If any word could be said to those children, it's 'remember that you are mortal.' The weight of their actions will be carried by no one but them.
(woo woo, one chapter a day, we might reach the finale in early December.)
The two have been idling for a long time now. The girl said 'they' were surely coming but the wait has been tough. Isaac has no particular interest on the pink-haired girl, so he doesn't even try to talk to her or anything of the sort. Clay isn't sure who he is nor is she sure of what is going on, but she'll comply to the order she received.
The automatic doors of the entrance open, a man walks in. A man who is younger than he looks, but that's the weight of his unhealthy habits. He enters the building staring at his feet, complaining about something. 'Making me come out this late... for some cryptic reason... goddamn brats,' is how it would sound translated to a human language. Not that he isn't human, just doesn't speak like one.
All of a sudden, before he even figures what hits him, the man is thrown against a wall. A boy holds him by his shirt, holding him against the wall. He raises his gaze to meet with pink eyes filled with rage. He tries to open his mouth, but the boy's eyes oppress him, he feels he must not speak until he is talked to.
“Did you sell us out?” the boy asks. His tone is calmer than his face, but the man can tell that's a front, he is holding the rest of his anger back.
“W-whatcha mean, Is-”
“Did you give Solon information in order to make him fall into a trap?!” This time, he isn't as calm. This short boy who only hid behind's Solon back is now showing to be quite fearsome. He doesn't even have the height to properly tower over the man, yet he feels as if he's being smashed by a giant.
“Well, ya kno'... They pressur'd me, sayin' 'ey knew so I... I mean, you guys are unbeatable, trap or not ya'd juss...”
“Answer me straight,” the man is reminded of one time he tried jumping over a wall to take a shortcut, but the field he invaded had a watchdog. The dog didn't bark, didn't growl. It only stood there, staring at him intensely. For the young Bat, the eyes of that dog were very deep, enough for him to sink into them and drown in fear. Currently, he's much older, but has met with those same profound eyes again.
“If ya lost me, wunna it be juss as bad? I mean, information is-”
“Answer. Me. I said.”
“I... sent yar friend into a trap, ye.”
“Hm, I don't know what's going on, but aren't you the old man that...” Clay didn't know whether she should butt in or not, but she feels she should give that guy a hand, since he tried being nice to her when they met.
“Are you his ally?” Isaac turns to her. The deep abyss on his eyes make her become silent. 'Pink eyes should be cute, not... terrifying,' she thinks, taking a few steps back to leave him alone. “This is a good opportunity, I'll use you to kill time.”
“W-whatcha talking about, we-”
The two vanish. Clay is glad she walked away, had she been closer, she probably would have been taken through the gate as well. 'Who is that kid? Being that wild all of sudden, it's like he... is just like me...' she turns her gaze away. Feeling bad about herself, she walks out of the building, to breath in some fresh air. On the top floor of the building, the mysterious girl smiles. She called him exactly because she knew Isaac would act that way, which rids her of the mole and gets him to have his revenge.
Meanwhile, on the otherworld, the boy and the man were taken to a world of ice and water. They stand on platforms of ice floating on water, which spread endlessly around them. Rizelfar appeared atop one as well, but it obviously couldn't handle the weight and he sank. At this moment, he can only be seen from the chest up, a bust of the machine king emerging from the ocean.
No creature appears close to Bat, but Isaac feels a presence underwater, that certainly is his spirit. This is the first time Isaac has to think how to do battle, he realizes. Normally he protected Solon while Zearth charged up, then Solon took the enemy down. He doesn't know what to do if he's the one needing to go on the offensive.
'Rizel, do we have anything that can attack?' he's gonna rely on his god to know what can be done on this situation. 'Give, time, search database,' and finds out Rizel doesn't know as well. 'I'll just endure while he finds out then, not that I believe for a minute Bat can harm me,' it's something he'd normally laugh while thinking, but this time he is dead serious.
Bat would rather not fight Isaac. While they certainly aren't and never were friends, he thought fondly of that boy. Mostly because Solon did a really good job making him sound like a nice fellow, just awkward and hard to approach. That distance he created between himself and everyone often made things difficult for him, Solon could understand, and asked Bat not to hold it against Isaac.
That reminds Bat of something which happened a long time ago. Bat joined the Amaterasu, because an acquaintance of his said that sort of place could work for him and he, in fact, enjoyed spending some time with fellow adults. Not long after that, he was sniffed out by Solon and defeated. At the moment of defeat, Bat shed tears. Ugly tears, his face distorted almost as if he had eaten the most bitter of lemons. Just remembering it is embarassing to him, but he can' deny it happened.
He wasn't sure of the rules of the society yet, but he was sure defeat meant being cut off from it. He didn't want to lose a place he found for himself, thus he cried. He couldn't get friends or anything, his face is ugly, his speech is abnormal, he doesn't look his age, people naturally averted him. However, nobody rejected him nor was disgusted by him among the Amaterasu, an effect of the light of the goddess. Not that he'd know such a thing, to him it was just a place with enlightened individuals.
Anyway, after losing, he thought he was gonna lose that place and started bawling. At that moment, Solon offered him his hand. 'If nobody finds out, it didn't happen,' said the boy who didn't execute a punishment game out of mercy. 'On a condition, however. I want to know what's going on on that cult of yours, so message me from time to time, here's my number,' the first time the man exchanged addresses for non-work-related reasons.
Solon mocked him and made cruel comments often, but never truly looked at him with disgust, never seemed to be uncomfortable around him. Bat honestly thought of Solon as a friend of his, perhaps the truest one, as Solon didn't have a goddess' influence numbing his mind. And the friend of that friend, even if not a friend, isn't an enemy.
'I honestly thought Solon could overcome the trap, I didn't mean for it to end like this,' regretful, the man creates a core on his hand. A silver werewolf wearing a blue mail comes out of it, leaping forward into a different platform. While it does have claws on its fingers, each hand has a plate of armor from which three golden blades come out of. 'Hm, so he's not coming with his own spirit just yet... Is he gonna test me first?' Isaac prepares for the wolf's attack.
Bat tries to remember when was it that he got introduced to Isaac. He can't remember the date, but he has a few memories concerning how it was. Solon awkwardly introduced the two, at the time Solon himself didn't know the boy's name. He just said 'I rescued him this morning, I'm calling him partner for the time being, but that obviously isn't his name.' Thinking back to it, all of that was really weird, but what was it that he replied? 'Fine, I guess,' something like that. 'Did I want to become friends with him as well? Was that it?'
The wolf slashes one of the platforms. That should only send a few shards of ice flying and maybe sink the platform, but nothing follows logic when it concerns spirits. Chunks of ice shaped like spears shoot like darts towards Isaac. 'Blue, huh? Destruction connected to the element of water... But for him to use beastmen is outside of my expectations,' not even bothering to acknowledge the ice, Isaac analyzes Bat.
A gust of wind blows the darts away from their course, they land onto the water and nearby platforms, instead of hitting anywhere close to Isaac. The machine which appears flies high on the sky, its superior half is an average human body, but the lower half is a rocket. It holds a metallic fan on its hand, which it used to blow away the spear darts. It reduces altitude, hovering by Isaac's side.
Just like Isaac changed, surpassing the limits of his body to search for Solon, his body double skill, too, evolved. While before it only could take the place of whoever would be destroyed, this one is capable of avoiding its destruction. 'That one was S[ubstitute] series, so this one will be... Wind series,' he casually decides.
And just like that, the three were often together. Obviously, Solon and Isaac grew closer to each other than they ever would to Bat, since they probably studied together or something, he never asked, while he only got to exchange messages with Solon from time to time and met with them once every few weeks. He never stopped to think about it until now. He took it for granted, now Solon apparently met with a terrible fate and Isaac is here getting vengeance on him.
The werewolf is nimble, he runs across the platforms at amazing speed, he jumps from one to another, leaving afterimages behind himself. When weight is applied on them, the platforms sway on the surface of the water, his movements are so fast that around four different platforms sway at the same time, Isaac can't tell where he really is.
'I should have also protected Solon from this guy,' Isaac thinks as the silver wolf dances around the platforms. 'If we had cut off from him long ago, Solon wouldn't have fallen for that trap... we also wouldn't meet with the other gods, and that would have been for the best too... Just the two of us alone would have been enough to end this matter, those people didn't do anything other than fooling around anyway.'
The wolf spins with both claws on the water, throwing multiple saucers of water on Wind-1 and Isaac. It might not sound as threatening as spears of ice, but the magic around it is the same, the effect the saucers will have if they hit is the same the spears would have. Wind-1 waves its fan, blowing away the saucers, which turn into drops of water and scatter around harmlessly.
At the same time Wind intercepts the saucers, the wolf has already moved to behind the two and flunged stakes of ice at Isaac's back. The saucers were a distraction, this attack from behind is what it aimed for. Before even coming close to hitting, they're blown away. The time difference between the saucers being stopped and the stakes being stopped is almost zero, even if it is propulsed by rockets, it cannot be in two places at the same time, not can it blow wind at two different directions at the same time. And that is correct it didn't do either of these, the one who stopped the stakes was Wind-2.
Isaac turns to Bat, tilting his head backwards and shrugging. 'He sure got some attitude... So this was the sort of guy he was? He's just like Solon, except a little meaner, maybe...' Bat wryly smiles, it's a nice discovery, but the context is painful. That display succesfully managed to show that no destruction power is gonna work against Isaac, which leaves only direct combat as a possibility.
The wolf stops playing around and runs straight towards Wind-2, slashing through the air like a bullet. Wind-2 blows a gust of wind against the wolf, but fails to blow it away, it breaks the wind current with his weapons and speed. It tackles Wind-2 with its feet and cuts its two arms with his claws. Before the machine even explodes, he uses it as a stepping stone to jump towards Wind-1.
He flies through Wind-1, slashing it in an X-shape which destroys rocket and human alike. Without ever losing momentum, the wolf continues shooting forward and dives into water, the splashing water created by his body becomes arrows shooting towards Isaac. 'This time for sure,' the werewolf thinks, but just like every time so far, a gust of wind takes his magic down. Wind-3 descends by Isaac's side.
However, at least that confirmed one thing. Save for these gusts of wind, it has no power, it can't even struggle against the wolf. 'Is it safe to assume he has an endless amount of those?' the swimming wolf thinks about what he should do next. He knows that to approach a white battler carelessly isn't safe, protection is their main power, which is why he figured trying to use magic while keeping a distance was for the best.
The wolf emerges by Bat's side. They look at each other for a long time, the werewolf wants to know what is Bat's plan, but Bat won't say anything. The wolf asks for a reason, 'do you not believe we can win?' he asks. Bat shakes his head, that painful smile from before still imprinted on his face.
There's something on his mind making him hold back. And the difference in level between them is such that even if he managed to go all out, he still couldn't defeat Isaac. But he can't get himself to try to reach that victory. 'He's awkward and all, but a nice guy, be nice to him.' Solon's words. Solon's request. He can't get himself to truly want to defeat Isaac, he feels he'll be betraying Solon for the second time. So he'll either wait for the end to come at him, or let this battle last forever. He won't defeat Isaac no matter what.
'Isaac, found it,' Rizelfar says, transmitting the file of a spirit with offensive power to Isaac. 'It's huge, huh... And how curious, for it to be a wolf as well,' it's a costy summon, Isaac will need some time to bring it forth. Luckily for him, his opponent is more than willing to give him that time. 'Seeing, enemy, remembered,' Rizelfar admits, as embarassed as a machine can seem to be.
'Bring this to a close, Fenrir,' he says, a sphere of white energy gathering above him. The first thing to manifest are its fangs. A single canine is already larger than the werewolf. As the rest of its body comes out, the world around them freezes. Snow flutters down, the entire water freezes. It couldn't stand on the platforms, but if the entire ocean becomes a block of ice, it can stand on it without any problem. A mechanical wolf, every strand of what should be its fur is a steel blade, its eyes are compound of countless cameras, its claws are diamonds. On its back, a cannon proportional to its body, capable of putting even the Gustav to shame.
Both the spirit underwater and the wolf were literally frozen. Bat stares at the cannon pointing straight to him, the expressionless boy besides the world-devouring wolf and a hovering rocket robot. And the sight makes him laugh. Uncontrollably, he tries holding it back, but he can't. The boy steps forward.
“Did you finally lose it?” He asks.
“No, juss... ya know, if ya're this strong, why ya always hidin' on Solon's back?” the man answers the question with a question while wiping a tear away from his eye.
“...I didn't know I could do this until I lost him.”
“I see, I see... But he ain't dead, is he? There's a limit tha how far this game would go, righ'?”
“He's fine, just somewhere I can't reach... yet,” the boy clutches his fists.
“I didn't even get to see your real spirit, was it strong?”
“Nah, juss a monster u'lier 'han me,” the man sits down on the ice. “Ya know, this the first time we talk.”
“Hm. Might also be the last,” the boy snaps his fingers. 'Might be,' the man thinks, disappearing within the explosion of the cannon shell. The ice shatters, but as the otherworld is also crumbling, it is not a problem. 'I'll be back to reality before drowning,' Isaac closes his eyes.
A long time ago, a girl got a computer for a gift. 'Was it Christmas? Or my birthday?' she doesn't remember anymore. 'It has countless books and pictures of cute dogs,' her father said, pridefully patting the computer. She accepted it without making any commentary, only thanked him and said she was going to use it. After her father was gone, she ignored it. 'I don't like dogs and I have my own books, there's no point to that.'
Some days after that, her maid notices the abandoned computer at the corner of her room. 'Did you boot it up at least once?' she asked. 'As uninterested as I might be, kicking it would be a little...' the girl answered. It took great willpower for the maid not to laugh at the girl, but she managed it. 'You see, boot up means...'
After that, the girl would start learning about computers with the maid. She had only used them in cybercafés, meaning that while she did know more than the girl, she also was a rookie. On their first day using it together, they spent a good hour trying to connect to the internet when there was no wireless bandwidth on that room.
'See, it is pointless after all,' the girl said, feeling stupid for actually getting excited for a moment there. She picked up the book she dropped to use the computer and resumed her reading. But the maid wouldn't admit defeat. That evening, before returning home, she stopped by the café she usually went to when she wanted to look at animal pictures and asked the manager everything she didn't understand.
The following day, she stormed into Edmont's room, the shy young girl under her arm. 'We need a router and some other stuff!' she yelled. It took a while, but now their internet adventure could finally begin. 'What now?' 'what do you want to see?' the routine repeated for a long time. Even if they got internet, they didn't know what to do besides look at pictures. The girl was more interested on words than pictures, so her interest started to wane once more.
The maid visited the manager again and asked what people do on the internet besides looking at pictures. That kind manager who found her very amusing taught her of forums, browser games, wikis and video channels. 'This surely will catch her interest,' the maid left the café very excited, looking forward to seeing her little master again.
A long time passed, and thanks to her efforts, the girl got very interested on the multiple sorts of media available on the internet. World news, trivia, curiosities, weird phenomena, obscure book recommendations, discussion of her favorite series. She could talk to other people without being mocked because of her pigmentation, nobody had to know she was Leondall's daughter. In fact, if she tried that, people would respond 'I'm Jesus' son,' 'I'm Buddha's daughter,' 'I'm the president's dog,' and she found that to be the best.
If she didn't know something or wanted to know something, there was no need to spend a day on the library or have Ares do research for her, she could ask the computer and it'd find an answer for her. She'd eventually grow tired of the repetitive browser games, and someone would suggest her emulating.
She researched emulating, but even after seeing multiple consoles and games, she had no idea what to start with. So she messaged the person who told her to emulate, 'what do I play?' was her question. She nervously waited for an answer, she feared that asking such a thing was bothersome, people often complained about newbies who can't do anything on her own. 'But this is different, certainly that person won't be mad,' she tried comforting herself.
After a painfully long wait, she got a message. An extremely lenghty message, but not a wall of text. It was filled with suggestions. Starting out with a 'I'm guessing you haven't played many games, so here are my entry-level suggestions for most genres and consoles, have fun,' then proceeding to list around twenty different games on each emulatable console.
'Have you... played all of these?' she asked, she had played eight browser games and got tired, this list had over one hundred games. 'Some are just famous and I haven't played, but I'd say I've beaten a good 70% of that,' the person replied. The girl didn't know what to say, so she only quietly downloaded some of the games and the emulators that were suggested.
The first game she played took three hours of her day without her even realizing. It felt much like a book, there was plenty of story, and she took an active role on it. She had to defeat the enemies, solve the puzzles, become stronger. It moved her. After that, she returned to that forum and sent the person a message. 'Thanks for your recommendations, I started Lost Sword and am extremely thrilled, it's as good as you said. Would it be fine for me to message you my thoughts on the game?'
'Sure,' was the reply she got some time later. Just as that girl couldn't believe how someone could be so cool to her, in a home very distant from that, there was another amazed girl. 'Someone took my suggestions and is playing and enjoying and wanting to talk to me about it? I-is this a trap, am I gonna die?'
That was the meeting of two girls that would grow to become best friends through their computers. Because of that person on her screen, the distance between the girl and her maid increased, but that was what the maid wanted. She wanted the girl to be able to choose someone to be her friend, not having to stick to the single person who was offered to her. The two girls would play games together, watch cartoons together and eventually meet each other, live with each other and now... fight each other.
“Sirin!” Erika screams, attempting to cross a sandstorm to find her dear friend.
“Calm down, Erika,” the angel covers the girl's eyes with her wings, she'll go blind before managing to see through that curtain of sand. “Magna is manipulating Sirin, even if you try to approach her, you'll only meet with Magna's will.”
“Isn't there a way to set her free? You said you've seen that before, how does it work?” the girl is in despair.
“I'll... give you the abridged version.”
Power isn't a simple concept. One can be like Maxi and hold ultimate strength while being a complete fool. Amusing, but a fool. One can be like Galvados, who has power over life and death, which ultimately makes it immortal. Much like Galvados, Rafil has power over life alone, but while Galvados controls the very travelling of souls between earth and hell, Rafil can keep people from travelling. She can keep life from ever vanishing, while it makes a vanished life return.
Magna, indeed, holds a power just like Maxi's, an ultimate strength which cannot be matched. But that isn't the end of it. Magic, intelligence, instincts, everything around him is heightened to an extreme level. 'Have you ever heard of suggestion?' Rafil asks. Seeing the girl nod, she continues.
He can magnify suggestion just like he increases the power of fellow dragons. Instead of taking a while to plant an idea on someone's head and have them to his bidding, he'll outright overwrite the person's will and mind with his own. If he says you're a fish, you'll believe to the bottom of your heart you're a fish.
“That is what the absolute deity of power is able to do. Just like all of us can work miracles such as living forever, being unbeatable, accelerating natural processes... he can reign over anything.”
“But move onto how to get rid of that! We need to rescue Sirin!” witnessing the girl's pleads, the angel's expression turns sour. It's a task which is difficult for her and for the girl.
“You need to override Magna's influence. In other words, defeat him.”
“That's...” Just like Sirin, Erika also has the idea of Magna being unbeatable. Her magic can take down weak spirits without problem, but one as strong as Magna is...
“Don't worry. I'll do the fighting with you,” 'I've wanted to land a good hit on Magna for the longest time, after all,' she smiles.
“Rafil, did you hit your head on the gate? How would you ever beat Magna?”
“Trust me,” is all the angel says to her.
Within an endless sea of crimson, a girl floats. She can't swim, she can't lift a finger, her body only drifts aimlessly, taken by the current. She can't even think straight, as the sea is whispering on her ears. It's not one voice or two, but hundreds of them, in different tones, loudness and speeds, she has no idea what any of them are saying, but her mind is nothing but these voices.
The sky is covered in dark storm clouds. She closes her eyes, that's about as much freedom of movement she has. 'Why are you doing this,' she asks. But there's no voice to answer her, their only purpose there is to numb her entire body and turn her into the puppet Magna needs. The voices are throwing curses on her, stealing the strength of her body. 'That is also one facet of power,' Magna would answer, if questioned on how fair it is to drain others from their own energy.
The sandstorm ends. Or, to say it more accurately, it is ended. A storm is nothing but a current of wind, if it meets with an opposing force capable of nullifying it, the storm ends. With his six wings alone, Magna stops the storm. He lands on a dune, Sirin by his feet, her eyes without any life on them, her body moving as if being pulled by strings.
“I won't accept betrayal...!” Her voice resounds across the desert.
“Stop using her body for your bidding, Magna!” Rafil screams at her brother. She hadn't seen them in their true forms even once since discovering they're siblings, but Erika just realizes how weird it is that this adult-sized angel woman is related to a building-sized dragon. 'But they're gods anyway, so those things happen, I guess,' she mentally shrugs.
“Sirin and I are one, we feel the same way about your attempt to save yourself alone! We won't allow it,” his voice, which is already thunderous on normal circumstances, echoes even harder when he screams, it feels like having one's ears hit by a pair of hammers.
“...Gh!” Rafil bites her lips. She'd be fine with countless offensive names, but saying she wants to save herself when her actual objective is to save the six humans makes her pretty mad.
“Rafil, I trust you. It's okay,” Erika tries to comfort the angel.
Leaving only a cloud of sand where he stood seconds ago, Magna flies towards the pair, preparing a kick. 'No time for any summon, too fast for me to target with magic, I can't afford to lose Rafil,' these three items pop on Erika's head all at the same time, justifying how it isn't stupid to tackle Rafil out of the way and take Magna's kick herself.
Needless to say, she becomes a star shining on the sky for a moment, before finally being once again affected by gravity, proceeding to turn into a shooting star and creating a crater on the sand with her back. The impact of the kick and of hitting the ground scared her, but she's fine. What actually surprises her is Rafil being by her side the moment she opens her eyes. She is sure she traveled more than a kilometer on that kick, but Rafil appears by her side almost instantly.
“Were you always this fast?” Unscathed, but still a little sore, the girl asks.
“My speed matches yours at all times,” the woman gives her a hand, to help her stand up.
“Really? That's pretty handy,”she hits hers clothes to get sand off it. She finds it pretty surprising that her clothes didn't rip on a few convenient spots, if this were one of her cartoons, she no doubt would be naked again.
“And about your strategy, when will it come through?” She points to Magna, once again coming straight for them, his fist closed tight.
“Hm, a while more. Be strong,” Rafil lowers her head, she feels ashamed of having Erika experience this after having said she wants to save her and her friends.
“No prob-” She can't finish the sentence, but the second she raises her thumb and shows it to Rafil, a gigantic red fist hits her side and sends her flying again, this time her body does a movement much like that of skipping stones.
She stands up, spitting sand that got into her mouth. 'Damn, I guess I was the fool for speaking when a crazy dragon was just about to hit me', she slaps her tongue, but she feels there's already sand stuck on her throat. Appearing like a moving blur, Rafil catches up to her. 'Ah, so that's how she does it, I thought she was running really fast, but she really just is dragged along with me.'
“I'm pretty much done, you can fight back starting from now,” Rafil smiles, happy to finally be of help for Erika.
“Hm, okay, okay, that's good. To think the goddess of magic is gonna cast a spell right in front of me...” Erika scratches her hair, there's really sand everywhere.
“I'm the goddess of love, don't get it wrong!” Rafil pouts.
“Isn't love magical? I thought that was the joke all along,” she figures there's probably ten grams of sand on each of her shoes, but she'll leave that for later.
“Ah! It is, isn't it? You're sharp, Erika!” Rafil giggles.
It's easy for them to tell when Magna is coming, they only have to wait for clouds of sand to start forming. They wouldn't know the reason it took him longer to come for them again, but it was for the sake of not distancing himself from Sirin too much. If he kept going after them while disregarding her, she could escape from his clutches and who knows what she'd do while free from him. 'If she killed herself, it'd be troublesome for me,' he thinks.
Just as he is about to smash Erika into the ground, a rain of lightning bolts strikes his hand. Following that one, countless lightning bolts fall around him, creating a cage from which even him cannot escape from. These lightnings don't last for long, but Rafil said holding him still for a while would suffice.
A pair of birds fly out of Rafil's dress, towards Magna. They're the same golden birds she had around herself when she first appeared. They don't see to be living beings, rather than flesh, their bodies are composed of a topaz-like mineral. They're Rafil's familiars, which might not be exactly alive, but certainly are spirits. After that pair, four more come out, always two at a time, all flying towards the imprisoned Magna, circling around him.
“Watch closely, Erika... This is a goddess of love-tier spell,” Rafil raises her staff high. From within the heart-shaped end, a yellow light beams forth, shining on the encirclement of birds. Each of them becomes a pillar of light, all of which grow in width, eventually all gathering together, their circular formation having turned into a wide pillar of radiance.
As soon as the cage of lightning vanishes, Magna breaks away from that pillar, continuing his attack towards Erika. He clashes onto her abdomen with his head, and, if asked about how it felt later, the answer she would give would be, in total honesty, no intention to be mocking, that it tickled her. She holds onto Magna and looks at him with eyes that give a mixed feeling.
'While he indeed looks cute, he's totally evil, right?' Rafil's spell has made Magna transform into his child form, the form of a small dragon boy he shows when summoned briefly onto the real world or when a resonance with the other gods happens. He's the size of a cat, he can't even scratch Erika right, his claws have no cutting edge.
Rafil's ultimate spell completely nullifies any attack power. While Absolute Zero makes spirits unable to hurt, this one removes their strength completely. However, she needs ten vessels for it, which is why it takes her a while to prepare. The reason Erika didn't do anything was so all their energy was spent on these summons. If she abused magic again, her body probably wouldn't ever wake up.
The only way to nullify the effect is by destroying at least one of the vessels. But as Magna has lost his strength, he would never manage such a thing. He can't even summon someone who would be able to do that. Perhaps Sirin could, but she isn't close enough to make it in time. Erika holds the struggling-to-release-himself child Magna on her hands, while Rafil takes her position, holding her staff like a baseball bat.
'What I'm about to do is being done in the name of all our siblings, don't think it's my grudge alone. In fact, it isn't my grudge at all, the goddess of love would never hold one of those, tehe,' Rafil winks, hitting Magna with the swing of her life. If it were an actual baseball match, it would give her team a homerun, easily.
Erika finds a Sirin which floats on a sea of crimson. She doesn't understand it at first, but Rafil explains to her that this is the punishment game, she has entered Sirin's current mind. Since her mind is chained by Magna's suggestion, Erika has no freedom to create the scenario seen by the two. 'That means... she won't leave this place until Magna sets her free?' Erika asks, and Rafil replies with a nod.
She takes Sirin on her arms, holding her tight. Her heart beats, her body is warm. She isn't saying anything nor is she moving, but she's certainly alive. 'Even after being defeated, he isn't letting go of her? This didn't happen last time... I'm sorry, Erika...' Rafil panics, she was sure that would be enough.
Erika says nothing. She can't hear the voices coming from the sea like Sirin does, she can only see her friend being forced into a catatonic state by the influence of a cruel dragon. 'If Magna is wiped out... She'll be freed, right?' Erika asks. '...Yes, along with you and everyone else.'
Erika kisses Sirin. It's the first time she connects lips with anyone. Even if it's just on a mental level, it certainly counts as her first kiss, she thinks. Rafil, watching it from behind, can't even feel anything. 'I didn't want it to be like this...' she closes her eyes.
“I'll definitely set you free,” back on the real world, Erika climbs on the horse. Even if Sirin herself couldn't say it, she still got a piece of information. She found out where the Amaterasu's headquarters is. 'Perhaps... since she planned on telling you anyway, the information could come to you...' is how Rafil explains it.
The girl rides away, leaving her friend behind. Soon after she leaves, the girl stands up. Her eyes filled with rage, she puts her hand over her cheek. That pain is not hers, the only one who had their head injured was the dragon. But that's how deep he has gotten on her body. 'I won't allow it... Rafil...' he forces the girl's exhausted body to move forward, even though it should be resting now.
Just as he crosses through the main gate, a car parks on his way. From within it comes out a very familiar woman. The mother of that girl. She runs to him and embraces the body of her daughter.
“They said I was clearly out of it at work and let me leave early... And I decided on a whim to come see you!” She kisses her cheek, but to him, that's an injured cheek. Feeling someone pressing against a wound he should not have, he instinctively pulls her away. “Si...rin?”
“I have no time for that... Go away, I must catch Rafil...” He continues forcing the tattered body to walk. The woman holds him by his shoulder.
“Wait a minute, Si-, no, it's not Sirin, right? It will sound delusional, but I can tell that much,” she doesn't want to believe it herself, but she knows her daughter is bad at making up lies. She thought 'my middle school delusions turned real,' was a badly crafted falsehood, but it was actually an omission, she understands now. 'She didn't want to say what it really was, but tried saying it in a way I would understand...'
“I told you I have no time,” he slaps the woman's hand and tries run away, but the body he controls doesn't answer to his expectations.
“Whatever you're doing to her body, I won't allow it,” without much effort, the woman outruns him and blocks the way.
“...Tch, guess you're giving me no choice then,” he opens a smile which doesn't fit Sirin's body.
“So you'll explain me what's going on?” Naïve. A naïve thought, but she had no idea what to expect, figuring something was within her daughter's body was already the limit of bizarre for her.
“Not quite. Gate Open!”
He should not be able to open the gate again so soon after a defeat. But just as everyone has their special conditions, the god of power can walk over certain rules. Especially since the spirit of his 'owner' is still unharmed. He's keeping it safe even from itself, as long as her soul hasn't broken, he can continue opening the gate, no matter how many times he loses. Not that he plans on ever losing again, however.
The motorbike breaks abruptly, the boy is scared by the sudden stop. Ares turns to him, removing her helmet. Her gaze is serious, he can feel her determination from her eyes alone. He hope he has the same look on his eyes, but he somewhat feels he doesn't. For her, it's better to have him continue looking at everything with the same eyes, the way he always keeps his calm demeanor is pleasant to her.
“I was thinking... What is the gate, do you have any idea?”
“What do you mean?”
“You know... We just started telling it to open one day, and by doing that we travel to another world.... one with magic and spirits and everything. But I never stopped to think, what is it? What is the gate? Is every gate the same, what is the space where we battle?”
“...What made you start thinking about it?”
“This 'Tartarus' which the enemy has been opening. It's a gate designed to fight against us, right? And the other gate doesn't really give us an advantage, I was wondering if there isn't an anti-Tartarus...” 'there isn't,' Galvados says. 'If you're gonna answer that one, answer the rest of them,' she retorts, but it goes silent.
“I've... been to the world the gods come from. It might sound crazy, but I hope you believe it. That place and the otherworld... feel different. That place is completely alien, while the otherworld feels... closer to real? If you ask me... the otherworld is something between reality and spirituality,” he touches his scar. 'This wound is what ties me to reality, Strom is what ties me to spirituality... Perhaps the world on the middle is where I belong,' it's just a thought he has, he doesn't understand the meaning of it himself.
“A boundary, huh... That is good enough to calm me down a little. Any guesses concerning the gate and Tartarus?” The boy shrugs in response. 'Well, expected as much,' she whispers, getting off the bike.
“Huh, where are you going? Weren't we going to the enemy's base?”
“We've arrived already,” she points to the building in front of them. Just as she heads to the entrance, a girl comes out. A girl with long, pink-colored hair.
“Ah,” she sees Robin and Lui, finally realizing those two are 'them.' She feels stupid, feeling she should have realized it couldn't be anyone else. “Hey there, I was waiting for you two.”
“...So you knew we were coming, huh,” Ares plays it cool. 'How did they figure it out? People at the mansion? ...Edmont?'
“I should have someone with me here, but... he's currently busy. Actually this is good,” she walks past Ares, going straight for Lui. She forcefully takes his hand, a smile on her face. “Let's go at it again, this time I'm stronger. I won't lose.”
“Uh, Clay, we're here for an... important mission,” he gets the impression she just wants to fool around.
“Yeah, and I'm one of the final bosses, so take me on. I won't let anyone pass without taking me on first.”
“Isn't it fine? She's raring to go and we have to defeat everyone anyway, we don't know who's the leader,” Ares knows Lui is sorta soft, but seeing an enemy so politely ask for a battle moves her. “I'll wait for you here, end it quick.”
“Then... fine, I think...” He can't stand up against both Ares and Clay if they're asking for the same thing at the same time.
“Okay! Let's do this, I'll show you my new resolve! Gate Open!”
'Gate? Not Tartarus?' Ares raises an eyebrow, but as she was left to be alone, she'll have to keep that question mark on her. Isaac's battle with Bat is still taking place, Clay and Lui's has just started. Erika rides the horse while checking the directions through her cellphone. And at the mansion, a possessed marionette fights against her mother.
The ticking of the clock stops for no one, their fates continue to spin. The flame of life sways, blown by the breeze of humans who traverse through gates connecting different worlds. Without even realizing, they continue asking their bodies to surpass their limits. Could it be possible that they come to not see the sun rise ever again? Entering battle after battle, these youths don't even think about seeing the tomorrow...