I could reach the gate. And if I could reach the gate, this battle would end, and my allies could retreat without concern.
But, before I could find the generator, a platoon of enemies suddenly phased in around me, drawing their various weapons before quickly closing distance.
“Is that you, Azure?” suddenly the enemies vanished, and I was no longer in the blackish-red sky. Instead, I stood at the edge of an underwater reef, another black cloaked figure floating beside me.
“Ah, Dem-… I mean, Zero,” I said, nodding at my ally. “Good timing with the dimensional shift. Good accuracy too, I thought there’d be at least one or two enemy stragglers caught up in that.”
“I’ve improved quite a bit since you last saw me,” Zero replied, although there was a tinge of melancholy in his voice. Well, it wasn’t anything that concerned me. “So, did you find it?”
“Of course,” I said. I glanced around briefly. “But it’s definitely not here. Mind letting me out, Zero? The enemies should have evacuated by now.”
Zero nodded. “Alright, be careful out there.”
And then the reddening sky appeared around me again. I flew forward, and, after six more minor skirmishes, I found myself at the designated location.
Everyone get ready, I sent telepathically to my allies. We are moving in for the final push.
Then, I imposed my will upon reality, expanding my perception to locate the small seam in the fabric of reality which I knew would be present. I found it within a second, and, as I directed my energy into the quasi-rift, a small orb floated out, promptly shattering as I caught it.
The flux barrier is down, I sent. All units, advance.
Almost immediately, the chaos halted. I sensed the arrival of my allies, along with the swift retreat of the enemy. I allowed myself a smile. The gate had fallen. Everything could finally end with this.
The rift gate hummed into existence before me, and I readied myself, collecting energy as, all around me, my companions gathered. And when the rift gate opened, all around me, my companions died.