Friday, July 13, 2012

Insert Red Skies Twilight Here (part 4 of 6)

"All of this hate
 And all of this pain--
I'll burn it all down 
As my anger reigns,
Till everything burns."
-'Everything Burns' by Anastascia

Willowe strode into Adrian's office slowly, glancing this way and that as she took in the bookshelves, his desk, the picture of Tash on the wall, and several pictures of people or places she didn't recognize. "For one of the most powerful men in existence, his office is surprisingly simple..."

"Feh, who cares? He's finally dead and that's all that matters." Harold shouldered his way past the female Sue and flexed his fists a bit. "The only good thing the Librarian did was get rid of that annoying Silver for me...bastard..."

He marched to the rear of the office, casually blasting the desk out of his way and reducing it to smithereens. Stopping at the seamless, handle-less door, he drew back his fist and with one punch, sent in flying into the darkened stone hallway beyond. "There. This is what we came for, right?"

"Yes." Willowe stepped him behind him, four or five of the remaining Agent Smiths and Chi hanging back behind her. Adrian had wiped out a huge chunk of her forces, barely leaving her anything that could be called an 'army'. "The Fourth Wall should be at the end of this hallway."

"Good. Let's go already." Harold started down the hallway, even his Super Saiyan aura failing to light up the dark stone passage. His eyes flicked left and right as he passed the alcoves, growling in frustration as he heard and saw little whispers of movement in them and voices humming in his ears now and again. "What is this freaking place, anyway? Is there something alive in here or something?"

"Perhaps. It would be wise not to disturb the alcoves" Willowe said and glanced at one of the alcoves, waiting as a shadowy figure slid into view and then out of sight again. "Runoa said this is the section of the Library where the Librarians keep the things that are too dangerous to the Library's normal visitors or even things that the Librarians themselves cannot understand..."

"Tch..." Harold sneered and flicked a marble-size sphere of energy into one of the alcoves , watching as it exploded, destroying whatever was in the alcove, but strangely, the flare of light the explosion produced did not extend beyond the alcove. It stopped like it had hit a wall before it reached into the hallway. "It's all a bunch of junk..."

Then his eyes widened and he backpedaled as something reached out of the darkness of the alcove and latched onto his wrist with a skeletal hand. "What the hell!" He strained to break free, but even with his improbable strength, his caught arm wouldn't budge an inch. "Let go, you freak!"

He started to charge up an attack his other hand, but then he screamed as he saw his caught hand was decaying, bits of flesh and muscle and nerves dropping away like leaves off a tree, revealing pearly-white bone beneath. "Gaaaaaaaaahhhhhh!"

Then Excalibur slashed at the grasping hand and it instantly released Harold, retreating into the shadows whence it came while Willowe backhanded Harold across the face. "You idiot! I told you not to disturb the alcoves! We've come too far for you to screw it up now!"

Harold rubbed his cheek and glared at Willowe. "Watch it. What's stopping me from killing you right now and performing this plan myself?"

Then he went pale as he realized Excalibur was pressed against his throat and he hadn't even realized Willowe had moved at all. "Ahhh..."

Willowe narrowed her eyes at him. "You had better hope that first punch kills me, Harold. Otherwise, I'm going to slice off your limbs and let Runoa do Immaculation on you." She leaned closer to him and her sword point drew a droplet of blood from his throat. "Want to see if you can regrow limbs?"

"N-no..." Harold shook his head fervently. "No..."

"Good." Willowe resheathed her sword and started down the hallway, the subdued Harold following her. "Then remember who is in charge here."

The little group made their way farther down the hallway, Harold, Chi and the Smiths doing their best to ignore the things that moved in the alcoves or the faint whispers that sounded in their ears and minds or the soft touches that had them glancing back nervously over their shoulders every few minutes.


They all stopped and glanced around, Willowe's hand flying to her weapon as Harold charged up energy in his fists. "Who's there?"

"IntrUDeRS...WHo EntERS ThIS PlaCE...? YoU Do NoT HaVe PermiSsiON AnD yoU ArE NoT WeLComE..."

Willowe glared at the surrounding darkness. It sounded like a hundred voices were speaking all at once. "Who are you! Show yourself!"

Shadows and light swirled around in front of them and when it cleared, something was standing in their way. In the darkness, its form was impossible to make out and they only caught the outline, shimmering in and out of sight like a mirage...a clawed hand...a spiny shoulder...a barbed tail. "We aRe ThE UnWriTteN...YoU ArE noT oF Us, InTRUders..."

'Unwritten?" Harold growled and the energy in his fists glowed brighter. "What the hell is this guy?"

"Runoa mentioned something like this to me..." Willowe murmured, hand still on her sword's hilt. "Some ideas that are never fully formed or never written into stories, but through sheer force of will, manage to avoid being pulled into the Vault of Abandoned Ideas... but she never said they'd be in here!"

"AdrIAn bAdE Us tO GuARd tHIs plAcE... He GaVe uS a NaMe AnD PuRpOSe... To PrEvEnT tHE WrITtEn FrOm CrOSsINg thE WaLl..." The Unwritten's shrouded form shifted and stirred before suddenly launching forwards and falling over them like a thick blanket. "YoU wiLL BeCome Us..."

Willowe struggled to draw her sword, but the Unwritten pressed and swarmed around her, feeling like it weighed a hundred tons and pressing against all of her senses at once. She felt rather than heard the Smith copies dissolve away and Muhammad screamed as his body started to dissolve away into mist, which was drawn into the Unwritten.

She herself felt it crushing her, sapping away at her spirit, her memories, her thoughts, her past, stripping everything that made her a individual and she felt tired, so tired...

(No!) Willowe drew herself together and felt the draining away slow, then stop. (No! I will not be taken like this! I am Willowe Foxblade! And I will NOT yield!)

With a howl, she unleashed a flare of crimson energy that blew the Unwritten away from her, the shadowy fog retreating like it had been stung. "I am not afraid of you, you pathetic shell!"

The Unwritten swirled angrily and regathered itself. "YoU WilL BeComE uS!" Then it hurtled towards Willowe at full speed. "We WilL FuLLfIll OuR PuRPosE!"

"Then fulfill it by dying!" Willowe drew Excalibur and slashed it through the air, a crescent of golden energy leaping from the tip and slamming into the mass of the Unwritten, the entity letting out a hundred-voiced howl as it was dissolved away and scattering into miniscule wisps of shadows that were absorbed by the darkness around them and faded from view.

"Erggg..." Harold got to his feet, rubbing his head. "Did you really manage to kill that thing?"

"No." Willowe replied and shook her head. "You can't kill an idea...but I hit it hard enough that it will take a very long time before it collects itself, so we shouldn't have to worry about it anymore."

"Good." The Saiyan turned and yanked Chi off the ground by her collar, causing the smaller Sue to squeak and tremble in fear as he glared at her. "What's the big idea? How come you didn't warn us there'd be something like that guarding the Fourth Wall?"

Chi squirmed in his grasp. "Xavier and I never entered the Library ourselves! We just sent Subplot Bunnies through the crack in the Wall! And none of them ran into any defenses!"

"That's because all species of Plot Bunnies are not really alive-they're just ideas." Willowe explained as Harold gruffly dropped Chi on the ground. "We're Sues and Stus-we are more than just ideas..." She glanced at the pile of empty suits that had been the Smith clones. "But if our grasp on our identities isn't strong enough, it can be stripped away from us, as Muhammad and the Smiths just proved..."

She turned and started down the passageway, the other two falling into step behind her. They had gone about a few dozen more yards and then Willowe jerked to halt, Chi plowing into and bouncing off the leader's legs.

"Hey! What gives?" Chi muttered, getting back to her feet and rubbing her nose.

"It's another defense..." Willowe replied and gestured in front of her where a set of floating words were in front of her. "It's an invisible barrier and I'm guess we have to solve this riddle before we can move on."

She took a couple of steps back and studied the riddle from top to bottom:

"I am what all want.
Use me as if I were a sword and those you slay will rise up against you
Use me as if I were armor and I will trap and suffocate you
Use me as if I were decoration and only your mirror will look upon you.
Use me as if I were a fire and you'll find my flames do not warm you.
Use me as if I were food and I will never chase hunger away from you.
Use me as if I were an enemy and I will be heavier than any chains upon you.
Use me as if I were a friend and I will devour you.
Use me as if I were medicine and I will poison you.
But if you do not use me, then I will serve you well forever.
What am I?"

"Rrrg..." Harold cracked his knuckles. "I hate riddles and we don't have time for this!" He wound up and threw a sledgehammer-like fist at the barrier with the force of a small bomb. "Let's just smash it down!"

Then he gasped as his fist disappeared into the barrier and then emerged right in front him, smashing into his face and sending him flying backwards, clutching a bloody nose. "What the 'effin hell!"

"Looks like the barrier throws whatever you throw at it right back at you!" Chi laughed at the bigger man as he got back to his feet. "Means you have to use your brain, porcupine-head! And you don't have one!"

"Shut it, little brat!" Harold growled menacingly. "Before I squish you and wipe you off my heel! And if you're so smart, then why don't you solve it?"

"Of course!" Chi stuck her tongue out at him. "And I already have!"

Willowe raised her eyebrow. "That was awfully fast..."

Chi waved it off. "We're Sues, stuff like this is easy for us." She walked up to the barrier and smirked broadly. "That answer is love!"

They all waited a few moments. "Is... something supposed to happen?"

"Hey! What gives? I know I got it right!" Chi stamped her foot. "Come on, you stupid barrier and words! Disappear!"

Then she blinked as she felt something chilly wrap around her feet. "Huh...?" She glanced down and screamed.

Some kind of light was working is way up her feet and legs, hardening and turning her into crystal. "Aggh! No, no! Make it stop! Make it stop! Stooop!"

Willowe and Harold watched with wide-eyes as the crystalline light worked its way up Chi's legs and then her torso. "What kind of power is this...?"

Chi squirmed and writhed, desperately trying to chip away at the light, but it was turning her entire body to crystal and there was no way to free herself without shattering her own body. "Help me, help me, help me! Make it stop, stop!" She jerked and gave one final scream as the light crept up over her head and it was over in seconds. Where once a Sue had stood, was now a perfect crystal statue of her, her face transfixed into a look of horror.

The other two stared at her for a long moment and then Willowe reached out to touch, but withdrew her hand as the shadows from the edges of the hallway swarmed over Chi and dragged her away, drawing into her in a nearby alcove and into the darkness.

"Now what, Willowe...?" Harold asked. "We gonna bring everyone else up here and keep guessing at answers till we're all a bunch of cheap art decorations?"

"Hush." Willowe folded her arms and studied the riddle for a good minute, trying to put herself in Adrian's shoes. He had thought it up, obviously...

Then she grinned. "I have it." Stepping up to the barrier, she spoke her answer.


"So... what do we do now?"

The question was posed by Michael, as he sat at one of the tables, Claire sitting next to him and holding his hand. Across from the couple was Kuroneko, who as idly sharpening her claws with one of her fans. The Society Agents were scattered about the room, in pairs or groups, subdued and quiet after hearing Adrian's letter. Tash was sitting in a corner, clutching the Codex of Index to her chest tightly while she just stared out at nothing, as Val and Miriku sat with her, cuddling her and trying to reassure her.

The Counter Guardians were far more relaxed, Vergil, Saito and a man white-haired man dressed in a some kind of molded armor and red trenchcoat that told them his name was 'Archer' were all leaning against various walls, arms crossed as they waited patiently and Saito smoked a cigarette. Aramayis was seating in another corner, legs crossed and hands clasped before as him he meditated. Despite the loss of one of their own, they did not seem all that affected by it.

Kuroneko held out her claws and looked at them carefully. "We wait. Counter Guardians could travel to the Library and fight them there, but against such powerful enemies, we risk destroying much of the information and knowledge stored there and it would take centuries to regather it all, if it would be even possible."

"Wait?" Michael narrowed his eyes, obviously not happy with that idea. "Adrian is dead, Willowe has the Library and she's going to invade here at any moment and you want us to wait?"

Kuroneko fixed him with a sharp look. "I just told you we can't invade the Library and it will be easier for us to fight Willowe on our own terms here than letting her pick the battle ground. And you Society Agents are here in an advisory capacity only. You are not going to fight."

"What!" Michael stood up, slamming his fist on the table and knocking his chair over, as everyone in the room (sans Tash and the other Counter Guardian) fixed their attention him. "How can you say that? Adrian sent us out of the Library so we would have a chance to fight back! He gave his life for us! And you expect us not to do the same for everyone else!"

Kuroneko's glare hardened." Adrian was an extremely powerful Counter Guardian and the Librarian and he sent you to the Real World to save your lives! Do you really think that you're going to be able to fight against the Sues and Stus as ordinary humans? Willowe, Harold, the others? They could probably wipe out entire human armies out by themselves! What hope do you have, boy?"

Michael didn't back down. "I refuse to sit by and do nothing while our world is taken over!"

As the two glared at one another, a door burst open, halting the rising tension before it could burst and Stacey, who had gone with a few others to try and distract themselves by watching TV, poke her head in the door. "You guys better turn on the news. You'll definitely want to see this."

Saito detached himself from the wall and picked up the remote from off an end table, flicking on the TV with a press of a button. "This should be interesting..."

Everyone watched as the image jumped, jerked and then settled down, where a news reporter was standing on a rooftop with what looked like Big Ben behind him...and an ever-growing cloud for red twilight growing in the background. "Scientists and meteorologists around the world today can other no explanation for the mysterious spots of red twilight that are appearing world-wide..."

The image switched to the Eiffel Tower, where a second cloud of red twilight was growing, then the Taj Mahal, The Great Wall of China, The White House and the Hollywood sign, Tokyo, St. Petersburg, the Pyramids, the Vatican...all of them with growing clouds of red twilight in the sky. The people the Agents could see on the cameras reacted in incredible extremes, some running away in a panic, while others fell to the ground and prostrated themselves or prayed or screamed about the end of the world. Others tried to ignore it, some were taking pictures and some were rioting and looting, swept up in the world-wide panic of the fear of the unknown.

It switched back to the reporter. "Everywhere, people panic and riot, some claiming the end of the world or the Rapture or an invasion by aliens. Some claim it to be the arrival of the devil and world leaders urge their peoples to remain calm and that this mysterious phenomenon will be explained by scientists soon. But we have heard theories ranging from meteor showers to alien race. One scientist, Professor Ron Hamilton of NASA, a different theory..."

The screen split, showing a bearded man with glasses and dressed in a lab coat. "Well, I believe it is merely the light from several stars that have gone supernova in distant galaxies eons ago finally reaching us. The odds of several of them going supernova and reaching us at the same time, let alone being visible all over the world, are indeed very high, but not all that unlikely given the fact that many of the stars in our sky are already long gone, but their light will be reaching us for centuries to come.."

Saito muted the volume. "It looks like it's beginning, then..."

"What is it?" Hati asked, the look of confusion and fear on her face mimicked to varying degrees by the other Agents in the room.

"It's a Red Skies Twilight..." Archer explained from his position against the wall. "In comics, it's a term used when major crossover events happen that threaten the whole of that Universe all at once and the skies turn red to signify this, hence the name." He gave a small smirk. "Fitting, considering we are about to be invaded by super powerful fictional creations..."

"That's not all..." Aramayis stood up. "I can sense the energies coming from those spots of twilight and it's becoming much stronger as they grow in size. That energy is what will let Willowe and her cohorts enter this world at full power. Once the world is completely covered by them, the invasion will begin..."

All of the Society Agents all seemed struck still by this realization...then Michael bolted for the door and vanished through it outside and all the others followed him a split second later.


Willowe stood in front of the Fourth Wall, the mishmash of building materials that looked like had been built by a child who merely squashed everything they could find together. It looked decidedly unstable and like a good push would knock it over. Hard to believe such a mishmash of construction represented the ultimate barrier for beings like Sues and Stus.

A barrier that was now a barrier no more.

Behind her, arrayed in a semi-circle, seven pedestals bearing the Necrominicon, Fountain of Youth Water, Spear of Destiny, Tabula Rasa, the Holy Grail, Rosetta Stone and her Excalibur, stood. The seven items glowed the colors of the rainbow and their energies leached into and through the Fourth Wall, connecting to their Real World counterparts on the other side. The energies blended together and formed a swirling portal of red that was their hole in the dike, so to speak.

She watched as the Sues and Stus and the Smith copies poured through the portal, one after another. It had a been moment she had longed for, planned for and now it was finally here...the Real World would be theirs and they'd be able to complete any fandom, any story, any myth or legend, however they wanted.

Willowe was almost disappointed. It wasn't as grand or epic as she had imagined it...just stepping through a portal, like every Sue and Stu did when they traveled from place to place. It was so simple...and in this case, it was everything. Quite the irony...

"I can't wait..." Harold smirked maliciously and flexed his muscles. "The first thing I'm gonna do is use my energy blasts and carve my name across as many States as I can..."

"That will have to wait." Willowe told him. "We still have to worry about the remaining Society Agents and by now, the Counter Guardians will have caught wind of us and probably be waiting."

"So what?" Harold smirked and his Super Saiyan aura flared brightly once. "We're Sues and Stus. We're perfect! There's no way those guys could beat us!"

Willowe nodded in agreement after a moment. "Destroy them all, Harold. All the Counter Guardians and all the Society Agents. Destroy them, kill them, blast them, crush them, it doesn't matter. Once they are gone, there won't be anyone to stop us."

The Saiyan-Stu smirked. "My pleasure." With that, he stepped through the portal and was gone, leaving Willowe completely alone.

She remained still for several moments, then turned and grabbed Excalibur from its pedestal, slung it over her back and quickly stepped through the portal before it winked out of sight.

There was no turning back it. It was truly victory and total domination of the Real World... or death trying.


The Agents burst outside into the hotel's parking lot and gasped and stared in awe as the crimson light spread out over head, overwriting the starry night sky with ease. From horizon to horizon, it was nothing but a Red Skies Twilight.

"Oh my god..." Valerie shivered at the sight. Despite the fact being in the Real World toned down her empathic abilities sharply, the eerie sky still felt incredibly unnatural to her. "It's like... like the sky is bleeding..."

"You think that's bad, just look around us!" Ossa said, pointing across the street. A man was frozen like a statue, clutching at his hat as he ran away, one leg in the air.

The Agents glanced around and realized she was right. Everything around them was frozen in time. A car driving through a puddle of water, and they were able to count every droplet of the spray. A boy waiting to catch a ball that would never come back down. A woman falling as she tripped over her heels, stuck at an angle that no human should have been able to hold. Birds frozen in mid-flap, squirrels pausing in mid-leap, dogs and cats chasing one another in a race that they would never finish.

"What... what's going on? Why is everyone frozen?" Hati murmured, reaching out to touch a nearby pedestrian and immediately yanking her hand back. "They feel so cold... like they're covered in ice... or dead..."

"Not everything..." Miriku reached out and grabbed a bit of the nearby water spray. She shook out her hand as soon as she grasped them, drops of water flying off. "It's just everything that's alive is frozen... if we touch something that's not alive, it seems to become unstuck or thawed or whatever..."

"I don't get it." Marcus folded his arms. Out of all the Agents, he seemed to be taking this whole thing the best. "Why freeze time? Why not just invade? A show of force by destroying some kind of major landmark or capital would definitely show the world how powerful they are..."

"Because Willowe's a lot smarter than that, fools!"

The Agents gazes fixed on the center of street as a form landed their gracefully and twirled about a bit, their dress swirling with the motion. "Hehehe... ah, it's amazing! I feel so powerful here!"

"Mary-Ann Twilight..." Michael murmured and positioned himself in front of Claire. "They're invading faster than we thought...and how'd she even get here? Even Sues and Stus can't just teleport themselves around!"

Mary-Ann giggled and stuck out her tongue. "Foolish fools! We're Sues, we can all flash-step if want!" She danced around a bit. "We're all more powerful here, too. It's breathe real air and to feel real water on your skin..."

Then she pouted as she noticed the Counter Guardians all filing out from the hotel and pushing their way to the front of the Agents. "Well, crap... we were hoping that you guys and the Society wouldn't have hooked up yet...guess Adrian was more thorough than we thought..."

Aramayis fixed Mary-Ann with a sharp look. "Indeed he was. Though I will admit none of us anticipated the spell you used to crossover freezing time across the world..."

"Hehehe, that was Willowe's idea." Mary-Ann smirked. "Instead of having to make a statement or do a lot of fighting, Willowe is going to simply freeze the world until she's finished with her entrance statement. She's going to alter the world to the point where, when she unfreezes everything, they'll have no choice but accept she's the new ruler of the world!"

"Hmmmph...quite a lot of arrogance, if you ask me..." Saito smirked mockingly at Mary-Ann. "And just where is your beloved leader, child? You are outnumbered by quite a lot, in case you aren't perfect at math and even a single Counter Guardian is more than enough for you."

Mary-Ann scowled at him. "You're an annoying man... and Willowe's in the Sahara Desert, if you must know. Not that you'll be able to do anything to stop her..."

"The Sahara?" Kuroneko blinked in surprise. "Why go there? She's just wind up getting sand everywhere..."

"You see, you are foolish fools." Mary-Ann giggled. "Where better to prove your power over reality than the Sahara? Willowe's going to turn it into the site of her capital and create a giant castle and make the entire Sahara a paradise. There is no way anyone can ignore that or deny that her power is that great!"

She put a finger to her lips, as she had just remembered something. "Oh yeah, I nearly forgot's almost an afterthought..." She pulled something out from her sleeve and flicked it towards the group of Agents, where it bounced and skidded to a halt at Tash's feet. "Willowe thought you might want this... it's all yours..."

Tash reacted for the first time since she had finished reading Adrian's letter and knelt down, picking up the object. It was small and attached to a broken chain. Her eyes went wide when she realized what it was. "It's... his... no..."

It was Adrian's pendant, cracked and chipped and top left portion of it missing completely. Originally, it had been a way to store Hoshikuzu, but he had switched methods and so Tash got him a replica for their six-month anniversary. Tash ran her thumb over the pendant and it smeared red and it was only then she realized it was covered in blood. Adrian's blood.

"We don't know how it survived the fighting and his death...but did." Mary-Ann shrugged and then grinned evilly. "Do you want to know how he died? It was rather sad, really... he fought well for a while, but then he started weeping and begging for mercy and calling Tash's name over and over... it was so pathetic... like a little child crying out for mommy..." She laughed. "Willowe slicing off his head was probably the most merciful thing she could have done... that way, even he didn't have to listen to his own mewling!"

"You bitch!" Michael clenched his fist and started to step forwards, but Claire's hand on his other wrist stopped him.

"Don't... you can't fight her, you know that..." she whispered. "And I don't want you to die, too..." Then a blur rushed past her. "What?"

Ossa bolted through the Counter Guardians before they could react and leapt towards Mary-Ann, fist cocked back to strike. "Shut up and die!"

Then Mary-Ann's hand flashed out and snagged the Cherokee girl by the throat. Despite the fact she was several inches shorter than Ossa, the Sue easily held her off the ground like she weighed nothing at all. "That's not very nice... and it was very stupid, too..."

She took a step back and held the struggling Ossa out in front of her like a shield when the Counter Guardians all reached for their weapons. "Ah! Don't move! Or I'll snap her neck right here!" To prove her point, she shook Ossa like a ragdoll and then let out a yelp of pain as Ossa's foot smacked into her cheek. "That hurt!"

"It... was... supposed... too!" Ossa clawed desperately at Mary-Ann's hand even as she glared death at the Sue, but it was impossible to break her grip. Mary-Ann had her in a vice and she wasn't letting go. The Cherokee girl coughed and struggled harder when she realized blackness was forming at the edges of her vision. (Damn... damnit...)

Hati, who had been keeping one eye on the situation and one eye on Tash, ready to leap to defend her friend if Mary-Ann should target her for some reason, paused she when realized Tash's shoulders had stopped shaking and she had stopped crying and had gone very quiet. (Uh-oh...) "Everyone, scatter!"

Most of the Agents and even Mary-Ann shot her a bewildered look, but the British founder pushed the nearest people away from Tash to emphasis her command. "I said, scatter! Now!"

As the Agents hurried to do so, Tash stood up, her head still bowed and clutching Adrian's pendant and the Codex in her hands tightly. "You took him away..."

"Beg pardon?" Mary-Ann blinked at her, pausing in her strangling of Ossa.

"You took Adrian away..." Tash's hand clenched hard around the pendant, so much so that blood began to trickle out between her fingers. "You took him away from me..."

"Well, it wasn't me personally, but I would have liked too..." Mary-Ann gave Tash a smile. "Maybe I would have played around with him first...he might have made a good toy..."

"I loved him..." Tash's shoulders trembled and she clenched her fist tighter. "I loved him and you took him away for me!" Her head snapped up and Mary-Ann took an involuntarily step back at the blazing emotion in them. "SO NOW YOU ALL HAVE TO DIE!"

Then the air around her ignited into a roaring inferno of flames that swirled around her like a tornado and hid her from view as the Agents all shielded their faces and shied away, so bright was the light and so intense was the heat.

The flames roared and twisted, contracting around her as the spun until it was a narrow fiery pillar that reached skywards for what seemed like forever, scorching the concrete and melting a nearby letterbox into slag. With a flare of blazing sparks and a wave of searing heat, a pair of wings snapped free and blew the pillar apart.

Mary-Ann lowered her arm and then burst out laughing as she saw Tash. "That's it? All that yelling and fire and heat and all you got out of it was a sword?"

Indeed it was. The fire-orange blade was nearly four feet long and the silver hilt was shaped like a phoenix, the wings curving down towards the handle to form a guard. Light glinted off the faint gold-etched name just above the hilt on the blade: Nephthys.

Tash's wings, now made entirely out of burning orange-and-red flames beat folded against her back as the British girl gripped her great sword with both hands and twirled it around in a series of maneuvers, little sparks dancing around the blade and trailing it's wake as she did so and she fixed Mary-Ann with a cold stare, her blue eyes nothing but ice.

The Sue was still laughing when she blinked and realized that Tash was behind her. "Huh..?" She looked over her shoulder and saw that Tash was holding Ossa in one arm. "But... I've got that girl, here in my hand..."

She looked to at her hand, as if expecting to see Ossa magically appear there... only to realize there was no hand. And no arm.

Tash dumped Ossa on the ground as the Native-American Agent yanked the Sue's now limp arm off her throat and gulped down air before turning around to stare coldly at Mary-Ann.

"H-hey... that... that's my arm... give-give it back..." Blood pouring from her wound, Mary-Ann reached her other hand towards the pair, her eyes wide and a bit disbelieving. Then there was a 'fwoosh!' sound and she glanced at her stump of an arm, realizing it had caught fire somehow. "Oh... how odd..."

Then the flames roared and washed over the rest of her and she screamed wildly as she was burned. There was one bright flare of flame and heat that forced everyone save Tash to shield their eyes.

Aramayis lowered his hand and stared in quiet astonishment, for where Mary-Ann had been, there was now a tiny pile of ashes. (I don't know how she managed get that blade... no human should be able to do that, yet she did... and the blade was so hot it ignited that Sue's body on fire and incinerated her in seconds...)

Tash watched the pile of ashes that had been Mary-Ann blow away and her wings flared open and with a single flap, she launched herself skywards in a shower of embers and sparks.

"Tash, wait!" Hati yelled after her, helplessly watching as the streak of flames that Tash had become arced towards the south, becoming smaller and smaller.

"Holy crap... just how fast is she going?" Kuroneko asked, helping Ossa to her feet.

Saito brushed a few embers off his sleeve casually. "She's probably pushing just below Mach1... and is probably heading for the Sahara to fight Willowe."

Michael frowned. "It'll take her hours to get there!"

"Much less, actually." Aramayis said. "She's flying in an arc, not a straight-line. She'll fly as high as she can and then arc towards the Sahara and hit Willowe like a the most, her trip will probably take half an hour."

"We've got to go after!" Valerie said, grabbing Aramayis' arm. "There's no telling what she'll do in the state she's in and we can't let her die, too. Besides, Willowe is the threat you Counter Guardian's have to deal with!"

"I know. But only two of us will be going after Willowe. The rest of us and all you Agents will be going to Stonehenge." Aramayis explained calmly and then smiled at the confused/surprised looks he got from the Agents. "Stonehenge functions as a gateway between Earth and other places. It's the strongest type of that signal on the planet and the obvious location for Willowe's forces to finish arriving."

Kuroneko dashed for a car, gesturing for the Agents to follow her. "We'll use the vehicles. Stonehenge is only twenty minutes away from this village by car. And don't mind the traffic laws, kids. No one's aware enough to give you a ticket."

As the Agents all scrambled for vehicles, Aramayis made a few gestures with his hands, trails of shadow in their wake and then he and Saito were swallowed up by it and he tried not to dwell on the fate of Earth and a massive portion of Multiverse came down to these two battles... and if they lost, there would be no tomorrow.

Only a twilight of red skies...

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