Chapter 1:

Episode 64: Taller

Endless Isekai Vol. 4: Strength & Stability

Arson sat within his cerebral realm. With him around the tree held within his mind was, Thinker, Temper, Glory, Bloom, and even Reaper. The forms of himself had begun to change and show their own personalities. Thinker now wore glasses, Glory had on an armor set made from a material stronger than dragon bones that Arson had found but not worn within the trials. While Temper now wore his hair in a faux hawk. Most surprising of the changes was that Bloom had become a female which, Arson was shocked to find, more properly suited Bloom, and Reaper did more than reap souls, he’d begun to speak to them. The Gestalt form’s voice now filled with power. “It’s not like you ever even wear the thing, we could change the bloody thing into a scythe,” said Reaper. Arson was bothered by how this form of himself could sit seemingly at the edge of the blackhole that led into his soul held within his mind. Reaper’s feet kicking through a darkness Arson knew instinctually he couldn’t touch mentally without losing pieces of himself. “He already formed a bond with a scythe,” said Bloom while she lapped the halo held above the trees branches. She often caught lightning bolts from the storm held within the halo’s circumference, and redirected them at Arson. Arson who was in a bad mood, being held to a decision within his mind for three days even though he felt he knew the answer to the prompt in front of himself, just let the bolts hit him. “You are aware that hurts right, Bloom?” She gave him a single nod on her following lap around, even as she slapped another bolt toward his position in the tree's branches. “My vote is always going to be ShieldBow,” yelled Glory from the beach. It was his and Temper’s ongoing dual that held Arson’s complete focus almost the entire time he’d been there. “Seconded,” said Temper in the middle of a spin above Glory’s head. He managed two kicks in the air before he landed which stunned Arson as he knew if he tried he couldn’t perform the maneuver as easily. The timing for using aerial attacks was seen as almost taboo in many forms of combat. Where the 21 Styles of Omni, attempted to perfect aerial combat and all of its apparent flaws and weaknesses. It was what gave him his stellar balance, but he’d been beaten by many opponents better than him, as long as he limited himself. As when he hadn’t bad things normally occurred. So to be better at one thing, he practiced one thing. Without the aid or use of other things. Even Thinker often commented on how Arson should focus more on a singular task, rather than so many at once. “Third,” said Thinker, who sat on the beach that surrounded the portal to his soul. How he’d gotten both a chair and a book from his spacial inventory held within his watch, he still had no idea, but seemed comfortable as he read. “A shielded ranged weapon, blah blah blab some more about the family’s weapon, why don’t we make something better,” said Reaper. “Hard to top it, especially with what he wants to integrate into the weapon design,” said Glory. His feint was enough to give Temper a single moment of pause, when his two hands clapped together in front of Temper’s face before Glory charged. “I vote for something that can change, that way you can keep your crown, the piece of your identity that you should not be ashamed of, and if and when we do need a ShieldBow, we can use that too,” said Bloom while she flew. Arson was zapped with another lightning bolt, this one to the face of all places. Reaper grunted, which for that form of himself was a grudging agreement for whatever they may be discussing at the time. Arson though scowling after being struck again, also agreed after some time too cool off passed without him being struck again. “I also thought ShieldBow, but something with the potential to change would more embody what you are trying to become Arson,” said Thinker, who turned many pages in the book he held even while he spoke. “Agreed,” said Temper and Glory at once. It was the first time in the entire conversation that when Arson read the prompt in front of his eyes, he felt his whole being agreed with what he wanted, mind, body, and soul. “From your soul rises a physical piece of yourself that must be given shape and understanding, its structure can only be constructed instinctually, its understanding will be given naturally, and its authority within reality will be gained through sacrifice,” said Arson. He took in the words of all those within his Cerebral realm. Thought about what he himself wanted to do with his life, and any one thing didn’t seem to fit perfectly, so… “Through the manipulation of matter, may the crown I have always known grow to be what I need, as the power to change is unrivaled…” When the words left Arson’s mouth, the prompt disappeared. He’d just been thinking out loud, but the answer resounded throughout his mind with a profound ring of completion. For the final time his crown rose from the depths of his soul. For the first time the construct was not just an ethereal projection of mana, but a physical object, more like Jack his Living Hand. Instead of being created from his soul, mana, and life-forces like the Living Hand had been, his crown was now a physical representation of his soul, naturally touched by every aspect of himself, moment by moment. “Now that I would love to use,” said Reaper. Chills ran down Arson’s spine at the subtle intensity of the form’s words, as he knew the potential for something like that was most likely possible and truly terrifying. “Now this I can tell is going to be useful,” said Bloom, and everyone else there nodded in agreement, Arson included. … Ash was struck by the ball of fire infused with creation mana and elements of Univers. At first she felt fine, but then a familiar pain filled her from head to toe. Her mind was taken back to a time where her father had shown her that she could be burned regardless of her talent. Blue flames blown softly like a parent's normally soothing and cooling breath through barely open lips, left a feint blue cinder in her palm that racked her with pain for a fortnight. That sensation took her and she screamed. Screamed as the fire ripped through her. Screamed through a flood of intensity that had eclipsed anything she could and would ever fear again. She was on the ground, thrashing uncontrollably while fire didn’t burn her, but changed her body's makeup, completely. Unlike Ash, Troy had been connected to Arson through time and space in a way that had slowly given her a taste of foreign mana, Whereas Ash, did not. The violent changes to the body changed her core tremendously, and in a short amount of time. No one dared approach, but Axis took off running as many others froze around Ash. “Where are you going,” yelled Jasmine. “Look at the fertilized sand,” yelled Axis as she jumped over the barrier that separated the field from the audience. Nearby, a large ball of the lilac flames struggled to stay lit, with the sands below it not offering the same kindling as any other material the flames touched. “Lane, stay here I’m going to help her,” said Jasmine as she too rushed off to aid Axis. The young women returned quickly and began to dump armloads of sand on top of the still screaming Ash. They’d scooped bucketfuls worth of the naturally enriched fertilizer into the lifted bottoms of their dresses, and as the sand touched her body and she felt a soothing relief wash over herself; she was thankful for her sister and her friends choice in clothing. “Saved by bloody dresses,” spluttered Ash in a mumble as she spit sand free of her mouth after they poured it over her head. “Sparks, would it kill you to say thank you,” asked Jasmine. All the young women received in response was a murmur of pain before a soft snore. “Well sleeping is better than dead, right?” said Jasmine with a raised hand for a high five toward Lane and Axis. Axis shook her head but slapped hands with her friend for the help she gave her in aiding her sister. While Lane shook her head and left her hanging. “Comedic relief is only good with proper timing, Jazz, but that’s besides the point. What’s the plan here, guys?” “I have to get to both my sisters somehow, and who knows what Autumn has going on within that chaos in there, but I understand if you two need to leave,” said Axis. Jasmine frowned and Lane smiled before they looked at one another. An understanding was formed between them in that moment, and luckily for Axis, it was in her favor. “We got you, don’t worry, we just need to figure out the whole forest of flames thing between us and your sister though. I know it's up to us to solve those and all,” said Lane with a laugh. “but that is a bit much,” said Lane with a point toward the growing inferno in front of them. “And you were talking about her, that joke was not only badly timed but went over my head completely,” said Axis. Not familiar with the small dragon mascot that had been used to promote forest fire awareness within the slums of Maelstrom for generations. Heavily forested zones of the CityNation more correlated to impoverished areas rather than luxury. “Man you must be like mega rich or something, I knew you all had credits but sparks, everyone I know has seen that commercial in the slums,” said Jasmine barely able to keep in her laughter. She pulled out cloaks from her spacial inventory, and handed them to Axis and Lane before she put one on herself. The two looked at her strangely with the garments held aloft in front of themselves, either in confusion or revulsion. “What…. they're flame proof.” … Autumn was surrounded on all sides. She and Titan fought Cultivators, both trying to win the event and escape the flames that had spread through the tree canopy. Somehow the flames ate anything enriched with mana, but nothing else. Some cultivators with higher internal mana concentrations bursted like balloons. Blood and viscera sent in every direction the moment they caught on fire. While others were able to perform a mandatory dive and roll to suffocate the mana fire before they could take hold and ignite the cultivators completely. Titan, was now on fire, but the flames only ate the leaves that grew from his body, a factor that the tree used to devastating effect. Autumn's own summoned storms didn’t snuff out the flames either. Rather the infused liquid only fed the flames somehow. I know that the event is supposed to be more deadly for the cultivators, but this is far too much… Autumn messaged her brother to make sure that nothing was wrong, but received no response, but remembered he was going to attempt to ask out one of Arson’s friends. Then she messaged Carter Gestalt in hopes that he’d recovered, and that he had information on the event plans, but wasn’t surprised when he didn’t answer. This is probably Raid Corp’s doing anyway. I’ll talk this over with him if and when I survive this, thought Autumn. When Ash, Aura, and even Alexander didn’t answer her messages, she began to make calls. “Hello, what the sparks is going on,” yelled Autumn through her Overlay, once Axis answered her call. “You got sparking flaming tree monsters running around a sparking forest that refuses to sparking burn down even though it's on fire and any time it rains even the sparking puddles catch on sparking fire!” “Are you okay?” “Spark you!” The call went silent for a moment and all Autumn heard momentarily were screams and explosions. “Sorry, Jasmine, Lane and I are on the way to you now,” said Axis in a low yell to be heard over the chaos around her. Not long after that three cloaked figures rushed free of the tree line at the base of the pyramid. Titan started to perform a two handed overhead smash down toward them, but stopped the moment that Axis pulled down her hood and cursed at the big tree to stop. Luckily for her sister, Autumn’s mental command was fast enough to stop Titan cold. The tree started to pull its feet from the foundation of dirt that ran through the pyramid, and stomped after Autumn as she rushed toward Axis. “Raid Corp is on the way, their guard ships are on the radar Auto gave us access to,” said Axis. “All my feeds are going crazy about some sort of fight between the three Slums Queens,” said Lane with a look over at Jasmine who read into Lanes raised eyebrows in a way that only a long term friend was capable of. “I can guess at two, but whose the third,” said Jasmine. Lane shrugged in response, and the Archon siblings shared a look of their own. “Are they always like this,” asked Autumn, and Axis gave a quick nod before she pulled out her Flatscreen from her pocket. Autumn looked around at the flames, up at Titan in time to see the tree swat a Cultivator from the sky, before she pulled out her own device; and amidst the chaos and flames, the four young women took a break to check their own screens and overlays. “Any of you know who that is,” asked Lane with a view of a floating young woman above a tree like vessel on the face of her own Flatscreen. She’d turned the device so that all could see, and none were familiar with the third person shown, but all four girls knew exactly who the other two were. “Is that—“ was all Autumn got out before Jasmine cut in. “Mmmhmm…” “And is that,” attempted Axis before Lane cut her off. “Mmmhmm….” … “I swear by the Maiden’s sparking light if you mess this up, Khalif, I will haunt you and your children,” screamed Rob aiming his batch of potions at the structure Troy held above them all. People still jumped from the massive hole that was the top of the 50th floor, but a shake began throughout the building's top when hard-light cones began to burst like surged lightbulbs. The once balanced weight immediately started to shift, and was far more difficult for Troy to keep up. “What do these things even do?” “Spark it, throw them now!” Khalif and Rob, hands full of potions consisting of ingredients known only to Rob, both hurled their loads upward. An explosion of mixed potions caused multiple effects to occur at once. One potion in each bundle was an acidic accelerant, while the others were various acids. Rob feared only for a moment that the acid would rain back down on all three of them, but dismissed the thoughts after another look at Troy’s pained features. The potions bursted and the mixture clung to the buildings side as if gravity was reversed momentarily from the force of their throws alone. A huge hole formed as the acid disintegrated the wall above them, and Troy’s arms dropped helplessly to her sides once there was nothing left above her to hold up. Rob and Khalif stepped in to block the little acid that did splash down around them, able to cover Troy completely from the liquid that ate through almost anything it touched without discrimination. “Took you two long enough,” said Troy as acid slid off her body. Her aura coated her body in a near invisible layer of hardened light that caused the chemical not to cling to her, even while Khalif was forced to strip. “You’re lucky to be alive, woman,” said Rob with a laugh. The young man started to look around, which caused Troy and Khalif to do the same. They stood surrounded by hard-light clones. The number of bodies that held up the building above them dwindled by the breath, and Khalif began to visibly sweat when a tremble could be seen spreading through the structure. “Should we move, or wait,” asked Rob. Troy and Khalif looked at him in confusion for only a moment before what he hinted at occurred. Dozens of hard-light clones bursted at once and the building was dropped; the hole they made large enough to allow for them to find themselves inside the building, standing as if they were able to walk on walls unaffected by gravity. While in reality they’d merely entered the building from its side, while it was already sideways. Furniture could be seen upturned or on its side. Broken glass spread across the ground like rose petals, accenting violence and mayhem rather than a special occasion. Cultivators could be seen in every direction. Some unconscious, while others met their end; their bodies dismembered, crushed, or tossed free of the hotel’s top. Some of the lost were able to be seen through the few non broken windows, dismantled by gravity; their bodies left in the streets or even hanging from the sides of adjacent buildings. “We have to help them,” said Troy, and before she knew it, Khalif and Rob helped her rush through the hotel’s top floors to find survivors. The building being on its side caused them to have to move through the hotel like an obstacle course, but Khalif made any impossible terrain into an easy hurdle with the use of short ranged teleports. Rob seemed to be having the time of his life, as rather than feeding people his health potions, he threw them. Incredibly hard, and multiples at a time. Between Rob’s own hands and the three extra propeller palm drones he’d received from Xani, no one escaped Rob’s wrath of healing and smashed potion bottles. “Don’t run yet you sparking idiot your leg is broken,” said Rob as a young man saw Rob enter his room with a raised arm prepared to toss. The young man took in the sight of Rob and tried to hobble away on one leg, before Rob rolled his eyes and sent a base ball pitch full speed toward his leg. “Ahh,” screamed the young man before the bottle collided with his leg and took him off his feet completely. He writhed in pain momentarily before relief spread across his face, and he stood. “You're welcome!” Rob shook his head and made his way toward Troy. With her speed, the young woman was able to save dozens of lives, leaving anyone she couldn’t reach for Khalif to gather and extract from the buildings interior. “Troy, we got incoming!” At Khalif’s warning she looked around until she found him pointing upward toward a massive hole in the side of the building where a floor to ceiling window had once been . “What the…” Troy couldn’t tell what she was seeing, but it seemed to be Micro flailing through the air whilst being choke slammed. Choke slammed from an incredible height by a young woman who soared directly down toward them at velocities well above speeds naturally met while falling. “Move, move, move!” Their group scattered, and not a moment later, two bodies soared through the open area the higher floors within the hotel offered their guests. The young woman who held Micro by the neck slammed her into the ground, crushing both the wall, and the ground below. The imprint of Micro’s body at the center of an impact crater was impressive to witness as it changed the terrain while more of the building fell apart around them all. “Tell me where Sovereign is, and I’ll let you live. My ship’s sensors put him nearby,” said the young woman with an aggressive shake of Micro’s neck. Micro seemed to be asleep or fatally injured, completely unresponsive while she was lifted nearly nose to nose with the regally dressed young woman before them. “I know you are awake peasant, now answer me!” Micro’s eyes shot open, and in her hand formed a black dagger, that she immediately shoved into her opponent's neck. Troy’s own eyes went wide when the knife was pulled free of the beautiful young woman’s neck and the wound sealed up as if it were never there. “Oow, now that wasn’t nice, is that how you treat your new monarch,” asked the woman, before she stabbed Micro’s knife directly into Micro’s stomach. She wailed in pain, but only long enough to pull the knife free and start to kick frantically at her attacker, until she made eye contact with Troy who approached her enemy from behind. Troy nodded at her with a smile, and Micro did her best to signal Troy not to attack, but was incapable of even shaking her head slightly. “Don’t…” The word barely made it from her lips before Troy struck out with everything she had left. “For the Builders!”