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Apex ch3
waterwindow

Tōngguò xīnzàng bīng.” Leng's arrow glowed blue and bright and he let it fly. It skewered the gorilla through the heart, freezing it solid mid-rampage. But no time to rest – there were more. They were surrounded.

His sister slashed open the head of a beast with her razor sharp, enchanted skates and floated down alongside her Da Ge. “I'm beginning to wonder if we are not invited here.”

Her brother smiled as he fired off arrows left and right. “You would think they could be more understanding.”

Xiao Jin laughed and grabbed an arrow from her brother's quiver and jabbed it deep in a gorilla's eye. It recoiled with a roar. “They nest like any other ape. And they are even stupider.”

Let us leave, sister – before their numbers grow too great.”

I thought that was what we were doing already!” She grabbed her brother under the man's arms and glided up into the air – barely dodging around the gorillas following them up the trees. “There's the mountain!”

Their map had led them to a towering peak – it was still weeks off for any mere travelers. But they were seasoned and fearless. Xiao Jin estimated they'd reach it in less than five days, if there was no incident. Even less time if this angry pack of animals decided to chase them the rest of the way.

Xiao Jin grunted, her hands clutching her brother began to weaken. “Da Ge, I can't fly much longer.”

This is fine. I think we confused them too much for them to chase us.” Leng spotted a clearing. “Let's settle there and see how far we can run before sunset.”

Xiao Jin couldn't help but sigh, she strongly disliked running. They seemed to be doing quite a bit of it since they entered this strange land of endless night. They landed in the clearing and her Da Ge grabbed her hand before unceremoniously dragging her into the woods. He held the map out in front of him and activated it. “We will most likely run into Qing Ting any day now,” she panted hopefully.

If he still lives – most definitely,” Leng called back, letting go of his sister once she matched his pace.

Don't speak like that! He lives, Da Ge! I just know it!”

Suddenly Leng ran right into something – no, someone - who screamed in shock. Xiao Jin saw a flash of colorful fabric before tumbling right over the two of them.

Hartley stopped in his tracks and pulled Roy back just in time to save him from joining the dog pile. They had been traveling at a steady pace – trying to avoid the far off sounds of an angry pack of giant gorillas – Giovanni leading the way. But that's when something unexpected happened.

A man and a woman came galloping through the woods and ran right overtop of their good Jester. Roy would have laughed if it wasn't so... random. He stepped forward and helped the woman up. “Um... hello.”

><><><

Ah haha...” The man who called himself Qing Ting laughed quietly to himself, seemingly at nothing.

Samuel looked up from his roasted mushroom on a stick and glared. “What? This one is edible. I'm positive.”

At this point I dunnae care if it makes me see lassies in th' lake or turns me nose green – Me stomach's bout t' start a mutiny.” Ewan gazed longingly at the vegetable.

Qing Ting broke from his thoughts, [Hm? Oh, yes you can eat those. Forgive me, I was laughing at something else.]

What? Another one of your creepy visions?” Sam licked his lips and poked the shroom off the stick into Ewan's eager hand.

[Yes. It was of my lovely wife. She is doing well.]

'Ow bout insteada spyin on yer girlfriend, yeh take a look inta our future fer a change. This savin’ the world crap aint aboota do itself.” He chewed his grilled mushroom and sighed.

You're welcome,” Sam sighed, sticking the rest of his humble crop onto the stick and holding it over the flame.

Thank yeeeww,” Ewan cooed, rolling his eyes.

How about the two of you mighty hunters go catch us some real food?” Sam growled.

[Most of the wildlife was driven from this place long ago by the beasts. But we will run into some animals tomorrow.] Qing Ting reassured.

Aye the beasties. Too bad we cannea et them. They're plenty enough.”

They're easy to kill too. I can see why Sir Psychic would want to travel with someone of our kind. Light magic drives them off faster than bees drive off picnickers.”

[Verily.] Qing Ting agreed, accepting a mushroom from the duke. [I have people who care about me. It was my intention for all of us to travel together... but events transpired more swiftly than I had predicted. I had to put self-preservation at the top of my priorities.]

Weeeell it's nice tae know we're the best candidates fae preservin yeh'” Ewan relaxed against his pack with a satisfied sigh, turning his face up to the black sky. His gut told him it was mid-morning, but it was impossible to tell here. “Qing Ting, gotta ask – if ye've been o'er 'ere so long, since yeh traveled ahead of yer lass and 'er brother. Why'dya nae learn any plain English spech.”

I could ask you the same question.” Samuel muttered, blowing on his smoking shroom. Ewan elbowed his leg, “Owch!”

[That wasn't at the top of my priorities,] the other declared. [Besides, this method of communication suits me best: It takes no effort and allows me to focus my energies on other things. Such as saving you before becoming monkey food. Or killing each other, whichever came first.]

I'm assuming your wife and her brother lack this ability.” Sam chewed slowly, rubbing his leg and glaring. It wasn't too late to kill Ewan - no matter how chummy they got.

[No, but I made sure they studied before they arrived – they're going to need it for the remainder of their journey.] Qing Ting smirked slightly and lay back on the ground, [It will be interesting. I wish I was there to witness it firsthand.]

><><><

Owch!” The woman with long golden hair kicked out with shocking speed – slashing at Roy's face with the strange blades strapped to her feet, “Dà Gē, qǐchuáng!”

Hartley blinked rapidly and shook his head, grabbing Roy back by the back of his shirt. “She's chewing what?”

Not English.” The artist winced and held the cut on his cheek.

Suddenly the parka clad man she was with jumped up and clashed with Giovanni. The jester's circular ring blade deflected a deadly looking serrated knife. “HUAH!” Leng hooked his knife in the ring and yanked it out of Gio's hand before lunging at him.

Whoa whoa whoa!!” Giovanni kicked his attacker overhead and rolled to his feet, he grabbed a handful of firecrackers and tossed them in Leng's face. He slapped them down and tackled Gio again.

Everybody just calm down...!” Roy hand was in his bag, fingering a powder pack for just that, but there was no need. When the strange assailant saw their golden card clutched Giovanni's hand, he gasped and recoiled. Leng's hand flew to his pocket and retrieved his own map, “Xiǎo, Tā shì qízhōng de yīgè-”

Hartley shook his head and winced a bit. “Still not English,” Roy reassured quietly.

Giovanni gasped, “Holy shit.” Roy had been telling the truth! There were more than one.

><><><

Xaio Jin pulled her brother from the fray, “Listen to them Da Ge! It's the English. Qing Ting told us to prepare for this! These are warriors of same quest. We were destined to cross paths with them.”

Ah yes – that odd language his Xaio made him learn. He grimaced and looked down at her.

She stopped, “You... did study it didn't you...?” her eyes narrowed.

........ yes....?”

She groaned and slapped her head, “Da Ge! It was your duty! You said it would be no problem!! We drew straws!”

I know it! I know it!” he gasped, stepping forward, “I know English! Calm down.”

><><><

Hello.”

Okay, that was English.” Hartley pointed.

Hello.” Roy pulled Giovanni back and stepped forward – these fools had no manners.

The stranger straightened out his tunic and glanced back at the woman before turning to the trio sternly, “...... How are you?”

How.... what? Okay... “Um... I'm fine.”

Leng forced a small smile and pointed at Gio, “Yellow.”

...what?”

His finger jabbed from Roy to Hartley. “Black, Green. Foot, leg, arm. Good. Yes? No.”

Roy laughed and held his head, glancing around at the others. Leng turned back to his sister and smiled encouragingly. She didn't seem convinced.

RUN!!” Hartley suddenly screamed, grabbing Gio and turning into the woods.

Roy didn't need to be told twice, the pack of gorillas crashing through the brush was incentive enough.

Run! Yes!” Leng grabbed Xaio Jin and together they sprint after them.

....Báichī.” she groaned.

><><><

Cold sea water splashed onto Marcello's face and he coughed and sputtered awake. “That's enough sleep.”

It was night, and they were still on the beach. The pirates had set up camp – fish were roasting on the fire, thanks to the Captain's surly first-mate. The wizard lay on his side, tied to the still-unconscious alchemist. It would make sense that they would keep him unconscious, being as he could break from his bounds easily. What Marcello didn't understand - and what he was still amazingly grateful for - was why they were still alive. The steady rise and fall of Alberich's back against his own gave him solace.

Seoirse crouched down and held up their map, “What is this?”

Marcello's eyes focused on it. “It's....” It was made of gold – these were pirates. “Garbage.”

The captain smirked and inclined his head, revealing his second hand from behind – in it was an identical card.

Let me tell you a story. A poor boy, cast from his tribe for the color of his hair, set out on his own. He became a pirate, just a lowly cabin boy of a small ship. Looked to make a man of himself, climb up the ladder of success. But one day – his crew came upon a massive treasure. Mountains of gold. Crowns, rings, coins – plenty of everything. But... There was only one of these.” He flicked the card at Marcello's face. It bounced off and landed in the sand.

That boy waited until his crew was passed out drunk from celebrating their find before slitting all their throats and tossing their bodies into the sea. With his gold and wit, he bought an even finer ship – hired a large crew. Supplies enough to last a journey of a life time.” He slid his thumb over the red mark and the map came to life. “Because, though that boy had come to possess everything he could possibly have desired... There was still one thing that plagued him so... Something he had to know.”

Marcello grit his teeth and glared as harshly as he dared.

So tell me... To what lengths have you gone – what have you sacrificed to reach the end of this map.” He whispered, his breath was enough to make the wizard gag. “Because I lost everything. My grand ship. Every crew mate. Every speck of treasure. Every speck of pride. What did you loose for this – tell me. I'm curious...”

The wizard's adam's apple bobbed stiffly. He didn't know why – maybe it was the fact that his life and that of his best friend hung in the balance, but every word of the Captain's tale fell on him like a weight. He sunk back and let silence envelope him.

Well?”

Haeta stood up and walked around the fire. He didn't understand what his captain was playing at, but it wasn't really his concern either. Two mages would be useful on their travels – obviously they know the terrain better, if only for being a little bit more local. The pyro stared up the cliff face. It was quite high. He wondered how much further this beach went on before the tide swallowed it up. Another one of those mysterious black storms circled only just inward of it. He also wondered if these phenomena expand over time. They definitely didn't seem to be going away.

A flash of color caught his eye – that was odd. The wizard called for help earlier. Were there more? Those were definitely people up there. They danced around the edge and turned back into the woods. Five of them.

Hm.... Captain....”

GROOOAAAARRHH!!”

Unexpectedly, following the figures, a huge gorilla viciously ripped from the brush up on the sea cliffs and fell. The three of them watched the beast tumble down the cliff side and land in the sand with a hard THUD.

It was little more than a black pile of fur on the beach. Seoirse stood up slowly, gathered the two maps into his pocket. All was silent.

The captain pursed his lips, brows climbing his forehead. “.... Well.... That was....”

ROAAAARRH!!” In an explosion of sand, the monster sprang to life and bellowed. Pounding its chest – flinging dirt and logs everywhere in anger before turning on the camp. It didn't hesitate to gallop towards them, screaming its rage loud enough to make their ears ring.

Marcello started to struggle, “Cut the ropes – untie us...!”

Blast!” The captain slung a boomerang – it sailed through the air and planted itself in the monster's shoulder – not even slowing it down.

Untie us! Please! CAPTAIN PLEASE!!!”

The two pirates scattered, leaving Marcello and his unconscious Albert to be trampled by the beast. It fell on them, huge hands slamming down in the sand ferociously. Marc felt himself grabbed like a hog-tied calf and tossed into the air. The bounds were jerked loose by the force, but he didn't realize until after he landed in the shallow surf. His chest thumped on the packed sand and he flailed wildly to find the surface. Air knocked out of him, he barely clamored free of the tide before collapsing into the sand, wheezing for air, “Alberich...!!”

He watched in waterlogged horror as his friend was grabbed by the arm in the jowls of the beast and shook like a doll. The pain was enough to wake the alchemist and he screamed.

The pirates were back now, the large one swinging flaming poi like nunchucks. He beat the beast's back and it burst into flames, releasing Alberich and turning to attack it's assailants.

Marcello dug his feet into the sand and ran for his partner. Bravely dodging around the flaming gorilla and dragging Alberich away by his uninjured arm. “No...! No..!!” The bite – Alberich's arm, he could see it, black and swollen like it'd already begun to rot. The stories were true.

Boomerangs sailed over their heads, followed by Seoirse, placing himself between them and the ape. His weapons lodged themselves in the ape's head and the creature's flailing finally died down. It fell into a burning heap.

Alberich coughed and looked up at his partner in shock, “What- what happened – I'm... Marcello I think it bit me...”

YOU MONSTERS!” Marcello cried, holding Alberich's head in his lap as the alchemist heaved, frothing at the mouth – aside himself with horrible pain. God, it had all happened so fast. “You just left us to die...!! You've killed him!!”

Seoirse turned. “Hold your tongue! We saved your lives!”

Marcello jumped up and ran at the pirate, gripping his coat and shaking him. “YOU DAMN FOOLS! You don't know anything!! You don't know what you've done!!”

Alberich rolled over with a gurgle, gripping his mangled arm. Everything sounded muffled behind his clamoring heartbeat. Black hair was already springing up around the wound. He turned his reddening eyes to Marcello and the pair.

You don't know what you've done...!” The wizard fell to his knees and sobbed, “My very best friend..!!”

One thing entered the alchemist's mind then.

With perfect clarity he turned his eyes to his hand and followed it to his shoulder. Nails dug into his own flesh – skin burning skin. A silent scream boiled in the pit of his stomach.

Those things...! Their bite - it turns mere men into ruthless monsters – you don't understand..!” The smell of the burning animal masked the flesh melting from the Alchemist's bone.

Bites that can what??” Haeta slapped himself all over, checking for any wounds.

Relax, it never touched you. But I....” Seoirse sneer at the wizard's hysterics turned into a gape of awe – he jabbed an elbow into his first-mate's side and they both stared ahead. “...don't....”

Alberich pulled himself out of the sand. Standing with his left hand outstretched – grasping his severed arm. Blood squirted out of his bloody stump of a shoulder and soaked into the sand.

Bloody....” Seoirse stepped back. Haeta looked a little sick.

Marcello twisted around and froze in shock, “A-alberich...”

The Alchemist dropped the severed limb heavily and swayed, “I.... think I'll be okay now....” His eyes rolled back in his head and he crumpled down into a heap.

><><><

It wasn't perfect. But then, tears spark sympathetic actions: Haeta thrusting his hand into the camp fire for a handful of embers to cauterize Alberich's wound, Roy's jovial attitude towards their new comrades and their lack of English words between them.

Compromise.

Acceptance.

They were working together despite their differences in the face of great adversity. And while it was taking its toll, their fates were slowly intertwining. Eobard rest against a rock and gazed down the mountainside. It was an odd thing to be proud of. Carefully culling each and every one of their entire lives for this very moment. He didn't know what to feel. He didn't want to hope, it wasn't really his style. But he wasn't prepared to die... not like this.

Just hurry up...” He pressed his palms against his eye sockets and stood up – time was running out for him. Eobard decided to speed things up a bit, digging his feet in the dirt and jumped ahead a few weeks.

><><><

I pick-pocketed some artist,” Ewan explained, helping Samuel up the mountainside.

Really? That's – argh – really odd,” he panted, falling heavily against a rock.

'Ow's tha?”

I don't know – for some reason I thought you were just... destined to have it. Like you woke up with it or something of that flavor.” The duke pulled himself up a higher ledge and turned to give Ewan a hand. “In your little tribal hut – and that's why you came to Centrala – following the map.”

The Scot laughed heartily, “Wow, nae nae tha's not why I came to Centrala. I came for yeh yee wee silly.”

Sam blinked and gripped Ewan's arm. “What?”

It was odd that he was only just admitting this now, but he supposed after all they went though, there was no point in hiding it, “D'yeh never think it odd that we're the only light mages we've ever seen? I caught wind there were men who specialized in light magicks there and well... I guess there was only yeh.

But the map? That was just luck o' th' draw I s'pose.”

[He was destined to have it either way.] Qing Ting's voice was as loud as ever in their head, despite him being quite a bit further up than them.

Then what about the artist?” Sam grunt and pulled Ewan's girth up the ledge.

[His destiny lied with others. We'll meet them soon enough. The path splits down there that leads east.]

Sam turned and sure enough, there it was. A winding path that led right up the mountain. It was almost too perfect – flat and steady, like someone had come and constructed it prior to them. “Why are you taking the hard way, again?”

About a mile up, Qing Ting stopped his climbing, holding strong to a steep cliff-side. He had begun the trek a day before his partners – they needed rest. But this detour he was on would take too much time with them to slow him down. He forewent rest to make the climb – it was his duty and his alone. Though the sheer mountain face was a dizzying height below him, he wasn't the kind to get motion sick. And besides, he was almost there.

[I'll join you again soon. There's something important I have to find first. Something key to saving us all.]

Sam held the map out and followed the path, gazing up the mountain – he couldn't see Qing Ting anymore – the man was long gone from view, “Are you sure you'll find your way without the map?”

[Don't worry about me.] Qing Ting's hand slipped and he yelped, body flailing wildly, suspended by one arm. Rocks tumbled down into the abyss – sweat rolled down his face. He dangled there, heaving loudly, trying to catch his breath.

With a huge amount of effort, he forced himself back up, regaining his footing before continuing his climb, [I know what to do...]

Keep talkin to us won't yeh? Make sure yoo're 'lright.”

[No...]

He closed his mind off from his comrades then. He needed to concentrate on his climbing. It was so close. The thing they needed – he could feel it. Black wind picked up again and howled against his back – every second felt like an agonizing eternity. Every place his hands fell left a bloody mark on the stone. His nails were cracked and half were missing, his skin was broken and bleeding. But it was okay. Everything was seated on this, the ledge was within sight. And in that sight lay the end.

All his visions stopped here. With a mighty heave, he dragged himself up to flat ground. And just like that – there it was. Just as he envisioned. A small graveyard of rusty metal relics. Casings of blue light, all from different eras. Failed loops in the time stream.

Something was magical about this place. Like the grass had frozen mid-growth. Every relic crash landed here like echoes of apocalypses past. Qing Ting crawled to the one they would need. This one was the freshest, shining bright like a lantern, where all the others had long faded.

Qing Ting coughed and rolled over on his back. His head was screaming – pounding with pain, he could taste blood in his mouth. There was no more time. He clutched it to his chest and closed his eyes, dragging himself to his feet. Blood rolled off his tongue sticky strings, Qing Ting hacked and spat.

Great power at a great price.

But that was okay. It was all for her.

Xaio Jin.” His feet drug themselves to the ledge. In one arm clutched the relic, in the other clasped a long flowing golden braid.

His mind on the bridge of snapping – everything was flooding into him too quickly. All control was slipping away and in these last moments, knowledge filled him to the brim. This was a power cell. The being at the top of the mountain was from another dimension, Central City, Keystone, Professor Zoom, Everything was wrong, they were all wrong - Mick, Len, Digger, Sam, Evan, Mark, Al, Roy, Hartley, James, Lisa... All changed, paths forged together, out of selfish preservation for this Eobard creature.

Lisa...”

He wanted them to live. He wanted their world to go on. No matter how wrong and out of place it was. All this time they were all just tools – a means to an end. But none of it mattered now. Because he did his part. Here it was – the missing piece of the cosmic treadmill.

Wǒ ài nǐ” Qing Ting's mind burnt out at last, like snuffing a candle. And his body fell into the abyss.

><><><

Xaio Jin's screams echoed from the base of the mountain to its peak.

In a world where the sky grew darker every day, where black wind howls and beasts outnumber men, a great destiny drew to a close. A blind journey shared by a small multitude of travelers from all walks of the earth. Drawn by the prospect of a tomorrow. With each step any hopes of finding God or Riches were drawn back like a curtain. A pool of blood surrounding a man who gave up everything for the people he loved served to highlight that.

His gift of sight had shattered his mind and his bones to follow. In another life, a life without love or family, Qing Ting was just an odd man with a knack for spinning tops and guessing the future. But his love for Xaio pushed him too far – pushed him to see the end of the world and sacrifice everything to stop it. He knew his role was preordained at the end. He knew a man from another universe named Eobard Thawne was responsible.

But he hadn't cared. In fact, he was grateful.

Giovanni, Roy, Hartley and Leng stood stock-still as his sister cried over the crushed corpse of her husband.

><><><

Somewhere along the way, Alberich got sick of climbing rocks and flattened out a straight path for them to follow with his powers – which unbeknownst to their little band, turned out to be quite convenient for their fellow travelers.

Do you need to rest?” Marcello fret, glancing back at their pirate fellows, who were huffing and puffing at the altitude, “Er... do you two need to rest?”

Shut up and.... huff... puff.... keep making the path...!” Seorise gasped, leaning heavily on Heata's shoulder, “We're so close to the end... I can taste it! My whole... bloody life... is comin’ to this!”

Alberich adjusted his cloak and continued forward, the craggy rocks melding to stairs at his will, “I don't need rest either.”

Heata felt a little sorry for his captain – the air was especially thin up here. But the exhaustion wasn't what bogged him down most, personally. It was the ominous pitch-black hurricane circling around the apex of this mountain. It certainly didn't look pleasant. The prospect of treasure seemed to be getting dimmer the closer they got. The wizard seemed to think something up there would prevent the world from ending. While he wanted to believe what the Captain did with all his heart, Marcello's theory did seem far more likely at this point.

How much closer are we?” Alberich called back over the howling wind.

Marcello activated the map and blinked. “It's... just around that bend!” He pointed ahead.

Seorise couldn't believe his ears – he pushed himself off Heata and ran for Alberich, shoving his shoulders, “Hurry up then you bloody alchemist!!”

Marcello grabbed the ginger by the scruff of his shirt and punched him viciously across the face. “You stay away from him!!”

Haeta put himself between the two and knocked Marcello down with little effort.

Stop fighting already!” Alberich shouted, turning on the three, holding up his glowing hand, “Or you'll ALL be armless!”

That threat always seemed to work. Especially on the pirates, who were whipped right into shape almost instantly – falling back.

Alberich stared down at Marcello as he dragged himself back to his feet. “Heh... thanks.”

The alchemist simply turned back to his task, sighing deeply.

What happened to Alberich some weeks ago changed him. Marcello wasn't sure he liked the change. His friend seemed more willing to abuse his powers in any situation. And he barely spoke. He was hard and cold behind the eyes and regularly saw fit to abuse and threaten the pirates. There was never a harsh word towards Marcello himself, but that didn't extinguish the aura of dread. It was like they both knew and mutually agreed whose fault all this was.

And it certainly wasn't Alberich's.

We're here.”

All eyes turned up then, to a sight none other had ever seen before.

><><><

Welcome.” Eobard held his arms out to the last group to arrive.

Xaio Jin held the strange device under her arm, standing alongside her brother, and the three foreigners they'd run into along the way. This man was garbed in gold, the very symbol on the cards was marked on his chest. Truly they had arrived.

Hello,” Leng offered enthusiastically, only to be snuffed out by a harsh glare from his sister.

After the awe passed, Roy stepped forward into the clearing. There were so many people here. All looked to be of different walks, most of which were crouched around a device he'd never seen before. Wait a minute, was that Duke Samuel? He was seated alongside the Scottish bandit Ewan! And there was the Weather Wizard! And – he couldn't believe his eyes - the King's Alchemist! Roy had been a royal painter – it was amazing to see a familiar face from the Castle.

Alberich Diez!” The artist sprinted forward, arms outstretched.

Al blinked and looked up from his work on the treadmill and stood, “Roy...?”

HAHAHA! My eyes have never seen a sweeter sight!” The alchemist found himself nearly tackled to the ground and hugged for all his worth. “You cannot believe the hell I've been through! Sweet sweet familiar face!” He stopped and let Alberich go. “I don't think it's possible, but I dare say you've lost even more weight!”

Marcello stopped his tinkering as well and gave the artist the stink-eye.

But unexpectedly, Alberich smiled and pulled his cloak to the side, revealing his amputated state.

I- Oh....!” Roy stepped back. Apparently it was nothing compared to the hell the other had been through.

No treasure!” came a pathetic wail. “Nothin’ but JUNK! Junk'sfar as the eye can see. Look at all the junk!!” Seorise sobbed, casting his arm out in indication. Heata pat his captain's back consolingly.


What's his problem?”


Oh he's been like that since we arrived.” Alberich rolled his eyes. “Come on, nevermind him. Get a good look at this thing – It's called a 'Cosmic Treadmill' and we have to fix it before the world ends.”


Eobard rubbed his hands together with a grin, yes yes they were here! Well, one of them was missing, but that was fine! They were getting along! He finally allowed a small sliver of hope into his mind. His eyes scanned over them and paused on Lisa. He zipped to her side and glanced at what she clutched close to her chest, “Excuse me dear, but what might that be?”


Lí wǒ yuǎn diǎn” She hissed, recoiling back. Her brother stepped between her and the strange golden being.


No, yellow, leg foot. Bye!” he growled, leading his sibling to the treadmill.


Okay, it was far from perfect, but at this point it was too late to do anything more but hope for the best.


Eobard hopped up on the mountain of treadmills and clapped his hands, “Okay everybody! Let's all work together and get this thing done! So I can go home and your world can be saved!” He forced a grin and watched tentatively.


Alberich scratched his head, eyes flickering over the device, seeing every component and where things seemed to be disconnected. It was infinitely complex, but thanks to all these extra hands, he was able to direct most to get the job done as quickly as possible.


But still, something was wrong. Something important that blocked the energy from going from one place to another.


Dǎrǎo yīxià”


Alberich turned and found some strange lantern-like piece handed to him. Wait a minute... This was exactly what was missing!


Eobard hopped up, “Wait! Is that a missing part!?? Are you kidding me!!” In all his past-selves journals, there was no mention of a missing component anywhere. This was incredible news!


With the combined help of all hands present, Alberich was able to place the component. Everyone held their breath as it clicked into place. There was a whir and the machine began to shake. Everyone backed off and Eobard ran down, eyes wide with anticipation.


Then it sputtered and went quiet.


....hm...” Giovanni crossed his arms, “It seems that humpty dumpty is still not together.”


Do you think this is a JOKE!?” Eobard cried, grasping his head. “I need to get out of here!! What part of 'world hanging in the balance' do you simpletons not get??!”


He paused and took a deep breath. “... Okay... No – it's okay. You're all doing quite well just- take your time...” He laughed giddily and stared up at the black sky.

AH FOR FUCK'S SAKE.” Seoirse suddenly screamed, hopping up and stomping over. “I am SICK TO DEATH of this!”

Haeta followed along behind, scratching the back of his head nervously.

I THREW MY LIFE AWAY! And for WHAT? Some tart in yellow pajamas and a hunk of bloody JUNK!” with a mighty roar, he kicked the treadmill as hard as he could, jolting it roughly.

All mouths gasped.

Another kick, and a stomp, “Bloody piece of SHITE!”

Eobard laughed a little maniacally – oh, no, that's fine! Smash it to pieces! All hope was lost anyways. He had half a mind to join Seoirse himself.

Suddenly a final kick booted the machine to life and it started to shake violently against the ground – its belt turned faster than the eye could see and lighting shot from its blue aura. Haeta grabbed his captain and drug him back, “OH NOW YOU DECIDE TO – aaaAARRGH!!”

You did it!!” Eobard could just cry – no scratch that, there were tears. Real tears. “I can't believe it!!”

The ground under their feet started to rumble and crack, peaks crumbled all around them. Lighting rained down from the sky and the black wind was so intense it nearly swept them all off their feet.

WHAT'S HAPPENING???” Hartley cried grasping a rock.

Ewan and Sam looked to each other and knew what to do. “Everyone gather round!” they raised their hands and a bubble of light beat back the black and the howling weather. The remaining nine huddled in the circle – most of them screaming in terror without realizing it.

Eobard clamored onto the treadmill and grasped its handles and started to run backwards. A portal opened in the sky, brighter than anything he'd ever seen. His eyes settled on the group of trans-dimensional rogues. In the tiniest of split moments – a time that only a speedster could comprehend, he felt a deep seated pang of sorrow. He had watched these people grow up – custom designed every asset of their lives. The terror in each and every one of them, gazing up at him with confusion and dread.

It's going to be okay...!” he felt himself whisper – something that none would hear. Save for Hartley, who's eyes flashed recognition.

The white light in the sky enveloped all.

><><><

Somewhere far away a rooster called. Xaio Jin rolled over in her bed and yawned softly. It was time to get up. And as usual, she woke up far later than her beloved husband – he really did spoil her. It wasn't proper for a lady to sleep in so late.

Soon she stepped out of their tent and went out to feed the livestock, her golden hair glittering in the chilly winter air. Off in the hills she could see her husband and Da Ge conversing with their soldiers. Probably butting heads about where to move their camp – as usual. She smiled and shook her head – those two could never agree on anything. She would have to give her Da Ge another lecture about insubordination.

The pair saw her down in the valley and paused their emotive argument to wave.

Her heart swelled and she returned the gesture. All in all, it was a beautiful day.

><><><

Far out to sea, a ship sailed along the southern sea. Pirates hunted their next unexacting victims with bated breath and excited eyes. The captain's quarters were flung open and the crew cheered. “Ahoy Captain and first mate!!”

Digger grinned and swelled with pride, giving his first mate and best friend Haeta a slight inclination of his head.

Immediately the pyro started barking orders – whipping the the crew into shape, “ALRIGHT NOW YOU SCALLYWAGS, GREETING TIME'S OVER. BACK TO WORK!”

The Captain stuck his nose into the air and marched importantly to take his post at the helm. He didn't have much plans for today – but he had a good feeling nonetheless.

><><><

The royal painter, Roy Bivolo was at the market picking out fruit for his next still-life. It was a balmy spring afternoon without a single cloud as far as the eye could see. He felt inspired to paint something that would reflect his mood.

After filling his basket, he bumped into a couple of entertainers. A harlequin and bard by the looks of it. “Excuse us, but could you point us in the direction of the town square?”

Roy looked a bit irritated. “Yes, just follow that path and make a left. You honestly can't miss it!”

The jester tipped his floppy hat, “Thanks!”

Roy moved past them and went to pay for his basket, but when he reached behind to check his money sack, he found it was missing.

Wait a minute.

HEY!!” he turned on his heel just in time to see the entertainers break into a run. “GET BACK HERE! STOP! THIEVES!!”

><><><

Ewan the Barbarian kicked down the door to Duke Samuel's hide. “I 'ear there's someone in this bonny group that knows a little somethin o' light magicks.”

Criminals turned on the intruder, brandishing their weapons, but stopped at the sound of a snap.

They parted and Duke Samuel appeared, reclined in a luxurious chair, smoking a pipe. “That'd be me.”

Ewan's eyes lit up and he stepped forth. “That's just brilliant, then. I've traveled a long way to meetcha.”

><><><

I’ll bet your face will break from scowling so hard one morning when I arrive through your door.” Marcello leaned against the alchemist's door frame and grinned. “And it’ll be cast into that form for the rest of your life.”

Alberich's scowl nearly broke, and he snorted “Your solicitations are occurring at such obnoxious hours that any damage done to my face would be your liability.” The alchemist rolled out of bed and rubbed his hands down his mouth, trying to wipe the smile away.

Me? You’re the one who can’t keep track of the time of day down in this hole of yours - it’s nearly tea time.” The wizard stroked his beard that’d only just begun to fill in completely.

I suppose you're here to invite me out for tea then?”

Of course.” Marcello pushed the door the rest of the way open and swung his arm invitingly. “'Tis a beautiful day.”

>THE END<


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I could've sworn I'd read this before, but apparently not. That's what I get for assuming.

Anyway, what I meant to say was, this was awesome! I love the Rogues still being Rogues in a medieval-type setting. Ice arrows. Emotion-changing paint. Tops. Boomerangs. Fire poi.

All wonderful. And their interactions were spot on. Well done.

(I'd like to unfortunately point out that there's a few bits in part 1 that are in and look more like notes than actual lines in the story).

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