In the year 2012, a mysterious illness began to sweep the globe. In its wake, those who survived it were left with immensely powerful supernatural abilities.
As the number of people capable of wielding magic powers increased, they began to organize and seize control of the course of history. Using their powers to travel between parallel universes, these mages forge empires of a scale never before seen. And at the center of it all is the Academy, a neutral institution founded for mages to share their knowledge with each other.
Mages struggle against each other to impose their will upon the multiverse, but there is one threat that unites them all together. In recent months, mysterious entities have appeared. These entities wield power far greater than any one mage, and they seem determined to annihilate all of humanity. The mages will have to set aside their differences in order to beat them. The fate of the multiverse depends on it.
"Courtship?" Karma mumbled to himself, taking in the information piece by piece. It did appear like what he was doing, at least the attention part, as bad as that sounded. It's not like he was the type to beg for attention, but generally speaking, he was trying to get at least a reaction out of her. And she was the opposite sex, wasn't she? "Yeah... yeah, that's right." He concluded, his expression screaming confidence while ignorance at the same time.
Who was he kidding? He didn't know what he was doing. No, he was just playing along.
Now, the other part of her previous statement he understood just fine. Dinner. The man could barely remember the last time he had eaten, most of his memory picking up the noble meals he was so used to appearing at his side whenever he so desired. And he certainly did miss those meals even though he hardly recognized the content of it. In the end, this whole ordeal didn't sound too bad. In fact, it was like killing two birds with one stone—or however that phrase went. Karma would get some form of appeasing fulfillment whilst the woman... well, she did say that it would suffice.
"This thing should have food, right? It's too big not to." He turned around, his arms crossed as he eyed the different, colorful signs that shone brightly in large letters. "I guess I could set it on fire some other time, first you show me to the foods." He decided, waiting for the woman to enter it first.
Diana just burst out laughing again. Having someone actually like her was a strange feeling. About the only person like that she had was Vieri, and she knew she made him uncomfortable sometimes. Okay, probably a lot of the time. Before him, there wasn't a single person in her life that came close to even liking her, let alone loving her. Her parents thought of her as little more than a cursed demon child, and her siblings weren't even allowed to interact with her. She had seen them so little that she didn't even know how many siblings she had or what anyone in her family even looked at. Cultivating that hatred and disgust was pretty much the only social skill she had, as any contact was better than no contact, even if that contact was getting slapped across the face. Even after leaving home, most of her relationships were similar, if only because she did go out of her way to piss off everyone. It was the easiest way she found to get peoples' attention, plus she rather liked fighting them. She had no idea how to react to someone actually enjoying her company, but she supposed it was working fine until she thought about it, so there wasn't much point in thinking about to too hard. She wasn't one to say no to any kind of attention anyway.
"Yeah, sure I could go for some KFC. I just hope you're not expecting to get laid guy, because that's not going to work."
She rested her spear on her shoulders, and then hung her elbows off each side. Walking through the burning plaza didn't bother her. At most, she was curious about how some of these non-flammable things were burning because magic was cool. Diana didn't even bother walking around most of the flames, her power making quick work of the burns that it caused. Motioning for him to follow, she made her way into the mall. If he tried something, she wouldn't even be against it, let alone upset, so she kept her back to him without much worry. Exactly like she said, she started making her way towards the food court. She could smell the wonderfully greasy food from here.
The inside of the mall was almost as chaotic as the outside. It wasn't on fire yet, but with all the big windows and people running in with bad burns, it was easy enough to tell what was happening outside. Several people were running around trying to get out the other entrances and a few were rapidly tapping about on their phones. There wasn't much worry about the police or fire department being called. They were mages, what were the police going to do?
"You ever have the food of this era guy? It's actually pretty great. It'll look nasty at first because it'll be so greasy it'll drip everywhere, and they turn meat all these strange colors in the cooking process, but it's actually really good. They're going to want us to pay them though and I don't have any money. Just...I don't know, wave your sword at the guy at the counter, maybe set it on fire-the sword not the counter-, I'm pretty sure that'll get 'em to get us the food quickly."
Unless he saw a sign that looked more interesting, she was just going to get a bucket of greasy chicken and a big tub of mashed potatoes and gravy. Granted, even if did see a sign he liked better she might still get that. No reason they couldn't get a bunch of chicken and a bunch of something else.
Karma wasn't excepting the woman to speak anything understandable and of value so he didn't comment or ask what some words meant and what others didn't. Instead, he nodded along and pretended he was completely understanding to the rubbish she was spewing and prayed he didn't look like an oblivious fool. She did look cool walking through his fire like that though. As blunt as the man was, admitting that out loud was a no-no.
Soon enough, they had entered the extraordinary building. It wasn't any less extravagant and glassy from the inside, but Karma didn't get to spectate too much. Instead, he was watching the way people ran around in fear. In fear of what? He had no idea. His attention was suddenly alerted to the large, glassy pub that was filled with variously colored items. Food, perhaps. He didn't face Diana as she spoke, her words confusing him a bit more than intended perhaps. He did however smirk to her suggestion of setting the place—erm, his sword on fire.
"Thievery is a sin, Princess." He crossed his arms as he eyed the lengthy sign that contained several incomprehensible letters scribbled in a big and flashy shape. And then suddenly, as if on cue, his stomach started rumbling. He raised an eyebrow, his eyes lowering to his midriff before he coughed onto his fist.
"Well... uh, God forbids hunger. I'll ask Him to forgive you for this later." He turned his head to give an affirmative nod to the lady. "Aren't I the best?" And then his head turned back to the food guy.
"Bring me food, servant." He shooed, one arm crossed and the other waving at the cashier. The guy parted his lips as if to speak but quickly shut it when he heard screaming in the back. Turning around he noticed two of his colleagues on fire.
"Wh-what would you like?" He asked Karma. The redhead tilted his head to glance at Diana in confusion as if to motion for her to order for him.
The princess comment got a snort out of her. She couldn't say anyone ever called her, a girl over six feel tall with enough muscle on her that sometimes she didn't even look female, something so soft and fluffy. Even Vieri never used that term. It was strange enough to get a laugh out of at least.
As he continued she could only stare in his direction with an eyebrow raised. She was used to mages being complete morons about these things and not wanting to steal food, but coming from this guy she couldn't tell if he was being serious or not. They already stole a car for one, but then he went and lopped of the heads of a few random bystanders, and used them as projectiles after setting them on fire, and also set an entire plaza on fire. But somehow stealing a few buckets of chicken was crossing the line? It had to be a joke, she couldn't see any other reasonable explanation. Diana could play along with a joke.
"Yeah, very generous of you," she laughed. "Think you could talk him into giving me an epiphany about...I dunno, immune disorders, neuroscience, or the origin of magic? 'Cause I think I'd rather have that than forgiveness for a bucket of chicken."
It wasn't her intent to be insulting, and nothing about her mannerisms or tone suggested she was trying to be mean. She was just going along with the obvious joke before turning back to the cashier to order.
"We'll take a dozen bucket meals, half with mashed potatoes and gravy and half with corn on the cob," she leaned on her spear to remind the cashier that it was there in case he thought the order was ludicrous. "Stagger them so we don't have to wait for the entire order to start eating. Just leave it on the counter, I'll come pick it up as they come."
With that she turned back to the other mage and stretched. "The first bucket should be out in a few minutes." She grabbed one of the paper cups for drinks and handed him one. "They have liquid dispensers right over there," she motioned to the soda machines with her head. "Just put the cup under it and press the button. Here." She opted to grab herself a Pepsi for the sake of simplicity. "They're all basically sugar waters that'll make you feel like you just shoved a dozen sugar cubes in your mouth at once, but they all taste a little different. Just pick which color you like best I guess."
It didn't take long for the first bucket and side of potatoes to come out. It took a little longer than she expected, probably because the guy decided to call the police like that would do anything and like they probably weren't already on the way, but he was fast enough that she was willing to let it slide. Diana grabbed the bucket and side along with her drink and went for the nearest table. She grabbed one of the pieces of chicken herself and took a huge bite out of it.
"I know it doesn't look like it, but it's food," she started with her mouth full of chicken. "Trust me, it's a lot better than it looks. This era seriously figured out how to make food look terrible but taste awesome."
"Ephy... neuro-... what the hell is this language? Did you go to a sanctioned academy consisting of intelligent-only children? You don't strike me as one, but you seem to be raised in a scientist-y family." He waved his hand as he walked to the dispenser.
He took the cup from her, took one glance at the colorful dispensers and blinked in annoyance. Looking back up at her, he heard her talk to the cashier in codes he couldn't comprehend but assumed was food commands and decided it was his cue to wait on her next instructions. As she turned to him and explained to push against the buttons above all the various colors, he nodded to himself, a voice of courage getting through him and out through his fingertip when he poked at the orange "FANTA" logo. Maybe a bit too forcefully because suddenly, the button smashed in and out of the machine. The cup in his hand dropping to the floor as the orange liquid came quickly pouring down in alarm. Karma only stared at the pool it had formed before glancing up towards one of the workers who started in wonder. This colorful wine better be worth the troublesome scene he had just caused.
"Why the hell should I bring a drink to myself? Aren't you the workers around here? Bring me a drink." He waved his arm at the worker, his glare sending the boy into a frenzy of panic before he went to sit at the same table as the lady. The boy, soon enough, arrived at the same time as the lady did, both carrying foods.
Karma smirked at the Deja vú.
First, he waited for Diana to eat, her chicken in hand looking gross and frightening. And then, she dug in, Karma's eyes trailing down to the food in front of him. There was some stuff he recognized, this era's version seeming slightly more enhanced. And polished?
"Why are the colors so strong in the food? Is this poisonous?" Despite the question, Karma didn't truly wait to try it out for himself. He searched for the closest fork and knife in his distance and reached out for the black ones wrapped in translucent paper. Raising an eyebrow, he tore it open and attempted to dig in, the plastic fork too frail to not bend when he pushed it into the skin of the chicken.
"Ugh..." His nose wrinkled and setting it aside, he tried to imitate Diana's way of eating. Perhaps it was like bread? Edible by hand?
Oh was he wrong.
"What the fuck, woman." Karma didn't have to wait to feel the disgusting feeling of grease brush against his fingers. However, watching her eat across him with no concern, he swallowed his pride and went for it anyway. And then, with one bite, he had fallen in love. Stuffing his face with whatever containments that lied in that box took him no more than a minute or two after his very first piece.
Diana raised her eyebrow again. She could understand him not knowing what an immune disorder or neuroscience was as those were ideas pretty unique to this era, but epiphany? Really? Did they not talk about that in religious texts anymore? Because she thought that people just suddenly knowing something and claiming divine inspiration instead of admitting that they probably pulled it out of their ass was something that came up regularly.
"No, I'm self-taught. You sure you're not just dumb, guy?" she snorted.
Technically she did have a private tutor because her family was rich and egotistical enough to waste money on a child they wished didn't exist, but considering he put more effort into trying to get her to write without shaking her hand, something that was physically impossible for her at the time, than teaching her anything useful she wasn't feeling inclined to give him any credit. No, her knowledge came from decades of pouring through books and then using her magic to amplify her memory and learning ability to learn far faster than any human possibly could. That said, she was still going to laugh at him for not understanding basic words. Or failing to use the soda machine correctly. That got a nice belly laugh out of her, as did his next comment.
"Yeah, seriously, I don't know what's wrong with me," she turned back to the cashier. "Forget what I said before guy. Bring the food directly to the table!" And with that, she could turn back to the weirdo in front of her. "I think people just like bright colors, so they figured out how to make food bright and colorful to make more appealing. Sometimes it works. I admit, there's a certain charm to the colored sprinkles they put on ice cream even though they don't taste like anything."
She took another bite of chicken and washed it down with some soda only to nearly choke on it when the other mage picked up the chicken. A little bit came out of her nose, but she mostly managed to contain it before it sprayed anywhere, leaving just a little bit dribbling out of her nostrils.
"This is why they gave us napkins, but sometimes I just wipe them off on my sleeves or pants or something," the cashier came out with another bucket and she proceeded to wipe her hands off on him. "Or the nearest bystander. See, I told you. This era's weird. They favor getting food fast instead of making look edible, so it always looks terrible. Then they put all this fat and grease in it to make it taste good and then complain that it's making them fat because they fight or do any kind of useful exercise. People are weird aren't they?"
Diana's question provoked a slight glare from the male. She wasn't wrong, but for reasons she did not know nor understand. And since he wasn't planning on explaining how he had a great interest in reading and studying yet was given no chance to, he opted to ignore it. Blaming her for something she had no knowledge of was unnecessary.
Her next point was reasonable. This world was full of colors, flashing lights and just bizarreness in general hence it was understandable that chicken was colored and polished. Its appearance was revolting alright, but he supposed the other mundanes in this era had another idea. In his world, it was different. He didn't know exactly how since he had never eaten anything from outside his palace, but he understood the general concept of the foods in his era. The only thing that sparkled and flashed colors were grapes on the luxurious silver plates he was presented with. Huh, he did miss grapes. There were probably none in this world. Just like sugar wasn't a thing h—
Wait, ice cream?! Karma had seen the cold, sugary food in Las Vegas by the beaches and he loved it, it did not disappoint. He had just never learned the name of it, but ice cream sounded exactly like what it was! He was gonna ask her to show him its whereabouts later on.
Her etiquette... or lack thereof, didn't take long to revolt him. It didn't surprise him, however, it did make him slow his own eating in fear for looking like that. Her next gestures of wiping her hand against anything she could only provoked a blank, nonimpressed face. It was when she decided to do it on one of the servants that he let out a snicker followed by an eye roll.
"Yeah, you're pretty weird." He gestured towards the woman, a small smile evident at the corner of his half-full mouth before reaching for his own drink. "I guess I'll have to just get used to—"
And then suddenly it was his cue to spit it all out, the high carbon in his Fanta sending him into a state of shock. The servant, who was just on his to leave quickly spun around to watch, once again, in wonder. This time he was deadpanning, however.
"Well? The hell are you waiting for? Go grab me something actually drinkable!" With another outburst, the servant quickly made his way to the table to clean it up before KArma was served with a glass of water instead. He did not like the taste.
"Ugh, the food I can understand, but how can you drink that stuff?" Karma gestured to the drink in her hand. "It's black too! Is that tea? Wine? What the hell are we drinking?!"
Diana burst out laughing at his reaction to the soda, her mouth hanging completely open despite being full of chicken. When bits of chicken started flying out of her mouth, she covered it and took a moment to swallow. Difficult considering she had to suppress her laughter to do so and she didn't want to choke on the chicken.
"You know, I think that was about my first reaction to soda too. The bubble surprised me. I wasn't exaggerating when I said that it was like shoving a fist full of sugar cubes into your mouth."
She grabbed another piece of chicken and started nibbling on it, her brows furrowed. It took her a moment to recall what exactly was in soda, if only because she seriously thought she must be missing one or two ingredients, but no there really wasn't much in it.
"I don't know what they actually call it. I've heard like half a dozen different words for it. Like sometimes they call it soda, sometimes pop, sometimes soft drink, sometimes cola. I don't think any people here even know what it's called. I just hear soda the most, so I'm assuming that's the real word for it. Anyway, it's basically just sugar and water with some color and extra flavoring mixed in. Then they put the bubbles in after. No idea why they put so much effort into making their food look and feel as unappetizing as possible, but the bubbles really have nothing to do with the ingredients. They're 100% intentional on the creator's end."
Soft drink sounded the opposite of what it was, but Karma wasn't planning on calling her out on it. She did sound informative, thoroughly knowledgeable. Perhaps too knowledgeable because, at this point, he was barely following her explanations. Cola, he had seen several times in Los Angeles on the square boxes on the buildings. It looked quite tasty in the commercials—a word he had unsurprisingly also learned in that city. Los Angeles was full of interesting things and the man couldn't help but question everything out loud, it was not weird for a random bypasser to explain to him the wonders of this world. But even them he could understand better than this lady. She seemed really wise like she spent her days reading books, and that was generally a bad sign to the man. Book-readers tended to hate his guts. Or perhaps it was just the librarians of his kingdom. Wait, why did he care what she felt for him?
"And which one's your favorite?" He asked, this time more focused on the woman than the food he was wolfing down. She was so explanatory that he couldn't help but assume she would boast about her interests in the same way she answered him sometimes.
"You look like you like cold drinks, something like... uh, ice cream? Is that a beverage? It looks like food but once I put it in my mouth it instantly melts into a drink." And he couldn't tell if it was his heat liquifying it or the food was actually supposed to do this. She had mentioned it earlier, she must like it. Or perhaps she was a woman of class?
"Wine? You don't look it but you're full of surprised, perhaps you're from a higher class? That would explain your ridiculous expertise in everything." As he spoke he waved his hand for the peasant—servant to bring more water. Those flames earlier had left him depleted.
Diana had to think about that question for a moment. It was rare for her to think in terms of favorites. There were good things and there were bad things, and that's what she tended to focus on rather than the magnitude of good or bad. Plus that magnitude changed all the time depending on the situation. Fights were a good time most of the time, but sometimes they could be bad if she just wanted to sleep for example. Food was even less clear because she just didn't think about it that hard.
"Mm, I don't really have one," she said as she took another large chunk out of a piece of chicken. "I'm not a very picky eater--or drinker for that matter, so I'll eat just about anything. It doesn't really matter to me."
She could hear the sounds of sirens getting closer in the distance. It didn't matter to her, so she didn't even flinch. The police showing up wouldn't change much of anything. At most it might cause a quick fight, but there was no way any mundanes could stand up to mages.
"Ha! You've experienced ice cream already? I'm surprised, you've been completely clueless so far. They sell ice cream at the Dairy Queen over there," she pointed to a store behind her with her thumb, "if you want to pick up some. Same tactics should work. Pretty much everyone in this era is a total wimp."
Karma's head lifted to glance at the store she was motioning to. He stared at the red DQ logo for a good moment before his head turned to look around the aisle. It had gotten a lot quieter, there were fewer people than before and perhaps it wasn't a bad idea to move around now that they had the mall to themselves. After all, wherever they went they accidentally scared off mundanes. It was convenient, to say the least.
"Hell yeah, let's go." Karma wasn't aware of the police sirens nor did he expect anybody to come around the corner to fight them. Seeing a police officer would probably just prompt him to fire at everything, to become destructive again, so it was definitely a good thing to not have him realize their situation.
The man bounced up, his emptied bucket dropping to its side before all the mess on the table, and grabbed whatever left of the water he had received and consumed it all. He rotated to his side, almost as if waiting for the woman's que and followed her once she'd start walking to the store. Once they'd arrive, he'd set the hat of the ice cream man on fire and force him to get them something.
"Which reminds me. This is your chance to show me if you've got good taste." He crossed his arm, eyeing Diana from the corner of his eyes. He knew there were different flavors and textures for ice cream, he had found a particular one to be his favorite. "I'm having that pink-red one." Strawberry.
Diana just burst out laughing. She had the feeling he was going to be very disappointed in her sense of taste, or lack thereof, because she liked what she liked and didn't care what anyone else thought. She didn't really fit in wit society or a lot of what they did, and pretty much everyone she ever came across thought she was strange. This was probably the first normal conversation she'd had with a stranger in her life. At least, it seemed normal by her standards.
She paused for a moment as he got up. She was only about halfway through her chicken, but she wasn't too surprised that he was getting full. Her power made her eat far more than any normal person ever would. But she supposed she could eat ice cream now and chicken after. It's not like there was any particular reason not to.
"Yeah sure," she got up and followed him. "Alright," she leaned on her spear again for emphasis to lower the odds of the cashier trying anything. "Just empty out a tub and fill it up with every flavor you got, then top it off with every topping you got. Don't mix 'em, just throw them all together."
With that, she stretched and started heading back to the table. An order like that would take a second and she wanted to stuff her face with mashed potatoes in the mean time.
"So welcome to the Information Age guy. It's a weird place, but it has its perks. If you think the food is weird, just wait until you see the clothes. Cargo pants were seriously one of the best inventions."
Karma raised an eyebrow at her choice of ice cream. She truly didn't have a preference, but that wasn't surprising. She was probably a ghost inside, nothing about her would surprise him at this point. He shrugged and turned a bit to follow her but stopped to stare at the mesmerizing way the man pulled at the flavored ice rolling it before scooping it up in a little round box.
After grabbing his box he went to sit back in his seat as he watched the woman finish her chicken that she was so obsessed with. "You're a mess." He randomly commented before placing a spoon of strawberry flavored cream in his mouth. Quickly, his mouth left steam as soon as he opened it, the ice cream blatantly melting to watery cream on his tongue. And he loved it, that was the best part after all.
"Information Age sounds about right. I've seen the clothes people wear, they're absurd. I'm almost concerned that my ridiculous outfit has been into this culture." He shrugged as he continued to eat-drink his food.
"On another note, you were a great tour guide. One full of surprises at that. I guess this is where I thank you or show some gratitude but yeah, you can forget that, Diana." He gave a small smirk staring at her reaction as he ate.
Diana raised an eyebrow and looked down at herself. Her clothes still had a few bloodstains on them from her adventures earlier in the day, though her clothes were dark enough that the blood blended in a little bit. They were wrinkly, torn, and full of holes, save for her jacket which was still in pretty good condition. There was grease on her hands, grease on her face, and a bit of mashed potato on her nose from sticking her face too deep into the container. This had been true for awhile and only now was he saying that she looked like a mess? It got a snort out of her.
"You know, I think this is the cleanest I've been all week. Sounds like you don't want to see me on my bad days." She just waved her hand dismissively at his attempt to be provocative. "You're not very good at this are you?" she laughed. "I don't need thanks. I only do what I want to do, how you feel about it is irrelevant."