Beginning of the end. The gates to hell have opened, and for the dead to return, the living must enter. How many will travel to a world they'll never return from, how many will betray providence and once again walk the earth? This is the longest night for the heroes whose hearts are as beautiful as crystals.
(11 pages, we're heading to the finale now. I don't know how many more chapters, but it will one day end for certain.)
'The adults normally gather at a bar and just talk over some drinks,' once he remembered that, he figured it could be possible to find Bat at a bar and question him. As he only knows of one bar in which that man might be found, he climbs on a bicycle and pedals all the way to the place. Walking would take too long, waiting for a bus could make him lose the person he is tracking, to pedal is the optimal choice for him. Oddly enough, he doesn't feel any pain or exhaustion. Usually, running for a while would be enough to put him out of breath, yet he has pedaled for a long time and doesn't feel anything. His legs don't feel any burden, his body is lighter than ever.
A red-headed man with rebellious eyes and a slender woman with long blonde hair walk into a bar. They sit down, order a few drinks, all while in an endless dialogue. They're just taking a break, there's no punchline. The man is called Bells, his scary looks make him seem older, but he is just twenty-one. Why he wears a cape is a question that plagues the mind of every person who lays eyes on him. The woman is called Alice, most would say she looks her age, but she feels she's taller than the average 23 year old. Both stand on the second stratum of the Amaterasu group, answering directly to the leader and being more aware of the situation than the average member.
The two had been chatting for a while, drinking, eating peanuts, laughing, nobody looking at them would believe they're not just two friends relaxing after a day of work. A boy walks past them. Bells is too centered on his own world to notice, but Alice thinks 'he's probably too young for this place,' as she watches him go. He never stops looking around, he walks around, clearly searching for someone. He combs the entire bar, looking and looking, searching and searching, he walks past the two's table three times before finally leaving.
“Bells, I'll excuse myself for a moment, don't you dare touch my nuts,” she leaves him before waiting for a reply, rushing towards the bar's exit. The boy is still there, sighing as he unlocks his bicycle. “Hey, boy.”
“...What is it?” He spends a moment trying to recognize the woman, but it's nobody he knows, he can't understand why a stranger would call him.
“You're looking for someone, right?” Anyone would be able to guess just by looking.
“Yeah,” 'is she one of those... meddling individuals?' he curses how she's making him waste time on a situation like this, where a single minute could mean finding or not finding Solon.
“We have him,” she says, her tone as casual as the tone of someone commenting the weather. It takes a minute for it to sink on Isaac, he can't connect what she just said to her previous question. He can see the connection, but such a connection shouldn't exist for her, she shouldn't know he is looking for a man, she shouldn't know that he was captured. “Aw, don't be like that. I was born with a very peculiar power, you know? I can read minds.”
“...Huh?” 'This woman gets weirder by the word she says,' he thinks, still perplexed.
“I get that a lot, don't worry. Solon is his name, right? We're holding him captive on our headquarters.”
“...What did you say?” He heard it loud and clear. His question isn't out of not believing his ears, it's to confirm she'll have the courage to repeat it. He is starting the rite of discovering the enemy's color before opening the gate.
“I think we can solve this without battling, you know? I'm sure there's a better way to deal with this,” she puts her hands up.
“How about an exchange? You give us your other partners, we give you your friend. They're not your actual allies after all, right? A few of them in exchange for your best friend is a nice price, right?”
“The villain never keeps his side of the bargain, do you think I'm a fool?” 'Not, trust, others,' Rizelfar agrees with him.
“Well, then I hope you're not a villain, because...” She picks up a cellphone from her pocket and types for a few seconds. She clicks the 'send' button, Isaac's cellphone rings. He opens it to see he received a picture of a map with an specific address marked. The phone address which sent it is obviously unknown, meaning he truly doesn't know the woman at all. “I've already done my part, so you just have to keep your side of the bargain now.”
“This... means...” So much is happening he can't even understand what that pictures means.
“Yeah, that's where your friend is. If you can't trust me, head there first and confirm it,” the woman smiles, she feels proud of herself.
“My number, how did you-” She puts a finger over his lips and winks.
“I read minds, don't make me repeat myself. I'll let you go now, you still have lots of pedaling to do. Thank you for your patronage, I hope you agree to continue working with us!”
She skips back into the bar, the boy is left behind, puzzled and frozen at where he stands. He's still trying to proccess all that just transpired. Or rather, the only thing he can't understand is how that woman knows everything 'Reading minds... isn't possible, right?' he tries to find a logical explanation, but nothing can quite cover all the holes and make it have any sense. 'Wait, I need to head to this place, I can think about unscientific phenomena after I see Solon,' he resumes unlocking his bicycle, confirms what route he must take to reach that place and, once more, pedals away.
“What did you have to do? The toilet isn't outside,” Bells asks Alice as she returns to their table.
“I never said I was going to the toilet,” she stares at the bowl of peanuts as she says it.
“So, where did you go then?”
“Remember when you still didn't like me and referred to me through a sick nickname?”
“Puppetmaster? I do recall that, but it was a long time ago,” he scratches his chin, wondering if she's holding some grudge over that.
“Bad habits never die, you could say. ...Like your habit of eating my food when I'm not around!” She punches the table, looking at him with condemning eyes.
“How did you guess, I had them refill it!” The man leans backwards, she's scary when mad.
“Don't think I didn't memorize how each peanut looked like when I left, I can see the ones here are different!”
“Damn...!” He looks away in shame, like a dog who's getting scolded for pooping on the hallway. But as usual, they can't keep that mood for long, they break into laughter in a matter of seconds.
Meanwhile, at the Leondall mansion, Erika medidates while bathing. The estate offers hot springs, bathtubs and showers, she chooses what to go for depending on the situation. When she's stressed, hot springs. When she needs to think about something, bathtub. When in a hurry or without any particular thing on her mind, a shower. And as expected from her family, the bathtub is large enough for four people to bathe together without feeling cramped.
The topic on her mind is nothing other than the message Solon left, followed by Isaac going offline without warning and not answering any message at all. She worries both about Solon's fate and Isaac's state of mind. 'He's probably upset... did he get mad at us for telling him to do nothing? He's probably the one who's worried the most...' Despite what she said, she'd have liked to go search for him right away as well. Erika believes leaving him to be alone is too cruel, but she understands that deciding through emotions alone can make them fall for an obvious trap, the decision they made was correct.
“But is making the right choice all that matters...?” She whispers, sinking her head underwater for a while. Once her breath reaches its limits, she comes out, her hair sticking to her eyes. She hears the noise of the door being closed. “Ares?”
“...” whoever it is, the person doesn't respond. She gets her wet hair away from her eyes and turns to the door. A guy on a black suit, the uniform used by their butlers. His fingers make quick movements, that same motion cowbows about to draw their guns do. His nostrils are flared up, he's breathing out through his mouth. But what truly screams 'deranged' is the perverted look on his eyes.
“...” Erika stares at him. Despite her usual cluelessness, she can guess what is going on within that guy's head. She has been harassed by enough criminals and perverts to be able to tell that much. She takes a deep breath and shrieks as long and loud as she can. Then, with that done, she speaks in a composed tone. “Your intentions are clear as day, so my question is something else: Did you infiltrate here or have you always worked here?”
“How terrible, you can't even recognize someone who's been on your service for months...”
“I barely leave my room, save for Ares, I don't know anyone,” she stands up, taking a kung fu stance and calling for him with her hand. “If you try to retreat now, you'll still be caught and punished. If you come forward, you might at least steal a fondle before I beat you senseless.”
“How haughty, just as expected from a spoiled brat. When I'm done with you, you'll regret that attitude,” he announces, not even bothering to look Erika on her eyes. “Tartarus Open!”
The clear water on which she bathed a moment ago becomes a bottomless mass of dark liquid, Erika sinks, almost as if she has an anchor around her body. She can't see, she can't hear, she feels cold. And then, as if all of that was but a short nightmare, she finds herself on the otherworld. The battlefield seems to be composed of hills, but her sight is limited, she's down on a hole surrounded by four high masses of land.
“I should climb one of these and get a better view of this place, but first... Rafil, lend me your clothes, being naked... on the otherworld feels...” She looks around her, above and below, but there's no one. Rafil is nowhere to be seen. As her tension grows, Solon's message returns to her. 'Zearth got censored, he said... A measure to fight the gods?'
To confirm if anything else is different, she decides to climb the hill in front of her. 'It feels so uncomfortable to step on grass with your bare feet when they're wet, I never asked for this,' she frowns. Out of all the people that have assaulted her, this one is certainly the worst. She repeats 'the worst, the worst, the worst' over and over within her mind.
Upon reaching the top of that tall hill, the sight she sees is quite demotivating. The good part is that there's nothing weird on this place, she expected dark clouds and hellfire, but save for the fact Rafil didn't appear, the scenery is normal. The bad part is that there's countless spirits and she can see a small light sparkling, probably more of them being summoned. Small dragons of the most varied shapes and colors. White, orange, blue, brown. Long, round, bulky. Individually, they're clearly weak, but as there's an army of them, that might as well make up for it.
Her specialty is magic, not summoning, so she can't make an army of her own to face the enemy spirits. Even if she summons something powerful enough as to not get overwhelmed by numbers, there's a limit to how many enemies it could intercept, the remaining spirits would go straight for her. 'This would be a good time for limited immortality...'
Perhaps betraying common sense, the girl heads forward nevertheless, towards the ever-growing army of small dragons. Summoning behind the ranks of small dragons, the man who opened the gate. He's so focused on summoning he doesn't even notice Erika appearing on the distant and heading towards him, only realizing when a small orange dragon with swords for wings pokes him and points to her. Without a moment of hesitation, not considering the possibility of her coming straight for him to be a trap, he orders the entire army of dragons to launch their assault.
Some use their wings to fly, some fly without even needing wings, most stomp the ground, raising a cloud of dust as they stampede towards the girl. They attempt to roar, but they don't sound threatening at all. They're just an army of small fry, there are things which are clearly out of their range.
A core appears on the girl's hands, she's preparing for the incoming clash with the dragons. However, despite gathering light, nothing comes out of that core, it simply stands still on midair, hovering. The girl continues walking forward, leaving the summoned core behind her, and creating another, which she leaves a few meters away of the previous one.
She continues walking calmly, leaving one floating core after the other, while the enemy army draws ever closer. After disposing five of them in an almost pentagonal shape, the small dragons finally reach her. A group of blue flying dragon that are thin as a needles flock her like crows on carrion. She protects her face with her arms, the feeling of their attacks is like that of countless stabs on her arms and shoulders. She can't see what are the beings which reach her next, but she feels something is slashing her legs.
A wave of energy bursts from her body and knocks the dragons a few steps back. A pair of shining wings has grown on her legs and, even if only slightly, given her some space. She jumps backwards, the wings flap, making her floating just as some of the dragons. It can't truly be called 'flying' as she's only a few centimenters above ground level. However, she's certainly moving faster this way, she retreats towards the inner area of the pentagon she created, luring the dragons into it.
Even at this moment, her opponent continues to bring out more small dragons, which team up with the others in going after her as soon as they are summoned. She'd try to count, but she sees no point to engaging in that, they're well above thirty and only increasing. Whenever the dragons gain on her, for a brief moment, her speed increases and returns the distance between them to what it was before.
Once she's almost out of the pentagon, the wings on her feet vigorously flap and she flies upwards at great speed. From this point of view, it becomes easier for her to see the position of the enemy army. They're mostly within the territory of the diamond of core she spread, looking up at her. The ones who can fly can't fly that high, so they just hover in circles, like birds in wait for their prey to show an opening.
She creates one more core. This one doesn't hover, she grasps it on her hand and drops it towards the mass beneath her. As it falls down, she aims at it with her finger, shaping her hand like a gun. Her eyes and hair change color, slowly turning into a bright yellow, as a lightning-like energy gathers on the tip of her finger. This is the fruit of her training, a power she honestly didn't believe she'd put to use any time soon.
“Dispersion: ! Angel Strike!” She shoots the lightning straight into the falling core.
The core is hit by the lighting and disperses it into a three-pronged beam. Two of these reach to a pair of dragons, wiping them out into a cloud of dust immediately, the third one goes for the closest core out of the five she placed earlier, which then spreads the beam into three as well, two towards dragons, one towards the core ahead of it. Pair after pair, dragons are erased as the beam of yellow lightning continues to shoot from one core to another.
Normally, if some energy were to be divided by three continuously, at some point, it'd lose potency and no longer have any power left to, like in this case, continue damaging the dragon spirits. However, that is part of the role of the cores on this. Instead of only redirecting the beam endlessly, they recharge it with the energy that was gathered by them.
Angel Strike isn't capable of destroying any strong spirits, but since they're all weaklings, it is more than enough to take them all on. Erika opens her left hand and extends her arm towards the pentagon of core. Her entire arm tenses, she has to hold it with her right hand to keep it from shaking. The wings flap, slowly motioning her forward. Along with her, the cores of dispersion come along. She has 'hooked' them and is trying to move them along with her, through a magic that works like psychokinesis. However, as she hasn't ever tried that before, the strain it puts on her is proving to be quite heavy.
There are two reasons she needs to do this: As the small dragons are wiped off, the beam won't find something to redirect itself and, as there would no longer be any spirits to target, it would split into two and hit the two cores closest to it. That beam can't return to the previous target, so these two would be charged and hit the one core closest to it with full power, be filled with more energy, then these two over-charged beams would shoot at each other. Erika has no idea what might happen when they clash, but she's not willing to find out. The second reason is that if she gets to wipe everything out with a single Angel Strike, it's cheaper for her.
The saucer of lightning moves forward, being pulled by the girl flying among the clouds. Mercilessly being wiped out by an angelical punishment, the army quickly decreases in size. However, the waning of their numbers isn't only because they're being wiped out faster than they are summoned, the summoning has altogether stopped. Perverted as he might be, the man isn't a complete fool, if his main strategy is being countered, he will switch to a different one. Thus, he unsummons most of his spirits before they're destroyed by her.
However, his intention isn't a simple and pure 'I'll spare them from dying,' he's using their 'lives,' converting their energy into another being's power. As much as he might enjoy the feeling of overwhelming the opponent with wave upon wave of weaklings, none of these were his true spirit, the spirit which is a double to his very soul had manifested on a very distant place.
The girl notices the spirits vanishing one after the other, before her beam even hits them. She has no idea of the exact number, but is certain that she killed over half of his forces. 'Hm, is he giving up on using these then? If he summons something stronger, I'll have to-' she couldn't finish her thought. If she had to pick words to explain the feeling, she'd define it as 'being hit by a lightning-fast anvil and it doesn't let go of you until you're buried a few centimeters underground.'
The dragon which rested above the atmosphere descended upon her like a meteor, as per its master's commands. She couldn't react in time to dodge, but she could cast a spell after being grabbed and before being smashed against the ground. However, even if she hits the wurm with Absolute Zero, nothing could be done about the impact of hitting the ground.
She stands up, her legs wobble and her left arm seems to be broken. Dirt and blood has entered her left eye as well. 'Well, other than all of this, I'm pretty fine, right?' she jokes. She has some time before the wurm can hurt her again, the smaller spirits seem to have either opened the way for their boss or have all been converted into energy it, she thinks. Actually, five of them remain, but they stand around their master, as a 'just in case' protection.
“Life... Revolution,” a glowing yellow heart mark appears on her right hand. She presses it against her chest and waves of healing magic run across her body. Her legs stabilize and the wound on her brow ceases to bleed. Nothing could be done about the arm being broken, but the pain has eased, at the very least. 'I could try High Elixir... but by the time I'm done with that, it'd just smash me again...'
She takes a few steps back. The wurm is pretty big, but the image of Magna has spoiled her standards, it is quite lacking in abs and pectorals and.. everything, it's quite the scrawny dragon when compared to Magna. Its face is huge, its ears are like spikes, and so are its chin and cheeks. She realizes its head has the shape of an upside-down star and finds that pretty queer. Those spiky protuberances appear on its entire upper body, from its head, through the shoulders and wings, all the way down to waist. From the wait down, only the knees have a single spike each.
While clearly not as powerful as Magna, that doesn't mean it isn't threatening. It still is a huge dragon covered in spikes, while she's only a girl with a broken arm and no clothes. 'I just realized I'll need a shower after this, damn you!' Seeing as she can't afford to continue trying to fend it off with magic alone, she simultaneously summons two spirits.
A black and white penguin, small and round like a ball. Its white belly has black spots shaped like the Southern Cross constellation. The other is a penguin as well, and just as small and round as the other one. However, this one is clearly more adequately prepared, it wears an armor which cover its entire body, only a small bit of blue-ish feathers can be seen, along with two black beads which are its eyes. While the other has nothing on it, this knightly penguin wields a shield and a spear.
The knight turns to Erika and hands her its shield, gesturing in its own penguin way a request for her to 'use it to cover her shame.' She has no words to express how gallant that penguin is. Not that a shield which can be handled by a small penguin can cover much, but she doesn't want to disappoint it, so she at least tries.
The effect of Absolute Zero is gone, the wurm leaps forward with great speed, just as it did before. It was completely still during the time of effect, yet leaves a trail of destruction from leaping forward without needing any impulse, its acceleration is too fearsome. 'Rather than strength, it relies on speed? Even Magna might not be this fast,' Erika grabs the knight and jumps out of the way.
The trail left by the wurm can easily be compared to a crater of a meteor-landing. It is the type that goes straight for a target, and with Erika and the knight out of the way, it smashed and dragged the black penguin against the soil. The penguin had already turned to dust on the moment of impact, but the wurm could only stop over ten meters away from the point of contact.
'Sorry for that,' Erika willingly sacrificed that penguin, in order to activate the power of the knight. It removes its helmet, sparkling dust gathers on its hand and becomes a horn. The scared penguin blows it, a loud sound reverberates across the hills. When it sees an ally be destroyed, it calls for reinforcements. Normally, the presence of a spirit can make it easier for another spirit to be summoned, the more spirits around, lesser the strain on the summoner, something like how a person is more willing to go somewhere when they find out their friends are gonna be there. However, in this case, the penguin is calling for help. And when a friend calls for help, there's no resisting, anyone will come for the rescue, free of charge.
Once it manages to break, the wurm turns around right away and leaps forward once again. Despite how distant it is, it needs but a few seconds to close the distance between itself and the girl. By the time it starts to accelerate towards them, the knight already has started to blow its horn, and a giant core has appeared in front of Erika, large to the point she has to hold it with both hands. 'I have no idea who you are, but thank you for coming,' she says.
The core shatters, a penguin larger than both Magna and this wurm together comes out of it, thrusting forward with a lance proportional to itself. Indeed, it has proportions superior to those of the two dragons, but while they're spiky or burly, this one is purely round. Despite not having a build that would give such an impression, its power matches its size. The wurm couldn't change directions, even if it attempted to break, it wouldn't stop in time. While it would be more adequate to say it impales itself by flying at extreme speed against a lance, let's choose to respect its honor and say the penguin was the one who did it.
The armor worn by the noble warrior is only a blue helmet and shoulder pads, the rest of its clothing is a single shirt of blue and white fabric which covers it from neck to feet. The countless medals on its chest are an exhibition of its many feats of bravery, heroism and chivalry. After the impaled dragon becomes dust, the paladin turns to the small knight and winks. The knight becomes stiff, awkwardly saluting the giant penguin.
Without waiting for any word of command, the penguin returns his attention to the opponent. A man hiding behind a wall of small creatures. To the paladin, out of them all, that man is the smallest. The steps it takes quake the earth, but it doesn't run or show any hostility. However, the pellets it calls eyes are clearly filled with a mix of pity and disgust. The dragons ignore the man's commands to intercept the paladin. Not because they know they're just gonna die, not because they realized their master might be scum. They cannot get themselves to intercept that paladin. They respect it, they don't want to show any disgraceful behavior in front of it.
The paladin stands one step away from the man. The dragons bow their heads and open the way. He can't understand what is going on, why are the spirits showing a will of their own like this. The paladin drops its lance and draws a saber. It swings the saber down, the tip of the blade one milimeter away from the man's nose.
“Repent,” are the only words to come out of the paladin, in a loud voice that could swing for belonging to either gender.
The otherworld begins to crumble. The paladin sheathes its sword once more, the man falls to his knees. Erika is, and has been for a while, dumbfounded. She knew the Pentans were cute, but to think there was one of them that had that much power. On the last second of the otherworld, the paladin turns to her and nods, an encouraging smile on its face. If there were levels of speechlessness, hers would increase, along with how grateful she is to the paladin.
In the blink of an eye, she's back to the real world. Erika being inexperienced as she is and Rafil being blocked out, the punishment game simply didn't happen, there was no one who could execute it. The invader turns around and runs to the door, screaming. Despite no punishment, it seems Paladin managed to deal quite some damage to him regardless.
The scene that follows, however, is unexpected and slightly humorous. From Erika's point of view, the man opens the door and falls on his back. From the opposite POV, the man opens the door, sees the way is blocked by a person, but before he can even throw the person out of the way, the person throws themselves against him and land a headbutt on his face, not knocking out any teeth, but breaking his nose.
Sirin massages her forehead. Even if it certainly hurt him more than it hurt her, a headbutt is still painful for both ends of the exchange. She steps over the unconscious man and goes straight for Erika, who fell to her knees the moment she returned to the real world. Sirin steps into the water without hesitating, taking hold of Erika with her arms. The left half of her body is stained with dirt, her left arm is limp.
“Erika? Erika!” Sirin gently slaps her cheek, to bring her back to reality, she seems to be in daze.
“Si...rin? Hey there,” she smiles. Sirin hasn't known Erika's physical form for long, but either due to her strong instincts or maybe because of their bond, she can tell that smile is front.
“Don't overdo it. How is your arm?”
“Uuh, broken, it seems. And I think flying at great heights and being smashed against the ground when you're naked is bad for your health, I feel so out of it...” She tries to focus, but she keeps seeing double and her entire body feels heavy.
“Let's... get you dressed up and then take care of that arm, okay?”
“Ok...” 'Erika, summon me, I'll tend to your arm,” Rafil speaks. 'Ah, it's good to see you're well,' despite talking via thoughts, Erika waves. Sirin sees her doing that while staring at nothing and assumes she's getting delusional because of the pain. 'I'll... force myself out, you probably wouldn't manage on this state.'
A topaz gem comes out from her chest and hatches like an egg, releasing a small angel girl into the world. 'Heeey,' Erika says, trying to catch her, but Sirin holds her. 'Is she drunk? This is too weird,' Sirin puts Erika's right arm over her shoulder and helps her walk. The robe which Rafil wears extends and surrounds Erika's left arm, becoming a cast of sorts.
“This will help her heal... Now get her dressed and then put her to sleep, she's mentally and physically exhausted,” Rafil asks. According to Erika, Rafil is very perverted and says some inadequate things when they're together, but right now Sirin is holding a naked Erika and she's being all proper, Sirin is confused. “From your face I can tell you expect me to say 'warm her cold body with yours,' but I'm honestly better than that, I can read the mood.”
“...But you went and said it anyway,” Sirin laughs.
“J-just do as I asked you to, please, there's no need to tease me, is there?” Rafil blushes.
She helps Erika put the clothes she left on the dressing room, then resumes walking her back to her own room. But that's when something hits her. 'Magna... when we heard Erika's scream, we rushed to the bathing room right away. I wasn't paying much attention, but why was I the only one who went there?' She asks, looking around, finding the lack of servants to be odd, there's usually at least one running on the hallways or a few cleaning the walls, ceiling or mats.
'Absolutely no one. I believe Blue and Purple's shifts ended and they were leaving, so I understand why they didn't come, but as for the many other servants...' Sirin stops. Her sixth sense screams 'danger, danger.' Deciding to trust it, she opens the chat on her cellphone.
Siririn: Ares, Lui, have you left the mansion yet?
She waits. Lui takes a while to answer because he's not used to cellphones, but if Ares is free, she will respond right away. If Sirin counts to ten and she hasn't said anything, she's probably driving.
Robin: We're at the garage, about to leave. Why?
Siririn: Erika got attacked by someone and is out of it. There are no servants around, something weird is going on. I was about to drop her on her room, but I feel it might not be safe, what do I do?
A brief pause. Though Sirin counts to ten, no reply comes. However, as Ares has already made clear she isn't driving, this probably means she's thinking of something.
Robin: Leave the mansion. If one managed to get in, more might have managed as well. I'll talk go to Edmont and warn him of it.
Siririn: Thanks. But after we leave the mansion, where do I go? Btw, her arm is broken but Rafil put it into a cast.
Robin: I'll take you two to my apartment. If Edmont doesn't do anything that is, I just figure that, for now, being outside is safer, since they'll be looking for us within the mansion.
Siririn: Do you think they got this information from Solon?
Robin: They already knew the mansion was like a base to us, maybe not. I'll be heading off now, so don't expect any more replies for a while. Be careful.
Siririn: Thanks, Ares. You too.
Sirin turns around and starts heading to the entrance. Her sixth sense stops ringing, so the danger she felt truly resided on leaving Erika on her room. 'I'm thankful for Ares, it's good to have someone so mature on the team...' she comments to herself, but it obviously reaches Magna's ears. 'I could have suggested the same,' he says. 'Don't be jealous now.'
“Lui, something... is off. I've been feeling weird ever since the two of us got our shifts to end earlier, but now it's confirmed that something is happening,” the reason for that being alarming to her is because, if anything, they get longer shifts than everyone else as 'punishment' for being simpletons who got jobs they aren't worth of. The two are disliked by their coworkers, but while Lui doesn't even realize, Ares is used to it.
“Do you want me to go with you?”
“No, I want you to do something else. You up for some risks?”
“...Don't worry about me.”
After giving Lui instructions, she dashes out of the garage and back into the mansion's main building. The two buildings are connected, so it's a quick stride, especially now that she has changed into her riding outfit. Not to say she dislikes her maid uniform, but she can't walk very fast or make very rough movements.
As she traverses the mansion, she notices the oddity that Sirin mentioned, there's a serious lack of servants. 'It's barely 7pm, where did they all go?' It makes no sense for a mansion that's always bursting with liveliness to be so quiet all of a sudden. Having reached her destination, she knocks on the door. Until she hears any voice, five seconds have passed, almost as if the person within hesitates on whether or not to answer.
“Yes?” It's Edmont's voice, she'd never mistake it.
“May I come in, sir?” She doesn't know who might be listening, so, despite usually speaking with him without any formalities, this time she uses a polite speak
“Well, yes, please do,” he relaxes upon hearing Ares' voice.
“I'll help myself then,” she enters the room. He's standing in front of the window, looking at the dark clouds on the sky. 'It was such a bright day not long ago, to think it'd become like this so suddenly... a sign of what's to come?' are the thoughts going across his head.
“Edmont, it seems some suspicious people have entered the mansion, your daughter has been injured by one of them,” upon confirming there's nobody around, she loosens up.
“Uh, I don't know how to put it, but... they can easily hurt others? They're dangerous people. With a dangerous mission,” she's honest about it, she knows Edmont will understand, even if it sounds like delusions created by a youthful mind.
“Do you mean, by any chance, people that open the gates?”
“...” Her expression grows darker. A thought she'd rather not have enters her mind and she can't fend it off. “Didn't you hear? Your daughter was attacked. Erika. Your daughter.”
“...That night, I felt something within you. A great strength, I could tell you carried something special. But to think that... that radiance I saw was the influence of an evil god,” he finally turns around, facing Ares with a melancholic expression on his face.
“Don't try to change the subject. I want to know your feelings towards you daughter having her arm broken by a... compatriot of yours,” deep down, she wants him to deny it. She wants him to say he has nothing with them.
“If she decided to go against the providence of the goddess, instead of basking on her light... There's nothing that can be said. It's simply how things turned out to be,” he shrugs.
“You can't be serious...” Ares grits her teeth. 'He's always been distant from Erika, but never gave up on trying to please her... It isn't possible that he feels nothing for her, what is he pretending to be?' She still refuses to believe it's not an act, but something has clicked within her regardless. Act or not, that behavior bothers her.
“...Tartarus Open,” is what he says, but the words his eyes spell are 'I'm sorry.' Because of her anger, Ares eyes couldn't read that message, but it would be clear to see if were calm. The room grows dark and cold. But to Ares, that isn't particularly scary nor does it make her uncomfortable. She has lived on places worse than that.
Sirin kicks the front door open. She has one arm on Erika's waist and another holding Erika's arm over her shoulder, and, while she can afford to let go for a moment, she decides not to. Due to Rafil's magical cast, Erika has recovered her mind in an increased pace, but as her body is still in frail condition, Sirin didn't let go of her.
“This... makes sense, honestly, I guess I was the fool for predicting it'd be a cinch,” beyond the opened door, a knight in armor at horseback and dozens of people in suits standing in formation behind the knight. 'The moment I avoided going into her room, they started preparing for this, that's what I feel. One way or the other, I'd be cornered.'
“I'd love to say 'surrender now and at least your life will be spared,' but...” the knight raises his voice.
“Wow, what a gentleman,” Sirin leans Erika against a wall and has her sit down there. 'I'll be right back, don't do anything stupid,' she whispers. Erika nods and tries to smile, but the left side of her face doesn't answer. 'A half smile is fine,' Sirin giggles, petting Erika's head. She hops down the stairs and takes a deep breath. One versus twenty-five is a tough battle, but with Magna, there's no one she can't beat. “Ga-”
“Tartarus Open!” a wave of darkness propagates and envelops Sirin and the man alone. Right in front of Erika's eyes, Sirin vanishes. Though Erika was left alone, the people in suits do not move.
“Hey, Rafil...” Erika calls for the angel in a low voice. 'Are you gonna ask why Sirin vanished?' Rafil sounds serious, unlike her usual self.
'Shouldn't... time stop? So, from where I'm standing, she'd be back in a second, despite how much time she might have spent battling on the otherworld?' As that is how it has been every time so far, she feels confused. Rafil herself told Erika the time within a battle happens on marble apart from the real world's spacetime. 'It seems... The gates of Tartarus have been open for a while. Because of that, from now on, battles will happen in real time...' the image of Rafil within Erika's mind is cowering.
'Explain this Tartarus to me, it's the third time I hear someone say it now,' the pervert during her bath, the knight a moment ago and Rafil just now. 'Well, it's... a place the gods must not enter. If the gate power we gave you people represents good, tartarus is evil. Yes, that's a good way to put it,' Rafil averts her gaze, she's truly shaking in fear. 'So now that I'm alone... won't these people come for me?' She sees men and women which certainly used to work on the mansion. She only barely recognizes their faces, but she knows she has seen them around. 'Well, they probably think you're broken already, so as long as you don't act too... energetic, they won't do anything.'
'So I better play dead, is what you're saying?' Her tone implies she won't stand idly, but she doesn't have much of an option, she can't move no matter how much she wants to. 'Yes, that'd be for the best. Until Sirin comes back,' Rafil's cowardice bothers Erika, but she can't struggle right now. 'Hey, one more question. Why am I so tired? I know I got hit hard by that dragon, but that should have wrecked my body alone, not have made me feel like my body and soul are in tatters,' she felt she was more lively when she had barely returned than how she is now. 'Did you... use lots of magic?'
Six cores for dispersion, Wing Boots, Angel Strike, Absolute Zero, Life Revolution, three summons. 'I guess,' she feels that much might have been average, she didn't even feel anything from the last summon. 'Tartarus takes a heavy toll on people who aren't used to it, you really overexerted yourself. Imagine you run five marathons without feeling anything, but then the strain from all that running piles up and comes all at once. You should be glad you won, if you lost after all that, you'd twice as hurt. And that's just by Tartarus, let's not mention the suffering from the punishment game,' Rafil nervously bites her thumb, just imagining what would have been of Erika if she lost sends shivers down her spine.
“Rafil... what is it that you're so scared of?” That question has been on her mind for a while, she can't help but ask it, seeing as she won't manage to do anything else.
Isaac enters the building. It took him a while to find the exact place, but once he got close to it, he felt as if he was being called towards it. He jumped off his bike and walked there, as illogical as that string of choices might be. But what matters to him is that he got to the place. On the entrance, a single girl stands on his way. She has his height, but, to him, she seems taller, her presence is stronger. When their eyes meet, she smiles.
“Please come with me,” she says, her voice sounds like a song echoing through his body, he feels his body hair standing up as the voice rings on his head. The girl walks away, Isaac follows her without even thinking about it. His body simply is compelled to go after her.
She guides him through a set of stairs that go down to an underground level. She stands by a door and points to it. The wall is made of stone and cement, the door is some metallic alloy, but there's a glass window on it. He gets on the tip of his toes to peek through the window and sees a familiar figure sleeping on a bed which might be too small for him.
“Sol-” the girl covers his lips with a finger, saying 'shhhh,' a finger over her mouth as well.
“He's resting. Saying it in Green terms, he's a cocoon now, if you disturb, he won't come out properly developed,” while Isaac can get what she means, he honestly feels there's a better way to put it than 'in Green terms.' But he would never retort to her. “After you fill your end of the bargain, he'll wake up.”
“...What do you mean?”
“Harvest is a benign god. Its siblings are evil, however. Impregnable is neutral, so I believe you can still come to side with us, side with justice. If the evil gods are annihilated, Harvest's nightmare will end. Your friend will be free from fear as well.”
“Even if he doesn't speak of it, I can feel his soul. He fears a lot, but if the nightmares are gone...” the girl puts her hand on Isaac's chest. His heart rate had increased ever since his encounter with that blonde woman at the bar. Her odd aura, followed by information of Solon's whereabouts, then the panic of not finding the right place, seeing Solon... Everything had driven his nerves to the limits. But with a single touch from the girl, it all reverts to normal.
'Rizel, are you comfortable with this?' That is all which is stopping him from answering the girl: Rizelfar's opinion on the matter. Not only he'll be saving Solon, he'll be making this girl, which is clearly just as interested on helping him, an ally. Unlike the others, who wanted to abandon him, she's worried about his nightmares and fears. And to top it off, she has made him relax just by touching him, she feels she might be an angel. A gorgeous face, a beautiful voice, kind and caring. 'Your choice, fine with me,' Rizelfar entrusts everything to Isaac.
“Thank you,” he directs his gratitude to both the girl and Rizelfar. The girl smiles and graciously walks away, climbing back to the floor they were before. He takes another look at Solon, then returns to the first floor, but now there's another person there.
“You called me here so suddenly, I came as fast as I could, but I'm still lost on what you want from me,” the girl says, not noticing Isaac by the stairs.
“You two work together to protect this place. Impregnable and Victory... Perfect defenses,” the girl calls Isaac close and has him shake hands with the pink-haired girl. “Please work together, they're likely to come here at the end of the day.”
“They...? What do you mean?” Clay tilts her head.
“It'll make sense later. Tonight is the night of the final assault. Didn't you say you were looking forward to the end of the conflict? It'll certainly end tonight,” the girl giggles as she turns her back and heads upstairs, towards the top floor of the building. There are many things the two still want to ask, but this time, they feel as if they're being repelled, as if there's some barrier between them and the girl.
Ares and Sirin are battling on Tartarus, Erika is exhausted from her battle, Lui works on Ares' secret request, Solon remains 'in development' and Isaac has changed sides. Alice and Bells act behind the curtains, away from the gaze of any spectator. The main actors scatter across the stage, the final act of the play begins. Behind the scenes, an unnamed mysterious girl prepares to call forth the central piece to this script, the sealed goddess, the feared goddess, the dreaded goddess: Amaterasu.