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Last Chapter: City of Mice, Magic, and Machinery.

Enter Josh Newman

"I see you read the message that one of my pigeons brought back?" Said the man who sat at the edge of the building.

Ryan walked up to the person. "I did, Josh. It was a strange note at that, and i want to thank you for receiving it. I'd tell you what the contents are right now, but we have a minor, yet urgent matter on our hands."

"You don't have to tell me, I know it's a threat from the Toranku 15. I couldn't help myself when I saw the return address, so i read it before i gave it to Chad." Josh said.

Ryan smiled. "You always were a curious one. You gotta be careful with doing that. Some letters may have info for the receiver's eyes only. If... let's say... a love letter came in and you read it, handing an opened envelope to the person for whom it is addressed may kill the mood that letter creates, and will also probably lose you a few friends."

Josh chuckled. "Why would anyone form the outside send a love letter to anyone in this city? According to everyone in the mainland, Inugaya is a cesspool: populated only by undesirables and criminals."

"If only they knew why we are like this." Ryan crossed her arms and looked to the northwest sky.

Josh scoffed. "It's kind of hard for them to know. You know better than anyone else how dangerous it is to get in and out of the island this city is on since you always do Nighbreak Runs. Nobody would want to put their lives on the line just to learn the ugly truth about this place when they could just be enjoying the beauty and majesty of their comfortable bubble at home on the mainland. Anyway, that's enough ranting out of me; what is this urgent matter you mentioned?"

She looked behind herself and pointed to Ren and Lyonard who stood with nervous looks on their faces as their minds raced with thoughts on what would happen next. "Those two are going to be taking their problems outside. I need your help. It's getting late, thus, there aren't many monsters around the city. However, I want you to scour the city borders and see if you can spot any roaming monsters." She said.

Josh responded with an "Okay" before reaching into his pocket and pulling out a small silver key. He raised it up to the dry breeze that brushed trace amounts of sand across the Inugaya rooftops and shouted, "Open, Gate of the Thunder-Bearing Eagle, Aquila!"

Out of the clear, rust-red sky illuminated only by a drowsy setting sun, a thunderbolt shot down onto the key in Josh's hand. He appeared to be completely unaffected by it, though a continuous stream of lightning struck the Josh's silver key over and over again. He made a full circular motion with his arm, lightning still following it, before he clenched the key in his fist and, with the tip of the key facing downward, he slammed his fist onto the concrete floor and released it. A loud crack raced across all of Inugaya to the ears of every citizen, including those who lived directly underneath the city. It shocked many, and within the ears of some, a ringing noise distracted them from seeing a singular ball of lightning shoot up into the sky and explode like fireworks. While those who were immune tot he bang enjoyed the spectacle, a small, rust-colored eagle coated in dazzling sparks descended gently onto Josh's shoulder.

"Alright, go scour the city borders and tell me if you see any monsters." He said. Aquila flapped her winds as she lifted off and soared into the sky above. She flew high above the top of the city and observed the rooftops coated in tangled clotheslines and electrical wires that made the city look as if it was protected by a messy web. Her eyes darted around the outer reaches of the city, which were just clearings that sprawled out to a border: a ring of piled monster bones and corpses that surrounded the city. The coast seemed clear with no signs of life until she caught the sight of a single worm-like creature burrowing underground to the north. She swiftly made her way back to Josh and the crowd of people who waited to hear the fate of Ren and Lyonard.

"About 40 meters from the North Gate, there is a Terravermis burrowing and surfacing at its leisure." Said the voice of a young girl that seemed to come from the sky.

"Thank you, Aquila. You may return." Josh raised up his silver key. By running a small amount of magical energy through it, he was able to return his Aquila back to the Celestial Spirit World. Josh looked at Ryan. "To the North, there is a sand

"Great." Ryan turned to the two misfit mages. Her eyebrows pushed down as she crossed her arms and said, "You two are going to settle your issue outside of the North Gate."

Idle chatter ceased as every last head in the crowd turned to Ryan, looking at her with either shock, disgust, or confusion. She, along with every still soul congregated atop this singular building, only heard the sound of dry, sand-ridden wind abrading the cement floor combined with distant, yet blood-curdling roars of monsters that Ost'o, the island on which the city of Inugaya stands, was known for.

A young man in the crowd who wore tattered, burgundy robes that covered him from his neck to his feet chided, "You can't be serious! If they fight down there, they may attract the attention of the Terravermis! It would be too dangerous for mages in the likes of them!"

Ryan's only response was to tell Chad to take Lyonard to the North Gate while she grabbed Ren by the arm. Walking past the worried man who dared voice his opinion, she said with an expressionless and borderline visage, "I know that," before walking away, set to bring the two young mages to where they were set to fight.

Outside the City

By the time Ryan and Chad brought Ren and Lyonard outside of the north gate, the sun had completely set, replaced by a silver moon that whose gentle white light made the dry, cracked ground take on a silver hue. The city, which from down on the ground looked like a single block with highrise buildings crammed together, towered over the young mages. As Ren stared at the top of the city, his eyed played pranks on him as the buildings seemed to hunch over, looking down and beign nosy at what he was doing. The sight made him dizzy, so he turned away.

Civilians and Hornet's Nest guildmembers all huddled around the edges of the city, crowding every window to residential quarters and blocking every narrow entrance to the city, open and secret. Ryan and Chad backed away, leaving behind the two mages to stare at each other.

"Until this fight is over, you are not allowed to re-enter the city by any means." Ryan declared. Her voice reached not only Ren and Lyonard, but also every spectator huddled in the North Gate, high and low.

Ren turned to Ryan. "But.. how do we know when this fight ends?"

She bowed her head. Shadows enveloped her eyes as the moonlight illuminated only her lips out of which she left them only with, "That is up to both of you to decide. Now begin."

While Ren pondered Ryan's words, Lyonard wasted no time in attacking. He fell unto his fight knee and placed both hands on the ground. Streams of faint orange light flowed down his arms and spread out on the floor. "It's about time that you know your place," He said before clenching his spread-out hands into the dirt. The ground below him cracked and A stream of fire erupted from within as it rushed to Ren, rending the ground below.

Seeing this, Ryan thought to herself, "So the stinky one can combine earth and fire magic. Interesting." Ren stepped to the left, but Lyonard turned his hands clockwise. The crack in the ground splintered into multiple directions as fire followed suit. Ren jumped around with swift, graceful movements to avoid every single attack Lyonard threw at him.

"Lyonard!" he shouted, "Stop this!"

"You aren't going to sleaze your way out of this one, you bastard!" Lyonard raised his hands up. as he did, the fire stopped flowing from the cracks he made in the ground and replacing it were sharp pillars of dry rock. He spread his arms outward to disperse his magic across the field at a 20meter radius. He snapped hsi fingers and almost instantly, the small spikes of rock ejected from below. Of of them ripped through Ren's shoes and cut him.

"Ow!" he shouted. He looked at the area aroudn him. At every step, sharp, jagged spikes lay, waiting for Ren to make a false step so they can lacerate him. Some pillars of rock erected and towered over him like expensive monuments placed at cemeteries. With each breath, Ren felt the cool, dry air race through his lungs. He looked down at his right foot. Blood leaked from a small cut. Though he felt tankful that it was only a scratch, it was then that he realized that Lyonard was out for blood.

Ren thought to himself, "I can't reason with him... I hate people like that. He will only budge with force. But he is way stronger than me physically, and his skill with magic i know is the best among people at the South Gate Magic School. However..."

Lyonard continued his assault. some of the spikes underneath Ren erected into 7-foot high pillars. He jumped out of the way, and with enough force behind his legs, he leaped from pillar to pillar in Lyonard's direction.

On the sidelines, Ryan commented to Chad, "That kid is really fast."

"Ryan, i forgot to tell you something. on our way down here, I remembered why I knew that Ren kid. He is training to become a Nightbreak Runner, just like you. I initiated him into the training program three years back."

Stewart, who had been watching the scene from behind Ryan, asked, "What's a Nightbreak Runner?"

Ryan cocked her head back and said,"Then island this city is on, named Ost'o, is crawling with dangerous monsters. Because of that, it is hard for our city to expand outward, so we keep our limits constricted to this block no bigger than one square mile. However, we need resources from the outside to survive, so we train special people called Nightbreak Runners to go out into the rest of Ost'o to gather them and bring them home. Their funtion isn't just gathering resources, though. In my case, I am a Nightbreak Runner because I represent Inugaya on the Toranku 15, so i have to make trips in and out of this island in order to attend their meetings on the mainland. The name simply applies to those who are trained to regularly venture beyond the safety of this city to benefit our community. As for the name 'Nightbreak,' there are very few nocturnal monsters on this island, so venturing out at night is the safest bet." She looked at Ren, who continued to dodge and move about the battlefield wth minimal effort. "He definitely has the making of one."

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