Into the Oblivion

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Chance - Not a Hero

I roared in my cell, and I tried to summon all my strength but to no avail. Rei had River Knightley place an enchantment on me to keep me from accessing my avroi. A mark was placed on the back of my neck, wherein it gave off an awful itch from time to time. A painful sting would erupt from it once I attempted to use my avroi. Even worse, I was placed inside a cell. Although it didn’t really feel much of a jail. Instead, I was placed inside some sort of royal prison or something.

It was a spacious room, indeed.

As I imagined the chaos in the event, I couldn’t help but tear up. The bloody vision that I saw weeks ago kept entering my mind. It didn’t make sense at first, but that predicament ensured that it was bound to happen. And the worst part for me was I was not given that chance to even undo it.

My back was against the door. On the other side of it was probably Ven and Morsus, who was given the task to make sure I stayed put. They didn’t look too happy about it. But orders were orders. Ven was being integrated into the Knights. He really couldn’t disobey. Morsus, on the other hand, was probably blackmailed by Rei.

Everything just happened so fast. The moment Rei declared I was being sent off to Altimeraea, River jumped into action. He literally teleported behind me, and a barrier was erected around us. Morsus’ lightning speed was no match with River’s short-range space manipulation magic.

I tried to fight back, but a shock went through my spine. The man behind me struck me with something, and I lost all my senses. Numbness crash over me—all the tingly feeling included. My avroi didn’t respond to my command. All I felt was a cold sensation within my body. I fell down on my knees and into the darkness. The next thing I knew was waking up on a small bed in the room.

Teleport. Block. Seal. Disable. Four spells in less than five seconds. River was indeed a monster. My head spun around as I tried to stand up and regain my balance. Ven and Morsus were in the room when I woke up. Their faces were grim and dark. Then they quickly left without saying a single word.

For the next couple of hours after that, I just kept banging on the door. Yet those two didn’t make a response. I tried punching it, but I wasn’t precisely physically capable of taking down a massive door. The thing looked like it was made out of ancient wood. I inspected it closer and saw a faint glow. Scribbles of an unknown alphabet were dancing on the surface. Thousands of them lined up and traveled in every direction like some sort of coating.

I tried punching and kicking it multiple times, but it didn’t make a wooden kind of thud. It was like hitting some sort of reinforced glass. Even the windows were shut off, and everything was made sure to seal me inside the thing. Everything was simply prepared beforehand. And it had hurt me to know that Rei never considered my plight to join in the defense against the enemies.

The next thing I attempted was to unseal the mark. But a high voltage of spark abruptly shot through my body. It was being hit by a taser for a split second. And it didn’t look pretty. I quickly fell on the floor, and an intense spasm rippled throughout my muscles a few seconds later. I could barely feel the floor under me. It seems that the seal on the back of my neck had a nasty reaction to the dark avroi inside of me.

“Looks like I found an interesting fellow.” A familiar voice suddenly spoke above me. From the texture alone, I knew it was a man. But I was also sure that there was no presence of anyone with me inside the huge room. My ability to speak was still nowhere to be found. “That avroi is not from Altimeraea. I would not even call it avroi. It has a different nature to it, like oil and water. They’re both liquid but have different properties.”

My head was still down, and no drop of strength could be summoned. The unknown person walked to my side, and I could only see the feet within my peripheral vision. Even the slightest movement was impossible at that very moment. I had no choice but to listen to the familiar voice.

“It’s really a bummer that you were left here. I was actually excited to hang out with you because I really miss my little brothers. And Skylar’s almost your age. I’m sure you two would hit it off right away.” The voice started with almost a rant. Skylar was the familiar name he mentioned. Then it had hit me who it was. “But Rei was the one taking the lead, and I respect all forms of authority. Even if I disagree with them. It’s not my place to cause division within the team, especially where thousands of lives are at stake.”

“River.” I groaned with all my effort.

“That’s a surprisingly quick recovery. The enchantment I placed on your neck is supposed to amplify the avroi used and reflect it back as a shock. Then the reason I placed it on your nape was so you would feel that shock to your whole body since it’s the spinal cord. Pretty neat, huh?” River beamed proudly like a child. His tone really reminded me of Jaden, and images of his dead body slithered into my mind as I laid down helpless before a powerful mage. “But like what I said, it’s interesting that you have gained access to such a powerful source of energy. I am curious. Just what on earth are you, Chance Valentine?”

Another groan was all I could muster. River chuckled at my helplessness and sat down on the floor where I would be able to see him clearly. He was wearing the same smart casual look that he wore and looked sheepishly joyful. His blonde hair was kind of a mess, but the most obvious one was that it was transparent. It was like he was some sort of ghost.

“I’m sure you’re curious why I’m like this, Mr. Valentine. You see, this is simply what you Tidians would call telepathy. Oh wait, you’re not technically a Tidian, are you? Anyway, it’s actually Divination Magic. I was able to incorporate it in the spell that I placed on your neck.” River explained excitedly as if he discovered some kind of hidden treasure. Though he was a few years older than I am, he seemed to really have a light-hearted nature. Then I remember what was discussed that his father perished at the hands of the Black Sorceress. The source of his smiles indeed became a mystery. “I think I could still do a lot of things to you, but I would still be heavily impaired. You also don’t have to speak loudly. It’s only you that can hear me. You don’t want those two outside start to think you’re turning crazy, right?”

“Let…me…go.” I whispered. The sound that came out of my mouth was quite raspy. Since we were linked through the means of the mind, I didn’t think I had to be clearly vocal about what I was saying. But the playful look on his eyes vanished in an instant. River studied me carefully. “I…need…to…protect…them!”

Out of nowhere, River grabbed me by the nape, and another shock went through inside me. The numbness all over was instantly gone. My body felt like a newly oiled machinery that was pumped back into action. Movement returned back to my noodle arms as I pushed myself off of the ground.

“Uhm.” I stared at him, but he was back to his joyous self. He sat on the bed opposite me, but he looked like he was hovering because he had no weight to push down the cushion. It wasn’t astonishing because he was some sort of ghost inside my head. “Thanks.”

“You don’t have to worry about your friends. The event started peacefully, and there’s not a hint of an attack.” River informed me. “You can see it for yourself.”

He raised a finger and twirled it. A spell was cast under his breath. As I looked on the finger, I was pulled into an imagery within my mind’s eye. The Main Entrance Area was shown before me like some sort of illusion. Everyone was in a frenzy of rushing into the event. I even saw some of my classmates. Then I quickly spun around if I could see a glimpse of my friends. But there were too many people all at once that it made me dizzy.

Before I noticed, I was back in the room with him.

“Why are you so driven to go where the danger is?” River asked.

“It’s my duty. I’m their friend. And my family is there, too! I would do whatever it takes so they wouldn’t be harmed.” I snarled against him. But I wasn’t really much of a threat. I was like a chained puppy, and he was holding it. The true warden of the cell was neither Ven nor Morsus, but River. “I’ve heard what happened to your father, and I’m sorry to hear about that. I’m sure you know what I feel. I’m sure that you’d do anything to be there and fight alongside him.”

“You’re not really wrong about that. And I really think that your heart is in the right place.” River admitted dryly. His eyes were heavily considerate. “But you have to understand what they feel, too. They’ve already lost Israfil once. And like you, they will do whatever it takes to protect their loved ones. What makes you think that your feelings will outweigh all those who had already lost something?”

I bit my lip and clenched my fists. My head was bowed down, thinking of a comeback for those statements. River was right. And I hated it. To make things worse, Israfil was the only family left Rei had. The only thing I did was to keep silent because I had no answer.

“The reality of things must always outweigh the passions of the heart, or else one might walk towards destruction.” River said cryptically out of nowhere. “It was from a book that I read somewhere in one of the Citadels. But it rings true, don’t you think?”

Then an idea sparked in my head. It was the crucial thing I never did. That’s why my friendship with Jaden was almost in tatters. I took a breath as I pushed down my regrets for not realizing it sooner. It was that one thing that holds on kinds of friendship together.

“Trust.” I answered back to him with swollen determination. River had one of his eyebrows raised as a smirk appeared on his face. “We cannot protect the people we love if we do not trust them. I failed to protect my friend because I didn’t trust him enough to understand. And now, I am experiencing the consequences. Rei and the others never trusted me to protect myself accordingly. That’s why I think I deserve a shot in protecting my friends.”

However, River just laughed out loud. For some reason, there was so much joy in it. I was simply bewildered by his weird response. He had a devilish grin on his face as if he was going to do something stupid. And it kind of frightened me. Light-hearted people like him and Jaden knew no bounds when it comes to stupidity.

“That was a perfect one! Trust is the answer, huh?” The man asked me rhetorically. Then he looked at me and was on the verge of laughter again. River was a weird guy, yet there was that otherworldly wisdom inside of him. “Maybe you really are worth trusting, Chance Valentine. And that’s probably something the Zidanians failed to see. I wonder who among them is willing to trust you?”

“If I have to do this alone, then I will.” I braced myself as River stood up. He crossed his arm and hovered over to me. He lost a bit of his transparency as more avroi poured into him. Not sure how he did that, though. “But I want to trust Ven and Morsus. I’m sure they will understand. I hope they will.”

“I almost thought you will break your conviction right away.” River grinned and raised his palm. My nape started to feel swollen as some sort of sensation danced away from my neck. The pressure loosened up after as strings of ink floated and slid through the air like a snake. It all came from my back. Then they gathered together into the middle of his palms. “I’ll give it a start. I trust you, Chance. I trust that you’ll be able to protect yourself and do the right thing.”

“I could already sense the enemy making an advance, and we need all the able-bodied mages. I’ve raised that to Rei when we met about this, but he was hell-bent on protecting his brother.” River warned me. The battle drums in my head roared into action. My body felt stiff, and my muscles betrayed me. Even my palms were awfully sweaty in a snap of a finger. “I have little brothers, too. Skylar and Terrun are significant to me. That’s why Rei’s actions are perfectly understandable. But like what you said, we must also trust the people we want to protect.”

The gathered energy turned into a floating mush of black goo. River gave it to me like some sort of physical object. He was supposed to be a mental image only present in my head, so I had no idea how he was doing it. Rune Magic was indeed a very expansive form of power. As I raised my palm to catch it, the thing latched onto my hand like some sort of living parasite. It morphed into a web of scribbled letters like the one the door and scattered through my forearm.

“What’s this?” I asked.

“This is a portable portal I learned during my time of studying in the Citadel of Hayamatsukami. It’ a very high-level Rune Spell, so be extremely careful with it. A wrong way of casting it could rip your body to shreds. No joke on that.” The man explained nonchalantly. His palm was over the black goo that danced wildly on my forearm and reconstructed itself in different shapes. “I already programmed it for two usages. One to teleport to your dimension. And another one back to here in case you really need to retreat back. Anyone you’re holding will also be teleported. But you need to keep pouring a massive amount of avroi for a set amount of time. That’s the huge downside. But with the energy that you showed a while ago, it should be more than sufficient.”

“But how do I get out?” I asked him. “Even with my powers back, I don’t think I’ll be able to break out of here. Whatever those are, they’re really strong.”

“I can disable to protection spell on the windows.” River suggested. Then he raised his palm towards one of the windows. I felt avroi shooting through the tip of his fingers, and an invisible pulse coming from the window’s direction hit me. “You can make a jump for it and activate the portal before you fall to the ground. Quick before those two catches you.”

“No.” I firmly objected. River just slightly tilted his head in wonder. “I want to talk to Ventus and Morsus first. I have to try if they will understand and trust me.”

“Fine. I respect your decision. A good dose of naivety every once in a while wouldn’t hurt. But escape this tower as soon as you can. Once you have a clear sight of the sky, aim towards it and pour the avroi into the spell. Make sure it would hit no clouds.” The man instructed further. His eyes were severe, which looked a bit awkward on him. “Then I’ll see you on this side. I’ll deal with Rei if ever. And don’t worry about him.”

“Thanks, River.” I said softly. The man just beamed proudly as if he concocted this getaway plan. In a way, he was responsible for that. “I don’t know what to say.”

“Just don’t take too long. I need to go and focus on preparing the activation of the barrier.” He smiled back, warmly. Slowly, he faded out of existence. “See you!”

Once he was gone, I immediately took a deep breath and activated the mark in the middle of my palms. It was the first time I had let the dark energy ran wildly throughout my body. Every nook and cranny of it shook hard as Ven and Morsus stormed into the room. It was the bait, after all. The skin on my arms went into a tone of obsidian black. All of it slithered around my body and up to my neck as power erupted everywhere in the room. There was an awful itch on the area above my forehead. And a weird bump on the base of my spine.

“Chance! What’s the meaning of this?” Ven roared at me. That was the cue to calm down and let the dark energy disperse. Morsus, on the other hand, looked relax right behind him. “How did you get out of the seal?”

“That’s none of your business.” I replied dryly. Our eyes were locked on each other. I wanted an honest answer from him. But had always loved to withhold what he really wanted to say. “I will go to the event regardless. Will you two stop me?”

“Of course!” Ven shot back. I sensed the gathering energy on his feet. Based on what I could remember, Ven utilizes many movements to his advantage over his opponent. “Imagine what Rei would do to you if he finds out!”

“Are you stopping me just because of Rei?” I asked him.

“No.” The blonde kid quipped. His blue eyes tried to calculate my next movement, but he knew I was capable of doing something unexpected. “I follow his orders because I want to protect you and Israfil.”

“That’s the problem, Ven. You want to protect me. But you really had no real intentions of trusting me. I’ve started to wonder if you’re genuinely my friend, or you are just playing along for Israfil’s sake.” I argued. He seemed to be perplexed by my ambiguous answer. “Please trust me just this once.”

“You’re my friend.” He barked. “And that’s why I’ll stop you if I have to.”

“I also trust you, Chance.” Morsus intervened. “And even though we didn’t start on the right foot, I’ve always considered you my friend. I only agreed with Rei’s plan because I wanted to protect you both. But it doesn’t mean I liked it.”

“See? Even Morsus agrees.” Ven pointed out. The energy on his feet spiked up even further. He was really getting ready for a fight. I think he must have noticed my “Just give it up. I don’t want to hurt you. There’s two of us, and you’ve never really experienced a real fight.”

“Ven is right. There’s no need to make chaos in this room.” Morsus added as his fingers started to draw something. His avroi shimmered silently as he tried to convey a message through his eyes. Yet, I was too dull to realize that he was about to act at that very moment. “But you’re also right. We also need to trust the people we want to protect. And like what I said, I trust you.”

The little boy winked at me that caused me to frown in reflex. Ven noticed my funny response and turned towards Morsus. But the boy’s palm was already raised, and I closed my eyes instinctively for some reason. The spell was all too familiar.

"Aredentisio.” Morsus barked, and a flash of light exploded in the room. I felt a hand grabbing me and was pulled towards the direction of the window. My body just moved on its own. Before I was able to recognize it, the boy and I jumped from the high tower. The boy’s fingers were twitching from all runes he was casting in quick succession. ”Kaelas! Marsev! Pryovosio!”

The wind quickly gathered below our feet to cushion our drop before we suddenly shot away from the high tower. When I looked up, I realize it was probably at least a hundred feet up. I didn’t recognize that we fell from such a height. The spell managed to make us fly at high speeds before we saw Ven jumping from the tower. Like us, he cushioned his blow with a gust of wind against the ground.

But thanks to Morsus’ quick thinking, we were able to get away from a reasonable distance. The boy was carrying me behind him, which caught me dumbfounded at how strong he is in a physical sense. I wasn’t that heavy but Morsus’ wasn’t really a body-builder either. We rushed and glided through the ground and into the town. I could see people looking at us with awkward expressions.

“We need a clear view of the sky.” I shouted over. When I looked up, we were under some thick clouds, so we had to keep traveling further. But when I checked behind us, Ven was gaining on us. “Why did you save me?”

“Can’t talk!” Morsus barked. “Need to focus!”

I nodded and aimed my arms towards Ven. Because of his lightning ability, he could zigzag his way through most of the obstacles in his way. With my mark active, I gathered large amounts of compressed energy. Black orbs of avroi were on the tips of my fingers. With a flick of my hand, they shot towards my intended targets and caused a grenade-sized explosion.

They weren’t really made out of flames but more like gas tanks that produced a blast from the internal air pressure. It still created a decent sized crater in its wake, and I grinned with pride. On the other hand, Ven managed to avoid them entirely, but he had to make turns. I could only assume that it would slow him down, but there wasn’t really much difference.

I attempted to shoot him again, but an arrow made out of lightning zipped past my shoulder. My black jacket was singed, and the X-VIP Badge that I hid inside the pocket almost fell. Then the lightning arrow was followed by two more that nearly shot us down. It was a high-speed chase between two wind users, and I was just a package that was being protected.

At the corner of my eye, Ven attempted to fire a greater arrow. It had a darker color of blue and a more intense amount of avroi. I knew it would hit us. It would be too fast to deflect it with my Gravity Magic, so I did what I could. I grabbed Morsus by the shoulder and threw him off balance right before Ven released his spell. Both of us jolted away from the gust of wind that served as a form of high-speed vehicle and landed hard on the ground.

Thanks to my enhanced durability from the mark, I held Morsus tight within my arms and took the more painful part of the bad landing. Then I allowed myself to continuously roll on the ground to disperse the momentum until we stopped at a halt. Ven was not expecting our way of avoidance and zipped past our direction.

Morsus seemed to be alright and pushed me away.

“What the fuck did you do?” He roared at me with his childish voice. Morsus always sounded like a spoiled brat regardless of the situation. And in that very predicament that we were in, it was even worse. “We already had the momentum to get away from him!”

“He was gaining on us with a spell!” I shot back at the boy. Then I summoned a couple of blades when I saw Ven coming back for us. The blonde teen looked very determined to capture us. And it looked scary. I was pretty sure he would have attempted to reason out with us. But I never expected he would actually leap into action. “I had to do something because we were surely going to hit by that.”

“Great!” The boy groaned. “Now, I have to fight Ven and defend you!”

“Just trap him.” I admonished the boy. Then he looked back at me just to shoot daggers out of his eyes. “Trust me, I have a quick way out as soon as the clouds clear up.”

The next thing we knew was Ven was right behind us. If it wasn’t for my mark, I would have been wounded already. An intense lightning blast had hit my arm and got the sleeve of my jacket burned further. Then I retaliated with a telekinetic push from my Gravity Magic. It was faster and stronger, so Ven was caught off guard. He was jolted away, which gave way to Morsus casting more spells.

With my left hand, I gathered a ball of avroi. It was a larger version of the black orbs I was should Ven with during the chase. My only ally had hit him with a barrage of spells, mostly of different elemental magic. A gust of wind. A swipe of a whip made out of water. Even a stone that was sharpened into a spike. But our opponent was just as nimble as the little boy. Thanks to his Wind Elemental Magic, evasion was a forte.

Morsus seemed to be hesitant in activating the mark on his palm. That’s why he had to use precise attacks because a broader range would cost more avroi. I knew that Morsus had to conserve his stamina as much as he can. Ven seemed to go around us in a circular pattern while Morsus kept blasting him randomly in all directions. Since I had the upper hand in stamina, I abused it by attacking him with blacks orbs and blades.

Zematisima! Fulgra Obturamentrum!" Morsus roared another spell. All of the elemental projectiles actually left a mark on the ground. They were explosive seals that detonated with a blast of electric pulses in every direction. Since Ven was within range, he got hit right away and had him stop in his tracks. I used that opportunity to cast a gravitational pull and dragged him towards me. ”Spathio Obtestoria! Rych Rohybius!"

Morsus waltzed to Ven’s direction with a couple of blades in his hands. His killing intent was off the charts, and I wondered at that very moment if the boy had the goal to kill his friend. The goal was to get away. Not murder. Since the black orbs on my left hand were fully charged, I switched my strategy and pushed Ven away with my Gravity Magic before Morsus would reach him. The boy’s swing of the blade barely made it to Ven’s neck.

That was when I shot my gravity ball into the sky. Then I blasted it with a repulsive spell that caused it to accelerate even faster. It was a considerable risk. I pulled Morsus back with my magic and pumped avroi into the seal that River left on my right forearm. The writings on my arm glowed red that gave a demonic look on my arm. I aimed it up the sky as the black orb exploded. Thankfully, they were only low hanging clouds. The blast reached it, and the clouds dispersed and gave us the window to escape.

Fortunately, Ven was still stunned on the ground. Morsus was indeed a genius for catching the older teen off guard. The latter was only looking for an opening when the younger kid used that to his advantage and seemingly shot his offensive spells everywhere. The real offensive strategy was setting the trap. Rune Mages always had to play with the potential possibilities of their magic. Creativity was a must.

“Why did you that?” The boy howled at me. “I already had him!”

“Just shut up!” I shot back and grabbed him by the shoulder.

My right arm felt like it was being stretched into miles away as we zoomed into the sky. Some kind of gateway appeared above us, and even Morsus looked utterly surprised at what I managed to do. The boy seemed to have recognized the letters that were written on my arm. Then the next thing I knew was we both landed in my world. I looked around to see that we were in my own backyard. As usual, my insides felt like they turned into mush.

“That was Rune Magic!” Morsus exclaimed. “Where did that come from?”

“I also have my secrets.” I replied. Then Morsus’s face made an indescribable expression. It was the same look that Jaden showed me when I showed him his magic. A violent stirring ruptured in my guts. I knew that look. “What’s wrong?”

“They’re here!” The boy alerted me. His eyes were wide and alert. The boy could usually keep his cool. But not this time. And I couldn’t help but shiver. Even the hair on the back of my neck stood up. If that’s what that Spidey Sense felt like, I didn’t want to be Spiderman anymore. “I can sense it.”

“Crap.” I muttered. “We can’t waste time. Let’s go!”

I ran for the shed and took out my mountain bike. It was a couple of years old, but it should be more than enough as a mode of travel. Morsus rode on my back as I pedaled hard towards the event. I had my mark partially activated to give me the extra strength. Morsus also told me it would take some time before Ven could catch up. The dude would also need time to teleport to our realm.

“I don’t have a badge!” Morsus said. “I won’t be able to enter!”

“Can you duplicate this? I’m not sure if it would work.” I replied as I handed over my badge from my pocket. Morsus fell silent as he inspected that piece of technology that wasn’t even available on the market yet. “Or maybe can you just teleport into the middle of the event?”

“Chance, this thing is riddled with magic from Fuhrstenvald.” The boy stated with awe. “Whoever made this had a good grasp of Magitechnology. And it looked very complex. My time in the Citadel of Harfjord is not yet done, but I don’t think we would cover something like this in the curriculum.”

“You’re supposed to be the smartest among us. But if even you can’t figure it out, then we need to find another way.” I commented as we started to see the event grounds. There was a lot of noise, lights, and people. There were already thousands pouring in. Just looking at it already made me feel dizzy. “I didn’t expect to have this many people. But where are the enemies?”

“They’re around. And they’re probably waiting for the right time. It’s too early to attack.” Morsus pointed out. Then I felt a sharp prick on my neck. I groaned, and my steering wobbled due to my surprise. “Calm down!”

“Hey!” I exclaimed. “What the hell?”

“Just go ahead inside.” The boy urged me. I rubbed the area where the prick and I felt a similar engraved pattern like what River put there. “That was a tracker, so I can always sense where you are. I’ll find other means to get in.”

“Fine.” I quipped harshly. We were almost at the main entrance and decided to leave my bike in one of the racks in the nearby parking area. “But warn me next time you do that. I thought I was getting a tattoo or something!”

The event place was still a hundred feet away. I made sure to deactivate my mark and compress my avroi as much as possible to avoid detection from the others. Rei might drag me back to Altimeraea if he found me first.

Morsus and I separated as I mixed into a group of people. He walked away and vanished before I could notice. I took out my badge when I got to the security area. There was a really long line at the main entrance, and it took me almost half an hour to get in. And then the station where we can add money into our badges had even longer ones. Fortunately, there was already money inside, thanks to my generous uncle. I bought myself a drink as I tried to contact Jaden and the rest of my friends through the badge. It was one of the unexpected features of it. A few minutes later, Anya pinged me back and gave me their direction.

It was a good thing that they were in the Tech Zone Area because none of Rei’s team was stationed there. When I passed by the Main Entrance Area, I tried to look for River. I even tried to sense him through his avroi, but it was not familiar enough for me. There were just too much people, and I couldn’t distinguish him in the crowd. I tried checking him through the badge and looked for his profile, but all of them probably used a different name.

I dropped my search and went straight for my friends.

But the first person I saw was my own sister. Celine was goofing around with her boyfriend. Both of them were on the way to the Rides Area when they saw me. I felt so disoriented because my own sister might also get killed if the enemy attacked the event. That was when I decided to drag the rest of my friends to the same area just in case.

“Hey, twerp.” She greeted right away. Celine had her dark hair tied in a high ponytail that looked good on her. It wasn’t her usual hairstyle, though. Brian, on the other hand, was your typical jock with a fit body. But he’s surprisingly smart for one, and he was kind of a geek. “Where are your fellow twerps?”

“They’re in the Tech Zone. I’ll go get them, and maybe we can go to the rides with you guys.” I suggested. Celine frowned while Bryan just shrugged and seemed happy with the idea. “Where’s mom and dad?”

“They’re probably in the Back Stage Area. Mom’s probably going crazy from trying to take a good look at the guest celebrities.” She stated. Then there was a scrunch on her face. “And don’t even try to ruin my date with Bryan. Don’t you dare tag along.”

“Whatever.” I sneered and walked past her after that.

When I got to the Tech Zone, I saw Anya right away because of her red hair. I greeted them and did my special handshake with Jaden. We were still playing along, but the tension was still there. But as usual, Caitlyn didn’t really buy it like how Anya and Dylan did.

“Hey Valentine, thanks for the VIP Badges.” Caitlyn exclaimed playfully, loud enough for others to hear. Some of the people just looked at us in a funny way. Anya just giggled at that, and Dylan shook his head. “I wonder how much you spent just to treat us. We’re so lucky.

“Shh! Hey!” I shushed her eagerly. “No one’s supposed to know!”

“Oh. You mean why we only have the VIP Badges while Jaden had an X-VIP one like yours?” Caitlyn taunted.

“Stop complaining, Caitlyn.” Dylan intervened. And I let out a loud sigh. I couldn’t believe they were all being a jerk because of the badges. But I knew they were merely sarcastic. No hard feelings. “It’s a bad thing if we knew that Jaden could easily be bribed with this.”

“Can’t we all just be thankful for this guy?” Jaden hugged me from behind. I just groaned at all of them for being such efficient dickwads. Everyone who was in the area just sneered at us. “We all wouldn’t need to spend by that much if Chance didn’t gift us.”

“I guess some people like Jaden are far more privileged than others.” Dylan chuckled. “Maybe I should have had a quarrel with Chance before the event came, and I would have had the same badge, too.”

“Well, you could always give them back if they’re not good enough for you guys.” I replied with a sarcastic tone. Anya giggled right away. “Maybe I should give them to people who are actually deserving of the badge.”

“Nah. Thanks, Chance. We’re just messing with you.” Caitlyn laughed impishly and struck my shoulder. “Please, we really mean it.”

“Well, you’re all important to me.” I smiled warmly at them. Everyone smiled back, except for Jaden. There was a lousy smirk on his face. “Stupidity and all, you’re all great. Although that’s only applicable to Jaden. Dylan is too cool. Anya is too smart. And Caitlyn is too talented to be called stupid.”

They all laughed at that as we left the Tech Zone. I tried to spend time with all of them and had fun in the Rides Area. Jaden almost threw up more than a couple of times. I also tried to keep an eye out of Morsus or River, but they were nowhere to be found. On the other hand, none of the other people from Altimeraea were around, too. I remembered that Ven’s aunt was supposed to be in the Rides Area, but she was probably lost in the crowd.

I realized that there were so many people we needed to protect, aside from my friends. A dozen people were not enough to defend the event. People would surely die. It was really impossible to save everyone. And the bitter truth was just so hard to swallow. The stories of superheroes in movies and comic books were suddenly unbelievable. There was just no way Superman could save everybody.

To top it all off, Jaden was heavily aloof with me the whole time. Every action or his usual snark side comment was a lie. And it really hurt. I knew that he was not yet ready to take it well, and it was really stupid of me to reveal. For some reason, he had really made up his mind to blame everything on me for not being emotionally and mentally okay.

Caitlyn was quiet about the issue. Even Anya must have seen the hints during our time together. And Dylan was probably ignoring it. Everyone was just so affected, but I had to keep my focus. A mission was at hand. The goal was to protect them during the event. And I needed to keep them alive. Otherwise, there was nothing to repair afterward.

“Jaden, can I talk to you in private?” I asked him. All of them were caught off guard by my initiative. Caitlyn looked like there was a scandal being unfolded before her very eyes. “It’s important.”

He nodded at me, and we took off and gave distance.

“This is quite a bold gesture.” Jaden remarked with his eyebrows raised at me. I just overlooked the comment and looked at him with a poker face. “You do realize that we’re not necessarily on good terms. I’m just playing along with you since I don’t want them to be too worried.”

“I need a favor.” I said plainly. “It’s really urgent.”

“Wow. I have no words.” He exclaimed with honesty. Then he shrugged as if I was pulling off a prank. “I can’t believe you even have the balls to call out some favor.”

“They’re here. The enemy is getting ready. It’s what I’m afraid of.” I muttered, not knowing if Jaden would take it seriously. “Please find an excuse and make them leave before it’s too late.”

“Sorry, Chance. But I just don’t care what games you’re playing.” He replied with a grave face. Like River, a poker face would look misplaced if Jaden pulled it off. They were just not meant for that. “You may have all these crazy powers, but I don’t think anyone is crazy enough to attack with so many people.”

“Please.” I pleaded to him. Jaden had a firm stance, and his arms were crossed. I knew he took me seriously based on his body language. “You guys are all I have. If they attacked soon, I want you guys out of here.”

But Jaden just walked past me. Not a single word was spoken.

I didn’t follow right away. The first thing I felt was that someone was keeping an eye on me. For some reason, I just sensed a weird intent coming from somewhere behind me. I tried looking around to see Morsus watching from a distance. When we saw each other eye to eye, he walked up to me.

“He knows, does he?” Morsus concluded harshly with rhetoric, and I just stared at him in silence. Then I looked away. “You’re beyond stupid for doing that.”

“I don’t really have a choice.” I argued back. “That’s because

“Trusting is okay. But don’t mix it with an unhealthy naivety, Chance. It can be very dangerous.” The boy warned me. It was too late for a warning, though. The damage has already been done, after all. And repairing it at the moment was unknowable. “Learn from this.”

But before I could think of a comeback, a tremor was felt beneath our feet. I looked at Morsus, who turned pale beyond his usual complexion. It was no ordinary earthquake. The shaking continued, and little by little, the people around us started to notice it, too. Like the boy before me, they also began to turn pale. Much of them were alert and were contemplating if it was the time to panic.

Morsus looked around for potential enemies. That was when I spotted huge shadows that were hovering above in the sky. All of them had enormous wings, but since it was already dusk and were too far from the ground, I couldn’t even distinguish them at all. Beyond them was an awful pattern of dark clouds. It was like the top view of a typhoon from space. Except it was inverted. The eye of the storm had a reddish hue on it, and I could see sparks of lightning.

“Th-this…This isn’t Altimeraean ma-magic!” Morsus stammered. His hands started to shake, and he went paler by the second. Even his lips quivered, and blood was almost gone from his face. “This can’t be!”

“I don’t understand!” I replied. “What’s going on?”

One by one, the crowd also started to look up to the sky. Some of them took out their phones and started taking pictures. I was disturbed by the lack of anxiety in groups of people. Since the shaking of the ground halted, their panic quickly subsided. But all of them were distracted by what was going on above.

Some were also pointing at the weird things that were flying in the sky. I still couldn’t figure out yet what they were at that moment. Morsus was simply stunned in his place. My hands found his shoulder and started shaking him away from his daze.

“Hey! What’s going on?” I asked. His eyes were still fixated on what was happening above. I looked at it and noticed that there were small writings on the rim of the eye. “What the hell is that?”

The sky had turned into an enormous ritual circle.

“I’ve only read about that in the Citadel of M’Vokagola. If I remember it right, that’s the Ritual of the Soul Bridge!” The boy explained. Even the hair on his arms stood up as he spoke. “They’re not only going to test weapons, but they’re also going to fuse this dimension to another!”

“What?” I shrieked loudly. “Fuse two dimensions together?”

“How did they get past High Magus Shiraea? If they have that, then that means they have the Necronomicon.” A voice came from behind. We looked back to see River, who was just as pale. “Get ready for the worst-case scenario. We never considered that they were able to get their hands on such ancient weaponry.”

“Don’t tell me that thing will fire a giant laser down from the sky? The whole town will be obliterated!” I exclaimed. People who heard me around us looked considerate of what I said. It was my turn to lose blood from the face. The other two just frowned at me. “And we can’t even run away if it starts charging now!”

“No. The Soul Bridge doesn’t work that way.” River said.

“Wait a sec. You’re supposed to be in the Main Entrance Area. What are you doing here?” Morsus interrupted. Then River turned slightly translucent for a split second like how he appeared to me in the room. “Oh. A partial mind projection. You inserted your avroi into me. How?”

“The Rune Spell that Chance used to get you both here. Both of you were affected by that.” River replied dismissively as he tried to inspect the flying things that were gathering around the ritual circle. Then I noticed that one of his eyes were glowing. It had a similar glow of Morsus’ when he inspected my mark. “The inscription formula is being written invisibly. Only mages can see that. But those flying things are beasts. They’re not from Altimeraea nor from Elefsier. They didn’t show the traits of an Eidolon.”

“Right.” The boy gritted his teeth. “That was very sneaky.”

“Hey! Did you hear what he said?” I nudged at Morsus. I tried to look at them once more but was futile. They were too small, and I didn’t have any enchantments like the other two to take a closer look. “Those things are monsters, and they’re going to attack!

“I don’t think so.” River commented. “Those things are waiting for a signal.”

“Should we start causing panic in the crowd?” Morsus suggested.

“Wait. Don’t do that yet.” I stated quickly. Both of them seemed to listen for a moment. But Morsus looked very conceited from what I was about to say. So, I ignored him instead. “My friends need to get a head start. I need to find them!”

Then a bloody scream erupted from the crowd.

When we looked up to the sky, the strange things started to crash into the ground at high speeds. We could hear different things being destroyed and the splattering of blood from a distance. More screams came from the crowd. Even worse, I saw a dismembered arm was thrown into the air. And I almost hurled at the sight of that.

Consecutive detonations started to go off from the Central Plaza. And that managed to jumpstart the chaos among people. But they weren’t running away from the center. Everyone was disoriented and started to dash in every direction. I could see small kids were being dragged. Even people crash into the ground only to be stepped on by another person.

It was a stampede. And it was just pure chaos.

“I think that’s Valafar. That’s my cue. I need to go.” River said and started vanishing into the air. “Be careful. I trust you won’t do anything stupid. Especially you, Chance Valentine.”

Morsus looked like he considered every option, but he was stunned for a few seconds. It was sort of amazing that people weren’t running into us. The movies got one thing right. In the middle of an adrenaline-packed moment, everything just played in slow motion. I wasn’t able to think anymore, so I ran for it.

“I’m not really part of the plan, so I should be free to do whatever I choose!” I shouted back at him and started looking for my friends. It was even weirder that he didn’t attempt to run after me. “Save as much as people as you can!”

Morsus shouted something back, but his voice was soon drowned by the screams of people. All I could do was to keep running in the direction where Jaden walked past me. Within the past minute, people had already started dying. Those humongous things were so fast and fierce that I still couldn’t get a good look at them. And it was an even awful reality that there were only a few that started attacking.

As I ran, a huge dude tackled me to the ground.

“What the hell is wrong with you?” I roared at him. As I tried to stand up, he pulled my arm downward. “Damn it! I need to look for my friends!”

“I just saved your ass, you ungrateful idiot!” He barked harshly. “Look!”

Then I realized that we were under one of the enormous beasts. The thing, or whatever it is, didn’t even notice us. It was the size of a pick-up truck and had four legs. Most of the body was covered in thin, dark fur. The head looked like a demonic lion with a lot of horns coming out of its head. The fangs were over-sized, and the jaws looked tremendously powerful. Two pairs of monstrous bat-like wings were on its back, and a massive tail that was as thick as a small tree was at its end.

The thing swiped its paws as it lunged to one of the stalls. With one quick swing, the unfortunate bystander was destroyed. His limbs were dismantled like a piece of Lego toy. The beast’s arm was even thicker than my own body, and I knew that getting hit by that was instant death.

“Milo! Tina! Hide, damn it!” The person beside me roared. It was then I took notice of the guy who saved me. He was a huge and well-built fellow. A typical jock who was wearing his varsity jacket. The dude was probably a few years older than me. His eyes were a bit of a golden-amber and were wearing a buzz-cut hairstyle. And his dark chocolate skin looked firm with muscles. “Get away from here!”

During that split-second daze, I saw the couple of people that were afar and ran away. One was still a kid. Probably younger than ten and the lady with her was the same age as the guy beside me. All three of them were African-Americans and looked ridiculously athletic.

As the guy beside me stood up, I was stunned as he summoned a couple of longswords from nowhere. Both blades had a medieval appeal to them, and the crossguards looked royally designed. Then dark-colored armor appeared on his arms as well as a pair of greaves for his feet. The guy seemed really incredible and courageous as a white and gold breastplate appeared on his upper body.

“Yo-you’re a-a mage!” I stammered.

The guy ignored me and leaped into action. No hesitation at all. I just gawked at him as I realized how useless I was at that very moment. For days, I had trained harshly with Morsus and Ven. I pleaded to them that I was ready to fight for my friends. I wanted them to realize that I was already prepared. Yet there I was, stunned at the sight of the battle.

Then the beast noticed me again since I was the only one in the middle of the chaotic field. It tried to hack and slash against the varsity guy who was really surprisingly agile for his body build. I sensed his avroi being specifically pumped into his legs like some sort of augmentation. The beast could barely hit him as he got successfully slashed through the legs.

As the colossal thing roared, it went to me as the next target. But my helper was even faster. His dual weapons fused and transformed into a huge bastard sword that went cleanly through the left front and hind legs. It crashed a few meters away from me, and the only thing I did was watch. Black blood splattered all over the ground as I made an effort to stand up.

Yet when I looked behind, one of them had its sights on me. It was insanely fast. Even if I was ready for a fight, I didn’t have enough time to activate my mark and defend myself. But my savior was even faster. Right before I got mauled by its front paw, he was able to strike it with a huge-ass war hammer straight up to the jaw.

I heard bones cracked as the thing was thrown a few dozen meters away. The guy’s strength was just as monstrous as those beasts. I could only assume that his magic was amplifying his own bodily functions. And he was using it so effectively like some sort of super-soldier. His large war hammer turned into one longsword, and he raised it in case the thing tried to strike back.

“Move, damn it! Move!” The guy admonished sharply. He grabbed my arm and started dragging me out of the open field. It was weird that he took notice of me when there others being slaughtered in the event. “You’re one of the biggest idiots I have ever seen!”

A couple more took us as threats and circle around us in the skies. My helper took notice of it and summoned a spear this time. His weapon is probably like Prince Zein’s Brastius. It really had a lot of uses and was very deadly in the hands of a well-experienced user. And it was a comfort that I was fighting with one of them on my side.

In a flash, one of them charged. And the guy transformed his weapon back to the war hammer. It was slower than a spear, but his timing was right. Unfortunately, the charging beast pulled off a feint. It flew back powerfully at the last second while the other creature took it as a cue to launch a pincer attack from behind him. Since he used an overhead swing, there was no way he could twist his body to defend from behind.

I had no more choice. I took a deep breath, and I leaped into action.

“Apallatherosi!” I chanted loudly as the mark activated.

The dark avroi overwhelmed my body and quickly scattered throughout. I raised palm, and with a solid telekinetic push, the beast was jolted away from mid-air with an invisible force. Even the guy behind me was not expecting that. A smirk appeared at the corner of his mouth.

“I knew you were a mage!” He grinned like a mad man. “My guts were right!”

“Are you from Altimeraea?” I asked him quickly. He wasn’t in the meeting, but I had to make sure he wasn’t one of Rei’s underlings. “Answer me.”

“I’m from what?” He asked a bit sheepishly. Even one of his eyebrows was raised in wonder. His reaction looked genuine enough. But it was hard to believe that he was from my dimension. The way he uses his magic was too well thought of. “I have no idea what you’re talking about, bro.”

The other beast who the guy didn’t hit tried to attack again. It was quick. A misplaced timing could be fatal. But my Gravity Magic was practically telekinesis at that point. Timing would be my weapon. As the energy kept pumping out of my mark, I knew that my magic would be significantly amplified.

With everything I’ve got, I took hold of the beast with my magic as soon as it got near. I was able to stop it mid-way and tried to resist. It was really tough, and I had to use both arms to concentrate and hold it in place. But in one swift motion, I dragged my arms with strength away from each other. The beast was literally ripped in half before I raised an invisible telekinetic shield to avoid getting splattered by the black blood. From the way it bubbles on the ground, it looked corrosive.

“Jeez. That was brutal.” The guy beside me commented softly. He stuck out his hand, and I reluctantly shook it. “I’ve never met another magic-user. Honestly, this is all new to me. ”

“Likewise.” I quipped. Then simply observed his mannerisms.

“Nice to meet you, brotha. I wish that we could have met in a different circumstance.” The guy replied. He seemed really pumped up. In my mind, my only goal was to find my friends and protect them. “Right now, we need to buckle up. We need to be heroes!”

But I was no hero. I was just someone who wanted to protect his friends.

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