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     Jamie gazed out upon infinite nothingness. Not the blackness of space, for there was no darkness. Not the infinite blinding of the sun, because there was no light. Just an endless plane of grey.

     “Hm, so this would be your center, interesting, interesting. So much promise, such a blank slate.” A small orange calculator said, hovering beside Jamie’s point of view. Point of view because, once Jamie noticed the calculator, they quickly also noticed that they had no body either.

     “Huh? What’s going on? Who are you?” Jamie replied, mentally rubbing their temples.

     “Who? Me? I am… preservation. No, that isn’t right. I am culmination. No, that doesn’t sound correct either. Hm, you may call me archivist, yes, that sounds accurate, I shall be the archivist.” Replied the small orange calculator seemingly made from mana.

     “Oh, ‘nother one of you huh?” Jamie asked, having gotten used to the spirit of protection lounging about in their shop.

     “Another one?! Oh my, there are more?” The small orange being said.

     “Yep, there’s more. Welcome to the waking world, little sibling.” Said a green platypus as it slowly came into view, directly across from Jamie’s perspective and the Archivist.

     “What are you doing here? Wait, what is going on? The last thing I remember is being surrounded by… a cocoon. Am I being reborn right now? Where's the fairy tales? The tear-jerking history of how I came to this mountain?” Jamie asked, incredulous and confused at the current events.

     “I might be able to answer that.” Said a new voice, genderless but deep nonetheless.

     The three sentients looked in the new direction. To the left of the green platypus, a new orb of light began forming. At first the wisp was entirely made out of red mana, then, slowly, all color fell away. Leaving an entirely clear wisp of mana, barely perceptible unless someone were to focus their eyes. Luckily, Jamie didn’t need eyes here.

     “Who might you be?” Jamie asked, letting out a sigh of exhaustion at the tiny beings of mana invading the literal most private space a person could possibly have.

     “I am like they are, yet different.” The new speaker said, their wispy form changing, taking on a more defined shape. The wisp lengthened, then started to punch in the middle, an hourglass shape was formed as the lid and bottom of the hourglass grew hazy. Changing to appear as two crystalline ouroboroi, or snakes swallowing their own tails, on both sides of the hourglass. “You may call me Cycle, if only for now.”

     “Okay Cycle, then why is everyone here?” Jamie asked, impatiently tapping their foot, if they had one.

     “One second we must. Ah, it appears we are all here now.” Cycle replied.

     A golden black wisp of mana appeared directly across from Cycle, on Jamie’s left and to the right of the green platypus. It wore a tiny brown hat not dissimilar from an older movie about a factory that made chocolate. “Alright, I’m here, what’s so impor…. I know you!”

     Jamie was taken aback by the two-tone spirit. “You do?”

     “Mhm, I was here yesterday when you fought the angel lady outside. That was a good fight, even I didn’t guess that the sword I convinced Will to give that Orc would be the deciding factor.” Said the small orb-like being in a brown hat, If it were possible, Jamie would have sworn they saw the featureless orb grin.

     “EHEM!” Said the hourglass, Cycle. “As I was saying. We are here for you, Jamie.”

     Jamie looked at the four beings with confusion and then fear. “Listen, I don’t need any of your power for this. Plenty of my friends have gone through it and made it out fine without needing to make some Faustian bargain.”

     The crystal hourglass laughed loudly, “Oh no dear,” the deep honey-like voice continued, “We are here much for the opposite.”

     “We’re here because you’re putting out so much mana, magic, energy, whatever you call it that we have to be. Look at Cycle and Archivist, they’re not even newborn yet. You haven’t met them yet because they’ve not matured enough to even be born into your world yet.” Said the platypus, then continuing, “You can call me Escalation by the way.”

     “And I’m Luck!” Said the young, almost feminine voice of the two-tone spirit in a hat.

     “So… what? What do I do now?” Jamie asked in a confused state.

     “Now? Now you just… Are,” Replied Cycle, in a confused tone. “You have the mana gushing out of your form, you can genuinely make yourself into anything you wish. The world is your gallery, you are the painting, and the brushes and paints are your personality.”

     Jamie nodded, then, right before they concentrated. “What exactly are you four? You don’t seem to be genie’s like Will.”

     “Heh, creator wishes they were as awesome as us.” Escalation replied, his beak releasing a honking laugh.

     Cycle’s deep genderless voice resonated, silencing all but them as Jamie listened intently, “We are the primal spirits of the here and now. That may sound like it cancels each other out, but let me explain. In every age past, there would be beings of pure mana, capable of shaping the world in their image. These beings were created from and were the essence of the way that magic fundamentally worked at the time. As your people grew and ages changed, so did these arbiters, sometimes replaced one at a time, however, they were normally cleared out by a single catastrophic event.”

     “Like what?” Jamie asked, confused yet curious, their invisible form leaking a steady stream of orange mana that Archivist was swallowing up as quickly as it could.

     “Ragnarok, The Great Flood, The Black Sun, The Final Sunset. Each of these were events that saw the end of their magical arbiters, only to be replaced in mere decades by new ones.” Cycle intoned.

     “Wait… Those are god destroying events, at least, the ones I can name off the top of my head. How do you know about these if you’re not even born yet?” Jamie’s eyes would have shot wide if they had any.

     “Yes, those arbiters were sometimes referred to as gods, yet, I do not feel that title will be as easily accepted in this time. As for your second question, magic, mana is eternal. When someone uses up their mana, it is released into the world to be absorbed and used again and again. I am merely Cycle, the beginning and the end, and yet neither. I feel a connection with days past, I may have gone by other names or parts of me. Hades, Hephaestus, Freya, these are names pieces of me once had, but now I am Cycle.” Said the crystalline hourglass.

     Jamie paused, thinking for a few moments. Time didn’t seem to make much sense in this world, so Jamie was unsure how long they were thinking. “You mean… The law of conservation? How if energy is used by something it is then dispersed to be absorbed again?”

     “Yes! Very good!” The hourglass chimed, clear, invisible mana flowing from Jamie’s form to their own.

     “And you! Luck! What’s your deal?” Jamie asked, deciding to get to know these spirits while they had the chance.

     “Me? Oh, I just like interesting things. Things that don’t go as planned, or go off the rails entirely. I do say, your situation is just delectable, changing into a cocoon right before the big fight and then! Oh, when those soldiers made their way to the boss room. So good~,” The golden and black orb said in a sultry tone.

     Jamie nodded again, “I suppose that would describe luck…”

     “You already know who I am and what I stand for.” Escalation called directly across from Jamie.

     “Yeah, endless one-upmanship.” Jamie scoffed.

     “Hey! Without escalation, you would have never gotten vaccines, or games, or anything! The urge to do better, to go one higher, has driven humanity for all the decades and millennia since the loss of magic! Your history, your books, your literature proves such!” Escalation nearly screamed, his tiny green form of a platypus under-scoring his angry and hilariously cute rant.

     “Fair… I suppose an urge to do better or be better can be healthy in small amounts…” Jamie nodded along, finally seeing what was going on.

     “You’re all going to be gods,” Jamie said it as a statement, sure Cycle had said it aloud but now it made sense. The fickle nature, the direct tie to the supernatural, these must be demi-gods or some other youth form of the supernatural lifeform.

     “I prefer the term Patron.” Cycle spoke up, “Much less divisive and really, I would rather not be worshiped.”

     “Speak for yourself.” Escalation spoke up.

     “Same!” added Luck.

     There was a long, infinitely deep silence over the group for a short while as Jamie thought. This was a lot to take in, gods, being able to control their form, these four gods in particular…

     “How do I do it?” Jamie asked matter-of-factly.

     “Just imagine what you would want to look like as a human, your body will do the rest.” Kindly replied Archivist from beside them.

     And so Jamie did. Jamie imagined themselves before when they ran away from college, before their spirit was hurt and their home was gone. Jamie remembered how they always felt too thin, always wanting to put on a little weight for some curves but not enough to be round. “Thicc” was how they heard one person describe it but that felt a bit too disrespectful to them. Soon, Jamie got into the nitty-gritty of their body, deciding to make a few permanent upgrades to the base form they’d been given. With any luck, they could stop having to take shots every Wednesday.

     ***

     “Colonel Zippy, as I live and breathe,” Clarence said, lowering his weapon. The rest of his squad doing the same.

     “Good to see you, Clarence, I’m glad your team was the one sent out. I doubt I would have this luck with Matherly.” Zippy smiled, floating over to the group of intruders on his tiny purple cloud.

     “Wh… What?!” Billy Joe shouted, causing the entire boss room to shake slightly.

     “Oh, I’m sorry for the deception dearies, But I could not be sure.” Zippy began, “I had a hunch that I would be able to stop them if they just saw me, but it was not absolute. So, rather than have everyone plan I would just solve the situation, I let you continue planning your defense in the chance of a worst-case scenario.”

     Clarence looked slightly confused. “Oh, you lot will still need to beat us.”

     It was Zippy’s turn to be surprised, “What!?”

     “We’ve been sent on a mission, we have direct orders. Even if you’re here, you can’t stop the fact we’re on a mission.” Clarence shrugged comedically. “We’d be court-marshaled, or whatever M.A.R.S. does if we just backed out now.”

     “But you are after a sentient life-form, surely this must change things!” Zippy shouted at them.

     “I wish I could say it does.” Clarence looked down ruefully, “Our orders are our orders and unless we get thrown out of this dungeon, we have to return with the lamp.”

     “Understood.” Zippy said solemnly, “I will speak with you outside momentarily. Galatea, I take it you’ve had time to set up?”

     Galatea walked out from behind the throne she normally sat in, now full of Jamie’s cocoon. “Just one left boss. You sure? These guys don’t sound too bad now that we have em speaking instead of slaughtering my friends.”

     Both Zippy and Clarence shook their heads, “It is fine. Galatea, go ahead and use it.”

     Spinning her final Chakram; Galatea flung it right behind Clarence’s feet, impacting the ground as multi-colored rainbow lines traced from it to the surrounding chakrams she had thrown while Zippy had talked to the leader.

     “What?! We didn’t see or hear a thing!” Charlie called, staring at the seven-pointed star being drawn in magic around them. Trying to run out of the star; she slammed face-first into an invisible wall created by the etchings.

     “Heh, Always were two steps ahead.” Clarence chuckled.

     Zippy gave a curt nod, and Galatea’s skill triggered.

     Divine Seal: Schindler’s Munitions.

     The four members of D team inside of the entrance all screamed in terror as their weapons began to heat up to an extreme degree. Then, all at once, every speck of gunpowder packed into a bullet casing, every grenade, all of it; brought death with a climatic chain of explosions. When the smoke cleared inside the barrier, not a single member of the team was left, and a crater was etched into the ground.

     “What about me now?” Clarence asked, resignation in his eyes.

     “Now… you get me.” Billy Joe stepped forward, cracking her knuckles and neck at the same time.

     “Now, now, I cannot fight a civilian,” Clarence said, just in time for him to be sent flying by her right hook, dealing another thirty damage to the already wounded captain.

     “No Civilians here. We’re all dungeon divers, going after the treasure of our dreams. Be it your job or not, I take great offense at a friend of mine being threatened with kidnapping.” Billy Joe shook out her hand, she’d received a good ten damage back from the punch, but the difference in health total made it beyond negligible. “Got one heck of a hard eye there.”

     Clarence looked up after getting to his knees, his mechanical left eye darting from place to place, rebuilding its area of knowledge after it desynced from the punch. “That’s one hell of a hook. Fine, no civilians here, just a couple of Divers having a spat.”

     Clarence threw away every firearm on his person, deciding it's best not to test if this person also had the ability to detonate his ammunition. Pulling a machete off of his back, he returned to his feet.

     “Got some fight in ya. Better not go down too easy old-timer, I got some anger and techniques I need to work out.” Billy Joe stood tall, stretching her arms out as the darkness swirled around her. Clarence quickly decided to move, dodging to the left, thinking it was an attack he quickly dived behind the bank of the first island, hiding in the water.

     The darkness coalesced around Billy Joe’s form. First, two large pointed pauldrons jutted from her shoulders. Then an elegant piece of full plate covered her chest, entirely made from darkness. Gauntlets and boots, armor coated her lower body and then finally a quick line of dark chains down the inside of her armor. As Zippy had explained it, it wasn’t the darkness protecting her; it was that the darkness allowed her mana to occupy the space light particles normally did. Creating an armor of protection out of her own mana with darkness for insulation.

     Billy Joe charged at Clarence’s last position, her own darkness having blocked her sight of his relocation. “Huh?”

     Just as Billy Joe had let out the guttural noise of confusion as a metal bolt impacted the side of her dark-plate armor. Clarence had assembled a crossbow out of his backpack in the nick of time.

     Billy Joe let out a defiant roar, “Come on, you afraid of a little girl?”

     Clarence laughed, “No, but if I were to call you anything, young woman, it would not be ‘little’.”

     This caused Billy Joe to stop for a moment, causing her to chuckle. “Why don’t you come back sometime you aren’t trying to steal my friend? Sounds like you and our sheriff would get along.”

     “Why not? Should be a blast.” Clarence said, reloading his crossbow and not noticing Billy Joe had tracked his voice behind the bank.

     “Hi.” She curtly said, bringing her sword down right where Clarence’s head used to be. The weapon would be normal-sized for most people, but to her, it was a slightly big dagger.

     In the spinning turn he had used to dodge Billy-Joe’s attack, he brought his arm back around with all the force he used to dodge, slamming his machete against Billy Joe’s armor.

     The armor bent and buckled, giving, then it rebounded, bouncing his machete off of it and chipping the blade. “WHAT?!” Clarence screamed in surprise, his blade was made out of a high-titanium alloy, nothing should be able to chip it… well… nothing before magic.

     Right as he was caught off guard by his strike being deflected by her armor, Billy Joe retaliated again with her sword, slamming it down right onto the top of Clarence’s head. The soldier disappeared immediately in a puff of grey smoke.

     Billy Joe, wiping the sweat from her brow. “Wow, that didn’t take too long, but boy was it draining.”

     Zippy, deciding now was the perfect time to use some slang he had picked up from far too old movies, “That’s what she said.”

     Billy Joe, confused at the very out-of-date reference, “Yeah, I just did, fighting is rough.”

     Gus and Marceline meanwhile both needed to take a moment behind Galatea’s throne, laughing their immature hearts out.

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A note from Blackguard

Here's hoping this chapter helps to better explain Billy Joe's powers. I hope everyone is enjoying themselves, I have good news. The chapters are indeed building back up, the rest of Jamie's rebirth only needs to go through a few stages of editing. No longer will I consider myself as not doing so well, for even if I don't have the greatest statistics, I keep updating. And if you measure a race by if you finish it or not, then that means I am in the lead.

NEXT CHAPTER: Jamie's form revealed!

Best Wishes,
Blackguard.


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About the author

Blackguard

Bio: Amateur writer and ravenous reader. I do my best to keep consistent if not generous updates, comments are welcome and encouraged. Nonbinary Zebra.

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