Nina stood completely still, staring up at the stygian skies, ignoring the calamitous discord around her, the stormy winds tugging fiercely at her hair ties, pulling them away in the wind, allowing her bleach-londe hair to move freely with the wind as her emerald eyes scanned the scene above. Shinkaiyami's skeletal body circled in the darkened, stormy skies like a demonic vulture. He swooped a little lower, digging his sharp claws into the delicate brickwork of a very tall- and equally as drab as the rest of Yukikaze- building, small chunks of dislodged stone cumbling away as he settled. He raised his head and opened his mouth, revealing the sharp teeth within as he roared with triumph, a hellish sound that could rupture the sky and bring the heavens crashing down.
Nina blinked slowly, solemnly, wistfully. As her eyes opened once again, she disappeared in a bright white flash.
As Altair forcefully fended Lux off for what felt like the hundredth time, a roar as loud as an eathquake caught his attention, making him turn around. He gazed at Shinkaiyami's phantasmal body, crown-like head held high and mouth agape.
"We haven't much time left," he muttered to himself, before reimmersing his senses in the battle at hand and Lux swung his Alatreon Revelation at the Descendants once again with lethal verve.
Shinji and Jinsoku were caught in the midst of a huge standoff between the Sukai people and an imperial garrison, a large part of the right side of Yukikaze that was blocked by a large stone wall, with an iron gate in the middle. a row of Ballistas lined the aqauduct-like area, behind which sat imperial soldiers and other soldiers who ran in and out of the two watch spires either side of the wall. Allot of the Sukai warriors were ninjas, so their evasiveness and speed made it eaisier to avoid the Ballista shots, but the other hunters were struck down by the turrets. The couple quickly dashed and slid along the floor to a short pile of shattered debris, lying low against it, waiting for the barrage of arrows to die down a little. More and more of the Sukai warriors were being cut down by the minute as they desperately tried to bash the steel gate down as a mass.
"If we stay behind cover here, we can pick them off one by one," Shinji said intelligently.
"Yeah, but we'll have to be extra careful; hit-and run only," Jinsoku agreed with caution.
As the pair prepared to peek above the rubble to snipe the Ballista gunners, a loud, victorious roar cause them to jump and look ahead to the distance, where a huge, skeletal creature clung to the main central building, it's head raised and mouth wide open. It wasd then that they noticed how the skies had darkened, and purple lightning began to strike.
"Aw, hell! There's no time for this bullshit!" Shinji growled, standing up spontaneously to fire at the imperials manning the Ballistas. She shot three dead, but there was eight more, which rained arrows down upon her in such concentration that she was forced to duck down behind cover once more. She peeked her eyes above the rubble stealthily, only to see the dead gunners ebing replaced by more imperials who poured out to fill the gaps. Shinji let out a string of colourful obscenities before sighing exasperatedly.
Gigas offered Roux his hand, which she gratefully grabbed as the muscular fire Descendant slugged his other fist into the faceplate of another Ukanlos-clad soldier, whose helmet shattered into pieces like shrapnel and reeled back, tripping up and fatally breaking his neck on a piece of rubble as he fell. Roux let go of her protector's hand, and watched the onrush of Barroth-clad Chikyuu soldiers whizz past them, roaring as they went to inspire courage within each other.
"...Y'know...I just remembered, I need to ask ya somethin'," Gigas said, pulling another thick cigarette from a small pouch on his hip, snapping his fingers-which lit a small but almost unextiguishable flame-to light it, taking a few puffs before blowing a couple of O's in the dusty air. "...You said your maiden name was "Honou"...you know that's mine too, right?"
"Yeah, I know. I never elaborated on it because...well, I dunno, really. Guess I didn't think it to be that important," Roux sighed tiredly.
"Yeah, well...guess it's just coincidence. Becuase I know my father. And my mother. And my grandparents. And you," Roux said, prodding Gigas forcefully with her index finger. "are definitely not one of them. Sorry, gramps," she chirped teasingly. Gigas smiled out of the corner of his mouth, through his cigar.
The pair snapped to attention as Nina appeared before them in a bright white light.
"Shinji and Jinsoku are stuck outside a blockade garrison, lined with Ballistas. They and the Sukaians cannot breach it; it's made of steel," Nina said flatly, then paused for effect. "...For you, however," she said, glaring at Gigas, "Steel should pose little problem. Or are my assumptions incorrect?"
"Nah, nah. Yer "assumptions", as ya so delicately put it, are fine an' freakin' dandy," Gigas snapped, hauling his Agnablaster up, at the ready, and sheathing his Dancing Hellfire.
"C'mon, Roux; let's go blow stuff up."
Altair panted, dodging another accurately dealt slash from Lux's Alatreon Revelation. The battle had been going on for some time now, and being on the defensive was taking it's gruelling toll. He swerved past the huge slab of lethal weaponry, firing blankly at Lux with his pistol as passed by, shadow hissing from the Abyssal Sanctum soldier's body as the bullets sank into his seemigly impervious armour. Impervious to anything and everything...bar one thing: shadow. Altair's eyes turned red and shadows slithered around him as he drew up behind his enemy, a sword of pure, hard shadow coming to be out of thin air, which he slashed at the silent imperial with, sending him reeling around, slumping, but still stadning, he looked down to his right side, which he clutched with his free left hand. He pulled the vambrace away to reveal a crack in the armour, from which a dim, violet light emanated.
The wounded- and seemingly accosted- soldier hauled his Great Sword up once more and charged at Altair, who sidestepped and drew his phantasmal, nightmarish black blade through the man horizontally as he rushed past, tripping him upw ith such force that he ground into the stone ground as he skid across it, grinding to a halt a few metres away. Altair quickly ran toward him before he could recover, leaping into the air and raising his supernatural sword above him, slamming it down into Lux's chest as he landed. Despte being stabbed forcefully with a blade constructed of his only weakness, the Abyssal Sanctum advocate still made no sound, not even a barely audible grunt of pain or anger or defeat.
As the body went limp, it semmed to blow away with the wind in violet ash, which soon mixed in with the dust and the rubble and the ash that already choked the droll pinnacle of oppression.
As Altair dismissed the emphemeral armament, he turned away to look to the right, where he saw Shinkaiyami swooping above the warzone, firing black, shadowy flames that flickred with violet streaks, soon igniting the small area of the blast in black shadows and violet flame. He turned his body to face the scene, adn looked just to the right, where the huge building he had been perched upon loomed over the incomplete metropolis, the Frozen Spire in the middle of the strucure, although it's normally visible peak was obscure by the dark stormclouds (which were quite thick). He knew perfectly well what lay within, at the very bottom.
He quickly ran off toward the Spire, eager to find the Abyss and thwart the dark Wyrm's apocalyptic plan.
"Upon my soul!" Enshi exclaimed, as Shinkaiyami's shadowy flames bore down upon the soldiers before them, the shadows that entailed it spreading about the place like toxic gas. Soldiers began to cough and wretch and cry out in pain. Others threw up crimson blood, others choked and slowly died, but regardless, all morphed into hellish black monsters, humanoid in shape, but pitch black, with sharp, claw-like hands, razor-like jagged fangs and glowering, hateful scarlet eyes. Most couldn't walk properly, and so limped toward the nearest non-monster who was out of the raduis of the shadows, overpowering them with sheer numbers and ripping them apart, killing them outright or sinking their long, cruel, nai-like fangs through the armouring and into the soft flesh beneath.
"What the fuck are they?!" Gale exclaimed with shock, as she and Enshi watched with horror at the grotesque scene before them.
"...This is what happens when Shinkaiyami's Stigma overtakes it's host. They mutate into these twisted, soulless and vengeful creatures, relentlessly attacking any other non-infected lifeform within their reach, as if to satisfy their taste for revenge. That fire that Shinkaiyami exhales must instantly infect those near enough; it probably accelerates the process tenfold. The change also occurs when severe emotional strain is placed upon the sufferer. They were probably in such shock from the pain, or fear, that they converted instantaneuously." Enshi elborated with dismay, his fists burning brighter with rage.
Shinkaiyami's prideful voice calle out with a smug, sombre tone."These are my Afflicted. They sevre me, and only me, and live to serve my noble cause. They cannot be stopped," he said.
"What makes you so sure?!" Enshi bellowed at the Wyrm, who hovered in the stormy skies above.
"No man can stop the Afflicted," Shinkaiyami said flatly. " It is hubris to believe otherwise."
"What about a woman?" Gale said, her venomous tone laced with sarcasm.
"One and the same. The Abyss awaits my innoculation. Humanity is doomed," Shinkaiyami declared with sinister finality, before swerving away to a different part of the city, most likely to add to the Afflicted's ranks.
"Gale, they are coming for us!" Enshi snapped urgently, poiting at the deformed wraiths that limped as fast as they could toward the two Descendants. Gale and Enshi turned to retreat, then stopped sharply as another burst of violet fire ignited before them, and more shadows slithered around and enveloped them. The pair coughed and spluttered, but nothing happened.
"I'm an original Descendant. I helped create the Abyss, which is where Shinkaiyami gained this horrific power in the first place. As long as your are with Nina or I, you are immune," Enshi stated matter-of-factly.
Enshi and Gale tunred and yelped as the swarm of Afflicted was about to engulf them. They closed their eyes and waited for the end.
But it never came. They opened their eyes slowly to see Altair stood before them, and black-violet ash blowing away in the wind.
"Be more careful. I won't always be around to save you. Especially not from a dangerous foe like these "Afflicted"," he murmured didactically. He righted his position and pointed at the Frozen Spire,which lay just ahead, beyond the slithering shadows and burning purple flames. "Come, let us make haste to the Abyss; we must destroy it as soon as possible."
Makoto blocked Kazir's blade with her matenbou, her arms trembling with the pressure and strain as she tried to hold it still. Kazir loomed over the young earth Descendant, grinning smugly.
"Shinkaiyami is converting your soldiers into the Afflicted as we speak; twisted shadowy drones that serve only him. Just give up!" Kazir said with abandon. "Death is so much easier..."
"Stick it, you ass!" Makoto shouted, pulling her arms bacja nd forcing Kazir to stumble forward, then placed her ahnd to the ground and willed the earth to sprout up beneath him, knocking him into the air and back down again. Hard.
As Kazir struggled to his feet, Rakurai, Tsubaki and Arashi dashed into the scene. Rakurai growled quietly as he recognized the despicable man before him.
"You!" he spat hatefully.
"Oh, well hello there! If it isn't my jacked up little shit of an experiment! Long time no see! How's the whole ice thing going? Smooth? I hope so," Kazir purred with delight.
"Tsubaki, Arashi, take Makoto and go; I've got this one," Rakurai grunted, readying his Legendary Fatalis Sickle.
"No! I won't leave you, I don't wan-!" Tsubaki groaned woefully.
"JUST GO!" Rakurai shouted. He watched Makoto, his girlfriend and his brother rush off into the distance until he could see them no longer, before turning back to face his nemesis.
"...You tortured me...you put your blood into me...your turend me into...into a monster!" Rakurai hissed.
"Really? I had no idea," Kazir chirped quickly, his words laced with humorous sarcasm.
"Well, you're about to!" Rakurai growled, and with that he ran at his nemesis, his abuser...his creator, of sorts...with aggressive abandon, ready to slice him into a million bloody bits.
Shinji and Jinsoku were among the only one left outside the blockade. The Ballistas still had the couple pinned, along with the few remaining Sukai forces, all ninjas, who also lay behind the rubble with them.
"...The more we gun them down, the more they keep replacing them," Jinsoku maoned. "It's hopeless!"
"...Not quite!" Shinji exclaimed, her eyes lighting up the way they did when someone was formulating a master plan. "Jin, you got any flash bombs left?" she asked keenly.
"Hold on..." Jinsoku replaied, fumbling in his item bag without looking. "Yup! Just the one though," he replaied after ten seconds or so, producing the bomb from the bag carefully. Shinij took hold of it, readying it in her hand.
"EVERYBODY COVER YOUR EYES!" Shinji yelled, then lobbed the flash bomb over the rubble. A shrill *clag!* emitted from the explosive, and the imperials were instantly blinded. "NOW! SHOOT THE FUCKERS!" Shinji roared, as she and Jinsoku fired their bows reletlessly at the soldiers, gunning them down one by one as they strugggled to see. Most were shot dead by arrows, shurikens and throwing knives, but others ran into one another or fell off the ridge of the garrison in their disorientation and confusion.
Suddenly, the gate that blocked the passeg through the bloackade was engulfed in flames, and an ear-splitting *boom!* echoed around. Shinji's ear drums hissed with white noise as she recovered her sense of direction and looked on as Gigas and Roux slowly strolled through the now almost non-existent iron gate, embers of flames, ashes, bodies, and small fires dotted about the clearing. Jinsoku looked up. The Ballistas were wrecked, mangled and burnt as if a Lunastra had been chewing on them.
"C'mon you guys, push on through the the main citadel! Let's find this goddamn Abyss so we can stop this shitty monster and go the hell home," Gigas craoked, chucking away the butt of his cigarette. He and Roux waited until Shinji, Jinsoku and the few remaining Sky Village ninjas sprinted past them before following suit, all headed for the Frozen Tower, and the Abyss.
To Be Continued in: Fate and Freedom XXVIII: The End Times