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Subsection of Central Valley. Home of the Endlos, ruled by King Edre

A New Life Edit

A large orb of ice falls to Echo's surface, landing in a community of Endlos. It nelts before hitting the surface, but the man lands with terrible burns.

Skana: Help... Meee... *Passes back out*

Initially the Endlos stand stunned at the sight of the person from within the oce, but they gradually unfreeze and carry the person to a large medical facility. Inside the facility, several Endlos appear to check on Skana then usher the Endlos carrying him to a small room before uttering something about their king.

Within minutes, Skana is connected to a life sipport machine and is exposed to green, restorative light until he regains conscious.

Skana: Where... Am I...? *Looks around* Endlos...? I haven't seen them since my mother... left for the war... *Regenerative factor kicks in, making the healing faster*

An Endlos in a nurse's attire answers.

"You're on Echo. We don't understand how you arrived here, but at least you aren't a stain on the ground."

Skana: *Stands up* It's time for me to go... *Pulls out the wires* Where... Where is Cronos? My katana? *Steps toward the door*

A few orbs of energy appear in front of Skana, and he suddenly has trouble walking forward. The lead one, much bigger than the others, seems to be reading his mind looking through his memories. It flashes red after seeing a set of Skana's memories, and the nurse has been around the beings long enough to understand such a visual cue to mean anger.

"You served the M.C.C.P..... ....why?"Its voice comes out as a hiss.

Skana: *Looks at the shape* Because... The Administrator gave me everything. He gave me a home, food, money... Then he made my friend suffer... I will nerver forgive him..… *Picks up his katana* Any more questions?

"H-hey, don't start a commotion here," admonishes the nurse, looking defensive and rather worried about the other patients.

"I suggest you sit down and rest a bit."The being addresses Skana. "And I would suggest informing the higher ups of this being's awakening. They undoubtedly will want answers. We will watch him, and if he becomes a problem, we will gladly remove him quietly. We were only concerned for your people's safety."It speaks to the nurse

Skana: I came here for saftey and training to defeat the Black King. If this place can't trust it's own kin enough to let them roam free, then I'll leave. *Puts on the given kimono, and straps on a belt attached to the katana* This is the Katana of Souls, also called Cronos for Kronos, the Titan, lived in it for a few centuries. If you wish to fight, please do not disturb this pleasant place. Now, excuse me.

The nurse is relieved that the situation was resolved peacefully and exits the room to speak with his superiors. A few moments later, he returns with a doctor and a mysterious Endlos. Noth glance over Skana before the mysterious one points a gnarled finger at him.

"This disrespectfulchildwants to learn aboit Spirits? Ha! A mindless imbecile has a greater chance."

Skana: *The man's finger breaks, without much more than a blur, Skana standing as still as ever* Now, I will ask again, move please? *touches the sword's hilt*

Before the elder Endlos can react, another figure enters the room. He is taller than Skana by over a head and wears a black coat with dark fur lining over a black cardigan and silvery grey pants. In his left ear is a silver earring. His hair is dark grey and his eyes darker than the deepest depths of darkness. Across his back are two greatswords and strapped to his sides lie another greatsword and a pair of heavily modified revolvers.

"That's enough," he states, his voice halting everyone in the room despite how little volume is behind his words.

"Y-y-your M-majesty," stammers the nurse before he faints from surprise.

The lead spirit manifests and bows to be polite at the figure. "Are you here on account of this boy? I think clearer heads should prevail here." He glances at Skana. "Espically younglings like you. Is that how you show respect for those who even bothered to see to your wounds? I think not. And on the account of us, good lord Endlos, we merely came here to investigate the rumor of a stranger to these lands, in case of a threat. We came especially after hearing of the stranger falling within this settlement. That is the reason we are here, should it be ire upon us that brought you here."

"Our purposes were the same then," says Endlos, "I came to see what the commotion was. It's a pity that I did not arrive sooner." He turns his attention to Skana. "Child, a temper like that often results in an early demise and plenty of burned bridges. It would benefit you to explain yourself and your actions."

Skana: This man thought himself higher than me, and mocked me. All the while blocking my path, Your Majesty. Now, if you'll excuse me, I must go. *Walks past the King and the others out into the hall* And my name is Skana, and I am 30 of age. NOT a child, mind you. *Walks out of the hospital, into the unfamiliar streets*

"So venerable at such a young age," sighs Endlos, "He'll soon realize he damaged a bridge he very much wanted to preserve." He glances at the lead spirit. "I trust you'll have someone watch over him, I'll return once my good friend arrives."


The doctor quickly mends the Elder Endlos' finger before hurrying to wake up the nurse.

"Impulsive brat," growls the Elder, rubbing his previously damaged finger.

The lead spirit nods. "My various underlings will keep an eye on him. He was trained in some aspects of Soul Maniuplation, but I very much doubt he can truly take it into consideration, just yet at least. We will be able to easily observe him."

He looks at the Elder. "The young onesarerather prone to biting. One does say that one should never poke a finger inside the cage of a trapped wolf. One often loses that said finger."

"Don't you sass me," grumbles the Elder before taking a deep breath. "Brat's got spunk, I'll give him that."

The king nods then leaves the room swiftly enough to appear to vanish.

Skana: *Once he is ouside transforms into phoenix form* Alrighty... I need a place to rest in solitude... *Flies to an abandoned mountain* Now to get some meditation in...

While Skana meditates, a mysterious figure makes his way around the mountain. Upon seeing Skana, the figure grows more annoyed than he is passively.

"Oi you, off my mountain."

Skana: Oh, I'm sorry sir. *Stands up, the hospital kimono blowing in the wind*

"Get going then, I don't have all day to wait for you."

Skana: Alright sir... *Phoenix form* Have a nice day... *flies away*

The person watches Skana fly away then sighs.

"It's about time I get going myself," he says, "After all, I have an appointment to keep." The figure glows faintly then teleports into the Endlos colony.

Skana: *Appears befor the man in human form* Hello. How are you doing?

"Out of my way, I'm in a hurry," growls the figure, brushing past Skana while walking at a brisk pace.

Skana: At least point me toward an inn or a place with an extra room?

"I don't have the time to," exclaims the person, "I have to be somewhere in less than two minutes and I don't know where the hell I' going! Good day, sir." The figure storms off, covering surprising distance in a short amount of time despite only walking.

The lead spirit taps Skana's shoulder. "It's this way." He points at a building.

Skana: Oh, why thank you. Sorry for my rudeness erlier, I was in a quite large load of pain and missed my family. Kronos and Atlas... I hope they are okay... Anyways, a soul in this sword is trying to speak to you. I can't translate and I'm not great at Soul Manipulation.

".....Maybe you should try actually listening. It isn't that hard. We can speak as clearly as you or I right now. Maybe you need to give your ears a spring cleaning."

As Skana and the spirit converse, the figure continues his brisk journey, dodging people as he increases his pace until he crashes into King Endlos.

"Watch where you're goi-"

"Need a hand, Alexian," asks the king before helping the person to his feet.

"Should've known, it'd be you, Erde," responds Alexian, dusting himself off. "So, why'd you send for me?"

"Simple, a new person has arrived here and while he may not have malicious intentions, he has the air of trouble about him," responds the king, "I called you here as more of a last resort. In the event that trouble does reach us here, I will require your assistance to fully quell it."

The lead spirit appears near them, with his two followers quietly resting on his shoulders as small spheres of light.

"Oh, greetings." He says, bowing politely at Alexian. He looks at lord Endlos. "Oh, I was asked to inform you that the others still have not found the Endlos that went missing those years ago. They don't think she's dead, just.... not here. They can't explain it, but all they can describe is the sense of her being 'far away'. We're still looking for her, it's just proven.... ....difficult."

"Explain please," requests Endlos, though the air around him has become heavy. While his eyes barely shift downwards, the spirits can easily identify that the king of Endlos' mood has worsened. "Please tell me what you may have learned, that way I can make a rational decision on my course of action."

Alexian smirks, a knowing look entering his eyes upon hearing his friend speak.

"The only information we do now is that a woman named Caess disappeared from this area a few years back, she had gone outside the village to look around for something apparently. A few hours later, she never came back and the locals asked us to seek her out, but strangely it's as though she was wiped off the face of the world. There have been rumors, lord Endlos, but we cannot verify their authenticity."

He bows.

"I am very sorry. We looked into said rumors, but we hit major dead ends. It was said the Kanjō Gods might have had a hand in her disappearance, but they have been gone for years. We looked for the organization that defeated and sealed the Kanjō Gods, but we've had little luck. ...Though there are rumors a woman possibly related to them is wandering the Central Wilds as we speak."

"Really? Could you explain the rumors you may have heard, then? I'll pore over both things."

He sighs. "Well, a while ago back when the Kanjō Gods were still in power, called the Elemental Warlords by mortals, they were seeking to win their war against Earth and the Shapeshifters to the East. They eventually started calling forth four elemental beings composed of two elements, with vast control over them, there was a dragon made of metal and lava nick named the 'Eternal Eruption', a demon made of light and darkness, a massive wolf of wind and lightning, and a strange giant of ice and water."

He takes a breath. "According to rumors, or conspiracy, depending on which you call it, this fourth being showed both Element Manipulation and Aether Manipulation. ...not beating around the bush, some of the mortals think the being was a hybrid of an Endlos and Elemental. ....Normally we might ignore such talk if it weren't for the fact this giant showed up a few years after the disappearance of Caess."

"Where was this giant last seen," asks Endlos, his tone neutral, "that is the deciding factor of my choice."

The spirit sighs. "Well, what is known is that the giant as well as the others disappeared right after the collapse of power of the Elemental Army. We don't have exact locations where they went, though people occasionally claimed to see a large giant of ice roaming around the north forests just outside the North Frontier. We also heard that sometime after it disappeared, two smaller ice giant creatures fled the forests, and now travel the snowy north. We don't know if any of this is true. It's like the humans and their Bigfoot."

By the time the lead spirit has finished speaking, Endlos and Alexian have vanished. In their stead is a note that reads:

Heading to the North from Central Wilds. Contant an upperclass spirit and ask if they can watch over the town until I return -Endlos Erde

An endlos in human looking clothing walks up and picks up the letter, grunting through the scarf he wears. The man looks at the spirit, then walks towards the wilds. His nametag reads only one name: Pixel.

The spirit sighs. "Better see if one of the Nine Winds is available..."

Skana flies to the inn, being sure to say hi to the doorkeep and the clerk.

Skana: Hello, a room please.

"Eight Gold," responds the inn keeper, not looking up from a dusty book.

Skana: Uh... Well... I kind of destroyed my gold coming to this planet... I'll just go then. *Starts to walk*

Out of nowhere, a heavy bag of gold falls on his head.

Skana: *Looks surprised* Thanks... *He picks up the bag* Sir, I think I could get a room but I would like to know who threw this first for a proper thank you and permission to use it...

Don't question gifts.... just accept.... A man's voice echoes, with no apparent origin.

Skana: Then a small room please.

The inn keeper stretches their hand towards Skana.

Skana: *Hands the inn keeper the needed amount* Origato...

"You mean 'Arigato'... Ahoge no Otoukonoko..." The inn keeper points in the room's direction, "First right up the stairs."

Skana: I apologize. *He bows and walks up the stairs*

The inn keeper grunts a reply as Skana enters an older, yet well furnished room. The bed is comfy looking and large in size while the floor has a modest hardwood design. The bathroom is tidy and pristine and the closet is somewhat spacious. The room lacks a television and artificial lighting, instead made bright by clusters of magical light contained in lamps placed around the room.

"Guess this is my new home, eh Sky Guy?"

Nothing answers him, but a thick, oppressive sensation is in the air, as though something powerful, almost beyond comprehension is arriving.

"Ah. Decide to come here?"

The Messenger and his Message Edit

The Twin Valley colony, quiet yet bustling with life. New has since spread of the king's journey, news that has become the talk of the town since. Pixel's return is heralded by cheers and questions about the king's whereabouts, but before things get out of hand the elder clears his throat.

"Ahem," he grumbles, quieting the curious masses, then addresses the guard. "Young'un, where's the king and why're you alone?"

Pixel bows, handing the Elder a message. He grunts at the people to signify that they cannot hear it. While walking by, he turns back around, and everyone sees his tears, before continuing to his room.

The elder pockets the message and disperses the crowd with a few choice, angry gestures. He waits a moment and looks around before addressing any spirits in the area.

"Find the wind called to watch over the valley, they'll probably wanna hear this. It's not often that the king sends a letter marked withthisseal," he comments, grunting in annoyance, "Either something done happened or he might not be comin' back."

A mighty peal of thunder ripples through the silence suddenly, and to the far south a great storm brews, as though two great massive clouds collided with one another and were attempting to destroy each other.

A soft wind blows, and a white fox with five tails appears before him.

"What is it that you've called on the Winds for?" It asks, its voice male.

"Somethin' tells me you'll wanna see this with those two busy..." The elder trails off to look at the storm. "Seems like the start a' something annoyin'ly big..."

The fox looks over at the storm. "Lady Shirubā and Lord Sainan are fighting. The South has been getting more agitated in activity over the past few months...." He turns and notices the message with the seal. "What's this now?"

The elder opens the letter, keeping the seal intact as he does so and glances over the contents of the letter. He frowns, then mumbles about a code before reading the letter loud enough for the spirit to hear:

To Elder Delium and Member of the Nine Winds,


I am doing quite well,

Haven't really found what I've been looking for though.

Much as I'd like to describe where I am, I haven't the leisure nor the

time. 

I saw Sainan, but he's apparently working against us and other, so I 

am very adamant in saying avoid him.

Sorry for the short notice and sparse details, but trust me, Oh and

Alexian. He's like a brother as you know, but I'd trust him with

my life if you didn't already guess that. Also, I think we talked about a

successor, but as you know I'm uninterested in such a thing.

If I appear to be going off on a tangent, I apologize dearly.

I think I may have an idea as to how to help out the visitor, but      

don't quote me on that just yet. Try to keep him safe until I finally

return.

Sincerely,

'Endlosse' Erde


"Sly dog, you're going to give me a heart attack," the elder grumbles, 'You understand that?"

The fox thinks for a moment. "He expects trouble. His search for that of Aoi and Caess goes slow, though he is following a trail. ....Hereallyexpects trouble actually. Where ever he is going, it causes him some concern of safety to himself, and obviously has concerns for the future of the people, in case he should not make it back. Sainan was seen moving North earlier, so it is likely that something happened as well.... though why he's been acting up is anyone's guess."

"That and he's afraid he won't make it back so he's namin' Alexian as his successor, which means he probably doesn't expect to return from his mission," the elder adds, "This'll be a chore..."

"Ehh I wouldn't worry about it. The wind blows in mysterious ways."

"No, I mean getting Alexian to take the position without going on a three day tirade about his luck and a Yama," says the elder, his annoyance visible. "He did it when the king tried to give him a castle, this time'll be worse..."

"Might as well wait a few days, and if no cigar, we can always pin him down until he quits holding a temper tantrum." The fox laughs.

"That might just work," says the elder laughing as he contemplates what the fox said. "Though we'll probably need to get ready for somethin' big."

"At present from what I am told, Lord Ninetails seems to be focused on something other than his previous destination and here. He doesn't like to fight long, so he will probably retreat soon enough. All the same, the spirits are on higher alert than their usual."

"An old man can always worry."


Pixel travels past his home, and to the 'Tavern of Soulless Minds', and takes a seat at the bar. He grunts at the bartender to order his usual.

The bartender nods in compliance and returns a moment later with the drink. "Here ya go."

Pixel nods at the bartender and pulls down his scarf. People stare at his scars and tongueless mouth, gasping at the missing lips. He then drinks the entire glass in one gulp. The onlookers notice his coat and return to their business. Pixel gives an angry grunt and ajusts his scarf. After paying for the drink, he simply walks out the door, bumping into a few people as he gets out of the city. Finally, he reaches Alexian's house.

As Pixel reaches the peak of the mountain Alexian claimed, he notices a large shadow fall over it. Looking up, he sees a  massive sphere of black and white energy racing towards the valley only to stop just before it would hit the ground. Shortly afterwards, the sphere begins to rise then catapults itself away from the valley.

Pixel shrugs, going up to Alexians door. A look of worry crosses his face.

Instead of a home, the guard finds a sleeping person a top what appears to be the remains of a small house. The person has mostly blonde hair with blue tips and wears what looks like the combination of a scholar's robes and hunting attire, To their side is a gun with a rather long barrel and a dagger that glows brightly. It is difficult to discern their gender due to their choice of clothing, but they appear to be about twelve year of age and sleeping soundly despite the numerous hard and broken objects beneath them. Beside them lays a man with dozens of swords and a gourd of sake. He appears to be dressed primarily in black, but his shirt is white. His hair is ebony and long, reaching down his back. He too appears to be sleeping soundly.

Pixel grunts loud enough to wake them, drawing his guns. he aims before they can move.

"It's not nice to point a gun at someone who hasn't done anything to you," growls the man in black, "Drop your weapon..." He dissolves into mist and Pixel feels blades cutting into each of his joints and vital spots. "Before I have to use mine..."

Pixel drops a gun, holstering the revolver, then picking up the Glock-18 and holstering it. Grunting fiercefully, he nods towards the house laying in rubble.

"I don't know, ask him or her," says the man in black, "I don't exactly remember coming here myself." The blades do not move from their positions. The adolescent looking person looks around groggily before staring dully at Pixel.

"Who are you? I don't remember seeing you when I got here..." the adolescent realizes that he or she in sitting in the ruins of a house, "Huh!? I must've sleep trained again..."

Pixel growls angrily, readying himself for a fight while his eyes go to a dark red, almost blood colour. He holds up a middle finger.

"Hey! That's rude," exclaims the adolescent, "It's not my fault I was taught to train at every given moment, my parent's were eccentric and very wierd!"

Pixel's eyes change back to yellow, and he shakes off the blades. while he walks past the young one, he pats their head. pixel pulls out his glock and shoots four rounds into the sky which scares all the animals away. When he gets to the rubble, he picks up some dust, letting it flow through his fingers. A look of sadness crosses his face, and he thinks, 'Where is Alex...'

"Uncle wasn't here, so I assume he went on an adventure or something," says the the child, "I wonder if Shiki Ouji can find him..." 

"Shiki Ouji? You have familiar," asks the man in black. The adolescent nods absent mindedly.

"fourty-three," they say as a greying crow with blue flames in its beak lands on their wrist and caws. "I see, uncle will return soon... Thanks Shiki!" The bird tilts its head at the child before flying off.

The lead guard starts pacing, a look of concern crossing his face.

"Something wrong," asks the man in black, "Ah, you're worried about the owner of this house. I get the feeling that he's just fine... Or that he's going to have the worst of headaches in five or so minutes. Ah well, he'll be fine."

Pixel looks at the man in confusion, then shakes his head and walks over to the large boulder, sitting with his legs crossed.

The man and the Adolescent great each other.

"I am Shion," says the man. The child nods.

"Just call me Yuen or Yu."

Pixel nods, motioning at his nametag. He stands, bowing at the two boys.

"Likewise," the two say in almost perfect synchronization.

A beautiful-looking woman that appears to be in her mid- to late-twinties. She walks over to Shion. "Who's this hunk of a man?" She says suductively, squeezing his arm and licking her lips.

Pixel grunts for her to stop, and she does, taking her place beside him. Their arms interlock while the woman introduces herself.

"Sorry for his muteness. I am Aka, he Pixel. Pixel is the strongest Endlos in the Guard. Normally you'd be dead by now..." She looks at both figures with a look of hunger on her face. "But he didn't, so you must be strong. I am the third highest in the Guard. I think Pixel and Alexian are actually almost equal... Anyways, Glad to meet a hunk like you" She winks at Shion.

Shion for the most part is indifferent though he does make a bothered sound when Aka winks at him.

"Unfortunately, I'm accounted for," he says in a way that shows that he is not sorry at all, "Lillia would kill me... Actuallly, yeah, she'd kill me, no questions asked." Yuen supresses a giggle, which earns the child a pointed look from the man in black. "Not funny..."

Pixel laughs out loud, his scarf dropping. Aka quickly steals it and jumps into a tree.

"HA! Gotcha boyo!" She attempts to jump on Pixel as he sidesteps her, getting his scarf back and replacing it on his face. Pixel grunts angrily as he turns back to the two, bowing in an apologetic way. Aka kisses his cheek as she positions herself beside him.

".... No comment," says Shion before yawning, "It's been a pleasure, but I'm going back to sleep."

"Shion, help me find uncle," requests Yuen, giving the man in black a puppy dog expression, "Please?" The elder man sighs.

"Fine, but you have a ton to explain..."

Aka sighs. "We have to go find the King with the rest of the Guard. Bye!" She kisses the young one on the cheek as she leads Pixel by the wrist towards the Castle. Pixel runs to keep up.

"Interesting people," remarks Yuen.

"Strange, you mean."

"Same difference."

The Return Edit

Pixel returns to the Castle, Aka getting lost somewhere along the way. He greets the guards and goes to the Guard Hall, the wing that houses the King's Guard, rooms branching off every five feet, and claps his hands. Everyone comes out of their rooms, and Aka comes to stand beside him. They all go to the dining hall for supper.

"So Pix," begins a blonde haired guard with two swords strapped to his waist, "Any news regarding the big guy's return?"

Pixel nods his head. He starts handing out the plates, motioning for the warriors to sit down at their respective spots, him sitting at seat two for the first was a throne. Lots of food is handed out: chicken legs, mashed potatotes, carrots and brownies.

"Pixel... More Chocolate," rasps another guard through the gas mask he wears, frowning with his eyes, "I think we've had plenty... Without Endlos bringing us it..."

"Nonsense Raoh," says another guard, this one wearing a feathered mask to conceal the upper half of his face, "Chocolate is amazing for the skin... Maybe you should eat more, you're far too pale to begin with..."

"Vel... Shut Up..."

"After you."

Pixel shushes the both of them, as he motions the man in the number three seat to stand up and give the news.

Aka punches Roah and Vel to shut them up.

"I'll bury you..." growls Raoh, his left eye turning red. Before he can do anything though, the blonde guard stands.

"Relax, Ra, save the anger for the enemies not us," he says, wagging a finger at the guard in the gas mask. The guard grumbles, but his eye reverts to normal. "Alright guys and gals, here's the deal: the king's on his way back from his journey and we need to prepare. I'm not just talking about organizing and cleaning this place, no. We have to arrange the biggest, greates, most badass homecoming event for him! Oh, and get him hooked up, Pix is a little worried about our king's er... drive." A female guard coughs loudly, choking on her food before a male guard, identical to Raoh, but with shorter hair and no mask, pats her on the back to clean her throat.

"Thanks Maoh," she wheezes, earning a nod from the guard.

"No problem, Tina. Please be careful as you eat."

Aka stands, clearly surprised. "Me and, er, Pixie Stick here will provide food and supplies, and are meeting the King as soon as he reaches Echo. I think we should have a large warm bath ready for him, as well as wine and a bed..." Pixel motions for them to sit, and they do. Pixel does the dishes and sends everyone to the dorm of the yellow haired guard's room for planning. Aka says she needs a list of supplies needed and then Pixel disappears to the courtyard for training.

"You aren't thinking grand enough," exclaims the blonde, earning an irrate look from Raoh.

"Auros... No one... Thinks like you do," hisses the guard.

"Thank you for the compliment, Raoh," smiles Auros, "You can be nice if you apply yourself!"

"That... Wasn't a compliment."

"I know, but I think that you'll have one eventually."

"I agree with Auros, bedside manner is only the first step," chimes in Vel, "We must prepare for the most extravegant of parties!"

"Vel's on the right track!" Raoh, Maoh and Tina sigh.... The king wasn't going to be happy, but they had no say once Auros and Vel agreed on something.

Pixel glares at Auros until he sits. The rest of the meal is eaten in silence...


Once he had dropped everyone off at Auros' room, Pixel goes to the courtyard and begins his medatation.

"Oi Pix," calls Auros, "All work and no play has been proven to lessen efficiency and skill. Come and have a bit of fun, big guy."

Pixel hands Auros a peice of paper. It reads: If you can beat me at half of my power (Without my guns), then I will go with you. Pixel then stands, being inches taller than Auros. He gets in a ready stance, with a shortsword and a long knife drawn.

"Aw, you're funny Pix," laughs Auros, drawing one of his short swords. His eyes fade red, "Half power won't cut it." In an instant, the blonde guard is high in the sky, sword arm raised high.

Pixel disapears in a smoke bomb, appearing above Auros. He procedes to stab Auros in many fatal places then returns to his spot on the ground as Auros falls.

The moment Pixel's weapons prick Auros' skin, the silent guard feels a wrenching pain in his chest that jerks upwards. Auros proceeds to place a glyph on Pixel's forehead before disappearing.

Pixel closes his eyes, sensing Auros' soul. Once it is found he runs at it and puts away the shortsword for a smaller knife.

Just as Pixel reaches the energetic guard's location, he feels an explosion of pain rip through his skull, as if he had been, struck by lightning, set ablaze, frozen then shattered, had a nail driven through his skull, then a jackhammer shoved into his chest at full power. A moment later, he feels piercing pain throughout his entire body and finds needles made from shadows binding him in place while Auros holds a sword to his neck.

"Do you yield," he asks, his eyes narrowed.

Pixel goes through the needles, growling and howling as he does so, then returing to the fight by caving Auros' skull in and putting a large foot on his chest. Next, he puts the knives away and goes to the party.

"Ah, almost got me to get serious myself," comments Auros, not really phased by the damage, "I think he forgets that I'm his rival, not some less skilled warrior... Ah well, let's keep it that way, can't let him learn about the Vanguard-General Relationship anyways." Auros shrugs, then vanishes, having already recovered.


Once the two return, everyone welcomes them, surprised that Pixel had joined them. Aka sits on his lap for the lack of space, and Tina on Moah's.

Vel looks at Auros, then nods. The blonde guard makes a glyph in the air and his room expands, filling with party decorations and foods. The room itself becomes a crystalline ballroom with a large ivory door connected to the outside of the castle. Auros and Vel watch as Tina's eyes light up before she sends an accusatory look in their direction.

"How," she questions.

"My rainy day fund and Vel's expertise in magic," replies the blonde endlos, "Now, let the party reallybegin!" As if on cue, the great doors swing open and a crowd of people slowly flows into the room, apprehensive of the sudden appearance of the door, but quickly catching onto the festive atmosphere.

Pixel sighs. He goes and meditates in a corner while Aka flirts with the guests.

Maoh and Tina dance slowly, though Tina appears to be far more nervous than her partner does. Vel quickly attracts a crowd of women to himself and goes about entertaining them with tales of his own heroics and the occasional magic trick. Auros takes a seat and watches the party with a semi-amused look, declining most offers to dance until a certain person appears before him. Raoh, eerily, appears to be enjoying himself with the company of a woman wearing a black butterfly mask, him having replaced his own gas mask with a blue butterfly mask. Ciel talks with a group of three, the quartet simply chatting about things. The remaining guards intermingle with the growing crowd.

Aka leads Pixel to the courtyard, where they slow dance to the slightly audible music. "Pixel... Have you ever thought of... I don't know... Settling down? Starting a family?" Pixel nods, a confused look in his eyes. Aka pulls down his scarf and they go into a long kiss.

Inside the castle, Raoh continues to dance and talk to the masked woman, who appears to have the same interests and opinions of the world as the pessimistic guard. Finally, Raoh asks the woman her name.

"My name," she giggles, twirling away from Raoh only to return and press herself against him, "I go by the name of Charade..." She trails off and lightly pushes away from the guard, "Tell me about yourself if you want to know more."

"I am Raoh," he replies simply, not ignoring the slight dimming of the lady's eyes, "You could call me a problem solver..."

Across the ballroom, Auros talks to a cloaked person.

"I never expected the the Seeker herself to come, this is far more interesting than I initially thought it to be," comments the blonde guard with a smirk, "Am I still needed?"

"That remains to be seen, Auros. It seems mother and father were correct in sending you here to watch over the situation. How is your superior?"

"Oh, Pix? Eh, It's difficult to stay below his level. I almost used both swords because he doesn't understand how much he hinders himself."

"I see... Continue to observe the situation, Endlos is almost here."

In a far corner of the ballroom, Tina blushes as Maoh sweeps her off her feet and continues a long, complicated dance that awes all who watch it. When the dance finally concludes, the observational guard is covered in a thin layer of sweat. Dozens of people clap and cheer at the dance's conclusion.

Ciel continues to talk with three, explaining a vast number of things.

Pixel and Aka return to the ballroom, and take their place behind Auros. Once the others leave, they confront him. "Who was that?" Aka asks.

"No one who concerns either of you."

"I beleive you put it... 'It is hard to stay in second?' How about we all go to the courtyard and prove who is the best?" Aka replies. Pixel reaches for his guns, grunting in compliance.

"Because that would be boring and dull. I'm in too much of a good mood to go all out anyways," shrugs Auros, "Besides, it wouldn't be favorable to fight against me."

"Fine then" she says as Pixel chuckles at the joke they made. "You fell for it too!"

"Says the duo without a sense of humor," intones the blonde guard, kicking back and crossing his legs. "Vel, anything come up?"

The masked guard nods. "It appears Raoh has gone gallivanting off with a masked woman."

"Maybe Raoh found someone that could tolerate him," comments Tina, earning a frown from Maoh.

"Tina, that is impolite to say about my brother."

Pixel and Aka start to dance, gathering the old crowd. As they finish, the chemistry becomes more and more visible, and due to the crowd's chanting, they share a passionate kiss.

"Get a room, you two," snipes Auros, "Even the other obvious love birds can control themselves better than that." Tina and Maoh blush at the same time and look away from one another. Vel aand Ciel prepare to say something when an explosion rings outside of the ballroom.

"Auros, fireworks," asks Maoh, his right eye burning crimson when the blonde guard shakes his head. "Tina, let's find Raoh and Jamal!" The Grey haired woman nods and dashes after Maoh, easily keeping up with him. Vel summons several drakes and has them follow after the duo before heading into the colony himself. Ciel materializes some sort of armor around himself as he flies into the city, leaving Auros, Aka and Pixel.

"The heck are you waiting for!? Get going," snaps the second in command before vanishing.

"The hell is-" Aka starts as Pixel teleports to the scene. "Guess I should start walking..."

At the area of the explosion, a molten crater that spans a few dozen meters in every direction, the guards find a fragment of a black butterfly mask...

Aka stands out of breath. "That... Was.... Not cool...."

Pixel glares at Auros to make a decision as the "Leader".

" Investigate the area, ask anyone if they saw what happened. " The blonde guard picks up the mask fragment and peers it over before pocketing it. "I'll search for any signs of further damage."

Aka looks at Auros with an exagerated look on her face, and, as he talks, she mimics his every move. Once he is finished, she stares at Pixel. "Pix, you're with him. Teams of two, SPLIT UP!!" She yells the last part.

Auros vanishes with no response or spirit signature. Moments later a series of explosions rock the colony, highlighting three fighting figures before they are consumed by the billowing black smoke from the blast. The sounds of battle are lost in the cacophony of screams that resound around the city.

Pixel immediatly disappears towards the battle. Aka starts to yell at the other members. "Crowd control! Get people to safety! NOW." She then runs after the locked houses that caught fire.

As Pixel approaches the battle he is nearly trampled by fleeing citizens.

The other guards manage to evacute most of the people, but Aka runs into an imposing armored figure with molten eyes. He towers over her and makes no move to escape, though he does have several swords on his person, one being especially long with a pitch black blade and a silver spun guard lined with thorned and barbed flowers.

"Explain," he seethes.

"I have no bone to pick with you," She says simply.

"Aka, you have fifteen seconds. Explain what is going on this instant."

"I have no idea, actually. You should ask-," With this, the battle above becomes to loud to hear and Aka starts to try and get the figure to safety. "Who are you?"

" You should know," he says, pushing past Aka and walking towards the battle. A monstrous shadow follows him.

"Eh." She shrugs. "Only three people I know that are this dumb. The King, Pix, and Auros. And you sure arn't two of the three and I've never met the King... So... Who are you?"

The person completely ignores her as his other swords unsheathe themselves and a titanic number of blades, gauntlets and spheres of energy blink into existence around him. A gigantic pair of metallic wings pierce the swarm of metal and light, followed by a large hexagram. He enters the smoke and disappears, only for the sound of fighting to greatly intensify.

Several moments later, the figure drags Auros and Pixel out of the field of smoke, the latter unconscious from severe damage over his entire body. The figure blinks him and Aka somewhere without a word.

"Explain what I returned to, Auros."

"I don't know, it seems that someone decided to attack the city while you were away, my liege. Their reasons are unknown because the attack started only a moment ago."

"I see... Find the others and have the damage assessed. I'll figure out how to begin repairs," says the lord, "Also, were you able to place a tracker on the assailant?" The blonde endlos nods then vanishes. The king sighs. "What a welcoming gift..."

Suddenly he feels multiple presences appear, and suddenly it begins to rain violently, instantly smothering any fires caused by the fighting, a total of five presences in all.

"May I inquire as to who you are?"

When he looks in the direction of the group, he sees a tall woman made of ice, with two smaller but still large beings of ice, one female one male, who Endlos realizes are the twins he sought out in the North earlier, and an almost human sized being as well, whose body is that of skin and bone, with a greyish tint to her skin, with blue glowing eyes. The only one not with a similar energy signature to them is a young man.

The group descends and the tallest being of ice bows at Lord Endlos' feet. "My name is Caess, and these three children are mine Aoi, Kiyōna, and Zetsubō. With us is our rescuer and good friend Kalin, who saved us from Yosai Fortress. It is good to finally return to my people, transfigured and cruelly altered, but returned, I have come to mine old home."

"It is good to see that you are safe and in relatively good condition," says the king, "I regret being unable to prevent your abduction... That was a failure on my part..."

"It was my own foolishness my lord. Do not consider it a failure of yourself. It was my own carelessness that allowed me to stray too far from home. You would not have reached me in time had you known. Even with all that has happened to me, I would not wish it any other way. How else would I have my three wonderful children?"

Aoi, the smallest and the only one whose being of the family who is not bound by a shell of ice and water, nervously peeks out from behind her tall mother quietly up at him.

The king gives her a faint smile. "Still, if you need anything, please ask me and I will try to grant the request as best I can."

"A place to reside in for me and my daughter and son. My youngest wishes to remain with Kalin. That is all I really need." Caess says, slowly standing up. She brushes some of her frozen hair out of her face.

"I see, that should be possible within the next few days," says Endlos, "Once the damages are assessed and reconstruction started, I'll see about finding you a home. Until then, you may use my castle as a place of residence... I'll not take no as an answer for that."

Caess bows her head. "Thank you sir. Your generosity is much appreciated, my lord." She eyes Kiyōna and Zetsubō. "My two elder children have need of fresh clothing as well." She says, eyeing their rags.

"Do you have any preference," he asks the two as his armor and weapons melt back into his casual attire. "If so, I can see if there is anything matching it within the city and if not, I can make clothes to those specifications."

"Any-anything would do at this point..." Kiyōna says quietly.

"I see... I'll have someone take you to the clothier once we reach the castle," says the king, "Anything else?"

Caess closes her eyes. "No, I imagine enough has been asked. I am simply glad to be among my people."

"It is good to have you among us again," he says before leading the group to the castle grounds.

"Huh...this place is better than the castle back home." Kalin said, entranced by the castle's architecture.

"Thank you, it took me a while to build this," says the king, leading the group to the guest quarters. "Each room is just about the same, the only difference being the bedding and decór coloration and design. The rooms are the same size and each have Queen sized mattresses made with memory foam."

Aoi looks up at him. "...Thank you very much for your hospitality," She say quietly. Although she is not made of ice, she curiously has an aura of cold about her, which both seems to emit from her, and from the icy blue sword she carries.

"The Ice Warlord, correct," asks the king, "...Oh, my hospitality is welcome to all, as long as my people aren't harmed, you and your family included."

"I-I'm not the Ice Warlord... ...though you probably mean my Slayer..." Aoi slightly stammers. "So you're the king...?" She asks.

"Yes, I meant your Slayer. It would be hard to mistake another as the Ice Warlord," he says before nodding. "I am King Endlos Erde, though once upon a time I held a different name and moniker. It is a pleasure to meet you, Aoi."

"It is a pleasure to meet you as well..." She says simply.

There is a strange sensation in the air, as though an unseen eye had just noticed them and is watching them with severe intensity.

"Unwanted guests are not allowed, Observer," says the king, creating what appear to be cracks in the air that spread across the area at an extreme speed. 

"Hmmm.... ...well... no wonder it didn't work... ...uggh, and I've been waiting for such a long while too... the kid finally shows himself, and now I get to deal with the Lord of Endlos himself... ...great... ...Hey listen, Mr. King and all that fine business, I have some business to take care of regarding that guy named Kalin, so if you wouldn't mind... ...errr... ...not getting in my way, that would be very much appreciated. Oh no, I don't intend on attacking him or anything like that... a friendly chat is all... You can trust the phantom voice in your head this time..."

"And now I'm less inclined to trust you... But I get the feeling I'd have to wage an actual one man war if you decided to do anything unscrupulous... Under the condition that your eye vanishes the instant your business is concluded, I'll allow it."

Errr... ok? I have little interest in you soooo that's not really much of an issue... geez I forget how much people distrust strange voices in their heads...

"No, I distrust prying eyes and beings who project themselves from afar... You just happen to fit those criteria. Now speak with the boy and begone."

"Kalin, you have a visitor. He claims to simply want to tell you something, but be wary nonetheless."

"Hmmm? A visitor, huh? Sounds like fun. Mind pointing me to them?" Kalin said jokingly, though curious as to how quickly he'd been found since leaving Twilight.

In a sudden burst of lightning, a yellow cloaked figure appears, and as he does everything goes grey except for it, Kalin, and Lord Endlos.

"There we go... now no one will know I was here. If you wouldn't mind Kalin... I'd very much appreciate it if you came with me..." The man says in the voice Lord Endlos heard. "I have something I need to tell you... ...it's kind of important...."

"Coool trick~. What is this, time displacement?" Kalin said, impressed by the stranger's abilities. "So, what is the name of my guest...if you deal in such things, that is."

"....Let's skip the names. And let's just say in this entire valley, time is completely... ....stopped. Anyone who tries to enter will instinctively go away. But that's not the point..."

"....Tell me something, have you been having any... ...peculiar dreams, lately?" He asks out of nowhere.

"Of course you'd know about that....Yes, I have. Why do you want to know, stranger?"

"...I wonder.... ....I assume you're not an idiot, so I'll go ahead and leave something for you to chew on... ...Those weren't dreams, were they? Or at least, not normal ones..."

"What might they be showing you, do you think, Kalin?"

"Well, considering some of them have proven true, I'm guessing they are giving me a glimpse into the future of events...some not all that encouraging. But, I'm gussing you know as much, so I ask again, why is this important to you?"

"I'll cut to the chase since you're at least somewhat aware... ....It's not exactly clear... ...but I believe it's fast approaching... ...but Aoi there," He says, pointing to her, "Is going to be taken back by Phoenix. And soon. It's very much so clear on that, the timelines. Now that a certain event has taken place, it's almost guaranteed she will be reclaimed. I came here to give you that warning. So that you might brace yourself for that reality. Cherish her for as long as you have left. ...Because the next time you see her... ....she'll be changed forever."

"So, is that what I saw....and this has happened in other timelines, as well?"

"Is her capture inevitible, Observer, truly," asks the king. "If there is even a fraction of a percent of a chain, I'm willing to gamble on that improbability to protect her... If not, I need a real warm up, the Warlords were entertaining, but the elements and emotions mean little to one who has weathered them all for thousands of years."

"Well... ....I'll say it's technically not impossible, but here's the thing... ...the enemy who will reclaim Aoi has the potential to learn... ....almost anything. Even if Kalin escapes her, it will eventually learn how to follow him through the Twilight Portals. If it won't happen here... it will happen at Twilight. The being largely holds back much of its true power to avoid word spreading of its threat, but... ....it has the potential at full power to destroy whole worlds. I shouldn't have to tell you the chances of defeating a being with that degree of power. ...I can show you what it looks like, but Kalin... ...prepare yourself."

The hooded figure creates an image that shows a majestic but incredibly powerful blue colored being, angelic, and many countless features can be seen in it, but what grabs Kalin's attention the most is the face, strikingly familiar. He has seen the face of this being once before, accompanying Kado...

"Oh no...Azula." Kalin said, as the scene before him began to fade away. "How did this happen?" he said, turning to the stranger behind him. "What happened to her!?"

"Azula, or Azula Lambda 001, was awakened to her true self by Phoenix, who originally created her to be the ultimate weapon of man's destruction. You and Rose were created to test which was stronger, good or evil, Azula was created for the sole purpose of annihilating all mankind. ...Or anyone who stands in Phoenix's way. She was modified further from her initial true form to what you saw only days ago. She is what is called a Chaos Engine. For the sake of hiding their ultimate weapon and ensuring she would gain all the powers she needed to become powerful, they deactivated her neural component and her memory as a Chaos Engine until the time was right to reclaim her and begin the conquering of all that stands in Phoenix's path to victory.

Her will and mind are no longer hers to command. It is White who completely and utterly controls her actions. Her last given command was to hunt you and Aoi down, and retrieve her. She is the strongest of the Chaos Engines, the Lambda of Destruction. She is Phoenix's ultimate weapon, their ultimate trump card. ...I cannot be sure of it, but I believe the white haired man you encountered was one of the CE's under Azula. If she did not know where you are before, she will know soon." The figure says without any sign of concern of the situation.

"...Please explain to me, because it's becomeing a bit hard for me to understand. You came here in order to tell me of a future that you also say I'm helpless to prevent. Why, exactly. Why the hell would this mean anything to me!? So, I know it's coming now, but what damned good will that do me!?HUH!?" Kalin said, his eyes growing black as he began to emit a dark aura. The energy ate away at his surroundings, despite being outside of time.

"I told you these things for one reason, and one reason alone. So you can either choose to live the time you have left making the most of your life with her. You can give her the best of you, or the worst of you. You can choose to despair or to embrace what time you have with her and spend it to the best and happiest you can make it last. If you have the power and the resourcefulness, you could prolong fate, give her more time. But understand something. I foretell not only misfortune... ...this will not be the end... ...it will not be her death... in the end, despite everything she and you shall endure... there are ways... to save her in the end. Kalin. She has not told you this... ...or if she has, she has not told you everything... ...but she has become aware of the impending future. For your sake, she has kept quiet. Despite her fate she chooses to spend it with a smile and with a warm heart.

While it is too late to altogether stop the future about to occur... ...there are still many possibilities after this event. Many Fluctuations and Alternatives exist to the main path. Depending on what roads and actions you follow, despite all that will happen before the end, know that she can be saved from the end result of her fate.

Since I'm on the subject, Lord Endlos. The Curse is not unbreakable. If I were you, seek a power greater than that of Restoration. You'll need it as part of the key to the liberation of the Accursed Souls. It'll take work, but what was once pure and warm, now confined to cold and crystal, can be restored, flesh and blood renewed. Caess holds a key to the path of her own restoration, though you must piece the way to true liberation."

He looks at the two for a moment, then focusing on Kalin. "So? What will you choose to do?"

The king's eyes narrow upon hearing of a power greater than Restoration. "Just when I thought I was done consorting with Gods and the like," he grumbles.

For a moment, Kalin closes his eyes as his aura slowly returns to him. "I hope to enjoy what time there is left, much as it pains me to say it. And when the time comes, I fight like hell to reach the best ending possible. Simple enough for me. I've been lucky this far, eh?" He said, turning to the stranger with a grin on his face.

"Well that's good, cause' she's coming now. ....I'm kidding. About fighting her I mean. I can maintain a distortion around the valley that will throw her off long enough to escape, I know she's interested in Aoi only, so she won't enter if she doesn't sense Aoi. This is the only time I'll intervene directly though, understand? For now on after this it's up to you all. No more favors from Mr Yellow Cloak here."

"The one is good enough...thank you. Well, if you'll excuse me, I guess I need to begin my escape."

The figure disappears in a flash, and time resumes, though Lord Endlos can sense a displacement barrier around the Twin Valleys, cutting them off from the outside world, though it seems the only beings excluded from entering the barrier is the one named Azula.

"Lord Endlos, as grateful as I am for your hospitality...I  have to go. I apologize for the suddeness, but I recently remembered...an important matter that requires my attention." Kalin said, knowing the King understood the circumstances all too well. Even from the castle, Kalin could sense a familiar energy on it's way. It was far, far from the Valley, demonstrating just how powerful Azula had become.

"Kalin, what are you saying?!" Aoi says, grabbing a hold of Kalin. "Is... Is that Azula I sense?!" She says with alarm.

"Indeed, Kalin," says the king, tossing him a gun, "It's not a weapon... more of a deterent; aim at a wall or a hard surface."

Kalin caught the gun, which seemed out of place in this realm, and aimed it at the nearest wall.

"...Not HERE," exclaims the king, "Use it if you have additional pursuers besides the one on her way... The one you will be avoiding at all costs. Do you understand? If you confront her and Aoi is captured because you choose to charge in or if any harm occurs to any of my subjects, your main pursuer will be the least of your worries."

They all hear a monstrous BANG! that shakes the entire valley with its force as Azula's fist smashes into the barrier, and the shaking goes on for a full minute before subsiding, a faint dull rumble fading into background noise.

Aoi blinks. "White told me that Azula was strong, but I didn't think she could make all that ruckus with a punch."

"Let's not dally. Both of you go, now," he says, "I'll hold her back if she breaks the barrier... I haven't used God Piercer or my mother's sword prim and proper for quite awhile... Not since the War for Autonomy."

"Well, this is it, then." Kalin said, opening a Twilight Gate. "Lord Endlos...For the sake of beings throughout the universes, Azula cannot reach this point. I'm guessing it won't be too long before she understands how to use it. Analysing the residual energy of this portal will only bring her closer to that goal..."

The king pushes Kalin and Aoi through the portal, then encases it in primal energy.

"Almost as if he was stalling," he mutters, summoning a trident like lance covered in sigils and grooves that  is twice the size of his body and a black and silver longsword akin to a rapier with a thorny, spun guard and extra arm protection. "Caess, I need you, Kiyōna and Zetsubō to fortify this part of the castle as best you can before seeking shelter beneath the castle with the other citizens. I'll handle this as best I can."

As if sensing the departure of her target, the being outside the barrier begins making stronger, more rapid strikes in quick succession.

Caess and the two begin to fortify as best as they can using their ice magic.

The king dons his armor and heads towards the edge of the barrier, shrouding the castle in primal energy as his eyes turn gold and hundreds of thousands of gauntlets, great swords and lances begin to materialize around him. Hopefully they'll listen to reason... Probably not though. Releasing Goddess Seal Completely. Code Word: Ende.

Destruction to Protect, to Destroy Edit

There is a great blue light on the other side of the barrier, and the impacts seem to cease, the being seems to have sensed him, and a strong tension is in the air.

Suddenly another strike, far heavier impacts the barrier and a glowing crack appears in the barrier from the single blow.

The king is engulfed in a maelstrom of black and white energy as his hair becomes metallic and his skin grows a fine layer of silvery scales. He grows armored, mechanical wings and his shadow grows into something massive. He acknowledges the being's presence with a pulse of energy that passes through the barrier, but causes no harm to her.

Suddenly a single azure blade manages to pierce through the barrier, sizzling with violent intensity as it attempts to open a wider hole in the barrier, but it sizzles out and disappears. More strikes later and a section of the barrier momentarily collapses, giving a glimpse of the blue glowing being.

It is hovering just above the ground, illuminating the area around it in an aura of blue light, soft but also carrying the weight of the being's energy. Long blue hair flows gently from her head, long enough to reach her ankles were it not for the hair gloating from the power it wields. Hints of scales are barely visible on its skin. Its dulled blue eyes seem to have deeply suppressed life and emotion to them, but they are buried behind a ridged cold gaze.

The being is both beautiful yet incredibly sad, its power and grace wasted on the schemes of those who seek to abuse it. The being quietly seems to regard him for a few moments.

Then... "....Do not sense targets... ...remaining Twlight energy detected... ...must analyze..." She says in a dull, forced voice, as though something robotic, artifical is merely using her to speak.

"I apologize, but I cannot allow you to do that," says the king, "Please leave the area, I am prepared to use force, but do not wish to."

The being makes a tiny facial movement, which is followed by a powerful blast of light that the king detects is literal energy from the sun itself, two small miniature suns seem to now be orbiting her.

The king repels the blast with his own blast that cancels out the light. He then directs the gauntlets to open fire on her while he hefts his spear, which is glowing ominously.

The being stretches out her hand and a blazing aura of blue energy takes the form of a massive claw, and she begins to swat the fire of the gauntlets away, either that or the attacks get neutralized. She leaps back and outstretches her hand, and the blazing claw of energy lunges at him at high speed.

The king materializes his ethereal gauntlet and massive gauntlet and has the former hit the claw  with the force of a small planet while the massive gauntlet fires a titanic laser at the being along with the  smaller gauntlets blasts and beams.

The faint outline of something briefly comes into view, before a monstrous maw opens up and devours the laser, letting out a roar as it redirects the blast at the barrier, destroying the remaining protection of the village, the owner of the maw revealed to be a massive armored white serpent, which lets out a sharp hiss and intercepts the smaller attacks with a swipe of its head, while the rest of the titanic snake reveals itself in a black half, equally armored. This snake head, making a total of two, lets out a blast of equivalent force at the king's massive gauntlet.

The king smirks as a second ethereal gauntlet and massive gauntlet pair form. He has the two ghostly gauntlets block the blasts as the larger gauntlets come together and create a swirling ball of black and white energy between themselves before firing a drilling, piercing, spiraling beam of black and white energy, one that eventually is coupled by dozens of branching lasers fired from the smaller gauntlets and a swarm of swords and spears covered in orange and blue energy. Just as they get in range, a spear befiting the massive gauntlets forms and launches towards the serpent's torso like a drill moving at super sonic speeds. 

Both serpent heads open, and half of the attacks are absorbed by the white, and the other half are simply blown away by the black's retaliation, and when the white fires, the two beams cancel out the main beam while the spearhead is intercepted by a large lance of blue energy, which then shoves the spear somewhere into the ground beside the serpent, the lance belonging to the being, who then cuts away half of the gauntlets present into oblivion with the strange lance like blade, seemingly disappearing into the blade itself. 

An Existence Eraser... Reassessing. Preparing... The king realizes something and decides to test it. He replaces the lost weapons and gauntlets and has them revolve around a spherical shape until a ball of black and white energy that appears to be eating the elements and expanding as it does so.

"Attempting True Hecatonchieres.... Gathering phase," he recites as six massive spears form and launch themselves at the being and the White Serpent head, moving at the same speed, but spinning much faster than the first spear, which erupting into a geyser of blue and black energy that slowly enlarges.

A burst of energy comes from her arms and expands violently into a large sphere that on contact with the ground begins to absorb it at a violent rate, when the spears hit it, they immediately begin to slowly be absorbed, disappearing into the aura just before they can touch either the serpent or the being.

The energy then whips into eight snake heads and surges forth at the king, opening their mouths to create blades similar to the single lance she used earlier, rushing to impale him with them. The being herself seems to be now drifting slowly away, a silent hover as she moves away, yet the serpents continue their attack.

The king snaps his fingers and a sphere that seems to eat even the space around it forms and draws in the snake heads, completely destroying them on contact. The king directs the sphere as the being and the power of its erasure effect grows as it accelerates towards her. Meanwhile the sphere only gets larger and larger, rapidly eclipsing the entire colony in terms of size. The sea and ground, even the air begin to be drawn into it. The only structure unaffected in the immediate area is the castle. 

The king raises the lance he carries, but does nothin with it yet. The glow grows duller...

The being suddenly makes a brilliant flash, and in less than a second a massive shockwave emits from her and completely forces back the sphere with far greater force straight back at the king, but the shockwave itself outpaces the sphere and strikes the king head on, its nature revealed to be nothing more than a monstrous shockwave of pure psychic energy, which forces him back as well.

The king relatiates with a wave of pure force, one causes everything it touches to wobble and warp before exploding. Upon touching the being it delivers a very poweful systematic shock that makes her hypersensitive. The sphere, the king stops with a gesture then sends it back after her while a white and gold mandala forms in the direction of the serpent.

The titanic sphere is slowly reaching the size of the valley itself and shows no signs of stopping in terms of size. At this point a constant stream of the elements is flowing into it, fueling its seemingly insatiable growth and hunger. The gauntlets, save for the the massive duo and ethereal set have been sucked into the the ball.

The being seems to do nothing, then....

"Limiter: Spirit: Release. Limiter: Endlos: Release."

Suddenly a heavy burst in energy comes from the being, and massive waves of Spirit Hands, both red and blue crash into the sphere and seemingly begin drain its energy, even as they themselves increase in strength. The being itself begins to change in appearance, purple markings appear on its form and it has taken the form of a swirling black giant with blue Aether energy flames mixed with Destruction energy wreathing its form, silver markings and glowing blue eyes observe him as its six wings now seem to be comprised of silver symbols rather than feathers, sprouting from it are the red and blue Spirit Hands enveloping the sphere, forming a red and blue cage cutting off its devouring, as a spiritual barrier forms from the collection of spirit hands.

It raises a hand, and an energy blade similar to the being's own composition takes form, and the being's voice echoes: "All Smiting Blade..."

It then seems to look at Lord Endlos, then seemingly looks away from the Valley and him, instead looking skyward for a moment, then dissipating the blade.

There is not a trace of the portal left... ...wasted efforts.... It seems to say with both great bitterness, yet an equally strong sense of relief.

"If you are done, leave," says the king, "An unnecessary bout needs not be continued." The sphere collapse upon itself and appears in the king's palm as a sphere the size of a marble. He looks at the being with a look of boredom.

The being slowly shrinks down into her normal form, her wings smaller and her glow all but gone, barely visible for the distance. She appears to survey the destruction for a while in silence.

Destruction... destruction... destruction.... ....when will it end.....? I just want it to end... end... end... ......end....... Its thoughts slowly fade from audibility as it slowly, lifelessly fades from view amist the destruction it and the king had wrought... ...though in the end it only blames itself.

The moment she vanishes completely, the king exhales deeply. "Almost had to get properly serious... I'm way out of practice then. That's the one down to creating peace..." He creates a legion of smaller gauntlets and goes to work repairing the damage to the colony, though he does not finishe for several hours, even with his endless supply of gauntlets and constructs. He releases the seal on the castle and the one within it and has the door to the Undercastle open before he slumps to the ground and reactivates the defenses that aren't spirits or people. "One heck of a return party..."

Caess soon finds him. "Are you alright my lord? Is there any damage still needing to be fixed? I can help if that's what is needed. What happened?"

"I'm fine, just tired," he says, slumping against a wall, "All of the structures have been repaired, though that should be double checked in case I over looked something... I think I'll just go to sleep here..." He yawns and closes his eyes, falling asleep within seconds.

Caess goes off to one of the rooms, and tiredly goes to sleep, while the twins share a room. Many thoughts trail through Caess' mind...

I wonder... would it ever be possible return to what I was?

Frozen Soul Edit

The next morning the king awakens outside, having not been disturbed in his sleep. When he touches his face, he realizes why. I'm still in my Unsealed State... Huh, right no one here really knows about this form.

"I should probably get a shower in..."

He returns to the castle quietly, no wanting to disturb the few people awake at the time.

Caess is up, but has merely elected to wander the halls to familiarize herself with the building. "It's certainly a big building..." She says in slight wonder.

Endlos returns from his quick shower, most of his transformation having reverted. He walks around until he bumps into Caess. "Ah, you're awake. How are you?"

She looks at him. "Oh, my lord, I am well. I only slept for a few hours, but it's normal for me. I can usually only sleep for three hours at a time. ...I don't usually need to anyway."

"I see... Are you curious about anything?"

Caess shrugs. "Not that much, to be honest, I'm relieved to be back home. I was simply familiarizing myself with the castle's layout, I didn't want to get my self lost."

Caess looks at her frozen body for a moment, flexing her hand, which makes crinkling noises as she closes it into a fist. A change becomes apparent as she slowly begins to turn from ice to flesh, assuming the appearance of an average Endlos, retaining her height, her appearance largely the same, only dressed in a white robe and sporting long black hair and kind eyes. Her face is the same, though much more sharp in comparison to the dull icy form. She tests the body, critically examining it.

"Ah, would you like a tour then?"

Caess nods. "I would like that very much, as for this form, I invented a way to temporarily create a replication of my original body back when I met my husband, though it's only a temporary comfort than a solution. It requires me to actively use energy and concentrate my thoughts on it, else my form will just degrade back into ice. I'm only able to sustain it for three to four hours. It's too tiring, mentally and physically to do than that. Plus the spell is rather hastily put together."

"...We'll get your original form back. Not just yours either..." He leads Caess around the castle, pointing out key rooms and locations.

Caess listens to him with interest and a smile. "Thank you for your kindness, sir... it's good to be among my kin again after so long. I wish it were in happier times though."

"Indeed, we are in a lull, a calm before the storm," he says, "We'll have to weather through it and preservere even after... Caess, if it's possible, I don't want you to fight in the upcoming battle."

"And which battle is that?" She asks. "There are many battles ahead."

"The one with Phoenix,I can't allow them to harm you again. They are already after your daughter, but they'll come after you and your family as well if they learn that you are within the area... I will NOT allow that to happen as long as I still breathe."

Caess closes her eyes. "I understand my lord... I do not wish to fight anyway... ...though if my daughter should fall in the way of harm, I would gladly do anything in my power to make sure she does not suffer again. I should have been stronger for my daughter. We lost too many precious years together."

"That is understandable, Caess, just don't leave my side if that does happen... Were you around when our species first came to be by any chance?"

She shakes her head. "I'm eighty seven, my lord."

"Ah... So young... Then again its common for me to feel old... Eh, maybe the Elder was right..."

She looks up at him. "Right about what?"

"Nothing too important, I won't be kicking the bucket anytime soon..."

Kiyōna, Caess' older daughter wakes up, and comes across them. She sees Endlos and hastily bows at him. "G-G-Good morning, my lord," She stammers. Her old ragged clothing shows the extent of the years since she had been with family and society.

"No need to be formal," he says, "We should take you and Zetsubō by the clothier once he awakens."

"Thank you sir, I appreciate it very much."

"It is the least I can do."

She nods, as Zetsubō shows up. He looks at Endlos and nods in greeting, then walks to his sister's side. "Good morning."

"To you as well," replies the king, "Shall we go?"

Zetsubō nods quietly. His eyes are a more steeled sort of blue in comparison to his sister's and mother's.

Endlos leads the three to a multi-roomed area with dozens of clothing racks and wardrobes.

Kiyōna picks out some bluish grey dresses, as well a few casual outfits, while Zetsubō takes various jackets and pants, while Caess checks out various black dresses, a thoughtful smile on her face.

"Take anything you like," says the King.

The three finish picking out their outfits, and go to their rooms to change. Caess returns with one of the black dresses she picked out, Kiyōna and Zetsubō have similar themed clothing, both wearing some sort of jacket and pants.

"Like what you chose?"

They all nod with smiles, Zetsubō more reluctantly.

"Something not to your liking," asks Endlos.

Zetsubō shakes his head. "No, it's fine. I just always end up matching my sister. Or is it the other way around....?"

"Ah, maybe the two of you are in tune with one another. It is very possible."

Kiyōna smiles faintly. "Thank you very much for the clothing, it has been a long time since we had proper clothes. I'm in your debt."

"Think nothing of it, it was the least I could do."

Kiyōna looks at her mother. "Could you show us how to do what you do? You know, take a humanoid form?"

Caess sighs. "A long and slow process. It involves techniques I know not the names of. Perhaps a touch of Alchemy, some mastery of shapeshifting, some magic.... ...it's very complicated and poorly wove together. I was never really instructed in those arts really before becoming the Elemental Terror. And as for your father, well he wasn't the best teacher. He was much better at the spell than I."

"Hm, are there any more details you can recall? I may, albeit with some time, be able to synthesize something similar."

"It requires an understanding of all of the elements used to compose a body, I think something to do with alchemy, use of Aether, and various spells to extend the technique's lifespan. I'm afraid I am only good with actually performing the technique, not the telling of how it works."

"I see... I'll see what I can do based on that information."

"Very well. Is there anything you would have us do while we are here?" Caess asks.

"Not at the moment," he replies, "Explore or do what you see fit, I'll send for you if something does come up."

Caess nods her head. "Thank you, I appreciate all of your help." She then walks out and explores a nearby garden, quietly examining the flowers and gently smelling them.

"...A pity... ...that I can barely smell their scents... ...and I can only barely feel the softness of these flowers... ....and hardly taste the food that I eat..." She says in a melancholy voice, as she continues wandering the garden.

Kiyōna and Zetsubō meanwhile wander the hallways, looking around for anything that might be of interest.

Endlos temporarily retires to his own quarters, contemplating a way to recreate the spell Caess mentioned before sending for a report on the city's shape.

Caess quietly sits under a tree, closing her eyes and begins humming to herself.

Stay safe, my daughter...

The king continues to contemplate the issue of the form until the report he requested arrives.

I wonder if the body would require a specific ratio of the elements to form a proper body and if the Alchemy would be used to take on said form. The Aether energy would bring life to the vessel, meaning it would have to be used after the body was created and before the form transfer. Additionally, how would one fully stimulate and create the neural network, let alone the five senses without utilizing electricity to send the signals across... Would one have to sacrifice durability for proper feeling or is there a loophole? Maybe a thin, near flimsy, conductive metal used as a replica of the nervous system in the event that a proper one could not be created? He knits his eyebrows together as he concentrates on figuring out a replicable solution.

Caess decides to take a walk around the town, half hoping she might meet a familiar face.

As she does, she comes across an elderly, hunched over man with grey hair and a wisened face.

"I get the feelin' that I should know ya from somewhere," he says, clearing his throat.

Caess blinks. "Oh, hello, my name is Caess. I used to live here long ago."

"Ah, that's why I remember ya," he exclaims. "I remember when ya were a wee ol' thing. Allow me to reintroduce m'self. I'm Delium, Elder Delium."

Caess smiles wearily. "It is an honor to meet you again, Elder Delium. I am afraid it has been a rather long time since I lived here, so I apologize, but my memory fails me of much of my life before I was taken away from here."

"It's fine, it's fine," he says with a shrug, "Good ta have ya back around, I reckon."

"Thank you very much, Delium." Caess says, then winces as part of her face and neck momentarily freeze over, then slowly turns to normal, with Caess getting a tired expression on her face.

"My apologies if that caused you alarm. I lost control of a spell that regulates this form of mine." She says tiredly.

"I've seen worse," he says, "It'll take more than that ta scare this ol' man."

"I am going to walk around for a bit, it was nice to meet you." She begins to walk off.

I wonder if any of the gardens I planted are still around?

"Same ta you," he calls as she leaves. Unfortunately, however, most of gardens were burnt away or destroyed in the last two attacks on the colony, according to quite a few Endlos in the city. Only two remain.

Caess stops at one of the ruined gardens, and observes it sadly, and kneels down among the dead plants. She releases her spell, and then silently begins trying to restore the garden with Restoration.

Very few of the plants can be salvaged, but the few that can be bloom brightly.

Caess looks at the survivors with a gentle smile, but it is also sad at the failure to save the others. She lets out a long sigh.

Elsewhere, the king continues to contemplate how to properly reconstruct a physical body, peering through several tomes on Endlos anatomy before pausing and laughing to himself.

"Right, I'm the template from which the others were born, I should know this well," he sighs before a sad smile crosses his face, "The benefit of being who I am... Perhaps, the curse of being the first."

Meanwhile Kiyōna and Zetsubō look around the castle some more.

"This place... ...it's so big...." Kiyōna says with wonder.

Zetsubō grunts. "I know. I wonder though if we will be able to live our lives here without threat of it being torn down again..."

"Possibly," replies a blonde haired man with blue eyes and a sleeveless top remniscent of a shinobi's vest. He has similar pants and a crimson scarf and carries two short swords across the back of his waist. He also appears to be wearing gauntlets of sorts. "Really depends on whether or not the big battle comes here."

Zetsubō tenses up as he looks at him. "...And who are you?"

"I'm King's Guard Second-in-Command Yokai Auros," answers the blonde man with a smile, "Well until the First-in-Command wakes up from whatever dream he's in, I'm in charge... Anyways, I'm Auros the Zeroth Knight."

"Right... ...Nice to meet you, Auros." He says simply.

"Likewise," replies the knight before vanishing without a trace, only to reappear with a stone block in his hands. "Well, off to sculpt!"

Zetsubō watches him with a raised eyebrow, while Kiyōna looks outright baffled.

Auros sets the block down, then begins to rapidly poke it from all accessible angles. Several minutes pass before cracks begin to cover the block's exterior, spiraling and spreading like vines until the surface appears to be completely broken and shattered. Aura whistles, "Yup, perfect!"

Zetsubō starts walking off without a word, while Kiyōna looks at it confused, then slowly follows her brother.

A moment after the duo leaves, the exterior of the block collapses, revealing a highly detailed statuette of a pixie.

Kiyōna looks at her brother after a while. "What do you think touch feels like? Or heat? ...I wonder what food tastes like.... ...I don't even know what taste really is..."

Zetsubō sighs. "Never know... .....you haven't asked that in a while. You're not seriously thinking that we have a chance?"

Kiyōna looks slightly hurt. "So you're just going to give up on it? You don't even want to try to find out?"

Zetsubō looks at her in irritation. "Don't put words in my mouth. I'm not giving up. I just doubt the chance actually exists. If it does, great."

"Fate works in mysterious ways," says Auros, carrying the statuette, "Like me ensuring you don't get lost."

Zetsubō sighs. "Thank you, but I highly doubt that I could get lost in a place like this. I spent much of my life in the polar ice, where you could see nothing for miles. I think I'll be fine in a castle."

"Trust me on this, this place is much bigger and more confusing than you'd think. Though if you want to explore by yourself, that's fine as well."

Zetsubō sighs. "Whatever, follow if you want to so badly." He keeps walking.

Auros makes a cat-like face before vanishing.

Zetsubō and Kiyōna walk around for a while, before finally taking some time to rest.

Caess meanwhile spends her time visiting gardens, seeing if she can bring any of them back, working diligently, working largely off her memory where the gardens are.

For the most part, Caess is able to restore the gardens to varying extents, some nearly completely restored, others to a much lesser extent. One is completely unable to be salvaged, however.

Caess takes a deep breath. "A shame... I suppose I will have to regrow many of these then."

Back inside of the castle, the king seems to have come up with something. He sends for Caess, Zetsubō and Kiyōna. I wonder if this will work...

Caess heads back to the castle, tired. Meanwhile Zetsubō and Kiyōna have made their way to their rooms.

Several moments later, they each receive knocks on their doors from messengers of the king.

"Our lord has requested your presence."

They both nod, and get up from their beds where they were sitting and follow the messengers, as Caess walks back inside.

A moment later, Caess receives the same message.

Caess follows the messenger as well.

The messengers lead the trio to the king's study, where he is waiting with several books. He looks up, having been leafing through one of them, before closing the book.

"I assume you know why I called you here?"

"There is something you wish to try or you believe you have an idea?" Caess asks softly.

"A bit of both. You see, I tried to figure out how, using the tidbits of information you gave me, to properly recreate a physical form that was both realistic in appearance and in functionality. So far what I've come up with is using the eight elements in a ratio of 1:1:1:1:1:2:1:1 or utilizing an equivalent amount of each element to form the body, with the exception of Lightning to properly induce the function of nerves. Then, one would have to utilize Aether to breathe life into the body before using Alchemy to transfer your soul into the body, while you original form became a portion of your soul in the transference process... In order to properly recreate the senses, one would first require a functional nervous system and an idea as to what the missing senses are like..."

Caess nods faintly. "That would seem to work in theory. There is something you should be aware of as well though." She parts the clothing around her chest, letting the king see the large glowing crystal in her chest. "This is my soul. While my body was turned to ice and water, my soul was also turned into pure crystal. ...This is my soul. It is very difficult to modify my soul in this state while it is crystallized like this."

"Hm, if that is the case, we may have to adjust to fit that condition... How do you get around that when you shift forms?"

Her ice body cracks a bit as she begins changing form into flesh, but the crystal still is there, its glow now more obvious. "I use a small portion of my energy to maintain the body, but I can't actually change the crystal. When I let go of my control the ice spreads out from the crystal and shapes me back into ice."

"Ah... I will not be able to modify that, not without a certain acquaintance anyways. All I can do is enhance your transformation then."

"Thank you my lord, your kindness is more than enough. Anything you can do to help us I appreciate and thank you for readily."

He nods. "I need you all to envision what your senses would feel like and what your unfrosted forms would appear like. Caess, since you already have such a form, just focus on it. I'll handle the casting."

Caess nods, but the twins look uncomfortable. "...We haven't really any idea what such senses feel like..."

"What do you imagine them to feel like?"

The twins still look uncomfortable. "What would we base it on? We've been this way since were born."

"Hm, then it may take some time. Maybe we should postpone this until you two have an accurate grasp on the senses, at least theoretically what they should feel like." The king offers them both a book. "If you can read, please thoroughly examine these books. They should better your understanding of the senses. If not, I'll have Elder Delium come and explain."

The two take the book and begin reading it together. Caess shakes her head and smiles at them as they begin helping each other read. "They were taught how to read, but I was worried they would have lost it. It's good they know how to work together."

"A team is better than a singular person on many occasions."

"Do you wish to wait for them to test the spell? If so I can try to help them figure it out."

"That was my intention, yes."

Caess joins her daughter and son, and places her hands on their heads as she talks to them. After a long while, she gets up and addresses Endlos.

"I believe we are ready to try." She says with a faint smile.

"Alright, concentrate on your unfrozen form and senses," he says as a blue and orange aura flows around him. "I'm preparing the spell now..."

All three of them concentrate their hardest on their forms and senses.

The king gradually extends his aura to them and begins to make various symbols with his hands as he does so until Caess and her children are surrounded by brilliant light. Elemental Ratio, check. Aether Circuit Formation, check. Beginning Form restructuring and Nerve generation. Organ Generation Complete... Finalizing Process!

The three maintain their concentration as best as they can admist the intensity of the spell.

Several minute pass before the king releases the spell. He looks up and checks the results.

Caess appears in a more perfected version of herself, while Zetsubō and Kiyōna appear more or less as young adults, each of them has a dark blue hair color, the tips white. The blue glow of their eyes seems much more healthy than before, their skin has a soft grey cast like Aoi's does. The king notices the crystals Zetsubō and Kiyōna have are much smaller than Caess's, though none of them seem to really care.

Kiyōna lets out a sharp gasp, surprised by the sharp intake of air. "Oh god... this is... oh wow....!"

Zetsubō, normally not excitable, is visible surprised, and is feeling his body out, flexing his arms and hands, eyes widened slightly. "Incredible..." He says softly.

Caess seems pleased with the body, and looks at the king. "How long do these bodies last, and is there a way to keep them from refreezing again?" She asks inquisitively.

"If you resupply the Aether and Elements required once every week or so, you should  be fine."

She looks at her children then at the king. "I'm afraid we only know how to use ice and water. Also out of curiosity, do you have a means of freeing our souls? You mentioned an acquaintance before."

"I can have the other elements supplied to you in such a way that all you need do is draw upon them. As for your souls, yes, I have an aquaintance who could do so, but she's quite the wild card. I'll see about getting in contact with her."

"I see, thank you sir. I appreciate the help." She says with a bow of her head.

"Think nothing of it, I wish I could do more for you at this time."

Caess shakes her head. "No my lord, you've done more than enough. Offering us a place to stay, giving new clothing, working to help give us a new lease on life... ...it's more than I could ask for." She says with a happy smile.

"If... If only I could've done more," he laments to himself, a misty look entering his eyes as metallic scales form over his skin.

Her expression is slightly surprised. "My lord? Are you alright? I said it's fine, really!"

"Huh," Endlos looks confused for a moment before realizing what happened. "Oh, I'm sorry... I remembered something from a long time ago... Funny how the past can impede us even as we do our best to progress." He laughs lightly, but the life in his eyes has faded and the scales do not fade.

Caess looks at him for a moment. "My apologies if I ask too much, but what exactly bothers you? I won't pursue an answer, I can just tell something pains you is all. But thank you again for all you've done."

He doesn't answer for quite awhile. "I was created to fufill a single task, long ago... Soon after that I was repurposed to complete another task that made me face against my brothers and sisters. After that war ended, I did as much as I could to atone for the blood I was forced to shed, but I could never atone enough for it, especially back then...  If I'd had all of the knowledge and wisdom I have now, they'd both still be around..."

Caess closes her eyes. "I see, I'm sorry my lord."

"It's fine, Caess. I shouldn't have allowed myself to get caught up in the past."

"There is something everyone regrets. It's ok." She sighs lightly. There is a grumbling that comes from all three's stomachs. While Caess doesn't seem that bothered, the twins flip out.

"Arggh! What the...?! I think... something went wrong!" Zetsubō gasps, not realizing he's suffering hunger pangs.

Kiyōna moans in pain. "Whaaaat is this?! My... stomach hurts?!" She yelps.

"It means that you're hungry," explains the king, "I'll take you to the dining hall to eat your fill."

The two nod vigorously, while Caess smiles with slight amusement. "Lead us there then."

The king leads them to a large room with several large tables and dozens of chairs. Once everyone is seated, several assorted platters of steaming meat and vegetables are set on the table. Plates are set out for the four of them along with utinsil sets.

"Have at it."

"Thank you very much," Caess says, before beginning to eat, the twins begin to eat, the first bite has their eyes popping wide open, and they can all but hold back expressions that would otherwise remind someone of a child having their first ice cream or something.

The king smiles faintly, but eats very little.

Caess eats somewhat more than him, but doesn't eat too much more. She looks at him for a moment. "Still not feeling well after what you remembered?" She asks.

He nods. "That and I do not eat often."

"I see. I have more of an appetite than before with this body, but I still probably won't eat as much, at least, not until a few days go by." She smiles faintly.

"Thank you so much for your aid for my family. You have simply gone far and beyond what anyone would expect. I cannot thank you enough. It warms my heart."

The king smiles faintly but says nothing in return.

Caess watches the twins as they eat their meal, their expressions completely overwhelmed.

"I take it you are enjoying your meals?" She asks softly with a smile.

"YES!" They say with great enthusiasm.

Caess chuckles. "Don't eat too much now, children."

The king eats silently, thinking about another matter entirely.

The twins finish their meal. Kiyōna gives the king a brillant smile. "T-Thank you for the food, my lord!"

"You're welcome," he responds before closing his eyes for a moment.

Caess thinks quietly for a moment, then looks at the king. "Do you have a library?"

"Two actually. Would you like to visit one?"

Caess nods. "I would like that very much."

The king rises and has the remaining food taken away before he leads Caess and her family out of the dining hall, through two corridors and up several flights of stairs, finally reaching a magnificent pair of oaken doors with golden handles.

"How is the city repairs? Is everything going well?" Caess asks.

"I got the majority of it handled, but the stuff I couldn't fix is being worked on as we speak," replies the king, opening the doors to a massive library.

Caess has a faint smile. "So many," She says with a smile.

"I've started quite the collection," nods the king. "This is the smaller of the two libraries."

Caess is now more surprised. "The smaller?!" She says, more visibly shocked.

"Yes, the larger one is acros the castle. Consider this to be an annex of it."

"Impressive..." She begins walking around, looking at books to read. "May we bring some of these back to our rooms?" She asks the king.

"You may, just remember to return some before getting others."

Caess nods. "Very well." She picks out a few books and finds a place to sit down and read. The twins eventually start looking for books as well.

The king takes this time to start a telepathic conversation with his mentioned acquaintance.

Caess reads about various articles of world history of Echo, while the twins read pretty much anything, from science to simple novels.

The king nods several times then shakes his head. An annoyed expression crosses his face, but quickly is replaced by a neutral one. He nods again slowly then closes his eyes and smiles contently.

Caess reads more, but also quietly thinks to herself. This body of mine... it's so much like... ...my own... I forgot what it was like to have all of these sensations... how long has it been since I was able to feel my own heart's beat? How long since the air that entered my lungs truly felt this rich? So amazing it is... I can almost forget the cold of my soul... it feels farther away than before... ...but it's still there. A blessing is a blessing, no matter how big or small.

Endlos speaks. "She'll be by in two weeks."

Caess looks up. "I see. Thank you. May I ask who your acquaintance is?"

"She prefers to remain anonymous."

"I see. I understand." She begins to read again.

The king sits down and materializes a pure white book with black pages.

Caess soon finishes her book, and starts reading a book on various flowering plants.

Endlos continues to leaf through his book.

Caess eventually closes her eyes, the air of her shifting subtly, as she slowly closes her book.

Endlos stops at a red page in his book and narrows his eyes into slits. He releases a sound akin to metal shrieking and a rumbling growl before closing the book and taking a deep breath.

"Is something the matter, sir?" She asks quietly, not opening her eyes.

"Nothing I am able to discuss."

Caess nods, then relaxes a bit and quietly enters what could be described as a meditative position.

The king puts his book away then seems to fall asleep in his spot.

Caess slowly extends her awareness into the energy of the world, and slowly begins stretching it out.

For just a moment, I thought I felt... ...one of them... ...I must confirm it...

She quietly does this process, not so much as budging once. The twins look on in confusion. "Mother?" Kiyōna asks, worried. No response.

"Caess?" The king opens a single eye. He then sighs, "Please give her a moment or so and do not panic."

Caess continues her meditation, and slowly narrows in on her query.

....As I thought... ...it's them.

Caess slowly opens her eyes and stops meditating. I'm fine, Kiyōna. I was just... looking for something."

"Should I be concerned about the near future?"

"I detected two members of Phoenix... ...but I don't think they were there for me or Aoi."

"I see... If they move in this direction, please tell me."

"I will... though they are after something, it is not any of us. Their path doesn't suggest it at least." She sighs quietly. "Though a subject of note, I believe the partner of the member was actually a lesser version of the being that attacked the other day. A previous version of that artificial race."

"I see."

Kiyōna giggles at a book she's picked up, a humored smile on her face.

"Ah? Found something interesting?"

"Oh, it's just a funny book that's all." She says with a smile as she reads it, engrossed in the contents of the book.

Zetsubō appears to be reading about major figures of Echo's history.

"Ah, I see." The king closes his eyes once more.

After a while of more reading, Caess quietly gets up and begins to walk to her room.

The king appears to have nodded off.

Upon reaching her room, she slides into bed and takes a nap, relishing the sensation of softness from the pillow and the mattress.

Endlos feigns sleep until the others leave the library.

Kiyōna and Zetsubō both eventually leave, taking a few books to read back in their rooms.

A few minutes after they leave, the king recalls the book and continues from the red page. If this is true, the Relics are more demented than I thought... Damn their experiments.

While Kiyōna and Zetsubō read for a while, Caess dreams about her lost husband, and the happy memories that became of their marriage. A small tear runs down her face as she dreams...

Endlos continues to read the book until he reaches another red page. His eyes narrow once more and he teleports away from the colony for several minutes. When he returns, his hair is disheveled, but he is far calmer.

Eventually both Kiyōna and Zetsubō fall asleep, Zetsubō too tired to leave his sister's side.

The king finishes the book, closes it, then goes for a stroll outside of the castle.

The twins and Caess both continue to sleep, though Caess eventually stirs and sits up in her bed, quietly thinking, and feeling rather alone. She sighs.

"Well around fourteen years now... ...and still I forget you're gone when I sleep..." Caess murmurs sadly. She brushes the hair out of her face quietly.

Endlos looks at the sky.

"I'll protect everyone... Even if it kills me."

Caess gets up, and looks in a mirror for a while, then sighs, walking out of her room to idly wander.

The king returns to the castle after several hours pass, his form mostly normal at this point.

Caess continues walking around, not paying attention to her surroundings as she walks, instead quietly thinking about the past.

"Be careful," warns the king as Caess nears a wall, trying to prevent her from walking directly into it.

She stops, jumping in slight surprise. "OH! Oh, thank you sir... I was... ...distracted." She says, flustered.

"I can see that," he says, raising an eyebrow. "Do be careful..."

"....Thank you sir. I'm sorry. I just... ...have a lot to think about." She says softly, a sad look in her eyes.

"I know, just take care of yourself. Don't let the thoughts eclipse the person."

"I will sir... I guess I just feel... ....lonely. It's been... ...fourteen years now, but it... ...still hurts." She says, leaning against the wall as she closes her eyes.

"I understand, but remember that you've always got support from your family and the people around you... A wise man once told me that the best thing in life was to never forget ho to smile, even in the toughest and darkest of times."

"....He is wise indeed. I just... ...wish he could have been here to see our family back together again..."

"I'm sure that he's watching over you from above and giving you all of his support, Caess," says the king.

Caess sighs. "I'm thinking of a rather hot drink that humans enjoy... ...it has a sweet taste and is brown... would you know of what I speak? ...Sometimes they put white fluffy sweet things in it which melt from the heat..." She murmurs.

"Hot chocolate, specifically with marshmallows," answers the king instantly, "A lot of people said it was good and enjoyable so I had it added to our trade network awhile back. I'm not much of a fan of it myself, I generally give away all of the chocolate I get."

"I see. Do you have any in the castle? I... ...need something to distract myself from my memories right now. ...It's... difficult to sleep sometimes."

"Yes, I'll have some delivered to you in a few minutes," he says.

"Thank you sir. I appreciate the favor." She finds a bench to sit on.

Several minutes later, a mug of hot chocolate with marshmallows and a thermos are dilevered to Caess.

"I shall turn in for the night," announces the king. He smiles at Caess, "Sleep well, Caess."

She smiles faintly at the king, taking a sip of the hot drink. "Thank you my king," She says with a slightly warmer tone to her voice. "With any luck, I hope so."

The king retires to his chambers for the night.

After Caess finishes her drink, she takes the mug and thermos to her room and sets them aside on a dresser, after cleaning herself up for the night, she retires to her bed, where she drifts off to sleep, once again marveling at the comfort of the bed...

The Goddess Encounter Edit

The next day, the king wakes up in his partially transformed state once again. Confused, he concentrates until he recognizes a familiar presence in the area, one that makes his blood and demeanor freeze.

Caess is absolutely out, while the twins are beginning to stir.

The king sends for a messenger and has the city put on full lockdown while he exits the castle. He finds the colony deserted before a wave of frozen energy completely encases all but the castle in black ice.

Caess wakes up upon sensing ice in the area, and the twins are alert.

"...Ice...?" Caess murmurs, getting out of bed.

"You're here, I would recognize your aura," states the king as his metallic scales form and sharpen. Mechanical wings tear from his back and his fingers extend into scythe-like talons while a thin bladed tail resembling a whip sword grows from his back. He grows four bladed horns and his eyes glow a burning red as he gains an additional foot of height. "Show yourself, Fatalia."

A slight breeze is the response he gets before black lightning strikes around the area.

Caess hurries to the twins, checking on them quickly. "Something is going on outside," She says in a guarded tone. "I don't know what, but it seems bad..." She takes them to the lower levels below the ground floor.

Outside the castle black lightning strikes at the king only to be dispelled before it can make contact with him. He returns fire to his unseen enemy with spheres of black and white crackling energy that rebuff the lightning fired at them as they home in on their target, only to hit nothing. Several moments later, the sky darkens and dark particles begin to fill the air.

Caess quietly sits down on the floor, quietly listening to the battle outside.

Several moments of silence pass before the ground trembles from the force of something immensely powerful happening outside. Shortly thereafter a roar that sounds like a demonic high pitched siren combined with the sound of metal grating across a hard surface and a mighty beast of indeterminate nature shakes the area beneath the castle more than what occur barely seconds before. The air becomes extremely heavy with pressure from the conflict above.

"What is going on up there...? A battle?" She muses.

Moments later, blue particles in the air become visible as they float into the ceiling of the area beneath the castle. Soon afterwards, a high pitched whine begins, followed by a loud boom. The pressure in the air fades and the commotion outside dies out.

Caess nervously begins setting up magic protection, as well as a thick barrier of harder than steel ice around the whole of the chamber they are in, and the twins help re enforce the chamber's defense.

"...I'll wait for the king... ...if he is alright, that is..." She mutters.

Several hours pass without any sign of the king coming.

Caess grows thick ice on her body, in an armored formation, with thick spikes sprouting from her. A sword of incredibly dense ice forms in her hand, and she silently watches the entrance. The twins enter similar forms as well.

There is still no sign of anyone coming to the area beneath the castle.

Caess looks at her two children. "...Follow me... but be careful..." She says quietly. She very slowly, quietly, and cautiously begins to work her way through the halls, not daring to make a sound, with the twins guarding her rear.

The castle is silent. Most of the doors are sealed shut by the spiritual energy, but a small number of them are open.

Caess quietly seeks out a window to look outside.

Quickly finding one, Caess is able to see that storm clouds loom over the colony, but all of the structures appear to be in tact. Further away, however, there is a vast crater that stretches for an indeterminate distance.

"What is going on...? ...What is that crater?" She murmurs.

Outside of the castle, there appears to be no signs of life beside the plants that grow within the colony.

"Kiyōna, I want you to see what energy is out there," Caess says quietly.

Kiyōna nods, and her eyes glow as she tries to see what energy sources might be in the area, as well as any living sources of energy.

Somewhere within the crater, there is a very potent source of energy that seems to be moving in a circular pattern.

"Keep an eye on it and tell me if it does anything." Caess says softly, as she continues to move through the castle towards the exit.

The energy source continues to move it a circle though Kiyōna gets the feeling that it knows that she's watching it, but does not care.

"It seems to be sentient, Mother."

"Alright... just warn me if it does anything we should be concerned about. Keep your eyes open for other sources."

She arrives at the door, and opens it.

The moment the door opens, several swords stab into the ground in front of Caess, as if warning her not to leave the castle. The energy source flares a split second before this happens.

She stops dead, and she closes the doors. "...Something's going on..."

Kiyōna nods faintly. "The energy flared a moment before the swords appeared."

Caess closes her eyes. "Is the city under attack...?"

On the south end of the Southern Frontier's border, a lone cloaked figure stands atop a mountain, overlooking the entirety of the Twin Valleys area. His clothing flutters in the cold south's wind.

"Don't the children know better than to play with fireworks this early in the morning...?" His voice growls below the normal range of hearing.

The energy flares again and the swords meld into a wall.

The mechanical roar from earlier sounds again, much louder than before.

The figure sighs. "As tempermental as always this one..." He looks to his right, and another cloaked figure appears, in black.

"Sainan."

"Understood." The figure replies, sitting down on the mountain, while the first figure disappears, appearing on another slope, and sits down. The two merely observe the scene below them.

The sky darkens unnaturally before a hand comprised of black energy descends toward the crater, only to shatter before it reaches its target. Several more descend, but meet the same fate until, at last their source descends in a sphere of feathers.

The first cloaked figure merely watches.

I can already sense that Azayakana has noticed by this point as well... well, this event is sure getting popular to watch...

He idily fiddles with a pure black dagger. "Sainan. Be sure to inform the others to be on stand by. It would be annoying to clean up after them."

The feathers float away as the being gets closer to the ground, revealing a woman of alien beauty. She has a porcelean complexion and black and red hair. Her eyes are almost compltetely black, but have slit, violet irises. She wears a flowing black cloak over ashen leather armor with the occasional glint of twisted metal. In her hand is a twisted, branching blade tainted with red and tinged with black and behind her floats a raiment of flowing black energy. Dark particles float around her as an aura similar to lightning crackles around her.

She raises a hand and disintegrates the area within her line of sight with a wave of white energy. Fortunately, the blast is dispersed before it can reach the colony, but the are around it is now marred with holes and gashes.

The cloaked figure puts the dagger away, trading it for a long black metal staff of sorts, with a slot where a blade would go on the side.

"They of course had to start fighting while I had been sleeping well for the first time in many a year... I really don't have time to play border patrol..." The figure mutters to himself.

A louder roar sounds as two seals form in the air. Both begin to spin as blades of various types form from within them and aim themselves at the woman. A specific spear catches her eye and, not wanting to continue a losing battle, she turns and walks away, fading away in grey mist.

"Head back Sainan, await further orders."

Some of the blades aim themselves at the figure, as if telling him that he isn't allowed any closer either.

"Lord Endlos, I would advise you not to point those at me. My interest lies in protecting my borders. Besides, I doubt you would really want a war with me, The Black King of the South. The hostility is not appreciated." He says all of this with disinterest toward the blades.

"And I am doing the same, protecting mine. You are not allowed near my territory, nor are your emissaries, unless it is within reason or for diplomatic affairs pertinant to my people. Any trust I had in you vanished when I encountered Sainan not long ago, his hostility was not appreciated either." The king does not reveal himself, but his voice can be heard clearly despite the distance between them. The blades do not change their position.

"....Encountered Sainan....? .... ....Oh, I remember... ...that was an unfortunate misunderstanding. Sainan has grown more volatile with age. I had assumed he could handle a simple invitation request, but that was clearly an area his mental facilities has long since stopped functioning well in. Well, everything breaks down eventually... I may have to find a new errand boy..."

The Black King silently stands up, brushing snow off himself.

"If I had any harmful intent towards your people, my dear neighbor, then I would have done it with my own hands, not a lowly servant. Keep that in mind. I hate subtly."

He begins to walk off toward the south. "I expect she may come soon. I have no desire to see Aza. That alone is enough to make me leave." He continues on.

"Your words lack merit. I cannot see your intentions, but I can see through the untruth you spoke. See to it that Sainan stays away from this place, I do not fancy that his 'invitation' to those two was a proper one, especially having drawn his weapon and commanded all within earshot to submit to your will. I do not fancy that he made a mistake, rather that he did what you asked, only to be halted before he could continue. I would hope that you do not do anything unfriendly in the near future, t'would be a shame if a war broke out due to your actions in the near future..." The swords shift to a neutral position as the Black King leaves the area.

"Your words break my heart like glass..." He murmurs. "And to think I was actually here with the possibility of aiding you... how arrogant of you..." He disappears like smoke in the wind.

The king sighs and looks at his taloned hands, covered in metallic flesh and scales sharp enough to tear through metal and stone, then his tail, fashioned after both a wicked sword and a whip, before sighing. As much as I deem myself as a force to protect, it's easy to see that I am not so. His current form was an incomplete version of his weaponized form and yet it was able to cause so much destruction when he chose only to defend and protect rather than fight. It reminded him of the days when he wandered alone after he freed his people from the tyranny of the Relic Gods. It had been his duty to destroy the last vestiges of their experimentation, even if it meant having to kill many of his friends and former comrades because they could not cease their destructive tendencies. It's almost the same as back then... Unfortunately.

A strange out of place air of calm and tranquility seems to wash over him.

"You've arrived, Lady Aza."

"I sensed something amiss, so I decided to investigate. I was right to come, from the looks of the devestation. Are your people safe?" She asks softly as she materializes on the lip of the crater.

"Yes, I did not have time for a full scale evacuation, so I sealed their homes and the castle with protection barriers before the attacker could make herself fully known."

"I am glad to hear that." She removes the veil from her head, revealing her face and smooth white hair fully. "May I ask who that was? I also sense that... ...he... ...was here recently. I have not spoken with him in so many years, I don't understand why he refuses to speak to me. It makes me wonder if I did something to wrong him." She says softly, with a hint of sadness. One of her scrolls unwinds as she looks over the area.

"A shadow from the past that should be long gone... Her name was Fatalia, one of the beings who made me into what I am now. She governed destruction without equal before she was sealed away. Not one for words, she often would do something first before even mentioning the slightest of reasoning behind her actions. Today was a 'friendly visit.' Had she been serious, I dare say I'd be the only one in the area left alive," answers the king, obscuring himself in a cloud as the swords vanish back into the seals. "And yes, the Black King did come by, though he has changed greatly. I do not know his motives or goals, but I feel uneasy about him as of late, especially so due to an encounter with one of his emissaries."

"I see. Shall I aid in reconstruction of the area since I am here? I would feel better knowing I was able to help in some way. Are you wounded either?" She asks as the scroll twines around her.

"You have my thanks, Lady Aza, that would be a great deal of help. I myself am uninjured... Even if I was, I could not disgrace you with my current state of appearance."

"All life to me is sacred and to be upheld, even if it is twisted and malformed, it is life. Appearance matters not to me." She sits down on the ground, beginning to draw on her scrolls.

"If only those words reached this heart completely. A former weapon is still a weapon, even if repurposed..." The king sighs and has dozens of gauntlets and staves form.

"A weapon or not, does not matter. Weapons are both tools to kill and to protect." She says as she works.

The king does not respond, instead he has the staves cast spells to recreate the lost elements while the gauntlets work on restoring things to their proper forms.

The queen finishes and begins to assist with the scroll's effect, helping recreate the landscape prior to the crater.

Some time passes before the majority of the damage is repaired. The king sighs.

"You have my thanks, Lady Aza."

"You are welcome, Erde." She wraps up the scroll, finished. "Be proud of who you are, for you are the only one who shapes the definition of who you are. You are only a weapon so long as you choose to see it that way. In my eyes, I see not a weapon but a strong king whose people have every reason to be proud of him, despite the lengths he had to go through, he doesn't stop trying to protect his people, in spite of the past. Who you are is not set in stone." She quietly stands up and dusts herself off.

"Would you mind if I lingered for a short while? I would like to take a brief respite before I make my return trip home. A drink would be nice, wouldn't you agree?"

"I'll take you up on that offer, but first I need to restore myself, if I can..." Endlos seems concerned about his transformation and has yet to disperse the cloud around himself.

"There has been much change of late," Azayakana remarks, looking up at the sky. "There is a tension building in the world, slow but steadily it grows. The Goddess of Darkness Kukyo, for instance, is no more... in the old sense. A crossing of times in the form of a young man... ...a deep unrest in the Cold South... ...and a Dual Nature spirit... ...so many curious phenomena." She smiles faintly.

"It's all leading up to a crucial crossroads, a deciding moment." She says softly.

"Indeed, one can only wonder how things will turn out..." He disperses the seals he placed around the colony and on the castle, dematerializing the wall he had block the castle entrance. The cloud still covers him as he makes his way through the city, back to his castle.

She follows him, placing her veil back over her head.

Meanwhile Caess and the others await near the entrance, still in their armored forms with their weapons in hand.

Several moments later, a cloud and a lady in veil enter the castle.

Caess blinks for a moment. "....My lord....?" She asks, looking at the cloud. "...Why is there a cloud covering you?"

The woman smiles faintly. "He is either ashamed, or embarrassed of the form."

"I'd rather not be seen as a monster..."

The woman just shakes her head. "When you are 'presentable' to your standards, I will be waiting for that drink," She says as she walks to the dining area.

Caess sighs, her and the twin's icy armor melts away. "Are you alright my lord?" She asks, weary. "What exactly happened?"

"An old enemy came by, one who could've destroyed everything here had they been serious in the slightest."

"I see." She hears her stomach growl lightly. "Hmmm... this body gets more hungry than the improper one. I guess that's to be expected." She looks over at the woman and begins to walk to the dining area, the twins following suit.

It takes several minutes of heavy concentration, but the king is able to mostly revert to normal, retaining only the long and wicked tail. This will have to do for now...

He enters the dining area and sits down. 

"How is everyone?"

The woman smiles. "Well enough."

Caess adjusts herself in her seat. "Fine, still recovering from the unexpected morning."

"I see... So food and drink," he looks at both of them, "Do you have an idea of what you want?"

The woman removes her veil. "I think tea would would be nice. Perhaps an apple as well."

Caess shrugs. "Anything will do, my lord, as my children will agree upon."

The king nods and within minutes a kettle of tea and a platter of fruits are brought to the table.

The woman grabs and apple, and quietly takes a bite out of it, Caess grabs an orange.

"I am told there was a hybrid that crashed from the sky here, it was an interesting little story. Do you know how he is?" The woman asks.

"He's in an inn last I heard. He hasn't done much... That reminds me, where is Alexian?" He doesn't eat anything as they converse.

"Hmmm? Oh. A one by the name of Helios took him to see someone by the name of Zwei."

"I see, so a twenty percent chance of him not losing his temper..." The king takes this information in stride, though his annoyance is visible in the movements of his tail which nearly splits a table in half.

"Something troubles you?" The woman asks.

"Anytime Zwei is involved with anything, situations become far more complicated... That and Alexian is one of the last people to leave around the doctor, things tend to go south extremely quickly."

"I see. I could sense that this Zwei is ambiguious. I do not know more than what I've told you presently."

Caess looks at the woman. "My lord, who is this woman, if I may ask? I'm not trying to be rude, I was just curious."

"This is Lady Azayakana, Queen of the Positive Spirits," answers the king.

Caess nods her head in respect. "Greetings, Lady Azayakana."

Azayakana shakes her head. "No need for 'Lady'. I don't believe in titles of superiority."

"I call you such because it sounds nice."

"Fair enough, I already know outsiders don't usually choose to go along with our customs." She drinks tea quietly for a moment. "Thank you, Erde. I don't usually stray outside of my self imposed isolation. I haven't seen the outside world in many years. I have seen little else but the clouds drifting around me. It adds greater value to something when you see it so little. The world has changed much since my husband, one of the many Great Eyes passed on."

"The greatest of things are often spoiled by their fame and embellishments."

"That is true. What are you plans of late?" She asks the king as she drinks more tea.

"The usual, keeping my people safe as best I can... And the organization Phoenix. I have to stop it from imposing a tyrannical peace upon all of Echo and beyond and stop the Earth from being destroyed as well."

She closes her eyes. "Phoenix, huh? I see. There is certainly a lot going on with them... ...including some forces working behind the scenes. Forces that seem to be counting on this conflict's escalation."

"Indeed, more pieces are on the board than are being let on and more hands to move them."

She slowly stands. "Thank you, I must be off soon."

"I wish you safe travels," the king says, giving a slight bow. 

The queen begins to walk out. "Thank you kindly." 

After she leaves, the king retires to his study.

Caess decides to take a walk outside.

The king tries to revert his tail with no avail. He then carefully wraps it around his waist, avoiding cutting himself on the razor sharp blades it has, before leaving the study. Tomorrow, I'll address everyone, today I'll wander for a while.

Caess sees few people outside, but a few children play outside.

Caess watches them play for a while, then silently begins meditating, after a while spheres of water and ice gently orbit her as she sits with her eyes closed. The king exits the castle and visits a very old, metallic looking tree. He smiles sadly before touching the tree and feeling the power circulating through it. Ascalon... I may need to retrieve you soon.

Caess continues to meditate, varying her orbs of ice and water's orbit paths so they orbit in random pathways, but never collide with each other.

The king leaves the tree and notices Caess meditating as he walks around. He contemplates on watching for a few moments before he meditates a fair distance away, surrounded by four interwoven pillars of energy.

Meanwhile the twins have returned to the library to read.

The king meditates for a while longer before wandering around again.

Caess eventually opens her eyes, the ice and water fading away.

She gets up, and makes her way to the castle, deciding to look into a shower.

The king wanders around for a bit more, stopping by the tree again, then returns to the castle.

She catches the king as he comes back. "Excuse me, but do you know where I may shower?"

"Are you knowledgeable of the fourth floor? If so, follow the right most corridor until you reach the artificial hot spring. At the very back, there are showers."

She bows her head. "Thank you sir. Perhaps you should allow yourself some private time?" She asks. "You've been stressed lately, or something along those lines."

"It's another matter entirely, but thank you for you concern."

She walks on, waving him farewell.

The king gives a faint nod in response. Maybe I should visit that place...

While Caess takes a shower, the twins finish reading.

"Kiyōna, I believe it's about time we sparred. We need to keep in practice." Zetsubō speaks up.

"...Alright. Do you want to head to the front of the castle?" Kiyōna replies.

"Sounds like a plan. Let's go." The two begin to walk out after having placed the books back where they belong.

The king leaves the castle once more, this time with no real sense of urgency.

Outside, the twins begin to spar, Zetsubō firing various water and ice attacks at his sister, who responds with mainly shields and various forms of protective moves, rather than offensive. After a while, they both switch roles.

The king arrives at an extremely rusted stone.

The two stop trading roles and both go for a all out offensive, clashing with water and ice blades, testing each other's reflexes and awareness.

The king sighs and sits down.

"It's been years since I've visited, huh. I'm doing well, trying to keep the others safe, but it's more difficult than it sounds... Still haven't started a family,but I'll get to it someday or I'll name Alexian as my heir. You should remember him, I brought him here last time I visited... Soon, I'll make things right, you'll see..." He stands up and returns to the castle.

"You need to watch your back more," Zetsubō remarks, as he almost scores a hit from behind. Kiyōna then flips and does a kick to his chest as she lands.

"Not bad," He remarks.

"Sparring, eh," says the king.

Kiyōna nods. "Before, the only thing we had was each other. We had to learn how to survive... ...we need to always keep ourselves in shape."

"Sensible," he says, "Do you mind if I watch?"

"We don't mind..."

The two twins begin dueling again, once again the sister taking defense while the brother offense.

The king studies their technique and form as they spar.

Kiyōna makes a number of different styles of shields as she fights, globes, literal shields of ice and in various shapes, including one that has blades which she counters Zetsubō with. Meanwhile he makes a variety of blades, clubs, blunts, and spears as he tries to break through her defenses. Of the two, Zetsubō is slightly more effective.

"Hmm..." The king focuses in or the reaction time of the two.

The two switch, with Kiyōna's offense much less diverse and more basic.

"I see..."

After a while of training, they separate, panting.

"Hmm, Kiyōna, how much do you focus on creating the constructs that you use?"

"I analyse the energy of an attack and respond with an equalizing force."

"How long does it take you to do so?"

"Only as long as it takes to see the attack."

"What about you, Zetsubō?" The king shifts his attention to the male twin. "Your weapons had greater variety."

"I like to focus on swift constantly varying levels of intensity, which affects which weapons I use. I don't like to be predictable."

"Ah. And for defense?"

"I focus on conserving my energy in evasion, occasionally countering with methods to hinder and slow my enemy."

"I see. Kiyōna, try to vary up your attacks more, your defenses are solid. Zetsubō, invest in snaring movements and actions, try to trip up your opponent in both offense and defense and hide the flashier attacks to lull your opponents," advises the king. "It is getting late, maybe you should have another round then prepare to turn in for the day."

The two take his advice and try to incorporate his advice in their next two sessions.

The king watches for awhile before entering the castle, tired from his long day.

The twins soon head off to bed, and Caess retires to her bed as well soon after.

The king is restless. Tomorrow I allow them the chance to learn how to fight and defend themselves. I can only hope that I do well in explaining the situation.

The Wings of Change Edit

The next morning, Endlos awakens and takes a long shower before donning a regal set of armor and putting on his crown. He sends messengers to inform the entire colony, spirits included, of a speech then ascends to the castle balcony and waits for the people to gather outside of the castle.

Caess and the twins have joined the crowd, and await his speech.

Skana walks into the crowd, eventually ending up with Caess and the twins. "You guys know if this is something really bad?" he starts.

Caess blinks and looks down at him, then shrinks herself smaller. "Oh, I am not sure. I'm rather curious myself as to what his majesty wants." The woman has long black hair, and blue skin, along with brilliant glowing blue eyes. The twins beside her also have black hair, the girl a head smaller than the boy, who stands at a height that would reach Caess' waist at her full size, but even still is at least a head or two taller than Skana. Both have a greyish tint to their skin, and also have glowing blue eyes. The girl remains close to the male, shy of everyone.

"Hopefully it's nothing bad. All the time there is bad stuff going on. Why can't we just be in a state of 'good'?" Skana goes into his own form that looks similar to theirs. His skin is a deep purple and has a dark fire trim. His eyes are seem to have a sad and tired tint to their blue shine. Skana stands taller than most Endlos, but still some tower over him. "There we go. That makes me look less of an outsider..."

The king takes a deep breath.

"Good day all of you," he says, looking at the entire audience. "The last time I made such an address was two hundred seventy three years ago, when I vowed to protect all of you as best I could... Until yesterday, I did so alone or with little support. Recently, however, I realized that my decision at that time was rash. My decision has placed all of you in danger because while I am away, if not for the spirits and their willingness to defend you in my stead, you would be in great danger. 

This is not to be taken as me calling you defenseless or helpless, there are those among you who can defend yourselves and others remarkably. What I'm trying to say is that there aren't enough of you to defend against everything that could occur while I am away, even with the spirits here aiding you. That is why I am, as of today, opening the training grounds within the area beneath the castle to all interested in learning to defend their home and their families from outside invasion as best they can." The king surveys the audience for reactions.

Skana speaks up, "Is anyone admitted, no matter what?"

"If they agree that they will not use the training to harm citizens of the colony or outsiders without valid reasons, yes," answers the king, "Even outsiders such as yourself are allowed, but with the same restrictions."

"Thanks!"

"Do not take this lightly, child. This will be training that could break even veteran warriors," says the king.

"Understood, sir. And, at later dates, please refrain from the word 'outsider'. I am Endlos as well. I am one of you."

"You speak as if race mattered in my naming of you. You arrived from the sky in a sphere of ice. Because no one recognized you, you are considered an outsider, which is neither a brand nor stigma."

"Then you should have no problem stopping." Skana replies.

"And you should not feel ostracized by such a title," the king fires back. "It is your choice to feel offended by such a title, one that will gradually evolve."

Caess quietly places a hand over Skana's mouth. "Minds quick to anger are also quickly dulled. Keep your peace, and save your passion for a quarrel more befitting of your attention. Outsider, stranger, all apply to those who are unfamiliar. These are changed by the earning of trust, as well as respect. You only degrade your own self by continuing this. Please show some respect for the lord." She says gently.

Skana grumbles before pushing her away. "I have had to kill my mother and father - not by choice - then live in an oppressive world where people called 'lords' called me an outsider and torture me. I lived like that for years and I'm done with listening to people who are in power. It means nothing to me. I cannot and will not be called that again." With this he turns into a fiery purple phoenix and pops everyone's eardrums flying away.

"The foolishness and crasness of youth," muses the king. "If trust were such a difficult thing to earn, I'd still be branded as the Death Bringer and Archfiend of Silver."

Caess looks up at Skana, who becomes encased in a shell of ice, and falls down into a pool of water Caess makes. "You may not have to listen to those in power, if that is what you want. But you owe your host respect. We all have our troubles in life, but that does not excuse our actions. Regardless of how you feel, you owe respect to those who healed you and took you in. This world of Echo is unforgiving, especially to those who isolate themselves. Cease your actions and please show respect to the people who took you in, else you will have no respect unto you. You wish to not be called a stranger? Then get over yourself and show us why you should be accepted, rather than show hostility."

She quietly looks back toward the king, sighing.

"I didn't ask to be put here. Right now I could care less what happens to me so long as I'm back on Earth one day." and at this he turns and walks away. "And seriously, leave me be to my own buisness, ma'am," he says over his shoulder.

The king sighs. "If you so badly wish not to be called an outsider, prove yourself. Help out the people rather than ostracizing yourself, show them that you aren't just a wanderer with no intent or goal or a simple ruffian looking for things to express anger and dissatisfaction at," he says, "Give them a reason to refer to use as something different and such a title will change, but be warned that those who destroy the peace receive no aid, even from the kindest of folk."

Skana continues walking, speeding up his pace until he glides into his room.

The king shrugs. "There is no cooperating with a child who is as obstinant as a rock." He proceeds to open access to the castle and the area beneath it and watches as a decent number of people enter the space, even with his warning of the rigorousness of the days to come.

Skana finds that the inn is locked, his room not being one with a window in the first place.

He goes into Spirit Phoenix Mode and phases through the wall to his room.

He finds that there is a ward preventing entry.

"Oi, until the innkeeper is back, the place is locked up to prevent valuables from being stolen," says a passerby wearing a black butterfly mask. "Only the innkeeper can bypass the barrier."

"Well then." Skana replies before flying towards the edge of the colony.

"What was that all about," mutters the masked man, walking towards the castle.

Caess and the Twins hesitate for a moment, then together they join the others going to the castle.

The king sighs, "All who still need time to make a decision, I will accept you at any time in the future." With that, the king enters the castle and heads towards the training area, a luminescent cavern light by shining crystals, glowing metallic roots and wisps of light. He surveys the group slowly, watching for any reaction.

The three look on quietly.

Finally a bulky, gruff looking Endlos steps forward.

"This is the place? Ha, I expected more from the one who deems himself a king," he sneers, "Why not a grand arena or stadium? A cave will be of no use if your training is as grueling as ya made it out to be." Several others mumble in agreement. 

"Shouldn't we get weapons?"

"What about armor?"

"Spellbooks?"

"I love you, Lord Endlos!" The king closes his eyes then snaps his fingers, various weapons and armor types materializing from thin air, the king himself now surrounded by a ring of floating weapons comprised of six staves, eight swords, four spears, two halberds and twelve gaunlets. He opens his eyes again, focusing on the first to address him.

"You'd be surprised at the marvels of this simple 'cave,'" he says before addressing all that are present. "All of you, select weapons and equipment that you believe suits you the best, then arrange yourselves based on the weapons you chose. Your aptitudes will be tested and you will be recategorized based on skill and proficiency."

"What if we just wanna take you on," asks the gruff Endlos before physically collapsing under the king's severe gaze.

"You will find me a most unreasonable opponent," he says, watching as the group begins to messily try and sort itself and the assorted pieces of equipment and weapons.

Caess closes her eyes, and a set of iridescent tinted armor appears on her, summoning a sword with a large blade with similar material, but it has a blue sheen to it.

The king waits for the groups to become somewhat coherent before he wakes up the gruff Endlos.

"Get suited up and find a group with similar weapons," he says, helping the man to his feet. The larger Endlos grumbles, but finds and dons some of the heaviest looking armor and picks up a very large axe.

The twins find suits of armor that fit them as well as swords, though Kiyōna takes a shield, and her sword is more of a short sword.

The king waits until the groups are fully formed before continuing. He summons a Staff with a large orb in front of each group.

"Strike the orb as best you can with weapon or magic. It matters not if it is destroyed, it is a judge of how effective you are with your current weapon. If it changes colors that means that you have aptitude with it. If not, you will be required to try a different weapon until it responds. Do not hold back, use your full strength," orders the king. 

Caess takes her blade and decisively strikes with full strength, no hesitation in the fierce strike. 

The orb shatters when Caess strikes it, one of the three instances of it doing so, the other two coming from a man wielding many swords and young woman girl carrying a rectangular greatsword combined with a gun. Most other attempts result in the orbs changing color and very few instances of the orb not reacting at all. Those who got no reaction sigh glumy before discarding their weapons and looking for other weapons. 

Kiyōna stabs the orb as hard as she can. 

The orb reacts to her, turning blue for a few seconds before dulling. Several other Endlos try after her, each one succeeding as well.

Zetsubō looks at the orb for a moment, before abruptly drawing his sword and slashes the orb.

He also gets a reaction, the orb turning a slightly brighter shade of blue before dulling. Everyone who managed to get a reaction is done, but it takes a while for the ones who didn't get a reaction the first time to get situated. When they finally finish, the king continues.

"The first thing we shall do is increase all of your physical parameters," he says before everyone in the room feels five times heavier. "For the next few days, we will doing drills at five times the natural gravity of this world. For most of you, this will be nearly impossible at first, but if there's one thing that Echo forces you to do, it's adapting to what gets thrown at you. If you believe that you cannot handle this much, you may leave if you wish to or request a decrease in the gravity, down to thrice the normal gravity."

Caess and the male twin are not too terribly bothered, but Kiyōna seems to be more heavily impacted.

"The goal is be able to move as you did at normal gravity or better within the increased gravity. Now, twenty laps around the cavern, looping through the pillars and carrying all bof your equipment," states the king. "You will do this three times today and you will probably hate it, but this is the easy part of what you will experience."

The three begin, Kiyōna with some difficulty getting going.

The king jogs ahead of the group with no sign of the gravity having the slightest effects on him. The same cannot be said for many others. The man with many swords seems to be having no real trouble either.

Caess has the least trouble of the three, the twins doing a lesser job, but Kiyōna in particular struggles the whole way through, faltering many times.

"Power through it," offers the man with many swords, "Don't push yourself to keep up with others if it exhausts you, create your own pace that works for you. And don't start walking, you'll exhaust yourself further."

She wearily takes his advice, still pushing herself but to not as great of a degree.

He nods then returns to his initial pace, completing the eighth lap without much of a change in his breathing.

"Nearly halfway there," calls the king, leading the pack of runners, most of which are exhausted.

Caess and Zetsubō are just now showing faint signs of tiring, Kiyōna resigned to running at a much slower pace.

"Come on, power through it," encourages the swordsman, talking to everyone lagging behind, "If the equivalent of a human can do it, so can all of you!"

"Six laps to go," says the king, now backpedaling to watch the runners, "We're almost done!"

Caess continues on at her pace.

"Four left!"

The three power on, Kiyōna making an extra effort on the last laps.

"One to go!"

The three continue on.

Once the twenty laps are done, he instructs everyone to drink several cups of water, pointing to a rounded table with numerous cups and pitchers of water in a corner of the cavern.

"Five minute break, then three minutes of planks, a set of one hundred crunches, then prepare for the second run," says the king, earning many exhausted groans.

Kiyōna takes several long drinks, before collapsing, gasping for breath, Zetsubō and Caess are less tired, but still take long drinks of water, Caess affected the least of the three.

Quite a few others collapse as well, drained by the run as well. The king, however shows no quarter once the five minutes are up.

"Planks," he orders, getting into plank position himself.

The three does as he says, Kiyōna taking a moment to ready herself before starting.

A slow three minutes pass as everyone is forced to hold the plank position, but immediately afterwards the king has everyone roll over and begin with the crunches. The crunches, while they normally could have been easy, if not tiring, are much more difficult due to the increased gravity. The weight makes several of the trainees stop to rest, while others keep up, but not as easily as the human swordsman. 

Kiyōna stops once or twice, but is still able to keep going. Zetsubō finally is showing real signs of tiring, but Caess continues to push through without struggling. 

Once the set of crunches in completed by everyone, the king has all of the trainees get up and catch their breath before getting ready to jog another twenty laps, earning far more groans than before.

Zetsubō stretches in preparation. "Stop beating the dead horse... ...it'll make the dead horse that much more dead." He says in an attempt to lighten the mood to the other trainees.

A few chuckle, but most ignore the remark.

"C'mon, the kid is right," says the swordsman, "Complaining is about as effective as trying to swat a fly at a snail's pace: It isn't effective. Now stop whining and get ready. The sooner we get done, the sooner you can rest."

"Indeed," affirms the king, "Now, let us begin!" The king starts jogging around the cavern.

The family of three runs after him.

The king jogs at the same pace as before, followed by a trailing group of trainees. The swordsman keeps pace with Caess and family, trailed by the girl with the odd great sword.

Caess maintains a strong stamina, maintaining an even pace close to what she was performing at with the last run. Zetsubō is more tired than his last run, but still maintains a decent pace.

"Ten to go," intones the king, completing his tenth lap around the cavern, many of the other Endlos jogging slow enough to be considered dragging their feet.

Zetsubō on occasion looks at the swordsman out of curiosity, other times he is solely focused on running.

"Hm? Something bothering you?" The swordsman backpedals as he jogs. 

Zetsubō looks at him for a moment as he runs. "I've never seen a 'human' so fit before. You must have experience for this sort of thing." 

"I had one hell of a teacher," he replies, "This isn't as bad as her training, it's actually pretty fun, but on the light side of things. This coming from a person considered to be lazy. "

"I see... if I hadn't been forced to live out on my own protecting my sister, this would be more difficult for me, like it is for her."

"I see, if only I'd thought like that when I was around your age." The swordsman laughs off his own comment, "Good luck." He gradually pulls ahead, slowly increasing his pace.

"Seven laps left," calls the king.

The three continue running unabated, though Kiyōna is struggling to do so.

"Three laps to go." The king continues jogging, showing no signs of slowing while almost all of the other trainees are barely able to keep up.

On the final lap, Kiyōna appears to stumble now on occasion.

"Done," states the king, "Everyone, take a breather and kick out any stress you may be feeling, we're almost done for the day." Most are too tired to argue with him.

Kiyōna almost immediately collapses to the ground, almost too tired to stand. Zetsubō comes to her side quickly and rests her in his lap, propping her up against him.

The swordsman stretches his arms upwards, then begins to shadow box while the young woman rests against her sword. Nearly everyone else collapses and has to use others for support.

Kiyōna breathes raggedly, at her limits.

The swordsman continues to stretch, more energized than before. He looks at the others.

"Just one more time around and we'll be done."

"Hmm, it has been a swift seven of hours," notes the king, surprising many with his revelation on the amount of time passed, "How many of you are hungry or need water?" Nearly every hand is raised, accompanied by grumbles and groans shortly afterwards.

Kiyōna is barely able to raise her hand, too tired to manage the full motion.

The king has several large tables brought into the cavern, six covered in platters of meat and fresh vegetables and two lined with cups and large canisters of water and sweetened liquids.

Zetsubō has to practically carry Kiyōna to the table, and she tiredly begins eating.

The king waits and allows the others to eat and recover some energy before getting ready to continue.

Kiyōna shudders. "I don't think I can do this..." She says to Zetsubō, who only replies with a pat on the back.

"Last exercise for the day," announces the king, "I'll give you an hour to rest p then we're doing the last run."

Kiyōna lets out a squeak of misery.

"Could be worse," comments the swordsman, "He could've made it continuous."

"I can... h-hardly move...."

"Ah, but you can move, that's the key. You've got to persevere, even if you feel like you'll collapse upon yourself into a singularity. If you give up because you're tired, the exercise will have been for nothing. Spartan, yes, but effective."

"...Is that what this is...? ....And this... aching... ...stabbing sensation?" She asks.

"Yeah, your muscles are probably wailing like it's the end of the world... Which it isn't. The feeling is absolutely terrible, but keep up the work and it'll fade until this much is but a cake walk."

"...It hurts so much... ...I never knew what it was like to be fatigued... ....to sleep, to eat, to touch... ...it's... ...strange."

"If you find that strange, don't accept any alcohol," he says, shrugging.

"Imagine being in a state of having no sensation for the majority of your life, except cold. Now imagine what it's like for me. I've only had this living body for a few days."

"So you were born in Nilfheim?"

"Errr... ....no? I was made of ice. It's a curse that runs in my family. The majority of us turn into ice and water. Little Aoi is the only one who hasn't changed into ice. The king is trying to cure us."

"Ah, I know a person who could help out with that, though she's not in the area."

"Might you be speaking of the Maiden of Dark Ash," interjects the king, earning a nod from the swordsman, "I see, she said she would be on her way here after finding the 'Blade of the Lost Era'. She did not sound entirely pleased about that." The swordsman stiffens for a fraction of a second.

"Ara, is that so? I could probably get her here faster then..."

"Hm? How so?"

"She's looking for me."

Kiyōna sighs. "So in translation, there is about to be drama..."

"No, it just means I probably forgot to close the Deva Gate and I have to do that before something odd happens like the day in which everyone was reversed... Though I think I closed it..."

"That's not the most reassuring of statements," remarks the king.

"I'm told that far too often when I'm serious, unfortunately."

Zetsubō perks an eyebrow. "....What exactly are you talking about?"

"Maintenance and side jobs," replies the swordsman.

"Right... because closing a gate like that totally doesn't sound like a primary concern or occupation," Zetsubō says with subtle sarcasm.

"Eh, its a side job to me: not too important, but not something to not do."

"So... ....what's this.... ...person? Like?"

"Depends on the time of day and how the day has progressed," he says, "She's known for supposedly being heartless and imperious, but she's kind in her own way. She tends to be reckless, obstinate, impulsive, rash and hotheaded, but she's also rather collected and calculating when most would think she's going to lose her temper. Overall, however, she has a good heart and cares for just about anyone requesting her aid, but only if they don't try to cross or harm her afterwards. She's a bit fragile thanks to a certain experience, but you'd never know," he says, "Oh, she's also a the equivalent to an Archduke or Archfiend due to things."

Zetsubō smiles faintly. "Quite a character then. How long will it take her to get here?"

"If I were to call, half a day."

Zetsubō nods slowly. "I see then. So we continue training until that point, yes?"

"Indeed," states the king before announcing that it is time for the final circuit around the cavern.

Kiyōna makes a timid squeak of despair.

"Just get it out of the way, worse things are to come," foretells the swordsman, limbering up.

Kiyōna weakly struggles to her feet, dreading the run to come.

The king starts the circuit, once again with the majority of the group severely lagging behind. The swordsman still appears to be unbothered by the exercise.

Kiyōna struggles to keep pace with everyone else. "How does that guy not even get phased by this?" She pants.

The king is silent this time around, only announcing when the final lap has come rather than periodically callng out how many laps are left.

Kiyōna's legs give out at the end of the final lap, panting heavily and barely able to lift her head at all.

The swordsman helps her up. "You did good, try to keep it up."

Kiyōna shudders with every movement, great or small in pain, her teeth clench sharply with every step.

"Gods it hurts..." She struggles to say.

The swordsman laughs, "That's what you say now, tomorrow this'll feel like a pleasant memory..."

The king has more food brought out and much more water, having it distributed to everyone.

"That isn't comforting...." She groans. "Foooooooood... oh gods the fooooood...." She moans. The swordman can see tiny patches of ice on Kiyōna's skin.

"I get that a lot..." The swordsman helps distribute food.

Kiyōna gladly accepts the food and water, though the ice doesn't appear to disappear. After a while, she sighs after several large gulps of water.

"Slow down, you'll choke," advises the swordman, stretching.

She sighs. "I'm okay. Don't have to worry about that... ...not that it matters."

"Eh, whatever you say." He shrugs before vanishing in a burst of silver black energy, cutting the ground where he stood seconds before.

"I guess he's gone then?"

He reappears several minutes later, sporting more swords than before and a cellular phone. He closes the device and slips it into a pocket silently.

"What was that all about?" She asks, suddenly wincing as ice begins to spread more obviously on one of her arms, the air temperature dropping significantly.

"I had to make a call," he says, nodding to the king to draw his attention, "Tomorrow, she'll be here."

"I see... May I ask who you are exactly? You seem to be affiliated with the Whimsical One, judging by your connections," remarks the king, taking note of Kiyōna's condition. He makes several swipes with his fingers, drawing a seven sided figure of sorts in the air and has it stabilize the elements within her.

"Ah, I was her first apprentice."

"Th-thank you... ...that was starting to hurt..." She rubs her hand and lower arm, her skin still stinging from the pain the ice was causing.

"Whimsical One?" She asks curiously.

Caess nearby, sighs, stretching. During the whole experience, she only seemed to get minorly exhausted.

"A person you may meet at some point if you are lucky or unlucky," says the king.

"Oh..."

Caess finishes stretching and approaches the king. "Thank you for this training, it's been awhile since I was challenged like this. It's a refreshing exercise."

"I'm glad you're enjoying it, tomorrow should be both mentally and physically challenging," he says.

"I look forward to it."

He nods, then leaves the cavern, returning minutes later to tell everyone that the castle's guest rooms were open for them to stay in after they bathed.

Caess rounds up her children, and on passing by the swordsman, stops and gives him a polite bow, then proceeds to take the two to get washed up.

The swordsman gives a faint nod before vanishing again, followed shortly by the girl carrying the odd great sword.

After Caess washes, she sits on her bed quietly, thinking as she always does about her husband, and remembering the old days.

The king visits the metallic tree again.

"It's almost time, Ascalon, soon I'll require your power once more..." The blue veins on the tree glow brightly in response, fading as the king leaves. "The Archfiend of Silver... To think I'd retake that mantle so soon."

After a while, Caess wearily begins to drift off to sleep, the twins soon after.

The Witch Edit

While she sleeps, Kiyōna begins having a disturbing nightmare, which starts to cause her to panic in her sleep, constantly tossing and turning, unable to wake up.

The king sleeps deeply in his chambers, appearing as still as a board. His face is stony and rigid, his limbs stiff.

When Kiyōna's dream ends, she bolts out of bed and runs to Caess' room.

"MOM! MOM! WAKE UP!" She cries, making her mother jolt out of sleep.

"What's the matter?" She asks tiredly.

"It's Aoi! They're torturing and... and... experimenting on her!"

Caess pales. "....Oh no..."

The king's skin begins to crack and split, grey light glows from it.

Kiyōna looks at her mother. "What should we do?"

Caess sighs. "We need to inform the king. ...So Kalin and Aoi got caught after all...?" She mutters for a moment. She looks up at Kiyōna.

"Get your brother." Kiyōna hurries off.

The energy begins to seep into the room and warp it, distortimg the space within the king's chambers.

After they get Zetsubō, they attempt to find a guard and try to get an audience with the king.

The guard, a groggy looking man with pieces of machinery sticking out of his hair, leads them to the chamber only to find its door sealed by a powerful primordial force. He frowns, produces a device akin to glass and fiddles with it once a holographic display appears.

"Huh, this wavelength is similar to that of the Foreign Deity that attacked recently, but lacks the ----- related to the Epitaph Force detected then," he says, pulling a pair of goggles from his hair despite there being no sign of them being there before. "This could be... Interesting to see soon." He looks up. "Two ways this could go: One, I could try to get the door open, which will interrupt whatever process is going on, or two, we can wait a few minutes and see if the door can be opened without having to dispel whatever force is at work."

Caess looks at the door worriedly. "I... don't know... ....is there any danger?"

"It could go either way, I'm no expert on this, our experts are out looking for a missing person of interest."

"....I guess we wait...?"

"Alright."

Caess looks at the door silently, the twins perturbed.

Ten or so minutes pass before black smoke seeps through the crack of the door, pushing it open slowly and chilling the area. The former chamber is now a completely black space with a faint blue light visible deep wihin it.

"....My lord....?" Caess calls out uncertainly.

The light in the distance flickers faintly in response.

"....My lord, may I speak with you? ....I think something's happened that you need to know about..."

The light flickers once more, though no audible response can be heard.

"....We think something's happened to Aoi."

The light flashes several different colors, starting from silver to gold, then settling on red.

"I don't know the details about it... but Kiyōna mentioned it was a dream she had, and... ...it was torture and... ...some sort of experiment being performed. Kiyōna was too upset to explain in detail. ...But perhaps it would be easier to... ...wait until you've recovered?"

The light darkens to crimson and the sound of rippling water can be heard from within the room. The dark mist stretching from it darkens to the point of dimming the light in the area and the chill worsens.

".....I... ...I will leave you for now, take care, my lord. ...I believe I have some... ....old friends I must speak with." She bows toward the light.

The door glows brightly before shutting and resealing itself...

"Hoh, that's not going to be a good meltdown to be around," nods the guard.

Caess nods quietly, a quiet worried look in her eye, as she leaves the area, moving quickly to go outside to find a pond or lake.

At a near by lake, there seems to be a commotion: one person appears to be fending off three people with just as many swords.

Caess looks at the scene with mild annoyance, and closes her eyes before willingly changing into pure ice and water again, then proceeds to head to the opposite side of the lake, not wanting to get involved.

In the opposite direction there is a series of small koi ponds in an ivory grove of sorts.

Caess sits down near them, and begins reaching out to find someone she hasn't spoken with in a long while.

While this occurs, the battle she saw earlier continues, ending with the sword user knocking the three attackers onto the ground with a swift strike from his three rusted swords.

"Offense isn't everything, you know," he says, "Lillia, you should know that, you've sparred with me many times."

"And yet the gap between us doesn't fade, even when I know all of your tactics."

"Heh, I'm not as lazy as I let on," he replies, looking at the other two, "How does being separated feel?"

"I feel lighter and faster," answers the smaller of the two, dusting himself off, "Though I've much to improve on."

"Aye, what Yusuke said," responds the taller girl, resting against her sword. "I don't fancy fighting you at your peak, master Shion." The swordsman shakes his head.

"It's too early for me to be called a master, I've not learned everything within my grasp- I'm still learning what could be considered intermediate techniques in fact," Shion says, earning an appalled look from the three around him.

You mean you haven't reached your full potential and can cut through space-time!?

Damn, Aeon was right, he IS a monster...

Mother was spot on, he is the strongest person we've met!

Hm, I wonder if he could face the Sword of the Dark Flash... They were monstrously strong as well.

A peal of thunder booms, and yellow lightning flashes throughout the sky, and a ball of lightning suddenly crashes down in a burst of wind and electricity, revealing a wolf made of wind and lightning. It sits next to Caess, and she doesn't seem surprised to see it.

"Hello, Razorwind. Thank you for coming."

"It is my pleasure, Caess." The wolf says, a echoing electric tone to its male voice.

"What was that," asks Yusuke, perking up.

"Nothing to be worried about," says Shion, "No ill intent."

"Is that an accurate measure of danger?" Ensui glances at Lillia.

"It is, he's can detect a person's intentions before they present themselves."

Caess is in her ice and water elemental form, and they can see her glowing crystal. They begin to notice that the crystal is making varied flashes, from short bursts to large bursts, and the wolf is making similar flashes, a yellow crystal in his chest as well. There seems to be a faint pattern in the flashing.

"Are you going to investigate," asks Ensui.

"Nah, their business is their own," shrugs Shion, "Though you'll have to meet one of the two later, Lillia. The curse you ere called to fix..."

"Don't worry, my memory has yet to fail me, unlike yours..."

"I get that a lot..."

"I'm the one who tells you that."

"Oh, right, you do..."

"..."

The two remain for a while longer, then their crystals gain a solid glow, and a portal opens, dropping a titanic skeletal metal dragon filled with lava into the valley, and for a brief moment, the dragon looks ready to attack the onlookers, before it is 'coaxed' into behaving by Caess and the Wolf Razorwind, who threaten it with blades of ice and lightning. It makes a loud rumbling of disapproval, before shrinking to a size just larger than Caess, as a black shadow figure with swirls of white appears as well, though it makes no directly hostile attempts. Strangely enough, it eyes Lillia and Ensui with an odd gaze, before returning attention to the other three.

Caess in the middle of the silent conversation glances at the three, and mouths,

Old friends. I asked for their help, but whatever you do, don't have a weapon out in front of the Dragon. He won't hesitate to accept the 'challenge'.

That seems like fu- Ow!

Some how the hastiest, yet laziest of our trio is the most and least accomplished...

But I want to fight the living super-

Absolutely not, not here anyways.

Eh, ah well. Another day.

"Oh, you two, stay together," states Shion, addressing Ensui and Yusuke. "In the exceedingly abyssmally low chance that luck decides to throw a spiral wedger, you two should be ready to go." His swords having since been sheathed, though a great deal of scabbards and sheathes can be seen across his back.

The four converse for a while, before a small rumble akin to acknowledgement is heard. The dragon grows larger and scales up the mountains and out of sight, the black being fades into the surrounding light, and Razorwind proceeds to steal a dog's bone and retreats to a high peak, where he busies himself with burying it. Caess merely sighs, a cloud of icy air blowing forth from her.

"They are always such a pain to mediate with."

"Judging be body language alone, that seemed to be the case," Shion replies, thinking about something else. "Oh right, are your children awake? The person you've been waiting for is here."

Caess wearily nods. "We woke up earlier than anticipated. ...There's been... ....a problem with my youngest daughter, Aoi. ...I am fearing the worst for her safety. ...I don't know the details yet, Kiyōna was too frightened to tell me too much details." Caess closes her eyes, even in her ice form, there is still enough mobility of her face to indicate the depths of the stress and worry she feels.

"I see... Hm, If I had a location, I could perform a raid on that area, but whether or not I would arrive in time would be difficult to determine based on any unaccounted for impetuses," he says.

Suddenly a rumble goes off, and a portal opens up, after which the shadow being is sent flying out, being bombarded by blasts of the eight elements with incredible force, the portal closing with a violent 'BANG!'.

The shadow being shakes its head violently.

Well, the Eight Phase Barrier is up. They had none of my snooping. Thought Water and Ice were... ...distracted in comparison though. Its voice echoes.

"Hm..."

Kiyōna and Zetsubō walk out and see their mother, joining her by her side.

"Good, you're here. Kiyōna, may I see the dream?" She asks, putting a hand to Kiyōna's head for a few minutes.

".....I knew it... ...they're Cursing her as well... ...Phoenix....."

"Hmmm..." 

"....I'm sorry..." She says, before looking toward the new comers. "I'm sorry, but I believe I have not introduced myself, I am Caess. Some know me as the Elemental Terror of Water and Ice. ....It would be better to just call me Caess."

"Then you're one of the ones I called to meet," says  Lillia.

"Eh, we met in the cavern," says Shion, then nods to Ensui. "She was there too."

"Well I didn't exactly get to introduce myself or name myself, neither did you. Indeed, if you are the one my lord sent to cure our curse." She indicates her twins.

"These are my son and daughter, Zetsubō and Kiyōna. I have a younger child named Aoi, who bears the condition but was not born like us."

"Explain the curse in detail," Lillia says simply.

"It is a compounded curse with multiple facets and functions. It turns the victim's soul to crystal, and in turn the crystal causes the body to become ice and water. The more the victim uses water and ice, the stronger the curse and their soul grows. This doesn't appear to have a limitation, as my soul has been becoming larger and more potent with time. It's also genetic, meaning it can be passed down, as you can probably guess from my children. The curse was designed to withstand Restoration, a foresight my captors had in case I should escape their control and attempt to return home or restore myself."

"Hm, then you'll need an Aria," she notes. "Hm... If the effects are genetic and expand based on aspect utilization and grow without a foreseen limit, it's closer to a Stigma than a Curse, meaning that an equalized counterforce is required to remove it... Song Skybelle should work in this case, maybe Elde Elysin."

Caess merely blinks in light confusion, unfamiliar with the terminology.

"Are you certain that crystal is completely comprised of your soul," asks Lillia, "Depending on your answer more or less possibilities will be available."

"It contains my mind as well, my body is completely dependent on it to even function. When the curse makes my soul grow, it uses the energy of the water and ice I am in contact with or manipulating and converts it into energy which becomes a part of my soul. All of the life energy, my soul, and my conciousness lies within the crystal. Breaking is the same as destroying my soul."

"I'll explain what I meant more clearly," she says, "Simply put, is the entirety of the crystal, shall we say, in use? Is the entire structure just the solidified concentration of your soul, life and id or are there gaps and patches where nothing but structuring is present?"

"It's all solidified energy."

"Alright, that settles it then," she says, rolling her shoulders. "Remain still and do not say a word, if my concentration is broken the end result will not turn out well. Tell me when you are ready."

"I wonder if we may do this elsewhere than the town? I don't want to endanger anyone if something happens."

"Sensible. What is a good destination?"

"Anywhere outside the valley. ...I'm afraid of what could happen."

"You lead then, I'm largely unfamiliar with the area."

She leads Lillia through the valley to the exit of the Twin Valleys, her twins close behind. She wanders a while, before stopping at a fairly decent distance.

"Do you believe that this distance is sufficient?"

"For the moment. I may need to be restrained. I know nothing about what defenses my masters may have placed on the curse."

"Magnus Bind," mutters Lillia, causing a bizarre seal to form beneath Caess, "In the event that it causes you to lose control, this seal will prevent you from moving even a muscle."

"Thank you. I didn't want to hurt anyone..."

"You've a good heart then. Now, close your eyes and try to keep yourself calm."

Caess closes her eyes, a slight air of fear of what may happen, but she tries to keep calm, despite her anxiety.

"Harken to thee that I call, listen and empower my song, a song sang to restore and return... 

Formed from dreams scattered about within the sky, forged by flames of the heart,

blessed by the light of hope, thou art revered.

Heralded by the chorus of the divine, garbed in serenity and peace with wings of life and hands wreathed in miracles past and future, thou must be named.

Called by those who receive thee, welcomed in open arms and cleared minds, thy name is known.

Thou art...

I am...

The One who Preserves and Remedies, Divine Elde Elysin, Deity of Restoration Envoked by the name of Alleviation."

Caess feels a warm light bathe her, permeating the crystal that houses her mind, life and soul.

As this begins, a faint sharp keen of noise begins to reverberate, coming from the crystal, and as this happens, the air starts to feel unnaturally heavy and damp.

"Answer my calls and grant my wish

Thy voice has been heard and the wish cast

Restore what was lost...

Meld what was broken...

Mend the damage, return the form, right what was wronged.

I ask of thee...

And I hear the...

Please grant my wish...

Thy wish shall be granted...

By the verse of a song!"

The warmth of the light intensifies on the crystal, but to the rest of Caess the light's warmth is soothing and welcoming. Further back, Shion watches.

"Hm. almost time to make my move," he says to himself, drawing a katana with a guard shaped like flames and the likeness of a phoenix etched into the blade along with another with the likeness of a dragon carved into the blade and a guard spun to reflect a vortex of wind.

Cloud abruptly form, and begin spewing absurd amounts of rain in mere moments, the rain that falls slicing through the rocks and leaving bullet like marks in them, the downpour too thick to see through.

"Right on cue," grins Shion, springing into the air, spiralling as his swords glow. "Inferno-Tempest Rondo: Drought Stream Wake!" He slashes in a cross shape with both weapons, releasing a wave scorching arid air through the cloudbed followed by a horizontal twister of blue flames formed by a thrust with both blades. Meanwhile the crystal begins to dissolve and lose form as the light grows stronger and song continues.

The ground around them rumbles slightly and cracks now form as powerful jets of water begin to blast randomly from the ground, ejecting large bladelike structures of incredibly resilient ice, which only lightly steam on contact with the heat.

"Aurora Dance: Erosion!" Shion swaps his wind sword with a sword engraved with light runes and strikes the ground with both his fire sword and light sword. From the sky beams of superheated ionized light strike the areas with and around the blade like pillars as an aurora forms. Once it has completely formed, it begins to flow towards the earth, strengthening the beams of light. Meanwhile, the song continues, reaching a peak as the light continues to wear away at the crystal, already having gotten it to a tenth of its original size.

Caess lets out a horrid scream out of nowhere, as a whole ocean's worth of water suddenly begins surging out of her body, literally tearing her open in the process as a violent maelstrom of ice and water surges at both Lillia and Shion.

"Sealed Blade Arte: Dimensio Slash," utters Shion slashing the air in front of him lightly with his hand, creating a thin purple line that bisects the forming body of water, cancelling the Aurora Dance. He slashes the air again, then another five times, each one generating a line or energy. "Body and weapon are one in the same, I am my own blade, I create my own edge and I cut through all that gets in my way." The lines widen, tearing open the fabric of space within the area,  drawing in much of the water and ice. As this happens, Lillia reaches the final phrase of the Aria.

"By thy hand a miracle has been born, thy name resounding and its meaning realized.

Now, my will be done, your aid borrowed, I bid thee farewell.

Return to the plane in which you reside, thy price paid and thy deed accomplished.

From miracles in bloom to lives restored to bonds reformed,

I bid thee farewell, my time spent.

Hear thee, a miracle has been made!"

At the final word, the remainder of the crystal dissolves, the light having reached its full intensity.

Caess begins to precariously teeter, about to faint.

Lillia catches her.

"Easy there," she says before nearly collapsing herself, only for Shion to keep her steady.

"Neither of you are in the best shape," he says, "Let's get both of you rested."

Caess' left side is slightly broken and covered in ice from the aftermath of the outburst, traces of blood can be smelled.

Shion warps them to the castle grounds, setting Caess down as he pulls out a vial with a pale green liquid and has Caess down it to restore her health somewhat.

Caess coughs heavily for a few minutes after she recovers slightly, though still weak. She eventually opens her eyes, but they are tired and drained.

"Thank you..." She says softly, coughing.

"No problem, let's get you to a place you can rest." He carries Caess to an open, vacant room and sets her in bed to rest before he collects Lillia.

Her twins look after her, watching over her with worry, while Shion goes to Lillia.

"So you overdid it," he asks.

"No, just tired myself out for twenty minutes," she answers, "Elde takes quite a bit of energy to call..."

"Heh, you don't have to act around me."

"...Right, that'll be soon. Will we be going to Earth for it?"

"Maybe... Though it may not be safe..."

For the briefest of moments, a figure flickers into being a distance away, wreathed in emerald flames, barely visible due to the flames' intensity.

"..."

"I noticed, don't worry," assures Shion. "We wait and see."

They suddenly hear static, as suddenly the figure appears, though occasionally flickering along with the noise. The only decipherable features is a witch's hat and the vague shape of a woman's body, and one glowing green eye.

"S-S-S-S-SSo," The being's voice crackles, fading and growing, as though it was speaking with a poor signal. There is no actual presence to the being, except a faint pulse of power at the being's center.

"Y----Y-Y--Y-Y-You bypassed the Curse's defenses... well... except this one, of course... an interesting pair of beings you are... though I regret that I could not see the experiment to its conclusion... ...perhaps I will have to begin anew...." The figure fades, and Lillia notices two shards of the crystal she had destroyed fade into oblivion, as they fall from the center of the being.

"Hmm, that was the creator then," notes Shion. "I wonder..."

"She's rather accomplished as a witch to create such a complex curse," comments Lillia, "Belial says that she has a dangerous power, Mephisto is on a fence of sorts. Oh, right I can reproduce the effects of the Aria, which should aid the other two... But where is the king?"

"I wonder."

The twins continue looking over their mother, she infrequently wakes up and talks to them, slowly gaining renewed spirits.

Within the king's chamber, metallic deposits begin to form creating a frame of sorts around the room as the light begins to take shape.

Caess eventually has enough strength to remain awake, a bit more life coming back to her, healing faster than before.

More and more metal deposites form as the light loses stability and shrinks, forming an abject akin to a coffin comprised of cyan light.

Kiyōna eventually leaves to eat, having not eaten since breakfast.

Elsewhere, a sleeping Lillia uses Shion as a pillow of sorts, much to his chagrin.

"I really dislike it when this happens," he mutters, "It's still awkward despite the approaching date."

A sudden flash of light occurs next to Shion, and a bag is tossed at him, he only catches the briefest of glimpses of a woman wearing a greyish green kimono with two fans attached to her belt before she disappears again. A whole minute passes before her energy signature actually becomes detectable.

He catches the bag and examines the contents before judging them safe and preparing something for Lillia for when she wakes up.

"This brings back memories," he says to himself.

Kiyōna eventually comes back, with some food for Caess and Zetsubō. The family begins quietly discussing the past, and Aoi.

Shion reminisces about his first meeting with Lillia.

"I've always been the pillow... Even on day one."

Razorwind manages to infuriate all of the town dogs by stealing all of their bones, and with his maw full of them, is now gleefully leading an army of angry dogs as he runs through the town, the elemental much faster and able to run circles around them.

"Should we stop him," asks Yusuke, watching from atop a building.

"If things get out of hand we can ask him to stop," suggests Ensui.

After a while, the wolf drops the bones, and jumps on top of a building, the dogs finding they cannot come after him, yet insistently stand all around the building.

"Hm..."

"Sonic bomb?"

"No that would be cruel to the dogs."

The wolf looks over at them, and in a single bound leaps over to their building, chuckling as the dogs yip in surprise.

"Done aggravating the animals," asks Ensui.

"At the moment. Though that was a rather fun game of 'tag'."

"Don't cause too much trouble, it'll irritate the people here."

"It was a one time thing."

Ensui shrugs then plops down next to Yusuke.

The wolf lets out a sigh. "Many things have begun turning... ...I'm starting to feel weary... ...perhaps that's the age talking..."

"That's only natural," Yusuke and Ensui say in near perfect unison. "Experience teaches us many things."

"Hrrmmm. You two are certainly an interesting pair. Not every day one sees ones like you. You aren't Neutral Spirits by chance?"

"Neutral Spirits?"

"As the name implies, they are spirits that are neither positive nor negative in nature. They are both. Usually they have a decent balance, but for an absolute perfect balance in such a spirit is unheard of. There are rumors, though doubtful of their validity, that the Black King himself is one of those spirits. They're quite rare though, as Negative and Positive tend to clash rather than coexist."

"Ah," says Yusuke. "I guess we could be considered that then. We are two sides of the same coin and counterbalance one another without causing each other harm."

"In truth, we are one being, but with two bodies and seperate minds. This is the first time we've actually been split," adds Ensui, "It is interesting..."

"As though we are missing something yet complete," finishes Yusuke.

"Interesting indeed. If you have plans to depart for other lands than Echo, my suggestion would be to visit Azayakana, the Queen of the North. She is fair and kind, she will likely aid any traveler who visits by."

"Thank you for the information," they say in unison once more.

"It's nothing. Just a suggestion I thought I would offer. Oh yes, never ever anger the spirits here. If you haven't noticed... ...they're everywhere."

The wolf stands up and stretches, then bounds off.

The two nod in sync before watching the sky for the next few hours.

After a while, Caess sits up in her bed, and starts worrying about Aoi more.

"I hope she will be okay..." She murmurs.

The castle begins to quake slightly.

"W-what is that shaking?" She tries to rise.

The quaking only worsens and objects begin to float.

Caess tries to keep the bed on the ground, unnerved.

Cyan particles begin to appear within the castle, floating upwards weightlessly as the room is illuminated.

Zetsubō quietly looks around, tense and a sword created in his hand out of nervousness.

The quaking ceases soon afterwards and the particles fade as floating objects fall back to their original positions.

Caess looks at Kiyōna. "Can you see what that was?"

Kiyōna nods and tries to see what may have made the disturbance.

All that she detects is an overwhelming energy emanating from the king's chambers.

"It's... the king...?"

The energy begins to gather and condense, magnifying to a much greater scale as it gains form.

Kiyōna looks on quietly, observing.

The energy continues to gather and gain shape, growing brighter and more concentrated.

Kiyōna just silently wonders about what is happening.

The energy fades after a few moments, taking a humanoid form before vanishing entirely.

"It's.... gone?" She says in confusion. "I guess it's over?"

The king's chamber's doors open and from it steps a figure wreathed in an odd cloak of sorts.

Caess seems tired from the excitement and closes her eyes.

Outside of the castle, Shion waits for Lillia to wake up.

Caess eventually drifts off to sleep, the twins laying down next to her to keep her company.

"C'mon, it's been more than twenty minutes," sighs Shion, lightly nudging Lillia with no effect on her prone form.

Shion notices towards the south, the skies are incredibly dark, almost black.

"...Great, now something is about to come up as well," he sighs again before shaking Lillia once more. "Wake up, the skies are ominous." Lillia reacts somewhat.

Razorwind appears, looking at the skies. "The Black King make's his presence in his kingdom known today. Fear not. There is not red in those skies. If there was, the air would feel on edge, sharp as knifes. You'd also be more anxious."

"Ah, I was afraid that there was an attack on the way..."

"For the time being, yes. Though, the South has been... restive of late..."

"I see. Hmm, I wonder what's going on then," Shion mutters.

"I've heard that the Endlos king does not trust the ruler of the south. I don't blame him, the Black King is always distant and not exactly known for having the best subordinates.

The spirits seem concerned by the amount of negative energy within that region though. They don't have a reason as to why there's so much now adays."

"Hmm... Well, I know what's on my todo list then."

"You're not thinking of going over there, are you?"

"...No, whatever gave you that idea," asks Shion, feigning innocence.

"I can read your electromagnetic pulses in your brain. You're lying, aren't you?"

"Well, you're half right," explains Shion. "I'm more so taking  peak at the edge of the territory, just to make sure nothing secretly sinister is going on."

"...Be careful. The vast majority of spirits there are likely going to be the ones that view you as a ten course meal."

"This 'meal' has quite a few secrets that not even his former master knows about..."

"....Alright then."

Shion manages to get up without rousing Lillia and makes a makeshift cushion from any grass in the area for her to rest her head.

"I'll be back in a few." He makes his way towards the territory's southern border.

The Silver Archfiend's Return Edit

It was like stone, time was. The chamber doors slid open and from it emerged a revived warrior clad in a mail of sterling blades. Eyes sharper than the sharpest blades, immaculately sculpted features, brought to life with radiant vigor and a countenance of eldritch power from the cusp of godhood. If any from the War of Origin remained, they would've paled. The True Godslayer, the Archfiend of Silver had returned and was ready to handle business.

 The Struggle Home Edit

A portal rips open in the skies of the central valleys of Echo. Kalin fell through it, Aoi gripped tightly in his arms as they descended towards the ground. The halfling spirit focused his energy, extending a pair of wings. With little distance to avoid crashing, however, Kalin only managed to cushion the impact for them, using the nearby shadows for suppport. he dematerialized the wings aftter a moment, groaning.

"Aoi...are you okay..."

She has a look of pain, trembling visibly from the ice growths slowly consuming her flesh.

"...I'm in a lot of pain... but I think... I'll live..." She says in a weakened voice.

Kalin reached out, preparing to burn the ice away, when his instincts gave him second thoughts. He pulled his hand away, and simply used his energy to try and numb Aoi's pain.

"Im sorry I didnt get to you sooner...one of the girls, she...damn, I should have been faster. I should have been stronger..." Kalin said quietly, berating himself for his losses earlier.

"Don't... do that... let's just... go home... to our family..." She coughs.

Kalin sighed, before letting out a laugh, his strength returning to him suddenly. "I didn't realize we'd progressed so far as to share family, Aoi." He opened another door to twilight beside them. "Think you can handle one more drop? It should take us right where you want to go, if you can focus." he said, standiing to his feet, while trying to cradle her in his arms.

She quietly nods, saving her energy. "I... just went through pain unending... and still hasn't faded... I can handle... one little fall..."

Kalin nodded, kissing Aoi on the cheek as they approached the portal, Noticing she felt much colder, with the underlying feeling of darkkness within her body. This curse of frost was truly terriblle...

The pair landed within Twin Velleys moments later, at which point Kalin simply projected his energy outwards, hoping to connect with someone who could help them within the castle.

TrainingEdit

Pixel and his rival are sparring outside the city, preparing to go defend Earth with or without their master's permission.

"You realize that doing anything unsanctioned is grounds for losing your position, king's favorite or not," says Auros, sheathing his one drawn sword. "Plus, the big guy's been in a mood for the past few days. You sure you wanna do something without his permission?"

He thinks for a moment, then has a short nod as he holsters his drawn pistol. he grunts in approval of the act, as if he doesn't care if the position is lost.

"Haah... Look, I really, really don't think that this is a good idea," says the swordsman. "It isn't the worst idea by far, not by a long shot, but this will probably lead to an early grave or worse..."

Pixel glares at the dumb blonde who is more worried about his life and position than potentially thousands of other's lives.

"Oi, drop the tude, I'm looking out for you, not my own skin." Auros returns the glare. "Would you rather me block the portals to other worlds so that you couldn't leave in the first place? Because I could do that and not bat an eye, hot head."

Pixel sighs and drops his expression, looking worried. of course he's worried, he might be putting himself in harms way as well as the other man going with him. What about Auros' family, friends? But it is too late to go back. They have to do this. He looks to the portal beside them, having had it sit there, almost waiting for them to make the jump to Earth. They must keep training though, until they are both ready. They would land in the crowded streets of a new city, ready to defend it's people.

"...Okage: Seigen." A murky, inky darkness surrounds the gate, closing it.

Pixel rolls his eyes and grunts in defeat.

"If you're gonna train, don't let something like that distract you," Auros admonishes. "I'm supposed to be the easy going guy, not the leash that keeps you from doing anything stupidly dangerous."

Pixel jumps backward, pulling his pistols out.

"Getting back at it? You do that, I gotta handle something." Auros vanishes in dark mist.

Pixel continues training, biding his time. He then looks at the darkness closing the gate.

The gate is completely sealed, both in the physical and spiritual plane. If not for the fact that Auros sealed the gate, it would seem like the king himself closed the gate.

Pixel crosses his legs, hovering above the ground. He meditates, waiting for Auros patiently.

Not much time passes before Auros returns. He seems preoccupied by something however. "..."

Pixel raises his eyebrows without opening his eyes or breaking meditation.

"Nothing important in regard to you." Auros begins fiddling with the pendant on his neck. He smiles to himself, but it doesn't reach his eyes.

The mute points at the gate, it still being covered.

"No, you're rushing yourself when things should be taken slowly." Auros' tone is cross.

Pixel's eyes open, meeting Auros'. He can tell Pixel is worried about the Earthlings.

"Absolutely not. I'm not opening the gates. Train and stop nagging me about it without the king's permission."

He rolls his eyes in response, as if saying 'fine'. He jumps into the air, drawing his pistols.

Auros goes back to fiddling with his pendant.

A soul bullet shoots past Auros' head into an earthen target.

"..." Auros opens the pendant briefly before closing it. "If that was intentional, stop it."

Pixel sighs and holsters the pistols, landing and going back to meditation.

Auros draws one of his swords and begins to practice the most basic of techniques and forms, starting slowly, but speeding up to the point of blurring from sight then vanishing from sight altogether.

Pixel keeps meditating.

Auros only works on his form in silence, practicing each and every motion and movement with precision and dedication until they were beyond engraved into his muscles and body. Each step, slash, stab, lunge and strike was given what easily could have amounted to several years worth of practice, in a short span, but rather than stopping Auros only moved faster and faster, grinding away at the ground beneath him and slowly melting away at it with the sheer heat his friction was causing.

Pixel does the same in his head, mentally picturing the moves and memorizing them in his head.

Auros begins to shadowbox, dodging and weaving between imaginary attacks while unleashes his own towards the invisible target. He parries invisible strikes and ducks under others, moving with greater intensity as he grows faster, leaving a trail of ionized air behind him as he grows more serious.

Pixel keeps meditating.

At somepoint the air begins to rapidly drain of oxygen as the heat rises.

Pixel continues.

Soon the air is devoid of anything breathable and the area is filled with molten heat, Pixel a forgotten person in Auros' mind as he fights harder against the invisible foe.

After a while, Pixel stops meditating.

Eventually Auros stops, panting heavily. "Still not there...! I have to work harder or else."

A Glimpse of the Other Side Edit

The castle soon feels a slight pulse of energy, brief, but distressed.

"Needed already? A ruler's never allowed any free time," sighs Endlos, flexing a finger adorned with a silver blade. He sweeps his hand and teleports to the pulse's source.

What he finds is Kalin cradling a freezing Aoi, whose ice has crawled onto her neck, legs, and shoulders, blood trickling from the places it grows, she appears very limp.

"Fifteen seconds to explain the current situation," says the armored king. "Fourteen..."

"It's the Curse of Frost. White did it to her. I managed to intervene before she finished, but..." Kalin looked back down at Aoi, and sighed. "I should have been faster..."

"I see. Aura." The king glows violet and places a hand on Aoi's head, his glow intensifying.

She flinches from the contact.

Kalin held her hand firmly as Endlos did is work. "What are you doing to her?" He asked, curious and worried in equal parts.

"Something not as effective as an Aria would be, but this will act as a temporary measure until you can be fully healed. Dispel Aura." The violet glow fades and green and white light curls around Aoi, permeating the more affected areas and lessening the curse's effects on her for the time being. "This will last for a day at most, two hours at worst. It cancels most irreparable damage, but has a lesser effect on ailments as of now."

She winces visibly, but doesn't make any indication of pain.

"So, what do we do to get rid her of it completely?" Kalin asked as he stood with her in his arms.

"A person within the town can remove curses beyond this, that's our destination."

Aoi's skin where it has not been frozen seems unusually pale, in part to the absence of a heart, and she still appears to be in pain, though it's being replaced by a foggy look in her eyes, she appears to be fainting.

"We're moving, let's go." The king opens a portal in the space with a wave of his hand and gestures for Kalin to go through it with Aoi in hand.

Kalin lifts Aoi up, and walks to the portal. "We'll fix this soon, I promise..."

Once they arrive back at the castle, the king directs Kal to a vacant room before walking off briskly.

Aoi has now fainted, the room quickly seems to be plummeting to a freezing temperature.

Kalin simply held her close to his chest, ignoring the cold. "....."

"Your assistance is needed."

"Shion hasn't returned."

"He left?"

"Yes, somewhere to the south."

"Hah... As much as I want to wait for the Swordsman to return, we have three people to treat."

"Are they related to the one before, all three of them?"

"Yes, they are her children."

"Then it is acceptable to go now..."

--------------------

The room's temperature has dropped even further, and ice is beginning to form in the room like a thick shell on the walls, a heavy mist in the air. Sensing their arrival, Kiyona is making her way there, practically dragging her half asleep brother Zetsubō along with her.

Arriving at nearly the same time as them are the armored king and a tired looking Lillia.

"Good, all of you are here," she remarks, drawing a book from a shadow in the immediate area.

Kiyona seems more immediately attentive to the room. "...Aoi..." She seems distressed by simply looking at the wall, as though aware of what exactly is going on inside.

Zetsubō moans. "What's happening?"

Caess can be seen walking down the hall Kiyona and Zetsubō came down, though much more quiet than them.

"Hmm... this is modified, a more condensed curse," Remarks Lillia, opening the book. "You two, form a triangle with her." she nods at Aoi. "Else this process will be three times as long. King, use whatever you did on her on all of them while I get ready and as I begin, it'll expedite things. Other person, move out of the way."

Kiyona and Zetsubo do as they're told.

Kalin rests Aoi's head down gently, and steps away from her. He looks to the others, and leaves a silent prayer for the trio.

Lillia finds a specific page and says an indescribable word before a seal forms around the trio in the center and begins to spin. The king glows violet before muttering the same phrase as before and spreading a green and white aura to the three.

The mist in the room swirls aggressively, as the same time the ice covering the room grows violently agitated.

Kalin simply watched on silence, forming a black rose in his hand, and grasping it tightly. "Please work..." He whispered.

"Break." The king dispels the elements with a word as he continues his own rite while the seal in the room glows and begins dissolving away at the ice causing the curse on the trio.

Aoi remains unconscious, no obvious pain is seen as the effect begins, while the twins are visibly pained as their ice begins to falter.

The king restores them once more with his Dispel Aura as the seal grows more complex. Soon rings of light form on the walls and ceiling, each filled with complex symbols of varying natures.

Aoi's condition begins to look more improved, her skin is slowly gaining a healthy tone again. All three's crystal cores remain stubborn, thick veins of ice web out from the crystals in a vain stand.

The light's intensity rises greatly, dissolving more of the crystals at a faster pace while the king continues reciting the phrase from earlier.

The crystals begin to fail.

The light reaches a blinding level of intensity as the seals grow more complicated and branch into one another.

The crystals are losing all resistance at this point.

The seals fully twine together as the light becomes radiant and eats away at the last of the crystals before remotely dimming. The king casts several healing spells on the siblings.

Zetsubo and Kiyona collapse, tired, but otherwise fine. Aoi however is still unconscious, or at a minimum, asleep.

"...Little sister..." Kiyona says quietly.

'I wish I could help here...I cant follow this ritual they are performing, and I dont have the power to heal any of them myself. I feel so useless here.'

"I'll take my leave." Lillia leaves the room, followed by the king.

"All of you should rest," he comments.

Caess takes her two twins, then nods to Kalin quietly as Aoi continues to sleep.

Kalin immediately runs over to Aoi, and pulls her head into his lap gently, stroking her cheek in silence. He reaches out to her aura, and senses the gentle flow of life within her. He smiled gently, and rocked her back and forth as they sat in the empty room.

Aoi continues to sleep, her heartbeat quietly beats in her chest now, very faint but stable.

After a while, Kalin carries Aoi to an empty bedroom, lying her down gently. He sat beside her, focusing a small amount of his energy to the portion of himself he left behind within her when they first met. He made contact with it, and smiled, channeling their happy memories into Aoi's head, making her dream of good times. He laid beside her, and kissed her cheek, sending a silent "I love you" before closing his eyes to rest.

Meanwhile Caess takes the twins to their room, silently watching over them as they rest.

Some time later, Kalin checked on Caess, after leaving Aoi to rest in another room. sensing out her energy,  he knocked on the door his instincts led him to. "Caess? Are you up?"

"...Yes." He hears her speak quietly.

Kalin opened the door, and stepped inside, closing it quietly behind him. "How are they doing?" he asked as he laid eyes on the twins. 

"They're fine. How is she?" Caess replies quietly.  

"She's doing much better, I think. The...pain has died down, and she's sleeping peacefully." He said, sitting against the wall. 

"I am glad. But how are you?" 

Kalin looked away, and sighed. "Ive seen better days. I just...I just felt  so weak! Weaker than I've ever felt." he said, clenching his hand into a fist.

"I've thought all of this time that there wasn't anything that could stop me, that I could protect everyone on my own, and now...today, I nearly lost the one of the few people left in this world that matters to me. And I realized that I cant protect anything, not when it really counts..."

"Can you fault yourself for forces you cannot control? Don't blame yourself. The fact you escaped proves that good fortune smiles on you. Not anyone can just spite them you know."

"I understand what you're trying to say, but I just can't see things that way. I could fight, but I didn't change a thing. If I was stronger, this wouldn't have happened to begin with." He  replied, shades of red flowing over his irises, as he struggled to control his emotions.

"Calm yourself or remove yourself. There is no purpose in regrets. She is safe, that is what matters. Understand that there will be no blessing of mine for one who cannot forgive himself. If you respect me and the honor of my family, remember that and carry pride in your victory, for what matters most is the here and now." Caess says sternly.

Kalin looked up at her, before bowing his head and taking a deep breath. Caess was right, it wasn't helping anything to whine over what had gone wrong, or what he couldn't do. He breathed in once more. "I apologize. You're right. We're still alive. For now, there is no reason to despair..." he finished, brushing his hair quickly. As he took one more breath, his eyes returned to their normal still gray.

The quiet mother lifts herself off the side of the bed where Kiyona and Zetsubo sleep, and walks over to Kalin, placing a hand on his shoulder. "Can you take me to her?"

"Yeah, of course..." he replied. he stood, and led her back to the room that he'd left Aoi in to rest.  He opened the door, and let Caess walk inside before following her in.

Caess quietly walks up to Aoi, and kneels beside her, quietly looking at her asleep daughter, mourning silently the tragedy of what happened to her, yet joyous of her safety.

After a long while, she falls asleep next to Aoi, still embracing her youngest born.

Kalin stepped inside the room after some time to find the two women asleep. He sat down besides them, and leaned back as he watched Aoi in particular. After some time, he decided to slip into her mind, and see what she was up to in her dreams.

He finds her dreamscape to be very disoriented, flickering between many emotions and feelings, pain being one of the stronger ones present, the memory of the recent ordeal still looms over the sky like a violent thunderstorm, occasionally breaking the bouts of deep passive slumber with agonizing memory.

"Aoi? Can you hear me? Can you sense me? I'm here..." He called out, staring at the landscape before him with an expression of worry. He wished he could focus on her energy to find her, but being in her mind made it impossible to seek her out.

There appears to be a stabilizing effect due to his voice, the intensity of her pain seems slightly numbed, as though he is distracting her mind from the pain.

Kalin smiled, as he realized Aoi could at least sense him here with her. He sat down, and looked upwards at nothing in particular. "You know, this is kind of weird, just talking to space like this, but...I'm glad youre safe. For more than a second, I thought I might have lost you. I promised Caess that I would no longer blame myself for what happened, that I'd move on stronger from this. And I will. But I needed you to know that I'm sorry for leaving you in this position, and I wont let anyone else harm you again. No matter what." He finished, sighing deeply.

"But enough about me for now. Is there anything you want to talk about?" He said, smiling half heartedly. He wasn't expecting much of a response, but the few words he could speak was the best he could do to help Aoi heal now.

He feels a soft wintry breeze blow on his cheek.

"Well, I guess you really can't talk like this, can you? Well, it doesn't matter. I'll stay with you until you're feeling better. If you don't mind the extra presence in your head, that is," Kalin says in response.

The last bit of tension in the air seems to fade, and Kalin can feel snowflakes falling on him.

"I'll take that as a yes, then." He whispers, letting a few flakes fall onto his palm.

Slowly, some of the snowflakes begin to clump on the ground in front of him into a vague form.

Kalin smiles as he watches the snow gather, an idea of what's happening forming in his head.

Slowly, the form of Aoi appears, pale, and deep in sleep. He can still see the healing scars the ice left on her form.

He walks over to Aoi, and strokes her forehead gently. With a deep breath, he reaches into himself, drawing forth a well that he gives to Aoi, a small flicker of light that grows larger with the small amount already deep within her, hoping to assist her healing a bit more.

She continues to sleep silently.

Kalin frowns, then snaps his fingers as he gets a stupid idea. "Would snow white like a kiss?"

She doesn't respond, though the scars do seem to heal a bit better. She lets out a small exhale.

Kalin laughs a bit, and shakes his head. "Now that wasn't much of an answer."

Her skin appears to be turning back to its usual greys.

"Well, at the very least your pretty face is getting its color back."

It isn't until a couple hours have passed that she seems to rouse.

Kalin smiles brighter than ever as Aoi shifts slightly. He wipes his eyes gently, as he had started to feel worn out. "Welome back, Princess."

As she begins to wake, he can feel her wake in the real world.

Kalin closes his eyes, letting their minds separate, and when he opens them again, he is back in the room, with Aoi's head rested in his lap.

Her eyes slowly begin to open.

Kalin leans forward and pecks her softly on the forehead.

"Ka...lin..."

'I'm here, Aoi. You're going to be alright now." Kalin responds,  hugging her gently.

"My whole body... feels raw."

"You've been through a rough experience. White used a ritual to give you the curse of frost." He explained to her.

Kiyona pops her head in. "Aoi! You're alive!"

Kalin looked up at the girl as she appeared suddenly. "Well, that is probably the most important part. You're alive. Welcome back."

Kiyona comes in the room, and eagerly hugs Aoi. "We were worried... we should tell the king!"

Kalin helped Aoi to sit up, wrapping an arm around her and holding her close."I'll go with you to tell him, but I'm not sure if she's ready to move yet..." he says, looking at his beloved.

Aoi grunts. "I'm... really tired. ...And sore."

"It's fine. I'll go talk to him, you just stay and rest." He replies, standing and walking to the door after setting his head down. He glances at Kiyona. "Are you coming? You could stay with her, if you want."

"I want to tell him, besides, he might be upset at you or something."

Kalin cringed, then let out a sigh, and shrugged. "That's probably true. Oh well, I'll have to talk to him at some point. Be back soon, Aoi." He said as he walked out of the room.

Kiyona walks with him, looking for signs of the king.

"So, where is the king, anyway?" Kalin asked, glancing at Kiyona over his shoulder. 

"I don't know, I assume he's somewhere in the castle or the town." 

"Well then, I guess we should get looking." 

Kalin waved a hand, and one of his gates appeared, a large door expanding out of the wall and opening for them. "After you. We'll head to the throne room first."

Kiyona flushes. "But shouldn't we ask for an audience or something? What if we make him angry? It's rude to barge in on royalty..."

"Oh, how much more upset can he be? This is important news and I'm sure he would like to know as soon as possible." Kalin grasps her arm gently and leaps through the door, which opens and lets them out in the center of the throne room.

The throne room is empty save for one of the king's royal guards. The blonde haired young man looks up, his eyes tired and his forehead creased.

"He's somewhere else," he says simply before resting his head and sighing.

Kiyona looks at Kalin. "You could have at least knocked!" She sighs, before her eyes glow as she begins to search for the king with her senses.

Kiyona feels an immensely sharp pain in her head upon doing so.

She flinches, withdrawing her gaze. "Oooowww.... ...hard way I guess."

"But knocking is the boring way to make an entrance. You've got to keep things interesting." Kalin half joked as he opened another gate. Turning to the guard, he cocked his head. "I'm guessing you don't know where he went."

"Nope. I can barely stand his aura, let alone track him by it. Your friend there just found out the hard way why you shouldn't do that."

"Alright then. Let's go, Kiyona." Kalin said, hopping into the gate once more, and landing in town. He looked around to see if he could see the king.

Suddenly, the dark, black skies over the South erupt, lose their form, and become normal blue skies, not a trace of darkness can be seen in that area.

Kiyona comes through the gate, in time to see the spectacle. "...Is that... what I thought it was?"

After a moment, she begins looking for the king with Kalin.

Kalin looks at her with a confused expression. "Well, what do you think it was? Besides strange."

"Nothing good..."

"That wasn't in any way cryptic, huh?" Kalin turned towards the horizon again, and leaped from the building to search at street level.

Kiyona looks about from the roofs.

Kalin looks back towards the direction of that strange anomaly from earlier. "Well...it wouldn't be the worst idea I had this year. Hey Kiyona! I'm going to check out the weird nonsense from earlier!" He called up to her, before bursting into light, and flashing towards the south.

"Kalin don't do that!!" She yells after him.

He flashed in front of her, his body only barely held together as he prepared to be on his way once again."Why not?"

"There's been issues with the Black King, you could cause more trouble with him."

"Are you serious? You're telling someone is actually running around calling themselves the black king?" He said, stifling a laugh as he landed back on the roof as a solid man once again.

"That isn't funny, Kalin. You don't mock a god."

"Ohhh, so he's one of those types. well, I guess you should know that my parents were gods...or some twisted equivalent. They made me, gave me power, raised me to do what's right...then made me kill the one person I cared about. Needless to say, gods are kind of at the top of my shit list. So yeah, I mock them. And I don't give a damn what they have to say about it."

"Kalin, this isn't about you. This is about the people here. Don't endanger us because you have some kind of grudge." She seems more angry than anything.

Kalin cocked his head, surprised. "I didnt say I was still going after the guy...if it's even a guy. Don't worry your little head about it." He replied, a flash of red tinting his pupils as he lookedut over the town. "This is taking too long, though."

An ominous rumble can be heard over the south as the darkness begins to return, and on a far mountain slope, a black cloaked figure stands. Even from the extreme distance, they see the hood turn in their direction.

Kalin glances in the towards the figure in the distance. "I said I wouldn't go after him...but I'm pretty sure that guy is sizing up right now." He said, looking towards Kiyona.

The figure seems to be looking up at the sky now.

"What are we supposed to do now? Where the hell is King Endlos? Looking for him is starting to be more annoying than it's worth."

Suddenly the air above the valley becomes incredibly cold, as snow falls.

Kalin stretches, and turns away. "If we're going to keep looking, it'l lprobably be a good idea to move to another area. I don't want to do something you regret me doing," He says, placing his hands in his pocket.

Suddenly a bright light flashes in the sky, and a burst of light smashes into the center of town, creating a huge spiked pillar of ice straight into the heavens, shaking the whole town, the ice crystal glows brilliantly.

Kalin's ears perk up as he hops to his feet annd turns. "Okay, TO HELL WITH IT!"

He jumps from the roof, and dashes towards the pillar of ice, a trail of black and white behind him as he channels his energy within himself, preparing to use it.

A barrier flickers and repels him, the source coming from within the pillar of ice. The black figure atop the mountain is seen departing into the depths of the South.

Kalin recoils slightly from hitting the barrier, but charges forward once again, charging a fist with light and darkness that launches forward into it.

The blast is redirected into Kalin, having no effect once more on the ice.

"This god stuff is really starting to rub me the wrong way!" He called out, channeling light into a volley of spears that he proceeded to launch in one concentrated effort.

The ice pillar flashes, glowing with a brilliant blue light, revealing the silhouette of a sheathed katana deep in the ice, before a massive ice hand emerges from the pillar and crushes the spears, turning on Kalin and swatting him into a mountain.

Kalin brushed the rubble and dust off of his clothes as he pulled himself out of the cracked mountain. He drew on the shadows around him, forming them into a fist equally large to the hand made of ice, and launched it forward, causing the ice construct to crack into pieces. he then pulls back, and swings forward once more, the massive fist falling slowly on the giant tower of ice.

The hand shatters like glass on impact with the pillar of ice, while inside, the sword flashes menacingly, as though issuing a warning.

Kalin growls quietly as the shadows reform in front of him, forming a small murky abyss form which a black blade appears. Kalin stares between it and the pillar reluctantly.

Kiyona makes an ice wall in front of Kalin. "Enough, Kalin."

"Oh, I know this trick. Why do I need to stop now? You don't think that people are going to get hurt with this hell happening?"

"Kalin, leave it be. It's not worth it."

Kalin glanced over towards Kiyona once again, and sighed as his sword dispersed into shadows once again. "I'm willing to listen to you one more time, Kiyona, but if another strange thing...happens...that sword looks familiar." he says, pointing to it, glowing within the pillar of ice.

"...Ice Slayer. I knew what it was when it first appeared."

Kalin's widened slightly. "How can that be the Ice Slayer? White took it from Aoi when she kidnapped her. Unless...this isnt the same sword. But who has the power to make another one?"

"How should I know?"

"That wasn't an actual question to you...ugh, nevermind,"  Kalin said, blinking out of existence, and reappearing in front of the pillar. Touching the ice with a bare hand, he focuses on the life within Ice Slayer, hoping to see what it's purpose in the town was.

The ice immediately spikes before he can touch it. It seems to actively be trying to keep him away.

Kalin pulls a hand away, the wound closing up rapidly as he shakes the blood away. "Damn it!" He flashes back to the ground beside Kiyona. "What do we do now?"

"Leave it be. I know what it is looking for, but I won't have any of it."

"What do you mean? You don't think...it's here to find a new wielder, is it?" Kalin sighed. He then turned to Kiyona as a thought pased through his head.

"Well, that's interesting. I wonder who it's looking for. You wouldn't happen  to have an idea of a person this sword would want to serve, do you?"

Kiyona just quietly turns and walks back to the palace.

"Wanna talk about it? It might make you feel better..." Kalin said, walking quickly to catch up with Kiyona.

"No."

"Really? Now you choose to stop talking? Fine, fine, thats not important. Look, it's pretty clear who the sword is here to serve, and If that person doesnt take it, don't you think they're just asking for more trouble to come to this part of town?"

"I refuse to take up the sword that tore my family apart."

"Then bury it. put it in a trophy case,or a safe. Do something more than this!" Kalin said, standing in her path.

"What good does any of that do? Nothing." She flickers and appears behind him, continuing on.

Kalin frowns, watching her walk away. "So, you're okay with the consequences of what happens next, then? That's more than a bit selfish. And, living with a person who was raised to drown herself in vice, trust me, I know selfish..."

Kalin shook his head, not even waiting for an answer as he walked past Kiyona, a gate appearing before him, and snapping shut behind him. "Sorry, the gate is for reasonable people only."

She begins to tremble with agitation. "The only possible good that weapon does it not being used on the world." She rockets up and over the gate and to the castle with a powerful jet of water.

"Then why don't you find the person who sent it to you? take it back to them instead of just ignoring it? Actually try to solve the problem, rather than give in to this fear?" Kiyona heard in her mind in Kalin's voice. 

"You were attacked because you aren't worthy and tried to harm it. It will not harm anyone who is wise enough to leave it be." 

"You really think the stupid sword is what I'm worried about here?"

"Do you want me to join the enemy Kalin?! If not, then fuck off!" She begins to run to her room.

"...Is that what you're really afraid of? You think you're going to end up like Aoi did?" Kalin asked, some of his previous agitation melting away.

She enters her room, and locks the door, plopping her head into the pillow.

"Come on. This doesn't work when she does it, it's not going to work now." 

Kiyona remains silent. 

Kalin sighs, and turns around, considering leaving without another word. "I'm not good at these talks, am I.."

"No, you aren't." Zetsubo says from behind him. "Phoenix is a delicate issue."

Kalin smiled half-heartedly and sighs.. "No kidding..."

----------------

"Something's wrong with Shion."

"Oh?"

"I can't tell what's going on, but it's not good."

"So you're going?"

"It's undecided for now... Hopefully I won't have to go."

"In either case, I wish you luck."

"You have my thanks." The king nods before vanishing in a sharp strand of light.

 The Sword Sage Edit

As Skana flies away, he feels a strange presence following him.

"Go away." Skana flies faster.

A hand grabs his shirt collar and he chokes for a moment from the clothing momentarily strangling him.

"Let's have a talk, shall we?" Skana is suddenly within a decent sized log cabin, sitting across from a man with brown hair, brown eyes, and a long white overcoat.

"Perhaps I should introduce myself. I am Nobuyuki. And you are Skana, we've met before." He momentarily changes form to the lead spirit that had been in Twin Valleys when Skana first arrived.

"And if you lash out at me, you will be disciplined. As of now, you are my apprentice in the arts of spirituality and swordplay. I don't take no for an answer. Is that clear?" He says this with a calm air.

"Go. Away." Skana vibrates his body so that is goes invisible and intangable.

"Do you really think invisibility can work on me? You really need a wake up call..."

The man called Nobuyuki grabs his soul with ease, and shuts down his technique with little effort, though the move causes a momentarily painful sensation. When Skana rematerializes, his throat is in Nobuyuki's tight grip.

"Wrong. Answer. Sit down, shut up, or I am going to tie you up and throw you in the closet for a couple hours." He sits Skana down.

"First lesson. Respect for other people. I am your master, you are my apprentice. You do as I ask, and I teach you. When a person or a group of people take you in, what do you do?"

"Say thanks. Then get out of there."

"So then I assume your definition of 'say thanks' is be a disrespectful child and have a tantrum because someone did not consider you one of them?" Nobuyuki says in his impartial tone, his hands resting in his lap.

"Fuck. Off. Spirit. Bitch."

Skana suddenly finds himself wrapped up in a strange metal kind of rope, and is hoisted up by Nobuyuki, who then throws him in a nearby closet and locks the door, placing a spirit barrier as an extra measure.

"Lesson one, Respect now begins. You cough an attitude, I throw you in the Time Out Closet."

"ooh, I'm soo scared!"

"Clearly you don't understand. 'Scary' is not the aim here. 'Discipline' is. If you think people are just going to understand or know how you feel, then you were raised with your head up your ass, like it is now. Unlike me, who can read your mind, most people don't know what you've gone through, and guess what princess? They never will OR care. You think your attitude gets you anywhere? The only thing you'll get in life with that attitude is a quick stop to the grave. And it's a rather permanent one.

If you want people to care about you, or at least show you respect, then you need to get over yourself. You want to kill the Black King, right?"

"No, no, and no. I don't give a good crap about others, I am just fine, and I want him to fix my wife."

"On all of those fronts, you are naive. You won't live but an hour on your own in the wild of this world, and by all accounts, no you are not fine. Also, whatever he did to your wife, he won't likely help you. The Black King... ...he only does things that are of benefit to him. But if you think if you can defeat the equivilent of the God of Death of this world, then feel free. But don't blame me when you share her fate.

This is a world where you either learn its rules, or die. And the chief one is never walk alone. The lone wolf thing doesn't work out."

"Well, fuck this world. Let me go home... I don't want to be here. I was put here by beings bigger than your 'death god'. I just... I'm tired of being pushed around like a pawn. Of course nobody could understand that!"

"No one in this world has pushed you anywhere. You are just an insolent child who doesn't understand the basic functions of a society. In order to get something, you have to give something in turn. Nothing is free. Call it being a pawn, but everyone has a role to play. If you want people to not consider you an outsider, you have to put in the work to make yourself a valued member of the community.

Skana. There are very few ways to reach other worlds from this one. It is... ...cut off, from all the others. The likelihood you will return is low. The sooner you understand that and accept that, the better. Those who come here have to adapt to it, there is no alternative, save for death. May I state this but... those 'higher beings', are not as powerful as you believe them to be. In the grand scheme of things, there are far deadlier powers. Including the king who haunts the darkness. The Black King can kill what cannot be killed, even gods. Tell you what. You beat me in a duel, you go right ahead and fight him. But if you lose, you wouldn't last a second against him, and you will accept my instruction. You can decline the offer, but I would not reccomend it. Think on it for a few hours while I hunt for dinner."

Nobuyuki is heard leaving the cabin and locking the door as he leaves.

Skana meditates the man's words until he returns.

Eventually he hears the man return, and he can hear what sounds like a knife cutting open flesh.

"Hungry for some wild boar?" Nobuyuki asks from the kitchen.

"Eaten worse..." Skana starts, "but yea, thanks."

"That's much better than earlier. Thank you, and you're welcome. Have you thought about what I offered?" He says from the other room.

"I'm open to a duel. Now if you'd kindly remove the spiritual barrier, it would be much eisier to get out and eat for me. Arigatō."

"In actuality, there is no barrier. I just made a energy field that closely resembled a spirit barrier. I suspected your mental state of awareness was low from your temper. I'm surprised you didn't notice sooner. Those ropes will keep you in place for a while though. You can come out when I finish gutting and cleaning this boar."

"I could help you know. I've gutted and cleaned rats. Can't be much different."

"Just stay there for now." After a while, he finishes and Skana can smell meat getting cooked after half an hour.

"May I come out?" Skana asks as he climbs out of the closet.

"I don't know, may you?" Nobuyuki remarks dryly.

Skana smirks and continues to take off the ropes.

"By the way, five more minutes, until then," The ropes rebind themselves as Nobuyuki chuckles. "Wait right there."

After about five more minutes, he hears plates and silverware being put down, and the ropes come off.

"Alright, I believe now you can."

"Arigatō." Skana says as he sits down and begins to pray.

Nobuyuki begins eating. "That's much better. I see at a minimum, you've decided to have some manner of manners. If your attitude has checked itself, has yet to be seen."

"This is delicious," Skana states as he begins eating.

"It's laced with various wild spices that grow here," Nobuyuki remarks. "I can teach you how to identify them later. One may question why a warrior might learn such trivial things, but the truly skilled is the one who can value and appreciate the minor things."

The man's cabin is filled with various books, and various weaponry can be seen attached to the wall, some of them are completely foreign in their design.

After the meal

"Thank you for the meal. Now shall we fight?" Skana says.

"So eager, aren't you," He remarks. "Very well..." He quietly gets up, and begins to walk out of the cabin, walking to a small clearing, no visible weapons apparent, as he turns back toward Skana. As Skana begins walking outside, the man gets down and appears to start doing warm up exercises.

Skana begins stretching, then proceeds to run around the experienced fighter faster and faster, until even he can't see or tell where Skana is. He finds his arm is starting to hurt, and when he looks over it is missing.

As soon as Skana makes the move to cut off Nobuyuki's arm, the fighter casually trips Skana and keeps doing push ups while Skana is sent flying head fist into a cattle dung container.

Nobuyuki gets up and stretches his arms and yawns, then looks over where Skana is. "Hey, get your face out of the shit already. I didn't say start yet."

Skana backflips before being tripped, avoiding the attack. "I did." He pulls his sword. "Fight."

"Be my guest," He says casually. "Attack."

"Uh... Okay...?" Skana throws his sword into his chest and then turns to phoenix mode, grabbing the man with his claws and disarming all of the hidden weapons, pulling him up by his forearms and shins, breaking the bones.

As Skana lunges for Nobuyuki, the man smiles and steps forward, and in one motion jabs Skana in the chest, and a powerful crippling wave of energy surges into Skana's body, making him go limp, and Nobuyuki begins to follow up with a series of strikes, twenty to Skana's head, twenty to his chest, and a set of twenty for each of his wings, breaking each and every bone he strikes with an accuracy unmatched by the best martial artist.

With one final thrust, Nobuyuki smashes his palm straight into Skana's chest, momentarily knocking Skana unconscious. When he gets up, Nobuyuki is standing over him with a foot on his chest.

"Don't get up, you just took a direct hit with Chi. And not in a good way. Plus, I may have gotten carried away and broken a few bones. You may ask, 'What is Chi', and 'Why am I on the ground?' All good questions. Tell me, you received spiritual training, yes?"

"Y-Yes..." he replies weakly

"What exactly did you learn to do with that training?" He asks, his foot still firmly on Skana's chest.

"That I'm weak enough to be defeated by you... I mean, not to piss you off..."

"No, I mean, what techniques did you learn?"

"Oh, how to hold mountains and turn into a spirit animal..."

"Right.... it doesn't occur to me that you act in a restrained manner. You just leap in without considering the risk, which can land you in trouble. You also have some emotional problems, which can cloud your judgement. You're not a bad fighter, or weak. You just have a lack of discipline. Plus, I can also teach you nifty little tricks like that and shut down your enemy's offensive capacity. As we agreed, you'll accept me as your master and learn what I have to offer, yes?"

"Yea. Sure. Just... I'm gonna just lay here for a while and heal..."

Nobuyuki places a hand on Skana's chest and a glow covers it after a moment, and Skana feels the damage healing at a faster rate.

"I meant... Emotionally.... God that was a quick fight..."

"The most dangerous opponents are the ones who know when to strike. Speed doesn't mean anything to a spirit who can sense your energy. It's not about how fast your attack is, but how you broadcast them. The intent to harm another is potent enough to determine your actions. When you are fighting, remember these rules. 1. Do not trust your opponent. 2. Do not broadcast your intent. 3. Be impartial in all things, have clear judgement. 4. If you can, always make your opponent attack first, make him reveal his best tricks. 5. Never reveal your best tricks except in truly deserving fights. 6. Never. Ever. Get. Cocky. It's all fun and games until you get a swelled head, and then crash and burn when your opponent reveals a trump card you weren't expecting.

Skana, the ability to travel at the speed of light is an impressive feat. ...But don't ever go all out right at the front gate. That's what I meant by number five. Only reveal your best when it matters. Part of what I'm going to teach you isn't a new power. You'll learn some of that later. What you need is restraint training. You're too impulsive, too emotional. A more seasoned warrior would be more cautious of their opponent. Never dive into a situation. Analyse. Determine your options. Never assume you have the upper hand. In this world, there is no such thing as a guaranteed victory."

"... Why are you helping me?" Skana asks.

"Because too many people fight their battles alone. Too many don't have the power to protect those precious to them. Skana, the Black King is a being beyond reason. In order to save your wife, you have to do more than just talk the Black King down. What if he tries to kill you? The Black King is thousands of years old, and his power is akin to that of a god's. ...I want to help you, because I want to bring him down. He is an enemy to the order of this world. ...And a personal enemy of mine. ...Let me just say that I've lost some things too because of him. I know what he's like.

...I can teach you the skills you will need to confront him, but more importantly, I can teach you how to save her soul."

"Well then. I guess thats alright."

"Good. Then please listen and take heed my teachings. You will have to train hard."

"Yea, I got that by the way you spoke." Skana says.

"Alright then. I want you to sit on that stump then, and meditate on what anger is. I want you to describe to me what you deduce afterward."

Skana sits on the stump and medatitates for hours, starting to go for days, no care for his surroundings. He meditates in storms, winds, snow and ice. He finally comes out of the coma-like meditation when he looks up at his new master.

Strength of the Mask Edit

A fair distance away from the Twin Valleys, a sphere of darkness manifests, depositing Akami, Michikio, and Kado into a plain overlooking a series of mountains.

"This is the next place."

Kalin awoke within the castle, Leaning against Aoi's bed as a familiar presence reached him. "Damn, its been awhile..." Kalin said to himself, before turning to kiss Aoi on her cheek, and then standing.

Kado catches his breath for a moment, before turning to Michiko and Akami, indicating for them to follow him. He begins walking toward the mountain range, having only a vague sense of where he needs to go.

Akami: Who are you looking for now?

Kado sighs. "I don't know. Just that my next objective is here. ...I don't like the atmosphere here."

Akami: Negative spirits?

"...Yes. Too many to count. There's also just... ....something isn't right. There's a wrongness here."

Akami: Is there another way we can go? Like  around?

"No, the target is within the mountains area. I think there's a valley."

Akami: That means we still gotta go through it.

A pool of shadow formed beneath Kado, and a hand of darkness whipped up to snag his leg.

"Who said you were going anywhere?!"

Kado sighs, and twirls Dark Slayer before slamming the blade in the ground.

"Element Break." A glass like sound reports from Kado's direction, destroying all darkness within several hundred miles of him.

"...Wow. You had to be a kill joy? And here I was, so happy to see you after so long, mask man" Kalin said, blinking into existence in front of Kado and the others.

"Thought that was you over there as well. Even before you came over here I noticed your presence." Kado says as he sheathes his blade. "You must have forgotten that I love to kill the mood. Surprised to find you. What are you doing here? It seems odd timing that I would find you in the area of my search."

Akami: Another friend of yours?

"Yes, an old one. Back when I was still part of Azure."

Akami: Ah. Is he the one you came for or is it someone else?

"Negative. All I know is the energy signal of the next Slayer is unmistakably here."

Akami: Then what about this guy?

"Im Kalin. Just a minor character in all this. As for why I'm here, and the slayer you're after...well, its complicated. I just sensed Kado here wandering around, and couldn't help but peek my head out. Sure, the last time I did that didn't turn out great, but...whatever."

"Figured you had involvement. Explain. I eat complicated for breakfast."

Perched on one of the rocks nearby, Drake just watches in slight amusment but sighs. "Talk talk talk... All you guys ever do, I was going to say hi but I heard about the Slayer, so I guess you could say I'm interested... Hello by the way."

Kalin turned towards Drake and shrugged. "Well come on down dragon boy. The more the merrier. As for the slayer...well, I've met her a couple times now, and I was there when the sword appeared in front of her. She wasn't interested in wielding it. I don't know how you'll convince her of it, but it definitely isn't going to be easy."

Kado shrugs. "I have my methods. It'll work out. Or maybe I'll have to hunt down a Shapeshifter who IS compatible with the Ice Slayer."

Drake descends next to Kado and Kalin. "So are we paying Aoi a visit or going on a manhunt?" 

"Nobody is going to pay Aoi a visit until she's recovered." Kalin said quickly, shaking his head as he turned to Kado.

"I'd much rather get join the fight. Its been too long since Ive really knocked some heads together."

Kado sighs. "Course you would. If you're offering help, I won't turn it down. Try not to kill my recruits though, I kind of need them."

While Kado is talking, Drake cuts him a look. "Recruits? For what."

"My group, Admonition. Think Phoenix, only purpose is killing off Phoenix and nipping this Mythic-Human conflict in the bud."

Drake just sighs. "Y'know the phrase 'Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it'? Well I have a feeling it's going to be like that. But regardles, can we get going now?"

"Ah, Kado. Always the great organizer...I'll admit that lizard face is right, you should be careful about where you guide them, but I think you can manage. On that note, lets be on our way."

Michiko eyes Drake. "..." Her eyes are a bit unreadable, there is an awkwardness since their last encounter.

Kado looks at Kalin. "In that case lead the way, lover bird."

"Sorry, don't know what you're talking about!" Kalin said, shrugging as he turned away. He raised a hand, forming a gate in front of the group which opened to accept everyone. "All within who's going within.

Kado seems to hear something, but remains motionless, until eventually:

"AAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRGHHHH! GOT YA!" Kanashimi swoops in, attempting to kick Kado in the back of the head, but ends up going through him as he steps backward and causes her to land on her back in the dirt.

"I'd say don't charge someone directly, but you already discovered that for yourself," Kado comments.

"Tagging along, are we?" Drake walks up to Kanashimi and offers her a hand. "Next time, don't scream if you're planning to do an attack like that."

She flips, getting back on her feet. "Owwww.... ...he moved fast."

"Yeah, I wasn't expecting that either." Drake retracts his hand but then chuckles. "So how was your little nap?"

"Fine I guess...?"

"Do you even remember where you fell asleep?" Drake asks in a teasing tone.

"No, I don't."

Drake simply pats Kanashimi on her head. "When I walked down the hallway, I saw you resting your head on Eisen's lap, we talked a bit then I took you to your room... It was rather cute."

Her face turns tomato red.

"Yup, so what did you two talk about?"

"How great would your head look bald."

"Ok ok, I'll drop it... Anyways." Drake walks up to the gate and stops right in front of it. "So we just go through here? ...Where does this even lead?"

"Wherever you want it to go. But the important part is that you go inside...y'know, now, instead of talking so much. You can do that in the castle. "

Kado has gone forward while the others have been talking into the portal.

"...Why do I feel like I'm going to dislike this." He also goes through.

Kanashimi and Michiko follow through the portal.

Kalin watches as the others enter, before closing it behind them all, and opening the doors outside the castle gates.

Kado looks about. "Where is this?"

"Hmm, you've never been here before? That's surprising." Kalin said, stepping through. "You know the endlos, right? Well their king, or originator,  lives here. I've been staying here with Aoi since...Azula found us."

"No I don't, actually. Not very well. How is she holding up?"

"Well, you know Azula; strong, independent, cold, all powerful tool of the great Phoenix Organization. I'm lucky I was able to get away from her, and Aoi nearly didn't." Kalin said, his features darkening despite the sarcasm in his voice.

"...I was speaking of Aoi."

"I thought you were, but I didn't want to leave anyone out in case I was wrong." Kalin says with a smile. "Aoi is healing. The girl is tough, for sure. I need to go check on her again, so let's be on our way."

"Alright, but don't mention Azula to me, please. It's... ...aggravating enough."

And with that given warning, Drake repeats saying Azula all while looking around before finally looking back at Kalin. "So are you and Aoi a thing? I could have sworn I've been told about this but not sure."

He feels a shock from Michiko, who gives him a disapproving look.

Drake turns to look at Michiko, his expression replaced with surprise more than anything. "Michiko? Oh, I didn't notice you, hey."

"Hello."

"Uh... No hard feelings about our last encounter?"

She sparks lightly, but seems to let it go.

"I'll take that as a slightly...." He looks at Kado and Akami the looks back at her. "...I really hope that these aren't the forces you believe can stop Phoenix."

"Of course not. I've got the Emperor and Azure's allegiance for the fight. Plus I imagine Kado is going to be working on building his own networks."

"I see I see... Still have the Slayer?"

"You're insinuating that I would lose track of my sister."

"Not exactly, just making sure you have it..." He opens up his hand out in front of him. "Pass it here, I want to see something."

"You're going to get shocked," Both Kado and Michiko say at the same time.

"I'm aware, but I doubt it'll be as bad as it should." Drake notions his hand once more, getting slightly impatient.

She hands him the hilt, and a large bolt of lightning strikes him almost immediately. 

The sudden surge of lightning forces his muscles to tense up, causing him to grip onto the Slayer as tightly as he can. "Well this certainly FUCKING HURTS!"

Needle like protrusions of lightning start erupting from the hilt and blade with a constant electric current.

"This fucking... Kanjo... God needs to trust me FOR FUCKS SAKE!" Drake, going full out, grips the Slayer with both hands, letting the lightning go right through him despite the damages.

Kado looks up, and then starts going back away from Drake, dragging Kalin and Akami away from him. 

Kanashimi also seems to notice. "Uh... think you should let go."

"...Ebony Shell Shield, Adamantine Wall." Suddenly a small black dome forms around him, completely sealing himself from everything else for a few short moments.

The huge spear of lightning that was about to strike him dissipates as Michiko resummons the blade.

"I'm not going to watch you fry your brain cells."

Another moment passes before the dome finally opens up, Drake steps out covered in lightning shaped scars that quickly disappear. His expression isn't the happiest. "Ok first of all I would have been fine and second of all if I wanted to give you back the Slayer, I would have handed it to you one way or another..." Drake lets out an annoyed sigh. "I guess separating them is going to take a while longer..."

Michikio doesn't dignify a response.

"Hmph... Well sorry for wanting to see something, Mich." Drake responds in a rather aggressive manner.

"You don't think I haven't had a crack at the seal myself Drake?"

Kalin looks around at the others, and coughs. "Uhm...have we forgotten what we are doing here? I think we should handle our business before going about doing...stupid things like that. Anyone agree?"

Kado simply looks at him. "You're still leading the way, right? Then lead."

However Drake seemingly snaps back at Michiko, his eyes glowing and his voice sounds distorted, as if it sounds like an audible glitch. "Don't bother with that fucking smartass talk to me, Michiko." He appears right in front of Michiko in a distorted manner. "For the record, I do think you've had a crack at the seal... I just think that you couldn't get as close to breaking it as I would have." His glare finally lets off of her and Drake just turns away, looking towards Kalin, his voice returning to normal. "Right, so can we finally go."

Drake realizes that he couldn't comprehend the complexity of the seal, let alone faze it, it was as if he was staring at the definition of futility.

"...So, we're here for Aoi, right?"

Kado is still waiting for Kalin to lead.

"Not exactly...You want to find your ice slayer right?" Kalin said walking into the castle proper. He pauses, and detatches himself from the world as he knows it, reaching out beyond the bounds of flesh and sound, to the realm of emotion and life, to find her. "Kiyona. I need to talk to you."

"...What is it...?"

"A friend of mine, and some friends of his, are here to meet you. They're Slayers, and an ugly as hell dragon and...hold on."

"Drake! We're going to have to talk about your sins against reality later. Actually allowing your DNA to propagate..."

"Alright, I'm back. Listen, if you don't want to come down...I'll give you some time to get out of here. You can go someplace quiet and I'll tell them you're gone."

"...They're what?!"

"You heard me right the first time, geez. They aren't from Phoenix, though. Like I said, one of them is a friend of mine, and you may not like me much, but you can at least trust me."

Drake just cuts an annoyed look, raising a throne out of the earth, he takes a seat and just waits. "Sins against reality, my ass."

"...Why do they want to meet me?"

"I'm pretty sure they want your help. but you can ask them yourself. Or, like I said, you can go for a while."

"...Fine."

"Thanks, Kiyo..."

When Kiyona comes out, she comes out with her twin brother Zetsubo. She gives Kalin a strained look. "These them...?"

Kalin smiled, and nodded to the pair. "Yeah. Glad you could join us, really." Turning to Kado and the others, Kalin waved a hand. " I did my part, ladies and gentlemen. Now you convince her to stay."

She quietly eyes Kado and Michikio.

"..."

Kado sighs. "Kalin seems to believe you can wield Ice Slayer. ...Is this true?"

"I don't know. Haven't tried. Why don't you try it?" Kiyona asks, a steeled voice evident.

"How about you show me where it is?" Kado asks in turn.

"..."

"Not doing well with the whole..'convincing', Kado." Kalin whispered, walking off to check on Aoi. As he stepped past Kiyon, a double of himself split off, leaning back against the wall across from her and her brother.

Kiyona silently starts walking toward the center of town, Kado follows. They soon reach a huge pillar of ice.

"...It's in there?"

"...Yes."

"Get it out."

"...I don't..."

"You don't want to protect your sister, is that it? Or do you secretly want Phoenix to win?"

Kado nimbly evades a blade of ice that erupts from the ground.

"Shut up!"

"There can be no peace as long as my sister lives." Kado intones firmly.

"Your...?"

"White is my sister. I intend to stop her, for the sake of Aoi, Noriko, all of those she has caused suffering for. You have my word I will. But I need your help. Either that, or you can point me to another potential wielder."

"...I have a... ...condition."

"And what is that?"

"Prove that you're capable of it. I don't believe you. You're just some guy in a mask!"

"...Very well."

Kado suddenly flickers, and both Kiyona and Kado vanish in a cloud of shadow, once they disappear, fighting can be heard briefly followed by large clouds of shadow engulfing the distant horizon, then Kado reappears, followed shortly after by Kiyona being held in a large shadowy fist emerging from the ground.

"........Epp...." Kiyona squeaks in an extremely high pitch out of sheer fright, she appears to be pale as a ghost.

"That's that settled. Now get the blade. Out."

"-O-Ok..." She turns to face the ice crystal, and slowly sinks her hands into the ice, which does not attack her in any shape or form, it seems to flow gently like ice around her arms, fully allowing her to reach to the blade and grab its hilt. When she does so, blue circuit like marks race up her arm and throughout her body, before a Phoenix emblem appears on her wrist.

"You're the new Ice Slayer. And I will need you to help me if Phoenix is to be stopped." Kado intones.

"...Alright... ...Can my brother come with me...?" She asks hesitantly.

"I will allow anyone who wishes to aide me to follow." He responds simply.

"...Thank you."

Meanwhile Kalin finds Aoi is sleeping. She has a much better pallor about her skin, though her skin has become slightly tinted blue, it's only now after the aftermath of their ordeal does he realize she has become a full Endlos.

Kalin grasped her hand softly, smiling at her as he closed his eyes and focused. "Hello, beautiful..."

He hears her stir.

"I hope you're not upset with me for letting Kado come here to recruit your sister...I know she had her doubts, and...honestly, if they came to take you along, it might have been harder to accept it. Someone needs to fight, though. Anyone who can stand against phoenix should. Me included."

"...Kado... ...is here...?" She groans, stiring. 

"Yeah, he's with Kiyona." he said, sitting her up against his lap.

"...I want to see him."

"Alright. Lets take it slow, okay?" he said, standing up, and offering Aoi his hand.

She quietly takes it, as he helps her up, her size increase is noticeable as well, now easily head to head or even a bit taller than him. She appears unaccustomed to her new size on top of her injuries.

Kalin smiled and rubbed Aoi's back gently, as his gate appears on the other side of the room, opening to reveal Kado and Kiyona standing within, Kalin's double motioning for them to step through.

Kado notices and comes from, Kiyona a bit later, holding the Ice Slayer begrudgingly.

Kalin and his double meet and fold together back into a single form. "Whew! Been awhile since I've done that... Alright, Kado, someone wanted to have a word with you." He said, motioning towards Aoi.

Kado looks at her, taking his mask off quietly. "...You're... ...blue...?"

"Apparently..."

"And you're even taller than before... I didn't think that was possible. I suppose it's good to see you?"

"Aye... even though we never really spoke that much when we were younger."

Kado looks at the two. "So can you explain to me something? I was always under the impression that Aoi was impartial or loyal to White. It surprised me that things turned out this way. Care to explain?"

"...I was never loyal to her, out of admiration, rather fear."

"...I see. I'm glad you're free then. I have things to do, but I wish you well. ...And if you would, tell the leader of this place I expect him to take good care of you all. Anything less would be an insult."

Kado begins to walk off, with Michiko following behind shortly.

"Where next?"

"...I have no idea." He looks at Kiyona and Zetsubo. "Coming?"

"Yes!" The twins reply in unison, following after them, with Akami, Michiko, and Kanashimi close behind.

"I just hope this doesn't take too much longer..." Kado mutters to himself.

Meanwhile Drake just sorta ticks, taking a glance around before sighing. "Nope this is getting fucking dull, Kana, you staying here?"

"Yeah."

"Hmm..." Drake's eyes faintly glow white. "So assuming that Phoenix is efficient, they would have taken quite a bit of Fantasy right now."

"You really shouldn't act alone, not when it matters. I should hope you remember what happened the last time you dove in head first. I was 'born'."

"Well let's see if I can get you a baby brother too, besides I'm the only one crazy enough to actually go out and do shit before anyone else is... So if you don't mind me." Drake begins to trace a arcane circle into the floor, it brightly glows. "If no one is wanting to tag along, then say now because... Ah fuck it, you wouldn't do it anyways." He steps into the circle and quickly disappears.

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