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This article, Breaking up the Band, is property of northstar1012.

Continuing from Episode 003 of the Wings of Red arc, Breaking up the Band is a major event in Wings of Archadia's life as the band now finds themselves targets by a sinister group, namely the band's leader, Royce Blixtrande. Finding himself face to face with a man from his past, he's in for the fight of his life.


Downtime

It was rare for the villagers to see an airship land so close to their town, so it came as a surprise when they opened their doors and saw the Ray of Pohjola sitting on their fields. The town of Stonehaven was located near the base of the Tuska mountain range, so most of it was covered in patches of snow which crunched under the weight of the large airship. The large cargo door opened, allowing the crew to run out and quickly scale up the sides of the ship's haul and assess any damages sustained from the storm.

The storm had baffled the captain and his crew as reports mentioned no signs of a storm of this size. But it had crept up on them and was now overhead. The clouds were like a dark grey canvas stretching as far as they could see and the wind was beginning to pick up. Rain had begun pouring, causing steam to come off the now melting snow. Within minutes it would turn into a thick slush and difficult to walk through, so it was recommended by the captain that if passengers wished to travel to town to do so now before it was too late.

Wings of Archadia decided that it would be best to stretch their legs, especially Clyde who had begun experiencing bouts of claustrophobia associated with the crammed living quarters. They put on their coats and left the Ray. Many of the upper class citizens decided to stay aboard, mainly due to the poor conditions the town appeared in and would much rather prefer the lavish surroundings of the more expensive, and well furnished, living quarters. In fact, only a handful of passengers ventured out from the airship, but the band didn't mind the walk alone.

When they reached up to the town, most of its citizens were already inside their homes, but continued peering out their windows to see the strangers. The name Stonehaven came from the large stone wall that went in a full circle around the entire town. It was tall and thick, giving a sense of security, given the fact that it only had two entrances that could easily be closed from large wooden gate doors. The band assumed it had to do with potential marauders or wild animals. This far from large cities meant fewer security patrolled these areas. Instead, the town built its own defenses to protect itself.

The band approached a tall archway that was one of the entrances, a crest visible at the very top that appeared like a bear. The road to and through it was also made of stone, which for the most part was clear of snow.

As they walked up, a guard in medival garbs and a long spear approached them. "Strangers come from the mountains?" He was an older gentleman with common features and a bit of stuble around his chin. He fixed his iron helmet, adjusting near the eyes to clear some of the rain water gliding down it. He wore, what looked like, segmented leather under a long brown cloak that covered everything minus his arm that held his spear.

"Yeah, our airship seemed to hit a bit of a snag and was forced to land. They say we have a few hours before departing again and figured we could come visit the town." Jakko said with one hand in his black bomber jacker and the other clenching his collar to cover his neck from the rain.

"We usually see the ships fly overhead, but none never land here. Must've been pretty bad up there." The guardsman replied.

"Bad enough to force us to land." Clyde said, his hood up over his head, enhancing his already childlike appearance.

"Wondering if your town has a pub or a place to eat. Tired of the stuff they were serving on the ship." Royce asked, hoping the guardsman could provide them with an answer.

"Hmm..." The guardsman rubbed his stuble, not seeming to mind how long he was keeping the band out in the rain. Wings of Archadia tried to stand there as politely as possible. "There's the Blue Bear at the center of town. Its our only pub and a pretty good place for some grub." He turned to face the street behind him and pointed down the cobblestone path. "You just follow this all the way to the fountain and turn left. Its got a big wooden tablet hanging outside with a blue bear on it. Can't miss it."

"Thanks, much appreciated." Royce said with a quick nod and the band made their way down the street. To their left and right, they could see curious eyes coming from open windows and doors, but they remained silent. Royce gave a smile and nod to them as well, hoping it would settle their unease about strangers in their town.

"This place seems friendly." Clyde said in a whisper as he peaked his head from between Jakko and Royce.

Stonehaven was a small town with a population of one thousand if one were to estimate. The homes that lined up along the street were also made of stone with thick wodden roofs covered in hay. As the rain continued to come down, it washed down the sides of the streets into archaic looking sewer systems that most likely exited in some nearby river. Not the most modern looking town but the band didn't seem to mind. With their earlier days of traveling before they got steady work at the Star Atlas, they often played in smaller towns like Stonehaven, so this was nothing new to them. There was an older gentleman with gray cap grabbing some firewood from a cart in front of his home. He looked up at the band and tipped his hat as he went back to work. At least some people were polite, which help lift the band's hope that they weren't going to be gawked at during their entire visit.

It wasn't difficult to find the Blue Bear. Just like the guardsman said, follow the street up until you reach the fountain, which was covered in moss but still poured crystal clear water that looked quite refreshing even in this cold. And from the fountain, to the left, was the swinging wooden tablet with the blue painted bear on it.

"You think that's the Blue Bear?" Clyde asked with a hint of sarcasm in his voice. Jakko just responded with a quick nudge of his elbow into the young man's ribs.

Even though it was midday, with the grey clouds overhead, it was practically night out. Lanterns began lighting up alongside the streets, as well as windows within a few homes. From outside, the band could hear the crowd within the tavern and see silhouettes of individuals walking past the windows as they light poured out from inside. Royce was the first to open the door and all eyes were on him and the rest of the band. If this were a movie, the sound of a needle scratching a record would be heard followed by silence. The patrons stared for a few seconds before an older bar maiden with long braided strawberry blonde hair stepping front of them. She was wiping her hands with a grey rag and spoke to them casually and good-natured, hardly acknowledging the fact that they were strangers. "How can I help you gentlemen?" She asked while placing the back of her palms on her hips.

"Just looking for something to drink and eat while we're passing time." Royce responded while running his fingers through his hair to comb out the rain water.

"Then you guys have come to right place. Follow me." The bar maiden responded kindly and led the band towards an empty round table that had enough space for them. She was an older woman, a little heavy set with a motherly presence around her, and rosey cheeks. She wore plain clothes with earth tone colors and a stained white apron around her waist. She pulled out the seat closest to her while gesturing with her other hand to sit as she swept over the table. "What can I get you guys to drink?" As each one sat, they sounded off their preferred drinks. Zander merely showed her his palm to indicate he didn't want anything and sat down in silence. Roffe answered for Allastr since the drummer also rarely spoke, and when Roffe's attempt at explaining what his favorite drink was answered by the confused look on the maiden's face, he desisted and just asked for a regular beer.

They sat there for a few moments in silence while they shook off the rain from the clothes and hung their coats behind their chairs. Royce took the opportunity to pull out another cigarette, realizing that he was running low. He looked towards the bar and hoped he could possibly purchase another pack. "I'll be back. Gonna see about getting more smokes."

Jakko acknowledged Royce and turned towards Clyde who was feverishly tending to his hair. "Clyde, it looks fine. Stop touching it." Clyde had a tendency to act like a diva at times.

Royce already appeared intimidating, even with his coat on, but now just having a tshirt on, the patrons could see his powerful arms and chest as he walked up to the bar counter. The crowd within the bar were mainly farmers and masons of sorts, so it was mainly men of various ages ranging from early 30's to elderly, while a few women, mostly older women, were scattered among them. One older gentelman shifted his seat at the counter away from Royce to give him more room, though this might have been more to do with intimidation. Off to his right at a nearby table, was a group of men playing a game with small ivory colored tiles with several black dots on them, and the table to the left was talking about some goat that had escaped from some farm.

"What can I do for you, honey?" It was the same bar maiden that met them at the entrance. She was pulling back the handles of the beer dispenser as amber colored liquid poured into tall frosted glasses.

Royce thought the lady was very sweet, sort of like a old mother and made him feel comfortable. Usually, his instincts about people were correct, and very rarely were ever wrong. "Would you happen to sell cigarettes?" He asked with his hands flat on the counter.

"We sure do. Let me get these drinks out of the way and I'll be right with you." She responded pouring the last cup and placed the drinks on a large brown tray.

Royce replied and stood there stretching his shoulders by straightening his arms. His triceps buldged out as he did so, and stared at himself from the mirror on the wall behind the counter.

"Ya know, smoking kills." A feminine voice said off to his left.

Royce hadn't realized a woman was sitting on a stool almost directly next to him. Where did she come from? Royce turned to her, making sure that it was him she was talking to. He didn't understand how he didn't notice this young beautiful woman sitting next to him. She sat there, cross legged with short blond hair and two long bangs framing the sides of her face. Her skin was fair and soft. She wore a white bouse, slightly open around the collar to expose her cleavage, which Royce tried not to stare at. She also wore a long orange skirt with slits on the sides to expose some of her legs and ended with a floral pattern trimming. Her black boots were propped up on one of the legs of her stool. She had a long tan cloak tied around her neck to finish off her clothing. Royce merely smiled and pulled out one of his last cigarettes and placed it on his lips. "Don't worry. I'm a tough guy. It's hard to kill me." He said and gave her a wink before lighting the cigarette with a well placed spark of electricty. This was a trick he did when flirting with girls, even though the other band members teased him for being cheesy.

She blushed and smiled back. "Oh, that's a neat trick." She said with much excitement, but kept the volume of her voice soft and low so they could continue their conversation.

Take that, guys. Royce thought to himself and cheered in his mind at his success. "Did you come on the airship?" Royce asked.

"How could you tell?" She replied sheepishly, still blushing.

"You don't look like the rest of the people here." Royce responded matter-of-factly. He was now leaning on his elbows, head tilted towards the attactive woman.

"What? Were you hoping for a beard and dirty clothes to be from here?" She placed her fists on her waist and puffed out her well-endowed chest in a playful manner.

Royce let out a small chuckle, breaking eye contact for a moment. "No, no. That's not what I meant. Just... The way you look now is fine." He continued to smile.

"So I'm just fine now? Well, this is starting off rather poorly." She grinned.

"I mean you're a very pretty girl." Royce fumbled the words in his said, and he felt like everything that was coming out his mouth was so idiotic. As attractive as she was, something in the back of Royce's mind was bothering him. Something to do with his instincts. But he pushed it out of his mind and continued on with his conversation. "Royce." He said and extended a hand.

"Mira." She responded in kind.

When she said Mira, Royce immediately thought of Mina, their band manager. While not the most pleasant person to be around at times, and very difficult when she gets in her zone, its hard to see the beauty under all that. Her and Royce had spent some time together, quietly and privately behind the band, trying to do their best to keep things a secret. It was a difficult relationship, like two wounded animals trying to find comfort in each other's arms but still having trust issues. This resulted in an on-and-off again relationship, with the current setting being "off" right now. But Royce thought of her every day and missed the few moments where Mina smiled genuinely and laughed. While flirting was fun, Royce was never a one-night stand kind of guy. So he kept the conversation polite and innocent, even after a few attempts at Mira brushing against his arms and her resting a hand on his forearm.

Before anything was said, the silence was broken by the sound of a melody starting to play on an old guitar from the corner of the tavern. The sound seemed to hush the entire crowd who turned their focus on the stranger playing. He was somewhat of a derelict looking man: tattered clothes covering a large amount of tattoos painted into his exposed arms. Lean built, his platinum blonde hair hung over his face as he played with his eyes closed, tapping his boots against the floor timed perfectly with his tune. When he began singing, his voice was deep, almost like a bellow that echoed throughtout the room.

There was something offputting about this particular individual and the unease could be felt within the room as he continued playing. Even with them closed, Royce and the rest of the band could feel his eyes on them. And the feeling was quite unsettling. Could this have been the warning his instincts were giving Royce?

"Do you know that guy?" Mira asked as she noticed Royce staring at the guitar player.

"No." He responded without looking back at MIra. "Hey, sorry, I have to head back to my table. It was nice talking to you, Mira." And Royce gave a final wink and a smile and left for the table, leaving the young woman alone at the counter. Royce reached back to the rest of his band, the guitar player never leaving his sight. "Anyone else get the creeps from this guy?" He said in a hushed voice.

"Yup." Jakko replied quickly and quietly with his arms crossed over his chest.

The playing continued on for a few more minutes before ending. He rested his hand flat on the guitar strings to kill any resonating sounds. He smirked without looking at the crowd and slid over an old black leather guitar case with his foot. He clicked open the bronze buckles and folded back the lid, exposing a red interior. He carfully placed the guitar within it and rose to his feet. Never looking at the crowd, he grabbed an old looking duster from the back of the chair he was sitting in and put it on. And just like that, he left the Blue Bear without saying a word.

"Well that was weird." Roffe said, breaking the silence as he sipped back his beverage.

The crowd seemed to lighten up once the man left, and went back to their business and casual conversation. Something about this bothered Royce but tried to dismiss it as the band tried to carry on with their time at the tavern. It would be a few more hours before the airship was ready so they wanted to make the best of it. It took some time, but after a joke here and a free beer there, the place welcomed the band as regulars. There was even a moment where they all sang a song together thanks to Jakko. He had learned an old bar song from his time in the Silver Guard and apparently it was a popular tune down the mountain. The bar maiden was even kind enough to allow Roffe the opportunity to make a few drinks of his own. Of course, this wasn't all possible without the help of a few cold coins to cover the expenses.

Feeling the need for some air, Royce excused himself from the bar. He looked around as he headed toward the door, hoping to catch Mira and maybe continue their conversation, but she was nowhere to be seen. The rain had lessened to a point where Royce could walk outside without getting completely soaked. The streets were empty and the lanterns lit. He grabbed the last cigarette from his pack. "Crap, forgot the cigarettes." He grumbled to himself. Before he a had a chance to light it, he heard a noise in a nearby alley. From what he could tell it was a faint argument happening between a male and female, guessed from the voices. He quietly walked over to the alley and when he looked around the corner, he heard a scream that was muffled quickly and then a girl draped over the guitar player's shoulder. It only took Royce half a second to register Mira's body and quickly went after the man.

The man instantly turned tail and ran away, with Mira's unconcious body over his shoulder. While Royce was a fast runner, this man proved to be quite the sprinter and quickly losing the band leader behind him. The man was also proving to be quite agile as he leaped over an 8 foot wall in a single bound. Royce was able to perform the same stunt, but the man was already getting close to the outer stone wall that protected the town. And once more, the man cleared it in a single, impressive leap. Royce managed to match the guitarist's stunt again, but when he landed on the other side, he had expanded his lead and was heading for the woods.

Royce couldn't afford to lose him in the forest and instead opted for a more direct approached. He kept his sights firmly on the man's body and planted his feet. He willed the electrical energy that comprised his signature Magic from his core and channeled it through his arm as he thrusted his arm forward. And just like lightning, a single yellow arc of electricity bolted from his hand, traveled through the air and struck the man on his left shoulder, opposite Mira. The man lurched forward and dropped Mira. He gripped his shoulder in pain and decided to flea instead of fight.

Royce quickly ran to tend to Mira, sliding down to her. He cradled her head in his hand and propped her up with the other. "Mira." Royce shook her slightly, hoping that it would be enough to wake her. He tried a few more times before placing his ear in front of her mouth to hear any sounds of breathing. Suddenly, he felt a sharp pain in his side, like a dagger digging into his ribs. He winced from the pain, looking down to the source of his pain, only to see an actual dagger piercing his skin.

"Gotcha." Mira said with a sinister grin, her yellow eyes peering through narrow lids.

Royce quickly rose to his feet, clutching his side. He yanked the blade from his body, blood beginning to soak his shirt. "What did you..." His sentence was cut off by an overwhelming sense of disorientation. His vision began to blur and he suddenly felt weak. He shook his head to clear his mind, but it was too late. The poison was working fast and Royce could already feel his knees give out.

"Told you smoking would kill." Mira was already at her feet. She clutched her clothing and tore it off her body, like a snake shedding its skin. She wore a skin tight black suit that revealed her slender frame. "Night, night, sweet prince." She said and waved goodbye to Royce.

He stumbled a few more steps backward before falling on his back. The last thing he saw was an image of Johan standing above him.

Not Going According to Plan

His eyes had flickered open and slowly brought the world back to focus. Royce couldn't make out where he was at the current moment. The first thing he noticed were the broken columns of stone and a statue of an angel partially destroyed a ways in front of him. A few torches burned nearby to cast some light near him, showing what could be old ruins. Aside from that, the area was covered in darkness. He rolled to one side, hearing the sounds of heavy chains and realizing that his arms were shackled together behind his back. He could hear voices off in the distance arguing amongst themselves, but couldn't see who it was.

"You idiot. I had him." One female voice said in an irritated tone. Mira. Royce thought to himself.

"Couldn't wait all night for you to slut around with the guy." A deep male voice responded. The guitarist. Royce was able to identify that voice, as well.

"Your little show could've ruined everything, Ranulf." Mira continued to scold the other voice.

So the guy's name is Ranulf. Royce brought himself to his knees, the chains making another bought of clanging.

There was a third voice now, one more distinct. One that pulled at Royce. "Shh. Did you hear that?" The voice of Johan was clear as day. "Check on him." He seemed to be the one in charge by the tone in his words.

Royce merely stood still, appearing like a prisoner about to be beheaded by his pose and the way his head tilted forward. He tried to remain calm and relaxed, despite his grim situation.

They came from the shadows. First Mira, then Ranulf. She glided barefoot to Royce, like a viper sizing a target. "My, my, Royce. You're a resistant one. That poison was supposed to keep you out for a day. Looks like it only lasted an hour." Mira grinned now. That sweet and innocent Mira back at the Blue Bear was just an act. This was the source of Royce's uneasiness. She slid her hand across his chin. Her skin was soft as silk, but as cold as ice. Royce recoiled from it, seemingly offending Mira. "Now, now. No need to make this unpleasant." She said leaning over to him, her face only a few inches from his, still grinning.

Johan Staring

Johan enters the area.

"Get away from him." Johan's voice came from behind him, still surprising Royce since for years he had thought his friend was dead. And their split was far from amicable. Johan stepped into the light, dressed differently then his first encoutner. Now he wore much more professional looking clothes: black slacks, white buttoned shirt with a black tie, and a red sweater vest over it. Johan was pulling on his black gloves as he circled Royce. Mira backed away, snapping her tongue in the process. Ranulf leaned against one of the pillars and grinned at her annoyance. "Hello, Royce." Johan was surprisingly very calm and sincere. Though, this wasn't the first time Royce was fooled by this charade. Royce remained silent. Instead, he watched Johan and the others carefully. "Nothing to say to the best friend that you killed?" Johan snapped.

First crack in the mask, Royce thought. "Apparently, I didn't do a good job if you're still alive." Royce was trying to antagonize Johan. Johan marched up to Royce and struck him in the face with a hard punch, causing the band leader to fall to one side. That worked. Before he hit the ground, Royce was able to balance himself on his knee and repositioned himself. He smiled up at Johan in defiance of any pain he felt. Mira flashed an expression of appreciation towards Royce's defiance. Seems like the two didn't like each other from Royce gathered. In fact, all three didn't seem to get along very well with their manners and tone. Royce thought that he might be able to use this to his advantage. "That's it? That fall must've made you weaker." Royce broke eye contact, as if bored with what was in front of him.

Johan crouched and gripped Royce by the throat tightly. The leather of his gloves stretched as his fingers pressed into Royce's neck. "You think you're funny? You think betraying me was funny? You think leaving me for dead was funny?" Johan's voice grew louder with each question. He pushed Royce back while letting him go and turned away. Second crack in the mask.

Royce let Johan pace a bit more before saying anything, "What do you want with me?" He asked a simple question, which seemed to take Johan back a bit. Johan had assumed Royce would have asked something else. Instead, Royce remained silent and waited for a reply.

Johan massaged his right wrist, "What makes you think we want anything from you?"

"First off, I'm alive. If you planned on killing me, you would've done it when I was unconcious." Royce was surprisingly calm in his current situation. "Second, you went through all the trouble to telling me to find you in Magnolia Town." He paused briefly. "Guess you couldn't wait for whatever it is you wanted me for."

"This is all going according to plan, stud." Mira voiced and winked.

"Enough, Faye. There's no reason to tell him anything." Ranulf continued to lean against the pillar.

"Faye? That's a shame. I liked Mira so much better." Royce tilted his head forward and let his white bangs fall over his eyes while continuing to smile. "Im guessing you guys are following orders? No way are you three this smart. Especially Johan." Royce asked antagonistically.

That was the final crack and Johan once again charged forward and grabbed Royce by the collar of his shirt and lifted him off his knees. He brought one fist back, "Let's see you talk through a broken jaw." But before he could act, Royce lunched forward with his head and struck Johan between the eyes with his forehead. The blow sent stars streaming into Johan's eyes and he staggered back clutching his face with his hands. Royce immediately followed up with a kick to Johan's midsection. His heel dug deep into Johan's stomache and knocked him off his feet and sending him rolling backwards.

Faye gestured to interfere but Ranulf grabbed her shoulder and stopped her. "Let them duke it out. I was getting tired of listening to Johan barking orders all day." Faye complied by shrugging her shoulder free.

"You little shit!" Johan roared and rolled to his feet, bringing his fists up in a boxer's stance.

"Want to throw down again?" Royce screamed through a grin and his eyes flashed yellow. The ground began to tremble and Royce's body seemed to swell. His leather jacket began stretching and his muscles bulged through his shirt. And in one fluid motion, Royce swung his arms away from each other and the chain connecting the shackles around his wrists snapped in a loud clang. Pieces of metal went flying through the air as Royce brought his arms forward and growled like an animal. Faye and Ranulf were surprised to see Royce's strength. Clearly, they had all underestimated his raw power. "Come at me, bro." Royce exuded confidence with his words and waved his fingers to signal Johan to attack him.

Lightning vs Iron: Royce vs Johan

Johan wasted no time and immediately charged in. He reeled his fist back, his body giving off a faint white glow as he channeled his magical power into his attack and thrusted forward. Royce connected Johan's fist with his own as arcs of electricity rolled off his body and into the air. The colliding fists sent an invisible shockwave rolling throughout the area with an explosion of force. The stone colums cracked, and debris and dust were blown back. The shockwave was so strong that even Faye and Ranulf reacted to it. Faye felt a sudden gust of air hit against her, while Ranulf pushed himself off the stone pillar he leaned on and watched begin to break apart. The half statue of the angel had now been entirely destroyed.

Their fists were firmly pressed against one another, with no signs of pushing the other back. Johan seemed to be putting the most effort against Royce, while Royce pushed back against him. "Different now that I know you're coming, right?" Even with force Johan was pushing against him, Royce was able to hold his ground and muster a few taunting words.

Johan could only growl as he struggled against Royce. He could feel Royce's strength increasing and his fist was now being pushed back slowly. As hard as he tried, he couldn't match Royce's superior strength and could only watch as his fist was now almost at his chest. Before he would let Royce overpower him, Johan threw a wild left handed punch that curved in the air and flew towards Royce's head.

Royce anticipated the move and ducked under the punch. He then slipped under Johan's left shoulder while wrapping his arm across his chest, gripped Johan on his right shoulder and placed his left leg behind Johan's. Using his brute strength, Royce pushed back his arm and threw Johan over his leg, flipping him over and causing him to crash on his stomach with a resounding thud. Royce then brought up his leg and prepared to drop his boot down onto Johan's back.

Johan was able to avoid the stomp by rolling to his side, as Royce destroyed the cobblestone from the force, causing cracks to spiderweb out. Johan lept into the air threw another punch, which Royce ducked back and avoided. And with Johan still in the air, Royce threw three rapid punches into his stomach. One delivered faster than the last, with the third one sending Johan through the air. He landed on his feet but slid backwards, needing to dig his feet into the ground to slow his momentum. He stared at Royce, who at this point proved to be the superior fighter. Faye and Ranulf looked at Johan and signaled with their eyes, He's over there.

Royce stood motionless, his bangs once again covering his eyes. He was slightly hunched forward with light from the torches casting erradic shadows all over him. "I don't remember you being so weak." His face was expressionless, taking no pleasure in fighting his old friend.

Johan clenched his fists tightly, the black leather gloves snapping under the strain. "I'll show you who's weak!" He screamed and slammed his fists in front of his chest, generating a white Magic Seal directly in front of him. "Iron Fist Magic: Scream" and a powerful blast of force rushed towards Royce at great speeds and completely engulfed him, causing Royce to stagger backwards as he shielded his eyes with his arms. But the spell provided a distraction and opening for Johan to pounce.

With inhuman speed, Johan lept towards Royce and struck him in his stomach with enough force that it practically knocked the air out of his lungs. Royce hunched over from the attack and Johan immediately delivered another strong punch under his chin. The sound was almost deafening and Royce again staggered back, stars now occupying his field of vision. Johan's assualt didn't end there. With blazing speed, he continued to pummel Royce with repeated punches to his midsection and head, dealing huge damage. Johan finished his attack with another spell, this time the one he had used back in Ilmarinen: "Iron Fist Magic: Collapse".

The seal formed just as Johan's fist connected against Royce, and the amplified force of the punch sent him through the air and collided against a wall that crumbled on impact. A plume of smoke exploded outward as the wall imploded and buried Royce under the debris.

"We need him alive, Johan." Ranulf scolded, while Faye had a face that said she was unimpressed.

"When I dig him out from under all that rubble, we can take him back to Lancaster." He snapped back. "This was something a long time coming, so stay out of my way." He jabbed a finger in the air towards Ranulf and proceeded to walk over towards the mound of debris.

Just then, arcs of electricity burst through it, blowing away everything that had covered Royce and exposed the powerful combatant. His aura radiated all around him like lightning in a storm and caused the ground underneath them to tremble. He appeared unfazed and unharmed, his body absorbing the punishment that Johan had inflicted on him. His only visible signs of injury were a small trail of blood coming from the left corner of his mouth. His eyes glowed yellow like tiny suns, and they dug into Johan like daggers. The rage was beginning to build within Royce.

Johan was now nervous, his fists raised in a defensive posture. Faye and Ranulf appeared shocked at the revalation the Royce had survived the assault nearly unscathed. He was proving to be a much more formidable combatant then they gave him credit for. Before Johan could act, Royce had channeled his magical power through his body and out his feet, launching him through the air like a human lightning bolt. While this spell was unnamed, Royce was able to utilize it with great effect. He traveled so fast that Johan was unable to react in time and was struck in the side of the head, sending him bouncing off the ground and into the air. Blood spurted out of Johan's mouth as his body drifted. Royce summoned up his spell once more and flew through the air directly at Johan with his fist reeled back. Once more he struck his old friend and Johan could feel himself slipping into unconciousness as his body rocketed back towards the ground. The impact was violent, splitting the cobblestone once more and releasing another plume of dust into the air.

Royce landed on his feet and quickly charged at a downed Johan only to find himself completely immobolized. His limbs were completely trapped in place. He struggled against whatever had him and he saw thin transulent wires wrapped tightly around him as he struggled against them. He followed the lines back to its source.

'"'Three String: Weaving" Faye held out her hands with her fingers extended, the thin wires coming from her palms and glinting in the light. "Easy there, big boy." She said with a sinister smile as she leaned back to hold Royce in place. His body trembled in the wires as he pulled back on them, but Faye's Wire Magic proved strong enough to resist Royce's current level of power.

The Dreadnaughts: Royce vs Everyone

Royce tugged and pulled against Faye's wires in an effort to free himself, and before he could make any progress, a powerful blow to the side of the head staggered him backwards and caused him to fall to the floor. Johan had seized the opportunity to use his Collapse spell once more, this time striking Royce in a vital area. The world was now spinning for Royce and the flashes of light filled his eyes, and his ears were ringing.

"Stay out of this. He's mine." Johan demanded.

"You looked like you needed the help." Faye said in a condecending manner as she looked over the battered Johan. "You've wasted enough time with this guy."

As the two argued, Royce tried to regain his senses, shaking his head clear of all the static. He knew that he didn't have a lot of time to recover while Faye and Johan traded words, but thankfully the distraction was throwing off Faye's concentration. Royce could feel the wires loosening slightly and that was enough for Royce to counter. Summoning power from deep within, his muscles against began swelling, stretching out his leather jacket. In one primal burst, he threw his arms down and shredded through his sleeves, causing the wires to snap like gunshots. Electrical energy flew off him, once again as he let out an animalistic roar.

The sudden snappings caused Fayed to stumble backwards while Johan and Ranulf shot looks over towards Royce who was baring his teeth. Royce lifted his foot and stomped the ground, releasing a stream of lightning that tore through earth and exploded where Johan and Faye were standing. Faye lept into the air, leaving Johan to take the brunt of the attack. With two of his attackers momentarily stunned, Royce focused his attention to Ranulf, who at this time has not attackd him. 

"Dammit." Ranulf groaned at his comrades irresponsible actions, but was suddenly pushed against one of the pillars behind him by Royce. There was a loud thud when his body collided against the stone and cracked behind him.

Royce pressed him soundly against the pillar, not letting the derelict man move at all as he growled at him. Then a wire wrapped around Royce's neck and yanked him into the air. Faye has cast another spell: One String: Hanging. Like a spider, Faye was standing perpendicular to the pillar. Her barefeet gripping against the stone surface. She held a thin wire in both her hands and hung Royce off his feet, lifting him higher. He felt the air trapped in his throat, unable to breath and struggled against the wire with his fingers. Quickly, Royce brought his feet up and placed them firmly against the pillar to gain leverage and grapped the wire with both hands. He pulled with his great strength bringing both him and Faye towards the ground below.

Faye was the first to land on her feet, landing with the same amazing grace of a cat. Royce tried to turn himself in midair, but he was interrupted by the sudden impact of something heavy in the middle of his shoulder blades. The force was enough to send him flying through the air. Royce was able to turn himself in time to land on his feet, but he was hit with a strong sense of nausea. There was a putrid smell in the air stemming from a thick black liquid bubbling around Ranulf's right arm. He stood there casually with his other hand in his pant pocket and grinning.

"Looks like I'm going to have to take care of things myself." He said with that deep voice and rose the covered arm. "Ink-Make: Webs of Refuse", a large purple magic seal appeared in front of it and a series of black ink ribbons flew out towards Royce. The band leader was able to leap out of the way just in time as the ribbons stabbed into the ground like knives and cut through the cobblestone like razors.

Royce countered with another one of his lightning spells, choosing Lightning Bullets since it was his only ranged spell from this angle. He held out his fist, pointing it towards Ranulf and summoned his magical power once more. He willed his magic seal in front of him and created a large sphere of lightning. He flicked his fingers open and unleashed a barrage of energy orbs that flew through the air and blanketed the area where Ranulf had been standing. They detonated all around the tattooed man, covering the area in explosions. Ranulf held his arms up and covered his face with his forearms. One orb struck the base of a pillar and caused it to crumble. Ranulf sidestepped and jumped backwards to avoid the large slabs of stone that collided with the floor, releasing clouds of dust.

Royce had no time to catch his breath as the moment he touched the floor Johan was already coming at him with another bout of punches. This time, the punches were more focused, causing Royce to stuggle in blocking them. Johan's fists collided with tremendous force against his forearms, sending vibrations throughout his entire body. A wire wrapped itself around his ankle and he was yanked off his feet. Royce landed hard on his chin, causing a trickle of blood to pour from his mouth. From the corner of his mouth, he could see a magically charged fist come down on him. He rolled to the side and watched the fist pulverize the stone floor to dust. If Royce hadn't avoided Johan's Collapse spell, it would have most certainly been the end for him.

Exhaustion began setting in for Royce as his three adversaries were attacking him from all angles. Johan was enflicting the most damage with his Iron Fist Magic, while Faye would use her Wire Magic to entangle and ensnare him. Ranulf would attack when Royce was able to avoid the others, and even now was trying to avoid a black sword slashing at him. Ranulf had held his hand over a tattoo of a sword, chanting, and then pulled the ink out from his arm and it formed into a jagged blade, finishing his Ink-Make: Vile Sword.

To counter against Johan's Collapse spell and Ranulf's Vile Sword, Royce struck his fists together and generated another one of his magic seals. "Knuckle Duster Lightning!", he roared and arcs of electricity wrapped around his fists, creating bands of lightning over his knuckles. He was now able to inflict additional damage with his punches, as well as being able to block attacks without causing him harm.

Punches struck against one another, sending shockwaves and electricity into the air. Royce spun around and blocked Ranulf's Vile Sword with his lightning protected fist, clanging against each other like steel. Royce was then knocked forward from the force of two feet striking him against his back. Faye used her supreme agility to get close and attack Royce while he was momentarily stunned. She lept into the air and landed on his shoulders. She hooked her legs under his arms and rolled forward, bringing Royce over her and slamming him on his back. He grunted from the pain and stared upward only to see black ribbons arc above him and come down. Royce did his best to swat some of them away with his lightning, but several penetrated his defenses and sliced his arm, back and legs. They tore through his clothes and skin like razors. Johan quickly leaped into the air and cast his Scream spell once again, sending a blast of force that detonated over Royce. The explosion let out a deafening boom and shook the ground. And then there was silence.

When the smoke cleared, Royce was standing there hunched over, his arms hanging loosely at his sides. The lightning around his hands began to dissipitate into the air. His eyes were closed and beads of sweat ran down the sides of his face. He panted heavily as blood poured out from his newly inflicted wounds. Royce knew that he was reaching his limit soon and didn't know how much longer he could keep fighting. While panting, he looked up through one open eye at his three attackers, who stood near each other in defensive stances. Johan was the only one who wasn't grinning as he stared at Royce past his fists.

Royce's body screamed in protest to his determination to keep fighting. His knees began to weaken and tremble as he struggled to keep himself standing. "Is that all you got?" He remained defiant. Faye smirked and cast her wires towards Royce, but was surprised when he grasped them inches from his face. "Gotcha." He said and pulled the wire, launching her towards him. With his other hand, he clasped her head midair and slammed her down into the floor. "I think we're past the point of being chivalrous." Ranulf was the second to attack, coming at him with his black sword in hand. Royce prepared himself as he came closer.

"Enough." A voice echoed from all around them, deep and powerful. Ranulf instantly stopped and Johan expressed a look of concern. Royce had trouble identifying the source of the voice. He then heard steps from a shadowy area coming closer. Slowly, the silhouette of the tall man began forming. By the looks of it, Royce could identify that he was even bigger than him so he turned his focus towards him. He finally stepped into the light, his icy blue hair almost glowing. His blue eyes stared directly at Royce and pulsed with tremendous power. He wore a black outfit under a black cloak held together around his neck by a silver buckle.

"Lord Black." Faye said sheepishly as she massaged the bruise forming in the back of her head.

Johan swallowed hard as he watched the leader walk over towards them. Ranulf stepped away from Royce and Faye, as if in preparation for being scolded by a dominant parent.

Without addressing the others, he spoke to Royce. "My apologies, Mr. Blixtrande." His voice was surprisingly soft and sincere when he spoke. "It was not my intention for you to go through any hardships. It seems as though my comrades have forgotten what my orders were and will be dealt with." Ranulf, Faye and Jhan recoiled in fear.

"And who might you be?" Royce said, raising his fists.

"Where are my manners?" He flicked the cloak open with one hand and placed it on his chest. "I am Lancaster Black. Lord of Black Manor. Leader of The Dreadnaughts." And bowed his head slightly.

"Well, aren't you fancy." Royce replied. "Mind telling me what you want with me?"

"Unfortunately, we're pressed for time and we must be going." Lancaster responded rather apathetic. "I apologize for this."

Royce looked puzzled at Lancaster's last statement and was even more shocked when he saw the blue haired man disappear almost instantly. Then everything went black as Lancaster struck the back of Royce's head with his elbow. The blow was strong enough to immediately knock Royce unconcious and Lancaster appeared to put no effort behind the stealthy attack. Royce fell forward and landed on his face in one solid drop.

"Please take our guest to the Manor." He ordered without turning his head towards the other three. "And prepare him for the experiment."

Faye and Ranulf grabbed Royce by his arms and dragged him off into the shadows, leaving only Johan and Lancaster.

"What about our deal, Lancaster?" Johan stated hesitantly. "I got you Royce. Now you owe me."

"Do not speak to me as if you're the one who holds authority." He turned and walked directly towards Johan. Even with Johan's height, Lancaster towered over him and instilled fear in the former. "I specifically asked for him to be returned unharmed and I find all of you picking at him like wild animals fighting over a bone. It somewhat brings me joy that he proved more powerful than you had estimated." He turned away from Johan and began walking away. "But unlike you, I am a man who follows through on his promise and I will uphold my end of our bargain."

Johan breathed a hesitant sigh of relief.

Lancaster paused and turned his head slightly towards Johan, "I shall grant you the power to kill an Iron God."


> Continued in Follow the Leader

Summary

Fights & Events

  • Royce Blixtrande vs Johan Hellstrom (Interrupted - No winner)
  • Royce Blixtrande vs Johan Hellstrom, Faye Aldrete and Ranulf Stigma (Interrupted - No winner)
  • Lancaster Black vs Royce Blixtrande (Lancaster wins)

Magic, Spells & Abilities Used

  • Magics:
    • Lightning Magic (雷系各種魔法, Kaminari Kei Kakushu Mahō)
    • Iron Fist Magic (鐡拳魔法, Tekken Mahō)
    • Wire Magic (線魔法, Sen Mahō)
    • Tattoo Magic: Ink-Make (黥魔法 • 墨造る, Irezumi Mahō: Sumi Tsukuru)
  • Spells:
    • Knuckle Duster Lightning (メリケンサック雷, Merikensakku Kaminari)
    • Lightning Bullets (雷銃連射, Kaminari Jurensha)
    • Lightning Stomp (雷席を蹴る, Kaminari Sekiwokeru)
    • Lightning Body (雷体, Kaminari Tai)
    • Iron Fist Magic: Collapse (鐡拳魔法 • 倒壊, Tekken Mahō: Toukai)
    • Iron Fist Magic: Scream (鐡拳魔法 • 叫び, Tekken Mahō: Sakebi)
    • One String: Hanging (一列 • 絞殺, Ichiretsu: Kousatsu)
    • Three String: Weaving (三列 • 製織, Sanretsu: Seishoku)
    • Ink-Make: Vile Sword (卑しい刃, Iyashii Yaiba)
    • Ink-Make: Webs of Refuse (ゴミのウェブ, Gomi no Uebu)
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