Warning: Uncomfortable and unwanted touching in this chapter.
Train Station, Setalite City, 7:06 AM.
Thursday, February 24th, 2022.
Loren wondered if he hadn’t somehow managed to curse himself with a passive luck debuff along the way. It would go a long way to explaining just how much bullshit seemed to happen to him; at least, he seemed to be getting used to it.
“A massive problem?” Mara said, frowning, “What happened?”
He had a pretty good idea just what the problem was—it wasn’t every day that two members of Epilogue were captured. Loren narrowed his eyes in disgust as Lecture slid her hand across his shoulders, down under his arm to rest on his ribs.
“Can you stop touching me?” Loren said as evenly as he could manage.
The villain didn’t even pause.
“Taker and Deceitful aren’t responding,” Hannah said, frowning. “When we checked their last location, there were signs of a battle. I asked around the neighborhood—there was a fight with the capes from the local HQ.”
Loren tensed as the hand dropped down to his thigh, and he did his absolute best not to lash out as the woman’s hand clenched around his cock. A wave of nausea pushed its way up to his throat as his body betrayed him. It took a force of will not to rip her hand off of him, but he was rapidly reaching the limit of what he was willing to endure in order to listen in to their conversation.
“Where are they now? There’s no way they could have beaten them, surely?” Mara said, frowning as she watched. “Hannah, stop it—”
She’d barely gotten the word out before Hannah turned on her.
“Fuck off, Mara—he clearly likes it,” Hannah snapped, and Mara blew an explosive breath out of her nose but didn’t argue. “And they were beaten somehow—we need to go break them out of the HQ.”
Loren reached the last shred of his patience, but he only got as far as his hand latching around the predatory woman’s wrist before a new voice washed over them from directly behind the bench.
“You two look like you’re having fun,” A muffled voice said hatefully, “Am I the only one doing any fucking work around here?”
“Hello, Reset,” Mara said quietly. “Hannah just told me what happened; when are we going?”
Hannah had turned to look at where his hand was clenched around her arm, face entirely contorted with fury—lucky for him; her attention was soon drawn away from what he had done.
“Now,” Reset said, annoyed, “Get off your ass—and get your hand off that guy’s cock, you fucking rapist.”
Hannah wrenched her hand out of Loren’s grip and spun to face Reset, furious. Loren twisted out of Lecture’s grip, taking three steps away from the bench, watching them warily.
“Why don’t you fucking kill yourself instead?” Hannah snapped, voice laden with purpose.
Reset’s hand flashed up to his own throat as her power took effect; he started to choke under the force of his own grip before his entire body flickered out of focus and then back again. His hand dropped down to his side, and he stared at Lecture from behind his mask, expression unknown.
“Do that again, Lecture,” Reset warned. “I’ll promise you now that you won’t enjoy what happens next.”
There was a tense standoff between them, and Loren used the moment to study the three of them. Almost an entire half of Epilogue in one place—it was a horrible sight. He noted that Mara was still watching him and looking conflicted about what was happening. Hannah was on her feet now, staring over the bench at Reset.
Loren wondered how often arguments like this occurred within the group.
Reset was tall, covered head to toe in a blue bodysuit, and a white porcelain mask adorned his face, no part of his body showing—He was also staring silently at Loren; apparently, the sheer focus was out of character enough that even Hannah turned to follow his gaze despite the tension between them.
“You—” Reset said shakily, bringing his arm up between them like a shield. “What is this?”
The other two didn’t seem to have any clue as to what the man was talking about.
“Reset?” Mara said quietly.
“Who is that?” Reset snapped furiously, sidestepping the bench. “Who the fuck is that!?”
Loren watched the man warily—did he know him somehow?
“It’s just some guy,” Hannah said, frowning, turning to check on Loren again. “Mara?”
“His name is Loren,” Mara said hesitantly. “He was the on the train that I told you about years ago.”
Loren felt odd watching Reset’s mental crisis like he was seeing something he shouldn’t be watching, something personal. Mara’s coat had finally started to move as the stress of the situation started to fight against her newly earned control.
“Loren…” Reset spat in disgust as if his name was a curse.
Reset’s hands suddenly caught on fire, and the fire quickly began to spread up his forearms—within seconds, his entire body was covered, and the area’s temperature began to rise.
“Reset, stop,” Mara said quickly, coat swaying dangerously. “He’s my friend—Reset!”
“He’s your friend?” Reset snapped angrily. “Monsters don’t have friends!”
Mara flinched back, holding her arms across her chest defensively; Loren readied himself to move as Reset began to close the distance between them. The heat of the fire pressed against him, growing worse the closer he came.
“Diplomacy has failed; time to bring in the big guns,” Loren said clearly, loud enough to be heard by everyone. “Sorry, Mara—but could you stay out of this?”
Mara didn’t answer, and then Reset was on him—Hair erupted around Loren, twisting into a moving cocoon of threads and quickly growing. Reset didn’t even slow down, and the hair began to burn away as it came in contact with the flames. A thick, weaved pillar of hair burst forth towards him and crashed into the man’s chest, sending him across the subway before it dissolved into ashes.
The fire went out as Reset slammed into the opposite wall, shattering the tiles. Loren hadn’t been expecting actually to land the hit, and he realized with horror that he had actually killed the man.
Reset flickered out of focus for a moment before he returned, practically exploding out of the debris, perfectly unharmed and alive. He crossed the room with brutish speed, leaving craters in the ground where his feet fell.
Loren lashed out again, sending as many strands of hardened hair forward as he could to block the man’s advance. They shattered beneath his strength, and Loren was forced to lay a path of hair-spears to block his path. Reset leaped off the ground in his anger and then immediately stopped in mid-air, impaled on the sharp spikes.
Loren felt sick as copious amounts of blood splattered around them. He sent hair weaving around his clothing before he lifted himself off the ground, and then like some kind of human puppet, he drew himself across the platform, heading for the stairs.
The hair lashed out to grip a pillar, and he used it to swing himself upwards—that was as far as he got before Reset flickered again, the hair impaling his body vanished, and then time froze.
Loren didn’t understand what was happening for a moment.
He was suspended in mid-air, with hair lancing off in every direction, grasping onto handholds and seeking more. Hannah was completely frozen in mid-air, leaping off the platform to escape the growing fight—her eyes were still moving.
Reset dropped to the ground, unaffected by the strange power. Mara also seemed completely unaffected by it as well, counting grasping limbs reaching outwards, not unlike his own hair had, keeping her away from the battle.
Reset drew himself up from where he had landed and staggered through the countless strands of frozen hair, fighting his way through the mess towards Loren.
“Reset!” Mara cried out from the other side of the platform. “Don’t hurt him!”
Loren felt the more distant strands snap under Mara’s strange body as she moved closer to them.
Reset found the last couple of meters to be completely unpassable—simply too much hair to pass through, and he raged for a moment smashing his arm against it. His arm split down the middle, sliced in two by the unmoving hair, and he flickered again.
Time unfroze, the hair completed its path up the stairs, and then an unseen force gripped the area around him, pulling violently. Loren was dragged slowly back down the stairs towards Reset, turning enough to witness a yawning maw filled with perfectly flat teeth between the man’s hands, sucking everything inside.
The hardened hair dug into the walls, buried itself deep in the concrete, and kept on going; it weaved thick braids around him and fought against the pull, but it was a losing battle. The stairway began to collapse above them from the exchange of forces.
A thick braided cord of hair, tipped with a sharpened point, lanced out of the wall directly behind Reset, having dug a channel through the material.
It wrapped around the man’s heads and dragged him bodily back into the wall with a crack—the eldritch mouth that was attempting to swallow the world vanished, and Reset flickered again before a long, thin, silver tail emerged from his back and cut through the restraining cord of hair with obscene speed.
It blurred around him, cutting the new cords that approached before it could touch him. The man staggered through the concrete blocks that had fallen from the ceiling, and Loren sent a thick cord through the middle of the rubble on the stairs.
“Reset,” Loren said, panting.
Everything was happening so fast, and he’d been holding his breath without awareness. The cord he’d sent upwards made it outside, and then he created a thousand protrusions along its length, growing flattened plates of hardened material at the end of each.
“Shut your fucking mouth!” Reset raged, cutting through the blocks around him in his anger.
Loren forced the plates outwards, crushing the debris against the walls and clearing a path. He dragged himself backward through it, up the stairs, and to freedom closing it behind him as he went.
Reset didn’t even slow down; he cut a path through the falling debris and remaining hair digging his way after him.
Loren barely made it two meters from the entrance when his backup finally arrived, alerted by the phrase he’d said on the platform.
Untold slammed into the road in front of him as Reset lunged out of the shattered stairs. The tip of the silver tail halted inches from her face as she caught hold of it. Untold blurred for a beat, and Reset vanished with an ear-splitting crack as she struck him across the face, burying him back in the mess the entrance had become.
“Loren,” Untold said, frowning. “Nice to finally meet you.”
“Yeah—good seeing you again,” Loren panted, “Thanks for actually coming. Reset isn’t dead, by the way—he comes back with a different power every time he dies.”
“Isn’t that your power?” Untold said, tensing, alarmed.
The similarities between their powers weren’t lost on him, and it made fighting him with lethal intent much easier.
“Similar, but not the same,” Loren said, finally catching his breath. “I go back in time when I die; he just heals back to perfect health. Monstrous is down there as well, so is Lecture.”
“I don’t get it at all—How do you even get wrapped up in something like this?” Untold said quietly, “Was two members of Epilogue not enough for one week? Just how much do you intend to do?”
Unearned praise that was misaimed as far as he was concerned; he’d done nothing to help during that battle.
“I wasn’t the one to take them down,” Loren denied. “I wasn’t even there at the time.”
The rubble shifted again.
“No, but it only happened because of you,” Untold said curtly. “No more talking—he’s back.”
A metal pillar tore out of the ground before branching out into a thousand smaller spikes—Untold didn’t even move as they crashed into her, shattering on her skin—Loren pulled himself up higher to avoid the ones that had been diverted around her. The road erupted into more of the pillars, and they surged up after him as he moved higher—he sent the hardened hair down into the mess and used it to help maneuver away from it.
The sound of screeching metal washed over the area, and half of the metal forest collapsed as Untold crashed through it. She landed feet first against the side of a particularly thick metal upright, holding Reset by the throat—the entire pillar moved from the force, creaking ominously.
Reset flickered and twisted in her grip, leg flicking over her head and curling around Untolds neck. He threw himself backward, dragging her off the pole in the process. He spun once in the air and then tossed her downwards.
Untold vanished under the force of the throw, disappearing into the mess of metal below.
Reset twisted again, finding a foothold on a nearby pole and kicked off—He shot through the air towards him at ludicrous speeds, far more than the kick should have given him, and Loren did his best to bury the man in a deluge of hair.
It couldn’t seem to hold onto the man for more than a moment, slipping away from his skin and destabilized upon touch.
Loren pulled away from him again, using a distant building as a hair hold, but he felt Reset snatch a handful of the hair; a wave of sensation raced across it, and suddenly Loren was moving towards the ground at a breakneck pace.
He curled up as best he could, hair growing around him en mass—there was an awful pressure, and then everything went black.
Loren surged upwards—or at least tried to; he was surrounded on all sides by something. Awakening brought with it awareness, and the massive pillar around him burst into existence in his mind—he’d made so much hair.
A vibration passed through the structure, growing stronger—it was something tearing its way through it, but they were moving slowly, struggling to make much progress. He pushed himself upwards and away from the disturbance, emerging on the side of the building-sized pillar of hair.
He secured himself to the surface of it and stood horizontally on the side of the structure, trying to survey the area.
Far below, he could see fire and water in equal measure, buildings burning, and streets flooding. Something passed beneath him, and the water was pushed to each side of the street as something cut through it. Whatever it had been, the water began to recede, slipping through a gouge in the road that looked far too deep.
Loren had no idea who was even fighting anymore—the person who had originally been moving slowly through the hair had started moving much, much faster. Something glinted in the distance, and then his world shook as a person crashed down feet first into the twisted mass of hair beside him.
Loren stared at the man before it sunk in exactly who he was looking at.
“Paragon,” Loren said quietly.
He was just as large in person as he was the last time he’d seen the man—a verifiable mountain of muscle, dark-skinned and with thick cords of soaking wet dreadlocked hair hanging sideways from his head, dangling towards the ground.
The feeling of tranquilness that he’d briefly felt when the man had been rampaging through the city was present, invading his sense of self and leaving a feeling of calm behind. Loren wondered if the man felt the effects of his own aura or if he was immune.
It also made him wonder how Paragon—how Julian had dealt with the problem they both seemed to share. His was an effect that calmed those who felt it, but it still held the same issues he’d encountered with his own pheromone situation.
“Loren Parker,” Paragon smiled, “I’ve heard a lot about you. When Untold called us in, we didn’t expect this—it has become quite the mess.”
If Untold had called the rest of them in, who else was present? His mind was pulled back to the feeling of calm that was washing over him—he’d become too used to feeling strange or unknown sensations inside him that it stood out.
“Do you ever wonder what it’s like to interact with people without your aura present?” Loren managed.
He was somewhat disorientated to be suddenly finding himself speaking with the most famous person in the world. The question wasn’t at all appropriate for their current situation, but he couldn’t help but ask.
“All the time,” Paragon smiled, sending water flicking down from his hair at the motion. “I wasn’t born with it, so I remember a time when it was very different.”
An earth-shattering crack rang out from far below them as a yellow and black figure, with a splash of purple on their back, ran up the side of a building. A solid black armored figure followed close behind, leaving a series of holes behind after every step.
Taker had managed to escape, and Wraith was here—how had that happened? Where was Mara, or the rapist—uh, Lecture.
“There’s someone inside there, coming towards us,” Loren said, turning to face the mass of hair behind him. “They’re almost here.”
Paragon held a hand to his ear for a moment and said something that he didn’t catch before pausing and taking his hand away.
“It’s Reset—I’ll handle him, try and find somewhere to observe. You’re the greatest advantage we have right now,” Paragon said before smiling again, “The more information you take back with you, the more likely I’m going to survive the week—seems like a good investment for the future to me.”
Loren nodded hesitantly, feeling like the trust that Paragon was placing in him was far too generous. He sent a length of hair lancing out over the city, secured himself to it, and severed the other connections to the larger mass.
It started to rapidly dissolve as Reset broke out of the side, twisting out of the hole he’d made and then cut towards Paragon. Paragon moved backward across the surface, and Reset followed, none of his hits landing cleanly on the larger man. Loren watched them exchanged a series of blurring strikes with each other as they flittered across the diminishing construct.
The structure’s surface evaporated beneath the forces they were generating, and then they passed behind the dying structure and out of sight. Loren puppeteered himself up onto the flat of the roof of a skyscraper and crouched there watching.
The source of the water was evident from here—Raindancer was working to contain the spreading fires. The sheer amount of it brought into question if she was actually doing more damage to the surroundings than the fire was.
He still hadn’t seen Mara anywhere—how had this all become such a mess? Was this because he’d gone to the train station? Or was it going to happen regardless—if he hadn’t been there, Lecture and Reset would have still found Mara. They would have begun whatever breakout attempt they had planned—Untold wouldn’t have been present, though, and Paragon wouldn’t have come.
Maybe this was better than if he hadn’t gone?
“Hey! You’re the guy who was on that hair thing!” A woman’s voice said from the roof access, looking terrified as she stepped out into the sun. “What is going on out there?”
Loren checked—a blonde woman in a pantsuit, pale-faced and scared.
“I’m not sure if you really want to know—” Loren said honestly before shaking his head. “Epilogue, the Peacekeepers, and the Setalite City Hero HQ are trying to kill each other—I’d like to say it’s safer inside, but I honestly couldn’t guarantee one of them doesn’t blow up the building.”
The woman moved to the railing and peeked over the edge—and they watched the last of the hair tower crumble to dust.
“What the hell,” The woman said in disbelief, moving to his other side to get a better look. “This fucking city—I can’t even go to work without something crazy happening!”
He knew the feeling—before all this started, he’d just needed to worry about finishing his commissions and winning the tournament. He almost wished he could just go back to that—everything was so much easier then.
Although it hadn’t felt like it at the time, that was probably just the nature of hindsight at work.
“You aren’t wrong—Urk,” Loren choked as something lodged in his throat.
Loren twisted in panic and pain—hair burst into existence, smashing the woman away from him. She rolled across the roof and stopped by the railing, and he fell down onto his knees, grasping at the handle of the knife that was flush against the back of his neck. The woman laughed as she climbed back to her feet, her voice transitioning to a higher range and becoming much more familiar.
He couldn’t stop coughing, and he could feel slick, viscous liquid in his throat that he had no choice but to swallow. Everything was getting darker, and he watched sluggishly as the woman’s blonde hair darkened to black.
3600 words, another meaty chapter.
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Systematic Soul Sorting is still being converted into an audiobook, and 4/12 chapters are currently finished. Narrated by the awesome Mason Born.
Reroll Artbook – Originally I was going to put this all together as a book and put a $5 price tag on it, but I’m considering just placing all of the commissioned sketches and other art, with credits to the artists on the reroll wiki. Too many different sketches with different styles make this a bit difficult to pull it together into a clean package. Individually the art is cool, but it’s just not a cohesive product. I’ve learned a lot from this, next time I attempt something like this for a project I’m going to commission a single artist to complete the entire set.
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