New characters, new drama, new battles, the plot is set into motion.
(The Bad: The file corrupted due to a forced shutdown and I lost all my progress. The good: the chapter got better the second time around. 12 pages this time, shorter than chapter 2, a nice size in my opinion.)
Amidst a foggy bog, submerged down to her ankles on water, stands a girl. Half of her face covered by a mask that resembles a bird. Other than the mask, she wears green shorts and a black tanktop. The feeling of wet socks make her quite uncomfortable, but she ignores it. The thrill of battle distracts her from such things.
She's getting attacked. She can hear them slashing through the wind, flying towards her. A pair of rhinoceros beetles. Saying it like so might make them sound harmless, but they're the size of turtles, their carapace as tough as a helmet. Not the type of bug a human squashes with a newspaper.
Each of them comes from one side. Before they even come into her field of vision, she crosses her arms. A purple aura surrounds her hands, moving like an amoeba.
“Assassinate,” the moment the two beetles become visible, she closes her hands as if breaking something within them. Barely visible by human eyes, skeleton hands appear over the beetles, grasp them in the same motion as hers. The hands don't touch them, what they clutch isn't their physical form. The beetles faint and vanish, the skeleton hands along with them.
The aura from her hands flows towards her back and gathers like a bulging sprout. She takes a step forward. 'When I walk it feels pretty bad...' the water flowing into her boots makes the feeling even worse. Yet, she presses forward, running towards her opponent. She can faintly feel his presence, a living being that is different from the spirits.
While she runs, she starts hearing flapping wings. A small bug this time. Coming at her from the front. 'If it's small...' she extends her hand once more. By her calculations, in just a few more steps it'll come in contact with her. Before she even sees the bug, she already casts her spell.
“Bloody Coffin,” the aura around her hand becomes a line and hook, which makes itself longer until going through the ground. She pulls it like a reel and a casket bursts from underground, opening its lid as it reaches the surface. The bug flies straight into it, and, just like that, it closes itself once more. Dozens of swords manifest, all piercing through the casket, which then once more returns to within the earth.
The aura which turned into a reel flows towards her back too, causing leaves to grow on the sprout, along with a small budding. She worries about that plant growing on her, but she catches visual of her opponent. This battle is soon ending, she won't have much to worry for much longer. That's what she thinks at least. Over-focused on her objective, she fails to notice the man smiles. He's expecting her, he's waiting for her to come close. It's all a trap.
She closes her fist, prepared to land a blow on the guy. But when two steps away from having him within her range, the fog is blown away by a windstorm, she can barely keep her balance. Before she could even see what was coming, she's grabbed by large talons and lifted into the air.
She has sharp ears, trained to notice even the smallest sounds. But if it moves faster than sound, she'll be taken by total surprise, obviously. The man's true spirit, MachHououga. A blue phoenix with crimson wings and golden blades bulging from its ribs and nape. For a moment, the girl panicked. Even for an experienced battler, it's hard to become used to everything that happens on the battlefield.
She feared being dropped from an absurd height, but the bird kept still at ground level, holding her immobilized body in front of the man. A white suit, short, fat. Might be wearing a wig. But more important than his general appeareance, is his money. He's a rich individual.
He takes a good look at the struggling girl, trying to find out if she's someone he knows or not. But due to her mask, it becomes difficult to tell for sure. He closes in to remove it. He lays his hand on her face and she screams. He's not a devil, despite being the enemy, so her scream makes him take a step back. She wasn't afraid, she just didn't want to have her mask removed. Once the momentary surprise passes, he once again attempts to remove her mask.
But she falls to the ground right before he touches her. Just like that, she slips from Hououga's talons. That's what he thinks at first. But right after she falls, Hououga lets out a sharp cry and vanishes. The girl stands, water dripping from her entire body. Her hand once again shines purple, the light around it shaped much like Hououga's talons.
“Vampiric Nail,” The light flows into the sprout on her back, which becomes a blossoming purple flower.
From within the petals, a scythe-wielding specter comes out like a cloud of smoke. Having his spirit depleted like that, followed by the sight of the grim reaper is enough to knock out the man. But that reaper didn't come for him. As the otherworld disappears, the reaper swings down his scythe at the girl's neck.
Purple, especially the magic, consists of crimes. Murder, kidnapping, theft. As the battler kills and steals from the opponent, a karmic effect slowly builds up. For each and every 'crime,' more that flower grows, ultimately blooming into the reaper and taking the user's own life, in case the battle doesn't end right away, as was the current case. The girl has named it Bloom of Purple.
Back on the real world, the girl throws up. Only a small side effect from the Bloom, she escaped maximum penality by a hair's width. While she vomits, the old man she battled with has foam bubbling on his mouth and his eyes have gone white, he's out cold. She walks up to him, wiping her mouth, and looks around for his wallet.
“Tch, I didn't get to do anything again,” a fearsome voice speaks within her. The voice strikes a fear identical to that of when you're walking alone on a dark night, a cold cylinder touches your back and you hear 'Drop everything of value.' When she first heard it, on a series of nightmares that tormented her, she almost lost her mental stability. She got used to it eventually, however.
“Didn't you give him visions of hell already? That's plenty of debut for you,” she counts the money. 'Five hundred bucks is pretty good,' she takes only the money. She'd take the credit card as well, but she wouldn't manage to use it anyway.
“No, I want the spotlight, the center of the stage, all eyes on me,” most would cower by listening to such a voice claim to desire something. The girl only continues to treat it as a little child.
“Well, just from thinking of summoning you I already feel a flower growing on my back. Better luck on your next life, Galvados,” she shrugs, quite smug. Her conversation is interrupted by a beam of light hitting her face. She doesn't even try to check who or what it might be, she just runs away.
After that escape sequence, she invades an orphanage. The kitchen's window is open and she simply jumps through it. However, she was expected. A black-skinned boy, a scar over his left eye, pouring two cups of tea. When she enters, he smiles and sits by a long table, drinking a cup. She takes the other and sniffs it, sitting on a chair as well, quite distant from him.
“Didn't I tell you to get me red tea? I'm not into green. Is that how you show your gratitude to me?”
“Are you doing it for gratitude?” He raises an eyebrow.
“No! I just like the feeling of taking from others. I have no use for this, personally,” she puts the stolen money on the table. “But the least you could do was bring me the tea I like.”
“I'll try to remember next time I go shopping.”
“Hmph,” despite her complaints, she drinks the tea. The two spend a silent time together, only the occasional sipping reverberating through the quiet room.
“How long has it been...?”
“You should be the one to know, since you're the one getting the money.”
“Haha, that's too bad. I have serious memory problems, I'll never know the answer.”
“Are you planning on using that as an excuse to not buy the tea I asked you to?”
“I'll make sure to make a note of it.”
She stares at him in disbelief. Not that he would be able to tell through the mask, but perhaps simply by the time they've known each other, he can figure she doesn't believe him a bit. Having finished her tea, she jumps through the window and runs into the night. The boy quietly watches her as she goes, thinking 'if she asked for it, I'd totally open the front door...”
His name is Lui. He might not be the owner of the orphanage, but he's responsible for a lot of things in there. One day he just happened to see her come in at late night and leave some money along with a note asking for it to be spent well. Ever since then, he's tried to always leave something for her to take, be it food, some drink or a small gift, and on occasions where she arrives while he's still awake, they chat for a while. At first, she did it with money she earned, but once her power awakened, she started stealing from people that have too much and misuse it. The man she attacked today burned thousands of his riches on hostess bars and such, she felt he could handle losing a few hundreds to help the children.
A large room. A large bed, a large wardrobe, large bookcases. The bed could handle a couple, their two children and a dog easily. The wardrobe could have all of their clothes and shoes and there would still be some free space for the dog's house. The bookcases contain over three hundred books, from every genre of fiction and fantasy to world history, economy, martial arts, cooking. All of this belongs to a single person.
A girl sits on her bed, typing on a top-notch computer. Under the computer, a top-notch cooling pad. She types and types, constantly smiling, laughing and in general looking very happy. By the door, watching all her expressions without making a sound, a maid. Despite being quiet, she's amazed to see the girl opening such a genuine smile.
“It's an unusual sight to see you being so joyful, Milady,” unable to contain her feelings, the maid speaks. The girl turns to her with a blank expression, staring at her for a while before saying anything. During that time, the maid was sure she offended the girl and this was the last of her time on the job.
“It's also unusual for you to talk to me. Save for the work-related stuff, I mean.” 'The car is ready we await for you alone, Milady,' 'You seem tired, I'll prepare your bath, Milady' and so on.
“It is not in my position to casually do conversation with you, Milady,” 'Rich people get offended so easily, especially from a lowly maid like me, if I had a loose mouth I wouldn't last a day on the job,' she thinks. She'd never voice that, but it's her reality.
“Hmm, but I could use having a friend on my own home...” 'So you can talk about how you even go down to the level of a poor person? Sorry, I'm not interested on being your token friend,' she's flipping the bird internally.
“If your father were to see the two of us being friendly, he'd-”
“When it's about me, Dad is a total softie, he wouldn't scold me, don't worry!” 'This is not about you, you damned self-centered brat,' she obviously was about say she'd certainly be fired.
“In that case, as you wish,” she figured out how to escape from this situation. It's easier than she first thought.
“...” As long as she doesn't actually talk, she'll be safe. A brilliant tactic that can be pulled in any situation. In fact, it was by being silent no matter what that she got so far on the job.
“So, how old are you?” 'Damn!' she didn't consider that possibility. Normal people would get a clue, but this girl is clearly a deviant.
“I turned twenty this year.”
“Really?! You don't look your age at all!” The girl actually stops typing for a while to give all her attention to the maid. 'Maybe I'm bad with telling ages.'
“I take good care of myself,” she contains her smile, but she feels quite triumphant from hearing that.
“If you're twenty... Does that mean you can drive?”
“I've got a license, yes.”
“Hmm... Can you take me to the city?”
“...I'll call your chaffeur right away,” the maid reaches for her communication device, but the girl leaps from her bed, tripping towards her while screaming 'no, no!'
“I want to go with you! It's way more fun to go with a friend,” she holds the maids hands to stop her from trying to go for the comm device again. “Do you have a vehicle on you today?”
“I came by bike today...” She sounds regretful.
“Hm... We can't take a limo, they'll notice... Do you think you can pedal with me riding on the back? I've seen that on romance-”
“I might have failed to express myself, I meant that I came with my motorbike.”
“...You mean like the ones Masked Riders drive?”
“Yes,” 'Sadly, they're the exact reason I decided to get a motorbike. Damned be the day I started admiring heroes of justice,' she would click her tongue if she could. She's feeling this might be the last of her. 'It's a Catch 22. If I refuse, she'll fire me over not answering to her whims. If I accept, her father will punish me when we get back. Which of these reasons damages my record less...?'
“Cool! Which reminds me, what's your name?”
“Ares. Call me Ries, it's cuter that way.”
“Nice to meet you, Ries! I'm Erika.” She offers Ares her hand, smiling
“I know, Milady,” 'you don't need to know the name of a single servant, but we all know your name,' reluctantly, she shakes hands with Erika. She opens the door and looks around. If she's doing it, she'll at least do it without anyone finding out, as Erika wishes. “I'll just change into my riding gear, you... wear something nice, but protective, I don't have any spares.”
'Slashing through the wind like a bullet, we traveled to the city. The mansion, the scenery, the buildings, everything was reduced to nothing but a blur behind us. Within that world, everything was brighter and even I felt lighter. It was exciting, but also scary. I felt that if I released my grip on Ares just a little, I'd fly away and become a blur myself. Many times I thought we wouldn't make it in time for a curve, but she changed directions at the very limit and we got through. She even moved through traffic like it was nothing. Like a ninja moves through a crowd, she drove her bike between cars and trucks and everything,' is the entry that will be found on Erika's diary later. As a child who barely leaves home, and, when she does leave, the chaffeur rides the car at a snail's pace, this was the first time she ever experienced true speed.
Somestimes Ares loses sight of her surroundings when she goes too fast. She parked the bike at a corner she thought was close to their destination, but only after stopping and looking around she knows whether or not she became blind while speeding. Erika expected her to park like a certain Akira character, but instead she gently and slowly stopped the bike by the sidewalk, like a mother leaving her baby on a crib.
“Home appliances... It's that place over there, right?” She sees a store where everything is chrome and that's what makes her figure that's the place. 'Nothing says rich people like chrome does.'
“Hmm... Probably, yeah,” Erika's head is spinning, she's dumbfounded. She couldn't even get off the bike without Ares' support, the feeling of going fast truly knocked her out of her senses.
The two walk into the store, Ares always three steps behind Erika. While most of the time she's the maid that answers to her whims, if the situation calls for it, she also doubles as bodyguard. She has training in judo and karate, just like Erika has. In reality, Erika is more skilled in martial arts than Ares is, but her father simply is against having his daughter dirty her own hands, which is why she has all those bodyguards.
As they left secretly, it's unlikely anyone would have prepared for a kidnapping. The last time she got attacked, it was done by a mad man who knew she'd be there for the opening of the Leondall's new mall. This time around, the only possibilities would be someone recognizing her and deciding to harass her in some way, or, by pure chance, a group of kidnappers just happened to be shopping on this very store.
“Look, Ries! This one here has room for four slices of bread, adjustable browning settings, easy to clean, stainless steel... and also makes waffles!” Erika points to a box, a wide grin on her face.
“Milady, did we come here to buy a toaster?”
“Didn't I say it before? I thought I did. But yes,” Inner Ares screams a thousand curses. She can't believe she's losing her job over a toaster.
“Milady, if you asked, any of your servants would buy a toaster for you, I don't think there was a need to do so in secrecy.”
“Well, it's not for me. It's for a friend,” 'you have friends?' An honest thought from Ares, she didn't mean it with any ill-intention.
“Is it anyone who visited? Recently, perhaps? You normally act so shy and quiet around guests, I wouldn't have imagined you'd have gotten so far as to befriend one.”
“No, obviously no. The people that come to our home are always these shallow people that think of nothing but their money and status, don't you find them quite boring?” For a moment, Ares almost thinks better of Erika, but then she figures it's probably hipocrisy from her part. 'I'm the only different rich person out there, everyone else is just so shallow, right,' that's what she translates the line as.
“If it's not anyone to have visited your home... Someone you talk to through your computer?” As they talk, Erika takes a box and carries it to the cashier.
“Paydirt!” Erika winks, smiling. 'She actually smiles quite often, doesn't she? No, currently she does. When I started, she certainly...'
“Is that person... what changed you?” She bluntly asks. She can figure that question might be impolite, but her feelings get the best of her.
“I've asked myself the same thing many times. Other than Sirin and Rafil, what appeared in my life that could change me...?” No matter how much she thinks, these two are all that pop up in her mind. She hands the box to the cashier, along with a small paper. “Can you deliver it to this address?”
“We do deliveries, but... This is a few cities over, the shipping fee would turn out to be-”
“Doesn't matter to me,” she hands the cashier her credit card. Ares feels injured, a direct blow on her soul. But at the same time, she feels like warming up to Erika. 'She's not burning money just for the sake of it, she's buying it for her friend. The only thing she ever buys for herself are cheap books, so maybe she...'
Erika finishes her purchase and the two leave the store. Without realizing, due to her being distracted by her thoughts surrounding Erika, the two walk side by side. Erika is happy she finally allowed the distance between them to decrease this much. Ares directs her attention to the bike. A suspicious pair squats by it, staring at the approaching two, exuding ill intent with their eyes. They have no apparent weapons on them, but they look dangerous.
A man and a woman. The guy has a mohawk, the woman a ponytail. He has a tattoo under his eye, just a pointless tribal-style mark, it doesn't look like anything in particular. The woman has a bandage on her cheek. They wear clothes ripped at the knees and elbows and some other random sections. The stereotype of drug addicts looking for trouble appears before them, in other words.
“Hey. This yours?” The guy just turns his neck, pointing to the bike with his head.
“Nope,” Ares bluffs.
“Hmm, is that so?” The woman stands up and kicks the bike down. Ares can feel it got scratched, her heels are thick. But she holds back, she's still on her job. She isn't her own person, she's watching over Erika.
“Yup. Now that you've kicked someone's bike, are you happy? Or are you particularly interested on us?” Ares doesn't even blink in front of the dangerous pair. She stands up against them without cowering.
“Yeah, I guess. You took something from one of us yesterday,” the guy checks his jacket's pocket and draws a switchblade. “We don't even want it back, we're just here to screw you up.”
“...Tch,” 'so from that brief moment they lit my face they managed to find out who I am? Or did they track me? That would mean the orphanage...!' her mind is filled with worries, but she doesn't forget her most important mission. She gets a firm grip on Erika's hand and turns around, dragging her along. “We're getting the hell out of here!”
“Hahaha, not so fast, little robin! Gate Open, Release!” The woman yells. Taken by total surprise, Ares is surrounded by the light of the gate and taken to the otherworld. While being transported, she reflexively puts her hand on her pocket and dons her mask. She doesn't like going anywhere without it, so it's always somewhere on her. And when battling, she always feels more confident while wearing it.
Mountains to the left. Mountains to the right. Trees, rivers, ponds. The clear blue sky and a gentle sun shining above. She was taken to a valley filled with life. Not able to withstand its beauty, she sheds a tear. So far, every battlefield she visited had dead vegetation, an eerie atmosphere or was just a complete deadland. It's her first time ever seeing such a beautiful place on the otherworld. She removes her mask to wipe the tear away.
“Are you okay, Ries? Why are you crying?” Erika asks. Ares feels a chill going through her entire body. 'What is Erika doing here, she shouldn't be here,' she repeats it dozens of times, like a prayer, her eyes wide open in shock.
“Milady, this place is dange-” She sees a six-winged woman floating behind Erika. She sits in midair with a leg crossed over one another. She's not even flapping her wings, she simply stands above the ground like that. She isn't hostile, and the two from before aren't even around. Ares can only assume one thing. “Your spirit is... gorgeous.”
“Oh my, thank you,” the angel laughs, very pleased. She didn't simply mean her looks. What she had in mind was that the representation of Erika's soul was a beautiful angel. Which can only mean... 'Erika truly is a pure, good person. Not a hypocrite or...'
“You've been making weird faces for a while, Ries. Is it your first time here?” She ignores that Ares knew Rafil was Erika's spirit.
“No, just... Wait, it's not your first time as well?”
“Well, I went through the tutorial scenario, this might be my actual first battle,” she hopes she gets to have a bigger role this time around. On her previous battle she really had no idea what was going on, but now Rafil taught her most of the basics. “But there's something that I'm curious about, Ries...”
“What is it?”
“Where is your spirit?”
“I... keep it stored unless truly necessary. It isn't something as pretty to look at as yours,” she turns around, searching far on the horizon for visage of a human or spirit. 'Chatting is fun and all, but this is still a battlefield.'
But she sees nothing. No matter what direction, there's nothing. Unless there's some kind of obstacle which hinders the sight, the battlers appear from a distance they can at least see each other or their spirits. 'But... could it be different since it wasn't me opening the gate? I never experienced this before...' Ares doesn't know what to expect.
The ground quakes. Rafil lifts Erika above ground so she doesn't fall, but Ares has no such help, she manages to continue standing by putting lots of effort into keeping still and maintaining her balance. It is no simple earthquake, it lasts for minutes. One of the mountains releases a cloud of ash towards the sky, turning it darker. Moments later, magma bursts forth and starts to slide down the mountain. The vegetation which covered the mountain is swallowed and destroyed.
Unlike any eruption they ever saw, this one feels much more savage. A sea of magma oozes from the volcano, constantly, wildly, almost like a broken dam. In a matter of time, all of the valley might be covered it if it doesn't stop. And from the mouth of that volcano, it can finally be seen. A red tyrannosaurus. Or perhaps it at least should be like one, the armor, standing straight, the long arms and the stone spikes growing on its back make it look like a mix of tyrannosaurus with dragon.
It runs down the mountain, roaring. Going straight for them, so it's clear it also has seen them already. What is the most worrying to the two is the fact it not only seems to have come from within the pool of magma, it walks over the lava like it is nothing. 'I believe it's safe to assume both the earthquake and the eruption were caused by it,' Erika correctly concludes.
Ares is beyond angry. She's fuming in rage. It's the first time she ever saw a beautiful place on the otherworld. And the first thing her opponents do is start destroying it. 'What kind of devil sees a place like this and decide to cover it in magma? I won't forgive it, I won't forgive it!'
They distance themselves as much as they can from the approaching lava, while also watching out for the advancing dinosaur. It moves faster than the lava, but they are able to handle it better than they would the lava at least. They head towards the area with more rivers and trees, the safest they could find on their situation. 'I sure hope these guys can't do summons, it'd be a pain if they... Wait a minute, they?'
She forgot. There were two people on the opponent's side when the gate opened. And if Erika got dragged, of course the two entered as well. She quickly changes her attention to her surroundings, somewhere, certainly, there is another foe. 'Only one appeared on the volcano, but where is it? Where is the second spirit hiding?'
She looks up. The last place any movie character ever looks at. And generally where the monster or killer happens to be hiding. A giant knight in golden armor falling straight onto them, sword in hands, bloodlust on his eyes. Even his sword is grotesque, it is covered in spikes. If it hits, they won't even be cut, they'll probably be impaled on the edge's length. 'But how can we dodge? Isn't it too late?' Ares continues running, still pulling Erika's hand.
Ares hears a zapping sound behind her. She turns around, a burst of light shoots from Erika. But rather than that beam, what catches her attention is that Erika's eyes and hair have gone yellow. The giant knight lands, his sword hits them with full force. Or it should, instead it simply doesn't connect, the white aura around the blade creates a repelling effect when around Erika.
Now that it is closer to them, they can see the knight isn't someone wearing an armor as it first seemed. It's a bugman. That golden armor is really just a carapace, a shell. The cape is a pair of large wings. The horns on the helmet are stags. It's a humanoid golden stag beetle knight. It might be four or five meters tall, the sword has around three. While they analyze it, they also notice the dragonsaur is almost caught up too. They can't run any longer, the distance they managed so far is all they're getting, unless they fight while retreating.
“How many more times can you do that?” Ares asks, panting.
“None,” blonde Erika is in far better shape. While she doesn't leave often, she does plenty of exercise since she was of young age, she has plenty of stamina.
“But you have more magic in stock, right?”
“Just what I'd expect from yellow.”
“If you need anything, I'll be over here, ok?” Rafil yells, meters behind them. She is not the fighting type, after all. She can offer undyingness for a while, but beyond that she can't do much. Especially against powerful-looking foes like these.
“...That's one trustworthy ally we got over there, don't you think?” Ares is amazed by Rafil's attitude, she never saw any spirit like that before. Erika doesn't reply, she only puts her hands together. Small particles of light gather between her palms, expanding and growing into a single, clear gem. A core. “You can do summons!?”
“Just... a few...” The core breaks and releases a summoned spirit.
“...Eh?” A red hat with gallant plume attached to it. A red garb decorated in gold ornaments. It appears displaying fencing skills that would make any human fencer's chin drop. The only problem. The only issue. Is that the one donning such clothes, the one exhibiting those skills... is a penguin. A small, plump penguin. Something out of a children's book. “Is this... what you meant to summon, Milady?”
“Yeah!” Ares turns to their opponents. The dinodragon has arrived. The beetle is still surrounded by the light that makes it harmless. Their penguin is still showing off. 'She probably doesn't have energy for another summon, I'll buy some time,' Ares whispers, taking the penguin on her hands and lifting it. Purple aura flows from her arms to the penguin's sword.
“Swing it now!” She yells. The confused penguin continues slashing the air, but this time his slashes shoot crescent moon-shaped purple rays. They hit the beetle and dinosaur, but it doesn't do any damage on them or affects them at all. She drops the penguin and can't contain her anger. “Damn it, does Mark of Zorro have a limitation too?!”
She knows Assassinate and Bloody Coffin don't work on stronger or larger enemies, but she never ran on any trouble with Mark of Zorro, she assumed it would work on anyone. But now the sprout has a leaf already and she didn't do any damage. 'I guess I can at least afford to...' A core appears on her palm and is crushed by a skeleton hand, the shards bury themselves into the ground, and from the soil they were buried in, a small skeleton of black bones raises, wearing ragged clothes and wielding a short short and a wooden shield. From summoning that small spirit, Bloom of Purple only grew another leaf.
Erika looks at it with eyes that say 'yours is cute too!' which makes Ares sigh. 'Why can't I be paired with a red player, they'd certainly read the mood in this situation.' She did what she could. She can only hope that, somehow, these two manage to protect them until they find a chance to seize victory.
The dinosaur goes straight for the penguin, whipping its tail on it. The first attempt misses, the penguin tries to approach the dinosaur in order to stab it, but with its size, no matter how fast it runs, it barely moves forward. The second tail whip hits it square on the beak, it is flunged backwards. It hits the ground and bounces on the floor. It didn't break or vanish, it seems to have become some sort of rubbery material, which stopped it from being defeated.
“Battle Cancel!” Another yellow spark flashes on Erika's eyes. A spell similar to Absolute Zero, but while Absolute stops the enemy from dealing damage, Battle Cancel makes the weakest spirit unbeatable. A battle that ends without a result.
The white barrier around the beetle vanishes, and, without a moment of hesitation, he starts his attack as well, preparing his sword for a swing. Ares looks at the skeleton, the skeleton looks at her with sad empty sockets. 'You're up,' she points to the advancing beetle. The skeleton heads forward with determination, but before it can do anything at all, it is demolished by the sword and vanishes.
Spirits generally have one-tracked minds, they can only focus on a single thing at once. They prepare to attack and the first thing that appears before them is what they target. Some are more violent and target other spirits, some are clever and ignore spirits, instead going straight for the battler. By this interaction alone, she can figure what behavior these two possess.
While the enemy spirits were distracted with their spirits, the two take the chance and run some more. As it couldn't accept not defeating it, the dinosaur kept stomping the rubber penguin. And after destroying the skeleton, the beetle tried to kill it as well. Erika feels sorry for it, but she knows it couldn't be helped. They run past Rafil, who follows them so she can once more stand meters behind the place they decide to stop.
“Ok, any plans?”
“Battle Cancel only lasts for a short while, they've probably killed that Pentan by now...”
“They're not so distant that you can't see how it ended, just turn around.”
“I don't wanna see,” she pouts.
“Well, I'll tell you they're coming straight for us then. What now, you got anything cool to summon there?”
“I can summon Knight Pentan!”
“That won't do much for us, I believe. You saw what happened to the last one.”
“They're better when you get a bunch of them out.”
“Do you have any experience on building a penguin army?”
“No... But Rafil told me they work like that.”
“That's good to know, but that weird dinosaur goes straight for your spirits, you won't manage to bring them all out if you need to do it one by one.”
“I'm not that great at summoning, I can only manage one at a time...”
“Then we need another plan. Maybe we can fend them off with magic alone?”
“I don't have any attack magic on me.”
“...And with my limit, I won't manage to abuse magic. Well, let's go with the flow and see how it turns out,” Ares shrugs. She's all out of options, that is all she can think of.
“Okay, I'll try to help you as much as I can! We'll get out of this,” Erika nods, confident. Or at least trying to be confident. 'If Sirin's Magna was here, I'm sure he'd destroy these two with a single punch...'
Ares summons another dark skeleton. The bud appears on the tip of the sprout. She's almost on the limit, she'd guess around halfway there. But what can be done about it? The first one to appear is the beetle, once more swinging down his sword. His eyes shine red and he's letting out a raging growl-like sound. 'This is probably the guy's spirit, it really hates our guts,' Ares wonders about these spirits' owners as she commands the bone soldier to intercept again.
“Illusion Mirror!” The dinosaur appears behind Erika. Ares freaks out, mostly because now there's one in front of them and one behind them. But it runs past them, straight for the other dinosaur. The two start biting and clawing each other, but none get damaged. The second one doesn't even seem to be trying to attack, only... to amuse the first one. But the first one is seriously engaging it. “It'll be distracted for now, did you think of anything?”
“...I'll protect you, Erika!” Ares yells, shaping her finger like a gun and pointing to the beetle. “Poison Shoot!”
A purple bullet shoots forth from her finger and lodges itself onto the beetle's body. It is naught but a small needle when compared to him, it did little more than Mark of Zorro did. But as for Bloom, the petals are growing and opening. Ares has resolution, she'll go all out. She shoots once more, and another time and yet another time. The pellets she shoots aren't doing anything to the beetle. She made a bad decision, and it would have been easy to avoid if she didn't let her blood boil and remove her focus from the important things.
That bugman is a green spirit. Green is the opposite of Purple in style. Green represents wealth, abundance, abuse, life. Purple represents theft, jealousy, greed, murder. Even if you steal from those who have a lot, it won't matter to them. They have much more where that came from after all. She might weaken it, but she won't kill it, she won't steal its life away.
However, it's not the effect, but the cause that feeds Bloom of Purple. Even if she doesn't succeed, she's still trying to kill. The flower blooms. Ares feels sick to her stomach, her knees grow weak. This isn't Bloom's effect, however. Until the Grim Reaper slices through her, she won't feel anything.
“What are you doing... I'm not calling for you!”
“Well... That is one among the many privileges I possess.” The voice that echoes through the otherworld makes both Rafil and Erika afraid. Erika feels that which just spoke is scarier and more threatening than any person that ever assaulted her. While they are scary, she knows they're human and she can deal with them. But this one... sounds like a true devil, something out of this world. Rafil, however, fears exactly because she knows it is a devil that spoke. A being that manages to represent every sort of ill or negative feeling.
A circle opens on the ground, beneath Ares. She looks below and can see hellfire, wailing souls begging for release from their torture. A sight she saw many times on the nightmares she had. And using these souls as stepping stones, galloping towards the circle, the being which resides within her soul.
Words can't give justice to its appearance. It walks on four legs like a centaur and has four arms as well. Its has wings like those of a bat, which might make the arm count actually be six. But save for the finger-like bones, the wings are made an ethereal material which glows on different colors of the color spectrum depending on the light which shines on it. Two arms hold bright purple swords, a saber and a rapier, both covered in thorns. One arm has a hand like a bear's, covered in fur and ending in long, sharp claws. The remaning arm holds a silver shield. Seemingly the most normal arm, but one of the edges of the shield is bladed, so it can also be used as a weapon. All of its legs end in threatening talons, to the point it seems that anything it would attempt to hold with those claws would instead be ripped to shreds.
Four yellow horns grow on its head, two on the sides, considerably larger than the ones growing on the top of it, which grow vertically, spreading into two in a Y-shape. They're torn like branches and some bulges on them make it seem that more horns would grow from these horns, given enough time. Its eyes are nothing but a light purple glow, no pupils, no iris, perhaps there's no actual eyes, just a light shining from within.
On its waist, where the humanoid demon and gryphon-like demon connect, it wears a belt made of animals skulls. As they're oddly-shaped, one would correctly assume they're no wordly animal. And as if to make a mockery of everything else concering it, one of the heads wears a helmet with angel wings. Finally, it has a tail which seems to be purely made of bone, but the same dark scales that cover its entire body also cover it. There seems to be no meat in it, but it is prehensile. Whether it is magic or muscle that makes it move is just one of the many mysteries surrounding the composition of the creature.
It leaps forth from the circle, its arms wide open, a large smile on its hideous face. 'I'm free!' it screams, making insanity echo through the otherworld. It dashes through Ares, standing on its four hindlimbs in midair, looking down on battlers and spirits alike. On its bear-like hand, a purple flower.
Ares immediately puts her hand on her nape. There's nothing there. In fact, there's only a few cut marks. She didn't even feel it being removed, she didn't know it could be removed. Smoke comes out of the flower, the specter appears. Galvados meets eyes with it, but it is a mere mechanism, not a living being. It swings down its scythe and cuts Galvados.
A single slash, a slash that splits it in half. But as the halves come apart, no blood drips, only a light like the one on its eyes. It increases in radiance, somehow shaking space itself, a quaking that spreads through the air. He laughs. Loudly, creepily. Rafil takes some steps back and draws on the air with her scepter. A yellow circle hovers over her, she hides beneath it like a human under an umbrella.
Galvados explodes. When spirits die, they twinkle like stardust and disappear, like a ghost that was never there. An explosion is unheard of. And what follows as well. Stakes rain down on them. They phase through Erika and Ares, but pierce the beetle and the dinosaur. But after they hit, a pair of arms grows from these stakes and they dig themselves deeper. And it's a true rain, hundreds or thousands of stakes come down and enter the enemy spirits bodies. The ones that fly towards Rafil all bounce away upon hitting her 'umbrella.'
The enemy spirits cry and squirm in pain, but there's nothing they can do, the stakes are within their systems, piercing their organs, ripping their muscles apart, sapping their vitality. That is Galvados' curse, a power that only activates once it dies. However, the more negative karma is gathered, stronger the explosion. Ares had gone beyond her limit when casting her spell over and over, and then, above all of that, there was the fact Galvados forced her into summoning it. Never before had her karma gotten this negative, which means, in other words, never before it had the chance to cause an explosion of this level.
The two spirits crumble and vanish. They wish they could have vanished a long time ago, so their suffering would end, but the stakes didn't offer them such a quick death. Until the entirety of their bodies had been sapped of every nutrient and liquid, only then they were allowed to die. Rotting like corpse whilst alive, the beetle and dinosaur finally turn into stardust and disappear.
After the two vanish, Ares realizes the earth also has been sapped. The ground, the grass, the trees, it all has gone dry and started dying. The lava wasn't even close to them, but the environment got destroyed anyway. Because of her spirit. 'Is this why we're not allowed to see beautiful places? Because all battlers do is destroy everything?!' She cries, as the most beautiful place she's ever seen begins to crumble.
“What is it?” the voice of the devil which died moments ago rings inside her head.
“You're gonna make them see hell, right?”
“That's the punishment for losing against us, yes.”
“Take me along, I want to question one of them. You can do that, right?”
“The other one can go with the usual, though.”
A circus. A tent with stripes that alternate between white and red, an audience sitting on benches, a clown running around on a monocycle, honking a horn. While there's not a single seat empty, the audience is just a bunch of shadows. Laughter echoes nonstop. Ares has a ball on her hand and three by her side, on a small table. Some meters in front of her, the guy which threatened her with a blade sits on a small platform, a target above his head. Below him, a pool filled with hungry sharks.
Even if it's just a nightmare, an illusion, the body won't know, the brain will believe it. He'll truly be feeling how it is to be devoured alive, even if when returns to conciousness, or perhaps the correct should be if he returns to consciousness, his body will be whole. The scars left on his mind are what matters, not the ones on his body.
“So, we meet again. There's just a few things I wanna know,” she says, throwing the first ball. She misses, though, instead she hits the clown and he falls from his monocycle. The audience goes wild. “First. You people aren't normal humans. Your 'boss' or whatever knew how to summon. That's not a basic skill. Your girlfriend or whatever opened the gate. Mind explaining what you are?”
“You should know. Judging by your guardian deity and how you striked at our leader, you certainly know who we are.”
“I think I don't know. And you're in barely any position to play tough,” she throws another ball. The clown which had just gotten back on the monocycle is hit again and falls once more. The audience is shedding tears out of laughter.
“We're bringing back the one true goddess, we don't need people like you!” He can't move. There's nothing on him, but he feels as if his entire body is chained.
“People like me? True goddess? My guardian deity? You're speaking in riddles. But I guess you got something against me. And maybe against Galvados, and I honestly can't blame you for either of these,” she throws the third ball. It hits the target, but it didn't have enough force to knock down the platform.
“The Six Absolute Deities are just a shadow of the true goddess! No matter how many attacks all of you deal on us, we'll just continue growing and approaching our objective!” Naturally, this isn't how he would normally talk on a situation like this, it's only a side effect of her victory. She's dealing with his mind, not his physical form. In this form, he voices his thoughts in raw form. 'The fact he can't answer anything straight means he doesn't truly know, he's just been fed with delusions and told to act on that... Is he from some sort of cult?'
“Last question. I'll ask before throwing, for obvious reasons. Did you guys do anything to the orphanage?” She prepares to pitch but freezes on the position.
“Your friend is probably toast already,” he laughs. Ares nods and throws the ball. She aimed for a while, but only hit the edge of the target this time. The ball drops on his head, then onto the pool. He continues to laugh, she didn't even get close to knocking him down on any of the four tries, there was nothing to fear.
“Boo,” Galvados appears behind him, his face inches away from the man's, as if it was there all along, and pushes him. He falls onto the pool screaming, and, on the brief moments he had between drowning and being devoured, a few more screams could be heard. “But to think this is the sort of place you imagine as Hell...”
“I just made it up for this situation. Thanks to you, I've experienced Hell firsthand.”
“You're welcome. Did you get what you wanted?”
“Yes. Let's hurry back.”
The curtains fall down, darkness envelops her, even Galvados disappears within it. She closes her eyes and takes a deep breath. When she opens them, she's back on the real world, Erika behind her, the two collapsed on the floor, a pool of liquid around their waists.
“Did they really... piss themselves?” Erika looks at the collapsed pair from a distance, disgust imprinted on her face.
“I believe the guy went a little beyond just pissing, I can tell from the smell. We're gonna floor it, there's a place we have to go,” Ares jumps on the motorbike and taps the seat while looking at Erika. She smiles and quickly gets on as well, wearing her helmet right away.
'His heart wouldn't bluff, so he meant it... Please, I beg of you, withstand them for a while, just until I get there,' Ares prays, accelerating as much as she can, heading to the orphanage. She doesn't even bother to think about that talk about 'bringing back the goddess' and Six Absolute Deities, she'll focus on helping her friend first. That's her priority at any time.