Ensuring that his bill was paid, Tsubasa ran out of the restaurant and reached into his backpack. He had one more energy drink, which he downed and tossed the can aside. Littering was very unlike him. These weren’t special energy drinks, mind. They did not recover his health or give him any super strength. They worked the same as any energy drinks, the caffeine within blocking the effects of adenosine in the body and tricking the mind into thinking it is awake. This was going on the fourth day in which he had been fooling his mind into thinking it had the energy to continue, relying on the stamina of a young man and the sheer willpower of someone who now had no time or capacity to sleep.
By all regards he should have taken a nap instead of going out to Crocus. He should have taken a rest after the first eight hours and let himself be refreshed for work, rather than falling into the typical hyper-focused state that the tended to succumb to when he found something interesting or particularly challenging. As he ran back down the road towards Crocus, he pulled out the small metallic disc that he and Miss Mercury had been working on. It wasn’t a finalized product yet, they had been futzing with it in her spare time which was, considerably, less than his. They’d taken the Mach 12 and modified the hell out of it past thirteen and fourteen straight to fifteen. He’d ridden it to Crocus, but at a more manageable speed. Full speed hadn’t been tested. Neither had the overdrive he was going to force it into.
As he threw it on the ground, it expanded outwards like wings unfurling into a boomerang like shape. Tsubasa jumped onto it and his forward run became an upward-diagonal flying, speed multiplying considerably. His mind was racing, more than usual. Intrusive thoughts of his parents and sister and what a demon like the ones that he fought could do to them. They weren’t fighters. His mother was a kindly old woman who taught him the finer points of baking and his father was a priest with a bad back who always requested to stop and pray at every shrine and graveyard they ever passed. His sister was older, but it was heads or tails as to whether she would be home. She worked in Oshibana and rarely returned to the temple on weekdays, unless it was something special or unless their mother had pressured her into joining them for family dinner. That worked once every two months. Tsubasa was starting to feel that pang of regret for not having visited since he left for his adventure. How long had it been? He couldn’t even count now.
Ahab had taken the shortest of naps on the ride to Crocus, but it seemed that his body was running on the same adrenaline as Tsubasa. “When we get there, I’ll get your parents and Dehlia to safety, you find the S guy and do something bad to him.”
“Why them? How does he know where I live?” Tsubasa asked aloud, “Why me? If it’s the Samiel guy, how did he know where I live? How did he react so fast? Isn’t this a bit of an overreaction anyway? We’ve been gone a few hours at most. If it’s someone else, who and how? How’d they find my family, Ahab?”
“I don’t know, Tsu.” They passed over Crocus and he headed up towards the mountains. Crossing up through the mountains north of Crocus would have been a severely off-path trail had he been riding, but the ability to fly over it made it a perfect crossing point at which to cut past Magnolia and the like. Unfortunately he hadn’t predicted the weather flying through a mountain range, which quickly turned extremely cold and he found himself flying through a literal snowstorm to get to Talonia.
Reaching behind him, he tied the hood of his hoodie shut to protect Ahab and kept going. Frost built up on the Mach 15, something else they had never tested for, but he would be danged if it would stop him now. Snapping the fingers of both hands in rapid succession, he poured the energy from his fire spells into one constant, solid stream of flame (another thing the Mach 15 hadn’t tested for). He was draining himself and he knew it. He would pull the mana from his life force if he had to. The storm subsided and Tsubasa untied Ahab, “You still with me?” He asked.
“I’m developing a fear of the dark,” Ahab quipped. “Every time you lock me in there I almost turn into a squirrelcicle.”
“Listen we all end up icicles sooner or later,” Tsubasa retorted, “Just gotta hope it’s later.” He cracked the barest hint of a smile, remembering that at no time during this was he ever alone. Even if he found himself physically removed from others, he carried hearts with him as he raced towards his family.
It was another eon before he reached the point where his family’s temple could be seen in the distance. Though by now it was deep into the night, the full moon illuminated a pillar of smoke that came from exactly where the temple was located. He dropped down low and crouched low on the Mach 15. There was a small pond, roughly five meters long and considerably deep that he would hit just before the temple itself. He and his family used to go on picnics there, go swimming and sometimes feed the baby ducks in the spring. His sister had gotten bitten there once.
Now he needed it for something else. “Hold your breath,” He called to Ahab, giving the flying squirrel just an instant to comply before he acted. Diving down straight into the water (yet another thing the Mach 15 hadn’t been tested for), he used the sudden submersion to snap his senses alert, refreshing himself as much as possible. Literally anything that would stave off the exhaustion would be more than welcome right now. But that was a secondary effect. The primary was a new spell he had really only read about but had never tried. Gathering up the water surrounding him, he contained it in a sphere that rose with him. His magic held it together and it spun around itself with rather weak force, what he wanted at the moment. He figured, however, if he held it together for longer, it would be stronger.
Like an overconfident basketball player, he rose high into the air and dropped the massive sphere of water over the temple, splashing out the fire and drenching what was left of the building. Down on the ground, a fifty or so meters away from the remains of the temple were two oversized demons and one regular-sized human. The human, it seemed, had a firearm drawn on his mother. They were all there, seemingly fine, but his father and sister were doing their best to cover his mother. They were all crying.
“Now,” Like a perfectly oiled machine, Ahab jumped out of his jacket and flew downward in a wide arc. Tsubasa spun vertically in midair and grabbed the Mach 15 from underneath himself. He grabbed it with both hands and positioned it sideways, more like a blade than a boomerang now. As he completed the arc, he threw it with all the strength he could muster, letting out a cry as he did. The unfortunate demon that had looked towards him first became the victim of the vehicle-turned-weapon. It dug into his chest with impeccable force, still attempting to move forward as it was slowly tunneling through his body.
The human looking one turned and instinctively fired on Tsubasa several times. It was here that Tsu learned that the gun wasn’t a regular bang bang, but a type of focus for spells. It fired a type of plasmic energy straight at him, and given Tsu had just given away his main method of dodging, he had no choice but to attempt to block it. His hoodie, somehow, had other plans. Without any warning, he was teleported in a light green puff of smoke to two meters above the ground. He hit the ground running and pointed one hand behind him, firing off a pulse of sound waves that jerked him towards the armed human. Using the momentum of moving forward he leapt into the air again and came down hard with a fist covered in stone. It shattered all over his face, and Tsubasa turned to the other living demon and gathered up a small whip of electricity.
He was hoping the same trick as before would work just as well, and slashed at the demon with whip, wrapping it around him once and then again, pulling him to the ground. The demon grunted and groaned in pain and Tsubasa assumed that was the end of him. Meanwhile the first demon, impaled by Mach 15, had dissipated entirely with the vehicle sticking out of the ground like a particularly dangerous piece of art. With that taken, Tsubasa around in time to see the human one pointing the gun at him again. The young man raised both hands, forearms facing the weapon, bringing up a shield of water that was shattered by one shot. It repeated again and again, with two more shots firing and Tsubasa doing his best to deflect them, “Who the heck are you? Why are you coming after my family?”
“You decided to mess with our family, We’re messing with yours.” The human responded, “You don’t know how much of a pain in our side you’ve been. In my side.” He aimed the gun again—
This time Tsubasa took to the offensive, punching into the ground and forcing a fist of stone to fly upwards, knocking the gun away. “Yeah,” He responded, “I really freakin’ don’t! I don’t know who you are, I don’t know who we is, I'm really lost on this whole thing!”
“Can you possibly, actually be this clueless?” He walked towards Tsubasa and pulled out a small silver pen. Swinging it outwards, it grew into a one handed sword that nicked the young man.
“Apparently!” Tsubasa leaned back as quick as he could, missing the brunt of getting his face cut off. With a jerk of his palm he pulled his own sword out, letting the Eye of Ares do the responding for him.
The two exchanged strikes back and forth. This person was clearly trained in beadwork, and Tsubasa very clearly wasn’t. Small slices and nicks were revealing the apparent difference between the two. “My name is Samiel, I’m a member of the mage guild Weather Control. Now do you know who you’ve been screwing with?”
“I really don't!” Tsubasa grunted, “And stop cutting me!” He was being forced back with every step towards the temple gates. Soon there would be nowhere else to go.
“Weather Control is a guild with only one purpose: Control. We have mages everywhere working on different projects, and you have managed to fuck with them all over the country!”
“I have… no idea… what you are talking about!” Tsubasa grunted with effort, letting out a gasp as he was disarmed of his weapon, which clattered to the ground and dissipated. He procured his enchanted weapon, Dawnborn, and managed to extend it before it was shattered in half by Samiel’s blade. The force of which sent Tsubasa smashing into and through the wooden gates of the temple. They weren’t exactly meant to stop sieges, after all. “Wait. Mage's guild. So you aren’t a demon?”
“What? No. I’m a summoner. You’ve been killing my playthings.” He pointed his sword at Tsubasa, “And you've been messing with us for too long! You destroyed our soul capturing machine outside of Oak Town.”
“I mean kinda?”
“You and your stupid friends interrupted our negotiations with the Thunder King.”
“With the hot people?”
“You stole one of our genetically modified creations. You've even brought the little runt here to mock me!”
“Ahab?? I didn’t steal Ahab, he found me!”
“And you killed my summons trying to take over the Black Cat!”
“Why did your guild want that?”
“That... was just a pet project of mine. But regardless! You expect me to think you did all of these things, completely randomly, of your own volition and without purposely trying to sabotage Weather Control?”
“Would you believe yes?”
Samiel stared at him and the blade, once a pen, now became another firearm. “I’m just gonna kill you an—Fuck! What the hell?” His sudden interruption was due to a high heel shoe smashing him against the head.
“Run Basa!!” His sister called from across the yard. Ahab had, true to his word, snuck them away as Tsubasa kept the others occupied. But, being a Kageyama, Dehlia proved herself to be just as stubborn as Tsu.
Samiel turned his gun over towards her—
Tsubasa didn’t think. His hands retreated into his jacket sleeves where he touched the runes within. He pressed his palms together, activating the main runes within and opened his hands, summoning what appeared to be a railgun of nearly bazookan proportions, “POSITRON LASER!” The railgun charged and fired in an instant, with Samiel looking in the direction of Tsubasa’s shout just in time to see a massive wave of sky blue-lined white plasma roaring through him.
For the briefest of instants, the night lit up like day. The air smelled like ozone, and the flash temporarily took sight from all present. The gun collapsed into nothing, its charge spent, and Tsubasa fell back on his palms. There was nothing left of the mage. And that’s what he had been. Samiel… wasn’t a demon as he had thought. Tsubasa had just killed a person. To save his family, to save his sister, but…
A roar resonated through the temple grounds as the demon Tsubasa had lasso’d had broken free of his bonds and stood up, challenging anyone who could hear. A much, much higher pitched snarling growl responded and from the sky swooped Ahab, throwing himself onto the demon’s head, little claws slashing and teeth gnashing the demon’s face. So surprised was literally everyone there that nothing could be done but watch as Ahab forced the demon back to the Mach 15 and, with one dramatic leap straight up, followed by a charging tackle, pushed the demon through the vehicle. It helped considerably that the machine was still on, therefore attempting to cut through the air made it easier to cut through a demon’s body. Regardless, no one could quite believe what they’d seen.
For another few days, sleep eluded him. Every time he would lay his head down, the shocked look on Samiel’s face would pop into his eyes, followed by a mentally overdramatized vision of the human, the normal, living human, being atomized by Tsubasa’s overwhelming attack.
The townspeople had been kind enough to help rebuild the temple. In that short time, Tsubasa had met with some of the wizards and witches that had helped teach him the spells that would become Hodgepodge. With their help, he had refined and learned some new spells, but everything about it seemed hollow. He went through the motions of practicing, of helping with the work, of cooking and cleaning. But it was all… empty.
The night came and Tsubasa found himself out by the pond again, staring at the water. The event hadn’t left him. As he stared into the reflection of the pond, he could see it again and again and again. What was wrong with something less deadly? Wasn’t there another option? The scene was interrupted by another face reflected in the water. Dehlia stood over him with two small cups, resting on fine glass saucers.
“I brought you some tea,” She said, sitting down next to him.
He took the saucer and cup and stared at them, “You’re still here.” He said, “Why haven’t you gone back to work?”
“Told my boss what had happened. I mean it was in the news. He told me to take a few days to be with you and mom and dad. Well. Mom and dad. Not so much you. He said he didn’t care about you.” She leaned over and nudged him.
Tsubasa was silent.
After a short fashion the small smile on Dehlia’s face faded too. She took another swing. “Remember when I was like eight and we thought we’d found those orphaned ducks? They kept following us around after we gave them some oats? So we named them and decided they needed to go to school? We built little desks out of cardboard and...” She sighed, “When their mom found us she was really mad. I think I still have that scar on my—“
“I killed him,” Tsubasa said blankly. “I killed a human being.”
Dehlia looked down, “Yeah,” She said, “You did it to save my life. I’m grateful. You can… you can blame me if you want.”
Tsubasa looked at her. Their eyes met. That would have been easy. She had thrown a shoe at a deadly wizard and didn’t think any repercussions would come? What a stupid thing to do. Maybe it was her fault that— “No,” Tsubasa said, “Won’t work. I am responsible for my own actions, like Dad taught us. What surrounds the bubble only influences it, it cannot cause the inside to change.” It was times like this that it became clear that the two of them were, indeed, raised in a temple.
“But water that’s muddied can still be sieved through. We only drink fresh water for a reason. The act of purification is open to all.” Dehlia said, “I won’t argue with you and say that you didn’t do a bad thing. Actions can be judged objectively. And this one certainly can. Objectively, you did. Taking a life means taking a life. It’s something you should have to carry with you.”
“But… unlike the state of self, the action doesn’t live in a bubble. It can’t. You took a life to save multiple lives. You think he would have stopped at me? You saved Mom and Dad and yourself too. Even Ahab. You stopped what he would have done in the future. And at the cost of that life, you gained information. You know about these… guild guys and you can see what they’re about. You can ask yourself what a life costs objectively until you die. And knowing you, you just might. But subjectively? You stopped a murderer. You can spend the rest of your life asking if it was worth it, but you’d only be trading your life for his. Carry him not for all your days, it’s not something a person like he deserves. Move forward with the experience and knowledge, remember that killing does not become something you can do when there are other options on the table. And become wiser for that.”
Tsubasa took a drink of his tea. There was an endless silence. Finally, Tsubasa said, “Carry him not?”
She nudged him again, harder this time. “I think I was channeling Dad or something. I don't know. Leave me alone.”
That night, as the moon sailed over the sky, Tsubasa slept a restful sleep.
Current Durations: Spell Name 0/0
Current Cooldowns: Spell Name 0/0