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Out of Time: Act 1

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Buwaro was not proud to realize that he'd frozen up. He wasn't even sure where to begin. Whether she'd believe him. What would happen. Why she'd take care of him when he was there, but become a loyal soldier without him. He thought she'd resented him, the way Iratu did.

Nothing made sense to him anymore. Had his time warps screwed up so much without his realizing any of it?

"Buwaro?" she asked again, startling him from his numb musings. "What's going on?"

Buwaro grit his teeth. "Nothing for it, is there?" he grumbled. "If you're working with the Big Plan, even with you knowing about Darius, then we've got nothing to discuss." She blinked several times, eyes wide with surprise, before he shouted, "Burn Ray!"

The battle was on, and Rhea lunged to the side as a searing blast hit Sakido. Buwaro wasn't happy to be fighting his sister, but he had no other option. He vaguely wished that Rhea had something to fight with other than her Earth spell and her teeth.

Sakido was startled by the hit, but recovered quickly, preparing a lightning spell and striking him fiercely. He gasped and backed up, quickly casting another Burn Ray spell with a flick of his wrist. She put up a swift shield of Wind, but his blast tore through the defense easily. As she prepared another lightning spell, Rhea struck from behind with a rock, smashing the unstable hunk of stone on her skull and shattering her weapon.

The Wind Demon's spell fizzled, and Buwaro took his time to chant a bigger spell: "Fleeting stars across the void, I call for a shard of ice, fire, and stone! Meteorite!" By the time Sakido had recovered, the spell was ready, and down fell a tremendous hunk of stone and flame.

Rhea gawked at the display of might, and Sakido stared, stunned by the summoning of a falling star. The spell crashed into her hard, sending her flying back and rolling through the dirt, crashing against the side of the mountains they were caught between. She groaned, barely able to lift herself up on her hands. "Holy shit," Rhea muttered.

"Bu...Buwaro," Sakido mumbled, looking at him in shock, confusion, anger. "Why...? H-how...?"

"I'm sorry," Buwaro grimaced, "but I can't allow the world to be destroyed."

"We're not trying to destroy it, dumbass!" she gasped, still struggling to her feet. "We're trying to take over!"

"And you're going to kill it if you keep going."

She jerked at that, blinking. "...how sure are you?" she asked.

"A hundred percent. I've seen it happen countless fucking times."

Silence fell at that exclamation. "You're serious?" she asked after a moment.

"Yes," he snapped.

After a moment, Sakido shook her head. "What you're describing isn't possible," she stated. "Countless times? You've lost your mind." She quickly prepared another spell, Buwaro receiving a blast of lightning as he tried to evade. He rolled through the dirt, growling at his own incompetence and foolishness – almost out of power, low on strength.

That was when Rhea struck with another rock, chucking it into his sister's skull and sending her to the ground. The boy growled, "Come on, let's hurry!"

"Don't have t'tell me twice," she replied, the two hurtling off into the crannies of the hills.

After a moment, Buwaro picked up his ally and began chanting as he ran: "Step faster than the wind itself, where each second is a mile! Sprint!" They were soon blurring through the mountains and travelling the wastelands of Hell at amazing speeds, heading for a place to hide. They soon found it in a forest of white, dead-looking trees.

A while passed as Buwaro caught his breath deep in the little forest, padding along only slowly. He wanted to weep for his sister, but he didn't have time. He didn't have the power to get them out of Hell, either, so he was in deep shit. Grumbling, he began to try and cast a quick direction-seeking ritual, seeking the Gates of Hell.

It only barely succeeded, draining the last of his power for the day. Weary, he flopped against a tree as he considered his ritual's strange need to fail here. It was almost like Hell itself was immune to Time Magic rituals. He wasn't sure why, but that seemed to make sense when he thought about it. Grumbling, he curled up with Rhea, and the two took several hours to doze.

It was almost night time when they awoke. Buwaro decided that, night or not, they'd have to travel to the gate, and soon they were on the way. "So," Rhea asked quietly from her place on the boy's back, "where we going?"

"The Gates," Buwaro replied. "Once there, my magic should start working again for travel back to Medius. I'm sure Kieri's worried sick about me now."

"Hm," Rhea muttered. "Who's Kieri?"

"Angel girl. Sweet person, you'll like her."

"I dunno," Rhea muttered. "I've cursed the Gods so many times."

"The Gods aren't everywhere," he replied, "and Angels are not Gods even if they were able to see everything."

"True, but..." the Jakkai began, before falling quiet.

The darkness made great cover for them, but they only arrived late the next morning. Still, the gates were unguarded, save for Cerberus, who just shrugged Buwaro off. Once they were well out of his sight, the boy decided that they might as well grab Darius's diary. He made it to the little book's hiding spot and grabbed it, then began the portal ritual. Only back on Medius did Buwaro relax.

Heathcliff and family were outside the wagon at the time they arrived, and the patriarch seemed to jump. "What took you?" Heathcliff asked, frowning. "Are you okay?"

"Don't wanna talk about it," the boy mumbled, shaking his head. "This is Rhea. Tell her what she needs to know." He then trudged into the wagon and flopped down on the floor like a dog in the throes of a hot, miserable day.

"Alright," Heathcliff murmured, clearly worried.

 

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Five days of travel passed as Buwaro's melancholy grew deeper. The boy ate, slept, and sat staring out the window most of the time, but on the fifth day he didn't even eat. He felt sickened by his lack of attention to what had once mattered to him most. He wanted to go back in time and shake himself and shout in his own face about how stupid he was and maybe smack himself.

That evening, as they were bedding down, Kieri's hand gently rest on the boy's back, and he cringed inwardly. "Yeah?" he asked.

"You've been miserable the past few days," she said quietly.

"I deserve it."

"No, you don't," she scowled. "Why would you say that?"

"I let my sister fall into their clutches, somehow."

Silence fell. "She's working for the Hellions, then," the Angel guessed.

"Yeah. She died the first time through, before I learned to reset, but this...this is even worse. She's working with the bad guys."

"...maybe you can reason with her."

"Tried," he snorted. "Failed. Then again, that's probably because it was me. I'm just a screw-up. Always have been."

"Rhea told me about you saying that," she murmured, before gently 'poing'ing into a rabbit and curling up at Buwaro's side. "I don't know if that's as true as you think." Buwaro didn't reply, clearly not believing it, so she changed the subject, noting, "We should be in Weyville in about five days."

Buwaro winced. "Great," he mumbled.

"Heads up," Heathcliff muttered from the front. "Looks like highwaymen."

"Of course," Buwaro growled, slowly standing up.

Once the wagon stopped, he quietly stepped out, straining to hear the conversation ahead of them. "You want something?" Heathcliff asked.

"Jus' thinkin' you need protection in these roads," one man said gruffly. "These roads are getting dangerous lately."

"I have plenty of protection," the merchant replied.

"That so," another asked.

"Yeah, it is," Buwaro stated crisply, stepping into plain view, walking forward beside the horses. The two gruff men flinched at the sight of him. "You can choose," Buwaro stated. "Either let us be, or get blasted by the heat of the stars themselves. I will give you five seconds to make your decision."

The two warriors hesitantly glanced at each other, then charged forward. Buwaro began to cast, but in a moment, the two were utterly incinerated by a gigantic blast of red flames.

Flames that he soon realized had come from Heathcliff's hands. "How?" he muttered, stunned.

"I'm the scion of a Guardian," Heathcliff replied. "Specifically, Siara. Rhea happens to be a descendant of Moku."

Buwaro jerked as he saw Rhea step around the side. "What," he managed.

"Yeah," she replied. "Apparently I'm his granddaughter, and near as we can tell, the guy who assassinated me – "

"Was your father," Buwaro finished, pinching his sinuses. "So that's why. Dammit, I thought I'd purged the sheer idiocy from myself after all these decades, but apparently not. It's no wonder I've been fucking up for 80 years, I've been missing half the plot."

Kieri put a hand on his shoulder. "Hindsight is 20-20."

"More like 20-200 in my case," he muttered. The young Angel grimaced, before he smiled sadly and continued, "At least now I've got the facts I need." He slowly relaxed and said, "Alright. Let's get this done right this time."

"Agreed," Kieri nodded.

"Amen t'that," Rhea snorted. "Now come on, stop moping."

"I'll try," Buwaro replied, though he clearly didn't know if it would help.

 

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It was the morning of the day the wagon was due to arrive in Weyville when Buwaro asked Heathcliff a question. "I presume Denevol lives in Weyville, still?"

"...yeah," Heathcliff sighed. "You should probably not go into town, or be careful," he admitted.

"I see. Will do," Buwaro nodded.

"Wait, did you say Denevol? " Kieri asked, shocked. "Isn't that clan... gone? " she stammered.

"He came here fifteen years ago, and ended up stuck here," Buwaro explained. "I remember the first time I came across him – nearly died." Kieri grimaced. "Yeah. I'm better prepared now, if I had to fight him, but I'm still not looking forward to that."

"I do not blame you," Kieri mumbled, dazed by the realization that there was a Seraph in the area.

It was late afternoon, almost evening, when Heathcliff suddenly began to speed up the wagon. At first, Buwaro was confused, but looking out the hatch near the front revealed a thick plume of smoke in the direction they were travelling. "Aw hell," Buwaro mumbled, hopping to the back door and beginning his running incantation again. With a quick surge of speed, he was soon ahead of the wagon and hurrying up to the hilltop.

The town was on fire. Buwaro bristled, stalking his way down the hill, leading the charge even as he recovered his breath.

The town was in chaos from the wild flames. The half-melted snow seemed to do nothing but slow it down, and people were running and screaming, trying to save themselves, others, and buildings in varying degrees. Buwaro got to work by entering burning buildings and pulling out survivors, while Kieri and Kazai put out fires with their magic. Heathcliff, Zahariah, and Rhea did the same with buckets of water, helping to form a line to haul buckets along quickly.

Almost everyone was afraid of Buwaro at first, but he managed to calm people down enough to get them out of their burning buildings. As they were working, Buwaro stumbled into a very Spartan home, glancing around for signs of anyone within. As he did, he heard a groan of pain. "Is someone there?" he called, hurrying towards the sound. "Okay listen, don't be afraid, I'm here to help y – "

That was when he saw the old Wind Angel, pinned under a trio of beams. Denevol looked up at him, horror and rage etched into his face. "You damn fiend!" the man roared, preparing a blast of Wind magic, only for the pain of a bad shift of his body to overwhelm his spell. He screamed for a split second, the blast sputtering away.

Buwaro hesitated, closing his eyes and taking a breath. "Dammit," he muttered, then moved in towards the fallen beams and began trying to haul them upwards. He couldn't afford to fail – not here, not now. Putting all of his back into the effort, he managed to lift them a tad, then shifted his grip to push them further, then again. "Go!" he gasped, before slipping his back under the beams to give the aging Seraph the room he needed.

The man gawked only for a second before scrambling out on his arms. Buwaro waited until he was past the beams entirely before slipping out from under the beams – just in time for a fourth, then a fifth, hunk of wood to fall on the pile. Huffing from exertion, Buwaro coughed as the smoke began to infiltrate his lungs. Ignoring the wooziness he suddenly felt, he picked the man up over his back and dragged him outside as quickly as he could.

He stumbled out the final few steps, feeling sickened by the smoke. He ended up collapsing on the cobblestone street, the Angel on his back heavier than he was a half-minute ago. "Shit," he hacked out, trying to breathe with the weight on his back.

A moment passed as the old Seraph crawled off. He sat upright, hesitated, and began to speak an Angelic incantation, his hand on Buwaro's back where his lungs were. For a moment, the Fire Demon wondered if this was it. If he'd have to reset once again.

Surprisingly, the old man began healing him, purging the smoke from his lungs with a rush of Wind magic infused with healing Light. "Thanks," Buwaro wheezed as he saw the smoke practically gush from his lungs.

"Thank you," the old man replied with a groan, before lying down by Buwaro's side on his back. Each of the two passed out rather quickly after that.