Rain. A torrential downpour of rain fell onto James's head, and the heads of the other citizens, as he stood atop a three-storey building he had recently climbed. He stood still near the edge of the building's roof, a short ledge at the edge to prevent anyone shorter than one foot tall falling off the roof. He could probably have gone inside and used the stairs, or the elevator, but that would not have given him the adrenaline he felt when he jumped from building to building. Some may have questioned why James Thales, a teenager wearing a suit that he claimed was more expensive than most people's houses, felt like jumping across rooftops every night. If somebody asked, he would have not told them the truth. He would have given them a long speech that was intentionally hard to understand.
The truth was that he simply did not know.
He did not know why he had acquired such a taste for feeling alive. He did not know why he began to see combat as a fun pastime, instead of just a means to an end. He did not know why he had started to throw in more and more unnecessary jumps, rolls, cartwheels and flips into his fighting style, impracticality be damned. It looked more impressive and intimidating, but it wasted time.
James chuckled. Wasting time... A few years ago, that thought had meant so much to him. It dominated every decision, every opinion, every idea, every conscious or unconscious thought he had in his life. He hated wasting time. His time was limited.
But now, the limit was removed. And with the limiter gone and the deadline postponed, he found himself having the time to stop, look around, slow down, and look deeper. He could spend as long as he wanted, standing around and accomplishing nothing, because he now had free time on his hands. He had time to realise what life truly was.
Procrastination. Procrastination and eventual disappointment. Humans had long lives, so they felt they could put off today what could be done tomorrow. They thought they could ignore each other's plight, assuring themselves that they would be extra good in a few years' time, to make up for their current mistakes. The absurd 'Everyone deserves a second chance' ideal that had infested every mind in this civilization only served to drive home that these people felt they could do whatever they wanted, as long as they made up for it some day, at an indeterminable time in the unforeseeable future.
They were wrong.
Humans were greedy, selfish creatures; their breeding patterns resembled a virus more than any mammal, and their logic was pathetically circuitous. They ran around like idiots, screaming obscenities at each other and hurting each other, because that was what humans did. It was how they were taught. It was what their parents did, and what their parents did before them. Society and civilization, or lack thereof, played a much more important role in the development of a human child than any parenting, or genes. If they grew up surrounded by fools and failures, they would grow up to be like them.
The few bright sparks in every generation, the ones who had the potential to change the world for the better, would always be drowned out by the unintelligent masses. They were the reason that all modern technology had to be as user-friendly as possible: If it was too complex for their limited minds to understand, they would not buy it. There would always be a few intelligent enough to use it correctly, but that did not matter to those at the top of big businesses. They only wanted more money; they didn't care if they were turning cutting-edge technology into baby toys by pandering to the many, many unintelligent people that plagued the world like a... plague.
But on the other side of the coin, the coin that now represented humanity due to their greed, humans were very insular and overprotective of one another. A human would die fighting, if they were fighting for something they believed in. It did not matter if that thing was illogical. They were raised and trained to accept all-governing rules known as 'Ideals' that could be created in seconds, but would stay with humanity forever. Television and other fictional stories often preached the message of "Screw logic, I have ideals!". If the government wanted to go to war with another country, they merely told their humans some rumours about the 'Inhumane treatment of children/women/foreigners/ugly people, and their humans would be foaming at the mouth, ready to grab a rocket launcher of the shelf of a local gun shop, run up to somebody from the enemy country, and fire that rocket launcher at point-blank range, killing themselves and everyone around them in a large radius as a result of their own stupidity. For Humanity. Because if somebody is that bad, then they have no humanity, meaning they aren't true humans, and can be killed without any qualms or quarrel.
What was Humanity? Humanity was a peculiar word, it could refer to a group of humans, the species as a whole, or the trait that was known as 'Humanity', mostly used as a synonym, or blanket term, for Kindness, Tolerance, and the wish to preserve human life whenever possible. When a human killed, they had no 'Humanity', and therefore they were not true humans. Therefore, they could be imprisoned. They could have their freedom stripped away from them, everything that they held dear taken from them, and everything they loved destroyed or auctioned off for 'Charity'.
James shook his head, realising he was repeating himself. He had thought the exact same thing a few weeks ago. He forced himself to focus on his main question right now, the dominating thought, the question that needed to be answered before he could sleep. Why do humans hate rain so much?
Rain brings water, which feeds crops. Rain brings rainwater, which can be purified and used as clean, drinkable water. Rain erodes stone, floods cities, and forces all tennis games to be called off.
Rain is liquid water in the form of droplets that have condensed from atmospheric water vapour.
...And If you don't understand that explanation, then there is rain because God says so. He added snarkily.
And yet, when the rain came, humans always ran for shelter. They thought of it as something bad, something wrong. 'Global warming is to blame!', they'd say. They hated rain.
They didn't care if rain brought life.
Humans didn't care about life.
James Thales awoke in his dorm room at 11 PM. He had slept for two hours, which was all the rest he needed. His dream had been peaceful and dreamless, and he had worn his suit the entire time. He got out of his bed, stood up, and looked around.
Max and Corvus, if those were their real names, were still sleeping. They were in beds on opposite sides of the room, one in each corner. Their computer was in another corner, and it had carelessly been left on. The monitor was off, but the actual computer terminal was on. Anyone could just walk up to it, and-
This was obviously part of the con. They wanted his curiosity to get the better of him, they wanted him to use that computer, and see what was on it. Perhaps there'd be a conspiracy theory, and a doctored video to go along with it. Or maybe they needed him to hack into something, or decode something. Even if neither of these options were true, and it was just a regular computer, they could always take his fingerprints from it once he was done using it, and plant them on something stolen. They could set him up for anything they wanted, if they had his fingerprints.
James patted himself down, doing a quick check of everything he owned. An electric stun gun, a small knife, and his lucky comb. His Butler Button was missing, somehow. Perhaps a pickpocket had stolen it and damaged it, or modified it so that it would constantly broadcast the all-clear signal to his butler, which would prevent him from getting suspicious and sending help.
He took out his lucky comb, a small, thin jet-black piece of plastic that would be a great comb, if he ever used it as one. It was about the size of something one might find in an xmas cracker. Instead, there was a hidden blade inside it that could only be accessed if the comb was broken in half. Apart from that, however, it was an ordinary comb, with a long handle and several blunt prongs. He held it between the fingers of his left hand, and used the handle to type or press buttons as he turned on the computer's monitor, the wide screen flashing a bright white before showing the desktop background- A solid light blue wall, on which unfamiliar symbols were placed in a grid pattern.
His eyes immediately homed in on what he guessed was some sort of internet browser. He positioned the mouse and then double-clicked the icon with his right elbow.
A new window opened up, and he immediately noticed that the URL must have been incorrect, as it started with OWW instead of WWW. Several keys pressed with the handle of his comb later, a quick internet search told him that it meant Omniversal-Wide Web.
After loading website after website and finding the computer and internet connection oddly fast, he started to dismantle the computer terminal.
Several important circuit boards had been replaced with runes and magical diagrams. The wires were made out of a material that James didn't recognise. There were no fans, and yet, the device was not overheating, despite going far beyond the speed any human computer could hope to achieve. "Nescio etiam id quod" He muttered in shock. He had learned latin when he was younger, during his 'Pretentious phase' that he had been forced to cut short after four days. Upon having his lifespan lengthened to that of a normal human, he occupied his free time with learning a few other languages. When that got boring, he went back to theft and thrill-seeking.
Technology this powerful could be sold to the world, and millions would be made. Far more than these 'Daigaku' people could ever hope to make from conning one heir to one rich family.
That settled it. Magic was real.
He found it amusing that people exploding things just by pointing at them, or manipulating their own shadow, or surviving a bullet to the head, or turning into paper, or manipulating gravity, or pulling katanas out of metal armbands and violating the laws of Conservation Of Energy, was completely unable to convince him, and yet looking at the insides of their team's computer was all it took to make him believe in magic.
Or sufficiently advanced science, which this all could still be.
Con-artists using sufficiently advanced science upon the fourth richest man who ever lived.
James realised that his life was about to get much more interesting.
"So, let me get this straight." James said flatly. He, Corvus, XD-65535 and Max were standing just outside the teleporter room, and James decided to sum everything up one last time to make sure he had understood everything. Max was wearing his metal arm-guards again, but he left his hands uncovered. Corvus was leaning against a wall, and XD was standing unnaturally still, watching the three students closely, particularly James. "Magic is real. I have been at Daigaku for one week, in which my new 'friends' have tried to show me that magic is real. This included several trips to the library, and the Combat Court, where I read up on this world's history, and saw you people fight, using magic. During this week, for one reason or another, my family has not once attempted to contact me, which could mean that you either have a phone jammer here, my family doesn't care about me, or my phone doesn't accept calls from other dimensions. One of these options is significantly more likely than the others. In any case, I, James Thales, have been recruited by a mysterious organisation that themes its headquarters upon a college just because they can, possibly to make their assassins and bodyguards and other agents feel more at home. I have been placed on a team with a mechanic and a butcher, who also have supernatural powers. The butcher is a Shadow Elementalist, and the mechanic is a Steel Elementalist, which is an odd name, because you can also control several other metals. And according to you people, I can shoot lightning. And apparently, some of the members of my family also have these powers?"
"Pretty much, yeah." Max admitted.
"Well, okay then." James said, his voice eerily calm, and straightened his tie. "It has been one week. What shall I do?"
Max smiled, and got out a small square-shaped phone with a slideable miniature keyboard. He tapped a few keys, and waited, glaring at the screen to make it load faster. "A few days ago, I set up a live feed of all the data on the missions board, straight to my phone, with live updates and e-mail alerts whenever a new one is posted, as long as it fits my preferred mission criteria."
"Which is?" Corvus asked.
"Anything that can be solved with giant robots, loads and loads of weapons, or allowing XD to blow up everything in sight." Max replied happily. "Well, I guess the less violent ones are okay, but nothing's as awesome as seeing XD do his awesome missile attack! I really hope I get to do that this time! What's your favourite type of mission, Corvus?"
"Hunting, assassinations, or exterminations. Nice and uncomplicated, just go in, kill everything, and come back out alive."
"I thought so."
"What's that supposed to mean?" Corvus asked angrily.
"Nothing!" Max yelped, putting his hands up nervously.
"Are you saying that just because I'm a Shadow Elementalist, and a Butcher, I'm an evil jerk that enjoys killing?"
"Well remember this: I don't enjoy killing, but I don't dislike it either. Death is only a natural part of life, and to call that evil would be like hating a season, or a colour. The same goes for Darkness, and Shadows. None of these things are inherently evil, do you understand?"
"Yeah." Max said, understandingly. "I sort of feel the same way, but about weapons. Everyone seems to think that the world would be a much better place without guns or swords, thinking that if we didn't have any of those, there wouldn't be any war. But people fight empty-handedly all the time, and weapons are the only difference between a beautiful and elegant swordfight and a brutal, basic, punch-to-the-face-fest."
"But do people openly despise you because of your choice of weaponry?"
"Not particularly, but mostly because I learned how to use every weapon in the world. Even the weird ones! But back home, everyone made fun of me, because I'd rather turn my metal into swords or giant robots than just throw around huge clumps of metal, and block enemy attacks with even larger clumps of metal. That sort of thing just depletes your stores of metal really quickly, not that they cared. They seemed to think it was more manly, or something."
"Did you know that the meat cleaver I use for fighting, I can also use for cooking?"
"Well, yeah, I think that's what they were originally intended for-"
"Do you have a tomato?" Corvus interrupted.
"What? No, I don't. That's random, why would you ask that?"
"Because I can use my cleaver to cut it so much that it looks like a rose. I can do the same thing with my shadows. When people see them, they think, 'Oh no, it's an evil person that uses shadows! He'll peel the skin from my body while I'm still alive, because that's what evil people do!' when really, they can also be used to create beauty, and shadows are no more evil than any other element."
"Same here! One time, when I was younger, I made a life-size metal sculpture of myself, and using my control over metal, I forced it to walk over to me, and I made it hug me."
Corvus took a step back. "Uh... huh."
A beautiful girl with long red hair, green eyes, an adorably cute face, and a huge black pair of headphones on her head walked past the three, attempting to sing along to the dubstep song playing in her headphones. She was wearing a short-sleeved T-shirt with its sleeves ripped off, and tight black trousers that perfectly outlined her body. "Wub, wubwubwubwub, woooosssshh, dun dun da dan dun dun, wuuub, wubwub- WUB A DUB DUB, MOTHERF- wuuuub, blablablabla, blublublu, wubwubwub..." Her voice sounded happy, cheerful, and she seemed to be enjoying herself, even if everybody else in the room was staring at her oddly.
Except for Max, who stared after her longingly, and only stopped when she went around a corner, and left his field of view. "Wow. Did you see her?"
"Yes." Corvus moaned. "And unfortunately, I also heard her."
"She has a great singing voice!" Max protested. "She's a Siren!"
James smiled, and tried to get the conversation back on track. "I cannot cook. At all. I never really learned. In retrospect, I probably should have."
"Yeah. Don't worry, I can't cook either." Max admitted sheepishly. "Neither can XD, unless you want your food cooked by a flamethrower-katana! His phone dinged loudly, catching his attention. "Finally, it's loaded! Okay, let's see here... Ha! I love the funny names they give to these missions, they're so... punny!"
James and Corvus both groaned at the terrible pun. Corvus then groaned a second time, to show how he believed he disdained Max's puns more than James.
"Okay," Max went on, regardless. "We've got... Ah, this one looks good! Wait, no. We don't have a medic. A proper magical medic, with healing magic and stuff. A White Mage, to use the old term that nobody really uses anymore out of politeness. The magic isn't even white, anyway, it's more green or blue-ish. Anyway... Ooh, this one looks good! Some bandits kidnapped... no way."
"Who?" Corvus asked.
"No way!" Max said excitedly, pressing the 'Y' button on his keyboard and accepting the mission.
"Who is it? Who was kidnapped?"
"NO WAY!" He screamed once the mission was officially theirs, dancing around happily. "Oh Em Dee, the legendary Bob Masamune, heir to the legendary legacy of the Masamune, one of the greatest weaponsmiths of all time, has been kidnapped! This entire family is full of awesome weaponsmiths, and they're believed to be the ones who originally popularised the trend of using metal on weapons, and every last one of the weapons they created are considered works of art, perfect expressions of the art of weaponcraft! This guy, Bob, is really lazy, but he's just as brilliant as every Masamune that came before him!"
"Wait, did you just say Masamune?" James asked. "As in, sword-guy, circa 1264–1343 AD?"
"Sword-guy? Sword guy?! Did you just call him a sword-guy?" Max snapped. "That's like calling... someone awesome... lame-guy! Because he's more than just a sword-guy! He and his whole family were-"
"He had a family?"
"Yeah, but I can't remember if most of them lived on earth or not. Yeah, that's right, he was the same species as me! Woot!" Max cheered excitedly.
"What does the mission say?" Corvus asked angrily.
"He was kidnapped by some bandits, and we have to get him back! Oh Em Dee, this is going to be awesome!" Max said, and activated his instant armour, metal covering his whole body in seconds.
"How did such a renowned swordsmith get kidnapped in the first place?" James asked.
"He's a swordsmith, not a swordsman. Also, didn't I say earlier that he was brilliant, but lazy?"
"Well, ok then, should we get going?" Corvus asked.
"Yeah!" Max cheered, running for the teleporter room. He ran inside, and leapt onto the enchanted grey platform, diving so that he landed on his armour-plated chest that scraped across the platform, leaving shallow scratches behind.
"...Why?" Corvus asked, calmly walking onto the platform and standing beside his armoured teammate.
"I wanted to be the first!" Max yelled happily. "Also, I call dibs on meeting Bob Masamune first!"
"Fine, fine." Corvus groaned.
"So, is there someone who controls this teleportation device, or will it automatically-"
James was cut off suddenly when Max pressed another key on his phone, and they all disappeared in a bright flash of light.
As bad as James' teleporting trip to Daigaku was, the one leaving the place was even worse. James awoke somewhere quiet, thankful that the white tiled floor seemed relatively clean. He got up onto his knees, looked around, and upon seeing a sink, vomited into it. Once he was done, he turned on the tap and washed his face, and realised that according to the bathroom stalls and mirrors, he was in a men's bathroom somewhere.
"We're here." Max moaned from his spot, curled up in a corner of the room.
"Yep." Corvus said as he leaned against a wall, getting out his cleaver to make sure it was still there. He briefly inspected both sides of the blade, and then put it back in his left sleeve. "Let me guess, you were thinking that the magic and everything else so far was all some kind of really bad trip, weren't you?" he asked smugly.
"Well, this trip has been pretty bad so far." James countered.
"So, are we ready to go?" Max asked.
"Yeah, I guess. I arrived first, so I don't really have the right to claim I'm too tired to do my job." Corvus muttered.
"No, it's not like that!" Max insisted. "If you want, we can stay here for a while, and wait until-"
"I said I'm fine." Corvus insisted. "What about you, suit-guy?"
"Is it always this bad?" James asked as he straightened his tie, which had been knocked off-centre during the trip through dimensions.
"Yes." Max said as he saw his robot, XD-65535, teleport in after them, unaffected by the effects of dimensional shifting due to being a robot. Surviving repeated dimensional shifts had been one of the main focuses when he was designed, after all. "Now that he's here, our chances of success just got a whole lot better."
"Won't that stick out a little?" Corvus asked.
"HE." Max insisted firmly. "And don't worry, HE won't. HIS awesome-looking robot-ness won't tip off anyone. Check this out! XD? Hologram cloak, human!"
A section of XD-65535's chest plate opened up, and his form shimmered and changed. A large translucent blob appeared around him, before forming itself into what looked like a fairly accurate guess of what Max's older brother may look like, if he had one. He had a similar hairstyle, had no glasses, was more muscular, and was slightly taller than XD-65535 was before the cloaking.
"I made this so that he won't stand out in places where a robot this awesome would stick out." Max said proudly as he admired his robot's human form. "I made him look like he could be my big brother, because... Well, I've always considered him to be like my older brother."
"Contradiction: Self Unit has only been in operation for four years." XD-65535 pointed out in a voice that, while still in a creepy monotone, sounded more like a bored and disinterested person than an actual robot. He usually spoke like this anyway, but the human features really made it sink in.
"I know, I meant the XD series as a whole." Max clarified.
Corvus glanced at James with a raised eyebrow. James shrugged, and asked, "So where are we?"
"Obvious note: We are in a bathroom."
"Yes, but where is it?"
"Our client's one, obviously." Max explained. "Some of Daigaku's missions are assigned by Daigaku themselves, and others are from relatively wealthy clients who hire us for something important." He paused, and then grinned like a giddy fangirl. "And what could be more important than saving the life of Bob Masamune?!"
"Hey, Max." Corvus said. "Stop fangirling over him, you'll embarrass us."
"Excuse me, Emo-Bird, but I'm not a fangirl, I'm a fanboy! There is a HUGE difference!"
"E-Emo-bird?!" Corvus cried incredulously.
"Come on, team, let's go!" Max shouted. XD-65535 quickly ran ahead of him and punched the door off its hinges, and Max ran out of the room closely behind. Corvus angrily folded his arms and sank into his shadow, the black circle of hardened shadow moving out of the room as it chased after Max. James chuckled, and walked out calmly. Well, this should be interesting.
The interior of the Masamune estate was rather bland, with beige walls and a white-carpeted floor. The walls had several partitions, and large sliding glass doors that let in far too much sunlight. An obese middle-aged woman was lifelessly resting upon what should have been a two-person sofa, leftover food on her shirt.
"Mrs Masamune?" Max asked happily. "We're here to help! We heard Bob was kidnapped, and-"
"SHUT UP!" She screamed suddenly. "Do you want them to hear you?!"
"Who?" Corvus asked.
"THEM! The press! They're everywhere!" She raved.
Paranoia. Typical. James thought. "Is this Mrs Masamune?" He whispered to Max.
"One of them." Max answered.
"Fascinating." James said quietly. He then stepped forward, talking louder, in a calming tone of voice. "I assure you, m'lady, we are not the press. We are from Daigaku. You hired us, remember?"
"Yes, Daigaku." James said calmly. "We are here to rescue Bob, and bring him back to you."
"...Bring my Bobby back?" She asked as she tried, and failed, to give him the Puppy-dog eyes.
What kind of con-artist puts something like THIS into a con?! James wondered angrily inside his head. Out loud, he said, "Yes, we will bring Bobby back."
"I could probably hack into his phone, and figure out where he is." Max admitted. "Do you know his password?"
"What?" She asked.
"Nevermind." Max said sadly.
"It wouldn't have worked, anyway." Corvus muttered. "Do you honestly think that any kidnapper worth the name would allow their victims to take a phone with them? I have a better idea, anyway." "Now Mrs Masamune," Corvus began clearly and loudly. "I am a Shadow Elementalist."
"Demon!" She screeched.
"No, a Shadow Elementalist." He repeated angrily. "Now, if you give me something his shadow was in contact with for a long time- Perhaps some clothes, or his favourite sword? –then I can use the connection to track his shadow, and find out where he is. Now, do you have anything like that?"
The sound of screaming children steadily approached, five identical children running around, each waving around a five foot pole of metal. One of the stopped screaming, and shouted, "Intruders!" as he pointed at James, Max and Corvus. The children immediately began hitting Max and Corvus with their metal sticks lightly and repeatedly, screaming loudly. James, however, had jumped away the moment he saw the children coming towards him with poles. They might not have been dangerous, but they could have been.
Corvus made a sphere of Shadows around himself to protect himself, their weapons harmlessly bouncing off the all-encompassing hemisphere that was blacker than night itself.
The children were really more of annoyances than actual threats, but as soon as one of their poles touched Max, XD-65535 had deactivated his holographic cloaking device and positioned himself between Max and the crowd. Several weapons and missile launchers emerged from their compartments inside his arms and shoulders, and at least four thin rays of red light targeted the child who had dared to touch Max, converging between the kid's eyes, making their planned trajectory clear.
"Demand: Cease and desist, or be destroyed." XD intoned mercilessly. Tears welled up in the eyes of the child he had targeted, not that XD cared. "Demand: Drop your weaponry in three seconds, or this estate shall be obliterated." The angle of his eye-lights sharpened. "Three."
"It's a robot!" One of the kids screamed.
"And it's evil!" Another yelled.
"So coooool!" They all screamed.
"Two." XD said coldly.
The children quickly tossed their metal sticks away, and gushed over the robot's awesomeness. "It has missiles!"
"Actually," Max began, "Those aren't lasers, they're only laser sights, red lines of light so that we know where the weapons are being aimed. He does have real lasers though, want to see them?"
"Yeah!" The kids chorused.
"There's no time for that!" Corvus said, dropping his Shadow Shield. "We're here to find Bob, and if you give me something his shadow was in contact with for-"
"Demon!" One of the kids yelled, picked up his metal stick, swung it around inexpertly, and smacked Corvus in the side of the head with it.
Corvus glared at the kid, who laughed. Corvus grabbed his shirt, and the two sank into Corvus's shadow, which closed up into a small black dot behind him.
"Do you want us to find your father or not?!" James yelled from the other side of the room.
"Not really." One kid answered.
"Nope!" Said another.
"Mom's too fat and old to catch us, so with him gone, we can do whatever we want!" a third kid said happily.
"I hate all of you." James said flatly. "Max, these people aren't going to be much help. When Corvus is done being Corvus, and I'm done interviewing her over there, we're leaving."
"Fair enough. I'll keep the kids occupied." Max admitted. "Hey, kids, look! Look at how cool my robot is! XD, draw your swords!"
"Soooo coooool!" They children chorused as they stared at Max's robot, watching slots open up in his mechanical arms and katana blades slide out of them.
James leapt over, landed near the woman Max had identified as Mrs Masamune, and leant in, whispering conspiratorially with a smug smirk on his face. "You don't need to keep the act going any more, m'lady. I understand exactly what's going on here. I am also rich, and I can appreciate a good power play when I see one. And this is not a good power play. I can tell exactly what happened here, mainly because it's so basic. You hire those kidnappers to take your husband away, you tell them to tell you to not call anyone, and give them money in return for Bob. You go ahead and contact Daigaku anyway. Daigaku figures out what you are doing, you give them some extra money on the side, and they made sure to send the most incompetent team available. We hunt down Bob's kidnappers, Bob gets killed in the crossfire, we get... whatever agents get when they fail their missions, and you get all of the Masamune estate, all for you, and your disturbing children. Tell me, do you have any kidnaps, murders or assassinations planned for them, too? Because it would fit your Modus Operandi. And they are all incredibly annoying, so I won't stand in your way. Well played, Masamune, well played."
Mrs Masamune stared at James for at least sixteen seconds before saying anything. "...What?" She eventually asked.
"What?" James responded in fake confusion, stepping away.
"...What?" she repeated.
"What?" James said in even more fake confusion. Once he saw the woman shrug and give up, he leaned over to Max, and whispered, "Alright, she didn't hire the kidnappers to take Bob. It is possible that the kidnappers were acting of their own free will. Okay, let's leave."
As if on cue, Corvus's shadow opened up to its normal size as he and the now-terrified child emerged from the shadows. As soon as he was free, the kid ran away screaming, tears in his eyes.
"What did you do?!" Max demanded angrily.
"He called me a Demon. I took him to one of the weaker planes of the abyss, and showed him some actual Demons. He... didn't like them."
"Ugh." Max muttered as his face met the palm of his hand. "Please tell me you aren't going to be like this the whole trip!"
"Can we just go?" James asked. "Forget the whole shadow-thing, let's just-"
"Got it." Corvus said as his shadow slowly retracted from Mrs Masamune's. "Turns out, her shadow counts. Follow me." He fell into his own shadow, which slid across the ground, leaving the Masamune estate. James and Max were all too happy to have a reason to leave.
Corvus hummed a deep, repetitive tune to himself as his shadow slid along the forest floor, the shadows of the trees allowing him to move even faster. James easily kept up with him, bounding along in large mostly-horizontal leaps, while Max was carried by his robot. They were in a forest full of pine trees; the night sky overhead was like a velvet ceiling, and the pale glow of the full moon hung ominously in the air.
"Hey, Max?" James asked as he landed, and jumped again.
Once he landed, he asked, "We won't run into any werewolves, will we?" before jumping off again.
Max burst into raucous laughter. "Are you kidding me? There aren't any werewolves here! The climate is all wrong for them! Wrong temperature, and wrong trees. There aren't enough wild animals in this forest, either. Which makes you wonder, why is that? Is there something or somebody here that has eaten or killed the other animals?"
"Kay, thanks!" James, who only heard about a quarter of that, said as he landed and jumped again.
"Hey, Corvus, how much longer?" Max yelled out.
"Daaaan, dan da daa daaan- Hm? We're almost there." Corvus shouted, the shadows echoing his voice. "And Max? How come James is taking the whole magic-thing so well?"
"I'm guessing it's like that thing you do when you read really bad fanfiction, and it's really, really bad, like, zombie ninjas-bad, so to stop yourself from tearing your hair out at how terrible it is, you assume it's just a Troll trying to write, and you laugh at it, and move on with your life, instead of believing it's a real person, who really is that bad at writing."
"I have no idea what you are talking about, because I don't read fanfiction. They all suck, they always lump Darkness and Shadows together as the same thing, and when the Shadow guy isn't an omnicidal maniac who wants to destroy existence because his mommy didn't wuv him enough, he's a whiny, lame teenager in tight leather pants who fights evil in-between bouts of crying and wangsting about Fate cursing him with Shadows, working as a second-in-command to the lame, boringly powerful idiot hero.
"They aren't all like that. Some of them are actually quite good."
"Perhaps, but until they make a book starring anything Shadowy, without it being a darkness-bashing author tract or a big ball of emo pretty-boy fanservice, I'll just stick with the actual television shows."
"Meh, fair enough." Max admitted.
Corvus ignored what Max said, and went back to his humming. "Dararararan, dan, da dan, da da da do da, da da da do da, da dan dan..."
Corvus's humming faded away into the background as James carried on jumping, hoping that whoever he was after, he'd find them some time soon.
The three kidnappers sat around a campfire they had set up in a clearing in the forest. Their 'prize', Bob Masamune, lay discarded on the ground, his limbs tied up with a long stream of fabric that wrapped around his body several times. A sock was stuffed into his mouth, preventing him from speaking, and he didn't seem to have any metal that he could use to cut himself free and escape.
"Pass the beer, mate!" One of the kidnappers yelled. He had a brown buzz-cut, a black eyepatch emblazoned with a crude drawing of a yellow circle with a cartoonish smiling expression covering one eye, and his other eye was a dark brown. He was in his late twenties, wearing a sleeveless T-shirt and blue jeans.
"Sure thing." Another one yelled. He had a similar outfit on, and looked exactly like the first one, but instead of an eyepatch, he had two normal brown eyes. That seemed to be the only way to tell the difference between them, as they even had voices that sounded exactly alike. The eyepatch-less one also had a sword at his belt, an ordinary-looking English knight's broadsword.
"You two drink too much." The third kidnapper pointed out in a redneck American accent. He looked nothing like the others, with messy black hair and blue eyes. He was wearing a tight elastic jumpsuit that allowed everyone to see how obese he was, in far more detail than they would have liked. Suddenly, his accent changed entirely, sounding like what somebody might think a Russian person might sound like, if they had never been to Russian or met a real Russian person, and their only knowledge of Russian came from Russian characters of television shows. "But you make good dumb muscle, for many kidnappings. Iz hard to believe, iz first time."
"That's what she said!" The first two said in perfect unison, then looked at each other in shock. Then they laughed so hard that the two fell back onto the ground.
"You are annoying, like-" His accent switched back to redneck. "A rodeo clown dancing at a gun show. You kind of people make me-" His accent switched again. "Wish I vas back home, where snow iz colder than- Mah best friend's wife. It was- A shame I had to kill her. Bat still, it vas- more fun than a rodeo on fire."
"You're weird." Eyepatch-Twin said.
"And creepy." Normal-eyed Twin added.
The flickering shadows of the fires moved and hardened, and suddenly, shadowy tentacles emerged. They flailed about threateningly, and then shot towards the fat one, trying to impale him. Instead, they bounced off his fat almost comically, before he yelled angrily and destroyed them with the shockwave.
"You can't stab him, stupid Shadow Wraiths! He has the strength of ten men!" Eyepatch-Twin shouted out.
"And the weight of twenty!" Normal-eyed Twin yelled.
"And the body odor of thirty!"
"And the personality of zero!"
"Shut up!" The fat one yelled in both voices at once.
"Did... Did he just say..." Corvus wondered out loud as he sat inside a bush with James sitting next to him. "Does he really think those were Shadow Wraiths?"
"Apparently." James answered. "So, when does this ambush begin?"
"Don't you get it? There were tactics in that strike. My first attack was just to see if my shadows would work on him. So, Max knows to have his robot go after that one, while you and me go after the twins."
He turned back towards the campsite, and smiled, his cleaver glinting ominously as he removed it from his sleeve. "Soon... It shall begin... Soon..."
A large metallic fist erupted from a bush suddenly, striking the fat man's entire body and sending him falling head over heels, his head hitting the ground multiple times, until he smashed into a tree so hard that he broke it in half, and hit the tree behind it right face-first, and then falling onto the ground.
"Right... Who's next?" Max asked darkly as he got out of the bush, his robot standing next to him. He had put on his glasses, and they reflected the light in a way that hid his eyes from view.
The hell is this kid?! Is that a robot?! The Eyepatch-Twin, named Randy, wondered. "The hell is this kid?! And is that a robot?!" He yelled.
His surprise didn't last long, because some blonde kid that could defy gravity leapt out of a bush and tried to flying kick-him. He ducked under it, and the blonde kid kept flying, hit one of the trees behind him, leapt off, landed on the ground, and kicked him in the chest harder than he'd ever been kicked before, only instead of hitting his chest, the blonde hit a wall of solid blue fire. He might not have suffered any damage, but he could feel the force of the blow, almost like he had blocked it with an actual shield.
"What are you?" Randy yelled.
"What are YOU?!" The blonde kid responded angrily, pushing off the forcefield to jump away, backflipping and landing in a low stance. "Name's James."
"I'm Randy." Randy said. He focused, and more blue fire flickered around his arms. He pointed them towards the blonde kid who had identified himself as James, and launched two large columns of spiralling blue fire.
James leapt over them, jumping over Randy's head and landing just behind him, and kicking him in his back, his foot turned sideways so that it hit the base of his spine with enough force to break it. Randy fell forwards lifelessly, and James smirked.
Randy's body burst into azure flames, and then he stood up, his wounds healing themselves as he forced more soulfire into his body. James leapt away, yelling "I just broke your spine! How are you alive?!"
"Soulfire, dumbass!" Randy responded, and got into a low stance. He cupped his hands together, and generated a blue ball of fire, and then fired it by pushing his hands out in front of him, his arms straight and his hands apart.
James dodged the slow ball easily, leaning to the side and spreading his legs. He leapt forwards again, landing right in front of Randy, and lashed out with a series of powerful kicks that would have broken bones, if they had hit anything other than small 2 foot by 2 foot squares of pure solidified soulfire. Randy grit his teeth, drew his hands in, and with a cry of "Soulfire... Blast!" a 360-degree sphere of soulfire exploded outwards, forcing James to jump away as clearly, he did not want to be burned alive thirty percent faster than he would have if regular fire was used.
The barrier dissipating, Randy charged more soulfire into his arms and charged a ball of energy in his right hand, threw it while charging a new ball of energy in his left hand, fired it while charging another one, and kept alternating between throwing and charging, his arms moving like a swimmer. James dodged all of them, backflipping onto his hands, flipping to his feet, back to his hands, while moving around Randy, outside the range of his Soulfire Blast, in a circular pattern.
"Is that the best you've got?" James asked smugly, landing on his hands, cartwheeling sideways onto his feet, and leaping over Randy's head, kicking at it, hitting a Soulfire Square, and landing on his feet on the other side of his opponent, still out of his Soulfire Blast range.
Randy stuck both of his arms above his head and created Seven Soulfire Spheres. They seemed to launch by themselves, as Randy stood still and made more, firing them and making new ones in an effort to create so many that James would be hit by one, at least one!
James was at the absolute peak of human ability, and if Daigaku was to be believed, pushed beyond the limits of human agility by virtue of him being a Lightning Elemental, so he evaded them all with ease, bending around and moving in impossibly elaborate positions to evade them. The barrage didn't show any signs of slowing, but James wasn't showing any signs of tiring, either.
Randy, on the other hand, was breathing heavily while sweat poured down his face. James saw this, and realised that his soulfire moves must have been powered by... well, his soul, and using too many of them was obviously draining him. Taking advantage of this, James leapt forwards, landed a few feet away from Randy, leapt forwards, and tried an Axe Kick, slamming his right foot downwards in a deadly overhead kick. Randy blocked it with a Soulfire Square, just as James planned, and the well-dressed blonde responded by using his other foot, the one that wasn't on a square made of solidified soul power, to kick Randy in his face with enough force to break his nose and cave his skull in, causing fatal brain damage. "Melior calcitrant!" He said smugly. His opponent was naming his attacks, so why shouldn't he?
The soulfire might have stopped Randy from having his face caved in, but he still felt all of the pain he would have felt anyway, and the transferred kinetic force sent him falling backwards, hitting the dirt and causing even more pain. James retracted his left leg, and used the rapidly-fading Soul Square to jump back away, landing on his feet, not winded or even breaking a sweat from his acrobatic attacks. Randy screamed in rage, and got to his feet. "YOU JUST KICKED ME IN MY FACE!"
"I know." James said calmly. "So, I'm guessing that... soulfire, is it? Stops me from breaking any bones, or causing any permanent damage. That's good." He grinned. "More fun for me!"
He paused, stopped grinning, and looked over his shoulder nonchalantly. "Hey, Max! Can you throw me a gun?"
Randy raised both of his hands over his head, making a ball of soulfire larger than he was, and threw it. James jumped over it without even looking at it, recognising the sound, as he had heard it enough times during this fight. He landed, looked back at his opponent, and smirked. Randy had already lost, he just didn't know it.
Max grinned as he created two katanas, one in each hand, and walked over to the fat man with two voices as he grinned. He was really fat, and had trouble getting up, waving his arms and feet around like a beached whale would, if it had tiny arms and legs.
A blue outline of the fat man floated out, and helped him up.
"You have two spirits?" Max asked in surprise.
"Well duh, how else did you think we dun talked like that?"
"Ya. How old is, twelve?"
"I'm not twelve!" Max shouted in rage. "I'm sixteen, I only look twelve because Ironsides live longer than you!"
"I am ghost." The Russian ghost said dryly. "How long do you think I live?"
"Not much longer!" Max yelled. "XD, blow them up! Missile Massacre!"
"Affirmative." XD said as panels of his metallic body slid away, three missile launchers emerged from each arm, and they fired three missiles at each target.
The ghost yelped and dove into the his host body, who folded his arms and laughed as the missiles bounced off, exploded, and did absolutely nothing to him. The grass around him was blackened and destroyed, but he survived, completely unscathed.
"What are you?" Max asked. "And what are your names?"
"You don't need to know our names!" The Spirit Medium said as he tried to sound dramatic. The ghost's upper body emerged from his host's back, and glared.
"Then I'll call you Fatty, and I'll call you Old Guy. How's that?" Max said happily.
"Updating files: Fatty and Old Guy added to records." XD intoned.
The ghost's left eye twitched as he was absorbed back into his body, and the two got into a stance that wouldn't have looked out of place upon a sumo wrestler.
XD charged forwards with two broadswords emerging from his wrist while his hands bent backwards. He slashed down diagonally with his right, and lunged straight ahead with his left, only for them both to be deflected by the Ghost's fists as he leaned out of his body slightly.
XD moved back and Max ran forwards, holding three katanas in his left hand and a metal stick in his right. He brought his three katanas down in a jumping overhead slice onto the Spirit Medium's head, while slamming his stick into the side of his face. The ghost blocked his attacks, and the Spirit Medium punched Max in the gut in response.
XD furiously launched another salvo of missiles at the Spirit Medium, but his ghost stayed inside him and made him invulnerable, the explosions doing less damage than a firecracker would if it was thrown at a tank.
Max tried throwing swords, but they met with the same response, the ghost knocking them away and laughing.
"This isn't working..." Max muttered. "XD! We need to split them up!"
"Affirmative!" XD shouted, and fired off an even bigger barrage of missiles, missile launchers sliding out of his arms and shoulders, arcing through the air and converging on their target, who laughed as the missiles did nothing at all, shrugging off the shrapnel and intense temperatures like a fresh summer breeze.
"How is that splitting them up?!" Max yelled.
"Command not recognised." XD intoned as he prepared another salvo of missiles.
"Hey, Max! Can you throw me a gun?" James called over, and Max grinned.
"Sure!" Max shouted as he crafted a pair of rapid-fire handguns, each designed to have a practically-bottomless amount of bullets, due to running off the same impossibly condensed and compressed metal he used for his armour and swords. He threw them over, and James caught them. Max turned back to his fight, and quickly shouted, "XD, stop wasting your missiles! Try to outfight them!"
He might have won, he might not have won, but it wouldn't have really mattered, as Max was busy thinking of a possible strategy. When Max had built XD-65535, he built, designed and programmed it himself, only using his powers for ammunition, and creating the metal parts faster than he would have if he had used a forge. He had several opponents in mind when he designed his weapons, but Ghosts and Spirit Mediums had completely slipped his mind. He promised himself that he would fix this technical oversight when he got around to building the next XD model, which, if this fight went on for much longer, he might need to do faster than he'd have liked.
James caught the weapons, one in each hand, and felt the familiar rush of calmness and control he felt whenever he held a gun. It was one thing to have peak human agility and reflexes that would make any Parkour practitioner weep in jealousy, or enough leg strength to kick through bones, but nothing quite beat the feeling of absolute certainty one felt when holding a gun. To him, it wasn't just a gun he held, it was the power over life and death; he could kill someone by pointing and clicking, a method of killing that was absolutely foolproof. Literally, if the number of gun-related murders back home was anything to go by. Two guns only made his victory even more certain. Rapid-fire boosted his chances so much that he would have normally felt that power tainted by a slight twinge of guilt at having such an unfair advantage, but then he remembered that his opponent, a magic-capable human, was using his magical powers to, if Daigaku's books were correct, manifest his soul's power in his attacks to strengthen them. The book advised against overusing projectile soul attacks, as they rapidly drained soul power, or whatever it was called. James felt unusually... unusual about using such bizarre non-science in a combat situation, but it was only logical to adapt. This person could fire exploding balls made of his own soul. Only a fool would deny it, and risk getting hit by one to prove that he was right.
Therefore, James's plan was to force his enemy to waste as much energy and power as he could, and then go in for the kill once he was unable to protect himself with his "Soulfire". If the book was correct, then blocking attacks with those soul manifestations would also drain the user, advising fast and strong attacks to break them, recommending rocks, shards of wood, arrows, or rapid-fire punches or kicks.
Obviously, whoever wrote that book had never heard of guns.
James clicked his guns, one after the other, using the tips of his fingers to "chamber the rounds", also known as "pulling back the top part", of both guns in less than a second, and stuck both arms straight out in front of him. "Block this!" He yelled, and fired. His guns fired constant streams of metal bullets at Randy, who created a larger, full-size spherical 180-degree Soulfire Shield to protect himself. The wall of solidified azure flames stood strong against the stream of pure death, but for how long?
"How long can you keep this up?" James yelled over the roar of his own weapons.
"How long can YOU keep this up?!" Randy yelled in response, sweating heavily and struggling to breathe. Spiderwebs of cracks started to show upon his shield, and his soulfire flared up even more to try and sustain it.
"Knowing my teammate, I'd say... all day!" James said with a smirk. "You, on the other hand? Well... I'd say you're just about finished."
Randy's soulfire shield shattered, and he stumbled back, immediately reeling with a migraine worse than any hangover he'd ever experienced, but that was nothing compared to being shot in the shoulders several times in the course of a second before James stopped firing, and watched. "You shot me!" He screamed as he clutched his shoulders.
"You don't say!" James responded sarcastically as he checked his guns. Oddly enough, they still felt like they were full. Still, as interesting as this fight was, he felt it would be appropriate to finish it off with a kick, rather than a simple bullet to the head, or heart, or both at the same time. James only shot him to check if his soulfire was still protecting him, because if what he read in Daigaku's books were correct, if somebody wanted to learn to use soulfire, and they couldn't just keep draining it from someone until their bodies adapted and became capable of making their own, then years of continuous intensive training was required. For some reason nobody was quite sure of, it was physically and anatomically impossible for any elemental to use soulfire, and rare for any elementalist. It was usually something only mana-capable humans could do.
"Well played..." James said as he leaped forwards a few times, and swung a powerful upwards kick at the bottom of Randy's chin, knocking him off his feet and sending him flying through the air as he lost unconsciousness. James smirked triumphantly. "But I win."
Corvus grimaced as his enemy, whose name he didn't care enough to ask about, cut apart the shadowy tendrils that were supposed to hold him still, for what had to be the third time this fight. The swordsman ran at Corvus, swinging his sword in a wide sideways sweep to the right. Corvus blocked it with his cleaver, and when the swordsman tried to punch Corvus in the face, his fist was blocked by a shadowy tendril.
The swordsman's fist ignited into blue fire, burned through the shadow like a torch through paper, and he punched Corvus in the face. He fell back; his fall being the only thing that kept the sword from cutting off his head as it sailed over him.
To try and put some distance between them, Corvus retreated into his own shadow, and slid away. The swordsman stabbed his sword into the ground, charged some of his soulfire into the sword and towards Corvus's shadow, and burned it. The shadow flickered and faded away, and Corvus slid out of the ground on his front. He got up just in time to block the swordsman's next overhead slash, surprised by the strength this swordsman had, the intensity of his soulfire. It required incredible willpower and determination to be used correctly, and required a lot of training to be used at all, but still, it surprised him more than he'd admit.
Corvus charged his own shadowy energy into his cleaver, black fire flaring up around it. It might not have been soulfire, but it was enough to stop the enemy blade from slicing through his cleaver like a katana through rice paper. Taking advantage of the moment, Corvus forced his shadow to create a sharp tendril that lunged for his enemy's heart, only for it to burn up when his enemy's entire body was engulfed in flames.
Corvus forced even more shadowy power into his blade than he had before, causing the swordsman to laugh as he forced in more power. This was what Corvus was planning, as he proceeded to shove the swordsman away with his left arm, sending him a few feet back and knocking him off balance, and yet he still managed to block Corvus's next vicious cleaver slash with his sword without even looking.
The swordsman clenched his fist, and forced his soulfire to explode outwards, burning all of the nearby grass and trees in a radius of a few feet. Corvus used his Shadow Sphere to deflect it, but the blue flames tearing away at his shield caused the shadow to slowly melt away like a wax sculpture. Sheer force of will was the only thing keeping it from dissolving completely. Once the blast was over, Corvus jumped out of his shadow and attacked, swinging his clearer upwards at the swordsman's face, only for it to be blocked effortlessly.
As Corvus stumbled back, the swordsman charged even more soulfire into his sword, overcharging it so much that it became a blade made of burning blue fire, leaving blue afterimages in the air as it moved. Corvus tried to copy it, and performed a similar trick with his cleaver, the black energy extending until the two swords were mostly the same size. "Mine's longer." The swordsman said smugly.
"Mine's thicker." Corvus replied with a grin, and the two charged each other, sparks flying whenever their swords struck, their blades moving and twirling through the air and faintly humming in a way reminiscent of one of Max's favourite Sci-Fi movie trilogies of all times. And to Max, it was a trilogy, because only three of the movies were worth counting, because he hated the others.
Corvus slashed overhead with both hands, and the swordsman blocked it. The two energy swords locked together as the two forced more and more power into their swords, each trying to overcome the other, residual shadow and soulfire burning the ground around them.
How am I supposed to beat him?! Corvus wondered. He's stronger than me, faster than me, and as it would seem, angrier than me, if that's even possible.
After fighting the Soulfire user, James decided he might as well help his teammates. He saw Max and Corvus go after the swordsman, and that Spirit Medium couldn't move when he was invulnerable, however, he knew from experience that he wasn't much use against a swordsman unless he also had a sword, and while Max could probably build him a sword in seconds, he didn't feel like taking the thrill of combat away from one of his teammates, so he attempted to ignore the pain in his legs from kicking and jumping so many times, and looked around for Bob Masamune, the man he had been sent here to collect.
But first things first: Pointing out the obvious to people who were too dull to see it. "Hey, Max! Corvus!" He shouted out over his shoulder. "The fat guy can't move while he's invincible, and the swordsman can only use his soulfire on himself, or his soul, but not both at the same time! Also, the fat guy's ghost can't completely protect his entire body against an attack, which is why he keeps splitting partially whenever he needs to block an attack completely!"
A small part in the back of his head still wondered if this was all part of an unbelievably large con, and he was being deceived into kidnapping this... 'Bob Masamune', who might not even have that as his real name.
His perceptive gold eyes spotted a bound and gagged man on the floor, his limbs tied to his body, attempting to crawl away in a way similar to an insect, possibly a worm. He was not sure, he did not care much for insects. He did not fear them, but he didn't like them, either. They were beneath him.
James closed his eyes, focused his mind, and performed the technique his butler had taught him. "Argutus et mente rationalia." He muttered quietly.
Inside his mind, James visualised a black, empty void. In the center of the void, just a few feet ahead of his, the name BOB MASAMUNE was being written in gold text, bordered in a long irregular hexagon that was a similar shade of gold.
Lines snaked off the border, and became their own boxes, containing words that represented what he knew about this 'Bob' person.
Directly above the name was the most important part of this person- SWORDSMITH. From what James knew, this 'Bob Masamune' fellow was not only a swordsmith, but the latest in a family of great swordsmiths.
To the right was the reason James and his... 'Allies' were here- KIDNAPPED. 'Bob' had been kidnapped by three people that were quite old, compared to the team that had been sent after them. They all had powers, and seemed to be capable of breaking into the Masamune estate... And yet, they couldn't beat two teenagers and a child?
OBESE WIFE, MANY CHILDREN. He had an obese wife and many, many children, but none of them would be able to pay the ransom money. Not that they would have tried, 'Bob's' family seemed to be rather useless. The children openly disliked him, the wife's mind was a broken mess, and her body wasn't much better. The maid outwardly despised everyone. None of these people would pay ransom, so why-
James's mind zoomed in on that train of thought as more words started to grow from the web.
WIFE. The family would not pay the ransom. Bob would be killed. With the man gone, the wife would be left with all of the masamune estate to herself. That 'Broken mind' of hers was probably an act.
MAID Unless that was what the maid wanted me to think. Does she really believe herself to be beneath suspicion? I suspect everyone!
CHILDREN There is also the possibility that the children hired the thieves. One of them did it, or they all worked together, it does not matter.
The yellow web faded away, its purpose complete. James opened his eyes, and was pleased when his infallible internal body clock told him that his thoughts had taken up less than one second of his time.
All of these are possibilities that could be... possible. James thought to himself. I believe it is time that I found some true answers.
James briefly considered jumping over and slicing through the ropes with his feet, but decided against it. He had done enough today. Instead, he calmly walked over to the fleeing victim of kidnapping, and pushed him onto his back with an effortless nudge from his legs, followed by forcing him to hold still by resting his foot upon Bob's chest, the look in James's eyes openly showing his willingness to crush every bone in his upper body if he had to.
"Who are you?" James asked furiously. If this was a con, the last thing he wanted to do was accuse this man of being someone he wasn't.
"Mfffmffmff!" The victim of kidnapping responded.
James rolled his eyes, bent down, and removed the sock from his mouth so that he could speak. He left him tied up, for now.
"Who are you?!" James asked angrily. He already knew this person's name, but it was tradition to start interrogations off in this way. Normally, he would have used his regular interrogation methods, in which he was poised, graceful, and intelligent enough to make the person give up whatever information he needed without even realising it. However, he'd already jumped and kicked far too much today, he was feeling tired, but he looked cool, and the kidnapping victim probably saw most of the fight, so he decided to go with this.
"Bob Masamune!" Bob shouted.
"Why are you here?!"
"I don't know! I was kidnapped!"
James raised an eyebrow, and leaned in. "Oh reeeaaaalllyyy?" He asked smugly.
Bob stuttered for a few seconds, and then burst into tears. "No!" He wailed.
But instead, this 'Bob' fellow seemed to completely lack determination, or even the common decency to at least TRY to resist, even if it was futile. It gave the interrogator something to do, gave him a puzzle to solve, a mind to break. 'Bob' cracked easily...
"You expect me to believe THAT?!" James snapped. He recalled what Max had said while gushing about him, and decided to try using that information. "That somebody as famous and high-profile as you, with a complete and loving family, would do something so shallow, so selfish, so cruel?!" He began working himself up, trying hard to show false anger when only apathy and mild interest filled his soul.
"Loving family?! Have you SEEN those brats?! Or my wife?! Or what's left of her?"
What's left? James thought. "Your wife is unwell?" He asked.
"Unwell? Unwell?! Try abso-freaking-lutely insane!" Bob laughed. "She's crazily obsessed with her weight. One week, she'll eat nothing and come close to starving to death, only my medical skill preventing her from dying completely. Eventually, she'll get thin. To celebrate, she'll eat everything in sight. She's attempted to eat our maid more than once. Anyway, one day, some quack doctor comes along with this miracle pill that'll fix AAAANYthing! She takes it, and her mind completely DISINTEGRATES! Do you have any idea how expensive she is now?!"
"But think of the children!" James said overdramatically. "You would allow your children to grow up with only a hideously overweight-"
"Screw the children!" Bob roared. "Have you MET them?!"
"Yes, but that's not the POINT! What happened here? Who hired the kidnappers?!" James demanded.
"I hired the kidnappers! I-"
"I hired them, so I could get away from my family! Have you seen them?!"
"Unfortunately, yes." James said, internally piecing everything together. "If I may ask... how much did these people cost?"
"Well, I had to make it believeable!" He defended.
"How much did they cost?!" James repeated forcefully.
"I had to sell a few old swords, that's all."
Interesting. James thought. These swords are now floating around on the black market? "So, Bob, these swords are now floating around on the black market?"
"Most likely, unless somebody buys them and keeps them. If I may ask... You guys are from Daigaku, right? How much did it cost to hire you?"
James turned away dramatically, and told him false information that would mess up any psychological profile the swordsmith was trying to make. "It is not my job to ask questions. I am an agent, it is only my duty to follow orders." He looked back at Bob, and saw that he was trying to get away, writhing on the ground and moving a few centimetres each second. A quick leap, and James was right in front of Bob, his trajectory slowly taking him closer and closer towards his doom. Naturally, he stopped, and started to try and go the other way.
"Be still." James hissed murderously, spitting out the syllables like bullets, his British accent becoming even more prominent as his rage increased. Bob let out a small 'Eeep' of terror, and stayed as still as possible.
"Now," James went on, his voice still in the same tone, and his rage could be practically felt in the air. Sparks of electricity began to form around him, dancing around his form like tiny blades. "I'm going to ask you what is going on here. I am going to ask you what you have done. You are going to tell me the correct answers. And when I have the answers I seek, I shall release you. Of that, you have my word."
Max stared thoughtfully at the Spirit Medium, planning a possible strategy. "It's pretty obvious that missiles aren't working!" He said angrily at XD, who was firing missile after missile at the Spirit Medium, regardless of whether it worked or not.
"Command not recognised!" XD insisted, retracting one missile launcher and getting another one ready, one that fired smaller missiles. He may have been a robot that lived only for two things: destruction, and protecting Max, but he still knew about conserving ammunition.
Max's eyes widened as he heard James tell him the secret to getting around his opponent's invincibility. Well, that was interesting. He thought as he smiled. "XD! Stop the missiles! Draw your flamethrower-katanas!"
"Affirmative." XD said flatly as his missile launchers were drawn back into him, and two metal katanas extended from the bottom the palms of his hands. They looked normal enough, except for being taller, thicker, and having a small hole at the end of the blade from which fire could be ejected at a moment's notice.
"Fire!" Max roared dramatically, pointing with his right sword. XD stood in front of his creator, pointed the flamethrower-katanas at the Spirit Medium, and launched two streams of burning red fire. They struck the Spirit Medium in his chest, where they did nothing to him. However, it did keep him still, which is what Max wanted. Max liquefied some of the metal on his arms, and rested the palms of his hands on the ground, forcing the liquid metal to travel forwards and converge in a puddle around the Spirit Medium's feet.
XD stopped blasting fire at the Spirit Medium, the Spirit Medium lowered his invincibility to open his eyes, to check why the fire had stopped-
And he was impaled several times over by the long, thin sharp shards of metal that emerged from the pool of liquid metal. They shot out of the pool, and reached their full height of six feet in seconds. Each spear shot directly upwards, like the metal spikes one might see at the bottom of a spiked pit in any old game.
The ghost emerged from the Spirit Medium's body, and XD quickly punched it in its face, dissipating the ectoplasm effortlessly.
"It looks like somebody..." Max said dramatically, paused to take off his glasses, and continued. "Spiked this man's punch."
Max and XD punched the air in unison, and respectively screamed and monotonously uttered "YEEEAAAHHH!"