The truth. Once it comes out, one can't return to the shell which was ignorance. But one can always decide to believe on a different truth... that is the path of humans.
(Shorter chapter than usual, nine pages. The end continues.)
Fortunately or unfortunately, it's the first time she ever steps on a beach with her own two feet. Hot sunlight shining down on them, waves hitting the sand... exactly like a normal beach. She wishes her first time visiting one would be on a different situation, but it's too late already. The sea to the left, a city made of coral reefs to the right, but it can be said both of those are off-limits territory, their battle will take place on the sandbank alone.
The lone woman faces her employer and his... 'that... doesn't feel like a spirit.' A gigantic white humanoid lion who wears a blue armor, both the shoulder pads and chestplate presenting a face similar to a sea serpent's. The lion's eyes are yellow, its nose is black. He wields a sword whose hilt is the same blue as the armor, both made from the same material, which is the scales of hydras. On this case, not any hydra, but a hydra that is one of the strongest of the kind, the very Imperial Hydra that once ruled the southern oceans.
What truly ticks her off is the golden aura surrounding the lion. It isn't of magical origin, it isn't the power of its sword. Putting it in different terms, Ares has a 'radar' which detects the presence of spirits and warns her, allowing her to act before being taken by surprise. That lion doesn't give any answer on her radar, despite being right in front of her. She has never had such a thing happen to her before.
“Do you remember... when I tried taking Erika to the beach?” Edmont faces the ocean, the sound of waves bringing him a nostalgic feeling.
“She refused to go and hid under her bed for the entire day. 'I hate the sun and sand, let me be here, take someone else,' she said. Not even to you, she told me and asked me to forward the message,” Ares answers mechanically, like a robot reading something out of records.
“Yes, I hold that memory very dearly,” he briefly laughs.
“Is that so? Why is that?” Ares points to the lion with her hand shaped like a gun and shoots a purple bullet at it. However, it hits the golden aura and bounces off without having any effect.
“There's no particular reason... It's just a memory,” he points to Ares, commanding the lion to attack. She runs away, her hand still on the gun shape, gathering aura on the tip of her fingers. She jumps behind a tree, which Liodras cuts down in a single swing.
“Figures,” she shoots Liodras' chest, this time it goes through the golden aura. 'Good!' she celebrates.
She enters the otherworld already surrounded by enemy spirits. As she is someone used to having to search for the enemy, that takes her by complete surprise. They're three small crusaders with metallic wings. Their helmets have a cross shape which should make the eyes, mouth and nose visible, but there's only a shadow to be seen. The three attack her at the same time, like flocking birds. She uses her arm to protect herself, all three blades hit her arm. 'Better my left arm than something more important,' she thinks to herself.
A single swing of the very arm which was stabbed makes the crusader angels raise in flames and become dust. The use of magic makes her heart burn for a moment, but it doesn't last for long, only because it was a weak spell. 'Trying to take me by surprise with spirits of that level won't take me down, ' she observes her wounds and notices how shallow they are, not much blood gushes from the cuts.
Kilometers away from her, a pair of knights. One is small, one is huge, one is a human, the other is a spirit. The spirit sits on horseback, and both rider and horse are creepy. The horse is of a grayish-dark color, and wears an armor of a light shade of purple, which matches the armor worn by the knight. The knight's helmet has a pair of horns bulging from the forehead area, but as to whether those horns belong to the knight or just to the helmet is beyond Sirin.
“Magna, do you know that guy?”
“A fallen knight, a disgrace to his kingdom... He fights dirty, don't be careless,” Magna speaks from within her mind, and that's when she realizes he's not anywhere around her.
“Whoa, what are you doing in there? Shouldn't you be out here? We're in a battle,” she becomes nervous, her sixth sense already giving her an idea of what is going on.
“Tartarus... the chains of hell keep me from manifesting myself.”
“Ah, that's what Solon said on his message, right? But if I recall correctly, Solon couldn't even hear Zearth's voice?”
“I'm not so puny to be completely chained down and become unable to do anything. I can't offer you my fists, but my brain must suffice to allow you to take it down.”
“...How trusty, I feel safe now,” she sighs in relief.
'Will I do this through magic? What is the plan, Magna?' she asks. No reply comes, Magna is thinking. He could let something out right away, but he doesn't know what sort of fight the enemy is putting up, he'll wait a moment before acting. Seeing they won't be coming, the fallen knight trots forward. He raises his sword, a purple blade with an eerie aura around it. He spins it in the air, the aura intensifying even more. Sirin's left arm itches. A lot, the worst itch of her life. She takes a look at it, the blood on the wound has become purple and is causing her skin to blister. 'What the-' before she can even finish the sentence, she is interrupted by a cough of blood. The enemy knight runs towards her, Sirin falls to her knees, her entire body suddenly feeling ill.
The charged magical bullet pierces through the golden aura, that is indeed good. It certainly isn't a spirit, but to know there's a way to go around that aura is good. However, the time and energy spent on a single bullet doesn't even out with the damage done. It took lots of her energy to get that one through, and it seems it didnt even affect Liodras in any way. He doesn't even acknowledge the hit, continuing to wildly swing his sword at Ares.
“Do you remember that one time some boys which started picking on Erika because of her albinism?” Edmont calmly follows the battling two, being a figure which is completely out of place when seen along with the dodging woman and berserking lion.
“The sons of that friend of yours? You didn't do anything, but I threatened them when nobody was looking,” the lion slows down after his question, allowing her to answer. But as soon she's done talking, it returns to the same pace. The wideness of the battlefield and the size gap between her and the opponent are what have been allowing Ares to endure this long. Her athletic gifts developed during her years as a thief shine like they never have before.
“Is that so? I tried talking to him about it though, but he only said 'that's just how kids are,' so I...”
“That alone was enough for you to give up? She spent many days buried beneath her blankets, crying and saying she was a freak and abnormal!” A large core gathers on Ares hands. It shatters and the fragments burrow deep into the sand, bringing a dark chimera into the battlefield.
To call it a skeleton is not adequate, but it certainly is a corpse. The goat head is long gone, only ebony-like bones remain. The lion no longer has a mane, half of the dragon's face has decomposed. The rest of its body is mostly alright, only covered in dark fur which exudes death. The metamorph demon which represents change, Baldanders.
Baldanders recklessly tackles Liodras, knocking it out of its balance. It didn't expect a spirit so large to burst out of the sand and go straight towards it, the lion was taken by surprise. Liodras pushes the chimera away from itself, but as it is knocked back, the dragon head spits a cloud of purple fog. Liodras eyes burn when in contact with it, as he breathes it in, so does his throat and nose. Knowing Edmont is nearby and probably would also be hit by the fog, Liodras grabs the man and somersaults backwards, away from the cloud.
She no longer coughs blood, but the burning on her left arm and the weakness of her body hasn't changed. She can't get herself to stand, and the knight draws ever closer, his sword drawn low, being dragged against the ground. He won't even swing down on her, he plans on cutting her mid-gallop and end it like that.
She will allow him to believe it will be that easy. She could struggle, but baiting it into believing the win will be easy is more convenient. She puts up an act of coughing and suffering, but her gaze is fixated on the approaching enemy. The horse is a few meters away from her. At the speed it gallops, it's a matter of seconds until the blade slashes through her. And on the nick of time, her burst spell activates.
The condition is the exact moment of attack, a timing easy to miss, but the girl has sharp instincts. A thick barrier of metal surrounds her. Not any sort of iron, nor any alloy like that, this is a shield crafted from the scales of a mechanical dragon's moult. In other words, a dragonic shield. The blade bounces off, the girl is unscathed. The cost of the spell is paid with her body, her temperature spontaneously increases. But that is also part of her plan, the hotter her body gets, harder it is for the poison which was hidden on those blades to affect her.
'But be careful, even if you nullify the poison, if you collapse out of a fever instead...' Magna warns her, but she is aware of that. 'There is a more pressing matter, Magna. How can I beat that guy without you?' she asks. It is clearly too powerful to take down with the offensive magic she knows. 'Hmm, we'll have to call one of my allies then. Someone whose might I've acknowledged will be honored to fight on my call,' feeling very proud of himself for some reason, he teaches her how to summon the individual she needs.
Liodras roars. While it seems to be just for the sake of it, the roar of an ultimate, a being which surpasses a spirit, isn't just a verbal announcement. The roar disperses like a blast of wind and blows away the fog cloud. Internally, he's still burning, but his eyes have already healed, he can see without any problem. His smelling is damaged, but on this battlefield, there is no need to track the opponent by odor.
“Wasn't there an occasion where I brought her dog after dog and she refused each of them? And I kept bringing different races and pedigrees, certain that the next one would please her?” He stands ahead of Liodras, raising his voice so that Ares can hear him.
“And all along she was allergic to dogs! And because they made her feel ill and yet they wouldn't stop coming, that developed onto a phobia, you know!?” Ares yells back, already sick of this nostalgia trip he's trying to force into taking place.
Baldanders leaps forward, clashing onto Liodras once more. But this time he is prepared, the lion grabs Baldanders in midair, before being hit. Normally, were any living being to touch Baldanders, the death which leaks from its body and the plagues which inhabit its fur should be enough to doom it to an extremely painful death, contorting, begging to be killed as countless diseases devour it inside out. However, the golden aura just happens to keep him protected from that as well.
Baldanders isn't one to depend on the plagues alone, nor is it a being that becomes quiet upon being held in midair. The lion bites Liodras face, the dragon spits purple fog again, the snake it has for a tail bites Liodras' legs over and over. Save for the fog, none of the attacks affect it. Their fangs are more likely to break completely before they ever pierce through the golden aura.
The white lion won't deny that the dragon is, indeed, a true problem. 'If this continues, it might actually manage to defeat me,' a painful thought to have, but he must admit it. The golden aura doesn't cover its internal organs nor the eyes, and who would ever think that would show to be the one weakness of an ultimate. Liodras smashes Baldanders against the sand, grappling it with its entire body, save for one arm. With that one arm that was kept free, he rips away the dragon head.
A flaming core appears on her hand, heavy as a bowling ball. She whispers a few words to it, as ordered by Magna. 'This is a complicated guy, he won't bother unless you pamper him a little,' he said, shrugging. As she talks, the core cracks, eventually shattering. The knight had to do an U-turn and come for Sirin again, but this time, what meets his blade isn't a shield, but another sword.
A dragon man, wearing nothing but a red coat and a headband. Despite being a lizard, it has spiky red hair. His sword is an old eastern blade. Not to the point it is rusted, but clearly has seen better days, the blade is chipped to no end, to even call it a sword and not a saw is an act of kindness. His scales are a burnt yellow color, the horns which come out of its forehead, right above the headband, are brown. That hobo-looking dragon blocks the galloping knight's blade without even properly gripping his sword, instead focusing on picking his nose.
'This is your... friend?' Sirin is amused, she won't lie, but to think the rigid Magna would be friends with a slacker dragon. 'His power is what counts, his power!' Magna is also aware of how shameful that dragon is. The knight tries to apply more force and win the match, but he doesn't manage, the dragon doesn't even need to properly take hold of the sword to stop the knight on his tracks.
Almost as if only then realizing he is already battling, the dragon kicks the evil horse's knees, sending it the ground instantly, probably to never stand again, assuming it to have the same regenerative powers of an average horse. The knight falls off the horse's back, but quickly stands up again, ashamed of the pathetic sight everyone just saw of him.
He grips his sword with both hands now, holding the reins didn't allow it before, but now he'll manage to display his true force. He swings down, the aura around the blade sending energy waves to Sirin's wound, but her increased body heat decreases the effect of the poison. Some drops of blood drip through her nose, but that's it. The dragon once again parries the attack while making a bored expression, almost yawning.
“That all you got?” It directs its gaze to the fallen knight, a disappointed expression on his eyes. The knight roars, asking his body to go over the limit. That isn't enough, however. Because this dragon is the limit itself. Back on their world, he is called Maximum Dragon, for he is the one who exists on the summit of power-only battles of the red countries. He might be lacking in character, personality and will, but he at least excels at one topic.
Dark congealed blood drips in chunks from the severed head and beheaded body. It emits a putrid stench that could make anyone sick, even Ares is slightly disgusted by it. Liodras is glad his nose isn't working, that could have done much more damage to it than any breath of fog. Baldanders doesn't contort in pain, its body hasn't been able to feel such a sensation for the longest time. However it still struggles to break free from Liodras, biting it without giving quarter, not realizing its already-shattered fangs can't penetrate the golden aura.
“And that's what I realized. This daughter belonged to you. You know all about her, you've connected with her, she trusts you... And I'm just there, a background figure,” he opens his arms, smiling. 'he's going crazy,' Ares thinks. “I carried that grief for the longest time... the one person I wanted to make happy the most was taken away from me.”
“You know me, Edmont, I take everything away from others. You should have seen that coming when you assigned me to be with her.”
“...But recently, the light shone on me. A light which said I could have that daughter face my way... by saving her from the absolute gods,” 'Solon mentioned this! The light of the goddess...'
“...Were you so depressed you decided to be brainwashed instead of actually trying to talk to her for once?”
Liodras swings down his sword on Baldanders, chopping it in two halves which are reduced to sparkling dust. 'A spirit can't beat that being then? And so can't my magic? Doesn't that mean... I'm doomed?' Ares takes a step back. She could use having Edmont continue that chat to give her time to think, but his expression went blank after her line just now, 'he might be really mad at this moment,' she gulps.
Maxi, the name Magna chose for him on this world, twists his wrist and that simple gesture carries enough force to send the knight's sword flying away, landing meters away from them. On the knight's eyes, nothing but despair. 'This guy... is outside of the rules, this shouldn't be allowed,' are his last words, the final thought he has before a flash of silver removes his head. Giving his back to the cloud of dust, Maxi gets on one knee, looking down at Sirin.
“Is that what you said getting paid with a buffet meal for real? I can eat a lot, you know?” He asks. That was the condition to summon it, the 'pampering' Magna mentioned.
“Buffet means 'all-you-can-eat.' For a set price,” the girl says, feeling awkward.
“Really?! As expected of an absolute deity, you know some truly nifty stuff!”
'Is this guy a complete idiot?' 'This guy is a complete idiot,' the exchange between the two is short, but Sirin needed to confirm that this exhibition of his isn't the standard intelligence of dragons. Excited about his banquet, Maxi runs a straight line towards the human knight, finally showing some sort of seriousness regarding the battle.
He jumps, thrusting his blade forward. But this time he is the one who is parried. A wall of purple smoke raises around the man, Maxi's blade meets with the blade of a zweihander. The smoke covers whoever is wielding it, which leaves Maxi open for a slash of the second zweihander the being holds. The blade slashes through his chest, leaving a purple wound: yet another poisoned blade.
Maxi leaps backwards. 'Not only my blade was blocked, I was hit? What is going on?' The answer is simple, Sirin guessed it right away. Just as she had one before, the man also activated a burst, but instead of a spell, it's a spirit, she thinks. A knight in golden armor, wielding two zweihanders, one on each hand. It seems to wear a cape, but it's actually a pair of wings disguised as cape. Due to its heavy armor, it can't actually fly, only if it purged all of that it would manage. From the tip of its helmet to its toes, shining even brighter than the golden armor, a golden aura.
'Sirin, that is not a spirit! It's an ultimate!' Magna yells, he wasn't prepared for that. Or rather, he hadn't prepared Sirin for that. 'Ultimate?' she tilts her head. 'A being beyond spirit... the power of an ultimate is far beyond that of a regular spirit, and that aura protects them from the power of most spirits and spells,' that explanation which cuts straight to the chase should be enough to scare her. But while her response isn't what should be expected from a regular person, it is exactly what one would expect from the host to Magna.
“How is it beaten?” Is all she has to ask. Magna smiles, proceeding to explain the method in details.
She is all out of hope. Spirits don't work, magic doesn't work, she can't even guess what could be done to deal with that white lion. Baldanders should have been more than enough to deal with any spirit, simply being close to it would be enough to make anyone want to set themselves on fire, just to get rid of the pain. Yet that being not only held onto it, he embraced it, he breathed its venomous breath... and is still unscathed.
'Wait, something worked. I can continue trying...' She doesn't even look at the state of the flower. If she looks, she'll know if what she's about to do is insane or not. And either way, it seems she'll be dying regardless. She gathers energy on her two hands. She'll raise her Poison Shoot to the limit and see if that can steal the lion's life before her head falls.
Edmont steps forward, Ares meters ahead of him, Liodras a step behind him. He thinks about their past, what they've been through, what she has done for him and Erika. But none of that has any meaning, the light of the goddess has removed it. He can only think about how defeating all of these negative influences will surely make Erika treat him the way he wants.
“Ultimate Trigger,” he says. The serpent faces on Liodras' armor bulge out, their eyes centering on Ares. They open their mouths, an orb of blue light growing within it. Liodras doesn't move, his eyes look down on Ares with disgust one could only expect from a tyrant looking at a dirty peasant who stands on their way. “Lock on.”
Ares shoots both of her charged shots. They open a small hole on the golden aura, but that doesn't take down the lion. She knew it would be so, but still tried. Or rather, she had to try, she couldn't accept defeat. She can feel the flower budding, the grim reaper manifesting behind her. Along with that, the hydras shoot their beam of light. Ares closes her eyes, 'this is it.'
A breeze of wind blows through her back, leaving a painful feeling on her nape. A shockwave reaches her, but that certainly isn't what she was expecting from set of laser beams shot from three different serpents. She raises her gaze, opening her eyes wide. Tears roll down her face, the back of that creature which protects her never seemed to be so large before.
Both the beams and the grim reaper attack Galvados' body, ripping it to pieces, smashing it, pulverizing its limbs. But until both are over, it won't surrender. The mass which stands on the aftermath of both attacks isn't recognizable at all, almost nothing but an amethyst covered in burnt flesh remains. That amethyst cracks, thousands of ghost hands emerge from those cracks. As they come out, the crack spreads and lets more hands come out. All of these hands fly straight onto Liodras, completely ignoring the golden aura and holding onto it. Even if one can't do anything, when being dragged by millions or billions of small hands, not even an Ultimate can resist for long.
The white lion phases through the sand floor, trying to hold onto the ground to stop itself from falling, but its body can't touch anything. Almost as if being swalled by quicksand, the white lion is devoured by the sand and disappears. Edmont stands still, paralyzed in fear. Ares couldn't see it, but while being ripped to pieces by the reaper's scythe and while taking on Liodra's beam with its own body, the devil had the largest of grins on its face.
“You didn't accept defeat until the end, huh? I'm glad,” the tyrant of hell speaks to her from within.
“But... I thought you were censored? Like what happened to Solon?” She stutters, confused and extremely happy at the same time.
“Hell is my home, what would I be doing being scared of entering Tartarus of all places?” the devil laughs.
“So you waited until the final moment... for what end?”
“The main character needs to appear on the moment of most need for it to be a true climax.”
“...You were waiting for the best timing, so you could be absolutely destroyed, taking the enemy by surprise and dealing massive damage?”
“Nothing quite breaks someone's heart like losing when you're sure you'll win,” the devil smiles, the only example of heroic sadomasochism Ares knows of.
She stands up and walks to Edmont. He's still frozen in place, his gaze locked at the spot where Liodras got dragged into the underworld. She stands in front of him for a while, expecting him to turn to her. Seeing as he doesn't, she slaps his face twice, striking both cheeks.
“First, you lost, so let me get out of this world. Second, if you want something, reach out your hand to it, don't leave it to some goddess you don't know,” her blows make the man come to his senses. His awakening triggers the collapse of their battlefield. Seeing him look at her with a shocked expression, she makes one more comment. “Third, tell me where your headquarters are, I'm gonna end this farce once and for all.”
“I'll... write you the address,” back to the real world without any punishment, the regretful man grabs a piece of paper, a pen and writes down the place. “Could you...?”
“I'm not helping you with anything. Don't talk to me until you talk to Erika,” she takes the paper from him and heads to the window at the back of the room. She opens it and looks around. “Are you there?”
“Yes!” Lui responds, turning the bike's key to start the motor and show her where he is. Ares jumps out the window and lands close to him, taking her seat and preparing to ride away. “Was it as you imagined?”
“Yes. Our boss wouldn't be able to dismiss everyone and get away with it... Meaning it only could have been Edmont's order. I didn't want to believe it, but he allowed this to happen...”
“Sirin and Erika probably already are by the gates now, it's been around ten minutes since I told them to leave, right?”
“Uh... It's been over twenty minutes.”
“...Did I take all that time to get to the main building? It doesn't make sense, I was sure it took me just five minutes or something...”
“Tartarus is making your battles happen in a different span of time. If at first it happened in an instant for those outside, upon the opening of that gate, a minute there became a minute here. Now a few minutes there are many here. The longer Tartarus stays open, longer the time gap will grow... Given enough time, an entire year might go by here, and you'll only have fought a single battle,” Strom's voice rings forth from Lui.
“Then... doesn't that mean we've been keeping Sirin and Erika waiting for a while? Lui, we're gonna floor it, no time to waste!” Ares turns the handle as much as she can, the bike shoots forward, a single light on a dark night.
Maxi had to change into a defensive stance. The blood sapping from his chest, the poison flowing through his veins, an ultimate which dual-wields two-handed swords, everything works against him. But the fact he can still resist the assault of an ultimate under such circumstances still speaks volumes of his might.
He thinks 'damn... and I was just about to eat all I could with some cute human, what a waste of an opportunity.' He can feel himself getting weaker by the minute, it's only a matter of time until he grows so frail that he won't manage to fend off the ultimate's blades anymore. Yet, he continues parrying. As fighting is all he can do, at least he'll fight every fight to the end, be that end of the battle or his own.
Sirin herself is also enduring at this moment. Her left arm has literally caught fire. The flames aren't spreading to the rest of her body, they don't burn through her skin, but the abnormal heat still makes her suffer. Since it already had been damaged, she chose it to become the vessel, but she didn't expect it to turn out like this.
She needs to wait for the moment that ultimate will give an opening. Simply using it won't solve anything, as usual, the timing is what matters. However, Maxi might not last that long. The poison has spread out too much, he falls on one knee. He refuses to hang his head low, even down to one knee, he still swings his sword to parry the enemy. His sight is failing, everything is a blur, but he still moves.
The shine of the knight's golden aura intensifies, he almost seems like a neon sign. His blades open, a purple light flowing through the gaps, turning them into even larger swords, made of light. 'That is it, he is starting to lock his Ultimate Trigger!' Magna screams, that is the flag Sirin had to wait for.
“Cannonball!” The flames on her arm gather into an orb of flames and shoot against the ultimate, hitting the gem on his chest like a bull's eye.
The orb attaches itself to the knight. At first, it doesn't seem to do anything. But that orb slowly spreads across the aura of the ultimate, dying it red. The very aura which protected it is what brings its end: For a brief moment, that aura obtains 'temperature.' A temperature which can rival that of a star. A single second being surrounded by that heat is enough for the knight's armor to melt into a puddle and have his bones and flesh become dust.
A magic devised to stop ultimates from reigning over spirits, spells which turn the very fact they've ascended beyond spirits against them. That is the nature and reason for Trigger Counters. Maxi turns to the girl, amazed at the trick she just pulled. Not having any time to waste being admired, she points to the human knight, reminding Maxi of his objective. The dragon warrior, seeing he's so weak he can't even stand, takes his sword and throws it on the human's general direction. 'It probably will hit, I mean, it's a large sword and a tiny human, the odds are-' whether it would hit or not is unknown, just the sight of it falling towards him had the knight admit his loss.
“This... wasn't meant to be like this, I thought it would be fun,” Rafil says, she's just an imaginary being, yet Erika feels she's averting her gaze.
“You're not answering the question.”
“Will you... Do you promise to not get mad?”
“I'll see what I can do, but you know me, it's hard to get me like that,” a figurative pat on the head from Erika makes Rafil calm down.
“When the goddess returns... the world won't end or anything. Only us gods will be gone and she'll take our place.”
“The fate of the world isn't at stake, just... our lives are. We didn't want to die, so we... started this...”
“So the reason you're so scared... is because you think we might lose and you'll die?”
“No! Not at all! You're hurt and now Sirin is fighting and everyone is probably on the same boat... And all of that for a battle which doesn't matter! Be it us or the goddess, your lives won't change! You six are getting hurt over that, I... this isn't right...”
“...Is that the true face of the goddess of love? I thought all you did was hope some teenager girls would kiss,” Erika laughs.
“...You're not angry?”
“I said I wouldn't be. What do you want to do?”
“If we go to Amaterasu, we might manage to make this end...”
“ 'Amaterasu'? Who is that again?”
“The name of the goddess. She's with the leader of the enemy forces, if we talk to her, all of this will end.”
“You're fine with that? You and your siblings will die,” 'She's afraid of dying and also afraid of having any of us get injured, this decision must be hard for her,' Erika thinks.
“It isn't hard at all! I'll protect others over myself any time! My brothers... probably... wouldn't like it much, but if we talk, it'll be fine!”
Erika stands. Her body feeling slightly better, she takes a few steps forward, down the stairs and towards the horse left behind by the knight. She doesn't get on it just yet. She can feel it. As odd and lacking in reasons as it is, she can tell. Sirin is about to return.
“Hey! Is your body fine?” She returns, just as Erika felt. Her arms are wounded, but she doesn't seem to be in pain. The knight is knocked out by her feet. “Good news, I found out where their headquarters is! But I don't know anywhere on this city, so I hope you can help me.”
“Sirin. Has Magna told you anything about this battle?”
“This again all of a sudden? It's a fight to save the world.”
“If I told you that isn't right, and it's actually a battle for the gods to survive, what would you feel?” Erika is straightforward, she knows she doesn't need to beat around the bush when it concerns Sirin.
“Well... That I was cheated, but-” Sirin's mind cracks, as if something extremely heavy has climbed on top it. 'Mag...na?' she asks, her head almost exploding. 'Don't give ears to her, she plans on betraying us. Rafil's love stands for siding even with the enemy if that sounds convenient enough!'
“Sirin!?” Erika shakes her friend, who suddenly entered a daze. 'But... Mag...!' 'Don't resist! Accept my will!'
“Erika... I won't let you betray us,” she says, her voice devoid of her life, almost like a doll.
“Sirin? What are you talking about?” Erika takes a step back, that lifeless Sirin creeps her out. 'Magna is doing something to her! Erika, run!' Rafil screams, she has seen that happen before.
“I'll take you down here before you can stab our back! Gate Open, Release!”
“Si-” The two are enveloped by a dome of light and disappear from the real world.
The people in suits can be divided in three groups. Those who are pure fodder and are just there so they seem like a larger group, thus making the group look scarier. People who are weak and are now quaking in fear, seeing how their leader, an ultimate-user, was defeated. And the last few are people with some average to decent strength, but, like the previous group, has started to grow doubtful of themselves because of the leader's defeat.
None of them have the courage to be the first to voice it, but they're all thinking 'shouldn't we use this chance to escape?' Despite no one voicing it, they, one by one, one centimeter at a time, start to disperse. 'I'm gonna search for the other two...' 'I... need to go to the toilet' and so on. In a matter of minutes, there's no one left, only a horse. It was trained to not go anywhere without being ordered, and as the one who rode it until now is 'sleeping' at the moment, the horse will wait for its master to awaken.
Minutes after that, a bike stops by the main gate, the woman and the boy look around, searching for any signs of life. They won't approach the mansion since the sound of the bike alone calls enough attention already, but not getting close isn't a problem, as they know Erika and Sirin wouldn't be close to it anymore, considering all the time that has gone by.
“They don't seem to be here...” Ares announces the obvious, but only because she'd rather not end that sentence, the words she connected to those are better not voiced. 'but is that because they were caught or because they escaped?'
“Look, by that horse! Lance is collapsed there, he probably tried keeping them from leaving!” Lui points to the knight, who Ares thought was a collapsed tin can.
“To think even Lance was with the enemy... And if they're not here, they were either chased away or headed off somewhere on their own...”
“Where would they go? Not to speak ill of the milady, but she's a total shut-in and Sirin is a foreigner on this city.”
“...There's only one place, right? They got the location of the enemy and headed there ahead of us, since they couldn't afford to wait,” a wild theory, but something tells Ares she isn't wrong on this one. “Even if we take different routes, if our destination is the same, we'll meet there. Let's go!”
Ares turns around and drives away, heading to the address Edmont gave her. On the otherworld, a pair of best friends battle. On the final stage of the play, a god gone rogue and a girl wait together, eagerly expecting visitors. Moving through the shadows of the city, having observed all that had just transpired on the mansion, two shadows move to intercept. The Wild Dog and The Puppetmaster return to the stage. And... one more actor is also about to join the fray.