Chapter 8:

Snapping Under the Pressure

White Parasite

The group outside the building sprung into action - with a sweep of her arms, "Irina" produced layers of panels to support the falling debris, while her brunette friend conjured a pair of handguns and shot smaller chunks of rubble that she didn't catch. The two were completely in sync, Hazuki realised...and on a fractionally better level than Kanato had achieved with "Irina".

Just as Kanato escaped from the debris he'd placed on his back, most of the building came falling, demolishing part of the neighbouring wooden fence and scattering chunks of plaster and brick into the garden beyond. Everyone else dodged the flying debris except the seagull, who got their foot momentarily stuck under a chunk of rubble but managed to free it before flapping to a safer spot.

"You want to know?" the fox snapped at the animals, deflecting the last bits of rubble away from itself with its tentacles as the clone disappeared in a cloud of brilliant white sparks. Luna's mouth contorted and it made a series of short barks - Toshifumi's face fell when he realised it was laughing at them.

The normally emotionless...entity...was laughing. At them.

"Of course!" the raspy voice came in reply. It was the tortoise, who'd popped only its head out of its shell. "We want to know how to undo this so I can go back to living a proper life. So we can all go back to the lives we've left behind."

The animals all gave a shout of agreement, but Toshifumi turned his face downwards in silence. He'd gone along with these former people, not even considering how it had affected them.

The fox cocked its head to the side with a genuine curiosity. "Alright, because you asked for it," it straightened its head and gazed down its snout at the tortoise, "magicians are immortal creatures who siphon energy from the orbs that appear randomly around the world. If the orbs are not used, the anchor is used as an alternative energy source to avoid them draining ordinary humans. The only way to undo it is to rewrite reality itself - no one possesses that power."

A collective gasp rose from the anchors. When Hazuki released his hand from a position over his mouth, he realised he'd been gasping too.

"Christie! Is this true?" he barked at his friend, who had been motionless ever since she'd used the tortoise to knock down the building. She gave him a curt nod and tightened her grip on her spear, causing it to vanish in a shower of green sparks.

While Christie took a moment to smooth out her dress and remove plaster particles that had settled on it, she told him, "Even Luna doesn't possess the ability to rewrite reality. Luna's power is my power, tactile illusions."

"I refuse to believe it!" the seagull squawked after a momentary silence. "I killed off an entire family of corrupt executives to save my village, and you expect me to believe I've been working in self preservation in order to be an energy source to Natalia?! If your precious Luna has the power of illusions and can get rid of them, how does it," it paused for a second and corrected itself, "how do they," before continuing, "gift powers to humans in the first place?!"

"It's a separate power, and Luna can only give powers," Christie finished, her face beginning to morph into one of annoyance.

Toshifumi took this moment to look up and reached out to cast a spell to bind the seagull, but Hazuki reached out too...

"Ikki, what'll we do? If there's a murderer here, the authorities will want that bird," whispered Kanato to the Step Up leader, who watched as their brunette gun-toting companion sidled in to listen to their conversation.

"Vincent, Kanato, never mind what we've just heard. La Luna is the highest priority," Ikki told the two boys.

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