Friday, June 24, 2011

Insert The Gathering Storm Here

"Mmmm… nynnhh…" Tash moaned painfully and shifted slightly. (Why am I so tired…? And I ache all over….) She struggled to remember what she had been doing that would made her so tired, but her mind was sluggish and slow and refused to work properly. They'd saved Meg at the Percy Jackson fandom… she'd done some paperwork and prepared a briefing for next week… kissed, petted and snuggled with Adrian for awhile… had a cup of tea… and then gone to bed…

Suddenly, a bolt of fear and clarity jolted through her, blasting through her fogged mind like a lightning bolt, blasting the cobwebs out of the way. (I was kidnapped! Someone kidnapped me and then a Sue took my place! I have to get up! I have to warn the others!) She struggled and jerked, but found that her arms and legs were securely bound.

"Do stop struggling, won't you?" A female voice said coolly. "It's not doing you any good…."

(I know that voice…) Tash opened her eyes slowly and blinked, still trying to free herself. "Runoa!" She strained, but now that she was more aware, she felt chains binding her wrists and ankles to a wall, like she was being crucified.

"Oh, good. You remember my name." The sound of booted feet striking a marble floor reach Tash's ears and she felt the Sue cup her cheek. "You're still a little groggy from that sedative, aren't you? Well, let's clear that up…"

Before Tash could turn her head away, she felt a warmth tingle across her cheek and then spread throughout the rest of her body, clearing what was left of the fog in her mind and restoring feeling to her body, though the British girl still felt tired and achy, like every part of her body weighed an extra twenty pounds. "What….?"

Runoa, dark tresses falling over her shoulders smirked, as she stepped back. "That's better… this will be much easier on both of us if you're awake and aware and I didn't want to wait for the sedative to wear off." She turned and walked away, revealing she was dressed in a black pants and a long-sleeved sweater that hugged her curves like they were painted on. "You've been out of it for at least a week and it would have taken forever for you to wake up."

Now that she was fully awake, Tash glanced around to get a better view of her surroundings. They were in some kind of large white/gray marble chamber of some kinds, circular in shape with a great dome up to. The only entrance she could see was right across from her, with an overhang supported by stone columns. Outside was a bleak and foreboding landscape that was filled with jagged rocks and raging storm clouds filled the sky, stretching from horizon to horizon with great flashes of lighting lancing down at random intervals. "Where are we…?"

"Oh?" Runoa glanced back over her shoulder. "This place? We're in the Shattered Heart of the World and if you want a fandom, it's Kingdom Hearts." She gestured to the raging storms outside. "Like the World That Never Was, this place was formed out of bits and pieces of worlds destroyed by the Heartless or worlds that never managed to pull themselves together. As such, it has no heart and so it's forever chaotic, lacking balance, order, guidance… unable to even sustain its own people. The only population here is bandits and thieves, those wish to avoid detection and those who wish to avoid life in general…" The Sue rubbed her chin thoughtfully. "A fitting place for end of someone so dedicated to order and balance…"

"What?" Tash frowned at her. "What are you talking about?"

"Why…" The Sue turned on her heel, smiling at her brightly. "This is where I'm going to kill the Librarian!"
She laughed at Tash's sharp gasp of surprise and frightened expression. "Why do you think you were kidnapped, girl? It was so we could distract and disrupt the Society from inside! Well…" Runoa chuckled. "Having you handed over to me and using you to lure the Librarian to his death is a wonderful extra…"

"It won't work!" Tash snapped, glaring at her fiercely. "You might be able to fight Adrian by yourself, but you can't fight all of the Society! They'll kick your ass!"

The confidence Tash's statement had given faded as Runoa smiled darkly, Tash's expression growing worried. "And what if I told you that your precious little Librarian would not only have to fight me, but the other members of the Society as well?"

"W-w-what…?' The British girl stammered, not believing her ears. "What are you talking about!"

Runoa walked over to a curtain-covered rectangle and tugged it slightly. "We did more than kidnap you, my dear Tash…. we replaced you with a Sue who can take the appearance of anyone she wants. And not only did she supply us with up-to-date about the Library, your prisoners and everything we need to know about your friends, she's got one last task to do…" With a gesture, she yanked the curtain away to reveal a large mirror. She tapped the surface and the glass rippled like water, the image shifting to that of wood-floored room with bookshelves covering the walls.

"That's Adrian's office!" Tash exclaimed. "How did you…!"

Runoa stepped to one side so that Tash could see. "Your doppelganger managed to plant a magical camera in his office, though it was the only place she could…I've been using it to plan my strategy…" She grinned maliciously. "Now… just watch…"

In the mirror, the Librarian was seated at his desk, writing on a sheet of paper before him, with several open books spread out on his desk. He paused for a moment, re-reading what he had written, then resumed, occasionally glancing at the books before him or turning a page. It was obvious the camera was too far away to catch any sound.

A few moments later, the door opened and Tash's doppelganger walked in, the real Tash finding herself grudgingly impressed by how the Sue had copied her down to the last detail. (Still… does my hair really stick up like that…?)

Adrian glanced up as the doppelganger walked in, looking a little surprised. He said something, obviously a question as to why she was up so late. But the copy just shook her head, grinning and pulled herself onto his desk, pushing the books and paperwork to one side. Smirking, she reached out and petted Adrian's ears, the Librarian closing his eyes and sighing happily.

The real Tash growled and glared at her double. (Only I get to do that! Those are MY kitty ears!)

The doppelganger giggled and kissed at his cheek, slowly working her way down to his jawline and then his neck before gripping the lapels of his trenchcoat and hauling him up for a fierce kiss, his ears and tail twitching in surprise while the real Tash's growl became a snarl.

Releasing Adrian, the doppelganger smiled lovingly and ran the palms of her hands across his chest, the Librarian looking a little flushed. Still smiling, the false Tash kissed him on the nose and giggled again when he burned red. He asked her something, obviously what had put her in such an affectionate mood, only for her response to be hauling him up again for a passionate kiss.

"What kinds of plan is that!" Tash finally snapped Runoa. "You're going to have that little hussy seduce my boyfriend? He'll never fall for that!"

Runoa just chuckled. "He won't have to figure it out…" A bemused smile slid onto her face at Tash's confused expression and she gestured to the mirror. "Just watch…"

Back in Adrian's office, the doppelganger was practically falling off the desk as she kissed at his face and neck. Adrian gave a little shiver and asked her something.

The doppelganger sudden smiled maliciously and whispered something softly. Instantly, Adrian shoved her back off the desk and slid himself backwards, rising out of his chair as Hoshikuzu's sword form appeared in his grasp with a flare of light. A dark snarl crossed his face as his eyes narrowed and he pointed his sword at her threateningly.

The fake Tash just laughed, her face a dark twin of the real one's. She said something to him, obviously mocking the Librarian before a knife appeared in her grasp and she lunged at him, trying to stab him in the chest. But the lunge and blow were predictable and clumsy as Adrian easily avoided the blow and retaliated, Hoshikuzu slashing across her chest.

"Ha!" Tash cheered and snickered at Runoa. "Looks your little assassination attempt failed!"

"Oh… really?" For a third time, the dark-haired Sue gestured back to the mirror, still smirking. "That's not what I see…"

Back in the office, the fake Tash stumbled backwards wildly, blood soaking her shirt and hands as she clutched at the wound, falling back into a bookshelf, books spilling to the floor as the doppelganger wailed and screamed, sobbing. And judging by the surprised look on Adrian's face, the real Tash knew that he hadn't hurt her that badly.

Seconds later, the door to Adrian's office burst open as Society members poured into the room, Michael, Harriet and Kyle leading the way. They glanced between Adrian, the sobbing and bleeding 'Tash' curled up amongst fallen books and trinkets in obvious confusion, surprise and fear.

Then the fake Tash, still sobbing, pointed wildly at Adrian and shouted something and the other Society member's faces darkened in rage, Michael hurling himself at the Librarian, the Darkness erupting around him and lashing out with flailing whip-like tentacles as Adrian stumbled back in surprise, reflexively bringing his sword of up to block. He batted the tentacles aside and shouted something, gesturing at the fake Tash, but then a glowing fist forced him to duck, the blow shattering the wall behind. Kyle, his body glowing faintly with the energy of his soul, rained blow after blow upon the Librarian.

Sparks flew as Adrian blocked or parried with his sword, desperately shouting to make himself heard but was forced to drop down and roll away as Michael's darkness emerged from behind him, scythe-like blades hissing through the space where his head just been. Whirling to his feet, Adrian yanked a bookshelf away from the wall and shoved it at the pair, who yelled out and simply blasted their way through, sending a flurry of dust, paper scraps and shelf into the air.

"No… no… no…" The real Tash watched, eyes wide in horror as more and more Agents entered the fight, swarming and striking out at the Librarian, who desperately tried to defend himself while not harming his comrades. "No! No! No! No! No!"

Runoa laughed as she watched the battle play out in front of her, Adrian disappearing under a pile of Agents and their attacks before shoving them all away with a burst of violet light. He flipped over his desk and kicked it at them, darting and disappearing through a second doorway as the Agents worked their away around or through the desk, a stray attack striking the camera and reducing the image to static. "Why are you so surprised…? After all, your friends heard you say that he tried to rape you and when you resisted, he tried to kill you!"

"Shut up! That's not true!" Tash yelled at her frantically. "You tricked them! Adrian would never do that!"

"Of course, it's not true, dear…" Runoa walked slowly up to her chained guest, boots sounding against the marble floor. "But your friends don't know any different, do they? All they saw was you sobbing and bleeding in a corner, the room a mess and Adrian's sword with blood on it…"

Tash growled and jerked against the chains holding her. "This won't fool him for long! He'll figure out a way to prove it was a trick to the others and then they'll come get you!"

"That's exactly what I want…" Runoa stopped in front of her prisoner, smiling. Like a snake smiles before it eats a rodent. "He knows it's a trick and he also knows that only way to prove it is to find you. Which means…"

The British girl's eyes widened as she realized it. "Which means… he has to come here…"

"That's it…" Runoa nodded. "He's been on the run for a week, trying to track me down… and its lead him here. And the poor fool's in love with you, so nothing will stop him from coming to your rescue." She patted Tash's cheek. "Thank you, my dear. He will die if he comes here, because I will kill him and he will die if he tries to go back to the Society, as they'll probably kill him. And it's all thanks to you…"

Then she turned and left, vanishing out the door way and leaving Tash all alone… alone with her hurt and pain and sorrow.

Tears fell to the floor like rain as Tash shuddered and sobbed quietly, knowing that whatever she did, her lover was going to die…


Something wasn't right…

That was Adrian's thought as he walked his way through the winding stone maze that the rocks of the Shattered Heart of the World formed. It was filled with thousands of dead-ends, switch-backs, loops and narrow passageways. One could wander for years in the same section of the maze and not realize it. The walls were too high to climb and doing so risked him getting struck by the perpetual lighting storms up above.

But that wasn't what was wrong.

Nor was it the fact his friend and comrades had been turned against him and he been forced to flee the Library a week ago. Oh, he could have stayed and fought and probably defeated and trapped them all in separate rooms or something like that. The Society members were powerful in their own rights and together, they proved a formidable challenge even for him, but he was at his absolute strongest in the Library. But it would have too time-consuming to battle and lock them up and they weren't in the mood to listen, either. Not to mention he couldn't divide his time between keeping them locked up and searching for the real Tash. It was easier to find her first and thus, prove his innocence.

At least he'd sabotaged the portal controls as he left and used his authority as Librarian to seal up most of the Library at the same time, buying him some time before the other Agents could repair the controls and denying them any information that might hasten their hunt for him.

That's not what was wrong, either.

Nor was it the fact that he was extremely tired and worn out. For the past week, he'd been traveling from fandom to fandom, hunting for any clues that might lead him to real Tash and he'd followed the awfully spare trail to here, to this god-forsaken place. He'd been fighting all the while, from enemies who'd love a piece of the weakened Librarian, to Sues and Stus he encountered on his searching and occasionally, the few Society members who had been outside of the Library when he left. Luckily, most of the better fighters had been inside at the time and the ones outside did nothing more than slow him down.

So he was cut up, battered, bruised, exhausted, drained and weary. But such things were nothing new to him and he ignored them, pushing himself onwards, knowing that the sooner he found Tash and rescued her, the sooner this mess would be over.

But that wasn't what was wrong.

Nor was it the fact that he knew he was walking into a trap. From the moment the Sue had revealed herself to him in his office, he knew that he'd wind up heading for a trap. He didn't care. Back before he was the Librarian, he'd been a hero and had walked into the jaws of death and terror a thousand times before and come out ahead. This would be no different.

He would get past whatever challenges they set for him, save Tash and utterly destroy those responsible.

That also was not what was wrong.

What was wrong was that this place made him uneasy, like one of his senses had been smothered and cut off. As he stepped across the sandy ground, he moved slowly, glancing this way and that, trying to figure what made him so uneasy. (I feel so small…my awareness of my surroundings and everything else has been diminished…)

Something crunched behind him.

Instantly, he whirled, brining his sword up into a guard position but wasn't fast enough as a black shape flashed past him, the impact from a weapon hitting him a second later and throwing him back off his feet and into a crossroads even as a slash wound opened itself on his chest, droplets of blood spraying into the air.

"Aha-aha-aha! How do you like, Librarian?" A sneering voice mocked even as Adrian rolled to his feet and snapped his blade to catch a sword slash aimed for his neck, the blow shoving Adrian back a few feet before he managed to dig his heels in. "This place will be your grave!"

"Not… likely!" The Librarian grunted and then pushed hard against the blade-locking, breaking it and slashing out, snarling as his attacker leapt clear of his swing. "Who are you!"

His opponent landed lightly a few feet away in the sand. He was dressed, head-to-toe in black clothing and facemask, leaving only his eyes visible, with a katana in his hand. "I am Karitage, an assassin of the highest caliber."

"Hmmph…" Adrian lifted his sword in one hand, violet eyes narrowing. "So you're just a hired killer…but I don't have time to play with you! Librarian Art 1: A Thousand Words In An Instant!" His form winked out of sight and suddenly the air around Karitage was filled with sword slashes raining at him from all directions.

"Ha!" Karitage's own sword blurred at he blocked and parried the slashes and then he whirled, stabbing out suddenly. There was a sharp cry of pain and Adrian went skidding backwards, blood trailing out a new wound in his shoulder. "Your attack is useless!"

(I didn't get to complete all one thousand slashes…and he saw me moving! He shouldn't be able to do that…) The Librarian was yanked out of his thoughts as Karitage attacked, metal ringing as he blocked a blow and then the ninja vanished from view. (Left-!) He threw his sword up to block and began to twist out of the way-

Only for the ninja's katana slash across his forehead and then his foot to connect with his midsection, the blow picking the Librarian off the ground and hurling him into the stone wall in a cloud of shattered stone and dust. "You read my attack and reacted… but far too slowly to actually do anything about it… are you really the famous Librarian?"

"I see…" Adrian emerged from the cloud of dust and debris, seemingly unaffected by the blood pouring down his cheek. "This place's magnetic fields are distorted incredibly and so chaotic that my 'sixth sense' is next to useless here, which means I cannot use my Librarian Arts to their full extent."

"Correct!" Karitage nodded, gesturing to the surrounding area with his blade. "Only those who have trained here can use their sixth sense properly and fight to their full potential! Leaving you-" He pointed at Adrian with his sword. "Exhausted, tired, weak and crippled!" He vanished from view again and Adrian rolled to the side as the ninja slashed through the air where his head been, vanishing from view once more.

The Librarian leapt to his feet and jerked to the side, the tip of the katana scoring a small slice on his cheek before the ninja vanished and reappeared above him, kneecap slamming into Adrian's head and driving it into the sand, only being forced to flip as away as the Librarian instinctively stabbed back at him.

"How does it feel, Adrian?" The ninja landed lightly on his feet even as the Librarian planted Hoshikuzu into the dirt, using it as a prop to help him stand. "To lose one of your senses, to find yourself completely overwhelmed and helpless…?" Karitage dashed forwards, katana ready to skewer his opponent's head. "To embrace death!"

"Do you think…" Blood spurted into the air as Adrian brought his hand up, letting the katana blade drive right through his palm before gripping it tightly. The Librarian's head snapped up, face and violet eyes blazing with rage. "…I CARE!" With a shout, he yanked Hoshikuzu upwards and the ninja screamed as blood and bone sprayed upwards, arm falling to the ground with a wet thud.

Karitage started at the Librarian with wide eyes, then at his arm laying on the ground next to him. He shuddered, turning and bolting away, disappearing down a trail.

His breath came in pants as he struggled to block out the pain and fear long enough to get away, but he still couldn't stop shaking at the look he'd seen in the Librarian's eyes. (It was like looking into the fires of hell… there's no way he's human!)

The ninja skidded around a corner and then gasped in fear as he saw the Librarian standing in front of him, eyes still blazing.

"If you're going to run, you really shouldn't make so much noise. These canyons have excellent acoustics." Adrian said coolly and then flicked the ninja's katana at him. It landed in the ground with a 'shink!' sound, Karitage's bloodied arm impaled on the blade. "You forgot these…"

"Ah… uh… uh… uh…" The ninja glanced at the weapon and limb and then took a step back in fear. "I… what… how…" Then he screamed and clutched at the stump of his arm, dropping to his knees, no longer able to contain the pain.

"I'll give you choice… you can die by from shock and bleeding out…" Adrian pointed Hoshikuzu's blade at him. "Or you can tell me where Tash is and I'll kill you now." Light glinted dangerously down the blade's length. "Your call."

"Nnn…." Karitage gritted his teeth. "Go back to the cross roads… and follow the widest path… it'll lead you to the girl…" He slid his remaining hand into his shirt. "But don't think you'll get away unscathed!" He whipped out a detonator and thumbed the trigger. Instantly, the walls around them began to shake and crumble, shattering and cracking like glass.

(Sonic grenades…) Adrian instinctively folded his ears atop his head, spinning on his heel and running at top speed down the trail, ducking and dodging as the walls crumbled around him, barely a step behind him.

The crossroads came into view and with a desperate leap, the Librarian hurled himself clear as the entire canyon walls gave way and crashed down like the roar of some primordial god being awoken from its slumber, bits of stone and a massive cloud of dust rushing out.

A few seconds passed and satisfied that it was over, Adrian picked himself up and glanced at the ruined canyon behind him, spitting out a globule of blood and dust. "Sore loser…"

He frowned and reached up to his ears. His fingers came away sticky and slick with blood. (I see…he lured me there to trigger those grenades to try and blow out my ears…) Picking up a rock, he flicked it at a nearby boulder a few yards away and listened as it bounced off. (That sounded much farther away than it was… my ears are ringing, too. Both distance and direction are distorted greatly… I can't rely on it for awhile…)

The Librarian turned and started for the widest path without a moment's hesitation. (This would clear up if I waited… but Tash does not have the luxury of time…) He gripped his sword tightly. (And anyone who gets in my way… I will kill!)


Runoa tapped a slim finger against her chin as she watched Adrian start down the path. "My, my…such an intense man… I'd heard that he was a passionate hero once, but I never expected anything like this…" She turned to Tash, appraising her with a new look in her eyes. "If he's half that passionate in bed, dear, I can see why you fell for him. Quite a catch, indeed."

"How is this fair!" Tash snapped at her. "You're having your flunkies fight him and taking his senses away like that! How is this supposed be a fair fight!"

"Your ears must not work, dear…" The dark-haired Sue turned to face her prisoner. "I didn't say I wanted a fair fight. I said I wanted to kill him. And I shall."

"What on earth for!"

Runoa's eyes narrowed darkly. "Because he took what was mine! My position, my power, the Library…everything!"

"The… Library…" Surprise danced its way across Tash's face. "You mean… you were the Librarian!"

"Don't look so shocked, dear. Even with being immortal, there's been nearly dozen different Librarians throughout history. Some are killed, some go mad, some accidentally teleport themselves to alternate dimensions with no way home…" Runoa shrugged. "Being the guardian of all knowledge from throughout history is a very dangerous job."

Tash frowned at her. "So if the Librarian is immortal and you're not dead..."

"How did Adrian get the job?" The Sue finished for her. "It was because the powers that be became afraid of me and replaced me with that upstart boy!" A growl escaped her and her leather gloves creaked as she clenched her fists. "I was so close… so close to completing my research! I would have been able to end all the wars… all the fighting… all the suffering! But they took that chance away from me!"

Despite herself, Tash was curious. "What… are you talking about?"

Runoa flicked a glance at her, as if deciding for a moment what to do. Then she spoke. "The reason there is pain in the universe is because people are flawed… consumed by hatred, lust, greed and envy... I was researching to create a process to remove those impurities… I call it 'Immaculation'…"

A bead of sweat trickled down the side of Tash's face. (This woman… does she really think can actually get rid of those things from people… she has to be crazy!)

"I was close to completing my research when I found myself stripped of my Librarian status and powers and the Library Arcanium began to reject me…then that boy shows up with a team of Counter Guardians and tells me that he's the new Librarian… have no choice, I fled…." Runoa scowled fiercely. "But I was constantly on the run…alone and with limited resources, with no way to get back into the Library and finish my work on the Immaculation process!"

She relaxed her hands and looked at Tash fully. "So… with no way out… I did the only thing I could… I used the Immaculation on myself…"

"But… but… you're a Sue!" Tash stammered. "And they're created by authors! You can't turn yourself into one like that!"

"Oh, but I did!" Runoa spread her arms wide. "The Immaculation was a partial success… I could blend into any fandom I desired, gain any power or ability I wanted, even warp reality itself by tapping into the energies of Plot Holes!" Then she frowned sharply. "But all this power was not enough, as I soon found that the other Sue and Stus, though they were more powerful than most, were far too easily corrupted by their own powers and fell prey to the vices I used the Immaculation to avoid!"

She turned back around and stared out at the thunderstorms raging outside. "I know that besides Adrian, I am the only being qualified or willing to be the Librarian right now… and the Library cannot exist without a Librarian… so that's why… on this day, on this spot… Adrian will die!"

"No!" Tash jerked and strained against the chains holding her fiercely. "I won't let you kill him!"

Runoa glanced back over her shoulder, watching her struggle. "Give it up… you're far too weak to break free of those chains."

"I… am… not… weak!" Tash struggled harder, the chains groaning as she stretched them to there fullest extent. "I told Adrian… I'd protect him… and I meant it!"

"Sheer force of will not now allow to get free, dear. I suggest you stop-" Runoa's eyes widened slightly as one of the chains shrieked and snapped, the other three following shortly afterwards. "Impossible!"

With a wordless yell, Tash yanked her necklace free of her neck and in a burst of flame, it morphed into her staff even as she leapt through the air and slammed the staff towards Runoa's head.

"Grrr!" Runoa side-stepped the blow, the staff's head smashing into the marble floor and sending up a spray of debris. "You little…!" Then she skidded back as Tash swiped at her head, blow missing by inches.

"Jurai-Ken-" Tash dropped into a crouching stance, staff extending back over her right shoulder while her left leg was extended out as it could go. "Tairenso!" (Dancing Flame - Whirling Hell Wind!) The she catapulted forwards , whirling as flames erupted from her staff and enveloped her, turning her into a blazing tornado of flames.

"Tch… so you know how to fight now…" Runoa snapped out her hands and a pair of swords materialized there. Anyone familiar with Japanese swords would have immediately identified them as kodachi. "It won't save you!" She willed her power into the blades and they burned red before she snapped at the oncoming flaming tornado, blades of red energy leaping from her weapons.

Then her eyes widened in surprise as the energy blades simply struck the tornado and shattered apart, the Librarian-Sue leaping to the air just as Tash's destructive attack reached her, opening a gash on her lower leg and shredding the cuffs of her pants apart. "Nnnng…"

Tash's attack didn't even lose momentum as she continued coming, flaming tornado roaring up the wall with out skipping a beat. "This time… things are different, Runoa!'

"Just because the bug has some bite doesn't mean it's any less of a bug!" Runoa snapped back, still in the air. She drew her weapons back, lining them up so one was behind the other. "Kodachi Nito-Ryu - Onmyo Hasshi!" (Double Kodachi-Dusk to Dawn Strike!) She threw the blades forwards, the first one striking the point where the base of the tornado met the wall and unleashing a blast of energy that threw Tash off the wall, flames fading away.

The Sue caught her blades as they whirled back to her on her descent and slammed the both towards the Tash's head, who managed to catch the double blow on the length of her staff, dropping to one knee as the two women pushed against one another. "Give it up, girl! You're no match for me!"

"I'm more than enough for you!" Tash returned and shoved hard, sending Runoa skidding back as the blonde girl charged swinging her staff up at the Sue's chin. "Jurai Ken- Doryuto!" Her foot slammed into the staff and launched it upwards, flames trailing in its wake.

Runoa cried out as the attack hit, sending her reeling backwards. "Damn…!"

"Jurai-Ken- Doryuta!" Tash dropped down from above, slamming her palm into her staff and her staff at Runoa's head. Metal chimed as the Sue crossed her blades and blocked the blow, inches from her.

Not skipping a beat, Tash flipped away and then charged at her. "Jurai-Ken - Rinwi!" (Dancing Flame - Searing Flame Strike!) She planted the head of her staff into the ground and pole-vaulted, slamming both her heels into Runoa's chest at full force, whirling a second later and smashing the Sue across the face with the head of her flaming staff.

Sparks of both fire and metal flew as Runoa managed to block the blow inches from her face, shoving it away and then grabbing the length of the staff with that hand, reeling Tash in close and stabbing her other blade through her shoulder, eliciting a cry of pain from the girl as blood spattered onto the floor. "You're better than before…" She slammed the hilt of her other sword into Tash's face and then slammed her foot into the girl's stomach, knocking her away and off her feet. "But it only makes you more of an annoyance!"

The Sue stabbed both blades into the floor and Tash screamed as a pillar of red light erupted beneath her, blasting her into the air. Runoa yanked her blades free and leapt after her, lashing out with a whirling rain of kicks and sword slashes, each successive striking knocking Tash higher and higher. With a shout, the Librarian-turned-Sue drove her blades into Tash's gut and shouted an arcane word, Tash screamed in searing pain as the attack blasted her off the blades and across the expanse of the room, a cloud of dust, marble and blood filling the air as the dome halted her flight.

Runoa's boots thudded against the floor as she landed easily on the floor. "I hope I didn't kill you with that attack… after all, I still need you alive to draw the Librarian in…" Then she leapt aside as blast of flame roared out of the cloud and seared the marble where she had just been. "You're still alive…"

Tash emerged from the cloud, glaring fiercely down at Runoa and seemingly unaffected by the wounds covering her body. A pair of gold-and-red feathered wings beat softly, keeping her aloft. "Runoa… you're going to burn!" With a mighty yell, Tash dove down at her, flames dancing and twisting around her as her staff ignited.


"Oh I've got a lovely bunch of coconuts, a lovely bunch of coconuts..." The tall and pale chain-wielding Darkling sang as he whipped another of his bladed weapons the Librarian, reeling the second one in before hurling the bladed tip at Adrian like spear.

Adrian jumped the first chain and ducked the second, which whizzed past his ear and embedded itself in the canyon wall. (The only good thing about my diminished hearing is that I can't really hear that damn song… whoever taught the Darkness that, anyway?)

The shadows next to him shifted and the Librarian threw Hoshikuzu up in a block as Michael's darkness enveloped form burst out, their swords sparking as they pressed against one another, Adrian grunting as the sheer force of Michael's attack shoved him back a dozen yards before the Society Agent leapt away, fading into the shadows again as the two chains hisses and lashed out, striking the sand near the Librarian's feet and forcing him to jump away.

(We've been fighting like this for at least ten minutes…) Adrian growled softly in frustration as he landed atop a boulder. (I've already taken out a couple of Darklings… but while they keep me busy, Michael keeps doing his 'hit-and-fade' routine!) A sharp pain shot up his leg and he slapped a hand on his thigh, stopping a spurt of a blood. The wound there and the few on his back testified at how effect Michael's strategy was. (He's not doing a lot of damage… but if this keeps up, he'll wear me down into exhaustion.)

"I trusted you!" Michael leapt out of Adrian's own shadow, his shout loud enough even be heard by Adrian's bleeding ears. The Librarian whirled and blocked the blow at the last moment, the cross of their blades next three inches from his neck. "I trusted you… and you betrayed us!"

"And I'm telling you, it's not like that!" Adrian shoved against the blade-lock and kicked Michael in the side, sending his friend bouncing and rolling across the sand. "You didn't see what you think you saw! You were tricked!"

"Liar!" Michael rolled to his feet and leapt at Adrian, tentacles of darkness lashing out, whipping and hissing at the beleaguered Librarian. "You tried to rape her!" Adrian managed to slash several of the tentacles apart, but one struck his hand and Hoshikuzu went flying out of his grasp and the Librarian howled in agony as Michael's blade bit into his shoulder. "You tried to kill her!" He twisted the blade and another howl split the air, the Librarian's legs bucking out from beneath him.

Then Michael's eyes widened as Adrian's hand came up and gripped the blade of the sword. "I'm sorry, Michael…but I don't have time to sit here and argue with you…" He gripped the blade tighter, blood leaking from his palm and fingers. "The real Tash… needs my help... and I swore I wouldn't let her down! Even if it meant my life!" With a sharp shout, he snapped the blade into three pieces and then landed a powerful punch onto his friend's chin, knocking Michael off his feet and sending him sprawling.

Gingerly, painfully, Adrian got back to his feet, swaying at little where he stood. He spotted Hoshikuzu a few feet away and staggered towards it, but a chain slipped around his neck and yanked him off his feet as he tugged uselessly at it, sputtering and choking for air.

The Darkling giggled wildly and shook his finger. "Ah-ah-ah! I was told to kill you, remember? And kill you I shall!" He planted his foot on Adrian's shoulder and tugged the chain tighter, forcing a sharp gasp of air from his prisoner.

Adrian's scrabbling fingers found the hilt of Hoshikuzu and he gripped it tightly, stabbing the Darkling through the gut. The shadow creature screamed and then burst apart, vanishing into wisp of shadow and smoke.

Gasping for breath, Adrian forced himself to his feet, swaying a little as he noticed Michael jump to his feet, the Darkness hissing and lashing out around him. "Get… out… of… my… way, Michael!"

"Not a chance!" The Society Agent glared fiercely and both men gripped their weapons and fists tightly, ready to leap back into battle…

"Eh-hehehehehe! Won't you play with me…?"

Confusion flashed across both their faces.

"Eh-hehehehehe! Won't you play with me…?"

A rhythmic clinking sound caught their ears and they turned to see a little brown wind-up monkey waddling its way towards them, clapping its cymbals with each step. "Eh-hehehehehe! Won't you play with me…?"

They both stared at the monkey waddled right between them before coming to halt, whirring before winding to a stop and slumping forwards. "What on earth…?"

"Eh-hehehehehe! Won't you play with me…? Eh-hehehehehe! Won't you play with me…? Eh-hehehehehe! Won't you play with me…? Eh-hehehehehe! Won't you play with me…? Eh-hehehehehe! Won't you play with me…?"

Both men glanced this way and that as at least a dozen more wind-up monkeys emerged from beneath the sand and the surrounding passageways.

"I don't get it…" Then Adrian's eyes widened as he saw the first monkey glow brightly and being to hum, the other monkey's soon following suit. (They're flash bombs…! And if Michael gets such a powerful dose of light all at once like this while his Darkness is out… it could kill him!) Already, he could see the first monkey beginning to detonate.

One second passed and Adrian whipped what remained off his green trenchcoat off.

Two seconds passed and he was leaping the distance between him and Michael, the first monkey detonating in a brilliant flare of white light. Michael and his Darkness begin to scream.

Three seconds passed and he tackled Michael, throwing his trenchcoat over him as several more monkeys detonated violently.

Four seconds passed and he was tumbling across the ground, hands over his eyes and still failing to blot out the light as the remaining monkeys detonated in unison.

Five seconds…

Six seconds…

Seven seconds…

Eight seconds…

Nine seconds…

Ten seconds passed and Adrian slowly, carefully got his feet, blinking and rubbing at his eyes. Everything was dark and blurry… like a washed-out black-and-white photograph, the edges fading in and out, indistinct… (A third binding… my sixth sense is useless, as are my Librarian Arts… and with those new explosions, my hearing is gone… and thanks to those flash bombs, so is my vision… without those three senses, I'm all but helpless…)

His foot nudged something and he bent down, instantly recognizing the hilt of his sword as it slid into his grasp. (But not entirely helpless… I can still fight with the senses I have left…) His fist clenched tightly around his weapon. (I will save Tash… no matter what!)

Then he quieted his mind and stood still, shutting out the useless fragments and bits of information that his damaged senses were giving him, focusing on his senses that still functioned right. A moment passed, then two… then three…

(There!) It was very faint, nearly undetectable… but Adrian knew his beloved's scent no matter where they were. (Thank goodness her cat spell increased my sense of smell..)

He followed the scent carefully, stumbling and staggering as his weakened body threatened to give out on him, but he ignored it, focusing only scent of his beloved and the cold metal of his sword's hilt in his hand.

Minutes later, a third figure slid out of a passageway after making sure the Librarian was gone. She looked like Tash down to the last detail, but if anyone had glanced at her eyes, they would have seem a malicious gleam in them.

She quietly made her way over to Michael's prone form and smirked darkly. "The Society already wants him dead… but this will seal their anger against the Librarian!" A knife was produced out of nowhere and she plunged it down towards Michael's heart…


Runoa watched the last of the flash bombs fade away. "Hmmm… he's made that far already… he's progressing faster than I thought…" She glanced behind her. "You'll get your wish, then… you'll get to see him once before you both die…"

Tash growled and gripped her staff, forcing herself out her position of being slumped against the wall. Her clothes were tattered and torn and mostly soaked in blood. The feathers of one her wings were crumpled and twisted funny. "You… bitch…"

"Tch…" Runoa yanked the charred remains of her sweater off with a hand, revealing a sports bra along with slashed, scorched and burned skin underneath. Her pants could now be considered to be a pair of ragged shorts and a good portion of her hair was missing, the remaining ends smoldering a bit. "The Librarian taught you Jurai-Ken well… with some more training, you might actually be able to beat me…" She gestured to the temple around them, where great gouges of the floor and walls had been carved and strewn with massive scorch marks or craters, parts of the wall and floor actually having melted from Tash's attacks. "But all you've done is delay the inevitable… you're about to die!"

"The hell I am!" Tash beat her wings, launching into the air and twirled her staff, flames dancing and trailing around her. "Jurai Ken - Abari!" (Dancing Flame - Meteor Burst!) She rocketed towards the Sue, staff held before her as she spun like a drill, flaming contrails emitting from her wings.

Runoa reverse her grip on both of her kodachi and leapt up to met her, crossing her hands behind her back. "Kodachi Nito-Ryu - Kaiten Kenbu Roukuren!" (Double Kodachi- Spiral Sword Dance Six Successions!) The Sue's blades flashed brilliantly as she slashed a four-square grid in front of her.

Then the two flashed by one another and Runoa landed lightly on her feet as Tash screamed in agony and dropped to the ground in a trail of blood, feathers and flames. "Kaiten Kenbu Roukuren is six slashes in one moment… with your own momentum so strong, you didn't have a hope of blocking or dodging.."

"You… you…!" Tash's body twitched a couple of times and she tried to rise, glaring at the Sue. "You… scum…!" Then blood burst out of her wounds and she collapsed into back onto the floor, unable to even move her limbs.

"No… you're the scum…" Runoa rose to her feet and turned to face the entrance. "I'd kill you now, but you're really not worth effort… especially since the main attraction is here…" A dark smile crossed her face. "Right, Adrian?"

"What!" Tash twisted her head, ignoring the pain, to see the Librarian standing the entranceway. His clothes were slashed and torn and he was practically coated in blood. His shoulders heaved with effort of breathing, but his grip on his sword was tight. "No! Adrian, it's a trap! Run away! Run!"

Runoa laughed. "He can't hear you… or even see you for that matter. My bindings have stripped him of all the senses he needs to fight effectively… I'm amazed that he even managed to make it her at all. " Grinning, she raised her blades and charged at him. "A pity he's about to die!"

Then her laughter stopped and her grin was replaced be bewildered surprise as metal chimed against metal, Adrian's blade having snapped up and blocked the blow. "You…!"

With a shout, the Librarian counter-attacked with a slash that forced Runoa to leap away. "You may damaged my senses greatly… but I can still use them well enough to know when you attack!"

"Nnnn…" The Librarian-Sue narrowed her eyes dangerously. "Then I'll try this…" She dashed forwards and swung her blades from above and below. As before, metal chimed as Adrian managed to block both weapons with his own… but the moment Runoa heard the chime, she slid around to his side and lashed out, sending Adrian staggering as blood trailed out a fresh cut on his shoulder while the Sue easily skipped back to avoid his counter.

He felt and faintly saw movement and he blocked a third time, only for her to wrench Hoshikuzu aside with her own crossed blades and then rammed the hilt of one into his throat, forcing a spray of blood from his mouth. Adrian instinctively kicked out at where her gut was supposed to be, but she was already moving out of the way, slamming her elbow into the side of his head with enough force it sent the Librarian skidding a dozen feet away.

"Instead of big attacks… I'll chip away at you little by little until you're nothing but a bloody mess on the floor…" Runoa said as she advanced on him. "Then when you're finally dead, I'll be able to finish my research on Immaculation."

Adrian planted Hoshikuzu into floor, bracing himself on it as he coughed sharply and more blood spattered on the floor and tricked out of the corner of his mouth. "Your 'Immaculation'… is supposed to achieve perfection… but if you remove even the smallest bit of darkness… how can anyone who's 'perfect'… be human?"

"That's the point!" She kicked him hard in the face, sending him sprawling across the floor. "The universe is imperfect because there are imperfect people! It must be corrected!"

He moaned and spat out a glob of saliva and blood. "Tell me… do you want to correct the universe because of its own flaws… or your own..?"

"You little brat!" Runoa's foot slammed into his gut and he cried out weakly. "How dare you talk to me like that!"

"I… dare.." Adrian managed through pained, gasping breaths. "Because… you… and… I are… the same…"

"What…?" Tash murmured, looking surprised and a flicker of shock crossed Runoa's face.

"We… both wanted… to save everyone…" The Librarian continued. "And found that… no matter how much good we did… it wasn't enough…" He coughed again, flecks of blood dotting his lips. "The pain… of realizing... that you were totally helpless against fate… like a grain of sand trying to stop a tidal wave… must have hurt you so much…"

"BE QUIET!" Runoa kicked him in the side harshly, sending Adrian sliding a dozen feet away and leaving a smear of blood. "I am not helpless! I am far from helpless!" She advanced menacingly on him, gripping her swords so tight that her knuckles were white. "I have just as much as power as I did when I was the Librarian, if not more!"

Adrian groaned and planted his sword in the floor, using it to pull himself onto his knees. "But it's not enough… is it? You gather more and more power to yourself…" He gritted his teeth and forced himself to stand, legs quaking a bit. "And no matter how much you get… you know deep down, that it will never, ever be enough… you'll never be able to save everyone… stop the ones close to you from dying…"

"That's ENOUGH!" Runoa yelled and charged at him, Adrian barely able to bring his weapon up fast enough to block. Sparks flew as their blades collided and she growled at him, shoving him backwards until he hit the wall and still she pushed harder, as if she were trying to shove into the marble.

"Does it hurt, Runoa…?" Adrian managed as he desperately tried to prevent her from overpowering him, all three blades dangerously close to his neck. "Being afraid to face yourself in the mirror… of seeing the faces of those you've let down in your eyes..?"

"SHUT!" With an angry cry, she slammed her forehead into his face. "UP!" A snarl escaped her and she grabbed the front of his shirt and flung him away, the Librarian crying out as he bounced and skidded back across the floor. "WHAT DO YOU KNOW!"

Adrian rolled over and struggled to stand up, his whole body shaking. "I know what's it's like… to hate yourself… day after day… and wanting to do anything… anything… to make the pain go away!"

With a wordless yell, Runoa stormed over to him and yanked him to his feet like he was a ragdoll before raining blow after blow on. The time for fancy techniques and finesse was long gone as she slashed, kicked and pummeled him.

"No! Stop it!" Tash shouted, tears streaming down her face. "Leave him alone!" She strained and forced herself to her knees and used her staff as a prop to get herself to her feet. (My body feels like its on fire… but I have to move… otherwise, he'll die!)

Finally, Runoa landed a punch to Adrian's gut that dropped him to his knees. Her eyes flared angrily and her breath came in heaves. "You little brat… you're so annoying… damn annoying!" She raised one of her blades. "Now you die!"

"You let your emotions get the better of you. Such impulsive behavior has always been your weakness!"

Runoa and Tash both gasped as a man came bursting through the entrance, katana clenched in his left hand and extended before him as he charged, and his feet actually leaving twin furrows in the marble. "Who…!"

"You!" Runoa growled out and crossed her blades in time to stop the point of the man's katana from piercing her heart, the combined power of his momentum and the blow sending the Librarian-Sue skidding back a dozen yards. "Why are you here!"

"Isn't it obvious?" The man asked. He was tall and his face was lean and narrow, like a wolf's. Dark eyes revealed nothing as he spoke. "Your little vendetta against Adrian here may be cute enough to ignore, but anything beyond that will not be allowed."

"Tch…!" The dark-haired woman glared and crossed her blades in front of her. "You don't really think I'll tell you anything…."

The man gave her a deadly smirk. "You don't have to…" He snapped his fingers and Michael appeared in the doorway, dragging a gagged and bound Tash behind him. And unlike the one who was staring bewilderedly at the scene unfolding before her, this one was healthy, hale, and whole and very pissed off, if the incredible amount of struggling and wriggling against her bonds were any indication. "The little spy here told me everything I needed to know… after a little persuasion, of course…"

Runoa glowered and growled at the man. "Despite that you know, it doesn't make any difference. Even a Wolf of Mibu can't stop our plan now that it's begun…"

"Hmmph…" The man's smirk became slightly mocking. "You overestimate yourself… and underestimate your opponents…" He snapped his white-gloved fingers again and instantly a group of portals opened up around the temple's interior, the Society Agents spilling out of each one, every member armed to the teeth, looking murderous and out for blood.

Harriett hefted a nasty-looking laser rifle in her hands and pointed it at Runoa, teeth bared. "Alright, bitch… time to make you burn for what you did to Tash!"

Valerie nodded and twirled a spoon in her hands. Strangely, the smile on her face and the casual way in which she was spinning it made the spoon seem very, very threatening. "When you mess with one of us… you mess with all of us…"

Aster smiled sweetly and swung her staff back and forth lazily, not really noticing or caring about the random sparks and guts of power and wind that went off around her. "I call dibs…! I've got some new spells I wanna try out…"

Meg the collie just growled fiercely and tensed to leap.

Kyle slammed his fists together and slid into a combat stance. "We'll see if you can match my power of my soul!"

Runoa glanced around her at all blood-thirsty Society Agents around her and then back at the wolf-like man. "You Society bugs are lucky that man is here… or I'd slaughter all of you…" She blurred out of sight and reappeared next to Michael, a swift kick sending him sprawling as she grabbed the bound-up doppelganger and summoned a Plot Hole, throwing the doppelganger through and diving in her self as various laser blasts, gusts of razor-sharp wind, burst of soul energy, sharp metal objects and a awfully ferocious dog passed through the space she'd just been in.

"Dammit!" Harriet growled and stamped her foot in frustration. "She got away! But we'll get her next time, Tashy, don't you worry! I'll even-" She frowned and glanced around for her protectee… then paled she caught sight of her. "Oh no…"

"C'mon love…" Tash, despite the severity of her wounds and blood loss, had managed to limp over to where her lover lay crumpled in a bloody heap and cradle him against her chest. "Wake up… please wake up…" Tears streamed down her face. "You can't die… I won't let you die…!" She clutched him tighter. "Say something!"

The Librarian moaned in agony and blearily opened his eyes, looking like even such a simple movement looking like it took all his energy. "…ouch…"

Tash wailed and laughed and cried and held him tighter, swearing between sobs that she'd kill him if he ever did something so reckless ever again and then kissed him and told him she loved him and hugged him tighter.
Harriet stared at the scene and then shook her head. "That guy's got more lives than a cat…"


Hours later, after everyone had returned to the Library and wounds are treated as best they can be. But some wounds can't be healed with medicine…

"What are we gonna do…?" Michael asked and kicked at a chair in frustration. He, Camille, Claire, Harriet and the man Adrian had told them was 'Saito Hajime' were in one of the many reading rooms. "It's not like we can expect him to forgive us!"

"Well, what happened?" Camille asked. "You guys brought him home and rushed him to the Medical Ward…"

"He was almost dead when we brought him in…" Harriet said, sipping at a mug of tea. She wasn't thirsty, but she felt she needed something to do or she'd go mad with worry. "Tash was almost in as bad shape...I still can't believe that little bitch of a Sue tricked us like that!"

Claire threaded her fingers together with worry. "There's nothing we can now… we can't change what happened or what we did… we have to hope for the best."

"Heh…" A soft chuckle from Saito drew everyone's attention to the man, where he was leaning against a wall. "You're all worrying unnecessarily. If your claim to be the Librarian's friends is true, then you know exactly what his reaction will be…" He slipped a cigarette into his mouth and struck a match before lighting it.

"Oh yeah? What's that?" Michael muttered. Despite the fact Saito had saved his life from the evil version of Tash, something about the man rubbed him the wrong way. "And the Library is a no-smoking zone."

Saito ignored him and balanced the cigarette between two fingers before he spoke again. "The Librarian will accept your apologies and forgive you wholeheartedly, no questions asked, as you are not at fault. If you try to shower him with apologies and presents, he'll politely decline them and insist you stop and simply not worry about this whole mess any longer…" He took a puff on his cigarette. "It is simply how he is…"

Harriet raised an eyebrow. "You sound like you know Adrian pretty well."

"Know him..?" Saito smirked, as though he found the statement amusing. "The man and I have worked together as Counter Guardians for hundreds of years… I know him better than anyone else…"
"Counter Guardians?" Claire asked, tilting her head. "Who are they..? And what's this big plan I keep hearing you mention that involves the Mary-Sues and Gary-Stus?

"If you want to know, ask the Librarian. I've already told him the full story." Saito stepped away from the wall. "I don't have time to baby-sit a bunch of children playing Cowboys and Indians…" He snuffed out his cigarette and without looking, flicking it into the trash. "Don't bother showing me the door. I know the way out." Then he was gone.

And as he left, one thought trailed through his head. (Against the coming storm, Adrian… will you be able to hold onto your self… or will it get torn from your grasp…?)


"Everything looks fine…" Valerie skimmed her eyes over the chart on the clipboard. "You've got some severe cuts and lost quite a bit of blood, but your powers and training helped you survive most if it. With some long rest and a few days of treatment, you'll back on your feet in no time."

"Thanks, Val…" Tash, sitting on the edge of her bed wearing nothing but a pair of pants as most of her upper body was wrapped in bandages, smiled at her friend "That healing talent of yours comes in handy…" The British girl nodded over Valerie's shoulder to the bed next to hers. "What about him…?"

Valerie frowned as she turned to face Adrian. He was sleeping, almost all of his body wrapped in bandages or taped up. His breathing was shallow, but steady and he was deathly pale. "I'm sorry, Tash…but we just don't know yet… he lost a lot of blood and most of his internal organs were damaged pretty badly-his upper body was practically nothing but lacerations and cuts. The damage done to his senses was severe…his eardrums were practically blown out and it'll be a wonder he doesn't lose at least some vision at from those flash bombs…" She looked back her friend. "I'm sorry, Tash… but even the Librarian might not be able to come back from this."

"He will…" Tash said softly, sharply. "I know he will…" Her hands gripped the bed frame so tight that they were white.

After a few moments, Valerie patted her on the knee and then left quietly. "I hope you're right…"

The British girl watched her lover rest for a long moment and then got up, sitting down on the edge of his bed and picking up his hand, stroking it softly. "I know you'll make it through this… because… because…" Tears formed at the corner of her eyes. "if you don't, I don't know if I'll be able to go on living…

He squeezed her hand and stirred, blinking his eyes open. "Hey…" He said softly. "None of that, now…"

Tash smiled at him through her tears. "You're awake… you're alive…"

Adrian managed a soft, weak smile. "Course I am… you think something like would kill me…?" He sighed. "Idiot…"

"You're the idiot!" She scowled at him fiercely. "What were you thinking, trying to fight Runoa in your condition! You knew it was a trap and you walked right into it!"

"Yes, I did…" The Librarian nodded weakly. "Because… if I hadn't… I'd never able to live with myself… if you had died and I hadn't done everything I could to save you…"

A few tears down her face as she smiled and leaned over, kissing him softly. "You and your stupid heroics… why do I put up with you…?

"Because…" He chuckled a couple of times. "I've got kitty-ears…"

"Yes, you do…" Tash smiled tenderly at him and stroked his cheek. "And my heart, for all eternity…"

"Good." Adrian closed his eyes, nodding as he threaded his fingers through hers. "Thank you, my love…" Then he was asleep again.

She smiled broader and kissed his forehead before standing up and pulling his blanket up, tucking him in. "I love you…" Tash grabbed a chair and moved it closer before flopping down in it and grabbing the blanket off her bed, wrapping herself in it and taking his hand in hers. She was tired and exhausted, but she wasn't going to leave his side… ever again…

"Not even death will separate us…" She whispered and squeezed his hand before leaning back in her chair and slowly drifting off to dreamland, her thoughts filled with images of her favorite kitty.


"Damnit…" Runoa staggered through the dark hallway. "I almost had him… and then he slipped through my fingers!" With a growl, she shoved open a door and stormed inside, still dragging the bound up Tash doppelganger with her.

Willowe was inside waiting, sitting in a chair and twirling a lock of her hair around her fingers. "You look like you took quite a beating…"

The Librarian-Sue scowled darkly. "My plan was working perfectly…" She flung the doppelganger onto the floor, where she landed with an 'oof!' "Until this charlatan got greedy and overstepped her bounds…because of that, the Society was alerted by Saito and almost every one of them showed up." A low growl escaped her. "If Saito hadn't arrived, I would have been able to crush them all then and there."

"It's fine…" Willowe released her hair and stood up. "Even if they know what we intend to do with our plan, they don't how we'll do it…and that still gives us the advantage." She glanced at Runoa. "Unless, of course, you've changed your mind about helping us…"

"No." Runoa folded her arms across her chest. "I'll still help you in exchange for wiping out my debt to you."

"Good." Willowe turned and glanced a row of pedestals nearby, one of the seven items they'd stolen resting on each. "Are you sure you'll be able to overwhelm the protective spells inside the Library…? Because if you aren't, then letting myself get captured will be a waste and I'll be as powerless as the rest of them trapped in the basement."

"Don't worry about it." Runoa smiled darkly. "I was the Librarian for a lot longer than that little brat and I know secrets about the Library that he's not even dreamt about…"

"Excellent." The most powerful of all Sues glanced down at the gagged and bound doppelganger with disdain. "You provided us with much useful information… but your greed and incompetence caused them to be alerted to our plan and now it will be that much harder to execute… Runoa, this one is yours. Do with her what you will."

Runoa nodded and grabbed the doppelganger, dragging her away as she struggled and twisted, a fearful look on her face. "I've always wanted to see what Immaculation does to a Sue…"

Willowe ignored the sounds of Runoa's booted footsteps and struggles as they faded away, crossing the room to stand in front of the items. "It's all coming together… soon… very soon…" She ran her hands lightly along the length of Excalibur's blade, a thoughtful look crossing her face, not even flinching when she nicked her finger open and some of her blood trickled down the blade's length. "I will finally have my revenge…and achieve the perfection I deserve…"

"And my dear creators will learn the meaning of 'living hell'…"


And so, two hearts found solace in one another for the time being…but the skies darken and a storm gathers on the horizon… the greatest battle of them is coming. Defeat means death. Victory means life. And everything comes at a high price…

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