A/N: I'm actually on time with this update. In this chapter, you'll learn more about HauntingGallows, and depth will be added to a few things. I'm also laying down a plot for a sub arc that will be happening next chapter.

Please enjoy!

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Capricious Infection

Act 19: Secrets of the Paradoxes

By: Melissa Norvell/Revamp

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Rezzi quirked an eyebrow as she watched the scantily clad Dius arise to her feet, clutching her weapon loosely at her side. "You're HauntingGallows?"

That was not what she expected at all.

The mysterious Twisted Land player swung her axe over her shoulder effortlessly and glanced around, recognizing Dante and Tarvos. "Yes, it seems you two are here as well, Diablo…and Tarvos, the Messiah."

Dante's face contorted in anger, but Tarvos was quick to speak before he could get any smart words in. "Oz is here, too."

The pink-haired one smiled pleasantly. "He is? Good. I need to talk to him."

"Wait a fucking minute." Dante decided to butt in anyway, literally stepping in front of the taller woman.

"What?"

"Your screen name is HauntingGallows, but what is your real name?" He wasn't about to have another capriciouscarnage situation.

"My name is Pregmacia Atreska."

Orange eyes cast their skeptical gaze on the amazon. "You came through a time rip, but who the fuck were those dog looking fuckers who ran out a while ago?" They were already in enough confusion, and having new chaos randomly thrown into the mix was like mixing fire and gasoline.

Pregmacia's expression turned stern and hard and her voice lowered into a steely tone. "They are the remaining members of the Cut Throat Crew. I was pursuing them when I ended up in this paradox. They're highly dangerous criminals who are trying to throw off the order of time and space." It had been her goal to track them down and keep them from obtaining the Blood Ruby since she had found out their plans to alter space and time with the gem.

"The Cut Throat Crew? I've heard of them." Tarvos noted. They were actually pretty famous among the Dius, as well as other high-ranking members of paradox space.

"Who are they?" Lannad was confused. They had spoke little of them until this point.

"They come from a race known as the Arcanes, which are a group of anthromorphs that speak telekinetically. They were very powerful psychics and philosophers. Many of them acted as oracles." The Arcanes were a very intelligent race who usually held upstanding positions, a great many of them were revered and looked up to by fellow psychics.

"Then why are they criminals?" That part of Pregmacia's story didn't seem to make any sense to the priestess. Why would such an intelligent race decide to turn the other cheek?

"When the planet of Arcane died from invasion, the Arcanes were forced into slavery and driven to extinction. The Cut Throat Crew was among the few who didn't get caught. They longed to rebel but were not strong enough to do so. Diamonds Debonair, a member of the group and former oracle, constructed a sword that could create time rips and allow them to travel through them. They've been searching for a way to alter their paradox, so that their planet and race wouldn't succumb to the same fate." Pregmacia explained the reasoning for the Arcanes attempt to go after the Blood Ruby, and their eventual visit to Earth. As far as wanting to take over the Earth, they were relatively harmless due to their neutrality. However, she was not going to let them alter space time. If that happened, than the current paradox would suffer a great blow due to their meddling.

"So, they're trying to rewrite history?" That seemed dangerous to Lannad. History consisted of many instances in time that were all connected and used as building blocks. Taking any of the blocks away could alter any number of outcomes. If they wanted to, they could make an entire race disappear in a single command.

"They are searching for a gem called the Blood Ruby." Pregmacia made their current goal clear.

"Blood Ruby?" Dante had never heard of such a stone. There was no way that it came from the earth.

Tarvos told them that the Blood Ruby was used in the creation of time traveling devices or weapons that could alter time, like David's Time Sword. Such a stone had various other powers associated with time and time travel in general and were highly valued among those who had positions as time travelers or time guardians.

"Is there a Blood Ruby in this paradox that doesn't belong in that sword?" Dante wanted to know the location of all of the stones. It was bad enough that if the Cut Throat Crew found out that David's sword possessed one, they would come back and try to take it.

"The Blood Ruby in this paradox was divided up and placed into several time traveling items." Tarvos informed Dante of the news. It was news that he really didn't want to hear.

He cast the reaper a skeptical look. "You know where they are, don't you?" By now Dante was convinced that Tarvos and Oz pretty much knew everything. For god's sake the fuckers technically shared a brain.

"Of course I do."

"Should we go after them?" Rezzi asked. The longer they stood here, the farther away they would be. If they wanted to pursue them, now would be the time ot take action.

"That's supposed to be my job." Pregmacia wanted to do it herself. It was her fault that they were in this paradox to begin with.

Dante frowned, irritation crossed his face. "Welp, no one's fucking doing anything and they keep getting farther and farther away." The efficiency of these people was a joke. If they really wanted to go after the Cut Throat Crew, they would have been running after them and not talking about it like a bunch of gossiping women.

"I can stop that." Tarvos spread his wings and took flight. The Dius shot straight into the air, turning as he spun out of sight.

"What? No!" Pregmacia shouted and extended a hand after him in vain. He was too high up to hear her now.

"Too late. He's going to do it any fucking way." Sometimes, Dante wondered if Tarvos even thought before he acted. This was yet another of his capricious acts.

The winged one flew over the pack of anthromorphs as they headed towards the center of town. A devious smile crossed his face as he chuckled lowly. "Heh, say good night, mother fuckers." He raised back the War Scythe, ready to take aim. The N on top of the scythe glowed in a neon purple.

On the ground, the members began to take notice of the being hovering above them. Spades, glanced back to see the reaper and dread crossed his face. "Oh dear, this is bad."

Boxcars skidded to a stop and took his giant barbell from his back. He swung the massive weapon, producing a whip of invisible energy that collided with the purple magic that the Dius fired from his scythe. The two forces clashed with a boom and exploded in contact, creating clouds of smoke in their wake.

A second blast of purple fired at him right behind the first. The beam made its way through the billows of smoke and blasted the large Arcane back with so much force that it knocked him off of his feet.

"Boxcars!" The female of their group shouted.

"What exactly are you-"Spades turned around, stunned by his finding enough to keep him from finishing his sentence.

Clubs turned around and looked skyward. His expression matched his allies'. "You've got to be kidding me! Do you know who that is?"

"He's the Grand High Messiah…" The female of their group uttered.

"That means that this paradox is meeting its bloody end." Diamonds really had brought them to a doomed paradox. Even they knew that the Messiah only appeared on plains that were going to be destroyed. Seeing him was usually the last thing that anyone had ever laid eyes on.

"That isn't what I want to hear!" Boxcars barked angrily as he peeled himself off of the ground.

"We have to get out of here, or our whole plan will be lost." The female Arcane wasn't about to stick around to see the death of another planet.

Diamonds pulled out his Dimension Sword, but a blast to the ground intercepted him and knocked the weapon from his hand. It tumbled through the air as Diamonds was propelled forward. A wicked smile crossed Tarvos' face as he pointed his scythe once more, opening a purple and white vortex that sucked the sword into a kaleidoscope of color.

"No!" Diamonds looked on in horror as his weapon disappeared from sight, being launched into another dimension.

"You idiot!" Clubs reprimanded his team mate as he hurled a throwing knife in the air at the reaper, who caught it between two fingers.

"We don't stand a chance! He's one of the Divine Ones." Even the woman of their group knew that fighting him was getting their heads handed to them on silver platters. There was no way off of this world now. They were stuck there on a boat without a paddle.

"I think talking to him is our only option, Hearts." Spades reasoned. It was more effective than fighting against the reaper.

A vein popped out of Boxcar's head. Never before had he been so absolutely pissed off. A low rumble erupted from his throat as he looked to the winged Dius with malice. "I swear I'll kill something."

Diamonds looked nervous. 'Why do I have that ever so bothersome feeling that he means me.'

"Ruined your plans…didn't I?" Tarvos smiled, teasing the Arcanes. There was no way in hell that they were going to leave now. If he couldn't escape, he'd be damned if he was going to be the only one to suffer this miserable fate.

Hearts glared at him. "Why did you do that? What we are doing has nothing to do with death." Therefore, he had no right to interfere. This mission didn't even concern him.

"Oh, but it does." He said in an amused tone. Anything that threatened paradox space had something to do with him. When time is reversed, so is death. Who dies and what is destroyed is greatly affected, making him a part of the group affected by their decisions.

An axe came spiraling through the air at a high speed, straight to the Cut Throat Crew. It tried to take out Hearts and Clubs, but they jumped to either side in order to evade the weapon. It collided into the ground, scarring the earth and sending small pieces of dirt and rock through the air.

"It affects everything – past, present and future. When you alter time, you kill off paradoxes and upset the balance." A familiar voice reached their pointed ears.

"Pregmacia!" Spades could recognize that voice anywhere.

"Altering the paradox will cause a deadly domino effect with catastrophic consequences." They needed to understand that everyone suffered because of their decision to bring their race out of the brink of extinction.

"You'll cause the mass destruction of several other paradoxes, wiping them from existence. The death toll will be a glorious sight to behold." Just thinking about something like that gave the reaper jitters.

"By saving your paradox you wipe out others and reset time. Whoever was alive will be altered or wiped from existence. Is that worth the revival of your race?" Pregmacia was firm with her question. Could they really feel no guilt exterminating entire races, planets and galaxies of life? The toll would be immense and the sacrifices great.

"We think it is." Boxcars argued. Who gave a damn about other races? Let them worry about their own problems. If they became extinct then they would feel the pain of the Arcane.

"What? Because it's not you who has to suffer? You selfish fucking curs!" Just hearing what they had to say pissed Dante off beyond recognition. Never had he came across someone who was willing to risk the lives of millions of people and life forms in order to get what they wanted because they felt unjustified.

Diamonds was offended at his obscenity. "Well, I say-"

Dante cut him off. "No, fuck you! You foppy, British bastard!"

"What you're doing isn't fair." Lannad spoke up, trying to convince them not to seek the blood ruby.

"They can't dimension hop anymore. I got rid of the one device with any power to do so." Tarvos smiled. From here on out, it was tough luck for them. How ironic that they escape a doomed paradox only to wind up in another with no way out.

"There are still time rips open." Dante reminded him that there were ways to escape.

The reaper landed gracefully on the ground. "They can only jump once, and not at their leisure." Even if they did, Oz already noted that there was no way out of this paradox. They would just jump into a time rip and shot out of another on a different area of the planet. That's as far as they would get.

"What do we do now?" Spades looked to his team mates for answers.

"We still pursue the Blood Ruby here. I know there is one left in this paradox." Hearts wasn't going to give up on their goal. They came all of this way just to get their hands on it. No way was she going to abandon the goal just because the Divine Ones were there.

"Then let's make our escape." Boxcars agreed, but as soon as he turned around, Dante appeared in front of him.

"You're not doing anything, whoever the fuck you are." They would have to get through him first, and he wasn't going to have any of their bullshit. The blood of Diablo now flowed through him and promised a world of pain if they dared to move an inch.

Boxcars smirked and drew back his weapon. "You insignificant alien. Time to bash and crash!" He brought down the weapon. Dante evaded the blow as it splintered the ground below all of them. It continued to break up and fall in on itself.

"What the bloody hell?" Diamonds tried to keep his footing, but became weightless as the street continued to cave in, taking the Cut Throat Crew with it as it fell into the hollow ground.

"No! Don't let me faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaallllllllll lllllllllllllllllllllll!" Hearts screamed as they were plunged downward into the darkness, making a splash into some unknown liquid.

Dante walked over to the edge of the hole and peered into it. "Dumbshit, bone chewing, flea bags." He muttered under his breath.

Pregmacia blinked and peered down into the darkness, resting the handle of her axe over her shoulder. "Where did they fall?"

"If I remember correctly, they fell into the water system…or was it the sewer?" Lannad was unsure, really.

"I hope it was the sewer. They need to be down there with the other shit." Dante sneered. At least their problems were over for now. Those idiots should have watched what they busting up. Unlike open areas, the ground wasn't exactly solid in all the parts of the city.

"They'll be back. After all, they don't have a way to leave since Tarvos banished Diamond's Dimension Sword they can't get out of this paradox." Pregmacia knew that they would not see the end of the Cut Throat Crew. They would pose to be an eternal thorn in her side until they were apprehended.

Tarvos' smile curved into a crescent. "I think we'll meet them again. Call it fate."

"For now, we should get back to Oz and figure out what to do." While this was eventful, Rezzi wanted to inform Oz of their new team mate and the further problems that were branching out in their tree of turmoil. Once they encountered one problem they couldn't fix, several more piled on top of it making it an even bigger problem than before.

It was like they couldn't do anything right they set out to do. Not only was it irritating, it was discouraging. Not to mention Ringo was who knew where. Why he decided to leave was beyond her. However, she had a funny feeling that she knew what happened to him.

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They reformed their group at Rezzi's house, meeting in her front yard with Pregmacia in tow. The pink-haired Dius glanced around at the humble little house and wondered how so many people could even fit inside of it. Good thing it had a big front yard. Everyone liked standing around in it enough.

Pregmacia hadn't realized how many Dius were already there. Tarvos, Dante and Oz had already been present, but she found it strange that so many Dius were required to end a paradox.

This paradox was ending, right?

If that was so, then why were the humans or at least this group of humans running around with weapons? This was no typical situation of a doomed paradox. What was going on?

As she walked up, Oz glanced over to her, pulling his attention from David who had a confused expression on his face. "Pregmacia, you're finally here."

She smiled at the Divine One's words. "It took me a while, but I have…interesting news. I pursued the Cut Throat Crew but they ended up here. I regret to say that I lost the Dimension Sword." Granted, the sword was safe but she had no way of finding it since Tarvos sent it through a vortex.

"It's in the Null Zone. I sent it there to keep them from time hopping. They're stuck in this paradox." Tarvos was rather proud of himself for that act. Then again, causing people misery was his job.

Pregmacia's visage darkened. "However, they're after the Bloody Ruby."

"Wait a minute. What is a Blood Ruby?" David interjected, catching wind of their conversation. He caught something about a Blood Ruby, but he never heard of a stone like that existing on Earth. Why would they come here for something like that?

"It's the prime element in weapons associated with time. Your Time Sword operates with the help of the Blood Ruby." Oz explained the ruby's existence. Little did David know, he had been carrying it the entire time.

"Who are the Cut Throat Crew?" Tony asked. Apparently David wasn't the only one listening in on their conversation.

Oz explained the group of Arcanes as being intergalactic felons who skipped through time in order to find methods on reviving their own doomed paradox.

David was still confused. None of this really made any sense. "So…what does that have to do with the Time Sword?"

"There are two swords that can defy time – the Dimension Sword and the Time Sword. The Dimension Sword was forged by Diamonds Debonair and the Time Sword was forged by a master of weapons in our world. These weapons were both created using the Blood Ruby. Initially, the ruby was a single stone, but the one who created the Time Sword split the stone and only used half of it. The other half was stolen by Diamonds, who incooperated it into each one." Because of this, the one who created the weapons could only use the Time Sword for traveling through paradoxes. Oz was sure that sure that since the weapon ended up in the Null Zone that the one who forged the Time Sword would seize it and hold it so that the Cut Throat Crew would be unable to obtain it again.

"Then, why were they looking for the Time Sword? They already had a piece of the stone that let them jump through time." David didn't see why they wanted both sides of the ruby. Couldn't they alter their paradox with the piece they had?

"You sword can alter time itself." While the Dimension Sword could time travel, it had lesser powers than the Time Sword.

David pulled out his sword, staring into the intricate clock face on the handle. 'That's why Oz was so adamant about my responsibilities. Literally, I hold time in my hands. Wait…if that's true then…is he trying to make me like him? Am I meant to be time in a sense?'

"They need both in order to change their paradoxes' fate." Oz noted.

"However, we can't allow that to happen. Paradoxes are created and die off in a specific order." Pregmacia brought up an important secret to the world building skills that were necessary to operate the ebb and flow of processes.

"An order?" Tony questioned.

"Yes, think of it like a stack of paper. The oldest piece is on the bottom, because it was laid there first. In this stack you can only have x amount of papers. When you get too many, you get rid of the oldest one on the bottom, so you can create a new one on top. This was how the order of the paradoxes worked. You destroy one when you create another." Pregmacia explained the order of the paradoxes. It was all a process, just as time itself was and it had to be kept under a careful eye. That was her job as a Keeper of the Paradoxes.

David arched an eyebrow. "So, we're at the bottom of the stack…so to speak?"

"Precisely," Pregmacia noted.

"So, we're like the little piece of paper that gets taken off of the bottom and put back on the top of the stack? How do you do that without creating another paradox?" Tony was wondering exactly how their situation even worked. The paper comparison was a little odd to compare it to.

"We recycle this one. It's not putting it back on top, it's shoving it in the middle of the stack." That was the best comparison Oz could think of using the medium provided.

"Can more than one paradox be destroyed at a time?" Rezzi asked. She had been thinking about that for a while. Surely they all fell like dominos when certain things happened.

Oz shook his head. "Only one can completely die. Another may fall behind it but new ones are created just as quickly." They could fall one after another, but never all together.

"Who made the weapons that we have? It wasn't you, was it?" Rezzi had heard quite a different story to it. Even if Oz said that he made them for everyone, he was covering for someone else.

"No, I gave them to you. I didn't make them myself. The one who forged them…was capriciouscarnage."

Lannad's eyes widened upon making that realization. The very person Rezzi had been talking to was the one who made their weapons. No wonder she knew so much about the Dimension Shatterer and was afraid to use its powers. Maybe capriciouscarnage wanted her to use it at a specific time. It all made sense now.

"capricious…carnage?" Rezzi was even surprised by the revelation.

"Rezzi mentioned them once before. So…they're a sword smith?" Dante was interested in who exactly capriciouscarnage was as well.

"capriciouscarnage is an authority figure in our society. He created weapons to deliver justice to wrong doers and he has a huge arsenal of them. He was the first Dius to invent the guillotine and use it in an execution." Oz explained what he could of Rezzi's mysterious text buddy. He was far more important than the humans could fathom. It wasn't all there was to capriciouscarnage, but it was a small part of his integral part in, not only the Dius world but the human world as well.

Lannad slowly looked to Rezzi. 'So that means…that she really does know how to use her weapon. That also means that she more than likely knows other things as well. Rezzi…who are you kidding? I think you probably do know who capriciouscarnage is.' She was just faking her shock because she didn't want anyone to know. It was a little too late to do that. "Hey, Oz?"

"What is it, Lannad?"

"What is capriciouscarnage's real name?"

It was something she had wanted to know for a long time.

"You'll find out soon enough."

That answer caught her off guard. "Are you saying that we'll meet them?"

"Depending on the situation, that may not be the case. However," Oz gestured to Pregmacia, "this is our new addition to the team."

"Who is she?" Tony had been wondering that for a while, but wanted to find the opportune time to ask about it.

"You used to play Twisted Land with her." Oz shed some light on her importance to the group.

"Yes, I went under the screen name of HauntingGallows, but my real name is Pregmacia Atreska. I am known as the one who regulates the Order of Paradoxes." The pink-haired Dius reintroduced herself to the group of humans.

"What does that mean, exactly?" David wondered if it had anything to do with time, or maybe she was another Divine One?

"I make sure that paradoxes stay aligned and that they balance themselves out. None should be created or destroyed without my approval."

"What happens if someone does?" David asked.

"Then a paradox is either created or destroyed to counter the balance."

"So, that's why the Cut Throat Crew aren't allowed to bring back their paradox?" It was starting to make sense to David. Everything ran in a specific order on a system of scales and balances…Come to think of it, that's what the planet's name was that the Dius came from. Everything about them seemed to work in threes. Relationships being the prime thing he could think of and the way that they worked as elementals. Time, Chaos and Death were needed to end the world. That meant that Pregmacia was in some sort of important triad as well.

The number three, according to numerology meant creative self-expression, independence and communication. It's also the number of ambition, and all of these things also fit into the Dius culture. They were an intricate race of aliens who operated in depths that humans could not understand. No wonder they were chosen as Divine Ones.

"If you alter a dying paradox, then you kill off paradoxes that have spawned from it or resulted from its existence." That meant a domino theory among that set of paradoxes. One would fall, and then others would follow. Oz knew that when this happened, any one person who had multiple paradox selves would be completely destroyed in that process. They would fall in a specific order.

"It could also spawn new paradoxes and throw off the balance that way, with the birth of new paradoxes, it spider webs off into variants of that timeline. The balance is a very fickle thing and it must be maintained in an effective way." Tarvos stressed the importance of the job of Order. Everything had a specific time of ending and creation, those were stiff rules that needed to make sure things didn't get out of hand.

"As one that maintains the order, it is my job to make sure that Arcane, the planet that the Cut Throat Crew are from, doesn't come back into existence. As cruel as it is, some things were simply meant to perish." If anyone understood Pregmacia's way of thinking, she knew that Tarvos would at least speak on her behalf on that subject.

"They'll come back after the Time Sword, won't they?" David knew the answer, but he wanted to hear it. He wanted to know the true reality behind his predicament.

"Yes, the sword you hold in your hand is capable of great power. You do well to hang onto it." It was more of an order than advice from the pink-haired Dius. David had a feeling that she would say something like that.

Rezzi turned her head towards the black and pink blur. "Since you're here, you might as well travel with us. The Cut Throat Crew will be back and as that threat is present, you can bet they'll come after the Time Sword."

"Nice, I'm already covered in people wanting to steal my glory." David was feeling a little overwhelmed.

"Naive." Oz shot him a look.

"You think that, but I got this." If he didn't believe in himself, who would? He was confident that he could defend his Time Sword to the fullest extent.

"Just remember that the fact that you're a Chosen One doesn't mean you live." It was more of a promise than a threat coming from the grim reaper. It didn't matter how the souls were gathered in the end, they would all come to him.

"Don't remind me." David tensed. No matter how he looked at it, Tarvos just plain creeped him out.

"I'll protect you from them. They're my business anyway." Pregmacia smiled at the time guardian to be. That's why she was here. She was going to finish what she started.

"So, you didn't come here to help us save our paradox?" David thought the others would come specifically for that reason. Then again, Oz never specified on that.

"I'm uninterested."

That wasn't an answer that he expected at all.

"What?! This involves your ass, too, you amazon bitch!" Dante was furious. How could she just blow it off like that? She was the one who took care of these paradoxes. So what kind of bullshit was this?

"I can live anywhere in space and time, and I never stay in one place. What happens to this world isn't of my concern." It was as simple as that. Paradoxes were destroyed and created. She simply floated around to each one and monitored the others from afar. Everything had a marking time. It seemed like this paradox was soon to meet his.

Dante stomped up to pink-haired Dius, nearly getting in her face. "But it is your concern! It's our whole damned race's concern! We need this planet to survive." Did she honestly not see how important it was? The Dius had nowhere else to go, even if she was a drifter, it should have meant something to her.

"It's not my concern at all. I don't care about repopulating. If you all want to save this paradox then I wish you the best, but once I get the Cut Throat Crew apprehended-"

Oz cut her off. "You can't leave."

"What?" Pregmacia didn't really like that phrase.

"You're stuck here until we can find a way to save this paradox. So yes, it does involve you, Pregmacia." Oz crossed his arms, his words powerful and commanding, so much so that it made Pregmacia step down.

"So…it does. I'll stick around until I can leave, then I'll do what I wish." She felt as if Time itself was glaring a hole through her face. Pregmacia couldn't dodge that vicious stare even if she wanted to.

"Then we'll work together…for now." David decided that it was settled. Even if Pregmacia didn't like it, she didn't have much of a choice.

To Be Continued

NOTE: I was asked what the N on the end of the War Scythe stood for and if it had a purpose. It actually does. The N stands for the German nix, colloquial form of nichts ("nothing"). Nix is to become nothing, in this sense it is associated with death.

A/N: This is going to come a little later than most. I didn't have any internet service this weekend so the updates will all be on Monday. Sorry for all of the explanations in this chapter but they were needed, regardless of repetition.

Please, check out my new story, Toxic Butterflies. Reviews will be returned with reviews!