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@vladerag has written some Metaworld Fan-fic! Much honour, very pleased. Wow!


“Once again, toast!”

Celebratory dinner 2.0 at M by the Bund proceeded happily.

Though the team had initially grown cynical over Karie’s departure, the news that a bona fide bloodline Diviner would replace Karie had come as a welcoming boon. Additionally, when Gwen announced that the first match would take place in Myăma and that their Diviner and the local sponsor were both her close confidants, the team grew hot with anticipation for the first round.

If even with insider knowledge, the support of the local populace, as well as the favour of the country’s government they still lost - then Fudan should probably give up participating in the IIUC for the foreseeable future.

“This time, we’ll show those bangzi and wokou the might of the middle-kingdom!” Anita, the Mineral Transmuter-Abjurer, suddenly dropped a bomb in Gwen's lap. Hailing from Manchuria, the woman had grown up in a region where nationalism ran high after the Sino conflict.

Mild racism, weak to alcohol. Gwen noted.

Banzi, referring to a corncob, was an ethnic slur for conquered Koreans: during the occupation of Manchuria by Japan's Seventh Army, enslaved Korean Mages were given oft-faulty wands by their commanders, resulting in the spectacle of mana-drained mages having to beat the occasional Chinese rebel-fighter to death with a stout rod of transmuted metal.

Wokuo, meanwhile, referred to Japanese pirates that marauded throughout the 8th to the 17th century, raping and pillaging China’s coastal cities while its apathetic scholar-bureaucrats watched with disdain, too busy with in-fighting to enable a meaningful mobilisation.

Before Anita could deliver a second jingo, Gwen rose from her seat, distracting Jiro and their on-loan Cleric while Bai silently Messaged Anita.

Meticulously, she annotated her mental HR roster.

Their defender hailed from Beijing. Her family was military, thus ensuring that she had attended three separate high schools before arriving in Shanghai. Cool-headed when sober, the Mineral Mage possessed a strong nurturing instinct. When complimented about her cropped hair, she inferred that her father had always wanted a son. When she got older, leaving her hair long became insufferable for someone used to let their scalp breathe. From Gwen's observation, the young woman had taken a keen interest in the diminutive Eunae.

Across the table, Rene was the sole daughter of a mining magnate in Guangdong, formerly Canton under the Mageocracy, whose holdings over the Thundering Peninsular allowed him to establish a commanding presence from the mainland Frontier to the volcanic half-island. After three toasts, Rene furthermore revealed that she wasn’t the real daughter of House Mui, but an adopted one. Her mentor, Instructor Chen, was a family friend who hailed from the same region, acting as her guardian in Shanghai.

Jiro’s introduction was tamer by comparison - he was just a regular rube, the young man explained - until he became trapped in an Elemental Dungeon near Hubei. While inside, he was separated from his peers and ended up surviving without support for a month. While avoiding certain death, dizzy with hunger, he discovered a raided Firebird nest and rescued a remaining egg.

“I was going to eat it…” Jiro explained, too honest for his good. “When I cooked it with Flaming Hands, it hatched. Since Tanyu would have died without food and without its parents, I formed a contract with it.”

The party burst into laughter and applause at the serendipity of Jiro’s fantastic rendezvous with fate. 'Miraculous encounters’, as the Taoists would have it, was a matter of karmic cause, a predestined gift from heaven. Though such gains could be brought to term by human intervention, the results were seldom as spectacular as ‘destiny’.

“Tanyu! Fly!”

With a word from Jiro, his bird burst from his forehead, trickling a flaming trail of embers. Despite the sudden fever felt by Gwen on her face and arms, not a single strand of her hair curled, indicating the immense control Jiro possessed over the flames. Unlike Gwen’s Familiars, however, Elemental Spirits manifested only momentarily, incapable of holding its corporeal-form for long.

“Sal!” Rene intoned, inspired by Jiro's display. With a sizzling burst of sulphur, something that looked like a log of smouldering tar about the size of a football rolled onto the floor, charring the polished wood.

“Oh shit!”

Decommissioning her spirit, Rene apologised profusely.

Indeed a hot head, Gwen noted mentally. One prone to impulse, not unlike Yue. Conversely, Jiro's temperament was more constrained, likely owing to his Firebird and his mundane middle-class upbringing.

"Not to worry," Gwen assured the Evoker. "It's nothing."

Next, she turned her attention to Eunae, who squirmed beside the Void sorceress.

Eunae dared not disobey her Vice Captain, though the proximity of Caliban a foot away was enough to keep her in flight or flightier mode. To prevent her escape, Ariel prodded the Positive Energy caster with its tentacle whiskers, demanding scratches behind the ears. Thus knuckle-deep in Ariel's luxurious, celestial coat; the Cleric complied.

'The meek shall inherit the earth' Gwen observed of Eunae, though she wondered how the meek hoped to keep it. When in Myăma, their healer may need a Gunther-esque lesson in ultraviolence.

"That's enough about us; what about you?" Anita pointed a pair of chopsticks her way.

As for Gwen, a one-two combo of survival and sacrifice in Sydney by Richard and herself was enough to win her new friends over. When Lulan further interjected with her story of Gwen's timely rescue, the others clapped and cheered, toasting their indomitable Vice-Captain, who downed half-a-dozen shots without so much as a blink.

But the morbidness of her tale paled against the magnificence of Richard’s Familiar, the Undine Lea, who had instantly enthralled the group with her elfin elegance and ethereal grace.

“Through Richard, I got to see the world!” Lea flitted about, enchanting every eye from around the room. It wasn’t every day that a diaphanously shawled humanoid Spirit with unfathomable bean-green pools for irises allowed herself to be gawked at by mortals.

Charmed, a tipsy Jiro fervently declared that he too wanted Tanyu to assume a humanoid form; ideally, one with a long head of flame-orange hair, trailing embers from her dress, fully embracing Dean Luo's Path of the Dutch wife.

When finally with the last dessert dusted, Gwen could see that the team had regained its morale.

Very soon, with the Dean’s blessing, the team would travel to the Yancheng Frontier for a training retreat. There, for the next month, they would patrol the newly enclosed Orange Zone, helping the locals as they dealt with Nantong's overflow of exiled magical fauna, supervised by none other than Eric Walken.

Monday.

Fudan Handan campus training arena.

“I am sorry, Percy,” Gwen apologised to her Message bangle. “I'll be stuck at Yancheng for a few weeks; we’re leaving in two days.”

The remiss was entirely her fault. Gwen's brother had reminded her a month ago and then again just now that Xiangming DC was participating in the best of eight from Metropolitan Shanghai, but as a result of Karie's fiasco, Gwen had forgotten all about her promise to attend Percy's matches.

Both siblings had held great expectations, for in the months since his injury, Percy’s talents had blossomed yet again. Though not in possession of the sheer number of Schools Gwen was known for, his ability to exercise new spells effortlessly in combat far outpaced his already prodigious peers.

“Fine, Mei says hi,” Percy sulkily mumbled his disappointment. “I suppose the IIUC is more important than some district comp…”

“You’re a hundred years too young to guilt trip me, ya little prick,” Gwen fired back. “Send me the Lumen-recordings. Are Babulya and Gramps going?”

“Yep,” Percy answered quickly, hiding his embarrassment. “Wish me luck?”

“Go get em,” Gwen chirped happily. “Break a leg.”

“Why would I break-”

Gwen hung up.

“Okay, sorry about that.” Gwen turned back to her training partners. “Let’s pick up where we left off.”

Her body rose into the air, buoyed by a growing mastery of Flight. In a shimmering moment, a double-glazed sphere encased her surroundings.

“Lava Burst!”

Rene had been stewing her mid-range assault for a whole two minutes while Gwen took the call. From a tear in space, a phosphorescent orange geyser poured into the shielded arena, flooding the constrained space with the stink of sulphur.

Gwen’s Shield caught the worst of the strike, rapidly turning opaque as the torrent of molten silica rapidly cooled, petrifying against her barrier.

“Nice! Void Seeker!”

A dark ring of soundless Void tore through the haze of smoke and ash, making straight for Rene.

“Anita!”

“I see it! Barrier Shard!” The Mineral Mage expanded a barrier of calcite into the air, intercepting Gwen’s Void projectile. The ring bit deep, almost exhausting the depth of the pearlescent wall even as it regenerated.

“Ball Lightning!”

Gwen commanded her Familiar to join the fray.

Ariel appeared on the far side of the duelling arena, its Invisibility shedding with the empowerment of its stag horns. After a split-second of incandescence, four electric orbs struck Gwen’s opponents square in the back before erupting into spheres of crackling electricity each a meter-wide.

“Replenish!” Anita replaced the black and charred shards of Mage Armour with a word, grunting as her mana dipped just below half. Comparatively, her opponent wasn't even sweating. Their Vice-Captain had been tossing out mid-tier attacks like popcorn from a griller. “Resist Elements!”

“Cone of Lava!” Rene’s comically translated invocation manifested as a raging torrent of magma and stone, possessing an equally fantastic capacity for material and elemental damage. At the spell's apex, just as it connected with Gwen’s Shield, the Evoker unleashed a second-stage spell shape.

Now under the command of Transmutation, the spray of molten stone transformed into a pair of clasping hands, catching Gwen’s spherical Shield like a baseball caught between a pair of smouldering mitts.

"Calcify!"

Anita followed up with a Transmutation of her own, coaxing jagged crystalline spikes from the cooling stone.

“Dimension Door!” Gwen reappeared just below the splash of lava as the two halves met with a terrific crunch. Above and below her exit, an erupting pustule of tenebrous Void-ink consumed the falling debris.

“Cone of Lightning!” she fired back a fan-shaped blast of her own, filling the space between her and her teammates with sizzling streams of cobalt electricity.

“Barrier!”

Both Anita and Rene took a burst of fulmination to the face before Anita’s blockade stymied the brunt of Gwen’s assault.

“Blink!” Rene moved past the barrier as soon as their mutual line of sight was lost, shedding a cluster of ruined hexagonal calcite rods.

As she emerged, a coiled Caliban, invisible and waiting, took her full in the abdomen before curling itself around the girl in the manner of a boa constrictor.

“Spike!” Anita activated the embedded effect of her Mage Armour.

Rene watched as the Mage Armour's calcite shards penetrated the creature’s carapace.

"Burst!" A follow-up trigger ensured grievous injury.

The fiend's masochistic response was to open its protective shell, expelling a mass of pulsating purple flesh.

Gwen took a hit in vitality as she readied Ariel for another strike.

“Lightning Bolt!”

Anita took the brunt of the formidable discharge, discarding another dozen rods of charred calcite, made brittle after redirecting the lightning sorceress’s assault.

“Rene, Blink back!”

“I can’t! It’s got- oh shit!”

A wave of vertigo and nausea washed over the Magma Mage as Caliban's Void-tinged fluids smothered her. The calcite 'burst' had been a terrible misstep.

“Time out! Time out!” Anita waved frantically at Gwen. “Rene’s going to be sick!”

And she was.

After Caliban kissed her on the head with lamprey tentacle, the defender was on the floor spewing her guts out. Gwen told her Familiar to back off before it could make matters worse with its singing.

“Anita, Rene, are the both of you alright?”

“Yeah, I am fine.” Anita dispelled her Crystal Skin. “Rene?”

“I'll be fine soon…” the young woman was on all fours, forcing herself to ventilate. Being a student of Instructor Chen, her recovery was quicker than most. “I can’t wait to see our opponents face Caliban.”

“Ha.” Gwen grinned, materialising towels for her teammates. “Eunae!”

“Coming!”

A deer Sprite, cute as a button, hopped toward the trio.

“Invigorate!” Eunae dropped a low-tier buff, dispelling Rene's vertigo, quickening her allies’ restoration of mana and stamina.

“Gwen, how large is your mana pool?” Anita’s glass-like irises flashed. “I am counting eleven T-5 and fourteen T-3 to 4 spells, and that's discounting your Shield and your Familiars.”

Gwen grinned awkwardly.

“She’s at half-tank,” Richard called out from the sidelines.

“No way!” A clamour broke out from the rest of the team, demanding her VMI.

“Gwen, you want to tell them?”

“I am sitting on...” Gwen made a cute face. “250… or so?”

The room grew silent, punctuated only by the occasional ‘Shaaa!’ ‘Eeee!’ and ‘Yii!’.

“I am on 82…” Rene appeared devastated.

“78…” Anita confessed. “I am relying on my Affinity for mana conservation and my Rock Eater for recycling…”

“I am a little happy that I didn’t take the opportunity to brag about my 71…” Jiro coughed. “But seriously - really?”

Gwen could only appear bashful. The matter of her VMI was a morally dubious subject. To brag would be worse than an insider trader telling their junior staff that if they pulled themselves up by the bootstraps, they too could sit on their laurels and retire with superannuation, surplus properties and stock options.

“Enough about me. Senior Peng, your fight with Richard was amazing.” Gwen made a masterful pivot.

Indeed, the duel between Richard and Jiro had indeed been incredible.

By the second minute, Gwen's cousin had filled the duelling arena with water, while Jiro had lined the wall with bubbling fire.

Were it not for Senior Bai’s intervention; the loser would have been severely injured, be it Richard being boiled alive, or Jiro drowning. Though Gwen suspected that Lea could have cycled the heated water back into the Elemental Plane, the draw was likely planned out by Richard to test Jiro's mettle. As a result, Gwen knew another thing about Jiro - the Fire Evoker would prefer to be unconscious than be beaten.

“I hope Myăma has plenty of water,” Lulan declared, having seen Richard in action in Nantong. “Senior Huang is indomitable where there are massive bodies of water.”

Conversely, Gwen noted that Lulan's optimism inferred Richard’s threat-level was effectively cut in half in arid environments, meaning Kitty would make the superior Controller.

As for their Kunlun Clanner, the girl did attend practice, though she remained aloof and apart from the rest of the team. As for promising to obey Gwen’s commands in combat, the girl had bitten her lip, then stared at her toes as though possessed.

What irked Gwen was Kitty's imperviousness to her persuasion, though her lack of cooperation did not imply incompetence.

In an earlier bout against Lulan, she had demonstrated supernatural aerial agility against the rapid assault of the Sword Mage, caught only by surprise when Lulan test-fired a Piercing Heart Sword at point-blank, sending the Shielded Ice Mage tumbling below.

Then, perhaps because of Gwen's passive-aggressive bitching, Lulan fell upon the Ice Mage with the ferocity of a frenzied badger. Having spent almost four months duelling Gwen and adventuring with Richard, the girl’s combat sense was sharper than a void-tinged razor. With the blunt edge of her massive, iron-girder blade, Lulan had beaten kitty around the enclosed space of the duelling arena until the girl was spewing rainbows, only stopping when Gwen commanded Lulan to return. In an open field, Kitty’s forte would truly shine, but duelling a CQB Caster like Lulan indoors demonstrated the greatest weakness of a Mage that relied on avoidance as a primary mode of defence.

“I take it Gwen doesn’t much like the Clanner?” Jiro nervously grinned as Lulan shook off icicles from her hair. “You know, our team has only two Sect-born Clanners. Senior Bai and Kitty. Maybe Dean Luo is not too happy with the Sects?”

“Won’t surprise me,” Rene observed likewise. “You know how they are. No offence, Senior Bai.”

“None taken.” Tei Bai battered a hand. “We did have a terrible Captain last year.”

"The Dean's going for broke.” Rene's pencil-faint lips formed a smile. “I think we might be the only team from China that’s not choked full of Sect Mages.”

“Good,” Anita joined the trio. “Less ego is fine with me.”

“I noticed another thing.” Jiro scratched his brows, then counted the members on his hands. “Does our team seem incredibly cosmopolitan to you?”

"For example - I am 'Japanese'," Jiro continued with a hint of self-loathing. "Eunae is South Korean, Lulu is an ex-Clanner, Captain Bai hails from one of the most respected Sects in Shandong, Richard is Australian-Chinese, Gwen looks Anglo, and our Diviner is Burmese."

"Now that you mention it." Bai appeared contemplative. "Last year, we were all locals, the whole ten of us."

The team regarded one another.

Perhaps it was serendipity, or maybe it was by design, but they were undoubtedly an ‘international’ team. Assuming Fudan broke through to the regional competition, wouldn’t it mean that all of Asia had something to cheer for, that someone in their squad would tickle a nationalist fancy here, there and everywhere?

Six pairs of eyes converged onto their Vice Captain, a woman who remained 'at half-tank' after duelling an offence-defence combo.

Each by each, Gwen's teammates wondered if they should prepare a speech for the Vid-Casts, just in case.

“Gwen is going to Burma.” Jun sat against the rails, looking out over the muggy city below, bathed the colour of a florid fruit shop. “Just like you said.”

“Then it has come to pass,” the Dragon-kin’s reply drifted out from the suite’s interior. When she emerged, it was with the bearing of a queen, regal in her gold-spun robes of midnight.

“Mao, you’re beautiful.” Jun's breath caught in his throat. Even after six months, his companion continued to surprise him.

“I know.” Ayxin willed a lounge to withdraw from the wicker coffee table before taking a seat.

“Ayxin, may I enquire after your sibling?”

“Of course. Do you mean Ruxin or Golos? Or heavens forbid, Ryxi?”

“Ruxin.” Jun realised his eyes no longer cared for the city, so he may as well take a seat beside his lover. “You said he was in Burma.”

“You're asking about something that occurred twenty, maybe thirty years ago.” Ayxin cocked her head, holding her lover's reflection intact between her golden irises, following her silhouette in his dark robs. “Our kind isn't cut out for maintaining filial relations.”

“Gwen tells me that her friend, the Burmese girl, told her that a Dragon overran their kingdom,” Jun began, taking care not to sound too concerned. A Dragon’s possessiveness could be triggered by the slightest provocation, which would deny further avenue of enquiry on Gwen's behalf. “Which incidentally, happened some two decades, ago, in 1982, to be exact, in Yangon.”

"So?"

“So Ruxin could arguably be this Tyrant,” Jun noted the change in Ayxin's demeanour. "The timestamp matches up."

“OR, the tyrant could be any other ambitious whelp. After all, my kind enjoys building lairs.”

"But powerful drakes are exceedingly rare, and I recall you saying Ruxin was on the hunt for a nest."

"Hmm~."

"For what purpose?"

"The lair?"

"Yes."

Ayxin spared the subtlest of glances at her still-flat abdomen.

“If you're that curious - Ruxin is just over six centuries, so he's at an age where his instinct for leaving offspring is strong. Unlike my father, whose magnificence permeates the land, melding with its leylines, Ruxin's obligations are physical, like ours.”

“Wait," Jun snorted. "Your kind goes ‘musth’?”

“Are you inferring that I am an Oliphant?”

The Ash Mage broke out in a terrific cold sweat.

“That was humour,” Ayxin assured her partner. “An Oliphant is no match for me. I could kill one right now if I wished. As for musth, I am too young for that and Ryxi is a sexless albino eel, so no, not all of our kind are subject to the instinct of procreation."

"Then..."

"For a true-blood like Ruxin, there is a period between the fifth and tenth century where our bodies mature; after that, high-dragons tend to shed their mortal coil. It's an uncertain time for an adult, for most of them will perish during these five centuries.”

“Now that IS news to me.” Jun was all ears. Ayxin's casual banter wasn't anything like the sort one would find in a textbook. He was learning mythic physiology straight from a dragon’s mouth. “Dragons are some of the most powerful beings on the Material Plane, so how is it that so few high-dragons exist?”

“Eaten by one another.” Ayxin shrugged attractively. “Going musth, or as we say, vaeri di tobor vur marfedelom, serves as ritual and trial. Before ascension, our kind needs to mate. Before we can mate, they need a lair. The bigger the lair, the more likely you’re able to convince another dragon to submit. For true dragons, the rule is one drake, one mountain."

“So in Burma-”

“Assuming Ruxin is there,” Ayxin emphasised on the inferred ‘if’. “He would need to build a lair, an impressive one at that since our Father is a true ancient. After which he would wait for a competitor, ideally a pureblood, then best them.”

“And then?” Jun felt he may yet regret his curiosity.

Ayxin’s eye formed two smiling half-moons.

“Then they get industrious, as we shall,” she snickered. “Or Ruxin enjoys a nourishing meal. The consumption of other dragons equal in age can bolster our power.”

Jun’s mouth hung half-open.

“I am starting to see why there are so few dragons.”

“True dragons. There’s plenty of bastards.” Ayxin frowned as her mind brushed upon a particularly diluted bastard she had accosted in May. “Most creatures would be happy to submit.”

“I am assuming there’s a downside to mothering demi-Gods.”

“There is. For a mortal, gestation is rare without external aid, and bearing the child or egg to term is even rarer.”

“Your mother-”

Jun suddenly bit his tongue, realising his curiosity had gone a step too far.

“When she served as father's Divine Vessel, my mother was cared for by the best royal physicians the Dynasty had to offer.” The mirth in Ayxin's replies faded. When she next spoke, her tone was indifferent. “Your niece should be perfectly fine - so long as she doesn’t play the fool and pull the Tyrant’s whiskers.”

"Gwen, staying out of trouble?"

A flashback of Huangshan flashed across Jun’s mind’s eye. When Ayxin had caught him in her pocket dimension, he had fully expected Gwen to run. Instead, he had to extract Caliban from Golo’s rectum before it ate Ayxin’s brother from the inside out.

Straining the limits of his imagination, he tried his best to imagine Gwen NOT tearing off the Tyrant’s whiskers with an ‘HA!’

“Ayxin,” Jun implored with a hint of desperation. “What did Golos mean when he said he’d save her thrice?”

 

 

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A note from Wutosama

Chapter Ref :: 

Bonus ::  Gwen's Outfits 
Glossary and Magic System :: Glossary 

Voting for the novel :: Voting button  

Good news everyone! @vladerag has written some Metaworld Fan-fic! 

The Mysteries of Fudan, and Other Rumors From the Metaworld

I urge folks to give it a browse! It's a great honour to have someone take the time and effort to work on something you've created. 

Also, 13000 edits left in my Vol.1 manuscript 1 after first 5 hours, holy hell. Zadie Smith was right, the first 20 chapters of a book is Death. 


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Wutosama

Bio: I write on the phone and edit at home. Times are tough!

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