By the time Raven reached her room, she had gone over everything that happened at least three or four times. Each time she felt a mixture of anger and helplessness. Today she had been attacked twice by other students and learned that someone powerful was targeting her. She had wanted to ask Ellis about it, but the guard seemed hesitant enough about being involved. Raven didn’t want to push too far.
Stepping into her room, Raven was relieved to see Lisa was still in class. Even though it would have been nice to see her, Raven needed time alone to think. So many things kept happening to her and she only had a chance to react instead of taking the initiative. Her face scrunched up in determination.
No, this time, she had her own plans.
Raven’s schedule for the day ended after Reality therapy so she had free time before her study period. She sat down on her bed and focused.
[Tick Tock, are you there?] She pushed the thought out. It made her feel insane, but she didn’t want to dwell on that. The world felt like it had gone crazy, so it wasn’t her fault if she went along with it.
Immediately the demon was in front of her with a wide grin. “You rang?”
The mild irritation she felt every time she saw the demon came to the forefront, but she shoved it down. She still wasn’t sure if Tick Tock was real or a sign of a mental breakdown, but right now he was all she had.
[You said there’s a way to access my magic even with the suppressor?]
Tick Tock grinned even wider and rubbed his hands together. “Finally! We get to have some fun.”
Raven hesitated but pushed forward. [Is there a way to do it without destroying the suppressor?]
Tick Tock frowned and rolled his eyes. “Ugh. Are you still planning to be civilized?”
[Just answer the question.] Raven said, letting her thoughts drip with annoyance.
Tick Tock sighed and lay down in the air, floating as if he was resting on an invisible bed. “Yes, yes, there’s a way, but you’ll only access a very small amount of your power that way.”
Raven nodded. [Show me.]
Tick Tock let out a drawn-out sigh. “Fiiine.” The demon flicked his wrist and the entire room disappeared and Raven was back into her dreamscape.
This time it was different. There was a large field with dummies and weapons, like some ancient combat training room. Next to the field was what looked to be a medieval stone barracks with a plain wooden door leading inside. Raven eyed the door warily.
“Lovely door, isn’t it?” Tick Tock said, materializing to her right and leaning against her shoulder.
She shook him off before purposely turning her back on the door. [So how does it work?]
“So impatient,” Tick Tock said, floating over to one of the dummies and sitting on its head. “You can speak. In the dreamscape, no one can hear you.”
Raven narrowed her eyes. “And what am I doing out in the real world?”
“Worried you’re going on a rampage?” he asked as he swiped the head off the dummy’s shoulders and settled back in a more comfortable position on top of its headless body. “Don’t worry, it looks like you’ve fallen asleep sitting up.”
Raven relaxed. She took a minute to really absorb the landscape. Here she felt more confident, more in charge. It felt similar to her Awakening dreamscape. “How am I able to be here?”
“It’s your mind,” Tick Tock said with a shrug. “You’ve always had access to it, you just had to remember how to get here.”
“I don’t know how I got here,” Raven said, returning her attention back to Tick Tock.
“You do. It’s just that you like to pretend that you don’t,” Tick Tock said. The demon twisted around on the dummy, hooking his legs over its shoulders and hanging upside down.
“What does that even mean?” Raven asked, frowning.
He wagged his finger. “Tsk, tsk, tsk. If you want to know that, you’ll have to go through the door.”
Raven looked at the door. “If I do, what happens in the outside world?”
“Who knows,” Tick Tock said and then flipped off of the dummy, landing lightly on his feet. “But that’s what makes it exciting.”
“Do I have to go through the door to be able to access my power with the suppressor on?” Raven asked and turned back to Tick Tock.
The demon hesitated and tapped one clawed finger against his cheek. “Hmmm, there’s a way without going through the door, but you’ll be weaker and unable to access your Core.” The demon looked thoughtful. “Not as fun, but it could be interesting.”
Raven turned that over in her mind. She wanted to access her magic, but if she could avoid using her Core and just use her Illusion magic that would be safer. But there was one thing. “How much weaker?”
“Pathetic, but I suppose any magic is better than none,” Tick Tock said as he walked towards her and leaned in. “Shall I show you?”
Raven looked at the gleaming eyes of the demon and nodded. “Show me how to do it without breaking the suppressor.”
Tick Tock clapped his hands excitedly. “Baby steps, but I’ll take it.”
The demon snaked out his hand, grabbing her and dragging Raven towards him.
Raven tried to pull away, but Tick Tock’s grip was tight as he danced with her around the field with a laugh. “Finally, I get to play.”
“What are you doing?” Raven demanded as she pushed and pulled.
“Whatever I want,” Tick Tock said.
Raven shoved and pushed against the demon, but he held her tightly and spun and danced. Anger and panic had her clawing at him, but still, he danced and danced, faster and faster. The world blurred.
Tick Tock laughed. “Around and around we go.”
Faster and faster they spun, impossibly fast. Friction and heat climbed up her skin. Still, Tick Tock wouldn’t let her go.
They had stopped dancing and continued spinning as Tick Tock held her in an iron grip. Smoke began to rise around them, tendrils of steam and heat pressed against her skin, burning her.
She screamed. “Let me go!”
Raven pushed Tick Tock and water sprung between them. The water slammed into Tick Tock, shoving him to the ground. Raven’s eyes widened. She looked down at her hands. The water lingered around her before fading away.
On the ground, Tick Tock laughed, slapping his hand against the packed dirt. “There it is.”
“What? It’s because I’m in the dreamscape?” Raven asked, looking down at her skin. The burns were fading away.
“Yes and no,” Tick Tock said. He rocked forward, tucking his knees under his chin and smiling up at her like a child in front of his favorite TV show. “You do have more freedom here, but your mind is still stuck in reality. And of course, there are limits.” He gestured to the door. “Are you sure you wouldn’t rather try it? It’ll make things oh so much easier.”
Raven ignored the question and looked over her body. “Did you have to burn me to prove your point?” The burns were already gone, but tendrils of steam still lingered over her skin.
“Most definitely,” Tick Tock said and then he was at her side. “Something you’ll do well to keep in mind, my dear Raven. Nothing you achieve here will ever be without a cost.”
Raven shuddered. The words hung around her like a noose. She glanced back at the door silently waiting for her. She looked away and focused on the tendrils of what she was starting to think was smoke instead of steam now. It made her nervous. “Why is the smoke not going away?”
“It’s what you wanted,” Tick Tock said. “Your little suppressor, as they call it, doesn’t actually keep all the magic tucked away, now does it?”
Raven frowned. “What do you mean?”
“Come now,” the demon said with a sigh. “I can’t give you all the answers.”
Raven looked down at the small tendrils of smoke dancing across her skin. Her mind turned over everything she knew about suppressors. It wasn’t that much, but slowly she began to piece it together. “It’s not a full suppressor.”
Tick Tock gave her a slow clap. “She finally uses her brain.”
She glared at him, turning the information over in her head. “Even if it’s not a full suppressor it completely cuts me off from my core. I’m basically living off fumes so I don’t go crazy.”
“True, you can’t get the full amount without destroying the suppressor. That requires you going through Door #2.” He grinned. “But even a car can move on fumes given the right equipment. And you, my dear, are a superior product.”
Raven looked down at the fumes of her power climbing up her arms and felt something like hope. “But how do I access it outside of here? I can’t just go spinning in a circle every time I want to use magic.”
“Now that’s the tricky part, out there they won’t be nice little smoke flames for you to see and use. You’ll have to feel for it and gather up those little bits of fumes until you have enough to do something with it.”
“But how?” Raven asked.
“All these questions are getting boring,” Tick Tock said. “It’s your power, figure it out.”
Raven rubbed her forehead. The demon was the most annoying thing she ever encountered, but he was right. She couldn’t depend on everyone to come to her rescue or tell her what to do. She had to save herself. Even if she could only access a little of her power, then she could do something. After all, she earned an Illusion Level 2 permit.
If she couldn’t do things completely by force then she would have to use her brain. So Raven closed her eyes and felt the magic around her, focusing on the tendrils on her skin. The fumes would have to be small and pretty negligible enough for the MDE to not consider it a danger. That meant, unlike in her Dreamscape, it wasn’t going to be a burst of magic spitting from her hands, at least not like how it was now.
She turned that thought over. So that meant she would have to gather the fumes up and save them. The fumes were still her magic, so even if they were wisps she could control it. She would have to spend time focusing on it and building it up. Of course, completely absorbing it back would likely trigger her suppressor. The little magic she had gained would be cut off from her. She couldn’t afford to build up too much. That meant she would have to put it somewhere else.
A thought clicked with her. Her phone and other household items were triggered by magic and most people had little battery storages to save magic in to help charge their devices. Her mother told her that in the past everyone used electrical devices, but after magic entered the world most electrical devices were incompatible and would simply stop working and in some cases even caused explosions. Engineers and scientists had to find a way to merge magic and technology so that it could function. It was part of the reason the world had taken so long to recover from the Awakenings chaos. Of course, those objects were specialized and she didn’t have anything like that lying around.
A grin spread across her lips. Actually, maybe she did.
She looked opened her eyes and looked down at her suppressor. It was a specialized device to keep a person cut off from their magic, but it also had a regulator to help store and disperse magic. So what if she layered the magic on top. After all, the device was used to stop her from accessing her magic, but it took a signal from outside, like when Dr. Brite adjusted their magic access.
She would have to be careful with it, just enough to not interfere with its regular process. It did mean the amount of magic she could store would be limited but it was better than nothing. Maybe she could store some extra magic as a layer on top of her skin, just enough to spread across her skin without triggering the suppressor. She would have to test it out.
With her plan in mind, she began to work.
It took Raven hours before she was able to get the hang of feeling the fumes. They were so small it didn’t even seem worth it to gather the excess magic, but she continued at it. It was a tiring process and by the time she was finished she had built up a very thin layer around the suppressor ring. Not enough to do much, but it was something.
She opened her eyes and stood up. Raven looked around to see Tick Tock throwing daggers into a dummy. Several other dummies had been torn apart while she had been lost in her magic gathering. She frowned. She felt like she should be worried, but all she felt was irritated.
“Okay…” She straightened. “I can’t use my Core magic with these fumes, right?”
Tick Tock whirled around, balancing a dagger on the top of his nail. “That’s right,” he said and tossed the blade in the air. The hilt landed on the tip of his nose. “You’ll have to make do with the Illusion magic, but we both know that’s not a problem for you.”
She nodded. “I can use my water manipulation, but if my power is limited I need to learn more than that. I want to learn the shadow thing I did and…” She hesitated, but then continued going. “Back in the hospitals, I’m sure I bent the bed frame somehow. That means I have another ability.”
“Oooh, now things are getting interesting,” Tick Tock said gleefully. Then the demon tilted his head. “But our time is up for now. It looks like you have company. Another time.”
“Wait,” Raven said quickly as she felt the dreamscape start to fade. “Is there a limit to how often I can come here?”
“Come here as often as you like,” Tick Tock said. “But time doesn’t stop because you’re here.”
Raven grinned. That’s exactly what she needed to know. As she began to return to reality she heard Tick Tock laugh.
“And, remember, the door will be waiting for you.”
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