Chapter 2: Sponsors
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The strange creature gazing into the eyes of the human is herself extremely non-human. She has the appearance of a human, but anyone who gazes at her instinctively knows there's something not quite right about her.

Even the humans of the world where Panem is located, a planet completely lacking non-human humanoids and magic, can instinctively tell there is something wrong with Ghriza. The potent omniversal entity is a frightening creature to simple beings like this world's humans.

She stares into the eyes of Cossus and has an enormous grin on his face. The longer she stares at him the more the young man's mind fills with powerful and world-shaking knowledge. He slowly comes to enjoy the stare, but his head continues to throb as his mind is filled with strange secrets and awareness that he isn't meant to possess.

Ghriza cares not for the intended fate of this world and has come here exclusively for Cossus. She is fine silently filling his mind with strange secrets and paving the way for him to have thoughts he is never meant to have. He is, after all, the figure she has come here to test and recruit.

"My sponsor?" I ask, dumbfounded by the simplicity of her remark. I cannot bring myself to look into her eyes but I can see enough of her face to see a cruel smile on her lips.

"A 'Sponsor' is what your people would call me. Though I am much more than that." She quips. There is a note of amusement in her voice.

"I'm confused. How do I have a sponsor already?" I question, even as my mind surges no doubt somehow due to her gaze. I feel knowledge seeping into my mind. Powerful knowledge that I simply should not possess enters the edge of my consciousness.

As I gain this knowledge I can feel myself beginning to slot it into my understanding of the world almost unconsciously. This alien knowledge includes both an intimate understanding of Capitol tech, an in-depth awareness of Panem history, and strange secrets that I feel in the depths of my very being are true about the future contestants of the 74th Hunger Games.

In my mind's eye, I can clearly see images of each of the people I somehow know will be competing in the games in just a few weeks. I can see, and even know, a few of them! I recognize the people I somehow know will be in the competition from my district, a girl named Glimmer who is a student at another of the tribute-training academies, and a boy named Marvel, both of whom are a bit younger than me.

I also see many children I am unfamiliar with. I quietly begin to rank them, on the basis of the first impressions they made on me, as far as how dangerous I think them to be. That is right before more knowledge of the days to come fills my mind.

Almost immediately I find myself knowing how the games this year will end, and as I absorb that information the look on my face changes subtly. I frown for a slight second, which is undoubtedly caught by the woman calling herself my sponsor because she begins to laugh. The image of one "Katniss Everdeen" fills my mind and I focus on it with an intensity beyond what I was previously capable of. Somehow… I am growing with every second I spend in the presence of the catlike woman.

"I see that you've just gotten to the part of this where you learn how this story ends?" She asks, teasingly. There is a note of hunger in her voice, something that I'm not quite sure how I pick up on but something I notice and am certain of nonetheless. 

"I find the ending of this story quite boring. So I've decided to change it up a little." She tells me, even as I faintly hear someone on the second floor of the mansion get up and begin to walk closer to the two of us. My focus is on the strange figure in front of me so I can barely pay any mind to other things, but even now I feel my senses improving, sharpening with every passing second.

"And you, Cossus… will be richly rewarded for your involvement in my plans." The strange woman utters.

"But for now… Let us retreat to a more private place." The stranger says, right as the figure I can faintly hear manages to scramble to the walkway where I first saw my self-proclaimed "Sponsor" appear. I gasp when I see my own father look at me, frightened, but I don't have time to intelligently respond to the sight of my father as the world momentarily slows around me and I feel a wave of dizziness crash over me as my surroundings begin to blur and change.

I cannot look up for a few seconds and I am so overwhelmed by dizziness that I cannot even really focus on my surroundings. Regardless, I am able to sense changes occurring around me, and after a few seconds, the dizziness I had just felt fades immediately and fully. I pause for a second, taking a beat to make sure I am okay and that the dizziness is actually gone, and then the stranger beings to speak.

"Sit still for just a moment longer Cossus. We have much to discuss and a tragically short amount of time with which to do it." She says, her voice somehow filling me with energy. I tilt my head upwards and find myself able to stare more fully at her face than I could have previously. I study her face and do my best to ignore the strange fact that none of the sensory stimuli I could have detected before surrounds me… wherever I am.

The stranger is beautiful but in a fully nonhuman way. There is something feline about her, with her silted eyes being the most obviously catlike feature about her but far from the only one. Now that I can more truly see her I can distinctly see ethereal whiskers jutting out of her face but they are incredibly thin and a quiet voice in the back of my mind whispers that I shouldn't be able to see them.

I do not look at my surroundings but even the parts that I can see out of the corners of my vision are totally alien. I am not in my home anymore. I am kneeling on a soft animal rug itself placed on a number of thinly sliced wooden planks. A small fireplace hosts a warm fire that dimly lights up the room I am in.

"Now Cossus… Allow me to present to you my very own birthday present." The woman whispers as she helps me to my feet. She is stronger than she looks and easily pulls me up. I stand much taller than her, but judging from the… impossible acts she has somehow performed I can tell that she is stranger than she seems.

She leaps and plants a single kiss on one of my cheeks. I feel a strange heat begin to blossom out from where she kissed me, and I feel my body beginning to change. At the same time images of silhouettes using their hands and legs to fight fills my mind, and I quickly realize that I can effortlessly replicate their actions to equally devastating effect.

"I see that you're a fan of the Whispering Fang style? So am I. Using your hands to kill a man is something that never gets old." The stranger utters, and for a second I find myself wondering if she is the sister of some tribute from a year I wasn't interested in.

More knowledge fills my mind, strange knowledge that involves the usage of stealth to supplement the power of raw brawn. As I begin to actively process this raw knowledge and add it to my more organized, conscious mind, I felt my body beginning to change as well.

"Hmm… I wonder what your ideal form will be?" The stranger asks as I feel my muscles expand and as I begin to grow taller still. At the very same time, I consciously felt my hands grow and I felt my conscious awareness of my muscle memories and instincts change as I gained a lifetime's worth of skill with an array of weapons and fighting skills.

I grew several inches over the span of a few seconds, stopping when I stood just over six and a half feet. The origin of the preciseness with which I knew this was a mystery to me, but I was certain that I was correct.

"Hmm… Mixing jumps together to boost you was a fun idea." The stranger utters as she watches me grow. The smile on her face is one made up of various emotions. I can see a healthy amount of desire in her eyes, but the joy on her lips seems genuine and so does the excitement.

"Do you like your new form? It's the simplest part of my birthday present to you." The woman tells me, as she locks eyes with me. There is an intensity in her gaze that makes it impossible for me to look away from her.

"That said… I never imagined that even a simple boost like 'Beastly Allure' would boost you up so much." The woman whispers, licking her lips as she studies me.

Slowly but surely I can feel the outer boundaries of the range from which I can hear, smell, and even see things expanding. The low level of the light radiating from the fire behind the woman also stops mattering as my eyes effortlessly adjust and allow me to see the seemingly simple hunter's lodge in its full glory.

"There it is… The sensory parts of the limited ascension you're undergoing are definitely gonna be the most intense. Though they aren't the most impressive." The woman mutters as she studies me.

"For now, since this ascension is limited, I'm actually restricting the supernatural aspects of your ascension, but you're still undergoing a wholly impossible transformation." She tells me as her lips curl upwards into a proud sneer.

"Wait… Can you tell me what all is actually happening here?" I manage to stammer out, causing her eyes to widen in shock. She then begins to giggle, and her smile reaches her eyes for the first time since we met.

"Why… You're becoming a jumper, of course." She tells me as though that should mean something to me. I look at her, allowing my confusion to be plainly visible on my face. We look at each other silently for a few seconds before she sighs and begins to speak again.

"I'm becoming a… what?" I ask her, causing her to look at me and give me a look as if I were an annoying bug.

"You're becoming a multidimensional entity capable of existing in countless universes at the same time." She tells me, bluntly. As soon as she utters this I feel her presence grow far larger and stranger, even though she does not change at all as far as her appearance goes. As her presence shifts, I feel even the option of disbelieving her being stripped from her mind.

There is something… beyond human about her, something that fills me with both fear and awe as she smiles at me. I quietly accept that her words are the unvarnished truth, and I find myself wondering why she would choose me. My question must fill my eyes as the woman begins to speak after only a few seconds of silence filling the air between the two of us.

"Okay, alright. You're my first jumper so I suppose I ought to explain… SOME of this to you." She tells me, a look of laziness filling her gaze. At the very same time… something began to occur to my perception of reality itself.

Strange numbers, colored bars, and even symbols began to sneak into the corners of my vision. As the woman spoke, a set of real-life subtitles appeared at the bottom of my field of view which identified her as Ghriza.

"I am Ghriza. I know your system already spoiled that for you, but it's fine. I am a… Honestly, I prefer to call myself a 'Sponsor' over what my kind normally calls ourselves so we'll continue to do that." She tells me, grinning at me all the while. There was something quite charming about her particular sort of arrogance.

"I am a… decently powerful entity, and I have chosen you from a list of people from across the omniverse to get to go on journies all your own across all of existence. You will get to explore various settings and gain powers, skills, and do… Well, whatever you want really." She reveals before smiling brightly at the end of her sentence. I pause as I absorb this information only for her to begin to speak immediately.

"Oh, and I am using minor abilities even right now. One of them is the power to force you to believe whatever I say so long as I am telling you the truth." She explains, before smirking at me. I feel the same weird sense of disbelief, even as an option, being ripped from me. I find that I cannot bring myself to reject her words as either some insanity or a lie.

I manage to wrench my gaze away from hers and I quietly stare down at the floor at my feet. As I do, I quietly wonder what she wants from me in exchange for what she appears to be giving me.

My mind fills with images both strange and wonderful. In some, I can see massive lizard-like creatures sailing through the air or breathing fire. In others, I see warriors dressed not unlike peacekeepers fighting against humans, and other, stranger-looking creatures. In a few, I see a gigantic man in golden armor leading other similarly huge figures against an army of horrific bipedal monsters.

"Cossus what I want is simple. I want you to win the 74th Hunger Games." Ghriza tells me, smiling all the while. At the very same time, a text box fills a small corner of my field of view. The thing is small, blue, and thankfully see-through, but with text that I can easily read. Its contents are quite curious.

[Activating System now. Preparing the host's mind for the flood of new information.]