SeerKing looks up from a desk covered in paper full of fanfic ideas, a pen in his hand.
"Oh, it's you lot." He said with frustrated sigh. "Well here you are. As promised, I am both posting a different story to Ranma Saotome: Chi Master AND posting the first chapter of my Worm/Infinite Dendrogram crossover, Justice For All."
Pointing at a computer monitor, he continued. "I have seen your reviews for Demon Lord of the Swarm and I may -MAY!- choose to start that one when one of my other stories is finished. Not before then. I have far too bloody many stories on the go as it is."
Before he can say any more, something smashed through the wall.
"Oh for…! What now?!"
"Greetings!" a loud voice boomed. A man wearing a full body black bear suit appeared in the new opening in the wall. "It is I, his bearliness, Shu Starling, here fur a visit. Please bear with me."
"What the heck are you doing here?!" SeerKing demanded. "You're supposed to be waiting for the next volume of Infinite Dendrogram to be released this month! And don't break my wall, dammit!"
"It's bearly anything to be concerned about." The bear waved the outraged author's demands away. "Besides, waiting fur months to get more book time is unbearable. It's like being put on paws the whole time. So boring! So, I decided to visit the only author I know who has written a Dendro fanfic fur a while."
"Why you…! Here, have a look at this!" SeerKing brought up the page for the next volume of Dendro on his computer and showed it to Shu.
"Let's see…mutter, mutter…Kaguya knockoff…mutter, mutter…WHAT!" Shu roared. "Why that jumped up little! This is not to bear fruit! I'm bearly able to contain my anger! Damn youuuuu!"
With that, the bear-costumed man charged back out the hole in the wall that he'd made.
"Come back here and fix my wall! Or at least pay for it!" SeerKing shouted before facepalming and staring at the wall with a deadpan expression on his face. "Well, there goes the deposit."
Looking back up, he said, "And that guy was Shu Starling from Infinite Dendrogram, in case you missed the introduction. He's also known by the title of [King of Destruction], mostly because he blows shit up a lot. And wrecks things. If you wanna know more, buy the series. Now, scroll down and start reading. I hope you enjoy this chapter and as always, reviews make the world go around and are greatly appreciated. Aside from flames, but that goes without saying."
"Iustitia!" – Regular Speech
'Mistress!' – Thoughts/Telepathy
[Justice for All]! – Skill/Ability being used.
Beta'd by BigCC
3rd of February, 2011, Earth Bet
Taylor's Room, Hebert Residence, Brockton Bay
I blinked in shock at the girl standing before me. She was young, maybe about the size and age of a ten-year-old, with blond hair in a close-cropped cut. And she was wearing the oddest clothes; a white robe that was definitely a toga of some description, a cuirass of some sort that had a very…um…mature female figure on it, a hairband that had golden spikes jutting out of it and a blindfold around her eyes.
Just a minute ago, I had entered my room to deal with the itching on the back of my left hand. I had received a ragged circle-shaped scar on the back of my hand during the locker incident last month and it had been itching like crazy for the last day and I was starting to get really worried.
Had I contracted an infection that had inexplicably lain dormant until today?
Then, as soon as I threw my backpack to the floor and closed my door, the scar had started glowing a brilliant white before flaring so bright I'd be surprised if half the Bay hadn't seen it. When my eyes had cleared a few seconds later this girl dressed like Greco-Roman play actor was standing opposite of me.
Needless to say I was currently taking the moment of silence to reboot my brain from 'Blue Screen of WTF?!' mode.
"Greetings, Taylor." The girl spoke. Her voice was soft, caring and kind. It also carried a ring of maturity of something far older than her appearance would dictate.
"Wh-who are you?" I managed to stammer out, my brain still trying to process what had happened.
"I am Iustitia." The girl introduced herself calmly. "I am your power made manifest."
"Isn't…isn't that the Ancient Roman Goddess of Justice?" I said in stupefaction. My mother had an interest in mythology, and it was one of the things I'd taken in an interest in as I'd grown up.
"It is also my name." Iustitia inclined her head slightly. "I am what is known as an Embryo. When you Triggered in that locker, I was born within you in my Zeroth Form. Over the past month, I have grown, studying your personality, your morals and your actions. As of today, I was ready to emerge as a Stage 1 Embryo, a Type-Maiden with Arms."
"O…kay?" I moved to the bed and sat down heavily. This was a bit much to take in. "I have no idea what most of that means." I admitted aloud.
"I know. I am a part of you, so your knowledge of this world was downloaded into me when I was born." The Embryo informed me. "You can also speak with me telepathically if you wish, but with the biases against mind powers here, I doubt you will."
Yeah, the Simurgh had soured people to any kind of mind-to-mind communication, and evil Masters like Heartbreaker hadn't exactly improved their perceptions either.
"To give you a brief summation, an Embryo is a being, a power born from their Master's actions, personality and decisions; forming into a manifestation of the core concepts by which they base their life. In my case, I was born from you and I was shaped and grown in reaction to your actions, words and personality over the month I slept within you." Iustitia started. "There are many types of Embryo, but I am what is known as a Type-Maiden. We are relatively rare existences, born to those who care for something or someone greatly. We take the form of a girl and grow until we are teenagers in step with the strength of our Masters. Type-Maidens are hybrid Embryos, possessing another Embryo Type in addition to our maiden Type. In my case, I am a Type-Maiden with Arms, meaning that I transform into a weapon and/or armour."
My mind swirled with information. OK, it was official; either this was real or I was in a coma in real life. Or maybe some Merchant banger had slipped me something during school or something?
"OK…OK…" I muttered, trying to reaffirm my grip on reality. "So…anything else?" I asked.
"Walk over to the mirror over there." Iustitia nodded towards my open wardrobe door, with the mirror on the inside of it. Shrugging, I did so.
"Touch it with the index finger from your left and run it down about a foot." Iustitia instructed me.
Feeling a bit silly, I did so. Then my eyes almost popped out of their sockets as words scrolled down in the actual glass itself.
Name: Taylor Hebert
Job (s): None
Embryo: Maiden of Justice Iustitia
Embryo Type: Maiden with Arms
Embryo Forms Achieved: 1/7
"Th-this is…!" I breathed.
"This is an ability all Embryos give their Masters; the ability to quantify and display your physical and mental attributes." Iustitia stated proudly. "Any questions about your stats?"
Did I ever. I was interested in my HP or Health Points and MP or Magic Points. Apparently 150 is the base number all Embryo Masters received when their Embryo first emerges. They increased by five points each for ever ten points in certain stats once they got above ten. HP was dictated by Strength and Toughness, while MP was dictated by Intelligence and Wisdom. Stamina, as it turned out, was used for non-magical (oh god, I was turning into Myrddin!) attacks, such as sword techniques, as well as being drained as I ran or engaged in combat. It gained a hundred points for every ten points in Endurance and Toughness.
As a bonus, by unlocking Iustitia's First Form, all of my stats had been raised to at least ten across the board. Lucky me.
Luck was a puzzle for us both. It was usually a number that represented your ability to encounter enemies, the quality of the loot drops from defeated enemies and even how frequently quests were issued. That it was represented by a solitary question mark merely confirmed for me that someone up there was screwing with my life, and likely not in a good way.
Iustitia then showed me how to shift it to the next page, the Skills page, by swiping my left index finger to the left for a foot. It should have been blank, but I had apparently generated three skills during the month of Iustitia's growth in her Zeroth Form.
Taylor Hebert's Skills
- Pain Resistance (LV2)
- Danger Sense (LV1)
- Acting (LV2)
[Pain Resistance] came from all of the hits I'd endured, [Danger Sense] had been the feeling of wrongess that had started to come whenever I was about to be pranked by the Bitch Trio and [Acting] came from me feigning that nothing was wrong to Dad. All of them would be useful if I became a hero, but the way I had earned them sucked.
The next page, accessed the exact same way, was Iustitia's skills, which I found interesting.
Maiden of Justice Iustitia's Skills and Abilities
- [Justice is Blind] (Form One)
- [Balance the Scales] (Form One)
- [Justice over Earthly Authority] (Maiden Form)
- [The People's Welfare is Supreme] (Maiden Form)
They were all very impressive. [Justice is Blind] levelled the playing field between me and an opposing enemy, power wise. By activating it, I could choose any enemy within ten meters and inflict any powers or effects that were negatively affecting my senses or perception onto them
[Balance the Scales] was a bit scarier. When I activated it, I generated a Trump field around my body out to a maximum of a 10 meter radius (I could make it smaller if I wished, but only when I activate it. Once activated the size was set until it deactivated) that lowered the physical stats of anyone who entered it to equal mine. Since my own strength was…negligible at best, this was a very good thing.
Both Skills were linked to Iustitia's 'First Form' and could only be activated while she was in that state.
[Justice over Earthly Authority] apparently gave Iustitia the ability to render judgement onto others. It was a bit like the Penance Stare from Ghost Rider, except it didn't leave the victim a vegetable. Instead, by locking eyes with someone, Iustitia could instantly learn any crime that the person had knowingly committed, even witnessing the person's own memory of the crime if she so chose to. It wasn't really rendering judgement in my opinion, but it was still a very useful ability and one that could be very useful for a hero.
Finally, [The People's Welfare is Supreme] allowed her to heal people. When this skill was activated, either by her or me uttering its name, her Maiden Form would suddenly begin to glow brightly and anyone within the light's reach would be healed. Like [Justice is Blind] and [Balance the Scales] it had a range of 10 meters centered on wherever Iustitia's body was manifested. It was primarily focused on healing physical trauma; cuts, bruises, lacerations, torn muscles, and could even reduce swelling in the brain to heal concussions and similar trauma. Sadly it was ineffective against diseases, cancer or anything like that; though it did affect poisons, both burning through them with time and undoing the damage they caused.
These two skills could only be activated while Iustitia was in her 'Maiden Form,' which was apparently the form I'd been speaking to.
"Whew…that is one impressive set of abilities that you have." I muttered, looking at my…Embryo…with appraising eyes.
"Yup. Especially considering that's only my First Form." The little goddess girl smirked.
"Yeah, the status page did say that you had access to seven of them." I noted, absently flipping the screens back to said page. "How do you gain them?"
"You have to get stronger, Master." Iustitia stated. "At the moment, you are Level 0, weak. As you grow stronger and walk down your path, I can grow stronger myself and evolve as your convictions and personality grows."
Iustitia walked over to me and tenderly grabbed my hand. "Master…Taylor, I was born from your desire for justice. Your need to make things right. As you walk along your path, I will grow and it will shape my path as well. I may change to a different type as opposed to a Maiden with Arms."
"What types are there?" I wondered.
"The main types are Arms, Guardian, Chariot, Castle and Territory." Iustitia explained, ticking each off on a finger. "Arms, as I explained, are weapons or armour. Guardians are similar to Maidens, but take the form of a creature that either attacks your foes, protects you, or offers some form of support abilities. Chariots are vehicles; they can literally be any kind of vehicle that the Master can control and ride and offer a wide range of abilities based on the form manifested. Castles can manifest as entire buildings that their Master can live in and often comes with defensive and supplementary abilities. Finally, Territories are barriers that enclose areas and inflict their abilities on all who stand within them. There are also rarer types like Legion types. They are rare Embryos that produce multiple creatures, not unlike Guardians though they often trade quality for quantity, which the player can command. Typically, they are the Sixth or Seventh Forms of a Guardian Embryo."
"So…you could become a Type-Maiden with Territory?" I clarified.
"Depending on how I grow, yes." Iustitia confirmed. I had to drive an episode of Earth Aleph's version of Red Dwarf out of my mind, the one with the cornily named Justice Field in it.
"Okay, so I guess the question is…how do I get stronger?" I mused. "I need a costume to go out as a Cape and I don't have one."
"Well, you're close to levelling up, Master." My Embryo noted. "I'd guess the experience points are from learning those three skills. Learning another one should do the trick."
"OK, what skill? I take it you have one in mind?" I questioned.
"Command me to transform into my Arms form." She said with a small smile.
"Uh…OK. Iustitia, take on your weapon form!" I said.
"By your command, Master." Iustitia curtseyed before vanishing in a flash of light. In her place was a sword. It was about the same size as her Maiden Form and had a leaf-shaped blade. Floating next to it was a set of scales, looking to be made of gold.
"This is my First Form, Master." The Embryo said. "Form One: [Sword and Scales of Justice]."
"So…sword fighting?" I asked.
"Sword Mastery, but yes." Iustitia answered. "Thanks to having an Embryo, you will learn skills by doing repeated actions. Swinging my sword form will gain you the Sword Skills tree and possibly a Job."
"A Job? Do I get paid?" I joked, rather lamely I will admit.
"Not in the way that you mean." Iustitia answered, evidently needing to learn when someone was joking or being sarcastic. "Earning a job and levelling up that job gains you boosts to your stats, HP, MP and Stamina, as well as Class-specific Skills. You can even have multiple jobs equipped at once. Some Rare Jobs require that you have certain Jobs equipped as a perquisite."
…wow. I was in a RL version of an MMORPG.
'Whatever. Roll with it. Just roll with it, Taylor.' I urged myself not wanting to go back into Blue Screen Mode.
"OK…this still leaves the question of where to hide you." I frowned. "Dad can be a bit dense, but even he isn't going to miss a ten year old dressed up like Lady Justice walking around, and he might find you if I leave you like this."
Iustitia transformed back to her Maiden form. "I can store myself inside of your Crest, Master."
I blinked. "My what?"
She pointed at my left hand and, resting where that odd circular scar had been, was now an elaborate tattoo depicting Iustitia in her sword form. "That tattoo is a Crest, the mark of the Master of an Embryo. I can store myself inside of it and speak to you telepathically if needed. This way, I can come out whenever you need, and I can assume whichever of my forms you need when I emerge."
That…did sound convenient. The telepathy thing was weird and a bit unpleasant to think about, but hey, she had basically been downloading information from my mind for the entire month she had been in Zeroth Form, so a little bit of telepathy was scarcely something to be concerned about at this point, I suppose.
"OK. Sounds like a plan." I smiled at her. "Looking forward to working with you, Iustitia."
"And I you, Master." Iustitia nodded back at me with a smile. "I am looking forward to becoming a Superior Embryo."
"A what now?" I asked.
"It is very hard to become a Seventh Form Embryo." My partner explained. "Those that manage it are known as 'Superior Embryos' and their Masters are known as 'Superior Masters,' or just Superiors for short. I have a good feeling I will reach that level while walking by your side, Master."
"Is there anything special about the Seventh Form?" I wondered.
"Yes." Iustitia nodded emphatically. "At the Sixth and Seventh Forms, an Embryo learns their two ultimate skills, ones that involve their name. Mine would start with 'Iustitia' and then have the rest of the attack name after that. They are the pinnacle of an Embryo's existence and a symbol of their pride."
"Wow…OK, I really like the sound of that." I nodded. "I'll definitely try to get you that far, Iustitia."
"Thank you, Master!" my Embryo hugged me around the waist. "Now we'd better find a place for you to practice with the sword so you can earn a Job."
"Well, there're abandoned warehouses all over the city." I mused as I gently hugged my Embryo back. It was weird touching someone again after all this time. The last person, Dad aside, that I had hugged had been Emma.
"Would the 'villains' that inhabit this land not be watching them?" Iustitia asked, her blindfolded face turning up to 'look' at me.
"I don't think so." I shook my head as I released her and sat down on my bed. "If we went to the Boat Graveyard, then probably? I hear that the Merchants got a new member recently called Whirlygig that was press-ganged when she was caught there. If we stay out of gang territory and keep to the abandoned warehouses in the Dockworker's Association area, we should be OK."
While the Dockworkers were a very much reduced force in The Bay than they had been before the advent of Leviathan, there was still over three-hundred members in the Association. This was not an insignificant number, able to rival the numbers of even the E88's unpowered members. While the Empire was definitely a gang, and a racist bunch of pricks to boot, the potential for getting a lot of their members' asses kicked in the process stopped them, and most of the other gangs, from moving in to forcibly conscript them.
As such, they were content to lure men away from the Association with money, leaving the Dockworkers Association to collapse in on itself from lack of work. An unspoken no-gang zone was around the offices and warehouses that the Dockworkers owned and operated out of, which was why I was reasonably sure that I would be safe practicing there. Dad had assured Mom and me in the past that it was definitely safe for him to go to the warehouses for work.
"Mmm. Then we shall inspect them on the morrow, Mistress." Iustitia nodded. Then her face became more serious. "We must also discuss those…unjust thugs who made you Trigger, Mistress. Something must be done about them, not to mention your situation at that institution which laughably calls itself a place of education."
I froze up at the reminder.
"I am the embodiment of your Justice, Mistress." The little girl who was born from me whispered softly. "I cannot allow those who have so gravely violated the law to prosper. Not only for your sake, but for the sake of others they might inflict the same torment upon. Don't you feel the same, Mistress?"
In truth, I did. I knew Sophia Hess' type. Once she was convinced that she had stamped down on me hard enough to drive her message home, she'd move on to find a new prey. Someone who hadn't yet given up. Someone who would entertain her, convince her that her stupid outlook of Predators and Prey was correct. I had suffered under that for over a year. I did not want to undergo it any long, but at the same time, I didn't want anyone else to suffer at Sophia's hands either.
"Sophia, Emma and Madison only have power over me in highschool." I said evenly to Iustitia. "Once we're out, Sophia won't have good job prospects, Emma's modelling career won't last long and Madison is too academically average to be anything more than that outside of school. I am smart and will be able to hold a good job, unlike them. The best revenge is living well."
"It is not of mere revenge or retribution I speak of, Mistress." My Embryo approached me and cupped my cheek, brushing away a tear I had been unaware of shedding. "It is of Justice that I speak. It is Justice for you that I seek and it is Justice that I embody. Will you allow these people to flout the law and act in such an unjust manner? My existence proves that no, you will not. All you need do is to realise that yourself."
Forcing myself to just endure, day after day…it hurt, dammit! Why me? What the hell had I ever done to Sophia to earn this kind of suffering?! Why did she turn Emma against me? Why did Emma let herself get turned against me?!
Iustitia was right, I realised as tears fell from my eyes. I couldn't let the Bitch Trio get away with what they had done to me. I couldn't allow them to flaunt justice as they had. I wanted justice, and by god I would get it!
'Have no fear, my Mistress.' Iustitia's voice whispered into my mind as she hugged me again. 'I, your loyal Embryo, shall stand by your side and help you enact Justice against those who have made you suffer.'
Motel Room, Brockton Bay
In the dark room, the figure of a man sat on the bed, looking at the framed photograph clutched in his hands.
"Don't worry…they'll pay…" he whispered softly. "They'll ALL pay…"
Getting up, he moved over to his suitcase and replaced the frame in a padded envelope before placing it in the case. Closing it, flipping it over and opening the secret compartment within, he pulled out a costume…one that sparkled with all the colours of the rainbow.
"It's time to pay the Piper, Brockton Bay!"