Sanctuary

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    TJ

    Posts : 880
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    Age : 25
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    Re: Sanctuary

    Post  TJ on Wed Feb 01, 2017 6:16 am

    And so the story goes:
    Let's talk, shall we?

    I'm sure you could imagine why I haven't been back here. I've talked about this over the years but it seems that things have only gotten increasingly worse for me. I'm not averse to change. I have...constantly. I still do to this day just so I can meet the ever increasingly difficult criteria thrust upon me. My entire life's work has pointed to this. If I've learned anything, it's that there's something inhuman...or at least different about me and that very fact causes a silent discord between me and other people. My presence is a toxin to them and that fact cannot, under any circumstances, be changed.
    I've taken preventive measures over the past four years but we've hit a brick wall. Up to this point, I've made a home nestled in the bones of those who would house me and moved on the breaths of those who believed in my potential. That cannot be the case any longer, however; there is no shortage of people acting as gatekeepers to the places I would once go. Even more so to the places where I am now.
    All of my research has taught me that my presence can only be withstood for a very brief period of time and too much of it is unwanted. It's nothing short of being as oppressive as the desert sun. But even a few minutes under it is too much, now.

    This is the dilemma. My dilemma. Your dilemma. Ideally, we could work out some way for co-existing, but our world isn't ready for such a dramatic change. We're steeped in tradition that goes back to the beginning of time, whether we realize it or not. In order to continue that tradition and usher in the beginning anew, sacrifices must be made. In so doing, the gatekeepers need to stand down.
    I'm not even angry, or sad, or worried. I know my fate and what it entails. Wordlessly people have told me what it is, every single day for the past two years. If that's what it is, then so be it. But I'm well aware that my life is hardly my own anymore--that it rests within the hands of the people who want to control my fate. And so they have. Every day, new rules have been imposed upon me that have limited me so much that I can hardly exist without interfering with someone else in a negative way.
    To that illness...there is but one cure.

    And so? I ask this of you. Entrust my fate to me. Let me be the one that holds the cards and should I see it fit, be the cure to what ails us all. Rather then no choice, there should be at least two. Your ultimatum, from me to you. A cure to our dilemma, or the slow deconstruction of what once was.
    In all honesty, it hardly makes a difference to me. The way things are headed, I don't see much change in the future--that is, for the better. We'll regress, more and more. If not that, then we'll remain stuck where we are, just like I've been for all these years. Together, we'll create my ideal ice world.

    On a more related note, that is, to my works, as you could imagine progress has been slow, at best. My muse ran screaming nearly a year ago and has been reluctant to return since. That still remains the case. Just as it was in 2013, I feel I've hit a brick wall but can continue through sheer force of will. For whatever it's worth.
    I have done some writing. Just short chapters that I call interludes that happen between the main story's events. Things that bridge the gap between scene changes. The last one I did however, was actually an idea I had for chapter 9 that I scrapped. Still a little awkward-it didn't likely fit the tone for the chapter anyway. Whether they're canon or not, I leave that up for debate. They're good practice nonetheless and rather self-gratifying.
    Nonetheless, in order to grant the wish of some, I'll move this perpetual storm I call my presence...for now. For a time. I hope soon, to quell it, but for the time being I'll try to have something to show. So for whatever it's worth, lie to me, won't you? We'll just pretend the hedgehog dilemma doesn't exist.
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    TJ

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    Re: Sanctuary

    Post  TJ on Fri Feb 02, 2018 10:50 am

    I've got nothing clever to post here:
    Guess Who's back?
    My man Ko Kapches! Love that guy. Also me. For reasons I'll kinda elaborate on.

    So, some quick housekeeping. Had to make a topi'co account or whatever the hell it is to log in? I'm kinda surprised forumotion still exists, tbh. That aside...well, I'm kinda surprised I still exist. It's 2018. The hell am I doing here? Since I haven't died a horrible, gruesome death yet, it's safe to assume that I'm not dead, but potentially a ghost. That writes blog articles. That's not important though.
    A word to the wise, you can outrun death, but he'll get his due eventually. Life is a slow, miserable burn after all. First your body breaks, then your spirits, and eventually the last remnants of who you are, or were, are slowly eroded away. In a sense, I suspect that defines my life really well. I think my physical and mental faculties are failing me, and given maybe 5 or so more years I'll just become a ragdoll. I can still pass off as a functioning human being right now though!
    I promise, I'm not being over-dramatic for the sake of it. There's always gonna be things that we can fight against--we have the power to choose, at times. There are some things we can combat but can never truly rid ourselves of, so we spend all of our lives fighting them. The various mental ills that ail humanity are a perfect example of that. You can choose--in most cases, there are people who will fight that fight with you. If you can, you should. That was something I had learned from someone in 2012 and that was what began my journey to recovery in 2013. I do realize it's a never-ending battle. Everyday I still remind myself that one misstep and I'll fall off the face of the earth again, into a spiral of negativity, of self-doubt, of loathing within and without. But it isn't all that ails me. There are other things that lurked within my genetics, waiting to fester like a sleeping cancer. As I've gotten older, they've begun to take root and claim what's left of my self, slowly eroding my persona and eating away at my conscious mind. I wasn't the first, I might not be the last, and seeing it through the eyes of another allows me to clearly see where it begins and where it will lead. I just want my ending to be different. Hence, the ragdoll statement. I don't want to reach that point. It's times like these that have me asking two questions: What do I live for? What would I die for?
    Nonetheless, this isn't really a PSA or something for mental illness, but you can take it that way if you want. It's all fun and games until you really get fucked up, so it's best to do something about it if you suspect something might be happening. IMHO, if you're afraid of the stigma, just say fuck it and take the leap. You can change your life for the better if you act while there's still time. Just as everything else has changed over these years, that can too, and it will and should. We need to give a voice to those who may have lived through such experiences and will fight for change so others aren't afraid to face the stigma.

    That went on longer than I intended. My once-in-a-lifetime hopeful speech ends there. Back on topic, the main reason I'm here is because...well, there's something I love happening right now. What inspired me when I was a boy, partially what had inspired me to write Frequency in the first place and also influences my work to this very day is here. It reminded me of where I had begun, where I am now and where I'll go in the near future. It reminded me of who I am, what I can do and what I should do. What only I can do...for better or worse. And to that end, I want to lend a hand. It's the least I could do, in one of the few ways I know how.
    It's probably lost somewhere among all these blog posts, but I once said that you should never forget where you came from. Our origins define us and if we shy away from that truth, be it bad or good, the crucial lessons imparted on us by our history might be forgotten and repeated.
    As for me? I realized the world will continue to turn and the hands of the clock will move regardless of what I do. It's just...for now, at least, I'll move with it. I can affect my world. Something I once feared, but realized may be at times necessary, or even good. For the time being, I will.

    So in short, I'm back for now. It's nearly been a full year and there's one post I still need to get back to, which I will. That aside, I'll continue where I left off writing about Sanc, bringing back my own brand of dank(more like rustic and shitty) memes, clever(unintelligent and unfunny) jokes and punny(they actually are, still not funny) puns. Along with the usual trivia and whatnot. So get happy!
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    TJ

    Posts : 880
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    Re: Sanctuary

    Post  TJ on Fri Feb 02, 2018 10:58 am

    Pages 527-535:
    Velvet took a deep breath before preparing her stances. She used Bravery Shout, Chivalry and Warden’s Emissary respectively before looking to the statue with renewed resolve.
    “Here goes nothin’…” Velvet muttered as she approached.
    “More like everything. Don’t die in that body, alright?”
    She could not help but laugh and offer the Governor of Fire a thumbs-up at her concern.
    As she grew ever closer to the stone statue, it too rumbled as it came to life and brandished its weapon.
    Velvet brandished her club in turn and slammed the weapon against her shield twice.
    “I’m ready for you! Come,” She roared.
    The statue’s head tilted slightly as it took two slow steps and paused but for a moment. Without another moment’s hesitation it broke out into a sprint that ended with it putting the weight of its whole body into a fell swing. The earth shattered as Velvet leapt aside and skidded to a halt. She stormed back into the fray and took a swing at the wrist of the axeman as it withdrew its weapon.
    It had been quite some time since TJ last fought in Velvet’s body so he would need to adapt once more. She was slower, but stronger. The weight of the weapon differed, and the speed and strength at which she could swing it was much better than his. He could use his shield to defend against most attacks and should push come to shove, he could use Perfect Shield. More importantly than everything else, he needed to ensure that he protected Amata.
    As the eyes turned to him after he put a dent in the arm a small flame rushed toward its face and burst, throwing it off guard which gave Velvet the opportunity to reposition herself. As the flames and smoke dispersed it turned its focus to the Governor of Fire and she knew she had to act.
    “Guard Impact!”
    As it took its first step towards the Governor of Fire Velvet lunged at its left ankle with her shield and collided with it, staggering the statue and drawing its attention back to her. It seemed that attempting to stun a golem of that size was not possible for her, but at the very least she succeeded at her initial goal.
    “There’s more where that came from! Helm Splitter!”
    She leapt from where she stood, mace raised and shield withdrawn to land a leaping strike. As she did so she noted that there were two potential ways to follow up the attack: the first would be to perform a mid-high shield bash, dissimilar to Guard Impact in that the user shoved the shield forward rather than using their entire body to shoulder-tackle the target and daze them. The other was to raise the shield and bring it down upon the target, in essence, leaving the wielder open but dealing a more fatal blow. She was beginning to understand the small differences stances could use to confuse opponents, such as those Peorth used.
    Putting the thought aside she raised her shield and brought it down with a powerful strike that cracked the stone. She only had a couple of seconds before it completed its turn and attacked. She stepped forward to ground herself and brought the mace upon the leg in a right hook, cracking the leg further and chipping a few pieces off the rock.
    Without another moment to waste the statue reeled its axe back and brought it down with both arms. Velvet raised her shield to meet the weapon and the two found themselves in a deadlock. She could hold it back but not for long. The strength of both arms and its size advantage would overpower her eventually.
    “Repel,” she shouted.
    Her shield gained a bright glow that pulsed outwards like after-images and forced the axeman back with incredible force.
    Velvet clasped her hands together, lowered her head and closed her eyes. Following that she looked skyward as she raised her mace.
    “Blessed Strikes!”
    The weapon gained a powerful glow while she charged back at the axeman. The first swing was aimed at the right leg, the sound of steel colliding with stone echoed throughout the chamber with incredible force and velocity. The leg she hit collided with the other and caused the golem to collapse to the ground.
    “Good one TJ,” Amata shouted from nearby.
    She took to the arm that held it up and also carried its weapon and aimed her second strike at its hand. She broke two of the fingers and knocked the arm out from under it, causing it to collapse to the ground once more. She wanted to strike again but recognized the risk in going the distance, then opted out to strike the head instead. The final devastating blow was aimed at the side of the head and shattered a large portion of the helmet chiseled into it, leaving portions of the stone face crumbling away as it rose to its feet once more.
    “Tough guy, huh?” Velvet asked with a dry chuckle, as she took a breath. “Think I made him mad.”
    TJ had forgotten one important thing about Temple Knights. They expend quite a bit more mana from a much smaller pool. He would have to choose when to use stances wisely.
    As it rose to its full height once more the eyes glistened in and it seemed to focus itself on Velvet. Without another moment to spare it drew its axe back and took a mighty horizontal swing towards the ground. Too high to jump but too low to crouch underneath she opted out for defending herself with her shield. Both hands tucked tightly behind the arm she took the blow head on and the sheer force caused her to slide back a fair distance before she was lifted from her feet in a rising arc.
    “TJ! Hang on!” Amata shouted a she rushed towards her.
    “Don’t worry! I’ve got it,” Velvet vouched.
    She spread her wings and awkwardly flitted about until she could regain her balance. The moment she did so, however, the axeman had already recovered from his last swing and brought his weapon around with another.
    “Oh crap!”
    Velvet stopped beating her wings and fell slightly before rising up once more in a vain attempt to get back to the landing. As she attempted to do so the weapon came around in a rising arc, followed by a falling arc in a series of attempts to predict where she would be next.
    “You don’t have this at all, do you?! You really need to learn to ask for help, dummy,” Amata scolded.
    She ran back to their things and rummaged through her pack drawing a dagger. She tossed it up and down a few times to test the weight of the weapon before she pointed it at the golem.
    “Hey asshole! Look alive! Sacrificial Arm!”
    She hurled the weapon with the force of her entire body behind it and as the weapon took flight it combusted and exploded upon contact with the statue’s face.
    “Now’s your chance TJ! I’ll keep it busy so get back over here!”
    “T-thanks!”
    “One more!”
    The Governor of Fire spun her staff above her head before she slammed it into the ground. A whirlwind of fire surrounded her body for a couple of moments before she reeled a hand back. A flame crackled in it as sparks clicked to life at her heels. She broke into a sprint leaving a trail of flames in her wake as she rushed towards the statue. The eyes shone through the cloud of smoke left in her spell’s wake and the axe soon parted them. Before it could crush her, Amata fire hopped from where she was about to step and launched herself towards the statue, soaring between its legs and skidding to a halt behind it. She hopped once more and flew through the air, towards the back of its head. Her flaming hand was put forward as she lunged toward the axeman and let loose a series of explosions.
    “Salamander Bombardment!”
    The force of the explosion forced her back and she managed to touch down, albeit by taking a knee, however, safely nonetheless. In the wake of her attack a series of explosions followed and she outstretched both hands. As she did so, plumes of fire seperated from the explosions and formed a series of six orbs that surrounded her adversary.
    She clapped the two together as she roared, “Elemental Sigma!” The spheres began to spin around the statue before they converged upon it in a massive explosion.
    “That good enough for you?” Amata asked as a multitude of beads of sweat ran down her face and neck.
    “That’ll do perfectly!” Velvet answered, now flying just above the face of the right arm of their enemy.
    “What the hell’re you doing there?! I thought I told you to land!”
    “I’ve got a plan!”
    “Another plan? At this point I’m kinda hard pressed to tell you not to follow through with them…” She grumbled under her breath.
    TJ lacked the ability of flight and by extension struggled to do so as Velvet. However! There was a loophole in this scenario. Velvet’s knowledge of stances allowed him to perform maneuvers he could not do in his own body. In her repertoire there was one that was somewhat reminiscent of Peorth’s use of Broken Wings while under the effect of Valkyrie Stance. With it, he could potentially perform a finishing blow while meeting the statue in strength, should push come to shove. All the while, his lack of flying skill would be set aside to meet the stance’s requirement. A good plan, if he did say so himself.
    Velvet placed both hands to her mace and held it before her as a pair of golden rings took form around her, spinning around her while moving in rising and falling arcs. Once they vanished beads of light like sparkles surrounded her as she took a battle stance.
    “Heavenly Sunder!”
    She immediately took flight and rushed toward the statue with a sweeping strike. As she flew by she bashed it across the face and staggered it once. Before she flew into the ground her body turned the dive into an ascent and circled back around to hit it where the helmet was once shattered. Once more as she drifted past, she turned around to take point before it. She raised the mace skyward and a beam of light came down from the heavens and enhanced her weapon. It gave the weapon the shape and form of a a large hammer that she wielded with both hands. As she prepared to deal the final blow the statue regained its balance and prepared its axe to cut her down.
    Velvet took off and the statue brought its axe directly down upon her. The two clashed in a match of braun. At first Velvet found herself being pushed back but she focused on fighting back and she began to regain control of their deadlock. Sparks flew from their respective weapons until with one final push Velvet forced the axeman back and broke free of the lock. Without a moment of hesitation she dashed forward and smashed her hammer into the statue’s chest with an overhand swing. Following it she brought her weapon around with a right hook and blew the statue back with the force of the blow. It’s feet skidded across the floor after she hit it until it crashed into the wall.
    The eyes dimmed, the statue crouched down and the battle came to a close.
    “Wow…that was kinda scary!” Velvet blurted as she touched down and let out a sigh of relief.
    “You just love to put yourself in the most dangerous of situations don’t you? Honestly…” Amata articulated as she shrugged.
    She tossed her staff away and it vanished in a series of embers.
    “What can I say?” She asked as he rubbed the back of her neck. “Old habits die hard.”
    The Governor of Fire let out a gentle chuckle as her lips curled into a grin.
    “Yeah, and so do you.”

    Velvet rolled her shoulders as she inspected the statue.
    “Let’s give this a whirl, Amata,” she said enthusiastically.
    The Governor of Fire, however, did not share in her enthusiasm.
    “I won’t deny your strength or anything but…are you sure you can move that thing?”
    She offered her a puzzled head tilt.
    “Me? We! We can do this, together!”
    At her smile Amata blew her bangs from her face and let out a light chuckle.
    “Yeah, that sounds about right.”
    She inspected it from front to back and crossed her arms.
    “But how do you plan to push it? You launched it into the wall and we can’t get back there.”
    A couple of beads of sweat ran down the back of her neck as she too, inspected her handiwork. She raised a finger to make a counterpoint but lowered it with a defeated expression.
    “I’ll figure something out.”
    Velvet attempted to pull it from the front but could not muster the strength required for it. She let out an upset huff before she walked past it and climbed the legs to put herself between its waist and the wall. With a grunt of effort she used her body to push the two apart and much to her fortune and dismay, it did indeed slide forward. This resulted in her falling to the ground.
    “Ow ow ow!” She cried as she rolled over and rubbed her bottom.
    “There’s a lot I can say about that, but hey, you did it. Good thinking. Albeit somewhat flawed.” She told her with a chuckle. “I can see the difference in strength, though.”
    “That makes two of us,” Velvet answered somewhat sulkily.
    Amata grinned as she leaned against the statue.
    “Don’t let it get to you. I think you’re alright just the way you are. Rather, trying to imagine you with bulging muscles is a little…disturbing. I think I prefer your pre-pubescent, girly figure.”
    “That’s not a compliment.” She muttered as she pouted.
    “Good one.” Su said from within the gem.
    “Right?” Amata smirked.
    “Why is it at times like these that you guys actually agree with each other?” Velvet asked as she placed her hands to the statue and began to push it herself.
    “Hang on, I know it isn’t much but I can still offer my help.” The Governor of Fire said with a snicker.
    The two pushed it to the landing and upon doing so a bright beam of light pulsed outwards from it and the other three buttons.
    “Think that did it?” Velvet asked.
    “Must have. We should go check out the exit again,” Amata answered.
    “Alright, let’s go!”
    Without another moment to spare Velvet swept her up once more and spread her wings to descend to the lower floor.
    Amata closed her eyes and her lips curled into a frown.
    “Nope. Still not ready for this.”
    The pair landed and upon letting the Governor of Fire stand Velvet began to fade away. TJ opened his eyes and stopped playing his guitar before he regrouped with his companion.
    She eyed him from head to toe before nodding with approval.
    “None the worse for wear. That’s pretty handy.” She said with a grin.
    “Exhausting though…” He sighed before he smiled slightly.
    “Well, nothing for it then, let’s get a move on!”
    At her behest the two proceeded past the statue they defeated and to the next room. At Amata’s gesture the door slid open and offered them access to the next place in their journey.

    The following room was one that was similar, but also eerily different to its predecessor. To their left was what seemed to be an empty abyss. It was darkness as far as the eye could see. There was no railing nor walls that would prevent challengers from falling into it, and as one would expect, to find out what awaited at the bottom was not a welcome prospect. To their right was what seemed to be an ascending ramp towards a higher level. Directly ahead were a pair of holes accompanied by a single landing with another button upon it.
    TJ swallowed hard as he glimpsed into the abyss.
    “It’s uhh…pretty dark down there. I’d hate to fall in it.” He said awkwardly as he inched himself towards the wall.
    The Governor of Fire cocked an eyebrow at his statement.
    “Hasn’t anyone ever told you, ‘don’t look down’?” She asked.
    “Probably. But I mean, not looking at it doesn’t mean it’s not there, you know.”
    She chuckled. “Yeah, yeah I know.
    “At the very least, there aren’t any giant statues around here that we’ll need to beat up to put on those buttons.”
    She approached the nearest button and crouched down to get a better look at the distance of it.
    “Though it’s hard to tell when standing, this gap is pretty huge. If we’re gonna try and get across, either we’ll need to fly or use an ability I-”
    “Look out!” TJ shouted as he ran to her side and held out a hand. “Frozen Buckler!”
    At those words a sphere of water took form before his hand before he clenched a fist and moved it inwards, a short stream emerged for him to grab hold as it froze and spread out, forming a buckler.
    Almost immediately after it took shape a fireball collided with it and melted the shield, causing the Abellan to hurriedly shake his hand off.
    “Ooh that’s hot!”
    “T-thanks,” Amata said.
    She whirled on the balls of her heels as she rose to her full height and caught a glimpse of a robed and hooded humanoid figure. It wore a tattered, crimson robe with gold embroidering and carried a gnarled wooden staff in skeletal hands. The edges of the bottom of the robe were frayed and looked as if they were burned away, still alight to that very moment. From within the hood the duo could only make out a deep darkness.
    “I hate fuckers who fight dirty!” She snarled as she raised a hand skyward and manifested her staff in a series of flames.
    She fire hopped over TJ and used the wall as a jumping point to perform a second. As she flipped through the air she outstretched one foot as a flaming aura surrounded her body.
    “Salamander Dive!” She roared as she soared towards it.
    Though no legs to speak of it leapt from where it stood and avoided her attack. She skidded to a halt and turned around as the aura diminished only to catch a glimpse of the spirit drifting down.
    “Flame Shaman or not, you’re not gonna get away from me!”
    “I’ll back you up!” TJ shouted as he outstretched a hand. “Hailstone!”
    “Mortar!” Amata snarled as she placed a hand to her side and a flame crackled to life in it.
    She hurled it into the air above the Shaman and detonated it, causing fire to rain like bombs on the surrounding area.
    TJ formed another buckler and took cover under it as the flames nearly fell on him too.
    Much to the dismay of the two, from beneath the Shaman’s robe a burst of flames would occasionally be emitted, allowing it to maneuver the barrage of attacks.
    Amata looked furious, yet envious. “Bastard! …I need to learn to do that…” She muttered as she watched it drifting to the ground.
    Shortly after it touched down near the door and aimed its staff at TJ.
    “Get out of there TJ!”
    He swallowed hard as he dropped the shield and pressed himself against the wall to avoid the launching of three fireballs at him.
    “Close call there…” He muttered as he wiped his brow.
    He stole a glimpse at them as they all came to a halt and amalgamated into one ball, then launched themselves back at him. Without a moment to spare he immediately dashed up the ramp and nearly bumped into Amata as she took off up the second flight upon it. The spell continued its pursuit and the latter soon found herself at a dead end.
    There were stones in front of her that seemed to have some unusual markings and grooves in it that may have meant they served a secondary purpose. However, given the current circumstances, they were nothing more than an unneeded extension to their current vantage point.
    She turned to him with a panicked expression.
    “You willing to block it again?” She asked with her voice edging on desperation.
    “No way! It’s huge!” He answered glancing back uneasily.
    “No choice then!”
    Without another word she walked past him and leapt off the ledge to the lower section.
    “You’re kidding!”
    He glimpsed the fireball coming to a halt once more before it neared him. He took a deep breath, leapt down and landed hard. He let out a pained and muffled groan before rising to his full height.
    “Here it comes again!” Amata said to him as the two glimpsed the Shaman ascending and aiming its staff at them.
    A small flame crackled to life before it and moments later it unleashed a torrent that threatened to engulf them. The Governor of Fire held her staff out with one outstretched hand and met its onslaught with her Flamethrower spell. The two remained in a deadlock for a time, their flames collided and fanning out, draining the oxygen in the surrounding area.
    “Persistent bastard…” Amata muttered as beads of sweat ran down her cheek. “Now’s your chance TJ, see if you can catch it off guard!”
    “I’m on it!”
    He stepped out from behind her but backed away slightly so as not to be caught by the flames.
    Though it seemed that he was just taking cover, which was not entirely untrue, he was counting the seconds that the Shaman had remained airborne. Just as a Cerebian can only remain in flight for so long due to stamina, he was willing to bet that Shaman had a limit to how long it could do so also. This could lead to two potential ways they could defeat it.
    TJ placed a hand to the top of his right wrist and aimed it directly at the Shaman.
    “Freezing Wave!”
    The moment he spoke the spell it seemed to shift its head in his direction moments before the spell reached it. It broke away from the deadlock with Amata and drifted aside as TJ struggled with all his might to follow after it with his spell. Amata managed to catch it off guard and set the weapon hand aflame.
    The two ended their casts as the Shaman fell towards the landing in a heap.
    “Thirteen seconds!” TJ cried out excitedly as his right arm fell limp.
    He learned something new about the spell today—the first thing, being that it takes a lot of mana to maintain it for a prolonged period and the second, it is a great strain on the body.
    “What’s with the timer?” Amata asked as she glanced over her shoulder but for a moment.
    “I’ll explain later!”
    “Make sure you do.”
    Without another word her body moved in the opposite direction, leading her down the ramp towards the seperated landings. As she did so small chunks of molten rock rained down on her like artillery.
    “Hit the floor, Amata!” TJ shouted as he glimpsed over the edge.
    “Gotcha!”
    At his request she performed a short hop and skidded against the ground before planting her staff in the stone. As she swung around the weapon, three fireballs drifted over her head. She rose to her feet and withdrew the weapon, dragging it behind her moments before she transitioned into a fire hop. The fireballs that were launched reversed and followed in her wake.
    “You’re mine now! Explosion!”
    She spun her staff over her head once and pointed it down at her target causing a couple of bursts of fire before a single massive conflagaration blasted them both. The brunt of the spell hit the shaman while the force of it blew her away, up towards the higher landings.
    “H-hang on! I gotcha!” TJ shouted as he ran back and forth to predict where she would land.
    She collapsed upon him and they both groaned.
    “Well…I appreciate the effort…” Amata muttered as she rubbed her buttocks.
    “Just…doing what I do best…” TJ uttered as he arose to his knees.
    The Governor of Fire looked alarmed as she caught a glimpse of the shaman returning from the flames and smoke beneath them. After her attack the robes it wore were heavily damaged as was its weapon, but it persisted in flight. As it aimed its staff down at them what seemed like a cackle sounded from it as it prepared another spell.
    A magic circle with the herald of fire took form behind it as it raised its staff skyward, both hands tightly clapsed around it.
    “What the—this is bad! Stay behind me TJ!” Amata said as she outstretched a hand.
    “Something big is coming, isn’t it? Are you sure about this? Will you be alright?” He asked, fear edging his voice this time around.
    “It’ll be fine. I told you already didn’t I? I’m not just God’s Governor for show.”
    Flame spheres began to appear in the general vicinity of the caster as the channel continued.
    Was it using the same Ten Flames spell Amata used in the past? There was something different about it though—rather there were several, which made TJ both unsure of what it was and fearful for Amata’s well-being.
    In spite of this, he kept a close eye on how long the shaman had remained airborne. If there was an opening at the end of the spellcast, it would be his chance to strike.
    As the spheres continued to increase to upwards of ten, almost fifteen, the magic circle disappeared and the shaman began to cackle again before it pointed its staff at the two. The flames before them crackled to life before they exploded in succession, each in a solid line directed at Amata.
    “Flame Eater!”
    She put her right hand forward and just as she had before, created a vacuum that pulled the spell to her one after the other. She gripped her wrist with her free hand as she grit her teeth, struggling to maintain the spell as more and more joined in the first few. The effect waned somewhat but she still persisted.
    With a couple seconds left on the clock, the Abellan saw his chance and stepped out from behind his companion.
    “TJ what’re you—ngh!” Before she could ask she was met with another blast from the spell and turned her concentration back to the other incoming shots.
    “I’m gonna put this plan to the test!” TJ shouted as he drew his guitar but held it with the base skyward. “Here goes…Broken Wings!”
    He hurled the weapon through one of the fireballs and the moment it collided with the shaman he vanished. He reappeared upon it, the two both airborne above the abyss. Just as he appeared, the shaman’s flight ability began to give way and they began their descent. Before it could retaliate, TJ pulled his weapon into an overhand swing and bashed its face, causing it to plummet downwards before he spread his wings. With a single beat he brought himself into a backwards ascent, flipped through the air once and touched down on the second section of the landing near the Governor of Fire.
    “H-hey, I stuck the landing!”
    A fuming Amata stomped over before she bashed him over the head with her staff. With a quiet whimper he crouched down and rubbed his head.
    “TJ you idiot! What do you think you’re doing, doing something that dangerous?! Do you know what could’ve happened if you botched that?! You could’ve died! And with the way I am now, I couldn’t have helped you! Jeez!”
    Without another word, she pouted, tossed her staff away and stormed off.
    “You totally deserved that,” Su said.
    “D-don’t rub it in…” he muttered under his breath.
    Since Amata went up the ramp, it was safe to assume that she would stand on the button there, so the one on the lower platform was up to him. He was thankful that she stormed off the way she did or she may have insisted on taking the more dangerous route of the two. If her wings had healed, she may have been able to handle it with ease, but as that was not yet the case, he felt better about going himself.
    When he approached he got a better look of the situation at hand. There were two landings and the second had the button upon it. They were rather small at that, so to jump too far or not far enough would result in him falling into the abyss. Judging by the fact that the shaman the two had just fought had not come back out, it likely went much deeper than he could and would like to know.
    He let out a nervous chuckle before he steeled his resolve. Without another moment of hesitation he backed up and got a running start before he leapt towards the first landing. As Amata had said, even with a broad jump he could not make the distance. He flapped his wings once and touched down on the platform safely, using the wall to steady himself.
    From his current location, it seemed the gap was about the same distance, but this time he would not be able to get a running start so he would need to use his double jump ability to make up the momentum he lacked to make the distance.
    He took a deep breath. It was true that one wrong move and he would fall to his death. It was also true that he promised Peorth he would see Amata through this trial, that the Governor of Fire herself was waiting on him and Peorth was at home also, waiting for him to return safely. His burning desire banished his fears and he decided to go forward with a strengthened conviction.
    He leapt from where he stood, flapped his wings once and safely landed atop the button on the second landing. The moment he touched down, it sunk beneath his weight and a green light pulsed from beneath it, through a series of veins in the wall and up towards where Amata stood.
    The sound of stone shifting and grinding after eons of a lack of use sounded through the room and the two platforms near the Govenor of Fire began to rise and fall in succession.
    TJ made his way back across to the ramp and once he touched down he collapsed to his knees.
    “Thank God Ah that’s over! Can’t stand heights!” He uttered with a relieved chuckle.
    He was not sure if he was thankful or even more terrified of the abyss in comparison to knowing exactly where he would fall and upon what.
    “Heeeeey! TJ, the lifts are working now. You coming or what?” Amata asked as she leaned over the landing.
    Her bangs fell into her face and she blew them away before she blinked. It seems that she was not as angry as she was but a few minutes ago.
    “Yeah, I’ll be right there.”
    He made his way up the ramps and waited with her for the nearest landing to descend.
    “You know, while I was flying through the air, I saw another Flame Shaman up there. Are you ready for another fight?” She asked as she cocked an eyebrow.
    “There’s not any holes up there, are there? Or another abyss or something?”
    “Nah, just solid ground and a wall. You’re gonna have to change your stra—huh?!”
    TJ fist pumped with both fists at her words.
    The Governor of Fire chuckled and shook her head as she shrugged.
    “Well, I guess judging by that it doesn’t bother you any huh? We’ll just have to beat it down the regular way.”
    Moments after she said that the landing neared and stopped next to them, allowing them to board.
    “We should be fine,” he said. “As long as we can keep the fight up here, it’s our advantage. A Flame Shaman has some decent aerial movement, but nothing like yours.”
    She smiled slightly. “Y-you think so?”
    He nodded proudly. “Definitely. If we can keep it airborne for the maximum length of time, we’ll be able to get a free shot on it when it lands, so long as we can avoid any spells. This’ll be an easy fight.”
    “I’ll take your word for it then.” Amata said as she turned to the landing they arrived at.
    Upon it they caught a glimpse of another Flame Shaman drifting back and forth before it turned to them with a screech.
    “You ready? Let’s show it who’s boss!”
    Without a moment to spare Amata fire hopped from where stood to draw the attention of the Flame Shaman. She hopped again as she placed her left hand to her right and pointed a finger.
    “Flashfire!”
    A flame was ignited on the tip of her finger and launched towards the shaman, igniting its robes and causing it to fall away.
    “You’re up, TJ!”
    “I’m on it! Five Arrows of Light!” TJ shouted as with each sturm of his guitar the arrows took form.
    He launched three in succession as he stormed towards the shaman. It retaliated by pointing its staff at him, unleashing a torrent of fireballs. As he caught a glimpse of the incoming spells he dashed to and fro while continuing his approach, finding it more difficult to avoid as he got nearer.
    He stole a glimpse back fearing that the spells would circle around for him, but at his glimpse he noted that they were ordinary fireballs, ones that only moved forward. As he turned his focus back to his enemy he only glimpsed a fireball and was blasted back by it, tumbling away after it burst upon him.
    Amata got within the maximum range of her next spell and summoned her staff, then slammed it down before her.
    “Illusion Fire,” she snarled.
    A series of rising flames arose before her as she rose to her full height and glimpsed TJ rising to his feet again.
    “You alright?”
    “Yeah, I’m okay!” He answered as he dusted himself off. “It wasn’t a strong spell but it caught me off guard.”
    “Alright, let’s keep the onslaught going!”
    As Amata approached it turned its staff on her and unleashed a torrent of flames.
    She stepped aside and aimed her staff at it with a single outstretched hand as she shouted, “Flame Burst!”
    A small trail of fire shot forwards before it burst where the shaman had been a moment before.
    “Shadow Dive!” TJ shouted as he leapt on the spot and vanished in the shadows.
    He leapt out of the shaman’s shadow as it retreated and placed a hand to its back.
    “Hailstone!”
    He reeled his hand back as the spell took form and pounded his fists together.
    “Lucidity!”
    He held his guitar out with both hands and a bright glow overtook the entirety of it due to his augment.
    As the Hailstorm spell came to an end he fired two more Arrows of Light, following in their wake with an overhand bash of his guitar and a horizontal swing to knock the shaman towards Amata.
    “Good one TJ!” She shouted to him as she fire hopped over it and placed both hands downwards.
    “Falcon Torrent!”
    Once she touched down both prepared to continue their attack but found themselves retreating when the shaman screeched and circled around as it levitated again. As it moved, a bouquet of flames was spread in its wake, making it near impossible to get in from any angle, save for directly above it. It ascended into the air and performed the same spell the last had, magic circle and all.
    “We’ve gotta cancel the channeling!” Amata said to him hurriedly, her gaze darting in his direction also.
    “Leave it to me!” TJ said as he prepared his guitar once more. “Broken Wings!”
    He hurled the weapon but as it soared through the air, one of the flames suddenly burst and launched it away from him and across the room. At first he watched in shock, then came disbelief.
    “I’ll put a stop to it!” Amata said as she held a hand to her side and a flame took form. “Lion’s Dance!”
    She hurled the ball towards the spirit and as it bounced through the air a shower of spark and flames rained down upon it, but despite the fact the spirit was not deterred and accepted any pain that would come from the spell.
    “This bastard is even more persistent than the last…” she muttered in disbelief also.
    TJ clenched his fists tightly. They had one chance at hitting its weakness, but they would need to get past the onslaught of fire blasts it was preparing. To add insult to injury, he was disarmed and without his weapon he could not perform some of his best spells. That aside, Amata could not use Flame Eater a second time, or she would have likely suggested it already.
    What were his options? To use Frozen Buckler against a spell with that much momentum and general force behind it would likely harm him. It offered him mobility, but he could not rely on it here. Perhaps his best bet would be to use its vision against it? If it could not hit what it could not see…
    “Amata, I’ve got a plan!” TJ shouted to her as she gave him an ‘OK’ sign from afar. “I just need you to bring me my guitar!”
    Without another word she dashed away to reclaim the weapon.
    TJ cracked his knuckles as he took a deep breath.
    “Here goes! Ice Storm!”
    He raised a hand skyward and three massive chunks of ice surrounded him before they shattered and he began to spin. As they rained down around him, the area was covered in an icy mist. Step one was complete.
    “Ice Fear!”
    One after the next he created a series of icicles that created a sort of labyrinth upon where they fought.
    Amata stopped after she reclaimed the guitar and looked on in disbelief.
    “What the hell is this?! Do you know how hard it is to get over these things?!” She complained.
    “I’ve got it! I just need you to throw me my—whoa!”
    TJ dove aside as a line of flames rushed past him and hit one of the icicles, followed by a second before it eventually fizzled out. It seemed to some degree, his plan had worked.
    Amata threw his guitar to him before she took cover and waited for his next order. He was thankful for this.
    It was not long before another fireball was launched towards him. He was running out of time before his spells wore off, and the upkeep of the mist was rapidly draining his Special Power.
    He broke out into a sprint and two fireballs were launched at him, causing him to slide on the ground and pound his fists together as he whispered, “Frequency!”
    As his eyes flickered to green he oustretched a hand and caused some of the stones nearby to shift, drawing the shaman’s attention to them. Once it did so, he gauged the distance between him and the wall by memory before he planted his hand to the ground.
    “Spell Suspension!”
    At his words a small magic circle took form above his hand and solemnly turned.
    “Iron Maiden!”
    The magic circle dissipated, becoming a thin green streak of pure energy that surged into his hand, entered the stone and made its way to the far wall where the magic circle took form again.
    As the sound of another fireball erupted he dove into the stone to avoid the spell and emerged once more before preparing his next cast.
    “Venus Fly Cannon!”
    He outstretched his hand at there different locations, each cracking the stone and releasing a plant in the shape of a massive venus fly trap. Fireballs were launched in succession and as they were, he created one more next to him.
    The moment it arose from the earth, it opened its maw and swallowed him whole before closing back and pointing toward the shaman. Without another moment to spare he was launched at it, moving at incredible speeds. He drew his weapon and once in range performed a takedown, their collision slowing his momentum as the two began their sudden descent.
    The moment they hit the ground TJ bashed its weapon off of the landing with his own and raised the shaman to his height by shifting the stone beneath it. Before it could retaliate he slammed the base of his guitar into its chest and dragged it along with him towards the spell he had delayed.
    The magic circle dissipated and the earth shuddered as a stone iron maiden took form and opened up as the two approached. With the momentum of his dash he hurled the spirit into the device and outstretched a hand to slam it shut.
    A series of sparkles along with a trail of blue mana emerged from the iron maiden before it dissipated, leaving nothing in its wake.
    TJ huffed a couple times, sat back down and let out a long sigh.
    “That’s that!”
    The mist faded, the icicles shattered and Amata approached looking rather impressed.
    “That was pretty cool. But I can’t help but wonder why you have a torture device turned spell…” She muttered as she eyed him warily.
    “Torture device? Which one?”
    Amata cocked an eyebrow but shook her head.
    “You know, maybe it’s better that you don’t know. Just…don’t ever use that on me okay? I’ll die too, F.Y.I.”
    “Eh? I wouldn’t do that! I’m not some psycho killer!”
    She grinned as she laughed.
    “Sure, sure. So you got any more torture devices hidden you’d like to share, Mr. Not psycho?”
    He pouted at her words.
    “I think that’s enough teasing you for now. Too much and I might actually make you mad.”
    She grinned impishly as she gave him a gentle pat on the back and went on ahead.
    “Let’s go find out what’s waiting for us just past this door.”


    Last edited by TJ on Fri Feb 02, 2018 12:41 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : Wrong page numbers)
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    TJ

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    Re: Sanctuary

    Post  TJ on Fri Feb 02, 2018 12:40 pm

    Innocent is the Dark Souls of Frequency:
    So with the arrival of Monster Hunter World and Valentine's Day right around the corner, I've thought up some great card ideas for your significant hunter buddy. Here's a few:
    I'd take you over a palico any day, Valentine.
    You're the honey to my bitterbug, Valentine.
    I'd give you four carves, Valentine.
    Let's make like bizzy bees on Valentine's Day.
    I'll spit-roast you like a well-done steak, Valentine.
    I've studied the Qurupeco to summon just you, Valentine.
    I want to mount you, Valentine.
    I want to carve your skin and wear it like armour this Valentine's Day.

    This is good stuff, Capcom! I can't be slain, repelled or captured, but I can sure as hell be hired! Now's your chance!
    It's gonna be and my right hand this Valentine's Day too, but that's A-OK! So let's get down to it!

    Now you're probably wondering, why are the pages in the 500s? The reason for that is I botched the formatting ages ago so I've been going back and editing, little by little. QoL changes, really. Sometimes slight changes to dialogue and whatnot. What's here is the rough draft after all. They're probably gonna be wonky for a while longer since I made major changes starting here also--in that I separated the dialogue, actions and thoughts into their own paragraphs. In some cases, actions follow dialogue, but not vice versa. There are still some mistakes I haven't gotten yet, but it's tough to get 'em all when you do your own corrections.
    Back to the matter at hand, well, leaving the obvious stuff aside, Velvet's buffs are mostly created by me. Bravery Shout is from LT--I think Vincent used it too during USSR, so you don't need mana to do it, FYI. Same with Guard Impact. I was gonna mention the effect(though explained before) but I covered my ass there! Heck yeah! As for Helm Splitter, it's not a stance chain. It just has a secondary attack that TKs can use. Repel and Blessed Strikes are two new skills she hasn't used yet. The first isn't strength based. Rather, it's based on the velocity and strength of the attacker, rather than the defender. The harder they hit the defender, the greater the effect of repel. It does have a base effect, though, and it works with magic! As for BS, it's a three-hit buff that gives a weapon a light effect that also increases the damage the user puts out. The third strike is the strongest among them, hence how Velvet broke off so much of the face.
    If the reason TJ was struggling to fly wasn't obvious, it's because he doesn't know how and of course, the differences between each person. The amount of energy he'd expend moving himself with his double jump in his own body isn't too high, since he's light and lightly dressed. Since Velvet has armour and a different shape to her wings, the how of it changes drastically.
    So Amata's got a new spell! Salamander Bombardment. As you've seen and will continue to throughout the chapter, most of those attacks are a precursor to her other spells. Like the Arrows/Spirits of Light, the spells can be upgraded and gain new effects as a Mage gains mastery over their element. You don't see that as often with TJ or Su because the two still have a lot of growing to do, but you can get a good idea of it with her. That aside, all the jumping around wasn't necessary lol. She's just a show-off.
    As for Elemental Sigma, it's an attack that can typically follow up any large-scale fire spell. The stronger the spell, the greater the effect of elemental sigma, as she can get more power out of it.
    One of the things I love about this chapter is that both in and out of battle, you can see their relationship slowly developing. It's mostly one-sided, but Amata's becoming something of a softy. It's nice.
    The last stance introduced is Heavenly Sunder, alike to Blessed Strikes, it gains strength after a certain amount of hits. Unlike it, however, is that it has a duration once the spell activates.
    One of the things I like about Temple Knights is that they use a mix of magic and stances, both in-game and in Sanc. For example, Runic Blade, their ability to heal and a few other skills showcase that. I'd like to be able to display that also as TJ occasionally summons Velvet to fight. They use Mp in game also!

    Moving on to the next room! This one was a little inspired by Ys. Origins, I think. Used to play that game because I'm a masochist. There was this weird desert area dungeon??? Adnt his one enemy that was RIDICULOUSLY hard to kill! It'd take me like 5 minutes to kill it everytime, but the worst part was it respawned if I left the room! And it was super friggin' fast too! Also it'd fuck me up if it touched me. It was seriously maddening. But back to the matter at hand, there were lifts like the one here in that game. There might have been a gaping abyss? I don't think you could fall in it and die. I remember the quicksand though...pretty sure that could kill you.
    So! TJ used a new spell called Frozen Buckler. The effects of it are obvious. In truth, it's more or less part and parcel to Caster's Workshop, but in this case the spell forms itself over a short period of time, rather than having him do it. Thus, though pre-defined in design, it can allow him to do other things while it takes shape.
    As for Amata, she can't use Dragon Dive without her wings. Since it requires her to take flight and literally dive at her enemies, she has to settle for a spell with a lesser effect.
    Now here's a little piece about spirits! I wanted to make the spirits somewhat different from your typical Agasura or beast. Agasuras in most cases will use everything they have at their disposal to take out their enemies as quickly as they can. They don't particularly fear death, so they'll fight until they can't anymore. Beasts, or animals, don't usually have spells or stances, so they use what evolution offers them. As you might see in Inno, however, is that when close to death they consider retreating, and more often than not take on a defensive stance. In the case of spirits, they have spells and stances that they'll use as a last resort. Typically much more destructive and time-consuming in comparison to the others that they use. It's not just a last resort to defend themselves--it's also to ensure that the challenger can't proceed any further if they're not worth their salt. In the case of the God's Governors, chances are they could get past that defense mechanism. As for others, they would likely not have a means around the attack and would find their battle party wiped out. The shaman's spell is one example of this, as is the exploding Will o' Wisp.
    I realized this chapter that Amata rarely, if ever, keeps her staff. There wasn't a particular reason as to why initially, it was just her thing. I considered the possibility that she doesn't like to bear the weight of it so she manifests it as the need arises. However, I think the origin of this was USSR and how when she summoned Bharva, he brought it with him.
    Also TJ's fear of heights remains unchanged. Continuity. In spite of that, he's coming up with plans during battle regularly and he's willing himself to overcome his fears, via the power of friendship. Little by little, he's growing a spine. Hopefully by the end he'll become a really good heroic figure, and one that the development warranted. My biggest fear is that the change is jarring to readers.
    In that same vein, I wanted to show how the two improved as a team steadily throughout the dungeon. Though they don't have any tactics planned beforehand, the synergy between the two improves as the battles plays out, and their trust in each other grows. Through this, they can chain spells and stances between each other to keep their enemy at bay and prevent it from retaliating. The following fight shows this as the two use offensive spells and movement abilities to make short work of the flame shaman. Of course, it's not always the case lol. When TJ creates the labyrinth, it does deter Amata but it allows him to put his plans into action. I personally love how she gets mad at him for it. It's really in line with her character.
    Following the rest, two new spells are introduced. Spell Suspension and Iron Maiden. Spell Suspension is best used on spells that don't require any further input from the caster. For example, if he used Five Arrows of Light, the spell would manifest but would have no direction, so they would remain where they were summoned. If summoned to him, they'd follow him and be launched upon his command. Iron Maiden was perfect for this because it's a stationary spell that activates upon being summoned. Spell Suspension could work with things like Hailstone or Warden's Wrath, though!
    The last spell re-introduced is Venus Fly Cannon. Something he originally used in the battle against Pandora(Chapter 3). When he used it then, it was enhanced by the Frequency so he was able to create a plant big enough to consume all of his allies.
    Here's some trivia for you! That spell is actually based around the boko baba plant from the Windwaker. I personally loved the Korok Forest and Deku Leaf, so it's a real throwback for me. Something I suppose I remembered back in 2013 I think? I can't remember if I wrote that chapter in 13 or 14.

    Anyway, that's all for now! More eventually, probably. I find myself hard-pressed for time these days as I balance school, writing and work. I have a job now, btw. I wash dishes. It's not the most glamorous job, but the pay is good and I have some great co-workers. For once, I don't hate my job.
    That aside, I've gotten into GranWaifu Fantasy. It's a slippery slope lol. 50% of the reason I play is the waifus, the other 50% is Elysian Gran. He's just...really handsome, alright?! Fight me IRL. Started in September I think, been playing since. It hits that nice little spot that keeps me busy and keeps my thoughts out of the gutter that is negativity. It's nice. It also allows me to multitask, reading tweets, listening to podcasts and occasionally surfing the web. Given that there's so little time to do all these things in a day, I have to try and cram it all in at once wherever and whenever I can. Also, it's pretty meaty for a mobage! Seriously!
    ...I've become mobage shill trash. There's no going back for me. Send cats.

    Story-wise, I've been writing 3 simultaneously. Sanc, Inno, and the next iteration for Another, Pomf and Circumstance. In spite of the name, it's probably gonna be the most serious of the bunch so far, and from there will continue to escalate. People didn't like the episodic and casual nature of the earlier ones so I decided to run with some old ideas to spice things up and change the dynamic. Also there's gonna be sexy time. Cause I need practice.
    Everything else aside, I'm going back to HF14. My body is ready for more hot samurai boys...and uhh, furries I guess. I'll wait for my bunny girls, Yoshi P. I'll wait, Fantasia in hand.
    Anyway, I've said my piece for today! At some point I'll probably go on a tirade my tin foil theories for some of the games i played lately, but I should show some restraint. There's plenty to talk about regarding Sanc, though! Soon! Probably. If I have time?
    Until next time!
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    TJ

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    Re: Sanctuary

    Post  TJ on Wed Mar 07, 2018 3:56 pm

    Pages 537-546:
    Without further ado the two moved on ahead towards the door and Amata reached out to it. At her touch the door opened up and gave way to what seemed to be a long corridor. It went on a downward slope and was much lengthier than the two initially suspected.
    “The other doors typically didn’t have corridors like this. What do you think is down there?” TJ asked as he looked around warily.
    “I dunno. A boss maybe?
    “I mean, we definitely have to backtrack with that suspicious door waiting for us at the entrance. Maybe there’s just a bunch of traps waiting down there for us like that other room? Either way, I’m willing to bet whatever goes into that door is near here,” Amata answered.
    “If we are going to get into another fight, we should probably prepare. Are your wings okay? I can play you a song again if need be.”
    The Governor of Fire stopped to ponder the matter a moment. She spread her wings, flapped them a couple of times and nodded with confidence.
    “I’m good to go! Whatever’s waiting down there for us, I can take it on with all my strength.”
    “No heroics this time though, okay?”
    “Hmm?” She asked with a devilish grin half-visible over her shoulder. “I could say the same to you. You’re the king of heroics, after all.”
    He rubbed his neck sheepishly.
    “Well let’s both try and be safe. Sound fair?”
    “Deal.”
    The two reached the end of the corridor and found themselves at another door. Amata reached out to it and it opened without issue, leading the two to a room that was nearly pitch black.
    “This is… familiar,” the Governor of Fire muttered.
    “We… we can use our mana, right?” TJ asked.
    He clenched a fist and a bright light took form before he hurled it into the center of the room.
    “Sunlight,” he shouted.
    It grew in size over the course of travelling and finally stopped in the center.
    The room lit up due to his spell and revealed a mural that spanned the entirety of the circular area. In the middle, encased in a prism of glass was a small spherical object, likely that which they needed to open the door. The roof was high, allowing for a series of landings to line the walls nearly an entire floor above them, each with a stone wall brazier. In between each of these were a series of age-old weapons that were hung on the wall—most rusted and likely unusuable now, but some still maintaining their shape and original design.
    Much to TJ’s surprise, it was not those which drew Amata’s attention but the mural on the wall. Like a child in a candy store, she let out a cry of pure joy as she examined the markings on it that told of a story likely familiar to her.
    His shock at the sight caused him to break concentration and his spell burst, leaving the two in an encroaching darkness.
    “S-sorry! Hang on a sec I’ll create another,” he shouted hurriedly.
    “It’s alright. Here,” Amata answered.
    A flame crackled to life, revealing her face, a small portion of her torso and the hand that created it.
    “It’s a lot easier for me to maintain a flame like this than for you to maintain that spell right? Saves mana too.
    “More importantly! You’ve got to get over here and see this!”
    TJ chuckled as he acknowledged the request.
    He was glad that for one thing, there was no Apep hidden in the darkness, or any other Agasura for that matter. It also made him happy to see Amata so enthused. In this regard, she reminded him of his other companions who had a distinct love of history.
    As he neared he glimpsed the mural himself and felt rather baffled at the sight. If he was to hazard a guess, it seemed to depict people—humans, possibly. They were armed like humans, with bows, swords, spears and other such weapons. The same as those that were used currently. There was however, one thing that threw him off.
    “Why are they all… purple? They’re humans right? Or are they Cerebians?” TJ asked as he tilted his head quizzically.
    Amata blinked in disbelief.
    “You don’t know?” She asked in turn.
    “Know what?”
    She laughed.
    “Those aren’t humans or Cerebians. They’re Svartálfar.”
    “Sva-wha?”
    “Dark Elves. I’m surprised Peorth never taught you about that, considering how much she knows about the history of the Asgardians and the nine worlds. Like the Jotun, they have a world of their own called Svartálfheim.”
    “So why are they here? And all of them armed? Were they adventurers that lived on Midgard too?”
    TJ’s memories did not mention nor show any such beings. Was it possible that they were a type of Agasura he had never seen? Though he could not recall any that used conventional weapons, except for Choen Palm. Did she count as an Agasura?
    “It’s… hard to say. I mean, maybe they were adventurers on their world but they certainly weren’t here.”
    For some reason both the Jotun and Svartálfar decided to side with the Agasura. If they had a world of their own, they weren’t likely Agasura but… it raised some questions. If there were nine worlds, four of them TJ knew, five he did not, was it possible the other five might side with the Agasura also? Would he have to fight them in the future?
    As Amata walked along TJ began to see more and more of them, both men and women, some armoured heavily and lightly, all of them surrounded by a strange mist. Further on, he began to see strange things that accompanied them. What seemed to be ghosts of sorts the same colour as the mist that surrounded the Svartálfar. He began to feel a sense of doubt with dread that tinged the edges of it.
    “They were…” Amata continued, “… well, I had read they were the enemies of our ancestors. That they fought alongside Asmodeus against Lady Amae, God Ah and her saints.”
    TJ grit his teeth.
    So it was true? Though it may have been eons ago, the fact that they were so alike to Humans may have meant that their futures could have been different. To add insult to injury, the fact that there were none upon Midgard now, may have meant that they were completely wiped out in that battle. The weight of that truth alongside his own duty weighed heavily upon him. Would he too, have to commit the genocide of the Agasura as God Ah’s Right Hand? What proof did he have that his path was truly just?
    As Amata continued along TJ glimpsed some creatures that were not the Svartálfar, but rather actual Agasura. Those he had recognized from his journey. Though the drawing was unusual and perhaps did not capture the essence of it entirely, he glimpsed a dragon. That which he had fought in one of the earliest memories he had found, Invoke, alongside Iris and her companions.
    “Isn’t that…?” He asked as he stopped to look at it.
    “Hm? Oh! Yeah, that’s Invoke. Bet’cha didn’t know that it’s actually been around since then! Legend has it that when Asmodeus was defeated along with the Seven Sinners, the Saints went on to create the Instance Dungeons to seal away all of the guardians. That way, no matter how many times they were defeated and resurrected, they’d remain locked away.”
    As she proceeded along the wall, TJ glimpsed another Agasura, but one that he was not as familiar with.
    It seemed to be a turtle of sorts, one with a shell as massive and with similar characteristics to that of a mountain.
    Upon seeing it, a searing pain was inflicted upon his eye and he tightly gripped his face until it subsided.
    For the brief period it was there, however, he recalled a memory.
    He saw himself, Iris, Muwen and his strange flying companion along with one other person, all fighting against that very Agasura. A woman with long, straight scarlet hair and sea blue eyes. She wore a black cheongsam with a flower print, crimson cuffs and collar-line, with a red skirt. She carried what seemed to be a two-string instrument with a long neck, and a stout base. In her other hand she held a bow to accompany it.
    Was she possibly a bard of sorts? TJ had never seen a weapon like it.
    Once the feeling had subsided he shook the feeling off, yet the memory remained.
    “Hey, you alright?” Amata asked with a fearful expression.
    “It’s okay, I’m good. I just remembered something.” He answered with a sheepish grin.
    “Something to do with Hyunmu?”
    He looked back to the mural.
    “Is that what that thing is called?”
    She nodded.
    “Yeah…it was that. A memory of my time with Iris. Though there was someone I can’t quite remember. A girl with scarlet hair…she must’ve been one of Iris’ party members at the time.”
    “Sounds like Shaowee.”
    “You know her?”
    “I don’t know her but I know about her. If she’s a part of your past, it might be a good idea to seek her out. Unlike most of Iris’ party members she’s one of the few who actually settled down. The last I had heard of her, she lived somewhere in Yong Gyoung.
    “I heard she was pretty strong, but wasn’t much of an adventurer anyway, which is probably why she isn’t pursuing Iris like the others are.”
    A possible clue to Iris. When he acquired time to search for her again, it would be a good idea to follow up on that.
    Amata went on and he glimpsed what seemed like a sort of dragon.
    Unlike Invoke, it had a different shape. Rather, it was more reminiscent to Amata’s own spirit. While Invoke and Sorvir had some similarities, it was closer to Bharva and Grislan. Oddly enough, TJ could not recall anything upon seeing it, but he could not help but feel that there was certainly something there.
    “This one’s the Ocean King. I…find it kinda hard to believe that he would side with Asmodeus, all things considered. Maybe he was brainwashed?”
    She looked to him.
    “Nothing come to mind when you see this?”
    He shook his head.
    “That Iris visual I saw mentioned him, but I don’t remember a thing about him. There’s something there, though. I’m sure she met him… she must have. But my memory isn’t resurfacing.”
    “Hmm…well, I guess there’s some complications to your amnesia huh? Well let’s keep moving. There’s still a lot to see.”
    As they proceeded to the next one Amata stopped and looked at it with a befuddled expression.
    What confused her seemed to be a flaming bird of sorts. TJ could not recall seeing or hearing anything about it, so he found himself just as confused as her.
    “The hell is this…? A phoenix? Did he have something like that? I haven’t seen one since… hey, Su.”
    “Whaddya want?” Su asked.
    “This familiar to you at all?”
    “Hell no! If I’d fought that thing before I’m sure he’d have recognized it.”
    “I guess some spells don’t have backgrounds. Man, that trail went cold fast,” Amata muttered under her breath.
    Invoke, Hyunmu, the Ocean King and now a phoenix. It seemed that these were the guardians Asmodeus had brought to destroy Midgard in the past. If three of the four were known to TJ in the present, was it possible that the phoenix among them was also somewhere on Midgard? Had he fought it with Iris? Or had she gone on to do that following their separation?
    There had to be more Iris Stones that contained the truth he sought, but in order to find the answers to that he would have to go beyond the Abyss Ruins. So long as the Sinners were about, he could not devote himself to such a grand task. Unlike the early stages of his journey, he had promised himself to Peorth and his co-operation with it. Now, unlike then, he was duty bound. To find Iris and to save Midgard… the two were not mutually exclusive… right? One had to happen for the other to come to be, according to Peorth.
    “Hey,” Amata’s voice snapped him from his reverie. “Don’t think too hard about it. There might only be four here, but that might not be all of them. There are other guardians out there. We haven’t seen nor fought them all, but I’m sure the artists just didn’t depict all of them.”
    “Yeah, maybe you’re right.”
    He smiled bitterly.
    It would likely be best if he did not let his thoughts get mired in memories of Iris and his concern for her whereabouts. He had chosen his path. Had he pursued Iris, he may have never come to know that he was the Abellan and come to terms with his relation to the Asgardians, the Agasura and his part to play in their battle.
    Moving on he glimpsed what was without a doubt, Rabana. It seemed that the Rabana he had come to know was not as menacing as that of the past version. Here, he was more muscular and the flower that grew from his head was much larger and more intimidating. Accompanying him was the Malign Shroud, and to some degree, it fit the name quite clearly. Something about it was reminiscent of those strange ghosts TJ had seen prior, but it too, was different from the present Malign Shroud. Did integrating him change something about it also?
    The two pressed on and it seemed they were reaching the halfway point. As they did so, they came across what seemed like a winding shadow that spanned a fair portion, around it were strange ghosts, each marked with a differing set of characters and with some kind of… face. The Abellan had found it hard to describe, but even more so to make out because of how disfigured and unusual they looked. Upon reaching the end of the shadow, he found something that took up the entire mural from top to bottom, and he could not help but feel that it was indeed Agasura King Asmodeus, the disfigured ghosts that accompanied him his seven children.
    “That’s him, huh?” Amata asked as she furrowed her brows.
    TJ’s face was hard, contemplative.
    What he saw before him was not the Asmodeus he knew. It raised several questions. The man he saw in the memory, Adonai, may or may not have been Asmodeus, but he felt almost certain that the two were one. There was also no denying that the man who lovingly spoke to Avaritia was the same Asmodeus she held so dearly. So what was this beast that they deemed to be him, along with those strange beings that followed him?
    Even more so…what was this feeling he had at the sight? For what reason, would he feel insulted on Asmodeus’ behalf?
    He placed a hand to his face and shook it gently. So much was happening in such a short time it was confusing him. At the same time, it made him fearful of the truth. If this was any indication, he was seeing the battle and Asmodeus’ family depicted in the eyes of the common Cerebian—those who built Rayinth’s Vestibule. Perhaps they did not know him like TJ had. Yet...he hardly knew him.
    Amata looked even more concerned than before.
    “You holding up okay? I guess seeing all of this is taking a huge toll on you mentally, huh? Sorry about that. We can leave the rest and move on.”
    The Abellan shook his head.
    “No, let’s go on. I want to… no, I feel I have to see it. I don’t wanna look away from the truth that I’ve searched for.”
    Her expression lightened up slightly. The Governor’s look something that edged the brink of disbelief, but it was soon followed by a bright smile.
    “Yeah, I guess that’s just like you, huh? You’ve got guts. I like that about you.
    “Well, come on then. The other side should be some of the Cerebians from then.”
    As they continued on towards the center, what the two came across shocked them both. What was there seemed almost like a tear. It was akin to a black hole that seemed to separate the Asgardians and the Agasura, but rather than just sucking everything in it seemed to be spreading outwards.
    If TJ recalled correctly, Curt had said that a war broke out and tore the world asunder. It was the battle between gods that had blighted the land and created the Jienda that he knows today. Magic made most of the land levitate in the air and created all sorts of strange landforms. This mural depicted that very event, it appeared. It seemed though, that it was not just the gods battling, but also a variety of others. The guardians, the Dark Elves, perhaps Lady Amae and everyone who followed in her wake. What of Kera? What of all the humans who armed themselves, learned to utilize the Frequency and decided to go to war?
    It was both incredible and unbelievable that TJ could see the world’s history chronicled upon a single wall. It supplemented what he knew, but it did not provide enough information to draw a concrete conclusion.
    “The hell is this thing?” Amata asked as she raised her hand in an attempt to make it out.
    “Hard to say. A clash?” TJ asked as he scratched his cheek.
    Perhaps this was one of those times he could not speak the truth. With his own personal feelings about Asmodeus, what he knew about this entire scenario and Amata’s own fervor spurring her on, he was hard pressed to confide those concerns in her. The best thing he could do, would be to seek out his remaining memories through Memorius Sanctum to find the truth.
    “Let’s keep going.” Amata said as she made her way over.
    As she did so the sight of a masterfully painted woman came into his view. The flowing dress, the radiant aura, all save for her features seemed to say that it was Lady Amae. Unlike the real one, her hair was white, she wore a veil and a billowing white dress adorned with all sorts of ornaments.
    As TJ had initially thought, perhaps those who painted the mural had not seen Asmodeus or Lady Amae herself, and depicted what they imagined the two to be like. However, most of it was so detailed it was hard to believe that the two most prominent figures were unknown to them. Did Lady Amae not reveal herself to them? Or was she like God Ah, in that one could not so easily look upon her and see her as she is? Was what TJ saw of her and Adonai their true forms? Even more so, if he existed during that time, what was his?
    “I’ve seen all sorts of depictions of Lady Amae. Some people have seen visions of her and glimpsed her magnificence in their dreams.” Amata knit her eyebrows. “I guess it’d be kinda presumptuous of me to think that I could meet her if I went to Hanamah but… even now, I still believe it.
    “I’m willing to bet that those that have seen her really did. But maybe they saw her in different forms because that’s how she chose to appear to them. It’s not a bad hypothesis, right, TJ?”
    He remained completely appalled by her speculation before he realized she was indeed, talking to him.
    “Huh? Oh yeah, definitely!”
    Leaving aside how close to the truth she was, she may have just imparted some new knowledge upon him about her. It seemed that Lady Amae had reached out to various Cerebians. For what, and if, remained a mystery, but such a possibility was one he would like to keep in mind going forward.
    As she moved forward she let out a light shriek of excitement. “TJ look! It’s Valkyrie Leigha!”
    It…actually looked exactly like her. Armor and all—the bushy eyebrows, the icy blue hair. This one was mounted on a horse. He himself, had never seen a horse, but he recognized one somehow.
    “Ooh! Ohh! They even have the Saints following her! Look, here’s Dolce the Maven, and Fahim the Kindred and-”
    “H-hold on a second, Dolce is here?!”
    TJ hurried over and looked on in disbelief.
    As Amata had said, she was there too. Appearance wise, she was the same, outfit wise she was different, but it was without a doubt her. It felt rather surreal seeing her there. He had seen her in Amae’s memory, heard her voice, held her hand even… seeing her here made his heart ache. It meant that at some point, her time had come. That she had passed on to the other side, along with all of the other Keruz. Though he himself did not know her, he felt as if he had.
    “You know her TJ? Didn’t think you were interested in Cerebian heroes!” She puffed out her chest proudly. “Well you’re in luck! You won’t find anyone more knowledgeable about the heroes from that age than yours truly!”
    He was thankful for her assumption. He nearly gave himself away.
    “Yeah, I’ve heard a bit. What about the others?”
    “Well this girl over here is Miha the Matriarch, and that there is Tiramin the Clairvoyant—ooh there’s Revai the Warden and Sola the Spine!”
    TJ blinked. “Are those their titles?”
    “Yeah. Most people don’t know them, but it’s what a lot of spells and stances have their basis in.
    TJ placed a fist in an open palm at the realization. There were spells that he used that often mentioned the Warden. To think that he knew the Warden himself brought him a bit of pride…and yet more sorrow. The Keruz of the past and present, most had already gone.
    If what she said was true, there were others he was as of yet to come to know. If he collected the other pages of Memorius Sanctum, would he meet them? Here they may have just been a memory immortalized, but then, they were people. Just like he and Amata.
    “Hm? Isn’t there only six of them? Where’s the seventh?” He asked with a puzzled glance.
    What followed after, judging by the appearance, was God’s Governor Rayinth. The flaming mantle and hair, the fiery wings, he was unmistakable. Amata likely donned that appearance as his descendant.
    “I…I dunno. I’ve spent years trying to find out who the seventh Keruz was. Let alone if there even was one, but there’s no proof of it. All the scholars say that it was just the six. Some think that they kept the seventh spot for you, TJ.”
    He pointed to himself in disbelief.
    “M-me? Leigha’s Keruz? No way!”
    The Abellan did not know Leigha. At least, he did not think he knew Leigha. Let alone the six saints.
    He rubbed his neck uneasily.
    It was speculation…just speculation. Amata herself said the scholars and others could be wrong. The truth could only be found by him and the Chief. But…that was the closest he had ever gotten to the truth about himself regarding that.
    She did say that she found herself fortunate that she was the one to have formed a contract with him. Leigha being her ancestor, it was possible they could have also. If she had, what would the world have been like today?
    “Yeah, that’d be kinda crazy huh? But who knows? Maybe you’ll become one of Peorth’s!” Amata suggested with a teasing grin.
    “I’ve got a long way to go before that happens.”
    As Amata went forward TJ glimpsed God’s Governors Undine and Dione. One beautifully wrapped in a deep sea blue dress and the other an ice blue, their hands joined. Though they took different forms, the other aspects of them were exactly alike, just as it was with Peorth and Freya. It seemed the two were twins also.
    Following them was God’s Governor of Earth Terramane. TJ had never seen his look before, and found himself rather surprised at the sight. The mantle of leaves accompanied by wings that were reminiscent of Sellistar’s. Even upon his green hair were tiny flowers spread throughout.
    “Is that what I’m gonna look like when I transform? That’s fuckin’ lame,” Su hissed.
    Amata snickered under her breath. “I guess you got the short end of the stick huh?”
    Without a moment to spare Su began cursing at her.
    The last of them was God’s Governor of Wind. Despite knowing two of them, he seemed to be an enigma that evaded any knowledge TJ had of him. Even his name. He had silver hair, along with a white tunic and pants. Unlike the others however, he seemed to be levitating—almost sitting in the air. Yet he had no wings to speak of. The sight left the Abellan baffled.
    “Amata, do you know the name of God’s Governor of Wind?”
    She blinked.
    “You don’t? Man, you’re a real oddball.” She laughed as she grinned. “That’s God’s Governor Arafaar. Now you know!”
    He could not resist smiling at her cheeriness.
    It seemed this really was something she loved. Upon glimpsing these things with her, he could not help but feel a little closer to her than before.
    “Of all of them, I stand by my belief that Rayinth has the best design by far,” she remarked.
    As she moved further along the wall, TJ glimpsed a variety of Cerebians, but none that particularly stood out to him and perhaps Amata also.
    Perhaps they were heroes in their own right, but not those that had such a distinct place in history like those that preceded them. Still, to have been immortalized here, there must have been people that recognized their heroism.
    “You know, I recognize every one of these guys,” Amata began.
    TJ squinted in disbelief.
    “I could tell you all of their names and what they did.”
    She grinned as her eyes crinkled.
    “But…those are stories for another time. If you’re ever interested, don’t be afraid to ask, okay? Being able to talk about all of this stuff with you is fun.
    “But the time for that stuff isn’t now. We’re here to beat Rayinth and that’s what I wanna set my sights on. However I can, I wanna help you to find the truth. To find out just who you are. And I guess, to help you be the Abellan you were meant to be. Maybe Rayinth couldn’t, but I sure as hell will!”
    He beamed.
    “Without a doubt. Let’s show ‘em this generation’s Governor of Fire is not to be underestimated.”
    “Uh huh!” She said as she placed a hand to a curled arm.

    The two made their way to the center of the room and stopped at the glass case.
    “This is it huh? With this we should be able to open that door.” Amata said as she inspected the small spherical object.
    “Nothing’s happened yet, but I can’t help but feel that there’s a trap waiting for us. Prepare yourself, okay?” TJ suggested as he knit his brows.
    “Oh I’m expecting a battle alright. So you better be ready too!”
    Amata reached out to the glass and the moment she did, it cracked. She leapt back as TJ retreated also and further cracks were made in the glass. From within, four streams of fire surged and curled around into the air before they gathered upon the case.
    “Here it comes TJ!” Amata shouted as she manifested her staff.
    Once the flames had gathered, a surge of wind was released carrying the remnants of the flames with it. Amata took to the Abellan and blocked the two with her barrier as a blinding light followed in the wake of the gust.
    “You who would trample upon this sacred place…” A powerful, androgynous voice spoke, “… know the full weight of your actions and the price to be paid! Prove you are worthy of the seat of God’s Governor of Fire, or your life shall be forfeit!”
    As the light dimmed the two glimpsed the being that spoke to them in the now lit room. Two rings that rapidly spun levitated in the air. Six wings emerged from them and connected to the spokes in the inner ring was the same gem the two had their eye on. Upon both rings, a series of eyes appeared and seemed to focus upon the two.
    “Ophanim!” Amata said as she armed her staff.
    “Ophanim? W-wow…that thing’s creepy!” TJ said as he armed his guitar also.
    “This is our chance! Let’s get the first strike, TJ!”
    Without another word Amata spread her wings and rushed to the spirit. Upon reaching it she outstretched a hand and a ring of fire surrounded Ophanim.
    “Combust!”
    The ring closed in on it as she backed away and it blew up in a massive conflagaration.
    As the smoke began to part she glimpsed the being, completely unharmed.
    “You’ve got to be shitting me!”
    The rings of the spirit began to turn faster and the eyes opened wide. Upon glimpsing that, Amata noticed the ground beneath her began to heat up and she immediately retreated from the spot as a pillar of flames arose from where she once was. Upon touching down, it was followed by a second, third and continued on as she immediately took flight and rushed around the area.
    “I’ve got your back!” TJ shouted as with a single strum of his guitar he summoned an iceberg. “Here goes!”
    He outstretched a hand and it cracked.
    “Shattered Berg!”
    The iceberg shattered to pieces and the chunks immediately flew towards Orphanim. Despite each of them hitting it directly, it seemed to ward off every single blow without taking any action at all. The pieces shattered on contact and dispersed.
    “Huh?! It didn’t affect it at all!”
    “Well this is getting a little ridiculous.” Amata hissed as she finally was able to come to a rest. “Let’s try some other things, TJ!”
    She flew up into the air and held a palm skyward as a flame crackled to life in it.
    “I’ll destroy you! Scorn!”
    She closed her fist on the flame before she hurled it to the ground beneath the spirit. Despite witnessing the spell however, it did not move in the slightest. Where the flame had touched down, it sparked to life once more in an explosion.
    “That do it?” Amata asked as she caught her breath.
    Suddenly a piercing red laser cleaved the smoke and flames in two and drew a line across the wall and through Amata. Moments after it passed a line of explosions followed in its wake and downed the Governor of Fire.
    She let out a short cry as she was shot down and quickly descended to the ground. The Abellan rushed after her and dove with his arms outstrectched to catch her before the two hit the ground in succession.
    “Thanks… and sorry.” She said as she urged herself to her feet and patted out the embers on her singed coat.
    As TJ did so also, the two glimpsed Orphanim once more, completely unharmed. Even more so, it seemed that despite Scorn being placed directly beneath it, the explosion only occurred around it.
    Amata squinted at the sight before she shook her head in disbelief.
    “Did it…did it absorb my attack? What the hell is this thing?”
    “Let’s try changing tactics. We’ve only used magic thus far, so maybe we’ll have better luck with physical attacks?” TJ asked with a shrug.
    “You’re not gonna… just hit it with your guitar, are you? I mean, I get that it’s kinda standard fare for you, but I don’t imagine that’ll end well.”
    … It may have been an idea that crossed his mind.
    “I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve! Let’s do it, Su!”
    “I won’t expect much, but I’ll help you out,” the Governor of Earth answered.
    He placed his guitar to his back and pounded his fists together.
    “Frequency!”
    His eyes flickered to crimson and he quickly dashed away as Ophanim launched a series of fireballs directly at them.
    Without another moment to spare he held out his guitar with a single hand.
    “Demon’s Armoury!”
    A crimson energy surged around him before gathering to his weapon and giving it the form of a sabre.
    Without a moment to spare he rushed to Ophanim with the momentum of his sprint leading his stab. As the weapon neared the spirit, it came to a sudden halt and nearly threw the Bard off balance. However, in those moments he glimpsed what seemed like a grid that surrounded it.
    “One more!” He shouted as his body twisted and he performed a wide cleave.
    Once more he glimpsed the grid and noted that it seemed to have a barrier protecting it. As he prepared to retreat Ophanim opened all of its eyes and a sphere of flames took form before it burst in TJ’s direction. Caught in the blast he was thrown backwards in a ball of fire before he skidded to a halt on all fours; his weapon had returned to normal and his eyes did also.
    He got to his feet and removed his hood as Amata regrouped with him.
    “What happened? Your blade couldn’t reach it at all!” She said with a baffled gaze.
    “It has a barrier. It reminded me of ours but… I can’t think of any that block physical attacks too.”
    “A barrier?”
    She placed a fist into an open palm.
    “It makes so much sense! Hang on TJ!”
    Amata took a deep breath before she closed her eyes. Upon opening them, her pupils had shifted into triangles. She seemed to be scanning the spirit before shifting her gaze higher and around the room.
    “That’s it! That barrier it has must’ve been erected by whatever these tethers lead to.”
    TJ squinted with a puzzled expression, not having the foggiest as to what she saw. To be able to see a barrier manifested though, she likely had used the Mana Sensory ability. Something he, as of yet, could not do.
    He felt a hint of shame at the prospect.
    “I’m gonna go check this out. Think you can keep it busy for a while?”
    “That, I can do.”
    At those words Amata spread her wings and took off to one of the landings that were attached to the walls of the room.
    “Alright, let’s shake things up, Su! I’m gonna borrow one of your spells!”
    “Are you now? Heh, let’s see it,” the Governor of Earth answered.
    TJ pounded his fists together.
    “Frequency!”
    As his eyes flickered to a jade green he slammed a fist into the ground.
    “Elemental Dominion!”
    The moment his fist touched the ground an icy aura surrounded him before the entire arena was bathed in a coating of ice.
    Despite the change Ophanim seemed unaffected. While the two had spoken it had prepared a series of fireballs that it launched in succession at the Abellan.
    He immediately dashed aside before transitioning into a skating form. As he skated around the spirit and avoided the spells he began to strum his guitar. With each pluck of the strings a series of icicles would take form and be launched at the spirit. Though the spells did not make contact, their collision against the barrier and subsequent melting from the fire spells casted by Ophanim created a field of mist, allowing Amata to work unhindered.
    Ophanim began to shine brightly as it levitated higher for a time.
    “Oh…this is bad.” TJ said as he skated closer to the wall.
    It began to lower itself and upon doing so, a ring of flames surrounded it before it began to expand slowly. It was followed by a second, third and fourth.
    “You’ve gotta get outta there TJ,” Amata shouted to him.
    The landings that lined the massive room were high enough to evade the attacks but they were far too high for him to jump.
    “I-I can’t reach,” he cried out.
    “This way!”
    She waved him over and he skated around the outskirts of the room, the rings enclosing on him.
    Amata leapt off and held her position in the air for a time as he neared. He skated over, spread his wings and leapt towards her. With a boost from them he managed to place his hand in hers and she barely managed to haul him up on to one of the landings.
    “Man that really takes a lot out of a girl…” she huffed as she edged her way over to a torch and lit it.
    As she did so, the Abellan watched as the barrier that surrounded Ophanim became visible and melted away.
    “All of the tethers are taken care of. I can’t sense the barrier anymore either.”
    TJ nodded.
    “Yeah, I think that did it! You ready to strike back?”
    “Oh I’ve been waiting for this!”
    She spread her wings before a flame crackled to life and spun around her body.
    “Dragon Dive!”
    At those words what once surrounded her burst and enveloped her in flames as she shot directly at Ophanim. She hit it head-on and it was launched through the air.
    “TJ, can you hit it with Freezing Wave?” She asked as she took flight in pursuit of it.
    “Y-yeah! I’m on it!”
    He leapt down to the lower floor and angled himself to meet its descent. He placed his left hand to his right wrist.
    “Freezing Wave!”
    It took a couple seconds to steady himself but he managed to focus it on the falling spirit.
    “Chew on this! Falcon Torrent!”
    Amata met his beam with one of her own and the clash of spells caused a series of rapid pulses of searing winds before they were followed by a single outward burst.
    Ophanim came crashing to the ground and rolled away as Amata landed and took a breath.
    “Quit standing around and follow it up, idiot! Beat the shit out of it while it’s guard is down,” Su urged him.
    He glimpsed across the arena and saw that the spirit was still recovering from the last attack. He could use a spell, but would that suffice? It’d probably be best to hit it fast and hard with a chain of stances.
    “Yeah. Alright, here goes.”
    He took a deep breath as he raised a hand skyward and clenched a fist.
    “Sloth, Wrath! Inertia!”
    As he lowered his fist a surge of energy surrounded him and shifted the gravity around him, causing the ground beneath him to crack. He armed his guitar and dashed forward without a moment’s hesitation.
    Once Ophanim glimpsed his approach it opened some of the eyes on the outer ring and a series of fireballs were launched at him. With the increased speed from his stance he narrowly avoided them both as he ran headlong towards it. The final sphere was launched directly at him and despite it bursting upon him he shrugged it off and continued his sprint. The moment he was within melee range he leapt as his body turned once and he bashed it with enough force to throw it into the wall.
    “Sledgehammer!”
    He hauled his guitar over his shoulder before he flipped through the air twice and slammed it down, shattering the earth beneath them.
    He raised a hand and waved it in what seemed like a beckoning motion before he placed the weapon down by his side, the neck held by both hands.
    “Fury Chute!”
    Wind gathered above it in the moments he hauled the weapon over his shoulder once more and as he brought it down, it surged forth upon the spirit with severe intensity. Following the first, another series of blasts followed suit, hammering Ophanim without mercy.
    The spirit did arise again as TJ backed off to recover, however unlike before, it was heavily damaged. The feathers upon its wings were damaged and loose, many of the eyes had closed and pieces of the rings had fallen off or were dented. As it took flight again it repulsed the Abellan and regenerated its barrier.
    “Did you notice?” Amata asked as she ran over. “It seems that it’s a lot weaker when the barrier is down. The effects of its spells weren’t half as strong as they were with it up.
    “Still, judging by the shape its in, we’ve got the bastard on the ropes. Same plan?”
    “Same plan.” He grinned.
    She offered him a confident grin back before she took off.
    “You feel that? I dunno what it’s doing, but I get the feeling something big’s coming. It’s probably getting desperate.
    “Don’t you go dying to some mid-boss, you hear?” Su asked him.
    The Flame Shamans also used stronger spells when they were weakened. Like an animal cornered, what kind of tactic would it use to defeat them?
    Some of the eyes opened and a red glow took form upon the pupils. Suspecting it was the laser, TJ spread his wings and leapt through the air the moment he glimpsed the beam being released. It cut a swath across the wall and was followed by a series of explosions in its wake. However, the onslaught had not ended. It followed with another set as TJ began his descent and followed him as he made his way around the room.
    He found himself in a bad way. If he was to create a mist to hide himself, Amata would likely be targeted. If he was to try and blind the spirit, he would need to do so from a close proximity to lower the risk of it changing targets.
    He began his approach anew, avoiding the lasers by skillfully using his wings to change direction upon jumping and weaving his way through the air. Ophanim seemed to notice this and opted out for using homing fireballs instead. As he approached, TJ noted that they were much harder to dodge and the rate at which it could create and fire them was incredible. Luckily for him, it seemed that all of his training had borne fruit and he managed to approach with only minor burns from a few grazes. Nothing that could pierce the cloak he was gifted with.
    As he neared, Ophanim began to levitate higher as the eyes all faced skyward. TJ outstretched a hand to create a mist around the area but quickly found himself forced back by the spirit. A shield of flames surrounded it and pulsed outwards, blasting the Abellan back and singing his dominant hand in the process.
    He grit his teeth and hid his hand within his cloak as he further pondered his options and his next course of action.
    “TJ! Something big is coming! Brace yourself” Amata shouted as she leaned over one of the landings.
    “What?! Where?”
    He could sense that Ophanim was expending a lot of mana over the period of time since it regenerated its shield, but it did not seem to be on any of the attacks it used against him.
    “Above!”
    He glimpsed directly above him and as she had told him, it was there. A massive magic circle with the herald of flames loomed over the two. From within it, a series of spheres of fire took form before they shot down at the ground with immense force. Upon hitting the ground they burst into a halo of flames and spread outwards across the arena.
    Despite being out of the immediate range of the blast, the searing wind alone burned the flesh on his face slightly. Much to his dismay, it was not a spell that ended with just one blast. They continued to rain down in succession, whittling his ability to resist the attacks and draining his stamina. With each blast the heat and pain that accompanied it became more intense, even through the cloak.
    “Hang in there a little longer TJ, I almost have it!” Amata assured him as he glimpsed her flying from one platform to the next briefly.
    He would have to hold on until she could finish… but would that bring the spell to an end?
    With a wave of his off-hand he created a shield of water around him that he froze. A shield similar to that which Kooh had formed but one that also did not have the thickness of it. The fire bombs continued to rain down and though he was safe inside of his shield for a time, he could tell it would not last. The heat from the spells was steadily melting the shield. The straw that broke the camel’s back was one of the bombs collapsing directly on top of him and raining scalding hot water upon his head.
    With a pained cry the spell dissipated and he fell away desperately wiping the water from his body with the cloak.
    “Are you alright?!” Amata asked in a panic.
    Her fear soon turned to anger as her hair lit up and the flaming manacles took form around her arms and legs. She took flight and landed next to him before she held a hand skyward.
    “I can’t summon Bharva in here but there is something I can do!
    “Ardent Keeper!”
    She outstretched her hand and as she did so the roar of the dragon pierced the battlefield as its golden form appeared and surrounded them. Judging by the shape and size, it was indeed Bharva, but it seemed he had taken on a spiritual form. Now coiled around the two, the flames that once surrounded them seemed to have no effect upon them.
    “Eye of the Storm!”
    At her words three pillars of flame shot up from the ground as a magic circle featuring the herald of flames took form.
    Ophanim, completely drained from using it’s ultimate spell and having its defenses lowered once more weakly watched as Amata prepared her own.
    As the flames circled back around and gathered upon her weapon she held it out, the fury in her eyes evident. She rapidly spun the weapon and unleashed a tornado of flames upon the spirit.
    “This is the end for you! Passage of the Keeper!”
    Bharva’s eyes opened before he uncoiled from around Amata and as if in pursuit of the flames themselves, he shot towards Ophanim and coiled around it before emitting a powerful glow. In a matter of moments both dragon and spirit blew up in a massive conflagaration.
    The stone the two sought out flew through the air and bounced a couple times before stopping at Amata’s feet. She bent over and picked it up before tossing it through the air and catching it.
    “Game, set and match! This one’s ours!” She said with a bright grin.
    avatar
    TJ

    Posts : 880
    Join date : 2009-03-29
    Age : 25
    Location : Cake Tooooooowwwn

    Re: Sanctuary

    Post  TJ on Fri Mar 16, 2018 7:25 pm

    What's In the Box?:
    So, I originally wrote a long post here, but my lovely cat(If I haven't mentioned him before, his name is Toby) decided it was time for bed, and to that end, jumped on my computer's power button. Lost everything I was going to post. He does it typically at least once a day. Went on some spiel about my past and Persona. It was pretty good! I don't think too many people liked that, though. Nor did they like my comment about a certain Eternal with a great booty. Regarding him, I'd be okay with him giving my Gran a spider-man kiss. ...What?
    The worst part is, I didn't get to the best part! My level 100 autism. I have some brilliant(read as 'ridiculous') theories about various games I played, such as P4G and it's relation to P5, all of the Supergiant games, GBF, and some about FF but those ones are a little too austistic to be spoken of here. Do
    Now before anyone gets mad, I know that's not how you should use that word and I do so full-well knowing this. Nonetheless, if I intended to offend, I would use it on someone else.
    Anyway, not the time or the place!
    So? Let's get down to it!

    This'll probably be shorter than last time since I have to cover all the stuff I already did.
    Since most of it is thoroughly explained by Amata, I'm gonna jump ahead to the vision with Hyunmu. Before that though! One of the things I'd like to talk about is TJ's inner monologue about the Svartalfar. I guess the thing I like about it is that, you know, it adds a real sense of...gravitas? To the whole thing. I mean, it's not everyday you have to think about the genocide of a whole race you never met before, amirite? I guess the big thing for him is one day, he'll have to see it as it plays out and what his role was in that war. To hear about it is one thing, to live it, another. What makes it interesting is his perspective on it, given that he doesn't particularly have the same background as others do, he has a different perspective on the whole matter. Compare this to Amata, who knows the stories, who grew up with a more black/white perspective on the matter due to her upbringing. It was something better explored in USSR, but the effects of having those experiences really show how much she's grown.

    Moving on! What Amata explained about Invoke and the others was also mentioned in USSR! The History Nerd Trio shares a lot of info, but to some degree some of it would be obvious. Nonetheless! Shaowee, as mentioned here, IS in Innocent. She had an appearance back during when I was working on it in 2013. She might not be there anymore though, since it took place roughly 11 or so years ago, that is, before she joined Iris. The weapon she wielded...wasn't actually a weapon. It was an instrument called an erhu, but the way she wielded it in game, you'd think the bow was a goddamn sword. As for TJ's eye, it appears again! Finally, after a long ass time. You'll be seeing it more often and getting an idea of what it does. For now, a blast from the past.
    You know, I had thought about the characters from Sanc fighting some of those Agasura. Back when I planned to branch the story out into the 3 different paths, that would have likely followed if TJ decided to pursue Iris. It'd probably have been what gave him the clues towards finding her. Since Sanc has it's seven Sinners, it's more focused around them and their dungeons instead.

    Going back to the point before, TJ has a unique take on who and what Asmodeus is. Since he saw the visions through the Sinners' eyes, alongside Amae's, he sees the god for what it might be, not what he was taught he was. To that end, seeing him depicted there gives him conflicting feelings. However, in spite of that his loyalty still lays with the Cerebians. It might raise the question of: would he betray them if he met the man himself? Would his siblings aid their father in changing his mind? And if he did, how would that change their world?
    I don't want it to be as black and white as it seems to most characters. Hence, allowing readers to see the world through TJ's eyes gives them another perspective on the world and how events had played out. Formulate your opinions while you can! ...Then find out you're wrong! Get Happy!
    I like that TJ doesn't mention what he knows about the past. In a sense, he kept his promise to Peorth. In the other, he's protecting Amata from what could be considered a harsh truth. A reversal of sorts, to how things were in Frequency. Then, he was the character who didn't know anything while everyone else knew everything. On the other hand, it'd be like trying to convince an angel that satan's actually a good guy. This isn't that kind of story(I rather like such stories, though. They're usually pretty wholesome).

    So! About the Saints! When I was writing this scene I realized I hadn't actually named all of them, let alone decided on their titles. So the other 5 4 had to be decided on. Right then and there. I feel like I wanna change Fahim but at the same time, I think I peaked with my creativity there. Forever a peak too sooner. Each of them has a unique weapon. Once the others are introduced, you'll see what they wield but until then, you'll have to make do with Dolce and Revai. More soon? Maybe!

    So about Ophanim. It really isn't a name per se. It's a different name for a Throne. Those being, the wheels of God's chariot. Or something like that. I wikipedia's that shit, baby! I think that might be the Hebrew name? Could be wrong. In the case of Sanc, I used that name to make it stand out from the others that might appear later. In both name and appearance, it differs, along with some unique skills. Also it uhh...talks. The rest don't.
    Before I went on this giant spiel about Persona and Devil Survivor Overcooked, but this time I'll cut it short.
    So! I was raised Catholic, yeah? So before you can scold me for the blasphemous and awful jokes I make about them, know I'm one of them. Strayed away from god's light, though, after discovering the internet. Anyway, I've given the bible a once-over or two. Learned a few things, speculated on a few too. Angels, though? Sweet baby jesus that shit is nothing like I pictured them to be. They're goddamn terrifying, the whole lot of them. Hadn't realized until I played DS. Thankfully they're portrayed differently there, in some cases, but the real things are horrifying. Though I suppose my feeble human mind can't comprehend their greatness and beauty or something. Still, my opinion of them is reflected through TJ, somewhat lol. It's the kind of reaction he'd have and I made it so. You agree, right? Just look them up. These things will give you nightmares!
    Back to the matter at hand, those games are where I developed the idea that they would have an affinity for fire. Though after reading about them, I can see why. It was mentioned that they'd appear in a wreath of flames or something along those lines, so...it's likely that the creators knew and applied that knowledge. It makes me think that in many and more cases, it's the same for other personas/demons. To that end also, it drains fire attacks, hence why Amata's spells had no effect. In this case though, as the fight shows it was the barrier's effect.

    Anyway, that's enough about that. Other things!
    I couldn't help but think of Sonic and Tails when Amata lent TJ a hand getting up to that platform. Maybe I had Sonic Mania on my mind at the time? It was probably around the time the hype train was picking up speed. I promise Amata's quote wasn't a reference to Akihiko! Purely coincidence!
    Moving on to TJ's stances, Inertia was one that was tricky to come up with. I always thought it meant something different, like making something too heavy or just immovable. In a sense, it does mean that also, but it can mean that something would keep moving until stopped by an external force. Thus, it gave the effect of allowing him to shrug off blows so long as he kept his forward momentum. It would take something with more impact to break the stance, though!
    I think this was the first time he used Sledgehammer, but it's a pretty straight-forward stance. It's just a heavy hitting downward strike. Nothing else to it! Fury Chute isn't exactly a Wind based spell. It's a stance, but it does require the user's own strength to increase the intensity of it. It's short-ranged, so if the enemy can escape the gathering point for the wind, they can avoid the brunt of the attack. The outward gusts however, still pack a punch and could blow away enemies light enough.
    I'd like to work more on status effects. I did give it a whirl here--Ophanim's last resort is a spell that reduces fire resistance the more its enemies are caught in the blasts. Of course, catching the blasts will have a much greater impact. Though I have to admit, when I think of it like that, it feels more like a game. However, when I write it, I have to go further into detail on the impact it has, from the singed clothes to the flesh that's burned away on impact...and that...makes it a little difficult, you know? I mean, these are my characters and I do terrible things to them all the time but...they're my characters. Even if TJ can take it, it feels bad! But even so, I want readers to feel the pressure, feel the impact of the scene and the struggle the character's go through. I want each and every battle, every scrape, cut, burn or fracture to be a lesson. If an appendage is lost in the fight, I want it to have consequences. I wanna take this story even further--to give it those elements that make it feel alive. The soul-crushing defeats, short moments of respite, cathartic victories and reunions, everything. I want to go beyond what I've accomplished thus far. If I have to go so far as to hurt my characters to do so, so be it. But I feel that they'll be closer to being alive, and memorable to those who read about their journey.
    Ah...anyway, leaving aside my spiel, Amata's got a new spell! Ardent Keeper! As the story implied, fire attacks launched while the keeper is in effect are nullified by its aura. It only lasts a few seconds though. If Amata uses another fire based spell, the keeper will follow and converge upon its stopping point, before blowing up. Nice, isn't it?

    So that's it for the update. I'm still on my shit, playing GBF. I got Forte, thinking she was Grea. Then I got Grea. I also got Jeanne D'ark, though I've been holding out for Jeanne D'arc. Now there's a Summer version and I just...I have conflicting feelings. Been saving up for best girl Sturm, but then this?!? True travesty. Also P5 collab! Yay! I've been speculating on who's gonna be the collab charas and I'm thinking if Mona happens to make it in, he absolutely NEEDS to have unique lines with Joker! You can't not have the cat and not have him say, "Looking cool Joker!" Though I'm expecting Ryuji and Anne. If there's no Futaba support summon at least, I'll cry. Seriously. The last thing I wanted to say regarding that, is that for the longest time I thought you could recruit Kirari, but she was just a support summon too. Who would do such a thing?!
    On that note, Kirari best Im@s. Don't agree? FIGHT ME. IRL. FINAL DESTINATION. NO ITEMS. WAIFU PILLOWS ONLY. CHOOSE! YOUR! FIGHTER!

    That aside, The Spaghetti Samurai and the Moonlighting Shinobi(Read as Innocent) is progressing pretty smoothly. I'm finally getting into the final part of act 2 in a 4 act story. It was originally 3, but then with a little help I had a brilliant idea and decided to break up the final act. Not that it's a secret what that act is, really lol. We've all read USSR right? If you haven't, I will find you. I'll sit you down and read it to you until you fall asleep. Then I'll tuck you in and climb out your window.
    P&C is progressing also. I wanna get to the ending quickly, but I feel if I skip the fight I had in mind I'll miss out on an important opportunity for Taliah's characterization. At the same time, I'm really pressed for time these days and because of that, Sanc has been on the backburner. The storyboarding has been going well at least, so I'm a bit ahead and can make changes as necessary. I'd like a few more appearances for a certain girl with a horny aura but I don't know where to fit them yet. But soon! Just gotta make sure it doesn't feel wonky.

    All jokes aside, I was thinking maybe I'd keep the more personal stuff to Twitter. That, and the lvl 100 autism. The two typically go hand in hand, considering who I am. It's not typically wanted here, and that's fair. People come for the story analysis. Or they don't come, I dunno. A small part of me fears the fact that the internet never forgets, while the other...I guess it's a burgeoning hope of some sort. Tried something I wouldn't have dared to do but weeks ago. To be...acknowledged(?) after all this time, made me a little happy, I think. It's an unusual feeling.
    It's been maybe...5 or so years but...I'm wondering if I should have an online presence. Outside of here. Out there, y'know? Where everyone else is. In truth, a part of me is afraid to go out there because once you do, it's hard to slink back into the shadows. On the other hand, my lack of a presence since 2013 or so might scare people away. I'll give it some thought.

    Anyway, more soon? Perhaps! Until next time!
    avatar
    TJ

    Posts : 880
    Join date : 2009-03-29
    Age : 25
    Location : Cake Tooooooowwwn

    Re: Sanctuary

    Post  TJ on Thu May 03, 2018 2:15 pm

    Pages 546-556:
    With the battle at a close Amata turned to TJ and crouched down.
    “Hey, are you alright? It must’ve been tough for you, being caught in that. I should’ve came down to help you but…the idiot that I am, I thought if I dropped the barrier the spell would be cancelled. Took longer than it should’ve.” She said with a dejected expression.
    “Don’t worry about it. The coat took most of the brunt of the spell anyway, so I’m alright.” He said gesturing that he was fine.
    At the sight of his hand she looked mortified.
    “Y-your hand…did it do that? Are you sure you’re okay?!”
    She took it in her own and looked from it to him.
    He blinked in disbelief before his gaze softened.
    He could not shake the feeling that there was something about his burns that caused her to react that way. He wanted to ask but more than that, he felt he should reassure her.
    “It’s okay. It’s just a light burn from getting blasted back. By the time we get back to the entrance my hand’ll be as good as new.”
    She opened her mouth to speak but bit her lip. Following that, she smiled, but it was only a thin mask hiding the agony beneath.
    “Y-yeah. Of course. You’re a healer, durr. I’ll leave it to you, then.”
    As she got up and placed her staff to her back TJ placed his off-hand to his dominant and healed it over the next few moments.
    Even so, he could not help but worry about her.
    She solemnly looked about the room as if to take her mind off of it, but it was clear there was something else that bothered her.
    Once he had felt he recovered as much as he could, he decided he would leave the rest to regenerate over time. Both his healing ability as an Agasura and the passive healing from his spell would help him to recover fully over a given period of time.
    He got to his feet and the two began walking back. Though it seemed she was still trying to hide it, the regret was still evident in her expression.
    Perhaps there was something TJ could do to help her feel better? He could get her to talk, for a start.
    “Hey, Amata,” he began.
    “Hm?” She asked absent-mindedly.
    “You said you can’t use Bharva in here right? Why is that?”
    She crossed her arms as she uttered a quiet but prolonged ‘hmm’.
    The two exited the mural room and made their way back through the tunnel.
    “If I was to hazard a guess, it’d probably be that it would make my trial too easy.”
    She paused as she pursed her lips.
    “Maybe not that. Actually maybe! Though then again, there’s an abundance of mana circulating all of Rayinth’s Vestibule. If I was to summon Bharva, I’d probably to keep him with me through the entirety of the dungeon.
    “I’d bet that they could make it more challenging by limiting the amount of mana we could utilize, but I can’t say if those old guys would be able to maintain their spirits and deny us mana at the same time.”
    The two boarded the lift and began their descent to the massive ramp in the next room.
    TJ felt a bit at ease. It seemed that having something else to mull over had taken Amata’s mind off of whatever bothered her before. To see her thoughtful expression was a nice change. He considered encouraging her further, both for her sake and to sate his curiosity.
    “Though then again, it is a trial. In that, it’s meant to be a test of my strength and resourcefulness.
    “Makes you wonder though, doesn’t it?”
    “About?” He asked as he tilted his head quizzically.
    “They were wise enough to prevent people like Su from sneaking in, but they allowed you to take the trial with me.”
    She laughed heartily.
    “Those old guys really didn’t think that through, huh? You’re the best companion a girl could ask for!”
    He felt a little bashful at her words. It was nice to be recognized once in a while. It was also the proof that he was improving slowly, but surely.
    “Still, I’m glad you’re here. Now more than ever, I feel our bond is strong. Not even Rayinth could scare me so long as you’re with me.”
    “We’re getting there, and we’ll beat him when we get to him too.”
    “Without a doubt!”
    The two had already made their way down the ramps and exited through the doors to the room that was once inhabited by the statues.
    TJ rubbed his chin thoughtfully for a moment as another thought came to mind.
    “There’s something else I was wondering about though.”
    “Whaddya wanna know? I might have an answer for you.”
    She smiled.
    “Why is it that only the God’s Governors can summon spirits? Are there, or were there, other Cerebians who could in the past?”
    His and Su’s talk with Vanir came to mind. If Bharva grew and changed as Amata did, was it possible that he came from the same place as Skuld? It also raised the question of how Vanir went there and just who Vanir is.
    “Duh! The first Cerebian to form a contract was actually Fahim! That’s how he obtained the title The Kindred. He formed contracts with all manner of spirits and he would summon them into battle to fight alongside him. A lot of the records say that he had used cards and some of the ones that we use today, for divination and other stuff have some basis in that.
    “He wasn’t the only summoner though! There were plenty of others throughout history, but none like Fahim. I don’t know when but… somewhere along the way I guess wherever it is that we would form contracts with spirits was closed off to us. Or maybe the way to get there was lost to time.
    “One thing that did survive though, is our ability to summon spirits to us. Something that’s unique to the God’s Governors now.”
    “Why is that?” TJ asked with a quizzical expression.
    “Probably something to do with mana? I mean, most Cerebians don’t have access to theirs. But not only that, a summoned spirit requires a lot of mana from their summoner. Cerebians like you and I have a really large mana pool so we can summon our spirits and still fight alongside them. But both summoning and maintaining a spirit is a taxing thing to do.
    “By the by, a contract is permanent. Once you summon the spirit, the contract is forged. To do so carelessly could permanently cripple a Cerebian. Perhaps for that reason they decided to keep it a secret shared only with the God’s Governors.
    “But there is something that bothers me…”
    TJ hiked an eyebrow as she rubbed her chin thoughtfully.
    The two made their way from one room to the next as she mulled the matter over solemnly.
    “Did you notice? In the mural room, the mural was not only on the walls, but the floor itself?”
    “Huh?!”
    He nearly leapt on the spot at her revelation. She nodded in turn.
    “When I traversed the landings I saw the final piece of it from above. It depicted the dragon that gnaws at the roots of Yggdrasil, Nidhogg. Not just that but…the human who tamed it.”
    TJ squinted in disbelief.
    If there was a dragon who was eating Yggdrasil, that human would likely have to be something special to have tamed it. Was it possible it was someone from the Derr Clan?!
    “I guess tamed might be a bit much. More like…controlled? It might just be an overblown myth or something, but supposedly there was a Human who had forced Nidhogg into a contract and sealed it away in the weapon he wielded. I can’t really imagine a Human being able to control a spirit, let alone one that strong, but the Age of Heroes certainly lived up to its name more than I know, if so.
    “Though there aren’t any shortage of accounts that say that Asmodeus freed him from his trapping. That mural depicted the battle so… I’ve little reason to doubt the legitimacy of it.
    “Anyway, these days since most people can’t have spirits, instead they have pets. There are some that have their origins as spirits though! Like naiads, dryads, brownies and yambi… the list goes on.
    At the sound of ‘brownies’ TJ felt his heart swell with envy for Vanir. If Vanir could summon spirits and he had a brownie, that may have explained how the two had come together.
    His train of envy came to a screeching halt as he glimpsed the dried trail of blood from their encounter with the traps. The envy subsided and his heart was struck with a pang of guilt. To hear Amata enthusiastically talking about historical figures took her mind off of other things. This was one thing she definitely did not need to remember.
    “So of Amae’s Saints, who would you say your favourite is, Amata?” TJ asked with a slight nervousness.
    “Sola, hands down!” She excitedly answered with clenched fists as she exhaled proudly.
    “Did you know? The path that most people take across Jienda was traversed by her first! During and after the war ended, she took some of Asgard’s strongest Cerebians and began a campaign that spanned from the Forest in the North all the way to Ktuka in the South! She and her men cleared the Agasura out everywhere they went, and at the end of her journey they named the path she walked Midgard’s Spine. It’s how she got her title too!
    “Isn’t she just the coolest?! I’ve always aspired to be just like her since I was a little girl.”
    TJ could not help but laugh gently at her enthusiasm. At the sight of it her cheeks flushed red and she began to pout.
    “Hey, I was being serious, jerk!”
    She pummeled him with her fists and he raised his hands both in surrender and to protect himself.
    “Sorry, sorry! I didn’t mean to laugh! I didn’t because it was funny, it was just the natural reaction because I thought it was cute.”
    She stopped hitting him and furrowed her brows.
    “You just say whatever, don’t you? Jeez.
    “Still…now you know something else about me. Better not tell anybody.”
    “It’ll be our secret.” He answered with a grin.

    The two finally arrived back at the entrance and stopped at the sealed door.
    “Here we are. You ready, TJ?” Amata asked as she looked to him.
    “Yeah. Let’s keep going. I feel like we’re getting a lot closer.” He answered with a confident nod.
    She placed the stone into the slot and backed away cautiously as the runic markings upon it lit up. The sound of stone shifted across the chamber and shortly after the door did also.
    “That was it,” Amata said somewhat in disbelief.
    “Let’s keep going,” TJ suggested.
    The two stepped inside into the next room and found their path blocked by a series of vines. The wild growth over centuries created an impenetrable wall of flora that seemed to dissuade travelers from attempting to get through.
    “That’s…that’s a lot of vines.” TJ said as he knit his brows.
    “I can clear a path.” Amata said as she held out a hand and a flame crackled to life in it.
    “H-hold on! If you do that there’s gonna be a lot of fire in a small proximity! We might just get smoked out. Let me do it.”
    She clenched her fist and outed the flames before she shrugged.
    TJ held out his dominant hand, now fully healed and with a flick of his wrist casted his next spell.
    “Elemental Mastery!”
    At his words his hand was coated in ice and five frozen claws took form.
    He took a step forward and cleaved the vines before him. He took a few more steps and with each swiped at the plants before him to clear a path for the two to walk. After going from one end to the other he returned halfway and smiled proudly.
    “How was that? Not bad, eh?”
    The Governor of Fire grinned slightly.
    “You’ve got something for every situation don’t you? Not bad at all.”
    Her grin subsided and was quickly replaced by apprehension as she noticed the vines seemed to be moving of their own accord.
    “Something’s not right here. TJ, get out of there!”
    As he took a couple of steps forward the vines sprung to life and connected where they had been cut, trapping the Abellan in.
    “W-whoa! What is this?! I-I’m stuck!”
    He struggled with all his might but could not budge in the slightest.
    “Well…I suppose this is a pretty good counter measure against anyone trying to break in with normal methods.” Amata said as she crossed her arms.
    “Speculate later, help me out of this first,” he complained.
    She laughed lightly.
    “Alright, alright I’m coming. It’ll take a bit though, I’d rather not burn you alive in there.”
    “That’d be ideal!”
    She had a good laugh about that.
    The Governor of Fire reached out to the vines and at her touch the sound of the plants being seared filled the room. Upon a group of them being burned they fell limp and remained that way. She waited to see if they would recover but did no such thing following the event. Following that she continued onwards until she could reach her companion and freed him from his binding.
    “Thanks for that. I should probably assume that most things in here, I can’t do. Save for fighting.”
    “You make for pretty good moral support too,” she chuckled.
    He pursed his lips at her words.
    “That didn’t sound like a compliment.”
    “Take it as you will!”
    With Amata leading the way the two made their way through the room right to the next door and proceeded into the subsequent area.

    They found themselves in a wide room with a set of landings connected by bridges. They were far and few between, and rather small at that. Their location was leagues above what seemed to be a basement sector to the Vestibule. From above they could see a thin strip of stone surrounded by magma.
    TJ remained frozen in place the moment they entered the room.
    “I know you don’t like heights but we can’t avoid this. You were able to get through the first set, weren’t you? This one isn’t all that different! You can do this,” Amata assured him.
    “Oh but it is. This time we can see the bottom.”
    “You and your semantics.”
    She knit her brows and he chuckled lightly at her response.
    She was right, though. Despite his reluctance, he did not forget the conviction he had resolved himself to prior. To face his fears would serve as a stepping stone towards a greater goal. Assuming that this was the only room of its type he would overcome it. A small step, one that was not easy, but one that he would see himself through.
    “Alright, I’m in. Thankfully the exit’s not far, so I’ll stick with you ‘till the end.”
    “That’s more like it!”
    Amata led the way up until the two reached one of the two bridges. She took hold of the rope and tested the sturdiness of it.
    “Should be fine, I’d say. The wood’s in good shape, the bridge itself hardly budges when I try to rock it too. We should be able to get across no problem!
    “Our main concern is that spirit over there.”
    Where Amata pointed a single spirit wandered. It seemed to be a humanoid figure made solely of flames. Alike to many of the others, it was the first time TJ had seen anything of the sort. Given that, to underestimate it and its abilities would be a grave error.
    “It hasn’t noticed us yet. Let’s get a first strike!” Amata enthusiastically said as she took off.
    TJ watched her with a hint of envy at the prospect she need not use the bridge.
    She came to a halt behind it and held out a hand where a flame took form. She gripped it and reeled her fist back.
    “Flame burst!”
    As the spell was let loose the force of it pushed her back through the air while forcing the spirit forward slightly.
    “Seems the Straw Men are pretty fire-resistant. Looks like this one’s gonna be right up your alley TJ!”
    She was as enthusiastic as ever, while he found himself in a bind. So long as he did not look down, he would be able to get across. There were no holes between the planks of wood so he set his eyes forward.
    Much to his fortune, it seemed the straw man had turned its focus to the governor in flight. It took a couple swings at her and with each strike a small burst of flames was released.
    TJ noted this, thankful that he used a fairly long weapon. That and he had an elemental advantage.
    He took a deep breath and drew his weapon before he ran his hand across it.
    “Elemental Augmentation!”
    His weapon was coated in a thick layer of ice following the action and once more he took the neck in both hands.
    He dashed forward across the last few steps on the bridge and his feet pounded against stone before he neared his target. As he skidded to a halt he took a wide, spinning swing at it and followed the attack up with Hailstorm. As the spell came to an end it was followed by a stream of fire from Amata’s Falcon Torrent.
    “Nice!” TJ said with a thumbs-up.
    “Don’t let your guard down yet! This guy’s still got a lot of fight left in him,” she answered.
    It staggered two and fro from the chained spells but regained its balance and decided to attack the Abellan. It took two wide swings as it did with Amata but the third nearly caught him off guard. It outstretched both arms before it and seemingly fired them forward with incredible momentum. TJ leapt aside to avoid the attack and swayed as he stopped on the edge of the landing.
    “Too close! Way too close!”
    The straw man seemed to regenerate its arms almost immediately after and took a couple steps forward before it leapt towards him. He dove aside and scrambled to his feet as a wave of fire followed in the wake of the spirit landing.
    Amata twirled her staff above her head before she slammed it down with incredible impact.
    “Illusion Fire!” She shouted as she withdrew the weapon and five pillars of fire arose before her, walling the spirit off.
    “Do you know any water spells TJ? High impact spells can force it back. Enough force and I’d bet we can push it off the landing. Fire is okay, water is even better.”
    “I can’t really recall any water-specific spells I knew in the past, but if it’s just basic water attacks I think I can do that.
    “Suppose there’s a lot I can still learn from Freya.” He chuckled lightly as he knit his brows.
    “Who?”
    “N-never mind that!
    “Anyway do you think you could buy me a little time? I’m gonna prepare something with enough force to take this spirit down.”
    “Easy!” She grinned.
    As the fires of Amata’s spell died down she prepared the next.
    “Lion’s Dance!”
    She hurled a flaming ball and sparks rained down upon the spirit. In reaction it swatted at the fireball in what seemed to be an attempt to grab it, likely in an attempt to absorb the spell.
    “Wrong move! Ten Flames!”
    At those words ten massive fireballs took form and surrounded the spirit before exploding in succession.
    All the while TJ had been gently strumming his guitar to create an ever-growing sphere of water.
    “I’m ready!” He said as he raised his head yet continued moving his hand.
    As the smoke cleared from Ten Flames Amata landed by his side and pointed at it.
    “Blow ‘em away!”
    TJ outstretched the hand that strummed the strings and a torrent of water was unleashed upon the spirit. It attempted to block the onslaught but found itself being put out nonetheless. The sheer force of the water caused it to slide back steadily due to its resistance, all the while causing the body to diminish. Suddenly, the body started to swell all over despite it shrinking. This gave Amata pause.
    “…Something isn’t right here. I dunno what it’s doing, but it’s doing something! TJ, run!” She took to the air at those words.
    TJ squinted for a moment to glimpse what was happening and ended the spell almost immediately after.
    “No, no, no!” He cried out as he began to run.
    Moments after he did so the spirit lurched forward and back before it rose from the ground and exploded. The sheer force of it caught the Abellan and propelled him forward onto the second bridge. He came to a skidding halt against the wood as the ropes upon it were ignited.
    Amata landed before him and helped him to his feet.
    “This is no time to be laying about! You have to hurry before this thing collapses!” She ushered him as she helped him along a few steps.
    He shook his head gently to remove the rest of his dizziness.
    “What? Did it…?” He looked back and saw the result of the last battle.
    In a matter of moments the ropes tied to the post keeping the bridge suspended would burn away and he would fall. He had to escape and quickly!
    As TJ took a couple of steps forward another straw man appeared before him and blocked the path across. It continued forward, taking a couple steps on the bridge and slowly but surely, set them aflame also.
    “Oh no you don-” Amata ignited a flame in the palm of her hand but froze in place. “I…there’s nothing I can do here…”
    The look in her eyes was the proof of her crippling realization. She seemed even more fragile and vulnerable than the Abellan was in this scenario.
    “I’ll…I’ll figure something out, TJ! Just hang on!”
    She took flight moments before the ropes burned away and the bridge began to collapse. In a moment of desperation and reckless abandon the Abellan decided he would run forward and through the spirit if he had to. As the steps fell away from his feet and he found himself stepping on nothing, he grabbed hold of the rope and swayed with it before he and it crashed into the stone. As that moment came to pass he glimpsed the straw man falling through the air to its demise.
    “You have to keep climbing! It’s still alight on both sides,” Amata cried.
    He wanted to look down to see how much time he had before the flames caught up to him, but could not bring himself to do so. The ashes of wood and singed planks fell past him as he desperately began to climb up towards the landing. The heat from the rope burned his hands but he still persisted. Suddenly the rope he held on to jerked as the sound of it tearing drew his attention above him.
    “I have an idea! Just hang in there a little longer!”
    What choice did he have in the matter? He wanted to make a witty remark but he was so terrified he thought the only thing that would come out are desperate shrieks.
    He opted for nodding solemnly.
    The sound of tearing rope continued and TJ held on for dear life as he ran through a myriad of possibilities to get himself out of his predicament. His best plan, relying on acrobatics and his double jump ability to close the gap between where he was and wanted to be, was flawed. To jump off of the rock would be difficult because of how smooth it was, and to create too much force might cause him to tear the rope and fall.
    To his surprise Amata dove from where she stood and took flight nearby with a rope in hand.
    “Here, take this!”
    Somewhat afraid to let go of what he held on to now and yet also afraid to subsequently fall to his demise, he decided he would accept her offer. He took the rope in hand and swallowed hard. He raised it to meet his right hand and once close enough he kicked off the bridge and took the rope in both hands. As his body neared the stone again he brought his momentum to a halt with both feet and grit his teeth as the vibration from the collision rattled him.
    With a sigh of relief he began to climb up to the top accompanied by Amata who assured him that she would be nearby in case anything happened. Soon after, he reached the landing once more and managed to safely climb up before he exhaled deeply and lay on his back.
    She touched down and leaned over him with an expression that he had not seen before. Her cheeks were flushed, her eyes crinkled and she had a wide smile.
    “You know, I…I’m glad you’re safe. That entire course of events was way, waaaaay too scary for me. But we made it.”
    He sat up and beamed.
    “It was thanks to you and your quick thinking. Alone, I don’t think I’d have gotten out of that in one piece. So..thanks for saving me.”
    “It was the natural thing to do, wasn’t it? Anyway, here.”
    She handed him a canteen brimming with water.
    “You’re sweating bullets. After an event like that, though, I can’t blame you.” She grinned. “Let’s take a breather so you can recollect yourself.”
    “I’d like that.” He added with a smile.

    Amata sat with him in the fettle position while he took a drink of water.
    “That hit the spot!” He said with a sigh of relief.
    Shortly after he glimpsed the grappling hook and rope tied around the bridge’s singed post.
    “Looks like those things your mom gave us really came in handy. Thank goodness for that.”
    Amata chuckled gently.
    “I guess that’s just a ‘mom thing’ huh? Meeting those needs you never know you might have,” she suggested.
    “Alvaro seemed worried about you too though, don’t you think?”
    She pursed her lips at his words.
    “If he wasn’t so over-bearing all the time it probably wouldn’t be so bad! If I was older I’d have left home already, but I’m stuck with…”
    She paused and furrowed her brows as she looked at her shoes.
    “That’s…not a very fair thing to say, is it? Our families are so radically different. I should probably consider myself lucky, shouldn’t I?
    “I have normal parents. Two of them, in fact. Your only parent is Asmodeus and he’s…” She huffed gently. “Sorry for saying something so selfish.”
    “Isn’t it fine? Having moments like those is what makes you realize how important the things around you are to you. That aside, despite how much you fight with Alvaro, I think deep down you really love him.”
    “L-love? Him?! That’s…no way! He’s just a big, hairy old man!”
    She furrowed her brows as she pressed her fingers together.
    “But I guess…he’s my hairy old man. I’m thankful for what both he and mom did for us.”
    TJ smiled.
    “Make sure to tell them before you change your mind.”
    “I…I’ll get to that! Eventually.”

    After packing up their things, the Abellan did a couple light stretches before he let out a sigh of relief.
    “Alright, I’m all limbered up and ready to go,” he said.
    “Good. It’s not gonna get an easier, so you’re gonna need that.” Amata said with a teasing grin.
    “How reassuring,” he chuckled dryly.
    She placed her hand to the door and it slid out of their vision into the stone.
    As they took a few steps in they found themselves atop what seemed to be a descending ramp. It spiralled down an incredible distance towards what seemed to be the lower section of the Vestibule they had glimpsed in the previous room. Along the walls that lined the ramp, it seemed there were a variety of traps that waited for challengers to attempt to bypass them before they activated.
    TJ grit his teeth at the sight.
    “More traps? At this juncture I think I’d take the spirits over them,” he muttered.
    Amata hiked her eyebrows mischievously.
    “But you know, the good thing about traps is you can get around them. A spirit would follow you until you take it down.”
    She seemed to have some sort of an idea and TJ could not help his own curiosity.
    “What do you suggest?”
    “You should create a ramp or something! Or a slide to get to the bottom!”
    He chuckled lightly at her comment.
    “That’s a good idea but…I’m not that good with my magic. I’d bet Su could do something like that though. Kooh likely could too.”
    “Damn right I could,” Su remarked.
    Amata squinted suspiciously at the suggestion.
    “Su, I could see doing that, but Kooh? I mean, I guess she is God’s Governor of Ice but she doesn’t seem serious enough to be that competent.”
    The thoughts of the battle with Choen Palm in Elias were proof enough for TJ. Though Amata’s response reminded him that she had never seen Kooh in action. In her defense also, even in action Kooh seemed rather free-spirited. Given the experiences of the two God’s Governors together, alongside Kooh’s natural demeanor, proving she was capable would be rather difficult.
    “I can see why you feel that way.
    “Nonetheless, I’ll just take the regular way. I’ll be a bit more careful this time, though. I’d rather not fall from here. Or get burned. Again.”
    “I couldn’t ask for more.” Amata said with a teasing grin.
    “As far as I can tell, there doesn’t seem to be any anti-air traps so I think I’ll fly down there and investigate a bit. I can’t shake the feeling that there’s something off around here, so I wanna see for myself.”
    “Like the presence of a spirit? I don’t see any around here though. There might be some in the room next to this one though.”
    “Something like that…” She muttered as she furrowed her brows. “But it’s close.
    “Still, if you find yourself in trouble, scream for help. I might be able to do something.”
    She grinned at him and he could not help but smile back.
    “Alright, I’ll be counting on you then.”
    “Aye-aye sir!”
    She saluted him as her wings took form and spread out. She leapt from the landing and soared down to the bottom without a moment’s hesitation.
    “Well? You done beating around the bush? Get on with it already,” Su said.
    “You know, if I get impaled I’m gonna hold you responsible.”
    “Blame those old guys for using these tricks to trap me in this rock. Would that I could haul your sorry ass through this trial.”
    The fact that he had, as of yet, needed to be rescued by Su since they began the trial was a pretty incredible feat in and of itself. He felt a bit of pride at the prospect and found some newborn confidence.
    He pounded an open palm with his fist and decided to press on.
    He began to make his way downwards and the first thing that caught his eye was a series of totems stacked atop one another inside a depression in the wall. As he neared he stopped and waited but nothing seemed to happen. He took a stone and tossed it across and the moment it passed by one of the statues unleashed a torrent of flames. He swallowed hard before he took a sprinting stance after backing up somewhat. He ran full speed ahead before he dove through the air and transitioned into a somersault before coming to a halt. As he glimpsed back he noticed the flames of the totems coming to a rest in his wake.
    A success, if he did say so himself.
    He got to his feet and took a couple steps forward before coming to a halt. One of the stones he stepped on sunk beneath the weight of his foot and the shift made him suspicious. The sound of stone grinding as some of the bricks in the wall fell to the floor made him realize he was in danger. A series of arrows cut through the air like blades as he broke out into a desperate sprint to avoid being impaled. The sound of metal meeting stone time and again reverberated in the wake of every step TJ took down the landing before finally coming to a halt at a series of totems lined up in succession. They would breathe fire in turn from first to last and such a sight gave the Abellan pause. As he prepared to dash following the end of the first totem’s flames, he noted the last one began.
    “What the—there’s no way through! What the hell is this?!” He complained.
    “You’re not a Human, idiot. Use your brain,” Su suggested.
    At those words he clued in what he could do.
    He spread his wings as he took a few steps back and got a running start. He leapt from a greater height and used his ability to propel himself forward and past the totems. Due to the nature of the ramp the height he fell at had increased substantially, causing his landing to be rather rough. He stumbled a few steps before he crashed into the wall, finally coming to a halt. As he peeled himself from the stone and attempted to rub the engraving from his cheek the sound of stone grinding again caught his attention; this time, it seemed to be coming from above. Much to his dismay, a massive stone totem fell from the roof and landed on the ramp behind him and cracked the stone beaneath it. The impact of its touchdown caused severe vibrations through the stone and nearly brought the Abellan to his knees.
    “Now what?” He asked as he turned his eyes to the totem.
    From within the gaping mouth, a fireball began to take form. If the size of the mouth was any indication, it being as wide as the ramp and taller than him, the fireball would grow to immense sizes. Further to his dismay, it did exactly as what he suspected it would. After a prolonged period of development, the totem unleashed the fireball and it surged forward down the ramp in pursuit of him.
    He was only about halfway to the bottom and he found himself in danger of being cooked alive. As he ran, he glimpsed a series of holes in the wall, which he suspected would contain more arrows. He lowered his head as he ran past and nearly found it taken off by the spears that emerged from the holes. The three, however, were only the beginning. As he proceeded further down he found another set but at a lower height this time around. He bent his torso and lowered his head as much as he possibly could to avoid being impaled once more. The feeling of running in such awkward positions made his stomach churn, but he knew that it was a much easier fate to embrace than death by fire.
    Two more sets followed the first two. The following was much too low for him to crouch under, but too high for him to easily jump over. He took a deep breath as he neared and opted out for an act of desperation. He hopped during his sprint and outstretched his legs to slide beneath them. He scrambled to his feet as the lost time allowed the fireball to grow ever closer.
    He glimpsed down to the bottom where Amata walked about as she seemed to be inspecting the ramp’s end. Despite his thoughts about not needing to be rescued, he found himself in a predicament he would likely need to be rescued from. Setting his pride aside, he decided to ask for help.
    “Amata! Help!” He screamed at the top of his lungs as he continued his descent.
    He ripped his eyes from her figure as he barely caught a glimpse of three more spikes that were lower than the others, but high enough to impale both his ankles. He narrowly avoided them with a last-moment jump but failed to land properly and tripped over his own feet. His body lurched forward and he fell on both his hands, scraping them in the process of his entire body crashing down. He urged himself to his feet once more and continued on, realizing that time was running out. He wanted to check if Amata heard him but the next trap loomed ahead and he needed to ascertain what it did and when.
    As he neared he glimpsed what seemed to be massive sections of stone cut into cubes that would lunge forward at certain intervals before returning to their original position. Had he stepped in at the wrong time, they would not just shove him off, but likely break his bones in the process. The moment he neared the first he noted that the time it would be released was coming and he had to stop before it. It shot forward, but it took time for it to return and he knew it was time he did not have. He looked back and glimpsed the fireball barreling toward him and realized he was trapped.
    At that moment Amata’s figure appeared before his eyes and stood down the spell without hesitation. She held out an outstretched hand as it neared and challenged it head on.
    “Flame Eater!”
    At those words the fireball collided with her hand but came to a halt as little by little, the spell drained away its size and threatening presence, leaving nothing but the remnants of heat in its wake.
    Her wings came to a rest as she touched down and turned to him.
    “I’m not an Einherjar, you know.” She said as she began to pout.
    “I promise, I didn’t think that for a moment and I’m thankful you saved me again,” TJ said hurriedly.
    “Yeah, yeah.” She said with a much more amicable grin. “Not like I could leave you to be cooked to a crisp anyway.”
    It was then that he noticed her pupils had changed shape. It seemed she was using the Mana Sensory ability. For what, he did not know, but it likely explained why she seemed to be studying something intensely at the base.
    “Anyway, I’ve almost figured out what’s up with this room so I’m gonna head back down and see if I can. Just be careful when you get near the base. I dunno what it is, but it’d be best if we didn’t have to find out the hard way.”
    “Got it. Be careful down there.”
    She grinned teasingly.
    “You worried about me? I think you should be more concerned for yourself. Still, makes me a little happy nonetheless!”
    At those words she fluffed her wings but once and shot off. TJ could not help but think that she was a little free-spirited also.
    With the threat of the fireball behind him, he could proceed with more caution going forward.
    After watching the strange shoving mechanics of the stones before him, he had noted the times for when they would appear. It took about four seconds for each of them to return after being thrust forward and about two for the thrust. There was a six second delay between one beginning and the following starting afterwards. The order of them was the third first, the first second and the second last. The Abellan watched carefully as the third came forward and he waited out the second. As it returned he side-stepped his way around it and watched as the second was thrust out. He stepped past it following it and once the third had began the rotation anew and finished, he made his way past.
    He wiped his brow with a sigh of relief. It seemed he was getting closer steadily. The end was near and given a few more minutes at the pace he was going, he could reach Amata. He cautiously took a few steps forward before the stone beneath him began to rumble. Struggling to keep his balance, he decided to break out into another sprint moments before the stones beneath him crumbled and dragged him down. Despite his desperate sprint, this seemed to happen continuously and each time quicker than the last. He leapt from where he stood and used the wall to slide down to a lower section of the ramp in a desperate bid to avoid a direct collision.
    He continued his sprint until he glimpsed a a small hole in between some of the stones that seemed to release a gas as he neared. He looked back at the direction he had come in and indeed, a large part of the ramp had crumbled and fell away where he would have walked. It was a wise choice to take the jump. The most recent trap however, had seemed pretty simple. There was nothing more to it. Like the totems at the top, it only seemed to activate when he came within its proximity. What effect did the smoke have, he could not fathom, but pink smoke only held ill omens. He covered his face as he crouched underneath the location it was sprayed from and made his way further down.
    Amata was not far from him and neither was the end of the ramp. It seemed he had made it safely. He raised a hand as he decided to greet her.
    “Hey, Ama-”
    Before he could finish his sentence Amata held out a hand to stop him.
    “Hold it right there!” She said with a look of urgency.
    He froze in place, greeting and all as he waited for further instruction. At the sight she snickered quietly before she approached.
    “You can lower your hand, you know.
    “But more importantly, the reason I stopped you is because this whole area is trapped. Just the ramp parts, that is. The end of it too, actually. Right over…there.”
    With a flick of her wrist she created a small fireball she hurled to that specific location. It burst upon landing but nothing seemed to happen. Perhaps given that, only a person stepping within the range of it would activate the trap.
    “If you jump down from this height though, chances are you’d hurt yourself. I mean, I imagine you’re pretty durable, especially if you use the contemptuous arts, but I’d rather you…not…do…that.”
    Her cheeks flushed pink as she scratched one of the two gently with her index finger.
    “S-so…I’ll help. Just this once.”
    She flew away from him towards the exit but a fair height that he could likely reach with a jump.
    “Alright, come on. I’ll catch you.”
    They had done many things similar to this, but actually doing it himself was a little embarrassing. He was beginning to understand how Amata felt when he had to carry her. His clipped wings were seeming to be more often than not, the bane of his pride and on too many occasions, nearly his existence.
    “A-alright. Here I go!” He said with nervousness edging his tone.
    He got a running start before he leapt from the ramp to the Governor of Fire and as promised, she caught him. He held on tightly as his face rested against hers and his arms draped over her back. She gasped before she began a solemn descent, slowly, carefully. Once the two touched down he let her go and she turned away before she hid her wings.
    “You know, doing that kinda felt like a hug.” TJ said with a laugh. “Under very unusual circumstances I guess. Hopefully next time it’ll be a little more normal.”
    Hugs were nice. He did not quite understand the significance of them, but he enjoyed them all the same. They were comforting. A little like his past selves’ tendency to pat someone on the head.
    “N-next time? What, are you offering?”
    “Yeah, of course! Hugs are okay with me.”
    “I-I might take you up on that.
    “More importantly! We avoided that trap.”
    TJ looked but as he suspected, he could not see anything.
    “What did it do anyway?”
    Amata pursed her lips.
    “If I was to hazard a guess, it summoned something. If it was a spirit, they probably could have just summoned it themselves, but this one was more like…a ritual. A summoning ritual, but laid out like a trap. Whatever it summons was already decided, it would just bring it here. It might not have even been a spirit… more like an Agasura.”
    “Don’t you think that this was a little…you know, bad?”
    Amata shrugged before she crossed her arms.
    “Like my Dad had said, they probably have these as a defense against intruding Humans. Most things can be bypassed through flight, like you saw with me. Some sections can’t be bypassed without it.
    “Even Ophanim said that if its attackers weren’t worthy, it’d kill them. But it’d kill me too…despite being the God’s Governor. Bastard!”
    TJ rubbed his neck uneasily.
    “It does make me wonder though…if this is just the first of the four or five dungeons we need to enter, will the others be like this?”
    Amata shook her head gently.
    “I don’t think so, TJ. I’d bet if the dungeons were designed as the original God’s Governors wished, each was built to test what they believed their descendants would need. Rayinth believed a strong body and mind are crucial to being considered a warrior. If this dungeon is any indication, that speaks for itself. It’s really pushed us to our limits, hasn’t it? There’s no shortage of traps and enemies to fight and all of them are powerful in their own right. We both know that overcoming a powerful enemy is proof that you yourself, are strong.”
    She furrowed her brows as she looked at her open palm. Then closed it as she looked to TJ.
    “Beating my dad was what I saw as the proof of my strength. There might have been better ways to go about it, but he was the goal post I had set for myself. I always believed overcoming him would be the proof that I need to know that I’m strong enough to face God’s Governor Rayinth. But had I…had I done so…had I not met you…I’m sure my beliefs would be misguided.
    “I realize that sure, I could challenge Rayinth’s Vestibule alone. I might even get to Rayinth himself, too. But alone? There’s a damn good chance he would kick my ass. Even so, blinded by my own confidence I would attempt it anyway.
    “This…would be the biggest mistake of my life. What we’re doing isn’t called a ‘trial’ just for show. There’s a lot of reasons my dad and his dad and all those before them didn’t attempt this, but I know for a fact that there’s something to lose here, should I fail. If he chooses not to kill me, it makes you wonder what he would do, doesn’t it? Just like all other things, I don’t think I’d get a second chance at it.
    “Now more than ever, I realize that we can’t, nor need to be strong alone. Just as Lady Amae fought alongside her Saints, how my dad has my mom and how Rayinth too, found someone strong enough to stand beside him…I have you. You’re my equal, and so much more. With you, I can defeat Rayinth. I’ll take a major step to becoming God’s Governor of Fire. The real deal. And I…can go home to my parents’ smiling faces with my head held high.
    “I can and will be that beacon of hope for Mezzalone, for Ves and for the Cerebians. I am the only who can be, after all.”
    She chuckled sheepishly after her speech and TJ could feel his heart swell with pride.
    She had changed so much since their first meeting. He still remembered their talk after their fight with Avaritia and her fear that she lacked the mental fortitude to be what she was meant to be. Her burgeoning strength was always there, she just had not realized it herself. However, Alvaro had always known, Kavitala likely did also, and now TJ was seeing it clearly for himself. Just as he had, she came to realize how important the bonds between people could be. She had done so all on her own, at that.
    “You can do it, Amata! Definitely!”
    He took her hands in his own and she nearly stepped back, eyes wide and cheeks flushed.
    “Y-yeah. Of course! A-anyway, let’s not get too sentimental yet! We can…do that after we defeat Rayinth.
    “Come on, there’s still more to do.”
    avatar
    TJ

    Posts : 880
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    Re: Sanctuary

    Post  TJ on Thu May 03, 2018 3:59 pm

    Tiddies out for Chrom:
    Before you can say that the title for this is old news, trust me, I know. Was supposed to write this weeks ago but that didn't happen(by that, I mean when Grima set the whole FE fandom on fire). For now, though, I was gonna make a dragon energy joke. There were better ones, though. But still, since I have the energy I decided to stop draggin' my feet to come here and update.
    ...You can get all 1001 of my dad jokes and more with marriage! Put a ring on it while you can!
    So? Let's get down to it!

    Before I really get into the meat and lore in this update, I guess I just wanna remark about the characterization here. In Amata's case, what she talks about and her unease is meant to foreshadow something, but also serves as a callback to some of her other dialogues. She and burns have a history together and it's shown clearly here. So much so that she forgot that TJ can heal most wounds. As for TJ, he shows his occasional thoughtfulness. Moments like these are typically between he and Su, though he did have a few with Amata, both in this chapter and earlier ones. Their relationship is one that steadily grows and hopefully by this juncture if it hasn't happened already, readers can see how she came to develop her feelings. He's a pretty good guy if you can look past the perma-loli status. Nonetheless! There's always more to tell than what meets the eye!

    First things first! I will not tell you why TJ is allowed to accompany the God's Governors. You've gotta wait to find that out. So! Fahim was mentioned before obviously, and he's gonna appear in the Larghissimos later. Though there is no Summoner class amid the Cerebians, there were summoners during the Age of Heroes. Wherever it is that the spirits came from was a place that the Cerebians could go to, once upon a time. As she said, they can't go there now. However! The God's Governors are able to summon and contract a creature of their element to them. They grow along with their summoner, obtaining new abilities and forms as the Governor's reach higher tiers. In most cases, that would go like so: Summoning(Small)->Trial(Medium)->Awakening(Large). In some cases, this can be overwritten by the God's Governor learning to awaken ahead of their time. Julius and Amata are cases of this. As mentioned before, their ability to awaken allows them to use their full strength, but because they lack mastery and haven't undergone the trial, in most cases they'd expend their entire mana reserve in a matter of minutes. As they have a large pool, they can last for some time, but chances are they wouldn't be able to continue a fight if they were to awaken.
    There's some shenanigans going on with the title for God's Governors who had taken the trial because I realized there wasn't a male equivalent of the word I chose. Freakin' english pisses me off. I should've went the HF14 route and went with Lord/Lady but with how much I played it, it'd feel bad. Might change it in the future. We'll see about that.

    This next part is a biggy. So Amata mentions the mural of Nidhogg. Both it, and the part about its master are important. I can't say too much about the symbol itself, but the human I can...just a bit, though! If you've read USSR, you know by now Vanir's dialogue about managing spirits. If you haven't, I'll give you a quick crash course. There are two ways to do it: form a contract through mutual trust and understanding, or form a contract through the summoner's will. Not all spirits needed to be summoned to be used. At one point, both monsters and spirits could be put into a contract if the summoner had the strength to do so. What Amata hinted at was a myth that there was a Human strong enough to seal Nidhogg itself into his weapon during that time. Regarding that, I may have actually mentioned him before. Or at least, his present incarnation. There was a bit about a Ship of Theseus. If you can find that, you can probably put the clues together. I won't say any more than that, since I don't wanna spoil too much of the Larghissimos lol.
    On the topic of Nidhogg itself, it did exist in LT...in a sense. Though I can't say for certain, I think Nidhogg was the Behemoth that appeared in the plains near Elias. If you dig in the area, a giant hole would open up, the Behemoth would pop out and swallow any adventurer unfortunate enough to be in the radius. It was a quest area, so you'd go through it, fight mobs and gather things. Truthfully, I didn't think much of it until Peorth(the real one) shared her theory about LT's relation to Norse mythology. As much as one would expect, it dabbles in a few types but there are plenty of names and places that have their basis in it, so it's become something of the central focus surrounding Frequency. Supposedly the roots of Yggdrasil are what kept Nidhogg trapped(does that concept sound familiar also?) so his breaking free/being released to aid the Agasura is fitting for it. I'd read that as Yggdrasil is what keeps the cosmos in place, for it to aid the giants would be what would plunge the cosmos into chaos during Ragnarok. I'd post a link, but that might seem kinda shady so the truth of the matter is I read it on a website. Seemed to be from the excerpt of a book called 'The Viking Spirit". It also mentions a place called the Shore of Corpses, which might just explain LT's "Wailing Coast". There, it and the Tower of...something? Ruin or Destruction or something along those lines, were all a part of Vanaheim. I'd like to do something with those, but they won't likely be in Sanc. The whole timeline happens before the traveler from Preios arrives.

    Now, the section about pets! All of those mentioned are actual pets in game. I always think that I should have adventurers with pets in the story, but I dunno how much it would add if they were mentioned off-hand. The only one with any real importance(currently) is Vanir. For those who haven't seen a yambi before, though, they're uhh...flower snakes. Like how Brownies start out as rabbits, when they reach a certain level(or adulthood, in a sense) they take on a humanoid form. They're cute. Used to have one before OGP LT shut down.

    Now a quick mention for the Saints. Each of them were given their title for the feats(or a major one) that they had performed during their time. These were given to them by the people--not all of them would know what the Saints had accomplished during the war, so such is the case. You know what they say: if a tree falls in the forest, does it make a sound?
    It was always a little weird to consider how La Tale's continent was more...vertical, in a sense. If you see a map of it, Belos and everything around it are high in the North and as you go further down South and to the east, you start to get to the other cities. Near Orca Beach the path breaks off and goes into the ocean, leading to Atlantis. Somewhere in the West is the Big Apple and the City of Iron, on a separate smaller continent. Seeing the introduction of it, along with the Engineers was pretty exciting way back when.

    So that's enough about the lore! For now, at least. The next room was tricky to do, because on one hand I wanted to showcase the trap and how to get through it without it seeming too...campy. It turned out kinda hammy, though. The fact that TJ went to the end and back while Amata waited is where the fault lies. However, if she went with him, the only way it would make sense would be if the vines almost immediately reconnected after being cut. If so, either the two would run through or they'd both be caught in it because TJ would be caught off-guard. It'd uhh...be a pretty pathetic end for the God's Governor and Abellan, I feel. Now after reading this part, or maybe when you got to it you were thinking, "I've seen enough h***** to know where this is going". To that I say, get your mind out of the gutter! My intentions were pure! Pure as the driven snow!

    For the next room, I really wanted the place to have...well, multiple floors. That's something I barely did, if at all for the others. I mean, the first technically did and the Gourmet's Valley had higher elevations but I felt I could and should do more here. Being able to see the bottom made it even better. Moving on, I also wanted to work a bit more with different types of enemies and the ways they could affect the terrain. I really wanted to capture that 'adventure' feel, you know? Like an Indiana Jones film. In truth, I've never actually seen any of them, but by now running away from giant boulders and stuff is so iconic I'm hard-pressed to say I haven't seen it. Although, I heard 'Where's my Crystal Skull' jumped the shark, big time. Perhaps I didn't miss out entirely. Back on topic, the reason TJ can't use water spells is because he doesn't know any. I mean there are some contained within his memories, but he can't access them yet and throughout his years he only obtained mastery over ice spells, but not any with a water basis.
    Here's a little tidbit of trivia. Originally in the room with the statues, the two were supposed to use a grappling hook provided to them by the Seitz to ascend to the higher platforms. Had that planned out since I storyboarded the dungeon, but as I always say, when you let the characters tell the story you never know what might happen. Truth be told, I had no plan for the dungeon! By that I mean storyboards for events, save for the end. I just went by the design and let what happened, happen. It turned out really well, IMO. It did see some use here, though! I was afraid that the two carrying all that stuff would have gone to waste but things turned out even better than expected.
    There's even a heart-to-heart afterwards. Short and sweet and perfectly timed.

    The next part doesn't really require much explanation. It's just traps, after all. Instead, here's a piece of trivia for you! The spell 'flame eater''s name actually comes from something I read. Something you shouldn't read if you're a babby. It's called ***** Eater. It was a good read. That's all I'll say on the matter lol. I'll leave the rest to your imagination.
    The last trap there was in essence, a summoning circle. The point of it was to summon an Imp(they appeared in the last side-story I did. They're Agasura from the game also!) that would attack any challengers upon it being summoned. It's not a spirit that can be controlled or anything--just a creature.

    The next part is kinda important, 'cause it echoed my thought process that perhaps the trials should differ from each other. I haven't decided it for certain yet. Leaving that aside though, here it felt like Amata had...mm what's the word? Like she had an epiphany. Like Peorth had said earlier in the chapter, to be too headstrong is the folly of youth. Or something like that, I can't be bothered to check. Anyway! That describes Amata pre-everything up until now pretty aptly, doesn't it? She's always been the type to crash her way through life doing what she saw as best. After a lot of trial and error, along with meeting Su and seeing how she changed, Amata herself did also. As we are able to glimpse at the world through TJ's eyes here too, seeing his talk with Alvaro gives us another glimpse at her past and what makes her who she is. As for a time, we saw things through her perspective also, we got to see a small bit of Kavitala's mentality, at least regarding things like Alvaro. The two in a sense are what make each other. The two halves of a whole. Even Alvaro himself said it, that without Kavi he wouldn't be able to keep his head on his shoulders.
    I hadn't realized it then, but I like that Alvaro/Kavi are reflected through the two here. Both know the side of the parent they spoke with and came together to see the trial through. The same could be said for their positions--Kavi is the one who supports the God's Governor while the current generation has TJ. Good stuff.

    So that's all for this update! I stopped playing GBF for a while and tried another game. It didn't scratch the itch. There's a laundry list of reasons why, but...well it's a laundry list. It had some good ideas though. Back to the matter at hand, I wound up getting Jeanne b'kini. She's a core part of my non-existent wind team cause a certain glass cannon(Levi) can't refrain from blowing up every time something sneezes on him. Also Alexiel...appeared. A small part of me wanted to dump my whole spark fund to get her, even if she wouldn't work with my team. I LOVE HER, OKAY?! She's just so...good. One of my crewmates got her so I tried to salt pull with some tickets and crystals. I got gun Zooey so I decided to settle, but this isn't over! I now have 3/4 Zooeys.

    Grindblue Fantasia aside, my stories are progressing steadily. The last week of school was bullshit and I didn't get as far in Inno as I'd have liked. I went on a rampage with P&C and so I've hit a wall. That wall being sexy time and my lack of experience writing it. It's time to study up! In the meantime though, Sanc will start moving again. I'm like...80% through chapter 11. It's a pretty wild ride. Nonetheless, things are...tricky, so we'll see what the future holds. It's never good news, though. But that's life, eh? If anything was good...then that means something terrible is lurking over the horizon. At least for me, that's usually how it goes. So if everything sucks, it's normal! Normal is good and by that I mean, it's bad. It's always bad. Such is life.

    More soon? There's a chance! Until next time!

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    Re: Sanctuary

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      Current date/time is Thu May 24, 2018 7:33 am