"There's a war."
The word still didn’t feel real to Iris.
Just saying the word wasn't really enough. She had always thought of war as something that occurred in faraway countries that you would only see on the news, but it was occurring somewhere in the world right that very moment.
She wasn't sure if it didn't feel real to her because she simply hadn't had time to think about it since they had escaped forged the guild, or if it was because they had never been thrown into a real battlefield full of death and despair flying back and forth.
According to the news on the radio, Magic Council forces had been deployed to help evacuate and defend the facilities that worked with them within this world. However, Iris still didn't feel any real sense of danger.
She had no idea what would happen from then on.
Iris honestly didn't care who won, who lost, or what effect it all had on who guided the world. As long as that ridiculous war ended quickly and someone who would protect her friends had some control over things, she didn't really care about the rest.
Iris thought about all that, but what she was truly worried about lay elsewhere. She may have been thinking about the problem of the war in order to avert her gaze from her true worry.
"...WE'RE OUT OF MACARONI!"
Nobody responded to this, though Ringo looked at Iris like she wanted to bust her skull. Well...if such a look could cross such a blank face. Hephaestus entered the room, looking tense. "We cannot afford to dawdle. The Council and Crux are already making their moves. We need to get ready as soon as we possibly can."
Vivian agreed with this statement. "The old man is right. We're not supposed to fool around here. War is nothing to joke about. We need to be strategic here, and scatter as soon as possible in order to confuse our foes."
Momoko was stunned. "Since when were you intelligent?"
Vivian offhandedly snarked, "I learned from a book...written by a race of squirrel demons."
"Heh heh heh..." The familiar voice of Akatsuki's mysterious benefactor sounded throughout the guild as Mr. E materialized in the center of the room. "So you are preparing as well...very nice..." He turned to Vivian. "By the way...that sandwich?"
Vivian attempted to brush Mr. E off, with a powerful spinning kick, but to no avail as she fell on her ass. "...Gragh...what do you want, old bastard?" She was...angrier than usual with him.
"E....!" Hephaestus looked at the man with what seemed like utmost distaste.
"Oh, hello Hephaestus. Glad to see you're fitting in well." There was a strange smirk in E's voice as he said this, as if he was aware of something everyone else was left out of.
Momoko attempted to get E's attention by stomping on his foot. "Oi, you!! The hell are you?" She latched onto him. "Oho, yes...your mask seems ancient! It could be worth a fair bit....Eheheehehehehehe..." She was in ruin maniac mode once more.
He slipped right through her, gliding next to Vivian, before turning back to cast the blank eyes of his baboonskin mask upon Momoko. "Oh, that's right. I forgot you added someone new."
"What do you want, E?" Hephaestus asked sharply.
"I'm merely here as an informant. You're most likely aware of this, but Shadow Remnants are on the move." He chuckled. "However, here's an interesting tidbit. The other primordial? It's in the possession of Crux."
Momoko rolled her eyes as she fell to the ground, picking herself up and bluntly stating, "I kinda guessed that one. I mean, in fiction, if there's a hero with a special power, the rival will always be the one who has something similar. It's a rule."
"You read. Charming." Mr. E smiled under the mask. "However, Crux is not a rival. Merely a pawn in my plan. I sent him to you."
Momoko wasn't impressed. "Oh come on. You're so obviously infallable that it makes you seem like one of those...what do you call them...Villainy Bruees?" This provoked a 'wat' reaction, definitely.
"Silly child. I'm far from a villain." He chuckled mirthlessly. "Think of me as an author, and the entire world as my book. Or, if you prefer, think of this world as my chess set. I'm playing everything to my whim."
Iris's ears stuck up. "Suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuure you are~"
"Good luck to all of you." Mr. E said before vanishing, doing what pretty much no one else every really did. Ignore Iris Lavra.
Momoko sighed, "So, that's your information broker? He seems like a jackass."
"Disregarding the monkey, it's time to mo-" Hephaestus was quickly interrupted by the opening of a door, through with Mary Jane stepped through, looking slightly worried. "I...I want to come with you all!"
Vivian was worried for her safety. "No, you really shouldn't. If you get hurt then I'll have to take my anger out on somebody... preferably Momoko."
"B-but Onē-chan!" Mary seemed to be really bothered by her adoptive sister's refusal. "I can help too! And...I want to spend time with you!" Mary and Vivian HAD been rather seperate for a little while, with Vivian going on far more jobs than she was.
Vivian sulked. "...Tch, fine..." She felt guilty- a while back, she promised Mary Jane that she would buy her something; but somewhere in her head, she forgot about it until just now. "Okay! You can come with us! But! Do NOT pull the puppy-dog eyes on me. That's like a critical hit."
"You're the best, Onē-chan!" Mary wrapped her older sister in a vice-like hug. The sight of these guild members seemed to offset Hephaestus, but he didn't speak just yet.
"...What is her Dawn colour...?" Ringo asked. Despite her general stoicness, perhaps she liked the concept of the Dawn Rangers?
Iris cheered, "Vivian is DawnPink! The graceful warrior of love, lust, and possession of decent mammaries-OW!"
Vivian instinctively slapped Iris in the back of the head for that remark. "Shaddup!"
Iris continued, "And Mary Jane is...DawnPurple! What she lacks in the front...she makes up for in the back!"
Ulalia added on, "Aww, true dat."
"And Gaikou is DawnWhite. Basically that actress who can't emote, but with powers."
Mary seemed rather confused. "Um...alright. I'm just gonna stick close to you now Onē-chan...everyone got weirder."
Before anyone else could make a ridiculous disturbance, Hephaestus cleared his throat. "Momoko. I take it you possess your map?"
Momoko took out her map from her cleavage once more. "Of course."
"Then you will lead us." Hephaestus replied. "We will destroy these now, before any harm can come to this world."
Momoko's thrust a victory pose as a triumphant fanfare roused in the background. "Super Map, go!" It was like something out of a videogame.
"...Wat." That was all Vivian could utter in response.
The self-made group set out from the Haven, landing quickly into the real world and setting off. Hephaestus cast his eyes to the sky. It was overcast. Gehaburn's power was already spreading across the globe.
"Onē-chan..." Mary Jane smiled. The entire "end of the world" seemed to be giving her energy. "If something happens, rely on me, okay?"
Vivian gave a confident smirk in response. "Of course! We're here for each other."
"Where's the closest fragment, Momoko?" Hephaestus asked, speeding up to run alongside her.
Momoko continued to look at her map. "...Hmm, it's to the southwest of here. About 45 minutes." She paused. "Notice how we do a crapton of running? I mean for once I'd like to sit back, and just let other people do our work."
"Be happy. You're running to something, and not from something." Hephaestus replied darkly. "There's still time to save this world."
"It's like that tv show with the guy in the blue box and his companions. Sure, you do incredible things, but there's a lot of running." Momoko snarked.
"Outrageous, isn't it?" Was the simple reply.
Iris was tempted to throw out another reference to the show that had inspired millions, but she stopped herself from doing so. "The real question is...are we there yet~ I can sense something veeeeeeeeeeeeeery close to us. As if it's magical power is rampaging like a raging fire."
"What else do you know about the nine we're going to face, Hephaestus?" Mary asked the elderly man.
"As I mentioned before, Gehaburn itself split into nine different beings to recuperate it's powers. These nine are Seiryū, Byakko, Suzaku, Genbu, the Shinigami, Hokuto Sennin, Nanto Sennin, Kinja, and Tennyo." His face darkened as he spoke, and it was clear these nine would be strong. "Each of them are beasts of formidable power, and they will be difficult to handle."
Vivian sighed, pesimissticly saying, "So, screwed if we do, screwed if we don't? Sounds great." She wasn't happy; then again, she never was.
"This world is not yet finished!" Hephaestus replied and he seemed to take strength from that thought. "Your guild is not weak. I know this. These nine will fall to us. Akatsuki...it wasn't around in my future to take care of things. But that's different this time."
Momoko triumphantly thrust her hand in the air, pointing to the sky. "That's right!" She was...enthuastic. "Our guild is the drill that will pierce the heavens! We shall break fate, and forge a path to victory! Not even destiny can slow us down! So, everyone, buck up and let's do this!" Rousing, wasn't it.
"He's still asleep..." Wendy was sitting on the large bed, resting Jason's head on her lap and stroking his hair. "I hope he's alright..." She looked at him, quietly staring for what felt like an hour. "You saved me....back then...and now, I'll do anything to keep you alive....don't die on me..." A few tears fell down from her eyes, and landed on Jason's face. This seemed to make him stir, but not enough to make him wake up.
"Wendy..." Jason murmured in his sleep.
"I'm quite interested to see where your bond would take you, child..." Mr. E materialised into the room, sitting on the windowsill. He was holding what appeared to be a large, purple crystal.
"W-what's that?" Wendy asked, wiping her eyes, instead of asking the more appropriate "Why are you in a dark room with me, a little child?"
"This...is my gift to Jason." Mr. E replied, chuckling. "Much like the staff and acorn I gave to you and Iris. It's called a Colstone." He threw it towards her, and she caught it, looking at it through her now-blurred vision.
"What does it do...?"
"It is just what he wants. Power, in it's purest form." Mr. E replied, though something seemed off in his words. "Tell him to consume it when he needs it. It will give him the power he needs."
As he vanished, he left Wendy to her own thoughts, and she stared at the stone, unsure of what to do.
Hephaestus shuddered, as if detecting a strange chill along the wavelengths of his soul.
What swooped down in front of them was a large, black dragon with a long, curled tail and twisted, yellow spikes lining its back. Its wings were actually long, five-fingered hands with ornate webbing between the fingers. Each finger sported a short, white claw and the webbing was decorated by a swirling pattern. It's underside was lined by two rows of three gold cymbals. It's lower jaw was large, jagged, and yellow, its upper jaw was blue, and its eyes were glowing yellow with blue-green "eyebrows". White hair was visible around the dragon's eyes and mouth, and formed "tusks" on the sides of its mouth. The dragon also had two bent, red horns on its head.
Momoko performed a quick analysis. "...No, that's not a regular dragon. That's a fragment of Gehaburn, if I'm right? No dragon looks like that—it's appearance, and well, it's aura, is completely unlike La Sirene or anything else."
The dragon shot towards the group, swooping at them at an incredible velocity, attempting to drag the group into the skies with a roar.
"It's Seiryū!" Hephaestus immediately ignited, creating a large blast of flames, a cylindrical tower of flames to keep the dragon at bay. This worked, as Seiryū immediately stopped in it's tracks, foregoing further forward motion to avoid becoming roasted.
Momoko noted a foul aura eminating from Vivian. "...Huh. Something's up with her magical power. Like..."
Iris rolled her eyes. "Vritra? Ehhh, she can handle it."
Vivian grumbled, "Wow, guys. Right. Fucking. Here." She blasted Seiryū with a wave of golden flames, which pierced through the tower, taking it by surprise.
"Stupid onē-chan, don't just do this without me!" Mary called out. "Bubblebeam!" She released a long stream of bubbles from her palms straight towards the dragon.
Vivian growled. "Tch, don't say that.." She grabbed Mary's hand, and aimed it straight at Seiryuu; the two launching a combined blast of flame and water at the beast.
Taking a dive, the dragon amazingly dodged this powerful assault with a swift barrel roll.
Using her incredibly speed, Ringo appeared above the dragon, her sister naturally accompanying her, manipulating the flames she was creating, forming a large, curved sickle of flame, which she threw towards the beast.
"Srkaaaaaaaaaaaaah!" The dragon let out a mighty roar, counter the twin's attack with a roar of darkness magic; attempting to knock them out of the sky.
Everyone close to the magic was blown back by it's sheer force, with the exception of Hephaestus, who was able to resist this. "Come now, Akatsuki! Do you have no more mettle than this?" One had to wonder, why he was simply standing around and watching, as opposed to helping.
"Easy for him to talk..." Mary groaned, standing on her feet. "Try this one!" She began to draw water from the atmosphere, and draining the moisture from plants as well. All around her, the grass, trees, bushes, everything withered and died. She gathered the water into one focused point, shaping it into a dragon of great size. The dragon began to spiral, quickly, until it's features were a blur and she sent the construct hurtling towards Seiryū.
The dragon was knocked back two meters; though it didn't seem very fazed; responding with a powerful current of darkness that shot towards the group, aiming to blow them all away.
"Solar Dragon's Reflector!" Vivian expelled solar flares mere seconds before the opposing projectile attack landed, transforming the flares into a formation of geometric shapes that connected to form the overall shape of tessellating hexagons. Spinning around at high speeds, these hexagons gathered magical energy by drawing it from Vivian and the surroundings for a split second, before quickly counterattacking by reflecting Seiryuu's attack at such a speed that it seemed that Vivian launched a dark blast at Seiryuu; the attack countered so fast that Seiryuu didn't know what hit it.
Hephaestus was certainly impressed. "They're good. This is assuring. Of course, I should have had more faith in their skills...but can they make the final kill? This is only the first of many..."
Mary gritted her teeth. "I can do this one in! Watch me, Onē-chan!" Mary once again began to call on the water in the air and from plants, further this time, gathering it into her palm. During this time, Ringo and Ichigo keeping Seiryū busy. She quickly began to rotate it and compressed it into her palm. Then, with great speed, she launched herself forward, extending her palm towards the apparition. "A Testament to my Love for Onee-chan: Secret Technique: Super Torrential Spiraling Pulse!"
Vivian's eyes went blank at this; "...Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!?" Seiryuu exploded violently upon impact with the technique, leaving everyone shocked.
Ringo sighed. "That technique name...how do you not bite your tongue?"
"I like it." Mary stuck out her chest proudly. "It's a tribute to my Onē-chan!"
Vivian was embarrassed at such a ridiculous technique name. "Yeah, yeah...just don't show it in public, okay? It's embarrassing..."
Mary looked very shocked at this. "W-why? You don't like it?"
Vivian backed up. "Ehhhh, I do, I do! It's just...such an extravagant title. Like if Ulalia made up a spell called "I Desire All of the Female Ass In The World: Solid Script: Nuke." Think about how silly that sounds."
Mary's eyes began to water, and from the looks of it, she was about to start crying as her voice began to hiccup. "I-I made this...j-just to show off for y-you...and you don't even l-like it...!"
Ringo put on a small smirk, which, given her "half-awake" expression, made it look more like she was planning to murder everyone in the vicinity. "Vivian, would you like some Fairy Cola with that foot?"
Vivian stammered, "I-I like it! It's just embarrassing!" She approached Mary, embracing her tightly. "Okay, okay! I love it a lot! You can use it!"
Hephaestus, however, had no more patience for this. "While I am always one pleased to see emotions, coming from where I'm from, we do not have time to dilly-dally." He looked at Vivian. "You've been in Akatsuki the longest, Vivian. You're one of the founding members, so you should be able to answer this question with no problem. Where is Erza?"
The Crimson Knight
"Erza?" Olivia was surprised to hear Len say her name. "Hephaestus is asking for Erza?"
"That's right." Len replied, looking through his databases. "According to my Archive, two have existed in this world. Ours is unique, isn't she?"
"That's right." Olivia replied, her eyes narrowing. "I've issued the call. Now where is she?"
"Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeee-" Erza came running; a beautiful scarlet haired woman who seemed...uncharacterically cheerful. However, as she was bounding over to the group....she fell flat on her face. "Owwwww!" She hopped up, rubbing her ass. "Erza Kazoraem at your service!"
Len looked at her with wide eyes, visibly speechless. However, he recovered quickly. "T-this is the one Hephaestus is calling for so seriously? She doesn't even look like she can handle much!"
"Oh, you'd be surprised." Olivia chuckled. "Why were you coming from the stairs, Erza? Checking on Jason's status?"
Erza shook her head. "Nope. Not everything revolves around him, you know. And Wendy's got that covered. I'm here to help, right now!"
Olivia frowned. "That's a bit cold-hearted, but I'll be sure to pass that along to our dear Master that while he was laid up in bed comatose, you didn't care about him at all."
Erza responded, "Oh, I do care. It's just that more pressuring matters are at hand. Anyway, what did you want me for?"
"Hephaestus is recently gone after nine demon fragments. He's taken the twins, Momoko, Iris, Mary, and Vivian with him." Len was scrolling through his Archive for information Hephaestus had sent. "However, this requires a bit more manpower, and he's going to be sending you with an additional squad after more fragments."
Erza grinned, "Bah! Why need extra reinforcements? I am the reinforcements." Confident, was this version of the loathed Titania; though yet this was an ego of awesomeness.
CRASH! The sound echoed throughout the Akatsuki building as the wall beside the bar shattered, revealing a large, dark skinned man wielding a giant hammer. "I heard someone asked for reinforcements!?" His deep voice boomed throughout the area.
Someone on the other side of the bar sighed. "Dammit Tyrone, get your shit together!"
Olivia frowned. "Tyrone....this is the fifth time this month...."
Erza was a recent addition. "...Does he always do this? Cuz I could see myself punching his damn lights out for that."
"Yes...." Olivia sighed. "We simply take it out of his pay." She cast him an aside glance. "Since you're here, Tyrone, would you like the usual fried chicken with powdered drink?"
"No, I'm much more interested in what I was overhearing." He grinned, his canines showing. "Reinforcements, eh? I'd love to wrangle with these creatures, and if working with Erza is the only way to get that done..." He slammed his hammer into the ground. "Count me in!"
Erza called out to Gaikou, "Come on, join the fun!" She was...bloodthirsty.
Gaikou crossed her arms and trudged off. "No I angst alone!" Typical reaction from her.
Erza smirked. "Eh, then you won't be able to draw first blood. More for me, less for you. This is what I live for. I'm absolutely crazy about it!"
"Now, tha's what I like ta see." A very, light, familiar voice dripping with amusement sounded out as Alaskiel Salo walked into the Akatsuki building, fresh from his own mission. "How about ya count me in?"
"I suppose that'd be fine, Alaskiel." Olivia seemed pleased that a mage of his level volunteered. "Just no hitting on the girls..."
"Like I'd ever do that." Mentally, he was rewriting plans to ask Erza out for drinks.
Erza clenched her fists. "Okay, Dawn Crusaders, assemble!"
Gaikou muttered, "...Wait, we already have the goddamn Dawn Rangers...why do we need the Dawn Crusaders? What's next, the Dawn Warriors?"
"So it's jus' us then?" Alaskiel's constant grin never faded. "I don't think I like them odds, even if it is us three." And yet his face implied he liked these odds very much. Such an odd man.
"What about Corinne?" Olivia suggested.
"Away on a job." Len waved this off.
"I can come." Ono smiled, and everyone looked around, wondering where she had come from. She certainly hadn't been there a minute ago. "If everyone else is a bit busy, there's always me."
Erza nodded and made a fist-pumping motion. "Alright! Now, we're ready!"
"Good luck, everyone." Len called out. "Don't get hurt, alright?"
The new battalion exited the Akatsuki building, armed with their weapons, and raring to go. "Coordinates received." Alaskiel called out. "Let's head out. It's time for Akatsuki - Team B to do it's part!"