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Pride. It has many faces and goes by many names.

It serves many roles in everyone's life.

Whether it's when you take pride in a friend's achievement,

or when you fight to the bitter end of your life because of it.

Pride

It's everywhere.

A teenage boy leaned on the balcony of a rented hotel room. He had shoulder length blonde hair that he kept in a messy, yet spiky fashion. He wore a blue and white overcoat with a steel plated belt with the word "hope" inscribed on it. He saw the amazing performance of colorful explosions that were going on before his very eyes. However, all the boy could do was sigh and walk back to his room. He walked over to his bed and rested his body onto the comfortable furniture. He looked over at the end table to see a framed picture, which he picked up and looked at. It showed not only him, but three other people as well, they all looked quite happy.

"Such a shame that you guys are missing out on so much," he said to himself before placing the picture back to it's rightful place.

A knock came from the door, which the boy jumped up and quickly answered it.

"Hello there," was his response.

Before him was a maid wearing a frilly victorian maid dress with a bonnet on her head. She looked like she was in her early twenties.

"The soup you ordered is ready. Minestrone if I'm not mistaken?"

The boy's face beamed as he gently lifted the glass bowl and placed it on a end table and gave the maid seventy jewels.

"I think this belongs to you," he said in a kind and generous tone.

The maid smiled at him and accepted it. Soon enough, the he closed the door and had let out another sigh before him. The boy looked at his bowl of soup and started eating while enjoying the fireworks.

Then he noticed another thing. There were two sinister figures trying sitting on a roof, one of them looking like they were about to cast a spell. Seeing this, the mage grabbed his sword and leapt off the window. Meanwhile, the two figures started to speak.

"This will give the whole city a run for it's fun," one of them snarled.

"Oi! As long as I get payed, I wouldn't mind doing this every day," the other one said in a rather cocky tone.

Just when the guy was about to cast his spell, a hand stopped the man, surprising the other.

"Now then, explain to me why are you trying to interferre such a wonderful festival like this," the boy asked, having his blade across his throat.

"Ah! Well, you see... we are like... hm? We are like the people who help make the place look better," the ruffian said as he tried to think of an excuse.

The ruffian then looked at his partner, who was giving him a wierd look. The partner then shook his head.

"You mean... like decorators."

"YEAH!!! THAT'S WHAT WE ARE!!!! DECORATORS!" the ruffian said as he looked back at the boy.

The boy soon lowered his guard down as he heard their pathetic attempt at lying. He then realized what was really going on. But before he could react,the other one formed his finger into a gun and aimed at the mage. Just as he was about to cast the spell, a lighting arrow had already hit his forearm, making him miss and shoot the clock tower. Using this to his advantage, the ruffian freed himself from the mage's grasp and placed his hand onto the roof's surface, causing it to explode. When this happened, the three fell to the area that was just below the rooftop. As the dust cleared, the two ruffians had pushed some rubble aside and dusted themselves off.

"Hey, do you think he's gone now," the ruffian said to his partner.

"Maybe, but like the boss said, there would be a guild mage that would try and stop us," the other responded.

Suddenly, a link of chain-like lightning surrounded the two. The ruffian used his magic to blast away the chains, but his partner was already too late and was ensared into the trap. The ruffian then turned around to see the lone mage with his left arm holding a link of lightning chains.

" Just what the heck are you," the ruffian asked with a trembling voice.

The mage then planted his sword onto the ground and began forming another chain of lightning.

"You really want to know who I am? Then let me tell you. People call me by various names. Many however, call me the Lightning Prodigy," the boy then said as he shot the chain of lighting at the ruffian.

The guy however, managed to blast it away from him, but to his disarray, the prodigy appeared beside him and shot out a lightning arrow at point blank range, directly hitting the ruffian. The man howled in pain before falling down. Just after that, the mage took a deep breath and tied the chain around his lighting sword. A few minutes later, a group of the town guard barged in, looking at the two unconsious ruffians, then at the lone mage. The captain walked towards him, with a large sack of Jewels in his hand.

"Are you the one that took these guys down," the captain asked as he looked back at the two.

"Yes sir. They were about to ruin a very great festival. Therefore, it was my duty to stop them," the Mage responded.

The captain turned to his men, signaling them to apprehend the two ruffians. The mage dispelled the chain and the two looked at each other again.

"We have been looking for these two for quite a while. On behalf of the guard and the citizens, I reward you with a handsome amount of jewels," the captain said as he handed the mage the sack.

The boy accepted the sack and then waved at him. He picked up his sword and sheathed it on his back.

"By the way boy, what is your name?"

The boy turned around and with a bright smile on his face.

"Gabriel. Gabriel Leonheart," the mage responded before jumping down from a window.

A few seconds later, Gabriel had returned to his hotel room. He looked at his sword and cleaned it up. He then walked into the bathroom and looked into the mirror. He washed his face with water, brushed his teeth, and headed to bed. The mage snuggled under his sheets as he pondered.

"It's been two years since it happened. I'm a guildless mage that doesn't have anywhere to go. I'm just... independent," the young mage thought in his head as he slowly drifted to sleep.

Once he opened his eyes, Gabriel looked up at the sky. The sudden feeling of the stone cold floor got to him, realizing that he is in another place. He slowly rose up from the ground and looked around. What the mage saw around him were ruins to a gothic cathedral. Puzzled by this, the mage started to explore his surroundings. As he walked around, he saw many charred marks on the marble columns, as well as various pieces of cloth were scattered in the courtyard. The mage then felt a strong presence, causing him to be alert.

He who had survived his inevitable death... You musn't fret. For you are safe here...

When the voice reached the young mage's ears, he got even more defensive.

"Who are you? Show yourself!"

Just when he spoke, a large burst of magical aura appeared behind him, just as he was about to cast a spell, he saw who it was and instantly dispelled his magic. The figure infront of Gabriel was a very beautiful and young woman. She had very shiny and silky hair that was long and blond. She also wore an ancient robe that covered her body, yet exposed her arms. Her eyes were as if he was looking at a pair of jades.

"As I said before, you musn't fret," the woman said calmly.

All the young mage could do at the momment was look at her. After a momment of gazing, he finally snapped into reality.

"May I ask where I am," the boy asked in a polite manner.

The woman closed her eyes for a momment, then she looked at Gabriel. From the look of her eyes, she had nothing but sorrow in them.

"You are at the Nexus. The realm where the sleeping enjoy their dreams, and the dead walk the lands. This Cathedral was once a great and proud one, helping out many people, saving many lives. Alas, they were unprepared for their inevitable downfall," she said as she raised her arms in a welcoming manner. "You however, were bound to join this place as a spirit, but destiny decided to change it's course at the last minute."

Gabriel was shocked after her reveal. He looked back at the cathedral, which reminded him of something familiar. The mage then looked back at the woman before him.

"What are you and what do you mean I survived my inevitable death," he asked in a rather forceful tone.

"Alas, tis not the right time to reveal it to you. You will know soon enough," the woman responded.

"Wait! Please don't go! I have much more questions! DON'T G-"

He was interupted by the sound of the town bell. He woke up instantly, being brought back into the real world. The young mage sighed as he remembered what had happened. Gabriel sighed as he looked out of the window and saw a ray of sun shinning on him. He then got up from his bed and headed towards the bathroom. From there, he turned on the faucet and let the hot water stream into the tub. The dream lingered in his mind.

"Who was that? And how did she know who I am? What does she mean by, 'inevitable death'? I guess I need to find out for myself," the mage thought in his head.

A half hour later, Gabriel stepped out of the tub and drained the water. He grabbed a towel and dried himself off. Gabriel then proceeded to dress himself. After he was finished, he packed his bags and headed out, leaving the room clean and the way he found it.

After checking out and leaving the hotel, Gabriel looked around the town and sighed before he started walking to the road. There, he pondered about his dream. If a person would see him right now, they would say that he was in a trance. But no matter , the independent mage continued his walk. He remembered seeing the beautiful woman. The words she said were dire and as if she was telling him the beginning of a prophecy. Just as he walked by a tree, a man walked out from behind it. He was donned in red with white, shaggy hair, and pure blue eyes. He soon stalked the mage from a reasonable distance.

"HELP!!!! SOMEONE PLEASE HELP!!!!!!"

That was enough to snap Gabriel back to reality. He quickly dashed towards the location of the shouting.

"What could it be this time? Lizardmen? Gorillas? No. There can be only one way." The young mage thought as he ran. When he finally reached his destination, he saw was in a forest clearing. He looked around the forest, but he could see know one.

"I can't believe you fell for that."

Gabriel turned around and saw a man. It was the man that was stalking him earlier, but this time, he had with him, a big sword. The independent mage pulled out his sword and got into a combative stance.

"What do you mean? I hea-"

"You heard a woman screaming? Well I gotta owe that to my sound manipulation magic," the mystery man said as he drew his sword.

Gabriel had a bad feeling about him, so he shot a lightning arrow at his opponent, who managed to slash it in half. The man then sighed.

"Kid, is that really all you got?" the man asked as Gabriel prepared another spell.

"Lightning Make: Rifle!" the mage said as he conjured up a flintlock rifle. He then aimed at the man, who managed to get in his face. The gap was only seven inches, meaning that there's room for both to attack. Just as Gabriel pulled the trigger, the man dodged it and slashed at Gabriel, who managed to block the sword slash.

"Hn, I got to admit, you're quick with a sword," the man uttered as he went to overwhelm the mage. Gabriel, using this to his advantage, span out to the right of him as the blade came down. The mage attempted a round house kick, which was soon dodged. The two then clashed swords yet again, this time, Gabriel was preparing for another incantation.

"It's over! Lightning Make: Giga-Watt Bombshell!" the mage shouted as a big bombshell-shaped lighting formed at his palm.

"You got to be kidding me," the man said as the bomb was shot at him in point blank range. The blast was so powerful, that it sent Gabriel flying back. He managed to do a backwards roll before he got to his feet. Gabriel sighed as he dusted himself off and looked at the dust cloud infront of him.

"Is that all?"

Gabriel leapt in horror as the dust clouds and lightning sparks cleared up, the man stood there, with minor tears on his jacket and dirt everywhere on him. He looked at Gabriel with fierce intimidation.

"But... how?" Gabriel muttered as the man in red started walking towards him.

"Simple, I slashed it. Only in a split nano-second too. If I didn't, I would be majorly wounded." The mage soon appeared only three inches infront of him.

"You're finished." he said as a red aura covered his sword.

"Crimson wave!" the man incanted as he unleashed a wave of red energy, landing a clean blow onto Gabriel. He was sent flying, causing him to land on the ground pretty hard. The man soon approached him and picked up the boy by his collar.

"You're not that bad. You can even consider yourself a possible member of the Black Rose Guild."

"Th-the Black Rose Guild? The guild that travels Fiore and the other parts of the world and does a series of quests?" Gabriel responded.

"Yep. But you need to prove yourself. If you want to be one of us, you need to do a trial," the man said as he slung the wounded mage over his shoulder. Little did Gabriel knew what this Black Rose Guild had in store.

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