For an uncomfortably long time, nothing happened, and Arafel started thinking of releasing his magic and falling to his knees to grovel at Ryuzakiâ€™s feet. However, just as that thought crossed his mind the large double doors that had been created from his magic swung open to reveal a deep black smog. Another couple of seconds of silence ticked by before a figure became visible as he stepped into the shaded light of Arafelâ€™s time dome. He was an older gentleman, streaks of grey running through his brown hair, of average height. He was wearing a set of dark red robes, the sleeves long with wide cuffs, with a black cog embossed in the centre of its chest. Strangely, he also wore a matching beanie cap like Arafelâ€™s. He looked around at the individuals frozen in time magic and then at Arafel. As his gaze fell on the Time mage, a look of wonder appeared as he walked towards him slowly. â€œArafel, master, you look so young.â€ His voice was croaky but confident at the same time. Arafel shook his head. â€œIâ€™m not your master. But I presume I told you what the plan was?â€ The man shook his head, as if waking himself from a dream. â€œYes, of course. But Iâ€™m afraid things havenâ€™t gone exactly as you planned; you know of our situation?â€ â€œYes, I have been told, which is why Iâ€™m helping you in the first place. But what is the problem?â€ â€œThey found us. About 5 minutes before the gate opened, they launched a full scale attack.â€ Suddenly a whistling filled the air and the man jerked forward as an arrow constructed completely of steel pierced through his heart from behind. The man staggered forwards and then fell to the ground at Arafelâ€™s feet as another figure appeared in the fog. Rather, it turned out to be more than one figure as it was a man riding a wolf the size of a horse. The wolf was a beast of an animal, all muscles and tendons with ragged grey hair and a long bushy tail. The man sat astride it was a beast in his own right; near seven feet tall of hard muscle, with heavy armoured boots and leggings on. His chest was bare, with the exception of a thick leather strap that ran from his right shoulder to his left waist, holding an armoured pauldron at his shoulder. A quiver of large steel arrows was fastened at his waist and in his hand he held a longbow constructed from what appeared to be steel. The figure slid off the wolf and landed on the floor with a heavy rattle of armour before looking around at the gathered people and running a hand over his bald head. â€œWell, what do we have here then; some kind of Time bubble to hide reserve forces? I did not think the Time Legion could spare reserve forces at the rate we are beating them.â€ The monstrous wolf suddenly shivered and shrunk until a young, skinny man stood in its place. From his frozen spot, Ryuzaki couldnâ€™t help but think he looked somewhat familiar. It was a second later he realised he looked exactly like Sookie, except male. â€œI smell vampires.â€ He growled, deep from within his throat. â€œStrange, seeing as Iâ€™m sure I killed the last ones off years ago.â€ He turned his head slowly, led by his nose, until he settled on Misa in her bubble. â€œThis one is a vampire, untainted. But thereâ€™s more.â€ He turned again until he was facing Ryuzaki. â€œThis one is too, but not normal, something different.â€ â€œWhy do they not move? Are they scared stiff weâ€™ve found them?â€ the armoured one said, stepping over to where Ariel and the rest were resting. â€œPerhaps they are not reserve forces, perhaps they are the cowards who didnâ€™t want to fight. Whatever the case, Rook, kill them all.â€ Rook, the werewolf, grinned with a soft purr at the back of his throat. â€œIâ€™ll start with the girls, their flesh is always softer.â€ â€œNo!â€ Arafel shouted, stuck in his bubble to keep the gate open. Suddenly, Ryuzaki felt whatever had gripped him come loose and he appeared behind Rook in a millisecond, his hand grasping the back of his neck. Rook roared out and kicked back but Ryuzaki didnâ€™t react apart from to step forward and ram Rookâ€™s face into the ground, leaving a small crater for his head to rest in. Immediately, and impressively, the armoured figure and an arrow nocked and aimed at Ryuzaki. â€œRelease him, now. I wonâ€™t ask a second time.â€ He said, his voice carrying omens of death. â€œArafel, release the others.â€ Ryuzaki said calmly, keeping hold of the squirming Rook. â€œI canâ€™t, Iâ€™m sorry. I need them to maintain the gate; if it closes with these three on this side, things could become twisted in time.â€ Arafel said, rubbing his hands through his hair, his beanie cap now on the ground at his feet. â€œFine, Iâ€™ll get them back in theâ€¦â€ he was interrupted by an arrow about to hit him between the eyes, except he caught it mid-flight with his free hand. â€œâ€¦doorway, and then you can free my friends. Then weâ€™ll have a chat about what you planned to do.â€ The armoured foe appeared in front of him with a raised fist falling down like a meteor but Ryuzaki interrupted the attack by swinging Rook up and sending the two of them sliding back with the force. He appeared at Rookâ€™s back and stamped down hard, a sickening crack echoing around the area as Rook screamed out in pain. The armoured man had another arrow nocked but as he loosed, Ryuzaki stepped in and grabbed the arrow before it had even left the bowstring. He pushed back, snapping the bowstring, and dug the arrow into the manâ€™s chest. Then he turned back to Rook, who was crawling slowly away on the floor, and delivered a swift kick to his side that sent him tumbling sideways and back through the smog behind the door. Ryuzaki turned back to the armoured one and received a large fist to his face; although he had been expecting it so it broke his nose but travelled no further. Of course, his healing took care of the injury as Ryuzaki punched the guy in the gut, in the small gap between the muscles of his abdomen. Immediately all the breath was knocked out of him and he fell to his knees, struggling to draw in breath. Ryuzaki wrapped his long fingers around the manâ€™s head and tipped it back so he was looking him in the eye. â€œI figure I wonâ€™t meet you for a while, since you donâ€™t seem to know me but burn my face into your memory because, one day, Iâ€™ll come for you.â€ He lifted the guy by his head and launched him backwards where he passed back through the smog behind the door. Finally he walked over to the first man, who had been shot by the arrow, and picked him up off the floor, the limpness of the body explaining all he needed to know. Deciding that passing through the smog would be a bad idea; he laid the man on the ground and pulled the arrow free. Then he hooked his toe under him and rolled him into the smog. â€œNow close it, Arafel, and we can have our talk.â€ â€œI guess I have a lot of explaining to do.â€ Arafel said as he raised his hands to close the gate. Nothing happened however, and Arafel frowned. â€œI canâ€™t close it. Something is stopping me from the other side.â€ â€œWhat, a friend of those guys?â€ Ryuzaki said â€œNo, the energy stopping me feels familiar, almost likeâ€¦ah, I get it.â€ He said just as yet another figure stepped out of the doorway. He was fairly tall, a couple of inches taller than Arafel, and was skinny with a sense of hidden muscle about him. He was wearing a three-piece suit, dark red in colour, with a white shirt open at the neck. Over that he had an ankle-length coat, black in colour with brown fur lining the inside and had a dark red beanie-cap on his head. His eyes were a light grey while his blonde hair was long and scraggy, running down to the centre of his back. On the back of his coat was a red cog, circling an angular cross, and in his hand he held a tall staff topped with the same symbol, carved of wood. Ryuzaki saw the resemblance immediately and began to understand. â€œThis is your doing, isnâ€™t it? When Arafel said â€˜time travelâ€™ he literally meant it; youâ€™re his future.â€ â€œRight in one, Ryuzaki, about 20 years or so actually. I know, I look devilishly young.â€ He smiled and then just as quickly it disappeared. â€œBut I shouldnâ€™t really joke, Iâ€™m afraid the plan has to be scrapped, Arafel.â€ â€œWhy.â€ Arafel said, still within his bubble in order to maintain the gateway. â€œWith Joseph dead, I am the last surviving member of the Time Legion; fitting, I suppose, that I am its Archon. They attacked moments before we managed to establish the connection between us; and ravaged us.â€ â€œWhat are you going to do?â€ Arafel said, while Ryuzaki listened and watched. The future Arafel sighed and scratched his head through his beanie. â€œIâ€™m afraid I must return. I wonâ€™t surrender, so I will most certainly die.â€ â€œWait a minute.â€ Ryuzaki said. â€œIf youâ€™re fighting some kind of enemy, where am I, and the rest of my friends? Or are we your enemy?â€ Arafel shook his head. â€œThat mystery is the reason I had to contact this timeâ€™s Arafel in order to activate the Time Bridge. I, or any other Time mage, will never be able to generate enough energy to solely create a bridge, so a person would need to hijack the energies of powerful beings. As Arafel is doing, under my orders, I might add. Unfortunately, in my time, I am probably the strongest and I am far below the power levels of the stronger individuals here. As for where you and your allies are, no-one knows.â€ â€œIt was 8 years ago, only months before the Brenai started their attack, when you sent Sookie to come and see my at my Legionâ€™s HQ. She told me that you had been summoned by the few of your kind, and that you would be unavailable for an uncertain amount of time. Sookie joined you, so she said, so I can only presume that whatever happened to you was caused by the ones you met. Then your allies disappeared and I got really curious, but I couldnâ€™t find a trace of them or you. My best guess was that you called on them again to aid you in some manner.â€ Ryuzaki pondered for a moment and then leant in to the future Arafel. â€œCan you completely freeze the others, your younger self included, so that they are not aware of anything.â€ Arafel, from the future, nodded and smoky chains erupted from his back and latched onto each of the people there; catching them in their own personal time loop. â€œThey are no longer aware of what we speak of. To them, we are simply standing there and looking at each other.â€ Arafel, of the future, said. â€œYou may speak freely.â€ â€œWhat I speak of now are secrets of the Master Vampires, I only tell you because your death is all but certain and presuming your new plan is what I think, you wonâ€™t even know I told you.â€ Ryuzaki said. â€œThere are only two other Master Vampires in all the world, Jindor and Kai Ling. They have no power to summon me, no Master Vampire has power over another, but if they called for my help then I would no doubt attend. Of course, if the problem is something that a single Master Vampire cannot deal with, then it would be dire indeed; such as the Queen of the Winter Fae attempting to rule the world in her madness.â€ â€œThat being said, to take us out of the game for 8 years is an impressive feat, with only one explanation I can think of. One of the Master Vampires betrayed us. However, one of us could not stand against two, so more so there is only one explanation; both of the other Masterâ€™s betrayed me. I find it hard to believe, even in an act of betrayal, that they would kill me but they would know how to incapacitate me. Then I would presume that they took out my friends to prevent them trying to free me; two Masterâ€™s would be enough for that, and those two have been around for a couple of millennia each.â€ â€œNot that you can confirm, or deny any of this since you didnâ€™t know why Iâ€™d gone at all.â€ Ryuzaki finished with, crossing his arms. â€œBut enough talking of what may come to be, I want you gone so I can free my friends and we can be done with this.â€ â€œAgreed.â€ Arafel said and pulled his chains back into his body. Immediately, everyoneâ€™s eyes refocused on the present. â€œArafel, the old plan may be scrapped but I do have a new one you need to focus on. As soon as I pass back into my time, my timeline will cease to exist so you will need to create your own one. In 12 years time, should Ryuzaki be called upon, you will need to lend him your power.â€ â€œYou seem to be working of the assumption Iâ€™m going to let him live. He betrayed my trust and attacked my friends. Iâ€™ve already let one man go because he did the same thing, but he was needed alive. As far as I can tell, once he has closed the gate, I donâ€™t need him anymore.â€ â€œWell, I would like to keep my life. Also, I didnâ€™t hurt your friends, as soon as the gate is closed their power will return to them in the state it was when they were frozen.â€ The present Arafel said from within his bubble. â€œI see.â€ Future Arafel said. â€œI must insist you donâ€™t kill him, but the decision is entirely up to you. Seeing as Iâ€™ll be dead and non-existent. Sorry, Arafel, thereâ€™s not much more I can do for you. Just know, Ryuzaki, that he wasnâ€™t trying to hurt your or your friends.â€ With that said, Arafel, from the future, turned around and headed back towards the door. â€œI bid you farewell, now and I suggest you close the door as soon as I am through; you wouldnâ€™t want anything unsightly coming through like the pair earlier.â€ He stepped forward and the fog swirled around him as he took one final look back at his past self and Ryuzaki. â€œBehave yourselves now.â€ He said as the doors closed behind him. Almost immediately, the tether from the door bounced back to Arafelâ€™s bubble and it popped like its soapy counterpart. The link from the top of the bubble to the dome sped upwards and then the dome itself unravelled and fed back into the bubbles that housed the fighters Arafel had gotten his hands on. A second later, these popped and the people were dumped unceremoniously on the floor in the same state they had been when Arafel had capture them. It was at this point that Ryuzaki noticed the 10 arrows flying at Arafelâ€™s person and although he might want to kill him later, a surprise killing wouldnâ€™t do at all. So he stepped forward and pulled Arafel to the ground to allow the arrows to pass harmlessly over his head. Then he pulled him back to his feet and turned his faze on the people who had been trapped. Misa was glaring daggers at Arafel, joined by Jinkama, but the fact the Time mage was clutched tightly in Ryuzakiâ€™s hand satiated them for the time being. Zane had immediately scrambled over to the prone Ellie and let out a sigh of relief when he found her to be breathing normally, as if she was just sleeping. He looked across at Arafel, confusion on his face, and then settled on Ryuzaki, a brief look of surprise flitting across his face when he noticed the Master Vampireâ€™s arm. â€œWhatâ€™s going on?â€ he said, looking around at everyone gathered, stopping on the injured. â€œClearly Iâ€™ve missed something since he decided to turn on us.â€ â€œWe won, of course.â€ Ryuzaki said, still holding Arafel aloft in front of him by his throat. â€œEzralda is dead, and all of her lackeys have been dealt with one way or another. But we still have something to do before we can call this a day and go home. We need to decided what to do with this scumbag.â€ â€œIsnâ€™t it obvious.â€ Misa said, now back on her feet, brushing snow from her body. â€œPerhaps. Let me explain what happened first, and then you can all decided without me.â€ So he did. Ryuzaki didnâ€™t let go of Arafel, who didnâ€™t struggle but kept hold of Ryuzakiâ€™s arm in order to prevent holding himself by his windpipe, and explained about what had happened with the future Arafel and the like. The heroes of the Winter War, all gathered in a single place; less some then they had begun the fight with but very much victorious.