The fires left as the aftermath of the battle still disrupted their ability to learn the outcome. Near the edge of the radar's detection, another battle seemed to conclude. The lack of accurate information on the individuals fighting left the tent in strained silence. Most of the soldiers knew only pieces of the events that transpired over the last forty-eight hours. The unfortunate part that they all knew was that they had yet to win and end the conflict. Such feelings colored their uncertainties.

All of them prayed that the MP users won and finally ended the attack. Yet they also feared that the MPs all lost and the next move brought them closer to achieving their mysterious goals. Mixed sentiments made such silence difficult to bare.

Simonides felt relieved to see one of the fights end, but something about it bothered him. It was the only fight that occurred out of the camp. He had sent out other MPs as back up, but in the mess of the fires, he lost track of them. Only the radar provided him information. Too many questions remained because of it. The one that concerned him the most was the appearance of third individual, one that he did not send. The unknown person ended up finishing whatever the other person lost.

'Who entered the fight? Did one of the MPs I sent make it?' he already thought, but other thoughts filled him. 'Perhaps it was another from their team?' Simonides despised not knowing enough. Unfortunately, the situation was too dangerous and spread out for him to watch. He also had the obligation to protect his men from the disaster that he invited into their camp.

All of his plans failed to go smoothly. His predictions had too many errors. He knew that they would come to rescue their captured comrade. The way they fought and testimony from those that fought them told him that. It was meant to keep them on the border, but if they split as he feared the plan failed. A trap was not a trap if it failed to capture all of the target. However, capturing a few was a good enough start.

His eyes focused over on the remaining undetermined fight. 'These battles will exhaust them. A battle of attrition is the worst possible tactic for a Commander, but against such powerful enemies, it is the only plan that will actually have success. I will seem them stop this night!'

Chapter 154 – Cracking

"Damnit," panted Athene. She wiped away sweat from her forehead. It forced her to watch the puzzle change shape again. Her successes continued to be meaningless. Nothing breeched the first layer. "I thought I figured it out, yet now…" Spite no longer seemed to be accurate in describing the puzzle.

She got used to the changes only recently. It seemed an impossible feat, but she actually managed it. All of the directionless held significance. She found a way out. Yet she failed.

However, failure was something she grew accustomed to in the mind of Yori. What she was not familiar with was the change that just happened. It no longer changed shape alone, but dimensions. Reality warped to actually become an impossibility. "How is this even possible? A human being can't actually be this complex!"

"And that's where you're wrong!" echoed the voice of Yori. The annoying copy returned to taunt her again. He hovered upside in disjointed pieces around her, as if his presence was not unsettling enough.

Athene wobbled back to her feet. Her body reflected the condition of her mental state in the real world. She barely hung to the desperate notion that she would get answers. The words of a trickster should not have meant anything to Athene, but she needed even a small piece of truth buried underneath a junkyard of lies. An empty promise from an untrustworthy person was all she had.

She staggered forward to the entrance, what might have been considered one to a high-order being. It was the only place that did not look completely impassable. Athene brushed aside a piece of Yori that floated in front of her. "If you're here to mock me…I don't have the time…"

"Aw, don't want to spend any time with me?" A few pieces floated back in front of Athene, not quite getting in the way. "But you're right." Athene ignored him and moved on. "You don't have the time. Any time, in fact."

Her foot stopped its slow march. She knew that she ran out of time. The strain her mind went through to keep her going was easier to feel in each passing moment. Safety left a while ago. "You're just trying to delay me."

"That's hardly necessary anymore. You won't survive another round." A few of the sections of Yori moved around as though extending to the gate before them. "That isn't like the others you've dealt with. A normal human wouldn't survive it for a second." He grinned at her with those words.

"I'm not normal! I can take anything in there!" Athene began to stagger forward again.

"That's where you're both right and wrong. You may possess abilities that aren't normal, but that body and mind is completely normal."

Once more she stopped. The obvious statement should not have changed anything for her. She knew better than anyone that they were no more special than everyone else. Yet his words made her hesitate. The chasm before her produced an ominous presence that permeated through her skin. Athene turned her head up to Yori. "Why are you warning me?"

"Because it's the will of my master. The things you experienced last time was nothing like the defense it offers. Only another like him would be able to survive layer two."

"Layer two? Then I…"

Yori's head nodded to Athene like it might be congratulating her. "You did last to the second layer. I'll admit I didn't you would survive let alone crack it. But I guess those mental skills of yours are more than talk."

Athene fell to one knee with some of the tension in her body disappearing. She actually made it past the first layer of defense. "Then you'll—"

"Change my attitude as promised! I have been kinder already, haven't I? Crawling through the dirt as you have you don't look arrogant anymore."

"I want answers! I don't care about attitude or opinions! Answers! Give them to me!"

Yori's eyes grew a little in reaction. "You thought that I meant if you succeeded in passing the first layer I'd tell you want you wanted to know?" He laughed causing all of the pieces to shake in the air. "I never made such a promise!"

"You lying—"

"I didn't lie. You just misinterpreted. You get nothing!"

Athene's eyes widen in surprise. All of the work she struggled for to ruin her body. Even though she knew she should not believe him. The truth ran her through painfully regardless. She wasted her time to gain nothing.

He won, again.

She collapsed to the ground. Her breathing ran out of control to the point of hyperventilating. Everything felt heavy.

Yori materialized whole next to her. He reached out to her shaking body. "Well I guess I can leave you with one small piece." His hand touched her back. The reaction made his eyebrow rise. "Pass out huh? How unlucky!" Shortly after, Athene's body faded away from the space. He looked up in no specific direction of significance. "I wonder how long it'll be before he realizes that she's here? Things could get very interesting soon."

Deep inside the camp, a calmer battle continued with almost no one realizing it. After the initial disruption by Yumi, very little happened. Winds died down and soldiers escaped. The area emptied out. They were given the space to exchange attacks, even though they did nothing.

Yumi and the teenage boy stared off over the distance, but did nothing to close. She did not know why the boy made no attack on her. The reason for her own hesitation lied in her uncertainty of her powers. Her barrier cracked for no reason. It weakened and she did not know why.

Her initial thought was that it was an attack from the boy, but she felt nothing from him like with the others. 'I don't see anything from him, even a field isn't present. Could it be something with me? Is my doubt hurting my power?' Yumi needed answers, but knew that the boy stood in her way of finding her brother.

Answers had to wait.

'He doesn't look like he's got any defenses. Why?' Her hand lifted up activating the wind that spun around her. Broken or cracked, she still had most of her barrier working. 'I just need to be decisive and finish things quickly before he does anything.' She knew them to be just a fragile as everyone else. A quick attack would solve the problems.

Wind kicked away pieces of debris and tightened loose cloth. Folded and hardened, a green arc molded in the air with the motion of Yumi's hand. It sped towards the boy. He made no motions to dodge or even acknowledge it. She expected something from him, even if it was only a slight reaction. It was as though it did not exist to him. Yumi did not understand him.

Worse, she did not understand what happened to her attack. It faded away into particles before it hit the boy. Nothing happened to him. The attack made no reaction or impact. "Huh?" Yumi pulled hand back to look at it. She knew her powers were still new and something she still worked to understand, but it worked for her. Everything she did in the camp worked. 'What's wrong? Is this the boy's doing?'

Another crack in her barrier diverted her attention. The whole section shattered into pieces disappearing. She tried to materialize it, but nothing happened. It refused her. Yumi widened her eyes in shock and confusion. 'What's happening to my power?!'

The boy took a step forward, only a single step. It was enough to alert Yumi. His approach made sweat drip down her face. She felt secure in her power protecting her, but without it. 'I'm just a normal girl…I need my power!' Yumi tightened her hands into fists. 'Even if my power is failing and malfunctioning I can still use some of it! I just have to focus!' She could not lose her power.

Yumi tossed another arc at the boy with more energy inserted into it. However, it veered off and slammed into the ground. Earth pulverized from the impact clouding the area surrounding the boy. She gritted her teeth and threw another with the same effect. It did not follow her control. 'I just need to adjust…'

Another attempt brought it at his feet, but still nothing. Yumi kept trying with her aim progressively getting worse. Her barrier evaporated around her just as quickly. Only one section remained protecting her, but not a whole hemisphere.

'It's falling apart… Nothing's working… Why!?'

"If you're going to do something," replied the boy, "I might suggest you do it now." He started another step to bring his approach closer. A slight raise in his eyes revealed itself when he met eyes with Yumi. "I guess you can't though with the status quo maintained."

Yumi's head tilted up towards him. He spoke again for only the second time. However, what he said mattered more to her than him speaking. She felt the implications. "It's your doing! Isn't it!"

"I'm not sure what you're talking about. I haven't done anything to you."

She shook her head at him. Her mind started to think again about the situation. None of it made any sense, but the factor of the boy fit in without question. "You did something. It wasn't until you appeared that I started having troubles with my abilities." Yumi extended her arm out to point at the boy, accusing him. "You're the cause, not me."

"Oh?" he asked, putting a tilt to his head. He took another two steps towards Yumi. "But you haven't done anything yet."

The words made Yumi stagger a little. She knew that he had to be lying to her. Yet the look in his eyes spoke as though they were the truth. It made no sense to her. "You're the one that's done nothing yet. I've been attacking you."

"I see, so that's what you thought you were doing." The expression on the boy's face became darker and hardened with an unusual amount of age and maturity. He crept even closer to her. "You've done nothing."

Yumi did not understand the boy. Her powers started to fade, but she knew that she was fighting. The only thing she could do was prove it to him. She charged for him forcing the wind to spin up around her. Green slabs of her barrier materialized around her. All came to answer her call. She would not let him make another step. "I'll end this now!" Yumi closed the distance with the boy. Her hand came out planning to knock him out in a single stroke and move on.

Her hand passed through the boy. He faded from her sight. Everything turned black for a second before the camp returned to her sight.

The boy stood next to her with his fingers pressed to her forehead. "Still nothing. All of it is nothing." His fingers pressed through her head seeping inside her mind. A bloody, deathly scream escaped Yumi's lips as her eyes turned completely white. "However, soon you'll wish for only nothing. The nightmare begins…"

To be continued…