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Golden Gate Empire: Dreams of Grandeur [IC | PG-16]

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James Paget - The Hero Within

Underneath the cloak of illusion, Rawal was gesturing quickly, his muttering muted by the self-imposed silence on his voice as he spoke familiar incantations. Only after finally stopping would the effects of his forcibly-unnoticed actions grant a visible effect as those whom were against the thief that had revealed herself as Matilda would find themselves momentarily glowing with a pale white light, even the android. Those that glowed with this light began to see how, with every move made, they were healing at a rapid pace. Even a large number of other people in the room that had not been straight out murdered, that had hung on with an inch of their life, found themselves becoming put together, unwounded and uninjured.

Then the Cold came, slowing down the speed of how fast everyone healed, but it was still just enough to out-heal the sustained damage being taken by the Frozen World. Everyone would have to take care to suffer minimal injuries when possible.

The man of shadow and his...creation? Demon? He wasn't sure which, but it was clear which had a clearer head than the other. Rawal found himself momentarily feeling sorry for the smaller being, paired with a man that had no sense of self-respect, dignity or self-preservation.

Talis-Eye, I do not care what it takes to make sure that she cannot fulfill her goal, do it.

As soon as the people bringing the body actually decide to be smart for once!

Knowing standing around isn't going to be of help, Rawal began to move among the cold, thankful he kept his original attire elsewhere while having worn the altered set into the place that had been known as the Congo. What he wore was more geared towards a significantly-colder enviroment, and he was thankful he kept it with him through this trip. Unlike the others that felt the bite of winter, Rawal could almost believe himself back home in the Foundary, where various experimental creations would be taken for study, modification, and if deemed worthy, be added to the known texts regarding allowed Shaping variations.

Temperature-wise, he was almost home...and it made him slightly homesick.

Then one of the beams directly struck at Rawal, quickly encasing him in ice as he crossed his arms in front of his face...but almost as quickly as he was frozen, the ice began to melt, the aura combating the cold forced upon him as his hands began to glow with white flame as he himself glowed with a brighter light. He had readied a Heal to use on himself upon impact.

"It would be a shame for me to forget this novice piece of magic," he remarked as his head was free of the ice, pulling one hand out and begin to literally throw Bolts of Flame at Bethany, melting more and more of the ice off his person in rapid succession before any of the others could try to take advantage of his handicapped state.

As soon as he was free, he disappeared from view...and in his place appeared four Wingbolts that appear slightly unhinged and began to spray the place with fire instead of energy from their mouths as they flew unaffected by the cold through out the room to attack the opposition. Three of the four went towards Jack, Louis and Bethany. The fourth disappeared from view, joining Rawal in the cloak. However, they had their own problems due to their inherently-unstable formation. Were it not for the Regeneration Aura Rawal cast that hung onto them, these Unstable Firebolts would fall apart on their own.

Turning towards Matilda, realizing that the invisibility wasn't going to hold this time for long, he rushed towards her, his hands balled up into fists. He was normally not one to strike out, especially towards women in such a way...but considering the circumstances, he was about to make one very-big exception to this ideal as well as discover just how much of a beatdown he could indeed pack with this augmented body. He was significantly faster than before, that's a certain. The Unstable Firebolt under invisibility with him flew by his side, ready to use its stinger to poison the jabroni and for its flame to roast her as well.

(Sorry if it seems like I'm shrugging the ice aura, Cow, but after doing some math in my head...I realized that she'd encase the entire room with her 12-foot-diameter cold aura, which would mean that fight would be over almost as soon as Bethany entered. That would be fun for next to no one. Mind you, said ice aura is almost hard-countering the Regeneration Aura, granting only a sliver of a net gain on Rawal and allies' side.)


...so, you do not care that his own daughter plans to use Sergei's body to bind the Atlas, and all its power, to her. Once she is done, you will not have a body left to bury.

Once they were just a slight bit closer, Talis-Eye's main eye began to glow bright under the illusion of invisibility, forcing the dead body to still when possible even in the middle of the air, disallowed to be brought closer to the dining room. We are trying to make sure that the world you know isn't erased and replaced with a world that will destroy itself as soon as it is formed, due to her tampering with magic she knows not how to use. Please, we beg you, for his sake as well, do not bring the body closer.

Talis-Eye had shivered when Bethany approached, but became thankful that their species was innately resistant to many of the elements that existed, even the cold. Watching as Bethany walked in with one of the many eyes on the eyestalks, the one that watched her the most carefully narrowed its eye at her.

The Eyebeast felt something wrong with her mind, and so they turned most of their attention to the girl. Where is the girl that cared for those around her, they purposely projected into her head before trying to break whatever hold was on her mind. While others may use magic that attacks the mind, the Eyebeast is a native to such landscapes and had familiarity with that a non-psychic being would never be able to understand.

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Matilda smirked as Lace appeared in her field of view.  She was angry.  That was good.  It meant that Lace understood the severity of the situation she was in.  While that was beneficial to Lace, it was inconsequential to Matilda.  And if Lace continued on this path of attack, it would be the last attack she ever performed.


 "Where do you think you're going, Barbie-Doll?"


Oh.  That's right.  She had others to do her bidding now, didn't she?  Jack perfectly intercepted Lace's attack and steered the enemy off their path to self-destruction.  Matilda sighed silently to herself.  She had hoped at least one of these people would be mistaken in what they believed was the fastest way to do away with the enemy.


It was at that moment that fire burst forward from nothingness.  The "Shaper" who believed himself under a veil of invisibility Matilda could not see, began loosing bolts of fire in an attempt to counteract Bethany's absolute zero abilities.  


The creature he summoned.  The eyeball.  What was it called again?  That didn't matter.  But it was fleeing.  She could sense it.  It would die in the end too.  She could kill it now, but perhaps it deemed itself important.  Nothing would come of it interfering, of course.  She let the creature live.  Its master, however, was not as equally intelligent, it seemed.


To attack an enemy, one must first consider every option.


Matilda caught Rawal's arm mid-flight and looked him in his eyes.  "Let me tell you your first mistake," she said with snark.


"One," Matilda said as she suddenly snapped Rawal's wrist in an unsightly one hundred and eighty-degree motion.  "You revealed yourself too soon."


"Two," Matilda said as she used her free hand to smash Rawal's elbow inward through his arm and shatter his bones.  "You failed to analyze your enemy.  You don't even know what I'm capable of yet."


"Three," Matilda said as she turned Rawal around so that he was facing away from her.  The result was the same arm being twisted and snapped over his shoulder, rendering it useless.  "You thought you could blindly assault me without consequence.  You did not consider the consequences of your actions.  A tactical failure.  And all I did was break your arm.  Just how much of an amateur are you?" Matilda hissed.


She sighed as she let Rawal go and shoved him away.  "You know, at least you didn't attack me with a weapon.  If Lace had kept going, I was going to rip her blade from her palms and decapitate her.  Unfortunately, Jack interfered first.  Oh, Lace!" Matilda called.  "Make sure you say thank you.  Show Jack you're grateful for her saving your life."


Matilda dusted off her shoulders and looked at the dining hall door.  "Ah.  It's almost time," she thought to herself.




The elevator door dinged and separated, revealing the first-floor lobby.  The same creature which invaded his mind previously had reappeared.  It was trying to get Colston to heed his warning.  It seemed that Matilda was going to use Sergei's body for the end of her ritual.  But Colston was already too far gone.


Matilda had to answer for her crimes.  And she would indeed answer.  Colston shoved past Tiny, and with one hand, snatched open the dining hall doors.  There, Matilda stood waiting for him.




Matilda said nothing, smiling at Colston as he approached with Sergei's body in his hands.  Colston looked down to Sergei's lifeless corpse, still weeping.  He marched past Bethany, Jack, and Louis as if they simply were not there.  He lay Sergei's body on a single table and brushed the man's hair.  Raising his head, Colston turned back to Matilda, his eyes a brilliant silver, as he asked her a single question:  "Why?"


Matilda shrugged.  "He was in the way.  He was the final piece of the puzzle.  And I knew you wouldn't be able to resist the urge you have deep within you to see Sergei off peacefully.  That's why."


Colston looked to Bethany, Jack, and Louis.  "And them?"


Matilda shrugged again.  "I needed generals.  Someone to lead my soon to be created army.  Bethany won't last, but Jack and Louis will do.  The corruption seed in her brain will only last so long.  When it expires, I'll kill her.  It's that simple."


Colston clenched his fist.  "Simple?  This is simple to you?  He was your father!"


"He was a problem, Colston," Matilda replied.  "And if you could put your love for my father aside, you could join us."


"Join you?" Colston asked as the entire room began to quake.  "I'm going to kill you.  In my lifetime of serving Sergei, I've learned a great deal.  And now that I've learned from nearly every metahuman in existence, I'm going to use everything in my power to turn you into dust."


Matilda raised an eyebrow.  "I know every one of your tricks, Colston.  Even you can't penetrate my defenses.  Your use has expired now," Matilda said as she casually approached Colston.  "Begone."


A wave of force ejected Colston from the room and tossed him into the lobby.  Colston was caught off guard and stunned.  In that time, Matilda retrieved Sergei's body and stepped out of the dining hall.  "Have fun my dears.  If any of you are still alive when I return, I'll make your deaths qui--"


"You first," Colston said as he suddenly stood beside Matilda.


"Wha--what did you--my barrier!" Matilda shrieked.  A glassy blue wave of magic erupted around Matilda as her barrier of protection fell, rendering her vulnerable.  She seized Colston by the throat and squeezed as hard as she could while she lifted him off the ground.  "You're going to get a first-hand glimpse of my new world."  A black ooze appeared at Matilda's feet, and with Sergei's body in one arm, and Colston being choked by her other arm, Matilda disappeared inside of it.






Primary Objective, Rank B-Difficulty:

  • Survive.


Optional Objective(s), Rank S-Difficulty:

  • Defeat Jack.
  • Defeat Louis.


Hidden Objective, Rank Impossible-Difficulty:

  • Defeat Bethany.

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Bethany didn't have any time to think of what was going on. Only to react. Which was probably a good thing for Matilda's group. As the only thought in her mind was how she had to survive. They wanted to hurt her, kill her, and fear was all she felt. Her mind was a whirl with it. While on the outside she looked blank there was panic in her mind.


If the mind reader happened to look into her mind it wouldn't be able to discern anything. It was almost animal in nature. Instinctive reaction to the threat of death. Only a small voice, trying to break through the haze, could be heard in her mind and that voice was for Bethany and Bethany alone.


And Bethany was hearing none of it.


Which is why, as Angelica came to attack her, Bethany unleashed full force on the robot. The laser that came from her would be stopped as an arc came from the dome again. This time it wasn't as large an arc as before. It went up and almost immediately down. As it landed a pillar nearly instantly shot up in front of Bethany.


The volley hit the pillar and tore some chunks out of it but the ice seemed to re-freeze the parts that were gone. And, as this happened, two more arcs of ice magic came out of the dome. These ones moving horizontally and converging from the left and right upon Angelica.


The fire bolts that Rawal fired would meet a similar fate. Several arcs of magic launched and landed directly in their path. While the flames melted some of the ice more arcs continued to add onto the initial volley. As if reacting instinctively to the threat. The amount managed to overwhelm the fire magic until nothing was left but steam.

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"Hey hey hey, calm down with that!"


Bethany formed arcs of ice to block off Angelica's assault, and now she was sweeping at her using two of those. The heat didn't seem the bother her at all somehow. Angelica attempted her best to dodge the arcs by splitting herself into two as it swept towards her, and recombining moments after at another location. Having to constantly move made it hard for her to set up her large blast, but at the same time she couldn't just rely on her normal lasers to pierce Bethany's lasers.


"Tassel funnels, go!"


Her tassels separated from her and disappeared from view. Soon, they would find their angles to shoot at Bethany, trying to find a blind spot that Angelica could utilize against her. If there was one thing that Angelica was sure about, Bethany would not be able to read her mind, so Bethany at least wouldn't know the exact locations of all the funnels


Or so Angelica hoped.


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Lace's eye widened in shock at the sight of Jack's foot knocking Beowulf to the side. Gritting her teeth, XIII tightened her grip and pulled backwards, instantly stopping her attack mid stroke as her gaze shot towards Matilda. Knowing all too well that she was now wide open, Lace touched her feet to the ground then quickly darted to the side to create distance between her and the witch.


XIII brought herself to a sliding halt a few feet away, and found her gaze was met by a contestant that she had wanted to cross blades with since the very beginning.


"Where do you think you're going, Barbie-Doll?" Jack's words sounded like those of a demon.


Quickly glancing around, Lace watched as Matilda and Bethany quickly gained the upper hand before the former made her escape with the body. To make matters worse, Louis had yet to make his next move, meaning that Angelica and Rawal's battle to stop Bethany was about to grow even harder... 


I guess that means it's my job to take Jack down alone. I just have to trust that they'll find a way to stop Bethany...


XIII's grip tightened around Beowulf, causing the azure aura around her to suddenly flair once more against the coldness that continued overtake the room as she glared at Jack. Remembering what Matilda had said about Jack's new strength and speed bing on a level able to rival her own, Lace began formulating a strategy.


To call the situation dire would be a complete understatement...


"Of course..." As she spoke, Lace shifted her stance and grabbed Beowulf with both hands, before holding the large blade up at the ready. "It's only natural that I'd have to see to dealing with her underlings first." Bursting into motion the moment the words fell from her lips, Lace suddenly swiped upwards to release a large shockwave that traveled hungrily across the ground towards Jack at monstrous speeds. After releasing her attack, Lace dashed off to the right to circle around the Magnum Locust to close in whilst studying her opponents movements.

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Something had come off of the number one threat. Bethany didn't know what it was. Normally she'd be able to at least get some idea and react accordingly but her mind was too lost in a whirl of panic. All she could think about was that the person trying to kill her did something that she couldn't identify.


Instead of trying to target one specific thing Bethany instead used a different tactic. A cold wind blew around her as razor sharp shards of ice formed in a circle surrounding the girl. Several rows of them spinning faster and faster so that whatever angle the lasers shot from they'd instead hit the whirling ice wall.


As the lasers continued to rain upon these shards some of them would inevitably be destroyed, melted, or otherwise blown apart. It wasn't long before Bethany began to feel that they'd break through. So, with a cry much like a wounded animal, she launched the shards outward. The sharp bits of ice flew out in all directions. Threatening to cut through whatever was in their way.

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Louis looked on amidst the chaos with a rather displeased look on his face.  With everybody's attempts at killing one another, they had managed to dodge his initial onslaught of shadow blades.  One of the lady contestants in particular was strong enough somehow to cleave a couple of his tendrils in twain.  This is why he'd much rather prefer killing from the shadows...it wasn't as loud and hectic as this all was.  This really wasn't his style...teamwork...multiple targets...It was honestly rather annoying.  He gathered the shadows back towards the orb he his inside, and gave off a rather large sigh.  


"Are you annoyed that you have to kill more people?"  Basabth asked.  


"Of course not!  But I have my preferences, you know?"  He flipped his hair, and placed his hands in his pockets.  "Whatever, let's kill them all quickly then, shall we?"  And with that, the shadows morphed once again to produce needle like structures around the entire surface.  With a thought, the spikes shot out in every conceivable direction,  They were as thick as an icicle made from Bethany, but ten times as sharp.   "Go after that one will you?"  Louis said, eyeing the girl who had blasted a tear in his tendrils from before.  


"Aye aye."  Basabth growled.  As any spike neared Angelica, it would expand, and a form would produce itself from the liquid like substance.  Basbth emerged from the portal in his second state, and swiped at the girl, hoping to maim her or push her into the direction of any other spike.  

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"Of course..." Lace said, shifting her stance and gripping her sword with both hands as she held it up at the ready. "It's only natural that I'd have to see to dealing with her underlings first." With a mighty swing, Lace released a great, crescent wave of energy that dragged through the floor and ceiling as it raced before Jack. Lace, meanwhile, dashed and circled around as the wave of energy barreled down on its target.


Jack spun on her heel, twirling to the side as the wave of energy raced past her, a sickeningly wide grin plastered across her face. As the energy raced past, the grappling tethers that led up her arm slowly extended until the touched the floor, various thorns and spine extending from the cables as they left the safety of Jack's arm. The cables dragged on the ground as she turned to face Lace, laughing.


"Sweetie, if I was just following orders I would have let Matilda eat you alive," Jack said, her voice elated at the prospect ahead of her, licking her lips in the process. "But no, not this time. I'm not letting her take away my toys before I get a chance again, not before I get to have some fun. And believe me, we're going to have soooooo much fun together~"


Once again, Jack twirled on the spot, raising her arms. All six whips rose from the ground and twirled with her. In one quick movement, Jack gripped all three whips on her right hand, and with her spin flicked the whips forward in Lace's direction, the thorny tendrils of dark-matter lashing out with great force.

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Matilda had dragged Colston and Sergei to the top of the North Tower, where three strange, otherworldly creatures waited for them.  They were each standing well over ten feet tall, hulking around with broad shoulders and a thick shell over their flesh.  Their skin was a burnt orange and they walked on eight legs, like crabs. They bore four arms, two of which had pincers.  A barbed tail and slits for eyes were the smallest defining features of these monsters, as they hissed and snarled with anticipation.  These were a new creation of Matilda's founded based on her own newly created "creation magic".  She called them Kragels (Cray-guls).


Matilda rose through the rooftop and let Colston go from her grip.  He rolled into the feet of the monsters on the roof, and one of them drew up one of their many legs and attempted to run him through.  Colston pushed himself away and escaped unscathed.  


As he stood to his feet, Colston watched as Matilda placed Sergei's body on a stone table.  It was carved with all kinds of runic symbols that he did not recognize.  There was a perfectly round hole in the center of the table which Sergei's back now covered.  On all sides of the table, narrow channels were etched into the stone and led to the ground.  These channels stretched toward Matilda's feet and formed a singular circle around her.


Colston closed his eyes and opened them slowly while he drew in a deep breath.  The world around him slowed drastically, to the point that everything nearest he was completely silent.  A massive black bubble suddenly encompassed the North Tower rooftop, and everything inside of it was hidden. 


This was a special technique that he picked up from the Old World.  The Time Bubble.  He could temporarily contain everything inside of it without having anything inside the bubble affect the outside world.  This is what he was waiting for.


All he had to do was survive long enough for the others to arrive.


Matilda was frozen in place, staring down at Sergei with a smile.  Her Kragels too stood unmoving, sealed and trapped by the Time Bubble.


Colston stood up slowly and peered outside of the Time Bubble.  The Magical Handling Unit was coming.  They had the means to defeat Matilda for good.  




The Return


Geno had arrived late.  He could see the contestants engaged in battle inside of the dining hall, but they were fighting one another.  What the hell was going on?  And where was Colston?  Tiny was unconscious on the floor, his large body propped against the wall.  Sergei was dead.  Matilda was a traitor.  Was there anyone else he could trust?

Geno's radio buzzed with feedback and he snatched it from his waist.  "Who's on this channel?  It better be important."


For a moment there was only static.  Then, a voice boomed through.  "It's Jackson.  There's a hell of a lot of powerful magic coming from your location.  You need to have Sergei evacuate those people.  Now," Jackson demanded.  There was a roar of wind in the background of wherever Jackson was.


"... Sergei's gone, Jack.  We're on full lockdown," Geno replied.


Jackson was silent for a moment.  "... we know.  And that's one more reason for us to get those people out.  Standy, Geno.  Help is nearby."


The radio went silent.  But on the other side, Jackson was engaging with the rest of the M.H.U.


"Koko!  Plan B!" he called out of the window of his vehicle.  "Two teams!  One to the roof, and one to the first floor!"


Kokoro nodded before turning to her people as Jackson screeched away.  


"Tyson, Robert, Saul.  With me.  We're gonna get to the contestants.  Dirk, Nero, Morgan, Basille.  Get to the roof and help Colston," Kokoro ordered as she approached the North Tower doors.


"What will Zyg do?" Zyg asked.


Kokoro smiled.  "You're our ace in the hole, buddy.  Standby.  You're gonna be the star of the show.  Everyone else, prepare to breech."


Saul went forward ahead of Kokoro and placed a single giant hand on the door.  He could not detect any magic on the North Tower door, meaning it was safe to breech it.  He nodded to his comrades behind him before turning back to the door.  With a single giant foot, Saul kicked the doors down.


Mama Said Knock You Out  


The teams divided, with Kokoro, Saul, Tyson, and Robert approaching the dining hall.  Morgan, Basille, Dirk, and Nero headed to the top of the North Tower where Matilda and Colston were in wait.  But before Morgan was completely out of range, Kokoro called to Morgan.


"Morgan," Kokoro said quickly.


Morgan stopped in her tracks and turned around.  "What's up, boss?"


"Reach out to our remaining units, and have anyone who can scramble show up this way.  Especially Star Boy and Lightning Mouth," Kokoro ordered.


Morgan scratched her head.  "Star B--oh, you mean the old man?  Alfonso?  It's a far reach considering he could be a few galaxies away."


"Yeah, I know.  But we might need all the help we can get," Kokoro confirmed.


"And Lightning Mouth.  That's Elspire?" Morgan clarified.


Kokoro nodded.


"Okay.  I'll get the word out.  I'll use a portable gate and send out a few of my friends to reach them.  But don't get your hopes up," Morgan said as she headed for the roof.






"This is a very powerful barrier.  It can only be released when the creator steps inside of it," Saul said.


"I've got an answer for that," Robert said.  He stepped forward with a brilliant, radiating stone in his hands.  A magical object.  "The Eject Stone.  I never thought I would get to use it."  Robert pushed the stone against the barrier, and he could feel it evaporating as it touched the barrier.  There was a shimmer of light, and for a moment, Robert frowned beneath his hood.  "Hmm.  I thought for sure that would--"


There was a powerful echo and a shatter of what sounded like glass, and the barrier that was surrounding the dining hall crumbled.  Immediately, a powerful cold spilled outward of the dining hall and began to ice every inch of the first floor, slowly creeping up through the hotel.  Kokoro shielded her face and Robert tightened his hood.  Saul remained unphased while Tyson seemed agitated.


Tyson stepped forward with fire brimming from his every pore.  "Let's give them a hand, shall we?"




Primary Objective(s), Rank C Difficulty:


Work with the Magical Handling Unit.


Optional Objective(s), Rank A Difficulty:

Defeat Jack.

Defeat Louis.

Assist Colston.


Hidden Objective, Rank Impossible Difficulty:

Defeat Bethany.

Stop Matilda.


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"Hey, hey, watch where you're going with that!"

As Angelica was focusing her lasers n her attempt to try hitting Bethany, Louis and Basabth decided to join the fray and attack her directly. Many tendrils exploded from all direction, and Angelica had to shift into her Seraph mode on the fly to even be able to dodge them on the fly. But, that was not all, as the spikes would expand whenever they grow and became near with her, leading towards Basabth itself manifesting from them in its attempt to cut her apart. Angelica blocked with her arm, which got cut off cleanly by the shadow creature, but she was able to pick the arm back up and digested it back into herself while absorbing the blow to power Paraiso. Just in time too, as she ended up failing to dodge one of Bethany's ice shard attacks, who tore a hole through her even after she used Paraiso's energy absorber to mitigate it. Grumbling, Angelica attempted to patch the hole the best she could as she brought out her sword and start going forward with her thrusters fully active in an attempt to hack apart Louis with the blade, while her funnels managed to dodge Bethany's shards and continued their attempt to keep Bethany busy.


At the same time, the barrier around the dining hall shattered, revealing new arrivals to the party. Angelica recognized none of them, but she honestly couldn't give a sheet about their identity right now. If they're with the enemy, she would bring them down, and if they're with her, she would be glad to have them around. That's just simple.



"Didn't seem like the ideal way to regroup and deal with a problem, but I suppose that this was desperate enough for such a measure to be necessary."


The white-demon lord maintained his smile with the rest of his group as they ascended over the stairs. He was always just thinking that he would not be around meddling in the affair of mortals anymore and that he would be able to continue her existence as someone that had no bearing to the mundane world, but regrouping with his old associates this way were not bad at all. He thought of making small talk with the others as they go, but with the seriousness of the situation, he'd just let his smile deal with that for him. It didn't take long until the four of them reached the rooftops, only to see it covered by a black bubble born out of magic. Even Nero had to grumble at that sight.

"Time bubble, huh? I see that they really are desperate now."


This shouldn't be all that much for the four to handle. Nero walked to the side, and let Morgan lead in the way of dealing with the situation as she would see fit.


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Somewhere in Bethany's mind she realized that the enemy has grown in numbers. But all that registered was that things were getting more and more dangerous for her.


She let out a scream as she collapsed to her knees. The girl began pounding her fist into the ground repeatedly as her emotions overwhelmed her. After each pound a lance of ice would shoot up in the area around her, threatening to pierce everything within a twenty-foot radius. The ground was soon covered in these ice lances.


"Sloppy." There it was again. That familiar voice. It sounded....irritated. "Is this what all my work amounted to?" Who was it? Where was it? "That damn woman, stupid, annoying, woman. No one beats me in mind magic..."


"WHO ARE YOU?" Bethany screamed out suddenly. She didn't know who was talking to her, or why, she had even forgotten what she was doing here. All she knew was that the only way the terror that gripped her heart let up was by attacking.


A cold mist was forming across the ceiling. It would extend in a brief time across the entirety of the room. Once it was finished it would unleash the magic stored inside. Magic which could be physical felt by those in the room.



Ugh, she would have to scrub her tongue out three times to wash the taste of calling anyone that out. Morgan knew that it was necessary. These people followed Kokoro and not playing nice would be no good for her. But deep in her heart the witch knew that it was she who should be calling the shots.

And she will.

Just, not yet.


"This'll get that Dragon boy's attention." Morgan said with a giggle as she watched the skeletal Dragon Whelp fly through the portal, with the message "Elspire, I know you're busy, but something big is going down so if you'll be a dear and come around that would be great. Signed, your favorite witch in the whole world, Morgan Reaperson." recorded on a magic rune in its skull.


With that business done she was able to continue on her way up to the tower. "And of course I'm stuck with THESE guys." She muttered, rolling her eyes at the grand procession of Cheesy Action Hero, Blind Hippie, and Old Gay Demon.


"Well isn't this just lovely." She said in a rather relaxed tone as she strolled up towards the edge of the bubble. "Which one were you? Coleslaw? Whatever, looks like you're not very good at this business if that's all you could do. Now why don't you make yourself useful and step aside so I can kill that cretin and go home."


Morgan glanced at the girl in disgust. "Just another worm trying to use magic to become all-powerful. Doesn't she know it's futile? The world's strongest witch is ME."


The creatures Mathilda had summoned made it even worse. What kind of hackney job was THAT? Morgan knew what a real summoned creature was.

Once upon a time she could only summon skeletons. It was her father's specialty after all. But she had long since learned many other kinds of necromancy. From other liches, to demon lords, and beyond. She had a special number in mind for Mathilda.


With an, unnecessary, snap of her fingers Morgan began the spell. A summoning circle appeared before her and out of it came a hulking monstrosity.

Not quite as tall as Mathilda's beasts, at ten feet, it had long, as long as its body, and seemingly thin, arms which Morgan knew from earlier testing were strong enough to tear through steel like paper. Its face was missing a mouth and had a dropping, crooked, nose. Straggly, straw-like, hair shot up in bunches along the top of its skull.

The creature had a broad chest and a narrow waist. The thing's chest bore what looked at first to be a slash wound across it but, as the creature entered the world, it would be clear that it was in reality a mouth with several rows of needle-like teeth. This mouth was capable of consuming much more mass than the creature's own body and, as the thing opened the mouth, there was a sound similar to a vacuum coming from it.

To top it off the monster had a pair of thick, black, tentacles waving around at its back.


"My Abomination should be more than enough to devour those crappy crustaceans." Morgan gloated.

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"Sweetie, if I was just following orders I would have let Matilda eat you alive," Jack said, her voice elated at the prospect ahead of her, licking her lips in the process. "But no, not this time. I'm not letting her take away my toys before I get a chance again, not before I get to have some fun. And believe me, we're going to have soooooo much fun together~"

Lace's eyes narrowed as she rapidly closed in on Jack. Though when she raised her blade in preparation to counter Jack's tendrils, she suddenly registered the spikes that were rapidly approaching from behind. Leaping backwards, Lace quickly drew her straight sword and suddenly broke into an acrobatic spin whilst swinging both blades apart towards the two incoming attacks.
In that instant multiple arcs of light flashed around Lace's tiny form to meet both the tendrils and the thorns of darkness, each an insanely fast sword stroke augmented by her spirit. "Iron Lotus..." Landing on her knees with both arms wide at her side, Lace glared at Jack whilst a group of new arrivals made their appearance. 
"Fun?" The arrival of reinforcements did nothing to lighten XIII's spirits. Hearing Bethany cry out yet again, Lace's expression was grim with murderous intent as she slowly brought herself to feet whilst staring down Jack. "Well see how much fun you're having when I rip whats left of you out of that suit." Her usual deadpan tone dripped with contempt as she took a step forward to begin her next charge. The quicker she finished this, the quicker she could see to saving Bethany...
XIII's grip tightened on her blades. However before she could advance, a massive torrent of flame suddenly shot between her and opponent. The fire seemed unnaturally hot, so much so that Lace found her self instinctively backing away, as if even her very soul was in danger of being burned away.
"Hellfire?!" Lace's eyes were wide as she looked to the room's east wall, where a massive hole now billowed smoke into the outside world. Turning to see who had been responsible for such an attack, her lavender gaze was met with a man clad in black. His hand smoked as he lowered it to the large gun holstered on his thigh, and he brandished an irritated smirk as he approached.  
"Go on and help your friend, dollface..." Tyson called over to the petite swordsmen as he drew his dessert eagle, causing gleaming pistol to suddenly be engulfed in the same unearthly flame he had used moments ago. "Just leave these runts to the pros." 
"Two vile souls, Ripper..." Mephisto's voice purred in the back of his mind, causing him to grunt with annoyance. "a fine harvest."
"I wanted to take a crack at the boss, not these small fry..." Tyson thought back before calling over to Robert. "Robert, help her cut the AC will ya? It's freezing in this jabroni..." 
The man walked with a confident swagger, not even bothering to take his free hand out from the pocket of cargoes as he begun to open fire on Jack, Louis, and his pet with each step. These rounds were charged with hellfire, and would detonate in a nasty explosion of the soul searing flame on impact. 
After sending two shots towards each of his targets, Tyson flicked his wrist, causing a silver chain to suddenly manifest on his free hand. Gripping Mephisto's chain tightly, Tyson sent hellfire swirling down it's barbed links, before swinging it in a wide arc towards Jack. The Devil's Arm quickly extended to more five times it's original length, tearing through the room's walls at it was swung towards rogue contestant. 
"Right." These people seemed quite powerful. She'd have to trust that they were able to take care of themselves...
Using Tyson's sudden offensive as an opening, Lace used Helter Skelter to vanish in a flicker of movement. Though she wanted to be the on to defeat Jack, Bethany was the main priority here.
XIII's tiny form reappeared in the air roughly sixteen feet from Bethany. Swinging her blade downwards, she shattered the spears of ice directly bellow her, and skillfully landed on the frozen ground. The cold coming from the ice mage was much stronger here, and Lace could already feel a light layer of frost beginning to gather on her clothes.  
"Bethany!" She called over the various noises that had filled the room since this conflict had started. It was hard so see through the frosted air, but in the center of storm, Lace could just barely make out her friend's huddled form. Gripping her blade tighter, Lace began to run forward against the ice winds, slicing through the field of lances whilst doing her best shattered an frost that begun to form on her own body. 
"Stay right there..." XIII called out ounce again as she growled with effort. Bethany was always trying to save people. Everyone, despite the fact that she had her own problems worry about. Bethany was the hero as far as Lace was concerned, but now the tables were turned... 
"You don't have to do a thing this time... I'll save you!" 

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Lace had deflected Jack's attacks, and this is what she had come to expect from one moving at the same speed and strength; a stalemate until one of them slipped up.


"Well see how much fun you're having when I rip whats left of you out of that suit," Lace growled, staring Jack down.


Jack simply laughed. "My, aren't you coming on strong today! At least buy me a drink first!"


Gunshots rang through the banquet hall, forcing Jack's enhanced reflexes to kick into high-gear as magically flaming bullets whistled past. Jack turned quickly to see who it was that fired and saw a gaping hole where once the door stood.


"Go on and help your friend, dollface," the one with the guns called out, his weapons engulfing themselves in flames. "Just leave these runts to the pros."


Jack's face darkened as she glared at the new-comers. "I'm sorry, I don't recall inviting you limp-dicks to the party." The hired gun, of course, didn't respond as he took out some kind of chain that swirled with hellfire, whipping the metal around the room as it extended and tore at the walls and floor, leaving seared scars wherever it hit. In response to the attack, a massive cloud of opaque, pitch-black smoke engulfed her position, forming a bubble of the swirling, almost-liquid gas. As Tyson continued to attack, the smoke dissipated with each swing and steadily thinned out.




As the smoke disappeared, there stood, crouched and poised on the ground like a couple of demonic cats, not one but two Jacks. They both glared down at the newcomers and laughed.


"I thought it would be only fair if we evened the odds a little," the Jacks snarled simultaneously. "Once I'm done with you, limp-dick, I'll be able to have as much fun as I want with my little friend over here. Just one thing? When you scream, feel free to make it as loud and as passionate as you can so I can get off."


The duo of Jacks split off into either direction and sprinted towards Tyson at unnatural speeds. Shots rang out as the clones ducked and weaved, bending in their backs and limbs in angles just a bit too extreme for any normal person. As the one on the right got close enough, it pounced for the demon hunter, but as it sailed through the air a beam of searing light pierced through the air and shot its right arm clean off, a spatter of dark-purple goo splatting across the ground behind it before dissolving into smoke.


"Careful, those aren't the real thing, try not to let them distract you too much," A low voice growled from behind Tyson. Saul stood, squinting at the clone Jacks, watching the one on the right tumble backwards with one less arm. As it regained its pose, the arm steadily reformed, only this time with a much meatier, more biological look to it. Both of the clone Jacks seemed to transform, their spines dislocating and relocating into more animalistic postures, spines growing from the elbows and shoulders, their faces elongating and their mouths widening and large, webbed bat-wings sprouting from their backs.


The one on the right that was attack roared with a jackal-like, screeching voice, and bounded forward towards Tyson before belching out a plume of purple flames while the other pounced with long, shining claws glowing a similar purple colour.


Meanwhile, Jack crouched on the rafters above in the banquet hall, squinting down and watching as the carnage took place. Quickly, she crawled across the ceiling like a human spider before reaching an angle where she could see Lace very clearly. Planting her back against the ceiling, she took her bow, a barbed red-and-black hellish-looking instrument, and knocked a dark, glowing arrow and aimed it a Lace's position. She loosed a few arrows that arced through the air, but to be expected of her opponent none of them properly hit their mark, even as Jack mentally steered them through the icy winds Lace managed to narrowly avoid their impact. The arrows slammed into the floor, deeper than any normal projectile, and after a couple seconds exploded with surprising force, sending bits of marble and concrete flying through the room.


Jack's cover was blown after firing those arrows, of course, and she was in no position to be dodging or fighting. After the arrows missed, Jack released herself from the ceiling and fell to the floor, landing in a crouched position as she stowed her bow away and extended her tethers once more. "Oh I'm sorry sweetie, she's not with you anymore," Jack said, laughing. "Lil' Red's with us now, and she's much happier this way~"





The banquet hall was in complete chaos, and judging by the state of the contestants they were tasked with rescuing, Saul was at least glad that they had arrived when they did. The ice-girl's magic was completely out of control, and if allowed to go unchecked, could possibly freeze everyone in the building and beyond. Tyson had gotten to work attacking the one in the black armor, though as Saul stepped in to help it didn't seem like that one was all that she seemed. If it were Saul's choice to stop Bethany's onslought, he would have to put her down and out of her misery. Yet, from what he could hear of the one contestant, she seemed hell-bent on rescuing the girl instead of killing her.


At the other end of the room, was a boy and his shadow beast fighting the only other person without help. Saul hefted his large sword and nodded. He knew where he needed to be. "Tyson," Saul said, stretching his neck, "keep an eye on the girl and the one with the ice. If she is not successful in rescuing her, then we have to put her down before she causes any more damage. I will give her this chance, but I am not keen on risking more lives than I need to. Watch her back."


Saul hefted his sword, its deep red blade glowing first a dull red, then a bright orange, and now a searing yellow-- clouds of condensed, steaming air billowing as the cold winds came into contact with the superheated blade. He turned to face Louis and his shadow beast, and called out to the contestant. "Clear yourself from the boy! There is a deep shadow in this room, and I will not stand until it is purged from the face of this planet! Now face the burning fires of heaven's wrath!"


He waited only a short moment for Angelica to clear out of the way before swinging his blade upwards and bringing it down onto the marble floor, a massive, whirling pillar of flames erupting from floor-to-ceiling and roaring loudly as it burned through the floor, aimed directly at Louis and his shadow-pet.





Dirk felt a degree of disappointment for not being one of the people assigned to the banquet hall, but was at least pleased with being given the opportunity to take a crack at the big bad behind all of that was going on around them. The tower's top had been encased with a swirling bubble of dark magic and around it swarms of creatures were summoned. Of course, their resident witch wasn't going to have any of that, as she summoned her own creature to combat them.


"My Abomination should be more than enough to devour those crappy crustaceans," Morgan said, allowing her eldritchian horror to have its own share of the combat.


Dirk, on the other hand, lit a cigarette and loaded his gun. "Hey, if it means I don't gotta do as much work, I'm totally fine with it. In fact, if we get this done early, what's say you and me head out and grab some dinner ourselves? Nothin' like a little incentive for a job well done." Dirk winked at Morgan who, in return, responded with her expected, exaggerated groan and roll of the eyes.

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Louis looked on, as his spikes managed to do some major damage to some of the contestants...but the robotic one was proving to be much more difficult to kill than most.  Basabth had done some harm as well, but it was merely shrugged off.  


"That chick really pisses me off."  Louis growled.  It was then that his attention was brought towards a group of new arrivals, who had shattered the barrier placed by Matilda.  Whoever they were, to counteract something made by that maniac, they probably weren't the crowd to be trifled with.  One of them started by shooting straight at Louis, who immediately erected a shield of shadow to block the attack.  They blew up on impact, leaving holes in the shadowy wall that were merely filled in an instant.  "What the hell are those things made of."  Louis said.  Normally, he'd be able to block high caliber bullets, but these were more than that.  As expected.  "I should've done some more digging around here...then I might know who these bastards are... have an easier way to kill them already thought up."  


"Clear yourself from the boy! There is a deep shadow in this room, and I will not stand until it is purged from the face of this planet! Now face the burning fires of heaven's wrath!"


A pillar of flame started to warp it's way to Louis' position, but was stopped in it's tracks when the shield erected for the other's assault elongated itself to account for the new rising fire.  The flames were redirected to the outside of the shadowy wall, but Louis could still feel it's heat as it washed past him.  


"Basabth...I don't think we should be playing around anymore.  These are serious threats.  Shift into third gear now."  


"Roger boss!"  Basabth responded.  His form began to shift, as more bone-like structures protruded from his body, gaining the same form he had when faced against Bethany.  "Should I go after mecha-angel over here?"  


"No."  Louis groaned.  "Save her for later...go after mister 'guns blazing' over there."  Basabth looked to see who he meant, and saw the man with a chain on fire.  He nodded, as he rushed the man with the chain, drawing back a fist for a punch.  Without having much time to practice in this form, he forgot how fast he was able to move.  He threw his punch, aimed square for the man's shoulder.  When he was in range, Basabth was sure he could feel another presence inside the man.  

"Hey!  You're like me and my master?!  That's crazy!  Too bad I've got orders to kill you!  I'm sure we could talk about it!"  


Meanwhile, Louis still stood behind his shield of shadow.  His hands were placed in his pockets, as he thought of something to do.  He stomped on the ground, albeit a bit pathetically, as two giant shadow hands were launched out of the wall, towards the man with the sword.  One aimed to punch, and the other aimed to grab him whichever direction he dodged.  


"You crashed the wrong murder party, pal."  Louis grinned, wildly.  

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