Tower of Babel
Author: Isaac Woulms

Chapter 20

Magnus’s fall had set him back quite a few stories, but he was gaining on Ben as the need to finish the fight fueled his hastened steps. He played the battle over in his mind, building a plan of attack to finish the job without any chance of another delay. He could still feel Ben on his knuckles, after pressing the flight or fight instinct, Ben did not disappoint.

Running down a corridor, he came across a set of double doors he missed the first time around. He looked down the hallway and saw a flight of stairs leading towards his reunion, “but I must complete my mission,” he told himself. The doors were white with red and purple flowers covering them and the knobs a bright pink. Magnus prepared himself for another fight as he opened the doors to darkness. No doubt a trap, he thought.

He delved into the darkness and bided his time for his eyes to adjust. Magnus closed his eyes to aid his pupils, but when he did, the doors slammed shut and locked behind him. The samurai drew his right sword and opened his eyes to see that the room was fully lit, a bright white box devoid of anything other than himself.

“Perhaps a renovation in progress,” he pondered, but the doors he used to enter were gone. “Illusions. This is not the first I have dealt with such tricks.” Would be necromancers and shamans from past missions have all fallen to his blades in the end.

His eyes were being unfaithful so Magnus denied himself of sight. He mentally ordered his heart to slow in pace and focused on hearing. Seconds later the thump of his steady heart was blocked out. If need be I only need one sense to fight, make your move Ascending, he thought.

Seconds stretched, but Magnus held his stance, counting the time and dispensing with the thought of where he might be standing within the room. His hands were on the hilt of his blade as he pointed it forward. More time passed and Magnus’s hearing was as acute as it could be. His trust in sound was falling into the same category as his sight, and he would soon have to switch to touch.

Magnus slowly turned his head to the left in an attempt to angle his adept capabilities. Just when he was going to make the switch, his target revealed itself. The sound of cloth rubbing against denim, scratched in the distance. It was only for two seconds, registering as someone adjusting in their seat. As the thought crossed his mind, his advisory slipped again. He heard a soft gasp, a hinge tweeting, and weight shifting on plastic.

“Theatre seats,” he said.

Magnus opened his eyes and faced the direction of sound. A black figure of a man, drawing a black sword, stood at his side within arm’s reach. Before he could strike, the black figure ran its sword through Magnus’s chest and out his back.

“Impossible.” He allowed his lips to part, but did not permit himself to show astonishment over his defeat. Magnus reached for the blade but his hands phased through without any interruption. His heart pounded in his chest, relieved that it was unharmed. The assailant evaporated and the room dimmed. The feeling of mortality returned to Magnus at that moment for the first time since joining Bio-Machina.

Laughter came from the room bringing truth back to his eyes. The white walls turned red and furniture materialized in front of him. There were sofa’s scattered in the middle of the floor, all facing towards the entrance. Giant plush animals sat in their seats, and small toys littered the ground around them. Built into the back wall was a theater box, poised over the rows of sofas with a headboard above the box spelling out NEKO, colored in pink. Within the box was two rows of five seats and sitting in the front row, center chair, was a little girl.

Magnus clenched the hilt of his sword and steadied his heart while the little girl continued to laugh. To come under such panic from an almost five-foot, almost 100-pound, advisory, upset his pride. She wore a black t-shirt that had skulls and crossbones aligned in rows covering the front. Covering her lower body was a blue skirt, black and blue stockings, and black sneakers.

He glared at Neko, but she smiled back, the upper-right canine tooth missing in her smile. Her face was accurately telling him fourteen. A white patch of skin surrounded her right eye in an almost perfect circle.

This must be another decoy, he thought. “Child, tell me where the Ascending member of this room is.”

Neko’s laughter stalled when Magnus spoke, but came back after his demand was given. She held her sides and said, “That’s me, duh. What’s your name?”

Magnus walked towards the box, his sword at the ready. “I don't have time to play with you, little girl. Ascending members are the strongest warriors in this Tower, and you're merely a fledgling in age.”

She stood and pointed at the sign above her head. “This room has my name on it, and I’m not some little kid. I’m a big girl and I have my own room, and I’m what they call a prodigy. You think you’re tough because you’re tall and shiny?”

Neko raised her hands and two cushions on a sofa came from their seats. She then clapped her hands together as the two pillows of death honed in on Magnus.

He slashed them in half and anticipated a surprise attack. Dismissing the assault, his eyes searched for the real owner of the room. “Come out, coward. Do not hide behind a child.”

“Grr, stupid man.” Neko swiped her hand out in front of her and one of the sofas near Magnus jumped to tackle him. He shouldered the blunt of the couch then slid underneath to let it pass over him. She brought her hand back, as the furniture piece then bounced back to dig into Magnus’s side. “I got you. I got you.”

Magnus was on one knee as the sofa leaned on him. He took off in a dead sprint towards the box.

A sliver of alarm came across Neko’s mind. She swung at the air, the rest of the sofas now under her command. Each lumbering object maneuvered to block Magnus. He ran past the first two obstacle then jumped over the third before it could stand on its side. A fourth sofa tumbled at him but he did a front roll underneath the flailing object. The last piece of furniture slid towards Magnus and jumped off the ground for his waist. The Samurai squatted and reached underneath the heavy object to toss it over his head. the path to Neko was now clear.

“Stop right there.” She put her hands out and pointed her fingers at him.

The edge of his peripherals turned white and everything began to fade. “Your tricks will not work on me again, child.” He increased his pace as he neared the disappearing box. Everything else in the room faded away, his perception approaching a depth of complete alteration.

“Stop,” she said.

Magnus jumped and reached for the ledge that was no more, but came back when he made contact. Reality took shape again and Neko let out a small scream as he climbed over the box’s railing. His copper eyes shinned at her.

She tried to crawl backwards into her seat. “Get away.” He could see patches of white trying to form all around her, but fear strangled her powers.

Magnus stood tall over his little adversary. He gripped his sword tighter, a strong swing of his blade and that’s all it should take. Fast and as little pain possible, he thought.

“No,” She muttered.

He looked down at her.

“I… I want to grow up.” She sat up and tried again, pushing her hands out to deceive him, but they only shook as tears poured from her eyes. “Get out of here, monster.”

Magnus saw that she still fought for her life even at its final seconds. He raised his sword high.

She looked up at him with a begging face and her hands listless at her sides. His body cast a shadow over her, blocking out the physical light as well as the rays of hope. The only light that was apparent to her reflected off his blade as he adjusted his aim.

“You fought admirably,” he told her. Magnus then brought his sword down as hard as he could.


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