The nighthawk only wants to climb the heavens, even if it dies. But while it is alive, it will continue to burn brightly.

Chapter 12

The three have been on the boat for a long period of time, the boy has been rowing without taking a single break all this time, and yet their surroundings never change. A dark horizon, black clouds, a crimson sea which expands endlessly. There's no sign of approaching anything. In fact, there's no evidence that they're even moving anywhere.

“What is this place anyway?” After resting, she returns to her usual self, someone able to speak and move without becoming exhausted.

“It would be adequate to say it's your mind under Magna's influence. A hallucination which you're bound to, an illusion you can't escape from,” the boy cryptically explains, making it become none the clearer to her.

“If this is my mind, how are you two here?” 'Is this the revival of imaginary friends from childhood? I didn't even have any,' Sirin raises an eyebrow.

“When a mind is weakened, to enter it is easy. It's the same concept of a punishment game, but we're using it for good,” this time, it's the silver-haired girl that answers. Sirin is liking her more so far, she's friendlier and less confusing. “We entered yours through the spirit world though, which made it a little harder. However, there was no other choice, as we couldn't afford to be caught by Magna.”

“...Spirit world?” 'Don't just drop something like that so casually!' she wants to retort, but it's not her role.


“You're spirits?”

“Well... No. He is a special case and I... might not seem like it, but I'm an ultimate,” the girl scratches her cheek, embarassed for some reason.

“...I'll sound rude here, but does that mean I should assume you two aren't a pair of twelve year olds?” Hearing her question, the boy in a green hoodie lets out a loud laugh, surprising the two girls. He apologizes for it, saying he couldn't help it, and lets them continue their conversation.

“No, we're way beyond that, as you could guess from that reaction of his. Considering the way time moves differently on our world and your world, we might be even older in your timeline... or does it not work like that? In fact, considering everything, is my age negative right now or am I actually-” The girl digresses for a while, puzzled by multiple timelines and time travelling issues.

“Also, since you said you're here to save me, does that means you'll free me from Magna's power?” She turns to the boy, since the girl is still talking to herself about her own age.

“Yes. We're letting you recover your mental stability for now, but I'm afraid it'll take a while for you to take control once more.”

“Because he's too strong?”

“Not exactly. I could have unchained you already, but if I do that, you'll just be trapped again, and as he'll probably be wary of our infiltration, it'd become even harder to save you again, perhaps even impossible.”

“...So you're gonna wait for the ideal timing to set me free?”

“That is correct,” the boy nods.

'So all I can do right now is rest... but at least I have company,' the girl sighs, closing her eyes so she can try to doze off for a while. The ultimate girl taps her lap, saying sleeping there would be more comfortable than while leaning on the boat, and Sirin couldn't see any reason to refuse such a proposal. Gently being caressed by the mysterious girl, Sirin feels very tranquil and manages to sleep.

In response to his sword, the woman summoned an ultimate. A young purple-colored shirtless boy. He wears a flaming crown and a dark mask, his lower half is covered by a yellow skirt. His horns come out horizontally and bend upwards, their color darker than that of his skin. While he does have some pretty long nails, they don't seem harmful. Nothing about him quite screams 'dangerous,' he's an average demon boy.

The demon boy snickers, using his hand to invite Lui towards him. Not very amused by that act, Lui walks past the demon boy, seemingly ignoring him so he can head straight for the woman. The demon turns around to voice a complaint about being ignored, but just as he opens his mouth, spacetime distorts. Two waves of force slash through his body, despite Lui haven't made any visible movements. 'Ah, so it does work better when I use it with my right hand...'

He was aware he would lose his arm when wielding that sword, which is why he sacrificed his left arm. He is right-handed, so saving his stronger arm for a stronger enemy was only a logical decision. As a result, his Assault just now went so smoothly the demon might not even have realized he's already dead, Lui thinks.

The demon explodes into a cloud of purple smoke, Lui continues his stride. The woman laughs at that attempt of 'cool guys don't look at explosions,' even more because he doesn't even realize it is abnormal for living beings to explode when destroyed, be it ultimate or spirit. 'Is his mind crumbling or did it just slip his mind?'

From within that cloud, a spectral hand extends and grabs his shoulder. 'Ultimate Trigger, locked and hit,' the woman whispers. From within the cloud, the demon boy rebuilds his body as he drags Lui towards himself. The human boy tries to slash the hand pulling him, but his blade can't hit it, the ultimate truly is a ghost at this moment.

The restored demon boy jumps on Lui's back and attaches itself to it, snickering as he rubs his face on Lui's cheek. The weight of his left arm, the weight of his sword, the weight of the demon on his back, his body has gone over one hundred kilos. Aware there's no angle which would allow him to slash only the demon, and as one of his arms is useless and the other can't let go of the sword, he realizes he has no choice but to let it stay there.

“You know... There's that folktale about those demons that jump on your back, and if you carry them to your home, they'll become their weight in gold, isn't there?” The woman looks away, giggling. Lui keeps a blank expression on his face, still not amused by her playing around. “If you win with that guy on your back, how about I give you his weight in gold?”

“...To think between two purple-users there could be so many differences...” he sighs.

“You mean one being a proper adult and the other a nasty one? I get that a lot,” she smiles.

There was once a girl who had just entered an advertising company. As a new intern, her only job was to run errands for everyone, she had to get herself used to any and every situation before taking jobs by herself. And she'd be surprised at how often it happened, how many easy projects could take weeks to take form. And most of them had the same root, it always would come down to people not understanding each other.

The company and its clients had no harmony between them, someone would make a request for 'A', they'd get 'A' delivered to them and then would complain about how 'A' wasn't what they wanted, what they thought of was more like 'B'. Not that it was clear they wanted 'B' when they made the request, it couldn't be said her company was at fault. As a result, her coworkers would slowly get mad and the atmosphere would become tense. Observing all of that without getting directly involved, she thought her coworkers lost their cool too quickly. If they just got along, everything would be better. She decided that, when her time came, she'd always be friendly. She believed that by doing so she wouldn't end up living a stressful daily life in the same way her coworkers did.

But she was too soft on the world. If one offers a hand, soon the entire arm will be devoured. If the arm is devoured without its owner showing any resistance, the feast will continue as long as there is anything left to devour. By being friendly and trying to make worthwhile bonds with every single person, her stress level was far beyond that of her coworkers who seemed to be angry all the time.

Once she was nice to one person, more would come piling up on her, because she is 'understanding' and 'gentle.' Were she to show any signs of tiredness and be even slightly less nice than she was advertised as, there would be severe backlash. A gentle person suddenly being rude is much ruder than a normally rude person being rude. She had driven herself into a corner of spikes, her only choice was to eternally get herself hurt without any hopes of ever escaping from that situation.

One day, she collapsed. She'd be walking back home on a snowy night and her body would, completely out of the blue, shut down, dropping her unconscious on some street. She woke up within an unknown building, covered in a blanket. On the very moment she opened her eyes, a small girl served her a cup of hot chocolate. But something about that girl wasn't normal. As odd as it might sound, the girl carried radiance, light shine forth from her like a star. As many questions as the woman might have had, her mind had been thrown into a daze by that light.

With an innocent and somewhat motherly smile, the girl said 'would you mind telling me about your problems while you drink?' and, for reasons unknown to her at the time, the woman couldn't resist but tell her everything that had happened, all the way from her dream of being friends with everyone to how she ended up becoming cornered by the expectations people had of her. The girl quietly listened, not saying a word until the woman was finished.

'You're not wrong,' was the first thing she said. 'But to be friends with someone, you need to see into their hearts and give them exactly what they want. To surpass the barrier that separates the minds of two different individuals, you need to be a mirror that reflects the hearts of others,' despite seeming very young, what she said was too deep for the woman to understand. The girl approached her and gave her a hug. 'I'll give you the strength to enter the sea of the soul...' she whispered.

To say the goddess' light changed her wouldn't be a truthful statement, as she had always been that person. Perhaps the correct term would be 'improved,' because as of obtaining 'the light,' she became able to talk to others and obtain a mutual understanding without any hurdles. From her standing, at least. While those subjected to her all found her to be some sort of ideal human being, too pure to even be human at times, anyone who witnessed her cast her 'spell' multiple times would believe her to be a monster. With just a little information on her 'target,' she managed to completely pull their strings into doing her bidding.

She was also aware of her own duality, an angel to those whose hearts she had invaded, a devil to those who watched her work. She only felt comfortable with herself when together with that shining little girl and her guardian, a man that was clearly bothered by her nature and yet never went beyond giving her a silly nickname. It was only after spending along time with those two that she finally understood what the 'friendship' she yearned for was, and also understood how she'd never manage to create such a thing between herself and whoever asked for her services.

She felt it took too long for her to realize her own foolishness, how arrogant she was to think she'd be able to bond with whoever came her way. And even worse, she thought, her reason for desiring such a thing was not for a greater cause, like saving the world or anything of the sort, her aim was just to not stress herself. Upon reaching such a conclusion, she talked about it with the girl, how she found out she didn't need that power. 'I'm glad,' the girl answered. 'If you have a great power and decide you don't need to rely on it to live... you're even stronger than that power.'

'I don't need it to live, but for your sake, I'll use it no matter how many times I'm asked,' the woman whispers, a core gathering on her hand. The moment the core breaks, red rings surround her wrists and head. These rings spin like car wheels, but rather than tires, they're more like blades. A light touch is enough to possibly split something in two, almost like a very effective chainsaw. However, these aren't weapons she can use to fight, they're her power cap.

“You know of the purple limitation, don't you?” She tilts her head. She waits for an answer, but when she considers the boy is being weighed down by David and now is gonna have to fight a spirit on that condition, she understands that he has no time for small talk. “Well, anyway. My limit is a few summons. But they're not average ones, mind you. I don't even know what will come until I call for it, I just know... it will be the most adequate enemy for my opponent.”

A skeleton in heavy armor, a purple flame burns on his eye sockets. His sword has already rusted, but it carries an eerie cursed aura around itself, a hatred that is sharper than the original blade's edge. The skeleton rides a putrefied dragon, every step it takes, worms fall from its multiple decomposing wounds. Its fangs are dyed red, its eyes tremble in insanity.

“A long departed warrior, unable to ever quell his anger, he endlessly wanders the corrupted world, seeking to fulfill his promise...” The moment it is summoned, she obtains insight into the spirit's story. Even if she has never seen it before, the moment the summoning contract is signed, she will know everything about it. And by knowing it, she'll know about her opponent as well. She had fixated her gaze on the summoned spirit, and once done analyzing it, she turns to Lui once more, her smile wider than before. “Let me ask you a question: Do you know the name of the girl you just defeated?”

“...How would I?” He bluntly answers.

“Ah, of course, she's just a random person meant to stop you, right? It's like hoping you'd know my name, isn't it?” She scratches the back of her head, laughing. “Are you fine with that, Sealing?”

“...” Stromhyde closes his eyes and lowers his head. There are no words he can say on this situation.

“Are you done with the diversions?” His eyes burn with determination. Such a thing should be good, but were someone who knows him to witness that, they'd eventually wonder 'was he truly always like this?'

The wandering knight hits his dragon's head and the decaying monster clumsly moves forward. While its body does sway too much, the creatures which feast on its flesh leaving a trail of its track, it moves pretty quickly. The boy slashes the dragon's head in an X shape when it comes into range, but not only it is sturdy, it also doesn't feel any sort of pain. As his blows are unable to stop its charge, the dragon succesfully headbutts the boy, throwing him a long distance away.

“Hey, can you stand back up? It'd be too sad if you were just like a turtle and couldn't get on your feet on your own, you know?!” The woman yells, seeing as it takes a while for him to get back on his feet. He was forced to deliver a pair of blows against the ground to get himself back up, his strength alone couldn't get him an inch away from the soil.

'Won't she stop fooling around...?' the boy curses being in this weakened against such a bothersome opponent. Surprisingly, her intention was to actually help him up if he couldn't, she even ordered her spirit to stop attacking. But as he somehow managed it, she revoked the order and it continued to charge.

'I could wipe it out by offering my soul to Strom, but if she's lying about her limit, then I'd be completely cornered... It's best to keep that as a trump,' he considers trying to end this, but beyond her possible trap, there's also the fact this isn't the final battle, going by her 'the weakest of us four.' And there's also the pride factor, he wouldn't like to have to rely on his most powerful skill when the battle barely started.

He found out the hard way that hitting it straight won't stop its advance, so his next attempt is to hit it laterally twice, to throw it out of the way, like it is done in baseball. With the strength of an ultimate, that should work, but the enemy isn't adequate for such things. Rather than getting pushed away, a large chunk of flesh is flunged away and the dragon keeps its course. As he was prepared for it failing, Lui uses Mercury Blade as a shield to avoid another direct it. Next, by throwing his currently absurd weight forward, he manages to only be dragged backwards, instead of pitifully falling on his back again.

While he lost the power match at first, once he obtains better footing and grip, they're evenly matched, both stand still, but it can easily be seen that they're both putting their all into pushing the other. Lui considers using Assault to deliver a strike, but as that hasn't worked even once so far, he decides it's better to think of someone else. He can't strike it away, but holding it back for a while so he can think will work fine.

What seems to escape his mind is that the dragon isn't the entire spirit. They count as one being, but they're technically two, rider and dragon. Without having made a sound while sneaking around Lui, the skeleton strikes the boy's back with his sword. The blade is dull, but it's the curse that deals damage. Ignoring completely the demon and the aura on his back, the cursed blade slices through the boy's back.

He turns his head around, having realized a little too late that the skeleton no longer rides the dragon. The damage from the blow, together with him getting distracted by the opponent behind him results on his grip weakening his grip, the balance of power tilts to the dragon's side, and once more the boy is thrown away by a charging headbutt.

Collapsed on the ground, the boy thinks. The strain on his body is absurdly heavy, his mind is so exhausted he keeps falling for stupid traps. 'How many more battles will come after this one?' What starts as a small voice repeats itself until becoming a choir. 'Hasn't it been enough? If this is my limit, that's fine isn't it?' He begins to crack.

'But...' There's an image burning within his mind, surrounding his soul from being affected by the voices which ask for him to give up. A young woman with purple-ish hair, an orange bird mask. 'But if I give up here, she will...' The boy once more throws himself into a standing position by hitting the ground with his sword. Shaking his head, he decides to not lie to himself and brushes that thought away. 'She will be fine even without me. I'm the one who keeps sticking to her...' he bites his lower lip. 'Because she was my tower all along, wasn't she, Strom? The person I want to be like, the person who I needed to be like...'

He takes a step forward. A single one, he can't get his other leg to move, he's sure he will collapse. For him, it's just the result of asking too much out of himself, but there are two other reasons for his sudden unability to move: Tartarus itself and the blade of the skeleton. Just like most purple magic, that blade sapped some of his vital energy. The effect should have been stronger, but he was somewhat protected by the aura.

Even though he cannot move more than that one step, the skeleton and dragon are rushing towards him at full speed, and if he already failed to do it before, now he's sure there's no way for him to stop them. Or at least not with his sword alone, that is. But, even if he stops them, the woman will still be safe and sound, while he can't even walk anymore. 'How distant am I to her? She's hiding behind the dragon, I can't see where she is...'

He points his sword forward. The skeleton has climbed on the dragon again, as the dragon runs faster than the skeleton would on his own feet. The golden aura moves to the tip of the blade, Lui is completely unprotected. Without the barrier on his body, the demon feels even heavier, Lui's raw body lacks the strength to endure something like that clinging on his back.

But he doesn't bend, he stays strong. 'I'll offer you everything,' he whispers, in order to activate his finisher. The skill isn't known widely, as it could be said that it is a new product of evolution. It has been named 'Soul Drive,' a skill which only has been found in the possession of a few ultimates. Converting one's own vitality into an unmatched power, it is unleashed in various ways. Freezing the world, stopping time, bringing the dead back to life, it's a power which doesn't seem to have a limit. The cost, however, is something that can never be taken back.

A golden beam of starlight shoots forth from the tip of the blade. It wipes the dragon and skeleton from existence, they don't even return to the form of stardust, they truly disappear without a trace. If it continued shooting into a straight line, it would have wiped the woman away as well, she wouldn't even have time to react.

The recoil of that beam breaks Lui's right arm, making him release the sword. It doesn't even fall to the ground, the second it no longer is in contact with him, it turns into a star and vanishes. Lui falls to his knees, being crushed by the weight of the demon and of his own body, which is now entirely blue. His hair remains black, but from head to toes, his entire skin has turned into a light blue tone. His weight has surpassed the two hundred kilograms mark, which means he weighs as much as a giant, and yet his body remains the same size.

“Lui... Have you ever considered that you didn't simply admire and wanted to be like her?” The entire world has vanished. On a empty void of whiteness, the only thing Lui can see is Stromhyde.


“Did you never, even for a moment, think that maybe you love her?”

“...Did being with Rafil for too long affect your mind?”

“...Perhaps,” the boy and the sea monster laugh. And soon after that, the empty void has no one within it.

When returning to the real world, he lands on the sidewalk like a boulder, his ribs and concrete alike cracking on the impact. Alice looks at him wondering if sacrificing himself was worth it, considering he didn't achieve anything with it. 'Well, guess destroying a spirit meant to represent his heart's sadness must have felt releasing,' she shrugs, smirking.

“I'm surprised you're still there with that girl,” Alice raises an eyebrow, turning to Ares and the still unconscious Clay.

“I considered going into the building, but...When you enter the last dungeon, normally the story progresses through a bunch of cutscenes and you can't come out anymore.”

“...Wouldn't it better to say you worried too much to leave even for a minute? Isn't it embarassing to say all of that with a straight face?”

“I feel no shame when in front of strangers.”

“That's a curious peculiarity. I assure you there'll be no cutscenes, so please come in,” she points to the door, but Ares doesn't move. “I can't carry him by myself, but maybe the two of us can do it. It's better than leaving him here, being smashed by his own weight.”

She is suspicious, of course. She doesn't feel like trusting her. But she can't deny she doesn't want to continue carrying the girl and nor does she want to leave Lui there, so she complies. Dragging him in proves to be quite a difficult task, even with the two of them, but they ultimately manage to leave him on a couch, lying together with Clay.

“Do you think it will break? I mean, it's pretty much the weight of five people...” Alice bites her thumb worrying about breaking something that doesn't belong to her.

“It probably can stand that much. Are we done playing buddies now?” She isn't trying to hide how angry she is at that moment, but only her voice shows any sort of emotion. Almost as if she has exceeded the limits of her emotions and entered an expresionless state because of that.

“Are you so lonely that just working together and having a small chat is enough to make you feel like someone is a friend? That's sad,” Alice snickers, pretending to actually pity Ares.

“...Before I address that, I have a question,” Ares points to the boy that just appeared within the room and, without saying anything, watched them. “How long has he been here for?”

“Hm, at the same time he just got here, he has been here for a while?” She doesn't understand the question, which is why she decides to give an open answer.

“Isaac. Is this where you were while gone?” Her tone is harsh, not changing at all from when she talked to Alice. Not intentionally, but she ends up sounding more threatening than she wanted to sound.

“...” He averts his gaze. 'Does this mean what I think it means?' Ares asks herself.

“Hey, don't bully Isa!” Alice steps in between the two, covering Isaac. Ares wouldn't try to get close to him, but it's her eyes that Alice wants to protect him from.

“...So it's that sort of thing, huh? I'm not particularly angry or anything. At him, at least, your case is different,” Ares grins, taking a step away from the woman. “Go ahead, open your gate.”

Bottomless darkness. Inexistence of heat. For her, just a momentary return to her old life, nothing out of the ordinary. She even finds it relaxing that it only lasts for a second. The battlefield she is sent to after that is the average wasteland, which also makes her feel less anxious. If it were a beautiful place, it'd make her sad to destroy that environment. 'I see this place so often... I wonder if it isn't always the same wasteland I end up coming to.'

Alice calls for a core, and the one that appears is heavy and vile. She hasn't battled that much, but she can tell a core that's as filthy as the one that appeared isn't normal. It feels hollow, and doesn't gather any light. Rather than getting a radiance, it slowly becomes darker, consuming the light around it, instead of gathering it on itself.

It falls to the ground and breaks, releasing clouds of purple smoke and orange flames. From within that mass, a winged monster comes out. To call it a phoenix is incorrect, it has no beak or feathers. To call it a bat is also a mistake, it isn't a mammal nor has any fur. A winged snake whose anatomy mimics that of a bird. Its wings are made of orange flames, its neck is freakishly long, it has feet with small talons. At the same time it appears, the red rings form around Alice's wrists and head.

Not giving a single minute to the enemy to think of doing anything, Ares summons Baldanders right away, and, as usual, the chimera comes into the battlefield already leaping towards the enemy like a mad dog. It grabs the snake with its lion head and throws it against the ground, stepping on its chest to keep it down while dragon and lion maul its body.

It could offer no resistance, in just a few seconds it is ripped to pieces, disappearing in a cloud of stardust. 'I don't know... the amount of rings and how close they are to her body make it seem she's on her limit already, but something seems... off,' while Ares hesitates, the insane beast already prepares to take the Alice on next.

Just as it turns its back to the dust, every speck of it bursts in orange flames, and as the flames take form of wings, the snake body simply appears between them, like a ghost taking solid form. It flaps its wings towards the chimera, creating a weak gust of wind. It doesn't blow Baldanders away nor binds it down like Shino's winds, but something is clearly being carried on that gust.

In very small particles, but the flames are being carried along with the wind, falling on top of Baldanders and slowing down its movements. Almost as if it experiences rigor mortis once more, its body becomes stiff, it cannot continue its advance. The snake flutters close to the chimera and screeches. A loud sound that pierces Ares' ears like needles. That single soundwave makes Baldanders disappear, almost as if it were never there to begin within.

Even a reanimated corpse has life within it. Though made of magic, there certainly is something that moves the undead. And if it has any sort of fuel, it can be stolen. The purple specialty, a power that doesn't require strength: life draining. In this spirit's case, it made stealing the life from Baldanders even easier. Ares doesn't know the exact cause or explanation, but she knows those flames are related to how it did it.

“A snake which pretends to be a phoenix, eternally returning to life, only to steal away the life of others... Aren't you quite the interesting person?” Ares plans on punching that woman once for each time she laughs, she can't stand that constant smile on her face. “Wait. If it pretends to be a bird, doesn't that make you Robin? I didn't recognize you without the mask.”

“...I'm not here as Robin today. I'm not striking justice for others, it's for my own sake... and the sake of my friends.”

“Ugh, what an embarassing woman, stop watching cartoons please, they're clearly rotting your mind...” The woman frowns, but her face doesn't last three seconds in that expression.

The snake dives towards Ares, its mouth wide open, all of its fangs bare. 'The stage is yours for once,' Ares thinks, opening the portal which connects to hell herself. The combo that hits the snake is too fast for the eyes to catch, but easy to explain in words. The bear hand closes the snake's mouth and holds it shut with the help of the two frontal legs. The rapier-holding hand thrusts one of the snake's eyes, and right after the sword cuts a deep slash on its 'neck.' The devil then uses the grip it has on the snake to spin itself around and get on top of its head, continuing to slash the same area as before and applying force with the hindlegs, all for the end of beheading it.

Instantly killed by Galvados, almost immediately reborn, the devil couldn't even land before it returned. The orange flames fall on top of it, but unlike Baldanders, Galvados doesn't seem to be affected. Not even the creature's screech could take it down, despite of how quickly it took care of Baldanders.

“Leave this one with me, go straight for her, it's the only way this will be over.”

“Galvados... You play the role of the worst devil, but you're actually the most gentle one there is, aren't you?”

“Don't start developing Stockholm on me,” the devil continuously slashes the snake, even as they talk.

'No, for real,' a purple energy covers Ares' left hand, turning it into a shape similar to Galvados' bear hand. 'Now, before and years ago... You've been always saving me. You're a gentle god,' she makes a run for it, if she stabs the woman with Vampiric Nail, the chances of her mind not admitting defeat are low. She has avoided using any sort of purple magic on humans, but this time she'll make an exception, as that woman is very bothersome.

'I'm certain you've saved more people as well, there's no way I'm a chosen one. Later you might have picked me as your host, but on that night years ago, you just wanted to give me a chance. To inspire me with hope, to make me reach out my hand,' she keeps talking her heart out, just by thinking about how there's only a few more people to defeat, she starts feeling very positive.

'I've always wondered why I was abandoned. But deep down I knew, you know? My parents couldn't afford two children. My little brother would never survive by himself, so I was the one to be released. At the same time I thought they liked me the least, I also thought that maybe they trust me more than him. That they believed I would make it somehow. It's a cruel expectation, but they were right. I'd like to see them someday and tell them I made it. I wonder what faces they'd make, probably the face of someone who has seen a ghost.'

She has realized. She is painfully aware. Aware that, in just a few seconds, she has thought about countless things. It's just a small stride, passing through the battling spirits and stabbing the woman. It all started when she got close, when she leaped forward, when she prepared to dig her nails deep into Alice. When she got to that point, it was almost as if time stopped so she could continue until she was done with her thoughts. 'Is this... that? Time moving slower when you're gonna...'

“Burst,” Alice closes her eyes, a cloud of smoke comes out of her chest.

She didn't bother to tell Ares about her 'power' and 'limitation' concerning summoning. She has two summons, both related to personality of the opponent. In Lui's case, an ultimate that returns from the dead and climbs onto the back of someone else and an undead spirit, hollow, yet looking for the reason there is a flame burning within him. A spirit that is aware it has lost something, that there is something he must find. As for the boy... maybe even on his last moments one couldn't say if he had become aware of all he had forgotten. And on Ares' case, the second representation of her soul comes in the form of...

“...A lone knight in shining armor. Despite his aloof nature, when he senses peril, he will come to rescue his allies, whether they still acknowledge him as friend or not...” Alice sounds melancholic, both her eyes and voice are filled with sadness. “You're an interesting person, aren't you?”

The first thing to appear on that summon was the knight's blade, which pierced all the way through Ares abdomen, and only then the knight appeared. She's suspended in midair, her body halfway into the epee's blade. She couldn't react in time, she could only see it coming and accept her fate. She coughs blood, the splatter hits the knight's helmet. Feeling disgusted by having his armor sullied in that way, he removes the blade and wipes the blood away from it. She lifelessly hits the ground, blood gushing out of her mouth and belly.

Galvados howls. Its eyes, which always shone with purple light, turn a crimson red color. It kills the snake, which reforms itself instantly, only to be killed once more. Rinse and repeat, the devil kills it three times in the span of a minute. To put it in human terms, it could be called 'venting.' For anyone else, that would be going berserk, certainly, but on this case, it's an unique method to 'vent.'

Because the otherworld didn't collapse, Galvados can continue fighting like this. Since it didn't collapse, it means Ares isn't afraid of the pain, nor has she accepted defeat. Because she believes she can still fight. She has to protect Erika and Sirin, she still has to save Solon, she still has to avenge Lui. Isaac is the only one she knows is fine, which is why she doesn't worry about him.

Ares catches fire. Purple flames surround her entire body, from the last strand of hair to the tip of her toes, everything has become a blazing purple flame. The flaming woman stands up and walks towards Alice once more. Lancelot tries to strike her again, but there's no mass within that flames, the thrust goes straight through her, as it would do with any natural flame.

“Hm, to think I didn't see this coming despite both of us being purple-users... Is that a curse? Or a destructive curse?” Alice opens her arms, allowing Ares to embrace her and hugging her back as well.

'This power was meant to used so I could become friends with others, wasn't it? By looking at her soul, I couldn't help but want to become friends with her. She is too... pure-hearted to think of as an enemy,' Alice apologizes to Ammie as her body is enveloped by the flames. They don't burn, but she can feel her life is being taken away from her.

And a sound. She can hear a sound coming from within the flames, a melodic, quiet sound. Humming. At this moment, Ares is singing a childish, upbeat tune. Alice laughs. 'You really are interesting, aren't you?' As the otherworld crumbles, Alice caresses Ares' head. 'Right now, who do you think you're hugging? I could look into your heart and find out, but... there's a limit to how rotten I can be.'

Two more bodies return to the real world. Whether they're lifeless or unconscious doesn't matter at all to the single conscious person on that room, the only thing that matters to him is that the one relevant person is asleep, but certainly safe. While he thinks about that, he notices that the barrier which blocked him from approaching the stairs is gone. 'If that is gone... there's only one conclusion I can get to. All this time we spent battling on the otherworld sure did us in, huh?'

Upon finding the building, Erika jumped off the horse and entered it without thinking twice. She just left the horse outside, since, as odd as it may sound, she hasn't seen any humans for a while. At first riding across the streets was bothersome because of pedestrian and vehicles, but there has been no sign of human life anywhere on a three blocks radius from the building.

“...Why are you looking at your collapsed friends with such cold eyes?” After seeing what happened to Sirin, Erika fears that the worst might have come to Isaac as well.

“In this world, I only have one friend, don't get the wrong idea,” the walls around him are as thick as ever, he'll forbid anything and anyone from entering it.

“Am I talking to Isaac or Rizelfar?” She needs to make sure, even if she doesn't know if the god would admit such a thing after possessing his body.

“What are you even talking about?”

“...Damn,” she's in doubt about how to take care of this situation. Both Ares and Lui are out cold, she wonders if nothing weird happened between them and their gods as well.

“I don't know what you might be thinking about, but I'll say it's too late. The goddess is already back,” it's his guess about the situation, but he's confident enough to feel saying that isn't bluffing.

“Really? Then by now, Sirin...!” 'Wrong, Erika. If I'm still here, the goddess isn't back yet. Isaac is just acting weird,' Rafil gets Erika's mind back on topic.

“Hey. Before our powers are gone, I need to have one go at you.”


“I need to battle you once. I absolutely need to curbstomp you at least once.”

“I'm... still lost.”

“Of course you'd be. There's just two things you need know: There's no one I hate more than you.”

“...And the second?” She's used to hearing such things. Hatred, jealousy, anger, people have despised her since young age, online and offline, anonymously and right in front of her, outside and within her home.

“...I'll explain everything after the battle, if you're still standing,” he smirks. 'There really is something weird about him... Has he gone haywire without Solon? Not to say I'm not liking him more like this,' Erika comments internally. “Do you mind if I do the honors?”

“...It's only gentlemanly to open the door for the lady, isn't it?” She overwrote every etiquette class with random facts, mostly about games, she read on the internet, she really doesn't know.

“In that case... Gate Open!”

The two siblings traverse across the gates. For the boy, a 'revenge' he has thought of ever since the truth came to him. For the girl, the one and only chance she'll have to ever obtain the truth she never imagined was hidden. Two more actors reach towards their finale, while three are left waiting for their chance to climb the stage.