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Summary Edit

I sorta liked the quality of my writing on this one, I'd like to call it a well-written chapter.

Chapter 3 Edit

Four nights before the current night, an engagement occurred, a battle between Caster and Saber. The battlefield where they faced each other wasn't their town, nor in any location of the Human world, but within a small world created by Caster. Among his many powers, there is one that allows the creation of ‘boundaries,’ spaces where only Caster and his targets can enter. This skill is a pocket version of the ‘Otherworld System,’ normally used by battlers so they can coexist with their Spirits for a brief period of time. The main difference is, while Otherworld System consists of dragging human and Spirit alike to a space between the two worlds, Caster’s 'boundary' creates a reality marble, turning a small portion of the Human world into a space akin to the Spirit world, meaning the human and humanized Spirit enter a faux Otherworld without truly leaving the Human world.

The main purpose of such a skill is to create a space which has overflowing Core, meaning both Caster and the opponent can use their strongest skills without putting a strain on the battler or having a limit cap put on their powers due to the core limitations of the Human world. Other than that, there is the advantage of fighting anywhere without having to worry about human witnesses, as the boundary completely excludes them from the outside world.

Caster can use his full power, but the opponent being able to do so as well is certainly a downside, he finds that giving strenght to the enemy is too dangerous a risk to take. Fortunately, Caster is a evil magician, a corrupted soul can easily 'corrupt' a spell, changing it into something that is more convenient for a villain. Caster originally comes from a country with a profound relationship with the world of the dead, and these origins were what helped him take the first step towards the creation of his ‘perfect skill.’

During the decades he spent studying, Caster learned of the existence of a skill used to seal gods, the gate of Tartarus. If the gate that leads one into the Otherworld is the entrance to a battlefield, Tartarus is the gate to a hellish prison. Caster discovered how to hone the power of Tartarus and create his own ‘chains,’ ones designed not to catch something like gods, but to prey on Spirits. He devised a 'Tartarus' that can trap normal Spirits, which, in his opinion, are much easier to find than gods. By combining the boundary skill with the Tartarus System, Caster creates a space where his skills can be used at full power and his opponents have their skills become limited, an ideal balance.

The final advantage of that power is that Caster traps the enemy within a cage that is under his control. There is no escape route, there is no place to hide, everything is controlled by Caster, new enemies will come from anywhere, for as long as Caster wants and nothing will ever escape his sight. 'A weakened bird is trapped within the cage of an all-seeing all-powerful demon' would be a proper way to put what occurs within the cage.

The bird within the cage went by the name of Saber, the hatchling she carried was named Soa. The undead burst from the ground endlessly, the female warrior had cut them apart, smashed their bones and slashed their rotten meat over and over, for a span of time that felt like hours, yet they never stopped coming, almost as if the ones she killed just allowed for more to be born.

Had she been alone and on top form, she’d have attempted to explode this entire place. Without thinking twice, without caring for a second, she would blow all of it down with a single spell. But she couldn’t choose that route, she needed to protect her battler. No, that wasn’t it, what she wanted to protect was a dear friend, a daughter-like existence for her. If she were only a battler, Saber would never hesitate to destroy the enemy, even if it meant putting an ally through danger.

‘Soa…’ The girl was frightened, her knees wouldn’t stop shaking, but the girl pretended to be fine. Deep in her heart, she wanted to grab Saber and cry, but such a thing would only distract the woman and hinder her fighting. Rather than crying and getting in the way, Soa chose to trust Saber, she would believe on her Spirit’s power. But to Saber, those eyes, this gaze, which always felt heavy, now offer her a feeling of warmth, the feeling of 'being trusted' is finally pleasant to her.

She remembered it clearly, the scenes had all been burnt to her eyelids. Even if decades or centuries might have passed, even when more centuries come to pass, she will still be able to see them when she closes her eyes, as vivid as a photograph. The images which flash on her mind are the reason Saber expected the most fitting class for her would be Berserker, she always believed herself to be a destroyer and nothing else.

No matter the landscape she escaped to, no matter where she traveled to, darkness would find a way to appear nearby. And when darkness appeared, everyone would instantly turn to her, everyone would always ask her to eliminate it. She wanted to rest, she wanted to be able to choose her own battles. However, she could only continue being ordered around, unable to ever choose anything for herself.

Even if she was not doing it out of her own will, even if it was not pleasant to her, she always saw herself as a woman whose fate was to destroy until the very end. Much to her surprise, she was summoned into this game as a Saber. ‘For what reason? Who would think of me as a noble knight…?’ she asked herself, doubting her own worth.

Even if tragic, a knight who lived a life of selflessness, eternally battling with evil, no matter when or where, is among the noblest of knights. From where she stood, from the point of view of a consecutive victor, she could only see death and destruction. However, those whose requests she answered had no choice but to call her a savior. Her legend spread wide, even if the knight herself could never see her feats as such pleasant and positive things.

And that was not the last sudden twist on her life. Very surprisingly, Soa didn’t order her anything. ‘Where is the enemy I must defeat?’ Saber could not stand to be still and pressed her for commands. ’Hm? Hmmm. Hmmmmm,’ Soa answered. Even if Saber asked that, Soa didn’t really understand the rules or the point of the game. Much like El, a lesson from Saber, plus consulting the Spirit Book many times gave her a general idea, and she finally could properly give an answer: ‘Let’s take it easy and go one step at a time.’

Going one step at a time resulted on their being trapped by Caster, attacked by endless enemies, unable to fight with all of their strenght. ‘And yet, she isn’t ordering me to save her, she isn’t  telling me to do anything. She’s doing nothing but believing in me,’ Saber’s heart felt very light, she had been freed from the negative feelings she nurtured for so long.

She was happy. Happy to finally have found ‘freedom.’ She’s protecting Soa because she wants to, she was thinking of what she could do to counter this life-threatening pinch because she wanted to. She had this feeling that even if she failed and Soa lost, she wouldn’t be blamed. Soa would only smile and say ‘you gave your best, that’s enough.’

However, it’s not because she would be forgiven even if she failed that she would allow herself to lose. Inversely, it was exactly because she would be forgiven that she wouldn’t allow that to happen. Or at least not without having burned out every possibility first, she would only give up when her body became unresponsive. ‘Hold on tight. We won’t win, but to survive to fight another day is enough,’ like a mother bird protecting her children, Saber seemed to become larger, all to cover Soa from the eyes of the enemies. She closed her fist tight and embued a prayer on it, a request for victory to smile upon her, not part of the spell she was casting.

A punch. Why would a sword master throw a punch? Not directly on anyone, she swung her fist against the air. However, even if merely the fist of a sword-user, the effect of the spell was nothing to underestimate. First, everything on a straight line ahead of her fist caught fire. Oxygen, zombies, trees, all of it combusted, as if it was soaked in gasoline. Soon after that, a second row of explosions spreads this time swallowng everything perpendicular to her fist. The first wave creates blade of fire, the second wave becomes the cross-guard. In the end, even without one on her hands, she still holds a sword within her heart, and that is the mightiest of weapons. 

It spread endlessly, the explosions didn't stop even when it found a surface it couldn’t explode through, until that wall were to fall down, the explosions would continue bashing it, like an insane bull in a frenzy. The 'boundary' was being attacked in three different spots at the same time. Each second that passed equaled another explosion, the strain put on the walls of the 'marble' is far too great for it to remain stable. She didn’t think it would work as perfectly as it did, but her ‘Sword of Heart’ shatttered the prison created by Caster as if it were a bubble. The instant they once more set foot on the Human world, Saber grabbed Soa and escaped as fast as she could. 

Caster is unable to create the boundary multiple times in a row, the cooldown period lasts for hours. And even if he’s a cruel devil, even if he’s the one supposed to inhabit people’s nightmares, he was scared. Because there was an opponent who could escape the prison he was so proud of, the 'perfect skill' apparently had a hole on it, as it didn't make the enemy powerless before him.

'Sword of Heart' could only be used with such power because of the very space they were in, a place with abundant Core. Many spirits convert Core into their own energy, to increase their strength and use magic. The fake Tartarus System which Caster installed on the 'Zone' can only stop Spirits from taking Core into themselves. Saber’s ‘Sword of Heart’ doesn’t require her to absorb any Core, what it does is convert Core into energy without it ever going through her body.

Each of the six realms has an elemental affinity, their own type of Core. The Realm of Red has an affinity with fire, the Ruby gem brings them heat, warmth, fire. Putting it in simple terms, Saber’s skill converts the neutral Core, the Core that any spirit can use, into Ruby Core, a core only capable of producing fire. She ignites the very matter which composes her surroundings when using it, that is why it can only be adequately used within Caster’s dome. If she were perform it on the Human world, it would, at best, become a dagger, due to the lack of convertible Core.

After succesfully escaping, the two decided it was necessary to find allies. Rather, Soa decided it would be better if they had people to fight together with, she couldn’t see that situation of Saber having her back to the wall as anything but awfully cruel. Towards Saber, of course, she couldn’t forgive herself for letting a friend fight against a macabre foe, and she'd find herself to be the worst of human beings if she made Saber go through that once more.

After pulling consecutive all-nighters, consulting her Spirit Book nonstop and dedicating herself completely to it, the non-magician successfully summoned a nexus, which are innanimate objects that come from the Spirit world. She made a detector of Core Energy appear, that would be the tool she'd use to search for Saber’s allies. The only issue was that it gave no answer at all, she didn’t expect that everyone would be hiding their presences that well... but then a certain boy signed a contract and revealed his position for all to see. The moment she gets such a strong signal, she can’t help  but think ‘here is the powerful ally we want.’

The two immediately headed out, to ensure they would be the first ones to get to this person and recruit them into their team. But that encounter didn’t result the way they wanted it to, they’re attacked before being able to engage in conversation and forced into escaping without asking to join forces.

A day after their failed attempt, they returned and once more tried to form an alliance, but El’s unresponsiveness and paranoia made Soa decide not to directly say it to him, knowing he would reject it right away. But, much to her surprise, someone who she didn’t expect to meet turned into a friend and she’s much brighter now. She finally can be at peace, knowing Saber won't fight be forced to fight alone any more. 

-x-

When travelling downtown at night, it is very easy to find countless of them, perhaps filled with noisy drunks, perhaps occupied by a crowd of more restrained people, but regardless of their outward appearance, the fact there’s people chatting over a few glasses of alcohol doesn’t change. College students gathering after class, businessmen following their bosses, retired old men discussing a wide array of topics, the sights are many.

Among all these businesses, we now head to a specific one. A small pub, five tables on the end opposite to the counter, each of them with four chairs around them. The counter can only offer five stools, the beverages served don't possess any sort of unparalleled quality, but occasionally the bartender will offer a rare drink he discovered. The treatment customers receive isn’t terrible, the prices aren’t steep, there’s nothing properly ‘wrong’ with the place. However, it lacks something to give it 'spice,' it doesn’t have anything that offers ‘cheap thrills.’ While it doesn’t drive away the younger crowds, they just don’t see any reason to return to such a place.

However, when it comes to older crowds, that place gives them a nostalgic feeling they cannot explain. It has a homely feeling, it brings them back to their youth, reminding some of the first pub they’ve ever visited even. The polished wood, which can be seen on pretty much everything but the glasses and bottles, the jukebox, filled with older popular songs. It could be said that, while this place can’t attract youth, it brings out the youth on those who have surpassed that age.

Behind the entire environment is a single man. The bartender is the owner and the only employee. A tall man with broad shoulders, his dark hair tied on a short  ponytail. Nobody has ever seen him wear anything but his uniform: A white long-sleeved shirt, a black vest and dark pants. And in the same way no one has ever seen him wear anything else, nobody has ever managed to find a single wrinkle on his uniform. Occasionally, he tells his regulars that if they ever find a wrinkle, they’ll get free drinks for life.

His age is unknown, his past is unknown, his smooth face and soft smile give him a feeling of being a man straight out of college, but he has looked like that for many years, and when people consider how only a long-time adult would create such an environment, they just know it’s deceit. He never talks about himself, he barely even talks at all, nobody has ever managed to get anything out of him.

This pub, official name Lily’s Respite, is such a place. A calm environment where only matured adults are regulars and the occasional young visitors are always too awkward to make any noise. Currently, there’s only three people within the pub. The bartender himself, a woman holding a glass of iced tea and a large old man knocked over the counter, apparently unconscious.

“Is it fine to be still be here? We’re closing in on midnight, madam,” the bartender says, a lukewarm smile on his face.

“I have a day off tomorrow, worry not,” she sips gently on the tea, she plans on taking her time with it.

“I see,” he nods and says no more, the pub returns to silence. The two are in front of each other, but they don’t face each other. They only quietly exist there, almost as if only existing on a quiet environment is good enough for them.

“Do you remember when I first came here?” She breaks the peaceful silence with her sweet voice, a smile gently sketched on her face.

“Six years ago, February…. 14th, a rainy night. You were seventeen, straight out of your first day of college. Slightly frustrated, you asked for something strong and I served you a…” the bartender turns around, sliding his finger through many bottles, searching for the exact one.

“Hey, if you actually remember all of that, I’m simultaneously amazed and creeped out,” she briefly laughs, doubtful of him.

“It’s just a prank, obviously,” he faces her direction once more, smiling as well. “Regarding day, weather and what I poured you, at least. I’m certain about your age back then and what you told me that day.”

“Ah, that I can understand, since I didn’t forget either,” silence surrounds the two again, the woman drinks, the man has his gaze locked on a faraway day. “Six years, huh… That’s a long time…”

“I’d never think you’d become a regular, to be honest. This isn’t the sort of place that an average teenager would be attracted to.”

“Every rule has an exception, they say.”

“Indeed,” he nods once more, and the two allow tranquility to enter once more, almost as if they find it inadequate to talk too much at once.

“The worries of that day… did you ever come to terms with them?” He asks.

“As you can see, I’m fine. I’m just fine.”

This time, the two feel they’ll need to let the silence drag on for a while, that exchange, while brief and meaningless to most, carried great weight for the two. Among all the regulars who he often chats with, it would be correct to say she is likely to be his greatest friend. He only exposes himself when alone with her, nobody would believe that he’d ever make a question himself, instead of just listening to the words pouring out of the customer.

However, the peace shared between the two is swaying, the bartender can feel chaos is lurking and crawling within, seeping through the gaps and invading his territory. It is in bad taste for one with as much experience on the hospitality business to do such a thing, but it cannot be helped, not on a situation like this, at least.

“This will be terribly rude, but I’ll have to ask you to please return home,” he bows forward, embarassed of himself.

“…Did something urgent come up?” She’s startled by the sudden request, it’s unlike anything he’s ever done. She doesn’t feel offended by being asked out, she’s worried about what could have happened that would make him act that way. Since she knows what sort of man he is, saying such a thing can only mean serious happened.

“…Yes, something urgent,” a lie meant to protect isn’t a sinful lie, he believes.

“Well… Be careful, then. See you next time, right?” She grabs her purse and hesitatingly heads for the exit, accompanied by the bartender.

“It’s nothing that big, don’t worry. We’ll meet again, Mila.”

“…Of course! I think I’m just a little too dramatic. See you, Yurik,” she waves, walking away while still having his mind on him. ‘Maybe I should have offered to help…’

“…” He returns and briefly looks at the man passed out over the counter. He says nothing to that man, even if he so readily asked for his friend to leave. Now more than before, he can feel the looming terror which surrounds the premise.

“That woman… an one-sided love?” The old man raises his head, his lips curved into a coy smile. 

“A platonic love,” the bartender replies instantly, not interested on giving the man’s teasing any attention.

Seeing he wouldn’t be entertained, the old man stands up, cracking the bones of his neck and fingers. His tanned skin has a glint like that of copper, his hair that has turned completely gray shows of his advanced age, even if his posture, attitude and eyes hold the same light of a male on his teen years. The shirt he wore once had sleeves, but they were too tight on him, so he ripped them. Not like any sane person would, though, he simply flexed his arms and the sleeves were ripped apart. Just like the aura exuding from him, his body is also in top form, not at all what one would expect from an elder.

It’s almost as if the two are made to contrast each other. A young-looking man who carries an elderly and mature atmosphere. An old-looking man who carries a youthful and jovial atmosphere. Supposedly, Battler and Spirit are beings that always contrast or complete each other, these two are a case that certainly fits that theory.

Just as Yurik could feel it, so could Berserker. The evil presence that is entering their domain certainly belongs to a powerful magic-user, there is no doubt that it is an enemy Spirit. They prepare for the enemy to appear anywhere, its presence has been lurking the shadows for a while now, but where exactly it is cannot be pinpointed.

Despite their being prepared for an enemy, they didn’t expect to be ‘transported.’ The surrounding scenario, that familiar place which was there just a second ago disappears, a purple swamp taking its places. Trees covered in moss, an ominous purple fog surrounding the two on all sides, an odd song echoing through the air. They’ve entered Caster’s ‘Tartarus Zone.’

Were this an horror movie, the two would slowly tread the swamp, holding onto their weapons, watching each other’s back, desperate to find a way out, only to be ambushed by the monster which would kill one or both of them. However, Caster sees no need to create such pointless thrillers. The moment they set feet on his ‘Zone,’ a mob of zombies emerges from the bog, attacking them like the mindless pawns they are.

It would be impossible for them to guess the entire ‘system’ behind this ‘boundary’ just from entering it, but they do realize three convenient facts not too long after starting to fight off the undead. First, there’s a large amount of Core Energy on this place. Second, Berserker’s strength has decreased. Third, these zombies and skeletons are Spirits. 

‘The third and the first are clearly connected, the second… is so we cannot exploit the first? This might be a clever opponent…’ Yurik can calmly assess the situation, because, despite being weakened by ‘Tartarus,’ Berserker is still more than enough to deal with these waves of undead. With his bare hands, he punches down zombie after zombie, smashing their bones, mincing their meat with nothing but the strenght of his fists. The pressure of the punch alone has that much weight, and he can’t even say he’s using all he can offer on these blows. His weakened punches can grind meat, in other words. 

As for the skeletons, they meet with two different fates. Berserker either punches their spines, making them instantly break down, then smashes their skulls with his feet. This causes the bog to splatter around, a dirty method which is very unpleasant to a man like Yurik, who fancies being clean. The second use is grabbing the skeletons and using them as clubs against other skeletons, an attack he does mostly because it amuses him, it isn’t that worth doing when a simple punch can reduce bones to dust.

If Yurik had to point out a bad habit of Berserker, it’s thet habit of enjoying himself a little too much. However, were not for how carried away he gets, would he truly be a Berserker? The odd song can barely be heard anymore, Berserker’s neverending roar-like laughter masks it almost completely.

Yurik notices a irregularity as he watches the battle: no matter how much Berserker destroys, the number of undead doesn't seem to decrease. For Berserker, that much is expected, foot soldiers are meant to be used like endless pawns, if they can't win through quantity, they must at least tire out the enemy. For a being as experienced in war as Berserker, that is the tactic he can perceive on the enemy's actions. But Yurik sees it differently, he analyses the situation from a 'resources' standing, that's where the oddity exists. If talking resources, it's obviously about Core, the fuel of Spirits. Despite the constant spam of undead, there has been no change on the amount of energy around them. No matter how cheap, after doing it so many times, the 'funds' should have decreased.

Realizing the mystery around the 'unchanging funds' is the first step Yurik takes to counter this situation. A step that allows him to notice a detail that escaped him on the heat of battle. These zombies don't just keep spawning one after the other, the truth is that a new one appears the very instant another is defeated, and only on that timing. The answer behind the amount of energy available not changing is because the energy used on one Spirit isn't going to waste upon it being defeated, it is converted into another's energy as soon as the previous 'vessel' becomes useless.

'By doing so, the enemy doesn't spend any energy at all, only endlessly recycles the energy that has been used already. Meanwhile, my energy is slowly sapped... What a clever person,' Yurik can't help but give credit where it's due, no matter if the one being congratulated is an enemy. 'If I tell Berserker to stop destroying them, it's the same. I can't hope that such a savage would manage to hold back on his punches... nor can I be sure that would stop the recycling of energy...'

Yurik scratches his chin, he's sure there must be an answer even to such a contrived puzzle, he just needs to organize the pieces. His trust on Berserker, or at least on Berserker's power, is such that he can sink on his thoughts without worrying about the fact he stands on a battlefield. And the all-seeing Caster clearly wouldn't let such carelessness go unexploited.

Berserker smashes a skeleton against a tree, also taking down the tree on the process.  The falling tree crushes a few undead and leaves them in an unusable state, thus starting the process of converting their energies into new Spirits. While that energy is converted, Caster finally makes a move, spending a small drop of energy to summon a new spirit. It would stand out if he were to outright summon, his intention for waiting is to hide his spending behind the shadow of the energy transmigration.

The zombies made of recycled energy go for Berserker, but the newly summoned has been ordered to ignore the spirit and go straight for the battler. Jumping out of the bog with its jaw open wide, a crocodile made out of bones and moss. Yurik is slightly surprised to see it heading for him, even though the arrival of an additional enemy doesn't startle him. He had his eyes on the 'funds' all along, he could see that Caster finally made use of them again.

Using both of his hands, Yurik draws a crest with his fingertips. His movements are swift and fluid, a track of white light is left along with his gestures. The figure he draws with his left hand resembles an ankh, the one drawn with his right hand, overlaid on the ankh, is an Ł. The crest pulses like a living heart, increasing its radiance at each 'beat.'

The lunging crocodile touches the crest. If it had three more seconds, it would certainly get to close its jaws on the man, but that light touch on the crest made such a thing impossible for the Spirit. The crest disappears the moment it is touched and, likewise, the crocodile implodes into a small pebble of light which dissolves when touching the boggy water it falls into.

This is the power of the second magician participating on the game, the magic of a full-fledged magician. He is known as Yurik, the Frozen, a title that carries his melancholy. The reason for that nickname is the answer to the mystery of his age, a question made by many has an answer none would guess and most wouldn't believe. Whether it is considered a curse or a blessing varies on the person, but due to a certain condition his body never ages. He has owned that face for almost twenty years, his body is 'frozen in time.'

At the same moment he awakened to magic, his body stopped aging. However, such a thing wouldn't ever be discovered the moment it happens. After five years, friends commented on how he still had the same face, but they would just laugh it off. After ten years, friends said it was quite odd that how he hadn't aged a day after all this time. After fifteen years, people would be very creeped out by how someone who once was older or the same age as them now looked much younger. And the way people would look at the man made him feel scorned, he felt that people were disgusted by him. The negavity around him grew to the point he left his own city and moved to a small town close to the country, where nobody knew of his 'curse.'

Until the start of this battle, the magic which came along with the curse didn't have any use. He can't use it to own a business, he can't use it to please a customer, he can't even use it to wash dirty dishes. 'If this was meant to be a gift offered to me in exchange for a body that doesn't age, I feel the scales haven't been evened out at all,' are his feelings towards the 'power' he obtained.

“...I keep forgetting that you can use white magic, for a moment there I was actually worried,” Berserker shows a relieved expression, yet his arms haven't stopped punching Spirits. The peace of mind shown by his face doesn't match the carnage being created by his hands at all.

“... 'White magic,' huh...” Spirits come into six groups of color. Red, Blue, White, Yellow, Purple and Green, each with their own particularities. The spells Yurik uses all are of the white variety, according to Berserker. White stands for 'protection' and 'non-lethal attacks,' which means that, once more according to Berserker, Yurik is a wuss.

He doesn't care much about what Berserker thinks, what he occasionally wonders is, if he could use a different color, would there be a practical use for it? Would it properly balance out with being frozen in time? It's a waste of time to think about 'if's  but he cannot help but reflect on it occasionally.

“Berserker, no matter how much you destroy them, they won't stop coming. You must think the enemy will be exhausted before you are, but that's not how it is going to happen.”

“What do you suggest then?” Judging by his tone, Yurik assumes he's being mocked for  pointing that out. 'Could it be that he has been aware of it all along?'

“...” Yurik calmly looks at their surroundings. This Zone is limited, it doesn't expand endlessly. It does possess amazing dimensions, horizontally and vertically speaking, at least. But while he can confirm the length, he can't perceive all of the height, he doesn't know how deep this space goes. “Destroy the ground.”

“...” Berserker pauses. He even takes a few bites and claws without fighting back, he truly puts all his attention on Yurik, 'are you for real?' is written all over his face. Yurik says nothing, only gives him a nod. 'Go wild,' Yurik is telling Berserker to unleash himself.

The old warrior could ask for nothing more. 'Is it because things have gotten serious or is it because we are not on the real world? Well, it's unlike me to think about reasons, so nevermind any of that!' Roaring, a wave of energy burst from his body, the water around his feet, the fog and the undead surrounding him are all blown away. He raises his arm high, his palm wide open, seizing for the heavens, even if there's no sky to be seen.

His fingers show strain, he is clearly attempting to grasp something. Just how large it is, just how distant it is, just how powerful it is, these matters would naturally go through the minds of any being witnessing the scene. It isn't a sword, it isn't an axe, it isn't a hammer. Even if he would never admit it, Caster once more feels fear. Just like Saber, Berserker is using a great amount of Core, but not focusing it on his body, he is converting the particles around him.

After being countered in the same way twice, Caster realizes he must update 'Tartarus Zone,' he needs to find a way to make the energy only usable by him. 'This was a flaw I should have expected, I'll admit my weakness this one time. Even geniuses can meet with occasional failure, that is evidence there's still room for growth,' making excuses for himself, Caster prepares to exit the 'Zone.' He can feel that this attack is much more massive than Saber's, he needs to leave before getting caught up on it. However, he cannot miss the opportunity to get information on what's possibly a finishing move of an enemy, he'll wait just enough to see what Berserker will do.

That which Berserker reached out for is embraces the entire planet, he is grasping for 'water.' Three oceans, seven seas, unknown and mysterious, the bottomless blue. The source of all life, the genesis of mankind. Berserker quite likes this about the Human world, everything started from water. What he is summoning is the sea he idealizes, the ocean he sees on his dreams.

Ruby creates flames, Sapphire creates water, that is the common sense of the Spirit world. By converting all of the neutral core into Sapphire core, the ocean can manifest. That isn't quite what Yurik ordered him to do, Berserker ignores the 'destroy the ground' part and only cares about the 'go wild' one.

Before the ocean materializes, Berserker grabs Yurik and throws him over his shoulder. 'It would be troublesome if you drowned,' he smiles, almost forgetting this move will also affect his battler. At first, it is nothing but mist, small droplets of water suspended in air. Then, moments later, drizzle. The third step is light rain, a small development from the drizzle. The four step takes a huge leap, and a huge body of water pours from the sky, geysers burst  from the ground. Wherever one could find Core Energy, that energy had now been converted into a device that creates endless water.

Holding Yurik not very carefully, giving the man the impression he is about to fall off at any time, Berserker surfs through the raging waves with his bare feet. The undead are washed away, their bodies smashed by the increasing water pressure. Caster exits the 'Zone' at the first splash of waves, that power is exactly like Saber's, the only difference is the color it belongs to. 'There is need to analyze it carefully,' he mutters, slipping out of the battlefield.

“Is this... Saltwater?” Water splatters on his face and he gets a taste of it. Unpleasant, but interesting.

“There's no freshwater on the ocean,” he's mocked once again by the youthful old man.

“That's not what I meant... On Earth, there's this particular culture with a habit of throwing salt at apparitions to get rid of them. I just find it funny that you'd use saltwater against these creatures, considering you probably don't know of that superstition,” the reason they're able to conversate peacefully is because the sea has become calm. Even if the water level is still rising, the surging waves have stopped.

“...Your world's culture is so interesting,” 'not only life comes from water, salt can be used against Purple. Wait, doesn't salt come from the ocean? So water saves the day again...' the proud warrior feels even more smug than usual, he believes Earth was made to please a man like him.

Without Caster, the 'Zone' becomes unstable, but it should hold out for a few minutes, even without his existence there. The actual reason for it breaking as quickly as it does is because it cannot possibly hold that much 'data.' Comparing it to a computer, the system can easily hold 2GB,  part of that being Caster and Berserker, the rest is composed of the 'resources' they can use. The neutral Core has a certain filesize, converting it Sapphire core changes that size, making the use of free space increase, despite the quantity of 'resources' not changing.

But as it isn't a computer, instead of forbidding the 'user' to continue converting neutral core into gem core, it will continue to shoulder the 'data' that is too heavy for it. And it will waver, crack and inevitably shatter, releasing the two from that marble and returning them to the place they originally where.

The bar has returned to normal, that foul presence which had leaked in has vanished. He still checks if anything has been broken or vandalized, but just to put himself at ease. While he's confirming the state of everything, he casually turns to the clock. When he talked to Mila, he pointed out that it was almost midnight. After that, they talked a little more, then he asked her to leave, as he had felt the presence of an enemy. Even if it took a while for them to notice how to get around the situation of the zombies, nothing could explain where those hours went.

It's halfway through 2am. He refuses to accept 'time flies when you're having a good time' as an excuse,  that wouldn't even begin to cover these hours. Which leaves him with a single explanation he would be willing to buy: While they were within that space, time dilated. 'Is this part of the attack or is it just a side-effect? Just what is this skill of creating a space overflowing with energy...?'

“Berserker, what did you feel on this battle?”

“I had lots of fun, I can't lie, when you said I-”

“That's not what I mean, sorry for being vague. Regarding the location and the opponent, what did you feel?” Yurik interrupts him while he still can, he would talk about the current battle and link it to every battle he ever fought so far and he'd spend hours talking before being done telling stories.

“Hm, that? That place felt like the Otherworld. And to create such a thing... I can only imagine Caster would be capable of it, but maybe Rider or Archer could pull out something like that too...”

“Otherworld is the place where battles normally occur, right? The space between the two of our worlds,” Berserker mentioned that place before, but now that Yurik might have experienced visiting it, he wants to know more.

“Yes, that's it. But there was something weird... unlike the Otherworld, I felt really uncomfortable there,” he ignored it perfectly while under the effect, but now that he is out of it, he realizes it was pestering him.

“The opposing Spirit must be the cause of that, they wouldn't create such a place without setting up a trap, I'm sure of it. You probably just were a bad match for that fighting style, you're far too strong to be properly tied down.”

“Flattering me won't get you anything,” Berserker laughs, but Yurik isn't amused at all.

“You're a bad match, but maybe the other Spirits aren't as lucky... What do you think? Would you rather have this assumed Caster take down everyone else or would you like to step into the scene?”

“I wouldn't like to allow a being who doesn't fight its own battles to take down all the proud warriors participating in this game, of course. Let's take it down and leave only those who'll allow me to enjoy myself,” the old man slaps Yurik's back, directing a serious gaze at him.

'So even this guy can be commendable sometimes...' Yurik might sound like a certain battler, but deep down, he respects Berserker. He isn't a Spirit that is haughty and proud for nothing, he has the experience, the power and the heart to be able to act that way. These two old men make a combination of decent magical power with uncontrollable might, they stand together with Saber and Soa at the throne of strenght.

While the two prepare to return home, sleep, then start planning to track Caster, the Spirit of interest  lashes out on his 'pet.' The man is kicked, stomped, insulted, yet he doesn't make a sound or complaint. Perhaps it is necessary to add he isn't a masochist either, all these blows hurt him greatly. But making a sound will only cause the beating to get worse, he must endure it. By telling himself it's all for the sake of his great wish, he can endure any humiliation.

This beating is completely unwarranted, Caster is simply upset about losing and can't handle his feelings of inadequacy. Even if he puts up a front and tells himself excuses to justify the losses, the fact he still lost two times in a row, to two different Spirits using the same technique, can't be denied. He hates himself because of it, he hates accepting defeat. And when the strong meet with those stronger than themselves, they 'vent' on the weak.

Elus and Archer, a pair that doesn't get along. Soa and Saber, a pair with a deep bond linking them. Berserker and Yurik, two eccentric old men who are more in sync than they seem. Fei and Assassin, a pair that might have broken the barrier separating humans and Spirits. These four shine on the light, while Caster lurks the darkness, attempting to drag others down. 

Only Lancer and Rider remain, which side will they fall on, what sort of bond will they share with their battlers? The dramatic battle continues, the battlefields they enter will only become more violent. If a wish hangs on the other side, how much blood will humans offer to it? The answer lies within each battler.

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