Night Fox – Comic Post #129: Quit Complaining

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Comic-129A

Finally back to the regular updates for now. Based off of the slightl increase of traffic to the site the past month, I’m going to assume that the chapters were marginally more interesting than the comics (though the absolutely minimal increase in engagement could just be because I was posting stuff more than once a week…) As to when I’m going to be continuing with the novel chapters, I can’t 100% say for certain when I’ll post chapter 5. Though because I don’t want the chapter updates to interrupt certain story beats in the comic, it might be a while…

That being said, I’m not completely winging it with the other chapters. I do have a general outline for how the events are going to unfold, and based off of how long the first 4 chapters were, I’m planning on writing around 16 chapters in total. With how I think everything is going to be paced, I’m thinking future updates are going to be 2 chapters at a time. And I have a VERY detailed outline of what happens in chapter 5 and 6, so I know exactly what is going to go into those chapters, I just need to actually just buckle down and get to writing them. I’m not omnipotent as much as I like to pretend I am, so these plans could change in the future, but as of now, this is what I’ve got plotted out so far.

That’s pretty much everything for this week, so until then, I’ll see you next comic.

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Art Post – Summer Time 2018

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Summer 2018

And here comes the last picture for the art train as we drift back to our regular update schedule of a single comic every Wednesday. I decided to stop being lazy for a change and decided to do not only something with a background, but with an actual significant amount of characters in it. I actually started this picture at the very end of May, and I’m not going to lie: I actually didn’t think I’d finish this til the end of August as I have been getting pretty bad at finishing my digital pieces with in a reasonable frame of time. (Just a quick frame of reference, that picture of Astria I started in December of last year and didn’t get around to finishing it till MARCH..) So yeah, another bad behavior I want to hopefully nip in bud.

Anyways, why did I decide to do a group shot of most of the important casts members (plus Kaz’s sister Jeanie) at the beach? Just felt like it I guess… Though getting to draw the girls in swimsuits might’ve played a tiny factor in my decision making. That being said, the most prominent display of skin is coming from Kaz this time, so you can’t say this picture doesn’t have something for the ladies / gay dudes…

This is another one of those pictures where I tried changing up how I did the shading. Rather than just use a base color and one darker color for most of the shading with some highlights here and there, I tried using multiple colors of various light values to do the shading this time. And I just gotta say, I kind of regret it. It took so much longer to do than my usual method, which is what initially put me off to the idea of even finishing this off in a timely manner, so I wasn’t as motivated to get it done at first. I eventually buckled down and tried to get one “feature” (ie one character or piece of background) done a day, which just feels bad when you have to force yourself to do art. I eventually got into the groove and got the last third all finished in one day, but it’s debatable if it even turned out better than my usual shading. Not to mention, the way I kind of screwed up the sunlight (probably made it look a little too glary, though that could just be because I’m previewing the picture within the post on an all white background), kind of makes it hard to see in the first place.

Still, I challenged myself and it didn’t turn out as the absolute worst thing I’ve posted to this blog, (lord knows how awful the stuff I posted in my first couple of months look in comparison as I refuse to go back and check) so I guess I can’t be too disappointed in this picture. Anyways, the next piece of art I’m going to post is probably going to be of Ace, which I’m probably going to procrastinate on because I haven’t drawn him in years and as such, he was in need of a slight redesign… And I’m not going to lie, the drawing I did for his redesign was just a smidge more complicated than it probably needed to be, so shading it might take a bit…

I think that’s pretty much everything I wanted to say. Again, regular boring update schedule again for the foreseeable future, so until then, I’ll see you next post.

 

Night Fox – Novel Post: Chapter 4

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Chapter 4

As Alex had been initially running away from the fight between Ombrix Masserk and Kitsiyuna, he found himself finally remembering what that book he had read all those years ago told him about Somnights and their powers. The old book he inherited among many others went into great detail about a Somnight’s ability to utilize the thin layer of dust that is constantly growing on the surface of their skin as a way of messing with one’s senses. Depending on the Somnight, they could utilize their dust for any manner of trickery, including inducing hallucinations, rendering themselves invisible, numbing or amplifying ones sense of touch, or even forcing people to fall asleep, earning them the nicknames of Sandmen and Dust Devils.

Within in the margins of the old book, Alex remembered notes written in a green pen that had been left behind by the previous owner. While most of the notes were musings and ramblings of personal experience about the particular Spirit in question, some of the notes were helpful tips for things you could do should you ever find yourself getting attack by said Spirit. For Somnights in particular, the notes mentioned covering your face up to lessen the effectiveness of the dust, because after all, it can’t make you think you’re seeing something if it can’t actually get into your eyes. It also mentioned, that despite the nickname Dust Devil, Somnights were particularly susceptible to wind magic, as it could easily blow their dust away, rendering them largely helpless.

With these facts in mind, Alex tried to formulate a plan as he ran back in the direction of the fight, with Kitsiyuna screaming in pain spurring him to run back and assist her. While he didn’t have any kind of mask to cover up his face, Alex decided he would make do with squinted eyes, a held breath, and a focused mind. And, though he didn’t have any kind of wind magic to speak of in his tiny arsenal of spells that he actually could cast, he did have a plan to get rid of the dust so that his lack of any kind of facial protection wouldn’t be an issue.

“Try to keep your breathing to a minimal and stay focused… Don’t let him mess with you…” Alex thought to himself as Ombrix stared him down with a malicious grin.

“Well well well… It’s the innocent bystander in all of this, come to rescue his rescuer! It’s so touching; I can almost feel myself tearing up…” Ombrix said in a sarcastic tone. Another dust cloud was building around him as he held out his blades in a ‘come at me’ manner.

“Don’t get cocky you jackass! I know just how to deal with you!” Alex boastfully shouted, keeping himself pumped up to keep his mind focused.

“Do you now!?” Ombrix blurted out in a hysterical fit of laughter. “The toddler here knows how to deal with me does he!? You sound far cockier than me you dipshit! I already beat your little Spirit friend there into submission easily! What can a little shit human like you possibly do to beat me!?” Ombrix launched his dust cloud forward in a massive wave as he gloated. The dusty air began to whirl around Alex as his vision grew hazier, like he was trapped in the middle of a silent sandstorm. Despite the intensity of the dust storm, Alex remained stalwart as a grin began to form on his face.

“Well, for starters, I have just the thing to clear out your stupid gimmicky dust!” he shouted. Alex quickly focused his mind as he once again recalled the process to cast Dispersion Wave.

He ran the matrices and formulas in his head as fast as he could process them to lessen his exposure to the dust storm. Everything in his head began to coalesce together as he began to levitate his tome in the air once again, freeing his left hand. He then angled his left palm downward, letting the adrenaline build inside of him.

The adrenaline quickly converted itself into Spirit Energy, far more than Alex had ever used up to that point, as blue wisps began to radiate from his body, focusing around his palm. His body was telling him that the amount of effort he was trying to force into the spell was too much, but his mind knew if he wanted to win this, it needed to be the strongest Dispersion Wave he had ever cast. His battle high forced his body to ignore its natural limiters, as he finally cast the spell.

“DISPERSION WAVE: MAXIMUM!” Alex screamed from the top of his lungs as the raw energy began to rip loose from his left hand.

Rather than a shotgun blast like last time, the force Alex emitted felt like a bomb going off. The shockwave that Alex shot down was quickly redirected off of the grass and dirt beneath his feet, transforming into a colossal updraft. The nearby trees shook violently, with their leaves and branches tearing off and flying in every direction.

Gale force winds bellowed through the surrounding forest, forcing both Ombrix and Kitsiyuna to go prone and brace themselves to keep from getting swept off of their feet. Even Alex himself found it difficult to maintain his balance, as even though the spell was his, providing him with protection from most of its effects, the winds it generated were just a tad too strong. But, most importantly, all of the dust that Ombrix had been allowing to stagnate in the air was blown far up into the atmosphere as a result, completely clearing the nearby air of Ombrix’s advantage over them.

Despite the extreme winds Alex managed to create in that moment, they died down within seconds. Pain instantly shot through Alex’s entire left arm as a massive bruise formed all over the surface of his palm, a result of the recoil for forcing himself to cast such a powerful spell. He began to feel a numbing throb in his hand, like a 200 pound weight had been dropped directly onto it. Even though he barely had any feeling left, and it hurt like hell for him to do so, Alex clenched his hand tightly into a determined fist. Despite the tears running down his face from the pain, he still scrunched his face up into a confident smile like he was just getting started.

Kitsiyuna, who was still recovering from the dust and now Alex’s magic was left kneeling over the ground in sheer amazement. Though her senses were still on the fritz, her ability to sense Spirit Energy was able to pick up something from Alex’s soul. While his soul didn’t seem any stronger than when she first found him, something emanating from it definitely felt different. His soul seemed just as quaint and weak as before, and yet, Kitsiyuna felt a willpower behind it that was burning stronger than anything she had felt before, forcing it beyond its limits.

“His soul… It might be just as weak as any other human’s soul… But it feels like its burning brighter than any Spirit’s…” Kitsiyuna thought to herself as she tried to regain her composure. She wasn’t quite sure what it meant, but she suddenly felt a lot less worried about Alex holding his own against Ombrix.

“How do you like that you dusty bitch!?” Alex gloated, wincing in pain as he talked while pointing a bruised finger in Ombrix’s direction. Ombrix merely stood there, mouth agape with a dumbfounded look on his face.

“What the hell…? There’s no way when that spell was made it was supposed to come out with that much force when cast… How the hell did a weak little human like you luck into pulling something like that off in the first place…!?” he said in disbelief.

“Well wouldn’t you like to know chalk-top! Unlike you though, I’m not the kind of guy who just blabs about how my magic works to my enemies…!” Alex replied.

“I suppose it ultimately doesn’t matter in the end. When compared to her, a little human like you is nothing more than a mere infant. I don’t need my dust to deal with the likes of you… ALL I HAVE TO DO IS CHOP THAT scrawny neck of yours WIDE open!” Ombrix shouted as he charged forward, drawing his blades as he prepared to take a slice at Alex’s head. Alex was undeterred by this however, as he too ran forward, ready to meet Ombrix’s advance. Just as he was about to reach Ombrix’s blades, Alex quickly dropped to his knees as his momentum carried him forward, allowing him to safely slide underneath the blades as he readied his dagger to counterattack.

“All right. Look for an opening. Don’t just give him a couple of stabs, REALLY tear into him!” Alex thought to himself mid-slide, preparing to stab at Ombrix’s right leg as it passed by. Within the brief moments Alex was sliding, he quickly saw a gap in between the chains and armor Ombrix had wrapped around his legs and took it as his opening. Alex held his dagger out as he plunged it into Ombrix’s dusty flesh, tearing a large gash into his leg as he slid by, blood spewed from the fresh wound. The second Alex’s dagger was no longer making contact; he quickly pulled his arm back in, jumping back to his feet as he rushed forward to safety. Ombrix responded to the new cut with an angered growl, finding it more annoying than painful.

This is how you’re going to beat this guy Alex… Dodge his attacks, then strike him around his joints when you see an opening! …He might shrug most of it of at first, but eventually he’ll HAVE to slow down.”  Alex strategized in his head.

“Come here you fucking little shit!” Ombrix yelled out as he tried to hack away at Alex in retaliation. Alex kept a sizeable distance from him as he dodged and sidestepped Ombrix’s onslaught, mimicking the motions he saw Kitsiyuna do to defend against the Cornossa earlier. Due to his lack of speed in comparison to her, Alex also kept his tome at the ready to intercept any slashes he was too slow to dodge. While the tome didn’t completely nullify all of the attacks, as some of Ombrix’s swings still left small cuts and nicks on Alex’s upper body even when blocked, the cuts were shallow enough that it was still preferable to getting hit by the real thing.

Ignore all of those little cuts, they shouldn’t mean anything to you! Just stick to his injured leg and keep circling around him! Even if the bastard is a Spirit, him having to constantly apply pressure to that leg in order to turn will get to him eventually!” Alex continued to think to himself as he proceeded to dodge in a circle around Ombrix, taking care to dodge in such a way that Ombrix would have to exert himself even more to keep on the offensive.

“Right there! He left himself open!” Alex exclaimed in his head, after ducking out of the way of a slower than usual attack. Ombrix’s slow swing in that moment left his arm exposed just long enough for Alex to jab his dagger into the inside fold of his elbow. Alex didn’t take any chances, barely digging into the surface of the skin before quickly backing out, giving him enough time to avoid Ombrix’s retaliation.

“GRAAAH! Die you damn brat!” Ombrix vented out in anger.

Alex continued to circle around him faster and faster, enabling him more and more openings to attack. While his stabs weren’t very deep, he meticulously aimed each hit of his dagger to make moving around as irritating as possible for Ombrix. He jabbed him in between his ribs, in his waist, wrists, elbows, knees and even his arm pits. If any part of the body he was aiming for was covered with armor or chains, he would take extra care to angle his thrusts in such a way that it would slide underneath the armor or through the links of the chains. Here, Alex was being absolutely meticulous, unlike with the Wightling earlier, where he merely stabbed as fast as he could.

“He’s doing okay so far, but the problem is none of his hits so far have been anywhere close to being life-threatening.” Kitsiyuna thought to herself as she watched kneeling from the sidelines, still trying to regain herself. “That spell he cast at the beginning sure was powerful, but the way it messed up his hand, I don’t really know if he can follow it up with more magic that’s just as effective. He might be able to outpace him for now, but if he can’t deliver some kind of serious blow to Ombrix soon, his human stamina is going to end up letting him down in the long run…” She began to slowly clench her fist as her breathing picked back up again.

“Damnit Kitsiyuna! Keep your head focused and clear the rest of that damn dust out of your system! You need to get in there and help him finish this fight! I mean, what kind of Spirit are you if you’re just going to force a 15 year old boy to solve all of your problems by himself!?” Kitsiyuna continued in frustration at herself. She took her clenched fist before slamming it into the ground, as she used it to slowly push herself to her feet, immolating the air around her with her fire magic.

“Enough of this!” Ombrix shouted in great annoyance, having just been stabbed by Alex for about the 30th time. He held his blades horizontally as he performed a series of continuous 360 degree spins as he advanced towards Alex, kicking up another ever growing dust cloud as he went.

Alex was prepared for this change of tactic however and quickly doubled the distance he had been keeping. Though it was hard to see through the cover of the dust cloud he was whipping up, Alex kept his eyes on Ombrix’s feet as he fell back further and further. After a few rotations, as Ombrix was about ready to radiate out his dust cloud once again, Alex finally made his move. He noticed how Ombrix was maintaining his footing through his spinning attack, and chose to capitalize when his injured right leg was the only one touching the ground.

“DISPERSION WAVE!” Alex shouted again as he fired off another shockwave, having already done the incantations for it in his head as soon as Ombrix started spinning. The spell was only about as powerful as when he used it on Angela, but it still caused searing pain in his already bruised left hand as he used it, Alex trying his best to power through. However just like with Angela, the spell was still effective enough to knock Ombrix off of his unstable footing, sending him flying a considerable distance backwards, while once again dispersing his accumulated dust cloud.

The spell had sent Ombrix on a collision course with another nearby tree. Rather than smash right into the tree however, Ombrix quickly dug his blades into it, using his momentum to swing around the tree’s circumference as his blades carved a ring into its bark. Just as he completed his orbit around the tree, it’s trunk snapped in half from the incision he had made, causing the whole thing to collapse. He then kicked off of the trunk with enough force to alter the direction it was falling, launching himself into the air on a direct course back to Alex. All of this occurred in the span of about 3 seconds.

“Fucking die already!” he shouted as he flew through the air, his blades ready to strike Alex from out of the air. Alex had been so caught off guard by Ombrix’s ‘rebound’ that he wasn’t able to move out of the way in time. Thankfully for him, Kitsiyuna’s reflexes were even faster as she propelled herself forward with a blast of fire, allowing her to intercept Ombrix, once again meeting his blades with her bracers. Much like the initial clash between the two Spirits, both of them tried to push the other back, with neither side being able to make any kind of head way.

Alex happily broke the stalemate however; as he quickly jammed his dagger into Ombrix’s left shoulder, wedging it in underneath his shoulder armor before quickly ripping it down the length of his upper arm. More blood oozed out of Ombrix’s arm as the pain caused him to lose his concentration, allowing Kitsiyuna to shove him back before decking him in the face with her burning fists.

Not allowing Ombrix any kind of reprieve, she quickly hurled a fireball at him like she was pitching a fastball, knocking him into yet another tree with enough force to uproot and topple the whole thing. Alex and Kitsiyuna weren’t allowed to celebrate however, as Ombrix slowly got himself back up from the newly fallen tree. Though he had clearly taken quite the beating, he wasn’t anywhere close to giving up.

“Is that it!? I was told your magic was way stronger than that Kitsiyuna! The damn tree hurt more than those flames!” Ombrix yelled as he slowly tried to get back to his feet.

“Are you kidding me…? If this guy was human, at the very least he should be freaking paralyzed at this point…” Alex said in annoyance.

“That’s a Spirit for you. Our bodies tend to be able to endure a lot of punishment. I also wouldn’t be surprised if all the dust that’s covering his body helps dampen the effects of our magic on him…” Kitsiyuna replied back.

“What we need is for you to completely incinerate this guy like you did for the other bounty hunters…”

“Well, like I said earlier, I’m not exactly fighting at top form, and the near asphyxiation from the dust certainly hasn’t been helping. It might take a bit of time and uninterrupted concentration for me to incant a spell strong enough to one shot him right now…”

“So what you’re saying is you need someone to keep this guy distracted…?” Alex replied back with a certain eagerness to his voice.

“Well, someone keeping him busy wouldn’t hurt but…” Kitsiyuna answered with a hint of hesitation, as she knew exactly what Alex was planning to do. Before she could even finish her sentence, Alex charged forward at Ombrix with his tome floating behind him.

“Then I’ll keep him distracted while you get ready to roast his ass into ashes!” Alex confidently yelled back to Kitsiyuna as he continued forward in attempt to get the jump on Ombrix before he could completely recover.

“Cocky little shit! You’ll regret ever getting involved in this!” Ombrix yelled as he swung his blades, whipping up more dust before Alex could reach him. Alex halted his movements just in time to block the attack with his tome. Ombrix continued attacking him as Alex continued to block, moving his tome almost in rhythm with Ombrix’s swings. After the fifth attack, Alex quickly pulled his tome back and redirected it straight into Ombrix’s face.

Ombrix proceeded to reel back from the hit, like he had just been sucker punched in the face, giving Alex an opportunity to lay into him. Alex continued to essentially slap Ombrix across the face with his tome, alternating sides with each swing to get the most speed he could into each hit. Just as Ombrix was about to wise up and use his blades to block the tome, Alex anticipated the move, quickly switching targets to Ombrix’s legs. Alex’s tome completely swept him off of his feet as it cleared his legs, causing him to fall over onto his side. Before he could hit the ground though, Alex slammed his tome directly into his stomach, dunking Ombrix directly into the ground as he was sent tumbling backwards in a clumsy heap.

“Holy shit, this is taking a lot out of me…” Alex thought to himself. Though he was putting on a brave front to show no weakness to his enemy, the constant dodging and use of his tome were causing him to run out of steam. “But you have to keep this up as long as you can! Don’t let him know you’re so tired you feel like you wanna die! Just keep up the pressure, even from a distance if you have to!”

To mask his growing fatigue, Alex cast another Dispersion Wave from quite a ways away from Ombrix, utilizing his non-bruised hand this time to avoid hurting himself further. The spell was considerably weaker than last time, and the fact that he wasn’t using it pointblank didn’t help with its power either. But fortunately for him, Ombrix was so uncoordinated from his injuries that Alex was still able to send him back a significant distance. Knowing his tired state, Alex purposefully aimed him into yet another tree, hoping that constantly knocking him into foliage would make up for the lack of power.

“That one was definitely weaker than the last one… You’re definitely slowing down, HUMAN!” Ombrix confidently remarked as he dislodged himself from the tree he was currently partially embedded in.

“Oh damn it, he’s already catching on!” Alex thought to himself in distress. “Come on Alex! Keep it together. As long as you can keep him at bay, Kitsiyuna should be able to bail you out so… JUST. DO. SOMETHING!”

In a mix of frustration and desperation, Alex pulled out his dagger again. He quickly hurled it at Ombrix, putting his entire body into the throw and almost falling flat on his face in the process. Despite the desperation behind Alex as he made the throw, if there was one thing he knew how to do with a knife; it was how to hurl it at somebody.

The dagger rapidly spun through the air as it flew directly towards Ombrix, who was too distracted pulling himself from the tree to see it coming. Alex could feel his heart stop as he watched the dagger fly through the air in slow motion. Every rotation it made felt like an eternity to him as it slowly dawned on him that he might miss the mark. Just when it seemed like Alex had misjudged the throw entirely, Ombrix turned his head at the last second, causing the dagger to fly straight into his left eye.

“AHHHHHHHRRRRRRRGGGGHHHHH!!! YOU FUCKING BASTARD!!!” Ombrix wailed out, dropping both of his blades as he clutched his bleeding face. That one throw had apparently inflicted more pain than anything else Alex and Kitsiyuna did the entire fight.

Ombrix stood there screaming in agony, writhing about in pain while grasping onto his face as Alex merely sat back and stared, too amazed that he actually managed to hit him square in the eye. Alex quickly came to his senses however, as he recalled the dagger with his magic, telepathically ripping it back out of Ombrix’s eye as he pulled it back to his hand, causing even more blood to spew out as he did. It seemed the dagger hurt just as much going into the eye as it did getting pulled out, as Ombrix’s pained screaming only got louder and angrier. Ombrix let go of his face as he pulled his blades back into his hands, staring at Alex with a murderous look on his face while blood continued to stream from his left eye socket.

“YOOOOU!!! I’m going to make good on my promise of skinning you alive you midget FUCK! I’ll flay off every single inch of skin from your scrawny body while i break each and every single one of your bones before i RIP them all out and grind them to dust! then, I’ll rip that damned soul of yours from whatever’s left of your rotting, FESTERING corpse, cram it into another body and do the EXACT same FUCKING thing all over again!!!” Ombrix shrieked at the top of his lungs in the most intimidating voice he could muster as a huge dust storm began to build up all around him, far faster than any had done before.

Just like when he was inside the barrier, Ombrix’s dust quickly started to glow bright orange, causing the air to distort and simmer. Sparks flew through the whirling dust storm as it grew larger and larger around Ombrix. He then thrust one of his blades forward, triggering the entire dust storm to funnel forward into a giant whirling beam, radiating off lightning in every direction.

“FLESH EATER STORM!” Ombrix screamed out as he finished the incantation to an exceedingly powerful spell in his head.

Alex merely stood there and tried to cover his face with his tome as the beam barreled its way towards him, knowing full well he wasn’t going to be able to move out of the way in time. He closed his eyes in anticipation and fear, realizing that the dust storm that was rapidly approaching him would probably strip the flesh from his bones. Just like Ombrix had threatened.

The storm quickly consumed the space around where Alex had been standing, hurling the glowing dust all over like they were burning embers as bolts of lightning crackled through the air. The air around the entire forest started to darken as the dust was churning so violently, it made it momentarily impossible to see. Eventually, the dust finally settled as the storm dissipated into nothingness, leaving only a few particles left that slowly dissolved into the air.

With the storm clear, Ombrix found himself looking on in shock as there was not a single trace of Alex in the area the cloud had consumed. He slowly glanced over some distance away, quickly realizing that Alex had managed to get out of the way. Kitsiyuna had apparently been able to rocket herself forward with her magic and pushed Alex and herself to safety at the very last second.

“Like I said: NO WAY IN HELL I’M GOING TO LET YOU DO THAT!” Kitsiyuna boasted as she held Alex in her arms.

She quickly set him back down directly behind herself, before turning around to face Ombrix. She held her hands open below her waist, with intense fire burning in either palm. More flames began to engulf Kitsiyuna’s entire body as she raised her two palms up, pointing both of them forward as she pressed her wrists together. Her fingers tensed back as she prepared to let the flames raging around loose onto Ombrix.

“INFERNO!” Kitsiyuna shouted, finishing the incantation for the spell she had been readying that whole time. A colossal flamethrower, around 20 times the size of Kitsiyuna spewed from her hands, incinerating every inch of forest in its path. Ombrix was quickly consumed by the flames as the inferno raged forward in a continuous stream of fire, charring the ground and vaporizing trees as it went.

As the fires roared, so too did Kitsiyuna as she yelled at the top of her lungs in unison with the inferno, pumping more and more Spirit Energy into it as she did so. Alex did not move an inch from his position behind her, as he stared at the fire in both fear and awe. The inferno that was raging in front of him was larger than anything he had ever seen before.

Eventually, Kitsiyuna finally allowed the flames to subside as she stopped casting the spell, revealing a massive patch of blackened earth where forest used to be that stretched back for several hundred feet. She turned her attention back to Alex as she let out a long exhale, clearly a bit winded from such an intense spell. She looked over Alex and saw his face was absolutely red as sweat ran down his face from all of the heat. He starting to hyperventilate as it seemed he was dangerous close to passing out from heat exhaustion.  She calmly pressed her palm onto his head as she wiped his forehead down. Alex could slowly feel himself starting to cool back down to a regular temperature, almost like Kitsiyuna was siphoning off his excess heat.

“Are you all right? I didn’t accidentally burn you or anything, did I? It’s been a long time since I’ve been forced to use that much of my power before, so I couldn’t exactly keep it controlled…” Kitsiyuna asked in a caring voice, moving her hand to caress Alex’s cheek.

“…Yeah. I’m fine… I just have to say, HOLY FUCK, that fire was even more impressive than what you pulled off on the roof…!” Alex replied back as he lowered Kitsiyuna’s hand from his face before stepping forward to look over just how much damage Kitsiyuna was able to cause.

It appeared as if acres of forest had been consumed by the flames as an entire field of charred earth lay barren in front of him. Just as with before, there was no trace of any kind of ashes from the burnt up foliage around them nor any kind of smoke from them burning. While there still remained some tiny smoldering embers here and there, they mostly remained on the bushes and trees lucky enough to be just outside of the flames. Alex reached down and patted the earth, quickly realizing the black was simply a very large scorch mark, as no trace of soot or charcoal got onto his hand, just a little bit of dirt.

Before the duo could celebrate their apparent victory, Alex saw something off in the distance that caused a pit in his stomach to form. Off in the distance, among all of the half burnt trees that Kitsiyuna’s flames just barely touched, Alex could make out Ombrix still standing among them. Though his body was still very charred up, covered in burns and almost smoldering in places, he was still very much alive.

“Are you kidding me!? He survived that!?” Alex shouted in complete disbelief.

“No freaking way…” Kitsiyuna said, almost at a loss for words as she quickly located Ombrix slowly approaching them across the scorched field.

“…Well… I’d be lying if I said that one didn’t hurt even worse than getting stabbed in the eye… That one was actually pretty damn impressive…” Ombrix replied in an unnaturally calm, even raspier voice than usual as he slowly dredged forward a single foot at a time.

“…When I agreed to hunt you down, the guy who hired me said there was no way I’d be able to take you down all by myself…  Said it might not even possible even with all of my men helping me fight you… So they gave me something that would make it easier for me to subdue and capture you…” he continued, lumbering forward with each step like he was in a trance. Unsure of what he was doing, Alex and Kitsiyuna continued to hold their ground, as Kitsiyuna once again put herself in front of Alex to keep him safe.

“…To be perfectly honest… I thought they were talking out of their damn ass… But clearly I was wrong… That little “toy” that they gave me to deal with you… I’ve used it a couple of times before… It’s pretty powerful too… It almost felt like cheating using it… So I wanted to keep thinks fair, and see just how well I would do without it…” At that point, Ombrix had cleared about half of the distance between him and the duo before he suddenly stopped in his tracks, staring dead-eyed at the ground.

“…But now…!? Now I don’t give a FUCk about keeping it fair! Now, I just want to capture your damn, infuriating ass and get this FUCKING hellish job over with you bitch!” Ombrix yelled as his composure finally broke. He reached into his torn up trench coat and pulled out a strange object.

The device, barely larger than Ombrix’s palm, was shaped like a four-sided diamond with a circular hole in the middle and appeared to be metallic in nature. Four prism-like buttons were on each tip of the diamond with glowing red lines running from each button to the hole in the middle, converging into a ring around it. Ombrix pressed his thumb and ring finger onto the left and right buttons as he pointed the device in the duo’s direction.

The red lines began to glow brighter as a rippling effect began to form in the device’s round hole. Red electricity and Spirit Energy began to emanate out from the device as the part surrounding the hole began to spin. The spinning grew faster and faster as more electricity came out. After a few moments of just spewing out randomly, the electricity began to focus on a spot right in front of Ombrix, causing a large egg shaped object to materialize like it was being printed out.

The egg floated in the air for a few seconds before seams began to form on it, releasing thick jets of steam that began to fill the surrounding air. Parts of the egg slowly began to bulge out and shift around as its surface began to fold out, revealing intricate looking mechanisms that lay inside. As the egg continued “hatching” its murky chrome surface began to change into a partially translucent white porcelain texture. Something that resembled a face began to emerge near the top of the egg, as an angular black display was carved out of the surface which began to project an eye-like red ring.

More steam fired out as the face rapidly extended out, forming a rounded head with three triangular points jutting from the bottom, reminiscent of the upper jaw of a beak. The head was still connected to the main body by a long, snake-like neck, with rows of spikes emerging on either side. The neck began undulating as the head started twitching and seizing as it began to emit a low, clicking mechanical drone as the rest of the odd machine’s body began to emerge from the “egg”.

The droning amplified as a pair of bulky arms jutted out. Three gigantic segmented blades were embedded into both forearms that were equal distance across around the arm’s entire surface. The blades had blood red edges and ran all the way down to the palms, acting as claws for the machine. A torso emerged as the central mass of the egg shifted around into something resembling a rib cage. Within the ribs, a large marble like core was nested, with azure flames burning inside. Three large plates hung underneath the core in place of any kind of legs that slowly spun around in a kind of orbit at the base of the body, floating well above the ground. Finally, two bulb like structures near the back of the machine’s shoulders split open, forming a set of eight large, razor sharp spines that hung menacingly behind the machine.

As the machine quickly finished unfolding into its intended shape, its head stopped fidgeting and quickly focused on the duo. It stretched out its neck in their direction as its eye began to dilate like it was zooming in on them. The droning noise it had been making was quickly augmented by a mechanical whirring and harsh electronic soundwaves that rose and fell intensity at regular intervals. The machine rose its arms up as its hands spun around rapidly in their sockets before eventually locking into place with a hefty chunk sound. It then lowered its arms back down, pointing its claws straight at Alex and Kitsiyuna.

“What the hell is that…?” Alex asked as he looked on at the machine in a mix of amazement and dread. Kitsiyuna stood there as her body started to lock up. Shudders of fear ran down her body as she looked on in abject horror at the machine. She knew exactly what it was.

“That’s a Specter. A kind of artificially constructed Spirit designed solely to hunt down other Spirits… There’s only one group out there who makes them, so I know exactly where it came from…” she replied with a grave tone, her voice getting more and more uneasy as she spoke. Alex quickly clued into the fear he was hearing in Kitsiyuna’s voice as he recalled the conversation she had with Angela. Whoever Angela initial suspected had hired Ombrix, Alex quickly figured out that she was probably right.

“…There’s no way we’ll be able to take that thing on! We have to run!” Kitsiyuna continued as she quickly scooped up Alex into her arms and began running.

“Oh no you don’t!” Ombrix shouted as he shifted his fingers to the up and down buttons on the device. Blue flames erupted from the open pods on the Specter’s back as it quickly shot forward, intercepting Kitsiyuna’s attempt to escape. In one instantaneous tackle, the machine rammed into Kitsiyuna with its bladed arm tearing into her body. Kitsiyuna kept her grip on Alex as best as she could as she was launched back, tumbling over the ground as blood trickled out of her newly opened stomach wound. Despite the attack, she was able to hold onto Alex and land on her feet, but the Specter gave her no time to recover.

It quickly rushed in again, almost like it was teleporting directly to her, and swung one of its massive arms down at her. With her hands full, Kitsiyuna quickly lifted her leg up into the air in an attempt to block the swing with her greaves, but with little success. The armor barely stopped the brunt of the attack, as the uncovered parts of Kitsiyuna’s leg were still torn right into and the impact from the hit was still strong enough to once again send her hurling backwards. The Specter’s assault on her didn’t let up as it once again zipped in and slammed into her.

More and more blood came out of Kitsiyuna as she got progressively carved up by each attack. Each attack followed the next one with no second of reprieve, and each one hit hard enough to send the duo careening across the canopy of the forest. Despite all of this though, Kitsiyuna held Alex close to her, trying to defend him from the attacks for as long as she could.

Eventually, the Specter drew its arms back before swinging both of them forward into a massive cross slash that shot across its surroundings, shattering any trees caught in the accompanying shockwave.  Despite their distance from the attack, the force emitted from it was so intense that Alex and Kitsiyuna were sent bouncing across the forest floor at high speeds like they were pebbles on a lake. Kitsiyuna finally lost her grip on Alex as he was sent tumbling across the ground away from her, inadvertently smashing his entire body along the floor as he went.

Cuts and bruises battered Alex’s body when he finally stopped, his body screaming out in pain as blood poured out from his many wounds. His face was half buried into the dirt as his fingers twitched with waning feeling, desperately trying to push himself up from the ground to pretty much no avail. Kitsiyuna, who had landed some distance away from him, didn’t fare much better as blood continued to flow out of her body at an increasing rate, soaking her once purple dress a dark red. Though, because she was a Spirit, she could still bring herself to move unlike Alex.

“GAHAHAHA! What did I tell you, yah bitch!? This Specter is incredible! I haven’t even told it to do anything special yet, just basically ram into your stupid asses and it’s already roughed you up something fierce!” Omrix gloated, laughing hysterically as Alex and Kitsiyuna lay thrashed on the ground. “Why don’t we up the ante a bit? Specter, do me a favor, and shoot that damn son of bitch’s eye out! Actually… scratch that… Blow both of his damn eyes straight outta his sockets!”

Ombrix once again shifted his fingers on the device, pressing in the top button with his thumb. The Specter responded by releasing a mechanical groaning noise as its neck shifted and contorted to better stare down Alex’s limp body. Shifting parts could be heard as the Specter raised its arms up, pointing its palms straight at Alex. More steam and blue fire erupted from the joints in its arms as its blades there began to shift around and separate, revealing a set of three cannons on each arm. The cannons began to rotate around as if they were revving up with an off putting droning sound. It then let off an incredibly loud roar that was garbled with mechanical whirring, static, and low-bit sound waves as its eye focused on Alex, indicating to him that it was ready to fire upon him.

“Fuck…” Alex weakly said out loud as he tried to cover his head with his barely responsive arms.

He was effectively a sitting duck as a hail of energy bullets was fired in his direction. Each bullet exploded into a destructive burst of blue vapors and charred earth, eating away at every single bit of terrain that got hit. The whole hail of gunfire was a cacophony of noise as the Specter’s cannons emitted an almost banshee-like wail with each shot fired and each bullet let out a chunky, throbbing static sound whenever one hit something. Despite the chaotic flurry going about all around him, none of the bullets actually ended up hitting Alex, as Kitsiyuna moved in just in the nick of time to shield his body from the gunfire.

“Keep your head down!” Kitsiyuna shouted over the gunfire as she laid down on top of his body, acting as a meat shield for him. She attempted to slice the bullets out of the air much like she did before with her “tail” but to far less success this time. Every shot Kitsiyuna managed to block sent a jolt of pain through her entire body as an ever increasing trickle of blood starting emerging from thin air right in front of her. Kitsiyuna’s defense was effective enough at keeping the two of them just barely alive, but she knew she wasn’t going to be able to keep it up for long.

Kitsiyuna kept her hands pressed against Alex’s back and head as she kept him covered. Alex could feel a warm sensation coming from her hands, like she was using her flame magic on him. The painful numbing sensation that had been feeling all throughout his body slowly began to ease in severity, like all of his pain was literally being burned away. Alex found himself once again able to collect his thoughts despite the chaotic hail of bullets going all around him. He quickly realized this warm and pleasant sensation he was feeling was a result of Kitsiyuna using healing magic on him as they took cover.

“She knows healing magic too?” Alex thought to himself as he could feel all of the cuts on his body quickly resealing. “It’s a shame healing magic doesn’t work anywhere near as well when you cast it on yourself, because  she probably needs it more than me right now…” he continued, feeling the steady flow of blood still dripping from Kitsiyuna’s torso onto his body. “…She’s not going to be able to hold like this for much longer… We have to do something… And fast…!”

“This stupid piece of crap… That asshole is using that dumb remote thing in his hand to control it, right…? Do you think if we can get it away from him, we can stop this damn thing!?” Alex shouted as he lifted his face from the dirt to allow Kitsiyuna to hear him.

“I don’t know. I’ve never seen anyone control a Specter directly… All of the other ones I’ve run into all operated autonomously… it’s possible that even if we do something about the controls, it could still act on its own…!” Kitsiyuna said directly into Alex’s ear so as to not be drowned out by the gunfire. “…That said… It wouldn’t hurt to try!”

Using the flashing gunfire all around her as a cover, Kitsiyuna stealthily formed a fireball in her hand while still maintaining her position on top of Alex. As she remained under fire for long and longer, Kitsiyuna was able to get a feel for the rhythm of the bullets firing, allowing her to partially deflect the Specter’s assault without having to keep her focus on doing so. This freed up just enough of her concentration to aim her fireball directly at Ombrix.

Without any hesitation, she quickly hurled the fireball at him as soon as she found an opening. Just when it seemed like the fireball was ready to hit him, the Specter released some kind of eerie pulse from the three plates rotating at its bottom, snuffing the fireball completely out of the air. Kitsiyuna’s attack did fail, but it also forced the Specter to stop firing upon them.

“Now now, we can’t have you fighting back any more, now can we…?” Ombrix once again gloated in response to Kitsiyuna’s failed counterattack. “You seem to be familiar with what these Specter’s can do Kitsiyuna, so why don’t we just move along to just what makes them so overpowered…!” Ombrix moved his fingers along the remote again, pressing down the top, left and, right buttons in completely.

The Specter began to lurch and shift with uneasy twitching as it emitted more uncomfortable mechanical noises. It moved its three plates forward, pointing their center at the duo, revealing eight round crystalline spheres embedded the underside of each plate. The mechanism controlling the plates’ rotation began spinning them faster and faster, like a massive centrifuge powering on, lightning sparking off with each ever faster rotation.

“Activate the jamming field!” Ombrix yelled, signaling the Specter to proceed.

The orbs began to rapidly vibrate, emitting a swiftly expanding field that distorted the air around it. The field the Specter was generating quickly manifested as a gigantic energy dome around Alex and Kitsiyuna that prompted the duo to their feet. An overbearing white noise quickly flooded the duo’s ears as their vision was warped and distorted. Colors on the visible spectrum rapidly shifted as everything grew dark.  The ground began to pulse and throb like a heart’s beating as everything began to violently vibrate. The sensation from the field quickly overwhelmed Alex and Kitsiyuna.

“What… what the hell is this…!?” Alex shouted, unable to control his voice over the discordant chaos that was enveloping them.

“It’s a special kind of field that Specter’s were designed to generate…” Kitsiyuna responded, cupping her ears as her body began to shake while also being unable to control her voice. “…It completely nullifies Spirit Energy…! So we can’t cast magic, and pretty soon, our bodies won’t be able to respond, period! This is why I said we needed to run! Once we’re caught in the field, we can’t do anything to stop it!” As Kitsiyuna kept talking, her stance lowered closer and closer to the ground until she eventually collapsed. She ended up falling to floor, writhing and screaming like she was in unbearable pain until she started coughing up small amounts of blood.

While the effects were much slower for him, Alex quickly realized just what Kitsiyuna was talking about. He suddenly felt like he was under a tremendous amount of pressure, like he was being slowly crushed underneath something. His ears began to ring as he lost control of his breathing. Slobber dripped from his mouth as he desperately tried to breathe. He soon dropped to his knees as he could feel his nose starting to bleed intensely. Every single unpleasant sensation he felt brought him closer and closer to collapsing just like Kitsiyuna.

The worst part to Alex however, was the sensation of all of the Spirit Energy he had stored up in his body slowly being eroded away. He could feel his senses dull as a result as a thin wispy vapor evaporated from his skin. The process of the Spirit Energy leaving his body left his skin feeling bone dry and irritated, while his body’s temperature dropped to unhealthy levels. It left him with an unnatural chill going down his spine as the sensation of his skin touching anything overloaded his senses. He was being slowly transformed into a cold, dry lifeless husk. It didn’t take long before he almost fell to the ground completely, holding himself up at the last second with his weary hands.

“This is exactly what I was talking about! Once a Spirit gets trapped in that field, they’re as good as dead!” Ombrix continued to boast over the roar of the jamming field. “…I never really found much joy in using it before today… But you two… You both were such a FUCKING pain in my ass, that watching you both slowly getting eaten away by that field is the most satisfying thing I’ve watched in a LONG TIME!” Ombrix started laughing hysterically. What Alex and Kitsiyuna did to him killed what little ounce of sanity he apparently had left.

“DAMN ALL THIS STUPID ANTI-MAGIC BULLSHIT!” Alex thought to himself in a rage as he struggled to climb back up his feet. “Of all the ways I could die… Going out at this guy’s hands like this… IS NOT AN OPTION!”  Through sheer willpower, Alex forced himself back to his feet as he slowly lumbered forward, his tome ready in his hand. The weight that the field was putting his body under slowed his movement to a crawl, but Ombrix was so busy laughing that he didn’t even notice.

“Kitsiyuna collapsed pretty much instantly even though she should be way tougher than you… It must be because she’s a Spirit, and her body is almost nothing but Spirit Energy in some form or another… Mine’s different though… It’s just made out of regular matter. It feels like because of that… I’m not losing my Spirit Energy as quickly. Maybe I can still pull something off here…!” Alex plotted in his head.

Alex could feel the adrenaline in his body starting to kick up again. He could feel his very soul starting to burn, defiantly pumping out more Spirit Energy to make up for the amount he was losing to the field. He grit his teeth as he tried to concentrate, desperately holding onto the Spirit Energy he had left to cast one final spell. He shut out all of the chaos swirling around him from the jamming field. He ignored all of the pain and wear his body had been going through. He didn’t allow anything to distract him as he once again forced the spell as hard as he could.

Alex was always used to struggling whenever he did anything. Learning some magic had been no exception to him. To most magic users, it was something that was supposed to be natural, like going with the flow of a river. That was something Alex could never do. The power to use magic never “flowed” naturally for him. It was always more like he was in caught in an ocean, being thrown about by its waves. Alex quickly learned that if you ever wanted to make headway against an ocean, you’d have to be able to overpower its waves. For as long as he was doing it, Alex always had to force his magic with as much might as he could muster  in order to get even the simplest spells to come out. It was always a strain on him, and always a struggle.

Remembering his past difficulties, Alex asked himself, “Why should trying to cast magic under an anti-magic field be any different?”

Wanting the best chances of success, Alex lifted up his right hand and aimed it at the Specter. In spite of Kitsiyuna’s efforts to heal him, it seemed she wasn’t able to do anything about his own self-inflicted bruises on his other hand. A familiar pain shot through his arm very similar to when he used the spell to clear all of Ombrix’s dust as he prepared the casting.

As he focused his mind on the incantation, he felt like his arm was being torn apart from the inside while his nose bleed worsened with each step of the spell completed. Despite all of this, he ignored the pain and the pressure for just long enough to let the spell loose in as powerful a form as he could muster.

“DISPERSION WAVE!” Alex shouted with unwavering resolve.

The shockwave violently swept out, the brunt of which nailed the Specter right in its core, sending it careening backwards straight out of the air and cutting off its jamming field. Whatever the force was that was keeping the Specter afloat off of the ground was temporarily interrupted as it rolled across the forest’s surface, tearing up chunks of earth and dirt as it went. Alex’s attacked quickly enough to catch Ombrix off guard, leaving him no time to respond to the large machine now barreling towards him. Within in an instance, the Specter collided with him, both of them slamming into the ground with a loud and resounding metal “THUNK”.

The Specter impacted the ground with enough power that it ended up getting itself partially entrenched, shaking the entire forest surrounding it. Though Alex wasn’t sure of the exact weight of the Specter, he could still tell based off of how hard it landed, it probably had some serious mass to it. So even if it didn’t crush him to death, Alex knew that at the very least, Ombrix was going to be in some serious hurt pinned underneath it.

“How did you… manage that…?” Kitsiyuna asked in disbelief as she finally got back to her feet while wiping off the blood she had been dribbling from her mouth off of her chin. She looked down at Alex’s right hand to see that it was just as battered as his other hand, but she could tell from the way he was acting that he didn’t seem to care.

“I’m not really sure… Maybe the fact that I’m still a human let me hold onto my Spirit Energy for longer… But maybe, it’s just because my whole life so far has been like one obstacle after another, that I’m not just going to let another one like that stand in my way…” Alex responded, trailing off towards the end. He looked at his bruised hands and began to wonder himself how he pulled it off.

“So, you’re one of those people who just never gives up, huh…? No matter how hard the struggle gets…” Kitsiyuna replied solemnly, quickly finding herself lost in thought.

“…The fact that his tiny soul burns as bright as it does… It has to be what drives him like that…” Kitsiyuna thought to herself. “If his soul is what let him overpower that Specter… I have no choice but to reconsider…”

“Um… Alex…” Kitsiyuna meekly started talking, but got cut off before she could finish her sentence. The seemingly inactive Specter suddenly sprung back to life as it proceeded to dig itself out of the ground, making mechanical grunting and shuttering noises as it went. It’s neck once again fidgeted about until it finally refocused its gaze back onto Alex and Kitsiyuna. With a quick thrust of its arms, it pulled itself out of the ground and resumed levitating ominously as it stared the two of them down.

Alex and Kitsiyuna were completely silent as they looked on in horror. Despite all of his best efforts, Alex’s spell had left the Specter undamaged. He only had succeeded in briefly stunning it, and he knew from the condition of both of his hands, eh wasn’t going to be able to do it again.

“You two… really are just the WORST…!” an incredibly bloodied and battered Ombrix groaned from within the Specter’s impact crater who was too injured to stand at this point. He clearly had been torn up and impaled by the spines on the Specter’s back after it had landed on him.

“And you… You damn fucking Specter piece of shit…! They told me that jamming field was unbeatable… How the hell does a damn human overpower it…!? What are you, just a useless steaming pile of fucking dog shit…!?” Ombrix used the last of his strength to hurl the remote he had been using to control the Specter at its head, causing the controls to break into pieces. The Specter, keeping its cannons aimed at Alex and Kitsiyuna, swiveled its neck around to look at Ombrix in response while letting out more garbled machine noises.

“Oh, did that annoy you…!? Well I’m even more annoyed that I have to rely on a defective piece of shit like you to finish my job…! What are you just sitting there for!? Go kill ‘em!” ombrix continued to chastise the machine in a very pained and tired voice, coughing up piles of blood as he yelled. The Specter once again responded with a low, almost dog like growl.

“JUST DO IT! I DON’T CARE HOW AT THIS POINT! JUST! GET IT! DONE!!!” Ombrix hysterically screamed his orders to the Specter as loud as his dying body would allow.

He was completely unconcerned with the amount of pain it caused, nor how much blood it was forcing him to cough up. In his fury and anger, he just wanted to scream as loud as he could. The ring that server as the Specter’s eye dilated as a small dot appeared in its middle that quickly stretched into a claw mark shaped pupil. Its low growl increased in pitch as steam started to spray from its long neck. Then, without any kind of hesitation, it quickly plunged its bladed arm all the way through Ombrix’s torso.

Ombrix let off one last bloodied scream as he was lifted from the crater by the Specter’s claws. The Specter than began to spin its claws around like it was a drill, completely obliterating Ombrix. The chunks of his flesh were quickly stirred into dust until all that remained of him was a pulsating light blue ball of flames that was radiating of a steady aura of wisps. Ombrix had been reduced to his very Soul.

After a brief pause, the Specter crushed the Soul in its claws. All of the Spirit Energy from the Soul could be seen visibly traveling up the Specter’s arm all the way to its flaming marble-like core. Once Ombrix’s energy reached the core, the whole thing ignited, engulfing the entire Specter in an almost blinding blue flame. It then finally turned its menacing gaze back to Alex and Kitsiyuna, who had intelligently started to run away as soon as they saw the Specter stab Ombrix.

“What the hell!? What did that thing just do!?” Alex yelled out in a panic as he clung onto Kitsiyuna’s back who was running away as fast as she could go.

“It ate his Soul to power itself up! This is what Specters are designed to do! They tend to not like it when people find a way to bypass their jamming fields, so when this one assumed autonomous control when its remote broke, it decided that the best course of action was to engage us at full power so that it wouldn’t happen again! They never let their prey escape! …Even if it means destroying themselves or their handlers!” Kitsiyuna shouted back to him as she rushed through the nearby foliage, keeping a lower profile so at to make them harder targets to hit.

“These things willingly eat Souls…? Just like that…!? That’s the one line I know most Spirits would never cross! What kind of a sadistic asshole would make something that does that…!?”

“…An inhumane creature that you should hope you never get to meet…”

“SHIT! Here it comes!” Alex shouted while he looked back to see the Specter propelling itself forward with massive jets of blue fire as it incinerated everything behind it. The plates beneath the Specter once again started to spin, generating another far more massive anti-magic field, putting everything within in it through a red filter with the contrast maxed out. Despite their best efforts to keep ahead of the machine, Alex and Kitsiyuna still ended up getting caught at the field’s edge.

“GAHHHHH!” Kitsiyuna screamed out in pain as the field formed around her. Though she stumbled a little bit after the initial activation, she quickly resumed a faster pace as she did her best to ignore the pain the field was causing her.

“Damn it! We’re not going to be able to outrun it like this!” Alex shouted as his hands began to tremble from the field’s effect.

“We don’t have to keep this up for long…! If we can stay ahead just long enough to make it back to the hideout… We could lose it…!” Kitsiyuna gasped out in exasperation as blood gushed from her mouth as her speed slowly started faltering.

“How will we be able to do that…? The damn thing is faster than us!”

“We’ll use the terrain… to our advantage…!” Kitsiyuna replied with desperation in her voice.

She quickly started to veer off course, darting the two of them around as many trees as possible. The Specter continued to mindlessly barrel forward, shattering ever tree the two of them ran past as it charged forward, with every tree it hit slowing its momentum down bit by bit. Were it not for the jamming field, their serpentine pattern through the forest might’ve been enough to keep the two of them ahead, but unfortunately for Kitsiyuna, it was forcing her to slow down even faster.

“GRGH! Damn it!” Kitsiyuna shouted out in frustration as she dropped to her knees in pain, blood still spewing from her mouth.

“No Kitsiyuna! Come on! You gotta keep moving!” Alex shouted as he patted her on the back to keep going, ignoring just how much it hurt his hands to do so.

Kitsiyuna looked on in fear as the Specter closed in, it’s bloodied claws ready to strike. Just when it seemed like the Specter was about to charge into them, at the very last moment, Kitsiyuna was able to force her body to roll the two of them out of the way. It took the Specter a few moments to register it had missed its mark as it continued moving forward, before it quickly turned back around and corrected its course. Determined not to let the Specter’s mistake to go to waste, Alex helped drag Kitsiyuna forward as he supported some of her weight by resting her arm on his back.

“At this point… I think we’ll move faster this way…!” Alex shouted as he encouraged the two of them to pick up the pace. Kitsiyuna’s weight felt exceedingly heavy on his back, but he refused to let it get to him as he willed the two of them ever closer to the hideout.

“Thank you…” Kitsiyuna answered back in a somber and tired voice. In the distance, the familiar sound of the Specter’s cannons revving up could be heard. Alex looked back in horror as he saw the massive machine once again flying at them, this time, with its guns literally blazing as it was firing wildly in their general direction.

“Oh come on…!” Alex yelled out in exasperation.

“Get in front of the trees! We’ll use them as cover!” Kitsiyuna shouted.

The Specter’s bullets felt more like missiles this time as they zipped through the air seemingly at random. All around Alex and Kitsiyuna was a storm of magic bullets rushing past them as they reduced everything to clouds of flaming debris. The duo did their best to always keep a tree directly behind them as they continued forward relentlessly. A single tree withstood the storm of bullets just long enough for them to get in front of another, allowing Alex and Kitsiyuna to continue their advance.

“I think we’ve almost made it!” Alex shouted out in celebration as he could make out the hideout through the clearing just ahead of them. Though their goal was seemingly within their grasp, a look of horror still shot through Kitsiyuna’s eyes as she checked the location of the Specter trailing behind them.

“Oh no…” was all she said in a defeated voice as the Specter finally converged upon them.

The ground all but evaporated underneath the duo as they found themselves launched into the air as the Specter’s barrage hit its mark. The shrapnel from the blast tore at their flesh as the shockwave battered their limp bodies even further. Despite having hit its target, the Specter did not slow down on its charge forward as it rammed into Alex and Kitsiyuna as they were falling helplessly. Both of them had been so worn down by the field that the initial blast that sent them into the air almost knocked them unconscious.

Alex could feel the entire world around him fall to black as his body began to shut down from the pain as the Specter ended up slamming into him with its immolated frame. From there, Alex was unable to make sense of anything that was going on around him, unable to tell if he was still even awake.

Faint images of the preceding chaos flickered in and out of his vision, but his brain was unable to put them together into anything coherent. He felt the sensation like he had just been thrown into something made of concrete. The sound of collapse rubble surrounded him before he felt the worst head pain he had ever experience. Alex quickly realizing he took a severe blow to the head and was losing a dangerous amount of blood. The pain was unbelievable, like he had taken a wrecking ball square to his temple. The contents of his stomach began to churn as he felt the need to throw up, but in his state, he had no idea where up even was.

He could tell his body was still moving somehow, but knew he wasn’t doing it on his own. Either something was dragging him, or he was still falling, he couldn’t tell which. Even time itself was incomprehensible to him at that point, as he had no idea whether seconds or hours were passing. The possibility that he was dead entered his mind, but quickly realized he was still barely alive when he felt a sharp pain burst straight through his abdomen.

“GRAAAAAAAGGHHHHHHHHHHH!!!” Alex screamed out in miserable agony. He had finally regained his senses only to realize he had a large metal spike, about an inch in diameter, shoved through the right side of his stomach.

Tears began to flow down his eyes as he instinctively tried to pull it out in desperation before he quickly noticed he had been impaled completely on the spike, and it was far too long to pull himself off of on his own. His screams of pain quickly turned into desperate wailing as he started to sob uncontrollably, crying his eyes out like he was six years once again. In his panic, he kept his hands pressed down around the spike in a feeble attempt to keep his blood inside of him despite how much pain it caused him.

“SOMEBODY… HELP!!!” he cried out uncontrollably into the darkness around him as a torrent of tears streamed down his eyes. The blood from his head injury began to mix with his tears as his nose became runny due to a mix of him crying and a combination of all the dust floating in the air around him. He was a pathetic, sniffly, weeping mess as he lay there slowly bleeding out. He never had felt more afraid or helpless in his life.

“IS THERE ANYONE THERE…!? PLEASE… HELP ME!!!” he continued shouting, having no idea if there actually was anyone else there to save him. His eyes began to adjust to the darkness as he finally realized, based off of the tiled floor and all of the dust around him, that he somehow got knocked into Kitsiyuna’s hideout. While at first, the idea that he made it back to the hideout brought him just the tiniest bit of relief, a very unpleasant sensation began to override the pain he was feeling from his impalement. He realized was still somehow within the Specter’s jamming field.

“ANYONE… PLEASE!!!” he cried out hysterically in an increasing panic as he trailed off into more sobbing.

“Grandpa, Mom, Selina… Please, someone save me…” Alex pleaded in an every weaker voice. He had gotten so hopeless, he was begging for people to save him that he knew never would be able to.

Just as Alex began to close his blood and tear filled eyes and resign himself to his fate, he felt something shift him up just ever so slightly. Suddenly, he heard the metallic clang of the spike being cut underneath him while he dropped to the ground. Utterly confused, Alex didn’t move at all as he lay on his side, still clutching his stomach while a good two feet of metal was still sticking out of it. He then felt someone drag him back a few inches, propping him up against a pile of destroyed concrete slabs.

“Don’t worry Alex… I’ve got you…” a worn and battered Kitsiyuna replied in the most soothing tone she could muster, kneeling down next to Alex as she finished sitting him upright.

“Kitsiyuna…?” Alex remarked in seeming disbelief. “You’re here…? What… happened…? Where’s the Specter…?”

“We got blown into the mall’s basement I think… And as for the Specter, I think the debris from the blast covered the hole we fell in through so it couldn’t follow in immediately after us… But listen…” Kitsiyuna quieted her voice as the two of them listened in to the faint sound of the Specter’s cannons firing from somewhere outside. “…It’s trying to shoot its way through the rubble to get at us…”

“If that’s the case… You need to get this thing out of me! WE NEED TO RUN!” Alex pleaded to her as his voice slowly cracked.

“In a minute, but… listen. Even if I pull that out of you and stop you from bleeding out, we’re not going to be able to outrun the Specter… it’s just going to hunt us down. And we’re still within its field so we can’t use magic to fight back…”

“Then, is this it…? Are we just dead here…!?”

“We still have one chance…” Kitsiyuna answered with a serious tone as she got a hold of the spike coming out of Alex. “I’m going to use what middling strength I still have left and pull this out of you… Once it’s out… we forge a Pact.”

“You serious…!?”

“Yes. You do know what happens when a human and a Spirit first form a Pact? It would create an intense and almost overwhelming burst of Spirit Energy for us to temporarily use in a process that’s called Spirit Ignition. Our wounds would heal in an instant and our bodies would be completely refreshed. And most importantly, it’s the one thing I know for a fact that can overcome a Specter’s jamming field… Sure. It’s possible that it could fail and rip your Soul apart… But we’re both definitely dead if we don’t try it, so might as well give it a shot right!?”

Alex swallowed a huge breath of air as he tried to clear his runny nose. Though it wasn’t how he expected it was going to happen, Kitsiyuna accepted his offer. It was a lot for him to take in, so he hesitated to reply at first. His hesitation was quickly cut short though, as the distance wall the two of them were facing blew open, revealing the Specter silhouetted by the setting sun outside as it slowly descended upon the duo. Alex quickly bared his teeth in a smile as he prepared himself for what was going to happen next.

“RIGHT! LET’S DO THIS!” he screamed out in determination.

“Get ready then, because this is definitely going to sting!” Kitsiyuna replied with resolve as she quickly got into position in front of Alex. Wasting no time, she began tugging on the spike as Alex tried to muffle his pain as best he could. After some small resistance, she quickly pulled the whole thing out in one go and quickly tossed it aside. Alex was obviously reeling as he clutched the bleeding hole, but quickly forced himself to power through the pain. The Specter’s cannons started to rev up as Kitsiyuna held out her hand to Alex.

“Now grab my hand!” Kitsiyuna shouted to him as her palm began to radiate Spirit Energy. Alex swiftly slammed his hand onto her out-stretched palm as he tightly gripped it. Kitsiyuna similarly wrapped her fingers around his as a glowing blue aura began to illuminate the two of them. The Specter was just about ready to start firing upon them when time came to a complete halt.

Suddenly, Alex found himself floating inside of a void tinted by light blue wisps swirling around in the distance. His entire body was gone, with only his small little flickering Soul remaining. Before him lay a colossal Soul, completely eclipsing his in size while it burned with Spirit Energy as if it were the sun itself. Alex could feel intense pressure pressing down on him from all directions, but he didn’t feel like he was being crushed. It merely felt like he was being embraced by someone.

“So why is it that you want to forge this Pact?” the giant Soul echoed in a commanding and godlike voice. While it did sound similar, the voice was different from Kitsiyuna’s.

“Well… obviously so that that damn Specter out there won’t freaking kill us!” Alex responded.

“That’s all? That sounds rather… shortsighted… unambitious… A Pact is not something you can just use for a single moment in time and simply forget it… A Pact is a promise… A goal to strive towards! A Pact will not work if you only think of it in the moment… Now, why do you REALLY want to forge this Pact?” the giant Soul once again echoed. Alex floated there for a moment as he considered his answer.

“…Because I’m pathetic and weak… People avoid me like I’m a plague to them, and deep down, I know they’re right to do so… I want this Pact… because I want to better myself and become a much stronger… and hopefully better person…” Alex replied meekly.

“…Is that so…?” the other Soul asked, pausing for a moment before she continued. “It’s selfish in some ways, but also selfless in others… It’s very human of you, and no Spirit should be demanding of any better… Very well then. Let this Pact… BE FORGED!” the Soul shouted out as the entire void lit up in a blinding light.

Rays of light shot out from the larger Soul as they bended and warped their way to Alex. The lights converged on his diminutive Soul as he could feel himself being overwhelmed, like the large Soul was slowly pulling him in. Alex resisted the pull with all of his might however as he held his ground, allowing the lights to dig into him, slowly stretching his Soul out in every direction. Rather than letting it tear his Soul to shreds, he allowed himself to bask in it as he could feel the comforting glow of the other Soul’s power flow into his. While there were moments were it felt like too much for him, Alex willed his way through it, and allowed the link between his and Kitsiyuna’s Souls be formed.

Alex broke from his trance as he once again returned back to the real world where the Specter was about to open fire upon them. Suddenly, a colossal vortex of Spirit Energy opened up underneath Alex and Kitsiyuna, completely engulfing the two of them as it dissolved any shots the Specter tried to fire at them. Within an instant, Alex could feel all of his pain go away as all of the wounds on his body, no matter how severe they were, quickly seared shut. He felt completely reinvigorated as he quickly stood back on his feet. It reminded him of the time he first successfully channeled Spirit Energy, like his body was temporarily succeeding its prime, only this time, it was being amplified by a factor of one million. As the vortex subsided, Alex and Kitsiyuna both emerged gleaming with new found powers. And they both never felt more alive.

The Specter momentarily halted its fire as it stared down the newly forged team, like the machine was in disbelief. It emitted mechanical grunts, like it was in anger at their Pact. The Specter then raised its cannons once again as it revved them up in preparation for another volley. Alex almost instinctively moved to take cover behind the rubble pile behind them, but Kitsiyuna signaled to him to not worry as she calmly walked towards the machine.

“You don’t need to take cover now. I’ve got this.” Kitsiyuna said in a confident stride. “…Now that I’m your Spiriter, I guess I don’t need to hide my true form from you anymore…” Wild flames suddenly swirled around Kitsiyuna as her entire aura became enflamed. The flames whipped around as a large fox tail suddenly emerged from her back while furry ears grew from the top of her head, revealing herself as a kind of fox Spirit known as a Kitsune.

“You’re a Kitsune?” Alex asked as he looked on at his partner in awe. Aside from the ears and tail, pretty much nothing else changed about Kitsiyuna’s body, and yet Alex couldn’t help but feel like her true form was magnificent. Of all the Spirits he had heard about when he was younger, he always liked Kitsune the best.

“Yep! I know my kind isn’t exactly a common kind of Spirit, so I’ve been conditioned to hide my true nature. But now, I don’t have to hold back!” she shouted while beaming with pride as more and more flames wrapped around her body. The bottom part of her dress flaps began to taper off in orange flames as a wreath of fire formed around the back of her neck, while draping around her arms similar to how one would wear a boa. Hot embers embedded themselves into the floor with every step she took as she confidently sauntered forward.

The Specter responded to her advance by unleashing another full powered barrage. Kitsiyuna wasn’t the least bit worried, holding her position as her tail wrapped around to the front of her body as it grew to a massive size. She then rapidly flailed it about in the air in front of her without having to move the rest of her body an inch. Her tail rapidly streaked through the air as brilliant flames trailed behind it, completely deflecting any and all projectiles the Specter fired in her direction back at it.

Alex watched Kitsiyuna’s tail intently as it twirled about in the air, absolutely shredding any projectiles it didn’t manage to reflect back at the Specter. Her fiery orange tail had a snowy white end with a tiny bit of black at the very tip making it look not all that dissimilar to a paint brush streaking across a canvas as it moved.

Alex was in absolute adoration of it as he finally got to see its magic properties in action, as all the previous times Kitsiyuna had been using it, she had kept it obscured. Despite being able to literally slice bullets out of the air, her tail still looked soft, fluffy, and inviting, no doubt due to its magic nature allowing Kitsiyuna to alter its characteristics. It shimmered beautifully in the air as every single bit of fur on it was coated in a tiny flame. It was a pretty good indication why Kitsune’s tails are considered their crowning feature.

“All right, that’s about enough of this!” Kitsiyuna boasted confidently as she started to get bored of the Specter’s projectile spam.

Her hands became completely engulfed in fire as she hurled her own barrage right back at the Specter. Every single fireball nailed the Specter, pushing it back inch by inch as she focused her efforts on its right arm. The marble-like substance making up the bulk of its arm began to glow red hot as it was becoming more and more malleable.

Kitsiyuna hurled one last fireball at its head, causing its neck to jerk back violently as it let out more garbled roaring. This hit provided an opening for Kitsiyuna as the Specter’s cannons momentarily stopped firing yet again. With great force, Kitsiyuna leapt high up into the air, rapidly extending her tail as she went. Just as she reached the height of her jump, she quickly flipped forward, sending her tail cleaving down as it sliced the Specter’s entire right arm off all in one clean cut.

Kitsiyuna’s jump landed her within range of the Specter as it extended out its claws in an attempt to swipe at her with its remaining arm. Though its arm was heavy and swings fast, Kitsiyuna expertly parried each blow as she danced around it. Every attack the Specter attempted, she countered. She swung molten hot punches and blazing kicks at the machine’s massive arm, peppering in blows with her tail as she used it punch holes into its armor, like her tail was a lance infused with magma.

After numerous blows, she stung her tail right into the joint holding the Specter’s elbow and punctured it all the way through. The Specter’s entire arm seized up as it screeched in static white noise. Kitsiyuna then dug her hands into the hole she just made, reached around all of the broken joints and connectors on the inside and quickly took hold. With one quick motion, she ripped the machine’s arm clean off before tossing it aside like it weighed absolutely nothing.

With its primary means of attack thoroughly “disarmed” the Specter resorted to firing up its rear jets in an attempt to ram into Kitsiyuna. She wasted no time as she burrowed her heels into the floor as she braced herself for its charge. Rather than completely bowling over like before, Kitsiyuna easily held fast as she held the Specter in place with her outstretched hands. The jets of fire that had been propelling it suddenly ramped up in intensity, creating a giant blue inferno behind the Specter as it tried to gain some head way against Kitsiyuna. It was very slight, but Kitsiyuna was actually being pushed back. Rather than surrender any further ground, Kitsiyuna pushed back the Specter with as much power as she could muster: by punching it straight in its core.

The first hit stalled the Specter’s jets, if only for a second, so Kitsiyuna followed suit with more and more, with each punch coming out faster than the last as her flurry sped up exponentially. At first, she delivered a single, powerful blow each second. Then two every second. Then four. Then eight. Faster and faster she got, with inhuman speed and power, she laid into the Specter. Eight became sixteen. Sixteen became thirty-two. It wasn’t before long that it was impossible to keep track of how fast she was going, as her fist became a blur. Fire spewed out in every direction as she used her flames to accelerate her fists like they were rockets. Soon, every punch resulted with a mini explosion going off as plumes of fire erupted from the Specter with every single blow. The explosions soon began to feed off of one another until eventually a massive one shot out, hurling the Specter all the way to the hole it had blasted into the building.

Alex looked on in utter amazement as he watched Kitsiyuna thoroughly dissect the machine that had almost been their undoing. While he wasn’t sure if he should cheer out loud or not as Kitsiyuna destroyed the machine, he watched the whole thing with a massive grin on his face. Though, when the explosion that sent the Specter flying happened, Alex found himself instinctively ducking for cover. Sensing the concern in her partner, Kitsiyuna temporarily halted her rampage against the Specter as she turned back to give him some reassurance.

“You don’t have to worry about my flames. Now that you’re my Spiriter, my magic can no longer hurt you.” Kitsiyuna said with a big smile on her face, while giving Alex a hearty thumbs up. Alex exhaled in a half chuckling manner like “Oh right, I should’ve known that…” as Kitsiyuna turned back around to finish off her target.

The Specter was on its last leg as its core now had a large hole blown into, causing Spirit Energy to leak out of it at an alarming rate. The remaining parts of its body were jerking and twitching as if it were short circuiting while the whole machine’s structure was slowly melting. The plates that were generating its jamming field were no longer spinning as it barely hovered above the ground.

As Kitsiyuna slowly marched towards the machine to finish it off, it jumbled and contorted its neck to stare her down as blue fire and steam bellowed out from every hole and remaining joint in its body. It then let out an ear piercing screech garbled through heavy layers of static that was constantly fluctuating in pitch. The scream was loud enough to give Kitsiyuna pause, forcing her to cover her ears while the Specter’s ocular display started flashing red.

“Oh no you don’t! The only one who’s going to be exploding here is you pal!” Kitsiyuna yelled out as she raised her fist in the air while angling it down at the floor.

She then punched the ground with meteoric force as she created a massive crater, shaking the very foundation of the entire mall as the entire place shook, knocking down loose bits of dust and debris from all over the ceiling. Streaks of orange light began to radiate from the ground as then began to make their way to right underneath the Specter’s position through the cracks that were forming. The light streams quickly congregated right underneath the machine as a few diffracted out in various directions, though most of them focused on the Specter as they slowly illuminated it from below. A growing burning sound could be heard greatly rising in intensity from beneath the ground until it finally reached a fever pitch as Kitsiyuna finished her incantation.

“FLARE PILLAR!” she shouted out as a maelstrom of swirling flames erupted from underneath the Specter. While Alex had witnessed Kitsiyuna’s Flare Pillar before, getting to see it without having to take cover from its sheer intensity made it a spectacle to behold. Everything looked bitch black in comparison to the swirling hurricane of fire that quickly filled the entire room. It roared more fiercely than a lion as the flames fanned out and spread. Though, just like with before, Kitsiyuna made sure that, despite the colossal stream of fire she just unleashed, the only thing that was getting damaged was the Specter.

Just as quickly as the flames emerged, they eventually subsided as the tower of flames snuffed itself out. In the middle of the massive scorch mark the spell had left on the floor, the Specter’s failing body remained, if only briefly. Not long after the fires vanished, the blue flames that still remained in the Specter’s core began to whisk around violently within their container. The melting and charred remains of the Specter’s body began to violently spasm and twitch like it was a having a seizure in the final throws of death.

It left off one final shriek, more garbled and distorted than any it had let out before that quickly repeated itself like an error sound. Then, the machine finally exploded into a gassy ball of ghostly blue fire. Unlike Kitsiyuna’s explosions, this one was far more ethereal as its shockwave shot out, darkening the very air as it went.

Just as the explosion was about to reach Alex, Kitsiyuna quickly got behind him and wrapped her tail around him like a shield. She then fearlessly stood between Alex and explosion with her arms outstretched, protecting her Spiriter from the destructive blast. The explosion shot by Alex, leaving him completely unscathed as Kitsiyuna pulled back her tail from around him. Though she had taken the entire brunt of the explosion for him, the only injury Kitsiyuna had to show for it was a couple of faint bruises on her back.

“Holy… crap…that was… amazing…!” Alex said in an almost complete lost for words and breath. Suddenly, he lost the feeling in his knees as he found himself falling into Kitsiyuna’s arms. As his partner tried to hold him steady, everything around him slowly started to fade as he eventually lost consciousness. It seemed that the Spirit Ignition had finally worn off as the fatigue from his hectic day finally set in. He then took a well-deserved nap as he quickly fell asleep in his partner’s arms.

About a half an hour later, Angela arrived at the scene as she was greeted by the massive hole in the wall the Specter made that had only gotten larger due to its destruction. Though it gave her brief pause, she quickly got back on track and stepped inside the destroyed basement.

“Sheesh… I’m only gone for 30 minutes hunting down those last two bounty hunters, and I come back to find a big gaping hole in out hideout. Just what the hell are you getting yourself into Kitsi…” Angela said in a jovial tone. She turned her attention to Kitsiyuna, who was sitting her weary body on the floor.

“Look Angela! I finally found my Spiriter!” Kitsiyuna replied with a heartfelt smile while tears streamed down her face as she cradled the sleeping Alex in her arms. Angela couldn’t help by smile as the sheer joy and relief in Kitsiyuna’s face warmed her heart. In all the time Angela had known Kitsiyuna, she never saw here as happy as she was in this moment. The duo’s adventures were about to begin.

 

Art Post – Night Fox Comic Short: Good Boy

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Comic Short - Good Boy

Here’s another little mini comic to show off a more light-hearted side to some of our antagonists, and show maybe Shira isn’t quite as nefarious as she looks (you know, in spite of all the gas lighting she’s been putting Alex through…). Also, Ripper can survive getting his head crushed. BECAUSE WE ALL CARED ABOUT HIM SOOOOO MUCH…

Now when the idea for this first plopped into my head, it was originally going to be a variant of the “Gee Bill! How Come Your Mom Lets You Eat Two Wieners? meme, but I realized that the format didn’t quite match the joke in my head, so I just decided to expand it a little into a smaller comic. Still not entirely sure what compelled me to want to draw this, though I guess it was probably because I hadn’t done anything with Shira or her “boys” in a couple of months and I just felt like rectifying that. Plus, I suppose it is fun drawing a skeleton shoving a cupcake down his non-existent gullet while chewing on it like an idiot. It’s the simple things in life really…

At any rate, next update is going to be the last chapter for a while as we’ll be returning to the usual update schedule of a comic a week. Not sure if it was the fact that most of the typing I’ve been doing lately has been novel chapters which are a LOT denser than the comic scripts I usually type or what, but the more recent comics I’ve been doing are going to be a lot longer than they usually are, so a big plus for those of you who wanted comics that are about 1.5 times longer than usual. One of the reasons I stuck with using a sketchbook for the comics (aside from laziness) was that it was a good way of measuring an okay length for each one. You know, one 11 x 14 inch page equals one comic. But now that I’m continuing to use multiple sketchbook pages for individual comics, I’m beginning to question whether or not I should even bother with that whole size metric in the first place…

Anyways, I have one last art post prepared for this Friday, so if I can think of anything else relevant, I’ll just post it with that one. But aside from that, I’m pretty much done here, so until then, I’ll see you next comic.

Art Post – The Last Of Her Kind

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Astria Lun Sola

Continuing the art train, we have another character whom I briefly mentioned earlier this week as part of my sci-fi comic idea (still not 100% on any title for it yet, though I usually call it Omni Quest when discussing story ideas with my brother). This right here is Astria, or if we go by her full name, Astria Lun Sola. Though she appears human on the surface, she is actually a member of a race of aliens that have long since disappeared from the galaxy known as the Celestarians. Not much is known about the Celestarians other than the fact that they once had an incredibly far reaching empire that encompassed the entire Milky Way. The empire has since been reduced to nothing but remnants of old ruins and barely functional technology that they left behind that the other races have been trying to figure out how to work. One thing that is known that when humanity finally left Earth and came into contact with other alien species, the aliens mistook humans for Celestarians due to their almost identical physiology (the most notable difference between the two that you could see at a glance is that Celestarians have star-shaped pupils). That aside, nobody really knows what happened to the Celestarians, or even if they’re still alive, so as far as the rest of the galaxy is concerned, Astria is the last of her kind.

Being the last of her kind, Astria was seen as something of a commodity and was captured and forced into slavery from a very young age. From there, she was sold around to some less than reputable people over and over again, gradually forgetting her past as a side effect of the slave crown installed to her head, something that forces her into obedience. Even after being freed by Ace, she cannot remove the slave crown from her head without dying until she finds the person who installed it on her in the first place and gets them to take it off. At the very least Ace was able to get it partially deactivate for her, though it still has its side effects, including giving her random personality shifts and making her a little more compliant than she’d like. Because of this, nobody really knows what her original personality was like, but regardless of that, she is fiercely loyal to Ace for freeing her while also being overly protective of Sean due to empathizing with his plight of trying to find his place in this new world. Of course, it doesn’t take long before Sean finds out that Astria may just be the key to figuring out just how he got into the future in the first place…

Anyways, that’s all I really have to say about Astria for now. As of typing this, I don’t really have any other pictures of the other characters from this series ready to post. Though you can probably expect me to draw and post a couple of them at some point in the future. At the very least you can expect Ace, as he’s kind of an important character in the comic, forming a sort of power trio with Sean and Astria, and it would feel kind of weird not having some kind of art of him on the blog. At any rate, I’m done yammering, so until then, I’ll see you next post.

Night Fox – Novel Post: Chapter 3

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Click here for the easier to read PDF version


Chapter 3

A thought occurred to Kitsiyuna as she sat in awkward silence next to Alex, who had his face once again glued to the window of the bus. The idea that him asking to form a Pact with her wasn’t all that much different from him asking her out on a date. Sure, a date would’ve been far shorter, as a Pact usually lasts until someone DIES, and probably would’ve been far less deadly for all involved, but she felt some of the similarities still stood. You do go on a date with people when you want to get more familiar with them. And when it comes to a Pact, you literally connect your Soul with someone else. It’s pretty hard to get more familiar than that. For that same reason, both are generally only things you would ask of someone you trust, and both were often preludes to a deeper relationship forming, whether it be romantic or platonic.

While there was probably no intention on Alex’s part of the Pact being anything romantic in nature at all, Kitsiyuna did know that it wasn’t all that uncommon for a Spirit and their Spiriter to develop feelings like that for one another. Having your Soul linked with someone else does tend to get you pretty friendly with them after all. Or it could get you at each other’s throats. But that’s a negative way of looking at things. Though, the most important similarity between a Pact and a date was that both often lead to free food. Kitsiyuna figuring if she did partner with Alex, he’d probably end buying her a lot of her meals. Which of course, is a pretty big priority for a big eater like her.

Of course, none of that changed the fact that the two of them were currently being hunted down by a Spirit named Ombrix Masserk or the fact that Alex was currently sulking next to her due to her rejecting him, but she still found herself mildly amused by the thought none the less. A part of her though did wish that a date was all he asked of her, as regardless to how she responded to that question, Alex probably wouldn’t be sitting next to her like all of his life’s goals crumbled before his very eyes. Lingering on that thought caused the guilt to build inside Kitsiyuna, so she decided to drop that train of thought until the two of them eventually arrived at their intended stop.

After numerous stops along the way, the duo eventually reached the stop Kitsiyuna intended them to get off at on the outskirts of the town. The skyline had grown considerably sparser in comparison to the rest of the city, with the hills and mountains that served as Lunaridge’s namesake became easier to make out as there were far less buildings to block the view of them miles off in the distance. While Alex did expect there to be far less people out in the boonies, he didn’t exactly expect it to just be him and Kitsiyuna, as after the bus left to continue on its route, they were the only two people on the entire street. Once they were completely by themselves, Kitsiyuna directed them in the direction of their intended destination, heading closer and closer to the very edge of town.

“Please tell me your hideout isn’t beyond the city limits and up into the foothills… Because I am not doing that much walking if that’s the case…” Alex said in a dry, almost lighthearted tone. Kitsiyuna had expected Alex to remain more or less quiet, so she was a little surprised to hear him talking so soon. His voice didn’t really show any signs of him still being depressed about his request for a Pact getting turned down, so she figured enough time had passed for him to have calmed down about the whole thing. Of course, he was merely putting up a front, as he wasn’t ready to just give up on the Pact.

“…Oh, don’t worry. We’re not going that far. It’s still within city limits.” Kitsiyuna answered in her most reassuring voice. Though she was confident Alex was in a better mood, she was still trying to avoid upsetting him just in case.

“What is your hideout exactly anyways…?”

“It’s at an abandoned construction site for a partially finished building. I think it was supposed to be a mall or, some kind of convention center, but for some reason or another, they just stopped building and left everything…”

“A construction site…? Isn’t that a little too… ‘out in the open’ for a hideout…?”

“Well, like I said, some of it was finished… you know, doors, walls, roof, the whole lot, so most of it IS enclosed and random people can’t just walk in… It’s just… there are a couple of chunks of the building that I think they just ran out of money to finish…”

“I don’t know. That sounds like the kind of place a bunch of teenagers would like to gather to drink and smoke away from their parents and the police…”

“Trust me, with what we’ve gotten set up… Random stoners and drunkards aren’t a security issue…”

“…What do you have set up…?” Alex quizzically asked.

“Oh… you’ll see…” Kitsiyuna replied playfully. “I think given your interest in magic, you might have more fun simply seeing in person without me spoiling it…” Alex’s curiosity was mildly piqued by this, which he figured was Kitsiyuna’s way of keeping him content for the time being. He decided it would probably be better to just play along and didn’t ask any further questions.

The two of them continued on down the street to this construction site, pretty much devoid of other people except for the occasional car or two driving past them. The rest of the trek was pretty uneventful as the two of them took a detour from the road to cut across a wide expanse of field that was dotted with fairly large trees. As they continued on through the field, they began to encroach onto a polygonal shaped white building off in the distance that was seemingly surrounded by even more trees. The oddly designed building’s glassy roof and the telltale landscaping of the surrounding foliage definitely made the building look like some kind of a mall, so it became obvious to Alex this was supposed to be the hideout.

“I think this is the door we want to be going through. It leads into the part that’s the most finished.” Kitsiyuna said as the duo approached a set of glass doorways on the side of the mall.

“You can just walk up to the door like that? I thought you said you had a security measure in place…?” Alex replied back as he looked around the surrounding area, unable to detect anything that would stop somebody from just going up to the door and breaking the glass to get in.

“Oh, you can’t just walk up to it.” Kitsiyuna answered him with a smile on her face. She picked up a nearby branch that had fallen to the ground and tossed it in the door’s general direction. A flash of purple sparks shot out as the stick stopped in midair before being sent flying backwards by some unknown force.

“Holy crap. You have a barrier surrounding this entire place? I… I didn’t even sense that…” Alex responded in disbelief as he watched the stick get sent back with enough force that it shattered on impact with a nearby tree.

“Yep. It’s something my friend setup. While it’s not the strongest we could’ve set up, as it’s only really supposed to force you backwards if you try to pass through, but it’s inconspicuous enough that someone with a finely honed magic sense wouldn’t be able to detect it until they’re maybe 20 feet away, making it less obvious that this place is supposed to be a hideout.”

“Why not go for a stronger barrier? If it was me, I’d want my hideout to be as secure as I could make it…”

“My friend said if we made it too strong, it would only attract the attention of other Spirits as a barrier of this size would be easily detectable even from outside of town. Besides, this barrier is mostly just for keeping humans out, as even with a stronger barrier, it could still be broken into with the right kind of magic as it stands right now…”

“Well, if that’s the case… couldn’t those bounty hunter guys just force their way in…!?”

“Probably… But again, they’d have to find the place first. And I think we’re safe on that front because I haven’t sensed anybody trying to follow us for a while now.” Kitsiyuna tried to reassure Alex. He wasn’t exactly enthused by the news, but decided it wasn’t worth getting too concerned over as he wasn’t the one the bounty hunters were specifically looking for. Though, whether or not they would stay true to the threat the Gremlin had made towards him had yet to be seen at that point.

“Just calm down Alex. Like she said, they probably don’t know where this place is… Just play along and meet up with this friend of hers. And who knows…? Maybe this friend of hers might even convince her to try to form a Pact with you…” Alex optimistically thought to himself as Kitsiyuna dug around into her jacket pocket and pulled out the Utility Crystal again. She held it up into the air as it began to change colors from green to purple. As it did, a small white ring began to form in the air in front of the door way that grew larger and larger.

“There. You should be able to get through ‘unmolested’ if you step through that ring.” Kitsiyuna said to Alex as she signaled him to move forward. A bit of hesitation built up inside of him before he eventually was able to build up the courage to walk on through. Sure enough, nothing bad happened to him as he stepped on through the barrier, with its purple shimmering hue becoming far more noticeable now that he was on the other side. Kitsiyuna followed after him, only she ignored the hole and simply walked straight on through. Alex merely looked at her with a raised eyebrow.

“What? This hideout was made to give me specifically a place to lay low. It’s only natural that I should be able to pass on through without any issues.” Kitsiyuna said as the ring closed behind them. She then opened one of the doors in front of them as she ushered Alex inside of the abandoned mall.

“I sure hope an exception gets made for me as well by the time we’re ready to leave…” Alex thought to himself as he silently stepped into the building, realizing he wasn’t going to be able to leave on his own.

The duo continued forward into the mall’s atrium. While there was some light shining in through some of the glass panes on the ceiling, the waning sunlight proved inefficient at properly illuminating the building’s interior in the absent of any kind of artificial lighting. That said, it was still bright enough for Alex to see what was around him. He could make out various sets of blue scaffolding set up against the dimly lit white walls that appeared to have been left there for months. Massive semi-opaque plastic sheets had been lain and draped about all over the place, blocking off a lot of the would be locations for stores in the mall and the support pillars for the upper levels.

Alex looked above him as he slowly followed behind Kitsiyuna, counting three intended stories to the structure, making a note that a lot of the third level walkway was unfinished, with wooden planks set up to help bridge some of the gaps. As they continued on down to what he assumed to be the center of the mall, Alex looked off in one direction to see a massive hole in the roof above a section of the mall which had barely been built. Though he was some distance away from the hole, he could still make out the purple shimmer of the barrier outside.

“Here should be a good spot to wait for my friend to finally get here.” Kitsiyuna replied as she dusted off an abandoned stack of pallets before sitting down on them.

Alex noticed how stagnant the air around him was despite the big hole to the outside in the construction. Noticeable dust particles floated around in small shafts of sunlight that were shining through, contrasting the dark blue shadows of the surrounding mall. Alex crouched down as he sifted through a thin film of uncleaned plaster dust that was covering pretty much every surface surrounding him. He then looked over to some scaffolding that had been set up near him. Not only was it covered with the same kind of plaster, but some cobwebs had also been made in between some of its metal poles. Whatever the reason for the halt in construction, Alex could tell the place had been abandoned for more than a year.

Unable to find a more suitable place, Alex joined Kitsiyuna on the stack of pallets, waiting alongside her as the eerie atmosphere slowly built up around him. The two sat in silence, Alex growing too tense to say anything, until eventually they were spurned to their feet by the sound of something flopping to the ground right behind them. Alex turned around only to be greeted by a dead body with its decapitated head lying beside it. He had been so absorbed by the surrounding atmosphere that he almost let out an instinctual scream upon seeing the headless corpse.

He quickly stopped himself however as he noticed the clothes that the body had been wearing: a black and tattered trench coat with padded black leather armor attached to it. The same kind of clothing the other bounty hunters were wearing.  He sensed another presence approaching them, keying into Kitsiyuna’s calm demeanor that whoever was coming to them was Kitsiyuna’s friend, and that the dead body that had just been tossed next to them was their handy work.

“What the hell are you doing just throwing a damn headless body in here!? You knew I was bringing a kid with me and you just want to show them that!?” Kitsiyuna blurted out in annoyance to her friend as they came into view from the shadows, carrying what appeared to be a large ornate scythe in their right hand.

“Sorry. I just dealt with him on my way here and I didn’t want any human to stumble on the body by accident before it could dissipate, so I decided to just lug it here…” a female voice replied back.

“Hehe… gross, he’s got no head…” Alex nervously chuckled out loud, trying to downplay the shock he had just experienced over seeing the decapitated body.

“So I take it this is him…?” Kitsiyuna’s friend pointed to Alex. “…Unless of course, you happened to get ANOTHER kid carelessly involved in your business…”

“I’m not that irresponsible!” Kitsiyuna replied defensively. “But yeah… this is him…”

Kitsiyuna’s friend finally entered into one of the pillars of sunlight as she approached Alex, allowing him to get a good look at her. She had a pair of large white feathery wings coming out of her back, indicating to Alex she was an Angel.

She was wearing a partial suit of silver colored armor, complete with arm length gauntlets and thigh length boots, with small dark blue crystals resembling fangs embedded into them. The chest plate she was wearing had a stylized skull emblazed upon it, with two interlocked scythes beneath it, forming a sort of skull and cross bone like design. Behind that design, a black cross pattern was etched into the armor, spanning the entirety of its height and width.

Around her waist, she had a long piece of dull tan fabric draped around her legs like a dress, with a cut on her left side, exposing her entire leg. A similar black cross to her chest plate’s had been embroidered on the right side of her skirt, with it also wrapping around the entire height and width. Her dress appeared to be fastened to her waist with a black metal belt, with what appeared to be two Utility Crystals fasted to small circular tassets on either hip. Finally, Alex noticed two silver and orange feathers secured to her right tasset whose unique color scheme stuck out in Alex’s head.

“Angela… This is Alex Haser…” Kitsiyuna continued. Alex looked over Angela’s face before he quickly recognized her face as the woman who had lunch with Kitsiyuna earlier that day, sans the glasses she had been wearing at that time. Alex had taken so little note of her initially, he almost didn’t recognize her without her glasses and had no idea she had been a Spirit in disguise as well.

“…I think I remember you. You were that pervert who was staring at her chest while we were in line weren’t you…?” Angela said to Alex with a dry, almost disappointed tone. Alex was reminded of the cold demeanor she had been giving off the entire time he was in the restaurant, of just how bitter she seemed. He was not enthused with the idea of having to explain himself to this woman.

“…For your information I was looking at her necklace at the time. That glowing blue orb certainly caught my attention more than her damn boobs did…” Alex answered dismissively.

“Uh huh…” Angela replied with a tone indicating she did not believe Alex in the slightest.

“…And uh… Alex…. This is Angela Moon.” Kitsiyuna nervously interjected. “…She’s a Reaper Officer.”

“Reaper Officer…?” Alex asked quizzically.

“…It means she’s part of the Reapers, a law keeping organization based in the Spirit World, kind of like how the police work here.” Kitsiyuna answered back. “…So, we’ve got the law on our side! You know… in case you had any worries that the reason bounty hunters were after me were because I was up to no good… Now you know that’s not the case!” she continued, rhythmical wagging her finger as she finished her sentence.

The thought hadn’t had actually occurred to Alex before this, that the reason people were after Kitsiyuna was because she was some kind of criminal herself. He just naturally assumed that because she had been nice to him, she was naturally, a completely innocent person. Which just goes to show just where exactly Alex’s morals and values lied, as he merely responded with a dull ‘oh’.

“So she’s a cop basically…?” Alex asked, in a bored tone. He could already feel Angela was not exactly keen on him.

“Pretty much. Instead of Angela, YOU may call me Officer Moon.” Angela replied. The way she responded to him solidified to Alex that she had little patience to deal with him.

“Yeah sure…” Alex quickly responded dismissively.”…It’s just… You are aware, you’re an Angel… named Angela, right…? Like… your name literally means Angel! Like… how on the nose can you get!? Hehehe…!” he continued snarkily as he snickered to himself.

“Of course he’s a smartass just like her…” Angel replied under her breath before continuing at a regular volume. “…For your information, I didn’t pick my damn name. Angela Moon is the name my parents gave me when I was born, and I can guarantee you they did not have the clairvoyance necessary to figure out I would become an Angel when I would eventually die. And when I DID become an Angel, it just didn’t seem like a big enough deal to go by something else… you got that you smartass?”

“…If that’s the case, then why do you want me to call you Officer Moon, ‘uh…?” Alex continued ribbing her. Kitsiyuna decided to intervene before Alex could push his luck with annoying Angela any further.

“…So uh… Do you need me to fill you in on anything in regards to this whole bounty hunter situation Angela…?” Kitsiyuna sheepishly asked.

“…Well I did manage to get a lot out of this one before I finished him off…” Angela replied, pointing to the dead bounty hunter she had dragged in with her. “…According to him, there were originally seven bounty hunters after you in total. Now, I’ve only gotten this one so far, but I’m assuming you’ve already dealt with a couple yourself at this point, right Kitsiyuna?”

“Yeah. I’ve killed three of them so far…” Kitsiyuna replied.

“Well that just leaves three left. If we find and finish off those last three, everything should be fine…”

“Any chance they might have back up coming?”

“For the time being? No.” Angel answered, removing one of the Utility Crystals from her waist with her free hand.  A small square shaped projection began to emit from the crystal, showing an overhead map of Lunaridge, complete with some symbols and diagrams Alex couldn’t quite understand. “I’ve had it set up so that all out going communications the bounty hunters might’ve used were rerouted to this. They haven’t tried to contact anyone outside of town for the time being, and the signal jammer I have in place will make it impossible for them to do so in the future… So them getting extra support is going to be highly unlikely…”

“So… once we deal with these guys, I shouldn’t have to worry about anyone else coming and attacking me, right…?”

“…That I can’t say for certain. I wasn’t able to determine who gave them the job in the first place, so I have no idea how attentive their employers might be. It’s entirely possible that they might send in more people at some point in the future to investigate Lunaridge if they don’t ever hear from these bounty hunters again… But at the very least, if that was the case, they’re probably not going to have any definitive information on where you currently reside… And Lunaridge is a very large Gateway town. If something like that did happen, it still might take them a while to zone in on you again…”

Gateway town…?” Alex thought to himself as he listened intently to the conversation Kitsiyuna and Angela were having as he patiently sat back down on the stack of pallets. “That means any kind of town that’s in close proximity to an entrance to the Spirit World right…?” Alex decided to not ask for clarification, as he wasn’t sure Angela would continue discussing this in front of him if she knew he could actually follow what they were talking about.

“…One of the guys we dealt with on the way here said that their leader was a Somnight named Ombrix Masserk… Would that help you figure out who these guys are affiliated with…?” Kitsiyuna asked.

“…Masserk…” Angela said to herself as she projected another hologram with her Utility Crystal. This time, it appeared to be a list of names that she began to cycle through using her thoughts. Alex couldn’t really make out anything from where he was sitting, but figured even if he was closer; those names would probably mean nothing to him. After a few seconds, Angela eventually brought up what Alex assumed to be a rap sheet for Ombrix Masserk.

“…It says here he’s mostly been wanted for trafficking Spirits for multiple groups… Which I guess makes sense if he says he’s a bounty hunter… But from the looks of the records we have on him, he doesn’t actually ‘belong’ to anyone, at least, nobody we also have a record for…” she continued.

“…I also remembered something about their employer giving him something in advance that would make hunting down other Spirits absolutely trivial…” Kitsiyuna added, the concern in her voice rising.

“If that is the case… We can’t rule out the possibility that HE hired Masserk… After all, it sounds perfectly plausible that the thing he gave in advance was one of his new ‘toys’ that he wanted to have field tested…” Angela replied back, her voice growing even more serious than it already was. Angela’s vagueness finally got the better of Alex’s curiosity as he finally decided to ask her for some clarification.

“…Who is ‘he’ exactly supposed to be…?” Alex asked, placing stress on the he.

“That doesn’t concern you.” Angela answered him sternly and bluntly. “…Come to think of it, this entire conversation is probably going to veer off in a direction that a random child like you shouldn’t be privy to…”

“…If none of this was supposed to concern me, why did you have Kitsiyuna drag me all the way here in the first place…?” Alex asked in slight anger and annoyance.

“It’s for your own safety. Though we Reapers mostly operate in the Spirit World, we’re also tasked with insuring that no human is harmed or falls victim to the affairs of Spirits, even outside the Spirit World.” Angela replied with authority.

“So… You guys are just going to try to keep me here until this whole thing blows over…?” Alex asked with unease. He recalled the talk he had with Kitsiyuna on the bus about why he needed to go to the hideout and remembered her giving less than an honest answer. He noticed the unease growing on Kitsiyuna’s face and became absolutely convinced he was brought here for a different reason, one that he probably wouldn’t be too happy about.

“…Well, you heard what that Gremlin said… Ombrix is after you too…Now… I know I don’t know you THAT well, but I’m gonna guess you’re the kind of guy who doesn’t enjoy getting skinned alive…“ Kitsiyuna replied, sensing Alex’s growing concern. She tried to sound as jovial as possible to put him at ease, but Alex could see right through her. Angela let out a sigh as she could tell Kitsiyuna was doing absolutely nothing to convince Alex this was all for his own good.

“…Well, there is also one other thing we needed to bring you here for…” Angela said in a tired voice. She put away the first Utility Crystal she had pulled out before she removed the other one from her waist. She tightened her grip around it as the crystal turned black, with a dark aura forming around it.

“Woah…! What the hell is that going to do…!?” Alex asked as he jumped to his feet in a panic. The black color was clearly not a good sign in his eyes.

“…Relax. This is just going to clean Kitsiyuna’s ‘scent’ off of you is all… Essentially, this will scrub all traces of contact you’ve had with Kitsiyuna from your body so that no other Spirits can track you down and go after you in the future as a means to find her. It’s just a precaution to keep you safe… Isn’t that right Kitsiyuna?” Angela replied back, gesturing to Kitsiyuna to try to reassure Alex that was the case.

“…She’s right Alex. It’s just for your own protection. Other Spirits could potentially sniff out traces of my energy on you, then decide to take you hostage or even worse if they suspect you might be friends with me…” Kitsiyuna added on. Alex could see the sadness building up on her face as she was unable to make eye contact with him, something he immediately keyed in on.

“Bullshit! I know you’re both lying out of your asses! I’m not that stupid! I can tell with the way how you two are being so secretive that a random punk kid like me is just a loose end for the two of you…! What is that crystal actually going to do!? Is it going to kill me!?” Alex shouted out in rage and panic as he started backing away from the two of them. Angela dropped her scythe to the ground before quickly rushing in and grabbing Alex by the arm before he could run away.

“You’re just being paranoid…! It’s not going to kill you! It’s just going to wipe Kitsiyuna’s Spirit Signature off of you… Now hold still!” Angela said in frustration as she tried to hold Alex’s squirming body in place.

“I don’t believe you for a second! If that was all it was going to do, why the hell does she look so upset!?” Alex continued shouting as he struggled, pointing out the depressed look on Kitsiyuna’s face.

“…It’s because it’s also going to wipe your memories of the past 12 hours as well…” Kitsiyuna replied in grief, burying her face in her hand.

“What!? Why!? Why the hell do you need to wipe my memories…!?”

“Because like you said, you’re a loose end…!” Angela shouted as she was struggling to hold Alex down. It was clear to Alex she was not nearly as strong as Kitsiyuna.

“…It’d be immoral of us to allow a dumb kid like you to get wrapped up in our affairs! Letting you walk around freely with knowledge of Kitsiyuna is only going to get you killed or WORSE! Even if these bounty hunters turn out to be no threat to you, if what we suspect about the people who hired them is true, they WILL come after you and do EVEN worse things to you than you can possibly imagine! Wiping your memories of Kitsiyuna is the only way to insure that will never happen to you…! Just be grateful that we ONLY have to wipe your memories to stop you from getting tangled up in all this you DAMN BRAT…!” Angela was visibly getting more and more frustrated as she tried to keep Alex restrained, but was having little luck as he continued to shift around in her grasp.

“NO! I won’t let you do this to me! They’re my memories…! It should be up to me whether or not I don’t want to be involved in all of this…!” Alex shouted in desperation as he continued to worm his way out of Angela’s hold on him, who had just managed to grab onto his other arm.

“Don’t be such an idiot! I don’t know what exactly you’re hoping to get out of being allowed to stick around her, but it’s not going to go the way you think! GAH! Kitsiyuna! Help me hold him down so that I don’t accidentally turn his brain into mush…!”  Angela shouted as she had both arms wrapped tightly around both of Alex’s while holding the black Utility Crystal by her teeth.

“Please just stop struggling Alex… Like we said, it’s to keep you safe. Your entire way of life would change if you don’t let her do this…” Kitsiyuna said sorrowfully as she slowly approached Alex to hold him still.

Alex could feel the world around him slowly turn dark as Kitsiyuna closed in on him. In those brief moments of her approaching him, Alex’s mind wondered just what would happen to him if the past 12 hours just didn’t occur, as if this day hadn’t had happened to him at all. He figured it would’ve been just like the last day. Which had been exactly like the day before. And that day was pretty much the same as the one before that. It wasn’t long before Alex’s mind began to drift further and further into the past.

He remembered the days where he would wake up to an empty house, leaving first thing in the morning despite sleeping terribly to head to school with nobody there to say goodbye to him. He recalled the looks of disgust from complete strangers he would get as he passed them by, the only reason he could think of was because he looked unsettling to them. He remembered being an outcast at school, where people would ostracize him for his love of the Occult.

The teasing, harassing, and bullying had been going on since he was six, and showed no signs of ending. He remembered the day he finally snapped his sophomore year as he pulled his dagger on someone, then got dragged off to the principal’s office. But he escaped, and ran from the building before they could punish him and he vowed to never come back. He remembered coming home that day, crying tears of anger, with nobody there to calm him down. Anybody who would’ve been there had left him all alone after all.

Phone calls were made to his house for disciplinary action to be taken against him, but nothing ever came of any of them. Nobody actually cared enough to punish him. His life continued to spiral downwards as he felt more and more isolated from other humans, growing worse each day. That was, until two months ago, when something happened. Something drove him closer to the brink then he had ever been before, and he finally wanted to claw his way out.

His life had been nothing but miserable for him. It was at that point that he wanted, no, NEEDED something to change. Determined to never go back to that path again, Alex could feel his survival instincts kicking in once again.

“…But I hate the life I have right now! Having you help me change it is the only hope for me…!” Alex shouted at the top of his lungs in anger as he could feel the Spirit Energy welling up inside of him.

Without even thinking about his movements, Alex pressed both of his feet onto Angela’s chest plate, with her hold on him stopping him from falling to the ground. He began to push his legs against her armor, as he lifted up one of his legs to kick the Utility Crystal out of her mouth, causing it to land and bounce off several feet behind her. It was at that point Angela let go of his arms, causing him to drop straight down as she backed up a couple of steps, unsure of what Alex was going to do.

“Damnit! Kitsiyuna, stop dawdling and grab him!” Angela shouted to Kitsiyuna who had all but stopped in her tracks.

Alex, realizing both Spirits were too stunned to immediately respond, took advantage of their moment of weakness and scrambled to his feet, pulling out his tome yet again. He quickly flipped through its pages until he found the one he was looking for in the middle of the book. He pressed one of his hands against the page as the Spirit Energy began to build and whirl around him in a twisting tempest of light blue wisps.

“Stay THE HELL away from me WITH YOUR DAMN CRYSTAL!” Alex screamed out at Angela who was clearly in shock at what she was witnessing.

Alex focused his raging mind on the images in his tome. His brain began to process all of the formulas and complex matrixes on the page as he began to incant a spell in his head. It wasn’t a very powerful spell, and was one of the only ones he actually knew. He remembered how he always struggled to get it to work properly until he was eventually able to master it through sheer force, narrowing his mind to focus on nothing but casting the spell. He echoed the motions he made the day he was able to pull it off successfully as he released his palm from the tome and pointed it at Angela. The whole process occurred in the span of two seconds, leaving her no time to recover.

“Dispersion Wave!”  Alex yelled out as he focused his hand on his target.

With the name of the spell shouted, all of the Spirit Energy that had been floating around Alex quickly dissipated as it got consumed to fuel his magic. The muscles in his fingers tensed as a large shockwave of force blasted from his palm like a shotgun gauge firing, darkening the air and whipping up clouds of dust as it flew past. Before Angela could even react, the shockwave reached her, sending her flying back all the way into a set of scaffolding far behind her. The metal beams began to collapse all around her as the scaffolding began to awkwardly pin her in place; her wings making it even harder to untangle herself from the mess of metal she had just been thrown into.

Alex wasted no time and began to run in the opposite direction, passing right by Kitsiyuna as he did, who didn’t even make an attempt to stop him. He then proceeded to run full sprint away from the two Spirits as he knocked over more scaffolding behind him to make it harder for them to follow him before he darted around a nearby corner and disappeared out of view.

“God damn it …! Why didn’t you tell me he knew magic…!?” Angela chastised Kitsiyuna as she attempted to free herself from the scaffolding she was trapped in.

“…Well, I knew he had a little bit of magic… But I didn’t think he knew any actual spells…” Kitsiyuna replied back timidly and defensively.

Angela reached out her hand and pulled her discarded scythe back to her. With one swift flick of her scythe, she sliced through all of the metal beams surrounding her, cleaving them into far more pieces than should’ve been humanly possible for just one swing and effortlessly freeing herself from her predicament.

“Ugh… whatever…” Angela groaned in annoyance as she climbed out of the pile of freshly sliced metal. “…With the barrier in place, he’s not going to be able to escape on his own… I want you to go track him down and bring him back here…”

“All right…” Kitsiyuna said meekly.

“While I wait for you to get him, I’m going to scan the surrounding area and see if I can’t pin point the locations of those last three bounty hunters… So don’t take too long catching him.”

Kitsiyuna merely let out a long sigh as she proceeded to follow the direction Alex ran off to. Angela could tell immediately she was half-assing it as she climbed over the fallen scaffolding Alex had knocked over rather than just jumping straight over it all. She decided not to say anything as she focused her attention on finding the remaining bounty hunters.

“…Calling it now: she’s going to let him go…” Angela said under her breath as Kitsiyuna disappeared around the same corner Alex did. “…Considering how much she doesn’t like to be alone, it only makes sense she would bond with a kid like that…”

“Damn it… What the hell am I even doing here…?” Alex thought to himself as he ran through the half constructed mall. “There’s no way I’m going to be able to get away from them… They’re both Spirits, so no doubt they’re going to be faster than me, not to mention this is THEIR hideout… They’re going to understand the layout of this place far better than I am…” Alex continued to rush his way through some of the construction, darting in through some of the plastic sheets that had been left hanging down from the upper levels so as to better hide himself as he figured out how to move forward.

“…And the only real advantage I have here is that I was able to get a head start… Which doesn’t even matter that much as I know I’m not going to be able to maintain that for long…” As he continued to move forward, he happened to notice a steel door buried behind some construction equipment.

“That door… it could lead to some access hallways that run behind the store fronts… It’s not much, but I could probably work a narrow hallway more to my advantage than staying out here in the open.”  Without breaking stride, Alex used his tome to telepathically slam the door open in front of him so as to not slow down opening it by hand.

“That’s how you’re going to get out of this Alex… little shortcuts like that…! That’s what’s gonna make all the difference here…!” Alex thought as he ran into the pitch black hallway. Without any kind of light source shining in from outside, Alex relied on channeling Spirit Energy to illuminate the white brick of the walls surrounding him. Carrying his tome to his left side, while holding out a glowing wisp in his right hand, Alex continued forward until the hallway branched off to either side.

“All right Alex… Remember the layout of the building when you came into the place… One of these hallways should lead to an emergency exit…” After some quick deliberating, Alex figured based off of what he knew of his current position, taking the left path would be the more likely way out. He then quickly took the left path, never once stopping his movements forward, as he continued on down the winding access hallways.

“Hopefully, even if I’m not heading in the right direction… All of these turns in these hallways will make it easier for me to lose them…” Alex thought to himself as he made another corner, having passed by multiple doorways that could help mask the potential route he was taking. He began to wonder if he might be heading in circles after he went around another corner, and began to worry he could be going the wrong way. But, those worries were almost immediately put to rest when he noticed he just ran past a stairwell that went down.

“This is supposed to be the first floor isn’t it…? Any stairs going down from here would be going into a basement… From my understanding, malls don’t usually have a basement; at least not ones open to the general public… Wait…! I’m such an idiot! What do you even think these access hallways are made for in the first place!? For bringing stuff they might have stored in the basement to the actual stores out of view of the regular customers! There’s gotta be some kind of exit built in down there to allow them to directly load stuff into the basement!”

Wasting no time, Alex booked it down the stairwell, hoping that his hunch was right about there being an exit and that he wasn’t just leading himself into a dead end. The white brick from the floor above changed to a darkened concrete, with metal pipes feeding throughout the ceilings of the basement hallways making them feel even more claustrophobic. The wisp provided even less light on this floor, but Alex none the less pressed on, carefully following the pipes on the ceiling to make out where the turns were going to be in advance.

His pace began to slow down significantly as the fatigue from running began to set in, though the harsher lighting conditions definitely weren’t helping either. He was beginning to move so slowly, that his only hope of them not catching up to him at this point was that they lost him looking elsewhere. Eventually, Alex was able to make out another light source as he turned the corner. It was sunlight shining in through the tiny window of an exit door right in front of him.

“YES! I was right!” he exclaimed to himself in excitement. He stopped channeling as he readied his book again, running towards the door as fast as his tired body would allow him. He quickly flung the book forward telepathically, once again slamming the exit open as he rushed outside. Once through the door, he found himself heading up an incline out into a small isolated parking lot, completely surrounded by dense trees that looked as if they stretched into the foothills of Lunaridge. He was about to start celebrating before he saw a faint purple shimmer that quickly reminded him that he hadn’t escaped yet.

“Crap. I forgot about the damn barrier…” Alex thought to himself as he slowly approached the translucent purple wall swirling and whirling around before him. He looked over the gaseous barrier before him as he quickly tried to formulate some kind of way to get past it.

“Maybe it’s only a one way kind of deal…? Like, now that I’m inside, I can freely leave if I so choose…?” he optimistically thought to himself. He readied his tome again, preparing to throw it at the barrier to test his theory. With one brief thought, he commanded the tome to fly forward where it was quickly halted with a series of flying sparks as it hit the wall. It then rebounded off and slammed directly into his face.

“OW. I guess I was being too hopeful on my part…” he thought to himself as he dragged the tome from his face, being rewarded with a bump on his forehead for his escape effort. “…Come on Alex… you have to think of something… If you sit around here for too long, they could catch up to you…” Alex kept thinking to himself as he continued along the inside of the barrier, realizing it was probably better that he didn’t wait around in just one spot.

“…Didn’t Kitsiyuna say it was possible to break through with the right kind of magic…?”  Alex recalled as he headed away from the parking lot and into an even denser patch of trees. “Maybe I could use my magic to get out…! It’s probably worth a shot considering I don’t really have too many other options…”

Alex prepared his mind again, as the various matrixes needed for his Dispersion Wave began to once again formulate in his head as he turned to the intended page in his tome.  He lifted his hand up towards the barrier as he held his tome open with the other, Spirit Energy once again coursing through his free hand. Just as he was about to cast the spell again, he found his source of concentration quickly get cut off as somebody came up from behind and grabbed him. Without even having to turn his head back, he could tell it was Kitsiyuna due to the familiar strength behind the hold.

“DAMN IT! LET ME GO KITSIYUNA!” Alex shouted as he tried to break free to no avail. It seemed like Kitsiyuna had learned her lesson from last time, as she had her arms wrapped around Alex in such a way that it was physically impossible for him to move his own arms. He found it difficult to even move his legs, as he could feel some kind of force also keeping them in place, probably as a result of some of Kitsiyuna’s own magic.

“Please, just stop struggling. All of this is for your own good…” Kitsiyuna replied solemnly.

“I don’t care! They’re MY memories and I don’t want anyone screwing with them…!” The anger in Alex’s voice continued to build as he could feel his eyes starting to water.

“I… I understand… but…” Kitsiyuna tried to continue, but couldn’t find the words to say and was quickly cut off by Alex.

“You knew she was going to do this to me the entire time… didn’t you? That as soon as that first bounty hunter saw me, that my memories were going to have to be purged…? That’s it isn’t it…? YOU WERE LEADING ME ON THIS ENTIRE TIME, WEREN’T YOU!?” Alex continued to shout as his emotional state began to deteriorate with each sentence. Kitsiyuna, however, did not immediately reply as she felt too ashamed to even look directly at Alex as he leveled his accusations at her.

“ANSWER ME!” Alex screeched in a mix of sadness, anger, and frustration after a moment of silence from Kitsiyuna.

“…Yes. That’s the operating procedure Angela has in place… Any human who tries to familiarize themselves with me has to have their memories wiped…” Kitsiyuna finally responded, talking as if there was a great weight bearing down on her.

“And you’re just okay with screwing with people like that…!?”

“I… I’m not happy about it either! The only friend I can really have is Angela… But I’d rather only have her as a friend then allow completely innocent people to get dragged into the more dangerous aspects of my life…!” Kitsiyuna yelled out in similar frustration before calming herself down. “…I have to constantly lay low, isolated from everyone else while also constantly staying on alert in the event somebody tries to attack me… It’s not a life I’d want to thrust on anyone else…”

“…And what if I said that kind of life wouldn’t bother me at all…?” Alex replied as he grew more desperate to get out of this with all of his memories intact, tears slowly building up in his eyes.

“That’s just because you’re still a kid… I’m sure you’re thinking that your life right now is so horribly boring and that my life with the magic and fighting bad guys is so much more interesting… You don’t have the perspective yet to realize that though your life might seem bad, it could always be worse… If you keep trying to hang around me, your life WILL become a living hell…”

“MY LIFE IS ALREADY A LIVING HELL! It shouldn’t matter if I’m just exchanging one hell for another… I don’t care if I’m only 15, it should still be my choice in the matter…!”

“Why do you have to be so adamant about this…? I’m sure right now; you’re seeing forgetting about all of this as missing an opportunity. But once your memories get wiped, you won’t even care anymore because it will be like it never happened to you in the first place…”

“I’m so adamant about this because all of your memories help make up who you are as a person…! To have your memories altered against your will, whether they be good or bad, is tantamount to having a part of you die in my eyes! I mean, how would you feel if someone tried to get rid of your memories!?” Alex yelled out, the tears that had been slowly forming began flowing like a torrent from his eyes.

Though he didn’t expect them to, his words had finally hit their mark as Kitsiyuna was left in a silent shock. Instantly, he could feel her grip on him loosen as he was able to effortlessly break free from her hold, stumbling to his feet as he dropped from her arms. He hurriedly took multiple steps forward before turning around to look back at her, wiping the tears from his face as he did so. She merely stood there with a haunted expression on her face as she stared at the ground while she clutched her arms, drawing her hands towards her chest.

“…Hey… what the hell are you doing…?” Alex uneasily asked as he tried to calm the discord in his voice. He didn’t know what to make of Kitsiyuna’s behavior as it almost seemed like she had intentionally let him go.

Kitsiyuna let go of her arms as she began to lower her hands to her waist, clenching them into visibly trembling fists. After a few seconds, she reached into the pocket of her jacket and once again pulled out her Utility Crystal. Still keeping the crystal held tightly in her fist, its color once again changed from green to purple as another hole in the barrier formed right behind Alex.

“…Go. Get out of her before Angela can find out that I caught up with you…” Kitsiyuna finally answered, her gaze still affixed to the ground.

“…You’re actually letting me go…?” Alex asked in amazement and confusion.

“Yes… We told you the consequences for wanting to keep your memories and you still chose to keep them regardless. It wouldn’t be right to take them against your will at that point… Now please…” she continued, gesturing to Alex to move on through. Hesitantly, Alex stepped toward the barrier, putting one foot on through the hole, but keeping the other solidly on the inside as he once again turned back to look at Kitsiyuna.

“…You’re going to let me do this, even though you said that I could potentially be at risk to the guys who want to capture you…?” he asked, trying to hone in on Kitsiyuna’s motives.

“Mm hmm…” Kitsiyuna nodded before finally raising her face to meet Alex in the eyes. “If that’s really how it is for you… I wouldn’t want you to feel like a part of you has died just for some semblance of safety from a threat that might not even come for you … Just please do me one thing… Once you leave here… Don’t ever come back to try to find me, okay…?” Alex could visibly see the heartbreak in Kitsiyuna’s eyes as she said that last sentence, with the loneliness in her voice having finally reached its peak. Alex quickly pulled his one foot back through to the inside of the barrier as he took a couple of steps toward Kitsiyuna in concern.

“…Why…? Why the hell do you not want me to come in contact with you again…!?”

“Wiping your memories I agree is a little bit too excessive… But letting you hang out around me is still going to be too dangerous for you in the long run…”

“I already told you I don’t care how dangerous it is! I’ve been looking for a Spirit who seemed like they would be willing to help me for a LONG time. I don’t want to just give that up!”

“…This is because you still want to try for that Pact, don’t you…? I already told you it would kill you! Please just give that a rest and get out of here, otherwise I’ll just force you out at this point…!” Kitsiyuna continued as she began to push Alex towards the hole in the barrier.

“NO! I need this! I need that Pact as much as you do! Why can’t you at least let me test it to see if I can survive it!?” Alex responded with ire as he tried to dig his feet in the ground to keep Kitsiyuna from pushing him out.

“I ALREADY TOLD YOU WHY!” Kitsiyuna shot back in an equally irritated voice as she continued to push Alex out. She began to meet considerably more resistance than she expected as Alex began to use his tome to telepathically shove her off of him. After a brief struggle, Kitsiyuna decided to take a few steps back and inhaled deeply to calm herself down.

“Look, if you’re willing to go right now… I promise I’ll go talk to Angela. She’s a Reaper, so she’s going to have a lot of connections in the Spirit World. I’m sure she’d be able to find you a Spirit that would be willing to form a Pact with you so that you can get stronger for whatever it is you’re trying to do…”

Alex stopped to ponder Kitsiyuna’s proposal. While it was true that he could probably get by forming a Pact with any old Spirit, something began to nag at the back of his head that that probably wouldn’t cut it. He didn’t just want someone to lend their powers to him, he needed more than that, he needed a teacher, a mentor, someone who would have his back.

He recalled his old teacher, the woman with white hair who stood by him patiently for hours on end while he tried to learn how to channel Spirit Energy all of those years ago. She took it upon herself to look after Alex on the many days he found himself with no one else to care for him. She was someone who had momentarily freed him from his isolation. In that moment, even though he had only known her for a couple of hours at that point, Alex realized he saw something in Kitsiyuna that he also saw in his old teacher. And even though he wasn’t willing to admit it out loud, he wasn’t prepared to just give up on someone like that again.

“…No… I refuse…” Alex said under his breath. “I… I don’t want that…”

“…You don’t want that…? What are you talking about…?” Kitsiyuna asked bewilderedly. Alex was hesitant to explain to Kitsiyuna why he seemed so attached to her. Getting so personal like that was not something that came easily to him. While he could’ve simply lied and said that he mostly wanted a Pact with her because of her potential raw power, he found himself unwilling to do so in the moment. It ultimately didn’t matter however; as the two of them were once again intercepted before Alex had the chance to elaborate. Kitsiyuna, who had been so focused on Alex, didn’t even sense the new threat sneaking up behind her.

“Crap, Kitsiyuna behind you…!” Alex shouted.

The trench coat clad figure that had been silently creeping in behind the duo proceeded to rush forward before Kitsiyuna had proper time to respond to Alex’s warning. The figure swung two large glowing azure scimitars made of an otherworldly glass in an arc as they leapt forward, cleaving Kitsiyuna in the back as she attempted to move out of the way. The blades did hit their mark, as a spray of blood burst from Kitsiyuna’s back, but she was too determined to let such a minor injury like that slow her down as she quickly lunged forward, grabbing Alex as the two of them dove through the opening in the barrier. Without a moment of hesitation, Kitsiyuna reactivated her Utility Crystal, closing the hole behind them before the attacker could follow after them.

“Are you okay!?” Alex asked as he let go of Kitsiyuna’s back, feeling her blood on his hands.

“I’m fine… This is nothing…” Kitsiyuna replied with a hearty smile. Alex could quickly tell from how unusual her breathing was starting to get that she was lying. Now that they were safely on the other side of the barrier, the duo looked over their attacker. Due to their clothing choice, it was pretty obvious it was yet another bounty hunter, though, in comparison to the other hunters they had faced so far, something about this one’s clothing felt far more intimidating.

The base of their coat was even more tattered than the others’ with the ends tapering off into a thick magical haze, with chains wrapped around various parts of their body in place of the rags the other bounty hunters had. The armor they wore over their coat appeared to be far more reinforced than the others’ as well, with metal spikes coming out of their shoulder plates and arm guards.

If the clothing hadn’t had already clued them in, the man’s face certainly showed the duo just how much more battle hardened he was than the previous hunters. He had several gashes and old scars all over his face, with a rather sizable wound on the side of his forehead that cut into his hair line, almost like he had an axe lodged in there at some point. All of the scars however, were not what signaled to the duo just how dangerous the man was, rather, it was the color of his facial features. He had faint purple skin, choppy and pale, almost white hair, and soulless, almost pitch black eyes.

“Holy shit… I think he’s that Ombrix Masserk guy who was after us…!” Alex exclaimed in fear as he realized the Spirit standing before them was a Somnight, still desperately trying to remember just what kind of powers a Somnight might possess.

“You mean the guy in charge of all of the damn bounty hunters today…?” Kitsiyuna remarked, stepping towards the barrier to get a closer look.

“So I take it one of my underlings filled you in on me…” Ombrix replied with a bored tone. His voice was deep, yet had a raspy echo to it, giving a haunting quality to his words. Rather than looking angry or annoyed that the two successfully managed to trap him within the barrier, Ombrix merely sat there looking rather amused.

“How the hell did you find me…? And how the hell did you even get inside the barrier?” Kitsiyuna asked.

“My men might have went into this job completely unprepared like a bunch of fucking jackasses, but I can assure you I actually know what I’m doing…” he answered back. He then proceeded to clench his fist tightly, causing what appeared to be large particles of dust to flake off his body, forming a dense and fairly volatile cloud around him. “I marked each and every single one of the idiots I brought with me for this mission with my special dust here. Anything that’s been in contact with it, I can sense and the stuff can linger around for days. So, for the past week or so, I’ve had my men patrol around this dump of a town until you finally came in contact with some of it. All I needed was for those idiots to come into direct contact with you enough times with my dust and I’ve been able to follow your movements ever since…”

Ombrix paused for a second to take in the look of grim horror setting in on Kitsiyuna’s face. When fighting the other bounty hunters, she did recall tiny particulates of dust coming off of them. The magic that came from the dust had apparently been so faint, she couldn’t recognize it on its own because it blended in with the bounty hunters’ own Spirit Signatures. Dust didn’t even seem out of place for the rooftop and alleyway where they ran into the other hunters. Both her and Alex were completely unaware something so small and innocuous could be used to track them. Ombrix then decided to continue after his brief pause to answer Kitsiyuna’s other question.

“…And as to how the hell I got through your little barrier here in the first place…?” Ombrix held both of his blades back behind him as he stretched his arms out.

The dust cloud around him began to turn more and more volatile as the individual particles began to speed up immensely. Rather than float around him haphazardly at random, the cloud began to follow a pattern and started twisting and turning around him in a uniform motion. The dust appeared to grow hotter and hotter, slowly changing into hot ash as tendrils of static electricity began to fire off of the growing twister. Eventually, every single individual particle of dust began to glow bright orange as the entire air around Ombrix began to shimmer in power.

“DUST DECAY!” he shouted out as he readied his magic. With a swift flick of his blades forward, the dust cloud collided into the barrier, causing it to warp and distort as more electricity began to shoot off from it with a static filled roar. Suddenly, part of the barrier gave way as the dust pushed its way through with the force of a cannon, essentially melting a hole in the barrier like it was some kind of glass.

“I just made a hole for myself like this.” Ombrix smugly replied as he stepped through the newly formed hole, as a new dust cloud slowly reformed around him.

Kitsiyuna was still in shock, but wasted no time placing herself in front of Alex, still doing her best to keep him safe. Anticipating a far more difficult fight than before, Kitsiyuna quickly tossed off her leather jacket and hat as they disappeared into magical flames. Without her jacket on, Alex could she how honed her muscles were, as her arms were pretty buff especially by female standards, though there was still a quaint gentleness to them. Kitsiyuna assumed a proper fighting stance with her legs firmly planted in the ground as she drew her fists in front of her, ready to intercept Ombrix’s attack.

Flames whirled around her arms and legs as large armored bracers and greaves formed around her fists and boots respectively. The armor Kitsiyuna spawned was reinforced with silver plates above her knuckles and toes which began to glow white hot with heat as more fire engulfed her. With the searing metal amplifying her punches, she swung her fists forward, intercepting Ombrix’s blades as the two Spirits collided with each other. Sparks and burning dust flew about as they tried to force the other back. After a few moments, Ombrix pulled back his blades as he changed up his plan of attack, opting instead to try to hack away some more at Kitsiyuna, who responded by guarding against his flurry using her bracers.

“Run, Alex… Get the hell out of here!” Kitsiyuna yelled as she strained against Ombrix’s assault, with more and more dust being whipped up with each swing. Alex simply stood there in concern, too anxious about Kitsiyuna’s predicament to move. He wanted to interject and tell her that he wasn’t going to run; that he wanted to intervene and somehow help her, but something in him was also telling him to listen to her.

“What the hell are you doing just standing there? I said RUN!” Kitsiyuna continued, pushing back Alex deeper into the surrounding forest with the same invisible force she had been using earlier. He eventually stopped moving after being dragged back a good 20 feet. Still unsure of what to do, Alex probably figured it was best for him to just listen to her at that point if she was going to use magic to keep him away. Through gritted teeth, he promptly turned away from Kitsiyuna’s fight and ran straight through the nearby foliage before he disappeared from both her and Ombrix’s view.

“You’re sending your Spiriter away to keep them safe…? You do know that means you’ll have to take me on all by yourself right? Pretty cocky of you if you ask me!” Ombrix taunted Kitsiyuna as he continued to rapidly thrust his blades at Kitsiyuna.

“…He’s not my Spiriter! He’s just an innocent kid who got swept up in this whole mess!” Kitsiyuna angrily responded, delivering a sweeping kick towards Ombrix’s stomach. He proceeded to dodge back, ducking as he did so to avoid the invisible force she was trying to nail him in the head with as a follow through. The fact that he had the presence of mind to duck out of the way certainly surprised Kitsiyuna as she was caught off guard by his retaliation.

“So he’s not your partner…? My idiot subordinates really had me believing that was the case…” Ombrix continued, following through with a sweep of his blades from down below that Kitsiyuna just barely blocked. He continued his assault, punctuating his sentences with sword swings. “…I guess I should consider it a good thing that he’s not a Spiriter then! …After all… I was informed you were a pretty tough Spirit! …I might’ve actually had a problem fighting both you and him at the same time if that was really the case!”

He then followed up with a double overhead slash, but Kitsiyuna was able to get him to back off by creating a small explosion of fire at the last second, causing Ombrix to stagger back for a brief moment. Using the opening, Kitsiyuna launched her magic force straight forward in an attempt to impale Ombrix, but he saw through her attack and protected himself by crossing his blades just in front of his face. Confident he stopped whatever he was about to be hit with, he performed a cross slash through the air, kicking up more and more dust, as more electricity shot through the air directly to Kitsiyuna. She reeled back in pain as whatever Ombrix managed to cut began to drip blood.

“It really is a shame though… That that kid was just some random jackass and not someone who could actually help you… Because I’m not going to lie, it looks like you could really use the help…” Ombrix continued, looking with a smug arrogance at his blades as they dripped blood. Unlike the other bounty hunter, he knew exactly what he had hit.

“…Not that it really matters either way in the long run, because regardless of who the kid is in relation to you, once I slice you into submission… I’m gonna gut him alive right in front of you as payment for finishing off most of my men!” Ombrix swept forward with his blades as he rushed yet again at Kitsiyuna. She hopped back out of the way of the initial swing, but Ombrix followed through by performing a complete 360 degree spin, causing the dust cloud he had been building up to launch forward in all directions. Enough force was behind his swing that Kitsiyuna ended up getting sent skidding back several feet, though she would’ve undoubtedly been sent flying if she hadn’t been bracing herself by keeping her heels dug into the ground.

“LIKE I HELL I’M GOING TO LET YOU DO THAT!” Kitsiyuna fumed as two giant fireballs began to form in her clenched fists. She leapt up into the air, hurling the first fireball at Ombrix, who once again blocked with his blades, nullifying the first hit.

Still mid jump, Kitsiyuna proceeded to crash straight down, aiming her still burning fist at Ombrix’s head as she attempted to deliver a dive-bombing punch to his face. Using more fire magic, she rocketed herself forward, slamming into the ground at intense speeds, kicking up large chunks of earth in the proceeding blast created by the impact of her fist. She hurriedly dislodged her fist from the ground as she looked back behind her. She was sure her trajectory was aimed right at him, and yet she had been nowhere close to hitting Ombrix.

“Well that one was waaaaaaaay off now wasn’t it? Looks like my dust is starting to get to you…” he replied with a menacing smirk on his face, baring ghostly white fanged teeth in the process.

“What are you talking about…?” Kitsiyuna responded back as she tried to clamber back into a proper fighting stance, the pain that she had been ignoring from the cut to her back was becoming too difficult for her to ignore. Her vision began to haze over as the dust began to swirl around her, generating an unpleasant white noise in the back of her head that made it impossible for her to focus. Even without an explanation from Ombrix, it was becoming extremely obvious to her that his dust was doing something to mess with her senses.

“Well, it’s like I said earlier… I’m not stupid like my men are. I actually went into this job prepared by doing some research on just who I was hunting. I might not know EVERYTHING… and you can try to mask your true form with your abilities, but I know exactly what ‘kind’ of Spirit you really are Kitsiyuna… Including all of the weaknesses that your ‘kind’ possess…!” Ombrix gloated as he commanded the dust cloud around Kitsiyuna to grow thicker and thicker. Kitsiyuna found herself starting to cough and wheeze as the dusty air around her got more and more difficult to breathe.

“I know your kind have an incredibly heightened level of senses, far beyond that of most other Spirits. My dust preys upon that fact. Every single sensory cue you would be getting normally is amplified to the point that it’s overwhelming. Slight vibrations in the air are intensified to the point that it’s nauseating, and anything you hear is going to be joined with the most uncomfortable static in your ears that’s only going to get worse overtime…” he continued as he began to slowly step towards Kitsiyuna, twirling around one of his blades in his hand. Kitsiyuna tried to back away, but was quickly losing her balance and her breath as her vision was beginning to cloud as well.

“All I really have to do is just sit back and allow my dust to make it so that you can no longer do anything… BUT WHERE’S THE FUN IN THAT!?” Ombrix yelled out as he delivered another overhead swing at Kitsiyuna. She crossed both of her arms in front of her face in an attempt to block, but her distorted senses caused her to misjudge the velocity of the blades, causing her to get nicked on the side of her face. Her poor balance caused her to get knocked back as the small cut on her face begin to sear in pain. Though it was far smaller and less deep than the cut to her back, the dust amplified the pain she felt from it so that it seemed a hundred times worse, causing her to wail out in agony.

Ombrix continued to slowball his approach with Kitsiyuna as he patiently stood in place, still twirling his blades as he waited for her to get back to her feet. Her breathing was getting heavier as beads of sweat started to form all over her body. Once she finally regained her footing, she did her best to focus her mind. She grit her teeth as she slowly inhaled air through them, clenching both of her fists tightly as she did so.

“Then all I have to do… Is burn up all of this damn dust then!” Kitsiyuna shouted as she pushed herself to keep going. She quickly pumped her fist, triggering a large blast of fire to burst up from underneath her. She let out a low yell, almost like a chant, as she focused on growing the fire around her. Her shout gradually got louder and louder as the flames spread out further and further. Ombrix quickly stepped back to a safe distance, as a smirk formed on his face.

“Bad idea.” he cockily shouted. In one brief moment, all of the fire Kitsiyuna had been slowly burning around her suddenly exploded right in her face as she got launched even further back by the sudden blast. She ended up skidding back on all fours as a result of the magic’s backfire, her hands and feet dragging across the ground as she tried to slow her momentum. When she finally stopped, the dust cloud still swirled around her, only now it had been turned into a twisting smog of burning ashes as a result of her flames. Kitsiyuna began to cough uncontrollably from the burning air as she slowly started gagging. She was too unfocused to even stand back up at that point.

“The only thing your piddly little flames are going to do is make the dust even worse.” Ombrix reveled as he once again advanced forward. “You can’t win against me, and I also doubt you have any kind of tricks up your sleeve that you could pull off in your current state that would allow you to escape…” He then proceeded to leap up in the air, as high as the canopy of the surrounding trees, with his blades ready to be plunged into Kitsiyuna’s downed body.

“I GUESS the only thing left to do now is to finish you off!” Ombrix shouted as he began to fall towards Kitsiyuna. Unable to stop coughing, Kitsiyuna found herself incapable of dodging out of the way, the only thing she could do was watch as Ombrix descended upon her, energy crackling from his blades as he fell. The brief few seconds he was in the air felt like an eternity as Kitsiyuna desperately tried to think of some way to mitigate the attack.

“…With the angle he’s going at… It looks like he’s aiming for my back… With the state that I’m in, if he manages to impale me from here… I don’t think I’d be able to move again without someone else’s healing magic… Which would pretty much be game over… Come on Kitsiyuna! Stop letting this damn ash get to you and focus…! I have to use my tail… He obviously  knows that I have it, but he’s so full of himself that he thinks I can’t move at all like this… If I can time it just right and catch him off guard, I can knock him out of the air and use it as a chance to recover… But it has to be at just the right moment…!” Kitsiyuna strategized to herself in the brief moments before Ombrix finally plunged his blades into her. She stared down Ombrix with determination in her eyes as she tried to put her desperate plan into motion.

Kitsiyuna tried not to think about what would happen next, even if she did manage to counter this attack. She would still be in no state to fight Ombrix by herself, nor would she really be able to run away from him either. There was even no guarantee that she would be able to keep him off of her for long enough for her to even back onto her feet. And that’s all predicated on her being able to aim her counter well enough to swat Ombrix out of the air while her senses were still being overloaded. All of these wrinkles did pop into Kitsiyuna’s head as well, but she kept them buried in the back of her head as she was determined to do whatever was necessary to keep Ombrix at bay. Thankfully, Alex intervened before she ever needed to pull her plan off.

“Take those damn glass scimitars of yours…” Alex blurted out as he rushed back onto the scene, stopping Ombrix’s blade’s midair using his tome. “…AND SHOVE THEM DOWN YOUR DAMN urethra you lint coATED bitch!” Alex screamed out as a war cry as he used his tome to push back against Ombrix.

Power surged through Alex’s tome as it collided with the blades, causing sparks of lightning to fly all over the place. Alex’s hand trembled as he held his tome steady with all of his strength as some of the sparks arched over to his arm. A large gash began to form on Alex’s right hand as the blades dug deeper into the cover of his tome, as if the blades cut through the book’s magic to directly to Alex. Despite the strain he was under, Alex managed to muster enough power to launch Ombrix back, with a huge shockwave ripping through the air as Alex repelled him back. Ombrix had been so completely caught off guard by Alex’s return that he ended up crashing into the ground as his body ended up rolling into a tree.

Alex closed his bloodied fist as he floated his tome back closer to him. He walked slowly towards Kitsiyuna as he offered her his blood covered hand and helped lift her back to her feet. Kitsiyuna was completely taken aback by Alex’s return. She figured if anyone was going to be bailing her out her, it would’ve been Angela.

“Why… why did you come back…?” Kitsiyuna asked as she tried to regain her breath.

“Because in terms of looks, personality, and power level… You’re the best Spirit I’m ever going to find… And if you don’t want a Pact with me because you’re afraid of it getting me killed…” Alex responded, pausing his sentence as he noticed Ombrix coming back to his senses.

Ombrix stared at Alex with a sadistic smile on his face as he got back to his feet. Alex was undeterred however, pulling out his dagger with his blood covered hand as he held his tome open with his other one. He placed the dagger in a reverse grip close to his face, leaving it parallel to his eyes as he met Ombrix’s gaze.

“…I’m just going to have to show you that I’m not afraid of dying like this…!” Alex shouted in declaration, steeling his nerves as he prepared to face Ombrix down to buy Kitsiyuna enough time to recover.

Art Post – Powering Up

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Powering Up

Here’s some more art for yet ANOTHER comic idea I’ve had rolling around in my head for maybe like one year less than Night Fox. This one is far more sci-fi focused and it’s one that I’ve been a little bit hesitant to really talk about for a reason you’ll see in a little bit. It involves the main character (pictured here) getting into a car accident in the early 21st century before waking up in some kind of a strange military facility on a completely different planet 5000 years into the future, kind of like Futurama. After waking up, the main character finds out that he has a strange device fused to his chest called the Omni Crest that allows him to summon armor around various parts of his body that give him superhuman abilities. And nobody, including the military has any idea why or even how he got into the facility in the first place.

Not long after waking up, he gets captured by space pirates who try to use him as a hostage to escape the planet that they are on. While under the pirates’ control, he befriends a girl they’ve been keeping as a slave named Astria. The pirate’s attempts to escape end up failing as the main character and Astria get rescued by Captain Ace Drhys, an elite soldier in the human alliance’s military. A few other events happen that eventually cause Ace to decide to recruit the two of them into his elite crew for a mission that could involve the fate of the entire galaxy. Wanting answers for how he traveled 5000 years into the future and with little other options available to him, the main character agrees despite having lived his entire life up until that point as an overcautious coward who has never done anything with his life.

So why have I been hesitant to talk about this comic idea before? Mostly for the same reason I haven’t been saying the main character’s actual name, because when I originally came up with this comic idea back in 10th grade, the main character was supposed to be a self-insert I named Sean Edens. Something at this point I know as a writer is an extremely tacky thing to do. That being said, I still feel inclined to keep him as Sean if only because I see it as a challenge to write a self-insert with crazy super powers without making them come off as a Mary Sue (though for guys, I guess that would be a Gary Stu). Mostly, I want to see if I can play up my more pathetic qualities that I actually have in real life (i.e. being whiny, lazy, and extremely risk adverse) and see if I can still turn them into a believable sci-fi hero. Will I be able to succeed on that front? Maybe if I actually get off my lazy ass and decide to actually do something with this idea, we’ll be able to tell…

Anyways, I’m pretty much done here, so until then, I’ll see you next post.