Don't Doubt Yourself
Night had fallen in Joya; a cool breeze swept over the land as the group sat around a makeshift fire. Well, three of them, as their resident immortal was currently off doing whatever it is she did in the past. As it stood, it was just the three new friends sitting with each other, Jason, Solele, and Tsuruko, and they seemed to be engaged in a conversation that kept them awake despite the lateness of the hour.
"...But you can't tuna fish!" Tsuruko seemed to be the only person laughing at her joke; as corny as it was. "Very well. Very well. What did bring you here, after all? I kinda just turned off all my televisions and all that- I just felt that no good would come from going over there and breaking Alexis' legs again so I left the world as it is."
"Your mother's ring." Jason said airily. "We were returning from visiting my own family in Edolas and when we used her ring to return to through the Anima, we wound up here because it malfunctioned." When he mentioned the word 'ring', he remembered something, and looked down at his hand. The ring Iris had given him from Mr. E...normally, he'd chuck it in the rubbish bin, given what he'd learned, but he had noticed Tsuruko made use of a ring in combat, and it had him curious. "Tsuruko, you make use of Rings in combat, I notice." He slipped his off, and passed it to her. "Tell me, do you recognize this?"
"Yeah, I do!" Tsuruko exclaimed, "Do you want to hear the story behind them? I'm as knowledgeable about these things as much as Giselle is!"
Solele sighed, "And here comes the hour long explanation."
"Aaaaaaaaaaaanyway," Tsuruko stretched her arms, beginning to explain everything, "The name of this weird forest is the Forest of Discord; which is in a different dimension from ours. The symbiotes live there- they're people turned into demons by despair, and they can come through to our world using openings called "cracks." The big bad guy a crack to enter the forest, and convert the seeds that the symbiotes eat into rings. We know those as Super Soul Rings. Which," She pointed at Jason's ring. "is what you have. The Super Soul Rings give access to the wielder's form changes and spells, depending on which style the ring is. They contain Tenchōkon, which has many powers, even possessing the ability to power machinery, which is pretty amazing. I'm still not sure what Tenchōkon IS, but it's certainly powerful. As for using, you should be able to take a specific ring and focus your mind, you can unleash it's power."
Jason looked down at Tsuruko's slim palm, the ring gleaming in light the dancing flames. "A ring powered by seeds from another dimension...." Not the strangest thing that had happened, considering he had a pet Legion, who was only sleeping a ways off. "Andm by focusing, I an unleash this ring's power..." Jason thought better of it. This ring had come from E after all. It could be anything. However... "Is it a ring you recognize, Tsuruko? Or is every ring unique?"
"Every one is unique, with their own power. But I've seen them all." Yes, really. "There's only about, eighty-five. I know this because I counted when I saw data on it four hundred years in the future." Solele looked at her like she was smoking crack. "It happened, and nothing you can say can disprove it! Anyway, that's the Multi Ring...which has multiple uses. You just need to think of what you want it to do."
Jason took the ring back from Tsuruko, slipping it back onto his finger. "I see...then it must be semi-useful after all, despite being from E." He decided a simple test would do, nothing flashy; he had plenty of that with his own skills, after all. From the ring, black metal began to form, seeping up Jason's arm, covering it up to past his elbow. It solidified, creating a strange form of black, jagged armor on Jason's right arm, with red accents, clawed fingers, as well as a large red jewel above the backhand; it also bore strange, glowing red inscriptions. Jason looked down at his arm, and flexed his armored fingers. "A beneficial gift after all, E."
"I know who E is." Tsuruko simply responded; though the delivery of the line was simply...over-dramatic.
Solele looked on, dumbfounded at the two. "Who is this E person, anyway?"
"A jerk." Tsuruko continued, "I really don't know anything about him. While I'm inclined to help people, that's not my problem. Anyway, it should help you a lot. And maybe if you use it while holding your sword, it'll power your sword up. It worked for a significant other of mine."
"'Jerk' is an understatement." Jason told her, and gave her suggestion a curt nod as the metal retracted into the ring. So many possibilities in one piece of jewelry. He fell back into a silence, however, his thoughts dwelling on E. He was also never much of a conversation person, so the idea of starting one was out of the question with Jason.
"So," Tsuruko began to ask, "What DO you do for a liv-"
Solele silenced her momentarily, "What he does is none of your business."
"I'm the Guild Master of the independent Akatsuki Guild." Jason explained, ignoring Solele's obvious irritation. "Our goal, among several, is to overthrow the Magic Council. It would appear the 'Alexis' we talked about is the one currently at the hed of that corrupt organization." Thinking about that woman made Jason very bitter, very bitter indeed. "As we're a guild, we do take odd jobs here and there, it's our source of income after all, so that's how we make our living."
"What's a guild...?" Tsuruko spaced out momentarily- it was more that guilds were around in her time, but she never really encountered them. More emphasis was placed in more important matters. "Oh, right. One of those big things where mages gather, right...?" She continued, "Alexis isn't really threatening at all, you know."
"Time changes people, Tsuruko." Jason replied shortly. "The Alexis we're dealing with could very well be significantly stronger than the one you met years ago." He exhaled slowly; to hear this girl say Alexis wasn't a threat after watching the woman in question kill Gaikou with ease gave him a feeling quite similar to frustration. "While we're on the subject, what about you, Tsuruko? What do you do?"
"I really don't do anything right now, really." Tsuruko continued, "I've already stopped madpeople from destroying the world four times. Maybe five, if that time that I broke Alexis' legs again counts. I know that this sounds rude, but for reasons that I won't disclose, I won't be helping you defeat the Magic Council for a long time. I have...uh, other things on." She continued, "I'm busy raising my family and trying to keep the peace between the people at Jior."
Jason, much to his own surprise, let out a chuckle, quick, but it did escape him. "You technically already are helping us, Tsuruko." He was hesitant to mention the clone that resided in his guild, he wondered how she'd react to that? "I also hadn't any intention of asking; this is Akatsuki's problem to handle, your time is over now." He wasn't saying that to sound cruel; Jason legitimately believed that the Council was his Guild's problem to handle.
"Well, in any case," Tsuruko told him bluntly, "If you need help, don't hesitate to just ask me. And don't let Giselle bother you, really. Old age makes one cranky and cynical. That and, as dad said, she has a stick up her ass 24/7. I mean, she's not bad once you get used to her- sure, she may be cold, sarcastic, and generally unhelpful, but sometimes, her heart of bronze shines through."
Jason did not miss that Tsuruko said "heart of bronze", and had to agree it was an accurate enough description. "You know, you're always free to take her back as soon as we return to our proper time?" He had a feeling no one could stop her from going back, she was bound to be curious about who her daughter was marrying. ...Daughter...at that moment, it hit him. He'd left his grandchildren behind? They'd come this far back to see them, and he'd left them...again for that matter, since he was going to leave them in the future. He placed a hand on his head, ignoring the headache that trying to understand time was causing. Were they alright? They had to be, they were with Akatsuki...but he couldn't help but wonder.
"She tends to get mad if she has nothing to do." Tsuruko sighed, remembering that Giselle has to be constantly engaged or else she'd go start some trouble. "And you keep her, I don't want her."
"I suppose that makes two of us." Jason replied, resigned to the fact that they couldn't rid themselves of Giselle if even her daughter was saying to keep her.
"She's not a bad person, I suppose," Tsuruko seemed to twitch a fair bit. "It's just, I can't forgive her for abandoning me instead of obviously checking if I was alive when I was a kid and then expecting to be welcomed with opened arms when she revealed that she was my mother."
Jason cast her an appraising look, and left her statement hanging for a few minutes, creating a very awkward and tense silence. After that, he unhinged his jaw and spoke again. "Tell me this, for fear of an obvious question; she's alive, is she not?"
"Yes, she's alive." Tsuruko simply responded, "And my personal problems are my own, thank you very much."
Solele noted, "For somebody who offers help, you seem to be pretty defensive of your faults."
"I will tell you what I think anyway, Tsuruko Sejren." Jason replied coolly, undaunted by the girl's crisp tone. "And store this away in your central control core, if you wouldn't mind. She is alive, and that's what matters. She's here, and for all you know, she is trying hard to be a parent to you, to make up for all the years she missed. Knowing her, she simply has issues with how she goes about it." Jason, as he said this, had his thoughts cast to his father; he'd disappeared from his life years ago, and unlike Tsuruko's mother, he wasn't coming back. He was dead. He couldn't make up for the years he missed.
"Might I add that all of my problems trace back to dad dying and Giselle just leaving?" Tsuruko raised a decent point. "Practically everything is her fault."
"That doesn't meant don't give her a chance, Tsuruko." Jason urged her; he wanted to speak some sense into this girl for a moment. It wasn't that he couldn't understand her point of view, far from it, he knew what it was like to detest someone for essentially robbing him of any joy in life. However, he also could tell Giselle did love Tsuruko in her own way, she just wouldn't show it. "You are simply as stubborn as your mother, but if you pride yourself in helping people, Tsuruko, prove that you can help yourself."
"Alright, I get it, I get it." Tsuruko sighed, twitching a little. Her eyes seemed to change into multiple hues of colour. "But we have nothing in common. At all. But fine, I'll talk to her, I'm-" Her stomach rumbled like a stampede. "I'm hungry."
"How does a robot get hungry?" Solele asked, more concerned with her going near Jason.
"Because I'm human inside, robot outside." That made enough sense, sort of.
"She's a cybernetic organism, Solele." Jason explained shortly. "A cyborg for short. Which means she was originally human at some point, and more than likely had to be fitted with a certain amount of a cybernetics to save her life." He cracked his neck, not waiting to find out if she was right. "It is past midnight and you're hungry. Are you fine with foraging? Solele doesn't eat meat."
"Then how about you try something else? Like steak." Tsuruko asked her.
"THAT'S ALL MEAT, YOU PURPLE-HAIRED IDIOT!" Solele smacked Tsuruko across the head, causing the latter to whimper.
"Behave, you two." Jason scolded them both. "Tsuruko, I think you can deal with no meat for the duration of our time together, just accommodate Solele." Jason was speaking from experience, he'd adapted to a vegetarian lifestyle during his time with Solele, and now that she was around again, he would do it whenever it was just them. He wouldn't force it on the guild, however. "Let's just find some edible plants, it shouldn't be too difficult, and then I suggest we all get some sleep." His memory flashed back to both the dragons, and their battle with the Bujin. "I doubt defeating one of their own is going to go unnoticed. We're going to have a busy day tomorrow."
"And a lot of fights..." Tsuruko sighed to herself, dissapointed. "I'm sick of fighting. Sick of all of it. I stop three wars, and I'm still thrust into fighting..." Twitching a bit, her eyes returned to their normal purple hue. "Ah well. But this is the LAST time."
"Peace is but ephemeral without someone to permanently guide it along, Tsuruko." Jason replied. "You didn't truly solve anything, you merely kept the flames of despair at bay, that's all." He sighed. "Evil will never die permanently; it will always come back in some twisted form as long as good exists to tie it into the world. I suppose it's just our job to keep it at bay for as long as possible, and always hope our successor can do the job as well as we did."
"Good point, decent point, okay point, average point!" Tsuruko declared; she seemed to be zoning out for a bit. "You do raise a good point. I hate to sound rude too, but you guys seem to be doing a good job. I can just focus on my other things while you all save the day. Again, if you need help, give me a shout."
Solele asked, "...How do you know that Jason is doing a good job?"
"I don't!" Tsuruko bluntly answered. "But I know that he would be doing a good job, based on his actions before."
"...Thank you, Tsuruko." Jason replied quietly. To be honest, he had to disagree. He was doing far from a good job. Under his watch Gaikou had been killed, Vivian had been kidnapped, and now Alexis was running wild. But, something about Tsuruko's words...they were heartening, and he began to feel some strange warmth flooding throughout his body. She actually meant what she said, no less. Was the Tsuruko at his guild the same? A walking embodiment of positive emotions? He breathed in deeply. "Alright, let's set about gathering dinner. We've stalled enough."
The threesome went around gathering a mixture of edible plants, roots, and mushrooms, Tsuruko resigning herself to the fact that meat was not on the menu, and Jason set about turning them into a stew for himself and the girls to eat, making use of their campfire for cooking now.
"Tsuruko, I need to know...everything you know about Alexis." Jason suddenly asked, looking up from his work towards the purple-haired cyborg. "What do you remember about her? We need to know for when we're ready...for when we avenge our comrade."
"So, is it avenging...or revenge...or vengeance...? Or is it reveangence?" Tsuruko nodded; naturally the girl wasn't too bright, or so it seemed. Tsuruko's eyes turned into wing-dings as they shone in a florescent manner. "Why get payback? It's not a good idea. If you come at your enemy with the intention of paying them back in cold blood, then it won't go well. Because if you get revenge, somebody will want to get revenge on you, repeat that a few thousand times...It's a long cycle. Strike your opponent with not a selfish motive like revenge, but for the greater good."
"The Cycle of Revenge, I'm well aware of it. Luckily for us, it's a mixture of both." Jason replied shortly. "Alexis is the head of the Magic Council. For revenge, for the greater good...killing her accomplishes our goal and will place Gaikou's soul at rest." He kept his gaze locked on Tsuruko. "We need to know what you know, Tsuruko."
"Well, for one." Tsuruko sighed, scratching her head. "Alexis is the head of the Magic Council; she came in about, well, actually, I don't know when. But ever since thirty years ago she's been its main representitive. And yet she still looks so young. I'm starting to think that Alexis is immortal. It would explain how she comes back every time when I beat her, and why she doesn't seem to age..."
"Immortality..." Jason frowned, stirring the pot a few times. "That's rarely ever something natural, grandmother told me herself. It's almost always a curse, unless the person is directly created to be immortal." Which caused him to wonder, what had caused Alexis' immortality? He dreaded the idea of thinking there was someone pulling Alexis' own strings; that'd be too much to deal with. He began to lade the vegetable stew into bowls, passing them out to the girls. "So while the Alexis you know incompetent, the one we know is...disturbingly efficient. Both heads of the Council, and, allegedly, immortal, which only opens several more dams of questions." He started to eat, lost in his own thoughts.
"They're the same one, really." Tsuruko added, "It's just that Alexis seems to have wisened up...then again, she doesn't seem to learn at all." She immediately stood up, entering a handstand as she began to think. "Thinking on it, does your Alexis show any unusual habits?"
"Her sclerae." Jason remembered, the woman's deranged eyes filling his vision. "They're permanently black now. And they twitch, her eyes twitch." He'd basically described a possessed person, but, considering it was Alexis, the description fit.
"Maybe she's gone crosseyed?" Tsuruko was simply joking. "But seriously, whenever somebody has black sclerae, it means that they're possessed. At least, that's what I've learnt. Now, what kind of demon would it be..." At that moment, their options had narrowed- and Tsuruko could already seen the finale. "Has she shown the ability to summon shadowy demons?"
"They weren't particularly powerful," Jason noted, remembering how easy it had been to destroy one, "but yes, she's capable of summoning shadow demons. In addition to the demons themselves, she invoked a dimensional transfer when we were fighting them." The battle with Alexis had been, to Jason, three months ago, but it was fresh in his mind.
"That fact's enough for me to confirm who it is." Tsuruko got out of her handstand, approaching Jason and Solele once more. "I know what's happened to Alexis. When I beat that guy a while ago, he seemed to split into six parts. From what I remembered, one of the parts entered Alexis, who I'd fought before defeating the guy. So she's possessed! That's why she seems competent!"
"But who is 'that guy'?" Solele questioned her, skeptical.
"...I don't know!"
This puzzled Jason; Tsuruko fought with an enemy whose name she couldn't remember. Even he didn't know how that worked, and it had him quite curious. "So, even with all these explanations, more mysteries continue to arise." He drunk the broth from the bowl of he stew and set it down, looking at the sky. "The sun will be rising soon. Should we get to sleep?"
"Guess so." Tsuruko's eyes flickered on and off momentarily- not really affectful, but it simply a reaction. "I'm tired, as well." Truth be told, Tsuruko could sleep for days.
"How can you get tired?" Solele argued with her. "Don't cyborgs just stay functioning for years?"
"They do," Tsuruko continued, "But I'm tired, that's all there is to it."
"Gr, fine." Solele sighed, "I'm a bit tired too."
The girls made their way off as Jason cleaned up the remains of their dinner and disposed of them, before walking over to Riskal, sitting down next to his sleeping legion. He already knew Solele was more than likely to make her way over to where he was sleeping when she thought he was asleep, but his mind was far from his fiancé's antics; how was the guild doing? He had left Olivia in charge, and she was always capable but Wendy had a new fiery attitude that made her hard to handle, Iris was probably furious with him and Mary was more than likely cursing his very name, both for his delaying of their saving Vivian. And then there was the child he'd found by the side of the road.
...Mina, wasn't it? What was she doing for these past three months? Jason began to drift off as his thoughts dwelled on the guild.