Episode 7-Ruin Splunking
Niamare-Welcome once again wonderful listeners! As always you have come to hear another wondrous tale from your's truly! And as always I shall not disappoint!
Azure-You'd better not. Remember that we have an audience and they'll judge you harshly if you turn my story into something boring.
Niamare-Silence you fool! Shut your damned mouth and listen to my enchanting words! Now my dear little flock I shall continue where I left off previously.
Azure-Oh yeah...That stupid ruin right? I've got bad memories of that place.
Niamare-Alright then...Let our story begin once again!
After the battle with the Military girl named Tori, the three companions continued toward the ruin that Lilly had told Azure about. The teen had recovered almost completely from the fight thanks to the healing potion that he had downed. He had surprisingly used more mana than he thought that he did. Considering the power behind the spells that he had used Azure wasn't too shocked that he had been so exhausted. Unlike Pyrha Marine's magic required a lot more energy out of him. He would have to be careful of that next time he summoned the trident.
As he passed by the signs that gestured toward the ruins Azure still thought over his encounter with Tori. She reminded him of a friend of his father who had also been a guardsman. He had been someone who had valued justice and virtue as well. Hell he was just as stubborn and hotheaded as she was. But it hadn't saved him from getting killed along with the other villagers, was what Azure thought as he gritted his teeth at the painful memory. He needed to focus on his mission, there would be a chance to avenge him at a later date.
Soon the trio came to system of archways that loomed above them. They were made of white marble with leaves and vines growing out of them thanks to the nearby vegetation around them. Certain parts of the structures were chipped and damaged from age and disrepair. But despite their broken state they maintained an aura of ancient beauty to them. Hikaru was especially excited as he bounced up and down while studying the arches.
"Wow! Look at all of these archways! I bet that these have been around for about a hundred years! The structure is so beautiful and unique! And it's made out of pure white marble! Whoever made these was a real artist!"
Rock looked down at him with a playful smile after listening to his words. "Haha, you really know a lot about historical artifacts don't you? You're right that white marble is quite rare. It must have taken months to get the materials and manpower to set all of this up."
"Well I did read a lot of books on ancient structures and ruins when I was little." Answered Hikaru who had stars in his eyes. "My sister got me into the subject and I've been hooked on them ever since."
Azure yawned and crossed his arms. "Their just rocks. Leftovers from people who died along time ago. I don't see what's so special about them. Unless they're worth some actual money that is."
Hikaru glared at him in outrage. "But don't you care about their significance? Who knows if they were built by people or Spirits? There could have been some highly intelligent civilization back then who made these as a message to those of our time. Aren't you curious about all of that?"
"Nope can't say that I am."
Before Hikaru could scold the older boy the sound of footsteps could be heard approaching and they looked down to find the source. A tall bald man was stomping toward them with a scowl that could scare off a large bear with its intensity. He was barechested and muscular with only a black strap over his tan stomach and green pants. A red headband was tied around his forehead and a huge zwelhander was strapped to his back. The man's body was covered in scratches and burn marks that still seemed to be smoking as he moved. Azure could tell from his look that he was an adventurer or at the very least a mercenary. He was mumbling to himself in a low but harsh tone as he came closer.
Sensing the man's threatening anger Azure raised his hand to the hilt of his sword, ready for any sign that the man was going to attack. But the adventurer just walked past without even acknowledging them, seeming to be lost in his thoughts. As he passed Azure could make out the words "crazy woman" leave his lips before the man disappeared. They waited for a few seconds after he was gone before finally Rock broke the silence.
"Well...Wonder what has that fellow's breeches in a bunch?"
Hikaru nodded. "He looked like he was ready to kill somebody. And did you see his wounds? What could have happened for him to have been burned so badly like that?"
"Who knows? I heard him say something about a crazy woman as he passed. Whatever is ahead of must be dangerous." Azure answered.
"Then that means we should be cautious and ready ourselves for anything." Said Rock, his hand instinctively going to his sword hilt without conscious thought.
They then walked under the archways and toward the area where the gruff man had come from. After a few minutes of walking they came to a clearing and finally spotted the ruin. It was a magnificent and large structure made of the same white marble as the archways. The size was similar to a dungeon with two stone pillars having been positioned before a set of two massive iron doors. Azure saw that above the doors was the embossing of a grey hawk merged into the structure, glaring down at him as if poised to strike.
The trio approached the set of doors with caution. Azure ran his hand over the material and was surprised at it's smoothness. Rock did the same and knocked on it a few times as if testing the door's sturdiness. Afterwards he let out a long whistle before speaking. "Whew, now this is a beautiful door. Whoever made this had an eye for design. Don't know if it would actually hold off an attack but still I'm impressed."
Hikaru examined the doors and the hawk embossing. "Yeah it is strange for a civilization to have created an iron door instead of using material that is much stronger like steel for example. That's normally how they keep intruders from breaking in to begin with. I wonder why they would be so lax on security when all of their precious treasures and valuables lie within?"
Azure shrugged. "Just because a civilization is ancient doesn't mean they were intelligent. Maybe they became too arrogant because they figured the traps inside would take care of anyone stupid enough to go too far in. It doesn't matter to me when there's treasure on the line."
"I guess that I shouldn't be surprised at this point that you guys are still thinking about treasure."
Azure placed his hand back onto the door and began to push. It began to slide open with very little resistance. The teen wasn't expecting it to be so light. Just as it was halfway open he heard the voice of Marine in his mind.
"Master if I could intrude on your progress there seems to be a presence nearby that is watching you."
"A presence? From where?"
"Hm, it appears to be originating from the bushes to your right. Whoever it is must be quite the impressive mage as the spell they are using to conceal themselves is quite adept. I almost missed them to be perfectly honest. But as I am a master of illusions I was able to notice them clearly. No need to thank me." The Spirit of Water boasted proudly.
The teen registered this information and moved his hand, allowing the iron door to close on it's own. Rock and Hikaru gave him a questioning look but instead of addressing them he turned to his right and shouted in a loud voice. "Hey you! I know you're over there in the bushes! You better come out now before I burn you out!"
There was no response. The two males looked back at Azure as if he lost his mind. The boy only grunted and held up his right arm. A fireball blazed to life in his fist and he readied himself to throw the projectile. Just as he was in the motion he heard a voice scream at him from the bushes.
"Stop! Stop! You win okay! I'll come out so please don't start a forest fire!"
A shimmer suddenly jumped from its hiding place and stood before them. It held up it's hands and began to come more into focus for all to see. The concealed individual was a young girl of around Azure's age with short chestnut brown hair, yellow eyes and brown cat ears on the top of her head. She wore a white undershirt under a half buttoned sky blue coat that showed off some of her stomach. A pair of black goggles rested on her forehead, she wore grey shorts and dark brown knee high adventurer's boots. Instead of a belt the girl had a light brown feline tail wrapped around her waist. Finally strapped to her back was a long staff with a pink round jewel at the end.
The mysterious catgirl kept her hands raised in a gesture of surrender. "See I came out just like I said. Now could you please put out your fire? The last thing we need is a blaze that could damage the ruin."
Azure kept his eyes on the beastwoman and lowered his hand, extinguishing the flame. He put his hands in his coat pockets and questioned her harshly. "Who are you?"
She lowered her hands and gave a deep sigh. "God you're scary. If looks could kill I'm pretty sure I'd be lying in a deep grave right now. Well anyway my name is Ryo. I'm a explorer and Spirit Researcher, or I so I like to call myself anyway. I travel to places that people don't go to learn historical information or retrieve rare artifacts that were lost along time ago. I'm here currently to uncover the secrets behind this ruin and if it has any ancient significance to the world around us. Don't worry I'm completely harmless."
"Which makes me think you're anything else." Azure commented with a scoff. "So are you the crazy woman that the big guy who passed us was talking about?"
The beastgirl Rio puffed her cheeks angrily but cutely. "Crazy woman!? I wasn't the one who ran blindly into those traps despite the multiple warnings that I gave him! Beating those Golems made him too arrogant for his own good!"
Rock answered for him. "Physical constructs made of materials like stone ore metal. They were originally weapons mass produced during the human/beastman wars but slowly began to become more scarce over the years. The Military used them once upon a time before the old king's law was passed. From what I remember their powered by a conjunction of human mana gathered together by a group. Trust me when I say that they are trouble. And you said that there are more of them inside this ruin?"
"Yup. And they have an infinite unknown mana source that they're drawing from."
Hikaru glanced at the ruin nervously. "So ancient things like those are still walking around in this place?"
"I'm curious about it too." Ryo replied. "Something here is keeping them working despite the fact that they should be long deactivated. It must be extremely powerful for it to have affected so many Golems. All of the monsters were driven out and now only the Golems and the traps are the only dangers here. I've hired adventurers and mercenaries to help me clear the ruin but so far they were only able to handle the Golems. The traps are lethal and everyone quit because of them. I was forced to leave and wait for someone else to help me go in. And the Golems come back as soon as I reenter the ruin."
Azure shifted his foot and thought over her words. "So how far were you able to get?"
Ryo crossed her arms. "Well the first and third rooms have Golems as guardians but they aren't too difficult to deal with. The second and fourth rooms however are swarming with traps of different varieties. There are pitfalls with spikes, poison gas, hidden mechanisms that shoot streams of fire, and exploding floor tiles. And if you're lucky enough to dodge all of these there is this weird green barrier that prevents people from entering the final chamber. So even if you so happen reach the end you can't make any more progress. I've been trying to get around it but those who manage to make it with me normally give up and leave. At least the traps and Golems don't reset until you reach the exit."
Rock and Azure exchanged glances. They knew that the ruin would be dangerous put they didn't think that it would be by so much. The boy had been to his fair share of tough dungeons but this one definitely seemed different than the rest. Azure began to ponder about the barrier and wondered if it was possible for one of his Spirits to break it. He would just have to wait until he got that far to test his theory.
He turned back to Ryo. "Well thanks for the information. I'm sure once we enter I'll understand how everything works."
Hikaru looked at him with surprise. "Wait are you serious? We're still going in despite what Ryo told us?"
"What happened to that enthusiasm from before? You wanted to explore this place so badly. You don't have to come of course if you're scared."
The brown haired boy blushed and shook his head. "I-I'm not scared at all! Let's do it! I'm ready to give whatever support that I can for you guys!"
Azure smirked and began to move toward the door. Ryo quickly yelled to stop him. "Wait! You guys couldn't possibly make it past the second room without me! Let me be your guide so at the very least you can make it to the final room safely!"
"Not a chance. If we get into trouble I don't want to have to look after someone else. And no offense but you don't really look like the fighting type. Can you even defend yourself?"
Ryo's ears twitch angrily at his comment but she kept her anger in check and grinned smugly at the blue haired teen. "Haven't you ever heard of looks being deceiving? My magic was the reason why we've been able to make it past the first three rooms. And my knowledge of the ruin will ensure that you and your friends will make it out alive. Trust me when I say that being overconfident will get you killed, and I don't want to see a child die if I can stop it." She directed this comment to Hikaru who looked away while blushing even redder.
Azure knew that she was right and sighed, not enjoying the fact that they were taking a total stranger along into a dangerous area. He rubbed his temple in slight frustration and responded to her dryly. "Fine, I'm trusting your word. You better not become a burden."
The explorer girl flashed him a wide smile. "See? I knew that you would see reason." Then looked the three of them over. "Right since I introduced myself its only polite if you did the same."
Rock smirked and extended his hand kindly to her. "Name's Rock. Mercenary extraordinaire with a heart of gold. It's a pleasure to meet another youngster like yourself."
She took his hand and returned his smirk. "Nice to meet you too Mr. Rock. I hope that we get along."
"Now now you don't have to be so formal. Just Rock is fine, adding mister just makes me sound old."
Hikaru stared at her twitching ears and when she noticed him she smiled and ruffled his hair. "Hi kiddo. What's your name?"
"H-Hikaru." The boy answered, enjoying the beastwoman's soft hand running through his short hair.
"What's a little guy like you doing going to such dangerous places? Are you curious about the ruin like me? Let's learn some interesting things together."
Finally she looked at Azure with a mischievous smile. "How about you scary guy? You got a name?"
The boy gave her an annoyed glare before answering. "Azure."
"Nice to meet you."
After introductions were out of the way the trio with the addition of Ryo pushed open the massive doors and entered the ancient ruins. They found themselves in a room with a high ceiling and a staircase descending underground. Azure took the lead and began to climb down with the others following close behind him. He noticed that some of the stairs were cracked and were covered in large amounts of dust and sand. The boy could even swear that he saw several spiders coming out of the cracks and seeming to observe them as they passed by.
The staircase went for what felt like an hour or more. Rock almost dreaded the climb back up the stairs when they eventually had to leave and looked back regretfully. Finally they came to the end of the descent and found another set of large doors standing before them. Ryo took the lead from Azure and gestured toward the doors.
"Okay this is were the first trap is. The Golems are the first obstacle to deal with. For those who never fought a Golem before remember that they move really slow. They can be outmaneuvered easily and they aren't very bright. Just avoid getting hit by one or getting surrounded. Golems focus on brute strength and a punch from one will shatter your entire body. Best not to try blocking either for the same reason. Aim for joints and try to cut off the limbs. That exposes the power cores and striking that destroys them."
Rock nodded. "Right. That's how I remember most people dealing with them. As long as we keep on the move we should have no problems with those walking boulders." He turned to Hikaru and addressed him. "Make sure you stay out of the fighting Hika. If you get in trouble or if we're about to get surrounded just yell and I'll be there."
Hikaru nodded in confirmation and fell to the back of the group. Azure went up to the door and with Rock's help he pushed open the door. They were now in a circular room with drawings of humanoid figures written on the walls. Unlike the entrance the room was supported by gold pillars. The next set of doors were at the other end of the room but Azure noticed a strange glowing symbol flashing on it. Ryo followed his eyes and explained.
"That's a magic seal designed to keep people from moving forward. The spell is ancient and can't be undone even through magic. It disappears when the trap in each room is defeated though."
The room suddenly started to shake and the walls on each side of the room began to open. Lumbering from the holes were the Golems that Ryo had warned them about. They were massive creatures that seemed to be made out of the same stone material as the walls themselves. Their powerful arms dragged on the ground and their legs caused mini craters on the floor of the room as they walked. The head of the creatures were round and a single red orb served as the eye for them. Once they might have been terrifying and intimidating weapons but now it seemed that they had fallen into disrepair. Several of them had chunks missing out of their torsos and their round heads were greatly damaged. Purple smoke poured out of their frames and some looked on the verge of falling apart.
Azure gave them a once over and looked at Ryo skeptically. "These are the dangerous Golems that you were warning us about?"
"Don't let their appearance fool you. They can really take a hit and can crush a our skulls in one hand. The ruin must not have been able to fix them up completely from last time I was here."
The Golems slowly lumbered and stumbled their way toward the party. The two swordsman and the beastwoman drew their weapons and advanced toward the massive constructs. Azure ducked under the swing of a Golem's arm and with a cut the limb off with a mighty slash. The creature roared and tried to grab him but the boy lunged and stabbed it's red eye orb. Sparks flew from the Golem before it let out a final roar and collapsed. The boy removed his sword and engaged another approaching Golem.
Rock deflected a punch from his Golem using the weight of his weapon and his muscles, trapping it's fist into the ground. The older man raised his sword and swung it with great strength, slashing the head off the Golem and sending it flying away. Another lunged at his back but Rock smashed his sword down on the creature's head so hard that it shattered and released a cloud of purple smoke into his face. Rock coughed and stumbled back into the path of a third Golem. Just as it was about to crush the merc a ball of fire slammed into it's torso and knocked the giant onto its back. Ryo had watched the man get blasted by smoke and had cast a powerful fireball to save him. Focusing back on her own opponents she spun her staff and casted another spell.
Thankfully the Golems were super slow. The catgirl had enough time to fully cast her spell and a stream of lightning flew from the pink jewel of her staff and toward the middle giant. The creature roared in pain and the lightning around it jumped at the other Golems surrounding it. Ryo watched in satisfaction as her spell continued to arc to more Golems and destroyed the lot of them. Now only a few remained.
Azure was impressed at the damage that the magic spell had done to their enemies. It saved them a lot of work and effort. He cut the legs off another Golem, which fell and opened its chest to reveal it's power core. The core resembled the red orb that the creature's used for eyes and the boy quickly impaled his blade through it, watching as the Golem spasmed and died. He prepared himself to deal with the next Golem but suddenly he heard a scream.
The teen turned and saw Hikaru being approached by one of the giants. He threw a few of his needles at the Golem but they bounced off its hard frame. The Golem raised its fist to crush the boy but was suddenly frozen solid. Hikaru saw Ryo with her staff pointed at him and gave him a thumbs up. Rock appeared next to the child and shattered the frozen Golem to pieces. He sighed in relief and embraced a terrified Hikaru.
"I'm sorry Hika. Four of them surrounded me and I couldn't...You almost...Thank the Spirits that you're alive." He glanced over at Ryo and smiled. "You have my thanks too. You reacted faster than I did and saved him."
The explorer returned the smile and put away her staff. "Don't mention it. Luckily I managed to finish my Golem off before I heard the scream. I only had time for a half-cast but I'm glad that I made it in time."
Azure had just finished off the last of the Golems and approached them with his sword on his shoulder. "Not bad. You're the second person I know to be surprisingly proficient with magic. But what you're doing is slightly different from my guild mate."
"Yeah I never seen someone who could cast a spell halfway or in its completed forms. Not even Military soldiers can do that and I've known some pretty good casters in my experience. Who taught you how to do that?" Said Rock who had managed to calm down Hikaru.
Ryo crossed her arms behind her back with a proud smirk. "I'm self taught of course. I've been practicing magic since I was a kid and I experimented with my own version of casting. Unlike most I draw my power from lesser spirits in the air and I can instruct them on how powerful I want a spell to be. Half-casting makes the spell weaker obviously but when I fully cast something than the spell doubles in its original power. You won't see anyone else in the world who can do what I can." She finished with a haughty tone.
Azure tilted his head at her. "Lesser Spirits?"
"You don't know about them? Well a lesser spirit is basically a spirit that is on its way into becoming a fully fledged one. Much like mortals spirits go through the cycle of age. They start off as babies, children, teenagers, and adults. A spirit can choose it's form but it can't change its maturity until it gains experience. Mentally a lesser spirit wants to become a full spirit when it has become an adult. So think of lesser spirits as teenagers in a sense even though they are smaller than the eye can see. They are desperate to become full spirits but they can't unless they merge together into one. So I draw them in using that principle with my staff then merge them into a spell instead of a physical form. If I allowed them to continue merging than they'd become a new spirit so I judge how much power I need from them before casting the spell. Its pretty much like fishing using the spirits as fish and my staff as a lure. That's how I prefer to use magic."
Hikaru digested her explanation and he looked at Ryo with stars in his eyes. "Wow! That's so awesome! I didn't know you could trick lesser spirits into turning into anything but a physical form!"
Ryo smirked. "Well it wasn't easy to learn kiddo. You have to be able to judge the number of lesser spirits needed to form the spell in the first place. If you go overboard than you'll accidentally create a spirit. I can't tell you how many I made in my experiments over the years before I perfected the method. Doing this is much easier than making Contracts with spirits like you guys do. If you want I can teach you."
Azure sighed. "Don't we have a ruin to explore?"
"Sorry you're right." Ryo replied, scratching behind her head. She coughed into her fist and approached the door. "Onward to the next trap!"
She forced the doors open and the party were now in a long hallway. At the end of said hallway were more doors. Ryo pointed at the door. "Those will lead us to the second trap. These hallways act as rest points for adventures. There are about three others ahead."
"Well we won't get anywhere standing here. Let's go." Azure said as he led the group down the hallway. Eerily the torches were still lit after being unattended for so long. They lit up the walls which contained writing in an unknown language. Hikaru studied them while he walked and marveled at their designs.
"Man I wish that I could read these writing. The people who made this place must have been really impressive to make these and the drawings in that Golem room."
"Oh they were. From what I understand they had a thing for pottery making and building structures. Apparently they also made a lot of the labyrinths in the world. They were even the first civilization that began creating magic tools which most people still use to this day."
Azure yawned sarcastically. "Fascinating."
Rock laughed. "You really don't have a thing for history huh?"
"All I care about is the treasure these guys are hiding. We can leave the history hunting for those who want to waste their time."
The group stood before the doors to the second room. Azure forced them open and they found themselves staring down another long hallway much like the one they had just been in. The room seemed harmless but there was an ominous air that put Azure's nerves on edge. Ryo's ears twitched as she took a step forward and turned to the three males.
"This is where things get a little complicated. Once we move a few steps there will be a pressure plate that will release poison gas into the room. You can breathe it in for about seven minutes before it starts getting deadly. After that will be the flame trap, then the pitfalls, and tiles that explode if you step on the wrong floor plate. Here, I have these covers to help us endure the gas for a while but we can't fool around. I'll lead and you follow whatever I say. Do that and you will survive." The girl explained as she passed around four white handkerchiefs. Azure and Ryo tied theirs around their nose and mouths while Rock helped Hikaru with his before putting on his own. Ryo checked if they were all prepared before walking forward.
There was the sound of something sinking into the floor and Azure could hear gears turning in the walls around them. Hidden compartments opened from them and began releasing this foul smelling green gas into the room. As it flooded in visibility inside the room began to drop. Ryo countered this issue by casting a light spell on her staff, allowing them to follow her carefully.
The four adventures came to the first real trap. Azure looked at the walls and noticed some nozzles protruding from them. They were radiating a scorching amount of heat and before he could react a stream of flame shot out close to his face and into the wall, charring the structure black. The boy was lucky that he hadn't stepped forward our he'd have been burn to a crisp. The nozzles continued to periodically shoot jets of fire every five seconds, making it dangerous to progress on normal circumstances.
Azure called on the power of Marine and summoned a water dome to surround the group. Ryo saw what he was doing and added her own water magic to the mix, strengthening the dome. They then stepped forward and got hit by the flames. Luckily the strengthened dome endured and survived the attack. It continued to protect them from three move flamethrowers before they got to the other side with some large cracks in the dome. Azure shattered it and the adventures moved on to the next trap.
By now Azure was having a slight issue in breathing. The poison gas has ceased being released but the remaining fog was all around them. Some of it was starting to get through his covering. He knew that the others were feeling the same discomfort and it would get worse as time went on. They needed to get through the room immediately.
The next threat to deal with was the pitfalls. According to Ryo they hid an arrangement of spikes at the bottom that would skewer anyone who fell down into them. A truly messy way to go. Some of the steps before them were fake and if a person carelessly stepped on one than the whole thing would collapse, dropping them to their deaths. Thankfully Ryo had a solution to the problem.
"Alright this trap is a bit tricky to deal with if you don't have someone with earth magic to help find the weak spots in the floor. Luckily I do so I'm gonna use an earth spell in the form of a sonar so I can know which direction is right. You'll have to be ready to jump the gap when I tell you, its not that far so a good hop is all you need. We'll go one at a time so make sure you don't touch the floor as you jump or things will be a little harder for the rest of us when we have to jump."
The three guys nodded in understanding. Azure didn't exactly enjoy trusting someone with his life but the situation was so dire that he had to suck the feeling up. He was running out of air the longer they stayed and the thought of dying from poison seemed worse than that of impalement. The boy tensed himself and prepared for her word to jump.
Ryo closed her eyes and began to chant. "Oh great Spirits of the earth I beseech you. Bless me with your sight and reveal all hidden paths that lie behind illusions. Show me your hidden truths and led the way to our victory. Echo Rhythm!"
A transparent pulse of white light shot out from Ryo's feet to the path ahead of the group. The catgirl's ears twitched as her head turned to the right side of the room. "On the right! Jump now!"
Azure ran forward and sprung into the air. He made sure to tuck in his feet so that they wouldn't make contact with the weak floor. The boy landed and made room for the others to come forward. Ryo jumped next and landed on her feetwith a surprising amount of grace, as expected of a cat beastwoman. Rock jumped third but on his jump, touching the floor with the heel of his boot as he landed and hitting a weak point. One step fell through the floor and then another went with it soon after. The left and middle path fell faster than the one on the right, revealing the spikes below. Azure could see several skeletons impaled in different poisons on the spikes below. most rotted by age while others seemed to be more intact. His body shuddered as he thought about how many people met their ends to these horrible traps. He decided to give the creators a little more credit than he had before.
Hikaru saw this and hesitated. The floor continued to give out and if he didn't move he'd be trapped. Ryo shouted at him in worry. "Don't just stand there kid! You have to hurry and jump or you won't make it!"
"I-I can't! My b-body w-won't move! If I jump now I'll fall in!"
Rock moved forward with his arms out. "Come on and jump Hika! I promise that you won't fall! I'll catch you!"
"B-But I..." The child continued to stutter as the floor continued to give away.
"Is this really how you want things to end brat?!" Azure yelled in anger, his fist clenched at his side. "Didn't you say that you wanted to avenge your sister's death?! How are you gonna do that if you get scared huh?! If you stay here and die?! You don't jump and you'll never accomplish that goal! You'll be another one of these guys buried beneath the earth, forgotten by the world and achieving nothing! Do you have what it takes to make your goals a reality?! Or will you let them all burn and never give the ones you love the justice that they deserve?!"
Those words made Hikaru's eyes widen and a fire burn in his gut. The teen was right. If he died here the child would never be able to avenge his dead sister and mother. They would be forgotten and his father would be left unpunished for the rest of his life. The boy's dreams had perished that day and only the desire for justice was left behind. He decided here and now to give himself over completely to vengeance. He wouldn't allow his new path to end before it even began.
Hikaru took a breath and ran forward with all his determination. The boy jumped just as the last few tiles crumpled, the void of death below him like the teeth of a horrible monster. He reached out to Rock's hands but saw that he had misjudged his jump. The child's heart dropped as his fingers only managed to brush Rock's. His eyes widened in horror as the boy fell toward the spikes. Hikaru closed his eyes and prepared himself for death.
Suddenly a hand shot past Rock and caught the boy's arm. Hikaru felt himself dangling instead of falling and looked to see who had grabbed him. His eyes landed on Azure as the boy stared down at him. His expression was unreadable but Hikaru could see what looked like pride in his eyes. The teen whispered something that only he could hear before pulling him up. "Not bad kid."
The compliment made the brown haired child's eyes water. He didn't know how much he needed to hear those words from the person that he admired most. Azure raised him away from the death drop and dropped him to the ground. Rock hugged Hikaru with general fear at almost losing him and the boy melted into the embrace. Ryo glanced at Azure who was looking away with a blank expression. She smirked and patted his shoulder. "You really are a softie aren't you?"
The adventurer shrugged her off and walked away. She laughed and followed with the merc and Hikaru behind her. They had only one more trap to deal with before they reached the end.
The exploding tile trap was much like the previous one except Ryo didn't need to use her magic to find them. She had marked out a pattern on where the traps were on her many visits so all they needed was to follow closely behind her. Azure felt his body getting slow along with his vision blurring and his lungs burning. The gas was finally starting to affect him and the others. If they didn't hurry and get past the trap they'd pass out and he doubted they'd wake up ever again.
Ryo took the first few steps while gesturing for them to follow. She knew that they had to be careful for if one tile exploded it would trigger a chain reaction that would kill them all. She had seen it happen before and wasn't keen on being the one to experience it herself. They moved slowly with Ryo in the lead followed by Azure, Hikaru, and Rock. The fear of simultaneous death was in them as the men followed the beastwoman's steps.
Azure felt some nervous sweat begin to trail down his face. He quickly wiped it away before it could fall clear. He didn't know if it would have been enough to trigger the trap but he knew that it wasn't worth finding out. They were halfway through the death traps when the sound of violent coughing could be heard directly behind him. Hikaru's breathing was growing hoarse and the sudden movement from his coughing almost made him step on a wrong tile. Rock leaned forward, grabbing the child's collar and pulling him back. He thanked the merc who was giving him a worried stare. The poison was finally getting suffocating and it had almost cost them their lives. They didn't have much time left. Ryo sensed the situation and sped up her pace, stepping swiftly but lightly to avoid any fake tiles. Azure matched her movements carefully while keeping an eye on his two companions.
At last they came to the end of their deadly walk. The gas was significantly weaker here and the adventurers could finally breathe easily. Azure removed his face mask and sat against the right wall to soak in the fresh air. His dizziness had worn off and his vision was coming back to him. Rock took a deep long inhale and smiled before yelling in a loud voice. "Finally! I almost forgot what clean air smelled like! These old lungs of mine were about to burst so many times back there that I was sure I was dead! I really envy you kids and your strong lungs sometimes!"
Ryo giggled as she regained her breath as well. "Oh? I thought that you didn't like feeling old? I'm sure you still have plenty more life in you than us kids do. Though I am a little surprised you went through without any discomfort. You handled the situation like a pro."
"Well I was trained to hold my breath and endure low oxygen environments back in my former Military days. And I've been through equally worse situations than this as a mercenary so I'm used to things like this."
"Wait you were a soldier?" The explorer asked, her eyes widening in shock. "I wouldn't have thought it but seeing how you fight I suppose I can believe it. Though I gotta ask why an ex Military soldier is traveling with two minors, or why he left to begin with?"
Rock's eyes darkened and he looked away. "I-It's not important right now. Just think of me as a bodyguard to these two. As a friend to all children I made it my job to keep them safe."
"Friend to all children? Well considering how emotional you got over the kid almost falling into the spike trap I can see that you take your job seriously. We had a few close calls but I'm glad to see you guys are better at following instructions than the other people I worked with. Guess not many of them trust a Beastman as a guide." Ryo said, looking at her feet sadly at the last comment.
Azure glanced over at her. He had been educated by his guild mates on the discrimination that Beastmen endured from humans but never understood it himself. The boy had many clients who were Beastmen and they were generally nice people. Just because they had extra features didn't mean they were any different from humans. He felt some sympathy for the girl but remained silent. Humans were cruel creatures, she would just have to get used to that.
After finally regaining their strength the four adventurers pushed through another door and entered the third room of the ruin. It was an exact replica of the first room with the same mechanisms. Already Azure could hear the walls shifting and heavy footsteps moving towards them. Similar Golems to the other ones appeared before them except these were undamaged and looked perfectly functional. Azure, Rock, and Ryo drew their weapons and readied themselves against the approaching constructs. Just as they were about to lunge forward a loud female voice suddenly echoed through the room.
"Stop! Stop! There's no good in fighting these travelers! Let them pass already! Oh and deactivate the other four rooms will you guys?! They're obviously capable so let's not waste any more time than we already have!"
Instantly the Golems stopped. They looked at one another with what could be interpreted as confusion before their inner lights dimmed. The constructs fell to the ground one after the other like discarded corpses. Tiny colorful wisps of light flew from them and into the ceiling, the sounds of childish laughter emitted from them as they vanished. The four adventurers exchanged confused glances before putting away their weapons. Rock as usual broke the silence with the question on everyone's minds. "What just happened?"
They looked at Ryo who shook her head frantically. "I don't know what's going on either! This has never happened to me before! Usually we'd fight the Golems than continue to the final trap which has to do with puzzles! More importantly were those wisps of light Lesser spirits?! That must have been the reason why the Golems still operate even after centuries of disrepair! Now it all makes sense! They've been inhabiting the bodies this whole time!"
"Spirits can inhabit non-living things?" Asked Hikaru.
"Most spirits prefer having living beings as hosts than objects because they are allowed the chance to see the world again through the host's eyes. Others don't care only wanting a physical form regardless of being alive or not. Some spirits will even go as far as possessing corpses just for a desperate chance to be human once again. Unfortunately by taking over a non-living host the spirit runs the risk of being permanently trapped in that vessel with no means of escape. I heard that some spirits would lose their sanity from the crushing feeling of being trapped. These spirits being lesser ones don't have that issue and can freely exit their vessels. But I wonder why they are here and what is their reason for controlling them?"
"That voice...It couldn't have been." Azure heard the voice of Pyrha in his head say.
"You know who the person talking to us was?"
Marine entered the conversation. "We may know who it is. But the odds of it being who we think it is is very low."
"If it is her than things might get a little complicated." Pyrha replied.
The voice of the mysterious girl spoke again. "Hey guys can you move things along! I'd like it if you continued! I'm a little interested in you four and would very much like to meet you! So could you please get going!"
From what Azure could tell the voice was pretty young, about that of a teenager similar to Pyrha. The boy shrugged knowing that he wouldn't find answers by just standing around and followed the voice's instructions. Reluctantly his three comrades followed him.
They found themselves in a room filled to the brim with writing and symbols. There were pools of water on the outer edges of the room with strange lines spreading from them to the ground and to a large blue ring in the center. There were also mechanisms above that Azure was curious about. Based on how they were located directly above the pools Azure could guess that their purpose was to overflood the pools with water which would spread to the entire room. It would fill slowly but surely until it completely filled the room unless the trap was disarmed. He remembered Ryo talking about this room being full of puzzles, meaning that only by solving them would the water recede. This room was designed to drown explorers who couldn't solve the riddles located on the walls around them. Thankfully it looked to have been disarmed already and the door was open. The boy sighed in relief, drowning was one of his biggest fears and he was grateful that they could skip the trap.
The four comrades went through the open doors to the last room of the ruins. Unlike the other rooms this one was huge and mostly empty. It had a single door that was golden and covered in glowing green runes. Shimmering in the middle of the room was a large emerald green barrier that cut the travelers off from the impressive door. Azure and the others approached it cautiously. The boy rapped his knuckles on the barrier to test it's sturdiness. Ryo crossed her arms while studying the obstacle.
"This thing always pops up whenever me and the other adventurers get this far. It's completely immune to physical and magic attacks even when combined together. Not even a full cast from me could break through it."
Rock whistled as he ran his hand down the barrier. "I've never seen anything as well crafted as this before. Most barriers are only able to maintain their shape for a limited amount of time. For it to be bound to this room and still functioning even after the original caster died is pretty crazy."
"So how are we going to get past it?" Asked Hikaru.
"Based on my analysis the barrier seems to only be effective against low to mid tier magic spells." Ryo explained. "Everyone that I brought here could only use about that level of magic and as such even together they couldn't penetrate the obstruction. I have a theory that if someone were to hit it with a attack of higher level than the whole thing should ripple and shatter apart. Unfortunately I haven't been able to meet anyone who could use any spells of that tier."
Azure scanned the barrier closely for any signs of weakness. He had been told back during his magic lessons at the guild that no barrier was impervious. Everything had a weak point and this was no different. He only had to find a spot where the flow of energy was weaker than the rest of the structure. That was why he was tapping around the barrier in hopes of finding a weaker area.
Eventually he felt a spot that was less sturdy compared to the others. The teen studied the point with a carefully trained eye. One of the most important lessons that he remembered was that just because the point on a barrier was weak it didn't mean that it would break easily. It would take a lot of power to cut a hole in the shield and once it happened the entire thing would fall apart.
"Hmm, I don't know if my magic alone could blast through this. The spells that I have now are powerful but I can tell that the barrier is too well made to hit one at a time. If only I could mix them together than I'd have something that could blow it away in one shot."
The voice of Marine spoke in his mind. "Young Master if I could there is a simple solution to the problem. Would you like us to teach it to you?"
"A solution? What is it?"
"Oh yes I almost forgotten that about." Pyrha joined it. "Well Master there is a technique that we can show you that will allow you to combine multiple elements together. It's something that Lord Isaac was quite an expert at and given your shared blood I am certain that you can pull it off too."
That intrigued Azure. "Okay, show me how it works."
Marine cleared her throat and took over the explanation. "This technique that we are about to teach you is what is known as Fusing. It lets the user, which is you, combine the powers of two or more spirits together in order to create a combo move. To properly use it you must enter two different state of minds at the same time then force those states to merge as one. The Serene State technique is one example as you can only do it if I am with you. You must merge that with whatever technique you use with Pyrha. Our spiritual energies both fire and water should fill your body and you may do whatever you want with them."
"The only drawbacks with this ability is in the combination itself." Added Pyrha. "If the two spirits oppose one another or dislike the other than the merge won't be possible. You will have to find some way for the two to cooperate or switch them out. Luckily despite being opposites Marine and I get along well so there is no issue there. Lord Isaac had ways to get us all to work together even merge all of our powers at the same time. It should be simple for you to link us as long as you can hold onto both states simultaneously."
"Simultaneously huh? Well it's not like I have any other choices right now."
The blue haired boy closed his eyes and drew his sword. Both spirits appeared behind him and placed their hands on his shoulders. Azure could feel the warm yet pleasant spiritual energy of Pyrha flow into his being. The sensation was empowering and filled him with courage. It was a feeling that he had known for as long as he could remember. Then he felt Marine's cool and calming energy enter him. The boy felt like he was in a complete state of tranquility, like all of his worldly problems were melting down a neverending stream. The two sensations were so different yet so pleasant that he was surprised that he hadn't thought of it until now. They clashed but not in a hostile manner that one would expect. Both caressed him in different ways, one encouraging and the other comforting. It was like having two mothers at his back who always supported him.
Azure felt the two energies begin to circle around eachother while using his body as their catalyst. This process took a physical form in the real world with the energies of water and fire swirling around his blade like a drill. The others were watching the boy in awe as the power was getting more and more intense. Ryo's eyes in particular were widened as she recognized the two Great Spirits at Azure's back. The boy opened his eyes and got into a stance with his foot behind him. The drill-like magical energy completely covered his sword and with a yell the teen drove it into the barrier's weak point. A clash of power ensured which pushed back everything around Azure, his comrades included.
The boy held his ground as the barrier tried to force him back. It was like a physical thing desperately fighting against him. He gritted his teeth and forced himself forward. The two Great Spirits tightened their holds on Azure's shoulders and pushed along with him. With their added strength Azure could see cracks begin to form in the barrier. Eventually the blade penetrated inch by inch until it shattered the entire structure completely. Azure panted heavily as Pyrha and Marine vanished back into his fake arm. Rock, Hikaru, and Ryo were all watching him with their mouths wide open, almost touching the floor.
Hikaru shook his head out of the awed expression and smiled at the older boy. "Amazing! Big bro Azure really is powerful!"
"Yeah." Rock agreed. "Never seen you do that before. I knew you were special but you keep managing to defy my expectations."
Ryo had a entirely different reaction than the others. She had been struck speechless at what she had witnessed. Her cat ears twitched as she looked from where the barrier was to Azure, words finally coming to the girl. "W-What just happened?! W-Were those two of the Great Spirits behind you?! B-But that shouldn't be possible! No human alive could produce enough mana to allow something as godlike as that into themselves! The process would be too straining on a Contractors body and would kill you! What are you exactly?!"
Rock answered for him with a wide smirk. "Unique is what he is. Apparently he's got some very special blood in him. So special in fact that he's capable of taking in Great Spirits and overcoming the impossible."
"Special blood? What do you mean?" The explorer's eyes twinkled as she took out a pen and notepad. "Something like this is too interesting to pass up! It could be just what I need for my spiritual research!"
"It's not important." Azure interrupted, sheathing his sword and wiping sweat from his brow. His entire face were drenched and his sword arm felt numb. He had never used a power as intense as that before and it had left his body more exhausted than he had ever been. He wondered why.
"That is too be expected Master." Explained Pyrha. "It was your first Fusing and you are still new to being jn two simultaneous states of mind. As you are now you'll exhaust your mana every time but with more practice and experience your body should eventually adapt to having multiple sensations flowing through it."
Marine yawned as she spoke as well. "Ahhh, that took a bit out of me. I haven't merged my elemental power with anyone in a long time. I've gotten rusty. Still it was nice working with you again little Pyrha. You always know exactly how I think. And your flames are as pretty as ever."
"T-Thank you for the compliment. I will admit I missed linking with you. It always make my head feel clear."
"If only we could link in other ways too fufufu." Marine said in a seductive tone.
"W-What the hell is that supposed to mean?! Uh I knew your mind would get dirty somewhere! I'm ending this conversation!" Stuttered Pyrha as her voice suddenly got silent.
Azure heard Marine snicker before going silent as well. "So cute."
After finally being left alone in his thought the boy walked toward the golden door before him. The others followed and they all stopped in front of the impressive structure. With some assistance from Rock the teen pushed the door open slowly. What they found was not what they expected.
When Azure was approaching the door he was fantasizing on what would have been behind it. Of course treasure had been on his mind considering he knew that dangerous things normally yielding sweet rewards at the end. However he found no treasure or precious riches. The entire room only contained a single golden throne and laid across it was a sleeping girl. She looked to be a teenager around his age with long dark green hair tied in a ponytail and flawless pale skin. The girl was slender and wore a forest green and black mini dress that showed off her shoulders. A dark green skirt waved at her knees and she was barefoot. The girl was snoring loudly and looked completely peaceful, not even hearing the travelers enter the room.
Everyone exchanged glances as they wondered what was up with this mysterious young girl. The aura she gave off was drowsy and sluggish. Azure felt himself yawning just from being near the green haired girl. What was she doing here at the end of a trap filled place like this? Who was she?
As if voicing his thoughts Rock spoke up with his arms crossed over his chest. "Um, why exactly is there a little girl here? Who is she?"
"Most importantly why is she sleeping in here?" Wondered Hikaru as he studied the room.
Ryo looked the girl over with her head tilted curiously. "The energy she is giving off doesn't feel human. My guess is that she's a spirit, maybe the one who created the barrier to begin with."
Azure was silent as he began to approach the golden throne. The green haired girl didn't react to the sound of his footsteps and continued to snooze. He didn't know why he was doing this but it was like something within was drawing him toward the girl. The others remained where they were as the teen climbed the stairs of the throne and stood over the sleeping figure. Despite him towering over her the slumbering spirit didn't move an inch.
Now that he was here Azure honestly didn't know what to do. How could he wake someone who was so deep in slumber? The boy leaned down a little to inspect the girl. He found her sleeping face somewhat cute, especially the way her nose twitched from time to time. When he realized what he was just thinking he blushed and backed away slightly. Why did he just think something like that? Azure wasn't the type to focus on a girl's features, being to driven to his goal to pay attention to things like that.
Shaking his head to clear his thoughts Azure raised his hand toward the spirit. He gently poked her on the forehead. She stirred for a moment before resuming her snoring. Azure glared at her before poking her again. Still the result was the same. Gritting his teeth the teen poked her once more, only harder this time. This seemed to have some effect as the girl began to shift slightly. Now annoyed Azure continued to poke her without mercy until the spirit finally opened her eyes. She blinked and yawned loudly before focusing her attention on the boy with tired green orbs.
"Good morning. Wait, who are you again?"
Azure sweatdropped and crossed his arms in anger. How could this girl had forgotten them when she just talked to them a few minutes ago? Was she some kind of airhead? "We're the intruders you spoke to not too long ago! You said you were interested in us remember?!"
Tilting her head the green wearing girl looked him up and down. Her eyes flashed in recognition as she raised herself into a sitting position. "Oh yeah I know you now. I'm sorry about that my memory tends to slip whenever I sleep. And that happens more times than I'd like to admi-"
Suddenly the girl stopped and studied Azure again. She raised herself off her throne and stood in front of the boy, her face only inches away from his own. The teen blushed and took a step back, almost tripping down the stairs at her close proximity. Putting a hand to her chin the green haired girl gave him a suspicious glare. "Hey, I don't know why but I'm getting a weird feeling coming off you. This presence I'm sensing is super familiar but I can't think where I felt it before. Tch, remembering is so difficult after I wake up. Come on brain! Work for once!"
Azure didn't know what to think as the girl continued studying him. He could practically see steam coming out of the girl's ears as she tried to work through her thoughts. The teen guessed that she wasn't one for using her head too often. After a few minutes of this the girl gasped which made Azure almost jump away from instinct alone.
"I got it! The presence I'm feeling is just like Master Isaac's magic power! Your emitting an aura of elemental energy that's the same as his but slightly weaker! I knew I'd get it eventually! Good job Sylph!" The girl yelled all of this with a cheeky smile while giving him a thumbs up as if she accomplished something important.
Azure facepalmed while sighing to himself. To the boy this spirit girl seemed to be nothing but a smiling idiot. The others also were coming to the same conclusion. Rock was scratching behind his head sheepishly while Hikaru had his head tilted in confusion. Ryo was grinning in amusement at the spirit's behavior. She had never met one who was as scatterbrained as this spirit was. Such a discovery was definitely going down in her notebook.
Lowering her arm the Great Spirit Sylph frowned at Azure. "But for some reason I can feel another presence flowing through you. Two presences actually and they feel just like mine."
"Heh, long time no see Sylph. You never seem to change do you? Always sleeping in the strangest of places." The voice of Marine said.
"I was afraid we'd run into her again." Sighed Pyrha. "Looks like her intelligence hasn't grown in the slightest since we've been separated has it?"
"Pyrha?! Mari?! Is that you guys?!" Sylph exclaimed in shock. Azure didn't know how she could hear their voices inside his mind, he guessed it was a perk to being a Great Spirit. The two spirit women materialized in their physical forms beside Azure. Sylph squealed happily and leapt into Marine's waiting arms, laughing with joy as she pressed her head into the blue haired woman's large bosom. She then turned to Pyrha who was looking away with her arms crossed and practically tackled the redhead. She tried to escape the taller girl's tight embrace but Sylph's hold was like steel. Just as her face was starting to turn blue from lack of oxygen Sylph released her, allowing Pyrha to crumble to the ground as she struggled to catch her breath.
The green girl bounced up and down on her heels as she addressed her friends. "Man has it been so long since I've seen you two! I've really missed you all! Ever since we got separated I've been so bored! I tried to go to all our favorite fun spots but the humans kept forcing me out! It took a few months to find a place where mortals wouldn't bother me but eventually I managed to find these ruins! It's so old and dangerous that no one comes here, well except for a few trespassers but they normally get killed by the traps so I've be able to get a lot of sleep! What about you guys?! What have you been up to?!"
Pyrha finally regained her breath and answered the girl with a weary expression on her face. "Well I was reduced to a Spirit stone and got bounced all around the country until I eventually got stuck at the bottom of a stream for a while. That was certainly a enjoyable experience. And Marine became the guardian to a small town that treated her like some kind of water deity. She hid herself away in a cave under a waterfall. Compared to me her life was perfect."
"Now now, that isn't true my dear Pyrha. I'll have you know I was suffering just as much as you were. You will never understand the trials and urges that I had to overcome before the young Master found me. The constant boredom, the effort of finding fresh food, the pain of searching for a handsome man who fit my standards but failing each time, and the sexual frustrations I had that could never be fulfilled by my lonesome. Oh how awful life had been in that cave with no contact besides those fanatic mortals as my only company!" The blue haired woman whined with her hands on her face, unashamed at the information that she just let fly for all to hear.
Azure and the others looked at the spirit with judgemental expressions of disgust. The only one who didn't understand her words was Hikaru who looked between everyone in a confused silence. Pyrha pinched her forehead at her friend and growled in a annoyed tone. "What the hell is wrong with you! Don't you have any class! No one needed to know that pointless information!"
"Looks like you haven't changed either Mari! You're still as honest and open as ever! It's why I admire you so much!" Laughed Sylph. Her amused expression then dropped as she looked at Azure. "So what are you two doing with a human huh? I might be remembering wrong but weren't we warned about making pacts with mortals or something? My head's been so fuzzy lately it's been hard to remember stuff from the past every now and then."
Pyrha cleared her throat. "Yes you are correct about that. I'm surprised that piece of information managed to sink into that tiny brain of yours. Well Sylph you'll be happy to know that this boy is a blood relative to the Master. He managed to inherit his vast source of mana so he is capable of making pacts with beings as powerful as us. The young Master here saved me from my, ahem...embarrassing situation and recruited Marine to his side by passing her test. This man is named Azure."
Sylph turned to Azure with wide eyes, making the teen look away uncomfortably. That was the third time he had been told that he was the hero Isaac's blood relative. When he had first started training with Pyrha back in the guild she had told him all about Isaac. The boy listened to the noble tales of his relative and had always felt awkward. Compared to him Azure's only goal in life was revenge. He didn't really care about the world or anything else so how could he be related to someone who represented so much good. Sure he shared Isaac's love of spirits but that was all. Even the guild was nothing more than a means to an end for the blue haired teen. Azure's heart was cold and driven by raw hatred, while Isaac was friendly and only desired peace. A repulsive being like him had no right to be related to someone so important. Especially now as he was seen as a criminal in the eyes of the world and would do whatever it took to achieve his mission's success.
To his surprise Sylph tackled him in a hug, throwing her body weight into the boy and causing them both to fall down the throne stairs. Azure groaned in pain as he tried to pry the Great Spirit off. She just giggled and pressed her head into his chest. "Master's relative! I can't believe I get to finally meet a member of his family! He's so warm just like the Master was! They even look exactly alike!"
Finally Azure managed to force her off his body and stand up. His face was red from the physical contact. Sylph picked herself up and patted down her dress. She coughed into her fist and tried to make herself look more professional though he could still see that she was bouncing on her heels. "Excuse me. I let my emotions get too out of hand. I guess we should get down to business right?"
The green girl walked back to sit on her throne. Afterwards she crossed one leg over the other and looked down at the group, yawning loudly before speaking. "Allow us to start over. Welcome travelers to my throne room and the end of your journey. You managed to survive all my traps and Golems, congratulations. You have my praise and admiration. My name is Sylph, the Great Spirit of Wind and caretaker to these ruins. It is a pleasure to meet you all."
As she said these words familiar wisps of light flew from the walls of the room and behind the throne in a dramatic manner. The room lit up in a shimmer of light reminiscent to a rainbow. Hikaru and Ryo clapped while Rock looked on in awe. Azure wasn't impressed and crossed his arms to show it. Sylph snapped her fingers and the wisps immediately flew away, then she addressed Azure.
"Now, what is your reason for coming here? What had drove you to brave the dangers of these ancient walls and face death time and time again? Tell me your desires and I shall do my best to grant them to you."
The boy felt Marine's hand touch his shoulder and he moved slightly so she could whisper in his ear. "Young Master this is the perfect chance to recruit Sylph to your side. She might be a little scatterbrained but her power would be of great use to you. I am sure Sylph will be delighted to come along with us."
He nodded and addressed the waiting Sylph, his voice calm and clear. "Great Spirit of Wind Sylph. I desire nothing but to make a Contract with you. Please lend me your strength and join me on my mission to destroy the Military Laboratories."
"So your mission is to destroy hm? Well you are possess the will to survive my obstacles and are obviously powerful in you own right. And I'd love to travel with Pyrha and Mari again. But I can't merely lend my strength to someone untrustworthy. Sorry but I'm going to have to give you a little test to see if you a mortal worth serving."
Azure gave Marine a sidelong glance. The blue haired woman looked away and began to whistle under his intense glare. The teen sighed then turned back to Sylph. "What do you want from me?"
The Spirit of Wind yawned and leaned back on her throne. "Well you see I've got a bit of a problem. I'm a little embarrassed about it actually but since I don't have a test I think it's the perfect thing for a capable guy like yourself. Remember that barrier from before? Well it wasn't just to keep intruders out. It was to keep out something worse too."
"What do you mean?" Asked Azure.
"I've been so lonely in this place. So lonely in fact that I thought it would be a good idea to gather together some lesser spirits and make them into my friends. Or I guess you can call them my servants. Let me tell you for little guys they sure know how to have fun. They integrated perfectly with the ruin and it's defense systems. This place and the history behind it is sacred to them and they don't enjoy trespassers traipsing through. When explorers started coming here searching for treasure and artifacts I suggested that they use the ruin's Golem warriors and traps to fight back. Together I helped them plan out strategies to kill or scare off humans who were too stubborn to give up. That girl over there was especially meddlesome to them with her temptations and trap knowledge." Sylph pointed at Ryo who smirked smugly at the Great Spirit.
"Well anyway I started to get a bit lazy with the maintenance on the ruins. I mean I had my friends and so far no one managed to get as far as you four did. So I allowed them to handle things while I slept throughout the day. After all if I'm not playing than I always asleep. The process had been going well for a while now, until a month ago."
"What happened?" Marine asked. She had a sneaking suspicion that Sylph's laziness had gotten her in some sort of trouble just as it had in the past.
The green girl chuckled to herself nervously. "You see I was here snoozing away like always. My friends were keeping the place safe and it was a really slow day. I remember being pestered by my servants because I was being a little too lazy on my responsibility as a Great Spirit. I thought that was totally untrue and we got into an argument. Then all of a sudden I felt something poof into existence in the ruin, like literally poof. Nothing was there and then bam it was there. A big Spirit Portal!"
Pyrha gave her a serious look. "A Spirit Portal? Here? That doesn't make any sense. Only the Spirit King has the ability to create portals out of thin air. I know that sometimes they can appear but the chances of that happening are extremely rare."
"I know! I had said the same thing!" Sylph agreed. "It was just floating in the air all big and glowy. I could feel the magic pouring off it in waves and it made the room super cold."
Azure raised his hand. "What's a Spirit Portal?"
Marine answered him like a teacher would a student. "A Spirit Portal is basically a tear in the dimensions that act as a form of zipper separating the world of mortals from the Spirit World. It is normally formed when a spirit is crossing over to here or going back to our plane. They close with time but on occasion they tend to remain open, providing easy access for the denizens of one world to enter the other. It stays suspended in the air and on surfaces, glowing with magic. Thankfully with such portals, which are blue in color, the magic around them will decay with time and force the tear to close. It is dangerous for a human to use one because of the damage transferring can cause to your bodies. Not only that but our world brims with elemental energies that would quickly destroy anyone who is not used to the environment."
Sylph grinned. "Wow yeah that's right! I totally forgot about all of that!" Everyone fell flat on there faces after hearing that she forgot such important information. Just how airheaded was this spirit. "You're as smart as always Mari! So yeah this portal thingy was just floating there pulsing with magic power. My friends didn't know what to do about it so they asked me to handle it."
"And did you?" Pyrha questioned with her arms crossed.
"Well...No. See I was still super exhausted from a party we had the other night and I ignored the thing. The little guys kept pestering me to do my job as a Great Spirit and close it. But I just didn't have the energy nor patience to make myself commit to it."
"Wow how irresponsible." Thought everyone in the room as they summed up the lazy wind spirit.
The Spirit of Fire gave her friend a stern glare with her arms still crossed. Her hair was beginning to smolder and rise slightly, indicating to everyone that she was growing angry. "So what did you do?"
Sylph trembled at the shorter girl's display of power while trying to think up the answer. "I went back to sleep of course. And then when they continued to bug me I told them to investigate and close it themselves."
"You would give lesser spirits such an important job? You do realize they are children compared to us right?" The redhead scolded, glaring at Sylph with an intensity that could melt an iceberg. The green haired spirit was left stumbling over her words.
"I-I didn't let t-them do it without p-protection of course! I told them to use a Golem, you know for the strong defense. A Golem body would have been the perfect tool for the job. So one of the little guys took over the body and went over to the portal. T-That's where things got...Complicated.
Pyrha's glare never left Sylph as she spoke in a menacing low voice. "Sylph, what color was that portal exactly? You said that it made the room feel cold. What was the color?"
Sylph refused to look at Pyrha while twiddling her thumbs. She could still feel the fire spirit's gaze on her and was squirming in fear. Finally she spoke in a small, almost inaudible voice. "Purple."
"PURPLE!" Roared Pyrha as her head literally erupted in flames. Everyone took a step back even Azure. He had never seen the girl get this mad before. The sheer power she was giving off was staggering to him. Sylph shook on her throne while the redhead practically screamed at her. "YOU IRRESPONSIBLE MORON! YOU WILLING SENT YOUR SUBORDINATE TO SEAL SOMETHING LIKE THAT ALONE?! THAT'S A CORRUPTED PORTAL YOU DUMBASS!"
The green haired girl tried desperately to speak in her defense. "But it's been a long time since I saw or sensed a corrupted portal. I know that I messed up but can you really blame me? What's the point in having servants if you can't use them."
"YOU'VE ALWAYS BEEN LIKE THIS! YOU NEVER TAKE THINGS SERIOUSLY, YOU SLACK OFF ALL THE TIME, AND YOU TRY TO PUT YOUR WORK ON OTHER PEOPLE! YOU CAUSED MASTER ISAAC NOTHING BUT TROUBLE AND YOU NEVER LEARN! WHEN WILL YOU ACCEPT YOUR ROLE AS A GREAT SPIRIT AND TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR ACTIONS?!"
Sylph dropped her head in sadness as Pyrha's words washed over her. The redhead felt a hand rub her back and turned to see Marine with a frown on her pretty face. She put a little of her magic into the contact in order to soothe her raging friend. Pyrha locked eyes with her as the anger she was feeling started to die away. The flames in her hair got smaller and smaller until only a few wicks remained. Finally all of the fire disappeared and Pyrha returned to normal. She had a look of regret on her face as she attempted to apologize to the wind spirit. "I'm sorry Sylph. What I said was too harsh. I didn't mean it."
The girl shook her head. "No, you're right. I'm a terrible Great Spirit. I'm always making excuses not to do work and slacking off. If I had just closed the portal then and there we wouldn't be in this situation. And my friend would have been safe."
"What do you mean?" Ryo asked.
"She...She tried to force the portal closed with the immense strength that the Golem body possessed. But as soon as she touched the thing she got infected by the purple energy flowing around it. She screamed in pain and tried to escape but it was too late. The portal changed her, made her into an unrecognizable monster. A Dark Spirit."
Azure raised an eyebrow and repeated the name. "Dark Spirit?"
This time Pyrha answered his question. "When a spirit comes into contact with a purple portal or negativity it becomes a Dark Spirit. They are beasts that only live to kill and destroy. Not many people can deal with those monsters even we Great Spirits struggle with them. Mortal produce two types of energy that flows from their bodies, positive energy and negative energy. Spirits gain their power from the prayers of mortals around us, which can be classified as positive energy. We fed off of this energy to survive and maintain order to the world. In a way you can say that we need mortals just as much as you need us. But not all mortals freely produces the power of course. Sometimes there is an imbalance and negative energy is created. That energy is extremely toxic to a spirit. It corrupts us, causes us unimaginable pain. Most spirits can endure it for a while but if there is too much negative energy entering us than we become these beings. Our forms shift, our elements warp and become twisted, and evil power fills our every pour. Even a Spirit Portal can be affected by such an influence. We are driven from our original purpose and filled with thoughts of violence and destruction. A Dark Spirit is the ultimate abomination in our society. The only cure is for the spirit to be defeated and that is not a simple task."
Ryo's eyes widened as she listened to the redhead's explanation. "Wait. You mean Dark Spirits actually exist? I heard cases of it but I thought they were just exaggerated reports."
"Oh no they exist all right." Marine replied. "I'd bet that some human settlements had been attacked by Dark Spirits that your kind wrote off as wild animals or the like."
Sylph continued. "My friend ended up forceably sucking up the negative energy around the portal into herself. She got trapped in the Golem's body and blamed me for it. Then she started going on a rampage, attacking the other lesser spirits and breaking my Golems. I tried to stop her but I couldn't bring myself to hurt a friend. So I gathered all the little guys together and hid in this room. I created the wind barrier to stop anyone from entering, human and spirit alike. My friend tried to break it but I made sure to reinforce it with a special magic whenever she showed up. She is still in here somewhere and I doubt she's going anywhere. She blames me for her condition after all and she won't stop until she finally gets me."
Azure looked back the way they had come. "Where is she now?"
"She was most likely asleep in the room where we store the Golems. Once a day my friend would attack the barrier for a few hours before going back. Now that its gone I suppose she'll be making her way over here now, especially with the massive amount of energy you used to cut through it."
"So what do you want me to do about it?" The boy asked.
Sylph closed her eyes and took a deep breathe. She was obviously stressed over Pyrha's words from earlier and it was started to show. When she looked at Azure for the first time the boy could tell that she was serious. "Destroy the Golem's body and rescue my friend. After that I need help closing the portal. If you can survive and do this for me I'll gladly join your side."
Azure thought over her request. He didn't know anything about Dark Spirits but he could tell that this would be a dangerous battle. The Golem would no doubt be powered up by the negative energy. To be honest he was nervous but knew that the opportunity to gain more power was too good to pass up. The blue haired boy would have to trust in his skills and his spirits to help him win the day.
"Alright. I will accept your request. I can't promise I won't end up killing that spirit but I'll give this my best shot."
"And we'll help too!" Rock said cheerfully as the three onlookers stepped forward. Their faces were hardened and ready for battle.
Sylph shrugged. "Go ahead. The more the merrier in fact. If you'll have a better time using numbers I won't stop you. The test is to simply defeat it after all, it doesn't just go to one person." The Great Spirit then looked at the doors behind them. "And looks like we're about to have company. You guys better get ready!"
The four comrades turned to face the doors as well. Marine and Pyrha returned to Azure's arm as the boy drew his sword. The sound of heavy metallic footsteps could be heard rushing toward them. They heard it running through the previous room and come barrelling to their location. Like a battering ram a powerful force smashed into the door and made the entire thing shake from the impact. A few seconds later came another powerful hit that was similar to that of a hammer. The strength behind each blow could be felt by everyone in the room. Azure could tell based on the timings of the attacks that the creature causing this much damage was definitely angry. The doors wouldn't last long under the bone shattering power that the enemy Golem was using.
His prediction came true as after three more hits the large doors were flung straight off their hinges and hit the wall on opposite sides of the throne. The hostile Golem entered the room, it's heavy steps creating vibrations on the floor that everyone could feel. It was bigger and bulkier than the other Golems had been. Unlike the others this one was perfectly intact with it's core completely hidden by a thick metal plate. A single purple eye glared down at the occupants of the room. Likewise a similarly colored aura was radiating off of the Golem's body which felt unbelievably thick and malicious. The giant focused its attention on Sylph and roared in a layered voice that was earsplitting to Azure and the others. Then it started to approach them, murderous intent rolling off of it in waves as it lumbered forward.
Azure and his companions readied themselves before charging straight toward the dark giant. The Golem didn't pay them any mind at first, focusing only on the Great Spirit that put it in this situation to begin with. Taking his chance Azure racked his sword down the construct's side. It didn't do much damage because of the creature's strong defenses. The Golem glared at him and swung its fist but the boy swiftly dived out of the way. Rock ran up it's arm with a smirk and tried to stab at the purple eye. With a surprising amount of speed and intelligence the Golem leaned away from the merc just as his sword scrapped it's head. Rock leapt off the giant's back and switched positions with Azure.
While the two swordsmen distracted the Golem Ryo had been fully casting a spell which took on the form of a magic circle that grew around her feet. The catgirl closed her eyes as she began to chant. "Oh Forces Of Frost And Everlasting Winter, Your Humble Servant Begs Of You For Aid! Chill My Enemies To The Bone And Unleash Upon Them A Frozen Hell! Frigid Coffin!"
She unleashed the spell and let it go to work. The air around the Golem began to chill and quickly it found that it's joints were beginning to lock up. As the two males watched frost began spreading around the giant's frame and slowed it's movements. The Golem struggled to move its body but was completely immobile and open to attack. Ryo yelled at Azure and Rock. "Now guys! Don't hold anything back!"
They nodded and charged for the construct again. Azure put all his muscle behind his great sword and shattered the Golem's frozen arm. Rock did the same and left the Golem without any arms. It began to shake violently in an attempt to escape but Ryo focused more power into her spell to stop it. Azure dashed directly for the giant with his blade on the ground, which flashed white as he shouted.
Slashing upward in a wide arc the boy cut the construct from body to shoulder. While the wound was shallow it managed to agitate the powerful behemoth. It managed to break free from it's restraints and roared once again. To the shock of the companions the broken pieces of the Golem's arms began to float and shoot towards the giant. They began to lock themselves together until they reformed the Golem's bulky limbs. The pieces that fell off from Azure's attack also regained their former positions on the giant's body. Before they knew it the dark Golem was completely repaired.
"It's going to take a lot more than that to take this thing down. My friend is using magic to collect the broken parts and heal the Golem's frame." Sylph explained from her seat. "As long as she is in there you won't be making much progress."
Azure cursed. Why hadn't she said that before? The Golem had amazing defenses and it could regenerate any damage inflicted on it. That combination alone meant that this fight was going to be more difficult than he had originally thought.
The Golem raised a massive fist into the air. Suddenly an ominous purple light began to radiate off the limb and the boy sensed an attack incoming. With a mighty bellow the construct slammed the fist into the floor and a shockwave blasted toward the four mortals. Everyone went flying back into opposite walls, stunned by the unexpected attack. Azure was the first to regain his feet and noticed that the Golem was lumbering toward Ryo. It likely figured out that she was the biggest threat to itself. The teen rushed to stop the giant as it closed in. When it was within range of the catgirl's fallen form it raised a foot over her head with the intent of crushing it. Luckily Azure managed to make it in time and used his body weight knock the larger creature off balance. With a thankful smile Ryo regained her feet and rejoined the fight.
While the two fought the Golem Hikaru was checking on the fallen Rock. The merc had hit his head on the wall he was launched into and blood was flowing down his face freely. Despite the wound Rock stood up and kicked his sword into his hand. He charged into the battle as the Golem was focusing Azure. The boy dodged it's clumsy swings, using his smaller size to outmaneuver the monster. He sliced at the thing's face but the Golem blocked with a massive arm. Azure backflipped away to avoid being grabbed before running around the Golem. It tried to follow him but a shot of ice from Ryo made it stumble forward.
Turning to her the monster fired a beam of purple energy from it's eye. Ryo twirled away, the beam almost grazing her as it exploded against the wall. The cat beastwoman then spun her staff above her head and arced a fireball at the Golem. The construct managed to cross it's arms to defend against the attack. While it was distracted Rock came up from behind and brought his greatsword down on the monster with all his might.
"Helm Splitter Strike!"
The blade collided against the Golem's shoulderblade and shattered through it's rock skin. The pieces fell to the ground and revealed the inside of the Golem. A massive amount of purple smoke like energy blasted out of the wound and into the air. The Golem cried in pain and began to thrash around. Azure smirked, thinking that they had finally managed to cause it some damage. Unfortunately his moment of satisfaction went away as the broken rocks began to levitate and fly back to the Golem. It reforged new skin for the monster, leaving it completely healed once again just as it had been last time.
Rock sneered. "Damn! And hear I thought I did some damage this time!"
"This isn't working! We've got to find some way to take the Golem out in one shot or it will keep healing and exhausting us. Maybe if we can penetrate completely through it's armor with a strong enough attack we can get to the core." Yelled Ryo.
"A strong enough attack..." Azure thought. He remembered the move that Pyrha and Marine taught him and wondered if it would be enough. As if reading his mind Marine agreed with his plan.
"Yes it could be just the attack you need to drill through the armor and destroy the core. As long as we manage to get a clean shot we could end this fight instantly."
"But preparing it takes time, something that I think this beast won't give us. Once it senses the spiritual energy we release it will be focused completely on us." Added Pyrha.
Marine smirked. "Well that is why the Young Master has such reliable friends is it not?"
Azure knew what he had to do. He took a few steps away from his party and held his sword before him, eyes closed. Then he addressed his companions. "I've got an idea that I think will work. I'm going to use the same technique I used to break the barrier but it will take some time. You guys cover me while I charge it up. I'm counting on you three." For the first time the boy was putting his faith in his allies. They all could sense the level of trust he was giving to them and smiled at his words. Rock of course was the first to speak.
"Well damn now we can't afford to screw this up. If our leader is putting his trust in us we have to make sure we live up to it."
Ryo nodded. "Yeah the pressure is on now. I'd feel pretty crappy if I let you guys down. I might not have known you long but I feel like I can rely on every one of you. We will beat this thing!"
Hikaru stepped beside her with his needles ready. "That's right! Have faith in us bro!"
Azure shook his head at their loyalty. They were a crazy bunch yes but they were what he found himself with in this quest of his. After being in a Guild full of people with strange personalities crazy was something that he had become used to. In a way they reminded him of them and unknowingly the boy found himself smiling at that thought. But it quickly went away as he focused on the task at hand.
The blue haired teen closed his eyes and began focusing his spiritual energy. Pyrha and Marine stood at his back and added to his power. As the elements of fire and water flowed in his weapon the Golem noticed and roared a challenge. It stomped toward them with killing intent behind it. Rock flashed a toothy grin and raised a fist. "If we're gonna do this we better go all out! Let's do Zola!"
The hooded female spirit erupted from the earth and stood before the mercenary, wiping her cloak off of mud and dirt before looking around curiously at her surroundings. "It had been a while since you called for me. What a strange place you have found yourself in. Surrounded by the embrace of the earth with relics as ancient as time itself. I like it here."
"Yeah I figured you would. Listen we are sort of in a bind. We need to keep this Golem distracted so the kid can prepare his ultimate move. Would you please form the Contract with me?"
Zola turned to the approaching Golem. Her eyes studied it without fear as it lumbered toward them. "A creature of the earth? No, it has been perverted by corrupt forces. Its existence is that of pain and suffering as well as hatred. It is an abomination that must be destroyed." The girl then turned to Rock and nodded. "I shall form the pact with you."
The two approached eachother and kissed, sealing their contract. Rock's sword turned into it's poleax form. The man crouched low before charging the Golem. While he went on the attack Ryo began to cast a spell at full power. Hikaru hung back while keeping a critical eye on the Golem, trying to find any weak spots that he could exploit with his needles as it battled Rock.
The mercenary evaded a punch from the construct then swung his ax into it's chest. The Golem stumbled back and countered with a swift jab which Rock deflected with some hardship. The man blocked another powerful blow while chipping at any place he could on the Golem. As it reared itself back to crush Rock the spell that Ryo was casting fired off. A geyser of searing hot flames erupted under the Golem and doused it's entire form. The construct roared in pain and anger while it's stone body heated up, causing damage to the corrupted Spirit within. When the flames ended the Golem was glowing red with licks of fire still burning off of it. From it's expression they could tell that it was pissed.
"I think you just made it mad!" Rock said while backing away from the enraged giant.
"You don't say?! But at least we managed to cause it some discomfort!" Replied Ryo.
The Golem grunted and suddenly appeared before her with speed that it hadn't displayed previously. The explorer gasped as it swung a heavy blow toward her. Time seemed to slow down as the fist came closer to her face. Just as the girl closed her eyes awaiting her death the Golem's fist stopped a few inches from her. It struggled to move and attack her but for some reason it could not. Ryo turned to Hikaru who had thrown some of his nails into the giant's body and trapped it with his magic. The beastwoman gave him a cheeky smile then turned to the monster with angry eyes. She jabbed her staff into the Golem's face. "Scatter Shot!"
Like a shotgun being fired off a mass of small fire shells exploded and hit the Golem at point blank range. It stumbled back as a huge section of it's face was blown clean off, exposing the magical veins beneath. Acting quickly Rock charged the monster and followed up with a powerful slash behind it's kneecaps. This made the Golem fall flat on it's back and crack the earth it landed on.
Sylph clapped at the teamwork of the trio. "Not bad guys! You managed to take it off balance after blinding it! That will make it harder for the Golem to recover like it did before! After all a Golem is pretty much defenseless when on it's back! However I'm afraid that it still isn't finished yet!"
True to her words the Golem managed to roll itself back to it's feet. The damaged sections of it's face struggled to reassemble itself despite the burns that it had received from Ryo's attack. The Golem fired another beam that split into two and hit the ground in front of Hikaru and Ryo. The two were sent flying back while groaning in pain. With them out of commission the Golem turned to Rock and lumbered toward him, knowing now that it would not be interfered with in their battle.
"Master it doesn't look like they can hold on much longer." Said Pyrha to Azure as she watched the fight. Rock was struggling to hold back the monster while Ryo and Hikaru were trying to get to their feet. All three fighters were breathing heavily from exhaustion while the Golem was still going strong. Eventually they would tire and it would completely overwhelm them.
Azure opened his eyes and observed the situation himself. He could see that thanks to Ryo's fire magic the Golem's body was regenerating slower than before and the inner veins were still exposed. That meant it was a weak point worth being exploited. "How much longer is this going to take?"
The water and fire energies were swirling around the boy's sword just as it had been before. It was plenty powerful on it's own but the Spirits had advised Azure to wait a little longer until the power was at it's peak. They would only have one chance to attack the construct and they wanted to make sure it wouldn't fail. So despite his impatience Azure decided to trust them as he did his comrades and continue charging.
"Soon Young Master very soon. The energies are gathering perfectly around one another. One more moment and we should be good to go. I will give you the signal to attack." Marine answered.
Azure grunted and continued focusing his magic power. Back with Rock the battle was quickly moving out of his favor. The Golem had understood that his poleax was a lethal threat to itself and was now deflecting and evading it with speed that belied its large size. Rock went in for a thrust at it's eye but the Golem was ready for the move and sidestepped. Then it drew close and delivered a devastating uppercut right into the man's stomach. The merc coughed up blood and was launched through the air before crashing next to the throne. He clenched his chest in agony, no doubt sporting broken ribs while using his other hand to reach for his weapon. The Golem saw the movement and suddenly appeared over him. It picked Rock up by the neck and held the man high in the air. Rock tried desperately to escape but the Golem's grip was like steel. Slowly it began to tighten it's hold on the man's throat with the intent of strangling him.
Hikaru regained his feet and prepared to attack the monster before Ryo stopped him. "Don't! If you use an attack spell it might hit him too!"
"Then its a good thing I don't have attack spells!"
The child threw his nails around the Golem then clapped his hands together. Instantly a circular cage surrounded the construct and held it in place, while also preventing it from choking Rock anymore. The man was still fighting to get a breath though was relieved the crushing pressure around his throat had relaxed slightly. Sylph studied Hikaru with an impressed gleam in her eyes.
"Oh trap magic? I haven't seen that in a long time. Definitely not one as potent as that either. For a kid you seem to be a genius. Of course you still didn't solve the problem at hand though."
Hikaru tilted his head. "Problem?"
"She means that Rock is still in danger." Answered Ryo. "Technically he's still being choked by the Golem and you only managed to immobilize it. Trap Magic costs a lot of magic power especially on a young body. I can't cast any spells without hurting Rock. Eventually you'll run out of mana and the Golem will start strangling him again."
Sylph nodded. "Exactly. Which means that this is a race. Will you figure out a way to free your friend without harming him or will you run out of power and watch him die? It all depends on you little one."
"Then I'll give it all I've got to save Rock's life!" Declared Hikaru as he focused his attention on his spell. The Golem could not move yes but it wasn't completely immobilized. Rock could feel the construct's fingers begin to tighten again around his throat. He fought desperately to hold it back using the enhanced strength he had received from Zora during their Contract but the power that the beast had was beyond anything he had ever encountered. He couldn't escape on his own and it would be only a matter of time before the spell would end and his life with it.
Azure saw the predicament that they were in and his body tensed in anger. He wanted so much to run to their aid and help but he felt Marine tighten her hold on his shoulder. Her calming presence kept him in place despite his urges. The drill of water and fire had grown larger than the one used previously, signifying that it was almost ready. The boy left it to charge for a little while longer, praying that Hikaru's power wouldn't run out before his was done.
It went like this for what felt like forever before finally the brown haired boy's energy stopped. The magic circle broke apart like glass and the Golem was free to move once again. Hikaru fell to his knees and watched in despair as the monster prepared to crush his friend's throat. Just as a scream tore from his throat Azure heard Marine and Pyrha shout behind him.
Without hesitation Azure charged forward with his blade held at his side. Everyone turned toward him as he approached the Golem. The construct sensed his magic power and faced him while dropping Rock. It roared a challenge before charging him as well. The human and Dark Spirit came at one another, both auras of power shrouding them. Azure's was orange and blue while the Golem's was purple. When they were in range Azure stabbed his drill attack forward while the Golem threw a massive right hook at him. The two moves connected with one another and a huge powerstruggle commenced.
Azure pushed against the stone fist of the Golem with all of his might. His attack dug into the monster's knuckles and caused small cracks to appear around it. The Golem itself was equally determined to not lose so it unleashed more of it's dark magic to increase it's strength. The space behind it began to shimmer and ripple until it suddenly tore open to reveal a long purple portal. This strange rift-like void began leaking purple energy into the room which was being absorbed into the Golem's body. Azure felt the power of the Golem rise drastically and saw that he was being slightly pushed back.
"The Golem is drawing on the power of the Dark Spirit portal to increase it's own." Explained Sylph. "It is a common trick that Dark Spirits use. But in exchange for the strength increase it greatly damages the spirit under the negative influences."
Sure enough Azure could hear the sound of screaming coming from the Golem. It was barely audible but because of their close proximity he could clearly listen to the feminine voice of the spirit underneath. The boy blinked and suddenly he could see an image of a tiny girl before him. She was crying in pain with tears in her eyes and black welts covering parts of her body. The spirit raised her head to look at him and mouthed something that Azure couldn't hear but obviously understood.
The teen felt something deep within him begin to stir. It was a sensation that he had never felt before and the power rush he was getting from it was incredible. Unknowing to him Azure's body started to glow with a bright blue light that rose in intensity by seconds. The boy smirked and started to push forward against the Golem, the magical energies around his greatsword growing to a bigger size than it had previously. The Golem couldn't handle the drill's power which began to force it back step by step, it's body gaining major cracks that it couldn't repair. Everyone watched in awe of the glowing boy getting the upper hand against the monster. Even Sylph and the other two Great Spirits were amazed at the display.
Azure forced the Golem back until it was close to the wall behind it. The Golem roared into the teen's face as if to vocalize it's rage. Azure only smirked and spoke with a superior tone. "Man so this is how tough Dark Spirits are huh? I should really be thanking you for pushing me so far. Never got to fight a monster made of stone before. I learned some things and gained some good experience. And even better I've got a whole new move to bust out when I find my bastard of an older brother. To repay that debt I'll free you from your suffering just as you asked of me!"
With a loud yell Azure pushed himself forward on last time. His attack blew the Golem's arm to pieces and pierced into the monster's chest. The Golem raised it's fist for one last attempt to smash him but the boy wasn't letting that happen. He lunged forward and grinned in satisfaction as the drill ran it through. The Golem's core was ground into before finally cracking and shattered apart into fragments. The stone body of the Golem began to fall to pieces with the purple energy leaking out of it like gas. The beast did one last mighty roar before falling down to the ground in a pile.
Everyone cheered in victory except for Azure. He fell to his knees breathing heavily while his companions limped over to him. As they congratulated Azure Pyrha and Marine were smiling from ear to ear as they studied the boy. Marine then turned to her fellow spirit with an impressed expression. "Doesn't this seem familiar to you? Only a blood relative of our Master could defeat a creature as dangerous as that. There is no doubt that you made a good choice in Contracting with him."
"Oh? Did you doubt me before?" The Spirit of Fire asked her senior.
Marine shook her head. "Of course not. Any doubts that I had about the boy had been dispelled the moment he passed my trial. This outcome was only to be expected. He has great potential, honestly I believe that he could one day become a better man than Master Isaac was to us. All we must do is guide him down the right path...So that another disaster like before doesn't repeat itself."
"I know. The Master is a very determined person, though simple minded at times. We must make sure that his thirst for revenge doesn't lead him away from the good life that he currently has.
As Azure regained his feet he saw the rubble of the Golem move and out flew the spirit that he had seen. She was the size of a fly with a yellow dress, a brown skirt, short blonde hair and sparkling golden eyes. The tiny spirit glowed with a luminescent shine with white butterfly wings flapping at her back. She flew up to Azure with a kind smile on her face, then she spoke in a whisper that only he could hear.
Then to his surprise she gave him a light peck on his cheek. The boy touched his cheek with a shocked look while the spirit giggled and flew to Sylph on her throne. She gave a bow to the Great Spirit before addressing her. "I-I am sorry for all of the harm that I caused you Milady. I allowed myself to give into negativity and blamed you for my situation. I beg for your forgiveness."
Sylph shook her head with a regretful expression on her face. "No I was the one at fault here. If I had done my job as a Great Spirit you wouldn't have become a Dark Spirit in the first place. I caused you and everyone else so much pain because of my laziness. I used you as servants to do whatever I didn't want to. You have every right to blame me for what happened. You are my friends and I've been terrible to you guys. I'm a sad excuse of a leader and an even worse spirit. But I want to make it up to you."
She cupped her hands and placed the spirit in her open palms. Sylph closed her eyes and gathered wind energy into her hands. The spirit was surrounded by green light that completely covered her form. The light stayed around her for a long time before it began to dim down. The tiny spirit was now wearing a green leaf crown that rested quite elegantly on her head. She touched the new addition to her attire curiously before looking at Sylph in confusion.
"Milady? What is this?"
"A crown obviously!" The Spirit of Wind replied. "From now on your going to be taking my place as caretaker. While I'm on my journey you'll be in charge of all the other lesser spirits while guarding the ruins from intruders. Give it your all and become a proper leader for them okay?"
The tiny spirit's mouth opened in shock. "M-Me?! In charge of all this?! I couldn't! Such an honor is beyond me!"
"You can. I trust you to keep things together even if I'm not around. Despite all the praises I get from the others I know that they don't see me as a good boss to them. You've always been the one to work the hardest out of all of them. That's why I can't think of anyone better than the job than you. Will you please accept my request? For old times sake?" Sylph asked.
The younger spirit hesitated. She stared up into her Master's encouraging eyes and found tears beginning to leak from her own. Sylph believed in her and she couldn't let down that trust. They had been friends for so long so her devotion to the Great Spirit was unbreakable. She wiped her cheeks and nodded with a look of determination on her face. "I will do it Milady! I promise to be the best leader and live up to your expectations! You won't be disappointed in this decision!" Then her expression changed to confusion again. "But if I might ask...Where exactly are you going?"
Sylph smiled and turned her head to Azure who was watching her with critical eyes. She giggled before returning her attention to her friend. "Well I have to go and keep my word. I promised that boy if he freed you I'd go with him. I need to repay the debt I owe him. I'm sure we'll have a blast together, especially with Mari and Pyrha along for the ride."
The Great Spirit released her new caretaker and approached the group. On her way down she noticed the still open purple portal and brought their attention to it. "Oh yeah we still need to take care of that thingie. If it isn't closed something bad might pop out of it."
"Well we have three Great Spirits present. Can't you guys close it?" Asked Ryo with a hand on her chin.
Pyrha shrugged. "Yes I suppose it would be possible if we combined our powers to do it. The issue is if we go about that method we may end up drawing in some of the negative energy into ourselves or attracting the attention of something within. Great Spirit magic power is much stronger than an average spirit so we'd only be lighting a beacon for the Dark Spirits to come get us. And since you guys are still injured from the last battle I don't think it would be good to take on anymore of those beasts right now."
Azure examined the rift closely for any sign of a clue in closing it. As he did the stirring sensation from before began again and seemed to be drawing him toward the portal. The boy could sense the chaotic energies that it radiated but unlike the others who were shivering from it he only felt warmth. Azure glanced down at his glowing hand and a thought crossed his mind. He raised it toward the portal and saw that the blue light had gotten stronger. When he lowered it the light returned to normal. His theory had been correct, whatever was happening to him was connected to the rift before him. Maybe he could use it to seal the portal completely.
Hoping that his idea would work Azure walked toward it cautiously. The others called out warnings to him but the teen ignored them. As he got closer the negative energy around the portal increased as if sensing his approach. However despite the malice being directed at him he still couldn't feel it like the others could. The glow was most likely protecting him from it's influence. Azure kept walking until he was in front of the rift, studying it for a long moment. Then coming to a decision he took a breath before reaching his hand out to the portal.
As soon as his hand came into contact with it the portal shimmered and rippled violently as if alive. Azure was fully surrounded by dark energies that tried to corrupt him. The boy could hear the voices of people yelling and screaming at him from all directions. The sounds threatened to pierce into his mind as he endured their attacks. Remembering what his spirits had explained about Dark Spirit Portals Azure knew what he was hearing.
"So this is the energy gathered from the negative emotions of humans. It's hard to believe that people have this much bad in them that it can corrupt a spirit's nature. If it wasn't for this weird glow I'd be already overwhelmed by it. Whatever I'm going to do I better do it now before it runs out. I can't imagine this stuff being healthy for me either."
Pushing himself forward Azure forced his hand through the portal until he was arm deep within it. He could feel a slight tugging from the rift as it tried to pull him closer toward it. Azure knew that he couldn't allow that to happen so pulled back a little. The blue glow around him grew so bright it was like looking at the sun for most of the observers. The light poured into the portal as if being fed into it, clashing with the purple energy. Azure allowed this to happen for awhile, enduring the pain and the tugging on his arm. Finally a shift seemed to pass through the rift.
The purple energy began to change color from it's original to light blue. The portal started to shrink and lose it's chaotic look. Azure removed his hand as the rift returned to it's normal, peaceful state. It continued to shrink until it fully disappeared entirely from everyone's sight. No more negativity could be sensed in the area. All had reverted back to how it had been.
Azure was looking down at his hand and inspecting it for any damage. It throbbed slightly but otherwise was fine. He turned to find everyone looking at him in shock. The boy raised an eyebrow. "What?"
"What do you mean what? How the hell did you know that would work?" Rock asked.
Ryo nodded in agreement. "Yeah even for me that was pretty stupid. What if you became a Dark Spirit too or lost your arm? You don't just go placing your body parts through random holes in space."
"Wouldn't be the first limb I've lost. I don't know why I decided to do it I just did. It was like something was telling me that the only way to close the portal was to touch it. I know it was dumb but it worked out didn't it? Nothing bad happened."
Hikaru tilted his head. "But what was with that blue light? It came out of nowhere both with the Golem and the portal. How are they connected exactly?"
Azure shrugged. "Don't know. The light faded as soon as the portal closed. Guess that means we'll never find out."
"By the Greats it's never a dull moment around is it kid?" Rock wondered cynically.
The three Great Spirits on the other hand had completely different reactions to what they had just seen. They were exchanging glances between one another and communicating telepathically so the others would hear their conversation.
"Could that have been?"
"There is no mistaking it?"
"That light...It was just like the Master's."
"I had a hunch that something like this was possible. It explains why he was able to make Contracts with powerful beings like us."
"Was that the reason why you chose him? And you Mari?"
"No I selected him because I was with him at the start. Sure I was drawn to him because of his potential but also his determination. I was there went Azure's home and family were slaughtered and when he was adopted by his guild. I didn't know exactly how deep his potential was at the time."
"But you were curious of his connection to the Spirits correct? How it reminded you of Master Isaac?"
"Yeah but I didn't expect that his progress to grow faster than the Master's own. And don't forget he isn't the only mortal to have that power. There are others out there with great resonance as well."
"But we haven't seen them in a long time even when we traveled with the Master. Mari you don't believe that it's really possible do you? That this human is a...You know."
"I am not completely sure. It's still too early for us to decide right now. But if it is the truth then this boy's destiny is greater than we could have ever realized. Heh, it's been a while since I was this excited. I'm glad I decided to join when I did."
After finishing their mental conversation Pyrha and Marine reentered Azure's body. Sylph bit her lip as she strolled over in worry of what had been said. Deciding to play it cool her expression returned to its typical laziness and she gave the boy a smile. "Great job closing the portal. You've done us a huge favor. Since you have successfully passed my trial I will fulfill my promise and enter into a Contract with you. The power of wind will be yours to do with what you will. Let me just get my sacred weapon real quick."
The girl held up her hands. A breeze suddenly whipped up and gathered around her palms, forming a unique shape similar to that of rings. As Azure watched the process end he saw that Sylph was now holding a pair of Chakrams in her hands. They were perfect circles made of green metal with a sharpened outer edge that had four pointed fins jutting out of them. Around the sharp edge of the disks were engraved with green symbols of trees and writing that Azure could not understand. The inside of the weapons had a thin steel cross within that made it possible to hold them without being cut. They were elegant blades designed for throwing and returning to the wielder. They radiated with the cool flow of air and were playfully calling for him to touch them.
"These are my very special babies. They are fun to use but hard to master. Long range and close range packed into one and as long as you know how to read the wind they'll return to you without a scratch. Much like the wind they represent freedom, flying through the sky without a care in the world. And now they belong to you. Treat them right and they will do the same. Now let's get this started before I end up forgetting the words again."
Azure nodded and placed his hands on the Chakram crosses. When he made contact his mind was filled with thought of soaring through the air, wind rushing past his face and hair as he flew threw the clouds. The skies welcomed him and were inviting the boy into their domain. The feeling of freedom was invigorating to him, like he could leave all his problems behind as explore the air as he pleased. The wind had accepted him as it's Master and was practically begging him for attention. Thanks to this amazing sensation Azure knew the words he needed to form their pact.
"My Name Is Azure. By The Pact Of The Spirit King I Beckon To You Oh Mighty Spirit For Aid. Bare My Burdens And In Exchange I Will Become Thy Sacred Vessel. Reveal My Destiny Upon Your Endless Skies And Become A Violent Gale That Blows Away All Who Would Oppose Me. Do You Great Spirit, Accept The Terms Of This Pact?"
"Yup! Your Terms Are Completely Reasonable With Me! I Swear To Follow And Protect You Until I'm No Longer Needed! Let's Get Along And Have Lots Of Fun Together!"
"Then By My Right As A Contractor I Hereby Accept Your Service. Let The Contract Between Us Now Become Known As I Say Your Name. Great Spirit Of Wind, Sylph!"
The green haired girl turned into a green ball of light and entered Azure's fake arm and the Chakrams. A surge of power much like what happened with Marine rippled through his body before dying down. Azure then checked if he had managed a connection with her.
"Hey Sylph, you in there?"
"*Yawn* yuppers I'm here! Boy it's been a while since I've joined a human host! This place is nice and super cozy! Perfect for napping! It feels a little cramped despite the space. Wonder why that is?"
The voice of Marine spoke. "I had much the same reaction when I first entered this place. Perhaps Great Spirits like us take up more space than normal ones? Or maybe it is because of the Young Master's Artificial Arm."
"Well that's a real brain puzzler. Oh it feels so good to have a home again! No wait, a mobile home actually! I'm so happy to be back with you guys! I can't wait to explore with you and find all of the others! It'll be like old times again!"
Pyrha spoke next. "This isn't some vacation Sylph. The Master will be counting on you in his battles. He'll expect you to react to his commands instantly and without fail. I won't allow you to slack off from your work this time."
"Yeah yeah. I promise I'll do what I'm told. Don't want scary Pyrha to come back out again. Now if you'll excuse me I'll be taking a nap." The sound of Sylph snoozing could be heard and Marine sighing.
"You haven't changed at all have you sweetie?"
Azure cut off the connection and turned toward the broken door of the throne room. He began to walk forward while his companions followed behind. As they retraced their steps through the now deactivated death trap of the ancient ruins Ryo was studying Azure with analytical eyes. This went on for a while before the boy got annoyed and confronted her.
"What do you want?"
The catgirl crossed her arms with her tail moving around excitedly. "Sorry I'm just curious. I still can't believe you can make pacts with Great Spirits. How can you do that? How does it feel to make a pact with a Great Spirit? No a better question is what does it feel having the Great Spirit of Wind inside you?"
Azure facepalmed. "First off phrasing. Secondly I don't know how I can do it, I just do. Thirdly pacting with a Great Spirit is like any other process only with a much stronger rush of power going through me. And finally pacting with Sylph feels like I'm flying. It's like I could literally soar through the clouds into the sky with limitless freedom. I guess you can say that I feel like a bird if you need a better example."
"Fascinating! You truly are a fascinating subject! To think I went into this ruin to learn about it's creators only to come out with a golden treasure like yourself! Humans really are as interesting as my father said they were." Shouted Ryo with stars in her eyes.
Azure and the others sweatdropped at her enthusiasm. This girl was a natural ball of energy. As they finally came to the entrance of the ruin Azure looked at the sky and noticed that it was getting close to nighttime. They must have been in that place for a lot longer than he had originally thought. He glanced back at the ruin while reminiscing on all of the dangers that he and his companions had overcome. He wondered if his friends at the guild endured such hardships. Boy did he have a story to tell them.
Before they could leave Rock spoke up. He had been healed by Ryo's water magic as they walked so his ribs were back in their proper place. "Well that was some adventure huh? We fought Golems, survived deadly traps, broke a barrier, met a Great Spirit and had a deathmatch against a Dark Spirit. Gotta say I never thought my life would get any stranger until I joined you guys. This much excitement is killer to a man of my age."
Azure snorted. "No one asked you to come along you know. You're free to go whenever you want."
"And miss all this fun? Yeah things are crazy but I've come to enjoy it. Who knows what the next adventure will hold? I wouldn't be a very good mercenary if I ran away just because something was dangerous."
"Wow your so cool Rock." Hikaru complimented with stars in his eyes.
Ryo laughed. "You guys are a riot. So what are you going to do now?"
Azure hesitated. Should he really tell this stranger their plans? Could he trust her? They had survived many trials together and he had come to rely on Ryo's knowledge. He didn't sense any sinister motive or intention behind the girl, she was completely pure. Sighing to himself the boy decided to tell her. "Now that we got what we came for its time we left. The battle from earlier most likely drew a lot of unnecessary attention. The Military will be patrolling the main roads for any activity."
Rock nodded. "Not to mention we still have to worry about that Military girl. Who knows if she regained consciousness or not? She'll tell her friends about us and it will be even tougher to escape this place never mind the main road."
"Not to mention she was really tough." Added Hikaru. "With what we just went through I don't think we should be running into her for a while."
"Then it's settled. We'll be leaving now before they have time to organize themselves. If they stand in our way we'll just smash through. Once we manage to get to Proge we will lay low so as to not draw attention to ourselves. Then we hit the Laboratory." Azure said.
"Well it's good that you guys have a plan." Ryo replied. "Guess we'd better get moving then if we want to avoid any trouble."
Azure raised his eyebrow. "We?"
The explorer placed her hands on her hips with a confident smirk. "That's right. I'm obviously coming with you."
"Why? Don't you think I have enough weirdos following me?"
"Weirdo?! That's rude! Did you honestly think I was going to just let you go so easily? You really tickled my scientific interest with your abilities. Any person who can manipulate Great Spirits and close Spirit Portals is worth looking into. As a Spirit Researcher I believe that by following you I'll be able to finally make a breakthrough on my research into spirits and true nature. You already know that I can fight and how useful my casting skill is. I'm a valuable asset to you guys in combat. I don't know what kind of situation you're in but I'll gladly help you out if it allows me to consider studying you."
Hikaru smiled at her. "You really love your research don't you Ryo?"
She returned the expression with one of her own. "My research and studies are the only things in this world that give my life purpose. It's the whole reason I left my home and set out on my journey. I want to know about the truth hidden behind spirits. There are so many mysteries out there that no one else can solve like what makes up a spirit and why did they come to this world to begin with. I want to not only be the first to discover those answers but to also learn as much as I can about ancient civilizations. I'll go as far as I have to for knowledge you see, even if it brands me a criminal."
Rock crossed his arms. "Never met a youth so passionate about her craft before. Gotta admit I'm a little jealous. You sure about this though? We'll be going against some pretty rough people who won't stop until we're captured or killed. You'll be stuck on the road and hunted down probably for the rest of your life."
Ryo shrugged. "After what we've just been through you think I'd leave just because of a little danger? Exploring ruins with traps and seeing adventures die has all but destroyed my fear of being killed. And I've been on the road for a long time, as a Beastwoman getting hunted is kind of our entire life story. Better to run with allies I know I can trust then on my own."
"So basically you aren't scared of dying and plan to follow me until you learn what makes me tick. That means you'll be using me just as much as I'll be using you. As long as you keep making yourself useful to me with your spells and knowledge I'll allow you to come along. Just make sure you don't drag me down with your research cat." Azure warned.
The girl grinned and raised her fist into the air. "Yay! We're travel companions now! I get to complete my research and have an adventure all at once! Glad to be on the team scary guy."
He sighed. "Great. Another annoyance that I have to deal with. Though I feel like she can be trusted. As long as she pulls her wait she'll be a good tool for me. She'll definitely make attacking the base a lot easier. Don't want another surprise like last time."
The adventurers with the addition of Ryo and the Great Spirit Sylph snook their way back through the village. Thankfully security hadn't been increased yet so they were able to move through without issue. They avoided the path that they had originally gone for fear of running into Tori again. If they were lucky the girl was still unconscious where they had left her and would be too injured to go after them immediately. This gave them a good head start before things got hectic once again.
About an hour later the group was on their way to Proge. Azure was lost in thought while Hikaru, Rock, and Ryo struck up a conversation. The boy was grateful that things had turned out alright even though he hadn't managed to get any treasure for his troubles. But he quickly shook that thought aside as now he had gained control over the power of the wind. If he knew the Military it would become vital in his long war against them. And of course it would make finding his target easier. Azure knew that he would need a lot more power if he was going to defeat the one who had caused all of his suffering.
"I wonder what he is doing now? No doubt rising higher and higher in the Military rankings righ bro? You always were the type to enjoy climbing farther than others? I hope your enjoying the life of comfort you have now because when we meet I'll tear it all away from you! Your position, your power...I'll take it away just like you did to me! Then you'll beg me for death!"
Keeping those thoughts to himself Azure continued to look forward. He had a mission to do and he couldn't allow his bloodlust to distract him now. He needed to be ready for whatever challenges the future held for him next.
Shion Village, Two Hours Later After Our Heroes departure.
"Miss wake up. Miss can you hear me?"
The voice of one of her artificial spirits stirred Tori back to the waking world. She opened her eyes and studied the sky, noticing that night had fallen over the village of Shion. How many hours had past since the battle? The girl slowly pushed herself into a sitting position, wincing at the soreness in her body. Her beret had fallen off and her ponytail had come undone, exposing her long pink hair which fell to her back. The girl's uniform was slightly damaged from Azure's lightning attack, revealing some of her smooth fair skin.
Tori tried to remember what had happened before she found herself in this condition. She had fought with the Blue Dragon and the mercenary traitor which had lead to her being defeated. The girl had underestimated how powerful the criminal had been. Despite everything she had thrown at him Tori had no chance of victory after he had summoned the Great Spirit of Water to his side. The information that she had been told did not match what she had seen in the boy. His compatibility with the Great Elemental Spirits was more than anyone had expected.
Rubbing the area where she had been punched ever so viciously by Azure the pink haired girl spoke to her two emotionless partners. "How long have I been unconscious? What happened to the criminals?"
The one on the left, Jean answered her questions. "For about eight total hours ma'am. Your wounds were quite sever and needed to be patched up so we took our time doing so. As for the fugitives they left as soon as you were defeated. I cannot say where they have gone or where they are currently."
"Tch, they may have already escaped by now." Tori hissed. She looked down at the ground with her fists clenched and a disappointed expression. "I was utterly crushed by them. It's humiliating for a Military officer to have been so outclassed in a battle. I've never dealt with anything so overwhelming like that in my life. I didn't know losing could feel this bitter."
The other artificial being Adam stepped forward. "Don't let a single defeat get you down Miss. There will be plenty of other opportunities to capture our prey. You must not give in to despair."
"I agree. Self pity will only make things more difficult for you ma'am. You are a great soldier and Master. We have learned much from this loss. Next time we run into them you will not fail."
Tori's eyes widened as she studied her spirits. Even though they were supposed to be emotionless, broken beings they still possessed wisdom that surprised her at times. Unlike most soldiers it was this virtue that had prevented her from seeing them as simple tools. They were once living things with wills of their own. Whenever they encouraged her Tori would forget that they were dolls for a moment and treat them like normal humans. They cared for her safety and she felt the same. Did all artificial spirits have some part of their old personalities still within them as well? How much of their souls remained after the mental torture they were forced to endure.
A smile appeared on the girl's face. Tori stood to her feet with a determined gleam in her eyes. "You're right! I can't let start moping now! I've been given a task and I won't stop until it is completed! For the people that I have sworn to protect I must bring the Blue Dragon to justice! I will end his trail of destruction no matter the cost! We must hurry and reach Proge immediately before they can destroy the Laboratory! Let's go you two!"
"Yes Miss/Yes ma'am."
The two spirits followed their energetic leader. She marched forward with a face of conviction as she returned her beret to her head. The girl would not stop hunting down her targets until they surrender to her. As a maiden of justice and a champion of the people she couldn't afford to let them down. This hunt would be the ultimate test for Tori who had never failed a mission in her life. Her heart pure and her soul reignited with passion the soldier girl vowed that no matter how many times she lost she would never give up. That was what a true hero did after all.
"I won't let you get away you monstrous Blue Dragon! I will hunt you to the ends of the earth and end your chaos for good!"
Niamare-And so ends another exciting chapter to our tale. Things are definitely getting interesting aren't they? What will happen next for our revenge seeking protagonist and his allies I wonder?
Azure-If I remember right nothing good. Damn that ruin was a pain in the ass. What kind of crazy civilization makes so many booby traps like that anyway? Talk about going overboard.
Niamare-But you can't help but admire their ingenuity though. They wanted to protect their secrets so badly that they'd literally kill to keep them. I can respect that of mortals. And those traps were just wonderful. The poison gas and the flamethrowers were my favorite. For a dead population they had great class.
Azure-I don't want to know what insane ideas you're thinking about right now.
Niamare-Anyway I must thank you all for spending time out your no doubt busy schedules to listen to me speak. You have been a wonderful audience so far. Now then I suppose we should end this so you can leave. I have much to do what with seeing mortal destinies and all. Stay safe my dear flock of sheep! I do hope you visit once again! Goodbye!
Azure-Later! Make sure you keep out of trouble okay?! Hope to see you guys for the next chapter!