When Ahab saw what Merc had created, he sat back and laughed like someone finally getting a naughty joke, "Ohhhh man this ain't gonna be good. You got like an emergency button to pull him out if he's gonna kill himself right??
Tsubasa stopped and took in the room. The gun wouldn't help here, whoever was doing this was stronger than him and knew what he was capable of. With a tug of the small cord at the nape of his suit it reverted to its jacket form. His hair had been mussed up ever so slightly by the suit and presented now in such a way that it seemed to cast a shadow over his eyes.
He took a step forward. He could see himself running in and tearing through this place, using up every bit of his magic to ensure that Ahab was torn from the cage as quickly as possible, but something didn't sit right about that… Voices, memories of his elders tugged at him from all sides. They all echoed the same thing.
Haste is not speed.
There are last second victories which are still victories.
Moving quickly is not moving fast.
But they had all said the same thing:
Slow down, Tsubasa.
He took a moment. He wanted to run. He wanted to dash through literally everything, no matter how quickly it would kill him, to get Ahab. Instead, he grit his teeth, sat down and focused. It came back to him.Before he had left his house for the first time on his initial adventures, his family had showered him with small presents. Food for the road, charms and items that would bring him luck and prosperity, and things that could be sold for a small sum if he needed the jewels (he'd never sold anything, of course). And finally, the gift from his father had been a family heirloom. A small necklace which seemed to be a glowing stone surrounded in what could have easily been misidentified as octopus tentacles.
"When you finally slow down, you'll see how much energy you've been wasting." He said, as he put the necklace around his son's neck.
And even now, under his hoodie, beneath the sight of anyone, was the same necklace that had been given to him by his father before he'd left. It seemingly did nothing other than look strange, so he had never really thought about it. But now, as he let himself breathe and concentrated, he could feel it growing warm and had his eyes been open, see that it was emanating light as well. Thankfully, all of this happened in merely a few seconds, though in his now calm state he could hear the chain rattling as it drew closer, clank by clank, towards its gnashing nadir.
The necklace around his neck filled him with the latent energy that he had been wasting in his efforts. Had it all been channeled into here? This was nothing like the energy that he'd kept charged up with the energy drinks. This felt pure, like the difference between sunlight on your skin and that strange orangeish lamplight seen in the poorer hotels. Of course the body doesn't know what it's missing until it feels it. His heart rate slowed and his breathing grew under control. These meditation techniques were things he had been taught by both Dayu of the Stone and the ancient Wizard Melandrach, but had up until now only been used for the quickest of instants rather than something to be focused on.
His eyes snapped open as the calmness washed over him. His mood had not changed, he was still extremely angry at this entire situation, though rather than a churning ocean eager to rage into a storm, he had changed to a still lake within which lay an endless abyss, that which would peacefully drag the unsuspecting down to their watery grave without so much as a gurgle.
He stood up and pulled the hood onto him. He seemed to have formed a plan. Taking a step back towards the entrance, he took off into a run. He would have no place to stop for a breather throughout this, but that would work towards his advantage as there was no place for him to lose momentum.
He started out in a run. There were traps he could see, and he was certain there were more that he wouldn't be able to. That's why they were called traps. But in this blank slate state, he took everything as it came without the surprised gasp or stalling that one would expect from someone his age or general maturity level. Instead, he moved like the young monk he had been trained to be. The lessons behind the training that hadn't fully clicked until now. Not that it had become time for him to understand, but that he had finally been willing to.
First came an uneven dart trap. It would be difficult to dodge each and every one of them, judging by the various holes coming from both sides of the walls. As such, he tossed his hands forward and two stone slabs formed, blocking them in their tracks. The darts were powerful, to be sure, cracking into the stone, but not breaking it. Had that been by chance or by choice? Had Tsubasa been able to foresee the power of the darts and create just enough of a barrier for them?
He'd passed through it already, rounded the corner and was on to the next thing. Ahab (as he understood him to be) was calling out to him. Shouting something. Tsubasa had to ignore it. He had to cut him out to get to him faster. Any reassurances were time and effort that would better be spent actually getting to him.
A pitfall opened up just beneath him. Without slowing, he stepped onto the side of the wall and continued running along side it, the momentum he'd gathered up until this moment enough to carry him onward. A short stretch of running forward followed another turn. He could hear the clanking of the chain as it dropped just a little bit further down. As he whipped around the corner he saw a series of lasers before him, just a short moment away. Reaching into his pocket he pulled out the empty can from before, throwing it at the lasers. Sure enough they turned it into recycled aluminum in a flash. What's more, they rose and fell just out of sync with each other like the world's worst spa jets, roughly two meters forward, a bit too long for him to safely outright jump.
Tsubasa reached to the side of his neck and pulled on the two strings of his hoodie, tightening it and getting rid of any slack of the back of the hood. Additionally, rather than move straight forward he lurched towards the wall and kicked off of it, going straight downwards onto the steel floor instead of forward. He dropped hard, but lost little momentum and continued rolling forward, narrowly missing each laser past its raising point. It seemed that the reason he had thrown himself off in that second was to recalibrate his timing and continue onward without missing a beat.
He cleared the lasers, but continued rolling along for a moment before kicking outward and throwing his legs around like an experienced breakdancer, pulling himself to his feet and continuing onward. Seemingly hitting a certain point, the swinging blades started their mechanical oscillation, and his eyes moved with them as he timed their movement. Too wild to run through, too close to pause between, no gears to gunk up—No gears to gunk up.
He threw his left hand out and extended a whip of raw electricity, which he then threw at the first swinging blade. In a move straight out of Arachnae-Boy, he threw himself into the air, right with the perpendicular swinging of the blades, letting the first blade take him up even higher at which point he released the whip and threw another one. In a move that would have absolutely killed him if he hadn't done it just right, he latched onto the third blade and swung right past the second, the sharpened edge coming within centimeters of his face. He hit the ground in a roll and continued onward. On any other day he would have stopped to remark about how cool that was.
He reached the same chamber as Ahab and could see that the bottom of the metal cage was extremely close to getting caught, which would no doubt turn Ahab to gristle in a few precious seconds. Tsubasa jerked his hoodie off of his body, unzipping it smoothly like he was throwing it off after a day of exercising.
Instead of tossing it aside he balled it up and hurled it straight at the cage, covering it like one would do to the cage of a sleeping bird. He had to break the chain then move as quickly as possible to the extraction point.
As he rounded the shredder, he started snapping, causing sparks to fly from his fingers, little fireworks that seemed to dissipate as quickly as they were made. It would take a second for all but the most trained eyes to see what he was doing.
The chain was starting to heat up. Snapping rapidly like an offbeat poet society, Tsubasa heated up one particular link, a weak point that connected the cage and the rest of the chain. It would take the least effort to burn through. Not that he would be able to tear through it, considerable effort was put into every snap, but all he needed was it to weaken just enough and the weight of the cage would do the rest.Now.
The chain snapped and the bottom of the cage got caught in the gnasher. At that instant, it disappeared and reappeared in the air roughly four meters in front of Tsubasa. He ran to catch it, having done all of this without stopping. His hoodie had done its job in the teleportation, pulling only the cage and not the entire chain with it, which would have been beyond its movement weight as it likely would have attempted to dislodge the entire ceiling.
Unfortunately this was only half of the way through, which meant that Tsubasa had to continue onwards, now carrying a metal cage. He gripped one of the bars and his hand lit up again. This… hurt. A lot. But as he bent through the heated metal and Ahab ventured outwards, it was definitely better than lugging around a cage through the rest of the maze. This time he didn't look back as he threw the cage into the shredder before swinging his hoodie back on and continuing through.
Now he was starting to look winded. Was he tired? Absolutely. But the weight against his heart had been more than lifted now that he had Ahab in his hood. The flying squirrel made some remark. He shot a glance to the side.
A series of metal spikes revealed themselves and threatened to impale him and his flying squirrel companion. He turned his upper body towards them just in time and threw both hands out in front of him. A blast of force magic jammed the spikes from erupting towards them for just long enough that the two passed by. Ahab made some joke about being too close for comfort but Tsubasa didn't respond. They weren't clear yet.
He continued on. The flamethrower was drowned by a wave of water, the pit spikes were flown over with the help of a burst of sound. The poisonous blades would have been trouble but for the miniature void that swallowed them up and the final series of darts, ending parallel to the beginning, ended with another wall of stone. This one was bigger than the last, possibly foreseeing a stronger ending than beginning.
As he slowed to a stop, he pulled Ahab out of his hoodie, took a look at him. Ahab said something to him but it didn't register to Tsubasa. Instead, something else hit him like a ton of bricks. Like the optometrist finally setting your new pair of glasses and letting you realize that individual leaves exist.
Instead, he cradled the little flying squirrel and looked into the air, "This isn't my rat. Who are you and why are you testing me?
" He took a deep breath and said, "You put me in a fire place to test my fire magic. You put me in a water place to test my water magic. You put me in antigravity to test my black holes. You seem to know exactly what I can do but you don't want me dead because you could have killed me at least fifteen times here. Heck, you could have just left me in the fire box. What do you want from me? You want me to join your gang? How about you show yourself and we can settle this like grown ups?