Under Shattered Skies Refrain

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    TJ

    Posts : 873
    Join date : 2009-03-29
    Age : 24
    Location : Cake Tooooooowwwn

    Re: Under Shattered Skies Refrain

    Post  TJ on Fri Jan 09, 2015 3:20 pm

    Pages 144-152:
    She nodded. “Right...you're right. Even if we have to raise arms to them it doesn't mean our goal has to shed blood. There will undoubtedly be casualties, but I still believe that if we can handle the operation deftly, we can keep it to a minimum. We just need the others to forge a path inside to get the refugees and we can evacuate both them, and our soldiers afterwards.”
    “That sounds like a solid plan so far.”
    She smiled lightly. “I'll do a proper briefing tomorrow for us, since all the others already know the plan. I know it'll be a bit of a burden on you, but I'll be counting on you then.”
    He gave her a confident nod. “Leave it to me Reina. I'll have the job done.”
    She laughed. “This is gonna take some getting used to! Still, before the chance passes I should probably raise your rank. I've done a lot of reading about how the contribution system works, so doing this might give you a bit of an edge in tomorrow's operation.”
    He nodded. “Guess it'd have to happen sooner or later. Whenever you're ready we can start.” He knelt down before her and she gently placed a hand to his forehead.
    “I, Reina Falk, now promote you from Angel to Keruz. Rise, Samson and receive this blessing.” He arose from where he stood as the blue cross he had shown to Kasumi appeared on a string around his wrist, and quickly broke free before rising up before him. It stopped just above he and Reina, and was surrounded by a golden light. A small portion of it emerged and enveloped him, and the other began to grow slightly. As the light began to fade four long white wings emerged from his back and a small blue book with a golden cross emblazoned on it descended from where his cross once was. The prism in Reina's hand stopped spinning and she let out a quiet sigh. “Well, that's that! The prism told me that you were ready to become a Keruz and I guess this proves it! I'm really impressed!”
    Samson chuckled dryly as he took the book and glanced back at his wings, gently rubbing his neck as he did. He had been through quite a few ordeals and had fulfilled many requests, but he never would have suspected that it would be enough for his rank to reach this stage. “I'm still having a bit of trouble believing it to be honest.” He opened the book, and just as Reina had told him he saw descriptions of techniques, stances and many other useful abilities for a variety of classes, including who had created them. That aside, he felt an odd surge of power within-as if his body was lighter, and he was all-around stronger due to it. “When you became a guild master did you have an unusual feeling within, Reina?”
    Reina nodded. “I think that might be our mana becoming available to us. It surprised me at first, but it's really warm.” She beamed. “I guess in that sense, I kinda cheated huh? But to become a guild master, a large portion of my mana has to permanently be given up to maintain the guild room. So it comes at a cost.”
    “It's reminiscent of the God's Governors and their summons don't you think? Though that's only when they're summoned. Is there a way to temporarily close the guild room so you can restore your mana to its full amount?”
    “Nope. The Guild Room is open twenty four hours a day, seven days a week.” She laughed gently. “But I don't mind. Sometimes I go there just to take in the ambience. It's a beautiful place, and the mana within the area gives it a bit of a gentle feeling. It makes me a little homesick, to be honest. B-but you know, it's not lonely even if it's just me inside! Guild Master Shabur is always there, and he answers my questions about the guild. I'm not exactly sure where he came from, but he said by creating the guild he came to be.”
    Samson looked on in awe. It was the first he had heard of any such thing, but it was rather unusual and quite frankly, a little terrifying. Was that Shabur she spoke of some kind of summoned creature? Did she summon him with her mana also? “Is that...supposed to happen? That Shabur fellow? I can't help but feel that you may have summoned something.”
    She snickered. “Don't worry! I did some reading, and supposedly every guild has a Shabur in them. Though truthfully, none of them could really explain his existence-it's just something that seems to be widely accepted among the guilds. On the other hand, he's really helpful. He was the one that created the guild badges-he showed me a list of possible designs and I just picked them out.” She laughed sheepishly. “Hopefully once this is all over we can all gather there and celebrate. Maybe in time the guild room will start to fill up.” She smiled. “I don't think Vanir will be too happy if we all crowd up his shop.”
    This time around the adventurer snickered. “That guy? I think he'd appreciate the business. That place seems to be empty nearly every time I visit.”
    “It's not a bad place though. I think it just gets outshined by the other stores. Though it has a much different feel from the guild room, it has its own homely feeling to it.”
    He smiled. “I could imagine.” The thought of joining a guild had occurred to him, but remained something he had never followed up on. After all that time had passed, that moment had come-he was still coming around to the idea, and to his current rank even more so. His face flushed slightly as he glanced at the wings protruding from his back. If what he had heard and saw was to be believed, they could certainly be used for flight, but amidst  Humanity doing such a thing would certainly cause an uproar. That, and it would certainly take time for him to master such an action. “I am a tad curious though, Reina, about the ranking system and the guild masters.”
    “Oh? What's on your mind?” She raised an eyebrow.
    “Did you require a certain amount of Contribution in order to become a guild master? Also does that mean that you have access to your wings also?”
    Reina shook her head. “There's no required amount of Contribution, but to properly become one I did need three people that would acknowledge me as a guild master. It's a lot like the Confidant Ritual, but a little less flashy.” She chuckled gently. “Though it does allow me to use my mana, I still have to earn Contribution and work my way up the ranks in order to see my growth. I bet you'd look really good with wings Samson.” She smiled mischievously and he grinned in response.
    “Trust me, they don't suit an old man like me.”
    She knit her eyebrows. “...May I?”
    He blinked. “Pardon?”
    She reached out to him and placed both hands to his face, startling him. She pursed her lips as she gently slid her hands across his features, and further around to the back of his head. Though she had to stand on her toes to reach, she kept her balance rather well, and once finished smiled cheerfully. “I don't think it's as bad as you think.” She chuckled gently. “I think you've become rather handsome, to be honest.”
    This made his face flush. “W-what?”
    Hers did the same as she laughed gently. “Vanir had taught me that. He always said my other senses could make up for what I lacked. He also said that men are like a fine wine-they improve with age.”
    Samson placed a hand to his face before letting out an exasperated sigh. If there was anything out of the ordinary that she learned in the time he was away, Vanir likely had a hand in the matter. Though strange as it was, it still had a bit of thoughtfulness in it. Perhaps he worried a lot more for the two than Samson had thought. “Promise me that you won't let that odd barista corrupt you.”
    She laughed sheepishly as she scratched her cheek with a finger. “Well after all this time that might be a tad on the difficult side. But it's not all strange. Though he was the one that taught me that handy trick, these are my genuine thoughts.” She crossed her arms. “Though he taught me he wouldn't let me try it out on him.”
    “He probably has his reasons.”
    “I don't think he'll tell though.” She grinned. “But I expect that much by now-you've known him longer than I have, so you know how eccentric he can be.”
    “You don't know the half of it.” He answered and she laughed. “Ah, I have one more question. How's your training been going Reina? I'd heard that you and Salem started taking on Vanir and Skuld in two-on-two practice matches? With the style that you've adapted, it'd likely be the only way the match would be balanced right?” He still found it difficult to imagine that the Brownie fought alongside her master, but it was her original purpose-seeing her as his waitress for all those years really betrayed the fact though.
    She nodded. “We've really improved actually! I think I can safely say that we've mastered it. Or are getting there, at least. I've done some practice with using my mana too, and though I'm not quite there yet, I think I'm getting a bit of a feel for it. Though I only really practice when I'm alone, because it can be dangerous for Salem and the others.”
    He blinked. “That so? Could you show me a demonstration? Seeing it first-hand might help me to get a good idea of how it works.”
    “Sure!” Reina drew her blade and he stepped back to give her enough space to demonstrate safely. Taking the weapon in both hands, she took a deep breath. As Samson watched, her concentration increased and her aura seemed to change also-as if utilizing her mana changed her also. Her blade gained a blue glow and once it had she raised it as she shouted, “There!” She swung the blade and a shock wave was released which shot towards a nearby tree, slicing off a branch with ease and dissipating immediately afterwards. She exhaled and jumped once the branch hit the floor. “Ah...oops.” Samson chuckled gently as he applauded her.
    A window slammed open and the barista stuck his head out of it before shouting, “What the hell're you two doing?! You trying to get the royal guard in here again?!” He turned his head to Samson and grinned. “Nice wings.” The adventurer's face flushed and he frowned before Vanir turned his focus back to Reina. “It's all fine and dandy if you practice but can you not destroy the place while you do it?”
    “Sorry!” Reina answered apologetically-mostly.
    “Anyway are you two done flirting? Dinner isn't gonna make itself.”
    “I'll be right there.” Reina placed her sword back in its scabbard while Samson flipped through the book for answers on how to put his wings away, or something of the sort. As she walked past she stopped for a moment to offer him a smile. “I hope that helped you understand it a bit. I've still got  along way to go to really get the hang of it, but I guess it's just something that brings us closer. Let's do our best, Mr. Keruz.”
    He chuckled gently. “I'm in your care, guild master. Have fun making dinner.”
    “Will do.” She saluted him. She grinned before turning away and opening the door. “If you feel uneasy about tomorrow, don't be. I'll protect you.” Upon those final words the door closed behind her and Samson was left with his mouth agape.
    Was he hearing things? She had become surprisingly bold-so much so it left him astonished. He chuckled gently as the words replayed in his mind. She really was doing her best, and he would expect no less from her. If she would become a guild master not only in name but in her actions, he would give his all to be the Keruz that she may come to rely on. He closed his eyes for a moment and took a deep breath before exhaling slowly. He focused on disguising his wings, and just as he had wished it they faded away and returned him to his normal state-the outcome proved much easier than he initially expected. As he had wished it, the book remained in his hand and he took the chance to flick through the pages back to the dagger section. He did not have one on hand, but there were a couple of weapons within a rack next to the shop that he could use as a substitute. To his dismay there was a lack of that weapon also, but there was a short sword. Though not what he would have liked to use in that given situation, for the time being it would have to suffice.
    There were a myriad of stances at his disposal, but many of them just did not quite appeal to him. Each named, with their own requirements for performing the technique, and each having a different result. Illusion Strike, Horizon, Retreating Stab, Swallowtail, he continued on but still found nothing that quite caught his eye. If he was to narrow down his options, he would be looking for something that offered him enough mobility to strike and take another action, be it swapping into another stance following it or to follow up with another attack, within the same stance. His targets would easily be able to best him in terms of range, so he would need to rely on his mobility to make up the weakness, now more than ever. He glanced over a few more pages before he came across one that caught his attention.
    A spell by the name of Saint's Cross that included a multi-layered attack. It would take some time for him to master the movements alone, but it was nothing that he could not get a hang of in an hour or two. Utilizing his mana to perform the technique would be the greater of the two challenges, but if he could overcome a difficult technique, the others would likely prove to be easier in comparison. After glancing over the steps a couple of times, he shut the book and it disappeared immediately after. Taking a deep breath and wielding the wooden blade in his battle stance, his training began.

    Later that night he had finally given his training a rest, but though he had practiced the technique throughout the night he still felt he had not quite gotten the hang of it. It was no surprise really, considering that he attempted to perform a technique he had just learned about merely hours ago, but time was of the essence, and considering his current standing in the guild, and his previous role as a teacher, to act as a leader to the Angels and Powers of Bastion may have proven a very useful tactic.
    He opened the door to the shop's kitchen and found a plate of food with a note placed on it. He walked over and picked up the piece of paper and glanced over it, discerning that the neat handwriting likely belonged to Skuld, and the printing with the drawing belonged to Reina. The note read:
    When you're done training eat this to get your stamina back.
    Best of luck Samson! We're cheering you on from the sidelines!

    Reina was even courteous enough to include a doodle of his head next to her message. He chuckled quietly as he placed the note in his pocket and sat down at the small table to enjoy his meal.

    The following morning the five had gathered around the table with a map unfurled before of the city of Aoich-markings were drawn across the map and Reina briefed everyone around on their part in this plan.
    “According to our sources, there are four entrances that we can use to infiltrate the castle. They're here, here, here, and one outside of the city.” Reina pointed to the river that runs through the city, the front of the castle and what seemed to be the back. “We've got two guilds that'll be fighting alongside us, some of the strongest adventurers from Ramalda-Uprising and Revolution. Now, we're all going to be using different entrances to split up their forces. Uprising is the smaller of the two, and will be infiltrating through a pipe in the river. Revolution on the other hand will go forward through the main entrance to divert the attention of the soldiers and bring their focus on to them. While most of the forces are sent to stop the siege, Uprising will strike from within and weaken their numbers for Revolution to get in and take the castle by storm. This is where we come in. Salem and I will force our way into the back and make our way up into the upper quarters of the Dark Moon, in a place just outside of the location that I believe the Dark Moon Princess is situated named Moon of the Sixteenth Day.” She explained.
    Samson blinked. “Why would you two go all the way up there by yourselves?”
    “The Dark Moon is much larger and more complex than one would initially suspect,” Salem intervened. “Hence, bringing a large force would also divert the focus of those on the lower floors and put the hostages at risk. Our main goal is to keep as many of their soldiers on the main floor of the castle, while the hostages are evacuated safely.”
    “Supposedly the place is like a giant layer cake.” Vanir added with a snort. “You've got your bottom, middle and top. If the hostages are on the bottom, you'd want people away from there. Higher would be better, but the place isn't that simple.”
    Salem nodded sagely. “Those who are not familiar with the layout of the castle, or fleet of foot could easily find themselves in quite the predicament.” The way he spoke, Salem that is, it seemed that he was quite versed on the ins and outs of the castle. Samson wondered about it, but did he have the right to question the matter? Should he? Salem chuckled quietly before gazing for a moment. “You seem to have your own reservations on my knowledge about the matter.” He was sharp, and Samson expected no less from one of Reina's companions.
    Before Samson could speak, Reina did. “We don't need to keep it a secret anymore right? Now that we're all in one guild and you're a Confidant...” She paused. “No, there's no need for secrets between us. I think you should tell him.”
    He remained silent for a moment as the guild master spoke, but at her words he closed his eyes and nodded. “As you wish.” He turned to Samson with a serious look, and the adventurer returned it. “I am an exiled shinobi of Owl Castle. I was...present, during the invasion of the place you call Xenym. It was then that I met Reina, and then that I cast away my identity as a weapon and decided to join the Cerebians in their fight. It was shortly after those events that I had become a Confidant.”
    “And you and a certain barista decided not to tell me.” Reina muttered.
    “Don't be mad. It's all water under the bridge now kid.” Vanir added with a grin.
    Samson was stuck somewhere between disbelief and shock. It seemed unthinkable that the enemy would defect at such a crucial time, but considering the circumstances...he likely had seen Julius prior to the entirety of the Haven being buried. Samson had never seen the spell himself, but if the aftermath was any indication for it, let alone the battle between God's Governors the power of one who had recognized their ability was not to be underestimated. Though reluctant, he knew he would have to trust Salem. He and Reina had adventured together, and he would not doubt her words-he had also sworn that he would protect her, and the fact that the two stood here meant that his words spoke for his actions. The adventurer wanted to question his motives, but had more pressing matters at hand. “I see. If that's how it is, I won't question the matter. A friend of Reina's is a friend of mine. Though, for the two of you to ascend the castle alone-if you really are to go to where the princess is, I'd expect it to be heavily guarded. What will you do if you're ambushed by much greater numbers than just the two of you could handle?”
    Reina cracked a grin. “I anticipated that question. Here's what you don't know! Before the Moon of the Sixteenth Day is a maze separated into three sections-the White Tiger, Red Peacock and Blue Dragon. If one doesn't know the proper route through them, they could easily spend the rest of their lives wandering through it, door after door in search of a way out. That aside, unless they know how to use 'ignite' to burn the paper charm that protects intruders from entering, they can't get in.”
    Salem nodded. “The members of Owl Castle were taught how to get through the maze should the princess be in danger, but we were not taught the technique necessary to open the path to Moon of the Sixteenth Day. Any ordinary flame will not suffice. Should the charm be burned away by anything else, the doors will not open. Thus, if we were to attempt to gain access, we would need to request aid from a member of the Dark Moon with access, or of Owl Castle.”
    The two had certainly given a lot of thought to their plans, but Samson could not help but feel uneasy about the entire matter. There certainly was a way in, but would they be able to descend the castle safely and get out? He frowned slightly, but tried not to let his dismay show. He had to put his faith in Reina-she was not the young girl who sat at the counter of the library eleven years ago. If it was her plan, he would see her through it, and play his part in making it as successful as he possibly could. Understanding the intricacies of said plan though, were just to sate his curiosity and put his worries to rest. “So your goal is the Moon of the Sixteenth Day the-” He paused as he recalled the glimpse into the future he saw through Vanir and quickly regained his composure as the group gave him an unusual look.
    “Are you alright?” Salem asked.
    “Yeah-sorry if I startled you. Lost my train of thought, that's all.” Salem's face eased up and Vanir shrugged it off, but Reina's eyebrows remained knit.
    “Our goal isn't the Dark Moon Princess, but her retainer. Kinda...sorta retainer. I guess her guard? Well point is it's the general! He's outside of the place and so we're going up there to keep him busy. If he commands the men or joins in the battle...things are gonna get really bad.”
    Samson raised an eyebrow and Salem continued where she left off. “He's not one to be taken lightly, I can assure you of that. Though human, his combat ability is undeniably inhuman. Men both revere him, and fear him, and though I have not seen his ability myself, his commanding presence is not to be taken for granted.”
    Samson sighed quietly. “If what you say is true, the two of you would have to be out of your minds to try to take him on.” Though it went against what he had thought, if the two planned on getting themselves killed he would have to intervene. If he was to have ignored Vanir's warnings and joined the other guild, does that mean Reina and Salem would fall in this battle? He shook his head and cast away the thought once more. “You should really reconsider that part of the plan.”
    The guild master shook her head. “I know you might have your doubts on the matter, but I honestly believe that it's something we have to do, and perhaps something that only we can do. It's my job as the guild master to lead everyone, and to also protect them. I'm the one putting them at risk, so at the very least I want to be there fighting alongside them. I want you to believe in me.”
    He clenched his fist and his eyes fell to his shoes, but he was at a loss for words. She was right, and he too wanted to believe in her, but it did not make her plan any less reckless. If she fell, who would lead Bastion? The thought made him even more uneasy. “Then let me go with you. I'm sure the two of you are capable of handling yourselves, but having a third person, if not a full party would be a much better idea.”
    Reina shook her head once more. “Truthfully that would make me feel a bit more at ease, but I have something that only you can do Samson.” He considered objecting, but steeled himself instead and assured himself that he should and would follow in her lead. “That fourth entrance, is where I want you and your party to enter from. I want you to go in and evacuate the hostages.”
    He blinked. “My...party?”
    She nodded before offering him an assuring smile. “I've chosen three members of Bastion that will be following your lead. With them you'll enter the lower sections of the castle and find where the hostages are being held captive. Once you've located them I'll have members positioned from within your entrance and throughout the lower sections to help them get out safely. Should any opposition arrive, I'll leave it to you to buy the others time to get away safely. Could you do that for me?”
    He replayed the request in his mind for a moment before nodding solemnly. “I won't fail you.”
    “That's what I like to hear!” She grinned. “Now, we have caravans situated across the city already, and some that are on the outskirts of Aoich that we'll use to transport the refugees from the Dark Moon to Ramalda. We also have some that have weapons and armour available for those who need it. You can get a temporary dagger there Samson.”
    “It'd certainly be handy,” Her cheer was certainly infectious, as he found himself smiling also.
    “Also don't worry! If you ever have doubts or just want to hear my voice you can reach me through your guild badge. I'll be issuing commands as the raid goes on.”
    “I think we get enough of you barking on a day to day,” Vanir muttered under his breath. She turned to him and furrowed her brows while he snickered.
    “That sounds like a solid plan. Is there anything else that we should know?” Samson asked before taking one more glance of the map.
    The guild master shook her head. “That's about it. You don't have to worry about us. We've trained hard for this day, and we don't plan on letting the guild down. With that said, let's make our final preparations before we set out.” Salem nodded and the two made their way upstairs, likely to get their gear and weapons. There was rarely a time Samson was not in his armour, so he only need take his hat and he would be ready.
    “Any last words?” Vanir asked with a grin before Skuld pinched his thigh.
    He let out a pained groan as Samson chuckled and shook his head. “I don't intend to fall here. I have a promise to keep...and a place to return to. It's not my time, nor is it theirs. I'll see this mission through to the end.”
    “Well aren't we just a boat of confidence.” The barista muttered as he rubbed his thigh gently, his waitress glaring at him while silently fuming. “Well whatever. Only way to change your fate is to fight and fight until...” He grinned and tipped his hat. “Well, we'll only know once it happens. I'm looking forward to the future that you've forged for yourself.”
    His words raised questions, but ones that would likely have no answers, if Samson was to go from previous experience. This is the path Samson had chosen, and though he felt unsure if it was for the best, perhaps the only way he would know was if he deemed it so himself. As the thought came to an end he saw the two descending the stairs, completely clad in battle-ready gear and wearing confident expressions.
    Salem wore a solid red garb, from head to toe with light silver pauldrons and a pair of dark brown thong sandals. In his hand he carried what looked like a mask, and he also had a sword and pouch strapped to his waist. A scarf was haphazardly wrapped around his neck and rested on his back.
    Reina wore a long white coat over a matching undershirt and black pants with white cloth boots. The hilt of her sword was kept close at her side. As she approached she offered him a grin and spun on the spot to show the herald emblazoned on the back of the coat. A leaf cradled by two wings. Samson chuckled quietly upon seeing it. “What do you think? Vanir put it together for me.” She smiled.
    “Not bad at all Vanir,” Samson said.
    The barista clicked his tongue at the remark. “Make a joke. Yeah I can sew-know what I can't do? Acupuncture. Wanna know what I'm going to do to you? Acupuncture.” Vanir hissed in response before glaring.
    “Apparently he made all of Skuld's clothes, so he's pretty handy when it comes to that sort of thing,” Reina continued.
    “I'm a DIY kind of man. Got a problem with that?”
    Samson had not heard the acronym before but he chuckled quietly nonetheless. “Not at all. It seems to have proven quite useful for both Reina and Skuld.” The Brownie offered an approving nod and beamed. “So I take it we're all set? How do you plan on reaching the city of Aoich?”
    “With this.” Vanir answered and removed a warp crystal shard from his pocket. The item had the same use as its more complete counterpart, but only could be used once. He tossed it to Samson and the adventurer caught it with ease. “Take that and go on and meet up with your guild. Skuld and I will arrive a little later.”
    Samson gave him an appraising gaze. “You plan on partaking in the raid Vanir?”
    “Me? Oh hell no. Do I look like a fighter to you? I'm a barista through and through. I'm just there to offer a hand to refugees.” For Reina's teacher to say those words made him question them, but somewhere within he had the sneaking suspicion that Vanir may have been going to act from the sidelines, or perhaps from the shadows under that guise. Samson smirked and Vanir glanced at him for a moment. “Well? What're you waiting for an invitation? The Dark Moon isn't gonna raid itself. Get going!”
    Samson approached the other two and nodded. “Shall we then?”
    “Lead the way,” Reina answered.
    Samson recalled the location of the Save Stone in Aoich and in a flash of light the three disappeared from the shop.

    The city of Aoich had not changed at all since the last time Samson had visited it, save for the snow that had blanketed the entire area. It was a shame really, considering the cherry blossoms bloomed beautifully in the springtime and it was one of the most popular attractions for tourists. In place of them though, caravans dotted the landscape and their inhabitants also. Beneath the blue sky travellers dressed in long ragged coats reminiscent of the Desert travellers stood around chatting and selling their wares. The city itself had its own unique aesthetic, the cobblestone paths and the paper lanterns that hung from the small buildings in the shopping district would light up at night, giving the city a new style at the two times of day. Dark Moon Castle loomed over the tiny city and beckoned to the adventurers, awaiting their challenge. Were they expected? Or had Reina already prepared a countermeasure?
    “Truthfully, I don't think I'll ever be able to adapt to that...instant travel...” Salem muttered before placing a hand to his forehead.
    “I think a few more times and you will. Don't worry.” Reina added with a grin.
    Samson glanced around the area and rubbed his beard thoughtfully. “There aren't too many people on the street, are there?” He asked. Considering the time of day it was not entirely unreasonable-it was still rather early. But if memory served him even during the early hours of the day, there was still the chance that adventurers would be passing through, and some shops would be at least preparing for the day. He did see a few citizens and adventurers though, but much less than he expected.
    “Right? Actually, most of the citizens of the city are indoors. Our guild mates split up and warned them of the potential danger in the coming days, and asked them to stay inside in case things got dicey. Those guys over there? They're actually members from our guild too. Just disguised.” Reina explained. Samson took a double-take to confirm this, and though he was not familiar with them, most certainly were not from the city, and the others could easily pass off as passerby at a first glance. The rest looked like common traders and members of the convoy.
    “That was a pretty clever tactic.”
    She smiled. “It's all thanks to the other guild masters helping me work out a plan, and their members cooperating together to put it together. It wasn't easy but we're at the final step now. I'll show you where the armoury is-the others should be waiting for us there.”
    He nodded. “Lead the way.”
    The group made their way past the castle and through the streets of the city to the outskirts where more caravans were grouped together, as most could not fit within the city's walls. A group of trees dotted the landscape as did the river that flowed through, the desert remained visible in the distance-a familiar path, one Samson had come through on a myriad of journeys. As they passed through some of the members amidst them waved and greeted the guild master as she came through, while she returned their greetings in kind. Samson smiled at the thought and raised his hand as she and Salem came to a halt at one of the caravans.
    “This should be the one.” Reina added before climbing into the back.
    Salem and Samson followed suit, and just as she had told them three people sat amidst the armour and weapons that filled the entire caravan, and immediately rose as their guild master took her place amidst them.
    “Alright you guys, time to introduce yourselves. Guys this is Samson, and Samson this is your party for the mission.”
    The first to step up was a young man who wore a white poet shirt, black pants that were rolled up at the heel, black boots and a red and white striped headband covering most of his hair, a few black locks were revealed beneath it. He was dark-skinned with clear golden eyes, and a confident grin-his weapon of choice was a golden broadsword with a crimson hilt, the blade featured a crescent at the tip. “My name's Axle.” He said before offering Samson a hand. As the adventurer accepted the offer, he got a closer look at Axle and noticed that he was still very young, and oddly familiar. “So I hear you're the guild's first Keruz? Congrats! Never thought I'd actually see one, let alone be fighting alongside them. It's an honour.”
    The adventurer chuckled gently. “We all reach there someday. If you're an adventurer as long as I've been you'll get there too, trust me.”
    The young man gave a thoughtful nod. “I've got my sights set on it.” He cracked a grin. “Also, I need to thank you.” Samson blinked before raising an eyebrow. “The boss told me that you'd been keeping an eye out for my little sister during your journey. So...thanks.”
    At those words Samson immediately recalled his visit to Madelaine's before going to Hanamah, and recalled the drawing of the girl that Reina had given to him. Perhaps the two were working together to accomplish a common goal, while seeing through their own endeavours. Though Bastion was still a relatively small guild with only twenty people in it, having anyone willing to join in her fight would be quite the boon, while having people to not only fight alongside him and search for his sister would be even more in his favour. Quite the scenario, but not at all surprising that Reina stood at the heart of it. “Sadly, I hadn't seen her, but I've got a good feeling that we may be able to find her today. Let's give it our all to get everyone out as quickly and as safely as possible.”
    “You got it vice-boss!” As Axle stepped aside for one of the others to introduce themselves, Samson recalled the guild roster and that he would be under the code name 'Zero' during the mission.
    The one that followed him was a Temple Knight clad in white and gold armour from head to toe-from the chest plate to pauldrons, the boots and navy blue cape that elegantly followed in his wake, and the helmet that rested on his head, the golden visor covering a fair portion of his hair. Both boots and helmet featured a small wing, the boots on both sides and the helmet on the left. He also had short emerald hair and dark brown eyes, a look of conviction in his eyes that betrayed his youth-perhaps he was a few years Reina's junior. At his waist was a spiked silver club and on his back a shield. “It's a pleasure to finally meet you Samson. I've actually heard quite a bit about you since I was a boy-of your journeys with the God's Governor of Earth and his wife.” He blinked and his face flushed slightly. “W-where are my manners...my name's Vincent. During this mission I'll be under the codename Rook. I'll be under your guidance.”
    “The pleasure's mine Vincent. You might be under my guidance but I'll be the one protected by you.” Samson replied as he chuckled. “You're tougher than I am, and I can tell at a glance.”
    The young man chuckled briefly. “You can count on me. Alright Miranda you're next.”
    A young girl with lengthy black hair tied in twin tails and curious violet eyes stepped up and introduced herself next. “It's nice to meet ya Samson. I'm Miranda, and I'll be this team's support.” She offered him a confident grin and he smiled back. She wore a black and white striped shirt with a tan crop top, the shirt's sleeves detached but matching. She wore black pants, tan chaps, and black rollerblades with white wheels. Atop her head were a pair of goggles with a blue clock design that was also featured on her crop top and chaps as buttons. The outfit was a set that could be redeemed with one of Toma's fashion coupons which were also a Ladeck prize, known as the cargo clock set. Upon her back was a guitar hanging from the strap around her chest, and though he could only see its snow white neck he knew it was a hallow.
    He nodded approvingly. “It seems we've got all of our bases covered. That's certainly a relief. With your help I think we'll come through this in pretty good shape. Let's do our best together Miranda.”
    “Lead us well Samson. Ah, by the way, my codename's Muse so don't forget.”
    He nodded. Reina snickered quietly and he immediately felt the hairs on his neck stand on end. Though reluctant he decided to pose the question anyway, “What's so funny?”
    “Well you haven't told them your codename yet Samson. It won't do them any good if they don't know what it is.” Reina answered with an impish smile.
    He knew the moment would come, but he dreaded it nonetheless. “My codename...” He sighed. The adventurer rubbed his neck uneasily as he considered scolding the barista a second time for giving him the name at such a crucial time. “My codename is Whisper.” Axle snickered, Vincent stifled a laugh and Miranda laughed out loud.
    Even Salem chuckled quietly under his breath before adding in a comment. “It really does make you wonder sometimes how serious he is when he gives us these names.”
    Samson let out an exasperated sigh. “Consider yourself one of the lucky ones Salem.”
    “It's not as bad as you think Samson,” Reina added thoughtfully, “I think it's kinda cute actually.”
    He knit his eyebrows and she shrugged with a smile at his glance. “Your words sting even more than the name he chose.”
    “We can trade if you like.”
    He smiled at the thought before shaking his head gently. “On second thought, I think I might have taken a shine to Whisper.”

    Getting there:
    I guess most of the stuff in here is pretty self-explanatory, since the characters kinda do that lol. So let's talk about Keruz! You might be a little confused cause earlier on Kasumi said that Peorth could only choose seven Keruz, and they'd gain powers due to it. There are differences between her Keruz and the other guilds' nonetheless-if you wonder what those might be, take a look at the Toad Island arc in Frequency and you'll get a rough idea lol. Those guys and their status will serve a purpose later, but I won't spoil that here! But anyway, the typical Keruz can tap into their mana, and with practice can use new stances and spells. In a sense, you could say they fall under the Divine and Arcane Arts, but as you'd expect they're a bit more limited. This mind, doesn't give access to Light, just stances and such. You'll hear more about the others throughout Sanc.
    Moving on we're finally getting into the final arc, which is the battle at Dark Moon. When I finally get my act together and see Innocent through to the end you'll see Reina's side of the story, but since this is Samson's side he'll be going on a different journey during the mission. I'm partially going on memory and experimenting a bit with the design of the castle, but I've got a pretty good idea of it so if all goes well I should be able to map it out well enough for the story's sake. As for the paper charm, the idea behind it was that alike to the game, adventurers would be able to open the way, but would need to find their way through the maze to get to the DMP. Rather than a mechanic though I wanted it to be a defense against intruders that the castle incorporated in case of intruders such as those two. Of course, the DMP serves a different purpose here also, but Moon of the 16th Day is as you'd expect. One of the generals is situated just outside, and is the target for Reina and Salem.
    Speaking of the two, they've seen quite a lot of change, mainly the former rather than the latter. I know Reina had seen a dramatic shift from the beginning of USSR to the current period, and I figured it was for the best, since after all it had been nearly 11 years between the two points in time. I feel that she grew as a character-though she might seem a bit more...eccentric? She's more outgoing and her leadership qualities have improved vastly. Of course, she's no Peorth lol. The two are both guildmasters but she has her reservations and at times and often shows more doubt or reluctance to matters. Not trying to downplay the Chief though-she's got some interesting points of her own that you're gonna see in the coming chapters.
    Last but not least, we get the introduction of Samson's crew featuring Axle, Vincent and Miranda. Initially I had planned to introduce Axle as a member of Bastion(which was unnamed at the time) at the end of Innocent. He'd only be there for a short cameo though, and it would take place at a different time. But yeah, before he became a member of Yggdrasil he was there, and before that he worked with a band of mercs. He's a character who travels a lot, so he's actually pretty familiar with the world, especially the Desert! Hence how he found TJ. Vincent and Miranda are a new pair of characters that might have appearances later, but not major ones, since this is their big moment. Sanc has a pretty big supporting cast as is.
    I know there might be some similarities between this and the final chapter, but trust me I'll do what I can to not make it so similar. Truthfully, that'd be rather difficult since there's no Abellan, so the coming pages will vary vastly from the two. Besides, you know me lol. If the ending of Freq was anything to go by, this one won't be so obvious. If my talent allows it, I'll make it the best that it can be to finally wrap up this story. Shouldn't be too long from here on out. Anyway, until next time!
    avatar
    TJ

    Posts : 873
    Join date : 2009-03-29
    Age : 24
    Location : Cake Tooooooowwwn

    Re: Under Shattered Skies Refrain

    Post  TJ on Fri Jan 16, 2015 3:24 pm

    Pages 152-158:
    Reina and Salem had already made their return to Aoich and Samson had taken the time to glance through the armoury and see what weapons were available to him. There were a myriad of daggers from across Jienda, but the most common type were those forged in Elfa-it was no surprise after all, considering that most traders hailed from there. He took one with a gold hilt and a pommel with a sapphire laid within. Light, and rather easy to wield. He took a small crimson shield made of titanium in hand and tested out the feel of both weapons in hand before giving an approving nod.
    “This should do just fine,” The adventurer said.
    “Alright, so we're all set?” Axle asked as he looked out upon the expanse of land before them.
    “Ready anytime,” Miranda added before leaping past him and waving to them outside of the caravan.
    “Where to?” Vincent asked.
    Samson reached into his rucksack and withdrew a map of Aoich and that which surrounds it-though less detailed than the typical map, it was just what he needed to pinpoint the location that Reina had wanted him to enter through. “This way you three. It's not far from here.”
    Leading the trio the group made their way to an area that skirted the line between Aoich's territory and the Desert, and eventually came to a halt at a place that Samson deemed to be their destination. He tapped his guild badge twice as Reina had suggested and the sounds of his guild mates' chatter caught him off guard.

    [Guild]Dario(Badger): You almost there guild master? The others are getting antsy from anticipation.
    [Guild]Reina(Dancer): We're close, just tell them to be good and wait a little longer. The moment I give the signal we have to start, so make sure to be at the ready guys!
    [Guild]Dominica(Harmonic): Say the word and we'll pass on the message Dancer.
    [Guild]Salem(Shadow): Steel yourselves, this will not be like fighting your typical Agasura. These are all soldiers well versed in the art of combat.
    [Guild]Reina(Dancer): They'll be alright-we all will. I believe in this guild, and the others also.

    Samson chuckled under his breath as he listened to their banter go on. The time had come, and the battle was before them. He could not help but feel a tinge of unease at what they were going to do, but his main focus had to be to complete the task efficiently and get out his team, and the refugees safely.
    “Lend me a hand here you guys.” He crouched down and swept away the sand before them with his hands in search of the trap door that would lead to the tunnel. At his request his party members joined in the search.
    After a brief while Vincent began, “I think I've found the entrance Samson.” The adventurer approached and gave an approving nod at the sight of a handle atop an ornate stone entrance. Though time seemed to have worn down the entrance, it was clear that it had been around for quite a few years, and well hidden at that. Since very few would likely get into Dark Moon Castle, and even so less would be willing to try, there was little need for the tunnel to be used as an entrance or exit.
    “Not bad at all. Let's be ready.”

    [Guild]Reina(Dancer): Alright everyone, we're almost in position! Send them in Anchovy!
    [Guild]Pamela(Anchovy): R-right away.
    [Guild]Reina(Dancer): The mission starts now everyone. I'll be counting on you from here on out.

    Before departing Reina had said that Revolution would lead the charge, by way of passing messages between guilds through parties consisting of members of each guild, they could pass commands on to each other, be it from the guild masters themselves or other members with a status report. Bastion was the smallest of the guilds, so they were dispersed amidst the teams and passed on Reina's messages. At her request, Uprising soon followed afterwards and continued the plan.

    [Guild]Reina(Dancer): Whisper, status report.
    [Guild]Samson(Whisper): We're currently on standby awaiting further orders. The entrance has been located also. Your orders, guild master?

    There was a brief pause before she continued, and something about it gave him the feeling that wherever she was right now, she was grinning.

    [Guild]Reina(Dancer): The hostages are waiting for you. Best of luck!

    He smiled in turn before giving his party a thoughtful glance and a nod, to which the two boys pulled the entrance open. Samson stole a glance inside, and could see very little save for the light outside lighting the shaft.
    “Any ideas?” Axle asked with knit eyebrows.
    “A Treasure Hunter has to be prepared for any situation that a dungeon will throw at him.” The adventurer answered before rummaging through his rucksack again. He took out a lantern and oil, then lit it before leading the way. In spite of what he said, he did feel a hint of dismay because he would have liked to carry a bow and quiver-though he could not utilize the stances available to its users, he was still well versed in their uses. A bit of range would do their party a world of good, but he also needed to consider the fact that he would have a limited amount. Disregarding the thought, he carefully climbed down the ladder while the other three followed in his wake, and he eventually reached a landing. It was close by, thankfully. The others gathered around and he lead on as they traversed what seemed to be the inside of a cavern-with the small light available to them he could just barely see ahead of him and around him, but it was not enough to deter him.
    “Scared?” Miranda asked with a snicker.
    “Who is?” Vincent asked before he glanced at the two.
    “I think she's talking about you,” Axle remarked.
    “I-I'm not scared! It's just a dark cave. This is nothing.”
    Miranda slowed down slightly while Vincent's focus was on their Warrior and slowly raised her hands to his back. “Boo!”
    Vincent cried out and drew his weapon before taking a swing at the darkness, missing Miranda by a hair's breadth. The bard fell backwards and avoided the attack by using her hands to also hold up her body, but remained bent over as she attempted to catch her breath, her face stricken with panic.
    “Totally scared,” The Warrior remarked with a grin.
    “That-it's not the same!” The Knight answered defensively.
    “Are you nuts?! You could've taken my head off with that, stupid!” Miranda hissed as she rose to her feet and dusted herself off.
    “You shouldn't be doing things like that to people or that might happen.”
    Samson let out a dry chuckle. “You three might wind up killing each other before we can even consider evacuating anyone. Let's try to keep our sights set on our enemies rather than our allies.”
    “Aye aye sir!” Miranda saluted him and caught up while Vincent muttered something, likely obscenities under his breath and put away his weapon. If he was to take a random guess, it was likely that the three were familiar with each other, likely before they had considered or were given the opportunity to join a guild. Making small talk with them might ease the tension slightly-if the previous event was any indication, at least one of them was on edge.
    “So where do you guys come from anyway?” He asked casually.
    “Us? I was born on Asgard but I was raised in Lemanin.” Miranda began and pursed her lips. “I don't remember much of home, really. I was so young back then most of its just a blur...up until we had to escape. I remember that pretty clearly just 'cause of how scary it was.”
    “In that our situations are actually pretty similar. I was born on Asgard too, and my parents had fled to Lemanin. Truthfully it was where Mira and I first met. I guess you could say that the two of us grew up together, and when we became old enough we set out for Belos together to begin our adventure.”
    “Been stuck with this guy ever since.”
    Vincent glared at her. “I think that's my line.”
    “That so? Well if that's how it is you can-”
    “Knock it off you two. It's my turn to talk.” Axle said before he pulled the two away from each other, the duo practically ready to duke it out there and then. Samson chuckled once more as he glanced back before setting his sights back on the winding tunnel ahead of them. “I was born on Asgard too, and well...the rest speaks for itself. Though our journey had hit quite the rough patch-on the way down our family and some of the others got ambushed by Agasura, and so we got separated from the group. Mom, my sister and I managed to catch a lift with some of the others headed for Xenym, and so we wound up going down to that region. Turns out we landed in a selki settlement! Can you believe that? I mean Aga-”
    Samson froze and Axle walked into his back while the other two stifled a laugh. “Hold on a moment there Axle...you landed in the selki village?” The Treasure Hunter asked.
    “Yeah, what about it?”
    “You came down with another family right? Of about four people?”
    He scratched his cheek thoughtfully. “It's been a while. I can't quite remember how many people were there but I do remember another family. Did you know them or something?”
    The pieces were coming together, and as Samson considered them he continued to walk. Finding Cedric and completing his current mission were two very different things, and right now he had to at least press onwards while pursuing answers. “I did-rather, I guess you could say I do. I met their daughter in Hanamah.” He chuckled gently as the thoughts of Melody passed him by. “But that's not what I need to know about. Was there a man with you? Not one that belonged to the other family, but just one that travelled alone?”
    Axle crossed his arms and recalled the event. “Actually there was! He was the one that found us and told us to come with him. Yep, there was a dude like that. He escaped with us too.”
    “Did he survive?” Vincent asked both looking and sounding tense.
    “Shh! It's getting good!” Miranda muttered.
    “It's not some scary story!”
    Was that Cedric's true intention? Was that the reason that he had not followed after Reina and Hazel? “What happened after you landed?”
    “I think we stayed there a little while and set out again.” The Warrior sighed, his eyes clouded over. “We set out for Ramalda. We were supposed to meet up with Dad down there, but because of the Agasura we were left behind. That guy who had helped us escape came with us, and though he said he wasn't an adventurer he still took up weapons and fought for us. Mom didn't like it, but I didn't want to spend the entire journey being protected...I wanted to protect her and Roll too, so I became a Warrior. It took some getting used to 'cause broadswords are heavy, but I've got a pretty good grasp on them now.” He smiled bitterly. “Anyway, when we got to the Desert while we were fighting Agasura some weird guys ambushed us and tied up Mom and my sister. That guy and I fought back but they were way stronger than we were. I can't say for sure if they were adventurers or something else but they beat us easily.” He shook his head. “Next thing I knew I was being hauled around by some Desert mercs. They said they'd found me lying in the sand and thought I was killed by the sandmen, but since I came to I could be of use. So I moved with the mercs and started working as one, which is how I earned money and searched for my family. I haven't found them yet though, but I'm not giving up.”
    “Tragic,” Miranda said.
    “I'd heard that a lot of Cerebians had a rough time since the war ended. Still, you're alive and well, and I'm willing to bet that your family is too. You've got Bastion backing you now Axle.” Vincent added as he crossed his arms.
    The Bard nodded. “Mm hmm leave it to us. Finding your family will be a lot easier when it's not just you.”
    Samson grit his teeth. He had finally found some clues to Cedric's whereabouts, but the trail ran cold there. There was no longer any doubt that he was somewhere on Jienda, and potentially alive, but there were more questions that arose from Axle's story. Who had attacked his family and why had they taken the two captive? For what reason did they leave Axle behind and what of Cedric? It was possible they too, thought the boy was dead, or potentially unnecessary, but it's not everyday that anyone would choose to take people captive without proper reason. From his experiences it was mainly sell swords that would traverse the desert, since many would pay for assistance in getting across safely. There was the chance that it was because they were Cerebians, but the fact still stood that no ordinary human could tell. Perhaps there was something extraordinary about their captors? He would have to remain on guard-there was something unusual afoot, and Samson would have to overcome that hurdle to catch Cedric's trail.
    “Thanks guys. We've gotta make it outta here alive first, though.” Axle said before flashing a grin.
    “We will. I'll make sure that you do,” Samson insisted.

    After a brief walk the four found themselves at the end of the tunnel, which seemed to be a part of a greater whole-a cavern hidden beneath the castle. Samson placed a hand to the wall and looked above them, and just as he had imagined he could see a small portion of the interior, and perhaps one of the entrances to the lower echelons. The height difference between where the four were now and the entrance up there was immense. To attempt to get from there to where they were now would require one who is not only dexterous, but also well equipped for such a feat. Turning his gaze to the destination that waited for them much lower, he saw an incredible distance between the next landing and his current location. Agasuras patrolled the area-canine creatures that seemed to be coated, if not made of pink flames.
    Samson glanced around the area, his party giving him odd looks in return likely thinking he wanted to say something to them, but instead he only sighed gently. There was nothing around that he could tie a rope to, though not necessary, in case the group need delve further he would have preferred to have as many supplies as possible. Disregarding the thought he reached into his rucksack and drew a peg and hammer, and immediately proceeded to hammer it into the ground before them. Following that he drew a rope and tied it around the peg before pulling it to test its safety. With an approving nod he rose to his feet and turned his focus to Vincent.
    “There are four Agasura down there Rook-they're distanced from each other, so by the time you get down there you'd only need to hold off one or two of them. Zero, I want you to follow after Rook and join the fray as soon as possible. I'll go next to provide backup and Muse will follow behind me. We'll clear them out and move on from there. Are we all clear?” Samson explained.
    “Crystal,” Vincent answered.
    “Alright, let's begin.”
    Vincent grabbed hold of the rope and began to rappel down the wall towards the lower landing. When he reached the ground Samson gave Axle a nod and he followed suit. He carefully watched as the young man made his way down and their knight drew his mace and shield to engage the oncoming Agasura. He stole a glance at Miranda who cautiously watched in turn, a look of unease in her eyes. It seemed to be a mix of concern for her companion, and also a sense of fear.
    “Not a fan of heights?” He asked with half-jokingly.
    “What adventurer is scared of heights?” She retorted.
    “We've all got our fears. If your party is hard-pressed to accept that about you, search for another.” He smiled gently. “Neither Zero nor I will trouble you for it. Well, we might, but don't take it to heart. If you feel that you can't do it alone, close your eyes and let go. I'll wait at the bottom to catch you.”
    She glared at him. “I'll be fine. Just keep to the plan and keep them alive, okay?”
    He grinned. “I won't disappoint.”
    With those words he took one last glance as Axle drew his blade and went to Vincent's aid. He took hold of the rope and skillfully and quickly made his way down, stopping nearby the two as both remained in a deadlock with the four Agasura.
    “Good timing Whisper, we could use a hand!” Axle shouted to him as one of the dogs leapt at him and he managed to force it back with the broad side of his sword.
    Samson drew his dagger and shield and immediately rushed to his side, bashing the creature with it once before taking a stab at him. It fell back and growled at him as another barked and followed after it from his flank.
    Vincent stepped in and hit it once across the face before shouting, “Crazy Hit!” He took a step forward as it retreated and hit it with five strikes in succession.
    Samson parried another attack and took a stab before transitioning into a stance. “Masquerade!” He shouted as he spun around and rose in an upward strike.
    “Let me at it!” Axle called out as he rushed in with his blade at the ready.
    Samson nodded as he touched the ground and got away safely by using Dancing Dagger. While the creature recovered from the blow Axle came skidding to a halt and held his sword above his head as he channelled energy into it. “Atomic Break!” He brought down the blade over the Agasura and split it in two, causing it to burst into pink flames and disappear. “One down, three to go!”
    Samson turned his focus and caught a glimpse of Miranda holding off one with her hallow while Vincent battled two, holding back one with his shield while drawing his weapon on the other. “Multiple Hits!” He raised his mace in an upward swing and brought it down once more over the creature's head, causing it to also disappear. “Only two left!”
    “Let's go Zero!” Samson told him before rushing to assist the others.
    “Right behind ya.” Axle followed shortly after.
    Miranda pushed the Agasura back and hit it once with her guitar before placing it on her back and holding out both hands as a chunk of ice appeared before them. “Ice Storm!” She cried out as it split and surrounded her as she began to spin. The canine was coated in ice and temporarily frozen, allowing Axle to rush in and follow up the attack. He raised his sword over his shoulder and leapt towards it, bringing it down with a heavy swing and smashing it to pieces. “Easy.”
    “I'll strike from it's blind spot Rook!” Samson shouted as he readied his shield and charged towards it. Vincent nodded and crouched down behind his as the creature growled at him and turned its head at Samson's approach. When the Treasure Hunter came in range the Knight stormed forward and both shield bashed it at once. The two raised their weapons at once, and brought them down, taking the creature down with them. “That's that.” Samson let out a sigh of relief as he wiped his brow.
    “That went well. We make a pretty good team!” Vincent said grinning.
    “Don't you think it's too soon to get comfy? Let your guard down and one of those things will tear a leg off.” Miranda muttered.
    “With that attitude the only one who's gonna be dog chow is you.”
    “I'm not getting involved in this.” Axle muttered as he put his weapon away.
    Samson chuckled dryly. “Now now you two...”
    After the two seemingly came to some sort of understanding, the three were able to move forward. The area they found themselves in seemed to have some portions of the castle built in, so though it seemed to be little else than a cavern, there were a series of wooden landings about that likely lead further in. The ground where they walked was littered with puddles both large and small, and at times there was no way past them, only through them.
    “You're splashing water all over my armour!” Vincent hissed and glared.
    “Cry me a river why don't you?!” Miranda retorted.
    “Shh, you two. I hear something.” Samson walked ahead towards what seemed to be a tunnel and stairwell, and the sound of footsteps surprised him. Voices followed, in what seemed to be a myriad of different languages. “Everyone, take cover!” At his request his party immediately split up and hit behind rocks or just somewhere out of the immediate line of sight. Following the event both soldiers in armour wearing the Dark Moon's colours and scientists emerged from the tunnel and made their way towards the opposite end of the cave that the group had come from. Far off in the distance, over a short wall it seemed that there was more to the caverns than the Treasure Hunter had initially thought. Perhaps it led to the upper portions of the castle? It would not be the fastest means, but certainly a better option than attempting to climb up to the ground level.
    “Are we in the clear Whisper?” Miranda asked while she uneasily glanced around the corner of a rock.
    Samson emerged from his hiding spot and looked down into the tunnel. He heard nothing else, but still kept a cautious air about him. “Looks like we're safe for now.” He answered as he gestured for them to follow his lead. “Let's delve deeper. I feel that we're getting closer.”
    The group gave a unanimous agreement and followed after. They descended the stairs and found themselves in a corridor. Samson glanced about with apprehension, but moved quickly, quietly, and carefully. Keeping a low profile along with his teammates he moved towards a wall and glanced around the corner. At the sight before him he could barely believe his eyes. The area was wide open with a high roof and plenty of space, but it seemed like things were littered about-papers, clipboards and writing utensils, and at times even weapons. There were even machines all over the walls-the entire area was coated in metal like a giant dome, and in some of the walls were cells. Was this it? Where the hostages had been kept? He glanced about before moving forward. As he moved forward he caught a glimpse of a Save Stone standing proudly in the midst of it all upon the usual stone pedestal. What on earth was it doing here? Perhaps the existence of the caverns had come to be hundreds of years before-that a group had founded the place and in it placed one of the stones that were so famous across Jienda. But that was the least of his concerns-the first getting everyone out safely, and as quickly as possible.
    “Let's go everyone. Split up and check on everyone in the vicinity.” Samson commanded the group. With a nod they split apart and made their way across the area. The Treasure Hunter moved towards the nearest cell and took a glance inside. There were three people inside, a young man, an elderly one and a woman. Two of the three seemed to be collapsed, the young man being the only one up and sitting in the fettle position. Samson wrapped his hands around the bars and opened his mouth to speak but found himself at a loss for words. In the darkness he could barely see the young man's face but his eyes seemed empty. He shook his head and called to him, “Are you alright?!”
    The prisoner turned back to him and the gaze he gave sent chills down the adventurer's spine. “Who...are you?” He asked, his voice quiet but still coming through clear enough.
    “I...” He bit his lip as he gripped the bars tighter. “I'm a member of the guild Bastion, and leader of squad seven. We're here to rescue you and get you somewhere safe!”
    The young man tilted his head quizzically. “Rescue? Why?”
    The question put him at a loss for words once more. “I...because...” He grit his teeth.
    “Hey Whisper, get over here! This girl might be of use!” Miranda shouted from across the room while waving her hand.
    He looked to where Miranda was and stole a glance back at the person that gazed back at him. “I'll be back. Just...hang in there, alright?” He ran across the room to the prison where Miranda waited and at the bars was a wispy girl dressed in rags with platinum blonde hair that trailed along the ground looked back at him from within.
    “Aha...I spy a Sammy.” She giggled with a weak grin.
    His eyes opened wide as he reached out and she offered him a hand. “It...it couldn't be...Alessa? Is that really you?”
    “It's been a few years but I'm still as beautiful as I was back then. Falling for me all over again Sammy?”
    He took her hand in both of his as tears streamed from his eyes. “You survived...thank goodness we made it in time.” He quickly wiped the tears from his eyes and took a deep breath before recomposing himself. He glanced away at the feeling of someone watching him and saw Miranda nearby with a raised eyebrow.
    She shifted her gaze away while she muttered, “Don't mind me...go on with your lover's reunion or whatever.”
    He considered rebuking her for the statement, but now was not the time or place for it. “Are the others alright? Do you know who has the keys to the cell?”
    “The others...” Her eyes shuttered. “A lot of us didn't make it...” She tightly gripped the bar of the cell with her free hand as she bit her lip. “So many people died in the battle, and a lot of our citizens died of illness here too. Some were just taken away...into that room over there.” She pointed to a pair of silver double doors nearby that had no handle nor a knob to open it with. “Virgin...Virgil was one of them.” Her eyes began to water and she looked to him with a pleading look. “Please, Sammy, you have to find him and save him! I dunno what they did to him but he went in there and he's been in there ever since! Please, help him!”
    “I'll find him Alessa, but we need to get you all out of here as soon as possible. Reina's arranged for transportation out of the city, and members of our guild to help you and the others escape as quickly and safely as possible.”
    “Rei-Rei did all that? She used to be such a fragile girl.” The young woman wiped her tears as a gentle chuckle escaped her lips. “She became strong enough for all of us. I'll have to glomp her the next time we meet.”
    He smiled slightly and nodded. “I'm sure she'd appreciate it, but first things first. I need to know where those keys are and how I can get into that room. Do you know?”
    She nodded. “The guard on patrol dropped them not too long ago when one of the escaping scientists bumped into him. They should be somewhere over there.” She pointed near the pedestal and Samson nodded in response, thinking that he would have his members search the area for the keys. “As for the doors, it has an electronic lock. Those guys had staff badges that also served as keycards. If you can find one of those around here, you should be able to get in with it.”
    “Got it. You're a great help Alessa.”
    As he let go of her hand and rose to his feet she smiled meekly. “Once you find them you can thank me with a kiss if you like.”
    He placed a hand to his face to hide his embarrassment. “Do any of you kids take anything seriously?” He turned back to the room and called out to his members. “Everyone, gather around!” At his request the three returned to him. “I need your help in searching this room. Somewhere within are two crucial items that we need in order to evacuate everyone. One, the keyring to the cells. The other, a staff badge. The first would most likely be somewhere around that Save Stone. The second will require a broader search, but there should be one in this room. Rook, Muse, find the keys. Zero and I will seek out the card. Let's move it everyone!”
    “Yes sir!” The Angels shouted in response and set out.
    Samson searched through all the scattered trash, looking for anything that even resembled the card. He could leave no stone unturned, and though the papers actually seemed to be important documents, he had no time to glance over them. As he went through them he caught a glimpse of something that gave him pause and made his mind turn over. There was a document with a picture of the Exalted One hanging from it with a paper clip. The sight gave him pause, and he immediately scooped it up and flipped through the documents in hopes that he could find something on her whereabouts, but he could not understand a word of it. There were diagrams included of her physique, and on each was a certain mark on the chest. What did it mean? The fact that the documents existed meant that she had been there at one point, and that there was something they were researching. A wave of unease washed over him as he took the documents and placed them in his pocket.
    “I've got the keys!” Vincent said as he held the ring for the Treasure Hunter to see.
    “I think I've found a-ah here's one.” Axle brought a keycard over and gave it to Samson.
    “Bring those keys here?” Vincent did as requested and the adventurer glanced over them. There was no indication of what key would open each door, and this troubled him. He removed the keys from the ring and distributed them amidst his party. “Try every lock you can and find out if they'll open the cells. Following that, wake everyone and provide those who need assistance with it to escape.” Grasping a few of the keys in hand as the others separated once more, he tapped his guild badge twice.

    [Guild]Samson(Whisper): We've located and begun evacuation of the hostages Dancer.
    [Guild]Reina(Dancer): You've found them? Great! Bastion squads four, five, and six status report?
    [Guild]Cleo(Mystic): Squad four, reporting in!
    [Guild]Kizzie(Cinnamon): Squad five, ready and waiting.
    [Guild]Trenton(Nitro): Squad six, awaiting orders.
    [Guild]Reina(Dancer): Mobilize and move out. Your top priority is evacuation of the hostages. Squad seven will handle any opposition. Hop to it! Squads one, two, and three, prepare for departure upon arrival of the hostages.
    [Guild]Damian(Bean): You got it guild master.
    [Guild]Jose(Hunter): Got it. We'll remain on standby until then.
    [Guild]Shara(Enigma): Consider it done.
    [Guild]Reina(Dancer): Good work everyone. Squad seven, proceed as planned.
    [Guild]Samson(Whisper): We're on it.

    Samson tapped the badge again and nodded to his party who regrouped with him and the hostages that they assisted in breaking out. “You heard the guild master.” He nodded to his party and stole an uneasy glance at the door that awaited them. “Muse, I want you to take the hostages to the extraction point. When you meet up with the other squads, return to us immediately if we don't come back. Rook, Zero, with me.”
    “Your wish is my command, o master.” Miranda muttered with a shrug. “Well? What're you all waiting for? I'm getting you the hell out of here.” With a wave of her hand the captives followed her towards the exit.
    As Alessa walked by she offered the adventurer a smile. “Thanks Sammy. I hope both of you come back safe and sound,” She said.
    He offered her a reassuring smile and waved back as she walked away. He had no words of comfort, since he felt sure that Virgil missing and the documents he held on him amidst the others were likely related, and were a sign of ill omens. “Let's go you two.” He walked over to the door and glanced at what seemed to be where the keycard would be swiped. He slid it through and the machine beeped once before the doors began to open.

    Kinda makes me wanna play LT TBH:
    Got a couple things to discuss today. I'd thought about what the characters should wear, and I guess in a sense Axle being dressed like a pirate is kinda ironic, but then again, who isn't dressed strangely in this series? I mean, TJ's a bard dressed as a waiter lol. Think I had a bit too much fun with that. But yeah, he and Vincent both wear clothes from the fashion shop, but Mira's is from Toma. Might hunt down someone with a screenshot of Vincent's armour so I can describe it properly, but for the time being it'll remain as is. Truth be told, Mira's clothes and hair are actually based on the creator's design! I spotted it by accident but it proved to be just what I needed. I didn't know it was a fan-made creation until now.

    On another note I've come to realize the escape from Asgard is mentioned a lot, but never quite explained. I do plan on doing it later in Sanc, since there are still characters who don't know about it but if you're curious I'll post a brief explanation here, for the idea that I'm working with.
    Inter-world Travel:
    I'd given the matter a lot of thought, and though I had something else in mind I realized there was a crucial factor missing. Won't go into that though, since it's not important lol. But basically, the way the people of Asgard escaped was through the Bifrost. Naturally, if you had a series of people all rushing to get to one place, they'd sooner get ambushed by Agasuras and cleaned out. USSR notwithstanding. So a connection was formed between it and the various regions across the world. Certain locations in each region would serve as a point where those who went to them could escape-in that sense, perhaps there would be maybe 8 circles per area that could be used as a single-use transporter to Jienda. Thus, potentially one to two families could escape through them, but depending on the size they may be grouped with others in another place. Of course, they wouldn't be too close together or there would be a greater risk for everyone.
    Anyway, these points would lead to set locations in the world, such as the Selki Village, the Havens, and any other place that the Asgardians deemed safe. Alike to the Iris Stones, they would need the coordinates to reach those locations safely, so there were those who had already gone and mapped them out. Queen Remedi didn't just see the world for show! Though unlike the Iris Stones, the Asgardians wouldn't be limited to just where they are, and could return to Asgard from any point since it would return them to the Bifrost's location.
    Hopefully that makes some sense-it still could use some work and there might be a few kinks, but there's always room for improvement here. It's part of what I'm out to do, after all. Anyway, the reason that nobody mentions it is because to them it's common knowledge. Truthfully though, from a writing perspective it would probably be better to have it, but Axle's story is already a lot of information, and to add Reina's plot as a part of it makes it even more to take in-thus it wound up as Samson's focus.

    Moving on, tried something a litter different this time with some of the characters, namely our two supporting members. At times the way they talk, especially to each other can be a tad similar. Most of the time one character might fall to either side of the spectrum, creating a different dynamic between the two like Kooh and Peorth or TJ and Su. With these two, I had considered their background but I asked myself what it would be like if things were...well, somewhat normal for once. In spite of the two also being refugees, they grew up in a less turbulent place, and eventually set out as adventurers. They grew up together, and all the years had developed the dynamic the two have now. They're close, but they seem to fight a lot more than they do get along-a little like siblings, but they get along in their own way. I'll work at it some, and hopefully display this well enough so that their pairing feels complete.

    One thing I didn't mention is the tendency to switch between names and code names. Typically when a character isn't talking, I'll use their normal names, and vice versa. I'd considered using the latter as both, but to me it just felt better to keep it as is, since one would be something the characters themselves need to do, while the other is something that I needed to do. To do it for both might blur those lines a little too much, and potentially make things a bit confusing.

    I think one of the places I could definitely improve is working with the guild chat. I've considered having events occurring during the chat, but I'm conflicted on how I should space it out, or whether it'll come together well, but as it is now isn't too bad. I might tinker with it a bit and see how I feel about it after that. That also could use a bit of refining, but since it only pops up every now and then its getting there.
    Also Alessa's back. Surprisingly, for once everyone didn't die! We're slowly inching toward the end, but it's very close! Following that, well I've got a lot on my plate to do lol. Anyway, with that said until next time.
    avatar
    TJ

    Posts : 873
    Join date : 2009-03-29
    Age : 24
    Location : Cake Tooooooowwwn

    Re: Under Shattered Skies Refrain

    Post  TJ on Wed Jan 21, 2015 7:12 pm

    Pages 158-168:
    The three cautiously entered, weapons drawn and eyes searching the entirety of the area. It was dim, but the lights coming from a series of test tubes lit up the room enough for the trio to have a general idea of what surrounded them, but not what awaited them. Here too, papers were scattered about and a series of machines that still seemed to be functioning as intended gently whirred amidst the silence.
    “This is getting weirder by the second,” Axle muttered.
    “Look over there.” Vincent said before pointing to some of the tubes further in. “There's something inside of them. Some kind of creatures?”
    Samson swallowed the statement hard. He could not help but feel that it may have been the end result of the missing Cerebians, and if so there may not have been a point of return for them. “Let's investigate it.” He told his party before cautiously approaching. He walked over to the tube and looked up to it, and the creature within seemed to gaze back at him before hissing. “What on Jienda...is that?”
    A creature black as a raven's feathers with bright yellow eyes but a lack of irises rested within the tubes, remaining afloat by the wires that were attached to its back and flanks. Its body was massive, easily dwarfing even Samson-broad shoulders and massive claw-like hands and feet with a body that large enough to easily crush a human.
    “I've...never seen something like that before.”
    “It's not the only one either. There are smaller ones in those other tubes.” Axle added before pointing to the others nearby. In spite of what he said, there were definitely others, but they did not look complete-some seemed to be just taking shape, and others still had a humanoid shape, but were half-transformed.
    The creature snarled once more and Samson placed his hands to the glass before gazing at the creature. Though it was just slightly-ever so slightly, he could have sworn he had heard a voice hidden in the growl. “Virgil...?”
    “So you've come...just as I knew you would!” A voice from nearby caught their attention and the trio turned their focus to the speaker further in the laboratory. A single man wearing a lab coat, brown pants and black boots opposed them-he had short, tousled navy blue hair and had sharp features hidden behind a pair of glasses. “Well? Where is he?”
    Samson took a step forward and held out a hand to keep the other two back-he had little idea what the man would do, but he would not take any chances with risking the lives of the members in his care. “Who are you talking about?”
    He raised an eyebrow. “Do you not know of him? The usurper?” His uneasy expression suddenly turned into a devilish grin. “Ha! Excellent! So the heroes of the Old World have slain him! Then my research shall continue unhindered, save for this little disturbance, but I'll have you dealt with quickly.” He turned to the console behind him and began manipulating it. “Come my minions!”
    Without a second thought Samson immediately rushed towards him but before he could catch up the man broke away from the console and fled towards an emergency exit. As he did the sound of sirens blaring sounded around them and the liquid inside of the tubes began to drain. Without a doubt, that man likely was the leader of these experiments, which meant he knew about the Cerebians, and by extension the Exalted One making him a target that need be captured. But if he did so, the Agasura would run loose and likely follow the hostages to the surface-if they did, not only would the Cerebians be in danger, but also the people of Aoich. He had never seen anything like them, and a majority of the Angels in Bastion had not even advanced to their second class yet. Challenging something like it would only lead to their deaths. He clenched his dagger tightly as he watched the man escape into the light of an exit and sighed deeply before turning to the tube that housed the creature. As the water was completely drained from the container it began to move, breaking free of its bindings and shattering the glass shortly after before falling to the ground and rising to its feet. It let out an ear-piercing roar as others followed suit, though some seeming to lack the strength or the ability to survive under typical conditions.
    Samson closed his eyes before taking a deep breath. If what the scientist had said was to be pondered, that creature...what was once the titan Virgil was not likely the only one of its kind. There were others, and the trio likely did not have much time before they found their way to them. “Rook, Zero, our mission begins now! We can't let these Agasura escape the Dark Moon's caverns under any circumstances! They die here, no exceptions!” He roared.
    “We'll follow your lead captain!” Axle shouted in turn before readying his weapon.
    “Is this what they've been doing to our kind? I'll never forgive them!” Vincent snarled as he took to the vanguard.
    Samson tapped his guild badge twice while keeping a close eye on his party.

    [Guild]Samson(Whisper): Dancer we've come across opposition. It seems to be a new type of Agasura-once the citizens are evacuated, evacuate all the other members of Bastion and the other guilds immediately!
    He waited a couple of moments for Reina's reply but he was met with silence. A cold sweat came over him and a greater sense of unease began to well up from deep within. His thoughts began to race as he searched for some kind of explanation, all in order to avoid the truth that he could not bring himself to believe-that both she and Salem had fallen. If he let his fears overcome him now he would break focus and put not only himself, but the others following him at risk.
    [Guild]Samson(Whisper): Dancer, are you there? Come in! Dancer!
    [Guild]Cleo(Mystic): Is the guild master out cold Whisper?
    [Guild]Samson(Whisper): That seems to be the case. For the time being direct any important messages to me and I'll direct you accordingly.
    [Guild]Cleo(Mystic): Yes sir! Be careful down there. We've met up with Muse and are getting these guys out of here as we speak.
    [Guild]Samson(Whisper): Thanks. You and the others, be careful too.

    He turned back to the creature that turned its head between the two groups, and his guild mates who cautiously waited for his orders. “Let's go you two! Muse is on the way, so be careful!” He told them. With a nod he lead the two into battle.
    “Bravery Shout!” Vincent said raising his weapon skyward. Upon his words Samson felt a bit tougher.
    Axle placed both hands to his head before leaning back and stomping a foot down as he roared, “Berserker Drive!”
    Samson leapt from behind and thrusted his dagger into the creature's back but the weapon neither pierced nor flinched it. As if it were armoured the blade seemed to slide off, but still leave a mark where it collided. “...What?” He asked as it took a swipe at him. He cartwheeled backwards while Vincent and Axle followed up his attack. Vincent rushed in shield first and bashed it while Axle moved from a flank with a powerful vertical strike. He drew his blade back and it hit the weapon, forcing him into one of the empty tubes.
    “This thing's tough as nails! What's it made of?!” He shouted as he scrambled to his feet.
    “Let's both strike Whisper!” Vincent shouted as he pulled his shield away and readied his mace.
    “Got it.” Samson answered lunging towards it again. While Vincent performed Multiple Hits Samson attacked the legs with Dark Dagger. He cut with all the might he could muster but none of his blows seemed to pierce its skin. It raised both fists and slammed them down, causing the Knight to leap away and Samson to somersault towards Axle.
    The Warrior used the Treasure Hunter's head to climb over during his sprint and as he came to a grinding halt held his blade high. “Atomic Break!” He shouted as he brought the blade down. It raised a hand and caught the blade which stopped Axle mid-swing, and ripped it from his grasp before throwing it aside and shattering one of the tubes. “Shit!” The creature lunged at him this time and knocked him to the floor before reeling a claw back.
    At that moment Vincent came charging in again with his shield bearing the brunt of his body and collided with the Agasura, knocking it off of Axle and giving him enough time to get to his feet again. “Looks like we can't challenge it head on, or it'll just beat us with pure brute force. We'll have to attack its blind spots.”
    “It has incredible reaction times, but its movements are still rather slow, so we should use that to our advantage. I can get in a lot of strikes, but if you plan to challenge it be careful Rook.” Samson said as he brought Axle's blade over.
    He grinned. “It's my duty. Just leave it to me.”
    The Treasure Hunter nodded at the two and they took it by storm. Samson went in first, grabbing its attention before side-stepping a swipe and lunging in from behind with a stab and a horizontal strike. Before it could turn to attempt to hit him again he was already retreating while Vincent came in to hit it across the face once with his mace and once on the shoulder. It lunged forward and grabbed hold of his entire body, lifting him up as he struggled to break free and Axle used the opportunity to make his move. He flipped and brought down his broadsword over it before pulling away and coming in a second time with a spinning slash. It tossed Vincent into him and the two were sent tumbling away before it roared and stormed at the two.
    “I won't let you!” Samson roared as he stormed from behind and leapt onto its back. It reached behind it to pull him off and he leapt away from it, landing against a test tube and thrusting off of it to fly past and cut across it once. He somersaulted to his feet and helped Vincent back up who picked up Axle in turn. “Next!” He turned back to it and charged it head on, it prepared to knock him aside. As it took a swing he held his buckler up and parried the blow before thrusting his dagger into the arm and falling back behind it. He raised his weapon and brought it down quickly with a strong strike while Vincent followed in his wake.
    “Mystery Rod!” He shouted swinging it once horizontally and following up with a second rising attack. As he landed on his feet it brought its fist down and he held his shield up to stop the attack. “Now Zero!”
    Axle emerged from behind Vincent wearing a wide grin as he hauled his blade from the ground in an upward swing. “Time Breaker!” The sound of the blade cutting the air itself followed in his wake as he sliced the Agasura and brought it down a second time before holding the blade up for an Atomic Break.
    As it recoiled from Axle's onslaught Samson followed in their wake with Masquerade before Axle finished charging his strike. After he brought the blade down the trio backed away to catch their breaths. “Are you two holding up alright?”
    “Could be worse?” Vincent chuckled as he rolled his shoulders.
    “I used so much SP...” Axle muttered as he doubled over. Warriors were not known for their high Special Power counts, but their ability to end battles quickly made up the difference. In a situation like this though, any would find themselves at quite the disadvantage. “My Berserker Drive's run out too.”
    “Hang in there. I'm sure Muse will be here soon.” Samson assured them.
    “Soon my ass! I'm already here.” Miranda's voice echoed from the entrance.
    “It's about damn time don't you think? I could outrun you in this armour, roller blades or not!” Vincent snarled.
    “Do you want me to choke you with the strings on my hallow?! Consider yourself lucky I've decided to help you!”
    “Rook watch yourself!” Samson shouted as the Agasura stormed towards him and knocked him back with a swipe from its claw. The Treasure Hunter's warning saved him from the blow which he blocked just barely in time, but the force pushed him into Axle and the two were sent skidding backwards.
    “Thanks Zero,” He said with knit eyebrows.
    “Maybe you should put me in your armour, considering how much the two of us bump into each other.” He joked.
    “What the fuck is that?” Miranda asked with a look of disgust.
    “Hell if we know.” Axle shrugged.
    “Don't let your guard down you three!” Samson shouted again as he dodged past a giant fist and stole a glance at the others. A shadow seemed to creep up on the boys and sprung from the ground in the form of three spikes, grazing both Axle and Vincent-tearing the former's shirt slightly, cutting him and scratching the latter's armour. “I knew it...there are others approaching. Everyone, take to the outside! It's not safe in here!”
    At his words the Angels fled to the adjacent room and he quickly followed in their wake, the four prepared their weapons as the three shadows emerged from within the dark room.

    Vanir
    The barista looked upon Dark Moon Castle as he stroked his ponytail uneasily. He really did not plan to get involved, since technically it was the Cerebians' problem, and his meddling had both its banes and boons. But there was a certain someone who made it his problem, and if that person was there then he would have to get involved. He sighed gently as he placed the hood of his cloak over his head.
    “What's wrong Master?” Skuld asked before glancing at him through upturned eyes. She too wore a cloak like his, just big enough for her. It really was a waste, that.
    “What isn't wrong? I'm willing to bet two thousand ely that asshole of a doctor is in there. You can feel it too, right? That energy?” He asked.
    The Brownie nodded gravely. “It's definitely the energy of an Animus Legionem.”
    “More like a fake.”
    She knit her eyebrows. “But it still raises a lot of questions, don't you think Master? How did he get his hands on that sort of power? During our exile there was no way he could've taken his research with him.”
    Vanir scoffed at the thought. “Remember that we weren't the first, Skuld. We're in another time and another place-this is where it all began. We can't go so far back that we could prevent the beginning, but we can certainly stop it before it gets out of hand. That kid...what'd the kid call him? The Exalted One? It's his DNA. That bastard doctor must have gotten a hold of him, and tampered with it to create those creatures. The fact they're here means he's nearby too.”
    “We could go after him...” The way her voice trailed off he could tell it was the last thing on her mind.
    “We could. You know, I really want to. But the kids are in trouble. And trouble they are...” He rubbed his temples gently. “This is one of those times huh? The gods sure love to jerk us about don't they? We either save the kids, or catch the culprit.” Skuld looked to him and he grinned bemused. “Come on, don't gimme that look. You know I wouldn't just piss off and leave 'em for dead like that. Criminals can always be found again, but lives can't be returned...without a little dark magic.”
    She pinched his thigh as he cried out 'Gods!'. “That's not funny Master! You swore that you would not!”
    “I know, I know, no more dark magic on people, I get it. She was the exception, okay?” He looked to the skies as the snow began to fall. The Cerebians still had a chance to change their fate, unlike him...and even more so her. “Let's go save those kids. The gods know what'll happen if we don't. I'd rather not experience another bad end...” He sighed. “I'm becoming rather world-weary.”
    She gently took his hand and offered him a smile, and seeing it made him feel a bit better. Save for her, those kids were one of the few things he was willing to come around too. To have a dysfunctional 'family' again was something he never thought would happen-for both of their sakes, he would attempt at tampering with their fates. “I know you'll figure things out. You always do, Master.”
    He snorted as he held his head high. “Toot my horn more!” She pursed her lips at his remark and he grinned. “Alright, let's get a move on. They can do that once we get them out of there.” The barista charged ahead with his waitress following closely behind. The two crossed the river to the entrance to the castle, and looked upon it with unease. Two massive double doors awaited them and without a second thought Vanir attempted to push them open. “Come on...you bastard...open up!” He began to push until his face flushed but the doors would just not budge. He let out an exasperated sigh. “Seriously? They locked the door? Goddamn Cerebians and their safety measures...”
    Skuld scratched her cheek. “Why don't you try knocking Master? Maybe someone will hear it.”
    “You should've been the brains of this operation Skuld.” He said with an approving nod. He rapped on the door three times and waited for half a minute before crossing his arms. “Figures.” He raised a fist and hammered at the door. “They sure know how to make my life difficult, don't they?” He turned to his companion who looked to him curiously and lifted her up by her arms before settling her down behind him. He smiled at her puzzled expression and turned back to the door before reeling a fist back. Her mana surged through his body and gathered in his right hand before it began to glow a bright green. Stone gathered to it and took the form of a massive gauntlet. With all the force he could muster he slammed it into the door and smashed it to pieces before undoing the spell and shaking his hand off. “An oldie but a goodie. Little brute force always gets the job done.” He turned to her. “Don't try this at home.”
    “I don't condone this, Master.”
    “Spoilsport!” He groaned and rolled his eye. “We've got bigger concerns though. Come on, let's keep going.”

    The two stepped inside and glanced around the area-strange as it was, it had felt like taking a step back into history. It was very alike to the castles he read about long ago in places that seemed to be worlds away-Jienda itself seemed to be a place where time moved at different speeds, depending on where one was in the world. It became more fascinating the more he saw, but he rarely made the time to stop running his shop and see the world. He glanced around the area, taking in the sights-from the wooden boxes piled high to the rice paper screens and tiny flower vases scattered here and there. He had heard of the Moon of the Sixteenth Day and what was hidden within, but had never seen it for himself. Today was not a day where he could let his curiosity get the best of him.
    A ladder rested before them but he opted to pick up his companion and jump down. He glanced around and found a myriad of soldiers, some wounded, some potentially dead or unconscious lying about. Some remained propped against walls and weapons littered the floor, both Cerebian and Human. Skuld looked at them with a hint of sadness in her eyes, but the two were accustomed to the sight. The boy that he once was would have cowered at the thought, but it took a demon to slay a demon. Perhaps that was the reason he had lived to see the day, or perhaps it was the intervention of a certain god. He sighed at the thought. If this whimsical journey could change what he thought could not be, he would venture through it time and again; he just wished that his companion was not forced to do it with him, but she had chosen that path, and it was one the two would walk until they succeeded.
    She climbed onto her broom and the item began to carry her while he scrambled up the nearest ladder. Once the two reached the top he reached into his cloak's sleeve and drew a map of the castle before scanning it for their current location. The amount of detail made it easy to tell exactly where they began and where they were headed-their goal, directly beneath the entrance to Moon of the Sixteenth Day.
    “You know,” He began, “I think we took a wrong turn.” Skuld huffed at his comment. She refrained from talking in the presence of others, for obvious reasons. Both friends and enemies. In spite of the fact, he knew just by her reaction alone that she would have insisted that he left the directions in her care. He was not a navigator for several reasons.
    He drew a line with his finger from where they wanted to be and where they needed to reach, and turned his head in the opposite direction that they had initially begun. He turned to her and nodded and she blinked. Without sparing another moment he leapt down from his current vantage point and broke out into a sprint with his companion drifting nearby. As he approached he came to another wall with a set of boxes piled up before it. He leapt onto the first and flipped onto the other two raising his hands in a grand gesture. As Skuld came by she chuckled gently and he quickly followed in her wake jumping down and going on. As the two continued on down the corridor they saw a few battles that still went on, the few persistent people that would not give in so easily fought with everything they had. Skuld looked to him and he shook his head.
    “That's not our battle to fight. Our top priority is rescuing the kids, whatever comes after, that's up to them.” Vanir answered. They continued on just a bit further and he stopped. “Right about here should do.” He glanced around and found an unconscious soldier in the general vicinity. He furrowed his brows before crouching down and rolling him over and away from the two. “Now then, shall we?” Skuld nodded uneasily and disembarked from her broom so Vanir could take her in his arm. He placed a hand to the floorboards before them and the words for his next incantation appeared on it. Mana seeped through the woodwork like green veins and scattered quickly enough to leave no traces of their remains in the following seconds. He rose to his feet and stepped aside as the earth began to tremble. Moments after a massive vine sprung up from where he once stood and he took a step forward to grab a leaf as it shot up through the castle and pulled the two along with it. He was thankful the insides of the castle were mostly made of wood-it certainly made travel easier. “You know, it'd really suck to be standing beneath this thing when it appeared.”
    “That's not funny, Master.” Skuld finally said. He smiled at her usual cheeky response.
    When the two reached their destination he let go and the vine continued going on for a while before its growth came to a halt. He took a look around him, and his jaw fell. “What the hell happened here? The whole goddamn place's been set ablaze!”
    Just as he said, though the room was wide, the place was aflame. Amidst it Reina, who was now unconscious lay, Salem who seemed to be fighting to remain conscious now crouched down gripping his weapon with a pained expression. And finally their assailant, towering over the young man with his katana in hand and pointing it down towards his target, his solid black armour barely scratched, but a single bloody wound across his face was clear as day. Skuld looked on in horror, and immediately took cover behind the barista.
    The mountain of a man turned to Vanir with a glance and sneered. “First a rebel, a turncoat, and now a merchant? Is this the best that you Winged Ones can offer?” He asked, his tone giving as much attitude as Vanir expected.
    “Merchant?! I'm not your ordinary merchant, asshole! I'm a friggin' barista! And also a part-time swordsman!” He reached beneath his cloak and drew his sword. He really should have practiced more, but it never really was his strong suit, nor would it be in this battle. If that man was all he was cracked up to be, the barista would have to pull out all the tricks in the book to escape in one piece. His inability to bear the weight of heavy armour could easily be his undoing.
    “I will dispose of you and these children after. Come!” He kicked Salem aside and he tumbled away silently, just narrowly avoiding a fiery end. Vanir winced at the sight but let out a sigh of relief at seeing the young man narrowly escape death.
    “So it's come to this huh? Figures. I'm counting on you Skuld.” Looking over his shoulder to her, she uneasily nodded and held the broom high. As he charged forward she slammed it down and it began to glow and change shape to take the form of a tall staff that curled at the top, three leaves protruded from it. Vanir rushed in and locked blades with the general, the former slowly being pushed back. “What in the seven hells did you eat...to get so freakin' strong?! Gods!”
    “Do you really-” He forced Vanir back and lunged at him with a downward swing. “Have the luxury to make jokes?!” A root sprung up from the floorboards and collided with his armour throwing him off balance and causing his blade to miss.
    “Nice assist!” Vanir shouted leaping in afterwards and bringing his sword down.
    Once again his sword was met with opposition and parried, and he narrowly managed to leap back before having his stomach split open. As he blocked a flurry of blows, Skuld began writing a new incantation nearby. He somersaulted aside but his movement was predicted, and moments before he met the blade again he raised a hand and it was coated in stone. Metal met stone and he managed to deflect the blade and rise to his feet. In the following moments Skuld finished her casting and a series of flowers sprung up from the ground, each closing their petals before spewing toxic spores. The general raised his sword and swung it but once, causing the spores to drift away and disappear amidst the flames and embers.
    “Gods...gimme a break already.” Vanir muttered before charging in.
    Once again, steel clashed against steel but this time around Vanir took the initiative, striking in every possible direction and looking for any potential opening that he could exploit, but the man was, as Salem had told them, a master of armed combat. Though at this point he expected his strikes to be blocked, he needed to buy time to formulate a plan. Taking a deep breath as their blades met once more, he leapt back and took his sword in hand and held out the other. His hand was basked in mana, and following it a vine surged forth from his coat and forced the general back. In spite of the sheer force his spell had, not even that could shake him.
    “Now Skuld!” Vanir roared as he glanced in her direction-their shared knowledge of spellcraft proving to be more useful by the moment. She raised her hands and a magic circle appeared above where the general was pushed back. From it a boulder emerged and nearly collapsed on him, but in the moments it emerged he had cut through the vine Vanir created and stepped forward.
    “Miss!” She whined beneath her breath as she dispersed it moments after it crashed through the floorboards.
    Vanir outstretched a hand and a series of rocks sundered the woodwork before him as he followed in its wake. As they both reached the target, he held up a hand to stop the rising earth from pushing him back while fighting off the barista with his blade. Vanir's two-handed advantage allowed him to force the general back for once and following it he held out his left hand once more to unleash a torrent of sand. As it surged forth he ended the spell and leapt forward to bring the blade down upon his enemy. He heard the sound of it hitting metal once more, and caught a glimpse of the general reeling away with a cut in his armour's right gauntlet.
    The barista sighed as he pulled away momentarily. The spells Skuld had prepared beforehand were certainly good choices, but many of them were much too destructive to use indoors-for him to try to utilize them, it would be nothing short of the invasion of Xenym all over again. Perhaps not to the degree that he would bury Aoich, but he would sunder the castle, along with the unfortunate souls within at the time. He had done enough damage as it was, and as their fight continued the place was still going up in flames. Time was of the essence, now more than ever. He had to make a decision, and quickly.
    His reverie came to a sudden and unexpected halt as he found himself desperately blocking the blade of his enemy and slowly being inched back once more. For once he knew what it felt like to be in Reina's shoes-definitely tougher than she looked. He'd have to praise her later, that is, should he not screw up and be beheaded here. Just in time to save him once more, Skuld finished an incantation and a group of four plants emerged from the woodwork once more. The leaves and stem rested at the base of it, but each had a long stamen with a tip coated in a paralyzing agent. The general forced Vanir back and with two quick swipes of his blade cut two down, the third colliding with his plate mail and the fourth just narrowly grazing the back of his neck. Shortly after he cut the other two down and blocked an enormous sand fist that emerged from a magic circle from above.
    “Frustrating,” The barista muttered. He took his blade in hand and the two's glares met. His options were running out, as the stronger incantations took up much more space to write across his body.
    “It seems I underestimated the two of you. A swordsman and a magician, along with a pet that is a magician also.” He said before he set his sights on Skuld. Vanir eyed him cautiously in the following moments. The man closed his eyes and grinned, then broke out into a sprint towards her.
    “You won't get away from me in that armour!” Vanir snarled as he rushed ahead and blocked the path. He stood his ground and prepared for a head-on collision, the two's weapons meeting once more, but the momentum of the charge putting him at a greater disadvantage. “Get somewhere safe Skuld! You're his target now!” In spite of his words she shook her head and continued writing another incantation. He applauded her bravery, and was thankful for it because there was no way he would escape the following attack unscathed, but the fact still stood she was in danger.
    A stone golem emerged from a magic circle that appeared behind the general, and in response he stole a glance before pulling his blade back and stepping away from Vanir while the golem lunged at the two. In that moment Vanir pulled back and broke out into a sprint towards his companion while the general smashed the golem with a single punch and followed in his wake. The barista scooped up his brownie and ran as fast he could, avoiding the flames as he did and throwing her up onto another landing before the doors that lead to Moon of the Sixteenth Day. Now more than ever he needed to make a decision, and should the need arise he would do what needed to be done.
    “Release the seals Skuld!” He shouted. She tightly gripped the staff to her tiny chest and rapidly shook her head. Of all the times she could oppose him...he stole a glance back as the general's approach continued, just before he had stepped in a trap the brownie had laid for him. The ground beneath him lit up and a spell akin to a venus fly trap emerged and trapped him within. “We don't have a choice! This place is going to burn down and to be completely honest with you, this is a battle we can't win.” He grit his teeth. He had spent years struggling to prove himself before the world-for himself, for his people, and for her, but was this all it had amounted to? 'I'm not like you' he said, 'I'll never become a tyrant!' he said. The memories of his spotted past made him sick to his stomach. 'Promise me you will not use that power again Master. I don't want you to have to fight 'it' any longer. You and I...are free now.' The promise he had made with Skuld was not something he would soon forget, but the choices before him were limited. The general cut through the plant and pressed on, a look of bloodlust in his eyes and the terror on Skuld's face proving she had not prepared anything else as a counter-measure. He had no more time to reminisce-he had to do what had to be done, no matter the cost. “We don't have time to discuss the matter! I'll buy you time, just do it! That's an order!”
    He hated those words. He rushed towards the general and cut past him, leaving a scratch on his armour and drawing his attention once more. In terms of strength, he would not win, but with that power...there was no one in the Old World, and perhaps one or two on Jienda that could oppose him. He stole an uneasy glance at his companion as the general matched him strike for strike, the look in her eyes of betrayal. A summoner had two choices when managing spirits-the first, gaining their favour through deeds on the summoner's part. In turn a pact would be formed between the two, and the former would be able to call upon the latter to fight for them. The second would to be use the status as a summoner to coerce spirits into a pact, granted that they were strong enough to control it. Regardless of the means, once the pact is formed a summoner can issue commands to the spirit, and those unwilling to follow could be forced to. Their blades continued to clash and he cast away the invasive thoughts to steel his conviction once more. Though he had not used his power to do it, she took the words to heart and decided to act on it despite her inhibitions. It pained both him and her, each keeping the other in mind, but both coming to accept that action had to be taken, for better or worse. He very rarely if ever resorted to using that, especially against her, but between breaking his promises and losing her, his pride would always take a backseat.
    As she began writing the incantation he set his sights back on his enemy and caught a glimpse of the glint in his eye. He forced Vanir back with a strike and immediately followed up with a second horizontal swing. The barista winced as the blade flew from his hands. He retreated and in his wake a flash of silver followed leaving a bloody wound across his stomach. He placed his right hand to the wound and watched his adversary grin before looking at his blood-stained gloves. Things were getting pretty bad for him. He leapt backwards and reeled his right hand back to release a vine that shot towards his weapon's hilt and wrapped around it before reeling it in and taking it in both hands once more. He would have to handle things very carefully, from there on.
    “Come barista. I will run this blade through you.” The general said.
    “Will you now? My head would make a pretty good souvenir too! You want it? Come get it.” His eye sharpened.
    The man chuckled at the response. “Your antics end here.”
    Vanir was certainly digging his own grave, but he was not out of tricks just yet. If he could buy more time for Skuld he would have to take some risks. The two lunged at each other and Vanir lead with an onslaught of attacks. When the general took an opportunity to strike back the barista parried the blow and quickly dashed past as their blades crossed to turn around and cut his back. He reeled his sword back to thrust it at his enemy, but was caught off guard as his weapon was knocked down leaving him vulnerable once more. Before he could retaliate the katana cut across his chest and caused him to reel back. The man was much more agile than one would expect at a glance-another fact he would have to keep in mind. He took a deep breath and steadied himself. A couple wounds like that would not keep him down. Moments after he found himself having to repel his assailant and grit his teeth as their eyes met.
    “It's not my time.” Vanir said before offering a cocky grin. The two pulled apart and he swung his blade in a wide arc only to have it blocked. “It's not too late to stop this place from burning down, and the three of us going with it.” He swung two more times and both were blocked.
    “If you suspect the Dark Moon will fall before you do, you're wrong.” He grinned devilishly. “You are just temporary entertainment. Once reinforcements have arrived I will leave you to your fate.” He took to the offensive and Vanir found himself backing away while defending, ever closer to the flames that surrounded them.
    “Reinforcements huh?” He laughed weakly as beads of sweat ran down his face and he struggled to remain standing above the flames that licked his heels. He feared his cloak might be lit aflame and take him with it. “How many are we talking? One? Three? Sixteen?” There was no amusement on the general's face at his remark. In place of that, he pushed forward and Vanir lost his balance, nearly falling into the flames but instead collapsing on a pile of sand. A very basic spell, but handy in a pinch. The general scoffed and plunged his sword into the wood while the barista slid between his legs and scrambled to his feet before the two clashed again. He swallowed hard before stealing a glance at Skuld who remained focused, and had nearly completed the incantation-in good time at that, the bloody wounds on his chest were really starting to bear down on him. Too deep and he would have been taken out.
    Vanir slid past by using his weapon to keep distance and immediately turned around before bringing his weapon with him. His strikes came quickly, and with as much precision as he could muster. The wounds were causing him to lose his balance slightly, and every step and swing he made caused them to throb, but he would not give in. After a couple of moments, he felt energy surging within him as a pulsing violet magic circle appeared beneath him and his vigour was renewed. He clenched a fist and violet mana surged all around him as a powerful wind emerged and fanned the flames surrounding the two. As the mana began to fade he had once more taken on a familiar form. A black shroud covered his body, and though it seemed to be nothing more than that, it was a physical form that he could manipulate to his will. His companion nearby had taken on a similar form, her crimson eyes pierced the darkness within the hood and awaited his command.
    “Go and get the kids.” He said shifting his head in the direction of the fallen Reina-what were words to the two sounded like nothing but mere growls of beasts to those around them. “I'll keep him busy.”
    The general looked both appalled and curious at the new form he had taken on. “Ah...I see. So you are the usurper he had mentioned hmm? You will go no further?”
    Within the shroud a jagged shape that appeared to be a mouth appeared and he let out an exasperated sigh that sounded more like an enraged roar. “Usurper?! How can I usurp a throne that was already taken?! I'm gonna have some words for that man when I find him!” The blade that hung in the shroud was sheathed somewhere within and the mist took the form of massive claws. Perhaps they were a tad unnecessary, but all of the weapons in his arsenal they were the easiest to use. “Well whatever. Come on, let's settle this like men.” He lunged forth and with every strike even he could force the general back, armour and all. That power felt...almost liberating in a sense. His body was lighter, stronger and much more effective in every possible aspect. He rushed down his adversary in a flurry of strikes, his claws bearing down on him without mercy. Vanir rushed past him and grabbed him by the leg pulling him to the ground and tossing him aside. The general kept his hand on his weapon and rose to his feet despite the difference in power. It was a tad unfair in a sense, but without his magic it proved to be his best bet. He chuckled. Humans were so fragile.
    “Master!” Skuld's voice woke him from his power-crazed reverie and brought him back, his crimson eye turning to her before he blinked. A thin stream of mist emerged from both her sleeves and wrapped around both Salem and Reina, their respective weapons close by. “I have them now. We must escape as soon as possible! It's not safe here!”
    Though his expression did not change, he was frowning. “Sometimes I wish you weren't the voice of reason you know.”
    She scrambled from across the room back to him in mere seconds and through her voice he could tell she was smiling. “It's my duty to keep you in check, Master.”
    He pursed his lips. If she did not, there was a very high chance he would have turned in his grave years ago. “Alright, let's get the hell out of here.” He dropped to his hands and knees and the shroud grew, consuming his entire body and taking the form of a four-legged creature, a long tail emerged from behind. He was not fond of it, but it really looked like a dog, and perhaps if he had mastered his power he could create a more threatening shape, but it would suffice. He opened his mouth and picked up the brownie by her cloak then stole a glance at the vine he created before leaping onto one of the leaves, rising ever higher.
    “You may flee now, usurper, but know that you shall not escape death!” The general roared after him.
    As the two eventually emerged above the roof of the castle, he leapt from the vine and released Skuld atop it. There was no easy way down, really, and in that form neither of the two could use earth magic. She looked to him and solemnly blinked, and he sighed gently once more.
    “Don't expect too much. Our kind didn't have wings for a reason, you know.” He muttered under his breath. He sat up and his body took on a slightly more human shape, allowing him to walk upright before wings emerged from his back and spread out. “Come on, hop on.” He held out a massive claw and his companion climbed into it. He gazed at Reina for a moment, the pained look on her face and the wide gash across chest proof of her loss. Following that he looked upon the city and took a deep breath before flapping his wings once and taking off.
    It was not his first time flying, there was no denying that. But the way he had previously consisted of using the wind to carry himself, and though difficult, it certainly was easy to grasp after the first few minutes. Flying using actual wings on the other hand, was an awful idea and he had to applaud the Cerebians for doing so on a day to day basis. The group soared through the air in the most unpredictable fashion. Skuld was in a panic, her screaming did not contribute any to his cause, but he was pretty terrified too. He did warn her, after all. They were rapidly descending, and he struggled to gain altitude so that they did not crash into one of the city's buildings and alert the civilians.
    “Over there Master!” The Brownie gestured towards the river and he saw it as his best bet.
    He tried to regain control and land in it safely, and he got as close to safe as he could have possibly asked for. The landing was rough, as the two made a giant splash and were submerged within, Skuld barely keeping the others afloat as Vanir desperately scrambled to rise to the surface, but the immense size of the body he created made it much more difficult than he could have imagined to stay afloat. He grabbed hold of a pipe and pulled the two up to the surface, and Skuld placed Reina and Salem on ground level.
    “Think you can get us up there too?” He asked with a hint of unease. She was strong enough to carry the kids, but could she haul him around?
    “I'll give it a try.” She answered. The arms she had formed wrapped around the barrier that blocked the river and she pulled with all her might until he could reach it and get on. With a sigh of relief she looked upon the two and back to him. “They're both really hurt Master. We should get them help as soon as we can.”
    He frowned. “Like this? The little princess told us to remain hidden for a reason. If a Cerebian sees us like this, there's gonna be hell to pay.” He looked over Reina and squinted. “Are those...her lungs?”
    “That isn't funny Master!”
    “I know, I know. I won't let her die, I promise.” He changed shape again and crouched down. “Get on my back. We're gonna have to get through the city unseen, and like this? Not gonna be easy.” The sound of voices increased his unease tenfold, and he knew he had to act quickly. Once Skuld climbed aboard he rose to his feet and roared, a heavy black mist emerged from his mouth and blanketed the residential district. As he suspected, panic ensued. Within the chaos he broke out into a sprint, rushing through the streets with ease-his ability to see through the fog made his duty much easier, but it would only last a short period. He emerged in the shopping district and quickly made his way out of the city and towards the Desert.

    The two had taken cover in a thicket of trees and looked over their fallen companions.
    Skuld sighed gently. “It looks like we had gotten there before Salem suffered any serious wounds, but Reina...she...” She uttered as her voice began to crack, the waitress on the verge of tears.
    She need not finish the words for him to know what she had to say. Her presence was fading. Cerebians were strong, but they could die from the same things humans could, and a wound that deep was one that proved fatal. Healing magic would help, but it would not be able to save her. He grit his teeth. What kind of fool would attempt something so reckless? Any adventurer knew that having a party of four at the very least is the proper course of action-anything less is just being stupidly heroic. He knit his eyebrows. But that's just what she is, isn't it? That hasn't changed over the course of her entire journey. He thought. The young Cerebian began to remind him more and more of her. He clenched his fists. Both of them were fools. One of the two died a fool, to change his fate. He would not stand to stand by and let anything of the sort happen a second time. “I can save her.”
    The silence that followed spoke volumes. He knew there was little chance, if any that Skuld would agree to the suggestion, if she would even hear what he had to say afterwards. “Absolutely not, Master!”
    The two did not fight often, since they typically agreed on most causes and situations. Whenever it came to matters pertaining to dark magic though, Skuld was incredibly stubborn. She could put him to shame, and that in itself was quite the achievement. “We have t-”
    “No means no!” She shouted. She turned to him and glared. “You haven't forgotten what happened the last time you tried that, did you Master? You promised!”
    Like he could forget. It may have been lifetimes ago, but the memory remained fresh. A being such as himself...technically, the creature that he became was one that was immortal. Combine that with a physical body, and you have an unstoppable being. Of course, things were not that convenient for him, but in essence the fact held some ground. The matter aside, no kingdom would put their king on the front line, so in place of that their kind had another that would fight in their stead, immortal so long as the king lived, the two permanently bound by the oath that they swore. Should the knight fall in battle, after a period they would revive just as they were. Should the king fall, the two will cease to exist, and will become one with the king's slayer. His knight...or rather the one he had chosen to champion him had died long ago. The fool that he was, he tried to reclaim her from death's embrace and created a monstrosity. It proved to be one of the fatal mistakes he had made, and one of the reasons he had found himself here.
    “I know...I know but...”The experience had scarred them both, and following it she felt certain he was not the same. But that single moment in time changed the fate of the world drastically, and set his fate in motion-one that would always return him to where he began. To change Reina's fate could change the world, but if he failed...he shook his head. “This isn't the same as last time. I can do this!”
    Skuld placed a hand to his arm and looked at him with a pleading expression. “I know it's hard Master, but you have to understand. She's gone...Reina isn't her. She can't be her. You know how the rules work.”
    He closed his eyes gently, a feeling of defeat sinking in. “No...that's not it. I know that she's gone but I...can't let her die here. I just want you to trust me on this-I know it's reckless, and I know after what happened last time I swore I'd never try to have anyone champion me again but...I can't let this go. Not after all we've been through.”
    Skuld looked reluctant about it, but as much as she protested he knew as well as she did that the two were close, and she would not be willing to part so easily either. “I trust you, but promise me that you'll succeed.”
    He offered her a reassuring smile, or at least something akin to one. “I won't disappoint. This time.” If his memories served correctly, if the king fell before the knight, there would still be a brief grace period for the latter. If he fell, she would still have time to change her fate and free herself of the oath. But at this moment in time, power like his would be able to stave off even the deadliest of wounds. He took a deep breath and exhaled before nodding to his companion. The two together began to write the incantation required for the contract and as they did the same mana that enveloped him before surrounded the two. Once a portion for the incantation was completed, the two would stop briefly and the words would gather to create a rune that would take form within a magic circle beneath them. When they had completed all six, they became the six points of the hexagram within the circle. He held out a hand before her body and her soul emerged and he held it in his hand. The mana that surrounded them gathered to it, giving it a purple glow before he returned it to her. Following the event, the wound began to close and her breathing normalized, the circle soon fading away. One appeared upon his back, and though she lay on hers, there was one also that disappeared as briefly as it appeared. “The ritual's complete. So long as I live, she will also. But you and I need to keep her nature a secret, Skuld.” He rose to his feet and looked off into the distance. “If there's one thing I'll never forget, it was something she had once told me. 'Without night, there'd be no day.'” He chuckled gently. “She went on and on about two sides of one coin and some other things of course. I think someday the Cerebians will come to understand this too. After all, their Exalted One isn't so different.” Skuld nodded solemnly at his words.
    Following the event, the two took Reina and Salem to one of the guild's caravans and placed them safely inside. He offered her a hand and shortly after taking it, the same mana appeared and engulfed them, leaving no traces of their arrival or exit.

    Samson
    “Which of you wants to explain those things?” Miranda asked before pointing to the creatures that emerged from the darkness.
    Axle scratched his cheek. “I'll describe them in three words just for you. Fucked up Agasura.” He answered.
    “I think that might be the understatement of the century Zero. What we just fought was downright invincible.” Vincent muttered.
    “Well whatever they are you better find a way to kill them.” She smirked. “On the bright side, the cavalry's arrived so I'm willing to bet we can do this.”
    Samson chuckled gently at their words. Perhaps a difficult fight would be a rite of passage for them, before they take on the challenges to becoming their second classes, save for Miranda. Then again, this would certainly not be the last time they fight an enemy of that caliber. If they were experienced Reina would be able to count on them again should the need arise. He kept his focus trained on the entrance to the laboratory and briefly caught a glimpse of the creatures that approached alongside that which attacked them. On the titan's right a strange four-legged creature surged past and charged the four. A bandersnatch? No, the creatures in the pyramid had a similar shape, but those piercing crimson eyes and massive claws were something that it and the titan shared in common. “Rook!” Samson shouted and Vincent took to the vanguard.
    “I'm on it!” He shouted and blocked its charge. The creature looked unwieldy, but the speed it moved at was incredible. The legs were massive, enough to carry the beast's body and the torso was also, yet it had a long, slender head and a thin tail that was similar to that of the bandersnatch. As far as he could tell though, it did not have the same type of fangs, but likely did not need them.
    “I've got your support right here!” Miranda shouted as she backed up and prepared her guitar, the sound of her music filled the room amidst the sounds of battle.
    “Berserker Drive!” Axle roared before turning to Samson. “Let's go captain!”
    “Right!” Samson answered before charging in with the Warrior.
    While Vincent kept the beast at bay the two surrounded its flanks and brought their weapons down upon it.
    “Captain, duck!” Miranda shouted.
    At her warning he crouched down and placed his shield in front of him, the trails of something drifted past him as the beast lunged at him. He rose to his feet and leapt back as Axle and Vincent continued their attacks. He turned his focus in the direction of the other two and caught a glimpse of the titan preparing to engage the others while the last of the trio remained at the entrance, holding what seemed to be an outstretched claw. Was it a caster of some sort? He would have to be wary of it until one of them could engage it.
    “Thanks Muse. Axle, to your left! The titan's approaching!”
    “Let it come!” He shouted with excitement as he pulled his blade away from the beast and raised it in preparation for Atomic Break.
    As Muse continued to play Samson felt his body becoming stronger by the second, and even more durable also. It was familiar, and rather helpful. With the three separated amongst the Agasura any extra bit of strength was well appreciated. He took a deep breath and dashed forward toward the last of the three that awaited. A lithe creature with an oddly human shape-it seemed to have no legs, but rather its bottom half was connected to its shadow, and from the ground it seemed to almost emerge like a mist. What had it thrown at him before? Had he gotten a closer look, perhaps he would have a better idea of its capabilities, but given the scenario he would have to learn on the go. It held out its hand again and a small violet jet of energy surged forth and collided with his buckler, just barely raised in time. Definitely a caster, and one that could be more dangerous than he could imagine.
    Once he stepped in range he took a stab at it and the body leaned aside completely avoiding the strike. It was flexible, and the way its body was he would likely either have to aim for the base, or strike in wide arcs-both things a Treasure Hunter could excel at. He took another stab at it and it moved aside, and he immediately followed the strike with a wide horizontal swing. It crouched beneath his dagger and as it rose held out both hands. The sound of something appearing nearby caught his attention and he immediately performed a backflip as two shadows surged forth in a diagonal manner and crossed over where he once stood, before colliding with the ground and dispersing. Where else could it strike from? He had to listen, watch, and react carefully or he would sooner wind up impaled.
    He leapt forward and brought his dagger down upon it, but it slid aside and he only cut air. Turning on the balls of his heel he transitioned into a Masquerade and caught it off guard with a rising slash. His blade cut through its arm and it was severed, but only temporarily-as if he cut through fog it dispersed and dissipated, but it the cut was repaired almost immediately. The titan seemed to have an impenetrable armour, and the caster had a body made of shadows. Where did their weakness lay?
    “Captain, incoming!” Vincent's cry was quick, but the beast that charged him proved faster.
    As he turned in its direction a mouth became visible upon the surface, a strange jagged looking thing, and clamped down upon his arm. He clenched his teeth and gripped his dagger tightly before plunging it into the side of the creature's head twice. As it broke away from him he could feel his body sinking and found a shadow that was not his own beneath him-a vorpal pit of darkness where hands emerged and wrapped around his legs pulling him down.
    Vincent stormed towards the three and slammed his shield down before bashing it twice with his mace. “Come and get me!” He roared.
    The Knight's taunt took the focus from Samson and he managed to break free of his bindings. The wound on his right arm did indeed hurt a fair bit, but it would not hinder him enough to prevent him from using his weapon. He stole a glance at the distracted caster as it fired a beam at Vincent and he saw his opportunity to strike. The Treasure Hunter lunged forward, the dagger in both hands and plunged it through the Agasura, the blade piercing its body but proving ineffective once more. He would not give up here-he had to find a weakness in it somewhere. As he drew his weapon back he followed with Dark Dagger and a flurry of stabs, taking a strike at every possible moment he could.
    Vincent's taunt lost it's effect and the creature pulled away from Samson before a series of shadowy spears rained down upon him and followed in his wake. He continued to back away, moving from a walk to a sprint to leaps and bounds.
    “The titan's headed your way Whisper!” Axle shouted in the distance.
    From within the corner of his eye he caught a fist coming down on him and he was forced to dodge to another side. The body had scratches all over it from the strikes of the two, but even so none proved able to pierce its armour. The only one of the three that did not seem to have any kind of protection was the four-legged beast. He somersaulted beneath the titan's arm and took a stab at its right flank before dragging the blade around to the left and jumping away from its other claw. He leapt forwards and cut its back and as it swung around backflipped away before engaging it once more with Illusion Dagger. It slammed both hands down as he rolled around to its back again and started cutting it. As he retreated once more he noticed the wound he had received was beginning to heal, and quickly at that. Miranda's aid was definitely a great help.
    “I'll take it from here Whisper!” Vincent told him as he stormed towards it and struck perhaps four or five times faster than the eye could see. “You're lighter on your feet after all. Might be able to keep one of those two at bay.”
    Samson gave an acknowledging nod and turned to catch the other two as Axle fended off the bandersnatch and narrowly avoided the incoming spells. “Hang in there Zero!” He shouted as he rushed forth. He took to the beast with his shield and bashed it, causing it to stumble while Axle followed up with Time Breaker. Shadow-like spikes surged forward from where the caster stood and burst forth from the ground in a wide arc causing Samson to retreat slightly.
    “I can handle this, you take care of that.” Axle insisted. He raised his blade and fended off the creature's fangs with the broad side of it.
    He dashed forward and from the ground the same tiny spikes that shot out from above emerged and fired at him as he approached.

    I'm learning what it means to be fair so...here's an early look at what I've got done! Hopefully, and this is wishful thinking, I should have it completed by Friday, and then I'll discuss what we've got here and do an end rant. Prepare for me talking a lot. About stuff.
    avatar
    TJ

    Posts : 873
    Join date : 2009-03-29
    Age : 24
    Location : Cake Tooooooowwwn

    Re: Under Shattered Skies Refrain

    Post  TJ on Fri Jan 23, 2015 2:09 pm

    168-173:
    He leapt aside as they came crashing down and once again closed in on the creature. It stepped aside as he attacked and he quickly followed it with his dagger, piercing through it once more. There had to be a weakness within, and he would find it.
    A shout from Vincent caught his attention and he turned to see the Knight tumbling away from the titan separately from his weapons.
    “Rook!” Samson shouted before  taking a defensive stance with his shield. As he fought off the caster the titan stormed towards the fallen knight.
    “I can't shake this thing right now!” Axle roared, the two still in a deadlock.
    As Vincent struggled to his feet Miranda skated towards the incoming titan before holding her guitar over her shoulder. When she came close enough to it she slammed her guitar into its knee, bashed it across the face and spun to a halt as she shouted, “Hailstorm!” Chunks of ice rained down upon it and she immediately pulled away after the spell to go to Vincent's side. “Now's not the time to be lying down! Get your act together!”
    “I owe you one,” The Knight muttered. As he rose to his feet she skated away and returned with both his shield and mace as he looked forward dumbfounded.
    “What's with that look?”
    “I...think you actually damaged it.” He pointed to the titan as it shook off the ice and staggered to its feet. Both places that the Bard had struck were cracked. “It shrugged off all of our weapons, but that...”
    She glanced at his mace before looking at the other two. “Probably because all of you have sharp weapons.” She grinned devilishly. “Guess I'll be taking to the front lines. Back me up.”
    He blew a couple strands of hair from his eyes as he sighed, his helmet thrown off during his fall. “Normally I'd disagree, but it looks like you're the only one who could manage it. Try not to get in my way or killed.”
    “Speak for yourself.”
    Samson crouched down as another short beam drifted over his head and grinned slightly. It seemed that the two had managed to find the weakness of one, but he still sought out that of his. If Miranda was to take to the front lines, they would lose her support but the likelihood of him being ambushed again by the titan would be greatly reduced. He lunged forward and swiped at the legs his blade going through and a shadow emerging beneath it. He prepared to leap back but one of the hands managed to stop his retreat. A spear emerged before him and when he broke its grasp grazed his leg as he pulled away and rose to his feet. A light wound.
    This time it moved toward him, and outstretched an arm with an ever-growing claw that swiped at him twice. He leapt back from each strike and counter-attacked quickly, severing the hand before the creature grew another. As he breathed heavily his gaze shifted to the torso of it, and though he felt unsure, it seemed as if it had been shrinking, or perhaps growing thinner. Every one of his strikes seemed to cause the shadows severed to dissipate, so did that mean his attacks were getting through? He would have to continue to find out.
    Spikes emerged from all around and nearly impaled him before he somersaulted away from them and broke out into a sprint, cutting through the caster before switching into a Masquerade. As it pulled away he caught a glimpse of something-what seemed to be a small sparkle in the center of the torso. The sight gave him pause, and he immediately recalled the diagram he had seen in the documents. Perhaps that one place was the weakness-to get it, or perhaps destroy it, the creature too would fall. What it was, he had little idea, but it was a plan if anything. He rushed forward to strike as it arose from the shadow and swiped at it three times, getting a brief glance at what was laid within-a piece of metal, but no ordinary metal. The clear blue sheen, was without a doubt opal and a very rare thing across Jienda.
    “Whisper look out!” Miranda shouted.
    Before he knew it he was nearly face to face with the titan; massive cracks flowed across its body but the creature still remained in tact, and in that moment time seemed to freeze. Its hand was raised, and a massive fist came down on him. He could retreat, or try to, but he could easily be crushed by it in doing so. He opted out for defending himself, and its fist met his buckler-as he had expected though, it was not something just anyone could defend against and his arm was crushed underneath the weight of it. He could feel his arm breaking and the sight that followed it added to the fact, and he clenched his teeth to hold back a pained scream. His left arm fell limp and the two Angels immediately came to his aid, Vincent defended his back while Miranda stopped in front of him to beat the titan back.
    He fought through the pain to utter, “Aim for the chest, Muse!”
    As the titan reeled away from her last blow she gave him an odd look before following his advice. She skated forward and raised her guitar vertically to hit its chin, then slammed it back down and shattered the armour from the torso open. What laid beneath looked like an unusual pulsing black sludge, a piece of opal rested within, and the colour in the center turned a deep violet.
    “Not so tough now, are ya?!” She snarled with delight.
    “That's it! We have to destroy the gem!” Samson told her.
    “I'll buy you guys some time here, so let's switch it up Whisper. Help him out Muse!” Vincent answered offering them a grin.
    “I'm already doing it!” She hissed as she shot him a glare.
    “A couple good hits to that bit of opal and I think we can do it in. Can you make an opening?”
    She grinned. “Easy.”
    She skated ahead and he took a deep breath. The Treasure Hunter would not be able to defend himself, and making the wrong action would hurt him if even if he avoided an attack he would have to choose his movements wisely. He steeled his resolve and followed in the Bard's wake, charging ahead as he skated by the creature and it took a swipe at her. She taunted it as she did, and though nowhere near effective as a Knight's taunt, it still kept its focus on her and allowed Samson to get close enough. He gave her an acknowledging nod and in turn she grinned before raising her guitar and bashing it across the face once more before crouching beneath its arm. Samson lunged toward it as it recoiled and slid beneath the left arm before striking it with Dark Dagger. The gem was cracked in multiple places, but the stance proved not enough to destroy it. The titan reeled a hand back and he could hear the sound of his heartbeat increasing rapidly. Miranda came skating by again and bashed the hand back with her guitar before it could strike him and in it he saw his opportunity. He reeled his weapon back and thrust it through the opal, shattering the gem.
    The creature froze for a couple of moments before letting out a pained roar, the gem shattered and fell into pieces while a dark energy emerged from within and rose skyward while it dissipated. The titan stumbled back as the remains of its armour shattered and the odd sludge that made up the body poured out from it eventually becoming nothing more than a puddle.
    Samson gripped his dagger tightly and watched the remaining energy disappear before letting out a gentle sigh. “Rest in peace, Virgil.” He whispered. The Treasure Hunter turned his focus to the others and glimpsed at Axle who had bite and claw marks across his tattered clothing but still fought with all that he had, and Vincent who managed to hold his own despite being at a complete disadvantage. There would be time to mourn, but this was not it. “Rook, I want you to provide Zero with back up. Muse, whenever you can, use Hailstorm to attack the caster! Until then keep the support spells coming!”
    “Right away!” Vincent shouted pulling away from the creature and rushing to Axle's side.
    “That's the plan huh? Found it's weakness?” She asked with a grin.
    He stormed ahead and struck at the caster which moved aside as he did. He stepped to where it was and continued his strikes as it avoided them allowing him to cause it to turn around and face him. Miranda skated nearby and rained icicles down upon it allowing him to strike from below with Illusion Dagger. The onslaught of attacks seemed to be getting through, and the shadows quickly dispersed from the caster a sit pulled away. Miranda skated back as she drew her weapon once more and began to play, and Samson pursued the creature as it sunk into its shadow and moved away from the two.
    As it rose eight spears emerged from the ground with it and spun around it before dispersing and shooting out in every direction. Samson dove and hit the ground hard, breaking his fall with his right arm but hurting his left in the process. The crash sent a jolt of pain through his entire body and left him paralyzed for a couple of moments but the feeling subsided and he picked himself up.
    Miranda skated nearby. “You ready for the second Whisper?” She asked.
    “Do it!” He answered as he rushed forward.
    It caught a glimpse of her approaching and prepared spikes that she easily avoided as she skated out of the way of each, and he took the opportunity to strike the back with Masquerade. As his blade passed through the shadows the opal within became clearer and he knew that the two could get through. It seeped into its shadow and pulled away while Samson gestured Miranda to follow and chased after it to the location where it would rise again.
    “Now Muse!”
    She brought down her spell as it rose up and most of the body became completely transparent as the icicles rained down upon it, the opal hanging gently within. He swiped at it three times and stabbed through the gem, shattering it to pieces. The creature shrieked as the gem fell apart and the shadows dissipated into the air.
    “Two down, one to go!” The Bard cheered with a fist pump.
    “We can't let our guard down yet. If those two don't know where the opal is hidden, we'll have to search for it. Thankfully there's four of us now, but this one is the fastest among the three. Return to the back line until further orders.”
    “Aye aye.”
    As Samson approached he caught a glimpse of the beast as it body slammed Vincent's shield and lunged at Axle, fangs bared. The Warrior leapt to the side and stabbed at it, but it leapt away and he huffed.
    “Zero did you see an opal anywhere within it during your fight?” Samson asked as he took to one of its flanks and it growled at him and the Knight.
    “Opal?” He blinked. “What's it look like?”
    The beast jumped at Samson and Vincent stepped in the way to stop it with his shield. He took a swipe at it with his mace but the blow drifted past as the creature pulled away. He attempted five more strikes with Crazy Hit, but once against the blows were ignored.
    “Small blue gem. Kinda has a dark purple inside. Sound familiar?”
    The Warrior raised a finger at the moment of realization. “I did see something in its mouth. A little glint somewhere deep in there. Thought it was that gangly thing but if you say it's an opal, it probably is.” At those words Axle turned to join Vincent's struggle and moved in from the flank with Meteor Wave. He too, failed to hit the creature. “It's just this thing is so goddamn fast! I can barely land a hit on it!”
    Samson approached and as the two struck at it, it moved in every which way. He lunged at it and it crouched under the blow. He followed up with Illusion Dagger and it leapt out of the way of both strikes. Treasure Hunters valued speed, but he had not seen anything like this before. “Surround it boys!” He shouted to the two who nodded in unison. With Vincent facing it, Axle on its left flank and Samson behind, it had very little choice in terms of escape. If Axle used Shock Wave, the blast following his strike would catch it if it moved further adjacent of him. With that, either it would have to approach the others or take the blow. “Axle, Shock Wave! Vincent, Mystery Rod!”
    The creature growled as the Warrior raised his blade and prepared to leap while Vincent drew his rod back. The moment Axle's feet left the ground it lunged towards him with its head lowered and hit his torso, throwing him off balance and tumbling away while Vincent began his stance. Partway through it, the beast leapt atop him and trampled over him as Samson pursued it. Without a doubt, it was both fast and clever-none of their attacks could match it in terms of speed. Any of his attacks could not keep up, and left him much to open...but one. He had practiced the technique, but to perform it now? There was no way he could do it, and to risk that would mean he would have to put the others at risk first. He had little choice in the matter, and the attack may have been just what he needed. The only opening the group had was during its movements-anything before or after would not hit, so in the time it dodged an attack they would need to be at the ready and in position.
    “Everyone, to me!” Samson shouted and the Angels gathered around. “I want all of you attacking, I'll brief you as we go along!” The group nodded and flocked to the beast. “First, Muse will open with Ice Fear. Rook, you wait the equivalent of the distance that is the full length of the spell and also the creature's length to follow up with Mystery Rod.” Muse rained down hailstones but the beast avoided the attack while Samson attempted to get a strike in with Masquerade. “Axle will wait where its going to land with Atomic Break and I'll follow up with Saint's Cross.” The three gave him puzzled looks when they saw the opportunity, but none questioned his leadership. “If all goes well, that gem should be visible. Rook will finish it off with Crazy Hit.” Knights were not known for their speed, but the last attack they would learn before their advance trumped many others in terms of it. “Everyone, in position!” The tactic was risky, but he believed in them.
    As the beast pulled away from the ground Miranda skated toward it and held out both hands. “Ice Fear!” She shouted. Two massive icicles emerged from the ground as it leapt away and shattered after. “Rook!”
    He stepped forward and took a swing at the beast-it crouched beneath the first strike and leapt away at the second towards Axle, who held his blade high and charged his strike. “You're up Zero!” He called to the Warrior.
    It skidded to a halt and Axle brought the blade down upon it in a beam of light. Once again it avoided the strike and leapt towards Samson, its back turned. “Do it Whisper!” He called out.
    Samson stepped forward and brought his dagger down upon it, and as he suspected it jumped away. He had it now. He took a breath and felt his mana surge within him as he stepped forward. His body felt lighter than air- in moments he had dashed from where he stood to before it, moments before it touched the ground. As it did he readied his blade as it emitted a powerful blue glow. “Saint's Cross!” He roared as he slashed in a vertical strike and once horizontally, leaving a trail of blue as he did. The head of the beast split open and the opal within became visible. “It's time Rook! Finish the job!”
    Vincent already mid-dash approached and quickly disappeared, the sound of his mace cutting through the air in the following seconds followed before he reappeared on the other side of the beast. As he rose to his full height  the opal shattered as the creature roared and writhed on the ground, the remnants of the energy within the gem rose to the sky and disappeared, and it melting away into sludge.
    “It's...finally over.” The Knight said before collapsing to his knees and laughing gently.
    “You did well everyone. I'm proud of you.” Samson said with a smile.
    “You were the one who lead us. Give yourself a pat on the back Whisper.” Miranda said with a grin. He was mainly thankful that he managed the technique at all.
    “We got everyone out safely and beat some badass Agasura. Not bad at all!” Axle said with an approving nod.
    “I couldn't agree more,” The Treasure Hunter added. So he said, but his worries about Reina still lingered. What had happened to her? Had she survived?

    [Guild]Samson(Whisper): All hostiles eliminated and hostages evacuated. Squad Seven, returning home.

    With the battle at the Dark Moon completed, many of the soldiers of the three guilds were evacuated and returned to Ramalda. The hostages were looked after, some returned to their friends and families across Jienda. Axle had found his mother among them, the two finally reunited, but to his dismay his sister was not among them. She explained that though the two were taken together, the young girl was not taken into the laboratory like the others, nor was she confined in the cells for long. It was both a joyous and bittersweet reunion, the two returned to find the young man's father in the Haven, but Axle decided to continue his journey with Bastion for the time being to find his sister.
    Miranda and Vincent had spent some time in the Haven helping those who had just returned get acclimated, but after a brief while decided to set out on a journey of their own into the city beneath the waves, Atlantis. According to the Bard, Vincent had grown tired of her teasing him for failing to have advanced to his second class, so the two decided to return to the Abyss Ruins in order to see the endeavour through, and so he could prove that he had what it took to become a Temple Knight.
    Samson had informed Alessa of what had occurred after her departure, and as he had suspected it was not something she took to lightly. Though much to his surprise, though she mourned the Warrior, she swore that in his stead she would hold her head high and carry on. Following the event she requested that Samson allow her to join Bastion, and since she gained her strength back began her archery training anew. Her smile still held her sorrow, but there was an intense desire that burned within her. The words, “I've got a lot of work to do before I catch up with Rei-Rei,” were the proof of her resolve.
    Samson considered himself to be lucky. He would have to wear a cast for some time, but his wounds could have been much worse. His mind had been preoccupied by other thoughts-Alessa had told him in turn that Hazel had not survived, and though he suspected such an event would occur, he still found himself hard-pressed to face it. His recovery proved to be much slower than hers, but he mustered his resolve so he could be Reina's strength. Together, the three had managed to come to terms with it, but lingering thoughts of her remained, amongst all the others who had fallen.
    Reina seemed to suffer a great wound, but the doctor the two were assigned to said that she was recovering incredibly quickly, and so long as she did not push herself she would be able to leave the hospital in good time. He occasionally dropped by to see her, and saw the day as a good opportunity for it since he was free. As he walked through the halls of the hospital he caught a glimpse of Alessa as she exited the patient's room and closed the door behind her with a snicker. The girl turned to him with a look of surprise in her eye, which quickly turned to a smile.
    “Hey Sammy, come to see your favourite patient?” She asked.
    He smiled in turn. The colour returned to her face, and she began to look a lot healthier. Even the smile she wore seemed to have more life than it did previously. In spite of the question, he decided he would bite. “Someone has to keep an eye on her.”
    The young lady pursed her lips. “Come on now, we're not little girls anymore! My Rei-Rei's a guild master now! Bow down mister!”
    He laughed. “Well there's no denying that she's my superior, but it doesn't change the fact that I'm your elder. No matter how old you girls get, I'll still see it as my duty to look after you.”
    She blinked. “Is that a grey hair I see Sammy?” This startled him. Before he could ask where she grinned and ran off. “Sike! Take good care of her 'kay?” She ran through the halls waving and bumped into one of the nurses, then began to apologize profusely.
    He sighed with a smile and rapped the door gently. “Reina, may I come in?”
    “Go ahead,” The guild master answered.
    He opened the door and caught a glimpse of her leaning against the windowsill, a gentle breeze blew in from the Haven of Ramalda and her auburn hair swayed with it. She wore a light blue hospital gown and matching slippers, with her hair tied in a ponytail by a red scrunchie.
    “Good to see you Samson. How are you today?” She asked with a smile.
    He knit his eyebrows. “That should be my question. What are you doing out of bed? Your stitches will open you know.”
    She pursed her lips in response. “I've been bed-ridden for too long. Sometimes I need to get up and stretch my legs.” Perhaps it was for the best. A little exercise would not hurt her any. “Question.”
    “Ask away.”
    “Have you been to the rooftop since we were admitted here?” He thought back to his stay in the hospital and could not recall doing such a thing, let alone thinking about it.
    “No, why do you ask?”
    She grinned. “It's really nice up there. Would you mind guiding me?”
    He let out a gentle chuckle. How could he say no to that?

    The two made their way through the hallways and up the stairwell to the rooftop. Samson opened the door and stepped out into the light, the whole of the Haven stretching out before them as the expanse of the Desert surrounded it all. It was quite the breathtaking sight at that.
    Reina took a deep breath and beamed, seeming to bask in the ambience of it all.
    “Can you believe it Samson? We actually did it! It's finally over.” She began. The event must have been most nerve-wracking for her, as she had to manage the guilds and see the success of the operation through while fighting her own battles.
    “It's all thanks to you, guild master. You did well in leading everyone.” He answered with a grin.
    She looked at him rather discontented. “That doesn't really sound like you, Samson.”
    He blinked. “You think so?”
    “Usually you'd say something like, 'you did something dangerous!' or 'you should be more careful'.” The impression she did of him was off the mark, but the words were likely something he would say. Seeing her alive and well though, scolding her was not the first thing that came to mind.
    “True, but this time I'll let you off the hook.”
    She seemed rather fidgety, which was really unlike her. Since the two reunited in Elias she seemed to have a newborn confidence, save for her doubts on the operation. “Since the operation went well and all...and we're here now, could I ask something of you?”
    This gave him pause. His mind worked over what she would request but he found himself drawing a blank. “What's that?”
    “Will you dance with me?”
    His heart skipped a beat at her words. How many years had it been? As he looked down on the young lady holding her hand out, he recalled the sight of the young girl that smiled at him as the two happily swayed about in the studio, her arms outstretched to meet his. He chuckled gently as he took her hand and she smiled. “We've no music to dance to, though.”
    Her smiled changed to a grin. “Pamela, you can come out now.”
    A young girl dressed in a full body-suit stepped out. Without a doubt, it was a Dragon Poe. The entire suit was orange with a tail, ears and little wings, and a yellow stomach, horns, and large buttons as eyes. The open mouth was where her head peeked out, dark blue hair covered both her eyes. A mandolin was tightly gripped between her arms as she stepped out from behind the entrance to the hospital that the two recently exited. Samson had seen her around occasionally, the guild's second Bard, but the more soft-spoken of the two. Also the one who Vanir affectionately named Anchovy for the previous operation, and a name that stuck, much to her dismay. Oddly enough, Reina had seemed to prepare all of this before-hand. What was she hiding?
    “H-hello.” Pamela uttered.
    Reina smiled at the girl. “You can start whenever you're ready.”
    The Bard nodded and began to play, and as the notes began the sound sunk in, and without a doubt Samson knew it was the notes to the Pledger's Rite.
    He looked to Reina and she smiled with a hint of guilt. “I know this is a bit sudden but...I wanted to show you how I feel, not just say it.”
    Her face was flushed, and in spite of all the courage she had shown him in those moments none of it seemed to matter. With her hand in his...no, since long before this moment perhaps she had already won him over. He chuckled gently. “I hope you can wow me with your moves, Reina.”
    Her face lit up at her words. “It takes two to perform this Samson. My expectations are pretty high.”
    As the song went on the two moved to the music together in perfect harmony. Every step, every spin, Reina performed them flawlessly and Samson was impressed. Her mother often said that the young girl had two left feet, and every time he had seen her she improved a little bit more with every dance that she was taught. But alas, she was not the young girl with two left feet he knew-she had grown up into a fine lady, a guild master and a swordswoman. From the bottom of his heart, he felt proud of her amidst other things, but those feelings were not something he felt that he could put into words. As the song came to an end, the Asgardian herald appeared briefly on her left hand and his right, as proof that the rite was completed, and a bond was formed between the two, her hand once more gently held in his.
    Her face flushed and a wide smile across it, she raised her head up to his. “Samson...may I?”
    It took a moment for the words to click, as he was still waking from his reverie of both nostalgia and other feelings within, but he recalled what it had meant when she asked that question. “Sure,” He answered.
    She placed both hands to his face, and stood on her toes to place her lips to his. This startled him. As she pulled away she smiled and said, “I love you, Samson.”
    He found himself at a loss of words, but he knew what he had to and wanted to say in response. He removed his hat and placed it atop the guild master's head before tapping his guild badge twice.

    [Guild]Samson(Whisper)[Whisper-Reina]: I love you too, Reina.

    It's finally over! I'll be back later for the end rant.

    Recent endeavours:
    So for the first time, at least in USSR the story follows Vanir's perspective. Truth be told, I'd originally considered keeping it shorter! I'd given it a lot of thought-what would happen? What should happen, and how much should be revealed here and now? In truth, telling his story, or at least very important portions of it would be easy. It'd make my life a lot easier, at least. But in doing so, it'd take away some of the mystery and intrigue of the character in turn for a quick reveal. I mean sure, we all want to know more about the character, but from my perspective it also raises the question of how it would come about. You've heard me go on about shoe horning in things, and perhaps to a degree I did a bit of that, but in some respects it's a part of his character.
    I'll tell you what I mean in a bit more detail. I guess it'd help if I took a bit of a step back first. You've seen how he is both here, probably through what had completed of Innocent, and in Sanc too. His personality is eccentric, to say the least. In that, it shows here also since it's written in his perspective, but not just here, through the others you can see that there are those few moments where he'll cast that aside and take up a serious demeanor. It's rare, but depending on the circumstances even he can be. By now it's obvious what makes him tick, but there's more to his story than meets the eye, and I do plan to cover it over the course of the story! Back on topic, this small portion shows both, and though the situation doesn't exactly call for it considering the circumstances, that's just what makes it perfect for him. The main things he talks about are summoned beings, his form of using magic(Yes, the same as R&J's since he taught it to them)and her. Summoning altogether is something I'm working to cover more with Sanc, so you'll hear more about that soon.
    In a sense, once again the main reason most things aren't discussed are because the characters themselves are familiar with the workings of it, save for the ritual near the end of his portion of the story. As you can see, he had attempted it but once, failed, and decided to try it again. Will you hear about that? Possibly, but not likely if its just between the two. For them, they're well versed in it, but at the same time they choose not to talk about and do certain things because of their experiences with them. Skuld is vehement against dark magic, and Vanir sees it as necessary should the need arise. Development!

    On that note, let's talk a bit about Skuld. One thing I thought about a lot is, "Why does Skuld say 'Master' so frequently?" I mean, when there's no one else around you'd think she wouldn't need to address him all the time. In a sense, her dialogue loses a bit of that...special touch it has without it. Here's an example:
    “I don't condone this, Master.”
    “I don't condone this.”
    See the difference? It gives her character a whole different tone. I'd considered her calling him Vanir, but that just...no. Not happening. NG. Though at times she can sound reproachful, it still contains the same tone. To change that would give her character a bit more attitude, but not something befitting of her or her image. There are already a variety of characters who have attitude in their own way anyway-hence why how they talk, just the slight nuances are important. Here's another example from her dialogue.
    “That's not funny Master! You swore that you would not!”
    At times you'll find those characters who don't use contractions, and those who do, and even some who shorten their words even more! Like Vanir. But anyway, Skuld for example's speech patterns change depending on the circumstances. Typically she'd speak using contractions, that is, if she speaks at all. When distressed, afraid or just plain upset her patterns will change like so. In truth, this is the way I had intended for her to speak all the time, the former being the oddity. Considering how long the two had been together though, I decided to settle with a more casual speech since she would obtain the habit from him. The other characters have seen some drastic changes since their original introductions too! I guess for some that'd just be natural growth but for others they've seen a few fixes here and there.
    This might have caused a bit of confusion but here's a bit on the whole Tyrant vs. Usurper thing. One habit I'm trying to get into is the use of capitals for terms. I've considered italics, which I've seen some books do and it can be helpful, but those don't appear here naturally when I copy it. Sadly. But anyway, you know how Frequency has a boatload of different terms, so much so I've considered writing a glossary and character bios. There's a lot of both. Here though, it's not a term, or capitalized. In that regard, it's meant in the literal sense, if what Vanir had said didn't clear it up. He did mention something about being a tyrant before also, and he meant it in the literal sense also! Though it could be applied both ways. As you can see his story too is intertwined the others. It'll all come to light in time.
    In terms of tyrants, as you can see his differs greatly from TJ's though he is a step down. The reasons are probably obvious, but so we're clear TJ's was incomplete. He hadn't even reached the first stage during the City of Iron arc, but he still had quite a bit of power. What happens here doesn't entirely showcase what that form is capable of, though. Given the other chapter, you can imagine lol.
    Also I know what he said at the end was a tad redundant. It kinda bothers me to be honest, but as strange as it sounds it was how he had known it, and he kinda makes a joke about it. But god it drives me nuts.

    Now back to the others, everyone's assembled and two new types of a similar creature emerged. This was an idea I had considered for a while, but wound up writing in sooner than expected. I always wondered if there was too much of this or not enough of that as I did, but I worked to find a good balance. I know it doesn't have the same impact as the introduction of the original, but it wasn't entirely something I did want to do. I'll rephrase that-I wanted it to have impact, and didn't intend for it to have THAT much impact. To them, some enemies will be easy to manage, like the canine gods, and unfamiliar Agasura like the tyrants will require new tactics, potentially techniques, and a fair amount of teamwork. I'll be working with some new Agasura, hopefully, as Sanc goes on. I'm working to give the battles more impact, since most of the adventure across Jienda in Frequency lacked that, save for the 'boss' battles, in a sense. In that same vein, I don't want the difficulty to be so high that the cast is continuously dying left and right or it could turn out rather dull. Though, alike to the game, the stronger the characters are, certain enemies will fall accordingly-the Canine Gods are manageable at fairly low levels, and so even without Samson the team would manage just fine.
    I'd given a lot of thought to the skill shout outs-I asked myself what would be needed for clarity, and what would be excessive. As I edit it I might make changes, but after the first few times I stopped using them and just used the names since the skill along with the actions that followed spoke for themselves. Miranda's was a tad more difficult to do. In a sense, describing buffs is a bit tricky, but to add to that fact Bards don't do what others would when casting, since they do it through songs and notes. Since I've strayed away from LT as a game, I worked to find a way to describe it while keeping to that thought. Samson's thoughts don't do the effects justice, but to know the effectiveness of a skill just by a gut feeling would be difficult to work with.
    The lack of names for the Agasuras was a challenge and a half lol. In that regard I took a bit of inspiration from Left 4 Dead-call 'em like you see 'em. It could use a bit of fixing up, but that was the general idea behind it. I was stuck between calling that dog thing either a beast or a bandersnatch, but I figured the kids wouldn't have likely been in the Sealed Room for the Queen Indun, so they'd be looking at Samson for an explanation.

    I was gonna talk a bit about Muse and gender roles a bit(Heaven forbid I do, but that's just the thing. I'll talk a bit about it in the end rant.) so the last thing I'll talk about is Samson's skill. Pulling it off wasn't impossible for him, perhaps he just needed the right motivation. I'd also considered having Julius' gem help him, by lending him a bit of wisdom in that moment. Not that it'd say that but there would be a cue for it. Might write something in for the good copy. Anyway, typically a Keruz or guildmaster doesn't require their respective item to use their mana. Once the rank is reached, the power is available to them, and their wings can be summoned without the item to accompany it just like how Samson put away his wings, but kept the book.
    On the other hand, Peorth summons Memorius Sanctum when she uses her power. In her case, it's more of a seal on her power. Being the reining queen, and also the Abellan's Contractor she has immense mana, and to accompany it a presence that could cause enemies to flee. If she remained in such a state(which she could) her existence would be obvious both to enemies and allies alike. Anyway I'm not here to talk about Sanc characters so enough about that.

    The ending...god...I can't believe I wrote it. Halfway through I was covering my face in embarrassment. I'll be the first to say it, I couldn't write a good romance to save my life! I...it's complicated, and I'll spare you that. You know enough about me and that anyway. Truthfully, I'd given the pairing a lot of thought too. It's a serious matter! I had to ask myself how it would change the future of the series, of that guild and the relationship between the characters..etc. I mean, there aren't many characters who are actually in relationships in the whole series, and those who are, are typically married. And no, the Pledger's rite is not marriage. They're different. Anyway that...well it's a thing. A thing I've dreaded but know I'll need to get over to complete the series, because there will be others. And they're gonna be god awful.
    Last thing I want to say on that is one last character is introduced, which is Pamela. Though she's not really a part of the supporting cast, I'd given her backstory a bit of thought. Won't talk about that here because it's incomplete and quite possibly irrelevant, but she makes one more appearance outside of the guild chat. Here's a bit of trivia-that was actually supposed to be Miranda! When I wrote the ending I'd realized that I'd written her to go off on her journey with Vincent, and lo and behold found myself in a pinch. A small one, but I think I prefer the end result. The two always travelled together, and so they did. In that same sense, it shows that Reina has some charisma, even with the more timid of her guild members. These are things I think about when I go to sleep at night. I need to sleep more, honestly.
    Mmk, I'll do the end rant in another post. I don't think I can fit both here.


    Last edited by TJ on Sun Jan 25, 2015 3:17 pm; edited 1 time in total
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    TJ

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    Re: Under Shattered Skies Refrain

    Post  TJ on Sun Jan 25, 2015 3:16 pm

    USSR End Rant:
    It's been nearly a year since I took up this project, and decided to revamp it in its entirety. Something I'd done with Frequency, and though hadn't exactly planned to do with this well...here we are! It's really transformed, and in that I do feel a bit accomplished. I feel over the course of it I've really come to get to know the characters, work with their motivations and their difficulties, and shown how they've grown and changed over the course of the story. There are a lot of little things that stuck with me, and I'll probably make notes or references throughout this, so let's begin!

    Remember this is a work of fiction, so real places, people, blah blah blah. You know how it goes. What follows is all personal opinions, mainly on my work and things I've picked up as I scoured the internet so...as always, take it with a grain of salt. Also be wary of what you take from the story! Some things are not okay regardless of what society you live in! Just because I wrote it, doesn't mean I condone it.
    Perspective:
    The biggest challenge here, and something I wanted to learn was the use of multiple perspectives. For USSR, I think it worked out really nicely, especially considering the beginning, since it gave those characters(though their time was short) more development than they would normally get without me having to do it too forcefully. This proved to be especially useful for Samson and his inquisitive nature, but also something that would really work well with Reina. It was something I had originally intended to do for Innocent, but the perspective swaps were limited to her and Salem, and were not as obvious since they were separated by ordinary paragraphs.
    I think some of the good things of this was that it really allowed me to explore things from Samson's perspective, sharing his knowledge, his thoughts on matters and his responses to certain situations. As a the author of the story, I really enjoyed this because it could also be misleading in a sense-it lets me work with the reader's curiosity, setting up potential plot points without giving a definitive answer to where they could lead, which would bring a greater sense of curiosity. In the same regard, both past and future plot points could tie in to the things introduced here and those with a keen eye might be able to speculate on them and draw conclusions from it. Put simply, foreshadowing is fun. Quite so. Though too much and well...you've got a nightmare on your hands. I plan to wrap up most plot points, and some might be open due to the natures of the characters, so keep an eye out! It also allowed me to tinker a bit with the emotions of the characters and how they saw things-be it Kasumi looking at a variety of Samson's unusual expressions or her having a conversation with Bane and his lack thereof.
    On the other side of the spectrum, since the story followed Samson's perspective, or others depending, there were times where I couldn't cover certain events that may have happened in the same vicinity. This mostly pertained to battles, which I'll talk a bit about, but also extended to other scenarios. Depending on where the character was focused on, a lot needed to be left to the reader's imagination if it wasn't stated. Sometimes things would just be voices coming from nearby which would require a change in the focal person's focus. As far as battle goes, typically things remained focused on that person, and though the others were nearby, what they were doing remained a mystery, for the most part.
    Would I use this for Sanc? Probably not. Since essentially TJ is the main character and the story follows him, and considering what we had discussed for the future, for it to be from his perspective would make even less sense. As a Bard, and a to-be pseudo-summoner well...he'd be doing and seeing a whole lot of nothing. Why? He plays with his eyes closed! I know it sounds strange but...it's just a character trait he has. I'll elaborate on that a bit in the story, but as things go on you'll come to understand things a bit more.

    This is gonna be a bit about both Frequency and USSR, so you know what to expect when going in here.
    Su vs. Kasumi:
    One of the characters who had seen one of the most dramatic changes throughout the series was Su. Here perhaps I made her a bit more childish than she needed to be, but in that same vein I feel that it was fitting for her. Given the chance for her to actually be a kid was something she hadn't known, and with Samson around it was something she could do. This is obvious by now, since the story gives off that vibe. She grew a little bit also, but you could almost say she had taken some steps back. She'd grown much quicker than she needed to initially to survive and even after meeting Grant and Beatrice she still had to be strong all on her own, save for Bane because of how busy they were. That aside she had a keen curiosity for the outside world, and what it entailed. What Humans were like, and what the world was like outside of the Forest's barrier. Then it all came to her, as you saw during the City of Iron arc, and that was what lead to her disdain towards humanity. That battle was what had changed her, and the events that followed-her time in the Dark moon is what hardened her after she had left everything behind. Therefore by the time Frequency began to take place, she was prepared for just about any situation and saw to it that she didn't fail, regardless of the circumstances or the means to accomplish the task.

    Themes?:
    There are a lot of themes covered throughout the story, but I don't plan on going too into detail on that. The main one that I'd like to cover though, is the idea of good vs. evil. I talked a bit about it before when Amata made her appearance, and hers was the big kicker here. Throughout the story, there are a myriad of characters doing as much as they can to see their goals through, for better or worse. Their perspectives might give things a different light, but the fact still stands that there are no particular sides here. In some cases there could be, but one thing that we always have to remember is that morality is a man made thing, just like time. We might see something and say, "That's completely wrong" because it's what we came to know. If we set aside our biases, we'd have to ask ourselves why. The Cerebians are against fighting against Humanity, but choose to do so all the same. Is that for the best? Who could say for sure. It's one of the reasons Amata struggled with seeing through her duty, and Reina was conflicted on going through with the operation. There was much to gain, and even more to lose in the process of their actions. That sense, to a certain degree was something that Kasumi was coming to understand at the time. Her first teacher being Bane and his main focus survival instincts, human morals took a backseat, and hence her instincts kicked in during her fight with Amata, which lead to her awakening. Part of it was seen as a competition, the other a battle. In that sense, who would you side with? Was either wrong? Then there was the Dark Moon and Vanir-though one had hostages, the other was named the 'usurper'. Both fought it out. How did he get that name and for what reason was the Dark Moon involved in that ploy? Well, anyway I'm not here to give you a philosophy lesson. Moving on!

    Kasumi and Bane:
    To this day I wonder if at any point in time I should have had Bane talk. On one hand, hearing what he had to say Kasumi would certainly make sense, and perhaps give him a bit more character, but in a strange way, his seeming inability to speak proved to be...oddly charming. Or iconic, in a sense. It seemed like a fitting trait for him, and the responses that she gave in turn to his silence, barks or whining gave the two quite a unique relationship. It seemed fitting for a child and her...not-dog. Strange as the relationship was, I think it was the icing on the cake, and it made it all the more strange. Hence why I have such a love for it. I'd thought about him making a remark to Samson as he departed, but if I was to do that it might not have fit, and spoiled the mood a little. If I was to though, perhaps the gem would have something to do with it, but it would remain a mystery since Samson would be well on his way and unable to ask the wolf any further questions.

    Slice of Life and Frequency:
    Something I've given a lot of thought-which really began to show closer to the end of Frequency were the events in between major battles. Something I had written long ago when I just started out, was what made me really consider this. In Frequency, often times the characters move from one place to another, and typically battle ensues. Which isn't all that odd in the slightest. In the same vein, just as with other things too much of it can bore a reader. After reading Frequency over I noticed that it did move rather quickly, which I corrected somewhat on my second run-through of it. At times, those cooldown periods could be considered worse than straight action. In truth, I personally don't mind them at all. USSR had a lot of it, though in writing it I had not intended for it to have many battles throughout. I have to admit, doing those parts was challenging for me because I constantly wondered how I could turn the mundane into something much more exciting, and such things are things I read on a daily basis. I have to admit, those who can do that are impressive! But after all, we do have our own strengths. I'd like to hone my own, but understanding both may prove to be really useful to me. Nevertheless, perhaps as the main story progresses such events would be intersped throughout to give me more time to develop the characters and more ways to do it. After all, though adventurers they too, are people. I want them to feel real. I think this is something I had done a little bit better in USSR, and something I'm going to work with as Sanc progresses. Hopefully all will go well.

    The Epilogue:
    This, was something I had not thought would happen. You wouldn't believe how many times I wanted to quit. Some days I'd say, "I'm not gonna do this. It sounds terrible," or, "I can't write it. Reina just doesn't feel right," and sometimes even, "Wtf am I even doing? I should just quit now". It was bad. I wanted to quit after Vanir's part too. So...so bad. It wasn't something I had thought I could or would pull off, and when I completed it well...I dunno. It was a weird feeling. I felt a sense of satisfaction, but also disappointment. You know that point where you watch a good show and it ends and you're like..."what do I do now?" I think I had one of those moments. After working with those characters for so long and that style, I can't help but wonder where it'll take me from there. To a certain degree I'll probably adapt my old style, but integrate a bit of what I've learned while writing USSR. At least, that's my current thoughts. I can't say for sure yet. Still, I can't help but feel that in completing it, and really coming face to face with Reina after all that happened...was a challenge. One that I didn't think I could overcome, and you know, in doing so perhaps it isn't as impossible for me to finish Inno as I once thought. Of course, this isn't my main concern right now, since Sanc has been put on hold for some time now and there's a lot of new stuff to bring in.

    Technically Themes but...more delicate:
    I'm sure it comes as no surprise at this juncture, how the war between genders and the fight for equality goes on. It's something I'd always given a lot of thought, and in truth I don't lean to either side. Though I'm not indifferent to the matter, of course. In a sense, my writing represents my views on the matter. I don't see either gender more or less capable than the other. Both are represented in every possible role, and both can do what the other can. The matter stands at equality between the two. If you have doubts or feel unsure let me give you a few examples
    Capable Women
    Warlord Carmen: Leader of Xenym's Warriors
    Peorth: Queen of Asgard
    Su: Ex-ninja of the Dark Moon and God's Govenor of Earth. Also the Abellan's Contractee
    Kooh: God's Governor of Water
    Amata: God's Governor of Fire

    Capable Men
    Julius: Previous God's Governor of Earth
    Alvaro: Previous God's Governor of Fire
    Samson: Previous teacher to Treasure Hunters
    Vanir: Usurper, Tyrant, and Reina's teacher. Also a barista
    Casteel: Leader of Xenym's Mages

    And the main character? Their gender though labelled as 'male' is unknown. If I was to write a bio for him, that's what it would be. Why? Well...that's a secret. But all the jokes aren't just for comedy's sake. TJ could be either, or neither. The character prefers male pronouns, but the fact still stands. When I think about it, there's probably an 80% chance I'd be called SJW trash and ignored. Do I care? No, not really. I won't go on long about what I do it for, because in truth there's no specific reason. I just do it because why not? I'd heard a phrase once that stuck with me. "Dare to be different". I dressed my avatar in a pink waiter outfit, both in-game and in the novel. I'd do it again too. I even dyed his hair pink, and put it in the same hairstyle that he had in the novel. Would I do it again? Absolutely. Heck his hair is still pink to this day. Though because I look like a reaper I'm not mistaken for a girl. Go figure. Anyway, point is, everyone's good at something, but not everyone is good at everything. Both are capable, and it'll remain that way until this story ends. No matter what happens throughout it, or what the characters might do, that fact will hold true. This is what I believe, and what I've decided for these characters, come whatever may.

    To be Taboo:
    My greatest fear for USSR was the picture that it would paint. In some cases, or perhaps many, we can't be overcome by fear of these things. It's something I've spent years trying to come to understand, and though I haven't quite gotten there, I feel that I've learned that. I know that some things could be taken as insulting in more ways than one. Be it gender, race, or sexuality. Some are represented, and some not-some well, and perhaps some not. Will it ever be perfect? I don't think so, and I'd rather it not be. My goal isn't to set any sort of bar, but rather to just...I dunno, try and meet my own expectations. Or rather, to do what I couldn't before. My expectations often generated my fears, and vice versa. This often lead to me doing nothing, and oft what caused me to feel that I should stop writing the story. Is what I had written taboo? Definitely. This is something I think about everyday, but at the end of the day I remind myself that this is a work of fiction, and though there are some beliefs I share with it, there are those that I don't, and wouldn't do in a day to day basis. It'd make for one hell of a story though! But the point is, how we see things differ, and what we're capable of, for better or worse is something I consider greatly. Words are powerful things, depending on how we use them. Perhaps mine might mislead, and at times guide someone down the right path. I know what it's like to walk in those shoes, and it's something I do every day of my life. If someone read this, I hope that it helps guide them down the path that's right for them, whatever it might be. Will it? I can't say for sure, but I'd be glad if it did. Be it a quote, a passage, or even a fond memory of this, that would suffice.

    This is getting a little embarrassing so I'm gonna wrap it up with this. Light spoilers ahead, so beware!
    Sanctuary, going forward:
    As you expect, I'm gonna do my best to continue where Sanc left off and into the next major arc. I'd mentioned before that the story would be broken into three different sections, and following chapter four that'll begin. In total, there'll be 7 so no surprises there, and in case you're not fond of them you could probably skip over them. But anyway, they'll serve as a sort of interlude chapters that would follow as TJ acquires pages of Memorius Sanctum, and will be separate from the Harmonies, but accompany each other. Each will tell a different story from a different point in time from TJ's memories. They'll be fairly lengthy, perhaps alike to that in the City of Iron. Following that the main story will continue per usual. Tomorrow I might start drafting for them, and hopefully have a bit to show come the end of the week. Those won't come to fruition until the chapter ends, so when that time comes I'll tell you more about them, since I don't wanna spoil the story. If you're a fan of world-building and well...just general story stuff, you'll enjoy them. Little less actiony, but it'll give you a better idea of the world. Look forward to it!

    Hope you enjoyed this rant, and perhaps that you gained a little something from it. I'm not the best writer out there, but I'll continue aspiring to improve. Every word I write gets me one step closer to understanding the medium, and helps me to grow just a bit more. I'll continue forward as best as I can. Until next time!

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    Re: Under Shattered Skies Refrain

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