As quickly as everything started, it also ended. One moment every super was dealing with stuff coming out of portals, the next we were not. Well, it was slightly more gradual than that with portals having appeared at different times and fading away differently as well, but at some point everything was done. There were concerns about supervillains having potentially taken advantage of the chaos, but it seemed that most of them were surprised as well.
But there was one name that came up the most, of course. Doctor Doomsday. The portals being due to his technology went from just a high probability to near certainty with a bit more study. Some problematically small devices had been set up ahead of time, and they were being obtained in each location, pulled out from beneath concrete or hidden inside bricks or otherwise hidden. Unfortunately, they were all basically scrap. Whatever super tech went into them it also included some sort of self-destruct feature.
A short time later I got a text. There was also one already waiting, probably something that had happened when I was in mid-combat. It didn’t have a special priority to get my attention, so I hadn’t noticed. I read them in the order they came in.
The first was from Jerome’s mom. Tylissa? She was in my phone as Jerome’s mom but I was pretty sure her name came up at some point.
|Jerome just passed out!!!
Just used magic and passed out!
He shot fire at some sort of plant monster
What do I do??!
Will he b ok!?
He did magic?
How much? What kind?
If he wasn’t hit on the head or anything, passing out from magic use is normal.
Burned a plant monster
Can you come look at him?
Sure. On my way.
It might have been a mistake to commit to going before I looked at the next text, but honestly the fact that my student had somehow actually used magic was… unexpected. I was pretty sure it would be impossible without the class system. I needed to see what had happened. Still, I checked the other text. It was from Zorphax
|Need you for another translation job, if you are available.
Is it urgent? I have something important.
It can wait. Will attempt contact with Malaliel.
Straightforward and to the point. I liked that about Zorphax. I hoped whatever it was went well, but I had another thing to get to. One that was both personally and professionally compelling.
After all of the fighting and monsters stopped, Izzy ran into a slight problem. She didn’t know where she was, or where she was going. She wasn’t lost. In fact, she could absolutely retrace her steps back to where she came from if she wanted to. But that wouldn’t help.
She had a goal of course. Find Turlough. If she saw him she’d certainly recognize him, even after… well, a lot of time. Unless Zentha had fully misled her, she should be in the same city. Izzy thought she could track someone down in a city pretty easily, but there was a problem. First, this city was the wrong size. Not everything was a giant tower going up into the sky, but there were sure a lot of them. Almost nothing had less than three or four stories. Large numbers of big buildings meant a lot of people, as she quickly came to realize walking through the streets.
That was all fine because Turlough was an orc. He’d stand out… in many places. Unfortunately there was the slight issue in that it appeared the population was more diverse than she had expected. Upon learning that this place didn’t have orcs and elves and the like and was mainly populated by humans, she thought she had it all figured out. Then she realized that with enough people, even if a small portion were not human it sure ended up with a lot of things she hadn’t seen before.
If that had been all, she still could have tracked him down. Not through literal tracking, since the ground wasn’t much good for following anyone with it being made out of… different sorts of weird rock. There were other ways to track people down, by making use of simple social structures. In short, talking to people. If that wasn’t enough, a bit of coin helped.
But for that to work she’d have to speak the language. “Anyone speak common?” Izzy asked for the dozenth time. “Elven? Dwarven?” She wasn’t fully fluent in those, but at least she could communicate. All she got in exchange were some odd looks, along with people bending down to talk to her in some language she didn’t speak.
Ugh. Tall folk. It wasn’t really their fault that they had to look down at her to speak to her, but crouching down close was the most uncomfortable way. They should just take a couple steps back so nobody had to strain their neck. Since they couldn’t communicate, Izzy just moved around, watching for geographical features that she could use to guide her way. Signs with bright colors and distinctive shapes helped.
After a bit, Izzy pulled out some dried food to munch on. She would have liked to sit down for a proper meal, but she hadn’t brought any with her. She could see places serving food- quite a lot of them in fact- but as she watched people inside she didn’t understand the conventions. And the things they paid in seemed to be paper and coins with different denominations than she was used to. When they didn’t just use a magic rectangle, anyway.
Should she take one of those? No, that was a stupid idea. No need to involve herself in anything criminal. She could figure this out on her own. Right?
After a while she noticed she was being followed. The one who did it wasn’t exactly subtle. The bright clothing didn’t help, and the way they were always staring didn’t either. Didn’t they realize that wearing a mask just made them conspicuous? On the other hand, they might just be dangerous enough. She’d seen a few similar people fighting. Was it some sort of designation? What colors meant what?
Then she was stopped by a few people in uniforms. Even if she didn’t speak the language, Izzy recognized people calling out to her and gesturing to her. She didn’t feel as much of a threat from the blue uniformed people individually, but she couldn’t help but move her hands to her swords. In turn that made them reach for their waist, and there was a lot of yelling.
“I’m just here to look for a friend!” Izzy said. Not that they could understand her. Though it was clear they were at least trying.
Through gestures they managed to communicate something about her swords. Izzy could guess they wanted her to disarm herself. Were swords not allowed in the city? What about the weapons these people had? Then again, they might be guards. Or they might not. If they were some sort of organized criminal element, she couldn’t let her guard down.
Then the brightly colored woman revealed herself, gesturing over to the side of the area. They walked over first and stood there, and Izzy slowly walked closer. They kept trying to talk, and Izzy in return tried to say a few things. The angle that the uniformed people were at required Izzy to keep track of them through reflective surfaces or her peripheral vision instead of looking at them directly, but as far as she could tell they had relaxed slightly. The brightly colored person was just sitting on a bench, and Izzy had the feeling they should wait. She didn’t take a position on the same bench, or any other. She wanted to be ready in case something went poorly.
She watched as metal vehicles moved by along the streets. Special carriages of some sort, controlled by a turning thing inside. The person in the front-left position. That information was kept in mind in case it was important.
Another one of those showed up, and out of it stepped an angel. The wings were a pretty dead giveaway, and the sense of calm and peace also told her something. Izzy still kept cautious, but the feelings weren’t forced upon her. Then the angel spoke.
Izzy still didn’t understand any words… but she got a concept.
The woman gestured to Izzy’s swords. Weapons?
The following attempts didn’t communicate so clearly. Identity? Izzy had no way to communicate that with simple gestures, and she hadn’t even been sure that nodding would be understood.
It was a suggestion and also a command. Nothing that seemed to be bending Izzy’s will, but she wasn’t really specialized in that sort of thing. It seemed reasonable though. She really hoped that this angel followed the general idea of them and was benevolent.
Izzy found herself climbing into one of the metal vehicles with the angel. It was a bit close to someone she wasn’t sure was an enemy or not, but the time for running away was long gone. There were too many people of some power involved. The person in the bright costume, the angel, and as a group the blue uniformed people. She might be able to escape, but doing so would have branded her a criminal even if she wasn’t doing anything wrong. It certainly looked bad.
And if they had ill intentions, she would find a way out of whatever captivity they put her in. Though she really hoped they had someone with some translation magic waiting for her so she didn’t have to try that.
“Good news, it just looks like mana exhaustion,” I told Tylissa. Jerome was already awake when I arrived, but I recognized the signs. There was that look of befuddled exhaustion on his face, the kind that apprentice wizards got when they overused magic without understanding it. The kind that I’d seen happen with Midnight. And yes, maybe there had been someone else who used Storage until they collapsed when they first got magic. But nobody had explained to me how things worked yet.
“I can’t believe I actually did it!” Jerome said excitedly. “You told me it would take a lot longer to learn.”
“I said it would take a lot longer… if it was possible at all.” I shook my head, “I don’t know if it should be possible. It’s a feature of my world but nobody here can use the Status screen. Can you?”
“Uh,” Jerome frowned. “How do I do that again?”
“Just think about it. Try it. Something should pop up in front of you, like a game screen.” Since it had been explained to me, I’d looked it up and found that it really was similar to a game screen. Or anything electronic that displayed information. There were only so many ways things could be done after all.
“Uh… nothing. But I really can do magic!” Jerome said. “Here I’ll show-”
“Stop.” I commanded sternly as he began to gather mana. “I believe you for multiple reasons. Avoid using magic until at least an hour has passed unless you want to have the worst headache.”
“Also,” Midnight spoke beside me. “Wasn’t that uh… a Firebolt?” Midnight didn’t have the same practice sensing mana as I did, but he had gotten the ability as part of the bond. It was a spell we used often, so it was easily recognizable. “Maybe you should not do that inside? Or really anywhere but a special training facility, if you can help it.”
Jerome swallowed, “Uh, yeah. Sorry. I did the other thing though. The shield thing.”
“That’s right,” Tylissa nodded, “That was the first thing he did, to protect me. It was like,” she held out her hands. “This big? A translucent circle?”
“Like this?” I used Shield, transposing it between us.
“Yeah, that!” Jerome nodded. “You showed me that before.”
“I did,” I nodded. “So, don’t take this the wrong way, because I believe that you can do magic. But you shouldn’t be able to do magic. So if you could explain what happened, maybe we can figure out why that changed.”
I wondered if maybe it was one of those super awakenings that happened. He could have just happened to get a power that looked like magic… and used mana. It didn’t even really fit in my head, but it also didn’t make sense that he could use Shield and Firebolt without levels and points and a class. Jerome and his mother began to explain, starting with the yelling and the weird plant thing. Then there was something about some kid with swords saving them, but Tylissa was obviously more focused on Jerome passing out rather than which hero came to their rescue, though she did speak quite appreciatively of the whirling blur.
After they finished, I didn’t know more about why Jerome could use magic, but I had some theories based on some particularities of the portals. I just wasn’t sure if they were directly involved yet.