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Paroxysm

Predictable

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Security today was on a redeye, caffeine and greasy food drip feed at the Purple Penguin. One or two people would come, and, once, as many as a group of five, but they all received the same treatment. To be turned away. Twice, the ensuing argument escalated to a physical confrontation, but Purple Penguin’s security carried wands. Not the friendly neighborhood magician kind, either. The sort that had names like ‘Wand of Theodore’s Infernal Salvo’, or ‘Wand of Sebastian’s Wailing Whoreson’. 

Free thinker, the sorcerer Sebastian. 

This wasn’t a typical night, so one could forgive the confusion and outrage at being turned away at the door; they might as well question the virility and masculinity of those men, what with how important being seen in the Purple Penguin could be. That social credit wasn’t going to generate itself. No, normal was a throng of degenerates, all pushing and shoving at one another, their pressing forward, yelling, cursing, and trying to get past security and into the club. Where the music was loud and the drinks hard, and the drugs flowed like the river Styx, carrying you to numb, mindless oblivion. Literally. 

Look, don’t do drugs in Palgard, kids.

Decked from head to toe in black and gray, with armor simultaneously enjoying the benefits of a self-repairing magical Shell and the physical, if mundane, attenuative properties of some material they didn’t care to learn more about, Artean was the least confused of everyone not actually inside the club. And that was because Artean knew what was happening.

!!00:00!!
Time. Resetting count.

A helpful internal monologue began, but Artean grunted a sub-vocal command and the timer halted, flashing annoyingly in their field of vision before it was waved away. In that moment, the security at the door shuffled to the side, letting one of the Bessho-kai through, followed by a small figure with a bag over their head, hands behind their back, and two more of the Bessho-kai. Two of the three thugs had carried nothing visible on them as a weapon, but Artean’s predictive interface alerted to several likely possibilities; it was the man in the lead that worried Artean most out of the three, however. He carried a large, fist-sized bell, the color of jade, holstered carefully to his belt. Faith-based magic was always a surprise, and, without fail, an annoyance to deal with.

Anomaly detected.
Continue predictive analysis?

Yes, Artean said in another sub-vocal command, stiffening in anticipation of the data dump.

A moment passed, and then Artean knew what the bell was. The Mother’s Incessant Needling, which meant the name either didn’t translate well to Terric, or that the predictive modeling of the Oracle construct still needed some work. Artean’s guess was both, or that the priest or priestess that made the item needed to work on some things. That said, the weapon was hardly a surprise. The Bessho-kai had a reputation; they were honorable, in the sense that they would keep their word; they were violent, but not abusive so long as you knew your place; and they took their strain of religion very seriously indeed, with their grandfathers and grandmothers, devout in their faith, highly placed. Near-sacred instruments of power weren’t common, but they weren’t uncommon either.

Artean stood from their prone position and faded back, dropping over the lip of the tenement building they had been using for surveillance, and made their way down the side of the building, careful to avoid making too loud of a noise, and only touching down as the group passed through the alley, with them a good several feet ahead.

Quiet as a wraith, Artean surged forward, the light-polluted night darkening as shadows deepened, pooling in thick ribbons across the ground. A translucent blade formed around Artean’s fingers, which were extended and held rigid as the hand came down in a chop, the aura of power making up for the difference in reach between Artean and the nearest Bessho-kai.

!!E͠R̵͔̫̬̲̯͉̞R̗͈̭͙͉RRO͏̯̪R̩̱!!

The trailing thug turned, preceded by the white outline of his future self, and ghost-fire gushed from his mouth, with his real-self threatening to realize the event as the Oracle foresaw. Artean pulled back, the force aura transmuting from a blade to a half-dome shield, bleeding off fire in a wave as heat dispersed against the armor’s shell enchantment.

Spectral fireballs loomed in the near future, and the smallest of the figures was pulled away by the lead thug, who rushed away as the two other Bessho-kai began their assault in earnest.

Artrean retreated back in time to avoid being overwhelmed, ducking outside the alley and using the wall for cover. Several lines fractured the field of vision, warning Artean of the damage the mask had sustained.

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