/simu/ - Simulacrum

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>Date: September 30th, 2017
>Location: Sanctuary City - The Prism
>Time: 9:00 AM

>A small burst of bright red light flies across the training area of the Prism - cutting right through a test dummy.

"As I thought."

>Aiden lowers his hand, placing it back in his jeans pockets as he looks over to Stella standing beside him.

"I gained his Fissure technique, and everything else he had."

>Aiden then walks over to the test dummy - seeing no signs of direct slicing. No directional carving, no uneven distribution of mass along the lacerated edges. Simply an entirely clean cut surface - on both ends.

>As Stella walks up beside him, she crosses her arms as she inspects the bisected test dummy.

"You did mention something about your senses feeling even more heightened after coming back."

>Nodding, Aiden then stands back up and looks at his hand. Looking upward, he then instantaneously teleports a few feet in front of himself - then rapidly across the room before returning back to his exact starting position.

"His teleportation is different from my instantaneous movement. Given the difference, my approach seems to be slightly faster - just as I figured."

>Taking in the information for a few moments, Stella then asks:

"Aiden are you sure you can handle all of this? You have no adverse side effects whatsoever?"


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>As Aiden makes a gesture with his hand, he reorients and repairs the test dummy - putting it back to its original state.

"I had some initial trouble when I first met Samael, but outside of that? No - no general issues."

>Looking directly at Stella for a moment, Aiden then continues:

"Besides, I'm more worried about all the different powder kegs that I keep seeming to create. First Faust, then Laplace, then Ouranos…..And now Kagemusha."

>Rubbing his closed eyelids, Aiden groans lightly in annoyance as he lowers his sunglasses.

"It seems to be progressively escalating. Regardless of my efforts to make things better - they somehow only seem to worsen."

>Stella taps Aiden lightly on the left cheek, giving him a soft smile as she responds.

"I won't claim to be the omniscient, all-seeing sage of wisdom. But I do know something important. I know that your intentions are good, and you genuinely mean well."

>Lowering her hand, but still looking at Aiden, Stella then says:

"Sometimes, that's all that we can rely on Aiden. Our good intentions."

>Sighing once more, Aiden relents and gives Stella a weak smile in return - placing his sunglasses back on his face.

"Well, in that regard - I'll ensure that they don't lead to hell."

>Silent for a moment, Aiden and Stella then slowly lean in to kiss. After a few moments, they then hear a voice.

"Oh, I didn't mean to intrude."


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>Isaac looks at the pair - giving a somewhat amused look as they both quickly stand back from each other.

"I uh, didn't expect to see you all of a sudden Isaac! Hey! What's up?"

>Aiden says, attempting to appear nonchalant to hide is sudden embarrassment. Stella's face is entirely red as she looks down at the floor - equally embarrassed.

"Hello Isaac. It's as Aiden said. We weren't expecting you to show up."

>Isaac holds out his hand in a careful gesture - wanting to ease their embarrassment.

"I'm sorry about the sudden intrusion myself. However, this was my first free day in a while. I figured I'd use it to inform you both of something important. I'll take you both to the Axiom - if you don't mind."

>Aiden and Stella look at each other for a moment, before they look back at Isaac.

"Alright. We're all ears."

>Isaac then nods as he snaps his fingers - causing all three of them to disappear.


>A few minutes later, Mosaic and Andromeda are walking behind Doctor, as the 3 of them continue to move through the Axiom's hallways. The dynamorphic nature of the superstructure allows it to gradually shift its relative position in space - while the 3 sorcerers keep moving forward.

"So these Aletheians are essentially a group of magic cultists?"

>Andromeda asks, while Mosaic keeps his hands in his coat pockets.

"They sound more like a self-imposed bureaucracy. Some hints of authoritarianism, given how strict they seem to be about the practice of magic."

>Doctor nods as he rounds the nearest corner, making a flicking gesture with his gloved hand. As he does so, the entire dimensional space restructures itself once more - bringing them to the combat arena of the Axiom.

"I happened to overhear a bit of your conversation before I arrived. Residual echoes that my magic can detect."

>Looking back behind himself at Mosaic, Doctor then states:

"I assume this is something that you wanted to assess for yourself more properly?"

>Mosaic nods as he takes his gloved hands out of his coat pockets.

"More or less. If I really did replicate everything Kagemusha had, then there's something that I need to test."


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>Doctor then makes a gesture with his hand - bringing up a large number of impossibly large artificial moons and lining them up perfectly in a row. The moons stretch on for what seems like infinity - as Mosaic and Andromeda can only see the relative surface of the moon hovering closest above them.

"I've been aware of the Tasogares and their different magical abilities. I have no doubt that you can utilize those same techniques. But I need to gauge your level of skill and power."

>Mosaic then looks up at the large set of artificial moons lined up in the sky - and stretching on for seemingly infinity.

"Fissure first then?"

>Doctor nods slowly, as he beckons towards Mosaic to demonstrate his abilities.

>Mosaic then holds his gloved hand up to his face - and then slowly moves it outward. Making sure that he's pointing two fingers directly at the large asteroid hovering before him - he then makes the slightest of gestures with his two fingers.

>Immediately, a massive surge of black and red energy surges from Mosaic's fingers - concentrating itself into a micrometer thin - but multi-mile wide slash attack. The attack literally ruptures the artificial moon - completely cutting it in half, and every moon stationed behind it.

>In less than a fraction of a second, the entire contingent of artificial moons is entirely bisected - with the attack seemingly moving at an infinite speed, cutting through an infinite number of artificial moons.

>Turning his attention back towards Mosaic, Doctor then says:

"Actually, that was a bit more impressive than I originally expected. Your refinement of the technique is arguably superior to Kagemusha's at this point."

>Doctor then assumes a thinking position, muttering to himself for a moment as the artificial moons disappear.

"Your growth rate is accelerating. With a bit more training, you and Stella may be able to stop the first Aletheian contingent. Provided that they don't designate Earth as a priority concern."


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>Andromeda looks on in amazement at the result of the Mosaic's Fissure slice. As the moons dissipate into nothingness, she turns back towards Doctor and says:

"I wonder if I'll ever be able to do that."

>Doctor looks back at Andromeda and states:

"You should be able to, quite easily. You have more inherent magical potential than Aiden does."

>Confused, Andromeda looks between Mosaic and Doctor.

"….You're being serious?"

>To Andromeda's surprise, both Mosaic and Doctor nod in agreement.

"I've always suspected. Remember what you said to me about your creation, Stella?"

>Thinking for a moment, Andromeda closes her eyes behind her magic visor - reliving the earlier years of her life.

"Yeah, I remember. I remember being used as a lab rat by my father. Each of his experiments with mana control, rune construction, leyline alteration. All of it."

>Crossing her arms - Andromeda turns away, feeling more dejected at the reminiscence of her past.

>Doctor then speaks up - doing his best to be careful with his wording.

"You said that your father picked your mother specifically because of her inherent magical potential as a sorceress, correct?"

>Andromeda nods, stating:

"Cordia Bray. She was my mother, yes. I believe she was the most powerful of the Thaumaturgic Mages - even moreso than my father."

>Gritting her teeth, Andromeda remembers the exodus of her mother from their ancestral plane - causing her to further fuel her own inner anger and rage.

>Sensing this, Mosaic walks over and gives Andromeda a hug - holding her tightly as he states:

"Hey, you've got me. Isaac is also here. We're here for you Stella."


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>Taking a deep breath, Andromeda nods and then hugs Mosaic back.

"I know. Thank you Aiden."

>As Mosaic pulls back from the hug with Andromeda, she then turns to look at Doctor, stating:

"You too, Isaac. Thank you."

>Nodding in return, Doctor then says:

"Anytime. I'm always here for both of you."

>Returning his attention back to the nature of Andromeda's power, Doctor then speaks:

"As to the original discussion, Stella. After studying the Thaumians' preliminary work with Soul Magic, and the resulting Thaumaturgic Magic that they developed - I've come to the conclusion that you're a Siren. The strongest I've ever seen up to this point."

>Mosaic and Andromeda both look surprised by the revelation. Mosaic is the first to respond.

"Stella's a Siren? I assumed she was just immensely strong in magic."

>Andromeda then perks up herself, stating:

"So did I. For the most part, I just see it…and I understand it. It feels natural to me."

>Doctor then instantaneously summons the Tome of Thoth - his Omni-Magical index of spells, creatures, magical history and other phenomena. As his mind directs the tome towards the appropriate page - he watches as the pages instantly flicker and flip around at unfathomable speeds.

>Once the tome flips itself to the page that Doctor is looking for, he then begins to respond.

"Sirens don't have an innate understanding of magic - but they do innately posses the ability to sense and absorb magic. Considering how ancient Sirens actually are - it's unlikely that Lucien wasn't aware of their existence."

>Andromeda's face darkens somewhat - as a wave of understanding passes over her.

"….He literally picked my mother for her power. Her potential."

>Laughing softly, Andromeda places a hand to her face - as her laughs slowly turn into weak sobs.

"…And here I thought that there was some part of him deep down - that cared about her…."

>Mosaic places his hand on Andromeda's shoulder once more, stating:

"We care about you though. You still have us."

>Andromeda looks up at Mosaic, slowly turning her frown into a smile.

"….And I can't help but feel lucky for that."


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>Doctor reads through more of the page involving Sirens, before he then closes the tome and dissipates it. Turning his attention back towards Mosaic and Andromeda, he then states:

"While I have no doubt that Lucien's intentions were entirely self-serving, the fact remains that he chose your mother Cordia for a reason. I suspect it was due to her Siren Imprint. "

>Andromeda begins piecing the situation together, here mind racing as she works through the possibilities.

"So my father chose my mother for her Siren Imprint, and then willingly used her body as a vessel to contain the Thaumaturgic spell that he constructed. The Soul Sacrifice spell."

>Sighing, Andromeda then concludes:

"He likely did this because he knew that the resulting offspring would be powerful enough to absorb the power of the spell."

>Mosaic then looks at Andromeda as he speaks up.

"The Soul Sacrifice spell? The same spell used to create Azazel?"

>Doctor then clarifies:

"The very same. The one that also led to the creation of your Thaumaturgy Ring. That same font of power ultimately supercharged Stella's Siren nature."

>He then looks at Andromeda more carefully behind his mask, stating:

"That is why I said that you may have even more magic potential than Aiden. In Aiden's case, his magical power is the result of many factors synergizing together - amplifying each other so that their whole is greater than the sum of each individual part."

>Mosaic nods as he looks at his gloved hands, examining them carefully. He also notes the magic ring on his finger. He then begins to count with each of his 10 fingers:

"The Thaumaturgy Ring. My training with Isaac and Magister. That in addition to all of the countless magical beings whose natural magic powers and knowledge I've been able to mimic."

>Mosaic then looks up at the empty sky above - boundless and seemingly without limit.

"That includes Kagemusha's powers and knowledge - as we've just seen. In other words, I'm just a cacophony of different magical sources and powers that all strengthen and amplify each other."

>Mosaic then points to Andromeda, as he concludes:

"But I'm not innately full of magical power and potential. My potential in magic doesn't naturally grow, like the rest of my abilities do. That's the difference, Stella - because you're the exact opposite in that regard."


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>With that point established, Doctor then states:

"I can help to train you in your mindset reinforcement to further draw out your latent magical potential, Stella. Aiden, as he continues to fight stronger magical opponents - will naturally mimic their power and make it his own."

>Mosaic nods as he places one hand on his hip, and uses his other hand to make a gesture in response to Doctor's statement.

"Right. I just need to breach their defenses if they are magic. As long as I'm of a relatively similar level of strength and power; my core mimicry should work."

>Mosaic then assumes a thinking stance as he theorizes:

"The fact that it worked on Kagemusha means that in that moment, we were at an equal level of power."

>Doctor nods in response as he turns towards Andromeda, stating:

"So for you, my training approach will be less academic and more holistic. The magic that you and Aiden have learned over the past few months here - it is entirely contingent on mental willpower and concentration. Focus. Once you have that mastered, the rest should fall into place soon afterwards."

>Andromeda then gives a look of enthusiasm on her face as she says:

"Perfect! If I want to help stop these Aletheians, I'm going to have to be at my best!"

>Mosaic places his hands in his coat pockets as he asks:

"As for me, I'm assuming I'm just going to have to drill down the basics again, right? Proper form, strategic thinking and cognitive restraint?"

>Doctor gives Mosaic a two finger gesture, affirming his statement.

"Correct. As you naturally grow stronger through encountering new opponents, mastering your growth potential isn't a concern. Instead, we'll have to further reinforce your efficiency of casting magic, and your improvisational abilities."

>Doctor then points at Mosaic as he continues:

"The new abilities that you've mimicked from both Kagemusha and the rest of the Tasogare family will have to be evaluated as well."

>Mosaic and Andromeda then look at Doctor as they each speak up in return:

"Great. When do we start?"

"I have the same question there."

>Doctor smiles behind his mask as he states:

"Now. We have the time for it anyways."

>As Doctor then begins altering the flow of time relative to the Axiom - he then begins training both Mosaic and Andromeda. Their training session goes on for weeks and weeks - as only hours pass by on Earth by comparison.


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>Time: N/A

>After an indeterminate amount of time has passed within the Axiom, Doctor then resumes the normal flow of time relative to the outside world. Hovering upside down, Doctor looks down at both of his apprentices - watching over their progress.

"I believe that's enough time to get you acquainted with the more advanced spells and magical reconstitution techniques. Time is flowing normally again."

>Taking note of Doctor's statement, Mosaic looks at his outstretched hand and slowly pulls it down. Faint embers of grey and black smoke seemingly escape his fingers - with an ethereal scream seemingly emanating from them.

"Though I still do not believe it was an absolute imperative to learn this - you've shown considerable progress handling the fundamentals of the Mortis Transformation spell."

>Mosaic looks down at the sparks of black and grey smoke and lightning that are coursing through his fingers. If he looks more closely, Mosaic can almost make out the faint shape of a human skull inside of the smoke and lightning.

"The Mortis Transformation is one of the more advanced applications of Necromancy, and Death Magic. Are you sure you want to continue further with this? It would constitute a form of Black Magic - making it incredibly dangerous to the user, if not properly handled."

>Mosaic nods his head, taking the hint as he dispels the effect completely - leaving his fingertips surrounded by air once more.

"Yeah, I think this is beyond my sorcerer appetite to learn, Isaac. I'll stop for now."

>Doctor then watches as Andromeda quickly flies her way over towards them - landing on the ground beside them.

"Isaac, I may have finally figured out how to control the Life Essence spell. My control is still not perfect - but I think I learned the intricacies of the casting motions."

>Doctor nods at Andromeda as he responds, placing a hand on her shoulder.

"That's promising to hear, Stella. I think both you and Aiden have reinforced the fundamentals here, with this extra weak of training. Now you're likely ready for whatever comes next from Aletheia."

>Mosaic then suddenly remembers the question he had for Doctor.

"Ah, now it's coming back to me. Isaac, this 'Aletheia' that you've warned us about. Are they potentially coming after all magic users? Even if they've rarely ever used magic?"


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>Doctor crosses his arms as he slowly shakes his head - much to Mosaic's chagrin.

"Unfortunately, yes. They're a seemingly authoritarian magical organization. Anyone who doesn't operate within the strict parameters of magic use - as far as they're concerned, is an immediate threat and deviant of magical conduct."

>Andromeda instinctively curls her hands into fists, grinding her teeth as she speaks up in response.

"So they'll kill us if we step out of line then. I'd like to see them try."

>Mosaic then facepalms and groans, another sudden realization hitting him.

"Oh no. Tasogare. His entire family."

>Andromeda looks slightly confused as Doctor nods - then Andromeda immediately understands the implication.

"Every single one of them. They're going to try and kill them all!"

>Looking back at Doctor intently, Andromeda's face turns serious. Though her eyes are hidden by her visor, the intensity of her stare is still apparent to Doctor.

"Isaac. We need to go help them. Please."

>Doctor nods as he holds his hand out in front of him.

"I won't stop you. Just try to keep my presence, Stephanie's own and the Axiom's existence - all off the record. The less they know, the easier this'll be to manage."

>Remembering another thought, Doctor then makes a gesture with his hand as he speaks.

"Oh, and remember to come back to the Axiom when you're done. I still need to tell you both something - well, Stella something. But I think you'd want to hear it, Aiden."

>Mosaic and Andromeda both nod at Doctor, before Mosaic teleports them both away - out of the Axiom itself.

{"They should be more than capable of stopping the majority of Aletheia's forces. But those upper directors. They're the ones I'm concerned about. I'll have to discuss this with Stephanie then."}


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>Location: Tasogare Castle
>Time: 10:00 AM [Relative to S.C.]

"To ensure that I am hearing this properly - repeat the statement once more."

>Kagemusha is standing in the middle of the open courtyard of Tasogare Castle - with a holographic projection of Mosaic and Andromeda being present before him.

"You're a target of an authoritarian group of sorcerers known as Aletheia. They are hellbent on ensuring that magic is practiced in their own way, and according to their own design. They'll eliminate anyone and everyone who gets in their path."

>Considering his reply, Kagemusha then speaks:

"Then I will destroy them if they so much as set foot on these castle grounds."

>Andromeda then speaks up, clearly annoyed with Kagemusha's response.

"Will you stop trying to be tough for even a moment, Akito? Mosaic already told you that they're an entire organization of sorcerers! If we thought you could handle them all on your own, then we wouldn't be warning you in the first place!"

>Silence falls over the area, as Kagemusha looks towards Mosaic - the latter of whom shrugs sheepishly as he replies.

"Andromeda's got a point, Akito. They're too much as a whole, even for me. But we're all their targets, hence why I'm reaching out to you about this."

>Kagemusha is silent once more, assuming a thinking position as he begins to turn away.

"And Ryozo? He is also a magic practitioner - as is the rest of the Narukami family. My mother's side belongs to a genealogy of sorcerers dating back to the late Edo period."

>Mosaic and Andromeda both look at each other as Kagemusha continues speaking.

"Countless family members of mine, from both sides of my family - are sorcerers. Both Tasogare and Narukami. Thousands, if not tens of thousands of them are seemingly targets for these enemies you speak of."

>Mosaic then thinks for a moment before he then says:

"….Does anyone else in Ryozo's immediate family practice magic? Besides him and his father."

>Thinking intently, Kagemusha then states:

"….Only his mother, from what I can understand. Though she is Hoyokazi by blood, she was taught magic by Ryozo's father - my uncle."

>Silence then falls over Kagemusha as both he and Mosaic speak - simultaneously:

"….They're going to target the Hoyokazis as well."

"….They're going to target Ryozo's family also."


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>Mosaic then thinks for another moment as he then slowly mutters to himself.

"….Well, I doubt your uncle taught the Hoyokazis anything. In fact, I'd be more certain that he's likely kept this knowledge to himself - likely out of fear of future complications."

>Andromeda then looks at Mosaic, speaking:

"Even so, he's still a target. So is Ryozo, due to his magical nature finally manifesting itself."

>Kagemusha then looks at both of the sorcerers in the projection, before snapping his fingers to signal to the rest of his family to arrive at his current location.

"Nevertheless, Ryozo is my family by blood - and I will protect him. The rest of my family will have to prepare for the arrival of sorcerers from this 'Aletheia' organization."

>Looking back at Mosaic for a moment, Kagemusha narrows his eyes behind his mask as he speaks:

"As for our Pact? The binding terms state that I cannot interfere with the machinations of the Hoyokazi family. However, they do not appear to be sorcerers, given your assessment. Nonetheless, Ryozo is technically a Hoyokazi as well - so the terms may need to be amended slightly. Allow my intent to guard him, or I cannot act."

>Mosaic nods, crossing his arms as he speaks.

"I figured as much. If that's what's necessary? Then I'll do it."

>In the distance, a series of figures quickly dash, jump and fly towards Kagemusha's location - with Asami being the first to reach him in a mass of black shadows.

>As she lands beside Kagemusha, the black shadow mass dissipates around her feet as she says:

"Brother. We heard your signal."

>Turning to Asami, Kagemusha then says:

"Prepare the scrying papers once more. Mosaic and I must make a slight amendment to our Pact."

>Looking at the holographic projection of Mosaic and Andromeda for a moment, Asami narrows her eyes at them before closing them and sighing. Now opening her eyes, she turns to Kagemusha and says:

"Very well then, brother. I will alert the scribes."

>Asami then walks off - signaling to the rest of the Tasogare family to move along with her as they arrive.


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>Time: 12:00 PM [Relative to S.C.]

>Kagemusha looks onward, seeing the rest of the Tasogares as they continue their combat drills. Some of them are engaging in mock battles, while others are testing their reflexes against weaponry.

["Have you decided to stay with us, cousin?"]

>Kagemusha says in Japanese, as a figure slowly walks up beside him.

["No, you know where my obligations lie, Akito."]

>Shirai stands beside Kagemusha, wearing his own silver-white samurai armor. His face is also obscured by a mask, as a sheathed katana is strapped to his side.

["I will admit, I never imagined the day would arrive where you do not view me as an enemy."]

>Scoffing, Shirai then responds:

["That is only because of the Pact that Mosaic forcefully connected you to. Had it not been for him - I doubt your outlook would have become as amicable as it is now, cousin."]

>Sighing, Kagemusha crosses his arms as he looks to the side at Shirai.

["Ryozo, I have already conceded defeat. You will not experience any retaliation by me towards the Hoyokazis, even if they are rival sorcerers-"]

>Shirai then interjects, clearing the misconception.

["None of the Hoyokazis practice sorcery in any manner. Nor are they aware of magic. Ever since my father disappeared - it has been only me, and even then I keep that knowledge to myself."]

>Silent for a moment, Kagemusha takes in the information and then turns back to the courtyard view, looking at the rest of the Tasogare family as they continue their training.

["I assume Mosaic and Andromeda are aware of this?"]

>Shirai nods in response, adjusting the wrapping around his wrists.

["That they are. I informed them on my way here."]

>Kagemusha then exhales lightly as he places his hands on his hips, thinking. He then turns his attention to Shirai to speak.

["Well then. I suppose that we will have less to concern ourselves with regarding our planning. The Hoyokazis are not a target - but the Tasogares still are. Will you assist us with this?"]

>Shirai scoffs once more, reflexively placing his hand on the hilt of his katana.

["I will help them for the sake of my friends - not because of you, Akito. You still have not convinced me that you have turned over a new leaf."]

>Kagemusha sighs once more as he turns his attention back towards the courtyard before him. He then concludes by saying:

["Were it so effortless to do so."]


File: 1721149540632-0.jpg (155.86 KB, 850x1323, Himeko.jpg)

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>One of the Tasogares in the combat training session is a woman with an ornately dressed combat outfit and gloves. She is seemingly outperforming the dozen or so Shadows who are attacking her. As she weaves her way through the attacks of the lower level combat ninjas - she then focuses inward, exhaling.

["You're all too slow."]

>Immediately, her fists begin crackling with energy - as a pair of glowing spheres seemingly surround her hands. Quickly directing herself in her attacks, she then punches one of the Shadow ninjas in the chest - causing various translucent "shards" to appear out of thin air, seemingly ejecting themselves from the body of the Shadow ninja.

["What did you-"]

>The Shadow ninja then feels a ripple of force moving through their body - as they collapses on the ground. Their body is then suddenly on fire, then flash frozen, then finally singed with trails of burning smoke coming from their body. As the "shard" ripples dissipate - the woman then stands over the downed ninja.

["You're all too easy to defeat."]

>Looking back up at Kagemusha, the woman then notices Shirai who wasn't there prior. Her face turns into a wide grin as she points at Shirai.

["You! Ryozo isn't it? You're Kagemusha's cousin aren't you?"]

>Shirai looks at Kagemusha, stating:

["Is she always like this when guests arrive?"]

>Kagemusha gives a laugh of amusement in response before replying:

["Himeko has always been ambitious and eager for a challenge. She can sense that you may provide just that."]

>Thinking it over for a moment, Shirai then sighs as he mutters to himself.

["Very well then. But only to help them become stronger. That was the key provision of our arrangement."]

>Shirai then takes a step forward - and seemingly disappears from view, only reappearing at the floor in the middle of the courtyard - only a few meters away from Himeko.

>The entire combat area then falls silent, as dozens of Tasogare family members fall silent. The Shadows who are subordinate to them stop speaking as well - eagerly awaiting the upcoming confrontation.


File: 1721149963480-0.png (640.5 KB, 718x848, Shirai - 9.png)

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>Shirai remains absolutely still, seemingly staring down his opponent as Himeko begins walking around the area in a circle. Her movements are slow, but calculated - as she sizes up the opponent right in front of her.

["Kagemusha told me about you. He said that you have spirit, and great combat form. But he also said that you were impulsive. Reckless. Incapable of maintaining your composure in the heat of battle."]

>Shirai continues standing in place, not even placing his hand to his sheathed katana at his side. Still looking directly forwards, he then responds.

["Is that so? Your leader seems to mention me more frequently than anticipated. If he is so knowledgable of me as you say, then you should be aware of what happened the last time a Tasogare subordinate attempted to fight me."]

>Asami is in the crowd overlooking the confrontation. Recognizing Shirai's statement about her, she grits her teeth slightly as irritation creeps over her. However, the irritation is soon replaced by both curiosity and sheer dread. Her mind begins racing with thoughts as she considers the situation before her.

{"His appearance is different. That armor of his. It exudes magical power. His stance is also far more unyielding than prior. The aura around him has changed - that is for certain."}

>Still attempting to understand the presumed changes that Shirai has undergone - she has no time to further consider her own thoughts - as the fight begins.

>Himeko immediately slams her foot down on the pavement below - causing more reality fracturing to occur as the floor immediately turns to lava in the radius of their fight. However, Shirai is unaffected - as his boots seemingly ignore the molten magma before them.

["As I said, you should be aware of what happened the last time one of you attempted to defeat me."]


File: 1721150547920-0.jpg (3.96 MB, 3182x3533, Himeko - 3.jpg)

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>Confused by the complete lack of a response to the lava, Himeko then rushes at Shirai with surprising speeds. Her sheer movement speed is more than enough to break the sound barrier - causing a massive sonic boom that knocks back most of the grunt ninjas spectating the fight.

>However, the Tasogare family members are strong enough in their use of magical power to ground themselves to the floor - avoiding this knockback effect. Whereas Kagemusha still observes the situation from his footing on a balcony above.

["Aerial positioning won't impress me, and it won't be enough to stop me either!"]

>Himeko shouts as she rapidly converges on Shirai's location, performing a flurry of spinning kicks while she plants her feet on the same lava floor - completely unphased by it.

>Shirai however, simply weaves through the kicks - before surprising Himeko by setting up his own upward roundhouse kick, straight to her chest. The force of the kick is enough to cause a massive shockwave - even stronger than Himeko's.

>The force of the attack completely ruptures nearby stone, cement and other concrete structuring - shattering it to pieces as the rest of the Shadows are sent flying into the air.

>With a flick of his hand, Kagemusha uses his space-time manipulation to instantaneously transport the bystanders back to the ground - safely. He then watches as the fight continues.

>Himeko staggers backwards, clutching her chest as she coughs up a bit of blood. Falling down to her knees - she then looks at her bloody nose in shock.

["That….should not be possible! You are not this strong! The Narukami are inferior to us!"]

>Rolling his eyes behind his mask, Shirai then states:

["By all means - demonstrate your combat superiority then, Tasogare."]


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>Himeko slowly stands up, closing her eyes as she focuses her remaining magical power inward. Suddenly, her body begins seemingly healing itself - as she uses her innate magical power to repair the damage done to her body.

["Do not patronize me, Narukami-"]

>Before she can finish her statement however, Himeko is suddenly hit with a palm strike so powerful, that it further knocks the wind out of her body - and launches her up into the air.

{"Damnit!" I can't fully repair the damage while still fighting him off!"}

>Recognizing that she has to make a trade off, Himeko foregoes repairing the rest of the damage to her body - instead refocusing her magical power back on her core technique. Charging her fists and feet with energy once more, glowing spheres appear around her extremities as she rockets back towards Shirai in mid-air.

>The two figures collide in mid-air, with the resulting shockwave causing even more air to be displaced in a thunderously loud sonic boom wave. This one seemingly stretching on for miles.

>Himeko then continues attempting to fight Shirai in mid-air, attempting to strike him, but instead striking the air around him with her reality randomization attacks.

["Hold still you coward!"]

["No. Force me to maintain my position if you wish to harm me."]

>All of Himeko's missed punches create randomized events - such as animals seemingly appearing from nowhere in the empty space of her punches, along with atmospheric combustion and spatial imploding. All of these effects are easily avoided by Kagemusha, who instead continues to weave through her attacks with precision bordering on precognitive abilities.

{"He's predicting all of my attacks before I even land them! Does he have the ability to see possible futures like Hayami? That shouldn't be possible for a Narukami!"}

>Seemingly on cue and in response to her thoughts, Shirai avoids Himeko's next kick - somersaulting over her to deliver a powerful downward kick of his own, sending her spiraling down towards the area floor.

>Himeko is able to use her powers to strike the floor at the very last moment - turning it into a sheet of magical ice that spreads across the area. She herself crashes through the ice into the water below - only to slowly climb back out of the water, soaking wet and coughing.

["….I yield."]

>Thoroughly embarrassed by the fight, Himeko can only lower her head in shame as her wet hair slowly covers her eyes. Gritting her teeth in anger, she doesn't notice footsteps walking towards her.


File: 1721151967734-0.jpeg (1.21 MB, 1920x1362, Tasogare Castle.jpeg)

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>Slowly moving her hair out of her eyes - Himeko then realizes that Shirai is the one standing before her, with his gloved hand outstretched for her to grab on to.

["You fought well. I'm impressed."]

>Silent, Himeko then mutters to herself as she grabs his hand and pulls herself up fully onto her feet - now standing up properly. Still embarrassed, Himeko crosses her arms and looks off to the side - clearly irritated.

["You are demeaning me with your mockery, Narukami."]

>Shirai then reaffirms his statement, saying:

["Were you as weak as you believe yourself to be in this moment? I would've defeated you with the air pressure from my strikes and nothing more. Your ability to withstand strikes from me is indicative of your skill in force reinforcement."]

>Surprised by Shirai's statement, Himeko then looks at him with curiosity - her eyes narrowing as she does so.

["If this is an attempt to gain my favor, Narukami - then you are 'laying it thick' as the Americans would say. I am not so easily manipulated."]

>Pulling her closely with his hand, he then looks at her directly in the eyes as he responds.

["I am fascinated by skill and determination. You have demonstrated both."]

>Feeling her face slightly turn red, Himeko curses out loud as she pushes Shirai's chest away - which only serves to push her backwards. Either way, she creates distance and uses the opportunity to walk away - clearly irritated.

>Turning his attention back towards the other Tasogares, Shirai can see them looking at him in amazement and astonishment, as he himself turns his attention back towards Kagemusha. With another seeming disappearance in thin air - he then reappears next to Kagemusha.

["I would have to concur with Himeko. You have clearly moved beyond the capabilities of your family. Mosaic's doing I assume?"]

>Silent, Shirai then turns away from Kagemusha, stating:

["I meant what I said, Akito. Do not attempt any form of treachery. Even with the Pact in place, I still do not trust a single word you say."]

>Somewhat amused, Kagemusha then says:

["Does my word mean nothing to you, cousin?"]

>Turning to walk away, Shirai replies:

["It means less than nothing - until your actions reinforce your supposed resolve."]

>Shirai then disappears in an instant, leaving Kagemusha to his own devices at his family's castle retreat.


File: 1721152681318-0.jpg (288.16 KB, 1500x1000, Times Square.jpg)

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>Location: New York City - Times Square
>Time: 1:00 PM

"Where'd this dude come from?!"

>A pyrokinetic Meta-Human with a magma appearance similar to Vulcan continues to spray massive plumes of fire into the sky. The figure they are attempting to hit continues to gracefully dodge the attacks - as they land on the ground, a few feet away.

>Nearby, MRD agents are looking on in bewilderment, confused by the figure's arrival.

"Wait, ain't that the guy from Sanctuary City?"

"Mosaic right?"

"Nah. The other guy. Paladin I think?"

"Ohhhh. Well good timing then. Vulcan's been giving us trouble. Hopefully we get a break for once."

>The MRD agents remain behind cover as they watch Paladin stand up slowly - looking at the pyrokinetic Meta-Human.

"Vulcan? I know it's confusing for you to hear this - but you're a clone."

>Inferno looks on in shock as he then says:

"What the hell are you talking about? I'm the original!"

>Paladin shakes his head as he holds out his hands - trying to calm the immolated clone.

"I am truly sorry to tell you this - but you aren't the original Vulcan. He died months ago. You're one of the remnant clones that Chiral made. You were activated after the stasis pod that created you was short circuited by an underground power surge."

>Now even more agitated, Vulcan brings his hands together to generate a massive surge of highly condensed plasma. Without warning, he then blasts the ground in front of him - immediately producing a large surge of molten magma in an attempt to keep Paladin at bay.

>However, a bright surge of blue water seemingly forms - spontaneously appearing to wrap itself around the molten magma. A huge cloud of steam is then produced, as the dried magma solidifies around Vulcan - creating an impromptu earth and rock cage.

"I don't believe you! I'm the real Vulcan! I remember everything!"

>Vulcan begins to cry tears of molten magma from the bright white sockets that make up his rocky eyes. Seeing this, Paladin holds out his hands in caution - slowly walking towards Vulcan.

"Chiral implanted those memories into you, after extracting them from the original. Just like him, you were an experiment."


File: 1721153131906-0.jpeg (57.32 KB, 618x800, Paladin - 2.jpeg)

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>Vulcan becomes more erratic, but is more focused on the existential nature of his situation. As Paladin continues to walk forward - he further presses Vulcan on the reality of his situation; attempting to nudge him towards standing down peacefully.

"You were a victim of a madman's experiments. The original Vulcan died - and you were created as a failsafe. I know that's not what you want to hear, Vulcan, but I won't lie to you. I won't pretend that everything is going to work itself out magically."

>Vulcan is still distraught, but now acknowledges Paladin's words.

"Besides, I have no reason to lie to you about that. The MRD have a post-op report on the original Vulcan's death, right in their core files. They'll show it to you, and the recorded evidence."

>Looking around at all of the nearby bystanders, Paladin then states:

"It's not too late to stop this, Vulcan. You're not the original - and you won't be charged for his actions. You just need to work with me. I can help you figure this out."

>Vulcan, still in his earth rock cage, presses his hands to the makeshift rock bars as he says:

"….Can you promise me a fair shake? I don't trust the MRD. They've had it out for me….him, since the beginning."

>Paladin nods as he states:

"Like I said, there's evidence and eyewitness testimony to Vulcan's original death. Proving you're his clone - and as such, you're not liable for the actions of the original. That, and you haven't harmed anyone either. So as I said, it's not too late."

>Vulcan looks down at his own hands, then back up at Paladin - before sighing and nodding in agreement.

"Alright, I'll let myself be taken in. Just as long as you vouch for me."

>Paladin nods as he says:

"I'll be there. I promise."

>Vulcan then stands back, as Paladin signals to the MRD troopers in the area to move in and apprehend Vulcan - taking him away.


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>As Paladin sees Vulcan being taken away - he then notices a tap on his shoulder.

"Nice job there. You're really starting to get the hang of this."

>Turning around, Paladin looks to see Mosaic and Andromeda standing before him.

"Oh, hey Mosaic. I didn't see you there."

>Paladin nods at Andromeda as well, a more formal courtesy.

"You too, Andromeda."

>Andromeda gives Paladin a quick smile and a wave.

"Mosaic's right. You defused the situation very quickly - and you kept your humanity while doing it. That's commendable."

>Paladin nods again, before turning his attention back towards Mosaic, stating:

"I'm guessing you're not just here to visit New York?"

>Mosaic snaps his fingers - as all three of them are instantaneously transported to the Prism Base interior.

"No. We needed to inform you on what's about to happen. You haven't heard of Aletheia, correct?"

>Paladin is confused for a moment before he responds.

"…..I am assuming they're the next big problem we have to face?"

>Mosaic gives an amused laugh in response.

"You catch on quick. Here's what we know about them…."

>Mosaic and Andromeda then explain the situation to Paladin over the next few minutes.


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>After the explanation is finished, Mosaic and Andromeda then watch as Paladin internalizes the information. Considering the facts, he then asks the pertinent question to them both.

"Why haven't they attacked us before? You would think for an organization as coordinated and powerful as Aletheia are - they would have already acted by now?"

>Mosaic looks at Andromeda for a moment, before he responds.

"From what we've been told, Aletheia are more of a bureacratic organization than a freeform militant sorcerer group."

>Andromeda speaks up.

"That is to say, they seem to have a chain of command. A core protocol approach that they adhere to in most situations."

>Paladin then nods as he starts to think again. After a few moments he then states:

"I'm going to assume that they're just gotten to the phase where they actively begin their operations against magicians on Earth."

>Mosaic and Andromeda both nod as Andromeda then replies.

"Aiden's already went to Ryozo and Akito - since they're likely targets as well. We came to you since you were the final person we needed to discuss this with. You're likely in danger, Jack. Not just from that 'criminal killer' in Sanctuary City-"

>Paladin interjects to clarify:

"….'The Broken', correct? You're referring to them?"

>Andromeda sighs and nods once more.

"Unfortunately, yes. Besides them, there is also the matter of these sorcerers from Aletheia - who also want to either capture you or kill you, along with the rest of us."

>Mosaic then taps the center console in the middle of the platform they're all standing in front of - causing a holographic projection of Earth to appear.

"There's probably more we're not considering, so let's use the rest of the day to plan out a war game scenario. Hypothetical points of attack. Countermeasures. Secondary and tertiary backup plans. The whole nine yards."

>Looking at both Andromeda and Paladin for a moment, Mosaic then looks back at the holographic projection of Earth hovering in the center of the console stand. He then concludes by stating:

"The better prepared we are, the greater our chances of victory. So let's get planning then. We've got a long day ahead of us now."

>Mosaic and the others then get to work preparing their response to the impending attack from the Aletheian sorcerers.

[The End]

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