Chapter 10: Fate
“Begin!” A voice calls as a pair of nine year old girls face each other in a stone coliseum. The audience stands are empty, visibly aesthetic from the poor choice of scale, but the battle is still monitored by numerous watchers.
At the sound the girl on the right moved first, a young girl with blazing scarlet hair wearing a tight fitting bodysuit of similar coloration. Launching herself through the air with an explosion of fire and heat, she yells out a simple cry as she approaches the girl on the left. “Burn!”
For her part, the other girl doesn't take long to react, flowing out of the way and easily avoiding the fiery assault. “Missed me, missed me!” She chants, dancing circles around the other girl despite balls of fire flying every which way. During the process her lime green hair and frilly dress bounce up and down, resembling translucent wings.
“Don't toy with me!” The red girl roars, color being the only way to distinguish these two. Their faces are like identical twins, their hair is done up the same way, and their figures are similarly the same except for the difference in color. Also, the red girl is manipulating fire almost exclusively, while hidden sensors detect the constant use of wind by the lime green one.
“But Flame…” The lime girl whines, cartwheeling a circle around the other girl. “It's so much fun!”
Flame, somewhat appropriately named, reacts exactly as her opponent expected: she explodes. “I will burn you alive, Breeze!” She howls, igniting the air in a massive circle around herself.
Breeze jumps and flies out of reach of the explosion, shaking her head and wagging her finger. “Not like that you won't.” She says, tsking as Flame growled again. “Battles aren't won by brute force.” She reminds the other girl, flying upwards to escape whatever attacks will come from below.
“Obviously.” Flame’s voice comes from behind her, causing breeze to whirl around and stare at the appearing red girl in the sky, flame wings streaming from her back.
“... You could do that?!” Breeze exclaims, startled, before letting herself drop to evade a gout of fire.
“You're a heck of a lot faster than I expected, too.” Flame compliments in turn, though most of the observers note that Breeze’s did not seem to be intended as such. “But, hey, surprises are valid tactics too.”
“Uwaaaahhh!” Breeze screams, flying every which way to dodge the rain of fire Flame produced.
“... Something’s about to go seriously wrong for me…” Flame mutters, maintaining the rain of fire but scanning the sky for an unwelcome surprise. She is well aware of Breeze’s ability to manipulate wind, and merely dodging should not occupy all of her attention. Still, Flame is completely caught off guard by the hammer of air that descends over the entire coliseum, smashing her out of the sky like a bug.
“Didn't anyone tell you not to fly against me?” Breeze asks, squatting over Flame’s crushed form.
“... That may have been helpful.” Flame admits, gasping for breath. “But someone should definitely have told you not to toy with a wounded opponent.”
At those words the air of the entire arena catches fire, spears of it surging inwards to pin Breeze to a single location and a great storm of flame devouring the hammer of air. Breeze doesn't even have time to scream as she is consumed by the flame.
Flame remains on the ground, maintaining the fire with all her strength as long as she can. Not taking any chances, she scans the arena and ensures that there is nowhere the other girl could have gone to evade it before sighing and shaking her head.
“Go big or go home.” She mutters, reaching out and initiating another magic in the burning air.
The next instant a flash of pure light and incredible radiance blinds the observers and devours the entire coliseum in starfire. Initiated nuclear fusion releases concentrated heat sufficient to destroy planets, which Flame herself barely survives with a protective shield that is still mostly broken. As the flash dims and the great mushroom cloud rises over the Arena, everything vanishes and Flame finds herself in a white room standing next to a sulking Breeze.
“That was overkill.” Breeze complains immediately.
“I'll take that to mean it was necessary.” Flame says with a grin.
“Spoilsport.” Breeze shoots back. “I had this whole plan to get you when you were exhausted but no, you just had to go and ignite a nuke.”
“Well done, Flame. Good try, Breeze.” Another voice, albeit pretty much identical to theirs, adds itself to the conversation. A nine year old Arcane walks over in a cyan dress to congratulate both of her sisters.
“Thanks, Arcane.” Flame says simply, still out of breath.
“You're up next, right?” Breeze asks to confirm, surprised the other girl is here.
“Yep.” Arcane says cheerily.
“Oh, who are you up against.” Flame asks curiously.
To her surprise Arcane grimaces and almost growls the word “Fate.”
“Fate… Oh.” Flame says, understanding instantly.
“Yeah. But nobody else can beat her so I have to teach her a lesson.” Arcane says in an annoyed voice.
“You don't like Fate?” Breeze asks Arcane. “What did she do to you?”
“It's more what she is than what she did.” Flame explains. “Right?”
“It's not even that, it's that she flaunts it and acts like it's not a bad thing. At least Dusk has the decency to hide it.” Arcane grumbles. “I wish I was fighting Rain.”
“Ah, but it's hard to fight someone you like, isn't it?” Flame asks.
“You don't like me?” Breeze retorts instantly.
“No, I mean, yes, I mean, it's not like that, I mean, you know.” Flame stutters trying to answer while Arcane laughs knowingly.
“It's more fun to fight someone you can make up with after. Every time you fight Fate she's either a sore winner or a bad loser.” Arcane says.
“Yeah, she is that…” Breeze replies.
“But that's enough talking behind her back. I'll go beat her then say it to her face.” Arcane declares, turning and disappearing in mid spin. Breeze and Flame exchange a glance and race over to turn themselves into observers.
A cyan girl and a pale haired one face each other across an empty coliseum just like the one Flame and Breeze just finished with. There are many more observers this time, most focusing on the cyan girl and trying their best to ignore the other one.
“Death.” Arcane says in greeting.
“My name is Fate, Arcane.” The pale girl corrects in a patronizing tone.
“I never said I was calling you by name.” Arcane replies with a cruel smirk.
“Tch. Just a brat like everyone else. Why are none of my siblings as mature as me?” Fate laments, shaking her head.
“I don't know, maybe the rest of us aren't murderers?” Arcane proposes.
“It's not murder if it's justified.” Fate throws back.
Arcane glares at the other girl, her pale hair flowing over her shoulders as she stands proudly in the arena. Fate smiles back, not showing any sign of resentment or anger at the insults. “You know why I hate you?”
“Oh, lemme guess.” The other girl taps her chin in mock contemplation. “Because I'm not a child like you, because you feel inferior to me and can't stand it, or maybe because you aren't comfortable around me and justify it with aggression. Or is it something else?”
“How about the fact that you do stuff like that!?” Arcane snaps back angrily.
“That would fall under feeling inferior, honestly.” Fate notes. “And I would point out that the correct turn of phrase is ‘crap like that’, but you probably don't know that word yet.”
“You… You arrogant…” Arcane sputters.
“Bitch?” Fate offers helpfully.
“Go to hell!” Arcane curses, whirling around and stalking away from the pale haired queen of death. The observers, silent until now, finally speak.
“Begin!” The emotionless voice resounds around the arena.
Unlike Flame and Breeze’s fight, neither girl moves at first. Arcane takes a deep breath and starts manipulating the river of power flowing through her, knowing that this will be a long and exhausting battle.
Fate strikes first. A colorless wind covered the arena floor, emanating from every part of the pale girl’s dress. Arcane senses its purpose and flinches. That wind is, for lack of a better word, death.
In a single strike Fate slaughters every living thing in the air and ground of the field. This arena was meant to simulate reality, so there was a portion of bacteria and insects in it, but now there were only corpses. And with their deaths they made this into a realm where Fate held the upper hand.
Arcane grasps the power inside her and weaves it into a complex spell matrix, slamming it over the entire coliseum an instant before vanishing from sight. Teleportation magic, allowing her to instantly move anywhere the formation exists, shines over the entire arena giving Arcane an immense mobility advantage.
That advantage lasts less than a second. As a spell is made, so too can it be unmade. Fate’s death energy infects and annihilates the matrix, stranding Arcane where she teleported behind an outer column.
“This isn't hide and seek, you know?” Fate calls, standing calmly in the same place.
“I'm well aware.” Arcane’s voice resounds from every direction, as numerous Arcanes step out and walk down the misshapen bleachers, the disruption of the teleportation matrix creating a degeneracy in position that Arcane takes advantage of to multiply herself.
“... Well played.” Mutters Fate as she spins rapidly, trying to keep all the Arcanes in view.
Arcane herself remains hidden, preparing more spells while manipulating the clones to attack. Each is an actual puppet, a spiritual entity like a fairy or god, pure energy made manifest. Fate, analyzing this in a heartbeat, is forced to take them seriously.
Arcane immediately orders two of the clones to self detonate and release immense amount of pure energy into the surroundings. The rest start to attack, some preprogrammed, the rest controlled. Swords and knives of energy materialize in their hands and fly towards Fate, who smiles.
Pale wings sprout from her back, made of bone alone. Leaping into the air, Fate uses those wings to circle rapidly and avoid the first wave of attacks. Arcane shifts her orders and send several clones into the air, smiling in her hidden location. She releases her concealment magic and reattaches the space to the rest of the arena after half of the clones are destroyed, absorbing the rest’s energy and glowing with temporary overpower.
Fate pales further, a difficult task, and launches herself in the other direction. Around Arcane space starts cracking, dark rifts in reality opening and closing as some sort of terrible wave propagates from her position and slices after Fate at the speed of light. An instant later it reaches her, the cracks in space slicing through defensive magic and flesh as easily as paper. Merely grimacing with the pain Fate plummets out of the sky and lands heavily in the arena after her wings are shredded like paper..
Arcane instantly assails the space around her with the residual mana left from the destruction of her clones, but that turns out to be a mistake. Fate lifts herself up, glowing ominously with stolen energy, and turns to face Arcane while converting that energy to healing and recovering from the spatial attack.
“... As always, annoying.” Fate says calmly.
“I could say the same about you. Why can death heal so easily?” Arcane mutters in response.
“Death is merely the end of life. And the end of life for a cell comes after it fulfills its purpose. Killing a few cells causes the rest to heal much faster, especially if you give them such delicious energy.” Fate explains patiently, seeming to flaunt her abilities but striking with a lance of corrosive power midway.
Arcane blocks the first few strikes but is sliced in the foot by a hidden one coming from the ground. Feeling incredible pain as her cells age and die in seconds, Arcane growls and jumps into the air, solidifying space to stand where she could watch all three directions. Pure energy heals her foot just as quickly as Fate did, leaving both contestants watching each other warily.
Arcane continually pumps her excess energy into a single orb far below the arena. She can already feel the beginnings of space warping caused by the orb’s gravity, but she does not focus too much on that card. Fate’s most annoying ability is fully on display as she slices apart Arcane’s solid space, death magic naturally countering essentially all forms of maintained magic.
Explosive force greets Arcane on the ground, the ground erupting into gas as its entropy is forcefully increased. Arcane, forgetting Fate’s ability to create physical attacks as well as energetic ones, is caught by the edge of the blast and sent flying for a few meters before catching herself midair.
“... Try this on for size.” Arcane mutters, grabbing space with a hand of magic and forcing the entire region flat.
Fate’s face displays a moment of uncertainty as she begins to float, gravity itself undone by Arcane, but she reorients herself quickly and meets Arcane’s punch with her palm. The magically enhanced strength Arcane used is drained rapidly, though the energy does prevent her hand withering to nothing under Fate’s death magic. Closing in and preparing larger spells in the back of their minds, the two girls clash with their fists and feet.
Arcane flicks her foot toward Fate’s stomach, but the other girl rotates and takes it on her hip before lashing out with a haymaker. Arcane deflects the heavy blow above her head to unbalance the pale girl’s stance, spinning in the gravity less space to deliver a roundhouse to her face. Fate crosses her arms instinctively and blocks, shooting away rather than attempting to absorb the force.
“Tch.” Arcane clicks her tongue, solidifying space to kick off and pursue. Fate sends spears of death at her again, but Arcane unmakes them in turn.
Each drawing fully on their overwhelming power, the two girls continue their clash. Arcane flips back and divides into a dozen clones to swarm Fate, but most are banished by a burst of deathly energy. Fate raises bone contraptions from the ground, several pursuing Arcane autonomously, but those are severed by spatial blades before being pulverized by pure force. Arcane retaliates with a kinetic energy blast into Fate, launching the other girl skyward before she manages to drain the energy and dives downwards again.
Explosions of entropy rock the battlefield, along with blasts of force and gravity. The instantly deadly weapons Fate specializes in are rendered useless, but the direct application of overwhelming power Arcane prefers is also nullified. Clashing with fist and spell, the two girls continue their conversation.
“So childishly simple.” Fate criticizes, covering herself in a cloak of death magic.
“So predictably complex.” Arcane retorts, her own body shining with enhancement spells.
“At least I'm trying, not randomly throwing out whatever I think of on the spot.” Fate retaliates, twisting Arcane’s leg the wrong way after catching it with her bare hands.
“This is so pitiful I figured you'd deny trying. I can't believe you're owning up to this incompetence.” Arcane shrugs while trying to claw Fate’s eye out, holding the other girl in a partial headlock.
Fate rips a chunk of bleeding flesh out of her arm in return, smiling grimly while Arcane gasps. “If I'm so pitiful why did I take the first pound of flesh?”
“That's barely a morsel.” Arcane heals instantly and bites Fate’s finger off, chewing a few times before spitting out the pulped flesh. The two girls get closer to engage in a deadly struggle where they forget all rules of decency.
“Geh. I forgot you concentrate your mass in your stomach.” Fate grunts as she lets necrosis cover her hand, no longer maintaining her smile. The blackened flesh turns disfigured and horrifying, becoming a terrible skeletal weapon.
“...” Arcane feels her forehead twitching as she opens her mouth again and rips off Fate’s nose. The other girl lets out a very satisfying sound of pain. Spitting it out she snaps. “Even I have better taste than this.”
“So there is something the queen of gluttony won't eat.” Fate snarls, her nails ripping out Arcane’s stomach with her already dead hand.
Cells die as she touches them, allowing her to grab Arcane’s organs and pull them completely out. As the putrid yellow organs spill out into the weightless air and spill acidic yellow fluids everywhere, Arcane screams in pain. Kicking and clawing at the Fate she drives her back, also bleeding from numerous wounds and struggling to move one of her arms.
As the two separate, Arcane concentrates energy and forcibly remakes her entire body, creating and destroying matter in a terrible waste of energy that heals her in seconds. Glowering, Fate hangs back to heal herself as well, unable to go without some recovery and thus incapable of exploiting the opening. Neither’s eyes show any sign of giving up, nor deescalating the vicious conflict.
“I see your hurt. Want some help?” Arcane offers with false sympathy, her eyes promising pain and suffering if the other girl lets her close.
“Not if I was dying.” Fate snaps back, healing the worst of her injuries and not minding the rest. “I have some tolerance for pain, miss screamer.”
Blasts of terrible energy collide right after she finishes speaking, Arcane sending a relentless wave of pure force to crush Fate while the other girl responded by killing the force just as it manifested. Giving it up as if on a prearranged signal the two launched themselves at each other, spinning above the arena in the still weightless domain.
“You pig!” Fate screams, tearing Arcane’s leading arm open and revealing the bone beneath.
“AAAAHHH!!!!” Arcane shrieks, forcing herself through the pain to rip out one of Fate’s intestines, tossing it to float around them. “You sadistic witch!” She scowls while clawing at the other girl, each strike ripping through flesh and filling the air around them with droplets of blood and gore.
“Screaming, weak willed lily.” Fate growls, holding back her own pain as she grabs Arcane’s arm again and pulls.
“I hate you!” Arcane howls, biting her lip bloody to hold back her screams as her arm is ripped out of its socket with a sickening pop. Moving through the haze of pain she drives her leg into Fate’s guts with all the force she can muster.
“Urgh.” Fate grunts, Arcane’s kick driving all the air out of her lungs and shattering her ribs. Snapping sounds are continuously heard as the pair rip each other's hair out, break bones, tear off flesh, and regenerate from the wounds they themselves took. Panting heavily, with three working limbs, the same number of eyes, and one ear between them, the two girls step back and glare at each other as gravity returns to the arena.
“...is that… All… You've got… Arcane?” Fate pants, holding herself up on shattered legs with difficulty.
“... You're… Looking pretty… Bad… Yourself… Death.” Arcane returns in kind, having a leg to stand on still but forced to use an arm to hold in her collapsing organs. She silently orders the orb of energy towards Fate, throwing everything she has into it to strengthen the field rapidly.
“... Uh huh… You're a bit… Of… A jerk… You know?” Fate struggles to say, almost collapsing halfway through but forcing herself up with sheer will. Then she falls again and is unable to rise, feeling finally the rapidly swelling gravity.
Arcane grins as Fate slashes wildly with her death magic, try to find and sever the spell that made her collapse. Before it manages to crush her she notices, detecting the massive source of energy.
Glaring resentfully at Arcane, Fate manifests her own ball of death energy and sends it to cancel the majority of the energy source, but Arcane blocks it with a quick twisting of space. Fate quickly sends her power at the orb in its entirety to reduce as much as she can before it impacts.
Seeing the opportunity she has been waiting for, Arcane diverts a tiny portion of energy and slams it into the other girl’s pleasure centers, knowing Fate won’t expect anything like the sudden intense stimulation and will be apt to mess up. Sure enough Fate screams suddenly, arching her back and spasming uncontrollably. With her energy going out of control, Arcane pulls the orb in as fast as possible.
Fate does not fall quite that easily, forming a barrier of death energy to negate gravity and protect her from the residual force. Arcane, expecting exactly that as it’s the only possible solution in this scenario, teleports the orb with an instant, hidden spell she made under the initial move. When the orb appears right in front of her Fate’s eyes widen temporarily before Arcane detonates the energy.
Even dampened by the barrier of death energy the resultant explosion wipes out the entire arena and everything nearby. Arcane folds space to remove herself from the region where it exploded, hiding in a sixth dimensional pocket until the the worst is over. Returning, she has only an instant to process the suddenly empty region before she appears in a white space next to Fate, both girls perfectly intact but panting with residual pain.
“What the hell was that?!?!” A furious male voice roars, several adults appearing in front of them and surrounding both girls, examining them closely both physically and mentally.
Neither Arcane nor Fate say anything, pointedly not looking at either the roaring male or each other.
“DON’T YOU DARE LOOK AWAY!!!!” The man commands in an even louder voice. Flame, Breeze, Dawn, and four other girls looking exactly the same, but with the colors azure blue, dark brown, pitch black, and forest green, watch worriedly from behind the adults, who are conversing rapidly but soundlessly to Arcane and Fate.
“She deserved it.” Arcane says simply after the second roar, still not looking at the man in front, who was red faced in sheer rage.
“I don’t see the problem.” Fate adds, her voice the sound of innocence. Arcane grinds her teeth at the arrogant and self righteous tone of the other girl.
“YOU WHAT?!?!?!” The man screams, stepping towards them before being held back by one of the other adults. “YOU TWO TRIED TO KILL EACH OTHER AND YOU DON’T SEE THE DAMN PROBLEM?!?!?!?”
“Weren't we supposed to try and kill each other?” Fate asks cheekily. “Oh my, I must have missed the notice that we were having peaceful talking practice.”
“SHUT UP!!!!” The man roars at her, the full force of his fury causing even Fate to quail.
“... She asked for it.” Arcane sulks, still refusing to look at either the man or Fate.
“I DON’T CARE!!!!” The roar comes immediately after she speaks. “DO YOU TWO HAVE ANY IDEA OF THE PSYCHOLOGICAL DAMAGE THAT SORT OF THING CAN CAUSE?!?!?!”
“Less than I'd like.” Fate answers sullenly.
“Not as much as she deserves.” Arcane follows.
“Oh, so now people deserve psychological damage. And you call me murderer.” Fate retorts to Arcane.
“Who was it who said they'd like someone to have it?” Arcane retaliates, whirling to glare at Fate. “Oh, that's right, not me.”
“I'd like to do worse to you.” Fate declares, running her finger across her neck.
“You deserve worse done to you.” Arcane says, doing the same.
Immediately the two launch themselves at each other’s throats again, outstretched fingers inches away from resuming the terrible fight before the other girls surround the two of them. Flame, Dawn, Breeze, and the forest green girl surround Arcane and hold her immobile while the remaining three pile on Fate, wrenching her away from confrontation.
“Are you two insane?” Dawn hisses in Arcane’s ear. “You know there’s no fighting outside the arena in this program.”
Arcane relaxes in the grip of her captors, still trying to incinerate Fate with her mind but prevented from drawing on any magical power by the programming of the virtual space. Fate wears a similar expression, one of her captors whispering presumably the same thing as Dawn said into her ear.
“You are both grounded for a month.” The man says, his face stunned by the unexpected attempt at violence and his fury changed to something colder and far more terrible. Arcane shivers at the threat implied in those words. “And you will both apologize to each other right here and now.” He adds, motioning for the rest to let go but stay close by.
Arcane steps away from them angrily, Fate doing the same on the other side. They stand in silence for several minutes before being prompted by the man’s “go on.”
“I'm sorry, you're such an frozen block I didn't even realize I was hurting you.” Arcane blurts out, her eyes malicious even while saying words of apology.
“Arcane!” The man shouts, but Fate beats him to it.
“I'm sorry too. You scream at everything so it's hard to tell when you're really in pain.” Fate apologizes with similarly calculated malice.
“APOLOGIZE!!!” The man roars, grabbing both girls by the shoulder and holding them in front of each other. They struggle futilely for a second before return to glaring at each other.
“You're a stuck up little prick so I can't help wanting to smash your teeth in.” Arcane says, not even bothering to apologize.
“And you're an immature child who hates everything she doesn't like or understand because it makes her feel insecure.” Fate replies.
“Well you're a child pretending to be adult because you can't face your own incompetence.” Arcane retorts.
“That makes you a stupid brat pretending to be clever because she has to be better than her friends.” Fate counters.
“At least I have friends.” Arcane snaps back.
“I don't need any!” Fate shouts angrily.
“GIRLS!!!!” A roar comes from the man at both of their ears and almost deafens them. Flinching but still unrepentant, they turn to glare at him.
““I'm sorry.”” They say in unison, then return to glaring at each other. Sighing, he puts them down and forces them to sit.
“What am I going to do with you two?” He wonders aloud.
“Instructor…” Dawn says hesitantly. “They're not going to apologize now, but if we give them some time to cool down…”
“It's fine, Dawn. That's what we're going to likely have to do anyway.” The man says gently, walking toward the others and rubbing her hair. “All of you can go home now. Arcane, Fate, I will see you two here tomorrow for a longer discussion on excessive violence.”
Checking his watch, the structure pales and disappears. The other girls vanish one by one, leaving only Arcane and Fate to glare at each other.
“I hate you.” Arcane says furiously.
“Of course you do. Such a brown nose honor student and you just ruined it all, so you have to blame me.” Fate smiles cruelly.
“Go to hell.” Arcane replies, turning away and mentally ordering herself to wake up from the virtual reality.
“Is that still the best you’ve got?” Fate’s voice enters her ears just before she vanishes, but she ignores it.
She will always hate that girl more than anything else in the world, after all.
Arcane sat in the room she chose on the ship, reminiscing on the past again.
“Impossible, isn’t it?” She whispered to herself, sealing the room with a sound barrier in a heartbeat.
If there was one thing her long, long life had taught her that she did not learn when she was young, it would be that you should never use that word to describe something.
Nothing is impossible, after all.