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Rule of Nines (CLOSED, Backstory)

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#1
KOLE

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(To the tune of: Rule of Nines – Spiritbox)

 

Centuries ago, when the Sage Three ruled with an iron fist...

 

A corvette floated in empty space, somewhere in the Insanus galaxy. Most of the ship was powered down, and the cargo hold was empty. On the exterior, the name “FREEDOM LIGHTER” was inscribed in simple print. The ship was warm, uncomfortably so. An airlock opened, steam and sweat escaping into the open hair. A man, giggling, exited, pulling on a pair of pants as he did so.

“-not like you, the heat bothers me.” He was calling back, laughing. From the doorway was dispensed a boot, flying high. The man ducked and it collided with the wall behind him.

“Missed!” He shouted back, a second too late as a second boot landed lightly, richocheting against his hip.

“Check the damn comms!” A voice whispered from within, stifling laugher.

“Yes, yes, whatever you say.”

 

The man made his way through the darkened ship, hopping on one foot as he placed his boots on. Every step he took, another compartment lit up automatically. He exits the halls and enters a wide room with a long table. As the room lights up, one of the walls opens, and various appliances activate. Steam emerges as a fresh cup of caffeine is being brewed. The man snatches a tank top off the table- which has various garments strewn about, and pulls it over his head.

“Good morning, FL.” The man declares. A bagel fires from the now-exposed wall, and he catches it instinctively. “Nice shot.” A brief chime calls over the intercom as a synthetic voice speaks up.

“Good morning Captain. I’d prefer my original designation.” Taking quick bites of the hot bagel, the tall sculpted man grabbed the hot cup from the automatic dispenser.

“Oh, come on darlin’, I don’t want to have this fight again.”

“Freedom Lighter is not my original designation, Captain.”

“As Captain, I have the authority to assign new designations.”

A brief pause. A new chime.

“The Captain did not assign the new designation.”

The man opened another airlocked door, revealing the small, two-seater cockpit of the vessel. Taking a seat and acknowledging the dash display, he sighs, taking another bite of his bagel while speaking with a mouth full.

“Look, Computer, it was her idea, but I chose it.”

Chime, and reply: “Biorhythm signs indicate this to be deceptive.” The man stopped chewing. Under his breath, he muttered, “I didn’t know you could do-“

Chime: “Captain, we’ve worked together for several years. I have learned both of your fondness for deception and some of your biorhythm patterns. This one prefers their original designation.”

The man stared wordlessly at his dash, frozen in mid chew. A voice came from the mess hall.

“Nails! Have you checked the comms yet?” snapping his head back, Captain Nails spotted his lover pulling clothing off the table. A short woman with well-tanned skin stood on one foot, the other up near her hip and she tried to pull on an errant stocking that had been hanging off the chair. She was naked save for a large watch-like piece of technology on her wrist. A bagel fired at her; gabby caught it while simultaneously giving a final tug on her stocking. “Nails!”

 Distracted by the view, Nails snapped back to attention.

“Yep, communication received. Computer, display in the mess hall.”

“What is this one’s original designation?” the familiar voice chimed in; this time isolated to the cockpit.

“Not now…” Nails muttered under his breath.

“Captain.”

“Fine! Grace Sonata! Would you please display communication to the mess hall?”

“With pleasure, Captain.” The voice chirped happily.

 

At this point, Gabby had pulled on another stocking, ate half a bagel, and was in the process of lacing up her tall canvas Zonverse boots. A projector attempted to display from the table, but its lens was obscured by the cup of a bra draped haphazardly over it. Gabby pulled it free, tossing it recklessly away. An image filled the room of a cloaked figure, Gabby wasn’t sure she could make out any of the face. The image was distorted, and the voice crackled and hissed with static.

“…I’ve heard you have a talent for destruction and a grudge to settle with dictators. I happen to serve one of the worst of them.” A new image overtook the old. A woman beamed from the projector, pink haired, with wings unfurled.

“…My Mistress, Hikaru Tyris. I have long wished to break free of her rule, but her power is overwhelming. I’m not sure of anyone who can truly best her. But I’ve been told you may have your ways.”

Gabby, still mostly nude, munched absentmindedly on the remains of the bagel as she listened to the prerecorded message. Nails took a seat next to her, taking careful notes on a keyboard projected onto the table.

“I have bided my time, but just yesterday, she went beyond the pale. She caught wind that somebody intended to escape, or challenge her in some way. This was her response.”

The image shifted again, showing a recording that had almost definitely been taken in secret. If Hikaru had been watching the recording, she would note it was captured from exactly where Purple Thumb had been standing.

 

"This thinking is dangerous, and can lead to very severe consequences..." a chilling voice declared. Gabby eagerly watched the pink haired woman’s next move.


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#2
Hikaru

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It was a busy day at the giant castle that served as the fortress from which Hikaru ruled the Outerverse. Where you would usually find maybe a few people walking about the throne room and Hikaru off to who knows where, the castle left in the care of one of her apprentices; today it was packed. The occasion? An execution.

 

Recently there had been rumors of a rebellion, even an attempt here and there by the lowly slave that dared try. This was something Hikaru could not just let go. No... This was something she had to crush immediately.  The last time Hkaru had failed to put an end to an uprising her lands had been retaken by her brother all because she had allowed that traitorous bastard Xanacore to hang around. What's more, she had even trusted him at one point! Believed his feeble lies of turning on K2323, and his sudden willingness to join the other side. That had been a mistake.

 

This time would be different.

 

Hikaru now stood before the thousands packed into the throne room. Thought it was quite large, and could contain many more people than was there,  most of the crowd had to be contained to the outer edges as in the very center of the room, not a soul dared to stray.  For in the center, lie a gaping hole in the floor, a portal. Not a very large portal, and not a very impressive portal. In fact, for most magic users the portal was laughable. It was where the portal led that was what frightened the beings within the room as they struggled to stay as far away from it as possible.

 

"It has come to my attention that there are some of you in this room who wish to rebel..." The voice of Hikaru could be heard around the entire room as she projected it through a sound amplification spell. Her tone was dark, vengeful, and had an air of taunting to it. Almost as if she was daring for someone to speak or come forth. "Am I correct? Do you wish to exercise this so called...'free-will', to gain a mind of your own? To challenge me?" She paced back and forth, her cloak blowing behind her from the movement as her wings formed from magic above her, casting a shadow upon the room.

 

"I tell you this now in warning, that this sort of thinking is dangerous, and it can lead to very severe consequences..." Hikaru's grin formed into a full smirk as screams started to fill the room.

 

Near the center of the room by the portal, could be seen two people. The first was a young girl with fox ears and a tail. She had short unkempt orange hair,  bright green eyes and she wore a green cloak, it was none other than one of Hikaru's apprentices, Inari Kitsune. In the girls hands, she held a string of green magic that connected to many more strings of green magic, chained together into magical shackles that kept the second person beside her from escaping. The screams were revealed to be coming from this second person.

 

 

Hikaru now spoke louder, as she raised her tone to drown out the screams. "SO LET THIS BE A LESSON TO THOSE OF YOU WHO WISH TO IGNORE MY ORDERS AND GO BEHIND MY BACK!" She gave a gesture to Inari who pushed the second person into the portal and into the darkness of the black hole. Because it was a black hole a place where not even light could escape, the people would normally have been able to see nothing But Hikaru was sure to remedy this with a magical hologram that shown above the portal, illustrating to the crowd with magic the entire process of the person being condensed down and ripped to shreds till nothing was left.

 

Silence now took over as no one dared to speak before Hikaru broke the silence, her voice much more menacing than before as she asked,  "Do I make myself clear?!"


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#3
KOLE

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Tight gripping heat seized his hand, exactly reflecting the feeling in his gut. So slowly you couldn’t tell he was moving, Purple Thumb turned his cloaked head away from the magical hologram, replaying the same vision of devastation over again, to briefly make eye contact with the girl to his left from underneath his purple hood. She looked up at him, pleading, pale in the face, gripping his hand. They both knew it was time to get out.

 

He took a step forward, pushing her hand away lest it be seen. Gently he tapped the crystal pendent he wore dangling from his neck to end the recording he was taking for posterity.

“Mistress!” He called, “Never clearer. We will be even more vigilant within our ranks, to root out any question of your authority.” Purple eyes glowed under the hood, scanning the crowd.

 

-------

 

Recoiling in shock, Nails averted his gaze. “Christ…” He muttered, his human instincts revealing themselves. Tenting her hands, Gabby leaned in close, watching the hologram in vivid detail. Whoever had been recording turned their body slightly. Just barely in frame was a girl, relatively young, pale with fear. Just barely, Gabby could make out her hand clutching the secret recorder’s own.  Then the body turned to reveal the face of the woman responsible, grinning. Ironically, Gabby felt in spite of her nudity, that it was Hikaru who had really exposed herself. She put up to two fingers to pause the image, zooming in on the woman, wings unfurled.

“I guess it’s really true.” Nails, who had recovered his senses, reached for a cup of steaming stimulation. “What in particular?” He mused. Using the same two fingers, Gabby traced the wings outstretched, and circled the two golden eyes.

“She’s like me. At least partially Phoenix.”

“You can tell that by a pair of wings and the color of her eyes?” Nails asked, barely swallowing a mouthful. Gabby shook her head.

“Instinct. She carries herself like my parents. Head up like she deserves to own the place. I’ve heard pieces of her reputation, of course, but I haven’t seen her face until now.” Now she rose to begin dressing, tracking pieces of her clothing from around the room, bending over to grab the stray bra. Nails stared hard at the frozen image.

“Ruthless.”

“Only just starts to cover it. Rumor has it she burned her hometown down when she was 5.” Elastic snapped skin as Gabby tucked her bosom into it’s resting place, snapping her head back. Nails did a double take, caught off guard: as she shook her hair, the color shifted.

“Rainbow girl, always got another trick.” He said laughing. He stood and reached out to a cabinet, retrieving some thick wheat biscuit-like treats and dipping them in his cup of steam. “Why ocean teal?”

Carefully, Gabby was pulling on a strapless dress with a corset-like cut. Her hair shimmered that distinct blue.

“It’s the opposite color of hers. Neon pink reflects dark blue.” She fastened the dress and jumped in the air, unfurling her wings in full as she did, a single spin before landing in the warrior pose. Brilliantly, her peacock fan flashed while her wings flapped aggressively, before stopping suddenly. She stretched to her limit, her golden eyes making contact with the captain.

“It feels like the sort of thing a rival should do.”

 


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#4
Hikaru

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The rest of the scene within the hologram that had not been seen had gone as followed...

 

"That will not be necessary." Hikaru called back to Purple Thumb, her eyes showing a dangerous glint to them as if she was up to something. Which she was. It was Hikaru. She was always up to something. "I have quickly come to realize that the only way to be completely rid of my brothers spies and to know I am rid of them is to make sure they have no chance to betray me in the first place." Hikaru snapped her fingers and in her hand a normal parchment appeared, words in gold glowing upon it.

"For that reason.I have decided that you will all sign a blood contract. This way there will be no doubt of your loyalty. Just sign here in blood and you can leave." She pointed to the empty space beneath the words of the parchment. "No need to read it or anything, it just ensures you do not betray me or start any rebellions of the sort. Besides..." Hikaru smirked once more. "If you refuse to sign, you will go the ways of that last poor fool. Condensed to atoms and ripped to shreds as you rejoin the universe. Something I doubt anyone here would enjoy, judging by the screams of that last one. Would you not agree Inari?"

"Yes mistress Hikaru!" The Fox sage girl immediately piped up as she ran over to join the Phoenix, her ears up and alert and the fur on her tail standing on end, betraying her nervousness. "He seemed realllly scared."

"Of course he did." Hkaru rolled her eyes. "Maybe that will teach them not to play spy for my brother." She looked to the crowd once more who continued to stay silent in fear. She materialized a dagger within her other hand and addressed the rest of the room. "So, who's first?"


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KOLE

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Click clack, Nails jutted his fingers forward and started playing the Hologram recording again as Gabby finished the touches on her outfit.

 

“From here, she proceeded to force everyone in the room to sign a blood contract. They’re unbreakable, and, essentially, rob anyone signing them of their free will. They’re physically incapable of thoughts or actions that would oppose her.” The image shimmered again, revealing the cloaked figure.

 

“Thankfully, I found a way around it. The others weren’t so lucky.

 

--

 

Glancing over to the woman standing next to him, Purple Thumb locked eyes. They nodded understanding to each other. Clamping his eyes shut, the two squeezed hands tightly. Unspoken as the love they shared, their life force came in contact for a brief second as the woman, Claida, offered some of her blood to him, restricting it’s flow to his hand.

 

 It was a risky spell. If it was maintained for longer than a few minutes, the hand would quickly lose all circulation. He had a narrow few minutes of precious time, so he stepped forward, materializing a dagger in his other hand.

 

“Mistress! Let my blood flow first to prove my loyalty!” He called, taking a few steps forward.


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#6
Hikaru

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Hikaru looked to him for a second before scanning the room with her eyes. She had felt the spell, sensing the bit of magic it had used. But she couldn't tell what spell had been cast or who it had been cast by. Everyone in the room aside from Inari and herself had similar magic signatures in that they were too weak to stand out. If it had been someone like her brother, or even Inari, it would have put off enough magic to reveal the person. Oh well.

 

If the spell became a threat, Hikaru would just deal with the individual at a later time. Xanacore's double betrayal had been annoying, but he hadn't been too much of a problem to get rid of. This person shouldn't either.

 

"Then sign it, and make it fast." Hikaru turned to glare at him once more. She left the contract hanging in the air by magic as she walked back to stand and watch, her arms crossed.


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KOLE

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The man clad in purple robes moved his fingers and flourished his hand, tracing a simple and obvious levitation spell on the contract, moving it directly in front and in full view of Hikaru. He smirked to hide the rapid beating of his heart as he stepped in front of her. Let's make it obvious... He thought to himself. He knew just how paranoid she could be. He brandished the dagger, holding his other hand palm out in front of her, and made the cut with barely a grimace. Palm met page, blood met ink.

 

"I pledge my unwavering loyalty to you, Mistress Hikaru." He spoke aloud, never breaking eye contact with her. Pulling his hand away, he felt the spell fizzle, and the wound began to bleed a little more than it ought to as blood flow resumed normally. He didn't dare to look back to Caida. Her blood was on the contract, her loyalty was now compromised.

 

---

 

Nervously, Nails dipped another biscuit in the artificial space latte, chomping it down as he downed another gulp. He muttered to himself as Gabby buried her head in her hands, concentrating feverishly. A whistling tone rent the air, barely discernible, as she sang an incantation in a low voice. "Ara Wa Ruh"

 

A beaten tome appeared in the air behind her, opening itself and sorting through its own pages. Picking herself up again, Gabby's playful golden eyes glanced at the tome and then Nails as the whistling tone stopped. 

"Breathe, you're about to turn blue." She said, only half joking. Shaking his head, Nails took another nervous sip of the drink.

"Blood contracts, robbing free will, travel to whole other dimensions..."  He stared at her in disbelief. "I didn't know just how much trouble I was getting into with you, Gabby."

"Anything but dull." Gabby said with a grin.


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#8
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As she stood watching Purple Thumb sign the contract, Hikaru noticed nothing out of the ordinary. Perhaps the spell was simply one of the mortals trying to get rid of heir fears, she rolled her eyes as she thought to herself. It seemed she would just have to wait and find out. When she made sure he'd finished signing, Hikaru glanced to the contract and then gestured to it to the rest of the room. "Inari, make sure everyone here signs. They do not leave until they sign. If anyone rebels, summon me back. For the time being... I will be elsewhere."

"Yes Mistress Hikar---" Inari started to say before Hikaru just disappeared. She looked nervous before walking to the floating contract to stand beside it. "Ummm uhhh... Everyone sign here please!" She shouted.


 


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KOLE

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For a second, Purple Thumb held his breath. Shutting his eyes, he hesitantly allowed himself to think: I'm going to destroy her one day. Then, he released it. The contract hadn't taken hold. He still had his thoughts. He owned nothing else. Before, he could claim Caida, but now she was gone too. Another damn thing you've taken from me. The wound in his hand starting throbbing madly, and when he looked down he realized it was because he'd clenched his fist. But not for long. He left the room, marching towards a storage room as he trickled blood onto the ground. Every step he took, he forced himself not to look towards Caida. I wonder what's going on in her head. He mused to himself, to distract from the pain and focus his thoughts. We've talked in secret dozens of times about our plans to overturn her. Hell, she's the one that gave me the contact to the Phoenix girl. Now that she's sworn to Hikaru, can she not remember anything but compliance? Has she blocked every tender moment we had? Because she obviously feels no compulsion to reveal any betrayal in the past. I guess those contracts aren't so bulletproof. Thank God. He turned into a small room off the beaten path and rummaged for a healing salve that he knew was stored there, but after looking both ways down the hall, he shut the door and cast a simple locking ward on it.

 So, she left the castle. And she's gone too far this time. If I ever I needed a reason, this is it. Let's just hope that translocation spell can get all the way into the mortal dimension. He was in there for several more minutes, just enough to finish the recordings he'd been working on for weeks now. Glancing down at the simple glass sphere, he paused, and felt as if time was standing still. Closing his healed hand over it, he muttered a simple incantation. As he opened his palm, it vanished.

 

It begins.

----

I offer my life

Cursed in this shrine

Broken roots entwined

And I feel my insides breaking down

I bury it in time

----

"Let's just finish the recording before we really hyperventilate. When they contacted me, they said they had a plan." Nodding, Nails limply gestured, starting the recording again.

"By the time you receive this, you better move fast. She left the castle after that little display, but crossing entire star systems only takes a snap of her fingers, so she may as well be just outside the door." The faded image of the purple robed man shifted to show a three dimensional blue print of the castle.

"This is a memory scribe, it only shows the places I've seen with my own eyes, so it's by no means a perfect representation, but it should be enough to get you by." Over the next several minutes, like a general meeting with his cabinet, Purple Thumb pointed out multiple points on the map, highlighting them in his signature color as he went along. Sleeping quarters, eating quarters, training areas, it was a fairly comprehensive map of what Gabby would need to know.

“As soon as I send this, I’m going to gather some students here-“ Purple Thumb’s detached voice chimed in, as a certain section glowed his.

“I’m going to practice teleportation spells with several of them, that should mask your entrance. Move quickly, I don’t know how long I have. If you wear generic robes, you should slip by unnoticed, but if Hikaru sees you, she’ll know you’re not one of us. Before you can do anything, you’ll have to find this girl.” The image shifted to a picture of Inari, taken from the pendent.

“Hikaru’s second hand girl, she’s holding the contracts. She’s talented with magic, but stupid. Be careful how you approach her. It would probably be better to kill her, she’s very loyal. If you burn the contracts, we all go free, and then you can get us the hell out of here.” Shifting once again, Purple Thumb’s entire face filled the projected image.

“If anything goes wrong, I don’t mind my own death. It would be worth it to stifle her plans. But there’s a girl here- an Aralang named Caida.” A scale image appeared of the girl, short blonde hair and simple robes.

“…I’d like for you to save her, if you can.”

With that, the image flickered out, leaving the two in silence. A long silence. Five minutes passed, with Nails manipulating images on a holographic screen as he clattered on a displayed keyboard, reviewing notes and footage. The image of the castle blueprints hovered as he zoomed, moved, and manipulated it. Finally, the tense silence broke.

“…FL, can I have another bagel?” Gabby chimed. An electronic chime sounded, followed by a reluctant synthetic voice.

“You are free to access nutritional distributors.”

“But can’t you like, shoot one at me?” Gabby asked.

“With pleasure.” Springs released as a raisin bagel flew through the room with surprising velocity, beaming Gabby in the head. She cringed, holding her head in her hands.

“FL, that was rude!” Nails shouted.

“One is only fulfilling obligations.” The voice synthesized. Gabby waved him off, picked the bagel off the floor, and took a bite from it as she walked towards the wall to grab a beverage.

“We’re going to have to work on that attitude.” Nails said.

“One is only fulfilling obligations.” The voice responded, with special emphasis.

“Speaking of attitudes, this one would prefer subjects to use the proper designation.” Gabby shot a surprised look to the ceiling, where in her mind the detached voice resided.

“What’s this, computer?” She asked venomously. There was a long silence where Nails ceased his work nervously, before a chime echoed through the large room.

“I am a Class 3 virtual artificial lively voice electronic, or VALVE. I am programmed with a particular personality, however, and it is customary for the Captain to designate a name or designation that is more… Stimulating than VALVE. This one’s designation was Grace Sonata until two hundred and sixteen hours ago, coinciding with the arrival of a new passenger aboard this vessel.”

“Now, hun, let’s not get into this right-“ Nails said cautiously, before being interrupted by a chime.

“This one’s designation is not, nor has ever been, Hun.”

“I think he’s right,” Gabby began, indignantly,

“You need to sort out your attitude.”

“That is amusing coming from a lifeform who’s sole purpose is to incinerate other life forms with whom she disagrees with.” The synthetic voice retorted. Gabby’s mouth hung open, her hand frozen with a hot cup of Synthesspress© halfway to her face. “I-“ she said weakly.

“This one can hear all conversations held within their vessel.” Gabby’s hand glowed blue, visibly illuminating the area around her face, as the plastic cup in her hand began to melt, the liquid inside boiling.

“Sensors indicate a sharp uptake in cardiac rate. Assumed prognosis: chronic bitchery. Recommended treatment: chilling the fuck out.” A flame erupted in Gabby’s hand, incinerating the cup.  Nails rose from the chair:

“Now listen, both of you!” He started, before red lights began flashing.

“Fire detected in the mess hall. Deploying countermeasures.”

 “NO-“ Nails called, too late, as he was interrupted by the sounds of a foamy solution being sprayed into the chamber, obscuring sight as the sealed door slammed shut. When the solution cleared, everything in the chamber, including Nails and Gabby, was left covered in a thick filmy foam. The red lights ceased, and the door opened with a satisfied thunk.

“Fire suppressed. Damage assessment: minimal. Deploying autonomous cleaning vessels.” Two large, plastic, pyramid like structures entered gliding along the floor, emitting a loud hum as they began to suck up the remaining foam. Nails sputtered and spat, clearing his mouth of the foam.

“What in the hell has-“ Once again interrupted by the electronic chime:

“Warning: fire countermeasure may have a carcinogenic effect if consumed, injected, or absorbed through the skin, especially for a long period of time. Recommendation: showers located on port section 3. Please clear the room for the Autonomous Cleaning Vessels to proceed with their duties.” Wordlessly, Gabby swept the foam from her face and stomped out of the room in a huff.

“That was entirely unnecessary, Grace!” Nails quipped, still wiping the foam from his clothing.

“That is this one’s proper designation. Thank you for your courtesy, Captain.” The voice chirped, almost happily.

“Haven’t you heard what we’re talking about?! This is no time for antics. We’re trying to take on one of the Sage Three, and we have to move soon!” Suddenly, it seemed to dawn on him. One of the Sage Three? Nails paused, almost dumbstruck.

“Sensors indicate-“

“Can it, Grace.” Nails stomped out of the room as the bots resumed their work. 

 As he made his way to port section 3, he noticed various foam covered clothing scattered across the floor of the halls. He sighed, but noted the irony of how often clothing had covered the floor in this manner before- under more favorable circumstances. He picked up each piece as he passed, dumping them in a chute near the now steaming showers. He peeled his own clothing off, doing the same with it as he entered the tall cylinder of one of the shower booths. Gabby was waiting for him in there, but as soon as the spray touched his skin he recoiled with a yelp.

“Christ! It’s almost boiling- turn it down!” Gabby’s skin- only barely suntouched- looked completely unaffected, not a trace of redness. She scowled back at him, fanning her feathers and applying a thin solution to them. The sterile fluorescent lighting was reflected beautifully in their iridescent sheen.

“Didn’t ask you to join me. Get cleaned up- quick, we’re on a fucking timeline, and your computer would do well to remember that.” In response to her outburst, the steam in the cylinder died down almost immediately. Nails could feel the ambient temperature shift dramatically; the water must have been cranked down to minimal temperature. But not a single rump of gooseflesh appeared on her flesh, nor did she grow paler. It was like her body maintained perfect temperature constantly.

“I’m a Phoenix Sage- idiot! I don't feel the cold.” She shouted to the unseen meddler. To punctuate her expression, she slammed the sliding wall of the cylinder shut, leaving Nails shivering on the outside.

“Great- now both the women in my life are pissed at me.” He muttered. “Grace! Please turn the temperature to normal- 38 degrees celcius.”

“Only because you said please.” Gripping the handle on the sliding door, Nails yanked it open.

“Now listen- I’m not here for fun. We should talk about this!” Gabby scowled at him, now coating her wings and flapping them to thoroughly rinse the solution. She didn’t stop him when he stepped in. Nails stuck his head under the flow, foam filtering out into the drain.

“Look, when we agreed to work together, you didn’t tell me were going to take on Hikaru Tyris!” Nails snapped, as he reached for a piece of soap stuck to the wall and lathered up.

“If only you could talk to your VALVE like that, maybe she’d listen to you instead of trying to sabotage our fucking operation.”

“If your so worried about your timeline then let’s take this one argument at a time.” Three bottles tucked on a shelving unit began floating as Gabby issued a whistle. One poured a pink liquid into Gabby’s hair, she began lathering it up as the other two waited at attention.

“Oh, I didn’t realize we were having an argument!” Gabby said, her voice brimming with sarcasm.

“This is big league stuff! What’s my corvette going to do to someone who rules her own dimension, Gabby?!”

“It’s not just your precious damn corvette with its faulty AI, you’ve got me. I’m kind of a big deal. Don’t worry so much.” Nails laughed heartily as he applied the bar of soap to his arm pits. Gabby shot him a look of disgust.

“Easy for you to say! You get reborn when you die! I stay dead!” Gabby let out a harsh noise from her throat. Another whistled tipped the second bottle, which spilled a blue, sparkling fluid.

“Stop assuming you know everything about me. I’m not any less scared of dying than you are, asshole! If she killed me, she could probably make me stay dead.”

“I didn’t say I knew-“

“Oh stop! You mortals are always assuming things about me. I don’t think I’m better than you, man the fuck up and stop being so insecure!” Gabby shouted, washing her hair.

“What are you even saying?! All I’m saying is I didn’t know how much risk would be involved with this.”

“Because you didn’t need to. Why are you being such a coward about this?” The third bottle dumped it’s contents, a thick viscuous yellow, before seating itself back on the shelf.

“Now who’s assuming things!”

“Prove me wrong, flyboy. There’s a couple thousand people stripped of their fucking free will. Imagine how terrifying that is!”

“I am! That’s why I’m so concerned!”

“Just trust me.”

“I’ve known you for a week!”

“Plenty of time to sleep with me.” Gabby said pointedly, shutting off the shower.

“Oh come on, that’s not even relevant right now.” Pushing past him, Gabby opened the door and unfurled her wings, flapping them rapidly to dry herself.

“You would say that.” She said, almost pouting. Nails paused, as orange panels lit up the wall, heat emanating to dry his body. He took a breath before responding.

“Look, all I’m saying is we should take a step back and evaluate this.”

“Sleeping together?” Gabby asked, worry in her voice.

“No! No…” Nails said, shaking his head as if in disbelief.

“Taking on Hikaru- on her turf. We need some serious intel before we try something like this.”

“We have serious intel. An inside man, with a plan, a blueprint, and a means of escape. He sent that transmission ten minutes before we listened to it! It doesn’t get much cleaner than this. He even said she’s not there right now! We could be in and out before she even comes back. This. Is. Perfect. It won’t get better.” Try as he might, Nails couldn’t really come up with a counterargument.

 

--

 

I want to be part of light

Detritus open up my mind

 

--

 

Reentering the mess hall to discover it had been cleaned successfully, Gabby appeared in a new dress- this one a deep brown leather affair with ruffles. For the sack of brevity she’d skipped the stockings and wore only a pair of white leather low top sneakers. Nails appeared to be wearing a near identical outfit as before- a threadbare tank with a pair of belted coveralls, the zipper undone and the sleeves dangling behind him, trailing the ground in almost the same way Gabby’s feathers would.

“Last chance to reconsider.” Nails said, gesturing to the holographic display to bring up the plans to the Castle.

“No chance.” Gabby said confidently, her plumage fanning out behind her and refracting the bright light.

“Look, before we get started, about all the other stuff-“ He was silenced by Gabby placing a finger to his lip and smiling slightly.

“Later, space cowboy, after we pull this off.” He gave a half-hearted smile in response.

“Okay, fill me in. This ship can’t jump interdimensionaly, so I assume you’ve got a spell for that.” He said confidently. Gabby unfastened the crude, chunky wrist mounted computer she wore, setting it on the table.

“Nope.” She said curtly.

“Oookay.” Nails said in response.

“In Hikaru’s realm, technology won’t function unless she allows it. We bring that thing in there, it’s dead in the water, VALVE or no.”

“Alright, so you’ll use that ring to teleport there, kill the Fox girl, destroy the contracts, get everyone to join hands, teleport back?” Gabby shook her head, smiling.

“You really don’t get magic, do you? There’s rules.” Nails was beginning to look frustrated.

“Look, time’s going fast, and we don’t have much to spare, so I’ll explain, keep up.”

“Grace, please take dictation, display text in live speed.”

“Grace?” Gabby asked, cocking an eyebrow. “Nevermind.” She approached the display of the castle and reached her hands out to manipulate the image, she whistled sharply and muttered a familiar incantation, her spellbook appearing from its pocket dimension, along with two disks carved from obsidian, about six inches in diameter.

“The Ring’s a one way ticket, and I don’t have the power to jump easily, especially not interdimensionally. These discs open portals between the two physical places they’re located in, no matter the distance. I use the ring to jump near here-“ She pointed for emphasis- “Where Purple said he’d be teaching teleporting. I keep a low profile, find Inari, burn the contracts. Then, I use the disc I’ll carry with me to open a portal to here and start bringing people over. You get them settled in the cargo bay, there will be too many for cabins. Probably about a thousand.” A digital chime chirped.

“Precaution: our life support systems will only be able to sustain that many people for less than 72 standard hours, even with substantial overclocking, which runs the risk of-“

“That’s your end of the bargain to figure out. Our deal was for me to retrieve, you to deliver.” Gabby said stoically. “Anyway, I get everyone here, pop the portal closed, and destroy this disc. She’ll be able to activate the one on the other side and come right to us otherwise, and there’s no way to bring the disc with us when we cross over. Pretty simple stuff. I’ll be wearing this cloak-“ Gabby grabbed a deep magenta hooded cloak off the floor- “So I’ll blend in just fine. I’ll be able to get around no problem.”

“Great. Sounds simple. I don’t know why I was worried.”

“Me either! So go get your zero grav gear on and let’s do it!” There was a pause.

“Wait, what?”

--

If that's what you like

Your lesions will blur the line

--

Purple Thumb was getting exhausted. Him and about a baker’s dozen other students had been practicing short range teleportation spells for nearly an hour now. Doing the spells a few times was nothing, but consistently for an hour, it started to wear on you. You started to feel like your whole body had been put through a strainer. He pulled back the hood of his robe, sweat pouring down his brow, wondering if all his efforts to summon the Liberator had been meaningless. However, through the ajar door, he noticed someone standing and peering through. An unfamiliar face at first, but with familiar golden eyes. For a second he thought Hikaru was checking on their progress, but as the face peeked forward, a shock of teal blue displayed itself. Purple Thumb winced to avoid showing his surprise, but more importantly, his excitement. They made eye contact briefly. He only nodded slightly, and craned his neck to indicate a direction. Quietly, Gabby crept back out of the doorway, unnoticed by the other students. Purple Thumb went back to work keeping his colleagues distracted.

 

The Liberator was on the move- in Hikaru’s own castle.


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#10
Hikaru

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Once everyone had signed the blood contract and taken their leave, Inari was left alone in the room with only the contract before her. Now what had Mistress Hikaru said about the contract...? Wait a minute....  Inari blinked. Hikaru hadn't said anything about the contract! What was she supposed to do with it? There was no way Mistress Hikaru would just leave it here, would she?  Maybe she was testing to see if anyone would try to take it? But what if she wasn't?

 

"Kooonnnn~" Inari's ears lowered as she stood there in thought. Think, think. "UWA! I got it!" Inari suddenly snapped her eyes open and jumped ears perked up. "This is just what Mistress Hikaru would do!" Inari lifted her hand and pointed at the contract. "Ypoc!" Orange energy went from Inari hand to the contract which glowed for a second before an exact duplicate appeared right by it. "I'll just leave one here, and put the other one away! That way Mistress Hikaru will be right either way!" She reached out to grab one before pulling it back.

 

"Hrrrnn.... which one was the real one again?" Inari scratched her head while looking back and forth from one contract to the other. Well she wasn't expecting THAT to happen. What now? If Mistress Hikaru were here she could just sense which one had the magic signature in the blood that was signed. But Inari wasn't that advanced yet. She could only sense magic signatures when actual magic was being cast. But did it matter? Maybe they were the same... "I'll just take this one!" Inari grabbed the floating blood contract on the right and disappeared.

 

The Kitsune Sage then appeared back in a different room, that was smaller than the room from before, it held a table and a few shelves of books, all books on magic. Inari ran her hand along one of the shelves as she read the titles to herself. Finally she grabbed a really thick and heavy book near the end of more thick and heavy books. It was light blue with a white spine and had the title of 'Aurum Mystica: Mechanics of Spiritual Energies and Conversions.' on the front. "I'll just stick it here." Inari said to herself aloud. "No one ever wants to read this book."

 

Inari was about to leave before she she caught sight of something red and gold on the edge of the table. A book not in the shelf. She walked over and grabbed it, not remembering it as one of the ones she'd seen before. As far as she could see it had no title.... Did someone leave it there? Inari flipped it open and skimmed it before her eyes widened really large. "T-t-this is ... a journal? By Mistress Hikaru?!!" She glanced to the right, then the left. "She couldn't have left it on accident... She would never! Did she leave it here on purpose?"  Inari flipped through the book more, trying to find reason it was there. The more she looked through it, the more she worried. What if she wanted to see if someone read it? Just like the blood contract! "EEEK, I better just leave this here..." Inari's ears stood on end in worry as she glanced around the room again before placing the journal where she'd found it.

 

"Okay, the contract is now safe! Now to go to practice more magic!" Inari disappeared.

 

 

 

((Credit to Lyoko for the book title.))


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#11
KOLE

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The rubber sole of her sneakers made little noise against the stone flooring as she maneuvered through the halls. Gabby neither went fast or slow, didn't avoid eye contact or encourage it a long the way. She stayed casual, recalling the floor plan in her mind. As she reached an intersection of halls, she paused to look down each direction. No sign of the fox girl yet. She briefly mused on the next direction to take, and decided to turn towards the main chamber Purple Thumb had pointed out to her, where Hikaru had performed the execution.

 

--

"Okay, why not just disguise yourself as her?" Nails had asked.

"Absolutely not." Gabby replied, her fists instinctively clenched.

"What? Why not? That would make this whole thing easier." Gabby locked eyes on  Nails, and did not look away.

"I spent most of my life pretending to be somebody else. I'm not going to do that. Ever again." Her voice was firm, with full resolve. Nails stared back at her in disbelief.

"Look, I understand this is important to you, but isn't it more important to get these people out?"

"Thinking like that turns you into someone like her. Always stand by what you believe, first and foremost. Everything else is second."

--

 

Hovering in empty space, tethered to his ship's airlock, Nails carefully placed the obsidian disc in space. Attached to his space suit were about a dozen rescue kits with respirators, and a compact plasma carbine was slung within easy reach of his right hand. A bandoleer of grenades finished the look. He sat, floating, with only the sound of his breathing to keep him company. Godspeed you, Rainbow Girl. He thought to himself.

 


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#12
Hikaru

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Despite the large crowd from the previous day. The castle for the most part was empty now except for the stray magic student that Hikaru had picked up. Just like Hikaru normally liked it. To be left alone. Within the the main room where the execution had taken place, it was also empty. Within the center there floated one copy of the blood contract. Glowing innocently as if daring anyone to take it.


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#13
KOLE

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I, I had a dream of schism,
Living in premonition, flowing from
The same place I learned to give in

---

Cool and easy, Gabby entered the throne room, impressed by it's size. I hope I get a chance to burn it to the ground. She thought to herself, and noted the floating paper in the middle. She paused, and scanned the room, looking for any one, or anything, that may be around. She whistled softly, "Ara Wa Ruh"  as her spellbook appeared floating near her. Once again, she scanned the room, before flipping through her tome, memorizing a few stray incantations. She decided to continue to be discrete for now, as she approached the floating page, her spellbook floating behind her as if tethered. Well, what have we here? She approached the floating page, humming almost under her breath. Every puff of air escaping her lungs, dust kicked up around her feet, instinctively releasing bursts of magic. She moved her lips for a whistle, but as she did so, the hum continued building in the backround. With the whistle, the contract approached her. Why would she just leave this laying around? She muse to herself. This felt very suspicious. The humming continued, as dust devils started to slowly swirl in a radius around her. This could easily be a trap. But she could also be so overconfident in her control, that she wouldn't bother to hide it. Gabby closed her eyes, focusing on the magical energy around her, feeling for magical signatures. Nothing was here other than the floating contract. Throwing her hood back, Gabby seized the contract, looking at it closer.


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#14
Hikaru

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The contract read as followed: "I agree to surrender to Hikaru Tyris, Eldest of the Sage Three, my complete ability to lie and agree to do her every command. If I should disobey or lie, I agree to the terms of this contract that I should immediately lose my life by fire. This contract cannot be changed, modified, amended, or edited in any way except by the person who created such contract, that being Hikaru Tyris of the Sage Three, herself.."

 

Underneath the words of the contract was a huge space where every being had signed their name in blood.


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#15
KOLE

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Well. She's not here right now anyway. Fuck it.

 

Gabby's hand ignite in gold hold fire. The contract burns away in her grasp.


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#16
Hikaru

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Almost as soon as the contract started to burn it started repair itself. The reason? There were two contracts now, duplicates. But little had Inari known when she cast her spell that duplicating a blood contract didn't just make a real and a fake. No. The blood and magic of the contract was real. It instead simply extended the contract. As long as one existed, so did the other. They would both have to be burnt.

 

The attempted burn of the contract did do something however, as once it was set afire the magic signatures in the blood of this contract went out in like a beacon, and the signatures of the other contract responded, showering a number of thousands of weak magic signatures there in the room, and further in the castle, where the library lay.


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#17
KOLE

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Dropping the contract, Gabby stepped back, shocked. For a solid 30 seconds, she watched the contract, wreathed in golden flame, but continued to persists. "What the..." Gabby muttered under her breath. In her entire life, she'd never seen something that Holy Fire couldn't burn. Hell, she used to set flame to pools of water just to watch the steam pour off. Immediately, she flipped her hood up. Well. I suppose I should have known it wouldn't be that easy. At least there's no flashing lights and blaring alarms. Her eyes darted around the huge throne room, but she couldn't see anything else. Fine. We find the fox.

 

Striding out of the room, Gabby started pounding the halls. The first person she saw, she asked if they knew where Inari was.


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