“W-what…how...the spell didn’t-” Jennifer muttered as she felt Xar’s mark flare, a blast of telekinesis shooting at Rumina as she was thrown away. Jennifer coughed as blood traveled to her mouth, each breath sending a pulse of searing hot pain through her body. The world spun around her, a dark liquid on the knife burning her skin. Yet the pain may as well have been a respite.
She watched with muted disconnect as her friend rocked back. Rumina's face rippled, the flesh distorting and what stood in her place wore a twisted smile, its face peeling off from the corners of its mouth. It paused, and the thing pulled the skin back on, fixing the damage.
Jennifer tried to scream, but there was no voice in her. She watched silently as the monster walked closer, wearing its twisted smile with cold eyes. She watched fire burning a city in the night, she saw sand choking life out of her. It was here again. The monsters in the dark, the nightmare she'd lived through.
Her soul screamed at the presence of the Mark that stood in front of her. She watched the dark red Mark on its neck, glowing slightly now. Another telepathic attack pushed the being back and she watched a barrier form in front of it.
<Heal! Drink Red/Vial/Potion. Run/Escape!!> Xar shouted, the spider’s rising panic making the words hard to understand.
Jennifer braced the dagger still embedded in her stomach. Each motion was like a ball of hot agony in her gut. Tears dripped down her face as she screamed, trying to move away. But her legs shook, unable to support her body and all she could do was crawl.
Another blast of telekinesis shot off, yet the monster dodged to the side as it continued to inspect the barrier in front of it.
Jennifer grabbed the knife in her gut, her breath hitching as she closed her eyes. She took a vial of healing potion in her hand and grabbed it in her mouth, biting down on the cork. Taking a breath, she pulled.
A howl of agony tore out of her mouth as her body convulsed, her back arching from the pain. Tears flowed freely down her cheek as she mutedly felt Xar trying to keep her mind from tearing itself apart.
Jennifer clenched her teeth as she pulled once more. The knife moving like a slab of hot iron, the dark liquid coated on it flowing out as it burned the area around the wound.
With a thud her hands dropped the knife, the weapon clattering on the floor. Jennifer tilted her head upwards, as the healing potion flowed through her throat. The mana burned in her gut, counteracting the poison as it started to heal the wound.
A crack sounded out as the barrier in front of the being shattered. She could feel the Mark's presence hanging heavy. Jennifer tried to pull her own presence closer but her control broke. She saw the shadows in the room shift, rising as a raven perched on the being’s shoulder. The bird’s red eyes stared into her own, its wings coated with blood.
She felt Xar shoot another telepathic attack but the being slipped to the side, dodging the attack in a smooth step. The presence of its mark burned as red ghostly tendrils rose around her. They shot off towards her and Jennifer curled up instinctively.
A string snapped as a bright shield of silver manifested around her. The tendrils struck the shield, recoiling off of it. Jennifer felt the Mark of Fate glowing through her own mark, before its presence faded.
“Annoying,” the being said as a frown covered its face and she saw a dark red mark glow, as it’s presence spread and the world turned red.
“Jenn, why don’t you tell me how you have you collected so many Marks? Is it your ability? How far have you seen?” the being spoke in Rumina’s voice as it took another step closer. Jennifer felt her gut twist as she watched the creature wearing her friend walk at her. It mimicked her gestures, the tone, the way she walked, all of it.
“Will you not tell your friend? Do I mean so little to you?” Rumina- the being said, its voice perfectly emulating Rumina when she was hurt. Jennifer felt her head spin, the world around her seemed to fade away as her friend stood in front of her.
Tears streamed down Rumina’s cheeks, as she stared at her. “You always hide things from me. You always ran ahead on your own. Never telling me anything. Tell me Jennifer. At least now, tell me. What happened to you? What have you seen?”
Jennifer’s lips trembled as she stared at Rumina, her eyes shifting yet she found nobody else. It was just her and Rumina. W-where am I? What was I doing? I need to run… run from... what?
“It’s alright Jenn. We're safe here. I’m here for you. The Marks on you, they've been controlling you. Mind magic is rare, and so is Fate, and that's why you never noticed, but it was manipulating you. Using you for their own purposes. But we’re safe. You’re safe now,” her friend said, taking a step closer. Jennifer shifted back, a strange sense of calm spreading through her as her heart started to settle down.
She’s right, all of it is over now. I can rest...
“But what about the invasion? I need to stop them,” Jennifer said trying to get up, when she felt a sharp pain travel from her abdomen.
“Huh?” Jennifer muttered in surprise as she stared at the dark red wound on her gut, her clothes drenched in blood.
“I’m injured? Why am I injure-”
“You’re not injured silly! It’s just a stain from the alchemical reagents you were using? Did you forget already?” Rumina said with a laugh and Jennifer nervously laughed back.
“Sorry, I think I’m a bit tired. I can’t remember what I was doing,” Jennifer replied, as she watched the Monster Rumina standing in front of her.
“I know, it’s been a great burden isn’t it? Seeing the future. I’m sure it was stressful. Not to mention an invasion as well. And you kept getting dragged into things. No one blames you for being tired Jenn,” Rumina said, to which Jennifer slowly nodded.
“Yeah... it-It’s been difficult. I’m trying. I'm trying so hard to prevent that day from happening again. But... what can I do? A war isn't something I can prevent on my own, Rumina. I’m so weak... I can’t do anything. All I want is to protect my friends and family, but I can’t even do that properly.”
Rumina took the final step to close the gap. Standing in front of Jenn, Rumina extended her hand and Jennifer looked up at her friend. “You don’t have to Jennifer. No one will force you, if you give up. The city, the invasion. It’s not your burden to bear. Why don’t you let it go? Give me the Mark, and I will free you from your burdens.”
Jennifer stared at her friend’s claws hands. She could be free, she didn’t have to go through the nightmare again. But she had to run from the monster.
Jennifer frowned, clutching her head. Her Mark was quiet, not reacting in any way.
“Give me the Mark Jenn. I’ll take care of it. You’re tired, and you deserve some rest,” Rumina said as she extended her hand towards her chest. Jennifer felt her Mark pulse. Her soul shivering as a hand seemed to touch it. She felt the Mark shifting, something pulling at it.
“Just trust me. It’ll all be fine I promise” Rumina said, hugging her. Jennifer leaned into the hug, patting her friend’s back. Her eyes shifted, as Jennifer saw a single silver string travelling through the darkness to her hand. She looked at her mark, the upper area filled with Xar’s link. I need to feed him magic cores as well.
“Stop- I. I need to-” Jennifer's voice broke as a dark red claw plunged into her chest grabbing her Soul. The silver string began to glow with a burning hot light as Jennifer felt the link to Xar re-establish.
<RUN!> she heard Xar’s scream shake the world, cutting through the red void. Jennifer’s eyes shot open as her mind snapped back. Mana pulsed through her body, and Jennifer let it charge her blood. Crystals of blood glass sprang from her body as they shot into Rumina’s, stabbing her through the chest.
Jennifer stared at the mangled body of her friend, her eyes wide as blood flowed from Rumina's chest, pierced by blood-red glass. The creature’s mouth opened and an inhuman wail of agony tore through.
The monster screamed as the space around her began to distort, the world itself screaming with the creature as the illusion broke.
Jennifer kicked the creature as its mask faded. Her heart thundered as she felt her Mark pulsing. The library began to shake, as books and bookshelves lifted up, shooting towards the monster. Jennifer quickly pulled herself up, fighting through the pain as her mind tried to find a way to escape.
“You-you are far too irritating. Wasted killing that girl to take her form,” the monster hissed, as a dozen voices sounded, a screeching tone to them all. The creature’s body warped as a dark being of shifting faces stood in front of her, the mark on its neck shining with a threatening red glow.
Jennifer's heart dropped. The fear had gnawed at her heart the moment she'd broken through the illusion, but to hear it confirmed was as though he'd stabbed her again.
<Not now. Pain/Grieve later. Escape/Run/Hide!> Xar shouted as he continued to attack the monster.
The beast slashed its claws tearing through the shelf with ease as it launched towards her, red tendrils shooting up from the ground near it.
Jennifer turned around, mana pulsing around her as she shot off using Agile wind. Her mind buzzed as she ran through the library, sprinting towards the gates.
Claws of Shadow rose from the ground as they cut at her, a blood eyed raven turning into three and then five and soon a swarm circled around her, claws tearing through flesh as they descended as a cloud of beaks and talons. A dark haze of red covered them all.
Jennifer let her mind sink, as she ran only on instinct. She grabbed her blood-glass dagger, slashing through the birds, as she charged her spell with her other hand. Shards of blood-glass formed around her hand and she charged them with her Wind Blade. The spell exploded into a swarm of glass, the shards scattering in all directions as they tore through the swarm.
A screeching sound came from ahead and she saw needles rise, as they stabbed into her legs. Jennifer screamed as she fell, trying to pick the needles from her legs but her hands started to cramp.
The monster walked closer, but this time, there was no illusion. Its red eyes stared into her own and Jennifer closed her eyes, her lips trembling.
<I’m sorry Xar>
A bright light manifested around her body and Jennifer drank in the mana around her, her body twitched as a storm of mana poured into her own. She pulled, fighting through the pain as a vortex formed around her, the wild mana rushing in with abandon. Her mana pathways ruptured, blue liquid oozing from them as her body continued to be filled to the brim.
Jennifer’s eyes rolled into the back of her head, the pain tearing through her mind. A glaring sun of mana manifested within her body as her mana pool cracked. A bright light engulfed her body as death reclaimed her once again.
‘[Class: Resourceful Enchanter] has reached level 17!’
‘[Skill: Expanded Mana Pool] received!’