by Cyberchao/X

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~BEGIN THE BOOK OF IZUMO~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Chapter 196

Shortly after the end of the battle against Darkage

"Hello?" Izumo said, confused. "Where am I?"

"Spirit? Spirit, where the hell are you?" another voice asked. He saw Izumo, wearing the Mantle of Calu, although with the way it was now shifting shapes unpredictably, "wearing" might not be the most appropriate term. "The Ancient Crystal? In here…that's nothing but trouble…not to mention it won't work as a prison in this realm."

"Figures. Alania said we shouldn't trust him, and what does he do? Sends me off to who-knows-where and escapes from his imprisonment. I hope the others are okay…Hello? Can you help me get back to my world?" he asked the mostly-humanoid creature who stood before him.

"I don't even know where your world is…but that you have one of the three Crystals is certainly intriguing. Perhaps, then, I should see her about this…I should introduce myself, by the way. Crystallius Collerius (kohl-LAYR-yuss), heir to the Crystallius line."

It took a little time for Izumo to process the fact that the man before him had given his surname first, and replied, "Firefox Izumo…no clue if there's anything that special about me. Weird things just seem to happen wherever I go, though."

"You're in the right place then, Izumo. There isn't much that can be considered 'normal' here. Still, how did Terra bring you here?"

"We were battling this fearsome villain, Darkage, and we had these artifacts, the Mantle of Calu being one of them," Collerius couldn't help but smile at this name, "and he had this plan as to how to use them to win the battle. He used this," Izumo held up the Shield of Karashti, "to create a seal that would lock Darkage away, sealed by firing the Trident of Juri at full potential from the Phoenix Flame Crossbow." Collerius's eyes went wide. "Something wrong?"

"The Phoenix Flame Crossbow…no, everything's fine, it's just…I didn't expect your allies, who are probably back in your own world, to also have that particular artifact. The Seal of Karashti…well, as surprising as this may be, if that's all that happened, it doesn't sound as though Terra misled you. Your foe 'Darkage' is almost certainly gone for good, and your arrival here…was just a fluke."

"So then, we get to go back?" Masa asked.

"Uh, yeah. You are?"

"Fireturtle Masa…the unexpectedly solid. You speak true about this realm being strange…it's been eons since I was corporeal."

"Time…has no set velocity here. No constant speed…nor any particular directionality."

"It flows forwards and backwards?"

"Forwards, backwards, up, down, sideways, or any combination of the above."

"You were talking about a spirit before. Who is he?"

"What? Oh, no, that's his name. Spirit Tsunami the Eighteenth, the fifty-second incarnation of the Spirit of Chaos."

"Spirit of Chaos?"

"…you a quick reader?" They approached a large building built of marble, with ancient design. It turned out to be a library of sorts.

5 Sagittarius 2307
4:10 PM
Citadel of Pain—Rooftop

"Huh. Certainly something wrong here," Spirit observed.

"Indeed. We've been on a long and arduous journey to right this wrong, with the condition that we know nothing about what it is that we're supposed to be trying to do."

"Say what? Doesn't matter. Agreed, a big problem if left unchecked, but not a terribly tough one to fix." He leapt into the air, seeming to fly, and then appeared to be trying to push the sky away from the ground. "LumosUmbra!" Whips of light and dark energy appeared, and though they could see nothing there, the whips appeared to be curving around spheres. Slowly—very slowly—they straightened out, the light one towards them and the dark one away from them, and when it was finished, the surrounding land seemed a lot brighter. "There…that should do it. With my luck, though, there'll be something worse to handle…"

"Uh…what the heck did you do?"

"I separated the positive and negative energy spheres that were coalescing over the castle. You were on the right track coming here—this was the intersection point, the place where the negative energy was the strongest. Looked like it could become chronic if left unchecked much longer. So, is there some sort of reward involved in this?"

"…No," Alania said.

"Whatever. How about one of you?"

"Excuse me?"

"A little fun, you know? I don't usually get the chance to have a social life, and most of the denizens of Chaotica aren't my species. I seem to have happened upon the right set of people—strong as well as beautiful."

Half the group sweatdropped. "Business as usual," Marina said.

"Aw, cheer up," Spirit encouraged her. Marina rolled her eyes, only to turn to disappointment at the resounding non-display of jealousy on Julio's part. Did I make a mistake somewhere along the line? she wondered.

Sufficiently put off by Marina's disposition, Spirit moved on to Daniela. This should be interesting, Alania, Sekiya and Shurilii agreed, wondering how Richu would react.

It ended up rather tentative, Daniela looking to Richu to see if he'd respond, Richu looking to Daniela to see if she'd rebuff Spirit. In the short time that he'd been back, he had not yet ascertained whether his valiant move had gotten the job done or not. Based on track record, he didn't think it right to intervene, but if she did nothing… She did nothing, and Richu smiled. She certainly does make a good ice queen.

Playing hard to get or truly uninterested? Spirit wondered, something Richu had never bothered to think about when he had been futilely pursuing her—unfortunate, because in Richu's case it had been the former. In Spirit's case, then, it was the latter.

Alania then approached Spirit and said, "Since you seem so interested in combing through my companions in search of a date, I have to ask: Just how old are you?"

"Not exactly sure, considering how time moves more like a blender than a river in Chaotica, but to estimate…16?"

"More or less on target. We'll have to see what happens," Sekiya said.

"Why are we being ignored?" Misra asked Reala.

"Murphy's Law of Romance: The most interested draw the least interest." Don't I know that all too well…

CCX: Good stopping point for the chapter?

CC: Yeah. Originally we were going to stop six paragraphs earlier, but the first chapter of the third book wouldn't seem right without a commentary, and we've done too much page-stretching lately. I wanted this to be a natural three-pager, not a commentary-assisted three-pager.

CCX: So, what do you all think? This story will continue to switch back and forth between Chaotica and, well, whatever the world that Hakar and Mashishai are on is called. To allow us to use the same set of arrows, or any arrows at all, we're going to try to get both sagas into each chapter, but some chapters may focus solely on one or the other.

CC: So Collerius is a humanoid?

CCX: Yeah; trying to avoid using any characters of copyrighted species in the story.

CC: But we've appeared in there, sort of, and you still make allusions to the characters that are of species of foreign creation.

CCX: Yes, but none of them are actually in the story. Of course, freed from his imprisonment, Terra will obviously not be appearing again in this story…

CC: Correct. Also, figure that all characters summoned during the Darkage battle have returned to their original homes. That's all for now, folks!

CCX (post time): Even though the species is obvious, reading it here. And, yeah, this looks like a good stopping point for now. So, the overarching storyline of the Book of Alania was resolved in the very first chapter of the Book of Izumo, and it was resolved by someone who had just arrived in the world (which does have a name now, but didn't at the time this chapter was first written). And I think this first chapter already shows some of the increased wit of the writing. That whole duality of "did nothing" was pretty cool, I think.

CC (post time): Yeah, but talking about it here ruins it. Ah, but stopping here…we have to stop here for now. There is just so much that we love about the Book of Izumo, namely the new characters. Spirit and Collerius are just the tip of the iceberg, and the pair that is introduced next chapter aren't the ones that we have absolutely fallen in love with, either. (And, yeah, when we said that people would make a faulty assumption as to who it was we loved so much, back in our notes for the "Pilot", we were referring to Spirit, who as a direct descendant of the author's primary online roleplaying character would be a natural for the author's favorite. Spirit is cool, but he's not…well…you'll find out soon enough. There's another major character joining before the 200th chapter, and she's…one of the author's favorites, but she's not the one.

CCX (post time): Yeah…I just thought about another reason that Chapter 189 should not be considered canon. Well, unless we were to reconsider who would be playing that character…

CC (post time): Well, we did say that there would have to be new members of the roleplaying group… perhaps the new character would be played by one of them. We should add a section on the "spin-off" to the notes document.

CCX (post time): But I thought we were abandoning that.

CC (post time): We were abandoning the cheesy romance aspect of it. Or rather, the cheesy aspect of the romance. I think we could actually make something coherent out of a story like that, with the beautiful nerd thing (although I now realize that this has been done before…), and it's…it's good to keep our options open, anyway. If we need something else to write, it'll be good to have that as backup, although the likelihood of it getting written before the Book of Izumo is completed is slim to none. Let's do it.

CC (post time): Wow. It definitely seems like it will be returned to. We've made up characters to have played each of the BoK characters, including one that would still be in high school but moved away before the BoA/BoI campaign, introduced new characters that only have BoI character sheets, and paid attention to the fact that the pilot was taking place somewhat late in the narrator's senior year of high school by deciding that the Book of Izumo was not only being played out during his freshman year of college, but explaining this away with the use of webcams keeping any collegian members of the group (including the DM) in touch with the main party. This also allowed for a character, unmentioned in the pilot and in possession of some BoK character sheets, to return for the Book of Izumo after having a Book of Alania presence limited to reprising her former role as Astra in the final battle after her college term finished up in May, not to mention a character who was still in middle school at the time of the pilot playing a few characters in the Book of Izumo, joining the high school's sci-fi/fantasy club as a freshman. Included on that young character's list of character sheets is the aforementioned "favorite character".

CCX (post time): "Young character's"? You're going to play coy with the gender?

CC (post time): Hey, there's no rules governing which gender our favorite character has to be. Look at our favorites from the Book of Alania: Alania, Rin'ku, Arden, Sekiya, and near the end, Daniela. 3 females, two males. Spirit's not the favorite, but he's a favorite. And the favorite's significant other is also a favorite, and that's not a same-sex relationship—although there is a bisexual character later in this book, just for the hell of it. Well, that's not a fair assessment—the bisexual character really is there for a reason, and bisexuality wasn't explicitly written into her character design originally, although in retrospect this seemed like it should've been obvious right away. (No need to be coy about that gender. Actually, I'll go one further and say that this character has been indirectly mentioned in the Book of Alania.) Mmm…now we absolutely must continue writing, to pick up on the use of that wonderful character. If I remember correctly, we were going to be returning to Polaria again…because it was right to the plot (I won't say why), and because we always needz moar Sweja.

CCX (post time): Okay, that was crazy…and, for some reason, it registered as a fragment. Did you have to write it that way?

CC (post time): Absolutely. We're talking about things that are made of win, like, well, everything since we hit the 230s or so.

CCX (post time): And with that, they'll know as soon as it happens who the favorite character is.

CC (post time): Oh, they'd know right away anyway. The character becomes "made of win" right away.