Even if brought together, different hearts will still be different hearts. Perpendicular lines might coexist at some point, but as they stretch towards infinity, aren't they mostly heading towards different places? Such fate might also fall under humans and spirits alike...
“From your voice alone I imagined you could be, but to think you're actually really cute,” Ares pulls Sirin's cheeks. 'At the time I was 15, how did I look like...?' she wonders.
“Hm, Ares, could you stop pulling her face and looking at her with your face so close to hers?” Erika asks out of despair, Rafil has been yelling something about a path she didn't consider and it hurts her head.
“This is the first time I see Ares playing with someone...” Lui had been quietly watching ever since she started poking Sirin, trying to remember whether or not he has ever seen anything like that before.
“But...” She tries to make up an excuse, but as there's no legitimate reason to continue playing with the girl's face, she lets go.
“Thank you, Erika, I'm saved,” she massages her cheeks, they've become numb from being pulled for too long. “These are purple and blue, right?”
“Yeah. ...Did you guess because you think they're similar to their avatars?” Erika tilts her head, wondering what logic she used to guess.
“Nah, just a feeling. Maybe Drag's whispers.”
“...Stromhyde says he wants to see Drag, won't he come out?” Lui asks, in stead of his spirit.
“Let me check, wait,” 'Do you want to come out? Can you even do that?' she communicates with him through her thoughts. '...I will when everyone is here, I won't bother to amuse just a few of them,' he answers, actually putting some thought into it. “Later, maybe.”
“I heard the cute voice girl is here, is that true?!” The door is knocked open by an excited Solon, behind him a panting Isaac can be seen. Solon clearly ran as fast as he could and Isaac kept up with his pace, despite his body not quite having the same stamina.
“We... came as fast as we could... Right after a cool battle, by the way...” He's trying to pretend he isn't exhausted, but anyone with half a brain can tell.
“This girl would be her,” instead of pointing, Ares attempts to pinch her cheek, but Erika slaps her hand before she reaches.
“Hmmmm, how old are you? Fourteen?” Solon runs a quick analysis on her, not paying attention to details, only to the bigger picture. The result of the analysis is a thought along the lines of 'she cute.'
“F-fifteen, actually...” Suddenly being surrounded by people and becoming the center of attention, Sirin begins to feel self-conscious.
“Ah, same age as me! When is your birthday?” Lui finally finds something to ask her, so far he only awkwardly stood around.
“Wait, really? Mine is in August, so I'm actually one year older. Or gonna be at least.”
“So she's the team's baby?” Ares pets Sirin's head, whispering 'nice hair...very soft,' and then gets dragged away from Sirin by Erika. 'Are you into that? Younger girls? Please refrain from behaving that way within my field of view,' Erika lectures her. 'No, milady, you don't understand,' Ares can't explain herself. Even if she could, Erika wouldn't manage to listen to it properly, Rafil's endless screaming would take her attention away.
“B-baby? I'm still fifteen, you know...” She wouldn't know that's just a way people refer to the youngest on a party, she thinks it means that she's as capable as a baby.
“Nice to meet you! If you think you've seen my gorgeous face before, it's because you probably have! I'm the famous boy idol, Solon Hermano!” He forcefully shakes her hand. She attempts to respond, but ends up just stuttering a lot, flustered by being touched. He lets go of her hand and grabs the white-haired boy by his side and exhibits him like a treasure. “And this is my partner slash soul partner, Isaac Deimos!”
“Nice to meet you...” Embarassed by Solon's words, he shyly nods.
“You look like Erika...” Due to their similarity, Sirin feels oddly more comfortable with him than with everyone else.
“We're... you know, both albinos, it's probably that,” that weird pause stands out to both Solon and Sirin. While Solon only has a gut feeling Isaac is hiding something from him, Sirin wonders if that has to do with what Bartory told her. She has searched albinism on the internet, she knows it doesn't work like that, they're actually similar-looking.
“Now that we're all here, let's do this properly,” Erika claps her hands to call for everyone's attention.
She doesn't explain anything at all, but asks everyone to follow her. They leave her room and wander around the corridors of the mansion for a while. Solon, Ares and Lui are used to this sort of thing, but Isaac and Sirin stare at every single doorknob as if it were an amazing thing. She leads them into a room with a circular table with six chairs. The rest of the room is empty, there's only the lamp shining on top of that furniture and nothing else.
“This is it... Our round table,” she proudly opens her arms, then taking a seat for herself. “Did you know? The leader or highest ranking officer normally sits at the edge. The purpose of Arthur's round table was for the sake of showing every knight was just as important.
“...So that's the setting we're going for now? Knights of the Round?” Ares feels some secondhand embarassment, but sits down as well nevertheless. Deep down, she likes it.
“This is cool!” Stars light up on Sirin's eyes. 'As expected,' Erika smiles, she knew that at least Sirin would be into it.
“Nice idea, this way we can have privacy and we don't need to sit on the floor,” Solon takes his seat while clapping, the Leondall truly know how to host people.
“...Are we the weird ones here for thinking this is embarassing?” Isaac asks Lui, who also didn't show any evident excitement when walking in.
“This might be the first time in my life I cry tears of joy,” he says, his face so straight it could be used as a ruler. 'Eh,' Isaac is left behind in shock, as Lui dramatically takes his seat. Figuring it can't be helped, he takes one for himself as well.
Six humans who host gods from another dimension withing themselves, sitting together in a round table. A concept straight out of Sirin's middle school notebooks, yet happening in reality. A maid that crawled to the top all the way from hell. An orphan who only recently obtained a 'life' per se. A rich girl unaware of the truth of her birth, a weak boy who shoulders that very truth within himself. A cheerful idol who nobody knows much about, a shut-in girl who can't believe the way her life got turned upside down all of a sudden.
From within their chests, from within gems, six gods manifest physically on their world. A demon tyrant that rules over hell. An ocean emperor which doesn't allow struggle against the natural order. An angel that dreams of the endless possibilities of love on the world. A weak machine which raised countless walls to overcome its weakness. A lion which follows his own pace and believes on the miracle of life. A powerful dragon with a lonely heart. The reason they've connected to these particular humans is clear, but was it chance or inevitability that they were the ones chosen?
“Magna... It's been a long time, hasn't it?” The same words Rafil offered him, words every other god would like to offer, yet only Stromhyde manages to voice them.
“Yes. But that's not what we're gathered here for, we have a mission,” the dragon has no time for such sentimentalism. Only the objective matters to him. 'Hey, Drag, do you need to be that mean? They're your siblings...' Sirin can see Rafil especially is upset by his words. 'A blood tie doesn't mean much... but out of everyone on this room, maybe you're the one who'd understand that the least.'
“...Indeed. On our most recent battle, we didn't obtain much information on the enemy, sadly,” Zearth is also saddened, but he swallows it down and continues the conversation. “However, we did hear something... odd from our opponent.”
“When I asked why he joined the cult... He answered that he 'saw the light of the goddess and knew he had to dedicate his life to her from that point' or something. Have any of you heard anything like that before?” Solon continues from what Zearth started. But nobody answers. They haven't ever attempted such a questioning on any member of the cult. “Hm, figures. I myself never thought about why they'd get into such a messy group until just now.”
“A friend... said it is fun. That they have fun together there. I don't know what activities they do, but it must be something like a... school break,” Lui has a hard time thinking what could be compared to having fun with friends for a while, but nobody can blame him.
“A friend of yours is part of it?”
“Well, we were friends before this all started, maybe we're currently enemies. After this is over, we'll probably... be friends again,” he smiles, feeling a little awkward.
“Hm. Our informant only said they gather around, drink a little, smoke, chat, then return to their jobs. Probably it's the age gap that changes the activities, an old geezer will obviously have more fun that way than playing softball or whatever...” Solon leans back on his chair. There's a lot they still don't know, and that makes it hard to properly find a way to deal with the enemy.
“The one thing they always talk about is how 'the absolute deities are inadequate, we need a real godess to guide us,' can you guys explain that a little? What did you all do wrong?” Ares grabs Galvados' head. Not with any particular intention yet, but if it tries to dodge the subject, she'll try to smash its head.
“When six different personalities gather, getting to a consensus on anything takes time...” Galvados shrugs, treating the topic like something minor.
“And with a single one going aloof from time to time, the balance is lost...” Rafil's eyes are sniping Magna. He notices, but doesn't acknowledge her.
“...Wait a second, are we the ones who are wrong here?” Hearing that, Solon can't help but feel the gods are inadequate after all.
“No, wait! In your world, each country has a president, right? Would you let someone shoulder your entire planet by themselves just so arguments wouldn't happen?” Rafil quickly jumps back into the conversation, trying to make it clear they're not in the wrong.
“And a single person, a being from a single world wouldn't manage to understand the plight of each of them. Just as someone like Solon wouldn't manage to live a life like Ares', I wouldn't know how to manage Rafil's empire,” Stromhyde follows after his sister, they're oddly working on the same wavelenght, a rare occurrence.
“So we share. We try to understand each other and respect their decisions. Having a single person shoulder every decision is awful for both that person and the world,” the way Galvados says it sounds almost as if it has witnessed a world shouldered by a single person.
“...That does make sense, I almost switched religions for a moment there,” Solon sighs in relief.
As each of them still has matters to handle, such as going back home for Solon and Isaac, and settling on her new home for Sirin, they disperse. And not only that, people would increasingly grow suspicious of what was happening within that room. As much as they wouldn't question Erika about it, for obvious reasons, a single rumor can blow up into a bothersome series of problems. And in worst case scenario, it becomes a scandal and Erika appears on the cover of magazines again.
Ares asks if Sirin doesn't need help unpacking, but before the girl can say anything, Erika butts in and says she'll do it, Ares would probably just continue fondling Sirin instead of helping. She orders Ares with Lui to prepare a bath, read a book or something like that. Meanwhile, as Solon and Isaac go separate ways when returning home from the Leondall mansion, they split up at the very entrance, but Solon feels he needs to say a few things to Isaac before letting him go.
“You know, Isaac...” Solon faces the sky, he still isn't sure of whether he must say it or not, but his mouth acts before his mind.
“What is it?”
“You might be immune to everything at the otherworld... but on the real world, nobody is really that strong. I want to be there for you, so come talk to me about it when you feel like it,” he kicks a pebble on the ground, feeling complexed about his own choice of words.
“...Talk about what?”
“That thing on your mind. Whenever we come here... Maybe at other times as well, I can tell that you feel there's something sour on your mouth. We're partners, so count on me, that's all,” Solon waves goodbye with a melancholic smile and walks away. Isaac doesn't know what to feel. At the same time he's glad, he feels guilty. It's not that he won't talk about it, he can't talk about it.
“Which reminds me... You didn't say anything back there.”
“Talk, family, quite, hard,” in broken speech, Rizelfar tries to say he feels weird around his siblings.
“Indeed. Indeed...” Isaac laughs, shaking his head at finding humor on what Rizelfar said.
“Isaac, miss, sister?”
“We didn't know each other to begin with, it's just... she's right there, but I still feel she's extremely distant. Almost as if there's a huge suspension bridge between us.”
“If can't reach, let be. Don't force,” Isaac had to stop walking upon hearing that. Not because of what was said, but because of the word count.
“You're trying hard, aren't you, friend?”
“Protect, Isaac, as well. Shield everything.”
“...Thanks,” he smiles, feeling that with Solon and Rizelfar, he might never be lonely again.
Erika apologized for the 'small room,' saying it was the only one that was free and could be used by her, but it's still twice the size of her room back on the other city. She feels she walked into a giant's room, everything is larger than what she is used to. Her clothes only occupy one-tenth of the wardrobe she was given. Seeing all the free space, Erika said they should go shopping for new clothes. She feels awkward being alone on such a large room. 'Why did I think moving to an unknown place would be cool...?' she questions her choices in life while posing like The Thinker. 'Aren't you doing it for the mission? To save the world and all?' Drag considered waiting to see if she'd remember it, but felt bad for her. 'Ah, yeah, sure. It escaped me,' she giggles.
“Laughing by yourself? Did you remember something funny?” Bartory knocks on the door, mostly to get Sirin's attention, as she has already walked inside the room.
“Ah, no, not really,” she blushes, she didn't expect to be seen doing that. 'I'm glad we don't speak out loud.'
“Are you settling in alright? Or does it still feel really weird being at a stranger's house?” Bartory sits by her side. Sirin smirks, 'I'm in bed with a huge-breasted woman.' Magna can't understand what's humorful about that, so he feels puzzled.
“Yeah... I miss my mother.”
“Did you give her a call already? She's probably worried sick.”
“She probably isn't back home yet... I'll do it in a few hours.”
“Hmmm,” Bartory smiles. Her eyes are looking at something else, she thinks of how it'd feel to receive a call from an Erika who deprived herself of sleep just to contact her.
“Do you... regret having to hide it?” Sirin looks around to confirm there's no one listening other than Bartory, but still chooses to not use any keyword that might be dangerous.
“...I think that's what was the best for her. Even if I might suffer, if she's happy...” Bartory replies, also avoiding giving any keywords.
“And... can I make a question? A weird one.”
“Did you happen to have more than one child?” Bartory shivers when she hears the question. Though briefly, Sirin could notice it.
“Well... that's... another long story, but yes. Ah, I might have to hire you when you grow up, your information network could be of use to me,” Bartory shakes her head, she can't believe how much this girl knows.
“It's nothing like that, just-”
“Did you happen to meet him?” She guesses. 'There's a limit to how much you can find on the internet, the only answer I can find is that they met.'
“Yeah, he was just here. He didn't act close to her and even denied a tie, so maybe he doesn't know...”
“...You mean, on this mansion? He entered here?” When it finally sinks on her, she turns to Sirin, her eyes wide in surprise.
“His name is Isaac and he's got pink eyes. A very small boy, I'd say he's almost my size,” they're actually the same height, but due to his presence being weak, Sirin saw him as smaller.
“Is that so...? He probably knows, though. But just like I can't say it, he also can't. That's how the contract works.”
“...There's a lot happening behind the curtains, huh?”
“It isn't that complicated. I won't explain it all, but it's a simple matter. Why did he come here though?”
“We're all... playing a tabletop role-playing game together. He just happened to be on our party,” Ever since that talk with her mother, she's been thinking of how to explain it without falling into middle school delusions again, she hopes this excuse works.
“It probably was hard for him to have to come here. But if you're having fun together, I guess...” She leans close to Sirin's ear and whispers. “That's just like being a family, right? Two siblings together playing a game. I'm happy.”
“Y-yeah,” feeling someone's breath so close to her unsettles her, but she understands why that was necessary. With that conversation over, Bartory stands up and waves goodbye, saying she'll visit again if she can.
While Solon returns home, he gets a message from Bat. The title says 'urgent!!!' so he considers not opening, since it probably is something silly and won't fall for Bat's game. But a few minutes after receiving it, he realizes he is bored anyway, might as well amuse the old man. 'Where are you? It seems a high-ranking officer will be here, I think he's a second stratum!' and attached to the message, a map screenshot with a red circle on a shopping district.
'Even if you tell me where he'll be, if I don't know how he looks like...' he replies, adding his character doing a shrugging motion at the end of the message. 'What took you so long?! If I find out you were fooling around....' Solon realizes it is much more pleasant to talk to him via messages, there's no stupid accent and he types pretty quickly. 'Can you manage a description of his looks?' He ignores Bat's question. 'I can go beyond that,' the reply comes along with a blurry picture, but he can see a man with black cape and spiky red hair. 'It's good that you're a creepy stalker, but if you said 'just find a guy who thinks life is a JRPG' it'd work just as well,' is the last message he bothers to send.
Just as he starts thinking about which route he could take to get him to that district as quickly as possible, he sees a bus that travels right by it. 'I guess luck is always on my side,' he smiles at how convenient it is that the bus coming now of all times.
“Around ten more minutes until we get there, plus the minutes I ignored that message for... I hope it isn't too late... But Bat probably sent it to me when the guy was leaving, right? So I might be right on time...” He talks to himself, afraid of losing such a great opportunity.
“You say 'we', but you're not counting me as a different being, are you?” Zearth manifests inside his mind.
“...Ah, yeah, I forgot Isaac is not with me. It's just the habit, you know?”
“Do you plan on trying to discover the opponent's color before the battle begins?”
“Nah, that's something only Isaac manages. Both the guts to get hit and to correctly analyze everything the enemy did. If I had to guess, since he looks weird like that, maybe he is yellow.”
“...Don't lose focus, this battle might be hard. Don't forget the opponent is a second stratum.”
“Shouldn't that just mean he's really rich? I don't think their ranks and actual fighting power are related.”
“I'm just telling you not to let your guard down. Without Isaac's protection, your careless and thoughtless lifestyle might bring your end.”
“...Though it's funny, isn't it? That he's the one protecting me now.”
“It must be his way to show gratitude for what you did.”
“Hm, is it now?”
Solon gets off the bus, due to gettting distracted by the conversation, he almost misses the place. However, instead of heading to the shopping district, he feels something towards the junkyard behind him. An inviting call, a bewitching scent, he can't explain it. Rather than 'he walks there,' it would be more adequate to say 'his legs walk him there.'
Zearth asks him where he is heading over and over, but he can't answer. He wants to say 'the shopping district,' but he knows that's not where he is heading. Treading through the endless scrap, he finds himself stopping at a point surrounded by four mountains of junk. In front of him, a young girl sitting on a throne made out of barbed wire. The throne itself is just a worthless good being recycled in an artistic manner, nothing new, the fact it is here probably means even after taking a new form, it was still worthless. The girl wears black clothes, she leans her elbow on the throne's arm, her face restion on her arm. She stares at Solon with unamused eyes, almost as if looking down on him. And saying that could be an understatement, a more proper way to put it would be that her eyes look down on his entire existence.
He feels a complex feeling. The girl is cute, he could see her getting a loyal following if she debuted as an idol. But her eyes could be a problem, they'd need lots of photoshopping. Simply put, he feels threatened by them, in ways he hasn't ever felt before. Between all beasts, dragons and serpents he has faced, these eyes strike him as the worst of all. 'Could it be because they're human eyes? A dragon looking pretty angry is exactly what I'd expect, but a human having eyes like those of a dragon... is a little different.'
Worst of all, the girl says nothing. She just looks at him, feet to head, with a bored expression and a penetrating gaze. He can't speak up, the pressure of her eyes make him nervous, anxious, self-conscious. If he casually opens his mouth, he fears she'll literally whip him down. So he just stands there. The girl stands from her throne. She is a little taller than Sirin, and gives a much more mature feeling as well, but he can't guess an specific age.
She takes a step towards him, and his heart starts beating fast. He wants to reason why that girl feels like such a threat to him, but he can't. There's no reason for it, it's like a phobia, his instincts are alarmed before his mind can even justify the fear which runs through each nerve and muscle of his. But the girl walks right past him. Without even acknowledging him beyond that stare, she ignores him as if he were just a breeze. His body finally catches a break and loosens up.
He puts his hand over his chest, and exhales. Then inhales deeply, and exhales again. His heart has slowed down, but he feels he just lost a few years of his life. He can't even build the courage to look behind him, if he finds out she's just quietly standing behind him, he feels he might have a heart attack. Just as he recovers his mental stability, a man comes out of hiding from behind the throne.
A black cape, dark clothes underneath it, red hair. The man Bat marked and told Solon to go after. But he wasn't alone nor was he at the shopping district. Putting all of that together, Solon can only get to a single conclusion. 'They were waiting for me, I was baited here. But did Bat betray me, or were they aware of a mole...?'
“She was sick of waiting, but bothered to stay here until you appeared...” The man stares at the clouds on the sky with a quite blank expression, but as soon as he looks down, now facing Solon, his entire face is overflowing with disgust. “That makes me quite jealous.”
“I-isn't she a little young for you, though?” As usual, Solon can't read the mood. Or, perhaps, exactly because he can read it, he decides to try and lighten it up.
“I won't show mercy, that was her order. Tartarus Open, Be Leashed” The man's cape moves on its own. The wind isn't blowing, he doesn't make any movement, but his cape moves as if under a storm.
A wave of pitch forms behind the man and washes Solon away, sinking him into a world of endless darkness. His movements are slowed down, he can't struggle, the pitch is too heavy and thick. Chains which crawl through the darkness like snakes constrict around his body, binding his legs, arms and torso. They're extremely cold, to the point he feels his skin burning. But he can't scream, even if he opens his mouth, no sound comes out.
After all that, in the blink of an eye, he appears on the otherworld. No chains, no pitch, he stands on the same condition he was minutes earlier. But there are two things which stand out to him: the shackles are gone, but they left marks on his body, meaning that wasn't a simple illusion. And the other thing are the words the man said. Those weren't the usual words, yet the gate seems to have opened.
The place he finds himself on is at the edge of a ravine, few steps away from falling a very likely to be lethal fall. 'This is convenient for me, but if the opponent also uses flying spirits, I don't have much of an advantage...' He wonders if Isaac would have inferred the opponent's color from that brief exchange, knowing that would be very convenient.
“Over here,” he hears the man's voice coming from behind him, and quickly turns around like a scared animal. 'What is he doing so close to me already?!' “I said I'd be merciless, but I'm still better than striking your back.”
“...” Solon sees the man's spirit behind him. A giant three-headed wolf, its fur is dark like ebony, its eyes are crimson like fire. It towers over the man, possibly standing at five or six meters tall. All of its heads growl and stare at Solon with bloodlust-filled eyes, but, almost as if being held by a leash, they await. Until the man commands so, the wolf won't act.
And it is upon seeing that huge wolf that it finally hits him. Quite a few things were off to him, but there was one he couldn't grasp. Just as the opponent has a giant wolf, he should have a giant lion by his side. But no such a spirit is there, Solon is by himself. He calls for Zearth. With his mind, with his voice, with his heart, but gets no response. The man watches him yell, quietly at first, but he soon gets tired of it, he can't stand to just look at that pitiful display of despair.
“Call as much as you want, your God won't appear,” he says, looking down on Solon with a smug smile on his face.
“...What did you do?”
“You'll have to get it from me on a punishment game... If you manage to beat me without its support, that is.”
“That's fair, I guess,” Solon shrugs, slowly walking backwards. The man still doesn't give Cerberus any command, he's curious. 'What does he plan on doing, heading towards the abyss?
Without faltering, Solon jumps off the hedge. He closes his eyes, it'd be scary to see where he's falling to. Few seconds into freefalling, his body loses momentum, being held midair by wind cushion. 'If your partner was here, he'd get very angry at what you just did, don't you think?' Shino asks him, being summoned right beneath him. 'Well, if you don't tell, he'll never know,' he adjusts his position so he is in a proper sitting position and holding onto Shino's reins.
As far as it concerns the man, he jumped down that cliff and then returned with a summoned spirit. He was willing to let him summon at least one anyway, that suicidal stunt wasn't necessary, he thinks. He wouldn't know that is the only way for him to manifest it. As the battle has now become 'fair,' the man finally unleashes Cerberus.
Not willing to lose any time by playing around, Shino beats her wings to create a tornado and chain down Cerberus right away. She'd rather create 'blades' than 'chains,' but as Zearth isn't there, she wouldn't manage that regardless of how much she wants to. The wolf spits blasts of fire with his three heads, all at once, and the flames swallow the tornado before it even gets close to Cerberus.
'That is a basic flame spell, Solon! Those flames of him will block any and every gust of wind, I'm unable to chain him down!' Solon can feel anxiety from Shino's voice. She had stopped her flight to create the tornado, the wolf spit flames as it ran straight towards her. Before she could continue her flight, the wolf jumps and grabs her with his claws.
She tries to struggle, but when gravity is combined with the pain of claws sticking to one's body and the monster's weight, it becomes impossible for her to escape. She falls to the ground, dragged by the wolf. Solon is knocked away, he feels like Shino purposefully pushed him away from her. After hitting the floor, he quickly stands up again. But it would have been better to stay on the ground, standing back right away only made him become a witness to the scene of Shino having her wings and torso mauled by the wolf. After digging into her body with his fangs, the wolf walks a few steps back and fires concentrated flames on her body. As she raises in flames, not even allowing herself to chirp once out of pain, she vanishes, becoming only a cloud of sparkling dust.
Since the beginning of the match, the man hasn't moved a single inch from the spot he talked to Solon. 'So once the wolf is loose you don't even need to move, is that what you're telling me?' biting his lips, Solon has two cores gather light on his hands. A pair of small green pheasants burst from the cores and fly straight towards the wolf. He doesn't think that will do it, not for a moment he'd consider it. His plan is to have them stall, nothing else.
As the pheasants fly around the wolf, barely dodging the flames each head spit,s Solon grabs his cellphone. While he is on the otherworld, there is no connection, but he knows what he must do. 'I went after some guy by myself and got beaten. I don't know what information he's taking from me nor what he'll do to me after the battle, so watch out everyone,' he types, as fast as he can, not knowing how much longer he will endure before having his life break. 'Red hair, black cape. Spirit is a three-headed wolf, somehow he completely censored Zearth, I can't even hear his voice. Again, be careful everyone.'
He finishes typing it and queues the message. He sets it to be posted in ten minutes, but he believes the battle will be over in less than that. He puts his cellphone back on his pocket. The pheasants are nowhere to be seen, not even their dust can be seen. The wolf is waiting again. The order he got was to 'defeat the spirits,' he won't attack the battler until the specific order comes.
“Even if for nothing other than how long you've resisted, I'll praise you. I figured you'd break right after having your god sealed and that powerful spirit destroyed, but it seems I underestimated you.”
“Don't worry, I've already accepted my loss. I'm just too dumb to believe that from the bottom of my heart,” another core gathers energy on his hand. However, before the spirit even comes out, the man snaps his fingers. A moment away from Solon being devoured by a hell of flames, the otherworld vanishes.
Both his hands are nailed to a stone wall, his feet don't touch the ground. A small dark room, every wall is made of stone, there are no windows on any of them, but there is a small ray of light shining above his head, lighting the person in front of him. The red-headed man looks up, staring straight at his eyes, a large crow on his shoulder.
“Who has been giving you information on us? Don't take us for fools who wouldn't realize it is getting leaked.”
“...B...Ba...” Solon resists, biting his lips with enough force to have them bleed. It's just imaginary blood, so he doesn't mind.
“Ah, of course,” he points to Solon's abdomen. The crow flies at it like a bullet and pierces through his flesh with its beak, then pecking on Solon's liver and devouring it.
“Bat! His name is Bat!”
“...We don't have such a member on our group,” the man scratches his chin, thinking. 'It's unlikely that he's still resisting, that means...' “How clever. Was it your idea or his idea to not have you know his real name?”
“H-his idea...!” the pain of having something burying its face on his body and eating his internal organs drives him close to insanity, but he's still being forced to answer every question.
“I see. How many of the absolute gods are on this town, currently?”
“All six!” he has to speak as fast as he can, every motion increases the pain that runs through his body.
“Are you all living on the Leondall mansion?”
“It seems we're close to the time limit. Last question. The girl you saw earlier, on a scale of one to ten, how cute was she?”
“...Around nine,” after his answer, the crow stops eating him and instead tries to enter the hole it opened. It widens it with its talons and then shoves its head in, forcing itself into Solon's body.
“How dare you...”
What offends the man is both the fact that Solon assumedly looked at her with lustful eyes and the fact he didn't consider her a ten. The nails disappear, Solon's face hits the floor and the punishment ends. The two return to the real world, but Solon is completely out cold. The man grabs his unconscious body and carries him away. Much to his disgust, but in order to not call unwanted attention, he makes it seem he's giving Solon a piggyback ride.
Minutes after that, everyone gets a notification on their cellphone. Erika and Sirin are together when they check it out, as Ares and Lui happen to be. Isaac alone happens to be by himself. 'W-what?' his hand shakes, the cellphone almost escaping his grip, as he reads it over and over again.
Isaac: Is this a prank
He waits for a reply. Never before he wanted to get a message so bad, even a simple 'lol' or a 'y' would suffice for him. But even when a message comes, it's not exactly who or what he wanted.
Elos: Is Solon the type to make that sort of joke? I don't know him that well, but all things considered, I believe it's better to think it's real.
Isaac: But then...
Isaac: Should I go look for him? Or something...
Siririn: It was a queued message, he prepared it a while ago. Probably when he figured he was losing...
Isaac: What do I do
Siririn: 'Wait for the informant to contact you, he probably will tell you Solon's whereabouts', says Magna.
Robin: That seems to be a good idea. The cult might have gotten him to spill the beans about all of us, if we act rashly to rescue him, we'll end up the same way. Waiting for information might be for the best.
Each new message he reads makes Isaac rage even more, to the point he chooses to just turn off his cellphone. 'Why are they so calm? They don't care about Solon at all, do they? Of course they don't, they don't even know him, they think of him as stranger,' he wanted to type all of that, which is why he'd rather turn it off than have to fight the urge. Because he knows he's even more of a stranger to them, if he does anything, they'll just ignore and disregard him as well.
“It's five o'clock... I can go around searching for him until it becomes dark, it's no problem for me.”
“Sure?” Rizelfar speaks to him.
“Of course. If Solon went after someone, it was Bat's suggestion. For him to get defeated... it was obviously a trap, Bat betrayed us. He won't ever tell us of his whereabouts. Those people can't be trusted, they'll leave Solon to his fate if they can.”
“Others, not trust,” Rizelfar nods. The king of machines, as any king, stands at the top, so he doesn't know of anything but solitude. Not out of being unable to bond, but because of a belief that nobody is equal to the king. Solitude itself is the evidence of kinghood.
“Other than you and Solon, I don't need anyone. Let's go save him.”
The boy rushes out of his home, without any idea of where to go, only believing it might still be possible to find him. Disregarding the time that has transpired since it happened, disregarding they could be anywhere on the city, disregarding that they could be on a car, a truck, a van, any sort of vehicle, disregarding that they could already be within some building, the boy searches. 'I'll feel him, certainly,' he assures himself of that.
Meanwhile, within a private facility, where entry is allowed only to elite members of the Amaterasu group, a red-headed man throws a boy inside a cubicle which only has a small bed in it and locks the its door. A cell, the boy has been 'jailed' for the 'sin' of rebellion. As the man walks away, he notices a slender woman with long blonde hair leaning against a wall. She wasn't there when he entered, so she followed him and waited for him to turn around, he assumes. Actually, she had been there all along, he just couldn't notice her presence until she wanted to be noticed.
“Heard you had a date with leader today?” The woman asks, grinning.
“Not really, sadly,” the man sighs.
“One day, right?” She pats his back.
“One day...” he sighs once more, but then the two break into laughter.
“And which one is this one?” She makes a gesture with her head towards the cell.
“He used spirits of Green, so he probably hosts Harvest.”
“Since you can't say for sure, I'm guessing you used Tartarus on him.”
“I'll show no mercy to these heretics who challenge the providence of the Goddess,“ he answers in a bark, some nerves popping on his forehead. Just thinking about the 'sinners' gets him to lose his cool.
“Yeah, yeah, I know, that's one of your qualities, I think. You're serious about the job. Wanna go for a few drinks to celebrate? I mean, you took one of them down, Leader is bound to face your way now.”
“...Let's do it. I'll even pay for your first drink, you just put me in a good mood.”
The two walk away, joyfully talking and laughing together. The boy who pretended to be knocked out all this time taps his pockets. He's sure nobody touched his body during the time he was awoke, so his cellphone either fell out of his pocket or got stolen during the period in which he was out cold.
“Damn... I can't find out where I am through GPS, I can't contact everyone else... I hope that message is enough to keep them safe,” Solon whispers, his body still hurting all over. 'This is pretty much phantom pain, isn't it? There is no wound, but I feel it hurting.'
He crawls to the bed and lies down. Zearth is still silent, Shino is silenced as well, there is no way out. All he can do is rest and recover his energy. 'Maybe I'll be getting some visits eventually, I don't think they'd just leave me here...' When the time comes, he plans on opening the gate before they can use that 'Tartarus' they spoke of. And after beating them... Well, he'll think about that when the time comes. For now, he changes his objective to resting and finding out as much as he can about the enemy while he is infiltrated on their headquarters.
'I probably won't be getting rescued, I need to find a way out by myself,' the reason he believes there'll be no rescue isn't because he doesn't trust his allies, but because it's impossible they'd find this place and successfully get to him. In fact, he'd rather have no one come for him, he doesn't want to be prioritized over anyone's safety. It's easier for one to break out than one breaking in then escaping along with him.