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A Gates Short Story (Complete)

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Because I am tired of waiting for Y2 to come out, I have decided to start writing a story for the sake of lore, as opposed to writing something that would fit the format of the game itself. This is just part one. I don't know how long it will be, but I promise it'll be good if I can ever get around to finishing it. ;) Edit: It's finished. 19 parts long, phew! :)

Part one

It was nearly dawn in Mineta. Although the sun could not yet be seen, twilight could be observed. The aftermath of a powerful storm could be seen outside everywhere. A portal opened up inside an empty classroom inside the Academagia. Only darkness could be seen through to the other side. A single boy emerged from the darkness in a single leap, slightly wounded and clothes torn. He hit the ground hard. Voices could be heard coming from the other side. Not human. Although there would be no way of understanding these voices normally, it was clear from their frenetic pitch that they were filled with anger.

Anger at the boy, no doubt.

Knowing he would have little time, the boy, a Morvidus student named Valentino da Caccia, rose quickly to his feet, and readied his wand. A Thing emerged from the darkness emanating from the portal. It moved too fast to identify but it was ethereal, dripping slime, and most importantly heading straight for Valentino.

He was ready. Although Negation was not his strong suit, he had managed to erect a simple barrier. The barrier had shattered on impact with the being, but doing so had stopped all of it's forward momentum. Valentino got a good look at the creature, and nearly gagged, but held it in. Now was not the time for such things.

Valentino quickly revised the entire room to give off light. Lots of light. So much light that even though he had closed his eyes prior to the casting of the spell, he thought that he might go blind. The creature shrieked, but, unfortunately, the room quickly grew dark again. The revision was completely negated.

The creature was expecting pain this time. He thought.

Another creature tried to pass through, but it was wary due to the recent flood of light, and it was too slow. the portal finally closed, preventing it from doing so.

With the last reserves of his strength, he cast a Gates banishment spell on the creature in the classroom. It resisted, for longer than he would have thought he was capable of keeping the spell active. Finally, just a moment before he was going to collapse, the creature disappeared in a puff of smoke smelling of cinnamon.

The classroom was trashed, but it looked like it was an abandoned one. Cleaning up the evidence of this struggle would have to wait for a day or so. Valentino was far too exhausted to consider anything but sleep. It was a small miracle that he could even find the strength to limp back to his dorm room for some sleep.

It had only been a few hours, but in that Brief span of time, Valentino had lived a lifetime.

Gates magic was... Is, illegal. It's been that way for a long time, but that really hadn't been much of an obstacle for him. It was more like the old wives tales his mother used to badger him about why he shouldn't play in the old abandoned tower that he always used to play in as a child.

"There's devils in that tower!" She would hiss at him. "They'll kidnap you and  drink all your blood! Down to the very last drop!"

Valentino had avoided that tower for years, until one day he entered it to find... Absolutely nothing but lots of rubble.

Once you get past the initial fear, and find out that the truth isn't always what other people had led you to believe, it changes the way you think. In valentino's case, he had become a terribly rebellious boy. So rebellious, that  when his parents received a surprise invitation for him to attend the Academagia, they jumped at the chance to offload their problem onto someone else.

It turned out that Valentino was a natural prodigy in Revision. In his very first day of classes at the Academy, he stunned the professors with his aptitude for it, as well as his aptitude for getting into trouble.

In many ways, his introduction to Gates magic was identical to the varied and inaccurate ramblings his mother had often told him. A 5th year student had been recently caught using Gates to summon pixies to simultaneously cause large bouts of pranks in order to hide the fact that he was also using them to cheat on nearly every test he took. As a result of this incident, which caused no small amount of consternation, the faculty of the Academagia obliged themselves with warning about the dangers of Gates magic after every class for weeks on end.

"Gates magic is unsafe. Don't even think about it." Said one professor in a monotonous rambling voice.

"Gates is only capable of bringing death and destruction!" Lectured another.

"Nothing positive has ever come from using the magic of Gates." This professor didn't even sound like she believed that.

It came as no surprise, then, that with the knowledge of Gates' existence, came too the temptation of learning exactly the truth behind that existence. The opportunity arrived when Cassandra Ghileni, a 2nd year Glamour student, was gathering a few of her closest friends to do a small scale version of the earlier, now infamous pixie summoning, just to see for themselves if all the infamy and notoriety was deserved.

Valentino was not one of her close friends, but managed to wheedle his way in by eavesdropping in when she was doing her inviting, and applying a little blackmail.

The summoning was ultimately quick and simple. A single pixie appeared, and in a bout of fright and/or anger, laid a hex on Casandra that had frizzled her hair.

"Take that, you undersized troll!" it had yelled while doing so.

Something about the whole event was so funny, everyone present had started laughing. Even Cassandra. (Though she lost her sense of humor after the frizzled hair turned out to be more or less permanent.) In any case, it was clear to Valentino that he was the victim of yet more adults lying in order to manipulate him into doing what they wanted.

While Cassandra and her friends, their curiousity fullfilled, wanted nothing more to do with Gates magic, and told Valentino so in no uncertain terms... (which he could completely respect) He had only gotten started. Like with his mother before, there would be absolutely nothing capable of stopping him from learning everything he could possible manage while keeping things a secret.

It was surprisingly easy for Valentino. Poking around in various places where he wasn't allowed to be had long since become a pastime of his. Gates magic is demanding, however, so soon most of his energies were spent on learning magic, and not Revising the lunch stew to have the consistency of taffy.

His professors Came to the opinion that Valentino had finally started maturing, and so stopped keeping as sharp an eye on him as they might have otherwise, and so it went. Before the end of his third year at the Academagia, Valentino had become quite impressive with his skill in Gates.

Of course, he had to be careful. It was no secret that in the worst case scenario, he could be executed for knowing what he knew, but he ultimately brushed it off. He had learned to evade punishment from being in forbidden places from his mother's spankings. Armed with Gates, there really didn't seem to be any problem in running away should his secret ever be discovered.

One night, however, during a dreadfully powerful storm brought in by the Current of Embers, Valentino was shocked to find a little girl, seemingly no more than 5 or 6 years old, instantly appear into his dorm room! This was no ordinary girl, however. Her eyes beheld power and wisdom that even none of his professors could hope to match!

"We've been watching you, boy." She giggled innocently, as if she had just found an amusing cat to play with.

"Who's 'we'"? Valentino asked, his mind spinning, not really comprehending the situation that he had suddenly found himself in.

She shook her head playfully and responded. "First, allow us to apologize for taking this form. We feel that seeing our true form suddenly would likely kill you."

Valentino gulped. He did not like where this conversation was going.

The girl continued. "Therefore, we sought a countenence that was as least threatening to someone like you as possible. We ultimately chose this one~!" She even winked at him.

The girl's voice seemed have nothing but a playful innocence to it, however, that stood in direct contradiction to valentino's instincts, which were howling out to him that he was in the presence of an apex predator. It truly felt that a common housefly would have a much better chance of escaping a spider's web, than he did, of escaping this little girl.

The girl did not stop talking. "You are hereby formally invited to our home." She smiled while closing her eyes. "Regretfully, your ability to perceive it is very limited, so we have decided to alter your perceptions in order to prevent accidents from happening."

The girl did not elaborate on exactly what kind of accidents she was referring to. However, he did feel like his mind was under some kind of heavy strain. It wasn't unbearable, but it did feel as though if it continued for a while, his mind would shut down completely at some point in the future. He did notice, though, that time did seem to be slowed down some. He could not say if that was the result of some magical spell, or more likely, the result of the great fear that was steadily rising in his stomach.

Before he could even respond, or ask a single question, the girl opened her eyes, and he could see her working a spell in her mind.

"Let's go!" She happily exclaimed. "We are all going to have so much fun!"

Valentino could not even protest. Instantly, he felt as if a million tiny needles were pricking against his skin, and then darkness overtook him.

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Haha, a chapter a day, eh? I don't know if I could do that even if I was only doing it for a few posts, let alone until Y2 releases a few decades from now. ;) Still, we'll take things one day at a time and see how things go.

Part 2.

Valentino awoke in a dark room. Instead of there being singular light source illuminating everything, it seemed more that everything around him was enchanted to give off a soft ethereal light. The room itself was relatively normal otherwise.

The room looked as though it gave off the aura that something wasn't quite right, as if someone had put a Glamour on it in order to give it the appearance of a richly decorated room in a mansion. Given the scope, and unusual nature of what had just happened, however, Valentino was unsure of what to make of everything.

Just as Valentino was getting his bearings, The little girl who had whisked him here arrived through one of the doors leading into the room.

"We're soo glad you've adapted to our home!" She said. "Truly, you are a remarkable specimen! We can't wait to see what else you're capable of... But knowing how curious your kind is, we feel now would be a good time for questions. There won't be any time for those later, when you've been... Introduced..."

The way she pronounced that last word, it was fairly obvious that there was some hidden meaning behind it. Exactly what it was, Valentino could not say, but he knew that being in such a situation as this, it was critical to ask as many questions as possible. Knowledge is power after all.

"W-why have you brought me here?" Valentino asked, trying not to sound too scared.

The girl laughed an innocent laugh and replied. "Why wouldn't we bring you here? Humans like you that can see us and hear us are sooo rare! We wanted you to deveiop more, at first, but we were just too excited when we found you! It's been so long since we've played with one of you.."  

The girl frowned in an exaggerated manner.

Valentino shuddered. It became crystal clear that he was in a serious amount of trouble. There were many questions he wanted to ask this creature which had taken the form of a small child... Sadly, though, based on it's apparent personality, he reasoned that many questions would just be deflected. He didn't know how long it would allow him to ask questions, so he had to choose them carefully.

"Who are are you?" Valentino tersely asked.

"It is not possible to say any of our names with great accuracy in your way of speaking." She calmly responded, but then added with exuberation: "But, in the past, others of your kind have called us 'Dreamers of the void.'"

"Oh, Although we don't dream, and only go to the void to find Fun." She laughed, while correcting herself. "That's one of the reasons why we find you humans so funny!" She smiled heavily at that. "Still, if you are looking for a way to address this one, you can call *me* 'Twippy'."

"Twippy..?" Valentino asked, exasperatedly.

"Yes, Twippy." The girl beamed. "We have been been observing humans for such a long time. Names given in such a manner are a sign of close affection, and it has already been decided that an address such as that will cause such affection toward us in time."

Valentino was able to relax his guard a bit at that. It did not seem as though he was in immediate danger. Still, it did imply that this Twippy did not intend to let him go. This was unacceptable.

Perhaps this Twippy was sensing what Valentino was feeling, but it was also possible that this whole conversion was premeditated down to the tiniest detail. In either case, she simply smiled, tilted her head in a cute manner, and continued her explanation.

"We only wish to interact and play with you for a bit. Once that is done, if you wish, we will certainly return you to your own home so you can develop more."

This was getting to be very bizarre. Valentino was struggling to make sense of everything. Everything was happening too fast, and he wanted to reject it outright. This did not seem to be a wise thing to do, so he forced himself to bite his lip and play along.

"Then... How did you find me... Twippy?"

Twippy looked positively excited at this question. It contorted her face to a level that bordered on the unnatural. The explanation came quickly, no doubt due to this excitement.

"You used it!" She literally squealed in excitement. "Some of the old magic the first humans who played with us used! We knew right away that you would play with us! It allowed us to find you!"

Just then, Twippy's face became sad, and her voice became sullen. "It's hard to find humans that use the old magic, and it's even harder to get those we find to play."

"It's almost as if they don't want to anymore." Twippy said quietly.

Although her face did not betray any real emotion with those last words, Valentino absolutely shivered in fear because her voice clearly conveyed an intense, if restrained, anger. Though he could not say with certainty, he also felt as if for a split second, a killing aura eminated from the being calling itself Twippy. It was enough envelop him in a cold sweat.

Many things became clear though. Valentino was in this mess because he was fooling around with Gates magic. The 'Old magic' twippy was referring to had to be that. Valentino was incredibly angry at himself for not heeding at least some of the warnings the professors had given. If he lived through this, he resolved himself to learning everything about these 'Dreamers of the Void' and how best to protect himself from them and other extradimensional beings like them.

"Not that *You* are like that, human Valentino!" Twippy gushed, instantly reverting back to a bubbly, cute personality.

"Well, That's enough questions for now, don't you think?" Twippy remarked. "I think it's about time for you to meet the others~! They're sooo excited to meet you!"

Unfortunately, everything else would have to wait. Being friendly with this Twippy and whatever else she had to introduce him to was going to be top priority for the time being...

"I, uh... Can't wait." Valentino sheepishly responded.

Twippy calmed down and became serious for a moment. "There's just one thing you need to keep in mind first..."

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So much for one a day. Oh well, I knew I was never going to write that fast. I'm probably going to have to edit this story when I'm done writing it. I'm mostly writing as I go, and as I progressed through this part I realized I had to change a few things. I've mostly done the editing of earlier parts already but there might be a few snippits that I overlooked.

 

Part 3

Valentino and Twippy left the room, and entered into a much larger hallway. Being able to see much farther, it became clear that there was something about the air here that wasn't normal. It was as if the air actually absorbed light. While the effect wasn't too bad within one's immediate area of perception, as one looked farther away it became nearly impossible to see anything. Making matters worse was the fact that there was no real light source apart from the faint glow that everything had. It would be very easy getting lost in this place.

"Why is it so dark in this place?" Valentino asked, while trying to observe as much as possible.

"Concepts such as 'light' and 'darkness' are unnecessary. We do not need any such tools to perceive things. As we have altered your perceptions, you perceive things as having that which you need to perceive them." Twippy replied.

Valentino was a little confused at that response, but elected not to follow up with more questions. He felt that any more in that line of thinking would just tax his brain, which while not hurting, was beginning to throb because of the strain it was under.

Twippy eventually led Valentino through the mansion into a room so large, that he was unable to see it's ends. It was in fact possible that it actually qualified as outdoors, but his perceptions were limited in this foreign environment. For his part, Valentino thought there might not be such a thing as 'outside' in this place, strange as it was. They both stopped at a strange, large platform.

A number of strange beings were on it. They were huge, around 15 feet tall, and all of them were wearing strange veil like clothing which covered their entire bodies. As Twippy had explained earlier, these veils were there because they allowed Valentino to focus his perception on the veils, instead of their bodies, which upon being perceived directly by humans led to a 89 percent chance of death.

This was an unacceptable risk when trying to converse directly with certain humans that could be played with, so extreme measures had to be taken to prevent this in those scenarios. Even the veils were imperfect as it was possible for a human to perceive their true form past them, leading to the same chance of death. Therefore it was decided that first contact would be made by a creation engineered to appear human in every conceivable way. It had taken many failed attempts, but eventually through many varied observations of human interaction and brute force engineering, the current version, 'Twippy' Was considered to be capable of imitating a human in nearly every way imaginable except for it's mind and thought processes, which were nearly identical to it's creators. In fact, Twippy's true form was identical to it's creators and thought of itself as one of them, even though it was merely a disposable creation.

Twippy was created to fullfil several functions.

1. Recover a specific human that it was sent after.
2. Attempt to form an emotional bond in said human for itself.
3. Minimize the risk of death of said human.
4. Act as a guide to ensure the fastest and most thorough development possible of said human.

Although this was not mentioned to Valentino, all creations like Twippy were customised to appeal to a specific human target in order to maximize the chance of succeeding in it's objectives. Twippy itself, despite being the most recent and most advanced creation of its kind, was in fact created very recently, and customized for a much younger human. Unfortunately, Twippy had utterly failed in it's objectives, and was set to be destroyed. When Valentino was discovered, due to certain constraints, it was impossible to make a new creation in the time required to act, and so the failed Twippy was sent after Valentino rather than let such a valuable human go.

Valentino was trying mightily hard to focus on anything but the giant beings before him, when one of them started to speak. It sounded vaguely draconic, but at the same time also like a human language he hadn't heard of before.

Twippy cheerfully intervened. "Alas, this human is from the city of Mineta, Esteemed elders. Despite being able to use the old magic, he only is capable of speaking the most common languages found there. The one I'm speaking right now will give the best results!"

"...We find the ever changing tongues of humans to be both most fascinating, and also very difficult to keep up with." The same elder spoke. "Since your kind does not have any type of collective memory, we will quickly explain the Fun."

Valentino tersely nodded. "Yes, please."

It seemed as though he was slowly able to see past the odd veils that they wore. It seemed as though their eyes were glowing. Valentino struggled mightily between his desire to live and his curiosity to know more about these beings.

The Elder continued. "The Fun is a method of sustenance that we partake in. When your kind first appeared before us, we had chosen to simply take it from you directly."

A murmur of approval rang out amongst all the elders. After they quieted down the elder that was speaking to Valentino continued again.

"However, after we had nearly depleted all of the Fun from them, the last, and greatest of those whom we now joyously call the Fun ones had found for us a large source of Fun. We had so much Fun, and of such high quality, that we decided that we would let the last Fun one return from where she had come. With the promise that more would come to help us continue the excess of Fun."

Valentino's eyes opened wide from this explanation. He was listening to a story, possibly first hand, about a historical encounter that old Gates Masters had had with these creatures. He was not sure exactly what this 'Fun' exactly was, but he also wasn't sure he wanted to know.

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No worries just gotta have to make 4 for today to make up for the delay. We are strict but we are fair. :) 

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Haha, I haven't even started 4 yet.

It's gonna be a while. For one, I feel that I'm leading it down a really silly path. Of course, that's only on a surface level, in order to not be too overtly scary because there's a lot of nightmare fuel in there if you think about it. For another, I just can't decide exactly on [redacted]. That's a problem, because the remainder of the story kind of hinges on it.

To quote the Legate... It will be ready when it's ready. ;)

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I am really terrible with names. Still, I won't go into details concerning the slobins. Yet. Sorry this was a little short. I like leaving off at a place where it could be considered a cliffhanger, and it would be too much writing for the next checkpoint. We're getting closer to the action, I promise. I anticipate the start with part 6. (I have to get all the exposition out of the way.) Also, I think this story will end around part 10 or so. Maybe the team could compress it into a lore set for Y2 when I'm done, haha!

Part 4.

The Elder paused. A creature suddenly appeared in between the group of elders and Valentino. It was difficult to fully comprehend anything about this creatures form. To Valentino, it appeared only as a shapeless mass, but it was making sharp animal cries. It was clear that this creature had been willed into this location, because immediately afterward the creature was restrained inside a type of spherical glowing ball. This was a good thing, because Valentino could feel the creature becoming aware of him and the violence it was exerting on its restraints was very telling as to what it might do to him should it get the chance to do so.

Another of the elders started speaking, in a fearfully deep voice. "This kind of being was introduced to us by the last of the Fun ones. They are called 'Slobins'. Unlike your kind, they are capable of generating Fun in an almost infinite capacity."

All of the elders murmured with signs of excitedness, when the first elder did something which quieted them down. Valentino wasn't sure exactly what it was, as the veil obscured most motions.

The first elder spoke again. "We were originally given 10 Slobins by the last of the Fun ones. This is the last one remaining. Unfortunately, we have come to rely on Slobins for Fun. While they are capable of generating enormous amounts of it, they can die if we... Overfeed. We require you to assist us in acquiring more of these Slobins, as we are incapable of entering into the realm in which they normally habitate."

Valentino was starting to understand the situation he was thrust into. There were still a lot of things he didn't, and maybe wouldn't, ever know. One thing he did know, was that from the sounds that 'slobin' was making, it was a fierce predator. Yet these 'Dreamers of the Void' seemed so powerful that they could merely toy with it. If that creature was their only food source and it ran out...

...Valentino would be in a world of trouble if that happened. Although all of these creatures had been surprisingly civil, if a bit weird, it was not entirely comforting. While the veils they wore gave the impression that they were humanoid giants, that could merely be a matter of perception. They seemed to place a lot of importance on that. It was possible, even likely, that the veils they wore were merely tools to keep himself from triggering a predatory response. He could tell that they were predators of the highest order. It was just a guess, but Valentino's danger sense was operating on a nearly superhuman level now. There was just something in their manner of speaking that alarmed him greatly.

No, the threat extended beyond simply Valentino himself.

If they were capable of kidnapping humans from their own realm, nearly suddenly and without warning at the Academagia of all places, the danger was infinitely greater than he could calculate. Although it wasn't spelled out for him, it seemed incredibly obvious to Valentino that the so-called 'Fun ones' were all killed by these giant beings. If they were Gates mages so confident enough in their skills that they would explore other planes of existence, what would Valentino, who had never mustered up enough courage to actually travel through a Gate that lead to another a mere few feet away actually manage to do?

Surely many people would be horrified of the things Valentino had learned to do with Gates magic, but he of all people was aware of how poorly he would compare to a Master of the now proscribed art. He had read enough books on the subject, which along with his own practical knowledge led him to be fairly aware of the many gaps in his ability. He was much better with Revision, and even then he was still only a third year student. To have this whole mess thrust on to him was a bit too much, and this, combined with the stress that his mind was already under sparked the beginnings of a world class migraine.

Twippy, who had been attentively watching Valentino, recognized the signs preceding that of a human whose mind was about to shatter into a million pieces. She produced a baton from nowhere. The baton was covered all over with many phemes. Valentino recognized it as something similar to a wand preloaded with a spell for fast casting. She indeed used it in that fashion and before he knew what was happening, the world went black.... Again.

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It's going to be a pretty wild ride after this folks, folks. Gates magic, Vampires, Slobins, Being out past curfew... It's all gonna get pretty crazy. I think everyone is going to really enjoy part 6, but it will take a while to write. All good things come to those who wait, though!. :)

 

Part 5.

Valentino heard a voice calling out to him.

The voice was definitely a child's voice, but he didn't understand it. In many ways it sounded like jibberish. It didn't matter though. He was suffering from a large amount of dull pain in his forehead. It made it difficult to even want to open up his eyes. It would have been easy to ignore the voice, but there was now a weight on his chest, and it was making it difficult to breathe. Making matters worse was the sound of a fierce wind howling from not far away.

Valentino realized that he had been unconscious, and that it was in his best interest to examine what kind of situation he was in. Even though he had opened his eyes, they refused to focus.

"It's about time you woke up, silly! Come on, We've got a job to do!" A now familiar cute voice rang out.

Twippy had been sitting cross-legged on his chest, calling out to him to wake up for who knows how long.

Valentino Gasped, and tried to shake Twippy off of himself, but he was too weak, and though she was not actively pinning him down, she was not interested in moving. Thankfully, the shock Valentino received jumpstarted his body's processes and his eyes finally started to focus after some intense blinking.

"What happened?" Valentino asked weakly.

"Oh, you just weren't as ready to meet the elders as we had wanted you to be, is all." Twippy remarked casually as she moved off of him.

Now that he was responding to her again, she had no need to be right on top of him, literally. It allowed Valentino to sit up and take a good look at his surroundings.

The good news was, he was back in his dorm room at the Academagia, on his own bed, and all of his digits were intact even!

However, there was some bad news as well. The window to his room was wide open. the shutters had not been secured and now only one was flapping wildly with the wind. The other must have fallen off. Wind, rain, hail, and what looked like red snow was flying in, and making a mighty fine mess everywhere. The roaring of a mighty storm could not be mistaken. It had been storming when Twippy had appeared to take Valentino, but from the sound of it, it was now on a whole other level.

Valentino's roommates were also in the room, but they were sleeping quite soundly on the floor, next to the entrance. This despite the sound of powerful thunder and flashes of lightning, not to mention nearly everything being quite cold and damp presently, made Valentino just a little suspicious that Twippy had something to do with it.

"Are they okay?" Valenino asked, pointing his roommates.

"Of course!" Twippy replied, smiling. "They got angry when they saw me here, and started threatening me, and asking questions."

Twippy did not say any more. In her tone of voice was the implication that it was only obvious that his roommates would  suffer the fate they did for daring to ask why a little girl was in the boy's dormitory, in all likelihood sitting on one of its occupants after curfew.

Valentino bitterly chuckled at that thought.

"More importantly, we require fun." Twippy assumed a lecturing posture, while looking up at him. "The elders have fully consumed the last slobin in anticipation of fresh Fun. We haven't had any in a long time, so we are looking forward to your acquiring new slobins for us."

Valentino winced as he heard that. But first he had to secure his room. Although the window's shutters were damaged, Valentino was very good in Revision, so he quickly did an emergency Revision repair on the shutters, and closed both them and the window itself. Although the room was still incredibly cold and damp, at least it was not exposed to the elements any further. Upon inspecting his roommates, they were soaking wet from the floor and very cold, yet completely unconscious.

Valentino also managed to successfully plead with Twippy to help him put his roommates into their beds, where they would at least be off of the ice cold floor. Unfortunately, he did not have time to help them beyond that. It was going to be a very, VERY, long night. It was only half past midnight, according to the grandfather clock in the room. He recalled that he had originally been taken away at just after nightfall, which had come early due to the thick clouds that had been building over Mineta all day.

"Firstly, we don't have to worry about anyone listening in, right?" Valentino asked, realizing that the following conversation was very likely to cause immense trouble for himself if it was heard by even one person, regardless of who it was.

"Naturally. We don't seek the attention of every human, and we are well aware that those who use the old magic value their privacy above all else." Twippy replied, with a nearly mischievous grin. "These humans here also won't awaken until I choose to let them, and only the most powerful of human mages have the ability to break our... Or rather, *MY* wards, and the only ones nearby capable of doing so are too busy fending off the summoned ancient vampires."

"Ancient Vampires!?" Valentino gasped.

"Yes, we didn't summon them. A human did. It is a petty thing beneath our interest. It is irrelevant." Twippy growled, as if throwing a slight child's temper tantrum.

Although it was muttered beneath her breath, Valentino could have sworn Twippy had mentioned a name. 'Mjolnir.'

Twippy continued. "Regardless, although you lamentably will not be able to return to our home any time soon, there will be nothing stopping you from entering the domain of the slobins. We require you to do so very soon."

Twippy smiled, as if it was only expected that Valentino would gladly risk his life for these creatures. She then produced a small document containing the spells and phemes needed to enter into and return from the Slobin's world. It also contained a special banishing spell that would send a slobin to the elders. Then she looked at Valentino expectedly, as if he should go this instant.

Valentino could see where this was going. "Wait, wait!" He objected, desperately. "I still don't know anything about these things. If you really want me to succeed, shouldn't I know a little bit about them?"

Twippy became very angry. "They're just food." She stated this matter of factly, and with a chilling voice. After a moment though, she reconsidered and returned again to a playful state. "I suppose to you it might be different, unfortunately, we do not know any more about them. We had never encountered them before the Fun ones gifted them to us."

Valentino thought about that, and looked for an excuse not to go, or at least delay the inevitable. Inspiration struck him.

"I don't know anything about these slobins, but I know where there should be some information on them."

The Venalicium. It would be a bit tricky getting in this late at night, and it would probably be in the restricted section, but the odds of getting caught past curfew should be pretty low. Especially with the storm raging outside.

Twippy considered the idea of a delay with great annoyance, but eventually conceeded. "If it's to improve the chances of success, we can wait a little while, but be aware that time is limited."

"I... Understand." Valentino replied, secretly elated that he had received a metaphorical stay of execution.

"When you do enter the slobin's domain, I will be unable to accompany you, therefore, Until your mission is over, I will be in telepathic contact with you starting now. Now go and do what you need to do. If you take too long..." Twippy made a very unnatural sound. It was similar to that sound made by a stomach when it had been empty for too long, but it also was louder and more gutteral sounding, as if there was a much larger stomach that needed food. "...You will not like what happens."

Frightened beyond measure at that, Valentino flew out the door, determined to make the most of the time that he had left.

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What's that? Twice in a single day! Sounds like I need to take a week off to let the shock wear off from the cliffhanger to this part. :)

 

Part 6.

Valentino raced out of Morvidus hall. As he had expected, the storm had put even the professors into the mood to stay in their rooms, with nobody around to worry about. His Progress was slowed however, once he reached outside. The storm was so fierce that he could only walk slowly while moving directly against the wind. There was a lot of lightning as well, but nothing struck the ground, so it didn't seem like that was too worrying.

Valentino could have used some revision to make something to block the wind, but decided against it. He needed the time to clear his head and plan whatever it was he was going to do. His only priority was to get to the Venalicium in order to dig up whatever he could on the Dreamers of the Void, as well as the Slobins that they were so interested in. Unfortunately, until he had more information, there wasn't a lot that he could plan to do except go on some crazy expedition on his own to capture creatures that for all he knew might eat him alive instantly.

Fighting Twippy seemed even more hopeless though. Even if the impossible happened and he beat her in a duel, there would be the elders, and possibly even more to deal with. Who could he go to in that case? Unfortunately, he didn't know anyone that wouldn't rat him out to the wrong people for his involvement in Gates magic. Even his own parents would do that. Whatever Valentino was going to do, it was going to be him and his wits alone that were going to see him through this adversity.

"I would be careful about heading in that direction, Valentino." Twippy's voice rang out.

"what?" The word left Valentino's lips before he could even register what was happening, though it didn't take long before he realized it was telepathy. It sounded more like she was right next to him, though, and that creeped him out.

Twippy cutely remarked. "The majority of the Ancient vampires you were told about are in the direction you're heading. I won't be able to help you if you encounter them, as the number of human mages combating them is also of a high number."

Valentino looked as far ahead as he could. He didn't see anything between him and the Main campus building where the Venalicium was located. He was already half way there, so he was hoping that maybe whatever was happening was going on further away than where he was headed, but with his luck, he could not say that for certain.

As Valentino finally managed to get to the Venalicium's main entrance, he found it locked. That in itself was not surprising, as the librarians always did a good job of keeping the main access points secure. However Valentino had been getting in and out of the Venalicium for a while now, even after hours. It would be a detour, but going in through the hidden underground labyrinth he discovered (that led to an alcove right next to the restricted section, no less!) would be an easy thing. He only checked the main access because it would have saved him time if he had actually found it open as he had on a couple of occasions.

He arrived at the outdoor abandoned well entry point easily enough, but as he got closer, two people jumped out from behind the well. Both were wearing black cloaks that obscured their faces.

A secret entry point that nobody knows about, and It just never fails that the one time you really need to get in, it turns out to be not so secret anymore.

"Well, well... What an unexpected... Honor this is." The first person, a man said, in a distict Stazian accent.

"Could you come here, little boy? We have something to show you!" Said the other, a woman.

Valentino chuckled. If this had been any other previous day in his life, he would definitely have been scared beyond reason. Tonight, however...  He had only a little bit to say: "Spare me the pleasantries, please. I know you're vampires, so let's get down to the fight for my life. I'm kind of busy tonight."

The vampires obliged him.

The woman charged first, while the man pulled out a wand. Valentino already had his at the ready, and before the woman could even get close, he had revised her cloak into iron. She stopped moving instantly. The moans she was emitting let Valentino know she was only down. Not out.

The man, stunned by the speed of Valentino's Revision, started working on a negation to free the woman. Valentino wasted no time and Hit him with a Revision that shrunk the man down to the size of a pim. Unfortunately, the man had managed to free the woman from the bondage of an iron cloak. While Valentino was busy dealing with the woman again, the man negated his tiny size.

The fight went on like that for several minutes. Valentino taking one vampire out of commission, and the second one managed to bring the downed one back from defeat before he could manage to take both down. It seemed like a stalemate, but as time passed, it became obvious that Valentino was starting to get tired. The vampires did not seem to get tired at all. This was not surprising, given their status as undead creatures, but unless he thought of something, Valentino might not have the ability to retreat soon, let alone get into the Venalicium which was the whole reason why he came here.

Unfortunately, the only thing Valentino could think of doing was to stop holding back and start throwing Gates spells at the vampires. It was not a desirable outcome, but risk of death by execution later sounded better than risk of death by blood loss now. Valentino made his decision and committed it to his heart.

However, both vampires suddenly were struck from behind with some sort of incanted plasma ball. They burned up quickly, turning into red ash. Due to Valentino's position at the time, and the direction of the wind, valentino got a face full of the red ash, and suddenly realized what the stuff he earlier thought of as snow actually was.

Valentino gagged. It wasn't pretty but anyone would have done the same.

A figure appeared from the shadows. Valentino recognized who it was and his heart sank.

The person who had appeared before Valentino was an infamous student at the Academagia, well known for getting into all sorts of crazy trouble. He had a knack for getting his way by taking refuge in audacity to incredible levels, to the point that he had even almost gotten expelled a couple of times. He was also very good at solving problems, though. Two years ago, it was this person, who as a 3rd year student, had uncovered the fairy cheater who had indirectly inspired Valentino to start learning Gates. He had also nearly caught Valentino using Gates magic once before, and this, combined with the fact that he was from Vernin, which was a rival college to Morvidus caused Valentino to have some level of enmity toward him, which was both abated and negated by the fact that Valentino had nearly used Gates magic right in front of him and yet he had also more or less just saved Valentino's life.

Valentino could only sheepishly grin and reluctantly greet his savior.

"Hello, Orso. Fancy meeting you here."

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So, The story is progressing a little more slowly than I'd like, so It's probably going to extend past 10 parts. We'll see. The journey is more important than the destination, afterall. Except for the epilogue, we kind of already know how Valentino's journey ends.

Part 7.

"You know, Val..." Orso started. "You can correct me if I'm wrong, but I feel sure that it's pretty well known that I'm not exactly a stickler for following the rules. So don't take this the wrong way but, when the professors specifically say that no student is to be wandering out and about tonight without the Legate's express permission because of a massive Vampire outbreak, I kind of have to ask exactly why in the world are you out here?"

Valentino did not have a good answer for that. Indeed, he hadn't even been aware that there was such a warning.

Honestly, in hind sight, given the fact that powerful vampires were roaming the school grounds, it was not so surprising. It was just that Valentino's ability to gauge danger had been horribly skewed by recent experiences. Valentino bit his lip, and answered the question directed at him.

"I appreciate the assist, but I really have to get into the Venalicium! It's a matter of life and death."

Valentino tried mightily to throw weight behind his words, but the situation he was in was awkward for him, which caused him to be naturally averse to confrontation, and so his natural proclivities were to act meekly. Some of his body language surely was openly telegraphing that, though the extent of which, Valentino could not say.

Orso was distracted by other problems. "Oh, so Professor Whittaker told you about this secret entrance too? And of the Vampire's aims at obtaining the ancient tome of..." He stopped when he saw the look of confusion on Valentino's face.

"...No, you're not here because of the Vampires, are you?" Orso was quickly getting suspicious.

"No." Valentino's answer was brief. There really wasn't any time to come up with an elaborate lie, so Valentino braced himself to telling the truth, albeit only in the most limited quantity necessary to get by.

Orso was slightly annoyed at this answer, but quickly assumed the countenance of a person who had come up with a plan.

"Well, Val, Time is limited, and I don't have the time to escort you back to the professors and let them handle you. I don't know how you managed to get this far out here in one piece, but sending you back to Morvidus alone is too risky, which means you're coming with me. Inside the Venalicium."

Orso always seemed drawn to events like these. While Valentino had heard that Orso didn't mind it too much, he had also heard that he wasn't too fond of bringing people into dangerous places. That went especially for places so dangerous that he felt he might not be up to the challenge of protecting those who couldn't protect themselves. Valentino judged that the look that Orso was making as he made that declaration validated many of the rumors he had heard about him.

It was also quite worrying. If Orso was here on one of his adventures to save the day, (Which had only been getting crazier lately from the obviously exaggerated stories commonly spread around the campus recently.) it was extremely likely that Valentino might have just started walking into the maw of a sleeping Dragon, and everyone knew how those kinds of stories always ended up. Still, Orso was waiting for Valentino to acknowledge his declaration, and since Valentino needed to get into the Venalicium anyway, he didn't mind obeying him at the moment.

"Okay." Valentino nodded, while psyching himself up. He felt like he was going to need every once of strength toget through the trials that surely awaited him.

Orso noticed that and sighed. "I don't think you understand. The two vampires you were just facing were just run of the mill ones. There are Ancient Vampires about and they are on a completely different level. Some may have gotten inside already."

That unnerved Valentino a little bit, but compared to Twippy, whom he could almost feel was passively observing him, even an ancient vampire could not illicit more than a moment's pause from him. "You lead the way, then."

Orso looked on at Valentino slightly quizzically, as if there was something different between the Valentino standing before him and the Valentino that existed in his memories. However, there was only a moment spent on that before motioning for Valentino to follow as he leapt down the old well.

The Old Labyrinth was arranged on a grid, and surprisingly well lit for a poorly maintained, and rarely traveled dungeon. It was a magical labyrinth, which required a person to double back at several points. Thankfully it was arranged on a grid pattern, and incorrect choices merely led one back to the start point, so Valentino had managed figure out the correct path by method of trying every path available until he was able to progress to the next step in a brute force manner. It had taken a week to figure out last year, but Valentino's perseverance had paid off. He had completely memorized the path because he had taken it so many times. In fact, it was Valentino leading the way through the labyrinth, despite Orso having a sheet of parchment with the correct path laid out on it.

"It looks like I somewhat misjudged you." Orso smirked. "I always kind of thought of you as someone who stayed in a stuffy room studying all day."

Valentino laughed for the first time all night. "Well, that's not entirely unfair. But there's only so much you can learn from only going through the approved curriculum."

Luckily, the entire trip through the labyrinth was uneventful. Given the nature of the place, Valentino expected as much, though from here on out anything was possible. There was a ladder leading up, which eventually lead to a hole in the ceiling. When one pushed up on the ceiling, it would reveal that it was actually the bottom of one of the flooring tiles of the Venalcium.

"Something's not right." Orso said as they both got past their secret entrance into the library.

Valentino agreed. There was too much light. After hours, most of the magical lights were extinguished, if only to make trespassing students easier to spot when they lit up a light to see. But now the Venalicium was actually brighter with magical light than it was during the day.

Voices could be heard. Most of them sounded human, though one of them sounded unnatural, as though it heavily influenced by magic.

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I recently obtained some information from the team. On realization, I have a few new angles to the story that I want to work in. I can't wait to finish this story! <3

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lol, unfortunately, while I was able to get some unexpected trivia and a name from them, info on Y2 is not accessible to commoners like myself.

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Part 8

The voices became clearer as Valentino and Orso crept near. It became obvious that the magically distorted voice came from a person who was not present. It was similar to the School's Public Address system, though that didn't cause a disruption in the voice. This system seemed designed to modify the voice in such a way that it became deeper and more menacing sounding, but it was imperfect, and still possible to hear the original voice underneath the modifications.

"The Dreamers are about to make their move." Said the disembodied voice. "The time for preparations is nearly over. Do you have Haidan's Journal yet?"

Valentino nearly Gasped when he heard mention of the Dreamers. It seemed that the goings on here were related to them in some way. It soon became clear that there were a fair quantity of Vampires rummaging through the Restricted Section of the Venalicium. They were making a such a mess that Valentino swore to not visit the Venalicium for a full week after this, lest he surely catch some of the librarian's wrath after having to reorganize everything.

"Yeees.... Mjolnir." Said one of the Vampires, who seemed to be the leader of the Vampires present. Both his clothing and presence seemed to indicate as much. "But we are haaaaving difficulty with finding the Tome of Extraplanaaaaar Locations."

Orso's Eyes narrowed at that. It seemed likely that that Tome was what he was after. This was troubling, because it was sounding more and more as though they were after the same thing.

"You need to find it." The disembodied voice - Mjolnir said. "It's the only way to locate the creatures that they  became fond of. I'll use those creatures to trap and destroy them, but not before I allow them to cause chaos all over Mineta! When I destroy them, it will be full public display of my power! That will be the perfect revenge against those fools who betrayed me! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!!

While Mjolnir was continuing to laugh, Valentino heard another disembodied voice - Twippy's.

"Pay no attention to that dummy." Twippy softly said. "We already know where to find slobins. That book is irrelevant. Besides, we have a few surprises for that one if we are to cross paths~!" Valentino could have sworn he felt Twippy winking at him across space and time.

"I found it!" Said yet another voice, buried in one of the aisles that Valentino did not have a clear line of sight to.

Orso made a motion with his fist as if to say, 'darn it'. Followed by the words "I'm going in. Stay here." He then cast a spell and then disappeared.

Valentino's headache was slowly returning to him. It was still a dull pain though, and not a true migraine. Trying to make sense of what was going on, and exactly why he was thrust right into the center of it was pretty overwhelming for him.

Many Vampires gathered together, and one of them emerged carrying a very large book, with thick leather bindings, and an even thicker leather strap sealing it shut. It looked exceedingly heavy, and even though the many vampires around started helping to carry it, it was obvious that they were all struggling to do so.

They all carried it into the main alcove of the restricted section. All of their attention was focused on it, so Valentino was able to get a really good look at what they were doing. They were trying to unseal it, but there was some magic preventing them from doing so. This went on for several minutes.

Valentino began to feel that Orso had run away, when all of a sudden, every magical light was exingushed, covering the entirety of the Venalicium in darkness. The Vampires probably had the ability to see in the darkness, but they had obviously lit the library to aid in their searching. The fact that the lights had went out unexpectedly, made them somewhat confused and angry, but before they could react, a light started to rapidly shine from outside the windows. It was rapidly changing angles, almost as if...

"Sunlight!" A vampire screamed. Alas, it was too late, beams of golden light appeared in the alcove, and were not merciful to any vampire they touched. Red ash spilled throughout the room. Unfortunately, The Venalicium did not have the best natural lighting, and many were still untouched, as there was still some space to maneuver away from the light.

Although most of the Vampires were in confusion and trying to hide from the sudden outburt of sun, one of them, the leader, was unphased. "I knoooow that yooooou're in here, and that yooooou're only a stuuuudent. All of the Proooofessors are busy. You cannot hurt meeeeee with your magic light shoooooow. The lead vampire produced a wand and began casting a spell.

"That won't be necessary." Orso said, suddenly appearing inside one of the beams of light across the room from Valentino, directing all of the vampire's attention onto himself. His wand was at the ready.

The lead Vampire showed an enourmous aura. One could feel the anger it had toward Orso for having the audacity to pick a fight against so many vampires, including himself, while drastically outnumbered. The lesser vampires began to surround Orso, going as close as they dared without getting into the beam of light.

Orso clearly had a plan from the look on his face, but Valentino saw an opening, and he couldn't resist the oportunity to turn the tables on all of these vampires.

Valentino got up, and walked out from his hiding place, completely unnoticed. He then Cast a spell which turned every surface in the Entire Section of the library into a mirror.

The beams of light began reflecting off of the floor, the walls, the books... Everything. The entire room was flooded with a soft, gentle, warm light. It was kind of ironic, because one could still hear the raging of the storm outside, even if it was signifigantly muffled.

All of the vampires but the leader turned into red ash. Even the leader had been forced to close his eyes.

Orso smiled. "Ha! Not what I was planning, but that certainly works too!" Then he disappeared again. It was a Glamour all this time. The Real Orso reappeared, apparently having been in an ideal ambush position the whole time.

The Leader, despite having been blinded, was able to Negate both Valentino's Revision and Orsi's Glamour in almost an instant. "Don't think yoooou've won that easily!" He snarled. "I aaaaam far tooooooo oooooold to beeeee deeeeefeeeeeaaaaateeeeeed by chilreeeeen!" With that, everyone started casting spells.

The fight was long and vicious. The Vampire was very magically astute, and held nothing back. In contrast, Orso was trying his best to keep the Ancient Vampire's attention on him, as well as negate every single fireball the vampire was sending his way before it had a chance to come into contact with a bookshelf and catch the whole Library on fire.

Valentino was not quite as useful. For one, he was not especially skilled in Incantation, or Negation, or Glamour. He couldn't use his more flashy Revisions because he was indoors and in some aspects, facing the librarians afterwards for trashing the Venalicium was even scarier than taking an ancient vampire head on.

Eventually, Valentino had managed to get in sync with Orso's spellcasting, and with the two of them working together, eventually they managed to successfully defeat the ancient vampire without causing any additional damage to the library.

Orso was a little winded, but Valentino was straight out exhausted. For one, he had not fully recovered from his scuffle with those 2 vampires earlier, but another reason was that this fight had taken longer, and required the very best of his spellcasting ability, so he could not pace himself as Orso (Who was Valentino's senior by 2 whole years) had managed to do.

"Are you alright, Val?" Orso asked, genuinely concerned.

Valentino huffed and puffed, and was dripping with sweat, but managed to gather enough energy to signal in the affirmative.

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Oh, man. Compared to how long it took to write for Mr. Pebbles, it is a lot easier writing this. The format required by the game is really restricting. I'm nowhere near done writing this, though. At the rate I'm going, I might have to make this a 20 parter, even though I really don't want to make it that big, but I guess I will. I have to weave it into as much of the lore of the game as possible, after all. How else am I going to get the team to make the story canon? ;)

Part 9.

Orso wasted no time. He cast a spell to shrink the giant Tome of Extraplanar Locations, and proceeded to put it into his pocket. Then he made a check of the surrounding area, which revealed no hiding vampires. Then he spoke.

"I need to get this book to professor Whittaker. It looks safe here for the moment, and once I leave, the vampires shouldn't have much reason to come in here. Nice job, by the way! I wasn't expecting you to jump out like that, but I'm glad you did."

"Heh, well, I saw an opportunity to help, so I went for it." Valentino was slowly catching his breath.

"But now that the Tome is safe, time is not as critical now, so can you please tell me why you came out here?"

Orso's question once again brought Valentino into an awkward position. Telling the truth would only invite more questions, which would lead to more until Valentino's exposure to Gates magic was exposed. He couldn't think of any believable lies either, and the longer he delayed, the more suspicious he would look. Then, inspiration rang.

"It's kind of a long story, but..." Valentino started. A mischievious grin appeared on his face.

"Well, I'm, uh, on a quest to help stop creatures from another dimension from coming into ours, and potentially creating a situation so bad that it would make all of humanity run to the Dragons for protection."

Valentino actually believed that statement to be more or less true. That was the level of fear he had of the Dreamers of the Void. However, he had framed that statement in such a way as to appear as a lie to appeal to Orso's well known brand of humor and excuses to get out of doing things.

"I needed to get into the Venalicium so I could do some research on that before it was too late."

Orso had a look on his face that just screamed. 'So you're not gonna tell me, eh?' but then he burst out laughing. He even slapped his knee.

"Oh, man. Remind me to use that one the next time I have to escape Professor Whittaker's lectures on the dangers of Gates magic. He'd eat that stuff up!"

Valentino's plan to obfuscate the truth had succeeded. It was a bit of a gamble, but it had paid off. After all, with Summoned vampires running around, who *WOULD* believe that a far greater threat like that was right on the horizon?

Orso continued. "Well, whatever. You can handle yourself well enough. I need to go off. These vampires didn't come to the Academagia of their own will. Until the Mage responsible is defeated, though, The Storm ouside will only worsen, and the Vampire attacks will only worsen on the..."

Orso quickly stopped himself.

"...Ah you know what? You're not quite ready to help out with that. And it's pretty safe here, So I'll leave you here. It'll be our secret that we ever met."

Valentino smiled. "Thanks, Orso. You're a swell guy!"

Orso simply started running away. "Stay out of trouble. Well, I guess that's impossible seeing the mess we made in the restricted section, but I meant the really big kind. Stay safe!"

And with a wave of his hand, Orso vanished behind a wall, running off to whatever crazy thing he had to deal with next on his agenda. Valentino couldn't help but grin. Orso wasn't even out of school yet, but he was a heck of a wizard. It really did seem that that crazy prophecy about him eventually becoming Legate had a small bit of truth to it.

Nahhhh.

Valentino shook his head. Legate Orsi. That'd be the day.

Since Valentino was finally alone again, He started to inspect the remains of the ancient vampire. Covered in red ash was a book. It looked fairly old, and after blowing off the remainder of the ash, it was clear that it was an unmarked journal. Upon opening it, he found written in red ink, the following.

Abandon hope, all who read this journal, for the promise remains unfulfilled.

A grimace formed on Valentino's face. It surely said: 'Oh. Just swell. And here things were just starting to look up.'

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We're finally getting to the meat of the story. I trust everyone can see where this is going? I feel bad putting so much of this part into this format when the rest of the story is so different, but it can't be helped. There's a lot of backstory to explain. There's almost nobody alive to tell it, and those who are either have no interest in doing so, or else assume that it's already known.

There is still one more event that needs to be dealt with before the slobin hunt can begin. Juuuuust in case people aren't convinced of [redacted]

Part 10

Against his better judgement, Valentino started reading the journal. Whatever was going on here was tied to the Dreamers in some way, and he figured that he was already so deep into this that it would be a bad call to ignore it. The ink on most of the journal had faded considerably, but it was still mostly legible. As he read it, Valentino's face became more and more pale.
-------------------------
Aruit 22

Our Program to explore other dimensions is bearing a large amount of fruit. Certain mapping projects have found a new realm to explore. I've decided to send a large group this time, so that risks can be kept to a minimum, as Astrologers in the college have warned that this particular realm may be more dangerous than most. I remain confident that we have ironed out all of the major kinks in this program, as we haven't suffered a serious setback since the incident with the chocolate fruit trees. All participants in this latest expedition are volunteers well aware of the higher than usual level of danger, and the Legate has signed off on it. They'll begin tomorrow.

Aruit 23

The Expedition group left today. It consisted of over a dozen mages, covering all of the major pillars of magic in order to maximize the odds of success. Although many reported severe disorientation due to the differences between the dimensions, it is not expected to cause a major issue for the duration of the expedition. Everything is progressing smoothly, so the next report is scheduled to arrive in three days. While we wait, I've decided to add extra security to the embarkation point just in case.

Aruit 25

My counterpart in Avila has been insisting that we further prepare for any catastrophe, as one of their seers apparently nearly died of fright when attempting to divine the results of our latest expedition. I have personally given my assurances that every precaution is being undertaken. The Legate has been most helpful in easing tensions with the other colleges, despite our disagreements on how to proceed with our project.

Aruit 26

The Expedition failed to make contact today. While this is troubling, it would not be the first time something like this has happened. Our contingency plans have been activated, and we are gathering volunteers for a second group to be sent at first light of dawn tomorrow. In the worst case scenario, we need a basic understanding of the threat, so I have personally asked Patricia Whittaker to take charge of the second expedition.

Aruit 27

Having not received any word yet, the so-called rescue expedition has left today. The initial report is not good. The camp of the first expedition has been found. Empty. While we still have hope that they will turn up, I have begun the process of marking the realm in question as forbidden for entry. The reports are coming every other hour now. With luck, all of these ill foreboding feelings I've been getting have been overblown.

Aruit 28

Our rescue expedition has made contact with the survivors of the first group. While reports are not timely they continue to arrive. Apparently, in this realm, there are predators which feed on the mental energy of their prey. These predators grow more intelligent and retain the memories of their prey. Over half of the first group has fallen victim to these predators. I have ordered the immediate withdrawal of our explorers. It appears that this realm is far too dangerous. After they return it will be barred.

Festival of Blooms

Despite the festivities going on around the campus, I have only sorrow in my heart, for we have lost contact again. If all of them have perished, then this is a truly devastating loss not just to the the Academagia, but to the advancement of magic as a whole. An emergency meeting of the praetexta has convened to look over all of the reports, and decide the best course of action. There will not be a third expedition.

Veranix 2

Still no sign of either group. The Legate has deemed it too risky to keep the portal to this realm open. I managed to buy some time, but by tommorrow, I will have no choice but to declare this operation a total failure with all lives lost.

Veranix 3

Against the odds, Whittaker has returned! She is battered, exausted, and an emotional wreck, but she is alive! The news she brings go beyond our worst fears. The predators have killed everyone else. In doing so, they have found humans to be a much better source of food than their normal food. They have grown enormously in intelligence, and have even learned to use magic as well as our expeditions could. They have decided that they will come to our realm in search for more... Food. The only thing that has stopped them so far is that none of the explorers knew the exact way to travel back home, so it could not be gleaned directly from them, but it is only a matter of time before they find a way.

Veranix 4

Whittaker's report has caused a great consternation. These great predators have been named the Dreamers. This is because they appear to enter a dream state as they consume the entirety of their prey's memories. The portal to the Dreamer's realm has been closed. While we have been putting a plan together to defend ourselves from a potential invasion of these creatures should they manage to cross over, Whittaker has been furiously consulting our records on a hunch. She only says "we need a substitute for their desires."

Veranix 7

We have been contacted by the Dreamers. Whittaker says they've grown in intelligence by an order of magnitude since she last saw them. They want the mental energy that humans possess very badly. They seem have come to call it "Fun" because the act of consuming the hopes, dreams, memories and imaginations that we possess is "Fun" to them. They promised that they won't kill us anymore if we give ourselves freely to them.

We refused.

Veranix 8

Whittaker has come up with a crazy plan. There are creatures we had discovered from a previous expedition called [redacted], but we will call them Slobins for short. They exist on a forbidden plane, because they are predators which are extremely cunning and we know they contemplate many thousands of ways to accomplish their objectives. The amount of mental energy that slobins possess is on another level from us, so it is generally felt that they may make a good substitute for the 'Fun' that the Dreamers possess.

Veranix 9

We have contacted the Dreamers. They have agreed to wait a day for the substitute that we have proposed. Due to the risk involved, and the lack of manpower available to defend the Academagia should we fail, only one person will go. Only myself and the Legate are powerful enough to go after and capture these Slobins single-handedly. The Legate will stay here. I am... The more expendable one, so I will go personally after writing this entry.

With luck there will be another.

Veranix 10

I have returned, with a slobin. They are nasty, foul, and dangerous creatures, but they have exactly the attributes the Dreamers were looking for. Whittaker handed the creature over to them. The substitute was accepted, but inadequate. With no more immediate risk to our home, we agreed to supply them with a great deal more of the slobins. It should not be hard now. Many of us would rather attempt to catch slobins than risk fighting the Dreamers.

Festival of the Exile

I and a group of others have returned from the domain of the slobins. We captured 9 more and handed them over to the Dreamers. They said that it was again insufficient, but would satisfy them for a long time. We promised to acquire more for them, but we have been forbidden to interact with them any more now that the immediate danger has past. I argued that this was foolish in the long term, but I was countermanded by the Officials in charge of Mineta, whom the Legate acquiesed to. The argument was that we may be supplying these creatures with yet more intelligence and cunning, and it may be the ruin of all of mankind should we do so. In any case, the danger has been averted for years. Maybe decades. They will come again. By then, it won't be my problem. Now I'm going to go get drunk.

Haldan Basaran. Regent of College Icanicix. [year illegible]
--------------------------------------------
Valentino was shocked! He couldn't believe what he was reading! Attached was some information and spells useful for capturing slobins, as well as tactics that had been discovered to be effective at staying alive when encountering them. It seemed that this journal was going to be of enormous use to him very soon!

"Hold on, is this thing on? Hello?" A voice shouted out from nowhere. Mjolnir's voice.

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Part 11

Valentino Shuddered as Mjolnir's voice rang throughout the library. It would be impossible to return through the labyrinth, as it was designed to be an entrance only. Therefore the fastest way out would be through the main entrance, which could be opened from the inside, even after hours. He quietly started sneaking out when Mjolnir spoke again.

"No, I have it correct this time. Where are you blasted vampires? Honestly it's so hard to find good help these days."

After getting no response, Mjolnir grumbled and muttered about having to do everything himself if he wanted it dome right. A short time later.

"What! My vampires were defeated? By a wimpy-looking student!!!?"

Valentino froze. He realized that this mjolnir must have been using some sort of scrying spell to see inside the Venalicium's restricted section. A section of the library that must have had plenty of wards in it to prevent such a thing from happening. Valentino couldn't understand how that would be possible, but then thinking about it, it was likely that whatever he was using to communicate should probably also have been prevented for the same reason. Valentino didn't want to think about how that would be possible.

Realizing that he was being observed from afar, Valentino stopped his sneaking posture and yelled out. "Hey! Who's Wimpy looking?"

Mjolnir ignored him. "No, it must be one of the Dreamers! HAHAHA! That's the only explanation, they've taken to disguising themselves! PREPARE TO DIE, CREATURE!!!"

Valentino didn't wait to see what kind of death this Mjolnir had planned for him. Using his prepared mental map of the Library, he fled out of the Restricted section at top speed. He got within 20 paces of the main entrance to the Venalicium, when new vampires, ten of them, entered the room right in front of him. Another ten appeared behind him. Each of them had very expensive looking combat equipment, and had a presence that rivaled, if not exceeded the ancient vampire that Orso and Valentino (but mostly Orso) had managed to take down just a bit earlier.

"Kill the creature and bring it back to me. I wish to dissect it!" Mjolnir ranted.

The vampires didn't even bother bringing out their wands. Valentino was sure that they could feel the difference in ability between them, and they also outnumbered him badly.

"I'm sure it won't matter if we suck his blood first, before killing him."

The other vampires agreed. Valentino reached for his wand. His fighting spirit was still intact, but they moved in swiftly before he could cast anything, grappled him, and pinned him to the floor. They bared their fangs and it looked like that was going to be the end of Valentino's story.

"Ooh, goody! It looks like I get to have some Fun~!" A voice said. Clearly excited.

The Vampires' attention turned away from Valentino, and towards the distraction from their feast. Valentino couldn't see who it was through the many feet in his way, but he knew who it was. How could he forget that voice? It was Twippy. In person.

Since only one vampire was needed to pin Valentino down, the rest took off at her, eager for more blood. Conveniently doing so cleared Valentino's view and he had a pretty decent view, even if it was at a low angle and sideways from having his head on the floor.

"We promised not to feed on, or kill humans. Simply being in the presence of most humans makes that impossible." Twippy said casually as 19 vampires closed distance with her at a frightening speed.

Twippy closed her eyes, smiled deeply, and cocked her head to the side. "That said, You all are not human, and you are threatening one of the rare humans that it was agreed we would be able to interact with and gather Fun for us. Since there are no other humans present to risk killing, and I am very, very hungry... I will now take your Fun for my own~!"

The vampires tackled Twippy in a similar manner to the way they restrained Valentino, but with much more force as they had to cover a greater distance at speed to reach her. As she had been standing in front of a bookshelf, she had hit it hard as they forced her down. It wasn't seriously damaged, nor did it fall over, but it shook hard enough that books were falling off. As Twippy did have the appearance of a small child, Valentino subconsciously began to worry about the level of force that the Vampires had used.

What followed after that was a blood curdling scream. It was not the scream of a small child.

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Part 12.

A vampire was flung across the room like a ragdoll.

The remaining Vampires instinctively backed off. All of them produced wands. Valentino felt in his heart that the vampires had no chance. If he had not been in life or death situation just now, he might have pitied them.

The flung vampire landed near Valentino. It appeared dead, though as vampires are undead beings there was a small chance that it was not fully dead, if that made sense. It appeared as though the vampire was shriveled up to a degree. As if it were dessicated somehow. The vampire holding Valentino started freaking out, but Valentino still couldn't break free. It was a testament of the strength difference between the two of them.

Twippy emerged, glowing softly. She had a fully unnatural euphoric expression on her face, and her whole body was twitching rapidly.

"Ah! What a joyous occasion! Fresh Fun! As the elders did not share the last slobin with me, I was so hungry I thought I was going to die!" Twippy clutched her stomach, as if she was suffering under a great pain. "I must have more!"

Twippy began to transform. The vampires howled in fear and anger, and began pelting her with spells. She had a magical barrier around her, which did not let a single spell through.

When she finished transforming, she looked as if she was a 10 foot tall insect. It was something like a cross between a spider and an ant, but with ten legs. Instead of mandibles or fangs, there was a long snout, or proboscis, and there was a radiant, and nearly burning redish orange aura which caused Valentino to shiver in pain, even though he was a fair distance away.

What followed was a fight that seemed so out of Valentino's league that he was convinced he was in a fairy tale. The Vampires conjured up swords, and half of them closed in swinging while the others continued casting spells.

"Use more powerful spells! We need to break that barrier!" One of them shouted.

With a quick sweep of a leg, Twippy knocked all but one of sword charging vampires away. The remaining one was skewered with the opposite leg. Twippy brought it's head up to her proboscis and then she sucked away something until all that remained was a fully dessicated husk which was quickly discarded.

The spellcasting Vampires hit Twippy with everything they had, but she was too agile. While her barrier indeed looked like it was taking a beating, she was agile enough to avoid most of the spells. Thankfully the Vampires were focusing on specific anti-barrier Negation spells, so the ones that missed, while causing a mess, did not do a lot of damage to the library.

Twippy picked the vampires off, One by one. When the fifth went down, the one holding Valentino cast an immobilizing spell on him, and joined the fight. Eventually they brought down her barrier, and when she proved resistant to most Incantation spells, they gravitated toward using spells that hindered her mobility so that the sword users could have a better chance of doing physical damage.

Unfortunately for the vampires, once her mobility was sufficiently hindered, she started casting her own spells. Gates spells. Using the tips of her two forward legs as wands, she successfully tore off the limbs of several vampires simultaneously in a non-lethal fashion. It was obvious why. Twippy was hungry, and she couldn't feed off of ash.

Down to half their number, the vampires assumed a defensive position, but this turned out to be a mistake. Once the pressure was off of her, she was free to act the predator. She quickly started circling them, gradually closing the distance between them. They formed a circle and tried their best to stab at her every time she came into range, but then she leapt over them, hitting the opposite side of the circle from behind.

The vampires realized their defensive position was compromised and tried to spread out, but it was too late. They were too close together, and there weren't enough of them to threaten her any more. She quickly pounced on all of them, one after the other. Then she fed and fed on them. Their screams were horrifying. And then they stopped screaming.

It was too surreal for words. Valentino had just seen a group of ancient vampires get toyed with as if they were helpless children.

And then Twippy the Dreamer turned her attention to Valentino.

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Part 13

Twippy shrank, back into the form she had when she first appeared in front of Valentino.

...No, that wasn't quite accurate. Whereas before she had worn modest, unassuming clothing, now she was wearing an extravagant dress. Something a duchess would wear when having to 'rough it' while travelng on the road for an extended period of time. Lots of decorations, while still maintaining a certain level of practicality. It reminded Valentino of what some of the female Vampires had worn, and that concerned him a little, though in truth he was completely mesmerized by what he had just witnessed, so his brain was not fully registering everything.

Her long, raven-black hair was also now tied into a bun. Even her stance seemed more refined. If she wasn't so small, and young looking, and if Valentino hadn't known better, he might have thought that she was some sort of royalty. Maybe someone wooed out to the Academagia to donate a large sum of money for some reason or other.

The most disturbing thing, was that her eyes were twitching rapidly.

"Oh ho." Twippy said. "Vampires are fairly simple things, aren't they? The only true passion they know is consuming blood."

Valentino didn't know how to respond. He had little knowledge on the mindset of the typical vampire.

Twippy continued speaking, while walking towards Valentino. She also started moving her arms and hands in the full range of motion available to a human. It was as if she now had a form with much less mobility than she naturally had, and wanted to make sure she could use it to it's full ability.

"Not that we are so different, but consuming Fun is almost always a different experience. Sometimes you learn new games, Sometimes you learn things that you shouldn't do, and other times..." Her eyes calmed down, as she picked up Valentino's own wand off the floor. "...Other times you are able to experience what it is like to have whole worlds of possibility open to you. Compared to that, living only for the sake of one's next meal is an incredibly boring existence. Don't you agree, Valentino?"

Twippy smiled as she broke the immobilizing spell on Valentino. As she waxed philosophical, Valentino got up and looked around. Books and flameless magical lamps were strewn about everywhere. The Vampires were all shriveled up messes.

"I wouldn't know..." Valentino said, exasperated.

Twippy thought about that in a more refined manner than the bubbly cuteness that had existed before.

"Mmm. That is unfortunate. But there is a way to do so. Yes. since their Fun was very repetitive and shallow, I think I will."

Before Valentino could understand what Twippy was talking about, she moved like lightning on top of him, pinning down his arms with incredible strength, and then she kissed his forehead.

"!!!"

A rapid amount of images flashed between Valentino's mind. It was the thoughts, memories, and even feelings of one of the vampires that Twippy had killed. It was such an intense experience that by the time that Twippy had let him go, Valentino had come to fully understand what it was like to be a vampire. It was as if he was recalling his own memories, and that freaked him out more than anything else.

"Why did you do that to me...?" Valentino weakly asked on the floor. It was impossible for him to regain his bearings after that wild experience. His own eyes were shaking rapidly.

"Because we're friends now, dummy!" Twippy stated, with a smile.

Valentino grumbled in his heart. He had gone through an awful lot tonight for this one sided friendship, and the night was still not over. "Right... So, about the slobins." He finally managed to calm his eys, and he realized why the Dreamers got their name.

Mjolnir's voice rang out again. "Hmmph. You may have won this battle, Dreamers, but the WAR has YET TO BEGIN!!! Do your damage. It will only serve my purposes! HAHAHAHAHA!!"

In the midst of the laughing, Twippy got up and cast a spell which caused a major rift to open up in the library. Beyond it was an old wizard laughing in sync to mjolnir's voice. It quickly became apparent that it was Mjolnir himself. He had been working on some wind spell, but it was interrupted by his realization that there was a massive rift making him only a dozen feet away from Twippy.

Twippy did not attack. She merely clicked her tongue repeatedly, while moving one index finger over the other, as if saying 'Shame on you. You're not trying hard enough.'

Before Mjolnir could react, the rift closed. Twippy even waved 'bye-bye' at him as it happened.

"Yes, the slobins." Twippy smiled. It was sort of a cross of refined cuteness. "I trust you have everything you need? My hunger has been temporarily abated, but the Elders' last slobin was very old, and malnourished. The final Fun it provided was poor. We made a promise to not hurt or interfere with humans, but the promises made to supply us with Fun have not been fulfilled. If the human's promises made long ago are broken, then we will have no choice but to break our promise as well."

Valentino understood the situation with the Dreamers very well now. While there were still some questions about Mjolnir's involvement in all of this, that didn't seem too important compared to the risk of the Dreamers spilling over into the Academagia or Mineta. Or both. Valentino had seen first had what only Twippy could do. He didn't want to think about what 20 or more could do, and there was no way of knowing how many existed.

"I guess I'm ready. Can you help me at all once I'm there?" A knot formed in valentino's Stomach.

"I will be able to guide you by telepathy, as I watched you while you came and fought here. But I will not be able to physically intervene. We are... Incabable of surviving in the Slobin's realm."

"How will I get there and back?" Valentino asked. He didn't want to be reliant on her to get out if he really needed to get out.

"I will give you this." Twippy produced a wand, etched with powerful Gates phemes. "It is a wand prepared with the spell that can make the journey there and back here again. It is very delicate, and highly tuned to that spell, so you will not be able to use it for anything else."

"Before I go, Can I ask who this Mjolnir is?"

"He is simply a human that refused to help us when we found him. Worse. He has antagonized us. If we had not made our promises, he would not be here now." Twippy's anger was very palpable. "Still, we think he has some connection to the Fun ones. He knew much of us. Even before we asked for Fun."

Twippy had a look as though that was all of the information that she was going to give, and that Valentino should now go. Perhaps it was all she knew, but it wasn't quite enough to satisfy Valentino. There were still a few pieces of the puzzle missing, and it annoyed him that he was going to have to risk dying soon without knowing the full picture.

"Alright then. Well, here goes nothing!" Valentino raised the exotic wand, and cast it's spell. A large black portal opened up.

"We know you will not disappoint us. Promises are everything!" Twippy winked at him.

And with that, he disappeared into the darkness.

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Part 14

Valentino hit the ground hard. Although he was pretty sure he didn't break any bones, he was surely going to be sore for a while. He took a good look around himself and discovered an interesting world.

There was a gigantic moon in the sky, and it was so large, that it took up maybe a quarter of the sky. The remainder of the sky was in a state of twilight, but it was almost uniform, as if there was no sun. It was not truly day, nor night. Valentino saw several other moons, in various familiar phases, and found that they were giving off a lot of light. Based on the angle of light shining from the smaller moons, Valentino guessed that the sun must have been eclipsed by the giant moon.

The portal that Valentino came through was solid black. It was strange. He would have thought that he would have been able to see the library, instead of blackness. Then he recalled something. Sometimes portals were designed to not let small things pass through them easily. It was a safeguard quarantine against plagues, or certain creatures that were so small it would be impossible to see. Such portals were difficult to construct, however, so they were only used when there was a genuine risk of something crossing over that wasn't welcome.

Valentino just wasn't getting any breaks tonight. The portal closed quietly right in front of his eyes. It was now going to be a massive test of survival. Despite the low light conditions, Valentino's eyes were able to adjust. Wherever he was, it was a fairly desolate place. He had excellent line of sight for a few hundred yards, so it did not seem that he was in any immediate danger. he brought out the journal that he had been holding on to, and quickly reread the section concerning the tactics and spells useful against slobins. He also found the document that Twippy had given him earlier that contained a few Gates spells for capturing them.

The spell required to return home was far too complex for him to even think about using. He was going to treat that special wand that he had used to get here with the most gentle kindness possible. It was reassuring, though, that if it broke, he would not have to spend a lifetime figuring out the formula to return without it.

Having all of the information he deemed necessary to have in his immediate recollection, he scanned his eyes out. It was a very desolate world, but something caught his eyes. There was a cabin far off in the distance. It looked like it was made with local materials, so it wasn't anything fancy, but it was by far the best direction to start his search in.

It took a while, but Valentino eventually made it to the cabin. It was very quiet. There was no wind, or animal activity. It was a welcome change of pace from the frantic chaos that he had endured recently. There were no windows, just a door with a wooden knocker on it. That was the sole thing which did not seem to come from around here.

Failing to tell whether there was anyone home, Valentino opted to use the knocker. Just before he could reach it, however, the door opened.

"Please, come in, Won't you? You've come a long way." A coarse woman's voice came from within.

Valentino cautiously did so, and was absolutely shocked.

The inside of the cabin was a fabulously decorated and much, much larger than the outside! Almost everything was made of rare materials. Sitting on a leather recliner and petting a number of calico cats, was a very old woman.

"I must say, I'm quite surprised to have company. I'm afraid that I don't get many guests these days, he, he." Although she seemed very friendly, almost grandmotherly, she cackled like a stereotypical witch.

"I'm very sorry for intruding!" Valentino quickly blurted out. Anyone living out here had to be extremely powerful, and given his situation, he had decided to prioritize his manners.

"My. Such etiquette! But you needn't worry about me! I'm just an old lady living out a comfortable retirement in exile. It's been a while since I've had a chance to talk to another person. he, he."  She was very intent on cackling, almost as much as she was intent on petting her cats, who were intently enjoying the petting. "You can call me Patricia, dear. I've been waiting a long time for you."

"...Wait, what? Me?" Valentino was perplexed.

"Yes. There are only two reasons why someone would want to come to this horrible world. The first is because powerful wizards sometimes manage to track me down. They just can't leave a poor old lady alone! Sometimes they ask nicely for help, but mostly they just need a spanking. he, he."

Valentino could guess why that might be, and decided not to ask what kind of a spanking that might be.

"...And the Second reason, is the reason why you've arrived here. The Dreamers have finally returned, haven't they?"

The look on Valentino's face told her all that she needed to know.

"He, he. You don't get to be over 400 years old and not learn how to read events! Many things were set in motion long ago. I knew that one day, they would return. As I am not welcome in choris any longer due to my refusal to agree to certain laws, I chose to come here and wait until I was needed once more. But it seems that the events of the past have been forgotten along with the ban on Gates, and only a child, a student of the Academagia has come in place of it's Legate. If I were able to, I would give them a very stern lecture indeed."

Valentino realized that whoever this old lady was, she was deeply involved in this set of circumstances that he was stuck in. As he did not believe in coincidences tonight, he thought of something that he needed to ask.

"P-Patricia, are you the Patricia Whittaker from this journal?" He asked, producing it for her to see.

"He, he. My my, It seems you've got a good head on your shoulders. You also seem to already know the important pieces of relevant information. Perhaps you do have a chance of stopping the Dreamers of the Void after all."

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Part 15


Valentino talked with Patricia for over an hour. After she told him that Twippy would not be able to listen to anything said in her house, he told her everything that had happened to him, including his fooling around with Gates that had gotten him into this mess. It came out like a burst dam. It was incredibly relieving to finally be able to unload everything to someone... Anyone.

Patricia, for her part, pet her cats, listened intently, and showed great epathy. She only rolled her eyes once when the name Mjolnir showed up. Eventually, however, she simply smiled and started talking.

"The idea that the Dreamers have started disguising themselves as humans is very disturbing. Yours may be a unique case, or it may not be. In either case, it does not change what needs to be done. Capturing Even just one Slobin is a difficult task. Doing so, however, will buy you a few years' time. Time enough for you to finish your studies at school and then decide how you really want to handle this issue.

"I wish that I could be of greater help, however, I made a decision long ago that I would only directly intervene in this issue if the people who buried their heads in the sand and tried to pretend that Gates magic didn't exist finally realized that they were wrong and apologized.

"I could have diffused this issue centuries ago when I first moved here when the ban came into place, but then all that I would have accomplished is to allow people to continue to ignore the positive aspects of Gates magic, while hypocritically villifying me for consorting with such creatures.

"That said, I expected things to turn out differently than they have. A mere child has shown more bravery than any of the idiots in charge. Not only by learning about Gates despite the penalties they enforce, but also by coming here, to this forsaken world, despite not knowing anything about it.

"Given the danger that you now face, and the stakes at hand should you fail, I would be a very terrible person to not help you in your hour of need. He, he."

Valentino's eyes finally brightened up. Some form of hope welled up in him. No matter the odds he had to face now, it did not seem completely impossible.

Patricia got up from her recliner, and while she moved to a bookshelf, her cats complained to her that they were not being pet anymore.

"Although I am not actively practicing anymore, and am unwilling to apprentice anyone, I was able to save a few tens of thousands of books from the torches of ignorant fools. This was once used as the defining text for advanced second year Icanicix Gates students. I have a few other copies of it, so consider this yours. There ought to be a few spells in there that will come in handy tonight. If you master the material in it in time, and keep me a secret, I will loan out others should you return.

"You should go now, as the light from the moons is dimming as we speak.  This is a world of darkness, and life becomes abundant on the surface when the creatures have no light to fear. Should you take too long, and complete darkness prevails, far worse creatures than slobins or even the Dreamers will come out. You must leave this world before then.

"Take heart, child. I will keep watch over you from here, and try to confuse most of the predators that go after you. Now hurry!"

Valentino thanked Patricia with all of his heart, and left her home in the middle of nowhere. As he returned to the outside, he noticed that it was almost a different world than the one that he had thought that he had entered.

It was much darker. The moons were slowly synchronizing to a phase where they would give no light at all. Ethereal plants and small insects were everywhere. It was much closer to a vibrant grassland than the barren savannah he saw earlier. Small animals could be seen in the distance. They looked like rabbits, but they weren't normal rabbits, because they had long curly spikes up their spine, and were hunting some of the insects in packs.

"There you are!" Twippy's voice rang out to him. "Where were you?" One could detect a level of both relief and annoyance, most likely due to her not being able to stalk him,

"Sorry about that, I found somebody who's going to help us." Valentino said. In truth, he wasn't all that sorry.

"Oh? Who is it?" Twippy asked. Again there was definitely a level of apprehension. Twippy, or perhaps all of the Dreamers, did not seem to like not being in control of a situation. Based on his observations of them, he could say that with a high degree of confidence.

"She made me promise to keep it a secret."

"Oh, you can tell me! We're friends, right?"

"But promises are everything. I can't take that lightly, you know."

Twippy realized that she was stuck in a position where she would not get what she wanted. While her tone of voice changed to suit a child throwing a slight temper tantrum, It was pretty obvious she was trying to guilt trip him into spilling the information. It wasn't enough to get him to talk, though he did choose his words very carefully.

Eventually Twippy dropped the subject when Valentino mentioned that he was in a hurry to capture a slobin, and so he went on his way.

Valentino realized that there was an ethereal flower bed next to Patricia's cabin, and Valentino's footsteps were all over it. Although it did not seem that he had crushed any flowers, the impressions that his feet had left had messed up the pattern. Valentino apologized to Patricia in his heart, but he knew he didn't have any time to return to apologize in person, so he left in search for slobins.

As he continued his search, the world gradually dimmed. As the world dimmed, the things in this world not only became less ethereal, but also more vibrant and active. Valentino noticed whole trees shooting up out of the ground, with different colored leaves, and incredible smells. The animals appearing were getting larger too. While they were still smaller than valentino, they also started looking at him with more than a passing interest.

Eventually, Valentino came across a large lake that could not have possibly existed when he had first arrived, and that's when he saw a giant fish with a long tongue pick off one of the rabbit creatures he had seen earlier near the shoreline, and then he saw what could not be any less than a pack of seventy slobins swoop out of the sky and devour the giant fish like a swarm of piranhas.

Oh man, this is gonna suck. Valentino thought.

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Damn, I am on a roll lately. I guess it's because I already had the whole story more or less in my head, and I don't have anything better to do at the moment. Also, I really, really want to finish this. Just to clear up any confusion, Patricia doesn't have tens of thousands of books anymore, and a lot of the ones she saved were multiple copies, rather than a fully unique collection.  She eventually gave a large chunk away to interested parties. Including Schohanwicht and Gustav Mirapos, although it was through intermediaries rather than direct donations. She rarely leaves her home in the little death world she's settled in.

We're almost done. I doubt we'll hit 20 parts now. But I may fill things out, so we'll see how it goes..

Part 16

Valentino knew they had to be slobins, from the cries that they were giving off. In the Dreamer's realm, the slobin he had seen did not have much of a form to see at all. Something in his gut, though, told him that it had to do with however this world worked, and however the Dreamer's world worked. His experience with visiting exotic worlds was exactly limited to 2 worlds, so he didn't exactly have a wealth of experience to draw from, but it seemed reasonable to assume that.

They looked something like ghosts with only upper torsos. for arms, they had some kind of long gangly limbs to which massive claws were attached. It was something like a preying mantis. Their heads looked like they didn't have any form. It was hard to tell. He'd have to get closer.

The slobins were busy hovering around the lake area, scaring anything into trying to run away. Anything that ran or moved was quickly devoured. Valentino was at a fair distance away from them still, and there weren't any large-ish animals near him to draw the slobins to him, so it seemed wise to come up with a battle plan. The first step was confirmation.

"Twippy! Those are slobins over there, right?"

"Indeed. They look like the have some good Fun. I sooo wish I could just..." She sighed.

Valentino aknowledged her, and decided to look into the book that Patricia had given him. It looked pretty advanced, and if it really was something that was given to second years, then Valentino, who previously thought that he was fairly decent at Gates, realized that he really didn't have a bar to compare himself to. The bar the book set for him was pretty high, and most of the spells in it were out of his ability to cast without a good deal of practice.

There were two spells though, that looked promising.

The first one was Rending Mists. It didn't have much of a description, though he had read of it before. It was a spell that mostly did as it's name implied. He ought to be able to pull it off, assuming that he didn't need to be in a hurry while casting it.

The second one was called Write My Name in Fire. This one was a little bizarre. It did not have a description either, but it did have a warning in all capital block letters:

WARNING. THIS SPELL IS NOT TO BE USED IN THE PRESENCE OF OTHER MAGES, NON MAGES, LARGE ANIMALS, SMALL ANIMALS, OR ANYONE OR ANYTHING THAT YOU DO NOT WANT TURNED INTO A SMOKING CRATER. THIS INCLUDES USE ON CAMPUS OUTSIDE OF SPECIFICALLY DESIGNATED AREAS AND THIS GOES QUADRUPLE FOR USE IN MINETA. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

Mmm. That one sounds fun. Valentino thought. It actually gave him warm and fuzzy feelings to know that not so much had changed in the Academagia, despite the passing of time since this book had been made. This spell was easy to cast, so he figured he'd save that one for last if he really needed it.

The tactics from the journal that he had, mentioned that it was actually best to find a slobin that was larger, as they tended to be slower and thus could be more easily outmaneuvered. It also mentioned that if a swarm was encountered, never to use the same spell twice. Slobins being apparently notorious for adapting to defensive abilities of their prey. Valentino didn't know if he could pull that off if the fight lasted too long, but then it didn't seem as though a fight against so many would be a long one.

The journal also mentioned that a surprise attack was the absolute worst thing you can do. Slobin swarms that were ambushed entered into a berserk state that lasts until their attacker dies. It was far easier to enter into their preying range, let them swarm over your defenses, and in the meantime kill multiple of their number while they try to slowly figure out how to kill you. Slobins were especially noted to be particularly thorough in investigating so having multiple defensive spells for keeping many slobins at bay was a must.

This was really starting to seem a little difficult. Even with all of the preparation in the world, those beasts were quite terrifying. But to be honest, this whole world was terrifying to Valentino. Carnivorous plants were starting to appear everywhere, and though there weren't many, he was seeing mosquitoes the size of a small dragon in the sky. The moons were getting darker by the minute, and Valentino didn't want to see what kind of predator might come out when they were completely black. If something could casually kill Twippy? No, Valentino would pass on seeing that.

So, with a spell list formed in his mind for various contingencies, and his wand at the ready, (and back up snapper wand within easy reach!) Valentino strode toward the slobins until they noticed his presence. Then he cast his first two spells. A Revision to throw a ton of dirt into a dome over himself, and another Revision so that he could see through it like a one way mirror.

"Let's see if you guys deserve to be feared." Valentino said, in an effort to curb his own fear.

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Go go speed writing!

Part 17

As the Revisions that Valentino cast came into effect, the smallest and fastest of the slobins came. He did not want to waste the time and effort revising the mud to see the slobins, but it was going to be important to tell whether they could pass through physical matter. He did not want to be surprised or waste even more effort later.

Luckily, they could not pass through the dirt, despite appearing partly ethereal. They were using their giant claws to hack through it at an alarming rate, so Valentino did not have time to use his plan A, but plan B would work too. Luckily the dome of dirt Valentino had made was quite large so it would work quite nicely. He needed to thin their numbers fast, or he would be dead. There was no time for fooling around.

Wasting no time, Valentino cast three spells at his fastest speed. Taking inspiration from seeing Orso's quite lethal spells against that vampire earlier, The first was a Revision to turn as much of the dirt at the bottom of the dome at his feet as possible into gunpowder. The second spell was a simple Gate to a location some ways away, on the opposite side of the lake. Valentino knew the exact duration of this spell, which was what made the next step possible. The third spell was the trickiest for him: a delayed fireball spell aimed directly at the ground.

Valentino had kind of sucked at Incantation, but he was still able to make a small fireball. The tricky part was adding a delayed effect so that Valentino did not also get caught in the explosion that he was planning. Luckily he was pretty good at using delayed effect, because he had taken a special Arithmancy seminar in order to do layered Revision spells. He had never done anything like this with incantation so he had to feel his way through completing it. He cast it, and then went through the Gate, hoping everything went according to plan.

Valentino ran through his Gate, and reoriented himself to his new position. The dirt dome was clearly visible on the other side. Many slobins were now busily hacking away at the dirt. The Gate closed, and nothing happened. Just as Valentino was beginning to doubt his Incantation ability, a fireball appeared which was so bright, that his eyes hurt because they were adjusted to darkness.

Many Slobins were surely caught in that explosion. The giant dirt dome had acted as a large amount of shrapnel, further adding to the damage they suffered. As the pressure wave of the explosion reached Valentino, some of the dirt reached where he was as well.

Maybe that was a little overkill. Valentino thought.

The cries he heard next told him otherwise. They sounded as if they were extremely angry. It seemed that they had  been surprised sufficiently into berserking. It was unfortunate, but despite Valentino's efforts to not do so, it had happened anyway. Fortunately, the surviving slobins were disoriented, so Valentino could survey the damage a bit and plan away.

It looked like most of the force of the explosion had moved upward, so not as many slobins had been killed as he had hoped. While the ones directly overhead were vaporized, most of the ones who were hacking at the sides were merely injured. The largest ones that had not been close enough yet were still in the fight. All of them were thrashing about wildly in a disorganized fashion, Despite their howls. Valentino had his plan for round 2.

Twippy began crying about the dead slobins which could have been taken, but Valentino brushed her off with a quick rebuke. There was no way he was going to try to capture any until he felt safe in trying to do so.

Valentino Began casting his original Plan A spell, Rending Mists. It took him too much time. By the time he was satisfied that his spell would go off correctly, two things happened. First, the slobins had recovered from their disorientation, and second, several giant 6 legged feline-esque predators twice the size of a bear spotted Valentino and started getting into a position to pounce. Before the new threat could do anything, however, they suddenly started looking around wildly as if they didn't know what was going on.

Trusting that the confusion would last, Valentino started working on two new spells. The first was a delayed firework/flare Glamour to get the slobins' attention, and the second was another Glamour to appear in multiple places at once. It was a sloppy illusion that would not fool them long, but Valentino had little choice. Using Gates magic to move about quickly was exhausting, and Valentino wanted to save his stamina for when he really needed it. He was casting lots of spells with little break room, and if he didn't thin down the slobin's numbers more, well... He didn't want to think of it.

The Flare Glamour got the Slobins' attention and they quickly spotted the many illusions of Valentino on the other side of the lake. Since most of the smaller faster ones were dead or injured, the majority of them were slow to reach the other side. The sound of many extremely angry slobins heading in their general direction snapped the feline predators out of their confusion and they ran away in quite a fast fashion.

There were enough illusions of Valentino around that the few slobins in the area were guessing his location horribly. He still did not feel as though he had enough time to hit the entire group at once, so he finished casting his Rending Mists spell on the main group over the lake.

A fog quickly rose up from the lake. It wasn't as large a fog as Valentino was hoping for, but it certainly did it's job. The slobins didn't realize the threat until it was far too late. All Valentino could see was what looked like slime falling into the lake.

This had a bizarre effect on the slobins. The remaining slobins cried out. If they were angry before.. Well, they were well beyond that now.

Valentino could still count about twenty remaining.

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And now we return to the beginning of the story. I will not revisit it so I encourage you to reread the first part of part 1. The only thing left is the epilogue in part 19. I hope you all enjoyed the story, and will enjoy how it all closes. (Probably in a few hours as I can't sleep, lol. I don't guarantee that, though. )

 

Part 18

That last spell took a lot out of Valentino. Although he had taken down a rediculous amount of crazy dangerous slobins in a very short time, he did not feel that he could keep up that pace for a lot longer. From what he had seen of the slobin's devouring of their prey, if even one of them got too close, it would be over for him. There was no space for mercy.

Fortunately, the slobins still did not know which of the many illusions was the real valentino. When they attacked an illusion, it quickly faded, and there were 3 very fast slobins making short work of them. The remaining ones were either large, or else injured and dripping a blueish green slime. It would not be long before they joined up with the others and then he would be in real trouble.

Valentino wasn't going to give up. The high priority targets for him were the fast ones already cutting through his illusions. Being both small and fast, they presented a poor target to go after directly. Therefore Valentino decided that it would be more effective targeting the air surrounding them.

Valentino started casting a Revision to the air. He turned it into an acidic vapor. Two slobins dissolved into slime at the same time. Unfortunately, that spell gave away Valentino's position, and all remaining Slobins converged on his position.

There was only one moon still giving off any light, and in the darkness of the world, it had all ceased to be ethereal. It was a terrifying death world filled to the brim with predators. Luckily none of them were coming to this area, probably because of Patricia, but Valentino couldn't count on that to last. There was only one trump card left before he had to high tail it and run.

The last remaining small and fast slobin charged at him head on. Luckily it was going so blinded by anger all it could do was a straight charge. He managed to dodge at the last second. Although it missed giving him a serious injury, his uniform got a nice gash from one of it's claws. It might well have cut Valentino in two had it gotten the chance.

Another stroke of luck. The slobin that had charged him was going too fast to maneuver around for another charge quickly, so instead it decided to regoup with the others that were now in danger of bearing down on him.

"It's time. Bring it on!" Valentino yelled. At this point his adrenaline was probably peaking. He was no longer thinking too strategically. There wasn't time for that. There was barely any time for his trump card either, but it was either do or die.

Write My Name in Fire. If Valentino had not been so busy drawing the phemes as quickly as he could, He probably would have thought that it was a fitting name for a spell used by one on the verge of death. Maybe it would write the epitaph on tombstone. Something like that. Thankfully those thoughts did not enter his mind, because they surely would have caused him to have doubts as to the effectiveness of the spell.

As it happened, A fire elemental was summoned. It appeared in front of Valentino, and then It charged him merely seconds before the slobins reached him.

"No! No! That's the wrong...!"

Everything become dark. Of course it was really dark already, but even so it was even more really dark now. Valentino felt disconnected from reality, and also sleepy and warm, as if he was under a massive load of blankets. Given how long the night had been for him, it was a welcome feeling. A part of him was worried that he had died, but on occasion he saw glimpses of incredible bursts of fire, and also the look of slobins in pain every time there was a flash. This went on for an unknown length of time before Valentino finally came to.

He was standing in an ashen crater about 10 feet wide. Many, many things were on fire beyond that. Several slobin Corpses could be seen on fire, bubbling and dissolving into more slime. His clothes were in tatters, but apart from that he was still mostly uninjured.

"Oh, So that's why it's called that!" Valentino exclaimed.

"Ohmygosh, that was actually kind of cool!" Twippy gushed.

Valentino was shocked! Seeing as whatever had happened had triggered that kind of reaction from Twippy, who had remained pretty quiet for all of the time she had been watching over him.

"Don't stop now, Dummy, they're right behind you!" Twippy yelled at him.

Valentino looked back, only to see that there were still four very large, wounded, and especially very, VERY angry, slobins charging at him.

Valentino turned to meet the threat head on. That last spell had left him pretty sluggish. Even so, he could probably try capturing them now. He raised his arm to find... No wand in his hand.

Uh oh.

Valentino started running away. He was not an especially good runner, and he was kind of exhausted, but having a slobin or three behind him gave him extra reserves of strength. The slobins behind him were large and injured, but were clearly intending to continue fighting to the last. Thanfully they were not going too fast either, so while they were gaining on him, he probably had a little bit of time.

Valentino tried his best to find his backup wand. It took him a while His clothing was in bad shape, which made it difficult, but eventually he found the pocket he had left it in. That part of his clothing was intact and he successfully pulled out the wand in mid stride.

Even so, Valentino didn't have the stamina or time for anything fancy. And that's when it hit him. This was a world of darkness. He recalled there were no slobins in the beginning when it was light out, as well as his dreamlike state seeing the slobins in pain from the flashes of fire. He also remembered the giant explosion had left them severely disoriented.

Light is a fairly simple thing and doesn't take too much to do. Let's do it. He thought to himself.

Valentino turned around and quickly lit the brightest glamour he must have done in his life. It was so bright, the slobins backed off. It was so bright, that the grass, and plants in the area turned ethereal again and disappeared. And then the Slobins revealed that they could negate powerful light magic.

And THEN the last moon gave out it's last light.

An Earthquake came to pass. Then misshapen humanoid figures finally emerged from the ground, with expressionless holes for facial features. One popped up right next to a slobin and with one look, POOF. it turned into smoke which was then inhaled by the bizarre creature.

"Valentino, RUN!" Twippy screamed at him with pure fear in her voice.

Valentino needed no such order. He ran again. Faster. The remaining slobins were right behind him.

For a second time, he fumbled through his tattered clothing, this time for the wand that brought him here. He found the journal, Patricia's book, the document that Twippy had given him, the now empty pocket where his backup wand had been, and finally, he found it. He was so happy he was crying.

As the wand was a preloaded wand, it was not hard for Valentino to use. A familiar Black portal appeared 30 paces in front of him. The last one he had seen was so foreboding and evil looking, but this one seemed so gentle and inviting. The screams of the slobins was not far off behind him.

Valentino had picked up enough speed that he was sure that he would have made first pick for Rimbal games if anyone had seen him. Then he dove through the portal with all his might.

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