I Became a Superhero

1.1: A Frightful New Begining

Nobody had planned for the horrific event on April 26th. The midday sun glistened on the receding, dew-covered grass, whilst metallic shrapnel and chunks litter the ground that came into view. Screams overtook the sounds of nature as creaking metal settled. The stench that filled the air was enough to make people squeamish, but it was not the smell commonly known as blood. The foul, oily smell filtered through the crisp air and blocked out the smell of burnt flesh. 

The beginning of the path that led to a young boy’s fate is now in his own hands. The news would later report this being the first time only a single person had died in such a monumental event. On a train with no less than seven hundred and thirteen passengers on it at rush hour. Now then, I bet you're wondering, how did it all come to this?


Let us roll it back a few hours before this scene plays out. Let’s say… five hours? No, that’s too far. He wouldn’t be awake then. Let’s go back about… two hours? Yeah, looks like he’s just waking up then. Let’s see how the young man lost his life in this world. 1

<# # # >

.

The blaring of a horn in a musical tone suddenly filled the room. A low, bassy rumble softly echoed from the bed, as a slowly moving limb stretched out, searching for the noise. After a few attempts, a lazy thump silenced the loud noise, which was replaced by gentle chirps, squawks, and distant rumbles of car engines.2

The arm, that had quickly retreated to the warmth of the duvet, belonged to that of a young Reiki Honoka. A new rumble filled the room, followed by a face slowly peeling itself from the page of a comic. The tired look he wore could probably be from his late-night antics, but that wasn’t the case this time.:

Ughhhhh… Why did I stay up so damned late last night?’

Groggily, he heaved his body out of the bed and dragged his feet towards his clothes drawer before heading to the bathroom. Just like anyone else, he hated early starts. But today? Today was an exception. Reiki was, for one of the rarest times in his life, excited for this very day.


Reiki-san! Get up!’ a

Nngh… Fine. Gimme fift—’n

Or I’ll eat your breakfast I made for you!’d

Coming, Halea!’

Even though he was excited about his first day at college, he was still afraid of his sister’s determination to make his days feel awful. Despite living at his sister’s family residence, he was looking forward to living on his own at the university. Sure, he was a bit of a shut-in, but his sister did her best to get him to experience the outside world from time to time, and it looked like that was about to pay off.p

Today was no different either. But at least his hopes were high for probably the first time in his life.e

< # # # >

The rest of his morning continued slowly. However, his sister was still rather annoying to the extent that she was almost constantly teasing him or invading his body space every few minutes. He knew that he was the younger brother that she was being protective of, and possibly still not ready to accept that he got the grades for university, and yet he couldn’t help but wish he could get on campus sooner to avoid her overbearing behaviour. r

The traffic was immense, but that’s what they got for taking the bus to the train station. He knew that Halea could be overbearing at times, but he dealt with it by hanging out with her husband. They didn’t talk much, but when it came to hobbies, the two of them bonded pretty quickly in the first month they spent together. s

Now, I bet you’re wondering “Wait, why is he living with his sister?”. Here’s where her overprotective nature makes more sense. After their mother was caught in the middle of a hit-and-run, she managed to survive long enough to get to a hospital, but her injuries were too severe to save her. Reiki had spent the best part of a month crying over the fact he’d not told his mother that he wished he’d been there for her.e

Then a few months later, after her funeral, their father got sentenced to fifty years of jail time for drink-driving whilst on a delivery job and causing about five thousand dollars in damage. It was then that Halea decided that she’d take her brother under her wing and support him enough that he’d be able to get through the trauma they both shared.v

Halea’s eyebrows raised and she stopped babbling about something she had no interest in when Reiki had unknowingly shifted his head to lean against her. He’d just been thinking of his mother and how kind she was when she was one of the most active members of their local community. His sister just sat there quietly and gently wrapped an arm around his shoulders as a soft rumble came from his mouth. This was going to be a long ride if the traffic was going to keep moving at a snail’s pace.e

Aloud ‘di-ding’ chimed, followed by a brief announcement that made Reiki snap his head back upright, a soft glow that looked unwanted on his cheeks. He looked to his right, trying to hide his face from his sister, who’d just cuddled him for pretty much the entire journey. All he could do was mumble through his broken facade.

r

Uh, you didn't see anything, right?’ a

Nope. I didn’t see anything. Just rest and I’ll wake you when we get there.’ She chirped softly, her lips gently turning up as her eyes softened. ‘Looks like it’ll be a long trip. Hope the train won’t arrive or leave too early…’ She added, as she started to babble about his future, which left him to disappear into his daydreams once again.n

Despite having a rather average build himself, excluding the fatherly pot-belly stereotype, his sister was a lady with a rare eye-catching physique. One which often caused her to get a few looks now and then, but most of her friends managed to get their community to help out after they heard of their issues with their father.c

Moving on from his thoughts of the past, he was looking forward to seeing what his future held and prayed that his mother was looking down on him from above. Just picturing her left him with a mental image of her reaching her arms out for a hug and smiling proudly at him. e

Without realising it, some of his future classmates were on the same bus, heading to the same train station that he would be taking to the university he’d been accepted to. Luckily the train wasn’t early, or on time. By the time their bus arrived, they were about twenty minutes late for the train. !

At first glance, they thought he’d missed the train, but it seemed like there were so many other young adults like Reiki, that the trains were being delayed by how many new students were arriving and how much luggage they were bringing.


Reiki felt shock travel down his spine when he saw how many new people were going to their shared university. Something didn’t feel right to him, but he pushed those thoughts away and decided to let them drift to happier ones as he eventually got on his designated train. Albeit a rather late one with walls of bodies lined up so close to the closing doors. One that out of pure chance snaked its way through the countryside and almost directly in front of the campus itself.


<# # # >


Watching the countryside fly past, his sister knew that he could do it. That he could improve and make lots of friends. She desperately wanted to see him at the end of the year with a group of friends she could trust to keep him busy, focused and distracted. Especially from those same thoughts that she burdens herself with to keep him from falling prey to his anxiety demons.


No sooner than the train had sped off, just twenty-six minutes earlier, had a black Mercedes with a vivid red stripe down one side pulled up to take his sister home. He knew her husband’s car just from a first glance. Nobody in their neighbourhood had the same car. Who would figure, that out of everybody for his sister to date, it had to be the guy whose garage built, low-budget Kickstarter project would blow up to be revolutionary and put him into the celebrity spotlight?


The train had just started to enter the city districts of Fenwick when the carriage started to pick up speed instead of slowing down and was suddenly lit with heavy orange light. The sound of mindless chatter stopped for a few seconds, then changed into a deluge of panic and screams as the train started rocking haphazardly on the tracks. It didn’t take too much thought to recognise that something was wrong. 


Extremely wrong.


The jolting of his carriage, the panicked yelling, the increased screeching of the train along the tracks. It all started to hit home what was happening. His heart started to race, his hearing started to ring, and his palms and face started to bead with sweat. Despite making no noise himself, the sound of metal scraping on metal made a nauseous chill rush up his entire body. 


Without a second thought, Reiki tried to stand, but a hand pushed against his chest a bit too harshly and at that exact moment… 


The train derailed. 


<# # # >


His life didn’t flash before his eyes like articles said they would, but instead, he saw blurry, flickering orange pillars fill his vision. He blinked a few times, then started to feel extreme pain in his chest and legs, but nothing in his right arm. As he attempted to get into a crawling position, he stopped and stared at where his right arm should've been. 


Instead, he simply found himself looking at nothing more than a heavily damaged stump where his bicep should have been. The sudden register of a high pitched ringing in his ears seemed to override the scream that came from his throat. He attempted to look around but found himself with large, badly cut shards of metal that stuck out from the rest of his body. 


As he stared blankly, he barely noticed someone attempt to pull the shards from his body. He could immediately tell he was dying and he didn’t want to see his mother this early. She wouldn’t have wanted this. He realised that that shock from earlier could have been a sign that he was not supposed to have gotten on the train, but it was too late now. 


I guess it’s too late for me now.’ He thought, as his vision, senses and someone’s screaming faded off into the background. 

It didn’t take long, but he did feel a sense of serenity when his eyes suddenly got filled with a flash of silver light. Or what felt like silver light. 


That’s impossible. I thought I was dead?

Scrunching his nose and tightening his eyes, he felt himself getting gently lifted as if he was as light as a cloud. Then voices started conversing in a concerned manner around him as he felt himself being rested on a luxuriously soft surface. That’s when he felt his right arm had returned to his right-hand side. His body didn’t hurt either. It was like he was in a world of blissful pleasure. 


Focusing on the voices without opening his eyes, they spoke in a language he hadn’t heard before. It wasn’t English, nor was it a language he could recognise. 


Deos, agu hol va nivelei houm aval?’


Eisa va, bi fora deto, Solu. Agu hol sei no vyi deto lin houm. Devo asa, Gea?’


Eisa koku, Deos. Deso ei venheim?’


Nei, Gea. Deos di neo houm hol. Deimo, des wouka.’


The words sounded so foreign to Reiki, but he felt that they noticed he was awake. After opening his eyes, he quickly had to shut them again when the light that enveloped the bodies threatened to burn his eyes out. However, he felt no pain from the light. A surprised gasp came from the host of the female voice when he finally opened his eyes and ignored the feeling of what he could only call divine pressure washing through him. 


Before him stood three figures; one surrounded in white light with silver strands waving around, one warm red light with fewer yellow strands and the last in soft green light with only two brown, almost maroon coloured strands. 


... Hi?’ 


Out of everything he could ask, he suddenly felt embarrassed beyond belief at the informal introduction with a hesitantly raised hand. He felt an awkward buzzing in his head just before his mind felt dizzy which left him feeling a little queasy afterwards. 


So sorry about that, we hope you can understand us now.’ 


The one with the white light looked at him, bent down a little and held out a hand. Not acting hesitant anymore, Reiki reached out and grabbed his hand. 


I’m sorry that you didn’t survive that little accident. I tried to save everybody, but you were the only fatality. You see…’ 


Reiki just looked at the person before him, confusion slowly spreading across his face, from his eyes to his expression.


What do you mean?’


Well… It was part of a bet that was to demonstrate that I’m not all that miraculous of a God.’


His eyes shot open at the word of “God”. 


Wait, you’re… why are there three of you? Are Gods standing before me?! I thought they were just fictionalised from religious beliefs!’ 


Good question. I don’t even know why ther— Anyway, we need to make sure you’re okay with knowing that we’re indeed real and not figments of imagination or anything.’ 


Okay. I’m going to guess that this has something to do with my death?’ 


As he subconsciously prodded at the places where he’d been impaled, all three of the Gods nodded in sync. The other two who now sat at a table that wasn’t there just a few seconds ago started idle chatting whilst the current God was preoccupied with Reiki. 


I’m fine with whatever you’re going to give or tell me. But please, give my sister a sign that I’m okay. Despite feeling clingy at times, she has been a lovely sister and I wouldn’t trade anything in the world for her safety. Could you do something, like a sign from something around her falling, or something to remind her of me when she starts daydreaming, or when she looks up a flock of birds appear in the shape of a midd–’


Okay, fine, I’ll send your sister some sign that isn’t so obvious as to what your last request was going to be.’


Despite the atmosphere around the two of them, the Goddess who’d overheard struggled to stifle a laugh at the imagery Reiki had given her. This caused the main God's left eyebrow to start twitching so the young man decided to hold back his comments just to let the God before him finish talking. 


He was aware enough to quickly realise the God before him had no harm or threat in his words. It felt more like he was amused and was near perfect at hiding it.


Right, ahem.’ 


Oh?’


It seems like we’ll need to introduce ourselves. Probably starting with the God who thought it was a good idea to bet on saving everybody on that train from your world.’


Reiki shook his head and then slapped his cheeks, looking forward to learning their names. 


I’m Reiki Honoka, well, my real name is Reiki-naki, but my family and close friends call me Reiki whilst my online friends know me as James Gourde... You probably didn’t need to know that last bit.’ He replied, rubbing the back of his head out of habit, which got the others to chuckle warmly.


Haha, it’s fine, young boy. If we’re introducing ourselves, my name is Solu, and I’m the Sun God. I’m the other one who bet that he couldn’t save everyone.’ He pointed jokingly at Deos, his older, much wiser friend. ‘The one you’re talking to there is Deos and the goddess before you is Gea, the Earth Goddess.’


Nice to meet you? So, what’s the plan now? Seeing how I’ve reached my untimely demise, I don’t think I could last much longer... Mentally that is.’ Rubbing his forehead with his fingers, he focused on keeping a weird headache from forming. ‘...I might start to think this is a hallucination or something soon.’ He added under his breath, as he tried to chuckle away his worries.


Okay then. One thing that surprises me, is that you're the first person we’ve met here who hasn’t lost their mind upon meeting at least one of us, let alone three.’ Gea replied, summoning another fresh cup of mint tea.


Reiki was expecting something to happen, but as time went by, nothing happened and Reiki got his hopes up for nothing. It only took a few relatively long minutes, which felt like hours to Reiki, for a golden light to suddenly emit brightly from the floor, spreading out into shapes and symbols unknown to Reiki and got so bright he had to cover his eyes.


Guess I’m just lucky then.’ Reiki replied, his lips quivering as he joked. His predicament.


Oh, where are my manners! Reiki-kun, come sit down with us.’ She gestured with her hand in a ‘come hither” motion, which also created another chair around the round table. ‘It’s poor manners to leave people standing you two.’ 


Sorry Gea.’/‘Condolences, my lady.’ Deos and Solu spoke simultaneously, Solu bowing in a pose similar to Reiki’s memory of how the Japanese bowed.


It’s all right boys.’ She brought a hand to her face to stifle a small snicker. ‘Now, unfortunately, we can’t send you back to your work, but there is an alternative, but I can’t perform the ritual for it. Deos, could you call on Kaeo for me?’


Oh, sure. Shouldn’t be too hard to get him to “summon” himself to us.’ 


Deos whipped his hand through the air a few times, a trail of some golden ether flowing from his palm, then a golden ball blipped briefly when he snapped his fingers


When the light simmered down, Reiki uncovered his eyes from the golden light and heard a voice coming from where it had just been. 

—nd this is the reason why I need more of a forewarning when you say that you need my help!’ Came the voice, soft yet authoritative. ‘Oh... Right... I see. You’d like me to attempt sending his soul to

thatworld?’

Astern look fell upon Deos’ pained expression, which cause a bead of sweat to comically drip down the side of the newly arrived God’s face.


Kidding! I’m kidding! I briefly read that bit about him being the casualty of a bet, but to be the only casualty is a testament to that crazy amount of power you have.’ He bowed to Deos, as if out of respect for his powers, despite having His limits.


It didn’t take him long to join the group at the table, pulling out a chair that hadn’t been there previously. It appeared in the same way as Reiki’s current chair, but this time with a noticeable, dark red flame that seemed to flow like liquid from out of nowhere. It was warping and twisting around as if it was made from a liquid fire until it vanished and a solid, pearlescent white chair replaced where the fire just was. The situation suddenly dawned on young Reiki that he was indeed dead in his world now. 


Right... Let’s get you ready for this New Earth of yours. Not to worry, they essentially have the same days, months, years et cetera and also call it Earth, so you’re good there.’ As soon as he eagerly clapped his hands together, a sudden rush of wind billowed around Reiki. 


Wait, don’t I need a new identity or something before I go? That’s what I read in all those mangas about characters reincarnating!’ Reiki panicked, before a gentle hand rated on his shoulder. 


If you'd like to live under an alias, that's for you to decide. After all, we aren't always able to do what everyone believes we can do. Deos is a good example of this.’ Turning his head, he looked at Gea and her soft smile whilst her head was surrounded by oddly floating but relaxing shapes and colours. ‘Even so, what name are you thinking of using?’ 


Well, I'm normally a bit of an emotional shut-in, so I've been using the personality of a character I've used in an online roleplaying game whilst speaking with everyone here. His name is, uh, well was James Gourde.’ He replied, habitually scratching the back of his head. 


Smiling, Gea uses her finger to trace a few lines with a minty-green coloured trail that formed a few small circles, each imploding into a ball of light in her palm. Reiki, no, James couldn't hear the words over the sudden increase in the sound of the column of wind rushing past his ears, but he knew it was probably a gift being blessed onto him. Just before he left, all three seated Gods waved goodbye to him as his vision was blinded.


Well, I guess this is it.’ He thought, as an odd feeling entered his chest and his vision suddenly went completely dark.

This was the new beginning of his journey into another world. But it wasn’t what he was planning it to be. Anything going through his mind now felt foggy, as if waking up from a dream. His body felt like it was as light as air, drifting in the vast void around him. An odd pressure around him flowed like the surface of a soft, cotton duvet fluffed to almost absolute perfection. 


For young James, he couldn’t describe in words how relaxing and freeing it felt to be in this void of pleasure until a brief spark lit up the vast, comfortable blackness around him like fireworks had gone off all around him. 


At the same time, sparks flew not just in his vision, but in his mind as he reflected that this was the last time he would ever have a connection to the world he was once a part of. His last wishful thought, making what felt like his facial features stretch out and his cheeks heat up, left a fuzzy feeling where he felt his chest was. 


Not so much a buzz, but a warmth that slowly spread through his body in his mind's eye. The thought? 


I hope my sister gets the sign that I’m okay.

1.2: Unwanted Attention Arises

That unwanted rush of falling uncontrollably in a dream is always a horrible thing. The same couldn’t be said for James, who was curled up like a napping cat on the side of a very worn, but well-kept road. Around his body, leaves tossed and turned in the air currents. The gentle and shallow rising and falling of his chest matched a leaf, as it swung in the air, spiralled for a few seconds then came to rest on his cheek. 

As he came to, he squinted groggily, then reached up and gently flicked the leaf off his cheek with a flick of his wrist. Slowly opening his eyes, he was expecting to find himself back in a hospital and all that had been a dream. However, picking up the leaf he’d touched, he realised that it was all too real. 


He was in another world.

 

<# # # >


It hadn’t even been a few minutes when he’d found himself pacing around aimlessly beside an oak tree larger than one he’d ever seen before. It felt as wide as a bus and whenever he had dared to look up every few seconds, it gave him vertigo. His hair, now sunset ginger instead of dark brown, was scrunched up in his hands as he gritted his teeth. 


What way do I go?! What if I stumble across some cliché event? What do I -

His thoughts pretty much followed a familiar character’s inner monologue, but he was so deep in thought that he almost missed the vehicle coming up the worn-down, underdeveloped road; a carriage pulled by a four-armed, four-legged creature he’d never seen before. The creature's legs protruded at weird but seemingly natural angles as it sped towards him. 


Without thinking, he tried to run but in the process of turning, it only took a few steps before he tripped up over a large, fallen branch. In the process of tripping, he stains his clothing with a few patches and smears of mud and grass as he uncontrollably rolled under a thick bush. Staying still, his heart started beating quickly, beads of sweat slowly moving down his face as his body temperature started raising, yet he felt an increasing gust of cold washing over his skin. 


It got even worse when he heard two gravelly, almost bass-boosted voices reverberating around him.


Hey, kid where’d you come from?!’


Who you talking to Rapheus? I don’t see any lowly scum out here.’


I swears I saw someone, Freuk. They must be in this hawth bush.’


Abead of sweat dripped from his chin, creating a quiet but audible “ploip” into a small puddle under him. Hoping it wasn’t loud enough, he let out a breath of air he didn’t know he’d been holding. Unfortunately, letting his guard down was a mistake. Within less than two seconds, the bush above him was yanked to the side and a bag was placed over his head.


GOTCHA you son of a b- OOFOWW! You broke by bose!’


Reiki had instinctively thrown his head backwards, and in the process managed to break his capturer's nose. However, this only encouraged the other man to get down from his seat on their carriage and grabbed him by the arms, his grip like a vice. He couldn’t see anything, but he felt the slam of his body against a hard surface followed by the sound of metallic clinks and clanks.


...are you okay?’ 


Agentle voice called out to him. It felt out of place to him, but the alluring voice calmed him down. Just a little, but enough to stop him from panicking. The bag that had been covering his head was removed, and a young face was looking down at him, her eyebrows furrowed and was covered in a few splatters of mud. and dressed in a torn dress. 


Flecks of pink and white tried to show through the ragged seams near the bottom of the dress, yet most of the dress was torn and ripped. Ragged and mud-stained hair hung from her head, clumped haphazardly together. A few scars and scratches were mostly visible on her exposed arms. 


I’m okay. Thank you for removing the bag.’ 


It’s no problem. I just hope that we don’t travel too far. WE’re all pretty much kidnapped you see.’


Flags went off in the boy's head, the ride getting bouncier every now and then, shaking him around as he struggled to sit normally. Whilst in the back of the old carriage, the time passed quickly, as the sky had done two full cycles and the driver and his assistant had managed to snatch up two more young children. Two males to be exact. 


After a while, the road, or what could almost be called a road, suddenly turned away from the increasingly backed-up main road and the barely awakened Reiki began to watch as the road turned into a small track with two lines of dirt surrounded by dense trees and bushes. 


Where are we going?’ 


A bead of sweat rolled down his cold cheek, his mind jolting awake from the sudden rocking and banging the carriage was experiencing off the main road.


I don’t know. I’ve never been this way before. I know roughly where we are, but I’d remember if this was a route I’ve been on before or not.’ 


It was the same girl from earlier. A few groans and grunts of pain from around him suggested that some of the people in the back with him were in need of medical help. One child suddenly fell onto the cold, wooden floor of the carriage. The sickening thud of his head bouncing every now and then caused an older girl to gasp over the sound of the struggling children. 


As he looked up at the rest of the children, all dressed in poorly maintained clothing and some even with patches of red in places, he finally saw the girl who stopped his head from banging on the floor.


No, Callam! Not now! No! Please! Please wake up!’ 


She wailed, tears flowing profusely down her cheeks as she cradled his head and body close to her chest, her hair draped over her shoulder on one side and the other with a short and badly made pigtail holding her hair up. The boy had gone from groaning to shallow breathing. 


OI! What’s all the ruckus back there?’ 


It’s nothing.’ 


The young girl who’d taken the bag off his head replied almost instantly. The carriage came to a stop and the girl shifted and shuffled her butt to make her way over beside him. But Reiki wasn’t having any of it. He immediately got up, his back no longer awkwardly leaning against his bound hands. Unbeknownst to Reiki, his hands appeared to blur rapidly and randomly as he got up shakily to his feet and crawled towards the unconscious boy. 


Here, let me take care of that for you.’


But your ha— HEH?!’ 


Without even realising it, Reiki had forgotten his hands were tied up and instead they were both checking over the young boy's head, carefully sliding to check for a bump. Rope free. Two muffled gasps came from behind him, but he paid no attention as he started to gently press the boy's chest. A repetition of a few pumps of pressure followed by him leaning down, mouth to ear, went on as the cart slowed to a crawl. 


The sound of slurping and squelching echoed into the back of the carriage, the two kidnappers shovelling around the carriage as the patter on the roofing started to increase in volume when the boy's almost pale blue skin became erubescent. 


Phew… Close one.’ 


...’


... What?’ 


The sudden silence, not an awkward one, left him feeling embarrassed. A soft glow on his cheeks and a skittish movement to his eyes, combined with a hug of his knees, caused the eyes of the young beauty who spoke to sparkle through her crusty mud-covered face.


Without any thought, she grasped him from behind and rested her chin on his shoulder. A gentle sigh of relief escaped her lips as the corners turned up. The carriage started moving again once the pattering of rain started to ease. In the following twenty minutes, Reiki had started to open up to the rest of the boys and girls in the carriage, finding out they range from thirteen to seventeen years of age. 


I hope my father is putting a search out for me.’


I’m just glad nobody else has had any issues besides a few bumps and bruises.’


He flicked a piece of wood towards the tarp roof, where a small puddle rippled, then eventually slid off when they hit a bump again.


Curse that sudden downpour. It messed up with our schedule. We’re already ten minutes late!’


Don’t have to tell me twice. We had to dig out the parts that sunk into thick mud too.’


The two kidnappers grumbled their hatred for their job but still kept quiet as they trudged towards the city’s secret gateway. Reiki had allowed the girl who’d been compassionate to fall asleep on his shoulder as they trundled onto a horribly built brick road. The inside rumbled from the surface change, but they didn’t rock and bounce like earlier. The rain had stopped and the inside briefly dimmed as they made their way under the thick walls. 


Amuffled conversation started at the carriage slowed to a stop, and then the carriage shifted shoddily as the two men stepped off. The view out the back, through some metal bars, showed the gate get a faint, deep green glow before it mysteriously shifted and dissolved. As if it was never there in the first place.  


As Reiki shifted his focus on the muffled voices, their conversation appeared to have introduced a third, and maybe a fourth voice. Out of nowhere, a face with a smile that almost reached from ear to ear and a scar from forehead to under their chin peered in from the top of the tarp covering everyone. 


Ooh! Lookie what we have here! More slaves for us to sell!’ A jarring laugh came from his throat as a glint appeared in his eyes.


Without warning, the metal door swung open and the man quickly swung into the carriage. Everyone that was still awake from the trip backed away in fear at his stance, his broad shoulders and straight back tied with his devilish grin. His eyes darted around, looking between the kids as they huddled in groups of two or three. Some scrambled backwards, some burst into silent tears. The reactions were varied, but expelled one clear emotion; fear.


'

Who... Who the hell i?!'

Avoice rang out from beyond the gently wafting tarp.


Oi, Bruckel, get outta there! You’ll ruin the merchandise!’


The gruff voice made everyone flinch and leave the back in a similar way to how he entered. Reiki wanted to sucker punch him so badly, but after seeing the wall return to normal and hearing the number of voices around them. He didn’t want to risk his chances until he got an open window. After all, how was he to know he’d be caught up in an illegal slave trade ring, along with seventeen other teenagers.


I need to find a way out of here fast, but what should I do with this girl who’s grown attached to me? I bet they weren’t expecting me to ’ He thought as he found himself sitting with his hands hugged around his legs, and his chin positioned on top of his knees. 

Agentle breath of air slowly washed over the left side of his neck, coming from the direction of her head resting carelessly. They shared a cloth so thin, that he could barely keep enough warmth to himself. Especially with the girl sharing it with him. After waiting in the foul-smelling carriage, wit the torn up wood covering, it wasn’t even less than an hour later when the carriage ground to a halt, and bags made from a strange material to stop any light from entering them were harshly placed on all their heads. 


Someone had shoved him, but he couldn’t hear a thing. As he focused on his surroundings through his other senses, he instantly got a strange feeling tingling across his entire body that washed from his head and hands down to his feet and almost as if it flowed into the floor. Almost like his sense of touch briefly expanding from his immediate surroundings. 


But the moment didn’t last. As soon as he’d even sensed his surroundings in such clear detail, that feeling vanished.


Oi, move it. We’re not being paid for those that stand around doing something fishy!’


Ironic much?’ Reiki thought, then proceeded to mentally scheme a way out of the place whilst considering taking the girl with him.

Upon being shoved onto a floor, the cover over his head was yoinked free from his head. Finally looking around the room, he initially noticed smears of dirt across the unevenly tiled floor and numerous patches of mould between the bricks on the badly built walls. The room had lots of space, but that’s when he noticed four of the kids on the ride with him. 


Hey, mister.’ 


He turned his head in the rough direction the reverberating whisper carried from. There were three young girls and two young boys all huddled in a corner. The voice was very young, and was higher pitched than any of the boys in the room. It was a hard time for him to realise it was the same sick boy from the carriage ride that was clinging to the older girl, the one who’d spoken.


Thank you for saving my younger brother earlier. He has Blue Skin Syndrome. Not many people know how to reduce it the way you did.’


Don’t mention it. Anyway, where are we?’


We’re either in Hibel or Froesé. At least one of their minor areas, I think.’


His eyes expanded a little, glinting slightly from the brightly lit torch on the wall outside the cell. His eyes shifted to the left slightly. The voice carried a yawn and a soft, yearning calmness to it that he recognised from the ride into he can now confirm was a city of some sort.


Hee-bell? Froze? What types of city names are those? Anyway, wait, is she—?

His thoughts were interrupted as his gaze rested on the girl who’d been resting against him earlier that day. He immediately forgot about the city names, and after getting a good look at her, his heart felt like it was beating loudly in his ears. Not the odd illness kind, but the kind that left him with erubescent cheeks and a slightly fluttery feeling in his chest. 


Oh, okay then. Well, if it helps, I’ve kinda been orphaned just before I was captured. My parents kinda died after a dog-like monster attacked and I got away strangely unscathed. I’d been walking for ’ 


He had literally lied to everyone in the room, not even a bead of sweat appearing as he lied about his situation. Having said his part, something in his vision blipped up. For a few seconds, he just stared at the floating, green menu before him. 


… wait, I’ve heard of this trope. Is this an RPG hud?!’ 

The menu before him displayed a fuzzy window, angled down by his left side. A glitchy outline started to shift, the symbols and shapes within it shifting around until it resembled something startlingly similar to English. A quick raise of his gaze to check the room confirmed to him that the menu was only visible to him before he return his gaze to a better-focused message box. 


[

Congratulations! You’ve created your backstory! ]

[Would you like to view your stats? (Y/N)

]

He didn’t know how magic worked in this world and he could hear footsteps coming closer to the cell. He quickly flicked two fingers hidden behind his legs, as if swiping at something that was there, and the menu slid to the other side of him. When he snuck out his index finger to tap the yes button, it vanished in a puff of digital, glitch-filtered glass shards, then reformed into a bigger panel that displayed his personal statistics.


His eyes grew a gentle glint of appreciation at the stats he could see. Despite them being mostly blank, some displayed interesting base statistics for his current condition. 



[ PROFILE ]

[ NAME- Reiki Honoka ]

[ ALIAS- N/A ]

[ AGE- 17 ]

[ PROFESSION- N/A, N/A ]

[ STATUS- Kidnapped ]

[ LEVEL - 1 ]

[

SKILLS ]

[ Active Skills]

Unknown - Lv. 1 | N/A - Lv. 0

[//ERROR//]

[//ERROR//]

[

Passive Skills]

N/A - Lv. 0 | Translation - Lv. 1

Analysis - Lv. 1

Leveller - Lv. ∞


He tapped the air, closing the panel, as he pondered what most of it meant. Right as it closed, a high-pitched yell came from a girl who’d just been grabbed by a guy with muscles that were pulsating strongly as they moved and flexed. 


I don’t want to get on his bad side.

Just as he started to look away from the helpless struggle, his mind did a double take on the image of the girl's face. His eyes widened as he watched her being dragged away, a soft thumping increased in volume in his ears yet the sound of her struggling breath, albeit muffled and the ragged huffing of the guy who dragged her off was crystal clear whenever he closed his eyes.


He closed the stats window as he began to formulate a plan. Running out of time became a real risk now. He wished he could run away from this place. The start of his new reality couldn’t have been made any worse than an immediate kidnapping. 


I wanna go back to mommy.’ 


Shush, they’ll hear you!’ 


I don’t feel safe here.’


I hope that girl they took is okay.’


Some of the kids in the room started to worry about being in a room that started to stink. It was similar to that of a body that hasn’t been washed in weeks. Some were holding their noses as they tried to avoid throwing up at the stench surrounding them. Making up his mind, Reiki noticed a small patch of loose dirt in the centre of the room. 


I have a plan to get out, but this is my first attempt at escaping from a place like this so I won’t be able to bring any of you along. So if you want to be able to see your families or friends again, please let me know you’re ready to wait for the rescue.’


Some of the older kids nodded their heads as he started to describe his plan, using his pinkie finger to roughly sketch out an idea. The eldest girl in the room to him, a wolf-girl, was on the lookout in case they were to overhear his plan to escape. Turns out her race had an exceptional hearing ability and she desperately wanted to do anything to help out. 


Afew times they almost got caught because she hadn’t been paying attention, but Reiki managed to pull out lines from the Action-RPG that an online friend of his loved to play. Turns out in this world, some of them actually worked as distraction techniques. Waiting for the right moment to escape was going to take time and luckily, they all had nothing else to do. 


He hadn’t told any of them about his RPG ability, which he desperately wanted to keep hidden. This had unlocked his passive Hide Profile ability and levelled it up by two in the process of hiding it from everyone in the room. 


Okay, it’s time. Their schedule seems to have relaxed a little. I hope you can save that girl.’


I sure hope so. Promise me you’ll keep the kids safe whilst I’m gone.’


I shall. Don’t forget us once we’re free either, y’got that?’


Yes, I’ll make sure to find a way to keep in touch.’


The young girl had revealed that her name was Sapphire Simona the Third after she’d introduced herself as the lookout. He’d been taken aback at how similar her level of calm was to his, but hers was from the circumstances that lead her to be there with them. As waiting time progressed, she had also told him directly that she wasn’t of any royalty, upon him asking her, but she was the third female in a row in her family to share the same name, hence the number. 


The others were well-versed in knowing this of the Beast-kin race, yet a little slip of surprise still appeared on his face when he found that out. Luckily, when he snuck out of the cubicle, he immediately went to work. As quickly as he possibly could, without making noise, he started heading in the direction he’d been told she’d gone. The floors were sticky underfoot since they took his shoes. His clothes had taken the trip with him to this world and he didn’t expect them to only be interested in selling his sneakers.


That’ll be their downfall, as long as they can’t sell them.

Changing his focus, he had covered more than the distance necessary to figure out things on his own, but a nagging thought kept his doubt that he could find her in time. The sun was setting as he made it up a set of stairs after avoiding what he thought were two patrolling slave traders, and the dimly lit corner where the door opened worked to his advantage. 


Looking into the centre of the room, he noticed that the girl from earlier was either asleep or knocked unconscious and still fully dressed. A few bruises on her face to match a few new open areas in the already badly torn clothing she wore, but that seemed fair in comparison to where his mind had gone regarding the tropes he’d read about back home. Looking at his stats window again, he found himself with some time to kill and found the window that displayed his agility, defence and strength stats. 


He was about to grab her and make a run for it when a heavy whumping sound resonated from the walls and heavily muffled yelling that was barely audible stimulated his ears with the deep tones. Dust trickled down from the exposed rafting, Once settled, after two gentler thumps that didn’t expose as much dust, it had covered some of the objects in the room with a light dusting. After scanning the room, he’d noticed the room looked like a closed-up blacksmith store with an unlit forge.


I gotta get her outta here with me. This looks like an illegal setup hidden within a blacksmith.

He was about to go and grab her when he saw a shadow being cast at the foot of the door. Instinctively, he froze, then quickly but quietly tried to climb up to the exposed beams above. Luckily, after finding his upgradable ability window just a few minutes prior


Year after year, and we still don’t have enough to buy a better safehouse?’


Beats me. Besides, at least we can repair our tools here, unlike in our last place. We should be grateful that the Boss found us this spot after all.’


Two new voices from below changed his focus from the girl to the two guys below. One was a chubby guy, his baritone voice keeping in sync with his appearance. His chin had a thick brown beard, yet his hair only started from his ears downwards. The other guy, a more average-looking human, had a creepy squeaking that affected his usual speech patterns. His higher-pitched voice tied in with his small eyes and his constant grinning, on one side of his face. These features suggested to him that he must have had some major event to leave his face in a permanent half-grin. 


I’m gonna call him Smiles, and the other one Muscles.

After waiting for what felt like an age to Reiki, it took them a while to take out some heavily damaged items and a few small bags that clunked like money when they landed on the table. He watched patiently, waiting for them to leave the room before he attempted stage two of his plan. Luckily, it seemed this room wasn’t as run down as he thought and he could use that to his advantage. 


Smiles and Muscles had started to professionally work on the items. They often discussed a few interesting details that are vital to keeping them running. He found that a little odd, but kept as still and as quiet as possible in the rafting beams as they quickly fixed the tools. After a minute, a pure black crow appears with a roll of something in its beak. Muscles promptly stopped what he was doing and snatched the paper from the crow, reading it thoroughly.


Hey, Sqeike.’


Yes, Argel?’


Could you come with me for a sec? There’s a heavy crate that’s just arrived for our package.’


Fine. I was hoping to sharpen my Pesnar.’ 


Around a minute after they left, Reiki immediately dropped to the floor. As quietly as possible, he attempted to unchain the girl bound by the shackles that attached her to the chair. Looking back at the table, he noticed the weapon looked something like a Peshkabz; the hardy, robust-looking handle with dinks and dents and the blade battered, with a chipped tip as if used in a particularly difficult battle. 


After removing every shackle holding her down, he checked the girl over for anything serious. In his mind couldn’t tell if she was either unconscious or sleeping until she started rousing. He sat her back down as she slowly lifted her head and looked around the room. It didn’t take her long to realise her surroundings. However, as soon as she saw Reiki, her eyes went wide when she was about to talk. 


He quickly covered her mouth with two fingers and furrowed his brows and straightened his mouth, as he focused his gaze on her. He waited for her to calm down enough so that she would be able to nod in response. 

Can you be quiet for me?’


She simply nodded in response. Like she knew he was going to help get her out of there. She watched and followed him as they both steadily worked their way through the empty corridors. Occasionally checking rooms carefully for food and drinks if they were left open. They were nearly at the exit to the world beyond when a hand wrapped in a cloth clamped over the girl's mouth and she let a loud yet muffled yelp escape. 


Before she could succumb to the weird smell that overpowered her nose and her senses, she managed to grasp the man's arm and wrench it enough that she could get a message to Reiki:


RUN! Forget about me, just RUN!’


I'll be okay.’ She expressed solely through her eyes. The determination shimmering in their glow of strength.

At that very moment, everything seemed to slow down to just over half the speed it was moving previously. He stared at the girl, then the guy he missed. He had well-built arm muscles and big, muscular hands that stretched out from a patch of shadow.


Whilst watching her slowly getting yanked backwards, he was about to set his resolve to save her, when the look in her eyes connected with his. It felt to Reiki as if she trusted him with her life. Feeling a wet surface slowly shift from his eyes, he turned and ran off. 


Unbeknownst to him, what the girl saw was him standing there one second, then a flash of bright, electric green light flashed as she succumbed to the darkness the smell was forcing her to go to. He ran until his brief spurt of energy caught up with his lack of nourishment. Despite searching for food earlier, they had found barely any to almost no scraps at all.


I've gotta find someone to help me out! This place is a cesspool of illegal activity… At least I sure hope it is.

When he stopped to catch his breath, he noticed a man in pale blue armour with a wide longsword on his back. Beside him, was a woman who didn't look a day over thirty in a purple and white outfit. The closest thing he could picture in similarity, from his time back home, was something akin to a kimono. The exception for this design had focused more on agility, and being battle ready. 


The first thing he noticed was the single red shoulder pad hidden behind the ponytail that hung over that shoulder. Without accidentally staring for too long, he noticed the bottom hem, knee-deep on the outfit, had a single black line with a red and purple lacy spiral flowing randomly along the centre.


Taking a few steps from the not so well lit alleyway, he barely sensed something coming from behind and quickly made his way to the two of them. The man noticed him first, his eyebrows furrowed slightly when their eyes met. His eyes shifted from their previous glow of joy to a darker, sombre look.  


After noticing that her friend was paying less attention to her teasing, she also shifted from a happy mood to the second pair of furrowed eyebrows. 


H-Hey. There are some people after me and I need your help.’


That got their attention like moths to a lamp. Unfortunately, the sound of raised voices was getting closer. He ran over to the two of them as quickly as he could and then grabbed the woman's soft hands. He’d never been so bold before, but this was a time-sensitive mission in his head. His expression and his actions made the woman’s eyes bulge a small bit, the guy placing a hand on his back.


Please, when they get here, please pretend you’re potential buyers and you caught me running!’


As if understanding what was going on, Reiki sensed a big shift in their behaviour. To him, it was like they were really good at shifting personalities. The wave of hostility overrode the sense he previously detected akin to a mother’s protectiveness. Partially worn out, he slumped to the floor by their feet. This  


Aah, there you are. You filthy rascal. You should be grateful I found you wandering those roads outside the city all those miles back all alone. Back to the cell with you. Your new friend will be perfect for an important customer.’


Without noticing it, the boy, the slave trader and the adventurer never noticed the woman’s eyebrow twitch ever so slightly at the mention of him being chucked into a cell. Luckily, taking Reiki’s words on board, she steeled herself for the side-quest before returning to her current job at hand. 


I’m terribly sorry. This rascal ran into us and we didn’t notice he was one of yours. What’s your name again?’ 


Oh, I’m Geordo. Nice to meet you. What brings you to the town today?’


Nothing much, just looking for someone to do some stuff so that it won’t be traced back to us.’


The men began talking as the woman hastily grabbed Reiki by the wrist and hauled him awkwardly to his feet and continued to hold his wrist until they got to the entrance of what looked like a worn down warehouse. Once inside, she let go as soon as the door was locked with an S-shaped key. Initially shoving him in front of her, she managed to steer him behind her as the two guys slowly walked down the abandoned halls. 


That’s when he noticed that they were in conversation about him and the girl he was hoping to save was not in the room they just entered. He had hoped to see her at least one more time, but it looked like she was moved somewhere else entirely.


Aah, so I take it that you want to hire this boy to do some of your deeds then? Seeing as he managed to get out from under my fingers, he might be a bit of trouble for you…’


You don’t need to worry about that. I know how to whip him into obedience.’ 


Clashing his knuckles together, the adventurer managed to create a short gust of wind that gently blew around the room as his smile stretched wide. In an almost convincingly mischievous manner. As he stood behind the other adventurer, Reiki noticed that after she’d walked in front of him, she was gesturing with her hands behind her back and out of sight of Geordo. Some looked familiar, like the fingers across the palm, but others he wasn’t sure of. 


He could make out words like “many”, “tap” and “count”. He didn’t know what she was asking until she repeated the hand signals after a brief pause to answer the question. That’s when he put it together. 


Oh, is she asking how many there are by tapping her hands? I guess randomly remembering some stuff from a BSL video has finally paid off.

He mentally shook his head whilst keeping his head hunched over, hiding his face. He could hear heavy banging faintly through the wall and after tapping about seven times on her arm discreetly, she gave him a thumbs up. 


Seems like she’s been through this before. Why aren’t they recognising her though if she has?

Pondering this, he started to focus on a soft shrill mixed with a muffled twang from the room over. He then considered it to be coming from the metallurgy room. The two adventurers and the slave trader then wrapped up the conversation and got up from their seats. 


I hope some of the kids in the cell with me are still there.’ 

Taking the route back down, the stench of the damp and sweat-smelling hallways assaulted his nose once again. Previously, he’d had a bag on his head. Now, he could see numerous cells on both sides of the corridor he’d snuck out from. 


The girl was nowhere in sight and he had to hold himself back from making another run for it. Upon walking past his cell, two of the girls saw him and they tried to get his attention. All he did was put a finger to his lips as soon as one of them went up to the crisscrossed bars and held onto them at head height. He pointed at the two undercover adventurers and gave a discreet okay-hand signal. 


So these first few cells house some of our latest arrivals. One of which was a very generous one, despite her clothes being the worst out of all of them.’ 


Oh is that so?’ 


Yup. Hey Beomund!’


Bwuh, wha-?’


Get off your fat arse and help these fine couple out! They’re looking for another slave.’


Asmaller, five-foot-four man with a gentle stubble walked up. He stifled a huge yawn when he saw the boy that escaped had returned with two adults in tow. He looked about Reiki’s age, but his deep baritone voice had a few telltale signs. 


Wait a second… THAT’S A DWARF!

Reiki’s screamed to himself internally. 


He looks so… normal. Human-like even. Guess the stereotypes aren’t always true. Plus, he’s a good looking guy too.


The dwarf went through all their cells, using a poorly made pile of paper to describe what each one of them is good at. The list was small but detailed. Upon seeing all the kids, the lady accidentally let slip a display of her true, almost motherly side at the poor conditions the kids were in. Geordo even picked up on this subtle change. 


Are you sure you’re here to get a slave?’


Oh, definitely Geordo. It looks like the one we’re specifically looking for isn’t here though.’ 


The woman attempted to place a hand on his shoulder, hopefully giving off that she was gentle enough to only do housework. However, due to Geordo and his team being on edge, he briefly took this to mean something else. Raising his hand to pinch the bridge of his nose, he let out a breath he didn’t know he had been holding.


Ey-ey, wotcha hands Miss… Come to think of it, I never caught your names.’


Oh, that’s on me! I’m Reya. Reya Mei.’


And I’m Brend Neuman. We’re good friends.’


Reiki noticed that the two of them didn’t courtesy or bow when introducing themselves. The guy had shown a mischievous glint along with one side of hi mouth raising into a smirk. Despite being adventurers, they didn’t show any signs of either politeness or hostility due to it being a shady part of town that they were in. 


Right this way then, if you will, Miss Mei.’ 


Reiki couldn’t help but chuckle a little at the choice of words. Not out loud, but in his mind. He hoped he was portraying himself as a “well-behaved slave”. The halls he’d just escaped from continued just a little further, where they came across a strangely well-cleaned and highly maintained room just like here they had been discussing earlier. 


They sat down to talk about potential choices and they brought in an even mix of boys and girls. One of them stood out from the rest. That was the girl he’d bonded with earlier; between another girl with blonde, shoulder-length hair and a boy with auburn hair and long bangs covering one of his eyes. 


Her wrists had remnants of red marks. Reiki’s mind immediately thought of the straps that held her down. The girl’s eyes glistened briefly as she spotted him. He was a little captivated by how well they managed to clean her up from the tattered clothing she had previously been in. They must have some women on staff to tend to all the kids. 


Here’s today’s selection. One is currently under pre-order by an anonymous client, but we’re using her to display how our services are top class. I hope at least some of these slave today are to your liking, Master Neuman and Miss Mei. As the Head Trader, I hope there’s one we can come to an agreement over.’ 


When the Head Trader flicked his wrist and waved towards himself, the girl who’d recognised him stopped staring absentmindedly at him and stepped forward. When she bowed, only Reiki had noticed a circular mark on her neck that was previously hidden by her hair. This mark was on the opposite side to both the host and the two adventurers, so they were unable to see it. 


Letting out a sigh, he shifted his sight to the corner of a piece of yellow parchment that seemed to poke out of a small bag on Reya’s belt. The young lad only just twigged the two adventurers were using false names, as the two letters he could barely make out were “R” and “E”. 


On second thought, it looks like the girl we were looking for seems to be here. We should be grateful, instead of heading to the other place we were heading to. Isn’t that right, Brand?’


I bet we were gonna get some cheapskate price too... We’re lucky we found you Geordo.’


I’m grateful to be in your service, you two. I would like to know who it was that had said their service had our merchandise.’ 


His left eyebrow twitched wildly at the thought of someone else in the same business saying they had his merchandise. To Reiki, who imagined how this was to play out from here, the two adventurers both seemed as if they’d found their chosen target; the girl he’d made some kind of friendship with. But the moment was short-lived. 


Without any notice, two hooded figures came from the doorway to the corridor and fell to the floor. The walls shook from the force of the door opening and the two were breathing heavily. 


Boss, you gotta help us.’


Yeah, what ‘e said!’ 


This only caused Geordo’s anger to erubesce his face. He was trying hard to keep his emiton down whilst in front of his potential customers, albeit fake customers at that. 


One of the Guild Members was watching the alley these two came down when following you and they saw us coming from it and attempted to chase us down. We think we lost ‘em, but we didn’t look back to check.’


This just made his anger boil even further and it was almost as if stream was about to billow from his ears. Then, calming himself down, he rested his head in his hands for a few seconds then pinched the bridge if his nose once more. 


Get everyone here to watch the Topside. We don’t want them finding out there’s more than one secret entrance to these cells.’


Onnit Boss!’ The fitter figure huffed, fixing his garment and snuck out the door.


Right. I guess it’s time for this merchandise to come with me.’ He grabs the wrist of the girl still standing forward and begins to storm out of the room. ‘Forgive me for this, but it looks like I’ll have t–’ 


He froze when he turned around to see the longsword and a gently glowing rapier pointed directly at his throat. Both the girl and Reiki weren’t expecting this to happen. A few beads of sweat slid down the Head’s face, before an awkward smirk darkened the atmosphere in the room. 


Out of nowhere, a black mist enveloped the room and it blocked the sight of mostly everyone in the room. The one person who could just see a vague haze of the surroundings and other people in teh room in the mist was none other than Geordo himself. Without knowing it, the boy closed his eyes and tried to focus his sense of direction based on his mental image of the girl. 


The world slowed ever so slightly, but enough that his senses heightened to the point that his hearing enhanced just enough to roughly sense the room around him. By this time, the girl had been dragged out of the room yet the black mist still filled the room.


I need to get to the girl.


Pushing out his senses andfueled with an adrenaline rush of the sudden smokescreen from nowhere, he felt like he could not only sense the room, but

feelit. It was as if his sense of touch and perception heightened wildly mixed in with the adrenaline and he. Opening his eyes, it was still pitch black, but his mind perfectly overlaid a three-dimensional mental map of the room. 


This is wild. It feels… It feels like a gentle hand… or a thin cloth enveloping everything in my surroundings. This feels surreal. But first things first; I need to save that girl. She’s in danger if she stays here. Including everyone else down below.


Despite dwelling on his thoughts, he didn’t know what to do. As the sensory phenomena subsided, he still felt the want to race after the guy who had a vice grip on her wrist. His blood boiled aat the thought of any harm coming to such a gentle girl. The black veil suddenly lifted leaving only the two adventurers in the room with him. 


The male adventurer didn’t start with any pleasantries and immediately went to knock down the only door into the room. No good. It wouldn’t budge an inch, no matter how much effort he put into it. During their attempts to escape, Reiki’s blood began to boil at the thought that Geordo was going to take her somewhere he couldn’t possibly find her in, and then sell her to his private customer. He wanted, no, wished he could get to her as fast as he could possibly run.


He barely registered a window that popped up, swiping it away after briefly reading what was displayed. The energy in the room seemed to slowly drift towards the young boy, who stared at the door for what felt to him for a long few seconds when he started sprinting. 


To the two adventurers with him, one second they saw him glaring at the door as if daring it to burn from his gaze alone. The next, a sudden trail of vibrant, neon-green lightning stalks blasted backwards from the spot he was just standing in and connected straight through the door. The guy who had just stopped swinging twitched a little as a tip of a bolt grazed his elbow as they quickly faded into the door. 


At this exact moment, everything but the boy had slowed to a measly crawl no faster than a raindrop falling a centimetre. Relatively speaking, over the span of two seconds. Because he had reacted without thinking, and with his mind in a frenzy, his newly wished for ability to run to a place as quickly as possible had manifested itself and had briefly allowed him to phase through the door... and whatever had been blocking it. 


Finally noticing a strange sense of speed wash through his body, he stood still just down the corridor and looked back. Two large boxes had ever so slowly started to lift from the floor. On either side of the boxes, two unknown assailants appeared to be slowly knocked back by a wall of something invisible. It took him a relative time of two minutes, by which the bottom box had lifted twenty-five centimetres into the air.


Solidifying his resolve, his brows tighten and his eye glinted with determination. As he was about to reach the cells, his ability slowly disabled itself as he stumbled down onto the floor. As soon as he fell to the floor, a boom went off behind him and he cradled his head. He peered out from his obstructed face after the shockwave blew past him, to see various kids in different coloured and battered clothing. They started to move from protecting the younger kids. 


I’m glad they weren’t affected by that. I think I took the worst of it.


Hey, mister! What was that?!’


I don’t know buddy, but I do know one thing; those guards are out for the count.’


He had looked at the two guards when he added that second part. The boxes that had blocked the door had exploded into small fragments. In some places, it had even become sawdust. A spark or two of green lightning snaked across the tiles around the two bulky, unconscious men. Raising his hand, Reiki closed his eyes and focused on the electricity. He could feel it snaking around, but it was fading quickly. 


Don’t think I have that ability yet. Wait, no, she’s the top priority right now.


His eyes glinted again, this time accompanied by small sparks zapping briefly at the edges as his mouth widened into a mischievous but gentle smirk. To the kids who’d made it to the bars of their cells, the only thing they saw was him standing there one second, then a flash of green lightning at the same time all their cell doors opened simultaneously. 


Most were in shock. Two of the oldest kids stepped out cautiously, their eyes bugging out of their heads and a single bead of sweat rolled down their cheeks as they saw the guards nowhere to be seen. They walked closer to the door, only to find the cells on either side with each of them bound and gagged somehow. The two of them agreed to keep it to themselves until the door opened up from the inside and the two adventurers walked out of it. 


Meanwhile, as they were getting consoled by the two adventurers, the speed of the young man had been breathtaking to him. He’d been running around looking for the girl, but somehow, two assailants with wide, devious grins on their faces had escaped his sight. In the time since helping the kids escape, he’d stumbled a lot. His energy was not ready for what he was doing and he’d turned ihis new ability off to save some energy. 


During this moment with a lack of superspeed, two other assailants who had been watching from the side had hidden themselves to wait for that exact moment. Right now, he was being carried to the man who had orchestrated the entire system. He cursed himself for letting his guard down. Just having an ability doesn’t mean you’ll always get it right the first time after all.


You’re coming with us, twerp. I think the boss would love to see you.’


Oh good, I was wondering where he went.’


The guy who spoke to him huffed and rolled his shoulders a little. He wasn’t expecting that response. As he was being hustled forward he could feel his body, albeit tired, starting to regain some strength and stamina. Closing his eyes, he focused on the image of the girl in his head. 


I wish I had the strength to save you…


[if only I could see where you are.]


[…e-ehh? Wh-who’s doing that?]


Reiki’s head snapped up almost instantly as he was dragged into a darkened room. He focused again on that sudden sensation and the voice. The sides of his mouth turned up when he realised what was happening.


[Calm down, it’s me. The boy from earlier. This is happening between our minds.]


As if sensing her calm down, he sensed a tightness on his own wrist briefly appear. But nobody had grabbed him there, as he was being lowered by the armpits into a chair. He waited for them to go before seeing another window briefly flash up to him saying he just unlocked an ability. 


Huh. Two abilities in one day.


As he tried to imagine his abilities, a large wooden door swung open slowly and got his attention. The creaking echoed into the large open space. He saw Geordo enter the room, along with the girl. The two men who’d escorted Him into the room briefly bowed, dropped to a knee and a palm touching their foreheads, pinkie and middle fingers raised, before taking their leave through the open door. 


[… Can you still hear me?]


[…Ye- Yes. I- uh, I’m here. They’ve roped you up good over there.]


Geordo placed her in a seat on a stage Reiki hadn’t noticed until just now.


[Listen to me carefully, do you know if any adventurers are on the way?]


[um… I saw the two who were with you, but it looked like he convinced them to leave. I don’t want to be sold. I want to get out of here.]


[You can trust me, okay? I promise you we’ll get out of this.]


[Wait, tell me yo—]


I’m gonna have to figure out how to hide my telepathy. It’s going to be a brilliant trump card someday.


He broke the mental connection, which she noticed instantly. His attention briefly lapsed, but his attention turned to the pompous man before him.


Listen here boy, you shouldn’t be able to escape this time.’ 


Yeah, like escaping wasn’t that hard earlier. Barely any guards around. Almost like it was a piece of cake!’


Oh, we have a bragger here! Let me teach you a lesson, Boy.’


Before he could react he briefly heard a scream of distress as a ringing appeared in his ears and a heavy sting appeared on his cheek. Surprisingly, his pain was short-lived. Whatever had hit him just moments before now felt like a child had slapped him.


What, that’s not right! I backhanded your face with an enchanted leather glove! That obedience spell should’ve worked!’ 


Before he could respond, he felt a small woozy sensation briefly make an appearance, before a strong metallic taste flooded his mouth. He turn his head away from where he saw the girl and expelled the taste from his mouth. A puddle of blood glittered with a mixture of yellow and purple sparkles. Of which faded away into the air. 


NO! He’s immune?! But nobody’s ever been immune to that spell!’


Suck it up, fatty. Now then, let’s do things my way.’ 


The corners of his mouth curled up a little as he stood up from his chair. 


That’s not right! They tied him down! How is he standing?!


Let’s begin, shall we? Let’s see if I can undo my shackles.’


The whites of his eyes widened, and his previously shocked expression turned into one of pure terror. The clanks of the metal casing used to bind his legs and hands together reverberated around the room. A bright green, electrifying aura briefly glowed from Reiki’s body as Geordo watched in fear as his eyes were drawn to his ankles.


For some reason, he couldn’t focus on them. They looked out of focus, and as he stepped forward, they seemed to pass through the shackles on his feet before coming back into focus.


OI! I NEED HELP!’


The volume of the yell didn’t phase the boy. Until the other battle-ready thugs of the illegal activities started to make their way into the room. Despite having an unaffected grin, he was panicking internally.


That’s more than I could handle earlier. I don’t think I have the time to knoc—

DON’T GIVE UP! I BELIEVE IN YOU! PLEASE GET ALL OF US OUT OF HERE!’


That sudden shout from the girl who was terrified of the situation widened his eyes. He changed his stare at the guys before him into a glare that made even the stronger wince in fear. His aura returned, sparking all over his body, before he vanished in a puff of air. A sudden maze of electric green lightning suddenly appeared out of thin air. Geordo suddenly went flying into one of the wall.


Whuh?! What the f—’


To the thugs, their boss went from standing before the child, then suddenly seeing him embedded in a wall, upside down, back exposed and unconscious. The neon-electric walls of electricity slowly moved closer to them and they immediately turned tail to escape the strange ability before them.


However, as soon as they found themselves outside the different warehouse, a group of about nine adventurers were all standing there, abilities at the ready and mid-march. Almost as if they were about to raid them that very moment. 


We’re screwed.’ 


Meanwhile, as the group of thugs were outside, Reiki had seen this as an opportunity and managed to gather all of the kids from the cells into the large open space. He had also locked Geordo up in the cell with the thickest bars and most-complicated looking lock system he could find.


After a short while, he found his energy draining as he made his way to the room with the last two kids in tow; the girl on his back and the boy in his arms he saved from earlier. Luck was on their side when he made it into the room; the female adventurer from earlier forced the door to open as quickly as possible on its creaky, well-worn, rusted hinges. 


Right everyone, make sure you— huh?!’


She raced forward to catch Reiki struggling, without his superspeed, to carry the two children. He was barely awake from all the effort he’d just gone through moving everyone from their cells to the room. 


I… did… I did it. I… I got…’


He only uttered those last few words before he conked out in the adventurer’s arms. He missed her questions entirely as the rest of her team entered the room.


…Did what? Wait, did you do this?!’


Her colleague came over and noticed who she cradled in her arms. He placed a hand on her shoulder as she stood up, carrying him gently. The two shared a silent gaze, with a smile, shared between them. 


He needs to be rewarded.’


Let’s tell him what he’s done when he wakes up.’


Sure thing.’