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"Now, it's showtime!"

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"Even if you beg for mercy, I won't listen!"

This article Operation Reclaim, is the sole property of CPU Noire and as such, no user may edit this article without explicit permission from the aforementioned creator. If you wish to use this article in any way, please ask me first
New Beginnings Arc

Metal Squirrel Solid: The Twin Acorns

Even so, the group were heading towards the Magic Council's new headquarters- however, questions still persisted; Iris, by now, was complaining. "Are we there yet? ....This is taking too long. I'm bored. And hungry." And probably a whole lot of other things which had nothing to do with anything, such as pro-abortion.

Either way, once they reached the bottom of the raviene, the group stood before the front of the complex. "Okay, so do we enter or..." Iris walked towards the building, before getting a nasty electric shock. "Ow! What was that...!?" Her tail stood on end in fright.

"A defensive electrical field..." Jason frowned. "This will be difficult to get past, without exerting so much power we trip an alarm."

This actually stopped Mary, who had been about to attack the barrier. "Dammit."

Iris glared at the barrier. "Ah, inanimate objects. My natural enemy." Truth be told they really were her mortal enemies- it all started with that trashcan back when she was a wee young'un. "So...what do we do then? Sneak past? Put all our power at once into it?"

Jason silently gnashed his teeth, as if turning over an unpleasant thought. "If any two of us use, perhaps, a Unison Raid, we can break it down. However, that won't go unnoticed. We will have to watch out."

Iris began to think; for once. "Oooh! Mary uses Water Magic! I've done several Unisons with that before with Momoko and her Water Dragon Slayer Magic! I think we have a solution!"

"Will the bad people, come, Onii-chan?" Mina asked him, sounding petrified at the thought. "I...don't make them come out..."

Jason put on a soft smile. "Don't worry. The destruction of a barrier like this will only bring out the foot soldiers. My guild can destroy them with no problem. You're safe with us, Mina."

Mary walked over to Iris, cracking her knuckles. "Finally, let's get something done."

Iris enthusiastically grasped Mary's hand, shaking it rather happily. "Okay! Let's focus our magical energy into our hands, while aiming at the barrier! My Fire Magic and your Water Magic should cause a paradox that'll deflect the barrier!"

"...Iris, you have a brain?" Mary was shocked. "I though you were just our cute, laid-back friend."

Iris retorted with a hint of deadpon, "I'll have you know that my IQ is 126. I can be smart...it just seems that you never come to me for advice. I'd advise that you did so if you wanted to get anywhere." Her mind blanked. "...Whaaaaa?" 

"Let's just do this." Mary extended their hands, pointing it towards the barrier, and it began to glow with her own magical power, dueled by it's water-like properties. "This better work..."

Iris focused her Fire Magic into her hands, "Ready? Three....two...one! UNISON RAID: The Hundred Shooting Stars!" Fire and water, yin and yang combined- two polar opposite streams of energy which shot forth in a spiralling ray of pure energy, contacting with the barrier and phasing through it and spreading out, latching onto the field in the four cardinal directions before detonating with enough force to completely obliterate it.

"Amazing..." Olivia was awestruck, never having performed a unison raid, she was surprised to see the level of power it could put out. In fact, it was dangerously close to...

WEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

The alarm went off, tripping the woman's thoughts up, and causing her to instinctively turn her head as if searching for the source of the noise.

"Don't waste your time." Jason called her off of this, and they both walked over to where Iris and Mary stood. "Mary, feel like cutting the door apart?" Jason suggested. "My hands are tied." Mina had fallen asleep, resting her head comfortably on his shoulders.

"Naturally." Mary gripped the large bulk wrapped in cloth that, which unwrapped to reveal an uniquely-shaped broadsword with a blue blade and a golden edge. It glinted as she raised the blade, preparing to strike. With ease, the girl slashed at the doors, chopping them into pieces so small they were barely noticeable, creating them their entrance, before wrapping the sword in cloth again and holstering it on her back.

"So you picked up swordsmanship?" Olivia inquired, and Mary, despite herself, flashed a bit of a grin. "Yeah. I figured, the rest of our guild does it, coordination attacks and group battles would be easier if I picked up a blade as well. I call it Eisivori."

Iris' ears drooped all of a sudden. "Sometimes you don't need a sword...why not use it as a club? It'd be a better weapon. Why just slice people in half when you can whack them a new one? There's too many swords, it's like a kitchen drawer...."

"The intruders!" Figures moved from the shadows, encircling them. Figures clad in white robes with crosses adorning them.

"And we have guests." Jason let out a small sigh. "I suppose this makes sense, ring the doorbell, someone is bound to answer."

Iris' ears perked up once more. "Hello~ Pizza delivery! What you ordered: an asskicking~!" There was something strangely badass about this- as she took out numerous guards with a powerful haymaker.

"No, Iris, let me." Olivia slowly stepped in front of her, a small smile on her face. "I've rarely gotten the chance to help Master or anyone else out — not since that corpse incident. The least I can do is take out the minions."

"M-minions!?" One of the Rune Knights seemed to take offence towards this, actually charging in at her, swinging his weapon down with anger. Olivia raised her hand, stopping the staff with surprising strength. She kept a firm grip on it, extending her hand towards the man and sending him hurtling backwards through wind pressure.

"I suppose, before each of you fall, I can educate you on how one of these can actually be used." Her smile was unnerving, as if she'd seen combat much worse than this before.

"She's mocking us!" Whatever remained of the composure the men had vanished by this point, and they all simply rushed Olivia in a blind charge.

Clashing sounds could be heard as she parried each consecutive blow, but she never needing to move, remaining stationary as the Rune Knights needlessly expended their energy "attacking" her. She then utilised the blunt end of the sphere to wind several of the Rune Knights, and in a shocking display of brutality, chopped off the arm of an advancing Rune Knight through sheer strength; his cry of pain echoing as he collapsed in shock.

"I suppose I'll finish up here." She released the staff she had been holding, extending her arms towards the remaining Rune Knights. "Spear Frenzy: Spike Spurt." From her sleeve extended thousands of spears, and, targeting the remaining enemies, speared them brutally on the edge of the weapons, creating a massive pool of blood as they fell.

Iris leapt back in fright. Naturally blood didn't freak her out, but the fact that Olivia was so damn casual about the whole thing did. "...Wait, when did you become such a mean person...I guess that seven years was a lot~" Especially Iris' new habit of crossword puzzles.

Jason's eyes scanned the entire ordeal, limp bodies, broken bodies, and weapons lying in pools of blood. Olivia calmly stepped over one of the bodies, wiping her feet on the ground to get the blood out. "What...happened to you, in those past seven years?" Jason had to take a moment to get the words out. The shock of dead bodies was nothing; he'd racked up more than this as a younger man. What shocked him was Olivia was the one who delivered the carnage.

"Time..." Olivia let out a small chuckle. "Time is a strange mistress. I learned that the hard way, and it merely shaped me during our time apart. Don't worry Master, I'm still on your side."

Iris snarked for once, "So did that Len guy, and up and left. I'd be careful~"

"My my, Iris..." Olivia smiled, and, unlike the impression a smile should give, hers was truly disturbing. "Are you implying I would betray the Master? I'm loyal to him, and to our group. You hurt me."

Iris wasn't implying anything, but, "Geez, louise. It's a joke~ Calm thine mammaries~" It seemed that she wasn't joking about the IQ boost. At least she wasn't fence-post dumb like she used to be.

"Let's move, you two." Jason urged them, jerking his head to the destroyed door. "Gaikou is waiting on us."

"Of course." Olivia's strange smile flashed again. "Let us proceed."

They charged straight into the building, surprised that no alarms were tripped, confronted with what appeared to be a straight hallway.

"I suppose this will be easier than I thought." Jason mused, before looking at Iris. "Iris, sense anything?"

Iris' ears suddenly propped up. "Yes! It's a powerful, yet fading magical signal...coming from the top of the building. It's still significant, but it's fading slowly. I think it's Gaikou, so we should hurry."

"In that case, we have to head up." Jason concluded, and they pressed on.


"And it appears we have guests, Alexis." Len cast a look at what appeared to be a lacrima-powered monitoring screen, which showed the Akatsuki group navigating through the hallways. "And look, it's the Akatsuki no less."

Alexis, meanwhile...was roasting marshmallows on a fire. In a room with no campfire. "Ah, the defiance of physics, how I love it so." She turned to Len. "Oh, alright. You know what to do, send in the robots, activate the security systems, I'll do something as soon as my Highlander is complete. You and the other knight stall for time as well." She was so deadpan about all this.

"The Kingdom of Fiore wasn't built in a day..." Len sighed, exasperated with her demanding. "You need to learn a bit of patience. A task gets done when it gets done." He then added. "And threatening me won't make it go any faster."

Alexis slammed her fist on the table near her in annoyance. "Listen here, you fools. From what's written in the books, Fiore was, and I can threaten whoever I damn well want, got it?" She relaxed. Yes, really. "...Anyway, if you do good, I'll raise your pay and you can't complain anymore."

"The books you were reading have since been discredited." Len sighed, and pulled his labcoat over his figure. "Just sit back, be quiet, I'll put on a show you can clap your hands to." With those simple words, he departed, heading downstairs to deal with his former guildmates.

Camarada

Iris' ears suddenly perked up as she noticed, that yes, they were rather expressive today. "...Something's amiss. Like this is all a trap. I'm a bit worried..." What else was new?

"I would love to say we'd have nothing to worry about either, but..." Jason stopped, and the group stopped as well. Mina seemed to jolt awake from this sudden. "Onii-chan....did something happen?"

"No, but it's about to." Jason sighed, and a door manifested, opening, and the very feminine figure of Zinzolin Bitfrost stepped out of it before the guild, smiling. "Hello, Akatsuki, so glad to see you could make it. Though I must admit, I am surprised you found this place."

Mary growled. "And it seems the first enemy is already here." It was obvious none of them recognised Zinzolin as Len.

Iris' nose twitched as she smelt something familiar about this man. "Heyyyyyyy....Don't I know you from somewhere~? Like, we've met before. Or haven't we...I'm not so sure..." She would close in to get more proof but she decided against it.

"Even his magical energy feels a bit familiar." Jason noted. "Who are you?"

Zinzolin sighed, he even seemed a bit hurt. "Such a keen nose, Iris. I assume you wouldn't remember me, seven years is quite a long time. My name is Zinzolin Bitfrost, current head of the Magic Council's development department, but I believe you knew me as Len Fauxfalsch."

Iris didn't really seem to give a hoot about it. "...Ah, I see. That's interesting. You're an interesting person." She nodded like nothing really happened, taking everyone off-guard...before she swung her fist towards his smug face at full pelt...

...only to be deflected by a spherical barrier, whirring and blinking sounds coming from it as several flatscreens manifested in front of Zinzolin. "I forgot about that, Iris always was the type to run in without thinking. You really should do that. What if I was a poisonous explosive?"

Iris growled like...a wild animal. "Shut up, now! I won't hear that coming from a traitor like you!" She withdrew her fist, stopping herself from assaulting Zinzolin further. Hopping back, Iris quickly surveyed her options while her ears stood straight on end, thinking of what to do while constantly moving, in preparation for Zinzolin's attack.

"So, you're Len, hm?" Jason cast the boy a look. "That explains why you didn't return to our guild when we all reunited. You were a mole from the Council."

"That's right." Zinzolin flashed a small smile. "I was sent to gather information and certain other necessities from your guild." His smiled widened, showing white teeth. "And I have to say, it went off with a resounding success. You see, I'm a terrible actor. So I had my memories reworked to infiltrate your guild. And you all accepted me easily. That was a bit careless, 'Master'." The last word dripped with sarcasm.

Iris didn't even care. "Shut up already. You make me want to rip you in half." Like she gave a damn about some C-list fodder who just pissed off the face of the earth and suddenly came back.

"That hurts my feelings, you know." Zinzolin's voice dripped in mock hurt. "I suppose next you'll be saying you're going to kill me."

Jason looked down at Iris, a small smile creeping onto his face. "You know, Iris, I heard physical therapy is a great way to get rid of negative emotions like frustration. We all know you're feeling pretty frustrated."

Iris looked back at him. "Oh, yes, I'm frustrated alright. Now, stand back, you people skeddaddle. I'll hold this wiry bastard off." Iris gritted her teeth as she stopped herself from wailing on him. "Now...how to get past this barrier deal-eo." Her ears twitched back and forth ,trying to figure out the best course of action. As for now, evading his attacks was the best decision.

"Good luck, Iris!" Jason called back as they dashed off, running past Zinzolin, who didn't turn to stop them from running.

"Not even I can take all of you on. I suppose it'll be wise to pick you off one at a time. Iris, you're so kind as to volunteer."

Iris sighed, resigned to her fate. "...Oh, I'm volunteering, alright. I'm volunteering to R.Y.N.O'ing you!" The squirrel girl gnashed her teeth, ready to attack as her magical energy flared up in the form of the aura of a squirrel surrounding her body. "Let's settle this, one on one. Your move, bucko!"

Zinzolin smiled, raising his hand from within his barrier, and manifested several large orbs of white light, floating around his barrier. With a snap of his fingers, they spread out, filling the entire hall in a large row. "Hindenburg - Toll Feld."

"...!" Iris' tail shot straight up, as she curled into a ball, gathering stray magical energy from the atmopshere momentarily before shooting forward in a rapidly spinning movement, darting nearly around the small openings between each explosions, missing each blast by mere millimeters while heading towards Zinzolin in an attempt to knock him straight through the building.

"Hindeburg." Zinzolin was unfazed by the evasion skills Iris displayed; snapping his fingers again, creating, near instantaneously, more spheres of white light appeared around his barrier. At the speed she was moving, Iris would not be able to stop or change her course in time, and Zinzolin knew these explosions would connection.

Iris' psychic visions activated- leaping back by quickly shifting the direction of her rolling to counterclockwise; however, she was blasted by the spheres, being thrown back before she could fully complete the motion. "...Wo~w. There's a lot of bright lights~"

The City Time Forgot

Meanwhile, the party of Wendy, Hanako, Makoto, Chelia, and Tyrone, led by Erza, were making their way through a forest under the cover of darkness. Wendy seemed slightly put out, and grumbled to Chelia. "Why do I have the feeling Jason left me out of his party on purpose?"

Chelia slapped her on the back. "Hahahaha. Relax, relax. You've got me. I'm like Jason. But BETTER!" There was certainly a creepy gaze in her eyes as she said those words.

"That reminds me, Chelia." Wendy looked at her curiously. "What do you think of Jason? I mean, you only joined the guild because we're friends, and yet you sleep in the same room as the harem and everything. What's up with that?"

Chelia seemed confuzzled, for a lack of a better word. If that was a word at all. "I dunno, it's hard to say. He seems tolerable enough. Well, enough that I don't want to kill him." Naturally, Chelia wanted to kill everyone except Wendy, so Jason being 'tolerable' meant that he certainly meant a lot to her.

"Chelia, that's....very vague." Wendy's voice was a bit dull; why was her friend so confusing?

"You'll understand when you get older." Never minding the fact that they were the same age; Chelia seemed to be intentionally vague on everything about other people.

"Sorry to be the one to ask this, but, Erza, where are we?" Makoto called from the back. "We've been in this forest awhile. We're either lost, or this is the largest forest in the history of Earthland."

Erza pulled out her map. "Momoko gave me this. So yeah, it's the "Map of All Knowingness". Anyway, it seems that we're in the "Grove of Otherworld". Which means either nobody cut the grass or there's a portal around here somewhere."

"I....I question the validity of that map." Makoto was willing to trust Erza, albeit hesitantly. If the Guild Master hadn't appointed Erza leader, she'd have more complaints. Then again, Jason himself seemed a bit flaky.

"Well, the map seems to know damn near everything. Hell, it works as a watch and compass. I would NOT underestimate the map." Erza immediately pointed out- the thing was literally a GPS and a magitek web cable, all in one. The question was who made it.

"Which brings about the next question." Wendy interrupted. "Where are we headed?"

Erza turned the map around multiple times. "...Through the Grove of Otherworld, is an ancient town that was devastated by wars some 430 years ago. It's said that the Tyrant Dragon was defeated by the Phoenix Knight there and sealed away by some magic that erupts from the earth itself. But we're there because in there, there's something very, very important that'll help us against the Shadow Remnants."

"Is this fact, or purely conjecture?" Makoto inquired, curiosity in her voice. "The Guild Master did send us on a mission different from this, and yet everyone is doing what they want. Is it because every woman is in his bed that you guys can get away with this?" She was either ignoring the fact that Tyrone existed, was present, and was not a woman, or figured no one would acknowledge him.

Hanako's eye twitched at that remark, but she left it alone.

Erza sighed, "You know if you go by what I hear from you idiots, all I hear is 'Jason, Jason, Jason'. You'd think you'd develop other than talking about that orange-haired dingus. Alright,so going from the map, we should go forward, then forward again, backwards twice, left, then right, then left then right again, and that should open up a portal."

Everyone looked at her with an odd expression, as Hanako pointed out, "What are you smoking."

"Is this making sense to any of you?" Probably not.

Wendy wrapped an arm around Makoto's shoulder, and she looked at her fellow Dragon Slayer, surprised. "If you wanna talk about Jason, Makoto, I can tell you anything you need to know. And I am well open to discussion about him anyway."

Makoto smiled a bit weakly. "I-it's not that I want to talk about him, I just don't understand how one man attracts nearly an entire guild of women." She stroked her cheek with her finger for a moment, averting Wendy's gaze. "Well...he is sort of cute...but he seems cold!" The last part sounded completely like an afterthought.

Erza sighed. "Oh, shut up about that dingus, will you. He's not even cool. At all. He's literally a black hole. Hell let's talk about something else. Your life does NOT need to revolve around him. People who cling onto others and talk about nothing but them rustle my johnsons. So let's try another topic while we walk around. Anyone seen any good movies lately?"

"Stop insulting him like that, Erza." Wendy's eyes flashed a bit ominously, and the brown orbs swiveled in Erza's direction. Whether or not she had pushed Wendy's buttons was yet unknown; if she did, however, both she and this forest might be in trouble. Wendy walked over to Erza, jabbing a finger in the girl's chest. "Keep your negative words to yourself, Erza, or there's a chance you might not wake up tomorrow." Yeah, her buttons had been pressed.

Makoto seemed a bit put off by this, and whispered to Chelia. "Why is Wendy obsessed with Jason? Is she like....his main one?"

Chelia began to think. "Cuz orange-range found her and saved from some madman. He became the light in her life; the only thing she found comfortable in her otherwise hellish existence. It's understandable but it's been like ninteen years, y'know? But I really can't mad at her, I'd look like a hypocrite. Since Wendy's that for me."

Erza sighed, "Oh, you take things so seriously. Maybe if you'd lighten up a little, you'd get what I'm saying. It. Is. A. Joke. If I hated the guy I wouldn't be damn following his lead, would I? Use logic in your thoughts. Now calm yourself, let's go."

Wendy silently fumed as she strayed back towards Chelia. She didn't like Erza, not one bit.

Erza returned to the situation at hand; staring intently at the map. "Hmm....It seems that the portal will open once we go in those directions. However, it was abandoned 430 years ago, so you should be careful. There could be something sealed within it that'll screw us up real bad. But, it says here..."

"Many years after the departure of the Phoenix Knight, the seal of the Lunarians which held the Devil began to weaken for an unknown reason, and that Devil managed to escape his imprisonment; it intended to make good on its threat to the Phoenix Knight that it would escape one day to make the Phoenix Knight's descendants pay for its imprisonment. As the darkness was covering the land, the people of that kingdom prayed that the Phoenix Knight would once again come to save them, but the hero did not appear.

The King of this kingdom attempted to use his magic to stop the Devil, but failed. Left with no other choice, the people pleaded to the magic from the earth, as it eventually answered the peoples' prayers, instructing those chosen to flee to the kingdom's mountaintops in order to escape the coming flood and to prevent the Devil's wish of the destruction of the land. Once the people were safely away, the magic from the earth caused a torrential downpour, covering the land and turning the mountaintops into islands. The king chose to remain behind with his doomed kingdom.

The devil's army had already infiltrated the castle of this kingdom when the magic of the earth sealed the kingdom within an enchanted air chamber that prevented the water from destroying it. A magical seal was also cast over the Source Ring that froze the entire land and the Devil's, freezing them in time and draining the entire kingdom of colour; and over time, the Grove of Otherworld was created above the kingdom, as the people largely forgot the memory of the old kingdom that still existed deep beneath the waves." She sighed. "Sorry for that, but that's what it says. It's insane to believe that all this happened 430 years ago."

Tyrone groaned. "We can never wind up with something that isn't rooted in the deep myths of old."

"And...this "left, right, whatever" thing you mentioned not five minutes ago..." Wendy asked slowly. "Do we just have to move in the direction, or is it a path that gets us where we need to go? You were vague."

Erza pointed out with her normal deadpan manner, "We can never wind up in a situation that doesn't involve wacky hijinks or some demon or ruins. Notice that? Now, since I was so vague, let me explain more. Five steps are required for each direction, and once you do that, I myself will use the map to open up the portal. So hop to it, got that?"

Everyone turned to look at Hanako, and Tyrone cracked a devious grin. "Hey, newbie." He smacked Hanako's back, seemingly encouragingly. "Why don't you be the one who performs the little dance steps Erza is asking for?"

Hanako's cheeks puffed out as she barked angrily, "Shut up, why don't you!? I'm not going to do such a stupid little jig! Go roll over and die, you ape-"

Chelia sighed as she grabbed Hanako by the arm, dragging her forward as she declared, "Do the dance of summonings!"

Hanako was held tightly, as Chelia moved her like a marrionette, "Now, forward, then forward again, backwards twice, left, then right, then left then right again!"

Wendy let out a bit of a chuckle. She wasn't that fond of Hanako either, considering she spent a decent amount of time with Jason while she wasn't around. Which of course, made Hanako a threat....

As Hanako had finished her dance, before Erza's body, magical energy amassed and converged upon the map, opening a sort of portal to the dimension in which the ancient kingdom slept. Gazing into the portal, all Erza could see was a vast abyss of nothingness and void that threatened to engulf her.

Chelia herself couldn't wait to save her life; asking Erza about a million questions in the span of a millisecond. "Don't fuss over unimportant details, you." In a bemused voice, Erza replied. Seeing as how she was rubbing her temple with one hand, she was attempting to contain her temper.

"So this is what we're after..." Makoto was mesmerised. "A portal...I'm still not sure if we should disobey orders but....I'm too far interested now."

Erza declared hammily, "Screw orders! This could be the biggest discovery of our lives!" Last time there was a portal, everyone rushed in at the same time—the results weren't pretty, to say the least. Erza could remember the results as clear as day.

"Now, everyone, one at a time!" That was why, Erza forced them to be patient and enter one at a time as to not have a repeat of the last time.

"You know...if you're the one making us go into this thing, why don't you go first?" Wendy suggested, and even Makoto nodded at this.

"It does sound ideal."

Erza grinned evilly as nonchalantly stepped back- right behind Wendy; subtly pushing her slightly. "No, I'd say Tyrone does so. Isn't that right, Hanako?"

Hanako's expression contorted into one of pure maliciousness. "Throw 'im in!" She was so evil it was almost laughable.

"I still say Erza should go first." Wendy insisted, a bit suspiciously. "She summoned the portal, she should test it."

"Wendy's logic does make a little too much sense." Makoto agreed.

"Erza, I'm going to agree with these two children." Tyrone was quick on the uptake. "Three against two guarantees you're going in." It was his turn to flash a smile, one that showed white teeth that contrasted against the dark skin.

Hanako was tempted to gut Tyrone like a fish. Of course, she always wanted to do so. She hated people of his kind so much that she wanted to commit a form of genocide against them. "No, I don't think so. We are the perfection of humankind, and people like Tyrone are all the crap left over. So it's only sensible to send the trash first."

"You little-!" Tyrone was about to smash the child, however, Wendy interrupted him.

"Erza, just go." Wendy insisted, at the end of the rope of her patience. "You summoned the portal, you're the team leader, you are obligated to jump unto perilous situations, it's in the job description."

Erza sighed as she stepped in. "I'm gonna close the portal on you when you get in, Wendy. You put something inside the cylinder of wormholes, turn them on for a fraction of a second, turn them off again... what have you got?"

Chelia responded, "...The world's most ludicrously advanced bread-slicer?"

Erza forced them to be patient and enter one at a time as to not have a repeat of the last time. Exiting the portal, the group gazed upon a hellish wasteland additionally, there was one oddity—a demonic appearing castle. The sky was a haunting crimson, and the clouds were pitch black. Thunder crashed down from the sky at a never-ending pace—this wasn't a good sign.

Winds rustled through the town; hot wind blowing leaving jagged lines across the sand left little to the imagination; and most of all, it was half-deserted city—the crumbling buildings were that all that stood....Clouds loomed overhead; tainted black with corruption.

Around the group were grassy mountains singed with flame, surrounded by flowing water. The building that was in the middle which was above the circular meeting place where the government met in, decreased in width as it reaches the ground, tall spires protruding from the roof. Two lengths of golden chain connected the castle to twin peaks. This single building was a diamond in the rough.

Everywhere, the place was stained with darkness. It certainly wasn't very...welcoming.

"...'Welcome to hell' is a pretty apt description." Erza snarked.

Wrath of the Beast

"It was actually fun...for awhile." Iris bounced off of Zinzolin's barrier as the man cast her a look; it seemed strangely...forlorn. "Your Guild....the relaxed air, the comradarie....I actually enjoyed it."

Iris caught herself as she was reflected off of Zinzolin's barrier, skidding to a halt. "Then why don't you come back with us?" She wasn't sure whether or not Jason would approve, but; "I'll let you off the hook just this once!" However, she didn't leave herself open, and prepared her next attack if Zinzolin would say no.

Zinzolin sighed. "You make it sound so easy, Iris..." The more he looked at her, the emptier his own eyes became. "Even after all we've been through, I can't just easily go back. I was born in darkness, raised from birth to be a sword." Waving his hand, he summoned a large amount of spheres. "Amongst a bunch of shields, there's no place for a blade. I don't belong anywhere. Right here, this job, this is the only thing that suits me. You truly were fun...but I don't belong there." The spheres began to surround Iris, forming a net that made escape nearly impossible. 

"Hindenburg - Tod Net." With a snap of his fingers, he triggered the explosions which were released in a great circle around Iris.

Iris immediately shot into the air like a missile, barely evading the serial of explosions; though, a single one managed to catch her leg, mildly wounding it. She didn't notice this, but noting Zinzolin's speech, Iris declared, "I'm not gonna mince words here. Normally others'd be like "oh you can still see the light" but not me. You've made your decision; and I offer one hand, and arm the other. That means it's time to kick your ass!"

"I always thought you were the friendliest, actually." Zinzolin's eyes were surprised. "I suppose people have multiple layers, but you seemed like the type to do anything for a comrade." He thought for a moment. "But then again....you were so willing to abandon Gaikou." He summoned a small screen and Iris could see herself on this screen.

"Come on then, if you're so willing to save that blue-haired bitch then nobody has the time for your little daydreams. Come on, I'll bash your head in, I swear on my mum if you don't hurry up."

Her voice from only an hour or so ago rang from this screen as she saw herself snapping at Jason. 

"Stupid woman managing to get herself captured...Fuck her. I don't give a fuck about her. I want Vivian back, fuck that other bitch."

Iris, raging at Jason.

"Wouldn't these actions imply you're as monstrous as your heritage?" Zinzolin's last remark was rather sly.

Iris snapped back at him, "Shut up, why don't you? I've had enough of people calling me out for shit. I don't give two shits about the past, or what I've done. I'm sick of it all. All I want is Viv back, dammit! Can't you understand that!? That one person who brought light back into your life...and they're gone! Don't you know that feeling!? It's painful..." Iris' magical aura began to change.

Iris's eyes turned from their usual peaceful hazel, into a chaotic surging glowing green. The one person who brought her back from the brink of despair; the sun to her moon, that person...she had turned into nothing but a dull husk of her former self. Her magical energy surged wildly, as it turned from its regular azure to an ominous emerald; flaring up as to pierce the skies right through the building and spread out violently, darkening the stormy heavens. Black, jagged arm blades tore out of her elbows, as her sharp canines showed themselves. "I'm gonna save her anyway. Because it's the right thing to do."

Her voice echoed; no longer sounding hyperactive, it was deep—more like it was thousands of voices leaving her mouth. Bat-like wings began to erupt from her back; as she took upon a far more bestial form. "So shut the hell up! You can take these accusations of yours and stick 'em up your arse! Right now, if I wanna be selfish, lemme be selfish! It's my choice, not yours, not anyone's! Here's what I'm gonna do. I'm gonna save Gaikou. Then I'm gonna save Viv. Then I'm gonna blow the Magic Council and that masked bastard right outta the sky!"

"Oho...a monster indeed." Zinzolin was wearing a shadowy smile. "I was correct in my recent assumption; you are a monster indeed. The worst in your guild, perhaps?" He didn't seem at all surprised by Iris' sudden transformation, but it wasn't something he had expected. "You have a one-track mind; so completely focused on Vivian that you cannot see that someone else needs your help. And even when it is brought up to you, not only do you rage against your own guilt; you are indeed at fault, but you decide to save your friend out of duty." He bent down, placing his hand on the bottom of his barrier. "That is not in the spirit of comraderie at all. Why come save someone with such half-hearted motivation? Physically, you are here, but mentally, you couldn't be further away. I suppose I could call someone like you....trash."

"DID YOU NOT HEAR ME!? I SAID I'D SAVE HER, AND I'M DAMN WELL GONNA DO THAT! Numerous spikes extended from her back. "I'm fine with taking away Gaikou's future so long as she can see Viv again, because it's ridiculous that a villain who was no better than a piece of shit like me was trying to save this person. No matter how you think about it, something must have been wrong. How could I possibly be a hero when I can't stop thinking about Vivian? No matter what, I can only choose the blood-stained path. Why do I do all these things? I'm well aware how shitty I am as a person. As long as I can save Vivian, then I will respectfully accept my fate of dying. It's demons like us who shouldn't have been made in the first place, I realize now. This demonic power...it's turned me so far from the light."

"Someone like you..." Zinzolin's magical aura surged, creating a circular glyph that covered the entire floor and extended to the walls of the hallway, engraved with magical runes, glowing with bright energy. "...you came from such a nice guild. I can speak from this experience because I have memories of my time as Len, even if they are vague. Akatsuki is warm, it's welcoming. Even with their goal in mind, even with Jason being as cold as he was, it's a place where people can find a home....I would have figured it's a place where everyone could be attached to every member of the guild. I may not be a member anymore; I have my own obligations to fulfill, my own past and my own purpose, but someone like you..." The glyph began to glow even brighter. "....needs to be destroyed." In a giant flash, the glyph enveloped them, and the entire hall, in a powerful explosion.

As the dust settled from the myriad of explosions, Iris was still standing, no worse for wear. Hell, there wasn't even a scratch on her. Iris merely stood still-  she was covered in soot.

The wings extending from her back looked more like jets than wings. Some unknown substance was being sprayed out as wings that were darker than ink and swallowed up even the light. This was a beast; a demon beyond all recognition.

Zinzolin had helped make it appear. Nobody was able to properly grasp the scene occurring before their eyes.

The power of a council-born demon had no emotion- it was a blank slate, regardless of anything. Only through the interactions of another council-borne creature could the demon grow as a person. Their power, however...it was gained through other methods. It should be impossible to perform any actions right now.

But this power...this was something else.

That was what appeared to be a set of irregular laws that showed themselves ever so slightly after thousands and tens of thousands of experiments and that only the creator of the council demons could know about.

This wasn't Iris Lavra.

The beast in front of Zinzolin was an embodiment of the wrath that the council demons had wished to inflict upon their creators.

END

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