Thinning clouds allowed a faint white light to bleed through. It took on further shape as the smoke dissipated. The form was large and wide, but became clear quickly through pockets of the clouds. A lion's head bathed in white light revealed itself. Seated on its back, Haruo, dirtied from the experience in the liquefied earth, unharmed still.

"Now we can begin," Teris remarked with excitement. The moment he waited for had not disappointed him. More questions continued to rise in his mind. Question that needed answers. 'Their powers work on a fundamentally different level than ours. Is it truly a spirit or non-corporeal entity? Or is it just a manifestation of his ability? So many things I must know!'

His eyes quickly started to analyze what he had of Haruo power. All he had at his disposal was the animal, which not a lot for him to go from. 'A lion, is there meaning to it? Significance in this rather than another animal. It's clearly too large to be a real lion. None have ever been known to be that large. So it's fictitious, but he using it as a model. Judging from the mane, I'd say it's a Cape Lion, but they've been extinct for a while. Definitely not real. Does this mean he uses his memory or imagination to create the animals? Would imply this is not a spirit then.' Too much speculation, that was all he could conclude. He needed more sample points. A single animal was not enough.

'He's not wasting anytime examining my power,' judged Haruo. Both of their insight and deductive skills were high. The more each revealed the more dangerous it would become for the other. Weakness came out quickly in such a situation. 'I'll have to be careful with him. I already don't want to fight, but he's going to push me to do so. Last time I was able to manage, but he's clearly more resourceful and talented than them. He'll find a way through my defense in time.' Haruo stared across the field at Teris with equal intensity. The man had nothing new to show, but Haruo could not miss a moment with him. 'The possibility this reaches the point where I'll have to fight back is very high. If that happens I should try to end it quickly, just to keep things from dragging out.'

Just examining the situation reached its end. A new action would obtain further information. The decision made, a new vial appeared in his hand. "Let's see how your pet handles this." Another identical vial of shape and color accompanied the other. "From here on out you'll have to use that brain of yours to figure things out. No more hints."

"Fine." The previous warnings came as a little surprising, but it did give Haruo a good sense of the man he faced. He was fair, if nothing else.

Chapter 252 – Restrained Beast

The battle began, though calling it one might have been overselling the scene. Haruo remained defensive even with Teris throwing the vials at him. It seemed more aimed at the lion than him. So dodging it was easy.

Shattering in the grass, a hiss came from the burning as the liquid poured out. Anything it touched completely dissolved in moments. 'Acid, perhaps the same from before. I never saw the reaction it had. But it's clear he's trying to understand how my power works. Breaking down the animal would certainly give him some valuable information.'

An expected result for Teris, however a simple challenge barely provided any interest to him. He would just have to keep trying. 'He's not attacking still. He seems set on not making an offensive action despite his situation. It won't be like before.'

It sort of went against his method, but his style did not fit well with someone that had as fast reactions. A normal pace from other humans was what he was used to dealing with. More vials appeared in his hands, but the count increased with him fanning them out behind his fingers. It was like taking a shotgun to the problem. An inelegant solution, but still the only option. He needed to get a hit.

'Numbers, makes sense. If they all move as expected, then it shouldn't be a problem. But he can use his power…' Haruo needed no preparation, even with the escalation. The watchful eyes kept locked on each of his movements. He would be able to be ready.

Released into the air, dozens of glass vials spun end over end towards Haruo in the animal. The spread on them went wider than initially telegraphed. Dodging did not prove to be an issue, in fact it was even easier. Until he realized one of the vials was not like the others. It was already reacting before he could do anything.

Chain explosions went off throughout the array as more hidden vials appeared. The yield was low enough that the risk did not come from blast, but what the blast did. It managed to spread and accelerate the acid in all directions. Avoiding it would have been impossible. The lion understood that and leapt in front of Haruo to shield him.

'Hmm…looked more like the lion acted rather than commanded by him. Does it have a mind, its own intelligence? I would have figured that he'd command it. An interesting detail…' Once the smoke cleared away, it gave him a better look at the beast. Holes dotted its frame from where the acid burned through.

Nothing serious, yet.

When the regeneration began Teris interested peaked again. 'So the damage can be healed. That'll be problematic, but how much damage can it take?' More tests were required.

Summoning up more of his usual, things advanced to the next stage. Rather than holding them this time, they flew out from under his sleeves. It became easily apparent for the reason. He stopped dealing in only a few that he could hold. The count went beyond the norm. Many rolled around on the ground while he continued to launch more.

Haruo stoic face narrowed a little watching the scene. 'Such a large scale, but judging from these they aren't the same timed attacks. Guessing this is a proximity like charge and given his previous attack, likely a variety of compounds.' He knelt down pressing his hand to the earth for a moment. 'He's observant, anything I do he'll pick up on unless I distract him.' Finally, he started realizing a proactive role in the situation.

Within sight of him was one of the unknown compounds. A quick assessment based on the color gave him a good enough guess. He picked it up and threw it what he believed a safe distance of three meters in front of him, between Teris and himself.

The blast however was more powerful than he expected and caused a chain reaction throughout the field. Explosions popped up from flying debris, but the main one covered all way the back to Haruo. Intense heat burned against his skin, but it was still no more than like opening an oven door.

'Testing? Or a screen?' wondered Teris, until the smoke cleared. Then he understood. Wolves appeared alongside the lion. 'A subspecies I don't recognize, probably a small regional type. Still the fact that he wanted to hide him calling these means that seeing it would give more clues to how his power functions.' He grinned a little with excitement. Working the problem was when he was at his happiest. 'Even when you try to give me nothing I'll still get something. Every action is a new piece of information for me.'

The white color of the wolves matched that of the lion. Everything down to the larger than normal size fit in line. However, the more important note that Teris picked up on was that the wolves moved in an aggressive manner. They looked like they stalked their prey, already fanning out. The pack of six wolves each kept contact on Teris. Infrequent low growls kept their intent clear.

'Most curious. The animals actually seem ready for a fight, yet the expression on his face hasn't changed. He still looks completely detached from the situation. Is it because he can use his pets by proxy and keep himself removed?' Encircling wolves turned up the tension in the air as the mood shifted down quickly. 'Looks like I'll have to make a move and stop thinking. I'll have more time later once I deal with this.'

Monitoring the progress of the wolves' advance, he picked exactly the measures needed. His hands slid through the air moving through a strange pattern, traced by his fingers. It was a series of vertical lines evenly spaced. "Got it." His hand came to a stop and his index finger moved as though it pushed button, even though it was only the air.

The action was not for play. Immediately in response, a sudden blast of water with rapidly freezing properties stretched out in all directions. The nearby wolf could not react quickly enough falling for the trap. It only partially encased the animal.

Another air button press triggered another trap, this time smoke, but quickly turned to flame as the partials combusted. The beast went up in flames running about unable to put it out. Further explosions and traps went off finally putting it out of its misery.

More traps went off for the remaining four wolves. The effects varied with differing amounts of success, none were ever the same. It made the diversity in the vials clear.

Both of the men were thick in calculations based off what they learned. Haruo needed to know more of what to expect, but did not plan for such accuracy. 'So he has an eidetic memory. The hand motions are his means of recall like pushing buttons on a panel. And he stopped using normal means of catalyst. They were all created by his mind, so he can set them off whenever he desires. He's gotten more serious.' Out of the wolves, he still had three that survived. Recovering their injuries, they would be ready soon.

Teris had a new wealth of information based on his traps. 'I can conclude now that what he's creating doesn't have a physical body in the traditional sense. It's still affected by its surroundings, but doesn't hold the same properties. Poisons and paralysis have no effect, the ice only froze it, but didn't cause any damage to limbs or internal structure. They can be destroyed with enough effort. The animals are his power, whatever he uses manifests them and they are created out of that source.' He felt it still too early to conclude if they were spirits, but the theory lost some support from his current findings.

Refilling the field with more of his vials, he readied the next round of tests. The wolves seemed ready for the attack once again. Their stalking already began. Encircling them, Teris stood at the ready to dispose of them, yet the opportunities did not come when he expected. 'They're avoiding the traps I revealed before. They know which ones have no effect.' Glancing over at Haruo, it made him wonder once again about his previous findings. 'Is it their instinct or is he controlling them? It seems unlikely they'd understand that quickly. How can he see from his position if he is commanding them?'

New questions came to Teris, but they would have to wait for later. The wolves came close enough to leap for an attack. Their timing was exact to be sure it was a three-prong strike from flanking positions.

A white glove materialized on Teris' hand as he produced a vial. The wolves immediately understood the familiar color, the ice trap. However, already committed, their course could not be changed. Teris poured out the contents of the vial in an endless stream. Using his gloved hand like a brush, he actually seemed to control the course and strength of the water flow as it froze. Unlike the wolves trapped in ice, his hand never froze.

'A special glove he can use to manipulate the water? It probably can be used with many of his compounds to alter them at his will.' As much as Teris learned about the intricacies in Haruo's power, the reverse remained equally true. He needed to see the man's defense for his next plan.

Haruo held one of the vials spread out over the field. The color was a faint pinkish hue, but more orange. Each compound had subtle differences, mostly by color. He could tell the slight alterations, likely meant to be easy identification for Teris and stump his opponents that lack a discerning eye.

Throwing the container across the ten meter distance was a simple effort for him. Strength behind his arm easily shattered it on the ice as it continued to vine out over the wolves. Flames ignited as the fluid spread out. It quickly grew out of control following the path that Teris mapped with his hand. The wolves looked to be engulfed as well until the ice shattered consumed by flame allowing them to break free.

Freedom granted to the beasts, they dropped down. Scattered fires persisted along their bodies, but had no meaningful affect. They wasted no time jumping back into action, wanting to bring Teris down ending the fight immediately, as desired by Haruo.

Pinning Teris down, the three wolves clawed at him working up to the finish. However, vines grew up from around his body latching on quickly to the wolves. As they grew larger, it pushed the wolves off Teris and into the air until they were completely entangled.

Removing himself from the greenery, Teris stood up nearby. His hand rested on one of the vines grown out to a thickness greater than his body. "Incredible plant. Highly reactive to any sort of movement. It loves to grow and wrap around anything that moves."

'That's not normal growth, he must have accelerated it somehow. Such science isn't possible with current technology, meaning he's not limited himself to just the present day. He's investigated future advancements. This makes him even more unpredictable.'

"You've gotten more active finally. You've been far too passive to have been taking this seriously. I'm guessing you've still got plenty left to show." A new container appeared in his hand, but it was no longer the standard glass vial. Clad in metal and sealed with bolts, the multi-faced shape defied Teris established motif. "Know what I've got stored in here?"

Haruo had no response for him. It was a rhetorical question. The whole point meant to draw his attention to it. However, the container concerned him. 'What requires such an unusual design? The implication is that it is dangerous.'

His hand moved towards the seal on the metal container. "A fabricated element of the cosmos lies inside." A strange light began to break through the partial opening in the seal. Everything in the area died expanding outward.

To be continued…