In the middle of the ocean was a sight that was hard to accurately describe. A wall made of giant storm clouds rotated with an unstoppable ferocity. The waves below the storm followed the same pattern, deadly whirlpools formed and made it clear that any organic life caught inside would quickly be ripped apart. A few hundred feet away from the Storm Wall a doorway opened up and several people walked out.
“Kesver.” Lyra called out.
As a Naiad, Kesver had a natural control over all forms of water. The surface of the ocean entered a near solid state and allowed everyone to literally walk on water.
Lyra, Gicae, Theissa, Ustia, Lua, Myr, and Ira made their way out of the doorway and observed the Storm Wall. Anyone who saw it would agree that scale of the storm was incomprehensible as it stood around 15 miles into the air.
Ira silently looked on with nothing other than a small grin.
“You can clearly see that this isn’t a normal storm. When the barrier was raised, it caused an incredible amount of energy to go out of control which led to the creation of the Storm Wall. Below the wall are undercurrents that Kesver can’t control. Above the wall is a series of magnetic storms that the Valkyries can’t fly through. As for going through it?” Lyra raised her hand as the small white circles around her pupils lit up. A beam of light continuously shot out of her hand and tore through the Storm Wall. For a brief moment an opening formed in the wall, but within a few seconds, the beam dissipated. Even if Lyra could make an opening it wouldn’t matter as the Storm Wall was the size of a small country.
Ira’s expression changed at the display of Lyra’s ability. “Is that magic?” He asked.
Lyra looked at him strangely as she recalled the metallic humanoid that she saw in his mind. “You can say that. It’s star magic that is only native to Siderans,” she explained while regaining her composure.
“That’s too bad.” Ira’s expression turned to disinterest as he looked back to the Storm Wall.
“Can you remove it?” Myr questioned.
“I can…” Ira said with a lazy smile, “Just not right now.”
Myr felt her annoyance rising as she looked at Ira’s smile. If it wasn’t for Gicae’s warning she would attempt to cut him down where he stood.
Ustia, on the other hand, had more patience. Ira was connected with the Black Forest and that made him incredibly dangerous in her eyes.
“How long do you need to prepare?” Thessia asked. She was the youngest of the group by a few hundred years. She was aware that the higher races were strong early on but took years to reach their peak.
“I don’t know.” Ira shrugged with a passive smile. It would be hard to believe that he threatened to kill all of them a few moments before, that is, if one didn’t look at his eyes which landed on Gicae every few moments.
“...How long did it take for you to reach your current point?” Ustia asked. She was more interested in understanding the scope of his abilities.
Ira showed a contemplative look as he went into thought, “Almost a year,” he said.
For a moment the only sound was the wind howling in the background and then everyone finally showed some sort of realization.
“That can’t be true,” Lua said in disbelief, but all she got in return from Ira was indifference. It was clear he didn’t care if she believed him or not.
“Then how old are you?!” Thessia asked with far more emotion.
“Somewhere between eighteen and twenty-one,” Ira responded. “Probably.” He added.
Ustia took a few moments to recollect her calm. In fact, all of them made sure not to show any sense of distress in front of Ira, but inwardly they viewed him as a monster. There were very few people who knew Ira’s growth and the ones that understood what it meant were even less. It was apparent that after the Summit, Ira’s origins would be investigated by everyone and then they would be struck with the same realization.
“You don’t know your own age?” Kesver showed a look of skepticism.
“Doesn’t everyone lose track of time occasionally?” Ira responded.
“Those two things are nothing alike,” Myr interjected.
“Speak for yourself.” Ira shrugged before he thought of something. “I don’t like you,” He said to Myr.
“I could say the same about you. I especially detest your smile, it’s very off-putting.” Myr retorted.
“If I get the chance, I’ll kill you first,” Ira mumbled aloud.
Myr was barely able to restrain herself from drawing her sword as she glared at Ira who yawned in response.
“Can we leave? I saw everything I needed to see right?” Ira asked Lyra.
“Gicae.” Lyra signaled.
Gicae opened the doorway once again and everyone began to enter.
It had been a few hours since Ira was taken away by the higher races. The rain had long since stopped, but Avery didn’t seem to notice as she kept her eyes where Ira had last been until Rhys’ notepad appeared in her peripheral.
“For what?” Avery asked apathetically.
Rhys sat quietly before writing her response, [I couldn’t provide any real help.]
“What is it about Ira that made you interested in him?” Avery inquired in an empty tone.
Rhys started to write but was cut off by Avery. “I don’t think you need to be around him anymore. In the beginning, I was searching for possible allies for him and you were an important one for him to have until the Dark Elves appeared.”
Rhys’ hands tightened in frustration before she began writing, [I can get stronger.]
“You seem to be misunderstanding me, It’s not a question of your abilities. I am sure you will become stronger and very soon at that. I just doubt you understand Ira and I doubt that you’ll come to understand him even more. I can see how his friendly demeanor can be misleading, but he’s capable of immense brutality and full of apathy toward most other living things. Still, he’s so much more than that.” Near the end, Avery’s eyes showed a sense of longing. It was one of the rare times her emotions became visible.
Rhys took a few moments to think before she scribbled her response, [You said something similar once before and I told you my decision.]
Avery’s usual expression of coldness returned as she read Rhys’ response, “We’ll see if you can maintain that stance when you’re around him long enough to understand,” she said.
Rhys wanted to write something to respond, but at that moment the air around the arena rippled before the turquoise doorway opened up. The Dark Elves stood up in a frenzy as they began to shout.
Ira and Lyra stepped out of the doorway and stood in the arena.
“We’ll be checking in on you periodically to monitor your progress. I would prefer if you left a location that we can easily reach. It was quite difficult to locate you the first time,” she said.
“There’s a restaurant in the Grenitian Kingdom that I live near, he should be able to find that. It’s kind of strange that he didn’t know that after poking around in my head.” Ira’s aggression began to spill out as he talked.
“Is it that much of an issue for you? I understand your hostilities to a degree, but would it be far-fetched to say that it was necessary?” Lyra inquired. As far as Ira knew, Gicae decided to enter his mind on his own accord. Gicae took direct responsibility and didn’t include the others as being involved with the decision. Although Lyra wasn’t the one who pushed for it she had followed Gicae into Ira’s mind.
“What kind of question is that? You don’t know anything about me so don’t tell me what’s necessary.” Being powerless to resist was the thing Ira hated the most. It reminded him of what was done to him years ago.
“You’re right, I’d hope you can forgive me for being presumptuous,” Lyra responded.
“We’re a bit past the point of forgiveness.” Ira smiled before he looked at the stands, or more specifically, Avery.
“...You’ll be hearing from us soon, Ira,” Lyra said before stepping back through the doorway which disappeared after she entered.
“Keeper!” The Dark Elves shouted as they looked at Ira’s good condition from afar.
Avery jumped down from the stands and began walking toward him causing Ira to form a cheerful grin. She arrived in front of him and hugged him tightly which surprised Ira. Until that moment, they never displayed much affection in public. Ira decided to ignore that little fact for a moment and returned Avery’s embrace.
“Worried?” Ira asked with a self-assured chuckle.
“I doubt you were much different when you woke up,” Avery said as she held him tighter. All she could think of was how warm he was, even with her Phoenix Heart increasing her resistance to heat.
“Well, you got me there,” Ira confessed.
Avery finally stepped away and spoke, “So how was it?”
“It was a literal wall made out of a storm. I need some time to get through it, but when I do I should be able to kill some of them,” Ira said.
“You plan on getting through it? I assumed that was to stall for time.” Avery commented.
“Maybe that was the plan at first, but the continent of the Higher Races sounds quite interesting.” Ira smiled mischievously before he looked over Avery’s shoulder to see the Dark Elves and Rhys standing a dozen feet away. It was clear that they were waiting for Ira and Avery to finish their conversation before speaking to him.
“Looks like they have something to say,” Ira said.
Avery nodded and followed him as he moved toward the group of people waiting for him. Rhys grabbed her notepad, but Sylun spoke up far quicker than she could write.
“Keeper, forgive us for our inaction. I wasn’t aware that they would take you away after your fight.” Sylun said with an apologetic bow. Needless to say that her subjects did the same.
“It’s fine.” Ira waved his hand. He doubted that they would provide much help if they were to face those of the higher races.
While Sylun continued to offer her apologies, Rhys found herself unable to properly get a word in. Beneath the mask her expression show restlessness as she looked for a chance to speak to Ira. When she witnessed Avery hugging Ira she found herself wanting to do the same but knew that he didn’t see her the same way.
“Rhys?” Ira’s voice gained her attention. At such a close proximity, he could hear the hear her facial muscles repeatedly contracting.
Rhys looked at Ira for a few moments before she began to write, [I’m glad you’re ok.]
Ira opened his mouth to speak, but he coughed out a black liquid instead which caused everyone to panic.
“Ira?” Avery narrowed her eyes questioningly.
“It’s uh…” Ira coughed out more and it fell to the ground before evaporating, “...If I teleport too much this kind of happens. Don’t worry, this isn’t the first time.” Ira smiled but noticed the Dark Elves looked especially shocked as they looked at him.
Avery pulled out a cloth and handed it to him without a change of expression. “Your eyes,” she said.
Ira grabbed the cloth and wiped below his eyes and looked at it only to see that it remained unstained.
“It’s pouring from your eyes, Keeper,” Saren said.
“Really? That’s a first.” Ira said as drops of black liquid continued to spill from his eyes.
Over the past few days, Aldis had adjusted to life under Harper’s tyrant-like rule. He regretted the fact that he was unable to beat her and considered her Phantom as the leading cause of his repeated losses.
“When do we depart on a job, Harper?” He asked as he polished his swords at the table.
“I’m waiting for something,” Harper said stubbornly.
That was Harper’s usual response to his inquiries and any protest or repeated pestering would lead to her challenging him to a fight.
He looked to Amy for some sort of help, but she could only give a wry smile. She fared no better than Aldis in a fight with Harper.
Suddenly, Harper’s ears perked up and she rushed to the door. Aldis and Amy stood up with hopeful expressions as they looked toward the door.
Harper opened it and looked out only to see a man holding a crate. Her gaze briefly flashed with disappointment at Ira’s lack of an appearance, but some excitement returned.
“A custom rework for someone named Harper?” The man asked.
“Yes.” Harper nodded.
She signed an invoice and grabbed the crate before closing the door and placing it on the kitchen table.
“What is it?” Amy asked curiously. She had never seen Harper spend much money on anything other than food so she was surprised to see that Harper purchased something.
Harper didn’t say anything as she opened the wooden crate and sifted through the straw. Her hands made contact with a solid object and she hurriedly pulled it out. A long chain made of bone rattled as she pulled it out. At the end of the chain was a small scythe blade.
“Um...Harper…Is there something special about that?” Amy showed a confused look. She was aware of Harper’s ability to create bone armor, so she didn’t understand why Harper would need to purchase a weapon made out of bone from an outside source.
“I fought someone who used this up North,” Harper said as she ran her hands over the interlocked skeletal segments.
“That exact one?” Aldis asked.
“Yup.” Harper nodded, “I had to pay some else to file it down for me too,” she said proudly. Of course, that process required quite a lot of money. There was rarely anyone willing to work with actual bones, especially when they were of a human nature. Then there was the fact that Harper chose not to alter someone’s memories to get them to work on it. She would only do such a thing when Ira asked and was aware that it wasn’t always guaranteed to stay permanently.
Harper sent a large amount of spectral force through the skeletal chain before it began to float. The loose segments clicked together and the bone-like rattling ceased altogether. Harper then grabbed the skeletal chain and hung it on her side before smiling happily.
“Now we can do a job,” she said with a very Ira-like smile.