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When the eight comrades stepped out of the other side of the portal, they stood atop the building (a couple of houses on top of one another wasn't uncommon in Kasai). Thankfully everybody had decided to put their armour on earlier, or they be stuck up there with no protection or weapons. They could see the gathering of soldiers clearly now- row uponrow upon row of soldiers all lined up neatly to fill the entire plaza. The blonde soldier with the weird uniform stood before them, shouting out something that one couldn't decipher from here. He was clearly giving some kind of speech.

"Are we going to stand here and sightsee all day, or shall we be moving on?" Nina hissed with snide impatience.

"Well tell us how the hell we're supposed to go anywhere when were stood on top of a freakin' building!" Gigas shouted impatiently.

"Well, shout loud enough and the imperials may come to our rescue," Nina scoffed with disgust and annoyance. "Yes, you are correct. But you needn't shout so loud; I am not deaf. Though I soon might be if you keep at it."

Gigas once again retreated into his calmness, though a burning fire raged underneath. If anything, he wanted the imperials to notice them. He was just itching for a fight-trapped within a house for weeks is purgatory for an veteran warrior like Gigas.

As the conglomeration stared at the veritable army of imperial soldiers, and whoever their strangely dressed master might be, Mizu felt a jolt of excruciating pain flare in his arm. It was even worse than being cut a thousand times, not necessarily because it hurt more, but because it seemed full of so much malice that it was almost palpable. He let out a sharp cry and fell to one knee, unintentionally dumping the corpse he was carrying with no care whatsoever, cluthing his left arm, his eyes screwed shut, as if the force the pain away with his mind. As the others' attention turned to him, Makoto knelt down beside him.

"Do you think you could please move your hand? I would like to see your arm," she said in all seriousness. She fumbled within her robes for a something, finally producing a pair of narrow, sophisticated-looking rectangular spectacles and placing them daintily over the bridge of her nose, furrowing her brow with fervent concentration as she pulled away the left arm armour from Mizu's Barioth armour, pulling up the sleeve of his shirt to check his forearm. A blackness had spread over his it like the roots of a tree. Even Mizu himself had forgottin about his affliction, Shinkayami's Stigma, and the pain -and eventual death- that followed. It was most fortunate that Makoto was a well-trained doctor.

"The Stigma is progressing. We must get to the Lost City as soon as possible!" Makoto cried with woe and worry.

"Whatever makes you think that the Lost City can cure this affliction?" Nina asked, her eyes gleaming and her blonde, barely visible eyebrows furrowed inquisitvely.

"I don't know...I...it's just a hunch...if anyone or anything can cure this disease, it's the Lost City's lake," Makoto stuttered.

"Quite true. The Lake of Eternity is said to glow with emphemeral majesty, and that it has the ability to cleanse any person of wound, affliction and even death itself can be undone, provided that you have the corpse to saok in the lake. Of course such a privilage is bestowed only upon the purest of hearts. And thank goodness,too; imagine how dangerous a weapon it would become if it weren't bound by such laws..." Nina elaborated.

As Nina trailed of into her thoughts Jinsoku once again spotted danger.

"Guys, look! They're starting to disperse!" he hissed,watching carefully with a pair of binoculars. The nine watched as the horde of white-clad warriors scuttle off as fast as they could, like a colony of ants. The oddly dressed man, who was clearly in charge, just stood in place, as if he had no idea what to do with himself. Suddenly, Nina barged past the others and held her hand out toward Jinsoku.

"Give me the binoculars," she demanded calmly. Jinsoku stared at her oddly.

"Give them to me!" she barked, agitated. Jinsoku slowly handed them to her. Nina pressed them against her eyes, scanning the starn ge man intently. Unbeknownst ot the others, her eyes widedned as she zoomed in on the man, and she frantically haded the binculars back to Jinsoku and opened another portal, walking briskly, yet with serene grace, toward it.

"What is it? Who is he?" Shinji said frantically. Nina knew the answer but was too surprised and angry to utter it. Makoto helped Mizu up off the floor, Gigas now carrying Gale's body, and they made their way toward the shimmering doorway of light.

"That is what we are going to find out," Nina said vaguely, quickly.

The portal snapped shut behind them.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________

The starngely attired man staood in the plaza, his eyes closed, as if contemplating something. Suddeny, they snapped open as he sensed several presences behind him, a smile upon his face and he serpentine puils dilating with excitement and wry deception. He turned around slowly, still smiling.

"Well, well, well, if it isn't the interfering bitch and her ragtag band of filthy humans. Goody! "
BlazBlue OST - Thin Red Line (Arakune) Lossless Audio04:10

BlazBlue OST - Thin Red Line (Arakune) Lossless Audio

Kazair's (battle) theme. This one has better sound quality. :D

"You goddamn bastard, Kazir!" Gigas yelled, quickly dumping Gale to the floor and running at the man with his Dancing Hellfire, running at a steady pace despite the heavy Agnablaster hoisted upon his back.

"Child's play,"Kazir muttered. He simply snorted with haughty derision and stepped aside, slahing fervently with his sword (unsheating it at the same time), sending Gigas tumbling aside with a loud groan. He felt a searing cold pierce him down the the very bone. Kazir didn't even pause to look back at his steadfast assailant still glaring at the crowd before him.

"So, Mizu, how's your squeeze? Oh, wait, that right! I killed her! How silly of me to forget! he said, referring to Gale's cold-blooded murder, his smile growing ever wider, yet keeping in proportion with the rest of his face.

"Shut up! Just shut up, or I'll-!" Mizu roared.

"Or you'll what?" Kazir interrupted. "Sit around with your thumb up your ass like last time?"

Before Mizu lost control of his ire, Altair laid a calm hand out before him, looking into his eyes seriously, telling him to calm down without even having to speak.

By the way, do you like the present, Mizu? The Stigma? Neat isn't it? Well that pretty little number was engineered by yours truly. You can thank me later. But for now, how about you all just sit back and put that thumb where it belongs. The curtain's about to rise," Kazir said cryptically, before he teleported away from the hunters, standing atop the huge (former) parlimentary building before them, as a circle of strange, ornate symbols appeared around them, locking them in a starnge cagelike pen. Suddenly, they sky clouded over with grey, as a strange black mist began to swirl in the middle of the "cage". It finally manifested as a shapless, humanoid body, pitch plack and arched over, like a zombie. Slowly, ir corrected it position, but it's head still hung low, as if pouting. I hel a lang nible blade that was the same black as the rest of its form, and it moved in slow, clumsy footsteps, as if learning to walk.

"I have waited millennia for this moment..." it said. It sounded exactl like the shadowy voice from the tower in the Hidden Realm. Slowly it shuffled forward. Suddenly a piar of glistening red "eyes" snapped open, appearing on its face as if it dirt had been rubeed away. "You have somthing of mine...something I need...my heart..."

"Who or what the hell are you!?" Shinjai shouted, poised with ehr bow at the ready. The others drew their weapons and glared at the shadowy...thing...before them.

"I? I was a great ruler, once upon a time. King of the Wyrms. Until I was betrayed by my own..."
Future World Music - Messengers of Destruction02:50

Future World Music - Messengers of Destruction

Shinkaiyami's theme

"You were unfit to rule. Yours was not a democracy, it was a dictatorship. You started a war that lasted aeons and destoryed yourself and your kind. You should have stayed in the depths of hell, where you belong!" Nina snapped viciously.

"I was upholding my kind's greatness! I did not, kill my race, these pathetic humans did!" the shadow retorted.

"You are deluded! You killed any Wyrm who opposed you, which lead to a civil war! You were made extinct by humanity's hand, but by your own arrogance and self-centred greed!"

"Think what you will, girl of the light. It matters little. I have returned to claim what is rightfully mine! I will spread my darkness and girdle this world, exterminate humanit and rebuild a shining future for the Wyrms in my image. For I am Shinkaiyami, the shadow Wyrm!"

The shadow readid it's sword, before charging at the group, ready to tear them to shreads in its own vaunted name.





To Be Continued in: Fate and Freedom XII: The Search for Salvation

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