Flight of the Phoenix
The Hasty Rescue
As soon as the rest of the estate's care was left in the hand of Christina, Victoria and a host of other parameters unknown to all, Diana was to be the first to set out to the nearby city of Fiume di Giglio. Victor stayed behind in his own Skyhawk as the first departed, automatically fixating on the destination while he hooked up into the NST to try and contact those along its trade route. Thankfully it only took him about ten minutes to get a hold of a Legal Guild Northeast of Fiume, residing in a trading town -Mezzo Town- at the center of Fiore's forking north river. Due to them not being far away, they'd be able to ride the water and be there within a quarter of the day to hopefully help contain the situation.
But his thoughts weren't shared by his faithful Virago Spirit, Diana. She was in a fuming mood since she departed with the kids in more or less passenger seats unfolded nearby in the cabin. It'd only take less than a half hour for their Skyhawk to reach the place and she didn't like being apart from Victor while she had children's safety to consider. As much as she trusted their skills, the open field was an entirely different situation, unpredictable as a wild animal and more ferocious than any officially sanctioned duel between gentlemen.
Looking back over her shoulder, having not permitted anyone -least of all Yui- to sit next to her in the co-pilot seat, she debriefed them of the situation that was shared with her by Christina, "From what we know and what was reported over the NST a seller of Holder Magic items caught sight of a systematic robbery of the town's Jewels and profitable items. The local militia were unable to handle them and any magical assistance is null due to the relatively peaceful location they are in. More for merchants and sailors leaving or coming to Fiore they are underequipped to handle the organized force that not only invaded their city but were able to appear without coming through the gates or breaching the walls."
Morgan loved the feeling of flying in one of the Skyhawks, from the thrill of suddenly blasting into the sky to cruising at impossible speeds. It was a feeling of total, absolute freedom, the kind she couldn't get anywhere else. Because of the airship’s construction, she could enjoy the sensations without suffering from motion sickness, the bane of Dragon Slayers.
“My first mission...” she thought, both excited and scared. She had agreed to work as a member of the Phoenix Guild to help Victor's dream come true and to help her hone her own skills, and this was her chance to prove herself.
She wondered about the specifics of their task at hand. When Diana provided the details, Morgan frowned. "How could they get in or out without getting seen?" she asked.
"It's easy to walk through the front door if you ask me," Yui mentioned, leaning back into her seat while her bare foot's toes wiggled as they stretched out in front of her to kick at the empty co-pilot seat. Something she regretted not being able to sit in when Diana expressly told her not to put her legs up on the dash and weat a safety harness. Turning her face boredly at Morgan, she waved a hand dismissively as she explained. "If they have someone capable of transformation, illusion or even charms they could easily slip through the front gate and only announce their presence until the given time. I know plenty of con men and theives that tried that during my time with Nori."
"But...they said they came out of nowhere. If they even had a memory of something out of the ordinary, wouldn't that kind of thing you describe be reported right away?" Maria countered, looking over from the seat just behind Morgan to look directly at the older girl. "Wouldn't it make more sense if they came in by the river and up through the sewer channel? Since this is a city that sees little outside conflict coming in, the sewer system would be the least guarded of all the places in the given areas of entry."
"Either way is feasible," Diana piped up, negating any possibility of a debate springing up that might go nowhere. Looking over her shoulde at Morgan and her sister, she drifted her gaze to the indignant Yui who just sputtered raspberries while leaning into an upraised fist. "Regardless, they seem to know a thing or two about strategy since they were able to get past a fortified barrier without causing a stir or draw attention to themselves. They picked a relatively isolated city that was rich in imports and exports, a trading hub that goes beyond the borders of Fiore all across Ishgar, and knew that by the time any Legal Guild arrived to assist they'd already be long gone. These 'magic bandits' must be part or were once a Dark Guild; we shouldn't underestimate their resourcefulness or their capabilities."
Morgan was going to counter Yui’s argument, but the tone in Diana’s voice made her stop before she could even start. Something in the spirit’s tone suggested she wouldn’t deal with the bickering, and the young Slayer didn’t feel like pushing her luck on the matter.
All of a sudden, she realized that for once, her crime-ridden past could come in handy; she could offer a point of view very few others could. “It’d probably be smarter to use the sewers as an exit than an entrance though. If you got in that way, you’d smell terrible. Coming in a different way is less of a stench.You’re less memorable that way, and less likely to stick out. And that can make all the difference.” she said, taking a very neutral tone to avoid giving away her past guilt, instead trying to make it sound logical rather from experience.
"Huh, I guess that's true," Yui tapped her chin, only tilting her head slightly with both curiosity and pride in how Morgan answered so smoothly. "If I didn't know any better, I say you skulked through your fair share of sewers to learn that tidbit of information. No judging, I'm just making an observation."
"Ugh, that's right," Maria slapped her hands to her cheeks, feeling a bit silly for suggesting it now that the facts didn't add up. "They'd be surely recognizable long before they'd be seen. The smell would cling to them like oil stains on a skirt!"
"Which leaves only two options," Diana offered, looking towards the horizon as they kept on their course with the heavens thrumming as their relatively silent engines propelled through through the skyline. "Teleportation or smuggling. Either someone in the city planned this and wants a fair share of the loot or they're looking for something in particular. Besides the city being an easy target for a well prepared group it almost seems a bit too random for them just to attack it like bandits while also being undetected until the moment of attack. No, they're after something, I can feel it."
“She has no idea how accurate she is,” Morgan thought, impressed and stunned that two people could have guessed the truth about her on two separate occasions on the same day. “I’ve got a sensitive nose and I’ve smelled people fresh out of sewers. Revolting wouldn’t even begin to describe it. It’s not a smell you can forget, that’s for sure.” she half-lied, keeping the same neutral, smooth tone.
She let her half-deception sink in for a few seconds before continuing. “Besides, Diana’s right. An attack like this, it’s too planned out to be anything ordinary like money or goods. No, they’re after something big, something worth all the effort. And if that’s the case, the sewers wouldn’t work either way.”
"Point taken," Yui nodded as she leaned back straighter into her seat. "If an entire city is at war with them, they must be powerful enough that not even an entire militia housed within could stop them."
"Which is why we're going to stop them!" Maria shouted with a too-serious face that her voice depicted being forcefully gruff; too cute for anyone not to snigger like Yui.
"Let's get one thing clear, girls," Diana spoke out in an even-tempered tone, turning her face to look over her shoulder at all three of them. "I don't condone Victor's actions but I, as a Virago Spirit, am commanded to obey. I want you to all know that doesn't extend to how much I keep you out of harm's way. If there's anything hinting at danger beyond your control, I want you to run and wait for Victor's help. We have no idea the level of danger these Dark Wizards will prove when we see them. There's also a chance I can't fight them all at my best if you're too close by. So I want you all to promise me that if it looks too dangerous to leave me behind to fend them off and hide in a place Victor can find you. Swear it, or I'll keep you in the Skyhawk and never let any of you set foot in this city."
Maria gulped, feeling as if a ton of bricks was weighing on her shoulders all of a sudden. Nodding fervently like a terrified child, she agreed out loud with a squeaky voice, "Mhm, I got it. I understand. Totally do, Diana!"
"Tch, you're too protective, Diana but I don't wanr Noriko to be mad at me. Fine, I'll go along with it," Yui shrugged, more annoyed than scared at the Virago Spirit's demands.
Hearing Maria’s serious declaration, Morgan couldn’t resist a snicker. It was impossible, equating the normally bubbly girl with a serious expression. The fact her sister could even be serious was outright comical.
Diana’s threat to leave them behind if they didn’t agree to run if told to, however, instantly sobered her mood. She wanted to object, to rage about how against her nature it would be to run, but she also wanted the chance that loomed, to see the world not as a scared girl running from the hellish nightmare but as someone trying to save it. Deep down, she knew Diana was right, if something was strong enough that the order to run was necessary, then even the power of a Dragon Slayer would be useless.
“I promise. If it turns out that too strong for me, I’ll get away.” she said after the initial anger subsided, her pride finally backing down.
"Good," Diana replied with a satisfied smile, turning back to look straight away at the horizon. From her sight she could already see the city thanks to her high level of perception. As they drew closer by the minute her smile began to shrink and her pupils dilated. What was supposed to be a beautiful city inhabiting the width of the river and then some was now obscured by wafting towers of smoke. Furrowing her brows she growled out loud audibly enough to catch Maria's ears. "Damn, this doesn't look good."
"What doesn't?" Maria asked inquisitively, trying to lean forward against the restraints to see what was in Diana's line of sight. When she caught sight of the smoke beyond she gasped out loud. "The city is...burning?"
"Or some of it," Yui replied without any indication she'd want to see what she did. Flexing her toes she stretched in her seat, lazily looking over at the pair of sisters. "Most likely in the time it took us to get here and mobilize back at your dad's mansion from the message we received, it's quite possible they've done a lot of damage. You'd surprise how much havoc can happen in a mere five minutes time. Believe me, I've seen how Noriko drinks."
"M-Miss Hayate sounds like someone I wouldn't want to go out with," Maria nervously replied with a polite smile, chuckling to force the tension away through her own brand of timid humor.
Morgan watched the smoke rise, tracing the swirling paths back down as much as she could until she saw the city that now produced the ebony clouds. She could only imagine the terror gripping the city as it laid under the siege of magi, the kind of terror she knew all too well. It was like her home town in Sin, under the control of a monster.
Clenching her fists, she tried to rationalize to what end the bandits would engulf the city in flames. Only two possible reasons made any sense to her, both stemming from the same source, distraction. “It’s a cover. Think about it, by setting fires like this, they’re forcing law enforcement to divert resources away from finding them. Either they needed to clear guards away from their goal, or they’re trying to cover their escape.”
"Either that or they're trying to warn anyone coming to stay away," Diana intervened, her eyes glaring at the sight. Catching sight of a heavy blanket of mist swathing the entrances of the city she felt unease about going in from that direction. Adjusting the airship to land somewhere near the clouds of smoke. Once she had been covered by the pillar she allowed NST to automatically guide it down to the ground below. Undoing her harness before the other girls did, she passively flashed in a bout of Ethernano discharge before her body assumed her Arc Armor. "Nest, please engage the light refraction plating. I wouldn't want anyone seeing the airship in the event the smoke stops rising or the fire is snuffed out."
As the subtle sounds of clicking plating was turned about on the hull of the aircraft, Diana turned towards the girls, having seen all of them rise that she could tell, "We're going to take a look. Victor should be only a half hour away at the most. Until then we're going to see what the intent of these bandits are."
"Sounds fun," Yui quipped with a cheshire grin, leaning suggestively to one side with both hands on her hips. "I'll make sure to take pictures to give as souvenirs to Vanessa."
Shuddering at the sound of Yui's flirtatious advances to her mother, Maria looked over to Morgan and forced a bright smile. Raising a fist up to bump with Morgan, she chirped out, "Let's do our best, M'kay?"
As the ship descended, Morgan undid the harness holding her to the seat. She stood up a second too soon and her haste was rewarded with her comically falling backwards as the ship landed. Grumbling, she bounced back without missing a beat. She scratched the back of her head sheepishly, laughing off her blunder.
She looked blankly at Maria’s upraised fist for a moment, until she remembered what her sister said it meant. Not growing up as a normal child, all the things that were second nature to many young adults was still alien and outright absurd to the Dragon Slayer’s mind.Timidly, she returned the gesture with a shy smile on her face. “Yeah. Let’s go.”
"Come on, keep looking," Came a voice from down the road of the burning building Diana led her troop out of. Gesturing to them silently as to avoid detection, she walked on the air thanks to some trained pulses along the boots' soles. Yui, being bare foot, found no problem keeping her sound muted. Maria, knowing how virtually silent her sister can be, wrapped some air currents around her to glide across the air before dropping with a soft pat next to the leaning Spirit. Pulling back at the last second a pair of burly men, partially endowed in a mishmash of armor and tattered robes, were hauling partially filled bags while also keeping grip of magic weapons in their grip. "You heard what she said. It could be stashed anywhere."
"Yeah, her guidance hasn't led us astray. This is just the first time we don't have a highlighted path or a map pointing to the flashing red X is," The other barked out loud, not truly caring if anyone heard them. Stopping part way, he gripped on his friend's arm as they were mostly on the other side of the street, allowing Diana to look back around the corner to see the man questioning his friend. "Still, what's the relic worth if we have to attack a whole city in broad daylight?"
"Don't look at me, that was the boss's idea, not hers," The first replied with a shrug and a chuckle. "You know how he is. If he can let loose some of that pent-up energy he isn't using in the sack, maybe it'll do him some good."
"Right. After all, he's got that sword with him now. It didn't take long for us to wipe out opposition. Too bad there were so many non-combatants in the way," He responded sullen, almost regretful about the now obvious pungent smell being confirmed by their talk.
"Well, most of them aren't dead. They're lost in their own minds in the warehouses right now. It's easier than tying them up and less messy than killing them," The first finally finished speaking, his voice sounding farther away, the two of them now walking down the block in the opposite direction of the buildings they leaned next to. "Now let's keep looking. Remember, she said it's likely in plain sight and treated like an ordinary thing."
"I got you I got you," The second relented, following his duties as if nothing had happened.
But to Diana, she had heard plenty.
"Master Victor," She whispered through her connection to Alexander Head. "These aren't ordinary scavengers. Based on what I've seen and felt, they're Dark Wizards with a treasure hunting agenda. By the time we arrived here the entire populace was already pacified and there doesn't seem to be any current fighting at the moment."
"Securing the safety of the people will be your priority then, Diana," Victor replied, not to just Diana but to all the girls' minds. "Do not engage them unless absolutely necessary. Drawing out a fight, especially while a town's population is at risk, is unwise. If at all possible draw them away from the people. They've most likely seen enough trauma to last them a lifetime."
"Understood," Diana nodded, turning towards the girls, wondering on her next course of action.
"We had some trouble contacting aid for the city. Thankfully there are some mages eager to help only less than a half day away. Hopefully they can clean up whatever mess we leave, not to mention contain the situation," Victor adds further in addendum.
"Right. We'll be expecting you then. Diana out," She finished, breathing out a sigh. Turning towards Morgan specficially, she leaned against the building's surface with arms crossed over her armored breastplate. "Morgan, can you smell out where the hostages are being kept?"
Silence was one of Morgan's talents, one she took full advantage of, stealthily following Diana. The only sound she created was a barely audible whisper of her jacket as she moved. Over the crackling flames, there was no doubt in her mind that even that would fail to give away her position.
Because this was the first time she experienced the use of a Thought Projection ring personally, the moment Victor's voice projected itself in her mind, she blinked in surprise, After a second, she realized that it was because of the ring that she wore. She recalled the events of a month prior, when her train robbery went awry because of the ring's ability to communicate the thoughts of the wearer's. Understanding the magic now, she realized that fight had been lost the moment it began.
Sniffing the air, she tried to locate the hostages, but the stench of smoke overtook any other scent, even to her enhanced sense of smell.. "I can't smell anything but the burning building, but if that changes I'll let you know."
"Damn, worth a shot," Diana swore lowly, turning to look around, trying to triangulate their precise area. Given that this was closer to the center living area she guessed that the overheard mention of warehouses would be closer to the docks. Looking up at the Sun briefly she turned around to face the girls and beckoned them to follow her. "We need to head north. That's where Fiume's harbor is and I bet that's where most of the townsfolk are being kept. Stay close to me."
"You know it's bound to be guarded," Yui pointed out loud, easily keeping pace as she rapidly clapped her soles against the ash covered stone of the town ground. "What if we start a commotion and cause the whole gang to, well, gang up on us? Do you intend to fight near so many innocents?"
"I'll try to drive them off if things go that way," Diana promised, her eyes drawing into a hardened glare as her teeth bared with anger. "I'll make them regret what they've done here in this beautiful city and its people. I'll protect them with all I can, but you must stay alive and keep them safe. That is your new priority."
"We'll do our best, Diana!" Maria cried out as enthusiastically as she could as she sprinted behind the surprisingly light-footed, armored maiden as they headed northward.
Morgan followed behind the rest of the group, her eyes scanning to and fro, looking for anything out of the ordinary that would be of interest. Her lips twisted into an unbidden scowl as she swallowed her anger at being rendered unable to help due to the terrible smoke and tried to make up for that by keeping on the lookout.
“I understand Diana. I’ll do what I can too.” she said solemnly, glancing around at the burning cityscape as she sped up to catch up to the others.
With all three young women following accordingly, Diana guided them across the burning part of the city to a less ramshackled part of the town. Crossing over bridges and veering around streets to stay away from roving members of the attackers, rushing water was seen glittering in the sunlight that twinkled down over their heads. Beautiful architecture mirrored that of tiles made to be colors of the sand, sea and the sky itself. The unfortunate state that an entire city may have been already defeated by the time the distress call signal was sent seems to be more and more the case among their minds.
Stopping just on the edge of the road district, Diana slid her body within the shadows of a shop, ending the strip before what looked like a row of warehouses that bordered each other. Each one was blocky, red in color with green outlines, boldly captioned in numbers. Even from here one could hear muffled sounds of people trapped on the inside of several of the structures, easily containing the thousands that survived their assault.
"Keep it down in there!" One of the guards snarled, banging his foot against the gate to the closest of the warehouses. "Stop making that racket! The boss wouldn't mind if I roasted ya now but I got orders to keep ya alive. Leverage is always nice when you're holding a whole city randsom, hehe."
Diana kept her calm as she observed from her safe position. From what she could see, a direct assault seemed to be the only way to get to them. This also meant that most of the warehouses were in a direct line to each other before the Northeast and Northwest sides turned into the actual beginnings of the harbor before going forward to the rear of the warehouses to continue onward. From her count based on her sight and other senses, she could roughly estimate around five to ten men guarding around the front and sides of each warehouse holding the people. There were around ten warehouses that she saw which meant they'd have to divide the work close to evenly.
"I want to ask you something," Diana began, turning around to ask all three girls with Morgan being at the center of them. "If I let you handle around fifteen to twenty Dark Mages on your own, do you think you can handle it? You'll need to be swift and subtle, nothing too explosive. I don't know how strong they all are but it's essential if we are to rescue and free the citizens still alive here."
“It's not like we can just sit here and do nothing.” Morgan said, glancing around, looking for any large patches of darkness to hide herself in or to feed on if the fight turned rough, finding nothing substantial enough to devour much power from.
She walked past Diana to get a look at the area ahead, already making a plan of attack in her mind. She knew better than to run in and attack, having learned that lesson well from her training with Victor. Getting even a little of the lay of the land was a major strategic advantage, one she planned to exploit.
She retreated from her vantage point, taking her place between Yui and Maria once again. “This won’t be easy, but we can manage if we move carefully enough. It’d help to have some sort of distraction to lure some of those bandits away though. Thin their numbers a bit, you know? Less chance of being surrounded that way."
"I can handle that," Maria offered in a low voice.
"Oh? Now you got my interest piqued," Yui chuckled, more amused than genuine about her claim of curiosity.
"Do what you can," Diana nodded with approval to the young Mage.
Rising up, she took a few steps till she was out of the shadows. Motioning her arm till it was stiff and raised towards the sky, her thumb folded over an open palm. Using the other arm as a brace, a dark orb of energy manifested in front of her fingertips, crackling as it birthed with instability before it calmed into the size of a baseball.
"Bullet Magic," She uttered aloud, firing the projectile up, allowing a loud whining hiss to shriek through the air. "Flare Shot!"
Moving her arm subtly the bullet attracted the attention of most idle Dark Wizards while only a few batted an irritated eye. When it burst into a violet fireball that expanded wildly before crashing a good deal behind the warehouses into the harbor's water, most of the mages looked aghast and alarmed. "Where was that fired from?!" One asked while another shouted, "Did it hit any of the goods?!" When a good half left their positions around the hostage contained warehouses, Diana smiled enthusiastically at the confusion instilled in them.
"Now," She commanded, her body rushing forward in a soarching glint of metal and fabric. Choosing to launch past the still standing guards to the ones checking the blast on foot. Taking the first five off guard completely, her Arc Armor unleashed a devastating cone of Ethernano ahead of her, bulldozing through them, sending their unconscious bodies crashing into the sides of the warehouses adjacent to the alleyway. Appearing in a rush of halting momentum, her feet clanked to the ground. In an azure burst of Requip, Diana was armed with a pair of gleaming golden swords that reflected its mesmerizing edges towards her prey. "Do any of you want to dance?"
"What the Hell? Is this the shooter?" One of the bulkier Dark Wizards asked disbelievingly.
"Who cares!" Another, more rotund shaped man standing nearly eight feet tall. The fatter man grinned decadently at the woman, unaware that she was a warrior spirit. Raising his fat hands to clap together, a circle formed up from his wrist to issue several smaller ones that ended over his pursed lips. "I'll suck you up and crush you inside my belly. Vacuum Magic, Reverse Reaping Cyclone!"
A devastating whirlwind suddenly began to pull in all of space towards his obese mouth. Tiles, dirt, air and even a wayward comrade was accidentally pulled into the raging suction wind. The sight of his body crunching and imploding on itself was disconcering enough to make even Diana cringe. However, as her heels dug into the ground beneath her, she felt the tug pull her closer.
"Look at Garz go!" One of the nearby Dark Wizards, now eager to stay and watch at a safe distance as their comrade began to egg the woman closer and closer to his disassembling mouth. "That bitch thought she was hot stuff, and now she's caught in his ultimate spell! There's no way for her to escape!"
Crossing her blades against each other in a sign of a crucifix, Diana murmured out something unheard thanks to the howling air force. A searing glow emanated from the pair of swords before a sudden expansive flare of light shot out from her posture. With the air parting and the suction halting, they'd see Diana's body lean forward slightly with both weapons steaming at her sides. Turning to look back at Garz, the man had two six inch wide cuts in the shape of a cross bifurication from his forehead down to his groin and from his sternum to either upper arms. As she stood up, the man fell into cauterized pieces, revealing a much larger cross cut into a docked ship behind him.
Looking over, she'd ask with a menacing glare, "Who's next?"
At the same time, Yui moved to attack her first pair of warehouses. Her body was trained to move light and swift, her feet barely making a sound as she skirted the air with a handful of steps. Rushing forward to meet a handful of Dark Wizards, she let loose her ocular Caster Magic. A pinwheeling light sprayed out from her eye into the vicinity of her enemies, transforming their environment into a dark burning Hell with skeletons ensaring them with gruesome ooze ebbing from their empty sockets while screams came out of their hollow mouths. The sight was so shocking the first group had no time to react.
"Mirage Eye, Coils of the Damned!" She uttered with a cheshire grin, her open hands and feet moving in a blur to hit them with devastating blows. Each body reverberated with shock, her subtle discharge of Burst Magic used at its least power at a precise point in the body of the targeted. Each one was knocked out, leaving her to race to the next group. Seeing that they were more aware she took no chances with playing the same trick twice.
"Burst Magic," She began to say before her voice became static as such was her body. A stream of light was all that the Dark Wizards could make out, even as they readied weapons and spells. Invisible kicks and punches delivered at such velocities sent them flying across the air, crashing against the warehouse or ground. By the time she reappeared among the fallen bodies, she postured with both hands on her hips, sticking out her tongue in mocking at the downed mages. "Burst Sprint."
Maria chose a different avenue of attack.
"What's going on? Where did they come fro-?" The Dark Wizard asked incredulously among other panicking men, finding himself instantly planted in the ground with bone-rattling force.
"Daryl?!" Another lanky raider shouted with surprise, seeing a twintailed girl's palm in a stranglehold grip. Raising a Fire Magic sword over his head, he rushed to hit her with a burning stroke. A sudden nauseating spin later and the man felt himself striking nothing but air, stumbling forward because of missed momentum. Landing onto his knees, he saw himself in the crater Daryl's unconscious form was. Turning to see Maria behind him, he squeaked out with impotent realization. "T-Teleportation?!"
"There's more than that," Maria finally replied with a wink, standing up and waving to her feet. With her soles leaving the ground she levitated up into the air, the latter element swirling around her uniform and hair in a beautiful sight of gravity defiance. "Flight Magic too."
"You little shi-grk!" The man was silenced when Maria flew at speeds faster than his eyes could track, his face being wedged inward by a foot crashing into his cranium. Flying head over heels, the big man skidded to a number of angered Dark Wizards. Raising up magic guns to erecting circles over their hands, they fired a number of shots at her simultaneously.
Dodging the shots with expert practice, having seen her own father and Victoria use similar tact, she twirled in the air until she formed a pair of cupped open hands with her wrists slapped together. A brilliant orange light formed between the curled digits and palms, soon unleashing an arcing dozen of shots rushing out to either flank before angling towards the Dark Wizards. Unprepared by the sudden maneuver, most of the Mages were hit by all of them while only a couple dodges.
"They outmaneuvered my Scattershot?" She thought with surprise, still remaining slightly above the ground while the pair of Dark Wizards glared from a distance. She could hear the clattering of feet rush around the corner, no doubt aiming to reinforce them. Aiming her hand down the line of silhouettes emerging from around the corner, she focused her energies while she thought with final conviction. "I'll defeat you all here. These people you terrorized must be freed from their prisons!"
As the group split up to handle the bandits, Morgan sped to nearest bunch, appearing behind the first, leaving only a ebony-colored blur in her wake. Despite her speed, her approach was deathly silent, befitting her description as a wraith on the battlefield. Appearing behind the bandit that was positioned rearmost in their formation, she lashed out with a darkness-infused chop to the base of the man’s neck, cracking the vertebrae causing him to cry out and crumple into a useless heap.
The other three heard their comrade collapse and scream, but when they turned around, all they saw was a ghostly afterimage. “The hell? Gil, you alright? Gil?!” one of the men barked out, noticing the fading figure. “Who in blaz-” Before he could finish, Morgan appeared and delivered a momentum-enhanced kick to his right arm, the angle and force more than enough to fracture the bone. The man howled in pain before dropping to his knees, holding the busted limb tenderly.
Before Morgan could zip to her next target, however, the third bandit almost took her down with a deadly right cross, forcing her to duck to avoid being injured.
“You smug bitch. I’m going to smear the ground with your brains. I don’t care if you’re just a kid, I won’t hold back!” he yelled, running at the now prone Dragon Slayer, intent on caving her skull in with a double-handed overhead blow. Before he could, however, she sprang back up and her right arm glowed with violet light that quickly shaped itself into a dragon-like wing. Without wasting a single moment, Morgan swung her arm and the wing followed, carving it’s path with the same unnatural speed. The bandit, unaware of the nature of the attack, could only feel a sharp pain in his neck, as if a razor blade tore at him. Thick jets of blood spurted from the wound. Wisps of darkness clung to the bloody gash. The man crashed to the ground as Morgan rolled away, barely conscious as his life bled out,
The final bandit couldn’t believe his eyes. In the span of a few seconds, he watched his cohorts collapse in defeat, at the hands of a child no less. “What the hell? You stupid girl, you’ve made a huge mistake. You won’t be able to get away!” he yelled, pulling out a dagger and throwing it at his attacker.
Morgan rolled away from the blade before bolting over the last bandit, delivering a well placed punch that knocked the hapless criminal out cold. Turning around, she counted to make sure that the job was done, noticing the one who’s arm she broke passed out from the pain. Once she was sure that all her opponents were unconscious, she ran off to find another group to deal with, or her own allies.
"I won't let them get away with this. I'll tear them apart myself if I have to!" she vowed to herself as she ran.
As Morgan ran to deal with the next group of marauders, they'd find themselves pincered on either side by the two young girl Mages. Maria was propelling herself across the air in the form of a blur while Morgan was streaking across the ground as a silhouette. Each Dark Wizard was more aware of the danger and formed magic circles, prepping their defenses. They shouted out loud as they moved to attack them at the same time as they arrived.
Then, Yui came crashing down, her spiralling down heel erupting the earth in a bright fissure of rosy light. Upsetting their balance enough to send them rising up into the air, Morgan and Maria stormed through the magicians, tumbling them into a pile of unconscious and broken bodies.When they all finally landed in a heap, a thunderous series of explosions were heard far behind the warehouse full of people. When a number of bodies were seen landing across the area, comedically landing with white-out eyes and gaping mouths, Diana forward flipped over the warehouse to pursue.
When she saw all the girls accounted for, she breathed a sigh of relief and smiled at all three of them, "You're all safe. Good. I'm glad none of you are harmed."
"Like they could," Yui remarked with a cocky grin, "these guys are amateurs. I'd barely rank them at C-Rank, most of them seem like D-Rank Mages to me at best."
"They did seem not used to fighting high caliber opponents," Maria noted when she busied herself tying them up with simplistic barriers formed in the shape of handcuffs or chains. Looking around at some of their torn attire she blinked at the insignias they wore. "I don't seem familiar to this group. They look like gnarled vines of thorns at irregular patterns. None of them look the same."
"Thorns?" Diana queried, looking over at an exposed man's upper back, looking like a bush of protruding thorns from an ugly brush of black hue. It only took a few seconds for her to register what they were, causing her mouth to open and gape in shock. "The Black Brier Gang!"
Morgan kept herself busy by helping Maria bind the bandits. When Diana suddenly sounded shocked about the Dark Guild they were up against, she did a double take. “What’s so bad about these Black Briar guys? We just defeated a whole army of them without even a scratch. Why are you so worried?” she asked, confused and somewhat unnerved. In the month that she had lived at the mansion, she never once saw the Virago Spirit express worry.
"She's right," Maria pumped a fist, her smile uneasy by the rare sight Diana sported when she looked at the symbols exposed on the man's body. "After all, if we could defeat this many without even injury, how hard would it be to team up and beat the stronger ones?"
"You don't understand," Diana corrected, a bead of sweat seen crawling down her scalp to drip off her chin. Her eyes looked over at the two in particular while Yui bent down on her haunches to examine the brand herself. "I have been Master Victor's assistant in all the coming and goings of news related to the magical world. Be it for business or to keep updated on the status of legitimate or illegitimate groups' activities. His foremost priority in developing the Phoenix Guild wasn't just to ensure security to the company from interloping attackers of high ranking. No, this particular group is a splinter cell from a once prominent Dark Guild, the Raven's Claws.
"But, since their destruction their survivors became a band of relative madmen. Good enough to be called nearly impossible to catch but not good enough to cause any large scale damage. It wasn't until a few months ago that we noticed them becoming more discreet. The Black Brier's attacks went to nearly nothing up to many in a single week and leave hardly a trace of their wake. The fact they came here without even being noticed and the word being gotten out at the last second proves just how dangerous the Black Brier Gang really are."
"I've heard stories but never ran into them myself," Yui remarked idly, brushing her hands against the markings thoughtfully, eyes twinkling with memory of the past. "The Midnight Titans never really targeted low priority Dark Guilds. Ordinarily you need permission from Fiore's Magic Council in order to engage openly against the illegitimates but we were locked into a personal struggle. The Black Brier never once came up as a threat to our ears."
"And really, it isn't the group as a whole that's the dangerous part. Most of these could be just hired hands to keep a population under control. But as of now, their strongest is their leader; a man named Swartz," Diana informed with a look that told them all just what her real fear was. "I know not any mage more powerful from the Raven's Claws other than their Guild Master himself. His lunacy is often the only thing that keeps his own catastrophic power in check. He's classified as an International Threat to the magical world, capable of fighting the best of the Wizard Saints on his own. For all we know, he could be aware of our attack right now and planning to deal with us himself...that is the part I'm worried about the most!"
Morgan couldn’t believe what she just heard. Her first mission and already the threat of a Wizard Saint-class criminal loomed ahead. The idea of it absolutely terrified her to her core. Knowing that Diana was afraid of just one man out of an entire group sent a chill through her body, and the look the spirit gave the group only told her that everything she heard was with merit. “Do we even have a chance of taking this guy down?” she asked, shaking from fear.
Diana nodded her head, pointing to her neck for emphasis, "Reports say that Swartz wears a Ethernano Restraint Collar. He had his modified so that he could control his ridiculous amount of power. If we can surprise him before he releases the collar entirely we should be able to best him. If we all work together, that is."
"Oh come on, how bad could it be?" Yui cried out with a confident grin.
Falling to her hands and knees, Maria felt as if all the color was sapped from her at hearing that comment, "I can't believe you just said that, Yui. Now we're all going to die..."
"Hey! Don't make this my fault!" Yui cried out with a waving fist.
"Still," Diana quietly spoke, turning her head towards the warehouses holding the surprisingly quiet volumes of citizens. "Even with all the storages of the harbor full, how did they fit so many people in? We have to figure out how to transport them all out of here if we're going to keep casualties to a minimum."
The Black Strikes Back
All was going well in the mind of Elaine Lyte.
She had targeted this river city not only due to its isolation from most Legal Guilds but because their militia was only sufficient to ward off conventional barbarians or mindless beasts. They didn't stand a chance against their fully staffed three hundred band of Dark Wizards, led by her darling Swartz and his trusty confident Ketchum along with her own professional being. The men hardly had to do any work as Swartz took the lead as soon as she helped them manifest in the middle of the city without having to enter from any part of the walled off town. He was so eager to release some pent-up aggression.
Unfortunately, one of their new hired hands that was in it for the money and fame got angry he was used for little. Causing more collateral damage than she wanted she suggested that he be in charge of the warehouse duty. It wasn't until nearly the whole city's populace was forced into the storage of the harbor that she found that one of them was able to send a distress signal out. She didn't know where but because of their isolated area from most help, she wasn't completely worried.
Just alert. That mindset helped when she heard a series of distant explosions and crashes near the far north end of the city. The same place the citizen turned hostages were held at.
"Huh?" Swartz, her lover and partner, turned his head to look towards some puffs of smoke where his ears were picking up sounds. "What's with the commotion? Did the citizens revolt and break out?"
"That's impossible," Donovan Treuce, one of Swartz's immediate followers. He was a man of average height, wearing a mustard colored hooded jacket with blonde hair and light chocolate eyes. With an iron pole in his right hand, he reached his free palm to muss his hair while looking over at the puffs of smoke still rising in the horizon. Sighing through his nostrils he cursed out loud. "Dammit, did we let our guard down and let people enter in?"
"It's possible they managed to get through my Field of Rejection I placed around the city's perimeter," Faer Pleigh offered explanation, the blonde haired young man turned to look over at Elaine. With a black patch covering his left eye, the hood and cloaked man bent forward, left gloved hand placed over his chest while the other held his jewel encrusted staff. "My humblest apologies in failing you, boss and milady."
"Please, no apologies needed. These things happen when we least expect it," Elaine smiled pleasantly, waving her hand towards him so he may feel at ease. Inwardly she felt a simmering anger she suppressed at the idea interlopers could have entered outside of their detection. She could only wonder who managed to respond to the distress so quickly?
"Should we cut them down?" Rowlie Bann asked with an eager grin, the dark skinned girl with piercing golden eyes with a bandana wrapped around her burgundy colored hair took a stare. Her attitude told of someone aching for action, something that was missed out thanks to their leader going on a murderous rampage.
"Hmmm," Elaine pondered out loud, stroking her chin while dipping her head down so her expressions were hidden. Finding the treasure was top priority. And while they were majorly spread across the city, making deployment of valuable associates risky, she needed to get rid of them before they ambushed anymore of Black Brier.
"I'll go! I'll go! I'll go!" A small girl jumped up and down enthusiastically near the back of the group. Bearing a small stature with blonde pigtails of skull braid shape ornaments, the striped legging and fur laced jacketed little girl is Mina Sarrk, a deceptively strong Dark Wizard. While only being the age of 11, she could stand with the best of the members underneath the Black Brier's Elite 3.
"Let'em go," Swartz muttered out loud, causing all nearby eyes to look at their staunch leader's coat covered back.
"You sure?" Elaine queried with a tilted head.
"Look," Swartz turned around, making exaggerative gestures while his face spread his mouth in a series of excited expressions. "I can't tell you how important is for a kid's growth to include some good ol' fashioned violence and mayhem. I mean, look at me! I'm the picture of perfect upbringing-!"
"You were raised in a prison camp and became a notorious criminal at large," Donovan replied with a sardonic tone, cutting his leader off as he tilted to the sight with a hurt look in his twitching face. "You're not a role model anyone should look up to."
"D-D-Donovan! Why are you dissing me in front of everybody?!" Swartz stuttered out with a stream of tears running down his face, straight underneath his impeccably dark blazer shades.
"It isn't hard, psycho," Donovan rolled his eyes as he shrugged with his response, unaware of the text covered arrow that pierced Swartz's chest and caused him to comedically back up with agony.
"T-That hurt, Donovan," Swartz murmured, sounding suddenly solemn. When he was up in the shorter young man's face, he backed up with an alarmed expression. When the bigger man's hands gripped his shoulders, he felt himself shook like a bag of potatoes. "Do you know how my morale depletes the more you speak such things to me? I feel like I'm going to die! Is my sad demise all you think about?!"
"Stop! Shaking! Me! Boss!" He cried out as he felt control over his body was lost to the blur of motion his unruly superior put on him.
"Now-Now," Elaine tapped Swartz's shoulder, earning the tear-stained man's face to turn towards her. "I'll give you a nice massage when this mission is over. That should cheer you up, won't it?"
"Elaine," Swartz whispered. Dropping Donovan onto his back with a thud, he bent down and hugged her in his bare chested embrace, rubbing his face against the crook of her neck. Feeling her hands pat his back while stroking his hair, he cried out in a wave of emotion. "I love you so damned much! We're going to make sweet magical love when this mission is over! All night long!"
A host of groans was heard, barring Donovan's shaken up person. Rising up he dusted himself while kicking his iron bar into his palm. Sighing, he motioned to the other three to leave while they still could. Rather they be witnessed to another emotional burst from their superior.
"Hmm," Diana approached the warehouse wall. Placing her palm against it, she could feel resistance, as if the metal wasn't something her gauntlet was touching. Pulling back a fist, she pumped Ethernano through the greaves, causing them to jetstream behind her elbow. Yelling out she crashed her fist into the structure's siding only to have it stopped dead with a loud crash. A series of runes rose up and down, revealing in purple bordered black text what was at work here. "Rune Magic. They must have a powerful Barrier Mage to deflect that hit. It's also possible they ensured that the space within was immense enough that they could hold so many people. How should we get them out or break this spell?"
"Morgan," Maria whispered, turning to look at her with hopeful eyes. "Do you think you could slip under the barrier by becoming a shadow? I don't know if you've done that or can do that, but maybe that's a loophole around this shield?"
Looking at her sister, Morgan shook her head. “That’s one thing my magic can’t do, unfortunately. The most I can do is cover myself in the darkness to hide in it. But that gives me an idea on how to get past it. Diana, would you say that this barrier is weaker than the one on the training hall’s floor?” she asked, a devious smile on her face. “If it is, I might be able to break through it.”
"It's not the same as the barrier set around the Nest, that's true," Diana nodded to Morgan, turning her gaze towards the Darkness Dragon Slayer. "However, this isn't a simple containment field. It is designed to bear the stress of thousands of people should they regain consciousness. It is likely a Rune Barrier with specific parameters in which keep the captives or rescuers from shattering it. Do you still think you can pull it off?"
"And not accidentally bring the roof on their heads?"
"Yui!" Diana harshly reprimanded while the girl just shrugged.
"Hey, I know this girl seems to be strong, but what exactly makes you think she can break a barrier this high grade? I think even Noriko would break a sweat trying to nullify it," She idly commented as she placed her arms behind her head.
"I believe in you," Maria whispered with a smile, holding her hands up in a clasped fashion similar to a sign of prayer. "You can do it, Morgan."
Morgan shook her head, still smiling all the while. “I have to do it. It’s not like I can or can’t at this point. I just need to gather enough darkness.” Without another word, she began to breathe deeply, causing the darkness around the quartet to suddenly shift and gather around her. Even the shadows of her comrades were pulled along. As the pool of inky blackness gathered, it began to turn to vapor and ascend to her waiting maw, where he devoured it, magic power surging about her body. The enormous boost surprised her, it was beyond her expectations. Whatever it was, she couldn’t discern, but that wasn’t a prime concern.
She began to focus her new reserves of energy, causing a shadowy aura to emanate around her person. The aura began to flow and gather around her hands, shrouding them in the bleak void of power. She brought her hands together, fusing the dark energy into a single mass. “Dragon Slayer Secret Art, “ she began, the sphere of power shifting to a sword-like form as she spoke, “Kali’s Emptiness!”
Once the blade solidified, she dashed over to the barrier, using the extra momentum to enhance her swing. Much to her shock, the barrier wasn’t instantly torn asunder by her destructive magic. The two spells collided, sending sparks of black and gold. For a brief instant, Morgan thought her spell failed. “No! I won’t fail now!” With a final push, burning through a vast majority of all the power she gathered. Her magic went haywire as she fed it, and in a single moment, her spell spiraled beyond her control, waves of darkness seeking out the other barriers as her initial target was finally severed. The residual blades of her power tore through the other defenses with the same ease her overpowered original had. The assault produced plenty of dust and smoke, obscuring the warehouses for a brief moment.
The sudden, unavoidable loss of power forced Morgan to hunch over, collapsing to her knees in short order. “I might...have...overdone it.” she said, her breathing ragged and shallow. “I need...a few minutes.”
"Are you going to be okay?" Maria asked, taking in her breath after losing it at the sight of such an awesome technique. She had no idea she had been saving such an ability till now. Even briefly, her own shadow had vanished, giving her a chilling sensation that felt like her skin lost feeling.
Shared in this experience was Yui, who was left with widened eyes and a slackened jaw. She knew the girl looked powerful but she had no idea she was a kind of mage only from legend. The first Dragon Slayer she's seen in life, only heard from historical texts accounting for those who existed both as the real deal and artificial crafted ones. The display took her breath away and it was stunning to behold.
"You've done enough, Morgan," Diana said with a smile, having regained her composure after witnessing such a devastating attack. Even though it was a close call, the fact every warehouse barrier was broken just proved how capable she was if she put her mind to it. Looking over at the shocked expressions of the other girls, she pointed to them with an authoritative edge in her voice. "What are you waiting for? The enemy is bound to be here any second! We have to get these people out of here before-"
"-we come to see what the commotion is," Mina Sarrk piped out from above, causing the Virago Spirit's eyes to widen and her complexion to pale. Turning slowly to look up she saw the adorably dressed girl who smiled in a way that was too innocent. The look in her eyes and the voice that echoed down emphasized a cold, calculated mind behind the diminutive shaped body. "That is what you were thinking just now, right?"
"No," Diana breathed out, her wrists flicking out to summon her golden swords once more via Requip flash of crimson. When she heard a tapping of metal against an open palm she turned to see from her right someone around the corner. A blonde haired man with a yellow coat was approaching with a simple bar he held and slapped over an outstretched hand like a bat, Donovan Treuce. "They're already here!"
"Damn right you are!" Donovan quipped out with an excited smile, his eyes widening with manic delight fueled by his own adrenaline rushing through his veins. "I can't believe all my luck. I thought this was going to be the most boring mission, but Swartz was right to let us come here. Look at all these enemies we made. I was having second doubts because of the strength our hired help was but...well, seeing that large explosion rock the docks got me thinking you guys aren't pushovers."
"Agreed," Came an arriving voice, a pair of feet landing on top of the warehouse roof high above their heads. The bandana haired woman with a sword already drawn with its flat edge tapping against her back and shoulder, she smiled down. Rowley Bann practically cackled with enthusiasm. "I've been aching for a real fight. Cutting down militia is a waste of my skills and power. Perhaps you can entertain me for a change."
"Calm yourselves, both of you," A light, feathery voice broke the electricity momentarily made by the excitement of both weapon wielding Mages. Balancing a staff along the ground, a billowy cloaked man with a delicate complexion and blonde hair with one revealing blue eye showed that he was quite young despite his stance among the other three. With the eyepatch covering what was most likely a blinded orb, his remaining eye calmly assessed the enemies in mass. "Cornered they may be, you saw the Magic that broke through my barriers. Though they weren't my strongest, it is impressive anyone has the raw power to shatter my shields. Underestimating them will get you killed like the rest."
"Buzzkill," Donovan rolled his eyes when he heard the younger man lecture him. Ruffling his hair, he pointed his iron bar out, wavering in its gesture at each alert woman. It was only when he saw the particularly pale skinned and black haired girl that he realized who it was. Through simple deduction, he pointed purposefully with a wry grin of knowing. "Hey, you're the one who broke all of Faer's Magic, aren't ya? What's your name, little girl?"
Exhausted, Morgan weakly smiled. “I’ll be fine Maria. Don’t worry.” she lied, pushing herself back to her feet. Still reeling from the loss of magic, she tried to hide how powerless she was, not wanting her sister to worry about her. To that end, she pretended everything was fine.
Looking around at the warehouses, she realized how drastic her spell was. The fact she had so easily taken down every barrier made her feel like the weakness she felt was worth it in the end. Before she could assist with saving the populace, the wind shifted and she could smell three unknown people already among the group. Just as she became aware of them, the trio had made their presence known.
Knowing that she was too drained to even think of fighting until she could properly recover, Morgan instead prepared to retreat if the situation turned out badly, fully intent on following through on her promise to Diana. When one of the three strangers addressed her, she decided to stall the trio for as long as she could, until either an opening could be made for escape or she could find a source of darkness that retained enough energy to feed on. “My name? I don’t have any reason to tell you.” she replied to the man.
"Oh yeah?" Donovan queried, lowering the iron bar to his side. Looking down at his feet he idly brushed off some loose debris. The sight gave him an idea, one that triggered a hungry grin to spread ear to ear. "You know, you're right. I don't need to know the name of a stain on the ground!"
It was all that Diana could do to prevent instant death for Victor's adopted daughter. Kicking off the ground, her armor was a glowing aurora of cerulean silver light as the armor jettisoned Ethernano to enhance her speed. Grasping Morgan and Maria, Yui was pushed to the ground in a blur of motion. At the same time, a single rock was kicked up by the tip of Donovan's boot, allowing a casual swing of his iron bat to crash into it.
In a sparking flash of cobalt, the stone turned an orange hue and left an air splitting impressiong in the space in front of the Dark Wizard. As wind buffeted with the shrieking projectile, it flew with such power and precision that it managed to tear part of Diana's armored backside off, knicking her a shallow wound behind. As she grimaced the magic enhanced pebble collided into a tower not too far away, exploding its base and causing it to crash nearly atop one of the hostage holding warehouses.
"Damn, you're fast," The Black Brier Mage commented with a surprised set of blinks, followed by a cool smile as he extended his bar towards her. "Heh, you might be a fun gal to dance with. Care to join me?"
Wordlessly, Diana flourished her twin golden swords, rushing forward in a whirlwind of magical jetstreams. Simultaneously, the blonde jacketed man raced to meet her, crashing his bat into her weapons with a mighty eruption of earth and air pressure. Smiling rabidly while her stoic eyes fixed into his, their lock ground the ground one meter at a time, webbing cracks spreading across the ground around them. Gritting her teeth, she shouted at the girls while not taking her eyes off the man in front of her, "All of you, leave them to me! If you get out of the way I'm sure to fight them at full strength without fear for your safety."
"Like I would-"
"Come on!" Maria commanded, being less chipper and more level as she grasped Yui by the wrist while wrapping an arm around Morgan's middle. With a propulsion of wind left in her wake, she took to the air, using her Flight Magic to take to the sky and head as far away as possible. Even though the weight of both was hard on her, she knew her personalized Teleportation Magic couldn't take them far or fast enough. This was the best option.
"Let go!" Yui commanded, feeling herself hanging like a sack of flour while Morgan was more or less comfortably held closer to the airborne Maria. "I can take care of myself!"
"I knew you wouldn't listen to Diana," She muttered with expectancy, ignoring her complaints without giving any sign of care to her plight. "I need to get us to someplace safe. If she unleashes her most devastating powers, there's no way they-"
"-can stand a chance," A soft voice finished above her, causing Maria's eyes to widen and her mouth slacken. Turning quickly to look up, she saw the childish Dark Mage with arms crossed behind her neck, seeming to keep pace up by a means of flight all her own. Sweat crawled down her neck as her teeth ground together with unseen frustration as Mina finished her sentance. "Am I right?"
Dipping her head down to gain some distance, she suddenly found herself wrapped in what she could describe as invisible netting. It wrapped around her torso, twining around her arms and even over her face. Visible stretches of force was seen, her grip on Yui and Morgan lessened till she was forced to relinquish them. Dropping them she tried to scream only to have her air forcibly suppressed from escaping her mouth.
"Hold still," Mina commanded, holding her back with invisible effort. Turning around to face her in a horizontal line of her warping back, she gave a soft smile of certainty. "I can't take pride in dissecting you if you're struggling."
The feeling of slowly tensing coils painfully dragged Maria's limbs back, threatening to pull them out of join and even out of socket. Similarly the same thing happened with her legs and head. As her eyes teared up, the periphery sight of both Yui and Morgan falling to their demise caused her blood to pump faster. Against all odds, she let out of a throat tearing shriek, her body enveloped in a bright red mantle of Ethernano, unleashed in an uncontrolled Bullet Magic blast from her pores. The result was sending Mina reeling back head over heel, giving Maria all the time she needed to lock her gaze at Morgan's distant figure...and then reappear instantly beside her.
"Gotcha!" Maria cried out as she grappled Morgan around her middle, flipping at an uncontrollable pace while holding her, closing in on the earth below. Turning her gaze towards Yui, she saw that the girl had landed on a nearby building top, releasing an explosive wave of Burst Magic to nullify the gravity pulling drop she had. As the shockwave radiated the nearby structures, Maria focused on the magic flowing within her. Glowing dimly underneath her clothes and spreading out to her fingertips, digital pathways causing her veins to be filled with Ethernano caused her body to be mapped out. Steadying herself and quickening her reflexes, she flipped four times before landing with a loud crash in a squat. Feeling the shock radiate her whole body, she was glad she activated her Vein Magic in order to stop Morgan from being harmed.
Turning to look at her, just as Yui joined them with a skidding glide down the building's face with a dragging palm that gouged its surface, she heard Mina appear with a soft tap behind them. Looking around with a deathly glare, one that was foreign to either girl near her, Mina smiled with a devilish playfulness, "You three aren't so bad. I may have some fun playing with you all."
Morgan couldn’t believe it. In the span of only a few minutes, she had to be saved no less than thrice, the latter two by the person she herself vowed to protect. Unlike Yui, she couldn’t even protest that she could take care of herself in her current state, a fact that she despised to admit.
When Maria was forced to let go of her, Morgan could only vainly reach out, wishing she could defy gravity to return to her sister’s side. Seeing her sibling in pain, pressed against an invisible force, was enough to break her heart. Unable to do anything to reverse or even halt her descent, she silently cried, wanting to deny the truth that sank in faster and faster as she fell, that her revenge would never be fulfilled, that her last sight would be the despair in her sister’s eyes.
But that end never came. Much to the Dragon Slayer’s surprise, Maria managed to teleport to her side, saving her life in the process. A few gut-spinning flips and a jarring, but relatively painless landing were the only price that was paid. Sighing with relief as her feet touched down on solid ground, she wiped away the tears that formed in her eyes.
When the mysterious enemy who chased them and trapped Maria showed up, Morgan almost instinctively stepped in front, a dark, angry look in her eyes, stopping only because she felt like she’d still be a liability despite recovering some of her power in the chaos. “I just need a few moments to eat the shadow of the building.” she whispered to Yui. “Can you keep her busy long enough?”
"Sure thing, sis," Maria nodded with a smile, turning her face to look on with inward understanding. After seeing what she did to all those barriers with one stroke, she realized any shadow was viable magic. In a city of plenty standing structures, it was easy to see why her Dragon Slayer Magic could come in handy.
"Just leave this twerp to us," Yui placed a sliding hand across Morgan's shoulder, walking past her to stand right beside Maria. Her left eye ignited into its passive crucifix shape, spread arms and legs began to ooze up scarlet Ethernano from her pores. With a near manic grin of anticipation, she asks Maria. "Ready to do this?"
"Yes!" She replied, her feet already already leaving the ground as the Vein Magic kept her alight while her bodily movement streaked forward to reach Mina's destination. Just as Yui was using Burst Sprint to keep up, she found herself as well as Maria suddenly halted in their placements. It felt like they just entered a deep depth of invisible seawater, their bodies feeling pressure on all sides like they've entered the bottomless depths.
"As if I'd let you near enough to land a hit," Mina scoffed with an idignant tilt of her head, her twintails bobbing around as she raised a hand at their direction. "I'm going to squeeze your bodies till they pop. What a messy end for you to have."
Maria found herself so strained that she couldn't even focus her Teleportation Magic. The pressure slowly increased, feeling it as much as she visibly looked contorted from head to toe. While Yui was in the same bind, her left active eye shined an outward gleam that spiraled out to catch the sight of Mina. What she saw was an impeccable glare of scarlet and white, disorienting enough for her to raise a hand up to her squinting eyes.
"Blinding me? Are you that naive? You both can't," She began to say, suddenly witnessing Yui's silhouette rising up from the heart of the blinding light to drop towards her with a maniacal grin spread across her face. "move?!"
Instinctively, she redirected her Magic to squewer the figure mere meters away from landing an attack on her. Invisible spikes dug in and out, perforating the mage until she was ripped apart into a rain of blood. The smell of blood and the feeling of lukewarm essence raining on her was enough to briefly give her pause and relief.
That was, until a startling punch was driven into her solar plexus.
"AGH!" Mina gasped out, her body lifting up from the ground and leaning forward in a bowing motion. The transparent punch was followed by a swinging elbow to the young girl's right jaw, sending her head jerking to the left hard. In the middle of motion and disorientation a number of air popping impacts drove her back, ragdolling her across the street.
Through a quick scan of the minds around her, she realized that her senses were clouded. Another knee kick to her chin and a series of palm thrusts into her chest came to the startling conclusion she was under an illusion. Breaking the illusion as if it was glass, the vision returned to a sense of normalcy, with the transparent attacker that was Maria returning to view. Crossing her arms, she blocked the punch and stopped dead in the air.
Grinning playfully with not a mark on her, she quipped out, "Nice try, but those attacks had no effect on me-"
"To your left."
Blinking with apprehension at the sudden surface thought she heard from Yui, she resisted the urge to look in that direction. Staring over Maria's shoulder and then scanning around herself, it was during this tilt of her head that she felt it. A scarlet aura of Burst Magic covering the top of Yui's bare foot crashed into the side of her temple, sending her crashing into the face of a nearby carpenter shop, causing the glass and doorway to crash with a blast of smoke and rubble.
"Scarlet Lotus Kick, bitch," Yui called out in a sultry tone as she stood in her posture of perpindicular erection of one leg towards the area she sent Mina landing. Putting her foot down, she put her hands on her hips as Maria was panting for breath. Turning to her left she saw the Vein Magic disappear, making the sweating girl relax a bit but still looking a bit winded. "You okay?"
"Yeah. Vein Magic just happens to take a toll if I keep it active for too long. At the most, I can keep it running for five minutes till I drop with exhaustion," Maria admitted out loud, looking down at her trembling hands that were marred with bruises around the knuckles. Gripping tightly, ignoring the raw pain, she looked up to see the debris rise up and begin to hang in space. Mina, floating a few inches from the ground with her arms placed behind her back casually, pouted her lips with a half-lidded stare of aggravated silent annoyance. "I think she's a Psychic Mage, given what we've seen."
"I agree," The older Mage nodded with a level of caution raised as she saw Mina stare at them with a cold, disconnected look in her what was originally lively eyes. "She read our minds as if it was flipping pages through a book. It was how I was able to throw her off when I snuck up on her flank. Breaking through my Mirage Eye's spell was also something only someone gifted in Illusions or Psychic based abilities could pull off so quickly. I think we're fighting one of the tougher ones here."
"What are you talking about?" Mina asked, now with a too-innocent smile. Bending forward her hands were held behind her wing-adorned waist, eyes fluttering as if she was admiring a pair of delicate toys. "I'm just a little girl. What's so threatening about little ol' me?"
As she posed this question, all of the risen pieces of lumber, nails and glass were sent at incredible speeds. It took all of Maria's focus to form an X with her arms with forefingers outstretched before swiveling around in a timely circle that ended with her tapping the ground in a crouching bowed stance. This created a majestically shimmering wall of rainbow colored shields, all having the visible consistency of painted glass that created a setting Sun with a rainbow crossing it.
Despite the shield -Majesty Window- impressive in scope, was hammered with an array of projectiles near sound defying velocity. Like a bombardment of continuous thunder that cracked of lightning, her shield slowly began to wither and web in cracks. The mere sight of such intense continuous power caused both Mages to look on with a wave of uncertainty. Could they even evade such a storm of attacks without being hit?
It was the hardest thing in the world for Morgan to stand there, doing nothing but gathering darkness, the lifeblood of her magic, as fast as she could. Watching Maria and Yui fight to not shield her and to defeat their enemy, she wanted nothing but to be able to help them like they were helping her by stalling for time.
Breathing slowly and deeply, she forced the darkness around her to gather together, allowing her to reach out and grasp it. She quickly bit into the shadow, feeding on the magical energy it possessed, replenishing her own reserves. Not to the extent that the shadows had before, but more than enough to revitalize her, enough that she could rejoin the fight.
Newly empowered, she sped around her sister’s barrier, flickering and fading in and out like a ghost, pushing her body to the limit, leaving ghastly after-images in her wake. In the blink of an eye, she appeared next to Mina and threw a punch shrouded in her magic, a wing-like effigy trailing not far behind her fist. “Darkness Dragon’s Wingbeat!” All she hoped was that distracting the caster of the debris hailstorm would end the spell.
"Protect Sister! Attack! Protect! Attack! Protect! Attac-KILL!!!"
It was something Mina thought was completely unexpected. All she heard was a jumble of thoughts that came out at bullet pace. By the time she heard a shriek in the air and her attention averted from her hailstorm of building debris aimed at the opposing shield, on the verge of snapping apart, she felt it before she saw it. A wing-attached fist whose hand took on the appearance of a reptilian set of talons woven in Darkness Magic. Crashing against her left jaw, he neck snapped painfully the other direction, the force was enough to shatter the debris around in an air popping shockwave while also stopping the attack on the other two mages outright.
Despite the shield being dispelled by Morgan's attack, Maria was smiling ear to ear at the sight of Morgan back on her feet and already on the offensive. "Morgan!"
"Not that I was thinking we were doomed, or anything, but thanks for showing up at the last second!" Yui sarcastically drolled out with a laugh, forcing back any signs of fear she may have been feeling.
But their enemy was far from knocked out.
"That...hurt," Mina lowly murmured out, feeling a dribble of blood escape out of her cut lip and cheek. Pushing herself off the ground her body levitated till it was upright, her head hanging down with bangs obscuring her face. Then, with a loud shriek that carried a howling wind that rocked the city block, filled with static Ethernano, she spoke with indignation, "THAT REALLY HURT!!!"
"Whoa!" Maria gaped out, her arms held up protectively over her face, deflecting the haphazard trash, dirt or rubble in their direction of the crossing road. The feeling of enormity could be felt by this girl's Magic Power, angrily thrashing around the environment. By the time the power had finished venting, she looked over with widened eyes at Yui and Morgan. "Did...did you feel that?"
"I tasted that!" Yui remarked, taking an apprehensive step back. "I...I think we're fighting someone close to my master's level. We're in over our heads."
"Don't think that!" Maria shouted, authoritatively taking a few steps forward before priming her own Magical Power. A field of magical energy swam around her, swirling out from her tattered uniform as her twintails fluttered within the crimson hued light. Pointing her hand towards the airborne Mina, she urged on. "We have to try! If we can't beat her, we can't get back to safety like Diana wanted. We can't fail, not now!"
"There is no escape."
The voice of the girl sounded solemn and withdrawn, causing two of the three girls to widen their eyes at the voice in their heads. At hearing that they felt as much could see the rumbling of a building nearly fifty meters away. Ripping off its foundation, what looked like an apartment complex was lifted up high in the sky in an arching fashion. As it swung over Mina's head towards the street area, the building took on an electric field of its own, charging with force much greater than it normally would have.
"Just give in. Dying without resistance is so much better!"
"Never!" Maria lifted her arm defiantly at the sky falling structure, her arm glowing brightly of Vein Magic. Steadying it with her opposing limb's hand, a massive sphere of lime hue easily the size of her own body formed. Crackling with near instability, it rotated and spun around before her fingertips. With a shout, she encouraged her friend and sister. "Together! Bullet Magic, Fulmine Shot!"
At the same time, Yui steeled herself, taking a brief look at Morgan before her body became fully encased in her Burst Aura. Kicking off the ground with floor shattering velocity, she launched upward with a knee under chin tucked spin. Unfolding at the last second as what she assumed Morgan's shot and Morgan's own attack. The combined three's attack would break through the field of Mina's transparent Magic and shatter the infrastructure of the thrown building, smashing it into a fiery explosion of spraying debris.
Turning to look where she thought the Dragon Slayer would be, she stretched her hand out as she was still in the air, "Take my hand and let's kick that kid's ass!"
Feeling her draconic magic-enhanced fist slam into her target, Morgan snarled. The bestial instincts consumed her thoughts, devouring even her ability to reason, to think outside her desires, wants and needs. Rage, love and fear overwrote her sanity, and for a brief moment, she didn’t care in the slightest. No matter how her life changed, the impulse to destroy was the one constant, and to give into that impulse was liberating. The only real difference was that for the first time, her impulsiveness wasn’t in self-preservation but the protection of a precious person.
Hearing Maria call out to her, she snapped back to reality, regaining full awareness of her actions. Her raging instincts receded as her mind was able to process what she had done. In the span of a moment The swirling aura around her fist vanished, only a spiraling wisp of black smoke still remained. Walking back to the others, she smiled, glad that they were safe and her effort wasn’t in vain.
When Mina got back up, Morgan did a double take. Somebody taking a full on, unblocked Wingbeat without more than a scratch was not something she ever expected to see. Even mages as powerful as her father had to at least disperse the force of the attack before it hit.
Feeling Mina’s output of magic power caused the Dragon Slayer to grimace. Feeling such a crushing force from someone so young was beyond her. But the worst was watching a building hurdle at her and the others. It made her blood run cold, the overwhelming madness of such a thing. And yet, knowing that she wasn’t alone, it didn’t really bother her like it should have.
“Darkness Dragon’s Roar!” Morgan yelled, breathing out a wave of darkness that merged with Maria’s spell, woven together with ease. She stopped exhaling the energy after a moment, not wanting to burn through her only-recently restored reserves. As the building was obliterated in the blast, she sped over to Yui, grabbing onto the older mage’s hand. “Let’s finish this!”
Yui had to time it just right. Being amidst the use of Burst Magic kept her briefly afloat in the air from the upward leap she made seconds ago. But her belief of how strong Mina was made when she saw her take a Darkness Dragon Slayer technique straight on and was hurt. No, she needed to do it, and only her hyper-awareness through quick reflexes her Burst Aura gave her could outthink faster than Mina's telepathy. It was their best shot to stop this girl from killing them all.
Grasping Morgan's hand as she vocalized their need to end it, she nodded with understanding. Turning her body around, she laced all of her Burst Aura to cover her arm, enabling her to throw her at sound defying speed. Not only that, but the last vestiges of the magic from her Burst Aura would overlap the Dragon Slayer, giving her a crimson mantle that'd magnify her body's capabilities. She knew that out of anyone she's met near her age, she was the most physically resilient to take the incredible stress of power that comes with Burst Magic, even for a short time.
"DO IT, MORGAN!!!" Yui shouted as her body fell, her upper body facing the ground. But she knew before she'd reach that far, Morgan would have already done the attack. Still, the cyan colored web of Maria's barrier -Safety Net- would recoil her drop and bounce her a few times before stabilizing her weathered frame. By that time, she'd have seen what kind of damage Morgan's attack inflicted.
And in the moment Morgan was thrown, Mina realized through the flurry of figurative pages jumbling through the Burst Mage's mind what she inteded only afterwards. Without words but a cross-armed gesture, an invisible series of invisible barriers made out of her Psychic Magic was formed. The walls were tough as tensile steel but pliant enough to stretch to further hold back a rapidly speeding force. At a second's notice and her own capability to move faster than the eye can see, this was her best defense that she could project from her body; aside from Mental Shell she had erected over body, the thing that had absorbed most of the damage Morgan's spell.
Morgan felt a sudden, overwhelming burst of power as she was thrown. The overload of physical might pushed her body beyond the limits she imagined. Around her, the aura shifted, forming the silhouette of a great beast, a mighty dragon. To any who knew their history, the shape took on a terrifying visage; that of an ancient terror, the Ragnarok Beast, Jadow. A sinister grin could be vaguely made out amongst the features of shimmering crimson shell. The aura glowed brightly, shrouding Morgan in it’s glow before focusing more on her right hand, the fingers splayed like claws.
"I won't let her...I won't let the one who hurt my family get away! Attack! Attack! Attack!" the thoughts echoed around her mind, her vow and her instincts crossing paths once again inside her head, drowning out her ability to reason or to even thing of anything but the bloodlust that mounted rapidly within her.
“Dragon Slayer’s Secret Art: Nergal’s Final Requiem!” Morgan shouted, swinging with all her might, tendrils of scarlet-trimmed darkness following close behind. Her enhanced swipe tore the barriers they encountered like a hot knife through butter, and her blinding speed allowed her to press her advantage. Once she closed in, she again sliced the air with her magically endowed hand, this time the ribbons of energy lashed out without mercy, following her hand’s motion, as if they were blades tethered to her direction.
Flying past Mina, she skid to a halt as her speed finally ran out, dirt tearing in her wake, leaving two trails of split earth behind her. Her right hand, still formed into a claw, dimly glowed as black and red vapor, the last bit of energy the spell possessed, rose and faded from the skin. Clutching her wrist with her left hand to steady her limb’s shakes, Morgan winced. Some of the skin of her hand was torn off, little drops of blood leaking through, the backlash to overloading her spell like she had. Pain, like a dull burning sensation, spread through her hand, a small price to pay if her spell’s deadly barrage succeeded where her other assault failed.
It all happened in mere seconds but time slowed to the perception to the likes of Mina Sarrk.
At first the barriers seemed to warp and slow her target, her body backpedaling instinctively to gain distance. The visage was nightmarish but she had to concentrate to block it out. The crimson outlined shape of a shadowy Dragon with a menacing glare and a mouthful of teeth bared here way, shrouding over the girl that propelled towards her. But then, her right arm stretched forward, and her body shot forth like lightning. Eyes dilated and her mouth opened wide, soon spewing blood as the streak of black and crimson tore past her, leaving the impression of thunder in its wake that shook the foundations of building tops, breaking windows off their panes to rain glass below.
Unable to even look at her side, her left arm now just a shower of blood along with the gore spewing from a large chunk of her body torn from her hip all the way up her side, revealing a still beating heart with a ripped open lung among a host of other organs. Her form dropped like a stone, crashing into the ground with a wet thud, a great deal two dozen meters from the still standing girls and the distant Dragon Slayer. She bled out, still and twitching, seeming unable to muster up a response to what happened her.
"She did it," Maria gasped out, at first tasting those words, awaiting someone to tell her she was wrong. But then, when there was no sign of the girl getting up -even as disturbing seeing the mangled body of a young girl was- the hope sprung up like a fountain. With moistened eyes she cried out with an upward leap of joy. "SHE DID IT! MORGAN DID IT!"
"Damn, she really did," Yui swore lowly, a wry grin working up to her face. She was a bit overwhelmed just how effective the plan went. It was on the spur of the moment and she wondered if she made the right choice. But given the breathtaking display of Morgan molding Burst Magic with her own Darkness Slaying Magic perfectly made her aware just how much of a payoff it was. Thinking about that caused her a little concern, turning her face to look at Maria before tilting in her sister's direction. "We should check up on her. She could be in a lot of pain from combining Burst Magic with her own."
"Ah! I didn't even think about that!" She gasped with cupped hands covering her mouth. Turning to look in her sister's direction, she grasped on Yui's shoulder, taking her with her in a single leap of spacial momentum. Despite the slight bout of nausea for the inexperienced martial artist, Maria was able to be by Morgan's side in an instant. Dropping down to her knees she gasped at the sight of the wound on Morgan's hand. Gingerly placing her hands around it, she delicately wrapped a barrier -Light Wrap- made up of glowing white Ethernano that had small restorative properties. Looking up at her she smiled encouragingly at her. "Don't worry, your hand should be good as new before you know it."
Morgan turned to where Mina slammed into the ground, witnessing her handiwork The bloody sight made her sick, but the horrific odor only made it worse. The reeking stench of gore hung in the air, a sick underscore to the smoke in the air. It took every ounce of her willpower to not retch from the stink of blood, a smell that she knew was partially emanating from the scarlet splotches along her left side.
When Maria grabbed her hand without warning, she groaned, bitting back a terrible scream that threatened to leave her throat. The burning pain subsided as the spell that her sister cast undid the recoil damage her own magic, greatly empowered by Yui’s residual Burst Magic, had wrought. After a quarter-minute, she flexed her newly healed hand, admiring how quick the process had been. "The three of us make a good team." she said, smiling at her two partners as the realization of their acomplishment sank in.
"Heh, I guess we do," Yui replied with a humored tone, still at a loss for how well the two held up despite never being in the field before. She had to guess the training they took under their father helped them prepare for this kind of scenario. Thinking on what possibly could have steeled them for fighting Dark Mages in a life or death situation, it wasn't until they heard a fierce hacking that her blood ran cold.
"No...way," Maria turned around, looking around over her shoulder to see Mina, hacking up blood and very much conscious. It wasn't simply just the sight of her still clinging to life, but the fact her Magic supply hadn't fallen so severely. Based on the abnormal shifts of light and air pressure, she could tell something else was afoot.
"D-Damn...Dammit!" Mina growled out as ichor oozed between her teeth onto the ground. Sweat beaded all across her body, her remaining arm perching herself up while her knees shook violently at holding her wounded frame up. Looking over at her injuries, a look of sheer disbelief wasn't seen by those far away looking at her backside. Instead, they'd see electrical discharges around her pulsating and squelching wounds begin to billow out and generate threads of muscles, tissue, bones, ligaments, organs and blood vessels along with various fluids to make it functional.
"She's regenerating?! How?!" Yui exclaimed, finding herself at a loss for the sight of a bare muscle bound frame where the injury had been sustained.
Then, blood that spattered on the ground came after flesh after layer of dermal covering overlapped it. What was once a stump became a functional arm, gripping and cracking audibly in a sickening display of motor control. Ethernano synapsed around her as Mina began to right herself upward, her exposed skin slowly covered by extensive duplication of her own apparel by memory. With blood still running down her mouth, she staggered forward, a look of sheer rage crossing her eyes.
"You've...done it...now!" She sneered, her body emitting crackling surges of Magic Power that produced a level she shouldn't have been capable in her condition. Raising her hands in front of her, Psychic Energy swirled and formed a sphere that contorted, thrumming with a loud audible force. When it reached the size of a wrecking ball, she raised it to bear on the group, she about shrieked with delight as her palms seem to cup it from behind by a distance of a few centimeters. "I'll erase you from existence! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!"
Yui tensed, feeling like she'd have to use Burst Magic again to just redirect the attack or move the girls out of the way. Even when she saw Maria bend protectively over Morgan, her own hands shook as they struggled to form a sign for a barrier. By the time she finally formed one, it was a honeycomb in shape with transparent emerald in design. Based on the rattling the environment was having including their shield, the elder girl doubted they could deflect it entirely.
With a forceful ignition of Burst Magic that made her flinch with dull aches, she pushed herself between the two girls with her arms outspread.
"W-What are you doing, Yui?! Get out of the way! I can-"
"This barrier can't protect us entirely. You need an additional buffer if you two are going to make it out alive," Yui replied dully, as if she was fully aware of the consequences but didn't have the care to feel for them. Turning her head around, she smiled at the two as sweat beaded off her scalp. "Sorry, I didn't want to be a martyr today but we don't have many options. I wish we had more time, but I guess I was taught too well to simply try to run away from a situation like this."
"P-Please! Don't do this!" Maria begged, her eyes already overflowing with tears as she desparately concentrated on this barrier she hoped that can protect them all.
"You can't keep crying and being strong, Maria. Be the big sister Morgan needs you to be," Yui turned back, watching Mina discharge it with a loud crack, causing her own eyes to dilate with alarm. "Protect her with your life!"
Everything turned into a whirl of motion. A loud thunder was masked by the shrieking projectile barreling towards them, masking the approach of a streak of flames. Crashing down with enough force to shatter the barrier and send a searing gust to slam against Yui's Burst Aura covered body to the point of falling to her haunches defused of Magic, leaving a flaming cloaked entity to stand in front of the trio of girls. The sight left her breathless and unable to move at what she was seeing, let alone the amount of magic she felt coming from what seemed like a familiar stranger.
Simultaneously, the Psychic Energy ball was caught barehanded by the figure, causing a pressure wave to be emitted in the opposing direction. To Mina's surprise the Ethernano seemed to whisk out of the spell, soon fizzling out of integrity and evaporated into steam. Crackling light danced around his hand until it closed into an oustretched fist, tightened and ready to counterattack.
But then, the figure spoke.
"I'm sorry," Victor whispered, his breath spewing out sparks and smoke. His body continued to be alight of animated flames, to the point even his facial features and hair was now one with the burning tongues. Pouring out from the ruby tipped Sceptre in his right hand while his left was kept in front of him, it lowered to his side while he kept himself between Mina and the other girls. "I had no idea what kind of dangerous people you'd encounter until now. You've done well to remain intact. Just stand down while I take care of things from here."
Arrival of Hope
Even escape seemed impossible. She knew that in their current states, none of the trio could get the others to safety before the mass of psychic magic wiped them out, reducing them to ash. Before she could even blink, she saw Maria’s barrier raise, but it did little to rid her of the fears that danced in her head. If that insane mage could revive from even an enhanced Secret Art, the Dragon Slayer shuddered to imagine what her offensive capabilities were.
When Yui offered her life to help block the spell, Morgan wanted to try to talk her out of it, but she saw the older mage’s resolve and realized it would do no good. And then Mina launched the attack, and almost immediately the sphere burst into a brilliant white light. Much to her amazement, when the blinding light faded, Yui was totally unharmed, and a man enrobed in fire stood between the three and their revived enemy. It only took a few seconds for her to realize who their flame-shrouded savior was. There was only one man powerful enough, and when the man spoke, her suspicions were confirmed.
“Father!” she called out, overjoyed. Knowing that Victor was there to save them, she breathed a sigh of relief. If there was a way to put an end to the nigh-immortal Mina, she believed that her adoptive father would find it.
It was the most joyful thing for Maria. She had no words to express how grateful she was for her father arriving at this moment. She felt like she almost condemned her new friend to death, something she felt like it'd burden her with that guilt forever. But now she was here, she felt the safest by being just behind him.
"He's...engulfed in flames?" Yui mumbled out dumbfoundedly, her eyes still soaking in the rich visual splendor of Victor's current physical disposition. But as she analyzed it, she could tell even his hair follicles were soaked in a rich tongue of fire. Stargazed she watched him take a few steps forward, his cloak swaying with embers fluttering in the air beside of him as a wind gust carried through the street.
"So, you're their daddy dearest, huh?" Mina asked in a belabored tone, finally analyzing the situation fully. Standing up she looked as if she recovered from the winding her enemies gave her. Despite the drops of sweat that came off her skin, she looked unaffected by her own body's current condition. If anything it caused a simple smile to spread creepily across her face. "I hope you take it easy on little ol' me. I'm just a kid, after all."
"Oh I'm sure that's all you are, Mina Sarrk the Psykicker," Victor replied with a knowing grin, causing the girl apart to briefly gape in astonishment before reasserting with a dull stare at him. Noticing that the act was up she seemed more stoic and dead expressions' wise. It was something that made the Guild Master consider his avenues of action carefully. Raising his Sceptre up in a presenting manner, he warned in a stern yet quiet voice. "Give up, Dark Wizard. That is my only offer of mercy I shall grant you."
"Heh!" Mina cracked out in a bemusing tone, her arms waving out incredulously. "Like I'd surrender to you. You may have nullified my Pyscho Bomb, but I'll tear you apart without it. Best part? You won't even see it coming!"
True to her word, an invisible wave barely brushing the air sent dozens of protuberances from her body, acting like elongated ghostly arms aiming to grasp Victor's person. But as soon as they almost brushed upon his person, he simply stepped away out of their path, his eyes seeming to lock onto their transparent images. Twisting his Sceptre around he activated Flamma Gladii, a burning sword with a solid shape of Ethernano holding it together from the tip of his stave. Cutting through the air that sent searing waves of haze and embers, he dismembered the projected limbs in a lightning flash of movement. As soon as he finished, a series of bubbling hisses were made as the clumps of dissolving Ethernano that was Mina's Psychic Apparatuses plopped onto the ground with a wet almost viscous sound.
"W-What?" Mina stuttered out, feeling a lapse of pain as the tethers of magic that was cut apart raced back to her head. It gave a pounding sensation in her skull but she forced it away with blinks of the eye and shakes of the cranium. When she refocused her gaze, she felt a sudden bludgeoning force crash into her abdomen followed by her whole body rising up a foot in the air.To her eyes, she was still seeing Victor over a considerable distance of two dozen meters away, but that slowly faded away to show the real Victor was standing right in front of her. A numbing sensation spread across her body from the blunt edged stave, seeming to cause her to feel weaker by the second. With her eyes rolling to the back of her head she slumped over Victor's Sceptre, followed by falling to the ground inert and unmoving.
"What just happened?" Maria asked with her eyes blinking, unable to have processed everything other than some incredible fiery movement by her father. By the time it was over, Victor's aura of flames was dispersed and he was back to wearing his Guild Master cloak of burgundy over his crimson colored suit.
"One blow and she's down. Incredible," Yui gaped, swallowing her parched throat from the heat that previously permeated the air. "Your dad is incredible, Maria. Morgan."
Morgan felt far safer at that moment than she ever felt. Now that Victor was there to protect her and her team, the apprehension she felt faded, replaced by a sick curiousness. She wondered what power her father had to end even a nearly-unkillable enemy. Before she could even realize what happened, the fight was over. All she saw was a flaming blade that danced in the air, and then Victor knock out the revived mage with a single blow in a fraction of a second. It was beyond surreal to see.
“Your guess is as good as mine Maria. I couldn’t even follow his moves.” she said softly, still in awe herself. “I can’t believe how fast that was. He really is incredible.”
As the girls all took in what they saw, Victor examined the girl's vitals to determine her condition. Satisfied she wasn't in mortal danger, he began inscribing what looked like crimson letters over her back. Once they reached to the lower half of her spine they disappeared, seeming to evaporate into invisibility. Standing up, he hauled her over his shoulder and turned towards the three girls with a smile.
"We should head back to the docks. I'm sure Diana would want to know you're all safe after the racket you produced over the Ring's network," He mentioned with a wink, causing Yui to turn with a query in her eyes while Maria just gestured to the ring on her and her sister's hands. "If it wasn't for Nest, we probably wouldn't have found you so quickly. Please make sure to thank her when you can."
"Thank you, Nest," Maria spoke to the ring, almost as if it was an intercom to the intelligence itself.
"You're welcome. I am happy to see your existence is still continuous at the moment."
Turning on his heels, Victor made sure to guide the girls back to the now noticable explosive shockwaves and discharges of light they could see in the distance. Based on his senses and intuition, he knew that Diana hadn't played all of her cards yet, which relieved him. The less the Dark Wizards here knew of their secrets, the better. Their threat was already a danger without them being aware of what they are capable of. He just hoped that the leader wouldn't show up until later, for not just his sake but for the girls'.
Morgan watched as Victor inscribed strange letters from a language she couldn’t read across Mina’s back. She was confused to see her father carrying the unconcious form of their fallen enemy over his shoulder. It was just like she had come to expect from him, kindness to even the most cruel people. Even still, as she followed Victor, she made sure to glance at the unmoving psychic mage every few seconds, looking for any sign of motion. She prepared to act the moment anything out of the ordinary occurred.
Looking into the distance, she saw a number of explosions. She could only imagine the kind of battle Diana was fighting alone, against three opponents who very well could be as powerful as Mina, or maybe even stronger. Even knowing that Diana was vastly more powerful than the trio of first timers did nothing to rid her of a sense of fear. She hoped that they were the ones who got the most dangerous of the group of Dark Mages, that the other three weren’t even remotely as deadly.
Diana felt like she made the right call. Despite the fact she was now pitting herself against some potentially dangerous enemies on her own, she knew their safety come first. That was her top priority ever since Victor thought they should tag along on this hazardous mission. What she didn't like was the sight of the Psychic Mage soaring after them.
"Why you-!" Diana turned from Donovan, slashing the air with enough power to produce a searing arrow to give chase. What she didn't count on was the active support of the stave wielding Mage, Faer Pleigh; having shot the arrow of Gold Flame Magic her sword produced with a beam from his own magic tool. In the time that she looked at his unmoved stoic expression turn a shade darker at her attempt to shoot his comrade in the back, Donovan was able to penetrate her guard.
"HA!" He barked out with a gleeful yell, his roundhouse kicking foot planting into her breastplate, producing an Acceleration around the point of impact. Like that her body was propelled across the expanse of the dock grounds, her body radiating an unstable aura of vibrant Ethernano. By the time she was stopped, her back had struck a space which Rowlie Bann leaned against, as if suspended in midair; till her armor's backside was introduced to a suspended mirror, Direct Reflect, and ricocheted her back across the ground till she ground to a skidding halt. Her Arc armor was cracked in several places, chunks of it having flown all across the area where the mirror had caught her propelling flight.
"Oooh, that's gotta hurt," The Sword Mage remarked sardonically with a chuckle, tapping her right shoulder with the back of her sword. "Should'a watched where I put my Mirrors. People might accidentally have that force reflected right onto them, giving them a nasty case of reverse velocity."
"Yeah, that armor looks toast. What a shame, it really brought out the blues of your eyes," Donovan joked, dragging his bar against the ground, idly, stepping forward slowly towards the downed Virago Spirit. As he approached, he noticed how Faer's gaze was turned away from their current fight. Annoyed, he snapped his fingers, bringing a slight turn of the hooded man's head but not entirely. "Hey, what gives? Aren't ya going to help out or even watch? I'm sure Mina's fine."
"There was something...off about one of the young one's Magic. Something almost akin to being ancient and...familiar," Faer gripped his staff with a foreboding glare, as if he felt this Magic before.
"What? Which kid?" Rowlie asked, now genuinely interested and temporarily distracted from the downed Diana still lying still on the ground.
His eyes pensively furrowed, even as the sound of destruction -muffled as it may have been- became more audible. The one that stood out from them wasn't the taller girl or the crimson uniformed one. It was the girl who bore a hooded cloak over a simple pair of trappings underneath. One with bright blue eyes, stark pale skin and a rich crown of deep night hair. She was a young girl he swore he had met in the past, someone that was a figure from his dark past back when he was full of optimism and blind naive adventerous spirit.
That gaze was kept focused simply into empty space, even while the sound of a structure wrenching off its foundation and hurled up to arch over to gravity fall back to the earth. Rowlie and Donovan looked over in wonder, left at a loss of words for what came next. A combination of lights and distant movement eradicated the building, causing a sound like distant thunder. Then, a terrific roar of power and a seismic shake that rattled the foundation of the city all the way up to the docks, sending a bristling wind beat against a wide-eyed Faer. Looking around, he caught the sight of a silhouette, crimson in outline but deep in black, surrounding undoubtedly the girl he was trying to remember.
The Form of Jadow the Ragnarok Beast!
"It's her!" He gasped out as the wind began to die down, his face painting an expression of alarm and alertness when he turned to look at the other two. "Quick! Eliminate this woman so we may deal with the others!"
"Whoa, calm down," Donovan raised his arms up, still holding his iron bar while a skeptical look crossed his eyes as he took stock of the rare look of apprehension on a usually calm and collected man. "What's with the rush? They can't leave the city faster than I can track them."
"Yeah, we can take care of three little brats, just like Mina coul-"
"She's not an ordinary girl," Faer spat out, his eyes now contorting to the look of something akin to pure hatred, giving both fellow Dark Mages the reaction someone would get chills down their spines. "She's a servant of the Devil, someone who seeks no salvation. She must be eliminated before she attempts to take our lives and the rest of the gang's! Do you understand?!"
Their conversation was broken when Diana seemed to speak in a voice just barely noticable. A wave of magnificent light followed by the spacial summoning magic convening, her body shrouding in a new outline while all were temporarily blinded by her obscuring rays. In that instant, the sound of an engine revving followed by a sonic impression being unleashed from ultra-momentum, Donovan found himself barely able to see an outstretched gloved hand, grappling his face.
"Black Rider Armor!" Diana declared as she took the Accelerator Mage off his feet, knocking him off balance and completely breaking his concentration necessary for his magic. What only Faer and Rowlie could see briefly took them off guard; Diana was in a clad midnight dress suit, her hair now fixated into a ponytail that whipped behind her just as a sleek silver motorcycle streaked through the air and carved a burning trench against the soil. Propelled at a momentum that only the Sword Mage could attempt to follow, Diana finished turning her bike on its rear wheel, whipping the man around to crash back first into a crane adjacent to the warehouses. His instinctive Adjustment of Velocity saved him the majority of damage but was still left indented into the warped metal, leaving the Virago Spirit to thrum towards the dark skinned woman with a dangerous intent.
"Still got some fight left in ya," Rowlie thought aloud, her High Speed Magic enabling her to move in a way that allowed her to side-leap away from the racing vehicle. Drawing her weapon effectively to bear, she gave chase till she was right next to the relatively unarmored woman. Veering through the docks in and around the spaces of the warehouses, she swung her sword around to clash with an instantly Requipped Water-Jetting Katana, seeming to match her strikes while also negating an ability she didn't voice aloud. The concentration she had to put into vaulting over the motor vehicile as Diana attempted to drive her bodily into one of the structures was taxing, but didn't keep her from weaving signs to form air suspended mirrors as defensive countermeasures.
But when the watery blade touched them, they seemed to crack and shatter easier than they ever been before. Not realizing her weakness as a gout of cutting moisture cut her shoulder and the side of her left cheek, Rowlie swung a powerful fissure of Ethernano from her blade, causing an immense explosion to tear apart some dock machinery and equipment placed near the relatively empty docking spots. Explosions of moisture and light followed as she and Diana exchanged blows, soon crossing back around to a now waiting Faer.
"Men," He spoke lowly, waving his arm around to the side in a declarative fashion. "Consider yourselves ejected from the Black Brier Gang."
Speaking this, a collective of merely five of the bound Dark Mages had their tattoos ripped from their skin, draining the very blood of which that it bound with the tissue. Leaving restrained husks behind, the blood infused ink created what looked like a wall of text, stemming from the ground to the air in a wide perimeter line. Glowing an eerie violet, the Magic was cast just as Diana and Rowlie clashed once more, their ken'atsu creating a vibrant shockwave of vapor and light.
When the two took notice, it came late as Diana and her vehicle slammed violently into the barrier of now-appearing text while Rowlie sped past before skidding to a halt.
"My Silver Comet...didn't break through it?" Diana thought as her body painfully bounced a few times backwards before rising back up with some deliberation. Blood oozed from her bruised forehead, breath came out labored as she clutched her chest, feeling as if a number of ribs were bruised at least, broken at worst. Blood oozed from her lip and the top of her head, bearing witness to the damage she's taken in fighting these three Dark Mages. "Between the Accelerator Mage, this Mirror Mage, and now this man...I think I'm starting to see I'll need to use excessive force..."
"You're taking too long, Rowlie," Faer admonished coldly, raising his stave, causing the gathered viscous liquid to siphon up to the top of his walking stick. Once all of the letters were unwritten and turned back into their versatile form, he looked over his shoulder harshly at her, a rare sight of his irritation beind displayed. "If you'd kindly retrieve Donovan and wake him up, I'd appreciate that. I'll take care of this woman myself."
"But I can take care of her!" Rowlie insisted, her face contorting into a grimace of anger.
"Do Not Make Me Repeat Myself, Rowlie Bann!" Faer snarled out, his body suddenly discharging what looked like a shadowy aura akin to the shape of a Demon. Hollow eyes stared at her while a clawed hand seemed to seep up from the ground and clutch around the Dark Wizard. The light around him seemed to vanish, only to be replaced by an inky blackness as it seeped into the earth, blackening it, tarnishing everything around him even up to the edges of Rowlie's shoes and staining part of her skin to her apparel. For the first time she trembled in the wake of such powerful Magic, his Ethernano threatening to enter her pores and suffocate her. "Get Donovan Back In Action And Report Back To Me. Understand?!"
Coughing out the inky vapor seeping into the air, Rowlie backed away unsteadily. Not wanting to incur any further anger out of the normally quiet man, she turned tail and ran back to Donovan. Reaching his side she began to ease him out as he tried to fake unconsciousness, something she comically slapped his face for. While he recouperated from his winding he received from Diana, the Virago Spirit herself looked on with genuine apprehension at the enemy she was now facing.
"He's in a completely different league than the other three. Based on the ejection of his Magic Pressure, I can only assume he's on par with me in terms of supply of Ethernano," Diana analyzed her enemy, her eyes furrowing while she did her best to steel herself. Her enemy seemed to be oozing something she could smell or taste as ink, making it obvious the method of which he inscribed for Letter Magic. "An Ink Mage. They're not so common and must hail from lands far east in Ishgar. Where did this boy come from to produce such a vehement power with such results?"
But something broke the tension.
A familiar presence that she herself could feel without the production of a high quality controlled field of Ethernano. Turning her face around she had to restrain herself from smiling when she saw him. With the body of the Psychic Mage slumped unconscious over one cloak covered shoulder, the other held his Sceptre of Subjugation in hand. Behind him trailed all three girls, who looked slightly tattered or bruised, but were all unharmed much to her relief. The fact they weren't hiding in an Airship bothered her but there was little to complain in her position.
"Diana," Victor spoke out in a familiar, welcoming tone that didn't befit their situation. "Glad to see you're still as fit as ever. Not sure if the blood suits your complexion though. Thinking about doing something about that?"
"M-Master!" Diana flushed with indignant frustration mingled with embarassment, waving her Water Sword at him impatiently. "This isn't the time or place! Why did you bring the children back here and why are you here without the others?"
"Oh, that," Victor smirked, tapping his stave's pommel against the ground as he finished approaching her with the trio of young mages. "I was impatient to reach my daughters and young Yui in time so I jumped from the Airship."
"YOU WHAT?!" Diana shrieked, finding her eyes about to bulge out of their sockets.
"Calm yourself, what example are you setting the girls?" Victor chided as he asked with a wave to the girls behind him.
"YOU'RE ONE TO TALK ABOUT EXAMPLES, VICT-MASTER!" She harshly rebuked back, correcting herself as she almost called him by first name in a way too formally for someone of her position and rank.
"Wow," Maria piped up, trying to break the tension as she looked around the burning trenches and scattered pieces of metal cast about. Craters and steam seemed to rise up from all over the dock they had left only minutes ago. Now it looked like an all-out battlefield, one that was populated by the wary Donovan and Rowlie from the shadow of a warehouse while the ominously shade fuming Faer stood not too far away. "What did we miss?"
"Alot, apparently," Yui sighed as she observed the wounds that Diana seemed to take in stride. She never saw the Virago Spirit fight herself, but from what her mentor spoke of, she was quite the skilled fighter. To see her take some damage without the enemies completely bested was something she found almost hard to believe.
"Morgan Deschain," Faer's voice finally broke the ice of nicety that was established by Victor's presence. When the Guild Master himself turned slightly to look at him with a cool sidways stare, Diana seemed to tense up while Yui and Maria blinked oddly before looking at Morgan herself. The stave toting Dark Wizard's demonic aura seemed to morph into a simple fuming mist that clouded over his head, but still gave his white-coated person a menace that betrayed his stony expression as he spoke to her from the distance. "It has been six years since I've seen you. I believe you've grown much in the shadow of your father, haven't you; Darkness Dragon Slayer?"
Morgan looked at the torn apart dock as the group approached the area, shocked that in the span of only a few minutes, the area was nothing but a war zone. It unnerved her greatly to see the carnage. And then she saw Diana’s blood-covered frame, which only compounded her fears. Those same fears were alleviated by the playful banter between her father and the Virago Spirit.
Looking around the twisted, scarred area, she saw a man she could have sworn she recognized, like from a distant, long forgotten memory brought to life before her eyes. When the man addressed her, she recoiled, the past memory and the present reality seemed to overlap in her mind, the brave young man who had come to put an end to the dark tyrant Jadow and the man now in front of her. Once the realization that the two were indeed one in the same dawned on her, her composure cracked. “He killed you...You’re supposed to be dead!”
"Dead?" Victor blinked, remembering how Morgan mentioned at one point a brother of hers in the village she lived. But when he looked at her and then at the man, it was clearly not a family reunion. The way he -Roland- was mentioned was that it was possible he was still alive. But this man seemed not to have that kind of attachment to her...and addressed her in a way that was only befitting someone who has nothing but resentment towards her. "Who is this man, Morgan?"
"Ah, are you her new Guardian? How unfortunate for you," Faer intervened with a dead tone, his stave shaking in his grip as his aura seemed to relax, scattering the oily mist across the air. Turning his stare from him to the rest of the girls surrounding him and finally back to Morgan. A huff escaped his lips as he continued. "No, Darkness Dragon Slayer, I did not die. Though I'm sure that's how the Dragon King wished anyone to know of my fate. After the embarassment of a defeat I didn't wish to show my face to anyone I made that oh so hollow promise to. How could I release them, when they were all just play things in the hands of the Ragnarok Beast...and you were his puppet, the avatar of his dark will."
"Hey! Don't talk that way about Morgan!" Maria stepped forward and boldly raised an angry fist at him. "She's a good person, and really brave! Do you know what she's been through? What she's had to suffer?"
"Oh, another corrupted spawn. I take it you've gained a knack for Jadow's hand at twisting the souls of mortals to your whim, Darkness Dragon Slayer," He remarked with a disgusted turn of his head at Maria's direction. When it looked like the girl was about to retaliate, Yui grappled her from behind and held her back, leaving her to angrily flail her arms at him. Shaking his head he glared heatedly at Morgan's face. "Who knew I had to look death in the eyes to understand just what kind of depraved demon you really are, Morgan Deschain. Know it may have been a better fate if you stayed in that hole where Jadow had you dance under his palm than venture here where my eyes could see your filth. I'll purify your soul through death so you might not serve his misdeeds any further, rotten progeny!"
"That's enough," Victor finally spoke up, this time authoritatively clanking his Sceptre down on the ground. Drawing the man's angry stare to him, the head of IMAC and Master of the Phoenix Guild stared back with an almost righteous fury in his own eyes. "I will not have you say such things to Morgan, my daughter, that way. I've seen her in the dark, the environment she was most familiar with and she showed not vile intentions but one filled with tears and despair. The only one who seems to be drowned in the depths of darkness is none other than you!"
Morgan remained silent as all the accusations were hurled at her, bearing the weight of them without so much as a single sentence in her own defense. The words were always the same in the end, so commonly used that they stopped hurting years ago. In fact, it was the opposite for her, they were often the only acknowledgment she received from most people. And yet, to see her new family fall under ridicule just for trying to protect her from the verbal onslaught infuriated her to the breaking point and beyond. Her apprehensiveness rapidly gave into sheer rage. Her lips curled in a snarl as she stepped forward to face her accuser. Faintly, a thin black aura surrounded her body as her wrath took over.
“Shut up! I don’t care what you think of me! I’m fine being hated, despised...I’m so used to it, it doesn’t matter. But I will not tolerate you insulting my family! After all they’ve done for me, I won’t let you get away with it!” she yelled, the anger overflowing. All the fear that she had felt before was silenced in the wake of her fury. “If you think I won’t tear you apart like I did your friend, try me. Keep pushing me. Watch what happens.” she dared. It took every ounce of self-control to not follow through with her threat despite how angry she was.
Faer's glare retracted when both father and adopted daughter turned their glares upon him. Instead he focused his attention on the unconscious girl limply hanging on the older man's shoulder. Without even as much of a thought, the ink laced runes rose up from the ground, turning into a series of letter inscribed black drops. Raising his hand towards the group, he muttered out in a monotone, "I'll be taking back my associate now."
In a muscular twitch, the hail of ink launched itself like a barrage of bullets. Diana stepped forward, swinging her hydro-blade to cast a curtain of moisture to intercept the ink before they could reach a halfway point. Unfortunately for her, she saw that the blots of liquid had miniature letters inscribed on them, crashing through the powerful sword swing and narrowly missing her as they aimed for the girl in Victor's possession. Just as Yui reflexively recoiled and Maria's eyes widened, a flash of night lanced up from the earth, halting the ink and repelling them off what looked like extended arms from the ground.
When the Ink Mage saw that his attempt to recover his companion failed, he saw rivulets of shadow rise off Victor's body, giving him the impression that he had a living shadow wrapped around him. Glaring at the sight of the same Magic that both Jadow and Morgan shared being used, he growled as he reformed his magic into a corkscrew, all enamored with vibrantly glowing runes. Thrusting his stave forward, he shouted out loud the name of his spell, "Ink Magic, Arma Mestiere!"
Spiraling forward with enough force the distill the air in a buffeting gust, the drill sparked vibrantly against a pair of hands that reached off Victor's cloak. It was like a fierce wind was pushing back the girls and made Diana wince, the power of the Ink Magic undeniable as it pressured against the Guild Master's best Darkness Magic defense. Flecks of shadow came off the palms that kept being shreded by the corkscrewing projectile, forcing its way towards the caster of the spell. It was only inches away from the torso of the man that it seemed that it was going to overwhelm him, that was, until an additional shape was emerging from behind.
A white-eyed silhouette that resembled Victor reared a dark limb back, driving a white ebbing tendril surrounded set of knuckles into the top of the drill. Shattering into dust, the pressure of the punch was great enough to create a fissure that split the street down all the way past Faer and to the crane which Donovan was driven into a few minutes ago. The Ink Mage himself had to step out of the way of the shockwave, his face painting an expression of shock that such an adept Magic existed.
"D-Did you see that?!" Rowlie croaked out, still not believing a magic that blew back Faer's spell was existing.
"Yeah, I saw it," Donovan muttered lowly, his eyes adjusting to Faer's back as it rose from a crouch back to a standing posture. "I never once saw Faer pressured like this. I think he even used Letter Magic to reinforce that spell just now."
"Do you think we should help?" She inquired with a tilt of her head.
"I don't know how much help we can be when a guy has shadows coming off his body," He mumbled as he scratched the top of his head. "Shit, I'm almost wondering if we should call the boss. Then again, I doubt that'll make the situation worse, what with the hostages just not too far away..."
"It seems that you really wish to fight, Dark Wizard," Victor's voice broke the conversation between the pair, as they saw Victor lower Mina down to the earth beside him. When he was returned to his full height, the shadows seemed to slowly seep into the earth beneath his soles. A chill would fill the ground as it continued to grow in expanse, swallowing the light and dust as it continued to swell in gait. Raising his Sceptre up into the air he slammed into the earth, shouting out loud, "Join me in the eternal envelopment of darkness! Sea of Oblivion!"
That was when an ocean of black seemed to spread outward. It was a sight that immediately alarmed Faer, forcing him to take flight with a self inscribed rune on his body, taking to the air as a tidal wave of darkness seemed to drown the docks in their vicinity. Donovan was taken by Rowlie as she kicked up into the air, her advanced High Speed Magic technique enabling her to defy gravity as she continued to propel herself and her companion high up. By the the time all three Dark Mages rose up to a sufficient height, they witnessed an awesome display. Everything within a kilometer space seemed to be drowned in a too still pool of blackness, every structure, machinery and the people they saw were gone. Almost as if they were erased.
"Where the Hell did they go?!" Rowlie cried out with a horror stricken expression mirroring her own voice.
"How should I know?!" Donovan shouted back at her, feeling himself dangling in her precarious grip.
"I felt like saying that, that's all!" She bit back.
"Why bother?!" He snapped.
"WILL YOU TWO SHUT UP?!" Faer screamed from the distance, the sound of his own indignation masking his own unease. When he heard no more voices emerge he felt his throat swallow dryly. The man had seemed to attempt to pull him into an endless embrace. He didn't know where he was going to turn up next, with or without his companion. Eyes scanned even the wide river the harbor was adjacent to, and seemed to latch on a particular distortion.
It was here, that he witnessed something truly awesome to behold. A blinding glare erupted like a geyser, following the shape of a glorious vessel that resembled something akin to a cruise ship. With windows dotting the wide hull that seemed to stretch upward to the height of immense superstructure that filled up the river beyond its capacity. When it rose up to float and then take flight, it made him blink with disbelief of what kind of construct it was.
"Light Make," Victor announced within what looked like a cabin for the immense ship, everything glittering on the inside as much as it did the outside. "Heaven's Ark."
The instant Victor launched his area-covering dark magic, Morgan slipped into the embrace of the void, letting it cover and hide her, a process aided by her almost reflexive activation of the Darkness Dragon’s Scales. All over her body, ebony black plates began to form, drawn in from the emptiness around her and given solid form by her magical power. Thanks to her newly-formed scales, she blended almost flawlessly into the inky-black world around her, invisible except if one looked closely, they could see a faint glow of her eyes, a mark of her ability to see flawlessly in even the lightless domain her father created.
To her eyes, the world had only grown a little darker, as if the night had fallen and the moon was in a new cycle. It was, in it’s own way, comforting. She was literally and figuratively in her element, and that was all she needed. Every breath was saturated with the dark magic around her, fueling her own power just a bit at a time.
When Victor’s light magic ark manifested, the blazing glow instantly caught her attention as it rose like the Sun itself into the featureless sky. It was impressive, to say the least. She could only wonder what her father had planned with such a construct. Whatever it was, she believed that it would be awesome to see.
"Master," Diana gawked, blinking away the ebbing flash from eclipsing darkness to brilliant arrays of light. It looked almost like crystal with the way it shined and shimmered in the rising altitude of the sky. From the cabin she could see even bolts, panels and controls that all mimicked a proper ship's devices. Looking out the window, her hair blew wildly as she saw the trio had risen to their altitude, cautiously approaching the vessel. "They're still coming."
"I know," He replied, fixing the tightness of his gloves while fastening his Sceptre into a sleeve holstered onto his hip.
"What are we going to do?" She inquired directly, turning her head to look over her shoulder back at him.
"They're formidable, but they're not the main problem," The Guild Master announced, turning to direct his stare at his daughters and Yui. "I brought the other two along with me, but I called Godfried as well. I'm unsure of the status of Thornton and Kenneth, but I'm guessing they won't appear until too late. This is something we might need to face on our own."
Crossing his arms over his chest, he tapped his foot and surveyed those gathered around him, "But not to worry. I've been in worst situations than this when I was much younger and more naive. I haven't lived this long to gain nothing but experience from both my successes and my failures on equal ground. You will all be needed, given the circumstance of limited manpower being the issue."
"We'll do our best!" Maria pumped her fist, smiling brightly up at her father. She was glad that she was necessary and not being sent to some safe location like Diana wanted them to. They already helped beat a powerful Dark Wizard, all together without the senior magi help. She was confident that they could keep assisting.
Morgan deactivated her scales to conserve energy, embarrassed that she had manifested them without even thinking. With a sheepish smile, she listened as Victor explained that the three would still be even a little bit useful in the upcoming events. Even if her father ordered her to stand down, to hide, she had a feeling that she’d disobey regardless. She wanted to prove herself and to back off ran counter-intuitively to that desire.
Nodding in approval at Maria’s exclamation, she interjected. “ Besides, I have a few questions that still need answered. I can’t back down now.” As she spoke, her smile slowly shifted into a scowl. “ I need to know how he fought Jadow and got away.”
She recalled the day she met Victor, telling him that it was impossible to fight the Dark Dragon King, and now one of the people who all but proved her point was the exception to what once was an infallible rule. It felt like her entire world was twisted and turned upside down, like the powers than be wanted to make her question everything she knew. To a degree, it gave her a sense of hope that her life-long dream was within her grasp after all, and yet, she had to know how it was done, how anyone could cross paths with the dragon and walk away.
"Of course," Victor nodded with a hardened gaze of focus matching his serious disposition. "A young man like that encountering Jadow, he's either very lucky or has an unnatural ability we've yet to see. Either way, we should try to keep him alive for questioning."
"Ah, yes, I almost forgot. Hello, Noriko," Victor replied out loud as the Thought Projection Ring connection between them and the pair he left in the Skyhawk was still maneuvering at a high altitude. Cloaked thanks to the adaptive panels on the airship, they could easily get a bird's eye view without attracting unwanted attention. "Did you find the majority of this gang's whereabouts?"
"Yes, and no. It seems that there are still a few surrounding you while a number are scattered across the city. They seem to be gathering materials, items of mundane and high worth. I don't know what they're doing but they're collecting it in a massive pile where it seems the three elites are."
"What could they be looking for? This town doesn't bode any particular items of interest other than jewels or raw trading goods," Diana queried out loud, more to herself than anyone else.
"Maybe they're just sorting through the loot? Picking which is better to carry on their back before they hightail it out of here?" Yui proffered with a shrug.
"What if," Maria turned to Morgan, whispering as she proposed her own hypothesis. "they're looking for something that's hiding in plain sight. Like, an enchanted item that looks ordinary but is really special?"
"And another thing," Noriko continued, her own Skyhawk location allowing her to pick up something bright and moving fast towards the slowly moving Ark. "You got incoming, and its fast."
It was then that they heard it. Like thunder put on an automatic weapon, what started off as faint became quickly more apparent to those within the Ark's cabin. Diana once again leaned out to scan the sky for whatever was causing it; she soon found the sight of a distant fireball that continued to puff and exhale flames with every concussive crash against the air. A distinguishable visage, even from this distance could be seen, as a black leather toting man with wild silver hair, a bare chest and opaqued shades covering his eyes. His feet were spouting jets of explosive fire giving him the propulsion akin to that of an aircraft, zooming straight past the wary three hovering a good distance away from the Light Magic construct.
"Boss?!" Rowlie cried out, feeling the superheated hair buffet her skin and hair.
"Oh great. Just what we need. The lunatic charging ahead!" Donovan growled out.
"HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!" The madman laughed out loud, his body heading straight for the cabin which he could see a number of bodies within. Diana backed up, holding her water blade upright while Victor put himself in between the girls and the incoming figure. With another explosive dischave from his backside, he rocketed forward, hands clawing out behind him as he prepared to reach out to catch them. Swinging out his limbs just as his face neared the windowless opening, he cried out in jovial glee. "HERE'S SWAR-"
He'd be cut off by a loud slap of skin and bones, splaying him spreadeagled across a visible force field of text; Letter Magic that Victor had constructed in advance while under the sea of darkness he materialized the flying vessel. With his lips pursed, almost akin to a fish, his nose at an odd angle and his glasses pressed against his bulging sockets, the large man looked comical to anyone who wasn't surprised or terrified as most of the occupants were inside. Well, all but Victor, who simply allowed himself a wry grin to stretch across his face at the sight of the man running headlong into his outer field of protection.
"Yous...splah...nothin'..." He sputtered across the barrier, his body soon peeling off the shield and falling headlong down below. A shrill goofy yell was heard before a dramatic crash happened, his body crashing into the river that the flying construct was now sailing over. The water stilled in the enormous splash and then everything returned to a sense of disturbed normalcy.
"Did...did Swartz just worphed?" Rowlie asked with exasperation, followed by Donovan palming his face with an audible slap.
"Dammit, boss! Think before you leap," He growled, soon turning his head to look at Faer, whom seemed a bit too calm at what occurred. Glaring at the man's back, he added outwardly. "I bet he saw that coming and didn't even try to warn him."
"Do you think the boss would have listened?" The Sword Mage asked dubiously.
Sighing, Donovan nodded with agreement, "Touche."
Morgan thought for a moment before whispering back, “Yeah. That’s gotta be...” Before she could finish however, Victor jumping in front of her and the others, followed by a loud thud caused her to jolt and look up at the source. A man was being suspended only by a textual barrier. When the hapless person slid off the wordy blockcade, she blinked, as if she couldn’t believe what she just saw.
“What...was that?” she asked bluntly, entirely confused at the events she just witnessed.
"Was that...Swartz?" Diana sputtered out with confusion, wondering out loud if she had made a mistake when she initially saw him.
"S-Surely you made a mistake," Yui stuttered out with a sheepish series of snickers. "That guy...was way too dumb to be the gang leader!"
"Hehe, he did look funny when he splatted against the shield," Maria agreed with her own round of subdued laughs.
"Yes, it is Swartz. It's not uncommon for people to have that reaction when they first meet him," Victor replied with a sigh, taking a few steps to look out the window adjacent to his subordinate. With both of them looking down at the rivuletting water below, he could notice what she did. A slowly swelling light was rapturing the waters of the river, like a fuse growing brighter before reaching an explosive stockpile. Then, a defining rumble shook the air as a pillar of magic pressure given form shot up like a geyser, blazing up just enough to reveal their barrier...and its disintegrating properties shaving off with utter ease. "And then regret inducing mockery before they're pummeled to death..."
The Power of Will
"Your barrier!" Diana exclaimed, her body on the verge of jumping out before feeling a strong hand grip her shoulder. Seeing a look of determination on her master's face gave her both stillness and alarm. "M-Master, you must let me go-"
"No, stay with the children," Victor replied, his right foot already placing a hold on the window of radiating light, his cloak billowing at the proximity to the blistering wave of energy spearing into the sky. Turning his head to look back at Morgan, Yui and Maria, he smiled at them before giving them a halfway salute. "I leave the caretaking of the people of Fiume de Giglio in your hands. I can't protect you with barriers without endangering them, so I have to take the fight to Swartz. If I'm lucky, I can stall him without resulting in a battle-turned-cataclysm."
"Uh...why did you say that?" Yui asked nervously.
"Because, when Wizards reach a certain level, it is possible that the environment becomes too unstable for any life to sustain itself around the two warring magics," Diana replied in a worried tone, looking at the girls with the utmost seriousnss. "That is the most common conclusion when two Wizard Saints lock horns. Victor is one such of that caliber and Swartz is recorded to have fought Godfried to a standstill. It is possible this could end up producing a battle no one wants to be around."
"Exactly why you should fight our three friends on the Ark," Victor profferred, keeping his eyes peeled for Swartz's person. "It is durable, but I don't know by the margin of a fight like the one I'm preparing for. It could hold on even if an army fought atop of it. I didn't plan for Swartz to get involved so quickly. In any case, be prepared when those three or the other leaders show u-"
Then, a seismic boom erased the light. A blur of momentum caused a streak of black-silver-beige to rise up above the Ark's altitude. Wrapped in an ustable aura of Ethernano, Swartz's hands spread outward from a clasped palm. What he produced seemed to be a meteorite sized proportion of Pyro Magic, magical flames that have a tendancy to explode upon impact. Laughing maniacally, he threw it towards the giant ship, grinning gleefully as his tone came out especially dark, "See you all in Hell!"
That was when Victor leapt up. At speeds too fast for anyone but Diana to track, Victor's feet was propelled by the unseen dove sized wings attached to his ankles -the Ferrymen's Spurs- that allowed him flight and near unparalleled velocity. Clasping his fist into an open palm, he muttered out loud under the roar of the incoming flames, splaying his arms out to create another dazzling construct; the size of which dwarfed the spell he used on Morgan during their training exercise earlier this morning, "Light Make, Seraphim Mirror!"
The result was instantaneous. A fiery explosion cracked against the barrier but dispelled outward, containing the majority of the force while also rebounding on the airborne attacking Wizard. Crossing his arms over his face from the blast being dispersed in his way, he was surprised to see the mirror shatter and reveal no enemy behind it. Hearing as much as he felt a rush of momentum behind him, he turned around to flay one arm at what he perceived was a threat, but hit nothing but a cold mist of Darkness Magic.
Below his arm, a curtain of blackness shrouding Victor rose up with an immense arc of searing night curled around his arm. When it connected with Swartz's back, a defining crack was heard followed by a shockwave of massive proportions, shaking the airborne Ark as it propelled the madman over the Light Magic construct in a stream of Darkness Magic. Just as he passed over it with a grunt, Victor followed up with a second deployment, slamming the abysmal discharge of blackness against his cranium, causing another explosive wave that propelled him down to the earth parallel to the river below. When an explosion followed his impact, Victor announced aloud before descending after him, "Fist of the Under King!"
Morgan watched in shock as Victor all but vanished, moving faster than she could see. Usually, she’d at least see a flicker of movement, much the same that most others would see from her, but never before had she seen her father entirely outstrip her speed. She wanted to be out there with him, but given the current situation, knew it to be a foolish idea. She believed that Victor would win without any help, he was the strongest mage she knew after all. And yet, she still worried about him, the man who pulled her out of her own personal nightmares and gave her hope, a worry that for a second was plain as day on her face.
When the ship began to rock from the force she felt queasy, leaning up against a wall to support herself. It was a thankfully brief feeling, and as it passed, she sighed with relief. “We need to get ready. Who knows if the other three are on their way here, right now. If we’re not prepared, we’ll just be a danger to the mission and to ourselves..” she said, taking a direct tone.
"Right," Diana her keen eyes averting from her Master's battle as he descended to the forest from which he sent Swartz plumetting to. From there she saw Faer halt in his approach while the others did the same. Most likely the latter were gawking at the impressive display her Master was showing off. But at the same token, the other more impressive Ink Mage was likely preparing for confrontation. "Girls, I'll be counting on you to stay together. I'll have a hard time fighting them if I know they're separating the lot of you to endanger you further."
"We got this," Yui said confidently, jutting her hip to the side with a smile fixed on her face. "With Morgan and Maria, I'm sure we can take on one of them for ya. Ease the burden off your shoulders."
"Don't do this on my account," She replied, exiting the cabin to walk out to the main deck of the ship's upper surface. "Do it for Fiume's citizens. That's what the Phoenix Guild fights for, remember?"
"Right," Maria agreed with a fist pump, turning to her sister to beckon her with arm wave. "Come on, Morgan. Let's get ready for their arrival."
As all four female wizards walked out to the surface of the massive yacht top, Donovan was twitching at the sight of two titans combatting below. From here, he could feel as much hear their clashes below. Flashes of light followed by the destruction, the pulses of magic was so intense he could feel it ebb into the atmosphere from which they hovered at.
"Hey, look," Rowlie gestured to the four figures, picking out the one in black. "That's her, the bitch Requip Mage. Look at her strutting off those wounds like they're nothing."
"Not for long," Donovan declared with a carnal smile, his feet now resting on a hovering mirror that his partner created for the two of them to stand on. "I'll race ya."
"You'll loose, Accelerator Mage," She barked, kicking off the mirror at the same time he did. Whereas he streaked like a blue force of nature, she blurred as if on the precipice of becoming intangible. When both touched down on the Ark's top, one landed smoothly while the other skidded to a halt. Unsheathing her sword once more, as Donovan simply unholstered a magic gun harnessed to his back. "Now then. I believe we have a fight to finish, Requip Mage."
"Indeed," Diana declared out loud, swinging an arm to her side, "I believe I should honor your skill by using my full power. Requip!"
The amazing display that would follow was not of her appearance changing, but a weapon being forged into being. Held above her head, a golden hilt and pommel adorned weapon was wreathed out of Ethernano that petered off into ominous waves across the surface of the ship. Her hair and uniform beat wildly as much as the nearby girls' personal effects. When the high quality weapon was finally brought into being, a bright yellow light wrapped around it, thrumming wildly when she slashed it across the air, disturbing the atmosphere around them to the point a rising heat enveloped the surface of the ship.
"Nova Blade, my finest weapon," Diana declared, holding her weapon up to bear two-handed at the two mages. "Come!"
Just as she was prepared, so too did the man called Faer Pleigh approach. In a flash of teleportation via Letter Magic, he arrived in a spiral of brightly inscribed letters dispersing when behind the girls. With Yui and Maria shifting attention from Diana's opponents to their own, it appeared that Faer's gaze was fixated on Morgan. Raising a now completely black stave, he presented himself in a cool tone full of composure and confidence, "Darkness Dragon Slayer, Morgan Deschain. I shall show you the power that allowed me to fight your master. And, the power I've attained through my trek through this cruel, dark world of ours. Your friends, shall they stand in my way, shall die just as you will. Thus inching my way closer to killing that monster with my own two hands."
"Ha! Says you," Yui squatted, her own body now embroidered in renewed Magical Power. "I'm willing to bet you're not as terrifying as you believe yourself to be. Tortured soul my ass. You can't handle the truths of this world so you decided to become a bad egg. I've lived through it too, you know, and I'm not throwing a melancholic pity party for myself, am I?!"
"How you view the world will always be different from mine, and completely irrelevant," Faer declared with a cold gaze that briefly touched hers. "Nothing is worse until you survive looking the Devil in the eye and seeing the world throughout the lands you once thought you could save but couldn't. A dreadful, dark and empty place. That is what the world is, delusional girl."
"We won't give up or let you harm Morgan," Maria defiantly stood her ground, aiming her arm in preparation beside Morgan. "We're a family, and families stick with each other, no matter how hard or painful it may be!"
Morgan smirked when Faer revealed himself. She expected him to target her again, and was gladly not disappointed. In fact, it was the exact opposite. She wanted to fight him, to not only discover the secret to his survival, but to test herself. It was the only way she could push the limits of her own abilities, to ensure she was getting stronger, growing to the point she could finally end the life of the one being responsible for her hellish life.
“You’re not the only one who wants to kill him, you know. The fact is, you can talk about it all you want, but you won’t win. Nobody can.” she said, a dark look crossing her face. As much as she wished it weren’t true, there was still little doubt in her mind that for anyone to cross paths with Jadow was a death warrant, signed by the Grim Reaper himself.
When Maria and Yui jumped to her aid, her dark expression softened into a smile. “My family is all I have to enjoy in this world, I've already lost everything else because of that monster. And there is no way I’ll let you hurt them. I refuse to lose the only light I have in this world!” she said, entering a battle stance.
"The only light, you say?" Faer asked dubiously, his eyes taking a pure crimson glaze, something that not even he would be aware of. The ink shrouding his stave swirled around, enveloping his regal cloak and transformed it into a much more sleek trimmed coat. When it all but became a black mist covered sheen of liquid, he stepped forward slowly and surely, his glowing eyes fixed upon hers with a cold detachment. The sinister level of his voice only swelled with his next words being said. "I'll make sure to douse those lights permanently, so you may understand the true depravity this world holds."
Yui had heard enough. Just as she leaped towards Faer, so too did Donovan whom was enshrouded with his Accelerator Magic. The man swung his charged fist into the flat of Diana's sword just as Yui's top of the spinning foot connected with the upheld stave of Faer. Both attackers were shocked when the force of both strikes were nullified instantly. With a gesture, Faer launched an ink-laced fist from his own extended palm that socked Yui and sent her tumbling across the ship's surface beside Diana, whom began repelling more and more attacks from the bewildered Accelerator Wizard.
"This doesn't make sense!" He kept hitting the blade, emphasizing the frustration he felt that it did nothign to the blade. "I'm hitting that sword of yours with enough force to send you flying, but it keeps just deflecting it. What the Hell is this thing?!"
"It is a blade of purifying light and concentrated flames," Diana retorted as she deflected his attacks with ease, holding her ground against the formidable magic he had at his disposal. "It's power is undeniable and would take a magic greater than yours to hope to even mar its beautiful surface."
"Is that so?" Rowlie asked, earning a look of confusion from her partner. Walking forward in a strangely confident stride, she grated the edge of her sword against the ship's hull, just as Yui got up and dashed back to face Faer.
Maria primed her Bullet Magic, firing a number of shots at him rapid pace, watching Faer bat them away harmlessly with his stave. Extending a whipping protrusion from the edge of his weapon, he swung it at the girl, almost making contact as it cracked against the surface with a visible indention. Rolling away to her side, she activated her Vein Magic to bolster her speed, moving in sync with Yui to give Morgan an opening. When both swung their fists at them, Faer seemed to rush past them, faster than either could read. A crack of the stave to the back of Maria's head caused her to bowl forward while a swiveling backhand crashed into Yui's back, causing her to fall flat onto her face with a smash.
"It's your turn," Faer replied to Morgan, pointing his stave at her, shooting a bolt of ink at her chest with the intention to impale her. With the inkling she could possibly avoid the attack, his Magic -Vivere Mantello- could defend himself with a second nature impulse. Should she draw too close, the ink from his own body would sprout out and attack her in a variety of creative ways stemming from his own trained subconscious.
At the same time, Rowlie impaled her sword into the light-based ground before Diana's feet, "Mirror Magic, Reflection Puppet."
That's when the light itself sustained an ovular mirror, being the same height as Rowlie herself. Within its flawless surface was a reflection of Diana herself, wielding the Nova blade and showing a look of shock. But, soon the image within the glass didn't add up, as a smile akin to Rowlie's spread and the blade raised up with a single hand.
With a defining crash, the blade came out of the mirror and caught Diana's weapon with a strong enough force to quake the dozen meter spread surface of the Ark. Light sprayed in all angles, flecks of flames dabbed the air, while a cruel grin played across a face that was her own yet so foreign to her.
"What's the matter?" The Reflection asked, using her own voice but an inflection similar to the Caster's that made it all the more chilling. "Surely you can't be this incompetent."
"As a matter of fact," She murmured, her body soon shrouded in a thick mantle of shadows. Catching her own Reflection by surprise, her body turned into living shadows, seeping directly behind her. As she turned around, a rising arc of star-colored flames shot out like a geyser, cutting her down the middle and roaring up into the sky creating a momentary flash of overcasting gold over the ship.
"W-Where did she go?!" Rowlie cried out, now feeling herself unnerved that she lost sight of her.
"How should I-ROWLIE!" Donovan began to warn his friend, seeing a flicker of light emanate from a shadow he didn't see cast from his friend from before. Unfortunately, the blade was too fast for the Mirror Magician to see coming, thrusting at a horizontal angle right at her abdomen's right flank.
"Gaugh!" She hoarsely croaked out, unable to scream as a fiery pain clutched her now cauterized wound. When it ripped out of her side, she fell forward, only for the back of her neck to be caught by Diana. Lifted up, the shadow veil rising up from her suit gave a menacing glow in her eyes as she callously regarded the both of them.
"You fought well," She whispered, just before throwing her off the ship with an effortless over the shoulder toss, allowing her to descend to the bottom below unaided. "But I can't waste time with either of you."
"YOU BIT-" Donovan snarled, his Accelerator Magic aura roaring aroud him just as Diana's body seemed to blur before his eyes. The blade that should have slowed to his given vicinity slid through his own chest effortlessly, causing him to gape his mouth open and his eyes to widen at the pain he felt. Turning on her heels, she swung him around with a abdominal slash across his chest, causing a cauterizing wound to slash open his torso as he was flung from the vessel as well, joining Rowlie in an assumedly lethal fall.
"Your Magic is dangerous, even to someone of my level," Diana spoke aloud, watching almost empathetically at the places she sent her enemies flying. "But, that's why I couldn't hold back on you. If I let it drag out, you might have used far more dangerous techniques to match me. I can't fight for the sake of enjoyment, that'd be irresponsible. I have people to protect, people I cherish. That's why I can't be merciful, even if you're misguided."
Turning on her heel, Diana called out to the three girls, her sword now glowing vibrantly next to her shadowy suit clad being, "Are you all alright?"
"Ngh, does it LOOK that way?!" Yui cried out as she clutched at her back, rising up slowly from the smack made to her spine. She had to be glad that her own Magic trained her body to a physical peak, keeping damage to a minimum when it bypassed her Burst Magic.
"We're alive, aren't we?" Maria quipped as she groaned as she clutched her own head.
"Shut up, Maria," She hissed, turning to look where Morgan was, hoping she was in a far better condition than they were.
When Yui ran in without even a warning, Morgan was about to follow before she realized that Yui’s attack had been blocked. Watching as her partner was tossed back, she froze in her tracks, looking for any following assault. None came, and Morgan prepared to strike as soon as she saw a viable opening, waiting for Faer to make a mistake
The instant Maria and Yui tried to provide that opening, paying a price for their rash actions, Morgan felt herself acting far before she realized what she was doing. Dodging Faer’s simple attack with astonishing ease, almost faster than sight could catch, she prepared to make good on her prior threat, fully intent on tearing apart anyone who would dare harm her family.
“Darkness Dragon’s Talons!” she yelled, forming the simplest of her close-range options, the only one she had that wouldn’t put anyone else at risk with a huge effective range. In the span of a fraction of a second, she sped in front of Faer and attempted to slice his chest with her talons of solid darkness. She had no intention of giving the man a dignified or fair fight. He had been warned before, there would be no further mercy from the scion of the Dark Dragon King's legacy.
Faer was surprised to see the Darkness Dragon Slayer Magic in action. Having never seen her perform magic before, it was understandable he wasn't fully prepared. But on the comparison scale, he thought she'd be a joke compared to the Darkness Dragon, Jadow. But when she rushed at him with a speed he thought compared to his own. Raising his stave a second too slow, his animated Ink Cloak reached out to halt her by turning into a bed of razor spikes. But when her claws came into contact, the protrusions were splattered and his overall coat was lacerated, the force of the magic's pressure sending him reeling back.
"Morgan," Maria breathed out, stunned as Faer was sent skidding back from the attack that landed on him.
"Kick his ass, Morgan!~" Yui hollered, narrowly avoiding him as he passed both her and Maria from the distance he was sent flying back.
"Ngh," Faer grunted, feeling some blood mingle into his own coat from the cuts made on his abdomen. They were shallow, but the fact her magic had the capacity to pierce the defensive properties his Ink Coat possessed unnerved him. Even as it was repaired, his eyes glared daggers at her. Then, with a venomous cry his own aura of Ethernano swelled and created a thick hurricane of Ink to shower the top of the Light Arc, "Don't underestimate me, DRAGON SLAYER!!!"
The pressure was enough to make Yui and Maria buckle, then become doused in the ink that made them hack and cough, thrown off their feet from the magical wind the liquid was carried upon. It was something that even unnerved Diana, whom held her blade up defensively to create a conical barrier of her own Nova Blade's pressure to counteract the ink. As it burned into a thick hazy mist, she noticed that the once immaculate surface of the Ark's deck was turning into a thick black, all bubbling and swirling with animated movement that made it seem almost alive.
"This kind of Magic is dangerous. I don't know many users of this form of Caster Magic but it appears that simply jetting it through his own Magic generation. Holder Types are limited in their use of it, but he's on a completely different level," Diana observed mentally, turning to look over at the stained black Yui and Maria. She was worried what menacing effects that being exposed to the ink would have, but she didn't want to act rashly. If she attacked at full power, there was a chance she could accidentally send the girls careening off the edge of the Ark with the amount of force she was thinking of using.
"You may eat as much darkness as you want, Slayer," Faer offered in a dull tone, his words sounded unsincere in their attempt at being generous to her. "I promise it will be most filling to your inhuman gullet."
Without gesturing, the ink that may or may not have landed on her began to move in accordance to his mind. Transforming into dozens of blades that jetted out from the ground towards her, they aimed to cut her up and eviscerate her at multiple angles. Guided by the thick pool that seemed to latch onto the Ark without pooling off the edge, the Arma Mestiere was now much more potent with the amount of ink in proximate contact with the caster.
As Faer’s magic coated the ship’s deck, Morgan was half-tempted to steal the darkness of it for herself, but before she could even start to do so, the ink transformed into humorous blades, extending from the black gunk, some even turning and twisting to reach her. She flipped and dodged as much as she could, but the number of blades eventually overwhelmed her. One of the uncountable ink-blades nicked the side of her face, drawing blood. With a swipe of her still-empowered claws, she tore the blade apart with the same ease she sliced Faer’s coat
Much to her horror, the ink that drenched her jacket also began to sprout blades, compounding the difficulty in evading them all. Reacting to the new threat, she pulled the jacket off and threw it to the side, landing with a wet plop.
Not having a moment to morn her jacket, she turned her gaze back to her opponent. She ran in, her magic focused around her left hand. As she closed in, it shifted in form, forming the signature wing effigy of her strongest attack. “Darkness Dragon’s Wingbeat!” she called out.
"Deflettere," Faer spoke out as his stave raised up, inscribed letters running up and down its surface to indicate Letter Magic was cast. An ovular indigo light was projected, lighting up the text on his weapon, forcibly turning her strike to rebound from his immediate proximity. When it rebounded, he felt the air pop and the wave of force push himself as much as it would Morgan backward, a testament to how strong her ultimate Slayer Spell was.
Swinging out an arm towards her, he snarled out aloud a concentrated inscribed Letter Spell, "Gravità!" Causing the immediate vicinity she was standing to increase in gravity, gripping her and pulling her down. With a stave swung gesture, large spiraling waves of ink jetted from underneath as it did around her, intending on cocooning her in the bubbling muck, "Avvolga. With this I'll keep her imprisoned. If she dares to eat the darkness of my Ink, she'll find a nasty surprise that the magic will swell her within and begin to fuse with her body. Once that happens, she'll be mine to control...and if I wish, I can use Assorbire to make her power my own."
The sound of whirring magic caused his own internal dialogue to waver, his eyes looking over to see a barrage of magic bullets sent his way. Growling he made an opposing gesture with his left hand, causing the muck to form walls that absorbed the damage of the blasts. Indented and melting, but able to reform themselves as he shielded himself. From behind, he heard the pitter patter of bare feet running along the ink ground forcing him to stamp on the essence he exuded, causing some tendrils to grappel Yui around the ankles and force her to fall onto her face. As she coughed he turned just enough to send her flying with a whipping form of his magic.
Finally, Diana surged from the darkness cast by his Ink pool, her blade slashing at him enough to force him to backpedal as his head leaned away from the decapitating stroke that singed his bangs. Sliding against the ink mass, he kept his concentration on holding and infusing his Ink Magic into Morgan. The closer he is to making her power his own, the more likely he can achieve his loftier goals. Watching Diana hold her blade two-handedly, he regarded her with the most caution of the three still standing.
"I can't be too careful around you, can I?" Faer replied in a dull tone that belied his alertness.
"You can never be careful around me," Diana raised her blade, its heated surface casting a hazy glow around her and the air around her. "I am Diana Lance. As you've seen, I don't show mercy to any of my foes. So take my advice and release Morgan before I do something unsavory to that effeminate figure of yours."
"Is that a threat? Well then, I guess I can't have my cake and eat it without some help," Faer narrowed his eyes at her, his hand swinging out to his side. When it was seen that a protrusion of Ink Magic rose up behind him, taking his own form except in a blacker and grey skin complexioend visage, he lowered the arm he had motioned just as it leaped wetly off the pool towards the cabin they came from. Allowing a rare smirk, he pointed his stave at all three girls. "Do any of you have what it takes to stop me? Truly? I'm in my own environment now. No matter what tricks you have you can't stop me. This magic is what allowed me to escape with my life against the Ragnarok Beast himself. I suggest you tread lightly against my domain."
"Damn him!" Diana thought as she looked towards where the gravity influenced Ink Magic was, knowing Morgan was either struggling or succuming to its effects. "I can't try to free her, not without risking her safety. Yui and Maria haven't recovered yet to be of help, though I doubt they can do something against someone whose magic is closely on par with my own. Two skilled mages with intricate magic was bad enough, but him on his own is difficult when he's flooded a good size of the deck in his own element to use his spells. What should I do?!"
The moment her attack struck, Morgan smirked. Even if her opening blow was blocked, she already accounted for it, and she was about to swing her left arm, now likewise coated in magic. Before she could, however, she felt a force draw her down into the black slime. The moment she came into contact, it began to constrict around her, building up into a cocoon that within a matter of seconds entrapped her.
The cocoon was so tightly wound around her that she was unable to move enough to turn her arms so she could just slice her way out with her claws. She knew there was only one obvious way out that she could do in her current situation. She began to gnaw at the inky shell, turning the disgustingly foul tasting mass into energy for herself as it was torn apart.
As she devoured the disgusting dark goop, she felt strange. She couldn’t place it, but something felt wrong. As she kept trying to eat through it, the feeling grew worse and worse with every passing moment. “Hold on everyone, I just need to get through...”
That's when it happened. The Ink Magic that was laced within the darkness she tried to consume launched itself along the pathway of her magical consumption, flowing down her throat in bounty to the point of almost choking her. Coursing down the bitter tasting liquid flowed almost endlessly through her, creating that wrong feeling into a nauseous one. Tethered to her stomach that was filled to the capacity that threatened her slim abdomen to bulge outward, an abhorrent chill flowed through her entire entangled body. Seconds later the feeling of needles flowing out from all points on the inside and out happened, her cries being muffled by the ink gagging her full throat. Bonding with her cells, the scales of the Darkness Dragon Slayer Magic activated due to being so close to such a black substance, unintentionallly making the absorption process easier.
Her cocoon began to mold over her body, making a perfect outline of her slender youthful form while still restraining her as the process was in its final stages. Stemming attachments to her brain, the reconstruction process of her physiology proceeded as such: her skin became a vibrant purple in parts that was visible as the ink pulled back, her clothes and hair became as one a slick reflective coat of ink that protruded from her body even manifesting a coat replica that jetted from her shoulders and back. Eyes that would open were full onyx while pupils were a shimmering purple. At the same time, her own aura of Darkness ebbed off her in waves, a magnificently empowered magical energy that was stemming from her new body's transformation.
But at the same time, she'd feel as if someone was at the helm of her body and she'd have very little control.
"Why, doesn't she look truly marvelous?" Faer asked in a dry tone, expecting the mixture of horrified and angered looks he got from the three women.
"W-What did you do to her?!" Diana cried out in righteous anger, her body already enveloping in a glowing light of heated Ethernano.
"Morgan...?" Maria asked hesitantly with a look of trepidation at the new appearance she now was endowed with. She was still Morgan, she could recognize that. But the magic that was coming from her felt...cold, and alien. It was her but something else was pulling the strings, that much was clear.
"Fuckin' asshole," Yui swore out loud, her body now jetting a full Burst Aura to maximize her strength to its peak. She didn't want to use it unless necessary, but the swathes of ink that was being boiled around her body showed how serious she was. The crucifix glow within her left eye was alight, preparing to be used when necessary. "Change her back!"
"I rather not," Faer replied dully, snapping a spare finger in Morgan's direction. "Kill that girl and then the other. Expeditiously if you can."
"RAAAAAAH!!!" Diana roared out as her body launched itself toward him, swinging her blade to slash at his vicinity. When it struck the stave that combined a hardening of Ink and reinforcement of Letter Magic, repelling her power but not the shockwave that sent waves of ink to splash around them. The look of sheer killing intent laced in her eyes as the knowledge that Victor's daughter was tarnished. Her Master's adopted child and she knew the only solace she could take was that she could kill the man who tainted her.
As the ink transformed her, Morgan lost all sense of reason. She felt the magic within the gunk transforming her, and yet, she was powerless to fight back. Once the shell broke and she was able to move once again, she realized that the movement she thought she was controlling was under a different influence. She could still feel her motions and the various sensations, and yet, in reality she was a prisoner of her own mind, unable to do anything except watch events unfold.
When Faer gave the order to kill the others, she felt herself dash over to Yui, her arm cocked back, ready to punch the older girl in the gut. Although her body refused to show it, she was doing everything she could to stop her ink-coated form from going through with the order.
“Why won’t I stop...I can’t! Please! I don’t want to!” she mentally screamed, as if she was trying to plead with whatever force was controlling her now, unable to even force herself to say the words aloud.
"Morgan's still fast as ever," Yui inwardly analyzed as the possessed girl rushed in a streak of midnight, swinging a fist under her guard into her solar plexus. The force was dampened thanks to her Burst Aura, but the crack of air pressure around her indicated as she was sent flying up that she had an amazing amount of strength in this new form. "Even without Darkness Dragon Slayer Magic, she's still tough. Can't hold back against her...sorry Maria."
Rushing in a flash of scarlet light the disciple of Noriko Hayate vaulted over Morgan, swinging her feet upside down to helicopter kick her across the head. Seeing the flecks of ink deflect the attack but not completely halt it, watching it connect with her cranium. Palming the inky ground with a steaming pressure, she pushed off the floor and flew forward with a series of repeated kicks that kept her suspended in midair. Each one flashed and crackled like electrical shocks infused with physical force, her left eye glowing brightly as she kept on the attack.
"Father," Maria she thought inwardly, her body shivering at the sight of Yui and Morgan fighting each other. "What can we do? She's...not herself and I don't know if I can stop her or free her. Diana's fighting a powerful, twisted man and I don't know what help I can be. I'm..just..."
"Maria, calm down."
Blinking a few times, Maria took a few seconds to recognize that her father's voice was speaking into her mind. Looking to her left, she saw him crouched beside her, his body wreathed in Darkness Magic. The fact he didn't look her in the eye showed that he was amidst a battle and that this visual conversation was thanks to the rings they all wore.
"There's always a weakness to every Magic. No matter the cost, there will be an undoing to its make-up. That is the nature of all spells in this world."
"But...what is it?" Maria asked, finding herself watching the shimmering form of her father begin to disperse.
"I can't tell you without taking my mind off this fight. But...I know you're smarter than you let yourself on to be. I'm sure between you, your comrades and Nest, you'll come up with something," Victor encouraged her with a smile before his image was totally erased from her sight.
As she furrowed her brow, closing her eyes and concentrating her focus. What could she do? What was the answer that her father was so certain she could solve with just the aid of her friends and Nest-
Then it hit her. Nest was the system managing their rings. Looking down at the phoenix bird shaped ring wrapped around her finger, she held it up to her closed eyes. Within the forefront of her mind she began to imagine the one thing that could break the hold placed on her by Faer. When a warm glow emanated across her hand, she looked down to see a gauntlet of orange-golden light, with feathered designs around her hand.
"What's taking so long?" Faer thought silently in battle, his waves of ink rushing at Diana whom danced away and slashed at the weaponized liquid aiming to latch around her. The fact she could meld into the darkness of his own magic made it much more difficult to get a bead on her. Everytime she reappeared she'd be closer and closer to landing a truly devastating blow. Cracking his stave against her otherwise invincible sword, his brows pinched as sweat formed in globules across his face. "I can't control Morgan and fight such a skilled Wizard simultaneously without making a mistake. Surely whatever barrier that old man put on Mina isn't that intricate?"
Morgan’s body didn’t even seem to react with more than mild annoyance. Even when Yui managed to land a startling blow to her head, she simply seemed to shrug off the damage and the magic controlling her neither stopped nor weakened in the slightest. Her reflexes were pushed to their limit as she automatically blocked and dodged Yui’s assault.
Vainly, she tried to fight against the force manipulating her, to no avail. She was growing more and more frustrated, scared and depressed as she was forced to watch herself doing something she never imagined even in a million years of doing; harming someone she vowed to protect.
Seeing a strange glow, the ink-stained Dragon Slayer disengaged from her current encounter before trying to blitz at Maria, intent on stopping whatever the girl had planned and fulfilling the order she had been given in a single instant. No matter what, the order was absolute.
Realizing that she was about to fight her own sister, Morgan renewed her efforts to ward off the control, straining against the order she had been given, the order she wanted to disobey. She only hoped Maria could do something to stop her rampage before it was too late.
Cursing her own powerlessness, Yui panicked when she saw Morgan dart at an extremely fast speed towards Maria. She half wondered what plan she was enacting but was too worried about the more innocent of the three to put confidence in her actions. Sprinting after her in vain, knowing she'd most likely be too late, she cried out with alarm, "MARIA, DEFEND YOURSELF!"
"That's it, come right this way," Maria thought as she raised her glowing gauntlet up before her now azure shining irises. "Let me burn away that sinful essence burrowed within...with my Burning Holy Fist!"
As Morgan closed in her arms reaching out to grasp at her, that's when she disappeared, reappearing inches closer to thrust a flashing fist of garnered light and pure magic. With the knuckles crashing into her abdomen, a magic circle spread across her waist up her chest and down her thighs, soon enrapturing her in a brilliant majestic light. It'd appear as if Morgan caught on fire, but the flames themselves weren't aimed on burning away her flesh, but was within. The horrible ink wrapped around ever fiber of her being now was being flooed with a purifying light, causing Morgan's eyes to glow along with her mouth, a shooting star of magic power skyrocketing her reserves to a new height.
The mere sight of it caused Faer to recoil, the blaze of Morgan's new aura that swirled of Darkness and Light Magic, something that caused the blackness to be drained from now a colorless ink sea and into her mouth. In turn, the light of the now visible deck of the ship was now funneled into her body, seeming to drag into her with the assistance of Maria's exorcism of his tainted influence on her, unlocking a part of her incredible latent potential. Wings of blackness tinged in purifying rays of the Sun spread from her back, her hair flowing up with a silver sheen with a shadowy blackness that twirled in and around her form.
"W-What is she?! What did you do to her, witch?!" Faer cried out with alarm, realizing now his prime element had been wiped away in a single blow.
"I've freed Morgan from you," Maria declared, feeling her knees buckle as she strained to stand let alone breathe. The toll of the new magic she used was sapping her inexperienced reserves. Still, as pale as she felt in the face and sweat pouring down from her scalp, she was more overjoyed than anything. Chuckling she cast Morgan an admiring look at her. "And I've unlocked the beauty that hides in plain sight. She's stronger than any dark avatar you imagined her to be. She's the Phoenix Guild's Darkness Dragon Slayer, devouring evil and spewing righteous fury back at them!"
Grinding his teeth together, he felt himself forced back against a wall. Diana was too busy from her awe at looking at Morgan's new display of freedom and power to return her furious assault. It bought him time, enough that he could cast a glance over where his doppelganger went. When he saw his own face smiling from the glass, now with Mina seeming back on her feet, he sighed with relief. In a blink, the ink body shot out of the open doorway and hurdled itself off the edge of the Ark, aiming to find Rowlie and Donovan and hopefully see to it if they survived that they are revived.
Still endowed in an Ink Coat, Faer lifted his stave up and slammed it onto the Ark's ground, earning stares back at him. Pointing his stick at Morgan in particular, his body became engrossed in a thick aura of inky blackness, his eyes returning to a gleam of sinister crimson. "I will burn away that pride of yours, Phoenix Guild! Combustione!"
In an unexpectedly swift shot of fiery Ethernano particles, clumped together to form a fireball of azure flames, it launched itself at Morgan's person. The blast he wished to witness was to be that of a glorious display of power, capable of sending either of the tired girls sprawling across the deck and Diana to cover her eyes from the sheer force of it. However, something since this new incarnation of Morgan...much like the scarlet hued apparition from before...she seemed much more surreal than he had ever imagined, both in power and presence.
Just before she could strike Maria, Morgan felt something change. The magic controlling her was finally wearing thin. After a few seconds and a blinding flash of light, she felt herself regain full control over her body. In fact, she felt even better than before. “Maria...Thank you.” she said with a smile. Listening as her sister gushed about how she was, she laughed softly. Looking around, she realized the light ark was dimmer than before, but still solid enough to hold together, and that the ink was now just clear slime. Feeling her own magic energy, she realized that Maria’s spell gave her more than her freedom, it gave her a new source of power.
When Faer launched his spell, Morgan sped into action. To everyone who could see it, she was moving even faster than before, exceeding her limits thanks to the new burst of energy she enjoyed. She reached out and physically caught the flames with a single hand before crushing them into non-existence without so much as a thought. She gave Faer a venomous, hate-filled look once the smoke cleared. “Let me show you the real power of a Dragon Slayer! Darkness Light Dragon’s,” she began, before flashing over to Faer, entering point blank range faster than ever. “Roar!” As she called out her spell, she fired a massive burst of black and white energy, the pinnacle of the fusion between her natural abilities and what she had been given.
It was something that Faer couldn't have prepared for. Sure, an increase of force was to be reckoned with but nothing to this level. The sight of his magic being torn asunder barehanded was enough to leave him gaping and out of tact. The girl was strong, too strong at the very moment! Declaring her attack openly, he tried to form the script for the Letter Magic on his stave, coat, anything to stop her-...but she was already in front of her before half a sentence was formed on any surface.
Then, the fusion of Light and Darkness Magic from the power of a briefly realized Slayer was launched on his person. Like wave of chilling and searing heat that bludgeoned him with the force of a train, he roared out with a furious cry. His aura of Magical Power rose up from his own shadows and disassembling cloak, attempting to push back. The demonic visage only served to dampen the blow, his own body still launched in an arcing projectiong from the violently shaking Ark. Flattened against the surge of destructive magic, he knew that the moment he'd hit the ground, all of the force sending him towards the earth would destroy him.
"Damn! In the end, not even his progeny could be bested by me! Was all of this worth nothing in the end?!" He thought angrily, the scorching of his flesh and the howling of the wind as he rushed down made him grit his teeth and close his eyes. He wanted to shut out the view of the light shrouded darkness, and to dismiss it entirely. But the Dragon Slayer spell was too great for him to overcome without time and preparation. He wanted to bend her to his will, not have her beat him.
With a breath unleashed, and a flash of blue, he'd find himself surrendering to unconsciousness as the pain overwhelmed him.
In that instant, those standing on the Ark would be able to see a magnificent explosion in the wake of the thunderous roar that sounded more bestial than that of a girl shouting her regurgitating Magic Spell. It detonated into a swirling maelstrom of light covered shadows, spiraling around before shooting up into the air with a faux image of a dragon's body zooming into the heavens far beyond the Ark's altitude. Spreading wings and a mouth aimed upwards, the sound of the howling cry of the destructive magic was as beautiful as it was fear-inducing.
Everyone, including Diana, was left speechless at the attack. They didn't know what state she was in due to their attention on the attack and Faer's body being flung off the Light Magic construct. What happened afterwards was a shrill cry coming from the steps of the Ark's cabin, revealing a horror-stricken Mina Sarrk.
"NO!" Mina screamed out, tears running down her face as she held a hand over her mouth, her body almost doubling over, nearly falling over her stumbling legs at what she saw. "You...you couldn't have..he's...you didn't just..."
Diana turned her immediate attention to raise her blade at the girl, knowing she must have been dangerous if it took a combined effort of the girls to have beaten her. But, instead, she looked totally distant and not even acknowledging the Phoenix Wizards by her vicinity. Instead her tear filled eyes watched as the magnificent light show faded, her brows knitted and her body lit up like a crackling pyre of electricity. Then, she disappared, leaving a faint popping sound as she left no trace of her departure other than a small burn marred around her feet.
Sighing with relief, the Virago Spirit turned to walk towards Morgan, blade un-requipping in a fizzling golden flash.
"Morgan!" Maria bounced over to her sister, leaping to tackle hug her in mid-leap, accidentally bringing them to land on the ground. Nuzzling the crook of her neck she began to sob, her body heaving as she began to wail openly. As Yui smiled with relief at the two sisters, Diana walked past her, with a hidden expression stretched across her eyes. When the daughter of Victor pulled back, it was Diana's turn to sweep Morgan off her prone stance and into her black silk clad arms.
Hugging her tightly, Diana parted from her, stroking her bangs and left cheek with her own gloved hand as a pain-filled smile that reflected itself in her own tears being shed, "Never worry me like that again, Morgan Alexander. Understand?"
Completely exhausted, Morgan almost collapsed. With every fiber of her being crying out for rest after such an unimaginable display of power, she was only able to remain standing through sheer force of will at that point. When Maria tackle-hugged her, she lost her footing and in her current state didn’t even mind as they comically landed on the deck of the Ark. She embraced her sister, trying to keep herself calm and to comfort her.
Being hugged by Diana was a welcome surprise, one that the Dragon Slayer found comfort in. As the spirt broke off the hug and spoke to her, Morgan’s constantly stoic facade broke and she began to cry. “I won’t make you worry again. I promise.” she said between sobs.