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----Stories from Shanghai----

Tier one. Just those two words bring envy to anyone force to live on the frontier as they imagine the safety and wealth of the greatest of humanities cities. Within these sprawling metropolises that are filled to the brim with the most advanced magic available to humanity the monsters and deadly nature of the frontier are naught but a distant dream.

These cities are the pillars of humanity, serving as hubs of trade and knowledge. If it can be bought, you can buy it there. If it can be learned, it can almost be certainly learned there as well.

But only if you have the power or wealth to open the doors. The reality of life in these cities is nothing like the daydreams of frontier mages, stepping into these cities is merely the beginning. It is true that anything can be bought here, but no frontier mage could ever afford the treasures paraded at the auction houses and boutiques. Similarly, there are experts and teachers and tomes of lore that contain knowledge beyond what most people could ever dream of, but those secrets are hoarded with jealousy, and guarded with the fury of dragons.

The average man, or even the average mage, will get pushed to the side. Drowned in the endless mass of humanity as nothing more than another body and they will be forced to watch as their dreams, whose fruition is so close they could almost reach out and touch it, crumble to pieces before them.

But for the exceptional, for those who ride the waves of that human sea, there is everything. The entire world in the palm of your hand, there for the taking- presuming someone doesn’t stick a knife in your back and take it from you.



---The Mysteries of Fudan: The Ghost of Fudan---

 

Fudan was not an old University, at least as such things are counted. Nor did it have a history that would easily lend itself to urban legends regarding dark secrets in its past. However, with so many of the best and brightest of the next generation gathering there for years, including clanners from all sorts of esoteric and secret traditions, it would not take long to convince a new student that there may be some things that cannot be explained.

Most would shrug it off as a joke and laugh, and even those that found a story plausible would not likely think that they were in any danger. After all, Fudan was in Shanghai and the instructors there were top notch. It was a well known fact that more than a few of the instructors were veterans of the northern front, and even if they were hard-asses in the classroom, their presence was a guarantee of safety. An urban legend that a student had once been caught studying the forbidden school of Necromancy and had commited suicide on campus, only to return as a ghost and haunt the school grounds after dark- it was something easily dismissed by most.

Bao Ai did not.

Unlike the idiotic Fuerdai, the complacent Guanerdai, or the completely up-their-own-ass southern Clanners, Bao Ai and her family lived in the North. Or rather, had lived in the North.

While the Northern Front was relatively stable now, it wasn’t always and for that matter “relatively stable” means that the lines don’t change much over the years. Day to day, on the other hand… Well, suffice to say that if the line is pushed South for a day and reclaimed the next, the undead would have already poisoned the land and ruined it. To say nothing of the fact that no one who had evacuated from there could ever feel safe on it again.

The Bao family itself was, essentially, ruined. Family legend traced their ancestry far back in time, though the closest Ai knew of to anything noteworthy was that one of her ancestors had married Guan Suo, son of a man sometimes called the God of War, Guan Yu. Not that the party looked kindly on that kind of deification, but the rural populations on the Chinese frontier were hardly worth the time to bother with, so some of the traditions quietly continued.

Regardless, Bao Ai was the only one of her generation left alive. Her parents had been, frankly, rather old when she had been born and with her father and her brothers dead in the North, the Bao family would end with her.

When the undead hordes and closed in, her family had joined the PLA in defending their home and died for it. It was their valor which made it possible for Bao Ai to attend Fudan at all, officers in the PLA had smoothed the way for her as a thank you for the lives the time they bought holding the line had saved.

Ai wished they hadn’t been so brave- she wished her father and brothers had been cowards and lived to see another day- but she didn’t blame them. She might have, at first, if it wasn’t for the words of a scarred up magus who was one of the few that fought with them and returned alive, a man who was as much of a veteran of the Northern Front as it was possible to be.

“There is no need to spend your hate on the ones you loved for sacrificing themselves for others until your hate has burned those who took them from you to the ground.”

From one Fire Evoker to another Fire Evoker, those words made more sense than any logic she had ever heard before or since. Did she resent her family’s choice? Perhaps, but she would work through that when she had burned every last undead to a husk.

So why had she asked to come to Fudan instead of a PLA run institution? Originally, it was because her Clan- and now just her- had practiced a unique magic of their own that traced back too, but probably was around before, the Three Kingdoms era. Self-enhancement battle magic that stemmed from Fire Evocation instead of Transmutation by forcing that fire in and around their own bodies and becoming warriors of unparalleled strength whose very proximity could be deadly to their enemies.

Of course, such power carried extreme risks and had a ludicrous mana requirement, but what Fire element mage- especially and Evoker- not want to burn so bright? To not just send your fire at enemies, but to actually be the explosion among their ranks? Her father and elder brothers had all also either been Maguses with Transmutation as a second school or were learning it at the time to enhance their own special techniques even further.

The PLA was not the best place to hone and improve this kind of talent, not compared to Fudan with its myriad of teachers and students from different backgrounds. Here, she might be able to find someone with a connection to expatriated European battlemage- a mage trained in close-quarter Evoking that were known for the heavy armor they would use in battle- though they were less iconic now that they switched from enchanted steel to synthetic fibers and ceramic plates. Or perhaps she would run into a clan that held a similar or complementary magic, and she could convince them to teach her in exchange for her own techniques. Or there might be a chance to gain connections that would allow her to acquire enchanted objects that would enhance her abilities even further.

That last one was definitely possible because, while it was not exactly well known, there were credible whispers that an heir to the House of M attended the university. Though finding out who, precisely, that was and then approaching them and working out a deal was going to be a challenge.

But her original reason for attending had now taken the back seat. She had heard about the “First Mystery of Fudan,” the ghost of a dead student caught practicing Necromancy and had at first thought it nothing but tasteless. It made her angry that these idiotic kids, safe in the South and their own blissful ignorance, would even think to make light of the dangers of Necromancy. They had no idea, and she had to hold herself back from screaming at them at the top of her lungs.

But one night, as she was walking back to her apartment from one of the few friend’s she had made house, she saw it. A humanoid form, shimmering as it passed a spellight, then dispersing into the air not to be seen again.

She had not gotten a good look, but Bao Ai had lived in the North to not know the characteristics of the undead. Spirits walked there, sometimes even South of the lines, and knowing what you were facing was the difference between living and joining the dead.

Which was how Bao Ai’s reason for staying at Fudan had become to hunt down the Egui, better known to foreigners as a Hungry Ghost, and burning it away for good.

And tonight was the night she would do it. She had carefully observed and found that the Egui often took this path at night around this time, and had carefully prepared formations of salt on the ground in some of the sacred patterns passed down through the ages. Because she was not a Salt mage, a Conjurer, or a Abjurer- the salt would do little more than slow the monster. Even unenchanted salt and non-magical formations can cause a ghost to pause and hesitate, even if it took real magic or special formations to actually stop and capture the things.

However, that pause was all Bao Ai would need. Egui were dangerous, but they were also one of the more fragile of spectres. Specifically, unlike many other ghosts and hauntings, Egui were mortal. The Hungry Ghost did not just eat because it wanted to, or had the compulsion to do so, it had to eat to survive and even then could and would sometimes fade with age.

Further, while they can assume a gaseous form, it is possible for them to be struck physically- even if it is not very effective normally. But if they were surprised by salt, and struck with explosive force before they can react, they could be dispersed for good. True, it was no “Banish Evil,” but Bao Ai’s plan would work- so long as her timing was good.

Just as she predicted, the spirit came down the path and paused at the salt- Ai noticed how the ghost, now that it could be seen in the light, was pretty in an elfin sort of way. Strangely more European looking than she had thought, but then she had not know the nationality of the Necromancer who supposedly spawned this creature.

All those thoughts went through her head as the adrenaline slowed time down. She burst into flames, streaking from where she was hiding as if she was a living meteor spell, her palm out and packed with explosive force that would detonate as she struck- only for the seemingly distracted spirit to nimbly dodge her and use a blast of air to send her sprawling.

“Its against the University rules to use such dangerous magic outside of class or practice halls,” the ghost spoke in an airy tone. Then the orbs of air that were the spirits eye’s widened as she squealed, “Ahhhh! I wasn’t supposed to use magic on students either!”

Seeming to panic, the spirit disappeared leaving behind nothing but a folder that fell to the ground, spilling its contents all over.

Bao Ai, somewhat stunned by her assisted tumble into a nearby bush, sat for a minute or two in disbelief and then spent another few minutes trying to extricate herself from the tangled mess she had become. When she did, she saw the spirit again coming down the path, this time accompanied by an older, well dressed man.

“There she is!” The ghost woman pointed at Bao Ai, “She attacked me! I didn’t drop the papers on purpose!”

“Ellen speak a little quieter please,” the man said with a sigh. “It wouldn’t be good to wake anyone up at this time of night.”

Glancing at Bao Ai, he took a step toward her. “Hello, are you hurt? Ellen said she held back, but she isn’t always good at that kind of thing.”

He must be some kind of Necromancer, Ai thought to herself, preparing to strike as the man took another step forward into the light and she saw-

“Dean Luo!?’’ Bao Ai gasped, “You’re a Necromancer!?”

The Dean, for his part, looked absolutely shocked. “Me? A Necromancer? What in Mao’s name are you talking about?”

“Th- that Equi,” Ai stuttered, pointing at the ghostly woman. “You are working with the undead, what else could you be?”

“Equi?” Dean Luo was confused, and saw the young student pointing at Ellen and suddenly realised the problem and began to laugh. “Child, this is Ellen, my familiar and she is an Air spirit distantly related to the Sylphs, certainly not an Equi.”

Now that she was closer, and the light was better, Bao Ai realised her mistake and her face burned and turned deep red. Equi, the Hungry Ghosts, came in around three varieties and could be distinguished by their mouths. The details were unimportant, but Ellen’s mouth was obviously normal and worse, it was well known that Dean Luo had an Air spirit familiar. And… And that he was training her to do office work.

Looking down at the papers and folder strewn on the ground, Bao Ai felt an unbelievable feeling of shame. She was an idiot, and having attacked the Dean’s own familiar, there was no way she wouldn’t be thrown out. She wanted to hide her face behind her hands and cry, but for the moment the Dean just seemed to be studying her closely.

“You are… Bao An, right?”

“Bao Ai, sir.” She said contritely, surprised that the Dean even knew her.

“Ah yes, I remember now, the PLA sent over some notes on you,” the Dean’s eyes became a little softer. “You came from the North as I recall, after… I see what happened now, no need to look at me like that I’m not about to expel you. This hardly even counts as trouble compared to what that other girl brings me…”

Bao Ai didn’t quite here the last sentence, which the Dean had grumbled under his breath- but had looked up hopefully upon hearing that she wouldn’t be expelled.

“I’m very sorry sir,” she said, bowing her head low. “I did not know she was your familiar, I thought she was a ghost and am terribly sorry.”

“Yes, well, no one was hurt and you didn’t do anything that would cause my office to get flooded with complaints about Death Worms attacking students on school grounds, so I think we can let this go.” The Dean was rather amicable about the whole thing, which greatly relieved Bao Ai. “However, even if there had been a ghost or undead here, I can’t condone what you did. And if it had happened somewhere else, or in front of the PLA, you could expect to a severe punishment- but not for the reason you are thinking.”

Dean Luo looked at her and shook her head, “If you suspected you saw an undead on Fudan grounds, did you not think to contact the staff or the police? If you had taken a real undead on yourself and lost, what then? You are not alone here, and as a student you should not feel you need to handle these things alone- nor should you.”

In the end, the Dean gave Bao Ai a lecture on acting by herself and let her go back to bed. The next day, reminders were posted in the university that if a student should find a monster or creature loose they should report it to the staff instead of taking action themselves and that, for the record, Ellen was not a ghost.

And thus, the First Mystery of Fudan, the Ghost of Fudan, was solved.



***

 

-Business Opportunities-

 

Harry Sinclair was a practical man. He knew that as mages went his level of talent was average, maybe even slightly below. He also knew that he was far too lazy to put in the effort that would be required to make up for that deficit in talent, and as an Earth Abjurer, he would be a dime a dozen even if he did.  So how did he end up on the Chinese Northern front with a dozen rotting zombies clawing at his shield?  Why had he been here- sent on a mission that was volunteer only- a suicide mission to hold the line so that reinforcements would have the time to reform the lines?

He was born to Scottish parents in Germany and soon realised that business would be the way to go. He’d realised soon after that, that he was even less talented in business than he was in magic. However, Harry Sinclair did have one talent, and boy did he have that talent in spades.

He was a world-class ass kisser.

The only thing he contributed to with his steady stream of ever more over the top compliments and flowery language was his boss’s ego, and truth be told, the key to being a fawning parasite and a wage thief is to find a boss who is weak to getting their ego stroked- which turned out to be quite a lot of them.

And on one fateful business trip to Shanghai, he had realized he’d found the jackpot. The Fuerdai and Guanerdai were young, arrogant, and so puffed up on their own importance that Harry was able to insinuate himself into their circles and get himself a permanent visa to Shanghai within the single week that business trip had lasted.

He offered them his “professional services” as a kind of exclusive experience. He would try all the restaurants, all the products, all the perks and then report back to the kids what was the best of the lot. If it had only been that, they might not have fallen for it, but Harry was truly talented at what he did.

When his employers would follow his recommendations, he would intercept anyone who came to talk, loudly asking who was approaching his much esteemed company, laying on his ego inflating language as thick as concrete. Harry, by doing so, inflated how his customers status looked by his presence and attitude- and if someone took issue with it he would be backed up by the rich kids own bodyguards.

In other settings he was constantly name dropping his other employers, pretending deeper connections and playing on these kids desire to network and play politics like their parents to worm his way ever deeper into their midst.

Even better, his newfound friends and their connections helped Harry do things that he otherwise couldn’t- like organise shipments of blue. Ass-kissing worked just as well on underground crime bosses as any other kind it turned out, and with Sydney being nothing but a flooded fish hole right now, the market needed a new outlet. Sure, if he was caught he’d probably end up in Tianqiao and die horribly- but that only worried him if he thought about it, and he had enough high grade alcohol to not think about anything he did not want to.

The Party and the PLA were quite stiff on their anti-drugs policy, not surprising considering that it really wasn’t all that long ago that the Brit’s had flooded the country with drugs as a means to control them during the colonial era. But Harry didn’t care less, with the Fuerdai’s money and the Guanerdai’s power, he was untouchable and richer than he’d ever been.

The Nangtong Tonglv project only stood to make him more money, and he gladly toasted to its success even as he got his connections to help him leach a bit off the side.

Everything was going fine until he got a knock on his door and opened it to find a smiling NoM woman flanked by two mages. Before Harry Sinclair could act on the bad feeling growing in his gut one of the mages cast some sort of Enchantment spell and the next thing he knew he was handcuffed to a chair in a badly lit room and had a blistering headache.

Though, in fairness, the headache might have been a hangover.

He tried not to worry, after all, Harry Sinclair was a man with friends, and he was a god-tier smooth talker. Only no one ever came to interrogate him. Little did he know that the ledgers he had kept for “insurance” in case his young friends ever thought to turn on him were not nearly as well hidden as he thought and that the full might of the three families involved the Nangtong project had come down on them.

After so long struggling with a failing project, the three now had full rice bowls, and they guarded every grain as fiercely as a dragon might. Harsh punishments were handed out, but the powerful parents stepped in to protect their offspring from the worst of it, and who better to push the blame onto than an ass kissing scapegoat?

Unfortunately for Harry Sinclair, his luck had run out and he was not even lucky enough to go to Tianqiao for a swift execution. Indeed, it didn’t take him long to die on the Northern front, but being eaten alive by zombies after his commanding officer lost patience with his attempted flattery and "volunteered" him for a suicide mission was an especially bad way to go.

 

***

 

-The Calamity-

*This is a series of short snippets, the memories of those who stood in the path of catastrophe and saw the calamity left in its wake. It starts in Sydney, but ends in Shanghai- at least for now*

 

In the upper reaches of the world governments, the warning from the Oracle was known. Elsewhere, ancient dragons would whisper to some men of the same warning and perhaps others would receive information from sources wise, or ancient, or simply strange.

Calamity was coming. Be warned and prepare, but little did they know that a calamity was not only here- but it had started some time ago. Little did the powers that be realise the body count one person had wracked up as insects flew too close to the light, and got smote down by divine lightning.

Little did they know of the fools who felt the pull of Gwen Song.

 

*On a train in Sydney, Australia*

 

The show was finishing up, and it had certainly been a flashy one. Entertainment more than worth the delay caused by the stopping of the train and the police coming aboard to question those involved. After all, everyone enjoyed seeing a perverted bastard getting the full hammer of the law come down on them like they deserved.

“We’ll just take a record, Miss.” The older of the two officers on the train declared, to the satisfaction of the viewing audience. “There will be no charges. Anyone can see that it was a genuine accident.”

The poor girl putting her hand on her chest in relief and replying “Thank you,” as she practically radiated happiness put a smile on the face of everyone involved. She was a beautiful young woman, with a figure women would die for and that men would kill for- not to mention a Quasi-Elemental Lightning mage!

That a man would so brazenly attempt to molest her was no different than watching a dirty hooligan defile the Mona Lisa. It made people even more angry than they should be, and the man already deserved anger on principle.

The man in question, a NoM by the name of Phillip, was hardly a good man. In fact, this was hardly the first time he had grabbed a woman’s ass on the train. But as he was shoved off the train and into the police station, he had to wonder why the hell he had done that.

Sure the girl had a woman’s figure and legs for days, but she was obviously too young and Phillip, while a disgusting pervert, had never thought himself a pedophile. For that matter, the girl was simply too pretty and refined looking to be a fellow NoM, and Phillip had never thought himself enough of an idiot to grab a mage’s ass either.

But that girl… There was something about her, almost a gravity that pulled him in and he found himself acting before he could stop himself. He had no defence to really make and what passed for a trial for NoM’s went by for Phillip in a flash. If Phillip had been a mage, and if the girl had been older, he’d be walking out of the station with a hefty fine and a warning that if he was caught again there would be real consequences.

Even if Phillip was just the NoM that he was though, grabbing a mage’s ass would have only left him with a humongous fine and maybe a month or two in jail.

Phillip, however, was instead on his way into a prison, where he would spend the next ten years of his life.

The only good thing about his sentence was that when the Mermen invaded his home had been destroyed, and being in prison had probably saved his life. Small mercies.

 

*At a party in the house of one Kwan Huang*

 

Derek, unlike his friends, could not say he was bored or annoyed because he had to attend this party- despite the fact that there host was just a little too friendly and too pushy. No, as a cadet he had already learned that the luxury he was used to growing up was not something he would see often in military life, so he should enjoy it while he could.

And, he thought to himself as he cast an eye at the prettily dressed girls gossiping in one of the corners, the view is certainly better here.

Over by the door, Kwan Huang, their host, was making a big, and very loud deal about something or someone. Looking over, he noted that Patrick Oliver, a friend of his, seemed rather starstruck as well, leaving him curious to say the least.

Kwan came over to them, and the girl he introduced took his breath away. Gwen Song, in a blue sleeveless dress that ended far enough up her legs to accentuate their ivory lengths all the way down to her wedge sandals. The smile on her face was angellic and Derek wanted to reach out and grab her right there.

Kwan’s laughing, “Looking a little too eager there Derek!” Shook him out of it, but he could not help but admire her beauty even after.

The rest of the night went by smoothly, though he never let himself be all that far away from her- and when Patrick went off to fetch canapes, he reached the limit of his endurance. He approached her, and as she spun around- seemingly surprised by him- she tripped and he caught her. Derek congratulated himself on that as he pulled her closer, he did not have Patrick’s smooth quality and being able to pull something like this off made him feel like the playing field was more even.

Gwen tensed, but even then she was soft to the touch- her eyes half closed, she had a mesmerising quality that made his hand wander along her soft back and down. Derek had more confidence now, especially that she seemed to be going along with it, but as a friend chuckled when he was able to cup his hand a little lower still- Derek realised he had made a grave mistake, behind those lids, Lightning mana was sparking in Gwen’s irises.

She reached out her hand the start of an incantation on her lips.

“Ligh-”

“Woah there, Tiger!” The voice was feminine, but Derek recognized the same glint of steely command that he had felt when an officer was shouting in his face. “You must never touch a lady without her permission!”

Shit, he had messed up, he pulled away, apologetic, but there was really nothing he could say.

He didn’t think about the beauty of the woman speaking, though in her red dress and heels she was beautiful like a bonfire in the night, but instead focused on her words.

“Begone, Cadet, before you disappear permanently.”

Derek fled. That is really all it could be called. He could have tried to defend himself, apologize and explain he had misread the situation, but he only half believed it himself. His father was military, and had hammered behavior and rules into Derek from the day he could understand them until now.

Not saying no was not the same thing as saying yes, and Derek knew that. He also knew that Gwen Song was beautiful enough to make him forget and make him a fool. His father had dragged him home, berated him in the study for hours on end, and promised to make the training he faced as a Cadet seem like a pleasant dream compared to what he would put him through.

Derek accepted it and vowed to keep himself in control from this point on. Even if he did not know quite why Gwen Song made him lose it, that was no excuse and he had enough dignity that he would not try to hide behind it.

 

*Somewhere in Britain*

 

When Edgar had finally gotten his golem prosthetics, the very first thing he did was smash everything around him in sight. Thankfully, the installation had been done at his home- as one would expect for someone of his status- but even if he had been at the Enchanter’s shop or on a public street, nothing would have stopped that sudden outpouring of rage.

The Enchanter, wisely, left as Edgar tossed furniture around the room while screaming and cursing, finally ending his performance with a fist through one of the walls. He stood there panting in the wreckage of a once opulent and luxurious room, to which the damage he had done amounted to more than most NoM lives were worth. He would know.

The second thing he did was order a woman brought to him, and he specified his type specifically. The only thing NoM’s were good at was breeding like rabbits, so surely one of them would fit what he wanted.

Normally, Edgar would simply drain them dry with his Dust Spirit, but he had far more anger to work out than that. The first poor girl who was brought to him after the procedure did not get the far more merciful death that those before and most of those after would.

No, Edgar did to her what he wanted to do to the girl she looked like. Her screams as he beat, then raped her and mutilated her were cathartic to him. And when he finally drained the amputated and barely alive pile of broken bones and flesh, he knew that his anger, his… desire. Would never be sated until he had the real thing.

Gwen Song would rue the day she crossed Edgar, he so vowed.

 

*Somewhere in Blackheath*

 

Anthony reflected, as he often did, that life was fucking shit. It isn’t like he wanted to live in this rat infested hellhole of a slum, or that he wanted to be working for those sick fucking traders, but when two shifty looking mages move in to a neighborhood and give food and water for those that help out and painful deaths for those who don’t. Well, a choice like that isn’t a choice at all, is it? Thoughts like that were probably why they called him Tonna, as in a ton of shit, but funnily enough he didn’t really have any shits to give.

Of course, maybe they called him Tonna when he thought like that because it made him sound like he was a good person forced into bad things by bad circumstances. Anthony would like to think that, once upon a time, that was even true. It wasn’t anymore, that was for sure. When he and his fellow gang had come across that girl in the alley, well, he would have taken his turn. It would not have been the first time.

The girl in question was like a pure lily among the putrid pool that was Blackheath, to say she was stunningly beautiful was to do her a disservice and it was rare for a top-class beauty like her to wander into a shitpile like this. Sure there was that whorehouse down the street, and some of the girls were not all that bad looking, but Anthony was too low on the totem pole to afford them and there were more than a few strays and runaways that would take a wrong turn and get grabbed by one gang or another.

It was thoughts like that that made him know his longing for the beautiful girl he saw today was just fantasy. Well, that and the fact she was a mage, a Quasi to boot. Oh, and the fact she was going to that “place” to “buy” and frankly only people sick in the head would do that. Even a murderer and a rapist like Anthony was better than those fucks, who would use a girl like a breeding cow. He at least let them go, usually.

Thing was, that girl might have been there to clear the place out, because there was nothing left of the people inside but blood splatters when people went to check. Aside from a few people, most of the people in the nearby streets had a grim attitude. Sure, they had kidnapped people and sold them to scum so bad even other scum thought they were bad- but they had also gave people the food and water they had desperately needed.

An Australian summer without water is nothing to joke about, its goddamn death. And the pretty mages in their tower didn’t give much of a shit if a few dozen or a few hundred NoM’s died trying in vain to cool themselves in the pathetic shade their cardboard boxes lent them. Not that the hovels were much better, some of them turned into pressure cookers that could kill people in their sleep.

Still, even if she had condemned both the innocent and the guilty of Blackheath with her actions, Anthony couldn’t think badly of the girl. The thoughts he did have, as his hand dropped to his crotch and he rubbed one out for the night, are probably best left unsaid.

 

*Somewhere in the Outback, not far from the Surya estate*

 

Takahashi was not sure when he was going back to town, but the thought had crossed his mind for that “when” to be never. He would never hear the end about tonight, probably never would have no matter how things had ended up, but especially now that he found out that the Lady Mage Gwen Song that he had worked up every bit of his courage to ask to dinner was not even out of High School.

In his defense, what part of that girl looked like a kid? She was a tall, well developed, ivory flower untouchable even by the dust and grit outside the town. There was nothing about Gwen Song’s body that said “kid.” And sure, her face was young enough that he might have wondered where she was between seventeen and nineteen at first, but what kind of young woman, even a Quasi-Elementalist, had magic like that?

Gwen Song, apparently. Which now left Takahashi with a town of people who would never forget this, a lot of now confusing and shameful memories about fantasies he had had over the past few days, and a desperate desire to purge those fantasies from his mind so he did not become some kind of deviant in the future! For that matter, if he did find another girl it would just be cruel to them to have to be compared to Gwen Song.

Although who knows, maybe if she swung by in a couple of years he could ask again?  It wasn't like his mates would be able to make fun of him any more, right?



*The Apartment of Dai Fung, Somewhere in Shanghai*

 

The night, all things considered, could be called a wash. Sure, everything Dai Fung had tried had failed and come back to bite him, but he had managed to make it work out in the end. A Western saying that his Father often repeated- though never around outside company- was, “when you are in a hole, stop digging.” And that was what he had taught his children how to do.

Sure, he had wanted to get back at Mina by spending some quality time with that stunning little minx of a cousin she had brought, but by the time she was done in the ring Dai had already made up his mind to cut his losses and try to fix things up with her. She might not be all that much now, in the grand scheme of China’s complicated politics, but that girl would be someday.

And beauty like hers, with power like that, as a Guanerdai… Well, unlike the girls he played around with, Gwen had actual potential to be someone who could stand beside him in the future. It wasn’t long after that Dai Fung was imagining Gwen under him, and, he thought to himself, considering his power and connections that might not be impossible to make happen.

Unfortunately for Dai Fung, it seemed like the only thing he would be getting was a work out for his right hand.

 

*Somewhere in China*

 

Fei Lin was not sure whether they counted as dreams or nightmares, but by Mao they were enough to drive him mad and leave him sleep deprived. He was not sure if he wanted to stay awake and avoid them, or go to sleep and embrace them- and the confusion made it all the worse. He knew the cause of his predicament, of course he knew the cause, the cause was the subject of his visions every night.

Gwen Song.

Gwen Song on Hengsha island had evoked in Fei Lin more contradictory feelings than was clearly healthy during the time he had spent with her. His first sight of her a mix between appreciation for the beauty of her form and horror at the abomination that she was riding, it didn’t help that he had thought her some form of woman and spider hybrid at first, either. Watching that thing she rode on murder its way through the swamp in a torrent of blood, mud, and bile was more than his stomach could take, even the memory of it made him queasy.

Of course, seeing her in a more relaxed setting in her portable habitat, and realising just how tight that bodysuit fit her, he was filled with a level of temptation that almost made him risk his life and brought all kinds of unlikely fantasies to his mind.

Him alone with her in that portable habitat and her taking a shower had almost broke the poor boy’s mind. Her ferocious nature had then finished breaking it later that same dungeon dive, watching her behead that woman with the power of the Void and seeing her stomp all over a man with those incredible legs of hers.

Much like her elements, the emotions Fei Lin had were a dichotomy, and every night he seemed to struggle with that. Worse still, Fei Lin was terrified that that these visions meant that a short meeting with Gwen Song had turned him into some kind of hopeless deviant.

A boy having a dream about a pretty girl isn’t abnormal. It isn’t something you tell the girl about, but you can’t really help what you dream about. But having a dream where a gweilo beauty feeds an army of monsters to her monstrous abomination of a familiar and then, still covered in blood, pushes you down and dominates you. That’s more than a bit much.

Fei Lin moaned in misery as put himself face down into his pillow, struggling to stay awake but not even sure if he wanted to.



Those left in the wake of calamity are many, and these are just a few- just a start- of the stories they leave behind. Considering the nature of that calamity, the only guarantee is that the losses will keep piling up.

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About the author

vladerag

Bio: Hello! I am Vladerag the author of several stories here on Royal Road! I hope you are enjoying whatever you are reading, and I hope you check out some of my stories!

You can find them here! https://royalroadl.com/profile/76129/fictions

And if you are interested in supporting me, you can do so here as well! https://www.patreon.com/vladerag

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