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Metamorphosis|Chapter One: The Descent

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After the battle with General Kaito, Diego slowly made his way north, followed by Trixie and Zanzibar. The Fanatiga avoided the main roads, preferring to wander through the woods, tall grasses, and rolling hills that dotted the countryside. Deep in nature, he wouldn't be judged for his appearance and he was able to think without being interrupted by some passing traveler. It would add a few extra days to his journey, but the environment was soothing for the Fanatiga's soul.

Food was never in short supply, finding small woodland and prairie creatures nearly at every turn. Diego and Trixie would take turns hunting the small animals when they grew hungry, leaving Zanzibar with the other so he could nap undisturbed. The spider's laziness made the Fanatiga wonder if his furry friend would even survive a night in the wilderness by himself. The thought was worrisome and made Diego question if he had been too lax in his training.

About half-way to Portsmouth, Diego built up a small fire for his pets to warm their bones before going off to hunt. Even though winter had begun to fade away, the chill of the northern winds still managed to nip through the thick coats of fur. He headed into the woods with his wooden bow, the one he had received from Gallus, in search of some small game to satisfy the dull pangs of hunger.

Twigs snapped as he trudged through the underbrush and suppressed the urge to curse at his carelessness as a group of rabbits scattered. His very first lessons as a ranger had been how to move unseen and unheard through a variety of environments. Diego corrected his footing and followed after the skittish animals, nocking an arrow to his bow. He avoided low hanging branches and took care to watch out for the poisonous plants the area was known for. This would be a bad time to run into some itch-weed, especially since he didn't have any ointment on him to treat the irritation it caused.

Diego approached the edge of the treeline that overlooked a small clearing and crouched down low. About twenty meters away, a group of elk nibbled at some tall grass by an odd rock formation. Diego inhaled a slow breath, bringing his bow up to take aim at the closet Elk, waiting until he had the perfect opening for a kill shot. He mused to himself that Trixie had it easy, she simply had to hide and pounce on a target.

A split-second before he released the arrow, a loud scream shattered the tranquil silence which startled the foraging elk. The horned animals bolted causing Diego to miss his shot. Muttering a curse, the Fanatiga stood up and looked for the source of the sound. The scream sounded closer this time, joined by a chorus of other fearful cries. Without hesitation, Diego took off in the direction of the shouts, slipping between trees and jumping over decaying logs in his way.

A few moments later, he noticed a few robed men running in his direction. When they noticed Diego, the men let out a panicked cry and looked around for a different path. "I'm not going to hurt you. What's going on? You made me miss my dinner!"

The men's jaws dropped when the half-tiger spoke, their faces ashen as they froze in their tracks. Their terror hindered their ability to think logically, but one managed to point behind them and mutter something nonsensical. Diego arched a brow before pushing past them to see what would make a grown man cower in fear. He didn't have to wait long. Before he saw the creature, Diego heard a barely audible hiss carry on the wind and the sound of something grating against the trees as it moved.

Metamorphosis|Chapter One: The Descent EdezVwQ

Diego noticed something slithering towards him with long spines protruding from its scaly back. Coming to a halt, the Fanatiga slid a few feet and instinctively brought an arrow to his bow. The giant wurm raised its ugly head nearly ten meters in front of Diego and he let loose the basic arrow, aiming for its head. The arrow shattered as it struck the tough scales of the wurm's crown.

"Shit!" Diego reached back to grab another arrow, nocking it to his bow as the creature flicked its long tail outside of his vision. The tail struck him in the back and sent him flying away. The Fanatiga clenched his fist around the bow to prevent losing it, but his arrow wasn't so lucky. He hit the ground and rolled for several feet before hitting a boulder. A groan escaped his lips and he shook his head to clear the pin-prick dots that filled his vision.

Diego looked up to see the snake-like beast towering above him, rearing its head back in preparation to lunge forward. Still sitting, Diego realized he had two choices, try to dodge in time or test his luck. His bestial senses liked the idea of testing his luck and he impulsively reached back to nock another arrow. The wurm's head shot towards him, jaw unhinged to take a bite out of the Fanatiga, but Diego fired a Bonecrusher arrow into the beast's mouth. The wurm let out a high-pitched squeal of pain as the arrow lodged in its throat.

Taking the opportunity that presented itself, the Fanatiga leaped to his feet and took off running, swiftly dodging the wurm's thrashing motions. Maneuvering behind the snake-like beast, Diego sent a Double-shot into its exposed underbelly. The wurm hissed, tongue flicking in disdain, when the two projectiles met their mark and pierced through its flesh. A strange clicking sound was emitted from the wurm as it began to burrow underground, the noise permeating the air.

An odd sensation overcame Diego as the clicks filled his ears. His vision blurred and he saw doubles of everything. Even Madam Trixie. 'Trixie?'

The electric tiger had been asleep with Zanzibar snuggled against her by the fire when she was awoken by the furry spider's anxious warbles. He had heard the scream from within the woods and worried about the Fanatiga. Without hesitation, Trixie bounded to her feet and took off to find Diego, sparing Zanzibar only a moment for him to climb on. As she cut through the trees, she heard the shuffle of leaves from uneven footsteps. Crouching down low, Trixie hid behind cover until she saw three robed men fumbling through the woods, the scent of fear traveling behind them.

Trixie gave them a half-second more of her attention before heading in the direction they came from. None of those men were Diego and she pushed them aside as a trivial footnote. The further she went, she could hear the sounds of battle which led her to her mate. As she broke through the treeline, Trixie's vision split and a dull hum filled her ears. She saw two Diegos standing about fifty meters away from her and the bottom half of a snake-like creature disappearing into the ground.

Diego watched the two Trixies stumble forward before they gathered their footing and chased after the wurm. He started to call out to her to tell her not to follow it down the hole, but she stopped at the edge of it, sniffing around it for a moment. The thought struck him that the wurm may burst from beneath their feet, which meant they were sitting ducks. He looked around for the tallest tree thinking they could climb up it. As soon as he considered the idea, he dismissed it as a vain hope. Being stuck in a tree was just as bad as being on the ground.

He turned his attention back to the Trixies, who were pacing around with their nose glued to the ground. He furrowed his brow when he noticed that a certain furry, white spider was missing from her rump. Diego was hurt by the absence of Zanzibar, thinking that he had been too lazy to help the Fanatiga. In reality, the noise had disoriented Zanz and caused him to fall off Trixie when she ran after the wurm. His helpless warblings couldn't be heard over the loud clicking noise.

Suddenly, Diego felt the ground shift and noticed it swell underneath Trixie. Eyes wide, the Fanatiga started to run forward, "TRIXIE! MOVEEE!" Time seemed to slow as the earth around her erupted and she vanished behind a thick cloud of dirt. "NOOOOOOO!"

[190/250]
[13/15 basic arrows]

Abilities Used:

Name: Bonecrusher Arrow
Tier: B-Tier
Cost: 30|15
Weapon Type: Bow
Class Offensive
Range: 40 meters
Cool-Down: 5 posts
Description: Diego fires off a specially crafted arrow that travels at 25 m/s over forty meters. On impact, the arrow deals B-Tier damage. This ability may be sustained to deal damage once more.

Name: Double-Shot
Tier: B-Tier
Cost: 30|15
Weapon Type: Bow
Class Sustained
Range: 40 meters
Cool-Down: 5 posts
Description: Diego fires off two arrows that travels at 25 m/s over forty meters. On impact, each arrow deals C-Tier damage. This ability may be sustained to deal damage once more.


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As Trixie paced, she noticed that if she focused enough she could feel vibrations through her paws. She pondered the cause, her mind drifting to the times she would hunt her prey, stalking low to the ground within a field of tall grass. Whenever she would shift her body, the grass would part, so every step had to be taken with care. She imagined that this applied to the wurm's burrowing as well. With this in mind, she moved with the vibrations, tracking the wurm as it circled its prey.

When the ground began to shift beneath her, Trixie knew she had guessed accurately and began charging her body with bio-electricity. As an eruption of dirt and rock launched her upwards, the wurms open jaws trailed behind ready to clamp down. However, Madam Trixie was prepared and discharged a Lightning Cannon into the wurm's inviting mouth. The resulting explosion of electricity propelled the tiger away and she crashed into a tree. She slid down the tree, hitting a few branches on the way down and fell into a bush, crushing it beneath her.

The way she had been blown away had put the cloud of debris raining down between her and Diego. The Fanatiga's heart sank, believing Trixie gravely injured. He had caught a flicker of electricity, but otherwise had not seen what had occurred. Fixed in worry, Diego suddenly noticed Zanzibar's warbles now that the clicking noise had ceased. He turned to see the furry spider running into the cloud, searching for his cuddle-companion.

Realizing he should do the same, Diego followed after Zanzibar, stumbling around blindly. "Trixie! Trixie! TRIX-" He gasped as he tripped over something sharp which sliced open his leg. Diego stumbled and fell on his injured leg, letting out a hiss as dirt entered the open wound. The dust started to settle allowing Diego to see that he had tripped over one of the wurm's spines.

Diego looked down at his leg to see how bad it was and winced when he noticed it had cut clean to the bone. Hopeful and filled with a desire to find Trixie, the Fanatiga attempted to stand up, but when he put weight on his injured leg he crumpled back to the ground in pain. He let out a whimper as fire traveled up the temporarily useless limb. Distraught as seeing Diego in pain, Zanizbar skittered over to the Fanatiga's leg to coat it with his healing saliva before carefully weaving a web around it to bandage the wound. It wasn't immediately effective, but given time the Healing Wish and Webbed Bandage would repair the damage.

Now that Diego had been seen to, the furry white spider skimpered off to find Trixie. Zanzibar let out loud warbles as he searched the immediate vicinity before expanding his search to the woods beyond. He found her in a tangle of limbs, lying unconscious in a bush. Climbing onto her face, Zanzibar squeed into her ear, but she did not stir. Frustrated, he skittered over to her paw and tickled the bottom of it with his furry mandibles, something that normally aggravated her. That too did not do the trick, so he moved to her belly, trailing ticklish kisses up and down it. When she still did not respond, he climbed back onto her head and continued squeeing loudly into her ear.

The Fanatiga heard the loud squees and the Wildman's Charm translated it enough to know that Zanzibar had found Trixie and she wasn't waking up. Prepared for the worst, Diego used his claws to crawl to his beasts. Nothing prepared him for the sight of what he thought was her broken body and he let out a cry, tears welling in his eyes. "Trixie..."

At the sound of Diego's crestfallen voice, Trixie opened her eyes and lifted her head, looking for the Fanatiga. Zanzibar fell off her head and warbled angrily, not only for being thrown off, but because his loud attempts had failed while a single whimper from Diego had snapped her awake. Ignoring the spider for now, Trixie stood up and started to walk towards him when her body informed her that she had just slammed into a tree and hit every branch on the way down. Stumbling over, Trixie pushed herself to crawl towards Diego. The two met in the middle and Diego kissed her between the ears, running his fingers through her fur. "I thought the wurm got you."

Trixie shook her head and purred, "That little snake? It'd take a lot more to knock me down." She nuzzled her head against his hand and her tail thumped against the ground.

Diego chuckled and looked over to Zanzibar, "Thanks for taking care of my leg. I can always count on you." Diego smiled brightly at the furry spider, proud that Zanz hadn't abandoned him after all. He felt ashamed that he had questioned the spider's loyalty, but pledged not to forget that. Zanzibar could be lazy all he wanted as long as he came through in the end.

The sound of footfalls made Diego spin around and he noticed two of the robed men standing behind him. The younger of the two looked down at Diego nervously. "E-Excuse me. We just wanted to say thanks for saving us."

Diego carefully studied the two men for a moment, noting their similar attire and a strange symbol on their gloves; a tree within a circle. The younger one had short brown hair and eyes that were cautious, but reflected a youthful kindness. Diego gauged that the man was in his early twenties and his companion was in his upper thirties. The older man had long shaggy black hair and thick curly hair traced along the edge of his jaw. He fixed Diego with a razor sharp glare that made the Fanatiga feel uncomfortable. There was something dangerous behind the man's eyes.

Diego turned to the brown-haired man, "I think your running saved you." The Fanatiga offered the man a fang-tipped grin. It wasn't meant to be intimidating, but it still made the man take a step back until he realized that it was a smile. "My name is Diego. These two are Madam Trixie and Zanzibar." He gestured to the tiger laying against him and the spider behind him.

The older man furrowed his brow and looked around, "Two?"

Diego arched a brow and shifted his body so he could see behind him. To his surprise, the furry white spider was nowhere to be seen. "Zanz?"

The younger man looked to his companion and shrugged. "Anyway, I don't suppose you'd be willing to help us again? As we were running, our friend stumbled some brush and now his legs are on fire."

"Small brush with five pointed leaves spaced about this far apart and about this tall?" Diego moved his hands to give a rough estimate of the distances he spoke of as he continued to crane his head looking for Zanzibar. At this point in time, Diego was more concerned with his friend, but he had been raised to help those in need. 'A lot of good that did my family...'

The young man gasped, "Yes. How did you know?"

The older man snorted, "He's a Ranger, of course he knows. He carries a bow and has pets to help him fight."

Diego shook the image of Jagang from his mind and sighed. The emphasis on pets grated on  the Fanatiga's nerves and he felt the urge to refuse. If it wasn't for the kindness that Diego saw in the younger man, he would have. "I don't have the ingredients on me, but I can tell you what to look for. You'll need the root of a Senba plant, the bark of an earl tree, the-"

"Umm...what are those?" The young man said with an embarrassed look.

The Fanatiga looked down at Trixie and then back to the two men. "Fine, I'll look for ingredients if you get me a good walking stick."

The younger man ran off to find a suitable stick while his companion stayed behind. The man glared at Diego, smelling the stink of weakness radiating off the abomination before him. When the brown-haired man returned with a few sticks for Diego to try, the older man walked off, muttering that he was gathering their friend.

One of the sticks was close enough to what Diego needed and he headed into the woods to find the plants. Trekking through the woods was troublesome with an injured leg, but at least it was an excuse to search for Zanzibar. Trixie and the young man followed Diego as he searched for the ingredients needed to make the ointment. While they walked, the younger man filled in the silence. "Uh, my name is Triston. The man from before is Lucien."

Diego grunted, "That man is trouble. Why is someone like you with a man like him?" He spoke as he hobbled onto his knees to pull out one of the herbs necessary for the medicine.

Triston let out a nervous chuckle and shuffled his feet, Well...I suppose, yeah. We're...uh, part of a group looking into the secrets of the world." He noticed Diego struggling to get back up to his feet and helped him up.

Diego was shocked by the assistance, but didn't refuse it. He gave a thankful nod to Triston and looked for the next plant. The Fanatiga didn't reply and Triston didn't bother to continue the conversation, the two lapsing into silence for the duration of the search. Triston's words had struck a familiar chord with the Fanatiga and he remembered Yakuroro. The Imuchakk had been looking for secrets too, something to do with Toman...Torran...Toesran....something like that. He was curious to learn more, but the memories of Yaku kept him distracted. Hopefully the wound would heal quick so he could get back on the road to Portsmouth.

When they returned to the clearing with the wurm's corpse, Lucien stood next to an elderly man, panting heavily, winded from the walk, while he scratched his legs. The main thing that stood out to Diego about the man wasn't his extremely round shape, but the clusters of warts that covered his face and arms. Triston tilted his head in the direction of his other companion, his hands full of the ingredients Diego had gathered. "That is Wart." At the disbelieving look on the Fanatiga's face, Triston protested. "It is! I swear it!"

Diego looked at Lucien and Wart, "I set up camp outside of the woods, a little ways from here. It'll take some time to prepare the ointment and I need some of my tools, so we should go there."

Lucien looked like he enjoyed the idea of spending more time around Diego as much as the Fanatiga did. Wart bobbed his head, the motion sending ripples throughout his many rolls of fat. "I don't give a fuck where we make it, just get us there so it can stop burning!"

Diego stopped, remembering something with a twinkle in his orange hues as he gazed at the wurm. 'Trixie does have it easier!' He smiled as he remembered how he had struggled with the wurm until Trixie showed up out of the blue and killed it effortlessly. "Do any of you have a sword or dagger?"

Lucien flashed Diego a dark look, "What for?"

"I told you that you made me miss my dinner." Diego said with an amused grin plastered on his face. He shrugged and gestured to his injured leg. Lucien snarled and produced a long sword with a wide curve in the blade. He cut into the wurm, careful to avoid the digestive organs as Diego instructed, not wanting to spoil the meat.




Back at the campfire, Diego prepared the wurm meat to cook over the flames before starting on the ointment. Wart voiced his unhappiness at the idea, but Diego reminded him that it was his fault the Fanatiga had missed his meal. Gathering the herbs and bark into a bowl, he began crushing them into a fine paste. While he did so, Diego sent Lucien off to fetch water to mix with the paste.

By the time the medicine had been prepared, dinner was ready to eat. He passed the ointment to Wart who began applying it, letting out a sigh of relief as it began to cool the fiery sensation. Diego served the wurm meat to Trixie and himself before letting the robed men fight over what was left. As he dug into the food, Lucien pulled a small trinket from his robes and muttered a small phrase. The trinket turned into a black raven which took to the sky and headed north.

Diego arched a brow, silently question the display of magic he saw, but Lucien ignored it. "So, what brought you to these stretch of woods?"

Triston was devouring his meal like he hadn't eaten in weeks, but he took the time to pause between mouthfuls to answer the question. "We've been traveling. We're traveling to Remano to meet with-" A deadly glare from Lucien made Triston rethink what he shared with Diego. "A friend."

Diego narrowed his eyes, growing suspicious, but the pleading look on Triston's face told him not to probe. The Fanatiga's leg still gave him trouble and Trixie looked sore, neither boded well for them if Lucien turned violent. "Really? I'm heading to Portsmouth to meet a friend too!" His excitement was exaggerated to get on Lucien's nerves. If he couldn't ask questions, that was the next best thing. "We could travel together. You know, in case more wurms show up."

Lucien surprised Diego by smiling, "I'm not surprised." There was a foreboding glint in Lucien's eyes as he nodded in agreement. "Traveling together sounds like a good idea. You and your pets can watch our back."

Diego suddenly regretted his suggestion, but it was too late to withdraw it. Hopefully, they wouldn't cause trouble before they got to Portsmouth. Once they were in the town, Diego would have Yakuroro for backup, hopefully. He looked back to the woods, wondering where Zanzibar had gone to. He had expected the spider to have shown up by now, his disappearance was quite uncharacteristic.




Diego rose early in the morning to search the surrounding area for Zanzibar, but found no trace of his furry friend. Giving up, the Fanatiga prayed to Fate that the spider would show up on the way to Portsmouth. Diego went back to camp and woke the others up with the smell of roast wurm. After they ate, the Fanatiga saved what was left in his pack and they headed towards Portsmouth.

The journey was tamer than Diego expected, the three men seemed content to travel in silence. They had to take a few more breaks than he wanted, Wart was not one built for a leisurely stroll, let alone a hike encompassing several days. But they finally made it to familiar country, Diego recognizing some of the landmarks. He would have been overjoyed that he would soon be reunited with Yakuroro, but a chill had set into his bones the closer he got to Portsmouth. There was a giddy energy beneath Lucien's calm demeanor.

As they rounded a corner along the path, Diego noticed buildings in the distance. It looked like the town had expanded, the construction progressing smoothly since his last visit. He continued on, thinking that with a few more steps he might see the Imuchakk magician when he heard Trixie whine. He looked back to see her staring at the three robed men who had stopped in their tracks. Diego opened his mouth to ask what was going on and noticed the apologetic look on Triston's face.

The sound of a deep laugh caused Diego to whirl back around. Where there had been open road before, now stood a darkly cloaked figure. "So, this is a true chimera? Magnificent! Tell me, who discovered the missing piece of the formula?"

Something about the lull of the man's soothing baritone voice sent a wave of terror roiling through Diego. The Fanatiga's hand reached for his bow out of habit and the man simply laughed. The man grasped a handful of his cloak and ripped it from his body, revealing his muscular physique. He moved forward, stepping into a ray of sunlight and the blood drained from Diego's face.

Metamorphosis|Chapter One: The Descent BJm7UJk

Standing before the Fanatiga was a man he had spent the last couple years searching for. The man who had slaughtered his parents and the rest of the nomadic tribe he had grown up in with a terrible magic. The man who had eluded Diego every step of the way, from Heliohapt to Portsmouth. The man who, hidden behind a mask, had manipulated Diego, Ayero and a few others to place bombs around the slave auction. The man who Diego had pledged to kill with his bare hands. And he now stood five meters away from the Fanatiga.

The look in Jagang's eye was foreign to Diego, but he'd later come to recognize it as sadistic glee, "Me? I'm going to Heliohapt now that my experiment is done. As you can see, they are going to die painfully. So will you if you stay around." With that he turned around and stole into the shadows.

Diego's body shook as years of frustration, anguish, and rage bubbled to the surface, the man's last words ringing in his head. The Fanatiga snarled as he stared into the pits of the man's spiral eyes with the threat of violence reflecting in his own orange hues. "Jagang!"

Jagang clasped his hand in front of him and gave the Fanatiga an amused smirk, "Oh? Have we met before?"

Diego clenched his hands, his claws digging into his palms hard enough to draw blood. He was infuriated by Jagang's coy smile and convenient ignorance. It was enough to drive a man mad, it was enough to make Diego lose control.

[130/250]

Abilities used:

Name: Lightning Cannon|(Neko Take Arts)
Tier: B-Tier
Cost: 30|15
Beast Type: Assassin
Class: Offensive
Range: 20 meters
Cool-Down: 5 posts
Description: Trixie launches a seven meter long, one meter wide arc of electricity at 25 m/s at a target over twenty meters. The arc deals B-Tier damage to all who are touched by it. This ability may be sustained to be used again.

Name: Healing Wish I|(Kumo Koroshiya Arts)|Half-Cost
Tier: C-Tier
Cost: 10 stamina
Role: Support
Range: 15 meters
Cool-Down: 5 + Sustained
Description: The user launches a 20 cm to 3 meter wide diameter spitball, filled with healing fluids, up to 15 meters away. Anything touched by the spitball is healed for up to B-Tier damage over three posts. This ability can be sustained to use the ability again on the next two subsequent posts.

Name: Webbed Bandage|(Kuro Koroshiya Arts)
Tier: C-Tier
Cost: 20|10
Beast Role: Support
Range: 15 meters
Cool-Down: 3 posts; sustained+1
Description: The user projects a wad of webbing from its spinnerets that is between 0.1-3 meters in scale. The wad travels at 20 m/s and heals C-tier damage over two posts on contact. If sustained, this ability may be used again on the next post.


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Diego groggily woke up to a massive headache and a dull ringing in his ears. Groaning, the Fanatiga slowly opened his eyes and found himself in a dimly lit room, the only source of light coming from a few burning logs in a fireplace nearby. He sat in a chair at the center of the room, his arms and legs tightly bound by rope. Alarmed, Diego pulled against the ropes, summoning all his strength to break free, but a wave of pain shot through his aching body. When he tried to crane his head around, to see his surroundings, Diego felt the world begin to spin and he had to swallow back the rising tide of bile. 'Bad idea...'

Groaning, Diego closed his eyes and laid his head back. 'How did I get here?' His memories seemed muddled, hidden in shadows that skirted just out of reach. After a few moments, he was able to recall running into someone at the edge of Portsmouth and the adrenaline rush of a fight, but the exact details were still blurry.

Behind him, Diego caught the faint sound of people whispering. He strained his ears to hear what they were saying, but couldn't over the thrum of his heartbeat pulsing through his head. Instead, he weakly called out, "H-Hello!" It probably wasn't wise to tell one's captors that they were awake, but Diego thought that perhaps he had gotten in this situation by some villagers frightened by his appearance. After all, a six foot tiger-man usually made people uneasy. If Diego was able to talk with them, maybe he could convince them that he wasn't a threat.

That hope died when a man walked into his line of sight. The firelight gleaned off the bald man's head as he stared at Diego with a malevolent grin. Diego's heart sunk when he recognized his captor as Jagang. Mustering what energy he could, the Fanatiga thrashed against his bonds and growled. "Jagang! Let me go!"

The spiral-eyed magician laughed heartily and threw a right hook that crashed into the side of Diego's face. "I'm afraid not. Someone finished my research and I intend to find out the missing key." The spiral-eyed magician was fascinated with Diego and observed him as a scientist would a new specimen. Seeing the 'chimera' before him, Jagang couldn't help but remember his past attempts at creating such a being.

Deep in the mountains of Imuchakk, he and the Fate's Attendants had experimented on the blue-haired giants in hopes of turning them into part beast with magic. If any race could handle the transformation, they were sure the Imuchakk could. However, the results of the experiment had been disastrous. As he looked at Diego, Jagang felt a flicker of jealousy that someone else had discovered the secret before him. Jagang crouched down in front of Diego while he slipped a ring onto his meaty fingers. "Now, let us see who you are and what you know."

Jagang pulled a knife out of his sleeve and grabbed the Fanatiga's arm. He twisted it roughly and dug the sharp blade into Diego's skin, drawing blood. Jagang muttered something under his breath and smeared the blood over the ring. A few seconds later his eyes glazed over and his jaw went slack. Jagang stayed like that for some time before he snapped out of his trance and gazed at Diego with amusment. "Ahhh, that is who you are. Diego, it has been quite some time. It was thanks to your tribe that I was able to master Plague Magic. How have you been?"

Diego snarled and tried once again to break free so he could punch the magician, but Jagang got the Fanatiga to stop with another blow to his skull that nearly knocked the chair onto its side. "Now, now. Settle down. You wouldn't want me to hurt your precious Trixie, would you?" He gestured to someone standing behind Diego, who went into the other room.

Diego heard the sound of metal crunch against bone and then Trixie yowl in excruciating pain. The Fanatiga's eyes went wide and he glared at Jagang, rage dancing in his orange hues. "Don't you dare, Jagang! Leave her out of this!" His claws dug into the arms of the chair and his body trembled in anger. "I'll do whatever you want, just don't hurt her!"

Jagang barked in laughter and ran his fingers along the edge of Diego's jaw. "Oh, you'll do what I want regardless. I have many experiments to run on you. Now, go to sleep."

Jagang slammed his fist into Diego's stomach that struck the Fanatiga like a herd of Immuchakk. Diego gasped for air as he was overwhelmed by darkness. The last thing he heard was Jagang's laughter.




Diego opened his eyes to cold water being splashed on his face. He looked up to see Jagang standing over him with a knife in his hand. The Fanatiga tried to move, but he was bound at the ankles, wrist and neck. He could only see that he was lying on a slab of metal in a cold and damp room. The smell of mold and rotting wood was thick in this place. The Fanatiga stared back up at Jagang and snarled. When he tried to speak, he found it near impossible with how dry his throat was. When was the the last time he had food or drink?

A smile curled on Jagang's lips, "Good, you are awake. Now, we can begin. Stay quiet, unless you want Trixie to suffer." The spiral-eyed magician's eyes twinkled, "Did you know she is pregnant? Of course you did, she is bearing your children afterall. What a naughty boy~ Didn't your mother tell you not to fuck your pets?" Jagang's body shook with laughter as he watched the emotions on Diego's face.

After he was done laughing, Jagang's face grew serious and he brought the knife to Diego's sternum. Diego cried out in pain as the spiral-eyed magician made an incision from his breastbone to his groin. The magician then made two horizontal cuts so he could peel back the skin to reveal the organs below. To keep the flaps of skin from getting in the way, Jagang pierced it with one end of a hook, the other attaching to the table. "Now the fun begins. I'm sure you might wish for death soon, but don't worry, I'm quite skilled with Life Magic. You won't be dying on my watch." Jagang grinned at Diego and began rooting around inside of the Fanatiga with his hands.

For what seemed like hours, Jagang poked and prodded Diego's organs. He spoke with Lucien, who stood nearby, making notes in a scroll. They measured and weighed the Fanatiga's innards, ignoring his pleas as they went about their work. The agony was unbearable. Exposed to the cold air, it felt like his torso was on fire. Even worse was the sensation of having an organ ripped out, only to be healed a few minutes later.

Throughout it all, Diego rode on the border of unconsciousness, but Jagang wouldn't let him pass out. Jagang had an uncanny sense of when the Fanatiga was about to let himself fade away into blackness. Each time, Jagang would place his wand to Diego's temple and jolt him with an electric current. Finally, when Diego could take no more, Jagang finished his surgical exploration. The spiral-eyed magician unfolded the flaps of skin and used his magic to reattach the flesh together. Without a word to the Fanatiga, Jagang and Lucien blew out the candles in the room and left.

In the darkness of the room, Diego relived the horrific experience in his mind over and over again. His mind still vividly remembered the sensation of having his intestines yanked out and dragged across the room. Shuddering, the Fanatiga wept uncontrollably, wishing he had the strength to free himself and Trixie so they could escape. When sleep finally overcame him, even his dreams wouldn't let him rest.




Jagang stood in front of Diego with a wicked grin on his face. The Fanatiga could feel the blood boil in veins and he charged towards the bald man. The magician's spiral-eyes swirled as the Fanatiga reached out to scratch him. An explosive force suddenly hit Diego in the back and he was knocked to the ground. He faintly heard someone screaming over the ringing in his ears. Diego's head spun as he stood up and looked around to see that a group of three magicians had been standing behind him. The sight of Trixie laying unconscious at his feet made Diego's heart stop.

One of the magicians held his wand above his head, conjuring a massive fireball. Just as he released it, Diego saw a massive shadow fall over Trixie's body. He looked up to see Jagang standing in front of him.

"No! Don't kill them yet, you fools!" Diego heard Jagang shout over the ringing in his ears. The Fanatiga saw a bright flash of light as the fireball crashed into Jagang. Diego closed his eyes as he heard the roar of flame and an intense heat. 'Is...he...saving us?'

When Diego opened his eyes, he saw Jagang facing him, the flesh on his chest charred. Jagang stared into Diego's eyes with a cold look. In the blink of an eye, the bald man moved forward and kneed the Fanatiga in the stomach. As Diego lurched forward, he felt Jagang's elbow slam into the back of his head. Diego felt himself falling down into a never-ending void as the dream faded into darkness.





This time when Diego awoke, it was because of a sharp pain in his head. His mouth was gagged and his forehead was strapped in such a way that Diego couldn't turn to look in any direction but forward. He screamed into the cloth filling his mouth as he felt a sharp blade cut into his skull. Blood dripped into the Fanatiga's eyes as the blade ran in a circle around his head. Then, the upper part of his skull was removed, with a sticky, wet noise as the suction was released, to expose his brain. Diego whimpered in fear, "P-pleaf fop-p-p..." His voice was muffled by the gag.

Jagang walked around to stand in front of the Fanatiga with an arched brow, "I thought you would do anything I ask. Have the circumstances changed? I guess I could study Trixie if you can't handle my requests anymore."

Diego stuttered and tried to shake his head, "N-n-no! I'm f-f-forry! Dun fop!" He pleaded with Jagang, tears flowing down his face.

Jagang ignored Diego, walking out of his line of sight. The door opened and closed, leaving the Fanatiga alone with his imagination running wild. A few minutes passed before the door opened again and Jagang entered the room leading Trixie by a leash. Her neck and legs were chained in such a way that it restricted her movement, so that she had to shuffle her feet in tiny steps. Diego's eyes went wide when he saw her big, round belly. He knew instantly that she was a few days, perhaps hours, away from giving birth.

Jagang aimed his wand at Trixie and muttered a few commands, before kneeling down at Trixie's side. Unable to move, the tigress laid limp while the spiral-eyed magician used a thick knife to slowly saw off a paw. Diego screamed in terror, thrashing in his chair to break the thick ropes that bound him. Lucien, who had been entered the room at some point, stood behind Diego and slammed his fist downward in a hammer motion, into the Fanatiga's brain. The world rocked violently for Diego and he threw up violently, the fight leaving him immediately.

Once everything calmed down, Diego opened his eyes to see Jagang toss Trixie's paw into his vomit-filled lap. The Fanatiga's eyes followed the paw to the stub on Trixie's right foreleg. She stared at him, wide-eyed in terror and pain, both at her current situation and at seeing her mate in such a state. She could see his brain pulsing in time with his heartbeat and it was all because of that man kneeling next to her. She wished she could lock her fangs around the bald man's throat, but she was frozen in place by his magic.

Jagang stared into Diego's orange hues with a smug look on his face. "Hold on to that as a reminder of your word. Next time you tell me to stop, I'll wait until she gives birth and then perform my experiments on her, except I won't heal her back up. Then, I will perform my experiments on your children. Now, shall we continue?"

"Yesh!" Diego shouted through the gag in his mouth.

"Good. Lucien take her away." While Lucien walked over to pick drag Trixie out the room, Jagang returned to his spot behind Diego and began poking at different spots of his brain. "What happens when I touch here? Here?"




Diego was back in the room with the fireplace, still tied to the chair, when he woke up. He was alone as far as he could tell, but he couldn't see behind him. Diego contemplated trying to escape, but his fear gave him pause. 'What will they do to Trixie if I try? I have to save her!' He struggled against his bonds and immediately noticed something odd. When he tried to move his right arm, he moved his left and vice versa. It was the same for his legs. 'What did Jagang do while he was in my head?'

The door opened behind him and Diego froze. Footsteps approached and Triston appeared with a bowl and glass of water. Triston grimaced when he saw Diego's body, the Fanatiga was covered in scars and burns. Lately, Jagang and Lucien had taken to seeing how much pain Diego could take before he passed out. "I'm here to feed you."

Triston tugged a stool over with his foot and took a seat beside Diego. He brought the glass to Diego's lips and tilted it so he could drink. Diego greedily swallowed the water and whined when Triston pulled it back. "Wait, you've got to do this slowly. It's been a long time without food and water, you don't want to get sick." Setting the glass down, Triston offered a spoonful of a mushy concoction to Diego, which he accepted.

Silence fell between the two while Triston slowly fed Diego. The Fanatiga didn't want to say anything and ruin his chance at eating. This was the kindest thing he had experienced in what seemed like weeks.

Suddenly, Diego heard Trixie howl in a distant part of the building. He turned to Triston with a frightened look on his face. "What's going on?" Diego's stomach tightened, this moment of kindness, had it been to lull him into a false sense of security before they killed her?

Triston looked to the door, clearly alarmed. "I don't know. Wait here..." He said before leaving to find out what was happening.

Diego had to wait for several minutes before Lucien appeared with Triston. Lucien looked at him with distaste, "Jagang wants your children. He asks if you have any problems with that." When Diego started to protest, Lucien held out the paw that Jagang had cut off.

Diego shut his mouth and looked away, in the opposite direction that he wanted, tears stinging his eyes. He felt pathetic, unable to save himself, let alone Trixie or their kids.

Lucien gave a curt nod and turned to Triston. "Finish up here and then come help us with the delivery." With that he left the room, closing the door behind him.

Triston sat down on the stool and started to feed Diego again, but the Fanatiga wasn't hungry anymore. Triston frowned at the captive. "You need your strength, eat."

He tried bringing the spoon of mush to Diego's lips again, but he turned away from it. "What's the point?" Diego felt defeated, there wasn't any point to live. What kind of existence was this?

Triston sighed and stood up, collecting the dishes. "Fine. For what its worth. I'm sorry." He rested a hand on Diego's shoulder and squeezed, wishing he could do something for the Fanatiga. He hesitated a moment before leaving to help Lucien. "I'll be back later to tell you how it went."



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As tired and sore as Diego felt, he couldn't fall asleep. Trixie's yowls echoed from the other room and he couldn't rest knowing she was in pain. Every fiber of his being wanted to be by her side, whispering encouraging statements in her ear, as she pushed out their offspring. It was even worse knowing that the only support she had was from Jagang and their other captors. Or perhaps, it was not knowing if Jagang would let Diego see his kids. Would they even know their real father?

For what seemed like hours, Diego waited anxiously, wincing at every pained cry that he heard, until Triston returned. The young man shuffled in with a nervous look on his face and Diego felt his heart sink. "What is it? Are they alright? How is Trixie?"

Triston gave Diego a small smile, "It took a long time, but they are alright. They are sleeping now. It took a lot out of Trixie, but you have three beautiful, healthy cubs." Triston grimaced, realizing he had misspoke. They weren't Diego's cubs anymore, they were Jagang's.

Diego let out a relieved sigh and managed a sad smile. While he couldn't claim his kids as his own, at least Trixie was alright. "Do you think I can see them?" He already knew the answer, so when Triston shook his head, it came as no surprise. "I figured as much. Well, I think I'm going to try to sleep." Diego leaned his head back and closed his eyes, listening to the creaking of the wood floorboards as Triston walked to the door. "By the way...thanks."

Triston looked over his shoulder at Diego and gave a small nod. "It's the least I could do." He waited until the Fanatiga's breathing softened before he slipped out the door, shutting it behind him.




The smell of salt fills his nostrils. Above, the pale moon rises high in the sky. A boat gently rocks back and forth from the lapping of waves. Jaw agape, he stares entranced at the sea. Glittering starlight danced upon the crystalline water. A tear falls down his cheek. 'Such beauty....in a cruel world....'

Behind him, he heard the faint hush of whispering voices. Spinning around, he saw a shadowy portrait of a small child sitting beside a giant of a man. The small child wore a defiant expression on his face as he looked up at the man, fire burning brightly in his eyes. There was something oddly familiar about this...place. Continuing to watch, Diego felt his chest tighten.

"I plan to kill-" A shriek rang violently in Diego's ears when as the boy said the name of his target. Suddenly, the shadows flickered and the world around Diego began to spin. "Will you help me?"

The shadowy figure of the giant appeared to shake with laughter. "Of course-" Another shriek pierced the air. "But I'll need your help in Reim..."

A wave of pain flared throughout Diego's body and he dropped to the floor, convulsing violently. He saw the the shadowy figures turn to him before they faded into a blinding light. He struggled to speak, but his words came out as bubbling foam. In the distance, he could hear the small child ask if he was alright.

Just when he thought he could no longer bear the pain, everything went dark. 'Who...were....they?' Something in the back of his mind told him he should know the answer, but it lingered just out of reach. Another shockwave of pain triggered a hazed memory of a blue-haired magician smiling down at him. 'Yaku....' Another jolt of pain and Diego felt his consciousness spiral into an eternal descent. 'Where are you....?'




Jagang let out an exasperated sigh as he idly watched Wart repeatedly electrocute the Fanatiga. He was starting to grow tired of the fat man's stench and the sound of Diego's whimpers with every jolt. Even the glee in Wart's eyes as he took joy in torturing the specimen was irritating to the bald man. "You know, if you keep that up, you'll risk damaging his mental faculties. We still need information from him."

Wart scowled at Jagang. He was just starting to have fun with his toy. "What does it matter if he forgets it. You can use clairvoyance magic."

Jagang rolled his eyes, "Not a lot of good that has done us." For the past few weeks, he had tried every means to discover the secret of creating a chimera from Diego. The Fanatiga refused to answer any of his questions, so simply asking hadn't worked. Torturing Diego only served to make him despise Jagang even more. Even when he asked the Rukh, they only gave frustratingly irrelevant answers to his questions.

The first time he tried, he had asked, "Who made Diego the way he is?" The Rukh answered by providing Jagang a vision of his face. Understanding that the question could be seen as vague, Jagang tried asking in a different way. "How did Diego obtain his tiger-like appearance?" That time he had been shown a vision of Diego with a fiery expression vowing to kill the spiral-eyed magician and avenge his family. Jagang had gone into a rage then and beaten Diego unconscious.

After that, Jagang stayed away from his shack for a few days, too infuriated to even look at Diego. It was maddening, the answers to his life's work were so close at hand. Finally, Jagang was struck by a genius thought. He rushed back to cast a clairvoyance spell and ask the Rukh what magician had been responsible for changing DIego's appearance. When that only resulted in another vision of Jagang, he nearly strangled the Fanatiga to death. If it wasn't for Triston pulling Jagang off Diego, the furry fanalis wouldn't still be alive.

Wart stared at Diego's tattered body, the Fanatiga only had a few tufts of hair now. The rest of his body was covered in burns and scars. Licking his lips, Wart appreciated Diego's resilient body. "You could always try again. If you don't get the answer, I could have some more fun..." He smiled as he ran a finger across Diego's lips, the sensation sending a titillating shiver down his spine.

Diego's body shuddered and he let out a mewling sound. "Yaku....where are you?" Even though he was strapped down tight to the table, he tried to curl into a ball as he began sobbing in his sleep.

"Yaku? What is a Yaku?" Jagang peered at Wart inquisitively who shrugged his shoulders. Jagang contemplated asking the Rukh, but he quickly decided against it. Obtaining information about Chimera was more important. Jagang stood up and quickly crossed the room to stand at Diego's side. He pulled a ring out from his pocket and slid it onto his hand, before taking a knife and making a small cut on the Fanatiga's wrist. As blood dribbled from the wound, Jagang let a few drops fall onto the ring.

With a deep breath, Jagang muttered a few commands to the Ruhk with a question firmly in his mind. 'What magic caused Diego's transformation?' After so long, Jagang expected another unrelated answer, so he was surprised when a different vision overcame him. He stood on the center of a large platform, floating in a sea of stars and nebulas. He noticed he wasn't alone in this strange place. To one side, a purple-haired magician and a black-haired warrior fought what appeared to be a Chimera with a Lion-like form. On the other end of the platform, a tall Imuchakk stood near a large lizard, conversing with a blue-skinned old man sitting in a chair fashioned out of gears. While they spoke, the two's attention seemed divided between the fight and a black void.

At first, Jagang didn't understand their fascination with the swirling black energy, which Jagang recognized as strength magic, but then he noticed a child within it. Stunned, the spiral-eyed magician continued to watch as he barely made out the boy's form changing. By the time the boy stepped out of the void, he had turned into a form resembling a half-man half-tiger.

'What is this place?' The thought had just crossed his mind when he heard the old blue man mention something about black Rukh and a Djinn. Shortly after, the vision started to fade and Jagang panicked. "NO! Don't stop yet! Let me learn more!"

Jagang felt himself returned back to reality and noticed Wart staring curiously at him. Jagang snarled at the fat man and slammed his fists against the table. "Dammit! I was so close!"

"What did you see?" Wart asked cautiously. When Jagang's temper flared, it was usually wise to get away.

"I saw Diego's transformation, but I couldn't tell where he was. There were other people there, too. Just as I was pulled out, I heard this strange blue person mention a Djinn."

"A Djinn?" A voice asked from the doorway. Jagang looked up to see Lucien standing in the doorway with Triston looking over his shoulder. Triston's eyes weren't on Jagang, but on Diego and Jagang swore he saw pity in those eyes. "Is that what you heard?" Lucien had a strange look in his eye and a small smile curled on his lips when Jagang nodded. "Then we have found the answer to our questions."

Jagang gave Lucien a confused look, wondering what the man meant when it hit him. He had heard the term 'Djinn' before, but it had been many years ago. Back when he was still a student at Magnostadt's Academy, hungry to devour any knowledge about magic in the libraries. "Of course....he was changed by the Djinn's magic...in a dungeon." He rolled with laughter, suddenly feeling much better. Even though he hadn't created a Chimera himself, he now knew another magician hadn't beaten him to it. This had been the result of far greater magic than any magician alive could perform.

Lucien slowly nodded, waiting for Jagang's enthusiasm to die down before looking pointedly at Diego. "Now that we have the answer, we no longer have any use for…that." While it was his task to assist Jagang with finishing the magician's research on creating and altering lifeforms, Lucien found the creatures despicable. They were lesser beings, tainted life that had no reason to live beyond serving the purebreds.

Jagang stopped laughing when he heard that and he stared hard at Lucien. Jagang was aware of the man's hatred for Chimeras and it puzzled him why he even pursued this line of work. It hadn't bothered him before, but now Lucien was threatening one of Jagang's personal experiments. Still, Jagang was building a relationship with the Alchemists. They had access to unimaginable amounts of magical knowledge and tools. Jagang didn't know how much pull Lucien had, but he had to be careful. If he displeased them now, he might lose the chance to use that knowledge later. Jagang's gaze turned from Lucien to Diego, "Perhaps..."




Diego groaned as someone shook him awake. For a brief second, he considered feigning sleep a bit longer, but he knew the consequences of that. Jagang was an impatient man and if he didn't wake up now, then Diego would be forced awake with the crack of the man's fist. Groggily, the Fanatiga's eyes fluttered open and he winced, the aches and pains that had vanished in his sleep came rushing back all at once. When his vision cleared, he was surprised to see Triston standing there, fear evident in his expression. "What's going on?"

Triston brought a finger to his lips, "Quiet. Don't wake them. I'm going to help you get out of here." While he whispered, Triston quickly cut the ropes that bound Diego's wrists and ankles together. "Come on." He threw Diego's arm over his shoulder to support the Fanatiga's weight.

Diego hissed in pain as the circulation returned and the blood rushed back to his extremities. He tried his best to stand up on his own, but he was too weak after being kept on a diet thin on food and heavy on torture. As he was led to the door, every shuffled step was like agony. Shooting pains wracked through his body just with Triston holding him up. Once through the door, they still had to make it through a long hallway before they were outside. It was a hellish walk. When Diego moaned in pain, Triston froze up and the Fanatiga thought the man would piss himself, he looked so worried.

Finally, they managed to make it outside without waking up any of the other magicians. Triston visibly relaxed once they started to put some distance between the shack and his pace slowed down a bit. He gave Diego a sympathetic look, "We're nearly there. Hold on just a bit longer. I hid your belongings on the outskirts of town. I can only take you there and the rest you'll have to travel on your own."

Diego found enough energy to nod, relieved that he was finally getting away from Diego that he didn't even ask how he was supposed to travel in his condition. His mind started to wander, imagining the peace he could have with Zanzibar and Trixie now. TRIXIE! Diego dug his heels in and nearly caused Triston to topple. "Wait! What about Trixie? Where is she?"

Triston found his balance, miraculously preventing both himself and Diego from falling over. He gave the Fanatiga a sheepish look and turned away. "I can only save one of you. Jagang has Trixie guarded...it's nearly impossible..."

Diego roared in fury and pushed Triston away, intending to walk back to the shack himself. He barely put a foot forward before he collapsed on the ground. Not even bothering to pick himself up, he dug his claws into the ground and started crawling towards the shack. "I...can't....leave....her....behind..." He hissed between pained gasps.

Terrified, Triston grabbed Diego by his orange mane and tried to stop him. "No! Stop! You can't go back there! They want to kill you!"

Diego's eyes stung with tears as he struggled against Triston. "I don't fucking care! I love her!"

Bang! The air seemed to shake and Diego caught a wiff of charred flesh. He looked back to see Triston, mouth hanging open and a huge hole in his chest. Diego's eyes went wide and he heard bubbling laughter ring out. He turned to see Wart step out of the tree line, a frog-like grin stretched from ear-to-ear. "Tsk, tsk. What a naughty kitty. You can't leave~"

Wart raised his wand, electricity crackling off the tip, and aimed it at the Fanatiga. Before he could cast a spell, a loud voice barked out, "ENOUGH!" Jagang appeared from behind Wart and scowled at him. "Not here. Get him back inside and clean up your mess." He stared into Triston's pleading eyes and shook his head. He mumbled something under his breath and flicked his wand at Triston. In the blink of an eye, his flesh started to melt as a plague overcame him.

Diego watched Triston's skin turn to ooze and was instantly reminded of his father and mother. Screaming at the top of his lungs, he willed the universe to reject this reality. Triston had done nothing wrong, why did he have to die? He was the only person in weeks that had shown him any decency. "WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU?!" Snarling, Diego forced himself to his knees, smoldering in his rage. Oblivious to the pain, Diego stood up on uneven footing and charged Jagang.

"Tsk." Jagang sneered at Diego and simply poked the Fanatiga's chest as he came within range to knock him off balance. "You are a fool. You are weak. You pose no threat to me." When Diego replied with a roar of rage, Jagang slammed the heel of his boot into his chest, knocking the air from his lungs. Diego gasped for air, clutching his chest before passing out.




Besides the pain and trouble breathing, Diego was acutely aware that he was being drug by his ankles through the dirt. If he wasn't aware of that, it became obvious when his head bounced off a half-buried rock. He tried to peer around at his surroundings, but his vision was blurry. He could hear labored pants close by, which he assumed belonged to Wart. The fat bastard couldn't walk very far without losing wind. 'Ha! Get exercise carrying me!' The thought would have made him laugh if his body didn't hurt so bad.

Diego wondered what he was doing outside, the memory seemed distant. When an image of a surprised Triston with a gaping hole came to his mind, Diego wished he could forget again. He clenched his eyes shut and shook the painful memory away.

Suddenly, Diego felt himself come to a stop and he heard Wart snicker. "Look,  Mister Kitty." Fat stubby hands pointed up at a tree. Diego blinked his eyes a few times to get a better look, but could barely make out an outline of something swinging from a branch. Wart pulled out his wand, pointing it at the object and conjured a beam of light to illuminate the darkness.

A high-pitched cry bubbled forth from Diego's throat as his vision cleared enough to make out what Wart pointed out. Diego felt something snap in his brain and the cry turned into laughter, which quickly turned into tears. "No....no.....no....please......no! NOOOOO!!" Diego couldn't help but continue to stare at the bloody wreck that was Trixie's body hanging from a branch. Her skin had been peeled back to her haunches and dangled by a thread. Her limbs appeared to be broken in several places and agony was etched into her face.

Wart giggled madly in the background, "LOOK! LOOK! IT'S MISS KITTY!"

Diego hardly heard the fat bastard, his attention was fixed to his best friend...his mate, swinging from the tree. The drip, drip, drip of her blood splattering against the fallen leaves echoed in his head. "Trixie...please! PLEASE TRIXIE! WAKE UP! YOU CAN'T BE DEAD! YOU CAN'T!" He couldn't believe it. Wouldn't believe it. There was no point to life without her. How could he go on living now?

Jagang appeared out of the corner of Diego's vision. He loomed over the Fanatiga, his expression hard as stone. "That is what you get for attempting to leave. Was it worth it?"

Diego sobbed on the ground, making nonsensical sounds as he pleaded with the Gods to change her Fate. 'That should be me! Not her!'

Jagang kicked Diego in the stomach so hard that the boy threw up. "Now, you will be my pet. You will listen to my every command or I will do the same thing to your children. Do you hear me?"

Jagang's words felt like a sword piercing into his heart. 'My children! How can I forget them? How can they live without their mother?' A memory floated to the surface from days long past when Trixie was alive and they were happy.

”The Memory”:
Trixie was curled up around Diego with her resting on his lap as he told stories under the stars. The calm cadences in his voice as he told a story soothed her to her very core. The hand gently scratching the back of her head as he spoke helped as well. She had traveled across the land and sea with this two-legged beast for many suns and many moons. Dimly she recalled memories of others of her kind, but she had many memories of him. That thought produced a warm feeling within her and she felt at peace with him. She felt him shift, as he leaned back with his arms behind him for support with a deep sigh. She looked up concerned as she sensed the change in emotion within him.

~Girl, you are really like my Madam Trixie. You've been at my side through thick and thin. You've even been my courage when I've been scared.~
He smiled down at her and she gave a soft mew, laying her head back on his lap. His smile slightly fading, he looked up to the stars, ~After my family died, a part of me died, I just traveled aimlessly. Then shortly after, I ran across you. Ever since, you've been by my side. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart. You've traveled far with me, across land and sea to reach this desert. I used to think it would be a twisted place, but while it has flaws...its a beautiful place. Now that I am here, it is time to find Jagang.~ He sat up straight and looked in Trixie's eyes with a serious face. ~Trixie, I feel this next part of the journey might be dangerous. I've grown complacent in fear of facing Jagang, but I need to. I've got to give you a choice, Trixie. From here on out, it's up to you, but with or without you, I'm going to find him. Would you follow me into danger?~ He looked into her eyes, seeming to search her soul for her measure.

Trixie recognized the names he called her when he started speaking. As she watched the emotions on his face, she could sense the bond of kinship he felt for her. Her heart broke  hearing the pain in his voice as he continued speaking to her. She nuzzled his lap urging him on while she watched the feelings dance in his eyes. When she saw his resolve harden and gaze at her with an intensity that made her feel vulnerable and worried, she sat up and put a paw on his lap. She looked into his red eyes and matched his ferocity. Where this man-beast led her, she would follow loyally and she wanted him to know she would. His crimson eyes were eyes that she wanted to see for as long as she lived. Those eyes spoke to her heart of kinship, value, honor and trust. Those were eyes of a beast you wanted at your side and would do anything to protect. When Diego relaxed and smiled, she knew that he understood and gave a gruff meow as she laid back down to nap.


Diego shuddered, rocking back and forth as he remembered how she had naively agreed. If it wasn’t for him, she would still be alive. She wouldn’t have suffered in such a way. It was his fault. His fault. After a few moments, Diego looked up at Jagang, his eyes reflecting the hollowness he felt inside. He no longer had the will to live. "Whatever you wish....master."

The spiral-eyed magician smiled, proud of himself to have finally broken Diego’s will. His gaze flicked to Lucien, hiding in the shadows, and gave him a content smirk. The man would have no reason to kill an empty shell. Diego was no longer a person, he was simply a pet. Jagang’s pet.



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'A long time ago, someone once told me that time heals all wounds.' He scoffs. 'They couldn't have been more wrong. For every second that goes by, it has been a second longer since I last saw her.' The silhouette of a broken and mangled tiger swaying in the wind illuminates itself within his mind.

'No. Not her. Her!' A meadow rolls out before him, the sun shining brightly, high in the sky. Birds flutter to and fro, singing a happy melody. He is laying on his back, watching the clouds float by on the breeze. He feels a warmth against his chest and he looks down to see Trixie staring up at him lovingly.

The vision slowly begins to fade away and he cries out. 'No! Please! Just a few more minutes!' With tears in his eyes, he waves goodbye to the ghostly apparition as darkness swallows him. Time, ever unyielding, continued to go on. No matter how important Diego felt Trixie was, Fate believed agree and felt no remorse in casting her aside.




"Ya...ku...where....are....you?" Diego muttered in his sleep.

He jolted awake as someone kicked his cage. Almost immediately, he felt the aches and pains from constant torture return now that he was conscious. He groaned as his eyes snapped open and saw a grinning Jagang standing over him. Diego knew what that meant. For the past few weeks, though it felt like months, Jagang and the others had begun training Diego, just as one would train a wild beast. Their methods, however, were not ones that Diego would have used, but how he imagined most would. Instead of reinforcing behaviors in a positive manner, they used brute force.

It wouldn't have mattered which method they used, the result would have been the same. After having nearly everything he cared for ripped from him, Diego found it hard to care anymore. They didn't even need to keep him chained now, he wouldn't dare escape. He was too afraid, not just of what they would do, but of what Fate would do. Diego couldn't lose anything else by staying with Jagang, only his freedom and what freedom did he really have in the grand scheme of things?

Jagang turned, brimming with excitement, as he looked at someone else standing in the room. "You see? Isn't it neat?"

The man stared blankly at Jagang before glancing at Diego huddled in a cage that was clearly meant for a smaller creature. For a brief moment, surprise flickered across his face. Intrigued, he moved closer, kneeling in front of the cage. Brushing his long, golden hair to the side, Imhotep turned back to Jagang. "Fascinating," he said in a tone that would say otherwise. "You finally managed to find the missing piece to your puzzle. I can see why you're excited."

The man seemed oddly familiar to Diego and he wracked his brain to remember where he had seen him. Suddenly, it clicked in his head. "Y-you....you were at Trylor. Those people....even dead they could still move..."

Imhotep quickly stood up, glaring at Diego before turning to Jagang. "What is this? How does he know about that?"

Jagang looked at a loss for words and shrugged his shoulders. Before he could say anything, Diego pressed against the cage. "I was there. You were on a donkey and you said you were a merchant passing through. I don't think you were though. You had something to do with those people!"

Diego was silenced as he stared down the point of a Imhotep's wand. The man trembled with rage and began to mutter to the Rukh when Jagang knocked the wand from his hand. "What are you doing, Jagang? He knows too much. He can identify me by sight! All our plans will be ruined!"

Jagang's eyes shown with a violent intensity. He did not like it when other people tried to interfere with his experiments. "Enough, we can make him forget. He won't be any danger after we're done with his training."

Though Imhotep still felt the Fanatiga was a danger, he listened to what Jagang had to say. With a deep breath, Imhotep visibly cooled, though he still looked at Diego angrily. "How do you plan to do that?"

Jagang's eyes sparkled with amusement. He enjoyed science so very much. "Come, you shall see." He unlocked the cage-door, allowing Diego to come out. "Basement, now." Obediently, Diego followed behind Imhotep and Jagang into the makeshift laboratory. Compared to what Jagang was used to back in Magnostadt--and Heliohapt before Diego destroyed most of his valuable instruments, though Jagang wasn't aware of that fact--the room wasn't worthy of being called a lab. However, he made do with what he had.

Without a word, Diego walked over to the table and laid down, waiting to be strapped down. Wart, who had been anxiously awaiting this moment, did the honors. While Imhotep leaned his back against the wall to watch, Jagang stood by Diego's head with a knife. As usual, Jagang performed quick surgery to remove the upper-portion of Diego's skull exposing his brain. Once he was done, he passed the torch to Wart and walked into the Fanatiga's line of sight.

Wart held his wand in one hand and a scroll, which detailed everything they had learned about Diego's brain in it. He glanced at a diagram to make sure he would deliver electricity to the correct region of the brain before nodding to Jagang.

Jagang smiled sweetly at Diego, "I want you to remember the time you saw my friend here and tell me every detail." Not needing to be told twice, Diego recalled Trylor to the front of his mind and quickly told them everything he had experienced there. While he spoke, Wart applied tiny jolts to Diego's brain. Over time, Diego began to struggle to tell the story, finding the memory just out of reach as it was burned away. Before Diego was even able to tell them about the spell Yakuroro had used on Juniper's wand, all traces of Imhotep from his memory were gone.

Diego looked up at the ceiling, waiting for Jagang and Wart to no longer need his services so he could go back to his cage. He was startled when he heard an unfamiliar voice in the room.

"Is that it?" Imhotep asked in disbelief.

Diego struggled to look around, but his head was firmly secured in place. "Who is that?" he asked, almost fearful. It was unlike Jagang to have visitors, especially ones he hadn't introduced.

Jagang smirked, gesturing for Imhotep to step forward. "Just a friend~"

Diego stared at Imhotep as he stepped into view, noticing the man's golden hair that swept past his shoulders. "Oh...hello." When he didn't recognize Imhotep, Diego stared back up at the ceiling bored.

Imhotep narrowed his eyes, still not believing the boy's act. Even if Jagang believed that Diego truly did not remember him, Imhotep found it hard to trust the spiral-eyed magician. Sane was not a word that was ever used to explain Jagang, though he was highly intelligent. Regardless of his reservations, Imhotep found it easier to agree with Jagang than to press it any further. If Diego posed a problem in the future, then Imhotep would deal with it then.

Suddenly feeling a bit claustrophobic, Imhotep turned to Jagang. "Well then. If that is settled, I'm going to step out for a bit."

Jagang nodded, waiting until his friend left the room before signaling to Wart to continue. [color=saddlebrown}"Enough with memories, it's time for some reinforcement."[/color] Grinning down at Diego, Jagang cleared his throat. "Repeat after me. I am worthless."

Diego stared blankly at Jagang. "I am worthless." As he spoke, Wart unleashed a massive jolt of electricity into Diego's brain. The Fanatiga's body spasmed violently for a few seconds, leaving the right side of his body tingling.

"I am nothing without my master."

"I am nothing without my master." Jolt. A long time ago, Diego had despised the very word, finding the concept of master and servant revolting.

"I exist to serve my master and only my master."

"I exist to serve my master and only my master." Jolt. There was something freeing about the idea. No longer did he have to worry about his Fate, only serving his master.

"I will obey my master's every command."

"I will obey my master's every command." Jolt. How could he ever dare to disobey his master? He should worship him.

"Nothing is worse than failing my master."

"Nothing is worse than failing my master." Jolt. Tears came to Diego's eyes at the thought of failure. He would rather die than see the look of disappointment on his master's face.

"Jagang is my master."

"Jagang is my...." Jolt. He knew he should say it. Knew he should finish the sentence. Jolt. Say it. It'll be worse for you. Accept him. Just say the words. Worship him. Jolt. "NOOOOOO! YOU ARE NOT MY MASTER!" Every fiber of his being yearned to obey Jagang, except something deep inside. Something that would not forget, could not forget, about everything Jagang had done.

Crack! Diego felt his jaw shatter as something heavy smacked across his face. Then...nothing, only darkness.




A few days later, Diego woke to the sound of people arguing. By the lack of light outside the window, Diego knew it was late at night. He strained his ears to tell who was shouting by the inflections in their voice. 'Jagang...and...his friend. What are they saying' He held his breath and closed his eyes, silencing his thoughts in the process just to hear better.

"What do you mean it's not time yet? Between the Brotherhood and the Alchemists, everything is in place. We promised to fulfill our end of the bargain!"

"It's too soon and the timing isn't right. They'll suspect something if we act now and our plans will be foiled. Lucien, tell him!"

"I'm sorry, Jagang, but Imhotep is right. While the timing may not be right now, it will be soon. We should leave this place, dispose of your....pets...and finish preparations."

"I don't believe this. Why are you all against my work? It has gotten you this far. So what if he knew what you did before, he doesn't remember anymore!"

"Dammit, Jagang! Why must you be so stubborn? You're a fool if you think he forgot. He's just playing you, until he finds an opportunity to get away. I won't let everything we've worked for fall apart because you're too blind to see the truth."

"Stubborn? I am? How can you say that after all we've been through? You've known me longer than anyone else. Trust me, the boy knows nothing."

"Why does it matter? Why won't you kill him."

"Fate, my friend. Fate! Can't you see? Look at how it pulled Diego along its path, pushing him towards us! It's proof, vindication of my beliefs. No, our beliefs!"

"Seriously, Jagang? Enough with that superstitious crap. Fate is just an excuse to make yourself feel better about the past. The only truth to the world is power."

"What are you talking about? All this time and you're telling me you can't see it? Not even when it's right in front of your eyes? How can you call yourself one of the Fate's Attendants?"

"I hoped you would grow out of this Jagang. Those beliefs are just some silly nonsense a madman wrote. I know you're an intelligent man and I stuck by your side thinking you would realize that, but I guess you never will. The Fate's Attendants died a long time ago, Jagang. Back in the mountains of Imuchakk with the others. I'm sorry, Jagang, but if you can't be rational, then this is where we part ways."

Diego heard a door open, the sound of shuffling footsteps and then the door slam shut. He didn't understand what they had been talking about, but he hoped Jagang's anger wasn't directed towards him. When he opened his eyes, Diego jumped, startled by what stood in front of him.

A furry, white spider looked up at Diego, with an expression akin to sadness. "Zan....Zanzibar? How did you get in?"

"SQUEE~" Zanzibar trilled happily, looking towards the window, which was now wide open. Facing away from Diego, the spider aimed his butt at the Fanatiga and launched a web at the cage.

Diego whimpered in fear as a loud crack filled the room, the cage door busting off its hinge. The Fanatiga held his breath, just knowing that Jagang would enter the room any second. However, a moment later, Diego heard Jagang shouting in the distance; he had chased after Imhotep to continue the conversation.

"Squee~ SQUEE~" Zanzibar's trills grew urgent, understanding the danger of Jagang finding them. With one of his legs, the spider tugged on Diego's arm so they could leave, but the Fanatiga wouldn't budge.

"Get out of here, Zanz. I can't be...who you want me to be anymore. I can't...go on. Just forget about me. There's no point anymore." Diego looked away, too ashamed to face the furry spider.

Squee~ Squee Squee~" With a huff, the spider yanked Diego out of the cage and he was too weak to fight back. Somehow, Zanzibar managed to get the Fanatiga's upper-body on his back and drug him to the window. Using all the strength he could muster, Zanzibar climbed up the window, pulling a whimpering Diego through the window. When Diego landed on the ground unceremoniously and groaned in pain, Zanzibar pulled him into some bushes and went back inside the shack.

Diego slowly sat up, his body trembling as he imagined Jagang's reaction when he was caught. He heard a soft thud nearby and nearly pissed himself, but it had only been his bow being tossed out the window. Then his quiver of arrows. Then his Inquistor's gaze and so on, until all his possessions were gathered in a plie. A second later, Zanzibar followed suit, looking at Diego with an unhappy expression.

"Squee Squee~" Zanzibar warbled at Diego before skittering around the corner to look for Jagang. He came back and saw that the Fanalis was still sitting there, without equipping his items. "SQUEE~"

Tears streaked down Diego's face and he pleaded with the spider. "Please, just leave me. Go find someone else to take care of you."

Zanzibar warbled angrily, grabbing hold of Diego's bow and smacked it across his head. "SQUEE!"

Stunned, Diego stared down at Zanzibar and realized that the spider wouldn't leave without him. Ignoring the knot in his stomach and assured of his pending doom, Diego quickly began strapping on his weapons. After he was finished, Diego nodded at Zanzibar and followed the spider into the woods, away from the shack. It was a challenge to walk normally, especially with his nerves still miswired from Jagang and Warts experiments, but he had learned to overcome that in the last few weeks.  

Every step was another step closer to coming across Jagang. Diego could just feel it in his bones. He would end up just like Triston, with a hole in his chest. Slowly, a startling realization washed over him. Dying wasn't so bad. If he died, then perhaps he could see Trixie again. He clung to that thought, wearing it as armor to protect him from the fear of death.

However, death never came. Before he knew it, Diego was standing in town square of Portsmouth. He could smell the salt coming off the breeze as he inhaled a deep breath. Diego looked down at Zanzibar, amazed to have made it this far. He didn't know what to do. A part of him just wanted to turn around and walk back to the shack, where he would accept whatever punishment Jagang had planned for him. At the same time, he felt an odd sensation in his chest. It took him a moment to realize that it was happiness and he let the warm emotion envelop him. "I'm...free..."

Zanizbar let out a chipper trill and Diego surprised himself by smiling. "What is this? Even though Trixie is dead...I can still smile?" He frowned at the thought. It didn't feel right, it was terrible that he could feel good when she was no longer here. "What are we going to do Zanz? Where are we going to go?"

Zanzibar stared at Diego blankly, waiting to see what the Fanatiga would do. It didn't take long for Diego to figure it out. "Wait, I'm in Portsmouth. Perhaps Yaku is still here. He'll know what to do!"

Yaku...no, my master, will know what to do. All I have to do is listen to him and everything will be okay again. Yaku, where are you?


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In search of information that could help Diego track down Yakuroro, he entered the first tavern he came across. From the stares he received as he walked in, Diego contemplated turning around and walking back out. As it had been ever since he had accepted Gremory's power, transforming Diego into a Were-Tiger, his appearance startled people wherever he went. If he had been near a mirror, Diego would have realized that the patrons were less concerned with the fact that he looked like a tiger and paying more attention to his disheveled state. A scarce few patches of fur still covered his body, the rest was littered with scars and burns from the Alchemist's torture, and he was clearly malnourished. Even worse, his attempt at walking was almost comical; arms swinging to and fro as he shuffled his feet inch-by-inch to the counter, another lingering side effect of the torture.

Diego collapsed onto an open stool and looked up as the bartender approached him. The older man stared into Diego's eyes, trying his best to be polite and ignore the Fanatiga's condition. "What can I get for ya'? Would you like something to eat or drink?"

The Fantatiga shook his head, "No, thanks. I don't have any money. I'm just looking for a friend. We were supposed to meet here a while ago and....some things happened. Someone here may have seen him."

The bartender furrowed his brow in concern when Diego declined his offer. "Well, what does this friend look like?"

Diego glanced up at the ceiling and brought his hand up to his chin as he recalled Yakuroro's appearance. "He is an Imuchakk, so tall, with blue hair." Diego paused to think about what else could be used to identify his master. "He carries around a large staff and travels with a large lizard-like beast that has a bony head."

The bartender let out a short bark of laughter, but didn't interrupt any further until Diego finished. "Imuchakk come through here when Trixie's ships stop in port. She ferries the Opportunity workers back and forth every few months."

"Tri..xie?" Diego felt his heart leap in his chest, the name bringing back the memory of the tigress' swinging corpse.

Misunderstanding the meaning behind Diego's question, the bartender nodded. "Yeah, she's some self-titled pirate Queen or something. I don't care about all that, her coin is good and her men don't cause too much trouble, so she doesn't bother me. Say, you sure you don't want something to eat?"

Diego pushed off the counter and stood up, shaking his head. The room suddenly felt like it was sweltering and he had the urge to throw up. "No...I'm fine. Thank you." Without another word, Diego hobbled outside where Zanzibar was waiting for him. The spider warbled curiously at the Fanatiga, who continued pat him, wandering aimlessly in the direction that led outside the town. The spider let out an angry trill and followed after his tamer.

Diego stared up at the sky with a wistful expression on his face. As he mused on the fond memories of Trixie, not paying attention to what was in front of him, the Fantiga's foot caught on something and he tumbled head over heels into a bush. Spitting out dirt and leaves from his mouth, he looked to see what he had tripped over and saw a strange beast staring up at him.

Metamorphosis|Chapter One: The Descent U9JZA5Q

In the creature's hands it held a crystalline orb that appeared to absorb the moonlight. Something akin to recognition seemed to pass over the creature's face and it walked over to Diego, dropping the orb at his feet. Unsure of what to do, Diego picked the crystal ball up and studied it carefully. A hazy image formed on the surface, startling the Fanatiga, who nearly dropped it. He held it up closer and was surprised to see an outline of an Imuchakk. "Yaku? Yaku, is that you?!"

The image became clearer, revealing that it was indeed the Imuchakk magician that Diego had been searching for. A great weight seemed to lift from Diego and he laughed, suddenly forgetting all his troubles. "It is you! Where have you been?"

”AH! The boy with the tiger.” Yakuroro said aloud addressing Diego in a manner that would be clear he had trouble remembering the boy. It was almost as if he had forgotten all about their promise. “What business do you have with me, little kitten? I’ve a headache and much to do, I don’t have time to play games, so be quick.” He then turned to face the magic tool allowing Diego to see that half Yaku’s body was drenched in blood.

Diego was taken aback by Yakuroro's behavior and the cold tone, but quickly forgot about that when he saw the magician's bloodied garb. "W-what happened to you?" The question would go unanswered as Yakuroro stared out beyond the orb impatiently. "Err...nevermind that, then. Listen, I need your help. I know you told me I should wait to take on Jagang, but I ran into him. He..." Diego's voice broke as he tried to form the words, but he knew he needed to say them. If there was anyone who would understand Diego's pain and feelings of loneliness, then it would be Yaku."He killed her, Yaku. He killed Trixie. He tortured me for...I don't know how long. But, I just managed to escape and now I need your help-"

Yaku scratched the back of his head as he listened to Diego ramble on, appearing entirely bored. When the Fanatiga started to mention how he managed to escape, Yaku would hold up a hand to cut him off and sigh. “I’m starving, you’re wasting valuable seconds that could be spent looking for food. Run along and fix your own problems. Don’t bother me again.” Yaku said before grabbing the crystal ball as he gazed off into the distance. “ ...I have much to do...yes...so much to do…” There was something different about Yakuroro’s eyes. He looked...older now and a certain youthful vibrance had been lost from them.

Yaku then tossed the magic orb over his shoulder where it would bounce down the steps settling on the gruesome scene down below in the ice cave. For a brief second, Diego got a glimpse of Akatetsu’s eviscerated body and a heavily wounded Lady Soushui lying on the ground before the image cut off due to a lack of magoi to power the device. Diego gasped, dropping his orb, unable to believe what he had just seen.

Diego's head fell into his hands and he wept, feeling very much alone in the world. It was hard enough to process that Trixie and Akatetsu were dead, let alone the fact that his own master no longer wanted anything to do with him. A servant without a master was a horrifying thought, it meant he had nothing left to live for. At this point, suicide seemed the best option.

Zanzibar climbed onto Diego's back, enveloping him in an arachnine embrace in an attempt to cover the clearly distraught Fanatiga. The spider's warmth reminded Diego that he wasn't alone, not completely. There was still Zanzibar, at least. He held onto one of Zanz' furry legs as he rocked back and forth, tears flowing down his face. Why would Yaku abandon him? Hadn't he done his part and helped Reim, like he had promised to do? Had that not been enough? Of course it hadn't, that much was clear from Yakuroro's reaction. Diego had failed his master.

When he finally stopped crying and feeling sorry for himself, the Fanatiga stood up. He turned to Zanzibar, with a strange look twinkling in his eye. "Fuck fate and fuck magicians. My entire life, both have worked effortlessly to destroy everything I care about. If that's how its going to be, then I will carve my own path." Unknown to Diego, a thick cloud of black Rukh flocked to him, swirling around him as he spoke. Cursing fate, he raised his fist into the air, "I won't stop until every last magician is dead. They taint everything that is good and manipulate people to further their own goals. They are all the same! Jagang, Azix, Yaku, every last one of them."

Diego picked up the orb and slammed it against the ground with a roar, shattering it into many tiny shards. "You hear that?! I'll kill every last one of you!" He shouted into the night before stalking off with Zanzibar trailing behind, worried by Diego's strange behavior. Diego's every thought was on getting revenge and how he would obtain his dream of a magician-less future.

[Exit]


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