In a cataclysm known as the Nightfall, the worlds were almost completely destroyed by a harrowing surge of darkness.
In the shadows of the ensuing chaos a new group has taken shape. Led by an Aegyl named Kalos, the 11th Hour touts an esoteric knowledge of how to combat the darkness and restore the worlds. They might be the worlds’ best chance at survival; but nobody really knows enough about them to confirm or deny their claims.
On the brink of collapse, the universe holds its breath in anticipation. Of restoration? Of destruction? It is up to individuals like yourself to decide.
A special thank you to ChasingArtwork of Deviantart, who allowed us to use this stellar banner image.
There aren't enough praises in the world I'd like to give to wonderful coders for the Proboards community. The following have contributed to World Destiny in some way: W3 Schools for countless how-tos and countless of other souls who have helped get WD up to where it is.
Entering a large crowd of people was a headache waiting to happen.
Apparently it was late enough in the day that people were starting to shuffle to and from the various locations around town that were still standing, and that in and of itself was an annoyance to Jin. He knew this place had once been bustling, but the confirmation that there were enough people to flood one area of town was no comfort. All it did was make a clamor that grated on the boy's ears and a mess of thoughts and emotions that set his head pounding. It was like looking into abright light or holding a bell too close to his ears as it rang, but instead of the pain being in his eyes or his ears it was in every part of his head. At this point it was just a mild irritation, but if they stuck around this area for too long it would spell trouble for Jin's attitude.
His noticeably chagrined demeanor was recognized by the locals quickly, and what had been looks of distrust earlier in the day had turned into wariness, aggression, and an inkling of fear. People who didn't like being in crowds weren't uncommon, but people who couldn't stand being in them were naturally seen as a misfit in them. Jin knew from experience that misfits weren't usually the safest of things to be. So before things got too out of hand, Jin added a small spring to his step and began outpacing his guide thanks to a long an envigored stride. "Before trouble manages to rear it's ugly head, we should probably get a move on. Crowds don't like me any more than I like them."
Thankfully, they'd cleared the crowd with no difficulty. The only strange part from there was her reaction to him shaking her hand. She visibly tensed, and he had to remind himself that he could be more intimidating than he thought. Still, she didn't seem to shy away from him. He was slightly amused by her attempt at a tough look. She was just so much younger than he was - if not in actual age then at least in mindset. The way she promptly spun after their handshake and then stressed the i in his name was proof that she was still a little childish at heart.
They'd come to a dead stop at a fork in the road. They could head up the stairs or venture into the tunnels. As he'd expected, the underground walkways weren't lit at all. Fortunately the prospect of not having light wasn't all that intimidating to someone who could generate their own if he even needed it at all.
"Like I said, they'll be looking for me in places they aren't likely to find other people if they're here. The tunnels fit the bill."
Without so much as another word, Jin's left hand sparked to life with crackling bolts of electricity as he held the appendage out in front of him. The light generated from the energy did its job of making the surrounding area visibly lit. Dauntlessly, Jin strolled into the caverns while sparing a glance back to Avari.
"You know your way around down here, yeah? Where could you get from here before everything turned into a dump?"
Reaching out with his senses, Jin began scouring the caves for anything that even remotely felt like the creatures that had attacked his home. As he reached out, a shadowy cold seemed to clutch at his senses. There was none of the usual emotion to it; hunger was all that resonated from whatever they were walking towards. Good. That meant they were on the right path. He needed to get this girl a fight, and he needed to make sure she figured out what she needed to hold her own. Whether that was getting that charm to work, or realizing it was garbage and selling it for a real weapon was something only time would be able to tell.
"If you leave this up to me," he said as he took a right turn to emphasize his point "I'm likely to get us lost down here."
As he explained once again that the people he knew wouldn't be hanging around such a populated area, she couldn't help but frown as she tried to imagine why that would be. Then when he led the way towards the tunnel entrance, Ava wondered what kind of shady people Jin hung out with. The tunnels these days were dark and confusing, not to mention dangerous.
Avari quickly shook her head and trotted after him. If she ever wanted to leave Twilight Town, she couldn't be afraid of a little danger. Avari had to face it. Besides, Jin seemed well equipped to handle whatever waited for them inside. She watched the lightning spark to life again in his hands, and lit up the corridor. Avari wasn't entirely sure how Jin's lightning worked yet, so she stayed a few paces behind him. Also yes, because that also put him between her and any heartless that tried to get the drop on them. The thought that she was using him as protection bothered her though. Whether she needed it or not, she didn't like feeling helpless.
So it was Jin's request for directions that she took as cue to step forward. She skirted around him to take the lead and gave a curt nod. "Of course, I used to explore these tunnels all the time before, well, things got so bad," she glanced around at the cracks in the brick walls and the scattered debris, "I'm not sure which ways are still clear, but before you could get to the Station Plaza, Sunset Terrace, and an alleyway near the Sandlot we were just at. If we can get to the terrace though, that's been the most isolated spot ever since the trains went out."
She glanced back for some kind of confirmation from Jin and then continued forward, stepping over some rubble as she went. She moved at a cautious pace and gripped her struggle baton tightly. Watching the light Jin cast dancing along the walls didn't help, but it did give her an idea; maybe she could use her charm in other ways other than in a fight, like he did. Avari paused to pull the charm from her coat pocket and she tried to picture a small flame engulfing the charm. She seemed to concentrate on it for several moments before laughing awkwardly.
"I was just checking something. Uh, anyways, its this way." She slipped the fiery star back into her pocket and led the way forward and passed an adjoining hall on their left.
Instead of reaching a small open room as Avari expected, their path was blocked by a fallen support beam, loose bricks and more rubble. "Um, well, I guess we're not going this way," She tried to peer over the debris, but it was impossible for someone of her height, "We can try down this way." She started walking back passed Jin towards the adjoining hall they just passed. She waited until Jin followed so he could light the way and she could peek around the corner. It seemed clear- for now- so Avari continued to show the way further into the tunnel.
Avari still seemed to be a bit afraid of Jin's lighting. While he wasn't all that surprised, he'd also figured that the girl would be made of tougher stuff than that. Still, her caution wasn't a bad thing. No, the only thing that would get them in trouble down the line was the girl's panic. She was practically shaking in her boots right now. Jin doubted that she'd be as eager to fight the Heartless as he'd hoped. No, someone like this would need more coaxing before they took up arms and fought an actual battle. Her desire would help her get over the bump, but some people just weren't built for life or death fights.
That would be something to consider if this girl had a choice.
Between that kid reporting that the worlds were disappearing, the Heartless invasion of Tamnia, and Avari's eagerness to fight them, Jin could make a few assumptions as to how badly the creatures were affecting life not just here, but everywhere else they'd gotten to. They were parasites, sucking the life out of entire worlds while they looked for whatever it was they were after. No wonder they'd got on so well with Leviathan. They were practically cut from the same cloth as he was.
Avari's knowledge of the tunnels might have come in handy if they weren't in shambles. Apparently they used to lead everywhere you could get in this small town. Could you really call it a world compared to something as vast as Tamnia? There had to be more out there. Well, maybe this place was just one of many stops for those trains that she kept talking about. There were probably plenty of other places to go and plenty of other refugees out there. That just meant that he might not be the only Tamnian flung through Leviathan's portal.
Speaking of his brother, Jin dared not think about the state Tamnia was in. His gut knew that the world was still entact, but if Leviathan had really teamed up with the creatures that destroyed other worlds it wouldn't be that way for long. Getting back home had to be his top priority. He didn't care if he had to destroy every last one of those little bugs to do it. Kailyn and Trey needed him.
"The terrace, then," Jin responded to the girl's questioning look. After that, she seemed to focus for a second on the charm that she'd shown him earlier. If that thing really was capable of using magic, she'd better show some prowess for it fast. The way it was going though, it didn't seem like she was really putting her mind to it. Or rather, she was only putting her mind to it.
"Whatever you're trying to do with that thing isn't enough," he stated. "If you want something to happen, you've gotta put your whole mind and soul into it. At least with my lightning, it's about believing it will happen and demanding that your beliefs become reality. If I just let the lightning do what it wants, it'll go everywhere. If you want the charm to respond, exert some force of will."
That was probably the best advice he could give to the girl. He wasn't familiar with magic of any sort, but he doubted that the catalysts were too different between it and his powers. Then again, maybe there was some sort of magic word or weird stance to it. That sort of hocus pocus had never been his style, though. He doubted the girl would be too keen on either of those ideas either.
He followed her a little further into the caves until they reached the fallen support beam. While Avari seemed a bit reluctant, Jin didn't really see the issue.
"Where the hell are you going? A little rubble like this is enough to scare you off? You know what I call this sort of thing back home? Target practice."
Without looking away from the girl, Jin lifted a hand and let loose a bolt of lightning much larger than the one he'd shot off back up in the sandlot when he'd been arguing with Erik. It was an arrogant move - one that completely overlooked the possibility of making the cave-in worse. Then again, Jin had never really worried about anything like that. Besides, the fallen beam was about as bad as the damage was going to get. With other supports still standing all around them, clearing this debris would be safe so long as they were careful about it.
"Give it a shot. You're the magical girl, after all."
While Jin's tone was slightly teasing, he knew full well what was beyond that blockage. A group of Heartless - relatively large at that - had gathered. Why they were travelling in the tunnels was anyone's guess; the important part was destroying them and getting Avari some real fighting experience. If he had to be a little forceful to do that, Jin was fine with it.
She turned to see the lightning spark from his hand and towards the obstacle. Her eyes grew wide as Jin's strike cleared a good portion of the debris; she knew he was strong from seeing his display in the Sandlot, but she didn't realize he was this strong. That lightning likely made him a formidable opponent. No wonder the heartless were afraid of him, if his story were to be believed. Though Avari had initially been cautious entering the tunnels, the prospect of clearing this rubble with a flick of her wrist was enough for her to forget about the potential danger.
"Alright, I'll try," she walked back over to Jin and stood in front of the debris. She then paused for a moment to look his way, "Though I'm not a 'magical girl', a lot of people have charms like mine. Haven't you ever seen moogles selling them?"
The question appeared to be rhetorical as she turned back to the task at hand. She didn't seem to consider that there may not have been moogles where Jin was from. Instead she was more focused on successfully using her magic for the first time. Listening to Jin's advice, she thought about why she needed the fire charm. She needed to be able to defend herself and fight back so she could venture wherever she needed to in order to find her brother. This fire magic wasn't going to stop her from finding him.
With a furrowing of her brow, she threw her fist out in front of her and the flames sparked out and towards the debris. It was only a small fireball that hit the rock, but given time a flame could grow and done, well, something. They didn't have time to wait around for that, but all the same, a great big grin spread across Avari's face.
"Whoa... Did you see that?" She glanced back at Jin, smiling at first until she saw the dark shadowy creatures coming up from behind him. "Oh no." Regardless of how Jin reacted, she readied her struggle bat for the worst. It may not have been the most effective weapon against the heartless, but it could still bat away the ones that got near her.
Jin smirked. Whoever this girl was, she certainly had moxy. Not many people would call target practice in abandoned, run-down tunnels a good idea. Then again, not many people carried around toy bats as their one practiced means of self defense. Maybe it wasn't moxy, maybe it was just a case of naivete. That would be fine for now though; so long as he was here they could get out of the tunnels in a blink of an eye should a cave-in really start because of their actions. Besides, if the girl was going to spend her money on trinkets, she might as well figure out if she'd been ripped off or not.
"A what?" Jin asked, his brow quirking as the strange word passed Avari's lips and hung in the air. "I've only been here a few hours. You're going to have to clarify exactly what a 'moogle' is. Sounds like some sort of stuffed cow."
Tamnia didn't have much in the way of strange creatures. Despite the Gifted having a strong presence, fantastical things escaped Jin's knowledge of the world. The strange little bugs made of shadows - the Heartless, he had to remind himself - were the first thing he'd ever seen outside of what one would usually classify a human or an animal. Naturally, he wasn't all that keen on acknowledging something he didn't recognized as sentient. If he'd seen one of these "moogles" as Avari had called them, he had probably ignored them outright.
Regardless, his focus turned to Avari as she readied the charm in her hand and took aim. Just like that, a small bit of energy flowed out of the girl and into the charm. The charm was obviously a catalyst, as the energy then quickly puffed into a ball of flames before shooting across the corridor and slamming into the wooden support pillar. It was slowly kindling now, so Jin supposed it was at least a small success. Besides, the girl seemed happy enough with her accomplishment.
"Yeah, yeah. You can start campfires now. Good work," Jin said, feigning disinterest. Honestly, he was wondering what those charms would do with his own energy now. Would they bond with the electric nature and produce something new, or would they convert anything that you put into it to pure fire? The prospect was interesting, but Jin doubted he'd have the money to afford one any time soon. He'd have to wait and find out, he supposed.
His curiosity had distracted him for a brief moment, and in that time they'd apparently been ambushed. Well, he did promise a show. What better time to deliver than now?
Without so much as looking, Jin flicked a blade out of its sheath and twirled it once before plunging it into the gut of a lunging Shadow. Cyan electricity crackled up the blade before engulfing the monster. With a puff of dark mist signalling the creature's death, Jin returned his blade to its sheath.
"So, you want to give the blockade another try, or should I get us out of here?"
Now that they were being flanked, dealing with the Heartless on the other side of the tunnel might be a little harder. Jin could risk Avari getting caught in the crossfire and let out some more flashy attacks, but perhaps it would be better to rely on her a little. If she couldn't defeat the weaker ones coming at them, she wasn't in any condition to be fighting anything just yet.
Without even breaking a sweat, Jin dealt with the heartless; Avari watched the whole thing with wide eyes. "Whoa, that was... that was so cool!" She smiled again, looking passed him to see if any more heartless were coming. Avari didn't think regular weapons would work against these creatures. but the way he cloaked his weapon in lighting was far from normal. She wondered if she could utilize fire that way or if it was something only he could do. Something that made 'people like him' special, as he had implied earlier.
More heartless had to be nearby though, there was never just one of those monsters. However, when Jin suggested they leave, specifically when he mentioned he would get them out of here, she looked back at the rubble. She didn't like the idea of relying on someone else to take care of her, even if it meant staying in a dangerous place like this. The very idea seemed to change Avari's mood like the flip of a coin. She stared long and hard at the obstacle before them, and then with a smile she gave him a determined look.
"No way, I won't scare that easy!" She turned back to the blockade with a smirk and dropped her struggle bat beside her for a moment. More heartless began to sprout up behind them again, but she didn't seem to notice, or rather was too focused on the wall of debris.
After another moment of concentration, this time with Avari acting more serious than before, two fireballs shot out at the barricade, hitting harder than the last time. The barricade was weakening. She went again, firing one more fireball, and the debris shattered, causing the walls to tremble briefly but they held in the end.
"Yes!" She threw a fist in the air, though quickly realized what had been waiting on the other side. She quickly scooped up her bat and blocked one of the shadows as it lurched towards her. "Oh man..." She muttered as she took in their numbers. There had to be at least 10 or so, a number that probably worried Jin very little, but it was a daunting enough number for Avari. She knocked another heartless away as it got close and she tried to use her magic again but her focus was broken. All that showed from her attempt were small embers around her hand. Instead she had to whack another shadow away before trying the magic again.
Jin honestly didn't think that stabbing someone who was quite obvious in their approach was as impressive as the girl seemed to think. Then again, maybe acting too casual about this sort of thing was a tell to how much experience he had. Was that something he'd have to worry about? If anyone back on Tamnia had seen him do that, their immediate reaction would either be to call him some sort of monster and run or to get word about him to Perothun. While Jin liked to think he had his power under control, others looked at him and saw a force of destruction; something they needed to contain before the worst happened.
Things were apparently different here, however. In response to the Heartless, people seemed to take up arms regardless of whether they had powers of their own or not. The boy from before - was he really a boy? He couldn't have been younger than Jin, though his temper had said otherwise - had been carrying around swords of his own, and Avari seemed to make up for her own lack of innate abilities with that charm. She said she'd bought it. Did that mean anyone could have powers like that if they had money on hand?
Jin decided not to think about that, ignoring the twinge of fear he felt after imagining what could happen if that sort of utility went unchecked. The Gifted back on Tamnia were a staunch minority. The only thing keeping them from being completely annihilated by Caelum and Perothun was their Gifts. If Perothun streamlined their equipment so that anyone and everyone on the continent could use it...
Suffice it to say, that would not be good for either side.
While he'd been thinking, Avari seemed to have her own change in spirit. She took aim at the obstacle in front of them, and Jin readied his second sword to protect their rear in return. She could handle the stationary targets for now. Jin had a lot of pent up frustration to work off.
The Heartless Jin was currently engaging were nothing he hadn't seen before. He was surprised anyone thought they could destroy worlds given how weak they were. The small, bug-like creatures with bulbous heads and big yellow eyes seemed to have one tactic beyond aimlessly flailing or lunging at their targets; they sunk into the ground to swiftly flank their opponents. It was too bad for them that Jin was used to being attacked from behind.
Both of Jin's swords flashed with renewed electrical energy. The scent of ozone filled the air in the small tunnel as bolts of neon blue energy crackled from the blades. That didn't seem to deter the Shadows, however. Their approached was unhampered by Jin's preparations to attack. That was their mistake.
Fluidly, like water through a chaotic stream, Jin's blades danced through the air and connected with their targets. One slice, one kill. Just like his time back in the Colosseum, but this time he didn't have to worry about pulling his punches to avoid bloodying his hands. These creatures were hardly alive. If they were, they were little more than animals coming forth for the slaughter.
By the time Jin had finished with the second wave of the creatures, Avari had broken down the wall. With a resounding crash - the echoes amplified by their confined surroundings no doubt - wood and stone crumbled into a burning pile in front of the two. As he'd been expecting since they started breaking down the wall, that didn't come without its own set of dangers.
The Shadows that lunged out at the girl were small in number - more had probably shown themselves and been cut down behind the girl while she wasn't paying attention than the number she was facing now. Still, Jin knew that Avari lacked his experience and taste for combat. The fact that she'd already tried and failed to use the charm on her assailants showed Jin everything he needed to see. She was having trouble working up the determination to take action. He'd have to fix that.
Sheathing a sword, he placed his hand on her shoulder and pressed down with the weight of her current situation. She was at a crossroads now; she could choose to fight, or she could choose to turn back on whatever it was she was looking for now. There was no in between. He wasn't going to carry her through this part, not when the Heartless before them barely scratched the surface of what he could sense further into the newly opened pathway.
"If you hesitate, you're going to die," he said, voice grim and fingers gripping a little more strongly against her.
"If you run, you'll just waste away back up there. Look forward. Go forward. If you're going to fight, then fight with the intent to kill. If you don't, there's no point in you being here anymore."
Hopefully that would be enough to push her over the edge. Jin had never been the best with words - he much preferred showing his thoughts through actions. He was staying his blade for now because of that. If Avari wanted to improve, the best thing he could do was wait until the last second to take things over. He'd learned what it took to be victorious from the school of hard knocks, and now so would she.
The shadows danced and weaved around her. She flinched when Jin put a hand on her shoulder and she couldn't take her eyes off the heartless as he spoke. Avari thought back to that moment in Radiant Garden when the heartless took over. Back then she didn't freeze up like she did now, or hesitate as Jin said. She had been protecting Kale then, so there hadn't been any time to second guess herself, not when her brother needed her.
It wasn't the risk of death that snapped her out of it though. Wasting away in this world as a good for nothing was a prospect that would never sit well with Avari. She couldn't just do nothing. She couldn't wait for some hero to come along and solve her problems. And though death was not an appealing option, she wouldn't let fear stop her. When she did find her brother, it won't be because she was a coward scraping by for survival.
Instead of responding to Jin, she took action. With a short huff she managed to blast another fire ball, this time successfully conjuring it. The heartless she aimed it at darted away, and another leapt at her. She brought up her struggle bat in retaliation and knocked the heartless back. She then moved forward and took another swing at it once it landed.
Another managed to get a swipe in at her, clawing her arm. She swung at that one and then turned to shoot another fireball at the group of shadows. The struggle bat was ineffective, she obviously knew that, but she also was unskilled with her magic, both in the process of conjuring it and aiming it. The shadows were just simply nimble enough to maneuver around it. She only seemed to get an opening after a few swings and every now and then she failed to conjure the fire properly.
She eventually eliminated two, and the other heartless paused long enough for Avari to glance back and see that Jin had his own heartless to deal with on the other side. There was no way of knowing how many would come out before giving up the attack, and if running away wasn't an option, the only solution was to do what they came here to do. Avari shot another fireball before whacking her way through the heartless and further into the maze of tunnels. "This way!" She had to stop frequently to shoot her fire or swing her bat, occasionally earning another scratch or two, but slowly and steadily she was leading the way through the tunnels.
In a matter of moments, Jin's words had apparently spurred something in Avari. The girl had grit her teeth and laid waste to the enemy in front of her. Well, she'd tried to at least. She was anything but fast with the small charm that she was using to create fire for her, and while she was doing a good job in deterring the bug-like creatures from getting near her it would be a long time before she could actually strike one down cleanly. The damage she was taking spoke to a deeper truth about her fighting style - she wasn't used to people getting in range to attack her the way the Heartless were. She was likely only familiar with fights against other people also using the same sort of bat she was.
As Avari finished off her second target, Jin's senses twitched slightly in the back of his mind. There were more coming. Were they signalling more to come after the two of them? If so, how were they doing that? How many would they have to fight before something bigger decided to show up? Slowly, the thought that bringing the girl down here wasn't a good idea was strengthening inside Jin's head. He wasn't going to unleash everything he had on the creatures with someone so close, and who knew how that was likely to affect her opinion of him?
Still, Avari was determined to keep pressing forward. Jin could respect that much, and as such he allowed electricity to course through his sword anew while he covered the flank. Anything that the girl didn't quite finish off or managed to avoid was made quick fodder for his blade. The weapon shrieked through the air as Shadow after Shadow met its fate. These things were hardly a challenge - even the ones back on Tamnia had seemed a bit tougher. They were small fries, and not enough of a challenge to really distract Jin from his goal.
The girl was adapting quickly. With each injury marking a new mistake and a new lesson, the fighting style she'd been using with that bat for so long was slowly mixing together with her new charm and adapting to the tactics of the Heartless that were encroaching on them. While her fighting was far from what Jin would call skillful, it was effective. Maybe if she would be doing better if she was carrying anything other than that foam coated bat. Then again, that would require her finding a way to access a weapon in the first place. The things were apparently a rarity around here.
'Note to self, start forging new weapons for people with whatever this stuff is' Jin told himself as he quickly snagged another small fragment of metal out of the shadowy mist left behind by one more downed target. Whatever it was, it would certainly be useful for arming anyone as unfortunately unequipped as Avari. Maybe he could even make a little cash off of the trade as well. People loved weapons, and they also loved staying alive long enough to learn how to defend themselves. If money was ever going to be an issue, taking care of it now would allow him to rest a little easier at night.
"You sure you know what you're getting us into?" Jin asked. "Seems like they just keep throwing more at us the further in we go. I wouldn't be surprised if..."
He never had time to finish the sentence as a sudden, rapid projectile flew through the air followed by several more just like it. Jin dodged as effectively as he could, managing to get by with a single scrape across his left cheek that quickly began to knit itself back together with a dull electric crackle.
More presences flashed into his senses. This time, there were stronger. Probably stronger than anything Jin had felt on Tamnia, and almost certainly stronger than this girl would be able to handle the way she was right now. What the hell were these things? If they'd been around all along, then why were they suddenly choosing to pop out? Was there some sort of a nest that they were coming up on? What was it that these things were trying to protect? Regardless, these new Shadows - taller, more humanoid and menacing in appearance, and obviously more prepared for combat than their counterparts - weren't here to play a game.
"Get behind me," Jin said in the same grim tone he'd adopted when spurring Avari to action earlier. "You're not a match for these things right now. Especially not since you've been getting yourself banged up through here."
Drawing the second sword from his waist, Jin spun the darker-bladed weapon around in his hand until his grip on the weapon was reversed. Both weapons flashed to life with electricity that tinted from neon blue to navy. The renewed source of light granted new vision to their attackers - twenty of them at least. Continuing through the tunnels would likely bring more of these along with them, and - at least for now - retreat was a good option. Retreat, but not after a show of dominance to keep them from following. Animals all thought alike anyways.
"You wanted to see me fight? Might as well not hold back while I do it."
Avari could hear the sparks stemming from Jin's blade as she continued fighting the heartless in front of her. Each time she could hear him swing his sword, she couldn't help but feel a frustration with herself growing as he seemed to have little to no trouble with the heartless, while she was quite the opposite. She felt weak, and ineffective. Rather than discouraging her, however, this made her swing more angrily at the heartless, her fireballs becoming more frequent as she started to become more comfortable with how the magic functioned. Her aim still wasn't the best, but she managed to make it work seeing as the heartless continued to lunge at her when they saw an opportunity. Each time they did, she would block what she could and it left a large enough opening for her to get a hit in. She had vanquished roughly five or six of them by the time Jin spoke up again.
"You sure you know what you're getting us into? Seems like they just keep throwing more at us the further in we go. I wouldn't be surprised if..."
She glanced back at him as he paused mid-sentence, and she watched as he dodged several projectiles that shot out at him. Further past Jin, more heartless began to sprout up, but these ones were different from any heartless Ava had seen. The creatures matched her height, maybe more so, unlike the measly shadows she had been fighting, and the crackling light source from Jin's sword revealed blue veins along the heartless forms.
"Get behind me, you're not a match for these things right now. Especially not since you've been getting yourself banged up through here."
Jin's sudden change in tune, from encouraging her to fight her own battles to telling her that she was outmatched, only confirmed that these new heartless were on a whole separate level from the others. She opened her mouth to argue, but he had quickly interjected, pointing out how she'd just barely had been scraping by to begin with. She glanced down at the nicks and scratches along her arms, realizing now how sore she was from this encounter, and with a frustrated frown, she gave a curt nod.
As Jin prepared for the approaching enemies, Avari at first considered supporting him with some added fireballs, but she wasn't confident enough in her abilities yet to be sure that she wouldn't hit him in the process. And she would likely just get in his way, considering how easily he had handled the regular heartless. It only reminded her of how far off she was from being as strong as she needed to be.
From an outside perspective, the concept of squaring up your opponent was unnecessary at best and annoying at worst. The train of thought went something like 'If you're going to attack, why not just attack? Why waste your time?' In truth, this couldn't be a worse idea.
The reason fighters spent so much time during a fight standing still was because they were trying to get a read on how the other person moved. You had to zero in your focus on your opponent and track the slightest of twitches to be able to react in time, and if you weren't paying attention to the patterns that almost every fighter eventually fell into then you were going to get read.
Once you knew what you assailent was most likely to do, the range of what you have to be mentally and physically prepared for decreased dramatically. For instance, as Jin's eyes flicked back and forth between the Neo Shadows that were currently standing in his and Avari's way he was also trying to pick up how these creatures moved. They didn't seem to slink through the ground in a dash that rendered them untouchable. That was a major disadvantage they'd have to deal with when it came to avoiding blows.
The aggressors didn't have much chance of fully studying how Jin moved before he read them and began his assaul. With high speed and a versatile control over his electricity, the first blow would almost always be struck by him. One flashing step placed him behind the Neo Shadows, and two of them promptly took to the air as their bodies split down the middle. Electricity coursed over them before they puffed away into the all-too-familiar black smoke that signified their defeat.
The remaining group retaliated as best they could, darting through the air and right for the orange haired boy. As Jin blocked the incoming hits, some of the Heartless proved too slow to avoid being destroyed by his blades while others managed to change their trajectory mid-flight and crash into him. Jin staggered with the first two blows, wincing his eyes shut at the momentary flash of pain. The wound that had developed on his chest crackled violently with arcs of lightning as his skin began to fuse itself back together.
Jin's next move put him in such a position that three more of the creatures found themselves all impaled along his blade before meeting their temporary ends. From there, Jin's free sword flicked across the ground and sent an electric pulse out. The bodies of the remaining Heartless seized violently at the output, but they did not vanish. The strike was meant to stun, not to kill.
With a quick and forceful shout, Jin flicked the hand that held his opposite blade across the rest of the Neo Shadows. A wave of potent electric power thundered through the air, momentarily filling the caverns with a blinding flash of blue light and taking care of a majority of the remaining enemy ranks.
At that moment, the Heartless hesitated. Jin realized that there were two possibilities. They were either afraid and unable to attack - unlikely - or they were stalling for bigger reinforcements.
"We run. Now," Jin barked, turning to face Avari. He sheathed his blades, then reached out and grabbed the girl by the wrist before breaking out into a well-paced run. Using his speed would have been a one way ticket to pull the girl's arm out of her socket, and he sure as hell wasn't going to leave her in here alone.
It wasn't long before he was outside the caverns, panting slightly from the exertion. He'd used a lot of his energy back there, but it was worth it now that both he and Avari were safe. He could get the burn on his chest that was the result of his rushed attempt to heal attended to later, though the rip in his shirt would be an annoying fix out in the middle of nowhere.
"So," Jin asked between breaths, "Any other ideas?"
This strange breed of heartless had quickly surrounded them, barring them from their only way out. The situation seemed all too familiar to her. It was like that day the heartless swarmed her home, Radiant Garden, except she had been where Jin stood now, with her standing between the heartless and her brother. She couldn't help but wonder, in this moment, if Kale had been afraid as the heartless closed in. Or perhaps he had trusted that Avari would protect him, as she promised, only to be let down, waking up in someplace unknown to him. She wasn't strong enough, not then and not now. For a moment, she doubted Jin as well, who thus far seemed wickedly strong. While the heartless wreathed around them, he stood still before her. Then, in a flash, he lunged at the pureblooded heartless.
He moved faster than Avari's eyes could keep up with. At one moment, he stood right in front of her and the next, he was behind the heartless. He struck down many of them with his lightning, having little trouble slicing through the creatures. He took a few hits though, but dished out twice as much. She caught a glimpse of the lightning sparking off his chest before he impaled three of the heartless. He then shouted and Avari had to shield her eyes as a flash of blue light filled the tunnels, and afterwords it took another moment for her eyes to readjust to her dark surroundings. A large number of the heartless had disappeared, however, and Avari couldn't help but feel in awe of.. well, whatever just happened.
Not a moment later, Jin called for a retreat though and dragged her along by the wrist, and she was forced to run in order to keep pace with him. Though he did not use the same unnatural speed as when he fought the Neoshadows, they still made steady progress through the underground corridors. Avari glanced back a few times to see a few more of the little ones nipping at her feet, which she responded with another bout of fireballs, until she felt the strain of casting them, and nothing but puffs of smoke would erupt from her hands. She seemed to have exhausted all the fire she could muster for the time being. If she had been on her own, she wouldn't have made it, and even Jin felt the need to pull back.
When they reached the exit and were once again greeted with the starless sky, Avari put her hands on her knees, breathing heavily due to the effort involved in their escape. Her brow was prominently creased as she tried to catch her breath, clearly still frustrated by the whole situation. And yet, she still had to admit how amazed she was by Jin's strength. Avari's anger faded as she looked down through the tunnel entrance, and then up at him, viewing him in a new light. She wanted to be just like him- strong enough to protect other people. And she certainly didn't want to be saved like this again any time soon. "How did you do all that?" She asked, initially overlooking his question. She then noticed the tear across his chest of ripped fabric, and she frowned, "I'm sorry, this is all my fault. It was a stupid idea." She didn't seem to notice her own injuries until now, though they were for the most part surface scratches, and she had too much pride to let her pain show. She was certain she would be sore for awhile though.
She dropped the struggle bat onto the ground, seeing no point in carrying it anymore after all that had just happened. With her arms crossed she glanced around, noticing that fewer people were around on the streets; they must have been down there longer than she thought. "I don't know... if you're certain your friends wouldn't be in town, the only other place I can think of is the Mansion. But its been locked up for ages, I'm not sure if anyone would be hanging around there." Even as she spoke, her muscles began to ache, yet they made a deal she would help him find his friends. She didn't want to go back on her word. She gave a curt nod in the direction of the Mansion she spoke of, though the entrance to it wasn't currently in view. "There's a crack in the wall leading into a forest, and beyond that is the mansion." She glanced back to Jin.
As tired as Jin was, it seemed that the trist into the tunnels had taken even more of a toll on Avari. The strain hadn't been simply physical, either. Emotions swirled around the girl in a complicated mess of anger, relief, and curiousity. There was something else there, though; admiration. Jin wanted to cringe. That wasn't an emotion he was comfortable with when it was directed at him. Some people had Hero complexes, and he had the exact opposite. He wanted nothing to do with the title or the reputation, he just wanted his world and his family back.
Back on Tamnia, the second wave of the Gifted uprising had been steadily growing for years before the Heartless attacked. The second wave of a force that his father had been a key figure in leading. Needless to say, his last name carried its own expectations and support with it. That was funny, seeing as neither of those things had been around when the same father that they'd praised was lying dead in a ditch and Jin had been fighting for his life in an arena that doubled as a prison.
Jin's breathing steadied as his exhaustion faded away. He could feel the energy starting to crackle under his skin again, his reserves starting to rekindle now that he wasn't putting a constant drain on them. The adrenaline-induced tunnel vision was fading now, and Jin's midn was free to focus on his surroundings once more. No Heartless were following them out of the cave, and as a result Jin's hand slowly left the hilt of his now sheathed blade. With a final deep breath, Jin finally took himself out of the battle.
"I haven't had what you'd call the easiest of lives. Fighting might have been just a hobby for you, but I have a bit of a different story. Back when I was a kid, I loved the idea of being able to fight every day. It was the thing that got me up in the morning and what ran through my dreams every night. It runs in my family's blood. Then, one day, I was taken. When I woke up, I was in the Colosseum; a place where people like me - people with power - were ordered to fight. Sometimes it was a person, sometimes it was a monster, but the one thing that never changed was the fighting. Always fighting, always pushing myself past my limits, and sometimes nearly dying for it."
He hesitated before he went to far - before he brought up the sister whose safety he didn't have the first clue about. Maybe this was enough. Maybe knowing that the thing that had made him so strong was the thing that had done the most damage to him would ward the girl off from admiring or depending on him. He didn't think he could shoulder that sort of responsibility here on top of waiting for it to come back to haunt him on Tamnia as well. The fewer people out there that depended on him, the better. Trey and Kailyn were all he could handle - just look at how badly he'd failed Levi.
"Don't worry about me. I heal - I always do," Jin said, shrugging off her concern. "I think I'm good on my own from here. Crack in the wall. Forest. Mansion. You should go get some rest. You look like you've had better days, and if you keep going you're likely to get hurt. Thanks for the help so far."
Jin turned, walking off in the direction of the forest as he lifted a hand in a casual farewell. He had a little looking left to do, and he wanted to finish up before the end of the day.
Avari's breathing quieted as Jin explained his history. The way he described it made his world seem a much darker place than this one, or even Radiant Garden for that matter. He had to fight in life or death situations from a young age? Avari didn't know what to say, considering she herself wanted so badly to be able to fight like he did back there.
When she said nothing, he then added that his wounds were not serious and would heal. He then went on to brush her aside, saying she would get hurt, so he would go the rest of the way on his own. As he walked away, Avari looked down at the struggle bat on the ground, and she could feel the anger bubbling inside her. She needed to be better. The growing number of heartless wouldn't stop anytime soon, and she didn't want to sit around and hope someone else would solve the problem.
Avari took one more glance down the dark tunnel before turning and kicking the bat aside as she walked in the opposite direction Jin had left in.