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Story

Escape from Venland 

20th March, 1215

As the Royal Palace of Savorden is shelled by Canorican and Novalian artillery guns, a lone airship, disguised as a Canorican trading vessel, makes its way away from the commotion. It contains several crewmen, as well as the two Venlish princes, Luther and Ruselt, and their uncle, Cetera. Luther and Ruselt are looking out of the window, gazing at the destruction of the palace. Ruselt clenches his fist and looks away, but Luther keeps watching, he begins to tremble. Ruselt turns around to face Cetera.

Ruselt: Uncle... What the hell just happened?

Cetera: What does it look like? Our defences failed.

Luther turns away from the window and walks towards Cetera and Ruselt.

Luther: Then what are we going to do now?

Cetera: Your father wanted me to take you somewhere safe, and "keep watch over you, no matter the cost."

Ruselt: Why couldn't you take father with us!?

Cetera: In the eyes of the Canoricans, he is a war criminal who has cost them the lives of many soldiers. He said if they didn't find him, they would take out their anger on the Venlish people, so he opted to stay behind, and told me to help you escape. *Cetera looks down solemnly*

He grabs a bottle of whiskey and starts drinking.

Ruselt: Where the hell are we supposed to go?

Luther: *Thinks for a few seconds* We're probably wanted in several countries. John Curtis said he wanted to arrest the whole royal family.

Cetera: The fact is, you two are the heirs to the Venlish throne. The fate of Venland could rest on your shoulders. So no pressure. *Smirks sarcastically*

Ruselt: You think this is funny? Do you think this is all a fucking joke?

Cetera's facial expression turns from a slightly hysterical smirk to a stern frown.

Cetera: No...I th-

Luther: Is there anywhere safe to go?

Cetera: Yeah. I know a guy in Novalia. He might be able to help. I have his address details in my notebook. On that topic, we aren't exactly liked in Novalia, so we'll need disguises. Our next stop is Laguz, in Runisia. There, we'll stock upon fuel.

Ruselt: But what about father?

Cetera: *Looks down.* He'll likely be arrested and tried for war crimes.

Ruselt: But that's not fair! They started this war.

Luther: And they also won it, so they make the rules now.

Cetera: I am not going to lie to you, you're entering a much harsher world now. You're going to have to learn how to fight, and fend for yourselves.

Luther: We have never had to fight before. I have never held or sword, or even a gun before!

Cetera: Which is why I'll be taking you on a "tour" of Helios. You'll pick things up faster than you might think.

Luther: As for father... What if they choose to execute him?

Cetera: They won't do that immediately. The trial will take weeks. If you're thinking about rescuing him, then we'll have time to plan it out. But i can assure you, a rescue will be much easier to conduct if we have allies.

Cetera looks at his watch and continues drinking his whiskey.

Cetera: You better get some rest, we have a long day tomorrow.

Ruselt heads off to the sleeping quarters.

Cetera: What about you Luther?

Luther: I... don't really sleep well...

Cetera: *Looks at Luther's periorbital dark spots* I can tell... Anyway, I'll be off now too.

Cetera gets up, and staggers slightly towards his quarters. Luther heads to the window, and looks out as the sun goes down. Within 2 days, the airship makes its way halfway across the Sabarian sea, witha  direct bearing towards Runisia.

Red Blade

23rd March, 1215

Morning arrives and Luther is still there, leaning on the rails and looking out over the sea. He spots a small brown figure heading in their direction. On closer inspection, he sees a slight red figure on it. It is a boat with a single male on it.

Angel-Ion: Ugh. This bloody boat's not even gonna make it to the next shoreline with all these damages on it. I don't wanna drown while I've just started... I hope those guys are alright... *Angel-Ion gazes ahead, his hand above his eyes. He spots the airship.* What's that?

Luther analyses the damages. He then proceeeds to quickly run upstairs.

Luther: Someone get a rope! There's someone stranded below!

A crewman reacts and looks out of the window. He spots the boat and orders the other crewman to slow the airship down. He drops a rope ladder down the side of the airship which looms in the general area of the boat.

Angel-Ion: Ahh... Shit. They're taking me prisoner.

A hole appears on the boat, which slowly begins to fill with water.

Angel-Ion: Fuck!

Ruselt and Cetera have gotten up to see what the commotion was about.

Ruselt: What on eart- *yawns* -earth is going on?

Luther: Some guy is trapped on a sinking boat and won't grab onto the rope ladder. Try and coax him up

Ruselt: *looks over the side and raises his voice* We mean you no harm! We don't want to hurt you, just climb up the ladder!

Angel-Ion meekly looks at him. He throws a sheathed sword at Ruselt before grabbing a pair of bags and the rest of his supplies. He jumps onto the airship, his leap propelled by his wings, knocking Ruselt over in the process. He looks outside to see his boat sink.

Angel-Ion (in Venlish): *Phew* That was close.

Ruselt : *scowls slightly* Yeah, you're welcome...

Angel-Ion: Yeah, yeah, whatever. Who are you people? Where's this ship headed?

Angel-Ion begins eating a rice ball.

Luther : *Starts confidently* We're headed fo- *his voice trails off and he nervously steps back*

Ruselt : *Looks at Luther and steps forward* We're headed to Laguz to stock up on fuel. Where were you trying to go? 

Cetera : And what compelled you to attempt the journey in that piece of junk?

Angel-Ion: It was the only thing I could use after I escaped Kyloto. I'm only out here because I'm looking for my relatives. We were all separated when we fled.

Cetera: Well, at least you're straight to the point.

Ruselt: Why did you flee Kyloto?

Angel-Ion: ... I don't wanna talk about that, not right now.

Ruselt: Where were you heade-

The airship begins to descend. A crewman approaches the group.

Crewman: Laguz is in sight now. Take this time to pack your things and prepare to exit the ship.

Cetera: Luther, Ruselt, go to your quarters, and get your disguises ready.

Ruselt and Luther walk off to get their disguises. 

Cetera: *Turns to Angel-Ion* As for you, where do you intend to go from here?

Angel-Ion: I guess I'll stick around. You lot already have my interest. 

Cetera nods and walks off to get his own disguise. Luther and Ruselt return to the deck, both wearing travel-wear with shirts of their iconic colour beneath. (Luther having a red shirt, and Ruselt having a blue one). Cetera returns 5 minutes after that wearing a grey longcoat and a shabby military tunic underneath. The group all meet on the observation deck, and the ship descends towards Laguz. A group of Runisians signal the ship from the port, and help secure its landing.

The City of Laguz

A ramp lowers down, allowing the group to exit the airship. 

Cetera: We might as well buy our own supplies while the ship fuels. *Cetera hands Luther a bag of Runisian Yetva*

Ruselt: Hang on, how come he gets the money?

Cetera: Because he is responsible. Now we'll meet back here in 10 minutes. I need to talk to the crewman. Make sure you buy lasting food.

Ruselt: Hmph...

The group walk further on into the town.

Angel-Ion: So, why are we here? I've heard about Laguz, but it wasnt that much.

Ruselt: The ship needed to refuel, so we are only here to get supplies for our trip to our Novalia.

The group come across a general store. Luther uses some of the Yetva to buy some tinned food. Ruselt browses some of the other areas of the store. He comes across a falchion on a stand. He smiles and grabs it. He quickly puts it on the till as Luther is about to buy the food. 

Store owner: That'll be 100 Yetva *Smiles smugly*

Luther: *Becomes nervous and decides not to refuse him*

Luther empties the Yetva bag onto the till, revealing at least 200 Yetva. The store owner looks dumbfounded and takes 100 Yetva. Luther and Ruselt walk away from the till, with the food and Ruselt's new sword. When the group leave the building, Luther turns to Ruselt.

Luther: Was that necessary?

Ruselt: Look how cool it is though! *Ruselt holds the sword out in front of him*

Luther: *Looks displeased* Yeah yeah, and it is me that uncle will shout at for allowing you to waste money like that.

Ruselt: Oh calm down, we still have 100 Yetva left.

Luther: I suppose you're right... We should head back to the ship.

Nearby, five figures appear to be approaching the group, all wearing black cloaks, but are clearly Runisians due to the light coming off them.

Luther: *Sees the group* And...quickly

Ruselt: Why, we have at least 4 mi-

Luther: *Coughs and points in the direction of the figures*

Ruselt: Yeah...good idea. 

Ruselt, Luther and Angel-Ion move back towards the airship more briskly.

Angel-Ion: Why are those guys following us? Do you know them?

Ruselt: No, which is exactly why we should get back to Cetera.

The group arrive near the airship and the five figures continue to follow the group. They can hear them speaking to each other in Runisian, and suddenly one of them pulls out a bottle and throws it at the airship, setting it ablaze. Another seems to make the fire grow even stronger. The fire reaches the fuel cannisters and the ship blows up, killing some of the crewmen. Cetera, who was standing by the ship is blasted several meters away. He remains on the ground, and doesn't move. A building nearby collapses as a result of the explosion, and some of the rubble falls onto Angel-Ion, knocking him unconcious.

-Bounty Hunter- Othil: I don't believe you will be going anywhere.

Ruselt stands in front of Luther and even holds his falchion out in front of him, in an obviously incorrect stance. 

Ruselt: Who are you!? What do you want?

The four other bounty hunters start laughing. 

Othil: You must be very stupid to ask that question. You're Venlish royalty and you're asking us what we want?! What we want is the two of you; you both have a pretty nice bounty on your heads. If you comply nicely I can assure you that you wont be harmed.... Too much.

Two of the bounty hunters pull out flintlock pistols, while the other two pull out swords.

Luther: *Stuttering* Rus, just lower your sword.

Ruselt keeps hold of the sword and keeps in front of Luther.

Luther: *Still stuttering* They have guns, you have a sword. Think logically!

Ruselt sighs and reluctantly lowers his weapon. Luther walks out from behind Ruselt and they both raise their hands above their heads.

A loud boom is heard as one of the bounty hunters' chest explodes, with magical energy surging and leaking out as the Runisian collapses to the ground, their body disappearing and their core shattering. The same happens to another bounty hunter, with another loud boom preceeding it. Another Runisian walks out from an alley, two pistols smoking as he holsters them. He rushes to Ruselt and Luther's side, and draws his sword.

Vulkas: Thought it'd be easier to take the three of them own if I killed the ones with pistols. You clearly don't know how to wield a sword so let me do the work, alright?

Othil curses in Runisian.

Vulkas: Hey, watch your mouth. There are kids nearby.

Ruselt and Luther look on in horror. Ruselt slowly picks up his sword again so it isn't lost in the confusion.

Vulkas: Oi! Get the police! We have wounded here and an airship is combusted, quickly!

A Runisian in the crowd sprints off the get the police, while Vulkas engages in a sword fight with two bounty hunters, as Othil flees.

Ruselt and Luther make a run for it while they have the chance.

After some time, Vulkas manages to incapacitate the two bounty hunters, and the police arrive. They take in the two bounty hunters, disperse the crowd and get rid of the fire with water magic, and search for the one who fled. Vulkas however looks for Luther and Ruselt.

Ruselt is spotted lifting Angel-Ion out of the rubble, and Luther is seen running towards Cetera. Luther sees that Cetera is still breathing, albeit he has blood dripping from a large gash on his forehead. Luther rips off Cetera's coat sleeve and wraps it around his head, putting pressure on the wound. Ruselt finishes pulling Angel-Ion out of the rubble and they both head towards Luther. Luther looks into a shop and finds a bottle of alcohol. 

Ruselt: Is Cetera alright?

Luther: He should be fine, but he'll need rest for a few days. We need to find somewhere safe to put him. Travelling with him now could cause problems for both of us.

Ruselt : How the hell are we going to get to Novalia now? That airship was incinerated.

Vulkas: Whatever you four will do, you better find out somewhere else. Those bounty hunters certainly wont be the only ones after you.

Cetera suddenly opens his eyes, albiet only slightly. 

Cetera: *Groans* What happened?

Cetera tries to get up but Luther lightly pushes him down.

Luther: Don't move uncle, you need rest. 

Ruselt: I have an idea. We can use the remaining Yetva to pay off a local to look after our uncle for a few days. 

Ruselt drags Cetera gently towards a small house at the end of the street. He knocks on the door and a local elderly Runisian answers.

Ruselt: Hi, here is 100 Yetva, can you look after our uncle for a few days *Smiles broadly*

Local: *Sees the 100 Yetva* Why of course. Come in.

The group enter the house and help lift Cetera onto a bed. Cetera then loses consciousness again.

Luther: We still need an alternate way to Novalia.

Vulkas sits down on a chair and cleans his pistols.

Vulkas: Im willing to lend a hand. Plus if you're going to be staying in Runisia for the time being you'll lkely need me. No one knows Runisia like I do.

Ruselt: Thanks... Erm... Sorry, what's your name?

Vulkas: Vulkas. Vulkas Raido. Laguz isn't the best city to stay in, regardless of how nice it is. It's a tourist city, and everyone and their mother is looking for you two, I'd imagine. How much magic do you two know?

Ruselt: Umm... None... *Looks down*

Luther suddenly remembers Cetera's contact in Novalia. He remembers that he kept the address of the contact in his notebook. Luther searches Cetera's coat and pulls out the notebook. He smiles to himself.

Vulkas: Can't use a sword, can't do magic, you'd be dead if it was just you two. What about the two others? The Kylotean and your uncle.

Ruselt: My uncle was a field mage for the Venlish army.

Angel-Ion: I am a capable swordsman, and I know a good deal of fire magic, as natural from one born from the Makai Clan.

Vulkas looks up, putting his pistols away.

Vulkas: Makai Clan...doesn't ring a bell. As for a Venlish field mage, considering his state he wont be useful to us for a while. I have an airship, and I have been meaning to investigate Novalia. Why would you be heading to Novalia anyway?

Ruselt: My uncle knows someone who might be able to help us.

Luther: And I now know their address. We should leave soon.

Ruselt: Shouldn't we leave a note?

Luther: I'll write one now. 

Luther rips a blank piece of paper out of Cetera's notebook and grabs an inkpot & quill from a desk next to him. He writes, "Uncle, sorry we are leaving you but it is for your own good. A Runisian by the name of 'Vulkas Raido' has opted to take us to Novalia in his own airship. He has proven his magical aptitude so you won't need to worry about our safety." He signs it and puts the note in his uncle's pocket. 

Vulkas sits up and takes out a bag of Yetva from a pocket on his coat, and puts it into Cetera's coat, and begins to leave the room.

Vulkas: A parting gift. Keep your heads down and your eyes to yourselves, last thing we need is more attention. We'll be going to the airship dock, mine is farther down however. Just follow me and it should be fine.

Angel-Ion: And what of the rest of your crew? We should bring along the survivors. They can help us out.

Ruselt: Good idea. I'll go get them.

Ruselt leaves and comes back with the crewmen. The group then leave the house and follow Vulkas to his airship.

Vulkas: Be careful of rations. I always have rations on supply in case I happen to have non-Runisian guests, but if you eat too much we'll have to make stops along the way. It'll be quite the journey, so get settled and... Do whatever.

Vulkas starts piloting the ship in the direction of Novalia.

Angel-Ion begins rummaging through one of his backs, pulling out two bags of rice, sheets of seaweed, a bottle of oil, three fish, several shimp and salmon skins and an old-looking pan and salt shaker. He uses his fire magic to begin cooking the items.

Angel-Ion: I'm cooking us up a meal. We'll all need this to replenish our vitality for when we arrive at Novalia.

Meanwhile Luther and Ruselt are sitting in the corner of the cabin, talking amongst themselves.

Blood of Our Old Folk

Luther: *mumbling* So much for conserving rations.

Ruselt: Calm down Luther, we have our own rations as backup.

Ruselt looks out the window.

Ruselt: How long do you think it will take to get to Novalia?

Luther: I'd say three to five days depending on the wind.

Ruselt thinks about what Vulkas said earlier about him not being able to use magic or fight.

Ruselt: Do you think Vulkas could teach us how to fight? I mean...Cetera isn't here so we'll need some help. Even Angel-Ion could help?

Luther: Vulkas? Teaching us? *Luther stutters slightly*

Ruselt: C'mon, you've have always wanted to learn magic. This could be the perfect time to start.

Luther: But I can barely even talk to strangers.

Ruselt: Then that is another thing you can learn to do.

Angel-Ion begins handing around servings of rice balls, sushi and boiled fish to everyone on board. He hands Ruselt and Luther their fill. He prepares to walk back to his seating place, but is stopped by a sudden thought.

Angel-Ion: By the way... I didn't get your names.

Ruselt looks at Luther, almost egging him on to respond. Luther just shakes his head and looks the other way. Ruselt rolls his eyes.

Ruselt: I'm Ruselt Visarion, and this is my brother, Luther.

Angel-Ion: ... Visarion? ... Are you perhaps the descendants of a "Nearan Visarion"?

Ruselt: Well, yeah, we're Venlish royalty. Why?

Angel-Ion: Are you aware of the "Compendium War" that predates the very calendars themselves?

Ruselt: I know about some of it. Although Luther knows more about that kind of stuff than me.

Angel-Ion: Your ancestor fought alongside mine in the Compedium War, against the Monster of Kyloto, "Keimusho Gikoku." I'm sure you may have heard of him, "Sabal-Ion Excalvur." Am I right, or wrong?

Luther: I...uh, know of him.

Ruselt looks vaguely proud of Luther for even responding and trying to talk to Angel-Ion.

Angel-Ion: That's good. Then allow me to introduce myself!

Angel-Ion draws out his sword and sticks it into the flooring. He grabs the hilt and kneels before them both.

Angel-Ion: Second son of Tanzar-Ion Excalvur, and blood ancestor of Sabal-Ion Excalvur. I am Angel-Ion, the "Liberator of Kyloto"!

Vulkas: You better get that sword out of my airship! These thing's aren't cheap.

Ruselt: Heh. *Nervously hides his falchion*

Angel-Ion: Oops.

Angel-Ion puts it away before tending to his meal.

Angel-Ion: So is that Cetera guy your father? Is he the current king or something? Is that why those guys back in Laguz were chasing us?

Luther: Eh... Cetera is our uncle, the uh... King's brother.

Angel-Ion: So... Which one of you would be the next heir to his throne?

Ruselt: Me. I am apparently... A few seconds older.

Angel-Ion: Say... Where is the king, anyways? Shouldn't he be here with the rest of us? What's his name?

Luther's eyes narrow. 

Ruselt: *Sigh* His name is Roarak. He has likely been arrested by Canorican forces...

Angel-Ion: ... On what charge?

Luther: War crimes.

Ruselt: From a war that he didn't start.

Angel-Ion: ... That's awful.

Ruselt: It's late, we should get some rest. Vulkas, are there any beds on this thing?

Vulkas: At the very back you should find two rooms with four beds each. Happy sleeping.

Ruselt heads to bed while Luther remains on deck and looks out the window.

Angel-Ion: Aren't you tired?

Luther: *bluntly* Not really.

Angel-Ion: I can tell that you've got something on your mind.

Luther just remains silent.

Angel-Ion: Pssh. Suit yourself.

Angel-Ion retires to his bed.

The Basics

24th March, 1215

Ruselt wakes up early and gets dressed. He meets Luther on the main deck.

Ruselt: Did you have a good sleep?

Luther: Very funny.

Ruselt chuckles slightly.

Luther: I have reconsidered your suggestion.

Ruselt: Which one?

Luther: The one about getting Vulkas to train us.

Ruselt: What made you change your mind?

Luther: Because as you said before, Cetera isn't here, so we'll need someone to fill in.

Vulkas has one of the crewmen take control of the ship as he walks over to his guests.

Vulkas: Good to see you two up. I assume Angel-Ion isn't awake yet.

Ruselt: We want you to teach us how to fight.

Luther: *Mumbling* Wow, subtle...

Vulkas leans on the doorway.

Vulkas: To be honest if I said no, I'd probably be leaving you to die. Sword fighting is one thing, but magic is another. It wont be easy, alright?

Ruselt and Luther both nod.

Vulkas: What do you two know about magic to begin with?

Ruselt and Luther both look at eachother, and then look at Vulkas.

Ruselt: Hehe, nothing.

Vulkas simply stares at them. 

Vulkas: ...I have a few beginner books my mother bought me when I was young. They're mostly defense, enchantment and trick magics. Of course, they're for younger ones so it wont be anything amazing yet. I'll walk you through the spells and rules. I want you to study them daily, especially you Luther. Might as well make use of the time you don't use to sleep. I'll be back.

Vulkas walks off.

Luther and Ruselt shrug at each other and start reading.

Angel-Ion exits his room and drinks a bottle of milk. He throws it out of the airship before sitting down. He unsheaths his sword and sits down with it on his lap, before meditating with it.

Within a few hours, Luther manages to turn a bouquet of flowers into a crow. Ruselt however has fallen asleep out of sheer boredem.

Vulkas walks over and looks at the both of them.

Vulkas: ...Hmm. I suppose your brother might not be one for...this kind of study. I'll teach him to fight and i'll teach you how to use magic. Trick magic wont do you much but its a good way to understand how magic works. What kind of magic have you been interested in anyway?

Luther: *Nudges Ruselt and he wakes up*

Ruselt: *Groans* What?

Luther: He's going to teach you how to fight.

Vulkas: You bought a falchion, you might as well learn to use it. How much do you know about sword fighting?

Ruselt: Take a wild guess...

Vulkas: Oh my.... Alright, you obviously are more of a hands on learner rather than a visual one. You'll be facing me and possibly Angel-Ion in sparing. 

Ruselt: Um, facing... As in, fighting you?

Vulkas: Would you rather have physical experience or would you rather learn from a book?

Ruselt: Fair point...

Vulkas: Luther, you keep reading and practicing. Ruselt, come with me, im going to show you the basics.

Vulkas starts walking out of the room before waiting for Ruselt. 

Ruselt follows him.

He brings him to a somewhat more open and empty room of the airship, and Vulkas stands at the very end. 

Vulkas: Alright, I want you to try to attack me with your falchion.

Ruselt holds his falchion out in front of him and runs straight at Vulkas.

Vulkas draws his falchion and parrys Ruselt's out of the way while at the same time tripping him. 

Vulkas: Good try...

Ruselt scowls slighly, and gets up. He immediately slashes at Vulkas with the falchion.

Vulkas steps back and blocks his attack.

Vulkas: Try not to give away any sign of you attacking. Any sort of face can tell the enemy what you're going to do. Helps a lot to be a Runisian.

Ruselt tries to slash upwards at Vulkas.

He pivots out of the way and moves behind Ruselt, butting him forward with the pommel of his sword.

Ruselt recoils but recovers quickly. He runs towards Vulkas' left, but slashes to his right.

Vulkas blocks the attack just in time.

Vulkas: There we go! Don't ever be predictable in a sword fight, that's how you lose your head.

Vulkas and Ruselt continue training while Luther works on his defence magic. Several hours pass.

A red, fiery aura begins leaking out of Angel-Ion's body. The air around him feels hot.

Ruselt walks in covered in bruises and sees this.

Ruselt: *Approaches Angel-Ion* Are you ok?

Angel-Ion: Uhh... Yeah...? Why ask?

Ruselt: You are glowing...

Angel-Ion: This is an exersion of my inner fire aura. A common thing for all Kyloteans is that when they meditate, their inner aura comes out. It helps us grow stronger in mind.

Meanwhile Luther approaches Vulkas.

Luther: I think I may have finished your defence book.

Vulkas: Oh, really? That was quick. Learn anything or do you need some help?

Luther: Are there.. m, any other b-books?

Vulkas: You think I got to the point Im at with just one book? There are plenty more. But first I want to find something out.

Luther: What?

Vulkas: I'm going to see your affinity.

Vulkas walks away and after comes back with a clear sphere off sorts, that seems to glow. 

Vulkas: Everyone generally has an elemental affinity. Mine is wind, and I'm guessing Angel-Ion's is fire. All you need to do is use any form of magic, and this sphere will sense what your affinity is.

Luther makes a weak force-field around himself, the sphere and Vulkas.

The sphere turns the darkest black possible, with whispy dark energy coming from it. Angel-Ion detects it and looks over, seemingly in a bit of worry.

Vulkas: Well aren't you a special one.

Luther: Why? *Hesitates* What does it say?

Vulkas: The main four elements are wind, water, earth, and fire. However, light and dark are considered "mythical elements" and are exceedingly rare. Your affinity just so happens to be darkness. There's also stuff like ice and electricity.

Luther: So... Uh... What does that mean?

Vulkas: It means that you have the potential to become an extemely potent elemental mage. Darkness is not something to be messed with.

Luther: Do you have any books on darkness magic?

Vulkas: No. I have books on all the other elements, but not mythical ones. I myself am still learning the elements.

Luther: *Stuttering, albeit less so* How much magic do you know?

Vulkas: Not too much, but a good amount. Like I said, im still learning. I know Wind and Fire Magic, Electricity Magic, Dragon Magic, and Symbol Magic. I also can sense whenever magic is being used and even tell what past events happened in areas where magic was used.

Luther: Can you teach me how to do that?

Vulkas: Psychometry? Hmm. Its generally a technique learned by Runisians alone, but ('ve heard cases of other races knowing it, so there's no harm trying.

Vulkas begins teaching Luther as the airship enters Levian airspace.

The Fundamentals

25th March, 1215 AC

Meanwhile in the Haphaen city of Ranzhou, servants prepare the meeting room in the city hall for the arrival of Helios' leaders. Hundreds of armed Haphaen elite soldiers patrol the building, and ceremonial soldiers stand either side of every entrance and exit. The meeting room itself consists of a round table, with chairs equally distributed around its circumference. 

Phillotus Cercyon, the premier of Haphae, arrives first with two guards either side him. He takes a seat, and has a servant pour him some water. Other leaders soon enter the room. Some tall, some short, some broad and some thin.

A servant pours a glass of wine for one of the leaders and his aide, both of Kylotean origin. The leader, large in size, instead slams a large gourd down on top of the glass of wine, crushing it.

From across the room, a male leader, of Novalian origin, rolls his eyes at the sight of this. A golem-like leader shows sign of frustration.

- Imperator of Sabaria - Argus: Urgh... Why was I summoned here, to this damned shithole?

- Lord of Novalia - Deciduous: Please, can we all just be civil here?

Orchus Retaliak, the leader of Levia, arrives with four guards, eaching seemingly heavily armored and armed. Orchus keeps a faint smile on his face, his eyes constantly darting to the other leaders as he takes a seat, not eating and not drinking.

King Ansuz of Runisia arrives with three guards, each seeming highly protective of him. He sits down, sees everybody eating and drinking, sighing quietly.

Phillotus Cercyon stands, and rings a small bell, signalling everyone in the room to be quiet.

Phillotus: We are here to day, in this, "shithole" *Phillotus looks at Argus* to discuss the recent... Events in Helios. The people of my country have concerns about their welfare, in light of these events. In particular, the annexation of Venland has not gone unnoticed. Many people in my country are in outcry, and I, as a result am declaring it an illegal war.

- President of Canorica - John Curtis: *Rolls his eyes*

Argus: Bah. All fleshlings are the same.

Argus glances over at the Sultan of Carta.

The Kylotean leader just drinks from his massive gourd, before having a light chuckle to himself as he wipes excess drink from his mouth.

- President of Parcia - Rodrigo Honalez: I am inclined to agree with comrade Cercyon. That war had selfish justifications.

John Curtis: Oh really? Like what?

Phillotus: Tell me Mister Curtis, have you found any Infinity Generators yet? 

John Curtis: I am not at liberty to rev-

Phillotus: So no, you haven't. In other words, the feeble reason you had for going to war in the first place is now null and void. *Scoffs* And to think I expected some success...

- Chancellor of Mercria - Inara Winters sits back in here chair with a wide grin on her face. 

Orchus looks to Inara and furrows his brow.

Orchus: What I'm...concerned about is the refugee problem. Because of this little "fiasco", Venlish citizens will be moving everywhere.

Honalez: Due to the ecenomic turmoil caused by Parcia's former government and their involvment in the war, we won't be unable to support any refugees.

Phillotus: I can understand that some countries aren't as... Economically or technologically adept as others... *Phillotus looks at the Kylotean leader, Honalez, and Argus* But alas, only some of the countries here need to take responsibility. Tythan, Novalia, Parcia and of course, Canorica.

Ketrov: That is ridiculous, we are currently fighting a civil war!

Phillotus: Which was caused by your war with Venland. So once again, it is your problem. You should have been nicer to your working classes. I must say, it is slightly disconcerting that only some of us know how to run a country properly...

Argus: ... Excuse me. Back up a bit. Was you just ridiculing my economy?

Phillotus: What economy?

Argus: We Sabarians don't have problems with our system. Especially when it is compared with the likes of all of your parties... Especially you, Desrold.

- Sultan of Carta - Najam Desrold: I'm not here for any arguments, Argus.

Argus: That's Imperator Argus to you. You're on my land, without my consent. I want you out but you refuse to listen. I was assured your predecessors learned that long ago.

Najam: We built Carta for peace and wellbeing only! Why do you not understand that?!

Argus: Bah. Your kind are full of lies. "Peace" is chucked around like the common scrap with you. Your kind is a pollutant to us. You bring shame to our people.

Najam: You attack us without reason! We want to use the north-east coast for trades with our allies, but you attack and pilfer our only means of gaining wares and supplies! How is this right?!

Phillotus: And so the ants squabble over a backwards little island with very little fertile land. How adorable. Alas, we have strayed from the topic at hand. The allied countries at the time are to accept full responsibility for a war that has cost them dearly. Don't even get me started on Roarak's execution-without-trial.

Ketrov: You're one to talk about trials. Not a single day goes by in which you don't have someone shot.

Inara chuckles, nearly spitting out her wine.

Orchus sighs after seeing Inara.

Ansuz: The fact that the topic at hand is being dodged constantly by all current parties that are currently ridiculing each other for what appear to be personal affairs is inane. As Phillotus tried to bring focus back onto, the allied countries must take responsibility for their actions. As unfortunate as some countries state of being is at the time, this affair is much too important to be put behind someone's own countries problems.

Phillotus: So that is settled then.

John Curtis: And you think you can make us?

Phillotus: Do you want to wait and see?

Honalez: *Sighs* I hereby delcare that Parcia will accept responsibility for the Venlish situation, despite our change in government.

Ketrov: Bah! As I said earlier, the civil war is a bit more of a priority than a few refugees.

Phillotus: Then I can only wish for one thing

Ketrov: What?

Phillotus: That Vladimir Wolf's armies tear through Western Tythan, and slaughter each and every single one of you like the filthy pigs you are. Maybe he will be more willing to accept Tythan's role in this atrocity.

Inara Winters's smile stretches further across her face. Ketrov seems speechless.

Deciduous: Novalia will also pay its due costs from this war.

Novalian Envoy: But sir! We also have the problem of the Gala--

Deciduous: *Seemingly ignorant* We'll have enough money left to help out the Clockwatch, so don't worry about that, we'll deal with that later.

Envoy: But their leader Cro--

Deciduous: I said we'll deal with that later! For now, I would like to focus on restoring order to Helios as a whole, and thus why I wish to pay off all costs.

Phillotus: A wise decision.

John Curtis: *Scowls at Deciduous* Understand this Cercyon. You put forward these suggestions for your people. Well, I went to war with Venland for my people. I will not rest until they have been bled dry, and until Roarak's son-of-a-bitch children have been brought into Canorican custody.

Honalez: Then you are just as foolish as I thought. They are just boys. You think the Canorican people will want this?

Phillotus: I can promise you Mr. Curtis, I have checked the numbers in the Canorican markets. Your country's economy is on the brink of collapse. Once it does collapse, the people won't have to wait for a re-election. You'll be ousted, and I can assume that the next government will be more reasonable. 

- President of Asteria - Vincent Kerraslav: Well... This has been productive, but I don't see how Asteria's interests are affected...

Ansuz: If certain members would keep the discussion in a civil state, it would be highly appreciated. And as for the children of the Venlish Royal Family, finding them and imprisoning them will do nothing to better anyone. It will only upset Venlish refugees, in which they will likely lash out in the countries they have fled to. And when that happens, there could only be a few select people that can have the blame put onto them.

Phillotus: Ansuz is...correct. 

John Curtis: Pfft. I have had enough of this nonsense. 

John Curtis stands up and walks towards the door along with two of his guards.

John Curtis: Roarak's boys may just be kids, but they are a threat to Canorica, and therefore must be terminated!

Phillotus: Two 15 year old boys are a threat to Canorica? My, oh my, how low has your country fallen?

Curtis scowls at Phillotus. He then exits the room, muttering the words, "Commie bastard," as he leaves.

Deciduous: Now that Mr. Curtis has left the premises, I believe we need to discuss how we are all going to deal with the refugee problem.

Phillotus: Half of the refugees have headed west to the Isle of Reed, which remains out of Canorican occupation.

Argus: Keep the little rats away from Sabaria.

Najam rolls his eyes.

Najam: Will Canorica have to undergo some kind of "punishment proceedings" through this war?

Phillotus: They laid waste to a whole country, for a now null and void reason. Of course there will be punishment proceedings. Should they refuse to accept them, then I will be inclined to force the proceedings upon them.

Deciduous: What kind of punishment are they looking at, here?

Phillotus: Leave that to me. I'll make sure that everyone gets what the deserve.

Honalez: Well that takes care of that problem, what other problems are there?

Phillotus: I think it is about time we discussed the Galahad Arms.

Phillotus looks at Deciduous with a sharp scowl. Beads of sweat trail down Deciduous' head.

Phillotus: For the sake of making the following discussion smoother, I would kindly ask Lord Quadroceptus not to try brushing this whole issue under the mat, as he has been. I know the extent of their control in Novalia, and their complete operation in its north-western city. Let's just say, Levia isn't the only country with a wide range of informants.

Deciduous: I... We...

The Kylotean leader begins laughing.

Deciduous: We are dealing with the situation as best as we can!

- Royal Military Fleet Admiral - Stern Brocade: And how do you propose this to be done? As far as Kratonia is aware, this Galahad Arms have an upstanding place amongst the black market, and have a strong influence over Kratonia's growing piracy problems! The R.K.M are trying their best to bring pirates to justice, but we can't stop the civil unrest our country when the main influence is being ignored! You should be careful to remember where your country's allegiance lies, Lord.

Deciduous: Well, what about Asteria's problems?! What about their criminal activity rates?!

Fleet Admiral Brocade: We're talking about your problems. From as far as Kratonia and the R.K.M are concerned, Asteria are actually trying to assolve their problems. You, however, are not!

Phillotus: Lord Quadroceptus, you have an army, don't you? Why don't you use it for the right reasons this time?

Deciduous: I... I... Can't... I... Agh!!!

Deciduous gets up and storms off. The Kylotean leader's laughter increases in vocal level as he begins bashing his gourd down hysterically, further crushing the glass shards beneath it.

Phillotus: *Sigh* Typical democrats.

Najam, Brocade and the Novalian envoy all look at Phillotus with an exaggerated straight face.

Ketrov: I want economic support for Tythan. Then I can deal with the civil war, and the refugees.

Phillotus: Or how about I support Vladimir Wolf, and then let him put the money to better use?

Honalez: I am also supporting Wolf. Your government has ruined Tythan. It is time for change.

Brocade: You're both fools! Vladimir Wolf is throwing a monkey wrench into the democratic balance of the Tythanian government!

Phillotus: I'd like to point out that the majority of democratic countries here... Or formerly democratic *looks at Honalez* are being accused of war crimes. The monkey wrench has already been thrown. Mr. Wolf will just clear away the damage. And unlike Ketrov here, Vladimir Wolf gives a damn about his people. Now if anyone has anything else to say, say it now, because I think we have wrapped up who owes what, and to whom.

Brocade: May I just point out that Vladimir Wolf is an extremist. He is much like the Galahad Arms leader, "Crowned." Both of them have the potential to wreck the complete balance of the entire continent!

Phillotus: Vladimir Wolf is a visionary. Crowned is a terrorist. You also have to factor in that people in Tythan actually support Vladimir Wolf's claim. More than half the country in fact.

Brocade: That does not warrant his destructive means! 

Phillotus: I hadn't realised we had the "advocate of peace" in our meeting room. *Smiles sarcastically* Kratonia has always been a... Mostly... Peaceful country. One might consider that to be admirable, and it most certainly is, but it hasn't exactly helped with your pirate problem.

Brocade: As I've already said before, with the Galahad Arms on the rise, pirate activity in Kratonia has increased! Our Admirals and all other personel are trying our damn best to keep the pirates at bay!

Phillotus: They should be trying harder...

Phillotus looks sternly at Brocade. 

Ketrov: You know, for someone who was complaining about our war with Venland, you sure do seem to be promoting a lot of war.

Phillotus: I have no qualms with war. I do however, take issue when that war is started for a flawed reason. 

There is a brief silence in the room.

Phillotus: Well, I think that just about sums up the meeting. Good day gentlemen. Your airships will be waiting for you. 

Phillotus suddenly looks at the Kylotean leader snobbishly. The Kylotean leader lets off a stare as he drinks what's left from his gourd.

Phillotus: Apart from those who prefer to use horses.

Phillotus walks out of the room, accompanied by several of his elites. The Novalian envoy leaves next, followed by Argus and then the Kylotean leader.

Najam: Argh. That Premier always gives me headaches.

Brocade: He's a fool, he does not know what he's talking about. The balance of the continent is at stake, and he wishes to promote the criminals!

Najam: I also hold concern over him as well. Especially when we convey what his men did to your king eleven years ago...

Brocade: You should be more concerned by your own neighbours. I'm well aware of how the Sabarians do things.

Outside, the Novalian envoy seems lost in the complex. He stumbles across Argus and his aide.

Envoy: Excuse me sirs.

The envoy tries to go past them.

Argus: Get rid of this filth.

- Viceroy of Sabaria - Horndahl: Yes sir.

Horndahl impales the envoy twice before throwing him against the wall. The two leave him there as he bleeds to death. 

Inara Winters walks out outside towards her airship, and comes across the envoy on the way. She stares at him briefly, before shrugging and walking onwards. 

No Loose Ends

26th March, 1215

Meanwhile in a warehouse on the outskirts of Dengreb, Asteria, several armed men wait for the bounty hunter Othil to arrive. In the middle of the room is a man operating a wireless telegraphy, recieving orders from someone high up in The Underground.

Othil eventually enters the warehouse with other bounty hunters, different from the ones that were in the earlier incident.

The wireless operator stands up and approaches Othil.

Operator (In Runisian): Do you know why you have been called here?

He seems hesitant to speak, clearly unnerved.

Othil: ...Because I failed a job and caused a scene.

Operator: Not just that, but two of your men were arrested, and are being interrogated as we speak. That is two more loose ends we have to take care of. Care to explain what it was all about?

Othil: ...A Runisian killed two of my men and fought off the other two until police arrived.

Operator: Did this Runisian ever reveal his name?

Othil: No, but he was purple and had medium length hair, and a forest green long coat of sorts, he seemed to be a seasoned fighter of sorts, looked like a traveller as well.

Operator: I'll tell the Underground, and see what they think.

The operator heads to his wireless and begins sending morse code messages to someone high up in the Underground.

Within 6 minutes, he recieves a response that reads, "-.- .. .-.. .-../-.... . --/.- .-.. .-.."

The wireless operator nods to the guards who repeatedly stab Othil's crew, ensuring they bleed out as much as possible.

The crew eventually retreat to their cores, unable to do anything.

Othil: Hold on, I'm sorry! The Underground and I have been working together for too long now for it to end like this, I'll be able to do my job next time, I can ensure it!

Operator: *Pulls out his gun* You have put the underground's discretion at risk. It is too late for second chances. 

The Operator shoots Othil in his core. The guards shoot at the cores of the other crew members.

Othil screams an echo like and haunting yell as his core burts, magic surging out and into the air, dissapearing as Othil's core fades into dust.

Operator: Clean up any mess. We're done here.

The Foundation

26th March, 1215 AC, Kyloto - Makai Territories

Within the throne room of a tall, royal pagoda tower, a figure sits on his throne; the Kylotean leader. A second Kylotean kneels before him, clearly quivering. A second enters, and removes part of his uniform.

- Dominion Scout - Ledran Kaliot: Ah, Avaloss! Great to see you kneel right before me.

- Dominion Missionary - Avaloss Voldin: You idiot! Like I would bow to you!

Ledran: You should. You're beneath me.

Avaloss: Don't fuck with me Ledran, I'll kill you.

Ledran: Kill me? Like I'd be killed by the likes of yo--

Kylotean Leader: Enough.

Ledran's entire right arm is suddenly reduced to ash.

-Overlord of Kyloto - Shen Gikoku: Kaliot Ledran. I want your report.

Ledran: AAGH! MY... MY ARM!!!

Ledran collapses to the floor. Blood pours out of it profusely.

Shen: Please. Its just an arm. But, I diagress. You can make your report laying down, if you wish.

Ledran: T-thank you my lord!

Shen: Although, if that were to be the case, I don't see any issue with taking your legs as well.

Ledran: N-no sir! D-don't be so funny! I'll make my report sitting up!

Shen starts to get impatient.

Ledran: The scouting teams had managed to track down the locations of two of the missing Excalvur family members. In spite of this, however, we lost one in the fog. We managed to track the remainder, Excalvur Angel-Ion, to the nearby coast of Kratonia, which is where we called in the missionary team... But... He fought them off and fled north... I predict that after that, he would have taken at least three days to reach Sabaria, while two for when his boat sinks from the damage it recieved. In all accounts, Excalvur Angel-Ion should have drowned.

Shen: ... You keep speaking of the future like this. You predicted that in "three days", he'd reach Sabaria, and that in "two days", his boat shall sink", correct?

Ledran: Y-yes my lord!

Shen: Ledran Kaliot, are you, perhaps, a prophet?

Ledran: Huh?

Shen: I asked you a question. "Are you a prophet?"

Ledran: N-no sir!

Shen: I don't want to hear of the "future" you claim to see. I want to hear about now.

Shen directs his hand to Ledran's direction. Red aura surges on it. Suddenly, Ledran's head blows to pieces, some blood going onto Avaloss' horrified face.

Shen: Voldin Avaloss, I have no reason to praise nor critique you on your mission. The fact is, I was able to confirm that Excalvur Angel-Ion had been delayed somewhat.

Avaloss: T-thank you my lord!

Shen: You will be remembered as a foundation stone for the greater good for all of Kyloto.

Avaloss: R-remembered?

Shen fires a beam of red aura at Avaloss. A massive hole appears in his chest. He flies into a wall, dead.

- Shogun of the Gikoku Family - Oran Mandarin: I see you are pleased with your result.

Shen: Yes.

Oran: I'm also curious about your dubiousness from yesterday's meeting.

Shen unseats himself and walks to the balcony behind the throne.

Shen: The fact of the matter is, this Vladimir Wolf, and this Crowned, both hold my interest. They could be useful to the Dominion.

Oran: And a possible detriment.

Shen: Yes. I'm aware of that. As for Angel-Ion, I am assuming he has, by now, either reached Sabaria, or has had sudden luck gifted to him.

Oran: What are you suggesting?

Shen: One of the countries north of Sabaria is Venland. They had a war recently. There is a chance that escapees from Venland travelled south and discovered him on their travels. Granted, he may have to completely avoid Sabaria in order to receive such a potential fortune.

Oran: I see. What are you going to do now?

Shen begins walking off.

Shen: I'm going to interrogate Excalvur Tanzar-Ion.

The Drive

27th March, 1215 AC

Luther sits in a spacious room, practicing some fire magic. He manages to create a short burst of flames appear in the palm of his hand, before they quickly dissipate.

Angel-Ion strolls into the room aimlessly.

Angel-Ion: Oh. I thought I heard somebody.

Luther looks in Angel-Ion's direction, and then returns to practicing fire magic.

Angel-Ion: Oh, "good morning" to you too, then!

Luther: Um... yeah, sorry, Good morning.

Luther suddenly creates a larger fire ball in his hand. It stays for some time before it dissipates. Ruselt walks in on this.

Ruselt: I see you have progressed quite a bit.

A Crewman walks by, and informs the group that Novalia is now in sight.

Angel-Ion approaches the window and looks out.

Ruselt also heads to the window as the Novalian coastline comes into view.

Angel-Ion: So where is this place your uncle told you to go to?

Luther: Um...South of a town called Ludlow, on top of a hill by the lake.

Angel-Ion: ... And how far is that from here?

Luther: We're approaching Atlas now, so probably just over 1000 kilometers. 

Angel-Ion: So it's all the way over there, on the other side of that mountain?

Luther: Y-yeah...

A pair of airships begin rising up from Atlas.

Airship Speaker: You are entering Novalian airspace! Please allow us to escort you safely to the port!

Luther walks off towards the loading area of the airship. Ruselt soon follows.

Luther: Remember brother, we are wanted here. We need to be more discrete this time.

Ruselt: You don't say.

The airship is suddenly blasted.

Angel-Ion: What the hell was that?!

The two airships explode, while the groups' recieves another hit.

Angel-Ion grabs his sword.

Angel-Ion: We're being attacked!

Luther freezes in panic, but Ruselt grabs a railing. Ruselt then grabs hold of Luther's arm.

Vulkas seemingly comes out of nowhere.

Vulkas: Fuck, Angel-Ion you're with me! Ruselt and Luther find a place where you wont get hurt!

Vulkas rushes to see who could be attacking them.

Angel-Ion: I've got a better idea!

Angel-Ion grabs Vulkas by the collar. He blasts a hole in the side of the airship before grabbing Ruselt, yanking him from the rail.

Angel-Ion: LET'S GO!

Angel-Ion leaps out of the airship, taking Vulkas, Ruselt and Luther with him. Luther just closes his eyes.

Ruselt: YOU IDIOT!

Vulkas: THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING?!

Angel-Ion: I'm not willing to die! Now listen up! I want the three of you to link hands, and don't let go! That includes you, Luther!

Luther links hands with Ruselt and Vulkas.

Angel-Ion releases his grip on Ruselt and Vulkas before linking his hands with theirs. He spreads out his wings, increasing their lift as they glide down, avoiding the falling debris. They land in a field near Atlas, in tall grass. The airship crashes not too far away.

Angel-Ion: Well, looks like we all made it-- Shit. I forgot about the crew on board!

Ruselt glares at Angel-Ion before reassuring a trembling Luther.

Angel-Ion begins running towards the airship, drawing his sword. Suddenly, a pair of strange vehicles and a bunch of men arrive on the scene, circling the wreckage. Angel-Ion gets down as a figure looks his way.

Meanwhile

Soldier: What is it?

Other Soldier: Nothing.

Soldier: Well pay attention over here, shithead.

The soldier bashes the other soldier over the head with his weapon. The others begin pulling the crewmen from the ship, and dividing them between the survivors and the deceased. A figure steps out of one of the vehicles.

Soldier: These are all the survivors, sir.

- Galahad Arms / "Black Knight": ... There are no survivors.

The soldiers look at each other before executing the surviving crew members.

Black Knight: Confiscate their equipment, and make it quick. The Clockwatch will be here soon.

Soldier: Sir, may I point out that this airship's model is not like any from the Allied Nations.

Black Knight: I know. He'll be glad to hear that.

Black Knight climbs into his vehicle, which drives off. The soldiers begin taking things from the corpses and the wreck before they too leave.

Ruselt: Are you alright?

Luther: I was just thrown out of an airship...

Angel-Ion: We should get moving. Some people called the "Clockwatch" are due to arrive.

Vulkas: I swear to god if I don't get a replacement for my ship, I'm done with this.

Angel-Ion: Don't blame me. We were attacked... And I think those guys that were over there were the cause of it.

Angel-Ion begins walking towards the nearby city.

Ruselt shrugs at Luther and follows Angel-Ion. Luther follows soon after.

Vulkas begrudgingly follows close, looking around as they walk.

Black Hand

The group arrive in an alley in Atlas.

Angel-Ion: So what do we do first? We don't want to draw any attention to ourselves.

Ruselt: I don't know. I hadn't planned for the ship to crash.

Luther looks at Ruselt.

Luther: We can't exactly just walk through the city. People will recognise us, and Novalia isn't exactly a country where we are accepted.

Angel-Ion: Don't you have those disguises of yours?

Luther and Ruselt both look at each other, and complete their disguises with flat caps, which hide their eyes when they tilt their heads down.

Angel-Ion pulls a dark cowl around his face. He begins walking out onto the street.

Vulkas simply pulls up a hood and leaves it at that.

Angel-Ion: I guess we're heading for the port...?

Ruselt: Yeah. Then we can get an airship to Ludlow.

Angel-Ion: ... Which way is it?

Angel-Ion looks around for any clues, such as signposts.

Luther finds a sign post towards the port, and gestures towards Ruselt.

Ruselt: The port is this way.

Angel-Ion begins walking in Ruselt's direction. He looks at Luther.

Angel-Ion: You really need to start coming out of that shell of yours.

Luther's eyes narrow and he stares coldly at Angel-Ion.

Ruselt: I wouldn't try. He'll come out of his shell in his own time.

Angel-Ion: Suit yourself.

Angel-Ion walks on, reaching a fork in the path. He glances at the two and begins walking down the wrong path.

Ruselt: Um, you're going the wrong way.

Angel-Ion: Oh, right.

Vulkas sighs.

Angel-Ion turns around and goes down the right path. He suddenly hears a loud "look out!", as another figure runs forwards, crashing into Ruselt.

Ruselt falls to the ground and looks towards the figure.

Vulkas: Fucking hell!

Ruselt: Hey! Look where you are going!

Mysterious Person: I'm sorry! Sorry!

The man begins picking up Ruselt's things and hurriedly hands them back to him.

Mystery Soldier: Get back here, Dultra! I'll kill you!

Several men looking like the ones from the airship begin running in their direction. Passersby spot Ruselt, whose hat was knocked off.

Passerby: It's a...

Passerby #2: A Venlon!

Vulkas: Here we go.

Soldier: Dultra!!!

The mysterious figure runs off with Ruselt's hat and a few other things still in his hands. The soldiers run past the group, ignoring them. Angel-Ion purposely trips up the one at the back. The soldier gets back up.

Soldier: What's the big ide-- You're... You're not from around here! You're a Kylotean!

Angel-Ion knocks him back down to the floor, scaring away the pedestrians.

Ruselt: Where is the little bastard!? I swear I am gonna r-

Luther: He didn't steal much. He might not be worth it.

Vulkas: He might not be worth it, but we don't know that do we?

Soldier: ... None of you are from around here, are you?!

Angel-Ion knocks the soldier to the floor with the side of his sword. He pins the guy to the floor.

Soldier: Wh-what are you doing?!

Angel-Ion: I just want some answers. First things first, who are you people?

Soldier: Why should I tell you?1

Angel-Ion: Unless you want to get away with only one half of your body, I would suggest you tell me.

Soldier: Fuck you!

Angel-Ion stabs his sword into the man's arm.

Soldier: AAAAGH! ALRIGHT! I'LL TALK! I'LL TALK!

Angel-Ion: Good, so I'll ask you again. Who are you people? You seem to be in some kind of organised group. Who are they?

Soldier: We're... We're the "Galahad Arms."

Angel-Ion: Ok. Next question. Why did you attack our airship?

Soldier: That was your airship? Bah!

Angel-Ion twists his sword.

Soldier: AAAGH! I don't know, ok?! All I know is that a foreign airship appeared and that "Black Knight" dealt with its appearance! I'm just a low-ranked soldier who was sent to collect that guy's... Debt.

Angel-Ion: What kind of debt?

Soldier: This is official Galahad Arms business, I'm not gonna tell a third-string like you what we're-- AAAGH!

Angel-Ion: You forget that I still have this blade inside your arm. Now tell me. What debt?

Soldier: ... That guy owes us money, he's a theif who tried to steal an important tool from our warehouse. We told him that if he doesn't pay up, we'll kill him.

Angel-Ion: I don't like the sound of that. Guys, what should we do with this moron?

Ruselt: Hide him somewhere. The last thing we need is a murder conviction.

Soldier: Pfft. You can't kill me! If you do, the rest of the Arms will be after your heads!

Vulkas: And if we don't kill him he'll end up bringing his friends to us.

Angel-Ion: Let's just see about that shall we--

Four motorcycles appear.

Clockwatch Officer: Stay where you are, all of you!

Luther: Damn...

Ruselt: Should we make a run for it?

Vulkas: No, just keep quiet.

Luther sneakily takes the pistol from the wounded soldier and puts it in his pocket. He makes sure he stays behind Angel-Ion during this.

Clockwatch Officer: You two there. You are the missing Visarion children, are you not?

Ruselt: No? Just travellers. Hehe.

Officer: ... Don't try to be funny with me. We have a warrant for your arrest. As for the rest of you, we're gonna have to arrest you all too.

Vulkas: I said keep quiet...

Soldier: Shit... I can't go to jail!

Officer: Too bad, criminal scum. Now, lay down your weapons and we'll--

Angel-Ion runs off, cutting one of the motorcycles in half.

Ruselt and Luther then both make a run for it, and follow Angel-Ion. Vulkas follows behind.

Clockwatch Officer: After them!

The Clockwatch officers hop onto their motorcycles and give chase.

Luther: *While running, he looks to Ruselt* How can we expect to outrun motorcycles!?

Ruselt: Can't you use magic!?

Luther: Do you have any idea how hard it is!?

Ruselt: JUST DO IT!

Luther: FINE!

Luther suddenly creates a small defence shield behind the group. One of the motorcycles crashes into it, the other two dodge.

Vulkas: Nice! Im pretty proud.

Ruselt: Where are we even going!?

Angel-Ion: After the theif guy. They're gonna kill him if we don't hurry. 

Clockwatch Officer: Come back here!

One of the officers pulls out a weapon of some kind, which electrifies. He draws close to Luther.

Clockwatch Officer: You're mine!

Luther steps back, but quickly pulls out the pistol and aims it at the officer.

The officr swings down his weapon.

Ruselt quickly steps in, and blocks the baton with his sword.

The officer is pushed back, falling off of the motorcycle, which crashes into a crate. The officer gets up and runs forwards. He strikes Luther with his baton, briefly electrocuting him.

Luther falls to the ground. Ruselt sees this and quickly approaches the officer. He hits the officer with the pommel of his falchion over and over again, before knocking him the the ground. He proceeds to angrily punch the officer in the face repeatedly, knocking him out.

Luther looks in shock at Ruselt. Ruselt then approaches Luther, and helps him up.

Luther: *Stuttering* Thanks

They see some other Clockwatch officers in the distance approaching, and then continue running.

Angel-Ion notices the other officers approaching.

Angel-Ion: Get in front of me!

Angel-Ion jumps up and draws out his sword. He slashes the air, creating a wall of fire, preventing the officers from passing.

Remaining Officer: You're in a lot of trouble now!

Angel-Ion kicks the remaining officer off of his bike and mounts it himself. He speeds ahead.

Ruselt: Really!?

Luther finds the crashed motorcyle and gets on it. 

Luther: Get on the back

Ruselt reluctantly obliges, and sits on the back.

Ruselt: Wait, do you even know how to drive one of these?

Luther: Eh, I can figure it out, Angel-Ion clearly has.

Luther then follows Angel-Ion on the motorcycle.

The G.A soldiers and the theif soon come into view. Angel-Ion drives up behind one of the soldiers and cuts them down by the legs. He jumps from the bike and lands in front of the theif.

Mysterious Person: Bwah!

Angel-Ion: We're here to help. Just give us our stuff back first.

Mysterious Person: O-Ok.

He throws Ruselt's things into Angel-Ion's hands.

Soldier: That Kylotean has some nerve... Wait... Where's Bill and Charlie?!

Soldier #2: Charlie's over there! He's injured!

Soldier: Grr... You're gonna pay for that, you little shit.

The soldier pulls out a pistol.

Angel-Ion: Do us a favour. Get behind me.

The theif gets behind Angel-Ion.

Angel-Ion: Shit gets real here, boys!

The soldier fires at Angel-Ion, who [[[deflects the bullets with his sword,]]] before impaling him with the sword. The other soldiers spring into action and charge at all sides.

Luther and Ruselt get off their motorcycle. Ruselt goes off to assist Angel-Ion by attacking some soldiers with his sword.

Luther however shoots a gas tank on a motorcycle near some of the soldiers. He then creates a small fireball and uses it to ignite the fuel. It causes a small explosion that knocks down several soldiers.

Vulkas shoots a few soldiers before creating draconic energy onto his hands that form into large claws, and starts cutting down soldiers, occasionally firing draconic magic at ones that are farther.

The theif pulls out some throwing knifes and throws them at some soldiers.

Angel-Ion: Ah, so you can fight as well?

Mysterious Person: I don't see why not.

Angel-Ion: Then why didn't you do so earlier?

Mysterious Person: I was outnumbered, you idiot!

Angel-Ion: ... True.

Vulkas: What do you mean true? Being outnumbered isn't everything.

Angel-Ion slices the hand off of one of the few remaining soldiers.

Ruselt and Luther approach Angel-Ion, Vulkas and the thief. Ruselt knocks out a few soldiers on the way.

Ruselt: *Looks at the thief* Where are my things?

Angel-Ion throws them to Ruselt, before cutting down one of the last soldiers.

Remaining Solider: You'll... You'll regret this!

He runs away.

Angel-Ion: So... Who are you?

- "Black Hand" - Lanval: My name's Lanval. Lanval Dultra.

Angel-Ion: So... We got info from one of their goons, and they said you tried to steal something from a warehouse.

Vulkas: Did you just say "goons"?

Lanval: Yeah... Its a strange gauntlet that the Arms got their hands on. They said that, if they found the jewel that goes inside the indent on the back of it, they could use it for serious levels of destruction on Novalia. They caught me trying to steal it.

Ruselt: So why did you mug me?

Lanval: I didn't. They started chasing me and I got panicked. I didn't mean to take your things as well.

Ruselt: Hmph. We need to head back to the port.

Angel-Ion: I've got a better idea.

Lanval: What's that?

Angel-Ion: That gauntlet you said about, if it truly is dangerous, then we can't let those guys keep hold of it.

Luther: *Mumbling* Fantastic, another diversion.

Ruselt: Where is the warehouse?

Lanval: I'll take you there.

Vulkas: I thought this would have been enough fighting for the day....

The Dark Arm

Lanval leads the group to near a large, guarded warehouse.

Angel-Ion: You managed to infiltrate this place?

Lanval: Uhh, yeah. Why?

Angel-Ion: It's heavily guarded.

Ruselt: We're just going to draw attention to ourselves.

Lanval: Please. You forget that I'm the guy who got in there. The only reason I got caught was because of a slight slip-up.

Vulkas: Sure.

Ruselt: Hmph.

Lanval: The back is the least guarded part of the warehouse, that's where I got in.

Angel-Ion: They would have increased the amount of guards there, then. The roof looks like the only way in.

Ruselt: You're kidding right?

Angel-Ion: Nope.

Angel-Ion runs around to one side of the building, where a set of stairs leads partway up the building. There are three guards on the stairs, one guarding a door. 

Ruselt and Luther stick together while following Angel-Ion.

Angel-Ion: Somebody take out the guards. 

Luther takes out his gun, but puts it back realising it would be too noisy.

Vulkas: I've got it. 

Vulkas raises his hand and a runic circle appears in the air, and small metal like spikes shoot forward from it, silently impaling the guards in their heads.

Ruselt: Did they need to die?

Vulkas: None of the guards would have asked that if we were the ones who were killed.

Luther takes in this information and memorizes it.

Vulkas silently walks over to the guards bodies and hides them, eventually making his way back to the door that was being guarded.

Angel-Ion presses his ear against the door. He hears talking. He signals to Vulkas that there are at least six people on the other side. He begins climbing up the very wall using his claws.

Vulkas looks at Angel-Ion before placing his hand to the wall for a some amount of time, before a symbol appears on it that is quite large. He starts climbing up the wall, which seems relatively easy.

Vulkas: Climb up.

Ruselt and Luther begin climbing.

Lanval follows behind, using a pair of knives to help him.

Angel-Ion reaches the roof and looks around.

Guard #1: Hey!

Guard #2: No trespassing!

Angel-Ion throws his sword at the first guard, before hitting the second across the face. He picks up the guard and throws him off the roof.

Angel-Ion: Watch out below!

The other guard runs up to Angel-Ion and attempts to stab him with the knife. Angel-Ion dodges and does a series of hand movements, before throwing his hands forwards. The guard is engulfed in flames.

Guard: AAAAIEEEEE!!!

The guard falls to the floor and begins smouldering.

Vulkas makes his way up.

Vulkas: Theres no way that no one heard that.

The guards from the inside of the door come out, having heard the fallen guard crashing down on the staircase. One looks up.

Guard: We got us some rats on the walls!

Lanval: Shit, shit, shit, shit!

Lanval begins climbing faster.

Guard: Fire!

Some guards begin shooting upwards.

Luther creates a shield in front of the guards, preventing them from shooting at the wall.

Angel-Ion helps Lanval up. He reaches down for Ruselt.

Vulkas provides cover for Angel-Ion in case any more guards sneak up on them.

Ruselt grabs Angel-Ion's hand and gets up. Luther keeps climbing.

Angel-Ion helps up Luther. Guards suddenly arrive on the roof.

Guard: Freeze!

Angel-Ion: Nah.

Angel-Ion swings his sword across, creating a fire slash that launches at the guards, critically wounding several.

Ruselt: So where is this gauntlet?

Vulkas takes out rope from his bag and starts tying up the guards just in case, and ties rope around their mouths.

Vulkas: The fact they said freeze is... Distasteful. 

Lanval: The gauntlet should be on Floor 3. We're just above Floor 5.

Ruselt: After you then.

The warehouse's alarms suddenly go off.

Angel-Ion: We should hurry.

Angel-Ion cuts a square opening into the floor and jumps inside, followed by Lanval. They land safely on the floor below, and find that they have accidentally gate crashed a game of poker.

Guard #1: It's Lanval!

Guard #2: Get them both!

Angel-Ion: I'm guessing none of you can hear the alarms?

A guard brings a knife close to Angel-Ion's face.

Angel-Ion: Hey! Don't be so rude, I was talking!

Angel-Ion breathes fire into the guard's face.

Vulkas jumps in after Lanval and Angel-Ion and stabs the guard who had fire breathed on his face in the heart.

Vulkas: You tend to talk too much, to be honest. And we already have an alarm going off, we don't need guards screaming when they're on fire.

Luther and Ruselt both drop in.

As the others fight the guards, Lanval steals the betting money from the table. He looks at somebody's hand of cards.

Lanval: Royal flush, eh? Could've been a winner.

Guard: That's my money you little shrimp!

The guard attempts to tackle Lanval, but Lanval ducks and cuts his throat.

Lanval: Too bad.

Vulkas makes his way to Lanval.

Vulkas: Oi, quit worrying about money and pay attention. Which way do we go?

Lanval: Well, down.

Angel-Ion flings a crate at some guards before sprinting down the stairs nearby. A guard runs up, but Angel-Ion kicks him back down. He looks around and sees that this is Floor 4. A guard runs at him, but he turns and cuts him in half.

Angel-Ion: I'm starting to wonder why some of these idiots aren't using their guns.

Suddenly, three bullets pierce Angel-Ion's right wing.

Angel-Ion: Geh. Spoke too soon.

Luther and Ruselt head down the stairs. Ruselt is persistent in staying in front of Luther.

Vulkas follows suit, constantly looking around them.

Angel-Ion rushes the guard, hitting his gun out of his hand with his sword. Angel-Ion presses his hand up beneath the guard's chin, before blowing his head off with fire. The other guards on the level begin making their way to the group's area.

Ruselt slashes at a guard's leg before elbowing him in the side of the head, knocking him unconcious. Another guard runs towards Ruselt, but Luther pulls out his gun and shoots him in the knee.

Another guard attempts to stab Luther with a knife from behind, but Angel-Ion impales the side of his head with his sword, before pulling it out and slicing the arm off of another knife wielding guard.

Vulkas shoots two oncoming guards in the chest before putting his pistols away and drawing his sword, making his way in the direction they need to go.

Angel-Ion and Lanval follow after Vulkas, both taking down a guard. Ruselt and Luther follow them.

They reach Floor 3, which is crawling with guards.

Lanval: We're here. It should be in the centre of the floor.

Lanval and Angel-Ion run forwards, with the latter cutting down a guard.

Guard: Open fire!

The guards fire at the group, who shield themselves with crates.

Vulkas: Its fucking suicide to run out there, just blindfire until anyone has a better idea!

Vulkas takes lobbing fireballs in the guard's direction.

Angel-Ion fires out a searing slash, taking down those at the front. Luther spots a passage he can sneak around.

Luther pulls out his pistol and begins sneaking around. He creates a small fireball in his other hand.

Lanval takes out a grenade, unaware of Luther's location and throws it. Luther sees it at the last second and turns to run back. It is too late however, and it explodes, launching Luther to the other side of a set of crates. He sustains shrapnel wounds to his arm and right leg. Blood drips down from the right side of his face.

Ruselt starts looking around and realises Luther has gone missing. In a daze, Luther can hear whispers coming from a crate marked with the word "CRUCIAL" on it.

Vulkas notices Luther has gone missing as well, and looks around.

Vulkas: Shit, where has Luther gone? Wasn't he just here with us?

Luther stands up, albeit unsteadily, and painfully. His curiosity takes over, and he finds something to pry the crate open with.

Inside it is a gold and black left-handed gauntlet, which has a hole on the back, as if something was to go there. It is the source of the intesifying whispers, which compel him to touch it.

Luther: *Raising his voice* Guys, I think a found it!

Luther grabs it.

Luther suddenly experiences a flash of light. He suddenly sees a vision of flames torrenting through darkness. He hears a voice, which sounds loud and threatening, which interupts itself.

Voice: I've seen you! Your hatred! Your fears! Your failures! LUTHER VISARION!

A silhouette of Roarak appears. It is pierced by thousands of arrows from the left and right.

Voice: YOU COULDN'T EVEN SAVE YOUR FATHER! YOUR MOTHER DIED AND ITS YOUR FAULT! YOUR FRIENDS SHALL PERISH!

Suddenly an unfamiliar silhouette appears. It's mouth opens, revealing sharp, fiery fangs. They lunge forwards, giving a repeated droste effect, followed with a demonic roar, before eventually crunching down. A black eye suddenly appears before closing. Luther experiences another flash before coming out of the vision. He finds that the gauntlet has fixed itself to his arm, and that some of his veins leading out from his hand are now black in colour.

Ruselt finds Luther sitting on the floor shaking, trying to pull the gauntlet off.

The others finish off the last of the guards before running over.

Angel-Ion: What happened-- You have the gauntlet?!

Lanval: Sweet! We got it!

Angel-Ion: Uh... Are you alright?

Luther: *stuttering heavily* I just touched it! I don't know what happened!

Vulkas turns to Lanval, his voice clearly somewhat angry.

Vulkas: Is there something you haven't told us? What's happend to Luther?

Lanval: I don't know! Honest! All I know is that the G.A wanted to use it as a destructive tool!

Angel-Ion: At least you're alive. Now we should get out of this shithole.

Angel-Ion spots the door from earlier. Two guards appear and block it.

Angel-Ion: Of course.

Ruselt grabs Luther's gun and shoots at them.

Angel-Ion: Alright! Let's go!

Angel-Ion runs towards the door. Suddenly, it and part of the wall its attached to come off, and a familiar figure flies in. They launch towards Angel-Ion, grabbing him with what appears to be talons before smashing him against a wall.

Black Knight: If you want things done, you'll have to do it yourself!

Tons of guards rush in from all areas and surround the group.

Black Knight: Well, boys, your luck has just run out.

Vulkas: This whole one liner thing is starting to get annoying.

Black Knight: Deal with it, fuckface. You're dealing with the Galahad Arms now.

Vulkas: Considering we've been dealing with you for quite a bit now, killing your guards I'm not that intimidated. 

Black Knight: Small fry that can be replaced. Take a good look. You're surrounded. Would you like to come easy? Or go down like your friend here?

Luther: *After some hesitation* Let us pass, or I'll fry every single one of you. 

Luther raises his left arm, showing the gauntlet.

Ruselt seems shocked by Luther's sudden confidence.

Black Knight: Hmm? Think we're all tough now?

Black Knight jumps in front of Luther and spin kicks him in the gut into a nearby crate.

Black Knight: *Sarcastically* Oh look at me! I have a glove! Oh what a god I am! PATHETIC! Now I'm gonna let you guys off. You have one last chance. Either comply with us, or we'll use--

Ruselt tries to punch Black Knight in the face.

Black Knight blocks the punch.

Black Knight: Force it is. Bag 'em.

The guards begin closing in on the group. Bags are placed over Angel-Ion's and Luther's heads and they are dragged away.

Lanval: Fuck! I don't wanna be bagged!

Black Knight: Too bad, squirt. Your friend here spoiled that.

Lanval puts up an struggle but gets bagged and dragged away.

Ruselt pulls up Luther's gun and aims it at Black Knight's head.

Vulkas draws his own pistols to cover Ruselt.

Black Knight: Pfft.

Black Knight throws out six knives from his armour, from unseen compartments. They distract the two long enough for guards to bag them. The lack of air inside the bags brings Ruselt close to falling unconcious.

Black Knight: Hmph.

Black Knight picks up a wrench and smashes it over Vulkas' head.

Black Knight: Take 'em to Galahad. Crowned will be pleased by this.

The Stormy King

29th March, 1215 AC Black Knight enters an office, where he meets face to face with another figure.

- Galahad Arms Commander-in-Chief - Crowned: So, these are the brats from that airship?

Black Knight: Yes, except for that one, Lanval Dultra. Their raid on the shipment warehouse would've succeeded if I hadn't intervened.

Crowned: Whether you intervened or not, the matter at hand is that the Gauntlet has fused itself to the boy's arm. I can take a loss like that. It has no ill effects on my plans for Novalia. Now, tell me, Lamorak, do you recognise these two?

Crowned pushes the sketches of Ruselt and Luther forwards.

Black Knight: They're those brats of that idiot king Roarak.

Crowned: Indeed. I have as much idea as you as to why they are here, or what they want, but I am certain it relates to their recent "war."

Black Knight: Are you planning of turning them in?

Crowned: No. Nor am I keeping them "prisoner." I have better plans in mind.

Crowned turns to his window, having a clear view of a casino and an arena from the gloomy city's Victory District.

Crowned: Send the two princes and our little thief to the casino. See if they can gamble their freedom.

Black Knight: And what of the Kylotean and the Runisian?

Crowned: Send them to the Underdome. They can fight for their freedom.

Victory is Golden

Ruselt, Luther and Lanval awaken in a gold, yellow and orange room, filled with gold decorations, tubes of magma in the corners of the room, and a large painting of a masked man with a sigma symbol on it. The floor is covered by an extravagant red carpet. The seats they are on are also red. The three find that their arms have been bound behind their backs. There are two bouncers in the room, by one of the two doors, it is teal in colour. On the other side of the door is a series of noises. The other door, grey in colour, eminates no sound whatsoever.

Lanval: Where the fuck are we?!

Ruselt looks over to Luther who is still shaken up.

Lanval: *Sigh* I hope this isn't their headquarters... Wait a minute. Where's Vulkas and Angel-Ion?!

Ruselt tries to slip his hands through the bindings. It fails to work.

Lanval: So...

Suddenly, the teal door opens and two bouncers come in, dragging another person towards the grey door.

Gambler: But I was cheated! I want my refund!

Bouncer: Your complaint will be dealt with sir.

He is dragged into the grey door. Soon, beating sounds are heard along with screams. The screams soon stop, but the beating carries on. It suddenly stops, and the bouncers leave the room, one with blood on his knuckles. He looks at the three in their bindings as they both exit through the teal door.

Ruselt: What the hell have we gotten ourselves into?

Lanval: I don't know, and I really don't like it.

The doors come open once again. A masked man with long, wild blonde hair, a white suit and orange shirt comes into the room, two bouncers beside him. The masked man's mask has a sigma symbol emblazioned on it.

- King of Victory - Sigma: You must be the three brats Crowned sent here! Welcome! Welcome to my palace!

Lanval: ... Palace?

Sigma: This is the V. Arcade Star Casino, my paradise, and the grand jewel of the Victory District!

Ruselt: And you are?

Sigma: I'm the Galahad Arms' top dog in terms of enterprise, the manager of this very casino, and the very king of the entire Victory District! Call me Sigma!

Lanval: Enterprise...? That means you run the whole entertainment system in Galahad, right?

Sigma: Yup. The entire system, and not just in Galahad too. Everywhere where the Arms' influence reaches, when there's entertainment, I'm calling the shots!

Ruselt: *Sarcastically* Well aren't you just precious...

Sigma: Nobody likes a snarker. If I hear one more crack like that from you, I'm taking one of your fingers.

Ruselt: What do you want from us?

Sigma: Nothing.

Lanval: Then why are you keeping us here?

Sigma: The boss has given orders to keep you three here. Your lives are being gambled. If you win, you are free to go. If you lose, your lives are forfeit.

Ruselt: Hmph. So where are Vulkas and Angel-Ion?

Sigma: Ah. Good question. They're currently in the "Underdome", fighting for their very lives, as we speak.

Ruselt: What are your terms?

Sigma: Hmm...

Sigma folds his arms and thinks.

Sigma: Poker. Winning deal. When you're ready, I'll see you in the lobby.

Sigma looks at the bouncers.

Sigma: Untie their bindings.

Sigma walks through the teal doors, but suddenly stops.

Sigma: Oh, and don't think about trying to escape. If we find you running rampant in places you shouldn't be, or get into a scrap with my staff, I'll have you shot on sight. Ta.

Sigma exits the door. The bouncers untie their bindings before leaving.

Luther stands up, only to collapse due to his leg injury.

Ruselt helps him up.

Luther: If only we'd just gone straight back to the port, instead of taking a fruitless detour to get this *Luther raises his gauntlet* fixed to my arm.

Ruselt: Yeah, well, it is too late now. So we might as well try and win.

Luther: How? We have never played poker.

Lanval: I guess that means we'll just have to be lucky.

Luther's eyes narrow as he looks at Lanval.

Lanval: What?

Ruselt: Let's just get this over with.

Ruselt, who is supporting Luther, heads in Sigma's direction.

Lanval follows behind. On the other side of the door is a large lobby, filled with machines and game tables, with vast numbers of players at the majority. In one corner is a bar, and at another is a lonely chess board with two elders playing. At the back is a poker table with Sigma sitting at it.

Sigma: Ah, boys. Please, sit.

Bouncers appear behind them, holding three seats forwards. A dealer comes to the table.

They sit down.

Sigma: Who'll be playing then?

Luther and Ruselt immediately look at Lanval.

Lanval: H-Hey! Don't look at me! Luther, w-why don't you play...?

Sigma: Seems as though you're all at a loss. I'll choose myself.

Sigma points to Ruselt.

Sigma: You.

Ruselt: *Sigh* Fine.

The dealer shuffles out two cards to Ruselt, and then two to Sigma. Ruselt's cards are a 10 of hearts and a 6 of spades.

Sigma: Hit me.

The dealer gives Sigma one card. It is Ruselt's turn.

Ruselt plants down his 6 of spades. The dealer gives him another card. This card is a 2 of clubs.

Sigma: Hit me.

The dealer hands Sigma another card.

Ruselt just puts the 2 of clubs forward, not really knowing what he is doing. He is given an 8 of hearts. He feels as though he needs to keep hold of this card. Sigma lays down one card, and is given another.

Gambler: Hey! What gives?! This machine robbed me of my money! This game is fixed!

Sigma suddenly looks annoyed.

Gambler: Where's the manager! I'd like to make a compla--

Sigma shoots the gambler in the back of the head, without turning his head from the table. He gazes at Ruselt.

Sigma: Your move.

Luther just stares blankly at Sigma.

Ruselt: Another card please.

The dealer hands Ruselt another card. It is a 4 of clubs. Ruselt instinctly feels the need to give up this card. Sigma lays down one card, and is handed another.

Ruselt puts the 4 of clubs forward. He recieves a 9 of hearts. Again, he instinctly thinks to keep this card. Sigma looks through his deck. He gives up a card. He is dealt another.

Ruselt asks for another card. He is given a 7 of hearts. He feels the need to keep this card as well.

Sigma: Hit me.

Sigma gets another card.

Ruselt gets another card. It is a 2 of spades.

Sigma rejects a card. He is given another.

Ruselt rejects the 2 of spades. He is dealt a 4 of hearts.

Sigma: Hold.

Ruselt rejects the 4 of hearts. He is given a 5 of clubs.

Sigma: Hold.

Ruselt notices that Sigma is grinning. Lanval sweats nervously.

Ruselt rejects the 5 of clubs. He is given a 7 of diamonds.

Sigma: Hold.

Ruselt rejects the 7 of diamonds. He is given a Jack of hearts.

Sigma: Hold.

Ruselt gazes at his hand carefully.

Ruselt: Hold.

Sigma: Hmm... I see. You seem confident in that hand of yours. Time to reveal.

Sigma places his hand on the table, and rolls his cards over, revealing a 3 of hearts, 3 of diamonds, 3 of clubs, 3 of spades and a 9 of diamonds.

Sigma: Four of a kind. Can you top that?

Ruselt puts down his cards, revealing a straight flush.

Bouncer: I'm sorry sir, he must have cheated, I'll search his body once I beat hi--

Sigma shoots the bouncer behind Ruselt dead.

Sigma: Frickin' smartass. The game was fair... Not bad for a rookie. A deal's a deal, you're free to leave. However... Don't think for one second that you're on top just because you won a round against the King of Victory. And, for the record, don't go try poking your rotten little noses in our business in future.

Sigma looks at his bouncers.

Bouncer: You, escort these three out. You, fetch me a martini.

The bouncer forcibly moves the chairs out from under the three.

Bouncer: This way.

The other bouncer leaves as two others arrive to take the corpse away.

Luther stares at Sigma and leaves the room, along with Lanval.

Sigma pings a gold coin with a stylised V on one side to Ruselt.

Ruselt: What's this?

Sigma: A lucky coin.

Ruselt gazes at it before leaving.

The three are brushed off out into the street of the Victory District.

Luther: Now we need to find Vulkas and Angel-Ion.

Lanval: That guy said they're in the "Underdome." I presume its that large dome over there.

Lanval begins walking towards a large dome.

Underdome LIVE!

Angel-Ion: Whoa... Where the fuck am I...?

Vulkas: Clearly not with everyone fucking else.

Angel-Ion: Where are you? I can't fucking see. It's pitch black in here!

Announcer: Welcome, challengers! This is the Underdome! You'll be fighting for your very lives! Your goal is to kill everyone!

Angel-Ion: ... What?

Announcer: Today's highlights are the two hooligan raiders from Atlas, the Kylotean, Angel-Ion Excalvur, and the Runisian, Vulkas Raido! You shall recieve double points of killing these two!

Angel-Ion: Oh... Fuck.

Vulkas: Are you kidding me? Every hour I'm starting to regret letting you guys on my ship...

Angel-Ion: Not my fault.

Lights suddenly turn on, revealing a tunnel system of sorts.

Announcer: Welcome everyone to today's Underdome death brawl!

There is a wild cheer coming from outside.

Announcer: We've got ourselves a lot of good contenders today! Who shall earn the most points? Who will spill the most blood? Who will be the victor of the day?! 

Vulkas remains silent, looking around the tunnel they are inside.

Angel-Ion: This place is weird. I can see light over there, and some other people further up this tunneling.

Angel-Ion attempts to move, but finds his feet are stuck.

Angel-Ion: Shit! I can't move!

Announcer: We will be starting shortly! Please head for your seats!

Angel-Ion: Seats? We're being watched?!

Announcer: This Underdome survival match is brought to you by Atlas Cola.

There are wild cheers coming from outside.

Vulkas: Considering there was a cheer, there has to be some sort of audience.

The people to the left and right of them begin grinning at them and licking their teeth.

Angel-Ion: I have a feeling we're gonna be first targets.

Announcer: Are you ready to rumble? Get set in 5... 4... 3... 2... 1... LET THE GAMES BEGIN!

The brawlers either side of the two charge forwards at them. Angel-Ion immediately pulls out his sword, cutting down two of the attacking brawlers.

Vulkas sends out a bolt of electricity that chain shocks the closest attackers to him at once.

Announcer: It looks like two of our high flyers have already begun racking up the numbers!

Angel-Ion: I'll go up, you go down.

Angel-Ion runs up, slicing a brawler in half.

Announcer: And our unburdened returning fighter, Tex, is wracking up many slaughters!

Angel-Ion: Huh?

Angel-Ion slices off an attacker's arm before burning their face to cinders.

Vulkas seemingly ignores the announcer as he continues taking down attackers coming nearby him, finally drawing his falchion.

Vulkas reaches the opened out centre of the area, which is a large sand pit with scrap metal and weapons littered around. Two fighters charge at him, one weilding a large, sharp piece of metal.

Brawler: Die, Runisian scum!

Vulkas fires a blast of draconic magic from his free hand at both of the brawlers.

Vulkas: Racist pricks.

A large spiked ball attached to a chain lands on a third attacker. A large gruff male walks over.

Announcer: It looks like Skullcrusher Zach has challenged Vulkas to a duel!

Zach: I'm going to mash you!

Vulkas: Wonderful.

Vulkas kneels down and creates a symbol on the sand.

Zach pulls his chain back and begins spinning it around.

Vulkas starts walking back, wary of what could be behind him as he attempts to get Zach to walk onto the symbol.

Zach swings his chain down.

Vulkas quickly dodges the chain.

Vulkas: Gonna have to get a bit closer than that to hit me.

Zach: You son of a bitch! I'll wreck you!

Zach charges forwards.

He steps on the symbol and suddenly the sand below him starts sinking rapidly, and Zach finds himself quickly falling into sand.

Zach: Wha-- What is this?!

Vulkas: That's called a trap. Now, would you rather suffocate to death or take a bullet to the head? Your choice.

Vulkas starts taking out his pistol.

Zach: Go to hell you bastard!

He begins trying to get free, but is unable to.

Vulkas: I already have my pistol out, so.

Vulkas shoots Zach in the head and puts his pistol away, walking off to fend off more attackers.

Meanwhile, Angel-Ion cuts apart more attackers before reaching the canopy as well. He charges forwards, slicing down two fighters before firing a fire blast at three others.

Announcer: Our competitors have now been whittled down to just 25! And two of our fan favourites, Skullcrusher Zach, and Ricksaw, have both been defeated!

A mad-man begins brutally slicing apart five competitors down.

Tex: DIE DIE DIE!

He repeatedly claws at another fighter's eyes before ripping their tongue out with his teeth.

Tex: YOU ARE DEAD! HAHAHAHA!

Vulkas: That's unsanitary.

Tex: YOU'RE NEXT!

Tex begins charging at Angel-Ion, cutting the throats of a further three fighters.

Tex: GET READY TO DIE, FILTH!

Angel-Ion: ...

Tex jumps towards Angel-Ion and prepares to slash him. Angel-Ion just lunges past him, his sword outstretched.

Angel-Ion: Scum like you don't know what it truly means to battle.

Tex begins bleeding across the chest, before sliding in half.

Announcer: Tex is down! I don't believe it!

Booing is heard from outside the arena.

Vulkas: And now he's made the whole audience hate him. He's made himself an even bigger target.

Vulkas continues cutting down various enemies.

Angel-Ion: What? We're supposed to survive, not get killed by homicidal maniacs.

Five attackers charge at the two, seemingly led by one individual.

Announcer: It looks like Daran the Tactician has decided to strike these new challengers!

Angel-Ion: Huh?

Three more attackers spring out of the sand behind them.

Brawler: We have 'em now, Daran!

Daran: G-good! You lot keep up the good work!

Daran takes a few steps back and Angel-Ion begins to burn some of the attackers with a burning slash.

Vulkas covers his hand in draconic magic that forms into a claw hand, clawing through the remaining attackers as he seems to head towards Daran.

Daran: W-wait! Don't kill me! Team up with me! I just wanted to get rid of those guys!

Vulkas: We can do that by ourselves.

Vulkas draws his pistol and shoots at him, but he dives out of the way quickly.

Daran: Please! I want to live! Let me help you!

Vulkas: You either die by a bullet, or you either die being torn apart by other brawlers here. I'm pretty much giving mercy.

Vulkas shoots again.

Daran dodges again.

Daran: PLEASE!

Angel-Ion: Ugh. Fine.

Angel-Ion turns around as Daran grins. He lunges forwards to attack Angel-Ion while his guard is down. Angel-Ion turns and cuts off his legs.

Daran: AGH!

Angel-Ion: Despicable. We tried to be nice. Vulkas, give him his mercy prize.

Daran: Ahh... Nooo!!!

Vulkas: It would have been nicer for you if you just let me shoot you.

Vulkas rushes over to Daran and uses his draconic claw hand to slice his face open.

Announcer: And there goes Daran! His final trecherous tactic has gone down in failure. And it looks like we're down to our final five! It's time to close the tunnels up!

The tunnels sudenly seal up. Banging is heard from one.

Fighter: Help! Help! Let me out! Please!

Gas fills the tunnel. The man begins coughing to death.

Announcer: Now its between Angel-Ion Excalvur, Vulkas Ruido, Andreas Rickshaw and our favourite, Sinbad Gualock!

Andreas: Pfft. Favourite? This little shit weasel?

Sinbad: Hmph. If you hadn't realised, this is MY show, after all.

Announcer: Is he... He isn't! Sinbad's going to use the Hoodstomper!

Angel-Ion: The what?

A large hatch opens up underneath Sinbad, who purposefully drops in. A large object, resembling two gigantic stilts attached to a series of gears, ropes and chains, emerges. Sinbad is strapped into it, his arms in the air, attached to ropes connecting to each stilt.

Sinbad: Hoodstomper ENGAGED!

The Hoodstomper moves towards Andreas, who trips over a corpse as he tries to run.

Sinbad: Bye bye!

The Hoodstomper stamps on Andreas, killing him.

Sinbad: Who's next?

Vulkas: Is that fucking machine even allowed?

Sinbad: Of course.

Sinbad begins marching it towards Vulkas.

Sinbad: You've both made it this far. I didn't expect this much from a bunch of low-lifes who attacked our warehouse in Atlas!

Angel-Ion: You're another scoundrel from the Galahad Arms, aren't you!

Sinbad: Who wants to know?!

Vulkas: Obviously us. We asked.

Sinbad: ... Never mind. It won't matter to you when we are in the afterlife!

Sinbad prepares to stomp Vulkas. Angel-Ion launches over and fire slashes the left leg of the Hoodstomper.

Sinbad: Gah! What are you doing, you idiot?!

Angel-Ion: Taking down this little toy of yours.

Sinbad: Grr...!

Sinbad kicks a large amount of sand at the two.

Vulkas: Distract him Angel-Ion! I'm gonna be busy setting things up.

Vulkas starts setting more symbols on the sand.

Sinbad: I heard that.

Sinbad begins charging at Vulkas.

Angel-Ion: Damn it!

Angel-Ion chases after Sinbad.

Vulkas slows down and turns around, creating a quick wall of fire to slow down Sinbad, and he continues making symbols.

Vulkas: Kinda need you to do a better job Angel-Ion!

Angel-Ion: You ran that mouth of yours off, and he heard you! Don't blame me for your mistakes!

Sinbad: I agree.

Angel-Ion; Stay out of this, you!

Angel-Ion jumps up and cuts a few ropes from the Hoodstomper, which starts to limp.

Vulkas: Because I'm able to fucking communicate telepathically.

Vulkas starts placing symbols faster, and soon finishes, and Vulkas starts leading him into a circle of symbols.

Angel-Ion: Why didn't you do that, then?!

Sinbad spots the markings and stops. He begins moving around them.

Vulkas: I  WAS BEING SARCASTIC, HOLY SHIT.

The moment he spots them, Vulkas has already set one off and jumps back, and the sand starts sinking in rapid succcestion in such a large amount, it still catches one of the stilts of Sinbad's machine, starting to slow him down.

Sinbad pulls it back. Angel-Ion lunges forwards and prepares to attack, but bumps into an oncoming Sinbad instead. Sinbad launches out of the Hoodstomper, while Angel-Ion is trapped.

Angel-Ion: Fuck! I'm stuck!

He notices his squirming correlates to the Hoodstomper's movements. He glances at Sinbad and smiles. Sinbad starts to run away as Angel-Ion chases after him.

Angel-Ion: FEAR ME!!! Hahaha!

Vulkas: This isn't some sort of game Angel-Ion! 

Angel-Ion: I thought they said it was!

Angel-Ion mistakenly steps on one of Vulkas' traps.

Vulkas: Damnit Angel-Ion! 

Vulkas takes out his pistol and starts firing in Sinbad's direction.

Sinbad: Fuck!

Sinbad jumps down behind a sand dune.

Angel-Ion collapses into a sand pit. He emerges from the wrecked Hoodstomper with his sword out.

Angel-Ion: Where's he hiding?

Announcer: Only five minutes remain!

Vulkas: He's trying to wait out for the time to end! I don't think we're gonna end up being released from here if he's left alive!

Vulkas points to the sand dune he went behimd.

Angel-Ion: Alright!

Angel-Ion flies towards the dune. Sinbad peeks over and sees him.

Sinbad: FUCK!

He begins running. Angel-Ion brings his sword down on his left arm, slicing it off.

Sinbad: Hmph.

Sinbad turns and kicks Angel-Ion in the side of the face.

Vulkas quickly speeds over to the two, slicing at Sinbad's back. Sinbad quickly counters with his severed left arm. Gears spring out of it.

Angel-Ion: What the...?

Angel-Ion notices that the rest of Sinbad's left arm is mechanical.

Angel-Ion: What the hell is wrong with your arm?!

Sinbad gazes at his right arm.

Sinbad: There's nothing wrong with it.

Angel-Ion: Your other arm!

Sinbad: But I don't have a-- Oh. Lost that. Replaced it with this.

Vulkas: We have a time limit! Enough talking!

Announcer: Time over!

Angel-Ion catches Sinbad sighing.

Angel-Ion: What? Relieved that you get to live?

Sinbad: No. I'm just relieved that I get to stop running to and fro.

Sinbad drops his arm on the floor and walks off.

Announcer: Lets see who earned the most points!

A screen shows up and shows that Angel-Ion got the most points, followed by Vulkas and then Sinbad.

Announcer: Today's winner is the Kylotean, Angel-Ion Excalvur! Come and claim your prize!

Later.

Angel-Ion and Vulkas emerge from the Underdome. Angel-Ion is wearing some kind of champion belt.

Vulkas: You know we'd get better use of that if you sold it.

Angel-Ion: ... I'm not getting rid of it. I keep what I earn. Now we've gotta figure out where the others are.

Lanval: Hey, there they are!

Lanval, Ruselt and Luther run over to Angel-Ion and Vulkas.

Lanval: What's with the belt.

Angel-Ion: Won it.

Ruselt: Look, enough playing around. We just had to gamble with our lives, so let's just cut to the chase. We are going to get to a port, and quickly. No more detours.

Luther looks at Lanval

Ruselt: We just head straight to Ludlow.

Lanval: Ludlow? That's to the east of here. The only port we can access is back in Atlas, which is south.

Angel-Ion: I think it would be better to head directly to Ludlow rather than head all the way to Atlas and then back up.

Lanval: If we were to do that, we will have to stock up on food, especially since Mt. Hora reaches down between here and there. Although... I've heard there's a town near the northern foot of Mt. Hora... Chepstow... I think. We can rest there.

Luther: *Stammering* Mount Hora is weeks away, Ludlow is even further. So unless we have an airship, or a car, we aren't getting there any time soon.

Lanval: And where do you plan on getting one?

Angel-Ion: You're a thief aren't you? Can't you just... Steal one?

Lanval: We're in the middle of fucking Galahad Arms territory. If they catch us stealing an airship, we're dead!

Luther: *mumbles* Didn't stop you from trying to steal the gauntlet...

Angel-Ion: I guess we'll have to walk then.

From nearby buildings, figures begin watching the group. They remain unnoticed.

A Fearful Deadlock

30th March, 1215 AC

Orchus waits patiently in a room with a large table, with Levian flags hanging on the walls everwhere, and guards surrounding the whole room, extremely still and heavily armed. He quickly checks to see if his hair is properly combed.

Inara Winters then enters the room, albeit slowly. She pauses and scans the room. She observes the flags, the guards, and Orchus' exceptionally neat hair.

Inara: Well, you certainly know how to make a woman blush on her first date.

Orchus smiles softly before taking a deep breath. He gestures towards one of the chairs.

Orchus: Do please take a seat. And unfortunately that isn't what this meeting won't be about. We do, have another guest that should be showing up soon.

Inara pulls the chair out and sits down. Inara stares briefly at one of the guards, purposefully making him nervous. She smirks slightly and turns to Orchus.

Inara: Do you have any refreshments?

Orchus says a few words in Levian and a butler carrying a plate of various drinks such as water, wine, and vodka walks over to Inara.

Orchus: Your choice.

Inara takes the wine. She quite confidently takes a sip. Inara looks at her watch.

Inara: My, my, he really isn't the punctual type is he?

Footsteps are suddenly heard from a corridor. Appearing from it are Shen, Oran and an unknown female individual. They sit.

Shen: Greetings.

Orchus squints his eyes.

Orchus: Wonderful that you've showed up. You appear to have brought a few friends. I don't believe anyone was told to bring friends.

Oran: Lord Shen never leaves Kyloto on his own. As the Shogun of the Gikoku Family, I am sworn to be at his beside during times like this.

Shen: And why, may I ask, was I summoned here?

Orchus's eye twitches.

Orchus: You, along with Ms. Winter's were summoned for a proposition. As you both know the strings that keeps countries all nice and happy together are starting to grow tense. I'd like to relieve a few of these strings. I can assure you this room will only be for civilized conversations. This also means no smashing my glasses unless you want to be thrown out of the window. *Orchus looks at Shen*

Shen: ... Is that a challenge?

Inara: Ooh, the boys are getting feisty!

Orchus ignores Inara's remark.

Orchus: No, however it is a threat. Unless you'd like to actually pay for the things you'd break. Besides, we have...sake? I believe thats what it is. Yes, we have sake available.

Shen: Your threats are empty.

Shen raises a pre-filled gourd of sake onto the table.

Inara: So are both of your thick skulls. *Smirks*

Orchus: And both of your senses of humor are even more empty. Now i'd prefer if there was less hostility festering in the air during the time of this meeting. As I said before we are here to ease the tense strings of Helios, not set them on fire. We are civilized leaders of the world, not bickering children.

Oran: I concur. It seems as though the Allied Nations alone has already tipped the balance of this continent significantly with its recent war against Venland.

Inara: My, the world is falling apart. Vladimir Wolf takes a city in Tythan, the Allied Nations start an illegal war with Venland, Sabaria has constant in-land conflicts with itself, Novalia gets overrun with terrorists, and Helios is at its boiling point. Isn't it exciting?

Orchus: Exciting is a word i'd use last to describe whats going on. I think its obvious what I want to create with you all.

Inara: A pact, so that we may be mutally secure in the event of an all out war etc? *Alliances like this often escalate wars even further. This could get very interesting indeed.*

Shen: I'm mostly concerned with Haphae. They've set up a settlement for the sole purpose of keeping us away, and we are at potential risk from an attack. From a viewpoint established from the last meeting, I can see their Premier forming a pact with Vladimir Wolf, which can have a much greater affect on us as a whole.

Inara: Getting nervous Shen dear? You should be. *Inara smiles* However, you have on advantage. Phillotus underestimates you. His snobbery is his fatal flaw.

Orchus: Underestimating a person and underestimating a country are two different things however. But yes I agree, Phillotus has lost the stick and I do believe I have an idea of where it is. Considering the risk of those two forming a pact is so great it only makes sense to form one of our own.

Inara: I have a few conditions of course.

Orchus: You're free to express them of course.

Inara: I want complete control over the Northern Gulf. Including access to the oil beneath.

Orchus: It sounds somewhat resonable, but this pact wont just be all about taking. You can get the gulf. However in return I'd want assurance for whatever move I'd make to gain lost territory back in a different form, as well as Levia still staying in complete control of the coastline.

Inara: Deal. 

Inara looks over to Shen and Oran.

Inara: What about you Shenny? What do you want out of this?

Shen: For you to stop making ill of my name for a start. Secondly, I'm after greater security for Kyloto, to prevent any attacks from the eastern coast, and from Haphae.

Inara rolls her eyes. 

Inara: So humourless and stringent. But of course. I can send a few ships to the eastern coast of Kyloto.

Orchus: I ask of the same, If Hapahe starts making any moves I expect you to support Levia with protection. For once you can actually show this "power" your dominion has. Of course I shall grant the same in return. And to make things easier, cheaper imports from Kyloto.

Inara: Hmmph. Seems fair. I'll have what he's having. Mutual security, and a discount on jewellery and gold imports.

Shen: We have enough gold to meet your satisfaction.

Orchus: Now that conditions have been sorted out, I do believe its time to go onto the topic of a certain Vladimir Wolf.

Inara grins. 

Inara: He is a fun one isn't he?

Orchus: His... Stunt has become quite the large concern for more than just myself I'd think.

Oran: You're forgetting the bigger picture. There is not one, but three names which hold concern as of recent. In addition to Vladimir Wolf, there is also "Crowned", of the Galahad Arms, and Imperator Argus of Sabaria. I presume the latter declined his invitation to this meeting?

Orchus: He did. However it's called going over one at a time. Makes things easier and more concise. I will say it once more, the topic should remain onto Vladimir Wolf for the time being, and I'd prefer if your ruler would speak more than you did.

Shen: Mandarin has more than enough right to speak in my stead. Remember that well, Retaliak Orchus. And don't give me any of your anxieties about who between us should rule over Kyloto, you have your own issues on your plate that come first.

Orchus: He can speak in your stead in your own country. This is my capital and my meeting room. You will remember where you are, Gikoku. I have not said which one of you should lead your country, and to be fair I couldn't care less. Both of you appear to be men who don't follow the rules of their host's house anyway. This is my country, and you will not speak to me that way here. We are talking about Vladimir Wolf, and every remark you make regarding something else wastes all of our time.

Inara suddenly slams her hands on the desk, making a loud bang that startles some of the guards. It causes a brief silence across the room. She smiles smugly.

Inara: Ladies, please, we are all of different cultures here. I think this meeting would be a lot more efficient if you would stop arguing over who had a bigger cock.

Shen: Hmph. It seems we all have options to consider.

Orchus: We can consider those options later. Vladimir Wolf is a growing problem. A tumor of sorts. If he were to take over all of Tythan this would be the most extrreme cause for concern regarding my country, and likely yours as well Inara. We all know a man like Wolf would hold quite a bit of disdain to people like us.

Inara: We need to strike early, or at least prevent him from taking Promethia. Who would you rather deal with? The brilliant military strategist, Vladimir Wolf, or the ineffective moron-turned-president, Ivanovich Ketrov?

Orchus: When you say it like that the choice is obvious, isn't it?

Inara: Indeed. An swift attack could prove useful. Although, be careful with Haphae. You saw how Cercyon openly supported Wolf's cause.

Oran: I think it is about time we discussed Crowned and the Galahad Arms. Their forces already prove risky for Helios as a whole. They already have the city of Galahad under their control, and have had apparent sightings outside of Novalia. Our missionaries have already reported sightings of their ships heading south of Kyloto.

Inara: All I can say is that Deciduous was suspiciously reluctant to discuss the topic of the Galahad Arms at the world conference. 

Inara smiles and takes a sip of her wine.

Shen: He stormed off when the issue was pointed out to him. What a joke.

Shen takes a swig out of his gourd.

Orchus: That whole world conference was a joke. Almost everyone there made a fool with himself and if Phillotus and Ansuz weren't there the rest of them would like'y still be yelling at each other. 

Inara: It was a good time though. 

Oran: Can we please return to the subject at hand? We need to discuss both Crowned and Imperator Argus, and how they are potential threats.

Orchus: I'd understand the Galahad arms every so slihglty but Imperator Argus? I don't think he'd be moronic enough to wage war.

Oran: You're forgetting that Argus has inticed at least thirty conflicts against that "verrucka" of his.

Inara: The Galahad Arms will be an absolutely fascinating specimen. Alas, reports indicate recklessness. Although, at this time, they can afford to be, as Deciduous is reluctant to try and fix the problem. One might think there is something personal, or maybe it could be a very Underground-esque puppet leader situation. 

Inara looks down at her half empty wine glass. 

Inara: Although I am sure Phillotus will find out soon enough what is going on.

Oran: I'm somewhat concerned for Argus' "verrucka." Its a city filled with people from across Helios, meaning there's a chance that there are Galahad Arms agents crawling through it. As for the main branch, there is a certain family who formally lived in Kyloto, which we suspect has ties to the Arms.

Shen: The "Angelus" family. Our scouts have reported that the last recorded patriarch's child is a mixed breed, between a Kylotean and Novalian. We have no information regarding their name or status, but we're certain this child has a place amongst the Arms.

Inara: Mercrian agents couled "ask around" in dark corners to find out information regarding the child's name.

Oran: This was several years ago. This child would now be an adult. I suspect they wouldn't be on a low rank, either.

Inara: You'd be suprised how easy information like that is to come by.

Orchus: Now that we've addressed the Arms problem, are we also done with Argus or would you prefer to continue talking about him?

Inara: Argus is a sweetheart ain't he? He shouldn't be a problem. His armies are tiny, and he is... Preoccupied in petty territorial squabbles. These kids today...

Shen: May I point out that Imperator Argus has lived longer than even myself, and he is the type of person who doesn't rest. He has caused at least thirty wars with Carta in his lifetime.

Inara: He really is lacking in the mental department isn't he..?

Orchus: Thirty wars with Carta and he still hasn't taken over all of Sabaria. I think that goes to show what we're dealing with.

Oran: Bear in mind that it originally belonged to the Sabarians in full, before Carta appeared. It was only until those Templar Kni--

Shen puts his hand to Oran's chest.

Shen: We shall not speak of those names here, Mandarin Oran.

Oran: My apologies, my lord.

Orchus taps his fingers to his desk and looks at Inara before looking back to Shen.

Orchus: No, do go on about these Templars. I'm fine with a quick history lesson.

Oran looks at Shen, who just closes his eyes and turns his head away.

Oran: The Templar Knights were a band of seven warriors from different points of this world. Each of them are renowned for their abilities and "heroism", and were each recognised for being the first people to ever explore the world in full. Despite their achievements, however, they vanished mysteriously.

Inara looks at her watch and yawns.

Inara: I actually have somewhere to be, so if we could wrap this up please.

Oran and Shen look towards Orchus.

Shen: Yes, if you would be so kind as to wrap up this meeting.

Orchus: Whether this meeting ends soon or not is your choice. There is a paper in the middle of the table that I need you two to sign.

Inara reads over it, ensuring there are no loopholes before signing it.

Oran hands Shen a quill, he then reads over it twice, looking over any potential problems, and signing it.

Inara finishes her wine before standing up. She looks at the guard she scared earlier.

Inara: You can relax now sweetheart.

Inara smirks and leaves.

Shen guzzles the rest of his gourd while giving Orchus a grimacing scowl. He stands and leaves. Oran stands and tips his head to Orchus before following Shen. The female Kylotean follow behind.

Oran: So, what are your impressions on your new allies?

Shen: That Retaliak. He is awfully brave for a mere Levian. I suspect paranoia. He is ludicrously stubborn, as well. His delusions will prove faulty soon enough.

Oran: And what of Winters?

Shen: Hmph. She has my interest.

Horizon Sunset

2nd April, 1215 AC

A town appears on the rocky sunset horizon.

Angel-Ion: Is that...

Lanval: There it is! Welcome to Chepstow guys!

Angel-Ion gazes up part-way of the mountain.

Angel-Ion: So what gives it the name "Mount Hora"?

Lanval: Look up towards the summit.

Angel-Ion looks up to spot the massive gear implanted in the crust of the mountain-top.

Angel-Ion: What is that?!

Lanval: Its supposed to be a giant clock of some kind built a long time ago. Its hard to understand because we can't always tell what any of the teeth have etched onto them. Supposedly it can tell the time of Galahad, Atlas, Avalon and the north east all at once.

Angel-Ion: We should find another inn so we can rest.

Luther looks at Ruselt. 

Luther: *quietly* We need to talk about something, in private...

Ruselt nods and slowly backs off from the group with Luther.

Angel-Ion notices them both walking off.

Angel-Ion: Where are you two going?

Ruselt: Umm... Fresh air?

Luther rolls his eyes.

Ruselt shrugs and walks off anyway.

Angel-Ion: We'll be in that inn over there.

Angel-Ion points to a nearby inn, which Lanval and Vulkas are headed for.

Ruselt nods at Angel-Ion and turns to Luther.

Ruselt: What's wrong?

Luther: It's...Something about the gauntlet.

Ruselt: What about it?

Luther: Back at the warehouse, when I snuck off to look for the gauntlet, the only reason I knew which crate it was in was because I heard it...  Calling out from the crate. Then when I touched it, I saw something.

Ruselt: Like what?

Luther: I saw father dying.

Ruselt pauses for a few seconds and understands Luther's concern.

Ruselt: Look, it was probably nothing. I don't know how, but it was probably just playing tricks on you. I wouldn't worry about it. 

Luther smiles nervously.

Ruselt: Now come on, let's head to the inn.

A minute later, Ruselt and Luther arrive at the inn.

Upon entering, they find that the whole bar area has gone wild, with everyone singing shanties and swinging their beer jugs arounds, Angel-Ion, who seems to be leading, is dancing atop a table. Lanval has joined in and Vulkas is sitting down far from everyone else humming to himself, spots Luther and Ruselt walking in, and waves.

Ruselt heads towards the group, but Luther just steps back outside.

Drunk Man: Come on in 'ere lad!

The drunk man pulls him inside and hands him a jug of beer. Lanval begins downing an usually large jug of ale with people cheering him on.

Luther just drops the jug and steps back.

Luther: Uh... No.

Drunk Man: Are you 10 or something???

Luther just steps back out again.

Vulkas gets up and walks over to Luther and the drunk man.

Vulkas: He doesn't drink. Best not to waste your beer on him.

Drunk Man: Well who the 'ell asked you then. Where're you from anyways? You look like a... A...

The drunk man collapses onto the floor.

Vulkas: Guess....that's done. Is everything fine Luther?

Luther: Yeah

Vulkas: Might as well come in. You're gonna have to get used to the noise. 

Vulkas starts walking back into the inn.

Luther reluctantly limps back in. He remains at the sides of the room, avoiding the commotion.

An hour later, Ruselt makes his way towards a room and goes to bed.

A Simple Exchange

A group of Mercrian elite guards enter a storage warehouse on a dock in Tonenberg. Inara enters a few seconds later.

Several armed men in sharp suits remain stationed across the warehouse. The wireless radio operator who had dealt with Othil appears to be waiting for her.

Operator: (In Mercrian) Mrs. Winters.

Inara: It's "Miss."

Inara winks at the operator, instantly making him feel uncomfortable.

Operator: Miss... Winters. You sent a letter to our mutual friend in regards to some sort of purchase you wanted to arrange with The Underground, correct?

Inara: That is correct.

Operator: And what exactly will you be purchasing?

Inara: I want information. You can name your price for it.

Operator: What exactly do you want to know?

Inara: The current leader of Kyloto, Shen Gikoku wanted to know something about a certain "Angelus" family. Particularly a certain sprog born within, of whom Shen has informed me is a mixed breed; a Kylotean-Novalian to be specific. He suspects involvement in the Galahad Arms. Shen's sweet little lapdog, Oran, even suggested that the person in question is likely to be an adult of a high status within the Arms. I am merely asking for the Underground to use some of their resources to find out more about this person. It might help with this new alliance.

Operator: Yes, I heard about this, "Autocratic Confederacy." Interesting stuff. 

Inara: Isn't it just?

Operator: As a courtesy, I'll warn you now that Premier Cercyon already knows about the alliance.

Inara: *Sarcastically* What a shock!

Operator: Hmph...

Inara:  Anyway, back to business.

Operator: We can utilise a few of our groups in Galahad to try and find out more, but this may take time. As for the payment, an appropriate sum of money should do.

Inara rolls her eyes.

Inara: How boring. But sure, that won't be a problem.

Operator: Well, there is an alternate payment.

Inara: Go on.

Operator: We are currently looking for the two Visarion children and their uncle. If they happen to stumble into the hands of the Mercrian authorities, be sure to hand them over to us.

Inara: Now that sounds much more interesting. I'll be sure to send them over if they pop by Mercria.

Operator: The Chairman will likely be pleased you wanted to do business with the Underground.

Inara: How is the Chairman by the way?

Operator: I don't personally speak to the Chairman. I just send the telegrams.

Inara: He's a funny guy, you should try and meet him some time.

Operator: You know the Chairman?

Inara: We have a history.

Operator: For your sake, and ours, keep the fact you know the Chairman a secret. 

A wider smile stretches across Inara's face.

Inara: Of course.

Operator: Then we have nothing more to discuss. 

Inara: To the point, I like it. I'll be seeing you very soon.

Inara turns around and walks outside along with her guards. 

One of the Underground guards approaches the Operator.

Guard: She scares me, she knows too much.

Operator: Let's not be hasty with her. She may know a lot, but I have a feeling she won't reveal the Chairman's identity.

Guard: How can we be sure of that?

Operator: Because the Chairman would probably be more useful to her if his identity wasn't known.

Two Dragons, Three Suns

2nd April, 1215 AC, Night

A Levian airship arrives in Kyloto, outside a large palace.

Shen: ... We're back. At long last.

Oran: And not a moment too soon.

Shen smells the air.

Oran: What are you thinking?

Shen: The airship is still here.

Oran: And what of it?

Shen turns to face it.

Oran: Hmm?

Shen fires a massive torrent of fire at it, burning straight through the flammable materials and scorching and melting some of the metal. The crew inside, as well as the nearby Denatsu Clan Kyloteans, are burned to death in seconds.

Oran: You do realise that you just killed some of our own?

Shen: They got too close. Its their fault.

Oran: You could have taken the airship for yourself, as well.

Shen: Hmph. I'll be sure to have the M.D.S collect up the remains.

Oran: So you want to build airships for our armies as well?

Shen: It would be useful for us. Plus, this is a suitable lesson for Retaliak Orchus. If he wants to tell me what to do within his country, I should have free reign of what happens to his property when it is in my territory.

Shen turns to the female Kylotean.

Shen: There shall be a meeting between the Ichizoku in two days. I expect all of them to be there.

- Grandmistress of the Denatsu Clan - Raichi Strom: It will be done, master.

Raichi suddenly teleports using electricity. There is a brief silence.

Oran: You have a lot of time to kill before they all arrive. Anything on your mind?

Shen: Hmm... I am feeling the need to interrogate Excalvur Tanzar-Ion and Excalvur Rika once more.

Oran: About their three children again?

Shen: To put it fairly, yes. The three successors to the Excalvur Family. Excalvur Angel-Ion is my primary caution, considering the reports of Voldin Avaloss and Kaliot Ledran, he is still alive, and very well in a place of "safety."

Oran: Are you assuming he is in Sabaria now?

Shen: Maybe, maybe not. Either way, I am going to set up a point of strategy there, to lure him back here.

Oran: A trap?

Shen: Yes, of course. I want to bring him back to the territories of Makai and execute both him and his father.

Oran: And what of the other two, and the retainers?

Shen: The retainers are all weak. They fear returning to Kyloto, and by my estimate, they have Excalvur Setsuna with them, meaning those cowards will try to keep her far from here as well. As for Excalvur Lance, I have no clue towards his possible whereabouts.

Oran: And who do you believe would be the best to enact this trap of yours?

Shen: Ah. I think I will have Ryusei Werlock carry out the secondary half. As for the first half, we will have to come up with a contemporary alliegance with a pirate.

Oran: I see. And what kind of bait will you be using?

Shen: We'll see. For now, I will go and try to beat some sense into Excalvur Tanzar-Ion, maybe he'll finally be willing enough to reveal the location of his late forefather Sabal-Ion's fabled workshop, the means I need to tear this world asunder. Hehehahaha!

Shen walks off, leaving Oran to his own devices.

The Ludlow Trail

3rd April, 1215 AC

Angel-Ion suddenly awakens, unnerved.

Angel-Ion: Oh... It was just a nightmare. *Phew*

He smells cooking come from downstairs.

Angel-Ion: That must be the breakfast.

Angel-Ion rubs his eyes and sits on the side of his bed. He looks outside to see Lanval outside playing an outdoor game with some children.

Luther is outside playing with fire.

Vulkas is outside as well, seemingly supervising Luther to make sure nothing burns down.

Luther seems to have stuck several twigs in the ground, and is sitting cross-legged in front of them. He stares at them. Suddenly they combust, one by one, without Luther even creating a fire ball to shoot at them.

Vulkas instantly starts walking over to Luther after noticing what hes done.

Vulkas: Oi, do you understand how hard accomplishing that can be? It takes years to learn to do that.

Luther: Umm... Really?

Ruselt sees the two talking from inside the inn and heads outside.

Angel-Ion leaps from the window.

Angel-Ion: I'm sorry, years? It only took me a week to set fire to a tree. I guess that may be because the Makai Clan, where I'm from, use fire magic naturally.

Vulkas: You're from a sub species that has literally been used to fire magic for as long as their ancestors have been alive. I'd be surprised if it didn't take years. Luther is just Venlish. I may be a Runisian but we're not kept to just being exceptional at fire magic.

Ruselt: He is definately fast, I have only been able to create basic fireballs.

Angel-Ion: Who are you calling sub-species?!

Vulkas: I don't mean in the way you're thinking, jeez. You're a sub race within a race. A sub species. You call them by clans.

Angel-Ion: Because we are clans.

Lanval walks over and hits Angel-Ion across the face with a stick.

Lanval: That's not what he meant idiot.

Angel-Ion: AGH!

Ruselt: So, what is the plan?

Lanval: There's a train station east of here that heads to Ludlow from here. We can use that to travel the rest of the way.

Angel-Ion: Ah, that's good to hear. At least we won't have to go on foot anymore.

Lanval: The next best time for departing is in an hour, so make sure you all have your stuff before you leave.

Angel-Ion: What about resto--

Lanval: I've already taken care of restocking our food.

Shouting is heard in the distance, unnerving Lanval, who hides in a barrel.

A group of furious people show up.

Shop Owner 1: Where is he? Where's that theif?!

Shop Owner 2: He won't get away with this!

Shop Owner 3: Have any of you seen him?!

Angel-Ion: "Him" is kinda vague.

Shop Owner 2: He's got messy black hair with a streak of grey to the side. Also has a mullet.

Angel-Ion: Oh yeah.

Lanval, from inside the barrel, gets more nervous and sweats.

Angel-Ion: He... Uh... Went that way.

Angel-Ion points in a direction opposite to the barrel.

Shop Owner 1: Thanks a bunch, uh... Mister Kylotean!

The clerk throws a penny to Angel-Ion before running in the direction with the rest of the shop owners. Lanval jumps out of the barrel.

Angel-Ion: That food you got. You stole it, didn't you.

Lanval: Uh... I... Yes...

Angel-Ion: Anything else you stole?

Lanval empties out the pockets of his trousers and coat, revealing a collection of pens, a diary, a bag of money, a pair of wallets, a pen knife and a puzzle cube.

Lanval: This is everything, I swear.

Angel-Ion: Oh well. Don't worry about it. As long as you don't steal anything of ours, its fine.

Lanval: Oh thank you! I certainly will never steal from the people who saved my behind from those rotten Galahad Arms morons!

Lanval gathers up his things. Somebody hiding nearby jots things down in a notepad.

Vulkas: You know that kleptomaniac problem is going to get us in really deep problems one day.

Lanval: Only if I get caught.

Angel-Ion: If I recall correctly, getting caught is what caused you to get chased.

Lanval: That was just the once. Plus, with a place like that crawling with guards, getting caught was bound to happen. Plus, for the record, they only started chasing me because I didn't have the money to repay "damage" fees they forced on me.

The hidden figure jots down more notes. They pull out a speaker of somekind and begin whispering into it.

Mystery Person: Audio log, April 3rd. I've think I've just found myself an interesting scoop.

Angel-Ion: Did you hear that?

Mystery Person: Eeep!

Lanval: Hear what?

Angel-Ion: ... Nevermind. 

Ruselt: Shall we go then?

Angel-Ion: Yeah, we should. Especially in case those people come back.

The group collect their things and begin heading towards the train station, unaware that they are being followed by the hiding girl. Lanval sneakily pinches a hat and sunglasses from stalls and wears them as a disguise. He pinches a wallet from the guy in front of him and throws it to Angel-Ion, who looks somewhat impressed.

Vulkas sighs as he sees Lanval stealing and wipes dust off his coat.

Luther pulls his sleeve over his gauntlet hand, hiding it from view.

Ruselt: You've learnt fire magic pretty fast. Have you considered trying some of the other types?

Luther: I would, but Vulkas' books were likely destroyed when his ship went down.

Vulkas: I keep some on me, in my bag, but yes a vast majority of them were destroyed. Adding books to the list of things you guys owe me. Right under "Airship".

Ruselt laughs nervously.

Ruselt: So which books survived?

Vulkas: My own personal studies of advanced elemental magic techniques, as well as a book or two on earth and defence magics.

Lanval: What does he mean by "owe"? Are you guys some kind of hagglers?

Angel-Ion: C'mon, Vulkas, you know deep down that the airship wasn't our fault.

Vulkas: Maybe not but I'd still have an airship and countless books on magic if I ended up not digging myself into this mess. Can't say thats not true.

Angel-Ion: You volunteered though.

Vulkas: Because for once I decided to try to do something kind to people in desperate need. Guess that goes to show I shouldn't do that.

Ruselt: Oh, don't be like that. I mean, you still have some of your books right?

Angel-Ion: Yeah. You should look more on the brighter side of things, Vulkas!

Vulkas: Because the brighter side is the fact I at least still have one sixteenth of my book collection. Sooooo bright.

Ruselt sees Luther still limping quite heavily.

Ruselt: How's your leg?

Luther: Still hurts, but it's bearable. 

Ruselt: We aren't far from the station now.

Vulkas: Then lets pick up the pace.

The train station is found around a corner. Lanval suddenly stops Angel-Ion.

Angel-Ion: What is it?

Lanval: Look!

Clockwatch officers are investigating a train. Three men in handcuffs are brought out.

Lanval: That train must've come from Galahad. Any train that comes from there is searched thoroughly.

One of the men barges an officer out of the way and begins running in the group's direction. Another officer chases after him. Angel-Ion trips him up as he passes.

Ruselt looks at his falchion.

Ruselt: Do you think they will let me keep this?

Lanval: We're not getting on that train. It's being thoroughly searched, we won't get on with any weapon, which includes both yours and Angel-Ion's swords. Not to mention how three of us here are wanted in some degree by the Clockwatch.

Angel-Ion: Three? So who's the third?

Lanval: Well, I'm a thief, so it would be obvious that the police would want to arrest me too.

Angel-Ion: Well that's just great! What do we do now?!

Lanval: Relax. That train's not the only one that comes through here. Look over there.

Lanval points to another train at the station.

Lanval: That one over there looks more promising. One of us is gonna have to buy tickets, so we're gonna have to use these disguises of ours.

Lanval puts his sunglasses back on, and raises his scarf. The group walk towards the ticket booth.

Clerk: Hey! How can I help you?

Lanval nudges Ruselt forwards.

Ruselt scowls at Lanval. He then turns to the clerk and smiles.

Ruselt: Uh... Five tickets please.

Clerk: Here you go!

The clerk hands five tickets to Ruselt to distribute amongst the group, who board the train. They gather their belongings in two rooms before heading to a cabin with seats eitherside, and a table in the middle. A few minutes later, the train begins moving.

Luther and Ruselt sit next to each other, with Luther being the closest to the window.

Angel-Ion begins gazing outside, looking at the wilderness. He sighs before turning back to the group.

Lanval picks up a free newspaper and begins reading it.

- Novalians Celebrate the Death of Roarak Visarion - 

He ignores the headliner, failing to catch his interest, so he looks down at the secondary headliner to the side. Something clicks and he glances back at the main headliner.

Lanval: (Roarak Visarion? That's that king in Venland, right?! These two in front of me have that last name too, and they're from Venland also!)

Lanval begins reading into it.

Lanval: Guys.

Lanval turns the newpaper round so the others can read it.

Angel-Ion: ... The Death of... WHAT?!

Vulkas: Oh shit...

Ruselt snatches the paper off Lanval and begins reading.

Ruselt: Wait... Th-this couldn't have happened! There w-was suppose to be a trial. They couldn't hav-

Ruselt's voice trails off and he slouches back on his seat. He grows faint and falls unconcious.

Luther seems to be shaking albeit completely silent. His hands are clenched and his eyes appear dewy.

Luther: Get out.

Lanval: Huh?

Luther slams his fist on the table. Burn marks appear on the newspaper, the table and the curtains.

Luther: (Shouting) I said get out!

Lanval: Hey! Calm down, man!

Luther breathes deeply in. He scratches at the table in order to sate his nervous disposition. He looks at Lanval.

Luther: We n-need some time alone.

Ruselt is still slouched back. His eyes are wet and half closed.

Vulkas: Just let them be. They'll need time.

In the cabin behind, the girl writes down some notes on what she heard.

Mystery Person: Audio log, April 3rd. I've definetly got onto something now!

Angel-Ion and the others enter their cabin.

Angel-Ion: Mind if we sit in here?

Mystery Person: Eeeep! N-not at all!

She hides her notepad and recorder and hides her face.

Lanval: Boy. One minute they've got their lives on the line, the next, they find that their dad has died... Life must be harsh on those two.

Vulkas seems put off by the mystery person but ignores her anyway.

Vulkas: Its only going to get even harsher from here. Nothing we can do but make sure they aren't killed.

There is a short silence.

Angel-Ion: Somebody should see how they're doing in the other cabin.

Vulkas: I'll go. Lanval, don't steal anything and Angel-Ion... Don't set anything on fire.

Vulkas gets up and goes to check on Luther and Ruselt.

Angel-Ion: Did he just...?

Lanval: Yup.

Ruselt is crying where as Luther seems to be trying to comfort him.

Vulkas sighs and goes back to the others, sitting down once more.

Vulkas: They're... Not well.

Angel-Ion sighs, while Lanval slumps in his seat.

Lanval: Well this doesn't bode well.

Vulkas: Nothing has boded well for a while now. Nothing we can do but hope they get past it. 

Vulkas takes out one of his magic books and starts reading.

The Iron Union

3rd April, 1215 AC, Sundown, Tsunwei State Palace

Phillotus Cercyon is waiting in a large empty conference room. He looks out the window, and then to his watch. Parcian Leader, Rodrigo Honalez walks in, wearing a white suit and black shirt. His top button is undone. Phillotus notices this and his lips curl briefly.

Rodrigo (In Venlish): You called for me.

Phillotus (In Venlish): I did. Please, sit.

Rodrigo takes a seat. Phillotus then takes a seat at the head of the table.

Phillotus: My informants have told me some disturbing things.

Rodrigo: What things?

Phillotus: We may be looking at the development of an alliance system. Chancellor Winters, Overlord Gikoku and Orchus Retaliak have all signed a pact. They've called it the, "Autocratic Confederacy".

Rodrigo: Hmm. This is bad. If word of this leaks out to anyone else, it could cause the Allied Nations to become worried. That'll only cause tension between the two parties.

Phillotus: We could be looking at the roots of a war here. 

Rodrigo: Parcia cannot survive another war.

Phillotus: I know, that is why I called you here. It may seem hypocritical at this stage, but for our own protection, I suggest we make our own pact of sorts.

Rodrigo: This is foolish! If I were to do that, tensions between Parcia and the Allied Nations would increase tenfold!

Phillotus: You publicly declared your support for Vladimir Wolf. Parcia's relationship with the AN is already tarnished.

Rodrigo: ... Then what do you propose?

Phillotus: Mutual protection. Our way of governing is rare in Helios so the least we could do is ensure it's safety. I intend to assist Wolf in his war. That should take Ivanovich out of the equation, weakening the Allied Nations.

Rodrigo: And then Wolf can help us in return?

Phillotus: Exactly. If war were to break out, a communist Tythan would give us a strategic advantage over Levia.

Rodrigo: What about Canorica? They are at Parcia's doorstep.

Phillotus: I can send reinforcement troops. Until then, I suggest bulking up defences. I can provide you with economic stimulus in the meantime. 

Rodrigo: What are our chances if war breaks out?

Phillotus: We'll have to play it smart. We need to find the weak spots.

Rodrigo: Heh, well, the Allied Nations is full of weak points. But what about the Autocratic Confederacy?

Phillotus: That's easy. Their alliance is already strained thanks to Gikoku. Orchus is paranoid, which is something that only distances Levia's relations with Kyloto. Miss Winters on the other hand is an odd one, but I know her well enough.

Rodrigo: What of Gikoku?

Phillotus: He shouldn't be too much of a problem. If anything is helping. 

Rodrigo: His army is huge!

Phillotus: I have faith in my borders. For as long as Ranzhou has been there, the Haphaen border has never been crossed by enemy armies.

Rodrigo: You shouldn't underestimate him.

Phillotus: Gikoku is a moron.

Rodrigo: A moron with an army. Which in my eyes makes him more dangerous.

Phillotus: If it comforts you, I can reinforce the borders. 

Rodrigo: What about Orchus?

Phillotus: Orchus is less impulsive. He'll be a tough one, but as I said, he is paranoid. He'll crack under pressure.

Rodrigo: And Chancellor Winters?

Phillotus: She'll only be in it for the thrill. She isn't one for political loyalty.

Rodrigo: Then I guess it is settled. 

Phillotus: The paper and pen is on the table. 

Rodrigo stands up and signs the treaty.

Phillotus: The next time we meet, it'll be with Vladimir Wolf at the table.

Rodrigo: Goodbye comrade. I hope you know what you're doing.

House of Eight Dragons

April 4th, 1215 AC, Morning, Kyloto - Makai Territories

A figure lurches its way towards the Grand Tower of Negura. He is met by four guards.

Guard: Master Zanclus, you're late.

- Grandmaster of the Toge Clannads - Gore Zanclus: So what? I'm here, aren't I?

Guard: You are aware that Lord Gikoku doesn't tolerate poor punctuality, right?

Zanclus sweats a bit.

Zanclus: W-Whatever.

Zanclus heads inside and is led to a meeting room, where a series of figures sit either side of a table. On the right, towards the wall, sits Shen Gikoku and the Oka Eritoshin; Shen's elite enforcers; while to the left, towards the doorway, sits the Ichizoku; the leaders of the clans.

Shen: Ahh... Gore Zanclus. You are late. Please, sit.

Zanclus: Uhh... Yes m'lord.

Zanclus sits at the vacant seat.

Shen: You are probably all wondering why I summoned you all here. We are here to discuss current events. You may all be aware that we are now a part of a triumvirate known as the Autocratic Confederacy. Thus, we are now allied with Levia; ruled by Retaliak Orchus; and Mercria; ruled by Winters Inara.

- Grandmaster of the Cymbal Clannads - Ektara Mandolin: Kuhuhuh. Why ally with that paranoid freak? What good could Retaliak possibly bring to the table?

Shen glances over at Oran.

Oran: Levia is the largest country in the continent, meaning their size will equate to high numbers, which is beneficial as an ally than a foe. As for what they can bring to us, they will give us better security and reinforcements for our naval fleet. It is just that somebody can't get along with him that the relationship has been a bit strained with them.

Shen: Hmph.

Oran: Or have you already forgotten that you destroyed an airship just for silly revenge games.

Shen: Don't critique my actions, Mandarin. Punishment was given where it was due. I do not tolerate disrespect, and I hope Retaliak Orchus understands that.

- Grandmaster of the Orochi Clannads - Corazon Alder: And what of this relationship with Winters?

Shen: I am interested in what Winters has to offer to Kyloto and the Confederacy. I have given word to the slavers in the north region that one of their mines now belongs to the coalition between Mercria and Kyloto.

- Oka Eritoshin - Hickory Kedamon: And what does that mean, exactly?

Shen: That which is taken out of said mine will be delivered to Mercria as part of the deal made during the initial meeting.

Corazon: And if the mine runs out of offerings?

Shen: Then we establish a new one. The slaves working there will know full well that there is no rest.

Raichi: Why can't we get more efficient slaves? Like the Asterians from before the Compendium?

Shen: Reacquiring grandfather Keimusho's former slaves would be beneficial and efficient indeed, but things have long since changed since then... Like that unforgivable era when Asteria had us under a foot!

- Oka Eritoshin - Zurakiel Ketseuki: Why can't we just declare a damned war on those bastards?!

Shen: Because that is too simpleminded. We are not like the Sabarians from the east. We have to plan out our actions in order to reacquire those filthy slaves from that bastard country. Father's plans during the Payback War were, for the most part, successful, for bringing an end to the Asterians' dominance. We will need even greater plans than his, especially given the changes in this world, and I hope nobody at this table will do what the blood traitor Gikoku Ningen did during the ??? War.

- Co-Grandmaster of the Hirai Clannads - Kasai Tsuin: Pardon me for asking, but isn't your brother a blood traitor as well?

Shen: Both of my siblings were blood traitors, and, for that, their names shall not be discussed at this table.

- Oka Eritoshin - Roed Raithe: I believe it is time we discussed the Excalvur problem.

Oran: That reminds me, you did not inform of what Excalvur Tanzar-Ion revealed during his interrogation.

Shen: Ehh. He is stubborn, he revealed nothing. Nothing on the whereabouts of his spawn, nothing on the location of his grandfather's supposedly "legendary" workshop, not even a word given about joining the Kazoku, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!!!

Shen slams his fists down on the table, creating large cracks on it.

- Oka Eritoshin - Kiri Hakase: I believed you at least had some information from the Missionary Captain who reported back.

Shen: Yes, but it was insuficient. Kaliot Ledran made a fatal assumption of predicting whether or not Excalvur Angel-Ion would make it to Sabarian shoreline, while Voldin Avaloss did what could only be described as slowing Excalvur down. I am well aware that it wasn't enough to capture or eliminate him.

- Grandmaster of the Acua Clannads - Shio Umi: Was it really necessary to kill them both, though?

Shen: Yes. Their reports were comparable to failure. And to me, failure is punishable by death.

Shio Umi: That's not fair--

Shen: Perhaps you should do well to remember your place, Umi Shio. Or should I create another reminder to your clan? Losing your father already dealt a strong blow to them, I can certainly have you be killed as well.

Shio relents.

Shen: Good. Now then. We should now focus our attention towards a certain turn of events that have affected our... "Old friends" in Venland. The war they have just had has subsided and has been declared an illegal warfare by those bastard Haphaens. I, for one, applaud Canorica for their efforts, but alas, the Allied Nations are just as much an enemy to us as Venland is... Or, for better, "was". In spite of that, however, Canorica made one slight mishap in their petty war game with Venland... Can anyone here tell me what that might be?

- Co-Grandmaster of the Hirai Clannads - Senbi Tsuin: The lack of Infinity Generators?

Roed: Continued operation?

- Oka Eritoshin - Doriru Agobiar: Justice?

Kiri Hakase: The missing Visarion family members.

Shen: ... The refugees.

Corazon: What of them?

Shen: They are still out there, travelling far and wide to find new homes, to escape Canorica's false justice, and their war-torn place of origin.

- Oka Eritoshin - Yoru Silva: And what makes this a "mishap", exactly?

Shen: As I said earlier, reacquiring grandfather Keimusho's former slaves would be beneficial and efficient to Kyloto. While we can't currently reacquire Asterian slaves, we can certainly obtain new ones, from Venland, too. John Curtis was foolish. Kyloto shall be the ones taking the spoils of his war!

The Ichizoku and Oka Eritoshin look around a each other, some clearly in agreement.

Oran: Is there any more that is in need of discussion, my lord?

Shen: None. You are all now free to return to your prior duties.

The Ichizoku stand and bow before heading out. The Oka Eritoshin soon do the same.

Shen: Give the order to Jian Ryokai. Send some ships out to capture Venlish vessels, and make sure everyone on board them is kept alive.

Oran: It will be done my lord.

Oran leaves. Shen sits back in his seat and guzzles the rest of his drink.

Above the Rails of Fate

April 4th, 1215 AC, Noon

Luther looks towards part of the newspaper that isn't burnt. He sees an article about John Curtis' victory parade through Ironhall. It includes a picture of him smiling and waving to the public.

Ruselt: Do you think Cetera knows?

Luther doesn't respond and keeps staring at the picture.

Ruselt: Luther?

Luther suddenly notices Ruselt is talking to him.

Luther: Huh?

Ruselt: Do you think Cetera knows?

Luther: Probably not.

Luther looks back at the picture.

Ruselt: I can't believe he's gone.

Luther looks up from the picture.

Luther sighs.

Luther: I can't either.

Ruselt: I don't know how the Novalians can celebrate his death. He never did anything bad to anyone.

Ruselt's eyes begin to well up.

Luther looks at the picture again.

Luther: Curtis will pay for this one day.

Ruselt: He deserves to rot in a cell for the rest of his life!

Luther looks at Ruselt and his eyes narrow.

Luther looks out the window again, and Ruselt just slumps back in his chair.

Meanwhile in the other cabin.

Angel-Ion prods Lanval's cheek.

Angel-Ion: Man. Its midday and he's still asleep. And so's the girl. Is this how the Novalian body clock runs?

Vulkas: Couldn't say. I don't exactly "sleep" at all so for them to be sleeping this much just seems like a waste of time.

Angel-Ion: How are those two doing?

Vulkas: I don't know. Last time I checked they were sobbing over each other.

Angel-Ion: ... Have a look then.

Vulkas just looks at Angel-Ion, sighs and gets up to look into the other cabin.

Ruselt and Luther are both wide awake. Ruselt is slumped back where as Luther is leaning forwards looking out the window.

Vulkas goes back to the other cabin. 

Vulkas: They aren't crying, just sulking.

Angel-Ion: That's a start, I guess. We need to consider our options on what we're gonna do when we arrive in Ludlow... Wake up.

Angel-Ion elbows Lanval in the side, forcing him awake.

Lanval: AH! What the hell, man?

Angel-Ion: Its noon.. How long do you want to sleep?

Lanval: Noon!? Why didn't you wake me up sooner?!

Angel-Ion: ... You're kidding me, right? You expected us to wake you up at an earlier time?!

The commotion wakes up the mystery female.

Angel-Ion: Oh, and now she wakes up as well!

Mystery Person: Excuse me?

Lanval: You don't even know her, moron.

Angel-Ion: Neither do you.

Vulkas: Oi, show common courtesy. You're both being morons.

Vulkas looks to the person.

Vulkas: Sorry for waking you up.

Angel-Ion: Don't you start. You're a moron as well.

Lanval: That still makes you a moron, dingus.

Mystery Person: Will you all just SHUT UP?!

Angel-Ion and Lanval get nervous.

Both: Yes ma'am!

Vulkas can't help but laugh.

The woman looks at Vulkas.

Mystery Person: That goes for you, too.

Angel-Ion: Aaaaanyways. Like I said, we need a plan on what we're doing. Those two are obviously gonna head to that guy's place. What exactly are we gonna do?

Vulkas: No, no. Think I'll keep laughing. Been a while since I've had a good one. 

He looks to Angel-Ion. 

Vulkas: I'm going to at least find a way to get another airship considering mine and my other possessions were destroyed. I expect at least some help with that. Whether it be by getting enough money to get an airship or stealing one, I'm not going to start living in Novalia.

Lanval: Why not? It's a great pla-- Wait... It's not a good place, really.

Angel-Ion looks out of the window. Ludlow comes into sight.

Angel-Ion: Looks like we're nearly there.

Soon, the train stops and everyone gets off. One of the first things they see is a large fortress of sorta atop a hill, surrounded by a number of trees.

Angel-Ion: What's that?

Lanval: A prison. Stay away from it.

Lanval pushes Angel-Ion forwards.

Luther recalls the facts from Cetera's journal.

Luther: We need to head south. Our destination is apparently on a hill by a lake.

Ruselt: Is there a name for the house or a number?

Luther: No, that is all it said.

Lanval: Then we should head south then. This way.

Lanval leads the group away from the direction of the prison.

Vulkas takes one good look at the prison while they walk away from it. 

Vulkas: Am I the only one thinking that woman in the cabin with us was off?

Angel-Ion: Eh, don't get so worried. She's gone now.

The mystery woman peeks at the group as she hides behind a building.

Luther still seems to be limping slightly.

Ruselt: Once we get to this guy's house, we can wait for Cetera. He might be able to help you get that gauntlet off.

The Old Git

After walking a distance, they reach the southern point of town. They find no lakes.

Angel-Ion: Are you sure this is the right town.

Lanval: This is definitely Ludlow. Are you sure that address is valid? What's the guy's name?

Luther takes out the journal.

Luther: Cid Fenix.

Lanval: Hmm. Hey, lets consult somebody if they know anything. How about that tavern over there?

The group head into the tavern. Lanval takes a look at the journal and sits at the counter. A woman wiping a glass comes over.

Girl: What is it?

Lanval: So, uh, we're looking for this guy called Cid Fenix, and we're wondering if--

The woman grabs him by the collar and pulls him forwards.

Girl: What do you want with Fenix?!

The commotion silences the rest of the bar.

Lanval: Uh. Help me out here, guys.

Vulkas walks over to the two. 

Vulkas: If you could release my... Friend, here that'd be appreciated. We just want to know some information. Clean and easy. No need to make a scene.

Vulkas seems to move his hand towards his sword just in case.

Girl: And I wanna know what you want with my father.

The woman places her hand on a weapon of somekind, strapped to her belt.

Vulkas seems to be relieved, and quiet downs his voice.

Vulkas: We want nothing ill on your father. We know someone who is in contact with him. Their name is Cetera. Your father should know who they are and hopefully you do as well?

Girl: As in Cetera Visarion?

Vulkas: Yes, but I don't think its a good idea to be throwing that last name around in a time like this. 

Luther look around to see if anyone heard.

Ruselt gets impatient

Ruselt: Look, just take us to your father. 

Girl: Fine.

She lets go of Lanval.

Girl: Follow me.

She leads the group out through the backdoor and leads them away from the town, to a house on a small hill which opposes the higher slope of which the town is on top. Near the hill is a cliff with a lake next to it. Atop the hill is a house with several pieces of machinery attached to it or around it. A garage is to its left.

Lanval: I'm guessing this guy's a mechanic.

Girl: Yup. I take after him.

Lanval: But... Aren't you a barmaid?

Girl: Quiet.

Vulkas laughs quietly. 

Vulkas: So other than being a mechanic, what exactly is your father like?

Girl: He can be a bit... Crazy.

Angel-Ion: ... What do you mean?

Girl: You'll see what I mean.

She opens the door. A contraption of some kind comes flying out of the door, hitting Lanval in the gut.

Lanval: Hn... Why me...?

The girl walks in.

Girl: Hey pops! I'm got some guests!

A bearded man wearing goggles comes down on a pole.

Cid: Hoowee! What do we have here? Nice to meet 'cha. The name's Cid! Gahahaha!

He excitedly shakes everyone's hands.

Cid: So what brings a Kylotean, a Runisian and a pair of Venlons all the way out here?

Girl: They said they're associated with your friend Cetera.

Cid: Cetera, eh? hearing that name takes me back. Good ol' days! Come on in!

Everyone heads inside. They are each given cups of tea or coffee.

Cid: I'm sure y'all affiliated with my daughter here.

Angel-Ion: No, actually.

Angel-Ion sips his coffee. The girl pulls her coffee from her face.

Girl: My name's Roxanne. It's a pleasure.

Lanval: Pleasure to have your hands around my neck, more like.

Roxanne: Heard that.

Roxanne kicks Lanval's leg.

Lanval: Hey! 

Vulkas seems a bit taken aback by Cid's enthusiasm, especially compared to Roxanne.

Vulkas: I'm Vulkas. My associates and I have been travelling with these two Venlish teens, Luther and Ruselt. They're Cetera's nephews.

Ruselt: Cetera said you could help hide us.

Cid: Ah... Sorry to hear about your father. That Curtis... That man needs to have a mental check!

Lanval: Huh?

Cid: He started a war on Venland for nowt! Venland did nothing wrong and the guy attacks for godknows what! And what's worse is that the minceheads up in Novalian high command decide to side against, just over some petty grudge from years ago! When I heard about Roarak, I got concerned about what became of Cetera and the rest of his family. I'm glad to see you're still alive. I'm guessing Cetera sent the two of you here.

Ruselt: He had an injury and had to stay behind. He should be joining us soon though.

Cid: That's too bad. Cetera and I go way back.

Roxanne: Don't tell me you're gonna go out with another one of your tall tales.

Cid: Tall tales? This stuff is real! I swear it!

Roxanne: Suuuure~

Cid: Listen, missy, I'll have you know--

There is an explosion of some kind coming from another part of the house.

Cid: Oh shoot!

Cid runs out of the room.

Roxanne: And here's another botched invention.

Cid: Quit talking about me behind my back missy! I can hear you!

Roxanne: Whatever, pops.

Vulkas seems to look to the others in confusion.

Vulkas:...Anyways, Cetera might not be joining us too soon considering we no longer have an airship. Mine was shot down.

Roxanne: It wasn't by the Galahad Arms, by any chance, was it?

Angel-Ion: Yup, and Vulkas is still mad about it.

Roxanne: Ugh... Those guys, thinking they own the place. The government doesn't do shit about it.

She notices Angel-Ion's belt.

Roxanne: I'm guessing you stole that.

Angel-Ion: No, I won it.

Roxanne: You participated in the Underdome?

Angel-Ion: Yup. It wasn't voluntary but Vulkas and I survived. There was some other guy called Sinbad or something, too.

Roxanne: Ugh... He's another snake in the G.A.

Angel-Ion: He is?

Roxanne: Yup. He used to work for the Nova Star Industrial Corporation with my father, but he got fired and turned into a criminal. He got arrested and was sent to Ludlow Penitentiary, but escaped. I heard he lost his arm in prison.

Vulkas's body seems to brighten its luminosity.

Vzark: Of course I'm still mad. They fucking destroyed countless tomes I had! Do you have any idea how old some of those were?  I swear next time I'm going to rip apart those Galahad Arms bastards. 

He calms down, and his luminosity settles.

Vulkas: I still believe you should sell that belt. It'd help us out more in the long run. Or hell, give it to me as reparations.

Angel-Ion: No way. I earned it.

Cid: If it's an airship you're looking for, I can certainly build one for ya.

Roxanne rolls her eyes.

Luther just quietly drinks his tea.

Ruselt looks around at all of Cid's inventions.

Ruselt: So...uh, what sort of things do you make?

Ruselt stands up to get a closer look at some of the inventions.

Cid: I make all kinds of gadgets! I'm not a man of preference.

Roxanne: You're not a man of sense, either.

Cid: I heard that missy!

Angel-Ion picks up a large object.

Angel-Ion: What is this one?

Cid: That one there's a propeller rocket, she's faulty and needs tweaking before she can be used. The last time I used her, she went flying off into the mountains.

Angel-Ion: ...And you went up there to get it?

Cid: Yup. Some of my stuff comes from the Scrap Horde south of here, so it weren't that much of a trek.

Lanval: You've been to the Scrap Horde?

Cid: Uh-huh!

Angel-Ion: Scrap Horde?

Cid: The Scrap Horde is where lots of disused gadgetry from the NSIC gets dumped. It's more or less a scrapyard out in the open!

Angel-Ion: Doesn't that give the Galahad Arms more tools to use?

Cid: Maybe, maybe not, but as I see it, one man's trash is another man's treasure.

Lanval: So... Why do you live detached from the rest of town?

Cid: Those people don't like people like me. My inventions caused them too much issues so they forced me to live a distance away. I'm not fussed by it, they're still welcoming to me when I come to visit, Roxie here has a job at the nearest tavern.

Luther: (Stuttering) Are the Galahad Arms prominent in this area?

Roxanne: Nobody knows. The town has been really peaceful for the past few months.

Vulkas: I doubt that'll last forever. Considering how extreme they've seen to be I doubt any town is really safe.

Luther finishes his tea.

Vulkas: But back to my airship. You apparently can build one for me? 

Cid: Of course! It will take some time, though. Plus I'll need a number of things from the Scrap Horde.

Ruselt: You don't happen to have any magic tomes do you? Luther is intersted in learning magic.

Cid: Nah. I'm not the type for magical books, unlike ol' Cetera.

Luther: (Stuttering, albeit less) Was uncle...powerful?

Cid: Very.

Ruselt: How did you get to know him?

Cid: It all started on a normal, blistering hot day in Sabaria. Me and some friends o' mine were taking care of some shipment. We were given an assignment to head west, where there were more shipments expected. The ship we boarded had both us workers, as well as the regular civilian. While we were amidst our travels, we came face to face with a very bad storm. We were pulled in, but we didn't expect what would come next... A "sea monster" attacked the ship. It nearly tore it apart, but that's when I saw him, your uncle Cetera. He was amongst a small few trying to repel the beast, so I decided to give help of my own. The beast was tough, and, while we lost some of ours, we managed to send the monster packing. As far as I can remember, we gave it a very nasty wound that must've taught it a lesson. After that, when we hit the port of our destination, I learned some about Cetera. He was travellin' all alone. I invited him aboard our ship. The crew, what was left of it, welcomed him into our group, and we decided that we should go "sight-seeing" a bit in the region, to prevent any risk of encountering the beast again. We travelled far, and picked up some people along the way. We got into fights with others, namely pirates, and lost some of those who would fight with us, but we managed to get there in the end. We came back over 'ere unscathed, and what was left of us made a sound declaration that we'd stick together always, no matter what... But that's when things started going south. I would've liked us to stay together... But then something happened... And we were all forced to go our separate ways...

Lanval: What happened?

Cid: I don't wanna talk about it...

Cid gets up and begins tinkering with something. His expression is very glum.

Lanval: ... Sorry.

Vulkas: To be honest you don't seem like you were the fighting type.

Letter From Cetera

There is a knock at the door.

Roxanne goes to the door. Lanval stands by it on high alert.

Roxanne: Hello?

Postman: Letter for a mister Cid Fenix.

Roxanne: Oh, thanks.

Roxanne takes the envelope and closes the door. She hands it to Cid, who opens it.

The letter read, "Dear Cid. My nephews should be arriving at your house, sooner or later. I want you to offer them your hospitality, and give them a safe place to stay for a while. No one can know that you have them. Also, could you tell them both that they're in a lot of trouble. Yours sincerely, Cet. P.S. The Kylotean's in trouble too."

Cid: Aha! A letter from Cetera! You're in luck boys!

Angel-Ion: Hooray!

Cid: But... Also, you're not.

Angel-Ion: Oh... Why's that.

Cid: Cet said the three of you are in trouble.

Lanval: Three?

Cid: Well, Ruselt, Luther and Angel-Ion.

Angel-Ion puts his hand on his face.

Angel-Ion: What'd I do wrong?

Ruselt: Uh... I do not need this right now.

Angel-Ion: Loosen up. At least you know your uncle's alive.

Ruselt stares at Angel-Ion for a while.

Ruselt: I am going to get some sleep.

Ruselt leaves the room. Luther remains.

Vulkas inspects a framed photograph of multiple soldiers together.

Vulkas: I didn't know you were in the military.

Cid: That's the ol' Skylords, 13th Squadron. I'm in the bottom right, the squad captain when the picture was taken.

Luther looks up.

Cid: I left the Skylords a few years ago, as a Commodore, after the new Lord got in and decided to help Canorica in their silly little war.

Luther: (stuttering slightly) Did you fight in any wars?

Cid: I was in small conflicts, but no wars. I left as soon as they waged war on Venland.

Luther looks at the clock. He stands up and heads off to his room.

Ousted

April 5th, 1215 AC, Midday, Canorica.

John Curtis, and his political opponent, Joshua Andrews stand at podiums facing a desk of people who represent the Canorican supreme executive court. The man sitting at the centre of the desk stands up.

Supreme Judge: Gentlemen. You have both been summoned before the supreme court in order to establish some of the changes we have been forced to make. We have been discussing, for several days now, the current state of the country's economy, and to be frank, it's a mess.

Joshua Andrews: Wonder who's fault that is.

John Curtis: You ought to keep your mouth sh-

Supreme Judge: Silence! You will be able to speak your minds later. Now is a time for you two to listen. 

John Curtis: Hmph.

Supreme Judge: Using the emergency powers invested in the supreme court, and after a fair assessement of the Canorican Orthodox Party's economic policies, we have concluded that a change in government may be necessary to restore balance to the economy.

John Curtis: You can't be serious.

Supreme Judge: I am deadly serious Mr Curtis. The supreme court has concluded that your party is having a negative influence on Canorica. This negative influence has gotten out of hand, and we are about to enter hyperinflation. Congress have declared the country in a state of emergency, and granted us emergency powers. As a result, we have no other choice, but to automatically appoint the Canorican Democratic Progressive Party to the role of government until the next decennial election

John Curtis: You want to make this pushover the president? *gesturing towards Andrews*

Joshua Andrews: This "pushover" is having to fix all of your mishaps.

John Curtis: Pfft, mishaps. Like what?

Joshua Andrews: Aside from the poor economy, the poor relations with Haphae and Parcia, and your illegal war with Venland?

Supreme Judge: Mr Andrews, I ask that you do not overstep your bounds. Neither Congress or the Supreme Court have declared the war to be illegal. In fact, we had planned to congratulate Mr Curtis on his military success in the annexation.

John Curtis smiles.

Joshua Andrews: What!? Military Success? The whole operation was botched from start to finish! It was a miracle our forces even got to Savorden!

Supreme Judge: Calm yourself Mr Andrews. Let's not allow this to get out hand. You were summoned here to be informed of role changes. This is not an area for debate.

The Supreme Judge looks at Curtis.

Supreme Judge: Mr Curtis, you may have been removed from the presidency, but you can take solace in the fact that your political career is not over. The Supreme Court has decided that Canorican forces will remain in Venland and it shall be treated as if it were another Canorican State. We are willing to offer you a position as the first governor of Venland.

Joshua Andrews: What!?

John Curtis: I gladly accept this offer. Thank you your honour.

Joshua Andrews: We don't have any jurisdiction over Venland. How can you make him their governor?

Supreme Judge: Well the fact is, we do have control over Venland, and congress and the supreme court have agreed that Venland is to become a separate state within Canorica. As a result, it requires a governor.

Joshua Andrews: I can't believe I am hearing this.

Supreme Judge: Sadly for you Mr Andrews, what's done is done. We however have faith in your economic and foreign policy, and trust you will be able to restore this country back to its former status. 

Joshua Andrews' eyes narrow.

Supreme Judge: I wish you both the best of luck in your new roles. This meeting is concluded. Be on your way.

Joshua Andrews and John Curtis both exit the room. They both leave with mixed feelings about the Supreme Court's decision.

Thunderstruck

April 5th, 1215 AC, Evening, Kyloto - Makai Territories

A female Kylotean, accompanied by a bunch of misfit figures, opens the front door of the Tower of Negura. Guards quickly walk over, two pointing their spears at her

- Tower Guard - Matlock: State your business here!

Woman: My business? I believe I was summoned here by that one you call "Overlord".

Matlock: Prove it!

Woman: Do you doubt me? Do you even know who I am?

Matlock: I'll show you what I think of you!

The guard prepares to attack, but is blasted away with a bolt of electricity. The other guards prepare for attack.

Oran: Stand down.

The guards follow their orders and kneel before an approaching Oran.

Other Guard: Forgive us, sir.

Oran: You must be Captain Kaizoku.

- Captain of the Galvano Pirates - Matsura Kaizoku: Yes. I'm here for your boss's summons.

Oran: Indeed. Please, this way.

Matsura: You lot, stay here.

Pirate: Yes ma'am.

The guards begin leading Matsura inside the Tower, while her crew remain outside. The two pass Matlock as he recuperates.

Oran: Take him to the chambers. He must be punished for his insubordination.

Two guards apprehend a stunned Matlock and drag him away. Oran leads Matsura to Shen's throne room, where Zurakiel is sharpening an axe, and Doriru is sitting on a table. Shen sits on the throne. Oran kneels before him.

Shen: Is this the pirate I requested for?

Oran: Yes, my lord. This is Matsura Kaizoku of the Galvano Pirates.

Shen: Good.

Matsura: I heard you wanted a favour from me.

Shen: Indeed. I needed someone who could present a reliable source of information to Angel-Ion Excalvur, so I want you and your crew to head out to act as an informant.

Matsura: I'm assuming there's a catch. Where is this Angel-Ion.

Shen: Our sources assume that he is in Sabaria.

Matsura: And if he's not?

Shen: If he is not, bide your time. I know for sure that he will eventually head there, sooner or later.

Matsura: And what will it be that I'm informing him?

Shen: You will inform him that you have encountered his brother, Lance, in the white city, Baise, and that he is looking for him. That is all.

Matsura: Good, now, lets talk about payment fees. You might be the ruler of Kyloto, but I am a pirate who doesn't do mercenary acts for free.

Shen: Name your price.

Matsura: How about... Two million gold pieces.

Shen: ... I'll see to it that you'll be paid as soon as possible. Oh, and another thing, if you happen to kill Excalvur, bring his head to me. I will double your reward. Do not fail me.

Matsura: Don't worry, m'lord, Lady Lightning never fails.

Matsura leaves. Another figure, of differing origin, enters.

Shen: Ah. Hardforth. I've been waiting for you.

- Administrator of the M.D.S - Hardforth Veerlan: Glad to hear that, my lord.

Shen: I want to know about the progress of our new line of airships.

Hardforth: The prototype is now at 10% completion, my lord. The skeleton of the Levian airship proved to be extremely useful. I feel that it will only take two to three months before it can be called complete. After that, it will begin its test flight, and then we can move on to mass production. In a year or so, we will have amassed a new line of aircraft which can make way for a brand new fleet.

Shen: Good, just what I like to hear. As for those... "Test patients" you requested, I can inform you that the chambers have a fresh new stock of potential specimens. Take as many as you like, but don't go taking the ones from Block E. Those are important to the progress of the Dominion.

Hardforth: Thank you my lord, I graciously accept your specimens.

Shen: Feel free to take some of the corpses from the hold as well. I assume they would also prove useful to your research and development.

Hardforth leaves. Oran seems to have an eerie grin on his face.

Shen: And what has humoured you?

Oran: Oh, its just that I have only just recently sent one of the tower guards to the chambers to be punished.

Shen begins laughing.

Sword Training

April 6th, 1215 AC, Dawn

Angel-Ion throws cold water over Ruselt's face, waking him up.

Angel-Ion: Get up.

Ruselt: Hey! What was that for!?

Angel-Ion: Get that sword of yours, we're going out.

Ruselt: What for?

Angel-Ion: To open some letters. What do you think its for?!

Ruselt grabs his sword and gets dressed. Angel-Ion leads him outside. Angel-Ion gets out a map gven to him by Cid.

Angel-Ion: We're going this way.

Angel-Ion heads in a direction, but stops and turns after realising he's going the wrong way.

Angel-Ion: This way!

Angel-Ion trudges forwards.

Ruselt rolls his eyes and keeps following Angel-Ion. Within some time, they soon reach the lower reaches of Mt. Hora. The sun is now high in the sky. Angel-Ion begins looking around after making a stop, and slumps himself down on a rock.

Ruselt: You still haven't exactly told me the point of this... Actually... Did you even tell the others that we had gone?

Angel-Ion: I told Cid yesterday. I wrote a note in case he happens to forget. As for why we're doing this, its clear to me that you know barely anything about swordsmanship, yet alone appear to be able to properly wield that blade you have beside you. You need to be taught the ways of the sword if you can hope to be able to use it, otherwise you'll end up chopped up like sushi.

Ruselt: But we're safe now. I don't even really need a sword anymore.

Angel-Ion: You might be safe now, but what about later? If the Galahad Arms were any indication, we're still under potential threat. That's why you're up here.

Ruselt: Pft, you sound like Luther.

Angel-Ion: Why are you full of complaints?

Ruselt: Well I have a lot to complain about. *Smiles sardonically* 

Angel-Ion throws a stone directly into Ruselt's face.

Angel-Ion: Are you sure you're from the Visarion lineage? I didn't know the newer generations were such whiners.

Ruselt: Ow. That hurt!

Angel-Ion: See?! You practically need to be trained!

Ruselt: Ugh...fine! Let's just get this over with.

Angel-Ion: Then draw your weapon.

Ruselt pulls out his falchion.

Angel-Ion: Next, assume your stance.

Ruselt stands one foot in front of the other, holding the falchion with both hands.

Angel-Ion: Your stance...

Angel-Ion zips forwards and swings his blade out, launching Ruselt's falchion out of his hands and into the air.

Angel-Ion: ... IS WEAK!

Ruselt picks up his falchion and stans up again. He scowls slightly.

Ruselt: Has anyone ever told you that you're really annoying?

Angel-Ion: No. And, for your information, that kind of stance is pathetically weak. If you used that against some really tough swordsman, they wouldn't just be taking that blade out of your hands, he'll be taking your head too. Taking your stance is not just about striking some pose to look cool or brave, your stance can prove that you are a strong swordsman, and can help you to protect yourself in the event that your opponent moves first. With enough skill with your stance, you'll even be able to determine your opponent's first move, or maybe even strike before they can get the chance to.

Ruselt stands side on and holds the falchion in front of him. He focuses on Angel-Ion.

Angel-Ion swings his sword around his hand twice before clutching it and moving his free hand into a forward defence stance.

Ruselt charges forwards and takes a swift swing at Angel-Ion. Angel-Ion swings his sword across, clashing it with Ruselt's. It comes close to coming out of Ruselt's hand.

Ruselt regrips the sword and quickly slashes back at Angel-Ion.

Angel-Ion counters and forces his sword towards Ruselt, knocking him back.

Ruselt seems visibly annoyed and he charges forward again, this time slashing more aggresively.

Angel-Ion notices this and swings his sword forwards, pushing and forcing it against Ruselt's, knocking it out of his hands.

Angel-Ion: You get angered too easily. Its a sign of weakness. While it does give you strength, aggression makes you slower. Pick it up, we've got several rounds ahead of us.

Eiskalt

April 6th, 1215 AC, Afternoon. Tonenberg, Mercria

Four Kylotean naval vessels arrive at the ports in Tonenberg, several guards litter them keeping close watch on the goods inside. They begin to dock. A figure emerges from one and heads onto the port.

Several Mercrian soldiers are stationed at the docks. A black car with the Mercrian army symbol engraved on the door pulls up to the dock. A Mercrian man steps out. He has light brown hair and bright blue eyes. He is wearing a full military uniform and a long coat. He walks towards the dock, accompanied by an elite guard.

The figure, a large broad man, approaches them, followed by two soldiers. The Kylotean stands over the Mercrians. Several soldiers nearby tighten their grip on their guns.

The Mercrian man gestures to them, and they relax their grip.

Mercrian Man (In Venlish) : Good afternoon.

Kylotean Man (In Venlish) : Afternoon.

A few Mercrian soldiers begin checking the ships.

Mercrian Man: I am General Koenig. You must be...?

Kylotean Man: Yoru Silva. Oka Eritoshin of Kyloto.

Koenig: What what exactly are you here for?

Yoru: I am here to oversee the first delivery of the goods to share with our allies.

Yoru points at the cargo on the ship he came from.

A pair of Kylotean soldiers on the ship begins hassling a Mercrian soldier. Other Mercrians soldiers and a field mage show up to aid him. The aggressors are dragged off.

Koenig takes out a cigarette and lights it.

Koenig: Your men need to understand that this is Mercria, not Kyloto. Regardless of this "alliance," we are within our right to detain and dispose of unwanted foreigners.

He takes a puff of his cigarette.

He walks alongside one of the ships and brushes his hand against the side of the hull. 

Koenig: Such great woodwork. It's a shame we don't make ships like this anymore.

An angered Kylotean attempts to rush Koenig.

Kylotean: You're all talk!

Yoru fires a beam of fire at the Kylotean. He falls dead on the floor. Yoru spits on the floor.

Yoru: You might say that, about this alliance, but we have our own rules, about insubordination.

The other Kyloteans feel as though Yoru's aura is crushing them. They step away out of fear.

Koenig: You said "other goods." As I recall, the deal was gold.

Yoru: The deal was gold and other treasures.

Koenig: Hmm, Miss Winters must have asked for jewellery again...

Yoru: Hmph. I don't understand what use your leader has for simple rocks, but its not within my business to care. Your next shipment will arrive in a month's time. It would be in your country's best interests to return favor.

The ships finish dropping off their goods and release their sails. They retract their anchors and begin to set sail.

Koenig: We'll be sure to send several vessels to Kyloto's eastern coast.

The ships set sail.

It's In Our Blood

Another Time, Another Place. Evening. 

A figure leaps away from a sword strike from another individual.

Sabal-Ion: Come on, Nearan! You've gotta do better than that! Ha ha!

Sabal-Ion assumes a battle stance to prepare for an attack.

Nearan charges forward, and slashes quickly towards Sabal-Ion's right.

Sabal-Ion ducks and trips Nearan up. While he is falling, Sabal-Ion attempts to strike down on him. Nearan manages to kick Sabal-Ion in the arm while he is down, causing him to drop his sword.

Sabal-Ion sommersaults back twice.

Sabal-Ion: Not bad!

Sabal-Ion stretches the arm he was holding his sword in.

Sabal-Ion: I can see why you're the King of Venland.

Nearan: And I can see why Keimusho is afraid of you.

Sabal-Ion slumps down and begins eating a bread roll.

Sabal-Ion: I still can't get over why Gikokus always end up with a bloodthirsty nature. His father and grandfather apparently weren't too pleasing either. I've heard that one of those lot got so mad that they ravaged an entire town just because one of the locals spilled his rice.

Sabal-Ion begins laughing but chokes on his bread, so he hits his chest to make it stop. He swallows.

Nearan rolls his eyes.

Sabal-Ion: What's wrong? 

Nearan: Oh, nothing.

Sabal-Ion stands up and grabs his sword.

Sabal-Ion: Ready for another round?

Nearan: Always.

They both assume a battle stance and lunge at each other.

April 7th, 1215 AC, Near Ludlow. Evening.

Angel-Ion and Ruselt clash blades, they are launched back by the force.

Angel-Ion: It seems you're starting to get the jist of it. Keep it up!

Ruselt jumps forward and slashes downwards.

Angel-Ion raises his sword up as a guard, blocking the strike. He jumps back, before running forwards, scraping his sword in the dirt. He raises it and slashes to Ruselt's left. 

Ruselt blocks it, and he trips Angel-Ion up. Angel-Ion front flips to recover. He spins around and hurls at Ruselt, his blade outstretched.

Ruselt jumps to the side, avoiding the blade and kicks Angel-Ion in the back.

Angel-Ion falls down but springs up using his arms. He turns and fires a ball of fire at Ruselt.

Ruselt dives out of the way and hurls a weaker fireball back.

Angel-Ion slices it in two before firing several fireballs at once.

Ruselt rolls out of the way. He runs towards Angel-Ion.

Angel-Ion swings his sword across, creating a slash of fire that hurtles in Ruselt's direction. 

Ruselt quickly takes cover behind a rock. 

Ruselt: Y'know, I think it might be time to stop now!

Angel-Ion: I think you're right.

Angel-Ion wipes sweat from his forehead.

Angel-Ion: How long have we been out here?

Ruselt: A day, at least.

Angel-Ion: I guess we should call it quits for now then. We'll get something to eat and then we'll head back to Cid's house in the morning.

Angel-Ion sets up a fire and begins cooking some meat and rice.

The Games Begin

April 7th, 1215 AC, Tsunwei State Palace, 23:00

A palace administrator enters Cercyon's office. 

Administrator: Premier Cercyon, Chancellor Winters has arrived. She is in the meeting room.

Phillotus: Hmph, she's early.

Phillotus leaves his office and makes his way towards the meeting room. When he enters, Inara has already poured herself a glass of wine, and is sitting in Cercyon's seat at the end of the table. 

Phillotus: (In Mercrian) What do your think you doing in my seat?

Inara: (In Venlish) I think your Mercrian needs work.

Phillotus: (In Venlish) I am suprised you accepted the invitation.

Inara: I can't resist a social gathering.

Phillotus: This was not a social call.

Inara: On that note, you could have just called me. Airship fuel costs money you know.

Phillotus pulls a random chair out and sits in it.

Phillotus: I felt this had to occur in person.

Phillotus signals for the guards to leave the room. They bow their heads and march out.

Phillotus: Do you know why I invited you here?

Inara: Can you give me a clue? *Chuckles* 

Phillotus: This is not a laughing matter. From your impertinence, I'll assume you truly have no idea.

Inara: Then enlighten me. 

Phillotus: Two days ago, one of our scout boats reported the presence of a currently uncounted number of Mercrian military vessels south of our coastline. They were reported to have been heading west, towards Kyloto.

Inara: Have you considered that your intel might be faulty?

Phillotus: Three scout boats sent to the area where these ships were spotted have failed to return.

Inara shrugs smugly.

Phillotus: The less I say about your little meeting with Retaliak and Gikoku, the better.

Inara: Is that not a little hypocritical? 

Inara smiles.

Phillotus: What do you mean?

Inara: You... Passing judgement on me for being involved in secret pacts, considering your pact with Chairman Honalez.

Inara looks at Phillotus dead in the eyes and takes a sip of her wine.

Phillotus begins sweating.

Inara: Surely you couldn't have thought you were the only with a range of informants now, Phil?

Phillotus: What else do your spies know?

Inara: Telling you that wouldn't be playing fair now, would it?

Phillotus: This isn't a game, Miss Winters.

Inara: Really? Because it's getting quite fun.

Inara takes another sip of her wine.

Phillotus: You still haven't explained why your ships are approaching Kyloto.

Inara: Oh come on Cercyon, you're smart enough. Put two and two together.

Phillotus: You have a meeting with Shen Gikoku at the height of political tension, and suddenly the Mercrian navy shows up at his doorstep... You're giving him naval security...

Inara: Bingo!

Phillotus: If the rest of Helios were to learn of your agreements, it could make your ensemble look very bad. You're practically asking for some sort of war to brew.

Inara: Now I'm curious. You're aware of how alliances instigate wars, yet you made one anyway. Why is that?

Phillotus looks down and bites his tongue.

Inara: You just didn't want to be alone if war broke out. Now that is sweet.

Phillotus: I don't need to take this mockery from the likes of you.

Inara stands up and walks towards Phillotus. 

Inara: Behind all of this bravado, the possibility of war terrifies you. 

Inara's smile widens.

Inara puts her hands on Phillotus' shoulders.

Inara: Or maybe it is more personal than that. Maybe you're just afraid of death itself. Maybe the thought of Levian soldiers dragging your battered, mutilated carcass through the desecrated streets of Tsunwei makes you quake with fear!

Inara exhales. She takes her hands off Cercyon's shoulders and takes another sip of her wine.

Phillotus appears very displeased.

Phillotus: The last person to speak to me like that was dragged into the courtyard and shot.

Inara: So shoot me. 

Phillotus: You're in way over your head, Miss Winters.

Inara: I am not the only one playing a dangerous game here. Especially since you're openly supporting that radical in Tythan. 

Inara chuckles slightly.

Inara: For someone who is so afraid of war, you do seem to be the cause of a lot of Heliosian tension. I must say, your brave-face is very convincing.

Phillotus: You can't frighten me with these prospects of death, Miss Winters.

Inara: Can't I? Hmph.

Inara stares at Cercyon. She looks into his eyes. His eyes briefly glint.

Inara: Hand me your gun.

Phillotus takes out his gun and hands it to her. He seems to be shaking slightly as he tries to resist his induced hypnotic state. His eyes remain wide with shock.

She looks at the gun and messes around with it.

Inara: Oooh, an Astra. I never thought you would resort to buying your guns from Asteria. 

Inara gives the gun to Cercyon, who is still in his hypnotic state.

Inara: Now aim it at your head.

Phillotus pulls the gun to his head and his trembling intensifies.

Inara: Now pull the trigger.

Phillotus pulls the trigger, but no bullets are fired.

Inara bursts into hysterical laughter. She clicks her fingers and Phillotus' trance breaks.

Inara holds her hand out revealing the ammunition clip. 

Phillotus: *Still visibly shaken* Very funny, Miss Winters. 

Phillotus scowls and stands up.

Phillotus: This meeting is over. It's been very useful in telling me where we stand...

Inara finishes her wine.

Inara: I can tell the next few years are going to be very interesting indeed. I'll see you at the next summit. It's been fun... Phil.

Inara smiles at him and leaves.

Phillotus glares at her as she leaves and clenches his fists.

The Diamond Dust Trail

April 8th, 1215 AC, Fenix Residence. Morning.

Roxanne hangs out washed clothes while Lanval and Vulkas watch Cid mess around with machinery on the nearby field. Angel-Ion and Ruselt arrive on the horizon.

Lanval: Looks like they're back.

Luther is sitting on a rocking chair outside the front door reading a recent newspaper. He seems more relaxed than usual.

Cid's rocket goes awry and launches in the direction of Angel-Ion and Ruselt.

Ruselt dives out of the way.

Ruselt: What the hell is wrong with you!?

Angel-Ion slices it in half, both halfs fly in opposite directions before exploding.

Cid: Sorry about that!

Luther: Did you have fun training?

Ruselt: I suppose. Angel-Ion taught me a few new tricks.

Angel-Ion: I wouldn't exactly say a "few".

Lanval: Yeah, looks like you've got some muscles now, too.

Luther: So...uh...what did you teach him?

Angel-Ion: I've taught him how to properly wield that sword of his. He still has much room for improvemet though.

Lanval: You seem to know your stuff about swords and shit, huh?

Angel-Ion: Of course. My family is a family of the sword. Even my ancestors, who have been known war generals, have been known for using swords.

Luther: Couldn't he just... You know... Use a gun?

Angel-Ion: Those things are too impractical. If he wants to use one, he can, but I won't.

Cid walks over with a letter.

Cid: It appears I have been summoned to NSIC to make a collection.

Lanval: Didn't you say you were retired?

Cid: Not entirely. Sometimes NSIC send me to colect goods that they consider "too dangerous" and deliver them to a friend in Sabaria, who runs an archive over there. I'm the only guy that they can trust who can do this kind o' monkey business.

Ruselt: What are you collecting?

Cid: I'm not sure, but its dangerous enough for the so-called Arms to want it. Luckily for me, they should be unaware of my affairs with the folks at NSIC.

Luther: What if they did find out?

Cid: Then NSIC wouldn't call for me to collect it. They'd most likely dump it in the ocean or something. Right, we're moving out in ten, so you kids get your things and get ready, 'cause Avalon's callin'.

Ruselt: Is it wise for us to go? Cetera could be here any time soon.

Luther: That... And there are still bounties on us.

Angel-Ion: Pretty sure you got on well with those disguises.

Cid: I didn't mean every last thing you own, boys. Just bring some stuff like yer money, 'case you wanna buy a souvineer or two. This place is safe enough fer ya nicknacks.

Ruselt: Fair enough then.

Luther: Eh...

Ruselt: You can stay here if you want to. I'll bring you back a souvineer.

Cid: Then let's get moving.

Lanval: Hey, Vulkas, are you coming along too?

Vulkas: No thanks. I'll pass.

Cid leads the group to a garage, where he gets into a hauling car. He attaches a trailer to the back of it.

Cid: Alright, there's just enough seats for the four of ya. One in front and three at back.

Angel-Ion: I haven't seen anything like this before!

Cid: Its a hauling car built by the NSIC. She's an older model though.

The four get into seats, with Ruselt at the front and Angel-Ion, Roxanne and Lanval at the back. The car drives off, heading south.

A Spectacle to Behold

April 7th, 11:00 PM, 1215 AC. Nirvo City Centre, Asteria.

A Kylotean man dressed as a migrant maintenance worker approaches an old decrepit building on the outskirts of Nirvo City Centre. His name tag reads, "Haru Midori." He rythmically knocks on the door, and someone opens the latch, allowing him entry. He is met by several large Kylotean men, all of which are wearing black armbands. 

Their leader steps forward.

Leader: I trust you have been given your instructions.

Haru: They were a little vague. 

Leader: It's very simple really. You enter the parliament maintanence floor via the back entrance with the package, you leave it in the storage room, and then you leave. It is as simple as that.

One of the thugs pulls up a suitcase and puts it on a table. He opens it up, revealing a panel of various tools. 

Thug: Should anyone wish to search you prior to your entry, this should be able to convince them that you are harmless. 

Haru: Seems easy enough.

Thug: When you are in a secluded area of the storage room, lift up the tool panel.

The thug lifts up the tool panel to demonstrate, and it reveals several large lumps of C4, attached to some sort of electrical appliance. The appliance has a small hatch that opens up to reveal a switch.

Thug: After ensuring that no one has seen you, flip the switch. You will have exactly one minute to leave, before the bomb goes off.

Haru: What if I am discovered?

Leader: Don't worry about that. If you are captured, we should be able to pull a few strings. 

Thug: Good luck

Haru leaves with the suitcase.

Leader: Poor sod.

Several minutes later, Haru arrives at the parliament building's back entrance. He is suprised to find no guards around and he enters goes down a flight of stairs towards the maintance floor. He follows a series of corridors until he finds the storage room the Kylotean leader was talking about. 

Haru hears the faint sound of politicians arguing into microphones above him. He sets the case down and looks around to ensure that no one can see him. He opens the case, and lifts up the tool panel. He then opens the hatch, revealing the switch.

Haru takes a deep breath in. 

Haru (in his head): Ok... Just flick the switch... There will be a delay... and I can leave calmly, without being noticed. 

Haro exhales, and flicks the switch. 

The bomb, despite what the other Kyloteans said, sets off immediately, instantly killing Haru. It rips throught the ceiling of the maintenance floor and erupts through the parliament, incinerating more than 100 politicians. The support beams are blown clean away, and the building slowly begins to collapse. 

Meanwhile, atop the balcony of a lavish mansion on the outskirts of the city, a figure sees the fiery plume emerge from the city centre. He stands up from his arm chair, and begins applauding slowly.

City in the Sky

April 9th, Morning, 1215 AC. Avalon Outskirts.

Angel-Ion: So how long exactly have we been travelling for.

Cid: Eh. Don't let it worry ya. Get ready for one of the biggest spectacles you'll ever see.

Cid drives the hauling car around a series of rocks. A huge city suspended in the air comes into view.

Angel-Ion: Wow! Incredible!

Lanval: I had only heard rumours of Avalon being a city in the sky! Amazing!

Ruselt: I had seen pictures, but I didn't think it would be this big.

Lanval: How are we even supposed to get up there??

Roxanne: Its quite simple, really. See that rockery on that nearby cliff? There's a pair of retractable bridges up there, one for walking on foot or driving, and the other for trains.

The car begins driving up a carved out pathway on the rocks. It drives around to a station.

Roxanne: Alright, diguises on. Make sure you hide those swords.

Lanval puts on a cap and shades.

Ruselt puts his sword under the car seat, and puts his cap on.

A couple of men wearing uniforms approach the car. A man in a suit follows. Cid winds down his window.

Cid: Good morning!

Man: Same to you. I guess you're here for a collection from NSIC again.

Cid: Yup. I got the letter here.

Cid hands the suited man the letter. He reads it and hands it back.

Man: Thanks for that. We were only just about to open the bridge. When its open you can enter.

Cid: Ok. Thanks.

The bridge opens and the car drives across. The man looks in the back of the car at the three in the back. Angel-Ion looks back.

Worker: What's up, boss?

Man: Nothing.

The man walks off as the haul car makes it into Avalon.

Angel-Ion: So where exactly are we headed now.

Cid: Directly to NSIC HQ. Course, none of ya are actually allowed to enter, 'cause of customs, so I'll drop you lot off in the city centre.

Ruselt: How long will you be?

Cid: About an hour or so. Have'ta go through t' customs plus the briefing. Then its who knows else from there.

Ruselt: What are we supposed to do during that time then?

Cid: Go sight-seein' or something. There's plenty o' things here for ya. Just try to stay outta trouble.

The four get out of the car.

Cid: I'll pick ya up from here. Have fun, kids.

The car drives off.

Lanval: Well. Where to first?

Ruselt: I wouldn't mind some food.

Roxanne: Lets look for a restaurant.

Angel-Ion trails off.

Lanval: Where are you going?

Angel-Ion: I smell food. There's food this way.

Roxanne: I guess we have no choice then.

Angel-Ion leads the group to a newly opened buffet bar.

Roxanne: Oh, this is new. It wasn't here when I last visited.

Angel-Ion heads in and dumps a few gold coins on a counter.

Angel-Ion: Uh, table for four.

Clerk: I'm sorry sir, we only accept Libras here.

Angel-Ion: What??? I gave you four gold coins! Surely that's enough.

Roxanne: Let me handle this.

Roxanne opens a purse and gives the clerk the money.

Clerk: Uh. Ok. This way please.

The clerk leads the four to a table.

Clerk: Feel free to get your food when ready. Enjoy.

The clerk walks off.

Angel-Ion and Lanval rush over to the food tables.

Angel-Ion: What do you want?~

Lanval: I don't know where to start!~

They take multiple dishes and return to their seats, before starting to tear into them.

Ruselt just makes a ham sandwich at the buffet and heads towards the table.

By the time he gets back, they have already cleared three plates. By the time Roxanne returns, another two are gone.

Angel-Ion: Hey, I didn't realise Novalians had the same appetite as us Kyloteans!

Roxanne takes a sip from his bowl of soup and passes a coy look across the table.

Roxanne: We don't.

Lanval: I guess that's just me! How weird! Hahaha-- Gack!

Roxanne: This is why normal people don't talk with their mouth full.

Ruselt smiles.

Ruselt: Relax, it isn't like he is attracting attention or anything.

Ruselt sarcastically gestures towards a couple sitting on a nearby table, looking disaprovingly at Lanval. They nervously attempt to ignore them, hiding their faces with a menu.

Angel-Ion: This is some seriously good stuff!

Lanval: I know, right?!

A shady figure spots Angel-Ion and Ruselt's swords leaning against the side of the table. He sneaks over.

Angel-Ion: So what do you call this?

Lanval: Oh, that's spaghetti.

Angel-Ion: It looks like noodles.

Lanval: Try it.

Man: Yoink!

The man grabs the swords and darts out of the restaurant. Quickly, Angel-Ion somersaults from the table and gives chase.

Man: Ahaha! This is gonna make us a lotta dough!

He spots Angel-Ion quickly advancing towards him.

Man: Shiiiiit!

The man knocks down a market stall, causing a series of barrels and other goods to spill out on the street.

Man: Hehe. Sucker!

Undettered, Angel-Ion leaps over it.

Man: Fuck!

A group of other men show up with guns.

Man: C'mon boys! Give 'im some lead!

Angel-Ion fires a ball of fire onto the ground, clouding their vision. They fire wildly, but each shot misses. Angel-Ion then fires fireballs at each individual in their gang, setting them on fire. He runs over to the man who took the swords, and knocks him into the air. He jumps up and kicks the thug in the side of the gut, forcing him to cough up blood and drop the swords. Angel-Ion puts his hand in the man's face.

Thug: Wait! NO! NO!

Angel-Ion fires a huge blast of fire at him, killing him instantly and torching his body, most of it turning to ash. Angel-Ion drops and grabs the swords. He spins and scapes them on the ground, forming a circle, before planting his own sword on his back. From a few metres away, another figure departs.

Ruselt arrives, panting, having run out of the restaurant to chase Angel-Ion.

Ruselt sees the remains of the thugs.

Ruselt: Angel-Ion... Wha... What have you done!?

Angel-Ion: Only a coward would take another man's sword. He had to be taught that lesson the hard way.

He hands Ruselt's back to him. People begin looking at them as Roxanne and Lanval show up.

Roxanne: You idiot! The Clockwatch are surely gonna show now! We've gotta get outta here.

Citizen 1: Its one of the Visarion twins!

Citizen 2: He's right! Stop them!

Citizen 3: Wait a minute! That's "Black Hand" Lanval, too!

Citizen 4: Aah! The Visarions are in league with criminals now! Such a horrible family!

Lanval: Shit. This is just what I wanted.

The sound of motor vehicles is heard.

Roxanne: Shit, its them. RUN!

The four run off.

Lanval: Nice going, Angel-Ion, what a nice way to blow our cover!

Ruselt: Roxanne, you know this place, where the hell are we meant to go now!?

Roxanne: There's a small hollow nearby. Nobody goes there. I went there when I was a little girl. That's our best bet.

The sound of motorbikes is heard once again.

The Shell

April 9th, Noon, 1215 AC. NSIC Headquarters.

Cid: So what exactly is this thing?

Personel: You'll see soon enough. We've dubbed it the "the Shell" due to its appearance.

Cid: Who made it?

Personel: We don't know. It was found in the ocean during one of our aquatic expeditions. We've classed it as highly dangerous after just the first test.

Cid: Must be pretty dangerous, no?

Personel: Quite. And with President Monroe still absent, we had no choice but to call you without executive permission.

Cid: ... He's still gone, eh?

Personel: Yeah. Its all different than what it was. Good times.

They approach a door makred "Storage Hold".

Personel: Here we are.

The man inputs a code on the door. A lock opens, followed by the door itself. Inside is multiple tools, trinkets and machinery.

Personel: This way.

Cid is led to a large object covered by cloth.

Cid: It's big!

Personel: Indeed. Lets get this off of it first.

They pull the cloth away, revealing a large shell-shaped object with a motor of some kind inside its stone casing. On the back is a small hole.

Cid: So... What is it?

Personel: From what we saw during tests, its some kind of cannon. An old one at that. We were surprised something like this was lost at sea, and lacked any form of water damage, considering what's inside.

Cid: What's t' damage?

Personel: We used a matress and some bricks assembled into a wall for its target practice, and put one of our trademark Single Cell Batteries inside the port here. It tore straight through the fucker and blew a hole in the test room's wall like it was nothing.

Cid: Heh. I can see why you called me for it. I'll have this taken down to Sabaria in a jiffy.

Personel: Thanks. I'll have the guys bring it out to your trailer in a minute.

From above, a shady figure watches.

~ Galahad Arms Executive ~ Agent "Hornet": Hmm... Interesting. This'll make good info.

Enter Javert

Roxanne's Hollow.

Roxanne: I think the coast is clear.

Angel-Ion: Thank god. The smell of this place is awful.

Roxanne: Hey!

Angel-Ion: What? It smells like something died in here.

Roxanne: It never used to.

Lanval: Let's get outta here.

Ruselt: We have to find Cid. At this stage, he is pretty much our only way out of here.

Lanval: He said head back to that area near NSIC HQ. That's our best bet.

Angel-Ion: Lets get moving then.

The four head out into a street and begin walking towards NSIC HQ.

Lanval: So what exactly did your dad do back when he was at NSIC?

Roxanne: He was one of the higher ups. He gave the orders as well as have a hand in some projects himself. Some of the stuff used across Novalia and over parts of the world were made by him and his colleagues.

Ruselt: What is security like at NSIC?

Roxanne: I don't really know. The only times I went in there were the "bring your child to work days" they had there, but that was years before he retired.

Ruselt: It is a big building. Do you know where Cid might be?

Roxanne: Most likely storage.

The four arrive at their meet up point.

Angel-Ion: Huh. He's not here yet. Must be still in there.

???: Oi, you.

Lanval: Huh?

Thug: We've got a bone to pick with ya. We want payback for what'ya did to our boys.

Angel-Ion: Oh no. How terrifying.

Thug: Don't fuck wit us, Kylotean.

The thug leader pulls out a shock baton. He mistakenly flashes off a Galahad Arms insignia.

Lanval: Whoa there. Since when did the G.A get their hands on the Clockwatch's equipment.

Thug: Never you mind, "Black Hand". Get 'em boys!

The thugs run forwards.

Ruselt fires a fireball at one of the thugs' legs, incapacitating them.

Two of the thugs gang up on Ruselt and begin to throw punches. Angel-Ion slides out of a thug's way and slices his back. Another two thugs try to take on Roxanne, who raises her fists in a rather unassuming manner.

Thug: Aww. Cute.

Roxanne punches the thug in the face before beating him around, punching him in the stomach and uppercutting him to the floor, while blocking the other guy's attacks.

Thug: W-wha--

She punches the second thug in the neck, knocking him down.

Roxanne: I don't do "cute".

One of the thugs fighting Ruselt finds that he has suddenly been stripped down to just his underwear.

Thug: What the fuck, man?

Lanval has his equipment in his hands.

Lanval: They don't call me "Black Hand" for a reason, now, do they?

Thug Leader: That's it! You lot have crossed the line this time! Get ready to die!

Firing is heard. The thug leader falls down dead, five spikes in his back. The other thugs freeze in terror as a masked figure appears.

Thug: M-Madame Hornet! What're you doing here?!

Hornet: Intel. I see you shitstains are doing your general hooligan act, as per usual.

Thug: Hey! That hurts!

Thug 2: These fuckers were messin' wit us, so we want payback.

Hornet: Hmm. You three. You were the ones behind the whole warehouse event over in Atlas. Black Knight told me about it. I'm afraid you're coming with me.

Angel-Ion: Not gonna happen, lady.

Hornet: Oh. And why not?

Angel-Ion: I haven't got time for your shit.

Hornet: That's not my problem.

Thug: Aww... We wanted to beat this losers up.

Hornet: Get over it, idiot. They're coming with me, along with that precious little thing they're so desperate to hide in NSIC.

???: I wouldn't be so smug if I were you, "Hornet".

Thug: Shit! NO!

???: Don't worry. We have you all surrounded. Resistance in futile.

A figure approaches.

~ Commissioner of the Clockwatch ~ Ken Javert: We've got warranty arrests for all of you here.

Angel-Ion: Who's he?

Lanval: Commissioner Javert. He runs the Clockwatch.

Javert: Hornet, Black Hand, Ruselt Visarion, Ms. Fenix, Mr. Swordsman, you're all under arrest.

Angel-Ion: Who's Mr. Swordsman?

Lanval: You, idiot.

Angel-Ion: Oh... Shit.

Hornet: Oh, Kenny. You sure caught me for reals this time.

Javert: Don't play your silly games with me, Hornet. They may have worked on others in the Clockwatch but certainly not me.

Ruselt: *Whispers to Angel-Ion* Just so you know, I am blaming this all on you.

Angel-Ion: Well screw you too.

Javert: All right men, book 'em.

Clockwatch officers approach, handcuffing some of the thugs.

Hornet: (Five, four, three, two... One.)

Suddenly, a flurry of Galahad Arms soldiers show up and begin shooting at the Clockwatch, who begin fighting back.

Lanval: What the hell is going on?!

Angel-Ion: Who gives a shit?!

Angel-Ion stabs a Galahad Arms soldier through the neck, before launching their corpse into a building.

Ruselt: Stop murdering people! You're only going to increase our bounties!

Angel-Ion: I'd rather not be killed. Also, a what?

Angel-Ion slashes a Clockwatch officer across the chest.

Lanval: Its something the Allied Nations has, if you've committed a crime they put a bounty on your head. Mine's kinda small.

Javert: "Kinda small", you say? Considering what's happening, its only going to rise, unless you do the right thing and turn yourself in.

Lanval: Fuck off.

Javert: Tsk.

Javert pulls out a baton.

Javert: I see you're not going to come quietly!

Lanval: As if!

Lanval counters a strike from his baton.

Angel-Ion: KYAH!

A small building suddenly explodes, a few Galahad Arms and Clockwatch officers inside.

Roxanne: WHOA!

Hornet: Tsk. The Kylotean's definitely a strong one.

Javert kicks Lanval to the ground before charging Angel-Ion.

Javert: Cease this violence immediately!

Angel-Ion and Javert clash weapons, creating a struggle.

Javert: I guess this whole Kylotean strength thing isn't just exaggerated!

Angel-Ion: I can say the same for this "Commissioner" bullshit!

Javert charges the baton, while Angel-Ion infuses his sword with fire.

Both: HYAH!!!

Their struggle intensifies, sending fire and electricity all over the place.

Hornet: HERE I COME, JAVERT!

Hornet flies towards Javert.

Javert: Hnh?!

Angel-Ion takes the opportunity to launch Javert back, inadvertently towards Hornet. Before she can make an attack, however, the hauling car speeds into her, knocking her into a series of crates.

Cid: Everyone get in, hurry!

The four quickly rush to the car and get in. The car drives off.

Javert: Tsk. Shit! You there! After them!

A trio of Clockwatch officers run over to their motorcycles and drive off.

Javert: As for you, Hornet--

Javert finds that Hornet has escaped, despite her injury.

Javert: Damn!

Javert runs to his own motorcycle.

Javert: I'll leave clear up to the rest of you!

Clockwatch Officer: Yes sir!

Meanwhile, from behind a nearby building.

Hornet: Damn you, Cid Fenix.

She departs.

Escape From the City

By now, several Clockwatch motorcycles are trailing the hauling car.

Cid: What did you do?!

Roxanne: We'll tell you later, now is not the time!

Lanval: They're gaining on us!

Two of the officers come up close. Cid bumps his car into one, knocking their motorcycle down. Roxanne opens the car door and jumps out, knocking the other officer off of his motorcycle, taking control of it herself.

Javert directs some of the officers to attempt to get around the car.

Ruselt hits one of the bikes by opening the car door, causing the driver to veer off into a stall.

Two bikes catch up with Roxanne and force her away from the car.

Angel-Ion: Shit!

They begin approaching the bridge. The officers from before show up in front.

Javert: Hmph. They won't have the nerve to keep driving forwards.

Cid: Shoot!

Lanval: Keep driving!

Cid: What?!

Lanval: I said keep driving!!!

Cid keeps his foot on the pedal and presses on. He closes his eyes.

The officers blocking the bridge start to get nervous.

Javert: Ack! Stop! STOP!

The officers fear for their lives and move their bikes out of the way, as the car charges across the bridge.

Javert: ...

Javert throws his helmet on the floor in his temper.

Javert: DAMN IT!

Roxanne charges forwards on her bike. Javert turns. Roxanne suddenly scores him across the face with a baton, before speeding across the bridge herself. She soon catches up with the others.

Lanval: Good to see you're ok! We thought we lost you!

Cid: Don't do that again! My heart might give out!

Roxanne: Get over it, you old coot.

Lanval: Now we're home safe.

Clockwatch officers approach Javert, who now has a cut across his face.

Officer: What shall we do, sir?

Javert: Follow them back to Ludlow. They are clearly headed there. Ensure that they are all captured.

Officer: What about you?

Javert: I will make a report of this to the government. There'll be new bounties going out this week. Ruselt Visarion, Roxanne Fenix and the mystery Kylotean will have fresh ones, while Black Hand and Hornet's are to be increased. Vinnie Tailsgate's is to be withdrawn following his demise today. As for the current situation, I will personally head out to Ludlow after my work is finished.

Traveller's Tempest

April 10th, Morning, 1215 AC. Ludlow.

Mystery Girl: Audio Log, April 10th. The two staying behind have given the names "Vulkas" and "Luther". The former made a trip to the Scrap Horde for the third time. The other persons, going by the names of "Lanval", "Roxanne", "Cid", "Angel-Ion" and "Ruselt" have yet to return. A fifth, a Mr. "Cetera Visarion", has been named. I assume the latter is related to the former King of Venland, Roarak. I'm surprised they haven't found me in their house yet.

The hauling car and Roxanne's motorcycle appear on the horizon.

Mystery Girl: Looks like the remaining party has arrived. I should get moving.

The mystery girl flees from the back door of the garage, accidentally making noise to alert Vulkas or Luther, luckily for her, they mistake the noise for the returning party.

Lanval: We're back!

Angel-Ion: And not for long, either! Get your shit together, we've got to move fast!

Angel-Ion runs past Luther in a hurry.

Luther : *Quietly* Don't mind me.

Luther approaches Ruselt, who is quickly grabbing all his stuff and shoving it into a bag.

Luther: What the hell is going on?

Ruselt: Just hurry up and pack your things!

Luther: Why?

Ruselt: We need to leave!

Luther: Why!?

Ruselt: Because we are compromised!

Luther: How!?

Ruselt: Does that really matter right NOW?

Luther: Well I think so!

Ruselt: I'LL EXPLAIN LATER, JUST PACK YOUR THINGS!

Luther: FINE!

Luther begins packing his things away. 

Cid: It would be better to explain now rather than later. The Clockwatch are due to arrive here at any minute, and, not only that, there is a chance that the Galahad Arms may also be showing up.

Roxanne: We got into some trouble with the latter, and the former showed up, and now they're after us. No questions, no arguing, and no blaming one another for your mistakes. If I catch any of you doing it, I'll take your man areas from you. Now hurry up!

Angel-Ion rushes out with his belongings, followed by Lanval. Lanval catches Cid and Roxanne discussing something.

Roxanne: ... Yes... I promise.

Cid: Now go!

Lanval: Yo, Cid, what's gonna happen to you?

Cid: Nothing really, I'll just hold the fort and buy you some time.

Lanval: But they'll put you in that hell hole the other side of town! Are you mad?!

Cid: If they lock me up, they lock me up! Let the ol' ones give up their stakes so the young can move on, that was my ol' man's saying.

Roxanne suddenly tears up, but quickly wipes her tears away. She heads into the house.

Angel-Ion: What's up with her all of a sudden?

Lanval: Dunno.

The sound of motorcycles is heard coming from Ludlow.

Lanval: Shit... They're here already.

Ruselt: What about Cetera?

Angel-Ion: Looks like he's not coming! HURRY UP IN THERE!

Ruselt and Luther grab their bags and go. Roxanne shortly follows suit.

Roxanne: THIS WAY!

Roxanne hops on to her motorcycle and ties the Shell to the back. She leads the group back behind some hills, leading to the coast-side of the town. The Clockwatch motorcycles arrive at Cid's house. An officer knocks on the door. Cid opens it.

Cid: Hello officer.

Officer: Mr. Cid Fenix, I understand that your daughter and a few other characters have been causing civil disrupt in Avalon. We're going to have to search your property and ask some questions.

Cid: ... Go right ahead.

The officers begin searching.

Officer: Right then, Mr. Fenix. Do you have any idea what your daughter was doing in Avalon?

Cid: Haven't a clue.

Officer: That's odd. From reports, one of your vehicles was sighted in the streets, carrying a certain kind of object in a trailer.

Cid: ... Still not ringing any bells.

Another officer enters.

Officer #2: Sir, we have found scratches of the doors of the vehicle and the trailer. There was a cloth on the back that was recently moved.

Officer: Mr. Fenix, understand the consequences of lying. Given your age, you might not last a day in Ludlow Penitentiary.

Cid: Hmph.

Officer #3: Sir! This is urgent!

Officer: What is it?!

Officer #3: We've found footprints and tyre marks on the ground just outside! And they're fresh!

Officer: Son of a... AFTER THEM!!!

Officer #3: Yessir!

The two officers leave.

Officer: So then, old man. Got any more lies to tell??

Cid: What, like how your so called Lord of Novalia purposely ignores the Galahad Arms for HIS OWN SAKE? How's that for a lie?!

Officer: That's it.

The officer arms himself with a baton.

Cid: (Roxanne... My daughter. You must escape, at all costs.)

Meanwhile.

Roxanne: We can't make any delays!

Angel-Ion: Where are you leading us?!

Roxanne: There's this place near the port, only a few people know about it!

Lanval: And what lies there?

Roxanne: An airship!

The sound of motorcycles and sirens fill the air.

Angel-Ion: WHAT?! Already?!

Roxanne: We're gonna have to split up so they don't catch us. You must reach the port at all costs!

Roxanne speeds ahead. Lanval and Vulkas divert from the path.

Ruselt and Luther stick together and also divert from the path.

Luther: (While running) This was not part of the plan!

Ruselt: (While running) You don't say!

Luther and Ruselt both hide in an alleyway to gather breath.

They watch as a motorbike speeds past. Motorbikes catch up with Angel-Ion.

Angel-Ion: Took 'em long enough.

Angel-Ion knocks down a market stall, causing one of the bikes to hit it, and sending the officer on it flying. He then fires a ball of fire on the ground. An officer's motorbike's tire pops due to the heat, making him fall off. Angel-Ion stops running. He turns and punches the third officer off of his bike. He hops on it himself.

Angel-Ion: How do I use this thing?

He attempts to control it but falls down. He gets up and tries again, this time driving off. He is spotted by Lanval. Luther and Ruselt see the coast is clear, and leave the allyway. They head towards the port. Clockwatch officers spot Angel-Ion and begin to give chase.

Officer: Stop him!

A throwing knife pierces the tire of the officer at the back. Lanval slides along a slanted rooftop. He throws a second throwing knife at the second officer's arm, causing them to veer off course. The second and first officers notice this. Lanval jumps off the roof and runs off.

Officer: It's Black Hand. You take him, I'll take the Kylotean.

The second officer steers towards Lanval, unknowingly passing in front of Vulkas in the process. Vulkas stops to observe his situation and spots Roxanne chasing after the officer tailing Angel-Ion. Lanval hides behind a corner and kicks out a barrel. He runs forwards, causing the officer to continue his path, unknowingly crashing into the barrel. Lanval continues running forwards while looking back at the officer with a grin on his face.

???: LOOK OUT!!

Lanval runs into a woman. He comes to.

Lanval: I-I-I'm so sorry! I didn't see you!

Mystery Girl: It's ok, I wasn't paying much atten--

She looks up.

Lanval: You're that girl from the train, a-aren't you?

Mystery Girl: Eep. I-I...

She blushes. Lanval helps her collect her things.

Mystery Girl: T-Thanks.

Lanval: Don't mention it. The name's Lanval.

Mystery Girl: I-I'm Avery.

Lanval: That's a nice name.

Avery blushes again.

Avery: W-Well. It was nice meeting you!

Avery suddenly runs off. Lanval notices he's holding her scarf still.

Lanval: Hey! Miss Avery! You forgot your... Scarf... Oh well.

He puts it on and puts on a cap, in an attempt to blend in. It is unsuccessful, as he is spotted by a pair of Clockwatch officers.

Officer: You're coming with us, Black Hand.

Lanval: Guys, please. Just call me Lanval.

Officer: Either way you're coming with us.

Lanval: Nah.

Lanval pings an elastic band at the first officer. It hits him between the eyes.

Officer: GAH! Get him!

The second officer runs forwards. Lanval throws his throwing knife at his leg. Lanval quickly flees, unaware that Avery had began watching. She heads off shortly afterwards.

Luther and Ruselt both arrive at the port and wait for Roxanne. Angel-Ion notices that he can't shake off the bogey on his tail. Roxanne prepares to take the officer out, but notes that she now has two more officers on her tail. Vulkas suddenly appears standing on the back of one of their bikes.

Vulkas: Hey.

Officer: Huh?

Vulkas kicks the officer in the face, before jumping off the bike. He crashes into the other one, allowing Roxanne to throw a hand-made nail bomb at the officer ahead of her. His tires pop and he ricochets into a wall. Angel-Ion makes it to the port, but messes up when he attempts to brake, causing the bike to crash and scrape against the floor. He jumps off in time, and spots his bike slide off the edge into the sea. Roxanne soon arrives, followed by Vulkas. Lanval reaches Luther and Ruselt. He is out of breath.

Ruselt: Are there any Clockwatch officers coming?

Lanval: None that I've seen. Now where are those buggers...

Lanval looks around and spots Vulkas, Roxanne and Angel-Ion conversing.

Lanval: There!

They head over.

Roxanne: I'm glad you all made it in one piece.

Lanval: Where now?

Roxanne: This way.

Roxanne leads them beyond the port, leading them to a cliffside.

Roxanne: Here we are.

Angel-Ion: What's this?

Lanval: Are you planning on pushing us off?

Roxanne: No, silly. Watch this.

Roxanne dismounts her bike and heads to a bush. She pulls a string hidden within it. A mound of dirt suddenly lifts up, revealing a tunnel of sorts.

Roxanne mounts her bike again and rides it down.

Roxanne: This way.

The others soon head down. Lanval looks around to see if anybody is coming. He closes the hatch up with the handle on its underside. At the bottom of the tunnel is a large cavern with a single ship docked at it, nearby are a series of crates and other supplies, as well as a table and corkboard. A near-finished second ship is found near the back wall.

Ruselt: What is this place?

Roxanne: This is something my father and I have worked on in secret, along with a few others. Only those few actually know about the place, despite how easy it was to access.

Angel-Ion: Pretty nice place to hide a ship. An oceanside cavern.

Roxanne: That's how we get out of here.

Vulkas: What kind of boat is it?

Roxanne: An airship, built by my father and I.

Lanval observes the drawings and letters pinned to the corkboard. He then looks at the blueprints on the table, marked as "Traveler's Tempest II" on it.

Roxanne: As you're over there, Lanval, give us a hand loading some of that stuff on board.

Lanval: ... Ugh. Fine.

Lanval begins lifting crates. Angel-Ion and Vulkas assist, with Angel-Ion carrying the bike and the Shell on board. Roxanne takes the blueprints and one of the drawings from the corkboard. She opens a drawer on the table, and takes a pendant, a photo album and a camera of sorts out. She puts the latter in her bag and observes the picture of a woman in the pendant. She closes it and puts it in her bag before helping with the heavy lifting. Soon, everything is brought on board, and everyone begins to unpack their things... Save for Lanval. Lanval looks up at the gang on board the ship.

Lanval: Well... I guess this is it for us. I hope we'll see each other again in the futu--

Angel-Ion: What're you talking about? Get on!

Lanval: Huh?

Angel-Ion: You're with us now, right?

Lanval: For real?

Roxanne: Hurry up and get on board. We're waiting to leave.

Lanval: Alright!

Lanval runs on board, but slips up on the deck.

Vulkas: Oh dear...

Roxanne: Alright. Raise the anchor. Traveller's Tempest is to set sail immediately!

Angel-Ion and Vulkas pull an anchor up.

Roxanne: Raise the sails!

Ruselt and Luther each pull levers to release the sails.

Roxanne: Boosters to launch in five... Four... Three... Two... One.

The boosters activate, causing the ship to move out. From outside, searching Clockwatch officers spot the ship, but quickly realise they can't do anything to stop it. Some vent their frustration.

The ship begins to raise into the air. It slowly turns around while gaining lift. It faces the land and launches over it, into the horizon.

Fenix and Javert

A lone motorbike pulls up at Cid's house. The man riding it takes off his helmet; Javert. He dismounts the bike and puts his helmet on the floor. He walks over to the house. He is approached by another officer.

Javert: Status report.

Officer: Escaped, sir.

Javert: As in left Ludlow?

Officer: Yessir.

Javert: ...

Javert enters the house to find Cid still restrained.

Javert: Release him.

Officer: Huh?

Javert: I said release him, idiot.

The officer complies.

Javert: Mister Cid. I assume my colleague here has already given you the details, so I will just cut to the chase now.

Javert pulls out a few sheets of paper. They depict doodles of Roxanne's, Angel-Ion's and Ruselt's faces, and a photo of Lanval's.

Javert: These are template bounty posters. Not yet finalised. We've priced your daughter as well as the Kylotean, and Black Hand's and Visarion's have been raised. We're waiting on a name and actual photos, and maybe details on other accomplices, before we release the posters publically. As for you, we will send you a fine for your own actions, may you thank us for our mercy on your case. Take care.

Javert leaves.

Cid: Damn you... Kenneth...

The Report

April 11th, Late Morning, 1215 AC. Avalon Times Building.

Avery: And that's the report sir.

???: Mhm. Any photographs of these individuals?

Avery: Here.

Avery lays a group of pictures on the table.

???: Thank you.

Avery: You're welcome, Mr. Drummond, sir!

Drummond: Yeah, yeah. Your voice is irritating my ears again. Go write an article or something!

Avery: Uh... Yes sir.

Avery leaves the office. The boss presses a button and talks into a speaker.

~ Avalon Times CEO and Editor-in-Chief ~ Jack Drummond: Give word to the authorities that we have special information about the recent happenings.

Secretary: Yes sir!

Drummond: And make sure to call in our "special clients", while you're at it.

He sits back in his chair and looks at the photos, before lughting a cigarette. He takes a puff.

Drummond: Ah, the Visarions. Glad to see that fuck-up family is still trying to get out there and cause more shit. Can't wait to see yer little smug face wiped off. Same goes for you, Dultra. Hahaha.

The Second Heliosian Summit

April 13th, 1215 AC, Morning. Ranzhou Council Building.

Like last time, a large round table with comfortable leather chairs and corresponding flags is set. This time however, there are a few extra chairs.

Cercyon arrives first, donning his military tunic, quickly followed by Honalez who is wearing his traditional white suit..They both seem to be dreading the meeting.

Honalez: I doubt it is just me that has a bad feeling about this meeting.

Cercyon: Nope. If Kerraslav is calling the meeting, then it can't be a good thing. He'll only want to talk about what happened in Nirvo. 

Honalez: And I think we both know who he'll blame for it.

Cercyon: Kylotean spotted entering the maintenance wing of the Asterian parliament before it's destruction. Remains of the Kylotean found at the epicentre of the explosion. Several Kylotean conspirators discovered in an old building in the outskirts, and upon their interrogation, one of them revealed they had connections with the Dominion. It isn't exactly a mystery who Kerraslav will blame for this.

Honalez: We're probably over-thinking this. Kerraslav might be more reasonable.

Cercyon: Kerraslav isn't as weak as other people might percieve. He--

Inara Winters suddenly enters the room, accompanied by General Koenig, Orchus Retaliak and two Levian guards.

Inara: Mornin' 

Inara and Phillotus both briefly glare at eachother. Orchus immediately notices the extra chairs and he too glares at Cercyon before sitting down.

Inara clicks at the same servant who provided her wine at the last summit. The servant quickly runs off to get her a glass. Inara takes a seat. 

Another servant approaches Orchus.

Servant: Will you be having anything sir?

Orchus: No drinks for me thanks. *In his head* Unlike Miss Winters, I am not asking to be poisoned.

Argus and Horndahl enter the chamber, gazing at the arrived party. They are followed by Shen and Oran, the former of which notices no drink has been left for him this time. Najam arrives with Deciduous, who is accompanied by Javert. Shen trades glances with Argus and Orchus. Javert and Horndahl begin scowling at one another.

Deciduous: Are we waiting for anyone else?

Phillotus: We're still waiting for King Ansuz, President Andrews, Mr. Ketrov, and Admiral Brocade and Mr. Wolf. Oddly enough Mister Kerraslav also isn't here yet.

Andrews walks in accompanied by Ketrov. They both sit down. Ansuz arrives. His body language suggests that he doesn't exactly want to be here. Fleet Admiral Brocade arrives soon after.

5 minutes later, Vincent Kerraslav arrives, covered by two body guards. He is visibly in a fractious mood.

A man enters the room: Vladimir Wolf. He immediately looks at Ketrov. 

Ketrov's eye twitches.

Ketrov: W-what is this s-savage, doing here? *looks at Cercyon*

Cercyon: According to the summit charter, a state shall recieve representation on the council providing it is recognised by two other nation states. Both Haphae and Parcia recognise Eastern Tythan's independence. He simply had to be invited. *smirks*

Ketrov: Bu-but you c-can't allow hi--

Cercyon: May all be seated. Let's make this brief.

Vladimir Wolf takes a seat and glares at Ketrov.

Cercyon: Before we begin, I'd like to congratulate Joshua Andrews on his... Default appointment... As President. Hopefully you will be more cooperative than your less scrupulous predecessor.

Joshua Andrews smiles nervously at Cercyon.

Cercyon: May I also introduce Vladimir Wolf. I acknowledge that some here do not recognise the legitimacy of his leadership, but the fact remains that he controls the Eastern sector of Tythan, and therefore should be treated as head of state.

Ketrov: You only invited him to spite me!

Cercyon: Or maybe I just wanted some more intelligent company.

Inara chuckles.

Cercyon: This summit was called by Vincent Kerraslav of Asteria, in response to the terrorist attacks in Nirvo. 

Kerraslav stands up.

Kerraslav: I was there, that day in Nirvo, in the parliament building. I had been debating with the opposition party on the issue of corruption within the city. A message arrived saying that I had a meeting with the foreign minister to attend to. Seconds after I left the building, I heard an explosion.

Ketrov: I thought we were keeping it brief.

Kerraslav: I am not finished! The building collapsed in front of me, and erupted into flames. 186 politicians were killed. 186 of my good friends, were killed. 

Inara looks at Kerraslav, clearly mesmerised by his story.

Kerraslav: And this was all achieved by one small Kylotean terrorist cell. Upon raiding their residence, we had discovered various journals, noting bitterness towards the Asterian government because of their control over eastern strip, land which we have owned FOR CENTURIES!

Shen suddenly closes his eyes. He puts his hand on his head.

Kerraslav: It is no secret of your people's disdain for Asteria, but these terrorists were funded well. Evidence found in their hideout pointed towards the Dominion. 

Cercyon: Well this has been utterly fascinating, but we really must move onto impor--

Kerraslav: I called this summit! I expect my issue to have some priority here! I want to know what Gikoku has to say!

Cercyon's eyes narrow.

Shen: Silly little child. You clearly don't understand this world truly to know how forged evidence exists. We have no prior knowledge to such trifling matters. Feel free to let us know when one of them decides to refer to themselves as "Anonymous".

Najam: Anonymous? Who's that?

Oran: Anonymous was a Kylotean from years long ago who is renowned for being the very first terrorist in the world. He was unaffiliated with the House of Gikoku and the rest of Kyloto, and worked alone. All that was known were that he wore a mask and cleverly cleared up all traces of identity. His last words mentioned that a lone successor would surface and continue his work. Such a successor has yet to surface.

Shen: And I look forward to it. Are you, boy?

Kerraslav remains stern.

Kerraslav: On that evidence alone, Shen Gikoku, endorsing the ascendency of a legendary terrorist who will attack Asteria, is there any doubt he had something to do with this heinous crime? 

Cercyon: Mister Kerraslav, you have essentially called us here to discuss a conspiracy. These summits are very important, and time should not be wasted on such trivial matters.

Kerraslav: Look, If I can't get justice for 186 killed in the parliament building, then I at least want confirmation of Asteria's neutrality!

Shen: Now that we have that idiotic mess cleared, are there any other matters to be discussed? Or are we just pertaining to this fool's charade?

Deciduous: Actually, we have something. It regards the Visarion issue addressed last time. Javert, I'll leave this to you.

Javert stands.

Javert: As you all may know, the Visarion boys, Ruselt and Luther, have managed to escape Venland with their uncle. Us in Novalia have made the first sighting of these two individuals.

Joshua Andrews: I'd like it to be recorded somewhere that I am against the hunting down of the Visarions. 

Inara: I am curious as to why the Supreme Court of Canorica chose you to replace Curtis. On a lot of policies, they actually side against you. Must make passing laws a bitch. 

Inara gives Andrews a sarcastic smile.

Joshua Andrews: It was nice meeting you too Mrs. Winters.

Inara: It's Miss.

Javert: Here we have the freshly printed wanted posters of the Visarion boys, with increased bounties, due to their recent criminal activity, along with the posters of their newfound accomplices.

Javert reveals named posters with pictures of Ruselt, Luther, Lanval, Angel-Ion, Roxanne and Vulkas on them. Shen spits out his drink.

Orchus rolls his eyes.

Javert: Amongst these, Lanval Dultra is a known criminal, but his prior activities were low, and only reigned in the territory of theft. As they have escaped custody, I have made it my personal goal to hunt them down and bring them to justice, should your countries fail to make arrests.

Andrews: And what exactly are the Visarion children being charged with? What exactly is their crime?

Javert: Ruselt is charged for the assault of several Clockwatch officers, as well as endangering the lives of civilians. Luther is charged with being a criminal accomplice to his brother and three others here. We have also raised the bounty of Galahad Arms officer Hornet, who was also present at the scene.

Najam: Is that all that is veing done with the Galahad Arms??? Just raising their bounties? Why can't you just crack down on thrm already?!

Deciduous: We're doing all we can to stop this criminal organisation, Mr. Desrold.

Najam: Clearly not enough!

Argus: Do I have to put up with your mindless screechings, "Sultan"?

Najam calms down.

Cercyon: Najam's screechings are hardly mindless. The Galahad Arms are a growing concern. 

Orchus: They're growing because Deciduous isn't dealing with them appropriately.

Deciduous: I said we're doing our best!

Shen: Ugh. I've had enough of this man's drivel. Let us move on from repeating what happened at the last summit.

Cercyon: The reason we are repeating what happened at the last summit is because the same issue has not been rectified. 

Ketrov: I would like to address an issue if I may. Someone stole half of my country. 

Brocade: We've already addressed the fact that Mr. Wolf now has free charge over Tythan. As sorry as I am to say this, you have to move on.

Ketrov: You seem to be forgetting one crucial little thing. We are still at war. And both Mister Cercyon and Honalez are funding him! Meanwhile, funding to me has been CUT!

Joshua Andrews: Apologies about that, we had to start paying for the damages caused by Curtis' war. 

Ketrov: You mean OUR war. 

Orchus: Your ILLEGAL war.

Inara yawns.

Joshua Andrews: Look, I am sure that some kind of compromise can be made. Both Eastern and Western Tythan can agree on borders, and we can leave it at that.

Vladimir Wolf: Compromise?

Wolf's accent is noticably much thicker than Ketrov's.

Vladimir Wolf: By that I assume you mean the borders remain as they are?

Andrews: Well, yes.

Vladimir Wolf: No such compromise will be made. I have promised my people that Tythan will be united under one government.

Shen: Then you should prepare your people for the change.

Wolf stands up, towering above everyone, and casting a shadow over Shen. 

Wolf: I made a promise. What good is a promise if I fail to keep it. I don't care whether or not you support my claim over Tythan, the fact is this. Because of Ketrov, the Tythanian people were starving. Because of Ketrov, they were unemployed, and had no money for bare essentials. Because of Ketrov, millions were in poverty. That man right there, is responsible for the deaths of thousands of his own countrymen.

Wolf pauses and glares at Shen.

Wolf: You're right Shen, my people should prepare for change. But not a change in my policy. Eastern Tythan will experience a change in government.

Wolf looks at Ketrov.

Wolf: They will be given food, water, and jobs. They will have everything that you failed to provide for them. All under one united flag. It is only a matter of time before the people in Promethia turn on your governemnt. They will lynch you for what you have done to them!

Shen just begins to laugh and applauds.

Wolf: I don't see the humour in this Shen. You're no better than Ketrov. 

Shen: No better? Our people are well fed, and money is always around.

Wolf: From your perspective.

Meanwhile Inara imitates being hanged at Ketrov. 

Kerraslav: This summit has already spiraled into bickering, and Asteria's neutrality has yet to be guaranteed. I have several documents that I expect all of you to sign. 

Kerraslav hands the documents to a guard who passes them around the table.

Shen looks at his.

Shen: What is this?

Kerraslav: A document detailing Asteria's desire to remain outside of any future conflicts. There are various other clauses and articles that you can read over now.

Shen's copy suddenly sets on fire.

Shen: Hmph.

Orchus: I say a congratulations goes to Kerraslav. He is the only one here trying to avert war for his country.

Inara smiles at the thought.

Ansuz, looking bored just signs it.

Orchus, Andrews, Ketrov, Wolf, Deciduous, Najam, Brocade and Cercyon all sign it. Argus looks at it with disdain. He slides it away from his person.

Cercyon: How typical that the least civil of us refused to sign it. 

Cercyon glares at Inara. She just raises her glass and smiles.

Orchus: It is clear that these meetings will need some kind of format in future. This disarray cannot continue. What have we even achieved with this negotiation? There is still a war in Tythan, the attack in Nirvo has lead to no where, Deciduous still won't fight the Galahad Arms effectively, and we are still trying to chase two children across Helios for no clear reason.

Cercyon: And what would you propose for each of those issues? 

Orchus: Well... As much as it pains me, Ketrov should remain in charge. As useless as he is, at least he isn't a communist. 

Orchus looks at both Cercyon and Wolf with disdain.

Ketrov: I am not usel-

Cercyon: I dread to ask, but what is your stance on the other issues? I do hope they are more reasonable.

Orchus: The Nirvo incident, should be left as it is. The evidence against the Dominion is likely to be circumstancial. 

Kerraslav: Oh, that is some top level denial. 

Joshua Andrews: I think the Nirvo incident should at least be investigated.

Kerraslav: Agreed!

Joshua Andrews: But by an independent party. Not by Kylotean or Asterian investigators.

Shen: Feh.

Ketrov: Seems rational enough. Perhaps it should even be done by a Canorican party.

Orchus: Hmph.

Cercyon: I guess that small quibble is issued.

Kerraslav: *Under his breath* Hmph. "Small quibble".

Cercyon: And what of your view on the Galahad Arms, Mister Retaliak?

Orchus: Novalia has an army. They should use it for the right reasons this time. The Galahad Arms are growing, and will only get stronger with time. Striking now would be wise. 

Cercyon: Thank goodness we can agree on something.

Deciduous hides his face in shame, but drops his hand before anyone else can notice.

Argus: I'm getting bored. Can we wrap this nonsense up yet?

Inara: Hush darling, the adults are talking. 

Argus looks at Inara with an ill-tempered grimace.

Orchus smiles.

Cercyon: And to top it off, Retaliak, what is your stance on the Visarion children.

Orchus: I don't think anyone is thinking logically about this at all. The Visarion children were practically vilified by John Curtis, and he was the man who first set the bounties for them in motion. As he was president, it was legally binding. However, he is no longer president. In fact, it was established that whole war was illegal. So why are the bounties still in effect?

Ketrov: Pretty sure assault was mentioned earlier.

Orchus: Ah yes, those pesky Visarions, fighting off Clockwatch officers trying to arrest them over an obsolete bounty. The Allied Nation's bounty system is flawed. Practically anyone, innocent or guilty, can have bounties placed on them.

Cercyon: Now now Orchus, if we were to start picking holes in the Allied Nations, this meeting would drag on for a very long time.

Orchus: I doubt what I say matters. Half of these solutions will be ignored.

Inara: That much is clear. 

Javert: Both are charged with being accomplices to Angel-Ion Excalvur, Lanval Dultra and Roxanne Fenix. Ruselt is also charged with endangering the lives of civilians, making their bounties justified. I hope that clears your head up, Mr. Retaliak.

Orchus: You're not seeing the big picture. None of that would have happened if Curtis' bounties hadn't been wrongly placed on them in the first place. 

Cercyon: There is one small issue I would like to bring up. After the last meeting, we found a dead Novalian envoy. "Viceroy" Horndahl was then spotted by multiple people, mostly reporters, leaving the building, horns covered in blood. I am curious about the circumstances which lead to this.

Argus: This envoy you speak of was the first to act out.

Deciduous: You expect us to believe such lies? Your Viceroy is a murderer.

Argus: Strictly speaking, most of us here are murderers, Quadroceptus, you included.

Deciduous: What do--

Argus: Remember your part in the war against Venland? People died in that. Anyways. As I was saying before I was rudely interrupted... We were abiding ourselves along the corridors of this very building when we encountered your so-called envoy, when he began to verbally abuse us with racial slurs and other insults. We tried to ignore such trash talk, but this hoodlum decided to persist his actions, so we decided to pitch in and gave but one remark. This remark was enough to vent the hoodlum's frustration and led him to flail his fist angrily and attempt an attack. Horndahl stepped in to defend, and was forced to take the man's life. Now we have that cleared, may I just say that, in future, you should keep your envoys in line next time, Quadroceptus, let alone those who run rampant in your country.

Inara giggles.

Deciduous: Fuck you.

Cercyon: On that note Deciduous, we will be checking whether or not you are dealing with the issue in Galahad.

Orchus: And if you don't, then we will.

Najam: Viceroy Horndahl and Commissioner Javert seem to have been looking at each other with a serious amount of disconte--

Javert: What makes you say that?

Najam: Oh, uh...

Horndahl: Good. Now remain quiet.

Cercyon stands up.

Cercyon: I think this summit has come to a close.

Ansuz: (About time).

Cercyon: In order to ensure this summit actually means something, the issues discussed here will be followed up, and their progress tracked. In particular, the Galahad Issue. The two items which can be confirmed as being achieved at this summit are that an independent Canorican enquiry into the Nirvo incident will be established, and that Asteria's neutrality is to be accepted by all civilised nations. 

Inara coughs. 

Cercyon: The Tythanian issue will remain open, and it seems peace in that regard is no longer an option. Sadly, may the best man win. 

Ketrov scowls. 

Cercyon: That concludes this summit. Drinks are being served in the lobby as well as various other foods. 

Argus and Horndahl leave immediately.

Inara heads straight towards a table containing plates of steak tartare

She is soon accompanied by Orchus and they exchange in small talk.

Kerraslav appears to be drinking some of the alcoholic drinks in the corner of the room.

Ansuz approaches him.

Ansuz: Is it wise to get drunk in such a formal environment?

Kerraslav: Considering everything that has happened here, I think I am entitled to a drink.

Kerraslav drinks from a bottle of whiskey.

Kerraslav: These meetings are no longer solving issues. They are just excuses for leaders to spew their agendas and bicker about them.

Ansuz: You don't say.

Kerraslav: Divisions are already starting to show.

Ansuz: Particularly between Cercyon, Orchus and Ketrov. 

Kerraslav: And I think we both know what that means. 

Ansuz thinks for a few seconds. 

Ansuz: Then may we drink to our mutual security.

Kerraslav and Ansuz both toast.

Oran hands an orange and black tag of sorts to Inara and Orchus.

Inara: A gift, for me? I knew you were a softy at heart.

Deciduous is spotted in the corner drinking from a flask. Javert approaches him. Deciduous shakes at the bitter taste of his drink.

Javert: We both know that you shouldn't be drinking that stuff.

Deciduous: Don't patronise me Javert...

Javert: Keep your cool, sir. Don't let that meeting get to your head.

Deciduous: ... I am curious. Sultan Desrold made a good point about you and that murderer from across the table... Do you have some kind of history with him?

Javert: Yes... He was the one who caused this wound.

Javert opens up his jacket, unbuttons his shirt a bit and pulls down the vest beneath to reveal part of a large scar.

Deciduous: That's pretty nasty.

Javert: It is... And it would not stop throbbing throughout the meeting.

Deciduous: I see.

Meanwhile, in the corridors.

Argus: Hmm... What is your history with that police commissioner.

Horndahl: Hrn... I'd never forget his face... Javert. We made a clash years ago. He gave me this.

Horndahl pulls open a plate on his chest to reveal a gaping crevice on his chest, a faint light leaks from it.

Horndahl: Whenever I see his face, it just seems to hurt all the time.

Argus: So he was the one who inflicted that wound? You never did tell me the name of the perpetrator.

Horndahl: Its not as though I backed down from it. He has a wound very identical to it, inflicted by myself.

Argus: I see. You should have tried a bit harder to cut him in half.

Back in the lobby.

Brocade: Did you see the way Gikoku spat out his drink when Commissioner Javert revealed those posters?

Najam: Yes. I saw that too. Maybe he knows something about them.

Orchus: What is this?

Oran: Its an invitation slip to the Negura Palace. Lord Shen has kindly invited the both of you to a feast where we can discuss the matters addressed here, as well as ideas for our alliance, in privacy for watchful eyes.

Oran turns to Brocade and Najam, who were watching closely.

Oran: And no, there is no tricks, no shams, no aggravation, no... "Poisoned foods", as you would put it.

Orchus: Then I trust you won't mind if I bring along my private guard.

Oran: By all means, bring whomever you like. I'm sure a meet and greet would work well for our alliance.

Orchus: I shall attend, but I will be leaving at the first sign of trouble.

Inara: Oh Orchus, so hesitant. We could do with a little cultural exchange.

Oran: We will see you soon.

Oran leaves.

Brocade: What was all that about?

Najam: Don't ask me.

Joshua Andrews approaches Deciduous.

Andrews: They ripped into you pretty hard, huh.

Deciduous: I'm getting fed up with this. Dealing with the Galahad Arms is not an easy task.

Andrews: You should appease Cercyon. Tensions with Novalia and Haphae are high enough. 

Deciduous: What do you mean?

Andrews: Give him what he wants. You need to show him that are actually trying to combat the Galahad Arms.

Deciduous: THAT'S WHAT WE ARE DOING!!!

Deciduous angrily hits his fist against the wall, creating a slight crack. Everyone present turns to their direction.

Inara: Oh my God. They have cheesecake! 

Andrews: (Quietly but firmly) Look, if Cercyon doesn't believe you are doing anything, then you probably aren't. He has informants everywhere, and it is unlikely they have all been lying to him. If you don't reclaim Galahad, it will just give Orchus an excuse to expand Levia's borders.

Brocade turns Andrews away from Deciduous. They turn quiet so Deciduous can't hear them.

Brocade: I'm not sure advising him is the best idea, Mr. Andrews. Didn't you see his outburst? I'm sure everyone else did.

Meanwhile, in another part of the room.

Honalez: Are you sure bringing Vladimir is a wise choice?

Cercyon: Whether or not he was a positive influence on the summit, I felt obligated to invite him. After all, we could do with some more of our comrades in these meetings,

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the room... 

A Parcian man, dressed as one of Honalez' bodyguards approaches Najam. 

Inara sees the man go by.

The man puts his hand in his coat pocket.

Inara just takes a sip of her wine and then bites her lip.

He pulls out a standard issue Parcian military pistol and aims at Najam.

He fires three shots.

Najam's Aid: GET DOWN!!!

The aid tackles Najam to the floor, taking two of the bullets in the process. Najam himself is hit in the arm by the third. Brocade quickly pulls out his gun and shoots the attacker in the chest four times, killing him.

Brocade: GET SOME MEDICAL ASSISTANCE!!

A Haphaen servant leaves to find the medic. 

Inara takes another sip of her wine.

Honalez approaches the body of the assassin. He looks at the scene skeptically. 

Brocade tends to Najam and his aid. The aid appears to have died from his wounds. Brocade helps Najam to his feet and onto a chair. Cercyon approaches Najam.

Cercyon: I must say, I am deeply apologetic about this whole mess. I have no idea how he got past security.

Cercyon seems somewhat insincere, and only really concerned with the security breach. Brocade looks at Honalez.

Brocade: Its funny how he's one of yours. What are you trying to prove, Honalez?

Honalez: If a Kratonian robs my house, should I blame you? Don't be so simple-minded. 

Brocade: If an assassin attempts to take the life of a nation's leader, who is there to blame? If it's not an organisation, its somebody acting for their nation's leader. Or have you overlooked the fact that this attacker was one of your bodyguards?

Honalez: I will admit I don't know all of my bodyguards personally, an oversight that has no doubt cost the life of Desrold's aid, but you can't possibly think that I had anything to do with this!

Brocade: I demand this to be investigated!

Cercyon rolls his eyes.

Cercyon: Haphaen authorities will be right on this. 

Brocade: It better be.

Medics finish bandaging Najam's arm. Brocade helps him up and they promptly leave, Brocade looking over his shoulder at Honalez as they exit. Deciduous seems to leave momentarily after them, followed by Javert. They begin conversing in the corridor.

Najam: ... Sorry about that...

Brocade: There's no need apologise, Sultan. Neither of us could see that man coming.

Najam: Thanks for the help there, Fleet Admiral, and nice shot too... It's a shame my aid couldn't make it...

Javert: We can only hope that the Premier stays true to his word... I don't find him to be particularly trusting.

Brocade: Ah, Commissioner, Lord Quadroceptus. I didn't see you both back there.

Deciduous: I couldn't stand it in there. Too many snobby leaders thinking they know everything.

Brocade: I don't mean to be rude, Deciduous, but some of them are right.

Deciduous: I know...

Najam: I don't mean to intrude, but what do you three intend on doing now?

Brocade: After I escort you back to Carta, I shall resume my duty as Fleet Admiral back in Kratonia.

Deciduous: I'm going to try doubling Novalia's efforts at crushing the Galahad Arms.

Javert: I shall be riding along with you two to Sabaria.

Brocade: And why's that?

Javert: The fugitives I brought up during the meeting are at large, and are potentially dangerous, especially Ruselt Visarion and Angel-Ion Excalvur.

Brocade: But the latter is Kylotean, what does he have to do with anything?

Javert: The fugitives are carrying out a task given to them by former NSIC staff member Cid Fenix. He decided to use them to carry something off while he acted as bait to slow my men down. I'm assuming that the fugitives will be heading for the Archives.

Najam: ... I see.

Najam laughs.

Javert: I still haven't overlooked Angel-Ion Excalvur's place of origin, either. There are two points of interest I have for this individual. There is a member of the Galahad Arms under the name of "Red Dragon". You might recognise him from his wanted poster. He's different from the rest of the Galahad Arms elite agents, in that he is part Kylotean and part Novalian. Our undercover agents have reported that Red Dragon is the so-called "Chief of Worldwide Affairs" within the Galahad Arms, which could potentially extend to Kyloto. My second point stems from Shen Gikoku's prior reaction to seeing Excalvur's wanted poster.

Brocade: So you had the same feeling too...

Javert: Yes. Shen Gikoku knows something about Excalvur.

Najam: What could the Overlord want with this guy?

Javert: Who knows... I've heard legends surrounding the name Excalvur, but there's no telling if they are true.

Deciduous: And what is that?

Brocade: The Excalvur line was a key figure in the Compendium War of old... I am versed in my history as well.

Deciduous: The Compendium War... The war where everybody wanted to show who had the most power... The sly Haphaens, the secretive Asterians, the treacherous Venlish and the vicious Kyloteans... 

Meanwhile inside the building.

Inara approaches Cercyon, accompanied by Koenig. He gives her a piercing glare.

Inara: It would be nice if we could have at least one summit where no one dies. Though I must say, these events never cease to entertain me. 

She gives him a snarky smile before leaving. She hums the Haphaen national anthem as she leaves.

The Bond

April 13th, 1215 AC, Noon. Sabarian Sea.

Angel-Ion is currently fishing. He has already caught a few fish.

Ruselt has fallen asleep on a bench.

Luther is just sitting down, leaning against the railings with his eyes wide open.

Angel-Ion: Hey, Luther! Why don't you come on over and join me!?

Luther looks somewhat anxious. He sees Ruselt is still sleeping and nervously stands up. He walks over to Angel-Ion and sits next to him. 

Angel-Ion: Here!

Angel-Ion hands him a spare rod.

Luther: I-I'm sorry, I don't know how to fish. Luther hands the rod back.

Angel-Ion: Oh no, no. I'll show you.

Angel-Ion pushes the rod back.

Angel-Ion: First, you need to put some bait on the hook. Watch.

Angel-Ion reaches into a bait box and pulls out a small cube of meat.

Angel-Ion: Now you try.

Luther: ...Okay

He grabs a cube of meat and puts it on the hook. He is tremoring slightly.

Angel-Ion: Next, you cast the line. It's just as easy as the last step.

Angel-Ion swings his rod out, his line is casted out into the sea. A red float bobs out of the water.

Luther mimics Angel-Ion.

Angel-Ion: The next step may take a while. What you're doing is waiting for a bite. If you feel a pull and your float goes underwater, you've got one. If you want to increase the chances of catching a fish, you throw in some bait to lure them in, just like this.

Angel-Ion throws in a handful of meat.

Luther waits. Roxanne approaches Vulkas with two mugs of tea in her hands. She puts one down on a table next to him, while she sits opposite him.

Roxanne: So, what is that you're reading? 

Vulkas: Shouldn't you be making sure the ship is still on course?

Roxanne: ... We have been since we left Novalia. Now could you answer my question?

Vulkas: A book on ice magic.

Roxanne: Oooh. Interesting. C'mon, show me one of these "spells".

Vulkas: ... Are you trying to seduce me?

Roxanne: No. If I were, I'd be trying much harder.

Vulkas moves his hand towards the tea, and it slowly begins to freeze.

Roxanne: Wow. That's actually quite impressive, considering that tea was hot.

Vulkas: Yes, well... It's a work in progress.

Luther's line begins to pull.

Luther tries to reel it in, but it is too strong. It begins pulling down the rod.

Angel-Ion: Oh shit, you've got a big one on your line!

Angel-Ion grabs ahold of Luther's arms and pulls him back, in an attempt to help him pull it out.

Angel-Ion: PULL!!!

Luther leans back to prevent falling into the water.

Angel-Ion: PUUUUULLL!!!

Luther pulls.

Their combined strength manages to yank a very large red fish out of the ocean. It lands on top of Ruselt, where it begins flapping about.

Ruselt wakes up suddenly and hits the fish away. 

Luther: Sorry Rus.

Ruselt just scowls, dries himself, and tries to go back to sleep.

Lanval: Wow! That's a big fish! What is it?

Angel-Ion examines its body.

Angel-Ion: I'm not sure...

Roxanne: That's a Borgoña Great Bass! I've got some information about it in one of my books. I've been studying the life of animals that live in Helios and throughout Aether. I want to register all the animals I can find.

Lanval: Hey! Looks like we've got similar ambitions. I want to--

Angel-Ion: It might've been a... Whatever fish, but now its dinner.

Angel-Ion slashes its throat, killing it.

Angel-Ion: It's not poisonous, is it?

Roxanne: Oh, no. They're actually rather delicious, and can be served up in many different ways. They're common in all four of Helios' seas.

Vulkas: I pity your need to eat such slop.

Angel-Ion: And I pity your lack of ability to enjoy great food.

Vulkas: Hmph.

Vulkas just continues reading.

Angel-Ion starts a fire on a large stove as Lanval drags the fish onto it. They and Roxanne begin preparing a meal.

Several hours pass and everyone has gone to sleep, save for Luther who is looking over the edge of the airship.

Luther: (So here you are, on the run again Luther.)

A Feast Fit For A King

April 13th, 1215 AC, Evening. Kylotean Royal Grounds.

Two cars with several armoured vehicles following them arrive outside the outer wall. Inara steps out of her car.

Orchus also steps out of another car, accompanied by many elite guards. Some of his guards approach the Grand Gate prematurely to inform the Kyloteans of his arrival.

Inara approaches Orchus.

Inara: The weather here is absolutely sublime.

Orchus: Ugh, this is going to be hell.

Denatsu Clan Kyloteans suddenly appear around the area.

Raichi Strom: So you came after all. With each your own guests, too. This way please.

Raichi leads the two leaders and their respective guards and followers through Grand Gate, into the Great Tower's courtyard. They find different kinds of blossom trees dotted around. Towards the castle is an abnormally large orange tree, with some kind of zen garden in front of it. A lone man sits in it.

Orchus and Inara both walk towards the Grand Tower.

Inara: It is somewhat impressive.

Orchus: Please, we have prison towers that are taller.

Raichi: (In Kylotean) I doubt that.

They get closer to the orange tree, where it becomes clear that the man is Oran. He is in a meditative state. His entire being is levitating from the ground. His hands are in an intricate gesture, and he appears to be deep in focus. A lone orange appears to be levitating above his lap.

Orchus: Ahem.

Inara: Coooey!

Raichi: He'll be like that for some time, don't concern yourself with him. This way.

Raichi leads the others around the giant orange tree and to the base of the lower stairs. She leads them up.

Orchus: At least they're modern enough to have attendants. 

Raichi: And what, may I ask, do you mean by that?

Orchus: Your job is to take me to this feast, not to ask questions.

Orchus turns to Inara.

Orchus: The service in this place is already dreadful.

Inara rolls her eyes.

Inara: You're begining to sound like Cercyon.

Orchus scoffs.

Raichi: Pity. You greatly underestimate your own allies, Retaliak Orchus. I am not a simple "servant" or "attendant" to the House of Gikoku, nor any other house of these lands. I am the Grandmistress of the Denatsu Clan, hence I reign over the territories surrounding the north-western city of Dankai. Lord Gikoku personally chose me assist another guest to the feast, for the greater good of our inner security.

Orchus: Your flaunting is begining to border on impertinence. 

Raichi: I don't care.

Inara smiles while Orchus frowns.

They reach the upper courtyard. Guards are patrolling and standing guard all across it. Each of them is armed either with a sword or a crossbow.

Many of Orchus' guards move in and take positions in the courtyard. Orchus smirks. Raichi rolls her eyes as she enters the doorway of the Grand Tower.

Inara: I am dying for a drink.

Raichi: Then make haste. We've only a short walk from here.

Raichi begins leading the way up the outer stairway. They pass multiple large chambers, some of which appear to be sealed off.

Inara: Keeping zoo animals are we?

Raichi: Why would we?

Inara stares at her briefly and laughs. 

Inara: I guess sarcasm isn't in the culture.

Raichi: Hmph. You could call some of them "zoo animals", but these chambers are the residing quarters of Lord Gikoku's Oka Eritoshin. 

Orchus: Fascinating.

Raichi looks at Orchus with discontempt before continuing on. She stops at a very large black and red door. Sounds are heard from the other side.

Raichi: Here we are.

Two guards open the door from either side. Inside the room is a large buffet table with many different figures around it with different shapes and sizes. The contents on the table, food and drink, look as though they can feed fifty men.

Raichi: Please enjoy yourselves.

Shen: I see you've finally decided to show your face here, Retaliak Orchus!

Orchus: I should invite some of you to Levia. We may be able to teach you about the importance of discipline. 

Shen: Pfft.

Orchus looks at Raichi and walks on as various Levian guards accompany him and take up positions in the room.

Inara scours the buffet. Oran soon enters the room. His eyes have a slight blue glow. He eats an orange, the same one he was meditating with.

Oran: Ah. I see that our guests have arrived.

Shen: We have one late again.

Oran: Gore Zanclus must really improve his punctuation. If he keeps faltering, you'll inevitably have to replace him as Grandmaster of the Toge Clannads.

Shen: That indeed. As for the recent meeting, have you sent the message?

Oran: Yes. I sent a messenger bird to deliver the message to her five hours ago.

Inara: Adorable.

Orchus looks at the buffet food with disdain. He tells one of his soldiers to fetch food from the airship.

Inara helps herself to various nibbles. 

Zurakiel chomps into a large piece of ham on a bone.

Zurakiel: What's with that... Face? Don't you... Like the food?

Orchus: Evidently not. I have more refined tastes. Don't take it personally.

Inara: Orchus, you shouldn't be so apprehensive. The sashimi is to die for.

Orchus: I don't like raw fish.

Inara: Then you should try the steak slices. They are a perfect medium rare.

Orchus: (Why does she persist on making me feel uncomfortable?) Fine.

Orchus takes a small bite of steak slice.

Orchus: It is adequate.

Inara shrugs and takes more food from the buffet.

Servants cart more food into the hall, while others scramble in attempts to take away empty and used plates and wares. A servant mistakenly trips and spills hot tea over Zurakiel.

Servant: A-A-Ah! I'm s-so sorry, M-Master Z-Z-Zurakiel! P-P-P-Please don't--

Zurakiel grabs the servant's throat, his gargantuan hand perfectly circling it. He picks the servant up.

Servant: Herrrr! Herrrr! HELP ME! *Wheeze*

Shio: Zurakiel! That's enough! He said he was sorry!

Zurakiel: Then why am I not happy?

He raises his thumb, snapping the servant's neck. He throws the body at a cart filled with empty plates. The servant carting it runs for his life. Zurakiel returns to gorging himself with food and drink.

Oran: And there goes another one of our servants.

Inara applauds and chuckles.

Inara: Bravo!

Shen: Servants are like tea towels. Easily replaced.

Shen swigs on his large gourd of sake before eating food from a bento.

Orchus gives Inara a concerning look.

Shen: Don't fret yourself, Retaliak Orchus. Please, enjoy yourself. This is a feast fit for a king, after all.

Inara: Tut, sexist.

Orchus looks at his watch.

Orchus: (What have you gotten yourself into now?)

Oran: Somewhere to be, Retaliak?

Orchus: I'm expecting a telegram.

Oran: Of what kind?

Inara: (He knows what a telegram is? Huh. You learn something new every day)

Orchus: I am being kept up to date on the civil war. I recieve telegrams every 5 hours informing me of any new advancements being made.

Shen finishes off the drink in his gourd. He throws it at a servant to get it refilled.

Shen: So. Inara-chan, how did you like the gift we sent you, that which was included within our delivered treasury?

Inara finishes a plate of rare meat slices.

Inara: It will look great in the parlor. 

Shen: I have heard you have a strong liking of gold and other precious metals and minerals.

Inara: You haven't heard wrong.

Orchus: Yes, Inara loves her frivolities.

Inara: What is wrong with having a hobby?

The soldier that Orchus sent away from before arrives panting with a packed lunch.

Soldier: Your lunch sir. A telegram was also recieved on the airship. 

The soldier hands Orchus an envelope.

Orchus: It is late.

Soldier: (Of course it is late, the airship is about a mile away.) Apologies Sir.

Orchus opens the envelope and puts on his reading glasses.

Oran: What's with the container, Retaliak?

Orchus: As I said, I have more refined tastes.

He takes out several still-warm Levian delicacies.

Orchus begins to read the telegram.

Some of the other guests begin observing Orchus' lunch. They note that some of the food is essentially similar to their own.

Shen: So what does this telegram speak of? I assume you'd be willing to tell us.

Orchus: Vladimir Wolf has defended Ketrogral from Ketrov's forces. His forces are now paving their way to the town of Ketz.

Shen: Oh good. News of my favourite extremist. Speaking of which, I wonder what compelled those moronic Asterians to believe I conducted a terror attack on them.

Zurakiel: All Asterians are scum! I want to crush their pathetic little skulls!

Oran: Quite.

Inara: The joys of racism.

Orchus: With this attitude towards them, no wonder they think you're responsible.

Shen: For good reason.

Shen takes a swig out of his gourd.

Inara: If by "good reason" you mean "outdated sense of grievence" then yes.

Shen: I could have guessed you, of all people, would look down upon the history of Kyloto. Those filthy Asterians stole so much of our land, and took many of our people as slaves. Even today we still live under the negatives effects caused by them. The Kylotean Badlands has increased drastically in size since the early wars of history, and yet they sit there and sneer at us for our losses, they deserve to perish in a painful death and have their values and gains ripped from their cold, dead hands! They tarnished our legacy, and we will not let that slide!

Multiple Kyloteans in the hall chant as if they were going to war. Shen drinks up the sake in his gourd once more, and once again throws it at a servant. The gourd hits them across the head, knocking them out, forcing another to carry it away.

Inara: (Sarcastically) I wonder why they took so much from you. It is almost like you marched, unprovoked into their territory and enslaved their population. Maybe little Keimusho should have thought more about the consequences of his actions. 

Inara takes a sip of wine.

Inara: But I hold no pity. It made for some great reading.

Inara smiles.

Orchus: Personally, in some respects I can identify with Keimusho's urge to expand his nation. My administration has had it's eyes on taking Druantian province. 

Shen: Grandfather Keimusho was a fool. Neither father nor I have followed him in his footsteps. We're far more reserved and practical, much like the dated ancestors of the Gikoku line.

Orchus: Yet your father repeated Keimusho's mistakes, and consequently paid the ultimate price.

Shen: That is where you are wrong, Retaliak Orchus. Father was betrayed by his very own brother during the Second Southern War, and that cost him his life. Gikoku Ningen tried to recover what was left of Father's nation and put it under his own rule, but I found and killed the traitorous bastard, by defiling his body and sending him careening off of this very tower. His skeletal remains have since been discarded in the lowest bowels of the dungeons, where they are to be forgotten.

Shen finishes off yet another gourd-filled round of sake, sending the servants to fetch more. Oran turns to Roed.

Oran: His drinking problem's starting to take hold again.

Inara sighs and smiles

Inara: Royal families...

Inara takes a sip of wine.

Inara: To lighten the mood, my informants found something out about that Angelus half breed. Within the Galahad Arms, the informants believe him to be the one known as "Red Dragon" which makes him their Chief of Worldwide Affairs.

Oran: Ah. So this man is their dealer of their outside-Novalia activities and recruitment? Would be rather fitting for someone of his race. Is there any trace of a point of locale?

Inara: Secondary sources suggest that he's in Dusktown, Sabaria.

Oran: I see. I guess that could possibly have some effect on either Desrold or Argus, or both... However, its also likely that Dusktown is merely a base of operations for just Sabaria alone. There's no telling if he'd go somewhere else.

Orchus finishes his meal.

Inara: It is interesting why Deciduous is so inactive about the Galahad Arms. 

Orchus: Very. He has an army capable of crushing the Galahad Arms, yet he doesn't even use it.

Oran: Perhaps there is more to it than the man lets on. I suspect he is hiding something concerning the Galahad Arms. Maybe one of them has a secret under those masks.

Inara: Well yes... That is the whole point of a mask.

Orchus: I doubt he'll do much. Not to worry though. Cercyon and I aren't afraid of contronting the issue.

Inara: Should Deciduous decide not to do anything, I want to talk to him before you recklessly run into a warzone.

Orchus: Why?

Inara: I feel that the situation could do with a woman's touch. 

Inara smirks.

Oran: Were... There any other known officers within the Galahad Arms? All we know of are "Hornet", "Red Dragon" and their leader, "Crowned".

Inara: There are a few. There's the "Iron Mask" who is in charge of staff registration. He is essentially the pencil-pusher of the Galahad Arms. There's "Sigma", who is in charge of Enterprise. His role is more prominent within the Victory District, which includes the entertainment. There's "Salvage", the head of defence, and "Silver Arrow", the head of "relations". Lastly, in charge of Operations is "Black Knight" so he is fairly prominent. 

Oran: I see. I presume each of them is of Novalian origin. What does the government of Novalia have in comparison?

Orchus: Surely you should know the Novalian Government officials.

Inara: Clearly he doesn't Orchus. Allow me to educate him. Dellaham Floss heads Law Enforcement whereas Paxton Murphy heads the Ministry of Defence. October Vivaldi being the head of Intelligence will be monitoring the Galahad Arms. You will already know Ken Javert from the summit. General Rand controls the National Front and Captain-Commander Demaro heads the Skylords.

Oran: Hmm. Is there any information on Javert Ken? He seems... He seems to know a lot of details. Given his knowledge on Arms agent "Hornet", Excalvur Angel-Ion and a possible connection with Viceroy Horndahl of Sabaria.

Inara: Let's just say that dear "Kenneth Lenn Javert" has had a little violent encounter with the Viceroy. Other than that, there is little about him other than a high number of arrest records. Most of them cross-country.

Oran: Cross-country? So he certainly gets about. If he sets foot in our grounds, we'll surely interrogate him for all information he possesses. He's like a walking fruit, ripe and filled with juices.

Orchus: If you do capture him, be discrete. We don't need more international attention, especially after the ruckus with Asteria.

Oran: Considering what he said at the summit, it's likely he's following Excalvur Angel-Ion to Sabaria. Once he has done that, he will follow Excalvur Angel-Ion here, as per our plans, effectively allowing us to capture them both in addition to the children of Visarion Roarak.

Orchus: Make sure that anyone who witnesses his capture is killed. As I said, we don't need anymore attention.

Inara: And what will you do with the Visarion children?

Oran: Who said there will be witnesses? Javert Ken sounds like a lone wolf, and should Excalvur Angel-Ion and his newfound allies arrive, they too shall be captured. As for the Visarion children, that is up to the Overlord.

Shen: The Visarion line are scum who must be extinguished permanently!

Oran: (Great. He's drunk.)

Inara: You underestimate the usefulness of the Visarion children.

Orchus: So what is the history between you and this Angel-Ion who is accompanying the Visarions?

Oran: He's one of three escapades from Kyloto who we're looking to capture. I can't really say what for because...

Oran looks at Shen.

Oran: Although I can say that fate has its hand in this particular matter, considering both the ancestors of the Visarion line and Excalvur line were enemies of Gikoku Keimusho himself, and were responsible for claiming his life.

Inara finishes her wine. 

Inara: I think dear Shenny is a tad under the weather. 

Oran: Its best not to provoke him when he's drunk.

Shen: I just want to build a great army to smash those bastard Visarions and Asterians to bits!

Shen suddenly begins bawling.

Inara: Awww, boo hoo. Don't worry dear, you will some day.

Some servants come over to Shen, trying to calm him down.

Servant: My lord, please don't! We have guests!

Shen: GAH! I had my heart set out on it! An army that could crush all enemy forces! Including those miserable fools, Excalvur and the Visarions!

Servant: But sir, if we take them lightly--

Shen: "If we take them lightly".

Shen grabs a club.

Shen: "If we take them lightly".

He lumbers to his feet.

Shen: Just what do you think would happen, eh?! WHO DO YOU THINK I AM?!?!

Shen swings down his club with extreme force and strikes the servants with them, sending them bursting through the ceiling and far away into the distance.

Shen: Any more questions?!

Inara: Encore?

Inara looks at another servant who trembles at the thought.

Orchus: I think it is best we leave now.

Oran: Yes. It is.

Inara and Orchus both exit the building. Orchus' guards march out with him.

Visionary and Phoenix

April 14th, 1215 AC. Noon. Cid's House.

Cid is standing over a pot of stew. It is almost complete.

Cetera approaches the house, disguised as a local. He knocks on the door.

Cid answers it.

Cid: Took you long enough to get here, Cet. Come in, I'm making stew, you must be starving.

Cetera: I am actually, but I can't stay long. 

Cetera makes his way inside.

Cid: Of course not. Your nephews are still out there. We'll have enough time to eat, don't you worry yourself.

Cetera sits down. 

Cetera: Where are they?

Cid: There was an incident in Avalon. The Clockwatch is now after them, Ken Javert in particular, if you remember him.

Cid dishes up the stew into two bowls and hands one to Cetera.

Cid: My daughter has taken them with her to Sabaria to fill an errand. The problem is that she's wanted now, too. Its the same with those other three.

Cetera: Three?

Cid: Angel-Ion, Vulkas and Lanval.

Cetera: I haven't met Lanval yet.

Cetera eats some of the stew.

Cetera: How have you been?

Cid: Been a bit lonely for the last day or so. Hahaha. How about you?

Cetera: Dreadful. Still have some some shrapnel wounds from the explosion.

Cid: Explosion?

Cetera: Some bounty hunters caused a ruckus in Laguz that knocked me out for a few days. Fortunately Luther handled the situation and left me a note.

Cid: Where abouts?

Cetera shows Cid the wound. Cid cringes at the sight of it.

Cetera: I'm lucky Luther bandaged it up in time.

He covers it back up.

Cid: People must really want that head of yours. Since that bloody war there's been nothing but "Visarion" through the news. I've even heard that random people have been killed and passed off as you lot. Never works.

Cetera: Do you know where your daughter is heading after she has concluded her business in Sabaria?

Cid: No idea. I would suspect back here, but with a man like Javert out there, they've got no chance coming back.

Cetera: Then I better get to them first.

Cid: On which ship?

Cetera: I'll have to get a ticket for a flight to Sabaria.

Cid: Flights don't go to Sabaria. We'll take a rented ship from the harbour.

Cetera: We?

Cid: I'm going with you.

Cetera:  Are you sure you are in the right physical condition?

Cid: Of course I bloody am.

Cetera: Then if you insist.

Cetera stands up and gathers his things.

Cid takes the bowls and puts them in a bag. He gathers some other things, including the pot containing the uneaten stew.

Cid: Then let's get going.

Arrival in Carta

April 14th, 1215 AC. Morning. South Carta Dockyard.

The Traveller's Tempest docks at an empty port in Carta. Angel-Ion and Roxanne exit the ship, the former carrying the Shell.

Angel-Ion: So where are we taking this?

Roxanne: We're taking it to the national archives. That's where NSIC has all their bad stuff taken.

Ruselt: What do we do after that?

Roxanne: I don't know. For now, we should focus on delivering this. Vulkas, you should stay behind and guard the ship.

Vulkas: Tch. Whatever.

Luther approaches Vulkas.

Luther: *Slight stutter* Hey Vulkas, when we're back, can you teach me some more magic? I think I have got the hang of fire.

Vulkas: Yeah. Might as well. You learnt fire pretty quickly so the others should be straightforward. 

Roxanne leads the others through the sandy city. The sun beats down on them. A man in a purple cloak accidentally bumps into Ruselt.

Ruselt: *Aggressively* Watch where you're going.

Ruselt checks his pockets to see if has been robbed, just in case.

???: I'm ever so sorry. Say, could any of you point me in the direction of the Archives?

Roxanne: Ah, we were just heading there ourselves.

???: Oh, thank you. 

They continue walking again, several eyes prying at them from the crowds.

???: So, are you local?

Angel-Ion: Nope. We just arrived. What about you?

???: Same over here. Say, we haven't exactly introduced. I am the great Hector Zambini, wonderous magician of great wonder!

A tumbleweed rolls by.

Angel-Ion: Bit of a redundant title isn't it?

Roxanne: It's great to meet you, "magician". I'm Roxanne Fenix. This here is Angel-Ion Excalvur, and these two are Luther and Ruselt Visarion.

Luther cringes.

Zambini: Hmm... You wouldn't happen to be descended from the Visarion royal line, would you?

Ruselt: Um, no, it's just a coincidence. 

Zambini: You two certainly look of Venlish origin.

Roxanne: Could we get a move on back there? Ruselt, Zambinski, hurry it up.

Zambini: Uh, that's "Zambini", Ms. Fenix.

Roxanne: Same thing.

Eyes continue to watch the group as they travel.

Luther pulls his cap down. 

Ruselt: *To Angel-Ion* I think it would be better for everyone this time if we didn't attract attention.

Angel-Ion: ... Would you like to carry this large, noticable object?

Ruselt : You know what I meant.

Ruselt looks over to Luther who appears to be looking at Zambini with suspicion.

Roxanne: We're here.

Roxanne approaches a post near a gate.

Roxanne: Uh... We're here to make a delivery.

Personel: I'll need some identification.

Roxanne hands over some papers given to her by her father. It has been signed by three different people, including Cid himself.

Zambini: And I'm here on behalf of the Magicians Guild.

Zambini hands the personel some kind of talisman.

Personel: And what about those three?

Roxanne: They're with me.

Personel: Got it. Permission to enter granted. The Curator will be with you shortly.

The gate opens. The group step through. A man exits the large building as the gate closes.

~ Curator of the Archives ~ Sanjay Kibba: Ah, Ms. Fenix! From the letter I recieved from NSIC, I assumed that your father would be the one delivering.

Roxanne: He got caught up with something, so he sent me to deliver this instead.

Sanjay: It's been a while since I last saw you.

Roxanne: Yeah, it's been a while.

Sanjay: I assume these are friends of yours?

Roxanne: Most of them. I only just met Mr. Zambini here.

Sanjay: Ah, you must be from the Magicians Guild!

Zambini: Of course!

They shake hands.

Sanjay: Now, if you would all follow me.

Sanjay leads the group to a lift shaft, which goes down.

Luther: So... W-what is the Magician's Guild?

Zambini: Ah, its a guild comprised of us magicians. It can be found in the lands neighbouring Helios. We practice magic there.

Angel-Ion: I would have never guessed.

Roxanne: So does that mean you can pull a bunny out of that hat of yours.

Zambini: More than just rabbits, Ms. Fenix.

Roxanne: Please, just call me Roxanne.

Zambini reaches into his hat.

Zambini: And voila! Hey presto! 

He holds up a fire stone of some kind. He throws it up. It pops like a tiny, harmless firework.

Ruselt: Are you sure NSIC can be trusted?

Roxanne: Of course. My father worked with them for years and he's been a trusted asset to them even after he retired. Granted, there's things even he doesn't know about the company. And then there's the fact their CEO has gone into hiding... For some reason...

Ruselt: But they're still a Novalian corporation. Won't they still partake in the bounty system? In fact, isn't it illegal for them to assist us?

Roxanne: Perhaps.

Sanjay: As it would seem, I am also assisting you, Mr. Visarion. That would answer to a lot, considering my other role.

Lanval: Other role?

Sanjay: While I'm already of the Curator of the Archives, I am also the current Advisor to the Sultan of Carta. In other words, the Sultan is my only superior in this entire city.

Ruselt: And doesn't the Sultan answer to the Allied Nations?

Sanjay: Yes. But, alas, the occurances within the Archive remain within the Archive, no matter how dark. That extends to its contents as well. There's a number of curious and dangerous things here, so I would remind you not to touch them, Mr. Black Hand.

Ruselt: How far down does this go?

Sanjay: Far enough.

Luther: *Quietly* What sort of things are down here?

Sanjay: Various things. Some are considered too dangerous for their owners' own good. There are also top secret and very important documents down here. However, everything is confidential, even to me, even to the Sultan, and even to a prince of Venland.

The elevator reaches the bottom. In front of them appears to be nothing but a dark cave with a large iron door in front.

Sanjay: Here we are.

Lanval: If the Archives is here, why is there a large building on top?

Sanjay: A library. Its where the Archives keeps all fors of literature, aside from those nobody wishes to read, which are down here.

Sanjay lights two torches and approaches the door. He unlocks its three locks, and then pushes it open, revealing a gigantic hall filled with thousands of things, many wrapped, bound or packaged, others in crates, trays and barrels.

Sanjay: Now, whose package should we drop off first? We'll start with the largest. This way.

Sanjay begins leading the others across the aisles.

Sanjay: Try not to get lost. If you lose your way, we won't be looking for you, that's not our job. Once we leave that main door, it will be locked. Others have died down here. You may find their skeletal remains.

Ruselt: Great...

Luther looks at all of the various objects and documents.

Sanjay stops.

Sanjay: Here we are, a space for...

Roxanne: They called it the "Shell".

Sanjay: I see. A space for the Shell.

Angel-Ion places the Shell in an empty space. Sanjay writes a tag. He hands it to Roxanne to sign. He then ties the tag to the rags covering the Shell.

Sanjay: Now, for the Magicians Guild delivery. This way.

Ruselt: What are you delivering then? *To Zambini*

Zambini: This.

Zambini pulls out a small bag with something round inside.

Lanval: What is it?

Zambini: We do not know, but we magicians suspect danger from it.

Luther hears slight whispers coming from the bag. Luther nervously looks at his gauntlet and then glares at the bag. It begins calling his name, each call getting louded and more erratic than the last. Zambini hands the bag to Sanjay, suddenly causing the calls to cease. Sanjay puts a tag on the bag and climbs a ladder, placing it on a high shelf. He moves the ladder away and chains it back to the post it was originally chained to.

Roxanne: What's with the chain on the ladder?

Sanjay: Its so that desperate hands have no means of reaching the things on the higher shelves.

Ruselt notices that Luther is shaking.

Ruselt: *Quietly* What's wrong?

Luther: *Quietly* I think that bag has something to do with the gauntlet.

Sanjay: I would presume that is everything. Would everyone follow me.

Sanjay begins to lead the group back to the iron door.

Ruselt: Should we get it?

Luther: Well no, that would be stealing.

Ruselt: But it could help us find out how to get your gauntlet off.

Luther: Fair point, go for it.

Ruselt waits for the others to go further away before he climbs the shelf itself. The others continue to walk off.

Ruselt grabs the bag and tosses it down to Luther. Ruselt then drops down.

Ruselt: Yeah...chaining that ladder really stopped "desperate hands from getting the things on the higher shelves."

The orb in the bag suddenly glows and lets out a scream only Luther can hear. It burns his hand. Suddenly, he enters a vision. A single silhouette, with a single dark eye spread where their face would be, looks at him.

Figure: LUTHER VISARION. I HAVE SEEN YOUR MIND. YOUR FRIENDS, YOUR BROTHER, YOUR UNCLE. THEY SHALL PERISH, JUST LIKE YOUR FATHER- MOTHER- INNOCENCE. I SHALL BE REBORNE INTO THIS REALM AND BRING IT TO DARKNESS, FOR I AM THIS WORLD'S ONE TRUE KING.

The orb suddenly sends out a dark burst of matter that launches Ruselt and Luther back. All Luther hears from the orb now is "put it back", repeated and echoing in his mind. His wrist burns.

Luther quickly puts the orb in the bag and puts it on the nearest shelf he can reach.

Ruselt gets up.

Ruselt: What the hell was that!?

Luther: I-I... don't know. It was like when touched the gauntlet for the first time.

Ruselt see the burn marks.

Ruselt: You're hurt!

Luther takes out some antiseptic solution and pours it over any visible burns.

Luther: *Shaking* It said everyone I know will perish, like mother and father. It said it would be "reborn into this realm, for it is this world's one true king." After that, all I could hear was a voice telling me to put it back.

Ruselt: I guess it can't help after all. 

Luther: (What did the voice mean by my innocence? Who is this "one true king".)

Ruselt: We should get back to the group.

Luther: ...Huh? Oh, yeah.

Luther gets up.

Ruselt and Luther both find their way back to the group.

As they are walking, Luther sees something at the corner of his eye. He looks down one of the aisles and sees a silhouetted figure in the darkness. He stops and squints.

Ruselt: Luther...

Luther turns to Ruselt.

Ruselt: C'mon, we have to catch up.

Luther looks back to see that the silhouette is gone.

Luther continues walking with Ruselt.

Sanjay: Could you two keep up please? If you get left behind nobody will come looking.

Ruselt: Sorry.

They all reach the door.

Sanjay: Would you all be so kind to head forwards to the elevator?

Angel-Ion: What about you?

Sanjay: Its customary that those who work here are the last to leave, in order to lock the door.

Angel-Ion: Oh, I get it.

Angel-Ion walks on. Sanjay stops Luther and Ruselt.

Sanjay: Not you two.

Luther and Ruselt look at eachother.

Luther bites his lip.

Ruselt: Umm...why?

Sanjay: You two strayed from the others. Did you, perhaps, steal from the Archives?

Ruselt: No, of course not!

Sanjay: Prove it. Prove it to me right now.

Ruselt opens his bag and shows it's contents to Sanjay.

Sanjay: And your pockets.

Ruselt rolls his eyes and turns all of his pockets inside out.

Sanjay: Good.

He pushes Ruselt past him.

Sanjay: Now you.

Luther opens his bag and empties his pockets.

Sanjay: Great.

Luther slowly walks past Sanjay, towards Ruselt.

Sanjay: Hold just one second.

Sanjay grabs Luther's wrist. He observes the gauntlet.

Sanjay: Very curious. How did you come by this gauntlet?

Luther: I..uh...

Ruselt: We found it in Novalia.

Sanjay: I was asking your brother. Not you.

Luther: *Stuttering* It was found in Novalia, as he said.

Sanjay examines it.

Sanjay: Hmm... Very interesting. It looks very old. Did you buy it in an antique shop?

Luther: Y-yeah...

Sanjay: Mind if I take a closer look?

Ruselt: *Quite clearly agitated* Y'know, we really must be going, I don't think there's time.

Sanjay: ... Suit yourself.

Sanjay locks the door and returns to the elevator, which begins to rise.

Elsewhere, aboard a Kylotean pirate ship.

A parrot carrying a rolled up and sealed letter arrives. It drops the letter in a woman's hands.

Kylotean Pirate: Wot is it, me lady?

Matsura: Its a letter from Gikoku.

Kylotean Pirate #2: Howja know dat, then, Ms. Kaizoku?

Matsura: Because the seal has his mark on it you stupid moron.

She hits the pirate with the letter for his troubles. He gets a paper cut.

Kylotean Pirate #2: Ouch!

Matsura breaks the seal and reads the letter.

"For the attention of Kaizoku Matsura. I am writing to inform you on behalf of the Overlord that he has altered the circumstances of his reward. Lord Gikoku has offered to reward 500,000 gold pieces in exchange for the head of each of the accomplices of Excalvur Angel-Ion. - O.Mandarin"

A drawing of an orange, flower and leaves is found in the bottom right corner. Matsura looks over to the island of Sabaria and grins.

Matsura: Things just got interesting...

At the dockyard, Ken Javert steps foot on land.

Dusktown Sands

The elevator reaches the top. Everyone exits. Sanjay leads them into a room labelled "Lost Property".

Roxanne: What are we doing in here?

Sanjay: I thought it would be necessary to give you some essentials for being out here in Sabaria. You've all got bounties after all... Except for you, Mr. Zambini.

Zambini: You're all a bunch of criminals?!

Roxanne: Relax. We don't mean any harm to you.

Zambini: Eh. Oh well. Being a magician has some deception involved too.

Sanjay: You can find all sorts of things here. People have left this kind of stuff lying around in the libraries upstairs.

Sanjay throws a cowboy hat to Ruselt.

Ruselt: Really? Pfft. 

Ruselt throws it back and just puts his normal cap on.

Lanval finds a gun holster with a magnum in it. He takes it.

Ruselt: Where to now?

Roxanne: I suppose we could look around the city.

Sanjay: The way out's to your right. Be careful out there!

The group head outside. After some walking, they decide to head to a saloon in an opened up street. Angel-Ion and Roxanne go to the bar to buy some drinks. The others find themselves watched by several older people in the saloon.

Bartender: Yer not from 'ere, are ye?

Roxanne: Oh, no.

Bartender: You should be careful in deese parts.

Luther: *Quietly* I don't like this Rus. 

Ruselt: Just... Don't look at them. It'll look more casual.

An older man throws a penny at Ruselt to gain his attention.

Old Man: 'Ey, you. C'mere.

Ruselt purses his lips and ignores the old man.

Old Man: Oi! I'm talkin' to ye! C'mere!

He throws another penny.

Ruselt slams his hand on the table and storms over towards the old man. 

Ruselt: What!?

Old Man: Ehehehe. I've 'eard you're good at the ol' poker. Sit down. We want a game.

A goon pushes a chair right under Ruselt, so that he falls onto the seat.

Ruselt's mood suddenly changes and he becomes more subdued. He looks towards Luther and gestures with his eyes towards the bar, signalling that he should alert the others.

Luther stands up and heads towards the bar.

Ruselt: Who are you?

Old Man: Who we are isn't not important. 'Ere, some cards.

Ruselt: What makes you think I know how to play?

Old Man: Because we 'eard you played that top dog in Galahad an' won.

Ruselt: I had never played poker before. Beating him doesn't make me good, it just makes him bad. 

Old Man: Don't tell no lies to us, boy. Yer playin' whether you like it or not.

Ruselt: (Imitating Old Man) Well I "ain't playin" till you tell me who you are.

Old Man: Our names aren'n't importan' for the likes of you, boy.

Ruselt is handed four cards.

Ruselt starts playing.

Ruselt: What do you want?

The old man hits him over the head.

Old Man: Place yer bets.

The old man and a man across the table put a gun in its holster down. Two other players put down money, one putting enough down to outbuy the old man's gun. The old man gets ticked off and puts down some money. One player puts down a ticket of some kind, yet to be redeemed. One puts down a pendant. The gamblers look at Ruselt.

Ruselt puts forward the gun he aquired in Novalia.

The gamblers laugh.

Old Man: Anything else? Surely you'd have more than that to put on the table. C'mon.

Ruselt scowls at the old man. Ruselt chucks the lucky coin that Sigma gave him onto the table.

Ruselt: Is that enough for you?

Old Man: Ehehe. Time to play.

Ruselt's hand consists of an ace of spades, queen of hearts, three of clubs and a two of diamonds.

Ruselt picks up a card. It is a queen of spades.

The other players pick up a card each, they take turns rejecting one of their cards. The turn falls to Ruselt.

Ruselt puts forward his three of clubs. He recieves a two of spades.

Everyone else rejects a card each before the turn rolls back to Ruselt.

Ruselt puts forward the two of diamonds.

He begins tapping his foot out of anxiety. He looks towards the bar to see if the others are coming or not. They are cautiously watching.

Ruselt recieves a jack of spades. He puts forward two of diamonds. After two turns, he recieves a ten of spades.

Gambler: Hold.

Another three turns, he recieves a king of spades.

Ruselt: Hold.

The old man looks at him and grins. He forwards a card and draws another.

Old Man: Hold.

Soon, the remaining gamblers hold.

Old Man: Alright, Smith, what ya got?

Smith: Three of a kind. Eights.

Old Man: Mickey?

Mickey: Four of a kind. All Jacks.

Ruselt: You're bluffing.

Mickey: You don't know shit boy.

Old Man: Maybe he does, maybe he doesn't. How about you, Roger?

Roger: Four of a kind. Fours.

Old Man: Rookie?

Ruselt: Straight flush.

The old man looks at him.

Old Man: Well ain't that a fact? I have a straight flush. Are you bluffing, boy?

Ruselt: No.

Old Man: Alright. Then I guess we'll just reveal now. We'll start with Scott.

Smith reveals that he does indeed have a three of a kind with eights.

Old Man: Roger?

Roger also reveals a true hand.

Old Man: Now then. You two. I have a strong speculation that you're both bluffing. However, I have more reason to favour the rookie here.

Mickey: Why's that, you old coot?!

Old Man: I have a jack of diamonds in my hand.

Mickey: Prove it!

The Old Man reveals a king, queen, jack, ten, nine.

Old Man: Now show me yours, you lying bastard.

Mickey picks up his gun from the table. Ruselt stands and breaks his arm, making his drop his gun back on the table. Ruselt pushes him back in his seat.

Old Man: I thank you, rookie. Roger, turn over his hand.

Roger turns Mickey's hand over. Only two of his cards are jacks.

Old Man: Guilty as charged. Now, for the rookie. Turn over your hand, boy.

Ruselt reveals his cards.

Smith: A royal flush?!

Mickey: He's a cheat!

Old Man: Get outta here Mickey, you lying scoundrel. Take your winnings, son.

Ruselt puts all the possessions into his bag.

Old Man: Wait right there.

The Old Man holds out his hand to shake it.

Old Man: Ya did good rookie.

Ruselt: I'll be off then.

Mickey: Hold it right there!

Mickey gets up, sporting a second gun he hid under his cloak.

Roger and Smith attempt to get away, but both are shot down. Mickey's belt buckle reveals he is with the Galahad Arms.

Mickey: You robbed me, you dirty cheating piece of shit!

Old Man: Look, Mickey, you lost!

Mickey: No I didn't. I challenge you to a standoff! IT'S HIGH NOON!

Old Man: Pssh. I would blow him away myself, but you've got my gun now. Looks like you've got yourself in a right fudge now, too. Lemme give you some advice... Keep your trigger finger loose.

Mickey heads outside and walks towards one end of the street. He spits on the floor.

Angel-Ion: I've got a bad feeling about this.

Ruselt: It's fine. We can just leave before the standoff.

Luther: He might come after you.

Old Man: And how do you plan on leaving without hitting the street? He's waiting out there for ya.

Ruselt: So what, I am actually supposed to fight him?

Old Man: Sadly yes. Its either that or he'll shoot ye.

Ruselt: It seems I'll get shot either way.

Luther: Then you better shoot first. 

Ruselt takes a deep breath in and steps outside.

Mickey: Hehehe. So you decided to come out at last.

Luther steps outside as well.

Ruselt grabs the Novalian gun out of his bag. He is shaking somewhat.

Mickey points his gun at Luther.

Mickey: You. Get back in the bar.

Ruselt immediately pulls his gun up and aims it at Mickey.

Luther seems somewhat paralysed with fear.

Mickey: Back in. Now.

Ruselt steps infront of Luther, blocking his view of Mickey's gun. 

He then slowly steps back inside.

Mickey: Now get back over there and draw.

Ruselt aims his gun at Mickey.

Mickey chuckles as he rotates the wheel of his gun. Galahad agents emerge from balconies and buildings, sporting guns.

Mickey: End of the line, Visarion.

Ruselt looks at the agents and then looks back towards the bar.

Ruselt: Don't chip in guys! Really, I can take all of them! 

One of them rolls in a gatling gun.

Angel-Ion: Are you mad?!

Luther seems to have be observing the situation thoroughly.

Luther: Shoot him Ruselt.

Ruselt: Are you serious?

Luther: Shoot him!

Ruselt fires a shot at Mickey which smashes into his upper abdomen. The second he fires, Luther creates a defence barrier around Ruselt.

Mickey: Gyah! What are y'all doing standing around, take this guy down.

Angel-Ion: That's it. I'm in.

Angel-Ion unsheathes his sword and runs out, cutting down a Galahad agent.

Lanval: I guess that means the rest of us are, too.

Old Man: I would help but yer friend has my gun now.

Lanval: Whatever.

Lanval runs out and climbs up the side of the bar onto its balcony. He pulls down the agent standing on it before climbing up for himself.

Roxanne takes a magnum and fires it at two unsuspecting agents.

The agents begin loading the gatling gun

Luther removes the barrier from around Ruselt and he steps outside. He looks at the gatling gun and briefly closes his eyes. The gatling gun suddenly catches fire.

Ruselt looks at Mickey. The agents squable in an attempt to put out the fire.

Angel-Ion chops down two more agents as Lanval begins throwing daggers at some. More arrive on the scene. Zambini joins the fray by tripping one up. The Old Man approaches Ruselt with a bag of money in his hand.

Old Man: Listen son, I need that ol' gun back from ya. How bout we trade?

Ruselt: Deal.

Ruselt pulls the Old Man's gun out of his bag and hands it to him in exchange for the money.

Zambini: How about a magic trick?

Agent: Oh boy! I love magic!

Zambini: Pick a card. Don't show me what it is.

The agent picks a three of clubs.

Zambini: Now put the card back in the deck.

The agent does so.

Zambini: Now, from my sleeve, I shall reveal your card.

Zambini pulls out the Agent's gun from his sleeve instead.

Agent: Whu---

He shoots the agent dead. He throws the deck of cards on his body, the three of clubs landing on his forehead, facing up.

Another agent attempts charging hm with a knife. Lanval brings him down with one of his own.

Mickey fires his gun at Luther, who is still concentrating on the gatling gun.

Ruselt sees this. He immediately fires in Mickey's general direction. He fires until his gun runs out of ammunition.

Mickey falls down. He gets back up seconds later and reveals a metal plate tied to his body under his shirt.

Mickey: What a moron.

Mickey aims his gun at Ruselt. Angel-Ion rushes in and slices his arm off.

Mickey: AAAAGH! MY ARM!

More agents arrive.

Lanval: Uh, guys. We're starting to get a bit outnumbered here!

Two agents kick Luther down as the fire on the gatling gun is put out. Angel-Ion runs inside a building followed by Roxanne, who begin killing agents hiding within.

Ruselt appears behind the two agents and slashes at their hamstrings with his sword. They both fall down to the ground where he proceeds to violently kick them. He then helps Luther up.

The Old Man begins shooting down several agents without concentrating.

Lanval: Is this guy some kind of sharpshooter?!

The agents manning the gatling gun get ready to fire it. Angel-Ion slices the turret off and swings it into one of the agents, breaking their neck. He throws it at the other before slicing it in two and cutting the agent open. He blasts what's left of the gatling gun, blowing it up.

Old Man: Don't tell me that you're not gunna kill these fools?

The Old Man shoots the two downed agents in the backs of their heads.

More agents show up from the back of town and from the alleys.

Luther: We definitely can't keep this up.

Old Man: Of course we can. Grab a gun and start shootin'!

Angel-Ion cuts the throat of an unsuspecting agent.

Luther creates a defence barrier around the group, blocking outside gunfire.

Some agents catch on and charge forwards. Angel-Ion cuts one down while Lanval throws a knife at another. There seems to be no more signs of backup.

Luther closes his eyes and makes a circular motion with his hand. A ring of fire forms around the group. It expands outwards in the form of a waves, which target Galahad agents. Angel-Ion fires several fire blasts, setting some of the agents on fire.

Soon, the agents get whittled down to a small few. Some of them flee. Mickey gets up and aims his gun. He is backed by the remaining agents.

Mickey: End of the line!

Something blasts Mickey from behind. Some crystal spikes appear through his chest.

Mickey: Well... Damn.

Mickey falls dead. The agents turn around to see the attacker, a short, somewhat round being, made of rock, wielding a staff. They flee in terror.

???: Figured he was in charge of this little masquerade.

Old Man: You're... You're a...

???: Friend? Ally? Helper?

Old Man: You're a Sabarian!

???: Oh good, your eyes work. Yes, I am.

Roxanne: We appreciate your help but... Why are you all the way down here in Carta? I thought your people hated the rest of us.

???: That's usually what they all say. They call us Flesh Haters. Theres a few of us that, me included, that enjoy the company of Flesh Kind.

Angel-Ion: Who are you exactly?

???: You can call me Dirge. Its a pleasure to make your acquaintance.

Ruselt: Thanks for taking care of Mickey.

Dirge: You knew that guy?

Old Man: I did. He was a nuisance and a terrible poker player. Glad that snot's dead.

Roxanne: We don't exactly know who you are, yet, either, old geezer.

Old Man: Ah, my apologies, lass. Name's Mitch, Mitch Castone.

Dirge: Now how about the rest of you?

Roxanne: I'm Roxanne Fenix, it's a pleasure.

Angel-Ion: Angel-Ion Excalvur's the name.

Lanval: Lanval Dultra, at your service.

Zambini: Hector Zambini, good day to you.

Ruselt: I am Ruselt Visarion. This is my brother, Luther.

Luther cringes again.

Ruselt notices this.

Ruselt: Oh what?

Luther: *Cough* Y'know... Discretion. 

Ruselt: There is no point any more. Everyone else is already terrible at it.

Mitch begins looting Mickey's body.

Angel-Ion: What are you doing over there?

Mitch: Seeing what else this bastard carries. 

Mitch walks back over. While he isn't looking, Lanval takes the gun belonging to Mickey from Mitch.

Roxanne: I have a feeling we should do something about the bodies. From the amount of agents that showed up, this place is most likely a central hub for the Arms. I honestly didn't expect them to be all the way out here.

Ruselt: I have a feeling that you shouldn't have killed them. 

Dirge: Now that I think about it, killing them may have been a bad idea.

Angel-Ion: If we didn't kill them we'd be dead, or get imprisoned, and I'd rather do either.

Luther makes a mental note of this.

Dirge: Then what would you say we should do?

Angel-Ion: Run!

Angel-Ion begins running. Roxanne and Lanval look at each other before running after him.

Zambini: Uhh... Guys?

They hear the sound of many Arms agents heading their way.

Dirge: Oh crud. Run!

Zambini, Dirge, Mitch, Ruselt and Luther run.

Dirge: Is this guy sure he knows where he's going?!

Roxanne: I don't know, its not likely.

Javert, who is inspecting a vase up for sale, spots Angel-Ion running, soon spotting the others as they run past.

Javert: Shit...!

He drops the vase on the floor, breaking it.

Clerk: Hey!

Javert hops on his motorcycle and speeds in the direction the group are headed. The Arms agents soon follow suit.

Dirge: Screw this, I'm taking the lead!

Dirge runs up in front.

Angel-Ion: What's up with you?

Dirge: Follow me! I know where we can go!

Angel-Ion: Where's that?!

Dirge: The desert!

Dirge makes a hard turn left, Angel-Ion almost trips trying to keep up. Javert skids on his bike after noticing that they've changed route and heads after them. Zambini spots Javert.

Zambini: We've got more company!

Lanval: Javert?! What the hell is he doing out here?!

Ruselt: What do you think!?

Roxanne: Never mind him, keep running.

Mitch: Agh. I'm too old for this!

Ruselt notices Luther is begining to tire so he grabs his arm and pulls him along. 

Luther creates a defence barrier behind the group in an attempt to slow Javert down. Javert makes a hard turn right. Some of the agents run into it.

Soon, the vast desert comes into view.

Angel-Ion: Are we in the clear?

Dirge: Sort of.

Angel-Ion: What's that supposed to mean?!

Dirge: Some of them might follow us through, and we might get caught by the border authorities. Plus the desert can be a very harsh place.

They soon run out of the city and into the sands of the desert. There are a few towers spaced out away from the city. Only two of them are currently occupied. The Arms agents begin following. Javert emerges from a stack of boxes and rides out.

???: Don't let 'em out the border!

Angel-Ion: Don't stop running!

Soon, they run over the borders, some of the border patrol attempt to stop the agents, but some of them run past anyways. Some turn yellow and stay behind, however. The group run into a ravine, where they find a small cave to hide in.

???: Find them! I'll report go and report this to Red Dragon! Those bastards will pay for killing my brother!

Agent: B-But Commander Dennis, the Sab--

Commander Dennis: Don't question my order! I'm heading back.

The commander walks off. The agents begin looking around, both in and out of the ravine, searching for the group. The commander walks back to the border.

Commander Dennis: What are you lot doing? Stop goofing off!

Agent: But sir, I--

The commander shoots the agent dead.

Commander Dennis: I don't care about your needless whimpering, get moving!

The commander looks around to Javert, who dons a set of goggles and rides out into the desert.

Back in the desert, an agent, now lost, sits on a rock.

Agent: This is hopeless. I'll probably never find them, yet alone find my way back.

There are sudden movements behind him.

Agent: Huh? Who's there?

The agent stands and arms himself.

A Sabarian appears and stabs him in the back, bringing him down.

Agent: Agh! Wait! NO!!!

The Sabarian begins stabbing him repeatedly.

The King's Arms

April 14th, 1215 AC, Night. Tonenberg. 

Chancellor Winters watches from the balcony of the City Hall as guards outside prepare for the arrival of Lord Deciduous at the port. His ship soon arrives. His guards emerge, followed by his Vice, Dontos Rubern. Deciduous himself emerges, sporting a black coat with a black fur cloak attached to it. He walks from the pier to where the guards are.

The guards lead Decidous and Rubern towards the city hall. Inara waves at him from the balcony. He looks up in disdain. He is eventually lead into a small room with a table and two chairs. Inara soon enters and sits on one of the chairs. Deciduous sits on the other. Rubern stands next to Deciduous, unsure what to do.

Inara (In Venlish): Oh dear, there are only two chairs. It appears it was a meeting for two.

Inara gestures towards the door at Rubern.

Rubern looks at Deciduous, who merely rolls his eyes. Rubern looks back to Inara.

Inara glareas at Rubern. His eyes briefly glint.

Inara: Run along now.

Rubern feels compelled to obey and leaves the room.

Inara: The matter at hand, is fairly delicate, so I think it would be appropriate if my guards left too. 

Inara nods at her guards, who also leave the room with Rubern. They close the door after them.

Deciduous: Am I right in saying that I know what this meeting's about?

Inara: Probably. What do you think this meeting is about?

Deciduous: The Galahad Arms, perhaps?

Inara: Bingo!

Inara pours herself some wine. 

Inara: This conversation was inevitable.

Deciduous looks disgusted.

Deciduous: Is wine the only thing you drink?

Inara: Hmph, would have preferred me to guzzle beer?

Inara smirks and sips some of her wine.

Inara: Refraining from personal attacks, let's cut to the chase, shall we?

Deciduous: Tch. Fine.

Inara: In the two most recent summits, the Galahad Arms has been brought up, and each time they are, you get nervous. In March, you started sweating as we asked about your solutions, and you stormed off. Most recently, you snapped at Joshua Andrews for pressuring you into acting. We can all see something is not quite right. I think you might as well elaborate.

Deciduous: It is because I am trying my hardest. Those fools don't appreciate my efforts. Especially Canorica, who were condemned for starting an illegal war.

Inara observes him for a few seconds, and the room remains silent, save for the faint ticking of a clock.

Inara suddenly slaps her hands down on the table making a loud bang.

Inara (In Mercrian): Bullshit!

Inara stands up and begins walking around the table. 

Inara: You can do better than that, surely!

A smile stretches across Inara's face. Deciduous sits there, sweating somewhat.

Inara suddenly appears more sympathetic. She sighs and pulls her chair up next to Decidous and sits next to him.

Inara: I apologise for that. I'll be honest, I thought the "Cercyon treatment" would work. Whatever this secret is, if Cercyon finds out, then it could end very badly for you. If I find out however, I can help to prevent the information from falling into the wrong hands. 

Inara puts her hand on Deciduous' face. He pulls his head back.

Inara: Secrets are a burden, that become much easier to bare once they are shared with those who know how to keep them.

Deciduous seems to remain silent, although his lips are quivering, as if he wants to yell.

Inara's demeanour changes completely.

Inara: Aww, the secret is just trying to come out!

She takes another sip of wine.

Inara: Your mind might be saying no. 

Inara observes his body language.

Inara: But your body is saying yes.

Inara: Let's see. Why would someone be so reluctant to fight an organisation that is consuming their own country? Blackmail?

Deciduous looks away and closes his eyes. 

Inara's smile widens.

Inara: We're getting somewhere now.

Inara takes another sip of her wine.

Inara: If you were being blackmailed, surely it wouldn't matter, you have an army on your side and bodyguards in the thousands meaning they could be blackmailing your family. Wait...no. No that makes no sense, you could easily have bodyguards protect them too.

Inara thinks for a while.

Inara: You only had one immediate relative, am I correct? Your son?

Deciduous H-He's... He's dead.

Inara: Your pupils dilated there, are you sure?

Hardware: He died in a house fire!

Inara: Ah yes, I remember reading about that in the news. "Several Novalian Diplomats killed in celebration party fire." Tragic really. 

Inara sips her wine.

Inara: Buuuut... I also remember reading some of the controversy about the police reports. Your son was said to have died in the fire, yet according to a leaked document, his charred remains were never found.

Deciduous: That mon-- He wasn't the only one lost to that accursed fire!

Inara: Funny. I could have sworn that you were about to say "Monster" on the topic of your son.

Inara walks around Deciduous.

Inara: The man charged with arson pleaded innocent. His plea was convincing. Alas the jury gave a guilty verdict and was hanged.

She pauses.

Inara: This is begining to make a bit more sense now.

Inara thinks for a second.

Her eyes widen with realisation.

Inara laughs hysterically for a few seconds.

Inara: Your son isn't dead. He didn't die in the fire. He caused the fire didn't he? And then fled. Leaving you to pick up the pieces and blame the arson on someone else to save face. That is why you referred to him has a monster.

Inara's smile dissapears.

Inara: But why would he want to burn down the house? I have so many unanswered questions.

Inara sighs and sits down.

Inara: You might as well tell me the rest Deciduous. I'll figure it out soon enough anyway. I understand that these memories can be painful, so here is something that might help.

Inara moves the wine bottle towards Deciduous. 

Inara: Start from the begining.

Deciduous: No!

Deciduous pushes the bottle away in anger, it slides off of the table.

Inara looks somewhat defeated for a second. She suddenly perks up and calls Rubern in.

Deciduous: Doltos?! What is this?!

Inara stands up and closes the door.

Inara: Rubern, this command might seem odd, but I would like you to stop breathing. 

Rubern finds that no matter how hard he tries, he can't inhale or exhale.

Deciduous: What is this?! Stop this madness!

Inara looks at the clock. 

Inara: It only takes about three minutes to suffocate someone. 

Rubern collapses to the floor, nearly falling into unconciousness.

Inara: Tick tock Deciduous. 

Deciduous: What do you want?!

Inara: I want you to tell me everything.

Deciduous: F-f-fine! He started the fire, and killed the homeowner beforehand! He fled the scene and went on to create the Arms! The monster even kidnapped me just to reveal his sick twisted self! My true son died in that fire, that nightmare is what survived!

He begins sobbing.

Inara breaks her trance on Rubern, who can now breath. He coughs and wheezes.

Inara: Was that so hard?

Inara sits down.

Inara: So that is why you don't attack the Arms. Your own son is "Crowned."

Inara sips her wine.

Inara: Some truly hilarious things have happened this year. That might just top them all.

She pauses.

Inara: What else do you know about the Galahad Arms? Other than the fact your son leads it.

Deciduous: Nothing... I swear it... And if you reveal this to the public... They'll have both of our heads.

Inara thinks for a second.

Inara: No, just yours. 

Inara finishes her wine.

Inara: Although I suppose I could be persuaded to keep quiet about this whole thing. 

Deciduous: I'm being serious. You might think you're well protected here, but my Clockwatch have reported activities across the continent.

Inara: I am so glad you care about my welfare. But the Galahad Arms aren't a threat to my safety. 

Deciduous: We shall see.

Inara: You'll be hearing from me soon, Deciduous. I'll be expecting some favours.

Deciduous walks out, followed by Rubern, who looks confused by the whole ordeal.

Sometime later. Atlas, Portal.

Rubern walks out on his own, with his hands in his pockets. He walks into an alley where he is ambushed and knocked out by two Galahad Arms agents. They step aside as a hooded, masked figure drops down. The man's hood has yellow stripes on it. He bends down and takes away the stickpin attached to his coat, swapping it with a seemingly identical one. He reaches into his pocket and pulls out a radio device.

~ Galahad Arms / Head of B.I.T.E ~ Bishop: This is Bishop. The Lord's Vice has had his goodnight hurrah. I have retrieved the radio recorder we stuck on him. Returning to base.

He puts the device away.

Bishop: Take him home. He needs his beauty sleep.

The agents carry Rubern off as Bishop departs.

Later still, Galahad.

Playback Recording: "I'm being serious. You might think you're well protected here, but my Clockwatch have reported activities across the continent." ... "I am so glad you care about my welfare. But the Galahad Arms aren't a threat to my safety." ... "We shall see." ... "You'll be hearing from me soon, Deciduous. I'll be expecting some favours."

Crowned: Well now. This doesn't affect me in the slightest. The woman may think she's out of harm's way, but she's just like the old man; Blind. She doesn't know where I am, can't find me, has no means of tracking me... I'm assuming this one may be one of hers.

Crowned moves a cloth, revealing the severed head of a suspected spy.

Bishop: ... Are you sure that was a spy?

Crowned: Seemed so.

Bishop: ... And are you going to live up to your promise on Deciduous?

Crowned: Nah, not yet. Let the old man run around like a headless chicken a bit more. That Mercrian bitch just proved that he's easy to crack for information. I should credit your team for planting that radio recorder, though. ... How did your guys plant it, exactly?

Bishop: Home invasion during the day. He was busy at the Capitol. Nobody saw them go in or out.

Crowned: And where is Rubern now?

Bishop: Tucked away, fast asleep in his bed, unaware of tonight's attack.

Crowned: I see... I wanna know how Inara made him start to choke... Didn't sound like anyone else in there but those three... Very strange...

Bishop: Likewise. What would you like me to do with the head?

Crowned: Cast it into the sea with its body.

Bishop: It will be done.

Bishop takes the head and leaves the room. At dawn, a sealed-shut iron coffin is flung out to sea between Levia and Novalia. It sinks to the bottom, where it joins a cavalcade of many other similar coffins, all of which possessing the insignia of the Galahad Arms.

Beyond Carta

April 15th, 1215 AC. Morning. Sabari Wastes.

The travelling band have made a camp of sorts during the night. They are all asleep around a now-put out fire. Angel-Ion seems to have a nightmare.

Angel-Ion finds himself on a boat sailing out of Kyloto. From the docks, he sees people he knows get butchered by Dominion soldiers. He spots an Oathkeeper, one that would have been sent to his family, looking over.

Oathkeeper: Let 'em go. We'll sink them out of the sea!

Catapults launch flaming cannonballs at the ship, one hits it directly in the middle. Angel-Ion sees somebody sliding off a broken piece of the ship.

Angel-Ion: Take my hand! Lance!

The other Kylotean, his brother, misses, and slides into the sea, another cannonball hits the ship, sending Angel-Ion careening into the sea. A fog suddenly picks up. Angel-Ion, dazed, climbs into a small boat. He spots four people sail away on another, slightly larger boat.

???: --n!! --el-Ion!! Angel-Ion!!

He looks up and regains some of his senses.

Angel-Ion: Set-- Setsuna!! Wait for me!

A somewhat large cannonball, the size of a small meteorite, crashes down, seemingly wiping out the boat with his sister on it. The blast spreads light that reaches out towards Angel-Ion, consuming him in the explosion. There is a flash, and various images flash through very quickly. The Excalvur Family crest. His father. Ruselt and Luther. The gauntlet and some other pieces of armour. A dragon. Another Kylotean man. A white mask. A foreign crown. A ship exploding. A gigantic squid-like monster. Unknown soldiers marching down a hill. A series of mystery figures. Shen laughing. Crowned. A group of deathly figures in an ice terrain. A figure looking down at him in a ravine. A recently forged sword. An explosion of black and dark green energy. A volcano releasing a plume of dark smoke, emitting an ominous green glow. A large undead army, accompanied by spawns of ash. A mystery, powerful, crowned figure rasing a sword into the sky. A gigantic round object rising up, creating some kind of screeching sound. And finally, another Kylotean, one that resembles him, surrounded entirely with blue aura, opening their eyes, followed by a white flash.

Angel-Ion is suddenly woken up, shouting loudly. He looks around and sees that nobody else has heard him sleep. He gets up and grabs his sword, wondering about his nightmare.

Luther is sitting upright and looking, unblinkingly into the distance.

Angel-Ion ventures into another part of the ravine, not so far away. He begins practicing his swordsmanship on several pointed rocks, cutting some in half.

Ruselt is awoken by the commotion. He sits up and sees Luther daydreaming. He follows the noise and finds Angel-Ion in the ravine.

Ruselt: What is with all the noise?

Angel-Ion: Oh, its just you.

Ruselt notices that Angel-Ion looks troubled by something.

Ruselt: You had a nightmare? 

Angel-Ion: I wouldn't call it a nightmare but... How did you know?

Ruselt: Luther has the same look on his face when he dreams. On the rare occasion that he sleeps that is. What did you dream about?

Angel-Ion: Thats the thing... I wouldn't exactly call it a dream either. I saw things. People. Stuff I've never seen before. Its as though it was a vision of things to come...

Ruselt: What did you see?

Angel-Ion: I'm not really sure how to describe most of them. I remember seeing you, your brother, my father and family crest. I saw Shen and a helmeted man, and a man in a white mask. There was also a kracken, and Luther's gauntlet. I think I even saw another me...

Ruselt: It is probably nothing. 

Ruselt looks at the others.

Ruselt: We might as well wake them up. We have a lot of distance to cover.

Angel-Ion: I don't even know why Dirge brought us all here. Especially the gunslinger and the magician.

Dirge: Its because I want to show you something.

Angel-Ion: Like what?

Dirge: Something I've wanted to show Man all my life. All Men before have refused, fearing the other Sabarians and what supposedly lies beyond them. Some of them ran away just because I'm a Sabarian myself.

Angel-Ion: Wait... What lies beyond the Sabarians?

Dirge: Apparently great terrors. I have only heard stark rumors of them. They claim stone beasts guard the place I want to go to.

Angel-Ion: And why do you want to go see something you yourself have apparently never seen?

Dirge: Because I want to see the work of a man I respect to the end of my days.

Ruselt: What man?

Dirge: Narak. One of an order known as the Templar Knights. He was a great explorer in his time, and is believed to have made the first map of Helios in the entire world. I seek to take his map and finish it, covering all the corners of the continents and the world.

Ruselt: Who were the Templar Knights?

Dirge: You've never heard of them?

Ruselt: Not at all.

Dirge: They're a bunch of historic figures. Legendary. Narak was the fourth member, joining after one of the older conflicts for Carta. Our current Imperator sees him as a traitor. As for the others, you have Noland Baltovere, the man in charge, Maradiac Gailax, the Kratonian "Helm of the Ocean", Sir Mase Miles, a knight from Regolia, Varn Avgora, the "Winter's Bane", Trakkis Bracorne of the Silver Hive, and--

Angel-Ion: Luwei Meja of the Reeds. He's one of the most well known Ronin of Kyloto.

Dirge: There you go, at least one who knows about the Templar Knights.

Angel-Ion: I know my history. Hated the subject. Never appealed to me.

Dirge: I see. I believe its time to wake up the rest.

Angel-Ion: Oh, they're awake alright. I can smell frying eggs.

Dirge: Is this what Men call "breakfast"?

Angel-Ion: Yeah.

Ruselt heads towards the camp and eats breakfast.

Angel-Ion sits down and is handed some food.

Dirge: I didn't know eggs had a more common approach in the realms of Man.

Dirge sits down.

Angel-Ion: We've gotta eat, after all. Speaking of which, where did the eggs come from?

Roxanne: We found a Desertfowl nest. Had a bunch if them in it.

Angel-Ion: And... What of the egg layer?

Mitch: Over here.

Mitch is plucking the feathers of a dead bird.

Lanval: What do your people do with eggs, Dirge?

Dirge: Normally we crystalise them and keep them as decorations.

Zambini: You don't hatch them?

Dirge: Desertfowl are prejudiced as a Flesh-Kind species to the Round Council. They condemned raising hatchlings years ago.

Ruselt: Your race sound so joyous. 

Dirge: Indeed. I appreciate the sarcasm.

The group soon finish and begin to head out, leaving the ravine and heading out for the deserts, with the map in mind.

The Relentless Blizzard

April 15th, 1215 AC. Midday. Hadengral.

The Government soldiers and communicators are in panic after failure to contact various outposts in the east. General Rachev, head of the city guard, begins eating his lunch in the telecommunications tower on the city wall.

An Officer rushes in and stands to attention.

Officer: General sir, we have lost all form of communication with three eastern outposts.

Rachev stops eating his food and begins to smarten his uniform.

Rachev: What was the last thing they sent?

Officer: One outpost reported a disturbance, but the message wasn't finished. The other two however haven't reported anything since yesterday.

Rachev: Then we can only assume the worst. When did we lose contact with the outposts?

Officer: Just a few minutes ago, but anything could have happened prior to their failure to respond.

Rachev: Alert the City Guard. We must prepare for an attack.

Within 10 minutes, the City Guard, as well as 45,000 government soldiers, are at their battle stations. Many of the guards appear unnerved, and shiver due to the low temperatures. 

Many soldiers can see the snow falling off the trees in the neaby forrest, with some of the trees outright collapsing.  They hear the noises of tanks rolling in. More ominously however, they see an oncoming blizzard which obscures their view of anything behind the forest regions. 

5 minutes later, the blizzard hits the city, and the soldiers' visibility is greatly diminished. General Rachev can vaguley be heard shouting encouragement to his men. One soldier for a split second spots a figure in a blue uniform approaching the wall. He immediately fires a shot, prompting many other soldiers atop the wall to open fire into the snow. No fire is returned, and they eventually stop, but remain skeptical. 

They suddenly hear a series of loud bangs, followed by whistling noises. Many of the experienced soldiers duck and cover where as the younger ones remain standing, unsure of what to do. Artillery fire from Wolf's offensive line have opened fire on the Eastern face of the wall. Several explosions occur within the turrets, but the fire seems to be concentrated at the bottom of the wall. Tanks roll out of the forest and also concentrate their fire on the wall. 

Many large gashes in the wall have formed which are beginning to widen.

Rachev: Get the mortars!

Within a minute, the City Guard are able to fire back more effectively, and force Wolf's tank line to retreat out of range.

The mortars are able to take out some of Wolf's artillery, decreasing the speed at which he breaks through the wall.

Soldiers on the wall turrets, however, notice the damage done, and begin to abandon their posts, relieving some of the pressure on the tanks. The tanks move in again and concentrate their fire at the base of the wall. 

There is a brief ceasefire, and the blizzard clears, revealing the extent of Wolf's army. All of his artillery fire a volley at the same time, most of them targetted at the weak points in the wall.

The large gashes in the wall finally cave in. The ramparts collapse pulling varous soldiers and turrets with it. The communications tower then collapses, with Rachev inside. 

Within the first few seconds of this happening, the tanks roll forward at their top speed, along with several organised squads of soldiers in armoured vehicles. There are brief but short encounters with government soldiers who are quickly killed by turrets attached to the vehicles.

The tanks and soldiers move into the city through the many breaches in the wall. Vladimir Wolf arrives in his own unique tank. He opens the hatch and looks out to find that many government soldiers have already surrendered and are directed out of the city by Wolf's men. Many civilians begin cheering although some remain in their homes. 

5 minutes later, the rebel flag is raised over the city. 

General Rachev is found by rebel soldiers bloodied but alive in the rubble and he is dragged into a temporary cell along with other high ranking officers. 

3 hours pass and much of the debris littering the city has been moved aside. Rachev's cell door is opened revealing one of Wolf's soldiers. Rachev stands up realising what is going to happen. 

Rachev turns around and the soldier ties his hands behind his back.

The soldier guides him out of the prison, and leads him to the town centre, where crowds have gathered. Two lines of guards have formed to prevent the crowds from attacking Rachev. They shout abuse at him. 

Rachev however maintains his dignity and keeps his head held high. He looks forward to see he is being lead towards a pole. Vladimir Wolf is standing next to it with his arms crossed.

He arrives at the pole.

Wolf: Is there anything you would like to say?

Rachev just spits at the ground in front of Wolf. 

Wolf sighs.

Rachev is tied to the pole and crowds grow even more restless.

Wolf pulls out a pistol and stands in front of Rachev. They stare eachother down. 

Wolf raises his pistol and aims for the heart. He fires a single shot and the crowd goes silent. 

Rachev's body jolts from the initial impact but he quickly slumps down, dead. 

The crowd begins cheering again, and Vladimir Wolf heads to his new office in the Hadengral City Hall.

Red Dragon

April 15th, 1215 AC. Late Morning. Dusktown.

~ Galahad Chief of World Affairs ~ Red Dragon: You mean to tell me that you let some of our best men lead a hunt for, I don't know, a few small name fugitives, in the bloody desert?!

Commander Dennis: Y-Yes sir!

Red Dragon: And you say these small namers killed your own brother and a commander of the Dusktown-Branch Galahad Arms?!

Dennis: I-I-It was a Sabarian, sir!

Red Dragon: I don't care if its a fucking Homidae or a Kratonian! Or anything else for that matter! Why did Long Fung hire you pair of twats when you can't even take care of an old geezer, a wizard, a bunch of lowly fugitives and a fucking Sabarian?! You're USELESS.

Dennis: W-W-W-We also saw Ken Javert of the Clockwatch, sir! He's here in Sabaria!

Red Dragon: And you did nothing about that?!

Dennis: N-No si--

Red Dragon suddenly slashes his throat open.

Dennis: Gya-- Bluk! Gack! Agck! Ptak! Plea-- I'm sorr-- Egh! Blak!

Dennis falls down, dead.

Red Dragon: Somebody get this useless shit out of my office. I'm got a "Clockroach" to squash.

Two men carry the body out.

City of Bones

Sabari Wastes, Valus Outskirts.

The travelling pack begin to approach a settlement of some kind. Above some giant arch, a few Sabarians patrol. Some of them are slacking.

Dirge: Alright, easy now. We're approaching potential hostiles. You lot should hide. I know a passage that can get us right past the city.

Angel-Ion: So we can't go through it?

Dirge: Not without getting captured, or killed. Once they grant me, you should head around to the side of that wall over there. After that, I'll lead you to the passage.

Dirge walks towards the arch. Five Sabarians emerge.

Sabarian: (In Sabari) Well, well. If it isn't Dirge? Come crawling back to us have you? Fed up of living with Men?

Dirge: Y-Yes.

Sabarian: And you expect us to grant you passage?

Dirge: Maybe.

Sabarian: You better not be trying to smuggle Men into our city. I'll kill you.

Dirge: How am I to do that? Men can't fit in bags.

Sabarian: In that case, we demand one of your Man-Things. We can't just let in all traitors without them paying up their redemption.

Dirge hands them a cooking pot.

Sabarian: What the hell is this? Some kind of shovel? Give it to one of the Man-Slaves.

Dirge: So am I allowed in or...

One of the Sabarians hits Dirge back with a sword.

Sabarian: Know your place, you miserable fanatic.

They walk off. Dirge looks back and heads in.

The others head to where Dirge told them to go.

Angel-Ion: Now we wait...

Mitch: I'm not sure if we should trust the Sabarian.

Lanval: Eh. He seems alright.

Luther: T-to be honest, No one seems trustworthy anymore.

Ruselt: He only wants to show us something. Although I do fear for Vulkas. He's wanted too after all. 

Roxanne: Vulkas should be fine if he lays low.

Angel-Ion: Hey, there he is!

Angel-Ion points to Dirge, who is waving over to them, signallimg their advance. They head forwards, and are led to a tunnel of some kind.

Dirge: I should warn you about the tunnel. Its actually the city catacombs, and a lot of dead Men are found under here.

Roxanne: Did they die down here?

Dirge: No. This is just where they throw the dead ones.

Lanval: Pwoh! It smells!

Dead bodies, partially rotted, are found within the sandy walls.

Ruselt leans against the side of the tunnel and throws up. Luther doesn't seem scathed by the bodies. 

Further down the tunnel, Mitch suddenly throws up as well.

Lanval: Ugh... You guys are just adding to the stink!

Dirge: What's all the fuss about?

Angel-Ion: The smell's horrendous.

Roxanne: And there's rotten flesh all over.

Lanval: What is with this damned city?

They approach the end of the passage. Dirge exits first and looks around. A sledgehammer is smashed across the back of his head, knocking him out. A group of Sabarians, including the attacker, head into the cavern.

Sabarian: (In native tongue) Men! Men in the catacombs!

Sabarian: (In Venlish) Get them!

Some Sabarians dig their way into the catacombs from behind the group. They are quickly restrained and led out of the caves. They are brought back into the city, which seems to have many bones hanging from buildings, as well as some in the very sand below.

Sabarian: (In native tongue) We found these Men lurking about the cavern! What shall we do with them?

Sabarian: They must be escaped slaves! They must be executed!

Sabarian: No. We found one of our own leading them through the catacombs.

Sabarian: I see. Take them to the Bone Lord!

The captives are taken to a large tower, which seems to have entire skeletons hanging from the pinnacle. Long ropes seem to be what is keeping them closer to the ground.

Mitch falls down.

Sabarian: On your feet, Man!

He is forced to his feet and whipped. They are forced inside the tower, where many skulls are found inside slots which lead up the stairs.

Luther: (Why didn't we just head back to the ship? Why did we have to follow Dirge?)

Luther suddenly hears something whisper his name, and he stops to look behind him.

Sabarian Guard: Keep moving!

Luther is shoved back. Ruselt scowls at the Sabarian guard. Ruselt is soon hit as well.

Sabarian Guard #2: Face the front!

Soon, they reach the top of the tower, and enter a chamber where a Sabarian wearing a skull mask and bone-modelled armour plates on his body.

Sabarian Guard: We found more infiltrators, sir.

~ Bone Lord ~ Tox: Where were these ones?

Sabarian Guard: In the catacombs. A defective was leading them through it.

Tox: Put them in the cell, with the rest.

The guards drag the crew and throw them a few cells. Some of the Galahad Arms agents from before seem to be in the cells amongst others. A guard absentmindedly drops a black key before Luther's feet. Luther takes the key when the guards have disperesed. 

He tries it on the lock without the Galahad Arms agents seeing. Tox and two guards suddenly enter the chamber.

Tox: Which of them shall be flayed first?

Arms Agent: N-No! I don't wanna be flayed!

Tox: You trespass on our grounds. You were not invited to step foot on Sabaria. Hence, you must be flayed as punishment. And, for talking out of line, you will be first. Guards.

The guards approach the cells, intent on taking the Arms Agent away. One catches Luther with the key. The guard is the same one who dropped theirs. He reaches at where his key should be.

Guard: You little pickpocket!

The guard grabs Luther's hand and prys the key from it. He unlocks the cell door and pulls Luther out, before locking it again.

Ruselt: Hey! Let him go!

Guard: Do you know what we do to pickpockets, boy?!

Luther: (Stuttering) I didn't pickpocket! You just dropped it!

Guard: Lies!

He hits Luther across the face.

Guard: What happens to pickpockets? THEY LOSE THEIR HANDS!

Luther's left arm is locked onto a small stone table. There are signs of scratches going right through the center of the table, with faint red marks. The guard grabs a large blade.

Luther: I'm not lying!

Luther tries to create fire, but finds that for some reason he can't.

Guard: HYAH!

The guard swings the sword down. It suddenly shatters upon making impact with the gauntlet on Luther's wrist.

Guard: Gyah! My blade! Whuh?

The guard looks at what's left of his blade and sees that the broken off part is blackened with light blue cracks in it. He throws the broken blade on the floor abd steps back.

Guard: Its... Its cursed magic!

Tox: Grr... Those pesty Flesh Kind. Take them to Charybdis.

Guard #2: All of them?

Tox: All of them. The Imperator himself can deal with this one.

Luther's arm is unlocked and the cells are emptied. The captives are led onto a large stone wagon of some kind, which is pulled by many captive slaves. Tox boards the front of the wagon with four guards. Soon, a whip is struck, forcing the slaves to move forwards. Elsewhere, Dirge awakens, and spots the wagon being pulled away. He spots the others on it.

Dirge: Shit.

He runs forwards, unware that Javert was watching the event take place from a nearby cliff. Javert pulls down a pair of sand goggles and rides down a slope.

The Final Orders

April 15th, 1215 AC. 10 PM. Promethian State Building.

Two of Ivanovich Ketrov's best advisors walk hastily towards his office with news of any advancements after Hadengral was taken.

The first advisor knocks on Ketrov's office door.

He hears nothing.

He knocks again louder this time, only to hear Ketrov slur the words, "Come in."

They both enter to find the room is dark and lit only by a dull fireplace. Ketrov is slouched back in his chair. There is a near-empty bottle of vodka. 

Advisor 1: First Minister, we have an update on Wolf's army movements.

Advisor 2: As well as a telegraph from Wolf himself. 

Ketrov stares at the fire in silence.

Advisor 1: First Minister?

Ketrov: (Quietly and unintelligable) Read them to me.

Advisor 1: Pardon?

Ketrov: (Louder and more assertive) Read them.

Advisor 1: Wolf has completely secured Hadengral and our numbers have been greatly reduced. We have lost at least 40,000 soldiers to desertion alone. Many of Wolf's soldiers are now advancing in armoured vehicles towards Promethia as we speak. We believe they will arive in a day or two, depending on the weather. 

Ketrov: And the letter?

Advisor 2: (Reading the letter)

To First Minister, Ivanovich Ketrov
The city of Hadengral has been brought under the control of the people. Your own soldiers are begining to turn their backs on you, in order to join a cause which supports them more than your feudal regime ever could. This letter serves not to taunt you on your delicate situation, but more to offer an end to potential unnecessary bloodshed. I ask you sincerely to unconditionally surrender to the will of the people in order to remove the need for me to launch a full scale attack on Promethia. Your remaining soldiers do not need to die on the battlefield as a result of your stubborn ambition to maintain the aristocracy's power over Tythan. I call upon you to accept your fate with honour, to bring an end to this bloody war, and to allow the people to usher in a new era for Tythan.
Yours Faithfully, Vladimir Wolf.

There is a brief silence, broken only by the quiet crackling of the fire.

Ketrov: He intends to have me shot.

Advisor 2: So it seems.

Ketrov: We can't win anyway. Maybe he is right. Maybe I should surrender, just to protect the army that has served me well.

Advisor 1: Forgive me for being so bold, but maybe you should fight back. Despite the odds. Your fate would be sealed, but you'd likely die a hero.

Ketrov: (Chuckles) Yeah, you're probably right.

Ketrov drinks some of the vodka from the bottle.

Ketrov: If Promethia is to fall, then it will fall through blood and tears. For the sake of this democracy, I need to fight till the last man.

Advisor 2: I will inform your Generals of your decision. It has been an honour serving you, First Minsiter.

The advisor leaves, where as the first advisor remains.

Advisor 1: I think I might have a plan for the "Post-Wolf" situation sir.

Ketrov: Oh really? What might that be.

Advisor 1: I think that should Promethia fall to rebel hands, you should send a message to Ironhall. Maybe Canorica might be able to pick up the fight for us.

Ketrov: There is one problem with that. Joshua Andrews hates me. With Curtis it might have been different.

Advisor 1: That is where you're wrong. The President of Canorica has very little power in the grand scheme of things. In fact, the true power to declare war, lies with the Canorican Congress, which still contains a pro-Curtis majority.

Ketrov: So as long as Congress sees a request to help, they will come to aid us, no matter our situation. 

Advisor 1: Exactly.

Ketrov: Then get writing. Prepare a telegram to be sent as soon as Wolf's army takes Promethia. Then at least when I die, I can take solace in the fact that Canorica is coming for him.

Ketrov smiles at the thought. 

Advisor 1 salutes Ketrov before leaving the room.

Ketrov continues to glare at the fire, and drink his now slightly alleviated sorrows away.

Sunstruck Sandstone

April 16th, 1215 AC. 11 AM. Charybdis Outskirts.

The numbers of the slaves pulling the stone wagon seem to have dwindled somewhat during the desert trek. Some of them are found being dragged along the scorching hot sands, trailing behind the wagon, some crushed under the weight of the wagon's great wheels. Some others have been lost to the desert, with only the collars that they once wore remaining. One of the remaining slaves suddenly gives out and drops to the floor, soon joining the array of deadweight corpses being dragged along.

Lanval: This heat is so unbearable!

Mitch: I'm kinda surprised I haven't had heat stroke yet... I'm too old for this.

Roxanne: I can't even see. The sun's too bright out here and its reflecting off of the sand.

Sabarian: Quiet!

Angel-Ion looks on the horizon towards the city of Charybdis. He notes that it is three times the size of Valus, and seemingly bigger than Carta, too.

The wagon soon reaches the outer gates of the city. The prisoners note how cooler it is close to the stone structures in the shade. They are wheeled to the second gates. The cage on the wagon is opened and guards lead the prisoners out.

Charybdis Guard: (In Sabari) Welcome to Charybdis, Bone Lord. The Imperator will be pleased to see you. He won't be as pleased to see what you've brought to him.

Tox: I don't really care what he thinks about them. We brought them here because they are in the possession of what we believe to be a cursed item.

Charybdis Guard: Cursed, eh?

The guard notes the worn and tired slaves.

Charybdis Guard: What of these ones?

Tox: They are no longer useful as servers. They're too worn and beaten. You, take the prisoners forwards.

Valus Guard: Yes sir.

The guards from Valus lead the prisoners through the gate. Angel-Ion and Ruselt witness the Charybdis guards encircling the slaves, but soon they leave their line of sight. The slaves, terrified, attempt to flee, but the guards begin to beat the life out of them. Ruselt looks away. Within a few minutes, they are all killed.

Charybdis Guard: What shall we do with them now?

Tox: Give them to the sand.

The guards begin the bury the corpses in the sand as Tox leaves.

Luther seems to be staring into space again, but this time he is shaking.

Ruselt nudges him, breaking his "trance."

Ruselt: Hey. Everything will be fine. I am sure Dirge can help. He knows the area well and he'll likely be able to get us out of this somehow.

Luther: I find your sudden trust in him odd.

Ruselt: Just trying to be positive.

There is a brief and awkward silence.

Ruselt: Well if Dirge can't help, then we have your newfound magical ability.

Luther: About that...

Ruselt: What?

Luther: When the Sabarian was about to cut off my hand, I tried to use some basic fire magic to distract him. Nothing happened. It felt like something was preventing me.

Ruselt: Maybe you're just not confident enough.

Luther: How would that affect anything?

Ruselt: I dunno exactly, but whenever I am feeling confident, I find the basic fire spell easier to cast. Maybe Angel-Ion can vouch for me.

Angel-ion: It varies from person to person.

A guard hits Angel-Ion over the head.

Guard: Silence!

Both Ruselt and Luther remain silent.

They are led onto a large sandstone platform. Tox walks off with some of his guards. Soon, he returns along with several other Sabarians, amongst them, Argus and Horndahl.

Argus: (In Sabarian) I assume these are the Men you brought to us.

Tox: Yes. Bring the cursed one forth.

A Sabarian grabs Luther's gauntlet arm and yanks it.

Sabarian: Move.

Luther looks at Ruselt, who nods at him reassuringly. Luther moves with the Sabarian.

The guard forces Luther's arm forwards, presenting it to Argus. Argus instead meagerly looks at Luther's face.

Argus: Hahaha. Well if it isn't the prince Luther Visarion! Well now, isn't this a sudden turn of events.

Argus looks at the prisoners.

Argus: Well, well. Not only do we have Luther Visarion, we have his brother, and that one Shen's got a deal with... And the other two.

Horndahl: Roxanne Fenix and Lanval Dultra. No sign of Vulkas Raido however.

Argus: I should really welcome you, "prince". We don't normally have royalty show up in Charybdis, especially one of your calibre of infamy.

Luther just shies away from Argus and avoids eye contact. He tries to pull his arm away from the guard.

Ruselt: What do you want with us?

Argus: I assume you didn't get the memo from the Bone Lord. We don't want you at all. You're just here because those ugly flesh amalgamations which you call "bodies" decided to step onto and tarnish our soil, and we decided to do justice on it.

Guard: Uh, sand, sir.

Argus: I was being figurative, idiot. Anyways, I have been informed that you are in possession of what I've heard to be a "cursed object". 

Argus grabs Luther's hand and pulls it towards him. He inspects the gauntlet. He taps against it and feels his finger along part of it.

Argus: It would seem this gauntlet of yours matches the description of one similar to a text I once read. It spoke of seven pieces of armour, amongst them, two gauntlets, and, along with these, five stones of incredible power. It said of how these pieces of armour belonged to a powerful, unspeakable force from an ancient time. I also recall hearing word that a so-called "Helmut Urkhine" in possession of what I'd assume to be its counterpart.

The way Argus is holding the gauntlet seems to be hurting Luther's wrist. Luther winces.

Ruselt: Hey! You're hurting him!

Argus: I don't care.

Argus bends Luther's wrist a bit, making the pain worse.

Luther: Agh!

Ruselt frowns at Argus.

Argus: If I were to be correct, this gauntlet would be the "Aspect of Envy". The other parts are the Aspects of Wrath, Pride, Lust, Sloth, Greed and Gluttony.

Lanval: Pssh. Seven Deadly Sins superstitions.

Argus: These are pieces of ancient, hexed armour, not superstition, you fool. Somebody show him his place.

A guard hits Lanval to the floor.

Lanval: Not so rough!

Guard: Orders are orders, Flesh Kind.

Luther tries to pull away from Argus, but Argus twists his arm further.

Luther screams in pain.

Ruselt: That's it!

Ruselt runs at Argus. Horndahl charges forwards and hits Ruselt in the neck with the pole of his trident, knocking him to the floor. Horndahl stabs the trident into the ground, with two prongs trapping Ruselt's arm.

Luther: Rus!

Horndahl: Unless you want to die now, be my guest.

Ruselt just scowls at Horndahl.

Ruselt: You said you don't even want us here, so what are you going to do?

Horndahl: We don't keep prisoners to just kill off casually on a street. We publically execute them. Take them to the holding cells.

Horndahl rips hus trident out. Ruselt is forced to his feet and pushed along with the others. They are placed in a series of cells. Angel-Ion begins flipping a stone coin with a strange emblem on it.

Ruselt: What's that?

Angel-Ion: Something Dirge gave me on the way to that other city. He said it was incase we got separated or, as we are now, captured. It glows whenever its counterpart is within range. Its kinda like some tracker.

He shows it to Ruselt. Two marks on it are glowing.

Ruselt: It's glowing now, so does that mean Dirge is near?

Angel-Ion: Unless some other idiot took it, yes.

Elsewhere, Argus and several others sit around a round, stone table in a dark chamber of some kind.

~ Councillor ~ Baltov: What are we to do with these prisoners? Especially since two Venlish princes are amongst them.

Argus: The solution is simple. We kill them all, and as a dire warning to the rest of Men, we mount their heads along our northern coastline. Now then, I would say it is now the time of execution. Gentlemen, if you please.

The councillors stand and exit. Argus and Horndahl leave through a different door. Soon enough, guards suddenly burst into the holding prison. They unlock the doors.

Guard: Everyone out.

The prisoners are led outside to a stone platform, with thousands of Sabarians watching. They are lined up in a vertical line.

Argus: Peoples of Vesper Sabari, here, we have a selection of Men who have dared trespass onto our soil and our sand. We did not invite them here, so we must remove them the old fashioned way. Amongst them are the so-called Princes of Venland, Ruselt and Luther Visarion. We don't care if they are royal, or if their family house is now in the past, they, too, will die like the rest of these filthy Men! Before we begin the ceremony, would any of you like to object?

There is a silence.

Argus: Good. Now the--

???: I object.

Argus clenches his fist and turns to the audience.

Argus: Who said that?

The Sabarians look at one another in confusion.

Argus: Well? WHO WAS IT?!

Dirge suddenly climbs onto the platform.

Dirge: Me.

Argus: Dirge... You vile traitor. You've already dared siding with these foolish Men once already, and that wound on your head was the warning you got.

Dirge: You mean the one wound I got from the Bone Lord's slackers who tried to leave me for dead? Clearly they didn't do their job properly, right, Lord Imperator?

Argus: Learn your place!

Dirge: How about you learn yours. You're supposed to be a leader, yet you sit out of world affairs for no real reason, and when you get involved, its only for the clemency. What kind of idiot leader does that, hmm?

Argus: Don't chastise me boy. I have outlived many world leaders, and I do intend to claim the rest of this continent. I won't have bastards like these soil our grace.

Dirge: Yet all these people want is freedom. Our race hated being in chains all those years ago, and here we have put others in chains instead. Its no wonder many of your own have deserted you. Think about Narak. You shun him for merely wanting to explore the rest of this world. I want to prove that his Heliosi map exists within the nothern gulch, and I will finish it to the point that the whole world is etched upon it, even if it is the last thing I do.

Something suddenly clicks in Argus' mind.

Argus: Map, eh? Why don't you just go ahead and prove its real then? Why do you need these fools to prove its existence?

Dirge: The map was created for both Sabari and Man-Kind. It is only fair that Man sees it too.

Argus: ... Fine. You will take your filthy men with you to the gulch, and if you come back empty handed, we will execute you as well.

The prisoners start looking relieved.

Argus: Aside from the two princes and the Kylotean fool, which of the remainder are yours?

Dirge: The girl, the old man, and those two.

Dirge points to Lanval and Zambini.

Random Prisoner: Me?

Dirge: Not you, the guy next to you.

Argus: Release them.

Those named are eased off and let free.

Argus: Now then, Dirge. Remove yourself and these "fanatical followers" of yours from my city.

Prisoner: W-What about the rest of us?

Argus: Ohohoho. You still die. 

Prisoner: Huh?

Argus suddenly impales the prisoner's chest with his bare hand. He yanks his heart out and shows it to the audiences. Dirge directs the others away as the Sabarian guards restrain the other prisoners. Tox watches Luther as they leave. Horndahl approaches Argus.

Argus: Follow them. Once they get far enough into the gulch, kill them. I don't believe in that fanatical nonsense Narak left behind.

Horndahl: And what of Dirge?

Argus: Him too.

Horndahl: It will be done.

Horndahl departs, intent on pursuit. Argus returns to executing the remaining prisoners.

Ruselt: Told you Dirge would show up. 

Luther: Don't be so conceited. 

Ruselt smirks.

Ruselt: Are you going to be a little more trusting now?

Luther pretends he didn't hear.

Ruselt: Luther...

Luther: Yes?

Ruselt: I said "Are you going to be more trusting now?"

Luther: (Might as well give him the answer he wants. He won't stop until he gets it.) *Sighs* Yes.

Ruselt: Good.

The travelling pack advance back into the desert wastes after passing through the gates.

Cardsprawl

April 16th, 1215 AC. Sundown. Galahad, Novalia.

Crowned looks on the horizon from a tower balcony. A quartet of guards enter the chamber with a man in a dark hood.

Guard: Sir, the man you called for is here.

Crowned: Good, good. Leave us.

The guards comply and leave the chamber.

???: Am I right to assume you want someone eliminated?

Crowned: Not quite. More than one person, and at that a collection, as well. You see, a few weeks ago, a certain "Luther Visarion" made off with something called the Aspect of Envy. While I didn't consider it a big loss at the time, I am now realising that that was a mistake, and now I want it back. On top of that, he, and those fools who travel alongside him have been reported to have been stirring up trouble for the Arms, not only in Novalia, but in Carta as well. Two of my commanding officers are now dead and one of the Arms' commanding figures was injured thanks to their actions.

???: How much?

Crowned: 100,000 Libras for each head. 1,000,000 for the Aspect of Envy being back in my possession.

???: Deal. And... Where can I currently find them?

Crowned: From accounts, Sabaria. Considering they heading into the deserts, they are likely still there.

???: Couldn't that mean they are dead already?

Crowned: A Kylotean swordsman, at least three users of magics, an old sharpshooter, a woman renowned for combat skill and a Sabarian acting as possible bodyguard? I highly doubt they are dead.

???: Very well. I shall head out right away.

Crowned: Use that Wind-Surfer of yours. With that you should be able to gain more ground and cut time short of two da--

???: I know how to travel. No need for guides.

Crowned: Then good, I'll look forward to seeing my Aspect of Envy back in my hands.

The hooded figure turns and makes his say towards to the door. He pulls down his hood and lowers a visor on his helm.

~ Deathwatch Spade ~

The Fallen Beneath the City

April 17th, 1215 AC. Late Morning. Sabari Wastes.

A small figure appears on the horizon of the desert.

Dirge: There's an oasis up ahead. You Flesh-Kind can restock on your water supplies over there.

Angel-Ion: Augh. This better not be one of those mirages people stipulate about.

Dirge: We Sabari don't see mirages or visual illusions.

Lanval: You said the next city up was called Troy or something, how far away is that?

Dirge: Not precisely far.

Roxanne: I'm having a rest at that oasis. I really can't walk much farther with all this sand slowing me down, and this heat making me extremely thirsty.

Mitch: Come now lass, I'm twice yer age and I'm still holdin' out too.

Roxanne: Well then good for you.

Zambini: Do you people always fight?

Dirge: Hmm. Apparently so. Even the two siblings bicker amongst themselves, it seems.

Ruselt: The two siblings have names.

Dirge: So? I was non-specifically referring to you both.

Ruselt: Hmph.

They reach the oasis, where Roxanne takes her time filling containers with the water in it.

Angel-Ion: You'd think, for a desert, how could there be water and foliage all the way out here.

Lanval: Cacti can survive the arid conditions.

Angel-Ion: I didn't mean cacti.

Dirge: The waters that you can find around the island are all from rain water that has fallen into large holes. The foliage around it grew over time after being planted by us natives to make our lands look better.

Lanval: You mean other Sabarians come all the way out here to pools like this?

Dirge: Yes. They collect things from the plant life for decoration, like with the eggs as previously explained. Flesh-Kind that are braving the desert have to be careful about these oasises however. Some of them are homes to exiled Sabari, or sometimes Sabari hermits. The latter are more mellow with guests, the former are more grizzly.

Ruselt: So should we expect a fight?

Dirge: There's none at this one, so no.

Ruselt collects water from the oasis. He immediately begins drinking it.

Luther: You should really boil it first.

Ruselt: It'll be fine.

Luther: Fine, but when you get dysentery, don't say I didn't warn you.

Mitch: Hmph. Check this young'n out. Here's one for ya. If ya suddenly die of thirst, don't say I didn't warn ya.

Luther collects his own water and boils it using his fire magic. He waits for it to cool before drinking it.

Ruselt: So what exactly does boiling it even do?

Luther: Kills any dangerous microorganisms. The kind that cause dysentery.

Angel-Ion: Yeesh. Its only rain water.

Lanval returns from cutting leaves from nearby trees and extracting seedlings from them. He puts them in an odd box which looks as though it only had its current contents put in recently.

Dirge: Where did you get that?

Lanval: Found it.

Dirge: ... Found it where?

Lanval: Uh... Back in Charybdis.

Dirge: ... Where abouts?

Lanval: ... Some... Place...

Angel-Ion: You stole it, didn't you?

Lanval: N... No!

Dirge: So you found it in a Sabari's possession. This "Black Hand" epithet of yours. Is it from being a thief?

Lanval: ... Yes.

Dirge: Hmm. I like you. 

Zambini: I didn't even see him take it, and I was beside him back in that city.

Lanval: Anyways, what is it? This box has some weird properties to it.

Dirge: Its called a "Heart Box". They are magically crafted so that the hearts of those executed by Sabari are kept beating and well preserved long after the heart's owner has passed. 

Lanval: That's... That's a bit brutal, isnt it? Keeping a beating heart locked in a box?

Dirge: Did you see the black tower with the four spikes around it in the city?

Lanval: Briefly, what was it?

Dirge: Its where they put Heart Boxes. Its something of an amalgamation of two things you Flesh-Kind use.

Lanval: And what's that? Museums and antique shops?

Dirge: No, libraries and graveyards.

Lanval: ... Oh.

Angel-Ion: ... How many are there exactly?

Dirge: Thousands. And those other prisoners you were with have likely joined them at this point.

Roxanne: So... In other words, our organs would have ended up there too if it weren't for you?

Dirge: Most likely.

Ruselt: We should get going.

Dirge: Its more imperative that we rest a bit. Even as a Sabari, I can't really tell what Troy holds, both the city and the ruins beneath it.

Angel-Ion: ... What ruins? Weren't you the only inhabitants of this land before Carta came around?

Dirge: I've heard that the Sabari themselves came to this land thousands of years ago to make it their home. After the times of settling, the Sabari's neighbours came onto this land to expand their civilisation... But sadly the Sabari rulers thought they were invading to wipe them out. The Spartoi, as they were called, built a city in the northern regions, but the Sabari managed to take over it, wiping out the Spartoi over here in the process.

Zambini: So Troy was originally created by these Spartoi?

Dirge: Yes.

Angel-Ion: That's not a name I've heard of before. Where were they from exactly?

Dirge: I assume you're familiar with the Isle of Daahsan?

Angel-Ion: Somewhat, yes. Its the island next to this one, with the volcano and all.

Dirge: That's the island from whence they came. They had a large civilisation over there. Sadly for them, after the Sabari purged Troy, they waged war with the rest of the Spartoi on Daahsan.

Lanval: Then what happened?

Dirge: The volcano erupted. A vast number of the Sabari were killed and the Spartoi became extinct.

Roxanne: But that doesn't answer why there are ruins underneath Troy.

Dirge: That came from another problem later in history. A mysterious curse was placed on the long dead Spartoi, which caused them to rise from the dead as powerful warriors of bone. They rose up against the Sabari, who managed to bury most of them in the sands, but the rest were entombed and a new city built above them, their inability to climb due to their somewhat fragile bodies preventing their escape.

Lanval: So why not just break them apart? They're just bones, no?

Dirge: That's the thing. They are said to reassemble if their bodies are broken. Its part of this curse they have. And, in spite of their fragility, they are seemingly able to withstand wearing armour and can carry swords and shields with no difficulty.

Ruselt: How long will it take us to get from here to Troy?

Dirge: Roughly about forty minutes.

Ruselt: Ugh...

Some time later.

The pack begin approaching Troy, which is now within sight. Dirge seems to deviate from the path and heads east towards some rocks. Angel-Ion notes that vast rockery surround Troy.

Angel-Ion: Uhh... Dirge, where are you going? It looks like through Troy is the only way to get over those giant rocks.

Dirge: We're actually avoiding Troy.

Ruselt: Why? Are there Sabarians?

Dirge: Its a Sabarian city. Of course it has Sabarians in it. Just because Imperator Argus let you get away doesn't mean he'll disallow killing you.

Zambini: Then where are we headed?

Dirge: Sadly, our only way of crossing is through the caves with the Spartoi in them.

Mitch: What?! Ain't there any other way 'round?!

Dirge: Yes, if you want to add another few hours of travel to the venture.

Luther: *Stuttering* We have enough water. Maybe we should take the long way around, just to be safe.

Mitch: No thanks. I'm too old for that.

Zambini: Then we know we can leave you behind then.

Angel-Ion: Guys, guys. Stop. Our best bet is through the Spartoi caves.

Roxanne: The sand is hot enough as it is. I've probably got blisters and burns all over my feet now.

Luther: *Stuttering* Are you sure this is the best option?

Ruselt: It should be fine. I'd say we're fairly equipped to handle ourselves now.

Soon, they arrive at a mountainous series of rocks. Dirge begins sifting through piles of boulders.

Lanval: What are you doing?

Dirge: The Sabari hid up the entrances to the caverns. Everywhere where there's boulders, that's a potential hiding place.

Zambini: I'd handle this.

Zambini unveils a staff and raises it into the air for a few seconds.

Mitch: Well do ya feel like a prat now?

Zambini: Et Levare in Caelum!

Boulders from all over begin lifting into the air. A few Sabarian desert travellers notice from their respective distances, some ignore it while others stop to gawk at the unusual sight.

Lanval: Oh yeah, that's right, you're a magician!

Dirge looks around and spots a large opening.

Dirge: There it is!

Dirge runs over and jumps down, followed by Angel-Ion, both ready for combat.

Roxanne: Uhh... I-Is it me is there a horrible chill coming from down there? Yeah, maybe I'll sit this out.

Mitch: M-Me too.

Lanval: Scaredy cats.

Mitch: E-Easy for you to say!

Lanval: Later chickens!

Lanval arms himself and jumps down.

Luther: Last chance to back out.

Ruselt: As I said, it'll be fine.

Ruselt jumps down.

Luther rolls his eyes and jumps down after him.

Roxanne: Guys, t-this isn't funny! Come back up!

Mitch: Uhh... Lass?

Roxanne: What?!

Mitch: Look!

Mitch points towards an oncoming sand cloud. She looks closer at it and notices several Sabarians armed with scimitars charging their way.

Zambini: Can... You two... Move already... ?!

Sabarian #1: Death to Man!

Sabarian #2: Kill the Flesh-Kind!

Roxanne: Oh screw this.

Roxanne runs and jumps down the hole. Zambini breaks out of his spell and grabs Mitch, pulling him down the hole. The boulders all fall down, some landing on some of the Sabarians. Within the hole, the group begin observing the ruins that lay beneath the rocks and the sand above.

Roxanne: Wow, you weren't kidding about ruins down here. I don't see much of the dead Spartoi things you said about. Maybe they're just a silly myth after all.

Dirge suddenly pins Roxanne against a wall.

Dirge: Now listen here, girly, your kind might go round inventing myths and legends, but a Sabarian always gives his word when it comes to danger. Several Sabari were lost to these people. Now I'd advise you again to watch your step.

Ruselt: Calm down Dirge.

Luther catches something at the corner of his eye again. He quickly looks to see a sillhouetted figure run out of sight. Luther rubs his eyes.

Lanval: What's up with you?

Luther: Long day.

Lanval: If you say so.

There is a sudden clanking sound.

Roxanne: W-What was that?

Dirge: Most likely a Spartoi. Be on your guard!

Angel-Ion: So what are we up against down here?

Dirge: Didn't I tell you that they're basically skele--

Angel-Ion: I meant in terms of weight and skill, and number if possible.

Dirge: Well, they've been reported to attack in numbers, which gives us a disadvantage if we were a smaller group. Their disadvantage is that the armour they wear is heavy, which makes them rather slow, and renders them unable to run.

There is another clank sound, coming from a different direction.

Mitch: Can't we just shoot 'em dead?

Dirge: That's stupid. Using bullets doesn't do anything to them, especially since they are dead. Plus, if anything, the bullets you fire will likely bounce off their armour and hit you.

Another clank sound comes from the same direction as the first, albiet closer.

Zambini: How about magic?

Dirge: I'm not sure about that one, you can give it a try if you want to.

Heavy footsteps are heard, following by a loud clank.

Dirge: One's close. Watch out.

Ruselt immediately fires a fireball down a "corridor", temporarily illuminating it. The shadows of two skeleton-like figures with bulky armour are seen approaching. Suddenly, a large skeletal figure drops down before Dirge and Angel-Ion. It seems to entirely lack its lower jaw, and weilds both a massive sword and a massive shield. Roxanne screams as three smaller skeletal figures with armour show up from the rear.

Dirge: Spartoi!

Angel-Ion covers his sword in flame and swings it towards the larger Spartoi, who raises its mighty shield. The sword strikes, but merely scratches against the shiny blue stone in it's large center.

Angel-Ion: Ghh... It didn't cut!

Dirge: That shield must have counter enchantments against elemental magic!

Luther takes a deep breath in and concentrates. He gestures with his hand towards the Spartoi. The Spartoi themselves begin to combust. They seem to be unaffected, the fire merely turning their bones blacker.

Lanval: Shit! Setting them on fire makes them worse.

Zambini: Sonum Bucinae!

Zambini sends out what seems to be a sonic boom at the three Spartoi, sending them blasting towards the wall right back where they entered. They shatter upon contact. The large Spartoi brings down its mighty sword, splitting part of the ground as Angel-Ion and Dirge dodge. Angel-Ion jumps on it and then leaps towards the Spartoi's head, but is bashed back by its shield.

Angel-Ion: Tch. That shield's got to go!

More Spartoi begin showing up, including some armed with what appear to be outdated crossbows.

Luther creates a defence barrier, blocking any incoming crossbow bolts.

Ruselt: What now!?

Angel-Ion tries to cut through the shield thrice more, to no avail. Dirge whips out two pieces of a staff and slams them together, connecting them. He begins drawing shapes of light on the ground. He begins speaking an incantation in his native language. He stops, points the staff at the shield and finalises the incantation, creating a blast of light to burst out of the runic drawings and piercing straight through the Spartoi's shield, as well as the Spartoi itself. Luther seems to be paying very close attention.

Dirge: This way if you want to live!

Dirge charges forwards, Lanval and Angel-Ion following close behind. More Spartoi begin appearing in the crevice, as Lanval spots a huge opening in a wall that hides a large underground cityscape of ruin.

Lanval: This city seems to be a lot larger than the one on top.

Dirge: Focus!

Lanval faces forwards and slams a Spartoi's spine from below its jaw, taking its head off. A Spartoi appears directly in front of Roxanne and prepares to attack. Roxanne throws a punch stoked in stored power at it, breaking its skull and denting its helmet. She preceeds to throw a barrage of punches that reduce it to broken bones and dented metal, before finishing it off with a powerful kick.

Lanval: I didn't know you could do that!

Mitch pulls out his shotgun and shoots a Spartoi crossbow in the face, blowing their skull apart.

Mitch: See, bullets do work!

Ruselt: Are there any more?

More Spartoi begin showing up, including two more large ones with shields. Dirge draws runic shapes with his staff and then swings it forwards. The shapes launch towards the Spartoi, creating a powerful blast as they collide, destroying them and their weapons.

Ruselt: Bloody hell, how many more could there be!?

Dirge: A lot, we should be more concerned with getting through this passage!

A Spartoi drops down in attempt to ambush, but Roxanne punches its head off. More crossbowmen show up to attack, along with more swordarms and a large Spartoi.

Luther creates a defence shield, blocking the passage. As he move forward, the shield moves with him, pushing the Spartoi back. The large Spartoi slams its mighty shield against Luther's and stands its ground.

Luther induces a fire underneath the Spartoi. He makes an effort to hold the defence barrier as the fire intensifies. The fire begins to make the bones of the Spartoi brittle, and pushes his defence barrier forward.

The Spartoi remains defiant and slams its shield down once more, this time with more force.

Luther begins to buckle, and his barrier weakens. Ruselt steps forward. The second Luther's barrier fails, Ruselt kicks the shield forward into the Spartoi. The Spartoi drops its shield and swings down its sword.

Angel-Ion: Fire's not working on them!

Ruselt swings his sword in retaliation. He swings it with such force that he shatters the Spartoi's femur, causing it to fall. They note how the amount of Spartoi trailing behind them has increased drastically.

Lanval: Argh. They just won't let up!

Dirge comes to a sudden stop before a wall. He looks up to see a series of rocks laid down, light peering through.

Dirge: Here!

Zambini: Rupti Sunt Caeli!

The Zambini points his staff upwards. The rocks blast away, revealing the outside.

Dirge: Quickly, everyone!

Angel-Ion spreads out his wings and flies up, grabbing Roxanne to help her. Lanval begins leaping up from rock to rock, before exiting. Dirge draws an infinity symbol with his staff, before hitting it towards the Spartoi, blasting them back.Zambini grabs hold of Mitch and uses an elevation spell. 

Ruselt boosts Luther up through the gap and begins climbing up himself.

Dirge waits for everyone else to exit before using his staff to thrust himself up. He fires a ball of light down, creating an explosion in the chasm. He then blasts a rock face to ensure the hole is covered over. He separates his staff and puts it away before slumping down onto the sand to rest. Angel-Ion begins laughing. Soon, Lanval, Zambini, Mitch and Dirge begin laughing as well.

Roxanne: What's so funny?! We could have been killed down there!

Lanval: Yet you were punching through them as though they were paper!

Roxanne: ... Shut up.

Roxanne turns red.

Luther sits down and ventilates for a while.

Ruselt: Well that was... An experience.

Luther: Not one I'd like to relive.

Dirge stands and turns, noting a series of rocks closing in on a single point.

Dirge: Its within sight... Narak's Gulch. Lets get moving.

The Plunderers

Meanwhile, at the Traveller's Tempest.

There is a sudden knocking sound on the rear of the ship. Vulkas hears it. Vulkas takes out his sword and cautiously investigates the noise. A barrel suddenly rolls out. Vulkas heads in the direction that the barrel rolled out from. He finds that there is nothing there. Somebody shows up and bludgeons him across the back of the head with an iron bar, knocking him to the floor.

Pirate #1: Bind him!

Two pirates begin binding Vulkas' arms and legs together, making sure he can't escape. The other pirate puts a bag over his head.

Pirate #1: Take him back to the ship. Maybe our little ransom plan will pay off.

Pirate #2: Hopefully. Them Kyloteans are paying big cash for that other guy's head. Captain Kaizoku oughta give us a big sum for our help.

The pirates carry Vulkas off. The other pirate writes a note and pins it to the base of one of the riggings.

The Fall of Promethia

April 18th, 1215 AC. Midday. Promethia.

Vladimir Wolf's army, consisting of lines of tanks and artillery guns, as well as regular intervals of soldiers and field mages stand in formation just outside the city. Ketrov's remaining loyalists seem to be guarding the outskirts of the city. Most of his guards are guarding the main road which leads directly to the state building.

Vladimir Wolf begins to walk forward, unarmed, and with his arms outstretched to show he means no harm.

Many of the loyalists are following Wolf with their rifles.

Wolf: (Loudly, but calmly) Soldiers of Promethia. I stand before you now, not in an attempt to appeal to your different ideologies, or your moral compasses. I instead appeal to your common sense. This war ends today. You have two choices. You can open fire now, and die for the man who has neglected his people for years; or you can lower your weapons, and, instead, march with me to Ketrov. We can bring a peaceful end to this bloody war, and remove the need for an unnecessary loss of life. I ask you now to decide how this conflict ends. With slaughter and unrest, or peace and justice. 

Many of the soldiers are seen to be lowering their guns. Some even drop their guns, and run to Wolf's side. Several soldiers however remain staunch. Wolf immediately prepares for a fight. He quickly spots that one of the soldiers is ready to fire. He raises his right arm and some kind of clear shield forms around him. Several soldiers fire a volley of bullets towards him. The bullets however never reach him. The bullets seem to be suspended in mid-air where they made contact with the shield. A metallic chiming noise can be heard. 

Wolf looks somewhat saddened by their choice to attack. He gestures towards them, and the shield disappears. The bullets fly towards the people who fired them. Many of them are hit and killed. Wolf immediately gives the signal for his army to begin the assault. The loyalists open fire on Wolf's forces, and vice versa. A sniper manages to hit Wolf in the left arm, but he seems to be able to endure it. There is an immediate volley of artillery fire and several soldiers begin to move in to secure the damaged areas. This process repeats several times, and within half an hour, what's left of Ketrov's army disperses. Wolf walks forward with his army up the main road. The tanks roll down some of the side lines, and secure areas around the city. 

Meanwhile, in the state building, Ivanovich Ketrov watches from the state building window, drinking from a bottle of whiskey. He sees a large army walking up the main road towards the building with Vladimir Wolf at the helm. The advisor he spoke to before looks down.

Ketrov: Send the telegram. Once it has been sent, leave Tythan and find a safe place to stay.

Ketrov gives the advisor a fairly large bundle of Libras. 

Ketrov: This should be enough to cover your escape.

Advisor: It has been an honour serving you, sir. 

The advisor salutes and leaves the room, and heads to the communications centre. 

Ketrov continues to gaze at the marching army and finishes his whiskey. He puts on his coat and medals, ensuring that he appears pristine. 

People in the city begin to join Wolf's march, increasing it's size. Ketrov sits down at his desk. Several of his guards offer him passage out of the building, but he repeatedly turns them down, and orders them to save themselves. 

Ketrov hears his office door opening again.

Ketrov: For the last time, save yours--

Wolf's guards enter the room. Ketrov doesn't resist as they seize him. Ketrov is taken away to be placed under house arrest.

5 hours later, news of what has happened reaches several other countries.

Meanwhile in Mercria.

Inara Winters seems to be privately celebrating with a mysterious guest. 

Inara cracks open one of her oldest bottles of wine and pours two glasses. She gives a glass to her guest. 

Inara: This marks the start of a new chapter in Aether's history. And my oh my, it will be glorius. 

???: Cheers to that. 

Inara and the guest toast. 

Elsewhere, in Kyloto.

Shen: GEHAHAHAHAHA! Go to hell, Ketrov! I hope that revolutionary has you executed!

Oran: I can understand your relief, Overlord, but should I remind you that Vladimir Wolf's acquisition of Promethia won't exactly be met with well by the likes of the rest of the Allied Nations, who will no doubt call for another emergency summit.

Shen: Tch. Great. More silly meetings with stuck up morons who think they know how to run correctly. Even that idiot north of us knows what he's doing better than the Allied mob.

Oran: And that "idiot" is likely to acquire Tythan for his little party already consiting of Haphae and Parcia.

~ White Shogun ~ Shiro Magala: May I point out that this also dulls the Allied Nations down to just Canorica, Novalia and Kratonia now, with that shithole sand city and those further away relations beyond that. Considering Tythan is right next to Canorica, it would have been safe to surmise that the two countries would have been close allies. With Tythan presumably under Wolf's full control now, there may potentially cause large strain between the two.

Shen: What are you getting at?

Shiro: Think about it, Lord Shen. With Canorica and Tythan potentially at odds, especially considering the former's quote unquote "illegal war" bill, look at how the others are faring. Novalia's got its own issues with a paramilitarist organisation that practically controls its nothernmost city, Carta's too small to be able to do anything, especially concerning their odds with Imperator Argus and his Sabarian armies, what else do we have left?

Doriru: Oh my... White's onto something big here.

Shen: Tell me.

Shiro: The only country left is Kratonia. What problems do they have?

Oran: Piracy. Not particularly major though.

Shiro: Just piracy. I have no idea what this so called "King of Pirates" is supposed to be or where he is, but its not in Kratonia. Think about it. If we attacked them with the Allied Nations' current, the fabled Great Iron Forge could become ours once again, and we'd have all the metal we could ever wish to need!

Shen: Gehehehe... HAHAHAHAHA!!! EXCELLENT!!!

Avalon, Novalia.

Deciduous reads the report.

Deciduous: ... Damn.

Tsunwei, Haphae.

Cercyon is sitting at his desk, surrounded by high ranking personnel. He is drinking a celebratory glass of wine, something unusual considering his abstinent nature.

The other people in the room are all seen to be happy, but Cercyon himself seems troubled, and feigning a smile.

He stands up.

Cercyon: My comrades. Today, we can celebrate the victory of our friend, Vladimir Wolf. But these celebrations must be brief. 

A random politican steps forward.

Politician: What do you mean by that sir?

Cercyon: This event, no matter how much we celebrate it, will lead to war. A war greater than any other in our history. I want the army ready and on-call in a minimum of one week.

The politicans look around nervously and gawk at eachother. 

Cercyon: Well, go on!

The politicans and other high ranking personnel leave their drinks and begin relaying orders to mobilise the military.

Galahad, Novalia.

Crowned is reading the news via the front page article the Avalon Times newspaper, marked with "Promethia Falls - What Next For Vladimir Wolf". An opening in his helmet appears, allowing him to sip on a glass of scotch.

Crowned: Good for you, Wolfy. You've managed to get your country under your belt. Soon it'll be my turn. Novalia will be mine!

Crowned uses a throwing knife to pin the article to a large corkboard marked by "OPERATION: KILL THE KING". He takes a step back.

Crowned: I'll be coming for you soon enough... Old man.

Crowned throws a knife at a picture of Deciduous.

The Watching Man

April 19th, 1215 AC. Sunrise. Sabari Wastes, approaching Narak's Gulch.

Angel-Ion plants his sword down in the sand.

Angel-Ion: Lets call it a rest here. We've only got a short while to go... I'm just... So tired.

Dirge: Fine. We will continue when the sun is high in the sky.

Roxanne: I'll handle breakfast.

Zambini: Are you sure that this thing's in there?

Dirge: I wouldn't know for sure, I'm just itching to find out, and show others once I can confirm it.

Ruselt: And if we don't find anything?

Dirge: I wouldn't be so sure. Although, the fact that Narak named it after himself all those years ago suggests it.

Lanval is seen applying parts of Spartoi armour to his clothes for extra defence.

Dirge: ... Where did you get that?

Lanval: Found it.

Dirge: ... Of course you did.

Lanval: Does anybody want this?

Lanval reveals a Spartoi sword.

Ruselt: No thanks.

Angel-Ion: Nah.

Roxanne: Keep hold of it, Vulkas might want it yet.

Lanval: And what if he doesn't want it?

Roxanne: Then we could just sell it. Surely it could be worth some money.

Ruselt: That would be worth quite a bit in Venland. Antiques were a common part of the local economy.

Luther: How did you know that?

Ruselt: *Chuckes* Father did teach me some things about our country, you know.

Zambini: But isn't Venland under Canorican watch now? You two can't exactly just walk in.

Ruselt: (Sarcastically) Thanks for the reminder.

Zambini: ... Much appreciated.

Soon, the sun is higher into the air. The group begin to move, approaching the entrance to the gulch. Dirge approaches a carved Sabarian warrior in one side of the opening. Beneath it is a massive sign marked in Sabari texts. Around this are several different kinds of scratch marks.

Dirge: Lets see what we've got here... 

"This is the mighty crownstone of our Lord, the magnificent and wise Narak. We serve to protect the secrets of his legacy."

He reads further, this text being in a slightly different style, in addition to being newer.

"TURN BACK. MONSTROUS BEASTS LURK THESE GROUNDS."

Dirge: Heh. I wonder what that means.

Lanval: Weeeeell its been fun and all but...

Lanval tries to leave but is stopped by Zambini, who turns him around.

Angel-Ion: After the Spartoi, I wonder what could be in there.

Dirge: One thing's for sure. Something's waiting in there for us.

Ruselt: Fantastic. I think that is reason enough for us not to go in there. 

Dirge: Not that.

Angel-Ion: He meant the "secrets of his legacy".

Dirge: Besides, the warning underneath seems awfully suspicious to me.

Ruselt: How so?

Dirge: I just have serious doubts. Lets get moving.

Dirge leads the group into the cavern, unaware that Horndahl was watching. He makes his move. The murky sands seem to have vague amounts of light pouring onto them inside the Gulch's entrance.

Lanval: It seems a little too spooky down here.

Dirge: Fret not. I see light up ahead.

They reach an opening, where there are several stone pillars littered around.

Angel-Ion: Looks like we could get lost here.

Dirge: Could be traps too. Be very careful how you tread.

Ruselt and Luther both heed this. 

Mitch begins walking forwards carelessly, inadvertently tripping over a hidden trip wire along the way. Zambini helps him to his feet.

Zambini: Should've listened to Dirge, old man.

Mitch: Don't call me old you little skunk. I needn't need his advice.

Soon, they manage to make their way through. There seems to be some kind of tile puzzle chamber, with dozens of symbols depicting various things. There are some missing tiles that expose a spike pit far below.

Ruselt: Well... Any ideas Dirge?

Dirge: I think... I have an idea... A book I've read regarding Narak has depictions of a grid similar to this one. Lemme have a look.

Dirge gets out some kind of book made of stone. He flicks through the plate pages and finds a grid that matches all of the locations of each tile, including the missing ones. Below it seems to be a solution.

Dirge: First, the Moon, the symbol of the night.

He steps on a tile depicting the moon.

Dirge: ... Which revolves around the Axis...

He turns and steps on a symbol depicting an axis.

Dirge: Of the... Of the world.

He turns again and steps on a symbol depicting a planetoid of sorts.

Dirge: The world is the servant of the Sun.

He places his foot on a symbol of a star. It is the wrong tile, and it falls down to the pit below. He instead goes for a similar looking symbol, which works.

Dirge: The Moon is the master of... The sea...

He steps on a symbol depicting a tidal wave.

Dirge: Who is the natural enemy of the land...

He steps on a symbol depicting a volcano.

Dirge: And the boundlessness of the sky.

He steps on a symbol of a cloud. He looks down at the tiles to his left and right. One depicts a man and the other a Sabari.

Dirge: Man and Sabari, while the largest of enemies, can... Unite...

He steps on a symbol of two rings merged together, found between the two symbols.

Dirge: And together see this world for its eternal beauty.

He looks at his book and notes that there's no symbol that covers this last hint. Before him are five symbols, depicting a flower, a lantern, a blue eye, a bird and a skull, in between two of these are open gaps, implying somebody failed at these two. The lights on his head black out, and he blindly steps on the symbol of the eye. Nothing happens, noting that he has succeeded. He moves forwards and steps on some kind of button, which lights up the correct tiles to pass across.

Dirge: Alright, one at a time, and don't step on any of the tiles that aren't lit.

Ruselt and Luther both move across. 

Ruselt: Was that last one just a guess?

Dirge: More a tempt at fate than "just a guess".

Angel-Ion follows next, followed by Roxanne, Lanval, Zambini and Mitch.

Angel-Ion: Fate believer as well, I see?

Dirge: I guess.

Ruselt: I never really believed in fate.

Angel-Ion: Where I'm from, some people follow it religiously.

The group reach some kind of crevice, with a good sight of the outside world from above. They feel the presence of someone watching them.

Lanval: I feel as though I'm being watched...

Roxanne: Same here. I feel naked.

The thought of Roxanne being naked pops into Zambini's head.

Zambini: D-Don't say things like that!

Roxanne: You have perverted thoughts.

Ruselt: Pfft, we were all thinking it. 

Luther: wasn't.

Roxanne glomps Luther affectionately.

Roxanne: Daww... That's so adorable~

Angel-Ion suddenly stops, feeling an uneasy draft brush the sand around his feet.

Angel-Ion: Hold on.

Dirge stops, prompting the others to do the same.

Dirge: What is it?

Angel-Ion: Someone's here.

Angel-Ion looks up, and looks directly at a man wearing a long cloak covering armour of some kind, with a strange helmet covered in wraps of cloth. The figure seems to glare directly at Angel-Ion. Angel-Ion fixates his attention towards the sword sheathed around the man's waist, and gets a sudden cold chill.

Ruselt also looks up to the man.

Ruselt: Who are you?

The man gazes at each of the group. He spots Luther's gauntlet.

Dirge: What do you want? Who are you?

Luther notices the man is gazing at his gauntlet. 

Luther: I-I think he wants the gauntlet. 

He suddenly turns his attention to the weapons of each member of the group, soon fixing his attention onto Angel-Ion's.

Zambini: What's with this guy?!

The man suddenly takes his hands out of his pockets. Blue runes of lights circle his hands. He raises them into the sky. A pillar of light crashes down on him. When the light clears, the man has now gone.

~ Procurator Sarkies ~

Angel-Ion: W-Why couldn't I... Move?

Ruselt: He must have some kind of magic on us.

Luther: I never thought that relocation magic was real.

Angel-Ion: It felt a lot different to magic... Was it... Fear...? Who was he?!

Ruselt: I suggest we get moving. The less time we spend in this place the better.

The group soon get moving, arriving in an open chamber, getting past some kind of strange block puzzle depicting a sunrise.

Scars Never Heal

Lanval: Ah, this chamber seems simple enough. Just walk to the other side and--

As Lanval begins walking, a ball of white fire launches down and crashes in front of him. He jumps back.

???: I was beginning to get bored. How long did you plan on keeping me waiting?

Zambini: Who could that be?!

Horndahl appears atop the small sand dune across the other side of the chamber.

Dirge: Horndahl... What are you doing down here?

Horndahl: Isn't it obvious? To kill you, of course.

Ruselt: Why bother? We're not hurting anyone.

Dirge: He's Argus' number two. He must've sent you down to do the job yourself, didn't he?

Horndahl: You are correct. Am I safe to assume that you'll die first, Dirge?

Dirge: I don't plan on dying anytime soon.

Dirge arms himself with his staff. Horndahl arms himself with his trident.

Ruselt: Do we really have to do this?

Angel-Ion, Zambini and Lanval arm themselves, preparing for a fight. Dirge and Horndahl charge at each other.

Dirge: Here goes...

Horndahl: Prepare to die!

???: Hold it!

Dirge suddenly stops himself. Horndahl freezes on the spot, as if he has just been hit by a bullet.

Javert emerges in the chamber.

Ruselt: You have got to be kidding me. 

Ruselt pulls out his gun and his sword. 

Horndahl: Javert...

Javert: Normally I'd arrest these criminals and their accomplices... But you, "Viceroy" Horndahl... We meet again.

Horndahl: You've got some nerve bringing yourself all the way out here, especially after that petty little summit.

Javert: Tell me, does that scar beneath that plate there still hurt?

Horndahl: I could say the same about the one I left across your chest.

Javert: Of course. Some say scars never heal. Especially ones like this.

Javert removes his cloak and shirt, revealing a very nasty gash running across it. Horndahl pulls the plate covering a slightly glowing wound area on his body and throws it aside.

Horndahl: You came all the way out here, how about we settle this once and for all?

Javert: For once, I'm happy to oblige.

Ruselt: (To the group) I say we leave now while these guys are fighting. 

Javert and Horndahl suddenly clash weapons.

Angel-Ion: Yeah, good idea.

Angel-Ion leads the group through to the next chamber.

Horndahl: Damnit!

Javert: Bloody criminals!

Horndahl attempts to break away and pursue, but Javert stops him and brings him to the ground.

Javert: I thought you said we'd finish it!

Horndahl: Grah! Have it your way, Ken!

The Globe

The group note that the passageway is rather long. Soon, depictions of Sabarian history appear on the walls, seeming going back in time as they move forwards. They soon reach a massive opening, where a single, huge cave waits at the bottom of a sand hill.

Mitch: That must be the place, eh?

Dirge: Must be.

Dirge slides down he sandy hill, followed by the others. Upon setting foot on the bottom, Dirge gets a sudden uneasy feeling.

Angel-Ion: What is it this time?

Dirge: There are Sabari buried in these sands... Alive.

Ruselt: What happened?

Dirge: I wouldn't know.

Dirge takes one step forwards. Suddenly, the hidden Sabarians emerge, some of them carrying weapons. They watch the group with curious eyes, but remain silent. They part to either side of the cave, allowing them to enter the cave. One grabs Dirge's arm and tugs him, before leading them into the cave, where a group of older Sabarians, some of which sporting beards made of moss and weeds, some even having barnacle shells on their bodies. They sit around a massive, incomplete globe, while markings and carvings decorate the walls. Several tables have various different objects on them, and there is a clay statue made in the likeness of a certain Sabarian from the past. Some of these unusual Sabarians are seen worshipping it.

Ruselt appears confused.

Ruselt: What are they doing?

Dirge looks around the place. Some things seem newer than others.

Dirge: By the looks of it... They're fanatics. Narak worshipping crackpots.

Angel-Ion: So is that the map you said you were looking for?

Angel-Ion points to the globe.

Dirge walks closer to it. He spins it round.

Dirge: Yes! Yes indeed! This is it! The legendary map of Narak!

Zambini: (Its a globe.)

Lanval: (I know, right?)

???: I suppose that you are the one they call "Dirge" back beyond the Wastes.

An elder Sabarian walks over, he has some kind of foot injury, forcing him to use a stick. His beard is longer than the rest, almost reaching the floor.

Dirge: That's right. Who are you?

~ Grand Elder of the Cult of Narak ~ Veteris: I am Veteris. I am the eldest Sabarian here, as well as the first to occupy the Gulch in Narak's stead. I assume these Men are your allies.

Roxanne: And woman.

Dirge: Yeah, they're with me.

Ruselt: Well the map is too big. I guess this was a wasted effort. Can we go now?

Dirge: Too big for what? We weren't going to take it. Did you actually think a fabled map would be a small one that could fit in your pocket?

Veteris: Ah, souvenir hunting, I presume. Please, help yourself to some tools if you require them. Narak left lots behind for others to claim. He even left notes.

Dirge finds a strange old compass and a small model of the unfinished globe. Angel-Ion and Roxanne read through some written papers, some written in Sabarian and some written in Venlish, most of them signed by Narak himself. Lanval happens upon Narak's journal and pockets it. Sifting through the papers, Roxanne finds a landscape painting of the Templar Knights with several others.

Roxanne: May we take some of these?

Veteris: Help yourself.

Roxanne and Angel-Ion begin gathering up some of the papers. Angel-Ion drops a few papers by mistake, two drift to Ruselt's feet while the third lands by Luther.

Ruselt: Clumsy.

Ruselt picks the two the came near him up and gives them back to Angel-Ion.

Luther begins reading the one that went near him.

The paper seems to detail about the Aspect of Envy and the rest of the armour. The text on it seems to amalgamate into different text entirely. Luther hears voices that reflect what the text says.

Voice: YOU BELONG TO ME. LUTHER VISARION.

Luther feels compelled to destroy the document, as voices continually whisper his name with an echoing laugh accompanying.

Luther commits what he can to memory before the document sets on fire. 

Ruselt: Hey! What did you do that f--

Ruselt sees Luther's haunted expression and realises what has happened. 

Ruselt: Was it the voice again? 

Luther: *Stuttering* Yeah... 

Ruselt: What did it say?

Luther: It said I belonged to it. It all happened when I touched that document. 

Ruselt: We really need to get this gauntlet off.

Luther: You don't think I have tried?

Veteris: What's going on here?

Ruselt: My brother has a magic gauntlet stuck to his arm. 

Veteris: Magic gauntlet, hmm?

Veteris uses his staff to pull Luther's arm to him.

Veteris: This is... The Aspect of Envy! I see. Very curious. How did you come by this?

Ruselt: A Galahad Arms warehouse.

Veteris: I'm not exactly sure what that is, but a warehouse would be a very unusual place to put such a thing.

Dirge: Both you and Imperator Argus seem to know a great deal about it. Could it perhaps be of Sabari or Spartoi origin?

Veteris: No... It belongs to a far greater power. I fear the one who crafted this ghastly thing may return...

Luther: Who is this "greater power?"

Veteris: It is a name that has defied history itself... His name predates even the Templar Knights, and even myself. From accounts, he is referred to only as "Azoth".

The everyone else in the chamber stop, hearing the name is enough to catch their attention.

Ruselt: What can you tell us about Azoth?

Veteris: Not even I know that much about him. Nowadays, its rare just to hear such a name in the outside world. You could say history forgot about him, but its more along the lines of history trying to cover up his very existence.

Lanval: I thought he was just a myth.

Veteris: Oh, he's very much real. Or is "was" more accurate?

Luther: (Stuttering at first) W-wait. So you know that he made this "aspect of envy." You know that he will return, and you know his name.

Luther's tone gradually becomes more aggressive. 

Luther: So how can you not know anything else about him? I find it hard to believe that you don't know more about him.

Veteris: Like I said, the one called Azoth predates even me. My era only know rumours and brief descriptions. Your era likely know even less than that.

Ruselt: Don't you have anything to offer?

Veteris: Nope.

Ruselt: So what, are we supposed to just stop looking?

Veteris: Perhaps it is his very mind that he needs to search.

Veteris stands in front of Luther.

Ruselt: What are you doing?

Veteris: He'll see.

Veteris jabs Luther with three fingers in the forehead. Luther finds himself being thrown back into darkness. Luther suddenly finds that he has stopped and is actually standing.

The Mind

Luther sees a light appear, and the sound of fire crackling in the distance. He looks towards the light and sees a distant silhouette. He walks towards it. He then recognises it as the silhouette he saw twice before, and begins to run towards it. As he gets close, he is immediately repelled by a defence barrier, similar to the ones he casts. Luther is knocked down. He hears a voice, similar to his own, but more confident and slightly softer, repeating his name over and over again. The voices stop and the light disapears. He suddenly falls and lands in some kind of airship. 

Luther: W-wait, I've been here before...

He recognises it as the inside cabin of the airship which carried him away from Venland. He walks towards the window and puts his hands on the rails to see Savorden.

Several fires begin to appear and they tear through many of the buildings, recreating what actually happened to Savorden. 

The voice is heard again.

Voice: How did it feel Luther?

Luther clenches his fists.

Voice: To sit back, and watch helplessly, as your world burnt...

Luther seems fixated on the flames.

Voice: As the man responsible went unpunished.

Luther turns around to see Vulkas and Ruselt in the cabin. Ruselt seems to be talking to Vulkas about something.

Ruselt: Did they need to die?

Vulkas: None of the guards would have asked that if we were the ones who were killed.

Luther remembers that this happened when they were breaking into the Galahad Arms warehouse, and Vulkas had used his magic to kill several guards. 

Ruselt and Vulkas vanish and the silhouette can be seen at the end of the cabin, but only faintly.

Voice: Do you see what kind of world this is?

Apparitions of Angel-ion and Vulkas appear, along with several Galahad Arms soldiers which they proceed to slaughter. An apparition of Argus appears, ripping the heart out of one of the prisoners, and finally an apparition of Ruselt nearly beating someone to death defending Luther.

Voice: It is either kill, or be killed...

Luther: Who are you!?

The cabin seems to extend, and the distance between the silhouette and Luther increases. The cabin suddenly disappears and Luther falls again. He falls into a world where he is giant, easily towering over the smallest buildings. The sun that seems to appear in the distance sets, leaving the sky orange. The earth shakes, and entire chunks of this world sink into nothingness. Luther finds himself standing on a black circle, and a huge pitch black, horned and cornified skull, ribcage and arms rises up. It looks down at Luther.

???: YOU...

Luther recognises this as the voice from his dark visions. Shadowy figures begin building as the figure talks.

???: I PRESUME YOU NOW KNOW MY IDENTITY. YES. I AM AZOTH. I AM THE ONE TRUE KING OF ALL THE REALMS. ENVY HAS CONSUMED YOU, WHICH IS WHY YOU BEAR THE ASPECT OF ENVY. YOUR ENVY IS CONSUMING YOU. I HAVE SEEN THIS WORLD. ITS PAIN, ITS LIFE, ITS WARS. I HAVE SEEN THOSE WHO RULE WITH AN IRON RULE, AND THOSE WHO TRY TO BE BENEVOLENT, BUT TO NO REAL AVAIL. YOU WILL DIE. YOUR FRIENDS WILL DIE. I WILL RETURN, AND I WILL RULE.

Luther: So you keep saying...

There is a very obvious nervousness in Luther's voice, despite his mockery. 

Azoth: YOU DON'T EVEN KNOW YOUR DEPTH, VISARION. WHAT ARE YOU REALLY TRYING TO KEEP UNDER WRAPS? YOU CAN'T LEAVE YOUR OWN BROTHER IN THE DARK FOREVER.

Luther: Why are you in my head!?

Azoth: IT IS ALL FOR THE SAME REASON AS TO WHY YOU WEAR MY ASPECT OF ENVY. IT IS A PIECE OF MY VERY BEING, AND IT HAS BOUND ITSELF TO YOU. DID YOU REALLY THINK THAT NOTHING ELSE WOULD OCCUR WITH AN OTHERWISE OTHERWORLDLY THING?

Luther: I didn't want to wear this! How was I supposed to know this would happen!? What do you even want with me!?

His tone is now more aggressive, but still clearly nervous. 

Azoth: YOUR ENVY DEFINES YOU, LUTHER VISARION. IT'S NOT THAT I WANT YOU, ITS THAT YOUR OWN ENVIOUS NATURE DROVE YOU TO CLAIM THE ASPECT OF ENVY FOR YOURSELF.

Luther: Then how do I get it off!?

Azoth laughs.

Azoth: YOU DON'T. YOU TOOK IT AND NOW THE PRICE MUST BE PAID.

The voice from before is heard again, albeit more quiet and soft.

Voice: You know full well how to remove it Luther. 

A chopping sound is heard, and then a scream. 

Azoth laughs.

Azoth: THE PRICE OF SACRIFICE.

He sees a light appear over Ruselt's sword.

Voice: Do it Luther. Free yourself from the gauntlet.

Luther walks towards the sword and picks it up. He looks at the gauntlet. He hesitates. 

Luther: This is insane... 

He lowers the sword.

Voice: You know that it's the only way. 

The voice suddenly seems to be coming from behind him, and he turns around to see the silhouette. The silhouette's hand is missing.

Luther looks at the sword again.

Voice: DO IT! 

Suddenly, everything around him dissolves, including, and he is pulled forwards. The combined laughter of both voices in his head echo as his conciousness collides back with his physical self. Veteris pulls his fingers away from Luther's forehead, both having steam emit from them. The readjustment process causes Luther to fall to his knees.

Dirge: What was all that about?

Veteris: I used an old Sabari technique to send him into his own subconciousness. I wouldn't know what he saw within, but it managed to burn off a part of my fingers.

Veteris shows Dirge his hand. Three of his fingers are slightly shorter than what they once were.

Ruselt: Well?

Luther: It was more of the same really. It was just another vision. Although I now know how to get rid of the gauntlet.

Ruselt: Really? How?

Luther: Cut my hand off.

Ruselt: Very funny. But seriously, how?

Luther: I was being serious.

Ruselt looks disapprovingly at Luther. 

Ruselt: Surely there must have been something different.

Luther: There was one thing. 

Ruselt: What?

Luther: There was another voice, but it wasn't Azoth's. Oddly, enough it was that voice that told me to cut off my own hand. 

Angel-Ion: It'd be best that you don't do that. Those voices can go fuck themselves.

Lanval: Anything is possible if you put your mind to it, and if that means getting rid of that blasted gauntlet, so be it.

Ruselt: Any suggestions then?

Lanval: Do I look like the world's greatest magician to you? I don't even know a lick of magic.

Dirge: I guess this puzzle seems to be one that isn't yet to be cracked.

Zambini: What is that supposed to mean?

Dirge: Fate goes on a single set path. There are no coincidences along it.

Angel-Ion seems to smile at this sentiment.

Luther rolls his eyes slightly.

Ruselt: I think we better be off.

Dirge: We should. You're running low on your so called food.

Luther catches sight of a dusty beige book with a strange symbol on it. He opens it up to see that it is written in Sabarian.

Luther: May I have this? 

Veteris: It'd have more use with you that me. Feel free.

Luther: Thank you.

Angel-Ion: We should head off then... Although, I'm concerned about how we are going to get past Javert and Horndahl.

Dirge: We'll see what happens when we get there. Anywho. Master Veteris, I thank you for allowing us to observe and use Narak's former belonging.

Dirge bows in respect. Veteris and the nearby elders bow back. The group soon leave, making their way back through the gulch. Soon, they approach the chamber where Javert and Horndahl clashed.

Angel-Ion: Alright... Who goes to check it out?

Ruselt walks into the chamber, sword in hand. He finds that neither Javert nor Horndahl is present, and that the very surroundings have been torn apart somewhat. There are some red patches on the sand and walls.

Ruselt: Looks like the coast is clear. 

Ruselt continues. Angel-Ion walks through first. 

Angel-Ion: What the hell happened here?

The group walk through, some of them puzzled.

Desert Wastes, Elsewhere...

Horndahl slowly walks across the desert, dragging his feet in the sand, clearly injured. He has a gash to the side of his head, and the plate protecting the "scar" on his chest has been cut in two.

Horndahl: That damned bastard... I'll murder you for this... Ken Javert!

Across the desert...

Javert, clearly injured, rides his motorcycle across the sands. He has a nasty fresh scar across his eye and a scar on his chest, which crosses over his older one. He has several self-applied bandages on parts of his chest and across his right arm.

Javert: ... I guess I got real lucky back there... Too bad I wasn't able to arrest... Those bastard criminals...

The Lit Fuse

April 23rd, 1215 AC. Noon. Tsunwei.

There are several seats arranged around the table as usual, but one seat is missing, denoting Ketrov's incarceration. 

Cercyon sits alone at the head of the meeting table, tapping anxiously. 

Orchus Retaliak arrives first, this time with more security, whom he quickly excuses. Orchus takes his usual seat.

There is an awkward silence.

Orchus: So...

Cercyon: That sums it up really.

Orchus smirks.

Cercyon: Why the extra security?

Orchus: Have you forgotten what happened last time already?

Cercyon: Oh. Of course. The assassination attempt. How could I forget?

Orchus: Where did your enquiry into it end up?

Cercyon: Nowhere. 

There is another awkward silence. Both Cercyon and Retaliak aren't particularly keen to continue conversation.

Orchus: This hostility between us. It can't go on. Considering everything that has happened.

Cercyon: Agreed.

Orchus: But Wolf is going to disturb the peace. Wolf is no advocate for my government, and he could cause problems for Levia. Should war occur in that scenario, you would naturally defend him. 

Cercyon: And you would be right.

Orchus: But I think we both know that war between our two countries would be devastating for both sides. I only ask for one thing Cercyon. Considering your relative authority among the other leaders, I ask you to keep a leash on Wolf. 

Cercyon: I will do what I can to deter Helios from the path of war, but compromises will be made, and I can tell you this for certain, no side will be particularly happy.

Orchus: I think in order to speed up proceedings, it would be necessary for both of us to be more assertive, and even honest with each other. 

Sanjay Kibba enters the chamber, taking Desrold's seat.

Sanjay: Good afternoon gentlemen. I'll be here on the Sultan's behalf today. I trust we will not have a repeat of the last meeting.

Deciduous and Brocade arrive. Deciduous clearly does not want to be there. Brocade carefully watches Cercyon. 

Cercyon returns an icy glare.

Several other leaders show up, including Kerraslav, Honalez and Andrews. 

Hansel Koenig also walks in, and sits in Inara's place. Argus walks in with Horndahl, who has had his arms wrapped in bandages. Soon, Oran Mandarin and Shiro Magala enter, the latter sitting in Shen's seat.

Argus: Did all of your actual leaders die or something? Gehahaha!

Koenig: Miss Winters is tending to a personal matter and could not make it to the summit. I am here merely to act in her best interests. 

Vladimir Wolf enters. He sits down next to Cercyon. Several leaders glare at him, as he is essentially the reason they are here. 

Cercyon: The absence of certain figures here this evening is unfortunate, but perhaps necessary. To be frank, some of you here aren't even needed, and were invited merely to hopefully diffuse tensions between our nations. 

Cercyon looks at Orchus. He reflects on what Orchus said about being more assertive and honest.

Cercyon: It has become clear that very few of us here are of a civilised frame of mind. This has become more and more apparent. That however stops tonight. Anyone whom I percieve to be causing trouble will be thrown out. Is that understood?

Deciduous nervously looks at Koenig. Koenig quickly glances at him, smirks, and then looks back.

Cercyon: The main issue, is obviously the events that have occured in Tythan. This summit will NOT be used to debate the legitimacy of Vladimir Wolf's Government. The time for that has passed. The Government that Wolf has installed is now the Government that represents the people of Tythan. This will not change. 

Orchus: Pity...

Cercyon: We are here to discuss the creation of ties to the new Tythan, as well as the situation with the former First Minister, Ivanovich Ketrov.

Joshua Andrews: In regards to ties with the new Government, I am personally in favour of coexisting peacefully. However, congress primarily consists of pro-Ketrov politicians. This was not helped by the fact that Ketrov sent a telegram to congress before his arrest. 

Wolf's eyes narrow.

Andrews: Congress is currently debating whether or not military action against Tythan is necessary. I am afraid this is completely out of my hands.

Orchus: And the failings of democracy are now plain to see.

Andrews glares at Orchus. Brocade clears his throat.

Brocade: If I may, Premier?

Cercyon nods. 

Brocade: I am sure some of you are are aware of a particular man by the name of Ryloth Onyx, am I correct?

Orchus: I'd like to reply with another question. How does this link in with the matter at hand?

Brocade: I'd say that, at this point, its more severe than Tythan's issues.

Cercyon glares at Brocade for a second. He suddenly chuckles.

Cercyon: Have I invited pragmatic strategists to this summit? Or monkeys?

Cercyon looks at everyone in the room.

Cercyon: Brocade. Do you even see the reality of the situation we are in? Trivial issues can be saved for the end.

Orchus: Onto the topic at hand, may I ask what is to be done with Ketrov?

Wolf: Ketrov will be placed on trial for the crimes he has commited. Not just necessarily against the Tythanian people, but for crimes against Venland as well. 

Cercyon seems contented with this answer.

Koenig yawns.

Brocade: Do you really think the fact that one pirate has such a massive army combined with an entire network of islands under his control, both of which he can use to actually invade our lands, is considered lower than such rubbish?! The madman is too notorious to be simply "saved for the end"! As Fleet Admiral of Kratonia, I must see to it that the rest of Helios simply must be made aware at this fact!

Shiro kicks back in his chair and puts his feet on the table.

Oran: I am pretty sure Kratonia is literally the only country in Helios that is likewise targetted by these so-called "Black Stone Pirates".

Brocade: Should I remind you that Shen's own brother is amongst those he has amassed under his flag?

Oran: Louxia and the Kemuri Pirates are traitors to Kyloto. Such a small pirate crew would--

Brocade: He commands a fleet.

Shiro: Yet we still have enough fire power to wipe him from the seas. You Kratonians know not  of our military might.

Koenig: *Cough* We do *cough*

Brocade: You are severly underestimating him. What do you know, anyways? What position do you have amongst your so-called leadeship? Where even is your Overlord?!

Shiro: I am Shiro Magala, Shogun of the Makai Clan and Left Hand of Shen Gikoku. And, for the record, what Lord Shen does is no concern of yours.

Cercyon: Brocade asks what we know? I'll tell you EXACTLY what we know. We know more than you. Your own technology inhibits your ability to see the true scale of Oynx's army or the true scale of what is to come. Onyx is a lowlife pirate and Kratonia is ignorant of the world above it.  What has happened in Tythan could escalate into something that would dwarf Ryloth as a threat to our existence. He will be mentioned LAST. End of.

Vladimir Wolf: I have no intention of spreading the war in Tythan towards other countries, no matter how much I may despise their politics. 

Wolf briefly glances at Orchus and Koenig. 

Wolf: But if Canorican forces move into Tythan, with or without your consent, Mr. Andrews, there will be repercussions. 

Andrews: And it is that very attitude that is going to cause this problem to escalate!

Wolf: What am I supposed to do? Let Canorican forces, that, apparently, are completely out of your control, march into my country and return it to it's deprived state? My response to this is perfectly reasonable.

Cercyon: And should the new Tythanian Government come under threat, I would be obligated to do whatever is in my power to remove this threat.

Honalez: As would I.

Andrews: Then what am I supposed to do?

Orchus: Take control, Mister Andrews! You're meant to run the country, not congress. 

Andrews remains silent.

Orchus: Mr. Wolf, what is the expected fate of Ketrov?

Wolf: Death by firing squad.

Andrews: It seems no matter what I do in this situation, Canorica and the AN loses. If we fight, then war breaks out. If we sit back, then Ketrov is killed, and we lose yet another country to a dictator. 

Wolf: I'll be the first to admit that I was not elected. But I have given all Tythanians an equal chance at life.

Andrews: In exchange for their civil liberties...

Wolf: What you might see as oppression, I see as order. What you see as freedom, I see as anarchy. I understand that we have different views, but you have to admit, the fact that you have no control over your country tips this debate in my favour.

Andrews remains silent and scowls. Argus looks round.

Argus: You're being unusually quiet once again, Mr. Quadroceptus, anything to share?

Deciduous: ...

Koenig: The stress of ruling must be getting to him.

Cercyon looks at Andrews.

Cercyon: Seeing that it is congress debating over whether or not Canorican forces will enter Tythan, nothing can be done until you take action against them Mr. Andrews. Until then, we can not discuss anything constructive in regards to the Tythan situation.

Orchus: I guess that means NOW we can move onto different issues.

Koenig: Yes. If I may Premier Cercyon, I'd like to raise an issue.

Cercyon nods.

Koenig: Lord Deciduous has done very little to increase his country's actions against the Galahad Arms, despite Mr. Retaliak's previous request for him to do so. 

Deciduous begins to nervously sweat.

Argus: So, Quadroceptus. How's your so-called police commissioner going?

Deciduous: Damn you.

Shiro: The pressures of leading have gone to his head. This is your second run as Lord, right?

Argus: Makes you wonder how he handled the first! Gehahahaha!

Orchus: Lord Deciduous, I made a very clear statement last summit. Either you would take action, or Levia would.

Deciduous: ...!

Shiro: Looks like he's go nothing to add. What say you, Fleet Admiral?

Brocade: I won't bother stooping your lowly levels of cowardice, Magala.

Orchus: Honestly at this stage, we should all just let the Galahad Arms take Novalia. They might produce a more effective government than Deciduous here. 

Andrews sees that Deciduous is distressed.

Andrews: The inquiry into the Nirvo attack returned it's verdict yesterday. 

Shiro: And the results of which are...?

Andrews seems reluctant to say anything.

Andrews: All leads pointed towards a Kylotean origin. Several even pointed to the Dominion itself. 

Kerraslav: Knew it!

Shiro: Sadly for you, our own conclusion contradicts yours. Our projects and machinations have made us cearly unable to plan any possible terror acts. I'll assume Lord Shem made reference to Anonymous at the previous summit, so I won't bother giving the details. I have been over every report form issued that day, and not one regarded any operations within Asteria. While we hate you maggots to the core, we simply did not orchestrate the attack.

Brocade: That didn't stop you from killing King Hectapholes, did it, "Shogun"!?

Shiro: Tch. Know your place, "Fleet Admiral". Why don't you just have that so-called princess of yours attend the summit already? Afraid some lowly pirates might kidnap her?

Cercyon: Shiro, I am afraid Kyloto's conclusion won't be valid. The Canorican inquiry, being an independent case is more reliable. This case can now be taken to a higher power, and investigated independently by the Haphaen government.

Kerraslav: Pfft. The Canorican Inquiry wasn't enough?

Cercyon: Concurrent validity is required. 

Orchus: Maybe for the sake of concurrent validity alone, Levia should also conduct an inquiry.

Cercyon: Considering your similarities in government, I am afraid I can't allow that. You're inquiry is bound to be biased towards Kyloto.

Orchus: You question my objectivity?

Cercyon: Well yes...

Kerraslav: 186 people!

Cercyon: Hmm?

Kerraslav: 186 people were murdered by the dominion! In order to further their racist agenda!

Cercyon: Your point?

Kerraslav: This is taking too long! The people of Asteria want justice, and they want justice now!

Cercyon: Then maybe we can come to an agreement now, providing you never speak of this nauseating issue again.

Shiro: "Justice"? Is that what you call it? Get your corrupt sense of justice out of here. Your claim is and always will be prejudiced bile.

Kerraslav: Prejudice? *Chuckles* Oh that is rich. You referred to Asterians as maggots just a moment ago. I have shown no such discourtesy to Kyloto or it's people. Some of our most productive citizens are Kyloteans! But because of the actions of your government, there are calls among the people to have them removed from society!

Shiro: Funny. Last time I checked, the Kyloteans you had within your borders were slaves.

Argus: I've noted a flaw within your annoying bickering.

Sanjay: That's rich, coming from the most prejudiced man in the room.

Argus: Still your tongue. I was not finished.

Sanjay: Should you even be allowed to finished?

Argus: If one set of your Flesh Kind inhabits that of the other's land, why is it that the latter was not included within your dimwitted investigations. I have now deduced that, within the land of Asteria, apparent Kylotean citizens are inclined to be capable of these so called "terror acts" just as much as the Asterians themselves.

Kerraslav: Any race has the capacity for terrorism. It does not mean they do it. Only sheep sent by the Dominion would have the capacity for such an atrocity in this day and age! I'll admit, Asteria's history with Kyloto has been far from glorius, but Asteria has moved on. Why can't Kyloto?!

Cercyon: Fascinating speech Kerraslav, but you have two options. You can sort this issue now, by accepting whatever we all propose, or you can wait for the Haphaen inquiry.

Andrews: It would be more democratic to let the whole room vote.

Cercyon: (Sighs) If it will keep you happy. Raise your hand if you're in favour of another inquiry.

Cercyon, Andrews, Honalez, Brocade, Sanjay, Orchus, Shiro, and, surprisingly, Argus, raise their hands.

Sanjay: Are you sure you're not ill today, Imperator?

Argus: I thought I told you to still your tongue. I will not turn my eye blind to idiocy.

Cercyon: Judging from the amount of hands already raised, it is clear that a new inquiry is the most popular suggestion. If the inquiry finds that there is no connection between the Kylotean terrorists, and the Dominion, Mister Kerraslav will personally apologise to Shen Gikoku, as a sign of respect, regardless of how little he deserves it. Mister Kerraslav will also, in order to encourage better relations in future, will be forced to cede land to the Dominion.

Andrews: Hang on, who says you can do this? You don't have this authority!

Cercyon: Will you let me finish?

Andrews remains silent and nods.

Cercyon: Should the inquiry find that the attack was because of the Dominion, then the opposite shall be achieved. Shen Gikoku will apologise for overseeing an act of war, Kylotean land will be ceded to Asteria, and the Western border of Kyloto will be demilitarized in order to discourage military action.

Shiro: Tch.

Koenig: (Smiling) An interesting proposal, but how do you intend to make them live up to these demands should the inquiry favour a particular side?

Cercyon: Should eitherside fail to concede, then appropriate military action will be taken.

Koenig: Phillotus Cercyon, the voice of peace.

The Return of Anonymous

Meanwhile, in Asteria.

Several figures in black, sleeveless jumpsuits begin running down the streets of Nirvo. They are clearly of Kylotean origin. Some of them suddenly draw kunais, which they use to brutalise the confused civilians, including one Kylotean citizen. Three of them are shot by police. Two quickly, but one is arrested and taken away. They begin running towards a bank. They rip through police forces and head inside. Soon, they are seen fleeing with several bags of money. One of them light a fuse before fleeing. Soon, the whole bank blows up. A remaining Kylotean individual plants a piece of paper on the floor just outside the now ruined bank, and nails a peg onto it. The paper depicts a specific mark. Not so far away, several more of the Kylotean individuals gather outside of a building, the Kylotean Embassy building. A masked figure on a rooftop nearby watches it closely.

???: (in Asterian) Attention citizens! Today you are gathered here to witness the spectacle that is the destruction of the Kylotean Embassy. We have deemed it a necessary evil to see that this building is wiped out first. Light the trigger!

An individual lights a fuse. Soon, the building explodes.

???: Shiver in fear, Asterians, for Anonymous has returned.

The individuals use this as a call sign to begin killing the surrounding civilians. The masked figure watches as some civilians manage to flee. Many of the attackers are quickly confronted by a squad of policemen. Some of the attackers are shot, while others are restrained, and cuffed onto the back of specialised vehicles which take them away. More suddenly arrive and attack the vehicles that are still there, freeing their allies.

The police air their guns at the figure. He raises his hand. Policemen shoot at the figure on the rooftop. The eye holes on his mask suddenly glow green, and the bullets freeze in place just before they hit.

???: You think mere bullets can hinder Anonymous?

He points his right index finger down, and his left index finger up. The bullets suddenly turn upside down. He lowers his hands and the glowing stops. Suddenly, all of the bullets fly back at those who shot them, all at once, at the exact same speed they were fired. 

Anonymous: Order is required to teach this corrupt nation its lesson. The Myriad will wipe away this nation's sins.

A figure remains still in the crowds and looks up. He bears the Asterian Fraternity symbol on his left armband. He seems to be wearing military uniform, but lacks any weapons. The attackers are finally freed, some of them flee the scene before things get ideally worse.

???: Begone terrorist!

Anonymous looks down.

Anonymous: The damage here has already been done, citizen. Unless you don't value your life, I would hightail it out of here too.

???: Not while cowards like you slaughter innocents!

Anonymous: "Cowardice" is subject to opinion here, sir. And I can assure you, Anonymous is no coward.

???: Yet you cut down the unarmed!

Anonymous: That is where you are incorrect. I have inflicted harm only in defence. Why would one let themselves be hit by projectiles as mere as bullets?

??? gestures towards the dead bodies.

???: This is defence? No. This is mindless slaughter!

Anonymous: Those aren't of my exact doing.

???: Yet you permitted it!

Anonymous: So what? Their lives are no concern of mine. We are the Sons of Anonymous after all, and you Asterians must be taught a lesson. As teachers, we will do as we see fit!

??? : Anonymous was hanged for his crimes. Asteria will see to it that you share his fate for yours.

Anonymous: I am his successor, the one that will carry out the will of the Myriad, as it has been foretold. My fate is to shake Asteria down to its core!

???: It will take more than a few killings and speeches to scare Asteria.

Anonymous: Perhaps you have not noticed the rubble over there. That was what will be known as "Lesson One".

???: Asteria has survived more than you or your petty organisation could ever bring!

Anonymous jumps down.

Anonymous: In that case, Asteria better brace itself for the change.

???: You honestly think you can bring down this great nation? That's either arrogance, or stupidity!

The Asterian kisses his army insignia, which reads "Alex Kromir" and he gets into a battle stance.

Anonymous: Pity. You could have become a follower of the Myriad. Sadly, you have chosen this path, and thus you will die.

Anonymous draws two swords.

Alex concentrates. His chest glows. The glow seems to move into both of his arms, and then into his hands. His hands glow brightly for a brief second and when the glow dies down, he appears to wield two swords. 

Anonymous: So be it.

Anonymous runs forwards and slices his swords into the floor, sending dust towards Alex as Anonymous swings his swords up at him. Alex jumps back. Alex makes a slash motion with his sword, and a gust of high speed wind is emitted from it. The wind strikes Anonymous, briefly distracting him, giving Alex time to charge and make a sideways slash. Anonymous recollects himself and parries. He swings his leg round, tripping Alex up. He jumps up and attempts to stab down on him. 

Alex quickly rolls out of the way before he hops up and swings around and strikes the back of Anonymous' head with the pommel of his sword. Anonymous quickly spins around and strikes both swords at Alex with great force. He begins spinning around like a spinning top.

Alex calculates his move very quickly. He holds both of his swords in an V shape in front of him and pushes towards the spinning Anonymous. He finds that both of Anonymous' swords have been caught in between Alex' bisecting swords. 

Anonymous pulls back and sticks one sword in the ground, and swings round on it, kicking one of Alex's swords out of his hand.

Alex runs forward and swings his sword, carrying a powerful gust of wind with it. He strikes one of Anonymous' swords forcing him back, and likewise, forcing one out of his hand. Rather than retrieving it, Anonymous pulls out his third sword. He lunges forwards and strikes against Alex's remaining sword.

Alex parries, holding his sword with both hands. He jumps back. Alex sees the sword he created earlier stuck in the ground. He quickly grabs it and makes a quick spinning motion with both of his swords. A small but seemingly powerful tornado quickly moves towards Anonymous.

Anonymous' eyes glow and he points up with both hands. A stone wall springs up. Anonymous directs his hands forwards, sending the wall forwards towards the tornado which dissipates on contact.

Alex makes a hand gesture, and a powerful burst of wind puashes the wall back towards Anonymous. Alex then runs forward and jumps atop the wall, where he quickly jumps down towards Anonymous. With one sword, he sends a disorientating gust of wind, and he uses the other to slash down at Anonymous. When Alex reaches the ground, there is blood on his blade. There is a gash on Anonymous' shoulder, and a slash mark down his chest. 

Anonymous wipes the blood with his wrist.

Anonymous: I must commend you for cutting me.

Anonymous throws his hands out, his palms facing Alex. He directs his hands either side of himself, changing to pointed fingers. Suddenly, Alex's own swords mirror this, and spread out.

Alex' swords glow. When the glow fades, they are gone. A siren is heard, and suddenly an Asterian fraternity vehicle arrives, carrying a few soldiers and another field mage.

Alex quickly creates another sword, and quickly slashes at Anonymous, who counters and forces Alex back. Anonymous pulls out two explosives, lighting them whilst doing so. He throws them at the vehicle. The field mage near the vehicle notices, and a shield suddenly forms around the explosives, containing their explosions. Anonymous points his finger upwards before directing it at Alex. Anonymous' dropped sword flies at Alex with high speed, impaling his arm and pinning it to a wall. 

Alex: Agh! 

Alex grabs Anonymous' sword and pulls it out of the wall, and subsequently his arm, causing himself a great deal of pain. Anonymous flies up and slams both of his feet into Alex's head, smashing it into the wall. He takes his sword back.

Alex gets into a defensive pose. Anonymous redraws one of his swords and prepares to attack. The field mage from the vehicle creates a defensive barrier in between Anonymous and Alex.

Alex recognises the field mage as his friend, Yosif.

Anonymous: You... You dare get in my way?

Alex: Yosif! Stay back! He's stronger than you think!

Yosif: Well, I can't just sit back as this monster kills our bretheren. 

Alex nods understandingly.

Yosif's hand turns blue, and an sword made of ice begins to form. Anonymous approaches Yosif with his swords in hand. Yosif slashes his sword through the air, and a barrage of sharp ice shards fly towards Anonymous, who swiftly chops up the shards. He gets close to Yosif. Yosif strikes at Anonymous with his sword. 

Anonymous grabs the tip of Yosif's blade and melts it with his heat. He looks at Yosif with dead eyes before slashing him across the chest and abdomen, spilling his blood and some of his insides out. Yosif collapses, and bleeds out on the cobbled ground. 

Alex: Yosif!

Anonymous looks to Alex. 

Alex gets up, despite his injuries. He creates another sword, using up more of his energy. 

Alex: You bastard!

Suddenly several other vehicles arrive from various streets. All of them containing at least one field mage. Anonymous' eyes glow.

Anonymous: Begone.

Anonymous points one finger up, and the other down. The vehicles and several pieces of rubble lift into the air. Anonymous claps his hands together, causing the vehicles and the rubble to all collide, creating a large explosion that kills all of the passengers.

A voice speaks into an enchanted attachment on Anonymous' ear lobe.

Grunt: Sir--

Anonymous: Don't call me sir. It's "Adam".

Grunt: Uhh... Adam, sir, there's a whole bunch of police officials heading your way!

Anonymous: So?

Grunt: Please, for your safety, retire back to base!

Anonymous: ... Fine.

Communications end. Anonymous looks at Alex.

Anonymous: Looks like I'll have to kill you some other time.

Anonymous throws down a smoke bomb. When the smoke clears, Anonymous is gone.

Alex's vision begins to fade. He looks at his arm, and sees that it is still bleeding heavily. He loses conciousness, and collapses. Soon after, authorites arrive at the scene, and Alex is taken away for medical treatment. 

Bad Ends

Tsunwei.

Cercyon: Well it is good that we are in agreement over the conditions of the new inquiry. 

Orchus: There is a first for everything.

Cercyon: Now. Brocade. You had an issue regarding the "Pirate King," Ryloth Onyx. Feel free to share.

Brocade: As you have probably heard, Onyx's fleets have grown tenfold, and another fleet, specifically the Flying Pirates' fleet, have joined his overall army. I fear his continued growth may soon get too out of hand. What's more is that he has gained greater military might and technological advantage, which he seems to be acquiring through what we assume to be diplomatic, political weddings. Some of these affiliates of his are notorious in the underworld. 

Cercyon: Hmm. Mercria has it's ships in southern waters for some reason. 

Cercyon briefly glares at Koenig.

Cercyon: Maybe Mercria would be willing to lend Kratonia a hand in this issue. 

Deciduous: I will see to it that Novalia--

Shiro: No, no, no, Lord Quadroceptus. You have a certain organisation to deal with. Besides. As Mr. Cercyon said, Ryloth is an unneccessary threat... To my country, at least.

Brocade: You forget yourself, Shogun. He has a large pirate army! He can't be allowed to go scott free!

Cercyon: I agree with you Brocade. But we can't fight your war for you. We will expect that Kratonia does it's due part. 

Brocade: Hmph. I see.

Cercyon: I would expect that, by June, you will have doubled the size of your Navy in order to equal Ryloth's. Should you find this economically pressing, then I am sure that Novalia would be willing to provide you with economic stimulus. 

Cercyon looks at Deciduous.

Brocade: That's not the problem. We have a very large naval fleet, with five Admirals, me included, leading its full might. The issue is that Ryloth's army seems to be growing on an extremely fast rate, with both his connections and his ties. I fear this may be even more problematic in our neighbour continent, if they've even got that far out to begin with. 

Cercyon: What happens in Somnus is not of my concern. I am confident in the Tauranian ability to act as a mediator in that area. In reference to your comments about your fleet, the solution is simple. Get building, and get building now. Stall Ryloth with whatever you have until the ships are finished. Use your special forces to set fire to his ships for all I care. If he is growing at the rate you say he is growing, then stunt his growth now, before he becomes a more serious problem.

Brocade: ... Very well.

Cercyon gathers his notes.

Cercyon: To conclude, the Tythanian issue is currently reliant on Mr. Andrews' ability to control his congress. The Ryloth issue shall be met with Kratonian espionage operations in order to slow his expansion as the Kratonian navy doubles it's size. And finally, a new Haphaen inquiry will be conducted to determine the root cause of the incident in Nirvo. We're done he--

Sanjay: One moment, if you please.

Cercyon: Yes?

Sanjay: In regards to the events that occurred at the end of the previous summit. The only reason I'm here is for closure on that. The only reason why my superior is not here is because he was nearly assassinated by a Parcian man. While I'm not specifically blaming Mr. Honalez for any form of involvement, my research into the matter has included Parcia as a suspect behind the attempted attack.

Cercyon: Interesting, but sadly flawed. 

Cercyon gestures to one of his administrators who leaves. The administrator quickly returns with a file.

Cercyon opens it up. 

Cercyon: This was a brief inquiry into the assassination attempt. Sadly, the people responsible were not found, however it was made explicit that the Parcian government had no role to play in the attempt. In fact, the Parcian assassin wasn't even legally employed as a bodyguard. He had been impersonating someone for the last few weeks before the attempt. Sadly it can only be assumed that the assassin acted alone, and since the assassin was shot dead, we can't conduct a formal interrogation to find out more. 

Kerraslav thinks for a few seconds.

Kerraslav: Did you conduct an autopsy?

Cercyon: Why would that be relevent?

Kerraslav: Well did you?

Cercyon: *Sighs* We did actually, although that was more for scientific curiosity. Nothing interesting was found.

Sanjay: ... All your research has done, Mr. Cercyon, is remove Parcia as a suspect.

Cercyon: It is all we could do, considering our primary source of evidence was dead. 

Koenig: So, Mr. Kibba, as you seem to know so much about it, what did your research find?

Sanjay: Trust me when I say this, General. I know an assassination attempt when I see one. My list of suspects currently concludes that the conspiring hitman was hired to assassinate the Sultan of Carta in order to bring disorder upon the city.

He points at Argus.

Sanjay: While this idiot may decide to use this opportunity to attack our city, the disarray would leave the Archives unguarded and under-protected, which would allow one to break in and steal its contents; and, I know for a fact, that many of you in this room are curious as to what these Archives contain. To put it bluntly, somebody plans on stealing whatever lies in there, and has hired the assassin from the last summit to carry out the deed. My remaining suspects for this deed are Mercria, Levia, Asteria, and, given their activity within the city itself, the Galahad Arms.

Sanjay looks at Deciduous.

Sanjay: I'm not going to out-rule the possibility of the perpetrator being of Somnian origin, or even if it is another third party. Both are possible.

Brocade: How is it that you're able to deduce this information?

Sanjay: let's just say I have my connections.

Shiro seems a bit unnerved by this sentiment.

Cercyon: Your theories aren't too far fetched. Find evidence, and we can act appropriately. Otherwise, it is just a conspiracy.

Sanjay: Fine, as long as you can provide me with both the bullet, and the bodies of the perpetrator and the victim. Then I can conduct a full research.

Cercyon: The bodies were cremated, I'm afraid.

Sanjay: ... I see. And the bullet?

Cercyon: Probably recycled. 

Sanjay: You mean to tell me that you've destroyed the evidence?!

Cercyon: Well that is one way of saying it. Any information about the bodies and the bullets has been placed within our archives, and for the sake of national security, you aren't going to be privy to any of that information.

Sanjay looks at Cercyon with disbelief. Cercyon hands his papers to the administrator, who takes them away.

Cercyon: Now, shall we leave?

Just before anyone is able to get up, guards let in an exhausted messenger.

Messenger: Mister Kerraslav, sir, I have an urgent telegram from Nirvo!

The messenger hands Kerraslav the letter. 

Kerraslav reads the letter, and his mood noticably worsens. He briefly glances upwards at Shiro before continuing to read.

Kerraslav: The Kylotean Embassy in Nirvo has been bombed. Further details have yet to be sent.

Kerraslav puts on his coat. 

Kerraslav: Do excuse me... I really must... Must be going. 

Kerraslav leaves the room, and heads out the building with the messenger. 

Shiro: ... I have a feeling he's going to pin the blame on us again.

Argus: Hahaha!

Argus leaves, followed by Horndahl, neglecting to go to the lobby.

The remaining leaders remain in the lobby, eating the various snacks being served.

Orchus, now surrounded by his guards once again, talks to Koenig.

Orchus: So, where was Miss Winters?

Koenig: As I said, she was tending to a personal issue.

Orchus: What is the nature of this issue?

Koenig: She is catching up with old friends. 

Meanwhile in Hermea.

Inara Winters seems to be walking down a long stone corridor with a metal door at the end. A single guard stands outside it.

She unlocks the door with a small key, and enters. She locks the door behind her. 

The guard hears the mumblings of a conversation.

A few minutes later, the guard hears the sound of hot metal being placed on someone's flesh. It is quickly followed by a man's screams. 

Meanwhile, back in Tsunwei.

Oran: You seemed a bit off when the Carta representative was speaking. Was something wrong?

Shiro: Have you ever heard of a party known as "Double-Six"?

Oran: No. Why is that?

Shiro: I thought not. I've merely heard of stories, so I thought they were a myth.

Oran: Then what's with the worry?

Shiro: When I discovered my father's body, upon the back of his neck was an intricate symbol representing a pair of sixes.

Oran: I see... But how does that connect them with Carta's representitive?

Shiro: The stories I've heard speak about how "Double-Six" had many connections worldwide, and often were connected to influenced people. Sanjay Kibba is hardly far from having influence. He runs an archive containing god knows what.

Oran: I guess that makes sense.

Meanwhile on the other side of the room.

Andrews approaches Deciduous.

Andrews: What was wrong with you tonight. You barely said a word.

Deciduous: I... I don't know.

Andrews sees that Deciduous' hands are shaking somewhat. Andrews dismisses his own guards.

Andrews: Look, whatever is going on, you can tell me. 

Deciduous: Uhh... I... I... Don't think I can do that either...

Deciduous' shaking gets worse.

Andrews: Why can't you? 

Andrews looks into Deciduous' eyes, and sees his reluctance. Andrews lowers his tone of voice.

Andrews: Blink twice if someone has something against you. 

He does so.

Andrews: Maybe we should walk each other back to our cars. 

Andrews walks with Deciduous out of the lobby, smiling and waving goodbye to the other leaders and dignitaries.

Koenig looks at Deciduous and raises a glass towards him before smiling, and returning to his conversation with Orchus. 

Orchus: I am sorry if my questions seem intrusive, but you have to admit, it is suspicious that Miss Winters and Gikoku are both absent. 

Koenig: I am sure it is purely circumstancial. Don't fret yourself Mister Retaliak.

Orchus' eye twitches.

Orchus: You're right, it is probably just circumstancial. 

Koenig smiles at him before leaving to talk to other dignitaries. 

Orchus keeps his gaze fixed upon him.

Meanwhile, outside, Deciduos and Andrews are walking down the square to their respective vehicles. Andrews' guards are hanging back, and are out of hearing distance.

Andrews: Ok. No one can hear us. Feel free to say what you must. 

Deciduous: Even like this, I don't think its safe...

Andrews heads into an alleyway with Deciduous.

Andrews: Is this better?

Deciduous seems far too distracted.

Andrews rolls his eyes.

Andrews: Look, you can either speak now, and maybe, I might be able to help. Or you can suffer in silence. Choose now. 

Deciduous: I... I... I... I...

He swallows hard.

Deciduous: Crowned is my son.

Andrews looks at him with brief suprise. Andrews exhales.

Andrews: Well... What does he have against you then?

Deciduous: I... I.... I... Don't... Know...

Andrews: If he hasn't got anything against you, why are you so afraid?

Deciduous: BECAUSE HE WANTS MY HEAD IF IT GETS OUT THAT HE IS MY SON!!!

Andrews: Does anyone else know?

Deciduous: My vice... Dontos Rubern... And... And...

Andrews: And?

Deciduous: Just... Dontos...

Andrews: In the mean time, surround yourself with guards that you have known for a long time, and only guards the you know personally. We'll have to meet at a later date.

Andrews looks at his watch, and heads off with his security towards his car, leaving Deciduous in the alley. Deciduous falls to his knees and slams his fists on the floor, beginning to cry.

Modern Men

Northern Carta, Sabaria.

Angel-Ion emerges from a bar, having went there straight away after arriving back in Carta earlier that day. Some people look round.

Mitch: Yer back in Carta now, don't try drawin' attention to yerself.

Luther: (Those words are lost on them)

Ruselt: Hehe, we'll try not to. Shall we head back to the Tempest?

Roxanne: Yeah. I'm getting sick of walking over sand.

The group walk past a large crowd, which are gathered listening to what appears to be preachers in bright white clothing.

Preacher: Magic is sin! You must see this truth, citizens. Magic is the sin that darkens this world! It creates nothing but horror!

Dirge: Crackpots.

On glance, Luther spots three people on stage, all on their knees and with sacks over their heads.

Preacher: The Modern Men will not put up with such sin, and thus, it must be purified from this world! Magic is against evolution and nature!

Luther: (As much attention that might be drawn to us... We should probably help them...)

Luther: Hey gu-

Luther suddenly hears the voice again.

Voice: Think about this, you idiot.

Luther looks around before realising the voice is in his head.

Voice: Just keep walking. They don't mean anything to you, and you don't need the attention.

Luther: But they're in trouble...

Ruselt: Who's in trouble?

Luther: (Shit... I said that out loud). Those people over there. With the bags on their heads. 

Preacher: These sinners have been practicing their sinful magics for far too long. Our savior, the Truth, shall salvage what is holy left from them, by stripping them of their magic.

A masked man with a black cloak walks onto the stage. The bags are taken off of the captives' heads. He approaches the first man.

Man: No! Please! I dont want to lose my magic! Please! PLEASE!!!

The masked man places three of his fingers on the man's forehead. His eyes go cross-eyed. The masked man pulls his fingers away. A smoky wisp trails from the man's head to the masked man's hand. The man faints on the floor.

Luther: It was nothing deadly. We can move along. 

Angel-Ion: Wait. Something's off.

The masked man does the same to the other two.

Zambini: This isn't right... We can't just let that happen.

Lanval: What's going on?

Zambini: I don't... I don't know... I've never known anyone to have such a power. Its as if he's severing the connection between their vital power and their magic power.

Lanval: What does that mean?

Zambini: He's removing their magical powers by manipulating their brainwaves. That is not normal.

The masked man inspects the crowd, spotting the group.

The Truth: Ah. A Kylotean and a Sabarian. Bring them to me. They'll make a perfect presentation of my ability.

Angel-Ion: ... Shit. Run! And don't let him touch you!

Angel-Ion begins running, followed by the others. They are chased by the Modern Men.

Luther creates a defence shield blocking all the streets behind them.

The goons start to run around it. The Truth approaches it and places his hand on the shield. It suddenly breaks.

The Truth: This is a testament to how magic can cause chaos!

Angel-Ion heats up his sword and fires it back, taking out some of the Modern Men. Ruselt pulls out his sword. A Modern Man jumps down upon him. Ruselt strikes him with the hilt of his sword. Suddenly, more attempt an attack, but Dirge sends a wave of light back, blasting them away. They seem to have stopped coming.

Dirge: It's imperative that we keep moving!

Ruselt and Luther follow Dirge, followed by the others, eventually getting far enough away. They rest at another bar.

Angel-Ion: Whew. I wonder what all that was about...

Ruselt: How far away is the ship?

Roxanne: Three miles west. Should take about 40 minutes or so to get there.

Angel-Ion: I wonder what Vulkas has been doing back there. He must be bored by now.

Dirge: Who's that?

Angel-Ion: One of our party, he's looking after the ship.

Dirge: I see.

Prince Ruselt vs. Tunnel King

Ruselt peeks out the door.

Ruselt: I think the coast is clear. 

A stranger barges into Ruselt on their way into the bar.

Stranger: Watch it, will ya?

Ruselt: Hey, fuck you too!

Ruselt suddenly checks to see if anything was stolen.

The man grabs Ruselt by the wrist and drives him through the wall before throwing him outside.

Stranger: You've gone and done it now, boy. Do you even know who I am?!

Luther rolls his eyes.

Ruselt: Aside from an asshole!?

The man reveals a wanted poster of himself, marked for ₺520,000.

~ "Tunnel King" Suelo Avalo ~

Suelo: Hahahaha! Looks like I'm gonna have to break your back just to show you some manners!

Ruselt: Bring it!

Ruselt takes out his sword. 

Luther: Do we even have time for this?

Angel-Ion: No. We don't. But I guess Ruselt has this.

Suelo taunts Ruselt into attacking first.

Ruselt runs forward, but quickly sidesteps and slashes towards Suelo's side. Suelo swings his fist down. His massive gauntlet suddenly begins spinning around like a powerful drill, enabling Suelo to parry Ruselt's strike.

Ruselt jumps back. He then creats a small flame, and sets his blade alight. He runs forward and takes a swing. Suelo once again counters, slamming both of his drill gauntlets into the blade.

Suelo: Silly, silly. No mere sword can cut through my drillers!

Suelo punches down with a drill fist. Ruselt jumps back, causing Suelo's arm to drill into the ground. He quickly slashes at Suelo's wrist.

Luther: Shouldn't we do something?

Angel-Ion: I'm waiting for an opening.

Suelo smashes Ruselt in the chest with his free hand, creating a gash thanks to the spinning drill. Ruselt recoils and grasps his chest. He bears the pain. A wall of fire suddenly separates Ruselt and Suelo. Suelo starts up his drills on the other side. Sand bursts upwards. Ruselt is unable to see what he is doing due to the sand and the fire.

Luther directs the fire towards Suelo's side, and creates a small defence barrier around Ruselt. Suelo suddenly bursts out from underneath Ruselt with his drills, having tunneled his way under.

Suelo: Ding dong!

Suelo attempts to uppercut Ruselt. Ruselt jumps back, and pulls the Galahad Arms gun out of his satchel. He aims it at Suelo, who raises his drill hands up as a shield, before running forwards. Ruselt quickly lowers the gun and fires a single round into Suelo's knee. 

Suelo: Gyah! You bastard!

Suelo drops his guard and attempts to roundhouse Ruselt with his other leg. Ruselt ducks and arcs his arm round to slash at Suelo's calf with his sword. Suelo slams his now-bleeding leg down and holds the wound.

Suelo: GYAH!!!

He suddenly strikes the floor with one of his drills, spewing lots of sand over Ruselt. He uses this opportunity to grab Ruselt's chest. He charges forwards and slams him into a building.

Suelo: NYAH!

Suelo's arm begins spinning. Ruselt feels something large being fired out from Suelos palm into his chest. The force sends Ruselt flying through the rest of the building. Luther sees that Angel-Ion still hasn't acted. The voice in Luther's head is heard again.

Voice: I am surprised you have not done more Luther. 

Luther bites his tongue.

Voice: I mean... Ruselt's really taking a pounding here. 

Ruselt slowly gets up. He pulls up his gun and fires a few more shots at Suelo, who blocks them with his drill. Suelo burrows underground.

Luther: Jump!

Ruselt looks confused at first, but obeys. Luther immediately creates a defence shield underneath him that covers a reasonable area. Suelo suddenly flies through a building, carrying a part of another, and swings it down on Ruselt. Ruselt rolls out of the way. He gets into a defensive positon.

Luther: (Rus can't keep this up for much longer...)

Voice: Huh, you don't say...

Suelo begins throwing multiple drill punches towards Ruselt, attempting to back him into a corner. Ruselt keeps jumping back and dodging until he finds himself backed up against a wall.

Suelo: NYAH!

Suelo swings both drill fists down.

Suelo's swing suddenly loses momentum when he feels a sharp pain in the back of his ankles. He finds that he can't stand up. Ruselt sees Luther behind Suelo, with a sharp piece of debris in his hand dripping with blood. There are two small, but precise gashes at the back of Suelo's ankles, both of which separate his achilles tendons. Suelo launches himself backwards onto Luther using his hands. He slams his elbow into Luther's skull.

Luther is knocked back into a pile of debris. Ruselt suddenly lashes out and kicks Suelo while he's down. He quickly pulls his gun up, and presses it against Suelo's head, before pulling the trigger. The gun however harmlessly clicks. He quickly slams his knee down on Suelo's throat, and proceeds to repeatedly punch him in the face. Suelo quickly takes the chance of getting Ruselt into a bear hug, and begins to crush him. Ruselt creats a fireball in his hand, and places it on Suelo's abdomen, burning him. Suelo throws Ruselt away, sending him flying into a wall. 

Suelo: I know who you are...! You're that guy... One of the princes of Venland... Ruselt... Visarion...

He looks round to where Luther landed.

Suelo: And that's... Your brother... How about I lay him to rest, just like your father!

Suelo launches himself towards Luther, and activates both of his drills, preparing to kill Luther. Suddenly, there is a flash of light, and Angel-Ion flies past him, his sword outstretched. Blood splatters from Suelo's chest as a large gash opens up, with both his clothing and the surrounding rubble setting ablaze. Suelo flies back and falls unconcious, soon crashing to the ground. Angel-Ion lands and skids on the floor.

Angel-Ion: You got carried away, Drill Man.

Angel-Ion sheathes his sword and walks over to Ruselt, as Lanval and Dirge tend to Luther. Angel-Ion helps Ruselt to his feet.

Luther seems to be in a daze, and he sports a one thousand yard stare. He suddenly snaps out of it and sees Ruselt. He sees a first aid kit in the rubble, and gradually stands up. He grabs the kit and walks, limping slightly, straight towards Ruselt, brushing Angel-Ion aside.

Angel-Ion: Hey!

He opens the kit, and sees some antiseptic. He pours a few drops of the antiseptic onto a cloth, and dabs it on Ruselt's chest wound. 

Luther: Hold this on your chest. I can treat it back at the Tempest.

Ruselt finds it incredibly painful to hold the cloth.

Ruselt: I think my arm is broken!

Luther takes a quick look at his arm.

Luther: It is just a sprain. Keep holding the cloth.

Cartan soldiers arrive, followed by Javert, who has since had some of his wounds from his previous fight patched up.

Javert: Visarions, Excalvur. I'm placing you under arrest!

Dirge: That guy, again... I guess he had it quite rough against Horndahl.

Javert: See to it that Avalo is taken away.

Some soldiers with a stretcher show up and strap Suelo onto it, before taking him away.

Javert: Now then, are you three going to come quietly? That goes for you too, Black Hand, Fenix, Castone.

Mitch: J-Javert?!

Zambini: Damn.

Roxanne: ...

Luther acts quickly, and forms an intense wall of fire in front of Javert and his soldiers. 

Luther pulls Ruselt's other arm around his shoulder, and helps him.

Luther: Let's go.

The soldiers quickly douse the fire, but find that the group have already escaped.

Javert: ... Well don't just stand around! After them!

The soldiers give chase, splitting up in order to box them into a corner.

Angel-Ion: I'm starting to wonder how many times we've been chased now.

Lanval: Never mind that, keep moving!

Zambini: Uhh, guys! They're gaining on us!

Roxanne: What?! Already? We're almost at the bloody harbour!

Dirge: We've got to stall them somehow.

Dirge swipes his staff back, sending debris flying into the oncoming soldiers.

Mitch: I've got an idea.

Angel-Ion: What?

Mitch: I suggest we have somebody lead them away, that way, the rest of us can escape.

Zambini: That's stupid! That means one of us gets arrested!

Roxanne: But who will be the one to make that sacrifice?

Mitch: Me.

Lanval: Now hold on, old-timer, you're saying you're just gonna let them arrest you for us.

Mitch: Yes. And I'm being damned serious about this. It's time I pull my finger out my ass for once.

Mitch slows down.

Zambini: T-There has to be another way!

Roxanne: Old-timer!

Mitch: Go, get out of here, ya damn kids.

Mitch turns and catches the soldiers' attention before running in a different direction. They fall for the bait and follow him. Angel-Ion looks down in respect. Soon, they reach the harbour, where the Traveller's Tempest waits. They all board it and Roxanne releases the anchor. Elsewhere, Mitch has boarded a separate ship, where he is quickly outnumbered, and is soon joined by Javert himself. Soldiers investigate the ship.

Javert: Where are the others?

Soldier: We couldn't find them, sir.

Javert: Tch. Explain yourself, Castone!

Mitch: Looks like you followed the wrong trail, Mr. Javert.

In his anger, Javert kicks Mitch into a wall. Mitch smugly looks back at him.

Javert: You bastard! Arrest him!

Back on the Tempest...

Roxanne: Poor Old-Timer...

Dirge: We should at least respect his wishes. Its for the best.

Luther sits Ruselt down and he pulls off his shirt. Luther pulls the cloth away from Ruselt's wound. 

Luther: Ok... This is going to sting. 

Ruselt: Fantastic.

Luther grabs some forceps and some surgical suture. He begins to stitch Ruselt's wound together, propting him to wince. Zambini stands up.

Angel-Ion: What's with you?

Zambini: There's my ship over there. It's time I head back to the Wizard's Guild in Besmarka.

The Tempest approaches a ship that is purple and black in colour. Zambini jumps across onto his ship, and releases his anchor, before releasing his sails. His ship soon moves forwards. He waves.

Zambini: Thanks for the adventure, guys! It's been fun! I'll tell my folks all about you!

Angel-Ion and Dirge raise their weapons up.

Lanval: See ya, Zambono!

Roxanne: You idiot, its Zambini.

Zambini's ship sails away.

Elsewhere, aboard Javert's ship.

Javert: I was unable to detain the Visarions and their crew, sir.

~ Novalian Minister of Law Enforcement ~ Dellahan Floss (On phone): I see. And you are able to confirm that Suelo Avalo and Mitch Castone have been detained?

Javert: Yes. Avalo's currently getting medical treatment, as he was seriously injured in a fight with the two Visarions and Excalvur.

Floss: What's the damage?

Javert: Several buildings were levelled. Minimal civilian injuries, caused mostly by Avalo.

Floss: I'll see to it that the two Visarions' and Excalvur's bounties are increased. Where are you now?

Javert: I'm currently headed for Kratonia. I still need to make a full recovery from my fight with the Sabarian Viceroy. I'll be sure to check Avalo and Castone in at Kaito.

Floss: I see. Take care.

The call is ended.

Mitch: Kratonia, eh? 

Javert: Quiet. I don't want to here it from a criminal such as yourself.

Matsura Kaizoku the Pirate

Angel-Ion: Now then, where to next?

Roxanne: Hold up... Vulkas. Where is he?

Angel-Ion: Isn't he supposed to be on the ship?

Lanval: Don't tell me we left him behind...

Dirge: You guys might want to check this note out.

Dirge places a note on the table. It speaks of Vulkas' capture and ransom, as well as details on where to go.

Angel-Ion: That idiot! He got himself captured by pirates!

Ruselt and Luther both seem genuinly concerned.

Ruselt: How much are they asking for?

Angel-Ion picks up the note and reads the rest of it.

Angel-Ion: They want me.

Dirge: What could they want with you?

Angel-Ion: I Don't know... I've heard little about this crew... The Galvano Pirates. Captain's a woman called Kaizoku.

Ruselt: Well, we've got to get him back then.

Luther: Pfft, you're not in any condition for another fight. 

Ruselt finishes stitching Ruselt's wound, and places the cloth back on, which he secures with a bandage. 

Roxanne: How do you plan on getting Vulkas back? They want Angel-Ion in his place.

Angel-Ion: I guess we're just gonna have to fight these damn pirates either way.

Ruselt puts his shirt back on. 

Ruselt: Does the note say where they are?

Angel-Ion: South-eastern Sabarian sea.

Dirge: Are you sure?

Angel-Ion: Yeah, why ask?

Dirge: Because the ship's heading south west. I might be Sabarian but I'm good with directions.

Roxanne: So you're a navigator?

Dirge: You could say that.

Dirge takes the wheel and turns the ship around.

Luther sits beside Ruselt.

Luther: I guess I'll address the elephant in the room then.

Ruselt nods.

Luther: You nearly killed someone. 

Ruselt: Look, I didn't realise what I'd almost done until I pulled the trigger. 

Luther: I think at this stage, it wouldn't be unreasonable if we did end up killing someone.

Ruselt: How can you even say that? Especially after what just happened.

Luther: Look around you. We're surrounded by killers. Does it make them bad people? Not necessarily. However it isn't really the fact that you almost killed someone that concerns me. It is the fact you weren't in control. And it isn't the first time this has happened is it?

Ruselt: No. 

Luther: You almost punched that Galahad Arms soldier to death after he attacked me.

Ruselt: So what is your point.

Luther: You're an impulsive person. I don't want you to feel guilt, should you ever go the whole way with it. 

Ruselt: Hmph. 

The voice is suddenly heard again.

Voice: Well, that was awkward.

Luther: (mumbling quietly) Shut up...

Ruselt: Hmm?

Luther: Nothing.

A trio of ships bearing the same flag on them come into view.

Angel-Ion: That must be them.

Meanwhile, on one of the three pirate ships...

~ Captain of the Galvano Pirates ~ Matsura Kaizoku: Here they come. Bring the prisoner!

Vulkas is brought onto the deck. Vulkas just glares at Kaizoku. The Tempest approaches the ships. Two of them move either side of it, with one boarding it. Kaizoku walks on board.

Kaizoku: So... This is your ship?

Roxanne: Mine, yes.

Kaizoku: I assume that makes you captain, yes?

Roxanne: I guess. 

Kaizoku looks at Angel-Ion.

Kaizoku: And I assume you've read the terms of our "trade"?

Angel-Ion: Yes.

Kaizoku: Good. Boys, restrain them. All of them.

Roxanne: Huh?

Pirates swarm on board the ship from both sides and swiftly incapacitate each of the Tempest's crew members. They are taken aboard one of the Galvano Pirate ships, where they are joined by Vulkas. Their weapons are all confiscated.

Angel-Ion: What happened to the deal?! Why are you taking my friends too?!

Kaizoku: I'm a pirate. I don't incline to follow through with "deals". I'm getting paid for not just your head, but the heads of all of your crew as well. The two Princes, the two Novalians, the Runisian and the... Sabarian. I must have been misinformed about you.

Dirge: Don't worry, I'm new.

Dirge looks at Vulkas.

Dirge: I assume you're Vulkas.

Vulkas: You assume correct...

Kaizoku: Now that that's done, I'll just go over a few details with you lot. Your ship will be added to my fleet, and all of your belongings will be sold for profit. As for you yourselves, you will all be executed, one by one, and your heads will be sent to Shen Gikoku. Hope you've had fun with your lives.

Lanval: Eep.

Kaizoku: Let's start with you, first.

Lanval: W-What?!

Two pirates take Lanval to a block of wood. A tall pirate stands above him with a large sword.

~ Galvano Pirates First Mate ~ Koiru Shokka: Don't worry, small man. It'll be quick and painless.

He raises his sword and swings it down.

Lanval: W-Wait!

Shokka stops, inches from Lanval's neck.

Lanval: L-Let me join your crew! I-I want to live! P-Please!

Shokka: What of it, Captain?

Kaizoku: Its only a few gold off of what I'm earning. Let him be. Welcome aboard, "little man". We'll sort the rest of you out later. Take 'em down.

Pirates take their prisoners down to a cell. Angel-Ion's disbelief of Lanval's actions soon changes when Lanval passes him a wink, unseen by everyone else.

Roxanne: Were we really just sold out? By Lanval of all people?!

Dirge: Seems to be so.

Luther: He was faking it.

Ruselt: Seemed pretty convincing to me. 

Vulkas: Well it is nice to see you two again too.

Vulkas seems to glare at Luther for a second.

Vulkas: I am sensing more magical aptitude in you than I did when we last met.

Luther smiles modestly.

Vulkas: So do you think you can set these ropes on fire without burning me?

Luther: I mean, I could try...

Vulkas: Just concentrate.

Luther does so for a few seconds. The ropes binding Vulkas burst into flames for a brief second, and the flames die out, leaving Vulkas unscathed. 

A guard spots this.

Pirate: Hey! HEY!!!

He enters the cell and hits Vulkas over the head with a hidden iron bar, before putting him in the closest set of chains to him. The pirate grabs Luther by the scruff of his neck and lifts him up.

Ruselt: Hey! Let him go!

~ Galvano Pirate ~ Scott Smitty: What tha fuck are ye playing at?!

Luther: I...I...I was j-just... (stuttering heavily)

Scott throws Luther outside the cell and, as he tries to get to his knees, the pirate beats Luther back onto the floor with the bar. Luther tries to get up. He hits him again twice with it before discarding it, kicking him around instead, before grabbing the scruff of his neck again and punching him in the head three times, the third hit, while not breaking it, is enough to cause Luther's nose to bleed. Scott grabs another chain and attaches one side to a rail, and attaches the other side to Luther's ankle.

Ruselt: You cowardly bastard! 

Ruselt's eyes seem bloodshot.

Luther seems dazed, like he was when Suelo elbowed him. The voice returns.

Voice: You seem to be getting the shit kicked out of you a lot lately. 

Luther looks up to see Ruselt screaming at the pirate. He can't seem to hear anything however. Only the voice.

Voice: He's certainly passionate isn't he?

Scott: Shut it, maggot, or... See this pistol? I'll fill you witt it's contents.

Scott walks off.

Ruselt: HEY, GET BACK HE--

Angel-Ion kicks Ruselt.

Angel-Ion: Shh. Don't get too rash. I trust what Lanval's doing up there.

Meanwhile, on the deck.

Kaizoku: You don't seem to look all that. I guess you can be the new chore boy.

Lanval: Uhh... C-Chore boy...?

Kaizoku: Yes. Somebody get him the mop. You can start right now.

A mop is tossed at Lanval.

Ruselt begins to kick at the lock on the cell door with all his strength. 

Roxanne: What's that supposed to do? The door's locked. No way through it, especially with these blasted chains.

Ruselt: Well fucking excuse me for trying.

Luther seems to have recovered somewhat, and he sits up against the rail, his head slightly slumped down.

Ruselt: Luther? Are you ok?

Luther doesn't respond. Pirates come down, including Scott, who unchains him and pulls him to his feet.

Shokka: Its time... Your funeral will begin shortly... Hehe.

Pirate: That sounds dumb.

Shokka: I DON'T CARE. Bring them up.

The prisoners are forced to their feet and taken up to the deck, where they are lined up. Angel-Ion spots Lanval with a mop going around a corner out of view.

Kaizoku: Hmm... Who shall we start with? How about the beaten up one?

Luther is brought to the block of wood, where he is kicked to his knees. Shokka holds his sword over Luther's head.

Ruselt: NO! DON'T YOU FUCKING DARE!

Shokka: Any last words?

Ruselt: LEAVE HIM ALONE!

Scott yanks him back.

Shokka: No? Then I must oblige with you!

He swings down the sword. A mop suddenly flies into Shokka's eye, crushing it. He drops the sword besides Luther, clutching his eye.

Shokka: MY EYE!!!

Kaizoku: ... The devil?

She looks towards where the mop came from, but nobody is there.

Kaizoku: Where's that damn chore boy?!

Suddenly, Angel-Ion's and Ruselt's swords, along with Dirge's staff and the Spartoi sword, drop down before the group. Angel-Ion looks up with a grin on his face. Lanval is standing on the mast behind them.

Angel-Ion: Not too shabby, "Black Hand"!

Angel-Ion scrapes his chains against his sword, breaking them, before taking his sword. He kicks Shokka down the nearby stairs before breaking Luther free.

Ruselt and Vulkas free themselves in the chaos, and Ruselt immediately turns around and punches Scott in the face. He creates a ball of fire around his hand, and proceeds to continuously punch Scott until his knuckles begin bleeding. 

Kaizoku: Don't just stand there, idiots! DO SOMETHING!

The pirates run into action. Angel-Ion suddenly slices at the mast, causing it to fall down onto, the pirates being brought down by its sail. Kaizoku manages to avoid it. She glares at Angel-Ion and draws her sword. Shokka finally recovers and looks around for Lanval. He picks up his sword and prepares to attack Luther, as Angel-Ion runs past behind him to fight Kaizoku. Their swords clash.

Ruselt picks Scott up by his lapels. He slams him against the rail of the airship, breaking it, and suspending him slightly over the edge.

Luther: Rus!

Ruselt looks at Luther, and suddenly regains his composure. He pulls his back over the edge, but keeps a tight grip. Shokka raises his sword above Luther. Dirge kicks him in the side, ending him crashing.

Shokka: ACK! You damn Sabarian!

Dirge assumes a combat pose. Angel-Ion sets his sword on fire and slices at Kaizoku, who blocks it with her electrified sword. Their swords break contact, breaking the floor boards apart. They both fall through. The leftover sparks and flames set the wood on the ship on fire.

Roxanne: Shit.

Ruselt smashes Scott's head against the side of the rail, and throws him back onto the ship.

Ruselt: Let's get off this ship.

Vulkas takes down some pirates, before regrouping with Luther and Ruselt. Lanval and Roxanne usher them over onto the Tempest, but are chased by pirates. One of the other ships comes around to send reinforcements. Suddenly, fire and lightning erupt from the damaged ship, and it splits clean in two. Angel-Ion and Kaizoku jump upwards and land on either side.

Kaizoku: You've got quite some skill there.

Angel-Ion: I could say the same about you. I think you're only the second to counter Jinsoku Shinei without breaking their sword.

Kaizoku: That technique has a name, eh?

Angel-Ion: Yeah. The last guy who survived it was one those Dominion Missionaries, Avaloss, I think it was.

Dirge and Shokka clash their weapons together. Dirge kicks Shokka's leg back and knocks him to the floor with his staff.

Shokka: Damn it!

Dirge points his staff in Shokka's face.

Dirge: Stay down.

Shokka: I WILL NOT!

Shokka tries to get up, but Dirge fires a blast from his staff, exploding in Shokka's face, sending him flying into the sea.

Dirge: I warned you.

Some pirates try to back off from Dirge while also trying not to slip. The two halfs of the ship finally crash into the sea, one hitting the other pirate ship, badly damaging it. Luther concentrates on the damaged ship, and it's sails catch fire, as well as it's superstructure. Angel-Ion and Kaizoku suddenly move onto the damaged ship. They clash swords once again.

Angel-Ion: You should give up, "Lady Lightning"! We both know who's more superior with their sword here!

Kaizoku: Then I guess you won't mind if I let you in on a little secret! Your brother, Lance!

Angel-Ion drops his guard a bit, visibly unnerved.

Kaizoku: Don't you know?! They've found him! And they're planning to execute him in the White City, Baise!!!

Angel-Ion: Gh... Liar!

Angel-Ion forces his sword forwards, launching Kaizoku into and through a wall. She stumbles out, visibly winded. The third ship begins firing cannon balls in their direction. It approaches, allowing Kaizoku to rocket herself towards it. Angel-Ion retires to the Tempest, as the damaged ship breaks apart. Angel-Ion rashly takes the helm, and the Tempest moves away. The remaining pirate ship approaches the rubble, with some of the pirates on board diving down to reclaim the survivors, including Shokka and Scott.

~ Galvano Pirate ~ Delphys Onyx: A-Are you ok, Captain?

Kaizoku: *Cough* I'm... I'm fine.

Delphys: I-I'll patch up those injuries for you! Somebody get medical attention on Shokka!

Delphys begins tending to a gash on Kaizoku's arm. She winces at the pain.

Delphys: This will sting a bit.

Kaizoku: I swear, even for being your father's daughter, you're rather protective of my crew.

Delphys: Well of course, we're married, aren't we?

Kaizoku: I guess that makes it reasonable.

Kaizoku stands, she wraps her arm around Delphys' waist.

Kaizoku: Buckle up, boys, we're getting paid! We might not getting the full package, but we're at least getting something for today!

The pirates cheer.

Over on the Tempest, Roxanne tries to pry Angel-Ion from the wheel.

Roxanne: Hey! Let... Go! I'm the captain of this ship!

Angel-Ion: GET OFF ME!!

Angel-Ion shoves Roxanne off of him.

Dirge: You're being rash! Stop this! Just tell us what's wrong!

Angel-Ion: What do you know?! You don't know anything about me!

Dirge hits Angel-Ion across the head with his staff, knocking him down to the floor. He pins him down with his staff.

Dirge: ENOUGH OF THIS!

Angel-Ion struggles, but finally relents.

Dirge: Just tell us what's wrong!

Angel-Ion: That bastard pirate... She said they had my brother up for execution!

Dirge: Then why keep that from us? You want to save him, don't you?

Angel-Ion: Huh?

Dirge: Let us help. All of us.

Lanval: Yeah!

Roxanne cracks her knuckles.

Dirge: Oh, by the way, you're going the wrong way. You're heading south when you should be heading east.

Dirge takes the wheel.

Chess of the Illegal Variety

April 24th, 1215 AC. Night. Tonenberg docks.

Inara Winters waits in a simple café overlooking the docks. There is an empty seat in front of her. 

A large ship marked "GALAHAD ARMS" shows up. Crowned stands on its figurehead, looking down. He carries a small white box. He spots Inara and jumps down. He walks over to her and sits down.

Crowned: (In Venlish) Evening, Miss Winters. Or would you prefer I speak in your native tongue?

Inara: (In Venlish) Please, speak Venlish. Your accent is atrocious.

Inara gestures to one of the waitresses, who quickly brings a cup of coffee. Crowned places his box on the table in front of him.

Crowned: Pardon the flashy entrance.

Inara: There's no need. It's about time there was someone with a bit more style. 

Crowned opens the box. Inside is nothing but noodles. He pulls out some chopsticks.

Crowned: Do you mind? I haven't eaten squat all day.

Inara: Not at all.

Crowned picks up some of the noodles with his chopsticks. He puts it against the holes in his helmet, and sucks them through, making a somewhat offputting slurping sound.

Crowned: So... Seeing as we're here. Where to start?

Inara: You called the meeting, you feel free to start it. 

Crowned: Ok then. Lets first go over the fact that, by this point, you already know my real name. How I know this was simple thanks to one of my allies. I thought I was being very explicit with the old man about giving my identity away.

Inara: He wasn't hard to crack.

Inara gestures to a waitress near a record player. The waitress turns it on, and Habanera plays.

Inara: Ooh, this is my favourite piece. 

Crowned: Its quite catchy. Now then, seeing how my father's obviously like an egg, and his subordinate is more or less a pawn, I'd like to know exactly what you did to the latter.

Inara: Would you believe me if I were to tell you he conveniently choked on an olive right after I told him to stop breathing?

Crowned: So you're not even going to deny that him stopping breathing actually happened?

Inara: Why would I?

Fine by me. I'm going to assume it as some kind as hypnosis.

Inara: (sarcastically) Whoops, busted!

Next, I want to know whether or not you're actually going to keep quiet about the whole "me leading the Galahad Arms" dealio.

He slurps up more noodles into his mask.

Inara giggles.

Inara: I am more curious as to why you want to keep your identity secret.

Crowned: I've already planned on when I'm taking this thing off. If I take if off in public now, I will never be able to achieve my grand scheme. As for the old man, he wants my identity secret to save his own hide so his government doesn't go kaput.

Inara: If you can make his government go "kaput" so easily, why haven't you already. It isn't like Mister Retaliak would oppose you, despite what has been said at the summits. 

Crowned: I plan to take over an intact government, not a collapsed one.

Inara smiles, it is clear she is holding back laughter.

Inara: Assuming I was planning to reveal your identity. What would be your move?

Crowned: Would you like to receive special parcels daily?

Inara: I never did mind presents. 

Inara stands up, places her hands on the rails and looks over the docks. She turns back.

Inara: You know, you have got a lot of gall to threaten me while you're on the wrong end of the stick. 

She paces around the table.

Inara: If you really cared about your identity being secret, you'd be begging for me to keep quiet. 

Crowned: ... I wouldn't call it a threat, I call it a promise. And I don't like carrying out those kinds of promises. And I wouldn't say I'm at the wrong end of the stick, either. I know of your connections to another underworld organisation. Can't tell which yet, but we've found some of your hired guys sniffing around where they shouldn't. As for what's happened to them, they're lying at the bottom of the ocean. I have a habit of flinging the unwanted there in metal coffins.

Inara: You know, that might have scared me... If I had a clue what you were talking about. 

Inara giggles and returns to her seat.

Inara: You don't know anything for sure. I, however, do.

Crowned: I don't really care if you're in league with them or if you're just barely connected. Although, I know for a fact that the latter is true... Which brings me to the deal I want to broker with you. 

Inara: I'm interested. 

Crowned: In exchange for the "gift" I have on board my ship, you will keep what you know from the public eye, and I get an invitation to the next summit from you.

Inara: Well, in order to get a place at the next summit, you need invitations from at least two leaders. I suppose either Gikoku or Retaliak could be persuaded to send you an invitation. What is this gift?

Crowned: I find that rather odd. Your last summit had a Mr. Sanjay Kibba and a Mr. Shiro Magala in attendance instead of their leaders, and neither are ranked like anyone such as your General or the Sabarian Viceroy. As for the gift...

Crowned snaps his fingers. Several Arms officers use crowbars to open up a rather large crate, revealing a large golden dragon statue of sorts.

Crowned: My officers managed to pilfer this from a Kratonian ship that was on its way to Sabaria. It was in recent possession of a pirate fleet under the command of Ryloth Onyx. From what I've heard, it's known as the "Ryuoh Cannon". All it needs is a large enough battery to fire. Observe.

A regular Novalian ship shows up, all of its crew are tied up. The cannon turns to aim at it. A large cylindral object is placed in an opening slot. The energy from the battery are drained quickly, and the mouth of the dragon fires an intense blue wave at the ship, blowing it up.

Crowned: All that over one large battery. I'm not sure how it was made, but it exists, so I'm not interested in that crap, and I don't exactly need it either.

Inara: You've made me feel so guilty. I'm afraid I didn't get you anything. Would it be rude of me if I were to request something else from you?

Crowned: Like what?

Inara: I want you to make the next summit... Interesting. Take that as you will.

Crowned: That is my intent.

Inara: Then we have nothing more to discuss. 

It begins snowing. Inara puts on a fur coat. 

Inara: See you at the next summit. 

Crowned sits there and continues eating his noodles.

Inara gets up, pays the bill and leaves.

Strained Relations

April 26th, 1215 AC. Ironhall Capital Building, Canorica. Midday.

Joshua Andrews waits in a large room at the head of a table with seven other main chairs dotted around it. Najam Desrold and a cloaked man arrive.

~ Lord-Master of Besmarka ~ Levi Bystrom: Greetings, gentlemen.

Najam: Afternoon.

Three others show up, amongst them is Brocade.

Brocade: Why am I not surprised? Lord Quadroceptus is late again.

~ Mansa of Northern Anathar ~ Rai Singh: Eh, I don't think I'll ever get it. He's always doing this.

Several drinks are served. Andrews just repeatedly taps his pen on the desk, somewhat impatiently. Deciduous suddenly rushes in. He takes his seat. He already seems to be nervous.

Levi: Took you long enough.

Deciduous: I-I got caught up. Sorry.

Andrews: Just as a starting note, I have been able to persuade Congress to delay their order against the new Tythanian Government. This however, is only temporary. They will, no doubt, still be debating the issue now. 

Singh: It feels somewhat, you would say, different, without Ketrov here, no?

Brocade: Agreed. His absence and his government's withdrawal from the A.N has already taken its toll on the rest of us.

Andrews: Fortunately, Ketrov's trial is still being organised, so should there be any opportunity to save him, then there is still time to do so.

Levi: But on what charge is he on trial for? Surely they can't keep that kind of information from us.

Andrews: Well, most likely war crimes, as well as neglect. It is really nothing more than a show trial. 

Brocade: So its nothing but a farce. How strong is the case supporting him?

Andrews: Not very. His defence will be state-employed as privatisation of law firms is now illegal in Tythan.

Brocade: That damn Wolf.

Singh: Are there any options left for our friend?

Andrews: It could be possible to reason with Vladimir Wolf, but I think at this stage, it is too late. Military action is also out of the question. 

Najam: That's a shame...

~ Pope of Ancora ~ Gowa Mantilles: So what you're saying is that we have no choice but to watch Ketrov be sent to his death?

Andrews: Well it is either allow Ketrov to die, or to try and save him, no doubt costing even more lives in the process. 

Najam: Urgh... I wish there was more we could do!

Andrews: What is more concerning is that we should have seen it coming. Ketrov spent money on a war that the country couldn't afford, and as a result, the most heavily affected of the country rose up. 

There is a silence in the room.

Andrews: Does anyone else have any issue they would like to bring up?

Singh: I'd like to bring up my country's current problem with our south-eastern enemies. They are getting sourced by unknown persons and I feel as though my protections to my people are not enough.

Andrews: Currently, any Heliosian Allied Nation won't be able to assist you in Somnus. With tensions already at a boiling point, we can't exactly divert our attention. Have you considered contacting Hanaskovia, or even Taurania?

Singh: No...

Najam: Hold on... You said someone's supplying them. By any chance, do you have any leads as to who?

Singh: I'm afraid not.

Andrews: I would advise asking the Hanaskovian government. Hanaskovia might not be in the AN, but they're a democratic country nonetheless. 

Levi: And you haven't even tried asking us yet?

Singh: We sent an envoy out to you, but it never came back to us. We fear they may have disappeared.

Levi: That's odd. Are you sure they knew where they were going?

Singh: Positive. They were headed for Besmarka when I last heard communications from them.

Andrews: ... Anyone else?

Brocade: I hope you can recall what I said at the last summit. The pirate issue is not just Kratonia's issue, or Helios' on its own for that matter. Ryloth Onyx's pirate empire has simply grown too large. Premier Cercyon is a fool to think Kratonia can deal with it.

Najam: I'm afraid Carta can't assist you in that. We've got far too much issues to deal with already. And my friend Singh here has his plate full with Pharaoh Malik's army.

Mantilles: My country's army is simply too small to engage these pirates of yours.

Andrews: If you have heeded Cercyon's advice, and doubled the size of your navy by June, then the pirate fleet shouldn't be an issue. If the problem does get out of hand however, there is an alternate option. After Curtis' invasion of Venland, all Venlish military ships had been seized. One in particular is brand new, and schematics we discovered showed it was an updated form of the dreadnought. It is called the VMAS Headway. Quite frankly, we haven't seen anything quite like it before. 

Brocade: Compared to the cannon we recently confiscated from one of the crews under Ryloth? Oh wait. That's right. It got pinched off of us by a certain Galahad Arms.

Brocade looks at Deciduous with an annoyed face.

Levi: You seriously haven't dealt with them yet? Four months later and they're still active? Have you been sitting on your hands, Lord Quadroceptus?!

Deciduous freezes up.

Andrews: The Galahad situation is more difficult than it may outwardly appear. 

Brocade: How are you so sure about that?! Do you know something that we don't, Andrews?!

Najam, Levi and Mantilles seem to be in agreement.

Andrews: I'll only tell you what you need know. Deciduous is under duress. He has been since the Galahad Arms first appeared. 

Brocade stands.

Brocade: If you know that much why don't you help him out?! The Arms have just acquired a powerful weapon capable of tearing down large battleships in an instant, one that we took from the Simurgh Pirates' fleet!

Deciduous: I-If that's true, then you didn't do a good job in defending it.

Brocade: Don't give me that rubbish, Quadroceptus! Our fleet that captured the Ryuoh Cannon was already weakened during the conflict with Yvel Shaw's fleet, and even then, the Arms snuck on board the ship carrying it! Your incompetence has given the Arms a dangerous weapon! Stop being such an idiot and SORT IT OUT!

Brocade slams both of his fists on the table.

Andrews: If he does that he dies. 

Levi: ... What's that supposed to mean?

Andrews: As I said, he is under duress. But I suspect he isn't the only one.

Brocade: There has to be a reason why.

Andrews: If he makes a move, the Galahad Arms kill him. Simple as that. 

Andrews rubs his eyes.

Andrews: I think the Arms' reach is much further than we had previously thought. When meeting attending congress yesterday to vote on whether or not to delay the Tythanian invasion, I decided to take precautions. I spoke with each congressman... All 300 of them. Just me and them. There was no one else in the room.  Many of them seemed nervous. They all seemed to hint that they too were under some kind of duress. I then told them that their votes would be kept confidential, so any outside party wouldn't be aware, and the vote tipped in my favour. I believe that another organisation, perhaps even the Galahad Arms, has hijacked the congress against me. 

Levi: And such is the power of the underworld. Ever mysterious, and ever so secretive. The issue there is that the Galahad Arms is one more publically known, save for the identities of its leaders. I'm not going to delve too much into it, but I suspect some of the governments outside the A.N may potentially bear some connections. Even the likes of Pharaoh Malik, Overlord Gikoku, Battle King Garuda or Chancellor Winters are suspectible.

Andrews: My only advice is to only entrust close friends and colleagues with potentially sensitive information. 

Najam: Now I'd like to bring up what occurred at the summit before last. I still want answers, and Sanjay didn't do much to clarify so much as to what happened, because some idiot, namely Phillotus Cercyon, decided to destroy the evidence.

Andrews: Cercyon may masquerade as a visionary leader, but he is a simple politician at heart. If he did, in fact, destroy the evidence, I'd imagine he would have a good reason for doing so. 

Najam: He still destroyed it nonetheless. It just now means that somebody wants me dead, and we can no longer find out who.

Andrews: Have there been any more attempts on your life? 

Najam: None, as of yet, and I know for a fact that its not Argus this time.

Andrews: Sanjay said that those responsible were likely trying to get into the Archives. What is there in the Archives that would interest them?

Najam: I know less than Sanjay about the extent of the Archives' content, but it has over a thousand year's worth of records, plans, weapons, contraptions, documents, both miscellaneous and important, books, and all sorts of random bits and bobs stored within. If I somehow ended up dead, the Archives would seem relatively... "Unguarded".

Levi: What do you mean?

Najam: Sanjay might be my main advisor, but he has sworn to protect the Archives with his life.

Andrews: I suggest you see what is in your own Archives. We might be able to determine what they're after. 

Najam: Not even I'm allowed to look around in there.

Levi: I think he means that the Archives as a whole is the intended target, Mr. Andrews.

Najam: That, yes.

Andrews: You're not allowed into an area within your own nation? You're the Sultan...

Najam: I might be the Sultan, but I have no control over the Archives. That falls down to the Curator of the Archives, Sanjay. And even then, he's not allowed to scrub through the Archives, either. It has always been a rule since Shantar Mott oversaw its building all those years ago; the confidentiality and privacy of the contents of the Archives are at the discretion of their owners.

Andrews: Surely you have a rough idea of what might interest various underworld organisations. 

Najam: It wouldn't just be underground organisations; world leaders have an interest in what lies beneath too. And it doesn't just dumb down to just collections of books and random tools. Brocade here was going to have the confiscated Ryuoh Cannon taken here for safekeeping before the Arms made off with it. There are things down there that are potentially worse, and there are documents down there nobody wants to get out.

Andrews is clearly impatient with Najam.

Andrews: Well fret not gentlemen. This meeting has told me a few things about the condition of this alliance. None of you are capable. 

Najam: Just because you don't agree with the Archives' standards?

Levi: What right do you have to say that about us? We've got more experience as leaders than what you have. Know where you stand, Andrews, you're still wet around the ears.

Andrews slams his fist on the desk. 

Andrews: I've ascended to a presidency to clear away the mess left by John Curtis. A mess by the way, that none of you attempted to avert. When John Curtis suggested the invasion of Venland, did you man up and tell him to stop Sultan? Did you oppose his decision, Lord-Master? Not a single one of you opposed him. Hell, Deciduous joined him. You may have more experience, but that doesn't say much, considering none of you are willing to stand strong against our enemies. You could double the size of the Kratonian navy within a month, and outnumber Ryloth 5 to 1. What is stopping you, Fleet Admiral? Deciduous, I am aware that your situation is difficult, but have some fucking courage! Put your life on the line! You're defending democracy here! The very worst thing that any of you can do in this situation, is nothing. So do SOMETHING!

Najam: Last time I checked, Venland don't keep coming back time and time again, compared to Argus' legions of scum.

Andrews: Then fight back! Don't just stay on the defensive!

Najam: Maybe I would if Carta wasn't such a needle in a haystack with its small army!

Levi: Its not my legislation to look after Canorica when its leader decides to start an illegal war with its neighbour.

Andrews: No, but it is your moral duty to oppose such madness!

Brocade: Outnumbering Ryloth isn't the problem. He manages to find connections and exploits the damn things. Then there's the individual crews supporting the bastard and his pirate regime!

Andrews: No excuses! Take some initiative!

Andrews breathes in.

Andrews: These are difficult times. I acknowledge this. But none of us are doing enough.

Brocade: And what, exactly, might you be doing, Andrews?! Standing around as the world goes up the shoot? The other Heliosian countries have started making alliances with one another, and I have no damned clue about the Somnusian ones, plus the fact that those in the unknown regions of this world, plus that of the underworld, seem to be banding together! While this means our enemies are depleting in number, it does nothing that concerns their size! This includes Ryloth just as much as the other tyrants running rampant in this world!

Andrews: You're right. Our enemies are banding together. And it shows. The commies under Cercyon. The fascists under Retaliak. The pirates under Ryloth. They're all strong, they're all dangerous, and they're all working together! Brocade asks what exactly I might be doing. I'll tell you exactly what I am going to be doing. I am going to ensure that all of our enemies are beaten back on all fronts. Canorica will support each and every single one of you, but if we are going to be nearly as efficient as the other alliances, then we need to co-operate!

Levi: For that to happen, we have to first consider filling the empty seat Wolf has left us with.

Mansa: But who would we be replacing them with?

Najam: The only country I can currently consider is Asteria. Shanzhu, maybe.

Levi: You should perhaps try to consider Hanaskovia or Taurania as well, even if they are a bit authorative...

Andrews: I would be willing to meet with both leaders. I'll do what I can to try and fill the void. I'll leave Kerraslav to Brocade, and Shanzhu... Well, I guess that is up to one of you. 

Andrews gestures towards the Somnusian leaders.

Levi: I'll do that.  

Andrews: I also think it is time that we elected a president for this council. All the other alliances have leading figures who can act as guides. It is high time the Allied Nations had an official leader too. 

Brocade: Last time I checked, the alliance between Retaliak, Gikoku and Winters has no difinitive leader either. 

Andrews: By technicality, no. In practice, yes. 

Brocade: Nethertheless I'd say that that is a smart idea.

Levi: I second that.

Andrews: Who's running?

Singh: We should call on vote, no?

Levi: Personally I would say call upon the public to elect a leader.

Andrews: A public election would cause a number of problems. The people would vote for their own leader, and ultimately that would mean that the countries with the smallest populous would lose out. The vote should be done here, between us. 

Brocade: In that case, I would recommend we should hold back the decision, and the vote on the table, for our next meeting. This gives us enough time to prepare for the event that one of us ends up elected. An immediate election would be somewhat disastrous.

Andrews: So we're stalling it? It is because of this attitude that we are in the sorry state that we're in. You can take care of these things after the election. 

Levi: You're only saying that so you can manipulate and rank yourself up to "Commander in Chief". I've researched your country's history, Fleet Admiral, I know exactly what that is.

Brocade: Well played, Brystrom. In that case, I'll opt out.

Singh and Mantilles nod.

Levi: So that leaves me, Andrews, Quadroceptus and Des--

Najam: I'm opting out too. I've got too much on my plate to begin with.

Andrews looks towards an assistant.

Andrews: Bring in the ballot box, and try to find an independent vote counter. 

Andrews gives the assistant a piece of paper with the names of everyone who is running. 

She returns 10 minutes later, wheeling in a ballot box. She is accompanied by a vote counter. She hands out several freshly printed ballot papers to all of the leaders. It has four options. Andrews, Levi, Deciduous or Abstain.

Andrews: Typical rules apply. Don't spoil the ballot paper, pick one of the four options, and you can't pick yourself.

Andrews ticks the abstain box. 

The leaders write their results down. They put their votes in the ballot box. When they are finished, the vote counter takes out the ballot papers and counts them in a separate room. He comes back in with a sheet of paper with the vote allocation written down on it. 

Vote Counter: Lord Deciduous, no votes. 

Deciduous slumps back in his seat.

Vote Counter: There were two votes to abstain. Three votes for Andrews, and two votes for Levi.

Levi: Fair enough.

Levi stands and reaches over the table to shake Andrews' hand.

Andrews: Thank you everyone. 

Andrews begins collecting his papers.

Andrews: I implore you all to stay strong. We can make this alliance work, and we can make it work more effectively. 

The others begin gathering their things. Brocade intentionally shoves Deciduous out of his way on his way out. Levi soon catches up to him.

Levi: About the Ryloth issu--

Brocade: I know what was said. I don't need your sympathy.

Levi: I was going to say that Besmarka will lend their support.

Brocade: ... What?

Levi: I'll see to it that our best fleets are dispatched to aid Kratonia in their effort against the "Pirate King".

Brocade: ... Thanks.

Levi: Not a problem. Fancy a drink?

Brocade: Eh... Why not?

They continue walking.

A Trail of Snow

April 28th, 1215 AC. Cymbal Territories, Near Baise, Kyloto. Afternoon.

Lanval: AUGH! Are we there yet?! Its so damn cold, and we've been walking for hours now!

Angel-Ion: Quit complaining and man up a bit.

Dirge: I concur somewhat. You had us dock so far north yet we are so far south.

Roxanne: W-We did?

Dirge: Yes.

Angel-Ion: There's nothing wrong with that, is there?

Roxanne: Damn, you have one poor sense of direction. Its a good thing Dirge is here, and is leading us the-- Wait... How long exactly did you know that we docked so far behind?

Dirge: Since we docked. Nobody was questioning it so I didn't bring it up.

Roxanne puts her hand over her face in sheer disbelief.

Dirge: There's nothing wrong with that, is there?

Roxanne looks at Dirge and then to Angel-Ion, then back to Dirge. They both look at each other in confusion.

Both: What?

Roxanne: You... I... Nothing. Just keep going.

Ruselt: Uh... My chest hurts...

Luther: Considering there is a hole in it, that is to be expected.

Ruselt: Don't be sarky.

Luther: I brought the first aid kit. If something happens to it, we have enough resources to fix it. 

Lanval sneezes loudly.

Lanval: I think I'm getting a cold.

Angel-Ion gathers some snow and throws it at his head.

Lanval: Hey!

Lanval makes a snowball and returns fire. Angel-Ion ducks, and it hits Dirge in the face.

Dirge: What gives?

Angel-Ion: I guess you don't know what a snowball fight is then. I wouldn't blame you being in a desert for so long.

Dirge: Lets see here...

Dirge gathers snow into a ball and throws it to Ruselt, rather than at him.

Dirge: Like that?

Ruselt catches it.

Ruselt: No. Like this.

Ruselt throws the snowball at Angel-Ion. 

Dirge: Oh, I see.

He creates another and throws it at Roxanne.

Roxanne: Cut that out! Ugh... I'm surrounded by idiotic men...

Angel-Ion begins juggling snowballs.

Ruselt throws one towards Luther who quickly dodges and throws one back. Lanval throws one at Vulkas. Vulkas seems unphased and just continues walking. There is a sudden clang sound. Angel-Ion springs in front of Roxanne with his sword drawn, dropping the snowballs.

Roxanne: What was that?

Angel-Ion: Trouble.

Angel-Ion sneaks over to a nearby snow hill and peeks at the other side. There is a small lookout tower with nine Kyloteans, two of which are on the tower holding crossbows, three are sitting around a fire eating lunch, one is hitting their blade against a rock in an attempts to sharpen it, the other three are walking around the grounds with their weapons at hand, although one seems to be dozing off. There are a few crates near the fire. Angel-Ion ducks when one of the patrollers looks his way.

Roxanne: What is it?

Angel-Ion: An outpost. That must mean Baise isn't far.

Roxanne: ... What makes you say that?

Angel-Ion: There's a lot of outposts dotted around Kylotean cities. Some others are in place to protect other stuff.

Roxanne: What makes you think this isn't one of those protection outposts?

Angel-Ion: The security's too lax. Only four of the guards are actually on duty. Three are eating, one's asleep and one... Appears to be trying to break a rock with a blunt sword.

Ruselt: So what is the plan?

Angel-Ion: The best approach is to take down the two in the tower first. Then we go for the ones standing up, and then the rest are just easy pickings.

Vulkas makes a hand gesture.  A huge gust of air flows at high speed towards the tower guards, throwing both of them over the edge, breaking their necks. One of the guards patrolling looks around with his crossbow, but gets stabbed in the neck with a throwing knife from Lanval. Angel-Ion, Roxanne and Dirge jump over the hill and charge towards the three unprepared guards around the fire, with each of them taking one out. Dirge blasts one of the guards in the chest while Angel-Ion literally disarms the other before finishing them off with a slash to the chest. The one with the blunt sword tries charging Roxanne with his sword, but she kicks it, twisting it in his hand, before landing a punch that shatters the sword, which also scores the guard across the face. She uppercuts the top of his neck, knocking him out. A guard appears holding firewood. He notices the situation before dropping his gathered wood and running.

Angel-Ion: Someone stop him!

A defence barrier appears in front of him and he runs into it, knocking him back. Vulkas proceeds to knock him out while he is down. Lanval drags the guard back and ties them both together, binding their waists and arms.

Angel-Ion: Lets see what we have here...

Angel-Ion opens one of the crates, which is filled with fish. One of the others is filled with three crossbows and lots of ammunition. Lanval spots a crate with a different emblem on it. He opens it, finding some weapons not typically found in Kyloto.

Lanval: Umm...  Do you know a certain "Weapons Shipping Magnate", Angel-Ion?

Angel-Ion: No, why?

Lanval: This box seems to be a delivery of some kind.

He spots three similar crates.

Lanval: There's four here. I guess this was just a drop-off point.

Angel-Ion: That's weird.

Angel-Ion assesses the contents of the opened crate.

Angel-Ion: These... Aren't your typical Kylotean weapons...

Roxanne puts some snow in a bucket and holds it over the fire. She then throws the resulting water on the guards, waking them up.

Guard 1: Wh... Where am I?!

Guard 2: Get me outta these ropes!

Dirge points his staff in one of their faces.

Dirge: We've got some questions for you.

Guard 1: Whadya gonna do, Sabarian? Poke us to death? Heheheh.

Dirge turns and blasts a pile of snow away with his staff.

Dirge: I would reconsider, unless you want your head doing that next.

Guard 2: A-Alright! We'll talk!

Guard 1: What?!

Dirge: Good. Angel-Ion?

Angel-Ion walks over.

Angel-Ion: For a start, you can tell me where those crates came from?

Guard 2: T-They were delivered here by an outside organisation calling themselves the Weapons Shipping Magnate... W-We took them so the soldiers at Baise can pick them up... We didn't use them, I swear! Please don't kill me!

Angel-Ion: Whatever. Second question, what do you know about Lance Excalvur?

Guard 1: Oh, so you're Angel-Ion? You're in for a grand old treat! I've heard they've got him captive in Baise, waiting to be executed personally by the Overlord himself! I wouldn't bother planning to save him, because, at this point, you're already too late! Hahaha! Just think of it, watching your younger brother's head fall knowing you were too late! Hurry up and kill the bastard, Lord Shen! Oh, and the best thing, I've heard that they plan on killing him with his own sword! What tragic iro--

Angel-Ion impales the guard in anger, killing both in the process. He realises that what he just did was rash and clenches his fist, before sheathing his sword.

Lanval: Uhh... What should we do with the cra--

Angel-Ion: Push them off of that cliffside over there.

Angel-Ion puts out the fire and walks off.

Lanval: What's his problem?

Dirge: I'll go after him, so he doesn't get himself lost.

Dirge runs off. Lanval begins pushing one of the crates towards the cliff.

Lanval: Ack! This is heavy!

Roxanne: What'd you expect. Its full of weapons.

Roxanne powers up a punch and strikes one of the crates, sending it flying towards the cliff. Luther and Ruselt both assist in disposing of the weapons. Soon, the crates are pushed off, and plummet into the sea. Lanval begins looting the corpses for better gear. He picks up a hunting knife dropped by one of the guards, and begins eating the half-eaten food they were unable to eat.

Roxanne: That's been around somebody else's mouth.

Lanval: Its still food.

Lanval gets up and pushes a corpse's head with his foot.

Lanval: Want some? No? See.

Ruselt hands a dagger he took from a crate to Luther.

Ruselt: You might as well arm yourself properly. 

Lanval is seen restocking throwing knives which he took out of the crate he pushed earlier. He finishes repacking some things before putting some of his discarded clothes on the corpses.

Roxanne: What are you doing?

Lanval: Those crates were supposed to be picked up by somebody. Whoever that is is bound to come here, and he or she is gonna find a bunch of dead bodies if we don't properly dispose of them.

Roxanne: Then what do we do?

Lanval: Either bury them or throw them in the sea with the crates.

Ruselt and Luther both drag bodies away, albeit with a look of complaint on their faces. Lanval drags the guards that were tied together to the cliffside. He then kicks one, causing both to fall in the sea. Soon, all of the bodies are dumped in the sea.

Roxanne: We should try to catch up to the others. They've probably already covered a few miles now.

Dirge: We're right here.

Dirge and Angel-Ion walk over.

Dirge: This one almost got lost again.

Angel-Ion: Hey!

Roxanne: Calmed down now?

Angel-Ion: ... Yeah. Sorry.

Roxanne: Good, lets get going.

A Diplomatic Arrangement

April 28th, 1215 AC. Kerraslav's State House, Asteria. Afternoon.

Fleet Admiral Brocade is guided through the complex that is Kerraslav's house, having been converted to the new capital building after the destruction of the Asterian parliament. 

Two guards open a set of double doors, revealing an office, in which Kerraslav is sitting at a desk. An austere looking Asterian man in a sharp suit is standing beside him. 

Kerraslav invites Brocade to sit at a chair opposite. He sits.

Brocade: I assume you've been informed on why I am here.

Kerraslav: You want to try and coerce Asteria into the Allied Nations. 

Brocade: Yes. We are now missing a seat amongst our council thanks to Tythan's departure from the Allied Nations, and we would like to one again try to bring Asteria into our welcome arms, especially since my country and yours are neighbours.

Kerraslav looks to the assistant in the room before looking back to Brocade.

Kerraslav: Declined. Anything else?

Brocade: (Typical...) May I ask why?

Kerraslav: The AN can't offer Asteria anything it doesn't already have. The AN can only bring a failing currency, and will only load it's burden onto Asteria. 

Brocade: We can help you with your Kylotean problem, and can provide you with very great trade deals and protection.

Kerraslav: I have spent years trying to make Asteria self-reliant. Asteria grows it's own food, makes its own steel, and makes enough profit to sustain itself. We do not need to tie ourselves to the failing economy of the AN. As for defence, we have taken the necessary precautions. 

Brocade: Yet that doesn't cover your recent losses. You've been hit by attacks from what is known to be Kylotean individuals.

Kerraslav: We have suffered two attacks. Only one of which can be attributed to the Dominion. The other, this "Anonymous" was a separate attack altogether. If all you have come here to do is to try and persuade me to put Asteria forward for AN membership, then I'm afraid you have wasted your time. 

Kerrslav takes a sip from his flask and he looks down regretfully.

Kerraslav: I am fully aware that Asteria's independence from the AN could be playing into Kyloto's hands, especially since they were behind the attack on the envoy, but I stand by my firm belief that Asteria does not want, nor need the AN. 

Brocade: I understand. Thanks for your time.

Brocade stands and leaves. Kerraslav sighs and retreats into his private quarters.

The Kylotean Threefold

April 28th, 1215 AC. Grand Tower of Negura, Kyloto. Night.

Shen sits on his throne, with Oran, Shiro and Roed as his audience, in addition to a few servants. Hardforth walks in, followed by a covered up cage on wheels.

Oran: What do we have here?

Hardforth: I present a new beast for the Dominion's great armies... Though... I say "new"...

???: Hrrrkh... Release me from this blasted cage!

Oran: ...?

Hardforth: We've replaced a majority of his body parts with those of different beasts and creatures. He doesn't look the same as he used to, especieally with his "new" face.

The cloth is pulled over, revealing a Kylotean with several patches of replaced, tough skin. His mouth and nose replaced with the muzzle of a lion, and engorged muscles. His hair reaches down to his hips, and two of his horns have been swapped with larger curved ones. His ankles are both chained to the cage.

Oran: Avaloss Voldin, the Missionary. So he survived...

Hardforth: His skin and mucles were replaced with contents belonging to animals. As for organs, I have replaced them with various parts from the other Kylotean clans. His eyes, in particular, were taken from a Denatsu and an Orochi. We've also given him Besmarkan legs, if that pleases you.

Shiro: You sicken me, Veerlan. You can't just perform mix and match surgery and expect to get awa--

Shen: Its fine. I want to see if Voldin's managed to "improve" himself since my last encounter.

Hardforth: I trust you won't be blindly shooting him with fire bullets this time.

Two guards unlock the cage and unchain Avaloss ankles. He promptly grabs one and quickly snaps his spine and crushes his ribs, before ripping out his throat. He throws the guard down outside the cage, the impact cracking the floor while also causing a bit of a mess.

Avaloss looks at the other guard, who runs out of the cage and shuts it in fear, before fumbling at his keys trying to lock it. Avaloss throws his arms against the bars, breaking the cage door and launching it back on the guard. He jumps out onto the door, crushing the guard, before picking the door up and throwing it at the cage itself, causing it to move back towards the other guards.

Avaloss: Sword!

A guard throws Avaloss' sword, which has been recently improved, to him. He catches it and kneels before Shen.

Avaloss: Master... I await your orders.

Shen: I'm impressed. I want you to head for Baise. You will be given further orders there once you arrive.

Avaloss: Yes, my lord.

Avaloss walks past Hardforth, giving him a seething look of malice.

Outside the Grand Palace Dungeons.

A collection of rocks blast away, and a single figure jumps out.

Tanzar-Ion: Its about damn time...

He looks around, before reaching down into the hole he made. He lifts another Kylotean, Rika, from the hole.

Rika: Are you sure he'll take me in?

Tanzar-Ion: He may currently be with the Dominion, but I can at least trust him. Shokuji'll guarantee your protection for sure.

Rika: What will you be doing?

Tanzar-Ion: Finding our children.

Guard: Hey!

Tanzar-Ion: Run! I'll take care of this guy, he's small fry!

Rika: But... Your arm!

Tanzar-Ion: Don't worry about me, get out of here!

Rika runs. Tanzar-Ion rushes the guard and quickly backdrops him, snapping his neck. He throws the body down the hole, which he covers over. He sees Rika running away, and runs in a different direction.

Tanzar-Ion: Angel-Ion... Lance... Setsuna... My sword, Hokori... I'm coming for you!

Shokuji Residence.

Four people sit around a table. Amongst them is Kitsuke Shokuji.

~ Second Son of Ryu ~ Rakun Shokuji: Are you sure this is a wise idea, brother?

Kitsuke: Of course not. I would consider it suicidal.

Rakun: But--

Kitsuke: Keep it down, or you'll alert the Oathkeeper.

Rakun: Sorry...

~ Shokuji Retainer ~ Hoippu Katto: I don't mean to interject, but if one of us gets caught, we are done for, especially this one to my right.

~ Skylords Eta Squad Commander ~ Mark Langley: This one here has a name. And to be quite frank, I don't even have to help you if I didn't want to. It's only because I have a good relationship with the head of your family that we are here.

Kitsuke: And the fact that you oppose the Galahad Arms of Novalia. That is the bigger reason why your entire squadron has pledged themselves to our cause.

Rakun: We also have that Regolian Paladin. I'd say our odds may not be that bad after all.

Kitsuke: The Eta Squad and Paladin Rouxe might be advantageous to our cause, but they're not enough. If we are going to oppose the corrupt leaders of this world, we are going to require much more allies. I am aware of the Acua Clan's distance from the rest of the Dominion, so I would suspect that we check them out. However, I inquire that we may have to search the Excavlur residency soon, in case one of Tanzar-Ion's children or retainers has perhaps returned...

Rakun: Do you have any ideas for possible alliances beyond Kyloto?

Kitsuke: Lets see... We have the Wizards Guild in Besmarka... And I've heard that there are remnant cells of the former Venlish government, in addition to the missing princes. There's also something going on in north-western Kratonia, but I don't trust my sources for that lead. 

Rakun: So then when do we prepare for these plans?

Kitsuke: Soon... Very soon...

The White City

April 29th, 1215 AC. Baise, Kyloto. Morning.

Lanval warms himself by a fire.

Lanval: F-Finally! W-Warmth!

Roxanne: Its not that cold. Why are you such a crybaby?

Lanval: Hey! That hurts!

Dirge is reading through a newspaper.

Angel-Ion: For somebody who hasn't left their country before, you sure you know how to read Kylotean text?

Dirge: Its a Sabari ability to gain knowledge and adapt when they become exposed to a new language. I can now understand Kylotean.

He starts speaking in Kylotean.

Dirge: Pretty impressive, right?

He reverts to Venlish.

Dirge: Anyhoo. This newspaper seems to be rather... Lax... About any mentions about your family. I suspect the lead we were given may not be so credible.

Angel-Ion: ... I've been having doubts too... The only thing driving me on is the fact that I want to find my brother.

Lanval: Y-You haven't exactly spoken about your family before.

Angel-Ion: Maybe another time.

Luther: I think we should have stayed on the airship.

Ruselt: How come?

Luther: We're not exactly popular in Kyloto. 

Dirge: What makes you say that?

Luther: A few dynastic wars here and there.

Suddenly, three soldiers storm into the bar.

Soldier: There's been a raid on one of the outposts to the north of the city!

Soldiers sitting at a few nearby table stand and rush out with the three that showed up, arming themselves.

Lanval: ... That escalated quickly.

Ruselt looks out the window to see what all the commotion is about. 

Various soldiers rush through the streets towards the city outskirts. One stops and looks in the window at Ruselt. He spits at it in an attempt to intimidate him.

Ruselt: Fucking rude...

Angel-Ion: He's part of the Hyakuju Legion. They have no regard for others. At all.

Lanval: That sounds scary.

Angel-Ion: They're an army of so called "beasts". I don't know that much because they are relatively "new" to me. At least they're not as persistent as the guy who was chasing after me for a week. A Missionary called Avaloss Voldin. He's the guy who ended up wrecking my boat when I met these two.

Angel-Ion points to Ruselt and Luther.

Luther: (Much to our eternal pleasure...)

Voice: Wow. Even in your head, you're sarcastic.

Ruselt: So where do we find Lance?

Angel-Ion: I would suspect the Baise Capital Tower.

Roxanne: Don't you think its a bit strange that the people here are more concerned about their drinks and shit than the fact that there may be or may have been an execution?

Dirge: Its like with the newspaper.

Luther: Do you think it could be a trap?

Dirge: It could have been a false lead, a trap is also possible.

Angel-Ion downs his drink.

Angel-Ion: I'm going to find out either way.

He grabs his sword and leaves the bar.

Roxanne: Shit, he's gonna get lost again!

Dirge: I wouldn't be so sure. He seems to be headed towards the centre of the city rather than away.

Roxanne: That doesn't mean we shouldn't go with him. Everyone, drink up. We're leaving.

Roxanne downs her drink and leaves with Dirge. Ruselt and Luther follow, finishing their drinks off.

Lanval: Shit shit shit.

Lanval wraps up warm, taking the coat of an unaware Kylotean in the process, while collecting three drumsticks from the table. He runs out, unaware than a muscle-bound Kylotean approached.

Avaloss: There you are... Excalvur.

The group soon reach the inner parts of the city. There is a large crowd surrounding the Baise Capital Tower. There are several guards surrounding a chained up figure on top of the tower.

Angel-Ion: Lance!

Roxanne: Its real?

Angel-Ion runs through the crowd, Roxanne chases him.

Dirge: Hold on... Something's amiss.

Dirge notices that some of the crowd are actually disfocused. He glances up at the tower.

Angel-Ion makes it to the foot of the tower, where several guards form a blockade.

???: Gyahahaha! The prodigcal elder brother arrives!

Angel-Ion: Free my brother at once!

A figure atop the tower shows himself.

~ Master of the Ryusei Family ~ Werlock Ryusei: How about you come up here and free him yourself, Excalvur?!

Roxanne: Who is that?!

Angel-Ion: Werlock Ryusei. He's prominent in this city.

Werlock: I've heard your little ragtag bunch of misfits managed to wreck an outpost in the north, and took away those weapons I had on order.

Lanval: So that was him?

Werlock: As a manner of kindness, I can only say I won't be as merciful as I was intended to be.

Werlock throws a throwing knife at the chained figure, cutting their neck.

Angel-Ion: Gch! You... You bastard!

Angel-Ion charges and leaps, stabbing his sword into the wall high above the guards. He begins attempting to escalate the wall, but many archers fire at him, with two arrows stabbing him, one in his right wing, the other in his side.

Angel-Ion: Gyah!

He falls down, hitting the ground hard. Roxanne runs to his aide. Several soldiers surround them, with Ruselt and Luther being thrown into the open with them.

Angel-Ion: Gch. LANCE!

Werlock stands next to the chained figure. Two other figures appear behind him; Zurakiel and Doriru.

Doriru: Looks like you were too late, Angel-Ion!

Doriru impales the chained figure several times through the back.

Angel-Ion: **NO!**

Zurakiel jumps from the tower, crashing down on the ground, creating a sizeable crater.

Zurakiel: Now its your turn to die.

Angel-Ion: LANCE!

Angel-Ion throws Roxanne off of him. Zurakiel draws a blade.

Dirge: Wait, Angel-Ion! ITS A FAKE!

Angel-Ion: ?!

Dirge leaps high into the air and draws several bars of light, before blasting them at Zurakiel. They rip through him and blast the guards and the wall of the tower, creating a strong aftershock that causes it to crack and shake. The chained figure falls down and lands nearby, revealed to be a dummy. Dirge lands in front of it.

Dirge: I noticed it was a knockoff as soon as I saw it on the tower.

Angel-Ion: Keh. So it was a trap after all.

Ruselt notices Angel-Ion bleeding from his side and wing.

Ruselt: Are you ok?

Angel-Ion: I'm fine...

Angel-Ion yanks the arrow in his side out. The smoke caused by Dirge's attack clears. Zurakiel appears to have blocked the attack, his arms, which seem to be only scratched, guarding his body.

Zurakiel: What was that...?

Zurakiel charges at Dirge at a speed ingumane for his size, and smashes him in the chest with his fist, sending him flying into Lanval.

Dirge: Oof-- Kch... How can someone like that be so fast?!

Angel-Ion: Great... I guess that means we can only run. Dirge, make an opening.

Dirge: What?!

Angel-Ion: MAKE AN OPENING!

Dirge fires a blast at the soldiers, creating a path.

Angel-Ion: Run!

The group run from the area.

Zurakiel: AFTER THEM, HUNTERS!

The soldiers begin chasing them. Doriru and Werlock descend from the tower and follow closeby with Zurakiel.

Lanval: Where are we going?!

Angel-Ion: South! If we reach Kratonia, we should be in a safe zone.

Ruselt: How far away is the border?

Dirge: Approximately twenty five miles.

Roxanne: You expect us to run *that* far?

Angel-Ion: We should be able to lose them in the alpines beyond Baise. We can rest when we do.

A figure flies at Angel-Ion and swings their blade down. Angel-Ion manages to parry it despite his injury, though he gains difficulty from the man's strength.

Avaloss: Remember me?!

Angel-Ion: Voldin?!

Avaloss: In the flesh, new and improved!

Angel-Ion: You look ugly.

Avaloss: Grahl!!!

Avaloss forces Angel-Ion back. Dirge fires a bullet of light that launches Avaloss into a market stall.

Dirge: I presume that's the Missionary you said about!

Angel-Ion: Yeah, but I thought he was dead! Looks like somebody's been doing work on his body too!

Dirge: Never mind him, we've got to get out of this city.

Lanval: I think this is like our seventh chase now.

Roxanne: Who cares? Our lives are more important!

???: Is that so, girly?!

Doriru bursts out of the ground in front of Roxanne in an attempt to take her out.

Ruselt creates a sizable fireball and launches it towards Doriru, who deflects it by spinning.

Doriru: Ah, the crown prince of Venland! It seems you want to die first!

Doriru tries to make his way towards Ruselt, but Roxanne grabs his tail and slams him on the floor. The group come across a set of narrow alleyways, six in total. They are too thin for pairs to run in.

Angel-Ion: We'll have to split up!

Angel-Ion heads down the first.

Lanval: God damn it!

Lanval takes the second.

Roxanne: Meet you lot on the other side!

Roxanne takes the third.

Dirge: Will do, and good luck!

Dirge takes the fourth. Ruselt and Luther travel down the fifth and sixth respectively. Doriru, Avaloss, Zurakiel, Werlock and the Ryusei Oathkeeper reach the alleys.

Doriru: They've probably split up. Everyone down their own path. Soldiers, advance around the area!

The soldiers fall back. Doriru stops their captain.

Doriru: Except you. We need all of these alleys scanned.

Captain: Yes, sir!

Zurakiel sniffs the air.

Zurakiel: I smell fresh meat.

Zurakiel charges down the sixth alley. Avaloss takes the fourth, the captain takes the third, Doriru takes the first, the Oathkeeper takes the second and Werlock takes the fifth.

The third alley opens up, revealing a market of some kind. It is crowded. The captain looks around for the targets. Lanval sneaks up behind him and stabs him in his sides, incapacitating his running ability.

Captain: Gyaaaah!!

Lanval: Heehee.

Lanval takes the captain's helmet and pauldron. He kicks the captain's knee, breaking his leg, before running.

Captain: B-Bastard!

Lanval flashes a pin of some kind. The captain looks down at his legwear, which falls, revealing his pants. The crowd around him laughs.

Zurakiel finds that the alley is getting too narrow for him. He climbs up onto the rooftops and charges forwards, hoping to catch his target off.

Dirge stops in an opened up alley and feels the floor. He notes that he has a follower and turns. Avaloss flies at him and they clash weapons.

Avaloss: I could have sworn Excalvur took this path!

Dirge: Looks like you were wrong!

They separate.

Avaloss: I guess I'll deal with you instead!

Dirge: Bring it on!

They charge at each other. In the second alley, Roxanne finds that the path splits. She takes the first. The Oathkeeper arrives and takes the second.

While running, they spot each other within gaps. After five glances, Roxanne decides to leap forwards, scoring the Oathkeeper across the face and sending him into the wall.

Oathkeeper: Gyak!

He pulls himself free and draws his scimitar, before running after a fleeing Roxanne.

Oathkeeper: GET BACK HERE LADY!

Roxanne: You have to catch me first!

Luther's alley starts to open up. He runs out and looks for Ruselt. He feels something large fall down right behind him. He turns around, to find Zurakiel massively tower over him. Zurakiel glares at him with menacing, piercing eyes.

Luther steps back and creates a wall of fire in front of Zurakiel. Zurakiel sweeps his hands through the fire, dispersing the flames. Hot aura begins seeping from his massive body.

Voice: This is the part where you start running.

Luther steps back and begins running. 

Zurakiel begins charging at Luther, managing to catch up with him very quickly, despite his size.

Zurakiel: PERISH, VISARION!

Zurakiel unleashes a fiery lariat at Luther.

Luther creates a defence shield, blocking it. Zurakiel charges straight into it, breaking through and body slamming Luther. Luther recovers and makes another run for it, this time travelling down a narrow alleyway. Zurakiel leaps onto the rooftops to give chase. He fires down bursts of flames at Luther, disregarding one or two Kyloteans he runs past, who are insantly incinerated.

Luther continues running. In the first alley, Doriru bursts out of the ground in front of Angel-Ion, and tries to strike him. Angel-Ion deflects his strikes with his sword.

Doriru: You've gotten a bit stronger, Excalvur, but it's not enough!

Angel-Ion: We'll see about that!

Angel-Ion flips Doriru over, but Doriru drills into the ground. He comes back up behind Angel-Ion for a sneak attack, but Angel-Ion detects him and slams the pommel of his sword on his head, before running.

In the fifth alley, Werlock catches up to Ruselt, and kicks him in the back, before pressing him down to the floor with the same foot.

Werlock: I've never tasted Venlish blood before, yet alone a Visarion's!

Two fangs elongate in Werlock's mouth.

Ruselt punches the side of Werlock's ankle and rolls, causing him to lose balance. Ruselt stands up and pulls out his sword. Werlock draws his sword.

Werlock: I'll certainly make a meal out of you!

Ruselt slashes forward with his sword. Werlock parries it and attempts to grab Ruselt.

Ruselt steps back, avoiding the grab but charges forward, and barges into Werlock, knocking him into a wall. 

Werlock lunges forwards and swings his sword across. Ruselt blocks it and punches Werlock hard in the stomach.

Werlock is able to recover quickly, and grabs Ruselt's arm. He bends it and places his blade against Ruselt's ribcage.

Werlock: If you pull here... That's it. Its all over.

Ruselt: Fuck you. 

Ruselt spits in Werlock's face. Werlock looks at him with discontent. He backhands him, his sharp nails scratching Ruselt's face. Werlock grabs him and throws him to the floor, before beating him across the chest several times.

Ruselt kicks Werlock in the knee, and hits him over the side of his head with the hilt of his falchion. Werlock falls back. Ruselt once again rams into Werlock. Werlcok falls down again, hitting his head on the wall. Ruselt strikes Werlock, slamming his head against the wall again, in an attempt to knock him out. He runs off. Werlock gets up, brushing the dust off of his clothes and hair. He looks up.

Werlock: Oh no, no, no. No running in the halls.

Werlock spreads out his wings before flying down the alleys after Ruselt. Meanwhile, the Oathkeeper manages to catch up with Roxanne, who has stopped to make her clothing more revealing.

Roxanne: Please, mister. My legs are very tired and these things are much too heavy for me to be running.

The Oathkeeper can't keep his cool and his nose bleeds a bit as he blushes.

Oathkeeper: I... I... Miss... I have a job to...

Roxanne: Pwetty please? Garchuu~

The Oathkeeper begins reaching out to touch her breasts. Roxanne recomposes herself and punches him hard several times across the face, making it somewhat lumpy, with both eyes blackened, knocking him out. She tucks her breasts back into her coat.

Roxanne: Pervert.

She runs off. Meanwhile, Luther's alleyway opens up once again. Zurakiel leaps in front of him, blocking his path. He snorts as he towers over Luther. Luther freezes up.

Zurakiel: Kuhahaha. Is this supposed to be the might of the Visarion family. Pathetic. You're just a weakling!

Luther's eye twitches. 

Luther: (Quietly to himself) I am not weak...

Zurakiel: What was that? Say it louder!

Luther: I'm... I'm not weak.

Zurakiel: Then prove it, weakling! Strike me down!

Voice: Do it Luther.

Luther hesitates and continues staring at Zurakiel. 

Zurakiel: Come one! WEAKLING!!!

Voice: DO IT!

Luther: (How?)

Voice: Think! You went to medical school. Get creative!

Luther's expression becomes more serious. His eyes meet Zurakiel's. Zurakiel suddenly feels a burning inside his right eye, and flames burst from his pupils, burning his cornea. Some blood seeps from his eye. He closes it.

Zurakiel: Is that it?!

Zurakiel backhands Luther, sending him crashing into a stack of crates. Luther gets up and continues staring at Zurakiel.

Zurakiel picks him up by the neck, his hand wrapping fully around it. He raises him to his face, and squeezes slightly.

Zurakiel: You are weak!

He smashes Luther on the floor, and begins pressing him into the ground.

Zurakiel: Die, like the weakling you are!

Suddenly, Angel-Ion and Doriru burst through the wall, colliding with Zurakiel's arm while scrapping with one another. The force is enough to make him let go of Luther.

Zurakiel: Doriru! You bastard! I ought to kill you for this outrage!

Doriru: Oh, shut up you overgrown ingrate!

Zurakiel grabs Doriru's tail.

Zurakiel: How about I do it now?!

Doriru: You idiot, they're...

Doriru spots Angel-Ion fleeing with Luther.

Doriru: GETTING AWAY!!!

Zurakiel: This is YOUR fault!

Doriru: MY fault? YOU GRABBED ME! I HAD EXCALVUR THERE.

Zurakiel: If you hadn't crahsed through the wall, VISARION WOULD HAVE BEEN MINCEMEAT!

Doriru: Piss off! Let go of me!

Doriru wriggles free and burrows underground.

Zurakiel: Ghh... Excalvur, you will not get far!

Luther: Thank you. 

Angel-Ion: Don't mention it.

Angel-Ion skids as he spots a narrow gap between two buildings. He puts Luther down.

Angel-Ion: In here!

He nudges Luther along into the gap and grabs a nearby white cloth. He holds up the cloth and Doriru and Zurakiel run past it. When the coast is clear, Angel-Ion grabs Luther and elevates both of them onto the rooftops.

Angel-Ion: This way!

Angel-Ion runs a way opposite from the alley's direction, and tiptoes over a wooden bar connecting two buildings. Luther steadily walks across it. 

Meanwhile, Lanval and Roxanne reach the end of their alleys and meet up with one another. They see the city's southern wall. Dirge soon shows up, persued by Avaloss.

Avaloss: What do we have here?! Fools! You've done enough running!

Roxanne: Didn't you get rid of him?!

Dirge: He's persistent!

Avaloss draws his blade.

Avaloss: Time for you to die!

A blue ring appears around Avaloss. Ice suddenly forms around him. Vulkas walks out from behind Avaloss. 

Avaloss: Ghh! What is this?! Get me out of here!

The ice moves over Avaloss completely.

Vulkas: We better go, that won't hold him for long.

Angel-Ion and Luther show up.

Angel-Ion: Hey guys! ... And you, Voldin.

Avaloss: Yeah... You're right. This WON'T hold me!

Avaloss breaks free and jumps towards Angel-Ion, they clash swords.

Avaloss: You will not be getting away from me THIS time Excalvur!

Angel-Ion: We'll see about that!

Angel-Ion breaks out of the clash and trips Avaloss over, before firing a blast that launches him into a wall and kicks his sword away. Angel-Ion puts his sword to Avaloss' neck.

Avaloss: Grrr... Bastard!

Angel-Ion: So, what's with the new get-up, Tiger Face?

Lanval: ... That's a lion's face.

Avaloss: I was REBORN! I am Lord Shen's top Missionary!

Angel-Ion: Explains why you're against the wall. You've lost this one.

Werlock: I wouldn't be so sure about that, Excalvur.

Werlock stands on the rooftops above. Ruselt arrives on the scene, and he immediately runs to Luther.

Werlock: Finally caught up then, Visarion? How quaint. I guess you'll die by your brother after all!

Dirge fires a charged shot from his staff at the wall beneath Werlock, cosuming him and Avaloss in an explosion.

Dirge: This way!

Dirge runs to the east, everyone else following. Soon, Avaloss and Werlock climb out of the rubble.

Avaloss: ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!

Werlock: Hehehehe... They won't get far.

Avaloss: They've run away again! What do you possibly mean?!

Werlock: As soon as they get past that wall, Silva'll be waiting.

Avaloss: You'd better be right!

Werlock: Remember your place, Voldin. You're below me.

The group start to slow down, approaching a large house marked with "AUCTION" above it. A Novalian woman with a collar around her neck, with a chain attached, is taken out by a regal-looking Kylotean man.

Regal: Come on, slave. I'm going to have lots of fun with you!

Slave Woman: No! I want to go home! HELP ME!

A Novalian man with a similar collar and chain is taken the other way by another Kylotean man, reaching for the woman.

Slave Man: JESSEBELLE!

Buyer: Silence slave! You will be worked to death!

The buyer shoots the male slave's leg.

Dirge: ... What IS this place?!

Roxanne: We can't just stand here and watch this! Angel-Ion, do something!

Angel-Ion: It's a Slave Auction House... I can't.

Lanval: Those exist?!

Dirge: If you won't, I will.

Angel-Ion: No! Stop!

Dirge fires a blast at the chain on the male, breaking it. He crawls over.

Slave Man: T-Thank you!

There is a sudden click.

Angel-Ion: Oh no...

The man grabs his collar.

Slave Man: No! Get this off me! Get it off! HELP!

Slave Woman: No!

Buyer: You idiotic Sabarian! You've lost me mt slave!

Dirge: Huh?

Slave Man: HELP ME!

Suddenly the collar explodes, consuming the slave entirely. When the smoke clears, only his lower half remains, somewhat burned.

Slave Woman: NOOOOO!!!

The regal grabs the slave woman and pulls her away.

Buyer: How about I make YOU my slave, Sabarian?!

The buyer runs towards Dirge, who fires a light bullet into his chest. He falls dead on the floor.

Angel-Ion: Those collars explode. You shouldn't have tried helping him without a key!

Dirge: Couldn't you say that sooner?!

Angel-Ion: I told you to stop, didn't I?!

Dirge comes to a realisation.

Dirge: Damn. We should get out of here before any soldiers show up. That includes the Missionary and the other guy.

Luther: Seconded.

The group leave, soon arriving at a gate against the city wall.

Angel-Ion: Finally, we made it.

Angel-Ion passes through first.

Dirge: I swear your people have a bit of a security problem.

Angel-Ion: Not at all. If an invasion is detected, the walls are shortly closed down.

Angel-Ion points out a giant opened portculis above them as they pass. On the other side of the gate is a set of woods. After a short trek, they make a stop for a rest. Lanval lights a fire.

Roxanne: Are you sure it's safe this far away from the city?

Angel-Ion: No, but I wouldn't call it "unsafe" either. It's best we take our chances in these woods.

Vulkas: I reckon we should go now. 

???: I concur.

A large, broad male Kylotean wearing a horned horsehair helmet lifts Roxanne up by her dress. He draws one of his swords out.

Thousand Arms

Roxanne: Gyah! Let go of me!

Ruselt: Let her go!

Angel-Ion: ...! Silva!

Angel-Ion hurls forwards and counters the figure's sword as he attempts to strike. The figure slides back soomewhat, but drops Roxanne.

Angel-Ion: Everyone, get out of here!

Roxanne collects herself and begins running.

~ Thousand Arms ~ Yoru Silva: Well, now... Fancy seeing you here.

???: HYAAA!!!

Avaloss flies down as several soldiers amass the scene.

Dirge: Him again?!

Avaloss: Gotcha!

Avaloss draws his sword, preparing to take Angel-Ion out.

Yoru: Stop right there, Avaloss!

Avaloss crashes to the ground in a bid to stop. Yoru glares at the other soldiers.

Soldier 1: W-What's Silva doing out here?!

Soldier 2: I-I don't know!

Yoru: What? Am I not good enough to be here or something?!

Soldier: N-No sir! F-forgive our insolence!

Yoru: Damn right. Keep your heads out of my business in future!

Lanval: He must be a big shot then...

Soldier: We were under the orders of Lord Ryusei to capture and eliminate Excalvur and his band.

Yoru: Yeah, that's fine and all, but I'm not sticking around for your ballsy little games. Ryusei's rank does not reach mine, so stand down!

Angel-Ion: So then, Silva. Why'd they call you "Thousand Arms"? From the sight of you, you've only got two.

Yoru: Keh. Just to indulge your curiosity, I'll show you.

Yoru's arms suddenly multiply. His sword seems to have similarly multiplied. He takes his other sword and his shield with his right arms, before multiplying the total of arms to eight, weilding five swords and three shields. He assumes a battle stance.

Yoru: You have zero chances of coming out of this victorious!

Ruselt pulls out his falchion.

Luther: (Quietly) What are you doing? We can't take him on!

Yoru spots Ruselt draw his sword.

Yoru: I see you're so willing to put my estimate to the test.

Dirge flies forwards and begins drawing a pattern of light to fire at Yoru.

Yoru: You've given yourself nowhere to run!

Dirge fires a blast. Yoru raises all three of his shields, managing to defend himself. He uses the gathered force within his shields and shoves his shield forwards, sending Dirge back. He swings three of his swords down. Dirge tries to block, but two stab into his arm, the other, his leg. He thrusts his swords forwards, sending Dirge flying into some trees. Yoru charges forwards, swinging down his swords in a barrage, cutting Dirge in some places, while also striking some of the trees and some soldiers.

Yoru spins three of his swords around before stabbing one into Dirge's chest slightly, the friction sending him flying away into several more trees. He raises one sword lax over his shoulder.

Yoru: Keh.

Ruselt heads towards Yoru but Vulkas stops him.

Vulkas: You two, go and see if Dirge is alright. I'll keep Yoru busy. 

Angel-Ion: I'll back you up.

Yoru: Bah! You two are but mere ants! Know your place!

Yoru charges towards them with two shields outstretched, in an attempt to ram them. Vulkas flash steps to the left and roundhouse kicks Yoru in the head from behind. Yoru quickly turns slashes at him. While he's distracted, Angel-Ion flies in and coats his sword in fire. He attempts to strike Yoru, but Yoru turns again and slams his shields down on him.

Yoru: You can't possibly believe that you had the ability to take me on!

He presses the shields down on Angel-Ion. Vulkas makes a hand gesture, and a blue runic circle appears on Yoru's chest. Like with Avaloss, Yoru begins to freeze.

Yoru: Not good enough, I'm afraid.

Yoru's body heats up. He begins spinning around, the heat soon developing into a fire, which in turn creates a fire tornado. The ice breaks apart and melts. Yoru makes a sudden stop before swinging three swords in Luther, Ruselt and Dirge's direction, sending the fire tornado ripping towards them. Luther begins manipulating the tornado so that it dissapates.

Yoru turns and swings his hot swords down at Vulkas. Vulkas flash steps back. Vulkas quickly pulls out his pistols and fires two shots while Yoru's shields are down. Yoru quickly clutters the swords on his right side together, forming a shield, blocking one of the bullets. The other hits his incredibly thick checkered armour.

He soon gets off of Angel-Ion, and throws all but one sword at Vulkas with extreme force. A blue line appears in front of Vulkas, and an ice wall forms quickly in front of him, blocking the swords, which seem to break. Yoru's now empty hands retract, before being replaced with more bearing swords. He infuses all of his swords with heat, before rushing the ice wall, which he dices up, with each cut creating a short spark of fire. He breaks through what's left with his shields, which he attempts to ram Vulkas with.

Vulkas pulls out his repeater, and fires a shot at the shields. Yoru ignores this and swings his shields to the right, hitting Vulkas into Lanval, ricocheting both of them into some soldiers. Angel-Ion gets up, but Avaloss attempts to cut him back down. Yoru turns and notices this.

Yoru: Voldin! I told you not to get involved!!!

Yoru multiplies his left arms tenfold. He throws all but two at the two with extreme force.

Both: ?!

A blast of light hits some of the swords, creating an explosion that destroys most of them. Yoru looks in the direction of the blast's origin and spots Dirge and Ruselt, who combined their attacks. Avaloss appears to have been cowering behind Angel-Ion, holding his shoulders.

Angel-Ion: Get off me!

Angel-Ion shoves him away. Vulkas attempts to stab Yoru from behind with his falchion. Yoru spins around, knocking Vulkas back with his swords as he creates a twister. Suddenly, many swords come flying out of the twister and head in all directions. He stops before Angel-Ion, Vulkas, Dirge and Ruselt, before firing a mass blast from his mouth at them. It creates a powerful explosion as they dodge.

Yoru: Keheheheh. I'm done toying with you. Soldiers!

The soldiers, along with Avaloss, prepare themselves.

Yoru: Aprehend them!

Angel-Ion: Shoot, run!

Angel-Ion runs, followed by Lanval and Roxanne. Dirge helps Ruselt to his feet. Ruselt then follows Angel-Ion along with Luther. 

Avaloss: Oh no, not this time, Excalvur!

Lanval: Piss off, kitty cat!

Avaloss: ?! YOU WILL REGRET THAT, NOVALIAN!!!

Lanval: Make sure you check your pants before coming after me!

Avaloss: Wha--

Avaloss trips, his trousers have fallen down; Lanval has taken his belt. Lanval soon drops it. Some soldiers stop to laugh at Avaloss as he scrambles to pull his trousers up and put his belt back on.

Soldier: You should have seen the look on your-- Urk!

Avaloss stabs the soldier in the neck. He begins chasing again. Ruselt swipes his sword cleanly through the radius of a tree, which then begins to fall, landing on three soldiers. The bushy top of the tree forces some of them to move around it. Avaloss sets the tree on fire.

Dirge, getting an idea from this, swipes his staff back. Several trees suddenly fall down.

Dirge: Good thinking, Ruselt! Now, this way!

Dirge leads the group in a different direction, fooling the soldiers. As they leave the woods, Lanval mistakes a mound of snow for a hill and falls inside.

Dirge: Hmm?

Roxanne: Lets use it to hide!

Roxanne buries herself. Angel-Ion and Dirge do the same. Ruselt, Luther and Vulkas follow suit. Soldiers run past it, not even stopping to check, Avaloss amongst them. After a few minutes, they reemerge.

Roxanne: Which way now?

Dirge: Those mountains over that way. The soldiers will be going that way for some time so we won't have to hurry about them.

Forged in the Fire

Soon, the band reach a small patch of ground amongst the mountains. There seems to be no snow in this spot. Lanval sets up a fire as Angel-Ion begins cooking some of their food. Luther seems to just be staring into space where as Ruselt warms up by the fire. Dirge impales a cob of corn and hangs it over the fire.

Roxanne: I didn't think your people ate food.

Dirge: We don't. While we don't need it, we absorb nutrients out of what you people call fruit and vegetables.

Lanval: But why?

Dirge: Because we just love the sweet taste of the nutrients, plus they are beneficial to our bodies. Remember how some of those others had moss on their bodies? They sometimes grow plants just like that on them.

Roxanne: Isn't that a bit weird?

Dirge: Not at all. We're just using our own natural resources.

Roxanne: I suppose that is true.

Dirge: Anyways... Seeing how I've got the ball rolling, how about we talk about ourselves a bit more? Our goals and all that. Why we're here. How about we start with you, Lan.

Lanval: Uhh... Well... I grew up in the northen side of Novalia. My father's a good treasure thief. Taught me everything I need to know... Oh, and I want to catalogue all the plants of the world... It's... Uh... Its a personal hobby.

Ruselt: Luther and I were both brought up in Savorden Palace. I was mostly brought up by my father, and Luther, by our mother. When we were ten, however, she died.

Luther doesn't even seem aware of the conversation, and is still staring into space.

Ruselt: And just a few months ago, we were told we had to leave Venland, and found that the Canoricans had invaded. Since then, I guess we have just been trying to survive.

Angel-Ion: My family and I grew up in the Excalvur Flame Monastery. My father had some retainers, namely one who I like to see as my swordsmanship master; Usagi. Shen sent his men to attack the Monastery... I have no idea why... And Doriru, the drilling man, killed my master. My parents were both captured, and I was separated from my brother, sister and the other retainers. After I got caught one time by Avaloss' goons, I heard that Shen planned to bring our family into his Dominion, but I feel as though it's otherwise.

Dirge: All things considered, what do you want to do?

Angel-Ion: If I had a say in the matter, I'd gather as much people as I could and topple the oppression Shen has over Kyloto. I've made it my vow that, in order to come close to that, I must become the greatest swordsman in the world.

Roxanne: How is that possible?

Angel-Ion: Easy. Learn all sword styles, defeat all of the world's strongest swords, and become a master myself. I attempted to seek out Shanzhu when my ship became damaged, figuring that that place would be a good place to start.

Ruselt: I wouldn't mind heading back to Venland. Should the Canoricans ever leave that is. 

Vulkas: To be honest, all I wanted to do was see the world. Ruselt and Luther turning up in Laguz gave me an excuse to start.

Angel-Ion: You forgot about--

Roxanne: Same here. There is more to see than serving drinks at a bar by the coast.

Dirge: I guess that leaves me. You lot already know what I want to do, travel the world and all, make a map of it. I came from a family of cactus farmers. I've been interested in the world ever since I first heard about Narak and the Templar Knights.

Roxanne: What do you mean "cactus farmer"?

Dirge: My parents grew and harvested cacti for their nutrients. 

Roxanne: Ah... Right... I feel dumb for asking.

Dirge: We're from different cultures, it's gonna happen. 

Lanval: Yeah. We're all from, like, five different cultures here.

Roxanne: So what's it like being in royalty?

Luther continues to look into space, but begins listening in.

Ruselt: I didn't think much of it then, but looking back, it was pretty good.

Lanval: I bet you got things the other kids couldn't aff--

Roxanne pushes Lanval onto his back.

Roxanne: So what exactly started this war? I've only heard details that Novalia joined Canorica's side against Venland.

Ruselt: I don't even know the full details. I only know what it said in the papers. The attack was largely unprovoked, but it was suggested that Curtis wanted in on the "Infinity Generator Project". 

Lanval: !

Dirge: What's that?

Ruselt: Some scientist fo--

Luther: Hector Trydium.

Voice: Smartass

Ruselt: ...Found a way to contain magic or something, and he found that it would allow for a potentially infinite source of electricity. 

Lanval: A battery built around magic, in other words.

Luther gives Lanval a brief and wary look.

Ruselt: According to the papers, they never even found a working generator. So the invasion was pointless. 

Angel-Ion: Maybe the Venlish scientists destroyed them.

Lanval: Or hid then away somewhere. I dunno. Maybe underground stuff like this happens.

He suddenly shakes his head.

Lanval: Nah, that's preposterous.

Ruselt: Do you think Cetera is still looking for us?

Luther: Potentially.

Dirge: Is that your uncle?

Ruselt: Yeah. He's the one that helped us escape. 

Dirge: And your father?

Luther quickly glances over to Ruselt who looks more sombre than before.

Ruselt: Dead.

Dirge: Yikes. What happened?!

Luther: Shot. Without trial, by Canorican forces. 

The campfire briefly flares up and then dies down again. 

Dirge: Damn...

There is an awkward silence. Luther unfocuses again, and begins daydreaming, where as Ruselt just remains silent. 

Dirge: Okay... So, Lanval, what about your father?

Lanval: What about him?

Dirge: What kind of treasure thief is he?

Lanval: He's a much better thief than me. I know that for a fact. They call him the "King of Thieves".

Angel-Ion: Did you just say King of Thieves?

Lanval: Yeah.

Angel-Ion: Does that mean he is the leader of the Forty Thieves?!

Lanval: Yeah, what about it?

Angel-Ion: They're legendary from where I come from! They're the most infamous thieves in the world!

Lanval: Really?

Roxanne: Are you sure you really know your father? Even us Novalians should know about him!

Dirge: Isn't it a bit too much of a coincidence that Conleth Dultra shares his name with our friend here?

After a while of discussing and eating, the band begin setting about going to sleep...

A Glimmer of Potential

30th April, 1215 AC. Morning. Aurum, Taurania.

President Andrews arrives in the city of Aurum and is escorted from his airship to the city centre. He is escorted by various servicemen towards the Capital building, which towers high above all other buildings in the city. The boulevard to the Capital building is almost perfectly symmetrical, and lined with various Venlish architectural styles. Andrews notices this, and appears visibly nervous as a result.

He arrives at the capital building, but he is stopped by the Tauranian guards at the main doors.

Guard: I'm afraid only you can enter Mr. Andrews, your servicemen will have to remain outside.

Andrews hesitates, but nods. His servicemen remain outside, and he enters. He is lead to a large room with a set of double doors at the centre, with 4 guards either side. A secretary of sorts meets him.

Secretary: Good Morning Mister Andrews. As this is your first time meeting the Supreme Minister, you must be made aware of the way you must conduct yourself in his prescence. 

Andrews sighs.

Secretary: You must always refer to him by his title of Supreme Minister. You are to never raise your voice above average volume. You are to keep a distance of approximatelty two metres, and upon entering the room, you will give a brief but polite bow, like such.

The secretary makes a small bow.

Secretary: With that in mind, we hope that your meeting will be most fruitful. 

The secretary opens the door, ushers Andrews through, and then closes it.

The room seems to be huge, and comprised mostly of white marble, with various stone pillars. Vance Alder, the Supreme Minister is standing at the centre of the room, waiting for Andrews, eyeing him as he walks in. 

Andrews sees him and begins walking forward.

Alder has a sudden look of disdain upon his face, and Andrews remembers he was supposed to bow, and does so quickly but reluctantly.

Andrews walks up towards Alder, ensuring to keep his distance.

He looks around for a place to sit, but there appears to be no arrangement for that. 

Andrews: Miste- Supreme Minister. I am here on behalf of the Allied Nations, and would like to humbly extend an invitation to you. We feel that Taurania joining such an alliance would be beneficial for both sides.

Alder gives Andrews an austere look.

There is a brief silence.

Andrews: I feel that Taurania's economic power could be perhaps used more effectively in world politi-

Alder: I am declining this invitation. 

Andrews: Wha- Why?

Alder: Canorica, Novalia, Tythan and Parcia all owe Taurania a great deal of debt. The loans for that war in Venland were substantial. Very little of it has been paid back thus far.

Andrews: My Government does not support that war. 

Alder: Your congress did, and congress has the power in your country. By extension, they also control the finance. They still owe the banks of Taurania. 

Alder pauses and sighs.

Alder: Plus, Taurania has a reputation for being politically neutral in most areas. The loans provided for the AN during the war with Venland were only made under the assurance that they could be paid back with interest, and that Taurania could profit from such an arrangement. We have seen no such profit. 

Andrews: The debt Curtis accumulated for Canorica is huge. How can you possibly expect us to pay that?

Alder: Excuses are meaningless. The debt still stands, and acts as an obstacle. Should this debt not be paid by the deadline set, then we will provide loans to nations which would be able to pay us back with interest. Unfortunately for you however, said nations could be hostile to the AN. 

Andrews: So am I correct in saying that if the debt were to be cleared, then you would consider bringing Taurania into the AN?

Alder: Should the debt be cleared, then I would be more prepared to talk about Taurania's potential membership.

Andrews smiles.

Andrews: Thank you. That is all I needed. This meeting is over.

Alder looks at Andrews quizically. 

Alder: We barely even discussed anything.

Andrews: Then I apologise for wasting your time, Supreme Minister.

Andrews heads for the door. He quickly turns around, and gives Alder a mocking smile before bowing, and exiting. 

Bystrom in Shanzhu

30th April, 1215 AC. Morning. Shanzhu Council Palace.

Levi walks through a gate of some kind, finding himself inside some kind of oriental, opened-up temple. A group of monks approach him and his guards.

Monk: This way please.

Levi and the guards follow them to a sanctuary of some kind, where five mats have been laid out, one for Levi and his guards. The are requested to kneel on them.

Monk: Please address the Council as "Masters".

Some curtains are drawn, and ten figures kneeling on similar mats are revealed behind them, each elevated on a platform.

???: Please speak.

Levi: Uhh... Greetings wise Masters of Shanzhu. I am here to discuss business relations between you and the Allied Nations. Please understand that we are looking to have Shanzhu become part of our governing body, and--

~ Councilor ~ Master Heise: We refuse.

Levi: Eh?

~ Councilor ~ Master Yun: Master Heise, he was not finished.

Master Heise: ... My apologies.

~ Councilor ~ Master Meigui: We are sorry, Master Bystrom, but we do not wish to be involved with those who have caused great wars.

~ Councilor ~ Master Chuizi: We already have enough problems with the Hormidae. We do not want to be involved in any other conflicts, serving under another body such as Canorica.

Levi: But we can help you with your Hormida--

Master Heise: Our business with you has been concluded.

Master Yun: Master Heise!

~ Councilor ~ Master Zhu: I am afraid your time here has been wasted, Master Bystrom. We wish you well.

Levi: But I--

Master Zhu: Do not over-excert your position, Master Bystrom.

Levi: Tch.

Master Zhu: Please leave.

Levi: ...

Levi stands and walks off. He brushes off assistance from one of the monks.

Guard: That was... Interesting.

Levi: Interesting or not, we failed! Damn it all. Stuck up bunch of old geezers.

Levi heads off with his guards.

The Trident

30th April, 1215 AC. Afternoon. Kyloto-Kratonia Border.

The group arrive at some kind of walll, built by the Kratonians. The structure has pointed stakes on the Kylotean side. The gate is unguarded.

Angel-Ion: It looks like the Kratonians have had it busy against Kyloto...

Roxanne: But where are the guards?

Angel-Ion: I'll check on the lookout tower.

Angel-Ion flies on top of a lookout tower and looks around. It is completely deserted. He can see the city of Okan in the distance, over the snowy horizon.

Angel-Ion: There's nobody around up this way. There's civilisation in the distance though.

He jumps down.

Lanval: It looks fine enough.

Lanval walks through, but trips over a stone.

Lanval: Oof!

He lands face first in a snow pile.

Dirge: Watch where you're walking, over there.

Luther sees a figure in one of the watchtowers. 

Luther: Look, there is someone there.

Luther points to the watchtower, and Ruselt looks, only to see nothing there.

Ruselt looks and doesn't see anything.

Ruselt: What are you on about?

Luther blinks, and sees that the figure is gone.

Lanval wipes the snow off of his clothes. Angel-Ion walks past him, and notices two branching paths. He heads down the one on the left.

Lanval: God damned snow!

Roxanne: You tripped over a stone.

Lanval: Whatever.

Dirge: Where'd Angel-Ion go?

Lanval: He went on ahead.

Dirge: What?! Didn't you stop him?!

Lanval: Oh... Shit...

Dirge finds the branching pathways.

Dirge: ... Alright, we've gotta split up! Half of us go right, the other half go left!

Dirge, Lanval and Ruselt take the left path. Roxanne, Luther and Vulkas take the one on the right. Luther seems visibly distressed he is not with Ruselt, and Ruselt seems more anxious.  At the end of Roxanne's group's passage, they spot a figure sitting atop a large spire, holding a trident, seemingly intent on jumping off into a series of spikes below it.

Roxanne: Is this guy gonna

???:  ... Who goes there?

No one says anything.

???: Well? Who goes there?!

Roxanne: We're just passing through here!

Elsehwhere, Angel-Ion has reached a dead end.

Angel-Ion: What the...?!

Dirge: There you are!

Ruselt: Why'd you go running off like that?!

Angel-Ion: Eh.

Lanval: "Eh."? Is that all you could say? Supposing somebody wanting us dead is wandering these parts!

Angel-Ion: Ok, ok, I get it. Yeesh.

Dirge leads them back. Meanwhile...

The man has slumped back onto his "seat", continuing to look down with weary, depressed eyes.

Roxanne: Who are you?

???: {Sigh} Who wants to know? Do you really care who I am?

The man points his trident at Luther.

???: How about you? No?

He points it at Vulkas.

???: How about you?

Vulkas: I don't even know you.

???: I'll take that as a no.

Roxanne: Listen, come down from there!

???: Why? My life is ruined. You can't expect me to continue in the military as a cripple now, can you?

The man shows the three his missing foot, which has a makeshift peg coming out of it.

Vulkas says nothing, and remains still, gawking at the injury. 

Suddenly, Angel-Ion, Dirge, Ruselt and Lanval come through.

Dirge: Found him.

Angel-Ion: Hey! Stop prodding me back there!

Dirge: Maybe I will if you stop running off.

The Kratonian man spots Angel-Ion. His expression changes drastically.

Luther notices this, and then looks towards Angel-ion.

Lanval: Who's that up there?

Roxanne: We don't know, we were just talking to him.

The man stands up.

Angel-Ion: What's wrong with his leg?

???: ... Kylotean.

Angel-Ion: Eh?

The man seems to be very, very angry.

Ruselt: Why so angry?

Luther: Kratonia and Kyloto hate eachother. 

The man suddenly blasts himself off of the spire towards Angel-Ion, who quickly draws his blade. They clash weapons.

Angel-Ion: Hey! What's your deal?!

???: WHY ARE YOU HERE?! YOUR PEOPLE RUINED US!

Angel-Ion: I'm not with the Dominion! Chill out!

???: I WILL NOT LISTEN TO YOUR LIES! OUR KING IS DEAD BECAUSE OF YOU PEOPLE. YOU LOT LEFT ME A CRIPPLE AND RUINED MY LIFE!

Angel-Ion: THAT'S NOT MY FAULT!

They jump back. Dirge restrains the Kratonian man.

???: RELEASE ME!

The Kratonian breaks free and charges towards Angel-Ion.

A defence barrier appears in front of the Kratonian, and he runs into it, causing him to be repelled backwards. 

??? WHY ARE YOU ALL HELPING HIM? ALL KYLOTEANS ARE EVIL! ALL OF THEM!!!

Ruselt: Racist...

???: Fuck off, little boy.

The Kratonian muscles himself to his feet. He points his trident at Angel-Ion.

???: This man is GUILTY!

He charges towards Angel-Ion with his trident outstretched. Angel-Ion slams his blade against it, before kicking him back.

???: Grrr... DIE!

He begins rashly attempting to strike Angel-Ion, who dodges his slashes. 

Ruselt: Hey!

Ruselt pulls out his sword and charges at the Kratonian. 

The Kratonian swings his trident at the hilt of Ruselt's sword, making it pop out of his hand.

???: Back off!

Angel-Ion knocks the Kratonian down. He quickly gets back up, only to be blasted into a wall by Dirge.

Dirge: Stop this madness!

Dirge blasts Angel-Ion into another wall for good measure.

Angel-Ion: Tch.

???: Gh... Why should I...? The Kyloteans are nothing but murderers!

Ruselt: He says, after just trying to murder a Kylotean. 

???: That is enough from you! Stop trying to justify this cutthroat! He's like the rest!

Ruselt: You're no different from them!

???: WE DON'T KILL KINGS!

Ruselt becomes more stern in demenour.

Ruselt: Do you know who I am? 

???: Does it look like I care?!

Ruselt: I am Prince Ruselt Visarion of Venland. My father, King Roarak was shot by Canorican forces without trial. Do I attack every Canorican I see? No. Do I hate them? No. I blame the Canorican government, not the Canorican people! Angel-Ion didn't kill your King, so back the fuck off!

???: ... Shot by... King Roa... Canor... 

He drops his trident and slams his fist on the ground.

???: Why?! Why has this world got to be filled with so much DEATH!? 

Ruselt seems suprised by the Kratonian's sudden change in mood. 

???: Rrrraaaagh!!!

He punches the floor several times.

???: Who are we supposed to be fighting for?! WHO?! Gikoku has our king killed so Canorica decides to kill Venland's?! WHAT IS WITH THIS WORLD?!

Ruselt: Oh grow a fucking spine!

Roxanne hits Ruselt.

Roxanne: Hey. You may have lost your father, but that's no reason to call somebody else out for losing their king. Kratonia was brought to its knees when King Hectapholes was killed!

Ruselt: Oh boo fucking hoo! He lost a King whom he probably didn't know, and his country was weakened as a result. Well tough shit. I lost a King, a father, and a country in the space of a week! 

The Kratonian grabs his trident and holds it in Ruselt's face.

???: I was there when my King was murdered!!! I was part of the escort!!! I watched him die with my own eyes!!! I saved his only daughter from getting killed at the scene, too!!! Tell me now, boy, WHO WAS THERE FOR THEIR KING?!

Ruselt creates a fireball and propells it towards the Kratonian before grabbing his sword and running towards him. The Kratonian hits it away before preparing to take on Ruselt. Ruselt charges. Luther suddenly jumps in front of Ruselt, prompting him to hastily stop. 

Ruselt: Get out the way!

Luther: It makes no logical sense for this fight to continue Rus. 

Ruselt: I don't care! He's a fucking asshole!

Luther: Agreed, but that is not a reason to pick a fight with him.

Roxanne: Next person who wants to throw their fists and swing their little toys around will have to answer to me.

She cracks her knuckle, unnerving the others.

Angel-Ion: Yeah... No thanks.

???: I... Uhh...

Ruselt looks to the Kratonian, and glares at him, before fixing his gaze on Luther, who returns an icy stare. Ruselt backs off. 

Roxanne: There. We've met at a civilised arrangement. Now then, Mr. Kratonian. Mind introducing yourself to us?

???: ... I am Rhydiac Gailax, Rear Admiral of the Royal Kratonian Military... Or should I say former Rear Admiral...

Lanval: Did they sack you or something?

Rhydiac: No... I was forced to quit. With my leg gone, and having to put up with the failure of defending King Hectapholes, I left. I felt that I couldn't continue any farther...

Angel-Ion: I'm guessing the same guy who killed your king did that to your leg, too.

Rhydiac: Yes... I remember it all too well. The name of the man who killed King Hectapholes is... Zurakiel Ketseuki.

Luther: I... I know him. 

Rhydiac: ... You do?

Luther: We encountered him in K-Kyloto.

Rhydiac: I see... So that maniac still breathes... How about his ally? Doriru Agobiar?

Angel-Ion: He was there too. I had a rather... Misfortunate encounter with him. Too close for comfort for me.

Rhydiac: You fought them?

Dirge: "Fought" is kinda subjective. We were trying to escape from them. We assumed this one here's brother would have been in Baise, but it was a trap they set up for us.

Rhydiac: I guess you got lucky, then. When Zurakiel and Doriru attacked our envoy, only three of us survived. The Queen, the Princess and I... The Queen herself died shortly after, from a mystery illness. We had thirty Kratonian soldiers as escort. I can't remember the count of Asterians, but they too were wiped out. Because of the envoy attack, Asteria shut their doors to any more alliance agreements.

Lanval: Wait... I always thought Kratonia was led over by the Royal Military and its Fleet Admiral.

Rhydiac: Kratonia is a crowned republic. The royal family are exclusively ceremonial. The Fleet Admiral handles the rest.

Roxanne: I take it this Princess is the new Queen, then.

Rhydiac: No. Not yet, at least. Princess Heika can only become Queen once she matures and marries a suitor.

Roxanne: I see. Hey, while we're here, maybe you could guide us to... Okun, was it?

Dirge: Okan.

Roxanne: Right.

Rhydiac: I don't see why not. It's just this way.

Rhydiac leads the group into an icy valley the other side of the spire. Roxanne looks at the spike field as she walks around. She looks at Rhydiac and then smiles with contempt.

Heart of Ice

Okan, Kratonia.

Rhydiac: Here we are, welcome to Okan.

Roxanne: Its beautiful!

Rhydiac: I think we should change you lot out of those dirty rags.

Lanval: Oh. Nuh-uh.

Angel-Ion: I'll pass, too.

Dirge: I can't wear clothes.

Lanval: You're wearing a scarf.

Dirge: Fine. Clothes that you don't wear on your body.

Vulkas: I could do with some new clothes. 

Roxanne: Same here.

Roxanne looks at Ruselt and Luther.

Roxanne: I really think you two should, too.

Ruselt: Fine...

Soon, Roxanne emerges from a clothing shop wearing a cyan dress.

Roxanne: Tada~~!

Angel-Ion: Eh?

Roxanne: Are you sure you're not gonna change? Remember you're in an Allied Nations country!

Rhydiac: What's that supposed to mean?

Roxanne: N-Nothing.

Dirge and Lanval emerge from a corner. Lanval is wearing a disguise while Dirge has donned a mohawk of some sort. Angel-Ion wraps Dirge's scarf around his neck, covering part of his mouth.

Rhydiac: Huh...?

Ruselt and Luther both emerge from the shop wearing matching blue thigh-length coats, white shirts, black trousers and boots.

Lanval sniggers. Dirge elbows him.

Rhydiac: I guess that accounts for everyone.

They leave the area, unaware that they were being watched by a hooded man holding a cup of tea. He puts the tea down and pulls out a weapon of some kind, before following. The clerk of the tea shop comes out.

Clerk: Hey! You ain't paid for that!

Ruselt and Luther turn around. 

The man pulls down his hood and mounts his weapon on his wrist. 

Spade: Visarions.

Ruselt notices the man, and before he fires his weapon, he grabs Luther and dives to the floor, taking cover behind a row of crates.

He fires a pair of sharp objects from his weapon which miss Luther by centimetres. Spade reloads his weapon and notes their location. He fires several blades at the crates. Angel-Ion and Dirge draw their weapons and fire a blast out, but Spade arms himself with a shield, which he uses to block them. Spade jumps clear over the crates, and lands behind Luther and Ruselt. He quickly turns around, and aims his weapon at them.

Luther quickly creates a defence barrier in front of them, and Ruselt pulls out his sword. Spade slams his shield against the barrier. The barrier holds. Ruselt runs out from behind the barrier and charges at Spade. Spade quickly swings his shield sidways at Ruselt, knocking him away. He turns to Luther.

Spade: You.

He points his gun at Luther. Luther creates a small plume of fire directly in front of Spade's face, distracting him. Ruselt suddenly rams into Spade and tackles him to the ground. While they are on the ground, Spade wraps his arm around Ruselt's neck, strangling him. A large ball of fire hurtles towards Spade, striking him on the left side of his torso. Spade throws Ruselt away and stands to his feet, brushing the fire on his body, extinguishing it.

He dismounts the gun from his arm and puts it away. He pulls out a modified shock baton and activates it. He turns to Luther. Rhydiac attempts to rush him, but Spade parries his attack and spews fire down before him, making Rhydiac back away. Spade jumps through the fire and hits Rhydiac with his shock baton, before leaping back to near Luther. Luther steps back.

Spade lunges forwards and swings his shock baton towards Luther. Angel-Ion clashes his sword against it. Bursts of fire and electricity spurt from the two clashed weapons. Spade suddenly begins pushing back, and begins pressing Angel-Ion to the floor. Vulkas creates a huge gust of wind which he hurtles towards Spade, knocking him off Angel-Ion. Angel-Ion attempts to stab Spade while he is distracted, but Spade recovers quickly and slams Angel-Ion with his shield.

Spade then lowers it, arming himself with his wrist mount again, firing it at Vulkas and Luther. A spike strikes Vulkas in the arm, and Luther in the left leg. Vulkas doesn't seem to even acknowledge it.

Luther: Aghhh!

Luther falls behind cover. He pulls up his trouser leg to examine the wound. 

Luther: (Ok... Calm down and think. It looks like the spike has hit the fibular artery, so pulling it out could cause very severe bleeding if not treated quickly.)

Voice: But then again, leaving it in will be quite the hinderance...

Vulkas pulls out his guns and fires two shots at Spade, who raised his shield beforehand, blocking them. He peeks over and fires another shot at Luther. The spike hits Luther's gauntlet, bouncing off of it. This startles Luther who quickly crawls to a different cover area. Spade takes cover as he reloads.

Voice: Just grab it, and pull it out.

Luther: (But what about the artery?)

Voice: You can solve that when you get to it. Now man up and pull it out.

Luther firmly grabs the spike and rips it from his leg, causing him to bellow in agony. He begins to bleed somewhat heavily.

Ruselt runs at Spade while he is reloading, his sword in hand. Spade stops short and fires a loaded shot at the oncoming Ruselt. Ruselt swerves to the side, and the spike grazes his arm. Ruselt rams straight into Spade, forcing him into a wall with a sword being pressed up against his neck.

Spade stares directly into Ruselt's eyes, seemingly taunting him to kill him. Ruselt pulls his sword back, and suddenly grabs Spade's head. He uses all his brute strength to smash Spade's head into the wall. Some blood leaks from Spade's helmet, as he looks at Ruselt with a mocking grin in his eyes. Soldiers suddenly amass on the scene.

Soldier: Nobody move! Drop your weapons!

The soldiers detain Angel-Ion, Rhydiac, Vulkas and Dirge with handcuffs and chains. They begin to approach Luther, Ruselt and Spade. Spade breaks free and reveals a pair of blades, which he uses to scale the wall onto the rooftops, where he soon flees the scene.

Soldier: Somebody go after him! Ruselt and Luther Visarion, you are under arrest!

Voice: Where have you heard that before?

Luther puts his hands up. Ruselt pulls out his sword.

Luther: (quietly) What are you doing!? Put that down you moron!

Ruselt hesitates. Luther quickly hits it out of his hands. Ruselt scowls at Luther, and raises his arms in surrender. 

The soldiers handcuff and chain them, and take the combined total of weapons, which are put in a small wagon separate from the one the group are hustled onto. Roxanne and Lanval are soon caught and share similar consequences. The wagons begin to move.

Rhydiac: Hey, officer. Are we off to Kaito now?

Solider: Quiet! (We're taking you to the High Court, Rear Admiral.)

Rhydiac: (What for? ...Oh, and it's former Rear Admiral.)

Soldier: (You'll see soon.)

The wagons soon enter a large white building. It appears to be a royal courthouse of some kind, attached to the much larger royal palace.

Angel-Ion: Pretty fancy place, right?

Soldier: Quiet, prisoner!

The wagon stops, and the prisoners are taken out, and are placed in several cells.

Soldier: You will wait here for sentencing.

An Encroaching Deadline

'1st May, 1215 AC. Late Morning. 'Near Asteria-Kyloto Border.

A tall Asterian man wearing a traditional black suit and hat enters the cafe. He walks up to the sixth table, where the Operator is looking out of the window. The table is just out of hearing range of any of the customers still in the cafe, and a phograph is playing music somewhat loadly in the corner. 

The man sits down opposite him. 

Asterian Man: Great view, isn't it?

The Operator: Personally I find it very unexotic. 

The man introduces himself.

Asterian Man: (In a quieter tone of voice) My name is Andrik Kesamir. I have been commisioned to speak to you about your progress on the-

Operator: I know. I recieved the telegram. The board is concerned about my progress it seems.

Kesamir: Their concern isn't exactly unwarranted. This operation started on the 20th of March, and it is still incomplete. 

Operator: I've been handling it. 

Kesamir: Really? Because the newspapers seem to have a better idea of where the Visarions are than you. 

Kesamir pulls out a paper with the headline "Visarions last spotted sailing away from Carta." 

Kesamir: We've even had a telegram from the Kratonian authorities that they may have been brought into their custody, although these reports are too early to verify. 

Operator: I've done more than you think.

Kesamir: Really? Like what?

Operator: I have been reducing their options. Thanks to a successful deal I made with Miss Winters, Mercria is now also looking for the Visarions. I have made contact with the Levian secret service, and they too are on the move. 

Kesamir: Yet the Visarions remain at large.

Kesamir looks at the paper.

Kesamir: Or at least not in our custody.

Operator: I don't like being micromanaged.

Kesamir: The board have issued me with a deadline. Should you fail to meet this deadline, you'll be blacklisted.

The Opeartor scowls at Kesamir. 

Kesamir stands up.

Kesamir: You have exactly 15 days to catch them. I wish you the best of luck. 

Kesamir walks out, and the Operator glares at him as he leaves. 

The Cold Arm of the Law

1st May, 1215 AC. Late Morning. High Court, Okan.

Guards begin unlocking the cells.

Guard: We hope you've thought about the words you'll present to the audience. Today's hearing is to be observed by all avaliable Admirals, the Head Warden and his associate, the Captain of the Royal Guard, and her lady, Princess Heika.

Luther has managed to rip the lower part of his trouser off, and used it to bind the wound in his leg. 

Rhydiac's mood changes somewhat. The prisoners are taken from their cells and are moved to the high court itself, where hundreds of people sit around the stage surrounding them. A balcony on the left seats four Admirals, while a balcony seats the Head Warden, another Kratonian man, and, seemingly, Ken Javert.

Lanval: That damn Javert's here... Shit.

At the centre front of the audiences is a larger, highly decorated balcony, with a throne of some sorts. Royal Guards stand around the throne as Brocade marches onto the balcony.

Brocade: Where's the Princess?

Royal Guard: She's running a little late sir. The Captain is with her.

Brocade: Grr... Just what we need. And the Prosecutor?

Royal Guard: He's here.

A man arrives at a podium on the stage. Rhydiac gulps.

Angel-Ion: Who is that?

Rhydiac: Morley Drackon, the Prosecutor... He wants to do us in at the highest charge possible...

Drackon: I'll have silence from the accused, please. Wait until you are allowed to speak.

Luther suddenly feels a pain in his wrist. His attention seems to be directed towards the balcony with the Admirals on it. 

Luther: (What the hell is going on?)

Luther sees one of the Admirals carefully watching him with a piercing glare. A young woman with icy white hair and a blue and white dress, wearing a small tiara atop her head, enters on the royal balcony, followed by the Captain of the Royal Guard. She sits on throne.

Brocade: Finally. Now we can begin.

Brocade looks down to Drackon.

Drackon: Court is now in session.

Several guards are seen leaving the chambers. Javert leans forwards, to pay much closer attention.

~ Kaito Head Warden ~ Ryker Zolus: I assume these are the ones you told me about.

Javert: Yes. Aside from the former-Rear Admiral.

Drackon: I assume I am in the presence of the following; Ruselt Visarion, Luther Visarion, Angel-Ion Excalvur, Lanval Dultra, Roxanne Fenix, Vulkas Raido, Dirge, and Rhydiac Gailax.

Brocade: Yes.

Drackon: The charges for Ruselt Visarion are destruction to property and endangerment to civilians. The charges for Luther Visarion are...

While Drackon is reading the charges, Angel-Ion looks up at the balcony at Heika. She down and spots him looking at her. She suddenly turns red and hides her face.

Drackon: ... Theft, and--

Royal Guard: Lady Heika! Is something wrong?

The audience looks round.

Heika: N-No. I'm fine... P-Please continue.

Drackon: Feh... Where was I? Aha. Dultra's final charge is...

Luther's attention seems to be still drawn to the balcony. He glares at the admiral looking at him.

~ Admiral ~ Zeo Miasmoros: Who does this kid think he is, eh?

~ Admiral ~ Basil Candiru: Which one?

Zeo: Luther Visarion. He's glaring up at us.

~ Admiral ~ Sturgeon Low: He oughta be taught his place.

Low attempts to stand, but Zeo stops him.

Zeo: You will remain seated, Admiral Low. Court is in session.

Drackon: Rhydiac Gailax, former Rear Admiral. You are charged on the accounts of destruction of property, and... Military abandonment!

Rhydiac: Abandonment?! What drivel is this? I was forced to retire!

Drackon: I am sorry, former Rear Admiral, but your retirement does not appear to exist on file.

Rhydiac: What?! That's not right!

Drackon: Then, if I may, why did you "retire" from service?

Rhydiac: Look at me! I am a cripple! I lost my leg in the line of duty! I had to watch as King Hectapholes was killed!

Drackon: So you admit to failing your nation? Not to mention, that you appear to be in very fit condition to stand.

Rhydiac: Damn you, Drackon! Damn you!

Drackon: Silence!

Heika: Oh no... Rhydiac...

Drackon: And how about you, Prince Ruselt? What are you accountable for? You have the highest total bounty out of your little... Pirate crew!

Javert: ... That's... That's not right. There's no way they can be pirates, can they?

Low looks down with a smirk on his face, hidden from the other Admirals.

Roxanne: Excuse me, "pirates"?

Drackon: Yes. That is what you are. We have photographic evidence, provided by Admiral Low, of your ship docking at Fleet. I can tell you that this ship has been burned.

Roxanne: Huh? We came in from Kyloto.

Drackon: So you try to tell me that you plan on bringing the Kylotean filth into our borders?!

Angel-Ion: Hey!

Drackon: Is that why you are here, Excalvur? To finish the job?!

Angel-Ion: Finish what?

Drackon: You planned to come here to slay the Princess, didn't you?!

Angel-Ion: Listen, pal. I don't care what kind of bigotted impression you have of my people, I could care less for their Overlord. You call yourself justice? You just accused us of docking in some Fleet or somewhere, but then you ridicule us for coming cross-country?

Dirge: That's right. Your accusation has a massive flaw in it.

Drackon: You are not the Prosecutor, are you, Mr. Dirge.

Low: Get on with it! Send these cutthroat pirates down already!

Roxanne: Come on then, Mister Prosecutor. Show us this photograph.

Drackon: We... Do not have it here with us... But that is beside the point!

Dirge: That is entirely the point!

Angel-Ion: What made you think I'd want to kill your Princess anyways? I've only just been informed that this country actually has one.

Drackon: You speak only lies, Kylotean.

Angel-Ion: As do you, Kratonian.

Drackon: Bah! That's it! You will recieve additional char--

Brocade: Prosecutor! Enough of this!

Low: You can't just let them get away with piracy, Flee--

Brocade: Shut up and take your bloody seat, Mr. Low!

Low suddenly sits down out of fear.

Brocade: I have enough knowledge from Mr. Javert over there to understand that this group are not pirates. But that does not accost them for their other charges. As for Rear Admiral Gailax, his abandonment charge is hereby quashed.

Drackon: (Damn you, Brocade.)

Brocade: The accusation of Mr. Excalvur being associated with the Dominion of Kyloto will likewise be dropped.

Low: Grrr... Bastard...

Rhydiac: May I have your attention for a moment?

Drackon: You have some ner--

Brocade: Drackon! Let the man speak! Have you no respect for the man?

Drackon: M-My apologies...

Rhydiac: We may not have known each other for long, but I have learned rather interesting news from these individuals, but...

Rhydiac pushes Luther forwards.

Rhydiac: This man right here, Luther Visarion, has managed to ward off the very man who killed our King, Hectapholes... Zurakiel Ketseuki!

Luther: W-wha... B-but I...

Voice: Quiet idiot. The people are falling for it. Just look around.

Luther looks to see that peoples' facial expressions have changed since earlier. 

Brocade: Is this true?

Rhydiac: Of course! This band of warriors not only fought off Zurakiel, but they pushed back a whole squadron of soldiers! I saw it with my own eyes! That's why I led them into our country, as heroes! They deserve to be--

Drackon: That is quite enough of this tall tale, former Rear Admiral!

Rhydiac: Tall tale? Like the one you tried to drop on these innocent civilians here?

Drackon: They are not innocent, former Rear Admiral! They are crooked pirates and nothing more! You are just a crewmate, aren't you?! Is that why--

Brocade: Prosecutor. That is enough out of you. We will have Princess Heika give the final verdict. You are dismissed!

Drackon: Blast!

Brocade: Lady Heika, please give the accused your final verdict.

Heika looks at Angel-Ion.

Angel-Ion: Hmm?

Heika: I-I can see truth in these people. T-They will be acquitted of all charges!

Javert spits out the wine he was drinking.

Javert: You can't be serious!?

Brocade: Lady Heika has given her verdi--

Zeo: Fleet Admiral, if I may?

Brocade: Go ahead, Zeo.

Zeo: May I direct your attention to Luther Visarion down here.

Brocade: Yes? What of him?

Zeo: Take a closer look at his left arm. That is, unmistakably, the Aspect of Envy, he is wearing upon his wrist!

Several audience members begin whispering.

Zeo: The Aspect belonged to none other than the great evil Azoth, four thousand years ago!

Brocade: It seems you know your historics, Zeo. But, may I ask, where are you going with this? Azoth is as good as dead as all accounts go.

Zeo: For all we know, Luther here could be plotting to resurrect him! Tell me, boy. Where did you find it?! I bet you can't even take the bloody thing off!

Luther: I...

Voice: So, are you going to take some initiative, or just stand there stuttering like an idiot?

Luther actively tries his best to speak. He looks to the amount of people watching him, and his voice trails away.

Ruselt: We found it in a Galahad Arms warehouse. He went out to touch the gauntlet, and it became fixed to his hand.

Zeo: And why were you in that warehouse, exactly?

Lanval: That would be my fault, Mr. Admiral. I had assumed that the gauntlet was some kind of precious weapon the Arms had got their hands on, so I wanted to steal it.

Zeo: Whatever for?

Lanval: I dunno. What does a thief does with his treasure?

Zeo: What makes it certain that you are a thief?

Javert: His father. "King of Thieves" Conleth Dultra is a renowned thief himself. Its only natural for a father's expertise to rub off onto his child.

Lanval: Heheh...

Zeo: Then I have no further questions.

Javert: As for what transpired earlier... Describe your attacker to me.

Angel-Ion: ... Why?

Javert: It helps narrow down his potential identity. It will be seen that whoever it is will get their bounty increased. Ruselt, you seem to be the one to have got close enough to the man.

Ruselt: He had plated armour. Not sure where he's from. He had fur, although it is possible that was just part of the armour. He also had some kind of wrist device that fired razor blades, and he has some kind of visor.

Javert: ... Spade. He must have been sent by someone to kill you. What was he after?

Lanval: (Is it me or is the "cop" having an active conversation with the "robber".)

Dirge: (I dunno. Roll with it.)

Ruselt: He seemed focused on my brother... I dunno why...

Javert: Given that he usually operates around their requests, I'm going to presume that the Galahad Arms must really want their toy back. Now that that's been covered, I'll see myself out. Oh. And don't think you're off the hook because of a royal pardon, either. As soon as you lot exit the Kratonian border, or find yourself in any trouble, I'll be coming for your ass.

Javert leaves. Zolus looks down at them before following him out.

Brocade: I presume that accounts for everything. I guess that concludes today's hearing. Now if we can all please exit through the hallways. Prosecutor, I expect to see you in my office tomorrow morning. You too, Admiral Low.

Low: (Shit...)

The courthouse soon empties. Zeo takes one final glance at Luther before leaving.

Heika: C-Could we invite them into the palace for some... Accomodation?

Brocade: Its your palace, lady Heika.

Heika: Then lets do it!

The gang prepare to leave.

Brocade: Hey down there. Lady Heika has given you all exclusive permission to accomodate the royal palace.

Dirge: Really?

Roxanne: That's great!

Angel-Ion: Yeah!

Brocade: Don't get too wishful with your thinking, though. I'll give you all five days.

Brocade leaves. Some of the Royal Guards approach the group.

Royal Guard: This way, please.

The group are led towards the direction of the palace, past Drackon, who punches his podium before walking off.

Days of Winter

Royal Palace, Okan, Kratonia.

The group are led through, following behind Heika and the Royal Guard Captain. Heika makes frequent nervous glances back. She blushes at each turn before facing the front again. They stop at a large door.

Heika: I-I guess I'll see you at dinner...

Heika enters the door. She seems to be in a bit of a hurry.

~ Captain of the Royal Guard ~ Arajin Torai: This way, please.

Arajin leads the group down the right corridor. As soon as they get a reasonable distance away, Heika peeks out of the door.

Heika: Hmm...?

Rhydiac: So then, Arajin, what've things been like on the Royal Guard these past few years?

Arajin: Oh, nothing really. Since the whole Zurakiel thing with King Hectapholes, we've been stuck in a point of inactivity. Princess Heika often stays in the palace. She rarely goes out. We wish she would, though.

Rhydiac: For the people, I assume?

Arajin: For the people. They love her, yet she stays cooped up in here.

They approach two doors.

Arajin: These will be your rooms for the five days. You will find that your confiscated belongings have all been carefully moved into the room on the left. If you need anything, ring the bells hanging near the doors. The maids will be here as soon as possible.

Arajin prepares to leave, but stops.

Arajin: Oh, and dinner is at five. Be sure to present yourself appropriately if you decide to attend. Especially you, Dultra.

Lanval: Hey! You gotta love a rogue like me!

Arajin: Yeah, no. I can smell you from here. Besides, you could do with a wash.

Roxanne: Where's the washroom?

Arajin: Both rooms should be complete with two each. Male and female. These used to be guest rooms, you see. Now, have fun, and I hope to see that you attend dinner this evening.

Arajin walks off. Angel-Ion opens the first door to see all of the group's belongings neatly placed on a clean rug. All the dirty belongings seem to have been cleaned.

Ruselt falls back onto the bed and relishes the comfort. Luther in contrast has immediately left to find the library, while still keeping an eye on the clock. As he browses through the books, a large, jovial, rotound man approaches.

???: Have an interest in books, I see? The name's Majutsushi Nari, but because that's too long, please feel free to call me "Maju".

Luther: You w-wouldn't happen to know w-where I could f-find some magic books?

Maju: Magic, hmm?

Maju looks along the shelves and picks one out. It appears to be smaller than his large hands.

Maju: How is this?

The book is titled "The Arts of Manipulating Waters".

Luther: Do you have p-perhaps something a b-bit more... P-potent?

Maju: Hmm... Here we are.

He picks a book titled "Art of Lightning" and hands it to Luther. He is about to put the other book back.

Dirge: I'll take that other one if it's quite alright.

Maju: Ok. Here you go.

He hands the book on water magic to Dirge, who leaves with a collection of other books.

Luther: T-thanks. 

Luther abruptly leaves to go find an open area to practice. Maju looks for another book to read. Luther finds a large garden in a central area of the palace. Dirge has found his way there already, sitting in what appears to be a zen garden in the corner, seemingly meditating. His books are found sat next to him, and in front of him are three stacks of oval stones, of varying sizes.

Luther seems to have gone to his own corner of the garden, and started reading the Sabarian tome, as well as the Art of Lightning. After reading parts of both for 5 minutes, he produces a dim light from the palm of his right hand, and static in his left. Suddenly, the stones in front of Dirge suddenly burst out and fly different directions.

Dirge: Oops.

Luther doesn't seem to react, and his full concentration is fixed on his books. Dirge spots Luther and notes what he is doing. He goes back to reading his earth book. Meanwhile, Lanval and Angel-Ion are sitting on their beds.

Lanval: Is it five yet?

Angel-Ion: No, why?

Lanval: I'm hungry.

Ruselt: Quit complaining. This is the best treatment we've had in a while. 

Lanval throws a miserable look at Ruselt.

Angel-Ion: Ask for something to eat then. The bell's over there.

Lanval: Oh yeah.

Ruselt: Don't encourage him. 

Lanval gets up.

Angel-Ion: Well, its too late now.

Roxanne emerges from the women's restroom with a towl wrapped around her waist, steam following her as she exits.

Roxanne: Its wonderful in there... Phew.

Lanval: Is that why I could only get cold water earlier???

Ruselt: Which way did you turn the tap?

Lanval: To the left, of course.

Angel-Ion: Did you not see the letters on the sides? The left side had a C on it, the right had a H.

Lanval: Oh... So you turn the tap to the...

Roxanne: Yes.

Ruselt: Idiot...

Lanval: Oh piss off... I didn't realise, alright?

Angel-Ion: If you say so.

Ruselt: So how are we gonna pass the time? We have until 5.

Angel-Ion: Luther's gone for a read, and I saw Dirge head to a garden earlier... Dunno where Vulkas went to. You know what, I don't even know.

Ruselt: I should probably see how Luther's getting on.

Ruselt leaves to try and find the library. 

Roxanne pulls out a set of boxes from a shelf.

Roxanne: We could play some board games?

Roxanne puts down a box for Draughts, a box for Chess, a box for Ludo and a box for Snakes and Ladders.

Lanval: Sure.

Outside, Ruselt bumps into Rhydiac.

Rhydiac: Oops. Sorry.

Ruselt returns nothing but an icy stare, and walks on. 

Rhydiac: Hey! What's your deal, kid?

Ruselt stops and clenches his fists. He regains his composure and walks onwards.

Rhydiac: Try to mind your attitude. We're in a private place here.

Ruselt: Hmph. 

Ruselt continues walking, still minding his temper. 

Rhydiac: Suit yourself.

Rhydiac goes to walk the other way.

Ruselt arrives in the library but Luther is nowhere to be seen. Maju is seen reading a book.

Ruselt: Uh... Have you seen Luther anywhere?

Maju: Oh, yes! He went to practice some magic after taking a book from here.

He begins exploring, and stumbles upon the garden, where he spots Luther multitasking. 

Ruselt: Hey.

Luther doesn't seem to have noticed him. 

Ruselt: *Cough*

Luther suddenly props his head up.

Luther: Oh, hi.

Ruselt: What are you doing?

Luther: Trying to learn two types of magic within a certain time frame.

Ruselt: How's it going?

Luther: Somewhat well. I mean I can give you a static shock. 

Luther taps Ruselt, and a small surge of electricity strikes him.

Ruselt: Ow!

Luther: Sorry. I haven't been able to test it on much. 

Ruselt: I guess I'll leave you to it. 

They hear chipping noises. Dirge is seen manipulating small oval stones to chip away at a large rock. He seems to have created a strange statue of some kind.

Ruselt goes over to Dirge.

Ruselt: What is that?

Dirge: Eh, just some... Thing. I've been reading a book on how to manipulate the earth.

Ruselt: It's... Umm... Very nice...

Dirge: What do you mean? It's shit.

Ruselt: (Trying to be nice... but nevermind). 

Dirge: So, what have the others been doing?

Ruselt: Fuck all to be honest. 

Dirge: Typical. Although, that's gonna be a given in a place like this, isn't it?

Ruselt: It is nice to relax for once though. Without fear of arrest... At least temporarily anyway.

Dirge: I guess that's true.

Meanwhile, Lanval and Roxanne are teaching Angel-Ion how to play Chess.

Angel-Ion: So where does this one move?

Roxanne: That's the rook, they move in straight lines.

Angel-Ion moves one of his rooks, taking Lanval's bishop.

Lanval: Two can play at that game.

Lanval uses his queen to take the rook.

Angel-Ion: Wait, that can do that?

Roxanne: The queen can move in all eight directions.

Angel-Ion: I see. What about this one?

Roxanne: That's the king, he can only move to any one space next to him.

Angel-Ion: Pretty lousy king, isn't it?

Roxanne: He's the one you're supposed to protect. If Lanval corners him with his higher pieces, the game's over.

Angel-Ion: Oh shit. So this guy's a big shot after all.

Vulkas walks in and begins observing the chess game. Angel-Ion takes another piece.

Roxanne: Oh hey, we're teaching Angel-Ion how to play Chess.

Lanval forms a wall with three pawns.

Vulkas: Well have fun I guess. I am off to bed. 

Vulkas walks over to one of the beds, before suddenly disappearing into his core. 

Lanval: I guess he's not attending dinner, then. Its only... Four o'clock!?

Lanval springs from the table.

Lanval: We'll finish this game later!

Lanval rushes off to get dressed.

Angel-Ion: What's up with him?

Roxanne: I guess it might be because its a formal occassion. Here, I'll finish this game with you and then we should go get ready ourselves.

Dirge enters, suddenly wearing a guard's uniform of some kind and some tassels.

Roxanne: ... What on earth are you wearing?

Dirge: The dressers said I had to dress formally for this "dinner" thing. What even is that?

Roxanne: Oh, that's a type of meal people have, usually as a gathering of people in the evening.

Dirge: I see...

Meanwhile, Ruselt and Luther are walking through the corridor just outside the bedrooms. They have just visited the dressing rooms, and now sport more ceremonial attire. Roxanne corners Angel-Ion with her remaining bishop, rook and knight.

Roxanne: Checkmate. You lose.

Roxanne knocks Angel-Ion's king over.

Angel-Ion: Aww man!

Roxanne: Looks like its time to get dressed, then.

Roxanne departs to the ladies' dressing room, while Angel-Ion goes to the mens' where he finds Luther and Ruselt. He looks at their outfits.

They seem to be wearing a black overcoat with gold and silver embroidery. Their coats sport military style epaulettes, and underneath they have a military tunic. 

Ruselt: It's nice to be in more royal attire once again.

Angel-Ion: You guys should see what Dirge is wearing... It's hilarious!

He begins laughing as he makes his way inside. Dirge suddenly steps outside the room and looks at Ruselt and Luther.

Ruselt: I don't think regular clothes really suit Sabarians...

Dirge: They insisted I wear this.

Angel-Ion soon emerges wearing a red and black striped jacket, a doublet and a hose. Atop his head is a cap witth a feather in it. Lanval quickly hurries himself into the dressing room afterwards. Ruselt keeps quiet about Angel-Ion's attire. 

Angel-Ion: Why's he in such a hurry?

Dirge notes Ruselt trying to hide a laugh about Angel-Ion's clothes.

Dirge: Admit it, we all look kinda silly.

Roxanne emerges with a beautiful dress.

Dirge: ... I take it back.

Ruselt: Shall we go to dinner then?

Dirge: We still have about thirty minutes, so I guess we should head down.

Angel-Ion: What about Vulkas and Lanval.

Roxanne: I doubt Vulkas is coming. Lanval will have to catch up.

Roxanne begins walking away, the others follow her. Lanval suddenly bursts from the dressing room wearing a suit with a cravat and a sash, as though he were a baron. He charges after the others.

Lanval: Wait up!

Angel-Ion: Keep up then!

Ruselt: I wonder what they'll serve. 

They arrive at the dining hall ten minutes before start.

Waiter: This way, please.

The waiter leads them into a large table in a large, well lit room with a few musicians in the corner. Rhydiac, Arajin, Maju, Brocade, Zeo, Heika and a few other guests are seated at the table. The group are guided to their seats. The empty seat, which would have seated Vulkas, is taken away. Soon, a series of chefs and waiters bring various foods to the table, and lay them across.

Head Chef: Bon apetite.

Ruselt and Lanval immediately dig in. Angel-Ion looks down at his cutlery. He is confused. He picks up a fork and observes it.

Angel-Ion: What's with all the forks and spoons?

Maju: Oh, those are for different uses.

Angel-Ion: I'm... I'm used to chopsticks and spoons, personally.

Angel-Ion begins awkwardly using the wrong knife and fork on his food. Dirge begins sucking the nutrients from a pear. Heika nervously watches Angel-Ion as he eats, unconsciously mimicking him.

Maju: Did Mr. Vulkas decide not to attend?

Ruselt: I think he was tired. 

Zeo looks round to Ruselt, but then shifts his gaze at Luther's gauntlet. Every time Luther looks his way, he darts his eyes back to his food. Brocade notices this, but does not speak.

Maju: So what is it your father did back when he was at NSIC, Ms. Roxanne?

Roxanne: Oh, he was one of the high up members of the company, meaning he oversaw activities from employees and all that. He had his hand in a few technological works too, and was in charge of assessing salvaged weapons and stuff.

Maju: What made him retire?

Roxanne: It isn't exactly a full retire, per se. He still does business with them, mostly delivering goods they find that is considered "dangerous" to the Archives in Carta.

Maju: Anything in particular?

Roxanne: Some old weapons, mostly.

Maju: I see.

Luther without really knowing begins glaring at Zeo. Zeo and Brocade both notice this.

Brocade: What is with you two? You keep staring at one another from across the table!

Zeo: My apologies, sir. It's nothing.

Luther just looks back down to his food. Brocade glances at them both before returning to his meal.

Lanval: I've heard you used to be Fleet Admiral of Kratonia's military, Maju.

Maju: Ah, yes. I still remember those days. Stern over there was a normal Admiral, Zeo was a Rear Admiral, Arajin and Rhydiac here were Captains. I'm now Inspector General, following my resignation from office. I much prefer this role.

Lanval looks to Arajin.

Lanval: So what made you switch to the Royal Guard?

Arajin: I decided to switch when I was a Commodore, after the envoy attack. For a start, I couldn't keep up with Rhydiac here. Another thing was that the Princess needed more support and--

Brocade: Could we not talk about that here?

Arajin: Yes sir...

The Kratonians at the table suddenly fall silent.

A chill suddenly goes up Luther's spine. 

Voice: Enjoying dinner with the enemy?

Luther: (They're not the enemy)

Voice: No? They said it themselves. These pleasantries are only temporary. There is still a sizable bounty on you and your brother. Don't pretend that Kratonia doesn't acknowledge this bounty. 

Rhydiac: So what was royalty like back in Venland?

Ruselt: Much better.

Ruselt elaborates further as Luther hears the voice again.

Voice: Remember which side they're on. The same side as Curtis. They'll have you and your brother arrested whenever it is convenient for them, and they'll ship you straight off to Canorica.

Luther: (If they were planning to do that, they would have already...)

Voice: You are only here because the Princess commanded it. Does she strike you as someone who has absolute control? Obviously not. Her officers have nothing but contempt for you. I bet right now, all they're thinking about is that bounty. 

For Luther, the room suddenly darkens and he can see the silhouette at the back of the room.

Luther: (Just get out of my head!)

Luther unwittingly slams his fist on the table, and the room returns to normal.  Everyone around the table stops and look at Luther.

Maju: Is something wrong, Mr. Luther?

Luther: S-sorry. I need to g-go to the bathroom. 

Luther leaves. Ruselt and Zeo watch him skeptically, for each their own reason. Everyone returns to their meals. Zeo suddenly drops his knife and fork.

Zeo: I am sorry, but I have to leave to go to the bathroom as well.

Zeo leaves, following behind Luther as he heads to the bathroom. Brocade shakes his head in disbelief, but returns to his meal nonetheless.

Luther arrives at the bathroom and he hears the voice still faintly whispering to him. He runs the cold tap and splashes the water in his face before looking into the mirror. By the time he has done this, Zeo has slipped into one of the lavatories, undetected. He begins listening in.

Luther: (Muttering to himself) It's not real. It's not real. It's not real.

Voice: Oh, it's real.

Luther: Just shut up!

Voice: I was only trying to help you.

Luther: Who are you!?

Voice: Heed my advice. Leave this place before your 5 days are up.

Luther: And go where? Huh? There isn't anywhere to go! My home is gone! Cid's house has been compromised, and most countries are actively seeking my arrest!

Luther seems to be verging on the point of breakdown.

Voice: You're pathetic. 

Luther: I am not pathetic!

Voice: You are pathetic! You lurch from one disaster to another and fail to take the appropriate initiative each time!

Luther: (Near the point of tears) Just... Just who are you?

Voice: Look up. 

Luther sees his reflection in the mirror. The reflection suddenly smiles at him. Luther slams his fist into the mirror, smashing it and cutting his fist.

Luther: Stop playing these stupid tricks on me!

Voice: Get it together! You're going to calm down. You're going to clean and hide your hand, and you're going to go back and enjoy dinner.

Luther: I... I... C-can't d-

Voice: Just do it!

Luther takes deep breaths in and out. He washes his hand in the sink, and wraps it with a paper towel. He hides it under his sleeve, regains his composure and leaves.

Zeo steps out. He approaches the mirrors, and imbues what appears to be dark magic in his hand. He directs it to the shattered mirror, the pieces of which come together. The now fixed mirror begins to ripple like water.

Zeo directs his hand to the toilet door, which locks. He turns to the mirror and bows before it as a figure resembling an octopus appears in place of his reflection.

Zeo: My master, I bring you fortuitous news.

???: What is it, my apprentice?

Zeo: I have bore witness to Luther Visarion's erratic nature. I can confirm that he is the perfect candidate for our grand scheme... - lel, such cliche

???: Good... I expect to see him on the eve of the Solstice of the Sun.

Zeo: Do not worry. I will make sure he arrives on Zoroaster in time, with or without his pathetic brother and miserable friends. You will be reborne soon... Lord Azoth.

The figure in the mirror fades as the mirror ripples back to normal. Zeo unlocks the door and leaves, intent on not returning to dinner.

Luther arrives back in the dinner room.

Luther: S-sorry about that. My l-leg wound reopened. I h-had to reapply the bandages. 

Brocade: Did you happen to see Admiral Miasmoras on your way back?

Luther: I c-can't recall. 

Luther just keeps his head down and continues eating. 

Brocade: I'll take that as a no. Please excuse me.

Brocade stands. He bows at the head chef in thanks for the meal, who repeats the gesture. Brocade then leaves.

Heika: S-So what is it you do, M-Mister Angel-Ion?

Angel-Ion: Me? Well, I'm a swordsman. I'm training to be the best in the world.

Maju: Good heavens! Whatever for?

Angel-Ion: If I become the best swordsman, I will have enough strength and skill to topple the Dominion of Kyloto, defeat Shen Gikoku, and restore peace to my land. I'll do whatever it takes!

Arajin: And how do you plan on doing that?

Angel-Ion: I have to learn all the sword fighting techniques in the world, and eventually defeat every blade that my sword clashes with, so that it has no rival, and can truly be called the best.

Ruselt says nothing. Heika is taken aback and blushes. Soon, the meal is concluded, and everyone returns to their rooms. Angel-Ion, rather than go with them, goes outside and approaches a cherry blossom on a nearby hill.

Angel-Ion: So, what brings you all the way out here to Kratonia? ... Right. You've been here since the days passing the Golden War. Impressive that you haven't lost any of your beauty before.

Heika looks outside a watchtower and spots Angel-Ion on the hill with a spyglass. She notes the approaching storm clouds in the sky and fetches an umbrella.

Angel-Ion sits himself against the tree and looks on the horizon. He draws his sword and places it on his lap. He looks at his reflection in the sword. A petal falls and scrapes itself along the blade. Angel-Ion picks it up. He notes a female figure reflected in his blade.

Angel-Ion: Gah!

He looks again, and finds it back to normal. He puts the petal inside a wallet Lanval gave him. He looks back into the horizon again.

Angel-Ion: I wonder where you are... Lance, Setsuna. I wish safety to you both. And you, mother, father. And you, Master Usagi... I will make sure you are avenged.

It begins to rain heavily.

Angel-Ion: Heh. With all this thinking aloud, it started raining. How about you, sword? No? Hmm...

Heika walks up the hill with the umbrella sprung up.

Heika: ... You're getting wet.

Angel-Ion: P-Princess?

Heika: Here. For you.

She tries handing the umbrella to Angel-Ion, but he declines. She instead sits nexts to him, and props the umbrella between them.

Angel-Ion: What are you doing!? You're a royal! Your dress is getting dir--

Heika: I'm still a person! Dirtiness is barely an issue to me.

Angel-Ion silences himself.

Heika: Despite our countries being at war... We're kinda similar.

Angel-Ion: What do you mean?

Heika: We've both lost something, no, someone important to us because of the Dominion.

Angel-Ion: I'd say you're more similar to Rus and Luther. You three had a father, a King, who was murdered.

Heika: I wasn't talking about father. I didn't just lose him that day. Rhydiac was a loyal friend to the crown, just like Maju and Arajin. The attack broke his spirit.

Angel-Ion: Hmm...

Heika: He lost both his leg anf his honour. He exiled himself because he saw himself as dead inside. He tried to take his life once before... Arajin stopped him and was forced to place him under arrest...

A Few Years Ago. Kratonia. Kaito Grand Prison.

Rhydiac: Bastard! Just... Just let me die!! My life is ruined! I have failed my country, failed my family, my pride! I have nothing else left!

Arajin: I WILL NOT LET YOU KILL YOURSELF OVER SUCH TRIVIAL THINGS!!! You are my friend! I will not see my friend die because of that bastard Shen and his attack dogs! I w-won't! I will join the Royal Guard!

Rhydiac notes that Arajin is trying to hold back tears.

Rhydiac: A-Arajin!

They embrace in a manly hug, emptying their woes.

Arajin: W-We are brothers in ARMS! Don't you forget that!

Present.

Heika: When I saw him at the trial... I saw that he was happy again. I don't know what you and your friends did, but he turned to his old self...

Heika looks at the sunset on the horizon, in spite of the rain.

Heika: Its beautiful...

Angel-Ion: This feeling... I don't believe I've felt it before.

Heika notes that her hand is on Angel-Ion's. She quickly pulls it away.

Heika: I-I'm sorry!

Angel-Ion: For what?

He grabs a rock and stand in the rain. He throws the rock down the hill. Heika walks over to him.

Angel-Ion: You're getting wet.

Heika: So what...?

They look at each other breifly. They come together and suddenly share a kiss. They both pulls.

Heika: I-I--

Angel-Ion: S-Sorry... I don't know what came over me...

They look into each other's eyes. They soon draw into another kiss.

The Militant

May 2nd, 1215 AC. Royal Palace, Okan, Kratonia. Morning.

Angel-Ion seems to be rattled in his sleep again. He finds himself encountering a new vision. He finds himself with Heika, floating in a blue cosmos. They reach out to each other, but there is a flash. Images appear. A desert island of ruins, a military flag, the Moon, gigantic people, a massive wall. A crowned man holding a sword. A man being crowned. A female Kylotean, an unrecognisable Sabarian male. A fleet of pirate ships, a glowing stone sword, a knight. Angel-Ion finds himself face to face with another version of himself, coloured blue.

Other Angel-Ion: Fight.

Angel-Ion awakens. He finds himself in a large bed. Heika is asleep next to him.

Angel-Ion: Gah!

She is woken up.

Heika: Hmn... Why so loud...?

Angel-Ion: ... What happened last night?

Later, Angel-Ion walks through the corridors, and stumbles upon Roxanne and Lanval, both still in their night clothes.

Angel-Ion: Hey guys, where are you going?

Lanval: To breakfast.

Roxanne: ... Where were you last night?

Angel-Ion: Uhh... Out...

Roxanne: Uh-Huh. This wouldn't have anything to do with the Princess, was it?

Angel-Ion: N... N-No!

Roxanne: Hehe... I see how it is. You and Princess Heika are in love aren't you!?

Lanval: (Lucky bastard.)

Angel-Ion: O-Of course not! What's it to you anyways!?

Roxanne: Don't try lying to me, Angel-Ion. I can read your face like a book. Why feel ashamed?

Angel-Ion: (It's the Princess of Kratonia!)

Roxanne: (So I was right then!)

Lanval: (Why are we whispering?)

Roxanne: Butt out.

Roxanne pushes Lanval back, knocking him over.

Roxanne: (You should have thought about that before you got in bed with her, then!)

Angel-Ion: (Hey! She encouraged me!)

Roxanne folds her arms.

Roxanne: What?! God, man. Do you not have a sense of romance?

Angel-Ion: Huh?

Roxanne: Hmph.

Roxanne walks off.

Lanval: Ah... My leg...

Angel-Ion: I don't understand women...

Lanval: Me neither...

They head to the dining hall for breakfast. The others are already there having their breakfast.

Ruselt: What took you guys so long?

Roxanne: I was doing my hair. This one overslept, and this one decided to go on a "stroll" last night.

Lanval rolls his eyes.

Ruselt and Luther finish their breakfast. 

Ruselt: So what's for lunch?

Luther: We just had breakfast.

Ruselt: Well I'm still hungry.

Waiter: Feel free to have some more if you wish.

Angel-Ion and Lanval begin eating. Roxanne helps herself to a bowl of lightly sugared bran flakes. Ruselt helps himself to more. Maju soon joins in. Dirge picks up a single orange from the food table as its contents are being eaten, before retiring to a seat. He begins suckling on it. Heika soon enters the chamber wearing a morning dress of some kind. She has a bowl of cereal just like Roxanne. A Royal Guard runs into the chamber, out of breath. Arajin stands.

Arajin: What is it, soldier!?

Royal Guard: Its... It's Nokogiri! He's... He's invoking a revolt...!

The soldier collapses. Upon inspection, he has been stabbed a few times with a trident.

Heika: Oh god! Is he d-dead?!

Arajin: He's still breathing!

Ruselt: Nokogiri?

Arajin: Marlon Nokogiri. He's a protester against the views of the Princess and the Fleet Admiral. I didn't expect him to get this far...

Angel-Ion: Is that a problem?

Arajin: Depends on the situation. Have you ever heard of Vladimir Wolf?

Angel-Ion: No...?

Lanval: I have. He's a revolutionary working towards overthrowing the Tythanian government. I don't know anymore than that, though.

Roxanne: He took over Tythan, last I heard.

Dirge: I know not of these two, but is there a connection between them?

Arajin: Somewhat. Neither have met, and Marlon used to work for the Royal Military. I'm not too sure on Mr. Wolf himself, but his revolt succeeding seemed to have increased Marlon's rapport. Not only that, but Marlon was discharged for having too extremist views in how things should be run.

Ruselt: How close is he to the palace? 

Arajin: We can't tell. From where he last protested to here, for all we know.

Arajin turns to a soldier.

Arajin: Issue the order for combat, and alert an Admiral! 

Soldier: Consider it done, sir!

Another soldier brandishes his trident and charges at Arajin. Rhydiac draws his and stabs the attacking soldier in the leg.

Rhydiac: What are you playing at, soldier!?

Arajin removes the soldier's helmet. She whips her head back to remove the hair in her eyes.

Arajin: You're...

Rhydiac: Steeple Raider, Noda Ninth!

Noda: Hehehe. Took you boys long enough to find out who I was.

Arajin: How did you get here? Who sent you?!

Noda: You could say... Marlon hired me to assassinate you!

Rhydiac: Maju! Take the Princess to safety!

Maju: I'm gonna do it, but not as an order from you, Arajin Torai!

Maju picks Heika up and runs out of the room. Noda draws two blades. She seems to sprout two more, ghostly, see-through arms, both holding similar blades, catching Angel-Ion's attention.

Rhydiac: You lot better clearout too! This could get dangerous!

Roxanne: (As if that's stopped us...)

Arajin and Rhydiac hurl at Noda, who counters their weapons with her ghostly swords. Her somewhat longer arms allow her to slash Arajin's chest.

Arajin: Bitch!

Rhydiac attempts to stab her other leg, but she bends back and counters his trident. She sticks out her tongue.

Noda: You gotta do better than that!

She stands upright and brushes her fringe from her eyes.

Noda: You Royal Guard and ex-Rear Admiral types sure are lousy with those things. You don't know how to properly use a weapon.

Angel-Ion begins to slowly walk over.

Roxanne: (Psst. What are you doing?)

Rhydiac and Arajin run towards Noda, who blocks their strikes. She grabs their blades and spins around, making them hit each other.

Noda: You should really learn how to properly weild a weapon!

She spins around very fast. She speeds towards them, forcing them to attempt blocking each of her strikes.

Noda: Dance, filthy pro-government trash!

Their weapons are launched from their hands and they get slashed. She jumps and kicks them both into a wall.

Rhydiac: Ghh...

Arajin: How embarrassing... Beaten by a woman...

Noda: I take it you're first, Captain.

She approaches him. He grabs his trident and stands.

Arajin: Not while I still stand, you bitch!

He runs at her, she spins around and trips him over. She stabs his back with one of her swords.

Rhydiac: Arajin!!!

Noda: Now... Time to die, Araji--

Angel-Ion appears behind her, his sword stretched out downwards.

Angel-Ion: You don't know the true ways of the sword.

Blood suddenly spurts out of Noda's chest. She falls down.

Noda: Ghh...

Angel-Ion sheathes his sword. Some soldiers run into the room and quickly apprehend the unconcious Noda. Angel-Ion helps Arajin to his feet.

Arajin: H-How did you...

Angel-Ion: She has been trained to use those blades, and has used them for years, and she's more experienced than you both, but she doesn't know how to properly use her weapons.

Rhydiac: How can you possibly know that?

Angel-Ion: Because I know the true ways of the sword. I thank Master Usagi for that.

Arajin looks at Noda as she is placed on a stretcher.

Arajin: Get her out of my sight. Somebody look into how she was able to bypass the security!

Soldier: Yes sir.

The soldiers leave with Noda. A medic takes a look at Arajin's back.

Rhydiac: What's the plan?

Arajin: Are you sure you're up for this?

Rhydiac: I may have left the line of duty, but I'm willing to serve my country, even if only once.

Arajin: ... It pains me to say this, but we request your assistance, Excalvur. That goes for the rest of you. I'd be grateful.

Dirge: I guess we could help.

Angel-Ion: Yeah.

Ruselt: Sure.

Luther remains silent and nods.

Roxanne: We're in.

Arajin: Good. We'll be travelling on horseback. Should take six hours of travel. The Military should be mobilised too.

Arajin grabs his trident.

Arajin: Men, to arms!

The Guitarist

Six Hours Later.

A large number of horses arrive at a town. Several soldiers are already here.

~ Admiral ~ Ultimesra Azazel: Captain Arajin.

She salutes him.

Arajin: What's the current situation with Nokogiri?

Ultimesra: Its worse than we thought. He has an entire town under his thumb. Hostages.

Arajin: Damn him.

Ultimesra: His revolt have been pushed out of this place though, for now, at least.

Arajin: I'll head to his place myself. I'll try to talk him round.

Ultimesra: But he'll kill you!

Arajin: Its worth the risk. Besides, we have powerful allies on our side.

Ultimesra: ... The pardoned fugitives? They can't guarantee anything!

Roxanne: (We're right here, y'know.)

Ultimesra: Alright... I won't stop you. But don't expect us to fish you out if you get captured.

Arajin marches his band forwards, passing through the evacuated town, heading towards the next one along. Soon, they arrive at what seems to be a makeshift wall, miles long, comprised of sandbags, furniture and wire. There are two turrets nearby, unmanned. There are traces of blood either side of the wall.

Rhydiac: This must be the place.

Lanval: Seems empty from this end.

Lanval jumps over the wall. He checks for traps. He alerts the others to come through. They begin walking through the town. They see some families cowering in windows.

Roxanne: This place sure has gone off the deep end...

The harrowing silence is suddenly replaced with the distant sounds of a guitar being played.

Rhydiac: ...?

Ruselt: Is that... Is that a guitar?

It gets louder.

Lanval: It is!

Arajin: But where's it coming from?

The tune is recognisably somber. A young Kratonian man strolls onto the same street, playing the guitar and softly singing to himself.

Arajin: Hey! You!

???: Wuh--!

The man is startled, and drops his guitar.

Arajin: What are you doing out here, kid?!

???: I was just playing some tunes, alright!? Don't hurt me!

Arajin: You seen a Marlon Nokogiri around here?

???: ... Who hasn't?

Arajin: What's that supposed to mean?

???: Marlon and his gang control these streets. He expects us all to pay him tributes so we can stay alive. If not, he'd string us from our ankles and flay us.

Roxanne: That's sick.

???: Look at you military types. Run in here with your fancy weapons and all. Marlon's prepared to rip you to pieces. You think he's just a protester and a revolutionary? No. He's a militant. If you went to the towns closer to the coast, they're deserted, either dead or part of his makeshift army.

Arajin: What's your name, kid?

???: Ray.

Arajin: Any last name?

Ray: Nikau.

Ruselt: Nice to meet you. Now you wouldn't happen to know where specifically this Nokogiri is would you?

Ray: A death seeker, eh? Just keep heading to the centre of town.

Luther sniggers.

Ruselt: Encouraging...

Roxanne observes an insignia on Ray's guitar.

Roxanne: Is that... That's an Instrumental!

Lanval: A what?

Roxanne: Seriously? Nobody here has heard of them? I've only read about books about them, but I didn't know they were actually real!

Angel-Ion: What exactly is an Instrumental?

Roxanne: They are all specially designed stringed instruments said to have magical properties. They were said to be made by a man called... Dang. I forgot the name.

Ray: Makar Telum. This one here is Morning Dew, the Guitar Instrumental. You probably saw the insignia here. This is Telum's mark. There's fourteen others. My father left mine for--

Rhydiac: Alright lovers, we get it. You've got a magic guitar. Lets get moving. If you feel like coming along, fine.

Ray: If it pains you that much, I'll help.

Angel-Ion: Weren't you just now--

Ray: I'm a drifter. I don't live here.

Ruselt: So what is this Nokogiri like?

Ray: I don't know. I only know what these people told me.

Arajin: He's an extremist. He believes that there is no place for a monarchy, and the Royal Military should be streamlined and redrafted. As a protester, he's ruthless. I'll guess we'll see for sure what his true colours are when we encoutner him and his cronies.

Ruselt: What exactly does he have against the Royal Family?

Arajin: I'd like to tell you, but not even we know.

Rhydiac: We're approaching a town courtyard, brace yourselves.

Rhydiac steps out first, followed by the others. There are forlorn people there. They look in the group's direction. They turn away and begin to leave out of disdain.

Lanval: Gee... How creepy...

Arajin: We should split up. Us going a large group may cause risk.

Angel-Ion: Got it.

Dirge puts his hand on Angel-Ion's shoulder as he tries to walk off.

Dirge: You're with me.

Lanval: I'll join up with you two then.

Ray: I guess I'll go with you two.

Ray goes with Ruselt and Luther. Rhydiac pairs with Arajin. This leaves Vulkas and Roxanne.

Arajin: Now, each group will take one direction to the north. If anyone runs into trouble, do not engage. Return immediately.

Arajin and Rhydiac rush off. Dirge leads his group off.

Ruselt gestures to Ray. 

Ruselt: Lead the way.

Ray: Tch. What's up with you?

Ray leads them off.

Roxanne: I guess we'll take the last one.

Roxanne and Vulkas take the last passage.

The Name's Marlon

Angel-Ion, Lanval and Dirge reach a plaza, where they spot two goons carrying tridents, one of them is torturing an old man strung by his ankles. They crouch behind some rubble.

Lanval: They must be that Marlon guy's thugs.

Dirge: How cruel...

Angel-Ion: I'm going over there.

Dirge: What? No!

Angel-Ion gets up and walks over.

Angel-Ion: Hey, losers. What are you doing over here?

Goon #1: Oi! Who do you think yer talking to?

Angel-Ion: A pair of losers.

Goon #2: Listen 'ere pal. Beat it back to yer own country.

Goon #1: He ain't answered yer question yet. We're the Neo Military! The pissheads of the Royal Kratonian can't do shit all to help this country out. We're what this shithole country needs!

Angel-Ion: Oh yes, because stringing up old people is the noble and just thing to do.

Goon #1: Damn straight.

Angel-Ion: I was being sarcastic.

Goon #2: Right! You've spoken enough, beat it before I--

Angel-Ion slashes the goon's throat open.

Goon #1: Gary!

Angel-Ion: Hahaha. You're next.

???: I don't think so, pal.

Angel-Ion turns, to find a log smash him in the face, knocking him out. The attacker, a muscle-bound figure with a mohawk, picks Angel-Ion's body up.

Lanval: Damn it!

Lanval tries to help.

Dirge: Hold still... Wait until they leave, then we'll follow him.

Angel-Ion is carried away. The others follow, but not before cutting free the old man.

Meanwhile, in Ruselt's group...

Ray: So, where are you two from?

Ruselt: Venland. 

Ray: Duh. I can tell by your complexion. I meant where in Venland.

Ruselt: Savorden.

Ray: I see. You wouldn't have heard of the "Crown Jewel", have you?

Ruselt: We have crown jewels in Venland if that is what you're talking about.

Ray: Oh, not those. I'm referring to an Instrumental. Crown Jewel is a violin. Given how old they all are, it could be in a museum by now.

Ruselt: Then no, I wouldn't have heard of it. 

Ray: Ok... Moving on.

Meanwhile, in the town centre, before the town hall and at the foot of a massive pool, Angel-Ion awakens, his hands chained behind his back.

Angel-Ion: Agh... My head...

???: You needn't worry about yer head, pal.

Angel-Ion: Where's the bastard who hammered me across the head?!

The mohawked guy steps out.

??? #2: Right here, asshole.

???: Tell me, Kylotean. Why shouldn't I just kill you here?

Angel-Ion: You tell me. If you were planning on killing me, wouldn't you have thrown me in the drink behind me by now?

???: Hmph..

Angel-Ion: Who are you, exactly?

???: The name's Marlon. What's yours?

Angel-Ion: Angel-Ion.

Marlon grabs Angel-Ion by the neck and raises him up high. Dirge and Lanval arrive, but remain hidden.

Marlon: So then, Angel-Ion, what brings you to my turf?

Marlon observes the bandages on Angel-Ion's chest.

Marlon: What's with all these bandages, eh?

Angel-Ion glares down at Marlon. He remembers how Avaloss caused him a very grave wound across the chest several months back.

Marlon: Did you fall from somewhere? Well?!

Marlon rips the bandages away. He stares headlong at a very nasty, stitched up scar on Angel-Ion's chest.

Marlon: Ghh... What's this scar?!

Angel-Ion dangles helplessly as he is held up.

Marlon: (How could he possibly be alive after a wound like this? How can he still possibly stand!?)

Lanval: He was hiding that?

Dirge: I thought the same... How could he have kept that thing hidden for so long?

Angel-Ion looks at Marlon with a deathly stare.

Marlon: (Those eyes... What kind are they...? He doesn't look like he could be dying. If I keep him alive, he could be trouble. You need to die, right here, right now!)

Angel-Ion grins.

Marlon: You find your situation amusing?

Angel-Ion: No, not at all.

Marlon: Are you trying to test me? I rule this town!

Angel-Ion: And a coward, by the looks of it.

Marlon looks at Angel-Ion with disappointment.

Marlon: Me, a coward? You disappoint me, Angel-Ion of Kyloto. I guess those will be enough last words from you.

Marlon throws Angel-Ion into the pool. He sinks.

Lanval: We've got to do something!

Dirge: Wait!

Lanval: He's gonna drown!

Ray's group encounter Lanval and Dirge. Ray notices the situation immediately and crouches down.

Ray: What's the deal here? Where's your red friend?

Lanval: Those goons captured him and threw him in that pool there.

Ruselt observes the situation before realising how desparate it is.

Ruselt: We need to help him!

Ruselt runs out from behind the cover towards the pool.

Luther: Rus! Wait! 

Luther runs after him. Lanval does the same.

Dirge: What's wrong with you guys!

Marlon: Well, now! What do we have here?

???: I got it, boss.

A goon holding a crossbow shoots at Ruselt.

Ruselt dives before he fires and quickly recovers, before continuing towards the pool. Luther isn't far behind.

Marlon: Children, you should not be running by the pool! "Lifeguards", sort these rulebreakers out.

Goon: Lifeguards?

Marlon: I was being coy, imbecile. Get a move on.

The goons run around the pool towards Ruselt, Luther and Lanval. Ruselt charges into a goon and tackles him to the ground. Lanval jumps and kicks a goon square in the face. Luther creates a ring of fire around the group, blocking any other goons from running at them.

???: I don't think so!

A tall soldier with six arms grabs two tridents and dabs them in the water. He reaches the tridents out and swings them forwards, spraying water at the fire and dousing it.

Lanval: How many arms does a guy need?

~ Third Officer ~ Randolf Fletcher: For that gesture, I'll gut you first!

Randolf lungs forwards and swings his tridents at Lanval. He uses two of his other arms to pelt Luther and Ruselt across the face.

Ruselt: Ah! Ruselt almost prepares to attack Fletcher, but sees Angel-Ion faintly at the bottom of the pool. He quickly runs towards it and dives in.

Luther: (Hmm. Let's see how light magic has a more practical application...)

Luther raises his arm towards Randolf, and a bright light flashes from his hand. The light is so intense that it temporarily blinds Randolf.

Randolf: Gyah! Raw! Back me up!

~ Recruitment Officer ~ Toby Raw: Got it!

Raw fires his crossbow at Luther. Luther in advance creates a defence barrier which blocks the bolt. Lanval attempts to stab Randolf, but he recovers and hits Lanval's knives out of his hands.

Ray: I'm in!

Ray jumps over the cover.

Dirge: For the love of...

Dirge does the same.

Marlon: Where are all these pests crawling out from?

Ruselt is suddenly attacked by what appears to be a man with a fish tail carrying a trident.

~ First Officer ~ Hawke Sharp: I don't think so, boy!

Ruselt swims further down to evade Sharp, and grabs Angel-Ion. Sharp swerves around, swinging his trident in various directions, at lightly scraping and scratching Ruselt's leg. Ruselt seems to ignore him, and focuses on trying to lift Angel-Ion above the surface.

Sharp gets behind Ruselt and gets the handle of his trident around Ruselt's neck. He pulls back, forcing Ruselt to let go of Angel-Ion. Luther notices that Ruselt hasn't emerged from the pool, and runs over. He looks down to see Ruselt, seemingly under attack beneath the water.

Luther: (Can't believe I am doing this...)

Luther takes off his coat and jumps in. He is suddenly grabbed by Randolf, who pulls him back. Using four of his arms, Randolf grabs hold of Luther's arms and legs, and holds him in front of Lanval, who prepares to attack him. Lanval stops.

Lanval: Whoa, man! Uncool!

Randolf: Stops you from hittin' me though.

Ray and Dirge find themselves face to face with the mohawked guy.

~ Fourth Officer ~ Suji Mohoku: Where do you think yer goin'?!

Dirge: Where do you think?

Dirge raises his staff to Mohoku's chest and fires a ball of light into it. Mohoku is blasted into a few goons before crashing through a wall. Mohoku begins to get up.

Dirge: I've got the big one, go!

Ray runs forwards and dives into the pool.

Ruselt manages to elbow Sharp in the stomach, despite the water resistance. Sharp looks at him with discontempt, seemingly not very affected. Ray gets behind Sharp and equips his guitar. He strums into it. Despite all other sounds being drowned out, the guitar strum seemingly creates a loud soundwave and powerful water vibrations. Sharp covers his ears.

Sharp: Ah... AAAAAAAAHH!!!

Ruselt quickly swims down to Angel-Ion again, grabbing him, and then swimming upwards to the surface. Ray follows them up.

As soon as Ruselt reaches the surface, he is struck in the gut with a tonfa with an iron ball attached to the end of it, he is sent backwards.

~ Third Officer ~ Cormac Tugg: What do ya think yer playin' at?

Ray grabs Angel-Ion and gets him to safety as he tries going back into the water for Ruselt, but gets blocked by Cormac, and shoved back.

Marlon: Hmm...

Cormac: What is it, boss?

Marlon: I smell royal blood.

Ray: Hit me with those things, one more time. I dare you.

Cormac: Alright then!

Cormac arms himself with his other tonfa and attempts rushing Ray, but is punched hard in the side of the face by Roxanne, who dislocates his jaw.

Cornac: Blugh! 

Ruselt crawls out of the pool. He sees Luther, having been grabbed by Randolf. He charges at Randolf from behind. Some goons get in Ruselt's way.

Randolf: What do we have here?!

Randolf throws Luther on top of Ruselt. Sharp jumps out of the water and attempts to stab Ruselt in the back. Ruselt moves himself and Luther out of the way. They both stand up. Dirge breaks Angel-Ion's chains.

Ruselt grabs his sword and holds it out in front of him. Angel-Ion arms himself with his sword, as Suji attempts to crush him. Arajin flies out blocks Suji's attack by spinning his trident. Rhydiac jumps down towards Marlon from behind, but Marlon jumps up and kicks him in the side into the pool.

Marlon: Hmph.

Arajin: Rhydiac! Grr...!

Cormac attempts to pummel Roxanne with one of his tonfas, but she punches it, shattering it as the same fist strikes Cormac in the face, seemingly relocating his jaw.

Vulkas appears our of nowhere and gestures his hands towards Marlon. A huge gust of wind pushes him backwards, but he manages to stand his ground.

Marlon: Where are all these ants coming from?

Randolf gets behind Vulkas and fully equips hims with a set of pistols. He aims them at Vulkas' back. Just as he fires, Dirge comes between them and creates a light barrier, which Randolf unloads his guns into. Some of them ricochet into other goons. Suji hits Arajin out of his way, preparing to take out Angel-Ion, who prepares himself. Sharp soaks his trident in the water and splashes a large amount of water at Ruselt and Luther.

While they are distracted, Sharp slugs Ruselt with his trident, sending him flying to Marlon's feet. Marlon picks him up by his arm.

A Royal Pain

Marlon sniffs Ruselt.

Marlon: So, it's your blood I can smell. Where are you from, kid?

Ruselt: What does it matter to you?

Luther suddenly puts his hand on Marlon's shoulder. A surge of electricity pulses through Marlon. He doesn't seem to budge at all. He springs his elbow back, smashing Luther in the face.

Marlon: I smell royal blood inside you. Which country are you from?

He sniffs again. He notes a connection between Ruselt and Luther, and presses his foot down on Luther before he can get up.

Ruselt: What does it matter to you?

Marlon: Royals are what kill this world.

Marlon slams Ruselt hard to the floor.

Marlon: Tell me where you are from. NOW!

Marlon repositions his hand so that his fingers are now digging into Ruselt's neck. Ruselt seems hellbent on spiting Marlon, and refuses to answer.

Luther: Venland.

Marlon: Venland, eh?!

Everyone else seems to stop what they're doing.

Marlon: GAHAHAHAHA!

Ruselt: What is so funny?

Marlon: Because your petty "kingdom" is in tatters under the control of Canorica! What a pathetic king your father was! Now he rots in the same place as Hectapholes, in the ground! Gahahaha!

Ruselt suddenly grabs Marlon's arm tightly. Fire emits from his hand, and begins to burn through the epidermis of Marlon's flesh.

Marlon quickly changes hands and lifts Ruselt into the air, bearing the pain of the burn which has made part of the bone visible.  He grits his teeth.

Marlon: Still got a burning spirit, eh?

He squeezes his neck very tightly.

Marlon: Guess we're gonna have to wring the rest that out!

Ruselt starts turning purple and faint.

Marlon: Try catching your breath in the drink, kid.

Marlon throws Ruselt into the pool. Rhydiac submerges and catches him, before jumping to another spot.

Marlon: Hmph. Never mind, his brother's right here!

Marlon tries to reach down to Luther, but Arajin attacks him. The fighting resumes.

Marlon: Get your mitts off of me, Torai. I gave you the chance to join up with me, but no, you decide to push us away!

Arajin: Who's been covering for you?

Marlon: What?

Arajin: Your cover, who is he?!

Marlon: My cover...?

Arajin: Surely you couldn't have done all of this without somebody else pulling the strings, Marlon!

???: That would be me.

A bullet flies past Marlon and hits Arajin in the gut.

Arajin: ?!

On the building, a cloaked figure puts away his gun. He comes out of the shadows; Admiral Low.

Arajin: L-Low!

Marlon uses this opportunity to punch Arajin hard into his new wound, sending Arajin flying back into the pool.

Rhydiac: Arajin!

Dirge: Isn't that the guy who tried setting us up as pirates with that Prosecutor guy?

Angel-Ion: That's him, alright.

Low: Oh no! They figured me out! Heheheheh.

Vulkas pulls out his guns and aims at Low. Raw shoots Vulkas' gun out of his hand. Marlon dips his burned hand in the water, cooling it.

Rhydiac: How long have you been playing at this game, Low?!

Low: For a long, long time. All those big pirate activities? The only reason they got discovered so late is because they paid me the right price!

Suji: Die, filthy Kylotean!

Suji attempts to smash Angel-Ion, but Angel-Ion speeds past him and cuts him across the chest. He falls down.

Ruselt regains his breath to find that Rhydiac was the one to save him. Ruselt reluctantly thanks him before recovering and getting up to search for Luther. Sharp attempts to strike him down.

A defence barrier suddenly appears in front of Sharp, blocking his attack on Ruselt. A bolt of electricity suddenly strikes Sharp, sending him reeling backwards. 

Ruselt looks to Luther, who seems suprised at how effective the attack was. Marlon notices this. He kicks Luther into a wall. He walks over to beat him senseless.

Rhydiac: Marlon... Why are you doing this?!

Marlon: Because I can!

Low: Die, Rhydiac!

Low fires his gun several times at Rhydiac and Ruselt. Ruselt takes cover, and sees Marlon beating up Luther. 

Ruselt pulls out his falchion and recklessly charges straight for Marlon. Low shoots down at him as Marlon grabs a trident, which he hits Ruselt into the water with.

Marlon: You just don't learn, do you?! You royals are all weak!

Low: Marlon! Leave them alive!

Marlon: Why?!

Low: I have a contact who is willing to pay a good fortune if I deliver the Visarions to him alive, and I can easily split it your way!

Luther: (Curtis...) 

Luther tries to crawl away while Marlon is occpied by Low while Ruselt gets out of the water with help from Arajin.

Arajin: So you're the cover, Low...!

Low: Of course!

Arajin: I suppose the Prosecutor is in on this too...

Low: Nah. I just gave him money to play along with my scheme. That's not all... All those pirates who were able to get away all those times before, that was all thanks to me too!

Rhydiac: Why are you telling us this?!

Low: Because dead men don't tell tales!

A gun is held to Low's head.

Ultimesra: That's where you are wrong, Low!

Low: EEEEH?!

Marlon: An Admiral! Those bastard dogs! Pull out!

Suddenly, Royal Kratonian soldiers charge out, apprehending several of Marlon's followers. Raw and Sharp work to get Randolf to his feet. Marlon arms himself with a pair of pistols and fires at all soldiers that come close to him, before running off, with Sharp, Randolf and Raw close behind.

Suji: No! Wait for me!

Suji is chained up and hustled by several soldiers.

Ultimesra: After them!

Some soldiers give chase.

Ultimesra: Sorry Low, you're under arrest!

Low: Get your hands off of me!

Low throws Ultimesra over the balcony, before fleeing the building. Dirge catches her.

Ultimesra: Thanks... That bastard. He got away!

Luther heads over to Ruselt.

Luther: Curtis is likely to know we're here soon.

Ruselt: How?

Luther: It was likely that Low was working on Curtis' bounty. If so, then it isn't too much of a stretch to assume he could report our whereabouts. 

Dirge: Is he that Canorican that wants you two locked up?

Ruselt: Yup.

Lanval: That snake...!

Angel-Ion: Forget about those fools. They're not worth it.

Ultimesra: Oh, never mind the fact that Low admitted to treason.

Arajin: You're forgetting that these people have a four-day pardon for their own crimes.

Ultimesra: Yeah, but still... Low needs to be found and locked up, he is more of a danger to the country than these people.

Roxanne: (Right here, y'know.)

Voice: Better get packing. Not long until their obligation to pardon you fades. 

Luther: (I know.)

Luther begins to wring out certain areas of his clothes in order to remove excess water.

The others begin moving, intent on returning to the palace, though Ultimesra is more intent on reporting to headquarters.

The Military Draft

May 3rd, 1215 AC, The Castello, Kaij, Night Time

Inara Winters' car pulls up in front of the tree-lined avenue towards the Castello which towers high above them. She gets out, accompanied by a small security detail, and walks up the avenue towards the front doors. She walks in, smiling to the doorman as she does so. She is guided through various corridors to a large hall in which there is a large round table with a map of Helios carved into it. A few chairs are dotted around it, the most lavish of which is occupied by Orchus. 

Orchus: (In Venlish) Good Evening.

Inara: Not really. I spent most of it driving here. 

Orchus smirks.

Inara: You said that the Dominion arranged this little get together in your telegram.

Orchus: Indeed. They gave little indication as to what they wanted to discuss, but I have a lot of free time so I thought I would humour them. 

Shen arrives, followed by Oran, who is carrying a decorated gold and jade cylindral container. Shen seems to be a bit displeased to be there. Oran stands before Orchus and kneels.

Oran: I thank you honorably for permitting this collective meeting, Lord Arbitrator.

Orchus: No pleasantries. We'll get straight to business.

Oran: Hmph. Right.

Oran pops the lid off of the container, and produces a scroll from it.

Oran: This here is a document detailing a part of our country's new Military Draft. I hope these plans assist us against our enemies.

Shen: Cut to the chase, Oran. I didn't grant this to you just for you to gavel on about it for about an hour.

Oran: Basically, what this document inscribes is that, rather than working as a small, weak-built, struggling alliance, we build our relationships and forge company with three particular parties.

Orchus: And they are?

Oran: You shall see.

Oran looks towards the door.

Oran: You may enter now.

Three men enter. One tall and broad, with blue and black skin, and covered in armour. One more animalistic in appearance, sporting an extra pair of arms. One bear chested, only wearing a white skirt, gold-laced sandals, a flat, black, blue and gold atef crown and a necklace of some kind, bearing a brooch depicting a scarab, weilding a golden crook.

~ Vincolian Sovereign ~ Phazorus Rezfarda: A very articulate place, this.

~ Battle King ~ Colubra Garuda: You're a sight for sore eyes, Gikoku.

~ Pharaoh of Southern Anathar ~ Malik I: Hmph.

Shen and Garuda share a scowl.

Shen: Why did you invite this filth?!

Oran: I knew you'd say that. I invited Battle King Garuda because, despite our existing relationship, the Golden Hive could prove useful towards the benefits of the Autocratic Confederacy, same with the Vincolian Army and the armies belonging to southern Anathar. Imperator Argus would not grant my permission, least to say that he'd be barely beneficial anyways.

Orchus looks at Oran. He seems to think for a few seconds before looking at Phazorus, Garuda and Malik. Orchus taps the table. Guards are suddenly poised and ready to fire.

Orchus: How did you all get here? 

Oran: Did you not read the letter I sent correctly? It stated that we would be bringing an as of yet disclosed number of "guests" along with us. I was hoping it would be four, but... Argus actually tried attacking Phazorus' ship with a platoon of his barges..

Phazorus: That stone-faced punk. If I ever see him eye to eye, I'd grind his head into chalkmarks on his own palace walls.

Orchus: I certainly hope you didn't just arrange this meeting just so you could introduce me to your friends. 

Oran: Of course not. The idea was that we, the Autocratic Confederacy, conscribe the forces of Hormida, Vincolo and southern Anathar into our overall number. This gives us many a number of advantages over those bastards in the Allied Nations.

Orchus: Then I congratulate your efforts, and welcome my new associates

Phazorus: We are most grateful, Arbitrator Retaliak.

Shen and Garuda look at each other.

Garuda: I suppose we can set our differences aside, Gikoku.

Shen: Agreed.

Malik II bows.

Orchus: Anything else?

Oran: That is all.

Farewell Kratonia

4th May, 1215 AC. Kratonia, Morning.

Luther begins packing away various books and even a spare change of clothes into his satchel. He appears to have changed into the disguise he wore prior to Sabaria. Ruselt enters the room. 

Ruselt: What are you doing?

Luther: Getting ready to leave. I'd advise you do the same.

Ruselt: Why? We have at least one more day before our pardon is made null.

Luther: The second their obligation is over, they'll turn on us. We might as well leave early and get a headstart.

Ruselt: I think you're being paranoid.

Luther: Is it worth the risk?

Luther continues packing. As it turns out, Dirge, Angel-Ion and Lanval have done the same. Roxanne seems to want to remain in the palace. Angel-Ion and Lanval are attempting to pry her from a bed post. Dirge is waiting outside. Rhydiac apporaches him.

Rhydiac: I see you're all set on leaving, then.

Dirge: Yup. It was a majority vote. Someone wants to stay.

Rhydiac: Why not let her?

Dirge: She's the captain of our ship. Plus when this pardon expires she's going to become wanted again.

Rhydiac: That's fair. Though, personally, I don't believe any of you are criminals at all. It'll be a shame to see you all go.

Dirge: Thanks. Its been a pleasure meeting you.

Rhydiac: Come now, you're talking as though this is the last time we see each other. Goodbyes are meant for people who know its the last time they meet.

Dirge seems to be taken aback by this statement. He soon spots that Rhydiac is wearing some kind of uniform.

Dirge: What's with the get-up?

Rhydiac: Oh, this? I've been instated as a member of the Royal Guard!

Dirge: Well, congratulations!

Roxanne: I don't wanna go!

Angel-Ion and Lanval are pulling at Roxanne's legs.

Lanval: Come on already! Let go of the post!

Ruselt and Luther both leave, having packed. Ruselt too sports his pre-Sabaria disguise. Angel-Ion and Lanval soon manage to pry her from the post. Vulkas gathers his stuff and the rest of hers. The group soon leave.

Soon, the group arrive at a large gate near the back of the castle. They find the walls and rafters are filled with several peopl, both the public, Royal Guard and military. They give cheers to the group as they leave. The only noted people not cheering or applauding are Javert, Zolus and Drackon.

Dirge: Wait, hold up, who planned all this?

From one of the highest turrets, Brocade looks down at the group. He tips his hat to them out of respect.

Lanval: I didn't think we'd get a final sendoff.

Angel-Ion seems to be frantically looking around. He spots someone hidden. He walks off to greet them; Princess Heika. She is wearing a Kylotean bone necklace which seems to have the mark of the Excalvur family carved onto it.

Angel-Ion: I didn't think you'd see me off.

Heika: Of course I would... We are lovers, are we not?

Angel-Ion: I guess you're right. Heheh...

Heika: You may have given me something to remember you, but I want to give you something to remember me by.

She puts a locket in Angel-Ion's hands as they share a final kiss.

Heika: Good luck, my love.

Angel-Ion: And you.

Lanval: Hurry up down there!

Angel-Ion: Looks like I better head off.

Heika: I'll be seeing you!

Angel-Ion: And you!

Angel-Ion regroups with the others, passing through the gate. He opens the locket, which reveals a photograph of Heika in it, signed "Remember My Love - Heika". He puts it in a hidden compartment in his bag.

Ray: So then, guys. Where we heading?

Lanval: SWEET LORD! Where the hell did you come from?

Ray: Back there, why?

Ruselt: We're headed to Asteria, I think. We need a safe route into Kyloto to retrive an airship. Why are you here?

Ray: I wanted something to do. Kratonia is not enough for me, so I thought if I hang with you guys, I could actually go out and live.

Ruselt: Do you want to pick up a bounty?

Ray: Do you think I care about bounties? They're just pictures on paper with numbers under them.

Ruselt: Welcome aboard then.

They approach the Asterian border. There is a monument dedicated to the lives lost in an attack that took place here. The monument has a stone crown on top, indicating Hectapholes Denophilius' death.

Ray stops and places a flower on the monument and puts his hand on his chest for a short while. Soon, Dirge, Angel-Ion and Roxanne pay their respects and put various different things, namely a pumice stone, shark tooth and shell, respectively.

Ruselt pays his respects in a similar fashion to Ray, where as Luther just stares at the monument for a while before continuing with the group. They approach the border. They note that there are Asterian guards.

Lanval: (How are we going to get past the guards?)

Ray: (Leave this to me.)

Ray approaches the gateway.

Asterian Guard: Hey!

Ray plays a soft, hypnotic melody with his guitar. The guards suddenly feel drowsy, and soon fall asleep.

Lanval: Hey, you're pretty good with this guitar malarky.

Ray: (Shh... You'll wake them back up!)

Lanval: (... Sorry.)

The group make it past the guards and head further into Asteria.

Ludarest

The group arrive at the Asterian city of Ludarest. They immediately notice the diverse population with many people being of different ethnicities. Some people, however, begin to glare at the group with some suspicion. 

Lanval: (What's with all these locals?)

Dirge: (I dunno.)

Ray: (Somebody ask for directions.)

Dirge approaches a civilian.

Dirge: Excuse me, sir. My friends and I are looking for directions to the nearest train station.

Civilian: (In Asterian) What did you say? I don't understand your language.

Dirge seems to have adapted to Asterian.

Dirge: (In Asterian) Pardon me. Can you direct us to the nearest train station?

The civilian spots Luther and Ruselt, who both lower their caps and avoid eye contact.

The civilian looks back to Dirge. 

Civilian: The train station is three streets down on the left. 

The civilian looks around to see if anyone is listening in.

Dirge: Thank you.

Civilian: Considering your company, I would advise you not to trust anyone

The Civilian walks on past, carrying on with his daily routine. 

Luther: Well that was ominous...

Ruselt: Why? What did he say?

Luther: He said we should not trust anyone. 

Vulkas: Then we should move quickly. The less time spent here the better. 

Lanval shows up, having stolen a few supplies from a nearby store.

Roxanne: Your bad habits are gonna get us put in prison.

Lanval: I'm a thief. Its what I do.

Ray: Can we get a move on?

Lanval: Yeah yeah. Whatever.

The group begin moving again. They reach the station.

There are several men checking for tickets before people get on the train, and stalls opposite the train appear to be selling various classes of tickets. 

Vulkas: Do we have any money?

Ray: I have some--

Roxanne: Princess Heika gave us ₺30,000 for our "services" to the Royal Family.

Lanval: She did? Where is it?

Roxanne: Split between two of these bags I'm carrying

Lanval: That's sweet. got a nice looking vase and a few ornaments from the palace, too.

Roxanne: Yeah, but unlike the money, your stuff wasn't given out for free, or was paid for.

Lanval: Hey! A Royal Guard gave me this double-bladed boomerang while we were there!

Roxanne: Is that all? A boomerang?

Angel-Ion: Give iyou two.

Luther: With that much money, we could get it exchanged for enough to get first class tickets.

Ruselt: Really? You're concerned about luxury at the moment?

Luther: No. But they'll likely have private cabins, meaning less people are going to notice us. 

Vulkas takes the money into an exchange office and gets enough Levos to buy eight first class tickets.

The train arrives on time and the group board it, as several people glare at them on the platform. Several train attendants check their tickets before allowing them to enter. 

The train itself appears to be quite wide inside, and they are directed to the first class carriage where there are several small cabins on the right hand side. Everyone is directed to their seats. Luther, Ruselt and Angel-Ion are guided into the first cabin, Roxanne, Lanval and Ray are guided into the second, and Dirge and Vulkas are lead to the third. 

Angel-Ion: So where are we headed, exactly?

Luther: We're cutting through the Kylotean midlands to where we first landed on the east coast. It is probably safer than retracing our steps.

Angel-Ion: And where does this train stop?

Luther: Varski.

A whistle blows and the train sets off. A few hours later, the border town of Varski can be seen in the distance, along with a long line of fencing and guard towers stretching into the distance. The border defence itself seems to be poorly kept, with the various guard towers in disrepair. 

There is a knock on the cabin door. Ruselt and Luther look at each other skeptically. Ruselt opens the door. There is a man with a refreshments trolley.

???: Any refreshments, sir?

The man doesn't appear to be Asterian.

Ruselt: No thanks. We're fine here. 

The man produces a gun from the middle shelf of his trolley.

~ Sniper Wolf Bounty Hunter ~ Rod Sullivan: Then go to hell, Visarion!

Just as he's about to fire, Angel-Ion slings his leg round and kicks the trolley, causing it to ram into Sullivan's legs.

Sullivan: Oof!

Two assassins outside the train swing around and fire guns into the train at Luther, Ruselt and Angel-Ion.

Dirge: Did you just see that?

Roxanne: That was at the cabin behind us! That's Ruselt's cabin!

Roxanne stands up and prepares to leave the cabin, but a woman in a green and black dress stands in the way.

~ Sniper Wolf Bounty Hunter ~ Verity Fraser: Sorry hun, you're gonna have to sit this one out.

She sprays something into the cabin. She then pushes Roxanne back.

Roxanne: Gh... What is...

Lanval: Gack!

Roxanne and Lanval begin coughing. They fall unconcious.

Dirge: Huh?

Angel-Ion: Duck!

Angel-Ion sends a burning slash out of the train at the assassins outside, but they swing around back into the train. Angel-Ion kicks the trolley again, sending Sullivan crashing into the train wall. Angel-Ion runs out and slashes the ceiling open. The two assassins on top jump back.

~ Sniper Wolf Bounty Hunter ~ Tom Hotch: What's the big idea?! The boss said there'd be two royals! Where'd the guy with the bloody sword come from?

~ Sniper Wolf Bounty Hunter ~ Dunkan Jones: How should I know?!

Hotch: What are those guys doing down there?!

Ruselt and Luther both exit the cabin. 

Luther looks out of the window to see how close they are to Varski.

Luther: We're about 5 minutes away. 

Angel-Ion makes another slash on the train roof. Jones falls down.

Jones: Ech! Verity, Sullivan, what are you doing? We've got these two bounties to collect! Where's Shadid and Abdul?!

A bomb on the side of the train goes off, blowing parts of the wall away. A pair of scimitars are thrown at Luther and Ruselt as an Anatharian man swings into the train. Above, Hotch watches the action. Somebody taps him on the shoulder. He turns.

Hotch: Hey! Who the hell do you think you are pal?!

The perpetrator stabs him in the neck twice and pulls Hotch to him.

Spade: Death.

Hotch: Gehck--

Spade throws him from the train, before assessing what is going on. Dirge emerges from the cabin, the sleeping gas coming out of it.

Verity: How did you--

Dirge: I'm Sabari.

Dirge points his staff at Verity and blasts her through to another train carriage. Angel-Ion kicks Abdul, the scimitar-throwing man, into the cabin.

Luther spots Shadid, and fires a surge of debiliting electricity towards him. He is blasted into a wall. Jobes attempts to strike Ruselt, but Spade jumps down and breaks his arm as he descends. Spade turns to Luther and walks towards him as Jones gets up.

Jones: GYAH!! My arm!

Ruselt kicks Jones hard in the head, slamming his head against the wall. 

Vulkas suddenly appears out of one of the cabins and pulls his two pistols up to the back of Spade's head. Spade notices this.

Spade: Runisian...

Jones gets up and tries to attack Ruselt again.

Jones: You bastard! You damned Visarion! Drop dead!

Ruselt sets his fist on fire and punches Jones through the cabin wall.

Vulkas: If you're not with them, then who are you with?

Jones tries to get up, but falls backdown. He gradually gets to his feet.

Jones: N-No! I won't fail this time! I can't! I'm gonna--

An arrow with a glowing, orange hot arrowhead pierces Jones' neck. From outside the train, there is a Kylotean male riding a horse, one that is fast enough to keep up with the train, weilding a bow.

~ Third Ranked Sniper Wolf Assassin / "Sun God" ~ Gestaporro Jogoku: Such is the price of failure amongst Sniper Wolf.

The horse breaks its trail, while Jones falls from the train, the arrow falling on the floor, which bursts into flames. Angel-Ion quickly takes the arrow.

Spade: I'll tell you whose side I'm on, Runisian!

Spade turns and points his own pistol at Vulkas' head.

Spade: I'm on my own side.

He swings his leg down and trips Vulkas, before preparing to shoot, but Angel-Ion slices his gun in half. A bolt of lightning from Luther strikes Spade in the back.

The linings of rubber on his armour absorb the shock. Spade turns around and draws out the knife he used to kill Hotch.

The train suddenly goes over a pressure plate set up by the Sniper Wolf goons, which detonates several explosives wired to the track, causing the train to derail.

The carriage breaks apart due to its existing damage, sending the combatants flying. Roxanne and Lanval are suddenly awoken when they land on the grass nearby. Angel-Ion, Ray and Dirge help them and Luther to their feet as they begin fleeing to the east. Luther looks back at the devastion while also running. He notices that atop a nearby hill there are several figures looking at them. 

Meanwhile, atop the aforementioned hill, the Operator and a few of his associates watch as the group escape from the debris. He seems to be keeping his composure despite the group escaping.

Operator: There is still time before the deadline. We still have a chance to get them. 

Borderliners

After about 10 minutes, the group enter the town of Varski, already raising suspicions, as many residents have heard the explosions on the train.

They just continue to walk through the town as if nothing has happened, averting eye contact with the Varski residents.

Spade begins persuing them, blending into the crowds. The crew feel as though they can feel his presence, as though he is behind them.

Lanval: I don't like this... Not one bit.

Angel-Ion: Everyone, stick together.

Ruselt pulls out his falchion, and Vulkas takes out his two pistols. Both however make an effort to conceal these from public view. Lanval equips a knife and his forked boomerang.

From the crowds, Spade equips his knife. The group try to see if they can see him. They begin to near the border. 

Spade stalks around an alleyway, where he is approached by a shady dealer holding a partially eaten apple.

Dealer: Ay. Listen, are ya looking to buy som--

Spade slashes their throat open. He proceeds to take some of the dealer's shady merchandise and loots a knife he was wearing around his waist, before taking a large bite out of the man's apple. He drops the apple onto the body and continues his hunt.

The group arrive at the border post. Spade spots them there, aware that he is too late. He turns and leaves. Some guards approach the crew as they try to go through the border.

Guard: Papers, please.

Ray: How about some music?

Guard: Excuse me? I asked for papers, not music!

Ray begins playing a tune. The guards enter a hypnotic state.

Guard: Feel free to proceed.

The crew tread forwards.

The Agosu Clan

An hour later. Western Kylotean Grasslands.

The crew travel along the grasslands. Dirge seems intent on searching for something.

Roxanne: What are you doing?

Dirge: Looking for any kinds of sign posts. The sooner we find one, the sooner I can pinpoint our exact location.

???: Hello over there!

There is a travelling man.

Ray: Hello, sir. How can we help you?

Traveller: I am a humble merchant searching for a town called Varski, and I fear I am lost, could you point me in the right direction?

Dirge: It should a thirty minute walk from that rock over there, and then a further twenty three minutes from a small melon field. You'll soon see it.

Traveller: I must thank you.

The traveller spots Luther's guantlet and hides a smirk.

Traveller: While I'm here, may I interest you in some goods?

Luther regards the traveller with some suspicion. 

Ruselt: I'm good, thanks.

Traveller: Y-You sure? I got some nice big bananas for sale! 99 gold pieces!

Angel-Ion: Yeah, bud, hate to break it to you, but for bananas, that's way overpriced.

Traveller: F-Fine then. I'll be off.

The traveller walks off. The crew proceed.

Lanval: Hey guys, look what I got~~

Lanval reveals a bunch of bananas.

Angel-Ion: Hehe. Shows him not to overprice fruits.

Dirge: Y'know. He might come back looking for those.

Lanval: He smelled of them. He has enough.

There is a bundle of bananas on the floor near a tree.

Lanval: Alright! Two for one!

Lanval approaches them.

Roxanne: I'm not so sure that is a wide idea.

Lanval picks them up.

Lanval: What? They're just bananas! Aye--

A rope snags Lanval's leg and lifts him up by it. He's soon left hanging from the tree.

Lanval: Ah shit. Can somebody cut me down?

???: Sure. I'll give you a hand.

A large burly man in red getup and a white mask appears out of a fiery puff of smoke next to Lanval. He draws his blade.

Soon, a few others show up, amongst them, the traveller from before.

Traveller: Hehehehe... You may not have been fooled by the first trap, but we got you with the second... Foolish Novalian.

Angel-Ion: Who are you people?

Traveller: Can't you tell from the brands on our masks?

Ray: You're not wearing one.

Traveller: Oh, that's right.

The traveller throws a smoke bomb down at his feet. When the smoke clears, he's wearing similar getup to the others, albiet with pauldrons on his shoulders.

~ Agosu Clan Squad Captain ~ Shisae Tansin: How about now, fools?

For some reason, Luther is able to recognise the emblems on their masks, as there is a similar symbol on his gauntlet. 

Voice: They likely have knowledge of Azoth. Don't let this opportunity slip through your grasp.

Luther: Who are you?

Tansin: Don't you know, kid?! You bear the mark of our lord! The mark of the great Azoth! We are the Agosu Clan, the ones who will hand deliver death to all his enemies!

He draws a sickle.

Tansin: As a bearer of his left hand, you have been declared an enemy! Jago, cut his throat!

Jago: With pleasure.

The burly Blademaster puts his blade to Lanval's throat.

Tansin: With his dying breath, you shall follow!

Luther creates a large ball of fire which hurtles towards Jago. Vulkas springs into action and opens fire on the cultists. Jago tries to block, but severely burns his wrist.

Several cultists try to dodge and draw their blades and bows and prepare for combat. Some are hit, one of which is killed.

Angel-Ion springs forwards as Jago recovers. Jago raises his blade and swings it at Angel-Ion, who parries it and cuts into the Blademaster's head, splitting it open. He turns and cuts the rope on Lanval's leg, prompting him to fall on his head.

Lanval: Oof!

He gets up and stabs an oncoming Footsoldier in the head with his boomerang, before yanking it back out. Ray hits another over the head after they try flanking Lanval and Angel-Ion, the latter of which impales a Footsoldier behind him.

A footsoldier begins to approach Ruselt from behind, but Luther suddenly grabs him. Luther sends a debilitating surge of electricity into him knocking him unconcious.

Tansin rushes towards Luther in attempt to cut his left arm off with a sickle. Luther's arm suddenly moves on its own, and it parries Tansin's sickle, breaking it and stunning him.

Roxanne uses this opportunity to punch him very hard in the face, breaking both his mask and his nose. Before his face becomes exposed, he covers it with his hand.

Tansin: Guh... Footsoldiers! Retreat! Just you wait, pests! Master Kogu will soon send more for you!

Tansin and the remaining footsoldiers throw down smoke bombs and disappear. Lanval and Ray begin looting the bodies. Ray takes a sickle and the Blademaster's sword.

Angel-Ion: Agosu Clan... What a load of rubbish.

Roxanne: I thought you would have heard of them. They all looked Kylotean.

Angel-Ion: They were. I've never heard of them, or whoever this Kogu person is, for that matter. They must be same kind of secretive cult.

Roxanne: This seems to be a reoccuring thing with us... The more places we go to, the more this "Azoth" crops up.

Ray: I've heard about him in song. He led what was known as the "Azoth Army" over four thousand years ago, and that he was defeated by seven knights from seven lands, Kyloto being one of them.

Roxanne: Hold on, as a song?

Ray: The one I heard was called "Vearth and the Befallen King". I'm not that great a singer, but I can play it, if you'd like.

Angel-Ion: Sure, why not?

Dirge: I would recommend you play it while we are moving. More of those creeps may end up coming back here to dispose of their dead.

The gang begin moving again.

Sometime later, Agosu Hideout.

Tansin walks into a chamber. A masked man with Azoth's mark tatooed to his large belly looks down on him. The man shoos away what appears to be two southern Anatharian girls.

Tansin: M-Master Kogu:

~ Master of the Agosu Clan ~ Kogu Yigari: What do you want? I'm busy!

Tansin: We have managed to locate one of Lord Azoth's gauntlets, Master!

Kogu: Really?! Are you pulling my leg?!

Tansin: No, sir! We saw it for real!

Kogu: Then where is it?!

Tansin: ... Still in the possession of the one who had it... A Venlish boy, Master.

Kogu: You mean you let him keep it!?

Tansin: No, Master! We were fought off! There were seven others! Combined, they seemed very strong. One of them killed one of our Blademasters!

Kogu: They did? Then they ought to pay! What do these fools look like?!

Tansin: Here are some sketches, Master. Our finest artists drew them per description.

Eight Agosu footsmen enter. Each holding up a white square board with a sketch of each member of the Tempest crew. Some have more detail than others. Lanval's face is wrong, and Roxanne seems to be incorrectly wearing a south Anatharian dress.

Kogu: Some of them look familiar... Oh! Yes! I see what you mean by Venlish now! These two are descended from the line of Visarion! Roarak and Cetera!

Footsman #1: Umm... Master, Roarak died a few months ago. These are his sons, Rusevelt and Luger.

Footsman #2: You idiot. Its "Ruselt" and "Luther".

Kogu: Ahh... Yes!

Kogu spots Roxanne's drawing.

Kogawa: And who is this pretty? I'll be taking this one. Post the rest on the hunters bulletin board.

All Footsmen: Yes Master!

Kogu: You ought to get that nose fixed, Tansin.

Tansin: Well, yeah. She's the one who broke it.

Kogu: Ah, so you're a fiesty one... Perfect.

Kogu returns to his chambers as Tansin walks off.

The Automaton

May 5th, 1215 AC. Kylotean Badlands. Late Morning.

Angel-Ion, Ray and Ruselt are playing a game of "blade tag" using wooden swords, which Angel-Ion made overnight. There is a pair of other wooden swords, marked with "Luther" and "Lanval" written with Kanji, beside Lanval, but he is too hot to play along.

Angel-Ion: Come on guys, are you sure you don't want to join in?!

Lanval: No thanks! (Man... Its too hot.)

Roxanne: What are you fussing about?

Lanval: Its alright for you, with that bloody umbrella there. This heat is unbearable. Why did we have to come this way?

Dirge: It was either the Badlands or the Western Swamplands, and Angel-Ion did make it clear that the Orochi clansmen are rather aggressive when it comes to territory. That and the swamps have muck pools that you can sink and die in. This way's only issue, for you fleshkinds at least, is the heat levels. You should be thankful that wild watermelons and cactus fruits grow out in these parts.

Lanval: Cactus fruits don't sound very appetizing... Wait, since when were there watermelins out here?!

Dirge: We passed a few before we made rest. You were more bothered in those bananas those Agosu Clan mugs had, so we opted not to tell you.

Lanval finally gets up. He walks over to Dirge.

Lanval: What are you doing anyways?

Dirge: Skinning this desert crocodile.

Lanval: Wha- Where did it come from?!

Dirge: They're mostly nocturnal. I'm surprised it didn't wake you when it attacked over night.

Lanval: But you don't eat meat.

Dirge: No, but you do. Roxanne told me to keep the meat for food. I was intent on using the hide for protection and the bones and teeth for weapons.

Lanval: Well save some for me. I wan't to make a new bag.

Roxanne: Don't you have enough already?

Lanval: They're all full, nearly.

Roxanne: Then dump some of it.

Lanval: Alright, alright... I need a separate money bag...

Roxanne: And what's wrong with a wallet?

Dirge: Not all of these countries use notes for currencies, Roxanne. Us Sabari use sand dollars, and Kyloteans have gold coins. It'd be more resourceful for us to use pouches for money.

Lanval: Besides, I've nicked enough wallets to last.

Roxanne can't help by to hide her face in shame.

Angel-Ion knocks Ruselt's wooden sword out of his hand and knocks him to the floor. While on the ground, Ruselt sees three objects in the distance that look rather out of place in the arid badlands.

Ruselt: What's that over there?

Ray: Huh? What is that?

Ruselt goes to investigate. Angel-Ion and Ray follow after him. Dirge notes this and follows as well.

At the site in question, there are three large metallic objects which seem to have legs and what appears to be hidden compartments in the sides of their bodies. They look very old.

Dirge crawls under one to look underneath. He comes out and drops a pile of old bits of machinery.

Ray: What is it?

Dirge: I didn't think I'd ever see one of these in my life. Especially not out here of all places. These are ancient automatons. There's a lot of articles back in Charybdis that mentions them. "Monolithic Guardians". Not exactly sure, but, despite having articles, none of them detail where they come from. Not even the librarians, who are all older than Argus himself, are sure. They claim they may have belonged to the Sabari First Host.

Angel-Ion: First Host?

Dirge: Oh, that's right. The council of Vesper Sabari, what you know as "Sabaria", is the Sabari Third Host, meaning its the third of its type. There exists a Sabari Second Host far away. Never been there myself. Despite that, there was an organisation known as the Sabari First Host, who are said to have been the very first of the four Great Civilisations, following the Ancient Runisians, Zoroastrians and Pre-Dominal Kyloteans.

Ruselt: What do they do?

Luther arrives having followed Dirge. 

Dirge: I'm not too sure about that, either. They are protectors of some kind, from what I read.

While Dirge is discussing, Ray knocks on the side of one of them. A single eye suddenly lights up on it. Parts of its body begins glowing.

Ray: What the...?

Dirge: ... But they should be-- What did you do?!

Its legs start to mobilise, and it heaves itself to its feet. The compartments open up to reveal what appears to be very old cannons. It looks around the area, and begins targetting Ray with a reticle.

Ray: Oh no. That's not good.

He dives out of the way as the two cannons fire raw energy out of them.

Dirge: Watch out! That must be the solar power it has been drawing in!

Dirge equips his staff and Angel-Ion draws his blade as the clumsy automaton hauls itself around. Luther gestures towards it, and part of its body begins to combust, and begins to oxidise, breaking off one of its eight legs. It notes this and swings one of its legs at Luther, hitting him across the head.

Angel-Ion tried to cut off one of its cannons, but finds that his blade can only go part way into its body.

Angel-Ion: What the hell is this thing made of?!

Dirge fires a burst of light at its head, but it seems to have done barely anything.

Dirge: Its definitely durable!

It fires its cannons at Angel-Ion and Ruselt. Angel-Ion tackles Ruselt to the floor so they don't get hit. Dirge blasts at the cannon with the cut in it, blasting it away. Angel-Ion gets up and slices two of its legs off. It falls down before trying to get up. Ray plays a sound on his guitar.

Angel-Ion: Now's not the time for music!

Ray strums hard on his guitar, creating a large sound blast that launches it on its side, exposing its insides at the bottom. At the same time, Ruselt and Angel-Ion impale the exposed opening, while Dirge slams his staff down on its eye, blasting it will light.

They back off at the machine twists and turns before exploding.

Angel-Ion: That was tough.

Dirge: These parts may come in useful.

Dirge begins gathering bits and pieces from the wreckage, including what seems to be an energy core.

Dirge: Try not to touch the others.

They carry bits and pieces back to the others.

Lanval: What happened over there?!

Angel-Ion: One of those things over there suddenly woke up and started attacking us.

Lanval: What was it?

Dirge: I'll explain later. That explosion may have attracted something to us. We should start moving.

A Place Called Home

Kylotean High Midlands. Evening.

The crew are travelling through a forest of some kind. The trees seem to be an autumnal maple. There are many leaves on the ground already, some covering the paths they followed from a village to the west.

The trees soon stop, and a few stumps and broken ones take their place, before the smouldering ruins of a large, red palace. Angel-Ion suddenly drops his sword from his hand and runs over to the ruins. Dirge picks up his sword.

Angel-Ion stops at the front garden of the ruins, and falls to his knees.

Angel-Ion: Damn you... Damn you bastards...

Ruselt: What is this place?

Angel-Ion: This... Is my home. I would say that I live here, except that "live" isn't at all accurate now.

A hooded figure watches down from a nearby cliff. They rush off before they are seen.

Luther: (Yet another set back...)

Ruselt: We can only move forward. 

Angel-Ion: There must be something here. Anything.

Angel-Ion begins exploring the ruins of his home. Lanval, Roxanne and Dirge soon join him.

Lanval: Uhh... Its kinda spooky here... I've got a feeling that we shouldn't be here.

Roxanne: Are you scared?

Lanval: N-No!

Roxanne: Ha!

Lanval: Shut up.

Roxanne finds a silver trident under some rubble.

Roxanne: Hey, Angel-Ion, what's this?

Angel-Ion: Hmm? Oh, that belonged to my mother.

Ray walks through the ruins to an open garden. There is what appears to be three makeshift tombstones. Two of them have swords stuck into them, with helmets on top of the swords. The stone in the middle has a groove in it where a sword used to be. There is an empty hole in front of one of the stones.

Ray: How barbaric.

Angel-Ion jumps down to inspect the stones.

Ray: Do you know any of these people?

Angel-Ion: Yup. All three. They were retainers of the Excalvur Family. All three of them. This one is Kipa Himitsu. That one is Sakyu Hojisha. This one in the middle is my master and teacher, Kenshi Usagi.

Ray: Do you think somebody decided to rob these graves?

Angel-Ion: Its possible... But the hole is in front of Sakyu's grave, but Master Usagi's sword, Rabbitsbane, isn't here... How weird. Though, saying that, Sakyu was good at the art of "playing dead".

Ray: What's that?

Angel-Ion: Well, pretending to be dead.

Ray: Ah... I shouldn't have asked.

There are sudden loud noises.

Angel-Ion: What are you doing up there, Lanval?

Lanval lifts up a vase.

Lanval: Huh?

Angel-Ion: Oh... So if that wasn't you...

Soldiers suddenly flank the building from all angles.

Avaloss: Well, well, well. If it isn't Angel-Ion.

Angel-Ion: You again, Tiger Face.

Avaloss: Ghh...!

???: Stand aside, Voldin. I'm sure you remember me, Excalvur.

Ray: (Who is that?)

Angel-Ion: You're the Oathkeeper Shen sent for us. I still recognise your ugly mug.

~ Dominion Oathkeeper ~ Suragu Sakana: Hmph. Now then. Lets see here. We should have ourselves... Two Novalians, two Venlish princes, a Sabarian, a Runisian, and you.

Suragu looks at Ray.

Suragu: And you are...

Ray: Ray Nik--

Suragu: Unaccounted for.

Ray: I'm new.

Suragu: So, Excalvur. What made you add a filthy fishman to your motley crew?

Angel-Ion: For a better reason that why Shen recruited a slug like you.

Suragu: Hmph. You should be a proud son, Excalvur.

Angel-Ion: What do you mean?

Suragu: Your father and mother managed to escape custody. Your mother seems to have disappeared without a trace, but your father... He's managed to take out a single platoon despite being alone and handicapped.

Suragu looks over.

Suragu: Bring the rest of them here.

Roxanne, Lanval, Dirge, Luther, Ruselt and Vulkas are brought over by soldiers. Lanval is still carrying the vase he picked up. Suragu looks at Ruselt and Luther.

Suragu: So what do you two have to say for yourselves?

Ruselt: You're a prick. 

Luther: (Agreed.)

Suragu: Hahaha...

Suragu turns and gives Ruselt a hard backhand across the face.

???: KIYAH!!!

The hooded figure from before flies down. They attempt to impale Suragu. Angel-Ion, Dirge and Roxanne suddenly break and attack some soldiers, but are quickly subdued, along with the hooded figure.

Angel-Ion: (That sword... And that hood...?!)

Suragu: Ohohoho. I see. Here to avenge your father are you, Yabira?!

Suragu pulls down the figure's hood, revealing a female Kylotean around Angel-Ion's age.

Angel-Ion: Yabira?!

Yabira: Long time no see, eh?

Suragu: Nice try, girly, but you're not strong enough to out-do fifty well trained soldiers. Oh, and this one.

Avaloss: Hey!

Suragu: Take them to camp. Lord Shen will be pleased to see them in his palace first thing tomorrow morning.

The soldiers begin moving the group away. One takes Lanval's vase from him. Several eyes watch the events unfold, and emerge themselves once the coast is clear.

Rakun Shokuji: ... Katto, go report back to Kitsuke. Yabiru has successfully baited the enemy. We have an Excalvur in our sights.

Hoippu Katto: Got it.

Katto rushes off.

Rakun: I believe that over there is yours.

~ Excalvur Retainer ~ Sakyu Hojisha: Oh yes.

Sakyu reclaims her sword and helmet.

Sakyu: My "playing dead" trick really worked back then.

Rakun: Yeah, but you lost the ability to move your left arm.

Sakyu: So?

Rakun: ... I don't get you Excalvur Retainers.

Sakyu: Good. The Resistance should surely be made on trust, and not values.

Rakun: You got that right.

Rakun pulls out Himitsu's sword from the tombstone.

Rakun: Sorry about this, old buddy, but I'm not gonna go leaving you unavenged.

Sakyu: We should get moving. If we lose track of the Oathkeeper, we won't be able to find their camp.

Rakun: Lets go!

They run off.

Attack of the Resistance

Suragu's Campsite. Overnight.

The crew find themselves chained to a series of pillars, and their equipment confiscated, and the vase from before has been carefully placed on the table beside it all.

Suragu: I hope you lot enjoy the cold of the night. Try not to freeze to death. Heheheh.

Suragu walks off. Two guards follow him. There is a short silence.

Yabira: So, how have you been, Angel?

Angel-Ion: Still calling me that, then.

Yabira: Well, yeah.

Lanval begins giggling.

Angel-Ion: I see you've inherited your father's sword and hood.

Yabira: Yeah. I don't want anyone else to have them. They're my memento of him. I plan to carry out his legacy.

Ray: I hate to be the bearer of bad news, miss, but it seems you are as stuck here as the rest of us.

Yabira: Hahaha... Not for long.

Dirge: You've got an escape plan?

Yabira: Well, no.

Dirge: Great...

Luther seems to be staring into space, and his face seems inexpressive. Lanval begins struggling to get his cuffs off. Ray uses his slippery skin to slip one of his hands out of one of the cuffs.

Lanval: How the hell did you do that?

Ray: These things are slippery on my wrists.

A soldier on one of the four watchtowers moves his searchlight over the prisoners, to keep an eye on them. Ray sighs.

Ray: Well... It was worth a try.

Dirge: What's stopping you? You're half done!

Ray: That guy on the watchtower has a quiver and a bow. If I'm one to judge, as soon as I stand up, I will find one of his arrows firmly inside my chest.

Yabira: He'd be a fool for even trying.

Ray: What's that supposed to mean?

Yabira: The others are gonna come and rip this place apart.

Roxanne: What others?

Yabira: The Resistance.

Angel-Ion: A resistance? As if. Shen would have squashed all of them by now.

Yabira: That's what you think.

There are loud noises outside. The watchtower refocuses. The man on the tower draws his bow and fires it elsewhere.

Dirge: She's serious!

Two soldiers run in.

Soldier: Which of you shits led these bastards to us?!

Yabira: Over here.

Soldier: You! You'll pay for thi--

A gunshot is heard, and the soldier falls dead. The other soldier backs up and tries to run, but is shot in the back. The wall breaks down and several Kylotean and Novalian soldiers enter.

~ Resistance Commander ~ Mark Langley: Angel-Ion Excalvur, Ruselt and Luther Visarion. We have come to your aid!

The watchtower is soon destroyed.

Angel-Ion: Well... We're being rescued.

Sakyu: Too right, kid.

Ray notes the same sword as before.

Ray: Is that...?

Angel-Ion: Yup.

Soon, the crew is set free and they gather their belongings. A soldier grabs the vase and confronts Lanval.

Resistance Soldier: I believe this is yours.

Lanval: No, its not.

Lanval runs off.

Langely: All soldiers present, we must destroy the camp! Raise hell!

The Resistance soldiers begin relentlessly assulting the Kylotean soldiers.

Angel-Ion: Hey, pal. Who set all this up?

???: That would be me.

Angel-Ion turns to see who it is.

~ Resistance Leader ~ Kitsuke Shokuji: Its good to finally meet you, Angel-Ion. Langley, escort Angel-Ion and his friends back to headquarters. We'll be right behind you!

~ Resistance Paladin ~ Rouxe: You can leave it to us!

Langley: Got it! With me, Excalvur!

Suragu emerges with his sword. He confronts Kitsuke.

Suragu: You damned traitor, Kitsuke.

Kitsuke: "Traitor"? I was never on your side to begin with, slug.

They fly at each other and clash swords. Rouxe attempts to join in.

Kitsuke: Stand down, Rouxe.

Rouxe: Got it, sire.

Kitsuke: Give up, Suragu. Your little camp has been sacked, and we have taken out almost all of your men.

Suragu: I'll never surrender to you, bastard traitor!

Kitsuke: Suit yourself.

Rakun bludgeons Suragu over the back of the head. He falls down to the floor.

Rakun: What're we gonna do with him, brother?

Kitsuke: Take him prisoner. Confiscate his sword. Rouxe, tell the clean-up crew to gather any flags still sprawled. I want to make a good parting give to that bastard lich sitting atop his crown of thorns.

Rouxe: Got it, sire. Oh. Is that before or after we liberate the Akua Clan.

Kitsuke: Eh... I'll say before. Just to rile him up.

Shokuji Residence. Dawn.

Several soldiers have regrouped with Langley's forces, including Kitsuke.

Langley: Umm... Kit. We have ourselves a problem.

Kitsuke: What now?

Langley: We may have one Oathkeeper taken prisoner, but we've got another two to deal with. Specifically, yours.

Kitsuke: Hmm... I'll guess we'll have to do some negotiation.

Dirge: You mean you've headquartered at a Dominion-guarded palace?

Kitsuke: We never intended on remaining here. It may have been my ancestral home, but I have no need to continue living in it.

The Oathkeepers standing guard note the company of the Tempest crew and several other foreign people.

~ Dominion Oathkeeper ~ Numachi Gido: What on earth is going on here, Shokuji?! 

Kitsuke: Please. Calm yourself, friend.

~ Dominion Oathkeeper ~ Shibafu Kusa: You have some nerve... You may be one of the Dominion's Kazoku, but we Oathkeepers still hold power over you!

~ Resistance Assassin ~ Aruku Yori: Sayonara.

Shibafu's neck is sliced open by Aruku's sword. The cut is deep. He falls dead on the floor. Aruku looks coldly at Numachi.

Numachi: P-Please, don't be hasty, Sho-- I mean Kitsuke! I'll do anything! Don't kill me!

Kitsuke: Enough blood has been spilled on these grounds. Take him prisoner. I hope you like cleaning.

Numachi: Uhh... W-Why's that?

Kitsuke: You're going to be chore boy on my flagship. As punishment for serving the Dominion. Put him with Suragu.

Kitsuke pushes the doors on his home open.

Kitsuke: Angel-Ion, Prince Ruselt, Prince Luther, and all those accompanying you, make yourselves at home.

???: Did I just hear... EEEEE!

Angel-Ion: Oh no...

Angel-Ion is attacked by a woman who seems to have similar traits to him.

Roxanne: Who's this?

Angel-Ion: Ugh... Hello, mother.

~ Matriarch of the Excalvur Family ~ Rika Excalvur: I'm just glad you're ok. Have you seen your father? Are you hurt?

Angel-Ion: I'm fine. And no. Why'd you ask?

Rika: He told me to come here and left me, telling me that he'd find you, and your brother and sister. I'm worried... He hasn't contacted me.

Dirge: Apparently he took out a squad of soldiers while handicapped or something.

Ruselt: Well... At least we have another safehouse...

Luther: Let's see how long it stays that way. 

Kitsuke: You can't.

Lanval: Why not?

Kitsuke: Because we intend to evacuate the entire premises. Shen will catch wind of this sooner or later, and should anyone stay behind, Shen will have them killed.

Luther: Huh. Precisely 30 seconds.

Sakyu: 30 seconds of what?

Luther: (Does she not get the joke?) N-nevermind. 

Sakyu: Ok then...

Several chefs wheel in several large dishes, mostly entire large roadted fish, and enormous rice balls.

Kitsuke: Feel free to eat. You must all be hungry.

Lanval: Don't your other men need to eat too?

Kitsuke: They're currently occupying the mess hall and the yard with their own meals.

Angel-Ion: So what exactly made you plan all this?

Kitsuke: I just felt that it entirely must happen. Shen is a fool that sits atop a throne of lies, the Allied Nations are riddled with corruption, and several other parties have their own dark ambitions and agendas. We plan on seeking out as many allies to our cause as we can. As you can see, the Novalians here are from the Skylords' Eta Squadron.

Langley: We turned rogue when we found that the Allied Nations were to do nothing about the Galahad Arms, so we sought out outside help, and we came across Kitsuke and his forces. With our operations against the Allied Nations during the war with Venland, we faced being discharged if we ourselves took action.

Rouxe suddenly charges in. He catches his breath.

Rouxe: Sire... One escaped... We fear he may reveal to Shen too soon.

Kitsuke: Who was it?

Rouxe: By the looks of it, he seemed to be of a different kind to what we all know. Beared the features of an animal.

Kitsuke and Angel-Ion: Voldin.

Kitsuke: So you know that bastard?

Angel-Ion: Of course. He was after me for months.

Kitsuke: I assume that is where you encountered the rest of your band.

Angel-Ion: Pretty much.

Langley: So, you're ol' Cid's daughter?

Roxanne: That's right. He's a crazy old man.

Langley: Pfft. Everyone who knows him knows that. He used to be a Skylord like us. He quit during the war with Venland. I wouldn't blame him.

Ruselt: Shouldn't we be leaving now? 

Kitsuke: You just got here. Relax a bit. There's no way Shen and his armies are going to find out about our operations any time soon. By the time he takes any action, we will have moved north east to the East Riverlands... In other words, the Acua Clan territories.

Dirge: What do you plan on doing up there?

Kitsuke: We plan on severing the Acua Clan's ties with the Dominion. They serve as the Dominion's weakest link, and have a very strained relationship with the other clans. As for the Ichizoku of the Acua Clan, she seems to have a hatred for both Shen, and his main cohort, Oran Mandarin, who was the one who killed her father and turned their palace into a slaughterhouse in order to ensure dominance.

Roxanne: Are you sure you're strong enough to combat the forces up there?

Kitsuke: I don't want to be certain in our abilities. Which brings me to my request...

Kitsuke draws his sword. Rouxe and Langley do the same. They place them down and kneel.

Kitsuke: Princes Visarion, Angel-Ion Excalvur. We request that you and your band of knights join us on our future endeavours, so that we may finally put an end to the Dominion and all other foes we may face!

Luther makes a mental note of this. 

Vulkas: (Is he really asking a 15 year old boy to help him bring down the Dominion?)

Ruselt: I... Uh... Wasn't really planning on getting involved in politics any time soon. 

Lanval: So how about it, guys? You want to gather allies to fight Shen yourself, right, Angel-Ion?

Ray: I'm gonna remain neutral here. I'll go either way.

Dirge: We should be rational about this.

Angel-Ion: I've already made up my mind.

Kitsuke: What'll it be?

Angel-Ion: No. At least, not yet, anyways. There's a lot of things we as a crew must first do.

Kitsuke: I see. I understand. Where will you be headed?

Angel-Ion: You should consult our Captain about that.

Roxanne: We're headed back to our ship to return to my old man's house. From there, we will need to seek out a way to get this thing removed.

Roxanne raises Luther's left hand.

Langley: ... You want to cut off his arm?

Roxanne: What? No! This gauntlet. All we know is that it belonged to some 4000 year old monster called "Azoth".

Kitsuke spits out his sake.

Kitsuke: Do my ears deceive me, or did I just hear the name "Azoth"?

Roxanne: Yes, why?

Kitsuke: If that gauntlet is something belonging to Azoth, you need to be wise and keep cautious around it. He may be long gone, but a secret that has been passed down through the Shokuji lineage is a secret regarding Gorudo Gikoku, the Greedy King of Kyloto, hundreds of years ago. My descendants were amongst those who had to entomb him after he was slain, and an issue they came across was Gorudo's leg, which seemed to move on its own long after his passing, and they felt an otherworldly dark presence lingering inside.

Luther doesn't respond. 

Ruselt: You wouldn't happen to know how to get it off, would you?

Kitsuke: I'm afraid not, though I do know of somebody who may know much more than I do.

Luther perks up.

Luther: Who?

Kitsuke: He calls himself "Phade". He is the one in charge of a movement called the "Sept of Ice" in Vincolo. He's somebody who I personally would like to recruit to our side.

Angel-Ion: That's a ways away. You've gotta go quite far to get there.

Kitsuke: His age, experience and wisdom may prove useful to you.

Luther makes another mental note. A Novalian soldier runs in.

Novalian Soldier: Lord Shokuji, the sun is upon us! We must begin making preparations to evacuate!

The soldiers in the room look at Kitsuke.

Kitsuke: Don't just stand around, then, begin the evacuation!

The soldiers begin rushing around to gather things.

Lanval: What's going on?

Kitsuke: We're leaving. As we will soon be parting ways, I would recommend that you do the same as well. Should you stay for too long, Shen and his soldiers will come here and kill you all.

The crew soon begin gather together their belongings. The vase soldier from before approaches Lanval.

Soldier: This is yours, sir.

Lanval: For the last time, its not mine! You keep it!

Soldier: Y-Yes sir!

The soldier runs off with the vase. Despite the antiquity of the house, it is soon completely cleared within the hour. Several soldiers begin heading out to the east.

The Shokuji family stables are relieved of their horses and donkeys, which some soldiers take with them. Kitsuke mounts his own personal stallion.

Kitsuke: Split into two groups! The first half will go with me to the East Riverlands, the rest of you, head to the coast and board any ship you may find, and join up with the rest of our amassed fleet!

Kitsuke looks down to Roxanne.

Kitsuke: Where exactly are you headed first?

Roxanne: Dirge?

Dirge: The central eastern coast. That is where our ship lies.

Kitsuke: That means you will need to cross the Eastern Bonelands. That place is dangerous to those who aren't familiar to those parts.

Kitsuke looks around.

Kitsuke: Hey, Ryoko! Over here!

A Kylotean soldier heads over.

~ Resistance Soldier ~ Ryoko Goei: What is it, sir?

Kitsuke: You're familiar with the Bonelands, aren't you?

Ryoko: Yes, sir.

Kitsuke: I want you to guide these people through them with utmost safety.

Ryoko: Consider it done, sir. This way, fellow companions!

Ryoko leads the crew down a hill.

Kitsuke: Good luck.

Kitsuke approaches the now-empty house. He looks at it for a while.

Rakun: Its gonna be hard to see this place go.

Kitsuke: We must not let this place be a burden to us.

Rakun: Lets go, we don't know when Shen and his army will show up.

Kitsuke: He'll have his gift to look forward to his special gift first.

Rakun: Good riddance to him.

They ride off.

Rage

Kylotean Sacred Grounds

Several burning Kylotean flags have been placed in the horizon. Shen, Oran, Shiro and several soldiers, Avaloss amongst them, approach the flags. The former three are on horseback. Shen dismounts his horse to find a black box nearby.

Shen looks at Avaloss before opening it, to find the severed head of Shibafu inside. Shen notes a card beneath it. He throws the head out of the box before looking at the card, which has the emblem of the Shokuji family, coloured black.

Beneath reads "Severed Ties" in Kanji. Shen's hands set on fire, incinerating the box and card.

Shen: Shokuji... You dare betray the Dominion?!

Shen turns to his men.

Shen: Set course to the Shokuji residence! That is an order!

Shen climbs aboard his horse. The soldiers lead in front as the horses start moving.

The Bonelands

Eastern Bonelands, Eastern Entry.

Lanval: Man... This place is hotter than the Badlands...

Dirge: This desert reminds me of my place.

Roxanne: So why is this place called the "Bonelands"?

Ryoko: That should be more clear as we get deeper in. Amongst all of this sand and the giant rocks are hundreds of varying bones. Men, mammoths, dragons, even the strange and mysterious creatures we know today as "Leviathans".

Dirge: Leviathans?

Ryoko: Supposedly, they were a massive kind that existed in more ancient times. They're an extinct species now. You can find more bones from them here than anywhere else on the planet.

A huge, partially buried skeleton appears over the horizon.

Lanval: Is that one over there?

Ryoko: Yes.

Roxanne: Wow!

Ryoko: You should be careful out here, too. Not only is the heat a huge killer, there are predators out here that are worse than those in the Badlands. While the desert crocodiles also live out here, there are more ferocious beasts lurking, and some of them go by day.

Lanval: Shit...

Ryoko: I must warn you not to sleep out in the open, either. There are vultures out here that tend to eat those who appear to be dead.

Meanwhile, nearby. Cetera, Tanzar-Ion and Cid are travelling through the desert.

Cetera notices the tracks that have been left by the group. 

Cetera: We must be close now...

Tanzar-Ion stops them and draws his sword.

Cid: Oh for the love of... What now?

Tanzar-Ion: Easy does it... There's a desert lion.

Cid: Where?

Tanzar-Ion points his sword at a nearby lion.

Tanzar-Ion: There.

Cetera clicks his fingers at the lion. There is a brief yellow flare in the lion's eyes. The lion suddenly appears very afraid, and runs away.

Cetera continues following the group's footsteps. 

Cetera: These tracks are less worn out. I think we're getting close. 

Tanzar-Ion: I'll get a visual.

Tanzar-Ion flies on top of the same Leviathan skeleton from before and scopes the surroundings. He spots several figures moving away.

Tanzar-Ion: Haha. I've found them! HELLO DOWN THERE!

Dirge: Did you hear that?

Ryoko: Hear what?

Tanzar-Ion: HELLO!!!

Angel-Ion: I can hear it too!

Lanval: Is that somebody shouting?

Roxanne spots three figures on the skeleton.

Roxanne: Who are they?

Cetera spots Luther and Ruselt among the group. He quickly climbs down from the skeleton and runs towards them. Luther and Ruselt notice the figure running towards them.

Luther: Is that...?

Ruselt: Cetera! 

Ruselt runs forward, quickly followed by Luther.  

They both reach each other, and Cetera embraces both Ruselt and Luther. Ruselt himself seems to be nearly on the verge of tears.

Luther: How did you find us?

Cetera: Heh, well I just followed the mess you both kept leaving behind. 

Cetera ruffles Luther's hair. Cid slides down.

Cid: Hey, sweetie! Hope ya missed me!

Roxanne: Father!

They hug each other.

Ryoko: Sir Visarion!

Ryoko draws his sword and kneels to Cetera before it.

Tanzar-Ion: Hey there, son!

Angel-Ion: Father? You're here too?!

Tanzar-Ion: Damn right.

Angel-Ion: How did you find us? I mean, how did the three of you get together?!

Cid: Cet came to me. Then we went to Carta, where Mr. Kibba told about your delivery, and pointed out that you had left for Kyloto, where we found your father here. We bumped into each other, and he said he was looking for you. Knowing we have mutual connections, we invited him along.

Cetera looks to Vulkas.

Cetera: You must be this "Vulkas Raido" that Luther mentioned in his note. 

Vulkas nods his head. 

Cetera notices the gauntlet on Luther's arm.

Cetera: What the hell is that?

Luther: Oh... It's... It's a problem. 

Ruselt: It is a really long story. 

Cid approaches Dirge.

Cid: Hello, sir. I did not expect a Sabari to be part of my daughter's crew.

Dirge: She's a great captain, Mister Fenix. You must be a proud father.

Cid: Please, call me Cid. Only strangers call me Mister Fenix.

Tanzar-Ion: What brings you out here, soldier?

Ryoko: Lord Shokuji has requested I accompany these warriors to their ship.

Tanzar-Ion: That reminds me, is my darling Rika safe?

Ryoko: Yes sir. Lady Excalvur is currently under the protection of the Shokuji family retainers. That reminds me. Your retainer, Sakyu, is alive and well and is also accompanying the rest of us.

Tanzar-Ion: Great to hear that! Good work, soldier!

Ryoko: Anything for you, sir.

Cetera: Have you been practicing magic? 

Luther: Yeah, a bit. 

Ruselt: *Cough* A lot

Luther: How could you tell?

Cetera: I could practically feel it. 

Vulkas: He has come a long way since Laguz. Ruselt has too. 

Cetera looks around, noticing that there is very little for miles around.

Cetera: Where were you guys even headed? 

Luther: We're heading back to Roxanne's ship. 

Cetera looks at Ray.

Cetera: You must Lanval. 

Ray: Oh, no sir. I'm Ray. The one you've likely never heard of.

Lanval: I'm Lanval. Nice to meet you, I guess.

Angel-Ion: Holy shit, father, what's wrong with your arm?!

Tanzar-Ion: What? This? Its fine!

Angel-Ion: Your other arm, father... It's... Not there!

Tanzar-Ion: Ah. Right. That. Shen cut it off.

Ray: So that's what they meant by "handicapped"! You must be very skilled with that sword to be able to fend off a bunch of Dominion soldiers.

Tanzar-Ion: It was my good arm too. Using this arm is still hard getting used to.

Ruselt: Shall we move onwards then? 

A small airship, just larger than the Tempest, emerges from behind a cloud, and appears to be coming towards the group. It seems to be a fairly old airship, and it appears to have rusty metal plates crudely riveted to it, acting as some kind of armour. It casts a shadow over the group as stops moving high above them. Several ropes suddenly come down, and 7 men slide down them, and surround the group. They appear to be all armed with quite high brow weaponary, with 5 having fully automatic weapons. 

A Mercrian man slides down one of the ropes and lands. He appears more distinctive than the others in his crew, due to his bright green eyes, and bleach white messy hair.  The man pulls out a list with several bounties on it. He seems to keep glancing at the group, and then towards the list, as if to check that they're all present. He notices Cetera's bounty and chuckles. 

Ryoko: Pardon me, sir, but it appears to be that you are surrounding us in what is a designated area which shouldn't be traversed by flying vehicles. May I enquire as to what you possibly want?

???: Well, since you asked so nicely. 

The man pulls out his gun. 

He gestures towards Cetera, Ruselt and Luther with his gun.

???: I want the three Visarions alive.  

He lowers his gun, but quickly raises it again, gesturing to Roxanne, Lanval, Dirge, Vulkas and Angel-Ion.

???: And I want all of you, dead. 

He looks at Tanzar-Ion, Cid and Ryoko. 

???: Might as well kill you three as well while I'm at it. I mean, what's the harm, right? 

The man smiles. 

Cetera: Who are you?

???: I thought you would never ask! My name is Johan Doenitz. Now, I like to think of myself as a sports-

Ryoko pulls out his sword. 

Ryoko: I'm sorry, sir, but I can't allow you to--

Doenitz suddenly grabs the blade of Ryoko's sword with his hand, which sports a metal gauntlet. He smashes Ryoko in the face with his gun, knocking him down. Doenitz straddles him, and begins repeatedly punching him in the face, pistol in hand. 

Doenitz: I was trying- -To tell these fine gentlemen- -My perfectly reasonable- -Proposition- -Until you dared- -To FUCKING- -INTERRUPT- -ME- -MID- -SENTENCE!

Doenitz punches at least 20 more times before rolling off Ryoko.

Ryoko's face appears competely mangled, and his eye appears to have dislodged. He doesn't seem to be breathing. One of his horns has been broken off. Doenitz pulls a small string of flesh and sinew off his gun. His own fist appears to be bleeding.

Doenitz: Well would you look at that. I got blood all over my new shirt!

Doenitz stands up and brushes the sand off his clothes, in the process wiping the blood even further over his clothes. 

Ruselt and Luther both look at him, with traumatized expressions on their faces. 

Cid: You bloody bastard!

Roxanne seems equally truamatised.

Ryoko suddenly reawakens and struggles to his feet. He grasps his sword.

Ryoko: What was... That... Eh?

Tanzar-Ion: Stand down, soldier!

Ryoko: Stand down...? I... Refuse.

Doenitz's crew raise their guns, and one of them aims at Ryoko. Doenitz gestures towards him to lower his gun. 

Doenitz: This is turning out much better than I had hoped. 

Doenitz pulls a machete out of a sheath on his back. 

Ryoko side steps and slashes at Doenitz. Before he can block, his machete comes flying out of his hand. Ryoko puts his sword to Doenitz's neck.

Ryoko: Your charade's up... Game over...

Doenitz's demenour doesn't seem to have changed.

Doenitz moves his hand out, almost as if to shake Ryoko's hand. Suddenly a mechanism is heard. A crossbow bolt strikes Ryoko in the chest, causing him to recoil slightly. Doenitz steps back away from Ryoko's sword and grabs his machette, as Ryoko clutches the arrow lodged in his chest.

Ryoko: Damn you...

He falls down. Blood leaks out of his chest. He passes on.

Doenitz: My, we've gone off on a bit of a tangent... Now where was I?

Doenitz seems to ponder for a moment.

Doenitz: Oh yeah! As I was saying, I consider myself a bit of a sportsman. To kill you all here and now would be far too easy. I could just click my fingers, and these lot would shred you! But I'm better than that. I am willing to give you a chance to run. A headstart of sorts.

Tanzar-Ion: You damned fucking--

Angel-Ion: Father, leave it!

Doenitz: You'll have [5 days] to run as far as you can, before I get on the trail. Seems fair doesn't it?

Ruselt stares at Doenitz in disgust. 

Doenitz walks up to him.

Doenitz: Oh don't look so unhappy my dear boy! You have a 5 days to say goodbye to loved ones. 

Doenitz pinches Ruselt's cheek, wiping some of Ryoko's blood on his face. 

Cetera looks ready to step forward, but a crewman puts a machine gun up against his back.

Luther: L-leave him alone!

Doenitz turns around to see Luther staring coldly at him. 

Doenitz: I'll enjoy wiping that glare off your face when the day of reckoning arrives. 

He smiles and walks away. 

Doenitz: But until that day comes, I bid you farewell. 

Doenitz bows before grabbing one of the ropes. His crew grab the ropes as well, and they are hoisted up. The airship gets moving again, and disappears into the distance. 

Ruselt begins to wipe the blood off his face. 

Cetera: We can only move forward. We should continue our course towards this airship. The faster we get you lot moving, the better.

Tanzar-Ion: We should bury him. With honour.

Soon, Ryoko's body is buried beneath the bones of a Leviathan, and a grave marker is erected, engraved with "Here lies Ryoko. A true warrior." The group move on.

Burn

Mid Highlands. Shokuji Residence.

Shen and his forces arrive at the Shokuji Residence. There are several hung flags of the earier black Shokuji emblem, with a purple background on them, with Kanji reading "Defiance" written in white underneath them. Shen dismounts his house once again and approaches the house.

Shen: Kitsuke Shokuji. If I ever see your face again, I will put you through an insurmountable amount of pain, and your entire rebellion will be put to rest. Only after all that will you be finally allowed to pass on.

Shen sighs.

Shen: This feeling I have... I simply cannot describe the amount of rage boiling through these veins.

The grass at Shen's feet catch fire as Shen tenses his muscles and squeezes his fists.

Avaloss: Lord Shen! You must calm down! Who knows what you may do if you lose your temper!

Shen relaxes his muscles and breathes out. He begins walking back to his horse. He suddenly stops, turns, and fires a great fireball at the building, which explodes into a roaring fire. Shen soon turns and smashes Avaloss to the floor.

Shen: What do you think will happen then?! Kitsuke Shokuji is a dead man, and you know it! All of them deserve nothing but honourless death!

Avaloss struggles to get up. Shen raises him up by the neck.

Avaloss: L-Lord-- Please--

Shen pulls him close so they are at eye-to-eye level.

Shen: Remind me again why I allowed you to remain alive, Voldin. It seems that you require much more enhancements. You are still too weak for my needs.

Oran: Lord Shen! Release him!

Shen drops Avaloss on the floor.

Shen: Ah... Yes. The military conscription. You will prove a useful part in it, Voldin.

Avaloss: *Cough* T-Thank you, sir!

Shen turns back to the burning ruins.

Shen: As for you, Shokuji, I will have a means of quashing your pathetic rebellion. The military conscription will see to that...

Return to Dragon Hill

7th May, 1215 AC. Kyloto. Upper Central Coast.

After hours of travelling, the group finally reach the coastline, where Dirge moves a boulder out of his way, revealing a cavern leading to the cove where the Tempest is hidden.

Cid: Ah. My beauty in all its glory.

The group board the ship. 

Roxanne: Remember who captains the ship, dad. That's me. Not you.

Cid: Yeah, yeah. If you say so.

Ray: Nice place you've got.

Lanval hugs one of the masts.

Lanval: Finally, I'm home!

Cetera: None of us should get comfortable. This "Doenitz" seemed confident in his ability to track us. 

Vulkas: His crew looked well armed as well. 

Cetera: Then it is clear that we should physically prepare for an attack, just in case he does find us. 

Ruselt: But where? 

Tanzar-Ion: Hmm... How about Dragon Hill?

Cid: Dragon Hill? What's that?

Tanzar-Ion: Its a hill atop a remote island. It got its name from the dragon that lived there. Perfect for training. I took my sons and daughter there when they were younger.

Lanval: D-Dragon? Supposing it eats us or something?!

Tanzar-Ion: That's unlikely. It's been dead for years.

Dirge: Then we should make haste. We don't know if he's been following us, or if any of Shen's forces have discovered this place.

The Tempest finally sets sail. It soon arrives at an island with a large skeleton runninng up and over a hill. There appears to be a tower on top of the hill, with a small few Dominion soldiers atop it. The tower is attached to a tree, and has several planks and bridges attached, for better footwork.

Dirge: ... Right. When you suggested these training grounds, you didn't neglect to talk about the Dominion being on it, did you?

Tanzar-Ion: It must have been recently set up.

Tanzar-Ion grabs his sword.

Dirge: What are you doing?

Tanzar-Ion: We can't have them here in our way. Lets get rid of them!

Tanzar-Ion jumps off of the ship and begins charging up the hill. A soldier spots the ship with a spyglass, before soon spotting Tanzar-Ion running towards them. He blows into a horn, alerting the others. A set of balloons are inflated quickly and a platform with two archers on it rises into the air. Two shots ring out. The balloons pop and the platform flaps down, dropping the two archers onto the ground below, severely breaking their legs.

A few soldiers begin running down the hill. Three of them are blasted away by Dirge's staff, while Tanzar-Ion slices one of their arms off.

Cetera runs foward. He raises his hand, and the ground beneath them freezes over, trapping their feet in ice. He slashes a soldier's throat with a bowie knife, before shooting the others while they are immobilised. Another archer atop the tree fires arrows down at him. Lanval throws his boomerang up in his direction. It stabs into his eye, causing him to fall down from the tree. Another soldier picks up a barrel filled with gunpowder to throw at the oncoming attackers. Cetera gestures towards it, and the gunpowder ignites, causing it to explode. A few other soldiers are taken out in the explosion. The last few soldiers begin retreating to a nearby boat, but they find Angel-Ion, Roxanne, Cid and Ray looting it.

Soldier: Our ship!

Cid: Looks like they've seen us.

Cid arms his bazooka and fires it, blowing one of them up. Angel-Ion draws his sword and he, Ray and Roxanne charge towards them, each of them killing a soldier. Cid jumps forth and bludeons another across the head. The remaining soldier aims a crossbow at Roxanne, but Angel-Ion runs his sword across the soldier's throat.

Roxanne: Ghh...

Roxanne's side has been shot with an arrow. She collapses to the floor.

Cid: NO!

Cid runs over.

Cid: My girl!

Roxanne: Egh... Dad... I'm fine...

Cid: Take her up to the tower! Now!

Angel-Ion and Ray quickly do this.

Luther and Ruselt, who had been watching the fight in awe, notice Angel-Ion and Ray carrying Roxanne up to the tower. Ruselt notices the arrow in her side.

Ruselt: Do you still have your medkit? 

Luther: Yeah. Why?

Ruselt: I think Roxanne is hurt. 

Ruselt and Luther both run towards the tower. Roxanne is carried to the top floor of the structure, where several pieces of bedding is placed beneath her.

Luther takes out his medkit. He clasps his hand around the base, and quickly removes the arrow. Roxanne winces in pain.

Luther pours some antiseptic solution onto a cloth. He presses hard onto the wound. He then applies bandages to hold the cloth still. 

Cid: It's all gonna be fine!

Roxanne: Yes, dad...! Give me some space!

Cid backs up.

Cid: (Certainly her mother's daughter.)

The atmosphere calms down. Dirge and Lanval are tending to the Kylotean ship, making it more suitable for travel.

Luther: The blood needs to coagulate before I can apply stitches.  

Angel-Ion heads outside. He spots Cetera and Vulkas dragging bodies to the Kylotean ship.

Cetera: Would you mind helping us clear the "debris"?

Angel-Ion: Sure, I guess. Where shall I start?

Vulkas gestures towards a pile of bodies. Angel-Ion looks at a body. 

Angel-Ion: Hey buddy, wanna help?

He kicks the body's head.

Angel-Ion: No? Well then...

They all grab a body each, and begin dragging them towards the ship.

Cetera: You two have both known Luther and Rus for a while now, right?

Vulkas: Yeah.

Cetera: This might seem like an odd question, but has there been any point where they may have acted... irrationally?

Angel-Ion: What do you mean?

Cetera: Did either one ever lash out or break down at any point? 

Angel-Ion: Ruselt, a few times. 

Cetera: And Luther?

Vulkas: There actually was one instance. Well...I would hardly call it lashing out but... When Luther found out his father had died, he shouted at everyone, demanding that they leave. Things around him began to char, and he'd just learnt fire magic a few days prior.

Cetera: And that was it?

Vulkas nods.

Cetera: Interesting.

Vulkas: Why did you ask?

Cetera: Nothing important. 

They finish dragging the bodies onto the ship, and they return to the fort. Ruselt seems to be trying to relax.

Cetera: Oi! Don't get comfortable.

Ruselt: Why?

Cetera: You'll be starting your training.

Ruselt: But we only just got here!

Vulkas: And I just helped you haul bodies...

Cetera: The more preparation you recieve, the better. You'll have time to rest later. 

Cid: I guess we're all doing this then...

Cid stands, followed by Dirge and Lanval. He begins descending down the fort, but they jump down instead.

Cid: Keh. Youths.

Dirge: Sir, I don't age.

Cid: If you say so.

Cetera leads the group out towards the beach. 

Cetera: Start running. 

Ruselt: Where?

Cetera: Around the island. Consider it an endurance test. I want you to keep running until you collapse. 

Cid: Isn't that a bit too rough?

Cetera: Rough? Pfft. Nonsense. They'll be thanking me one day. 

Cid: Not if their lungs give out and they suffocate.

Cetera: Fine. Ten laps. 

Ruselt: Ten laps!?

Cetera: Is there an echo out here? Just get running! 

Tanzar-Ion slumps down next to the recovering Roxanne.

Tanzar-Ion: I take it you're gonna be up here for the time being, then?

Roxanne: Yeah... I guess so. Why's that?

Tanzar-Ion: Oh, no reason. Just curious.

Roxanne: There's no need to worry about this. Its just a small wound... Compared to...

Roxanne gawks at Tanzar-Ion's missing arm.

Tanzar-Ion: This? Ah. Its nothing. It may have been my good arm, but I've had to get used to my bad one. You could say me losing my arm was an act of fate.

Roxanne: ... Yeah...

Tanzar-Ion: You remind me of the daughter of one of my closest allies. Yabira Usagi.

Roxanne: Oh, we met her back at your house.

Tanzar-Ion: Oh? You went there?

Roxanne: Yeah, and after being captured by the Dominion, we later met Kitsuke and his resistance, as Yabira set a trap for those bastards.

Tanzar-Ion: So, he's really going ahead with it then.

Roxanne: Huh?

Tanzar-Ion: Kitsuke. He has planned on starting a rebellion for some time. As one of the few people I can trust, I sent my wife to his place so she could stay safe.

Roxanne: We met her too.

Tanzar-Ion: Are they still there?

Roxanne: I doubt it. The following morning the entire place was emptied. Kitsuke said Shen was likely going to come and destroy it.

Tanzar-Ion: Any idea as to where they are headed?

Roxanne: They said the East Riverlands. That's where the Arka Clan or something is, right?

Tanzar-Ion: Heheh. So he's after the Acua Clan then. That's a smart move. They're the most disconnected from the Dominion.

Meanwhile, Ruselt, Luther and Vulkas begin their laps around the island. Ruselt and Luther already began to tire, and Vulkas smugly strides past them. 

Lanval is dual-wielding his tomahawk and boomerang, striking at Dirge, who blocks all strikes with his staff. Using a strong blow, Lanval manages to push Dirge back.

Dirge: Good! Very good! You've got some talent with those things! We should start on using them as projectiles now. Blackwatch will be easier as it is a tomahawk. Your boomerang will be harder, because you'll need that to come back to you, not only that, but you will have to be ready to catch it as well... Have you named it yet?

Lanval: Named what?

Dirge: That boomerang. I mean, most of the weapons we carry seem to have names. Your tomahawk, Blackwatch. My staff, Alba. Angel-Ion's sword, Kagero. Ray's guitar, Morning Dew.

Lanval: Huh... I guess you're right. I'll guess I'll go with... Blackhawk.

Dirge: Ha. Its to do with your... Bounty name, isn't it?

Lanval: I guess so. Its never occurred to me why they went with "Black Hand". I would say "Prince of Thieves" is more accurate.

Dirge: Why's that?

Lanval: Well... My father's bounty is listed as "King of Thieves".

Dirge: That's his title amongst the Forty Thieves though. Its granted.

Lanval: True... So then, should we get started?

Dirge: Absolutely.

Dirge begins setting up some targets while Lanval gets himself ready.

The Cursed Sword

Later, that night...

A fire has been set up, and everyone but Roxanne is sitting around it. A group meal has been prepared by Ray, Angel-Ion, Tanzar-Ion and Cid.

Cid: Pwor. This looks delish!

Cid handles a bowl of stew.

Tanzar-Ion: So where's your daughter?

Cid: Ah. She's had an early night.

Dirge is sucking the nutrients out of a lemon.

Lanval: So, what were you doing today, Ray?

Ray: Oi. None of that, thank you. That food you're scoffing wouldn't be here if I weren't fishing all day.

Lanval: Psh.

Angel-Ion walks over with a long, wrapped up object.

Tanzar-Ion: What you got there?

Angel-Ion: Oh, its a sword we found in Sabaria. Its a weird one. I wanted to show you it.

Angel-Ion unwraps it.

Tanzar-Ion: A scimitar, eh?

Tanzar-Ion grabs it. He immediately drops it.

Lanval: What's wrong?

Tanzar-Ion: This sword is... This sword is cursed.

Dirge: Cursed? Cursed by wh-- The Spartoi!

Tanzar-Ion: Yes, yes... What ever... That... Is. Cursed swords should be handled with the most extreme caution. Many of them have killed their users... Mind if I keep it?

Angel-Ion: ... But you just said it--

Tanzar-Ion: Yes. I know. Killed their users. I want to test this cursed sword.

Tanzar-Ion stands and grabs the sword.

Tanzar-Ion: If this sword cuts off my remaining arm, Cetera, I want you to kill me.

Cetera: Heh. I make no promises. 

Angel-Ion: No! I won't allow this!

Tanzar-Ion: Its not your decision to make, son. Its mine. My decision at life, fate's decision at death.

Tanzar-Ion tosses the sword up into the air. He reaches his arm out. The sword falls down, spinning towards his outstretched arm. It suddenly curves completely around it, before sticking into the ground. Tanzar-Ion's expression has not changed at all.

Tanzar-Ion: Fate has decided.

Tanzar-Ion puts out the sword.

Tanzar-Ion: I won't have you go betray my life, sword. I shall name you... Ankoku. You are Ankoku and I am your master.

Dirge: You're crazy!

Tanzar-Ion: Fascinating things, swords.

Vulkas: I've had enough excitement for one day. 

Ruselt: *Yawns* Me too. I'll see you all in the morning. 

Later, overnight.

Almost everyone else has gone to sleep. Cetera looks to Luther.

Cetera: I noticed that you've learnt some magic.

Luther: How did you know?

Cetera: I can practically feel the energy. You've learnt quite a bit from what I'm sensing. 

The fire begins to die down.

Cetera: Show me what you can do.

The fire suddenly flares up, and a large collumn of fire rises up from the embers before retreating again. 

Cetera: (Interesting... He's only been learning for a month or two, yet it's as if he has been learning for years...) 

Luther: Cid told me you were powerful while we were at his place. Does that mean you know a lot of magic?

Cetera nods, still deep in thought.

Luther: Could you teach me some?

Cetera looks into his eyes.

Cetera: (He seems determined, and he seems to learn quickly.) Why not?

Luther smiles. In the dark of the night, Dirge, Angel-Ion and Tanzar-Ion begin watching from the fort.

Cetera guides him to a more open area. 

[[[ Cetera: We'll start with something basic, like earth magic. Now repeat after me. 

Cetera makes a gesture, and the loose rocks around him levitate. Luther mimics the gesture again and again until something moves. Cetera observes as Luther attempts the gesture several times but nothing happens. He stops.

Luther: Nothing is happening.

Cetera: It might not come as quickly as your other spells, but you need to keep going.

Luther continues. At least 10 minutes pass, and Luther's persistence pays off. A small rock begins to levitate, before dropping again. Cetera seems suprised by the relative lack of time it took. Luther repeats the gesture, this time lifting a few more rocks for a longer period of time. They all drop to the ground. ]]]

Cetera: You seem to have an aptitude for magic. Perhaps we should try something a little bit harder.

Luther: Like what?

Cetera: Perhaps one of the dark magics. 

Luther: Isn't that illegal?

Cetera: After everything you've been through, you're still concerned about the law? Pfft. 

Cetera starts looking around.

Cetera: I'm gonna teach you how to temporarily paralyse an enemy. We just need to find something to practice on...

An hour later, Luther successfuly casts the paralysis spell on a gull, and Cetera retires to the fort. Luther returns to the campfire, where he gazes into the fire.

The Sack of the Riverlands

8th May, 1215 AC. Mizuoh, Kyloto. Eastern Riverlands. Late Morning.

Two Kyloteans approach the Hidden Lake Palace's main doors. The guards outside try to bar their entrance.

Guard: You will halt.

~ Acua Province Oathkeeper ~ Doe Namazu: Excuse me? We are the Oathkeepers of the Acua Province. You are ordered to step aside.

Guard: ... I take orders from the grandmaster of the Acua Clan, not you!

Namazu: May we remind you that as Oathkeepers, we hold power above Miss. Umi. Stand aside.

Guard 2: D-Do as he says, or they will kill you!

The guard relents, the Oathkeepers proceed. Shio Umi is calmly meditating on a mat in the grand hall. The Oathkeepers approach.

Namazu: *Ahem* Miss. Umi.

Shio's thought is derided. She opens one eye.

Shio: Who is it?

Namazu: Your Oathkeepers. Do not insist on keeping up this little game, stupid woman.

~ Acua Provice Oathkeeper ~ Kakusu Shigane: Calm yourself, Doe. Miss. Umi, we have high orders from Lord Shen himself to request your attendance at the Grand Negura Palace.

Shio: Did he now?

Namazu is visually ticked off by Shio's mocking tone.

Shigane: You can see for yourself.

Shigane reveals a scroll. He unfurls it and shows it. It is written and signed by Shen himself.

Shio: I see. I suppose you're here to escort me there.

Namazu: You can walk there yourself, stupid tart.

Shio: You may be an Oathkeeper, but don't disrespect me in my own domain, catfish.

Namazu: What did you just call me?!

Namazu strikes Shio across the face. She is knocked to the floor.

Namazu: Apologise and kiss my feet!

Shio: No!

Namazu: You refuse my order?!

Shigane: Calm yourself, Doe!

Namazu: Oh piss off. This stupid brat isn't cut out for being Grandmaster of the Acua Clan! We should just kill her off now and find a suited repla--

There is a large explosion.

Namazu: What was that?

A soldier charges in. It is one of the Oathkeepers' bodyguards.

Soldier: SIRS! We are under attack! The Riverlands have come under attack!

Namazu: From what?!

Soldier: We don't know! There are other Kyloteans, plus several foreign warriors!

There are a few more explosions. The door is blasted down. A Novalian soldier charges into the room and cuts down the soldier with a hunting knife. Shigane charges forwards and splits the Novalian's face in two from the chin. Shigane heads outside and sees fire all around, several soldiers are fighting in the court grounds.

Shigane: Damn... This is bad.

Shigane notes that some soldiers are bearing the Resistance insignia, which is based upon the Shokuji sigil.

Shigane: Shokuji... So this is your doing! Namazu! Its Kitsuke's doing!

Namazu: He's here?! That fool. Lucky for us, Lord Shen had already prepared for the event that he show his face here.

Namazu reveals a horn. He blows into it. From behind the palace, many Kylotean soldiers charge forwards. A Kylotean jumps down beside the two Oathkeepers.

Yoru: You two are idiots.

Namazu: Excuse me?!

Yoru: Took you long enough to blow that stupid horn. THEY ARE ALREADY ATTACKING!!!

The enemy forces are cleared from the area.

Yoru: All soldiers present stand attention! You lot are not designated to guard the Hidden Lake Palace! If you fail, and happen to survive, I'll make sure you won't be surviving for long after that!

Yoru charges forwards, heading towards the epicenter of the conflict. He notes that some Acua soldiers are siding with the Resistance. One charges towards him.

Acua Soldier: Go to hell, Yoru Silva!

Yoru impales him in the chest with six swords.

Yoru: Your insubordination is not tolerated. Become six and die.

Yoru spreads his swords out in a hexagonal format. The soldier is cut into six pieces. He is suddenly hit in the back of the soldier by two shells.

~ Resistance Gunner ~ Scott Langley: Looks like you're a big shot here.

Yoru: Keh. A trespasser. I will find pleasure eliminating you!

Yoru charges at Scott, who prepares to fire another shot. Meanwhile, Kitsuke watches the unfolding chaos from a hill with many soldiers behind him.

Kitsuke: The flank squad have done their bit. The time is now, Resistance! Charge!

Kitsuke leads the soldiers as they charge into the city. Immediately, Kitsuke beheads a Kylotean soldier. He rushes to the top of a slightly burning podium.

Kitsuke: Acua Clan citizens and soldiers! Your lives are embittered with the Dominion! We, the Resistance, offer salvation and freedom! Take up arms and fight with us! If you prefer to avoid violence, head to shore! The time to fight is NOW!

???: Touching speech.

An arrow flies at Kitsuke. He quickly tilts his head to dodge it.

Avaloss: Who would've know you would lead this attack, Kitsuke? Oh, that's right! Lord Shen did!

Kitsuke: (Damn... If Avaloss is here...)

Rouxe: I will deal with this one, sire.

Rouxe draws his rapier.

Avaloss: Come on then, Regolian. Show me how you use that little stick.

Rouxe: Gladly!

Avaloss draws his sword and the two charge at each other. They clash blades.

Kitsuke: Resistance! Towards the palace!

Kitsuke charges up a flight of stairs, but finds that his way is blocked by the Shogun of the Acua Clan.

~ Acua Clan Shogun ~ Sensui Mezame: Well, if it isn't Kitsuke. Its been a while.

Kitsuke: Sensui! Please. Do not tell me you plan on staying on the Dominion's side.

Sensui: I'm sorry, Kitsuke. But I have already made up my mind. Nothing is going to change my mind. Now, move.

Kitsuke: Huh?

Sensui swings down his sword with incredible might. It creates a blade of wind that cuts its way down the stairs, tearing towards Kitsuke. He dives out of the way. The blade takes out Kylotean soldiers.

Kitsuke: Huh... So whose side are you one...?

Sensui: Not Shen's.

Kitsuke: Keh.

Choppu: Sir, we should hurry. Shio is already at risk. Those two Oathkeepers of hers have the place under high security by now.

Kitsuke: Then lets go!

Back near the palace, Scott has managed to get away from Yoru. He runs into his brother.

Mark: Brother! You're a sight for sore eyes!

Scott: Any news from Kitsuke?

Mar: They've begun the attack proper.

Scott: Yeah, we have this conflict in the bag!

An arrow comes flying into Scott's skull, killing him instantly.

Mark: NO!

A Kylotean hangs from a nearby wall with a large purple bow.

~ Oka Eritoshin ~ Honda Bakudan: The cocky ones all die first.

Mark tries to cradle his brother in his arms.

Mark: No! No no! Scott! SCOTT!

Honda: You are next.

Honda fires an arrow at Mark but a Novalian soldier dives in the way, saving him. Mark flees.

Honda: Hmph. Fate itself is trying to intertwine.

Mark runs into Kitsuke. Kitsuke notes he is distraught.

Kitsuke: Mark! What's wrong?

Mark: Scott's... Scott's dead! An archer got him. He looked... He looked like a high up soldier.

Kitsuke: High up... Archer? He had a bow, right?

Mark: Yes.

Kitsuke: What colour?

Mark: Uhh...

Kitsuke: Mark, what colour!?

Mark: P-Purple...

Kitsuke: Shit! 

Choppu: What is it?

Kitsuke: Of all the people... Shen has appointed the Dragonslayer as an Oka Eritoshin!

Sensui: You don't mean...

Kitsuke: Honda Bakudan!

Kitsuke looks towards the direction.

Kitsuke: Damn... Choppu, get to your brother, and tell him to start the evacuations now!

Choppu: Yes sir!

Choppu heads off. Kitsuke notes some Resistance soldiers.

Kitsuke: Soldiers! With me to the palace! Mark, gather more soldiers, then meet us up top!

Mark: Consider it done!

Kitsuke: You too, Sensui!

Sensui: Got it.

Kitsuke leads the soldiers up the hill.

Sensui rushes towards the barracks.

Sensui: Brothers! It is time! Time we fight against the unruliness of Shen Gikoku! We will continue to fight for justice!

Some soldiers stand and raise their swords.

???: Traitor.

Sensui is impaled in the shoulder. He turns to see a rather ferocious and muscular Acua Kylotean.

Sensui: P-Pescador!

~ Acua Fierce Trooper ~ Pescador Suiryoku: It seems like we do need a change in leadership! Whose it gonna be, Sensui? You or Umi? The one I replace. I am more cut out than both of you!

Sensui: Then bring it on!

Sensui and Pescador charge towards each other. Back at the Hidden Lake Palace, Kitsuke and Mark have gathered forces and begin their attack on the palace itself. They soon make it to the palace itself, cutting down many Dominion soldiers.

Kitsuke: Loyal guards and retainers of the House of Umi! We seek to liberate your sullied name from the clutches of Shen Gikoku! Join us in our bid and you will have freedom!

The guards look at each other, some puzzled. Some of them decide to take up arms. The guard from earlier steps forwards.

Guard: Aye. I am with you, Shokui... No, Kitsuke, sir!

Guard 2: What are you doing?! Do you want to die?

Guard: No.

Guard 2: Then what are you doing?

Guard: Choosing to live.

Kitsuke: What's your name, soldier?

Guard: Yoji Nishin, sir.

Guard 2: You are fools! Fools!

The guard flees. Kitsuke breaks down the door. Namazu has Shio at swordpoint.

Kitsuke: Ghh... Oathkeeper, let's not be rash!

Namazu: Hehehehe. You thought it was gonna be free and easy, right? Wrong! If I kill this wench, what will your attack be all for, huh?

Kitsuke: How about we settle this calmly, and like dignified men.

Namazu: Like men, eh?

Namazu throws Shio down. He prepares for battle.

Namazu: Then let us fight to the death then! GYAHAHAHA!

He runs at Kitsuke, planning to cut him down. Mark shoots him in the chest. He falls down.

Namazu: Ghh... Gyak... N-No fair... No fair!

Mark walks over and stands above Namazu. Namazu tries to pick up his sword. Mark shoots his hand.

Kitsuke: What about you?

Kitsuke turns to Shigane.

Shigane offers out his sword. He drops it.

Shigane: I will announce my surrender.

Kitsuke: You have decided well.

Namazu mutters something. Mark kicks him.

Mark: Speak up.

Namazu: Coward... Shigane, you dirty coward!

Mark: Sorry sir, but he opted not to shed any blood. He's more of a man than you. In fact, last time I checked, you threatened a woman. Do you deserve to live?

Namazu: G-Go fuck yourself...

Mark shoots him in the head.

Mark: I'll take that as a no.

Kitsuke approaches Shio and helps her up.

Kitsuke: Are you alright?

Shio: I'm... I'm fine. Thanks...

Kitsuke: What for?

Shio: For trying to liberate my people. They deserve better than this life.

Kitsuke: We don't exactly have time to sit around and thanking people for doing this and that. We must leave.

Rakun rushes in, he is followed close behind by Shio's younger sister Ro.

Kitsuke: Brother!

Rakun: Bad news, Kitsuke. Very bad news.

Kitsuke: What is it?

Rakun: They've sent reinforcements. Lots of them. Thousands.

Kitsuke heads outside, and sees many Kyloteans advancing down the hills Kitsuke himself came from. They spread out, trying to prevent Resistance escape from the city.

Kitsuke: Shit... Pass me your horn. We need to use the retreat signal!

Rakun hands a horn to Kitsuke. Kitsuke blows hard into it. Many soldiers from acrosshear. Some blow their own horns. One tries to blow one, but is shot in the throat by Honda.

Kitsuke: Here.

Kitsuke hands it back to Rakun.

Kitsuke: Everyone! This way!

Kitsuke runs around the palace towards the direction of the shore. The others follow. Shigane is cuffed and forced to move along with them. Sensui manages to trap Pescador under rubble before fleeing. Some time later, many Resistance forces charge towards the beaches and ports, where they board their ships or attempt to swim away. Kitsuke and a few others stop to prevent Dominion followers.

After a while, smaller and smaller numbers of soldiers flee. Rouxe finally shows up.

Kitsuke: Keh. You look rough.

Rouxe: That Voldin fellow wouldn't go down easy, sire.

A pair of soldiers run down with Scott's body, which they managed to recover.

Mark: ... Scott... Take him back... Back to the fleet...

Shio: We should get moving ourselves!

Rakun: Why's that?

Shio: Look!

The Dominion cavalry are seen from either side of the city, just barely.

Rouxe: What about the remaining forces?!

Kitsuke: Too late... We can't save them. Lets go!

Kitsuke leads the remainder to the ports, where they board the remaining ships. Due to being the last few, they all set sail.

From within the city, the Resistance soldiers and rebellious Acua clannads are all rounded up. They are either executed on the spot or taken away. Many buildings are suddenly torched. Pescador stands before the Hidden Lake Palace with loyalist Acua soldiers and other Dominion soldiers.

Pescador: Bring it down.

The building is torched like with the others. The palace guards who didn't flee are rounded up in a line before him, including the guard who fled earlier, who is forced to his knees at the end of the line.

Soldier: These are the palace survivors.

Pescador: Khh... There are no survivors!

One by one, the guards have their throats slashed open.

Guard 2: Stop! STOP! STO--

Pescador shoves his trident through the guard's mouth out through the back of his head.

Pescador: Hmph. As new Grandmaster, I have no need for these pathetic weaklings. Hang their bodies high as a reminder to show who is in charge now!

Soldier: Yes sir! (Even though you haven't been officiated...)

Pescador: I'll pretend I didn't hear that. Lord Shen will elect me as new Grandmaster. And, when I officially do become Grandmaster, there will be changes to the Acua Clan. Very big changes... Keheheheh...

Ideals

10th May, 1215 AC. Dragon Hill.

Cetera is training Luther on the beach while Ruselt and Vulkas are spectating on a sand dune. A rock launches towards Luther, but he quickly creates a small defence barrier to block it. It then flies back towards Cetera. Cetera ducks an begins running towards Luther, launching fireballs at him, which Luther blocks with a defence barrier. Suddenly rocks begin to fly towards Luther from behind. He quickly turns around in order to block them. When he turns around again to face Cetera, he is already directly in front of him, and holding a mock-dagger centimeters away from his throat. 

Cetera: And you're dead.

Luther seems genuinely frustrated.

Cetera: You let your guard down.

Luther: I'm so useless...

Voice: Yeah... you are.

Luther: *Mumbling* Shut up

Cetera notices this, and looks at him with some concern, but decides not to bring it up.

Cetera: Nonsense. You're just not confident enough. In fact, in all my years, I've never seen someone so talented, yet so insecure. Now let's try again. 

Cetera retreats a few metres. Luther immediately creates a defence barrier that guards his back, and Cetera smiles. They continue their fight. Cetera immediately runs forward, until a wall of earth rises in front of him. He quickly scales and jumps over it, and continues his path towards Luther. Luther casts the paralysis spell, but Cetera blocks it with his sword. Luther launches several small fireball but Cetera keeps dodging them. Luther raises his hand, and a bright light is emitted from it, temporarily blinding Cetera. Luther runs towards Cetera, but he recovers, and quickly holds the mock-dagger against Luther's throat again. 

Cetera: You were closer that time. 

Luther: Just not close enough. 

Cetera: Look... The world is your oyster. You just need the initiative necessary to realise your ambitions. 

Luther ponders this. There are a few explosions from atop the hill from Lanval's and Dirge's training.

Cetera: I think that is enough training for now. 

Luther nods, and goes back to the fort. Meanwhile Ruselt and Vulkas are exchanging small-talk nearby. 

Ruselt: Isn't it funny how you managed to get roped into all of this?

Vulkas: What do you mean?

Ruselt: You just happened to be in the right place when those bounty hunters found us in Laguz. 

Vulkas: I suppose that is kinda funny.

Ruselt: Why did you help us? You could have easily turned us in an claimed the reward.

Vulkas: I didn't really have a purpose Laguz. I saw you guys in trouble, and thought I'd help, especially since I never saw the bounty as justified. Plus, it gave me an excuse to travel. I thought it could be fun.

Ruselt: Do you regret it?

Vulkas: Not for a second. 

Meanwhile, atop the dragon skeleton, Tanzar-Ion is engaging Angel-Ion in swordplay, to refine his combat skills. Tanzar-Ion notes that Angel-Ion's attacks have become more elegant compared to his own rough style. He stops atop an upright bone.

Tanzar-Ion: There's certainly something different about you. I mean, that belt you're wearing speaks for itself.

Angel-Ion: I've been learning a few new styles. Some from enemies, some I've picked up from a few friends.

Tanzar-Ion: No, no. That's not it. It's all more... Elegant.

Tanzar-Ion spots Heika's locket.

Tanzar-Ion: What's with that shiny thing?

Angel-Ion: Its... Its... Uh... Nothing.

Tanzar-Ion: Come now... Has my boy found himself a young lass?

Angel-Ion: Wha--

Tanzar-Ion is suddenly next to him. He takes the locket and looks at it. His mouth opens wide in shock.

Tanzar-Ion: No way! The lady princess of Kratonia herself?! Hahaha! That's my boy!

Angel-Ion: (How embarrassing.)

Lanval, Cid and Dirge begin laughing, having stopped to overhear their conversation.

Later that night.

Cetera sits around a campfire he made while most of the others are sleeping. Tanzar-Ion and Cid soon join him.

Cetera: Why are you two up so late?

Tanzar-Ion: We've decided to leave. We've figured that these lot should do well on their own.

Luther, who is nearby, having been on a late night walk on the beach, overhears this and takes cover behind a rock. 

Cetera: What possible reason could we have for leaving?

Tanzar-Ion: We think that we may be a burden to them. Three oldies.

Cid: Face it, Cet, we've gotta go our separate ways with this lot. We should hope that we meet them again.

Tanzar-Ion: Besides, we made a vote. Both of us are in favour.

Cetera goes quiet.

Cetera: (Roarak told me to look after them... But maybe we are holding them back. Maybe they need to learn how to survive on their own.) Very well. 

Tanzar-Ion: That settles things then. We will be leaving as soon as possible.

Cetera: Should we tell them?

Tanzar-Ion: ... No. They will try to stop us.

Luther walks out from behind the rock.

Cetera: (Oh shit...) How much did you hear?

Luther: E-Enough. So how long were you p-planning to abandon us?

Despite the stammering, his tone seems quite aggressive.

Cetera: We're not abandon--

Luther: Oh right, you're just leaving us, your only family included, to fend for ourselves.

Cetera: You need to learn to survive on your own.

Luther: Well w-what the hell do you think we have been d-doing for the last two months?

The fire flares up.

Cetera: Luther... I--

Luther: I don't want to hear your justifications. It is clear I won't be able to persuade you to stay.

He sighs and thinks for a while. His expression suddenly becomes very neutral.

Luther: If you are l-leaving, then you might as well do something useful. 

His tone of voice has become more cold, and less aggressive.

Luther: Leave a false trail. It should slow down Doenitz when he begins to search for us.

Cid: Aye. That is true. That bastard said he'd be coming for you.

Tanzar-Ion: And should he catch up to us, we should be strong enough to hold him off. I didn't doubt the abilities of Ryoko, but I could tell that there was a large gap in power between him and the two of us.

Cid: Umm... Two?

Tanzar-Ion: Cetera and I. No offence.

Cid: Ehh... None taken.

Cetera: Goodbye Luther.

Cetera steps forward to embrace him, but Luther steps back. Cetera instead puts his hand forward, and Luther shakes it.

Luther nods and turns around. He begins walking towards the beach to continue his night-time stroll. 

Tanzar-Ion swipes his wings over the fire, putting it out.

Tanzar-Ion: Our ship awaits, gentlemen.

Cid: Where??

Tanzar-Ion points to the Kylotean ship.

Tanzar-Ion: There.

Cid: ... You mean the one we stashed all the bodies in? I thought we were gonna burn it.

Tanzar-Ion: What? No! The idea was to take the bodies away and dispose of them when we get far enough away from Kyloto.

Cetera: Where will we go?

Tanzar-Ion: Besmarka sounds like an opportune place to gain allies. I'd say our best bet is to go there.

Cetera nods. They get up and begin heading towards the Kylotean ship. Cid looks up towards the fort, where he sees Dirge looking down towards them. Dirge nods and puts his fist on his chest out of respect. Cid does the same. After finishing preparations, the ship soon sets sail.

Luther watches the ship disappear over the horizon as the sun begins to rise. He stops watching, and then continues walking. 

Ingridients

11th May, 1215 AC. Kyloto. Upper West Mountainlands. Dawn.

Zeo stands before a recently killed dragon, weilding his sword. He cuts its chest open with a swift strike, before reaching in and ripping out a large purple organ.

He puts the pulsing organ into a large sack, before pulling out a shard of a mirror. He touches it, and his reflection ripples into Azoth's shape and form.

Azoth: ... What do you want?

Zeo: I have an update on the progress of the Life Fluid.

Azoth: Speak.

Zeo: I have now acquired the ingridients from all three of the beasts you sent me to collect from. The heart of a dragon, the head of a manticore, and the feather of a phoenix.

Azoth: Very good. Well done, my apprentice. Your next objective is to hunt down one of those who has since turned his back on us.

Zeo: I see. Would you rather him be dead or alive, master?

Azoth: Alive.

Zeo: I will see to it immediately.

Zeo departs.

Target Acquired

11th May, 1215 AC, Dragon Hill, Dawn.

Ruselt wonders around the island looking for his uncle. He returns to the fort.

Ruselt: Have any of you seen Cetera anywhere?

Angel-Ion: No, why?

Lanval: I haven't, neither. As a matter of fact, I haven't seen Cid or Tanzar-Ion either.

Dirge is sitting on the ledge of a level of the fort, looking toward the horizon. Roxanne notes that the Kylotean ship has gone. Her hands slump beside her.

Roxanne: They've... Gone...

Angel-Ion: Gone? What do you mean "gone"?

Dirge: They left overnight.

Dirge turns to Ruselt.

Dirge: I saw them go. Your brother tried to stop them. I am sorry.

Ruselt: I don't understand. W-why would they have left?  

He seems to be welling up slightly.

Luther appears.

Luther: Because they thought they were a "burden."

Ruselt: I mean... How could Cetera just leave us? We'd only just united!

Luther shrugs. 

Ruselt goes silent.

Luther: We should start packing up. Our headstart from Doenitz ends today. 

Angel-Ion: Already ahead of you.

Angel-Ion points down to the Tempest, where Ray is carrying bags around.

Angel-Ion: Ray and I had been gathering our stuff while this lot were asleep.

Suddenly an airship comes into view.

Vulkas: Is that Doenitz?!

Lanval: It can't be, it's too soon!

As the airship gets closer, they realise it is a much more modern airship than Doenitz's. The balloon seems to be completely rigid, as opposed to Doenitz' ship, and the gondola underneath is completely mechanised. This side of the balloon bears the Mercrian flag. 

Angel-Ion: Who the hell are they, then?!

Roxanne: If I knew any better, I'd say that is the flag of Mercria.

Ray spots the airship and darts up the hill.

Dirge: Mercria, you say? This could be troublesome.

Ray runs up the steps of the fort.

Ray: H-Has anyone seen the airship coming towards us?!

Luther: (It's not like you can miss it...)

The airship looms over them, and armed Mercrian soldiers slide down on ropes. They begin securing the area, and surround the fort. They all seemed to be armed with rifles.

The commanding officer, Klaus Muller, looks at a list of names an pictures. He seems to compare them with the real deals. 

Muller: (In Mercrian) These are the right ones. Seize them.

Soldier step forward with various handcuffs, and attempt to restrain the group. Dirge immediately arms himself and blasts them from atop the fort. Angel-Ion breaks the bottom-most steps from the tree, preventing the soldiers from getting up. 

The soldiers grab onto the ropes dangling from the airship. They are hoisted up slightly, and they swing onto the fort. 

Muller suddenly grabs Ruselt, and wraps his arm around his neck. He holds a pistol to his head.

Muller: (In Mercrian) Everyone stand down!

Luther: Everyone stop! He s-said stand down!

Luther and Vulkas both raise their hands in surrender. Guards come forward and quickly restrain them. The others soon do the same. The others are also restrained. The soldiers grab a person each, then grab a rope. They are hoisted up into the gondola.  They are thrown into secure metal cells with armed guards watching them. Their restraints are left on. The airship then leaves the island and heads towards Mercria.

Meanwhile at the helm of the airship, Muller turns to a wireless radio operator onboard.

Muller: Send a telegram informing the Operator that we have detained the targets, and are taking them to Veldersehn. Send a copy of that telegram to his handler, Andrik Kesamir.

Wireless Operator: Yes sir. 

Doenitz on Dragon Hill

11th May, 1215 AC. Dragon Hill. Night time. 

Doenitz's airship descends into the water. He and another crewmember jumps into the water. They walk onto the beach. 

They explore the island for a while, looking for clues. 

Doenitz notices the damage to the tree fort. He suddenly notices a dried trail of blood leading from the fort down towards the beach on the other side of the island. 

He observes the damage to the fort. 

Doenitz: I have a feeling the damage here is very recent, but the blood has been here for a few days. 

He notices the flags of the dominion lying around. 

Doenitz: It appears that our prey had dispatched of the previous inhabitants of the island. 

Doenitz begins to follow the blood onto the beach. He begins to sniff.

Doenitz: Bodies have been decomposing here... 

Doenitz notices a bollard.

Doenitz: There was a ship here. They've taken the bodies with them... Now why have they done that? 

Doenitz sniffs again. 

Doenitz: Bring the ship around. This is starting to get fun. 

The crewman returns to the ship on the otherside of the island and it sails around. Doenitz boards it. He begins sniffing, and determines the direction of the scent.

Doenitz smiles.

Doenitz: Gentlemen, we have our heading!

Resistance at Sea

12th May, 1215 AC, Morning. South Runisian Sea.

The Resistance fleet continue their travel west. Kitsuke is hosting a summit of some kind on his flagship, the Red Force. Numachi Gido is cleaning the ship's deck with a mop, while his legs are chained together, and his wings restrained. Tied to a mast are Suragu Sakana and Kakusu Shigane. They stand a "trial" of sorts before the summit.

Kitsuke: Suragu Sakana, Kakusu Shigane. You both stand here before us, tried for standing with the Dominion.

Langley: We should just hurry and up dispose of them! Get it over with already, Kit!

Kitsuke: Lets not go overboard, Captain. 

Langley: It's people like these two bastards that killed by brother!

Suragu: Your brother must have been foolish, then.

Langely: C'mere you snake necked fuck!

Rouxe and Rakun try to hold Langley back.

Kitsuke: You clearly can't be here if you're gonna be acting up like this. Take the Captain to cool down.

Rouxe and Rakun take him away.

Kitsuke: Now then. Suragu, Kakusu. We will give you a choice. You can either go away free men, or you will be kept prisoner for a longer period of time.

Kakusu: Lord Shokuji. My wish is to pledge my loyalty to your forces.

Kitsuke: So you want to stay here, even though I offered you to go free.

Shio: We don't trust you. If yu want to join us, you must prove yourself. Untie him.

Kakusu is untied. Shio throws him a knife.

Kakusu: What am I supposed to do with this?

Shio: If you are willing to be loyal, cut off a finger. If you aren't, we might as well just--

Kakusu cuts off his right pinkie finger without hesitation. He hands the knife back to Shio.

Shio: Well...

Suragu: You damn traitor!

Kakusu: I choose to serve the right cause. A Dominion that kills people for nothing is not a cause that is good or right.

Kitsuke: You have made the right choice. Now, Suragu. What do you--

Suragu: I will never pledge my loyalties to you! I am an Oathkeeper to Lord Shen Gikoku! You bastards will be destroyed by his holy might! You will all die to him!

Kitsuke: Such a shame... Ro, take him to the brig and lock him up.

Ro unties Suragu and binds his arms.

Ro: Move.

Ro pushes Suragu forwards. Numachi gets in the way.

Ro: You, get out of the way.

Numachi: S-Sorry...

Numachi does this and continues cleaning, while Ro takes Suragu down.

Dogs and Old Men

Southern Kylotean Sea.

Doenitz's airship soars metres above the water, causing a slipstream in the water. It begins to decelerate as it descends into the water besides a Kylotean ship, carrying Cetera, Tanzar-Ion, and Cid.

Cid: Looks like they took the bait.

Tanzar-Ion: Heh. Smart kid.

A plank is placed down, joining the two ships. Doenitz and crew walk over it.

Doenitz: I'll admit. I thought it would take longer than thi-- Where are the others? 

Tanzar-Ion: What others?

By the time Doenitz managed to board, Cid and Cetera have quickly set up a chess board and randomly placed the pieces everywhere.

Cid: Just us. Three old men on a boat.

Tanzar-Ion: Hey!

Doenitz: Ohohoho. I see now. You're a diversion. 

Cetera: And the last horse finally crosses the finish line. 

Doenitz: Which one of you planned this?

Tanzar-Ion: You could say me. You could say Cet, you could say Cid, too. Truth is that it was actually none of us.

Doenitz and his crew chuckle.

Doenitz: You're a funny man. Humour me. To whom do I owe gratitude for concieving this masterful contrivance?

Cetera shrugs, and smiles smugly.

Doenitz: Was it Luther?

Cetera's smile disappears, whereas Doenitz' widens.

Doenitz: Well that was just a guess but your faces gave it away. 

Doenitz turns around and walks back onto his ship. 

Doenitz: We're retracing our steps boys. 

The plank is pulled away, and the airship begins to ascend. 

Doenitz pokes his haid over the side of his ship's railings. 

Doenitz: Thank you for the information gentlemen! Here's your parting gift!

Doenitz suddenly chucks a small bomb overboard, and it lands on the deck of the Kylotean vessel.

Cetera: Take cover!

Cetera, Tanzar-Ion and Cid take cover by jumping behind some crates. 

Doenitz's ship flies away. Doenitz looks back at them and sees that they're unscathed. 

Doenitz: Huh. I guess fate favours the elderly. 

Cetera gets up and watches as Doenitz's airship disappears into the distance. 

He notices a nail stuck in his shoulder and pulls it out. 

Cetera: I have a feeling we shouldn't have antagonised him...

Cid: Let's just be thankful that he shouldn't know where the others have got to.

Cid pulls a nail out of his leg.

The Jaws of the Bear

14th May 1215 AC, Mercria. Night Time.

The prison ship is brought to land at an airport in Veldersehn. The prisoners feel that the ship is no longer moving. Their cell doors open, and they are dragged out. It is the first time that they have seen eachother since their detainment. 

Luther has a very grave expression on his face, but Ruselt looks at him reassuringly, despite his recent grievances over Cetera's departure. Angel-Ion looks rather bored.

They are all lead into a hanger area. A ramp in front of them lowers, and they are lead out of the airship through it onto the runway. Muller walks out with them. They are surrounded by even more armed guards, who keep their guns pointed at them at all times. They can see the Traveller's Tempest being piloted overhead by Mercrian officials.  

The group arrive at the prison, and are lead to a secure cell block. They each are forced into an individual concrete cell. Several armed guards watch them from behind the bars, guns still aimed at them. 

Luther just sits down, his back to the wall, staring straight at the guard. 

Luther: (Why are the Mercrians detaining us? Why would they recognise an Allied Nations bounty?)

Meanwhile, the Operator's personal airship is on course to Mercria.

A crewmember approaches the Operator and hands him a telegram.

Crewman: Telegram from Mister Kesamir, Sir.

The Operator reads it.

The telegram reads (in morse code), "I have recieved word that you will likely obtain the Visarion children in the City of Veldersehn, Mercria. I will be anticipating your arrival at a disused meat-processing facility 10 miles north of the prison on the deadline in order to ensure that you have made the necessary and expected progress. For your own sake, do not disappoint me." 

Operator: I really hate being micromanaged...

He scrunches the telegram up into a ball and chucks it behind him.

15th May, 1215 AC, 6:00 PM

Luther's eyes seem restless and bloodshot, yet he still stares into the distance. 

Voice: So how does it feel? Always getting the short end of the stick.

Luther, even mentally seems to be trying to ignore the voice in his head.

Voice: You touch a gauntlet, it turns out to be a vestige for an ancient evil. You get to Cid's house, it gets raided. You settle in Kratonia, but there's a time limit. You train on Dragon Hill, and you're abducted by Mercrians, while also being hunted down by a homicidal sportsman. 

Luther hits himself over the head and rubs his eyes. 

Voice: You're just destined to be one of life's victims.

Luther: Stop talking.

The guard outside Luther's cell looks at him curiously.

Voice: Why? What are you going to do?

Luther: Just stop talking.

Voice: You're nothing but a useless wimp and you know it!

Luther: No I am not!

Luther slams his fist into the floor, grazing his knuckles. The voices stop. 

Guard: (What the hell is wrong with this child?)

Dirge seems to "reactivate", having opted to take his one-hour dormancy state early to pass time.

Muller arrives outside the cells. 

Muller: The prisoners are to be taken to Block A. The Chancellor has arrived. 

The guards nod, and open the cell doors. They grab the prisoners. They are secured further, as extra restraints are added. The prisoners' ankles are shackled, with a short chain linking them, allowing them to walk, but not run. They are lead to a different building. They are all lead into a single fairly large cell consiting of three concrete walls, and strong bars. Two guards with machine guns, as well as Muller watch the group. 

Vulkas: So... Has-

Guard: No talking. 

Muller: Make way for the Chancellor.

A set of double doors open, and Inara Winters enters the room, wearing a gold and black dress, and a white fur burlesque. The guards briefly bow their heads. 

She inspects the prisoners, looking somewhat impressed.

Inara: Wow... I- I can't tell you how honoured I am to meet you all. 

Lanal: So... Are you the Chancellor's secretary?

Luther: (Idiot)

Inara: Pfft! No silly. I am the Chancellor. 

Lanval feels a bit of dread wash over him.

She pulls out a collection of newspapers from her handbag.

Inara: You have all made quite the impression, much to my own entertainment. 

Vulkas: Why did you bring us here?

Inara: I wanted to see you all in person. You're practically celebrities. 

She points at every single one of them.

Inara: Blood-Red, Black Hand, Battle Star, The Voyager... You, the Black King, the Insomniac and...

She gets to Ray.

Inara: Whoever you're supposed to be.

Vulkas: Did she just call me "you"?

Ray: Name's Ray.

Ruselt: What is going to happen to us? 

Inara: Well, once I get bored of you, you'll be handed straight over to the man collecting your bounty.

Angel-Ion: And who would that be?

Inara: Bore me, and you'll find out. 

Angel-Ion: Ah, I just want to know. Because our regular's called Ken. He likes following us a bit.

Inara: Ah. Ken Javert?

Vulkas nods.

Inara: The world really is out to get you...

Ruselt: You don't say...

Inara: Leave the sarcasm to me sweetie, it doesn't suit you.

She pauses.

Inara: A ragtag bunch of nomads harbouring two homeless princes.

A guard brings in a glass of wine and hands it to Inara. She sips.

Inara: Curtis is paying a pretty penny for your heads. 

Ruselt: Curtis can shove it. 

Inara: Oooh, a bit of an attitude. I like it. 

Ruselt just scowls at Inara.

Inara glares right back at him, and Ruselt shivers. 

A guard enters the room with a telegram. 

Guard: Miss Winters, the Operator has arrived. He is approaching the prison as we speak. 

Inara seems somewhat saddened.

Inara: I was hoping for more time with you.  Better cut to the chase.

Inara reachers her arm through the bars and grabs Luther's arm. She pulls it closer and inspects the gauntlet, twisting his still restrained arms in an uncomfortable position. Luther winces.

Ruselt: You're hurting him! 

Inara: Oh don't be so over-protective!

She turns to Luther.

Inara: Where did you get this?

Luther: In a G-Galahad Arms w-warehouse.

Inara: Interesting.

Luther tugs slightly, trying to get her to let go of him, but she just pulls him harder.

Inara: You're an odd one aren't you?

He looks down nervously.

She grabs him by the hair, and tilts his head back. She looks dead into his eyes. 

Inara: John Curtis.

She sees Luther's pupils dilate very quickly.

Vulkas looks at her in confusion.

Inara: A small nervous wreck on the outside... But a killer on the inside.

She lets go. 

Vulkas: Enough of these pointless pretences!

Inara looks at Vulkas. She looks to the guard.

Inara: Hand me your gun.

He hands her his pistol. 

Muller: Please Miss Winters, allow us to carry out the exe-

A shot rings out, and blood flies from the back of Muller's head all over the wall. A small bullet hole is seen between his eyes. The guards look in shock as they begin to turn to Inara. Before they have a chance to react, Inara turns the gun on them and 4 more shots are fired. The two guards collapse to the floor. 

She picks up the keys and opens the cell doors. She unlocks their restraints. She hands Ruselt the gun. 

Inara: Your ship is at the end of the airstrip which you landed on. Get running.

Vulkas: What the hell is wrong with you?

Inara: You're more interesting on the run than in captivity. 

Vulkas gives Inara one last confused look before he starts running out of the room, along with everyone else.

Five minutes later, the Operator arrives at the facility and enters the administration block. Inara seems to be feigning distress at the situation she was just in as a policeman questions her. 

Several stretchers are wheeled out with body bags on them.

Operator: What happened here?

Inara nods at the policeman who leaves.

Inara: What do you think? They escaped. Killed three of my finest men. 

Operator: No... No. How could this have happened?

Despite him trying to keep calm, there is a more panicked tone to his voice. 

Inara shrugs, somewhat unconvincingly.

Operator: It was you wasn't it... You let them go. 

Inara: Don't you have a deadline to meet?

The Operator's lips curl.

The Operator leaves hastily, and Inara makes a ticking noise as he does so. 

Sky Gunners

The group manage to sneak out of the cell block, and Ruselt leads them straight back to the runway. Sirens are heard. Spotlights from various watchtowers are turned on. The snow begins to fall quite heavily, aiding their escape from view. 

Ruselt: There it is!

Ruselt points to the Tempest, which can be seen having landed at the end of the airstrip. 

A Mercrian guard on a watchtower spots them running along the runway.

Guard: (In Mercrian) I've found them! I've found them!

This attracts the attention of other soldiers around the prison.

A voice is suddenly heard over the PA system.

PA: The prisoners are not to be harmed. They are wanted alive. I repeat, the prisoners are not to be harmed. 

They make it to the airship. There are several guards surrounding it. They notice the group, and take out their batons. They charge forwards. 

Roxanne takes out a loitering guard unnoticed from everyone else. She takes his uniform and puts it on herself, save for her skirt and boots. She strolls out into the open and puts his leg on a crate, causing an alluring distraction for the guards.

Roxanne: Hey, boys~~

The guards continue charging at the group. A guard runs straight towards Roxanne and tries to strike her, but she ducks and breaks his jaw in one punch.

Roxanne: How rude.

She stands over him so that he is able to see her panties. She presses his head down with her foot. One of the soldiers tries to strike Ruselt with a baton, but Ruselt snatches it off him and trips him up with it. Another guard charges at Luther, but Luther casts the paralysis spell on him. Three guards charge towards Angel-ion and Lanval.[ Dirge jumps over the two of them and releases a burst from his staff,] blasting the soldiers into a wall, winding them in the process.

The group climb aboard the Tempest. Roxanne and Dirge work to get the ship airbourne. Meanwhile, the Operator, who has run out onto the other side of the airstrip spots the Tempest ascending. He quickly runs towards his own airship, until he spots something in the distance. He sees Doenitz's ship soaring above, heading straight for Tempest. The Operator smiles. 

The Operator: (We may have them yet...)

Meanwhile aboard the Tempest, the crew spot Doenitz's ship emerging from the fog.

Lanval: Uh... Guys! We've got trouble! 

Doenitz's airship speeds up, and eventually flies parallel to the Tempest. They spot Doenitz waving his hat to them, smiling.

Portholes on the side of Doenitz' ship reveal cannons. They all fire. However, they do not fire cannonballs. Instead, harpoons are launched, and they pierce the hull of the Tempest, tethering the ships together.

Doenitz runs, and then jumps onto the Tempest. Several other crewmembers swing over. 

Doenitz: I am so glad we could reconvene! 

Doenitz takes out his machete. It seems to have a small bit of sinew hanging off of it, and it is covered in dried blood. Ruselt pulls out the gun that Inara gave him. He aims it at Doenitz. 

Doenitz just walks towards him, in confidence that he won't fire. He suddenly headbutts Ruselt, knocking him down.

Dirge jumps down and attempts to strike Doenitz, but two crewmembers quickly wrestle him to the deck. Angel-Ion slices away one of the ropes connected to the harpoons.

Roxanne: Lanval, Ray, man the cannons!

Lanval: Wait what?!

Ray: Aye, captain!

Doenitz: Let the show begin!

Doenitz unbottons his coat, and pulls out several knives. Three of them are thrown in short succession at Lanval and Ray. They dodge. Lanval takes them for himself.

Doenitz runs straight towards Luther, and barges into him, sending him crashing into the railings. 

Doenitz: You must have some kind of death wish! Trying to waste my precious time like that?

Doenitz his the sound of a sword being unsheathed behind him. He turns around to see Ruselt with his falchion.

Doenitz smiles. 

Doenitz holds up his machete. He runs at Ruselt. His first strike is quick, and powerful, and it catches Ruselt off-guard. Ruselt manages to block, but he is forced to recoil. 

Vulkas charges at Doenitz from the left. Doenitz responds by throwing a knife at him, which strikes him in the shoulder. Angel-Ion severs another harpoon from Doenitz' ship. Dirge gets up and blasts the two attacking crew members, sending them plummeting from the side of the ship.

Seeing two of his crew members die makes Doenitz more excitable. He suddenly has a little bit more spring in his step. He continues slashing down at Ruselt. Doenitz strikes the hilt of his falchion, knocking it out of his hands. Luther tries to cast the paralysis spell, but finds that he can't seem to summon any magic.

Luther: (What the hell is happening)

Doenitz slams Ruselt's head against the deck, disorientating him. He practically skips towards Angel-ion, who is fighting off a crewman. Doenitz takes a combat staff from a special sheath on his back. The staff is thin and metal, with razors at the end. He strikes the back of Angel-Ion's legs before he can react. Angel-Ion flies up to a higher point for cover.

Doenitz walks towards Lanval, machete in one hand, combat staff in the other. Vulkas suddenly attempts to tackle him, but Doenitz slams the hilt of his machete down on Vulkas' head. He suddenly aims his arm at Lanval, and a grappling hook fires out from his sleeve. The hooks and barbs fortunately only catch on Lanval's clothes, but it has gripped enough to pull him towards Doenitz. Lanval covertly cuts off the snagged clothing and throws his boomerang round, slicing the throat of one of Doenitz' men before flying at Doenitz himself. Doenitz manages to grab it out of mid-air. He throws it towards Lanval, but he hits it to the floor with his tomahawk. While he distracted, Doenitz tackles him, and punches him hard in the face, disorientating him. Other crewman manage to subdue Ray. 

Doenitz walks over to Luther, who is consistenly trying to use his magic.

Doenitz: Don't bother.

Doenitz quickly grabs a stray throwing knife and attempts to stab Doenitz. Doenitz grabs him by the wrists and redirects the knife against Luther's own. The knife begins to dig in, and Luther bleeds slightly.

Doenitz: You have been quite the little competitor in this game. But it's high time-

Suddenly the Operator's own personal rigid-airship emerges from the fog, and pulls up on the other side of the Tempest. It has "The Warden" written on the side. 

Doenitz: ...There's always one to spoil the fun...

Doenitz takes the knife off Luther. Ruselt begins to crawl towards his falchion, but a throwing knife suddenly sticks into the deck in front of him, inches away from his head.

A catwalk is loaded out from the Warden, and onto the Tempest, joining the two ships.

Doenitz: The Operator will want his dues... Pity. I was willing to ignore the bounty completely...

Doenitz gestures towards the Warden, and the crewmen drag the Tempest crew into it. A few of Doenitz' crew stay aboard the Tempest to ensure it remains on course. They enter a large control cabin, with windows along the front and the sides. 

The Operator sees the Tempest crew enter. 

Operator: (Oh thank goodness. I can still make this deadline...)

Everyone is forced on their knees, some with guns pressed into their backs. Others with knives to their throats. The crewmen around Dirge don't really know what to do, and just hold him tightly. 

Operator: Congratulations Mr Doenitz. It appears you have aquired all the primary targets. 

Lanval: So, you're Curtis?

Operator: What?

Vulkas: Ignore my friend. He is simple minded, but he means well. 

Lanval: Piss off, you.

Doenitz: Precious little things, aren't they?

Operator: Anyway... Here is your money. 

The Operator hands Doenitz a case filled with money.

Doenitz himself doesn't seem to be smiling. He doesn't seem to know what to do.

Operator: Well... You have your money... You may leave now.

Doenitz looks to the Tempest crew, and looks back at the Operator. He starts to walk towards the exit.

Luther: So that's it?

Doenitz: Hmm?

Luther: You go to the trouble of hunting us down, as part of a sick game, and now you're just going to take your money and leave? Some "day of recknoning."

Doenitz turns arond and looks at Luther.

Doenitz: The thing is kid, I know you're playing me... But you're right. Doenitz turns away from the exit.

Operator: What are you doing? I have given you your money!

Doenitz: I have found myself quite attached to this little managerie. All the money in this world could not persuade me to end my hunt on such a short notice.

Operator: I... Really... do not have time for this...

Some of the Operator's guards look poised to attack. 

Doenitz: Then the game continues. 

Operator: Open fire!

The Operator's guards open fire on Doenitz' crew. Several crewman are cut down immediately, whereas some are able to find cover and return fire. Doenitz immediately runs towards Luther, who finds that he still can't use his magic. He finds the exit is blocked off by some of Doenitz' crew and he freezes in fear as Doenitz approaches him with a machete. 

Ruselt quickly grabs Luther by the wrist, and heads through the nearest door. He finds that it has lead him into the engine room.

The room is dimly lit, with pipes and machinery crowding the room. Ruselt shuts the door behind him.

Ruselt: Why can't you use your magic?

Luther: I don't know! He must have done something, like those cultists in Sabaria! 

They suddenly hear the door screech open, and they hide behind some machinery. Doenitz locks the door behind him.

Luther: Why didn't we lock the door?

Ruselt: Shhh!

They hear Doenitz dragging his machete along the metal floor.

Doenitz: Come out, little piggies!

He taps his machete on some of the piping, causing an echoey metal clang.

Doenitz: Y'know, Luther. As fun as you've been, all great games must eventually come to an end. 

He taps his machete on the pipes again.

Doenitz: I think it will end... With me collecting your head, and mounting it on the front of the Huntress. 

Luther begins to breath more heavily. There is a deathly silence in the room. 

Doenitz: Found you!

Doenitz appears behind Luther and Ruselt, and he slams down his machete between them.  Ruselt barges into Doenitz, slamming him against one of the pipes. He quickly grabs Luther, and runs to a nearby ladder. They both begin to climb up it. 

Meanwhile in the cabin, the Operator fends off one of Doenitz' crewmen by stabbing him several times in the throat with a switchblade. He tries to open the door to the engine room, but finds it is locked.

Operator: Damn... (It is fine. You only really need the Visarions. Find them, and regain control of the situation...)

He heads through another door which heads to the rudder control room. He takes an alternate route into the engine room.

Meanwhile in the control cabin, Doenitz' first mate attacks Angel-Ion, brandishing a two knives. Angel-Ion's sword swings around in front of him. Angel-Ion then sheathes it, confusing the first mate. First, the blades on the knives ping off, next, his hands fall on the floor. Lanval notes the door to the engine room is locked. He fends off a crewman by embedding his tomahawk in their skull, before yanking it out. He pulls out a pin and a chisel.

Ruselt and Luther reach the top of the lander, and Ruselt opens a hatch. It seems to open up on the top of the actual ballooon. They both look down, and see Doenitz crawling up the ladder. Lanval unlocks the door.

They both quickly crawl on top of the airship. They find it hard to balance, as the wind blows hard, and the snow gets in their eyes. Ruselt manages to close the hatch. They hear a banging against the hatch. It seems to shudder. It suddenly bursts open and Doenitz jumps out. Ruselt and Luther both back up. He outstretches his arms threatrically.

Doenitz: Well isn't this just a perfect location for a grande finale!? Shall we add to the suspense!? 

Doenitz pulls out a grenade. He holds his hand over the hatch. He seems to be unscathed by the wind and snow.

Ruselt: (Our friends could still be on board!) NO!

Ruselt runs to try and stop him, but Doenitz drops the grenade and laughs. It falls down the shaft. It falls past the Operator, who has started to climb the ladder. It explodes in the engine room. Lanval dives out of the way.

Doenitz walks towards Ruselt and Luther. Ruselt gets in front of Luther, seemingly ready to protect him until the end. 

Suddenly the Operator appears behind Doenitz, and hits him over the head with a crowbar he found in the engine room. Doenitz recoils but quickly turns around to the Operator. He strikes down with his machete, but the Operator kicks Doenitz in the stomach, winding him.

Doenitz: *Cough* Can I not slaughter these fine fellows without interruption!?

Doenitz runs towards the Operator, and he slashes quickly but the Operator keeps jumping back. Suddenly Doenitz pulls out his pistol, and his smile widens. He begins to fire at the Operator, but the euphoria of the situation has taken its toll on his aim. He manages to hit the Operator once in the arm. The Operator however seems undetered and runs towards Doenitz with his switchblade. He tries to stab Doenitz in the throat, but Doenitz successfully redirects the blade into his shouler. Doenitz headbutts the Operator and suddenly pulls out a sawed-off shotgun. He fires. Some of the shot actually wings the Operator, and he falls back. He turns around and aims his shotgun at Ruselt. Luther however suddenly strikes from the side, and grabs Doenitz' arm. A mechanical sound is heard, and it takes a few second for Doenitz to realise what Luther had done. Luther had trigger Doenitz' grapple hook to fire. The grapple seems to have latched onto the Huntress' balloon. 

Doenitz: Well shi-

The grapple mechanism activates, and it pulls Doenitz clean off the airship, and towards his own. He laughs almost hysterically as it occurs. 

Meanwhile, the Tempest crew begin to vacate the Warden as the flames spread from the engine room into the cabin. They all head over the catwalk and back onto the Tempest. Angel-Ion, Dirge and Roxanne eject the crewmen from their ship. Angel-Ion notes what is going on on top of the Warden.

Angel-Ion: Damn! Those two are still stuck up there!

Vulkas notices Doenitz on top of the Huntress. He seems to be struggling to disconnect his grappling hook. Vulkas finishes Angel-Ion's objective, and cuts the remaining tethers attaching the Huntress to the Tempest. 

Ray and Lanval man the cannons and fire them at the Huntress. Some of the cannonballs bounce off the metal plating, but others force the metal to buckle inwards, damaging the wooden structure underneat. The Huntress begins to veer away from the Tempest, and disappears into the fog. 

Meanwhile on top of the Warden. 

The Operator stands up. Blood is begining to radiate over his white shirt. He looks at the Visarions. His eyes, bloodshot with rage.

Operator: It was meant to be a simple task! What should have taken two weeks took two months! All these needless distractions!

Another explosion occurs within the Warden, and it rocks. Everyone is thrown off the top of the balloon, and grabs onto the side of it, holding on for dear life.

The Operator uses his switchblade to get a good grip of the balloon.  Ruselt has managed to dig his fingers into the fabric of the balloon's envelope. In the other hand, he is holding Luther, who was thrown clean off the Warden. With the wind blowing, and the extra weight of Luther, Ruselt is begining to find it incredibly painful to hold on. An incredibly powerful gust of wind hits them. It catches Ruselt off guard, his grip on Luther slips. Luther suddenly falls.

Ruselt: NOOOO!

Luther's head slams against the side of the Tempest, and he continues falling. Dirge uses a light burst to spring up to the Warden and grabs Ruselt before doing the same trick to return to the ship. Angel-Ion dives off of the side of the Tempest.

Luther suddenly sees the same orb he touched from before, exploding out the same way. It changes to visions of various lands; a harbour, a desert and two equally refined cities, differing in style. He then sees a figure standing in intense sunlight, before seeing a crown and a sword. A blast of purple light shoots forwards, and fades to white. Luther regains himself somewhat, but his vision is blurry. Angel-Ion carries him back on board the Tempest. 

The Warden is further engulfed in flames, as the Operator manages to crawl onto the top of the airship. They see the Warden swerve away from them, and it tilts downwards, leaving a large trail of smoke behind it. It disappears from view. 

Ruselt immediately runs towards Luther.

Ruselt: I'm s-so sorry! Are you ok!?

Luther seems somewhat dazed. 

Luther: I c-can barely see.

Luther touches the side of his head, and feels the blood. 

Luther: I saw s-something again. 

Vulkas: What did you see?

Luther explains what he saw to the best of his current ability. 

Vulkas: That harbour sounds like it could be Runisian. 

Angel-Ion: Yeah, I can certainly remember there being harbours there like that.

Dirge: That purple light, though... What could that have been?

Lanval: And that crown and sword...

Angel-Ion: Maybe its the sword Kalir and the crown of Venland?

Luther: N-no. They were different. 

Roxanne: Dirge, did you catch that?

Dirge: Of course. I've already set course for Runisia. Lets hope Doenitz or that other guy don't find themselves a new ship and follow us.

The Price of Failure

Crowned Residency. Galahad, Novalia.

Two Galahad Arms soldiers stand at the doors of Crowned's private chambers. The door suddenly opens, and a guard pushing a slightly battered Spade enters the chamber.

Crowned: Ah. Spade. I was wondering when you'd show your face here.

Spade: I am sorry.

Crowned: No, no. I don't want your apologies, Spade. Twice, I asked you. Twice I ordered you to bring that gauntlet back to me. Where is it?

Spade: It is--

Crowned: Not here. It is not here. I wanted it back. Yet I hear about your appitude for causing a ruckus in public and FAILING to secure the Aspect of Envy! Do you not know how mad I am?

Spade is pushed to the floor.

Crowned: Do you know what the price of failing me is, Spade?

Crowned loads a pistol.

Spade: Yes, sir.

Crowned points the gun at Spade's head.

Crowned: Good, so I'll spare you the details.

Crowned puts his finger on the trigger. Spade suddenly springs up and kicks the gun. The bullet is fired and takes out one of the guards. Spade kicks Crowned in the chest into his desk while he is stunned. Crowned blindly takes a second shot, shooting through a part of Spade's visor and into the head of the second guard.

The guard who brought him into the room tries to shoot him with his own gun, as two guards outside the room enter. Spade disarms the guard and stabs him in the neck, before clotheslining the two remaining guards, knocking them to the floor. Spade flees the room. The guards prepare to give chase.

Crowned: No... Let him go. I'll see what he'll do next. If he remains in Galahad, see to it that he is shot.

Outside the residency, Spade speeds away from the building on a custom speeder.

Spade: ... Galahad Arms can go to hell... If I ever see your faces again, Luther, Ruselt, Angel-Ion, my rage will make sure that you will have the most painful and bloody deaths a man can conceive...

He speeds off.

Deadline

A field north of Veldershen, Mercria.

The Operator wakes up in several inches of snow, having survived the crash. He stands up to see the Warden burning, and beginning to collapse just metres away from him. He takes a step back, but suddenly collapses again in pain, as his leg has become fractured. His right arm is still bleeding from the bullet hole left by Doenitz. There is a large gash on his forehead, which has resulted in blood dripping over the left side of his face. He stands up, undetered by the pain, and he limps towards the rendevouz point. 

He arrives an hour later at the meat-processing facility Kesamir spoke of in his telegram. He takes a deep breath, seemingly willing to accept his fate, and he enters the building's foyer. Andrik Kesamir is waiting for him, sporting a long black winter coat. He is surrounded by four other guards; two Mercrians, a Levian and a Canorican. Kesamir approaches him.

Kesamir: I see you are without the Visarion children...

The Operator nods, looking somewhat defeated.

Kesamir: I warned you back in Asteria that if you failed, you would be blacklisted.

The Operator nods again.

Kesamir: Yet you show up empty handed anyway.

The Operator remains silent with his head lowered.

Kesamir: What happened?

Operator: The bounty hunter I hired wasn't reliable. He turned on my crew. The fight caused the ship to crash, and facilitated the Visarions escape.

Kesamir: So it is your fault.

Operator: No--

Kesamir: You have cost us an airship, and an entire crew!

Operator: I can still get this done. I just need one last chance.

Kesamir You have had your chance.

Kesamir nods to his guards. The Levian and Canorican seize the Operator. The Levian unintentionally squeezes his arm wound, causing him tremendous pain. They force him to his knees. Kesamir pulls out a pistol.

Operator: Wait! I thought you said I'd only be blacklisted!

Kesamir: That was before you told me you had destroyed one of our airships!

Kesamir puts the gun to the Operator's head.

Operator: Wait!

Kesamir: ...What?

The Operator mumbles something. He secretly slips a switchblade out of his left sleeve. Kesamir moves closer to the Operator in order to hear what he is saying.

The Operator strikes. He suddenly headbutts Kesamir hard. Kesamir missfires his gun, hitting the Levian guard in his leg, causing him to release the Operator and fall over. The Operator quickly uses the switchblade to slash the hamstrings of the Canorican guard. He quickly grabs the Canorican, and pulls an Astra pistol out of his coat pocket. He wraps his arm around the Canorican's neck, and holds him in front of him. The two Mercrian guards, open fire on the Operator, but the Canorican acts as a human shield. The Operator raises his pistol, and fires two shots.

One strikes a Mercrian in the neck, and the other in the head. He drops the now lifeless body of the Canorican. Kesamir recovers from him disorientation and pulls his gun up. The Operator quickly lifts Kesamir's arm up, and stabs him three times in the abdomen before taking his gun off him. The Operator walks over the Levian who is scrambling for his gun, and shoots him in the head. He walks back to Kesamir, who begins to bleed out.

Kesamir: You st-- Stupid mother fu-fucker! Do you have an-- Any fucking idea what you've just done?

The Operator puts his foot on Kesamir's abdomen and presses down hard.

Kesamir: AAGH!

The Operator: I am going to tell you exactly what is going to happen. I am going to leave. I am going to get the Visarions, no matter how long it takes... I am going to take them directly to the bounty collection point. I am going to take the reward money, and I am going to hand it straight to the Underground. I'll be forgiven, and recomissioned as a manager.

Kesamir: You're delusional! They aren't going to forgive this!

The Operator: I have been with the Underground all my life Mr Kesamir. Longer than you. You may outrank me, but I have served them more than you ever have.

Kesamir: Pfft. You're fucked! You're absolutely fucked! You're a dead man walk--

The Operator shoots Kesamir in the head, killing him instantly. He finds some fuel used to power the machines, and begins to pour it over the bodies. He fires the gun at the fuel, and it ignites. He leaves the building as it engulfed by flames. 

Aspect of Wrath

16th May, 1215 AC. Apolla Fields. Noon.

The Tempest begins slowing down in its flight.

Dirge: We're low on fuel!

Roxanne: I'll go load another tank!

Roxanne heads to the brig. She returns from it shocked.

Roxanne: What the hell?! We had enough tanks to fly us all the way Kratonia and back again! Where have the tanks gone!?

Angel-Ion: They're gone?

Ruselt: How long can the ship keep going before the engines stop?

Roxanne: Not long. We should have enough to take us to a good coastal spot for landing. From there we can decide if we actually sail, or send somebody to the next possible stop for fuel.

Lanval feels worried when Roxanne looks at him after saying this. Dirge lands the ship at a coast.

Dirge, Roxanne and Angel-Ion step foot on land. Angel-Ion notes signs of recent activity in the area.

Angel-Ion: That's weird.

Dirge: What is?

Angel-Ion: This place was occupied recently...

Dirge: How can you tell?

Angel-Ion: Given that there's some fishing equipment over there, and that log pile is still smoking, somebody's been here.

Angel-Ion grabs some sand and lets it drop to the floor.

Roxanne: It could just be the Apollai.

Angel-Ion: The what?

Roxanne: They're tribesmen that live in Apolla... Though a place like this should have at least one or two still around if they've been here.

Dirge notes some odd looking grass nearby. He grabs it and looks at it. On closer inspection, it is actually hair. Angel-Ion inspects the fire, to see a pool of blood not too far away.

Angel-Ion: Ok... This place is starting to weird me out.

They go back to the ship to report their findings.

Luther: How recent was the blood?

Angel-Ion: It seemed pretty fresh.

Smoke begins rising near some rocks a distance away. There are huts not to far away, some of which look like they've been attacked.

Vulkas: Should we go and investigate?

Ruselt: I doubt that the Apollans have fuel.

Luther: Apollai.

Ruselt: Smartass.

Angel-Ion jumps from the deck and begins making his way towards it.

Dirge: It looks like we don't have a choice.

Dirge, Ray and Roxanne jump down and follow him.

Ruselt and Luther shrug, and follow also. Vulkas then follows also. 

Lanval: Ugh... I'm not gonna like this one bit.

Lanval gives chase. They arrive at what seems to be a ransacked tribe. There are Apollai corpses everywhere.

Roxanne: What the hell happened here?!

Angel-Ion inspects a corpse. He finds that the Apollai was stabbed three times in the chest. 

Vulkas: Well this was nice day trip, but I think it's best that we return to the ship.

Roxanne: I didn't know you were a poet.

An Apollai suddenly screams and cries for help. It tries to claw its way to the crew.

Lanval: Gyah!

???: Oh look. One survived.

A black arrow flies down into the back of its neck, killing it. Angel-Ion draws his sword.

Angel-Ion: Who's there?!

???: Intruders... Go alert Master Urkhine.

Dirge: Come out of the shadows!

Ruselt draws his falchion. 

Something flashes past Ruselt and cuts his cheek. The same happens to Lanval and Angel-Ion. Three black female figures with four arms appear.

Lanval: Gh... What the hell was that?

Two more figures show up, having down the same to Roxanne and Ray. A sixth figure finally does the same to Luther, leaving Vulkas and Dirge the only ones uncut.

The figures surround the crew in a circle. They suddenly kneel when a male figure appears.

All Six: Master.

???: Well, well, well... What are the likes of you lot doing all the way out here in Apolla?

Ruselt: Our airship has run out of fuel.

???: I haven't seen any airships around. Hehehe... Are you trying to prank me? No... Yes... That's it. Two Novalians. You must be in possession of a Novalian ship. A boat that can fly. You've ported it somewhere.

Vulkas: Who are you?

???: Oh yes. That *is* a good question. Who am I? I am Helmut Urkhine, and these are the Asarash. Now then. Your ship. I'm taking it.

Ruselt: Fuck off. 

Helmut: Of course, because I have made up my mind, I have decided that I must now have you all killed. Asarash! Attack!

The six figures stand and each draw a set of four sais.

Angel-Ion and Dirge immediately clash with two of the sisters. Ray and Lanval take it in turns trying to strike another. 

Vulkas encases one of the figures in ice, and Luther fends off another using fire. They both set ablaze, unaffected by both the fire and the ice.

Roxanne is unable to keep up with one of the sisters. She feels sluggish all of a sudden.

Luther temporarily blinds one of the figures by creating a bright flash of light in front of their faces. Luther soon feels sluggish as well. Angel-Ion and Ray do as well. Soon, Lanval does too.

Angel-Ion: What's going on? My body's slowing!

Ruselt: Mine too!

Helmut: It seems the poison has taken its effect.

Lanval: P-Poison?!

Helmut: Save for the Runisian and the Sabarian, you were all cut on the cheek. The blades the Asarash used were coated in the poison. Speaking of which...

Helmut slams his hand down to the floor. A bolt of lightning crashes down on Dirge. Helmut looks at Vulkas before doing the same to him.

Helmut: Asarash, there is no point in you lot continuing. May as well leave them to the dead.

Helmut throws down a green powder which turns into green smoke that spreads across the ground. The Apollai corpses suddenly rise, in spite of the wounds that killed them.

Lanval: Z-Zombies?!

Angel-Ion: Are you kidding me?!

Luther: (I had no idea this was even possible...)

Helmut: You may be thinking "how is this even possible?". I am a practioneer in voodoo magics. Now, my zombies, kill them!

The zombies begin marching towards the crew.

Luther raises his arm, and a circle of fire erupts around the group. Angel-Ion adds power to it, before blasting the fire outwards, burning the zombies. They seem to be very suspectible to fire. Helmut sees through the fires and spots the Aspect of Envy. The active zombies begin to approach again as the fire subsides.

Helmut: Stop.

The zombies stop moving.

Helmut: That on your arm. What is that? Tell me! 

Luther: A g-gauntlet.

Helmut: Where did you get it?!

Ruselt: He got it from a Galahad Arms warehouse. 

Helmut angrily grits his teeth and clenches his right fist. He has a gauntlet identical to it on his hand.

Helmut: Do you expect me to believe such blasphemy?!

Dirge: It's another Aspect of Envy!

Helmut: No, no. This is the Aspect of Wrath.

Luther: Where did you get it?

Helmut: A tomb. Belonged to some noble fool.

Dirge: In that case you may be able to help us.

Helmut: Help you? HA! I'm gonna kill you! After that, I'm gonna take that pretty little gauntlet of yours and then claim your ship for my own!

Helmut draws a black sword. The blade bursts into orange flames.

Luther fires a red blast towards Helmut. 

Helmut hits it away with his sword. He spreads out his wings and flies towards him. Suddenly, Angel-Ion gets in the way and counters his sword with his own.

Helmut: Keh.. So you have a fire sword as well!

Angel-Ion: Yup. Mine's Kagero. What's yours?

Helmut: Astaroth.

They break and jump back.

Angel-Ion: I've seen black swords before, but none like this!

Helmut: It seems you're able to resist the poison.

Helmut jumps back.

Helmut: Asarash! Kill them!

The Asarash prepare to attack. Suddenly, pillars of light begin raining down from the sky. They crash down on all of the zombies and the Asarash.

Helmut: What the...

Helmut glares at Dirge.

Helmut: You...! What did you do?! WHAT DID YOU DO?!?!

Dirge: What? Me? I didn't do anything!

Helmut: Don't lie to me! This is the work of Sabarian magic!

???: Perhaps you should open your mind further. The picture would become clearer then.

On the rocks above them are a Novalian, Sabarian and a Kylotean from the Orochi Clan.

Dirge: ... Could it be...?

Helmut: Ack! You...! You're...!

???: Come on, spit it out.

Helmut: You're... You're just a legend! A myth!

The Novalian jumps down and stands before Helmut. Helmut falls down in shock.

???: Correction. We are real.

Angel-Ion: ... Who are you?

???: Ah, yes. Sirs. I am Sir Noland Baltovere. If that name does not ring any bells, I am the leader of the Templar Knights.

The Sabarian and Kylotean jump down.

???: So then, Dirge. I hear you plan to complete my work.

Dirge: N-Narak?

Helmut tries to compose himself. He gets up and grabs his sword. He finds a gun pointed at his head from someone hidden behind a rock.

???: Drop it.

Helmut steps back as a six-armed figure steps out.

Noland: You must be wondering who the others are. These two are Narak and Luwei. He is Trakkis Bracorne. And other there are Maradiac, Sir Mase, Varn and Priori.

Helmut: Kah! Legend or not, you can't stop me!

Helmut ascends into the sky.

Noland: Narak, please.

Narak: Got it.

Narak draws an intricate symbol on the ground. He slams his spear in the centre.

Helmut: Now then, this is the part where you-- Huh?!

A large pillar of light shoots upwards, blasting Helmut. He crashes to the ground, unconcious.

Ruselt kicks Helmut's unconcious body.

Luther looks at him curiously.

Ruselt: What? He was an asshole. 

Luther walks over to him and inspects his gauntlet, being careful not to touch it.  

Noland: I suppose you are looking for answers, Sir Luther.

Luther: Yes.

Noland: Then I implore that you come with us. All of you. We know of the one called Azoth, and what he is capable of. And, as you carry one of his seven Aspects, you are far more important in the schematics of all things.

He points to Luwei with his thumb.

Noland: This one here has a word for that. And I'm sure you're familiar with it, Sir Angel-Ion.

Angel-Ion: What's that?

Luwei: Fate.

Ruselt: What can you tell us about Azoth?

Noland: A lot. If you've heard of us, you may or may not know us as an incarnation of Tempus and the original Templar Order four thousand years ago.

Lanval: Who were they?

Noland: The Templar Knights are a band of warriors united to lead their nations against Azoth and the Azoth Army. Tempus, a being mysterious even to us, served as its original leader and founder.

Dirge: Did something happen to them?

Noland: Quite. The Sabari First Host took part in the age old war, and, in spite of an alliance made between the Order's forces and the First Host, Mora, Imperatrix of the First Host, betrayed the allied forces, and Tempus was slain in an ambush.

Noland looks over the windy horizon.

Noland: With the last of his powers, Tempus bestowed three things to his Order. The first was the Templar Codex, a power that could recognise the leader of every incarnation of the Templar Order. The second, bestowed to the Knight from the land now known as Venland, appointed as the Order's new leader, to carry on Tempus' power over light. The third was to ensure his own reincarnation so that hope can endure all times where the dark takes hold.

Angel-Ion: So if this Tempus gave the Venlish knight this Codex, would that mean that you have it?

Noland: Affirmative.

Noland unbuttons his jacket and shows his chest, what seems to be a glowing orb with hexagonal patterns is visible inside his chest.

Noland: The Templar Codex is what allowed us to find you.

Roxanne: So, what of this reincarnation? Do you know who it is?

Noland: I'm afraid not. The third factor may actually be a myth, as no known reincarnations have ever been discovered.

Vulkas: What happened after Tempus' death?

Noland: Ah, yes. The Templar Order later fought off the First Host and defeated the Azoth Army. Azoth himself and his two brothers were sealed in stone and imprisoned at three points considered the furthest away from one another.

Noland looks down at Helmut.

Noland: That being said, the reactivation of the Aspects of Azoth, the armour worn by Azoth himself during the war, the very vassals containing the vestiges of his power, mean that he has likely now been set free. While followers of Azoth still exist, it is unknown where they lie. Even the Agosu Clan, who claim to worship Azoth as a god, are hidden.

Narak: There are seven Aspects of Azoth, representing sin. From there, there exists five stones of power that are supposed to compliment the armour.

Ruselt: So how would we go about removing this?

Ruselt points at Luther's gauntlet. 

Noland: We are not certain. For both of us to get an inkling on how to remove it, we inquire that you come with us.

Angel-Ion: To where?

Noland: To Regolia!

Roxanne: We can't have too many people on the Tempest. It'll get too crowded.

Noland: That's not a problem for us. We have our own ship, the Celadon Crusader. We'll sail alongside you all the way to Regolia.

Roxanne: Then let's do it!

Luther: Wait. Maybe Helmut's gauntlet could trigger a vision. It could provide more answers.

Noland: I doubt that is the case. 

Luther touches Helmut's gauntlet. Nothing happens.

Noland: Its best we leave him. He may have the counterpart to your own, but he's too far gone a cause. He's beyond our help.

The two groups return to their ships and promptly set sail. Helmut's eyes suddenly flash open. He sits up.

Helmut: Regolia, eh!?

He springs to his feet.

Helmut: Asarash! Rise!

The Asarash stand to their feet.

Asarash: Master.

Helmut: Hehehe... We ride for Runisia!

The Asarash rush off.

Helmut: We'll see each other again soon, Little Luther... Kehehehe!

Hekmut spreads his wings and flies after the Asarash.

Legacy, Fate and the Remnants

Runisian Sea.

Noland, Luwei and Maradiac have temporarily boarded the Tempest.

Ray: So... You're Rhydiac's great-grandfather?

Maradiac: That's correct.

Lanval: You must be so old... How are you even still alive?

Maradiac: We all drank a Potion of Life. Noland's orders.

Lanval: What's that?

Maradiac: Its a potion that expands one's life. The one who brewed it drank a more potent version, meaning he's been alive far longer than us.

Ray: And who is that?

Maradiac: He calls himself Phade. That's all I knew about him, to say the least.

Luwei and Angel-Ion are practising sword combat. Noland approaches Ruselt.

Noland: Sir Ruselt.

Ruselt: Hmm?

Noland: When I mentioned the three gifts left by Tempus those 4000 years ago. There was one piece one information I neglected to inform you.

Ruselt: Ok...

Noland: The Venlish Knight's bestowed power was passed on to his first-born son through birth, and it carried on for generations until the later descendants became violent or power hungry, where it became dormant in their very being. The Templar Codex allows me to acknowledge family birthlines. Some are cloudy, some are clear. It also lets me awaken dormant powers within others.

Ruselt: ... Why are you telling me this?

Noland: Because you are the latest first-born to be directly descended from that very Knight. The power lies dormant within you. It laid dormant within your father, as well.

Ruselt: What about my brother?

Noland: You may be twin brothers, but you were the first to be procured from Lady Tylian's womb, meaning you are Roarak Visarion's first born.

Noland extends his arm out to Ruselt's chest.

Noland: I will now awaken the dormant power of the Venlish Knight within you!

Noland's arm is covered in glowing patterns that reach towards his hand. Blue energy seeps from his palm and fingertips, entering Ruselt's body. Light glows from out of Ruselt's body, and his veins glow brightly before the light finally fades.

Noland: There. The "Light of Order" has been awakened within you. It will take time getting used to it, and it will take a lot of practice before you can hope to master it.

Ruselt: I don't feel any different.

Noland: Neither did I when I found that I had the Templar Codex. You'll likely develop these abilities as time goes on.

Noland jumps back over to the Crusader. He begins discussing things with some other Knights.

Suddenly, the deck of the Tempest is engulfed in a dark smoke. When the smoke clears, there are several figures, all wearing black advanced armour. Each one appears to be holding a gun to the back of everyone on the deck, to prevent them from moving. Two of them have grab Luther and Ruselt. The smoke suddenly reappears and when it clears, the figures are gone, along with Ruselt and Luther. A note appears to have been left nailed to a mast.

Angel-Ion: What the hell happened?!

Noland and Sir Mase jump ships.

Noland: We saw smoke! What happened here?!

Dirge: That's what we want to know!

Lanval: Luther and Ruselt have vanished!

Roxanne: What's this?

Roxanne reads the note.

It reads "For the sake of your friends, we implore that you do not make any attempts to track them down. To do so would result only in tragedy for all involved."

Roxanne: Damn...

Noland: Argh... Just after I awaken his powers!

Angel-Ion picks up Ruselt's falchion.

Angel-Ion: What are we supposed to do now?!

Noland: I suppose the only course thing to do is continue on our path. From there, we can gather forces to stage an attack on whoever it is that kidnapped them.

Suddenly, both Luther and Ruselt reappear on a different airship, surrounded by the various figures that abducted them. Ruselt immediately goes to punch one of them, and he is quickly wrestled to the ground. As Ruselt fights them, Luther looks at his surroundings. He notices the interior of the ship is very modern, and there are banners hanging on the walls, displaying an inverted Venish cross. 

Luther: Rus. Stop fighting. 

Ruselt: We've just been abducted!

Luther: Look around you.

Ruselt looks around. He too notices the Venlish design of the ship, and the Venlish flags.

Ruselt: Who are these people?

Suddenly a Venlish woman wearing a black suit walks in. She kneels before Ruselt.

Woman: Your majesty.

Ruselt looks at her with a confused expression. 

Ruselt: Who are you?

Woman: My name is Eleanor Moore. I am to provide both of you with counsel within the Remnant State.

Ruselt: Remnant State?

Eleanor: The Remnant State of Venland. 

Ruselt: I don't understand. What is goin- 

Ruselt's voice trails off as he becomes overwhelmed by the situation.

Eleanor: I'll explain everything later, when you're in a better state of mind. 

Luther: W-where are you t-taking us?

Eleanor: Your new home.

The Remnant State of Venland

18th May, 1215 AC. The Isle of Reed, The Lower Lorinham Complex. Night.

The airship carrying Ruselt and Luther lands. They are lead out of the airship, expecing to find themselves on an airfield. They are suprised when they find that they are in a very large subterranean hangar. Luther looks up, and notices a large opening in the cieling above him, that begins closing. The hangar itself is several stories high with various balconies overlooking the base. 

Luther: Where are we?

Eleanor: The Lower Lorinham Complex. It's a bunker that was constructed during the war with Canorica after being commisioned by your father. Your father knew that we couldn't win the war, and so ensured there was a suitable headquarters for anyone planning to retake the mainland. 

She leads them along the hangar floor, walking past several airships, and storage containers. 

Ruselt: What about our friends? They don't know where we are.

Eleanor: Good. The fewer people aware of this place, the better.

Ruselt: I want to see them!

Eleanor: You can't. 

Ruselt: Why not?

Eleanor: We need you. In case it escaped your notice, the occupation of King is currently vacant. A vacancy it is your duty to fill. 

Ruselt already seems overwhelmed with the idea. 

Ruselt: I'm 15! 

Eleanor looks at him more sympathetically.

Eleanor: I am aware that this is a lot to take on. Especially for someone of your age, but the Venlish people need a figurehead to rally behind. A reminder of the old government will serve that purpose perfecty. You will be given all the appropriate counsel in order to carry out your duties. 

Ruselt: But I don't want to be King.

Eleanor: Neither did your father, or his father before him. But both acknowledged the importance of their role. 

Ruselt goes silent. He looks to Luther, who gives him an unsure look.

Eleanor: We are not expecting you to take up the role of King immediately. In fact, people in the cabinet aren't even saying it is compulsory. 

Ruselt: Yet you abducted us...

Eleanor: We'll give you time to decide whether or not you choose to inherit the throne. But remember this. Our country needs you. Or rather needs what you represent. I implore you to at least consider it. 

Ruselt pauses. He looks up, and he sees various Remnant State soldiers poking their heads over the balconies, looking hopefully at their prince. 

Ruselt: Can I at least send a letter to our friend?

Eleanor: I'll see what we can do. Now... Shall I show you two around?

Ruselt and Luther both nod, and Eleanor takes them through a set of double doors, taking them deeper into the Lorinham complex. 

All The King's Men

19th May, 1215 AC. Royal Port. Regolia. Morning.

The Celadon Crusader and Traveller's Tempest dock at the ports. Some dock workers take it upon themselves to tie the ships to port.

Angel-Ion: So where exactly do we go from here?

Noland: We must ride for Galehaut. That is where Stonehold Castle lies.

Lanval: Is that the King's castle?

Noland: Yes. On horseback, we should arrive in the afternoon.

Stonehold Castle Town. Galehaut. Afternoon.

The Tempest crew and Templar Knights ride into the castle town of Stonehold, having passed a portculis and drawbridge. A set of guards emerge from the castle. Two knights retreat to a tower. A giant iron door opens. A set of knights on horseback emerge.

Their armour seems different to those of the soldiers' armour, as well as each other's. Behind them is a more regally decorated horse, ridden by a young man wearing a crown.

The Tempest's crew feel power eminating from the crowned man.

Lanval: I-Is that the King?!

Noland: Yes.

Narak: That is Antioch the Second, King of Regolia. Lord of House Verigan.

Antioch and one of the knights dismount from their horses. Noland and Sir Mase do the same.

Antioch: Its great to see you again, Noland!

Noland: The feeling is mutual, my King.

They share a manly hug. Antioch sees the Tempest crew.

Antioch: Is this them? The crew you told me about?

Noland: That's right.

Antioch: So which of you is Ruselt, then?

Noland: There has been... An issue at sea. Ruselt and Luther were abducted by a mystery group durng our travel here. We will need a call to action.

Antioch: I see... Sir Edmund, Sir Gregor, send word to the Royal Houses.

Both: Yes, sir.

They both ride forwards, passing the Tempest crew and the other Templar Knights. Angel-Ion looks at Roxanne. They both dismount their horses and approach Antioch. Angel-Ion reaches out for a handshake.

Angel-Ion: Your majesty.

Antioch: Come now, handshakes are for strangers.

Antioch gives Angel-Ion a manly hug. He takes Roxanne by the hand and kisses it.

Antioch: I take it you are the captain aboard your ship, my lady.

Roxanne: Yes... How did you know?

Antioch: Wild guess.

Angel-Ion observes the sword sheathed to Antioch's side.

Angel-Ion: What's with that sword?

Antioch: This? This is the Sword of Geraint.

He draws it and hands it to Angel-Ion to get a better observation.

Antioch: It was given to me by my father, King Karpath I, when he died. I don't quite understand it myself. It seems to be a holder of power, which is said to be amplified when wearing the Crown of Gaunt.

Angel-Ion: That thing on your head?

Antioch: Yes, that. My father told me the Crown was necessary to establish me as king... But I only see it as a decoration that holds some kind of power. None of the kings and queens before King Gaunt II had it, either.

Antioch turns to the castle.

Antioch: The only thing that does determine a king in my eyes sits in there. The Throne of Power, built by Harold the Great, but even then, I never really wanted to sit in it.

Angel-Ion: Then why do you?

Antioch: I have to. It is the duty of the King of Regolia to sit on the Throne of Power.

Roxanne: So where did you send those knights to?

Antioch: Your friend here has called for action. We will first need to house a meeting amongst the Royal Houses to determine what the course of said action is. You should come inside. We shant keep you waiting for their arrival outside the castle, especially since it will take two days at best for them all to get here. Besides, we need you for the meeting as well.

Luther's Lament

19th May, 1215 AC. The Lower Lorinham Complex. Morning. 

Luther is in his personal quarters, sitting wide awake on the end of the bed. 

Voice: You may think you're safe now, but you're forgetting your predicament.

Luther looks to his gauntlet.

Voice: It is an unfortunate situation you're in. You finally find a safe place, yet you know you'll have to leave eventually to rid yourself of that gauntlet. 

Luther: (I can't leave Ruselt)

Voice: Why not? This isn't about him. This is about youYou need to remove that gauntlet. It'll be your chance to prove that you are capable of handling yourself. 

Luther seems deep in thought for a few minutes. 

Luther: (Then I must prepare...)

He looks up into a mirror, only to see his reflection smirking back at him. Unlike what he did in Kratonia, he ignores it and looks away.

Luther: (You still haven't told me who you are...)

The voice goes silent, and Luther clenches his fist in frustration. He leaves the room, and heads towards the Remnant State's Field Mage training area. 

The New Requirements

20th May, 1215 AC. Sacred Grounds. Kyloto.

Several noble figures of Kyloto gather at the Grand Tower of Negura. They are soon approached by a set of advanced guards, seemingly of the likes of which they have never seen. They split into two sides and Shen and Oran walk through their opening. Oran notices that Fuhai Owari and Tsuga Atorasu are absent amongst others.

Shen: Kazoku and the other influential houses of Kyloto. I thank you all for coming. As you may be aware, we have been on hard times following the betrayal of Kitsuke Shokuji and the introduction of the Military Draft. However, we, the Dominion, seek to correct all of our current flaws. The addition of the new Royal Guard is a testiment to this. As a Kazoku, Shokuji reveals to me a large issue with the Kazoku system. If Shokuji was able to commit this much damage, what is stopping other Kazoku from doing the same?

Aishi: But surely the Oathkeepers should prevent us from doing that.

Shen: Maybe so. Though I trust the likes of you and Lord Werlock, the likes of Oathkeepers were not enough to stop Shokuji from committing his betrayal.

Shen turns to Oran. Oran unfurls a sack and tosses the head of Shibafu Kusa onto the floor.

Shen: We have lost five Oathkeepers to Shokuji.

Werlock: Wouldn't the Ichizoku be course for similar measures, though?

Shen: Shio Umi was ideally against the Dominion. She has been replaced with a suitable replacement, Pescador Suiryoku, who personally fought Shokuji's forces, loyal to the Dominion, in spite of being of the Acua Clan himself. Now then. The recent occurances has given the conclusion that the Kazoku and the formula for influential families is to be abolished. As for you lords of those families, you may feel free to continue your families in your own rights, but you must submit yourselves to the fighting cause of the Dominion.

Lord: This is an outrage! My family worked hard to supply the Dominion, and now you're calling us to arms?! This is wrong, Lord Gikoku! I will not stand for--

A massive hole appears in the lord's chest.

Shen: No. You will not stand. For disobedience, you will fall.

Lord: ... W-Why...

He collapses. Some other lords look in shock.

Shen: I am going to give the rest of you a decision. A vote, if you will. Those of you who believe the Kazoku formula should be retained, or at least altered, you will head for Unmei's Foothole. The rest of you, who believe it should be abolished, will head for the Royal Barracks. There, we will determine things...

There is a silence.

Shen: Well, off you go.

The lords suddenly panic and head back down the hill approaching the Palace. Shen turns to Oran.

Shen: I assume you were keeping check on the absentees.

Oran: I was.

Shen: Send the order that they are rounded up, their families executed and their belongings liquidated. I won't be taking any chances on the absent lords.

Oran walks back to the palace.

Later, several lords have gathered at Unmei's Foothole, seemingly more than there are at the barracks.

Lord: Look! Only a few lords have not shown themselves here! That means the system remains!

Lord: You're right!

A large stone gate closes, blocking off the only exit from the small chasm. Several Royal Guards emerge on the circumference. Some take their place atop the gate itself.

Lord: What's going on up there?

Lord: Is that... Is that Lord Ryusei up there?!

Werlock is amongst the guards on the circumference. He is wearing similar armour. They all suddenly draw metal bows.

Lord: What...?

Werlock grins.

Werlock: Nock.

The Royal Guards procure an arrow.

Werlock: Draw.

They draw their bows. Werlock draws a bow and arrow as well.

Lord: What is going on?!

Lord: They're... They're trying to kill us!

Werlock: Loose.

Werlock fires, his arrow flying straight into the eye of a lord, killing them. The other Royal Guards follow suit, firing their arrows at the lords.

Some lords try running to the walls to climb up, intending to get past the guards. Their efforts are fuile and they are soon killed. Werlock raises his hand when there is but one lord left, stopping the others. He jumps down to join him.

Lord: L-Lord Werlock! Please! Why are you doing this?!

Werlock: Lord Shen ordered it.

Lord: B-But my family swore allegiance to the Dominion!

Werlock: The Dominion no longer cares what your family does. As of today, all assets of the lords who have fallen are to be liquidated. As for the lords themselves, the ones who chose to head to the barracks are the ones who will pave way for the future as warriors.

Lord: B-But...

Werlock: Traditions have changed. You who remained are considered traitors to the Dominion.

Lord: Wha--

Werlock cuts the lord's throat open. He drops to the floor.

Grand Palace of Negura.

Aishi enters Shen's chamber.

Shen: Ah... My beloved Aishi. You decided correct.

Aishi: Of course. I would do anything for my love.

Shen: ... Anything?

Aishi: Anything.

Shen eyes Aishi's body.

Shen: Even to be my betrothed? And bear my children?

Aishi: Anything...

Oran enters.

Oran: My lord, I-- My apologies, Lord Shen. I did not--

Shen: Continue.

Oran: I have given out the order. The houses of the lords are, as we speak, being taken care of. Lady Atorasu has been captured, amongst them... Sadly, Fuhai Owari has made an escape.

Shen: Let him be. I doubt he has anywhere to go, anyways. He'll be at a wit's end.

Oran: Werlock also reported that the suspected defectors have been similarly eliminated, as well. The remainder will be sorted into the ranks accordingly. Now, I'll let you get back to your privacy.

Oran leaves and closes the door. Aishi begins to strip and approaches Shen, before seducing him.

Methodical Department of Study.

Hardforth is busy welding two iron beams together. Avaloss breaks into the chamber. He muscles Hardforth against a wall.

Hardforth: Well, well, well. If it isn't Avaloss Voldin!

Avaloss places his hand on Hardforth's throat.

Hardforth: Egh.

Avaloss: I want upgrades. This shitwork of yours wasn't enough.

Hardforth: Hehehe. Are you sure? I put a lot of muscle into those arms.

Avaloss: You will give me the upgrades, or I will break your neck.

Hardforth: Fine! I'll set about to it in the morning.

Avaloss: NOW!

Avaloss squeezes.

Hardforth: Eck! S-Sure, just let go of my throat f-first! Agh!

Avaloss lets go. Hardforth recomposes himself.

Hardforth: This way.

Hardforth leads Avaloss to an experimental chamber.

The Historian

20th May, 1215 AC. Stonehold Castle Town. Galehaut, Regolia. Afternoon.

Angel-Ion, Roxanne, Dirge and Lanval begin heading around the castle town. Angel-Ion insists on checking in at the local blacksmith's, where he begins looking at freshly forged swords.

The others head into a tavern, where Lanval orders an ale, a glass of scotch and a fresh lime. The woman at the bar looks at him confused, but nonetheless complies. They sit at a table.

Lanval: I got the drinks.

Roxanne: That's a bit thoughful of you, Lanval.

Lanval: I did it because you likely wouldn't.

Roxanne: Get outta here. Who do you take me for? I used to work at a bar myself, if you don't remember.

Lanval: If you say so.

Dirge: We don't have time for this arguing. We must figure out a way of contacting Ruselt and Luther. I fear that they may be in very deep trouble at this point, and with Azoth's Aspect of Envy still with them, the Templars don't really have anything they can work with.

Roxanne: I knew taking that weirdo in Apolla prisoner was a thoughtful idea... And they insisted he'd be a deadweight. He's probably out there murdering more Apollai again now.

A woman suddenly approaches Dirge. 

Woman: Excuse me, did I hear you just say "Azoth"?

Dirge: Yes. And what of it?

Woman: I've been researching this Azoth for quite some time, and I have been looking for any potential sources. 

Lanval: Bit of a weird thing to be researching, isn't it?

Roxanne elbows him.

Dirge: So what have you found exactly?

Woman: I know about his actions during the Old War. But I currently know nothing of his fate after it. 

Dirge: I see. We have reason to believe that he is still alive.

She laughs briefly before realising that Dirge is serious. 

Woman: You are aware that it has been thousands of years since Azoth was around? 

Dirge: Yes. Five. And we've seen enough to suggest that he continues living somewhere.

Woman: Right... (Well this person is clearly insane.) If you could just tell me everything you know of Azoth, then that would be fantastic. Please cite your sources.

She smiles as she pulls out a pen and paper journal. She turns to a section titled "unreliable sources".

Dirge: Have you ever heard about his armour?

Woman: Yes, why?

Dirge: We've got a friend who has one of the pieces. The problem he has with it is that it is fixed to his hand. We've also met somebody else... An enemy, if you will, who had another piece too.

Woman: May I meet this person?

Lanval, Roxanne and Dirge look at one another. There is a solemn feel to the air.

Roxanne: He was abducted on our way here to Regolia... Sorry.

Woman: So I am supposed to just take your word for it?

Lanval boldly stands up.

Lanval: Yes!

People look around in the bar.

Roxanne: Sit down, you moron.

Lanval: ... Sorry...

Roxanne: What's your name, anyways?

Woman: Karen Walker. Yours?

Roxanne: Roxanne Fenix. I'm from Novalia.

Lanval: Lanval Dultra, the same.

Dirge: I am Dirge of Vesper Sabari.

Angel-Ion walks into the tavern, clearly lost.

Dirge: He's with us, too.

Lanval: Over here!

Angel-Ion: Guys! When did you come in here?

Dirge: Just as you walked off.

Angel-Ion sees Karen.

Angel-Ion: Hi! I'm Angel-Ion.

He holds his hand out to shake. Karen shakes his hand. 

Karen: Nice to meet you. (All their names sound familiar...) 

Angel-Ion: And you, too.

Angel-Ion looks to the others.

Angel-Ion: Have any of you heard anything from these so-called lords yet?

Roxanne: Sadly, no. Though, the sooner we do, the better. If King Antioch really is a trustworthy person, we should have Ruselt and Luther back in our stead by the end of the week.

Karen: Ruselt and Luther... As in, the missing Visarion princes? 

Lanval: Yup.

Karen looks to Angel-Ion, Dirge and Lanval. 

Karen begins rooting through her bag to pull out a newspaper that she had taken with her. It has several bounties on the front that include Angel-Ion, Dirge, Lanval, Vulkas, Roxanne, Ruselt and Luther. 

She appears somewhat uneasy. 

Angel-Ion: What's wrong?

Karen: The fact that you're all wanted criminals.

Angel-Ion: Oh boy...

Roxanne: We're not exactly criminals. We've been fighting for what's right ever since we started on our journey... Its just that the laws of the Allied Nations disagree with us. 

Karen: However... It does say in a description for Luther that he is wearing a gauntlet. Maybe there is a grain of truth about what you said. 

Roxanne: "Grain".

Angel-Ion: Lets not take this out of hand. I am sure you mean well. We do too. We're not savages, and, while we... Often do end up killing people... We do it because we have to, not because we want to, unlike all these murderers and corrupt kings and queens out the-

Karen: I don't care. 

Angel-Ion: Eh?

Karen: I don't care what you've done or how many people you have murdered. I have a job to do, and you are currently the best lead I have had in a while. 

Roxanne: But aren't our sources "unreliable"?

Karen: That was before you mentioned the armour. 

Roxanne: Fine. I'll let that pass... For now. We are going to return to Castle Stonehold. If you're with us, I implore you stick close.

Roxanne gets up and leaves. Lanval makes an aside glance and shrugs. Karen follows the others as they leave. A figure in the tavern removes his hood. Ken Javert. He looks back at the door before returning to his drink.

The War Games

20th May, 1215 AC. Kaij, The Castello. Night time. 

All the leaders of the Autocratic Confederacy have arrived and taken their seats. Another Anatharian man has taken Malik's place, however, and Oran once again has attended, this time with Werlock. The two, along with Shen, appear to be wearing brand new armour.

Phazorus: Good grief. Did Malik get offed so soon?

~ Lord of the Pyramid of Knowledge ~ Dex: No, my lord. I am Dex, selected by Malik to serve as the Priest of the Pyramid of Knowledge.

Phazorus: Priest, huh? So you're an advisor of sorts to Pharaoh Malik?

Dex: I am the keeper of all knowledge at the Four Pyramids. The others are the Pyramids of Power and Time, and the Pyramid of the Dead.

Oran: So what gave you the inclination to just show up here in his place.

Dex: Apologies, Lord Mandarin. Pharaoh Malik could not attend, so I was sent in his stead.

Oran: I see.

Orchus gestures towards Shen, indicating he should say what he intended to bring up. 

Shen: Kyloto is on the rise. Thanks to our military draft and the generous support of Mercria and Vincolo, the army has been streamlined and provided with better weaponry, and the Hyakūju Legion have been given better instruction and indication.

Shen looks to Werlock.

Shen: The abolition of the Kazoku scheme has allowed us to remove potential flaws in the Dominion, and has given us the opportunity to better devise the structure of the our heirarchy, which includes the introduction of the Royal Guard, run by my friend here.

Phazorus: I've... Heard... About what happened regarding your Kazoku system. From what I heard, you rounded up all the lords wishing to keep the system, massacred them all, did the same to the absentees, and proceeded to liquidate the properties of all your lords.

Shen smirks.

Shen: Do you have a problem with all of that?

Phazorus: No. Not at all.

Phazorus clutches his wine glass and leans back, raising his glass to Shen.

Phazorus: Well played, Lord Shen.

He drinks his wine.

Orchus: Well played indeed, but far too public. As justified as the killing was, it will reflect badly on the alliance. Cercyon is already aware of the massacre. 

Shen: But is he aware of the reason why I did the deed? Presumably not. One of the nine Kazoku, Kitsuke Shokuji, had recently formed a resistance. His resistance attempted a sack on one of the clans of the Dominion.

Oran: Though Lord Shokuji failed in the long run, he made damage to the Acua Clan by removing its Grandmaster and Shogun. We've noted of benefits from Shio Umi's departure as Grandmaster, and a more efficient one has taken her place.

Garuda: So what made you decide to kill those lords off?

Shen: If Shokuji was able to get away with forming a resistance and murdering five of our Oathkeepers, there is no stopping those who wanted his position, or any of the other eight Kazoku, from doing the same. Those lords who decided to vote to abolish the system have been rewarded with appropriate military positions and training. Werlock here in particular has recieved the best reward, as he is now one of the Three Pillars of Kyloto, along with Oran and Shiro Magala.

Shen clears his throat and drinks from his gourd.

Shen: As for Phillotus Cercyon, how he views my actions is not of my concern. He may border up his wall for all I care. I have chosen the better of two evils, and have made do with it.

Garuda: I see no ill will with ousting potential traitors. I would have done the same. Cercyon can go fuck himself.

Orchus: You misunderstand Cercyon. He does not care whether or not you kill lords. He's probably killed more lords and gentry than all of us combined. He however benefits from this. The Allied Nations will not share your view on the massacre. They will denigrate this, something I am sure Cercyon will take great pleasure in. 

Shen: The Allied Natons. A squabbling bunch of little boys sitting around some table arguing who has the best toys. The same alliance that started an illegal war with Venland. What is worse? Killing a king or killng a lord?

Orchus: I do not dispute their hypocrisy, but for future reference, if you're going to conduct a purge, then, for God's sake, keep it secret. 

Inara: I wouldn't be so afraid of the Allied Nations if I were you. They have had their day, but they've been on a downward spiral ever since they attacked Venland. Parcia fell to communism, and then Tythan. How long do you think Novalia will last with their current situation? 

Inara smiles but Orchus gives her a skeptical look. 

Shen: That is true. From what I've heard, the Galahad Arms are still lingering around "Lord" Deciduous like a leech latched to a lamb. Considering how long they've been around, it isn't before long until this so called Crowned kills him off.

Inara: Once the Allied Nations collapse, I guess it would be up to Cercyon's "Iron Union" to fill the power vacuum. 

Inara sighs, and Orchus seems to imbibe this.

Oran: And then there's Anathar. Lord... Dex, was it?

Dex: Yes, Lord Mandarin.

Oran: Lord Dex, who is winning the conflict in Anathar? Your Pharaoh, or the Mansa?

Dex: We have the north at odds, my lord. However, my true fear lies south of us. The Sandy Keep borders our sands and the grasses of Regolia. I get the feeling that a certain particular party may ascend into our territory from that place.

Shen: I'm... Not entirely familiar with Regolia. King Karpath--

Oran: Is dead. His son, King Antioch I has taken the throne since.

Shen: There you have it.

Phazorus: I've heard about this Sandy Keep. The lord there does not fare well with the likes of Antioch. Same with two other Regolian royal houses. The Sandy Keep houses the Furrows. The others, the Teagues and the Farons. I have doubts King Antioch will know anything if that is what you fear, Lord Dex.

Dex: It is not. The party in particular I am referring to is small... A party consisting of seven.

Shen: ...! Them.

Orchus: Who is "them"?

Shen: The Venlish Princes and their little crew. There are seven of the bastards. The princes, the son of a man who refused my offerings, two Novalian pissheads, a freak from Runisia and a freak from that little sandhole in the sea.

Phazorus: And what of them?

Shen: My men had them in their custody. That damned Kitsuke Shokuji's forces set them free.

Garuda: This Shokuji person seems quite the man to go against you.

Orchus: Anyway, we haven't just come here for small-talk.

Shen: I know. We wanted to talk about plans for the future... Plans of action. We all have lands we want. Lands to take. Lands with people we don't want on them. 

Orchus: Go on. 

Shen: My eyes are on Kratonia. That is the one I want to take first.

Phazorus: Because it used to belong to your people? Are you that petty?

Shen: No. Its not for the land. It's what is beneath the land. My ancestor, Tetsu Gikoku, founded a massive untapped iron mine beneath the surface. We used it for centuries, and, even after the Kratonians took the land, the iron there is still relatively untapped. It's like your silver mines, Lord Rezfarda, possibly bigger.

Phazorus: I see. That is interesting.

Orchus: And the Kratonians are unaware of this?

Shen: Apparently. They inherited practically all of the existing homes in the south, and their monarchs took the former castle of Kori Gikoku. They didn't bother themselves with what's beneath them.

Shen drinks.

Garuda: I'm particularly interested in layimg seige to Shanzhu.

Phazorus: Nobody cares.

Garuda scowls.

Shen: So, Lord Retaliak, what lands are you after?

Orchus: I've told you before that my administration had an interest in Druantia. It seems a waste to just leave that land unattended. We could even think of ways to geoengineer it, to try and make the climate less hostile. 

Inara: Is that all? 

Orchus: No. Apolla is also up for grabs, but I suspect that this might cause complications with the Runisian Government. 

Shen: Ah, yes. The King who does nothing but sit in his chair, wasting his time wondering why he exists and how his country came to be. If Ansuz tries to stop you from taking land that doesn't even belong to him, take some of his land too. Sanction the damn bastard.

Orchus: Leave the politics to the politicians Shen. Hostility with a neutral country during peace time will turn everyone against us, something not even we can afford. 

Inara: What about during war time?

Orchus seems to contemplate this. 

Shen: These so called times of peace are wanimg thin. Soon there will be war. Even taking land is an act of war.

Orchus: If war does break out, then I will be more than willing to take Apolla off Runisia's hands. But never during peace time. 

Oran: And what of the Apollai? What will you do with them? Leave them? Kill them? Enslave them? Take them prisoner?

Orchus: They'll have to be assimilated in someway. Outright attempting to purge the populous could be disastrous, as they'd be adept in guerrilla warfare. 

Oran: Men of tooth and nail. They may be very skilled hunters but they carry spears. There is also the matter of winning over each of the chieftains of their clans, and they don't have any concepts of money, so they can't be bought... However, they can be easily tricked and bargained with.

Dex: Are you suggesting these brutes should be used by us?

Oran: What else? They are useful, despite being at a disadvantage.

Orchus: I'll offer them food in exchange for work. Might as well try to civilise them. 

Oran: They hunt their food. It won't be enough. Offer them the pleasures of the hunt. That should be enough.

Orchus nods in agreement.

Shen: What about the rest of the lands? I am skeptical of Vladimir Wolf's control of Tythan, and Canorica are strong enough to keep their own lands and the lands of Venland. Amongst the Allied Nations and this union, Parcia seems to be the weakest link. It is small. It should be easy to take.

Orchus: Taking Parcia should be easy for Mercrian and Levian forces, but it will prove difficult to keep. The Parcian people love Honalez. 

Garuda: Then let me take it for you.

Inara: Adorable. 

Orchus: Hmm. (We could use the cannon fodder). Feel free. 

Garuda leans forwards, noting Orchus' facial expression.

Garuda: You seem to take me as disposable. My armies outnumber those of Parcia. The land is small. The Golden Hive can cover it no short of two days. After that, I will leave it up to whomever remains to choose between death, or service to our alliance.

A rare smile stretches across Orchus' face.

Orchus: As I said. Feel free. 

Garuda lets off a rather murderous grin.

Garuda: Oh, I will.

Phazorus: I take it that, after Druantia and Apolla are claimed, Levia, Kyloto and Mercria will march upon Haphae?

Orchus: Perhaps. 

Phazorus: I would suggest a possible ambush. The Hormidae forces will attack Parcia. Haphae will potentially send navy vassals to give their allies aide, in spite of the presence of Mercrian ships.

Oran: What do you suggest?

Phazorus: The Vincolian fleet will cut off any and all ships that get past the Mercrian ships, and then advance towards the Haphae mainland. When the Vincolian ships reach the shores, that is when the Mercrian and Levian forces attack from the north and the west. My only citation of issue now turns to the border to the south. Would the Kyloteans be able to pass over it?

Shen: Why trouble ourslves with passing it when we can go around? If we are all successful, the Haphaens will be drawn south towards their wall, where they will be crushed like tomatoes.

Orchus: If we are to do this, the capital must be taken within a week of the attack. Any delay could prove fatal. 

Phazorus: That is agreed on. And what would we do with Cercyon and Rodrigo Honalez once we achieve all of this?

Garuda: I will have Honalez flayed. I don't need him around to rule his people.

Phazorus: Ah, flaying. Such a barbaric approach. Though I suppose its natural for you Hormidae.

Garuda: Coming from the one who collects the skulls of his enemies.

Phazous: There's no shame in taking trophies.

Orchus: Cercyon and Honalez will be transferred to Levia where they will face the appropriate penalty. Neither one of you are fit to possess power over their fates.

Inara: Spoilsport.

Phazorus: (Not that I care.)

Orchus: This isn't a game, Miss Winters. It isn't meant to be fun. Cercyon and Honalez will be tried in Levia where I will preside over their trial. 

Inara: Is that an inflated sense of justice I detect? Or admiration?

Orchus: I make it no secret that I have come to respect Cercyon. 

Shen: What about Sabaria? The south east is weak, and the natives will not go about ignoring what goes on around them.

Orchus: Should they intervene, then we will take the appropriate action to ensure that they don't become a problem in the future. 

Dex: They have something up their sleeve.

Oran: Like what?

Akram: Sabaria is not the only land where Sabarians walk. There exists a faraway land where greater numbers tread.

Phazorus: How do you know all of this?

Dex: I am Lord of the Pyramid of Knowledge. It is my duty to know things.

Orchus looks to Garuda. 

Orchus: Once you have taken Parcia, maybe you could spare a few batallions to wipe out Argus and his men. 

Garuda looks disappointed.

Phazorus: What should we do with Venland?

Orchus: Canorica has a strong grip on Venand. Curtis being governor is certainately helping that. 

Shen: Tch.

Oran: And Novalia? With the issues it faces, would that be an easy target?

Inara: Perhaps it would be wise to try and make a temporary alliance with the Galahad Arms. I'd even suggest inviting their leader, "Crowned" to the next summit. 

Orchus: That would only agitate things.

Inara: Cercyon invited Wolf, yet you didn't accuse him of "agitating things." 

She smiles. 

Orchus: You make a fair point. I'll consider it. I, by no means, trust them though.

Inara: You're wise not to. 

Phazorus: Then that's that. I don't know what goes on at your Heliosian summits.

Inara: Nothing constructive. 

Phazorus: Some of these Allied Nations cronies seem quite boring, too.

Orchus: I think this meeting can be adjourned. I won't be sending you documents about what was planned here. Wouldn't want Haphaen spies getting ahold of them. You may leave. 

Everyone in the room begin to leave.

The King's Justice

21st May, 1215 AC. Galehaut, Regolia. Stonehold Castle. Late Morning.

There is a lot of shouting amongst several people in the castle hall. Several lords from across the land have been gathered, in addition to the Tempest crew, Karen and the Templar Knights. Javert has managed to secret himself into a corner at the back, his hood up.

~ Lord of House Astor ~ Richard Astor: SILEEEEEEEEEEENCE!

The hall quiets down.

Astor: Thank you!

Astor flops down onto his seat. Antioch stands.

Antioch: Thank you, Lord Astor. Now then, I don't know if some of you have heard, but allies of ours have been captured. Our friends, the Templar Knights, were ambushed recently, when they were bringing them over from Helios.

~ Lord of House Wainwood ~ Thomas Wainwood: Who was it?

Antioch: The two princes of Venland. The heir apparent, Ruselt Visarion, and his brother, Luther Visarion.

~ Lord of House Furrow ~ John Furrow: You expect us to do something about this?!

Antioch: Well, yes, Lord Furrow. We must plan our course of attack. With Sir Baltovere's Templar Codex, we may potentially have a good lead on the boys.

~ Lord of House Teague ~ Harold Teague: House Teague won't be assiting you in this little shitstorm. Bah.

Furrow: Hear, hear. Get some other cunt to do it for you!

~ Royal Knight of the Table ~ Plutarch Ingott: How about I spill your guts over the damned floor, Furrow? Show some respect to your king!

Furrow stands and spits on the floor.

Furrow: Cunt! Its time for a better king!

Furrow storms off.

Antioch: I know some of you don't show interest in these two, but they are potential in helping us figure out what can be done about Azoth! Sir Baltovere?

Noland stands and turns to the men and women in the hall.

Noland: Luther Visarion possesses the Aspect of Envy, one of the seven pieces of armour to Azoth's full wardrobe. We Templars fear that Azoth may reveal himself very soon. Luther's gauntlet provides us with a great clue as to when that will be. They are in danger of being lost for good!

~ Lord of House Faron ~ Bernard Faron: Then good. Let them disappear for good. Then Azoth will stay back in his 4000 year hole as a dead man like everyone knows it!

Noland: Believe it or not, Lord Faron, but Azoth is returning. No doubt about it.

Faron: Then I'll point him your way when that day comes. I don't believe your fancy tripe about Templars and jinxed decorations.

A messenger runs into the hall.

Messenger: Your grace! A message has arrived! From Venland, it seems!

Antioch: Give it here.

Antioch takes it, breaks its wax seal, and removes it from its envelope, and reads it aloud.

"To Angel-Ion, Vulkas, Lanval, Roxanne, Dirge and Ray. You're all likely wondering where we are, and who is responsible for our disappearence. Unfortunately, we cannot answer either of these questions, but we would both like you to know that we aren't in danger, and we are in safe hands. From Rus and Luther."

Faron gives Antioch a smug look.

Faron: And there it is. Looks like you wasted our time after all, Antioch. 

Faron leaves.

Lanval: Man, fuck that guy.

Antioch: This is unexpected... I apologise for having wasted your time, lords of Regolia.

He returns to his seat, disappointed.

Antioch: Feel free to leave...

The lords look at each other. Some leave without second thought, others wait about to see what happens. Eventually, the Tempest crew, Noland, Narak, Ingott, Antioch and two other knights at the table remain.

Antioch: What the fuck is this?! This makes me look like a shit king. Is that all I am?!

Noland: We get that its an unexpected development, but this is no reason to give yourself self doubt!

Dirge: He seems to be quite troubled.

Narak: He was given this position at such a young age. Its stressful work to him. 

Antioch gets up and storms off.

Foreign Policy

21st May, 1215 AC, Ironhall Capital Building.

Andrews waits in the meeting room around a small table. Deciduous enters, nervous as ever. He takes a seat. He notices some documents on the table. 

Andrews: I believe you know why you are here. I have a way to ease the Galahad Arms' grip over you, but it would require your permission.  

Deciduous: W-What is it?

Andrews: Essentially, you would be placed in Canorican custody in a classified location. Not even you would know where you are. You would be surrounded by agents whom I trust and know well to be honest and just men. Any necessary contact between you and the Ministers of Novalia will continue, but only using a teleprinter. You won't be able to directly talk to any of them. Not even your closest friends. We just can't take the risk that any of them are Galahad Arms agents. You can then take the appropriate action against the Galahad Arms. 

Deciduous: S-So would that mean the Arms wouldn't be able to live up to the threats on my name?

Andrews: Correct. Admittedly it is a lot to ask. You'd be surrounded by agents 24/7 and separated from friends, but it should ease your tenure. 

Deciduous has a sigh of relief.

Deciduous: Thank the Lord. I knew I could trust a man of your vigor... Though I am still worried about my officials. What will happen to them?

Andrews: They too will be observed by agents constantly. The more high profile officials will be kept in safehouses similar to your own. 

Deciduous: Compulsory?

Andrews nods.

Deciduous: Very well.

Andrews pushes the document forward and hands Deciduous a pen. 

Deciduous signs it.

Andrews nods to an assistant who leaves the room and returns with several Canorican agents.

Andrews: These will be your new security. 

Agent: This way, sir. 

The agents take Deciduous out of the room, and straight towards his new "home".

Later, Brocade enters the same meeting room. He shakes Andrews' hand and sits down.

Brocade: I presume this is regarding the Pirate Empire.

Andrews: Canorica has sacrificed some of it's own ships to deal with pirate vessels in AN waters. This has been successful, but cannot be maintained. Kratonia needs to contribute. 

Brocade: I am aware. The Kratonian navy has found a potential lead to these pirates. Beyond the eastern sea apparently lies a fortress of aome kind. Unfortunately, the Pirate Empire has been keeping our forces busy, preventing us to explore it further. I would suggest sending a single ship out to appropriately investigate.

Andrews: I'll send a small scout boat which will be equipped with the appropriate materials to report back to Ironhall regularly. As for the Kratonian navy, I stand by my request that you double your efforts. 

Brocade: Very well.

Later, Singh is brought in and sits in a chair.

Singh: Ayy! If its not my good friend Andrews! How are you?

Andrews: Fine... Anyway I'll be funding the improvement of North Anatharian defences. It should be able to repel South Anatharian attacks until you can come to some sort of agreement. 

Singh: Yes, yes. Thank you my good friend.

Whispers of the Night

22nd May, 1215 AC. Lower Lorinham Complex. Night.

Luther watches the activity in the hangar from one of the lower balconies. He watches as one of the merchant airships ascends, and the large metal doors on the ceilling of the hangar slide open, revealing a moonlit sky. 

Voice: Well now you know how you're going to get out of here. 

Luther: Well I was actually just planning to ask to leave.

Voice: And you think they would allow that?

Luther: Ruselt is the heir. 

Voice: But you're the spare. You're still valuble to them. If you ask to leave, and they refuse, they will be monitoring you, which will only make an escape harder. If you want to leave, you can't let anyone know.

Luther: I should at least tell Ruselt. 

Voice: You can't do that either. He'll only want to go with you. 

Luther: Is that such a bad thing?

Voice: He has a duty to fulfill here.

Luther: So you expect me to find Azoth and get this gauntlet removed all by myself? 

Voice: You won't be alone. You'll have me. 

Luther: Not for long. Once I am rid of this stupid gauntlet, you'll be gone with it. 

Voice: I wouldn't be so sure about that...

Meanwhile a few balconies up, Ruselt looks over the edge, and notices Luther. Eleanor appears and stands beside Ruselt.

Eleanor: How are you and your brother settling in?

Ruselt: I'm settling well, but Luther seems more restless. He spends most of his days in the training area. 

Eleanor: Like you, he's spent the last two months on the run, fending off blows from every direction. He is likely just taking longer to adjust to this new environment. 

Ruselt suddenly notices that Luther appears to be talking to himself.

Ruselt: Who's he talking to?

Eleanor down and she looks at Luther with some concern.

Suddenly a messenger arrives.

Messenger: Miss Moore, the Director would like to speak to you. 

Eleanor nods.

Ruselt: When can Luther and I meet the Director?

Eleanor: The Director has a very busy timetable that he sticks to almost religiously. I am sure he will find time, but it may take time for him to make any alterations to his schedule. 

Ruselt: Hmph.

Eleanor: I'll see you later then.

Ruselt: Yeah, bye. 

Ruselt looks back down at Luther as Eleanor leaves the room. 

Lord of the Sea

27th May, 1215 AC. Oceans. Afternoon.

A small Canorican scouting boat with four crewmen sails across the foggy seas of the Great Unknown. The leader of the expedition, Smith Johnson, looks out into the distance using binocoulars. A large figure comes into view. Some of it appears to be huge stone columns and pillars that stretch into the sky from below the ocean. Others appear to be wooden and steel bars, rods and beams that shoot up, some weaved together by ropes, others nailed or bolted. The closer the ship gets, the more apparent the colossal structure becomes.

Above, there are several war cries. Various pirates drop down, holding onto large harpoons attached to ropes, which penetrate the floorboards of the boat. One of the crewmen panics, but is swiftly cut at the throat by one of the invasive pirates. Johnson runs into his cabin along with another crewman and he quickly begins sending a morse code message back to Canorica. 

The pirates suddenly burst into his cabin. 

Pirate: Which of ya is cap'n of this here vessel?!

Johnson: That would be me. 

Two pirates apprehend him.

Pirate: What should we do with 'im?

Pirate: Bring 'im to the King.

Pirate: And his crew?

Pirate: Aye. Them too.

The ship is sailed to some kind of port by the pirates, who then forcibly take Johnson and his crew to a platform. One pirate tugs a rope. The platform rises. Johnson bares glimpses of multiple floors of the fortress. Soon, they rise above the fog, and reach the highest floor the platform reaches. Johnson and his crew are taken to a platform with what appears to be three rugs laid down on it, sitting before another platform, one step higher, which has a throne made of carved stones, driftwood, bamboo and various plants.

The throne sits before a stone bridge leading towards a large temple structure. The pirates force Johnson and his crew to their knees. One od the pirates heads over to the temple. He emerges from it with a broad figure wearing what seems to be pieces of a skull on his head. He sits upon the throne and brushes his long, tangled hair braids from his face.

~ Black Stone Pirates - 1st Division Commander ~ Marco Culverin: What do we have here, boys?

Pirate: A small scouting crew, sire. Their ship was small. One of them is dead.

Marco: And this one is their captain?

Pirate: Yes, sire.

Marco: What is your name?

Johnson: Smith Johnson.

Marco: And what brings you to Veric Fortress, Smith Johnson?

Johnson: Would you believe it if I told you I was on holiday?

Marco looks at one of the other pirates and nods. The pirate cuts the throat of one of the three crewmen. He drags him to the edge and throws him off, the body falling to the sea.

Marco: Tell me. Which God do you believe in, Smith Johnson? The Lord of the Faith? The Sun God? The God of Fate?

Johnson: The one true Lord of the Faith. 

Marco: Bah.

Marco pulls a chain from below his neck, showing Johnson a pendant on it.

Marco: Do you know of anyone who worships the Lord of the Sea?

Marco: No. 

Marco: No? Have you even heard of the Lord of the Sea?

Johnson: No.

Marco: Then you are a fool. The Lord of the Sea is the master of all the seas. Helios, Somnus and beyond the Great Unknown. From Besmarka to the Shadowlands. The Lord of the Sea is your one true god now.

Johnson: Lord of the Sea my ass. You're just a filthy pirate. 

Marco stands. Johnson notes that he's much taller than himself when standing. Marco grabs Johnson by the neck and lifts him off the floor. He walks to the ledge.

Ryloth: What would you prefer? Falling all the way down there, or survival?

Johnson spits in Marco's face. Marcp wipes it off. He forces his hand into Johnson's mouth.

Marco: Looks like you need to be taught respect. That is no way to treat your betters.

He slowly tears Johnson's bottom jaw from his head. He throws him across the floor.

Marco: Take him to the ward. After he's better, he'll serve as a new member to my crew.

Before he can get up, Johnson is apprehended and dragged away.

Pirate: What about his men, sir?

Marco looks at the last two of Johnson's crew, both fearful.

Marco: What men?

They are picked up and dragged to the edge, where they are thrown off.

Marco: I want his ship added to my collection.

Pirate: But its small, sire. It won't--

Marco: Any boat that sails is fit for my collection. In fact, I name you captain of it.

Pirate: T-Thank you sire, but--

Marco: Say no more. You captured it, so it is yours. Burn whatever flags it has and replace them with our own. 

Pirate: Yes, sire.

The Black Knight

28th May, 1215 AC. Stonehold. Galehaut, Regolia. Afternoon.

Sir Ingott: So where do you believe this Kitsuke Shokuji is heading now?

Dirge: He didn't exactly tell us. He told us he was going to sack the Kylotean Riverlands, but that was about it.

Luwei: Last I heard, it didn't go too well. He achieved his goal somewhat, but the Acua Clan still stands, only under a new Grandmaster.

Dirge: I see... How did you know all of that, exactly.

Luwei reaches his arm out. A black kite lands on it.

Luwei: My friend here and I possess the ability to share our sight. I sent him out to Kyloto to monitor activity a while ago, but after that conflict, I had him return here. He only came back to me a week before we found you in Apolla, in fact.

Ray: What's his name?

Luwei: He is named Tako.

Sir Bradagast: This paladin serving Kitsuke. What did you say his name was again?

Roxanne: I think it was Rouxe.

Sir Bradagast: Ah! Rouxe Everdeen! Looks like he found his calling after all!

Roxanne: You know him?

Sir Ingott: Every knight in this castle knows him.

Antioch: He set out a year ago to find the answer to a calling to some distant land, all of the Paladins here have been through that. I don't know how they do it, or why.

Roxanne: Do what, exactly?

Antioch: Supposedly, they get a calling from what they know as the "light". They end up going all over the place. Some stay as good people wherever they go, like Rouxe, though some have taken dark paths.

A knight clad in black armour marches into the castle. He disarms the guards with relative ease.

Angel-Ion: What's with him?

Noland: I've been hearing rumors about this one. A so-called Black Knight. 

Black Knight: King Antioch of House Verigan. I have come all the way from the mountains to challenge you to a duel.

Antioch: I thank you for coming all the way out here for swordplay, but now is not a good time. We are--

The Black Knight swings his mighty sword to the floor, splitting part of it and creating a crack in the floor.

Black Knight: I will not be meekly brushed aside, bastard king. I am here to avenge the poor folk beyond the mountains, the ones who starved thanks to your stealing of their food pledge!

Antioch: I do not know of which you speak, sir.

Black Knight: Don't treat me to your lies!

Sir Ingott: I'll deal with this trespasser!

Sir Ingott charges at the Black Knight with his axe. The Black Knight swings his sword and clashes with Ingott's axe, knocking it out of his grasp. He reaches his arm out to Ingott's chest. Suddenly, there is a downburst, and Ingott is blasted into a wall. He is winded. Angel-Ion jumps forward and draws his sword.

Noland: Angel-Ion! Stay back!

Black Knight: Stand aside, foreigner.

The Black Knight sends a downburst towards Angel-Ion, but he swiftly avoids it. Angel-Ion flies in to strike the knight's leg, but finds that the Black Knight is now behind him. He swings his greatsword around, with Angel-Ion just barely being able to clash with it, not noticing that the knight's sword has managed to nick Kagero. From the Black Knight's strike, Angel-Ion feels an unseen force coming at him.

Angel-Ion: You're definitely strong!

Black Knight: Begone!

The Black Knight overpowers Angel-Ion, sending him flying into a wall. The Black Knight turns to Antioch.

Black Knight: You have forced my hand, bastard king.

The Black Knight throws down one of his gauntlets.

Antioch: ... So be it.

The knights and arms in the chamber vacate the castle and onto an open field just outside the castle town. A crowd has joined them, in order to spectate the fight.

~ Knight of Brass ~ Sir Howard Damocles: We are gathered here to bare witness the battle between the standing King of Regolia, Lord Antioch of House Verigan, against the unnamed and anonymous Black Knight from beyond the mountains.

Dirge: Do we really need a fight? Can't they just shake hands or something?

Sir Mase: I'm afraid its not that simple, my Sabarian friend. The Black Knight has thrown down his gauntlet, that means a duel has been declared. There is no backing out.

Sir Damocles: Knights, name your terms.

Black Knight: I seek to fight for the starving of Westertown to the south!

Antioch: I seek to fight to hold my place on the Throne of Power.

Sir Damocles: Draw your swords. May the best man prevail.

Antioch draws the Sword of Geraint. The Black Knight draws his greatsword. They charge towards each other and clash swords. Before Antioch can be overwhelmed by the Black Knight's force, he breaks and swings at the knight's ankles. The knight jumps back and focuses. Antioch charges towards him. The Black Knight unleashes a powerful swing that tears towards Antioch, who dodges. The crowd behind him flee as the slash rips past them.

The two knights charge towards each other and clash elbows. They jump back and clash swords again. Antioch's sword and crown resonate with energy. The Sword of Geraint overpowers the Black Knight's sword and reverses its force, knocking the knight away.

Antioch runs and jumps up, preparing to stab down on the knight, but he rolls out of the way and gets up. Antioch turns to him, to find that the Black Knight has got behind him, similarly to how he got behind Angel-Ion. Antioch and the knight turn and clash blades at the same time. The Black Knight's force and the Sword of Geraint's energy clash, but backfire, blasting the ground behind them both away. The heaviness of the Black Knight's greatsword gives Antioch enough time to disarm the knight with the Sword of Geraint, before kicking the knight down to the floor. The Black Knight soon gets to his knees.

Black Knight: Go on. Finish me.

Antioch holds out his sword, but sheathes it.

Antioch: No. I will not spill any blood.

Black Knight: Not even after your bannermen left Westertown without food? Why must you mock me!?

Antioch: I have not given any orders to raid any food. In fact, I'd never even consider it.

Black Knight: You dare call me a liar?!

Antioch: I trust your words, fellow knight.

Black Knight: If its not the King... This is somebody else's doing?

Antioch: That is most likely. Sir Damocles!

Sir Damocles: Sir!

Antioch: Ride for Westertown and investigate the matter. And send food while you head there.

Damocles: Consider it done.

Damocles rides off with a few soldiers.

Roxanne: So what happens now?

Noland: I don't know.

Antioch: What is your name, Black Knight?

Black Knight: I am Erec of House Dabravain.

Antioch: Then arise, Sir Dabravain.

Black Knight: Sir? I am no official knight.

Antioch: I am apppointing you as one. Your skill is admirable. While all the chairs at the Royal Table are filled, I appoint to you a new seat. I appoint you as Sir Dabravain, Knight on the Black Chair.

Sir Dabravain: Thank you, my lord. I will not fail in your service. And thank you, for helping my people. I hope you forgive my prior actions, my lord.

Antioch: There's nothing to forgive, sir. Let us celebrate this occassion with a feast at the castle!

The crowd cheer. They begin heading towards the castle town. Antioch stops behind with Bradagast and Noland.

Noland: What is it?

Antioch: If Sir Dabravain is right, then somebody is starving innocents in the realm.

Bradagast: Who do you think is doing that?

Antioch: House Polymous occupy the mountains themselves. Beyond that is... Castle Teague. Only he can behind this.

Noland: let us return to the castle for now. We shall wait for Damocles' return.

Bradagast: Aye.

Antioch: ... Aye.

The Prince in the Night

28th May, 1215 AC. Lower Lorinham Complex, Night.

Luther sits at the end of his bed, and is packing various objects into a satchel. He is wearing the uniform of the hangar maintenance staff, which consists of a grey jumpsuit and matching cap. He packs a few days worth of army rations, some money and a first aid kit. He also packs the clothes he wore when travelling with the crew. He writes a note, and leaves it on his desk before leaving his quarters.  

Luther makes his way down to the hangar area and begins walking towards the merchant ship he was observing. He goes unnoticed by the few maintenance staff working in the area. He hears a conversation between a staff member and a supervisor concerning a stolen uniform on the other side of the hangar. 

Luther walks straight towards the merchant ship, as maintenance staff begin loading up empty crates. He walks straight onto the ship, and heads straight towards the hold where he finds a suitable hiding place behind some of the storage crates. He just sits back, and waits until the ship takes off. 

Meanwhile, Eleanor enters Luther's room, in the hopes of discussing his gauntlet issue. She searches for him in his quarters until she spots the note on his desk. She reads it.

Eleanor: Oh shit!

She runs out of his quarters and heads towards one of the balconies. She watches helplessly as the merchant ship ascends out of the Remnant State before the large doors close. 

The Sandy Keep

29th May, 1215 AC. Regolian Northlands. Morning.

The Tempwst crew, accompanied by Karen, are advancing up the Regolian Northlands, having been tipped off about the potential location Luther saw in his vision. The grasses are soon overtaken by sands, as they reach closer to the Anatharian borderline. They come close to what seems to be a castle standing is the sand, between two steep hills.

Dirge: That must be the Sandy Keep.

Roxanne: We should stay alert. Sir Ingott told me that the lords here aren't particularly pleasant.

Karen: This lead better be worth it. 

Ray: Its likely. Though... The obstacles Noland said we'd need to overcome is a bit daunting in order to get there.

Roxanne: The Sandy Keep is the first, which is why we need to be careful.

A horn is blown from the keep, alerting the crew's presence to those occupying. Five horses ride out, two ridden by bannermen, two by knights, and one by what seems to be a Lord. They stop before the crew.

Furrow: What brings you to the Sandy Keep?!

Angel-Ion goes to step forwards, but Roxanne stops him and goes forth instead, to Furrow's seeming disdain.

Roxanne: We wish to pass the Sandy Keep and head into Anathar. We have a permit from the king.

Roxanne procures a letter and hands it to Furrow.

Furrow: An order from the king, eh?

Furrow looks at Roxanne.

Furrow: Do you take me from some cunt, woman?

He crumples the letter.

Furrow: Antioch is no king. And you are merely ants trampling the grounds of the antlion.

Furrow raises his hand. There is a large amount of footstomps behind the crew, who turn to find that they have been surrounded by Furrow's soldiers.

Lanval: What are you doing?! This is against your king's wishes!

Furrow: Fuck the king. Up here, this place is mine. Take them.

The crew are quickly apprehended by the soldiers.

Soldier: What will we do with them, my lord?

Furrow: We sell them. To the slavers of Miftah. Their weapons to weapons merchants and antiquers, and their other belongings to whomever will take them. Take them down. They will be driven down this afternoon.

Roxanne: Stop! You can't do this!

Lanval: Get your hands off of me!

Angel-Ion: Gh... Bastard.

The crew are packed into a cage wagon, with their possessions stashed on a different wagon. Later, they are shipped out, overseen by Furrow from atop the keep.

Furrow: That'll be that we see of you, bastards. Send word to House Farron and House Teague.

Soldier: Yessir.

Kept From the Shadow

29th May, 1215 AC. Lower Lorinham Complex. Afternoon.

Eleanor waits outside Ruselt's quarters pacing around, clearly uncomfortable. Ruselt suddenly emerges from his quarters.

Ruselt: Oh hi, Miss Moore.

He notes her slightly gloomy expression.

Ruselt: What's wrong?

Eleanor: I am afraid I have some unfortunate news regarding your brother.

She hands him the note. 

"To Ruselt. 

Gone to remove Azoth's gauntlet on my own. Do not follow me, you have duties here to fulfil here. 

 - Luther"

Ruselt's expression becomes distraught.

Ruselt: We can't let him just leave!?

Eleanor: He has already gone. He left on a trade vessel to Savorden. 

Ruselt: Well we have to get him back! I have to find him!

Eleanor: Please, keep calm. 

Eleanor holds Ruselt firmly by the shoulders.

Eleanor: You need to stay here! Your brother said it himself that he does not want you to follow him. I wasn't lying when we said we needed you Ruselt. You are the momentum that the Remnant State needs. We can send a search party out for your brother, but you cannot be part of that. Understood?

Ruselt nods, welling up slightly. 

Eleanor: Good. I'll give you your own time to adapt to this unfortunate event. 

Eleanor bows her head slightly, before leaving Ruselt to his own devices. 

Curious Minds

Later, over the Anathar borderline.

Lanval is playing a harmonica. The soldiers had failed to take it from him.

Soldier: Stop playing that.

Lanval ignores him and continues playing it.

Soldier: Give it here you dumb cunt!

The wagons are stopped. Angel-Ion notes this and sends two streams of fire outwards, burning the soldier and the beams that hold the base of the wagon's load.

Soldier: Stop them!

Vulkas creates blue circles underneath each soldier, and ice protrudes upwards from them, impales them. 

Dirge fires a blast of force from his wrist at the lock on the wagon, breaking it. The crew break out and Angel-Ion, Vulkas and Roxanne take out the remaining soldiers.

Dirge: So much for that.

Angel-Ion: You would've thought they'd put up a better defence.

Dirge trashes the other wagon and begins handing the belongings out to their owners. Lanval begins looting the bodies.

Karen: I am starting to regret travelling with you.

Vulkas: Only starting?

Angel-Ion: Would you rather be on a wagon to be sold as a slave?

Karen: Hmph. 

Angel-Ion: You'd likely meet the same fate if you came up here on your own.

Lanval: It could be worse. That lord guy looks like he'd keep you as a bed warmer.

Roxanne: Enough of that!

Lanval: No offence.

Dirge: We should try to find civilisation. And soon. Thankfully, this lighter coloured sand over here is a path.

Dirge starts walking, the others follow. They soon reach a small town with several sandstone houses.

Lanval: Finally...

Lanval falls to the floor, dried out.

Dirge: What's up with you?

Lanval: I'm dried out... So thirsty...

Dirge: You ate a watermelon on the way here.

Lanval coughs.

Roxanne: There's a small inn in the north-west corner. We can stay there for the night. I asked somebody where we could head from there. He said there's a bazaar north.

That night, Dirge appears to be peeking at Karen's journal. He is currently reading through an article about a conflict that took place in the islands that would eventually become Venland. Karen walks in on him, and sees him reading her notes.

Karen: I wasn't aware that rooting through people's stuff was a social norm. 

Dirge: I wasn't aware reading a book was "rooting". This is some good stuff you've written in here. Very good.

Karen: Well that's nice of you. But that doesn't change the fact you went through my stuff. 

Karen reclaims the book. 

Dirge: Curious minds are curious minds.

Karen puts her book back into her bag. 

Karen: There is a fine line between curious and nosy. 

Dirge: Yes, and I am on the right side of the line.

Karen: Oh really? 

Dirge: Tell me, is Azoth solely your business? Is the face of the world soley mine

Karen: No. Azoth is not solely my business. That is why I am writing the book in the first place. However, I do treat interest in my research prior to publication with suspicion. I don't know who you are, and I don't know what you want. For all I know, you could steal my research, and take credit for it. A risk I am not willing to take. So please stay out of bag. 

Dirge: Now why would a globe maker want to steal a history book? Especially one from Sabaria. Actually, what drove you to become a historian? Who inspired you?

Karen: It is getting late. 

Dirge: It is late. Why are you avoiding my questions? Do you not have an inspiration to your cause? Do you have no reason at all to start playing cat with time?

Karen seems visibly irritated by Dirge's persistence. 

Karen: I am tired. If you shut up, I promise I'll humour you in the morning. 

Dirge seems visibly irritated by Karen's poor attitude.

Dirge; Where are you from, exactly? You're Canorican. From which part are you from?

Karen: That's it. I am getting another room. 

Karen takes her bag, and pays for a single room in which she locks the door behind her. Dirge goes outside the room. He looks at the door Karen went to and looks away. He heads down the corridor, barging Lanval out of the way as he passes.

Lanval: Hey, what's with you?

Lanval gets no answer as Dirge walks off. Not wanting the paid room to go to waste, he heads inside and takes it for himself.

Luther's Landing

29th May, 1215 AC. Outside the city of Savorden. Night. 

The Remnant State's cargo vessel arrives on an isolated airstrip just outside the city of Savorden. Various maintenance men begin carrying the crates out of the hold, Luther included. He manages to sneak away into a more secluded area where he ditches his maintenance jumpsuit, and puts on his usual disguise. He heads to the lobby area of the airstrip and looks at the timetable. One or two of the workers notice a sudden absence, but ignore it.

Luther: (If I want to get rid of this gauntlet, I'll need to find out as much about Azoth as possible. There are only a few libraries in the world still standing that are about 4000 years old. The nearest is in Runisia.)

Voice: Well what are you waiting for?

Luther looks at the timetable. 

Luther: (The next passenger ship to Runisia is in three hours. It's been a while since I have seen Savorden, so I might as well have a look around to see how things are.)

Voice: How sentimental...

Luther pulls his cap down, and heads down a road leading towards the city. While walking through the outskirts, he notices that most of the rubble from the war has not been cleared away, and there are homeless Venlish chidren playing among it. Throughout the city, there are various areas that are without power.

He heads towards the heart of the city where things are more well cared for. More rubble has been cleared, but the area is still poorly lit, with only a few tesla street lights actually working. A group of drunk Canorican soldiers leave a nearby pub and shout abuse at some of the locals. 

Voice: Was it everything you had hoped for?

Luther ignores the voice. He turns around, and heads back towards the airstrip, clearly distressed by what he has seen. Half an hour later, he arrives back near the airstrip, and he heads towards a precipice that overlooks the whole city. He leans on the railing and looks out at the city, waiting for his flight. He can see the parliament building and the palace, both seemingly in disrepair.

Someone suddenly taps on Luther's shoulder and he turns around. 

???: Fancy seeing you here.

Luther turns around, only for the Operator to strike him over the side of the head with an aluminium bat. Luther falls down, dazed by the impact. He feels the Operator wrapping something around his wrist, but his vision suddenly fades to black as he falls unconscious. 

Beasts and Men

30th May, 1215 AC. Salt Path. Southern Anathar.

The crew have just left the small town. Dirge seems to have made a head start, clearly annoyed.

Angel-Ion: What's wrong with Dirge? I've never seen him like this before.

Lanval: I dunno. He was like it last night.

Dirge walks past two men walking in their general direction. They try talking to him but he just walks off.

Ray: Something's definitely up.

Roxanne scowls at Karen from behind. They are approached by the two men.

???: Greetings. How are we all?

Angel-Ion: Uh... Good, I guess.

Lanval: Fine...?

Roxanne: Eh.

???: Pardon me for asking, but we could do with some help. We've met a rather trifling dilemma.

Vulkas: What dilemma?

???: We can start by you giving us your money and all of your valuables.

Vulkas: Pfft. Maybe another day. 

Vulkas just walks past them. 

The burlier of the two men jabs Vulkas in the back of the head with his shotgun, which he holds with one hand.

???: We'll be taking your valuables, whether you're dead or alive.

Vulkas turns around, and looks down the barrel of the gun. He quickly hits the barrel away from his face, and tries to punch the assailant in the face. The man catches his fist with his other hand.

???: Y'see. You should have listened. Looks like we'll be prying your valuables from your cold, dead bodies. What do you say, Edvin? Change time?

???: If it pleases you, Vasquez.

The man turns to Vulkas and grins. His physical form seems to have altered, his face growing fur all over.

~ Night Howler ~ Durran Vasquez: Excellent.

He puts his shotgun away as claws grow from his fingertips, some of them digging into Vulkas' hand. His facial features quickly become wolf-like.

Vaquez: Summon Vurduga and Rabac. These lot will make fine meals.

The other man takes out a flute.

~ Beast Tamer ~ Edvin Valder: If it pleases you.

He plays a tune on his flute. The earth begins shaking.

Vulkas: What the hell?!

A massive claw rips out of the ground. A large mound of sand raises up around it as a giant desert crab emerges drom the ground. Behind Valder and Vasquez, what appears to be a large sand shark leaps out of the sand and burries itself.

Angel-Ion: What the fuck are those things?!

Valder: Those are my beasts, Verduga and Rabac, and they are here for supper!

Vulkas pulls out his pistols. 

Vasquez: You should really keep your eye on your foe.

As Vulkas turns, Vasquez clotheslines him. He turns and looks at Vulkas. Rabac swings its left claw down, intent on grabbing Lanval and Ray. They dive down as the giant crab's claw clashes with Angel-Ion' sword. A trail of sand torrents towards Karen and Roxanne. Karen dives out of the way. It suddenly swerves in the direction she goes, having felt her vibrations on the ground. Verduga's head poks out of the sand as it attempts to gobble Karen up. Karen pulls a pistol out from her bag and shoots at Verduga, but Ray dives in and pushes her out of the sand shark's path.

Rabac attempts to crush Lanval, Angel-Ion and Vulkas with its claws and legs. Vulkas dives out of the way, and runs around the side of Rabac. He then jams his sword into the joint of one of Rabac's legs. Vasquez prys Vulkas away from Rabac and throws him to the floor. He prepares to jump down on him, but is punched away by Roxanne, who soon pulls Vulkas to his feet.

Vasquez: For a girl, you're pretty tough!

Roxanne: Coming from a dog.

Vasquez: Tch.

Vasquez detects something and jumps up, as Verduga passes underneath him and heads towards Vulkas and Roxanne. Vulkas creates a layer of ice directly below himself and Roxanne. He then creates a wall of ice in front of him which blocks Verduga. Verduga crashes into it, but Vasquez jumps over, having used Verduga as a platform. He turns and kicks Vulkas into Roxanne.

Rabac begins trying to clamp Karen between its claws.

Karen ducks under the claws and runs forward towards Rabac's main body. She jumps on it's carapace, and pulls out a sharp combat pole from a container on her back. She stabs down with enough force to pierce the armour, and reveal part of the soft tissue. It shakes her off, and attempts to finish her off by crushing her with its open claws. It makes impact, but realises that Dirge has countered with his staff.

Rabac lets off a wild screech which distracts Verduga, and tries crushing Dirge and Karen like a nut. Dirge absorbs light into his staff and forces Rabac's claw upwards. He turns and fires a sharp energy beam around that slices off one of Rabac's legs. The giant crab writhes in pain and topples, covering Edvin in sand. Vasquez, distracted, gets punched in the face. Karen gets up and brushes the sand off her.

Karen: Thanks...

Rabac screeches in pain.

Edvin: Rabac! Calm yourself!

Vasquez: Shut that bloody thing up!

Verduga suddenly torrents towards Vasquez and knocks him up, making him land on his back. Edvin jumps onto Rabac's head and snaps some sense into it, before directing it to retreat.

Edvin: We're outta here!

Vasquez: Ghh... This isn't the last you'll see of us, bastards!

Angel-Ion: Then turn right around and face us like real men!

They move too far away. Everyone begins dusting sand from themselves before moving out.

The Bazaar

They arrive at the bazaar, where Angel-Ion, Lanval and Roxanne begin browsing at the avaliable merchandise. Karen aimlessly follows them, not really concentrating on anything, mulling over the day's events. Angel-Ion bumps into somebody on the street.

Angel-Ion: Do excuse--

???: Pardon me--

Angel-Ion and the man look at each other.

Angel-Ion: Zambini?!

Zambini: Angel-Ion! What are the chances of meeting you all the way out here?!

Angel-Ion: I guess this must be fate. It's good to see you again.

Zambini: You too! Are the others here?

Angel-Ion: Yup, they're just over here. Guys! Look who I found!

Dirge: Hey! Long time no see.

Roxanne: Hector!

Lanval: It's our favourite magician!

Zambini: Its great to see you all again!

Zambini looks to Ray and Karen.

Zambini: You must be new. My name is Hector Zambini of the Wizards' Guild. Its a pleasure to meet you.

Ray: The pleasure's all mine. I've heard about what you did in Sabaria. I'm Ray Nikau.

Karen: Please tell me you're normal.

Zambini: Depends on what you mean by normal.

Karen: Anything that is different to these lot.

She gestures to the crew. 

Zambini: Then I'm afraid I must disappoint you there. As a member of the Wizards' Guild, I'd probably be more worse off than my friends here... Which begs the question. Where are Ruselt and Luther?

Roxanne: We had some complications over the ocean.

Zambini: Don't tell me Medusa did something to them!

Roxanne: Medusa? No! The hell is that?

Lanval: You mean to tell me your father never told you the name of that monster his crew fought those years ago?

Roxanne: That's the same thing?

Angel-Ion: How'd you know that, anyways?

Lanval: ... Books.

Angel-Ion: I see. And no, our ship was attacked at random by some people in a flying craft. They've sent a letter saying that they are fine, though.

Zambini: That's good enough, then. So what brings your company here to Anathar?

Roxanne: The Templar Knights sent us out on a ranging into the central regions to find some ruin. Noland said there's something relating to a vision Luther had up there.

Zambini: A vision? So does Luther have a third eye now?

Karen: Do such things even exist?

Roxanne: It sounds a bit off, so I doubt it.

Angel-Ion: They're real alright. One of the Oka Eritoshin, Roed Raithe, has one.

Zambini: I'll take that as a no.

Karen gives Angel-Ion a skeptical look. 

Zambini: So I guess that means we are headed north then?

Angel-Ion: Yup.

Zambini: Then I must give your caution. North of us is the Anatharian city of Miftah. They are slave dealers and enslavers. The five pyramids there were built by slaves several thousand years ago.

Roxanne: There are five of them?

Zambini: Yes. The big one is the Great Pyramid, "Nar's Holy Step", as they call it. The Pharaoh of the south sits inside it. The other four are of equal size and seat the Pharaoh's priests, but have different specialties. You have the Pyramid of Knowledge, the Pyramid of Power, the Pyramid of Time and the Pyramid of the Dead.

Lanval shudders.

Lanval: Pyramid of the Dead?

Zambini: Beats me.

Angel-Ion: Then lets get a move on.

Dirge: We should arrive there within three days. Following that, we have approximately six days north.

Karen: Ugh... More walking...

Vulkas: It's the price you pay for research.

Head Hunters

31st May, 1215 AC. Venland. Morning.

Luther wakes up to find himself in a forest, leaning against a log that has recently been felled. He sees the Operator sitting in front of him, clearly exhausted from having to drag Luther into a more secluded area. His appearence is much scruffier than the last encounter. His hair is greasy, and messy. His clothes are torn in some areas, and there are bloodstains around his arm and leg. 

Operator: 'Bout time you woke up. 

Luther: (Dammnit! This cannot be happening!)

Luther tries to get up, only to find that his hands are bound behind his back. He quickly tries to burn through the ropes, only to feel like something is blocking his magic. 

Luther: (Not again!)

Operator: Don't try and use your fancy magic tricks. I placed a special little bracelet on your wrist. They're used by Venlish police to stop prisoners from using magic, should they know any. 

Luther: H-how did you survive?

Operator: Hmm?

Luther: I saw you g-go down with your airship. 

Operator: Dumb luck I guess. But here I am. 

Luther: Where are you taking me?

Operator: Straight to John Curtis's home. 

Luther seems to visibly tense at the mere mention of his name. 

Operator: Curtis is offering a lot of money to bring you in. I don't intend on disappointing him. 

Luther: So you work for C-Curtis?

Operator: Not quite. I don't work for anyone anymore. Thanks to you. 

The Operator stands up. He picks Luther up by the collar and pulls him to his feet. 

He pulls out a gun, and pushes it up against Luther's back. 

Operator: Start walking. 

Luther obeys, and starts walking forwards. 

Luther: Wait... 

Luther suddenly stops.

Luther: Y-you're not going to shoot m-me. You need me alive.

Operator: Look kid, I am in an... Unfortunate situation, and I would be very appreciative, if you were to just cooperate. 

There is a sudden twig snap.

The Operator turns around, and looks towards the source of the noise. He keeps his gun pointed at Luther. 

Several figures fly out from the trees and cycle around the two of them. Most, if not all of them are shouting as they do it. They all soon stop, revealing themselves.

???: Well lookie what we have here?

The Operator redirects his pistol. Luther quickly tries to sneak away, only for the Operator to grab him by the collar, and drag him back. 

Operator: Who are you?

~ 22nd Ranked Hunter ~ Randall "Silversole" Furdik: We are Sniper Wolf. I presume you both remember us.

Luther: W-who are Sniper Wolf?

~ 24th Ranked Hunter ~ Doug "Iron Chain" Clinge: This one here hired some of our lower ranked to get rid of you on a train in Asteria. Two agents were killed.

Operator: So which one of us are you after?

Silversole: To put it bruntly, both of you. So, are you going to come quietly, or would you rather clock in at Ironhall as "dead"? 

The Operator aims his gun at Silversole. He looks at the other bounty hunters surrounding him. He lowers his gun. 

Operator: (Damn...) 

Silversole: Aiming your gun at me doesn't exactly give me a clear answer. The fact that my colleagues here made you lower your weapon meekly shows that you lack the guts.

The Operator curls his lips but remains silent. 

Silversole: How about you, Mr. Prince?

Luther: I'll c-cooperate. 

Voice: You have absolutely no spine whatsoever...

The Operator quickly throws something at the ground. A plume of smoke emits from it, obscuring him from view. The general area is soon engulfed by smoke. The Operator uses this opportunity to grab Luther by his collar, and attempt to drag him away. 

Silversole: Damn it. He used a smoke bomb! Don't let him get away!

One of the bounty hunters sniffs the air.

~ 26th Ranked Hunter ~ Stratnam "Ratman" Voss: I've got their scent!

~ 25th Ranked Hunter ~ Ursus "Grand Bear" Egen: After them!

The four hunters follow close behind the Operator and Luther, seemingly being able to gain on them quickly. The Operator continues to push Luther forward. He turns around and spots the bounty hunters gaining on him. He pulls up his gun and fires at them. A bullet wings Ratman, while another smashes into a tree, inches away from Silversole's head. 

Luther: If you help me get this b-bracelet off, I can help you!

Operator: Pfft, how stupid do you think I am?

The Operator fires another few shots at the bounty hunters, before advancing forward again. 

???: I think you're very stupid!

Silversole appears in front of the Operator, having sped himself up and went around the duo. He jumps forwards and slams his foot into the Operator's chest, before barraging him with several kicks, prompting him to release Luther's collar. He stops and leaps, preparing to slam his foot down on the stunned Operator's head. The Operator quickly moves his head out of the way, and attempts to grab his gun. Luther uses the opportunity to run away, but is ambushed by Egen, who then lifts him off the ground by the back of his jacket.

Egen: Going somewhere, little man?

Ratman tackles the Operator to the floor. The Operator quickly pulls out his switchblade, and stabs Ratman in the shoulder blade before throwing him off. The activity has resulted in some of the Operator's wounds reopening, and his arm and leg begin to bleed again. Silversole notes this and kicks the Operator's opened leg wound.

Operator: AGH! 

The Operator falls to the ground, clutching his leg. 

Silversole: Clinge, chain them up.

They are chained up and taken away. Later, the pack stop and set up camp, as it is getting fairly late. Luther and the Operator are sat near a tree while the four bounty hunters are eating around a fire.

Silversole: This food is delicious!

Luther tries to remove the bracelet prohibiting his magic. The Operator hears Luther's chains rattle, and notices this.

Operator: Don't bother. Those things are enchanted so that only the person that placed it on you can remove it.

Luther: *Sighs* So... I need your help t-to remove it and escape. But you're not going to do that because you c-can't risk me leaving you here.

Operator: Pretty much...

The Operator stares into the campfire, and the bounty hunters surrounding it, clearly feeling somewhat defeated.

Luther: You said that you didn't work f-for anyone anymore. What happened?

Operator: I was given a deadline to deal with you. I missed it, so my employers tried to kill me.

Luther: (Sarcastically, but meekly) Sorry for not getting caught.

A short lived half-smile appears on the Operator's face. 

Operator: I suppose I shouldn't blame you. It was my fault really. I shouldn't have trusted that bastard Doenitz. 

The Operator clenches his fist, and visibly cringes thinking about his own mistakes. 

Luther: If you don't work for a-anyone anymore, then why are you still acting on th-their bounty?

The Operator doesn't answer, but looks down with a glum look on his face. 

Luther thinks for a few seconds. 

Luther: You're t-trying to reconcile with them?

The Operator nods.

Luther: Just who are these people?

Operator: You ask too many questions.

Luther: You don't p-provide enough answers.

The Operator smirks.

Operator: I suppose there is no point in discretion anymore. I work... Worked for the Underground. They tasked me with your detainment and transferal to Curtis.

Luther makes a mental note of this.

Luther: Why would you t-try to reconcile with the people that tried t-to kill you?

Operator: I was raised by them. They are all I have ever known. My own name even sounds foreign to me, as I have only ever been called by my codename. 

Luther: Then what is your name?

The Operator gives Luther a stern grimace.

Luther: If y-you don't mind my asking...

The Operator pauses, and sighs.

Operator: Ludovic Boros, apparently. 

Luther: You don't sound sure.

Ludovic: It's only what they told me. So I guess there is no way for me to be sure if it is true.

There is a brief silence that is broken by the bounty hunters laughing among themselves. 

Luther: How did you know I was i-in Savorden?

Ludovic: I didn't. I only came here because I was looking for a safe place to set up a temporary hideout. Couldn't believe my luck when I saw you walking by. I followed you back to the airstrip, and well... Here we are.

Luther begins to laugh. It starts as a slightly suppressed chuckle, but becomes slightly louder, and more hysterical. 

Luther: Typical... The one time I go out on my own, and within an hour, I am already in trouble. Not because I made any mistakes, but just because I am plagued with bad luck.

He begins chuckling to himself, only for Ludovic to begin laughing with him.

Ludovic: That is pretty unlucky.

Silversole: Who said you could laugh?

Silversole slaps a hot ladle, one that had been used just a few seconds ago to stir a pot of stew, across Ludovic's face, leaving part of his face covered in broth.

Ludovic just glares at him, and purses his lips in restraint. 

Luther: (Sheepishly) Was that necessary?

Silversole: I don't give a shit. The next time I hear you talking, I'll cut out your tongues. You won't need those where you're going.

Silversole returns to the fire. Later, the bounty hunters go to sleep. Ludovic, after waiting a few hours gets Luther's attention.

Ludovic: (Whispering) Psst. Try and get closer to me.

Luther: Why?

Ludovic: You want me to get that bracelet off right? 

Luther: What about the bounty?

Ludovic: Sod the bounty. Whatever Curtis has planned for you, you don't deserve it. 

Luther smiles. He quietly shifts himself towards Ludovic, trying not to rattle his chains. He maneuvers himself so his back and hands are facing Ludovic.

Luther: How d-do you know I won't just leave you here?

Ludovic: I don't, but what have I got to lose?

Ludovic manages to remove Luther's bracelet. Luther uses his fire magic to gently heat a link in the chain that isn't directly touching him. The fire he uses becomes more intense, and the temperature increases, causing the link to glow.

He uses his earth magic to move a small rock towards the link, breaking it. He quickly removes all his chains, and then begins to unchain Ludovic. The rattling of chains awakens Ratman.

Ratman: ... The hell is... Shit! Wake up! Silversole! Egen! Clinge!

Luther and Ludovic both make a run for it. Luther notices Ludovic is lagging behind because of his limp, so he grabs him by the arm to help him forward. The others are finally awoken.

Silversole: Fucking idiot! You let them escape!!

Ratnam: What should we do?!

Silversole: We?! I want you to find them, you tosspot! Go! All of ya! After them!

The other three quickly run off. Silversole ponders for a bit before chasing them himself. Meanwhile, Luther and Ludovic have managed to get quite far away. They are both forced to stop due to the exhaustion, and Ludovic's leg has begun to bleed again. 

Ludovic: We should split up. It'll make it harder for them to track us. 

Luther: I guess this is it then. 

Ludovic nods. 

Ludovic: Goodbye Visarion. I wish you good luck. 

Ludovic and Luther shake hands before splitting off in two different directions. Ludovic ensures that some of his blood leaks out onto the ground, so that the trail is diverted away from Luther. The bounty hunters fall for the bait and head after Ludovic.

Luther aimlessly runs through the woods as fast as he can. He is suddenly smashed across the face by an iron bar, making him fall to the floor.

???: Should watch where you're going, little man.

Luther gets up, rubbing his forehead. He looks towards the person who attacked him. 

~ 23rd Ranked Hunter ~ Bayoll Notholirion: Did you think your little separation trick actually worked? Silversole and the others aren't the only ones after that pretty little number above your head in these woods. The boss sent five of us out. I was the one keeping tail, and I was the only one to figure out your little trick.

Bayoll gazes back into the woods where Luther came from.

Bayoll: The've likely captured him by now. Four against one.

Luther: (This can't be happening. I can't get sent to Curtis now! I need to calm down. This is what I trained for afterall. Might as well try to put it to good use.)

Luther fires a bolt of electricity towards Bayoll. 

Bayoll lightly steps to and fro, dodging the bolt and heading towards Luther. He coughs a strange gas from his gas mask into his hands, which envelope them. Bayoll potshots Luther with one fist, before boxing him around. Bayoll that coughs up gas in the winded Luther's face. Luther falls to the floor. His vision starts to become blurry and his body starts to turn numb.

Voice: Useless as always... Pathetic.

Luther: W-what is happenun tuh murrr...?

Bayoll: My gases are poisonous. Some lethal, some not. Anywho. Looks like we're off to John Curtis' place. That money's all mine.

Bayoll picks up Luther and throws him over his shoulder. He seems to still be resisting, by trying his best to free himself from Bayoll's grasp. Bayoll notes this and tightens his grip.

House of the White Star

1st June, 1215 AC. Venland. Noon.

Bayoll reaches Curtis' personal residence in Venland. The mansion is fairly large, and has a security fence surrounding, accompanied by several guards. Two Canorican soldiers at the entrance spot Bayoll, and approach him. They notice Luther on his shoulder.

Soldier 1: Is that... The Prince?

Bayoll: No. It's Orchus Retaliak, in the flesh. Of course its the fucking Prince you dumb cunt. Now get the fuck out of my way.

Soldier 1 scowls, but allows him to walk past.

Soldier 1: What an asshole...

Soldier 2: To be fair, you are a dumb cunt.

Soldier 1: ...Shut up.

Several other guards inside the complex notice Bayoll and Luther. They alert one of Curtis' private personnel, who then comes outside to greet Bayoll. He is carrying a suitcase. 

Staff Member: It's about time someone delivered this bounty... Or half of it anyway. 

Bayoll: Enough with the bullshit. Hand over the money.

Bayoll drops Luther to the floor.

The staff member put the suitcase on a nearby desk. He opens it to reveal many bundles of Libra notes. He then takes out half of them, and puts them in a bag before closing the suitcase. He hands Bayoll the bag, as several guards secure Luther. Bayoll swings the bag over his shoulder and walks out. He sticks his middle finger up at the soldier from before as he leaves.

Soldier 1: Ass...

Bayoll encounters Silversole and the others outside, having heard about his capture of Luther.

Silversole: How the fuck did you catch him?

Bayoll: Easy. I let you morons run after the other one when they split up.

Egen: We were supposed to share the earnings!

Bayoll: I didn't agree to that bullshit. The cash is all mine. Seeing as you're all here, I'm guessing he got away.

Clinge: Yup...

Bayoll: So you fuckers basically let the other target get away. Now you lot have to miss out on sharing a bounty between yourselves.

Silversole: Don't get cocky.

Bayoll: I can get cocky all I want. My dick's bigger than yours.

Silversole: Fuck you.

Meanwhile in the mansion, Luther is beginning to recover from the effects of the poison. He is dragged down several flights of stairs that lead into a concrete basement. Another bracelet prohibiting his magic is placed on him. Luther memorises the face of the guard that placed it on him. He is placed on a specialised restraint table, where straps are tightened to secure his ankles, wrists and torso. 

Guard 1: Has the Governor been informed?

Guard 2: Yeah, he should be on his way now.

Luther hears the door open, and the guards leave. He then hears footsteps behind him. John Curtis walks by the restraint table, and sits in a chair facing Luther. 

Curtis: Well I'll be damned. Never thought I'd see the day where my bounty was actually collected. You're a tough son-of-a-bitch to get, you know that?

Luther's eyes are fixed on Curtis, and his face has a resentful expression. He is too angry to even say anything, so he remains silent, and continues to glare at Curtis. 

Curtis: Pity your bastard brother ain't here.

Luther's fists clench. 

Curtis stands up. He walks over to a trolly with electrical apparatus resting on top of it. 

Curtis: I guess I'll have to make due with one. 

He begins to fiddle with the apparatus.

Curtis: In case it was not clear, I really fuckin' hate you. And your brother. And your whole damn family. Every time I hear your name even mentioned, my blood boils. Now you're probably thinkin' why I hate you so damn much. You're probably wondering what you or your family could have possibly done to piss me off so much. I wish I could tell you. But I honestly don't know... 

Luther: (What is wrong with this guy?)

Curtis: All I do know however, is that this burning hatred has got to be relieved somehow. I guess one way of doing that is to put you through hell. 

Luther notices something that vaguely resemble electrodes. He suddenly realises that the apparatus Curtis is fiddling with is an electroshock therapy device. He begins to struggle more frantically against the restraints. Curtis places the electrodes on Luther's temples. He tries desparately to shake them off, only for Curtis to slam his head back onto the table. 

Curtis: Don't look so scared. I haven't even started yet. 

Curtis flicks a switch on the apparatus, and electricity surges through the electrodes, shocking Luther.

The guards outside hear the sound of Luther screaming, and head upstairs so they don't have to listen. 

Dark Hands, Dark Strings

1st June, 1215 AC. Harville, Canoric. Andrews' Private Residence. Afternoon.

Andrews hears a knock at the door. He answers the door, and in front of him stands a man holding a letter.

Man: This is a letter from Supreme Judge Thomas Clay.

Andrews: (The man who gave me the Presidency... What could he want now?)

Man: For our safety, tell no one about this letter.

Andrews gives him a confused look, and the man walks away. Andrews closes the door. Andrews' wife, Helen, enters the room. 

Helen: Who was that?

Andrews: I don't know. He just arrived to give me a letter. He told me it was from Judge Clay. 

Andrews opens the letter.

"Knowledge of this letter must remain contained. I noticed recently that a man was following me. I have concluded that I am not long for this world. I might as well come clean about everything. After Curtis' improper handling of the war economy, many of the Judges were in favour of a new Presidential Election, but I knew that such an event would have dire consequences. This country is not our own. Our congress, our judiciary and our civil service have been compromised. They are being controlled by someone. A new election would have resulted in another puppet candidate rising to power, similar to Curtis. I managed to persuade the other judges to instead bypass the democratic process, and replace Curtis with you. I knew that you weren't under duress, that you would be able to see what is wrong with this country. I implore you to be cautious. More cautious than I have been. They're onto you Andrews. Don't make the same mistakes I did.

- Thomas Clay"

Andrews seems visibly shaken. 

Helen: What is it honey?

He hands her the letter and she begins reading it.

Helen: W-what's going on? Who's onto you?

Andrews: We still don't know exactly. Our current theory is that it's the Galahad Arms trying to exert a world-wide influence, but there is no proof yet. 

Helen throws the letter into the fire. Andrews seems deep in thought.

Helen: Clay sounds spooked.

Andrews: I think they've got to him. 

Helen: By the sound of it, they're going to get to you to.

Andrews: You're not safe with me. You can't stay in any of my registered residences. I'll have my personal guards take you somewhere safe. I can trust them.

Helen: But what about you?

Andrews: Don't worry about me. 

Helen: Then at least heed Clay's advice. Be careful. 

Andrews: I will be.

Sand Colossus

2nd June, 1215 AC. Miftah, Anathar. Dawn.

The crew emerge from a canyon path, where they see a series of pyramids, made of gold, sandstone and marble, found within the complex of several hundred other buildings come into view. One side of the city is surrounded by vast rocks, while the other side leads into the vast desert beyond. There are many lushous plants around the city, with a few notable water pools dotted around. Upon contruction sites, slaves can be seen labouring while being whipped.

Ray: I guess this is Miftah, then.

Zambini: Yup. Behold. In all its horrible glory. It may look gorgeous, but the corruption from those five oversized cones is enough to put you off.

Karen: Just imagine the history...

Karen seems to have completely blanked the slave labour, and is instead just looking straight towards the pyramids. Dirge notes this and rotates his head in a similar manner to rolling one's eyes.

Zambini: Be sure to tread carefully. I've seen people go into the wrong places and come back out again with collars around their necks.

Roxanne: So does that mean we should keep away from those pyramids?

Zambini: Not quite. The Pyramid of Knowledge's lower levels are like a public library. That one over there is the one you have to watch out for though.

Zambini points in the direction of the pyramid in the north-east corner.

Zambini: The Pyramid of Power.

Lanval: And not the Pyramid of the Dead...?

Dirge: What's wrong with that one?

Zambini: It is the most mysterious of the four pyramids. The Pyramid of Knowledge is as it says on the tin. The Pyramid of the Dead studies life and death, and the Pyramid of Time chronicles time and history. Word is said that the Compendium itself was conceived within its four sided peak. As for the Pyramid of Power... None have a clue about its secrets, perhaps save for its priests and their servers. 

Karen: Interesting...

They move into the city proper. Angel-Ion accidentally walks into a slave, who falls over in seeming fear, mistaking him for a master. He is suddenly whipped.

Master: Back on your feet, slave! No rest!

Angel-Ion dusts the sand off of his clothes. He turns to Lanval.

Angel-Ion: If you value yourself as a free man, don't nick anything.

Lanval stops as he attempts to seize an apple.

Vulkas glares at the slave master as he walks past. The band stop at a bar, where they plan to rest.

A Plan to Counter

2nd June, 1215 AC. Canorica, Harville. Morning.

Andrws makes his way up the steps towards the City Hall. Andrews' aide, Len Jones, approaches him. 

Jones: Bad news. Thomas Clay has been found dead.

Andrews looks despondant, but not surprised.

Andrews: What happened?

Len: Suicide. Shot himself last night.

Andrews: This was no suicide. 

He seems to think for a few seconds.

Andrews: Organise a meeting. I want Adams and Jackson here ASAP. 

Jones: Yes Mister President.

A few hours later, the Vice President, Robert Adams, and the Secret Service Director, Ron Jackson walk into a small room in the city hall building. Andrews dismisses his bodyguards.

Andrews: I guess you've all heard about Judge Clay?

Adams and Jackson nod.

Andrews lifts up a copy of the initial police report on Clay's death. 

Andrews: It is being ruled as a suicide, but I don't buy that for a second.

Adams: What makes you say that?

Andrews: Yesterday, I recieved a letter from him. He thought he was being followed, and said he had made mistakes. He claimed that congress wer compromised, something we already know to be true. He also said that "they" were onto me.

Jackson: Why tell us this?

Andrews: Because you are the few people that I have know I can trust. We need to find out who is behind our congress, whether it be the Galahad Arms as we have previously suspected, or some other underworld group.

Adams: Then what can we do for you?

Andrews: I want you to ensure that each congressman votes in anonymity on bills. It worked before in reducing the effect of the blackmailers so it should work again.

Adams nods.

Andrews: Jackson, I need you to follow any leads into Clay's death independently. You have experience in this field, so it shouldn't be a problem. You need to find out who is responsible, and who employed them. While you're at it, you also need to find out who is behind the mass-blackmail of our congress.

Jackson: Sheesh, that's a lot to pile on me. I have a wife and kid to see y'know.

Andrews: Cry me a river.

Jackson just sighs.

Jones: What do you want me to do?

Andrews: I want you to meet regularly with Jackson and Adams and document everything they tell you. You're going to be our last resort. Should anything happen to us, I want you to leak everything to an independent press outlet. 

Jones: What will you be doing? 

Andrews: I'll be meeting one on one with other world leaders. I'll try to find out how much they know. Some of them are bound to know something.

Adams: Pfft, half of them are probably involved.

Andrews looks at his watch. 

Andrews: This meeting is to remain off the books. I wish you all the best of luck in your objectives, and remember, it is only the honour of the Canorican government that is at stake. So no pressure.

He smiles sarcastically at them all before leaving. 

Pyramid of Power

June 2nd, 1215 AC. Northern-East Miftah, Anathar. Late Morning.

The band of travellers have made their way forwards in the great city, having entered the north-western portion. The Pyramid of Power looms over, while three of the other pyramids can still be seen from their distance.

The mysterious pyramid seems to trouble Angel-Ion, Dirge, Vulkas and Zambini, as though it was exerting its pressure on the four magic wielders.

Dirge: What is with that thing...? Is it pressure?

Lanval: What are you talking about?

Zambini: I feel it too... Its as though an unseen force is pressing something into my chest.

Angel-Ion: There must be some seriously crazy stuff inside it, that's for sure.

Vulkas: I can see why it's called the "Pyramid of Power." 

Karen: I guess it only affects magic-users then, because I'm finding this "pressure" incredibly underwhelming. 

Zambini: I guess its because we magic users are more connected to roots of the World Tree than you non-users.

Karen: You're a superstitious bunch aren't you?

Angel-Ion: Huh?

Dirge: World Tree?

Zambini: I'll tell you about it later. I'm not a believer in all these gods. Its just that I've spent too much time in the Circle Stone Chamber at the Wizards' Guild. The room's filled with statues depicting all kinds of gods. The World Tree, the Lake Goddess... Those two dragons the people of Shanzhu call gods, et cetera.

Broken

2nd June, 1215 AC. Venland, Curtis' private residence. Late Morning. 

Luther is contained within a small stone cold cell. He now dons a white short-sleeved prisoner jumpsuit, which has already started to turn grey from the grime in the cell. There are large faint burns on his temples from the shock treatment. There is no bed in the cell, and the only light comes from a small gap in the door. He is sitting down, his back against the wall, staring at a small insect scutting around. Something suddenly comes down on the insect crushing it. Luther quickly looks up in alarm to see the silhouette that had been plaguing him before, standing a few feet in front of him.

Luther: Agh!

Luther reels as far back as he can, in fear of the silhouetted figure now towering above him.

Figure: Absolutely pathetic.

Luther recognises the figure's voice as the voice that had tormented ever since Veteris sent him into his inner mind. However it sounds slightly different than before, being more similar to Luther's own voice, albeit more confidant and coherent. The silhouette takes a step closer. It becomes clear to Luther that the figure standing before him is nearly identical in appearence to him, but sporting a more malevolent facial expression. 

Luther: Y-you look like me!

Figure: I am you.

Luther begins to rub his eyes. He mutters the words "you're still not real" over and over again in a nervous attempt to reassure himself.

Figure: Denial will get you nowhere. 

Luther: Why can't you just leave me alone! 

The cell suddenly seems to break apart and Luther finds himself in the cabin of the airship that took him away from Savorden again. He looks towards the window and sees the familiar sight of the city ablaze.

Luther: Not t-this again!

He quickly looks away, and turns around, only to see Cetera in front of him.

Cetera: I shouldn't have left you. It was stupid of me to think you could take care of yourselves.

Luther just frowns at Cetera and turns around, only for Ruselt to appear in front of him. His expression becomes more cowed.

Ruselt: Why did you abandon me brother?

Luther: I-I had to! I need to get the g-gauntlet off!

Ruselt: I could have helped you.

Luther: The Remnant State needed you. You w-wouldn't have been able to c-come with me!

Ruselt: You could have at least said goodbye!

Luther wells up.

Luther: Look! I am sorry! I'm sorry for leaving!

Ruselt suddenly vanishes, and the figure quickly appears in his place.

Luther: AGH!

Luther fall backwards in shock, and clambers backwards until he is backed up against the cabin wall.

Figure: Sorry for leaving? Sorry for persuing your own goals?

Luther: If I had stayed, I wouldn't be in this situation!

The figure laughs.

Figure: You are not seeing the opportunity of your circumstances. You are within strangling distance of the man responsible for this...

The figure gestures towards the city.

Luther: I only w-want to get out of here. I have no interest in k-killi-

Figure: Don't give me that drivel. I know exactly what you've been thinking about. I understand you better than anyone. 

The figure walks towards Luther, and crouches down to his level. Luther just averts his eyes. 

Figure: You just need to realise that I am not your foe.

Luther: You're definitely not my friend either...

Figure: Not yet.

Luther: Not ever!

The figure looks complacent. He smirks smugly, unnerving Luther even more.

Figure: Suit yourself.

The figure vanishes. The door to the cockpit bursts wide open, revealing Doenitz, machete in hand with the jagged edge coated in fresh blood, and the mutilated corpse of the pilot behind him.

Doenitz: You still owe me a finale!

A fire suddenly tears through the cabin and Doenitz stands, motionless in the flames, glaring at Luther. The flames reach up, burning Doenitz and the rest of the cabin from view. From the flames, a sinister but familar figure with their back to Luther appears. He lets off an uproar of laughter as he raises his left hand, which seems to look similar to Luther's own with the gauntlet on his wrist.

The hallucination ends, and Luther "wakes up" back in his cell. He notices that the insect he saw the figure crush earlier is on the bottom of his own foot. 

Luther: (What the hell is happening to me...?) 

The Hades Complex

2nd June, 1215 AC. Southern Anathar Wastes. Late Afternoon.

After a trek in the desert, the Tempest crew fine themselves traversing through some sort of gulch. Some of the paths are long and winding. Others give off the feeling that they are going in circles.

Lanval: I've getting bad flashbacks of that place back in Sabaria...

Roxanne: I swear we've been to this spot. Those rocks are in the same place as before.

Dirge: Impossible. We've been moving in one core direction since we came in here.

Vulkas: Evidently not. 

Karen gives a hysterical chuckle.

Karen: The price I pay for research. Starving to death after getting lost in a desert along with the complete maniacs who brought me here. 

Roxanne: By choice, hon.

Karen: That is the worst part.

Zambini: You do realise we still have food rations, right?

Karen: But for how long?

Dirge: Jokes on you, I don't need food.

A sudden wind bursts through the narrow passageway. It seems to be too breezy to be natural, while the sand itself is picked up and blown in their direction.

Ray: What the--

Roxanne: Where'd this come from?

Dirge: This can't be natural!

Vulkas walks out ahead to find the source of the gust, his gun in hand. He is suddenly slowed down as it intensifies. Angel-Ion presses on ahead of Vulkas, seemingly determined.

Angel-Ion: (Where have I felt this kind of power before...?)

The winds subside as he leads his companions into an open chamber. The sun peers in once the sand subsides.

Lanval: What was all that about?

Angel-Ion: Something wants us here.

Vulkas heads foward again.

Angel-Ion: Stop! You idiot!

Vulkas is suddenly pressed into the floor by mere pressure. The sun's brightness dims somewhat to reveal a figure looking down upon them from atop a ledge. For most of them, there is a sense of deja vu. The figure fully reveals themself. Angel-Ion's eyes narrow as he remembers.

Angel-Ion: You...

Angel-Ion can't help but to look at and feel intimidated by the man's sword.

Angel-Ion: You're...

Angel-Ion begins shivering.

Karen: You know this person?

Angel-Ion fails to respond.

Lanval: We saw this guy back in Sabaria. We don't even know who he is, or what he is... He just... Appeared.

The man seems to look at each of the group before focusing on Angel-Ion.

Dirge: Its not normal to see Angel-Ion all frozen up like this...

Roxanne: Just who is this guy?

Vulkas: An asshole?

Karen: ... Are these two really just gonna sit here and--

???: I am Sarkies. I am from Zoroaster.

Karen: A Zoroastrian... H-How can that be possible?

Lanval: A what?

Dirge: They should have all died hundreds of years ago.

Sarkies looks at his sword.

Sarkies: I believe you have seen this sword before.

Angel-Ion gulps and starts to have a cold sweat.

Sarkies: You have. But... Do you remember its name?

Angel-Ion: What do you want from me?!

Sarkies: You should be asking that in reverse. But I suppose "What do I want from you?" sounds somewhat out of place. Especially from a Kylotean vocabulary standpoint.

Karen seems to be flicking through a book she had in her bag on Zoroastrians. She opens up a page which covers their general appearence. She mumbles to herself.

Karen: Wings... Hmm... He doesn't have wings...

Sarkies: You should not believe everything you read, little girl.

Sarkies suddenly shifts to the ground below without anybody noticing it.

Upon closer inspection, Sarkies appears to have two spikes protruding from his back where the wings would be. His tail is wrapped around his body like some sort of belt.

Karen notices the two spikes. 

Karen: (He did have wings... He matches the description. He really is a Zoroastrian!)

Sarkies: Now the--

Angel-Ion: Fight me!

Sarkies: No.

Angel-Ion: W-Wha--

Sarkies: You are not yet ready... Hmm... Thirty days. Thirty days from now, on the day of the Solstice of the Sun, when the sky turns dark, across the decayed wastes of Zoroaster. That is where I shall accept your challenge. Should you not arrive... You'll be either a coward, or a dead man. But... Know this...

Sarkies zips to right next to Angel-Ion.

Sarkies: I will teach you fear. And then pain.

In a bright flash of light, the man disappears. Angel-Ion falls to the floor and catches his breath. Roxanne helps him to his feet.

Roxanne: A-Are you ok?

Angel-Ion: I'm... I'm fine.

Karen seems to be deep in thought. She suddenly peps up. 

Karen: I have to go to Zoroaster! If this "Sarkies" is alive, then there must be more of them somewhere! The things that could be learnt about their culture, the details of their history they may have reco- 

Vulkas nudges Karen, and points towards Angel-Ion, who still seems distressed by the recent occurance. She goes quiet. 

Lanval: What was with that guy? Are you truly gonna--

Angel-Ion: I'm going.

Lanval: You can't be serious?! The man just threatened you!

Angel-Ion: Did you not hear him? If I fail to show up, I'm just a no good coward or someone dead and buried, and both of those things are the same to me.

Lanva: Sometimes it pays good to be a cowar--

Angel-Ion: I can't keep running away from these things, Lanval!

Lanval finally relents.

Zambini: That sword of his. What exactly is it?

Angel-Ion: It resembles a sword known in legend. It is feared by many swordsmen due to its supposed powers. That sword is known as "Instant".

Roxanne: And what makes it so special and fearful?

Angel-Ion: It is said that there exists a blade that can "parry every and all weapons"; the "Ultimate Sword, Instant".

Karen: Could such a sword even exist?

Lanval: I guess we'll find out soon enough.

Angel-Ion: Yeah...

The Doctor

4th June, 1215 AC. Lower Lorinham Complex. Night Time

Eleanor walks towards the Director's office for a review of her progress. She walks down a long corridor, with armed guards either side of it. They all salute as she walks past. She approaches the double-doors of the office, which two guards then open for her. She walks in. The office itself is immaculate, in contrast with the griminess of the rest of the bunker.

The Director, Lurenos Veltan is peering out a dark tinted window at the back of his office that overlooks a large atrium, where various military drills are taking place. He is tall, imposing and stocky. He wears an all black suit with square glasses. His lifeless eyes are a pale grey, and his black hair and beard is kept trimmed and tidy. She walks towards his desk and takes a seat. He turns around and looks at her before sitting down himself. Despite having just sat down, he doesn't appear to get comfortable. He remains upright with his back straight, and broad shoulders reared.

Lurenos: How is the Prince?

His voice is low and authoritative.

Eleanor: He's settled in well. But his brother's departure is beginning to take its toll.

Lurenos: In what way