Shadowhunter

Discussion in 'Original Stories' started by Sturmritter, May 27, 2017.

?

Hi all, are you guys stil interested in this story? Should I continue?

Poll closed Jun 11, 2017.
  1. Yes

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  2. Meh

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  3. No

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  4. OMG! STOP ALREADY! SHEESH

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  1. Sturmritter

    Sturmritter Member

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    Chapter 61: The Dimensional Domain

    “He's been too coddled, in my opinion,” Keija replied seriously, “He really did put out a savage intent with his attacks against Daniel.”

    “You're right of course, I've been failing as a big sister in that regard. Let me make it up to you. I'll point you to one of the best locations for ley lines on campus, to power up the weapon in that case of yours.”

    Keija looked a bit surprised, “How do you know there's a weapon in that case?”

    Jessica replied nonchalantly, “For the same reason that I know you're a Swartalfheimer spirit. Remember, Mr. Mallory is an old friend of the family, even if Wesley can't be bothered to remember how much we owe to him.”

    Keija nodded, understanding the situation, “Very well. As long as I can integrate my eidos and these runes in peace, I'll welcome your offer.”

    “I'll ensure no one else from the dormitory bothers you tonight. And I look forward to seeing more of you and your friends in the future,” Jessica concluded as she led Keija out of the room, back to where Daniel and Teyna waited in the main lobby of the dorm.

    “Has Wesley been diapered and put to bed?” Daniel asked snarkily.

    “He's sleeping like a baby, that's for sure,” Keija replied as Jessica frowned and sighed at the remark.

    “So that guy is actually your brother?” Teyna asked in an apologetic tone of voice.

    “Indeed,” Jessica sighed, “And yes, he's been babied for far too long, I know that now. It's just...well, the family situation is complicated.”

    “I won't pry,” Teyna added with understanding, “I know something of complicated family matters myself.”

    Jessica sighed once again, then turned towards Daniel, Keija and Teyna, straightening her back resolutely, she led them towards a small area on the other side of the pond where a natural ley line intersected with a metallic ley line.

    “This should be good area for you to empower the runes on your weapons. Just keep them secure, and don't use them on campus. I'll set up a domain to protect you from unwanted visitors.”

    Keija thanked Jessica with sincerity, and began to sit cross legged on the lawn near the bank of the pond.

    “If you two don't want to stay, I'm sure you can contact our driver to take you back to the compound,” Keija mentioned to Teyna and Daniel as she began to consolidate her spiritual strength for eidos integration.

    “Are you going to be safe here?” Daniel asked with a mere hint of concern in his voice.

    “I'll personally assure her safety for at least until morning when classes begin anew,” Jessica replied.

    Teyna breathed a heavy sigh in relief, and once again yawned as fatigue overcame her, “Yea, I'm running on fumes. It's time for me to head to bed.”

    Daniel nodded and motioned for Teyna to follow him back to their dropoff point earlier in the evening, glancing back for a moment to gaze upon Keija's rapidly energizing form. His spiritual sight wasn't nearly at the same level as Elijah Morris. But he could tell that Keija was injecting her eidos into the surrounding landscape, tapping into the flow of natural and metallic ley lines that formed a heavy presence in this area.

    Teyna too, could feel the residual effects of her spiritual aptitude boost, and watched Keija intently as she began her integration and consolidation of the ambient spiritual energy surrounding her.

    'I really do need to test my spiritual strength,' Teyna thought with a twinge of jealousy. She was introduced to the very fringe of this secret world by Keija, and wanted to catch up to her level of expertise, if that was even possible. In order to begin that journey, she still needed to be tested on her ability to manipulate the magical forces of spiritual strength.

    “Come on Teyna, let's leave Keija to do her thing, We have training tomorrow ourselves, and should get some rest.”

    As the two Shadow Hunters turned to leave, Keija spoke up one more time, “I'll follow in a few hours. If I'm not home by midnight, then start to worry.”

    “I'm afraid I'll be fast asleep before then,” Teyna replied turning back to Keija momentarily.

    Keija snickered, “Good for you, you deserve it after a day like today.”

    Daniel replied warmly, “I'll keep the hearthfire lit til you get back.”

    “Thanks!” Keija nodded and then focused her attention entirely inward as she extended her eidos tentatively into the ley line tap she had formed.

    Jessica, for her part, watched as Daniel and Teyna headed off campus, then turned to Keija and began to construct a dimensional domain with her spiritual strength, borrowing the extra energy needed to maintain it until morning from the pool of spiritual strength nearby.

    Dimensional domains were pockets of intent from other dimensions which intruded into the mortal realm to form an isolated, protected space that was located concurrantly with real space, but either time or dimension shifted so that the two spaces did not interract with each other.

    They were siphoned out of extra dimensional space, and formed using the spiritual strength of the mage constructing the domain. The chaotic entropy that was dispersed by this upper mid level feat, tended to cause adverse effects such as bad luck, violent storms or other such unnatural effects in the area. But with many arrays hidden about the campus and in this area in particular, the effects of such sequela were mitigated tremendously.

    Jessica continued to siphon out a dimensional domain around her and Keija's location until she began to stabilize the pocket dimension with her level five spiritual strength.

    Keija, though busy tapping into the ley line, still felt the effect of the domain as it washed over her location, transforming the terrain into a surreal, purple tinged gray monochrome.

    The ley lines themselves, however, immediately shown more brightly in the contrast, and took on the appearance of literal dragon veins, pulsating with a blue-indigo-violet energy on the metalic ley line, and pulsing with a green-cerulean-teal energy on the natural ley line intersecting nearby.

    Jessica nodded in satisfaction as the domain stabilized, and she connected a thread of her spiritual energy between the pool nearby and the domain itself in order to maintain it for several hours.

    “You're good to go, Keija,” She spoke softly so as not to distract her too much, “You can see yourself off campus when you're done. Just pull the thread here when you want to dissipate the domain. I'll be waiting to greet you again in a few days.” She concluded as she stepped out of the domain's boundary and disappeared, only to reappear in the mortal realm as if slipping through a curtain.

    Pulling out her cell phone, Jessica called the family number, and spoke to the voice that answered, “Wesley almost caused an incident today. We need to get him out of the area for a while. He's caused some friction with Mr. Mallory's group.”

    The voice on the other end hesitated for a mere moment before acknowledging the situation.

    “Oh?” Jessica replied when she heard the answer, “Yes. That will be acceptable to Wesley, but I'm not sure about the others.”
     
  2. Sturmritter

    Sturmritter Member

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    Chapter 62: Rune Empowerment

    (Author's note: This chapter is a bit longer than usual, due to the fact that I'll be away for most of this week. I'll catch up when I return though ^^)

    The other voice murmured something indecipherable to any nearby listeners, and Jessica voiced her approval of the plan. “That should get everyone on the same page for the moment, in any case. I'll contact you again once the agents start attending classes with professor Halloran.”

    Keija had acutely noticed when Jessica Willoughby left the dimensional domain that she constructed. The spiritual strength empowering the domain fluctuated for a bit creating a ripple-like wave effect as it's creator left the area.

    It was like a bubble being released from it's owner, with the interior of the bubble becoming a separate instance of a parallel reality, and Keija was left inside to maintain the integrity of the domain as only a thread of Jessica's spiritual strength remained to act as a conduit for spiritual energy flowing from the pond.

    Keija immediately began to focus on her task. Removing the Bagh Nakh from it's case, Keija began to imbue one of the gauntlets with her spiritual energy.

    Before she could begin to imprint the natural ley line energy into the runes of this gauntlet, she first had to create a personal imprint of her eidos such that the runes would only power in response to her utilization of them.

    If for whatever reason, some other person attempted to use the Bagh Nakh, the runes would not activate if their imprint did not match the initial integration.

    Spirit Integration was a process that worked very similar to daoist cultivation, but in reverse. Instead of drawing energy from the environment, spirits would infuse part of their essence into an object or the environment. Sometimes, as in the case of Poltergeists, the objects so infused would overflow with this spiritual strength and affect the mortal world directly.

    Keija took special care to regulate the amount of spiritual energy that she pushed into the Bagh Nakh gauntlet, and used the ley line energy to flavor and magnify this energy as it seeped into the runes and formed Keija's personal imprint. She definitely didn't want to overcharge the rune and have it possibly explode or be scarred with a flawed spiritual imprint.

    Cleansing such a flawed imprint would require hours if not days of work.

    She worked her spiritual strength into the runes as if she were a swordsmith, folding layer upon layer of spiritual strength intertwined with natural and metallic ley line energies into the runes, and letting the rune stabilize after each fold. Beads of perspiration formed upon Keija's human-guised forehead, and her concentration was stretched to the limit, much like it had been powering the telepathic array in Singapore.

    After several minutes of this careful process, the runes began to softly glow with a jade colored aura, magnified with the natural ley line's additional energy. At this point, the critical procedure of locking her imprint into the weapon's runes began. As the object drank in her spiritual strength, it would seek to expand past the runes into the cold steel of the weapon itself, but Keija would counter this tendency and gently herd the spiritual strength back into the rune.

    The spiritual strength, however, was greatly affected by the natural ley line, and began to take on the untamed attribute as it's energy invaded the corralled spiritual strength and agitated it into a wild, disagreeable state. Keija locked down the unruly intent of this spiritual energy, and bound it with faint silver threads of her own pure intent. The bound spiritual strength reacted angrily and struggled mightily against it's chains.

    In her mind, Keija pushed a soothing gentle intent through these silver threads and cocooned the angry, wild spiritual strength within a sphere that surrounded both the rune and the converted spiritual strength.

    The Jade green glow coming from the rune changed into a variety of fiery colored shades of orange, purple and red as the spiritual strength attempted to rebel and free itself of the rune. But with Keija's watchfulness and agility, she managed to keep the spiritual strength within the rune, and eventually it settled down again into a deep teal green. Keija felt a bit like a bronco rider breaking in a new horse.

    The first rune having been successfully powered, allowed Keija a moment's rest as she sat contentedly, admiring the glow of the rune. She scanned the rune with her spiritual sight to detect any leakage.

    Having found none, she continued the process of powering the 4 other runes inscribed on the gauntlet, and finished off by infusing the last of her spiritual strength into the Zayin, which were the sword sharpness runes of the Hebrew alphabet.

    The entire process of imprinting and infusing her spiritual strength into this one gauntlet, gave her pause when she considered having one more gauntlet to finish. Thankfully, the ley line and spiritual energy pool swirling within the pond allowed her to recover quickly, as her spiritual strength was magnified and rebounded within the dimensional domain.

    The process of infusing this one gauntlet had already taken a little more than an hour, and the evening sky was completely dark now except the stars and moonlight that filtered into the dimensional domain in an odd monochrome.

    Keija had to rest before she worked on the second gauntlet, and took this time to explore the dimensional domain that Jessica Willoughby had constructed for her.

    Getting up to stretch her lithe form, Keija glanced around the monochromatic area with her spiritual sight, noting the various degrees of spiritual strength within the domain. The strength fluctuated in waves as if a heat mirage were pulsating through the dome. The moon and starlight flickered through, but the shadows of various objects did not line up as they would be expected to in the mortal realm, and such oddness would give off a queer, unsettling feeling if one were not accustomed to the secret world.

    Shaking off the stress of having just completed a daunting task once, Keija strolled over to the pond where the pool of ley line energies were coalescing. After a brief moment, she noticed the young pegasus that had fled earlier from the shore had now returned, slowly circling above. It was obviously aware of the dimensional domain but wary of it, yet still wanting to land to partake of a drink from the pond.

    Keija projected a warm welcoming intent into the domain, and the off grey monochrome became slightly tinted with a soft natural green. She was still exhausted from working the runes on the one gauntlet earlier, but changing the aura of the domain to a more natural, welcoming one was indeed a small matter. Once Jessica had left the domain, it would naturally begin to shift its attributes towards the remaining denizen and ley lines which supported it.

    The Pegasus dropped down cautiously, and landed on the opposite shore of the pond, just beyond the effect of the domain, and Keija sat and watched the Pegasus begin to sate its thirst, as it continued to be guarded against sudden movements.

    For many moments, Keija merely watched intently as the Pegasus fluttered it's wings and partook of the pond's refreshing waters. The magnificent creature was majestic in stature, even as it could also be considered a young pony or foal. Its white mane gently wavered in the breeze and its tail briskly swished back and forth denoting it's cautious state regarding the surrounding area, and Keija in particular .

    The pegasus could sense Keija obliquely, but was unable to perceive the interior of the dimensional domain in which Keija now resided. After a few moments it began to graze peacefully among the grassy banks of the pond beneath the moonlit sky.

    Keija drank in the view, and continued to imprint her eidos into the surrounding area. If she kept this up over time, the Pegasus would grow accustomed to her aura, and eventually become comfortable with it. Her only limitation was in how long and how often she might have the opportunity to do so.

    The spiritual strength imbued into the dimensional domain weaved itself in and among the natural ley lines, bolstering and magnifying the effect of the integration, and Keija felt a resurgent vitality and strength wash through her. She said a small prayer of thanks to the Lord of Creation, and to the Pegasus for providing her with such a soul strengthening circumstance. The domain continued to magnify and rebound the eidos for an effect which restored Keija at an amazing pace.

    Feeling much relieved and renewed by this occurance, Keija turned her attention to the second gauntlet of her weapon set, and began to initiate the priming and imprinting of the runes etched upon the blades.

    Once again she gradually corralled the spiritual strength she injected into the runes, and then attempted to chain and tame that strength as before. The process required intense concentration, and Keija continued to impress her edios imprint into the runes, one after another, until almost two hours later she sighed a contented breath and sat back to relax, basking in the glow of the newly empowered runes of her Bagh Nakh.

    She carefully placed the gauntlets back in their protective case, and shouldered it once again with a cord.
     
  3. Sturmritter

    Sturmritter Member

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    Chapter 63: Returning Home, Preparing for a New Day

    It was almost midnight now, and Keija finally disconnected the thread of Jessica's spiritual strength from the dimensional domain, which immediately popped like a balloon from the inside, exposing the normal world as the pocket dimension dissipated. The sudden change of the nearby area from one dimension to the other startled the grazing pegasus once again, who took flight into the clear, moonlit sky.

    Keija smiled at the scene and knew she would have more time to integrate with this location in the near future. Perhaps the pegasus would eventually become comfortable with her aura, and she could interact with it in the future. At least it was something to look forward too.

    Right now, Keija was mentally exhausted, but physically she was energized and ready to head back to the compound, and another day of training. Without bothering to call a driver this late at night, Keija used her natural agility and shunpo to rapidly travel the fifteen kilometers back to the Shadow Hunter's facility and her dormitory room.

    As Keija entered the hallway and made her way towards her room, she stopped briefly to consider knocking on Daniel's door or Teyna's but thought better of it. The two of them had probably already gone to bed and she would see them in the morning soon enough. She had had a very busy day herself, and had accomplished quite a few of the goals she had set out to complete.

    Her thoughts drifted towards all that had happened in Singapore earlier, and the situation with Teyna, which was still volatile in regard to her family's awareness of the circumstances. The next few days would be critical for the Old Man as he collaborated with the Magi in London and Keija, Daniel and Teyna had to be prepared for whatever was necessary when he returned.

    As the newest and least experienced Shadow Hunters, they needed to train intensely, and these classes at the local branch of the college of magi were just one small cog in their overall training as Shadow Hunter agents. Keija sighed deeply as she put all these thoughts on hold, and concentrated on recuperating from the night's activity as she entered her room and lay down on her bed.

    Just as she lay down, however, she heard a knock at the door. “Glad you're back,” she heard Daniel's voice speak lightly through the door, “Did you get everything you needed done?”

    Keija smiled as she looked towards the door, “Get some sleep, Daniel. I'm fine, and yes, I got the gauntlets powered up. You should have seen, the pegasus returned as well!”

    “Excellent,” Daniel replied with an audible sigh of relief, “I'll see you in the morning then. Take care.”

    *************

    Earlier in the evening, back at Willoughby House, Jessica took some rubbing alcohol and removed the marking from Wesley's forehead as he groaned in some restless dream. He had a pretty lump on his head where Keija had clocked him, but Jessica couldn't do much about that at the moment. It would be a reminder to Wesley not to be so arrogant in the future.

    Removing the marking might irk Keija when she next saw Wesley, but Jessica wasn't about to let her kid brother be humiliated at school, and nothing in her agreement said she couldn't remove the marking at any time.

    Jessica had a fine line to walk between the pride of her family, and keeping relations cordial between the college and Mr. Mallory's organization. It wasn't as if they could just throw their family name around like a wrecking ball.

    Still, Keija and her friends seemed to be competent and not vindictive or too concerned with their own standing amongst the student mages. Jessica's own personality was also more in line with Keija's rather than Wesley's, so she felt that she could pacify Wesley's pride while still maintaining cordial relations.

    Being upfront and honest to Keija and her friends about the demands of the family would go a long way in keeping the peace over these next few weeks. Also, Jessica knew that Wesley had to be removed from the location and given some sort of distracting task, in order that Wesley did not keep picking at a potentially festering wound. Her phone call earlier to the family discussed as much. Once Wesley recovered from his mistake, the family would ensure he did what was required.

    Jessica walked to the doorway after finishing her task, and looked back, staring at Wesley with complicated thoughts. That boy could be the best mage in the family, but he really needed work to understand the larger picture. Wesley thought he was some sort of entitled nobility, but in reality he was merely a frog in a well.

    Sighing heavily, she closed the door on her restless little brother, and made her way down the hallway towards her room, in order to plan a suitable distraction to keep the peace.

    **************

    Keija remained in a deep contemplative state when Uzume passed by, slipping the training schedule under her door, and continued on down the hallway to give others their schedules as well.

    For a brief moment, Keija opened her eyes and stared at the ceiling. The patterns in the paint spackle formed various shapes that one could imagine, as if they were cloud representations of objects.

    Keija was in a very comfortable state of mind at the moment, having imprinted her eidos successfully into her Bagh Nakh, and having left a minor impression back at the Salem campus as well. Her mind was free to imagine all sorts of shapes plastered into the painted ceiling wall, but she was concentrating on trying to find the shape of a particular pegasus.

    As luck would have it, however, she was unable to find such an image on her bedroom ceiling without an extreme amount of imaginative construction in her mind. Still, having an eidetic memory helped in this regard, and she was able to imagine the pegasus casually flying across her ceiling as she lay contentedly staring upwards. Time passed and she slowly drifted into a contented slumber.

    Eventually, she woke and found her resolve to get up and begin the new day. Stumbling out of bed, she picked up the sheet with the training schedule on it, and glanced at what would be required of her.

    With a small groan, she realized that she would be partnered with Daniel once again. The two of them would be assisting Samuel Golding, Uzume and Mr. Mallory in testing Teyna's spiritual strength at the UTF.

    One good thing was that she could assume her natural guise, as there would be no need to camouflage herself within the confines of the facility. Keija felt that Teyna was still a tiny bit apprehensive around things pertaining to the secret world, so if she kept her Swartalf guise for the day, Teyna might at least be more familiar and comfortable with her in this regard.

    She also suspected Uzume would act in a likewise manner and appear at the training in her hybrid Kitsune form.
     
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2017
  4. Sturmritter

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    Chapter 64: The Bonds of Spiritual Energy

    The fall temperatures in October were beginning to cool down chillier than the late summer temperatures in September, and Keija decided to start wearing her winter clothes. Instead of shorts and a tank top, Keija decided to wear jeans and an angora sweater. She also placed a knit cap over her silvery white hair, and adjusted it to highlight her sharp elven features.

    Although she knew that during training, she would probably have to change into some sort of jumpsuit fatigues. Until then, she wanted to dress casually but with an effort to impress Teyna, who Keija had found to have a great sense of fashion.

    If she impressed Daniel as well, that would be a nice incidental. She still had trouble resolving her first impression of him, while subsequently getting to know him better over these past few weeks, but Daniel did show some good points as well from time to time.

    As she finished dressing, she picked up her training schedule and slipped it into her weapon case. She would find some time to train with her Bagh Nakh as well as assist Teyna in testing her spiritual strength. With a look of contentment, she opened her door and headed out, holding her case in one hand, as she headed for the dining room and breakfast.

    As Keija passed by Teyna's door, she knocked a few times before loudly saying, “You awake yet?” with a smirk on her face.

    “Are you always this cheerful so early in the morning?” Teyna groaned from underneath the bed covers. “Let me sleep a little while longer. I'm so sore, I don't think I can get out of bed!”

    “If you let me in, I can use a healing wisp to get rid of the soreness,” Keija replied knowingly.

    Teyna hesitated at least 5 seconds before answering, “That actually makes sense. Come on in, the door isn't locked.”

    Keija opened the door and quickly entered the dark room, closing the door behind her.

    “Alright, let me see you cast a wisp,” Teyna spoke more clearly as her attention gradually returned from sleepy land.

    Keija held out her hand and her spiritual strength surged through her palm and began to dimly glow in the dark room with an eerie yellowish green ghostly flame. The wisp took form and the glowing ball of flame began to hover over keija's hand as she brought it over Teyna's supine figure.

    Incanting a Norse charm, the wisp flitted over Teyna's body and hovered over her stomach for a moment before plunging into Teyna's body through the bedsheets and into her belly button.

    Teyna let out a gasp, as a wave of warmth washed over her body rising through her chest and head and down her legs to her feet. The muscle soreness she had felt from the previous day's training melted away quickly, and Teyna felt it being replaced with a a cool, refreshing feeling of boundless energy as the spiritual strength dispersed through Teyna's body.

    Keija turned to switch the bedroom's light on, and then turned towards Teyna to give her some advice on receiving magical healing.

    “Ah!” Teyna looked surprised at Keija's Swarftalf guise, “Sorry. Not quite used to seeing you like that,” she gamely recovered quickly.

    “No worries. I want you to become more familiar with my natural guise. As for the wisp energy, you'll have to refine that to match your own bio-metrics eventually. You'll learn a bit of that today after we test your spiritual strength. If you accumulate too much of my spiritual strength over time without refining it, we might form something akin to a blood bond. I wouldn't mind that, but it plays havoc with mortals who are not used to such things.”

    “In what way would it be bad for me?” Teyna asked curiously.

    “Well, consider that my strength grows when I integrate my eidos with a location. By accumulating my spiritual strength within you, without refinement, your strength is added to my own. A blood bond acts as a sort of siphon or conduit of spiritual strength between a feudal lord and their vassal. Depending on the circumstances, it could be used beneficially, or harmfully by those so bonded, according to each of the individual's spiritual strengths. But that's between mortals. Between a spirit and a mortal. The spirit usually has the upper hand, because of the eidos integration effect.”

    Teyna was both shocked and amazed that such magic came with unknown strings attached. She had certainly felt the effects of the healing, but didn't feel any strangeness from the energy flowing in her body right now. Either there wasn't enough accumulated, or Keija's spiritual strength was compatible with her own.

    Keija continued,“Still, We don't know what your spiritual strength level is at right now, so it may be that you could overpower my own strength, or I might be the dominant partner in such a bond.”

    Teyna looked carefully at Keija, “So this wisp healing you do for others, are they affected as well?”

    “They all know how to refine spiritual energy to conform to their own bio-metrics,” Keija replied evenly.

    “So as long as I refine this energy, I won't be affected by this potential bond?”

    “That's correct. But as I said, it can be used beneficially if you decide to not refine it. It's ultimately a choice for you to decide how much you trust me or not.”

    “Well, you've never given me a reason not to trust you yet,” Teyna replied off hand.

    “But what if I were to be compelled, or bound?” Keija mentioned the oft recurring dilemma that spirits faced in the mortal realms.

    “Oh....that would be a problem, wouldn't it?” Teyna looked crestfallen.

    “It's not an issue in this location, but in the wider realms of the secret world, nothing is taken for granted,” Keija spoke with a healthy appreciation of how large a world that was.

    “Well, thanks for healing me in any case,” Teyna replied gratefully, “I wasn't sure I could even get out of bed once you woke me up,” she chuckled.

    “You're welcome,” Keija smiled brightly as she held out her hand to help lift Teyna out of bed.

    “Now you need to get dressed,” She suddenly turned away from Teyna's naked body. She wasn't ashamed or embarrassed, rather she had respect for Teyna and didn't wish for her to become embarrassed either.

    Teyna blushed lightly, but nodded in assent. “Right, if you wait outside, I'll be out in a moment.”

    Several minutes later, Teyna popped out of her dorm room wearing a nice winter outfit consisting of jeans, a blouse and a knit sweater vest. Keija approved. The two of them continued down the hall, past Daniel's room and towards the dining room.
     
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2017
  5. Sturmritter

    Sturmritter Member

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    Chapter 65: Improved Weapons Make Another Satisfied Customer

    “Are we going to wake up Daniel?” Teyna asked briefly.

    “Nope," Keija shook her head as she replied, "He may not even be in his room for all we know, or he may be on an astral walk. He'll arrive at the training facility on time though, with seconds to spare. It's his modus operandi.”

    “I guess that's some strange sense of trust you have in him,” Teyna grinned as she shook her head slowly.

    “For all his faults, I've never known him to be flaky when it comes to training,” she replied seriously.

    “Right. Well, let's get some breakfast, then, I'm famished,” Teyna responded hungrily.

    “Donuts, beef jerky and energy drinks don't make up for a lost dinner, do they?” Keija sighed.

    “Nope.”

    They entered the dining room and made their way to the breakfast buffet and loaded up with a carbohydrate dense breakfast. Although there wasn't a lacrosse game today on the schedule, they still had to recover from the game the day before. Without Keija's wisp healing, Teyna would have been barely able to move at all.

    As they sat down to enjoy their meal, Samuel Golding, Astrid Merkavich, Melissa and Martin Dubois and Elijah Morris came through the doors in one group. Besides, Teyna and Keija, the dining room at the time was relatively empty. But with the sudden appearance of this large group, the ambiance of the dining room suddenly became quite lively.

    Elijah pulled up a chair near Keija, and remarked, “Getting an early start on the day, eh?”

    “We're headed to the UTF to test Teyna's spiritual strength today,” Keija replied.

    “Oh? I guess Sam will be working with you then.” Elijah deduced quickly.

    As Elijah finished talking, Sam and the others returned from the buffet line with their own meals in hand.

    “What? You're not having breakfast?” Keija remarked at Elijah, who had skipped the buffet line.

    “Just delaying it a bit,” Elijah smiled, “After all, I can cook something for myself in a bit. I just stopped by to enjoy a bit of the morning chatter before I finish with some cryptographic analysis.”

    “Oh?” Keija responded, perking up brightly at the news of a puzzle to be solved.

    “It's no secret,” Elijah replied warmly, “I'm working on a file that was recovered by Venka at Daedalus on her flash drive. Dr. Severus forwarded it to me after his own team had no success in breaking the cipher.”

    "Ha!" Keija smirked, "I bet that he was embarassed to have to ask HQ for assistance!"

    Elijah smiled in return, "I didn't rub it in his face, but I could tell he was anxious to find out what was in the file. I'll have my work cut out for me."

    “Let's hope it's something worthwhile, and not the next financial report for the corporation,” Keija laughed.

    “Indeed,” Elijah laughed as well.

    Samuel Golding sat down next along with the others, and he turned to Keija knowingly, “So....how did the rune empowerment go last night?”

    Keija beamed, “Well, except for a minor scuffle, it went extremely well!”

    “I noticed you brought your weapon case with you this morning. Did I forget to mention something spectacular about these gauntlets?”

    “What do you mean?” Keija suddenly became cautious when he referred to an unknown attribute of her Bagh Nakh.

    “The blades in the gauntlet are retractable!” Sam giggled as if revealing a deep dark secret.

    “What?!?!” Keija was astounded, “Why didn't you tell me earlier? I wouldn't have to be lugging around this case if I had known that!”

    Sam laughed, “For one thing, the ability to retract the blades requires the runes to be powered, and for another thing, I thought you'd probably figure it out on your own. But from what I heard from Daniel last night, that case came in pretty handy!”

    Keija shrugged, “Well, yeah. But If I didn't need to lug it around....No, even then I wouldn't have powered the runes yet, so I guess it worked out as best it could.”

    Astrid, Melissa and Martin all became interested in the case that Keija was carrying, “Well, let's see these amazing gauntlets! After all this hype, we want to see why you are so perky this morning!”

    Keija held up her hands, “Woah, now! Hold your horses, people! I'll get them out, but I want Sam to explain how to retract the blades first,” she finished with a mild glare at the weapon smith for leaving out this important 'little' detail.

    “Honestly, I thought you'd have examined the gauntlets in more detail,” Sam shrugged as Keija brought the case up to the table and opened it to reveal the glowing weapons.

    “Oooh!” Melissa, and the other agents who got their first sight of the Bagh Nakh, exclaimed.

    “They're gorgeous!” Astrid complemented to both Keija and Samuel, “And already powered up!”

    “I was gone with Teyna and Daniel last night for a little exploration and eidos integration at the college of magi,” Keija explained hastily, “And I discovered that place was crisscrossed with suitable ley lines for powering runes.”

    “Teal runes?” Melissa replied knowingly, “So you must have found a natural and metallic ley line to tap into?”

    “That's pretty amazing!” Teyna exclaimed, “You could tell that simply from the color of the rune?”

    “You'll learn to identify such things if you stick around with me long enough,” Melissa grinned in response.

    Even Martin was impressed with his sister's knowledge of runes, then turning towards the weapon smith, he encouraged Sam to explain the other aspects of the weapons. They all clustered around Keija enthusiastically.

    “Right, so Keija, the blades are retractable with pressure sensitive glyphs sewn into the palms of the gauntlets. All you need to do to retract, or extend the blades is to slap your palms together.”

    Keija nodded as she slipped the Bagh Nakh over her hands. As she practiced the move that Samuel described, she slapped her palms together, and was happily surprised by the blades retracting into the gauntlets' Tekkou back cover.

    “This is really quite useful. I can wear these all the time now!” Keija smiled.

    “Do they really go well with Angora sweaters, though?” Teyna raised an eyebrow.

    “Hmmm,” Keija muttered a bit, “I guess I'll have to fashion coordinate a bit in the future.”

    Keija again slapped her palms together and was able to extend the blades once again, instantly allowing her combat readiness at a moment's notice. Once again, she placed her palms together, only instead of clapping she merely put pressure against her palms, and the blades retracted again. She softly caressed the gauntlets, which now looked more like leather motorcycle gloves with the blades retracted, and nodded in approval, "This means I can do this stealthily as well!"

    "That's correct," Sam nodded in agreement, "You just have to apply enough pressure to trigger the glyphs. The blades extend and retract with minimal noise themselves."

    “Ok, Sam, “ She beamed with a fiery glow in her indigo eyes, “Consider me impressed! These were already amazing to begin with, but now I have the capability to be combat ready at any time!”

    Samuel turned towards the others and winked, “Another satisfied customer!”
     
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2017
  6. Sturmritter

    Sturmritter Member

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    Chapter 66: Preparing to Test

    The discussion then turned towards the daily training schedule. Samuel would be working with Teyna, Daniel and Keija along with Uzume and Mr. Mallory. Venka would be preparing for the flight to London with Uzume and Mr. Mallory later that evening. Melissa and Martin had ward construction and array repairs from the damage done during the mechanical bug invasion. Astrid and Elijah were working together on the cipher from the file Dr. Severus forwarded.

    As everyone finished breakfast, they scattered their separate ways, “See you at dinner!”

    Sam turned towards Keija, “I'll meet you in a bit at the UTF, I just need to finish up a few things at the armory.”

    Keija nodded at Sam and turned towards Teyna, “We better get a move on. It's not wise to keep the Old Man waiting.”

    Teyna nodded in agreement, and the two newest Shadow Hunters left the main building heading for the tunnel entrance to the UTF. As the two approached the entrance, Daniel was waiting, uncharacteristically early, nearby.

    “Did you get breakfast?” Teyna hurriedly asked.

    “I keep a supply of breakfast bars in my pack,” Daniel explained, “So I'm good to go.”

    Teyna frowned a bit, “You should have joined us for a sit down meal!”

    “I was busy with a walk,” Daniel offered quickly.

    “What do you do when you walk?” Teyna asked curiously.

    “Explore. Discover new knowledge, encounter strange things. The usual,” Daniel replied as he glanced hurridly and nodded towards the UTF, “We better get in there.”

    “Right,” Teyna replied as she noticed Keija impatiently tapping her foot with her arms crossed.

    The three traversed the length of the tunnel, and emerged in the central chamber. It looked almost completely bare now, with the majority of obstacles from the previous day's training removed.

    Mr. Mallory stood near one of the observation towers along with Uzume, and graciously waved the newcomers over for an introductory lecture on the day's proceedings.

    “Welcome Teyna! Keija and Daniel, good morning to you as well,” The Old Man spoke with warmth, Uzume smiled brightly as well as the three young agents approached their position.

    “Good morning, sir. Samuel said he had a few things to finish up at the armory, but he'll arrive shortly,” Keija explained as the group consolidated at Mr. Mallory's location.

    “You probably have a lot of questions, Miss Caulfield?” The Old Man asked gently.

    “Yes sir,” Teyna replied with trepidation, “All these things are so strange to me....” she tapered off glancing at Keija in her dark elf guise, and Uzume in her hybrid kitsune form, “And yet, they are not uncomfortable.”

    “I'm glad to hear it,” The Old Man responded with a smile, “Today, we'll be testing your spiritual strength. You've already tested your aptitude, which scored quite well for someone without any sort of professional background in such things. Perhaps you have some sort of ancestral affinity in this regard. We can research that later, if you like.”

    “What exactly does this testing entail?” Teyna asked cautiously optimistic.

    “Spiritual strength that hasn't been utilized before needs a stimulus,” Anthony Mallory replied evenly, “It is much like a muscle that hasn't been used. In order to be able to effect things with your spiritual strength, you must first learn how to feel it, and it's connection to your willpower.”

    Teyna nodded, but didn't quite understand how she would be able to accomplish that.

    The Old Man continued, “We will elicit a reflexive response from your spirit, so that you will be able to feel the effect. One you grasp this feeling, you can concentrate on recreating this feeling on your own. “

    “A reflexive response to what?” Teyna became even more cautious as she began to have an inkling about what this meant.

    “Well, how shall I describe this?” The Old Man pondered a bit, “Think of it as if it were an electrical current being applied to a particular muscle in your body. It's not a pleasant experience, but one after which you can isolate the feeling and move the particular muscle effected by the stimuli on your own. This is especially true of muscles that you usually don't move consciously, such as your abdominal muscles. Once you gain the awareness of your spiritual strength in an analogous manner, you will be able to exercise that spiritual strength much like a muscle.”

    “So, basically, you're going to shock my spiritual strength awake?” Teyna concluded incredulously.

    “That's the gist of the matter,” The Old Man nodded with empathy.

    Teyna gulped, “Do I really have to go through this?”

    “I don't mean to sound ominous or threatening, Miss Caulfield. However, I should remind you: the process might be painful or not, but I believe you must go through with it. After all, This organization is protecting your family at the moment, predicated upon your joining our organization. Which, by the way, is going quite well, and they wish to talk with you after our training today.”

    Teyna blinked in astonishment. Of course! She had almost forgotten how dire the situation was back in Singapore. Daedalus would be after her family once he discovered that she had decided to leave. Earlier, Teyna had mentioned to Jessica Willoughby that she understood complicated family matters, and Teyna was true to her word.

    Teyna's relationship with her family bordered on the bizarre and dysfunctional. But they had provided her with the references to obtain her job at Daedalus, and she owed them for her education as well. Even without those obligations, she had siblings that she wanted to protect. Especially her younger brother, Thomas.

    Teyna mustered up her courage, and nodded slowly, “Do what you must. I'm ready for anything at this point.”

    Samuel Golding had arrived moments before this awkward moment passed, and headed towards the control room for the facility. “Sorry I'm a bit late sir, the preparations for your mission to London are complete. Shall I begin to activate the array?”

    The Old Man nodded, “Go ahead, Samuel. I'll brief the others on their duties for this task.”

    “Yes, sir,” the weaponsmith responded crisply.

    Turning towards Teyna and the others, Anthony Mallory began to describe each person's responsibility during the testing process.

    “Keija,” He turned towards the dark elf, “I want you to act as the prod in this activity. If I were to do it myself, it might overwhelm Miss Caulfield's capability to withstand the effect. With your natural agility, if some unforeseen circumstance were to occur, you would be able to redirect any stray spiritual strength from harming Miss Caulfield.”

    Keija nodded with understanding. The testing of spiritual strength would sometimes have chaotic sequela which could rebound in the array and create a resonance imbalance. Elijah Morris would normally be in attendance for such testing, being an expert in resonance fields, but with his task to decrypt the cipher file, Keija would have to make up for Elijah's absence.

    The Old Man turned to Daniel, “I need to you to provide Astral security. If you could place a marker for this location, and begin a security walk in the Astral realm, I would be grateful. We don't want to attract unwanted visitors during the testing period.”

    Daniel nodded his assent. He would have to clear out the idea space surrounding the testing chamber so that astral denizens wouldn't disrupt or attack the array during the evaluation process.

    “Uzume,” The Old Man settled his gaze upon the Kitsune spirit with a warmth that was palpable, “You'll be the one to power the array. Just follow the calculations provided by Mr. Golding in the control room, and everything should run smoothly.”

    “Of course, Anthony,” Uzume chided softly, “I'll be careful with both Teyna and the array.”

    Mr. Mallory then turned towards Teyna and motioned her to stand at the center of the chamber, atop a small obsidian dais, and suggested that she relax as best she could.
     
  7. Sturmritter

    Sturmritter Member

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    Chapter 67: Teyna's Spiritual Strength Test

    “Try not to tense up. You'll feel a wave of Keija's spiritual strength wash over you, and if you tense up against it, you may experience something akin to a cramp. It's best to exhale as you are affected, and allow the feeling to wash through your body with as little resistance as possible at first. Your body will produce a counter-wave of your own spiritual strength in response. Keija will continue to send her spiritual strength towards you, until your own counter wave reaches it's maximum potential. This can take as little as a few minutes, or up to a half hour or more depending on your strength.”

    Teyna nodded as the process was explained to her, greatly relieving her of stress due to fear of the unknown.

    “Keija mentioned something earlier about a spiritual blood bond, and the need to refine her energy if it accumulated too much in my body,” Teyna spoke up out of concern for this phenomenon which Keija had described earlier.

    “Indeed,” The Old Man nodded with approval, “Keija was correct to inform you of this. Once you have your spiritual strength identified and are able to consciously manipulate it, you'll understand how to circulate your own spiritual energy in a manner which captures foreign spiritual strength and refines it for your own use. Think of it like a car's manual transmission, but instead for your body's spiritual immune system. Once you can control your spiritual strength, you'll be taught how to circulate that strength to purify your body of invading foreign influences.”

    Teyna glanced over at Keija, who nodded and smiled, as she stepped onto the dais.

    “Is everyone ready to begin the testing?” The Old Man spoke evenly, but with authority and clarity.

    Samuel and Uzume replied affirmatively. Daniel had prepared his den, and was unconscious but breathing normally. Mr Mallory turned to stand guard over his physical body, while Daniel walked in the Astral plane to keep the area clear, in the transitional dimension, of unwanted visitors or entities.

    If one were to delve deeper into an understanding of why this Astral protection was necessary, Daniel would explain that the Astral realm consisted of several layers, or dimensions of thought. The deepest level, where Edgar Mallory had been trapped, was the Astral plane of ideas. This was what one normally thought of the Astral plane when people talked about out of body experiences (OBE's) and traveling at the speed of thought. The Astral realm also had other layers of representation, however, which were less well known.

    The next level closer to the mortal realm was known as the Astral plane of emotion. This plane of the astral realm was the simple and more representational dimension of subconscious thought. The final plane in the astral realm which was closest to the mortal realm, and which affected the body vibrationally when walkers or divers entered the realm was known as the Astral plane of transition.

    This transitional dimension of the Astral realm where Daniel was now patrolling, was the interface between the Astral realm and other planes of existence, including the mortal realm. If anything were to affect the mortal realm from the Astral, or vice versa, it would have to pass through this transitional dimension.

    This transitional plane was also what allowed Astral walkers to physically travel to various dimensions and parts of the secret world. Though their physical body was always in their original realm, passing through the transitional dimension with an astral body could “clone” a physical representation of the traveller in another plane of existence for a limited amount of time.

    This worked for natives of the astral plane as well, and an astral entity with sufficient strength and determination, could manifest a clone of itself in the mortal realm for brief periods of time, if the circumstances were favorable enough.

    Conversely, the Bifrost bridge, which led to Asgaard, and to Keija's realm of Swartalfheim worked on a slightly different principle. The effects for Bifrost were similar as far as dimensional travel was concerned, but with the original body, thus alleviating any limitations on the time spent in other realms.

    Seeing the Old Man stepping into a position to guard Daniel's physical form, Keija nodded towards Teyna, and replied, “Ready, sir.”

    Tenya also nodded, “Me too, sir.” She said without a thought, and then strangely wondered what it was about the Old Man that commanded such unconscious but automatic respect. She shrugged off her response as one conditioned by her corporate upbringing, but still felt at ease giving Mr. Mallory her respect in such an easy manner. It was odd to think that he had earned her respect, but also garnered it in an artificial manner as well, or so it felt.

    Teyna was startled a bit, when the Old Man commanded, “Begin!”

    Immediately, Keija conjured up a very large wisp of her spiritual strength, infused with a probing intent which flared in a deep purple color, and radiated a prickly electrical aura. Keija finished infusing the wisp then directed it towards Teyna.

    Uzume followed Samuel's guidelines in keeping the array powered, which created a resonance field for the wisp to magnify and grow as it headed towards the focal point where Teyna was standing upon the raised dais.

    Teyna nervously gaped in wonder as the wisp which started out as a small globe, rapidly grew in size as it approached her location, until she became engulfed within the violet electric globe. She let out a startled yelp as the spiritual strength invaded her core being, and began to spread electrical tendrils throughout her body searching for any signs of spiritual strength. She was literally being shocked, but she wasn't feeling this on a physical level, but on a much deeper spiritual level.

    It was as if she were an object encased within a lost wax mould that was being violently shaken apart, until a golden casting was revealed beneath. The electrical tendrils stimulated something within her body that she had never felt before and her spiritual sight (which had been boosted by Keija and Daniel for the first time just the night before) was switched on like a lightbulb.

    Instantly, Teyna could see a myriad of scintillating colors and wavelike emanations surrounding her within the array. She sucked in her breath as she noticed a counter wave developing in her own body from a chakra she didn't realize even existed before now. The shock of this occurrence stunned Teyna and she winced as the counter wave erupted in a reflexive manner against the probing of Keija's tendril wisp.

    The Old Man smiled approvingly as Teyna reflexively created her first instance of inherent spiritual strength, and Samuel Golding adjusted the array to balance the counter wave so that it would not unbalance Miss Caulfield so much as to knock her off her feet. Uzume adjusted the power immediately to adapt to the new settings so that the flow of the array was not disrupted by Teyna's additional spiritual strength as it expanded throughout the array.

    Teyna looked on helplessly as her body reacted involuntarily to expand the sphere of spiritual strength emanating from her body.

    “Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh!” She yelped in nervous fright.

    But then a wave of intense spiritual strength washed over her subduing her own strength, calming her down considerably.

    “Relax, Miss Caulfield,” The Old Man smiled warmly and gently, “You are awakening a spiritual 'muscle' you've never before used. Keep calm, and breath normally, the effect will get stronger each time until we find your limit.”

    “Step it up a notch, Miss Nighthawk,” The Old Man spoke Keija's surname formally. Well, it was her alias surname in the mortal and synod realms anyways. Keija's true family name had been lost to the ages. Everyone in the Synod simply referred to their family as the Nighthawks for as long as she could remember. She hadn't thought of it much until the Old Man spoke it out loud.

    “Yes, sir.” She returned her attention to the task at hand.

    Keija infused more of her spiritual strength into another wisp, and sent it once again into the array towards Teyna, who braced herself in preparation for the reflexive response of her body to the array's magnifying effect.

    The jolting of Teyna's spiritual strength, awakening to her conscious control, was intensely stressful and shocking in a manner Teyna had trouble coping with, but she endured with all her concentration, and forced herself to relax as best she could. The wave of spiritual energy elicited an internal response that Teyna began to understand innately, which allowed her to begin controlling the response after a few more of Keija's wisps washed over her.

    In her mind's eye, Teyna could now sense the difference between her own spiritual strength now, and Keija's as it washed through the very fiber of her being. She began to relax more and more as her nascent control of this response became more intuitive each time a wisp interacted with her in the array.

    “Good! Very Good,” The Old Man applauded out loud, as Teyna consciously reduced the reflexive response of her spiritual strength to Keija's latest prodding.
     
  8. Sturmritter

    Sturmritter Member

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    Chapter 68: An Unexpected Delay

    Teyna smiled, even as her body was quivering from the shock of having her spiritual strength awakened, much like having a bucket of ice cold water suddenly poured over her unexpectedly. She glanced at Keija, and nodded with satisfaction, “I feel it in my bones,” She said with a grin.

    The Old Man turned towards Keija, “What level of strength accomplished this?”

    “At the end, I was pushing out wisps around my former strength before I advanced in Singapore, close to level three I suppose,” Keija replied with unexpected enthusiasm, “Teyna, you are really strong!”

    “Thank you, I guess!” Teyna remarked rather astonished at the assessment. She felt on top of the world at the moment, as if she had broken out of a cocoon. Everything she sensed felt as if it had more clarity. Her eyes were sharply focused, and she could see Keija's aura, and how it differed from everyone else's except perhaps Uzume's.

    Even then, the two auras of the spirits had unique distinguishing features that Teyna now saw clearly. She knew without a doubt that after today, she could tell Keija and Uzume were spirits whatever guise they were in.

    “Don't get a big head!” Keija cautioned with a smile, “You told me to remind you of that when you felt things were getting crazy.”

    “Hahaha!” Teyna laughed out loud, “Thanks for that, and I mean that sincerely,” Teyna immediately reflected on her state of mind, and how easy it might have been to abuse this newfound ability without such a reminder. She had taken her first step on the path towards being a Shadow Hunter agent, and she didn't want to forget the incredible circumstances that got her here, or lose her humanity in the process.

    “I think Mr. Mallory said you had some family matters to take care of. As for me, I'll be thinking about what to draw on Daniel's face before he returns from his Astral patrol,” Keija snickered.

    Uzume and Samuel began to shut down the array once the Old Man gave the signal, and Keija returned towards where Daniel had set up his den. Keija looked at the prone figure of this very exasperating person, and wondered why she didn't mark him up immediately, until she realized the Old Man was still around, and that he disapproved of pranking her teammates.

    Her eidos integration with the Shadow Hunter compound had begun to create a massive link between her and the Old Man (and consequently Uzume as well), much in the manner that Keija had described the blood link phenomenon to Teyna earlier.

    Without thinking much about it, whenever The Old Man was nearby, she could sense his presence and felt comforted by it. With his presence nearby, Keija felt that a few more weeks of continued integration along with her recent activity with Rune empowerment and Teyna's testing might push her strength closer towards the next stage.

    How would it be when he left on his trip later tonight? She wondered to herself. She felt as if he'd been a part of her life since the beginning, but she knew of no memory of this man prior to her arrival in the mortal realm. Something was odd and mysterious in how he warped the attitudes of those around him. She would think more on this phenomenon after he left for London, and perhaps she would talk with Uzume more about this when she had the chance.

    “Well,” Keija said after the long pause caused by her musings, “Let's go celebrate!”

    “Well, shouldn't we wait for Daniel to wake up first?” Teyna glanced over at the young man's sleeping prone form nestled in his makeshift den.
    “Hmmm...That's odd,” Keija remared after a while of waiting for Daniel to return.

    The Old Man turned his head with concern towards Daniel as well, “He should have sensed the array powering down in the Astral plane. I'm going to take a quick walk myself and see if there is any trouble. Uzume, if you would be so kind as to guard my body, I'll return as soon as I'm able to find out what's going on.”

    Everyone hurried to make way for the Old Man as he quickly entered a Astral walking state after sitting down in one of the spectator's seats. Uzume stood nearby his now unconscious sitting body, with her arms folded, looking very intimidating, even with only friends nearby.

    Teyna looked at everyone with a nervous expression, “Was it anything that I did?”

    “Teyna,” Keija reassured her, “Absolutely not! You did fine with the testing. If Daniel is late, he's either found something extremely interesting, or is engaged in defending the transitional space near the Array. With the Old Man going to find him, I think whatever situation he's in will be resolved shortly.”

    Certainly, within moments after Keija had reassured Teyna, that the Old Man's body began to tremble, as his consciousness returned to his body.

    “He's all right. His silver cord is still vibrant, and he left a marker for me to let me know that he was tracking an interesting presence that had been observing the testing,” Anthony declared once he had fully returned his consciousness to his body.

    Uzume relaxed greatly, once the Old Man had returned, and her stiff, defensive posture once again assumed a casual, friendly stature. “Is everything ok with yourself, Anthony?” She demurred.

    “I'm fine Uzume, thank you for your concern,” the Old Man replied with a gentle smile.

    Keija nodded, and turned towards Teyna, “See?”

    Teyna nodded, and felt a wave of relief wash over herself. Her newfound spiritual strength felt turbulent after the startling revelation that Daniel hadn't returned, but this news calmed the stormy emanations in her soul. Bits and pieces of wisp strength were bobbing around in her soul like buoys, and she instinctively understood what Keija mentioned earlier about the need to refine this energy before it clouded and clogged her own strength.

    “I'm glad Daniel is accounted for, but now I've a different concern. Keija, about refining your wisp strength?” She mumbled halfheartedly.

    “Well, let's get some pointers from the expert, shall we?” Keija motioned towards the Old Man.

    ***********

    Daniel continued tracking the obscure presence that was swiftly retreating along what Daniel assumed to be the presence's silver cord.

    Unfortunately, his sense of the presence was fading rather than strengthening, and he assumed he would soon lose the trail altogether. He had been patrolling around the transitional plane as Keija bombarded Teyna's soul core with her wisp energy.

    From Daniel's perspective it could be imagined as a laser light show as the two spiritual strengths, Keija's and Teyna's, collided and produced sparks as if it were some sort of particle accelerator experiment. At first, Daniel perceived the testing in fascination as Teyna's response was reflexive at first, like a bubbling pipe that was being flushed of a clog, but then Daniel began to tell that Teyna was gradually assuming greater and greater control over her responses to Keija's probing wisps.

    It was at this point that Daniel was distracted, and and felt the faintest pressure of another presence and some obscure intent. Immediately growing cautious, Daniel began to seek out this presence but could not pinpoint it's location.

    Growing bolder, Daniel dropped a marker the Old Man, and continued to search deeper into the Astral realm, heading further into the emotional plane. At this point, Daniel was surprised by the revelation that the obscure intent he felt earlier wasn't sinister or violent, but rather curious and hopeful, full of positive feelings.

    Daniel took a moment to assess this revelation. Was the presence simply curious? Was it someone or something that had a relationship with the participants? He wanted to confront this presence to ascertain it's intentions, but the presence was extremely skilled in astral travel, at least as skilled as Daniel himself and possibly even more so? No matter how hard Daniel tried to close the distance to this mysterious presence, he couldn't approach closer than he had already tried.

    The presence was clearly aware that Daniel had sensed it, and was retreating rapidly, but leaving no trace for Daniel to track as it withdrew. Soon thereafter, Daniel lost the presence completely, but now had to retrace his own silver cord back to his body. With time, ideas and emotions so fluid in the Astral realm, Daniel felt a small pang of guilt for making his companions worried if he were gone for too long.

    Sighly dejectedly in his mind (which left a small puff of greyish dark smoke in the realm), Daniel stopped the chase and began the task of tracing his own silver cord back to his body.
     
  9. Sturmritter

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    Chapter 69: An Unknown Presence

    “Oh? So that's how you circulate your spiritual strength?” Teyna finally nodded in understanding as Mr. Mallory finished his lecture on the subject, and let Teyna practice.

    “Correct, you are doing well, Miss Caulfield,” he replied with satisfaction.

    As the lecture and practice session was ongoing, Keija noticed that Daniel's body beginning to tremble, and she knew that Daniel's conscious mind was returning to his body.

    “He's back!” She exclaimed with relief. Keija had been hiding her worry, but when she saw that Daniel was returning, she didn't care if people knew of her concern or not.

    Uzume and the Old Man both headed over towards Daniel's body, and Teyna quickly quelled her circulating spiritual strength, and rushed over as well. The four of them waited impatiently as Daniel slowly recovered and eventually opened his eyes.

    Keija was the first to pounce, “You had us worried, Daniel!”

    “You? Worried?” Daniel rubbed his eyes as he scoffed in disbelief.

    Keija shook her head as she stifled a snarky reply.

    “I was gone for fifteen minutes past the training completion!” He quickly rushed out a hasty defense, “And I left a marker too! And why am I trying to justify myself to you?” He added with a slight grin on his face.

    “Because you had me worried,” Keija replied as she gently rapped her gauntlet's knuckles on Daniel's forehead, “Next time I'll have the claws extended,” She said with a deadpan smile.

    He swiftly deflected her hand away and used her weight as a counter balance to pull himself up into a standing position, ending up extremely close to Keija's lithe and athletic body.

    Teyna raised her eyebrows at this, and remarked in jest, “Hey now, take that behavior to a private room!”

    Uzume giggled and the Old Man coughed uncomfortably as the two young agents seemed entangled by Daniel's action. After pausing for only a moment, the Old Man broke the tension of the moment and asked, “So Daniel, what was the cause of this distraction? Are the facilities' astral defenses breached? Was there an intruder? I hadn't sensed any malicious intents during the testing.”

    “No sir, The facilities defenses were not breached, however, I did get the unmistakable feeling that the process was being observed by something or someone.”

    “Oh?” Everyone, including Teyna, was surprised by this revelation.

    The Old Man muttered while stroking his chin, “I didn't sense any external magic, so it was not a scrying spell, and it was apparently only a presence in the astral plane, since we are far removed from any casual observations here in the UTF.”

    Uzume suddenly seemed to have a possible answer, “Could it be an eye watcher?”

    Daniel was unfamiliar with that type of spiritual entity, and questioned Uzume for further explanation, “Eye watcher? I've never heard of such a thing before.”

    Uzume mulled over the possibilities in her head before explaining, “An eye watcher is a variant typo of Mokumokuren, a type of Japanese Youkai. The Mokumokuren usually inhabit dilapidated old shoji screens that have holes and tears in them. They watch people through those holes in the screens and are sometimes known to cause harm to unsuspecting sleepers. However, there are variant types that do not harm people, but simply watch and gain spiritual strength from the act of voyeurism.”

    “That may be the case,” Daniel mused, “But that doesn't seem to match the intent that accompanied the presence. I felt a strong intent that conveyed hope and warmth, which I thought rather odd at the time, as if it were something or someone familiar with one of us.”

    “Very odd indeed,” The Old Man concurred. “If that is the case, then we are in no danger. It may be a familiar spirit in the literal sense of the term!” He laughed softly at his own play on words.

    Keija and Uzume both smiled at the joke, as they too could be considered familiar spirits to those present. After a moment of reflecting upon these circumstances, Keija realized that it might be someone from the Synod, traveling astrally, who might have been attracted by the emanations of her spiritual strength.

    She voiced her suspicions, “Perhaps it was a Synod member, who recognized my spiritual strength during the test?”

    “Ah, yes, that could explain the circumstances as well,” Mr. Mallory nodded in agreement, “Yes, that is quite plausible.”

    Daniel furrowed his brows as he pondered the possibility, and seemed to come to the same conclusion as the others, “If so, then it was a fairly high ranking member of the Synod, since I couldn't track them down.”

    The Old Man turned towards Uzume and whispered in her ear, and she nodded her head quickly as she understood his intent. Quickly reciting her norito, Uzume flashed into her spirit realm and disappeared from the chamber.

    Teyna was surprised at the quickness of her actions, “Where did she go?"

    Anthony Mallory calmly replied, “She's just going to check on something for me. It's nothing to be concerned over. I'm just trying to find out if our uninvited guest left any clues behind.”

    Since the training was officially over, and Daniel had recovered from his unexpected delay in his astral patrol, Keija bowed to Mr. Mallory and then to Samuel as she took hold of Teyna's hand and glanced at Daniel to head towards the UTF chamber exit tunnel.

    Before the three walked a few meters, the Old Man reminded Teyna, “Don't forget, your family is waiting to contact you.”

    Teyna quietly paused, and turned around, giving Mr. Mallory a look of gratitude.

    “Thank you, sir, I'll call home as soon as I'm able,” Teyna bowed politely and then turned back to rejoin the others.

    The three young agents exited the tunnel into the bright glare of shining sunlight, as the crisp, clear blue sky was revealed. The exceptional weather seemed to correspond to the clarity within Teyna's soul at the moment, bright, sunny and full of hope. Keija switched her guise to that of her human form, and quickly adjusted her clothing so that it would fit appropriately.

    Although she felt comfortable with her natural form, there were still a few people who weren't quite able to feel as comfortable when directly confronted by a denizen of the secret world. Teyna was getting better at it, but Keija didn't want to impose too much on less familiar people.
     
  10. Sturmritter

    Sturmritter Member

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    Chapter 70: A Different Sort of Test

    Keija turned towards Teyna and quickly asked, “Have you started refining my wisp energy?”

    “Only a little bit,” Teyna bit her lip as she replied hesitantly. “I'm not sure if I want to refine it completely. Having a little bit of your strength in me seems to offer at least an awareness of your location.”

    Daniel frowned a bit, “That's probably not wise,” he remarked with seriousness, “Although it is true that you can derive that effect from a wisp of someone else's spiritual strength, it also has drawbacks when considering your own advancement. The purity of your own spiritual strength will greatly determine how fast you can advance in your cultivation.”

    “Keija didn't mention this to me, why should I believe you?” Teyna raised her eyebrows in skeptical disbelief.

    “Keija is a spirit, she doesn't cultivate, she integrates,” Daniel replied matter-of-factly.

    Keija nodded, “It's true, I know very little about how humans cultivate other than it is a process that works almost in reverse of of my own eidos integration.”

    Daniel turned to Teyna, “Spirits and mortals have quite a few differences. Just as animals and plants have completely opposite cellular respiration cycles, the spiritual advancement cycles of spirits and mortals also differ in reverse.”

    Teyna was curious to know these differences, because she could now feel the wisp of Keija's strength within her soul realm, but it did not feel alien or harmful at all.

    “Keija's strength doesn't seem to have any ill effects on me, nor do I feel any agitation within my soul realm from the presence of her strength. Doesn't this mean she has compatibility with my soul realm?”

    “it's not a question of compatibility in terms of your cultivation advancement, however,” Daniel explained gently in order to convince Teyna of the merits of his argument, “Although her strength can add to your own, and innately allow you to have a connection to Keija, the presence of her strength will act as an obstruction to the circulation of your soul strength throughout the entire soul realm. It would be as if there was a magical gem that gave you some nice benefit was in your blood stream, that, if it became unlodged, might act as a blood clot, blocking your circulation.”

    Tenya frowned at this explanation, “If, in your example, such a gem were too small to block the blood stream, it wouldn't be an issue, would it?”

    “Perhaps not, but the risk is always there, and you have only just awoken your soul realm. The paths of circulating your spiritual strength are still maturing. Once you've established your own personal strength, then perhaps Keija could lend you another wisp of hers for this effect you desire. Until then, I would greatly recommend that you refine this energy for your own so that your advancement can proceed smoothly.”

    Teyna turned towards Keija, who shrugged noncommittally, “Daniel's advice seems to be genuinely offered without malice, I'd probably go with his recommendation if I were in your position. You can always establish a spiritual bond with me later if that is your choice, once you have established a firm foundation for your soul realm.”

    Teyna sighed in acknowledgement of Daniel's argument, and quickly entered her soul realm, momentarily, in order to refine Keija's wisp into her own spiritual strength. Upon achieving purification, Teyna's eyes opened, and she remarked with a tinge of sadness, “It's done. It's odd, I see you next to me now, but I don't feel you as before, even slightly.”

    Keija smiled, “It's ok. Although you lost that faint connection for now, you'll be able to advance your cultivation now without obstruction, and we can always re-establish it at a later point on, if you still desire that.”

    “I should go and speak to my family now, Mr. Mallory said they were eager to contact me after the testing was completed,” Teyna changed the subject quickly, still feeling a bit odd at the loss of her connection to Keija.

    “Right,” Keija and Daniel both nodded in unison, then Keija continued “Well, good luck with that. I'm going to head to the old training yards to practice some combat techniques with my Bagh Nakh. What about you Daniel?”

    “I'm going to be taking another astral walk soon, as I want to continue investigating that presence during our test earlier. Although I've lost track of the entity, I can do some research with Mr. Lowen and also possibly make a match of the presence using the akashic database he maintains.”

    “Well, we only have a day before our class training begins at the college. With the Old Man and Uzume traveling, we all have to prioritize our training before anything else. We'll need to be ready for anything once they return from London,” Keija carefully reminded everyone.

    With that said, the three of them separated to conduct their individual tasks, Teyna made her way towards the main building to contact her family, Keija turned towards the direction of the old training grounds, and Daniel headed off to the library.

    The old training grounds on the Shadow Hunter complex were located in a remote area about a mile from the lacrosse field. The facility was still used, even though the newly commissioned underground facility had drawn the most attention recently. Within the facility, were old building mockups and automated silhouette targets that would appear during training events.

    The combat teams led by Lars Olson would regularly practice their tactics here, and as Keija arrived at the facility, she noticed the range markers indicating operations were taking place at the time.

    Heading for the control tower, Keija noticed Lars and Keil were both acting as range masters, while subordinates were running through various tactical exercises.

    Lars turned towards the door as Keija entered the tower, and smiled immediately, “Keija! It's good to see you. How did testing go with Miss Caulfield?”

    Keija returned the smile and responded easily, “It went really well, Lars. Turns out Teyna has a spiritual strength not quite approaching level three.”

    Lars opened his mouth somewhat slack-jawed at this revelation, “Woah! That is impressive. Who'd have thought this girl from Singapore was a dragon in disguise?”

    “Seriously!” Keija agreed, “Finding her out of the blue like that was a huge score.”

    “So where is she now?” Lars replied, as Keil behind him started to yell into a radio transmitter about the last tactical exercise mistakes that were made.

    “She's recovering from the test, and making contact with her family,” Keija replied directly.

    “I wondered what would happen when she took off with us on such short notice. I'm sure the situation in Singapore is a bit chaotic in regards to her situation,” Lars said with empathy.

    “Yeah, she's got a lot on her plate at the moment,” Keija nodded vigorously.

    “As for you?” Lars raised his eyebrows, “I suspect you want us to incorporate some training in for your new weapons today? Am I right?” He winked.

    “Bullseye,” Keija replied with a smirk.
     
  11. Sturmritter

    Sturmritter Member

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    Chapter 71: A Demonstration

    “We're a bit busy right now, so I can't promise anything unless we can get these teams to my standards soon,” Lars explained as Keil again started chewing out a team over the radio, “Give us a few minutes to wind down the current exercise, and I'll see what we can come up with.”

    Keija stretched her lithe figure, and raised her gauntlets over her head as she stretched her hands within, with the express purpose of showing off the weapons to Lars as she did so. She applied the appropriate amount of pressure to each gauntlet and Lars whistled appreciatively as he noticed the blades extending.

    “Sam really outdid himself this time,” Lars murmured as he was mesmerized by the teal glow emanating from the runes.

    “I'd really like to try them out on something substantial,” Keija wistfully proclaimed.

    “I'm afraid they're too much for live combat practice,” Lars apologized in advance, “But we can set up some hardened training dummies for you to work against.”

    “Can you activate any magical constructs?” Keija inquired eagerly.

    “Unfortunately, we'd need a power source for that, and since you would be the one training, we can't use your spiritual strength. And no one in the combat team has that level of spiritual strength themselves...” Lars trailed off awkwardly.

    “Drat,” Keija reacted with a heavy sigh. Pondering the issue for a moment, she finally relented and urged Lars to go with the hardened dummy targets.

    Lars nodded, “Let's turn this into a demonstration of the Synod's combat capabilities, Keija. You can show these members of the combat team a little bit of what the secret world has in store for them.”

    “What?” Keija replied with a grin, “You don't think they get enough of that on the Lacrosse field?”

    Lars laughed deeply, “Only on open rules days!”

    The current combat team finished it's tactical exercise, and had withdrawn from the field, when Lars explained the slight deviation to their training schedule, to incorporate a demonstration by Keija of Synod infiltration and combat techniques.

    Gathering all the combat teams around the range, Lars explained that the Synod was an organization based in the spirit realm, which comprised members of every cosmology. To put it mildly, their combat style was an amalgam of mixed martial styles which were tailored to each spirit's individual talents. For Swarftalfheimer spirits of the Synod, their combat style included a mix of ranged magical and close combat physical styles of combat.

    Although members of the combat team were all aware of Keija's nature as a dark elf, they had never before seen a demonstration of her magical and combat abilities, so this opportunity was a welcome change from their daily tactical training.

    Lars introduced Keija formally, “You may all know her from the lacrosse field, but Keija Nighthawk is a member of the Synod, and their ambassador to Shadow Hunters. She works with us and trains with us, but she's had a lot more experience with the secret world than all of us combined.”

    He glanced over all the team members who were only vaguely familiar with Keija from the lacrosse games, “Do not underestimate her abilities at all! In a real combat situation, such as we had in Singapore, she is a staunch ally, and a deadly foe.”

    Some of the combat team members hadn't gone to Singapore, and couldn't help but be a bit skeptical of the claims coming from Lars concerning this seemingly teen-aged young girl standing in front of them, wearing jeans and an angora sweater and knit cap.

    For dramatic effect, Keija switched her guise to her natural dark elf form, and watched the less familiar combat team members jump in surprise at her sudden change. Following her sudden change, she executed a shunpo maneuver disappearing from her last position, only to appear next to one of the combat team members in the back row of the formation who wasn't paying a lot of attention.

    The team member was greatly startled as Keija whispered in his ear, “Don't underestimate me,” and disappeared again before he could turn his head, reappearing at the front of the formation. After a moment of chaotic gyrations, the combat team member regained his composure and remained at full alert during the remainder of the demonstration.

    Lars smiled and continued, “The Synod is our ally, and Keija is here to learn from us as well as teach us about her organization. So please pay attention as she demonstrates her combat skills for us today. Please feel free to run through the combat course, Keija.”

    With Lars handing off the introduction, Keija immediately began to zip swiftly through the course, seemingly flitting about like a teleporting dragonfly. The hardened training dummies were as if butter when matched against the magic rune empowered claws that she wielded with unerring accuracy. Further away, several wisps of magical spiritual strength exploded against the furthest training dummies, even as still more combat dummies close by were mauled by Keija's Bagh Nakh.

    The combat team members witnessing this impressive display of combat prowess were stunned. None of them had previously though that the seeming teen-aged young girl, who turned out to be a dark elf, could be so devastating in such a short order.

    The training that Keija had received from the Synod encompassed techniques and abilities that spanned across several cosmologies, from the North, West and East. Keija even was familiar with some of the Austral (southern) combat techniques as well, but they did not mesh as well with her innate talents as much the eastern and northern styles did.

    Within the frame of just a few minutes, Keija had completely wrecked a number of the hardened dummies, and had returned to her position in front of the formation of combat team members without so much as a heavy breath escaping her athletic form.

    Lars and the members of his team all looked at Keija with respect, and He announced to those gathered, “This is the style of a mid-strength member of the Synod, and is considered to be around level three or four on the spiritual strength scale that we use to classify entities in the secret world. If you believe you are adequately trained now, you are sorely mistaken. As members of this combat team, we may have to deal with numerous opponents at this or even higher levels of spiritual strength. So please keep this demonstration in mind as you train diligently in the future.”

    Turning to Keija, Lars winked and teased, “Thanks, 'rookie'.”

    Keija, feeling refreshed and invigorated after breaking in her new weapons, glibly smirked at Lars' teasing, and replied in like manner, “Anytime, old timer.”

    “If there's nothing more we can do for you today, I'll wish you luck with your college class endeavors tomorrow. Meanwhile, I still have this motley crew to beat into shape. Hopefully, you've put enough fear of failing in them to motivate their improvement.”

    Keija bowed politely to Lars and Keil and the rest of the combat team in formation, then proceeded to walk off, whistling a bit as she did, pleased at her performance with the new weapons.

    The rest of the day for Keija was spent integrating her eidos in various locations around the compound, and preparing for her first day of classes at the college, which would begin the next morning.
     
  12. Sturmritter

    Sturmritter Member

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    Chapter 72: Family Matters

    The following morning, Keija had knocked on Teyna's door as she had done the previous day, only there was no answer, and she suspected that Teyna had gone ahead to get breakfast on her own. She also momentarily paused at Daniel's door before deciding to continue to the dining room herself.

    As Keija entered through the large oak doors, she quickly spied Teyna, looking very perturbed, with Daniel trying to console her, but failing miserably.

    “Is he bothering you?” Keija quickly closed the distance to the table where the two of them sat.

    “Hey, don't get on my case!” Daniel retorted with his typical tone of contemptuousness.

    “Why you! Your reputation is one that's somewhat deserved, you know!” Keija shot back.

    Teyna replied with no enthusiasm at all, “It's not him, Keija. It's the conversation I had with my family last night, and no, I don't want to discuss it at the moment.”

    Keija quickly gave Daniel a glaring look, and then relented as she continued towards the buffet line to grab a hearty breakfast.

    Teyna looked at Daniel, “She got the hint, so why couldn't you just leave me be for now?”

    “Because when I see someone in distress, I feel compelled to help. I apologize for whatever it's worth, but I still would like you to be able to resolve whatever difficulties you are having with your family before we head to class. You need to concentrate on the immediate situation Teyna, your family and your position here depend on it.”

    “How does my position here depend on that?” Teyna looked at him with an uncomfortably annoying disposition.

    “I'm not sure what was revealed to you in Singapore, but we have competitions here every few years to retain our positions here at the Shadow Hunter headquarters. Your situation is rather unique, I must admit, but the Old Man will eventually demand the same of you that he demands of everyone else who is part of this organization. And if you get distracted from learning the basics of what we do, and how we do it, then you are going to suffer for it more in the future.”

    Keija returned at this moment with a tray filled with breakfast items, and sat down to begin eating, all the while listening to Daniel's admonition to Teyna.

    “We haven't even begun to attend classes yet, so how could you possibly know if I would be distracted or not?” Teyna brushed off his warnings, “Sure, I'm upset, but I have focus. I know that my life has been turned upside down over the past week, and I was exposed to the secret world with a slap to my soul, literally, yesterday. Who wouldn't be phased by that when they learn their kid brother, has fallen into the orbit of shady characters in the worst possible part of the city he grew up in?” She finished with a brusque tone.

    “What's all this?” Keija stared at Teyna shocked by the revelation.

    “Oh please!” Teyna practically shouted, “Just leave me be for the moment. I don't want to talk about it right now. Give me a some time to process my situation, and what I can do about things back home.”

    “Well,” Keija stated very calmly, “Don't worry about what is beyond your control.”

    “What?” Teyna replied with astonishment, “How can you say something so pedantic?”

    “It's not pedantic, Teyna, it's the truth,” Keija sighed gently. “Stop yourself for one moment, and ask what you can do in the next twenty four hours to change your brother's situation?”

    “I.....” Teyna looked hard at Keija, who was being completely serious, which was very unlike the prankish dark elf she had come to know, “I.....I can't do anything, can I?”

    “And with this understanding, you can begin to actually make a real change in the situation later on down the road,” Keija gave a relieved shrug and smiled as she replied.

    “It's just so frustrating!” Teyna let loose with a flood of pent up emotions, “I want to head back home and rap that boy's knuckles! What is wrong with him? He's joined up with one of the most notorious Triads in southeastern Asia! My mother and father were practically sobbing to me when they told me about it. I don't even like my parents, but what could I do, but console them, telling them I'll see what I can do from here. I couldn't even promise them results, Keija! What good is all this spiritual strength, if I can't even keep my own kid brother out of trouble!?!?”

    Keija wrapped one of her arms around Teyna's shoulder and simultaneously expanded an aura of her spiritual strength around the both of them. The Spiritual strength that Keija emitted did not invade Teyna (as it had done during the testing on the previous day), but rather wrapped around her like a comforting blanket. A soothing calm dispersed from this aura, like a gentle mist appearing during an early morning sunrise, and Teyna quickly regained her composure.

    Chuckling at the irony of her previous statement, she noticed that the aura Keija had produced helped her to once again focus on what she could do, rather than what she couldn't, “I guess spiritual strength does have it's uses.” She looked sideways towards both Keija and Daniel.

    “Unless your brother is in immediate danger, the best way to help him, is to improve your own understanding and ability with spiritual strength,” Keija said with Daniel's nodding agreement.

    “Now get a good breakfast to eat, and we'll start doing something that really will allow you to help your brother in the future,” She finished as she began to eat her own food.

    An hour later, the driver they had enlisted back at the compound, dropped them off at the gates to the Salem campus of the college of magi, and told the three young agents he would be back at six in the evening to return them to their dormatory.

    The ambiance of the college campus during the morning was quite a bit different from the evening when they had last set foot on this ground, and numerous students were pacing about, heading towards classes of one sort or another.

    The previous night, before Uzume had departed with Venka and the Old Man for London, she had given each of them a small bundle of documents that were provided by the college for new transfer students.
     
  13. Sturmritter

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    Chapter 73: The First Day of Class

    Now, the sun had risen fully, and the bright, cheerful autumn morning did a lot to disperse Teyna's foul mood. She still had a tinge of anxiety thinking about her family situation, but Keija had definitely helped her to put things in perspective, and she really couldn't do much at the moment, but improve herself, so that she could handle any situation involving her brother later on.

    Keija of course, was in her human guise at the moment, dressed in a nice casual winter outfit, consisting of denim jeans, a flannel shirt, light windbreaker jacket and, of course, her “gloves”. Her shoes were Ugg type boots with nice padded soles. Teyna had a similar outfit on but she wore knit mittens to keep the chill off her hands. Daniel was dressed more warmly, with a heavier jacket, and no gloves, but he kept his hands in the pockets of his jacket to keep them warm as well.

    The three headed down the main campus pathway, following the directions from a map included with their document packages. After passing by the library, and several other campus facilities they ended up in front of an imposing old colonial structure with a plaque reading “Elysian Hall".

    Teyna, who grew up with a love of Greek Mythology, quickly understood the reference, “That's just too cool!”

    “Eh?” Daniel hadn't latched onto what Teyna was referring to, and looked at her to explain herself.

    “The lecture hall where we are attending classes is a reference to the Greek belief in the Elysian fields, a place where mortals related to the Gods would find rest after their lives were complete. I suppose those with awakened spiritual strengths could be said to be related to the gods, and have left their previous lives behind. In this lecture hall, they will find rest and wisdom,” She explained as she understood the possible reference in the naming of the building.

    “I guess that is pretty cool if you think about it that way,” Daniel nodded in agreement.

    Keija smiled at both of them, and shrugged her shoulders, “The Western cosmology is amazing, but don't underestimate our Northern cosmology either,” She said as she winked.

    As the time approached the hour, many more students began milling around the building as classes were let out and the time to travel towards their next class was allotted. Daniel, Keija and Teyna all entered into Elysian Hall, and searched for the room where Professor Halloran would be holding his classes.

    The three finally found their appropriate classsroom and filed in to find Professor Halloran currently seated at a desk, busily typing behind a computer screen. The class still had about 10 minutes before it officially began, and the three of them went to present themselves to this Professor, as he had been known to be acquainted with Lars Olson.

    “Excuse us,” Daniel hastily interrupted as he gently coughed to gain the Professor's attention, “Professor Halloran? We're the new transfer students from Mr. Mallory's Foundation. My name is Daniel, this is Teyna, and my other friend is named Keija. I believe we met a couple of days ago during the field trip you had.”

    Professor Halloran finished typing his last sentence, and turned around with haste to stand up and properly greet his new students.

    "Ah yes, indeed!” Professor Halloran replied graciously, “Welcome! Welcome! We've just finished our midterm exam period, so you are coming at the perfect time. From what I've been led to understand by my conversations with Mr. Mallory, there is at least one of you who is completely fresh in regards to their experience with the secret world?”

    “That would be me, sir,” Teyna stepped forward and replied with a bit of embarrassment.

    “Fiddle!” The professor waved her embarrassment off with a quick hand gesture, “There's no need to be reserved or shy in what you know or don't know. The reason you are here in the first place is to learn, is it not?”

    Teyna nodded her head, “I suppose that's true.”

    “Good! Good!” The Professor said with hearty approval, “Now, when class begins, I won't coddle you at all, but continue my class as I would normally, but please see me after class if there are any concepts presented in the upcoming days that are confusing or completely new to you. I'm not sure how much training you've already had, but this class of mine are second year students, and have at least a fundamental foundation on spiritual strength applications.”

    Teyna had a lot of apprehension, “My training in spiritual strength began yesterday, and I've only learned how to circulate this strength in my soul realm at the moment.”

    “I see, I see,” The professor mumbled as he quickly formulated a plan to deal with the disparity of his instruction and Teyna's current level of knowledge, “Please take your seats wherever you like, I'll call you up to introduce you to the class, and then we'll be ready to march on in the quest for knowledge!”

    Ten minutes later, the three Shadow Hunters were in class, watching several other students file into the class room. The class size astonished Teyna, seeing that there were at most 10 other students. Among those she recognized from the field trip a few days ago, she remembered Emily, Amelia and Jonathan from the first student competition that day.

    “Oh great!” Keija exclaimed enthusiastically and perked up as she saw the last student file into the room, “Wesley Willoughby must be in a different class than us!”

    Emily overhead Keija's comment and turned towards her, “No, sorry to burst your bubble. He's in this class, but he's on field trip helping his sister chaperone at the moment.”

    “Oh?” Keija suddenly looked glum, “Well, maybe his sister planned something so we'd not have to interact so much.”

    Emily nodded in agreement, “That's most likely the case. By the way, you seem familiar. Weren't you at the Mallory Foundation grounds a few days ago?”

    “That's right, but we should talk later, looks like the professor wants to begin class soon!” Keija immediately glanced in the direction of the Professor, who had stood up from his desk, and walked towards the podium situated at the front of the lecture room.

    “Right, We'll talk after class!” Emily smiled as she hurried to her seat, joining Amelia and Jonathan.

    Teyna leaned over to Keija and marveled at how easily she seemed to make new acquaintances, “You're quite the social butterfly,” She lightly teased.

    Keija shrugged her shoulders, “Really? I thought it was just my pleasant manner,” She winked in reply.

    “Well, you are pleasant, and friendly, until someone irks you,” Teyna agreed.

    “That should be the case for everyone, I should think,” Daniel interjected his thoughts into the conversation, “The only trouble is that some people, including myself, tend to convey our pleasant friendly manner rather awkwardly, and once friction is created, it's hard to undo.”

    Keija turned towards Daniel astonished at the level of self-awareness he had just displayed, “Don't we both know it!”

    She shook her head thinking about her past interactions with Daniel. She still thought of him as rather prideful, somewhat arrogant, and full of himself, but she previously never understood there was a depth to his character that was contemplative and self-depreciating as well.

    This revelation into Daniel's more reflective aspect of his personality helped Keija to reduce her overall animosity towards Daniel over the successive days of knowing him. He could still push her buttons from time to time, but she now understood that the reasoning behind such occurrences was not vindictive, but rather teasing.

    As Keija was reaching this understanding, the Professor interrupted her train of thought by calling on the new transfer students to approach the front of the class and introduce themselves to the other students.

    As Daniel, and then Teyna made their cursory introductions, Professor Halloran spoke to Keija in a hushed voice, “Would you prefer to keep your natural guise a secret, or not?”

    Keija grimaced at the thought that she couldn't camouflage her spiritual nature from any of the mid or high ranked individuals on campus, but hadn't actually come to a decision yet as to whether or not to reveal herself to the general student population.

    With the Professor's direct questioning, however, Keija felt it may be for the best to reveal her nature. The pros and cons of a so-called 'secret identity' were not important within the confines of the secret world itself, and on this campus, everyone was a magi at some level of strength or another.

    Keija took a deep breath and released her inner doubts with a heavy sigh of relief. As Teyna finished her introduction, Keija naturally headed towards the front of the class.

    “For those who may or may not only be slightly familiar with me, my name is Keija. My family name is something that has been forgotten over time, but we have always lived by the family nickname, 'Nighthawk'. If you are wondering why it's possible to forget one's family name over time, that's because I'm not human.”
     
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2017
  14. Sturmritter

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    Chapter 74: Revelation and a Strange Domain

    “What?!?!?!” All the students in the class opened their eyes wide in surprise at this remark, and the astonishment immediately grew into a clamor as Keija shifted her guise to her natural Swartalf form.

    Even Daniel and Teyna were surprised she would reveal herself so in the college classroom, until they both realized that everyone present was a part of the secret world.

    Emily Danforth was one of the most calm amongst the students in the classroom, but even she couldn't help but exclaim loudly, “You're a dark elf?!?”

    “Let me reintroduce myself,” Keija calmly announced after the clamor was reduced to astonished gossip as the Professor called the class once again to order. Her deep indigo eyes flashing with a gentle storminess as her lithe elven features surveyed the students in the room.

    “My name is Keija Nighhawk, Synod member of the house of Rael and Freya Nighthawk. I'm a Swartalfheimer ambassador to the Mallory Foundation and a Shadow Hunter. Please feel free to learn from me as I learn from all of you. To those who may find such matters important, I prefer the term Swartalfheimer to that of dark elf, but I'll tolerate the appellation for now.”

    The class was a commotion as all the students were distracted by the appearance of a mythical fae spirit actually in their classroom, but slowly and surely, the Professor regained control of the classroom after a few minutes of letting the steam out of the surprise.”

    The professor continued, “Now that we have that commotion out of the way, I'll first say that midterms are not yet fully graded, but the standings will be posted by the end of the day at Willoughby House and also at my office. With our new transfer students, we won't be slowing down our pace of instruction either, so be prepared for some new techniques to be introduced. So we will now enter the day's dimensional domain.”

    The class all remained attentive as Professor Halloran began to extrude a dimensional domain entrance and motioned for everyone to enter into the alternate reality.

    Teyna was mesmerized by the conjuration of this dimensional portal. Previously, the night before, she had departed back for the Shadow Hunter compound before Jessica had conjured her dimensional domain for Keija's rune empowerment. She had never seen such a phenomenon before in her life as it was qualitatively different from seeing a wisp of spiritual strength being summoned.

    She watched in fascination as the Professor used his spiritual strength to extrude a warp in reality, shaping it like a potter does a block of clay on his wheel. As the domain warp grew larger and larger, Teyna felt an odd ambiance descend upon everyone gathered in the room. It wasn't like a silence, as there was a thrumming emanating from the domain, but Teyna felt as if the world had shifted beneath the perceptible surface, but there was not even a ripple of activity beyond her immediate surroundings.

    This wasn't a visible nor an audible perception, rather it was Teyna's spiritual sight, having been awakened on her own due to the application of spiritual strength in powering the Professor's spell.

    Daniel looked at Teyna, and whispered in her ear, “It's like the sound of silence, isn't it?”

    Teyna felt Daniel's description fit perfectly. It was the sound of silence, or perhaps the silence of sound.

    Finally the professor completed his spell, and the dimensional domain portal hovered near him like an eerie ghostly doorway. For in fact, that's exactly what it was. As he completed the spell, the ambiance that Teyna sensed with her spiritual sight dissipated rapidly as the spell's sequela effects were absorbed by surrounding arrays in the vicinity of the class hall.

    Teyna was startled when the Professor finally spoke, as his voice was both loud and forceful. “Ok, students! I've completed the access passage to our assigned training grounds today. If all of you would be so kind as to line up and enter one by one, I'll explain the day's lesson once we are all inside the domain,” Professor Halloran finished, as he gestured for each student to cross the domain's boundary, “Oh, and don't forget to bring your coats. The temperature is a bit chilly.”

    Keija turned to Teyna and smiled as she asked, “Are you ready for your first trip down the rabbit hole?” in a reference to 'Alice in Wonderland' by Lewis Carroll.

    “Do I have a choice?” Teyna shrugged tensely, but she was excited. In all her days in the corporate humdrum at Daedalus, nor in her entire life leading up to this point, she never expected to one day be standing literally in front of a door to another world.

    “Nope!” both Daniel and Keija grinned in unison.

    As all three Shadow Hunters were at the front of the class, they led the others in entering the domain and immediately adjusted to the environmental changes that were starkly different from the classroom's. The temperature inside the domain was much cooler, so those who were holding their coats immediately put them on.

    The last of the students intruded through the domain portal and the Professor followed soon thereafter. He gathered all the students in a circle and explained the purpose of the day's lesson.

    “Magicians and even Celestial Guardians all have innate natural talent, but there are such things as artifacts, equipment and focal objects, foci, that can augment spiritual strength and enable powerful magical combinations to be used in the defense of our nexus and realm gates,” Turning towards Keija as an example he further explained, “This is especially so for spirits, who have an ability to interact with an object to increase their strength in the vicinity of that object. Today, we are going to search for suitable pieces of equipment and foci for your personal use in the days to come. Welcome to the artifact repository domain of the college of magi!”

    All of the students let out big smiles and they finally understood that this was a small reward for all their hard work over the past two years.

    “We'll split up the group into teams. This is for your protection. Although we consider this domain to be the repository for artifacts, doesn't mean that we at the college fully control the domain, nor it's security measures. No piece of equipment here in the domain can be taken without undergoing a contest of spiritual strength. After all, no piece of equipment here is worthless. Not only that but you have to search for these items with your own spiritual sight. Artifacts that are too powerful for you to use will naturally be obscured unless your spiritual sight is sufficient to detect them, and even then you may not be able to tame it's strength during your contest of wills." The professor concluded.

    Keija looked at both Daniel and Teyna with a knowing look. Naturally, they'd already be part of a team on their own. However, even Keija was surprised when the Professor had the three of them pair up with Emily and her friends as well. Emily, Amelia and Jonathan all looked very pleased at being paired with the Shadow Hunter agents.

    The rest of the class gave them all looks of bitter envy, but they shrugged it off. After all, Emily and her friends were some of the top students at the college, consistently placing quite high on academic tests, so naturally they would reap a few benefits of their class standing. The other students naturally formed their own group as well, and the two teams now were ready to begin exploring the domain.

    The professor gave each person a small crystal which recorded the akashic record of their time in this domain. It would be used for evaluation of their compatibility with any equipment they successfully retrieved. He then pointed in one direction, to the east, and sent the other group to search in that area. To the west, he direct Keija and the others to search in that area.

    “Please, everyone return in 2 hours. We'll spend the third and final hour of the class evaluating any successful recovery of equipment,” He finished.

    Only two hours to search? Keija was disturbed by this short amount of time, but she wasn't too worried for herself. Afterall, she already had an incredible piece of equipment consisting of her Bagh Nakh. But for the others? Only two hours to find a compatible piece of equipment in this domain might be pushing the limits of acceptability.

    Daniel was the first to speak up regarding their current task, “As you are all well aware, two hours is a very short amount of time, but if we spend a few minutes now to formulate a plan, we can avoid unnecessary delays during this period.”
     
  15. Sturmritter

    Sturmritter Member

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    Chapter 75: The Search for Artifacts and a Startling Discovery

    “Agreed,” Emily and her friends nodded quickly as she then replied, “Let's first determine our preferences for equipment, and we can skip those objects which do not match our preferences. Also, we should use teamwork during the spiritual strength evaluation in order to reduce the time wasted in overcoming an objects inherent defenses. So with that in mind, Jonathan, what are your preferences?”

    “I could really use a piece of equipment that would help me to store spiritual strength over time. Telepathy and scrying definitely drain my strength over time.”

    “Very good, and what about you Amelia?” Emily first wanted to get her own friends' preferences declared, so that there would be no conflicts between them and the Shadow Hunter agents.

    “A nice piece of defensive jewelry or a bangle would be my choice,” Amelia responded after a thought.

    “And what about you Emila?” Keija interjected to voice her own thoughts.

    “I could use something similar to what Jonathan needs. A spiritual strength battery or magnifier of some sort.”

    “Seems to be the case with most everyone it seems,” Daniel added his own voice to the mix, “Although I'm not sure what piece of equipment can help me with astral travel more than what I already have. I guess I'll have to defer until we discover what may be of use.”

    “Teyna? How about you?” Keija asked directly.

    “I'm not sure what will be of use to me, I don't even know how to cast a spell yet!”

    “That'll be remedied soon enough over the next few days,” Keija replied as she turned her attention towards her own possible needs, “The most urgent piece of equipment I could use right now, is a counter ward to prevent compulsion or binding.”

    “Well, we at least have an idea of what to search for now,” Jonathan piped up with a positive attitude, “I can begin scrying the area with these parameters in mind, and that will save us quite a lot of wasted effort.”

    “While you are scrying, I just had another thought that might be useful in the future as well,” Keija suddenly presented a sly grin on her face.

    “Oh?” Daniel was interested in this. Whenever Keija had a particularly devious thought, she would show that sly grin on her face. He was well familiar with how clever Keija could be at times.

    “I'm going to start integrating my eidos with this domain,” she declared, “It will strengthen our ability to contend during the evaluations for item compatibility!”

    “Brilliant!” Emily agreed. Even Teyna was astonished by this declaration. Who else could have thought to derive strength from the location itself, let alone have the capability to do so?

    “While Jonathan is scrying, I suggest the rest of us cultivate for a time while Keija integrates,” Daniel suggested as well, “Teyna especially could use every moment she has to increase her foundation.”

    The entire time of discussion between the group took about 10 minutes, and after which they began to set out for a suitable place to camp in order to scry, cultivate and prepare to test against any artifacts they might discover.

    On the eastern side of the domain, the other group of students decided to conduct a physical search, and immediately set out without so much as a plan on what they required or needed. Looking over towards the west before they set out, they noticed the western group discussing their plan. Why waste good time over a plan that has already been decided? It's not as if we have a choice of artifacts to select from, they thought.

    Whatever tools can be found can be made of use to someone. Therefore, they didn't see the need to waste time discussing preferences or needs.

    The terrain of the dimensional domain was very much otherworldly, and the two teams had to hike over some broken and rough terrain in order to venture into their respective zones. The size of the dimensional domain wasn't so large as to be a huge barren wasteland, but neither was it small enough for the groups to easily reach each other or hear them without a supreme effort on their parts.

    The terrain was rocky and sandy, with very little in the way of vegetation. The air temperature was extremely cool, and the horizon was colored in off shades of purple, black and orange, giving the landscape quite an alien aura. The two teams ventured further and further into the domain, and the Professor watched them safely from a high ground vantage point near the portal entrance. The chilly environment kept all of the students in each group alert, and ready to react quickly.

    Professor Halloran noticed the different attitudes between the two groups and smiled inwardly. How could the students know that the day's lesson was something entirely different? It wasn't a search for artifacts that was today's lesson, but rather an exercise in teamwork. The Domain certainly had it's share of valuable and useful tools and gear, but the main reason this place was used for instruction was in it's ability to morph itself according to whoever occupied it's space. The danger level of it's denizens were always within one rank of the the highest person who left the safety zone of the portal area.

    Since Professor Halloran had stayed near the portal, his spiritual strength would not affect the domain. But Keija's spiritual strength at rank four was probably the highest in the class. At most they could face compatibility testing of the fifth rank. In such instances, a team consisting of several level three and four ranked individuals could find a challenge, but at least one that they could safely withdraw from if the danger level became too great. Little did the Professor know that Keija had intended to integrate with the domain, which could possibly affect her strength or the domain's in an unknown variable manner.

    A dangerous situation might occur, and none of the people present realized it!

    Keija sat down as Jonathan began to scry, and Keija began to probe the domain in preparation for integrating her eidos with it. When coming to a brand new dimension, it was always wise to get a feeling for how it would react to the introduction of spiritual strength into the realm. Keija knew from her experience with the Synod that not every domain or realm was suitable for integration. She spent the next few minutes gingerly extending her spiritual strength and pausing for several moments at a time to gauge the reaction.

    What she discovered was the opposite of her tentative worry! Not only was the domain exceptional in receiving her spiritual strength, it acted quite like a dragon vein and magnified that spiritual strength. The rebounding spiritual strength shocked Keija, and even Daniel and Teyna became aware that something unusual was happening.

    This domain was attuned to spiritual strength is a very peculiar manner though, and even though Keija was pleasantly surprised by the effect of this tentative probing, she still felt cautious in integrating her full strength.

    “It's creating a sort of feedback loop!” Keija exclaimed excitedly as she continued with the mild probing of the domain.

    “If that's the case, Keija, I'd recommend not continuing your integration,” Daniel advised with caution.

    “You're probably right, but in the right circumstances with more information about this domain, I feel that it could greatly enhance my strength! You guys continue to cultivate and scry. I'm going to speak with the professor about this phenomenon!” Keija was excited by the prospect, but with a class of student mages present, she didn't want to upset the balance of the domain, and possibly trigger some unfortunate reaction.

    The spiritual knack for considering the potential consequences of one's actions was deeply ingrained in Keija's eidos. She had always believed that one should not brashly act without sufficient knowledge, which is why she was also pleasantly surprised by Daniel's admonition. It seems her cautious attitude had been slowly rubbing off on Daniel. Or perhaps it was due to that strange presence during Teyna's testing, that caused him to recently act with more caution in regards to the secret world.

    In any case, Keija welcomed the change to Daniel's behavior and attitude.

    Keija stood up and quickly headed for the Professor's location, while the others continued their current activities. The professor's attention had been directed towards the activities of the eastern group at the moment, so when Keija suddenly appeared he was quite startled.
     
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2017
  16. Sturmritter

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    Chapter 76: An Unusual Domain

    “Excuse me Professor Halloran!” Keija asked in a very excited voice, “I've discovered something very strange about this domain, and was wondering if you could educate me on what particulars you may know about it.”

    The professor raised an eyebrow in astonishment. Had Keija already seen through the special attribute of this domain? If so, she was quite amazing. Although the professor was familiar with the Synod, his understanding of integration and how spirits raised their internal strength was sparse.

    Had he known that spirits injected their eidos into an object and aligned it to their own strength (Kind of like how a magnet creates another magnet from rubbing against iron or steel), he would have cautioned Keija in advance to avoid integrating with the domain.

    “Before I explain this domain, could you please tell me what discovery caused this interest?”

    Keija thought nothing of the inquiry, and immediately explained, “Well, I was probing the nature of the domain in preparation for an attempt to integrate with this location, and I discovered that the domain caused a feedback loop.”

    “Integration?” Professor Halloran questioned, “Isn't that some sort of spiritual cultivation technique?”

    “Indeed, although it operates in a different manner. We place our spiritual strength into the environment, rather than drawing the natural energies of the surrounding environment into our soul realm.”

    “What?!?!” The Professor quickly made the connection between integration and the feedback phenomenon that Keija experienced, “You mustn't do that here! The domain adjusts itself to the highest level of spiritual strength present in the domain! If you integrate with it, it would create a terrible cascading feedback loop with you raising your own spiritual strength but also the danger level within the domain itself!”

    Keija pondered this for a moment, but then realized, “If that were the case, why isn't the danger level of the domain adjusted to your own spiritual strength level? As a professor, your strength level certainly must be a few levels higher than these students.”

    The professor coughed as he realized Keija had easily seen through the nature of the domain and zeroed in on the only possible anomaly in his description, “Well, you see. Within a certain radius of the entrance portal, the level of spiritual strength won't affect the domain at all.”

    “Oh?” Keija exclaimed excitedly, “In that case, you could move beyond the radius, raising the domain level while I integrate near the portal, thus avoiding the feedback loop!”

    “Yes, that would work, but WHY are you even intending to integrate with this domain?” the Professor quickly inquired with exasperation, “Even if you successfully do so, with the intent to assist your fellow students, you will still raise the level of the danger in accordance with that newfound spiritual strength.”

    Keija seemed deflated after that explanation. It was true that her intent was to assist the others, but that would be rendered moot if the difficulty of the task also increased.

    “Still, this phenomenon must have some usefulness,” Keija interjected another line of reasoning, “if there was no one else present in the domain, and I integrated near the safe zone, I could greatly raise my spiritual strength, and withdraw quickly if a dangerous situation arose.”

    “Do all spirits integrate in the same manner as you?” the Professor asked as he analyzed the potential of the domain. He had to consider that if that were the case, it might be best to ward the domain from any spirits in the future.

    “I believe so, although you'd have to ask Uzume if there are differences between the various cosmologies. That is something I hadn't thought to consider before, for my own part,” Keija replied.

    “Well, I shall consider it for another time. But during this class period, please do not integrate, or your fellow students may face great danger.” The professor came to a final judgment.

    “I suppose that's the best that can be hoped for at the moment,” Keija sighed with a tinge of dejection, but she was pleased he didn't forbid the possibility in the future.

    During this conversation, the eastern team was in the midst of a compatibility test for a piece of equipment they had discovered. The artifact generated a rank 4 magical beast guardian, which glowered at the students imperiously. The sounds of combat rang out in the distance at the team send showers of sparks towards the beast.

    From their long distance vantage point, the Professor and Keija watched the team struggle against the guardian beast and the battle seemed to be fairly evenly matched.

    “I should get back to my own team,” Keija quickly surmised, “They'll need me if I don't return soon enough.”

    “Wait for a time,” The professor held out his hand, “Should you leave the safe zone, the strength of that magical beast will most likely rise. You may not realize it, but you probably have the highest spiritual strength of all the people present besides myself.”

    “But I can't just sit here if my own team needs me!” Keija objected without hesitation.

    “Please remain calm, Keija,” The professor chided gently, “Your team is going about their search in a much more systematic and thoughtful way. It's only been a half an hour since we arrived, and yet your team has yet to move. Either they are waiting for you, or they are still searching. In any case, if you could wait for a moment until the other side finishes their contest, I would be most appreciative.”

    “Do I get extra credit?” Keija winked as she bargained for some remuneration.

    “I'll consider it, if you even are worried about a grade,” He laughed softly.

    “To be honest, Teyna is the one most in need of extra attention at the moment. She's only recently stepped into the secret world,” Keija admitted with hesitation.

    “I'll do what I can to help her catch up to the rest of the students as well. It seems that you and Daniel have a lot more experience than these students, but I still hope to teach you all a thing or two about mages and their duties,” The professor responded with grace.

    As their conversation came to a conclusion, the battle on the eastern side of the domain managed to end with a hard fought victory over the guardian beast, who bowed to the team of student mages and offered the artifact with a submissive gesture.

    The students in that team were exhausted, and excited that they had won their first piece of equipment for the day. Their morale increased and they all commended each other on their tactics and artistic use of various spells to win the artifact.

    The professor turned towards Keija, “This is their real lesson for the day. How to work together as a team. You Shadow Hunters far exceed the average mage in this regard. But we still manage to learn teamwork eventually.” He smiled wistfully as he explained, “If only Wesley could learn this lesson....”

    “Wesley?” Keija was taken aback when the professor mentioned that arrogant kid, “Isn't he on some sort of field trip with his sister today?”

    “Yes, but he really needs to learn teamwork too, It's a shame that today, his sister required his assistance on a field trip for some of the senior students.”

    “Perhaps to keep him away from the transfer students,” Keija muttered under her breath.

    “What was that?” The professor turned out to have sharp hearing.

    “Oh, nothing. I was just thinking there must have been a pressing reason,” Keija quickly covered, “Now that their battle is over, I should head back to my team. I suspect their next battle won't be as easy as the last one. Nor our first.”

    “Good luck, you still have a little over two hours to get what you can,” The professor amended.

    Keija excused herself, and quickly made her way over to where Daniel and Teyna and the others were cultivating.
     
  17. Sturmritter

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    Chapter 77: Disturbance in the Domain

    As she arrived, she felt a very disturbing rise in the level of the domain, far more so than her own rank four strength would allow. Did the professor leave the safety zone? Or even more troubling was the possibility that some unknown intruder had somehow made it's way into the domain!

    The others in her group welcomed her and quickly made preparations to move and acquire a spiritual strength battery that Jonathan was able to scry.

    While the western team was just finishing up their survey of possible equipment for them to test against, the eastern team was once again battling another guardian beast, but with the sudden change in the domain's level of spiritual equilibrium, the eastern team found itself quickly at a huge disadvantage.

    Of course, this issue was currently unknown to Keija's western teammates, and they continued to set out for their prize. Both Jonathan and Emily had expressed an interest to obtain such a device, to help them with their particular specialties.

    As Keija sensed the shift in the domain, however, she immediately warned the others of danger.

    “Something isn't right here. The domain has reacted to something and it's about to affect our testing!” Keija sounded out loud.

    “What's that?” Jonathan looked annoyed. “We've spent a lot of time surveying, but we need to get something accomplished, regardless of the risks!” He was, after all, an honor student known for his zealousness in all things concerning class and study.

    Amelia chided him, “Jonathan! No grade is worth our lives. If Keija senses some sort of danger, we'd be foolish to ignore the warnings of a fae spirit!”

    Emily looked divided between the two, “Just how much of a shift in the domain could it be?” She looked hesitantly at Keija waiting for some confirmation.

    “Enough of a danger for me to agree with Keija,” Daniel suddenly spoke up as his spiritual sight began to detect signs of a huge battle in the east, “We should head for the other students, and assist them. It seems they are in a pitched battle at the moment! They'll all have a better chance to succeed if we group together!”

    “What?!?” Teyna, Emily, Amelia and Jonathan all exclaimed in unison.

    Teyna, for her part, was inclined to trust Keija and Daniel implicitly. They had never given her a reason to question their judgment for these past few days, and although Teyna was a neophyte to the secret world, she had a well honed sense of self-preservation from her time working at Daedalus.

    As for Emily, Amelia and Jonathan, they were confident of their abilities to work together as a team, but grew up on tales noting the peculiar instances where spirits and mortals interacted, which usually ended badly for the mortals who ignored the warnings of spirits. Although Keija was technically a trickster spirit, they couldn't fathom a reason for her to deceive them in such a way.

    When Daniel suddenly agreed with her and further indicated that the other students could be in grave danger, the three mages swallowed their apprehension and let the more experienced Shadow Hunters lead them.

    Keija led them as fast as possible towards the safety zone, given that she had just returned from that way, and the others could barely keep up with her, even though she wasn't using any movement techniques.

    Emily was astonished at how agile Keija was, and thought to herself that the stories she had heard about fae spirits' agility were not overstated. Amelia and Jonathan also did their best to keep up with the Swartalfheimer as well.

    Teyna, of course, had gotten somewhat used to Keija's speed, after having chased her during their intial recon of the college campus, when she zipped off in search of dragon veins. Daniel was also all too familiar with Keija's abilities, having first met her in Niflheim near the gates of Hel.

    Without so much as a pause, Keija swiftly darted between the various terrain outcroppings to blaze a path towards the beleaguered eastern group of students. As they approached the battle area, they could see a guardian beast, that had mutated grotesquely from the introduction of a much higher spiritual strength somewhere in the domain.

    Though none of the students, nor Professor Halloran could pinpoint the intruding presence, at least the professor had the foresight to realize he could move now within the domain without further upsetting the equilibrium of spiritual strength. The intruding presence had already caused to the domain to react, and the mutated Guardian Beast was approaching a rank six monster.

    Initially the Guardian Beast for the artifiact was a Kirin (Qilin) from the eastern cosmology, whose task was to guard an ancient magatama. The magatama was a genuine soul strengthening focus that absorbed and stored spiritual strength, and radiated that strength in a continual stream once activated.

    It was the type of artifact that both Jonathan and Emily desired, but at present, those thoughts were far from their minds as they approached the mutated beast. The once noble and heroic Kirin had morphed into a a berserk horned fiend due to the unknown presence that caused the domain to react malignantly.

    It had trampled 3 of the students, who were incapacitated by their injuries, and it was furiously rousing itself for another charge at the remaining students who were visibly terrified by the rampaging onslaught.

    Keija wished that Uzume was here at the moment, but she couldn't obviously wait for a Kitsune's battle expertise when she was acting as bodyguard for the Old Man in London. Taking a deep breath as she arrived at the battle atop a giant boulder overlooking the fight, she slapped her gauntlets together and extended the cold steel runed blades of her weapon.

    As the Kirin charged against one of the eastern team's students, Keija leapt down from the boulder and extended her spiritual strength into her gauntlets to energize the runes to maximum effect.

    These same blades had cut through hardened steel dummies in the training grounds the day before, as if like a hot knife through butter. But having landed a surprise blow on this mutated Kirin beast, the Bagh Nakh blades only caused a minor scratch on the glistening scaled skin of the beast.

    Keija was astonished at the creature's durability, especially given her pushing the runic energy of her weapon to the maximum level she could sustain. Nonetheless, the creature howled and bucked immediately as the weapon managed to cause pain, if not serious injury.

    The eastern group student yelled out an immediate thanks, and scrambled to find cover so that he could launch his own spell.

    As Daniel, Teyna and the other western group students arrived in turn, the tide of battle turned into a taunting battle, where each student would taunt and distract the Kirin from completing a devastating charge against an exposed student.

    The students realized they were extremely vulnerable to this mutated beast, and they simply had to hold out as best they could while the professor either got help, or came to aid them himself.

    Lucky enough for the students, the professor managed to do both, by sending a message spell to the college, and simultaneously heading down to battle area himself.

    As a Rank 6 mage, Professor Halloran was considered a high grade Adept, only steps below an advancement to master rank mage. He could certainly draw out the battle vs. this beast, by slowing, and using control techniques to keep the beast from seriously injuring the students.

    Given that the Domain was currently adjusted to a rank 6 or 7 spiritual strength, the professor's message to the college stated that no one above rank 6 could assist in the rescue. As the college was familiar with unusual emergency circumstances from time to time, the rescue effort was extremely quick and a team of several rank 6 faculty members emerged from the portal within minutes of them receiving the Professor's emergency message.
     
  18. Sturmritter

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    Chapter 78: Danger in the Domain

    * Boom *

    The Kirin clashed against a warding spell that the professor cast moments before Amelia was overrun by the rampaging beast. The creature's strength was effectively limitless when compared to the students' own low spiritual strength. The gulf between rankings was on the order of magnitudes of difference.

    Nonetheless, with nine rank 2 to 3 student mages, The Shadow hunters Keija and Daniel (and too a lesser extent, Teyna) had significantly more spiritual strength. Even Teyna, who couldn't utilize her spiritual strength in an offensive capacity at the moment, could still distract the Kirin from time to time when the situation became critical.

    Teyna had already felt a great improvement in her spiritual sight, as her body reflexively began to augment her sense of self-preservation. It seemed a true saying that seeing one's life flash before one's eyes brought great wisdom with it.

    Amelia had attempted a few charm spells, as she had utilized 'mind cloud' to hide several students from the Kirin, but the creatures' innate senses were able to pierce her low powered spell with ease. It was then that the Professor's ward spell shot out like a bolt of lightning to quickly protect Amelia from being overrun.

    Keija and Daniel quickly countered with a combination strike with Daniel sending out a shower of spiritual strength towards the Kirin to distract it's attention, while Keija utilized a shunpo maneuver to strike at what seemed to be the soft underside of the creature.

    The Kirin bellowed once again in pain and quickly parried a second strike from Keija as it's horn clashed against her left gauntlet. Off balance, Keija was exposed to a hoof attack, and was knocked several meters back against a large boulder.

    The wind was knocked out of her, and the Kirin was about to charge to finish her off, when Daniel shot a spirit bolt of energy to again distract the beast.

    “KEIJA!” He cried out in horror as she slumped against the boulder.

    The Kirin whinnied menacingly, and turned towards Daniel, beginning a charge, when the reinforcements from the college finally arrived at the battlefield. Daniel was barely able to roll out of the way. With the quick agility of the beast, he was concerned that he might be attacked quickly again, but the rescue team further distracted the beast once more, and Daniel was able to retreat to Keija's position.

    “Thank God you've come so quickly!” The Professor yelled out in relief to the rescue team, “Get the students out of here, and we can finish this monstrosity off!”

    Several agile mages quickly motioned for those students who were still able to retreat from the battle to do so, as the veteran faculty members engaged the creature in earnest.

    The professor himself rushed over to where Keija was slumped and grabbed her in a fireman's carry, with the remaining members of the western team providing rear security.

    The hand off for the battle went extremely smooth, and the professor received a thumbs up from the rescue party leader as he withdrew to help the students evacuate the Domain. A few of the rescue team split off to carry off the injured incapacitated students, and the remainder engaged the mutated Kirin and prevented it from causing more harm.

    Keija had obviously received a severe blow, but the professor could feel her respiration against his back, so he knew that it wasn't a deadly one. After all, spirits were immortal. But recovery from an injury would still take some time.

    As the professor urged the evacuated students through the portal, he calmed Daniel down, and let him know that Keija was breathing regularly. The wind had been knocked out of her, and she had lost consciousness, but there was no external bleeding.

    As the Amelia, Emily and Jonathan finally pushed through the portal, the Professor, carrying Keija and Daniel followed behind him.

    With a flash, the scene returned to the classroom hall where they had began, as if nothing happened, yet everybody was sweating profusely, and the Professor immediately told one of the students to get blankets and a stretcher from the infirmary and to inform the medical team of an emergency. He did not wish to risk moving Keija more than he had to until the campus medical team arrived.

    Teyna and Daniel were extremely agitated at this time, especially Teyna. This was the first time she had seen her friend injured, and it was unthinkable to her that, given Keija's spiritual strength, it could have happened during a class at the college.

    Having no place to vent her frustrations, she couldn't even yell at the professor, as he was busy attending to Keija's unconscious form. She slammed her fist against the wall.

    Daniel turned towards her, “I feel pretty crappy right now myself,” he muttered to her in an apologetic tone, “We've got to trust her though. She's a lot tougher than she lets on.”

    As the medical team arrived, the rescue team also returned from the dimensional domain. Several of the faculty members had minor injuries, but everyone made it safely back from the portal.

    After the medical team took over from the Professor, he immediately consulted with the rescue team to glean information from them.

    “Was anyone able to discover the invading presence which upset the equilibrium of the domain?” He asked in a hurried and worried tone, “Was the beast defeated, or did you retreat with it still roaming?”

    The leader of the Rescue team, a young Asian physical education teacher by the name of Sanada Rin replied with a grim countenance, “The beast is still roaming, but we did manage to note the presence of a foreign influence on the domain, which caused it to greatly inflate the spiritual strength of the guardian beasts. I'll be taking a team back in soon to cleanse the foreign influence. We just need to adequately rest and prepare for spiritual combat.”

    “I want to go in with you,” Daniel flatly announced.

    Just before the team leader could argue against Daniel's statement, another voice, originating from a stretcher nearby also sounded out, “I need to go in as well.” Keija groaned as she regained consciousness.

    “What? Absolutely out of the question!” several faculty members cried out in unison.

    Keija pushed away the members of the medical team as she lifted herself out of the stretcher, “I'm not some fragile china doll to be coddled and fussed over from such a minor injury. I'm a Swartalfheimer and a member of the Synod! Would you deny me the chance to confront the thing that injured me? Not only that, but even if you won't allow me to search along you, I could greatly recover from my injuries by integrating with the domain while you conducted your search.”

    “Are you telling us that you've completely recovered from your injury?” The Professor stared at Keija in shock. He had seen the blow she received from the Kirin, and if a human had taken that blow, not only would there be severe internal injuries, but bones would be shattered. And yet, he could perceive that Keija had indeed been able to lift herself from the stretcher, and showed an astonishing vigor when she declared her intentions.

    The other faculty members were similarly stunned after she had stood up after pushing aside the medical team. They had heard the description of the blow from the professor, and assumed her bones would be shattered from the impact against the boulder.

    “With all due respect to your medical team, of which I thank for their concern,” Keija briefly acknowledged the team's efforts, “I am a spirit of the Synod. It would take a great deal more damage to render me incapacitated. My body is mending as we speak, and I assure you that I will be recovered enough by the time you are ready to commence your operation.”
     
  19. Sturmritter

    Sturmritter Member

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    Chapter 79: Windfall

    Although Keija spoke with bluster, she felt extremely sore at the moment, and knew that her bluff could easily be shattered if the mages inspected her too closely. Her bones indeed were bruised and sprained, but mending.

    Without Epli, however, they would take several days to set properly. Fortunately for Keija, she had an Apple of Idun back at the Shadow Hunter compound, and in the meantime, if she were to integrate with this unusual domain, the feedback phenomenon would also greatly assist in her recovery. If she could integrate with the domain well enough, there was quite a possibility of pushing her limits to the 4th rank and allow her to tentatively step into the 5th rank of spiritual strength.

    “We don't have time to argue now,” Rin came to a decision very quickly, “You can enter the domain to integrate and help speed your recovery, but you mustn't exert yourself during the search. As for you,” Rin turned towards Daniel, “I'm aware of your notoriety as an Astral Walker. All the faculty had received briefings on you transfer students last night. If you can use those abilities from within other dimensions, then we could certainly use your assistance.”

    Teyna felt glum as she wanted to assist as well, but she had no knowledge of how to properly utilize her spiritual strength beyond circulating it, and felt like a fish out of water at the moment.

    “In that case,” Daniel replied, “I'd like to ask Teyna to be my bodyguard once we've entered the domain. Keija will be busy integrating, so I'd like to have a fellow Shadow Hunter to stand guard over my body if I enter the Astral realm.”

    “Are you capable of that Miss Caulfield?” Daniel turned to ask her directly, giving her a wink as he spoke.

    Teyna felt immediately grateful to Daniel for the opportunity that he held out to her, and quickly seized upon it, “Absolutely!” She declared without hesitation.

    She might not be able to do much with her spiritual strength at the moment, but her spiritual sight had greatly improved from the earlier encounter within the domain, and she was confident she could at least warn Keija in time for her to react to any danger. She was unaware as to the extent of Keija's injuries, but having seen for herself how resilient her friend was after her injury, she felt no reluctance to rely upon her in these circumstances.

    “Very well,” Sanada Rin concluded, “We'll return to the domain once my team has prepared for combat. We'll conduct a reconnaissance in force and have the Astral Walker provide overwatch from the transitional plane. The Dark elf can integrate to assist her recovery near the safe zone.”

    Daniel and Teyna took this time to immediately speak to the Professor and Keija about the characteristics of the domain. Daniel was going to set up his den near the safe zone, so that Keija would be in close proximity to Teyna if anything erstwhile should happen.

    “How old is this domain and is it artificial or a natural domain that was discovered by chance?” Daniel queried the Professor.

    The Professor explained as much as he could in the short time before the Rescue team returned to the classroom ready for a reconnaissance in force. The Domain was a natural discovery of the mages college many years ago. As for the age of the domain itself, it had never been calculated. Also unknown to the college were the number of access points to the domain.

    Up until today, it seemed that only the college understood the proper spell to open a warp in the domain to gain access, but that conclusion was rendered presently false in a spectacularly nasty fashion.

    The Professor glanced astonished at Keija as she became more vigorous with each passing moment.

    “Your ability to regenerate from injury is quite astonishing, Miss Nighthawk,” He stated with a trace of envy in his voice.

    “It comes with a cost, Professor Halloran, I'm not immune to pain,” She said with a grimace, “and pain control medications have no effect on my physiology either. Trust me when I say, that I'm not feeling all that pleasant at the moment.”

    “Will you be able to integrate in such a state of pain?” He cautiously asked.

    “I've a strong enough will to endure,” Keija replied grimly.

    Daniel chuckled inwardly as he heard Keija state what he and most of the Synod rank and file knew about Keija's stubbornness. Her ability to endure under duress was the cause of many tales of mirth around hearthstones and campfire pits in Swartalfheim.

    He saw that the team of college mages was nearly ready, so he stooped down near his seat to retrieve his backpack, which contained his bedroll and sound dampening device.

    Rin spoke up at this time again, “All right. My team is ready to go. Mr. Grey you'll set up overwatch once we've returned to the safe zone, Miss Caulfield will provide physical guard over your hutch, and Miss Nighthawk will be allowed to integrate for the duration of the operation, or until such time as she is no longer willing or able. Let's move people! The imprint of any astral trace of that malignant entity won't last for much longer!”

    The Professor once again extruded the portal into the odd dimensional domain, and Daniel, Teyna and Keija were motioned through first, so that they would be able to set up Daniel's den as the mage team quickly followed behind. The mage team surged beyond them, past the safe zone in a spiral search pattern that progressed further and further away from the portal area into the dark reaches of the domain.

    Everyone was on the lookout for the mutated Kirin, but it was no where in the vicinity of the safe zone. It's last known location was to the west, so the mage team decided to avoid antagonizing the beast and instead focused on determining and cleansing the source of the taint.

    Daniel, for his part, quickly laid out his bedroll and activated the sound dampening device. Teyna was astonished at how practiced Daniel was in setting up his equipment. Within seconds, he was laying down supine on the bed roll, covering himself with a blanket, even while still wearing his jacket for warmth. The sound dampening device was placed next his side, and immediately Daniel began to descend into an Astral Walk.

    Teyna found a somewhat comfortable position near his hutch, and leaned against a smooth boulder, alert to any changes in her surroundings. She began to cultivate, but kept her spiritual sight active, in case of any entities that might approach.

    Keija also found a somewhat comfortable patch of ground, and proceed to sit down cross legged, and extended her eidos into the surrounding safe zone of the Domain.

    The domain as a whole had already adjusted itself to the spiritual strength of the mage team's leader, Mr. Sanada, so Keija felt no feedback loop as her eidos began to infuse the surrounding area. Nonetheless, the fact that the area exuded a level six spiritual strength, caused Keija to immediately feel beneficial effects from integration. Her pain level dropped to an easily manageable level, and her regeneration speed increased as well.

    Keija had to proceed cautiously, to prevent her eidos from interacting with any lingering taint from the malignant presence that had caused so many issues earlier. Her eidos searched and probed for clean areas of spiritual strength, and when she found those patches, she sank her eidos in very deeply, like a tree root that suddenly discovered a nourishing wellspring.

    As her spiritual strength became integrated with the domain, the attribute of the domain shifted slightly in favor of Keija's natural affinities, Nature and Spirit, Metal and Darkness. Her elemental affinity of Ice was also nurtured due to the cool temperature within the domain. Ice was a rather rare affinity for spirits to possess, in that it was essentially a dual affinity of wind and water.

    Many dark elves would have either wind or water as their elemental affinity, but Keija was one of the few who had established an affinity for both, thus developing her ability with ice. Uzume, as a winter Kitsune trickster spirit also held the affinity for ice, which is why she and Keija immediately got along with each other, in spite of being members of different cosmologies.

    Keija curled the corners of her mouth into a pleased grin, she could feel the strength of the domain through her connection, and it felt as if she were probing her eidos into a very deep well that had no limit to it's depth.

    At rank four in spiritual strength, she now had the opportunity to integrate with a location two ranks higher than herself. Not only that, but the domain could easily become stronger given the introduction additional spiritual strength. It was like a fusion reactor for the soul, the spiritual strength fused with her, producing limitless energy, and Keija drank it in as if a thirsty desert traveller encountering an oasis.

    Teyna was cultivating as well, and in this domain there was a symbiotic relationship in this regard as well. Due to the rise in the Domain's level of spiritual strength from the Mage's search and cleaning team, Teyna could draw a lot of ambient energy from the location as well.

    As the both of them cultivated and integrated, they began to sense each other's soul realms and Teyna could draw from locations that Keija had imbued with her eidos. The purified soul energy that Keija refined was already highly compatible with Teyna's soul realm, and she found it quite easy to refine the spiritual energy from Keija's integrated areas.

    Although this had a suppressing effect on Keija's overall advancement, it was a sacrifice she was willing to tolerate for her friend's advancement. Additionally, there were plenty of patches of ground to still integrate with, so the small amount of spiritual energy which Teyna drew from Keija's efforts was minuscule in comparison to overall amount of spiritual energy available to them both.

    As for the time it took to do these activities, it was just a matter of Keija preprocessing the domain's spiritual strength to make it easier for Teyna and herself to absorb or imbue.

    While this incredible windfall in spiritual strength advancement was occurring, Daniel had attained the proper state for entering the astral realm, and quickly began his overwatch of the mage team's search and cleaning operation.
     
  20. Sturmritter

    Sturmritter Member

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    Chapter 80: Windfall (Continued)

    The transitional plane within the domain was oddly structured when Daniel compared it to his usual walks from the mortal realm. It felt as if it were a rubber band, able to stretch and contract depending on various parameters, including the spiritual strength of those residing within the domain.

    The strange characteristics of the domain seemed to Daniel that it should have acted like a beacon of oddity attracting various entities within the Astral realm, but instead he noticed the faint presence of astral entities shying away from the domain. Thinking this over in his mind, Daniel began to suspect that the domain posed a threat in some manner to entities within the realm, and he quickly assumed a much more cautious and wary mental stance.

    Whatever malignant entity had caused the earlier chaos during their artifact search hadn't entered the domain from the astral realm, but had rather tunneled through it using only their silver cord as an anchor for a portal. This was much like the portal attack done on the Shadow Hunter compound the week before heading to Singapore.

    Daniel concluded this after a quick survey of the transitional plane of the domain. Also given that residents of the astral realm seemed to be wary of the domain, it was not likely that the intrusion would have come from that vector either. He would remain in overwatch, however, as the astral realm provided a much better vantage point to observe activity within the dimensional realm.

    If Daniel detected something, he could create a clone in the domain to briefly inform the mages of what he had discovered, and barring any unforeseen calamity, he would be in a position to assist on a moment's notice.

    In the active domain proper, beyond the safety zone, Sanada Rin and his team continued to sweep the area, searching for traces of the malignant presence. They slowly expanded to the very border of the dimensional domain, and detected a faint but unmistakably foreign presence at the very edge of the domain's border, almost a kilometer away from the safe zone.

    Rin immediately had his team set up protective and counter wards as he and two others began a cleansing ritual designed to remove the taint from the domain's barrier wall.

    From his vantage point in the astral realm, watching where the mage team began it's ritual, Daniel was able to zero in on the faint residual sequela of a portal warp. It seemed that indeed there was more than one entrance to this particularly odd domain.

    Daniel decided to track the faintly dissipating silver cord that extended from the portal residue into the mists of the deeper emotional plane of the Astral realm. He quickly sent a clone messenger to relay his finding to Mr. Sanada and his team, and upon hearing confirmation, immediately set out to track the silver cord to it's origin before it dissipated entirely.

    Keija and Teyna continued to strengthen their soul realms given the opportunity to do so, as Daniel's physical body seemed to be safe for the moment. The amazing pace of Keija's advancement was unfettered by a bottleneck at the moment, but Teyna rapidly found that her own spiritual cultivation was becoming ever more complex. This was the first time she had experienced approaching a bottleneck, and it vexed her ability to circulate her soul strength.

    At the mage team's location, Rin and the other mages finished cleansing the taint, but noticed another strange influence beginning to affect the domain. The environment took on a slightly more natural appearance, and the icy coolness of the temperature felt less hostile than before. This strangeness was unsettling, but not unwelcome, but it still caused concern among the mages.

    Just as the team was finishing up cleansing the original taint in the domain wall, Daniel's astral clone appeared to emerge from a section of it.

    Rin turned towards the astral construct and hailed it, “Is that you Mr. Grey? Do you know what is affecting the domain at his time?”

    Daniel's clone responded after a moment's pause while the intent of the message transmitted through the astral plane to Daniel's consciousness, “I'm about to track a silver cord leading away from the original breach in the domain's wall. The current effects on the domain I suspect are due to Keija's integration with the domain. As she integrates, she can obtain more control over those sections she has imbued with her spiritual strength.”

    “Ah, so that explains why the domain is beginning to take on natural attributes,” Rin nodded in understanding, “I suppose she also has an ice elemental attribute as well?”

    The clone again paused as the message was slightly delayed through the astral plane in transmission, “That's correct. As she integrates more, the domain may take on more attributes of her spiritual strength as well.”

    “Perhaps we should limit her time in the domain then?” Rin mused slightly to himself, “On the other hand, it might turn out for the best. If she can gain control of the domain, she can restrict any further access points. I'll have to discuss this with the college, but we can allow her some more time for now.”

    Daniel's clone digested the information and shortly replied thereafter, “If the college has issues with the possibility of losing control of this domain to Keija, I'm sure we can work out some sort of compromise arrangement. Keija's ability to integrate this domain may prove more useful to the college than to utilize it as a storage and testing facility for artifacts.”

    “I'll make sure the other faculty and administrative staff are aware of this possibility. You should not waste more time though, please track that cord to it's origin point.”

    After a few moments, the clone nodded in acknowledgement of the message, and proceeded to fade back through the domain's barrier wall.

    Rin and the other faculty mages in the search and cleansing team continued to conduct one last final sweep of the barrier perimeter before heading back to the safe zone where Keija, Teyna and Daniel's physical body were encamped.

    Keija's mind was racing. Her eidos was greatly benefiting from the integration she was conducting, gaining more and more control as her spiritual strength blossomed and spread throughout the domain. As such, various areas within the domain began to exhibit more and more of the affinity traits that made up Keija's Spiritual strength.

    The Domain became less alien as natural foliage and moss began to sprout. The cool temperature enhanced Keija's ice elemental attribute, but she lessened the chilling effect produced in the domain, by converting it to a more natural attribute.

    However, this progress was all within the confines of the spiritual strength of the domain remaining constant relative to the the mage team's highest ranked member. As soon as the mage team returned to the safe zone of the domain, Keija's influence over the domain skyrocketed, as her integrated eidos became the basis for the domain's ambient strength.

    Even though she was still in the safe zone, the areas already integrated by her provided a tether for her spiritual strength to reach the variable area of the domain, and that enabled the feedback loop to begin cascading.
     

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