Not the middle one! Ray shouted urgently as he lost the girl. He sighed heavily with frustration.
After his meeting with Acionna, his old friend had sent him to the Central Aether of the Cross Roads which was exactly where he needed to be, and an hour before the time that he needed to be there.
It was not common knowledge that the entrance to the Labyrinth of Daedalus can be accessed via the Central Aether. Of course, hardly anyone – even among the Heroes and the teachers of the Academy – know of the labyrinths existence in the first place let alone that one of the Back Doors to the labyrinth is not so far from the Academy. Obviously there are safety measures to ensure that no student will accidentally stumble upon it.
Ray is one of just a handful of people who know of the labyrinths existence and location of the Back Door. His knowledge though was accidental rather than purposeful. He had found the Back Door after doing some research on the legend of the Labyrinth of Daedalus. Understandably this had caused no small deal of trouble to the teachers who were privy to the secret and were tasked with keeping it a secret.
The Central Aether was anything but empty even at three in the morning. If anything, it was even livelier than when he had passed by the previous evening.
Ray went to one of the teleporters in the middle of the Aether, the one numbered 66. There were two groups of Heroes waiting to use the teleporter. Ray greeted them and made some light talk before they went into the teleporters magenta door. It wasn’t the teleporter that he was interested in though. Not far from teleporter 66, behind two oval shaped rocks and covered by some bushes was an old teleporter.
It was one of the ‘Fixed condition and location’ teleporters. They allowed for teleportation to relatively guarded places that the usual teleporters usually couldn’t take people to. In the case of this teleporter, it took people straight to the medical bay on the condition that they are ‘horribly wounded’. It had its uses about fifty years back but nowadays Apprentices and Heroes have teleportation stones that they carry around which can achieve the same effect.
By tampering with the Weaving of Aura that made the teleporter, one can activate a hidden function within the teleporter that will make it take them to the secret location that is programmed within the teleporter.
Aura Weaving in itself is a very intricate and rather complicated art. Weaving Aura for a teleporter with its various mechanisms and Aura Crystals was a whole other dimension of art. Tampering with that Weaving is a feat that very few can accomplish. To make it more difficult, there are two other levels of security that guarded the teleporter: a password and a sequence of Weaving that must be followed to activate the hidden function. Ray was not privy to either of these information which only the people who were meant to know about the door have.
He does however have Panoptes.
Ray activated his eye ability which allowed him to enter the Data Dimension. If Aura Weaving is likened to the building of a house – a similitude that is often used in Weaving classes – Rays Panoptes allows him to see and manipulate the atoms that make up the materials used for building the house.
Because he can access and manipulate a higher dimension, he can bypass certain things like the password and sequence of weaving. However it isn’t a very simple task, even after having done it so many times especially since Aura Weaving isn’t one of Ray’s strong points.
After three minutes of intense concentration, Ray managed to meet all the conditions to activate the teleporter. However the teleporter remained as dead as it had been since probably the last time that he had used it to access the Labyrinth of Daedalus which was about a year ago or so. This was because he hadn’t met the third and final level of security for accessing the hidden program – time.
There were only certain times when the teleporter would open to allow access to the labyrinth.
“Fifty seconds left” Ray muttered to himself as he flipped his Celestial Clock on and then off again.
This was the reason why Ray had not been in too much of a hurry the whole day. Because he knew that no matter how fast he did things, he would still need to wait for this moment to be able to access the Labyrinth of Daedalus.
Five, four, three, two, one, zero.
As all the conditions for accessing the secret program within the teleporter had been met, the crystals around the teleporter began to glow purple. Then slowly the purple glow turned into a bright green as the secret program was activated.
Ray stepped into the green light. He felt a tug in his stomach and had the sensation of being in free fall. Then the green light subsided and he was in a different place.
He was on a small Aether about twenty meters by twenty meters in dimension. Around him was a field of variously shaped and sized Aethers. Unlike the Aethers around the Academy, these Aethers were not coordinated. There was a loud crash to his left as two Aethers collided with each other.
Ray sat down cross legged beside the teleporter and waited. The second wait. He wasn’t worried about crashing because he knew that despite the apparent chaos around him, the Aether that he was on was safe.
Ray knew that he had travelled about a hundred miles north-east from the Academy. He was in one of the twenty three ‘Black Zones’ in the Aether fields of Atlantis. These were places that were yet to be explored or that could not be explored. Most of them were the later because they were too dangerous or reaching them was too hazardous. The place that he was in was surrounded by the worst of these dangers, the non-coordination of the Aethers being one of them.
In the distance, Ray heard the sound of what he could identify as Mothmen. Flying reptile-like creatures with red eyes that have the power to trap people in a dreamlike world of their worst nightmares. They weren’t rare monsters but they were dangerous class B monsters and there is a big colony of them around the area. They were the least of the contributors to the hazardousness of this region.
Ray looked at his Celestial Clock again and knew that he had about fifteen minutes before the door of the Labyrinth of Daedalus would appear.
Before he entered the labyrinth, he needed to do something first.
Throughout the day he had intentionally suppressed his strength for the sake of training. Even in the Ice Palace he had only lifted a small part of that restriction and even then he only did it because he didn’t want to risk the Apprentices. Now he was going to lift all restrictions.
Most high level Heroes and especially the Paragons of which Ray was a member have restrictions placed on their strength and abilities. They are only allowed to lift a certain amount of restriction depending on the difficulty level of their mission. This was to prevent them from causing unnecessary destruction to their surrounding with potential collateral damage. It was also a means of keeping their abilities a secret from governments and potential enemies.
It was rare that a Paragon, and Ray in particular are allowed to release all restrictions. Even if he was going to enter the Labyrinth of Daedalus, Ray did not need to release all his restrictions. The headmaster knows this because he had been Ray’s instructor when he was an Apprentice and knew quite well that even as an Apprentice and without having to resort to using his Abilities, Ray was able to conquer the labyrinth. The possibility of facing Shadow Assassins is a reason to release a bit more of his restrictions seeing as they are Class A fiends, but they were quite manageable even without releasing all his binds.
The fact that the headmaster had stressed the permission to release all restrictions must mean that he places a very high priority to the success of this mission.
Ray had confidence in his strength but he has never been arrogant and overconfident. And so, although he did not really think that there was a need to, he released all restrictions on his strength and abilities.
The restriction placed on a Paragon is an Aura Technique called ‘Five Pillars and Five Shackles Restriction’. Although it is called a restriction, it can be lifted by the Hero with his own will. That a Hero will only lift his restriction after gaining permission from the Academy is a matter of respect that they have for the Academy and for their Masters’ order.
Ray had received permission from the headmaster himself.
He closed his eyes and reached for the Technique that was suppressing his powers. As he did this, ten black bands appeared on his right arm and around him there appeared five pillars, each more than three meters high and as thick as a human body, all stuck deep in the ground. And from each of the five pillars, five heavy chains as thick as a human hand shackled Ray on his limbs, body and neck.
He mentally reached for the chains and one by one crushed them with his Aura. As he took off the shackles that bound him, one by one the black bands on his right arm disappeared. When he had destroyed the Five Pillar and Five Shackles Technique, nine of the ten black bands had disappeared.
Although to Ray it had felt like he had taken an hour of concentration and effort to take off the restriction, in reality only half a minute had passed.
Ray sighed with relief. Even for him who is widely considered to be the strongest Hero and even the most powerful being in Avalon, dispelling Five Pillars and Five Shackles was quite taxing.
Ray could feel power coursing through his body. An Aura reservoir so massive that it was practically unlimited, and the ability to manipulate it in such a way that most people could not even imagine. However this was not the most intoxicating thing that Ray felt after releasing his shackles. The great Hero Raiton was nothing compared to the other power that coursed through his body, powers that he was under very strict orders to keep hidden. His Abilities. Inborn powers that were unique to himself. They required minimal or no Aura to use yet their effect are magnitudes greater than any Aura Technique.
Ray activated Panoptes and scanned the night sky. With his powers unshackled, he could access the full power of this Ability, domains that were usually inaccessible when his powers are restricted. It took him only a moment to find the entrance to the Labyrinth of Daedalus.
It was located on an unimpressive Aether, tucked between two low hills. If a person did not know what they are looking for, they would never find the entrance. Like the other Aethers in this Black Zone, the Aether holding the entrance moved haphazardly with no set pattern or a determined route. This however was only true to a certain extent. For starters, the Aether that held the entrance is untouchable. This was the doing of the Ancient Atlantians where they made a shield around the entrance that makes it unmovable and an area of a hundred square meters around it indestructible. And although its movement is haphazard, at a certain set time, the Aether would appear in a certain set location. This was not the work of the Ancients but of the Academies when about three hundred years ago, they sent the Aether holding the entrance into the Black Zone so that no one would be able to find it. Its previous location was in the Academy grounds. However they Weaved the Aura in the Aether in such a way so that every three days at exactly three thirty three in the morning, the Aether would pass by in front of the Aether that Ray was on, the Aether to which the secret teleporter on the Central Aether leads to.
Ray determined that there was still ten minutes and seventeen seconds left before the Aether passes by. He could fly there to speed things up but there were a lot of debris and possibly dangerous traps lying around which might jeopardise his mission. And besides, there was this thing that he needed to do before going into the labyrinth.
Ray activated one of his Abilities: Telepathy. It was not an uncommon Ability and many can use it as an Aura Technique which can be learned but for Ray, it was natural. It did not consume Aura and he can use it to a higher degree and with far greater precision than most.
He sent his mind towards the entrance to the Labyrinth of Daedalus. His aim was to find the bearer of the Magatama Ring. He knew that it would not be an easy task because of the spatial and dimensional barriers around the labyrinth. However the Magatama Ring has a very distinct presence which Ray believes he can find within the myriad of distortions that surrounds the labyrinth. After all, he was the owner of a Magatama Ring himself so he knew very well the ‘feeling’ of one.
His mind hit a resistant barrier as it reached the labyrinth but Ray pushed past it with a bit of effort. Once inside, he was immediately swept by the spatial and dimensional distortions. It felt like being thrown into a violent storm and getting battered by the waves and thrown by the winds. Most telepaths would reel from such an experience and pull their minds out. However Ray steadied himself in no time. He would not have been able to achieve this feat if his powers were still sealed.
It was no easy feat to find the Magatama Ring in all of that distortion. He found it at last but there was something else besides the Magatama Ring. A presence that was far stronger, and far more familiar to Ray than the Magatama Ring. This presence appeared like a soothing white light beside the Ring whose light paled in comparison to this other light. Even Ray was surprised by what he saw because it was a first for him as well. He knew that the light was a person but no one had ever appeared like this before in his Telepathic Vision. This person was not even a powerful telepath but Ray knew this. A person’s power as a telepath did not appear like this in his Telepathic Vision. Powerful telepaths are easier to find and connect with using telepathy – as long as they consent to it and are not hiding their presence – but if they are like stars in the night sky then this person was like the sun.
When Ray touched the light, he felt the mind of a person called Elle. Despite the disturbances caused by the labyrinth, he was able to establish a good connection with her. However, as he suspected, her mind was not used to telepathic encounters because as Ray tried to ‘talk’ to her, her subconscious mind rejected his. This was a common phenomenon with telepathy-naïve people.
While her mind was reeling from its encounter with his mind, it accidentally opened a gap in its defences and Ray was able to see and feel what Elle was seeing and feeling. He felt her fear and uncertainty, the sadness that had grown so big inside her. He also saw the place that they were in and the path that she – Elle was choosing for them to go.
“No not the middle path!” Ray was so distressed that he did not just shout out at her in his mind, but also shouted in real life although he knows that this makes no difference.
Ray tried to reach her again but the distortions had grown stronger now and his minds voice was being blocked out. This particular area inside the labyrinth has a consciousness and a will of its own, and to make matters worse, it also knows Ray and it doesn’t see him in a very good light.
Ray knew that trying to get pass the ‘Third Chamber’ is pointless. It has a consciousness but not a heart and it only knows to do the task that it was made to do: Protect the Third Chamber from outside forces. Having entered that place a few times himself – or rather, ‘trespassed’ would be a better word – he understood the need for this level of security, and thus the gravity of the situation that Elle and her friends were in.
He concentrated on the white light that was Elle and sent a powerful burst of thoughts and emotions filled with danger and fear and a warning against them taking the middle path. Not the middle path! Ray shouted telepathically.
After that burst of psychic power, a solid black wall formed between Ray and Elle and he was no longer able to detect her.
Ray sighed in frustration.
He took Mazu, the now sentient Clew of Ariadne out of his pocket and threw it in front of him in the air. The round ruby transformed into a small red dragon with seven golden eyes.
“Alright Mazu lets go. We have some people to save”