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Fantasy Into the Dread Labyrinth



Ten Thousand Club

A group of Raiders were screaming as they ran for their lives.

"RUN! RUN!!!"

One of them shouted to the others. With others repeating the same at various places, resulting in the word being echoed around.

A totally unnecessary thing to do. They all already knew to do just that. They were all, already doing that.

"JUST WHAT ARE THOSE MONSTERS?!?!" someone hysterically cried out, glancing back.

Skeletal knights clad in black armor rode atop skeletal horses, with blackened bones. The red eyes of the beast and its skeletal rider gleamed like beacons in the dark of the labyrinth. This floor, in particular, had the moodiness of a stereotypical graveyard. Only at the size of plains and forests.

A powerful explosion rocked the area behind the fleeing Raiders. Cast by a woman standing there, long hair and leather skirt flowing in the pressure, her back shadowed by the tremendous wall of flame before her. Engulfing quite a number of those horsemen.

But then more horsemen thundered through the flames. And shrill shrieks echoed in the air.

And the group grit their teeth, or bit their lip. Everyone's steps faltered, and their hearts split. Another was lost.

"Come on! Come on! Keep going!!" A voice rang out, the man who had assumed leadership after Tombstone. In hindsight, not a great name considering. "We're nearly to the next floor!! Don't let Tomb's sacrifice be in vain!!"

His shout reinvigorated everyone, and they picked up the pace, heading for the ominous staircase in front of them. If they could just reach the next floor-!


"JUST WHAT ARE THESE THINGS?!?!" a voice echoed someone from earlier. They were now on the third floor. And they were still being chased. "I've never heard of monsters chasing through multiple floors!!"

The Raiding company were on their last legs. They had been running for nearly two days straight, with very little rest in-between. Straight through floors 6, 5, 4, and now 3. And they had lost more than half their number. Including Tombstone, and his girlfriend Firestarter. Who were the party's leader and vice-leader, respectively. Both were the rare Chosen with a magnificent B rank Talent.

And now they were lost.

Now, they were all about to die. Even though they had Talents, their bodies were on fire. Running for this long was just not sustainable. They were all about to crash.

But then the staircase leading up to the second floor came into view, and with it, they regained a bit more will to continue on. Their parameters were on fire, but Willpower went up a few points. Enough to make it.

Their pursuers stopped at the staircase. And the remaining Chosen stopped, too, looking back at the undead riders that were chasing them.

"Wh~hy did.. they... sh..shtop?" one of the men gasped out, through pained breaths, kneeling on his knees. The group of them looked back down the stairs. Those undead riders just stood at the bottom, staring up at them with hatred-filled eye sockets.

"Who.. Who knows?.. But.. we.. we finally got a break..! Just.. just count your blessings. Or thank the gods. Or whatever... C'mon.. lets rest.. Then get out of here."

"Can we even rest?" asked another, staring out across the second floor. Even from here, they could see monsters had returned to the path before them.

Bonecrusher -what a joke of a name, considering the situation- the de facto leader now, took in a deep breath. "They shouldn't be as tough as those fiends below."

"But we lost Tombstone and Firestarter! And we're down to half manpower!"

"What do you want?! Huh?! Suck it up. We're nearly home free! Power through it! Aren't you a Chosen?!"

Everyone bowed their heads. Gasping for breath. Sweat and blood dripping from their battered and bruised bodies. Monsters swarming before them. Glowing yellow eyes turning in their direction, noticing them for the first time.


"So once again, the dungeon raid has ended in failure?"

"Yes, sir."

"You lost Tombstone and Firestarter..?"

"Yes." Bonecrusher said, lowering his head. "When those strange undead riders surprise attacked, Tombstone went to defend his the Vice-commander. He died doing so. Then, because she was heavily wounded, Firestarter died giving us all a chance to escape."

"So we lost a B-rank Warrior and Mage?" The man sighed, pushing up his glasses, and pinching the bridge of his nose. B ranks were already hard to come by. Losing two was a colossal disaster. Especially the mage, with her big aoe spells that dealt massive damage. "Firestarter was our ace in the hole. We've been relying on her magic to wipe out huge hordes of monsters... Now what are we going to do?"

"Yes, I know," said Bonecrusher. Yes, when they were coming back, the lack of her presence was definitely felt. It became easily 2x harder to kill even the basic monsters without those fire spells. Mage Talents were beyond the most sought-after. It made his C rank Smashing talent seem like a total joke.

"We're going to have to do a screening."

"A screening?" he asked, looking back up. Unsure of what that was.

"Yes. We'll disguise it as a festival or something, so not to lower collective morale. Time to replace what was lost. Hopefully we can find someone who can replace a B-rank talent..."

"You want to sweep Tombstone's and Firestarter's death under the rug?!" Bonecrusher shouted in shock, feeling anger welling up inside of him, as he stared at the bespectacled, grey-haired old man in front of him.

"We'll give them an appropriate send off. Very respectful." He said to assuage the man's concerns. "But for the people, and Ambition, this is necessary. Maintain perspective." The man said, glaring at Bonecrusher. Though he was only C rank, he had a few Talents that were fairly synergetic. They worked collectively to make the man in front of him stronger than an average C ranker. Plus he was well-trained, smart, and experienced. Bonecrusher would have to be their rock going forward. Until they found replacements for the two that were lost.

Bonecrusher could only glare back.

Prelude to the Arrival of S Ranks
Humanity's Last Hope


A girl looked up from where she fell. It's right there. She reached forward. It's right there... It's just -it's so close! It's right there! I'm nearly there! It's.. Mama. Papa.. Your daughter.. she'll make it.

Her hand fell, hitting the caked earth along with her body.

"*huah huahhh* *huff huff*"

She gasped for breath.

It's so close.

The girl's hand gripped through the dried earth, leaving little channels dug out by her fingers.

I'm so close! Just a bit more! I'll survive! I'll live, mother! Father! Your sacrifice..!

A tear streaked down her cheek, before she collapsed, her hand loosening its grip.

I'll survive.

Her head hit the ground, eyes closed.


A thunder rippled out from her heart, forcing her to lean up. Gritting her teeth like a tiger, with one eye clenched closed she growled. "OuuuuRRRHH!! What's thisssss?!?!"

The pain spreading out through her body from her center was unlike anything she had ever felt before.

"URK! GRRHH!! HHAA! AHHHH!!!" She screamed out.

Her scream carried, like a siren's wail across the dead, brown pasture. And the earth shuddered.

Blinking she opened her eyes. What was..?

Her eyes widened.


A strange 'screen' -it could only be described as such- appeared before her eyes. Like something out of a video game.

She knew what this was. Who didn't?

The Dread System.

DS suddenly appeared like a digital logo at the top of the fancy UI. Spreading out, reading Dread System, opening as a blue-transparent window. Her name, status, and everything else was there.

It read:


Dread Name: ~~~
Class: ~~~
Beacons: 0

Talent: ~~~~

Another shudder rippled through her.

But her eyes were drawn to one.

>>>S RANK<<<

"Huh??" Her eyes blinked. What was this?? Was she seeing right?



S Rank.


S Rank.

"Wha~at~??" she mused, with a flabbergasted, worried grin on her face. Could this be true? What in the... No way, right? Right? RIGHT?



This had to be an Unique Talent! She had never read about this talent before!

She checked the Settings tab. Hide was check-marked. Phew. She was just making sure. If Hide wasn't check-marked then that meant it was in "Reveal" mode -and anyone could see her DS when she opened it. Or if they had uniquely prying eyes. It was common sense to keep it in hide.

She closed the screen, then looked up at the city in the distance. Forming a fist, she punched it on the ground, then pushed up.

Floor 0
Assemble the Strongest Party!


Daeva walked through Ambition, hands in her pockets, her gothic skirts swishing around her knees.

After awakening, her appearance changed somewhat. Dark, stringy hair. Whited eyes. A pale complexion.
She looked like a ghoul!

She had scared plenty of people. But not everyone. For the most part, in Ambition, people were used to strangeness.
She pulled away from the window that she had been looking in and walked forward. Then stopped again.

Just before a fancy-looking building, looking up at it.
It read the Academy of Conquerors.

Pfft. Yeah, right.

What a silly name. Just like this city. More of humanity's hubris in that name. She supposed it was named that as more of a 'hope' that humanity had. Hope to conquer the labyrinth. Hope that the students trained therein would be able to do that. But still...

The Academy of Conquerors was one of the first ideas by the Dread Labyrinth Management Association. It was a school built to train Adventurers and Dungeon Raiders. And newbie Chosen.

She wondered if she should join it. After all, wasn't that what she was? A newb Chosen?

But then she thought about it more. Despite all its bluster, they hadn't really managed to accomplish much in the labyrinth had they? Daeva closed her eyes. Perhaps it wasn't worth it after all. She should just check out their library. They had books on Chosen and the labyrinth right? That would probably be sufficient.

But then she was stopped, her eyes drawn to something else.

An announcement on a magi-screen. Constantly repeating its information.

"Today at 1 PM! A display by Chosen! Come join the festivities!.."

Blah blah blah..

"At the Labyrinth Adventurer Guild Arena on Main Street."

Her eyes scanned the rest of the announcement, listening to the cheesy announcer.

Blah blah blah...

"After the exhibitions of Chosen. A screening. Seeking new Chosen! Come out, reveal yourself, and your incredible power!!"

Daeva turned her head. "Hm.." she mused, grabbing her chin lightly. A smile creased her lips.

Then with her hands clasped behind her back, she began skipping towards the site. Her greasy black hair bouncing around cutely. Humming in childish delight. Forcing people to step out of her way, as she showed no signs of stopping as she skipped along, paying no one else any attention whatsoever.


Daeva stepped through one of the doorways, out into the stadium. Many people filled the seats, all cheering, many on their feet, unable to sit still. As her eyes scanned around the huge stadium, lit up with wondrous magi-lights. 4 giant screens magically hung in the air, showcasing what was happening down on the white arena in bigger, higher magi-definition for all to see. Beautiful rainbow explosions rocked the arena's ceiling, and rainbow sparkles rained down to the cheers of the audience.

Eyes drawn down to the arena.

Below a man in a suit with a microphone was joining a Chosen up on stage. The Chosen, ranked B, had just been showcasing his ability. The audience was in a frenzy at what he had just done. The high-ranked officials were already feeling thrilled, having already found a Chosen to replace their lost B rank.

"HOW BOUT THAT, EVERYBODY?!" The announcer in the black suit and sunglasses, shouted, while grabbing the man's arm, lifting it up. "The INCREDIBLE B-RANK TALENT of SUNBREAK!!! DIVINER!!!"

Everyone erupted into cheers. As the man, Sunbreak, with his arm held up, looked around himself, wildly grinning in delight at the attention he was getting.


Daeva's lips curled into a smirk.

Thanny Thanny AriAriAbabwa AriAriAbabwa AnonyMouse AnonyMouse Tau Tau TreasureSniper TreasureSniper Marceline_idue Marceline_idue Vagabond Vagabond Zenritch Zenritch
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Lemondrop Meringue
Thalia_Neko Thalia_Neko


As if the festivities couldn't get any more loud, the next Chosen's entourage outclassed everything. A red carpet rolled out. A marching band of trumpet-blowing players marched out in sync, announcing the arrival with their music. Dozens of servants, butlers, and maids ran ahead, sweeping the already clean grounds of microscopic dirt particles.

Finally, walking down the red carpet, eyes glimmering gold, Lemondrop made her appearance. The audience roared with applause (although some did so because they were paid to), chanting Lemondrop's name. She waved to everyone, accompanied by a dozen bodyguards trailing behind her. Her face then appeared in the air from a magi-tech projector, highlighting the cuteness of her.

Of course, unless they lived under a rock, everybody expected as much from the Mangoshake Meringue's only and beloved daughter.

Speaking of, a muscular blonde man rose from the seats. Sucking in all the air around him, his yell was enough to silence the stadium for a few moments. "DADDY LOVES YOU, SWEETIE!"

Lemondrop spun around mid-walk, waving jovially at her father. One servant passed her a mic. "I love you too, Daddy! Also, everybody, make sure to buy my book that I definitely wrote! It talks about lots of amazing stuff and things!"

Mangoshake wept tears of joy, blowing into a handkerchief. "That's my girl... advertising the merchandise so well."

Lemondrop stopped at the stairs up the stage. That was when her six guards ran in front of her and knelt at her feet. They grabbed the soles of her shoes, muttering to each other. On a count to three, they lifted Lemondrop up, careful not to let her fall. Steadily yet quickly, they brought her closer to the stadium edge where she continued walking.

The announcer chuckled nervously when Lemondrop approached expectantly. "IF IT ISN'T MS. MERINGUE HERSELF! YOU'VE BEEN—"

A guard snatched the mic from his hands, passing it to Lemondrop.
"I, Lemondrop Meringue, have something exciting to share! Something that will blow all of these low-level peasants out of the water!" She opened her Dread System, and dumped every bit of her wallet.

A hill of quartz beacons flooded the stadium. The audience collectively gasped at the mere sight of it all! For a girl who has never killed a monster in her life, she had more than any Adventurer could dream of earning... But all would be (kind of) explained when Lemondrop, sitting on top of the Beacons like a throne, said the next few lines.
"This is my talent! Not a B-rank! An S-rank! S-rank in MONEY! That's right! I, Lemondrop Meringue, am the proud owner of an S-rank Talent! The one and only in this entire world!"

She revealed her Dread System to the audience, still in disbelief over the whole S-rank thing. But their eyes did not deceive them. There was a lull in volume, then exponentially rising excitement as it settled in.

"Make sure to buy my book and shop at Meringue Spelunking!" she screeched.
The Director stared at the screen unable to believe what he was seeing. "Is?! -Is this true?!?! What!? Just what is she doing?!?!" The old man gasped and complained. He felt like a few years had left him. And that wasn't good at his age. He sighed. This wasn't the right time! She wasn't supposed to be the next presented Chosen!! He didn't even know the Meringue daughter was going to make a showing! If he had.. Well, no, there was no use dwelling on it now!

"Quick! Quick! Run a Scroll out there! Confirm if what she's saying is true!!! Then get a statement from her!!" Shouted the Director, shooing some assistant out. Who took the scroll and then raced out at his order.

Systems could be faked with clever magic and talents. Could she be telling the truth? His old wrinkled brows furrowed. Just what was 'S rank', anyway? If it were true... then she must've been the strongest Chosen on the planet! He struck gold! Literally!

The assistant dressed in his own nice suit raced over out of a door and up the stairs. He then raced over to Lemondrop, flashing his badge of identification at her guards, showcasing he was apart of the Dread Labyrinth Management Association -and employed at this event.

Gasping for breath, he slowed and rested on his knee before the girl. "Miss Lemon.. puh.. puh.. drop. Are you.. Is what you say.. puh.. truthful?" He held up a Scroll of Revealing Talent. "Please, if you would, Miss Lemondrop. Touch this and send some of your mana through it. It shall reveal your status. --N~not calling you a liar, Miss Lemond~rop. But.. I-it's procedure! W-we've never dealt with a case like yours... So, if you would.. please?"

Collectively, everyone awaited what the scroll had to say, including the Director, watching behind his monitor. Daeva, too, stood up in the stands, surprised by this turn of events.

AriAriAbabwa AriAriAbabwa
Lemondrop Meringue
Thalia_Neko Thalia_Neko

After her mana flowed through the parchment, it ripped from her hands and flew up into the air. Everyone's eyes were on it, including the guy who delivered it to her. His eyes widened as the scroll changed sizes and unfurled before the entire stadium. A gigantic scroll hung above him in the air.

The scroll unfurled in dramatic fashion, fluttering from mysterious magic winds. There, displayed on its pale parchment, with golden threads fluttering read:


Her S rank talent was on full display, with a glowing, golden S. Sparkles glittered off the fancy lettering.

The rest of her status was on full display for the crowd. Which elicited many gasps across the stadium, all their eyes zoned in on the Scroll of Revealing Talent.

"WHA~ WHA WHA WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT?!?!?!" The man who delivered the scroll gasped, falling to his knees, hands raising up to the sky, eyes bulging, and tears flowing, as if he was witnessing a goddess descending from the heavens.


The Director slapped his hands down on the table back in his office, staring starry-eyed at the screen. Sweat dripping profusely off of him. Quickly he made a mad dash out of his office. He had to see this IN PERSON!

At the same time, the crowd's gasps disappeared, and was replaced with full-blown cheers. The cheering was so loud and thunderous, that it extended far beyond the arena, and actually shook Ambition's Main Street, causing people out on the streets and in neighboring buildings who hadn't gone to the arena that day, to drop what they were doing and look back over in bewilderment at the arena, wondering just what was going on within. But nobody was louder than her hollering father.

"Oh~ ho ho ho!" Angling her hand beneath her chin, Lemondrop's haughty laugh filled the stadium. This was everything she ever imagined! The glitz! The glamor! All eyes on her! She blew kisses to the audience. "I'm so glad you all came just for me!" She continued her odd laughter.

The Director just made it onto the show floor when Lemondrop's workers shot fireworks into the air. They exploded into yellow, lemon-shaped sparkles of light. It was a miracle how the spectators lasted this long without getting an obnoxious vibe from her. Such was the effect of earth-shattering news such as an S rank, though.

As the Director made his way over, the host finally calmed down. "Alright! Looks like that'll kick off our Talent Hunt!!! Thank you, Miss Lemondrop! Any other Chosen with hidden talents that are not yet registered want to come up and unveil themselves?! You may not be as remarkable as Miss Meringue here! But that's okay! Anyone?! Come up and touch the Scroll of Talent Revealing! And demonstrate your Talent for the pleasure of the audience!"
A lone warlock strode through the small village of New Dawn, earning several strange looks that baffled him. He looked a bit dark and creepy, what with the whole "eldritch pact" thing that'd came with the talent, so he was used to jeers. This was different. The humble townsfolk here didn’t just view him as a creep, but as something much more. A threat? But he wasn’t about to harm them; laws were laws.

He continued to cautiously make his way through the market, and the glares only intensified. It was like the village was under a spell. Entering the bakery, he stepped up to the counter. An older woman was just pulling a fresh loaf of bread from the oven, but as she turned, she nearly dropped it in surprise.

"Oh. You here to buy something, sir?" The way she stretched out the end was pointed and hostile. She almost slammed the bread down on the counter.

"Uhh, yeah, just some food for my trip. I have the quartz for it," he held up a beacon, and she eyed it suspiciously.

"Is that all you're after?" she asked.

"Yeah, just a loaf of bread or two. What were you thinking I was after…?"

she answered, slipping two loaves of bread in a large paper bag and taking the quartz. "Just move along then, Warlock."

He exited the bakery and continued through the village, noticing more and more of the awful looks. A couple even spat at his boots! When he finally reached the edge of the village, it couldn’t have been too soon. Finally! But before he’d gone too far, he heard a soft, feminine voice call out behind him.


Before he’d even turned, the voice sent shivers down his spine, but it only grew worse when he finally got a look at the young lady who’d spoken. She had a radiant, otherworldly beauty to her that was only accentuated by an ornate outfit that looked excessive even by labyrinthine standards. It wasn’t her looks that phased him, as much as it was her aura.

It was as if this girl, simply by standing there, was blasting his very soul with a constant barrage of judgment. She wore no judgmental scowl, didn’t cross her arms, offered no harsh words, and yet it was so potent, it almost felt like a physical assault.

"I’m sorry about all this," the mysterious girl apologized for… something. Again, despite the genuine-sounding apology, some strange force seemed to twist it until it felt like an insult. It was an insult, because it had to be an insult, because it’d come from her.

"Who… are you?" he managed to ask without spitting at her, though just barely.

"I’m Sorry. Nice to meet you." She forced a smile, but between the calm tone and the tense atmosphere, the joke was so far from landing, it took off into space. "Don’t worry about me. I just want you to know, the people here are actually very nice. I hope you won’t think too badly of them."

"Uh huh? Right," the warlock raised an eyebrow, before asking, "And are they with you?"

The girl sighed. "No. No, not anymore."

"Lux! You’re leaving us!?"

A crowd was gathered on the opposite edge of town, filled with worried onlookers. Ordinarily, she’d correct them. ’My name’s Seraphina,’ and such. She didn’t have the heart to this time.

"I’ve done enough damage," she insisted, despite knowing none of them would see it that way. And rather predictably, they all began denying it, pointing to her blessings as proof. If only she had a cure for that mind disease she’d come to call ’Labyrinth Fever.’ "I’ve made up my mind. Thank you for letting me stay for so long, it was really nice. You almost felt like a—" Sera cut herself off, closing her eyes to keep from crying.


As Seraphina traveled the long dirt road, the giant towering monolith of the labyrinth began to cast its shadow over the land. In the warm glow of the sunset, a small caravan appeared on the horizon, prompting her to pull up her bandana slightly. Unfortunately, there was no avoiding the encounter. The idea of a lone traveler was practically unheard of, for all but the most tiny and insulated roads, so she stuck out like a sore thumb.

"Miss, are you alright? Did you get separated from your traveling party?" the driver asked first, as several passangers peeked out from the wagon to see what was going on. The voice of one man in particular rose above the curious chatter.

"Wait, that’s her!" he jumped out from the wagon, ran up, and hugged her.

"Oh, uhm…?" she was confused for a brief moment, until she recognized the man. Seraphina had gone through a few substitute families, but this was Mr. Cecil, one of her earliest and most fond! "D-Dad?" It felt a little strange to call him that, even when she was just a little kid, but now it felt twice as awkward.

"It’s good to see you again, but I wish it were under better circumstances. You see, my daughter… she’s sick. The medicine isn’t working for her! We’ve tried everything! Please, Seraphina, can you come and bless her?"

"Of course. What’s wrong?"

"We don’t know. We think it may have come from the labyrinth, but none of the other healers can cure it. Please, you might be her only hope!"

"Certainly. Where is she?"

"My home, in the southern side of Ambition. I can take you right to her if—"

"—you know I can’t," Sera said abruptly. "Not there. Could you bring her someplace else?"

His face grew pale. "Every time she moves around too much, she starts coughing, sometimes for several minutes. I'm afraid she might not make it. Please, I know you’ve been avoiding Ambition, but…"

"It’s the biggest city in the world. It’s full of analysts, and if I’m revealed there, I’ll never be able to hide again. I'm so sorry. I really wish I could help, but the only way I could visit Ambition is if you could somehow distract the entire city…"

About a week later, the whole city had been distracted. As it turned out, this wasn’t uncommon, so Seraphina had agreed to hide near the outskirts of the city until an opportunity arose. It was fortunate a distraction arose so soon! And not just any distraction, but the arena seemed to be drawing way more people than usual. Something about tons of free money being thrown around?

Seraphina was still wearing her fancy labyrinth gear, but it was hidden under a dull-colored cloak, a hood pulled over her head, her braided silver hair bundled up neatly by her neck. The streets were mostly empty. Occasionally, there would be a couple of people who'd stroll by and give her a strange look, but that was it.


The bellowing voice echoed from the giant arena in the distance, causing her heartbeat to start racing. She whipped her head around nervously, expecting a stampede of people to swarm her at any moment. Instead, their attention turned away from her, and to the arena. Did that mean... were there other S ranks in Ambition!? Why hadn't this news gotten out? Did that mean she wasn't alone...?

Glancing to the side at the worried man who was leading her forward, she buried the thought in her head for later. Their fortune had grown, as even the scattered remnant of the city who hadn't been interested in the arena before were now heading that way, or at the very least making several side-glances at it. The perfect distraction storm.

Kneeling by the bed, Sera almost gasped as she saw the ghastly figure of the girl in the bed. Her hair had become dirty and tattered from neglect, and her skin was a ghoulish pale color, marked with small discolored spots. The best part was always when they saw her for the first time. The spark of hope among the hopeless was easily the best part of her position.

"Hello, little one," Sera smiled, placing a hand on her forehead.

"H... hi...!" she answered weakly, an unwelcome cough inserting itself at the end. Her two parents, whose faces were awash with concern, instinctually twitched as if to move forward to attend to her, but stopped themselves just as quickly.

"I need you to relax, okay? This won't hurt, but it will be a little bright."

Seraphina held out her hand towards the curtains by the window, the fabric suddenly shifting to close from across the room. The girl began coughing severely, the rapid adjustment of light levels not agreeing with her condition. Sera wasted no time. "What's her name?" she asked.

"Gwyn," Mrs. Cecil answered. "Gwyn Cecil."

"Gwyn Cecil, accept my blessing. Salutem Benedictio!"

Light radiated from the space between her hand and the girl's forehead. It grew brighter and brighter until the entire room was illuminated, as if in daylight. The curtains were saturated with a warm glow, and the light spilled into the rest of the house. After a few seconds, the light faded, and then there was silence.

Seraphina's blessings rarely offered the instant improvements of a proper, high-rank healer, but everyone could tell the girl looked better immediately. The coughing had become more muted, and her breathing more steady. She sat up and offered a friendly smile, to everyone's delight. "I... I feel a little better! Thank you, Sis’!"

Seraphina was taken aback for a moment. "S-Sis’?"

"Mhm. Aren’t you Sister Seraphina?" Gwyn asked hopefully.

"You… told her I’m a part of your family…?"

The two adults simply smiled back, with Mr. Cecil offering a silent nod. Seraphina felt her eyes grow a bit watery, and she wiped it away with her sleeve.

"You’re welcome… ‘sis," Sera smiled, giving Gwyn a hug. That also felt weird to say. But they were such nice weirds. Sis’, Dad, Mom… it made the next part hurt so much, as she beckoned her substitute parents into the other room away from Gwyn’s ears.

After the door was closed, Sera explained in a hushed tone, "I couldn't cure her completely." The mood in the room darkened immediately.

"What do you mean?" the two asked in unison.

Sera bit her lip before continuing. "My blessing's only healing some of the damage, but whatever she has is too strong. After it wears off, she'll continue to get worse. I…" she trailed off for a moment. Taking a deep breath, she continued, "But... I promise I'll do everything I can to cure her for good!"

Gwyn had time. Time, but not unlimited time. By the time Seraphina leveled up at her normal pace, she'd be long gone. Which meant, there was only one chance she had to fix this. To level up the fast way the labyrinth intended: in the labyrinth.

"Open the gate," Seraphina requested with a sharp knock. Before her, stood a massive gate, made of thick steel, far too strong for her to rip apart. At the top, there were two guards stationed in a tower, one with a bow, and the other with a gun. The latter answered first, starting a heated argument between them.

"Yes ma'am!" - "Hey, what're you doing, man!? Why would you just open that!?" - "Well because she... asked me... to..." - "Because she asked you to? Really? Who even is that!?" - "Well, she's... uhh... I don't know. Important looking?" - "Oh, well then. Maybe I'll just wear a bow tie to guard duty tomorrow, and you can hand me your life's savings!"

The archer thumped the gunner on the head and peered over the side of the tower, calling down. "Hey, miss, we can't just open the gate. You need a permit, and even then, you definitely don't wanna go in there alone. Trust us on this. The labyrinth is no joke. If you think you’re tough enough to join a raid, the arena's scouting." He sounded a bit salty mentioning the arena, hinting where he’d rather be.

Seraphina stared straight up at the archer. "Open the gate, please," she repeated.

"I... can't..." the archer struggled against a torrent of guilt, glancing back at his fellow guard, "Right...?"

"Y-yeah... that's right. Sorry, miss. But if you just explain what you need to the authorities, I'm sure they'll let you in."

Seraphina sighed. Typical Labyrinth Fever: never effective when she actually wanted to use it. Then again, it made sense the guards would have stronger conviction than the average citizen. They probably had several D-rank talents, if not a few Cs.
~~ Thames Abreo, Rash Rider, One Day before S Rank, Seven Months Ago, Labyrinth Floor 3 ~~

"Brother! Look this way."

The moment Thames looked over was the moment he fell into the trap, his cheek poked by a feminine finger. Sondra burst out laughter that, contagious as it was, brought forth a rise of amusement around him. Even Thames, unamused at first, had drawn out of him a smirk and chuckle.

"Pay up. He did it" was heard behind him from flaxen-haired Reggie Lightbrand of their merry group of five, a C rank in fire breathing. Solemn swordsman Zolomon Eisenberger shook his head and tossed a quartz Reggie's way, the currency snatched quite easily.

"Making jokes this far in is just like you, Sondra," Thames responded, shifting the heft of his axe from his left arm and shoulder to his right. "How you are this way after our upbringing I have no idea."

"It's easy if you see the joy in things, Thames," his sister responded still in her teasing manner. Two years his junior and she was as flighty and bubbly as a songbird warbling on a branch. "Though, you already do. Just smile more so people can see it. We're adventurers, just like in those games Dad liked when computers were still a thing. To some this is a dream come true. We thought so too when we left to join the group."

"Yes, that is true," agreed the brother, his smile lingering slightly before dropping, "but anything could happen and--"

"Nothing bad will happen," promised Reggie, hoisting an arm around Sondra's neck and placing his remaining hand atop Thames' fur pauldron. The heft of his strong hands tugged the brother's shoulder down more than the axe did. His sister could only squeal in delight, however. It was no secret that they were sweethearts for a few weeks now. "You've got me to help along the way, and I cannot let any fiend keep us from finding our future together as the Rash Rollers."

"Uh huh!" agreed Sondra. "We've got guts enough to spare for most Chosen out there, and we aren't even Chosen, save Reggie. Cutting down things, even future blockades, is our specialty."

Thames smiled easily again. She was right, of course. Even though he was heir apparent to his family's jewelry shop, she had the brains and know-how. They were together when they started crawling through these labyrinth walls, and together they will end it.

~~ Zero Day, Seven Months Ago, Floor 0 ~~

He had always been a lightweight when it came to drinking, and while drinking had occurred to him as a possibility he kept it light. He always had felt more depressed drinking than not, and this would not have helped matters. Instead he mulled and steeped himself in a bar setting without anything, not even company, until now.

Reggie emerged from between two leaving patrons, face dark, mood darker. He hovered above the table for a moment, catching Thames' flashing eyes, before seating himself barely onto the opposite cushioned seat.

"I heard I'd find you here . . . Thames, I--"

"Spare it. Just save it, Reggie. I just don't want to hear what you will say."


"I gave you warning!" exploded Thames, slamming his hands onto the table and startling the firebreather. Scattered conversations dropped as eyes locked onto the two. Thames noticed but did not care. "Don't make me repeat myself. I've replayed the scene a thousand times in my head. Sondra's dead. Now let me grieve in peace."

"You don't have to grieve alone," continued Reggie, unpausing but sorrowful. "I lost someone special too. Nowhere near as long, but--"

"Nowhere near, Reggie! Try a whole life of love, of familiarity. You've as much as a thimbleful compared to the ocean I've had." He wrestled Reggie by the collar of his quilted shirt and pulled him close. "I've not told my parents and Mattio yet that the Dread Labyrinth claimed another, more familiar soul. Imagine breaking the news they all feared would happen as a brother, a son."

A fist crashed into Thames' cheek, the same one Sondra poked when she was alive. He wilted, but his hand tightened instead of wavering. A fierce blossom of swelling flesh erupted from the struck location as Reggie flinched and shook his hand limply to free it from pain. Tears sprung from Thames' eyes, and when he looked Reggie's did the same.

"Tem, get off your high horse. You needn't do that alone either!" The firebreather's hand fell onto the table. "We did our best. The red caps shot a fluke arrow. Potions couldn't restore a wound like that."

"And here we are." Thames' hand released, causing Reggie to fall forward and catch himself on the wooden slab. "You can go, Reg. I'll tell them myself."

Reggie's throat warbled, but no further words were said. He packed himself up and walked out the door without looking back. Thames watched every movement, anticipating the firebreather to turn around anytime, then sighed.

He lingered there for half an hour more, pain multiplying in his skull. At first he thought it was from the landed strike, but the sensation intensified higher in his head, and lower in his chest. A headache? A heartache? Whatever it was, perhaps it was death preying upon its next victim, almost welcome but too terrible to be so. Then . . . it ended. A screen narrowed within his vision, saying Dread System and below . . .

"Chosen?" He blinked in surprise, then laughed hollowly, dismissing the image. It popped back up. "Heartless monster. Another interrupter of my grief." He read through the sheet, then swallowed hard. S Rank. What even was this, a cheapened version of a letter grade of Z? The others looked more legitimate, this time not coming from the Artificial Dread System. This . . . was real. "Then again, this'll make cutting things, even labyrinths, a little more of my specialty. Sondra, if you sent this somehow . . . thank you. I'll avenge you someday, and I hope it to be soon."

~~ Present Day, Floor 0 ~~

"Oh~ ho ho ho!"
"Anyone?! Come up and touch the Scroll of Talent Revealing! And demonstrate your Talent for the pleasure of the audience!"

Noisy. So very noisy. Thames did not know what had possessed him to attend this meeting. Maybe it was the flyers. Maybe it was the sense of discovery or getting away from the forsaken, grim walls of the labyrinth or watching newcomers encounter the joy that he once had. All of that paled in comparison to seeing another S-ranked person onstage, her trilly voice serving to grate on his nerves. He had heard of her, of course, the esteemed Meringue heiress. Like father, like daughter, he thought to himself, but to actually listen to her in person was ear-grating. Thankfully she had alternated a few times with the original wielder of the microphone, leaving the stage magic to somone at least marginally better at announcing.

Some time had passed since he first discovered his S rank, with the promisory rationale of keeping it a secret until the time came to unveil it. Seeing another S-ranking individual inspired hope -- hope that he was not alone as he had thought. He dreaded the possibility that Lemondrop might be the only other out there who had acquired the esteemed rank.

Oh well. This was as good a time as ever. Perhaps this can inspire others . . . and dissuade more still from trying a fool's errand like what he and his sister did. As the Artificial Dread fighters as a whole do.

He raised himself to the stage on his own accord, springing up in one coordinated bound not unlike mounting a horse. Raking a hand through his dark hair, he stole forward and touched the scroll.

"Can't say I have much mana, but I'll give it a go," he said to the wielder, giving a slight wink. "Here's to you, Sondra," he added as an afterword murmur.

Lettering flashed and the crowd hushed. Not nearly as popular as Lemondrop and with an appearance less comely than he probably should have had, Thames probably offered a scare or shock more than elation. Nevertheless, he stood there, looking at first to Lemondrop, then about, sweat beading from the intense limelights shining down upon the stage. Perhaps there was another out there?
"Laying low huh."

With a Dread name like Seymour Slaymore, he'd thought that he would be the last person to "lay low". But as fate would have it his first real employers had something else in mind.

The wealthy and influential Meringue family had hired him of all people to act as a guardian angel of some sorts for their beloved daughter. With their money and network they could have easily hired someone more capable, however it would be much too obvious for a well-established raider to take sudden interest in the girl, not to mention the expenses.

Be it through luck or fate, they eventually stumbled upon Seymour and somehow learned of his abilities. They saw him as the perfect candidate to her bodyguard. He was relatively new to the industry, but had an incredibly useful ability.

The nature of the deal was simple, all he had to do was shadow their daughter as her "fan", protecting and assiting in her rise to glory. He will only be compensated once she has reached noteworthy heights.

Seymour himself was all too interested at first, but nonetheless saw it as an opportunity to align himself the influential people of the new world. If nothing else, this quest would direct him towards the life of excitement that he had always wanted.

Today, he finds himself accompanying the young girl, watching her antics on stage. Her performance was...interesting to say the least, however his instincts tell him that her parents do seem genuine in wanting to see their daughters growth. Seeing her actually have S rank talent was slightly surprising considering how supposedly rare such abilities are.

Reading the room, Seymour, like many other members of the crowd cheered for the girl and the revelation of her S rank talent. He might as well take steps to make himself look like an interested fan.

For now, he will keep a low profile and somehow find a way to join the girl's party.
Daeva Everdark

"Oh, who is this?! We have another seeking to make a name for himself?! Can this man even follow up an act like tha-?!" The announcer's voice caught in his throat, eyes widening. You could imagine cartoon-like antics, his eyes bulging and breaking through his sunglasses, as the scroll revealed this man's status. And SECOND S rank appeared!!!

The Scroll, floating above everyone read S rank Monster Riding!

"WHA WHA WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA IS THIS?!?!?!" The announcer screamed into the mic. "S RANKKKKKKKKKKKKUUUUUU!!!" He screamed into the mic, unable to believe his very eyes. The Director nearby also was stunned. "IS THE SCROLL BROKEN?!" He asked, though it was basically rhetorical. As everyone knew Labyrinthian artifacts didn't break like that. They only broke when they finished their effect.

The audience went wild, though, not as much as in the case of Lemondrop, after all Thames wasn't a well-known name across the city like the heiress girl was.

"Sir! Sir!!" The Director began, trying to get Thames' attention. The old man walked over to Thames, extending his hand.

As that was happening, a girl skipped down from the stands, with a cheery smile upon her pale face.

She bounced up on the stage, in a cherry mood, gothic skirts swishing. Her white eyes caught everyone up on the stage in their hollow gaze, a smile of unknown mirth on her face. It was nothing but a mystery to all those around. Before anyone could say anything, or stop her, she said in a slightly-raspy voice. "Guess it's my turn~"

With that, she tapped the Scroll, and infused her mana into it. Unlike Thames, it was child's play for her, who was a Chosen with a lot of mana.

Just like before, the words on Scroll of Talent Revealing began to change.

Within moments, the fancy script of the scroll wrote and revealed her status, as she spun on her heel, clasping her hands behind her.


Daeva Akasha Everdark

Class: Necromancer



"Shi hi!" she giggled.

The Director mid-handshake stared. His mouth dropped.

"Wha~wha? What is 'necromancy?!" The announcer asked. The world probably recognized that word, having created several video games with such a power in it. But not everyone probably truly understood what it meant. After all, up until now, no Chosen had such a Talent before! Well, 'Money' and 'Monster Riding' were equally new Talents, but at least on the surface, those could be understood a bit easier. Except for the case of Monster Riding, which sounded terrifying, 'Necromancy' was something that instilled fear in people, and made people who knew what it meant incredibly wary. Incredibly wary of the seemingly innocent girl down on stage.

"Come my sweet~ Raise Simple Undead." She said, holding a lithe hand out, fingers pointed out. Purple energy flowed out of her, around her arm, and down towards her finger tips, finally flying out and into the ground.

Not even a second later the ground was disturbed, flying up, and a mysterious energy blew broken earth around. Bones took shape and connected to each other, until a skeleton was formed. A simple helm with two small horns fell upon the skeleton's head, and a shoddy sword entered its hand. A leather belt wrapped it, hanging off its shoulder as a quiver with a few arrows and a bow appeared at its waist.

"Ghkghk!" The skeleton clattered its teeth.

People screamed, staring at a standing skeleton.

Daeva simply laughed like a crazy chick. "Sheh! Heh heh heheh! Such a cutie~" She praised her skeleton that walked up to her. She seemed enthralled as she pet its forehead just below the helm. "There you are, yeah, you're so cute~ Shi hi!"

"Wha~ Wha?!?" The announcer was trying to keep up as the large scroll above fluttered still displaying her status.

"Goodbye my love~" Daeva purred, waving her hand. "Dark Usher." A mass of black and purple flew out of her hand before striking the skeleton, and exploding the bones into rubble and dust. The remainder of the skeleton all collapsed, with the helm hitting the pile at the top, the sword clanging on the arena. She looked at it all pitifully. "I'm sorry my baby~" The pile smoked.

"Shi shi shishiihiihii!"

After a brief moment of people trying to grasp what had just happened, the announcer carried on, his mic squeaking briefly.

"S.. S -S-S RANKKKKKKKKKKUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU!!!!!!!!!!!!" He was shaking his head everywhere, screaming into the mic, and bouncing about the arena. By now he had utterly lost his mind.

Although the display was slightly morbid -and the girl's actions in general were unnerving, the audience all got over it in time to scream and shout in utter delight.

"What is happening?!.." The Director grumbled, blinking, his body on the verge of collapse. Just the other day they lost 2 -TWO B RANKS! And he thought that had been a loss humanity couldn't survive. Now, today, up on stage, there were not 1, not 2, but THREE S RANKS!! What even were S ranks?!?! No such rank had existed before..?! Where had these people been hiding?!?!

For the little necromancer girl up on stage, hands clasped behind her back, she twirled. Only to end with a slender finger with a ghostly white nail tapping her lip. "Shihi!"
Seraphina turned her back to the gate, eyes on the arena, as another few eruptions of cheers resounded through the city. The announcer’s voice continued to make clear why the excitement as well, and Sera could hear the two guards not-so-quietly comment…

"Maaannnn, S Ranks!? Why’d I have to get suck on guard duty today of all days!?"

"No kidding. Didn’t even know those were a thing. Jeez, I’d kill for an S rank talent. Instant fame, fortune, and glory there."

"Yeah, if you like getting tossed in the labyrinth on the regular. Still a bummer we can’t see ‘em in action though."

Meanwhile, Seraphina’s eyes glimmered with interest as she heard a particular part of the conversation. "So, uhm…" she called up at the two.

"Oi, you still here, miss?" the gunner replied, unamused.

She ignored the question. "So these S ranks… they’ll be let through the gate whenever they want?"

"If they’re real, it wouldn’t exactly be whenever they want, but it’s— hey, wait a second…" The archer, a skeptical looking man with black hair and brown eyes, peeked over the tower once more to take a long, hard look at Seraphina. "You’re one of them, aren’t you?"

"What, no way…!" The gunner replied, peeking along with him. A slightly shorter man, more heavy in the stomach region, with short brown hair.

"Think about it: high-rank talents can mess with your head, right? What’s if she’s an S rank in mind control or something?"

"That’s not—"

"Yeah, and the way she asked about the S ranks all suggestive-like, she must be!"

"You an S rank, lady!?"

"No!" she lied, shouting in frustration.

"Exactly what I’d expect an S rank manipulator to say! Hey, Sharpshot, you got that analyst talent, right? What’s it sayin’?"

"Nothing’s coming up, so she must be something crazy."

"You wait here and keep an eye on her, I’ll go tell everyone." The archer’s head suddenly vanished again.

"You will do no such thing!" Seraphina demanded, but there was no response. She started to panic, and when the locked door at the base of the tower slammed open, she visibly jumped. "Did you not hear me!? I told you, you can’t tell anyone that I’m—"

"Save it! I won’t let my mind be twisted by your words, manipulator!" he declared, sprinting off for the arena at top speed.

"I’m not a— stop! Grrr!" Seraphina groaned as she gave chase. It only took seconds to realize how outmatched she was for speed. The guard clearly had a talent for speed: running perhaps? Either way, the distance between them grew at a worrying rate, making it clear she’d have to do something to close the gap right away.

Summoning a small pot of oil by her side, she flung it forward, striking the ground and marking it with slippery blackness. The archery stepped right in, but managed to stay upright as he slid forward, only taking a moment to wipe off the oil. It helped her catch up, but not nearly enough. "You know… I can’t… stand… selfish Chosen!" he called behind her between breaths. "This is what’s best… for everyone!"

"If you’d… stop and listen… I could tell you… what’s at stake!"

"Haha… nice try… Brainwasher!"

"It’s Seraphina!"

The chase continued, with Seraphina continuing to summon and throw various substances, some sticky, others slippery, in his path. At best, she was only able to narrowly stay in throwing range, however. Between creating so many objects, and all the running, she was running out of energy fast. He maintained a lead on her, and next thing she knew, she was chasing him right into the arena entrance.

"S RAA— ghmmph!" his announcement was cut short as a metal band attached to a long chain clamped around his mouth, followed by several more to constrict his legs and torso. He collapsed to the ground there, struggling on the edge of the arena for a brief moment, before the web of metal chains dragged him back into the shadowy entrance.

Under the partial cover of those shadows, Seraphina’s chains pinned the man to the wall like a serpent, and she glared at him, crossing her arms indignantly. He tried to look away, anticipating the brainwashing session, but instead… "Fine, I admit it, I have a mind control talent." This seemed to calm his suspicions enough to at least meet her gaze. "But it’s not a power under my control. It’s a labyrinthine curse: all people have to do is look. So, you now understand why you mustn’t reveal me, yes?"

He nodded.

"Good. Now I need to get out of here."
Location: Ambition, a shop near Main Street

There existed a shop, perched on a corner of main street, less than a block from the arena. It was small, dimly-lit, and barely noticeable to most, despite its prime location. The hand-drawn sign above its door read "Roy's Junk Shop" in faded white paint, and that is all anyone need know about this shop. Who owns it? Roy, obviously. What does he sell? Whatever junk you are willing to buy, usually for more than you are willing to pay.

Royce ‘Roy’ Richman is a man cursed --or 'blessed'-- with the Talent of Frugality. Through careful budgeting and questionable financial maneuvering he can turn one beacon into two... or, if that should fail, squeeeeeze one beacon until it shits out another. He used to be an adventurer, like you, until he took an arrow in the... well, the story changes daily. These days, he hires adventurers to keep his shop well-stocked. The cheaper, the better.

On this particular afternoon, Roy reclined in his creaky old chair, with his dirty boots propped up on the countertop, laughing uncontrollably, as one such adventurer attempted to reason with him from across the counter.

“I knew trying to talk some sense into you was a waste of time, you greedy old badger,” the adventurer said. He was a tall, lanky, young man, with a long rifle slung over his shoulder. Messy black hair spilled from beneath his cap. Trueshot, they called him. “I’m serious, Roy, I’ve got a good feeling about this one,” he said.

But his seriousness only made Roy laugh that much more. “Boy, you wouldn’t know a ‘good feeling’ if it hit ya o’er the head,” the old man said, when he could stifle his laughter long enough to form words. “You been adventurin’ for how long? Three years? Four? And ya still can’t shoot for shit. And yer buddy, what’s-his-name? Deadblade? Darkblade?

“Deathblade,” Trueshot muttered.

“Yeah, him. That moron’s got nothin’ but air between his ears. Ought to call him Deadhead,” Roy wheezed. “I swear, if I didn’t know yer daddy --rest his soul-- I’d put you and your idiot friend out on yer asses. You got some nerve askin’ me for more money, boy.”

“I didn’t ask you for anything, you senile old fool! Did you even hear what I said!?” Trueshot paused and sucked a deep breath between his clenched teeth. Once he regained his composure, he continued: “Ya know what? You’re right, okay. I suck. DB sucks, too. We both suck at this, alright, I admit it.” He threw up his hands in surrender. “But… but this woman… she’s the real deal, man. Don’t screw this up, Roy. Every time we get some good help around here, you run them off.”

“Not my fault they always start askin’ for more money,” Roy said.

“No, it is your fault. Folks just wanna be paid what they’re worth. And she’s worth it. Trust me,” Trueshot said. “She fended off three hooktails, one-handed, while carrying DB. She saved his life, man! Mine, too.”

“Not surprising. She’s a big girl. Maybe we should change his name to Deadweight,” Roy said with a smirk and shrug. “And what were you doin,’ huh, enjoyin’ the view? Were you one-handed, too? Bwahahahaha!!”

“Screw you, man. I’m being serious here,” Trueshot said, as his face turned red. Whether it was anger or something else was anyone’s guess. “I’m warning you, Roy. I ran into her at the gate this morning and she said she was gonna drop by today. You know what comes next…”

The old man stopped laughing and sat up straight, meeting the young adventurer’s gaze. “Boy, that’s a grown-ass woman. She don’t need you to haggle for her. If Miss Morghan has a problem with what I’m payin’ her, she can come see me herself,” he said. He paused long enough for a toothy grin to seep across his wrinkled lips. “But she won’t.”

The words carried an air of mystery and ancient wisdom. The young adventurer’s brain folded in upon itself. “What the hell is that supposed to mean, huh?”

“I’ve seen her type before,” the old man said as he leaned in, confidently resting his elbows on the countertop. “There ain’t too many folks like that around these days, so you’re too young to know the difference, lad -- the difference between an adventurer and a hero. One’s in it for the money, the glory, the honor, the sense of adventure,” he said with a grand gesture. “But the other... the heroes… none of that matters to ‘em, ‘cuz they have ideals, and hopes and dreams, and all that other bullshit the rest of us gave up years ago when we realized there’s no beating the Labyrinth, boy!

“Heroism is a sickness. Most of ‘em grow out of it or die. Some grow into it. Open your eyes, boy. That woman feels sorry for you. You’re just a thing to be rescued. Another heroic deed to check off her list,” the old man said, his voice lowering to a gravelly groan. “Mark my words, kid, she won’t ask for more money. It would go against everything she stands for. She’ll move on once she gets tired of carrying your dumb ass. But, until then… she’s the perfect sucker. Bet she’ll do it for free, if I let her. I’m actually bein’ pretty darn generous, all things considered.”

He let this grim proclamation hang in the air, gaining weight with every passing second it went unchallenged. The young adventurer stared at him, a mixture of disgust and fascination writ upon his face, as if he couldn’t fathom how this deplorable creature had been allowed to fester between these walls… and how he had served him for so long. We truly do live in a society.

The shop fell silent, except for the low murmur of the arena’s crowd, which began to rise to a crescendo. “Show’s startin.’ Ain’t you got somewhere to be, boy?” Roy said with a devil’s smirk. He pointed a gnarled finger at the open door. “Go on, git.”

“Yeah… I knew this was a waste of time,” Trueshot said with a slow shake of his head. He adjusted the rifle’s strap on his shoulder. “You’re even more messed up than I thought, man. I hope, when she does get here, she-”

“Good afternooooon!” Samara Morghan said when she appeared at the door, just as Trueshot turned to leave. Her sudden arrival nearly made the boy jump out of his skin.

Her size and the plain gray cloak she wore made her look like a concrete wall blocking his escape. And the sun cast her in silhouette, which made the crown-like thing atop her head look like demon horns. If not for her cheerful greeting and friendly wave, she might seem terrifying. The enormous woman stepped through the open door, ducking her head as she entered, and still had to turn slightly to fit through the frame.

“Oh, hello, Trevor! It seems, we just can’t stop running into one another today,” she said as she set down her travel pack, which probably weighed more than his entire body. The oversized tower shield remained affixed to her back, however. “Is Mr. Richman in?” she asked.

“I’m right here,” the old man said, when the adventurer didn’t respond quickly enough. His tone had changed entirely. He was now a friendly shopkeeper, smiling from ear to ear. “Why ya gotta call him by his real name like that? Can’t ya see yer makin’ the boy blush,” he said, giving ‘Trevor’ a hearty clap on the shoulder to snap him out of his stupor.

“Is that so strange?” Samara said, tilting her head to the side, as if puzzled by the question. “His parents gave him that name. A strong name. They poured their hopes and dreams and love for him into that name. Remember that, Trevor,” she said, with a warm smile and a gentle pat on his head before she turned to Roy. “Who am I to toss that away and call him by some other name, a name given to him by an entity that has taken billions of lives and continues to claim hundreds each day? Loving parents… or… the Labyrinth?” she said, weighing the two options on her hands. “Seems an easy choice to me. But, if he wishes to be called something else, I will certainly oblige. I mean no offense.”

“N-no. Trevor’s fine, m-ma’am,” Trueshot stammered. “Thank you.”

Roy’s smirk returned for a fraction of a second, but he quickly stifled it. “I like that. That’s very… heroic of you, saving even the boy’s name,” he said, giving Trueshot a knowing look. “Anyway, what can I do for you today, Miss Morghan? If this is about the dungeon bein’ closed, don’t worry about it! The supply run can wait. I’ve got plenty of inventory left.”

“Actually… it is. More specifically, it’s about the money you gave me,” Samara said as she outstretched her hand and a small stack of quartz beacons materialized in her open palm. “The advance you paid me… I cannot, in good conscience, keep this,” Samara said, as she presented the beacons to the old man.

Roy’s eyes sparkled with delight. It was a piddling sum, but might as well be a mountain of gold to this stingy old geezer.

Trevor, on the other hand, mentally checked out.

“With the labyrinth sealed,” Samara went on to say, “there’s no telling when we will be allowed in. It seems wrong to hold on to this money indefinitely.” But, she hastily added: “I’m not quitting, mind you! Once the Labyrinth reopens, I will-”

She abruptly turned toward the door. The sound of rapid footsteps could be heard. Someone was swiftly approaching. Her instincts were much sharper than the other two, for they didn’t realize it until a few seconds later. By then, Samara had already moved to a defensive posture. One hand rested near the shield on her back, while the other went for her sword. Despite being dressed in street clothes, she still looked as if she could hold off an army if she had to. Ambition was usually safe, especially on Main Street, but one couldn’t be too cautious. And these footsteps sounded panicked.

But, a moment later, a young man with pink hair, spiky black armor, and an enormous sword on his back, sprinted through the shop’s open door… or he would have if his sword's hilt didn’t catch the doorframe and yank him off of his feet, leaving him flat on his back, gasping for air.

“DB!? What the fuck, man! You scared the shit outta me,” Trueshot said.

Samara sighed before reaching down to take the boy’s hand and effortlessly hoisted him to his feet. Despite his rare buster sword and frequent boasts of being ‘the awesomest swordsman’ Deathblade’s only Talent above ‘F’ was a D in Running. His legs often outpaced his brain.

However, this also manifested as a tendency to run his mouth: “Yo! You guys gotta come to the Arena! Shit’s wild, man!” the pink-haired boy said, thrashing excitedly. Samara continued to grip his hand, out of fear he might shoot off like a rocket if she let go. “The whole city’s goin’ nuts, bro! The Meringue girl! Money everywhere! Monster riding! Spooky skeletons! SSSSSSSSSSSSS RANKUUUUUUUUUUUU!!!” he said, throwing his head back and belting out the words --if they can even be called ‘words’-- before lapsing into a fit of euphoric laughter. “C’mon! C’mon, you guys gotta see it. Let’s go! Let’s go! You too, ya smelly old fart. Close up shop and come on!” he said, attempting to haul Samara away, while frantically gesturing for Trueshot and Roy to join them.

But the shieldmaiden stood her ground, leaving DB cartoonishly polishing the floorboards as he ran in place. “Damien, did you say ‘S-Rank?’” she asked, without budging an inch. “So… Hmm… I’m not the only one, after all…”

The last part was said under her breath. Neither Roy nor the excited Deathblade heard those whispered words, but Trueshot’s brows rose.

“Yeah, S-Rank,” Deathblade said. “Why? You seen it before?”

“What’s it mean?” Trueshot asked, his eyes darting back and forth, from DB to Samara. “What’s S-Rank?”

“I bet it’s like ‘F,’ but worse,” Roy said, toying with his scruffy beard. “Makes sense. The Meringues are definitely worse than F. Utter trash, all of ‘em. The whole family’s rotten.”

“No, it’s good. REALLY GOOD! You’re just jealous, you shriveled old prune!” Deathblade said, pointing an accusatory finger at him.

“If it’s so good, why hide it?” Trueshot said, posing the question to everyone… but his eyes met Samara’s and there was a very clear understanding who he was really speaking to.

“Talents don’t define us,” she said, finally releasing DB. She folded her arms across her chest. “A person’s worth is not decided by the Labyrinth. ‘S’ or ‘F,’ it doesn’t matter. Every human is priceless.”

“Easy for you to say,” DB retorted. “Not everybody can be like you, ya know. You’re, like, ten feet tall and can benchpress a Cadillac!”

“Boy, you don’t even know what a Cadillac is,” Roy scoffed.

“I know it’s heavy!” DB said, shaking his fist at them all. “Don’t tell me rank don’t matter, man. That’s a big fat lie. Some people win the lottery and the rest of us get stuck watching from the sidelines, okay! Your Talents made you rich, even if you are a wrinkly old bastard,” he said, pointing at Roy, before switching to Samara, “And you, too! You ain’t rich, but the Labyrinth gave you huuuge… huge… umm…”

Samara patiently waited for him to finish that thought. Fortunately, his best bud came to the rescue:

“Muscles,” Trueshot said. “Huge muscles.”

“Yeah, that, too,” DB said, nodding vigorously. But he still glared up Samara. “I know you’re trying to help, but don’t tell me Talents don’t matter. I bet the Old World was boring af. Admit it, you had nothin' before the Labyrinth came along and gave you cool powers.”

“Oh, really?” Samara said, her patience finally wearing thin. “Before the Upheaval, I was a wife, mother, teacher, philanthropist, entrepreneur… but I guess all of that is nothing? Now I’m, just ‘big lady with muscles?’ Wonderful,” she said, frowning down at him. “And, not that it’s any of your business, my 'muscles' were fine before the changes, thankyouverymuch. There is such a thing as too big, you know.”

She lumbered by him and angrily snatched up her bag. Samara was nearly out the door before Trueshot caught up with her.

“Wait, hang on! DB’s an idiot. Don’t leave,” he said.

“Yeah, big is fine! I like big. I love big,” DB said as he tagged along. “It was a compliment.”

“Dude, please shut the fuck up,” Trueshot begged.

“I’m not angry at him,” Samara said, keeping her tone calm and level, as she strode down the sidewalk. Although her face remained calm, her body language said otherwise. “And I’m not mad at you, either, Damien… though you should certainly work on choosing your words more carefully in the future,” she added, forcing a smile to put him at ease.

“Y-yes, ma’am,” the boy said, soberly. “I-I’m bad at talking to girls. S-sorry.”

“Woman. Not ‘girl,’” Trueshot whispered.

“You’ll go far, Trevor,” Samara said. “Anyway, it’s this world that upsets me. They’ve got it all wrong,” Samara said, her eyes looking forward, toward the Labyrinth. Every step was like a declaration of intent.

“Hell yeah, you should go show ‘em how it’s done!” DB said, grinding his fist into his palm. “You’re way more cooler than Lemondrop. Eww, Lemondrop, gross. I bet her dad paid everyone to cheer… wait... I cheered too... THEY OWE ME MONEY!”

“I’m not going to the Arena,” Samara said.

Both boys abruptly stopped.

“Why would I? What purpose does that serve?” Samara said as the gap between them widened. At last, she stopped and turned to face them. “A raiding party has fallen. People have died. And they choose now, of all times, to hold a festival? This entire affair is a disgrace and I will have no part in it.”

“It’s to boost morale,” Trueshot said.

“We should avenge the fallen, not put on a clown show while their bodies are still warm,” Samara said, clenching her fist. “Go, if you believe it will make you feel better, but I have made my stance clear. I demand answers, not theatrics. I am going to the Labyrinth and will demand entry. If rank truly does matter-” She abruptly stopped. “Move!” she said, shoving the two boys aside as a bizarre scene played out before them.

A guard sprinted around the corner, running toward them at full speed down the empty Main Street. Behind him, a girl in ornate blue garments gave chase, summoning all manner of objects to throw at him. Samara had never seen such an ability, but seeing it used in such a foul manner made her face twist in anger and disgust. Chasing a guard!? Some of these adventurers had no sense of honor. “Hey! Hey!” she called out, but they were already out of range

“A girl! I'll talk to her!” DB said and began to sprint after them, but Samara caught him by his collar and slammed him to the ground, perhaps a little too aggressively.

“Stay here, both of you,” she said, wagging a stern finger at him, before heading off after the fleeing suspect. She did not have to look back to know they had obeyed.

Needless to say, speed was not her strong suit, but stamina and willpower more than made up for it. She wasn’t going to stop until this maniac was brought to justice. Fortunately, the blue girl’s antics left a trail of evidence, easily followed. Dammit. They’re heading toward the Arena. Is there no avoiding this fate? Samara thought as the roar of the crowd drowned out all reason. Has this entire town gone mad? she thought as she deftly skidded down a flight of steps coated in oil, grease, and all manner of slippery substances. Her footing never faltered. She actually seemed to use it to her advantage, gaining speed on the way down.

She could scarcely make out the voices of the guard and his pursuer up ahead. They were close now. Samara reached into her travel pack and pulled out a large round shield, before tossing the pack aside, as she rounded a final bend in the corridor, with the shield gripped on her right side and her sword on her left. When she arrived, she found the guard pinned to the wall by chains while the white-haired girl stared into his eyes, whispering something about getting out of here.

“Halt! You’re not going anywhere,” Samara said as she skidded to a stop, and hunkered down behind her iron shield. There was a hard look in her pearly blue eyes… a look typically reserved for monsters in the Labyrinth. “Let. Him. Go,” she said sternly. “Or face the might of an S-Rank. I would rather not hurt you, but this has gone on long enough.”
Seraphina wasn't surprised because of the dreaded 'Halt!' echoing throughout the dark little corridor. After all, she had been chasing a guard through several city blocks, making a mess the whole way. Only, she'd expected more of a typical 'miffed security guard' type of 'halt,' rather than the booming thunder of Lady Thor. Now that was unexpected enough to shake her up a bit.

Turning to face the newcomer, Sera felt her heart sink in her chest. Compared with this goliath, she'd almost have preferred the steel wall from earlier to be blocking her path instead. It would've been much easier to push past. The situation was fast turning into a disaster. She should've just run. But then again...

"An S-rank...?" Sera mused, the chains behind her releasing the tight grasp, then falling to the floor with clinks and rattles, leaving the poor guard free to marvel at the incredible scene. She took a long look at the super-guard. "This could be fortunate! Because of this little herald, they're expecting another big reveal. I know this is near the worst introduction in history, but I believe our paths crossing is fate redeeming the— mmh..."

Seraphina's hopeful expression turned to irritation in a snap, seemingly out of nowhere, aimed at nothing. After interrupting herself, she paused for a second, then continued: "What I mean is... I'm Seraphina. Or Sera, if you like." She held out a hand to shake.

Nervously, Sera's eyes darted to the side. Several people who'd noticed the poor guard get chained were approaching to investigate. Her eyes returned to the woman blocking the exit, widening as she began to plead, "I know we just met, but it's very important I get out of here quietly before I start to spread a horrible mind disease. I can tell you're a virtuous souahem, a nice woman, so... could you please cover for me? You're here to reveal yourself anyway, no?"

AnonyMouse AnonyMouse
Last edited:
Callidora Menchester

" 1, 2, 3, 4, skip, 7, 8, 9, 10, skip . . . "

The little girl muttered as she skipped over the stones that laid on the barren ground. A map laid out in her head. A game of her own design. She jumped yet again, except this time her feet got caught on one another and she fell.

As she fell the seconds dragged out and seemed to last into eternity.


Forever falling

Into nothing

Then something happened.

A stone caught at her flesh and tore. Searing pain shot up her leg and seemed to make the time burn into hours.

Her scream echoed out and pierced the once still air. It clawed and tore at the silence, like a hurt animal begging to be heard.

She cradled herself and struggled against the rough surface of the ground. The little girl pushed herself up and fell against the wall of the alleyway. Tears streamed down her dirt stained cheeks, and when she leaned over they mixed with the blood flowing down her leg. Another scream escaped her now at seeing it.

It seemed more real; like the last few seconds, even though to her it felt like hours, were not just in her mind.

It was a valley of a scarlet hue. It ran from the top of her knee down to just underneath it. The assailant still imbedded in her skin.

She looked around the hazy world; lights bending in her vision and assaulting her eyes. In her search, she found no one who stop to help the dirty girl. They were all busy in their own bubbles.

Again she looked down, now gasping for breath. She had to take it out. She knew she did.

The world spun around her, and a giant banged against her skull causing her body to shake. The silence turned into an eerie ringing. It was all too much for her to bear.

But yet, she had to. She knew she did.

Her small delicate hand reached out to the dark grey rock. She hesitated before grasping it, screaming out as another pain shot up her body.

The little girl took a few shallow breaths and yanked quickly. A screamed stifled in her throat and choked her.

Everything in her body was rebelling; it was screaming at her, tearing her apart from the inside.

And slowly...

Slowly the world turned dark and it consumed her.


Light returned to her vision as the ringing faded into pounding screams.

This time they weren't her own. They were coming from all around her. The little girl took a shallow breath and opened her eyes.

Light flooded her vision, and she had to blink a few times to readjust to the new unfamiliar setting. Callidora looked around to gain her bearings and sighed. She had forgotten in her remembering where she was.

The arena was filled to the brim yet her father had managed to get them a spot where they were not readily disturbed. This shocked her then, when she felt a hand touch her knee.

Callidora flinched and looked down, sighing in relief when she realized it was her own hand. She had been tracing her scar without even realizing it. Even now she could still feel the hot strike of pain sometimes. No matter where she was there seemed to be no escape from her past.

She was yanked from her thoughts when Meringue charged the stadium; just as she thought. It was just like her to do something so outlandish. And the crowd loved it; they loved her.

But of course with great power there is always the ones who spit and whisper. Calli couldn't help but hear it all. Jealous 'fans' who doubted her abilities, and others who wanted what she had.

Of course there were many genuine cheers, but Calli had a knack for finding those with a less favourable opinion.

Calli was all but uninterested with the whole debacle until Lemondrop revealed her S Rank, she was stunned but also curious. What was an S rank? Was that even a thing? She mulled this over in her mind; almost as a distraction from the loud crowd around her.

Then one after another they unraveled on the stage like elements reacting to water. All it took was the first spark to make everything blow up.

That first spark.

Three. There was three of them. Her father was going out of his mind; he muttered something under his breath and looked at her.

"Do you know what this could mean for the company? S RANK Dora, S! Do you believe this?!" He practically shouted it; she could tell how his head whirred with this new knowledge. Calli just nodded in response. Not that he would notice anyway, everyone was too caught up in the energy surging throughout the stadium.

The energy passed around the crowd like they were swapping electrons; feeding off of one another.

It was so loud; everyone was so excited and focused on the stage.

No one noticed as Callidora slid away from the crowd and made her way out. None took note of the lone child when there was undead creatures on the stage. Why would they?

Somehow none of this seemed to phase Calli, or maybe it was just that she didn't care. Either way she was leaving the stadium.

The pounding of the screams and cheers were becoming to much for her. She never wanted to come, but her father had insisted. So like a good girl she lowered her head and agreed. Calli knew it would come to this. She never liked these big boisterous events.

More often than not she found herself trying to escape. They reminded her too much of that time at the shop; she never could escape that memory, but she avoided it as much as she could.

Callidora slipped away to one of the exits, but was unprepared for what she'd meet.

The most confusing scene laid out before her. A guard, whom was in uniform assumably from the wall, was pinned against the wall with chains. A lady stood arms crossed, she looked rather agitated. Her blue garments were tossed about like she had been running.

The lady said she had a mind control talent, which Calli found hard to believe but the guard seemed appeased.

Before Calli could say anything to the scene something even more remarkable happened, a large hulking figure came rushing down the steps. The giant had a shield and a sword in its hands.

The giant spoke, who Calli could now tell was a women, commanding them to stop.

From that moment on Callidora couldn't really hear what was going on; her head was pounding and it was more than just the yells from the stadium. It hurt, but Calli couldn't take her eyes off the big menacing figure. She looked just like her nightmares. Tall and scary with piercing blue eyes.

Callidora was tempted to scream but couldn't seem to do anything.

She was pulled from her thoughts when the guard came crashing down from the wall. Calli wasn't as panicked now that she was brought back to reality, but she still couldn't command her limbs to move. She was frozen in place.

As the strange sorceress tried to negotiate with the giant Callidora struggled against herself and her own mind.

Mention: AriAriAbabwa AriAriAbabwa
Interactions: Tau Tau & AnonyMouse AnonyMouse
Location: Arena, stage entrance

The girl spoke of a 'mind disease.' Empty threat or genuine warning? The way the guardsman lost all will to flee or cry out lent truth to her words, but Samara felt nothing. Her talents gave her sharpened battle instincts, and would warn her of incoming attacks or approaching enemies. But, as she faced down this girl, she felt no such warning. There was no sickly, oily sensation of magic creeping upon her. Either the girl wasn't using her brainwashing right now... or an S Rank in defense was useful for more than blocking physical attacks.

Even if that is the case, this is not the time or place to test it, Samara thought, shifting her posture slightly as the girl finished. God have mercy, if she takes control of me or any of the other alleged S Ranks on that stage...

While the girl spoke, Samara's eyes scrutinized every movement she made, but remained at a safe distance. Although the girl didn't appear to be violent or particularly ill-mannered, she had already demonstrated erratic, destructive behavior. Her soft voice and dainty appearance did not mask the fact that she posed a very real threat and the innocent people filling the bleachers above their heads were in very real danger.

The moment she suggested Samara had come here to reveal herself, the blonde giant frowned deeply, for she had already made up her mind. "Reveal myself? I neither had nor have any such intentions," she said, as if the mere thought of going on that stage to be gawked at by the salivating masses put a foul taste in her mouth. But, despite the disapproval in her voice, she at last lowered her sword.

"Samara Morghan," she said, reciprocating the civility, though she still didn't take the girl's hand. "You are articulate for a brigand --I'll give you that-- but sorely mistaken. I do not believe in fate. Virtue does not come from the soul. And I am only as 'nice' as the company I keep." Samara bowed her head and nodded for the girl to leave. "Go, before I change my mind. And, let's be clear, I am not covering for you. I am merely putting the safety of these people first, as always. If ever we meet again, you will answer for what you have done, Sera. If your words prove true, we may yet be friends. But, should I find you have deceived me or others, I will do what I must. I hope you understand."

Even as she said this, she could sense they were not alone. In the peripheral of her vision, she spied a small child, watching them. It seemed ending this peacefully was the wisest choice after all, not that Samara needed much convincing. She would prefer peace over violence any day, but there was certainly a time and place for the former. This 'Sera' person did not seem the type to prey on one so young, but Samara remained wary of what either would do next.

Interaction(s): Tau Tau Marceline_idue Marceline_idue
Seraphina frowned. There went the hopes of this woman covering for her. Then again, it was a long shot anyway. It wasn't like they were on the best terms, and as expected of another S rank, her talent had no immediate influence on her mind, at all. In near any other situation, she'd be elated! Instead, she used it to commit the worst crime imaginable: accusing Seraphina of criminality.

"Excuse me!? A brigand!? I'm doing what you mistakenly suppose you're doing: protecting them!" She vaguely gestured out into the arena. "The nerve of you! Speaking to me like some street criminal!? I'm..."

Her words were forceful and upset; thrown forward with enough energy to swing a small, golden, heart-shaped locket around her neck. It only swung an inch or two, but as it lightly thumped her chest, she staggered back as if Samara had smacked her with that monolith of a shield. In a moment, her indignant rage turned to regret. She gently rubbed the golden heart, closed her eyes, and shook her head.

"No... no, that's not... me... not me," soft mumbling, barely heard over the cries of the arena behind her. "I'm sorry..."

At this point, the incredible mood swing put Sera on the verge of insanity in the eyes of the poor guard, who was now quickly backing away down the corridor. Samara was right: this girl was mad, and clearly had the power to be dangerous. But as he backed away, his boot ended up bonking something soft, causing him to stagger and look down. A young girl, unimposing, but with two dazzling, mismatched eyes.

"Oh, sorry miss, I didn't see you!" he apologized. "Are you alright?" Looking at this girl, he quickly realized he'd never be able to live with himself if he ran, potentially letting this lunatic loose on the city. Little ones like this were relying on him! He was Quicknotch, and he was a proud guardian of Ambition! Whether he was fighting common thieves, or godlike champions, he'd do what he must to protect them.

Whipping out his bow, he drew back, arrow already in hand. "Samara's right. You're... you're unstable. So, until we find out who and what you are, you're under arrest for attempting an unauthorized labyrinth entry and assaulting a guard!" He nodded towards Samara, subtly asking if he could rely on her to help.

Seraphina looked more irritated by the archer's words than she did threatened. Instead, her focus was on Samara. "I didn't assault anyone, I stopped him from making a mistake." Glancing at the archer, her eyes fell on the girl beside him. She was young... cute, but old enough for a spark of independence that would grow over time. An age her adoptive sister would never reach with her current condition. "As for the labyrinth, I'm going in whether you 'permit me' or not." She slowly and carefully stepped back towards the one 'exit' available to her: the light of the arena. "Whatever I have to do..."

AnonyMouse AnonyMouse
Marceline_idue Marceline_idue
More hilarity ensues, with a couple more "S Ranku" people revealed. Seymour was somewhat sad hearing this as he thought being an S rank was "special" and to see so many individuals with S rank talents, it seems it was something becoming much more common now. All of them thus far, apart from Meringue, had a much more interesting talent, ranging from raising the dead, monster riding, and now...apparently mind control. This newcomer, a girl who came out of nowhere seemed to be on the hostile side, threatening to unleash her powers onto the crowd. Though, Seymour had a strong gut feeling that she was bluffing.

It was tempting...very tempting to have a small glimpse into the minds of these individuals, however, he couldn't risk exposing himself. And then came another "sizable" variable, a rather large woman who identified herself as Samara Morgan, who was having a dispute with the individual who supposedly had mind control powers. Seeing that the great Lemondrop was going anywhere, he chose to entertain himself by entering the scene just as more hilarity ensues. "I'll have a chat with Lemondrop later. No harm in having a little bit of fun." Seymour thought to himself while walking towards the "unstable" one.

Standing in between the gates the girl on the run, Seymour leaned on a nearby pillar while watching the girl slowly taking steps towards the exit. "It's best if you give up now... things won't end well if you don't.." Seymour spoke, locking his eyes on the girl. Discreetly, Seymour would use his S rank talent on the girl, from here on out, he would able to read her thoughts and "read" future movements. From here onwards, he should be able to accurately predict her future moves, and with his above-average agility stat, Seymour should be more than capable of intercepting any of her attempts for an escape. As expected, her current thoughts were all about escaping the current situation they were in. "Your move." Seymour quipped with small grin, as if giving the girl her "turn".

Tau Tau AnonyMouse AnonyMouse
TreasureSniper TreasureSniper

Ngh, not another one. I can probably just move him out of the way.

But I don’t see any fever in him and he looks so confident, he must be pretty special. I didn’t know Ambition had this many high ranks.

Oh no, is that little girl okay? I hope she’s okay.

Gwyn is counting on me. I should’ve just let that over-eager archer reveal me instead of getting all spooked.

There’s a few spectators behind the archer, maybe I could turn them against these guys.

Who do these lowlifes think they are, anyway!? Accusing their goddess of—

—Arrgh, shut up, labyrinth! I made a mess, of course they’re angry!

I hope my clothes didn’t get messy too.

Maybe I can still talk my way out of this? I just need a minute or two in public: I can tell everyone they’re bad guys. If that’s what it takes to save Gwyn, then…

But Samara and the archer have kind souls, it wouldn’t be right to ruin their reputations over a misunderstanding…

I could let them arrest me and break out.

But then, how quickly could I get into the labyrinth? There’s still the gate.


They all look so aggressive and disappointed with me, and they’re not even nasty people. I hate this.

Today has been just awful! I don’t know how to fix this…
~~ Thames Abreo, Rash Rider, Labyrinth Floor 0, Arena on Center Stage ~~

Thames broke out into a self-conscious grin witnessing the spectacle of the announcer's dazed expression, the audience just as stunned as he was. Then the noise came like a wall at 60 miles per hour, a sonic boom of tremendous effort by the audience. Not knowing what to do with his hands, he locked them into his folded arms, at least until the older man -- the Director? -- approached with a hand extended. Thames, blinking, accepted the handshake, placing his calloused hand firmly in the Director's with a unsure smile. Still the scroll lit up behind him.

Thames Oath-saddled

Class: Rash Rider

Monster Riding

Looking up into the stages, there seemed to be another contestant, a girl likely no older than Sondra -- no, even younger. It was hard to tell from how pallid she was, but the youthfulness only showed more with her demeanour. Daeva approached the stage, and his attention was arrested. She was a person he had never seen before within the Dread Labyrinth. Perhaps she was a newcomer? It was more likely she went through a different entrance and paths than he did.

Then his eyes beheld yet another S rank on the scroll. He could not help himself from laughing. Another one! He was not alone with Lemondrop, and that was enough for him. At least, until she showcased her ability in front of the audience: Necromancy. A summoned skeleton from an unknown location, hopefully not one fresh from its grave, followed by its explosive demise from dark magic. He pursed his lips, wondering about what he had gotten himself into by being pooled in front of everyone here into the same rank as Rich Sister Pennybags and the charming but deadly Lady Frankenstein or Nosferatu.

She seemed very strong, whoever she was, a true magician of an occult craft. He had heard of dreadful creations from Old World books, of the dark magicks of alchemy and of evil wizards, witches, and warlocks. He had heard mention from his father the recounts of Dungeons and Dragons adventures over table conversation also involving necromancy. While none of this held any real value in his eyes, being made of fiction, this was real.

He looked back toward the Director who was probably shambling over there like the undead thrall did, grinned, and took a place between Lemondrop and Daeva, waiting for the next arrivals with an equal amount of dread and anticipation.

Please, he begged internally, please let it be someone more normal next time.
Location: Arena, stage entrance

Samara’s eyes darted from one participant to the next. She had given the girl a way out, but the guardsman swiftly denied it, threatening to arrest her. And, worst of all, he looked to Samara for assistance. Her brows knitted with frustration as another man arrived, blocking her path. She was completely caged in now and the panic in the young girl’s eyes was almost too much to bear.

“Leave her be,” Samara pleaded softly, waving for the guardsman to take a step back. “That’s enough. I misspoke earlier. Can’t you both see she’s afraid?”

But the guardsman vigorously shook his head as he continued to advance toward the girl. “No,” he said in a stern tone. “She must answer for-”

What is there to answer for? No one was hurt. Your wounded ego is the only casualty today,” Samara said, taking a single step toward them both... but hesitated. She did not enjoy using her size to intimidate others, yet she had already done so and was on the verge of doing it again. Think! There had to be a better way. “I... I volunteer to clean up the mess," she said, practically begging. "Just let her go. What is the harm in releasing her into the Labyrinth? I will even go with her. Are you listening? Sir, are you...”

Her words fell on deaf ears. The guardsman did not cease his advance. His eyes remained locked on Sera as he fetched a pair of cuffs from his belt.

"So be it..." With a sigh of resignation, Samara set down her shield, extended her empty hand toward the girl, and focused. She summoned warm thoughts of protecting Sera, holding her close, shielding her from danger. The space between them shrank as Seraphina was pulled by an unseen force. Her feet skidded helplessly across the floor as she sailed past the shocked guardsman and, within seconds, found herself wrapped in Samara’s embrace.

“There, there. I got you. It’s okay, sweetie,” the large woman said, lowering herself to one knee as she hugged her. “I’m sorry I called you a brigand. Let's start over, okay? Take a deep breath. Everything' going to be okay." Despite her tender words, when Samara's eyes met the guardsman’s, her gaze was fierce. The warning could not be clearer and, for now, he heeded it and kept his distance.

After a few seconds, she relaxed her grip and held Sera at arm’s length, but light enough that if the girl fled Samara wouldn't attempt to stop her. “I know you feel like everything’s spiraling out of control but, please, hear me. Do not surrender yourself to the chaos. If you walk out there,” she pointed toward the stage, “the moment that crowd sees you and sees what you can do… your life will not be yours any longer. If you truly are an S-Rank, you know this, Sera." She paused for emphasis and met the girl's eyes. "I want to help you, Sera. Truly, I do. But I cannot protect you from that. Do you understand?”

Interaction(s): Tau Tau TreasureSniper TreasureSniper
Seraphina was a bit surprised by the sudden development. Not too surprised, considering that her talent made her an excellent judge of character, but hurdling across the floor was certainly unexpected. She swung her arms, trying to reorient herself back to up and down once again, until she finally caught grasp of Samara’s shield to steady herself.

It was nice to see Samara’s warmer side, however, and she quickly found herself calming down slightly from her warm, motherly tone (the hug didn’t hurt things either). Maybe a little too motherly for her tastes, considering she wasn’t a middle-schooler anymore, but it was preferable to that earlier hostility. If only the guards would knock it off as well. Wishful thinking, perhaps.

"Thank you," she nodded slowly, before looking up into Samara’s eyes with a subtle smile. "I don’t quite know what you mean. I’m not too familiar with how things work in Ambition, though I believe you’re right in everything you say."

Sera glanced down to the floor. "But maybe I’ve been overly cautious… even fearful. I hate this destiny given to me by that vile maze, but is it right of me to neglect it when it could help so many? Even the ones close to me…" she shook her head. "I need to do this."

Pushing away, Seraphina took a few steps back until she was standing in the middle of the corridor. By this point, there were about a half-dozen other guards, mostly with shields, spears, and swords, as well as a small handful of people whose curiosity had bid them to investigate the strange chain man over the far-more-hyped s-rank reveals.

The guards weren’t quite sure what to make of the situation, but by the instructions of the Archer, Quicknotch, they began to surround Seraphina with weapons drawn. This drew hesitation from the lesser-ranked guards who felt like they were making a mistake. More than that, it drew active scorn from the onlookers, who seemed to be viewing the act like an unthinkable martyr event (before promptly asking themselves why they felt that way).

"I was told this event is a talent search for chosen, yes?" Sera asked innocently.

"Yeah. Why? Are you gonna try and convince me you’re here to reveal yourself after you used that attack of yours to stop me?" Quicknotch accused. He felt a bit betrayed by Samara. With her no longer assisting, the power dynamic had shifted.

"I have no control over what my talent does to people, so… no. I don’t want to reveal myself publicly. But if I reveal myself right here, in this hallway, can you get me in a labyrinth team soon?"

The guards turned to Quicknotch, who seemed to be the most familiar with the strange girl. He let the question hang in the air for a tense moment, considering it, before finally giving an answer. "That’s not up to me." he finally responded, leaving yet another thoughtful pause, before adding, "…but if you’re that impressive, I suppose I can take you to the higher-ups, and then… maybe."

"Then stand back, please. I don’t want to hurt anyone."

After a clearing had been made for her, Seraphina took a deep breath and began her little show. She started small, opening her palm and letting a little dagger appear in a flash of light. It hovered there above her hand, until she pointed to the floor, where it shot forward, embedding itself in a crack with a sharp clanging noise.

Letting the excitement build, Sera then pointed to the nearby discarded chains, which rose like a snake. Following her commands, they clasped themselves in mid-air, as if restraining some invisible man. She even had them shake, as if there was someone struggling in their grasp. Two more palms to the air, two bright flashes of light, and she now stood in front of the struggling chains with two enormous swords hovering beside her. They both carved the air at different angles for several seconds, before simultaneously cleaving the imaginary head off like an oversized pair of scissors.

The chains clattered to the floor. Sera flicked her index fingers, sending the two swords back to her side. She smiled sweetly, despite having just imagined a gruesome execution. Quicknotch swallowed, reflexively holding his hand to his throat as the small corridor erupted in applause. The commotion began to steal even more people from the general audience. At this point, the corridor behind the guards was starting to get crowded… unfortunately.

"So? Can you ‘take me to the higher-ups’ now?" Sera asked, nervously glancing at the onlookers.

"Uhh… y-yeah, I’ll do that. Just don’t cause any more trouble, alright?"

"I promise, now let’s get out of here…"

AnonyMouse AnonyMouse
Marceline_idue Marceline_idue
TreasureSniper TreasureSniper
Despite her standoffish introduction, her thoughts were much more innocent, mostly focusing her concerns on another person, presumably a relative or even a friend. If he was looking for a fight, she wasn't the one to give it to him. Like the smaller girl before, the tall muscular lady was also attempting to de-escalate the matter through the use of a strategic hug. It wouldn't be his first choice to diffuse a situation, but he couldn't argue against its results. The tall one's attitude was honorable, knight-like even. Despite calling her a "brigand" not too long ago, she was now willing to drop whatever aggression she had, but also protect her from guard from before.

What interested Seymour the most was how "Seraphina" managed to fly toward the tall one with relative ease. Who's ability was this? The tall one? While Seymour hasn't seen that many types of powers with his own eyes (yet), he's heard all sorts of abilities through the grapevine, so telekinesis wouldn't be too out there. Staying silent, Seymour continued to listen to the chatter between Seraphina and Samara. Words of the people rarely have a strong effect on someone like Seymour, he couldn't deny that the tall one's pep talk was strangely heartwarming if not slightly cheesy.

"The higher-ups huh..." Seymour returned to a more relaxed stance, putting his arms behind his head while exhaling. "Well...if that talent is as potent as you say it is, you'll be sent into the labyrinth in no time." A small smile formed around his lips, as he watched more guards arrive at the scene. Seeing that he has nothing more to add to the situation, Seymour chooses to walk away, but not before leaving an "encouraging" message. "If everything goes well, I guess I'll see you guys in the Labyrinth." Seymour gave them a wink and a playful salute.

Tau Tau AnonyMouse AnonyMouse

And now, making his way to his true target, he would pose but one question. "Say Lemondrop, you wouldn't be in the market to hire some muscle would you?" Not the most graceful way to start a partnership, but nonetheless he was sure she'd appreciate how direct he was

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After the commotion in one of the arena's halls, some guards were escorting some girl with white hair over. It wasn't crazy to see wildly different-colored hair after the labyrinth appeared, so her strange silvery hair didn't surprise anyone. But the Director looked up, "What's the meaning of this?" the old man said. He was a bit irritated that his attention was being pulled away from -what he viewed as much more important at the moment: the newly discovered Chosen with powerful abilities. His face and tone conveyed, 'Can't this wait?'

Perhaps the guards could've taken the girl to any of the higher ups, but the Director was the closest. So it was simply easier to walk the 150 feet or so over. However, since this was a small spectacle, the people up in the stands began to murmur, watching the guards leading a person over. Rumors began to abound. That girl must've done something terrible if she was being escorted to the Director of all people.

"Director, sir," began one of the guards, placing his hand over his heart and dipping his head respectfully at the greying old man. "We caught this er..." he glanced back. Then he swallowed his words. "This girl is a Chosen. She has significant abilities. She was acting up, but she's settled down. We think this particular Chosen would be useful to Ambition and humanity! We thought you should know about her and judge her yourself. But in my opinion, she's easily strong enough to take on the labyrinth and bring hope to humanity!" That's what the guard legitimately thought after witnessing her telekinetic powers. Telekinesis wasn't unheard of amongst Chosen, but it wasn't a common power either. And her little execution scene signified she had stronger control than most. At least she'd be able to kill some Wiga, or Pigmen.

The Director was still a bit peeved, but decidedly less so after hearing that. He was really interested in the current S ranks, and anyone pulling his attention away from them was not going to be on his good side. He was already formulating the plans to send the S ranks into the labyrinth. But none of that meant he should ignore other potentially strong Chosen. An A, B, or even strong C rank were all worthy of his attention.

"Hm.. I see," the old man said, stepping over. He stroked his white mustache and beard, looking down at the girl with a piercing gaze. "If what the guard said is true, then you're definitely worth considering, young miss. However, we cannot know just by looking at you. Would you mind touching the scroll?" he asked, stepping aside. The large scroll was still fluttering in the air, but was well within reach. He deeply wanted the Chosen girl -or any Chosen- to touch it, but he could not force them.

"You see those three?" He pointed to a blonde girl, a plain-looking man, and a darkish girl with oily hair -who leaned over with a smile and waved at the group. "They're all S rank! It may take a bit to fully understand what that means, as we've never seen such a thing before in all of Ambition! However, the scroll does not lie. So if you have even half the power they do, then that's worthy of praise! If you would, miss?"
Tau Tau
Seraphina put her hood up and retreated further into her scarf as she was dragged into a more public view. Unfortunately, the director’s request was everything she’d tried desperately to avoid, so there was zero chance of her touching that scroll without someone slapping her with it.

"That’s impressive," Sera answered in the most calm and collected tone she could manage, considering the dark-haired girl’s nearby presence offered her all the comfort of a venomous spider hiding in her bedsheets. "There must be some other way to convince you, yes? I believe a public reveal would be a mistake, but I also have an S rank talent."

Thalia_Neko Thalia_Neko
"WHAT?! YOU DO?!" The Director gasped aloud. It was comical, seeing this greying old man looked so taken aback and shocked. Though he quickly righted his countenance and cleared his throat. "If that's the case... Then I would implore you to touch the scroll even more... Just to prove what you say, little miss."

Frankly speaking, it wasn't like he didn't believe her. Three S ranks had shown up suddenly. It wouldn't come as that much more of a surprise if another showed up. Was it the "day of reckoning" or "day of miracles" or some such thing? Still, it was a bit hard to believe the spoken words of someone. He thought about it. "I suppose we could get an appraiser, but if what you say is true... then they likely couldn't confirm it.." But maybe if she couldnt be read, that would be proof enough. "Hows that sound?"
Location: Arena, stage entrance

I suppose she is of that age... Samara thought with a wry smile as she watched Sera make her decision. This woman had made the mistake of treating her like a child when Sera was clearly something much worse: a teenager. She was destined to do the opposite of what any adult told her to do. But, most importantly, she was doing it with a sound mind and a clear heart, which is all any reasonable adult could ask for. Samara could do little more than watch and smile, silently encouraging her as the girl spoke with the guards about demonstrating her power.

Now that things seemed ot be calming down, Samara began to gather her things. She wasn't truly paying much attention to what Sera was doing. By the time she hoisted her travel pack and shield and turned to see what was going on, the sight horrified her. The girl had used her powers to pantomime an execution! Chains. Blades. All of it. The girl could seemingly conjure anything and THAT was how she chose to demonstrate it? Oh, she could have made puppies and kittens and butterflies, but no.

Samara huffed a sigh. Sadly, this society often equated a Chosen's worth to their ability to murder things, so maybe Sera was merely trying to show the guards she could be of use in the Labyrinth. Yes, that must be it. That's all it was. Nothing to worry about.

The man who had so casually blocked the doorway departed with some enigmatic words. "Well met, sir. Same to you," Samara said, with a slight dip of her head. She knew nothing about him, but the small part he played in bringing this troublesome affair to a close was appreciated.

As the guards led the girl away, Samara followed, but at a substantial distance. There was no escaping this. It was bound to happen sooner or later. Now that other S-Ranks had appeared, Samara at least knew she wouldn't be alone or undeservedly placed upon a pedestal. She had no intention of presenting herself to the boisterous announcer, but if there was a less flashy way to bring her rank to the attention of this city's leadership, now was the time to do so. She could only hope some good would come of it.

The trio on the stage appeared to be the same three Deathblade spoke of when he burst into Roy's shop ages ago. Lemondrop was hard to miss and a known element. Beside her was a rather plain-looking man, whom Samara assumed must be the rider of monsters. And... ah, yes, the other girl... she must be the one who summoned a skeleton. Samara felt bad for the girl. Had her Talent turned her into... this? Poor thing.

I suppose I can relate.

After hanging back for a moment, Samara finally made up her mind to approach the Director. "Excuse me. Director, sir," she said, hailing him as she carefully pushed through the small crowd of guardsmen surrounding them. She certainly didn't mean to push and shove, but there was only so much room, and she occupied an unhealthy amount of it. "Samara Morghan. Adventurer. At your service, sir," she said, pressing her fist to her chest. "S-Rank," she said as the punctuation mark of this greeting. She briefly revealed the contents of her DS. The image was only visible for a precious few seconds --long enough for a few of the guards behind her to gasp and woo-- before it vanished once more. All they needed to see what the Rank. This isn't a reading club or show-and-tell.

"If my credentials are in order, I would like to assist this young lady, in any way possible," she said. "But I also need to know the real reason for this gathering. With all due respect, sir, it seems in poor taste to hold such a gaudy affair in the wake of a disaster. I would not have come if not for my... erm... 'encounter' with Miss Sera. I hope there is something I am missing here."

Interaction(s): Tau Tau | TreasureSniper TreasureSniper | Thalia_Neko Thalia_Neko
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Lemondrop Meringue
Thalia_Neko Thalia_Neko TreasureSniper TreasureSniper

Unfathomable! Inconceivable! Inexplicable!

What did he mean there was more than one S-rank? What did the creepy girl coming on stage mean by 'Raise Simple Undead'? This was Lemondrop's S-rank reveal! "H-Hey!" she shouted in a whiny tone. "Please wait your turn! We haven't gotten to the fireworks, yet!"

Then the undead rose from the floor, and pandemonium ensued. The guards panicked and struggled against her summons. The crowd's cheers went away. Lemondrop grimanced. "Oh me, oh my, that is unpleasant..." She glanced at the stands and saw that her father shared her same concern. Why, this wouldn't do at all! Lemondrop scurried over to Daeva, and—patiently waiting for whatever her interaction was with the slender figure behind her—tapped her shoulder as well. "Please, please, please tell me you're done! Tell me you can summon a big smiley undead lemon or something! Something that will make the audience laugh and cheer again? Pleeeeeaasssee?"

Something told Lemondrop the undead-summoning girl probably didn't. No matter! There were other people she could rely on! Lemondrop spun around and hollered, "Seymour? Seymour!" She spotted him coming up the stage. "There you are! Yoohoo ~ !" Lemondrop hopped on her toes, waving like a maniac.

When Seymour was close enough, Lemondrop threw herself against his chest in mock crying. "It's all over, Seymour! Did you see that big, gross, skeleton? The audience remembers bad things more than the good! I will never recover socially from this! Bweeehhh!" In the next second, Lemondrop went back to her feet as if nothing happened. "Did you say something about more muscle? Sure, sure, but I'm in need of serious assistance! This Necromancer, no disrespect intended, is ruining the vibe! Daddy spent a lot to make sure this day would go great! How were we supposed to know I wasn't the only S-rank out there? It's soooo unfair!" Lemondrop stomped her foot repeatedly.

Suddenly, her pupils became dollar signs. "Seymour! What if, and hear me out... we hired the S-ranks to work for me?! Aren't I so wise? I'm such a genius! Good job, Lemondrop! Daddy would be proud of me!"

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