A/N: OMG...I actually finished something. That is...something else LOL. Well, I said my goal was to finish War of Wishes before I graduated...and I totally failed that. So let's just see how far we get before the summer is done, ey? Since I'm once again bumming around this summer (God, I'm totally screwed for the future), maybe I'll make some actual decent progress! Heh...this chapter and the last seem really appropriate for my current state of being.
Hey, looks like we finally made it. This is the final stretch. The last chapter, if you will. The last 12 chapters have been like a mini-cyclone through the parts and stories of my life that set everything up for this chapter. In a story about the number 13, surely you'll agree with me that it makes sense for this to end on the thirteenth chapter, right?
But at the same time, I'm sure you've all noticed the standard opening motif to these chapters as well: a discussion on a specific number. And while it hasn't always been consistent or in line with the actual chapter number, there's always a little intro on a different one. By now, you might have come to the realization that the knowledge for those intros came largely from the time I spent with Alexandria in my grade 12 year. Well this chapter will be no different. The number we'll talk about, the only number left, is the number 1.
Surprisingly for all of its supposed importance, the number 1 does not have many mystical roots or religious connections. This might have something to do with the fact that the idea of having only 'one' god is relatively recent. Previous mythologies much preferred pantheons of a larger number, and even barring that, the numbers 3 and 7 were used much more than a single entity. Even the number 2 is better for magic and religion; you can set up a duality, a comparison, a mirror, or a safeguard with the number 2. It's much harder to do that with the number 1, which by definition demands isolation and singularity.
Despite all that, the number 1 is used so much in normal society now-a-days. You have to come first in competitions, standings, ratings. You want to be number one in the class, have the number one score, come first in a race. Even if it's not about standings, people in western society have this socially developed attribute of feeling 'unique' or 'special.' Even if only subconsciously they want to feel like they are different from everyone else, as if they are a single, one individual that cannot be replicated or attached to any other without their consent. The number one is everywhere, but especially in positions of power. There is 'one' head of state, 'one' CEO, 'one' king. For such a generic, non-mystical number, the number 1 holds incredible importance in mundane daily affairs. I guess that just shows how selfish we all are as human beings.
So what does the number 1 have to do with this chapter, and this story? Well, this story is chiefly the story of myself, and I am 1 character. Like I said, selfish, right? And while this is actually the 'last' chapter of this story, I guess in some ways, you can also consider the first of another one…but we'll see if we have time for that later. Oh, and something does happen for the first time in this chapter, but is that enough to tie it to the number 1? Well, I'll let you decide.
If you'll recall from the last chapter, we left off at a certain outdoor swimming pool….
Oh, and it just happened to be 1 AM.
I moved my other hand over to my wrist, feeling the burning sensation and the implicit link that I had thought was severed. Of course even without it, I wouldn't have made any other decision. I stepped through the gates.
The night air was cool, but hardly chilly. It was after all, a summer evening near the end of June. About three quarters of the moon can be seen, illuminating the night sky where the streetlights and 24 hour billboards cannot reach.
The inside of the local outdoor pool is divided into two major sections. On the left side of the large rectangular was the shallow end, complete with a small sectioned off oval segment with so little water that even toddlers could stand in it. As one moved from left to right, the pool got progressively deeper, until you hit the far right, where water depth was a bit over 2 meters. At the far right edge was the diving board and accompanying ladder. Surrounding the whole rectangle was mostly gravel and cement sidewalks, with some small grassy areas meant for families to sit. Attached to the wall on the far north-west corner were the outdoor showers. The wall itself was a part of the indoor change rooms.
I hadn't been an avid swimmer, but like most kids who grew up in this city, I had visited the pool enough times during previous summers to know it pretty well. So I wasn't really paying attention to any of the stuff I just described when I got to the pool area. My eyes went immediately to the far right, towards the diving board.
"Looking for something, boy?"
The light Russian accent cuts through the air. My eyes snap downwards from the empty diving board. Standing across from me, to the far right of the swimming pool, was Ivan the Strong-arm. The giant of a man, standing at least 2 meters high and probably taller, looks at me with an amused expression.
"Where is she?" If I had been surprised by this, I didn't let it show. Truthfully when I saw that picture, the only thought on my mind had been to go to her. Immediately. But I suppose if I stopped and thought about it, he would have been the most likely culprit of the people I knew.
"Ah, you mean ze girl, yes?" Ivan crosses his huge arms over his chest and looks up at the diving board with a pensive expression. Strangely, his Russian accept seems to be much easier to understand this time around. While it is still unmistakable the same voice and intonation, the words seem clearer and a more uniform pronunciation seems to be in effect.
"What did you do to her?"
"She has been…removed from this city. It vas not my idea, though I suppose that vill mean nothing to you. But ah…my father…he decided that a bargaining chip is better used twice than once."
"Where. Is. She?" I speak through clenched teeth. In any other situation I might have felt fear. Maybe I was actually afraid, and I just couldn't tell.
"In a particular city, most likely. You see, boy, the world is about to change. A war is coming. And you and I…and her, vell, let's just say we had some unfinished business."
"I have no idea what you're talking about."
"Ah vell, let me put it this way, then. I came to this city a long time ago, because my father told me my 'right' vould be decided here. To obtain that 'right', I vould have to prove myself indisputably as the strongest. Do you understand vat that means, boy?"
"So you set yourself up at the top of the food chain. Made a name for yourself as the Strong-arm and as a genius. Yeah, I get that. So why'd you go after her?"
Ivan snorts, an amused sound, "Hmph, so you see? You do not understand at all. The academia, the street thug trash that they call a 'gang' in this backwater cesspit of human laziness-they are nothing. For Magus, the only ones who can be considered strong are Magus."
So that was that. Of course I had already suspected it. But that was confirmation that Ivan belonged in the same world as Alexandria. Before I could respond, he continued.
"Ven I arrived to this city, I moved quickly through the trash, hoping to find vat my father saw but did not decide to tell me. I could find nothing, no magical trace or potentials, no street thug heading himself up as a sort of ruler, or a corrupt politician using magic to get elected. But then, a year and a half ago, it happened."
"The demon breakthrough attempt."
He nodded, "It vas impossible, or so I originally believed. After all, if a summoner with the power to draw such a large demonic portal had entered this city, I voud have been aware of him. But then I realized…it vas from zat family."
"You know who she is?" Though I was surprised, I suppose I really shouldn't have been. After all, how many other families in the world could have made such an outrageous 'deal with the devil', so to speak?
"A member of ze god-forsaken demon-path family…yes, when I understood it was one of them, it appeared as if my rival for 'strongest' had finally appeared."
"So you…what? Challenged her to a fight? Tonight of all nights? Why not earlier?"
"She has been…exceptionally evasive over the past year. While I had known her location, the magic's she employed were of an extremely high calibre…almost as if she was protecting something. Ah, but of course, I caught up to her eventually, as you have witnessed. She vas…less of a challenge than I anticipated. Though zat family's strength has never been in combat."
"Who the hell are you, anyway? What's the point of being 'strongest?' Why did you have to fight her?" It was a lot to take in, and it was only getting more confusing.
"As I have said, boy, a war is coming."
"WHAT THE HELL DOES THAT EVEN MEAN?"
"Patience…all will be revealed before the night is done. Now, shall we begin?" Moving for the first time, Ivan the Strong-arm moves into an odd stance. His legs move to shoulders length apart. His arms fall to his side, but his entire body gives off the feeling of a 'readiness.'
"Begin? What are you talking about?" Interestingly, my body follows suit, into a standard boxer's stance. Even if my mind doesn't know it yet, something inside of me knows what's coming.
"You know…boy, I vas truly surprised to find out zat it vas you that was being protected. Back then…who would have thought that there was a child in zis backwater city, unrelated to any magical line, that had potential like yours?"
"I'm not what you think I am."
"You are a magus, are you not?"
"Of a kind, I suppose." Standing before me is a person who, just a year ago, completely destroyed me. I could have died back then. I'm better now then I was back then. Training in actual martial arts, and having been in countless more real fight situations. But was that really anything, compared to this giant who had clearly had a childhood of magical training, on top of who knows what else?
"Then we must fight, as is the way of the Magus. I must prove my supremacy over you, once and for all. "
"What, last summer wasn't good enough for you?"
"Ah, but surely you have grown since then, have you not, boy?"
"What difference does that make? Didn't you prove your point back then?"
A strangely serious expression takes over the Strong-arm's face.
"I truly wish I had, boy. But a war is coming, and my father will not be disappointed. I will represent him, as is our duty. Now, PREPARE YOURSELF!"
With that raised shout, he sprints forward. Showing that unparalleled speed, he covers the distance between us in seconds. I duck the first punch aimed at my head, and moved to his left side, sending a right undercut into his gut.
The satisfying sound of impact if followed by me quickly pulling away, disengaging from Ivan. Moving three steps back quickly, I look up just in time to dodge a right hook. I retreat again. When I look up again, I hear a boisterous laugh.
"Hohohoho! You see? Much better, boy. Improved speed, reaction time, and instinct. Much better!" He seems completely unfazed by my punch. Though I had actually expected that much.
Ok, I can switch between up to two of my skills without any delay. Using a third skill is possible…but it'll leave me exhaust. After that, there's a 20 minute delay between skills. I can't risk that. I'll just have to end it with…strength!
I focus on the ox symbol on the chain around my wrist, invoking it quickly. It glows in the moonlit darkness. The liquid calm flows through my limbs, and I feel reinvigorated by my strength. With the newfound calm, I ask a question:
"Ivan the Strong-arm! I don't really give a shit about any of what you just said about proving yourself the 'strongest.' But if I beat you, will you tell me where she is?"
He answers with a shrug, "There vould be no reason not to!"
"Do I have your word?" Oh look, it's like I've gone back in time 400 years.
But the look on Ivan's face tells me that was the right thing to say. Almost with respect, he replies, "I swear by my family and name, Ivanovich of the Clan Alistross!"
I nod. And the fight recommences.
I take a step forward. Almost immediately, a devastating straight is thrown to wards my chest. But instead of dodging…
I had caught his fist with my left hand, holding it in place with grip strength alone. Moving it past my head and closing the distance, I land a second undercut to his gut with my right.
This one causes him to reel backwards. Before he can recover, I move in with a flurry of light punches to his face and head. Of course, with my current strength, even a light punch is like 4 times the strength of a regular one. Pushing him into a defensive corner, I continue hammering with punches.
Then, unexpectedly, Ivan opens his guard completely-and instantly moves in, closing the distance between our bodies. Both of his arms wrap around me in a bear hug. Abusing his superior mass, it's impossible for me to break out of his grip, even with my strength. I aim my knee and thrust upwards towards his stomach-
Instead of feeling the impact of my knee on flesh, it instead feels like I hit a densely packed wall. It was so jarring, I could feel the vibrations on my knee spreading towards my lower body. Suddenly caught in an awkward position, the distance between the two of us separate for an instant, and then a front kick appears too fast for me to react.
I am literally sent flying backwards, reeling from the impact and landing (luckily) with my back onto the grass. Recovering as quickly as I can, I stand and decide on a change of tactics.
"Confused, boy? Vould you like to know how I managed that?" Instead of pressing his advantage, he patiently allows me to stand.
Better than that..!
"Better yet, what are your weaknesses? How do I defeat you?" My eyes glow golden and the eyepiece symbol burns gold on my wrist. The activation of my second allowed skill, truthsense. An incomparable compulsion that demands absolute truth from the victim. A power I had only used once before, which had led to a regret I doubt I would ever shake. At least this second time, I would have no qualms with using it.
But his reply is…
"I have no weaknesses. My origin is supremacy. And there is no way you, in your current form, can defeat me."
Even as he speaks in that assured tone of his, his eyes widen and he moves to cover his mouth, "Ah, why, vat a powerful compulsion. That's an interesting talent you have there. But, you vouldn't happen to-"
I was such an idiot. Why hadn't I thought of this solution sooner? I didn't even need to fight him in the first place. For what reason was I fighting? To figure out the answer to a question.
"Where is Alexandria Ke-" But before I can complete my question, he moves.
"-be thinking about reneging on our deal, vould you?" Jumping up, he aims his fist towards me. I roll backwards, narrowly avoiding his punch as he slams the ground with his body's landing. Recovering with amazing speed, I barely have time to stand up myself before he is again approaching me at a sprint.
"I think it's time we stopped fighting like schoolchildren, don't you agree?" With that, he pulls a glinting object from his pocket and lunges once he's within punching distance.
Reflexively, I pull back to avoid, lifting my hands block what they can. Suddenly,
The crackling of the air between us. A spark lights up the night air, erupting from the chain on my hand. Poised centimetres from it is the tip of an ornate bronze dagger. As if trying to force the dagger closer, Ivan's face is scrunched in effort. Then, after a few seconds, we separate.
"Ohohoho….so, it vas the bracelet all along." Realization lights up on Ivan's face.
-Pant Pant Pant-
Breathing heavily, I give my ribs a tentative feel. While 'strength' does somewhat improve the physical durability of my body, it is obviously not a 1 for 1 ratio of improvement. That last kick had hurt me a lot more than I initially thought. Moving my body too quickly felt like something would give. But what choice did I have?
"Such a powerful magical tool…and I bet you had no idea all along, did you? Tell me, how did you acquire such a thing?"
"Heh….heh...it was a gift."
"Zat bracelet of yours…it not only enables your abilities, it is wrapped in a multitude of defensive enchantments. No doubt, even a rank B enchantment vould have difficulties breaking through those barriers. I suppose I do not even have to ask who gave you such a gift."
I look down at the silver chain. It still feels hot against my skin. But this time, I can almost see the dark hints of scorch marks along the chain.
"No…I guess I had no idea. I'll add that to my list of things I need to thank her for. After I rescue her." I resume a fighting stance, fighting the feeling in my body telling me that this fight is unwinnable.
"Hmm…that vould be a good thing indeed. But tell me…how vill you be able to face her, after zat precious gift is destroyed?" Approaching me again, he strafes in from the left side, aiming for my exposed side.
I dodge, but again, my arm automatically moves to intercept.
"Just to let you know, boy, this dagger is an anti-relic weapon capable of piercing mysteries Rank B+ and lower. Even your bracelet will not survive a third blow."
The smoking from the chain, and the black burn marks appearing sporadically tell me he's telling the truth. I can't allow him to hit the chain again. There really is no way I could forgive myself if this gift was destroyed while I could have prevented it!
This time, approaching from the right side. his dagger aims directly at the bracelet on my wrist. Using enhanced strength, I move to intercept him, ducking under him and moving to grab his wrist.
"Fool. Are you so easily led by such an obvious bait?"
The trajectory of his dagger arm reverses at the last moment, and strikes my very exposed face.
"AHHHHH!" Bloody vision, and a mist of red covers my eyes. Searing pain, like lighting the inside of my eyes on fire. Reeling back, I clutch my face…and feel a warm sticky liquid, along with a puss-like feeling dripping into my hands.
Falling to the floor, the bloody red mist begins to lift. Clutching my face, I try to open my eyes.
I try to open my eyes…
I remove my hands from my face slightly, pulling them away so I can see…
I try to open my eyes.
The bloody mist completely lifts. All that is left is darkness. I try to open my eyes.
I realized they were already open.
The Russian giant of the Alistross clan stands beside the pool, in that moonlit outdoor swimming pool. In front of him is his opponent, a 'supposed' magus, with no magical goal or family name. Really, like so many drawn into the world of Magus, nothing more than a child. His opponent, a boy barely 18 years of age, is face down on the grass, clutching his face with both arms.
That last attack from the Strong-arm was exceptionally easy to predict. Aim for the one thing that he said he would aim for, then go for an exposed area. It was the folly of the boy to leave his face exposed. An amateur mistake, made by an amateur running on high emotions.
"And zat…is that. The dagger, after all, is still a dagger. It is perfectly capable of severing nerves and causing critical damage as a dagger." Who is the Russian giant speaking to? Himself? The opponent who can barely hear him through the pain and realization of his loss? Either way, it is a useless muttering.
But he continues, "It truly saddens me that ve had to meet under such circumstances, boy. I vill be frank with you, your potential was astounding. Ven I first saw you…when I understood who you were and vat you signified…well. I will tell you this, boy, your origin was 'omnipotence.' It is truly unfortunate that you will not survive tonight to realize it."
His intention is made clear; the winner of this match would not be allowed to survive. And the winner was already decided, wasn't it?
Pant. Pant. Pant.
Heavy breathing rings through the swimming pool. The boy, barely a man, stands up. Shakily, surprisingly, slowly, he stands up. His eyes are closed. The lines of red and white are drying on the edges of his eyes.
"Who…says…I won't survive? I'm…I'm not done yet." Each word is an effort. The way his entire body is wobbling…it screams weakness.
"Who do you think you are, boy?" While there is a certain admiration in his tone, Ivan is on the whole, disdainful. "I know you, and your capabilities. Two of your numerous skills is your maximum, with a 20 minute interval separating any additional ones. You are finished."
"I…said…I'm not done yet. Not until…you tell me where she is."
"If this were any other battle, on any other day, boy, I would let you live. I would spare you, so that we may fight again, when you have realized more of yourself. But today is different. Today, it seems, you must die. So it does not matter what you say, and for that, I am sorry."
"You have nothing left, boy. You no longer have your mystic eyes. Your strength is no match for me. You can do nothing else."
"….wanna bet?" A sudden shift in the boy's tone. The shaking and wobbling in his body stops. The atmosphere changes. The Russian giant takes a step back.
An expression of curiosity rests on his face. While he does not believe there is any real threat, this is still unexpected. After all, just a second ago, the boy had been on the floor, in unbearable pain. So where did he find his new-found stability?
"You're wrong by the way…my origin isn't 'omnipotence.' It's more like…a Jack of All Trades."
With that statement, the entire world goes dark.
End Intermission (?)
When I realized that I had lost my vision, it was like a part of my mind turned off. What happened for the next little while was well with-in my conscious thought, but somehow I felt strangely disconnected from it. It was like I was watching a show, where I could predict all the twists and turns, but in the end, it was still a show. To this day, I haven't been able to explain it. Nor has it ever happened again.
But what had happened? Basically, when I realized I had lost my vision, I got floored by my power. It was like the liquid calm that accompanied the activation of an ability, multiplied by a thousand. I could literally feel the magic soaring through my body at an accelerated rate. And like had happened in previous incidents, I was filled with a sense of 'necessity', and it was like I just suddenly knew.
My origin…the original mover, the prime motivator for all of my existence. It was a concept I had only touched on briefly with Alexadria, and it was something I still didn't fully understand. But in that brief moment, the words lighted up in my mind, and I knew. At that instant, I gained unlimited, unrestricted access to my abilities. So I used 'instant darkness.'
Using enhanced speed and strength, I lunged towards Ivan.
THUMP THUMP THUMP
Quickly, in less than a second, I had punched him in the face, chest and left rib. All three had impacted. Following that, he blocked my next kick, and slammed his palm into my chest.
Reeling backwards, I healed the damage and stood my ground.
"Doesn't even hurt." It was true too. With my healing skill, the pain also seemed to disappear quicker in this state.
"Ohohoho…I see. A state where you can activate any and all of your abilities at once…formidable. But still, not enough to defeat me."
I attack again. This time he meets me in a grapple, reacting to my movements. I push him back, slowly but steadily.
I can do this…I'm stronger than him!
"Strength is nothing if you cannot harm me."
"UGHHH!" With a great deal of effort, I give a huge push. I fall forwards as he falls backwards. We both go into the deep end of the pool.
Of course you remember that I have the ability which enables me to halt my own breathing for an indeterminate amount of time, don't you?
Instantly, I split myself, creating 5 doppelgangers. This was a skill I rarely used, but I found that controlling them was actually as simple as giving the barest of thought. After all, they were really all just me, turned into five at the moment of convergence. We all piled onto the Russian, holding him down.
Of course I had no intention of killing him. Something inside me told me that I would be able to revive him even if he stopped breathing. All I needed was to hold him until that point.
We must have been in the water for a good 3 minutes. For the first minute, he had struggled. For the next two, he had stopped struggling, but from the movements, I could tell that he was most likely baiting me into letting go of my grip. Then suddenly,
A hurricane of force exploded from beneath me. All six versions of me flew into the air, and out of the water. By the time I landed, I had already selected the one most likely to land on grass and dissolved the other ones. I didn't need the accumulated pain coming back to me. Getting up, I healed my injuries.
Now at this point, you might have assumed that I had just healed my eyes. Actually…I hadn't. I had tried…but whatever that dagger had hit me with, it had proved impossible to reverse the damage. It seemed there was some limit to my healing ability…
So how was I seeing, you might ask? Well, this will sound crazy, but I knew exactly what I was going to do before I did it. It was almost like…I was seeing my own future. And so I just moved as if I was looking at everything a second or two in advance. I was following lock and step with a movie that predicted my future seconds in advance. But back to the matter at hand.
"Now, do you vant to know why you cannot defeat me, boy?"
Both of us are soaked. The water glistening from our bodies are equal parts pool water and equal parts sweat.
"Alright, I'll bite. Enlighten me."
"My ability….it's name is 'Reverse Point.' It is the magical skill only I posses, due to the uniqueness of my origin. It vill take vhatever offensive parameter you attempt to use against me, and supply me vith the appropriate reactive defensive parameter, vith at least von unit score higher."
"…In English please?" Actually, I had somewhat understood…but I wish I hadn't,
"In other words, ven you showed me that remarkable strength earlier, my ability supplied me vith the iron defence necessary to repel you. Ven you demonstrated that amazing speed, my ability supplied me with reaction time necessary to divert you. Ven you pushed me under water and restrained me with the strength of a hundred men, my ability gave me equal reactive force to free myself. A defence von unit higher than your offence. Zat is vy…you cannot possibly defeat me."
'Reverse Point.' An amazing, almost seemingly unfair skill. The ability to take anything I threw at him, and automatically prepare a defence or reaction at least one point higher. If this was a game of Dungeons and Dragons it would be like having an effect that stated "this unit has +1 in every parameter over the next strongest character.
Actually…isn't that wrong?
Despite this thought running through my mind, I still knew how to act. It was like my mind was running on hyper-speed, running through Ivan's ability and actively seeing myself run through his ability. I was starting to get messed up with my perception of the future me. But still, I knew how it would end.
"I can't possibly beat you? No…that's wrong. You can't possibly beat me. One of my skills is 'limited immortality.' While in that state, I literally cannot be killed or affected by magical elements. You might still be able to physically harm me, but have almost instant healing at the moment. With the way I am, right now, with access to all 13 of my abilities, I am invincible."
Is any of what I just said true? I feel like it is…and I had seen my future self say it, so I assumed there was basis for it. Something inside me told me I could not stay like this forever…or could I?
"Ohohohohohoho!" A booming laugh. The Russian giant shakes off the water in his hair, and takes a fighting stance once again. "Yes, yes, this is vat I wanted. You are so
MUCH closer to your potential right now…I vonder how you managed to reach it. Perhaps revealing your origin is vat triggered it! But you are still mistaken, boy."
"Oh?" I also take a fighting stance, as I have seen myself do. In another moment, he will move, as I have seen him do.
"Yes…for you see…'Reverse Point is not a purely defensive skill."
"Ok, that's just broken."
He moves. Though I don't see him, he throws the dagger towards my head. I duck, hearing it slide over me as it hits the wall behind me. In that time, he has covered the distance between us. I block the first punch directed towards my temple, and twist my body to the right to intercept the second-
The second punch hits my left shoulder, and my entire left arm goes numb. Instantly after the impact, I lose all feeling on my upper left side. I try to heal the damage…but my mind can't detect any damage. It almost seems like the upper left side of my body doesn't even 'exist' anymore.
"A skill that grants you immortality? That is nothing for my 'Reverse Point!' When faced with an immortal body, it will give me the offensive capability to defeat even 'limited immortality!'"
With that declaration, the third right punch quickly follows the first two. Even though I'm reeling backwards, I make a desperate turn and twist…right again.
The moment his arm hits the dead part of my body, I use the moment to reverse my twist and grab onto his arm with my function right one.
Using overwhelming strength, I begin to twist his arm in a certain direction…
"Thanks for confirming it for me. Your 'Reverse Point' is truly a fearsome skill…but it's not invincible. After all, I was still stronger than you, by pure strength alone."
"NO!" He has realized my intention. Struggling, futilely, he attempts to dislodge my grip. But that's impossible for him. I will not allow this chance to pass by me, no matter what!
"At that point, it was merely a question of asking 'what power is available to me that can create something which will harm you?' The answer…is your own hand, tempered with the power to defeat 'limited immortality'"
With that, I use the last of my strength, and forcibly jab the side of his right fist into Ivan's chest. While normally such a small impact would do nothing to this Russian giant, his hand was currently infused with the power of his own 'Reverse Point', and more specifically than that, the power to disable even a body with the 'limited immortality' attribute.
He falls, a complete look of disbelief on his face. He can say nothing, his heart and chest have 'ceased to exist' for his mind. He's not dead…but he soon will be.
And with that…I won.
As I knew I would. As my own visions had foretold for me. Had there ever been any doubt? A puzzling question. But the night…isn't over yet.
"Hello, Atticus." I greet the boy who I've never seen before, stepping out of a portal from the other side of the pool. For myself, I sit down, back pressed against a nearby wall.
"Mr. Jackson Ray…you've heard of me?" The boy in a white dress shirt and glasses looks like a high class scholar or librarian. It's an odd mix, for a boy of his apparent age. He seemed younger than me, from just appearances.
"Not at all…but I've seen why you're here. The War of Wishes, right?"
The look of surprise on his face is quickly replaced with its regular calm.
"You're precognisant to this degree? That was not included in our reports."
"Not normally…but you might say tonight is special. Anyway, get on with it already."
"Ah yes…well, as you have said, I am here concerning the Votum Ritus, a competition between-"
I interrupt him because I can't stand having to listen to it all again.
"Between the 30 magus or 'specials' chosen by the will and soul of Gaia, the collective regulating device of the amount of magic on earth, with the first place prize being the ability to actualize a miracle, right?"
Atticus smiles, "As you say."
"Where is it taking place this time?"
"You do not already know?"
"Hm…I guess I've never been to - before. That'll be interesting…gonna have to figure out something with my parents and university."
"I assume from this that you have no qualms about participation? And that you need no further explanation?"
"She's there, isn't she? In that city…in the middle of that war."
"You're the precog. Can't you just forsee it?"
"I can only see my own future…and not that far ahead. But the Alistross clan…I get the feeling he wasn't the only one. Like keeping all your eggs in one basket…it doesn't seem like something Ivan's father would have done. And this is the war he meant."
"I can guarantee nothing. However, the Alistross clan has traditionally participated in the Votum Ritus of old. And if you win…"
"I'll win. And I'll save her too. I'll saver her, and win, and then I'll remove that stupid burden on her family line. I'll remove the contract, and give her her life back…I swear it!" I make the declaration to no one but myself. No one is here to hear me, except some boy in a dress shirt, some white-collar regulator to something I still didn't fully understand.
"An admirable goal." This unknown boy commends me.
"Fuck that. I don't care if it's admirable or not. I still have things I need to say to her…things I need to apologize for." I 'look' at the bracelet on my left wrist, even though I can't really 'see' it. It's glowing even now, alight with the 'mark of Gaia' that is now inscribed into its forging. A part of it now, if that mark should ever be destroyed, I would lose my right to participate in this competition, as well as having a 75% chance of losing all my powers, permanently.
"Then I very much look forward to your performance. Any last minute requests or questions before I take my leave?"
"Yeah…hey, how good are you at healing magics?"
I feel him examining me from head to toe before he replies, "What would you like me to do."
"Heal my eyes…and my upper left body, if you can. That's my only request."
"You realize that if I do so, you will lose the heightened state of ability that your powers have afforded you tonight? You will lose this state where you can access all of your abilities at whim, and likely much of your memory as well. And I can restore your sight...but that will only dampen your precognitive abilities."
"Yeah…I'm fine with that. Besides, I don't want to walk into this thing without being able to see, or use my left arm. Just leave me a little manual or guide outlying the specifics of the RITUS, and that'll be good enough for me."
"Are you certain?"
"…Yeah, I'm sure."
"Very well then. The necessary information will be imprinted in your 'mark of Gaia.' Prepare yourself."
With the last of my 'future-sight' I see Atticus step towards me, and gently placing one hand on my forehead. I raise my head slightly, and the scene looks as if I'm about to be saved.
"Welcome, Jackson Ray, to the Votum Ritus. Welcome, the one who is ranked 13th, the Jack of All Trades."