They continue searching for 'it.' But the 'it' each of them searches for is a different thing. Which of them will find 'it' first, which of them will eternally search?
(TWO battles at the same time, hopefully I pulled it off nicely. As a result, it has 15 pages)
Early morning, so early that Delphine is still home and not even dressed for work, they arrive. Claiming to have ‘an important thing’ to talk about, they invite themselves in. As it greatly concerns Sirin, they also request for her to be present. Delphine struggles to make her get out of bed, but ultimately manages. A half-asleep girl wearing incorrectly buttoned pajamas, a worried mother, four sunglasses-wearing unknown individuals in black suits. The one who acts as leader is a blonde woman, long hair, very beautiful. Sirin can’t stop looking at her breasts, amazed at how large they are.
After showing many documents, IDs and contracts, they make it clear they’re not suspicious people, and truthfully work under the name they claim to work for. Delphine didn’t doubt much from the beginning, what kidnapping scam would have an approach this gentle and go after poor people like them.
“We would like to take your daughter to the Leondall estate,” she speaks in a polite tone, but the three burly men behind her can’t help but give an impression that they’re being threatened into accepting it. “At this moment, we also have an agent on her school, dealing with the topic of her education, but he’ll only have the principal sign the deal once we give him the ok.”
“Uh… even if you say all that, why would…?” Delphine feels her mind going into a knot, she can grasp what is happening, but at the same time, she can’t understand.
“The milady, Erika Leondall, has requested for Sirin Almas to join her, we are simply working to respond to her wishes,” in other words, the woman also can’t answer why, she just can’t refuse to follow Erika’s orders.
“Uh… Sirin, what do you want? I guess you’d rather have private tutors and live on a huge mansion with your friend, but… will that be fine?” Delphine asks, feeling she’ll be lonely without her daughter around.
“Hmmm,” Sirin can guess why Erika would ask that. ‘It’s just until we solve this save the world business, isn’t it? Then… it’s probably fine, isn’t it?’ she fears feeling lonely without her mother around. “I think… I’ll go. But… I’ll probably be back soon, so don’t worry, okay? I’ll call every day and all. So no matter how late you get home, don’t forget to wait for my call before going to sleep.”
“…That’s pretty selfish of you, if you’re gonna miss me that much, why don’t you stay?” Delphine is happy, she can feel her daughter’s affection. But that doesn’t mean she won’t teaser her for the last time in a while.
“Because I’m gonna go… save the world,” Sirin stands up dramatically, a victorious smile on her face.
“Hm? You’re back on that again? Though you used to say you were gonna destroy it, I think… Or was it actually rebooting the world you planned?” Delphine tries to remember the setting of Sirin’s middle school delusions, but there were so many conflicting ones it becomes hard to remember.
“Mom, I’m never coming back, I changed my mind.”
As the ‘offer’ is accepted, the suit people leave the two alone, saying they’ll be waiting outside for when Sirin is ready. With Delphine’s help, Sirin prepares a travel pack. Her notebook, clothes, some personal use items, everything she believes she’ll need. After a while, she realizes how weird it is to have a travel pack lying around the house like that, they never travel. She comments it with her mother, finding it funny.
“…Did you forget I came here with you from another city a long time ago?” Delphine can’t believe how dense Sirin is sometimes. “We obviously didn’t come barehanded, I put you on that bag and drove all the way here.”
“…For a moment I almost could picture you doing that, I won’t lie. It somewhat was exactly what I’d expect from you, Mom,” she’s actually not very sure if that is a joke, instead choosing to believe it is.
“So, are you planning to leave your mother behind without explaining why would a rich girl you met online go that far for you?” Delphine asks her in a worried tone. She’s still a mother, despite everything.
“If I tell you that my middle school delusions turned real, would you believe it?”
“Not at all.”
“Hm, then how about… let me see…” Sirin scratches her chin, but can’t think of any believable way to say it. Laughing, Delphine taps her shoulder.
“Don’t worry, I’m not actually that interested,” she felt bad seeing Sirin try to think something up that hard. ‘Whatever is going on, it’s probably something that will be good for her. I’ll just give her my support.’
They finish organizing her pack and hesitate on going outside. One knows what is the reason behind this, the other doesn’t want to be an anchor to her daughter, but they still hesitate. It’s still a huge step for them, especially for Sirin, who hasn’t even had a single sleepover during her entire life. They stand at the door, and right as she is about to turn the doorknob, Sirin turns around and tightly hugs her mother. Tears stream down her face, and in a matter of time, Delphine also sheds tears.
“Bye, Mom! I’ll miss you!”
“Don’t talk like you’re never coming back, you foolish daughter,” Delphine embraces her just as tight.
Until the limousine they brought to drive her to the Leondall estate enters a street where she can’t look back to her home and mother, Sirin has half her body popping out of the window, while still crying, she waves with all her soul. The agents try making her sit down properly, but she kicks them into submission.
Two of them are the ones who tried holding her down, they sit in front of her. The third one is driving the car and the woman is sitting by her side. She watched in amusement as Sirin didn’t lose to those two, thinking about how she can see why Erika would be interested on this girl. She continued to look at her even after she settled down, without realizing, she has been staring long enough for Sirin to feel like a hole might open on her face,
“Sirin, I think that woman plans on preying on you, she won’t stop looking,” Drag warns her, feeling they should be cautious of these people.
“It’s okay, I stared really hard before too…” she’s embarrassed, but there’s nothing she can do. Even now, she sorta wants to stare again. They’re too large to be real.
“You know…” the woman speaks up, and it sends a chill down Sirin’s spine. For no particular reason, she simply felt surprised to be talked to. She removes her sunglasses and shows her deep-blue eyes. “I called her ‘milady,’ so you probably wouldn’t guess, but I’m Erika’s mother.”
“What?!” Sirin turns to her, very shocked. ‘Is that where Erika’s megalopolis comes from!?’ she screams internally, a thought which disappoints Drag in a way. “I mean… your hair looks just like hers and that chest… and those eyes as well, but… aren’t you a twenty-year-old woman or something?”
“Fufu, I’m glad to hear I look young, but no, I’m older than that. Old enough to have a seventeen-years-old daughter, I’ll leave the actual number to your imagination,” she quietly giggles, covering her mouth with her fist. “For her to ask me of all people something… It makes me quite happy. I feel I should thank you for that, maybe.”
“…I’m sorry if I sound rude, but even if you say you’re her mother, that doesn’t make you Edmont’s wife, does it?” She has no ring on her hands, and she vaguely recalls the appearance of the woman listed as his wife on the rich people wiki.
“That is correct,” the woman nods. ‘This girl has done some research, it seems,’ she’s positively surprised.
“It’s a complicated story that can’t be revealed to the public. Erika herself thinks I’m her aunt.”
“Hey, if that’s supposed to be a secret, was it fine to say it to me, in front of all these guys?”
“These specific three actually work under me, we’ve been friends for a long time. In fact, they protected me when I was pregnant, a long time ago. In other words, they already know she’s my daughter. And as for you… I just felt like telling you. Seeing you and your mother, I couldn’t help but think about whether it would be possible for me and Erika to have been like that,” her voice rings with melancholy, her eyes show a deep sadness as well. But she quickly returns to her previous self. “So I couldn’t help but tell you. I sure hope you’re trustworthy, otherwise I’ll be forced to eliminate you.”
“It’s probably gonna be fine, I’ve been enjoying being alive for the past few decades, I have no plans of changing that,” Sirin smiles, but she felt the room temperature going down as that woman threatened her. “Which reminds me, do you have a name, Erika’s mother?”
“Bartory. Since we’ll be spending some time under the same roof, if you ever see me around, feel free to come talk to me and,” the woman blushes and looks away. Facing the window, she continues. “Tell me about how Erika has been doing, maybe.”
“No problem,” Sirin nods. She can imagine the feeling. The feeling of having your daughter terribly close, yet infinitely distant…
Ever since she talked about facing one of the Absolute Deities and returning safe and uninjured, there have been two changes to her treatment. Some people started revering her, saying she was miraculously powerful. Others stare at her with suspecting eyes, feeling that story is either a lie or that she might not be what she seems. Clay went from ‘just another member’ to ‘a distinguished member.’ She didn’t want any of that, however.
After she said she was beaten, they asked what was the enemy’s spirit and color. She did a rough drawing of Stromhyde and there was an uproar. She had no idea, but that hideous turtle-shark creature was one of the gods they’re trying to take down. This pair that looks like thugs started searching for her as soon as word got out, but it takes a while for them to run on her. All because on the same day she battled that one, they battled one as well, and got scarred to the point their spirits still haven’t regenerated. For that reason, they think there’s a connection between them and her.
“How did it look like? An awful monster, right? Some spawn of Satan, right?” They begged for Clay to go with them to a café. She was slightly freaked out at first, but after talking to them for a while, they turn out to be pretty swell people. They used to be hoodlums who’d do anything to get their daily dose of drugs, but after meeting with the cult, they grew as humans and managed to become clean.
“It was… a satanic fish, yes, that’s a good way to put it,” She didn’t pay that much attention to it, as she was busy getting washed away and the battle ended not long after she laid eyes on the being. By the point her drawing had a human-like figure coming out of a turtle, they already figured who it was.
“The one that did me in was a Satan itself, maybe… I wonder what these monsters did to the Mother Goddess in order to get her out of the picture,” says the woman, her name is Carla.
“As for me, both Satan and Little Robin did me in… Just remembering it, I feel chills going down my spine,” the man, Charles, suffered much more damage than Carla, as Ares’ torture managed to be worse than Galvados’. ‘And that demon woman is living under the same roof as Lui… I hope he’s okay,’ Clay thinks. “And yet, even as you faced such monsters, you came out unscathed!”
“I can see where you two are coming from, but as I’ve been telling everyone, there was no punishment game, that’s the only reason I’m fine…” She sighs.
“And why wouldn’t the punishment work on you? That means you have some sort of hardcore resistance, right?!” They’re easily over-excited.
“No, that’s wron-” They don’t bother to listen. She feels scared of what might happen if she tells people that Lui is her friend, thus she has refrained from telling anyone, as people already suspect her enough as it is.
After about half an hour of pretty much nothing other than being praised, trying to explain the misunderstanding and failing, the two leave her alone, saying they have some errand to run. She doesn’t leave the table they got, though. She still has some coffee left to drink and there’s no place for her to return to. The ‘HQ’ has been a pain recently, everyone keeps bothering her and she can’t enjoy herself properly. At home, Lui is gone, so she has nobody she can vent to, nor anybody who can understand her conversations.
“Min’ if I seat here?” A middle-aged man asks her, taking the seat in front of her before even waiting for an answer. “Heard ya survive an encounter with ‘em gods.”
“Yes, but-” ‘Not another one…’ she sighs, but before she can try to explain what actually happened, he interrupts her.
“Whoeva it was, ‘ey took pity on you, right?” The man looks around as he asks, he wants a waiter to take his order.
“…Yes, that’s right. How do you…?”
“Justa feeling,” a lie. He happens to also be someone who got defeated and spared. Not for free of course, but that’s just part of being spared. “Did ‘ey ask you to do anythin’ or just out of the goodness on their heart?”
“Out of goodness, I guess. I’m not a traitor, I’d never-”
“Dun worry, not here to inquiry ya. Just curious about what sorta person ya were,” he’s getting irritated at the lack of waiters or waitresses around. “Well. Watch out, while I’m sweet like this, someone might wanna bop ya over their suspicions.”
Feeling quite dissatisfied, he leaves the café. He just wanted some tea, now he’s never coming back to that place. He also considers leaving a negative review of it online, just for the sake of it. Meanwhile, Clay worries about yet another person coming to pester her, so she quickly finishes her drink and heads home.
However, she didn’t manage to arrive home without running into one such individuals. One after the other, they just keep coming for her. All because she got spared once. She wasn’t and still isn’t a high-ranking member, she isn’t anyone important. She used to blend in, she disappeared amidst the crowd, and that’s what was fun to her. She could enjoy herself as a normal person would, then return home feeling refreshed.
“What do you want?” A fat man blocked her way and just stood there without saying anything, she could only assume he was waiting for that question.
“It’d be really awful to have a mole in our ranks, you know? But it’d make lots of sense to have someone leaking our information, considering how we’ve been getting done in by those fakers time after time,” his theory isn’t wrong, he’s just confronting the wrong person.
“And you really think it’s me?”
“Plenty of us do. So I’m here to test you.”
“…By which you obviously mean…”
“Nothing shows what resides within a person’s mind quite like a battle, don’t you think?”
“…Go ahead, then. Open the gate,” she could use venting for a little while, this is a good opportunity. And if what he said is real, then it’ll also become clear she’s innocent and will be left alone.
“As you wish…”
They’ve all downloaded the mobile version of the chat room application that Sirin and Erika use on their computers and created a room for the six of them. They didn’t know it was pure chance that their avatars were red and yellow, but figured it was intentional, so each of them created one of their respective colors. The room has become quite lively, as now there’s a purple woman, and three boys of green, white and blue colors each.
'Bat has given me information on a guy who’s got a high rank, maybe he knows more than the average member. Me & Isaac are going,” is a message twinkling above the green boy icon. Purple and Yellow replied a simple 'ok’ to it. Solon checks it as he and Isaac are on the bus. For some reason, he expected the room to be a little more fun and get lots of message notifications, but it might be too early for that, he thinks. 'After all, we’re still just getting to know each other…’
“When we find the guy, do we strike some conversation or just drag him into the otherworld right away?” Isaac pokes Solon to get his attention.
“Well… You choose the approach, either way is fine for me,” strike first or strike later, as they’ll end up battling regardless, it doesn’t matter to him.
“Hm… I’d like to talk first. Isn’t it better that way?”
“…As you wish.”
After a few stops, the two get off the bus and walk towards the supposed target. This particular spends all day on the slot machines on a certain gaming plaza. 'Isn’t it curious that every high-ranking officer so far happens to have lots of money? How could those two factors be related, I wonder,’ Solon laughs.
Supposedly, it should be easy to find the man, as there’s only one working slot machine currently and he’s been hogging it all to himself. Bat also gave a vague description of the man’s appearance, so they get an idea of whether the person they find there is who they’re looking for or not.
“Excuse me, sir,” Isaac taps the man’s back. The man’s face shows nothing but anger, he’s almost like a bear whose sleep got disturbed, but Isaac isn’t affected by it, his fake smile doesn’t falter. “Could you let us use that machine? Just for a while?”
“Do I look like I’m done using it to you?!” He barks, lots of spit hits Isaac’s face.
“But you’ve been there for so long and didn’t get a single coin, I don’t see why you’d continue such a bad investment of money and time. Your luck isn’t getting any better,” he lets out a small giggle, clearly mocking the man. The sound of the veins popping on his head is almost audible.
“What’s with all the cockiness? What’s your problem, brat?!” The man stands up from the seat and towers over Isaac. That frail, small white boy against an angry grown male, his muscular build slightly above average.
“Shouldn’t old people like you be playing bingos instead of gambling? It’s probably a-” He is interrupted by a fist hitting his cheek, a punch that hits him hard enough to send him against the ground. He got hit square on the face and then hit the ground, but he just turns to Solon, not even acknowledging the pain. “Quick to resort to violent, dedicated to obtaining money even though he doesn’t need it. He’s Red and Green, Solon.”
“…Good to know. Gate Open, Release!”
Time stops for everyone but the three, the light from the gate to the otherworld floods in and takes them to an alternate landscape. Hills covered in greenery is the battlefield chosen for this battle. 'Since he is part red, he might have an advantage, he can set fire to this place. The green part might make him able to bring out plenty of spirits, the best strategy for us would be…’ After analyzing their surroundings and considering the information Isaac got to choose their tactics, Solon turns to his partner. His cheek has started swelling up, as usual. He’s really sensitive, he could bump into a table and that would happen to him.
“Are you okay?” Solon holds his hand to help him stand back up.
“After that one purple/red girl who stabbed me, everything has been sort of lackluster,” he laughs. Solon almost had a seizure that day and now Isaac is joking about it.
“You know, when you feel they’re gonna hit you, you could just walk away or open the gate. It’s gonna ruin your pretty face one day,” seeing Isaac get hurt like that pains Solon.
“Solon, please,” Isaac pushes him away, playfully. 'You wouldn’t understand. Until they land the hit, I’m still unable to tell their color. It’s the face they make when landing it that makes it clear for me.’
The two face the horizon. As usual, the otherworld looks beautiful. Solon thinks this sort of place would be ideal for going on dates, yet they use it to fight other people. But this isn’t the time to think about that, the battle has started already.
By Solon’s side, a being that is a humanoid lion from the waist up and a lion from the waist down. Its fur is gray on most of its body. Wings come out of its arms, and both arms and wings exhibit a different color. The fur on the arms is orange and yellow, while the feathers have four layers of color, from the wrist area to the tip of the wings, a yellow-red-green-blue pattern. When on pet form, he had a green mane of leaves, but now he only has a few dry branches around his neck and head. On Isaac’s side, a tower that pierces the heavens, a Babel of Silver. That is Rizelfar’s true form, the king among machines. The detail about him is that his body is just slender, a very tall iron noodle. To make up for that, it wears armor over armor, each one thicker and tougher than the previous. Its skirt is almost like a great wall, its shoulder pads are like ships. From toe to crown, all of it shines in chrome color.
Unlike anything that’s ever happened before, the battlefield is a battlefield. There’s no doubt that a war happened here. Skeletons with rusted swords in their hands, skeletons with blades pierced between their ribs. Some wear armors, some have helmets. Wavering flags, flags which caugh fire, spears and swords spread stabbed to the ground, the warriors which wielded tried using them as support to continue standing and died, abandoing their weapons on that position. It’s an awful place to be in, yet she can’t run away from it, that is the dimension she is forced to fight at.
The mist which surrounds them isn’t just 'mist.’ Though she’d never be able to tell such a thing, it is made of 'souls.’ The souls of the dead have gathered into a cloud-like form, aimlessly trying to find somewhere to go, trying to find the opponent they must kill. Someone who can detect killing intent would panic endlessly on this place, as the air itself is killing intent.
She has a peculiar power, which activates at the start of every battle. Whenever she’s participating, the battlers always appear close to each other. Because of that, she’s already aware her opponent is close, somewhere on that 'mist.’ She carefully treads forward, so she doesn’t give her position by stepping on skeletons. However, such an attempt is for naught.
She hadn’t noticed, but Raizan’s senses are much more sharpened than hers are. A serpent head cuts through the mist, going straight for her, but is intercepted by his crimson sword. After parrying the serpent’s bite, Raizan continues by cleaving it in twain before it can do anything.
For Clay, it was a big jumpscare. Serpent all of a sudden, then blood splattering in her face. It was meant to be a lethal attack, though, comparing that to a jumpscare makes the jump pretty friendly. As the battlefield isn’t affected at all, she figures that didn’t end the battle. 'It’s likely… that it’s a hydra. So just cutting its head in two actually…’
Before she can finish the thought, another serpent head, this one coming from the opposite direction, tries to take her again. Raizan’s reflexes don’t let her down again, as he intercepts and splits it into two before it reaches her. 'Raizan, I appreciate what you’re doing, but…’ she tries to have him stop, but it won’t. The heads increase in quantity by the minute. That is its plan, to allow itself to be cut, just so it can breed new heads.
As skillful as he might be, there is a point that his quality is surpassed by the quantity. A spirit will protect the battler at all costs, no matter the situation, no matter what the battler wishes for. The hydra exploited that in order to multiply itself while hiding the main body within the mist. The opponent didn’t actually mean to kill Clay right away, just ensure she couldn’t stop Raizan from attacking the serpents. Now that it has over a dozen heads, it can target Raizan himself and destroy him. By doing that, it’s probable that Clay will be defeated without any need to hurt her actual body, thus she can’t prove she has been attacked by a fellow member, a clever and cowardly tactic.
As expected, Raizan parries the first blow. The second bruises him. The third hits his left shoulder succesfully. The fourth takes his entire left arm. The fifth rips off his right hand, flunging his sword away. Clay can only watch as serpent after serpent pops out of the mist and devours Raizan. She can’t act. She can’t move. 'There sure is a lot of them coming out,’ she thinks.
While Solon meant to search for the opponent from higher ground and avoid being surrounded by enemies, as expected his forces to be more terrestrial, it ended up becoming an airborne battle. He summoned a large green bird to carry the two of them, and they flew off. Zearth medidates, his body increasing in size, his mane finally growing. The branches become a bright brown, from which leaves gradually appear, taking the form of that beautiful green it shows in pet form. As for Rizelfar, it cannot move. It is an impenetrable wall, yet unmoving. Meaning, the two gods can’t act as soon as the battle starts. If they manage to bring the enemy close to Rizelfar, he might manage to do something, but it certainly can’t pursue any enemy. As for Zearth, it’ll take a while for him to be done 'sprouting.’
Both are capable battlers, however, there’s no need to rely on their gods alone. Though when a gigantic humanoid dragon wearing green armor and wielding a ship-cleaving blade flew straight at them, they realize they could have used support from the gods. It swings that colossal blade with ease, almost like a human handles a knife, but due to the size difference, it still can’t hit them easily. To that dragon, they’re exactly like a fly: Bothersome and hard to hit.
The chestplate of the armor has two gems, an emerald and a ruby deeply engraved on it, the ruby being above the emerald. From within the ruby, the man that punched Isaac can be seen, sitting on a chair. 'Does he think he is on the cockpit of some machine? That’s his spirit for God’s sake,’ Isaac angrily bites his lips, annoyed. Solon can’t even focus on that, riding the summoned bird is taking all his attention, a single slip up is enough for them to become a splatter on the ground.
Talking about 'taking all his attention’ and 'slipping up,’ it escapes him that the red gem is shining, gathering energy on itself. That energy is then conducted towards the dragon’s throat, focusing into a beam inside its mouth and ultimately being fired in the form of a wall of flames. The flames are spewed right after a sword swing, making Solon, by accident, dodge straight into the fire.
He tries to pull the reins, dodging the flames is all he has in mind, but he fails. There’s nothing that can be done, that bird isn’t fast enough. As the flames are about to hit them, Isaac stands up. It is in no way an adequate place to stand, as the bird isn’t stable at all, but they’re about to be crisped anyway.
“Body Double!” He screams, the light of cores gathering in front of them. A small robot is summoned on thin air. It wears a white armor, and seems to be just a doll. Unlike any other spirit, it seems to be nothing but an empty shell. However, that empty shell sucks all the flames onto itself, like a vacuum.
They are safe, saved by Isaac’s power. However, two events follow their being saved. First, S23, the summoned shadow, had materialized in thin air, there’s no footing for it to stand on. While freefalling, it can’t contain the flames anymore and explodes. The explosion spreads a shockwave, which makes the already terrible footing Isaac has become even worse. He loses his balance and falls as well. Feeling that’s the end of his use to the cause, Isaac waves goodbye to Solon, who watches him falling with despair-filled eyes.
She couldn’t feel anything. Even though Raizan died just by her side, she felt nothing. That has happened to someone before, someone close to her. She wouldn’t know all the circumstances around him, but she has seen it happen. Until now, whenever Raizan got injured, so did she, even if only a small fraction of what he felt, she could feel he was in pain. 'What has changed? Why do I no longer feel Raizan?’ she asks herself.
The answer she can’t grasp is that she has changed. Her vision used to be clouded. She did think about the future, but she didn’t have anything on her mind, she never thought about what she wanted to do with it. She never got over the violence within herself, ten years ago and just a few days ago, when Lui didn’t act the way she wanted, she beat him up. She had a rage she couldn’t get rid of. She might have supressed it, but that only made it burn even more and cause an even larger explosion when she let it run free. Raizan is a reflection of that, a demonized warrior, unable to see anything but enemies, not knowing any warmth other than that of blood.
But she changed. 'After this silly conflict ends, let’s live somewhere together,’ those were the words which allowed her to see a future. Something she wants to grasp. But in order to get that, she needs to end the conflict. She needs to defeat all the gods. Put simply, she needs to…win.
Raizan’s corpse bursts into flames, setting fire to the serpents that feasted on it like scavengers. She feels something welling up on her chest. A hot feeling, an overflowing heat. It’s like a hug. She feels she’s being hugged from within, embraced by her soul.
“No conflict shall stand in my path! The blades which brings down the curtains to this play! I can feel you! Please reach out for me, because I need you!” She pleads with her entire being. The flames expand even more, taking shape of something huge. The silhoutte swings its flaming arms around, chopping down the heads of two serpents and cauterizing the wound while at it. That shape on its hands is clearly of two swords.
“For a human to call me into the battlefield through resonance, your feelings are truly unmatched across the planet. Tell me, your most earnest desire,” the figure speaks, looking at Clay. It is still surrounded by serpents, but that’s how confident it is on itself, it knows it is powerful enough to be able to afford ignoring these serpents.
“I want to win!” She yells, not needing a single second to think about her answer. The flames disperse into an intense gust of hot wind. The creature that the flames created is a white dragon in armor. Its armor is mostly white as well, but the golden and red ornaments give it an aura of nobility.
“Then I shall become your ally! Souldragon Victory is how they call me on my world, but for you, V alone will suffice.”
“Thank you, Vee!” She smiles. The serpents finally attempt to attack him again, having stopped contorting due to the pain of the cauterized wounds. Faster than Raizan protected her, Victory consecutively slashes multiple serpents, his swords lighting up with flare at the moment of contact.
He doesn’t hesitate. Most people would think twice before leaping to their doom, but Solon’s common sense is weak. He lets go of the reins and jumps after Isaac. He grabs the hand that waved goodbye and pulls him close. 'You’re a fool,’ Isaac’s eyes say, but has Solon known that much for a long time.
“But don’t worry, I don’t plan on letting you die,” his voice is taken away by the wind, Isaac can only tell he tried saying something. “When a life is about to be lost, this power can activate… My plan B that’s always set.”
A whirlwind surrounds the two, keeping them still in midair. A green circle of light appears beneath the whirlwind, it pulsates in the same rhythm as Solon’s heart does. The reason for that is very simple: they are connected. A second whirlwind forms on top of the circle and spins towards the dragon, binding it with chains of wind.
The shining circle shatters, and the fragments of light take form of another bird, Much larger, much stronger. Its feathers are green and crimson, much like the dragon they fight. It has a sword on its beak and holds a spear with its talons. The two land on its back and hold onto it. It flies upwards, back to the height they were before, and spins around the dragon. The whirlwind already has dissipated, it can move freely once more. As this bird is much larger, it finally has a chance of hitting, but it also is more equipped and fiercer. Despite the sword it holds being a needle when compared to the colossal blade, it still parries the hit. And while the dragon’s sword is occupied, it takes the chance to thrust it with the spear.
For the two on the back, it’s a pretty bumpy ride, but they’re managing. The bird itself is probably also being careful. Its original name is Shinobiou, but on this world, she goes by Shino. A protector which sits in wait within Solon. He can’t summon her normally, she can’t come out of her own will. Only when there are lives at stake that she is allowed to be released.
The ruby gem lights up again, but this time there’s no way for them to see. Shino is too large, she covers the entire view of the enemy for them. But she notices it herself, the moment it lights up, she lets go of the dragon’s blade and flies away. Within the gem, the man screams 'you’re not getting away!’ as he casts his spell.
This time a cyclone of flames comes out of the dragon’s mouth. This spell is much stronger than the previous one, Shino might not be able to escape. Luckily, there’s someone who can protect them. As the flames approach, Isaac summons another body double. It appears on top of Shino’s head and absorbs all the flames.
'It’s still fine, it’ll explode and blow her away,’ the dragon thinks. It happened before, so it’ll happen again. But it does nothing to S24. It resists the powers of the flames and continues to proudly stand on top of Shino’s head.
“What?!” the dragon screams. It’s rare for a spirit to offer any words to an opponent, but that’s just to show how shocked it is. A hollow body double shouldn’t be able to withstand that spell.
Hearing the dragon’s scream, both Isaac and Solon can’t help but snicker. They look at each other, Isaac asks if he should explain, and Solon nods. This exchange happens without a single word, but they clearly understand each other. Isaac walks over to S24 and holds onto it to make sure he won’t fall again, then proudly tapping the robot’s shoulder, he yells to the dragon.
“Gods don’t exist to rule over people’s fates! A true god, an absolute god, reigns for his people! The sun shines equally on all of us, and a king’s love is for his people! That is Rizelfar’s power!” He didn’t actually explain, only boast. But the answer is simple. Despite being unable to move, Rizelfar has perfect defenses against every color of magic or power. It is a god that represents stillness, unnaffected by all. The meaning of 'a king’s love is for his people’ is that Rizelfar can replicate the barrier he carries on any spirit that comes from his kingdom. Meaning, any white spirit can also be unnaffected by whatever comes its way. The only condition is, like Shino’s, that the battler experiences death. Unless Isaac’s life is almost flashing before his eyes, Rizelfar can’t manifest that power on anyone else.
“And just so you know, my god is also a real one,” Solon speaks up as well. Whether the opponent can hear or not doesn’t matter to him, he’s only trying to look cool before finishing the battle. “He takes his time at it, but he also loves his people, you know?”
The soil around Zearth has birthed flowers, trees and ripe fruits. His mane could house an entire ecosystem. Insects, birds, plants, parasites, all of it could live on the environment that is his body. Now that he has come into 'full bloom’, he can also offer his blessing to spirits from his land, the spirits of green. But while Rizelfar offers defense, Zearth offers offense. The chains of wind created by green can’t damage, only bind enemies for a while. With his influence around, the 'chains’ become 'blades of wind’ that rip through every enemy.
“Miss Shino, would you do the honors?” He formally asks, bowing forward. Just another act from his part, no matter the situation, he’s always trying to amuse himself.
“Mission…” Letting go of spear and sword alike, she spreads her wings. The dragon prepares to swing its sword. With all her force, she flaps her giant wings. A single strong flap is enough for her to create a tornado of wind blades. Like a hot knife through butter, blade, armor and flesh alike are ripped to shreds. “Complete!”
The spirit vanishes, leaving only a man to fall for his death. As they can’t make sure the otherworld will vanish before he hits the ground, Solon asks for Shino to grab him 'before he goes splat.’ The two boys high-five each other and celebrate the victory, looking back to their gods, who didn’t move an inch since the battle started. They direct a joyful thumbs up to the two. Rizelfar feels happy the battle is over without anyone getting hurt, while Zearth only opens a wry smile.
One after the other, the serpents are being taken down, without having a chance to recover or multiply due to the flare blades. Because of the hot wind gust, the mist was blown and both the opponent and the main body of the hydra can be seen now. It’s only a matter of heading towards them while fending off the attacking serpents.
Clay finds it pretty gross, the way the hydra’s neck just extends all the way towards them, it’s somewhat even nastier to look at than that shark-turtle guy that helped Lui. As her opponent is aware she’s going straight for him and it’s just a matter of time, he decides to pull his trump card.
From hearing about her battle the other day, he could figure out her weakness. He didn’t think it’d come to this, but his 'better safe than sorry’ lifestyle is the very reason this battle is happening. The man casts the spell Ocean Field while she is still away. The skeletons and weapons are washed away by sudden waves that gush forth from the man, turning the battlefield into an ocean.
The hydra’s main body vanishes into the water, it plans on repeating the same approach as before, pincering the two with the freakish long serpents while hiding its true body. While they lose mobility on water, for the hydra, moving becomes even easier.
“Hehe, does he think that sort of thing would work? I’ve been done in by that trick once already,” Clay laughs by herself. Victory watches her in amusement, cores gathering on the palm of her hand.
What she summons is a being nobody would see coming, and obvious at the same time. It is one of the largest braves to exist, and also the one that looks the least like a weapon. The brave she summons is Hydraship. Obvious because when you’re on the ocean, summoning a ship is common sense. And unexpected because it belongs to the blue world. Her previous and current spirits are both red, meaning that, for her, a red battler, the effort needed both to learn and manage to complete the summoning ritual is harder than it is for a natural blue. It’s almost like learning another language, and yet she learned how to do it in just a few days.
“I already refuse to lose, but losing in the same way twice would truly make me feel like a fool!” She laughs, as the ship picks her up and throws her on the deck. It looks like a viking ship, made out of wood, two dragon heads with long necks come out of the hull, rather than from the bow. But while the vikings had these for artistic and intimidation reasons, the dragons of this ship are alive, they are the very brains of the ship. As every sea creature gets called a hydra or sea serpent in the realm of blue, despite not being exactly serpents, these dragons still got a name derived from 'hydra.’
The ship sets sail, full speed ahead. While the hydra has hidden, the enemy battler can’t afford to do that. Even if he’s a suberb swimmer, he won’t swim faster than this boat. The choices he has are two: to continue the ambush attempt, despite Hydraship being harder to ambush than the two floating sitting ducks he expected, or have it return and protect him, as she and V are going straight towards him. Neither give him much of a chance, but one at least allows for struggling.
Just as they’re about to run over the man with a giant conscious boat, the hydra blocks the way, holding the ship with its front legs and assaulting them with the remaining five heads. A lucky number. Any more, and there could be a little difficulty for them. Two of the serpents engage with the Hydraship’s dragon heads. Two other heads are cleaved almost instantly by Victory. The remaining head, in a final, futile struggle, aware attacking like that would mean its end, at least tries to take Clay along with itself. Before it could even get in biting range, she points a single finger to it. A burning feeling runs over her body, but this time an uncomfortable one. While the way she felt when V appeared was comparable to excitement, the way she feels now is much like an awfully hot summer afternoon.
“Flame Spark,” she chants. A familiar-looking flaming silhoutte appears in front of her and slashes the last remaining serpent, splitting its head in two. Even when briefly given form through magic, he didn’t lose his lightning-fast reflexes. The flaming lizardman turns around and looks at the girl one last time. She bows her head. 'Thank you and goodbye,’ she transmits. And, before truly passing, the demon warrior smiles for the first and final time. Along with the vanishing flames of the lizardman, the ocean and the battlefield of lost souls disappear.
Flame Spark is a spell from the red realm, which is used to honor the dead. For a moment, they can be brought back, even if only for the sake of another goodbye, or of a proper goodbye. Due to Red’s limitation of not managing to do anything without having to resort to destruction and/or fire, there is a proper place and occasion for using Flame Spark. Saying it in human terms, Red spirits have a Day of the Dead in their culture.
With the battle over, it’s time for the battler-induced nightmare sequence to start, the beloved and much-awaited punishment game. The man finds himself half-buried, his chest and head alone are not stuck under the dirt. Solon and the lion stand in front of him, a very menacing around surrounding them.
“What is your rank within the order?” Cult, order, group, whatever term is used, it won’t be quite right and not exactly wrong as well.
“T-third stratum,” he’s struggling not to answer, which shows how mentally strong he is. Not enough to be able to tell a lie or omit information during a punishment game, but still an amazing feat. According to Bat’s information, they rank from first stratum to seventh stratum, first being the top and seventh the base of the pyramid.
“Hm, that’s pretty good. How much do you know about your objective?”
“Grrr,” the deeper the question goes, easier it becomes to resist. But there are ways to counter that and make people open up. With a flick of his finger, roots start to dig into the man’s body. On the tip of each finger of his, a small root rips through skin and muscle alike, sapping directly onto his blood vessels.
“You know, it takes a lot to keep a forest alive. Do you want to offer your life to it? I’d say it’s a good use to your life, becoming manure,” Solon considers that it’s very likely the man is aware he can’t die from this, but if knows that much, it’s likely he also knows the psychological damage can scar him for life if it goes far enough.
“The absolute deities… are inadequate as guardian deities, we need… proper guidance!” The pain of roots digging into his veins turn him into a talkative guy again, but it also makes it harder for him to form sentences.
“Yes, yes, the true goddess and all. But how is she wiping out the absolute deities? How are you summoning her?”
“These roots won’t stop until they find their way into your heart and brain. You’ll experience the most awful of deaths if you don’t answer,” 'and then have to live to tell the tale. I’m sure that mustn’t be pleasant.’
“Damn it,” Solon turns around. 'Not even a third stratum knows the answer? Do they actually have any idea of what they’re doing?’ While internally cursing, a good question comes to him. “How did you get dragged into the order? Why did you join?”
“The light of the goddess shone on me… On that moment, I knew I had to dedicate my life to serving her.”
“…That’s pretty crazy, I won’t lie,” Solon didn’t know what to expect, but that answer still sounds very… off to him. 'Perhaps calling it a cult isn’t that wrong…’
“Solon. Your time is up,” Zearth speaks, walking towards the man. He rests his paw on top of the man’s head. The ground swallows him, roots envelop him. He is buried alive within a coffin of roots.
He returns to the real world, the man is knocked on the floor, spasming. Isaac is playing on the slot machine. 'Wait, you actually wanted to play?’ Solon asks, Isaac replies with a smile. 'We need to go, you know? Before someone sees this scene. That machine is probably rigged, anyway,’ he says, but still lets Isaac play one more time. The two dash from the scene, waiting to share the information they obtained once they’re on a safer place. Not that there is much to share, but, in Solon’s opinion, that thing about the light of the goddess is worth commenting.
“Are you satisfied now?” Clay asks, but doesn’t bother to wait for the answer. She just wants to get home before someone else comes, so she walks away.
“W-wait, is this the punishment game? What are you planning, this is just like the real world!” The guy shivers, he doesn’t know what to expect from a game that happens on a place that’s just like reality.
“…I’m not into punishment games, I don’t see the point,” she shrugs. The man continues waiting, believing it’s just a prank to take him by surprise. But soon Clay no longer can be seen, soon many minutes go by and it finally sinks on him that nothing is gonna happen.
“What the hell…” he bites his thumb. He was suspicious of her before, but now he’s scared. 'There’s something wrong on that girl’s brain, there’s no other answer.’
Back at the orphanage, Clay lies down on the rooftop and basks on the light of the setting sun. She never had much to do on her free time, now she has even less. So she just indulges on the warmth of sunlight hitting her skin. She almost naps, but the sound of footsteps calls her slipping consciousness back. She looks up and there’s a small child by her side, holding hands with a cute brown teddy bear.
“Where did Lui go?” the kid asks. Only now she has realized Lui has been gone. 'As expected of the mind of a child, it takes a while,’ Clay thinks.
“He’s… working. Somewhere not very close to here.”
“Will he come back?”
“He might visit one day, but he probably won’t live here ever again…” She hadn’t thought about it until now, but that’s probably true. 'I mean, why would he return?’
“…Will you go away one day too?” the girl hides her face behind the teddy bear.
“…Eventually, yeah. But I’ll go away and take Lui with me. If you want, you can come too, let’s be a happy family!” 'Even if nobody is blood-related, it can still be a family, right? Who will be there to judge?’
“…Ok!” the girl smiles, but tears were forming on her eyes. The reason she hid behind the bear was for the sake of covering these tears.
Clay didn’t remember at first, but that girl’s name is certainly Chloe. She’s currently six, has lived on the orphanage since she was four. It’s the first time they actually talk, she has always been the quiet type. 'It’s a little surprising to find out she liked Lui and me all along,’ to her, it’s quite the heartwarming discovery. She takes Chloe’s hand and walks back into the building. 'Wanna play a game? Or maybe draw something?’
Clay realizes just how short-sighted she was. She kept thinking about ending the conflict and moving away, but there’s a lot left to do before that. 'Somewhere far away’ can be anywhere, finding out a nice place for both of them, and probably Chloe now, should come first. And she can’t let Lui alone work hard to get the money for their home, she also needs to get a job. Above all of this, she feels happy. At last, she has found something she looks forward to, a future she wants to see.