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“How much further, Doctor!”

“It’s just past that fence!”

I squinted my eyes, doing my damndest to see anything past a meter. If there was a fence just up ahead I sure as hell couldn’t see it. Hell, I was skeptical that someone as old as Takahashi could see it at all. Perhaps that was some inherent skill he developed as a Doctor. To see things the untrained couldn’t. Whatever the case I had no reason to doubt him even as I was desperately trying to keep the cold from biting at my skin.

It was the kind of snowstorm that blotted out the sun and scattered the light so that all one saw was a white haze. Tonight it was said that the precipitation would reach almost 95cm of snow. A storm that this sleepy little town hadn’t seen in several decades.

Of course, it also had to be a day I opted to avoid heading back to the Yukihana compound after school.

It was actually rather quiet when I went into the clinic. No patients listed in the entry log and no appointments were made for that day. I guess even in a town of only 2000 people that there was a lull in checkups and medical exams. Doctor Takahashi was just about to lock up when I arrived. He was on his way home to beat the worst of the storm and even offered me a ride back to the compound if I wanted it.

That was until the phone suddenly rang.

When a phone call came in I assumed it would be something minor like booking an appointment. It didn’t take long for the seventy four year old Doctor to look downright perturbed as he rapidly fired question after question to whoever was on the other end of the phone.

‘What’s their temperature?’

‘How long have they been coughing up blood?’

‘What medicine do you have at your disposal?’

‘Alright I’ll be there as soon as I can. Just keep doing what you're doing until then.’

When it seemed like the answers the Doctor was getting weren’t great he said he would go to them and see this mystery patient in person. It wasn’t strange for Takahashi to do house calls being of an old fashioned mindset. Those times however didn’t factor in the snowstorm that made going further out into the Styx nearly impossible to traverse by the Doctor's forty year old Mazda. The thing barely worked on good days.

So since driving wasn’t possible the stubborn geriatric decided he would walk three hours to where the patient's home was – storm be damned! Even saying he would be going alone and that I was better off returning home as quickly as possible. Ha! We hadn’t known each other long but I was stubborn to a fault as well. Like hell I was just going to let only only source of income potentially freeze to death.

Plus after venting my feelings at Grampy and showing my Magical Plate yesterday, I all but ran off yesterday – opting to squat illegally in a storage room at school until things died down at the Yukihana’s compound. I had enough money on me to get by. At least, for a little while.

Arguing ensued between the two of us but the Doctor didn’t have time to wasteland and reluctantly agreed to let me tag along. So there we were now; Suddenly braving the storm together. Quite the turn around from healing lame horses.

Doctor Takahashi had said that we needed to reach the patient within several hours. He made no further mention of the specifics to who we were meeting or what sort of treatment would be required. My Light Magic was good for both physical injuries and minor illnesses. Anything persistent like cancer or genetic abnormalities were far above my capacity to heal at the moment. Something I would try not to take for granted when that time did come.

While I knew he didn’t possess Light Magic, I wasn’t sure which affinities the Doctor did possess. Neither did I know if he was above the one star average most adults were said to have. So far I had only seen him use traditional methods of practicing medicine. While he was certainly tough for his age I wouldn’t expect the frail looking man to get into a scrap with a monster and make it out okay.

Battling monsters though were of a different beast compared to overcoming mother nature.

“Ahk!”

“Doctor!”

Suddenly I saw the Doctor stumbling forward, his right foot buried deep in the snow. We were cutting across several feild to make up time but that meant we weren’t sure if there were any holes or ditches buried underneath. Right now the snow was compact and sturdy for the most part, leaving us trudging every step of the way without proper snowshoes. I lost track of time but if the Doctor was right then we were almost where we needed to be.

Taking an extra long stride I came up from behind and grabbed the Doctor right under his right arm. It was awkward and he was still bigger than me due to my smaller stature but with a little leverage I was able to help get his leg out from the hole it was stuck in.

“You okay Doc?”

“I’ll… manage,” he huffed, clearly having the wind knocked out of him from his fall. “Where’s… my bag?”

“Your bag?” I looked around the white haze trying to find signs where his bag containing his medical equipment and supplies fell. Since he fell forward I assumed it would be somewhere only slightly ahead of us but I could tell exactly where. It wasn’t small and had a distinct burgundy color to it but even then it would likely take time to find where it was buried as the snow piled up quickly.

I let the Doctor stand on his own as I desperately tried to dig through the snow around us. After several minutes of search and no sign of it I could only conclude it fell into a deeper snowbank that I couldn’t see.

“Forget it! Just come back! ” The Doctor called out. “We don’t have time to search for it!”

“Please don’t tell me it's important.”

“It had special medicine inside it. It is important but…”

“...Doc?”

Takahashi frowned for a moment – brushing the frost from his scraggly facial hair like he was pondering something – before looking at me, “...perhaps we won’t need it.”

I wasn’t sure what the Doctor planned to do now that this crucial medicine was now suddenly gone. Night was setting and the white haze was now becoming darker. Making it back to town at this point would be impossible. Luckily for us we had made it to our destination. As Doctor Takahashi claimed, the field past the large barbed wire fence had a house in its center. I could faintly see the lights of a house cut through the darkening sky. A literal beacon in the night.

It still took us another fifteen minutes to find the gate between the fence and trudge through the last field. At this point my body was starting to feel the effects of frostbite and I couldn’t risk using Magic now in case we might have needed it later. A good thing too considering the Doctor would have been up the proverbial creek without me.

I’ll be sure he didn’t forget this extra effort I put in.

When we finally reached the main property I was a bit taken aback by the size of the house. Most homes I had seen this far out were typically bigger since there weren’t strict zoning laws for agricultural land. This place wasn’t some simple farmers house. There was a sizable wall surrounding what appeared to be an out of place millionaires mansion contrasting rural Japanese village esthetic.

It was the kind of place I was used to seeing as someone who was born in a North American country. Five stories tall, a stylized metal bar gate around the front where a long driveway leading up to a double door entrance was lit up like a Christmas tree. A place like this should have owners who could afford better medical care than some old fossil like Takahashi who ran a small town clinic. This screamed all kinds of sketchy to me.

“Is this really the house?”

“It is. You must be on your best behavior when we go inside and must not speak of anything you see. This family is not one to be trifled with. Better that you keep your identity a secret.”

I raised an eyebrow at that last part but nodded all the same. “I know how to be discreet.”

“Then we shall proceed then. I’ll be counting on you Lad.”

So perhaps this was not a matter of money but of privacy for the owners. If someone rich lived all the way out in the middle of nowhere like this they likely preferred outsiders staying out of their business. Whether that was because their business was of the… illegal variety, was also a likelihood. I wouldn’t make any assertions though before seeing what I was walking into for myself.

Bang bang bang! BANG BANG BANG!

I wrapped my knuckle on the front door as hard as I could, seeing there wasn’t a doorbell to push. Hopefully whoever lived here could hear it as the Doctor was looking more weary by the minute. Honestly, I was tempted to simply barge in given the state we were in and the effort it took to get here. The large font gate was open so they likely did so with knowledge of the Doctor’s eventual arrival.

Thankfully, for both our sakes the door opened and a gasp of heat hit us a comforting sign of refuge.

“Takahashi-sensei! Thank goodness you’re finally here!” Standing at the threshold was a voluptuous woman in a revealing blue dress. She looked young – likely late twenties to early thirties – with striking and distinct blonde hair and clear blue eyes. I was sort of taken aback by the fact that this person wasn’t actually of Japanese descent but clearly of an Anglo-Saxon background. I didn’t think anyone like this lived in such a remote region of Hokkaido when many here weren’t overly fond of foreigners.

I had a slightly unpleasant feeling beginning to rise in my stomach. More of a nauseous feeling as the likelihood of some ridiculously beautiful Caucasian woman was sending my cliché character readings in a tailspin.

And as if the universe was trying to punish me the Doctor revealed just what Lions evil I had unknowingly walked into.

“My apologies, it took me a while to get here. As you can see the conditions made it difficult. I’m sorry for the delay… Sharpe-san.

Oh no… No, no, no, no, no!

My toes curled. Legs bracing to keep me from falling over as I thought I was going to faint. If there was ever a place in the entire world where I didn’t want to be then it was here!

Like every successful game series there were bosses, villains, and adversaries that persisted throughout the story. Some more pronounced and vocal with their attempts to thwart the player and others that turned the gears of conflict in the background.

Four games – Four final bosses each more powerful than the last.

Three of which I played and knew who were the final battles for each. But of all those that thwarted the player there was one who was said to be the strongest in the entire world. Someone who sought to rule it like many cliche villains before him. Someone who was rumored to be the final boss of the last game as his story had yet to conclude in the previous three. A slow build up to the inevitable conclusion to that climatic showdown.

“Estella, my love, I think it best to show the dear Doctor to Livia as soon as possible.”

A voice as sharp as his namesake hit my ears like a blade. Coming down the stairs in the main foyer to their home was the most dangerous man in this entire world. A figure so powerful that he made Grampy look like an angry child.

He stood nearly seven feet tall with a build that was lean yet well defined in his three piece suit. Like the game his magically enhanced red eyes seemed to glow and be accentuated by his jet black hair which was neatly trimmed and gelled back similarly to Nobuo’s style. The big difference being that he had an equally trimmed beard and mustache to go along with his kingly appearance.

Even in his very presence I could feel my skin tingle. Everything about him made me want to not look him directly in his eyes lest I be swallowed up by that intangible power he was exhuming. Yet, doing so flashed images in my mind of how pointless that action would be. That he would kill me with the same ease as swatting a mosquito.

He undoubtedly held the stature of the truest villain of the Love Hero Chronicles!

Devin Sharpe!

“Of course, of course! My apologies! You both must be freezing after walking all the way here!” Estella Sharpe gracefully ushed us both in like we honored guests.

“Thank you kindly,” the Doctor said as he stamped the snow off his ankles on the entry mat.

“Thanks.” I mumbled quietly, doing the same.

I kept my back turned to the Patriarch of the Sharpe family as much as I could. Doing my utmost to blend in behind the Doctor as much as humanly possible. Even then it didn’t erase the feeling that the imposing titan was watching me carefully, likely curious as to the mysterious boy who he just allowed into his place of sanctum.

“What’s Livia-chan’s current condition,” Takahashi asked.

“Not well,” Devin answered. “Her temperature has been steadily rising and the amount of blood she is coughing up is happening more frequently.”

The Doctor grunted, unhappy at this news. “Well I’m afraid things are a little difficult then. In our rush to get over here I lost my medicine bag in the storm with the pills she needs inside of it.”

Devin’s expression didn’t change from what I could make out from my peripheral but Estalla clearly looked upset by this news. If these ‘pills’ the Doctor was referring to were what I thought they were then Livia Sharpe’s condition was the last thing we needed to worry about. The circumstances behind her story as one of the heroines of the story was incredibly hard to defeat and required a lot of grinding and planning in order to defeat her.

“Do you require assistance in retrieving it,” Devin asked.

I felt Takahashi place a firm hand on my shoulder, maneuvering me in between him and this nutjob. “No. If things are as dire as you say then I believe we can make do with my young assistance gift until I can get more.”

“Assistant?” With the faint red glow of Devin’s eyes casting over me I stood rigid like a tree doing my damndest not to piss myself. “Quite curious of you to bring such a young boy with you. Tell me young man, just how old are you?”

“I–I–I’m ten years old, sir.”

“Only ten? How interesting. You're not much older than my own children. Just what sort of assistance does the good Doctor here have faith in that he would bring you here?”

“I-I can…” I was really struggling to speak and I was grateful my young appearance allowed me to get away with the excuse of being shy around strangers. If someone as mysterious and private as Devin Sharpe was hiding out here of all places, it was best not give him any reason to make myself out to be a threat. A man like him didn’t give one wit about committing murder, no matter who or how old they were.

[Healing Hands]

So in response to that I raised my hands, noting the redness in their complexion and the numbness in their touch. With my spell cast these discomforts quickly faded until they and the rest of my frost nipped body were warm and healthy again. The Light of my spell not hiding just how apparent it was that I was using an affinity in which the Sharpe family both despised and coveted for different reasons.

“A proficient Light Magic user at such a young age?” Devin muttered, his eyes widening just slightly in surprise at me. “Such a valuable assistant you have Takahashi-sensei but I doubt he possesses the power to help my daughter.”

“I’m aware but it should be enough to subdue her symptoms until I can get a hold of the medicine,” Takahashi said.

“Livia is in so much pain right now.” Estella stated sadly. “Why not give him this young man a chance, my love?”

“Perhaps… Come.” With a motioning hand to his wife, Devin beckoned us to follow him up the steps towards the second floor. While it wasn’t a sign of approval, I would take it as a good sign that he wouldn’t try to do unspeakable things to me until I gave him a reason to. “I’m putting a lot of faith in your decisions Takahashi-sensei. I hope you know how much I value the health of my one and only daughter.”

Which would be very little from what I saw in the story.

“I understand. I’ll take responsibility if anything bad should happen.”

“I’ll hold you to that.”

Great. This was exactly what I needed; More pressure placed on me. The only thing that would make this any better would be if Devin just summoned that scary looking blade he wielded and rested it against my neck. If my sarcasm wasn’t readily apparent then I would go on and say it would be even greater if Estella here just started kicking me in the balls too. Just to really twist the knife on this shitty situation.

I doubt any of these ‘adults’ really cared that they were putting the fear of death into a kid. Devin was understandable, Estalla looked kind of spacy and Takahashi… well… maybe I shouldn’t have come after all. Some things were more important than money. Especially if I wasn’t even alive to spend it.

“Here we are.” Devin gestured to one of the many doors that were stretched along the long hallways of his mansion. None of them looked any different from any of the others, making it incredibly difficult for guests or intruders from finding their way. “A word of warning young man. I expect what you see here to remain a secret. I will impress upon you never to speak of this. Do you understand?”

I gave a stiff nod, trying really hard to keep my eyes locked on his to convey my sincerity. “Perfectly.”

“Good.” With a gentle knock, Devin opened the door to the dimly lit room. Softly stepping inside I noted how clean and tidy the place was. Very sparse too with no sign of toys or anything a kid Livia’s age would play. It made sense that the man who used her daughter as a pawn to take over the world wouldn’t care much for her to possess such things. “Livia, my darling, how are you feeling?”

“Kah! Kaah! D-Daddy?” The sound of coughing echoed in the room. At the head of the room was a large queen size canopy bed with a black and red trim where the softest voice I had ever heard in my entire life called out.

Estella rushed over, leaning on the bed to fuss over her sick daughter. “Oh Livia, my princess! How are you feeling?” She cooed at the tiny blonde girl who was coughing up a small glob of blood into a red stained handkerchief.

Livia whimpered, trying to sniff away her tears. “My tummy really hurts a lot.”

“It will be alright. We’ve brought someone here who’ll make your tummy all better.”

With that I was motioned forward. High expectations placed upon me to help her.

The red eyes of the little heroine looked at me with an innocent hope that her mothers promise was beyond reproach or deception. Seeing her like this made me realize just how different this little eight year was to the sadistic character portrayed in the game. A sort of disconnect in my understanding of how far a child like this had to be pushed into becoming a monster.

As I took a step closer Livia seemed to retreat behind her blanket, a certain shyness that was likely cast away before meeting her in the story. She looked so pale and frighteningly skinny. Like a clay doll that was as brittle as stained glass. Right now all she saw was a strange boy in her room, seeing her when she felt her absolute worst. No different from any other little girl in a similar situation.

While Devin might have been worse than Komuro, that didn’t mean Livia Sharpe was any worse than Toki was now and the influence those men unduly had on them. That’s right. I was too focused on what she might become to how she was now. Letting this monster beside me mess with my focus and what I needed to do.

So it was time to get my head out of my ass and help her!

“Your name is Livia, right?” I asked, slowly taking a seat on the edge of her bed.

“Y-Yes.” She said very quietly, only poking her head out just a little bit.

I smiled at how adorable she was. Definitely a lot friendlier than Toki was. Craning my head up toward the top of the canopy, I noticed the blank dark wood that it was made of. In fact the entire room seemed to be painted in dark, earthy colors that only made this room seem that much more bleak. What a drab and dark place this was for a girl like this to live in.

“I'm curious… Do you like looking up at the stars?”

The little blonde girl looked confused by my strange question but eventually dipped her head. “I-I guess. It’s too cloudy to see them most of the time.”

“Too cloudy? Well that is a problem. Perhaps if we can’t see the stars then I’ll need to bring the star here.” Raising my left hand I aimed my palm flat to the ceiling of the canopy.

[Enlighten]

It was another basic spell that Light Magic users or those with high Magic Quantity could use. It essentially expelled some type of substance to any surface it touched and made it glow. I played around with it a bit and noticed that the more I extended my palm, the more likely it would splatter on a surface like paint. Even after a month the stuff still retained a faint glow and could be seen on the roof of my little shack and was now dotting the ceiling of Livia’s canopy like the many stars in the night sky.

Much to the girls' delight.

“Amazing. It’s so pretty. How did you do–Kah! Kah Kah! Kaaak!”

“Livia!” Estella cried, holding her daughter as Livia began to cough more violently than before. “Please, you must do something!”

It was as I expected. My spell did more than just draw her attention. Wth the glow of my Magic now cast on her in this confined space I could see the unnatural darkness that was swirling around her abdomen. It slowly began to spread up towards her chest and would likely continue until her whole body was swallowed up.

Like a sentient parasite the artifact Devin had used to unnaturally amplify the power of his children’s Dark Magic had been too much for their bodies. He had implanted a half of this object into each of them just after they were born with the hope they would reach a level similar to his own much more quickly. However he didn’t take into account that the cursed thing kept trying its damndest to take over and control them as a consequence of its own will. Those moments in the game where the artifact’s will became too strong for either Livia or her brother to handle was when the horrific monster that lived inside of it came out. Its power fully unleashed when both succumb at the same time to unleash that… Demon!

A grotesque being that only embodied utter darkness and the need to feed on humans.

“It hurts so much!” Livia cried as her body spasmed out of her control. “Please make it stop!”

I wouldn’t let it!

“You asked how I was able to create such beautiful stars?” I raised my right index finger which glowed with Light Magic. “You see… When I was much younger I had a hard time sleeping. My room was always so dark that I was always afraid that there was a monster that was waiting in a place I couldn’t see.” I began to slowly raise the amount of magic until more of my fingers began to glow. “So my Mother went out and bought a night light hoping that it would help me with my fear of the dark.” I clasped my hands together, concentrating the light between the folds of my palms. “Except that it didn’t. Even with my little night light there was still darkness; Under my bed, in my closet, and even in the shadows the light cast. So what was to do then? How could I sleep when the darkness never seemed to go away?” I finally began pulling my hands apart, the concentrated light casting away all natural darkness in the room. “The answer became simple! It was even more light! Light I created on my own!”

[Nightsbane!]

“SKREEEEHH!”

Like nails on a chalkboard the dark entity within Livia began to show its true form. The sheer decibels it created nearly broke my concentration on the spell. When that failed the intangible creature began to try and push back against my light with its own strength. Unfortunately for it, the amount of Dark Magic it required was far short to hold itself against mine. With its power split in two and being weakened to the host it was inhabiting I held the advantage in this fight! I was the one who would make it afraid!

“I see you, Demon! You cannot hide from me! I will not take this innocent child as your own!”

“Curse you! Curse you little insect!”

“Insect? Impudent words from a parasite! Now… BEGONE!”

One last burst of my magic and the sounds of the creature vanished. Eventually my Light also began to dim down allowing everyone to see properly again. I was certain Devin was able to see what happened clearly due to his special vision. Although he too was weakened from Light Magic I doubted that amount was enough to even faze him. It would take a lot of training before I was anywhere close to his level.

About eight more stars if I was calculating correctly.

Regardless of that long term goal, the current objective seemed to be a success. Livia had remained conscious throughout the ordeal and appeared to rapidly be getting her normal complexion back. It appeared my Magic not only sent the demon back into its slumber but also cured any ailments Livia had as a result of it trying to possess her. Quite the nie bonus, if I do say so myself.

“There. All better know,” I said, slowly getting up to my feet. I was a little hazy since that one spell took up the rest of my Magic. It would be a while before I could do something like that in succession. Hopefully sooner rather than later.

Takahashi muttered something I couldn’t hear before leaning in to examine Livia for himself. “I need you to sit up Livia-chan. Can you do that?” When the girl mutely nodded –still perplexed by the situation – he proceeded to check her airways, temperature, circulation and pulse before cupping ear up against her back to listen more closely to her heart’s rhythm. A few minutes later he seemed satisfied by her state and gave me a nod of satisfaction.

Estella was ecstatic as she swooned over her happy and giddy daughter.

“Very well done, Lad.”

“You certainly get your money’s worth out of me.” I shrugged, trying to act as casually as I could. I felt like shit right now. Vision flickering in and out. Breathing uneven. Livia was fine now but I was the one who could really use a doctor at the moment.

I wouldn’t fall though. At least until I was somewhere safe and far away from this place.

“Oho! You really do have a thing for money, don’t you? I’ll be sure to give a Christmas bonus for this then.”

“If a debt must be paid then I’m afraid it shall be me that pays it.” Devin said, stepping in between Takahashi and I. The tall man looked like a giant compared to me. Staring down at my small stature with a look that made me think I may have just gotten the attention of someone I shouldn’t have. “In fact I insist you stay the night so that I can treat you properly for what you’ve done.”

“Oh I couldn’t impose like that.” I held my hands up, slowly taking a step back to regain some personal space. “Besides I really should be going ho–Oof!

“–As I said; I insist.” Faster than I could react, Devin reached out and grabbed me by my shoulders, keeping me from falling backwards. I really was out of it if I could stand up straight. “No need to act tough for my sake, Young man. You must have been fatigued trekking through the storm to get here and now strained yourself to heal my daughter. Even someone like myself can see you're not in any shape to go anywhere tonight.”

“I… I really need to…”

I was scrambling for any excuse I could get. Those red eyes seeing through me like I was made of glass. I knew the look in his eyes. The hunger and ambitions to control powerful assets and to throw them away when they were used up. I wouldn’t let my goodwill towards Livia keep me from going under Komuro’s thumb to this Monster’s instead!

Desperate times called for desperate measures then!

Reaching into my pocket I pulled out the small marble I kept tucked away. It was the gem that was left when a Toungling was killed. All monsters left a gem of a certain type when they were defeated. Typically they were black but others could be blue, red, yellow, or green. Those ones typically had an effect that could give the players a bonus for a short period of time. Including regeneration of health and magic.

As someone who played the game and didn’t like to spend money on items from shops I used an interesting feature the developers added. When certain types of magic were cast on the black orbs their function as a form of currency was used for the purpose of why people accepted them as money in the first place; There use in crafting. When Fire magic was applied, for example, one could use the black gems to craft magic items that were of a higher quality and rating than normal ones.

For Light magic the effect was even better. With the [Purify] spell the black gem turned white and in effect became an extension of my Light Magic – healing injuries and even restoring a small amount of the person's magic. A very useful thing to possess even though the spell itself was difficult to use and even getting the gem itself involved risking getting brutally killed by a monster. So unfortunately for me this one was all I had on me.

From how Devin flinched at the sight of it, I knew he was aware of what I was doing. “Wait, isn’t that a…”

I bit down on the white orb, swallowing it quickly as the bland taste of it rolled down my throat. While it was bitter medicine this type didn’t take long for it to work. Within seconds my fatigue was fading and a small portion of my magic returned. This time I more purposefully removed my shoulders from his hands and moved out into the hall.

“Again I appreciate the kind gesture Master Sharpe but I really must be going back home. I’m sure Doctor Takahashi could use a room for the night but I know my family must be worried sick about me to be out this late.” A bold faced lie if ever there was one but definitely a good excuse. I offered a small bow to the man before edging away. “I’ll see myself out.”

Waiting for no more prompting I walked swiftly until I was around the corner of the hall before I booked it towards the entrance. Even though everything generally looked the same I made sure to note the way back so I could get the hell out of here as soon as possible. The longer I stayed here made me worried it might become indefinite the more Devin learned more of my talents.

It only took me two minutes to reach the front foyer again and the front door to freedom. Of course the storm had only gotten worse and it was now completely dark out but I wouldn’t take that as a problem. If I had any luck within me it would also hinder that Monster too. He may have been overpowered but I knew for a fact even Devin Sharpe wasn’t omnipotent.

“You seem like you are in a hurry, Young man? Perhaps there is a reason for it? Have I offended you somehow?”

“...Shit.”

But again… still overpowered.

Standing between me and the front gate was Devin. Once more he was blocking my path from escaping. I knew I wasn’t strong enough to force my way out but he had no real reason to keep me here against my will. I doubt he had the means to control me just yet like he was able to with characters in the game. No, he would keep trying persuasion first.

“As I said I really need to go home.”

“And where is that exactly? I’m more than happy to inform your parents about the situation. I’m sure they’ll understand and can come pick you up tomorrow.” Devin gestured around him, slowly but firmly taking steps towards me in order to guide me back to the house. “I’m afraid I can’t let someone so young go out into such a dangerous snowstorm this late at night.” While that sounded like something a responsible adult would do, I had no illusions that he was full of shit. He wanted to keep tabs on me at the very least and like the more unfortunate side characters in the game; To persuade whomever was taking care of me to simply hand me over.

Just like Livia and her twin brother, Levis, had been when their mother – their real mother – had died. Without their biological father around those two were able to be taken in without anyone noticing the truth. Whether Estella was just used as cover or a really good actor was also part of his scheme.

If he found out I was an orphan being poorly handled by the Yukihana…

I guess I was wrong then. He’ll use whatever means to keep me here.

“As I said; I don’t fear the dark and I’m sure as hell not afraid of a little snow either!” I took a defensive stance, ready to use Light Magic to blind this Monster as much as I could and attempt to get away. Even if I was likely to fail I wouldn’t roll over so easily. “I’ll say this one last time! I’m going home so move out of my way!”

[Enlighten!]

I didn’t wait for his reply. The man couldn’t use his full strength without hurting me so I would use that to my advantage. Additionally, he had no idea I was skilled in other areas besides Light Magic leaving me with a chance to surprise him. Moving solely on reflex to cast my magic and to dive forward in the same movement as I felt something graze by the top of my head. Whether it was Lady luck finally giving a decent roll I could hear Devin mutter a curse as he likely ran to my Magic as he tried to grab me.

I barely caught a glance of him wiping his eyes trying to remove the effects of my magic without any success. It seems like I was right about another fatal flaw he had. As the most powerful man in the world he never bothered learning counters against magic that were deemed harmless. Enlighten was a spell used to merely brighten up dark places. For Light Magic there were many better spells that could do that to blind an opponent but none were persistent or long term like Enlighten was.

Not resting on my own laurels I already prepared another spell. One much more costly but enough to throw but would hide my presence just long enough for me to find somewhere to hide. Once I was just past the gate I unleashed it, using the two concrete pillars acting as posts for it to cover me from sight.

While Light Magic had been my go to affinity it lacked any real offensive capability. So in turn it forced me to look at my secondary affinity; Null Magic for some type a means to fight without burning through my Magic Quantity on other types of magic. I could only give credit to the original Hisato for this as it was from him that this idea came about.

Null Magic was simply magic without any defined characteristics. Meaning it was rare, unforced and shapeless. That made it incredibly difficult to use when it was so varied. However, since a vast majority of the people in the world could access it that meant there were no defined limits on what it could be.

In the Love Hero Chronicles some of the party members had jobs that gave them more depth. Most of the Heroines had hobbies like cooking, making accessories, or offering unique image changes for the character to customize his look. Everyone of these gave him bonuses to his stats and abilities whether he ate, wore, or changed them, respectively. Hisato was also programmed with a job in order to give him some sense of usefulness after the early game was over and most people stopped using him.

His hobby that buffed the main character was tailoring.

He used materials gathered by monsters to create powerful clothing for the party to wear. Even when he stopped being a playable character in the second game if a person playing made certain choices he could still be around in the sequel games as a side character who runs a clothing kiosk not far from the Magic Academy.

I sure as hell didn’t plan on being relegated to that role.

What was important about that though was his use of manipulating thread with magic in order to weave such clothing. That itself had so many potentials of being an overpowered cliché I had opted on using it in combat… at least until I realized how difficult it was to do until I raised my Magic Control. At the moment I couldn’t move or manipulate individual threads to subdue or harm opponents without my control over them failing or for them to simply break free. It was certainly a far cry from being effective in a fight… However, I found out through a lot of trial and error that something thicker and longer like a rope had been much easier to control and would break so easily.

[Thread Mantle]

So that’s what I did.

Using the stone post as cover I discarded my jacket and used a rope attached to the hem to manipulate it from a distance. Right now one I could only extend a rope no further than 150m. Any further and I would begin to lose control. That was also when I was at full Magic Quantity and not when I was running on fumes, like I was right now. So as I tucked down in the shadow of the gate I sent my jacket flying out into the darkness as far and as quickly as I could.

I was never more thankful when seeing Devin’s visage blurred past the gate in an enraged stupor. With his vision not at a hundred percent it was a safe bet he fell for my ruse.

This was it. My last chance.

Exhausted, tired, and now without my jacket I was running as fast as my legs could carry me North. I was hesitant to go in the direction where Devin knew when the Doctor and I walked through but since I had a rough idea of where the Yukihana compound was from here I could make a slight adjustment to my heading and decrease the likelihood of finding me. Hopefully with everything that would be enough to get him off my tail.

I should have just said I was sick when I got there or taken Devin up on his offer to find Doctor Takahashi’s medicine bag or… something – anything other than letting him see my talent! It was foolish of me to think he’d see me as insignificant or someone he could potentially sway later on. Devin Sharpe was a man after the whole word. When he wanted something he took it, consequences be damned.

We were unfortunately similar in that regard.

Trudging through snow that threatened to swallow me up. Darkness for miles on end with no sight of shelter of civilization. It was everything I had come to hate about this world all summed up into this moment. Even as my mind went blank, moving forward on autopilot, and having nothing but a faint sense of hope that this nightmare would end keeping me going.

That's all this was; Some test to see how much I could put up with before I broke. I died and was brought here to suffer for some reason. To die again all alone with only the feeling of helplessness within me. My words to the Yukihana as worthless to them as my intentions to follow my own path were to Devin Sharpe. For all my confidence I was still a child in this world. A child to them to use as they saw fit. To die as they saw fit.

I put these self deprecating thoughts aside for the moment once I reached what appeared to be a back road. The snow leveled out and the faint signs of heavy tire tracks compacting the snow were visible. They appeared to be heading in the same direction as Horonobe so I was likely on the right track. With only the tiniest flickers I could just make out the signs of a small homestead. Once more I would reluctantly rely on blind faith that whoever lived there would give me sanctuary until morning.

Rubbing my skin to stay as warm as possible I began running towards it with the last of energy. Every breath strained just to run just a little bit more. My feet had gone completely numb by this point but I didn’t care. My body ached from excessive Magic use but I didn’t care. I didn’t have a real home to return to but I didn’t care! No matter how bad things were right now I wouldn’t give in just yet! I would keep going!

The shimmering light was getting much brighter now. Every step bringing me that much closer towards it. When it appeared to be minutes away I finally took a chance to catch my breath. Smiling and happy beyond belief that I could get out of the elements and make it out of these past two shitty days I’ve had.

CLAP CLAP CLAP!

“I’m impressed.”

"And I'm… an… idiot."

I slumped to my knees as what I was actually seeing strode up to me with a coy smile on his glowing face. Devin walked up with all the pride afforded to him after he used my own means to get away from him against me as well. It really was funny in a way that was what led me right to him.

"Do not look so disappointed, Young Man. You truly have impressed me far more than anyone else has in a long time." He was standing over me now, very carefully removing his own overcoat and draping me with it. It felt extremely warm and comforting even though I knew this was more trickery. "I can't really explain it but I see so much of myself in you that it's gotten my heart racing again. An excitement I thought I lost after I reached the point where I am now."

"Bullshit!"

"...Pardon me?"

"I said bullshit! You don't see myself in you! You see what you once were!"

“But that’s the point. I see your potential. I see your future.” I felt Devin's hand placed on top of my head. A strange yet surreal moment where it kind of felt like he was anointing me. “I see myself helping guide that potential. I see myself giving you everything you’ve been denied and helping you reach the heights you so desperately want to reach for.”

Could he?

From where I was now making taking the devil’s hand was a solid option. I had no doubt it would irrevocably change what I know about the story and could take me down a path that would likely destroy me before making it back home. But where I was now was no good.

I was struggling and I was… angry! So angry and tired!

Perhaps… Perhaps I could take a chance and use it to my advantage.

Perhaps I could start truly taking control of my new life?

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Quaralknight

  • Standing right behind you
  • Not actually a knight

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