Fate And Freedom
Eleven years have passed in reality since Gale and her comrades left for the Hidden Realm. Their once peaceful and prosperous land lies in ruins, controlled by Shinkaiyami, Yaketsukuyona and Kazir, and their imperial armies of dark and ice Descendant facsimiles. Gale and Mizu's sons, Rakurai and Arashi, live a deprived life with many other teenagers in the shattered ruins of Hikari, the City of Light, forced to risk their lives each and every day to survive amidst the ashes of yesterday.When Gale and Mizu return to their world, they must embark one one final quest to find their children, liberate their land and once again stop the Wyrms from destroying humanity... Note: This is the complete version of the original story, all? forty-four chapters combined into one massive post. Enjoy!
I: Life Among the Ashes
Rakurai sat up in his makeshift bed as he awoke, quickly, they way one does when having a nightmare. Then as he looked around and familiarized himself with his surroundings, he realized that the nightmare is what he had just awoken to. His home and refuge in Hikari, the City of Light, now a city of ashes. He began to piece the shards of his shattered dream together.He had been dreaming of a world better than this, no empire, no tyranny and no oppression, and having children with his girlfriend, Helyna, and being able to raise them without the looming dark cloud of imperial enslavement. He had also been having nightmares about his dark past, and the things he had done to get his younger brother to safety. Terrible things had been done both to him... and by him. He had been experimented on by an imperial named Kazir, who's blood was mixed with Rakurai's own, giving him the powers of an ice Descendant. He ran from them every waking minute. He had thought about ending his life, drowned in his own regrets - until he met Helyna, who gave him the strength to carry on. But, even today, his mind travelled back to revisit those dark moments, as if his conscience was trying to torture him. He smiled sadly at the thought, the daylight sunbeams breaching the ruins that formed Rakurai's 'home', reflecting off of his green eyes and black hair.
He turned his head sporadically, scaninng the broken 'house' of signs of Helyna. He relaxed for a moment, allowing time for his cognitive fuctions to smarten up (he had literally just woken up, after all). Then he remembered. Even if he was still asleep, Helyna would always go to the church (ironically the least destroyed building in the city) and tend to the injured inhabitants. Everyone who lived here was either orphaned when Hikari was leveled to the ground by the imperials eleven years ago, or was sent here by parents who caught onto the imperial scheme quickly enough to safely evacuate their kids to Hikari. What they didn't count on was it being leveled to the ground. There wasn't a single person here who was older than sixteen. But God knows, some, like Rakurai and Helyna, had the demeanour of someone much older. They had to. He pulled on his Narga X armour and ran to the church. _____________________________________________________________________________________________ As Rakurai walked into the church, he stopped in the doorway. He had seen it this busy before, but never had he seen so many grievous wounds in one place. Perhaps in the world before the empire, it would have been abnormal for such young people to go hunting. But one has to eat. "It hurts," one of the children moaned. "I know, sweetie, but you're just gonna have to bear with it, okay?" Helyna's silky smooth voice responed. Rakurai glanced to his right slightly to see Helyna in her red silk dress (she had found it among the ruins of Hikari Castle). Her long, flowing brown hair (that reached down to her hips) was tied back by a small but pretty black bow, so that it didn't get in her way while she tended to her patients. Her cyan eyes always made Rakurai think of the sky. Every time he saw her, he smiled fondly. She made him so happy. Among the ruins of years passed, his brother and Helyna were the only things he truly loved. Finally, Helyna became aware of Rakurai's prescence in the doorway of the church when he stabbed his Shadow of the Moon into the floorboards, and came rushing toward him, a bright smile on her face. She wrapped her arms around his neck, and he locked his arms around her waist, the pair of them leaning in for a kiss. They pulled away a little to give each other space. Rakurai had almost immediately fallen in love with her when they first met. But at the sensitive age of eleven, who really has the courage to tell somebody that? Of course, all that changed when she kissed him as he was about to break inside. She had saved him from himself. And he loved her for it. "It's busy today," Rakurai mused, stroking Helyna's hair after she untied it. "Yeah, it sure is. But luckily for me, my shift's over. It's Tsanji's turn now," Helyna chirped, cocking her head to behind her, where Tsanji had begin to take over, her white robes a calming prescence for the distressed patients, although nobody had the maternal instincts of Helyna. "That's good," Rakurai replied. He was a man (well, not a man per se, but he had to act like one) of few words. He always had been. At least for the three years that Helyna had known him. She moved a lock of Rakurai's bushy, spikey black hair out of his eyes. "I brought some Narga meat back from my last hunt. It has to be shared amongst the others... but... I have enough for just us two. We can have it later at home, if you'd like," she said softly, as if she was tiptoeing around him. He leaned in briefly to kiss her on the forehead. "Thanks. That's sounds perfect." "It's just that I know we haven't spent alot of time together lately and -" she said hurriedly, as if explaining herself to a superior, before Rakurai put a gentle finger to her lips to silence her. He took it away after a couple of seconds. "It's fine," he stressed, laying his hands on her shoulders. "You don't have to explain yourself to me, I'm not going to berate you about it. You have a job that requires dilligence and dedication. That's okay. I love you, Helyna. I'm not going anywhere." "..Thanks. That means alot to me." "And you mean alot to me," Rakurai said, picking up his Shadow of the Moon. "Anyway, I'm on hunting duty today. I'll be back for that Narga meat though," he said, almost teasingly, running out of the church doorway and to the city walls. __________________________________________________________________________________________ Rakurai met up with his hunting team at the city gate (or what was left of it). He lead his team, who were also his closest friends: Keiin, the lightheaded one in the group, wearing Jinouga armour and hammer, Shien, the cool and calculated one, wearing Raviente armour and Great Sword, Zwei, the headstrong one and the most battle-wise hunter in the group (other than Rakurai), sporting (Black) Fatalis armour and Long Sword, and Arashi, Rakurai's energetic younger brother, who wore Silver Sol Armour and wielded the Wyvern Sword 'Camelia'. Rakurai stood at the head of the group. "So, leader, what're we hunting this fine day?" Kiien asked casually.
"A Barioth," Zwei said coldly, stading apathetically in his pace.
"Sounds like fun, right bro?" Arashi said, buzzing with excitement.
"Logic would debunk your theory of this being 'fun' in the most vigorous manner possible," Shien snorted.
"Yeah, thanks for the pep talk, smartass."
"Enough. Save the aggression for the Barioth," Rakurai snapped coldly, walking ahead. He was all-business when it came to hunting. Keiin, Shien, Zwei and Arashi followed Rakurai slowly away from their fortress of rubble and dust, hunting for tonight's meal.
II: Hunting the Ice Fanged Wyvern
The Tundra- an inhospitable, lifeless slab of ice and cold, lying between Hikari and the Great Forest. Keiin, Zwei, Shien, Arashi and Rakurai trudged throught the icy clearing slowly, tired of searching for today's elusive prey. "Maybe it's nesting," Keiin suggested half-heartedly. "In this weather? Statistically unlikely." Shien disagreed bluntly. "Would it be 'statistically unlikely' for you to shut up? 'Cause your voice is giving me a headache," Keiin spat. "Keiin, you've said more in the past twenty-five minutes than Shien has said all day," Zwei sighed, his voice slightly tinny from inside his helmet. Everyone chuckled until a yowl silenced them. The hunters raised their weapons as a huge, saber-toothed Wyvern, the Barioth, showed itself calmly, perched on a wall of ice about thirty metres in front of them."Lo and behold! T-" Kiien began.
"Ssshhhh! It's staring at us!" Shien hissed quietly. "Look, it's been blinded," he whispered, handing his binoculars to Keiin so that he could see the Barioth's cloudy-looking eyes. It truly was blind. This Barioth must have been the one that had escaped from the last hunt. "What do we do now?" Arashi whispered to Rakurai, who's stern expression stared back at him. "We do what we always do. Hunt it." "Whoa, whoa, guys, hold on a second. There's five of us and one of it. It's just a freakin' Barioth!" Keiin sighed. "Numbers don't determine the fate of a hunt," Shein huffed. "Oh, for God's sake!" Keiin growled, running a few metres forward before throwing a stone at the Barioth, which growled breifly, turning to face in Keiin's direction, as if it could see."Oh, well done, Keiin!" Shien shouted sarcastically, the five hunters quickly moving out of the way as the Barioth's icy-white body came smashing down before them, yowling with triumph. Zwei quickly got to work, slicing at the creature's leg with his Legendary Fatalis Sickle. The Barioth snorted through its nostrils, whipping the headstrong warrior aside with it's tail. That was the thing about Zwei - strong and instinctive (to a degree), but a little too hasty. Keiin took this chance to rush forward, letting his hammer loose (he had been charging it while the Barioth was busy with Zwei), swinging the turquoise weapon wildly, slamming into the Barioth's face, stunning it. Shien used the Barioth's temporary incapacitation to charge his Raviente Great Sword after taking a Mega Demondrug, while Arashi sliced at the creature's tail and Rakurai attacked the it's wings. Zwei decided not to partake in the rush, but instead to lay a Shock Trap nearby.
As the Barioth recovered, Shien's cumbersome Great Sword came smashing down upon it's head, leving nasty scars and causing it to slide ferally across the ice and out of the way, Roaring when it came to a standstill by the wall. It jumped up to cling to the wall for a couple of seconds. As its claws left the ice, Rakurai threw a Sonic Bomb, disorienting it and sending it flailing into Zwei's Shock Trap. It yowled with shock as the electricity coursed through it, making in writhe in pain. All of the hunters rushed the Barioth now, each slicing at different body parts, as per usual: Shien at the head, Arashi at the tail, Rakurai on the wings, Keiin on the body, and Zwei on the legs. Rakurai managed to break the Barioth's left wing before the Shock Trap expired. As usual, Shien had been charging his Great Sword prior, and brought it smashing down on the Pseudowyvern's face, breaking it's orange left fang. It yowled and spun itself, sending all the hunters flying, skidding on the ice a little as it's leg had been wounded by Zwei's Legendary Fatalis Sickle. When it righted itself, it shot a ball of ice at Shien, having now identified him as the biggest threat. When it landed, it turned into an icy tornado, encasing Shien in ice and giving him Iceblight. He calmly pulled out a Thawing Agent and an Elemental Berry to cure himself of the ailments. The Barioth made its move as Shien remedied himself, instantaneously launching its claws forward, knocking Shien to the floor and sending him skidding across the ice. Zwei charged at the marauding Barioth, dragging his Legendary Fatalis Sickle across the ice, lifting it upward, severing the Barioth's spiky tail with a swift and smooth uppercut. The Barioth reeled over, distraught. Keiin and Rakurai took this chance to deal the finishing blow- Keiin rushed forward and slammed his hammer down furiously on the barioth's arm, breaking its actual bone. He then lunged at it's face, breaking it's jaw. Rakurai leapt forward and plunged his sword into the Barioth's skull. It growled and shuddered briefly befroe growing still. Shien, still a little winded, strode carefully over the slippery ice to join the others, who had laready begun to carve what they could from the beast. Sometimes they took meat from carnivores like the Barioth and Nargacuga, but usually this was for the one who needed it, generally the ones who are the thinnest - the inhabitants had divided Hikari into different sections for each of the eight compass points. Each of those sections had their own hunters, and that section's food intake depended on whether the hunters brought back food or not. Rakurai and the others were the hunters from the southeastern section of Hikari, and they had already distributed the high protein stuff amongst the others (with some left over for Rakurai and Helyna, who had been looking a little undernourished as of late). They would have preferred to get healthier by having a balanced diet through collecting edible herbs and such from the Great Forest, but it was a long trek that was often too risky. When the group had finished carving the creature, they began to head off back to Hikari. While Zwei, SHien and Keiin argued over who was the best hunter, Arashi walked ahead with his brother. "So, you looking forward to dinner later?" Arashi asked. "Yeah. I'm starving, and a little too thin for my liking," Rakurai replied, almost warmly. "Shouldn't you be looking forward to afterwards? Huh? Huh?" Arashi hinted, winking at his brother. Rakurai nudged him. "Shut up. It's not like that. Even if we were desperate to do it, neither of us can affford to be responsible for maintaining a baby's health as well as our own." "Good point." "And what about you, little bro? I thought you were sweet on Tsubaki," Rakurai purred, cocking an eyebrow. Arashi withdrew into himself. Rakurai chuckled. "I knew it. You should talk to her before she leaves," "Leaves? Where?" Arashi blurted. "See? I knew you cared. She's leaving for Kasai. She hopes to meet an 'aquaintance' there. She says it could have an impact on the climate of today." Rakurai said, half-serious on the outside, but regarding what Tsubaki had told him very seriously within. "...What the hell, maybe I will." Arashi said with a smile, the sun reaching midpoint in the fresh, afternoon sky
III: A Changed World
Delicate snowflakes drifted in the air around the hunters and Descendants. It was winter, so normally this wouldn't be suprising at all. What was suprising is that this was Kasai, the largest city in the known land (or this region), even bigger that Chikyuu. It was the City of Fire, and yet it here it was, trapped in an icy stasis.
"What the hell?" Gigas murmured, putting his hand out to catch a snowflake. It was so cold that it didn't even melt in his hand. The group began to register the depth of the cold around them, drinking Hot Drinks to keep them... well, warm. "This is Kasai...my home...why is it freakin' frozen!?" he growled.
"We just got here. Your guess is as good as mine," Gale responed. She turned her head as Mizu groaned quietly. He was able to walk by himself, but he had to use his Wailing Cleaver Shin as a crutch, and his strength was beginning to dwindle.
"I need...to rest..." he mumbled, still in pain. He flinched again, grabbing onto his bandaged arm (where Kazir had written on it), signifying that it was hurting. Letting go of his makeshift crutch, he fell to his knees. Gale helped him up, hooking his arm around her shoulder and grabbing his Long Sword in her other hand.
"Gigas, help me. We need to get him somewhere," Gale said, Gigas moving to help support Mizu.
"Psst! You lot! Come with me! You need to get off the streets!" a raspy, male voice whispered. Gale looked to a back alley ahead of the snowy clearing they were stood in. A shadowy figure peeked from around the corner, gesturing at the group of eight to follow him. Suddenly, a crescendo of heavy marching phased into life behind them.
"Hurry! They're coming!" he hissed. The group decided to take thier chances with the shady stranger, running toward the alley and the stranger, slipping out of sight agains the wall as a batallion of Ukanlos-armoured soldires came marching beside them, unaware of the group of people that stood right under their noses, their heavy, commanding footsteps getting further and further away, eventually blending into the subtle whistling of the icy wind, their bodies becoming one with the almost blinding whiteout of snowflakes.
"They have been looking for you lot for ever since the White Star empire was established eleven years ago. You are Descendants, are you not?" The hooded man asked hoarsely - he was clearly quite aged. He stopped for a moment.
"Perhaps out here is not the best place to converse. Come with me."
The group followed the old man down the alley and to the left, leading to his house - not a person in sight the whole time, only wind, snow, and empty streets. It was almost depressing.
When the party crammed themselves through the doorway, the hooded old man shut and locked the door behind him, pacing over the the dining table in the centre of the room, turning his chair away from it and toward his fireplace, pulling off his robe and warming his hands. He was a simple looking man - black tunic, basic shoes, grey hair and beard, a sunken-yet-peaceful expression, tired skin and grey eyes that had most likely once been pale blue.
"You are Descendants, are you not?" the old man asked again, turning away from the fire to look upon them.
"Um, five of us are, but Skylar, Shinji and Jinsoku over there aren't," Gale replied, separating the Descendants from the ordinary hunters.
"I see," said the old man, who picked a pair of half-moon spectacles off of the table to get a better look at the ragtag group of friends, raising an eyebrow in bemusement and curiosity.
"I see your lover there is in quite a dire state. Tortured?" he asked casually. Gale took a small step back.
"U-Um, yeah. H-how did you k-know?" Gale spluttered, taken aback by the man's accurate assumptions.
"Relax, dear child. I'm quite aware of the prior affairs of you and your cohorts."
"I was quite close to Nina, and Guretosutomu also communed with me in human shape quite regularly. Nina sent you here through that portal of all places becuase I was nearby. Apropos of your situation, that strapping young lad of yours needs to rest. He has Shinkaiyami's Stigma."
"Yes. It's a slow process, but you will notice a blackness spread across his body. It can be cured. I will explain the details further when you have put him to rest. Go, now. There is beds upstairs, take any one of them," he snapped. Gale helped Mizu up the staricase while the others stayed with the man.
"A lot has changed in a few weeks for you, hasn't it?" the old man mused, carefully cupping his hand around a wooden smoking pipe as he lit it.
"Yes, quite. Excuse my abruptness, but you haven't told us your name," Altair said quietly. The old man, almost fell over himself with suprise.
"Oh, yes, that's right! Where are my manners? My name is Hiro," the old man said, a puff of smoke wafting in the hunters' direction from his pipe. Moments later, Gale strode down the stairs quietly.
"He's sleeping. We should try to be a little quieter now," she muttered.
"You must let him rest here. There is enough rooms for everyone. You can all stay as long as you like. Now, about Shinkaiyami's Stigma. It is a virulent, acerbic disease, caught when one bears open wounds in places of evil. No doubt he caught in in the tower when Kazir was torturing him. It is not a suprise to the people. It has blighted people all over the land ever since Yaketsukuyona and Kazir occupied this reigion. Anyway, I digress. It is a slow process, but the Stigma will spread over his body. Thankfully, it makes no attempt to disguise itself - blackness will appear on his skin. faintly, at first, but it will spread. The time it takes to spread varies from person to person, but it never takes more than a fortnight. It will begin to hurt more as it progresses, and, eventually, it will be fatal," Hiro explained.
"So how do we cure it?" Makoto asked, a firm expression on her face.
"Well, that is much easier said than done," Hiro said, taking the pipe out of his mouth, and laying it on the table. "I have some aquaintances and other such sources that may be able to help. However, I will need all of you not to accompany me in these endeavours, and to only go outside for good reason. Can I trust you to do this?"
The group nodded affirmatively.
"That is good to hear. Now go, all of you!" Hiro beamed. "You look so very weary."
The group slowly trudged upstairs, one at a time.
Shinji pulled her lips away from Jinsoku's slowly. It had been about twenty minutes since everybody had retired for the night, and they had been laying in bed kissing the whole time. Ever since Jinsoku told her that he loved her, she had been to happy to take it as seriously as he had. But she had decided that it was her turn to say it back.
"Jin?" Shinji murmuered softly.
She pulled him closer, whispering in his ear.
"I love you."
Jinsoku smiled, their lips locking once again after Shinji blew out the candle on the desk beside the bed.
IV: No Long Goodbyes
Arashi rushed up the stairs of the ruined Hikari Castle. Despite being, well, ruined, the staircases and other such structures had managed to stay intact. As he emerged from the staircase, he froze at the sight of of a beautiful young girl, perhaps a year older than him, the gentle breeze tugging at her long, flowing, glossy red hair, and shining, pale, icy-blue eyes, gazing down at the rubble below her. Arashi had known Tsubaki all his life. They were good friends, but he could never muster the courage to ask her out on a date - three quarters because he was too shy and one quarter becuase any date around here wouldn't be much better than a normal outing. He paused to gaze at her. Suddenly, a hand latched onto his shoulder from behind, nearly making him cry out in alarm. He turned around to see his brother, Rakurai.
"You seriously have to stop doing that. You're gonna get me killed one day!" Arashi whispered, careful not to alert the young girl ahead of him. He stood impassive for a moment, not sure how to handle the situation at hand.
"Arashi, just trust me. I've done this before. Stop worrying yourself sick planning out the perfect moment. Just be impulsive!" his older brother said, pushing him forward, making him cry out, causing Tsubaki to turn her head. Arashi turned to behind him to berate his brother, only to find he had vanished.
"Arashi? Hi!" Tsubaki said, a little louder than normal. Arashi began to walk forward to join her at the precipice of the castle roof (where, unbeknownst to him, his parents had faced the current ruler of the region eleven long years ago) to join his admiree, but she met him halfway, squeezing him like a plush toy, so hard he could hardly breathe.
"What brings you up here?" she purred, cocking a thin, wiry eyebrow."Um, I just came to, uh, say goodbye," he mumbled, struggling to maintain eye contact. Tsubaki chuckled girlishly.
"That's so nice of you! Thanks!" she replied, hugging him again. This time he was able to move his arms enough, without hurting them, to hug her back. She let go, clearing her throat gently and brushing her hair out of her face with her hand.
"Kasai... it's a long way away... but I have to go... there's - something I have to do there. Something that's really important to me. Y-you understand... right?" she said cautiously, as if regretting something.
"Yeah. I get it. Good luck." Arashi said, almost confidently, maintaining eye contact firmly. He almost jumped as Tsubak leaned forward and kissed him on the cheek.
"You're a really good listener. See ya around, Arashi," Tsubaki mumbled, briefly losing her confident and bouncy demeanour before quickly rushing off down the stairs.
"So? How'd it go?" Rakurai asked, nudging his brother. Arashi said nothing for a while, when he finally decided to respond, it was with an affirming nod, nothing more.
"Okay... Well, anyway, you need to be going right about now. It's just me and Helyna tonight," Rakurai said, coaxing his younger brother toward the door.
"I'll bet it is, you dog!" Arashi purred suggestively.
"No. I told you it's not like that. Now get out already!" he chuckled, almost pushing his brother out of the open door.
"Oh, and one more thing. Tsubaki's travelling to Kasai all by herself. Maybe... you should consider tagging along," Rakurai called to Arashi as he walked away, shutting the door as he finished his sentence. Arashi contemplated this for a while, before running off to the city gates.
Seven Hours Later
Helyna burst in through the doorless (one was lucky to have a house with a door. However, Rakurai was equally lucky to only have a small part of his roof collapsed, so he couldn't complain) entrance to Rakurai's house, looking out of breath. This time, she wore her Lagiacrus armour, resting her hand upon her Amphitrite to catch her breath.
"Helyna? What-! What happened!?" He said, rushing forward.
"It's not what happened....but what's happening," Helyna rasped. She uprooted her Lance from the ground, dragging Rakurai (who still wore his Narga X from the Barioth hunt) along with her, not saying a word about what was going on.
Tsubaki stoodat the battered, broken remains of the city gates, dressed in Ceadeus + armour with an Abyssal Striker, staring into the melifluous blanket of starless sky above her. She had to do this if she wanted the empire to fall. And she had to go alone. As she began to slowly walk away from the shattered archway, she heard fast-paced footsteps and a familiar voice coming up behind her.
"Tsubaki! Tsubaki, wait!"
She turned slowly to see Arashi in his Silver Sol armour.
"Arashi! What're you doing here?"
"I heard you were going all by yourself, and...I...want to go with you, Tsubaki." he said, almost as if it was something he'd been wanting to let out for a long time. Tsubaki, folded her arms slowly, pursing her lips in indecision.
"I dunno, Arashi, I... I have to go by myself..."
"No, you don't. It's dangerous and I don't want you to -" he paused, seeing the half-taken-aback expression on Tsubaki's face.
"You don't want me to what?" she asked, slowly, gently.
"I...don't want you to get hurt," he said softly. Tsubaki thought to herself quietly. Her thoughts were interrupted by the voice of the woman who had told her to go to Kasai in the first place.
"Bring that boy. He is very important to the people you must meet."
Tsubaki let out a sigh. "Come on then," she said, exasperated, smiling at the same time. The two of them walked away from Hikari and into the midnight, together.
V: By Order of the Emperor
"Helyna!" Rakurai shouted, almost impatiently, casuing his girlfriend to freeze. He put his hands on her shoulders and shook her gently.
"Just tell me what's going on," he said.
"... It's better if you see with your own eyes," she whispered. She dragged the young man through the many broken and battered alleyways and turns of Hikari, until at last the castle (or rather, what was left of the castle) came into view.
It was covered in ice.
As Rakurai and Helyna joined the already blooming crowd of onlookers, he noticed that about a hundred imperial soldiers, all dressed in the trademark Ukanlos armour and weapons, stood in lines in front of it, impassive, as if to guard the colossal structure. From the mass of grey-white bodies came three authoritative looking people. Two were dressed in Alatreon armour, one male and carrying an Alatreon Revolution, one female and wielding a Dark Claw "Demise". The woman's irises were milky-white, like all the other imperials', and her ruby lips were curled into a thin, forced smile, as if she had somewhere else to be and was disgusted by the sight that faced her. There was no feasable way to tell what the man was thinking or feeling, as his face was hidden beneath the steely, pitch-black exterior of the Alatreon helm. It was these two figures that caught the attention of Rakurai, and Helyna in particular seemed rather put off.
"What is it? You know them?" Rakurai muttered to her.
"Those two... they're part of the Abyssal Sanctum, the empire's elite. Those two, Lux and Tiamat, are among the top."
Like all of the empire's soldiers, Lux and Tiamat had been made into artificial ice Descendants, but Tiamat was also a Descendant of Shinkaiyami, like Altair, and therefore held the power of darkness inside her. For this, she had many nicknames, such as "Shinkaiyami's Disciple" or "Hell's Brainchild", but most knew her simply as "The Reaper of Babylon". Tiamat raised her arms archaicly. Almost instantaneously, the murmurs of the crowd faded. A sinister smile spread across her face. She stepped forward a little, and raised her scythe-like Long Sword above her head, in a victory-like fashion. Suddenly the crowd recognized her."It's Tiamat!"
"The Reaper of Babylon!"
Tiamat laughed deeply for a few seconds before opening her mouth to speak.
"Human filth... your judgement is at hand," she said. Her voice was deep, and she spoke a little slower than the average person, carefully enunciating each word. "The Abyssal Sovereign will rise again, and this land will be wiped clean so that we may begin anew. You humans are a plague that befouls this place, an epidemic of worldwide proportions. The only way to cure the world of this disease called humanity... is to wipe clean the slate of creation. But until my Father returns, this cannot be done. Thus, by order of the Emperor himself, I will begin Father's noble work... and eradicate the inhabitants of this city!" Tiamat boomed. And no sooner than the words had left her mouth, the horde of imperials rushed forth to attack the crowd of humans, igniting frightened screams and the ugly sound of steel against flesh.
Tsubaki and Arashi had begun to walk away from their home, when all of a sudden, a flare of steel and screaming reached thier ears, causing them to turn back to face Hikari. To their suprise, Hikari Castle was laced with ice.
"Imperials!" Tsubaki gasped, grabbing Arashi's hand, pulling him along as they ran back to see what was happening.
Utter pandaemonium. Screaming, crying, dying, fighting. Blood, tears and shattered metal mixed in with the ruins, which had been set ablaze with icy-blue flames. Rakurai an Helyna rushed away from the scene, not hesitating to kill any imperial who got in their way. They stopped when they ran into Zwei and Keiin, who had also paired up.
"It's you guys!" Rakurai shouted above the noise. "Where's Shien?"
"He... didn't make it," Zwei said flatly, like it wasn't important. Although, there was a tinge of remorse in the undertone.
"I see... Anyway, we'll talk later. We need to get out of here," Helyna said. As rakurai and Helyna began to run, they stopped when they realized that Zwei and Keiin weren't following them.
"Wh-what're you doing!" Keiin yelled. "We have to help them!"
"No, we have to get out of here," Rakurai said bluntly. "We can't help them."
"But we have to!"
"There's nothing we can do! We have to get out of here while we still can!"
"To go where, Rakurai!? There's nowhere to go! The imperials control every damn city! You leave, and you'll just get killed there instead!"
"Getting killed is better than being slaughtered!"
Suddenly, another voice interrupted the heated argument.
"Actually, there is somehwhere to go."
Rakurai, Helyna, Keiin and Zwei turned swiftly to see Arashi and Tsubaki. Rakurai and Arashi ran to each other hugged, as did Tsubaki and Helyna.
"Where the hell have you been!?" Rakurai said, worried.
"Well..." Arshi began, before Tsubaki spoke up.
"Arashi was going to accompany me to Kasai. I've been told that there are some people there that can help topple the empire. We were going to leave, but then we heard the commotion and came running back. Anyway, maybe you lot should... y'know... come with us," Tsubaki explained, offering them a chance to accompany her.
"Sounds good." Rakurai said.
"I'll come too." Helyna piled on.
"We're staying here. We have to. This is our home. We'll protect it... or die trying," Zwei said flatly, bravery flourishing within him. He approached Rakurai, grabbing his Shadow of the Moon and handing him his own Legendary Fatalis Sickle in return.
"Take it. It's stronger than your blade. You'll be needing it more than I," he said. Rakurai nodded soberly, before he, Helyna, Arashi and Tsubaki ran back the way that the latter two had just come, away from the catastrophe, and, particularly, "The Reaper of Babylon" and her silent companion, Lux.
"Tsubaki... who, exactly, are we supposed to meet?" Helyna huffed, still running, the city gates far behind them. They stopped to catch their breath, turning around, bathing themselves in the cold glow of the blazing ruins they called home.
"I don't know exactly, but... I hope to God that they can help us."
VI: The Angel of Kasai
"Gale?" Mizu called quietly to Gale, who stood by his bed, tying her hair back into a ponytail (she had changed her hairstyle since leaving for Sukai). She found it hard to believe that for them, that had only been two months ago.
"Yeah?" Gale said, kneeling down by the bed, clutching her boyfriend's hand. Traces of blackend flesh had begun to appear. Shinkaiyami's Stigma was spreading.
"What about the kids? We need to find them..." he said. He had been worrying about thier two boys ever since the group had come back here two weeks ago. Hiro had been in and out of the house throughout this time, collecting information on the outside world (since they were confined to the house) and Herbs, Potions and whatnot to cure the Stigma.
"Stop worrying. We will find them. But we have to stop this thing first," Gale replied softly, gesturing to the blackened skin on his arm with her eyes. As Mizu drifted back to sleep (despite it being almost midday), her mind began to wander. She kept a brave face, but beneath her courageous facade, she wanted to scream. She was both eager and afraid to find out what had become of them. Would they embrace their estranged parents with open arms? She doubted it. They'd be expecting a couple of forty-year-olds, not two teenagers on the cusp of adulthood.
It would take a lot of explaining to do.
Her train of dismal thought suddenly derailed when she realized something was amiss. The portal that they had stepped through to get back to reality was meant to deposit the group at Hikari, and yet here they were, in Kasai. As she thought to herself, Nina's eloquent, well-spoken young voice echoed in her head.
"Yes, I do apologize for that," she said.
"For not delivering you to Hikari as I told you. Though I would be remiss to not inform you of the circumstances surrounding this error."
"The darkness from within the tower, in the Hidden Realm. It interfered with the exit point. It had sabotaged the portal, and you were going to be sent to nowhere, but I managed to salvage the co-ordinates and redirect you to Kasai."
"Why not to Hikari?"
"Please, Gale. I am not a god. My skills with dimensional shifting are... rudimentary, at best. You're lucky I got you all there in one piece. Besides, you have met Hiro, who is as aware of the true situation at hand here as I am. Until my plan unfolds, I cannot guide you, save in your heads."
"Nina...what is that darkness?"
As if in response to her question, the shadowy voice from the tower spoke to her, clearly distinguishable despite its layer of at least five different voices and pitches and slow speaking pace.
"I... am everything that you most despise..."
"What does that mean? Speak plainly, damn you!? What the hell do you want!?"
"I am...one with the shadows, which many use as a guise..."
"And the light will banish you," Nina interrupted.
"Foolish girl of the light! The darkness you face...will snuff out your plight..."
"I'll ask again. What are you!?"
"There is no light that can banish me! I am no mere ancient apparition, no resonance of fate... I am darkness, the kind which no man can abate! I am every dark thought, every foul notion, every avaricious desire that courses through your head! But when I manifest, those thoughts will soon be dead..."
"Okay, let me try it another way. Who are you?"
"Who am I? Surely you must know... I am the Abyssal Sovereign...the eternal damnation...a monument to hate...spawn of humanity's sins...avatar of the fires below..."
"An answer is not what you need... But an absolution, yes... For your sins, you will bleed..."
And with the voice's final, chilling rhyme, Gale's head was once again her own.
Gale, Shinji, Jinsoku, Skylar, Altair, Gigas and Makoto sat around the wooden table in the living area of Hiro's rather expanisve house. Hiro took his smoking pipe out of his mouth (chewing it was one of his idiosynchrasies) before speaking.
"I'm aware that you have barely left this house in two weeks. It must be growing tedious for you. Luckily for you, I have a task for you," he rasped. "There is a young lady somewhere in this city. I want you to find her, and bring her here."
"It'd be helpful if we had a name," Shinji said.
"She goes by the "Angel of Kasai". Have her tell you, when you find her," Hiro replied.
"If I might interject," Altair began, stroking his chin with his hand, "would it not be in our interest to limit the size of the party in this endeavour? I'm pretty sure that a crowd of seven or eight walking through the streets of a seemingly deserted metropolis is a surefire way to attract imperials."
"He's right," Makoto agreed, "Maybe only two or three of us should go." Then, Makoto stepped forward. "I haven't really had the chance to do anything yet, so I'm going. Full stop."
"I wanna go too!" Skylar yelped.
Gale stepped forward. "I'm going too," she said tonelessly.
"Are you sure? Shouldn't you stay with Mizu?" Shinji said.
"Why? Staying with him isn't going to make him any better," Gale retorted.
"Then it is settled," Hiro beamed. "Now would be a good time. It is easier to be discrete at night. Even so, I feel obliged to warn you to be very, very careful. She will be a great help in your plight, but not so great as to die needlessly to find her."
Makoto, Gale and Skylar headed toward the front door. "We'll be fine," Makoto said, a warm smile spreading across her face as the trio slipped out of sight into the moonlit darkness.
Interlude: Memoirs of a Lost Soul
Gale lay in her bed, staring up at the ceiling, she had to sleep in a seperate room away from Mizu, because of the Stigma. She sighed, reaching out to Nina in her thoughts.
"Why is this happening?" she sighed in her head, a glistening tear trickling down the side of her face. "What did we do to deserve this?"
"It is not a matter of whether one deserves it or not. It is not fate, nor fortune. It is just the way things are. The only way things ever happen in this world now is when they are forged by the living. Remember what I said at Sukai- when you fought him at Hikari, destiny's hold over time was broken. There is no prophecised salvation for current events. The only way to remedy this catastrophe is to topple the empire and depose it's false monarch."
"Which means we'll have to fight lots more, huh..."
"Yaketsukuyona. Kazir. The Children of the Ice. The Abyssal Sanctum. The empire must fall."
"None of that matters until I find my children."
"Of course. Well, in that case, you would be wise to stay right here."
"Huh? What do you mean?"
"They have left Hikari, set for Kasai."
"I found your child's admirer, and told her "humanity's emancipation awaits in Kasai", and that people there would help topple imperial reign."
"You told her that we were here?"
"Yes, but I did not name names, as it were. She, Arashi, Rakurai, and his lover Helyna left for here not too long ago. Stay put, and they will come to you."
"What of Hikari?"
"Burnt to the ground. Well, further to the ground that it already was."
A pause followed.
"Something's bothering you." Gale said flatly.
"It is but nothing. I am quite alright."
"Just because I can't see you, doesn't mean I can't tell that you're bothered by something. Besides, you're also a terrible liar."
"What about him?"
While Gale couldn't see Nina, she could almost feel an icy cold tear of remorse and regret slither down her cheek.
"You have history?"
"...Yes. When he was human, when that sickness hadn't taken hold. We were friends, in another life. For years, until he changed. He is not the same person at all, not anymore. His mind was twisted and warped. He became sick, sociopathic...evil. And it is all my fault."
"There is nothing to be sorry for. He is an evil most foul, and he must die," Nina retorted, recovering her cold demeanor.
"Oh, I'll kill him. Don't you worry."
"I have no doubt that you shall."
"But...why is it you fault?"
"That is none of your concern." Nina snapped.
"I'm only trying to-"
"...I'm sorry." Now Gale could see why Nina was so cold, and bitter.
"I must depart. I have affairs to attend to. Or do you intend to pry into those as well?"
"Goodbye," Gale said, but she could feel that Nina had gone before the word even completed itself.
VIII: A Rage Quelled
Gale, Skylar and Makoto slithered through the maze of Kasai's back alleys, meandering around soldier patrols, scampereing through the dark and the damp like sewer rats. After a few close calls and near misses with soldiers, the trio finally stopped to catch their breath.
In the instant before conversation began, Gale noticed how all of them had the same clothes as they had for the last month or so, except Makoto, who now wore a reversible black robe with yellow highlights instead of the traditional green and gold Sensei's robe of Hyoku. Her sliky, deep purple hair was so long that it dangled mere centimetres off the ground, tied back into a pony tail at the base of her head and at the very tip (the tip was tied with a strange ornament with the Ying and Yang symbol on either side). She had also taken the time in hiding at Hiro's place to train in physical combat. She had revealed that she had always had a knack for martial arts-style combat, but she had used the past month to train using a matenbou, a stick that was about as high as a person is tall. Its colours matched Makoto's own; it was black, with yellow highlights at either end, which had the strange ability to respond to telepathic commads, like returning to Makoto like a boomerang when lost or dropped, or firing like a missile when she wanted it to. it also turned out that, as well as being an earth Descendant, she had some of the fire wyrm's power instilled withing her, albeit only a simdgeon, as she found out the hard way that she could conjure up great bursts of whitish flame at times. At first it was a little erratic and dangerous, but she had long since learned to control it.
Skylar leant against a wall, arching her back over and clasping her thighs, panting. Makoto stood smoothing the creases in her robe, until she notcied Gale, barley showing any sign's of exhaustion, her eyes blank and experssionless, as if she had been blinded. Her thoughts were clearly elsewhere.
"Gale, go back to the house," Makoto sighed patiently, rousing the beautiful nineteen-year-old from her thoughts. "You're worried about him. You should be with him."
Gale stuttered incomprehensibly, her cheeks flourishing red briefly at being awakened from her daydreaming. "No, no, I'm fine." she mumbled.
"Gale, being out here won't help him." Makoto groaned, concerned for the young lady. Gale closed her eyes slowly, turning away slightly.
"Yeah, well...being at the house won't do jack shit either..." she said under her breath. Suddenly, she gasped, snapping to her sense and sparking into life, herding Skylar and Makoto against a wall in a hurry, as the heavy, synchronised footsteps of imperial soldiers rushing past, mere centimetres away from the trio. Gale's eyes slid to the right, gazing at the poath behind them, ears perked, waiting for the crescendo of heavy footsteps to fold away into the shadows, her mouth ajar, not making any sound, not even to breathe. Even after the invisible curtain of silence fell once again, she cautiously crept away from her hiding place, goading Skylar and Makoto forth with silent gesticulations.
As the three began to scatter down another dimly lit alley, a loud horn sounded. It was clearly some kind of call for summoning assistance, as a sea of layered marching began to surge into life, a thousand feet trampling away toward the call of distress. Almost instantaneously, Gale, Skylar and Makoto sprinted away, following the almost musical beats of the imperial soldiers.
At last the deserted maze of Kasai's slums opened up into a large, moonlit clearing, albeit slightly obscured by the chilling snowstorm (a mild one, luckily). Thge path before the girls was crafted of blood, broken imperial bodies and shattered blades. Amidst the snowstorm, a slender, armoured shape stood, it's colour muted by the night and the moonlight posed like a gladiator atop the corpse of a writhing soldier, whom was stilled when the shadow's cruel-looking hammer crashed down upon his head, the way one might place a sword in stone.
The threesome slowly crept forward, half out of suspiscion that the person (or more imperials) might attck them, and half out of awe of the sheer destruction. Gale and skylar were beginning to regret not doning thier armour on this outing. Hot drinks kept out most of the cold, but they still felt the cut of the icy wind. They increased thier pace a simdegeon as the snowstrom died down, allowing the person the be seen fully, colours and all. The person, which they saw to be a girl,lifted her visor and turned her head, her seemingly accute hearing alerting her to potential danger. The girls froze in place upon meeting the heartstopping gaze of her ocean-blue eyes, which contrasted well with her red Rathalos armour. She puller her nasty, barbed instrumemnt out of the crushed imperial skull beneather her, and a crack followed, sounding like a gunshot in the crisp, unspoilt air. She swanned her way seductively toward the three girls, as if she wasn't aking things seriously. and opened her mouth to speak.
"Oh, goody! You're here! Nina told me to expect guests the this little do I got goin' on here, but I wasn't expecting them this soon. Ah well, whatever; the more the merrier, as they say!" she said chirpily, a childish, girly giggle escaping her lips as she waltzed passe them in another superfluous body movement.
"Most people just start with "hi"," Gale said bitterly, tired of meeting people whom she knows nothing about, yet seem to know everything about her and her friends."Oh, yeah, you're totally right! Where're my manners? Name's Roux, Roux Honou. And you are?" Roux said, waiting politely for an answer, smiling all the while. A short pause followed.
"Roux Honou?" Gale repeated slowly, with emphasis.
"Gigas...has a daughter?" Skylar said slowly, questioningly.
As Roux was about to utter a reply, she directed Gale's, Skylar's and Makoto's attention to behind them, where the a pillar of swirling snowflakes had formed, slwoly evanesceing to reveal the all too familiar shape of Kazir, still with the same almost-shoulder-length white hair, milky white irises, and black and white robes, a five-foot-long masamune in his right hand. His face was twisted into a psychotic smile. Gale growled almost inaudibly, her hands balling into fists, her body tensing. Kazir's very presence seemed to make the climate ever colder.
"Still alive 'n kicking, are we, Gale? I was beginning to think you and your lovebird never made it out of there. That's good; at least now I can end you myself," Kazir chuckled, his psychotic aura and inconsistent tone of voice only adding to the malice. As the psychotic young man bored into Gale's eyes, he saw the fight within her, and his pupils narrowed into serpentine slits, excited by the unquelled rage within. His smile reprised it's positon upon his face.
"This is just eating you up inside isn't it!? You can't stand it, can you? Well, why don't you just kick my ass then? Huh? Huh!?" he hissed, followed by a manical, psychotic laugh that seemed to echo across the entire plane of existence. Gale finally reached boiling point, speeding toward Kazir a lengthy dash that denied all human capabilities. But she wasn't exactly human. And neither was Kazir.
As Gale swung her Lost Black Katana forth angrily, her fire was snuffed out by suprise: Kazir wasn't there. Her eyes widened, and sound was muted, as she felt something pierce into her abdomen, a coldness unlike any she had experienced before washign over her. She looked down to see a silver blade protruding from her body, awash with crimson blood. Her blood. Lacking the strength to scream, she simply grunted lightly, monotonely, gripping the blade as if to confirm its existence. A what seemed like an eternity since she laid her hands upon it, it was yanked away, and she fell to the floor as existence went black around her, the only thing holding onto both her and her life yanked away in less than a moment.Time seemed to stand still. Every second, every moment, every beat of the heart or bat of an eyelid seemed like a thousand years. As Skylar and Makoto made a move toward Gale's lifeless, bloody corpse, a well-spoken, eloquent female voice echoed across the night.
"YOU BASTARD!"The shape of Nina appeared in front of Roux, Skylar and Makoto, glaring at Kazir, her green eyes burning with a rage that had never before occupied her face. This was also the first time she had ever felt the need to curse, emphasising her anger all the more. Her simple white dress and long blonde hair (which she had tied neatly into two long, thin, bleach-blonde tails since last they saw her) billowing in the fierce wind. She had not appeared in a flash of light, or from amidst the snow, or any other such flashy entrance; she had simply appeared before them, in the blink of an eye.
"Oh, well ain't this fan-fucking-tastic! The gatecrasher is here!" Kazir said, his sadistic grin instantaneously cumpling into a frown of genuine annoyance. He began to ramble in his frustration, still gripping his sword has he waved his arms about, flecks of blood dripping about as he gesticulated aggressively. Nina, though irate, waited patiently for Kazir's rant to come to a natural stopping point.
"Are you quite finished?" Nina said patiently, seeming to have quelled her anger.
"Why do you always have to interfere, butt into my business every sonofabitching time!?" Kazir growled, his voice a little high-pitched.
"If you would just die and leave this land in peace, I would not have to," Nina retorted cooly.
"Oh, please! As if a shitstained reject like you could ever beat me!"
"Why don't we find out?" Nina said, still maintaining her balanced and near emotionless replies, albeit with a little more difficulty this time.
"Goodness gracious me!" Kazir squealed with false fear. "Is everyone's favourit busybody going to play with me? I don't think you'll last more than a second against me, but boy do I wanna hear you scream!" Kazir growled with haughty derision and overconfidence. Nina finally grew impatient with the small talk.
"Very well, you snivelling, thespian blot on creation! What say I tear you limb from limb from cursed limb right now!?" she retorted, rushing toward Kazir aggresively.
"Sounds like fun!" Kazir chuckled, sprinting for the girl.
"To hell with you, monster!"
"I've already been there! It was great fun!"
And as the two immense powers met, so began the dance of demigods.
VIII: The Lightbringer and the Frostbane
Almost in the same moment that Nina and Kazir collided with each other, a great white flash obscured their forms for a few seconds, until it dissipated, and the pair were skidding backward, their arms poised outward behind them in order to keep their balance."I do think now would be an excellent time to take your leave," Nina muttered quietly.
"But-!" Skylar began.
"Just go!" Nina barked. As Roux and Skylar began to trudge away, Makoto held her ground.
"...No." she said placidly. Nina turned to face her.
"Whyever not?" she inquired curiously.
"We won't leave without her body."
Nina averted her gaze slowly to behind her, cocking her head at Gale's bloodied corpse, before pivoting her whole vbody back to face Kazir, who smiled with satisfaction. She raised her palms toward the sociopath, and they began to glow with a dim white light.
"Then you had best take cover," she huffed. She waited patiently for Roux and the others to get away from the clearing, boring into Kazir's serpentine pupils with her emerald eyes. Gleeful pride still curled his lips into a sinister smile. Even though this twisted, unlikeable young man bade her skin crawl and her blood boil, she maintained a cool head. "Do slither back into your hole. You've not even a ghost of a chance against me, and you know it full well. This is folly." Nina sighed, her voice maintaining is cold, near tonelessness. Kazir growled.
"You'd just love that, wouldn't you!?" he snapped. "I can't wait to rip into teeny tiny bloody little strips, nice and slow!
"Well then, sirrah, may I have this dance?"
"Let's go you little bitch!"
Whatever Nina had been preparing had finally finished charging as a great, shapless flash of pure white energy shot straight at Kazir, who savage flung his masamune at the attack, struggling a little to hold it at bay, sparks flying in all directions from the blade, which made a dreadful grinding, screeching noise under the strain, before finally deflecting the amorphous energy into a nearby building, tearing a huge chunk out of it in the process.
"My turn!" Kazir yelled drawing his blade behind him before slowly slahing forward, appearing behind Nina, grinning. His smile faded, however, when he realized that his space tearing slash hadn't touched his opponent, instead of cutting her in two like it should have.
"How-!?" Kazir started.
"Did you really think that that pathetic manouvre would be enough to vanquish me? You insult me," Nina scoffed. "I can manipulate space and time. While my control over it may not be a strong as to undo the past or other such fancies, it does allow me to instigate minor space-time distortions: I am half a second out of sync with you, and we and the three girls...and Gale...are half a second out of sync with everything else, so as not to attract attention to this uncouth little display. In short, you cannot lay finger upon me. But please, do try again. It is rather amusing to watch you scurry about."
Kazir growled again and swung his sword at Nina.Nina snorted with derision, and snapped her fingers. Instantly, time came to a standstill around her. She walked slowly behind Kazir, wrenching the sword from his grip with little effort whatsoever. She grunted as she thrust it into Kazir's chest, breaking the "stasis", and everything sprang into motion once more. Kazir stumbled forward, clutching the blade, grunting with pain as blood gushed from the wound.
Makoto, watching from afar with Skylar and Roux, wasn't quite sure. but she could've sword she had heard "Nina curse in annoyance under her breath, as if she had failed something of great importance.
"You lost, as I said you would, miscreant. Crawl back into the stygian depths from wence you came." Nina sighed with boredom and dismay. Kazir glared at her, his milky white irises and black, serpentine pupils still glowing with evil. He began to chuckle hoarsely, coughing up blood inbetween.
"You might be able to fool yourself...but I can see right through your transparent facade," Kazir wheezed, coughing and spluttering.
"I have no idea what you are talking about." Nina said.
"You know...exactly...what I'm talking about..." Kazir wheezed. With the last of his strength used up, he collapsed into a bloody heap upon the snowy ground, his sword still encase within his chest. His body dissapeared in a cluster of snowflakes, which floated away with the breeze. Nina blinked slowly before calling out to the trio of girls. She barely seemed to raise her voice, and yet she was pitch pefect even from metres away.
"You are back in sync with reality now. I suggest you take the body back to Hiro's house. I will meet you there."
And with that, the mysterious, omnipotent, omniscient young girl began to slowly walk away into the night, until she was swallowed by the snowstorm and dissapeared.
IX: Terror of the Flooded Forest
Rakurai, Tsbuaki, Helyna and Arashi trudged slowly through the Flooded Forest, feeling downtrodden, naturally, after the imperial forces found the Hikari ruins. Well, not very many of them, but even if no soldiers had been present, two top-ranking Abyssal Sanctum soldiers is more than enough. Since the main front gate was the only way out without fighting through soldiers, and Kasai was in the other direction, they had to circle back, and listening to the countless screams of children your own age...and younger...is enough to tear anyone's soul out. They were long gone before the massacre had reached any kind of conclusion. They had heard the enduring sound of of clashing blades and Bowgun fire, so they decided to blind themselves with whatever sliver of hope remained, in order to delay the realization of the more than likely brutal truth. If they faced it now, the magnitude of loss and trauma would overwhelm them.
Either way, there was no time to even stop and think about that now. Their mind were elsewhere: there as a monster amidst the dusk. Everyone called it the "Nightstalker", due to it's uncanny ability to cling to the shadows, killing quickly and without mercy, picking off unwary hunters one by one with a series of swift hit-and-run attacks. Nobody had ever seen it. At least, nobody alive. All it did was let loose a sotto voce growl every once in a while before instigating a rythmic series of sharp crucnhing noises when it snapped twigs and branches as it stalked off further into the night. It terrified them, but they were too busy concentrating on the Nightstalker, ears cocked intently in an attempt to detect the most miniscule sound of movement, to feel fear, or even talk. The only sounds in the barely visible surrounding were chirping crickets, rustling leaves and bushes, and the foursome's short, sharps breath in contrast with the Nightstalkers barely audible yet clearly resonant wheezing.
Suddenly, the heavy breathing stopped, and, almost exactly by the second, so did the hunters. Now, a total, absolute, all-encompassing silence snuffed out nature's buzz. The entire forest had silence itself, like an audience waiting for the next act of a play. The minute clearing that the group had reached was lit by the moon, but the entirety of the forest outside the clearing was made of a cieling of greenery, and even that could no longer be seen. In fact, it was so dark that the people before them, the floor and the moonlit yet pitch black and starless sky were the only things that were visible...at all. It was as if the four young teens had been placed in a spotlight upon a stage.
Sudddenly, though the four didn't see it, the nightstalker grubled inaudibly... and pounced.
The stage had been set for the next act.
Interlude: Ashes of the Fallen
Nina stepped carefully through the ruins of Hikari. The imperials, along with Tiamat and Lux, had long since gone, and the only things that remained of the settlement here were the tortured scremas of bereaved locals and the piles of ash and almost dead pyres of blue flame. Hikari castle was still entombed withing a prison of ice: this was the way the imperials said "we were here". Nina placed her feet daintily, one in front of the other, careful to life her dress with her hands so as not to mingled the clearly beloved fabric with the bloodied ashes of desolation, as the cries of the wounded echoed in her ears.
To think that Hikari was once the benevolent City of Light seemed monstrously fallacious.
As she reached the rubble-ridden "town square" of the ruined city, she stepped on something soft, and a sharp cry of pain snapped back at her. She looked down expressionlessly to see a young male hunter clad in black Fatalis armour, still gripping a seemingly mismtached Shadow of the Moon Long Sword, which was as bloodied as it's wielder. She paused for a moment with to contemplate something, Finally, she rolled her eyes slightly, let out a small huff and knelt down in the ashes, her dress now dirtied, as she had dreaded.
"Where did they go?" Nina said cooly, with an ever-so-slight hint of comfort in her voice. The hunter pointed feebly to the east, behind Nina, who turned her head and body about a little to follow the direction. Nina then turned back to thank the hunter, but he had already passed away, his eyes still open, staring blankly at the distance to which he had been pointing mere moments ago.
"...To Kasai. As I expected," Nina murmured to herself in the same nigh on robotic tone (or lack thereof). Then she gasped, as if remembering something important, but even that exclamation was calm and level-headed.
"Gale and the others..."
And with that, Nina dusted off her dress as best she could (it was, in fact, utterly pristine, but she clearly thought otherwise, as she grunted with discontent) before stepping through a strange, ethereal white gateway, to her next destination: back to Kasai.
IX-2: Attack of the Nightstalker
MOVE!!!" Tsubaki shouted, hering the tell-tale growl of the Nightstalker. She practically threw Arashi out of the way and onto the floor as the mysterious creature leapt for him. Whatever it truly was, it was ubelieveably fast, as nobody saw it at all. The only signs that it had been there at all were the rustling leaves and the gust of wind they had felt as it's body passed them by.Arashi pulled himself up off the ground slowly, a little dizzy at first. The silence descended again, save the Nightstalker's heavy breathing. It growled guttrally once more, before pouncing at Arashi once again. This time, Arashi pulled his sword out of its scabbard aggressively, slicing at the air as the beast zoomed past him. He heard a loud roar of pain, followed by several crashing noises, idicating a severe wound. Arashi looked down at the moonlit forest floor. Crimson drops of blood were scattered everywhere. Another roar reverberated through the undergrowth, one of pain, rage and humiliation.
"We must've pissed it off!" Rakurai exclaimed worriedly. Suddenly a loud galloping sound, paired with enraged growling, began to speed toward them.
"I think now would be a good time to start running!!!" Helyna shrieked, but even as she uttered the words, everyone had already begun to sprint away from the noise, and whatever it's owner might be.
The Nightstalker might've still had enough energy to scamper after its prey, but it was too injured to sprint after them with its true, ferocious speed; else the foursome would be long since dead. Suddenly, as the four were running the Nightstalker leapt from the shadows,a nd the four turned in horror to gaze upon the beast. Alas, it was too dark to see anything, save two glistening, bright red eyes, with no pupils.
Again the gust of wind cut through the four as the beast passed them by. They stood still for a moment, before beginning to run off again.
"Wait..." Tsubaki muttered. Rakurai, Helyna and Arashi pivoted about to stare at Tsubaki, who hadn't moved, clutching the right side of her abdomen tighly with her left hand. She slowly moved her hand and stared at her palm. It was covered in blood. She collapsed with a sigh. Arashi scuttled forward to scoop her up in his arms before she hit the floor. She was wheezing heavily. Rakurai and Helyna stood around her, worried.
"Will I..be...okay...?" She said weakly, a dizziness washing over her.
"You'll be fine," Arashi said comfortingly. He clapsed her hand, and she seemed to recover enough aware ness to stare into his brown eyes. "...I promise," he added sternly, his voice still warm and soothing to her. At least, she thought so: she could barely keep her now heavy eleids open, nevermind concentrate on somebody. Suddenly, a young girl in am expensive-looking white dress with emerald eyes and bleach blonde hair tied into two tails on either side of her head appeared from no where and waltzed up to join the group.
"Who are you?" Rakurai said cautiously, pointing Zwei's lethal Legendary Fatalis Sickle at the shady newcomer. Despite staring a blade full in the face, she maintained a blank, souless expression. Thanks to her emotionless face, cool demeanour and alabaster skin, the only things that singinfied any sentience were the light in her eyes, her blinking and her breathing. After waiting a few seconds, she deigned to speak, her voice posh and emphatic.
"You appear to be in quite a spot of trouble. You will all die if you continue further. You will come with me, through this portal," she said, and, clicking her fingers sharply, a glowing white doorway appeared. At first, the group hesitated, still suspiscious of the mysterious young girl, but hearing the Nightstalker surge toward them once again was incentive enough. They hurried through the portal, Arashi still carrying the barely conscious Tsubaki, before the portal closed, leaving the thwarted Nightstalker alone with itself.
Interlude: The Abyssal Sovereign
"Is this form to your liking?" the darkness in front of Kazir asked.Kazir stared at his refelction in the water before him that lead to the shadows ahead, lit by torches in the compact room, which was situated at the very top of the Frozen Spire, in the new city constructed by imperials- the City of Ice, Yukikaze. He liked this new body. Instead of his almost shoulder length white hair and milky white eyes, he now sported stylish, short-cropped golden-blonde hair and icy blue eyes, although they still maintained their serpentine pupils. He wore a stylish kimono-like military jacket which was white on the outside and blue on the inside, the edged folded over all the way down, like the collar of a shirt. Attached to the jacket were two pauldrons (made of the same material as the jacket) that extended into long white strips of fabric for an emphatic appearence, indicating a high rank within the military hierarchy. The edges of the jacket and the pauldrons was black. He wore leggings which were the same deep blue as the inside of his jacket, and a pair of steel-toes boots with flaps of white, blue-rimmed fabric hagning out, decorated with a black cross of the shins, and the toes were painted blue. He wielded a strange, exquisite-looking sword that he held with the blade facing behind him, sheathed away within a sky blue scabbard. A delicately crafted, ornate silver made up the handle.
"Yeah. Stylish. Nice sword. I'm aaaaaaaal set!" Kazir answered cheerfully, with an unusually calm tone of voice.
"Good. Well then..." the voice from the shadow echoed, "...it is high time we put our plan into action...find Gale Kaze's companions...retrieve the Yamiokami Gem...the heart...my heart...once I have it, we Wyrms can finally conquer this world..."
"Whatever it takes...Shinkaiyami," Kazir muttered wryly, a small chuckle escaping his lips.
The psychotic young man turned away from the small pool, and Shinkaiyami (or the shadow that he consisted of presently), and slowly stalked off, headed for the City of Fire once again.
The sun had finally risen over Kasai.
Jinsoku twirled the Yamiokami Gem around with his fingers, gazing into it blankly, deep in thought. To be honest, he had completely forgotten that he had had it in the first place, what with everything else going one. The month or so they had spent in thier own time felt like another wold now. Another universe, even. Suddenly he was forced out the recesses of his mind when the door opened and Shinji came in, walking slowly toward him, staring the the jewel he held.
"Forgot about that thing. Apparently we have to keep it safe of something," she said.
"Yeah...well..." he gave up talking as the young girl came to sit down next to him on the side of the bed. He carefully placed the gem on a nearby tabletop, his eyes still fixated on Shinji. They looked into each other's eyes for a few moments, until thier lips locked, and the rest of the universe seemed to fall into nonexistence.
That was until a well spoken, effluent voice shattered the moment into a million tiny pieces.
"Makoto and Skylar have retured with the "Angel of Kasai". But I fear...I know...that you will not like what you see," Nina said stiffly.
And finally the penny dropped at long and painful last.
"Gale!" Shinji cried, and grabbed hold of Jinsoku's hand and the pair of them sprinted downstairs. Nina watched aloofly, stalking her way down the stair slowly, as if gliding.
The occupants of the house in thier entirety stared in awe at the lifeless corpse of their beloved friend and comrade, Gale, who was laid out on the tabl with her hands clasped together, like a slumbering princess in a fairty tale. If it weren't for the hole in her abdomen and the whitness of her dead skin, anyone would think her asleep. If only that were true.
Altair stood with his arms folded and his green eyes full of remorse,Skylar (still a child at heart) clung sheepishly to Makoto's robes, while Makoto herself stared blanky and let the tears fall freely, Hiro stood against the fireplace, smoking his pipe, his aged grey eyes flooded with concern-he didn't know Gale enough to grieve like the others, but wasn't cold enough as to disregard a human life, especially one with the power that would bring freedom to the people. Roux stood with Nina, surveying the scene with as much detachment as she could. Mizu was curled up against the wall, crying, adjacent to the fireplace with his head burined in his arms, which were hanging his knees.
Jinsoku stood with the others, staring at the floor or at other people or objects, unable to bring himself to look at the peaceful corpse before them.
"Who did this?" Altair asked with concern.
"...Kazir...," Makoto whimpered, images of the moment flashing before her eyes.
"That goddamn son of a bitch!" Gigas yelled. Altair laid a calming hadn on his shoulder, and Gigas regained his composure as well as he could.
"He is dead, however. I killed him myself.," Nina said with false confidence, although she knew all to well that she was lying to them and herself.
"Come now, Nina; we both no that that is not true," Hiro? said frankly. Nina's eyes shifted.
Shinji walked slowly over to Mizu, and knelt down in front of him. Slowly he looked up, tears streaming down his face, his eyes red from crying. "Come here," she said, a motherly comfort in her voice, her arms spread wide. Slowly but surely, Mizu embbraced her. He screamed with melancholy grief, and she burst into tears.
Shinji pulled her neack away from Mizu's shoulder, her eyes swimming with tears, and looked at Nina, who stared sadly (even her detachment had limits) at Gale's body.
"Can't you do anything?" she sobbed, although she knew as well as anyone that her friend was gone.
"I am not a god..." Nina said sadly, then added, "But...I can do this much..."
The crowd watched as the ethereal young girl approached the table, and moved her palm horizontally across Gale's body. As she did, so, the grim cadaver brightened; the maw in her chest vanished and her skin and hair recovered it's vitality. Her hair also change style along the way, the short ponytail changing to freeflowing hair that reached down to her elbows.
"Now time will never ravage her," Nina whispered. Suddenly, Roux interrupted the ghastly, eerie silence.
"I just remembered! There is a way to bring her back! You all know the legend of the Lost City of Water, right? Most people think it's just a myth, an old wives' tale, a bedtime story. But I've been there, I've seen it. The Lake of Eternity will bring her back!"
The group's murmurs of optimism were soon shattered by Hiro.
"Roux, even if it is real, it's not on any map from any cartographer in the entire world. We would never ever find it," he rasped sadly.
"'Tis not a problem," Nina disagreed, still kepping her cool exterior in spite of recent events, " for I will be your chaperon in this endeavour." The group's confidence blossomed again, even causing Shinji and Mizu to gaze up in hope.
"You know the way?" Mizu said hopefully.
"Of course. I know every location in every spot in this world." And many, many more worlds, she thought to herself.
"Then it is settled. We will travel to the Lost City. I just hope that Roux is correct, for Gale's sake," Altair said confidently.
"This is most opprtune timing. I believe some...allies...will be arriving at Kasai shortly," Nina added.
"Allies?" Gigas repeated questioningly.
"Yes. They are young, but one of them is a Descendant, and he another of these four are very special to one of you," Nina explained cryptically. "As such, it would be wise not to go until they get here."
"How long will they be?"
"They are here in the city now. I brought them here. But, much to my disdain, I could not bring them to you. Teleporting is quite a delicate opeartion, and too many...occupants, for want of a better word, makes it far less efficient and far more dangerous. As my particular brand of teleporting relies on the energy of both space and time to work correctly, telepoting the four of them and me more than once would more than likely have created a paradox."
"Um, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I don't think we have very much time to wait. At all." Jinsoku groaned, staring out of the window. The group would have joined Jinsoku by the window to see for themselves, but a nine-strong crowd would not all be able to see through such a small window.
"What is it, Jin?" Shinji said, her and Mizu both standing now, holding their sadness in (for now, at least).
"It's a load of imperials, they're gathering in the city plaza, where were when we first got here," Jinsoku answered seriously. The alleys to the right of the window weren't very far, and you could just about get a good view of the plaza if you looked at the right angle. "And there's a weird looking one at the front with some snazzy blue and white uniform and a short blonde hairdo, and a weird looking sword." It was amazing that anybody could pick up such detail from so far, but Jinsoku had always had eagle eyes. You had to, to use a bow, after all. It was no wonder his accuracy was so finely tuned.
"Then they are here for us, and thet gem of yours, Jinsoku. It will not be long before they disperse and find us here. We must act quickly," Nina said calmly, a white portal opening behind her as she did so. Everybody stepped through, one by one, so as not to "overload" the portal, Mizu carrying Gale's body tentatively in his arms, Nina quietly exiting last. Stopping to look at Hiro, who had yet to follow suit.
"Are you not coming?" she asked.
"No. I am far too old to be of any help. I know nothing you don't already know yourself. There would be no point."
"They will kill you. You do know that, correct?"
"Of course. But it matters not. I am old, and quite tired as it happens. I will be fine."
"Very well then. Goobdbye."
Nina finally stepped through the closing portal, leaving the old man alone with his thoughts.
XI: Shinkaiyami's Heart
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 thier 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 wierd 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 thier strangely dressed master might be, Mizu felt a jolt of excruciating pain flare in his arm. It was even worse then being cut a thousand times, not necessarily becuase it hurt more, but becuase 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 withing 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 forgotten 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 strange 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 suprised 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! "
"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 her bow at the ready. The others drew thier 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..."
"You were unfit to rule. Yours was not a democracy, it was a dictatorship. You started a war that lasted aeons in Wyrm measurement of time and destroyed 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 far and wide? and girdle this world, exterminate humanity 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 it's own vaunted name.
XII: The Search for Salvation
Rakurai, Helyna, and Arashi, still carry the now unconscious Tsubaki, ran frantically through the streets, pursued by several soldiers, all rushing forward, swords at the ready. Arashi had placed a makeshift tourniquet around her waist to stop the bleeding. Occasionally, her eyes flickered open for the briefest of seconds before she slipped back into unconsciousness.
The one thing that always creeped everybody out about the imperial soldeirs was that they never spoke unless spoken to by a superior, as if they didn't have a mind of thier own. Like drones. And everybody always said that they had the power of ice within them, yet nobody had ever seen them use it. Most nowadays just thought it was a rumour spread as a scare tactic.
As the foursome veered round yet another street, they found themselves in a small plaza; a few benches were littered around the place, and a medium size, delicately crafted water fountain was situated in the middle, a pool under it to catch the water and a few stairs that led down to the rest of the plaza, but the water had long since turned to ice, spoiling the view. Then again, everything else was covered in a thin layer of snow, despite the sunny sky, so what difference did it make, really?
Suddenly they looked around them, as soldiers cut off every exit point.
"Shit..." Rakurai muttered. The group nucleated together, pointing thier weapons with steadfast courage (except Arashi who had no free hands).
"What're we supposed to do now? There's nowhere to go, and we can't carry Tsubaki about and keep her sfae at the same time," Helyna said. Rakurai scanned thier surroundings, searching for a way out of their desperate scenario. He sighed defeatedly.
"We're just gonna have to fight our way out," he huffed.
_____________________________________________________________________________________________Mizu locked blades with the sinister entity before him, it's ominous crimson eyes, pupilless and hateful. The two pushed thier entire body weights against thier blades, each trying fo force the other over. Suddenly, Shinkaiyami stopped stuggling, and Mizu stumbled forward, still pushing. Shinkaiyami swatted the hunter away with a strong backhand punch. Makoto put away her spectacles and rushed forth, fligning her matenbou at Shinkaiyami, who deflected it with the flat of his blade. Makoto used those few precious moments to send a wave of whitish fire at the shadow. He slolwy moved his hand horizontally across the air as the fire came into contact with him, and it was extinguished. However, as the flames dissipated, a huge black blur stuck him in the face, sending him reeling. Altair took this chance- he grabbed his green, frayed cloak and flung it acorss his body like a vampire, dissapearing in a black haze, appearing behind Shinkaiyami and slashing at him continously and fervently with a pair of balisong-style butterfly knives. Makoto proceeded to unlesh a sting of kick and puches, while Skylar joined in, slashing at the entity with her Hidden Ones. The three of them pulled away as Gigas surged forward and swung hia Dancing Hellfire at the enemy. Nina then took her share of the action, sending a huge amorphous ball of white light hurtling toward it. When it made contact, the shadow yelled out with annoyance and suprise, forced off his feet and sent skidding into a black heap upon the floor some metres away within the almost Plaza-wide "cage". As the smoke cleared, he rose to his feet almost gracefully, now floating a few centimetre off of the ground. He began to laugh, and a thousand tormeneted souls seemed to join in, a cacophony of creepy cackling.
"How quaint. Cameraderie. But did you not think that I am more powerful that this? Or did you simply refuse to countenance the thought?" Shinkaiyami said, his voice like a thousand whispers. He hunched over, roaring with strain and defiance. His body began to "mterialize", looking more solid. It was still pitch black, but it had a leathery gleam to it and a silver trim, and it was covered in nasty spikes of various lengths, jutting out and different angles, some hooked, some straight. His face retained it's gleaming red eyes, but hey had developed black, catlike pupils.His mouth (if he even had one) was covered by a black mask that pulsated a little when he spoke. His sword had grown longer, from one metre to about three, and it was also silver, although the hilt was black, and a long clawlike spike curled upward to whee the hilt ended and the blade began, a little like the Lost Black Katana, and it semmed to hum entisingly every time it moved even slightly, as if sining some kind of song; like the Eager Cleaver, but not as loud or harsh. Slivers of wispy shadow slithered at his feet, as he took baby steps forward. The group couldn't see the bottom half of his face, but they could sense an evil smile on his face.
Nina turned to Makoto, opening a portal behind her.
"Makoto, go through here. Our allies are in peril," she said flatly.
"But, how do you kn-?" Makoto began.
"Just go!" Nina commanded. Makoto ran though without delay, the doorway shutting behind her. Mizu, Shinji, Jinsoku, Skylar, Gigas, Altair and Nina and Roux faced the dark apparition before them.
Shinkaiyami growled again, and a pair of black, hellish wings emerged from his back. They were tattered and word looking, with holes in the webbing bone showing in some places. He huffed triumpahntly before swooping at the party once more, his placed poised like a spear, ready to spill blood.
As the soldiers charged at the hapless group of hunters, a white flash blinded them and an unfamiliar young woman with a head-to-toe-long purple ponytail, dressed in a rather revealing black yellow robe and pair of plaform heels of the same two colours that made it hard to believe she could run at all. She held a matenbou behind her. She quickyl raise her arm above her head, and with a grunt she thrust it down to touch the ground. In the same instant, stalagmites of solid earth prtruede aggressively from the ground around her and the others, sending all the soldiers flying into walls, statues, windows, etc. When the ground stelled again she pulled herself upright and sighed with satisfaction. There were chunks of stone and earth littered around the place, along with either dead of unconscious soldiers, but apart from that, silence. She turned to face the threeawestruck teens.
"Um, thank you for saving us, but...who are you?" Helyna asked sheepishly. Makoto turned around to face them, smiling thinly.
"I'm Makoto. The people that Tsubaki said you need to find, I'm one of them,and my friends are the others. And we need your help," Makoto answered. As she finished her sentence, a loud cry echoed ahead."Come on, we have to hurry!" Makoto said, coaxing the hunters along as she sprinted away, following the sound.
Mizu fell to the floor, clasping his arm, the Stigma gnawing at him once again. Shinkaiyami aimed his massively long blade at the boy's throat.
"A gift from the gods," he mused. "You may thank me later."
Mizu glared hatefully at the abysmal creature. It's demonic eyes glared back. It drew it's sword away, raising it's arms archaically, it's grotesque wings beating gently; an angel of death.
"Before I depart, I will pose you all a question: why do think that there are no people here?"
"Because they're all to frightened to leave thier homes..." Jinsoku said quietly. Shinkaiyami laughed briefly.
"Not so. they were never here to begin with. This city has been derelict for nine years now."
"You bastard! You tell me where my people are right now, goddammit!" Gigas shouted, shaking his fist in anger at the Wyrm. This time, nobody dared to try and calm him down.
"Relax, foolish human. They are not dead, not yet. Kasai rebelled against our great cause, so when we finally subjugated them, we placed every occupant of this city under our supervision in the new capital of this land-Yukikaze, the City of Ice. Now they serve the cause they once opposed. Be thankful that we didn't kill them all."
For the first time since they others had met Gigas, he was utterly speechless.
"Until next we meet..." Shinkaiyami muttered anticlimatically, before he was enveloped by shadows and dissapeared.
XIII: A Family Reunion
As the group stood slient in awe, the mystical barrier caging them withing the plaza dissipated, and several sets of fast-paced footsteps trample up behind them. They all turned to see Makoto with four teens, not older thank fourteen by the looks of them; one had black hair and green eyes, dressedin Narga armour and weilding a Legendary Fatalis sickle, one had donned Silver Sol armour and sported a Wyvern Blade "Camelia". he also carried am unconscious girl, dressed in Ceadeus+ Armour and weilding an Abyssal Striker, in his arms. She looked to be in quite a dire state. The last of the unfamilair foursome was a young girl with cyan eyes and long blak hiar tied into a plait by a black ribbon, dressed in a red silk dress. It was in those moments, when the strangers gazed upon her, that the girl realized she lacked hunter armour, and blushed a little.
"These are the ones of which I spoke," Nina said to Mizu and the others. She then turned to Rakurai and his friends. "These are the people Tsubaki was told about, and I am am the voice that guided her here. As you will have noticed, I also saved you from the Nightstalker. you may thank me now."
"O thank you for this boon you have granted us!" Rakurai said with false enthusiasm.
"That will suffice, I suppose. Anyhow..." Nina turned back again, to look at Mizu her cold eyes softening, if only a tad. "The two boys are your sons, Mizu."
Everyone seemd to gasp. Rakurai's and Arashi's eyes were lit with befuddlement. "But our father should be older. This can't be right."
Nina sighed impatiently. "We've not time for this!" she snapped, and strutted over to Arashia and Rakurai. "Place your figers on Arashi's head. Now!"
Rakurai did so, and Nina placed her figertips daintily upon Rakurai's head. Immeadiately, the brothers' eyes widedened as they saw what thier parents had suffered through..and their mother's death, by Kazir, the very same man who had cursed Rakurai with his Descendant powers, which nobody had ever seen him use. But they were about to. Rakurai pulled away, seething and quivering with rage. He raised his fist high, and roared withimmeasurable pain, rage and grief, before plunging it into the ground. Immediately, the entire city became woven withing a web of ice, and every building, every abandoned vehicle, and every soldier who scoured the metropolis of Kasai was encased in a bonechilling tomb of ice that covered the entire city like a blanket. the only things that had remained as they were were the hunters around him. As the others looked around in awe, Kazir was nowhere to be seen.
He pulled his fist off of the ground, tears flling from his eyes. He ran toward Mizu, embracing the young man tightly. Mizu placed his arms lovingly around his son's shoulders. Arashi simply stood in front of Gale's corpse, mourning his dead mother.
"Fear not. We know of a way to bring her back. The Lake of Eternity, in the Lost City of Water, Kyuuryuu. We can also cure your father of Shinkaiyami's stigma there. Now, it is best that we make haste for Kyuuryuu posthaste," Nina said reassuringly, and a white doorway appeared behind her. Mizu tenderly picked up his dead girlfriend from the ground, follwoing the others as they each steeped through the portal, one by one, ready to lay thier eyes on the Lost City.
XIV: The Lost City
As the portal closed behind them, the group stood in awe at the sight before them. Green, green grass and rolling hills dominated the landscape, but all descended like a ramp, leading down to a lake the size of a city in the middle, and, resting on top of it, was a huge, flat slab of jagged stone, and what looked like a huge, well-structured city built upon it, large, thin waterfalls spilling thier contents into the lake below. Nina pointed to the sight, as if everybody wasn't transfixed already.
"That," Nina said, "Is Kyuuryuu, the Lost City of Water."
"Yeah, you...never told us, though...why is is the Lost City?" Shinji asked curiously.
"Because it was hidden away by the Wyrms themselves. The great water Wyrm, Tsunamikawa, summoned a titan, a great stone golem, to uproot the city and bring it here, where the Lake of Eternity would be safe from Shinkaiyami and his war efforts. The golem is said to have 'become one with the city'. What that precisely means is quite the enigma," Nina answered confidentntly, the gentle wind snagging on the tails of her hair, her cold emerald eyes still gazing wistfully upon yonder city. Shinji then turned to the newcomers of the pack.
"By the way, you never told us your name. You... do have one, don't you?" she asked gingerly, beaming and scraching the back of her helmet awkwardly. The group forgot that they wore armour sometimes.
"Yeah, course I do! I'm Helyna. And this poor girl is Tsubaki," Helyna said, pointing to the unconscious and rather pasty looking girl (she had lost alot of blood when the Nightstalker attacked her) in Arashi's arms. Makoto swanned past Shinji and touched tsubaki's cheek with the back of her hand.
"Goodness, she's cold! She's lost alot of blood! We must take her to the City immediately!" Makoto said, flustered.
"Are your serious!? We don't have any transport, and there's no way in hell we're gonna make it on time if we're walking!" Roux moaned. She had been so quiet for a while now, that the others often forgot that she was even there.
Before anybody could think of a reply, Altair's voice interrupted.
"LOOK OUT!" he shouted, drawing his starnge, four-barrelled pistol and firing rapdly at the sky. The other looked up and frantically moved aside, as a huge Ancient Rathian came swooping down at them, poised like and eagle ready to cacth prey. It screeched as it missed the mark narrowly, flying back up into the sky again. It hovered in the air, drew back it's neack, and fired three fireballs at the hunters, before diving to the ground, creating a cloud of dust and grass, sending all the hunters flying away, all slumping indignified heaps a few metres away from thebeast.
The hunters found this rather unusual, as firing from the sky was a Rathalos characteristic. Ah well, expect the unexpected, I guess, Roux thought as she swiftly rocovered and ran at the sinister monster, swinging her huge, spikey and cruel-looking black-scarlet hammer at it. The cruel fangs of the weapon dug deep into the Ancient Rathian's left leg, causing it to shriek with agony. It kicks its leg behind it, the full force colliding with Roux's chest and knocking her away. It turned about, blood dripping from it's wound; not enough to make it limp, but enough to make it annoyed. It's red eyes flared with ire and it schreeched again, charging toward Roux. As it approached, Altair swiftly jumped into it's path, stood still and fired his pistol continuously, taking advantage of it's almost impossibly large magazine. He kept firing despite the swiftly closing gap between him and the monster. At last, a bullet pierced straight throgh the creatures eye, causing it to become disorientated, tripping over its self and sliding to ground before Altair. As Gigas stalked over to stab his Long Sword into the creatures brain to finish it off, a graceful yet desperate voice cried out.
"NO! Please don't kill her!"
Everyone looked up to see a woman riding what looked like an Akumagoka, the Hellfire Wyvern, that attacked Gale's dad's airship on thier way to Chikyuu. But it was blue, and it's eyes were golden yellow, and more docile. The woman riding it wore long, dark blue kimono, and carried a pait of Katanas around a belt that sat on her waist. Her eyes were blue and her hair was wavy and a fair brown colour, and reached down to her shoulders. She must have been in her mid-thirties, or something close to that age. The Akumagoka (clearly a subspecies of it's fiery and rather short-tempered counterpart), swooped lower, gusts of wind being caused by it's massive wingbeats. It slowly calmed itself, until it gently fell to the ground with a *thud!*. The unfamiliar woman stepped carefully off of her sapphire blue steed.
"I appear to have startled you. My apologies," the woman said, quickly, lifting her kimono with her hands as she ran over speedily to the wounded Ancient Rathian. It whined like a sad puppy as the ran her hadn gently over its face, and winced when she touched its eye, which had been goiged by Altair's bullet. It's breathing was short and rapid, as if it was stuggling to do so. The woman sighed with dismay.
"You've wounded it too badly. The best thing to do is put it out of it's misery," she moaned sadly. She unsheated once of her katana's. The Ancient Rathian squeled with terror at the sight of the blade, but the woman shushed it kindly. She hummed a sweet tune as she slowly pressed the blade into it's brain, and the creature slowly closed it's eyes, and at last its body became limp and flacid. She pulled her blade out, cleaned it on the grass, and sheated it away. She stood up to adress the group."I'm sorry, my manners escaped me. My name is Tamari. I come from Kyuuryuu, just over there. No doubt you are here for the Lake of Eternity. You carry a corpse with you," Tamari said informatively, gesturing to Gale, who Mizu still carried. She then ran back and climbed back onto the blue Akumagoka.
"Hop on!" she called over the noise of it's steady wingbeats. The twelve comrades clambered onto the back of the aquatic mount, and the best took to the sky with a proud roar and excited eyes.
_____________________________________________________________________________________________Everything looked so beautiful from up in the sky, even more so that it did on land. The wind on thier faces and the soothing, rythmic sounds of the Akumagoka's wings. Shinj clung to Jinsoku (whom was sat infront of her) and sighed, closing her eyes to take in the sounds around her. Everybody eles was even more awestruck than they had been minutes ago. Even Nina had ditched her melancholy demeanour and looked down in amazment, as what could just about pass for a smile crossed her lips.
After a few blissful minutes of this, Tamari annouced their arrival, as the others looked down as the city-sized lake that was now ahead of and below them. They could see the Lost city clearer now. It was beautiful.?
"Welcome, everyone, to the Lost City of Water!"
XV: The Lake of Eternity
After the blue Akumagoka had set down in one of the landing zones on the edges of the city (Akumagokas seemed to be the only mode of transport, seeing the city was slap bang in the middle of a small ocean).After the hunters had introduced themselves to Tamari, the party moved onward. Barely acknowledgeing the multitudes of citizens around them, the enite crowd rushed forward down a straight wide path, houses and shops and such on either side, all of which were greyish (they were made of stone) and decorated with both dark and light blue banner in most cases, hurrying to get to what Tamari said was the Citadel. At last the forest of buildings ended and a wide, circular town square came into view, a wide, temple-like structure in the middle, up some wide stairs. It was covered in ivory and nacre, giving it a beautiful sheen and polish. it looked so old, and yet not a single part of it seemed to have been affected by the ravages of time, and not a part of it's skin was tarnished. It was tall wide, and a pair of statues that were carved in the shape of what the group assumed to be Tsunamikawa, the water Wyrm, had been placed either side of the entrance. It was utterly amazing to behold.
The mass of hunters rushed up the stairs, eager to get Gale, Tsubaki and Mizu seen to. They barged in through the wide gates, walking as briskly as they could (running was not allowed inside the Citadel). The hall was liined with more, smaller vdersions of the Tsunamikawa statues ourside, this time. The statues perched majestically, water sprouting from their mouths and into ornate basins below.
"We use water not just as our drink and fertilizer; we also utilize it for decorum, pretty much everywhere in the city. It is, after all, the most abundant of the materials we possess," Tamari huffed; talking while running (they might as well ahve benn running, at the pace they were "walking") was a difficult task, even for the fit. As soon as they reached the next mahogany door, the eothe side of which were to narrower halls that lead to the Justice sector and the Horticulture sector of the Citadel, according to Tamari's rather rushed, verbal guide, Tamari burst it open and ran to the edge of the jagged, undecorated stone ground before them.The "room" was more like a cave. it was large and circular, and the groaund past the ivory stairs was bare and undecorated. There were several guards all dressed in Lagiacrus armour and weilding heavy, yet nimble-looking spears, which they held upright in coordination with their stiff, dutiful poses, like guards should be, not even moving to observe the new occupants of the room (Tamari seemed to be in charge around here anyway). Where the bare stone floor stopped, there was a large lake, lit by ethereal phosphoresence, the sky blue patches of water slithering around like eels. But the hunters knew that there were no eels here. This was the lake itself was luminous.
This was the fabled Lake of Eternity.
Altair, Gigas, Skylar, Mizu, Makoto, Shinji, Jinsoku, Roux, Rakurai, Arashi, Helyna and Nina gathered around the edeg of the lake. Every one knelt down, but Nina remained standing, preferring not to dirty her clothes.
"Alright. Lay them both down here," Tamari instructed. Mizu carefully laid his girlfriend down on the stone floor, and his sone did the same with Tsubaki.
"Okay. Nina has been here before and will no doubt teleport you to your quarters. Take your armour off and frshen up, and we will meet back here later tonight. The hour grows late, and I must perfrom the prayers before we initaine the healing," Tamari said, her voice melifluous and soothing to the troubled would-be rebels. In that same instant, Nina opened anothe white gateway. each stepped through, one by one, tired and eager to spend time with thier closest friends of the group. Mizu kissed Gale on the forhead before leaving her to the caring hands of Tamari.
Shinji and Jinsoku stood in the shower, trying to pull of the rather difficult task of washing oneself while kissing. Part of their brains were also getting used to the 'shower' in general-everybody else in all the other cities and villages (except maybe rich cities like Kasai) always had baths and they had never had a shower before. It was a clever system- the water (wherever that came from they did not know) circulated around the city, into taps, basin, and eventually into here (after being filtered, they hoped!), through the fancy looking drain on the ceiling.
Slowly Shinji put her hand on Jinsoku's chest and pushed him against the wall (which wasn't to far away in a small compartment like this). He read her eyes.
"Are you sure? You wanna-?" he said.
She clung to him once again. He took that as a yes.
Helyna came out of the shower as Rakurai walked in (they were sharing a room becuase of short supply-there were twelve of them after all, minus Tsubaki and Gale).
"Don't look!" Helyna snapped, startled, grabbing for the nearest blanket to conceal herself with. Rakurai just kept walking, smirking at her insecurity as he tried not to look at her.
"Relax, Helyna, it's just me, not some old weirdo. Besides, we're both gonna "look" eventually," he said lightheartedly. As she got dressed into the simple clothes that everyone (or so she assumed, she hadn't visited the others yet) had had laid out for them by what seemed to be room service of some sort. They were comfortable, but basic; enough for simple folk like her and Rakurai, but she wasn't sure about the others. However, she was adamant that Gigas would rather sleep in his Lavasioth armour. As Helyna finished dressing herself, Rakurai wlaked up behind her and wrapped his arms around her waist lovingly. She grinned to herself.
"I love you," he said quietly. Helyna responed by turning around for a kiss.
As Mizu walked down the long, curving hallway on the way to see Shinji and Jinsoku, he thought he could hear a soft tutting sound from Helyna and Rakurai's room. He peeked in through the door briefly, only to see Helyna and Rakurai sitting on the side of the bed kissing, his hands on her face and around her waist and hers on the back of his neck and on his chest. Mizu turned away and smiled to himself- his son had a piece of him inside him. Mizu turned back and opened the door abruptly when the reached a natural stopping point. But before he could tell them what he had realized he needed to tell them, Rakurai yelled at him.
"CAN YOU KNOCK FIRST!?" he boomed, starling Mizu, then making him laugh a little. Rakurai clearly had a piece of his mother in him a well.
"You do have your mother in you after all. C'mon, Tamari said she's ready."
Slowly, Mizu, Shinji, Jinsoku, Altair, Skylar, Gigas, Nina, Rakurai, Arashi, Helyna, Roux and Makoto once again gathered around the edge of the Lake of Eternity. The hour was later, and they had slept, washed, had a hearty meal, and put on thier armour just in case (Helyna, who was without a set of her own, had been given a spare Lagiacrus armour set). Tamari instructed Mizu to carry Gale and Arashi to carry Tsubaki.?
"Now, lay them in the water-fear not, if they are pure, they will float. Subsequently, you standing in the water will cure the Stigma," Tamari said cautiously, her hair now tied up into a bun.
Mizu slowly lowered Gale's peaceful body into the water, and Arashi did the same with Tsubaki. They sank into the water...and rose back to the top, floating. Everybody siged in unison with relief.
"Good. They are pure. I had no doubt that they would be. Now to see if they will be healed."
Everybody waited for at least ten minutes, cliging onto hope. Nothing happened, but Mizu's Stigma was cured, the acerbic blackness upon his forearm was no more. Everybody began to pout, thier hopes wilting like flowers.
"No..." Mizu whimpered. Suddenly as woe began to consume him, Gale's and Tsubaki's bodies began to glow ith the same ephemeral blue as the lake. Everyone cheered mildly.
"It is not an instant process. It will take quite a while. It shouldn't be more than about half an hour, but I cannot be certain. The Lake's powers have not been called upon in some time," Tamari said sternly. Suddenly, a loud sound that sounded like an explosion came from outside, and suprised screms followed. The entire group's heads perked up like cats, and suddenly a guard burst in through the Lake room doors.
"My queen, my queen! The imperials are here! And with them are two Abyssal Sanctum soldiers, and they look like elites! A-and there are imperial airships outside too!" the Lagiacurs-clad gaurd gasped, dropping his spear and falling to his knees with exhuastion-he had clearly run a long way to tell Tamari this. And it was only now that she had been revealed as queen of the Lost City. Tamari reassured the soldier, and then shook her right sleeve. A strange sowrd hilt ran down her arm and into her hand, a long, slightly curved silver blade jutting out of it, suprising the group. Tamari stormed out of the Lake room, and began to walk as emphatically as she could, holding her sword out or all to see.
"Soldeirs! To arms, all of you! Defend this city with your lives! Do not let these vagabonds reach the Lake!" she bellowed, and immeadiately and onrush of soldiers sprinted out of the Citadel and into the streets with the hunters, meeting with Ukanlos-armoured imperials. Fleeing Kyuuryuu citizens were cut down as they attempted to flee, and Tamari stopped as a dead child fell bloodied at her feet, his eyes not even given the time to close.
"I think it would be best if we dispersed!" Altair bellowed above the noise.
"Quite so!" Tamari agreed. "Mizu, take Arashi and Rakurai back to the Citadel! Protect the Lake at all costs! The Windweaver must return!"
" What's a Windweaver!?" Mizu asked, batting away a stray imperial with his Wailing Cleaver Shin as he passed by the Descendant.
"Have you not heard!? Gale Kaze is a legend, spread from Hyoku! Everybody calls her the Windweaver now!" Tamari said, slicing into a soldier with her sword. It was then that Mizu realized that he had forgotten all about Hyoku until now.
"Go, quickly!" Tamari ordered. Mizu ran with his two sons, encasing the himself and them in a ball of water to protect them, rushin off as fast as they could back to the Citadel. Altiar turned to Gigas, shooting at every enemy in sight with his strange and powerful pistol.
"Are you ready to have some fun, old friend?" he boomed.
"Just like old times! Ha!" Gigas roared with delight, blasting imperials away with his Agnablast, followed by a wave of fire from his hand. He had a feling that everyone who had Descendant abilities would need them now more than ever before. He followd Altair, the pair of them strafing as they ran to the air transport docks to the west, where they were sure to find imperial airships lying in wait. Roux, Skylar and Makoto ran off to the east airship docks while Nina stayed with Tamari to hold the south of the city.
It would be long battle ahead.
XVI: Winds of Rebirth
Gigas and Altair sped down the sunset-lit pathways of Kyuuryuu, letting lose volleys of wind and fire at every imperial they could hit. Gigas also strafed past some soldiers with his Agnablaster, pulling out his Dancing Hellfire wehn the fight got a little too close, and Altair did the same except with his balisong-style butterfly knives. He also flung shurikens at stray imperials as they went for civilians. They had no idea that the City, despite it's colossal size, had quite this large and army. The imperial army was huge as a whole, but the way thing were going, the imperial were ebing overrun by the sheer force and numbers of the Lost City military, and they would never be able to win without the help of somebody far stronger than them.
And that is just what Altair was now attacked by, the moment Gigas got stuck into a fight with some soldiers nearby.A purple flash appeard before Altair's eyes- It was the spinning form of a Dark Claw: "Demise". Altair had just a few seconds to react, arching his body backward, sliding forward on his shins, staring at the Alatreon blade as it flew past him, mere inches abover his face. He combat rolled forward to recover, shooting wildly at the Alatreon-clad female soldier before him. She simply blocked the bullets with her blade, which had now boomeranged back to her, before lashing out at the Sky Village ninja with a bolt of misty shadow-all Abyssal Sanctum soldiers were dark Descendants. Altair yelled out in suprise as the unexpected attack sent him reeling into a nearby wall. He recovered, grabbing anearby sword, duelling feebly with the elite imperal, who was well-versed in the ways of swordplay.The Sanctum soldier kicked Altair against another wall, slapping the sword out of his hand. She slowly raised her cruel Long Sword abover head, ready to smite the Descendant...when Gigas jumped in, piledriving into the woman wand throwing her into the wall with his bare hands.
"Nice try, you Sanctum bitch!" he growled heartily. "You might be a dark Descendants, but underneath that tough exterior, you ain't got shit."
"Be careful, Gigas! She' not just a lackey! That's Tiamat, the 'Reaper of Babylon'!" Altair warned him, clambering to his feet carefully, in contrast with the fast paced battle around him. The middle-aged Descendant huffed, dropped his Agnablast by the wall that Altair stood at, and readied his Dancing Hellfire proudly. He snorted at Tiamat with haughty derision.
"Lets see if ya can live up to that fancy name o' yours, 'Reaper'."
_____________________________________________________________________________________________Roux, Skylar and Makoto had been rushing to the east docks when a strange Abyssal Sanctum elite had attacked them. Dressed in Alatreon armour (as the higher-ups always did, while the lower wore black Fatalis armour) and wielding an Alatreon Revolution, which he seemed to wield with expert precision and semmed to be able to move like it was made of paper, he swung the blade at them effortlessly. Skylar, being a Sky Village ninja and a little smaller than others her age, was able to dodge the attacks nimbly, slashing at the towering soldier with her Hidden Ones. Roux swung her hammer, which appeared to be and Alatreon hammer, with the same grace as the Sanctum soldier swung his Great Sword, one often deflecting the attack of the other. Makoto was about to join in with her power, but she had been dragged into a fight with some imperial infantry.
The soldier, utterly silent, finally got the better of the young girl, kicking Skylar away to the floor. He then sent a bolt of shadow toward her, which grabbed her and pll her toward him. As she came rushing toward him unintentionally, he batted the girl away with the flat side of his blade, hitting her full on and smashing her into a wall, knocking her unconscious. Makoto hppened to notcied this, luckily.
"Skylar!" she shouted, swatting the soldiers around her away with her matenbou. She raised her arm high, a wave of white flame speeding toward the dark soldier, hitting him full on, pushing him away as she crept toward the helpless young girl. He recovered swifly, the blank white eyes on on his helm staring into Makoto's purple irises. She stood in front of Skylar, raising her matenbou defensively, pointing it at the elite soldier like a spear.
"Never," she hissed.
Rakurai, Arashi and Mizu stood guard inside the room which hid away the Lake of Eternity, Mizu standing in the water, tenderly stroking Gale's hair, the empehmeral lights of the water traversing acorss her body, still "doing their thing", while Arashi sat corsslegged on the floor, gazing at Tsubaki's comatose body, pale with blood loss. He had know her even since he and his brother had arrived at Hikari when they were ten. He had always been fond of her. He was even fonder now. Suddenly, both Mizu's and Arashi's concentration was broken when Rakurai, who was standing alertly by the door, gasped. He wasn't sure how (while he did know why), but he shared a link with Helyna, as they were both artificial ice Descendants (he hadn;t found the right moment to tell his parent(s)).
"Helyna!" he snapped, sprinting out of the door, heading for the southern airdocks before Mizu or Arashi could utter a word.
Tamari stood against Helyna's back, both defending against the onslaught of imperials at the southern airdock, which they asuumed was where most of the airships had docked, as it was totally full. Nina had teleported somewhere, saying that she would be better seerved elsehwere than in a crowd, unarmed.
If it weren't the mass of Kyuuruu soldiers that had amalgamted with their queen, they would've been dead ages ago. But even now, the Lost City soldiers' numbers had begun to dwindle, as Tamari and Helyna were quickly being overrun. Helyna stabbed and cut into soldiers with her ivory spear, while Tamari slashed at twirled her blade around, slicing as many soldiers as she could while maintaining her position by the fourteen-year-old. Suddenly, as Tamari blindly swished sword through the air like a paintbrush, it clashed with something cold, something so cold that it chilled her to the bone. She stared into the fearsome adversary's icy white-blue, serpentine eyes, bloodlust in thier centre and a crazed smile upon his face. He was dressed in a white and blue military outift with a black trim, and he had short-cropped blonde hair. She didn't know who this man was, but he frightened her to her very core. As her hand weakened on the blade, his bore into her, slamming her into the ground with a grunt, causing Helyna to turn around and stare at the man in shock-she recognized him all too well."You-!" she began angrily, her eyes filled with cyan hate.
"Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know, I know. Long time no see, my test subject!" the man yelled histerically, his eyes wild with excitement. The torturous days that Helyna had spent in Yukikaze flashed before her like a nightmare. She was lucky to have escaped. She growled and ran at the abhorrent young man. He laughed to himself and swung his blade deftly, duflecting her blunt attack. While Helyna was recovering from the recoil, he jutted his leg out an a high angle, kicking her in the chest and to the floor. He walked casually toward her, allowing his ornate sword the drag across the stone floor, leavng a thin trail of weak ice in it's wake, the girl backing up against a small raised wall, the sort that went arounf the edge of the florting city to keep people from falling. Kazir forced her against the wall at last, then plunged his blade into the spot on her body between her shoulder blade and her left arm. She cried out in pain, looking briefly past Kazir as he began to speak, seeing Tamari slowly inching her way towards her dropped sword. She re-adjusted her gaze to Kazir who was still flaunting his apprent and easy victory.
"...and all that jazz, you're just a scared little girl, aren't you? Of all the people to test it on, we had to pick you. And a weakling like you just had to be the right fit for the power! Even your failed experiment boytoy back there can put up more of a fight that you! Look at yourself! Aren't you just pathetic!? Let me do you a favour and end this sad, sick joke!" Kazir shrieked with psychotic derision, pulling his sword out of Helyna's shoulder and pulling back behind him, preparing to slay her. Helyna felt angry at these insults that was beyond control. She felt like she could rip Kazir apart. The anger consumed her, and yet she maintained her will. She had never thought that anger could be channelled for good.
"Why don't I show you...what your "test subject" can do!?" Helyna screamed, scrambling to her feet and firing a bolt of pure ice at Kazir, who dodged just in time.
"Who-ho-hoa, there, buddy! That was a liiiitle too close for comfort. Just simmer down like a good little bitch, m'kay?" Kazir taunted her, hiding his suprise masterfully. Helyna stood thier apathetically, panting with rage, her hadns balled into fists.
"Aww, what's wrong? You mad? You sad? Are you gonna cry?" Kazir said in a childish, mocking voice. "C'mon, lets see some hate, Helyna!"
Helyna screeched again, this time letting lose a stream of countless flat, sharp, jagged blades of ice from seemingly nowhere. Kazir swung his sword around himself violently, like a child trying to shake lice off off himself, except at superhuman speed, deflecting the razor sharp pieces of ice. Helyna's icy, cyan irises glowed with loathing, her eyes like daggers. She kept the hail of ice coming, until Kazir tired, allowing the blades to rush into him, tearing his clothing to shreads and making various minor cuts on his skin. The wounded...whatever he was...fell to one knee, using his sword as a support, panting with exhaustion. He ran his finger over a cut on his face, examined the blood for a monet, before licking his finger clean with sick satisfaction. Helyna looked away briefly with disgust, her overwhelming rage leaving her at the sight of her seemingly defeated adversary. But she would be a fool to believe that Kazir would allow him self to be slain so easily. The sick imperial chuckled to himself, staring into the girl's eyes. He still smiled. And then, his wounds began to close and his torn clothes looked pristine once again.
"You can't beat me with ice alone, you fool! But, I'll admint, that uncouth little display was a preeeeety good warm-up, for a little girl, that is! Anyway, I got places to be people to kill, and stuff to destroy, so I'll be seeing ya. Toodles!" Kazir chortled, dissapering a in a bright azure flash.
Just as the psychotic villain left, Tamari had gathered enough strength to walk, having to drink several hot drinks to recover from the freezing coldness of Kazir's blade. She quickly ran over to Helyna, who winced with pian at the wound in her arm. Luckily as she was an artificial Descendant like Rakurai, the coldness didn't affect her.
"Come on, we need to take you back to the citadel, somewhere safe," Tamari said with concern. "I would take you to the Lake, but it only heals life-threatening wounds, assuming the person is still alive. Come, we must hurry."
"I can..still...I can still...can still..." Helyna began, before her exhaustion got the better of her, and she succumbed to the inviting blackness of unconsciousness.
All of a sudden, Rakurai came running out of the masses in the streets-civilians and soldiers alike- and straight toward Tamari. He scooped his girlfriend up in his arms before initiating coversation with the Lost City queen.
"What happened!? Who did this!?" he aked frantically.
"Kazir wounded her after incapacitating me. But then she suddenly sut him up with a loaod of icy shards, before he healed himself and took off. Then she collapsed. She has probably overworked herself with her power, but the wound is rather grim. We must take her to the medical section in the Citadel posthaste!" Tamari replied.
Quickly, the two of them sprinted away, heading north through the chaotic streets toward the Citadel.
Mizu and Arashi quickly raiesd thier weapons and ran out of the water, as Kazir and squadron of imperial soldiers, burst in through the doors, killing the two Kyuuryuu soldiers who stood at either side.
"Well, well, well, if it isn't weakling and weakling junior!" Kazir sighed with derision. "Oh, and what is this I espy? The body of one Gale Kaze, at rest in the legendary Lake of Eternity!"? He clapped sarcastically, slowly walking down the small steps as he did so, stopping at the bottom.? "Not too shabby, kid! You'd go to any lenght to ressurrect that wench wouldn't you? Well, too bad, 'cause I'm afraid I can't allow that. They say the lake is so pure, that no force can use it for any evil. So, I guess I'll just have to destroy it instead, 'cause after all, if the empire can't have it, nobody can, and all that."
All of a sudden, as Kazir approached the the two hunters, the lake began to glow so bright it blinded everybody for a few seconds. When the blinding light faded, Gale's body hoevered at from the water's edge, tendrils of water circling her sbody, still dressed in her Kirin X armour. Slowly, the water dropped back into the lake, after forming the shape of Gale's Lost Black Katana, which dropped to the floor. Slowly, Gale's beautiful brown eyes opened once more, the light in them filled with life. She slowly descended to the cave floor and picked up her sword, poiting it deftly at Kazir, who's face seethed with silent anger. Gale stole a quick glance at Mizu, and expression of love written all over her face, before her frown usurped ths mile as she turned her head back to face Kazir.
The Windweaver had risen again.
XVI-2: Call of the ShadowsGale let a wave of wind rush forward form her, throwing all of the soldiers into the wall with such force that they had probably broken thier necks or some other fatal injury, because the were a series of craking sounds, and the bodies were still. Kazir stood where he was, his face still contorted with anger.
"You mad? Are you gonna cry?" Gale said, mocking Kazir's mocking.
"How the hell did you know about that!?" Kazir hissed.
"I don't how or why, but I saw everything that was happening while I was "dead"."
Suddenly, Kazir's rage exploded, and he turned his ire upon Gale, rushing forward, thier swords clashing. When thier swords clashed, Kazir felt something pass through him, like the spirit of a great Wyrm. His eyes widened.
"You've unlocked your full potential too!? Oh, happy day!" Kazir said sarcastically, pushing Gale aside, following up with a series of angry, desperate and inaccurate slams with his sword, trying to knock her Lost Black Katana out of her hand.
"DIEDIEDIEDIEDIE!!!" he screeched, too angry to think of anything smart and insulting to say. Gale povoted around him and hit kazir in the back of the head with the handle of her sword, then loose a huge burst of gale-force wind, blowing him away quite literally, tumbling across the Citadel hallway. Gale riased her sword to her side, in line with her head, and charged at him valiantly. Kazir managed to peel himslef off of the floor just in time to deflect the attack with a quick, last-chance swing of his blade, it's cold piercing into Gale's very soul. Kazir grinned, although it had lost it's usual carefree sarcasm, as his rage-induced frown distorted it. She pulled through the cold, shoving Kazir's weapon out of the way with a strained grunt, kicking him in the face and sending him reeling over yet again.
"Ugh...I could see everything that was going on, but..I was comatose, wasn't I?" Tsubaki said weakly, holding her hand against her head, as if recovering from a hangover, Arashi standing in front of her.
"Yeah, Gale was ike that too. Glad we don't need to fill you in on what happened. I think the Lake did that, but I can' be sure," Arashi said.
"I'm sorry I was so useless back there. I'm not that great a hunter, unfortunately," Tsubaki groaned, shuffling her feet, twirling the sword of her Abyssal Striker set nervously. Arashi put his hand's on her shoulders comfortingly.
"You're not useless," he reassured her.
"Yes, I am."
"No, you're not."
Tsubaki looked up at Arashi. She hugged him, warmly for a few seconds. When she pulled away, they found thier gazes locked once again. As Tsubaki leaned toward the boy impulsively, the moment was interrupted by the mysterious Nina appearing before them once again. She huffed impatiently.
"Where did your father, go, Arashi?" Nina sighed.
"He, uh...went back to the fight at the east airdocks. Apparently Gigas and Altair have had a run-in with someone nasty."
Nina sighed once again, clearly frustrated by her inability to track down the nineteen-year-old, and stepped through yet another white gateway.
Arashi and Tsubaki waited a few moments, before they quickly returned to where they were, as Tsbukai gently pressed her lips against his.
Gigas swung his sword at Tiamat for what felt like the thousandth time. They had been fighting for what felt, to Gigas, like forever, trading endless blows, scoring the occaisional hit, before recovering and repeating the same old song and dance with different swings.
Tiamat uppercutted her blade into Gigas, who blocked it, countering with a right hook, his fist engulfed in blazing flames. The puch connected, winding the Abyssal Sanctum soldier and sending her tumbling into a gathering of amalgamated corpses a few metres away. The elite warrior recovered quickly with a wave of black shadow, which Gigas countered with a wave of fire, the two cancelling each other out.
Altair, who took his chance (having recovered from his bout with the Reaper of Babylon a while ago), combat rolled to the side, shooting his pistol rapidly, somersaulting every which way to avoid Tiamat's sword and shadows. Tiamat truned her attention to Altair, until Gigas joined in again, forcing her to have to pivot her body in order to block hits from the two Descendants together.
"Enough o' this crap! Lie down, bitch!" Gigas growled hoarsely, puching the Sanctum soldier in the stomach, his strength crushing her into a wall, where she stayed, alive, but flacid with exhaustion, her sword dropping to the floor with a clattering sound. He stalked toward her impatiently, and grabbed her face tighly in his all-encompassing palm, wrecnhing the woman from the wall and slamming her back into it forecefully over and over again, before pivoting and, still having a grip on her face, slamming her into the neatly paved ground beneath her with an almighty thub, the well placed stones cracking around her shape like a cardboard cut out. When Gigas pulled away, he could see that her face was a little bloodied,and her helmet had been shattered, as its pieces fell away from her face as he lifted his hand from it. As Gigas was about to plunge his sword into Tiamat's chest, Altair stepped forward."Huh?" Gigas said curiously, his brow furrowed with confusion. Altair took one look toward Tiamat, his gaze filled with scorn and disgust. A dull flash surrounded him,a nd, in the blink of an eye, his form was writhing with wispy shadows, and his eyes glowed a pupilless vermillion.
"Only shadow can kill shadow," Altair grunted, plungig his gauntletted right fist into Tiamat's chest, blood spurting from the wound. As the dark soldier shrieked, the shadow oozing from her soul, Altair pulled out his hand, a beating heart within it, which he them crushed, ending the life of the elite Sanctum soldier. Altair, still wrapped in shadows, casually walke over to Tiamat's dropped Dark Claw "Demise", picking it up slowly. He then swung it around at the air, it's already hooked blade extending further somehow, until it was almost sctythe-like, and it glowed with sinister violet ephemera. He then jumped impossibly high, darwing himself back until he could see the airdocks before him, raising the scythe in the air behind him, his face indifferent and placid, shoulder-length black hair billowing in the wind.
"ENOUGH!" he growled, and swung the scythe forward, a wave of black and purple shadow raging across the Lost City like a black tide, washing away the imperial soldiers, but somehow sparing the innocents. Altair looked on in horror, amazement and relief as he discovered the true extent of his dark powers.
Roux ran at Lux, the other elite of the Abyssal Sanctum, her Alatreon hammer (in stark contrast with her Rathalos S armour) dragging behind her. Her silent adversary lifted his gargantuan Alatreon Revolution aloft, ready to smite the young woman. She battered the soldier with a hammer strike, which he managed to block with his Great Sword just in time. He then countered with a series of swift, heavyhanded blows, before batting the girl away with the flat of the blade and to the floor. Makoto recovered from the hit that Luyx had dealt her a few minutes ago. She turned to check on Skylar. Still unconscious. Luckily, the imperial numbers were thinning, and some of the airships they had docked were being ripped apart by Lagaicrus-pulled Kyuuryuu airships (how these Leviathans could slither through the air like they were stil swimming was a mystery, however), while others had simply retreated from the battle entirely. Makoto held her matenbou in her hands horizontally, struggling to keep it aloft as Lux bore down on her with his Great Sword, which the Matenbou was proctecting Makoto's body from. Her face creased with strain, until at last the could no longer hold her position, allowing the sword to diasrm her, although the force made the accuracy dwindle, and she watched as the sword pierced the gorun sharply beside her. Luz simply left it stood on the ground, grabbing Makoto by the throat and lifting her up to look him eye-to-eye. Although the eyes were the white eyes-shaped circles that were place don the Alatreon helm ,she felt...no, she knew that he was staring into her. In what she though would be her last moments, she found the irony; Lux (as he seemed to be called, after several soldiers cried out his name before he slew them), meant "light". How more ironically could one be named when they are a dark Descendant?
As Lux prepared to snap Makoto's neck, he turned around to meet a pitch black wall of shadow.
Gale slshed at Kazir, who was now on the defensive, repeatedly with her Lost Black Katana, her Kirin X armour providing good mobility for a nimble oppenent like him. She once again sliced into him with her blade, finally disarming the man. She kicked him to the floor, and held the Long Sword to his throat. He sneered at her in annoyance.
"Whatever, You're still just a filthy human," he spat.
"Have you taken a good look in the mirror lately? YOU'RE HUMAN TOO!" Gale retorted, taking as much pleasure in his annoyance as he did in her suffering. Kazir growled, which then escalated into a roar. He yanked his sword and stood up, slicing into Gale with the blade. The blade hit her armour, but the searing coldness that followed made her sink to her knees. As Kazir prepared to once more kill the young Descendant in his ire, he turned to see a wave of shadow rolling toward him like a Tsunami.
"Maybe next time" he sneered, fleeing the city in a bright flash as the darkness washed over Gale.
Altair watched as the shadow wave he instigated faded away, every trace of the imperials wiped out in a flash. Sure, there were a few damaged buildings here and there, but over all there were no imperials powerful enough to damage anything severely, and airships didn't have any weapons, att least not in this land. He ddin't know, or care, but somehow the shadow he had conjured hadn't affected anything but the imperials. He swooped back to the ground where Gigas and the dead Tiamat were, the shadows that enveloped him dissapearing and his crimson eyes returning to their original green colour. Gigas slowly walked over to the wall where his Agnablaster lay and slung it over his shoulder like a bindle, walking back to Gigas.
"Well, that was fun," Gigas sighed. "Let's go back and find the others."
"Yes," Altair agreed calmly, smiling a little at what he had accomplished. "Quite."
Suddenly, Mizu came running up to the pair.
"Did you guys see that shadow thing? It just wiped away all the imperials!" Mizu exclaimed, with both concern and happiness.
"That was I," ALtair replied simply raising his hand out toward Mizu as he opened his mouth to probe him about it.
"We are heading back to the Citadel. I do not wish to speak of my actions."
Makoto and Roux slowly peeled themselves off off the floor. Soldiers and civilians alike stood in the slightly rublble-littered streets cheering at their victory. While they knew it was nothing special compared to the innumberable armies of the White Star empire, it was good to know that the Lost City wasn't going to be subjugated. Not today.
Slowly, Skylar spurred back into life, here eyes blinking open slowly as she sheated her Hidden Ones away. Makoto helped her up with a smile, and Roux came to join them. Lux was nowhere to be seen.
Either way, they had forgotten about him anyway.
"I think it would be a good idea to go back to the Citadel now. Tamari is probably waiting for us," Makoto said with carefree glee.
Gale slowly moved her arms away from her body and sheathed her sword, getting to her feet. She didn't understand; all she saw was blackness, and then it dissapeared, and every trace of the imperials here was gone. Why did it only wipe out the enemy and not the Lagiacrus soldiers, or the civilians, or even her and her friends. She stood and headed back into to the Citadel.
Suddenly, she turned around to see Gigas, Altair, Skylar, Roux, Makoto, and Mizu come walking up from the street that led to the Citadel, metting in a group with her. She quickly forgot about them, her eyes locked onto Mizu. Instinctively, she ran for him, and he for her, the two quickly colliding, thier lips locking passionately before anybody could say anything. After what was at least thirty seconds, she pulled herself away, smiling.
"I missed you," she said sweetly. He smiled back at her.
Together, the group, reunited at last, walked into the Citadel together.
XVII: A Rebellion in the Making
The group had all managed to squeeze into Tamari's quarters to see Helyna, after picking up Arashi and Tsubaki from the Lake room on the way. They all waited patiently around Tamari's empty bed, where Helyna slept, Rakurai clasping her hand.
"She will be fine. It's just a shoulder wound, far from fatal. It just would've been nice to use the Lake, but it is bad to rely upon it's power for too long. I rarely allow access to it at all. I must warn you all.. to be very careful not to aquire any fatal wounds. The Lake of Eternity only allows for one resurrection every one hundred years. If you think you can just run back here and bring people back when they die, you are sorely mistaken," Tamari elaborated with sincere sterness and concern. Everybody's eyes fell to the floor with solemn understanding. After a long silence, Tamari spoke again.
"It would be wise for us all to leave Tsubaki alone to heal. Rakurai, you can stay if you really want to, seeing as you two are..." she trailed off. Raukrai nodded, not looking at Tamari. "...Anyway, we should go to the judgement section. There are some people who would like to speak with you."
Gale and the others all followed Tamari out of the room, leaving Rakurai alone with his girlfriend.
The justice section; a veritable metropolis of cages, cells and execution blocks, all made of wood, which looked iit of place with the sleek, sophisticated, and ornate ivory-clad city- clearly this place hadn't been used in ages, seeing as it was all wood instead of stone, and cobwebs covered the dusty, stuffy place like a bedsheet. The group had all spent the first few minutes coughing and spluttering, trying to drive the dust from thier lungs, until they had adjusted to the stuffy climate. Slowly, three awkward-looking hunters clad in Teostra armour stalked toward them, unarmed.
"We wish to deliver a message from our leader," one of the strangers said. The party stopped before them, while Tamari stood in the fissure between the two, as if observing thier interaction. Nina came to stand beside her, her soulless character returned.
"Leader?" Altair repeated.
"Yes. Our leader, of the rebellion against the Frozen Dictator, Yaketsukuyona. The entirety of Kasai is part of it, but we are powerless, enslaved by the emperor to complete the construction of Yukikaze, the city of Ice. When it is complete, the White Star will be able to draw upon the power of the Lake of Eternity, to create an endless suppy of his soldiers, his Children of the Ice, and, with the aid of Shinkaiyami, all sorts of other dark creatures. If this comes to pass...it would spell the end of us."
"Endless army of assholes or not, Shinkaiyami still can't achieve his goal of our extinction. He can't do shit without the Yamiokami Gem, his 'Heart'." Gigas spat.
"True. But it will not help our chances of survival if he creates said "endless army of assholes" either," the Teostra-clad man retorted. He then cleared his throat. "Anyway, I digress; the message..." the man cleared his throat again as he produced a word papyrus scroll, unfurling it and reading its contents aloud.
"Descendants. I, leader of the rebellion, beseech you. Please aid us in our edeavour to destroy this great threat to mankind, and free all our people. I have long since escaped the imprisonment of Yukikaze, and will meet with you at the Necropolis Boneyard as soon as you receive this message. I and my forces would be extremely grateful for your co-operation."
It wasn't exactly what the lot had been expecting, but they could work with it. They had to. Suddenly, the three soldiers dissapeared, as if they had never been there to begin with. The group puzzeld themselves, trying to think of how that was possible, but they quickly discraded the inane thought and focused on the situation at hand.
"The Necropolis Boneyard. I've heard many a tale of that place," Altair said solemnly, an sombre tone of foreboding in his subtle words. "I fear that the rebel leader is not all that we will encounter there."
"Nevertheless, go we shall," Nina stated arbitrarily. "However, it would be unwise and unnecessary for each and every one of us to go. Gale, Altair, Mizu and Gigas will go. You are the strongest of your friends. However, that reminds me, Mizu, before we you depart for Necropolis, I have something I need you to do. Come with me to the Lake of Eternity, now. Bring nobody else."
As Nina stlaked off, Mizu slowly plodding long behind unsurely, the others nucleated together to discuss plans for the events to follow.
Interlude: Tsunamikawa's Legacy
Nina and Mizu slowly approached the Lake of Eternity, the glowing ephemera still lighting it up. The door was still shattered from where Kazir had broken in, and nobody else was here at the moment. The two stopped at the very edge.
"Okay, now what?" Mizu said flatly, curious.
"Drink from it," Nina answered plainly, as if it was obvious, her arms folded, her head slightly cocked to the side, a slight frown on her face, as if scanning the young man.
"What? Why?" Mizu asked frantically, worried about what the consequences of drinking phosphorescent liquid might be. Nina rolled her eyes and sighed with exasperation.
"Just bloody do it!" she snapped, at the end of her tether after trapsing around after the boy to get him here to do just this.
"Alright, if you say so," Mizu sighed, shrugging and crouching down to cup his hands together, drinking the ethereal water from the makeshift "cup". He stood up again, before falling to his knees, shaking as if trying to contain his insides. Nina refrained from moving, not even an inch. She watched with a piercing, analytical gaze as the boy trembled uncontrolably. After a minute or so of involuntary shuddering, a great gush of water burst forth from Mizu's chest forming the shape of a Wyrm-totally made of water, of course, but it looked similar to Guretosutomu, long, snake-like body, small arms and legs, no wings. It stared silently at Mizu for a moment (or so they both thought, they couldn't really distinguish its eyes), before falling apart, a great splash of water soaking the bare, undecorated ground of the Lake room floor. After a few moments of silent awe, Mizu mustered enough concentration to speak.
"What the hell was that?" he breathed, panting as if out of breath, either from shock or fear.
"That...was the spirit of Tsunamikawa, the great water Wyrm. A gentle soul. She has bestowed her power upon you, her Descendant. You will notice that you are much stronger-power-wsie, at least- than you were before. Gale went through the same process when the Lake returned her to us. It may seem illogical for a water Wyrm to bestow the true powers of a Descendant upon a wind Descendant, but for whatever reason, the unlocking of such potential is a gift that only the pureness of Tsunamikawa can provide. Anyway, I do believe you and the other three should leave for the Necropolis Boneyard posthaste, don't you?" Nina said, her long-winded answer culminating in the generic production of yet another white portal.
The two stepped through silently, although Mizu hesistated for a moment. It was strange, but he had felt his mother's tenderness when he had touched the Lake. Perhaps it did more than just return souls to the mortal world. Perhaps it safeguarded them as well.
When Nina and Mizu came back, the others were stood facing them, with Gale, Gigas and Altair in front (seeing as the others weren't accompanying them to the Boneyard), as if waiting for them to return. It was clear that the small group was prepared to venture to the Necropolis.
"Is it done?" Tamari asked sternly. Nina nodded affirmatively. After a short pause, Nina summoned another gate.
"The Necropolis Boneyard awaits," she said slowly, extending her arm toward the portal. The four stalked toward the gateway slowly, Altair and Gigas in front, Mizu and Gale, who's hand were tightly interlocked, behind.
"Are you okay?" Mizu said, concerned with Gale's slightly distraught frown. She turned to look at him, and his heart melted, as it always did. She kissed him quickly.
"I'm fine. It's just that I've got a gut feeling that broken bones and skull shells aren't the only things that we'll find in that place. But it doesn't matter. We four are going 'cause we're the toughest of our friends. This should be a cinch...right?" Gale said, her face perking up a little, along with a light hearted smile that made sent Mizu's heart aflutter.
The foursome stepped through the ethereal gateway, ready for anything.
XVIII: Where All Monsters go to DieThe Necropolis Boneyard- a gloomy place, where the tormented screeches and howls of lost monsters' souls never ceased, a disjointed cacophony of twisted suffering. It was clear that whatever monsters had been sent here had not been laid to rest.
As the portal closed behind Gale, Mizu, Gigas and Altair, they took in the depressing goulishness of thier surroundings. The sky was a dim green, the colour of mucus, with slowly waving, brighter green ephemera in the sky, not unlike the legendary "Northern Lights" (which none in the and had ever actaully seen). The ground was slightly obsured by a translucent sage-coloured fog, and all that lay before them was bones, bones and more bones. They seemed to be in some kind of coliseum, as huge walls of bones lade like brick (with a disgusting-looking, brown-black muddy substance acting as natural cement) were all they could see in every direction. The floor consisted of the same icky "cement" as the walls, and it squelched with each step they took. The four had spent a few seconds coughing, lie in the dusty justice section of the Citadel in the Lost City, but after those few seconds they had grown accustomed to the thick, foul-smelling smog that blanketed the bleak place. A few rotting monster corpses were sparsely situated around the wide ground area of the "arena"- some where just fully decomposed skeletons, while others were still rotting (which most like played a major part in the stench), and some were even still crawling with worms and maggots (strangely, there were no flies, but the group had assumed that the foul air must be toxic to the fully grown insects).
Suddenly, Gale shrieked in alarm as a frightfully ugly, alabaster worm-like creature, about the length of an average forearm, sprang out of the muddy earth with a high-pitched squeal and latched onto her left leg, oozing slime and pus all over her Kirin X legging(s), it's eyeless face rimmed with sharp, thin fangs, which drooled all over the place. She frantically shook her leg as if kicking th air, desperate to remove this utterly grotesque abomination from her. After a few kicks the thing finally came loose, rocketing through the smog like with a screech. It flew so far throught he air that it evetually faded from view, as the smog further away obsured the view of stright ahead entirely (bar the walls,w hich were quite high), it's unending whine slowly fading away, as if the smog istelf had atually consumed it.
"Ugh! This place is disgusting!" Gale spat, her voice a little higher in both register and loudness, still shocked by the unnaturally large maggot...thing.
"And it stinks like shit, and more!" Gigas said, coughing a couple times- the smell semeed to have intensified when the maggot-worm-thing rupture the earth. There was probably a whole swarm of the creatures below the ground. One or two, they could handle with ease, but ten? Twenty? Thirty? A hundred? A thousand! Who knew what the odds would be if the little things all sprung out of their hovel at once?
"I hope this "rebel leader" arrives soon. This...odour..." Altair began, pausing to mince words to describe the smell, holding his ragged green cloak over the bottom half of his face with his hand, like a vampire trying not to breathe in poison, "...is intensifying by the minute. I fear that, while it may just be an irritant at present, it may be toxic to us if it reaches a substantial intensity. I don't particularly feel like dying in a cesspool of maggots and toxic smog, and I don't think any of you do either."
Suddenly, a wretched howl of prideless agony echoed throughout the entire plane of existence, richocheting off od the walls of the "arena" like a gunshot. It was made ever more terrifying by the layers it consisted of, the same howl over and over, sveral times, as if multiple souls were waling like wolves a second after one another. But it was from one source. And, judging by it's wolven characteristics, the four had an awful, sickly feeling that they were about to find out exactly what that source was.
The group, starteled by the noise, turned thier bodies ninty degrees clockwise sharply, to see a huge wolven creature leap over the bone wall with the same accursed howl that they had heard just moments ago. It's dead flesh had mostly been eaten away, with no blood stains or anything-some places bared bone, while others displayed rotting tissue. Only a select few areas were fully covered with it's usual dark grey fur. It's face was almost like tow sides of a coin-one was covered in fur, albiet very frayed and thin, with some tissue and decaying muscle showing, while the other ahlf was almost entirely sinew and bone, a few tendons intact where the jaw was kept in place, although one or two had rotted away, and the jaw was ever-so-slightly slack and slanted. The left prominent front fang, the two fnags that were larger than the rest of it's teeth, was broken. It's right eye had miraculously remained untouched, pupilless and neon blue, shining with undying rage. It's left, however, was gone, although, judgin by the heavy scratch amrks on the skull around the rim of the empty socket, it had been gouged while the creature was still living. It's three tails, still rotting away, were severed at the tips. It was these trademark facial wounds that made the group gasp in shock and suprise. The rotten monster howled again, the stecnh of a thousand rotting corpses nearly making them pass out as it mixed in with the already nigh on unbearable, sickly green smog of the Necropolis Boneyard.
"That night...in Janguru Forest when we had left Sukai for Chikyuu...!" Gale exclaimed.
"It's...!" Gigas began, but his raw suprise muted him.
"It can't be!" Mizu gasped.
"It is," Altair said flatly, with a tone of melancholy resignation. "It's the Black Beast...the Yamiokami."
XIX: Abysmal Vengeance
At once, the Undead Yamiokami pounced at them with all it's might, a flare of hate and revenge it it's single right eye, bits of shead fur, a few maggots and rotting tissue falling off of it's body each time it moved-it was only then, that the group noticed that, though rotting away, the beasts body organs were still mostly intact. It's decayed left arm bowled into the four hunters all at once, sending them flying away. The group were glad that they were wearing armour, or the muddy, slightly soft ground would've felt disgusting. Suprisingly, when they got up there was abrely any mud cligning to their clothes. Perhaps it wasn't as soggy as they'd thought.
Suddenly, another one of the horrid maggot-worm things burst from the ground by the Yamiokami (thankfully), and clung to it, burrowed past it's rotten flesh with it's many teeth, wormed into its stomach area, and began to slowly munch on it's dead organs, to the foursome's utter disgust. What manner of hell was this? They didn't know, but what they were sure of was that they didn't want to find out in the slightest.
Almost at the same time as he had hit the ground, Altair immediately picked himself up from the dirt and began to swiftly strafe the undead scourge, bullets flying from his four-barrelled pistol several times with each blink of the eye, dead blood spurting from points where the bullets pelted sharply against the Undead Yamiokami's rotting skin. It whimpered weakly, before growling ferally, narrowing it's one electric-azure eye and swiping the agile, nimble Sky Village ninja behind him with his three almost-complete rotten tails, knocking the hunter away and to the muddy floor again.
Gigas moved to aid his friend, running in front of the forest green heap on the floor that was Altair (who was picking himself up again, but this time remaining on the ground, winded), firing his Agnablaster wildly as the Undead Yamiokami swiped ferociously at the irritating hunter that had unwittingly consigned it to this hellish fate. The Dragon S shells rebuffed the attack, however (the Yamiokami may be "dead", but it was still and Elder Dragon and still highly susceptile to Dragon-element atacks), the power and recoil making the stinking mass of ferocity stumle back ward a few steps- it nearly slipped on the way. Gigas proceeded with an unending hail of Dragon S bombardments, making the rotting corpse writhe in pain and anguish, its anger ever increasing in its apparent inability to slay a mere four humans.
While Gigas held the monster at bay, Gale ran forth and began to slash wildly at it with her Lost Black Katana. She sliced at it's hind leg on the right side, stabbing, cutting and jabbing as hard and as fast as she could while the monster was made hapless by the overwhelming force of Gigas' Dragon S blasts, which were now accompanied by blasts of his fiery Descendnats powers. She finally cut through the rotten- and actually rather tough- flesh, making a deep wound in the leg, unoxidised blood spurting out of said wound and onto the ground. The Undead Yamiokami yowled with pain, losing the strength to withstand Gigas' blasts any longer due to the wound and staggering backwards, crawling along the floor while growling ferally, blindly clawing at whatever surrounded it. Mizu engulfed the wretched corpse in a ball of water, water dripping away from the sphere and to the floor, the entirely aquatic surface of the sphere still moving. The severely absconded monster still writhing away within, it's shape a blur. Mizu then ran toward it, leaping high enough to reach it with a supernatural leg-up via Gale's wind abilities, striking the waterball with his Wailing cleaver shin but once. The thunder from the blade attacked the non-combatible mineral, practically frying the beast within. At last, the water dissipated, allowing the mound of dead flesh to drop the the yucky mud like a stone, wisps of smoke still rising from the Undead Yamiokami's body. It was "dead" (a paradoxical oxymoron in this case in this case), and yet it's flaccid body seemed alive, as it's one remaining eye hadn't even time to close before it..."died".
Everybody sheather their weapons, walking slowly toward the beast, fearful of what else they might encounter.
Interlude: Deepest Darkest Deception
The hunters and Descendants who had remained behind- Shinji, Jinsoku, Skylar, Makoto, Rakurai, Arashi, Tsubaki, Tamari and Nina- had returned to Tamari's room, crowded around the bedside, eagerly awaiting Helyna's awakening, Rakurai still holding onto her hand, lsot in his won thoguhts like most of the others. Suddenly, everybody came back down to earth as Helyna took a deep breath in before her eyes snapped open, her grip on Rakurai's hand tightening a little. She sat up looked frantically around for a few seconds, breathing fast and heavy, clearly in distress. Rakurai sowly calmed her, and he lay back down slowly, still clasping his hand, the only source of warmth her freezing cold body could find. Kazir's chilling (literally) blade had clearly made it's mark, though her plae skin made that fairly obvious.
"We'll leave you alone," Tamari said meekly, kindly, her kimono fluttering around her as she turned on her heel and began to leave, gesturing the others to do the same, while Rakurai stayed to comfort the young girl.
"You're fine. The battle over, nobody's going to try and kill you...again. Some weird shadow wave thing that Altair did killed all the imperials. About an hour ago, Gale, Mizu, Gigas and Altiar all teleported to the Necropolis Boneyard. They say the leader of a rebelllion wanted to meet them there," Rakurai filled her in on what she'd missed, and she listened and understood intently despite her condition. It was so strage that she was freezing, while her skin felt neither warm nor cold.
"...It's t-too...c-c-cold..." Helyna wheezed slowly, shivering, her lips almost blue. "I'm s-so...cold."
Rakurai slowly walked around the room, using the one lit candle in the roomto light all the other candles he could find, before he pulled off as many layers of clothing or armour he could without becoming indecent, before slipping under the covers and wrapping his arms around his shivering girlfriend, who buried her head in his chest. Such an action was not uncommon in groups of desperately cold hunters who hunted in the mountains or tundras- many suffered from hypothermia or frostbite, so this particular action wasn't really awkward at all. Besides, Helyna would most likely want to feel awkward rather than sub-zero.
Nina and the others had returned to the abandoned justice section withing the Kyuuryuu Citadel, only to find a large bloody scrible written in the Old Laguage, in crimson blood. Some glyphs were a little less legile due to the drops of blood sliding down the wall, but it was still readable.
新海闇。 You filthy humans are so naive. Did you truly believe that a rebel leader would be clever, or even stupid enough to arrange a meeting with you in the middle of a stinking, corpse-ridden graveyard? How easy it is to deceive even the strongest of filth. Any shining sliver of hope for salvation and you grasp at it like hungry hatchlings. It's pathetic, really. Whatever your friends find in the Necropolis Boneyard, I assure you, it will not be human. The rebel leader himself is not a ruse. He is merely otherwise located. But I doubt you will live long enough to meet with him. By the way, I should warn you that the Necropolis Boneyard is a Sealed Realm, so I can carry out my affairs without your accursed busybody friend intervening.
I hope your friends fare well against the embodiment of darkness.
The groups murmurs were silenced by Nina's resignedly defeated words, a tone of true regret in her voice.
"It appears that we have been decieved. Without my intervention, they will not survive for more than an hour. You should all find something to do- whatever, whereever, it matters not. I must intervene. And I shall," she said, and she drew her left palm through the air, and immeadiately a set of strange glyphs appeard in the air befor her. Using both palms this time, he bagn to drag them,w ithout touching them, rearranging them like the pieces of a puzzle.
"You're not really going to use the Divinum Intercessio, are you? That's insane! Doing that would rip time apart!" Tamari yelped at the sight of the ethereal white glyphs, which seemed somewhat like numbers.
"The sanity of the endeavour is irrelevant in a dire situation such as this. And sinking into unnecessary reductio ad absurdum will not make me reconsider. I can stabilize the tear myself, I do not need to be a god to do that. Just leave me to do this," Nina retorted blandly, concentrating intensely on the number glyphs before her.
The others scurried away, fearing for their severely endangered comrades.
XX: Death's Second Shadow
As Gale, Mizu, Altair and Gigas slowly crept toward the supposedly lifeless heap of dead matter that was the (Undead) Yamiokami, it made a death rattle causing them to stop immeaditely in case it decided to get back up. But it merely just closed it's eye, clearly for the last time.
"...Something isn't right. I don't think this "rebel leader" is coming. I believe we have been decieved," Altair said quietly.
"How right you are."
Gale and the others scanned their surroundings for the voice, but they knew deep down who it was...and where it was. Their eyes quickly found the Yamiokami again, who was know enveloped in shadows. It's eyelid flickered open to reveal a catlike purple eye. Immeadiately, the shadows obscured the corpse from view entirely, and what appeared when the shadows had gone was no Yamiokami. But it was equally familiar.It was pitch black, and had a leathery gleam to it's body, and a silver trim. It's entire body was covered in malicious-looking spikes of various sizes jutting out and various angles. It's entire face was covered by a black mask that pulsated a little when he spoke, leaving only it's purple (once red) eyes and black catlike pupils. It sported four (as opposed to two, before) large, sinister wings that had holes in the webbing, and some areas were bare bone. It also wielded a long, dark silver sword that was about half a foot taller than a person, that hummed sharply and quietly every time it moved through the air. The hilt was black, spiky and ornate. The pair of neon-purple eyes stared flatly at the four, the being taking small steps forward in a triumphant manner, the wisps of shadow slithering around it as it moved.
"Shinkaiyami!? Why are you here!? Where's the rebel leader!?" Gale barked angrily, raising her weapon gallantly at the familiar entity, the other three following suit.
"There is no need to shout, woman. I am not deaf," Shinkaiyami purred absentmindedly. "But, honestly; did you truly believe that the leader of a cobbled together resistance would ever be able to access the Necropolis Boneyard, let alone meet you here? 'Tis preposterous, and you know it as well as I. You were fools to venture here. And now...you will all pay the price."
The barbed tyrant lunged at Gale, his lengthy silver blade clashing with her Lost Black Katana, sparks flying, a great screech reverberating from the two interlocked blades. Gale tried to psuh her body weight on the sword, but it was no use, the dark Wyrm overpowered her and slapped the girl away with a swift and brutal backhand. Gale collapsed to the floor, concussed. Blood welled from her nose and her lip.
Mizu took his chance and surged forward, sweeping the blade through the air. Shinkaiyami simply let the blade cut through him. A few miniscule shadows ligered around the area that Mizu's blade had made contact, before dissiapting, revealing a totally unscathed body. Mizu couldn't see the dark entity's face, but he knew he was smiling. However, he wasn't prepared to go down as quickly as his girlfriend. He blocked the Wyrm's follow-up sword slashes, then countered with a 360 dropkick, tripping the apparition up. He then plaunged his Wailing Cleaver Shin into the creature's black heart. A few moments later, the humanoid body evanesced into shadowy wisps, which darted like eels away into nothingness. A short, tense pause followed. Then, immeadiately, Mizu's eyes widened, as he felt Shikaiyami's cold hand on his shoulder, which shoved him to the ground with unbelieveable force. Shinkaiyami then proceeded to wrap his hand around Mizu's throat, constricting the boy's airpipe, forcing him to gasp for air. The sinister monster lifted his quarry up off of the floor, his legs dangling helplessly, his hands desperately clutching on the Wyrm's wrist. Shinkaiyami sneered at him triumphantly.
"'Tis frightening, is it not? Rather painful too, I would imagine. But it matters not how you die, just as long as you do. All of you," the deadly phantasm hissed.
"Please! Please stop it! We'll do whatever you want, just...! ...Just don't hurt him. Please..." Gale whimpered, her eyes filled with fear. The Wyrm slowly, ever-so-slowly, twisted his neck to the right to face the girl on the ground. It was like watching a rusty cog turn, as if a corpse had been reanimated. Terrifying.
"Very well, Gale Kaze," Shinkaiyami agreed with sly politeness, dropping Mizu to the floor. He began to cough and retch immeadiately after, taking a huge a breath as his body would allow in order to keep himself from panicking. Gale crawled speedily through the mud, clamering over her lover, helping him up as he continued to cough. The winged dictator loomed over the pair, shrouding the pair in his imposing shadow. Gigas and Altair stood pised at the ready throughout this, ready to blast the enemy away if necessary, watching with careful, beady eyes. Shikaiyami slowly extended his alarge, insidious claw toward the girl, palm outstretched.
"My Heart, if you please," he demanded, his natural sotto voce voice making the request all the more threatening.
"The Yamiokami Gem? I don't have it," Gale said honestly. Shinkaiyami scowled at first, but that quickly became a wry chuckle.
"Don't be silly, Gale. It's lodged in the Decoration slot on your sword. I can see it plainly." Shinkayami pointed at the crimson blot on the hilt of the blade. "Right there."
Gale gasped curiously, before her breath stopped altogether. The Wyrm was absolutely right. She yanked the gleaming, blood red jewel from its slot, and slowly held it out to Shinkaiyami, who snatched it greedily from her like a hungry peasant being offered a large cut of Aptonoth. He then corrected his posture and manner, to avoid tarnishing his dignity. He placed the jewel right in the middle of his chest, like a trophy.
"But how-?" Gale began to ask.
"Dear child; did you not think a heart would follow it's master?" Shikaiyami asked cryptically. "There. That will keep it safe until it regains its dark energies. Thank you very much, Gale Kaze. Now die."
As Shinkaiyami prepared to impale the nineteen-year-old with his sword, a bright white gateway appeared behind Gale. Everyboy watched with awe as Nina delicately emerged from the portal, which stayed open behind her this time, instead shutting like usual.
"You used Divinum Intercessio!? You fool! That practice is outdated! You'll undo everything!" Shinkaiyami bellowed in alarm, anger and suprise.
"Outdated it may be, but it is the only way to teleport to a Sealed Realm. There is a key, no matter how rusty, for every lock," Nina snapped impatiently. "I can avoid "undoing everything", as you claim, by holding the gateway open, but I cannot hold it for long. Come along, all of you! No dilly-dallying! We must vacate the area posthaste!"
Gale quickly hauled Mizu to his feet and sprinted toward the poratl along with Altair and Gigas. As Shinkaiyami stepped forward to stop them, Nina stepped in front of him. He growled guttrally.
"Do not test me, tyrant," she warned forbodingly. Shinkaiyami huffed haughtily and backed up a couple of paces.
"I won't. Not yet," he retorted with equal forboding, before wrapping his four hellish wings around himself and fading away in a cloud of writhing black shadows. Nina paused for a moment, before slowly retrurning from whence she came, the portal snapping shut behind her.
Interlude: The Coming StormNight had fallen over Yukikaze.
Yaketsukuyona was perched precariously on the precipitous edge of the City of Ice's pinnacle building, which had come to be widely know as the Frozen Spire. He no longer wore the same black and white robes, and now wore a traditional white hakama, with sleeves that were slightly longer than normal, an abnormally long? blood-red muramasa with an ornate hilt made of white silver, attached to his waist.
The city itself looked and felt brand new, as it had taken eleven years to set up, and with most of the imperial forces occupied with the relentless search for Gale and her friends, there were barely any soldiers left to help with the construction. Until Kasai decided to revolt, that is. It failed, of course, and the entire populace of what was once the grandest city in the land was subjugated, and put to work building the very foundations of thier enemy's might.
Oh, the irony.
His milky-white eyes stared down insidiously, silently, at the slaving labour camp occupants, all of them in a large, rectangular clearing, the ground made of gray mud, mixed with chips of stone and the uncollected bodies of dead prisoners who lost the will to carry on and collapsed mid-task. Each was making themselves busy with a particular task, be it hammering metal, building supports, chopping wood or carting away useless materials. All below wa an orgy of industrial noise. He smiled at the sight, taking pleasure in his enemy's suffering. One of the prisoners, carrying a wheelbarrow full of scrap metal and unsuccessful forge products, looked up to the Frozen Spire wistfully. The hakama-clad Wyrm stared down at him with ice-cold condemnation. The man slowly looked down and carried on with what he was doing.
The White Star raised his arms achaically to the dark, grey-black sky. An almost undetectable smile crossed his lips. He had been waiting for this moment for so long, this one shining moment, where all the humans would be no more, and this land- no, this world would once again belong to the Wyrms. Fourteen years ago, he had failed, struck down by Gale Kaze and her little friends. But not this time, no; this time would be different. Gale and her friends were far too preoccupied trying to evade capture and seeking strenght in numbers to even think about him. They were so concerned with Shinkaiyami's intentions, that they had forgotten all about him. Of course, it would be impossible for him to bask in this moment now that his ruy was gone; he could no longer collect souls to bring this oh-so-desired moment about. But that didn't matter any- Shinkaiyami would have more than enough power to summon the winds it himself once he had his "Heart" back.
Those winds, they had come so close to destroying humanity...but were faltered.
Not this time. This time, they were not bound by the conditions of prohpecy. This time, no condition in existence could be met that would stop them once they had been called upon. Guretosutomu was dead, Gale and her friends were nowhere to be found, and Nina had no way of stopping it, despite her myriad powers.
The Wyrms had already won.
Smiling to himself, the ice Wyrm turned briskly on his heels and stormed off back inside his tower.
XXI: Return to the Wind Village
That was a really risky move, Nina."
Nina rolled her eyes and huffed in annoyance as Gale, Mizu, Altair and Gigas walked past the two to amalgamate with Shinji, Jinsoku, Roux, Skylar, Makoto, Arashi and Tsubaki.
"I'm quite aware of the risk, for pity's sake!" Nina snapped impatiently at Tamari. "Nobody else could possibly have pulled of such an accurate dimensional incision. And even if they could do so better than me, the risks would be one and the same; now please, stop scolding me!"
Tamari bowed her head a little in embarassment, gingerly backng away from the girl just a little.
Meanwhile, the others were busy talking about the venture to the Necropolis Boneyard. Gale avoided all the gruesome deatils- the maggot-worm thing, the stench, and all the rotting corpses- and focused on the ambush by the Undead Yamiokami and Shinkaiyami.
"...So now, he has exactly what he wants. But he implied that he can't use it yet, he said somethign about it not having enough "dark energies" to function," Gale finished.
"But the real question is: what does he want it for?" Roux asked. The others murmured in agreement.
"Even I do not know," Nina interrupted, walking over with Tamari to join the coversation. "And I fear that I will regret finding out."
After a long pause, Altair spoke, calmly and quietly. Altair was often the first to break long or awkward silences- he was good at that sort of thing.
"The question we must answer now is: What do we do next?" he said. Murmurs of discussion followed for a few moments, before being interrupted when the door to the justice section opened witha loud creak, and Rakurai slowly walked in, fully dressed (unbeknowsnt to them, he hadn't been a few minutes ago) slower than a funeral procession, his eyes red from crying, an almost snow white female body in his arms- Helyna. Everybody gasped amongst themselves and rushed over.
"Helyna...!" Tsubaki said, her voice catching, before she began to sob into Arashi's arms, burying her head in his chest. Rakurai simply stared blanky into the distance, slowly placing the body on the floor.
"She...died of hypothermia. The cold from Kazir's blade...it killed her," he said with toneless, melancholy remorse. Gale walked up to Rakurai and placed a hand on his shoulder. Her son looked up at her (although at his age and height, he didn't have to look very high). Gale placed her hand on his face, petting him lovingly.
"I'm your mother. It's okay to lean on me if you can't deal with it," she said softly, mangaing a smile. A pause followed, before Rakurai clung to the girl like adhesive, burying his head in her as he began to cry again. Gale closed her eyes, frowning with regret as she wrapped her arms around her son, swaying to and fro, rocking the boy like a cradle. After a minute or so of absolute silence, Gale stood still and asked him a question.
"...Where was she born?" she asked, trying not to sob. She waited a few seconds for Rakurai to muster up the strength to talk about his dead girlfriend.
"...Hyoku. Like you and me,a nd Arashi. Tsubaki, too."
"I see. Then that's where we'll bury her," Gale muttered with wistful finality. Slowly, Gigas scooped Helyna's peaceful-looking body up in his arms, directing Roux to grab ahold of his Agnablaster- Gigas was as strong as a bull, and built like one too, but it would take a herculean effort for any one man to lug a dead body, and Long Sword and a Heavy Bowgun all at the snot ame time. Gale slowly let go of her grieving son and turned to Nina, impassive all the while.
"Nina, can you open a portal to Hyoku?" she asked politely, tonelessly.
"I can," Nina replied apathetically, "If that is where you wish to go."
Nina snapped her fingers and a white portal appeared bathing everybody in it's shimmering majesty. Slowly, everybody stepped through.
"I hope Hyoku is okay. I hope my dad is still...and everybody who lived there, do you think they're...?" Gale said sheepishly to Mizu, stuggling to countenance the terrible, heartbreaking thought that everything they knew would be gone. Mizu clasped her hand tighly, and she looke into his warm, sapphire eyes.
"Don't worry so much. You'll make yourself sick. Hyoku'll be fine. I promise. It probably won't be exactly as we remember it, after eleven years. But...It'll be there. I'm sure of it," he said confidently. Gale smiled weakly, despite recent tragedies, and followed her beloved through the portal.
Back to Hyoku. Back to home.
The silence echoed as they stepped out of the gateway. Nobody was outside, and the houses...well, they weren't destroyed, per se, but they looked in need of repairing. Everything semmed to have turned a dull brown-gray colour, and the only thing that made the place look the slightest bit alive was the healthy-looking flora.
"What the...Where is everyone!?" Mizu said, confused, putting his hand about his forehead and scanning the place fervently.
"...I..." Makoto began, but couldn't find the words. Her, Gale's, Mizu's, Tsubaki's, Rakurai's and Arashi's (although the latter three hadn't really experienced much of it-they had been sent to Hikari and away from the imperials when they were about three years old) home was no more than a derelict, abandoned husk, which nature was slowly reclaiming- there were even whole houses that were covered in moss, ivy and tall, tall grass.
"If anybody is, in fact, still here, I doubt they're going to come out. We'd do better to disperse- we'll find them much more quickly that way," Roux said matter-of-factly. Everybody nodded or grunted in agreeement before splitting off into groups of two or three- Altair and Gigas heading straight and ahead, Skylar, Tsubaki and Makoto heading east, Roux, Tamari and Nina heading west, while Arashi and Rakurai stayed with their parents. Gale let out a deep breath.
"Right. Let's go home," she said nervously, pointing down the long path, past all the abandoned houses, the tavern and the Guild Hall to where her old house was. She wondered- and feared- what had happened to it: was her mother buried there? Did her metal airship-flying father still live there? Had all the flora and fauna died, or worse?
She both hoped and feared to find out.
"Shinji, Jinsoku, why don't you go and seeif you can find your house?" Mizu suggested. Shinji's and Jinsoku's eyes lit up-clearly they had forgotten all about thier old home. They quickly sprinted away, eager to see the place again.
"Shall we?" Gale said to Mizu.
Skylar, Tsubaki and Makoto abruptly flug open the door to a house, Makoto quickly but intently scanning the place for signs that it was hers. One might think that one would know exactly where to look for thier own home, but after being away for eleven years,a nd the village having slowly succumbed to the insatiable appetite of nature, it wasn't such an easy task.
"Is this it, Makoto?" Skylar asked. Makoto looked around a few moments more, then pulled her head back, righted her posture, bowed her head, and shook it disdainfully.
"No," sighed sadly. A short silence followed.
"Hey, cheer up, Makoto! We'll find your house in no time!" Skylar chirped, ever optimistic, placing a hand on the woman's arm (Makoto was quite tall, and Skylar was a little small, so she couldn't quite reach her shoulder). Makoto smiled meekly as she looked down at the fourteen-year old, raising her again cofidently and walking away from the dusty husk, eager to find her home.
____________________________________________________________________________________________Gigas and Altair had been searching houses for a few minutes now, and all they had found were old ruins, rusty blades, many old skeletons, still in seats or at benches, rusty old weapons, sharp knives and even workbench tools embedded in what would've been fatal areas some were so old and brittle that chunks of bone had turned to dust or fallen away, and some limbs such as hands and legs had snapped off and fallen to the floor. Whatever had happened here in the last eleven years, it was nothing less than a massacre.
Altair had stopped opening the doors, barely even looking at the mundane surroudings anymore, just trudging along behind Gigas, who still bashed down doors with verve, as if he expected some kind of threat to jump out from behind them. He wasn't even really looking for anything, this wasn't his home. Judging by his throaty growling and aggressive behaviour, he was angry, most likely angry about what had happened here (this was obviously the handiwork of the empire). Everybody dealt with their emotions in different ways. When Gigas was upset, he got angry. When Altair was upset, he withdrew into himself, like he had now.
As Gigas prepared to bash dow another rotting door, Altair interrupted him.
"Stop, friend. Nobody is here. 'Twill not make you feel any better by breaking down ever door in sight," he said mournfully, as if giving a sermon at a funeral. Gigas slowly calmed himself, staring at his palm as he balled it into a fist, before flinging it through the air angrily, turning away from the house at the same time.
"Damn these bastards..." Gigas growled. "We've got to destroy them NOW!"
"Well, we can't do that, can we?" Altair snapped back imatiently. Then, ashamed of his outburst he looked down a little. "We might be Descendants, but...thirteen people does not constitue an army. We need an army- maybe even two- to bring these...these..."people"...down."
"Gigas stared at Altair for a moment, then turned away, looking at the village in melancholy awe. The air filled with tiny dust specks, the grey dawn peeking in over in the distance, shedding the tiniest shreds of light upon the emptiness.
Tamari, Roux and Nina had given up searching the houses, having not found any signs of life, and had amalgamated with Shinji and Jinsoku, who had just come out of thier old home, thier faces totally at peace-not happy, but not sad either.
"Have you made your peace?" Nina asked, with more care and concern than she usually did.
"Yeah. It's dead. Our whole home is dead. But it's okay. When we kill Shinkaiyami, the White Star, Kazir...and the empire is no more, we can come back here. We'll bring some people over who have nowhere else to go, and we'll work with them to rebuild Hyoku. This place will be great again..." Jinsoku said with happy sadness. "...I swear it."
And for the first time ever, they saw Nina smile. Not a thin one, a forced one or an almost-smile of bemused ment and ever-so-slight derision; a proper, well-meaning and true smile.
"I've no doubt that you will."
Makoto had found her house.
Well, perhaps "house" was a misnomer; there was mere ashes there. But she didn't feel sad. Seeing everything she once thrived upon burnt to a crisp only strengthened her morale. The imperials had made a big mistake targeting thier greatrest enemy's -and thier greatest threat's- hometown, and destorying their houses, and the houses of thier friends and family. Such an act, whether it conjures despair or not, serves only to produce determination.
As she walked away with a hopeful smile and a head held high, she knew in her heart that killing these people was the right thing to do.
Gale, Mizu, Rakurai ans Arashi had arrived at their old home. The field of tall wheat and grass in which Mizua nd Gale would lose themselves- and sometime their clothes- in had shriveled and died, the brittle stems of grain all long since turned to chaff, and the dry ground was littered with dry, crumbled laeves from the now dead bug tree. The small wooded ebnch upon which the old beehive was situated had rotten away, collapsing on the left side, the beehive itself toppling over with it, the lid open and lying beside the main box. A few small, broken pieces of dried-up honeycomb lay beside it. The pier used for fishing had rotted away as well. The end supports must've collapsed, because the end of the small pier was partially submerged in the large lake that lead into the distance.
Gale then noticed a large, chipped headstone by the edge of where the ground met the lake. She ran over to it, crounding down and placing her left hadn upon the top of the stone slab, reading the inscription carefully. It was a little obscured,w ith some of the passage washed away by rainfall. The stone itself was cracked in some places by freeze-thaw erosion. It read:
H re Lie
Bel ved mo her, gran m ther an husban
Gale gasped and pulled her ahnd away from the stone and placed it over her mouth. She remebered that Kazir had killed her mother (how could she forget?), but she had never had chance to see the gravestone before. She bacame overwhelmed by emotion, and Mizu quickly rushed over from where he stood -with thier sons, diagonally behind her- and caught the desolate girl in his comforting embrace, letting her lean on him as any good-hearted person would do. Raukrai and Arashi's hands interlocked with wistful brotherhood.
The berieved family all turned thier heads sharply as everybody else came running down the path, the gravelly terrain making a slightly irritating noise.
"You okay?" Gigas said awkwardly, a fresh cigarrette placed in the corner of his mouth. Gale paused a moment, then shook her head curtly and silently, sniffling as she pulled her self away from Mizu and stood up., Mizu follwoing suit.
Together, the hunters all trudged toward the aback door to Gale's and Mizu's old house, which led to the kitchen. The door was bolted shut with a series of haphazardly-placed laquer planks, as was the window. Gigas easily demolished, the blockade, but again broke the door down in the process.
Everything on the inside was smashed to pieces, plates, catlery, kitchen utensils, and more. The table and its chairs had been clumsily overturned, and the wall had been scratched to pieces, a messy slur scrawled lazily across it, by someone with very poor literacy. It read:
Weel kill you evenchewally heethen skum
As the group slowly navigated the house (it was a difficuly, as the house was at it's limit with thirteen occupants), steepign through the large doorway by the message and into the main living space, which was also ruined and vandalised, where a skeleton sat limply on a chair, it's hand's tied behind it back with some rope, which was close to snapping in two, the threads growing bare. There was several cruelly-fashioned knives stuck inbetween some ribs, one embedded in the left upper arm, one in the right shoulder and one through the side of the skull. The jaw was broken on the left side. Another note had been scrawled across the wall, with, with proper grammmar and spelling:
This is for being hard to catch. Grieve for your father while you can, you little bitch.
As more tears welled in Gale's eyes, a casual, smirking voice came from the corner of the room.
"Ah, you finally came to visit my five-year-old hadniwork, huh?"
Everybody pivoted around to see Kazir sitting casually on a chair, stroking the flat of his blade with his finger.
"I'll fucking KILL YOU!" Gale shrieked. Mizu held her back as she struggled forward, desperate to tear the man's throat out.
"Ah-ah. Not so fast now, I'm not finished," Kazir said calmly, as if he were a teacher talking to a pupil. Gale finally escaped Mizu's grip running at kazir, not even bothering to unsheath her Long Sword. Kazir grabber her head as she made contact with him, then slammed her into the wall forcefully and then spun around, kicking her into the wall opposite. She lay there, crying to herself and staring away from Kazir and her father's bones. Kazir knelt down beside her and cupped his hand under her chin, twisting it and making her cry out, forcing her to look at the skeleton.
"Look at it," he said firmly. "This is all your fault," he sneered, before letting go, standing up to leave Gale to sob to herself. "And do you know what else is your fault?" Kazir asked rhtorically. His body dissapered in a white haze, then reappeared behind Tamari, grabbing the back of her head and storming back into the middle fo the room before nayone ould say or do anything.
"This," he snarled, as he shaoved his blade through Tamari's abdomen. She let out a short, sharp cry as she felt the same cold that Gale had felt when Kazir had stabbed her (and Helyna), before he wrenched his now bloodied blade from the body, which fell to the floor clumsily, blood pooling from the open maw, staining the wooden floor and Tamari's blue kimono. After a short pause, he licked the blade clean of the blood, like a Pseudowyvern finishing of what remained of its meal.
"Live with what you couldn't do," Kazir said coldly, before he dissapeared, leaving the remaining shocked hunters to do whatever they planned to do next.
XXIII: The Fiery Rebel
Slowly, Gale picked herself up off of the floor, still crying. Gigas again handed his Agnablaster to Roux, picking Tamari up off off the floor. Slowly, everybody walked back out the way they came in. Gale stopped, carefully picking up her father's corpse after removing the various knives embedded within and carrying it carefully outside.
Everybody gathered around as Gale used a rusty old pitchfork she had found by the bug tree to dig up the dirt that lay between her and her mother's bones, carefully placing her father inside. She got Gigas to use his firey powers to heat up the end of one of the prongs. Gale then broke it off (it was that rusty) and began to re-etch the inscription on the headstone. It now read:
Eleina and Matthew Kaze
Beloved husband, wife, parents and grandparents
Content with her opportune handiwork, she stood up silently, having finally stopped crying. Mizu stepped up behind her silently, kissed her on the cheek and wrapper his arms around her, swaying her from side to side the way she had done with Rakurai before they came here. Gigas then proceded to dig another grave next to Gale's parents', this time for Helyna (after going back to collect her from where he had left her), before giving the body to Rakurai, who slowly kissed his dead girlfriend's lips one final time, before placing her at rest and replacing the dirt over her still corpse. There was no headstone to be placed, unfortunately. But they would all remember. Nina was at the water's edge, placing Tamari's dead, bloodied body into the water, to be taken where the current willed, as was the way of those born in Kyuuryuu. As the queen, she shared a mental link with the Lake of Eternity. The Lake was communed with (for lack of a better phrase) by a royal seeress. Therefore, Kyuuryuu would know of her death even if it happened outside of thier walls.
As the group came together once again, a melifluous, male, slightly aged voice interrupted the sombre silence.
"Ah. I was hoping I'd find you all here."
Everybody turned thier bodies to face the direction of the broken beehive. A man with smartly cropped red hair and phantasmic purple eyes was sat upon what remained of the bench that the beehive once sat upon. He peeled his body away from it and walked closer to the hunters.?
"Who are you?" Roux asked.
"Oh, you must excuse me. My name is Enshi. I arranged to meet with you here some hours ago, though I fear my message may not have reached you. Am I correct?" Enshi said politely.
"Not exactly," Mizu said contrarily. "...We did get your message, buuuut it sent us the Necropolis Boneyard, where we had a nice chat with Shinkaiyami, who took back his "Heart", for whatever it is that he's planning."
"So, you've met the Dark One. I see. If he has the Heart...well, that is very bad news for us humans."
"Why, exactly?" Altair enquired.
"Well...I think it is best that you come with me," Enshi said quietly. He snapped his fingers and a fiery red gateway appeared. Everydoy let out a shprt, startled gasp as it appeared.
"You can open gateways...like Nina?" Makoto said, confused.
"Alas, the extent of my space-manipulating abilities reaches no further than these simple gateways. I, much like Gigas here, am I fire Descendant. Gigas, as to how I know your name: you probably don't remember me, but I used to be an historian at the Scholariship in Kasai. I am an expert on al things Wyrm-ecology, history, biochemistry...and legacy."
Enshi then turned his back on the group and swalked until he reached the edge of the portal, turning his head back to them a little.
"If you wish to discover the truth behind everything...you will follow me," he said quietly, soberly.
And with that, he stepped through the fiery portal and faded away in its flames.
After a short pause of consideration. The hunters and Descendants all walked sheepishly into the portal, eager to learn the truth behind Shinkaiyami's mysterious motives...and the truth behind what happened to their land.
XXIV: Plans for Revolt
A large rectangular clearing, with walls of iron bars on each side, which were botlet into the stone roof that made up the ceiling of the labour camp in Yukikaze.
"So you came," Enshi said, but with not a hint of suprise in his voice, as if they'd done as he'd predicted. "Welcome to Yukikaze," he added unenthusiastically. He began to walk straight ahead, past all the clamour of Kasai slaves working around him, toward a pair of iron corrugated doors, which he opened with relative ease.
All around the hunters was smoke, iron and flame, pots of lava and water into which lowly workers were dipping newly-forged weapons, the sound of churning lava, hammering iron and hissing water filling their ears.
"This must be you guys' only comfort in this place," Roux said, her voice filled with sombre memorial. "Kasai was the focal point of the forging industry. It was what made us so rich. "The Iron Fortress", everybody used to call it."
"Yes," Enshi said. "...And look at us now."They carried on walking down the narrow forging passage until they reached another set of doors. Enshi opened these and within was a round room, with an iron table thaat was equally round, spanning the room, a pool of smelting lava in the middle. Around the tabe sat a multitude of slave workers, about fifty or so, although sixteenen seats were empty- two fo tehm would remain unfilled thanks to Helyna's and Tamari's deaths. Every person in the room bowed their heads and fell silent when they saw Gale.
"They recognize you, Windweaver. Please, sit," Enshi said, directing them to the empty chairs. Gale, Mizu, Shinji, Jinsoku, Arashi, Rakurai, Tsuaki, Skylar, Makoto, Roux, Nina, Altair and Gigas each sat down in a chair, from left to right (in that order), leaving a space for Enshi-who was clearly in charge here- in the middle. When Enshi sat down, he began to speak.
"Now, as you all know, we now have the hunters and Descendants with us, along with the Windweaver herself."
"Wait a second," said Gale. "You sound like you've met us before."
"I haven't, not directly. You haven't ever noticed, but I've been teleporting around from here, follwoing your every step. I know your entire journey from Kasai all the way to here in Yukikaze. I had to keep tabs on you. You are all quintessential to our Great Revolt," Enshi divulged. "Anyway, as I was saying, we can now put our plans for the Great Revolt into action."
A cheer reverbarated around the large room, more and more slaves walking in through the various entraces dotted around the edges of the room, until the floor was a sea of hopeful heads.
"But before I give everybody a briefing, we must divulge to the Descendants the details of what the Dark One and the Frozen Dictator plan to do with this world," Enshi added, then cleared his throat as if preparing for a sermon. "As you well know...three years ago...the Frozen Dictator tried to wipe out humanity with the Divine Maelstrom. The winds would arrive regardless of his actions and wipe out everyone, regardless of race, but he gathered enough souls to survive the onslaught. Anyway, he was struck down, the prophecy was broken and the crisis was averted. But that was not the end. The White Star had a backup plan. He took advantage of time's eternal state of flux, so that his plans no longer adhere to any kind of destiny. Before he was ressurrected by Kazir, he found Shinkaiyami in the Hidden Realm, and they formulated a plan together. Now that the Dark One is in our world, and has his Heart, we are at a severe disadvantage. When Shinkaiyami's Heart is finished gathering dark energies, he will go beyond his former power, becoming almost omnipotent. He will be able move through history at will. He will go back into the past...and he will bring the Divine Maelstrom back with him."
Murmurs of concern spread like wildfire around the makeshift court- despite already knowing this, hearing it from Enshi only made them fear it more.
"There was the problem that the Wyrms would tap the power of the Lake of Eternity to bring about and endless supply of ice Descendent facsimiles, but our newfound friends here stopped the attack on Kyuuryuu. And you, Altair," Enshi mused, pointing briefly at Altair, who appeared rather confused at his being pinpointed, "Unleashed Kage No Nami...Wave of Shadows...a very dangerous manouvre to emply, indeed...but how you attained a sliver of Shinkaiyami's abyss would be a mystery. Would. You do not posses the Dark One's essence, as you had assumed. You are not his Descendant- a Descendant would not be able to survive past the foetal stage having the powers of two Wyrms passed onto them. You, sirrah, channel your dark abilities directly from the Abyss.
Another round of shocked gasps (which Nina partook in).
"I'm sorry, the "Abyss"?" Altair said, perplexed, squinting in his befuddlement. His comrades were as mystified as he was. Enshi blinked slowly.
"I...am the original fire Descendants. I have been alive for longer than one could dare to imagine. I saw the rise and fall of the Wyrms, form begining to fateful end. Shinkaiyami had the Abyss built as part of his war effort. The Abyss is an bottomless pit, a well, if you will, of immeasurable power. The pit itself was infused with dark magicks, so that nobody but Shinkaiyami could use it...and nobody, not even he himself, could ever destroy it. It is this very bottomless well that fuels the imperial armies as we speak. It has detrimental effects on flora and fauna alike. Currently, it's effects haven't really taken effect, but when Shinkaiyami's Heart is filled with raw power from the Abyss, he can finally regain his true power, and more. And then...anyway, I digress. The point is that you and you alone posses the ability to do that which nobody- besides Shinkaiyami- in the history of mankind has ever been able to do- draw power from the Abyss. Over the years, we have discovered one single thing- just one- that could bring this entire empire crashing down: only shadow kills shadow. Therefore, we have deduced -as an assumption, mind- that...that you can destroy the Abyss."
More excited chattering.
"I have been in and out of this prison subcity, and I have contacted all the cities and villages- Sukai, Chikyuu, Kyuuryuu. Sure, the forces of a tiny village like Sukai will not win us any battle, but there are strength in numbers. Chikyuu is our lands second largest city, and it's forces are many-theu may be subjugated, but they haven't lost the touch. Kyuuryuu is colossal, almost enough to rival the imperial army by itself. That colossal legion together with the entirety of Kasai, and a whole buch of Descendants..we will have a decent chance of victory at the very least," Enshi finsihed, then stood up from his seat proudly.
"TODAY, IS THE DAY OF OUR LIBERATION!" he boomed, and the colossal crowds gathered in the huge court echoeed with hope and courage.
"Is that so?" a shrill voice asked.
Suddenly, everything went deadly silent as Kazir and a whole heap of Ukanlos and Abyssal Sanctum soldiers burst into the room from every entrace, blocking the slaves in like rats. Suddenly, Kazir waved his hand at Gale, Rakurai and Arashi, and they were wrapped in ice, frozen in place. They sturggled to break the vine-like wrappings, but it was too cold to shatter.
"Take these three to the gallows. Bring all the slaves and their new buddies here with them. As soldiers wrechnec Gale and her sons free of the ice and dragged them away, Enshi whispered something in Gale's ear quickly, bere everybody was hearded to the central quare of Yukikaze to face judgement.
The slaves watched on with silent distress as they were led into the central plaza, a long set of steps leading to the Frozen Spire just behind the crowd of imperials., who were rasing thier fists repeatedly in the air, shouting "Kill! Kill! Kill! Kill!" again and again, in the Old Language, the language of the Wyrms.
Gale and the others all stood in rows, thier weapons confiscated, thier wrists encased in monolithic blocks of ice, except for nina, who was haled in place by chains made of pure shadow. The small band of hunters had bee brought here seperately (probably so that they couldn't co-ordinate an escape), so Gale had no idea where her two sons were. She looked to Mizu, whom the soldiers had beaten up for fun aon the way here, beside her for comfort, but his face was as troubled has hers. Suddenly, she was hit my the harsh butt of a weapon, drips of salaiva mixed with blood dripping from her lips.
"Face your superiors, wench!" the tinny voice of a soldier hissed as it's owner slowly marched by.
"Leave...her...alone..." Mizu wheezed tiredly. The soldier stopped, then tured around, marched over to Mizu and kicked him in the stomach, making him yell out in pain. The soldier spat on the floor next to him and walked away.
"I'm scared, Makoto. What're we gonna do?" Skylar whimpered, looking to Makoto next to her for support. Makoto's eyes stared blankly ahead.
"I...I don't know, Skylar," she said with disdain.
"Shut up, both of you!" a soldier barked from behind them.
"Look, there," Altair whispered out of the corner of his mouth, so as not to attract the harsh attention of the imperials. The hunters looked ahead to a throne of pure ice that was shouldered like a royal carriage by four soldiers, in which Kazir sat, his eyes cold and professional, although their psycopathic twinkle could never be hidden. The soldiers remained in place for a moment, before setting the throne upon the stone ground, allowing Kazir to get up. We slowly walked forward onto a podium of ice that he foremd as he moved, a set of small stepd leading up to an ice statue shaped like a winged beast, a dragon, one might presume; a crude, arctic lecturn. As Kazir laid his gloved hands on it, everything and every one fell silent. He began to speak. It was entirely in the Old Language, but since the people of this land learned the language in class for years, they understood it fairly well.
"Watashi no kōkina kyōdai! Saigo ni, sonohi wa kita! Kyōfū no Kaze to kanojo no kohōto wa, watashitachi ni wa mohaya meiwaku o okake shite wa naranai! Karera wa ningen no fuhai kara, watashitachi no sekai o torimodosu tame ni watashitachi no rippana sensō no saisho no kiru shinakereba naranai! Kyō, wareware wa wareware no meiyo o torimodosu! Kyō, watashitachiha watashitachi no hokori o torimodosu! Kyō, watashitachiha watashitachi no unmei ni rēdā, Shinkaiyami wa, watashitachi no katsute no eikō o watashitachi, waiāmu o kaesu yō ni shitagatte kudasai!" he roared with immeasurable pride, the mass of imperials cheering wildly, their hearts filled with twisted patriotism.
(My noble brothers! At last, the day has come! Gale Kaze and her cohorts shall trouble us no longer! They shall be the first kills in our honorable war to take back our world from the human rot! Today, we reclaim our honor! Today, we reclaim our pride! Today, we follow our destined lader, Shinkaiyami, to return we, the Wyrms, to our former glory!)
The trapped Descendants watched in disgust as the imperials laughed, sneered, jeers and spat at them. What with the Wyrms always ranting about how much better they were than humans, their "brothers", their "children", had alot less class and decency than one would think. There were peasants drunk on ale that had better public decorum than these pigs. One of them even tried to urinate on the hunters, but he was obviously drunk out of his mind becuase he missed and splattered over the armour of another imperial (who quickly chastised the drunkard) instead. If it weren't for the dire situation, Gale and the others would be laghing util they died. Although they feared that the "die" part of that scenario might be applicable here anyway.
Kazir raised his arms and clapped twice, following which the bruised bodies of Arashi and Rakurai (still dressed in Silver Sol and Narga X armours [respectively]) were brought out before Gale and her friends, forced to their knees with kinves to their throats, the excited executionaers waiting with patient smiles upon thier faces.
"Gale Kaze must make a choice!" Kazir said, turning his body slowly to speak to his "brothers", then facing Gale and continuing his monologue. "She must choose which one of her beloved sons will die. SO, miss Kaze, who will it be?"
Gale, distressed and crying now, shook herselftrying to escape, but to no avail.
"Well?" Kazir snorted impatiently.
"NO! You can't make me...!" she sobbed with despair.
"Fine, whatever; kill them both." Kazir said with sly satisfaction his smile growing into an evil grin.
"NO!" Mizu cried out.
"Then CHOOSE!" Kazir screeched. "I don't have infinite patience, you know!"
Gale stared on with horror. How could anyone ask a mother to choose which one of her children will die? And how could she choose, knowing that she'd never see that person again, and that it would be entirely her fault?
As she was in the midst of despair, Gale remembered what Enshi had whispered to her.
"The forces of the other cities and villages are nearly here. When they are approaching, I will send a small heatwave toward you. When you start to feel warmer, shake your head and it shall begin."
She had felt no such heatwave thus far. She had to stall somehow. She called out to Nina in her head.
"Nina, we need to stall for a while. Do you have any ideas?"
"I will see what I can do."
A few moments after that, the ground began to shudder, slowly at first, then more violently (it also unintentionally began to crack the ice that held the hunters prisoner, but not enough to shatter it). Everybody clung to something or someone to keep their footing, while others fell down and waited calmly for several minutes for the tremors to subside, which, after cracking the ground and surrounding pavings, they did.
Nina saw her work and knew that this wasn;t enough, and so called out to Enshi in her mind.
"How long will it be until the armies are here? I cannot delay these babbling buffoons indefinitely!" she hissed.
"They are nearly here! Get Gale to stall them just a little while longer, only a minute or two more!" Enshi moaned.
Knowing that this was as good at this situation was going to get, Nina relayed the message to Gale, who blinked slowly, knowing all that she had to lose in two minutes. She saw how frightened her boys looked, despite their courage for have lived without adult supervision for elevn years. She wanted to smile at them, as if to say "it's okay". But she couldn't, because it wasn't.
As Kazir straightened himself out again, he posed Gale the same impossible question.
"...Why are you doing this?" she said, still a little upset, but not panicking like before; this time she had hope. Kazir stared at her with bemusement.
"Why am I doing this?" he echoed, his indifferent expression soon twisting into a sick smile, a lighthearted chuckle escaping his lips. "...WHY AM I DOING THIS!?" he repeated, roaring with laughter now, and the soldiers joined in (although they rebels weren't sure why).
"Oh, that is RICH!" he said, amused. "Heh! "Why are you doing this?", she says!" he scoffed. "Are you actually implying that I need a reason to hurt people, take away everything that gives them a reason to live and destory their entire lives, cutting people entil they scream, bleed and die, and laughing at the pain of everyone around me? Are you that fucking stupid? THERE IS NO "WHY"!! I do all the positively wonderful things I do, simply because...well, because I can! And I just love seeing the miserbale, barren and desolate looks on the faces of people like you when you're all wallowing in whatever private hell I've fashioned for you. And guess what, bitch? You can do sweet fuck all about it! And you know what makes this just fantastic!? I'm completely and utterly sane."
Gale stared at him while he laughed, disgusted.
"Now choose. Please," he asked, with sly politeness, his eyes narrowing as his smile lengthened, a short chuckle from the imperials following. Gale eyes darted from left to right between Rakurai and Arashi. Suddenly, great news reached her via Nina, as Enshi's aforementioned wave of warmth washed over her.
"Enshi says they are here! Make the move!"
Gale smiled and began to laugh. Kazir's smile turned to a scowl.
"What's so funny? How can you laugh at your own doom?" Kazir said, angry that he wasn't in control.
"I'm laughing...at yours," Gale retoretd, then, as per Enshi's instructions, she shook her head wryly, the signal for the rebels to make thier move. Before Kazir could retort to Gale's provocative statement, Enshi whistles loudly, and the huge, city-sized mass of slaves pushed past the almost a large crowd of imperials that held them back, sparking a riot in the plaza, imperials scattering like rats as the maltreated prisoners ran after them in packs, eager to exact their long-overdue revenge. Kazir turned his head frantically, watching with dismay as the soldiers ran around like headless Shakalakas, overwhelmed by the sheer numbers, despite thier armour and weaponry. He roared with anger and frustration before teleporting away in a shroud of white mist.
Enshi appeared in a fiery flash before the Descendants. His red Teostra-red hair had spiked upward like the spikes on a Nargacuga's tails, his fists engulfed in flames, and his pupils a demonic, lava-like colour. He ran past all of the blocks of ice, smashing them with his fists with breakneck speed, freeing the hunters at last, the firey aura flowing though them and bringin thier numb hands back to life. Gale and Mizu, almost as soon as they were free, ran to their sons, hugging them close.
"I'm so sorry. We were careless. We should never have let this happen," Gale whimpered quietly. The proud parents let go, and the four stood up.
"It's okay, mother. It's not either of your faults," Arashi said. As the hunters reunited admist the riot, the armies arrived, smashing through Yukikaze's front gates with a loud slam (it could barely be seen from the central plaza, but it was loud enough, so seeing it wasn't necessary). The Sky Village ninjas of Sukai, the honourable warriors of Kyuuryuu and the stouthearted legion of Chikyuu all surged forward, weapons in hand and hope in thier eyes; the Chikyuu soldiers in Barroth armour, the Kyuuryuu legions in Lagiacrus armour, the Sky Village ninjas of Sukai mostly in Narga armour (although some wore specially made, non-monster armour like Altair and Skylar, and none of them used any firearms [bar Altair], only Blademaster weapons), while the Kasai citizens wore normal clothes, and were unarmed.
Enshi took hold of the situation.
"Alright, this is our moment!" he said, excitement flaring in his already flame-lit eyes. "It would be wise to split up. The people of Kasai are withdrawing right about now; we have armour and weapons for everybody in the labour camp. Nina and I will scout out Kazir, Shinkaiyami and Yaketsukuyona, while Arashi, Rakurai and Tsubaki tackle on the Sky village's front- they are the smallest of the forces we have. Gigas, Roux and Altair, you should go and support the Chikyuu army. Gale, Makoto, Skylar and Mizu, feel free to pick a spot and start killing," he commanded. Or advised, they weren't quite sure. His wise and polite tone was many things, but commanding was not one of them. He hurried off past the central plaza and further into the city with Nina while Gigas Roux and Altair ran with the onrush of Barroth-clad warriors. Arashi, Rkurai and Tsubaki stayed with Gale and Mizu for a while.
"Are you sure you'll be okay?" Mizu asked his boys. Arashi and Rakurai nodded slowly.
"We'll be fine, father. If it looks to tough, we'll get out. 'Kay?" Arashi said with optimistic absentmindedness, and the two brothers ran to the east to join the Sukaians. Gale turned to Tsubaki.
"You look after him. You understand me?" Gale said sternly. Not because she didn't approve of her, just to reinforce her request. Tsubaki nodded adamantly, her blue eyes full of seriousness.
"Of course. We've only kissed once, but...I love your son very much. I've always been sweet on him, but...well, I was as scared of proclaiming it to him as he was to me," she answered with a sweet smile, before she ran off, Ceadeus armour and all, to join the two boys.
"So...this is it, huh?" Makoto sighed nervously, her robes blowing in the slight icy breeze.
"I guess so," Mizu sighed back.
"We'll do our best!" Skylar said, beaming with childish optimism, despite the situation. She might've been fourteen, but she was younger at heart.
"For humanity," Gale said, and together the three sprinted off into the midst of the battle for freedom, hope and courage in thier hearts and minds.
XXVI: The Great Revolt Begins!'"Come on! Don't let them push us back, keep going!" Altair commanded, blowing away a cluster of imperial soldiers with a blast of wind, and the horde of Barroth soldiers passed him, slamming thier huge Great Swords and Hammers (there were very few with different armamnets in the Chikyuu army), bludgeoning anybody who might stem thier advance. Gigas, who was now at the forefront of the attack, had really let himslef loose on the surrounding cityscape, andalot of the building had been reduced to rubble (although to be fair, the city wasn't complete and they were only half-built anyway). As Roux was wildly swung her Alatreon hammer at masses of enemy soldiers, Gigas noticed an Alatreon-clad soldier appear behind her, lunging out with a gargantuan Great Sword.
"MOVE!" he shouted at her, pushing her out of the way and drawing his Dancing Hellfire over his head from his sheath just in time to hold back the huge blow (with one hand, too). When the smoke cleared, the intimidating white eyes of the Alatreon helm bored into Gigas, the man looming over the Descendant imposingly, his steadfast grip on his ever-steady Great Sword silently willing the middle-aged smoker to give in.
Roux almost gasped when she saw the Abyssal Sanctum soldier.
"He...he's that guy from before, at the Lost City! But...but he disappeared...!" she muttered under her breath, not believing that Lux was alive at first, but watching him overpower Gigas and force him away dismissed any illusions she had.
Lux gave no time for Gigas to recover, swinging his humungous blade deftly again, forcing Gigas to roll out of the way, firing Dragon S shots at his assailant. Severely susceptile to Dragon element attacks, Lux felt each blow and was knocked off of his feet, but still no sound came from beneath the silent helm. He slowly picked himself up, but not quick enough to stop Gigas from running toward him and grabbing his helmet, swinging him round a few time before throwing him into a stone wall, which dented and cracked from the force of the impact. The Great Sword slid to the ground beneath him as he slid off of the wall like a raindrop off of glass, slumping to the ground in a bulk. Gigas leapt into the air, his free hand alit with flames, before slamming his fist into Lux's back, consuming the two in a ball of flame, obscuring them from view temporarily.
When the dust settled Gigas stood upright, cluthcing his Agnablaster. A scorch mark remained where lux had been lying. But it was too good to be true. Gigas yelled out in suprise as Lux grabbed his head from behand and slammed him into the already dented stone wall several times, before puching his spine, making him growl with pain and frustration and pivoting to throw him to the ground. Lux then teleported to where Gigas was headed, swinging his Great Sword like a shield, swatting the Descendant away like a fly, dust and gravel flying in alldirections as he slid across the ground in a tired heap.
Roux, still holding her own against the imperial onslaught, looked on at the scene is dismay. Altair usddenly whooshed by, swatting slodiers with martial arts like flies and quickly dispatching fresh assailants with quick headshots, blasting away those who got to close with his wind abilities.
"Roux, stay here with the Barroth soldiers! I'll go and give Gigas a hand!" he said, putting his pistol back in it's holster and drawing his balisong-style butterfly knives, dissapearing in a puff of smoke and reappearing a second later infront of Lux, rushing him with stylish combinations of knife slashes and martial arts: he was indeed a true Sky Village ninja, finally pummeling his stomach with his gauntletted right hand, sending him tumbling past gigas and into the wall again, firlmy slamming into it for the second time. Altair channelled the power of the Abyss, allwoing it to fuel himw ith unearthly strenght, the wispy shadows writhign around him again, his eyes glwoing a pupilless vermillion. He leapt through the air at the trapped Sanctum soldier, his gauntlet glowing with purple energy as it slammed into Lux's stomach, shattering the wall and bringin the skeleton of the incomplete bulding crashing down around them, the pair of them still flying through, escaping its collapse just in time. Lux, roly-polyed over the ground limply, while Altair shrugged of the impact with a forward roll. Amazingly, Lux's Great Sword had made it through as well.
Lux peeled himself off of the floor in utter silence, picking up his huge blade once again, still garnering some (or alot, it was nard to tell) strenght withing him. Altair sheathed away the knives and pulled out his pistol again, cautiously awaiting the dark Descendant's next move.
"Just roll over and die already!" Kazir shouted, still slicing at Enshi with his freezing cold blade, desperately trying to land a hit. Enshi swiftly dodged the flurry of inaccurate attacks, teleportin away and reappering behind the psychotic young man, dragon pucnhing him with a flame-covered fist. Kazir somersaulted to recover, sending a wave of ice at the experienced warrior, who dismissed the inane manouvre with a wave of dancing flames. The pair then stood impassive, staring at each other- Kazir with angry, hateful eyes, Enshi with a calm, slightly smug expression.
"Why do you persist? Ice cannot beat fire. What do you hope to accomplish by flinging ice at me? You might as well throw stones at a Barroth!" Enshi taunted smugly, but he was actually half-serious. Suddenly, a bitter, bonechilling cold cut through Enshi, and his next sentence was cut off, and he trembled feebly, frozen in place.
"Problem, filth?" Kazir sneered, slowly pacing toward Enshi, gleaming blade in hand. As Kazir approached slowly, his serpentine eyes as sharp as his sword, he heard a sharp, feminie cry, a juxtaposition of angish, vengeance and courage. He flung his blade out sharply, icy blue sparks igniting as it clashed with the equally keen edge of Gale's Lost Black Katana. He smiled smugly from behind the sharp steel, taking pleasure in the accosted face of the girl he had caused so much pain.
"Seeing as it's make or break in this battle, I really am going to have to kill you this time. Sorry, sugar," he purred, slashing elegantly at the battle-weary Descendant.
"Save your speech, asshole! You can talk when you're in hell where you belong!" Gale retorted, sweeping the Long Sword at Kazir's legs. He leapt back and let loose a wave of freezing tundra at Gale, who waved it away with a gust of wind. Kazir dropkicked the young woman and pinned her to the ground with the flat of his blade, drawing a knife and knneling over her, knife arm raised truimpahntly. As the knife came pseeding toward her face, Gale impulsively clutched her assailant's wrist, both thier arms trembling as they struggled, the knife rising and falling like the tide.
"Would you like me to tell you about hell? It's a common misconception, that it's a kingdom of fire and flame. No, no, dear Gale, hell is a place colder than a thousand tundras. Perhaps, if you let me, I can show you but a precious glimpse of sweet, sweet purgatory," Kazir hissed slyly.
"I've heard...enough...of your...bullshit!" Gale yelled, finally pushing the psycopath- and his sword- off of her and blowing him into a wall with a blast of wind. Quicker than expected, Kazir teleported, reappearing behind her and slicing at her repeatedly, the time between each hit so short that it felt like rain was falling. Gale desperately blacked the onslaught with her Long Sword, before the eeried coldness that emanated from Kazir's blade subdued her. Before she could evens hiver, she felt another bolt of cold pulse through her as the blade strucke her delicate Kirin X armour hard, and she rolled into a heap upon the floor. Kazir approached the fallen girl, ignoring the pained yelps as he grabbed her by her hair and slammed her face onto the ground over and over again, before he pivoted and threw her in the opposite direction, her beaten body slumped against the wall, her Lost Black Katana by her side, but out of immeadiate reach. As Kazir casually began to strangle the hapless girl, a burst of whitish flame interrupted him, forcing him to let go of his quarry and deflect the attack."Leave her alone, you cold-hearted bastard!" Makoto spat defiantly, paointing her black and yellow matenbou at the abhorrent man like a spear.
"Why, thank you. That's very sweet of you to say so. But I'd really appreaciate if you shut the fuck up and die now, m'kay?" Kazir replied sweetly.
Makoto growled, before she grunted harshly, defiantly, the way a martial artist would, as she flung herslef at the imperial menace with a series of quick, hard and stylish had-to-hand combat, smiultaneously swishing her matenbou like an ancient martial artist of legend. She placed her fist to her mouth and turned her head from left to right and a huge gust of fire enveloped the area in front of her. Gale saw it coming and quickly formed a wind barrier around herslef to defend against the fires. Kazir growled almost inaudibly as the heat took it's toll. Finally, Makoto stopped...breathing?...fire, and placed her palm to the ground. A series of jagged spikes protruded from the ground, cathing Kazir before he had the chance to counterattack, sending him high into the air. Makoto placed her matenbou firmly into the ground, before pressing her entire wieght against it like a springboard, then letting go, allowing the stick to project her into the air. She grabbed Kazir by the collar of his shirt and flung him forcefully back down.
"Gale, catch me!" she shouted as she, too, came tumbling back to earth. Gale created a funnel of wind like a safety blanket, catching Makoto a few centimetres off of the ground, then allowing her to drop to the floor. To their suprise, Kazir was nowhere to be seen. All of a sudden, Kazir appeared in a bright azure flash, puching Makoto to the floor with a yelp.
"Go, Gale! I'll deal with him!" Makoto yelled as she defended against Kazir's feezing blade with her matenbou.
"But-!" Gale began.
"There's no time! Mizu is at the epicentre of the fight! Go and find him! You must get to Altair and find the Abyss!" Makoto interrupted commandingly. Gale nodded and sprinted away, headed for the city centre, desperate to reunite with allies.
"...Wait!" Enshi cried out at the last moment. In the heat of the battle, Gale had forgotten all about him. He quickly ran up to join her.
"I will accompnay you. Come, there is no time to waste!" he said wisely, and the pair ran off together.
Mizu pushed Skylar out of the way as a huge Ukanlos Destructor bit into the stone ground, a huge cloud of dust rippling in all directions. Mizu quickly slew the imperial before he could draw his huge Great Sword from the earth. He then sped to offer his hand to Skylar, who lay on the floor. She grabbed it quickly, before the area was overrun by yet another horde of relentless Ukanlos soldiers. The pair rushed through the crowds of enemy and ally forces alike, to a slightly clearer and less ostentatious area of the already debris-ridden city centre. Broken buldings, shattered bodies and bloodied swords lay about the place, in such awful quantities that one might think this place was a post-apocalyptic wasteland, if not for the multitude or warring people.
They weren't sure how they had been seperated from Gale and Makoto; they must have taken different turns in the heat of battle. But it was alright. Skylar was a Sky Village ninja and Mizu was a Descendant- they could hold their own for now.
He didn't know what, but something compelled Mizu to look up at the looming tower before him. It covered in tendrils of bitterly cold ice that climbed up the tower's stone walls like ivy. A sinister character dressed in a traditional white hakama glared down at them, his bleach blonde hair barely visible in contrast with his crimson muramasa.
"What is it, Mizu?" Skylar said, following Mizu's sapphire eyes.
"...That's him, Skylar. That's the White Star," Mizu said with quiet dread, but the words were so emphatic that shouting wasn't necessary. The White Star turned on his heel and headed back into the depths of the Frozen Spire. Suddenly, a desperate screeching broke the awe-filled stasis.
"LOOK OUT!" Nina cried, louder than Mizu or Skylar had ever heard her shout before. Mizu wrapped his arms around Skylar and dived to the left as a long, cruel silver blade spearheaded the air where they had stood moments ago. Mizu and Skylar once again gazed upon the purple-eyed, spike-ridden, phantasmal form of Shinkaiyami, the Abyssal Sovereign.
"Stop this futile struggle now, Dark One," Nina said calmly, with determination. "You cannot win. You may have conquered this land, but how will you conquer the other regions? Minegarde? Moga? Pokke? The Central World? Doragokuni? Vast as your armies may be, you cannot conquer all those regions together with this one warforce. And what about the rest of the world? You yourself know better than any human alive that this world is vast beyond imagining. You cannot hope to usurp humanity in such numbers. And now that the Lake is protected, how will you replenish the infantry you will lose here? It is all but hopeless!"
Shinkaiyami began to laugh deeply, wisely, slyly.
"My dear, dear Nina; did you honestly believe that the Lake of Eternity was the only way to produce my Descendant facsimilies? Of course, the Lake of Eternity would have strengthened my armies, but it is not thier origin. The Ice Descendants are borne of the Frozen Tower, and the Abyssal Sanctum borne of the Abyss. I can produce as many copies as I please, and you can do nought to stop me!" He replied smugly, following which he raised his arms to his sides and began to hover in the air, wings outstreched in thier grotesque, demonic glory. He chuckled throatily as shadows began to writhe around him, and the gem upon his chest began to glow and hum.
"The Abyss answers my call, and the dark Heart beats within my breast! Now, you will see what a king truly looks like!"
The shadows grew larger and larger, until Shinkaiyami's sinister form was obscured, the bulk of whispering shadows flew into the air, and a purple flash blinded everyone all over the city.
When everybody's sigh had been regained, both rebel and imperial alike stood and gazed up in awe at the gargantual dragon that circled in the sky, like a vulture from the dapths of hell. The very sky had turned dismally gray, and purple bolts of lightining ruptured the heavens.The beast itself was nightmarish. It was stygian, skeletal, tenebrous. It was asymetrical is some areas, and its body was like a phantasmal skeleton that harboured the bright purple dark energies within, which could be seen through it's ribs, legs and face, and its wings were like rows of jagged scythes. It was as if the enrgy itself had become sentient and cobbled a makeshift shell to cover itself with. It was both hellish and heavenly, sublime in design and yet cruel to the eye.The ornate crest that was part of its head was like a crown, its claws like huge knives. Its bared tail whipped at the darkening skies, and its beady purple eyes gazed at the shattered earth below.
"Behold, my brothers! Your king is come!" Shinkaiyami's voice echoed through the sky, straight from the gargantuan creature's mouth.
"...Shinkaiyami's Heart...this is why he needed it..." Nina revealed with sombre dismay. Mizu, Skylar and the soldiers around them swiftly returend to battle as the imperials suddenly spurred into action once more with renewed vigor at the arrival of their king on the battlefield. The presence of a dark Wyrm was something nobody could ignore.
Mizu silently worried, and prayed that everybody he loved was safe, and that they would destory the Abyss before its master could utilize it for his own deadly intentions.
XXVII: True DarknessNina 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. Alot 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 bulding, 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 cigarrette 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 thier 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 serve 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 humourous 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-existant 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 cigarrette. 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.
XXVIII: The End Times
Skylar and Mizu slashed at the Afflicted that stumbled toward them. They weren't much of a threat, really, but their numbers could overwhelm you if you weren't careful. The Frozen Spire loomed above them, drawing them in with it's incredible height. They felt it in their bones that both the White Star and the Abyss awaited within. But it's gates were sealed tightly shut, and the imperials wouldn't dream of surrendering it without a fight. Even if they felled all the soldiers in the city, they imperial Honour Guard that was the Abyssal Sanctum would be waiting inside, and against so many facsimile dark Descendants, who were immune to any form of elemental damage but darkness (and light, one would assume), the rebels who remained would be slaughtered.
Suddenly, more Afflicted appeared, and despite all thier slahing, slicing and hacking, the pair were overrun by the shadowy ghouls.
Asthey prepared for the end, they heard shouts, grunts and the sound of puching and slicing from above the layer of black, mottled flesh that had smothered the two. When they could see their surrounding once more, Gale and Enshi were oferring Mizu and Skylar thier hands (respectively). Gale yanked the young man off of the ground and wrapped her arms around him tightly.
"I'm so glad you're okay," Gale moaned, her head buried in his chest.
"Of course I am," Mizu said.
"I was so worried," she squealed. Mizu held the girl at arm's length.
"I'm fine. I always am. I'd never leave you. Not now, not ever. I love you," he reassured her, rubbing away the dirt, tears and flecks of ash away with his thumbs. They let go of one another and turned a little as Gigas, Roux, Shinji, Arashi, Tsubaki, Makoto, Shinji and Jinsoku came rushing up to join them, while the remaining-but still fairly hefty-mob of Barroth, Lagiacrus and Rathalos (the armour of choice for the Kasai rebels) warriors came spilling into the area around the main citadel. The ones with Gigas dragged huge, powerful looking artillery batteries behind them, iron chains over thier backs as they abnded together in a superhuman effot to haul the guns (which seemed to have appeared from nowhere,a lthough Gale and co. suspected that they had stolent them from the imperials) into place before the citadel.
"Alright, ladies, light 'er up! Let's blow this shitpiece to smithereens before we die of old age!" Gigas boomed gruffly, a newly-lit cigarrette in his mouth and he watched the cannons light up one by one, chomping into the meticulously crafted stonework, ripping it apart like a Tigrex chowing down on a Popo. The explosions lit up the view before the rebels and they cheered with hope and victory as they watched the citadel crumble, if ever-so-slowly.
It was this moment that Shinkaiyami took to strike. The rebel fools had semmed to have forgotten him and the dark clouds he hand conjured. If he breathed his flames upon the entire lot, he could turn an entire army of Afflicted upon the Dscendants. He swooped low and spewed the toxic shadowy flames upon the gathered armies. But to his suprise, while they were now fixated on him, a barrier of bright, translucent white light had blocked his attack.
Gale and her friends blinked, as they recognized Nina standing before them, completely passive, as if generating this barrier with her eyes. Sh ewaited until the shadows ha dissipated before she let the barrier fade.
"Even in death, your persistant meddling continues," Shinkaiyami sighed sadly, as if reciting a sermon at a funeral.
"As you can see, I am perfectly alive, and you would do well to remember it, you pathetic old relic. I advise that you crawl back under your prehistoric rock before the human race crushes you with it," Nina snapped back plainly. Gale and her comrades started up at Shinkaiyami. Though he was a little too high up to be able to see his face clearly, they could just about see it crease with frustration and seethe with hatred.
"Humanity will never be the Wyrms' equals. They will never be my equal."
"How's this for an equal?!" Gigas growled, directing the nearest artillery battery to turn and fire at the dark Wyrm, fast enough that he couldn't evade it and was plucked out of the sky like a frog catching a fly. He plummeted at first, then growled loudly with anger at banked upward again. Gale and her friends looked to their left as Altair drew up beside them, his green cloak blowing in the slight breeze. They watched as he undid the leather buckled straps that held his silver, clawed gantlet on his right lower arm. When they had all been undone, he pulled the armouring away to reveal a black, monstrous claw, covered in demonic scales, which were harder and more prominent at the kuckles and finger joins. The hunters stared at it with awe for a few moments, before looking up at Altair's face, before he teleporte away, reappearing on Shinkaiyami's back, who snarled in suprise, flying drunkenly in an attempt to shake the human off. Altair kept hold, before extending shadows from his falms, which wrapped themselves (if that was possible for a vapour-like substance) armound the bases of Shinkaiyami's massive, jegged, scythe-like skeletal wings. He then pulled his still outstretched plams forward, putting sytrain on the massive bones. Shinkaiyami growled throatily with minor pain, which turned slowly into as huge shriek as Altair forced his arms forward with all his strength, rupping the two gargantuan wings from Shinkaiyami's body. He somersaulted in midair and threw them away to each side as the wing-clipped Wyrm plummetted toward the hard ground below, shrieking and growling all the way, sparks of purple energy spurting from the stubs like blood would from an artery.
However, the evil ancient wasn't going to give up yet. Not by a long shot. His body was slowly enveloped and obscured by shadows, and he fell as an amorphous ball of black vapour to the floor. There was no huge crash, nor a quake.
Suddenly, Gale and her friends-along with the mesmerized rebels turned abck to face the shatttered citadel- and Frozen Spire, where the huge metal gates that had barred the Spire's entrace had been twsited and mangled, wisps of shadow slithering around the destruction.
"He must have switched back to his humanoid form," ALtair said flatly, having reappeared beside his comrades without a flash or a sounds, like a vampire. Despite th strangeness of it, not one of them stared at his monstrous clawed arm.
"STAY PUT! THE DESCENDANTS AND I WILL GO IN ALONE!" Enshi boomed almsot impossibly loud. Although it was easier to hear one another in the strange silence. It was then that Gale wondered what the other rebels were probably wondering themselves- where had all the imperials gone?
Enshi, Gale, Mizu, Nina, Gigas, Altair and Makoto all trudged slowly to the very close mangled gate, slowly stepping through. Their faithful-but powerless-friends followed close behind.When the cloud of dust, ash and smoke cleared, a large, circular room greeted them. The drab stonewrok was the same lifeless gray as the rest of Yukikaze, and nothing filled the room- the stone walls justw ent up and up and up, endlessly. The onyl thing in the room was a circular, well-like pit that took up a large amount of the already incredibly expansive room (it was almost the size of a gladitorial arena), from which black shadows with purple streaks swirled round and round, like a whirlpool in a bathtub. And hovering above the centre of it was the spike covered, violet-eyed black shape of Shinkaiyami. Even though he had changed form, the stubs of his clipped wings remained.
"Such meticulous labouring, and yet, still you fail," Shinkaiyami mused.
"We won't fail. We will destroy you," Gale said firmly, frowning. Shinkaiyami let out a brief, loud spurt of laughter.
"My essence if of the raw, untainted power of the Abyss. What makes you think you can ever destroy me?"
Gale flung her Lost Black Katana out defensively with impulsiveness as it met the cruel edge of a red muramasa. Her old enemy, Yakeysukuyona,s tood before her, clad in a white traditional hakama with long, bleach-blonde hair and milk white irises.
"Good to see you again...Gale," he murmured with an ever-so-slight smug smile.
"Its about time you gave up using that pethetic alias," Nina blurted out randomly.
"What do you mean?" the White Star asked wryly.
"Do not play coy with me. You know full well that "Yaketsukuyona" is but a nick name, don't you...Korifubuki?" Nina snapped. Korifubuki hissed at the girl angrily. Shinkaiyami took this chance to slip away unnoticed, cackling as he submerged himslef in the swirling well that was the Abyss.
"Quick he's getting away!" Arashi yelled, and the ohers ran to the edge of the Abyss. Mizu stopped for a moment.
"Are you gonna be okay on your own?" he asked with caution.
"I'll be fine. Besides, this is my fight. I have to settle this. You just stop Shinkaiyami from bringing the Divine Maelstom back," Gale said confidently. Mizu nodded before turning and running to join the others.
"WHat the fuck're we gonna do now?!" Gigas gumbled.
"Why jump, of course," Nina stated innocently.
"What the-?! You mean we're just gonna jump into a swirling vortex of darkness?! Are you batshit crazy?!" Roux exclaimed.
"Not in the slightest," Nina replied politely.
And with that, the comrades jumped in, leaving Gale to face her old nemesis for the second and final time.
XXIX: Edge of Darkness
A strange place greeted the hunters and Descendants as the blackness they had been smothered by when they jumped into the Abyss had cleared. Large chunks of stone, all shaped like clockwork cogs, or clock hands, floated in cluttered heaps, as if gravity had been suspended, phosphroescent bluelight on their smooth, broken edges, as if it was slowly devouring the stonework. A large, round platform, made of the same drab stonework they had seen in Yukikaze, floated in the same purple space as everything else. In the middle of the vast expanse of entropy was Shinkaiyami, encased in a transparent violet forcefield. He floated with his legs very close together and his arms bent to the sides, with his claws curled around a ball of energy that was an even lighter shade of violet, the position of his body making him look similar to a "T". Thin strands of balck shadow curled and bent in from nowhere, seeping through the forcefield and into the ball of energy that the Wyrms was generating.
"He's powering up..." Makoto noted slowly, all gazing at the spectacle as if they'd already lost.
"Well then how do we stop him?" Mizu asked urgently.
"...Why don't we all blast him? Like, with our powers!" Roux said, lighting up as if it was a novel idea. Murmurs of approval resonated among the group, but Nina stayed silent and slowly closed her eyes, frowning ever so slightly, as if she was thinking their plan foolish.
Mizu let loose a stream of water, while Gigas loosed blots of searing flame and Altair produced a gust of wind from his left hand and a beam of dark shadows from his claqwed right hand. Makoto couldn't add her efforts as her power was earth, and she couldn't manipulate earth where there was none. The elements simply made contact with the shield, nothign more. They had no effect, and to boot, Shinkaiyami ignored their feeble efforts entirely, fervently focused on channeling the dark energies of his Abyss. The Descendants slowly and reluctantly ceased their efforts, sighing with frustration and dissapointment.
"Our powers ain't doin' shit!" Gigas grunted, kicking his Agnablaster, which he had placed on the ground to fire his flames, aggressively, accidentally causing it to roll off the edge of the round platform and topple into the air around them. It fell for a while- but becuase of the force Gigas had kicked it with, not gravity- then floated impassivley.
"Your abilities will not dispell his shield, not even if I try: that forcefield is made of sterner stuff," Nina remarked solemnly. "Observe."
Nina outstrecthed her hand gently, aloowing tendrils of serene light to flow gently from her fingertips. They snaked thier way to the shielding, then dissipated upon contact, the field unfazed.
"Our powers cannot breach this barrier. There is only one thing that can," Nina said flatly. All of a sudden, her next sentecne was interruped as large clusters of Afflicted appeared in vblack puffs of smoke, littered around the large stone circuit.
"You must realize now that you cannot hope to stop me with your limited power," Shinkaiyami seethed confidently.
"Well, be that as it may..." Shinji murmured, "...There's no reason we can't try."
The large (but considerably dimisnished) army of Kasai, Kyuuryuu, Chikyuu and the few remaining Sukai warriors jumped to attention, weapons at the ready, as countless Afflicted appeared before them, shrouding the shattered imperial city with dark ghouls. The remnants of the Abyssal Sanctum and the Ukanlos-clad infantry could be seen amidst the phantasms as well.
With nobody around to command them, the rebels went absolutely wild, charging valiantly the horde. The Gunners in the armies discarded their bows and bowguns absentmindedly and pulled out combat knives and the like. The artillery batteries all turned from the broken citadel and fired upon the black masses thinning the numbers as best they could.
Despite the rebels' efforts, the Afflicted were overrunning them. Their sheer numbers were quickly overwhelming the hapless hunters, and most of those swamped by the vicious wraiths joined their ranks (the rest died). The Afflicted slowly gained ground, lurching toward the artillery batteries. The front line rebels packed tight together to form a wall, but without shields to defend themselves with, this tactic quickly grew stale and the defense was pierced, with more casualties and coversions alogn the way. Alot of these Afflicted were tougher,s tronger, and alot faster than the initial waves from earlier, and those alpha-male-ish Afflicted quickly banded together, tearing through the fray and attacking the heavy guns, bringing two fo the seven cannons to a stop, the operators slain. There were many more who could replace the fallen operators, but there would be little chance of them getting back to the guns without dying, nevermind actually keeping them active. Anyway, the Abyssal Sanctum remnants acted swiftly to destroy the overrun guns, shattering them beyond repair with their dark abilities.
Mired in bloodshed, the rebels hoped to whatever deity they believed in, even though most in this land felt that the gods had abandoned them, that they would see the light of dawn...and freedom.
Shinji and Jinsoku, realizing the futility of Gunner weapons in this situation, discarded their bows carelessly and drew Katana's from thier belts. Longer than a knife, but it was no sword. Perfect for this situation, especially when there were Descendants on hand to back them up if they got swamped.
The couple, along with a Power Juice-powered Skylar, dived blades first into the swarm of sinister Afflicted, black shadows spilling from thier grievous wounds like blood, before they turned to ash in death.
"Don't stop, don't be precise!" Shinji yelled over the guttral growls of the afflicted and the whiny humming of the ball of dark energy that Shinkaiyami was birthing from within the safe confines of his shield. "Just slash and run!"
Jinsoku and Skylar did as she said, and as a result of their reckless abandon the Afflicted were quickly cut down, and in great numbers too.
Meanwhile, Gigas, Mizu and Altair were sprinting aroudn the other side of the stone circuit, letting loose a relentless blasts of fire, water, wind and darkness from thier palms, not even giving time for the afflicted to attack or even defend (though they probably weren't smart or durable enough to withstand the supernatural blasts regardless). Mizu, who was closest to the edge of the stone platform, scanned the purple forcefield with his eyes. Shinkaiyami was powering up, and not at any leisurely rate either. If they didn;t take that shield down soon, there'd be hell to pay. Not for them, but for the rebels back in Yukikaze. Suddenly, they saw it flicker. Shinkaiyami didn't react however (if he did he'd lose his focus and the energy he was building up would dissipate). They looked back to where they had first arrived briefly to see Nina, still stanidn passively, here eyes closed. Wispy strands of ephemeral white light flowed around her, slowly flexing in different directions, with miniscule, glittering specks of light around her. Whatever she was doing, it was working, and fast.
"Yeah, that's right, assholes! Go back to wherever the hell y'all sonofabitchin' came from!" Gigas boomed, laughing with glee in the heat of battle as he watched the slowly dissolving bodies of the Afflicted float away below the stone platform.
Suddenly, all stopped, and face the shield, as Shinkaiyami spoke one more. They anticipated more hostility, as tiny specks of his shield were fading, as if a Vespoid's wing was disintergrating. It flickered more sporadically now.
"You humans sought a Wyrm. You shall have him," he said evenly. He didn;t move, but more afflicted appeard, though this time there were dog-like one siwth the humanoids, black, spiky, corpselike hounds with hellish crimson eyes, and flaming ribcages. They ran in swarms at Nina, who was working to disable his shield. Unable to channel her light and defend her self at the same time, she allowed the light aura around her to release, channeling it outward toward the Afflicted that scapered toward her, turning them to ash in the blink of an eye. However, she had lost her focus, and Shinkaiyami's shield returened to normal. They heard him laugh deeply as Nina summoned the hunters to gather around her. With no hostiles left, they ran to her without worry.
"What is it?" Roux asked- she had been stadning by some rubble that was wedged to the platform, watching in case a strong enemy advanced on the girl.
"There is not the time for me to build up that energy again. I could have shattered the shield in a few minutes, if not for those wretched wraiths..." Nina sighed with frustration and melancholy, turning her back to the group, as if accosted, or contemplating something. "But desperate times call for desperate measures," she added firmly. She turned on her heel to face the hunters once again.
"I am going to have to do something, and you will not like it," Nina said plainly, but with a slight tinge of forboding in her voice. They watched as she began to glow with light, which seemd to consume her form. At first they were alwarmed, but they relaxed as a balls of pure, bright light floated in the air, about the size of a cannonball. It quickly separated into seven more equally sized balls of light.
"No, don't!" Altair snapped. "Stop!"
Suddenly, SHinkaiyami's growl echoed around the Abyss, and countless Afflicted, humanoid and dog-like, appeared around the stone circuit.
"Quickly, each of you, assimilate me! I will be protected. You must target Shinkaiyammi;s shield when I say!" Nina' voice snapped from the balls of light, each speaking in perfect harmony. One by one, the hunters touched the speheres which flashed and them dissapeared.
They each turned to face the horde of phantoms, with iron resolve and courage tougher than steel. Each of the non-Descendants drew thier weapons.
This was the way the fate of the world would be decided.
The soldiers' numbers were diminishing rapidly by the minute. New forms of Afflicted had appeared, dog-like wraiths with hellish red eyes and ribcages burning with flames, and countless murders of large demonic, bird-like creatures that cawed like vultures (and were about the same size too), swooping down in swarms at unsuspecting soldiers, easilty ripping through steel and flesh alike. Luckily, the Gunners had the sense to scramble back to retrieve their discarded bows and bowguns admist the calamitous crisis, or the airborne mencaes would be tough to kill. The Sky Village ninjas also proved effective against the flying demons, throwing thier kunais and paralyzing throwing knives with impeccable pinpoint accuracy.
However, these terrors of the sky were as cunning as the creatures they resembled, and they quickly learned to target the ones with the irritating knives. It wasn't long before the few remaining Sukaian forces were cut down at the claws of the airborne Afflicted, eliminating the proud green stroke from the rebel mass.
The rebels' misfortune did not end there. Three substantially large Rathaloses appeared in shrouds of black mist. thier eyes a sickeningly frightful evrmillion and thier normally read bodies encrusted with pitch black, spiky hide. They had clearly been converted. It seemd that mosnters had a higher resistance to the conversion though, as it only covered the majority of thier bodies, not all of thier bodies. The artillery remaining artlierry guns immediately commence fire upon the three tenbrous Flying Wyverns, but were soon stopped when the huge, otherwordly violet balls of fire ejected from the Rathaloses' open jaws and hurtled toward the guns, smashign them to pieces upon collsion, impaling, Afflicted, imperial and rebel alike with huge steak-like pieces of broken wood, like shrapnel from a grenade. The Rathaloses then roared harmoniously, but the normally proud, bestial roar was distorted, and sounded more like a cry of pained anguish.
And, to top it all off, Rakurai was stuck in the middle of this mess, still angrily swiping at Kazir with his Legendary Fatalis Sickle. Kazir sharlp blocked each swipe with his sword, which sent bolts of searing, riveting cold down the artificial Descendant's spine, although it didn't affect him like it did the others: he was an Ice Descendants after all. Kazir seemed to act as if the battle hadn't taken its tooll on him, on perfect form, even though his smart military clothing was ripped and frayed, his sword bloddied with the lives of many, and his short-cropped blonde hair dirtied with ash, earth and flecks of dried blood. He casually kicked his human adversary to the ground, and stamped on his stomach with his boot, kneeling down simultaneously the look the boy in the eye.
"Well, you wanted to meet your maker, and now that you have, it's time for you to toddle along and die. But before I say sayonara...I've got something I've just been itching to ask you," Kazir chirped with shrill excitement. He leaned in closer and hissed in the teenager's ear.
"Did she feel it when she died? That oh-so invigorating cold...I bet she just couldn't get enough, could she? Did she scream, shriek and cry? Or did she just die the boring way and curl up in a warm bed full of candles in a nice comfortable bed?"
Rakurai's eyes widened with rage. He roared and pushed the imperial off of him, brining his Long Sword to bear, and swinging it into Kazir's blade, not enough to break it, but more than enough to knock it away, sending it flying into the nearest wall, where it stayed stuck like an arrow in a human's head.
"SHUT UP, SHUT UP, JUST SHUT THE FUCK UP!" he screamed. He roared with finality as he flung the scythe-like Long Sword into Kazir's side, with so much force that Kazir let out a yell and fell to one knee. Rakurai, pluged his plam into the ground, forming huge ice stalagmites upon the ground, freezing Kazir inside one. He then snapped his fingers and the ice shattered like an explosion. Kazir's slightly bloodied body lay in place, eyes closed.
Rakurai was so distraiught and angry that he didn't even bother to pick up his sword, and simply ran away toward the hordes of shadowy Afflicted ahead, eager to finally see freedom after eleven years.
He didn't even notice Kazir rise and limp weakly toward his sword, wrench it from the wall, glare hatefully at him from behind, and dissapear in a bright azure flash.
More Afflicted were speedily dispatched as the hunters fough thier way around the extremely wide stone circle, desperate to bring down the shield; they were running out of time fast."This place will be your tomb," Shinkaiyami hissed mirthlessly. Almost as if in response to Shinkaiyami's words, a nearby Afflicted hound yowled ferally and leapt at Makoto, latching onto her throat, severing her artery. She cried out in brief shock, before the hound shifted his head from side to side, as if trying to rip the young womans head off, snapping her neck in the process and allowing her limp corpse to drop to the floor lifelessly, her eyes wide open, blood pooling from the deep, savage teeth marks in her neck. Every one seemed to cry out with anger and shock all at once, but Skylar's innocent scream rang the loudest. The girl had alway known happiness; for a motherly, sheltering and gentle figure liek Makoto to be struck down so coldly, so callously, was something she had never experienced. Until now. She howled with grief, sprinting through the Afflicted with newfound strength from her grief. It was unnatural, but nothing that any Sky Village ninja couldn't do. She left a fair few behind, but Altair quickly vanquished them with headshots from his pistol, watching with cold grief as they turned to ash before his eyes.
"Here is fine! Face your palm toward the shield, Skylar!" Nina shouted from within her consciousness, (and everyone else's, since she was all of the balls of light they had assimilated). Skylar did as Nina commanded, and a beam of pure light burst from her outstretched palm, hitting the shield dead-on. It did nothing.
"Don't expect any results; one is not enough, hence why I split myself apart. The rest of you, vanquaish these foul scourges and follow Skylar's lead!" Nina ordered.
Gigas quickly bashed his way through the Afflicted, not even bothering to draw his Dancing Hellfire. The flames he ignited upn contact did the job, however, WIth his patch of ground cleared, Gigas thrust his palm out, the same beam of light ejecting from it, like Skylar. The shield flickered once, then maintained itself.
"Pointless," Shinkaiyami snapped bluntly. His energy balls was growing ever stronger. It wasn't bigger, but it was glowing more, and strands of darkness seeped from the purple expanse of the Abyss and into the ball of energy. He was drawing raw power fom the abyss now, a sign that the energy was close to full power.
Frantic to break the shield, Mizu decided to try something ambitious.
"Nina...you said that drinking from the Lake of Eternity unlocked my true potential, right?" he asked.
"Quite so," Nina replied.
"Well then I'm about to put that potential to good use."
Mizu sheated his weapon and let loose a torrent of water from his hands, in tthe shape of a long, Wyrm-like figure, he guided it with his hands, sweeping it the whole way around the cirit, then lowered his arms. a huge waterfall spanning the entire perimeter of the circuit fell into place behind him and his comrades, blocking the remaining Afflicted. The other hunters raised thier plms, and light beams projected from them, colliding with Shinkaiyami's forcefield. It was broken and it flcikered sporadically, but it was still intact. They needed one more person. Then it dawned on them.
"Hang on a sec...where the hell'd Enshi go?!" Gigas blurted out. In the heat of the depserate battle, the friends had forgotten about him completely. Suddenly, a bright spiral of flames appeared next to Mixu, and from them emerged Enshi, as if uttering his name had sommoned him fromt he aether.
"Apologies for my tardiness, our friend Shinkaiyami here placed me a second out of sync with the rest of you. Cracking the temporal combination was a qute a test on my old arithmetic, you know," Enshi said archly. The others smiled. A beam of slow, serene light drifted into Enshi chest, and dissapeared. Enshi, as if the air had told him too, raised his palm, and one final beam of light burst out. It hit the beaten and broken shield, shattering it at last. Even though it was made of energy, pieces of it fell away as if it were smashed glass, before dissipating like mist a few seconds later.
But it was not to be.
"Too little, too late, I'm afraid," Shinkaiyami said flatly. He thrust his arms away, unleashing the ball of dark energy, which trvalled upwward, the way he and his enemies had entered the Abyss.
"You have failed, Descendants. The Divine Maelstrom is reborn. Live...or rather, die...knowing that you came so close to victory, and tripped at the last hurdle. You held glimmering freedom in the palm of your hand, and you lost it. Thus is the fate of humanity," Shinkaiyami said with woeful triumph. He raied his arms archaically, as a huge beam of violet light burst into life, the dark WYrm in the midst of it, but not destoryed. It strecthed all the way up and down further than the eye could see.
Suddenly, a white portal appeared as the hunters regrouped sorrowfully.
"Quickly! Into the portal!" Nina's voice echoed from nowhere. As Mizu stepped forward, she spoke again.
"Wait!" she snapped quickly.
"What is it?" Mizu enquired, perplexed.
"I...I need you to stay. Only you have to resolve to face Shinkaiyami. If he falls, the Divine Maelstrom will have no point of origin, and will cease to be. Only Shinkaiyami's death can save humanity now. Will you do this?" Nina said witht eh utmost seriousness. Mizu paused for a moment, the others hangin on his verdict.
"...I'll do it."
"Very well. Take this, my blessing to you. You cannot defeat Shinkaiyami without it."
A wave of light, similar to that which seepd into Enshi, faded as it touched Mizu's chest. All of a sudden, he felt stronger, wiser, and msot of all...braver.
The others stepped through the portal, wishing him luck as they returned to fight the dark demons at the end of days.
Gale glowered at Korifubuki (which is what she called him, seeing as it was apprently his real name), her Lost Black Katana by her side. Her Kirin X helmet had fallen off somewhere as she fought the Afflicted, her long hair hanging down. The ice Wyrm stared at her silently, as if waiting for her to start a conversation.
"What do you want?" She asked him sourly. He chuckled briefly.
"You know what I want. But I suppose I'll recap," he began. "What I want, Gale, is to sail through this world upon the Divine Maelstrom, removing this acerbic infection called humanity, and reseed my race. My brothers will return, and our world shall once again be ours. Of course, not all of them agreed with Shinkaiyami's efforts before, so there will have to be some...reforms...but not before I ride my storm to the ends fo the earth, crunching human flesh and bone beneath me. Oh, look; perfect timing," he added, before raising his arm to the sky, as the dark winds blanketed the city. The storm circled like a whirlpool where he had raised his hand, as if he was manipulating it."What about our lives? Our freedom?" Gale snapped, pointing her sword at the Wyrm.
"Well..." Korifubuki murmured, "...that's up to you, Gale."
The Windweaver and the White Star leapt at each other, and with a clash of steel against steel, their last battle began.
It was as it was when she last faced him at Hikari, the City of Light, under these same circumstances. Although this time it was different; the end was not nigh, it really had come. Even if she killed Korifubuki, it wouldn't stop what was happening. It was starnge to think that one could reach out and literally feel the all-encompasing arms of death. It frightened her. But her resollve was mightier than her baser instincts.
She blocked the incoming swipe of Korifubuki's crimson muramasa, slashign back at him with a low sweep, as if to trip the Wyrm up. Her nemisis backstepped swifly, an air of smug overconfidence about him. But his hubris would be his end, jsut as it was last time. At least, so Gale hoped.
The White Star wasted no time in orchestrating a counterattack, unleashing a flurry of swift, deft and elegant swordsman ship upon the girl, cutting her in couple of places. This blade wasn't like Kazir's one; it didn't make you feel like a thousand tundras had been dropped upon you. This was worse. With every strike, against metal or flesh, she felt her strength and vitality wilt, as if it was feeding on her blood, like a vampire. Korifubuki struck again, so hard that Gale's last-chance block was deflected, her body relling to the side and onto one knee to absord the shock of the recoil, following which the Frozen Dictator lept into the air at about average jumping height, slahing as he descended. The attack cut clean through Gale knocking her away with a sharp cry, blood congealing on the Wyrm's murmasa and spilling into the open air briefly, before splattering onto the stone floor, mixing in with the scattered rubble and dirt. She landed in a crumple heap against some rubble. The cut she had recieved was nowhere near fatal, but it felt devastating. His sword must've been amplifying the effect of the damage she took, and felt.
Gale scrambled to her feat, grunting under her breath and wincing with the sting of the pain, which lingered hauntingly like a bad memory. She couldn't allow herself time for a respite, though; she was sure that such? a luxury was unfeasble in this situation anyhow. She loosed a gargantuan blast of wind at the unsuspecting Wyrm, ensnaring him it its embrace and flinging him aggressively into the nearest, biggest and toughest-looking wall with a strained grunt. She covered her eyes briefly as she heard the bricks shatter and fall on one another, waiting for the dense cloud to settle. When she pulled her arm slowly, cautiously away, nothing was in sight, But she knew he wouldn't be dead. It was a strong move, but not nearly enough to fell a Wyrm.
She waited. And waited. And waited.
Just as she began to actually believe that he was truly dead, Korifubuki sprang out of the shadows and speared into Gale with his muramasa. She had just enough time to block before the attack hit, knocking her far but not killing or cutting her. She ran forward to attack, but she once again heard the dissapoiting *cling!* of blade on blade. She pulled out all the stops and performed the best fancy swordwork she could without losing her balance or co-ordination but it was no match for Korifubuki's mastery of the sword. He countered every near hit and blocked every sharp stirke, even managing to cut Gale some more in the process. Finally, she grew imaptient, she growled, and tripped the Wyrm up with a dropkick, forcing him to one knee. She howled with exasperation and irritation as she slammed her Lost Black Katana down on his sword like an axe, over and over and over again until she finally batted his arm out of the way, following which he grunted with suprise and the slight sting of the recoil, and hit him harshy in the skull with the butt of her weapon, drawing blood and knocking him over, concussing him briefly. She followed it up with another non-physical attack, again attacking with the gale-force wind that projected from her hands, but this time the Wyrm had wisened up to her schemes. He blocked the oncoming wind with his hand, dissipating it instantly. He raised his sword arm summoned a huge pillar of ice appeared behind him, almost piecercing the clouds. He then shattered it without moving, and raised his sword arm high once again. As he did so, every single piece of shattered ice that had just broken apart came to his call, surging forward like a swarm of bees, headed straight for Gale. She quickly dived behind one of the few intact walls as the huge storm of sharp little ice pieces collided with it, scattering past her in the wind or stopping as they met with the wall. Even though she couldn't see the abhorrent creatures face, she was sure that he scowled angrily at his missed attack.
As she heard Korifubuki's footsteps patter toward her, she flung herself from behind the wall and once again her blade locked with his, and once again she expereinced that strange sensation of fatigue and loss of life force. She was growing tired, but not from normal exhaustion. It was his sword. The Wyrm smiled smugly from behind his blade.
"Well, aren't you the persistent one," he mused in his low sotto voce voice. Gale glowered at him hatefully.
"Look who's talking; you can't just stay dead, can you?" she retorted contrarily. He huffed with the same smugness as his thin smile.
"The only ones that deserve to be dead is your fithy kind."
"Same old, same old. Don't you ever get bored of that old? song and dance?"
"I get bored of wasting precious time trying to remove obstacles like you from my agenda."
Gale could feel her arms beginning to ache. She couldn't hold her sword in place for much longer, she heard the steel creak and felt her muscles pulsing with exhaustion and overuse. Pressing against Korifubuki's strength-sapping sword was quickly becoming an effort of insurmountable magnitude.
"You...can't...win..." she wheezed, gritting her teeth as the crimson slice of death moved slowly closer to her face, so much so that she could clearly see her face in the reflection of its glass-like sheen. Finally, she let go, unable to hold on any longer, the blade smashed into her with brutal and unprecedented force, sending her tumbling into a moderately large pile of rubble in a hollowed out building with a harsh feminine cry.
The White Star slowly paced forward a few steps with cautious, patient slowness, his sword impassive by his side. As Gale did not emerge for the mountain of rubble (and the cloud of dust her impact upon it had created), he raised the crimson blade up horizontally and level with his face, and charged forward, his quick but balanced footsteps sounding like rainfall.
Suddenly, as in response to the impending offense, Gale burst out of the rubble, her Lost Black Katana at the ready, surrounded by? a green light. She too charged forth at her adversary, meeting his blade for yet another clash of swordsmanship. Her first strike was deflected immediatel, but as he recoiled she swung the blade sideways, as if to cut the Wyrm in two. Korifubuki shifted his blade frm diagonally down to diagonally up, blocking the hit with yet another show of deft skill. Finally, Gale povoted and came back with a slam, to which the White Star responded by positioning his wrists to point his weapon vertically down, sparks flying off of the clash that ensued.
Gale then decided to try something abitious, she leapt back a few metres with her wind abilities, then used the same powers to launch herslef into the air at her enemy, roaring a battle sry as he raised her sword above her head, prepared to smite the ice Wyrm. Korifunuki smiled slyly from the corner of his mouth, before thrusting his sword out in her trajectory like a lance, spearing her in the chest, causing her to scream out in pain and suprise. He kept still, letting the hapless girl dangle from the end of his sword like a fish on a hook, her legs dangling in midair as she squirmed to free herself, gritting her teeth to bear the pain as she gripped the sword so hard that her knuckled went white, desperately trying to pry herself free as a small stream of deep red blood slowly lurched down the flat of the blade. Amazingly, the wound was not fatal- she wouldn't be around to scream and struggle otherwise. She would've counted herslef lucky, were it not that she was utterly at the White Star's mercy.
"Is this the pain you felt before? When your world was stolen from you and you discovered that the people you cared about were gone?" Korifubuki began monotonely, watching the girl struggle like a fish out of water. "Let me remind you. This time, I assure you you won't forget."
On that chilling note, he thrust her high into the air, and into the dark cloud of the Divine Maelstrom. He then leapt up the follow his prey. When he drew close, her was forced to block one weak attack- despite her injuries, Gale still had some fight left in her. He then proceded to jab his sword into the girl all over her body like a spear, each slice sounding as sharp as a Nargacuga's wings through the air, spurts of blood bursting out briefly, caught by the wind and either being carried along by the storm or falling back down to the ground. One last jab sent the sword straight through her leg- vertically, to boot- causing her to scream with agony, a scream which was extended when her assailant thrust his blade, still embedded in Gale's leg back down, fliging the girl into freefall, she managaed to use her powers to break her fall, but quickly fell to her knnews afterward, crippled by the riveting pain and the exhaustion inflicted upon her by both Korifubuki's unnatural balde and natural causes. She grunted and panted with pain- the wounds she had just recieved were superficial, more or less, but they hurt like hell. She barely registered the blood that was quickly pooling around her, seeping from her opene wounds and cuts, further draining her. Korifubuki levitated high above, watching her from afar like a solemn adjudicator.
"Tell me what you cherish most. Give me the pleasure of taking it away," Korifubuki purred wryly, before speeding through the air toward her, sword at the ready.
Gale's life flashed before her eyes, and then everything went white.
The hordes of Afflicted "crawlers"-as the rebels had dubbed them-surged across the broken battlefield outside the shattered citadel, yowling with twisted pride as they sank their crude fangs into countless soldiers, making them cry out as the virulent conversion-causing venom coursed through their veins, turning them into what they were trying to destroy.
Jinsoku? watched the nearest humanoid Afflicted gurgle briefly and? defeatedly as he loosed an arrow from his? Narga bow, piercing the creature's brain and killing it instantaneously. Shinji stood against his back, rapidly loosing volleys of arrows with her Barioth bow. They were downing a fair few of the ghouls but more converted rebels? just replaced them.
"Ugh, this is hopeless! We're totally fucked!" Jinsoku sighed angrily.
"GODDAMMIT!!!" Gigas roared with ire, loosing a reletnless stream of fire upon the wall of black phantoms before him, slwoly walking forward and shouting at allies to move out of the way, cutting a path through the sea of black to reach the three Afflicted Rathaloses, which stampeded through the yonder section of the warzone, violet fireballs galore. But even so, more and more rebels were being converted, mostly by the Crawlers. The airborned Afflicted were more nuisances than threats. They took down a fair few warriors but most of them were dead now, and they wouldn't repopulate becuase the only hosts available were human.
Shinji and Jinsoku looked ahead at the three shadowy Flying Wyverns. Shinij arched her neack back to call Altair, Skylar and Enshi to attention.
"Come on! Forget these small fries, we need to take down those Wyverns!" she boomed. The comrades quickly regrouped and charged through the battlefield to fall in behind Gigas' wall of fire, slowly approaching the trio of dark monsters. As they approached, one fo the Rathaloses noticed them and roared, it's crimson eyes glowering, standing out in contrast to it's mostly black body. It them reared itself up briefly and charged at the wall of fire, screeching hoarsely as it did so.
"Allow me!" Altair shouted as the group evaded the attack, blasting a wave of concentrated shadow at the Rathalos as it passed them by. The Rathalos schreeched louder as the darnkess slammed into its side, winding it and knocking it aside. It slowly scrambled to it's feet once again, and rared it's head back and fired another searing ball of purple fire at the hunters, who quickly dived to either side to advoid the attack. However, the splash damaged after the initial blast has a substantially larger radius, and Altair, Skylar and Enshi were blown away a short distance further, rolling over in the earth. As they slowly picked themselves up, Shinji rapidly fired countless arrows from her bow, all smothered with lethal Fire Coating. Alas, most of the arrows just bouned off the seemingly rock hard Afflicted hide. However, a few of the arrows sunk in to the few remaining red patches of the Rathalos' skin, making it shriek mildly at both the smarting of the arrows and the minor burning of the Fire Coating. Jinsoku had been holding his arrow back for extra potency, its razor-sharp tip loaded with Poison Coating. He finally lossed it as the Rathalos was flinching, the arrow travelling straight and true, embedding itself in the creatures right eye. The Rathalos flug it's neck (and by extension, its head) back and roared with pain and distress, shaking it wildly, desperate to removed the cruel stick from its eye. When the thing finally came loose, it roared again, this time so very, very loud that the nearby flying Afflicted fell out of the sky dead the narby Crawlers writhed with pain and the rebel soldiers close enough covered thier ears and growled with the pain. Shinji, Jinsoku, Gigas and Altair all pressed thier hands against their ears protectively, despite their high grade earplugs. Skylar, however, had no earplugs at all, and screamed with pain as the roar pierced her hearing like a knife, small drops of blood trickling from beneath her hands (her only protection against the noise), trickling down the sides of her face. She fell to her knees, tears streaming down her cheeks and sharp cries being yelled from her mouth. Enshi, who seemed to be unaffected (most likely a trait of the original Descendants), rushed over to scoop her up in his arms as the roar finally ceased.
"I will take care of her!" he bellowed, leaving her dropped Dual Blades behind as he teleported away.
The remaining hunters and Descendants regained focus on the Rathalos, whose eyes were now a bright violet. Also, it's Afflicted hide glowed a dim red, to clear signs that the monster was enraged. It stampeded forth at the comrades with aggresive movements and ire-droiven speed, barreling into Jinsoku along the way, chucking him high into the air and back down again in a heap. His bow landed by his side, but the string was snapped and most of the arrows were broken. He gazed upon it for a moment, then drew his katana from his side and scrambled to his feet, sprinting after the angry beast.
Shinji backstepped out of the way as the Afflicted Rathalos stomped past her in a beeline for Altair, firing as many fire-coated arrows as she could from her bow. The sting from the arrows and their fire was finally too much for the Flying Wyvern, as it stopped in its tracks, craning its neck around to glower as Shinji hatefully, before pivoting it's body and charging at her instead. She quickly fumbled for more arrows from her quiver but it was empty. "Shit," she cursed under her breath, before discarding her weapon and quiver and diving out of the way as the Rathalos rushed past its target. But the Flying Wyvern wasn't having any of it this time. As it ground to a halt a couple of metres behind Shinji, it twisted around on the soft earth with ease and flapped it's wings to gain air before loosing a purple fireball at the girl, simultaneously rising into the air as it did so. The ball hit the Agnaktor-armoured nineteen-year old head-on, scorching her armour and throwing her far away, small violet embers still flickering on her armour as she tumbled across the ground, finally coming to a halt right infront of a fairly larger-than-average Afflicted Crawler. The hellhound clung onto the hapless Shinji, opened its jaw and lunged forward with it's fangs, its evil red eyes glowering at the girl with trimphant spite. She grabbed its top and bottom jaws with her left and right hands, grunting as the forced them further apart. The formerly proud and triumpahnt Crawler whined with pain and distress, then finally let out a short, sharp yelp before being silenced as Shinji finally snapped it's jaws apart, the broken face of the dog-like beast slumping onto her abdomen, it's entire body flacing, the orange flames on it's bony ribcage extinguished, its entire body flaccid. She pushed the hefty lump off of her and stood up, drawing a katana from her belt for a weapon, and rushing back in the direction of the Rathalos.
Altair fired rapid shots from his metal, squarish four-barrelled pistol, the now shadow-coated bullets embedding themselves into the creatures hide, making it hiss with pain as it? fired more violet fire as the Lagiacrus-clad Kyuuryuu soldiers below it, who jabbed and prodded feebly at the beasts with thier ivory spears. It turned in the air to face Altair, then flapped it wings like a chicken and lunged forward with its poisonous claws, screeching quietly as it did so. Altair flung his ghoulish right arm across his body, as if to backhand the beast, a wall of smoke-like darkness barring his body from the strike. As the creatures claws scraped the darkness, it shrieked ferally as pain bolted through its legs. It flapped it wings rapidly and drew back protectively, shielding it's body from further harm. It then rose higher in the air, and drew it's wings across its body like a bat, then slamme its podlike form down on the soldier below it, a circular purple shockwave surging forward as far as the eye could see, bowling everyone in sight-Afflicted and human alike-over and utterly obliterating the soldiers in had slammed down upon. It then unfurled it's leathery black wings and stood firmly in place, gazing around at the many other people who still fought around the site of impact. Suddenly its fierce gaze locked onto one person in the immediate area who was still standing- Gigas. The wall of shimmering fire had hand placed around him dissiapted, and he began to sprint toward the Rathalos, who, too angry and suprised to do much else, rapidly fired more violet fireballs at the man. The Descendant simply batted them out of the way with his arms, using them like shields to deflect the incoming projectiles, finally, as the Rathalos turned to fly away, Gigas lept into the air and pulled out his Dancing Hellfire Long Sword, stabbinh it into the creatures back to latch onto it as if tried to escape. The Flying Wyvern shrieked and snarled at the lengthy blade slic einto it's body, causing extreme pain coupled with the burning sensation of the blade's Fire element, enhanced by Gigas' innate firey abilities. He held tighly onto the handle of his blade with his left hand as he crawled forward, firing bursts of flame at the mosnter's face. It yowled with rage and annoyance, then swerved in the air, turning back toward the citadel in an attempt to shake the middle-aged fighter off of it, but to no avail. Gigas drew a throwing knife from his belt, and lobbed it as hard as he could at the creatures head, The knife sharply sliced into the Rathalos' skull, making it fall limp immeadiately. It fell diagonally, falling down but still whoosing forward through the air.
This was perfect.
Gigas willed the body toward the citadel...in the hope to smash the creature directly into the Abyss. He set several small explosives he carried with him onto the creatureds back. When he had set them all, he carefully set them alight with his Descendants flames, which were unextingusihable except by a water Descendant. As he passed over the front of the citadel, where there was till one working artlillery gun being defended by almsot all of the rebels in that area, he called down to it as loud as his voce would allow.
"HEEEEEEY! TURN THAT THING AROUND AND BLOW THIS MOTHERFUCKER UP!" he roared with unprecedented loudness. Amazingly, the operator must've heard him, becuase the gun slowly but surely rotated, and fired upon the Rathalos as it approached the citadel. Gigas had no time to plan an escape, and so put his faith in lady luck and took a leap of faith, jumping off of the creature, leaving his Long Sword behind. As the Rathalos collided with the citadel, the gargantuan cannon ball made contact with it, igniting an explosion of bliding and defeaning proportions. As the huge wave of fire surged toward Gigas, he closed his eyes and hoped for the best.
Mizu slashed at Shinkaiyami for what felt like the thousandth time, the illlusion fading away each time. He was panting and sweating, tired of chasing shadows.
"You look oh-so very tired, boy. Why don't you just give in? Close your eyes and embrace eternal slumber..." Shinkaiyami whispered temptingly from everywhere. Suddenly, Shinkaiyami's form appeared before? Mizu once again. As he prepared to swipe at the? illusion once again, he was startled by an explosion.
The large beam of energy that had been humming away in the centre of the Abyss since he began this hipeless ordeal had been undone somehow, a huge ball of purple fire, slapshing out in all directions, shattering the floating stone nearby and slacing into part of the stone circuit. It never reached him though, dissipating before it reached his side of the platform. He heard Shinkaiyami laugh throatily.
Suddenly, everything fell silent again. Mizu slowly took a few baby steps forward, scanning his surroudings carefully for signs of the Abyssal Sovereign. He then once again heard the Wyrm's? smug voice.
"You may have stopped the energy beam, but it matters not. The Divine Maelstrom has already made it's roots in this world. What? you have been? told? is wrong; destroying the Abyss will not stom the storm, only my Afflicted. You may not have to fight to the death, but you will die nonetheless. There is no power that can stop that storm. But you are welcome to try."
Suddenly, Shinkaiyami descended from nowhere and hovered infront of him, his long barbed blade at the ready.
"Come then, Descendant. Have your resolution," he growled. As Mizu raised hsi blade to attack, the Wyrm batted him away with a blast of shadow, sending the boy sliding acorss the floor. Mizu quickly recovered and slashed at his oppeonent once more, the evil dictator not simply blocking like Korifubuki, but attacking to defend, blocking his enemy's attacks with more attacks. His weapon sliced past Mizu's face, cutting his cheek a little. a couple of small drops of blood trickling from the open wound. Mizu grabbed the sword with his free hand as it passed by his face, yanking the Wyrm forwrd and headbutting him harshly, then? drawing a knife as the malevolent spectre tried regain his co-ordination, stabbing it fiercely into the Wyrm's shoulder. Shinkaiyami barked with annoyance and backhanded the Descendant aside and onto the floor. He then slammed his blade onto the ground at Mizu, who rolled over to avoid it. He the rolled in the opposite direction as Shinkayami picke dit up and slammed it down again. He repeated this process a few more times before Shinkayami grew angry and stabbed the sword into the ground instead. Mizu avoided this as well, the blade piercing the ground. As Shinkayai struggled to wrech it out, he ran into the Wyrm bowling them? him over, almost over the edge (they were so close to it),a nd cauign him to slip over,a lthough the Wyrm saved himself my latchign his claws to the rim of the stonework at the last moment. Mizu then whcked his blade against Shinkaiyami's, over and over and over and over again, until he broke the weapon in two,? one half on the blade staying stuck in the ground, and the other half (the part with the handle)? flying away into the expanse.? Shinkaiyami finally hauled himself up again and fired a bolt of shadow at the boy, toppling him over. The now unarmed Abyssal Sovereign stalked toward his prey, firing more bolts of shadow as he scrambled to get away, he eventually caught hold of him, grabbing him by the throat and lifting him off of the ground, his piercing violet eyes boring into Mizu's sapphire eyes.
"How pathetic," Shinkaiyami sighed, almost sadly. "Right at the very end, your so-called friends abandon you to fight a bigger battle, and even still their precious army is withering beneath my Afflicted, and you are at my disposal. The age of man is over. You have lost, Mizu Nagare."
Mizu sated hatefully at the Wyrm, still holding him, but not tight enough to choke him.
"You're...not immortal, y'know. I can...still kill you," Mizu croaked, the Wyrm beginnng to choke him a little.
"Oh, please. You are alone, and unarmed. What makes yout hink you have any hope of victory now?" Shinkayami huffed dismissively. Suddenly, the nineteen-year-old's? body glowed with white light.
"Because he is not alone," Nina's defiant voice echoed from nowhere. Before Shinkaiyami could utter anouther word, a bolt of light struck him square in the chest, sending him reeling away and causing him to drop mizu, who coughed and rubbed his throat briefly, before scrabling to pick up his weapon.
More bolts of light hti Shinkaiyami has he tried to get up, latching into his wrists and bindin him in place as he growled angrily writhing to get free. Mizu took this chance, and charged into the Wyrm, his Wailing Cleaver Shin ramming straight thorugh the Dark One's abdomen. The Wyrm roared with anger, but still did not die. He finally broke his left hand free and fired at? Mizu with another shadow blast. This time, a flash of white light appeared at the energy struck it, the disspeared, like an invisible shield. At last, Shinkayami broke free completely and tackled Mizu, the pair of them rolling over toward the edge, Mizu nearly falling over it, like his sword, which now flaoted away into the? purpleness below. Shinkaiyami recovered before Mizu could help himself up, jumping onto Mizu, pinning him down and locking noth nads around his throat. As his windipie became more and more constricted, Mizu clutched at the air with his hand, clawing at his assailant's chest. He then used his leg to knee Shinkaiyami in the stomach causing him to fall away to the right. Mizu latched onto him as he did, and now the tables had turned, with Shinkaymia struggling to get Mizu off of him. The Descendannt puched him repeatedly in the face.
"This one's for Gale!"
"This one's for my sons!"
"This one's for me!"
Then, he grabbed the blood red gem from Shinkiaymi's chest, placing it onto he ground and raising his armoured fist high.
"AND THIS ONE'S FOR MANKIND!" he yelled, slamming his fist down on the gem with all his might. The gem splineted into sharp red pieces with a loud *smash!*, shattering like glass.
Shinkaiyami roared incoherently with defeat and despiar, as smoke-like shadows enveloped him, one the layers of his being were stripped away one by one, until only a skeleton remained. In his last moments, Shinkaiyami's skeletal form clawed at Mizu feebly, before the shadows folded away into the air, and the ancient bones that made up Shinkaiyami's remains toppled to the floor, but not breaking apart. The only thing that distinguished him from a human body was? his strange,? vampiric canines.
With Shinkaiyami dead, the Abyss began to collapse around him. Mizu watched, frozen with awe and unclear as to what to do next, as bits of stone fell from above, the stone circuit began to break apart,a nd the entire realm shuddered around him. Suddenly, he looke dup as a large chunk of rock made it's way toward him. Sure that this was the end, he curled into a ball and waited to die. However, he unfolded himself again as incoherent whisperes invaded his ears, and wisps of heavenly lgiht began to weave around him, like a coccoon, sketchign out the crumbling Abyss. As the huge rock approached him, the light blinded him.
A mammoth explosion rocked the citadel. It was loud, but not too loud, like the roar of the Afflicted Rathalos. huge chunks of the citadel flew in all directions, and the Frozen Spire, which sat behind, but attached to the citadel, aslo began to collapse. pieces of huge, jagged stone collided with one another, the building collapsing from the top like an avalanche.
As the blast and the avalnche of broken stone subsided, Gigas was fast approachign the ground. He didn't shout out of close his eyes, though: he wasn't afraid of death. As the ground rushed up to meet him, he felt the strange sensation of slowing, as if he'd landed on a cloud. He looked down to see Altair below him, his hands raised to the sky, manipulating the winds to catch his old friend in his grasp. Gigas gave an acknowledging salute, to which Altair respoded with a silent nod, slowly lowering him down to the ground. As Gigas walked toward his saviour, he spotted a huge, huge slab of rock speeding through the air behind him.
"ALTAIR, LOOK OUT! BEHIND YOU!" he shouted. Altair quickly turned around and waved shadow at the debris, slicing it in half and sending it tumbling past them. Not long after, Shinji and Jinsoku came up to join the pair, watching the last of the shattered rubble tumble to the ground below.
Around them they saw the Afflicted writhe and growl as the shadow and bones they were made from ripped apart, leaving nothing behind. The few remaining murders of ariborne Afflicted squawked as they were plucked out of existence. eventually, a wave of evanescing shadow washed over the enitre warzone, leaving nothing behind but humans, dead and alive.
But there was no place for cheering yet. The Divine Maelstrom was still on the loose, clouding the skies with it's looming death. As if to avenge the Afflicted, it reached down to the world below, snaking it's dark tendrils trough the city like a web, reducing rebel soldiers to ash along the way, as the enemyless battlefield became a field of screaming death.
Shinji, Jinsoku, Gigas and Altair watched as thier world fell apart around them.
When Gale opened her eyes, everything around her was completely white. She didn't look around much, however: she was sure that she didn't really have to. She let out an almost inaudible gasp as the voice of a familiar friend reached her ears.
"Still alive, huh?"
She looked up from concentrating on the distant whiteness. "Rakurai?" she gasped.
"Who else?" Rakurai purred, stood against her back,? his voice as deep as ever.
"How are you here?" Gale asked, perplexed.
"Don't ask me, it's your head," Rakurai replied, slightly amused.? A pause followed.
"You need a hand with him?" Rakurai asked seriously. Gale shook her head silently, grunting quietly as she clambered into a standing position, her wounds still biting fiercely.
"You beat him three-or rather, fourteen-years ago, didn't you? This should be a sinch!" he said optimistically.
"Gale...you...remember what I used to say, don't you?"
"Yeah: 'Someone's gotta save your ass'." Gale said, smiling a little.
And with that, the illusion faded, and the real world flashed into life around her, the tendrils of the Divine Maeltrom rotting away at everything she saw. Then she remembered the fight...the fight that wasn't over. She looked up and flung her Lost Black Katana out, deflecting Korifubuki's abnormally long, blood-red muramasa with relative ease. She leapt up at the Wyrm who had jumped upon a short building nearby. As she landed on the ledge and sliced her blade downward the her enemy, but too late, as he somersaulted into the air, letting the storm carry him above. Gale followed him, using her control over the wind to do the same. With nothing more to say to him, Gale sped toward him, their blades locking once again, Korifubuki's face as smug and dismissive as ever.
But Gale had a suprise in store. The green light from before surrouded her again, and she threw her sword into the air. It glowed green above the two of them. Gale snapped her fingers, and ten more of the Long Sword appeared in a circle around them two of them, much to her opponent's suprise. Gale drew back, her arms spread wide.
"These are for the eleven years of bullshit you put my people through!" Gale yelled. She watched as the ten swords sped toward him each of them spearing into him and then dissapearing, each hti causing him to reel over in a different direction and angle, until he faced the sky, where Gale now was, gazing down on him with condemnation. She grabbed her sword, and thrust downward.
"Now, die, you son of a bitch!" she growled. Her entire being passed through Korifubuki the same way the other blade had done. She landed on the ground, her head bowed until she stood and looked up, sword limp by her side.
The skies were still dark, but her conscience was a little lighter.
"Stay where you belong; in my memories," Gale said tonelessly. following this, Korifubuki shifted instantaneuously to his Wyrm form, the familiar white monster with white fur on his arms, a snow white mane on his back, bright, ice-blue eyes, gargantuan wings (to go with his gargantuan body) and a crimson, ovular ruby upon his breast.
"I will...never be a memory," he muttered defiantly. With that, his body faded away like snow, which was caught with the apocalyptic winds above and blown away, never to return.
The Wyrms were now extinct.
Gale, with her newfound power, dissapeared in a green flash to rejoin her oldest friends.
A strange, ethreal blueness surrounded Mizu, as if he was underwater. He scanned his surroudings, the way he had done when scouring the Abyss for Shinkaiyami.
"That was a brave move, Mizu Nagare; staying behind like that."
Nina appeared before Mizu, smiling properly for the first time since talking to Jinsoku in Hyoku.
"But...how-?" Mizu said, flabbergasted.
"Please," Nina said frankly, "this kind of thing is hardly new to you. It is me, after all."
Mizu chuckled and nodded in agreement.
"So how do we get outta here?" he asked, lookign around absentmindedly. A long pasued followed. Mizu slowly turned back to look at Nina.
"I will not coming with you this time," Nina said, a tinge of remorse in the undertone of her words.
"What? What are you saying? You're you! You can't-"
"Mizu, please! I've told you before: I am not a god. Besides, I am dead anyway."
"Huh? What do you mean?" Mizu asked, confused. Nina sighed with slight amusement.
"Do you not remember? I called you to the Hidden Realm. I was only there becuase I had unfinished business in this world, not because I was alive. If fact, most of those with "unfinished business" do not have the willpower to be able to linger in the Hidden Realm. I, Rakurai and Shinkaiyami are some of the few who do. But my business with this world is finished now. 'Tis time for me to move on," Nina elborated smoothly. Mizu looked down, dissapointed with losing another comrade.
"Oh. You care about me. How...fascinating," Nian said, laughing freely for a brief, fleeting moment.
"Well, then...I guess...this is goodbye," Mizu said, smiling at her a little.
"Fare thee well, Mizu," Nina said with finality. Slowly she traced her steps backward, and slwoly faded into the deep sea blue.
The blue limbo disappeared, and reality slowly fazed back into life. To his suprise, Gale, Shinji, Jinsoku, Altair and Gigas all stood together. The Afflicted were gone and the rebels were victorious, but the Divine Maelstrom was still girdling the city and Tsubaki, Skylar, Enshi, and his two sons were nowhere to be seen.
"Mizu!" Gale blurted out quickly, rushing over and clingin to him lovingly. After a few intimate seconds she pulled away, her face serious. "Is it done?" she asked. Mizu took off his helmet and tucked it under his arm.
"Yeah. Where're Enshi and Skylar? And Tsubaki, and Rakurai and Arashi?" he asked in return.
"Skylar done got her ears busted by a Rathalos. Enshi went somehwre to take care of her," Gigas explained gruffly, removing his helmet also, simply throwing it to the ground in abadonment. It was then that they each silently realized that the only ones of their circle of friends left with a weapon was Altair.
"Tsubaki, Arashi and Rakurai...we don't know," Gigas mumbled, stroking his black beard (which had several gray hairs amidst it)? with concern. Interrupting to moment, Altair slowly strode forward, his face cold and sombre, looking down at the ground, his eyes closed.
"The storm still rages...it was borne of the blackest black...only I can undo it now," he said wistfully.
"Wait, wha...?" Shinji said, traling off as the all watched Altair look up, eyes open, his clawed, blackened demonic right arm, rasing it to the sky, as if calling out for a saviour.
"Your darkness cursed me with this burden long ago...but no longer! I will have my salvation, in your destruction!" he shouted, as if the storm was sentient. The others suspected he was yelling at Shinkaiyami, but they were too shocked to care. Shadows burst from Altair body, spirallign up into the Divine Maelstrom. They watched as the storm began to rumble, as if thunder was urging to get out.
"Only shadow...can kill..shadow!" he gunted defiantly.
Finally, the shadows around Altair stopped coming, and his limp body fell slowly to the ground, face down, his ornate four-barreled pistol falling to his sde, his green, ripped cape blanketing most of his flaccid corpse. The others looked down at the body of thier trusted friend and ally, and all felt the sharp stab of regret pierced their hearts for the thousandth time since they returend to thier broken, battered homeland.
They then looked up and bright white sunbeams began to appear upon the ground, stabbing through the black stormclouds, slicing through the darkness like butter, until the sky was bright white with cloudy daytime.
At last, the remaining rebels cheered and roared with pride and triumph, their home finally theirs once again.
Gale, Shinji, Gigas, Mizu and Jinsoku all smiled at the sun, something they hadn't seen for so very, very long. They were so young...but with all they'd been through, they felt so old. Gigas walked over and scooped his erstwhile friend up from the dirty, bloodied ground of Yukikaze, hoisting him up and over his back. Gale quickly ran over to pick up Altair's expertly crafted pistol from the ground, then ran over to Gigas, who was walking off to join his people.
"Hey, wait a second!" she yelled. Gigas turned around and waited until the girl caught up with him. She handed him the pistol.
"I thought you'd want to keep this. He was your best? friend, after all."
"..Thanks," Gigas said, smiling just a little.
"Um..."? Gale began.
"If you don't mind my asking...why did he always keep that gun on him? It looks really expensive..."
Gigas sighed, as if preparing to tell a long story. "Well, he said his father made it for him on his thirteenth birthday, the year he enlisted to train to become on of the Sky Village's ninjas. Well-crafted, ornate, quad fireing mechanism, metal...it's worth a shitload allright...but gifts like this are priceless. I ain't gonna sell this for nothing or no-one, 'least not 'till I'm dead."
"...Alright. Well, guess We'll see you again sometime, huh? It'll be while before we meet again, wha with the reconstruction and all," Gale said cheerily, the others running up to join her.. Gigas smiled at the girl, gace her a stern salute, and marched off to join his people.
"Wait!" Mizu shouted. Gigas gurmbled, and turned around, a fresh cigar in his mouth.
"Whaddya want now?!" he snarled impatiently. The others giggle a little.
"I...want you to be around for this."
With that, he fumbled in his pocket, producing? two rings made of pure silver,one? with an orb of pure Dragonite, which he held onto, and the other with an orb of pure Machalite, which he offered to Gale, who eyes were alight with both embarassment and suprise, blushing the way one does when toasted at a speech or wished a happy birthday by a large crowd. Tears of joy welled up in her eyes and slowly trickled down her cheeks.
"Pure Machalite and Dragonite, on pure silver. Imported all the way from Pokke. The green represents you, and the blue...well, you can figure it out."
He smiled at her as she giggled with excitement, anticipating his next move.
"Say it," she said weakly, smiling like a cheshire cat. He placed his hand on his girlfriend's face.
"Gale Kaze. WIll you marry me?" he said slowly, just in case she didn't understand. He watched as she laughed quietly to herself.
"Yes. Yes, I will!" she cried, rushign foward and clinging onto her fiancé as she kissed him, more tenderly than ever before. Shinji, and Jinsoku celebrated with a kiss of thier own, while Gigas and the few? rebels that had gathered around them clapped, whistled and cheered.
Suddenly, as if to ruin the moment on purpose, Rakurai and Arashi landed in a heap on the ground around them, bruised and battered but not bloodied. They comglomerate of hunter looked yonder to see a bloodied and broken Kazir slashing away at Tsubaki's shield, the totally Ceadeus-armed hunter putting up a fair but futile fight. The broken, twisted young man raored and kicked Tsubaki away into the same heap as her boiyfriend and his brother, Gale and Mizu moving to stand in front of their sons and thier young ladyfriend protectively.
"...You..btich...DIE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" Kazir shrieked hoarsely, charging at the steadfast Gale. Gale sprinted forth to meet him, Lost Black Katan at the ready. Kazir, in his ire, swung his blade harder than ever, disarming Gale in two hits, then kicking her to the ground. Gale, in shock, quickly scrabled backward through the dirt, Kazir grinning with insade sadism, rasing his gleaming weapon ,a nd drawing it back to spear the girl in the heart.
"NO!" Shinji shouted, stepping into the path of the oncoming blade. The cruel sword pierced her abdomen as she cried out sharply, bu it was cut off by the shock of the cold that spread through her like a coming tide. Shinji growled guttrally, then grabbed hold of the blade with both hands, and grunted with the strain on her muscles, and she ever-so-slowly, to everybody's suprise, lifted Kazir, still holding onto the sword, off of the ground. Too shocked and beaten to do anything further, Kazir stared with tired hatred at his victim.
"GO TO HELL, YOU GODDAMN MOTHERFUCKER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" Shinji roared as loud as her injury would allow, follwoing which she turned her body slightly, then flung herself back around and let go of the armament. The sword loosed itself from Shinji's body and sent Kazir flying acorss the immediate area. He didn't even growl in anger or annoyance as he collided with a small heap of debris nearby, the awkwardly angled rocks jutting out and snapping the psychopath's kneck with a *crack!* that echoed like a gunshot. Kazir's body fell flacid against the rubble, toppling dowm limply until he came to rest against it like a pillow. Seconds after, his bloodied sword landed in the dirt by his side with a sharp slicing sound.
Now it was truly over.
Smiling weakly at the sight of Kazir, their only remaining-and most antagonistic-enemy, slumped flaccidly against the ruins of tyranny, Shinji collapsed with a sigh. "No!" Jinsoku snapped, quickly rushing over to catch his girlfriend's fall. She relaxed in his arms as her friends gathered around. Jinsoku removed her helmet and carefully stroked her forehead, her long, wavy blonde hair falling back as her helmet fell away. Rakurai, Arashi and Tsubaki stood still with solemnity, not knowing how to act seeing as they didn't really know Shinji, while Gale, Gigas and Mizu stood by, trying not to get upset.
"Jin...I'm...sorry, I..." Shinji croaked weakly.
"Don't talk, save your strength," Jinsoku said, tears rolling down his face.
"It's too late," she sobbed quietly, stroking his face. "I don't need it."
"Yes, you do! You're not gonna die here! I won't let you!" he cried.
"You don't...have a..ch...oice..." she wheezed, clutching Jinsoku's hand tightly. "I'm already dead...more...or less-!" she said, almost shouting her lest word as she violently coughed up blood for a few short moments, then settleing back down.
"Shinji...please...!"? Jinsoku whimpered.
"Gale...Mizu...congratulations..." Shinji said feebly, then turned to Jinsoku, his eyes red with tears. "Jin...I love you...so much..." she whispered.
And with that, Shinji Amimaya breathe her last. Her hand fell limp in Jinsoku's and her eyes los thier light, remaining open while her head fell to the right (her right), gazing up at the bright,? now cloudless? sky. Jinsoku screamed wildy, crying into his dead beloved's abdomen, still clutching her hand as if she were still alive. Gale let out a wratg-filled growl, and threw of sword to the ground aggressivley.
"GODDAMMIT! IT WAS OVER, IT WAS DONE! IT'S NOT FUCKING FAIR!" Gale shrieked with grief and ager at losing her best friend. Mizu quickly took ahold of her and pressed her against his chest, where she sobbed into his arms.
"It's not fair..." she whimpered amidst the pain.
"I know," Mizu said under his breath resignedly. With all the sordid ends that close friends and comrades had met in this battle- Makoto, Nina and? Altair-,? the loss of someone as? close as Shinji? was almsot too much to bear. But it must have been utterly soul-destroying for Jinsoku.
In that moment of despair, Roux came running up.
"Guys, we did it! We-" Roux's mood and tone immediately sullened when she was Jinsoku carrying Shinji in his arms. "Oh...I'm sorry..."
"It's alright..." Jinsoku murmured, wracked with pain, grief and remorse.
"Um, on a...lighter note, Mizu and I...we're...we're getting married," Gale said, but with an air of formality.
"Oh, wow! Congratualtions! I..can tell you'll make a great couple," Roux replied, regaining som of her lost joy for a moment.
Follwoing this, Enshi reappeared, empty handed.
"I see that the battle is over. We are victorious!" he exclaimed, then sombered down the way Roux had as he notcied Shinji's body in Jinsoku's arms.
"Oh, dear...my condolences, young one," Enshi muttered. Jinsoku didn't utter a word, merely nodded in appreciation.
"Enshi, where's Skylar? She alright?" Gigas asked formally.
"She will be fine, but she will be profoundly? deaf in her right ear. There's nothing I could do. She would've been deaf entirely if I had not acted when I did. I'm sorry," Enshi said miserably.
"It's fine, It's not your fault. Besides, you save one, right? Thanks,f or helpin' her out."
"You are most welcome, sir. Now, if you will, all please? come with me to the citadel. The rebels are gathered there, and I must speak for us all as their leader."
The group then telported to the front of the citadel, eager to witness the acknowledgemnt of their sacrifice...and thier liberation.
Gale, Mizu, Gigas, Jinsoku, Skylar (who had been brought out to the citadel from the abandoned work camp,where Ehshi had treated her injuries) and Roux all stood? with Enshi atop the fairly tall pile of rubble that had amalgamted where the citadel entrance once was, gazing down at the crowd of remaining rebels of Kasai, Kyuuryuu, Chikyuu, and about thirty of the two hundred Sukaians that had been sent here to fight (some had been treated for thier injuries after being found alive). Gale and the others had all removed their armour, discarding it on the battlefield. They would easily get new armour, and they didn't want to keep a reminder of the losses they had suffered this day. The murmurs of the soldiers fell silent as Enshi began to speak.
"Today is November the eleventh, 104,608 A.W.D. Today is also the day that, elevan years ago, the White Star Empire attacked our land and imprisoned our people. Today, eleven years on, is the day teh empire was brought crashing to the ground and it's leaders brought low. TODAY IS THE DAY...OF! OUR! LIBERATION!"Enshi began soulfully, already inspiring cheers and hoots from the crowd of excited and overjoyed soldiers. Enshi paused until the cheers had died down before speaking once again. "Many of us have lost everything. Our homes, our friends, our loved ones and our pride. But there is one thing that we will always have, one thing that we will always chersih, one thing that will always be at our disposal, and that, my brothers, is FREEDOM!? Even if it is taken from us, we will take it back! Even if it is hard earned, we will earn it! Even if he have to fight through flesh and blood and bone and a thousand fiery hells to hold onto our freedom, WE WILL!" More cheering and affirmative whoops from the crowd followed.
"But enough about us. We may always have our freedom at the end of all of this, but we would be dead, if it were not for these noble warrior, these unsing heroes, these hunters,a nd Descendants! Without thier experience, knowledge and powers, we would be dust beneath the feet of the Wyrms! ...We must honour them...and those of them who have sacrificed thier lives in our name," Enshi continued. "A memorial will be erected here, for those fallen heroes; Makoto Suzuki, Altair Tatsumaki, Shinji Amimaya, Rakurai Kaminari, Queen Tamari XI? of Kyuuryuu, and Queen Nina I of Hikari, which now lies in ruins. This unfinsihed city, this battleground of fate and freedom, shall remain barren: a memorial to heroes fallen. They shall not be forgotten, even in our darkest hour. For it is they and their cherished allies who led us to victory. A solemn, affirmative and acknowledging murmur spread amongst the soldiers, before they dispersed, placing their dead, weapons, armour and other miscellaneous objects? onto extremely large? numbers of carts that were arriving, pulled by trusty Popos.
As the ceremony ended, the old comrades began saying thier goodbyes, for now, at least.
"It was a pleasure meeting you and fighting alongside you. I hope we can keep in touch," Enshi said politely. "Well, it it not quite goodbye yet; I will be sending many of our Forgemen over from Kasai to rebuild your village, Gale. But I will honour your further. I could take your tiny village, and make into the greatest city this land as ever known. Would you like that?"
Gale thought for a moment and consulted with Jinsoku and Mizu.
"Actaully, no. A city is too big. But If you can make it into a town...thanks," Gale said, smiling despite the loss of Shinji. Even Jinsoku was smiling, if only just a tiny, tiny bit. It was hard not to when you'd saved your kind from destrcution.
"Very well, I shall begin preparations as soon as we reach Kasai. Farewell, for now."
And with that, Enshi walked briskly away to a nearby cart, which promply drove away with a few other soldiers on it. Then, Gigas approached and shook all of his comrades' hands.
"You guys weren't too shabby...for kids, that is," he joked, blowing a few O's with his cigar. "I'll be in touch, an' I'll make myself useful at the reconstruction."
"Thanks alot, old man," Mizu joked back.
"Seeya 'roud, "Papa Gigas"," Gale chuckled.
"Later," Gigas grumbled, running off to catch the nearest cart before it departed for Kasai.
"I'll be going with him, guys. Thanks for letting me tag along. See you soon, I guess," Roux chirped brightly, before sprinting off to catch Gigas' cart before it left.
Skylar was the last to leave, heading toward a cart full of Sukai ninjas.
"Thanks for everything guys! I'll come help rebuild your village! Stay in touch, 'kay!" she shouted, laready running to the cart. Gale, Mizu and the tohers simply waved, smiles on thier faces (however fleeting) as she clambered on, the cart departing for Sukai.
Gale, Mizu, Tsubaki, Rakurai, Arashi? and Jinsoku, still carrying? Shinji's body, headed for one of the empty carts, also one of the few that hadn't begun to leave. They climbed in, as the? driver,? who sat in the back of the cart asked them for their destination.
"Hyoku," Gale answered, finally at peace with herself, laying on her fiancé's chest as she stroked her head lovingly, the cart pulling away, headed for the ruins of home, soon to be rebuilt.
Epilogue: Skylar Kuuki
It was strange to see Sukai again after the long...months? It felt like years, but Skylar and her comrades never did keep count. Almost as soon as she jumped off off the cart with some other Ninjas, who were considerable older than her, she was greeted by lots of cheering villagers and other ninjas. She didn't really know what to do, but she didn't have to think about it as the tiny old lady that was the village elder came forward, holding a Melynx in her arms.
"It's good to see you again, Skylar. Eleven years, no?" she croaked happily. "Where is Altair?"
Skylar shook her head, still smiling, a little less this time.
"I see..." the Village Elder mumbled, then regained her happy composure. "Anyway, on a lighter note, I've a present for you," she added, ahnding the Melynx to Skylar. Skylar took hold of the Felyne, which purred in her arms.
"You know...I can walk on my own, nya...but I like being lazy once in a while, meow!" the? Melynx chuckled mischievously. Skylar giggled at the rougish Melynx, and accopanied the Village Elder back to her house for a recount of each other's version of events.
Four Years Later
A field of soft grass over looking the great town that was Hyoku. She didn't think it would look as good as it did up close,b ut she was wrong; it looked even better. She was sure that she could hear the people laughing admist the noise of the prosperous housing industry that had begun there two years ago. Such a niche in the market was understandable for Hyoku, though; they had always been good at making houses, especially with Dragonwood. She smiled to herself, turning to the Melynx beside her.
"So, whaddya say we go find the Guild Hall here and take on a Quest?" Skylar asked sweetly. "Might as well, as were right here and all." The Melynx purred and stroked it's chin for a moment.
"Alrighty, nya! This is the purrfect place to nab some shiny thi-um, I mean, go on a Quest, meow!" the Melynx exclaimed affirmatively.
"Now, now, what've I told you about sneaking around around and snatching other peoples' things?" Skylar asked rhetorically, placing her hadns on her hips and frowning at the Lynian the way a teacher might when you don't do your homework.
"I'm sorry, mistress...nya..." the Melynx apologized, bowing his head, abashed.
"Aw, it's okay! It's in your nature, after all. Just...try to go for the felvines instead, if you must nab something, okay?"
"Got it, meow!"
And with that, Skylar ran down the hill, her Melynx companin scampering after her, as fast as the wind could carry them.
Epilogue: Gigas Honou
The remaining Kasaians-not just the soldiers: the entire city had been imprisoned in Yukikaze- finally reached thier destination, jumping off and neatly laying the carts and thier Popo drivers to one side. There were enough of them left to fill the city, but only just. They could repopuate over time though- there was no rush. Everybody still had enough money to live on, and more (that went for all the villages, towns and cities in the land), and it wasn't like everybody's wife or girlfriend had died- there were plent of women around...even if some of them where whores.
"The Iron Fortress. Home! At friggin' last..." Gigas grumbled, smoking yet another cigar. Enshi stood next to him, the almost middle-aged man, nodding in appreciation at huge, huge empty square that greeted you upon entering the City of FIre.
"Quite. And we will make? her great again. Our Forgemen will repair, our Scholars will teach and our Legions will defend. This always has been and always will be...great," Enshi said proudly. Gigas stayed silent, still gazing upon his beloved city.
"Speaking of which, it's about time you found a spouse, old one, before those cigarrettes are the death of you," Enshi joked heartily. Gigas coughed, removing the cigar from hsi mouth for a few moments to respond.
"Like you can talk! You're nearly as old as me! Besides, I don't need no woman; I'm married to my city," he said in his rather gruff, hoarse smoker's voice. "Now let's get this show on the road! We've got a village to renovate!"
Four Years Later
Gigas strolled down the winding road that let through the busy, prosperous streets of Hyoku, once a village, now a town. He looked at both sides as he walked, children playing happily, a lady browsing for fruit, a couple of hunters getting some armour made for them and a large group of drunk-as-hell friends stumbling out of the rebuilt tavern next to the Guild Hall, singing a merry tune that only another drunk could comprehend. Gone are the days where I could be that goddamn foolhardy. Hell, I'll be damned if I can even hold all o' the damn stuff down! Gigas though with amused jealousy, making a beeline for the Guild Hall.
He was eager to see? old friends? again.
Epilogue: Tsubaki Murakami
Tsubaki didn't remember much of her old home. Like Arashi, Rakurai and many other children, she'd been? sent to Hikari to be protected. Of course, Hikari had been destroyed before they arrived, so they were forced to live in squalour amidst the ruins. After eleven long years of hiding in the shadows, she was glad to see it again.
While Gale, Rakurai, Mizu and Arashi set up tents to sleep in while they waited for the Forgemen to arrive, Tsubaki was out exploring to broken remains of the village (she hadn't had much time when they had come here last, before they found Enshi)
She was standing at the grave of Helyna (which now had a gravestone, thanks to the others handiwork), adjacent to the grave shared by Gale's parents. She closed her eyes in reflection for a few moments before walking away to explore what she had yet to see.
Four Years Later
Tsubaki started in marvel at the now-townsized and fully restored village of Hyoku. She had seen it every day of her life for the last two years, when the Renovation was completed, but it still sort of shocked her, and rightly so. Anything and everythong the Forgemen made was always beautiful and durable at the same time, whether it be made of wood or metal. Hence why they were so widely renowned.
"It's so beautiful..." Tsubaki said with wonder, Arashi by her side. He turned her gently to face him and touched her face.
"Not as beautiful as you," he said quietly, and they kissed briefly.
"Now, then...Guild Hall? I'll bet the others are there by now, don't wanna be late!" Arashi chirped with excitement.
"Guild Hall it is," Tsubaki agreed with a smile.
The pair of them ran off, eager to find out what they would be hunting.
Epilogue: Jinsoku Nakamura
Jinsoku had buried Shinji's body next to Helyna's and Gale parents' graves, but it had no head stone. They had made Helyna one, but it had taken hourds, especially when there was barely any equipment taht functioned well enough to work with stone. He would wait for the Forgemen to arrive and give all the graves proper, metal headstones (stone wore away far too easily- he didn't want these graves' occupants to be lost in time).
He had kept her Agnaktor gunner helmet when he had taken it off as she lay dying. With her bow gone (like his own)? he didn't have anything else to remember her by. He smiled, and talked to the grave stone for awhile, confident that wherever she was, she was listening.
He laid the helmt tentatively in front of the grave stone, and slowly walked away.
Four Years Later
Jinsoku rushed through theever-crowded streets of Hyoku, now a modern, fairly well-off town, thanks to the Forgemen's two years of painstaking work, but the best thign about the haven was that it still maintained the rustic fell that came with the dragonwood architecture, which was now elegantly combined with state-of the art metal to produce interesting, sturdy structures.
He had fulfilled what he promised those four years ago at the ruins of his home in the shadow of tyranny.
Now that there was peace, he could finally go back to what he was once and always will be: a monster hunter.
Epilogue: Arashi Nagare + Rakurai Nagare
"It's good to see home again, even if it is wrecked. All those years of living in the darkness have finally paid off, I guess," Rakurai said happily. Arashi nodded.
"Yeah. No more oppression, no more running, no more hiding. Freedom. I guess this is what they mean when they say you don't appreciate what you've got until it's taken away."
A pause followed.
"...Well, might as well sleep. Nothing else to do here until the Forgemen get here," Arashi mused. "Besides, I'm tired."
On that note, Rakurai extinguished the candle (not the safest thing to have, considering that they were inside a tent), and the two brothers rolled over to sleep.
Four Years Later
Rakurai quickly ran up beside Arashi and Tsubaki, all three of them fully armoured (unlike Gale, Mizu and Jinsoku, they had kept thier respective Narga X, Ceadeus and Silver Rathalos equipment). They hadn't had a single day, hour, or even a moment of woe since that fateful final battle at the pinnacle of tyranny four years ago.
"Word on the grapvine is that we're travelling to the new gladitorial arena in Chikyuu. What do you think we'll be facing?" Tsubakis aid, her words shaking as she ran.
"Who knows?" Arashi replied. "I'll be pretty peeved if they don't have a Uragaan today; it'd be a pain for it to be replaced with Deviljho like it was for the last porr contestants. The looks on thier faces! Ah, thsoe front seats were priceless!"
"What's the matter? Too soft for piece of 'Jho?" Rakurai taunted.
"Shut up!" Arashi nudged him playfully.
Whatever it is they were hunting, they would soon find out.
Epilogue: Gale Kaze + Mizu Nagare
Gale was barely registering anything as she clutched Mizu as he kissed her neck, waves of sweet ecstacy slowly washing over her. She had been waiting for this for a while now; it was what she's always wanted, three children, two boys and a girl.
"A girl this time?" he panted under his breath.
"...Yeah-!" She said, smiling to herself..
Nine months later, Shinji Eleina Nagare was born.
Four Years Later
The Guild Hall, in the town of Hyoku, birthplace of the legendary Windweaver. This city was the biggest tourist attraction in all of the land. People flocked from Minegarde, Pokke, Kokoto, Jumbo, Moga, Dorgagokuni and many other lands to see this city of heroes. The epic events of the last eighteen dark years (not so many years to Skylar, Gigas, Jinsoku, Gale and Mizu) had been spread far and wide. Plays, books and campfire stories were told about it. Those events had become a quintessential part of the hsitory of mankind, and would be remembered even at the end of days when the world really did come crashing down.
But until then, the people of the land basked in the glory and prosperity-and above all, peace and freedom- that these dark events had wrought them.As Gale, Mizu, Tsubaki, Arashi, Rakurai and Jinsoku waited in the Guild hall, they smiled at the peace around them. Gale, Mizu and Jinsoku had new armour- Gale now wore Doragyurosu Armour and Great Sword, while Mizu donned Ceanataur armour and Dual Blades and Jinsoku was equipped with Damascus Armour and the Bowgun, Chaos Wing.
As they finsihed preparing their equipment, Skylar and Gigas came barrelling in through the front door, one after another, smiles on their faces. Gigas now sported Agnaktor armour to go with his newly replaced Agnablast Bowgun and Dancing Hellfire Long Sword. Skylar was dressed the same as ever, in her custom Sukaian armour, althoug it had clearly been refitted as she was now seventeen, and had grown an inch or three. She was now armed with small kunais and a combat knife on top of her Dual Blades, all of which were made of Nargacuga materials. In addition, a Melynx scampered up to stand beside her, dressing in Felyne-sized Rathalos armour.
"This is Riko, my Comrade: the Village Elder gave him to me when I came home," Skylar explained. Everybody waved at the Felyne, who purred excitedly.
"The ol' team, back together again. Damn, it feels like ol' times," Gigas growled with nostalgic fervour, taking yet another puff from yet another cigarrette. As the fumes drifted over to Skylar, she wrinkled her nose and coughed, waving them away with her hand.
"Do you mind! I don't wanna die at seventeen!" she moaned. Everyone chuckled.
"Hang on, wait a second: Where's Roux?" Tsubaki asked curiosuly.
"Oh...didn't you hear? There was an accident a few weeks ago, and she lost her leg. She won't be hunting anything. Not anymore," Gigas sighed with dismay.
"Well, that's too bad," Gale said, "her bounciness added something to the group. ...Heh, listen to me, I sound like a granny at a mothers meeting." The others chuckled again, and Gale blushed. "On a lighter note, did you and Skylar hear the news Mizu and I...we...had another baby." Gigas and Skylar cooed with affection.
"Shinji Eleina Nagare, born seventeenth of August, 104,609," Mizu said quietly, kissing Gale on the cheek. "Good going, Mrs Kaze," he said. Smiles all around. This is the way things were meant to be.
"And remember guys, when we get to arena in Chikyuu, put on a show! The audience is expecting Descendants and we don't wanna dissapoint...right?!" Gigas boomed heartily. The other nodded, grunting with confidence.
The eight foolhardy hunters headed out of the open back door toward the newly constrcuted train that would take them to Chikyuu, for their first fight against a monster that wasn't trying to destroy humanity in a long, long time.
As the train set off, Gale smiled to herself, knowing that the world was safe, her land was at peace, and life was back to the way it was destined to be.
---Fate and Freedom---End---
The White Star Trilogy
Fate and Freedom (and thefore, The White Star Trilogy) may be finished, but it would have been a much harder job without these guys:
Giant enemy Crab11
An extra-big thank you goes to Ceadeuslayer27, who developed a bot to help fix typos, which in turn helped this novel run along just that little bit more smoothly Another huge shout-out goes to Cottonmouth255, who, despite staying on the sidelines for the latter half on this adventure, has been quietly working away behind the curtain fixing up aaaaaaall the errors in my previous two books in the series. My last big thanks goes to Myartisbad, who drew the stunning image of everybody's favourite Blck Beast, Yamiokami.
A tip of the hat to the three of you.
CAPCOM, for creating the extraordinary world of Monster Hunter.
Michael Salvatori and Marty O'Donnel of Bungie and Neil Davidge of? 343 Industries for composing the amazing music for Halo, some of which was drafted into this story.
SEGA, for Sonic's soundtrack.
Nobuo Uematsu of Square Enix, for providing One Winged Angel and Liberi Fatali for us fans to marvel upon.
Daisuke Ishiwatari for providing the awesome music for BlazBlue, which was used extensively here.
BlazBlue, for providing Rachel, Litchi, and Hazama (Nina, Makoto and Kazir, respectively).
Ayaka, for her amazing music and voice! :3
And everyone and everything else I was inspired by, for being awesome. BD
One Last Thing
A BIG THANK YOU TO EVERYONE WHO HAS READ THE TRILOGY!!! :D