Break

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This is a story of a mage who came home from another world. He who achieved renown in another world, returns to the world where he was born, a world without magic, only to come face to face with the toughest adversary he had ever faced. A human man.

It is a tragic tale of love (seriously?), loss (definitely), and acceptance (maybe not). However, this is certainly NOT comedy.

Break
The tale of a broken mage.


By Shiina Ai

It had been so long since I returned to the human world. After 20 years, I decided to join my old alumni, taking on the identity of an absent student using a charm spell. Boy, it was such a rush.

Everything was different. The school that I used to study at was now larger, taking in the surrounding lands that used to be residential land. Where it was once only a high school, now it also included primary and college diploma studies. Truly amazing how much change 20 years could have.

That day, I was studying quietly in one of the classes. Apparently, this boy I was impersonating was the class monitor in charge of high school Year 4, Class 2. Good job, boy. I was a class monitor too back in my day, but I couldn't remember what I did much back then. I recalled sleeping in class a lot, though.

It turned out that the teacher for the last class was absent so the class would be taken over by one of the senior teachers who was free. During one of the classes in the middle of the day, I asked to be excused as I have been holding my piss in for hours. The teacher looked relieved for some reason. Strange.

So I went out and boy, had everything changed! Some of the old buildings still stood, but they had completely reworked the walkways and redecorated the bushes. This sucked. So being the awesome mage that I was, I flew over to the other side of the tall bushes. Expecting a toilet on the other side. But nope, it was another building full of classrooms.

Some of the students saw me and whispered to another friend. That friend also whispered to another friend. I didn't take notice and just walked around. Mages were not a new occurence. Back when I was in school, there were even a few of them around. They were adored. One of my fomer school teachers was one, and I asked her if she would teach me magic.

When she quit her job, I followed her. We went deep into the mountains and from there, gated into another world. A world of magic and fantasy, where your survival depended only on your strength. When my teacher passed away, I thought that was enough. I came home, being one who could already be counted as the ace of aces, the greatest mage in the world, if such a title existed.

I finally found the toilet. I could't believe I had to walk this far just to go to the toilet. Who designed these new buildings?

I got lost again when I wanted to go back to class. Serious, who designed these new buildings? So confusing!

I came across Tahira, the girl who sat next to me in class. I called out to her. She asked me what I was doing and I told her I was in the toilet. She told me how she couldn't believe I would take so long finding the toilet.
It's not my fault okay, the school was confusing.

So I followed her back to the classroom. As I sat back on my seat, I noticed the piercing glare of the substitute teacher of the last class. He looked at me as if trying to pierce through me for some reason. It was a strange feeling.

He handed the class a paper. He said we were doing a little quiz. Oh how I love quizzes. I recall this part about my old school life. So they still do this, huh?

But just as I touched the paper, it shined brightly. The light was so blinding, it seemed like it illuminated the entire classroom.

When the paper was wrenched away from me, it slowly lost its light and everyone in the class looked at me with eyes of shock. Even Tahira couldn't keep her mouth closed.

Yeah, you caught me, I'm a mage. That's right, the one and only, true mage. Be amazed.

You can all applaude now, tell me how much you want to learn magic from me.

Anytime now.

Now maybe?

Hello?

Contrary to my expectations, everyone had a look of fear on their faces. I couldn't understand why. Why were they afraid? Mages weren't something new, they've been around for millenias, but only recently they made their presence public.

I heard whispers of "A monster", "He's a monster, right?" and "Shouldn't we contact the authority?"

I felt something was definitely wrong. So I thought it was time for me to leave. Turning to Tahira, I said, "Sorry about this. I guess it's time for me to go."

I cast the spell of invisibility, to the audible gasp of everyone in class, who by now had moved closer to the doors. When they saw the chair moved back with nothing touching it, they scampered out of the classroom, trampling on each other. That left only me, Taira and that substitute teacher.

Tahira mouthed a word, which I assumed to be, "Run."

So I ran. Left everything behind, even my first school bag in twenty years behind. I just ran. Where tall bushes or walls became an obstacle, I flew past it. Still invisible, I ran out through the school's wide open front gate.

I ran a few more kilometres away from the school. Only when I was far enough away did I stop to catch my breath and with it, my invisibility was dispelled. I had forgotten about my invisibility spell. It was not a problem even if I wanted to keep the invisibility spell on for several days. It had been years since I was bothered by the amount of mana spent on maintaining invisibility. It wasn't the lack of mana that removed my invisibility, it was the shock of being feared.

I couldn't understand. Back in my day at school, mages were revered. I even asked my teacher to show us some of her magic after class. In school assemblies, some of the teachers even performed magic to keep us awake. How come now, people look at me with fear?

I walked aimlessly like this for hours. Only noticing my surroundings when everything around me became quiet. I looked around and for some reason, everyone was looking at me with eyes full of fear. Some were whispering between each other. I was confused until I saw my face on the TV.

"Doppelganger #2884. Wanted alive. Known powers include invisibility, charm and flight. Contact COCOM if you have any information."

Doppelganger #2884? Me? I'm not a doppelganger! I'm a mage! I screamed inside, but that was no longer the point. The point was, I was a wanted man. Why? I was a respected mage, even in the other world. Had things changed so much since twenty years ago?

I looked around me, trying to find a way to escape, but there was none. It would be impossible for me to slip through the tight crowd, especially since everyone's eyes were on me. So I jumped to the sky, activated invisibility and flew away. It was too bad that my mastery over flight skill was very low, allowing me to only drift slowly instead of rushing through the air, but there was no other way. I had to escape before they call whoever they were supposed to call.

My feet touched down far from that crowd, in front of an old clothing store. I recalled this store. When I was younger, my parents would take me here to shop for clothes. It was one of the few memories I could still recall clearly.

That's right. I should go home! Mom and dad would surely be there. They wouldn't be afraid of me. They wouldn't contact whoever that was supposed to be. They would certainly accept me!

And so I ran again, back to the old neighbourhood near the school. Back to the rows of old terraced houses where I once lived. I knocked on the door, with no response. I called mom and dad. When I was younger, both would be out at work at this time, but they should both be retired now. I hoped they weren't on a vacation somewhere. Or moved somewhere.

A neighbour came out of her house. This neighbour was unfamiliar to me. Perhaps she moved in after I was gone. Twenty years is a long time after all.

"Are you the son of the Arkans?" she asked.

"Yes, can you tell me where they are?"

"I'm sorry. I'm sure this is going to be hard for you to take in, but they both died six years ago. This house had been unoccupied since then." she said before she went in and came back out with a key.

She handed me the keys and went back into her house.

I grabbed the key so hard that it felt like the keys dug into my palm. With the keys at my chest, my tears fell, one after another. I was a fool. The last thing I recall of my father was how we argued over my decision to quit school and learn magic from my teacher. My last memory of mother was how I made her cry. I always thought if things didn't work out, I could always return home.

I turn the keys and pushed open the front door. It was a familiar guesthall. Cobwebs covered the ceiling and furniture, but everything was pretty much the way I had left it. The old CRT TV, so retro even when I was a child was still there. My father's old radio which played cassettes in the age of MP3s were still there on the cupboard. I always told him to sell it because he had not used it anymore, but he always refused, telling me that radio was how he met my mother.

I looked at the walls, where the framed certificates of excellence from my school years were hung. At the corner was a glass display case, where trophies from my school days were displayed. I was such a great student back then.

Ah, why is my face so wet?

A name on one of the trophies caught my eye. Aya, poet of the year. That's right. There's still Aya, my little sister!

I ran up the staircase two at a time. Running through the hallway of the second floor, I stopped in front of a door with 'Aya' written on the plaque that hung in front of the door. I opened the door with what must've been a smiling face, full of hope.

"Aya, I'm ba-"

There was nothing there in the room. The little wooden bed where I used to read fairytales to her before sleep were now dull and broken. The glass window had a hole in it, the culprit of which I traced to a baseball on the corner. Her vanity inherited from mother, was covered in cobwebs. I opened her dresser and saw nothing in there. Not even a single old clothes.

My steps were heavy as I left her room, barely recalling to close it behind me out of... I don't know... Was it out of respect? Habit? Disappointment? Maybe all of them? It didn't matter. She wasn't there. She hadn't been there for years.

I opened the door to my room, which was right in front of hers. It was certainly my room. The baseball caps hung on the wall. The old computer I used to play games on which was outdated even back when I was still in school. The bed I used to sleep in at night. The closet even still had my clothes. Nothing had changed. Everything was exactly the way it was when I left it. Did my parents leave it that way, hoping for all these years that I would come home?

How long did they wait? How long did they keep their hopes up? Did they ever thought that I wouldn't be coming home at all?

My hands stopped right before I touched the doorknob of the door that separated their bedroom from the hallway. Could I handle this? I was afraid. I was deathly afraid. Even now, in my mind's eye, memories ran through my head. Of how I used to sleep with them when I was a child, afraid of the dark, afraid of thunder, afraid even of the shadows the tree outside my window made that father had to cut it down. I recall mother's gentle smile as she hugged me with love. I recall father's stern and firm ways, who scolded me for the slightest mistakes, but always helped me afterward.

Then I recalled Aya, my dear little sister who was only 6 when I left. How she would call me big brother, how she would ask her to play with her, which I always tried to find my way out of. When my friends came to play, she also wanted to join, and I always told her to leave. How I wish I could turn back time. Perhaps if I had studied more instead of having fun for this past twenty years, I would've found a way to turn back time. To return to that time in the past and undo my wishes to leave.

I didn't remember when, but my legs eventually went out. I sat on the floor, my back against the wall, sobbing by myself. I couldn't even dare open my parents' bedroom, couldn't dare to see for myself if they were truly gone. I was nothing more than a coward. In my mind, I could only say, "I'm sorry" repeatedly, for who knows how long.

What is left for me now?

Empty. Everything here is empty. No father. No mother. No Aya. Nothing.

Eventually I noticed the ringing of the front door bell. It was an old bell, antic, even. Instead of running on electricity, it was mechanical in nature. So even in the darkness of my house, I could still hear it.

I stood up with unsteady feet. Dragging my feet down the staircase, I walked to the front door. I didn't even look through the keyhole, not caring that my face was red from crying when I opened the front door. Standing in front of me was a man in his late 30s wearing a business suit. His dark hair looked reddish under the light of the evening sun.

"Good evening. My name is Michael Hart. May I ask if you are Charles Arkan?" he said with a smile which for some reason, I felt somewhat sly.

"Yes, what is it?" I asked. It couldn't be a debt collector, could it?

"Well, I am an staff of COCOM, here is my card," he said as he brought forth a fancy business card.

I took the card. COCOM sounded familiar, but I couldn't recall what it was with all the shock I had just received. Looking at the card, I could see the words Michael Hart, Troubleshooter, Department of Monster Classification, Organisation for the Command & Control of Monsters.

Wait, monster?

Suddenly I remembered. That wanted ad, to call COCOM if they saw me. Do COCOM arrest monsters? Am I a monster?

"Please follow me. If you do not try to fight, I can assure you, you will not be harmed. However, in case you want to escape, I must assure you that we have evacuated this neighbourhood and you are currently surrounded by elite enforcers of COCOM. Attempting to escape will be quite unpleasant. For you, that is. Me, it's just another batch of paperwork."

He smiled. His smile never left his face this whole time. Not even once did his smile slip. As he kept smiling, he walked into the house past me before placing a black briefcase on the shoe rack. He opened the briefcase and inside it was a silvery metallic circle. It was ornately carved with symbols, some of which I understood as arcane symbols while the rest were foreign to me.

He took out the silvery circlet thing and pressed a button, opening it into half-circles around some kind of swivel in front. "Now turn around and raise your hair. I can assure you this is in no way painful. Though there may be some discomfort."

Wait, is that a collar? Is he telling me he's going to put a collar on me? I'm not a dog!

"I can see that you are quite shocked. No need to worry. This collar will not kill you. It will only remove your powers and return you to your true form, whatever that may be."

I stepped away from him. The smile that was only a mild unpleasantness just now felt oppressing. That smile, made seemingly carelessly felt nauseating, scary and threatening. It felt as if I would be killed if I didn't let him put that collar around my neck.

I, a great mage who once slew dragons, overturn mountains and consorted with gods, are afraid of this man in a business suit. How could that be?

"Don't be afraid," he said with a smile, "This will not hurt you one bit."

His voice was strangely hypnotic. Had it been anyone else, he probably would've gotten his way. But I was a great mage. How could I ever be taken in by that hypnotic voice? I have withstood far worst.

But at that time, it felt like he was the greatest threat I have ever encountered. None others from my past could ever compare. Not the flame dragon Rakthul. Not the mad god Allurien. Not the evil sage Amarillis.

I had to admit, I was terrified of this man, Michael Hart.

I ran again. Smashed through the front door of my house. I applied every enhancement magic I could recall, trying to escape from this man. I was scared, for some reason, something about this man terrified me more than a mad god.

But before I could take another step outside of the house, I received a sudden strong impact on my left chest. It was a bullet. A very large bullet, probably the same kind used in anti-tank rifles. I looked at the place it hit, imagining how it must've at least broken a few ribs considering how painful it felt despite my personal shield.

But there was no time to think. I had to escape. So I ran again, casting an additional barrier from the direction the previous bullet came from. But this time, not only did the barrier was attacked, more bullets came from three different angles. I was barely able to avoid them.

So I kept running. What choice did I have? There was no time to think. No braincells to spare. Even with my physical enhancements, mana shield and barrier spell, many of their bullets still hit me. I hadn't even run for 200 metres before one of the bullets flew through the gap in my barrier, broke through my mana shield and hit me straight in the heart.

I fell on the road, coughing blood. The very same road I used to run around as a child. The very same road where I greeted my friends on my way to school. The very same road I used to chase my father's car as he went to work in my kindergarten days.

Now I was lying on this road on my back, inside the pool made of my own blood.

"You shouldn't have run. This is what happens when you run. Seriously, you monsters just can't see reason. Sometimes I wonder if you even have a brain. Maybe that thing up top is just a decoration. Well, doesn't matter. Even dead your body can be a good research material," the man said as he stood above my head.

Hearing his words, any thoughts of dying disappeared. As I struggled to push my body up, I told him, "Not die... not die... here... not you..." I said, barely coherent in my voice and mind.

"Oh? Still has strength, huh?" he said as he took out a gun from his coat pocket. "Guess I'll just give you the final blow, then."

"AHHHHHHH!!!" I screamed, releasing the last breath of my mana as a fiery explosion. The explosion expanded, encompassing a large area that even swallowed my old home. No doubt even that man, Michael Hart was caught in the explosion. Nothing could've escaped the destruction.

Nothing except for me. For I had cast both invisibility and the phasing spell on myself, which shifted my invisible body to another dimension. Making me invulnerable to any weapon of this world. I should've done this from the start. I guess my fear of that man stripped me of all reasoning.

As the smoke cleared, I heard footsteps approaching.

Then I heard that man's voice, clear as day.

"Spread out. Find out where he ran off to. He's still alive. This is nothing more than diversion."

How could he have escaped the explosion? He was right next to me! He couldn't have enough time to escape.

As many thoughts raced inside my head, I slowly healed my body. I lied when I said I had used up the last of my mana. I still had some, barely enough to maintain invisibility and phasing. Healing my body would be stretching it further, but I had no other choice. Even if I had to crawl away, I had to escape from this man who for some reason was coming closer to the center of the crater.

For some reason, this man, Michael Hart, squatted next to my prone body. He looked straight at my face as he said, "What a foolish effort. Now you're marked as being a monster with multiple lives in COCOM's database. You have only raised your threat factor from D to B. COCOM will expend more effort to capture or kill you now."

Could he see me? How could he? My invisibility was perfect. I even had phasing on. As my body was still healing, I could only move my right hand. So I raised my hand, waving it left and right in front of his face. He didn't blink nor show any sign that he was affected by my hand in front of his face. So he couldn't actually see me, so how was he so confident that I was still alive and still lying here?

He reached out his hand. I thought he was trying to hold my hand, but it was not. As his hand got closer and closer to my face, I wondered, was I wrong? Could he in fact see me? Could he even touch me?

But he couldn't touch me. His fingers slipped through into my face, going forward until it touched the ground under my head. As he pulled his hand back, I had the strangest indescribable sensation.

"So you have become noncorporeal. Perhaps you are not a doppelganger, but a spectre?" he said as he dusted his suit and stood up. "Doesn't matter. You will slip up sooner or later. I'll be waiting then."

By now I have healed enough that I could get up with difficulty. But the whole thing made me wonder. If he couldn't see me, then why was he so sure that I was still alive? It was beyond mere suspicion. He knew I was alive, as if he had seen me. But he didn't see me, he couldn't see me.

This man, Michael Hart is perhaps the toughest enemy I have ever face.

He said what I did merely raised my threat factor to B from D? Why? Just because I didn't die in the explosion? Or was it because he believed I have multiple lives? While I admit, enemies with multiple lives are troublesome to kill, it is only a hassle. It doesn't make someone with attack power of 100 become 1000 just because he has ten lives.

However, if I did become more 'threatening', more people will be dispatched my way. I can probably handle a couple of hundreds on a good day, but what if their organization is much larger? What if by defeating this couple of hundreds men means my threat factor is increased again.

No, I must stop that from happening. I must prevent my threat factor from being raised. For that, I must stop him before he make his report to his superiors.

So for that reason, I hitched a ride on the boot of his car. I must stop him from making that report. If he wrote it on paper, I must remove any incriminating report or swap it with my own version. If he typed it into his computer, I must delete any reference to me having multiple lives. I was phased, but I have learned from experience that I could still use telekinesis to affect the physical world. It was through this telekinesis that I managed to cling on to the boot of his car.

"Oy, what are you doing keeping the bar down? I want to get back to my office ASAP!" this man said to the front gate guard of COCOM's headquarters the moment the car arrived.

"Sorry sir, we still have to run a scan-"

"Don't bother me with that useless thing! Don't you know who I am? I am tired and I can get you fired with a snap of my fingers, girl!" Michael Hart said, using a completely different tone from the one he used on me.

"Ye-yes! Please excuse my insolence!" she said, pressing a button that raised the iron bar that blocked his access up.

"Hmph!"

He slowly drove his car, a black sedan into the compound. A few minutes later, he parked his car at a place somewhat far behind. It was isolated, with no other car around. I suddenly recalled how people in this world nobody wanted to work well into the night. Yet he came to the office, perhaps my matter was too urgent that he couldn't put it off until tomorrow.

I followed him as he entered his office. It was small, barely 30 metre square, but it was well furnished with a desk, a couch, three book cases and a single display case with memorabilia of all kinds. There was also a wine cabinet, which was the first place he went. As he poured himself a drink, his finger touched a button next to the wine cabinet, which I assumed to be the switch for the fan or air conditioner.

I was wrong. The moment he pressed it, a bright yellow light shined. The moment the light touched me, I felt a tingle all over my body. The hair on my skin stood up, my body felt cold as if someone just stepped on my grave. Before I could comprehend what happened, I heard a gunshot and a painful sensation in my abdoment.

"So, trying to kill me when I'm alone, huh? You have guts, spectre."

"You're wrong," I said, holding my hand over the bleeding wound in my stomach. Somehow, his gun could even injure my phased form, a feat no creature I have ever encountered seemed capable of. I had always used phasing to escape from sure deaths. Knowing that I have now met my match where not even phasing was safe for me, filled me with a sense of dread.

Wait, something is wrong. "You can see me now?"

"Clear as day, spectre. You see this light? It illuminates your form, so I can see you as clearly as I can see any physical creature."

"No!" I looked around me, trying to find the source of the light, but I couldn't find it. It was like it came from everywhere and nowhere.

"You are not the first monster to try to take my life, but I must give you credit for being the first to make it this far. The best one before you couldn't even touch my car and could only curse me as I sent him to hell."

Panicked, I tried to run to the door, to phase through it like I usually did. The door repelled me. Where I could usually walk through the door in my phased form, this door actually resisted my phased form, even giving a shock that hurt me and spilled my blood even more.

"Give it up. This light made you corporeal again. You are trapped here. This is as far as you go, spectre," he said as he raised his gun, targeting my head.

"Please wait, I'm not a threat. I'm not someone evil. I won't harm you or anyone!"

"Yes, that's what they all said. You'll forgive me for not believing the words of a monster."

"I'm telling the truth! I just want to be left alone. If-if you won't even tolerate my presence, then I will leave this world. I will never return, ever. Please, have mercy on me."

"My parents were killed by monsters of shadows. My brothers were killed by werewolves. Do you seriously think I would listen to the words of a monster?"

"But I'm not a monster. I'm a mage. I'm human. The only difference is I can use magic."

"Yeap, still a monster. I thought you were probably a revenant who came back after death due to some regret. Since you're a mage, well, let's just say mercy is the last thing you can expect. Die and come back as a human next time."

He pressed the trigger and another bullet entered my chest. I fell to the floor, my breathing ragged. My clothes wet from my own blood. It was a strange sensation. Never had I ever been hurt in my phased form. Yet here I was, bleeding from two gun shots.

"By the way, the minimum threat level of mages is C. That's for apprentices. You're what... a master, maybe? That makes you an A-class monster."

The next bullet entered through my left shoulder. There was nothing I could do. All my strength had left me. Even breathing was painful, let alone stand or speak.

"You should've taken the collar. It would've been much more pleasant for you. There wouldn't even be any need to fight, you'd be in your own paradise."

"Slave... I am not..."

"A slave? No no, you completely missed the point of the collar. It's not to turn you into a slave, though some operators love to keep monster slaves for some reason. No, the collar is to make you powerless so that we can stop you from being a threat to humanity."

"Then?"

"That depends. In your case, we'd probably lobotomize you so that you can't hurt anyone ever again. After that, even if the collar is off, you won't be a danger. Or since you're likely immortal, our scientists will probably cut you open and see how your body works."

"Mercy..."

He pressed his gun against my forehead. "I guess you wouldn't take the collar then. Sure, I'll make this quick and painless."

"No!" I cried out and with the final piece of strength, I teleported away. I had no destination. No place in this world was familiar to me. I just had to get away. Anywhere was fine.

When I awoke, I was asleep on the floor of some house I didn't know. I saw several kids playing around, some of them even walked through my phased body. I didn't feel any pain, and it seemed like I had subconsciously healed my body while I was passed out. It seemed like for the time being I was still invisible and phased, which was a good thing.

However, I noticed that the family's dog was looking at me. This was nothing strange. I knew that various kinds of animals could see my phased form from previous experiments. It probably had to do with different kind of light wavelengths their eyes could process. Or maybe their brain had some kind of different chemistry. I didn't know why, and never did I care enough to find out.

Perhaps that man, Michael Hart could see me in the same way to some extent.

But if he could really see me, then wouldn't it be prudent to change my form? Perhaps by changing my form, I wouldn't be hunted anymore. But, let's deal with that later. My stomach is grumbling from starvation.

I stole some cookies from this house's kitchen and hid it with invisibility spell. However, the house was too full. I couldn't eat in my phased form and I couldn't drop the phase because my invisibility is tied to my phased form. If I drop my phased form, I would also be dropping my invisibility. COCOM would come immediately then.

So I phased the box of cookies too and tried to walk through the wall, but I was surprisingly repelled. It was strange. I shouldn't still be under the yellow light, but I couldn't go through the wall in my phased form. However, touching the walls didn't give me any pain. It simply won't let me through.

I tried to go through the door. This one gave me a shock. I used my magic perception to look at the door and saw that it had a couple of charms pasted on it. They were demon-repelling charms. I looked around me and with my magic perception, I could see similar charms on the walls, covered by the paint job on the wall. I desperately looked around for a way to escape, as I feared another encounter with Michael Hart.

I finally found a way out. A door in the kitchen where one of the charms had peeled off while another charm was torn. Pushing through the door, I could feel the torn charm working its final magic, to prevent me from passing through. But I kept pushing, feeling my strength or what's left of it straining against the magic of the door. As the charm burst into flames, I escaped from the house, joyful to see the bright sunlight again.

I settled myself on the roof of a three-storey building before dropping my phasing spell. With it, my invisibility spell was undone and anyone could see me again. Running out of mana was a strange sensation. When I was an apprentice, I could barely launch a firedart or two before fainting. As I grew up under my teacher's tutelage, I gradually grew larger and larger mana pool that I had never even once experienced mana exhaustion for the past ten years.

Not when I fought the demons. Not when I fought the dragons. Not when I fought the mad god. But now, a normal human being managed to push me to my limits. Perhaps coming back was a mistake after all. There was nothing left for me in this world. Nothing left to tie me here.

So the only logical course of action is to run back to the fantasy world. The world where I was revered as a hero. The world where I was respected and treated the same as how one would treat a king. Why did I leave, I wonder. Was it simple nostalgia? Did I come here hoping for reconciliation with my family?

What reconciliation can I expect now that they are gone?

So I decided to return to the other world. But I couldn't go there in my Charlie Arkan face. My wanted poster must have been plastered all over the place now. So I needed a new face, and perhaps a new body.

I scanned the people below, looking for a model for a new face and body. While I was really good with a lot of magic, transformation magic among others, I did not have much of an imagination. I was good at magic because I was good at understanding structure and laws, not because I was good at imagining it. So creating a new face and body using only my imagination was out.

I settled on the body and face of four different girls. Facial combination of two girls, the upper body of one girl and the waist, butt and legs of another girl. This is not the first time I've taken on a girl's form. There were times in the other world when I took on a girl's form too, either for necessity or convenience. So I was not averse to doing this.

Transforming my body fulfilled a critical tactical purpose. Once I've changed my body through transformation, the changes would be permanent without any need to continuously apply mana. This was why in some cases, transformation was a good decision compared to charm or halucination. The freed up mana could then be stockpiled or used for other spells.

"Alright, all done," I thought aloud. "Time to go back."

With what remained of my money, I bought a small backpack and some supplies for my journey. From the lady at the cash register of a small convenience store, I found out that I was quite a distance away from the mountain where the gate to the other world could be opened. Of course she didn't know the mountain had a gate to another world, she only knew the name of the mountain. It seemed like I had teleported a pretty fair distance.

"So this is where you've been hiding. You've given me a lot of trouble, foul mage."

I didn't even need to turn around to know who it was. His voice had been in my mind for the whole week I was in that town. Michael Hart. It was the name that sent chills down my spine.

"Hum? You look different."

"Flame Spout!" a column of flame came out of my forefinger as I pressed the tips of my thumb, middle finger and ring finger together.

He avoided it with little effort, and replied in kind. Two shots rang and I could hear the bullets whizzing past my ears. Closing my eyes, I pressed the tips of my thumbs, middle fingers and ring fingers of both hands together and cast Radiance of the Sun. Before the effect disappeared, I cast invisibility and phasing again. He probably could see me, but at least with phasing, I didn't need to worry about the walls of the town. I could run through walls, cars, people easily while he had to make detours just to catch up to me.

I was certain I would be able to escape.

How was I supposed to know that I would fall into a trap?

I only realized it when I hit a normal, unassuming brick wall in a deserted back alley. I checked if I was still phased, but I really was. I assumed it was the same case as the house from before, so I tried to escape though the exit of the alley, but I was blocked by an invisible wall. I tried the other exit, but it was also blocked by an invisible wall. I tried to go back through the wall I came from, but to no avail, it appeared to be a one-way route. So since I was boxed in from all sides, I tried to escape from above, but no luck there either.

As I pondered what to do, I heard rustling noises from behind. Turning around, I saw the shadows took humanoid form. It had red eyes and sharp yellow teeth, giving it a menacing presence.

"Ho boy, another one trapped, huh?"

"Isn't it good? I've been starving."

"Me too, I thought I would have to eat you."

"No, I would eat you first!"

"Silence, you'd both be my meal first."

"But that's okay, we have a new meal now."

"Looks more delicious than the previous ghost."

"Dumbass, she's not a ghost. Vengeful spirit, maybe?"

"Oh, that's definitely more delicious than a mere ghost."

"Stay back!" I said as I fired Flame Spout from both hands.

"It tickles! Hahaha!" one of the shadows laughed when the Flame Spout hit it.

I thought to myself, No way. Could it be my mana is so low that the power of the spell is greatly reduced?

"You think you can beat me, the great Maruso, King of Shadow Fiends? Little girl, I will feast on your-"

The shadow creature could not finish his words as a beam of light pierced it from behind. The other two shadow creatures turned around and before they could do anything, they were also incinerated by the bright light.

"So here you are."

It was Michael Hart.

"You've given me so much trouble."

He held some kind of cannon with a diamond at its tip. With the cannon slung across his chest by his left shoulder, he walked towards me. His every step echoed in the deserted back alley.

"You're so annoying."

I could do nothing as he came closer.

"Why don't you just lie down and die like the others?"

I managed to summon some strength in my hands and legs to inch backward on the ground.

"Do you know what I had to go through to get to you?

As he came closer to me, I increased the strength in my arms and legs, pushing myself backward faster.

"You're the first monster to have ever made me work this hard."

My back hit the wall of the barrier.

"Don't give me so much trouble, damn it!"

He dropped his cannon on the ground as he squatted before me.

"I'm giving you one last chance, monster. There will be no other chance. Next time, I shoot the moment I see you."

He took out a pen of some sort before pressing a button, bathing us in a yellow light. I could feel the same tingle as before, in his office, but this time, instead of just making me corporeal, it cancelled both my invisibility and phasing spells. I was now physical again, and completely at his mercy.

"Please... let me go. I won't trouble anyone." I pleaded for what must be the final time.

"Not a chance. I made a lot of effort getting this prepared. I was worried it was too small, but looking at your neck, guess it would be a perfect fit after all."

He took out a circlet from inside his coat. It was that collar! It looked smaller than the previous one, but it still had those same symbols and carried the same threatening aura.

"I don't want to be lobotomized."

"It would trouble me if you're lobotomized."

"I don't want to be cut open."

"I won't let them cut you open."

"I don't want to be a slave,"

"Well, tough luck. What you want and what will happen is not up to you."

I could say nothing else. I could not run. I could not fight back. What I was, was just a defeated monster at his mercy.

"Raise your hair, monster. You are mine now."

There was no more hesitation. No more defiance. I grabbed my long blonde hair with both hands and raised it so that he could put the collar around my neck. Over time, I came to consider that as the best decision I had ever made. He even allowed me to see my sister from afar. Isn't he nice?

That was the story of how I became his slave mage. Well, actually he reclassified me as a magical fairy, so my threat level is just C now. So little monster, won't you surrender? Although master looks scary, he's actually a caring man. If you please him, he may even let you see your children again. I'll help put in a good word for you.

See, he even made this collar a perfect fit for your neck.

******

*Hi everyone, it's Ai-chan again. Thank you for reading. Please leave your comment whether you like the story or think it requires improvement. Your praises help motivate me and your constructive criticisms help me get better.
**This story was actually what I came up with after waking up from my sleep. In my dream, I was Charlie, and the story went on longer than this. After all, I spent a lifetime in that world. However, I have enough multi-chapter stories and I decided to make a oneshot story instead.
***However, there is one thing I'm not satisfied with. In my dream, the name of the organization that capture or kill monsters was called RIZE. I couldn't think of any backronym for RIZE, so I chose COCOM, for Command & Control of Monster. If you can think of what RIZE could be, please leave a comment as well. Thanks.



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