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When the shit hits the fan

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Age : 28 Registration date : 2008-09-20 Number of posts : 738 Location : .............
Class: Rouge
Race: Half-Dwarf
Affinity: Darkness

PostSubject: When the shit hits the fan   Fri 21 Apr 2017, 05:05

Three years after the release of full dive gaming the gaming community craved something more than the. Sword art clones and life simulators, so Hidetaka Miyazaki the creator of the Souls series teamed with. Yoko Taro, Hana Kikuchi and Yoshiho Akabane the writers of Nier Automata and Nathan Phail-liff the artist behind The order 1886. To create a revolutionary re-visualizing of the Dive Digital Role playing game or DDRPG. And thus Phantasmal Souls Online was born, made with the most intricate tactics system that can link passive and active skills to create endless possibilities. Combine that with the Matrix engine that not only incorporates the 5 senses. It removes the barrier of digital and reality as your mind is placed in a world that you can See, touch, taste, smell and hear. And the most graphic and gruesome gore in a game to date, this is achieved by the forming of all environments, avatars and entities on an atomic cell level. Meaning a single object in the game has more code then a single Triple A game. After viewing a preview of what the game can offer the ERSB demanded the game get and AO rating. Due to the graphic gore, Violence, Nudity, Sexual Content, Demented and Traumatizing content and Adult situations and Realism. But a quick petition to the Art society helped it to be granted the M for Mature.

When the games started all players started in the cold embrace of stone with only the shifting of unseen objects to let them know they were alive. And in those moments they felt uneasy until the stone cracked and crumbled off them. They then fell to the ground only to chase after a dim light until the darkness opened up into the mirroring sheen of water where they see their avatar completely naked. The moments that followed set the premise pretty well. It didn’t take long for the first death to happen and when it did. A cold realism hit as they were kicked from the party and for life. Panic struck the community as they huddled together, three individuals kept running the labyrinth slaying boss after boss. They were a guild known as the Kingslayers , whose members were Shion Aoba, Caleb Howl and Joshua. These brothers in arms helped unlock the regions of the labyrinth for others and were even. The ones to help reach the surface world were the game truly started. A month in a half later a civil war erupted. Causing several more deaths, and ended when Howl killed the leader of the uprising allowing the sane players to subdue the rioters. In the month that followed the Kingslayers were facing a raid boss when it glitched. And corrupted its routines leading to the death of Joshua, sending Howl and Shion into a blinding rage. In the time that followed Howl went ghost while Shion rose to the top of the Strongest guild in the game. As he continued the push to complete the game.

Nomiz adelphous tous alethinous philous
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Age : 28 Registration date : 2008-09-20 Number of posts : 738 Location : .............
Class: Rouge
Race: Half-Dwarf
Affinity: Darkness

PostSubject: Re: When the shit hits the fan   Fri 28 Apr 2017, 03:31

Snow begins to fall as he tries to make his way down the path, each step seems to intensify the snowfall. Soon the wind picks up and causing the snow to swirl completely blending the world into a solid white. It’s at this moment that he sees a ripple in the white causing him to stop as he closes his eyes and focuses on the sound around him. It doesn’t take long for several beasts to erupt from the show and charge him. He stands ever so still as his body glows with an aura for a second. The monsters close the distance as he twitches his fingers and the white world is painted red. More begin running circles around him as they begin to chant “Poor little Howl no one wants him.” He pivots to face each monster and hit them with a flurry of blows in less than a second. But for every one he strikes down to more start to circle him, adding “It’s your fault, you killed him!” To their chant tears start to roll down his scarred face as he continues to hold them at bay. Before long Howl is surrounded by body parts that start to move on their own as dead lips say “You’re the monster and everyone wishes you were dead”. Howl grits his teeth as the remaining horde rush him. Only to explode into gore as Howl screams into the air and falls to his knees. As the air itself sings “Shion wishes you would just die already”, the words just echo in the air as the world starts to spiral all around him as blood pours down form the scar on his face.


Shion sits at the head of a very large table with several other guild leaders of the top guilds at Pricilla’s shop. Shion has his feet on the table with his chair leaning back as he flicks through some menu’s. The other leaders are arguing amongst each other, as a girl hands
Shion a drink.

Shion: Thanks Prinny *She smile and walks away whom all turn to stare at him. Shion merely drinks the liquid down before asking* this drink is awesome you guys want one?

Leader of the Ichigos: Are you taking this seriously Artorias?

Shion: *Blinks at him* It’s Abyss King Artorias.

Leader of Ichigos: What?

Shion: *Leans forward* My name is Abyss King Artorias, you have to say the whole thing, Like A Tribe Called Quest.

Leader of the Ichigos: Your joking.

Leader of Mastodon: No he’s not Legend.

Legend: This is ridiculous

Shion: No it’s respectful, I don’t go around calling you crusty balls do I?

Legend:…..Fine, are you taking this seriously Abyss King Artorias

Shion: *Leans back again* What about this seems like a joke Legend, If we team together and face the siege boss. Our victory is
assured it’s that simple, what’s so hard to understand?

The rest of the guild leaders begin to speak at once each one trying to drown out the other as they speak their concerns.

Shion: *Lets out a sigh of irritation* Ok let me show you the plan once more *A hologram of the battlefield appears on the center of the table* First our Aggro specialist will start the encounter and take the beasts attention. With the attention on them we run down these lines here until we reach this ridge with the siege weapons. Defensive mages combine their efforts to create a barrier keeping the beast at bay. As we hit it with all we got, now this is not like other fights, even with all our combined might. We are looking at 24 to 74 hours so we need to be ready for the long haul.

Leader of the Hand: Only the meek would turn down a challenge such as this, you can count on our aid Abyss King Artorias.

Shion: *Nods* Thanks Bakuto * he then turns to look at the leader of Mastodon* What about you Po?

Panda Po: The fact that you had to ask is an insult to my integrity

Shion:*Laughs* Alright so that is the top 3, what say the rest of you?

A silence falls over the other 6 guild leaders as they contemplate the situation, the first to get up and leave is Shades the leader of the fourth strongest guild. The rest follow suit leaving Shion, Bakuto, Po and Legend.

Legend: Looks like you lads are in a bloody bind, lucky for you I’m tired of you three getting all the fucking glory.

Panda Po: So are you really going to call on him for this?

Shion: *Gets up and starts pushing in all chairs left by the pussy guilds before saying* I wouldn’t do it without him.

Bakuto: To think this will be the first time I meet the White walker, an exciting time indeed.

Legend: Who the hell is the Walker?

Shion: *Strikes the table* White walker!

Legend: What?

Panda Po: *Sighs* Not this again

The four talk for a bit longer before Po, Bakuto, and Legend leave to prepare their guilds for battle. Wynne Aounma enters the shop and starts talking to Prinny, as Shion checks the status menu to see if Howl is still ghosting.

Prinny: You missed the big guild meet Wicca.

Wicca: What was it for?

Prinny: *glances at the frustrated Shion before saying* gathering forces to face the siege boss

Wicca: *her face goes pale for a second before she walks over to Shion and slams her fists on the table* Are you insane?

Shion: *Glances at her and then goes back to the screen* That is debatable, care to explain why you’re PMSing

Wicca: *shrieks before pushing Shion’s screen out of view* How many people have to die before you stop with this madness.

Shion: *takes a calming breath* Maybe this is going over your head, but if we don’t keep pushing forward. We’re going to be stuck in here FOREVER! *he lets the words hang in air as he reopens the menu screen*

Wicca: *has tears roll down her cheek* Some of us actually have people we actually car about more than this stupid game.

Shion: *closes the menu* Are you really going there? What about your IRL boyfriend, you know the one you abandoned. Even though everything he ever did was for you.

Wicca: Oh poor Caleb. *does the crybaby gesture* he would rather throw himself at every monster in the game until you. And all the other meat heads accept him then stay with his girlfriend. The one person that loved him and could look past his ugly and disfigured face and accept him for who he was. When he started to leave reality I was the one that grabbed his hand to bring him back. And every night when he woke screaming and shaking I was the one to calm him down. He changed not me, now he avoids me like a plague.

Prinny: Wynne

Shion: *face contorts as he struggles to keep his anger down* get your facts straight he never took credit for anything. In fact, there is only a handful of people outside of this room that even know who the fuck Howl is. Hell he was the only one who kept pushing for us to move forward because, you kept sobbing about missing your little sister and family. You think you know what darkness claws at him? Well you don’t you weren’t their when Joshua fell, you didn’t see what he became then. It was like he was something else and that’s when it finally hit me he is constantly suppressing himself. *Shion’s voice starts to crack* And to find out that you broke his heart before the fight even started. *Shion closed his eyes and centered himself* he lost two pieces himself that day.

Wicca: What? He never told me…..

Prinny: *starts to cry just thinking about Howl’s pain*

Shion: *rises to his feet and starts to leave as he stops for a second and looks back* He is the only one who hasn’t changed.

As Shion leaves he sends out a message on his private line with Howl that reads “Howl I need your help”. He then heads to his house to rest

(Back with Howl)

His boots crunch the earth beneath as he walks through the spiraling world, blood dripping on the ground every third step. He starts to slow his breathing to keep from getting struck with vertigo. When Jousha’s body falls in front of him wreathing in pain and bleeding, Howl rushes to his side. Only to be grabbed by Josh’s bloody hands as he looks Howl in the eye and says “Why, I thought we were friends”. Josh then falls limp and withers away, as Howl’s eyes go completely black and his muscles start to tense. Wicca appears and says “I never loved you Caleb” , Shion starts to form as a pop up shows up that reads “Howl I need your hel”. The world suddenly freezes around him. Before melting back to reality as Howl closes his fist as he says “Time to get to work”.

(The next day)

Shion wakes up to thousands of messages from his guild, The Hand , Mastodon and Ichigos. All saying they got a beautiful and powerful weapon from a WW. Bringing a smile to his face as he sits up and turns to the left only to see Howl leaning forward in the chair by his bed.

Shion: *Practically jumps to the other side of the room* Jesus!

Howl: *Puts his hands out none threating* Sorry didn’t want to wake you *he pulls the hood connected to his coat a little lower to cover his face even more*

Shion: It’s fine you just spooked me is all.

Howl: *chuckles* Not exactly a face you want to wake up next to. So what’s the situation?

Shion: It’s time to push forward and that means defeating the Siege boss, something we couldn’t do in the beta.

Howl: In that case * He opens his left hand and a magnificent sword appears in his hand, he then tosses it to Shion* you’re going to want this.

Shion: *Shion unsheathes it and swings it around several times even flips it around before sheathing it* It this Hierophant Alpha/Omega Horn?

Howl: *Nods*

Shion” *eyes open wide* you beat it on your own?

Howl: *nods*

Shion: I can’t take this.

Howl: *Stands and stares Shion* I made it for you just like I made each weapon for your coalition. Heroes need their Mastersword.

Shion: And what about you?

Howl: *raises his right hand summoning the same blade into it* I have what I need

Shion: A copy?

Howl: No.

Shion: Then how?

Howl: Time displaced

Shion: You mean that shitty spell actually has a use.

Howl: *Grins* You have no Idea, I have a lot to show you

???: *bursts into the room* Abyssal King Artorias are you ok? A hidden account was detected in your room.

Shion: *Sighs* it’s just *He turns to where Howl was only to see no one* nothing. It was nothing. Agent Ward. *a hidden message screen pops up “See you outside-Howl”*

Agent Ward: Sorry *Bows and closes the door on his way out*

Nomiz adelphous tous alethinous philous
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He Who Was Born With the First Troll and Shall Perish With the Last

Age : 25 Registration date : 2011-08-16 Number of posts : 106 Location :
Race: Human

PostSubject: Re: When the shit hits the fan   Fri 28 Apr 2017, 07:24

"If I've ever had a real regret, founding this Guild is probably it." Shion remarked, sighing deeply as he emerged from his room.

"Sir?" Ward tilted his head, looking to him.

Shion yawned, pulling a tattered black cloak from his inventory, which shimmered faintly as it was equipped. Lifting a hand, he ruffled his midnight blue hair, messing up his bangs as his samurai-esque ponytail tossed about behind him. "How do I look?"

Ward smiled proudly, "The Cloak of the Deep's King...it suits none better!"

"...Thanks, but I was talking about my face." Shion glanced at him, his silver gray eyes glowing dimly. "How do I look right now? Honest opinion."

Ward blinked a few times, but nodded. "Well, sir....to be honest, you look like you could use more sleep. As if you're recovering from a rough night."

Sighing in relief, Shion pat his subordinate on the shoulder. "Good. This'll keep everyone from bothering me too much today~"

"Speaking of, our partners on this raid are already making preparations. Lady Merascylla is coordinating said preparations." Ward explained, looking at a list upon a screen before him.

Leaning back a bit to straighten up and stretch out, Shion yawned once again. "That's my Ciri. If it's her, we'll be ready to roll out by 15:00, which gives us approximately...6 hours of downtime?"

Ward clapped, nodding. "As always, you're spot on my liege! It's currently 9:13."

"Alright, you can go ahead and leave me for now. I'm going to meet a friend." Shion noted, waving to him nonchalantly.

"Roger!" Answered Ward, who saluted respectfully as he was left behind.

Shion smiled slightly, as he strolled down a busy street of the town, nodding to the players and NPCs who greeted him brightly. {Yeah...half the time I wish I had never created the Flames of Lordran. It's not like I ever wanted to be associated with such a big Guild, much less lead it...}

His smile faded, the face of a dear departed friend flashing into his mind. {But Josh always did say that I'd be one hell of a leader, one day... I'd feel like a real asshole, if I didn't strive to prove him right. I guess it isn't all bad, anyway. I've got Ciri, Airi, Lia and the others to pick up the slack when I want a break. And they at least do at their best, even when I'm not around.}

Flames of Lordran, the strongest and most famous Guild in PSO, led by the most famous and popular player, Abyss King Artorias. They started with just Artorias and his several generals, and after accomplishing a number of incredible feats, being responsible for roughly 70% of the world exploration and settling that had taken place thus far, it was only natural that they were the idols of every player. Led by Abyss King Artorias, the Flames were clearly a Dark Souls inspired Guild. Artorias, the leader, bore the title "Emperor of the First Flame," a title that was actually given by his allies for being the first to ignite the flames of hope in their hearts. Directly beneath him, the souls who were strengthened by the ashes left in the wake of his dazzling flame, the Lords of Cinder; his most trusted subordinates and friends, his generals. Beneath the Lords of Cinder were the Chosen Undead, who served as lieutenants to the Lords. At the bottom of the rung were the rank and file, the Ashen Ones who made up the majority of their population.
Artorias and his noble, faithful Lords worked together to create a number of Spells and items only accessible to them and other members of their Guild, with the most outstanding members being given permission to use the higher classes of these exclusives.
Following their clearing of the Palace of the Hallowed, they established the former Dungeon as their base of operations, and pioneered the fast travel system set by the game developers, linking all safe spaces that had been unlocked in the game. By all rights, they were the ones who truly made the game world a habitable and bearable environment, even within all the horrors surrounding the players.

The Lords of Cinder, along with his best friend Howl, were the only ones that Artorias felt comfortable complaining to. For everyone else, he usually put on his bravest face and, at the very least, tried to act like he was always in control of the events transpiring around him. Howl and the Lords, along with a handful of others, they were the only ones allowed to use his real name, which was publicly decided to be against their brand of netiquette.

"Shi-chan, Shi-chan~"

"?" Shion stopped walking, finding a woman in front of him. "Oh, Lia."

The woman referred to as Lia, was a girl with long silver hair and purple blue eyes, who often wore white and purple dresses. Her Avatar was a Half Elf, so she naturally had pointed ears. Her game name was Satella, and her IRL name was Emilia. She was the middle sister of three, who were also Shion's childhood friends. Through her actions, she was granted the title "Witch of Envy". This came about from her proficiency as one of the most powerful Mages in PSO, with some of the highest stats in the elements of Ice and Darkness, as well as her tendency to become cold to anyone who bothered her precious Shion. Normally though, she was one of the sweetest girls you could meet. She was also very famous for having raised one of the most powerful Familiars, a cat-like beast known as Puck, whose power over Ice and Darkness could compliment and significantly boost her own abilities.
Naturally, she was one of the Lords of Cinder.

Emilia poked her crush's cheek playfully, "Were you thinking about how much you regret leading us, again~?"

"Huh? No, what would give you that idea?" Shion replied, slightly flustered as he took a step back from her. "You aren't with Airi?"

Emilia shook her head, moving to his side as she held his arm with a vibrant smile. "What are you doing until prep is complete, Shi-chan?"

Shion shifted slightly, looking down the cleavage window of her dress. {It's still a bit shocking how our IRL physical data converted to our Avatar upon initial scan... I really can't tell the difference between their boobs here and in reality.}

Emilia grinned a bit mischievously, upon noticing his eyes wander. "Are you having dirty thoughts, then?"

"Huh? No, what would give you that idea?" Shion replied, parroting his prior response as he looked forward, ignoring her laughter in reaction. "Anyway, I'm meeting Howl."

Emilia blinked in surprise, "Wow, he really came back? Wicca-chan was really heated after talking to you yesterday. Did you have to go so far?"

She couldn't help but frown, upon seeing his face shift sorrowfully.

"Do you know what the most common response to denial is, Lia?" Shion wondered, smiling bitterly at her. "It's anger. Wicca's just taking her frustration with herself out on anyone who prods at her insecurities. I'm sure it's difficult for her to carry the guilt of knowing she's a big part of his suffering."

"Yeah..." Emilia gripped his arm more tightly. "Shi-chan...are you okay? You never talk to us about it...that day, I mean... I can guess what it's been like for Howl, but even though you stayed, you just don't talk about it..."

Shion took a calm breath, "There's nothing to tell, Lia, that's all. Josh died because Howl and I couldn't support him properly. After going through that, I refuse to ever face that situation again. So, even if I don't particularly want to, I'll fight as hard as I have to. To keep the rest of you safe. I said it before, and I'll say it again..."

He smiled warmly at her. "Lia, no matter what happens, I'm getting you girls back home. I'm getting us all back home. I'm the one who dragged you into this with me, so I'll never give up until we can return together."

Emilia's face turned red as she lowered it to his chest in embarrassment. "I know...and we'll always be by your side, no matter what happens...Shi-chan... I mean, you can hardly do anything without us anyway, right?"

Shion ran a hand through her hair, kissing her atop the head. "Yep, I'm completely and utterly useless without all of you."

"As touching as always, you two." A voice called out from a dark alley, as the couple passed by.

It was followed by a chuckle, as the girl jumped in surprise. "Does my hideous voice scare you that much, Emilia? I'm sorry I can't be as silky as your abyssal knight over there~"

"T-that's not funny, Howl!" Emilia exclaimed, darting into the alley to pound him on the chest.

Shion walked over behind her, chuckling as he saw his best friend seated atop a box, not even flinching. "Lia, stop, you're embarrassing yourself."

Emilia stopped, almost as soon as he spoke, stepping back as she pointed to him. "There's nothing hideous about you, Howl! And it's not like Shi-chan's the grand prize himself, anyway! What's silky about this anal, awkward introvert?"

Shion jolted, taking a step back as he sweat a bit. "L-lia, I'm right here..."

Howl chuckled again as he watched the two, "Oh, how I've missed these little moments between you. How goes it with other two?"

"You can see for yourself when you see them." Shion replied calmly, opening his menu and pulling up his map. "Let's go check in with the other Lords."

Emilia moved between Shion and Howl, as they left the alley, sticking to the backstreets. "Howl-chan? I know I say this every time, but the last Lord of Cinder position is waiting for you, whenever you decide to take it~"

Howl pat the girl on the head, smiling wryly as she giggled. "Yeah, I'll keep it in consideration."

"That's what YOU say every time in response." Shion quipped.

Howl shrugged nonchalantly, "Speaking of, is everyone here? Unless something's changed, I don't think it's your style to have all hands on deck."

Shion glanced up at him, nodding. "Like you think. I only have Lia, Airi and Ciri with me right now. Erst, Rou and Tatsu are back at HQ, handling other business."

Erst referred to Erston Outway, an IRL friend whose game name was Gaius, a mighty samurai who wielded a Sephiroth-like nodachi and traveled the path of devastation through a single hit. He was easily the most serious and dense of the whole lot, but also the most earnest.

Rou referred to Emiya Shirou, another IRL friend whose game name was Archer, a jack of all trades who was a master of ranged archery, along with being very skilled with short swords and a variety of other weapons. He was the resident goody two shoes, who desired to help out everyone around him, even with menial tasks; he was a bit of a pushover.

Tatsu referred to Shiba Tatsuya, yet another IRL friend whose game name was Taurus Silver, a marksman of extreme ability and lethality, who had mastered every class of firearm in the game. He was also a master of martial arts, having studied ninjutsu through his life. His primary role was actually quartermaster, as he managed the commerce of the Guild. He was also one of the highest ranked blacksmiths, engineers and armorers in the game, spending much of his time in the forge whenever he was struck with inspiration.

"Sounds about right." Howl remarked, smiling slightly.

"Here we are~" Emilia announced, pushing the door to an alchemy shop open, stepping aside for the guys to follow her in.

Howl laughed a bit, upon finding their target in the middle of a heated bartering with the shopkeep.

"These prices are criminal." The girl hissed, slamming her hand firmly down upon the counter separating her from her counterpart. "The herbs I gather myself are of much higher quality, and I don't sell them for even half your rates, peon."

The shopkeeper, a nervous player, backed up into his wall, sweating heavily. "L-lady Xerxes, please forgive me! I'm struggling to make ends meet here!"

Shion walked over, extending a hand to include himself in their transaction, paying the price immediately. "Sorry for the trouble, she can't seem to go a day without tormenting some unfortunate soul."

The shopkeeper gasped, "E-emperor Artorias!? I-I-"

Shion covered the woman's mouth before she could deliver one of her outbursts, grabbing her wrist and pulling her along. "Later~"

He released her outside, chuckling. "Jesus, Airi, can't you chill for one minute?"

"Shion!" She growled, grabbing his arm violently. "I was being perfectly civil, did you even LOOK at the price when you paid?! It's robbery! Highway robbery!"

"Good to see you haven't changed, Airiel." Howl whistled as he followed Emilia outside.

Airiel blinked, looking at him. "Caleb? You're back?"

"Temporarily." Howl answered coolly.

Airiel was the eldest of the three sisters, a year ahead of Emilia. Her Avatar was human, her hair a long, silvery white and her eyes a deep red, like vibrant wine; her hair was adorned with azure blue ribbons. She was usually outfitted in flowy, elegant, extravagant robes which were partially exposing. Her game name was Xerxes, and she'd earned the title of "Queen of Fundament", which was granted accordingly; she's the most knowledgeable player in the game when it comes to minerals and herbs, being the most powerful Alchemist, fully capable of employing a nigh-infinite number of effects through her skillset. Thanks to this, she was always buying and exploring for rare items, as she could easily separate items into their base components and reconstruct them into something much more useful. Being the most scholarly, stern and diligent of them all she had taken the time to write a multitude of books about the ingredients around the world of PSO, and where they could be found, and used. A popular rumor was that she knew the basis of the concepts within the game world better than the developers did.
Of course, she was another Lord of Cinder.

Airiel took a calm breath, nodding. "Understood."

She looked up at Shion, "I know you can't help yourself from playing the fool, however atop your unnecessary squandering of funds, I do NOT need you to fight my battles for me. Had you left me to my own devices, that miscreant would have seen the error of his ways in detail."

Shion chuckled, setting a hand on her head gently. "I'm well aware, Airi. I interfered to save him, not you."

Blushing slightly, Airiel closed her eyes, clearly happy he was touching her. "More importantly, I've finished my preparations for the expedition. I've purchased all the catalysts I'll need, with interest. I'm sure I'll be able to create at least one new formula by the time we encounter the Boss."

"Heheh, that's my Airi~" Shion cooed, pinching her cheeks.

"S-stop that." Airiel commanded, swatting his hands away as she opened her eyes.

Emilia immediately glued herself to Shion's side, pulling his arm to her chest. "As you can see, Howl, Onee-chan's tsundere game is still going strong~"

"Yep, she seems to be unrivaled in that category, too." Howl remarked, grinning a bit deviously.

With a deep sigh, Airiel turned away from them. "Caleb wants to check in with Cirilla as well, correct? Let us be off, then. We only have a finite amount of time to spend on leisurely activity."

"Yes Ma'am!" Shion, Howl and Emilia chanted in unison, saluting her as she walked off ahead of them.

Airiel stopped for a moment, suddenly turning around and running her fingers through Shion's hair.

Emilia and Howl exchanged glances, laughing as Shion wore a lifeless expression.

Airiel lowered her hands after neatening his appearance. "Shion, you're our leader. You directly represent our entire Guild. Please take care to always present yourself optimally."

"Okay, Mom..." Shion whispered.

Airi blushed once again, "I am NOT your mother!"

In the town square, the site where the main preparations for the adventure were taking place.

A woman was directing the efforts carefully, while answering a number of questions from her associates.

"Classic Ciri-nee~" Emilia proclaimed, "Always a beacon of helpfulness~"

"I would say it's to be expected of my little sister, but you're clearly the outlier between us." Airiel remarked, rather coldly.

"Onee-chan's bullying me again, Shi-chan." Emilia mumbled, rubbing against him.

"...She doesn't mean anything by it, I'm sure." Shion claimed, looking ahead.

Howl smiled sympathetically, glancing at his best friend as he asked Emilia to grab her little sister. {I know it's tough for him to keep calm through that. He's come a long way from the past, huh?}

A short while later, Howl, Shion and Airiel were joined by Emilia and Cirilla.

"Cal-nii!" Cirilla ran over to hug him affectionately.

"Good to see you, Ciri." Howl put an arm around her in response, releasing her after a few moments.

Cirilla was the youngest of the three sisters, a year and a half behind Emilia. Her avatar was an Elf, so alongside her long and pointy ears, she had snow white hair, long and usually braided in twintails behind her, with long parted bangs. Her eyes were an alluring amethyst purple, though men often said they were more beautiful than the actual gem. She tended to dress conservatively, at least toward the top, as she liked wearing skirts and variations of them. Her game name was Merascylla, her title "Nature's Princess" having come from her mastery of nature magic, as she excelled at turning environments against others, and completely altering entire landscapes to suit her purposes. She was also a summoner, capable of calling upon the highest ranking elemental spirits in the game world, who would lend her their power. Of the sisters, she was the kindest by far; considered to be almost sickeningly sweet and innocent, something which even persisted through their experiences up to that point. She was arguably the most popular female player, with a number of fan clubs and even entire Guilds devoted to praising her angelic nature. This was also enhanced by the fact that she's one of the best healers in the game, and goes out of her way to heal any and all damage for every player she comes across.
Like her sisters, another Lord of Cinder.

Of note to others, was the fact that three sisters all had rather alarmingly sexy and shapely bodies, though Airiel's proportions were unanimously agreed upon as being the best overall; with none of them lacking anything in particular.

"I'm so glad you're here~" Cirilla admitted, smiling brightly at Howl. "When you're around, Ao-nii is always able to put forth his best effort!"

Shion blinked at her, "You're making it sound like I don't pull my weight unless he's with me..."

"We all know you can do much better than you usually do." Airiel suggested calmly, shrugging.

Emilia laughed as Shion hung his head in shame, "Onee-chan's just giving you a hard time. She's always talking about how thankful she is that you're our leader~"

Airiel turned bright red, turning her back to them immediately. "She's exaggerating. Immensely."

Howl nudged Shion as Emilia and Cirilla teased their big sister. "It's good that your harem is as strong as ever. Did you know that, according to the polls, you're actually the most envied player in the game? Some anonymous comments also ssuggested that you should die for living such a dream."

"Hmph!" Shion crossed his arms, his cheeks puffing up childishly. "Maybe I should fake my death, then! Screw those guys! They're just...well, it'll come to me. Anyway, they don't even know the true colors of these chicks. If they did, they'd know it isn't all fun and games."

"Yeah, you definitely have it rough, Brother." Howl quipped.

Shion took a breath, looking to him. "Hey...before we set out... I don't think it's a good idea to see Wicca right now, but you should definitely meet with Prinny. Some things were said yesterday, and I felt pretty shitty leaving her to deal with it alone."

He scratched his head, looking down. "Even if I tried...well, you know better than anyone. I'm a train wreck when it comes to handling others intimately."

Howl stared at him in silence for a few minutes, before speaking. "Maybe you should give yourself some more credit. After all, you're the reason those three have been able to stay sane all this time. Josh- He'd be proud of you. A lot more proud than he'd be of someone like me."

Lifting his head, Shion frowned. "Don't say that. He'd be-"

"Shi-chan, Shi-chan~" Emilia skipped around to his back suddenly, hiding behind him. "Onee-chan's ready to confess her love for you~"

"Wha-" Shion looked from her to Airi. "Huh? What?"

Airiel turned red again, looking away. "Emilia is being an idiot, like usual."

Cirilla smiled a bit nervously, "Airi-nee..."

"M-more importantly..." Airiel cleared her throat. "Let's get out of here. Caleb doesn't need any unnecessary attention because of us."

"Yeah, sure." Shion nodded a few times. "Let's find some food, then. I haven't eaten anything yet."

Cirilla looked up at him, "To Priscilla's then?"

Howl noticed Shion glance at him, "That's fine."


Izaya's The Boss:

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PostSubject: Re: When the shit hits the fan   Fri 05 May 2017, 08:26

As the five make their way through town Ciri jumps up and pulls back the hood of Howl’s God Eater coat. Revealing his flame red hair held back in a samurai’s tail its tips are a saturated Ink black, his ears though pointed were much larger then elves. Several earrings lined both ears each glinting in the light of the sun, which complemented his glowing glacier blue eyes, and when he smiled his four sabretooth canines added to the bestial look of his scarred face and body.

Ciri: *Nods* That’s better

Howl: Well as long as you’re comfortable.

Ciri: I am. *She then runs back to Shin’s side who turns to Howl and shrugs*

As they make their way to Pricilla’s Howl does his natural migratory pattern only to be herded back by Emilia, Airiel, Ciri or even Shion himself. At this moment it’s like nothing else in the world matters. They joke laugh and forget their worries as they near the entrance, Howl looks up and sees a cloaked figure with no face staring at him for a few seconds before walking off. As the five walk into the restaurant to see it’s packed with a line to the door. Prinny waves them over and takes them to a vip booth on a balcony, Shion and his harem take their seats as Shion motions for Howl to talk to Prinny. So Howl turns to face her and is surprised to see how little she has changed, Her Purple hair goes down to her ass and covers one side of her face, the eye that shows is a beautiful sea of green. Today she was wearing a sexy red riding hood attire that hugged her curves perfectly, She pushed her hair to the side and stared into Howls eyes.

Prinny: ……

Howl: *As he opened his mouth to speak he feels a surge of emotion as took her to the table tearing off her corset and pulling at her skirt as he bit her neck. The look in her eyes shook his soul but he was powerless to stop. It’s then that he feels a warm hand touch his and he snaps back to reality with Prinny holding his hand and still staring into his eyes.*

Prinny: Caleb I know when I first met you that I was a uber bitch and I could spout off all the excuses that I believed at the time. But we both know tit was out of fear and I don’t expect you to forgive me but I *tears welled up in her eyes as she dashed forward and wrapped her arms around Howl as she pressed her face against his chest.

Shion raised his hand to try and order something only to receive a death glare from Ciri, Emilia, and
Airiel , so he slowly slide under the table quietly.

Howl: Prinn *he said as he ruffled her hair* I…

A table flips downstairs catching everyone’s attention as Wicca stands their writhing in anger her blonde hair raised in the air like a super sayin her brown eyes narrowed as she pursed her red lips.

Wicca: You traitorous whore! Out of all of them you were the last I would have suspected to pull this on me!

Howl: *Pulls Prinny closer* I am the one you hate not her Wicca!

Wicca: If I wanted to talk to a ghoul I would go to the underground!
Airiel and Emilia have to hold back Shion from diving off the balcony at Wicca.

Prinny: *leaves Howls embrace* He’s not a possession Wynne, so don’t get mad when someone else wants him.

Wicca: Is that what you think you’re doing? *Laughs* You were always jealous of him for loving me, but now you see a chance to love me from riding him!

Prinny: *starts to laugh* You think you’re the first to love him Wynne?

Wicca: What?

Prinny: Cause I hate to break it to you but you’re not.

Wicca: *Laughs* really and who might I ask did.

Prinny: Queen of Hearts!

A silence falls upon all them as Shion and his girls turn to look at Howl who looks away unable to look at any of them. As they stare at him he feels hands caress him as he goes back to a time before this game even existed.

(He was but a teenager with a broken nose and fist as he helped his sister from her chair to her bed, she winced as he laid her down too quickly. He bit his lip in anger and looked at the ground as he turned to leave only to have his arm grabbed by her. He stopped and she pulled him closer examining his hand first and then caressing his face.

Queen of Hearts: Who was it this time?

Teenage Caleb: They were making fun of you and …*His words are cut short as she squeezes his busted fist as hard as she can and doesn’t let go as tears roll down his face*

Queen of Hearts: So now your my protector Caleb?

Teenage Caleb: Your myne * this time she bends it back causing even more pain as he falls to a knee*

Queen of Hearts: *isn’t even looking at him* Did you win?

Teenage Caleb: Yes ……I broke his arm * he winces but she doesn’t do anything this time*

Queen of Hearts: * caresses his cheek* I just want you to fit in Caleb, that’s why I have you go to school in the first place.

Teenage Caleb: They fear me Himi……Like I’m the boogey man. They aren’t like you.

Himiko: *Grabs his nose and squeezes it till blood pours down from his nostrils* first you defend my honor and now you compare others to me * her gaze softens as she releases his nose* what’s a girl to do with this kind of attention. * She lifts his chin and leans over kissing him deeply* Very well come take your prize * she motioned form him to join her on the bed and as he kneeled over her* How removes her clothes and stares at her body until she guides him through it*

*sometime later*

Howl rests his head on Himiko’s chest as he holds her tight, she strokes his hair and kisses his forehead as they lay their both in silence, perhaps contemplating what had just happened.

Himiko: * takes a needle and carves a heart into the left pectoral of Howl’s chest* Now your mine no matter where you go or who you’re with, you are now complete.)

He returns from his time with his half-sister to see Prinny starting to walk away, Howl reaches out and grabs her arm she tries to free herself but Howl grip tightens as he pulls her close. Her eyes show sadness and anger, Howl lifted her chin and kissed her making her eyes widen in surprise before she returned it and when they released she smiled and kissed him again.

Howl: If it’s what you want then I’m yours.

Prinny: *Wraps her arms around him and squeezes* Of course, I’ll be whatever you need me to be

Howl: *pushed her to arm’s length* No just be you

Prinny: *Smiled* well let’s get you guys some food

Shion: Finally, *Gets smacked by all the girls* What I say?

Howl took his seat and they all made their order, Prinny ran to the kitchen to get it made as the others all looked at Howl strangely even for them. After a few seconds of the stares he pulled his hood back up to cover his face. He even turned away from them and contemplated getting up, and it was as he started to rise that others broke the silence.

Airiel: *grabs his hand* that was cold even for you Caleb you just stood there in silence like a child. I know being on your own has been what your used to but you can’t pick the moments you care and think you can get away with it.

Emilia: *As Howl tries to slip his fingers out of Airiel’s grip* Even when Shion is at his laziest he would never let something like that continue.

Ciri: Cal-nii?

Shion: *Leans forward* where did you go?

Airiel,Emilia,Ciri: What?

Howl: I was back with Himi

Shion: *Sighs* So it’s true then {Himiko}

Howl: How long?

Shion: Roughly forty-five minutes.

Howl was about to reply when all the food got there and Prinny sat beside Howl wrapping her arm around his as they all began to eat. It took a few seconds for Prinny to notice that Howl was hooded again.

Prinny: What’s wrong Howl?

Howl: *his lips twitch under the hood* still working through the emotions Wicca stirred up. Didn’t want to upset everyone’s meal. Guess that failed *rose out of his chair* Maybe some air will help.

Airiel: *As Howl starts to leave* Howl I.

Howl: *cuts her off* Pain is but a feeling that comes and goes nothing to worry about.

Howl then walks outside as Shion reassures Airiel, once outside Howl looks over the edge as the wind blows against him as he hears the creak of a wheelchair behind him and the arms of a woman wrap around him.

Howl: I disappointed them. I could see it in their eyes.

Himiko: I should have been more thorough with my investigation of Wynne’s intentions it appears that you need to spank me for failing you. However I got a good feeling about Pricilla she might be good to bring into the fold.

Howl: *His scar begins to moisten as he turns around to see Himiko and walking from inside Shion*

Himiko: what is it.

Shion: You good Howl ?

Howl: Yeah the air helped.

Shion: Good cause I need you to reassure Airiel she feels bad about the scolding you for something you can’t control

Howl: Ok let’s go

Shion: Howl your hood

Howl: right *pulls his hood down*

Shion: Howl your scar it’s bleeding

Howl:*Touches his head and looks at his blood covered fingers* Damn guess the hood it is *Pulls his hood back on*

Himiko: *Smiles as she watches the two walk inside* Can you feel me warm you at night Caleb?

Nomiz adelphous tous alethinous philous
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PostSubject: Re: When the shit hits the fan   Thu 11 May 2017, 07:31

Within the VIP seating area of Priscilla's.

"-so Shi-chan decided it was a good idea to go Leroy on us, and charged right into the Sub-Boss Chamber ahead of us, blowing away all the Adds in a flash with his strongest spell! Thankfully for him, we were able to join in quickly enough to bring the Sub-Boss down quickly~" Emilia noted, finishing up a story of Shion's idiocy. Or bravado, whichever way one wanted to look at it.

Shion was busily eating a rack of ribs, looking up from them. "If not for my impromptu charge, everyone would have just sat around stroking their shafts. I had places to be and girls to meet that night, so I just had to get out of that Dungeon."

"Oh? Do tell about these girls you had to meet." Airiel requested, while wiping his mouth rather roughly, a dark smile on her face.

Shion sweat a bit, looking away. "I have a life outside you, Airi."

Cirilla gently grabbed her eldest sister's hands before she could react, "Airi-nee, Ao-nii's just joking with you~"

"Am I?" Shion tilted his head.

"For your sake, I hope you are." Emilia replied in a rather chilling tone, as she ran a finger down his cheek. "I only barely tolerate our current arrangement because they're my actual sisters~"

Howl, Prinny, Cirilla and Airiel all felt a piercing chill, growing silent as they stared at Emilia.

Emilia covered her mouth, giggling as she saw how shocked they seemed. "I was also joking, of course~"

"Y-yeah, of course you were Lia." Shion had shivered when she touched him, as she'd subtly cast a Novice Ice Spell to lower his body temperature.

"Of course I was~" Emilia echoed, kissing him on the neck.

Howl whistled as Shion jumped a bit, before Airiel inserted herself between the two at the speed of lightning.

"Emilia, stop teasing him." Airiel growled lowly, giving her sister a sharp look.

Emilia frowned at her, "What? This is just innocent affection. We're not doing anything as bold as Howl and Prinny were."

Prinny's face turned red as she turned against Howl.

Howl shrugged when his best friend looked to him for some aid. "Come on, Aoba. Life's too short to be a prude."

"Now isn't that the truth!" Emilia cheered, pumping a fist.

Cirilla's cheeks turned red, opening her mouth to speak until noticing someone at one of the downstairs tables. "Um...Ao-nii? That man there has been staring at you for a while."

"Don't be naive, Ciri, he's staring at you." Shion claimed, glancing at Airiel, who was twiddling her thumbs. {Is she actually considering what he just said?}

Howl's ears twitched as he looked to the man in question, clad in mage robes. "Aoba."

"?" Shion turned his head to look, spotting the man. His eyes immediately caught the man's hand as it shifted beneath his table, the symbol of a blackened, distorted moon with a sword through it having flashed in his sight. "...Prinny, sorry in advance."

"Huh? For what?" Prinny tilted her head as Shion set his hand upon the railing behind him, pushing himself up and over into an aerial cartwheel.

Shion landed atop a table right below, ignoring meals he ruined and the surprised voices too. Jumping off the table as the man flit out the restaurant like a wraith, he sprinted out after him.

Emerging onto the crowded street, Shion skidded to a stop, kicking up dust and a bit of smoke from his momentum. Jumping from the street to the roofs, he quickly spotted the fleeing man, who had already cleared a block. {One of The Blades...? But why?}

Shifting his hand, he ruffled the Cloak of the Deep's King while focusing on a large, armored man just behind him. In a blink, he fell into his own shadow, emerging from the armored man's with no delay. Upon exiting the shadows, he lunged at the robed man, sliding across the ground so quickly sparks flew from his feet. Reaching out, he failed to connect and stumbled a bit, before sprinting down an alley.

The robed man glanced back from the opposite end of the alley, tossing a smoke grenade.

"!" Shion's eyes honed in on the man's shadow the instant before the smoke engulfed and billowed beyond the alley.

Rising from the man's shadow, he jumped into him with a flying knee, which connected to hurl him across a clearing into some barrels. "I don't wear this thing to look cool, you know. I just haven't encountered any Overwear Items that are remotely as useful to me."

"You're even sharper than the rumors say, being able to use that shitty ability so perfectly." The man remarked, rising from the broken barrels and cracking his neck.

"It's not shitty, it's just difficult to use." Shion claimed, cracking his knuckles. "You may be a lot faster with your Skill, but even the White Walker himself can't escape me if I don't want to let him. So...talk. Why are the Blades of the Darkmoon watching us?"

"Would you believe me if I said that I was just another fan of the Flames of Lordran?" The man replied, sliding his left foot forward.

"No." Shion responded curtly, flicking his left hand out. Fireball

A giant fireball launched from his hand, exploding against the man and shaking the ground.

Flitting out from the flames without a scratch, the man landed in front of Shion, pulling two kodachi from his sleeves to strike at his throat with a cross slash.

"!" Shion ducked to save his head, spinning low to counter with a sweep kick.

The man jumped from the ground to evade, twisting over his shoulder to bring his foot down in an axe kick, a shimmering magic blade of black crescent forming around it in the process.

{The Darkmoon Razor.} Shion lifted himself off from the ground with his hands, kicking directly upward with his right foot, striking his opponent's ankle accurately to push his kick off target. Pushing off from the ground with an upward twist, he followed up with a spinning hook kick with his left foot.

Lifting his kodachi to guard, the man was blown back, sliding across the ground. As he stopped, his kodachi were covered in the same effect that his foot had, swinging them forward in a chain of 8 slices, each one releasing a crescent razor at high speed.

{I'm jealous of how versatile that Skill is.} Shion mentally admitted, stepping back with a spin while flapping his cloak.

"?!" The man blinked as his attack passed right through his target, as if he were a shadow. "I didn't realize it could be used that way."

"Few people do." Shion claimed, crouching slightly as he became solid. Abyss Walker

In a dark blur, he advanced with godspeed, leaving wispy lines of blackness in his wake as he stepped directly behind the man. Forge of the Abyssal Flame

Shifting his hands as if he were holding weapons, spectral black flames flared to form daggers of a semi-solid nature. Thrusting both upward, he cut through the kodachi while kicking off the ground into a back flip, performing a somersault kick. Dolphin Kick

His foot struck like a dolphin's fin, cold water lashing out with the movement to strike the man and launch him into the air.

As Shion landed on his feet, he brought up his quick menu to equip the sword that Howl had given him earlier that morning. As the abyss-born daggers faded, he gripped the sword and looked up.

"The rumors really aren't enough to do you justice, Abyss King Artorias." The man whistled, having landed atop one of the nearby buildings.

He rubbed his head as he spoke, "There probably isn't another player capable of chaining Skills together so seamlessly, regardless of its type. You'll be a fun hunt, indeed..."

"Answer my question, and I'll consider not hunting you down right here." Shion spat in irritation.

"As much as I'd like to answer that threat, I'll be punished if we proceed any further." The man admitted. "I only came today to deliver advance notice, as is our custom. Artorias, Leader of the Flames of Lordran. One among your ranks has committed a sin most grave. Find this scumbag and bring them before us, so that they may face our judgment, or die in defense of the heathen. Those are the only two options available to you."

Shion lowered his sword, standing up straight. "There's no way that any of my Guildmates would do anything disgusting enough to get your attention. I'm well aware of your rules, how the sins of subordinate fall upon their master...but aren't you misinformed?"

The man set a hand on his hip, "Do you know them so well? Each and every single member of your Guild? It's the biggest one out there, after all."

Shion sweat a bit, biting his lip. {He's got me there, I'd be lying if I said I knew even half of the faces in the Guild.}

The man extended his free hand, "You have one week from now, Artorias. Get to the bottom of this issue and do the right thing, or face the vengeful blade of the Darkmoon. You probably know this better than anyone else, but if, for whatever reason, you don't meet our initial demand by the end of the week..."

"Yeah, I know." Shion interjected sternly. "You'll return with your fellow elites to slaughter us all. One thing...what if my investigation determines you to be wrong? Isn't there a rule in your doctrine about false accusations?"

"If that's the case, then I'll slit my own throat to repent." The man explained with a chuckle. "But I'm sorry, I've never once been wrong. In fact...I saw your man commit that sin with my own two eyes~"

"Anyway, I hope we meet under pleasant conditions next time. So we can finish this little fight~" He waved, jumping back off the roof as he phased out of sight.

Shion sighed deeply, lifting the sword and plunging it into the ground in a single motion, sending tremors outward to upheave the entire clearing like jagged blades of cement. "Didn't we make our own doctrine for the sole sake of avoiding Guilds like them? Fuck...I'll have to deal with this after the Siege Boss is down."

He unequipped the sword, leaving the area. {I can't risk them...not against them... They've really stepped up their game since our last encounter.}

"Shion! What's wrong!?" Airiel demanded, running over as he emerged from an alley.

Shion smiled at her, "Nothing."

"What, nothing? Everyone heard the noise you were making!" Cirilla exclaimed. "Who was that man!?"

"...Just a dark cloud from the past." Shion responded coolly. "We can talk about it later, we've got something more pressing to deal with right now."

Emilia let out a breath, shaking her head. "I guess so..."

"Was he strong?" Howl asked curiously.

Shion looked up at him, nodding in response.

Howl crossed his arms, {He told me was involved with the Blades of the Darkmoon, but I didn't think they'd show him such consideration.}


Izaya's The Boss:

Stomp That Shit!:

Shizu-chan's Seismic Toss:

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PostSubject: Re: When the shit hits the fan   Mon 22 May 2017, 10:30

An awkward silence filled the air as the girls and Shion felt the crushing weight of responsibility on their shoulders, at times like these Joshua would have found a way to snap them out of it. Howl on the other hand was silent with a pain in his chest as he heard whispers all around him as they reached the bonfire. Shion went through first followed by with Airi and her sisters following right behind him. Howl approached the fire only to stumble back as the whispers intensified making his head pound, he shakes his head and catches a glimpse of a figure causing him to turn to face the silver masked figure. Which quickly vanishes leaving behind it a distortion in the code. “Selene” gasps Howl right before he enters the bonfire, and in mere seconds he finds himself standing in front of Shion. Who wears a face of worry as he asks “You good Caleb?”, Howl fights the distractions and makes himself smile like usual “thought I saw someone turned out to be just another figment”.

Shion gave him a puzzled look before Bakuto embraced him in a hug "my Shion you've returned to me" he sighed, Shion saw Howl's questioning look . And shouted "It's not what it looks like....", "White walker we meet at last" Bakuto says completely cutting off Shion as he steps toward Howl. "Shion here talks a big game about you, but you'll excuse me if I have some reservations......don't disappoint me out there."

Howl shrugs "now I gotta live up to a legend of myself *Sighs* this is becoming more trouble then it's worth".

Bakuto shakes his head and turns to leave before stopping ot say "you better be right about this one mi hijo". Before leaving as he shakes his head.

"Sorry I disappointed your friend Aoba, guess I'm just not that great in person" Howl says a he shrugs.

Shion turns to Howl and smirks as he starts to say a witty remark only to have one of the Chosen Undead run up to him and tell him he's needed. He glances at Howl who motions for him to go were he is needed and Shion nods and runs to the base camp.

Howl unequipped Godeater and pulls out a ceremonial balm which he sets on the ground as he kneels before it starts preforming the ceremony rites. Before dipping his fingers in the spade black balm and drawing symbols of the Eldar upon himself, once finished he returns the balm to his inventory and walks toward the massive base camp. He gets stares from all he passes, as few have every actually seen him in the game. He shrugs of the stares and wanders to the Flames of Lordran part of the camp were he asks for Lia. And after a near camp covering goose hunt he finds her reorganizing her quick cast list, so he sneaks up and pokes her sides makins her scream. As Howl gets pounced to the ground by Puck who she accidentally summoned.

Lia quickly ends the summons and runs to check on Howl "Oh my god Howl are you ok?" she shouts as she checks him over. She lets out a sigh of relief when she sees he's alright before striking him several times in the chest in frustration. "I could have killed you, you jerk" , Howl almost cries from laughing the whole time as she frowns and asks. "So aside from scaring the shit out of me is their something you needed?"

Howl takes a calming breath before saying "Yes I need you to frost me", Lia gives him a what stare as he stands there waiting for her response.

"Wait your serious" Lia asks, Howl nods yes as she stares at him and says "Are you a masochist?"

Howl shakes his head "Will you do it or not?" he asks

Lia thinks hard about it before finally agreeing but still says "The second it starts to hurt let me know immediately". Howl nods ok and she readies herself before placing her hands on Howl's back and shouting Winters coming causing howl to immediately be covered in frost. She has to close out everything around her as she focuses the blizzard inside Howl as the frost slowly starts to turn to ice. It takes her a second to realize his body temp, and she starts to freak and try to pull away when she hears "Boost" from Ddrieg Howl's great red dragon ring. Causing the spell to be boosted before she can remove her hands turning Howl completely into Ice or so she thought as the Ice disappeared into his now etched and symbol covered skin. He turns to face her with his dragon glacier eyes a smirk on his face as he returns to normal.

Howl whistles "It still works that's good to know, thought I was in trouble their for a second" Lia's jaw drops before she composes her self and starts wailing on his chest again as she calls him several names. Before composing herself and apologizing, her eyes then open wide as she gasps out loud.

"Where did you get this scar Caleb" Lia asks as she points to the one over his right pectoral, Howl shrugs and says "don't remember". Lia gives him a stern glare "Caleb Amakusa Howl. That is a deep tissue scar and from the location of it you should not be standing here right now". Howl pats her on the shoulder and says "Yet here I am, guess that means it's just another scar for the books well I better go find Shion before he starts to look for me". And with that Howl heads on his way {No one can survive a stab to the heart Howl so how did you?}

Howl finds Shion going over the details of the plan with the leaders of the other guilds, bringing a smile to his face as he equips Four Horsemen. A tattered coat with rusted silver elapses and buttons, before walking up to Shion and leaning on his shoulder as the three others look up to him. Shion looks up at him and says "running the Horsemen an interesting choice Howl" as he fists bumps him.

"That coat is bloody worthless you Fucking wanker" blurts out Legend

Panda shakes his head and says "Nothing is worthless if these two acknowledge it, good to see you WW"

"Are you ready Aggro machine?" asks Bakuto

"Wait this guild less mother fucker is our Aggro *turns to face Shion* Are you fucking retarded, this guild less fuck is going to get you killed. I thought you were some fucking genius and here we all found out your as useful as a fucking dingle berry". Gets stopped by a palm to the throat by Shion.

"If you have a problem Legend you can leave at anytime" growls Shion

As Legend gasps on the ground, "Waiting on you guys" states Howl as Bakuto nods as he turns towards the camp and lets out a high pitched whistle. And in less then fifteen minutes all members of the guild alliance had assembled in their rows with Shion and Bakuto at the front.

Howl made his way into the encounter area where a Eldar in platinum armor sat on a throne made of the bodies of those that had challenged him before. And as the others made their way out of sight Howl stepped into the view of the villain, whom rose to his feet brimming with anger. "You dare wear those vestments in my presence as if you are casting judgement on me" his voice boomed through the hall. Howl remained unmoved as he walked even closer "I don't pass judgment I am here to bring your damnation" stated as he found the spot to make his stand. "You dare threaten me peon" bellowed the beast, Howl flicked his chin at the beast before he preformed Line in the sand This seemed to enrage the beast as he transformed into a Minotaur and charged at Howl with it's head bent low for a gore attack. Howl's body glowed blue for a second thanks to Zoom as he stood his ground and repelled the Minotaur with. An iaijutsu-focus causing the line to glow as the beast roared even louder casuing the stalagmites in the ceiling to shake.

Shion kept his fist up as a sign to hold their position as they watched Howl keep the beast in check for three rounds, it then changed form to a basilisk and charged. Howl dashed forward as hilts of weapons hovered by each leg, which he drew and slashed the beast with until he reached it's tail he Cyclone striked. He followed that up with a flip into a skill synchro of quick draw/rapid fire/hawk-eye/Iaijutsu-focus. Lighting up the back of the beast as he landed, the beast wheeled around as it changed form back to a Minotaur and charged him. And it was at this point that Shion pointed forward for a charge to the next point for the first group, and after several minutes most of the alliance was crouched by the seige gear.

Legend was leading the last group forward when Howl saw the beast shudder into a Chimera facing Legend as it began attacking with a breath attack. Howl reached his hand out as Noctis flew through a tear in space, as Howl warped to it's handle as he twisted in the air as he opened his right palm as a giant Gilded gauntlet appeared infront of the attack. Absorbing most the damage but splash damage hit Howl sending him through six pillars taking a big chunk out of his health.

Ciri was preparing to heal Howl when Shion stopped her, she looked at him confused as he explained "Healing magic creates sixty times the Aggro with this boss. *closed his eyes as he let out a sigh* So we have to sit and watch until Legend gets his ass up here and we can set the barrier". The two watched as Howl got to his feet and grabbed the blade Hatedrinker which went from a broadsword to a witchblade gauntlet as red tendrils grew from it and wreathed in the air. The sight of the blade made angered Shion so much that he tried to go to Howl but got held back by Panda. Ciri turned to Airi and asked "why did Shion freak out when he saw that weapon", "Because the Hatedrinker amplifies aggro by eighty percent but nullifies Howl's Eldar regeneration and cuts his defense down by half. Making him squishy. And lastly it makes him immune to all forms of healing or buffs, to put it in perspective that weapon is a self sacrificing last ditch weapon". Ciri starts to tear up as Airi and Lia try to comfort her.

Howl glows with another boost from Zoom as he staggers out of the way of the serpent tail as he tries to get his bearings, but the beast doesn't relent as he uses his speed and reflexes to stay a millisecond ahead of a death blow. He glances over and sees Legend and his group frozen in place causing him to stop for a second as the Lion head goes in for the kill so he is forced to Flash step to the left and slam Hatedrinker into the nose as he yells "MOVE YOUR ASSES NOW". Legend snaps out of the fear and gets his group running double time as Howl gets another boost from Zoom. Allowing him to outpace the beast for now.

Shion regains his focus as he calls for everyone to take positions as the barrier makers start to form the barrier as Legend and his group scramble up the hill. Panda stands at the top tossing the slower folk behind the barrier point before crossing back himself as he gets on shell loading duty. Shion screams "Attack!!!!", and every siege weapon begins to fire as Ciri hits the beast with Quantum fireballs lighting it up first. As it shifts back into the Basilisk , Shion follows suit by casting Vortex fireball and the others follow the chain.

Howl warps with Noctis so that he is surfing down the Basilisk's back as he unequipped Hatedrinker and is instantly healed by Ciri. As the beast turns he flips off and lands infront of the beast as it turns about to him as a siege bomb hits it in the face he feels the entire area get chilled from Lia's AoEAbsolute Zero. Causing his body to morph as he swing the massive Tessaiga and activate Wind scar shattering a bunch of formed ice and pelting the beast with it amping up the damage. After several volleys and attacks the beasts armored state actually shatters.

As Panda and Bakuto lead the other melee fighters down to the beasts location Shion uses the Cloak of the Deep to warp to Howl and strike the beast with Black Meteor which Howl mimics at the same time. And the two continue to compliment the other in such a way that Airi,Lia,Ciri and the Chosen Undead present can't help but feel jealous of. As Panda and Bakuto start to strike Howl begins to complement their strikes as well. Until the other fighter get their at which point he uses the Four Horsemens ability Death's Mantle. Boosted by Ddrieg coating all the warriors in it's effects which make them Incorporeal with the added effects of armor piercing and instant critical hits. Giving them a good twenty minutes of amazing damage before the beasts armor starts to reform, Shion activates Cloak of the Deep as Howl boosts to allow him to take all the others back with him behind the barrier to start the cycle again.

The beast runs past Howl as it goes for the barrier, Howl twists through the air as he tosses a javelin at it's hind leg and follows that up with. A perfect rope arrow shot to the back of it as it impales the tendon of the beast as he teleports with Noctis into the sky as he equips Gilded mail Greaves causing him to plummet qickly as the rope he tugs pulls the beast back down the hill as he uppercuts it. Before unequipping Gilded mail Greaves

Nomiz adelphous tous alethinous philous

Last edited by Ryerai on Fri 02 Jun 2017, 20:21; edited 1 time in total
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He Who Was Born With the First Troll and Shall Perish With the Last

Age : 25 Registration date : 2011-08-16 Number of posts : 106 Location :
Race: Human

PostSubject: Re: When the shit hits the fan   Wed 24 May 2017, 01:28

"Reinforcements incoming!" One of the Ashen Ones called out, alerting the army.

"Reinforcements?!" Legend gasped, as his Guildmates pointed out an approaching wave of War Beasts, Ogres and Thralls primarily. {How could he have possibly known this would happen?!}

"It's just as you suspected, Artorias." Bakuto noted, stroking his chin thoughtfully.

Panda nodded, "You were right, none of the previous challengers even made it to the real fight. Breaking its armor the first time is nothing more than the introductory phase."

Shion ran a hand through his hair as he walked to the edge of the barriers, "It's just what I expected from a boss standing between us and World Expansion, that's all."

He gave a thumbs up when Howl looked to him, "Everyone, stick to the plan, prepare the Siege Weapons for the next volley."

As he changed his loadout, being equipped in light, enchanted black leather armor with glowing mystic runes and no weapon, he continued speaking. "Merascylla, White Walker is working to build aggro, so focus on supporting him. Stick to your lowest tier Healing until we launch the offensive. Satella, standby with Puck. Xerxes, provide covering fire for me."

"Understood." Cirilla, Emilia and Airiel answered with a nod.

"What, you're taking them all on by yourself?" Legend snarled in disbelief. "I know you're good, but that-"

One of the Chosen Undead, Eleanor, a girl with long red and peach pink hair tied in twintails, along with grassy green eyes, scoffed with a confident smile. "Good is a severe understatement! Watch with open eyes, Sir Legend, and you too can learn something from watching our leader's sublime skill in battle!"

Legend and his Guild looked surprised, Bakuto and Panda chuckling as Cirilla and Emilia smiled, while Airiel sighed. The rest of the Flames of Lordran cheered, all idolizing their leader as much as Eleanor did.

Shion began to sweat, glancing at the girl. {I'm gonna feel like a real loser now, if I fuck up out there. Way to put the pressure on!}

As soon as he stepped outside the barrier he activated Armiger. Spectral black flames flared around him, revolving at high speed while forging into 13 different weapons, mixed with swords, polearms and axes this time. The moment the weapons stopped and floated at his side, he stepped forward with Abyss Walker.

Moving between Howl and the Siege Boss, and the recently arrived War Beasts almost instantly, he took a quick glance to ensure he was outside the aggro range of the Boss.

Airiel was standing beyond the barrier now as well, nodding when he looked to her. She lifted her left hand, bracing it with her right while extending her index finger.

Shion held his hand out, grabbing a greatsword as the first ogre reached him. Stepping toward it as it attempted to punch him, he slipped right underneath it, while swinging the blade to sever the creature's arm, blood spraying out.

Smiling as he felt the resistance, he spun a single time, cutting the Ogre in half from the torso with one clean swing. Releasing the sword, he extended his hand as the other beasts paused upon seeing their comrade fall.

The 13 weapons revolved around him while shifting to point outward, launching all at once and leaving behind bluish black streaks of light. The weapons shot into the War Beasts, aiming for the nearest Ogres first and tearing right through them as if they were pudding dolls. As the weapons detonated to trigger piercing explosions of black flame, taking out a few Thralls surrounding, 13 more weapons forged, this time all spears.

Eleanor's eyes sparkled as she spoke for the Guild, "Do you see?! Our fearless leader is a one man army, even War Beasts of such caliber are simply no match!"

Gandr. Airiel focused on the War Beasts while Shion used Abyss Walker to move above the Thralls and rain his spears down upon them. A large black and red sphere formed before her finger, firing off like a bullet, which was followed by more as she accurately aimed them at the Ogres and Thralls.

Emilia smiled to herself as most attention shifted to Shion as he took on the War Beasts face to face with only Airiel's support. "Summon Familiar: Puck~"

A gray and silver cat appeared, his body forming up from ice in his smallest form. "Oh? Are we taking on the Siege Boss now, Lia?"

Emilia reached out to scratch his ears gently, the women within the current party squealing upon seeing him. "Not yet, Shi-cha- Er, Lord Artorias has us on standby. As soon as Howl-chan- Er, as soon as White Walker builds enough aggro and the Siege Weapons fire, you and I will be the first to attack this time~"

"Heh, this would've already been over if you'd summoned me from the start~" Puck claimed, rubbing his head against her cheek affectionately, winking at the women who stared at him. "Where's your boyfriend, anyway?"

He looked as he sat upon her shoulder and she pointed, "Oh wow, he's as crazy as ever. Why doesn't he just use that other Skill of his? It'd be over in a flash~"

Emilia frowned at him, "You know he won't use that one."

The Siege Boss was back in its Minotaur form, now wielding a war axe at high speed.

Howl remained a step ahead, receiving another boost from Zoom. Evading narrowly, within a hair's breadth of the axe blade, he grimaced as he was taking damage from just the air pressure behind each swing. {Tough bastard, aren't you?}

Equipping Godeater, he parried the next swing, rolling to the side while countering with a wide and heavy swing. As he got back to his feet, feeling the assist from Ciri's Restoration, he caught sight of his best friend as he threw himself at the reinforcements. "Ever the showstopper, eh?"

"You're one to talk!" Shion shouted back, Abyss Walker activating to distance him from the Thralls as they got close, with Airiel's cover fire bearing down. "Look at you, casually solo aggroing the Siege Boss who's killed thousands of players!"

Howl blinked once, shifting his weapon to guard a heavy strike, being blown back across the ground. "You...call this casual? Maybe you're more unstable than I am."

"Bounded Fields," Airiel called out, halting her fire to produce two large, circular fields of glowing white light, which upped Shion and Howl's HP and Mana Regen while buffing their defense and offense.

"Transmutation." This time all the rubble around the area was transmuted wide-scale, into a variety of alchemic bombs, which dropped upon the War Beasts and the Siege Boss.

Puck purred as everyone watched the bombs go off, clearing the reinforcements and staggering the boss heavily. "As cool as ever, Big Sis~"

Airiel ignored the cat, adjusting the fields and layering them atop one another as Shion immediately shifted focus to the boss. "Eleanor?"

Eleanor saluted, "Siege Weapons ready in 5 minutes!"

"Satella?" Airiel glanced at her sister, pretending not to notice Puck clawing at her playfully.

Emilia smiled, nodding eagerly. "We're ready~ We'll attack first as soon as the Siege Weapons fire~"

Airiel shifted her focus to Cirilla, who was now splitting her Healing between Shion and Howl as they initiated Dual Tank tactics to expertly split Aggro, something which was considered to be the highest level of Tanking tactics. "Merascylla, Artorias has predicted a number of calamitous developments, so focus on only Healing once the full assault begins. Save your Ult. until our leader orders for it. You'll handle the major Healing once the assault is renewed, and conduct the other Healers accordingly."

"Yes, Ma'am!" Cirilla answered confidently, nodding with a resolute expression.

"Sir Legend," Airiel glanced at him. "Please don't make any mistakes this time. Your previous fumble nearly broke the first phase strategy, and cost us roughly 8% of our maximum DPS."

Legend gulped loudly, for once, unable to voice a complaint. "Aye, Mum..."

Panda chuckled as everyone kept silent while the Queen of Fundament solidified their foundations and cemented their roles. "Artorias, WW, X. It's always magnificent to watch any of them in action."

"At this point, I can't disagree on White Walker." Bakuto admitted, smiling in amusement. "He still falls short of the beauty of my dear, but I'll cede that it's simply unfair to compare anyone to such a sublime individual~"

Emilia glanced at him, "Bakuto? Not that I don't agree, but I hope you understand what'll happen if you ever lay a hand on him that way again."

Puck chuckled as Bakuto grimaced in pain, rubbing at his chest. "Lia really tore you a new one that time, didn't she~?"

"This is-" Shion soared above the Boss as it slithered around in Basilisk form, 12 greatshields slamming down around it, with such force that each produced solid air to forcefully slow and restrict its movement.

"-just like-" Gripping the last weapon, an ultra greatsword modeled after the Dragonslayer from Berserk, and a certain weapon in his armory, he dropped down to plunge the blade into the throat of the Boss, accurately striking right through a small gap in its shifting armor.

"-old times, eh?" He grinned at his best friend as he felt the blade pin the beast to the ground, where it writhed and raged.

Howl grinned wildly, now brandishing Urvan, a tremendous battleaxe colored in gold, silver and bronze. With a swift swing, he allowed the momentum to carry him full tilt on the first pitch, tearing right through a cracked part of the armor. Shifting his body to fan the momentum, he spun to use Cyclone Strike while circling around the boss to strike multiple times without striking the shields.

"You know it!" He shouted, while ending the skill with a leap, bringing the axe down atop the Boss' head and tearing one of its eyes apart. "You've gotten a bit scary though, I daresay."

He leapt back with Flash Step while being boosted once more by Zoom, taking notice of where his friend had so masterfully impaled the enemy. "When are you going to share that story about you soloing a Raid Boss?"

Shion's expression grew bitter for a moment, as he twisted the blade in a perfect 360, snapping through the armor gap and sending cracks radiating outward. As he jumped straight up, the blade and the shields all detonated and he moved to the opposite side of the boss with Abyss Walker. 13 varied weapons forged this time as he shuffled back swiftly, avoiding a massive tail swipe which tore apart the ground and sent massive pieces of the area in every direction.

Extending his left hand, he used Dark Hand to project its transparent red barrier, deflecting every piece that would have hit him. "It's really not something to boast about. Maybe I'll tell you if you can get me drunk tonight~"

"Ah, that's my Shion." Howl remarked, evading every piece with swift movements, like a river which runs through treacherous teeth. "You always know what to say to motivate me!"

The Boss let out a deafening hiss, producing a powerful mystic wave to afflict heavy Debilitations and Status Effects on all touched by it. Its tail lifted high, slamming down once upon the ground, then thrice more. With each slam, stalactites the size of large houses cascaded downward across the entire battlefield.

"!" Shion shifted his barrier upward while staying still, minimizing the damage to himself.

Howl stood still, lifting Urvan defensively as the Abyss King extended his other hand to project a second barrier above him.

Those within the barrier watched in shock, as the falling projectiles created a large and thick cloud of dust, obscuring their view.

"Did anyone see if they reacted in time?" Bakuto inquired, raising an eyebrow.

Panda nodded, "Artorias should have put up defenses in time, the only question is if it held out long enough to spare them the majority of the damage."

Airiel didn't look concerned at all, snapping her fingers to get everyone back on track. "The moment we confirm their positions, initiate the second full assault."

Wordlessly nodding in response, the entire Siege Party held their breath. As the dust settled, the first thing they saw was a large shadow, the Boss being revealed first. A few seconds later, they saw the Dual Tanks alive, Howl at 1/6th HP and Shion at 1/8th.

"Return." Airiel commanded, her AoE field instantly compressing itself and engulfing her two allies, who were warped to her side.

"Thanks, Xer." Shion and Howl said in unison, both gently tapping their fists against her shoulders.

Airiel smiled at both of them, as Cirilla quickly Healed them back to full HP and cured their afflictions, while the Siege Weapons bombarded the Boss. As she turned her attention forward, some of their Mages cast suppression spells and she produced a number of gems, which she tossed toward the boss between volleys.

"Arcane Gems Manipulation." She called out, the gems being connected by strong links of energy within a circle, producing an overwhelming and crushing gravity effect, which forced the Boss to the ground as it tried to transform, being stuck halfway to Minotaur form as a tremendous crater opened up beneath it and lowered its defenses.

As the final volley broke through all the armor and dealt bonus damage, the Siege Party seemed to hold its breath once again as they felt the temperature of the entire area plummet.

Stepping forward past everyone, Emilia passed through the barriers for the first time in the battle, Puck joining her while taking his largest form to tower over her and everyone else like a titan.

"Everyone, be ready." Shion ordered, deactivating Armiger and changing his loadout as everyone else did, the melee combatants speccing to maximize their DPS. "WW and I are going to capitalize this time and drag everyone through my cloak's ability.

He glanced at Legend, "You kept asking about Satella's Ults. during the meeting. You're about to see them."

With a dual chant alongside Puck, Emilia cast Falling Snow to call down two intersecting, high-volume flurries of frost and snow, which quickly built up and afflicted Frostbite on the Boss to halve its resistances.

Next came Hammer of the Ice King, which created two giant masses of ice which dropped down to deal heavy damage while detonating, creating two waves of icy mist which dealt DoT.

With another dual chant, they cast Absolute Zero to produce two circular boundaries of ice, with doubly absolute zero conditions, dealing massive damage and leaving behind a dual stream of residual chilling mist for even more DoT.

Their third dual chant saw them dual casting Blade of Conviction, two portals of darkness tearing open above the Boss to rain down innumerable swords of darkness, before two colossal blades crashed down and exploded, releasing double-layered torrents of darkness, which cut into the Boss with high extra DPS.

"Executioner's Sword!" Emilia and Puck shouted in unison, lifting their hands the same way as two large, magical blades of icy energy formed and launched into the Boss, whose body seemed to be struggling to stay solid under the extreme assaults.

With a fourth chant, the two cast Dark Gospel, manifesting two spheres of darkness covered in complex and ancient runes, which expanded to engulf the Boss, dealing damage before detonating into layered pillars of unholy black energy, which sent violent tremors across the entire area and rumbled the Siege Raid.

The two exchanged glances while immediately moving on to their fifth and final chant. "Dark Frost!"
Ice and darkness surged forth, fusing together seamlessly and producing a devilish explosion of ice, which swiftly engulfed the entire field, threatening to even extinguish the lives of those within the barriers.

Those within were silent in awe, unable to see through the storm as its immense DoT kicked in.

Legend and his Guild just stared slackjawed, realizing that Emilia had just dealt more damage to the Boss by herself, than all of them had in the previous damage phase.

Howl nudged Shion, while equipping Alondite. "She's gotten even scarier over the last few months."

"Tell me about it~" Shion quipped with a shrug, equipping Ebony and Ivory twin handguns which fired high-impact, explosive mystical rounds which could be charged before firing.

"And this, Artorias, is why men everywhere hate you." Panda remarked, equipping Titan Grasps, a set pair of legendary gauntlets and greaves which provided earthen defense and struck with the force of Giants.

Bakuto chuckled, licking his lips as he equipped Honjou Masamune, an honorable blade which dealt extra damage to those viewed as hostile, yet unable to deal any damage to those viewed as allies. "Oh, not all men."

"Baaaakuuuutooooo~~~~~" A chilling voice called through the storm, belonging to none other than Emilia, who stepped back inside with Puck in his smallest form.

She smiled a bit darkly, as the group averted their gaze from Bakuto, knowing that he nearly pissed himself.

"Damn, Lia, you're so savage when it comes to Shi-chan~" Puck cooed, rubbing his nose against her cheek.

Emilia giggled, walking past the men and gently running her fingers along Shion's arms, frost creeping across his skin and stretching out to imbue his handguns with her touch. "Wait 30 more seconds, then jump out there as soon as I cancel the DoT~"

Shion shivered awkwardly, looking at his frost-enchanted guns. "R-right..."

Airiel sighed, "Satella, I'm fairly certain you don't need to inflict any pain on him to cast Enchantments."

"Oh, there's no way that hurt my Artorias, right?" Emilia answered with an innocent smile.

Cirilla blushed, "S-satella, you're going to make him lose focus if you keep doing that! S-s-stop seducing him!"

"If I were seducing him, I think you'd know it." Emilia claimed with a shrug. "Right, WW~?"

Howl glanced at Shion, who looked rather nervous now. "Yes, of course." {You really do have it rough, bro. I feel like she'd throw herself atop you, even right before the Boss' onslaught.}

As Emilia's DoT effects were cancelled, Shion and Howl boosted with the Cloak of the Deep's King, taking all the melee fighters in through the Boss' shadow.

Unloading on the Boss up close, they threw everything skillfully, chaining their Skills masterfully, especially between Panda, Howl, Shion and Bakuto, with Legend stepping up this time to show his best. Eleanor stole the spotlight for a time, when she used her Ults. to blitz the Boss.

Cirilla and the Healers kept the Siege Party in good shape, as the Boss shifted to Chimera and fought back the best it could.

Airiel and the Snipers of the Siege Party attacked from just outside the barrier, while she also coordinated with the Support to apply buffs to their allies, primarily geared toward increasing their DPS.

Emilia led the Mages with tactical, small-scale spells, cast as quickly as possible to staggerlock the Boss multiple times, allowing the Melee groups to pile on the DPS.

As the damage phase ended and the Boss' armor regenerated, its body seemed to distort. The first to notice the change, Shion called an early retreat as he and Howl once again boosted to return to the barriers.

The decision came just in time, as the Boss' body produced a devastating explosive wave of ancient energies, blocking all sight from within the barriers for over a minute. Once the Siege Party got eyes on the Boss, they realized it was now at 1/6th HP, but it was now buffed with a status effect that not even Airiel had knowledge of.

"What in the Seven Hells was that?!" Legend demanded, roughly elbowing Shion in the side.

Shion ignored the outburst, stroking his chin while mumbling his thoughts at blinding speed; A trait familiar to Howl, the three sisters, the Chosen Undead, Panda and Bakuto, though everyone else was understandably freaked out. "Thanks to Lia, we skipped at least two whole phases. Our DPS was three times as potent as I originally envisioned, everyone worked together well, we've become a solid Siege Party. That was likely one of the Boss' Ults. and it's introduced a new mechanic never seen, even in Raids. This is probably a standard Siege Boss mechanic, most likely the last stand buff that was hinted at back during the livestream reveal. This was also something I considered during planning. Adjust strategy accordingly, while jumping to final phase tactics. Caleb and I will continue Dual Tanking antithetically, no more defense, only offense. So much offensive Tanking that the Boss can't respond to Aggro from Healing and Support effects. This is likely the final stretch, so reinforcements will flood en masse. Ciri will hold off on her Ult. in case of the unexpected..."

He paused a moment, unaware of the rather unnerved looks he was receiving from all but his closest friends. His eyes narrowed sharply upon the Boss, whose body was distorted and fluctuating, now taking on an amalgamated form crossed between Minotaur, Basilisk and Chimera. "Boss now likely holds the strengths of all three forms, the weaknesses of neither. HP regenerating rapidly since Buff was applied, if we don't finish it in this final burst, we'll have to flee."

Glancing around as he noticed another change, he tapped his chin thoughtfully. "Siege Weapons no longer working, Boss is very lightly armored now. Alter endgame strategy."

Taking a deep breath, he nodded once as multiple large groups of War Beasts flooded into the area, turning to everyone. "New directive. We're splitting into three groups. WW, Panda, Bakuto, Legend, Eleanor and I will serve as the vanguard. WW and I will continue Dual Tanking with complete offense, with our squad striking from between us. The second group will be beyond the barriers, with Melee holding the line while Snipers and Support go all out at their backs. The third group will be the Healers and Mages, who will enact their maximum potentials. Don't use any Ults. since it'll completely throw off our Aggro Split. Merascylla, don't use your Ult. until you hear me call out 'Flaming Blighters'."

"Once all the adds are down, everyone is to converge upon the Boss." He added, crossing his arms. "We're on our own for this last stretch, and our DPS has to be huge to overcome the Boss' regeneration. Our group will be taking the brunt of it and dishing out the most damage to counterbalance the regen, so dispatch your targets swiftly. Group two, focus on the closest mobs first, we'll split our focus between the outer mobs while fighting the Boss. Questions?"

The entire Siege Party was silent for a few seconds.

"Got it!" Everyone called out, quickly absorbing the new strategy thanks to his clear explanation, even through the chaos.

"Move out then." Shion ordered, the first one through the barrier alongside Howl.

As the new strategy was laid out, everyone fulfilled their roles. Howl, Shion, Panda, Legend, Bakuto and Eleanor engaged the boss with the former two Tanking and the latter four splitting DPS between the Boss and adds. Group two invoked strong Support while Snipers rained death from afar and Melee cleared out the closest groups. The final group kept the Siege Party as healthy as possible, while the Mages employed AoE Skills to quicken the mob eradication.

Group one expertly took on the amalgamated Boss, fighting calmly even though it was even more powerful than any had expected. Supporting one another and chaining Skills, they piled on DPS while fending off the adds.

Once the mobs were down, the entire party converged upon the Boss and focused everything. In the heat of battle, a detail went unnoticed even by Shion and Airiel. A detail which became more pronounced the more damage they dealt, the closer the Boss got to death, and the closer its armor got to breaking. Each of them felt the end was near, but just before they could get that relief, the armor shattered. This time, the armor's pieces shot out as projectiles, dealing heavy damage to each and every member beyond the barrier while downing them. As they got back to their feet, some teetering on the brink of death, the ground tore open in various spots while the Boss' buff deactivated and baptized it an an aura of godly energy, which restored half of its HP.

From the holes swarmed high-tier War Beasts, all buffed with Berserk and unrelenting. Shion only took notice of the buff deactivating, right as they were overwhelmed from every direction. Lost among the hordes, the Siege Party's formations were completely shattered. Checking the Party Status Menu, Shion realized that in less than a minute, half of the entire Siege Party were knocked into Bleedout, more entering the death state rapidly.

"Shion!" Howl roared, throwing himself between his best friend and the Boss.

Shion gasped as he was knocked to the ground, looking up to see the Boss' weapon and tail converge on Howl, tearing right through his defenses and instantly forcing him into Bleedout. {No! Not again!}

Catching Howl, he pulled him aside before the Boss finished the job, opening his mouth to bellow. "FLAMING BLIGHTERS!!!!!!!!!!"

The instant the words were roared, Cirilla cast her Ult. Healing Skill, Divine Bounty of the Loving Goddess. In an instant, the terrifying waves of chaos, the passionate cries to fear, the horror of the unbelievable army of overflowing enemies, the cold realization of impending death...it was all silenced. The entire Siege Party felt an overwhelming sense of relief, accompanied by a peerless wave of warmth, which welled up from both within and outside of their bodies. Holy, divine light filled the entire area, temporarily preventing the enemies from continuing their relentless attacks. Everyone in Bleedout rose with a vengeance, feeling unlimited energy surging through their bodies as they were healed for godly HP and granted invulnerability and double damage.

Shion first confirmed Howl's safety, nodding when his friend sighed in relief, freezing for less than a second when he saw the dire look in his eyes. {...We don't have a choice.}

He slammed his weapons together, producing a deafening wave of sound which stifled all excitement. "RETREAT TO BARRIERS! NOW!"

Immediately, the Siege Party retreated, none daring to question their leader's judgement. The most fleetfooted of them quickly reached the barriers after cutting through the monsters in their paths. Those barred by monsters, or who weren't fast enough, were brought back by Airiel and some others, through their Support Skills. As they returned to the barrier en masse, they did a check and confirmed that, miraculously, Ciri's Ult. had prevented a single Player from dying. But it was also then, as the buffs all wore off, that they realized that their Dual Tanks were missing.

Shocked, all eyes darted toward the hordes and the Boss, as the barriers were reinforced and renewed. Amidst the endless hordes, Howl and Shion were seen together, back to back, all attacks phasing right through them thanks to the Cloak of the Deep's King's secondary effect. All were confused this time, even those who were closest to the duo.

As Howl and Shion opened their mouths, they chanted in one of the lost languages of the world.

Airiel looked shocked as she stared, able to hear them even over the chaotic sounds of the battlefield. "Galdr...?"

"Abyssal Rebirth." The Abyss King and the White Walker spoke in unison, a sorrowful stream of tears rolling down Shion's right eye and Howl's left. {Josh...give us strength.}

The Domain, the overall atmosphere within a battlefield, shifted completely, encompassing even the ancient Eldar's Domain of chaotic divinity. In fact, the new Domain was far darker, so dark it felt as if life had no place within it. The Abyss itself came forth in force, engulfing everything and blotting out the environment beyond the barrier. The Abyssal Blaze burned hellishly, incinerating the hordes and the Boss as giant Abyss Blades swarmed forth from every direction. The duo's skin began to shift and crack, the Abyss' flames seeming to burn within their very flesh.

"Boost! Boost! Boost! Boost!" The voice was heard from Howl's Ddreig, the Synchro Skill being boosted dramatically, over and over, the effect intensifying even further until the blades struck like mountains.

As the Abyss teemed and flared wickedly, it was all absorbed at once, directly into Howl. In an explosion of the Abyss, the White Walker was transformed into a mighty, dark form. A world-devouring beast of the Abyss made incarnate, its wolf-like, humanoid body as infinite as the black in the midnight sky, with nary a star within to provide light. The matchless blaze of the Abyss burned atop its back, like the wings of an immortal Phoenix.
It was Lord Ran, the Dark Deity of the Abyss. Every member of the Flames of Lordran knew immediately, as they gazed upon the wickedly alluring form of their guardian mascot. The grand beast which could only be given birth by Abyss King Artorias. The dark deity which had granted him, and him alone, access to the Abyss and all its horrors.

No words were necessary, and no looks were exchanged. Howl was inflicted with Berserk, letting out a nightmarish howl which seemed to shake the entire Continent to its core. As if empowered by the roar, Shion rose from the ground, his Mana bar now shown to be infinite in value.

While Howl unleashed his mighty breath across the field, finishing what was left of the hordes and searing the Boss, Shion flew above him freely, manifesting and infinite amount of ungodly blades, which all pierced the Boss relentlessly. As the entire field became hostile, so lethal that stepping beyond the barrier would guarantee instant death to any who crossed beyond it, the Boss wailed in pain and rage. As the Boss' HP plummeted to less than 1/8th, the flames became too intense, the barriers beginning to burn.

Noticing this, Shion took a deep breath, calling out with a piercing voice. "HIMI!

As if snapping out of a trance, the Berserk status was removed, the transformation ending abruptly as Howl equipped the Gilded Mail.

Descending back toward the ground, the White Walker took a deep breath, swinging his arms out as if to strike the earth. Countless distortions tore open in space, a legion of mighty weapons armed and at the ready within. Massive chains flooded from the distortions, binding the Boss whom, even in its weakened and frenzied state, struggled with terrifying strength and resistance.

"Fall...THE FUCK DOWN!" With a throat ravaging battlecry, Howl caught hold of one of the chains on his way down, swinging down, up and around back downward. Keeping hold as he descended again, he brought the chain down in hand, pulling with all his might as all of the chains constricted at once, slamming the Boss to the ground with a violent tremor.

The Boss growled lowly, viciously. "No...not...at the hands of a peon...and a fool!"

Having risen to the very top of the field before his flight ran out, Shion was now descending slowly with his back to the ground, no weapons in hand. At his back hung a sheathed longsword, the Hierophant Alpha. Drawing the legendary, glistening holy blade in one beautiful motion, he twisted in the air, just enough for him to look down upon his writhing target.

"Shinto Kourenzan." He called out strongly and clearly, his voice heard by all. "This is for-"

His body shifted, turning completely white and seeming to multiply, as multiple white wraith-like shadows formed. The shadows surged forth, like arrows loosed from a celestial bow, cutting down into the Boss in solid streaks of white amidst the black of the Abyss. Once all the shadows had struck, Shion completed his twist to posture upright, spinning his blade upside down. In a white flash, he plunged the blade right into the heart of enemy. "-all the noble Players-"

"-that you mercilessly slaughtered!" With a shout, he twisted the blade to produce a powerful dome of white, which pulsed out across the field. And with one clean, mesmerizing motion, he tore the blade free with a stylish flourish, his body returning to normal as the Siege Boss finally perished, the entire field being split in half as its hateful body did.

Without hesitation, Howl leapt atop the corpse behind his partner, the Coiled Sword in hand as he plunged it into the Boss' skull. As the illustrious Bonfire activated, its protective light filled the entire area, vanquishing the flames of the deep.

At this point, the barriers all fell at once, the Siege Party standing together and staring toward the Bonfire. They were all speechless, completely overwhelmed and in awe of what they witnessed. It was then that some noticed that the two's HP were both left at just 1 measly point. Before any could react, the entire area shifted loudly, a rumbling sound encompassing the entire Player-explorable World. The ceiling came apart and disintegrated, along with everything beyond it for a vast distance.

Sunlight funneled into the chamber as the rubble all disintegrated in holy light, and half the chamber was illuminated brilliantly, yielding a sight. One that drew all eyes, unblinkingly, which not a single soul would ever forget, as long as they lived...

Abyss King Artorias and the White Walker, back to back on opposite sides of the Bonfire. The Walker on the left, beneath the dark side, the King on the right, beneath the sunlight. The duality and beauty of a tale as old as time. A Hero, bathed in the tears of the Gods. A Shadow, drowned in the sorrow of the damned. Light and Darkness, which exist side by side, yet destined to never walk the same path forever.

Airiel, as if overcome by some insatiable urge, opened her Menu to take a picture of the chamber. With the new, unexplored lands in the distant background of one side, the outlines of the Siege Party at the other side. All focused in on the two bathed in Light and Dark, the Bonfire burning incandescently between them, as if serving as the bridge between two entirely different worlds. A picture which called to mind the epic paintings in the ages of old, which would set the entirety of the Phantasmal Realm ablaze with the flames known as Hope.

"Whew..." Shion sighed deeply, looking out at the landscapes. "Caleb, look...we finally did it... Just imagine...what kind of crazy, horrifying, beautiful shit there is out there~"

Howl put his arm around his brother's neck, shaking his head. "I would, but...I'll leave the grand visions to you, Leader... I'm...only good at...tearing shit apart..."

"Ahaha...ahaha...ha..." Shion fell into him. "I don't wanna argue with you...right...now...night~"

"See ya...in the morning..." Howl mumbled, both losing consciousness as they fell down together.

Emilia was the first over, shaking both of them in fear, tears in her eyes.

Cirilla was next, the Healers at her back as they poured everything they had left into the two.

Airiel wore a mysterious smile as she walked over, standing over the two as every other Player made a massive commotion and fuss, unanimously deciding they'd head back to town immediately.

She watched Shion and Howl, whose heads were resting against one another, looking like siblings who were always together. {Both of you were always pulling off the impossible, things which defied the rules of PSO at times. I wanted to think that it was just me, not knowing everything I could. And I was right...but also wrong. The Scriptures of Phantasmagoria read thus..."when the Hero of Light and the Shadow of Midnight stand together, no nightmare shall persist..."}

She closed her eyes in amusement, {I don't particularly think Shion can be called a Hero of Light, considering the source of his power is even darker than Caleb's, but...irony aside, you two are clearly the main stars of this story. Rest, for now. Your next grand trial...is very far away.}


Izaya's The Boss:

Stomp That Shit!:

Shizu-chan's Seismic Toss:

Chill Izaya/Poor Izaya:
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Age : 28 Registration date : 2008-09-20 Number of posts : 738 Location : .............
Class: Rouge
Race: Half-Dwarf
Affinity: Darkness

PostSubject: Re: When the shit hits the fan   Fri 02 Jun 2017, 04:48

"Why are you always their to protect me when I stumble?'" asks Shion as he awakes, Caleb places his arm over Shion's shoulder. And says "Your life is worth billions"{my role is replaceable}

"Quit with that distant shit, it's just us in here" retorts Shion as he catches Howl in the ribs with an elbow shot. Howl grunts and ruffles his hair "Fine, what you want to talk about?"

Shion cleared his throat before saying "Do these pants make my ass look big?", he can't help but grin as the two burst out laughing .{I've missed this time we used to have when it was just the three of us against the world} Shion thinks to himself. "So why do you keep turning down my invitation to the guild?"

"It's a large responsibility being a part of something like that, people need to be able to depend on you. Just like you can depend on them and I can't guarantee that I can do that. You all deserve better then that". replies Howl

Shion nods in understanding "I'm not going to stop asking till you agree to stand by me in the flames of hope. Now about that scar that Lia saw, what's the story".

Howl took a breath as he stared out into nothingness recalling the memories, only to be interrupted by the door bursting open with Lia,Airi, and Ciri. Falling to the ground as the two stare at them Howl rises to his feet and says "I'll go get some drinks".

Shion actually gives them a glare knowing that any oppurtunity to speak personally with Howl was now gone. The girls tried to apologize as a waitress brings them all a drink. "miss can you tell me where Howl is?". "He said he had somewhere to be, but to assure you that he will be back soonish". responded the waitress. {Fuck!}"Thank you for the info?"

Howl lays on the roof of Prinny's restaurant feeling the vibration of the party throughout his body as he stared into the starry sky. A steady stream of tears rolling down his face as the hatch opens Prinny crawls out and over to him putting his head into her lap as she sighs. "Finally found you thought you were avoiding me". She starts to wipe his tears away as Howl grabs her hand and asks " What is it that you see in me Prinny?"

She looks at him shocked "Wow I thought we would have gotten physical before you started questioning me.....do you remember when you taught me to defend myself *Howl nods* you were harsh strict and shrewd. But behind all of that your eyes showed a concern for me like in that moment I was the whole world. *Blushes* It made me feel safe even in the chaos of this world." She then leaned down while brushing her hair to the side and kissed him.

A cool wind started to blow making Prinny shiver and little bit before she snuggled up against him, Howl looked over and say Lia's hand give him a thumbs up. He shook his head as he pulled a blanket out of his inventory and wrapped it around them both, Prinny wasted no time as she pulled his hand under her shirt. Howl's hand slid up her abdomen to her chest making her bite her lip as the sound of charging filled the air. Howl snapped back to protector mode and ran to the edge of the roof, and saw a massive amount of riders coming this way all belonging to the fifth most powerful guild Hokuto Shinken. Without thinking he lept down in front of Raoh who sits upon his mighty warhorse.

"Out of my way weakling I am here to speak to the Fool" Shouts Raoh, "Thought I taught you manners the last time I dealt with your guild, guess I need to give you a refresher". Answers Howl as Raoh dismounts and walks up to Howl towering over him as he says "Heard you died, guess that right is still mine" taunts Raoh as Shion the girls and other leaders exit Pricilla's. Raoh smirks as he looks at Shion cracking his knuckles as his power suddenly spikes obviously arrogant since his gain of the Elemental Arcana/Chariot. As Raoh swing connects with Howl Shion shouts out "WW". Only to see the air and earth explode around Howl as Raoh starts to laugh, until the dust settles and everyone see's Howl standing unfazed with his hand in cased in gilded gauntlet, "Impossible no Arcana user can hide their status", at these words Shion has an expression of disappointment. Raoh trembles in rage as he begins to swing on Howl continuously blanketing the area in pulverized matter. And from the center of it is a rainbow of neon glow as the dust settles to show a glowing Howl hovering over a crater fully encased in a now platinum Gilded armor.

{Could he be, perhaps The Tower, Temperance or even The Magician. Then again elemental energies fall under the Magi curse and perhaps his armor can absorb energy with a sort of invincibility. Like the Hero Gilgamesh, it would explain all the regalia he's been totting around} Shion's mind continues to run wild with possibilities as he keeps silent trying not to worry the others any more then they already are.

Howl begins to walk forward with his hand out like Darth Vader in empire strikes back as Raoh begins to back up as he continues striking. "Power-" Howl continues forward beginning to glow brighter with each strike, "means nothing-". Raoh Leaps up into the air and brings both hands down on Howl only to be repulsed back as the earth turns to a crater beneath him. "without-". Raoh recovers and rams into Howl continuously before taking both hands and slamming them against Howl with all the power he has left. "Sacrifice" says Howl as Raoh falls to a knee panting from exhaustion. Howl punches at him making the whole crowd gringe only to see his fist stop in front of Raoh's face. "Under no circumstances should lethal force be used against a fellow player. Next time you try to show how low your dick swings it's coming right back at you!".

Shion suddenly snaps back to reality as he realizes what Howl is going to do and sprints towards him screaming "Walker don't" as Howl slams his fist to his chest. Creating a blinding explosion as his armor explodes inward, the force it emits knock's out the entire Hokuto Shinken guild save Raoh and sends Shion bouncing backward across the ground. Everyone stares in awe as Howl stands over Raoh with 1/2 a hit point left. He suddenly starts laughing as blood pours out of his mouth, until he suddenly falls to the ground unconscious. Everyone stares at him in silence as they try to understand what the fuck just happened. When Lia suddenly breaks the silence by saying "He is a masochist". Everyone then turns to stare at her even Shion as she responds with "What?"

Shion takes a second to compose himself before walking over to Raoh an obvious chip on his shoulder as he shouts "I'm here now so what was so fucking important that you needed to talk to me about it?". Raoh rises to his feet towering over Shion as he replies "This Arcana has granted me the position of Fourth strongest guild. And with you being similarly empowered and the opener of new lands for our conquest. I demand you make me your vanguard since you will no doubt be replenishing your strength", "Is he for real" interjects Ciri as Bakuto steps beside Shion."You got some balls pendejo but my mi hijo is not loco like his el mejor amigo". states Bakuto

"As wielder of Chariot you should have more restraint then an average player would with a new sword, you have proven yourself a disappointment and until you can prove. That you are a team player you have no place in this alliance, .... and count yourself lucky that WW didn't strike you and your guild from this world". States Shion before turning his back on Raoh as he and Bakuto lift Howl and begin carrying him back to the restaurant. {Could have killed yourself you damn fool}

*Raoh rouses his guild and they ride off for the time being, Bakuto and Shion carry Howl back into the roo they awoke in as Ciri pours her healing into him. As the residual effect of Chariot hinders the process. Once Ciri finishes he asks everyone to clear the room locking the door behind her as he casts silence on every surface in the room. He then takes a seat by Howl*

"They're gone, you can stop pretending to be asleep" Shion tells Howl as he opens his eyes and scans the room before rising to a sitting position grimacing in pain. He looks at Shion and says "You got that look like you want to ask me something so go ahead and hit me with it". Shion looks away feeling awkward as he asks "Did you happen to be...led somewhere very strange? Somewhere that seems not to be of this world?". Howl takes a drink and lets out a deep breath "so that's how this conversation starts well lets see have I. Yes but to me this is a more open question, but for your question the easiest answer would be what name comes to mind when you look at me". Shion gives him a annoyed expression as he stares deeply at Howl as he drinks and after several minutes go by before he throws a pillow at Howl and says. "None, not even your actually name it's like if I didn't know you already you would be just some person in front of me. Does.....Does this have to do something with your profile being gone from the server or is it that scar I asked you about".

Howl suddenly becomes quite dark in mood as he sips his drink as he says "my profile and scar are connected yes. *Closes his eyes for a second*. Back before you disappeared I had a run in with The Purple man or Kilgrave as he was known, and his guild the New Gods while I was adventuring. Long story short he was turning female players into sex slaves and we are talking in the thousands, so me and a member of the Blades of the Darkmoon named Selene. Infiltrated his lair and killed him and we went to let the girls free but they were broken. No it was worse they were less then an animal, and when I looked at them it made me sick so I....I, I hacked their coding. All of their coding and pulled *His hands started to shake as he spoke* everything he and his guild had done to them *his voice wavered and he had a twitch*. All while leaving everything up to that point untouched, and it was like they awoke from a dream free from the darkness their avatars had experienced. Selene reported me immediately and low and behold my name made the list and just like that she stabbed me in the chest. The rest was....wa..was...*Howl goes completely blank for a good few moments before shaking off the experience* I awoke later, not sure how much later my private channel was filled to the brim with messages from the girls worried about you. I did what I could to look for you including black netting and hacking but couldn't get anything so I lied and said you told me you were training".

"How did~", "I survive , my heart is on the left side unlike most people but the game counted it I guess" Howl said cutting off Shion. Who nodded in response before asking "And the data of thousands of girls what did you do with that". Howl grew silent as Shion reiterated the question. "You didn't at it to yourself did you Howl, tell me you didn't" shouted Shion as Howl stared at a wall as Shion punched him in the arm. The two drink in silence for a bit before Shion asks "Is there anything you want to ask me?", "nothing you'd be willing to tell me , just another Fool with his secrets". Says Howl as he sets his glass down "Enough of carrying the world on your shoulders a hero like you deserves to have a little fun before he has to save us all again".

With that Howl opens the door and yells "Shion's in here" he then raises a glass to him before fading away into the crowd that charges in to be with Shion. The party intensifies as Howl strolls through the empty streets of town accompanied by the demons that cling to him and the whispers in the wind that sing. "I am he who does all but does not, No one I won't save for no one will I save. For I am the one I am No One!

Nomiz adelphous tous alethinous philous
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He Who Was Born With the First Troll and Shall Perish With the Last

Age : 25 Registration date : 2011-08-16 Number of posts : 106 Location :
Race: Human

PostSubject: Re: When the shit hits the fan   Mon 05 Jun 2017, 08:12

"Do not dare to let this transgression go unpunished. For the crime of rearing his hideous head, teach that mutt the definition of respect. Don't just ask for his obedience, TAKE it. Ensure he understands the repercussions of thinking himself worthy of demanding a single god damned thing from you!"

A chill crept down Shion's spine as he heard the angry order from his second, repeated in the confines of his mind. {Jesus, Airi...when they talk about slave drivers, you're probably the definition of the term. Why was she even so mad when I'm the one who should've been offended?}

He walked into a dark manor outside the town of Barnemouth. At his back laid the KOed Players of the 5th strongest Guild, Hokuto Shinken.

Advancing straight to the heart of the manor, tearing through the Guild's guards, he kicked one final man through the door to the Guildmaster's chambers.

"What the fuck kind of shit is this?!" Raoh demanded, scrambling from his bed while equipping a pair of spiked gauntlets, eyes darting to the subordinate who was launched out the window loudly.

In a blur, Shion entered Raoh's line of sight, slamming his palm into the man's face and launching him against the wall across the room, with such force the entire wall splintered and cracked.

"It's this kind of shit..." He answered, driving a side kick into his target's chest, the wall shattering outward like glass as Raoh was flung outside beneath the night's sky. Lowering his leg, he looked down outside, sighing. "Thanks to you, I wasn't allowed to just sit around and enjoy the party we worked so hard for. I also wanted to say something to my best friend, but of course, here I am instead."

Raoh grunted as he got to his feet shakily, coughing a few times. "Artorias...! What's the meaning of this?!"

"That's my line," Shion answered, jumping outside and walking toward him. "Tell me, what the hell were you thinking, going off about the Arcana in the middle of a social hub? Oh, I know, you weren't!"

Kicking off from the ground into a high-speed sprint, he threw a lunge punch.

Raoh caught his fist with a growl, the ground beneath his feet cracking loudly. "You think to punish me, for some crime I didn't commit?! I merely-"

"-acted like an absolute imbecile!" Shion shouted, pulling his fist back with a swift spinning jump, delivering a back hook kick to his opponent's head.

Landing as he completed the spin, he immediately walked toward Raoh as he hit the ground roughly, tens of meters away. "You honestly believed you could just stroll up like you owned everything, hot and fresh off your Trial?! Did you even learn anything through it?!"

"You act as if you're above me!" Raoh shouted as he stood. "When you wielded this glorious power to achieve World Expansion!"

"Allow me to show you my power! Of The Chariot!" He roared, taking a wide stance. "Elemental Arcana!"

Elemental energies raged and flared, gathering within his fists and his gauntlets as the atmosphere shook.

Shion let out a breath of exasperation, shaking his hands out. "The mutt at the bottom always has the loudest bark."

"Tempest Arcana..." Emerald green wind flowed about his body, an omnidirectional shield of wind. His body felt to weigh less than a feather, as he leapt off the ground.

Raoh clicked his tongue in irritation, pulling back his fist after his first strike, which unleashed a shell of energy to miss its target. Throwing a followup punch, an uppercut, he unleashed a massive upward-bound wave.

The wind turned to a storming gale, as Shion shot right into the wave, piercing through without resistance, like a flaming arrow through its target. In an emerald streak the wave dispersed, outward from a hole which opened within it.

Back on the ground, he stood over Raoh, his fist just above his face.

Raoh froze in terror, a chilling wind rushing out around them. He dared to look about, finding the entire field shredded violently, as if the Primal of Wind had thrown a temper tantrum. "How...?"

"Arcana isn't as invincible as you think." Shion said softly, stepping away as the wind faded away. "You can't just rush off, blinded by a newfound power. And contrary to what you think, I didn't even use that Phantasmal Art in the battle for World Expansion. Take the time to read the manual properly, and-"

"There's...there's a manual?" Raoh asked in disbelief, sitting up to look at him.

Shion's lip twitched, a wicked smile stretching across his face. "Yes...there is, you dolt."

-A few minutes later...-

Shion sighed deeply, standing in front of Raoh as he held an ancient manuscript. "Seriously, read it. It's a bit different for each of us, but it clearly outlines what's expected of you, the level of restraint you're to show. You, especially...The Chariot symbolizes the downfall which comes after triumph, should you choose to revel too long in it. We aren't the strongest, or the best Players, Raoh. We're chosen because we're what the Arcana's apparently looking for. They aren't just weapons of mass destruction like you believe them to be, they're fine tools to be used for the right cause...and misusing them can lead to severe consequences."

He paused a moment, "Do you know what'll happen if everyone finds out about us? They'll push all their expectations upon us unfairly. They'll demand that we clear this whole game for them, then spit on us when they find out that we can't just magically make that happen. There has to be a line between us and them...and that's our restraint. Take it easy, learn what it is you're dealing with. Once you truly grasp the responsibility you hold, the power in your hands...then come talk to me."

He turned around to walk away, "And for heaven's sake, DON'T just show up like like a prick! Pulling that shit'll get you killed one day!"

{Don't disappoint me again, Raoh... If it looks like you'll go down the same path that she chose, I... Don't make me have to kill you...please...}

In the City of Ashborne, the grand starting city on the surface world of the Phantasmal Realm. It was here that the rules were first established, after the legendary Kingslayers cleared the wicked Labyrinth. Currently, it was owned by one of the game's Special Guilds, groups granted special Admin privileges. In this case, the Special Guild was one which worked in junction with the Throne of Acuity, the Administrative force which watched over all Players and would intervene with its mighty forces of divine retribution, in extreme cases. They were known as the Magistrates of Absolute Justice, one of the most feared Guilds in PSO.

The Magistrates of Absolute Justice were led by the Grand Magister. Beneath him were the Judge Magisters, who carried out his will to spread justice and order throughout the Phantasmal Realm. Beneath the Judge Magisters were the Judges, whom despite being rank and file, were elite foot soldiers, each capable in their own right. They serve at the pleasure of, and with the favor of, a divine entity known as The Chaste.

Within the Palace of the Magisters, a glistening structure which served as the headquarters of the Guild. In the grand office of the Guildmaster. The man seated behind the desk inside was Greivor, the Grand Magister.

Greivor was a man with dark gray skin, short black hair and eyes as red as magma. His Avatar was a Demon God, so his features were monstrously humanoid, complete with large, white glowing horns; he also had extremely high base physical stats. Greivor was his game name, his IRL name, known only to a small group of Players, was Itou Keita. He was an IRL friend of Shion's, and the one chosen as Justice, granted the Phalanx Arcana. Praised as one of the greatest Tanks in PSO, he earned the title of "Divine Palisade" after he once single handedly stopped an army of the Undead in their tracks, allowing his comrades to escape with their lives and rescue the injured. Master of a dual wielding greatsword style, he was always equipped in imposing armor, thought to be an unstoppable force of nature in both defense and offense, and though agile, he's not as acrobatic as some Players.
Despite being a man of the people, he's one of the most feared Players in PSO. Extremely stubborn and hardheaded, he has a reputation for being impossible to bargain with. He tends to be very extreme and bears an anal view of the law, typically leaving no room for interpretation. With him, it's his or no way, and he doesn't take no for an answer. While he does mean well, and wants to protect everyone around him, he's capable of extreme brutality in all aspects of life in PSO. When executing criminals, he makes it a point to do so publicly, in order to deter their allies or those similar. He has a soft spot for his few friends, the ones who use his real name, but even they aren't above the law.

Keita was leaning back in his chair comfortably, staring out the window behind his desk.

He ignored a number of whispers, which only he could hear, as he considered the news that had taken the Phantasmal Realm by storm. {So you've gone and done it, Aoba-kun, just as you promised. And without the use of your Phantasmal Art. Testimony from those who took part in the siege is overwhelmingly in your favor. You were already the top idol of the game before, now you're its undisputed champion of the Players. You've truly done well for yourself.}

He closed his eyes, a small smile upon his lips. {You were already one of the most exemplary individuals in this game, and you've proven yourself to be a worthy Master of Arcana. If only she would have followed in your footsteps that day, the way you asked her to...}

{We'll meet soon, old friend, on the new frontier you've given us. I'll always do my part to further exploration.} He turned his chair around as he heard his doors open, facing some of the Judge Magisters as they brought him new information.

In the furthest reaches of the Black Hollow Marsh, a treacherous swamp filled with lethal poisonous substances of objects, and home to dangerous hostile creatures, where it was always nighttime. Hidden within the marsh, obscured by a divine illusion, was Onryx Keep, an ancient castle built into the march, with a castle town surrounding. It was home to refugees, rescued from a variety of tragedies, as well as numerous merchants and traders. Primarily, it was the headquarters of the infamous, notorious and feared Blades of the Darkmoon.

The Blades of the Darkmoon were a Special Guild who gained their power and authority through a connection to Yorshka, Goddess of the Darkmoon. Through Yorshka's favor, the Blades hold the privilege of killing any Player or NPC they choose, with no ramifications in the game world. The one who directly forged the Darkmoon Covenant became known as the Dark Sun, leader of the Guild and master of the 12 Darkmoon Blades. The Dark Sun and her 12 allies are among the most elite players in the game, rumor being that the Dark Sun is on par with the legendary Abyss King Artorias and the White Walker. Through the Darkmoon Covenant, they can monitor the actions of Players, who are placed on The List when they're reported for doing something illegal with no justification. They can work at the request of others, and the Darkmoon Blades frequently travel to keep an eye out for activity, which they can report at will as per their discretion. When a target is chosen, it's their custom to deliver advance notice, typically a day or two. The target can be offered to the Darkmoon to be killed, or everyone protecting them shall face their wrath. Their claims can be disputed, but they're never wrong. In extreme cases, they skip the custom and carry out their target's punishment without pause.

Within the ancient castle, inside the quarters of the Guildmaster, which doubled as the Shrine of Yorshka. A woman rested within, by the name of Sister Nightingale, the Dark Sun.

Nightingale was a woman with very long, midnight blue hair, and shining, icy blue eyes. Her hair is typically adorned with long white ribbons. Her skin was white as snow, and soft to the touch like milk. She's usually dressed in very tight clothing, which is easy to move in and usually exposes her great bosom. Her Avatar was a Yuki-onna, granting her access to a unique passive Skill that made her touch damaging to her foes and capable of inflicting Frostbite, while granting high resistance against ice damage as well as immunity to Frostbite. Sister Nightingale was her game name, her IRL name, known only to a select few, is Kanou Ouka Sumire. She was Shion's childhood friend IRL, as well as his first cousin. Chosen as Death, she was granted the Extinction Arcana, also holding the ability to call upon the Goddess of the Darkmoon. One of the most feared Players in the game, she wields the extremely powerful weapon known as the Lifehunt Scythe. Even before being chosen as Death, she ironically earned the title of "Empress Death", after she wiped out a dangerous Guild which murdered Players for sport, on her own; this feat is coincidentally what made Yorshka receptive to her. While she can also wield any bladed weapon to mastery, she's strongest in pure martial arts and doesn't require gauntlets. She's praised as being so physically overwhelming, in strength, speed and technique, that she's actually considered the strongest martial artist in the game, with even Panda Po gracefully accepting defeat against her with a clear difference in ability. She primarily wields illusion magic, which utterly fuck with the senses of her targets.
She's a very strong willed and graceful woman, whose alluring aura and immense charisma wins over others to a blatantly fanatical degree. She's capable of inspiring anyone with words alone, and is bold enough that she prefers to let her actions speak for her half of the time. She's exceedingly confident, but remains humble enough that she never underestimates anyone she meets. She can't stand unrepentant sinners, and is hellbent on exterminating them. In her eyes, at least one person must always die for a sin, and though she doesn't believe in killing the innocent, innocence is irrelevant if someone willingly protects a target of theirs. She's very adamant about her duty, and has earned the undying trust of her 12 Guildmates, choosing to trust their judgement.

Sumire sat in an open windowsill, enjoying the eternal night's breeze in a showy nightgown, her eyes on the starry skies.

She smiled as she thought of the pictures which had circulated, her mind producing images of the siege from the information she'd heard of it. {You must have been incredible, Yu-chan, you always have been and always will be. It's relieving to know that those three haven't sullied the sharpness of your blade~}

{It won't be too long until we finally meet again, hm? All you have to do is make a decision. I want to see you, Yu-chan...I'm waiting for you. I could never turn you away...} She closed her eyes, her mind focusing only on the face of the man who was being hailed as the hero of PSO.

She looked to her doors as she heard a knock, "Come in."

The door opened, and a man with short, messy, curly black hair entered. His Avatar was Human, his dark red eyes fixed upon his leader. He was the Player known as Raijin Kenji, one of the 12 Darkmoon Blades. "I just got back a moment ago, and wanted to make sure I reported to you immediately."

"Welcome back, Kenji." Sumire turned in her spot to face him with a smile. "You did great work, Yorshka is pleased with you."

Kenji opened his mouth to respond, his eyes wandering from her alluring smile to her breasts. "...Thanks. Did our venerable Goddess happen to discuss my fateful encounter in Barnemouth?"

"No," Sumire answered calmly, still smiling as her eyes observed his in amusement. "But tell me, Kenji. What did you think of the Abyss King?"

Kenji closed the doors behind him, taking a seat at the table in the room and pouring himself a drink. "Artorias? Now why would you want to know about someone like that?"

He took a few swigs, smirking at her. "Will you, maybe, tell me why that guy get's a week when others are lucky to get a whole day?"

Lips curling slightly, Sumire silently remained smiling, though her smile took on a dark and intimidating quality.

Kenji felt himself sweating under her gaze, taking a nervous gulp to settle himself. "He's...impressive, alright. I thought you were the most gifted in Skill Chaining, but he's got you beat."

He paused to drink more, wiping his mouth. "Of course, I feel like I'd have beat him if we went all the way."

"Oh?" Sumire stood from the sill, walking across the room to stand at the opposite side of the table. "If you believe that, then you've either leveled up thoroughly since you were last here, or you're vastly overrating your own skills. After all, you've yet to even beat me in a fight, and Artorias has always been my equal."

"Hmph," Laying his head atop his hand, Kenji motioned to her. "Seriously, what's the deal with you two? I get that he's famous and all, but you never take such interest in our targets, and you've never made any exceptions until today. What, is he like...you? Does he have one of those Arcana, or whatever the hell you call them? Are you two long lost lovers? What's the deal?"

Sumire chuckled, lifting a finger to her mouth a bit seductively. "You're sort of cute when you're jealous, Kenji."

She continued as his cheeks turned red, "My relationship with him is none of your business at this time. All you need to know, is that he's special because I see him to be. And please, keep this in mind. Artorias is NOT our target. The one on The List, is the man whose crime you witnessed. Artorias is a very intelligent man, he has no intention of getting on our bad side."

"And this should go without saying, but-" She stepped around the table to his back, gently running a finger down his neck, his skin freezing over along the path her finger ran. "-we don't interfere with ongoing investigations. I hope you have no intention of doing something untoward to the Flames of Lordran."

Kenji shivered, resisting the cold and the pain which accompanied it. "You know I'd never do anything to betray your ideals, Lady Nightingale. But if it does come down to it-"

"Yes, you'll have lease to do as you please." Sumire interrupted, lifting her finger up his cheek, more of his skin freezing over. "I assure you that it won't come to that, though."

"Anyway, thank you for your time." She stepped away from him, returning to the windowsill. "Good night, Kenji, please close the door behind you."

"...Yes Ma'am." Kenji answered softly, standing and going to open the door. As he walked out, he looked at her, his fist clenching as she stared outside. "Good night."

In the mountainous dwelling known as Kilcliff, a town built into a cliffside, with an expansive inner area. Once home to a number of criminal NPCs, it was cleaned out and the NPCs slaughtered by the hundreds, before a new, much worse Guild moved in. This Guild, known as the Scourge of the Seven Hells, started out bold and strong, committing a number of atrocities and crimes, ranging from thievery, to murder, to sexual assault. They grow in size, power, influence, infamy and notoriety with every act. They do what they want, when they want to, and refuse to let anyone stop them or tell them what to do.

The Scourge of the Seven Hells are noted by a system known as the Court of Carnage, where those who commit the worst crimes and get away with it, are promoted accordingly. Led by the Queen of the Night, AKA the Night's Queen, founder of the Guild, she stands above her subordinates as a symbol of fear and depravity. Beneath her are the Warlords of Midnight, followed by the Carnage Scions, and then the Fodder of the Seven Hells. The Fodder have a high aspiration and desire to rise up to Carnage Scions and then Warlords of Midnight, as the Fodder are fully aware of how expendable they are. They're the most ambitious Guild in PSO, and are quickly becoming feared as living nightmares, due to their complete lack of care for others. Even within the Guild, backstabbing is common, thus this group can be called the den of sin and depravity.
They're disciples of Iazambrel Thago, the Dark Deity of Decadence, and every crime they commit, grants him power. He's fueled most by cruel and unusual deaths by the hand of his disciples.

Within the deepest abode inside Kilcliff, the dark temple of the Night's Queen. Beyond the boundary of chaotic darkness was Lilith Branwen, Queen of the Night.

Lilith was a woman with long raven black and pink hair, her skin the color of caramel and her eyes a luminescent blood orange. Her hair is typically unruly and rough looking, giving her a very wild appearance. She prefers to dress in black gothic dresses and outfits. Her Avatar was a Shinso Vampire, a vampire who ascended to the ancient blood. As a Shinso she has a passive ability which granted her below average HP numbers in exchange for immense HP regeneration, to the point that she could regrow and reattach severed limbs in seconds, without the need for healing; alongside this, she boasts the ability to naturally recover from Bleedout if she isn't finished off. She also had naturally huge mana reserves alongside high mana regeneration, in exchange for being highly susceptible to flames. With her fangs, she can drain blood from other Players, NPCs and other enemies, to weaken them with each feeding while strengthening herself and regaining HP and mana. She also has the innate ability to transform into a horde of bats, which can attack her foes, render his invulnerable for a brief period of time, and reform elsewhere out of danger. Lilith Branwen was her game name, her IRL name, known only to less than 10 Players, is Himeragi Yuno Saeko. She knows Shion IRL. Chosen as The Devil, she was granted the Nemesis Arcana. Her title is "Queen of Destruction", due to her being the polar opposite of Airiel and her Magecraft. She wields a special form of magic, Destruction Magic, which as its name suggests, is only good for obliteration, typically of the indiscriminate kind. She's actually the most powerful Destruction Mage in PSO, with the ability to absolutely break and demolish her enemies. While her primary specialization is in magic, as a Shinso Vampire she's highly attuned to close range combat, and can wield a variety of lethal weapons, alongside creating them with Destruction Magic. She also knows Destruction Skills which can allow her to face off against physically powerful opponents. In her style, offense is the best defense, as well as her only defense.
Having always been Shion's stalker IRL, she represents his greatest regret, and is the only thing that he legitimately fears. She's always been very interested in Shion, and madly in love with him. Since being stuck in PSO, her mental state deteriorated and her extreme interest turned into a disturbing obsession. She's so insane that she's the only member of the Arcana who doesn't just resist the whispers, she embraces and accepts them, having trained her Arcana more than her fellow members. For her, Shion is her everything and she believes that it's her duty to be the main antagonist of his story, the final boss for Shion. Thanks to her time of stalking him, she knows him better than almost anyone, and her favorite hobby is to commit the crimes and atrocities which she knows will hurt and anger Shion the most; if he loathes something, she won't hesitate to do it. She feels that she can't live without Shion's attention, and does anything and everything to keep it. She has an idealized image of Shion, where he's completely without flaw and unbeatable, so she becomes enraged if she learns that he lost to someone or something. Even through her severely unhinged mentality, she's a diabolical genius who can easily drag out the very worst darkness, desires and temptations within a person. She enjoys torturing others, physically and mentally, to break them and turn them into demented messes just like her. To that end, she's an extreme sadist and masochist, loving to feel pain as much as she loves to dish it out; she has no issue with completely mutilating her own body. She absolutely hates and can't stand any of the people around Shion, especially Howl, Sumire, and the 3 sisters; Airiel is the single person she hates more than anything. She has a tendency to fuck around with the people Shion values, and she likes targeting the sisters, in the hopes of either killing them off or just driving Shion to pure insanity. She's so fucked up that she openly admits that her deepest desire is to rape Shion, and because she can't live without him, he's actually the one person she can never kill, even going so far as killing or breaking anyone who targets her precious Shion. Her dream is to become the most wanted criminal in PSO, and have Shion chase her forever while she tries to drive him mad.

Saeko was sitting against a wall, her bare body upon the ground. Her eyes were fixed on a picture, the one taken at the siege during World Expansion.

Panting loudly, her face was feverishly red as she stared at the face of the one hailed as a hero, her fingers going to work between her legs. "Shion...! Shion...! Why are you...so...perfect~?"

In her vision, the sight of Howl at Shion's back was completely unnoticed, and she wildly pierced herself, over and over, and over again, moaning loudly.

As saliva dripped from the corner of her mouth, she felt herself climax. Catching her breath, she looked down at her bloody squirting, removing the knife from her legs and dropping it as she felt her HP and injuries regenerate swiftly.

"Shion~ I love you so much~" She squealed madly, getting to her feet shakily as her juices spilled to the ground. "Tell me, what do you think about him~?"

A pair of female Players, a Dark Elf and a Half Mermaid, tried to scream when they were addressed, but their mouths were gagged.

Saeko remained nude as she made her way to the two, bound in tight and painful chains. Her hands groped at and caressed their half naked bodies. "Come on, already~ I've been so gentle with you until now, you know~? Hurry up and break already~ Don't you miss the sun? A feeling of warmth beyond my cold flesh~? You're not going anywhere like this, though..."

"Not until you're just...as twisted as I am~" She removed the gag from the Dark Elf, who immediately began to scream before Saeko forcefully took her lips, biting into the girl's tongue, which caused her to squirm with muffled wails.

At the same time, her fingers inserted themselves in the Half Mermaid's clit, relentlessly fingering.

Once the Half Mermaid had an orgasm, she withdrew her fingers and stopped violating the Dark Elf's mouth and tongue. Standing as she licked her cum soaked hand, Saeko couldn't help but to laugh. "I'm in a good mood today, so we'll end right here for now~ Don't panic too much, m'kay? I'll have someone heal your tongue for you~"

She turned to look back at the picture of her love, already starting to pleasure herself. "Oh Shion...I can't wait to see you... I'd love to go on another adventure with you, on the new frontier~"

In the town of Barnemouth, within the manor which served as the Flames of Lordran outpost. The morning after the party.

Sitting behind his desk as he read some private messages, Shion felt a chill, shivering slightly. {How unseasonable...}

"Shion?" Airiel entered the office, looking at him.

Shion looked at her, "Before you ask, yes Airi, I did put Raoh in his place like you wanted."

"There was never any doubt that you would," Airiel replied while taking a seat atop his desk and lifting a finger beneath his chin. "You've never dared to disappoint me when I ask something of you. It's what I've always liked most about you."

Shion let her lift his chin, smiling wryly. "Right, what would you do without your loyal manservant? I'm just the figurehead, you're the one calling the shots around here."

"You're not very good with sarcasm, but I find it adorable nonetheless." Airiel responded, brushing her hand against his cheek. "I'm sorry that I lost my temper last night...it...wasn't Raoh's base foolishness that set me off, I expect it when dealing with him."

Her cheeks turned a rosy pink, "Him barking like the rabid animal he is, mouthing off about something he has no business speaking of...no, it's even less than that...or more, from my perspective... It made me furious to hear him mention the Arcana like that... Even though I desperately want to discuss it with you, I know how much it hurts you to think of it...and..."

Shion smiled softly as he placed his hand over hers, "Airi...thanks. It makes me happy to hear you say that. But that's not how it was...well, it's painful when I really think about it, but...what bothered me was his lack of restraint."

Airiel blinked once, "Oh...yes, of course."

"And I don't want you to think I'll never talk about it." Shion noted, holding her hand against his face. "I want to...and I will talk to you about it one day. I just need some more time."

Airi smiled, watching him as he closed his eyes. "You spent the night at Priscilla's, didn't you? Did you enjoy what was left of the party when you returned?"

She ran her other hand through his hair as he nodded, "I'm sure you did...it must have been blissful to lay with both of my sisters."

Shion's eyes opened quickly, and before he could open his mouth, she placed her fingers over his lips.

"I'm not angry, I'm jealous." Airiel admitted, pulling her hands back as she began to remove her top.

"Airi..." Shion stared at her in surprise. "We-"

"I know, but there's nothing you can do right now. Let Shirou, Tatsuya and Erston investigate." Airiel leaned in close to him. "Are you going to make me beg for it? Yusuke..."

Some switch seemed to flip in Shion's head, as he pulled her into his lap and stripped her down, allowing her to do the same to him. With their bodies bared, he lowered his head to her breast, his tongue gently tickling her nipple.

-2 hours later...-

Shion was mounted atop Airiel, whose back was on a couch. "I...think I'm done, Airi..."

"Just one more time, Yusuke." Airi replied, pulling his hands to her chest.

"That's what you said the last three times..." Shion mumbled, while fondling her.

Airiel smiled up at him, "You're the one who keeps getting hard, Yusuke~"

Shion was about to move, but stopped as he heard the sound of a call going off. "What timing..."

"We can always ignore them." Airi suggested.

"I shouldn't." Shion kissed her on the lips for a few seconds before getting off her and answering.

Airiel sat up, pulling him to sit with her as she shifted to lay her head on his shoulder.

Shion put the call on speaker as she put his arm around her, "What do you have for me, Rou?"

"Shion! You're the talk of the world right now, you know that?" Shirou responded with a laugh. "Everyone here in HQ is going nuts! Hey, did you and Howl really two man the Siege Boss like the reporters are writing~?"

"You should know better than to listen to the propaganda of the media, Emiya-kun." Airiel said sternly.

Shirou gasped lowly, "Airiel-san! I didn't realize you were...wait, you two are together right now? Are you...alone? After...the party you had last night?"

Airi took a deep breath, "Please enlighten us as to what you're implying, Emiya-kun."

"O-oh, nothing at all!" Shirou claimed, continuing quickly. "On to the matter you asked me to look into!"

Shion smiled at Airi, who kissed his neck. "Yeah, what'd you find out?"

"Honestly? Nothing." Shirou admitted, both Shion and Airiel able to accurately picture him shrugging. "Are you sure the Blades are on the money in this case? Because I just finished going through our registration logs with a fine-tooth comb. Every single member of our Guild is connected to our Guild Tenets, meaning that none of them could have committed any crime that would catch their attention. I know them as well as anybody, but I can't help but feel like we're being trolled here. And honestly, you guys just royally stomped the Siege Boss that nobody else could touch, so would they REALLY go after us? And even if they did-"

Airiel interjected, "Of course, if the Blades come after us, we'll crush them with everything we have. But I've never known any of their members to mess around with their duty, unlike certain others I know."

Shion pulled on her hair gently, rubbing it against his face as she blushed. "The Darkmoon Blade that I fought then claimed that he saw the crime committed with his own eyes."

He quickly spoke before the other two could, "I know, it's suspicious that he'd leave his target alone in that case, but he was also interested in fighting me. He seemed similar to Panda in that regard, with a desire to face the strong. And what better way to face the strong, than to go after the number one Guild in PSO?"

"The Darkmoon Blades all operate with discretion, because the Dark Sun trusts them." He explained. "So this may be his way of trying to rile us up, or confuse us. Either way, he did offer a huge clue, probably unintentionally. He specifically said that the one he saw was a man."

Airiel blinked, "A man...that's good, we can limit our proper investigation to the men."

Shirou laughed a bit, "Even so, we've got thousands of guys with us~ Say, would you be willing to send more help? With just Erst, Tatsu and me, we'll never investigate everyone before the week is up. In fact, we only have 5 or so more days, right?"

Shion nodded as Airi looked at him, "You're right, but I can't leave this to anyone else. I'm going to ask Eleanor and Ward to return to HQ this afternoon to help you. Send over transcripts of all the registration logs and account details. Airi, Lia, Ciri and I will go through them to see if anything suspicious comes up. We'll also conduct investigations on every male Guildmate in Barnemouth right now."

He moved his finger to use his menu, making a number of selections in the communication pages. "I just set up a private Guild server. The only ones with permission to access are us, along with Ward and Eleanor. Just to be safe, all further communication will be done through there as far as this matter is concerned. Also, be sure to log all of your findings, no matter how small or inconsequential. Airi will scan all notes every two hours until further notice, so we can examine every angle carefully."

"You got it, Sir." Shirou responded, laughing a bit. "You really do always plan for the craziest things~ Whatever's going on, I'm sure we'll get ahead of it~"

"Yes, we will." Airiel agreed with a calm smile. "Thank you, Emiya-kun. Brief Erston and Shiba-kun immediately."

"Good luck to us all." Shion remarked, before ending the call. He looked at her, opening his mouth and just gaping as he saw she was already on her feet and heading to the bathroom.

Airi glanced at him, "Let's take a quick shower after we rouse my sisters. You and I can start with the investigation by interviewing everyone with us."

Shion scratched his head as he got up, sending messages to Cirilla and Emilia, then to Eleanor and Agent Ward. "Uh...yeah, that's...what I was going to suggest."

He held in a sigh as he went into the bathroom with her, {Damn...I won't have any time to find Howl now. Hopefully Prinny will be able to keep him here for a while. And that Wicca won't be an emotional bitch while he's here.}

-A few hours later...-

Emilia was sitting behind Shion's office desk, carefully reading the transcripts and account details.

Puck was sitting on the desk with her, casually flipping through the documents.

Cirilla was seated on the couch, reading the papers laid out on a coffee table. "Hey Emi-nee? I know what Yu-nii is thinking, but do you believe this could be a ploy to throw us out of order?"

Emilia smiled at her, "I bet that's one of the first things that Shi-chan and Onee-chan thought of. But those two are always thorough, so if anything we should at least humor them. Besides, if we've learned anything at this point, it's that they're right at least 70% of the time~"

"Yep~" Puck agreed. "Shion and Airiel have uncanny intuition, so if they think is really necessary, you should just do it~"

Cirilla smiled at them, nodding. "Maybe I'll summon Ashera to help out~"

Meanwhile, Shion and Airiel were hitting the town, speaking to their subordinates as they tracked them down, asking them if they noticed any strange happenings.

"We're not having much luck, are we?" Shion leaned back on a bench as they sat down to take a break.

Airiel sat with her legs crossed by his side, brushing some hair over her ear. "The absence of news can be a blessing in some cases, we'll just have to hope that to be so in this one."

"Shion, when we intruded on you and Caleb..." She glanced at him. "Were you planning to tell him about the Raid?"

"Well, not at that specific time, no." Shion responded with a sigh. "I want to now, though. I'm just hoping that Prinny will be motivation enough for him to stick around until I can."

Airi sighed as well, "I'll never understand the two of you. Is there something preventing you from just speaking plainly and stating your intentions and desires? Just tell him that you don't want him to leave yet."

Shion chuckled lowly, "You've got a point of course, but you'd never understand. When we were the Kingslayers, we made a pact in the Labyrinth. Cal, Josh and I. We promised that none of us would ever do anything to tie the other down. That's why I'll never do anything to try and make him stick around when he doesn't want to, and vice versa. It's also the reason I won't push him too much about joining our Guild. Maybe he will, one day, but right now he doesn't feel like it would be right for him."

"Even though joining us could put some order in his life?" Airiel wondered, looking down sadly. "If Caleb continues his self-destructive antics, he might just...die in a place we can't see..."

"I don't know about you, but I couldn't handle that." She admitted, her voice soft. "I don't want to lose him. Or you, or anyone. I don't ever want to lose someone I care about to this game, not again..."

Shion held her hand tightly, "I know how you feel, Airi. I feel the exact same way, it's scary to think of what might happen to someone you love. But I can tell you this, Caleb isn't going anywhere, at least not in that sense. He's got way too much fight in him to ever lose to this game or anything in it. And so do I. That's the reason we were so damn effective together in the Labyrinth~"

Airi looked at him, smiling slightly. "Shion...thank you."


Izaya's The Boss:

Stomp That Shit!:

Shizu-chan's Seismic Toss:

Chill Izaya/Poor Izaya:
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Age : 28 Registration date : 2008-09-20 Number of posts : 738 Location : .............
Class: Rouge
Race: Half-Dwarf
Affinity: Darkness

PostSubject: Re: When the shit hits the fan   Sat 10 Jun 2017, 05:29

*During Shion's escapades that night*
A violin cascades through the night as Howl makes his way through the wood until he finds before him a man dressed in black Armor and holding Alondite a gift from Howl himself. The man stepped forward his sword cutting through the earth as he moved, "White Walker we aren't your enemy. But if you continue to refuse releasing it we will take action against you", his voice vibrated through his helm as he spoke. "So he's sending you now Zelgius and here I thought Dean was the only lapdog, if any of you knew what you were asking me to do you. Might understand my refusal", Zelgius slams the tip of his sword into the ground as he shouts "Dammit White Walker we aren't your enemies. But if you continue to deny the natural order we will take action, you have five days till Nabu orders the Lords of Order to take action. You have been warned" and with that Zelgius teleports away taking with him the sound of the violin. "I need to talk to Shion" Howl says to the wind as he turns to return to town.

Howl get's back to the Pricilla's as Shion is getting his freak on and is stopped at the door by Puck who curls up on his shoulder and nibbles on his ear before saying. "I was told to keep anyone from entering, but she never said No one could enter and you seem very distressed a truly rare occurrence". Puck Stretched out and clawed Howl's shoulder as he turned around and said "It can wait he's earned this" Puck jumped down to the floor and asked "Should I tell him you stopped by". Howl shook his head "No" as he made his way back into the main hall.

Prinny was busy wiping down the tables when Howl entered the room, today she was wearing Velma's attire (a orange turtle neck with a red pleated skirt. With orange stockings and red heels) it looked stunning on her, Howl made his way up to her silently as she leaned over the table her toes a few inches off the ground. He ran his hands up her legs causing her to shout "Hey, not for sale here" as she turned to see Howl step in closer as his hands went under her skirt. She turned over and said "someone could catch us out here Caleb". She blushed as he pulled her panties off and tossed them onto the table "that's part of the fun Prin" he replied as she undid his belt and opened his pants. His curled around her upper thigh and pulled her in hard making her gasp out as he began, she curled her legs around his abdomen as she peeled the sweater up to reveal her bountiful bosom. A deed that continued through the night and into the early morn as they made it to Prinny's room. Until they collapsed from exhaustion.

*At Dawn*
Panda made his way to Nightingale's dojo were she was stretching as she awaited him, her body bound in a tight bodysuit that accented her every feature. Panda placed his fists together as he went to a kneel and bowed to her she stared at him silently, "Thank you for accepting my spar request Nightingale". Said Panda before rising back to his feet "it intrigued me, my only question is what motivated you to ask for it". Replied Nightingale, "As Artorias and Walker stood over the siege boss I realized that in that moment they overcame the worst this game has thrown at us. No matter how powerful the foe they always seem to overcome it even back when they were Kingslayers. In awe I asked Walker what it was that made them so strong and he looked me in the eye and said instead of comparing yourself to others aim to be the most powerful you. At first I thought he blew me off but then it hit me, I need to push myself beyond what I think capable and thus. I realized that in order to hone my soul I needed to do so with a fellow master of the arts". His sincerity surprised her, she gave him a bow and the two burst into action.

The air practically crackled from the power of their Ki clashing as they attacked with pure martial arts no skills, if there was anyone watching they would be in awe of the graceful and brutal dance before them. Each hit she connected slowed him with it's frostbite making the fight lean toward her favor. Until Panda unleashed the Ki within coating his entire body similar to how Iron fist coats his fist, allowing him push through it. Thus signifying the next stage of the fight was at hand as the two started to work skills into their combos as seamlessly as breathing. Hours began to pass as their endurance was put to the test until finally it looked like Nightingale's victory was assured. and so Panda feinted a Hadoken which Nightingale hoped to counter by moving in. But when Panda made it behind her and struck she blasted his chest with a rear kick, the two flew apart and the the spar ended.Nightingale on her feet and Panda on the ground, but the entire left side of her body was limp from his last attack sealing her Ki. Panda flipped to his feet and bowed to her graciously "thank you mighty Nightingale". She let a small smile cross her lips before giving him a respectful bow and replying "I look forward to seeing your growth from this exchange". Panda turned to leave "Wait Panda can you- he turned to face her and she shook her head. -never mind this is something that should b spoken in person". Panda nodded and left as she opened her menu and went to a secret channel Shion had given her access to. "How does he even use this I can't understand a thing" she says to the air as she presses a random button on it. Before frustratedly closing it

Needless to say Shion had already left when Howl awoke roaring in anguish, at first frightening Prinny who quickly recovered and grasped his hand. Telling Howl he was safe as she pulled his face to her bosom as he began to calm himself while within her soft embrace. She laid with him stroking his hair until he stopped shaking, then the two went and showered before Prinny opened up shop Howl sat the bar as she served him some breakfast. Wicca burst through the door and shouted "You bastard", both Prinny and Howl looked up as she made her way to Howl and slugged him in the Jaw. "I can't believe you would sink so low as to have Shion quarantine my man". She screamed as Howl replied "what" and she shrieked thoroughly annoyed as began to strike Howl repeatedly until Prinny restrained her hand. "Does it feel good to destroy everyone's happiness, cause here is some knowledge for you no one can love an abomination like you. Even Priscilla is using you for her own gain"- Wicca gets decked by Prinny who spears her to the ground and starts to wail on her til Howl stops her. Prinny stops and looks at her fists in shock as Wicca looked at her in shock as she screamed "you destroyed our lives Howl I wish I we never met you". Prinny felt his grip loosten and when she turned to look at him Howl was gone to where she did not know.

Nightingale was sifting through reports from her followers when she felt the presence of another , she quickly spun around and held a blade at neck level. She was greeted by glacier eyes "You summoned me" spoke Howl as she lowered her blade and replied "What?", Howl sighed and said "Open the channel again". She humored him and as it opened he sent a decryption key that translated the page for her. "Oh I did?, please take a seat", Howl took a seat across from her and stared into her Icy blue eyes as she says "I summoned you here to let you know the Magician has taken a strange interest in you". Howl nods and replies "Yes, Nabu desires me to release something from my possession". Intrigued Sumire asks "What is it that he wants", Howl tosses her a seemingly unassuming battered Tarot card. She takes it in her hand and after finding nothing special about it asks "And why does he want this?". Howl places his forehead onto his fist and replies "Speak it's name, please". "The Tower" she states as the card vanishes and she feels the power of Arcana fills the room as a man once close to Shion stands before her. "How can you bear it and not be named" she shouts as her eyes pierce into Howl's as he looks to the side. "I do not bear the Arcana but his soul is tethered to mine making the Arcana unable to pass on". Her gaze then goes to the man and asks "Is he", Howl shakes his head "No he passed when he fell that day but this fragment of him remains to haunt me". She looks back to Howl and asks "Does Artorias know of this?","No" replies Howl as he finally returns his gaze to her eye's . She then asks "Then why not give him the card and be free of this specter?", "The card is merely a manifestation of my own will created to allow you to call forth the tether and see it. To release it involves a rather special ritual that must be conducted within five days". "So why don't you get it over with already?", Howl sighs and reaches out his hand and says "Take my hand and I'll show you". She grabs his hand unsure of what is about to happen next as he chanted 5th Hymn of Damnation-Gourd of Greed.

The world around them twists and warps as they travel through time, Sumire is shocked to see a scene where Wicca is crucified. And even one where Shion is stabbing Howl in the chest with a blade made of condensed wind. The rest seem to just fly by as the swirling stops and she finds that they are surrounded by devastation as a battle rages on she sees the Destruction Arcana full force as each use obliterates everything in the blink of an eye like it never existed at all. She then saw the dual powers of the Balance Arcana tear at the mighty field that protected the Tower. "Were are we?" asked Sumire, through gritted teeth Howl replied "this was the main hub", her eye's grow wide with terror. As she asks "Where is Shion" Howl nods and closes his eyes as they appear in the labyrinth were Shion is missing half of his side. Sumire tries to go to him but Howl holds her back as she turns to look at Howl and says with a shaken voice "How is this possible". Howl takes a deep breath and says "When he began his attack, I used my powers to contain him whilst Shion evacuated the players. The power of that Arcana proved itself to strong for me and the blast came hurdling towards Shion, My body kept it from extinguishing his life. All this took place because Nabu manipulated the order and choose who he wanted to wield the Tower so that he could have his ultimate fight". Tears welled in her eyes as she asked very coldly "Who did he choose?", Howl goes to open his mouth but falls to a knee as he returns them to the present.

Sumire blinks as she readjusts to where she is and notices that Howl is kneeling beside her and a bit wobbly she reaches to help him but he raises a hand. And makes it to his feet he takes a second to center him self and says "I'm good don't worry about- his nose starts to bleed as he collapses to ground unconscious. Sumire goes to his side and tries to verify his condition when she hears the door to the main hall burst open. "Shit" she says as she now tries to move Howl only to find he is way to heavy.

Seconds later Selene and Kenji burst in the room weapons drawn as they both shouted "Lady Nightingale are you-, they are greeted to her suddenly. Leaning back from the ground her body Au natural as she rocks as if she is riding someone sensually, with own hand she pulls her hair to one side revealing that she is staring at them coldly{please don't get hard, please don't get hard, why did I think this was a good Idea. Please stay asleep, please buy this, instant regret shit, Fuck, Fuck}. -OK" they finish as they now see her body suit on the table. Selene steps in front of Kenji and starts to push him outside as he says a few things only to get kicked and then shoved into rolling down the stairs. As Selene closes the door and says "Sorry to disturb my lady", with that she uses magic to lock the door ensuring privacy. Sumire collapses on top of the unconscious Howl her chest pushing against his as she lets out a muffled scream against his shoulder. {Do I make an explanation of this being a booty call? No, they won't question and as long as they didn't see Howl they won't have a person to label my lover, Side bitch?}. "I need a bath" Sumire says as she stands up and goes towards her room door before turning around and grabbing Howl's hand. And drags him with her as she mutters "better no one sees you here after putting on that display. Don't get me wrong your not the worst guy to be labeled my guy but, ok lets not go down this road although technically with me being a Yuki-onna. It would make sense", until finally reaching her personal bath.

After taking a soothing bath she is shocked to see Howl still unconscious so she checks his pulse just to make sure before looking for a place to lay him. She looks at her bed {nope} for a second before looking over to her Gothic loveseat and after several minutes of forcing his body to move she got him up their as she let out a sigh of relief. "You really know how to make a girl wait" she says coyly before giving him a kiss on the head and whispering "Please wake up Caleb".

Dean and Zelgius enter the Hall of order where Nabu was floating through the air his hand over an orb showing him the vast images of the events around the game world. He took a few seconds before he lifted his head to greet them his eyes glinting different colors, "I have not felt the release of the Arcana". He said coldly as Zelgius bowed before him "I gave him the warning as per your request master Nabu". Said Zelgius as silence was the response to him, "Zachariah if he does not do the ritual within three days send a message". Boomed Nabu to the black haired archangel lounging about on the furniture, at the sound of his name being spoken he rose to a sitting position. "Finally you are willing to send a real man to get the job done" Zachariah says as a smile crosses his lips, "But- Zelgius is cut off by Nabu's raised hand {Please be smart about this Walker, what happens next is on your hands and your hands alone}.

Prinny passes Wicca a ice bag "You need to stop attacking Howl like that you no he won't defend himself" said Prinny. Wicca laughed as she put the Ice bag to her face. "You think Howl is this sweet misunderstood guy that is just trying to fit in but you couldn't be more wrong Priscilla. You have no idea what he has done and is willing to do, and you are so blessed to not have to bear that burden like the rest of us". Wynne said solemnly as she stared at Prinny, "How can you say that Wynne, you and him went out for five years before we entered this game". Prinny retorted heatedly as Wynne sighed and replied "I was blind back then, I looked past his tendency towards violence. But it became so much worse in this game as he kept pushing and pushing the others to move forward without stopping like a man with blood lust. He pushed them so hard that it was no surprise when Joshua faltered and fell because Howl refused to let anyone help them. Shion may not want to face the facts that his friend is the reason that his best friend is dead, in my eyes Howl is worse then Lucifer himself, at least he has rules he must obey. So I mean this in the nicest way possible run as far as you can from Howl before he hurts you too". Prinny just stares at Wicca as she fights back an anger within her that is stronger then anything she has felt in her life as. She slowly says "Wynne, if Shion, Sumire, Airiel, Emilia or Cirillia ever hears you speak these words you will regret that you ever thought them. I don't know what Howl supposedly did to you to make you hate him so much but he will always love you and I have to live with the fact. That you will always hold a place in his heart and what makes that feeling hurt is that you use that as a way to punish him for being around. Grow the Fuck Up! Howl isn't just yours he has people that care about him and apparently love him more than you ever did". Wicca's face contorted in anger at being bested in this conversation and even more so with jealousy over Prinny's affection towards Howl. She threw the Ice in the trash and got back to serving now that her break was over.

Nomiz adelphous tous alethinous philous

Last edited by Ryerai on Thu 22 Jun 2017, 19:57; edited 3 times in total
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He Who Was Born With the First Troll and Shall Perish With the Last

Age : 25 Registration date : 2011-08-16 Number of posts : 106 Location :
Race: Human

PostSubject: Re: When the shit hits the fan   Thu 15 Jun 2017, 08:44

In the town of Barnemouth.

After some time, the Flames of Lordran in the town had been gathered together in the town's base. The women of the Guild were in charge of keeping watch over all the men as they were brought in, the men being quarantined physically.

Shion let out a sigh as he approached a street corner, "This is gonna be a bit difficult to apologize for, later."

"Every member of this Guild sees you as their King, Shion." Airiel responded coolly, walking by his side. "Some, like Eleanor and Ward, are so devoted that they believe you to be the rightful King of the Phantasmal Realm. Speaking frankly, you don't owe anyone anything, much less an apology for doing what must be done."

Shion was about to answer, but quickly stepped into her, sliding his foot against hers gently as they turned a corner.

Airiel blinked in surprise, maintaining her balance as she was made to sidestep. "What was that about?"

Bakuto smiled at the two, having just turned the corner. "Ah, just who I was hoping I'd...run into."

He winked as Shion smiled at him and Airiel tilted her head, "I've been hearing some interesting rumors today, Mi Hermano. Flames being plucked up from right off the streets and detained, despite the huge victory we had! Any truth that?"

"Yes, actually." Shion answered without hesitation, to the surprise of both Airiel and Bakuto.

He took the time to explain things to him in detail, as they continued their trek across the town.

"Now that's an interesting situation, indeed!" Bakuto remarked, hanging his arm around his friend's neck. "Allow me to help you root out this weasel."

Airiel glanced over at the men, as Shion nodded. {I suppose there's no harm in it. Alistair holds Shion in the highest regard.}

Within the Palace of the Hallowed, the Dungeon City which was once ruled by a high-ranking Deity, and had been repurposed to serve as the main headquarters and home to the Flames of Lordran.

In one of the large conference rooms of the palace.

Shirou let out a deep sigh, "Man, this has been a bit intense. What do you guys say we take a short break?"

Eleanor frowned at him, "With all due respect, Lord Archer, our King has entrusted us with this most crucial of tasks. We shouldn't be giving this anything less than better than our absolute best."

Shirou sweat a bit, scratching his head. "You're really intense too, Elen-chan, has anyone ever told you that?"

"Eleanor, Archer actually has a point." Tatsuya noted, motioning to her with a calm smile. "We've been at this for hours on end, and the best work is done with a fresh mind."

"Indeed," Erston agreed with a nod. "A fresh mind grants a fresh perspective, a fresh perspective may reveal details you once missed."

He looked at her, "Thanks to your speedy arrival, we have covered more than we thought to at this time. While Agent Ward continues with the interrogations in the dungeons, we must be sure to give him the most accurate information possible."

Tatsuya chuckled a bit, "More importantly, Eleanor-san, that King of ours would be upset if you overworked yourself."

Eleanor blushed slightly, picturing Artorias kindly asking her to settle down. "Y-yes, I suppose that's true...very well."

Shirou smiled a bit as he watched her, "Man, lately I've been thinking. I can't help but wonder whatever happened to her. Everything seemed to be going so well, until that day. Then when he came back, he seemed to stop talking about her entirely."

Eleanor tilted her head as the other two got quiet in thought, "Her? Who are you talking about, if you don't mind my asking?"

"Ah, not at all." Shirou leaned back in his seat, looking to her. "It was a while back...this girl that we sort of knew IRL, through Artorias. At first, she was a sister in the Church, helping other Players to deal with the stress of everything. One day, Artorias disappeared, and she apparently did at the same time. When they finally returned, months later, Shio- Er, Artorias brought her here. Something was...different. About both of them, really. She was immediately made one of the Chosen Undead, like you, and it seemed like Artorias was grooming her to be the next Lord of Cinder."

He paused, thinking back to the time which Saeko spent as a member of the Guild. She'd been withdrawn, distant and aloof, yet her sincere nature and attitude won over all of them.

Eleanor stroked her chin, "She must have been truly impressive, to have our King's attention like that."

"She was, yes." Tatsuya confirmed. "Lilith was a very special woman. To be honest, there isn't another female Player in PSO who's as unique as her. We were all drawn to her mysterious aura."

Gaius nodded once, "Aye, she was one of a kind."

Eleanor blinked at them, "Lilith? As in Lilith Branwen, the Queen of Destruction?"

"Yes, the very same." Gaius answered calmly, closing his eyes. "She isn't simply called the most powerful Destruction Mage in the game for nothing, that's for certain. The concept of defense seemed foreign to her, but her ability as a Player was truly sublime."

Shirou nodded in agreement, "Yeah. So she chose Vampire as her race when she started. She found out about the secret, limited-time event questline, which would allow her to ascend to a Shinso Vampire. Artorias...well, it was to be expected, I guess. See, even IRL, he was always really mindful of her. There were tons of times when he completely ditched all of us to be alone with her, but he was always secretive about their relationship. Anyway, he refused to let her go the quest alone, so those two left together to take it on."

He paused for a moment, running a hand through his hair. "We were all waiting for them to come back, and after 2 weeks, Artorias came back without her. When we asked after her, he said that she quit the Guild and that we wouldn't be seeing her around anymore. After that, well...he completely stopped talking about her. Even if you ask, he ignores, like she doesn't exist..."

He grit his teeth a bit, "I mean, I...want to know what happened between them, and what happened to her, but it's frustrating. When he came back, Shion was different again. It took a month before he was able to smile and laugh with us like he always used to..."

"Ah!" He covered his mouth, realizing he'd used Shion's name.

Tatsuya smiled at him, "Don't worry about it, Shion speaks very highly of Eleanor, I'm sure he wouldn't mind her knowing his IRL name."

Eleanor blinked, blushing. "King Artorias...his real name is Shion...? What a beautiful name..."

"Yes, in fact his mother named him that hoping for a daughter." Gaius admitted with a chuckle.

Shirou burst out laughing as Eleanor covered her mouth in disbelief, "It's true! She's actually the reason he keeps his hair so long~ Man~ It's so hard to tell Shion and Sumire apart when they're together~ One of them could've at least changed their hair color in-game~"

Tatsuya laughed a bit, "True, but both of them would hit you if they heard you say that."

"Sumire?" Eleanor tilted her head. She smiled when they got quiet. "Apologies, I won't pry. Thank you for telling me. Even if it's only a little bit, I think I understand King Artorias a bit better now. As I thought, he must be someone who would do anything for his friends."

Gaius set a hand on the table, looking right at her. "Eleanor, you are in love with Shion, aren't you?"

Shirou shook his head as Eleanor gasped again, her face bright red as she flailed and mumbled unintelligibly. "Bro, there were 100 better ways you could've asked her that. Though really, Elen-chan, it was pretty obvious. A lot of our allies ship you two, actually. They call it ArtorElen."

"A-artorElen!?" Eleanor nearly fell out of her chair in her excitement. "T-t-that's not...! Er...is it...really...that obvious...?"

Tatsuya took a breath, "Yes, though I regret saying so. Shion is dense though, toward any woman who hasn't fulfilled a specific criteria, so he doesn't think much of it."

Eleanor frowned a bit, "I had...figured that he was involved with Lady Xerxes, Lady Satella and Lady Merascylla, both here and IRL, but...are there more?"

"Uh, yeah." Shirou scratched his head a bit nervously. "To be perfectly honest with you, Shion's been a disgusting chick magnet since elementary school. He's always been different from other guys around. He's actually an introvert with extreme OCD, though you probably couldn't tell. He's always been a social butterfly who, in spite of his desire to be solitary, put his best foot forward with others to help them in any way he could. It's always felt like he was trying to make himself stronger, by doing things that he didn't want to."

"The way he approaches things is...well, unorthodox, but he's so damn brilliant." He continued, looking at Eleanor. "It's not like he's putting on an act, he really does care for the well being of every one of you, even if he can't remember every member's name. I'm sure you've noticed, but the majority of the girls who join this Guild do it because they're enthralled by him~"

"Yes..." Eleanor nodded slowly. {Despite being an introvert, he's remained so strong, even with everyone putting so much pressure on him... What remarkable fortitude he possesses...}

Gaius, Tatsuya and Shirou exchanged glances, smiling at Eleanor as she got quiet in thought.

The mountainous town of Kilcliff.

Saeko strolled down a path leading to the exterior of the town. Behind her were the Dark Elf girl and the Half Mermaid girl, who were close at her back and just to her sides.

The Half Mermaid, Araxie, had ocean blue hair and eyes.

The Dark Elf, Brunern, had mahogany brown hair and light green eyes.

Both women gazed about, as they were led on a tour of the town and dwelling. All around, men and women engaged in a number of acts, deviant or not. Fornication was common, with quite a few pairs clearly being forced with one party.

"As you can see, this is the one 'safe' haven for people, Players and NPCs alike, to partake in all the sins they dream of~" Saeko explained, motioning around casually as the members of her Guild cheered, waved and whistled at her crudely, as she passed by with her two new toys. "Of course, the vast majority of them are inconsequential to me. If anything happens, I'd happily ditch them and start anew elsewhere~"

"Ditch..." The women said softly, looking at one another shyly.

"Oh, but you two, my dears, don't have anything to worry about~" Saeko stopped, turning to kiss both of them on the lips. "I've grown fond of you, honestly~ Nobody else has ever been so sweet and receptive to me before, after everything~"

Araxie hugged her tightly, licking her cheek. "We'd do anything for you... You set us free from all of it~"

Saeko giggled a bit, opening her mouth as her Vampire fangs grew. Before she could bite into the Half Mermaid's neck, she was stopped by the other. "What, should I suck you off first?"

"I...wouldn't mind that." Brunern admitted, blushing and closing her eyes. She bent down a bit, allowing Saeko to bite into her neck. "This is about last night...you seemed to be somewhere else, while we were together... Was it Abyss King Artorias...?"

"..." Saeko pulled her fangs free, licking some blood from her lips. "Shion is my true love, yes. There isn't anything that I wouldn't do for him~ Is that an issue? Were you hoping to have me all to yourselves~?"

The men around gulped as they watched their leader and the two girls, some already masturbating just to the sight of her.

Saeko smiled as Araxie and Brunern both blushed, "How adorable~ As much as I like that, I don't want to lie to you~ My heart will always belong to Shion, you and all the other women I've got laying around...you're just cheap substitutions for when he and I are apart~"

"Buuut~" She stroked their cheeks tenderly, while letting her nails cut their skin. "I know you two both had crushes on him in the past, so I might just let you two get pounded a few times, the next time I see him~"

She giggled again as the two blushed more, shifting their legs. "How obscene~ Are you already wet just thinking about it~?"

Grunts were heard around the area, as the masturbating men released loudly.

Saeko ignored them, much to their dismay, turning to look out across the distant land, low beneath them. "Are you happy to be back in the sun~?"

"We prefer the touch of your cold hands..." Brunern and Araxie responded, both of them wrapping their arms around her, touching her breasts and her butt.

Saeko couldn't help but squeal a bit, "How wonderful~ Looks like I'm getting wet too, so let's get back to our beautiful chamber~"

-The next day, in Barnemouth.-

Inside one of the rooms, Shion watched a man enter. "Have a seat."

As the man sat, he looked over his account details. "Dick Grayson, huh?"

"Yes, King Artorias!" Dick answered quickly.

Shion smiled slightly, "Why Dick and not Bruce?"

Dick took a short breath, "As far as I'm concerned, there was only one Batman, and his name was Adam West."

"Huh..." Shion nodded a few times. "I like you."

"That's a relief..." Dick admitted. "I thought I was in trouble because..."

"Because what?" Shion raised an eyebrow.

Dick scratched his head, "Well, I thought this might have to do with Wynne, so..."

Shion's eyes widened for a moment, "I see, so you're Wynne's boyfriend... That...actually explains a lot."

{No wonder she blew up at me the other day. Why didn't she just tell me what was going on and ask me to do something about him being in the Siege Party? Did she think I'd blow her off? What the hell...before this game, we were inseparable...have we really grown so far out of touch?} He sighed a bit. "She never said anything about you."

Dick nodded, "She wanted me to keep our relationship a secret from you."

"Go figure." Shion mumbled, before continuing. "Did she tell you anything about her previous boyfriend?"

Dick shook his head, "Not really...at least, not beyond him being an absolute scumbag, human trash that ruins the lives of everyone around him, the reason that she's been miserable... She wishes she could forget everything about him, but she doesn't think she ever can... I wish I had known her sooner, so I could protect her from him... Er, I'm sure you did what you could for her as well, of course!"

Shion clenched his fists, shaking as he shut his mouth. {Scum? Trash? The reason for her misery? She wants to FORGET him...? That damn woman...! Even after everything he's done for her, she really thinks that way...?}

Whispers entered his ears, soft hisses only he could hear. "Kill her...kill her... Kill Wynne... Kill her and liberate Caleb from his pain and suffering... You know you want to..."

Wincing, he shut his eyes. Images flashed into his mind, visions of himself and Wicca. He had her pinned to the ground, his fingers wrapped around her throat, squeezing, choking the breath of life from her body. She struggled, hard, but he was far too strong for her to fight off. Her eyes were filled with tears as he stared into them unblinkingly, as if begging him not to do what he was doing to her. And ignoring these silent pleas, he snapped her throat like a twig.

"King...Artorias...?" Dick spoke cautiously, watching him.

Shion shook his head vigorously, opening his eyes. "Sorry, I've got a splitting headache..."

"I'm not surprised, you deal with so much every day as is..." Dick remarked. "I wish there were something I could do to ease your burden..."

Shion stared at him, "...What about me? What does Wicca say about me?"

Dick crossed his arms, "Well, it's complicated. She talks a lot of trash about you, honestly, but I'm sure there's a lot of history between you two. I don't pay much mind to that. But she does also talk about you more fondly. She envies you. Your strength of character. She says that the man she met years ago was someone she never imagined could become the hope of millions of people. She said she wishes that she could be as strong as you are..."

Shion smiled bitterly, looking a bit pale. "Is that so...?"

{She loathes Caleb so much, and yet... Wicca, sometimes I really wish that I could hate you... That I could...just end you. But I...} He took a deep breath. "Dick, we're actually investigating our male members, because one of them did something to get on The List. I'm positive it wasn't you."

Dick looked shocked, "One of our people?!"

"I'm surprised too," Shion admitted. "But I doubt it's a trick. If you could do me a favor, I'd be indebted to you if you could mingle with the other guys and see if you can learn anything. Anything at all..."

Dick waved his hands dismissively, "You don't owe me anything! You're our hope, King Artorias! I would do anything to help you!"

Shion smiled slightly, nodding. "Thanks...and Dick... Take...care of Wicca, will you?"

"I intend to!" Dick saluted to him, before leaving the room.

Shion looked down at the floor for a few moments, until he heard a call. Opening his menu, he saw it was an old friend, reluctantly deciding to answer. "Vijay? I appreciate you reaching out, but this really isn't a good time-"

"Shion! This is an emergency!" Vijay shouted.

Shion blinked, as the man was one who rarely raised his voice. "What do you mean? What happened?"

"Two of my Guildmates, two members of the Devas of Anarya, went out together on a quest and never came back!" Vijay explained. "It's been over a week!"

Shion frowned in response, "I hate to ask this, but do you think they-"

"I already contacted Greivor!" Vijay admitted. "He owed me a favor and checked the system account records, but they're still alive! Just missing! Nobody can get in contact with them!"

Shion held in a sigh, "Not to sound insensitive, but there are other Guilds better suited to this than we are..."

"This is serious, Shion!" Vijay shouted back. "Do you think we've forgotten it? The day that you nearly gave your own life to protect the life of an NPC that we all would have overlooked without a second thought!? Everyone there that day knows this, that you're the Player we can all count on! The one that cares about your fellow Players more than any other!"

Shion inhaled deeply, nodding to himself. "Alright...I won't make any promises, but I'll see what I can do. Who's missing, anyway?"

Vijay took a breath, "You remember the two lovely ladies who were in my Party when you helped us set up our Guild? Araxie and Brunern, those two are the missing ones. And they're so responsible, too...I think those two have feelings for you, actually..."

"...I understand." Shion responded. "Keep things up on your end, and I'll try to do what I can to help you. Stay strong, okay Vijay? Your Guild needs you to stay calm."

"I'll try..." Vijay replied softly. "Shion...thank you so much..."

Shion sunk into his seat as the call ended, staring at the ceiling. {Dammit...}

-The next day, in Onryx Keep.-

The atmosphere heated up within the ceremonial chamber of the Shrine of Yorshka. The moonlight funneled in through stained glass, crackling fissures radiating about the area. To anyone watching, it seemed as if the atmosphere itself was being bent. Flames burned around the area, candles lit to aid with illumination.

Sumire stood within the swirling energy, her eyes closed. As her Ki pulsed outward, canvassing the entire shrine from top to bottom, everything within it was transmitted through her mind like a sonar. In the main quarters, her home above, the still body of her close friend was seen. A few Blades were scattered about around the Shrine, and behind her stood one at the door.

"Bravo, my lovely Sister~" The man called out, clapping as she shifted slightly.

"Have you come to challenge me again, Hisoka?" Sumire inquired calmly, her voice as tranquil as the atmosphere was charged with her aura.

Hisoka, a man with backward spiking red hair and amber eyes, chuckled. He was dressed in an outfit which called to mind a jester prepared to battle. His face bore paint, a star on his right cheek and a teardrop on the left, and his clothes had various suits of a card deck.
His title was Grim Magician, and he was one of the 12 Darkmoon Blades.

"Not at all~" He claimed, walking a bit closer to her. "I'm always so enthralled by the way you meditate. It's like a beautiful dance with no steps, which moves even the heavens. And yet, it carries such a ferocious and hostile will at the same time~"

"Oh, so you're just watching me. Again." Sumire responded coolly, lifting her head very slightly.

Hisoka stroked his chin, "I did want to ask you something, though. About the man resting in your room. That is the White Walker, is it not?"

He didn't flinch as the entire atmosphere seemed to quake for a single instant, a powerful wind putting out every flame instantly. "I would never forget meeting such a...distinguished individual. Of course, he doesn't know me."

"Not surprising, considering your tendency to come and go, like some unhinged specter." Remarked Sumire, who lowered her foot gracefully, her advance having been faster than lightning itself.

Hisoka chuckled a bit, "I'm flattered to receive such praise from one of the only three Players capable of completely erasing every trace of theirself from the perception of others~"

Running a hand through her hair, Sumire took a seat on one of the benches. "Spare me your sweet talk, Hisoka, we both know that you're capable of doing the exact same thing, through a different method."

She smiled softly at him, "I didn't even notice you go up to my room, to be honest. Did you just return from wherever it is that you went?"

Taking a seat across from her, Hisoka nodded. "That's right, I just came back from a most amusing adventure~ So tell me, Nightingale, is he your secret lover?"

"You should know better, Hisoka." Sumire answered, raising an eyebrow. "He's like a brother to me, he's not the one who won my heart."

Hisoka nodded once again, chuckling lightly. "Of course, the man who tamed the most gorgeous beast in all of PSO, is one who dances atop the most terrifying flames without being burned~"

"I'm willing to let that comment slide because I like you," Sumire admitted, running a hand through her hair again. "You were really able to monitor Caleb without him knowing?"

"It was a bit difficult, but yes." Replied Hisoka, as he pulled out a deck of cards and shuffled them. "Of course, the biggest challenge in this world is your beloved~ Shio-chan is oh so...sharp~ How I long for our bodies to collide in violent dance~"

Sumire chuckled a bit, shaking her head at him. "Unfortunately, there won't be a chance for that to happen just yet. And even if Shion were to mess up, which he won't, Kenji would get the first shot at him."

Hisoka smirked in amusement, "Kenji's still but a child, why would you risk allowing him a chance to fight with one of PSO's monsters? His delicate advancement would be halted, if he had his confidence shattered by Shio~ We should treat him with care, so that he doesn't break before living up to his full potential~"

Shifting in her seat, Sumire turned to look up at the stained glass. "You know as well as I do, Shion will find a way to dispute the allegations."

Hisoka nodded in agreement, "But of course. He's our Hero, after all~ No matter what puzzle I drop before him, he's more than capable of overcoming it~"

"Speaking of, you already knew everything since before Kenji even got involved, didn't you?" Sumire wondered without looking at him. "Why didn't you just start it all on your own? Were you hoping Shion would be disadvantaged by the goal of World Expansion?"

"Perhaps, perhaps not~" Hisoka answered with a chuckle. "More importantly, what happened to Caleb Howl, anyway? Unfortunately, my usual muse was inactive during my adventure~"

Sumire was surprised as she looked at him, "Wow, you actually faced a challenge which required your FULL attention? I'm genuinely shocked, you'll have to tell me about it sometime."

She continued as he nodded again, "Caleb showed me something...well, concerning. But before he had time to properly explain it to me, he ended up in the state you saw."

She paused as he whistled, "Hisoka, do you think there'd ever be a situation in which Shion could strike down Caleb? Do you think there's an enemy so powerful that it can break even him?"

"No, I don't." Hisoka responded with a playful smile. "Shio-chan's the Player with the greatest mental fortitude in the entire game, so he's naturally immune to any form of mental influence beyond that which tricks his senses. His resolve is what really makes him, however, so there's no reason to believe he can ever break. Especially now, after everything he's already been through~"

"The only things which can cripple him are the five of you, ironically~"

Sumire nodded slowly to herself, "Yes, I thought so. And it is ironic. We're his weakness and his strength, aren't we? Not that he has to worry about me."

She paused as she reconsidered what he said, "Five, hm? Then do you share my opinion, which Keita rebukes so vigorously?"

Hisoka smiled a bit deviously, cutting his deck skillfully. "Naturally. What other reason could he have for protecting her so madly? I might even say that she's a much bigger weakness than the rest of you~"

"Perhaps so." Sumire agreed with a sigh. "What are you going to do now?"

Rising to his feet, Hisoka tossed the cards up, letting them rain down around the shrine. "I'll tell you if you order me to~"

Sumire smiled a bit as the cards dissolved into luminous orange glitter, her ally being out of sight by the time she looked. "Just like a specter. He really is lucky that I like him so much."

Whispers entered her ears, being promptly ignored. {Yu-chan...maybe it's for the best, if you never met Saeko again. If possible, I want to put an end to her myself. You've never thought very clearly when it came to her...}

-Back in Barnemouth, in the evening.-

In one of the rooms of the FoL Guild base.

"Any luck, Alistair?" Airiel asked curiously, watching him enter.

Bakuto shook his head, "None at all, Airiel. Nobody I've questioned has seemed suspicious, they're all united in their belief in your Guild. Our precious Shion, especially. It was clear that your Guild was the most zealous in their duties, but I hadn't realized just how zealous they were."

Airiel took a short breath, "Yes, I know what you mean. It's only gotten more pronounced since the World Expansion. It's good that our subordinates are so loyal, but it also means they may end up doing something wrong in the name of Shion and the Flames."

Chuckling, Bakuto ran a hand through his hair. "Curious, no? Even something as wonderful as love, when taken too far, can become dangerous and unwanted~ We humans are such flawed little things."

"Yes, we are." Airi agreed, closing her eyes.

Inside one of the questioning rooms.

Shion studied a man that had just joined him, one with short curly black hair, light brown skin and yellow eyes. "Do you happen to know what's going on this week, Squala?"

Squala smiled at him, "Yes, I've put it together over time. One of us men have done something horrible wrong, isn't it so? I noticed that even some of the Chosen Undead were being questioned~"

"...Yes, that's right." Shion confirmed, watching him. "We're leaving no stone unturned. One of our Guildmates have committed a crime grave enough to be marked by the Blades of the Darkmoon."

He stared at Squala, whose smile seemed to stretch somewhat. {Quelaan had told me he was a very strange man, but...something feels off about him. It's not just this incident, either. She said he's always been a bit of an unnerving person. But his skills and dedication have never once been called into question. Everyone who's worked alongside him only has praise for his commitment to our cause. I'd prefer these types of people to be open and earnest like Elen, rather than keeping it in.}

Squala motioned to him, "I can save you some trouble, my King."

He pulled out a mystical contract, writing in some terms and sliding the paper over.

"?" Shion looked over the contract. {In signing this contract, if I've done anything to the detriment of the cause, the Gods shall strike me down.}

"Are you serious?" He asked softly.

"Absolutely," Responded Squala with a calm smile, as he took the contract back and bit into his index finger to draw blood, which he used to sign his name.

He waited a few moments, before chuckling. "As you can see, my love for this Guild and you is bottomless~ I would never do anything that you wouldn't approve of~ Besides, didn't we all get sworn in to the Guild Tenets? If there's no notice of them having been broken, then this may be meaningless."

Shion took a deep breath, sighing. "Yeah, I know. But there may just be a loophole that we didn't know about. I-"

"No need to apologize." Squala interrupted, standing up. "I understand you've been under a great deal of stress, and I hope I've helped to alleviate at least a bit of it."

"Sure~" Shion smiled at him, nodding. "Thanks, Squala, keep up the good work."

He waited until the man bowed and left, before whispering to himself. "It's not like I want to suspect the people that I've trusted my back to all this time..."

He picked up the contract, staring at it. {He's crazy...if he'd done something detrimental without even realizing it, he'd be dead right now... Wait...now that I think about it... I might be overthinking, but I'll try it.}

A few hours later.

"What should we do?" Emilia wondered, scratching Puck's ears as he laid in her lap.

Cirilla frowned a bit, "None of you noticed anything at all, and we've gone through everyone already."

Airiel stroked her hair thoughtfully, "We must have missed something."

Bakuto leaned back in his seat, legs crossed. "You lot back at HQ turned up empty too, eh?"

"Yeah..." Shirou sighed, over a video chat with those at HQ with him.

Tatsuya looked up in thought, "I choose to believe in Shion's judgement, there has to be something wrong with the picture. Some kind of trick that we aren't seeing."

"Yeah, we have to be missing something here." Shion answered, laying his head atop his hand as he sat behind his desk.

Bakuto motioned to the video, "Everyone on your side was clean too?"

"That's right." Gaius answered. "We were very thorough. Ward was positive, but he said he's following a different line of thought right now."

Eleanor closed her eyes in thought, "I know we wanted to keep this in house, but perhaps we should speak to those close to our Guildmates?"

"That would take far too much time, and we're running out of it." Airiel answered calmly.

"A different line of thought..." Shion said softly, standing up. "I'm gonna step out for a bit, I need to think about this. Let everyone know they're free to go."

Everyone exchanged glances, watching him leave his office, as he left without giving them time to object.

Nighttime in Barnemouth.

At Priscilla's.

Prinny brought food for Airiel, Emilia, Cirilla and Bakuto, noticing they all seemed bothered. "Did...something happen?"

"...Nothing worth mentioning." Airiel answered with a sigh, deciding not to involve her. "I've noticed Wynne's pretending we don't exist today."

Prinny laughed a bit, glancing at her friend, who was dealing with other customers. "Actually...have you guys seen Caleb?"

"White Walker?" Bakuto looked at her. "No, why?"

Emilia shrugged, "We've been busy, so we haven't seen Howl lately."

"I figured as much, I was hoping Shion would be here tonight." Prinny admitted.

"So were we..." Cirilla mumbled, pouting a bit. "He went off a few hours ago and hasn't come back."

Prinny tilted her head, "By the way...Wicca was upset earlier. She mistakenly thought that Caleb was the reason her boyfriend was being detained."

"Cal-nii?" Cirilla looked at her in surprise.

Airiel sighed a bit, "I see. Shion told me about him, and he's been released. Everyone has. But Priscilla...did Wynne say something to Caleb?"

Prinny sweat a bit, seeing an intense expression on Airi's face. "Well, she did, but...I took care of it, don't worry about it~" {Who knows what she'd do...}

"Anyway, she'll at least be relieved to have him back." She remarked, taking a breath.

Bakuto stayed quiet, eating as he listened to the ladies.

"More importantly, Howl." Emilia interjected. "Have you tried calling him?"

"Yeah, but he hasn't answered." Prinny answered, looking a bit sad. "Usually, he'd at least send me a message when he doesn't answer. I hope nothing's happened to him..."

"I'm sure he's fine, Priscilla." Airiel assured her, touching her hand gently. "We'll let Shion know when we see him."

Atop the highest tower in Barnemouth.

Shion was wearing the Cloak of the Deep's King over black leather light armor. He was sitting atop the railing, relaxing as his eyes focused on his menu map. The positions of every male in his Guild, within the town, were displayed in real time as he monitored them.

He lowered his hand, grabbing a french fry and dipping it in a sweet chili sauce before taking a bite.

{Come on, someone move. I know you want to.}

He pulled up a second map, finding Airi and the others at Priscilla's. {Like I thought. I'd love to join them if this goes the way I think it will.}

"Ah." He smiled slightly, upon seeing one of the Guild members moving suspiciously. "Gotcha."

He tossed the rest of the fries in his mouth, the box burning itself as he casually pushed himself off the tower.

Zetsu. His presence was completely erased as he descended, planting his feet on the tower side, halfway to the ground. Looking in the proper direction, toward the docks, he kicked off to launch himself over to a rooftop.

A man wore a black robe, covering his head as he walked across the town and made for the docks. {Almost done. As soon as I get out of here, my mission is complete~}

{It's gonna be quite the show~} He smirked to himself as he moved.

Undetected, Shion shadowed the robed man from the rooftops, moving without making so much as a sound.

Upon reaching the docks, the man made his way to the furthest section, where he came upon a group waiting by a small boat.

"My brothers and sisters, I have arrived!" The man called out, waving to them.

"Oh, you're here! You weren't followed, right?" A woman responded.

"Of course not, who do you think I am?" Replied Squala as he removed his hood.

A man chuckled a bit, "I know you're excited, but you can change back now. What's happening is definitely set in stone at this point."

"True enough," The man claiming to be Squala agreed, lifting a hand to tear his face off. Immediately, his entire body changed, becoming a few inches shorter, but more muscular. His skin became lighter, while his hair turned brown.

"Good to see you again, Bloodeye~" One of the women smirked at him. "You really pulled it off smoothly, didn't you?"

Bloodeye, whose eyes were red, grinned. "It was easy, they never suspected a thing~ Let's find a nice place to watch from, when the Flames are extinguished~"

A shadow dropped behind Bloodeye, unseen by his allies as they turned toward the boat.

Chains of Iniquity. Chains of darkness wrapped around Bloodeye, restricting his movements and slamming him to the ground with such force that it cracked like glass.

Shion gripped the end of the chains in his left hand, standing with a foot atop his prey's back as his allies turned around in shock. "You're right, we never suspected a thing. Not a damn thing."

"Abyss King Artorias!?" The group gasped upon seeing him.

Shion gave them all a cold glare, sending chills down their spines as they felt themselves freeze in place. "It was a good trick, Squala...or rather Bloodeye. It dawned on me when you signed the contract, it was very vague and you tricked me by leading the conversation aggressively. Squala's dead, isn't he? I checked with everyone outside my Guild who's acquainted with him, and not one has heard from him in a month. That was when I remembered the Skills of the Faceless Men. When you're using a face, it requires one to be dead, and you assume their position in the game temporarily. You posed as a member of the Guild, and while the game recognized you as Squala and allowed you to be involved with the Guild intimately, you were excluded from the Guild Tenants."

He paused a moment, "Posing as Squala, you committed a horrible crime in order to get us targeted by the the Blades. It was a simple trick, but sometimes the simplest ones are the toughest to see through. I'm going to ask you this one time, so answer honestly. What crime did you commit?"

He waited for a few moments as the man stayed quiet, "Answer me now, or I'll crush your windpipe."

Pulling on the chain, they tightened around his throat violently.

Bloodeye gasped in pain, croaking. "O-okay! I... T-there was this girl... I thought she looked good, but she didn't have any interest in me...so while I was disguised as Squala, I...had my way with her and..."

"Killed her, huh?" Shion completed the sentence in a whisper, yanking a single time on the chain, crushing the man's throat so he could only make awkward grunts of pain while coughing up blood.

He stomped on his head brutally, the ground shattering as he was knocked the fuck out. "Why are the Faceless Men interfering with us? You have 10 seconds to answer, or I'll capture and torture every last one of you, until you beg me to kill you."

"We're not at liberty to say!" One of the women shouted, drawing a handgun and firing without hesitation.

Keeping hold of the chain, Shion advanced swiftly, swaying side to side sharply as he dodged each bullet without so much as being grazed. Circling to her back like a shadow, more chains bound her body, mostly around the limbs, which snapped out of place with a disgusting crunching sound as he ripped the chains into her. As she fell, he moved the second chain to the hand holding the first.

"That's not the answer that I was hoping for." He remarked, facing the rest of them.

A few minutes later, after the Faceless Men had fled, escaping in the water after their boat had been destroyed.

Shion took a deep breath, calming himself down as he took in the devastated area. He looked at Bloodeye and the woman, who were both unconscious. {Whatever...we can deal with them later. I'm gonna have to change the Tenets up myself.}

He combined the chains, tightening them to ensure that they would tear through the captive's flesh whenever they struggled. {I'm still too kind...}

Looking up at the moon, he clenched a fist. "To Black Hollow Marsh, then..."

In Black Hollow Marsh.

Shion was dragging his two prisoners behind him as he approached Onryx Keep, having sent messages through the private Guild server to let his allies know that he'd resolved their issues on his own.

{I swear to god, this better not have been some sort of fucked up prank.} He thought as he entered through the open gates.

"...So you actually came." Kenji called out, from a perch atop the gates.

Shion walked forward a short distance, before turning to look up at him. "You sound disappointed, Raijin Kenji."

Kenji blinked a few times, caught off guard. "You knew who I was?"

"I had a feeling after that little exchange we had." Shion answered calmly, setting a hand on his hip.

Kenji dropped down in front of him, "Well, just like she claimed, you've passed with flying colors. What's the connection between the two of you, anyway? You and Nightingale, I mean."

Shion looked a bit surprised, blinking once. "She hasn't told you? We're first cousins."

"...Eh?" Kenji stared at Shion, his eyes gluing to his hair. {Wait...now that I think about it...?}

"You really can be slow sometimes, Kenji." Selene commented as she walked over, all the citizens of the Keep observing from a distance.

Shion glanced at her, "You...are you Selene?"

As she nodded, his body tensed, turning toward her very subtly.

"Please don't go doing that, Shio~" Hisoka whispered, hanging his arm around Shion's neck while putting a hand over his. "It would displease her, if you killed one of her allies like this~"

"Hisoka." Shion gave him a cold look. "If you've been up to your usual creepy antics, you should know why."

Hisoka nodded as Selene tilted her head, "Indeed~ However, it isn't something you should bother with. Not yet, at least~"

Shion immediately pushed him off before releasing the chains he'd been holding. "Where is she?"

"Up in the shrine~" Replied Hisoka with a playful smile and a wave.

He glanced at Kenji and Selene as Shion immediately went into the castle, "You two be dears and prepare them for Yorshka~"

"Huh?" Selene and Kenji both stared after Hisoka, who followed Shion. "What...?"

Sumire was sitting in an open windowsill as her door opened. With a smile, she looked over. "It's been a while, Yu-chan."

"Don't 'it's been a while' me." Shion growled, walking toward her after closing the door. "I'm in a shitty mood right now."

"Really? I thought you would be relieved to know that your Guild was safe." Sumire admitted, turning to face him.

Shion's eye twitched, "The fact that you knew what was going on and didn't say anything to me, REALLY pisses me off."

Sumire reached out to touch his cheek as he stopped in front of her, "It's not like that, Yu-chan. In a way, my hands were a bit tied. I was positive that you would figure it out, anyway."

"Is there anything I can do for you to forgive me?" She asked curiously.

"You can tell me what those idiots were doing, messing with my people." Shion replied, pushing her hand away roughly.

Sumire nodded, lowering her hand. "The reason might irritate you, though. Anyway, the Faceless Men were hired by a client to infiltrate your Guild. That client's goal...was apparently revenge."

"Revenge. For what, exactly?" Shion stared at her in confusion.

Sumire lifted a hand to cover her mouth, "Well, the client apparently applied to join the Flames of Lordran sometime ago, but was turned away when he begged to be interviewed by you. The humiliation of that moment gave him the resolve to grind Quests and monster hunt until he raised the funds to hire Jaqen's Guild."

"I can't even..." Shion closed his eyes, taking a deep breath. "If you're laughing right now, I might punch you."

He bit his lip, blushing as she burst out in laughter, unable to hold back. "God dammit! Why do the biggest retards cross our path!? Screw it, I'm going to handle every single fucking applicant myself from now on! Nobody joins without my seal of approval!"

"And stop laughing, you-" He was cut off before he could yell at her, by her mouth being against his.

Sumire stole his lips passionately, having been unable to hold herself back. She was pleased when she felt him pull her closer.

Pushing her away after a few minutes, Shion shook his head. "S-stop that!"

"Said Yu-chan, just before he broke down and took me over this windowsill." Sumire remarked, turning her back to him and bending over. "You don't need to hold back, Yu-chan~"

She giggled when he sighed, "Do you remember when we were in middle school? We were frequently trading places to help one another out when we needed it~"

"By that, you mean I was taking your place to do the things you weren't able to do well." Shion responded blankly, looking away from her.

He tilted his head, "Thinking back, Lia would always get so pissed when she found out we'd switched. Especially the days where she wanted to eat lunch with me."

Sumire turned again to hug him tightly.

"...Sumi?" Shion looked down at her, while putting his arms around her.

Sumire looked up at him with a bitter smile, "Yu-chan...I'm so glad you're here..."

"W-what's wrong?" Shion asked in surprise. "Are you hurt or something?!"

Sumire shook her head as he put his forehead against hers, "Yu-chan...you were too excited to notice, but..."

Shion followed her gaze to the loveseat, his eyes opening wide as he realized who was unconscious atop it. "What happened?!"

Sumire walked over as he rushed over, "It's a bit of a long story, really..."

Some time later, after sharing her recollection with him, Sumire sat on her bed, her face red.

Shion stared at her, "Is...that really the best you could come up with?"

"I-I was freaking out, okay?! If something happened to him here, you'd probably jump to conclusions and blame me!" Sumire exclaimed nervously.

"And I'm sorry that I can't be as smart as you, knowing exactly what I should do in any circumstance!" She growled.

Shion looked over to Howl for a few moments, then back at her. "I wouldn't have blamed you for anything..."

"...Do you not care about what I told you before that?" Sumire inquired. "The end is a strange part to fixate on, considering..."

{But then again...} She blushed a bit more.

Shion sighed, "I heard some cryptic warnings from The Hermit the last time I met him... Hearing what you told me...just reaffirms them."

He looked at her, seeing her concern. "Whatever this future is, I'm sure it can be changed. It's my responsibility to keep our colleagues in line. Even if that means embracing my Arcana."

"I'm still more concerned about..." He trailed off, looking down at his hands.

Sumire clenched her fists, "Shion...were you jealous?"

"Maybe." Shion answered, immediately realizing what she was referring to. "Does it matter?"

Sumire pulled him onto her bed, staring into his eyes as he landed atop her.

Shion gazed back into hers, looking a bit surprised. "...Ouka, whatever happens, I don't think we should be so scared of it. If we know what's supposedly going to happen, then we can do a number of things to prevent it. I'm not going to be hurt or killed, especially not by the likes of Nabu. And I'll neither hurt nor ever fight with Caleb like that. The only way we'll get out of this game is together, so let's just face the future together as well."

Sumire blushed, reaching up to touch his cheek. "You're always so sure of yourself, aren't you~?"

"Not even," Answered Shion, blushing himself. "The only thing I know, is that I'd rather die than let anything happen to any of you. And of course, I don't want to die. So the only solution is for us all to survive together, just as we always have."

He lowered himself, putting his arms around her comfortingly.

Closing her eyes, Sumire pressed her head against his chest. {I hope you'll still feel that way when you hear about Josh. I can't be the one to tell you, it has to be Caleb...}

She took a breath, rubbing her head against him. "Yu-chan? Tell me about the battle for World Expansion. What exactly happened? How did you feel through it all?"

"Oh, that?" Shion laughed a bit nervously, stroking her hair. "I was actually really nervous~ So we made our final preparations at our camp just outside the chamber and..."

He went through everything he remembered about the day the battle began, explaining all that had happened, along with how the developments made him feel.


Izaya's The Boss:

Stomp That Shit!:

Shizu-chan's Seismic Toss:

Chill Izaya/Poor Izaya:
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Age : 28 Registration date : 2008-09-20 Number of posts : 738 Location : .............
Class: Rouge
Race: Half-Dwarf
Affinity: Darkness

PostSubject: Re: When the shit hits the fan   Sat 05 Aug 2017, 07:03

As a tale was told in the midst of Night, Wynne was making her way home when a shining angel landed behind her. It's ethereal blue strand wings wreathing in the air as it charged towards her!

Shion lay in Sumire's arms physically and mentally exhausted as her fingers ran across his skin, he looked over to Caleb. And felt an overwhelming sorrow, his lips twitched as a childhood that seemed a lifetime ago flooded back to him. As one particularly potent memory filled his mind He grabbed Sumire's hand rather forcefully and as she locked eye's with him he asked "do you know about the hit on Cal"? Sumire's eye's seemed to melt in guilt as Shion pushed away from her even as she reached for him. "Of course you did" he spat as a pit formed in his stomach.

"it's not like that Yu-chan-", "Then what is it like Sumire or should I call you Nightengale" Shion shouted only to be slapped across the face. "You think I want Caleb to be hurt? He's like a baby brother to me, I held him when he was a baby for god sake. There was nothing I could do".{please forgive me Himi} Sumire said through gritted teeth a tear rolling down her cheek. "And what if it had been me Su, what would you have done" Shion shot back unwilling to back down.

Sumire took a calming breath, "Like it or not there was nothing I could do, Selene acted at the exact second the file was reported. A right only three people have in this guild, had I been able to I would have motioned for trial by Greivor to at least give him a fighting chance. I wanted to tell you but you had just gotten out of your trial and I feared it would weigh too heavily on your mind. And so I decided to seal the incident from public knowledge. Cal doesn't need another reason for people to distrust him, and I feared how your friends and guild would react. Not that I believe he would but they might think Caleb hacked the minds of those around him, take your and his relationship you guys were never this close before the game" a sadness filled the air as she spoke

"If that were the case Wynne would have never left him *shakes his head and looks back at her* do you remember when we searched for Cal all night. And found him battered and broken sinking into the trash bags and.....he....*Tears streamed down his face feeling like flames*. Answered you by saying that's were trash like him belonged with a fucking smile on his face even as he twitched in pain".

"How could I forget that night". Sumire said as Shion continued "As we rushed him to the hospital you fervently asked him why he would do something so stupid. But he didn't answer you, I was the reason......., I doubt you remember the day but I went out with my friends and Cal stayed home like he always did. Well when I was out me and Airiel got in a spat so I came back angry, the house was dark and the shower was going. And I happened upon Caleb sitting in front of the cracked open door watching you shower and I just lost it. I shoved him and shouted what do you think your doing? He answer was silence and so I continued just when I think I understand you, you do something like this and make me wonder if everyone else is right about you. I defend you every time the others talk shit about you and then here I find you peeping on Sumi like a perv. His silence only made me more aggravated and I shouted, maybe the others are right maybe your just a worthless piece of garbage. I sighed and walked to my room door and said I don't know why I try anymore before closing the door. I tried to lay down but my heart felt so heavy for what I said that I got up to go tell him I was sorry when you burst in my room in nothing but a towel asking were Cal was. I didn't know he would go out and do what he did, and when he went to see his sister after getting patched up. I stared through the crack in the door I saw her scream at him as she crushed every break and squeezed every bruise until he was twitching in her lap as she cried. I felt like a monster , and even through all that he never once said my name to either of you. We all went home and the next morning I went to apologize I saw his fingers contorted in formation as he wiggled them back into place. With a sickening crack and my voice was gone he looked over at me and said. Sorry about last night the world gets fuzzy sometimes and I get confused and do some stupid things like staring at Sumi naked But the pain clears all that up. I stood there dumbfounded as I stuttered he held up a hand and said you never have to apologize to trash like me , and like that it was different. From that day on I felt like I had a hole in my chest as I tried to get Cal to let me back in to his heart, and just when I began to think our friendship was over. We started to game together on that old loveseat and slowly but surely we were together again, well at least we were till the girls or my friends came over. Then it was back to chasing my shadow and then before we knew it we were in this game and people started dying. And it was Cal who rose as the first vanguard to face the game and me and Josh were right behind him.
He formed the Kingslayers with his points and nominated Josh the leader. He pushed us and protected us like he was our protector and it was like we were unstoppable, but each battle got harder and harder to do alone. Josh wanted us to start recruiting but Cal wouldn't hear it, I knew we needed bodies and tried to reason with him but he stuck to his guns. I tried to stand by Caleb's vision but Josh was right and after much deliberation we realized in order to help everyone we had to kick Cal. We didn't know that Wynne was going to dump him or that things were going to go so wrong. But they did and even though Cal leapt in front of the attack the bosses piercing attack went right through his left pectoral muscle and ended our dearest friend. I looked to Cal and I saw those Icy globes become hollow husks as he cradled Josh in his arms. In that moment he told me that Wynne ended it by saying no one could ever love a piece of Garbage like you Caleb. I tried to say something as he rose to his feet sword in hand, Cal looked at me and said do you remember the day you visited the hospital after I fought you and Tatsu and Erston. And asked me why I kept these hideous scars on my face, well the answer is I keep them so I can see the monster that they see whenever they look at me.Shion couldn't find words anymore as Suimre pulled him back to her.{You will pay for actions Wynne} thought Sumi

"It seems we are both cursed to watch the one's we love destroy themselves, even as we squeeze them against our breast they seem to slip through our grasp" Whispered Sumire {I should have fought harder for you Himi, I won't Shion make that same mistake} Sumire wrapped her legs around Shion's waist as layed back pulling him onto of her as she kissed him.

"If you keep dragging your feet Yu-chan I'll make Caleb mine" Sumire cooed

Shion pushed himself from her with a scowl on his face "You'll what" Shion barked

"I didn't realize you and Cal-chan were like that, do the girls know?" she retorted alluringly.

Shion's face grew slightly red as he choked on his words for once in her presence,

Sumire ran her finger along Shion's chest before saying "If you want I can teach him the sweet spots" she continued on until she saw it was going to far as Shion began to recoil from her. She sighed and stated "Guild wise silly, one of us needs to pony up cause if we don't he will continue to tumble down the self destructive path he is on right now. And I refuse to watch that happen a second time".

"A second time?" Shion blurted out before remembering Himiko, and as he looked into Sumire's eyes he knew that she was absolutely right. "Can Caleb follow the rules of either guild though? {a faint memory of Caleb practicing entered his mind and answered it for him}
"Well when he wakes I'll-" both he and Sumire look over to the love seat and find that Howl is missing. Both Instinctively open their chat menu's only to see them spark and shutdown. {Shit}

"Hisoka" shouts Sumire as he enters the room instantly and says "I didn't think there was room for one more but if you insist". "Find and follow Caleb A Howl, and report to me his activites" she shouts quite coldly as Hisoka bows and leaves.

"Wait you said he was asked to do a ritual? but the only one that is active is....... no he wouldn't". He looks at Sumire a second before leaping out of the bed and equipping his clothes. "I can't catch him but at least I can get there before he does something stupid".

"What do you mean you can't catch him?" asks Sumire as she too starts to get dressed. " He's going to change his player type to black and use Zoom turning him into the fastest being alive". states Shion as he checks to see the closest bonfire.

His heart is pounding as he races through the city he doesn't know what he is looking for all he knows is something in the air is wrong. And that's when he sees it Wynne's battered body strapped to a cross with a message written on her body reading "DO YOU TAKE US SERIOUSLY NOW". Howl growls and charges forward tearing her from the structure as he demolishes it, her pulse is faint and her breath is even fainter. Howl quickly starts to sing Litany of Lust causing Wynne's mouth to open as the soul begins to enter Howl's as his mind is filled with what happened his flesh opens and begins to bleed while Wynne's body heals. Tears roll down his cheeks as leans in closer until their lips actually touch. Her breathing becomes normal as Howl's open glowing from under his tattered cloak, Wynne's body starts to shake until she snaps awake screaming. "Howl"! but she is alone in her bed with two rings laying on the center of her chest, she pants and cries as Dick walks in the room and rushes to her side. "What happened"?

Halfway across the world black lightning streaks across the ground and all the way through the city of Ashborne and into the Heart of Magistrates of Absolute Justice base. Stopping right in front of Kieta and dropping something before Devils Rejects ended and the runner decomposes into nothingness,"I really hate those things" Kieta grumbles. As Judge Magisters filled the room "Lord Grievor?", they were surprised to see him reading a scroll. "Hmph so your the first to use the summons this better be good Voice of the Damned" said Greivor gruffly as his Magisters looked around puzzled. "I have something to take care of I leave the will of Justice in your hands this shouldn't take long."

Howl stands atop the Spire of Damnation, a volcano that goes so far in the stratosphere that if it erupted it would blacken the sun. In his hand seemed to be a simple broad sword bound in chains. He stood at the edge of the vent looking straight into the magma as the heat and ash washed over him. With evaporating tears Howl removes his Kingslayer necklace as the sky suddenly darkens and begins to swirl over the spire. Howl then falls up into the storm spinning into nothingness before reappearing in a cavern lit by hell fire, a scarred moon gold mask covered he face. His feet and forearms wrapped in black leather with wisps of darkness pouring off his flesh, before him stood a coliseum were a man in bone shaped armor sat waiting for him.

"How's it going Caleb" says the man in red with a pep in his voice. Howl keeps moving forward completely silent as the man continues, "don't be like that bro". "Sorry, I thought I'd never see you again Joshua" Howl responds as Joshua chuckles in response as he removes his helmet. "It's been some time hasn't it? Sorry about Wynne leaving you I never wanted that to happen to you, to think if I had lived through that fight." A tear rolls down Joshua's cheek, "perhaps Shion or I would be here to face you but that would have shown Wynne right?".

"You were right Shion makes a great leader, he has an army that devote themselves to him wholeheartedly he really does have a charm that moves mountains. He all these people that worship him and power beyond recognition and yet he still says he needs me". Howl says with some cheer in his voice.

Joshua cracks a smile as his eyes show sadness "Your running out of time Howl, it's time to end this charade you know i'm not real and that this fragment of my being will be extinguished here". Howl nods "Goodbye brother"

Joshua dons his helm and draws his two ultra great swords he looks to Howl once more and says "you still refuse to use your gilded mail". Howl nods and a seal burns to his wrist as Joshua shakes his head "now all you external skills are sealed, you shouldn't have held back".

Shion makes his way to the base of the spire were he finds Greivor lounging against a tree, as Shion nears Greivor raises his head in acknowledgement. "So did the Howl summon me on your account or was it on his own Aoba-kun" asks Greivor as they fist pump each other. "You were summoned? I came here chasing Howl but it looks like I didn't get here fast enough". Greivor hands him the summons and Shion's eyes actually open in shock "He actually invoked the pact of the Round on you? Shit must be serious if he would call on you".

Howl spun through the air dodging Joshua's strike as he flicked his left hand out causing a chain to wrap around Joshua's ankle as it pulled him off balance. Howl then hit the ground in a roll using the sheathed blade to block Josh's back swing, flames then erupted around Josh causing Howl to do a back handspring backward to avoid the attack. Josh returned to the offensive with a Lunging crescent followed up by a Octo slash. Howl slid under the first strike and wove through the first three slashes of the second before wrapping one of the sacred chains around Josh's blade. Who let out an angry growl as he kicked Howl to the ground with and impressive boot. Howl bounced off the rock and blocked the blade strikes by moving the sheathed blade in circles, then kicked off Josh's knee and flipped over his head. Wrapping his chain around Josh's neck and pulls him to the ground as he lands, Josh quickly takes hold of the chain and smashes Howl into the wall.

As he sends several Fangs at him, the rock erupts into dust as Josh charges forward to finish Howl off but as the dust clears he sees that Howl is missing. Josh instinctively looks up and sees Howl descending towards him as his wrists, shoulders, knees and ankles get struck. Tagging him and leaving him motionless as Howl descends at him ready to slash with the sheathed blade knocking Josh's helmet off as he lands on the ground. "Stop playing around and draw your blade Howl!" Josh screams as he lets out a blood curdling roar as red aura surrounds him. His blades become longer, thinner and lighter as his armor expands with his increasing muscle mass Mythael his ultimate in life. Freed from the tagging Josh goes into flurry of strikes that Howl dodges by a fraction of a second but each slice gets closer and closer. Until finally one of his strikes grazes the chin part of the mask, sending Howl flying into a wall as Josh bombards the area with Death Fangs.

As the dust clears Howl is kneeling bleeding from several wounds and his breath is coming out in rasps as Josh slowly stalks forward shaking his head. "Even Shion would have drawn the blade and finished this by now" Josh taunted as he continued advancing. Chains swirled around Howl as he dashed forward. Josh sighed and started swinging but the chains deflected each blow like it was made of paper. It was at this moment that the chains were giving off wisps of pure darkness just like Howl's flesh. As he gets into striking range Howl palms the sheath into both of Josh's wrists. Making his arms swing out wide as Howl slams the sheath into Josh's foot before palming it into his chest. Sending Josh flying back as he spins about and charges forward. Josh gets his footing back and starts swinging again.

Howl deflects each attack with the drawn blade as he gets in reach and nails seven strikes to Josh's torso before plunging the blade straight through his heart. He then jerks his left arm as the sheath plunges through Josh's back sheathing the blade once more. Josh gags before laying on Howl and saying "Thank you". His body then explodes in Howl's arm as the tether that bound them starts to disintegrate. The power of the Tower Arcana starts to escape when Howl forms the Gilded mail around it sealing it for the time being. As the world around him dissolves and he finds himself falling from the sky and an accelerated rate, when he suddenly feels the pain of a spear piercing his shoulder as he crashes into the ground. He looks up and sees the angelic Zachariah "I believe your orders were to free the Arcana". Howl pulled the head of the spear out of his shoulder and said "When did I go to Diablo III", he was answered with the butt of the spear to his masked face. "Zelgius, Dean help me deal with this trash" shouted Zachariah as Howl rolled back to his feet.

Shion started to dash forward only to be stopped by Greivor's arm, "this is his fight Shion ours will be here soon enough". Shion opened his mouth to protest but realized what Greivor was talking about.{You can do this Caleb}

As Zelgius and Dean advanced on Howl he grabbed their weapons and closed his eyes as both were blasted back into the side of the spire. Both bounced off it's side as Zach charged at Howl only to be diverted by the swing of Alondite, "How'd he do that Zel?" shouted Dean in frustration. "He overpowered the regalia with his own will and hitting us with the force of rejection" responded Zelgius as he got to his feet and charged with a great sword in hand. Howl hooked his foot with Dean's Death's scythe sending to the ground as he deflected shoots from Dean's 9mms. Zach slashed his back with his spear causing Howl to stumble forward in pain as turned and swung. Only striking air as he took a pommel to the shoulder from Zelgius knocking causing him to grunt in pain as he slammed the regalia together. Synthing them into Reaper Alondite making it a double ended pole arm, Howl began moving in a pattered as he. Pushed back the three attackers , finding himself unable to take on a aggressive role against the three of them. Zelgius charged forward as Dean took aim, so Howl struck Zelguis's knee as he pushed him into Dean's shot. As he struck Dean with a Death Eclipse only to feel the spear tear at his back yet again. {Can't take to many more of those, if only this seal were lifted}

Howl went back on the defensive as the three kept the pressure on in order to keep their advantage over him. Each trying to find a chink in the others approach. Unfortunately Howl found himself pushed against the side of the Spire with no way of getting out and thus the three went for an all out attack. Howl turned around and hit the wall of the spire with Death Eclipse blanketing the area in dust blinding his attackers. Dean was the first to enter so Howl sent him into the Spire wall were he got hit by Zelgius's overhead strike knocking him out. Zelgius then took a critical from Zach's spear dazing him as Howl struck Zach with a third eclipse knocking the angel to the ground. As he grabbed him by the throat and started to repeatedly smash him into the side of the spire roaring as he did it, it didn't take long for Zach to drop his weapon. But Howl kept going and going until it wasn't enough, so he tightened his grip around Zachariah's throat. And began choking the son of a bitch, "enough Walker" shouted Grievor as he walked behind Howl who ignored him. "I said enough Walker" Grievor shouted drawing his blades, this time Howl released Zach's throat only to grab his helmet and crush it on Zach's head. As he released him he took a shoulder to the back and stumbled into the wall as Grievor roared "I warned you Walker now pay the price"

Greivor raised his blade to Howl's throat as Shion ran up to stop him only for both of them to see a concentrated beam of Chaos blast Howl. The two of them turned to face Nabu who used an Aura of Order called Sanctuary making them unable to take any action for the minute thirty duration. So the two were forced to watch as Howl writhed in pain, "Just release the Tower and this all stops Walker" said Nabu with a cackle. But Howl refused so Nabu intensified the potency causing Howl's body to warp every few seconds as he used all his strength to keep his form intact. He put up a good fight but just as Sanctuary was about the end Howl's gilded mail burst as the Arcana started to return. Nabu let up as Howl dove his arm into the smoldering gauntlet and drew the Arcana inside him causing extreme pain as the Arcana started to attack his being slowly destroying him. As Nabu tried to advance on Howl he found himself face to face with the Phalanx Arcana.

Nabu teleports back as Greivor and Shion take stand side by side behind the Phalanx shield staring at Nabu with intensity. "We gotta do this quick Shion, or else we lose Walker. So don't pull any punches" stated Greivor as he wraped his Phalanx around his swords. "Hope those shields are quicker then me, cause I'm aiming to kill this fucker" spat Shion as wind began to flow around him.

Greivor starts to charge forward his Phalanx Arcana forming a point, Nabu's sends several chaos blasts at it only to watch them bounce off it Harmlessly. {Fool,an Arcana can not alter the effects of another} thinks Grievor ad he shakes his head and continues forward, as Shion continues to boost of panels made of the Phalanx Arcana. As he presses the attack on Nabu forcing him to use Order for a barrier for the brunt of the attack. As the wind around Shion deals damage through it. Grievor then slams it at full sprint sending Nabu flying as his barrier weakens further. With a angry growl Nabu drops the shield and fires a chaos blast forth as Shion zips through him looking like streaks of emerald. The blast goes past Grievor and looks to be a missed shot until the sound of crumbling rock signifies the target was Howl. Grievor adjusts his attention just in time to stop Howl from being crushed but in doing so failed to notice Nabu strike the ground infront og him. Causing him to fall into a liqufied hole that continues to grow making him continuously sink deeper and deeper until Shion dives in and fishes him out.

Once freed Grievor drops onto a platform made of the Phalanx and continues his charge across it as Shion advances at Nabu appearing as sparkles of Emerald in the sky. As Shion lands another strike Nabu unleashes a Chaos blast like a shield around him catching Shion quite hard as he bounds through it. Both taking severe damage as Grievor catches Nabu in the side crashing him into the earth as he goes for the second Nabu erects another barrier. After two testing strikes Greivor digs his blades underneath the barrier and launches him into the air. Shion slashes through it like butter and as he continues forward for the kill strike. Nabu begins to unleash his chaos field in an attempt to take Shion with him. When suddenly what looks like an explosion of destruction begins to form in front of Shion forcing him to divert his flight. More form guiding him out of the attack and to a blindspot allowing Shion to get his strike in sending Nabu crashing down with a sliver of health. Greivor then surrounds Nabu's hands and head with the Phalanx Arcana putting an end to his spells and the fight at hand.

As Shion exits the tempest form he turns to see Caleb kneeling with Excalibur in his left hand and right arm devoid of color and looking like ash. He opened his mouth as light poured out and released the Tower from his body, as it left him he crumpled to the ground his lips creased into a smile. As he convulsed in silent laughter, Greivor used the seal of justice to send Nabu, Zach , Zelgius and Dean to the prison under his guild building. He then helped Shion lift Caleb to his feet, as both held him up Shion let out a sigh and said "I could go for some ice cream how about you Keita?". "I always have time for ice cream Aoba-Kun" and with that the three teleported to the best ice cream shop in PSO.

Shion went with a large bowl of buttered pecan while Keita got a white chocolate caramel french vanilla bowl and the semii recovered Caleb got a prinny cone (A giant Ice cream model of a Prinny from Disgiea and a case of prinny poppers which is pretty much the same thing just in bon bon size). As the three ate their Ice cream Shion and Greivor caught up after such a long time apart as Caleb ate in silence. "Well it's been strange boys, but you both left me with some work to do so until next time" says Greivor as he gets up to leave Caleb gives him the case of prinny poppers. "Thanks for the help I was rather outmatched" says Caleb as Greivor tries one and smiles, "thanks" Greivor replies as he heads out. Caleb orders to more cases before saying "we should probably head back now I'm sure Prinny is freaking right now". "In a bit I need to talk to you Cal and no it can't wait we've needed to speak for some time and we both know it but we let. All this other shit get in the way well I say now we've earned some time to not be Artoias the leader of the largest and strongest guilds. And White walker the lone wolf", Caleb looks at Shion and sighs "If you ask i'll serve you but you have to put me through your new screening process and ask the others how they feel about it". Shion takes in his words and looks at Caleb inquisitively "You think they will deny your membership? so you still refuse to trust them? then why do you trust me and Sumire what makes us different ?". Shion's voice had raised throughout the sentence as Caleb stared back at him blankly {because your family} he felt the soft caress of a woman's hand. He turned his head slightly to see Himiko with a compassionate look in her eye {You can tell him Cal he'll understand you know he will}. A tear rolled down his left cheek as his lips twitched {I can't his burden is to much right now, it would just be a distraction}. Himiko took Caleb's hands into her own {but you need it}, Caleb then feels a droplet ripple across a lake and turns his gaze to see the handsome devil looking back at him. {No, you rather tear yourself apart isn't that right Caleb}. His forehead starts to bleed slowly as he coldly says "If Wicca has taught me anything it's that it doesn't matter what I do people's perception of me never really changes. And you know as well as I do that Tatsu never forgave me for fighting even after teaching me some of his discipline to find inner peace". Shion reached out and squeezed Howl's still injured right arm aggressively. Banishing the hallucinations from his mind as he said "Enough about that as you said it's in there hands now on to what I really want to talk to you about".

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He Who Was Born With the First Troll and Shall Perish With the Last

Age : 25 Registration date : 2011-08-16 Number of posts : 106 Location :
Race: Human

PostSubject: Re: When the shit hits the fan   Fri 06 Oct 2017, 07:49

And so Shion recounted the tale of the 2 months in which he had been MIA with Sumire, Keita and Saeko. The four had been the first to stumble upon the Trials of the Arcana, the harrowing challenges which would only be revealed to the Players determined to be worthy of the Arcana's incredible power. As it had happened, the Trial seemed as if it had been specifically tailored to the four, each of them struggling to overcome mountains which the Phantasmal Realm had delicately built for them. Their trials made them -no, forced them- to face their deepest and darkest fears, with the price of failure being death.

For Shion himself, his Trial was to prove that he could give his best, even in a world where everyone he knew and loved was dead. He described it as a perfect, personal hell from which there was no escape. He was forced to be the only survivor in situations where he lost those he cared for most: Emilia, Airiel, Cirilla, Sumire, Howl, Wynne, Priscilla, Keita, Saeko, Tatsuya, Erston, Shirou... In disturbingly specific and cruel circumstances, unique unto each, he was powerless to stop it as he lost them, one by one. At first, he knew it wasn't real, however from the moment of the first death, when the woman he was always closest to, Sumire, died in his arms, it was a dramatic descent into madness. Even in spite of their cold deaths, he had no choice but to move on and pass the Trial. And pass he did, once he came to understand the point of it. It wasn't that he had to somehow save them, it was that he had to accept that, ultimately, he was the most powerless Player in the entire game. And it was because of his powerlessness, that he had to work so hard. But instead of cursing said powerlessness, he had to embrace it, even if it meant moving on when everyone around him was gone. By accepting that he held no true power, he alone could grasp a power which was more versatile and adaptable than any other. Despite being a power which could be said to be weaker than any, it was one which could bloom forth into a force that moves the entire world.

After passing their respective Trials, the four emerged as The Fool, Death, Justice and The Devil. In attempt to truly understand the power they'd received, they had taken on Impel Down, a Raid on one of the Phantasmal Realm's most nightmarish prisons, whose warden had slain countless Players and remained uncontested. Along the way, they encountered a number of Raid Parties, some full and others on the verge of death. While Shion, Keita and Sumire always leapt to their rescue, they noticed that Saeko, who had typically been the first to act, was slowest to do so. Over time, they came to realize that the woman had undergone a rather extreme change. Where she had been the type to show empathy and sympathy toward others, she had become cold and callous, uncaring for the struggles of those beyond their Party. After clearing the Raid at last, Shion confronted her in concern, asking if the change was because of her Trial.

Saeko's answer came properly after they exited the Raid Dungeon with their Loot. She revealed she'd been having trouble with the whispers as well, that she couldn't trust herself to act naturally, because she might have just been wearing a mask. In attempt to alleviate her concerns, Shion assured her that he wouldn't let her deal with it alone. Upon splitting up, Shion took her back to the Guild and had her join. Sumire and Keita had both been uncomfortable with his decision, but decided that he wouldn't change his mind even if they had said anything.

Months passed as Saeko made an honest effort to keep her sanity, to become someone who could truly care for others. She made a number of great strides, quickly being accepted by everyone in the Guild. One day, when she learned of the exclusive event reserved for Vampires, a highly dangerous Quest which would strengthen the Avatar, she decided to pursue it. In concern, and out of his sense of responsibility for her, Shion accompanied her on the Quest. It was difficult, but the two took their time to complete it, allowing her to become a Shinso Vampire. Saeko herself had collapsed after a crucible of a boss fight, in which she'd unleashed her Arcana to the fullest of her capacity. Naturally worried, Shion took her to safety at the end and waited for her to wake up. And when she did, it was to complete the transformation she'd begun to undergo after her Trial.

She revealed that everything before had in fact been a mask. A mask she'd worn to protect herself, a mask she'd worn in effort to satisfy Shion. She mused that he should've known not to be so idealistic, given that he knew her better than anyone alive. Poking fun at his desperation to believe in and protect her, she noted that he had only been nurturing someone with no desire to be saved. It turned out The Devil was a match so perfect, that the Developers likely would have intervened had the game been in its proper state. After feigning innocence all those months with the Flames of Lordran, she'd very nearly felt that maybe she really had changed. But, in her words, she was "never more than Saeko the psycho." Embracing her depraved nature, she warped into a monster in human form which would make Lucifer himself weep. Revealing that, unlike the three who were afraid of the whispers, she reveled in their dark hiss, and in doing so, her Nemesis Arcana was beyond theirs. After a grueling duel in which he tried to stop her, Shion failed and Saeko escaped, claiming she'd live for the sake of making his life a living hell. A hell which would go on forever, until he finally snapped under the weight of the world and succumbed to the same pleasures she'd embraced.

After the fact, he'd returned to the Guild and informed everyone that Saeko had quit, all the while keeping her true nature to himself. Sumire and Keita encountered her later, separately, conferring and confronting Shion upon realizing that he'd tried to protect her. The two attempted to urge him to team up in order to stop her before she got too powerful and gained too much influence, as she'd gotten to work on dismantling and rebuilding the criminal syndicates of PSO around herself. Shion was afraid of facing her again, because he didn't know what would happen and he knew he couldn't bring himself to fight her. He laid out a very compelling argument for why they couldn't and shouldn't do it, the cornerstone of which was the fact that, while they had limits in what they were willing to do, Saeko had none. She'd become a terror with no inhibitions, who would do anything and everything, without a care for the results or the repercussions. He described her as an extreme nihilist whose desire to breed and wallow in despair simply couldn't be measured. The two knew he was making excuses, but decided to leave the topic alone at the time.

Howl listened to his brother's story in silence, taking it all in and trying to understand. However, he found that he couldn't quite grasp it, because he was lacking knowledge on the heart of the matter.

He studied his best friend, whose silver eyes were downcast as he poked at his ice cream with the spoon. "Shion...I don't really get it, to be honest."

He motioned to him, "It's not a secret that you and Saeko-san always had a strange relationship, but what's the deal with you two? Even Sumire and Emilia used to lament that they couldn't understand what there was between you and her. You're the strongest person I know, so what's got you so scared of confronting her again?"

Shion took a deep breath, setting his spoon down and pushing the bowl aside. "If it's you..."

He paused for a few minutes, opening his mouth to speak again. "First, the whispers, since I'm sure you're curious. The more we develop our Arcana, the more intrusive they get. We call them whispers, but that isn't all there is. They're...voices in our heads, that tell us things we don't necessarily want to hear. They can get violent, prying at our darkest, deepest impulses and desires... Sometimes, when I'm upset at someone...the whispers try to coax me into..."

As his voice choked up, he paused another moment. "They...try to convince me to...do horrible things. Even...to people I love and care for... The more you grind an Arcana, the worse they get. They become more frequent, they grow louder...at times they reach a volume and frequency that pushes me to the brink of insanity... Ever since I had to solo that Raid Boss, as you heard...well, I guess I pushed the Arcana too far. Whenever I hear them...it's like my brain'll tear itself to shreds. Not to be an asshole, but I'm sure you of all people can understand what it's like."

"...Yeah. You aren't an asshole though, so don't say that." Howl responded, staring at him.

"...Thanks." Shion whispered, before speaking louder. "On to Saeko...I met her in my first year of middle school, we were in the same class. She was always a rather glum and pragmatic girl, but there was something about her... I got picked on for being so mindful of her all the time, but I couldn't help but be attracted to her, even when my other friends told me I should just ignore her for being so weird. I actually spent all my free time in school with her, and we grew closer and closer. We shared interests...I got her into gaming, she got me into books. I knew something was up, once I found that the third book she lent me was also bleak and dark. But instead of being scared off, I found myself liking her more and more. Because of that, I chose to ignore the strange sense of foreboding that I got from her."

Leaning back in his seat, he continued. "One day, Saeko...Sae-tan, as I called her playfully...and because she was so talkative when it came to Satan... Anyway, Saeko was sick and didn't come to school. Our homeroom teacher knew that we were close friends, so he asked me to deliver her make-up homework and share my notes with her. Of course, I agreed."

Nodding Howl, couldn't help but smile. "Even if it's someone you don't like, you'll help them. You've always been like that, haven't you? No matter how uncomfortable something makes you, no matter how hard you know it'll be, you always do whatever you can to face it head on. I've never really understood it, but I always did respect that about you...even before we became friends."

"Caleb..." Shion stared at him sadly, looking away for a moment. "Anyway, I went to the Himeragi Family's place as requested. I had wanted to see her house, anyway. I'd had her over at Sumi's place a ton of times, but for some reason I never got to play at her home, so I was almost literally jumping with glee. Don't laugh, but I was probably skipping down the street like a giddy schoolgirl..."

He twitched as Howl burst out laughing, "I said not to laugh!"

"If you meant it, I don't think you'd have said that~" Answered Howl in between his laughs.

Sighing, Shion waited while shaking his head, his cheeks a bit red. Once his brother calmed down, he continued. "Her house was amazing. A western style mansion, she had real maids and everything, one of whom found me outside when I was too much of a bumbling and nervous mess to ring the bell. When I told her I was there to visit Saeko, she seemed happy at first, but then concerned. I thought it was weird, but I didn't think too much on it. Anyway, her mother was home and we made introductions, before she agreed to let me see her. She had been weirdly insistent that I don't get too close to her daughter, but I thought she was just one of those overprotective parents...like mine used to be."

He shook his head a few times, "Saeko was both shocked and happy to see me. I'd never seen her smile the way she did at that moment...and I'd never seen her cry the way she did, either. I...assumed that it was all her cold. That she was having cramps or something from laying down all day, unable to go outside. She told me it was the first time any classmate had ever come to visit her, which caught her off guard. I was just a kid, I didn't have any reason to see beyond her claims, so I accepted them. We chatted, I caught her up on what she'd missed, while walking her through what I brought her. My notes were...pretty bad, so I also had to make sure she understood them. It was fun...it seemed fun. I obeyed her mother and didn't get too close, something she agreed with since she couldn't have me getting sick on her behalf. When she said that, it made my heart beat faster, she just seemed so cute at that moment, acting like such a proper little rich girl. She got upset with me though, when I tried to treat her more formally."

He inhaled deeply, breathing out. "She told me about her parents and her home life. They were both doctors who ran a wonderful clinic and were highly respected, both in their fields and in the community. She said that they wanted her to follow in their footsteps, and that they spared no expense in disciplining her to that end. It did sound rough, but I wasn't able to see the subtle hint she dropped me when she explained. I was actually taken aback by it all. It seemed wonderful to me, to have such successful parents, parents who would do anything to make sure their child succeeded in life. As someone who had no drive to pursue any career, I was also envious that she already had a goal to work toward...and that was my third mistake. Anyway, when I was leaving, Sumi's mom, Aunt Shiena, had called me to come back for dinner... I was on my way out right as her dad was returning home. He seemed pleased, saying he was relieved his daughter had such a dutiful and polite friend. I thought he was a cool guy, a great and bright father. There was something that seemed off at first glance, but I'd forgotten almost immediately. He decided to drop me off at home, telling me I was welcome to visit any time."

Leaning forward a bit, Howl kept his eyes on him, nodding along. "And?"

Shion looked at him again, "She was back at school the next day. I didn't notice at first, but it turned out she was actually wearing makeup that day. She thought it was funny that I only noticed then, since she'd worn it a few times before then. I didn't think much of it at the time, because I thought it made her even cuter."

Lifting a hand, he stroked his chin slowly. "Everything was like normal then, aside from the fact that I started going over her house every now and then. One of those days, I accidentally broke one of their tea cups, and while Saeko and I scrambled to clean it up while I apologized like an idiot, she cut her finger. I felt so horrible about it, everything had been a blur after that and I somehow ended up back home, where Sumi claimed I was acting like a zombie. Sae-tan wasn't at school the next day. When I went to give her notes and the make-up work, neither of her parents were home, but I handled it just like the last time and refrained from getting too close. When she returned the next day, she was again wearing makeup. It clicked with me, somewhat, that there was a correlation. When I brought it up and suggested that she might've worn makeup every time she came back from a sick day, she told me it was because she didn't want our classmates to feel uncomfortable with how pale she was after recovering. Again, I...had no reason not to believe her."

"The next time I went over was a couple of months later, with no sick days in between." He continued. "We had to group up for our final project, but since we had an odd number of students, we volunteered to do it together, just the two of us. I went over like normal, and we got pretty weirdly invested in that project, honestly. Maybe because we were allowed to incorporate anime trivia into it. Her parents hadn't been home that day, and we lost track of time after the maids made us dinner. I got a pretty angry call from Sumi, who commanded that I run home that instant, because her parents were concerned. It was my bad though, I had forgotten to tell them that I was going over Saeko's house for the project. It had been the first time Saeko heard Sumire yell, albeit indirectly. She...seemed jealous, somehow. She said it was nice that we were so close, because she couldn't find any way to get along with her own cousins. I got flustered and claimed that Sumi and I weren't really that close...I had a bit of a complex, since all my guy friends were always crushing on Sumi and teasing me because I got to live with her. After making a fool of myself in front of Saeko, she walked me out of her house as her parents were coming home from dinner. They seemed to be disappointed that she wasn't in bed already, and I apologized on her behalf, telling them that we'd gotten way carried away with our school project. Looking back, their reaction was suspicious at first, but they told me to just be more mindful of the time in the future. Apologizing again, I ran home. In the back of my mind, I did find it really weird that Saeko's dad didn't want to drive me home, but I pushed it out of thought."

He lowered his head, looking into the bowl of melted ice cream nearby. "Saeko...didn't come to school the next day. I had to present the project we worked so hard on together, by myself... It had been a cross class presentation actually, so Lia was one of my audience members. I was relieved that Saeko wasn't penalized, since I was able to convince my teacher of how much work she put in. Lia...didn't bother hiding her jealousy over how much I liked Saeko, and prodded me a bit. I got kinda annoyed, and to spite her, I refused to hang out that day because I was gonna go visit her. I'm sure you can imagine how that later went, but it's not important right now. I went over to check up on Saeko, but I was turned away for the first time... Disappointed, I just went home. It had come as a bit of a shock, honestly. It was Friday, so I decided to go back the next day. When I did, I was greeted with silence, so I figured nobody was home and ended up playing with Ciri and Lia. Airi was a bit assertive and made me spend the night, so I didn't end up being able to go on Sunday either. Back at school the next day, she...still wasn't there. When I went once again, the maids told me that Saeko had gone out of town with her parents for a family emergency. I didn't see her at all that week. Our school year ended, and she didn't even come to attend our closing ceremony. Sumi and Lia joked that, maybe she'd disappeared from the world...I knew it was a joke, but I couldn't accept it as one. I unfairly lashed out at both of them, before I went- ran back to her place. At that point, I was just plain desperate to see her, even for just a second. In a strange twist, she was the one who answered the door that day. I was relieved, but she quickly told me that she didn't have time at that moment and sent me away. Because of my relief, I didn't realize...I failed to realize that she didn't even look me in the eye."

Taking a breath, Howl stared at him. "Are...you okay?"

"Yeah..." Answered Shion, though it was a pretty obvious lie. "With school out, we were in summer vacation. Almost immediately, Saeko texted me that she was going to be visiting her family, so we couldn't hang out until the end of summer festival, when she came back. Naturally, I was disappointed, something which bothered the girls quite a bit. Tatsu and Rou said that I was making them feel bad with my mood, so I pushed it to the back of my mind and focused on enjoying the rest of the summer with everyone. Of course, as soon as it came time for the festival, I was immediately happy that I'd see Saeko again at long last. Airi and Sumi teased me relentlessly when I revealed I was gonna go alone with Saeko, probably to hide the fact that they were jealous and didn't want me to break our tradition of playing together that day. With Aunt Shiena's help, I wore a men's yukata for the first time since I was a brat, totally obsessed and overprepared myself, then set off. I was so happy when I saw her, I swear my heart might have burst. Her mother had dropped her off, and though I thought it strange that her dad didn't show up at all, I didn't care because I was finally with her again after all that time apart. This time, the first thing I noticed was that she was wearing makeup. She...looked just like a porcelain doll, that evening. It was almost as if she weren't real, to be honest."

He smiled a bit bitterly, "I was so excited, I dragged her around all over the festival, going nuts with my allowance in attempt to win her some cute prizes. In...typical Aoba Shion fashion, I went way overboard and looked like an idiot, spending tens of thousands of yen just for a single stuffed animal I could've bought at a toy store for a fraction of the price...anyway, my stupid self had used all his money and had none left for buying food and snacks. I was embarrassed, but she...laughed. Actually, she giggled...there was a really distinct difference, and it was the first time I'd heard her sound so adorable. She gushed about my behavior, noting that I was the only person who had ever gone crazy to make her happy. I thought it was strange that she'd say that, considering how nuts her parents were about her, but I was distracted by the fact that she decided to buy our food for us with her spending money. I was even more embarrassed, but I guess I forgot pretty fast. We shared tons of delicious food, candy apples, cotton candy, takoyaki...the festival works. When we found a nice, quiet and private place to sit while awaiting the fireworks, she jokingly told me that she might've used too much money. At least, I thought it was a joke, she was really wealthy, after all. So she asked me how my summer went, and I told her pretty much everything, in extensive detail. She had a pretty strange reaction, every time I mentioned a certain someone, but I didn't care since she seemed so interested. After, I asked her, and she told me it was just a boring family summer with nothing special to speak of. I didn't notice at that time, but she quickly tried to change the subject... She told me that that year was definitely the best of her entire life, that she couldn't put into words how happy she was to have me in her life...that I was 'worth everything'..."

"I definitely found that choice of words odd, but I couldn't consider it because she..." He touched his lips gently. "She kissed me for the first time...cliche as it sounds, it happened right when the fireworks started. She was bold to start, but shy to continue. Unknown to her, however, I had plenty of experience thanks to Lia, and Sumi was constantly kissing me while claiming it was practice. I took the lead along with her lips, and we very quickly became oblivious to the fireworks. We stopped close to the end of the show, when I touched her cheek and she yelped in pain."

Lowering his hand, his eyes seemed to become somewhat dead. "I quickly got off her, thinking I did something wrong, that I'd hurt her. I had also wiped off and ruined some of her makeup...and when one of the fireworks flashed, I saw it. Her cheek was bruised...black and blue... Somehow, she seemed to realize instantly and ran away. I was shocked for a moment, then chased after her. I looked everywhere, all over the festival. I was panicking...and then she suddenly appeared to me again, her makeup back on...but not perfectly. I wanted to say something, but I couldn't bring myself to. I probably convinced myself that she had an accident, or something... The rest of the night was...awkward. There was a distance between us...and then her parents, both of them this time, came to pick her up. It...hurt to say goodbye. I didn't see her again for the last week of vacation, but I was sure I'd see her at school. It was the first time I desperately awaited school to start. But she...even though I was lucky enough to be in her class again, she didn't show. It wasn't until the first month passed, with me spamming her with calls and texts, frequently going to her house...that she finally came to school...wearing makeup."

Howl looked down, able to tell it was hard for Shion to talk about his history with Saeko. "..."

"I was happy to see her...really, really happy..." Shion admitted, clenching his fists tightly. "I actually cried, the moment she walked into the classroom...it really crept everyone out. But I didn't care. I was so clingy to her that entire day...but I think she liked it. The moment we were alone, I lost it in my hysteria and just kissed her without warning...she...pushed me away in tears... I was shocked, but mostly because she was in real pain at the time. I was confused, wondering how I could've hurt her so badly...and then I...realized it. Rather, I...finally allowed myself to see the truth beneath the glorified filter that I'd applied to her entire life."

He grit his teeth loudly, angrily. "She wasn't a sickly girl...she didn't just coincidentally come to school with makeup after every sick day. She certainly wasn't trying to hide the fact that she was pale, she...was covering up something much, much worse... I finally realized why I never saw her in anything but heavy clothes, no matter how hot it might have been. All that time, she'd been hiding them...horrible bruises and scars...she used makeup...no, her parents used makeup to hide it... It took me that long to finally accept the fear that I'd always tried to ignore. The fact...that the girl I fell in love with was being abused by her parents..."

He was shaking, tears falling from his eyes as he hunched over a bit. "I know I scared her at that point...I practically attacked her myself, with how furiously I demanded the truth from her... I already knew, I just had to hear it from her...to be sure I was right...because, even then, faced with the evidence, I didn't want to believe it! I wanted to keep thinking that her parents were perfect, that they loved and doted on her! I couldn't accept that there were parents who would beat their own child that way, not when mine... Not when my own parents sacrificed their lives to protect me from a killer..."

"It was probably...when she saw me in pain, in tears...that she finally told the truth. The truth that I wanted to run from, the truth that I cowardly turned away from for over a year..." He bit his lip sharply for a few moments, wiping his eyes. "She...came clean about all of it...crying herself... At points, I couldn't even understand her with the way she herself started crying...it looked like a dam had just broke, she cried like that...nonstop...because she'd always had to hide it all by herself...she never had anyone who she could talk to about it...she never...had anyone...that she was able to cry in front of..."

"I was devastated...heartbroken..." He whispered painfully. "Because of everything she admitted...the reasons they would beat her senseless...the times they'd do it for no reason at all...whether she met their expectations or not...or even if she exceeded them... It...was because everything she said before, clicked... She said that I was worth everything, remember? She...was saying that my relationship with her...was worth it... Because I...stupidly made things worse, without even being able to acknowledge it... Because I earned her beatings that she wouldn't have gotten, if not for me...!"

"Neither...of us knew what to do, where to go from there..." He croaked weakly. "We both just...just held one another...soaked in each other's tears..."

Howl clenched his fists tightly as he stared at Shion, unsure of what to say or how to react. {This is the first time I've ever...seen him like this...}

Shion took multiple deep breaths, settling down after some time. "I told Saeko that she had to talk to someone...that we had to get her away from her parents. She told me she'd tried that before, that it never worked, it only made them...angrier. I wanted her to know that...I would always be on her side...I...told her the truth about my parents... How they...were beaten by their own kindness...how the man they'd taken in his time of need...turned out to be a monster in human skin...a monster that butchered them right in front of me...their only child... At some point, it turned evening. Neither of us even realized, we didn't even register the fact that our phones had been lighting up for a long while. I knew her parents would be mad, she was terrified to go home...so I went with her... I knew I shouldn't make things worse...I lied and told them that we threw her a party in class, that things got so crazy that we lost track of time. I was so angry at them, but I...lied so perfectly. I smiled so genuinely...somehow, I completely repressed the burning hatred and rage I felt toward those two..."

He took another breath, "Saeko came back the next day, thankfully without additional injuries. I had promised her that I wouldn't tell anyone anything, and I didn't. Not to Sumi, nor Lia...nobody. But I wanted to get her to tell someone...so I convinced her to go to the student councilor. She couldn't come clean...it was only natural, when she'd spent her whole life lying for her bastard parents... It was such...a hard year...I kept trying to get her to tell someone, anyone...and whenever she didn't come to school, I...completely flipped out. At one point, it was actually because she had a real fever...and I remember feeling so shitty, because I was relieved that she was really sick... She was suffering with such a high fever, and I was happy because it meant her parents were less likely to strike her..."

"Something changed with her after her illness went away." He noted, wiping his nose. "She finally agreed to share her story... I got her to tell the councilor everything. He was horrified by it all...shocked that the two of us...had been strong enough to deal with it together...and I couldn't stand being called strong, when I felt so weak and helpless... But we both felt such relief...he told me to have Saeko stay with me when he took action, to protect her from backlash. We made up some stupid excuse that I can't remember...and managed to get her parents to let her sleep over for a few days. We didn't go to school at all, either. We stayed at home, together...she was always smiling, and it made me...feel at peace, for the first time in a long time. But we were naive. We didn't realize how...unreliable justice was, in the real world of adults...where money and influence could silence the truth. The councilor was apparently relocated out of nowhere. In the end, Saeko...had to go back to her house. Where she'd be beaten within an inch of her life...because she made so much trouble for her parents..."

"I refused to allow it. I don't know what I was thinking I'd do, after they took her back...I just ran." He lifted his head. "I ran to her house, and I threw a rock through one of the windows to get inside. Inside to where they were, just as I feared, on top of her. I threw myself at them like an idiot, only concerned with saving her. I didn't ever want to look away again, I didn't ever want to leave her to suffer alone, not again... Her dad snapped... It only took one backhand. I threw everything I had at him, everything I'd learned from training with Sumire and our friends...but I was just a boy. I couldn't do much against a fully grown man...and...well, weird as it may sound, I was happy when he hit me...and when he kept hitting me...because I knew...I knew it meant that they weren't hitting her anymore... At some point, I blacked out... I didn't know what was happening around me, but I heard snippets. Loud, loud noises, cries, screams... I felt so cold...and then I didn't. I remember feeling something warm...warmer than anything I've ever felt. I came to in the hospital. When I woke up, Sumi, my aunt and my uncle were crying hysterically over me... The official story was...a hit and run...I'd apparently gotten hit while walking down a badly lit street, and the driver just kept going...the doctors said I was lucky to survive the damage I sustained. Everything was such a blur...I was such a mess... I wanted to ask about Saeko, but something stopped me...and I never did. One day, a lawyer came to visit me. He said he...was representing her...because... Saeko...she....to protect me, she...k-kill..."

He shut his eyes, shaking as he tried not to cry again. "She...k-k-killed her own...parents... She'd grabbed a knife from the kitchen...and stabbed...stabbed...stabbed...until they stopped moving. That...was the source of the sounds I recalled... She protected me...she saved my life...by killing her own parents. When I found out, I realized that the screams...were hers...she was crying out in anguish and pain... I was supposed to defend her, but she defended me instead...in a way that she never should have...and I...just...couldn't help but feel...like she only ended up there because of me...I don't think I was wrong, either..."

He gulped loudly, painfully, resisting his urge to cry. "Saeko's family covered the whole thing up...they somehow fabricated the events and made them out to be different from the truth... I met her uncle and a few family members...but that's all I needed. It turned out that she...was a curse. They treated her like a cursed child, even before what happened. All of them knew what her parents were doing, and none of them lifted a finger to save her...none of them cared, because she was a cursed child... I couldn't understand... I guess that appearances...their reputation was the only thing that mattered to them... Saeko was sent to a mental institution...and the worst of it...was the lie they spread...that her parents died protecting her...from a murderer... I couldn't handle it...that that specific lie was used...what were the chances...? I didn't see her again...at all...whenever I tried to contact her, I was prevented from doing so..."

Taking a deep, deep breath, he sat up straight. "I was scarred, but I kept it all to myself... I was able to play it off as trauma from the accident, when I wasn't acting like myself... Now that I think about it, that was the first time you and I really met, properly, huh? Himiko Nee-chan brought you with her to visit me in the hospital, when I was still recuperating from the incident."

Moving around the table, Howl set a hand on Shion's shoulder firmly. "Wow, I...had no idea...I thought you were just loopy from painkillers and morphine, but you went through all of that..."

He studied his friend sadly, "Then the real reason you were so hellbent on getting stronger...?"

"You guessed it..." Shion smiled sadly at him. "I had no way of contacting Saeko at all, I didn't even know how she was, where she was. I hated myself for being so weak...so I finally took it all seriously. Even if it wouldn't matter, I didn't want to ever feel like there was nothing more I could've done for someone I loved... As soon as I could, I started training in martial arts, as if my life depended on it. Everyone thought it was because of the accident, that I wanted to move past it...but I...just wanted to search for the strength I needed...to kill the crippling weakness inside me..."

He wiped his eyes again, "As you know, I did meet her again...in high school."

Blinking a few times, Howl nodded. "Right...it was after all the drama between us, wasn't it? Senior year..."

Shion nodded to him, "Yep, we reunited years later. I was beside myself the moment I laid eyes on her...even though she was all grown up, I instantly knew it was her when I saw her. I was so damn happy...it took a while for me to realize how much she'd changed. After everything...because she had to deal with it all by herself...she...something inside of her was broken. She wasn't the same Sae-tan that I was with in middle school. But even so, she...was still Saeko, you know? I had also grown up...I didn't care if she was different, because I was still in love with her. And that's why I was so assertive with her, I made her hang out with us whenever possible. I wanted her to make friends beyond me, even if I was the only one she could REALLY talk to. While getting reacquainted with her, I found out that she inherited her parent's fortune, but she was on an allowance system until she would turn 21. Her family wanted nothing to do with her...they ruined her in that institution, then pretended she didn't exist. But I didn't care anymore, I made her move to an apartment near our house. I didn't want her to feel like more of an outside, and kept her history from everyone. I told you all that she'd lived with her family after what happened to her parents."

He ran a hand through his hair, "I was so happy to be with her again, so happy that she was able to get along with everyone, at least a bit... I know she was never someone that you guys could actually call your friend...because she couldn't bring herself to open up to anyone but me... I promised that I'd protect her properly this time, forever...that I'd never leave her alone again, and that I wouldn't ever let anyone take her away from me, either. Even though she was still the girl I loved, she was...definitely unstable. She could...be a bit scary sometimes... When I was with Lia, Ciri or Sumi, she got jealous...and her relationship with Airi was really antagonistic...but then, that's the fault of neither...they just had conflicting personalities from the beginning. I was protective of her, I never wanted to allow her to do anything that might hurt her. When PSO was coming out, we played the beta together, right? But I didn't want her to play the main release, after realizing how...psychologically taxing this game would be in the end. I got her to agree not to play, but...I should have made her promise me. If she promised, she'd never have played this game... I was supposed to protect her, but I wasn't firm enough..."

He closed his eyes, "I made a mistake, and Saeko is stuck here with us. Her instability just got worse and worse here, especially in the Labyrinth... Remember when I began to act weirdly desperate? I was hoping that I could get her out of here...I hoped that something would change. I was hellbent, not just on- No...I'm sorry. I cared more about her safety than I did about yours, or Josh's, or Lia's, Airi's, Ciri's, Sumi's... I was scared something would happen to her... So Cal...it's really not your fault, what happened to Josh. I know I've said it before, but I...I let you push us, I never complained, never argued against you, even when Josh wanted to. I played neutral, but I was really just letting you force us ahead of everyone. I let you take the worst role, because I only cared about salvaging Saeko's mental state..."

Howl put his arm around Shion, a tear rolling down his cheek. He shook his head slowly... "Don't say shit like that...I don't care what anyone says about me, but I won't let you drag yourself down to my level. Shion, you were justified in the way you acted...I don't know that I'd have done any differently...you...did what you had to do... I don't mind being your stepping stone..."

"Y-you're not!" Shion shouted, pushing him a bit angrily. "Don't talk like that, you're my best fucking friend! Stop putting yourself down like that, it pisses me off! You're...just like anyone...you're one of the ones that I want...to protect..."

He took a deep breath, "Howl, I told you all that...because I wanted you to know...that I'm far...very far from being the perfect King that everyone likes to say I am... I need you...just like I need Lia, Airi, Ciri, Tatsu, Erst and Rou. None of them will reject you, and that's all that matters... I want you to support me, so I can support you too. I...really need you... I can't face Saeko...without your help... Sumire and Keita always say that she's my weakness...and they're right... More than anyone, she's my greatest weakness, my kryptonite, if you will... When I meet her again, I'll need you to help me keep my head on straight...so let me do the same for you. I know there's a lot that you haven't told me too, but I don't mind... You know mental pain better than anyone... I want to help you from now on, and you can help me too... If you want to share what's in that messed up head of yours...you can. But if not, I won't hold it against you ever. And I won't let anyone insult you the way they always have. We're friends, brothers...partners. We should always have each other's back, don't you think?"

Howl looked down as Shion lifted a fist, blinking. He almost couldn't believe, it felt like a dream, a delusion like so many others. {He'll understand...he'll...maybe he really will... Can I...confide in him, one day? I...I-I want to believe that I can...}

He bumped the fist, sniffling as he smiled. "If you're really so desperate to have a monster like me supporting you, then I'm in."

"S-shut up, you're not a monster." Shion growled in irritation, before smiling. "Thanks, Caleb. You're...the only person I've ever talked to about this. It...was therapeutic to lay it all out like that. So, I'll be counting on you. I may be a helpless, lazy and weak introvert, but I'm serious about being there to defend you. All of you. And by the way, it's not like there's any strings attached."

"...Strings?" How tilted his head.

Shion nodded, "Right. You becoming a Lord of Cinder isn't to shackle you, it's just to keep you grounded. You don't have to take a leadership role, I don't expect you to. You can wander around as you please, just like always. You just have to make sure you check in every now and then, so I have no doubt that you're okay~"

He hit Howl's chest playfully, "That's it, it's more like a watcher's alert or something. We'll all rest easier, getting updates from you. And of course, when something important comes up, it'd be nice if you could show yourself to help out!"

"...Yeah...I guess that doesn't...sound horrible." Howl admitted, scratching his head.


"?" Shion and Howl both looked over their shoulders, where they saw Sumire. "..."

Sumire took a deep breath, shaking her head. "If you're wondering whether or not I was eavesdropping, I wasn't. I could have, but Yu-chan would be angry if he found out, so I didn't want to risk it."

"Sumi..." Shion turned to look up at her.

"Hisoka was watching the entire time, so of course I knew where you were." Sumire explained calmly, leaning closer to put an arm around both their necks. "I'm glad...if you two stick together, I don't think there's anything you can't handle."

Howl got quiet, the embrace immediately calling to mind his sister.

Shion touched Sumire's arm gently, "Sumire, you should come to Barnemouth soon. It's been a while, so the girls would be happy to see you."

Sumire blinked once, before releasing Howl to lean on Shion from behind, rubbing her face against his affectionately. "Do they still not know what I'm doing?"

"Airi knows, but she doesn't exactly care anyway." Shion admitted, a slight frown on his face at the mention of her, which quickly faded. "Lia and Ciri are clueless, they think you've been exploring with your friends."

Raising an eyebrow, Sumire pinched his ear. "Shion, did I misread that reaction? Is there something negative between you and Airiel right now~? Trouble in your triple paradise~?"

Blushing, Shion looked away. "It's nothing like that, Sumi...I was just remembering a bit of an intense slaver moment...all she was missing was a whip and a ball gag..."

Sumire's jaw dropped slightly as she froze up, "What exactly do you mean by that, my beloved cousin? What is that crazy witch doing to you?"

"I-it's a joke!" Shion exclaimed. "She just made me do something that I was reluctant to do, and it just came to mind given the situation!"

"Hoh?" Releasing him, Sumire stood up and set her hands on her hips. "I see. I suppose I'll see for myself, if the relationship between you two has become...toxic."

Howl whistled a bit sharply, feeling a chill.

Shion sweat a bit nervously, "Toxic...? Sumi, I feel like you're jumping to some conclusion that I can't understand..."

"Hm," Sumire crossed her arms. "Well, gentlemen. I'll be heading to my own home now, but I'll most certainly drop by to check in and see how you're fitting in, Caleb. I look forward to seeing you in your natural habitat, Yu-chan."

Shion stayed quiet as they watched her leave, turning to Howl. "I have something to be worried about, don't I?"

Howl scratched his head, "Maybe you should make sure that Emilia won't be around when Sumire shows up."

"Yeah...that's not happening. She'll kill me if I try to send her away with no intention of joining her." Shion remarked, sighing. "Whatever, I'll deal with it when it happens. Let's go back already."

As the night passed, Keita had returned to his base in Ashborne, where he awaited Nabu's recovery in chains, for interrogation. Sumire and Hisoka returned to Onryx Keep in the Black Hollow Marsh. Meanwhile, the two heroes returned to Barnemouth after deciding to keep the events of that night to themselves.

The dark washed away, and the light ushered itself in with the break of dawn. The morning was a bit busy, with Shion forcing Howl to get up early and get him into the Guild, setting his position and permissions. Something kept secret, was the fact that some guests had been invited without Howl's knowledge.

Afternoon in Barnemouth, inside the Flames of Lordran Outpost manor. The Guild Master's office.

Howl was sitting in a seat before the desk, relaxing as he watched his brother.

Shion was responding to a load of messages with surprising speed and accuracy, a grimace working across his lips.

"Shion?" Howl stared at him carefully.

"...It's a reminder of a promise. I'll tell you later." Shion decided, looking to the office doors.

"Good morning! Yu-nii, Cal-nii!" Cirilla ran over, hugging Howl before moving around the desk to hug Shion.

Emilia seemed irritated, "Where were you two last night? We kept hoping you'd show up at Prinny's, but you never did. Neither of you. What were you doing, Shi-chan?"

She leaned in across the desk, an intense expression on her face.

Shion smiled slightly, "Don't overreact, Lia. We were just meeting an old acquaintance. It was an emergency thing, so we had no time to let anyone know. I'm sorry~"

"Hm...well, it's not like I could ever be mad at you~" Emilia smiled brightly, skipping around the desk and sitting in his lap as Ciri's cheeks puffed up a bit in envy.

Airiel ran a hand through her hair as she took a seat by Howl, allowing her sisters to carry on as Shion pat them both on the head. "May I ask who the culprit was?"

Shion immediately looked at her, "I'll tell you when everyone's together."

"Everyone?" Howl, Emilia, Cirilla and Airiel tilted their heads.

"Yoooo!" Shirou chirped loudly as he barged in to the room. "Shion, old buddy, old pal, old friend! It's been so long since we've met face to face!"

"Chill, Shaggy." Shion spat blankly, sparking laughter as the rest joined in.

Erston smiled proudly as he made his way to the side of the desk, "What a grand occasion, having us all together again."

Tatsuya chuckled as he waved at everyone, "Well done on the recent trial, everyone. Is this our celebration?"

"In a manner of speaking..." Shion admitted.

Howl looked around, tensing up. He, of course knew Ward and Eleanor already, but this was his first time being in the same room as the remainder of the Chosen Undead.

Even so, he recognized them and their titles: Agent Ward, the King's Guard. Eleanor Hume, the Spiral Exorcist. Quelaan, Daughter of Chaos. Escanor, Knight of the Sun. Luciela, Abyssal Priestess. Eizen, the Reaper's Fist. Mordred, Blade of the King. Corvo Attano, the Dishonored.

"Whoa, Mor-chan!" Emilia gasped, jumping out of Shion's lap.

"Emi!" Mordred hugged her tightly.

Eleanor blushed, noticing Cirilla's joy at having Shion to herself for the moment. "An...exceptional job as always, King Artorias."

"Ah, thank you Elen." Shion smiled at her. "I really appreciate what you did when it was all happening. You too, of course, Ward."

Ward bowed his head as Eleanor turned redder, "Your will is my own, my King!"

"R-right..." Shion whispered, glancing at Ciri when she giggled.

Quelaan smiled brightly as they all took seats, "It's always interesting to have everyone assembled~"

"It's really cruel, you know?" Luciela flashed a seductive smile at Shion. "I work so hard every day, hoping to spend some time with my precious Artorias, but he never has time for me~"

Airiel took a calm breath as Shion blushed and scratched his head, "Luciela, keep it in your pants."

"I'm not wearing any, though." Quipped Luciela, who was wearing a cleavage exposing dress.

Escanor chuckled as he crossed his legs, "What a joy it is, to be around all of our dear friends~"

"It's been quite a while." Eizen noted.

Corvo ran a hand through his hair, "You've grown up a lot since we last met, Artorias."

"Have I?" Shion gently held Cirilla's hand. "Guys, I'm sure you noticed, but-"

"Right, isn't this the White Walker!?" Mordred asked boldly, holding Emilia's hand now.

Emilia nodded, "Yep! He's our dear friend, too~"

"Right. That's right." Shion nodded to her, motioning to Howl as he awkwardly waved to them all.

Shirou blinked, "Oh wait! Could it be that?!"

"I see!" Tatsuya's eyes widened. "He finally...?"

Erston smiled, "It's about time, if you ask me."

Shion smiled at the guys, nodding. "That's exactly it. Everyone, please welcome White Walker, my best friend. Our final Lord of Cinder."

"Seriously?!" Airiel gasped, shaking Howl's arm violently. "You're really joining us?!"

The Chosen Undead stared in awe, that being one of the few times they'd ever seen their Guild's First Mate so surprised and excited.

Howl gulped a bit loudly, nodding. "Yeah...I decided to just go ahead and do it, when Artorias told me the details..."

Shirou laughed happily, "Good going, Shion! I knew you'd get through to him!"

"Shion?" Ward's eyes widened. "Is...that our King's name?"

Eleanor blushed, rubbing her arm. "Lord Archer, you have no restraint, do you?"

Shion shrugged, "I don't really care. Yeah, my real name is Shion. It's fine if you all know."

Luciela blushed, licking her lips. "Shion...Shion...what a wonderful name, for my wonderful love~"

Shion chuckled as Airi, Ciri and Lia hugged Howl, who was caught off guard. "Treat him well everyone, alright?"

"Of course~" Tatsuya nodded with a smile.

With the sudden reveal of Howl's new status and position, Shion pushed him a bit into chatting with the other Chosen Undead properly, making them get to know one another a bit. After the excitement died down, Shion had explained the case with the Blades of the Darkmoon, noting that they would be keeping an eye on the Faceless Men from then on. He also explained the new application process, which he would personally head, electing all of them to play roles in helping to vet good people who wanted to join.

When all was said and done, Shion ordered them all to get equipped for battle and meet him at the Siege Dungeon.

Upon arrival at the Bonfire, The Lords of Cinder and the Chosen Undead looked around to find that their leader wasn't awaiting them.

"Where's my dear Shion?" Luciela inquired.

Airiel started ahead, leading them calmly. "He's waiting for us already."

Quelaan looked around, smiling at the Ashen Ones who were lining the area like sentries as they greeted their leadership. "I noticed that only about half of our forces were on standby in Barnemouth. So everyone else was here?"

"Yes, Shion had the foresight to set up a guard duty rotation, which went into effect immediately after World Expansion." Airiel responded coolly, tossing her hair over her shoulder as they emerged into the throne room.

"Why?" Mordred wondered, scratching her head.

"To make sure nobody foolishly rushed through in search of glory." Shion answered in a loud voice, sitting on the remnants of the ruined and massive throne.

Sumire was sitting on her knees behind him, her arms wrapped around his neck a bit possessively. "My adorable cousin always thinks ahead, doesn't he~?"

"...Yes." Airiel stepped further ahead, a rather angry and fast walk. "We had to be sure that nobody would lose their lives to bravado unnecessarily, so Shion had the Ashen Ones stand watch and turn away anyone attempting to enter!"

As she reached the throne, she attempted to slap Sumire.

With a whistle, Sumire released her cousin and swiftly skipped to the top of the throne to look down on her. "It's been a while since we last met Airi, why are your claws already out?"

Airiel pulled Shion against her, giving Sumire an irritated look. "You didn't tell me she was coming, Shion."

Shion blushed as he felt her breasts against his face, gently pushing away from her. "B-because you'd get mad!"

"Besides, I believe that I'm the one who deserves to be mad." Sumire suggested, pointing down at Airi condescendingly. "Tell me what you've done to taint my Yu-chan, you cruel witch!"

Airiel's eye twitched, "Shion...what is she talking about?"

Sweating a bit, Shion opened his mouth to speak as sparks flew between the girls. "It's just a misunderstanding-"

"Sumi-nee!" Cirilla ran over with an excited smile. "You should've told me you were close by~"

"Ah, but how would I have surprised you?" Sumire wondered, jumping down to hug Ciri, kissing her on the cheek. "As always, you're the cutest of the Riannons by far~"

Emilia smiled darkly as she walked over, the ground freezing around her. "Keep your hands off of MY Shion."

She pulled Shion from Airi, growling a bit.

Howl, Tatsuya, Erston and Shirou sighed as the four girls interacted with Shion. "They never change."

"I'd heard that Lady Xerxes didn't get along well with Lady Nightingale, however..." Eleanor watched nervously. "Are we missing something?"

"Nah, not really." Shirou scratched his head. "Remember how I told you that Shion was always a ladies man? Well, Sumire-chan and Airi-chan were always...scaring off said ladies. I mean, it's not like they hate each other, but-"

Tatsuya cleared his throat to interject, "Shion grew up with all four of them. They typically get along, but with the exception of Cirilla, they tend to treat Shion like their property."

"Indeed." Erston nodded, chuckling a bit. "They're friends, but they act more like hostile rivals when it comes to monopolizing him."

Corvo rustled his hair lightly, "Well, it's good for young ones to be bold while they're still youthful."

"Agreed~" Escanor stroked his mustache, observing in amusement.

Luciela ran over, "I won't be outdone! My darling Shion!"

"L-let me help you, King Artorias!" Eleanor shouted nervously as she hurried over to the throne.

Mordred grinned as she sprinted over, "I'm with you, Emi! He's OUR King!"

"My King! I'm here for you!" Ward exclaimed as he lunged to the throne.

Quelaan took a deep breath, before she joined them in effort to calm them down.

"It's hard to say whether Shion is in paradise or limbo." Erston remarked.

Eizen put his hands in his pockets, smirking as he watched the individuals fight over Shion, whose will was disregarded completely. "Aye, he's both enviable and pathetic at times like these."

Howl scratched his head, "It always ends up like this when his devotees are together, even IRL."

"Indeed!" Tatsuya agreed with a laugh. "He's never able to catch a break in these situations."

Some time later, after the Artorias War was ended by Quelaan.

"Now, can we please get to our purpose for gathering here?" Quelaan requested, holding Shion's arm to her chest.

Shion blushed, glancing at her as the other ladies gave him irritated stares. "R-right, so...if you haven't figured it out already, this isn't the kind of game that lets everything come easy. After the first World Expansion, the immediate area was relatively safe, but at this point in the game, I doubt it'll be the same."

He pointed to the entry to the new lands, "Beyond is uncharted territory, and I'm fairly certain there's some great danger out there. So...the 17 of us are going to Party up and go exploring. It's time for the Flames of Lordran to once again pave the path to our future, so let's valiantly set out and-"

Everyone blinked as his enthusiasm suddenly died.

"So yeah, let's get out there and kill everything that looks at us wrong." Shion sighed weakly, turning away from them. "We'll call it a day after we get a full sweep."

Airiel sighed as well, "You could have kept your spirits up for just a few more seconds, Shion."

"Whatever, it's not important. I'm saving my energy." Shion claimed.

Sumire elbowed Howl in the side a bit sharply, "How's the ordered life treating you?"

"I'll let you know when I've actually had time to experience it." Howl replied, elbowing her back playfully.

"This is quite the overpowered Party~" Luciela mused, skipping over to Shion to hold his hand. "Give us our positions, please~"

"Oh...right." Shion nodded to her, blushing again. "Merascylla is at the center of our formation, she'll focus primarily on Healing. Escanor, Mordred, I'll have the two of you serve as her guard, so maintain a perimeter around her."

Cirilla, Escanor and Mordred nodded in acceptance.

Shion smiled at them, before looking to the others. "Xerxes, Satella, Quelaan, Luciela, Ward, Archer and Taurus will run support from the back line."

He motioned to himself and Howl, "WW and I are going to serve as the vanguard since we can Dual Tank. Nightingale, Gaius, Eizen, Eleanor and Corvo will be on the front line right behind us."

Everyone spiritedly accepted their roles without argument.

Shion stroked his chin, "If we need to change tactics, I'll leave it to you, Xer. Once we get outside, you're in control of coordination."

"Understood, Artorias." Airiel answered with a smile. "Did you hear that, Nightingale? I won't permit you to do as you please."

"I can't see why you're singling me out, love." Sumire answered with a smile of her own. "So long as your leadership is adequate, I've no reason to disobey you~"

Cirilla sighed a bit, "Can you two please not get into this again?"

Shion smiled at her, "Right, get your head in the game, everyone."

Checking their gear one last time, the Party got into formation before taking their first steps onto the new frontier.

The Party emerged into the new lands, right behind their leader, finding a vibrant and sprawling terrain of hilly grasslands.

Shion checked his map, smiling as he saw how massive it was, full of darkness since it was unexplored. "We've got our work cut out for us. Seems this place is called the Riahst Expanse."

"Yes, Riahst was an ancient Eldar Kingdom in the lore." Airiel explained, crossing her arms. "The Siege Boss was the final King of said Kingdom, which fell long ago under the tyrannical downpour of the Dragons."

Sumire smiled, "How fitting, the final King stood vigil to guard the way to his old stomping grounds."

"Aaaaaand..." Shirou's eyes focused on the distant forefront, activating his Hawkeye skill to survey the zone. "There's a really big beast chilling out over the first big hill. Must be an Area Boss."

"As always, King Artorias' intuition is correct~" Eleanor remarked. "It's a good thing we're the first to come through here."

Shion tapped his chin thoughtfully, "I'm sure there'll be an irritating gimmick with the Boss. Considering the sheer size of this area, I'd guess that it'll summon hordes from across the Expanse periodically."

He ran a hand through his hair, "Well, we'll make it work regardless."

Airiel nodded when he looked to her, "I've already placed down a Bounded Field here, so if I give the signal to retreat, everyone is to come to my side so we can escape together."

"I guess it's best to take no chances, but I doubt we'll need it~" Shirou claimed.

"Indeed, with such a sublime Party, no Boss can stand up to us~" Escanor remarked.

Emilia summoned Puck with a smile, petting him. "We can just DPS it to hell if we have to~"

"And if things get dicey, My King can always show off the Skill he used to solo the Raid Boss in the Forbidden Depths!" Ward proclaimed proudly.

Shion glanced at him as Howl, Airiel and Sumire stayed quiet. "Well, we'll see how it goes."

{I'll have to make sure it doesn't come to that.} Howl decided. {For Shion and Sumire, both.}

Kilcliff, home to the Scourge of the Seven Hells.

Lilith sat alone before the altar to her Guild's Dark Deity and patron.

She rubbed her head, looking irritated. {Of all the dreams I could have, why did I have that one after all this time?}

Images flashed in her mind, of her uncle and other family members. {How annoying...}

Pulling a knee to her chest, she whispered. "Shion...I want to see you..."

Closing her eyes, the Whispers came and went. Despite their intensity in her perception, they were little more than background noise for her.

"I can't see you right now though, can I? No matter how much I want to..."

The doors to the chamber opened as two ladies entered.

"Lady Lilith?" Araxie and Brunern walked over to her. "Are you feeling ill?"

"...No, not at all~" Saeko answered, turning to them with a bright and mischievous smile. "Shall we go out for a bit~?"

"Where to?" Brunern wondered.

Saeko jumped to her feet, skipping past them daintily. "Just to find a new toy or two~ I suddenly have the burning desire to really mess someone up~"


Izaya's The Boss:

Stomp That Shit!:

Shizu-chan's Seismic Toss:

Chill Izaya/Poor Izaya:
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PostSubject: Re: When the shit hits the fan   Thu 26 Oct 2017, 09:44

Back in Barnemouth that night, at Priscilla's.

After returning triumphantly after an extensive day of exploring, and following an intense and glorious boss battle, the Flames of Lordran decided to celebrate their accomplishment and welcome their new Lord of Cinder.

Prinny hugged Howl after bringing more food, "I'm so happy that you joined Shion's Guild!"

"Thanks." Howl put his arm around her as she sat in his lap.

Cuddling up to Howl, Prinny noticed Wynne watching, turning away quickly. "So, what was the new area like? From the way they're partying, it's like they just hit another World Expansion~"

"It's pretty nuts out there," Howl admitted, stroking her hair. "The monsters are really high leveled, the loot drops are new and the new zone is enormous. We fought a boss that summoned endless armies of beasts, with just the 17 of us."

Prinny blinked, "Seriously? Sumire-san was there, but..."

Howl nodded, "Shion's team is even more impressive than I'd heard they were. I thought me and him worked together best, Sumire included, but their team synergy was insane. They always knew how to handle any situation, they trusted their backs to one another without hesitation. I've never seen such an efficient Party."

He looked over at Shion, who was being affectionately swarmed by his allies and Sumire, trying to handle them all at once. "It's no wonder they're undefeated in the Guild Wars and the Sortie Events. He's made something pretty damn amazing..."

"Yeah, and I'm glad you're a part of it now." Prinny noted. "Maybe I won't have to worry about you running off alone all the time anymore?"

Howl laughed a bit, kissing her on the lips for a few seconds. "Maybe... At the very least, it won't happen quite as much."

Eleanor blushed as she looked between Shion and Sumire, "Just to be clear...you two are cousins IRL?"

"That's right, we're first cousins~" Sumire answered proudly, rubbing her head against Shion's. "Don't we look similar?"

"You look like siblings, actually." Eizen pointed out.

Shirou laughed heartily, "Yep, neither of them changed their real hair color when they made their avatars~"

Quelaan covered her mouth, "I'd suspected as much in the past, but despite being cousins, you two...?"

"What can I say?" Sumire replied. "True love knows no boundaries~"

"True love, huh?" Airiel and Emilia gave Shion dark looks.

Shion gulped loudly, "I didn't say or do anything! Can you girls just chill out for once?!"

"Yeah, you're bothering Yu-nii!" Cirilla exclaimed, hugging Shion's arm.

Puck licked Emilia's cheek, "Relax Lia, it's not like there's any reason for tonight to end disadvantageously for you~"

"Right!" Mordred agreed. "I'll support you in whatever happens, Emi!"

"I think we should chat in private tonight, my love~" Luciela suggested, sitting in Shion's lap.

"Think again." Airiel growled lowly.

Sumire nodded, "And there's no way I'll let a witch like you lay a hand on Yu-chan either."

"Shi-chan's mine to begin with, so whatever." Emilia remarked, hugging him from behind.

Corvo cleared his throat, "If our leader and the ladies retire together, let's ensure that Ward doesn't try to follow them."

Tatsuya smiled a bit nervously, "Ah, yes, that...would be quite bad."

Erston stroked his chin, looking at Ward, who was eyeing Shion as he drank. "Indeed, he does get too overprotective sometimes.

Prinny whistled at Shion and the ladies, "What are your plans moving forward~?"

Shion cleared his throat loudly, "First thing tomorrow, I'll have our Guild escort the Survey Parties into the new zone. As soon as we get the first Transport up and linked, we'll officially allow others to start exploring, but only if they're in Parties of at least 8 Players. We'll Party up ourselves with Sumi and Greivor later on, to quickly grind on through to the new Dungeons and such."

"Right, it's important that we stay ahead of everyone to minimize deaths." Airiel noted, while trying to pull Luciela out of Shion's lap.

Shion scratched his cheek, "But actually..."

"Is it the promise you mentioned earlier?" Howl wondered.

Shion nodded as the others looked at him curiously, "Right. Two members of a friend's Guild are missing right now, so I promised I'd try to find them and bring them home. I don't know what my investigation will turn up, but I'll probably need to take a few days off to deal with it."

"In that case, let us help you?" Quelaan stared at him pleadingly.

Shion smiled as they all shared her reaction, "I appreciate that, but I'll need to entrust you guys with overseeing everything while I'm away. If I need any help, Howl will be more than enough."

"Are you sure?" Sumire asked sternly.

Shion nodded to her, "Yeah, and I'll call you too if I feel it's necessary."

Nodding, Sumire replied. "Alright, that's fine."

Prinny frowned, feigning sadness. "How cold, Shion. What if I need Howl at the same time? Is he supposed to prioritize you, just because you're his boss now?"

Shion blinked at her, "Huh? That's...uh... I mean, if you need him, of course I'd want him to prioritize you, so-"

"I'm just messing with you~" Prinny admitted, giggling at his reaction. "As long as you two come back safe, it's fine~"

"Y-yeah, we always will." Shion claimed, blushing as the girls pinched him. "Right?"

Howl hesitated a bit, before nodding. "Yeah. We'll come back safe. Always."


Izaya's The Boss:

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Shizu-chan's Seismic Toss:

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PostSubject: Re: When the shit hits the fan   Fri 03 Nov 2017, 07:31

As the Flames of Lordran continued to celebrate as they move to the VIP room known as the Theater the largest and most beautiful in PSO. Howl reclines back In his chair with a sleeping Prinny laying against him, Shion was still swarmed by his extended Lady entourage and Sumire seemed to be getting a little tipsy. Hiryuki and Alistair come into congratulate Shion and company on their first exploration of the new frontier. They of course how it is and Shion and most of the party members explain it in their own terms as drinks are brought to the two newcomers. Howl seems strangely at peace when he hears a droplet fall and see’s the cruel grin curl his lips.
By this point Alistair sits in Shion’s lap and strokes his hair ever so softly as Ariel and the other ladies give him the dirtiest look. As he says “My dear Shion the Hand grows restless and positional sparring can only keep them busy so long”. Sumire grabs his wrist as Ariel digs her nails into his shoulder as the other girls surround them. Alistair batt’s his eyes playfully as the girls get ready to pummel him

“Don’t you think you’re taking it to far Yuna”? Howl shouts over to them as a feminine voice replies back “Way to ruin my fun Caleb”. The girls then look back to see-

-Yuna Yagyuu aka Bakuta, Bukuto’s fraternal twin sister and Persian beauty. She sighs before saying “You never get fooled dear sweet Caleb why is that”? Howl shrugs and states “it’s just the way you move Yuna”, she seductively rises from Shion’s lap and walks over to Caleb. Placing her foot right in front of Caleb’s groin and purrs. “Does my body interest you that much?” she says as she leans forward exposing her cleavage to him. Caleb just continues to stare into her eyes as a glass is suddenly heard breaking as Wicca throws what’s left of it toward Caleb. He quickly pushes Yuna aside as it shatters against his chest leaving some fragments sticking in him. Everyone shouts “What the hell is wrong with you”, as Wicca then throws her apron at him. And lastly spits in his face Howl wipes it off as she starts to pound on his chest screaming. “I can’t keep biting my tongue anymore they need to know, no they deserve to know the truth”. Sumire and Shion ask “we need to know what exactly?”, Wicca pokes Caleb in the face and shouts “Everything he has ever told you is a lie…. He isn’t even Caleb Howl!”! In that instant Caleb is squeezing Wynne’s wrist as he shouts louder the he has ever before. “That’s enough Wynne!” his voice not only quiets Wynne but draws everyone’s attention.

Howl closes his eyes as his mouth begins to twitch as he calmly says “If they are going to hear this from anyone it will be from me and me alone”. As these words leave his lips Shion suddenly feels like his blood has run cold as his head begins to pound and words begin to shout all around him. {He appeared to you after nearly dying with a story almost stitched together form you and Sae-tan’s life.} Shion didn’t even notice his hand was shaking until Sumire grabbed it and brought it closer to her. {when you took your trial he quote on quote “Died” and only returned when you exited it.}. And to Shion it felt like time was passing quickly but it wasn’t really moving at all as the voices continued. {And when you aren’t around neither is……HE!}, as the final thoughts echo in his head he feels an immense pain. As Ariel nearly crushes one of his testicles in her hand. He lurches forward and slaps her hand away holding back the insults bouncing in his head as he feels blood splash on his hand. He quickly wipes under his nose before leaning back in his seat as Howl looks to him his eyes hollow and empty.

“There has never been or ever will be a person named Howl Amakusa Caleb because this person does not exist. That’s because the man who stands before you now is Gouso Kisabe son of Gouso Ryobi former older sibling to Kanou Shiena. Legally removed from the family line because of his choices in life but because of his blood relation his youngest sister and her husband were assassinated. But that is not what Wynne meant by tell the truth for the truth she wishes for me to tell. The truth she wants all of you to hear is that every single person that is trapped her and those that have died in this game is because of me. And the reason is the people that ordered the hit on the youngest sibling and her husband did so because they want to kill me. After seeing my legal name on the beta subscription they infiltrated the game company and initiated the terrorist attack. And should that not kill me they are searching hospitals for my unconscious body. The rest of you are just collateral damage to these people, and I have no doubt they are among the PC’s as well. I know you all have wondered what kind of sick freak, monster could do this to everyone well take a good hard look cause here I am!”. As the final words leave his lips everyone is silent as they stare at him with eyes full of horror.

“If he’s Kisabe then“ Ariel whispered as she turned to look upon a emotionally frozen Shion “oh God”. She finished suddenly realizing what he has been going through. Sumire stands up looking coldly at Caleb as she asks “Are you expecting us to show you mercy because of our history Kisabe”? Caleb shakes he head and replies “From you no, I pray for your Vengeance I want you to beat me to the brink of death. Then destroy each and every one of my nerves systematically and then finish it by poking a small whole in my Lung. So that as I descend into complete insanity until I finally drown from my own blood days later. I expect nothing less than that if not for you pain then for Shion’s as my survival is the reason he lost his parents. And if that still isn’t enough then do it for Himmiko because if I did not exist she would have her parents, yours and Shion’s love and the ability to walk , her smile would be like the rising sun and her laughter would thaw even the coldest heart. SO COME ON AND DO WHAT YOU’VE PLEDGED CLEANSE YOUR LIVES OF THIS MOSNTER!” With this Caleb pulled Sumire’s fist straight into his chest.

But as the fist connected with his chest she started crying as all she could see is that baby she held that one night at Himiko’s. At this Prinny ran from the room crying as Howl looked upon all of them as he roared “Do it!”. No one moved at first but then as if possessed Shion appeared in front of Caleb and struck him in the ribs as hard as possible. {Like I told you from the beginning we have been alone in this world all along no one can love a monster like you}. Tears streamed down his cheek as he hit Caleb again and again as Ariel and her sisters put up a field that only the strongest could be in. Shion just kept swinging mumbling at first as he chanted “Give him back!”, each swing made his words louder until he was screaming when Sumire suddenly stopped him. Shion was panting as he looked up into Caleb’s hollow eyes and said “Do it” and with that he took him and Sumire and Shion to the timeless realm.
The Riannon sisters closed the field as they just sat down almost lost as the Flames had grown silent and strangely enough it was Tatsu that walked up to Wynne and said. “You happy bitch, cause the way I see it all of this is no you”. Wynne smirked and gave him a dirty look saying “And here I thought Shion surrounded himself with smart people”. “Your not fooling anyone here Wynne you did what you did specifically to drive a wedge between your best friend and her boyfriend. Now I’ll be honest I never understood Howl I have always seen him as this harmful person. But since we have been is here I got to see who he really is. He’s the guy that piles the whole world on his shoulders so we don’t have to, and sure he hates himself to the point that he throws himself in front of everyone because he cares more about everyone else. That’s why Shion respects him, no that’s why he loves him and the worst part is that in his eyes your just as important as all of us. But you never deserved his love” Tatsu spat at her as Wynne growled in frustration as she retorted “He’s only one of the guys because Shion has a thing for broken toys”.
At this Ariel was on Wynne like soy sauce on a won ton with Emilia joining in as Cirilla goes to find and speak to Prinny whom she actually feels bad for.

In the timeless realm

“You’re unbelievable” shouted Sumire as she continued to slug Caleb repeatedly brusing and bloodying his face and chest as tears rolled down her face. She raised her fist to strike him again only to see him smiling with his blood covered teeth. Letting out a primal roar she punched the ground beside his head. “He can’t help it Sumi” says Shion leaning forward in the throne chair tears rolling down his cheeks as he turned to look at the both of them. “When they used the stem cells to repair his brain it alters how his body reacts to pain and emotion’s”. Sumire fell back on her ass and looks out into the void around them as she asks “So where does that leave us Yu-chan” . Shion stood up and walked to her side wiping the tears from her eyes. “We just found out that we should have been closer to Caleb then we were before, we failed him Sumi and I’m tired of doing that to him”. Says Shion as Sumire looks into his eyes and asks “So you forgive him then” Shion shakes his head “we should be asking him for forgiveness for making him think he was alone in this world”. Caleb coughs up some blood and asks “why did you stop I can still feel your rage Sumi and I can feel yours to Shion”. Shion takes a seat by Sumire and taps Caleb’s knee and says “What I want is for you to tell me the truth about yourself. I know I’m not being fair making you reveal yourself not only to me but to Sumi as well and for that I’m sorry”. At the words I’m sorry Caleb sits up and punches Shion in the chest quite hard and says “I told you before you never have to apologize to me”. Howl then lets out a raspy sigh before saying “If you want the truth I have to start near the beginning so be prepared for the long haul”. The two nod and Howl spit out one more glob of blood from his lungs before beginning.

“As you heard earlier I am the son of Ryobi eldest of his siblings although he was excommunicated due to his delving into the forbidden side of the family style. And so he became a hitman for criminals. But then he found my mother and fell in love conceiving me and all that shit. I was his opposite always filled with a love of life itself and my family although Himiko had no love for me. Sure we had time were we got along but then my dad came home and it was like our relationship reset.When he was home it was learn the family style and he made me work for it that’s for damn sure. But other than that he was never there, pretty much how it went till the day I just turned three. You’ll remember this Sumi, my sister was suddenly colder then usually to the point that Sumi confronted her. And found out that Urusu of the Honda’s raped her and as she comforted Himiko. Urusu comes in the house and slap’s Himiko to the bed as Sumi started to swing on him only to get tossed into a wall”. At this comment Shion tenses up as Sumi rubs his back to calm him down. “I get woken up and come charging into the room and see him over my sister. So I charge right at him and slam the side of his knee he growls and throws me into the dresser. My head snaps back into it and the world gets fuzzy as I watch my sister and Sumi swinging on him. He knocks them both down as I get to my feet grabbing a unused part of the bedframe and hit him with it. He swings around and punts me through my sister’s closet door and then my dad comes in. He shatters Urusu’s nose and arm before throwing him out of the house. Sumi fishes me out of the closet and says our little hero and the night commences but at the end Himi is still upset so Sumire convinces her to”. Sumire Suddenly sucker punches Caleb in the face knocking him on his back as she says “ that part doesn’t seem to have anything to do with you don’t you think”. Caleb sits back up and continues “conduct a ritual that makes her feel better. Fast forward two years and we are on the run from my dad’s old bosses so he messages his youngest sister the one who still talked to him. That should anything happen to him would she take in his children. You should know Shion your mom agreed, on this trip my father says my name is going to be changed to. Howl Amakusa Caleb and that I should take time to remember it.

A day later we are speeding to the offices for legal name change when we get run off the road I suffer a concussion as my mother and Himiko help me out of our totaled car. We run for some time when we hear a powerful roar as a tattered bear exits the woods. It looks at us and starts charging only for Ryobi to run into it knocking it onto its side as his palms it in the chest. It rolls back to its feet and slaps him into a tree were his gut is pierced by a branch. From there he raises to its hind legs and swipes at him. Slicing through his arms before caving in his head with one powerful swing.” Caleb stops speaking for a moment to allow them to let it sink in before continuing. “We start running but it rams my mother to the ground and as she tries to get out from under it I see it bite into her throat. As it pulls it’s teeth back I see her flesh rip then the muscle as blood spurts everywhere. Stupidly I run forward and punch at it until it swipes my face sending me into Himiko as we fall and her back is pierced by a fallen log branch. She is frantic and screaming as blood pours down my face. I take a sharp branch and run at the beast once more stabbing it in the throat. Until it bites down on my torso puncturing who knows what when it suddenly falls limp releasing me. My world is darkening but I still hear Himiko so I roll over and crawl to her until she Scoops me up in her arms. She sobs were going to be alright before screaming out help! And that’s when I passed out, your mom found us and took us to a friend I died six times as they operated on me but each time I came back. Two days later Shion’s mother and father died while I awoke. Wrapped from head to toe and unable to move I screamed out for help and I heard Himiko. As time went on she would not be there and I would hear my mom and dad all through my healing process. During this time Himiko was going through several surgeries and injections. And every third day Sumire would visit and place a cookie on the table beside me. Now before you ask yes I was reliving the night my parents died every night , then came the day I was freed and to my surprise my parents weren’t there. I asked Himiko were they were and her response was having Sumire take us to their graves”. Sumire grimaced and said “I told her it was to early but she wouldn’t have it”. Caleb nodded and went on “It was at that point that Himiko made herself my truth a wraith of my mind that is beneficial and my parents became the first hateful. I was then sent to school but I’m sure you know that with all these scars it didn’t go well. As time went on Sumire visited less and less and my sister became worse and worse and by the time I was seven it was not at all. During my days after the cast I would go up to the top of the hospital and stand on the edge looking at the world below as the wind whipped my little body. After Sumire officially left us I spent my time out of school trying to be there for my sister and what was shunning. From other students became violent bullying which in turn taught me that pain makes my world clear. Puberty hits and at some point during it my sister and me have intercourse”. At this Caleb is cut off by Sumire shouting “What!”, Shion sighs and says “yeah and it wasn’t the only time”. Sumire can’t find the words to say as she sputters in disbelief before saying “Oh, god Himiko”.

Caleb lowers his gaze as he clears his throat and continues “Also during this time Shion is put in the hospital. Himiko freaks out and yells at me saying this is all because of the people after me and dad. She then drags me there with the pretense that I need to protect Shion which…..failed that”. At this Caleb starts laughing for a good minute before calming himself and continuing. “I then became a part of your lives bringing you pain and frustration. Then came the day I watched Sumire shower *Sighs*. I was trying to understand my feelings and it was a test to see if I saw Sumire like I did Himiko. The answer is no by the way” at this statement Sumire stops Caleb and asks “Are you saying you don’t find me attractive”? Caleb sighs and replies “You are extremely beautiful Sumi, I just……..I see you as more of a mom of sorts”. Shion looks away and whistles as Sumire gets the biggest smile as she says "That's very sweet of you to say Caleb I never knew you felt that way". "I don't express feelings very well" replied Caleb as Sumi chuckled saying "If I'm the mother then that means Yu-chan is dad". "One I am the same age as Caleb and two you dry humped him like three days ago" responds Shion only to get slugged by Sumire. "Wait what? you dry humped my unconscious body." Caleb asks as Sumire says "Continue your tale, tht's what we are here for". Caleb still seems hung up on the subject so in what is presumed to be from inebriation she takes of her clothes and throws them at Caleb. Sumire then pulls Shion's face into her chest and looks back at Caleb and says “Please Continue Cal”. Caleb looks into her eyes and continues “So as I said you were naked kind of like now except with water dripping from your body. Shion came home upset and at the time I didn’t realize that it was the day of the festival a year since he had with her. We all know what happened there and skip forward a couple weeks I told Himiko the truth about what happened and she lost it. Sure it was that time of the month she had had a surgery and injections and so moody is a soft word to use. But what she said explained how she has always seen me she screamed how I took her parents her legs and now I was trying to take the closest person to her away. And how her life would be better if I didn’t exist”. Shion was the one to stop Caleb this time as he said through Sumi’s boobs
“But she wasn’t in her right mind you can’t take that as her true feelings”

Caleb merely replied “It’s how she really feels without a filter to smooth over her words so in this you are wrong”. And with that he went back to the tale, “That night she was crying and so I crawled in bed with her and held her in my arms”. “Got your red wings that night Caleb” Sumire interjected. “No I just held her as she cried and asked why I stood by her if she said such hateful things and I replied that I don’t need her to love me in order to love her. Then near the end of middle school Wynne asked me out and we became a couple. She paraded around the school with pride at having tamed the beast and Shion know’s the rest. It was through her that I met Prinny whom was shy and sweet. And hated my guts but then came freshman year a week in I caught Wynne being unfaithful. She blew up on me and I left confused”, Sumire’s eyes narrowed as she asked “She cheated on you! How many times Caleb”, Caleb remained silent as Sumire leaned forward her face a inch from Caleb’s as she asked again. “How many Caleb”, “Throughout our entire relationship, like when you guys asked where she was at and I said she went on a vacation” said Caleb before she shushed him with a finger and said slowly “I.am.killing.her.as.soon.as.we.return.to.Priscilla’s!”. Caleb then continues “So I went to someone I thought could help me Ariel. So I asked to speak with her privately she agreed and so I asked is it ok to be with multiple partners. Her response that I made her feel uncomfortable and so I apologized and left still confused. During this time I went to look for Wynne and walked in on Prinny being struck by her boyfriend. Her top was missing and her skirt was ripped and I just lost it I broke his arm and three of his ribs. He ran out of there I tried to calm Prinny down but she was scared of me. I gave her my shirt and went to leave but when I turned around Liv pressed a knife against my throat and threatened me with bodily harm Prinny snapped out of it and told her what happened but ever since I have been on her shit list”. “Who is Liv” interjected Shion and Sumire answered “Selene of the my guild Yu-chan”.

But time goes on and Saeko returned to Shion and he treated like a porcelain doll and it angered the Riannon sisters. I actually remember Shion telling me that she was fragile and to not be a downer around her because of how I get. I guess I took the message a little too aggressively as I remember one day we were walking down the hall. When she called out to you Shion and you gave me a stern look so as she got closer I jumped out of the window. Of the third story window hit the cement and rolled but shattered the bone in my calf. I remember it vividly as I made a splint and finished out my classes with my leg bleeding. Man Sumi you were so mad when I showed up first looking for needle. You were ready to chew oout Shion when he came home with her I felt so bad about it I jumped off the balcony shattering my shoulder in the process. Two days later you scolded Shion that he was making me hurt myself more and so you forced me to meet her. Man did I fuck that up I mean she asked me about my family and I literally state I saw my parents killed in front of me and my other relatives won’t even acknowledge me. But nothing compared to the end of the night when I lept off the top of the building slamming into the roof of Erston’s jeep. Broke almost every bone at once but that was the clearest my head ever was, but Shion was so angry with me he couldn’t stop from shaking. Stayed away from me for a week for that one. By the time you cooled off I was out for three weeks with new injuries you were so emotional you actually blew off the others to spend time with me. Ariel actually stabbed me right in the shoulder with a pen and I passed out during that oral presentation. Due to ink poising she actually turned white thinking I would rat her out. And on to the juicy bit as they started to work on PSO they wanted a neat hook and Mental disorders came up so they looked for a viable subject and wouldn’t you know they pulled my name. And so they used the STEM engine to map out my mental generations and decided. To use up to lvl 2 dubbed vocal hysteria for their Arcana system and it’s possible they used my scans. To also augment the boss AI, as a safety precaution my account is incompatible with the possession of Arcana due to the ill effects it could have on my brain. But it is my digitized mind that Saeko listens to and is driving you all crazy”. And with that Caleb stood up and stared out into the abyss. Sumire and Shion sat there absorbing all the information. Caleb turns around to look at the and says “The flames will get restless if we stay here past the thirty-minute mark”. Shion rose to his feet and sighed “You’re right it’s just that I don’t have the answers to the questions they are going to have. The only thing I do know is your always going to be Caleb to me”. Caleb gave him a hug and Sumire joined in too only ot end it by ramming a dagger into Caleb’s shoulder. “Never say shit like that again or I will make time to punish you”!

Back at Pricilla’s

Hiryuki stares at the ceiling as Yuna sits beside him “What’s on your mind Hiri?”, Yuna asks as she downs a drink. “Gouso Kisabe is the name of the man that helped keep my wife Tomoko alive”. “You have a wife Hiri” everyone suddenly asks him. “Yeah it was prearranged and stuff like that she has an illness that requires her to take constant injections. She could only be home once every two weeks and it has been hard on Beverly”. Everyone was suddenly quiet as Hiryuki answers “my daughter Beverly and my second in command of Mastadon she just turned fourteen. God it’s been stressful in here with all these boys chasing her they are going to be the death of me”!

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He Who Was Born With the First Troll and Shall Perish With the Last

Age : 25 Registration date : 2011-08-16 Number of posts : 106 Location :
Race: Human

PostSubject: Re: When the shit hits the fan   Fri 16 Mar 2018, 10:30

In the time that Shion, Sumire and Howl were gone, a fierce battle was fought in the Theater. With Airiel and Emilia assaulting Wynne, the woman found it difficult to fight back, though she certainly tried. As it quickly escalated, Tatsuya was the first to notice the claws truly come out, when Airi's strikes grew sharp, taking it upon himself to restrain her and end the beatdown before it went too far.

"Feeling any better?" Shirou wondered, rubbing the woman's back.

Airiel swatted his hand aside the moment he touched her, turning to him with a glare. As he jumped in surprise, she blinked, taking a breath. "I'm sorry."

"Nah, you're good." Shirou replied a bit nervously, waving his hands dismissively.

"I want to hit her more too, Onee-chan." Emilia admitted, sitting aside now as she looked upon Wynne with disgust. "But if you're not careful, you'll kill her."

From the ground Wynne sat up, wiping blood from her bruised face with a weak grin. "What's the matter, Airi? That all you've got? I guess you don't hit nearly as hard as the girls in school liked to say."

Erston sighed deeply, speaking before anyone else could. "Wynne, please stop trying to provoke everyone. She was stopped BECAUSE she about to really lay into you."

Panda ran a hand through his hair, "Believe me, you would know if she was really trying to hurt you."

"Xerxes?" Quelaan set a hand on her shoulder, glancing at Wynne, who frowned.

Airiel looked at her, then the other Chosen Undead. "I apologize."

"Hey, no need!" Mordred replied with a slight smile. "I'm not even nearly as personally invested in this shit as you guys are, but I was wanting to slug her good myself! I'm actually proud my Emi took some swings!"

Emilia couldn't help but laugh, hugging her. "Oh, Mor-chan~"

Escanor twirled his mustache in contemplation, "Conflict does happen, no? It was quite a rare treat to see our lovely Lady Xerxes so heated up~"

"Y-yes...and to an extent, I think I can somewhat understand what you were feeling when you attacked Miss Wicca, Lady Xerxes." Eleanor noted.

Luciela ran a hand through her hair, shrugging. "I always thought she was kind of a bitch, but it was rather surprising to see her true colors. How woeful that my beloved Shion wastes his time and energy worrying for you."

Twitching, Wynne slapped Corvo's hand away when he offered it. "As if I want or care about his worry! All of you put him on a pedestal, but you don't know anything about the real Shion! It's just like with Howl-"

"Watch your tongue, idiot." Yuna interjected, looking to Shion's loyal companions, who mostly glowered at the bruised woman.

Eizen scratched his head, having just stopped Ward from shooting Wynne from behind, without her knowledge. "I speak with your boyfriend now and then, you know. I know you respect our leader, so stop acting out to get a rise out of us."

Corvo crossed his arms as Wynne grunted, "Young lady, you shouldn't be so quick to lash out at people who care for you, in spite of your flaws. I do hope you choose to reflect on your words and actions today."

Before Wynne, or anyone else, could respond, space distorted, a portal briefly opening as the three in the Timeless Realm returned. Immediately, all eyes shot to them, sound dying out.

Shion looked around, taking note of everyone's conditions, eyes hovering over Wynne for a bit. "Ciri went to find Prin?"

"Um, yeah..." Emilia replied hesitantly, walking over. "Shi-chan...you three...um..."

Sumire reached out to flick her forehead gently, "Everything's fine, Emilia. Well, mostly. I hope you can understand we won't talk about what happened in there. Family business, and all."

Airiel quickly nodded, "I wouldn't expect you to, we just..."

Howl took a deep breath, feeling a small relief that everyone's attention was on his best friend instead. He knew he should say something, but he didn't know what.

Shion looked at Wynne, helping her into a seat before setting a hand on his hip. "What did you do?"

Yuna gave Wynne a dirty look, before speaking. "She said something she probably shouldn't have."

Emilia cut in before Wynne could explain herself, "Shi-chan, she claimed you only accept Howl because you 'have a thing for broken toys.'"

Howl clenched a fist, while Sumire took a single step, which was as far as she got.

Shion sternly set a hand on Wynne's shoulder, staring into her eyes as she looked up at him as if to speak. {She was talking about Saeko first, wasn't she? As if she knows anything...about either her or Caleb.}

He was angry, something which only Howl, Sumire, Airiel, Emilia, Tatsuya, Erston and Shirou could tell, but repressed it. "Wicca...Wynne. I know we haven't always gotten along, we've definitely clashed a lot over the years. But despite all the bad blood between us, I kept hoping you might change. That you might become worthy of the care that we've always shown you, no matter how you pissed us off."

"But you know what? The truth is that you aren't worth it. Wynne, you are the smallest, most pathetic human being that I've ever met, bar none." He stated with an uncharacteristically cold, chilling tone.

Wynne visibly shuddered at that, and even those who didn't know her well could tell she'd never expected his words. Where she'd been full of sass and comebacks, she was, for once, speechless.

"I'm tired of trying to clean up after you when you make a mess with your many mistakes. I'm sick of trying so damn hard to be a brother, much less a friend, to you. You're repulsively self-centered, manipulative and petty. You cheat on my best friend multiple times, then break his heart. And even though you should have moved on with Dick, you just can't let go. Instead of really moving on, you just continue to prove how much of a leech you are. That's right, you're a leech, Wynne. Prinny, your closest friend, fell for someone YOU tossed aside. But because you're you, you get jealous and venomous. You sabotage them at every single turn, because you can't stand the thought of Prinny being the one to make Caleb happy. You're like one of those chihahuas that do nothing but bark, thinking you're much bigger than you actually are. You can make a scene out of anything, and for a time, that was something I liked about you." He paused, shaking his head a few times.

Taking a breath, he continued. "You're an emotional vampire, someone that can't feel happiness without preying on the passions of others. You consistently bite the proverbial hand that feeds you, willingly rejecting the goodwill of the people who have tried to be good to you. You hurt others, but can't stand to be hurt in return, because you take offense to everything. You make everything about you, invasively personal. I don't know what you really feel, about Caleb, me, or anyone else. Maybe I never will, but you know what? I don't care anymore. You've done a lot of messed up stuff over the years, but this outburst of yours was the straw that broke the camel's back. You like to act as if you're somehow better than others, when in reality, you're worse than anyone. You don't get to act all 'holier than thou', when it comes to Caleb, others similar to him, or anyone for that matter. If it was between you and someone like Raoh, I choose him over you. Every. Single. Time. Despite his own flaws, he's a proper person that has the potential to change. He's an egotistical megalomaniac, but at least he's always been willing to get his hands dirty, to put his life on the line for something he wants. What about you? Where's your initiative? Alllll this time, you complain and whine, bitch and cry. We don't pay you enough attention, but then we do, and you push us away. Well consider yourself cut off. Maybe things might change if you yourself can, but I honestly doubt that you ever will. But for now? You no longer mean anything to me, Wynne. You're not my sister, you're not my friend, I don't even want to call you an acquaintance. Never act like you're entitled to anything again, as far as I'm concerned. I genuinely want nothing to do with you. I don't care what you do, where you go, I'm never going to clean up after you again. I feel bad for Dick, he's a really good guy and you don't deserve him one bit...but I guess he's all you have now. Prinny doesn't need someone as toxic as you around, nor does anybody else, so please feel free to never show your face here again."

He removed his hand from her shoulder, stepping back and nodding to the exit of the Theater. "I'm going to ask you to leave, Miss Wicca, this is an important gathering for my friends and you aren't welcome to participate in it."

The entire party went white, both in shock and disbelief, over what was said but mostly by whom it was said.

White as the rest were, Wynne herself looked as if the world had just crashed around her. She stared at the man, trying to find words when she opened her mouth. Try as she did, nothing came out, nothing other than pained whimpers. She was just frozen for a good few minutes, and then she got up. Slowly, very unsteadily. She looked at Shion, but when he turned his back to her, she walked, stumbled, out of the VIP room without making so much as a peep.

Inhaling deeply with her exit, Shion shut his eyes and exhaled just as deeply, very slowly. He ran a hand through his hair, his heart pounding the way a horse's would after running a full marathon. Opening his eyes, he looked at his companions, finding each of them staring at him in pure shock, as if they couldn't understand what just happened. "What?"

The moment he addressed them, each of them shook their heads vigorously, none confident that they could even tell what they were feeling at that moment.

{I wonder...was it more Caleb, or Saeko, that set him off like that...} Sumire averted her gaze from her cousin, looking down.

Shion grimaced a moment, upon finding even his best friend was utterly flabbergasted at the one-sided verbal slaughter of his ex. {I never thought I'd see him looking at me like that.}

"Ao-nii...?" Cirilla called out as she returned, leading Prinny and Bakuto. "What happened with Wynne...?"

Bakuto crossed his arms, "What the hell did I miss, Mi Hermano? I mean, Ciri told me what I missed, but what DID I miss?"

"A...lot." Yuna answered hesitantly, almost as if she were scared to.

"Huh...?" Prinny looked from her to the rest, deeply confused.

Shion glanced away for a moment, before looking to Prinny. "You feeling better?"

"Y-yeah, Ciri helped me calm down..." Prinny responded.

Shion nodded, "That's good, I'm glad. You probably won't be seeing Wicca for a while, so you should start looking for a good replacement."

"More importantly, could everyone please take a seat? Now that we're all here, we need to talk about this." He noted, motioning all of them to sit on the same side of the Theater.

Cirilla, Prinny and Bakuto were caught off guard by the way he referred to Wynne, but they silently acknowledged his request when everyone looked at them.

Left standing on both sides of Shion, Caleb and Sumire exchanged glances. Awkward, confused, completely uncertain glances, as neither of them had ever imagined he was capable of abusing someone the way he did Wynne. Nobody had, for that matter.

Taking a breath, Shion cleared his throat as he decided where to begin. "First off, I don't care what his real name is, this man here is Caleb Howl. There are some things I have to say about his and our situation, but that'll come shortly. This is Caleb, okay? And the threat to his life is probably very real, so please keep his real name between us here at all times. In fact, just pretend that the person called Gouso Kisabe doesn't exist, because as far as I'm concerned, that's the case."

"Yes, of course. No matter what's happening, Caleb is important to us as well." Airiel responded when nobody else found the courage to, the rest nodding, silently agreeing to let her speak for them for the time being.

"Thanks..." Shion smiled slightly at her, before continuing. "Second, he didn't lie about what he said. He truly believes that all of this is his fault. But as I see it, the truth is different. I understand why Caleb believes this happened because of him, but in reality, it's simply not possible. Nirvana Games is a revolutionary studio that accepts only the most brilliant individuals into their team, after extensive background tests. PSO was in development for roughly 15 years before its release. This situation we're in is a result of very extensive and intentional planning and design. Yakuza, Triad, Mafia, Cartel? I don't care who's got a beef with my brother here, there isn't a single person in their ranks even remotely intelligent enough to have ANYTHING to do with this. It's nothing more than a coincidence, got that? Care to weigh in, Airi?"

Airiel smiled back at him, speaking as most of the group looked at her in confusion. "Now that my mind has calmed, I do feel the same as you. I worked with them for over two years, and I can say for certain that none of my coworkers were related to any crime. The more likely explanation is-"

"Wait, what?" Just about everyone blinked at her.

Sumire sighed a bit, "My lord, you never told ANYONE?"

"It wasn't important until now." Shion claimed, before Xerxes could sass his cousin. "Guys, Airi is the lead writer and director of the Story and Lore Department for PSO. You always wonder why she knows so much? It's because she herself meticulously greenlit the majority of everything that made it into this game."

Caleb awkwardly scratched his head, feeling rather embarrassed at that point, with the rest gaping at the woman in question. "That would've saved me a lot of trouble if I knew sooner..."

"No way! That's the secret job you've had the last couple of years?!" Emilia gasped, shaking her big sister's arm. "How!? Why do Shi-chan and Sumire know!?"

Airiel sweat a bit, looking from Emi to Ciri, who touched her other arm. "Because development on the game was meant to be secretive, for a number of reasons. Shion and Sumire followed me one day, like the stalking cousins they are, which is why they've known. Ever since that day-"

"Ahem!" Sumire cut in while loudly clearing her throat. "Shion, she's really acting like we were a bother, isn't she? How many times did you have to go bring her lunch to her because she forgot it, or buy her dinner because she was too busy to bother with that herself? Oh, and how many times did she CALL you to come visit with snacks, because she wanted to SHOW you off to her snobby coworkers?!"

Shion sweat this time, scratching his cheek as Airi blushed and looked away. "I don't really mind, Sumi...I actually liked being there. And her coworkers weren't snobby, they were just passionate about what they were doing. For good reason, too."

"A-anyway!" He shook his head. "Like Airi confirmed, there's no way that Caleb's enemies have anything to do with this...deep dive terrorism, though I would at least posit that they really are searching for him outside, and that they may have sent people in here to try and uncover his identity. Of course, it's also possible they won't do anything even if they find him, given that they're also stuck in here unless we can clear the game."

"Right...that's a fair point." Tatsuya remarked.

Prinny nodded, sighing in relief. "Thank God, I didn't want to believe that..."

"Prin..." Howl began, though he got quiet quickly when she looked at him.

Glancing from Prin to Caleb with a frown, Shion spoke again. "Third point, Caleb told Sumi and I that his brain scans formed the core of the psychological systems in this game. What do you think about that, Airi?"

Blinking a few times, Airiel stroked her chin. "I see, so Caleb was one of the... Well this is something I was never to speak of, but it hardly matters now. Yes, the neural specialists and psychologists on the team did seek out...mentally compromised individuals, though they did pay them rather handsomely. Anyway, that isn't false, but not entirely true. Caleb, they'd never have shared the full details with you, given how cloak and dagger the entire development was. You were far from being the only person whose brain was analyzed through the STEM Engine, after all, just one person's brain could never be enough to create such a surreal experience. There were about 100 different mentally unhealthy individuals who were enlisted, and that department used all the neurological data compiled to painstakingly create what we have now, using all of that information as key references."

"Ah, so that's how it is..." Sumire mused, crossing her arms as she elbowed Shion in the side.

Wincing a bit, Shion glanced at her, before smiling at Caleb. "So you see, you don't get to claim responsibility for everything that's happened to anyone involved with PSO. According to Airi's testimony, as one of the game's directors, this was most likely a conspiracy from the very beginning. People much richer, smarter and crazier than any of us brought this whole thing about."

Sighing deeply, Caleb looked away. "Now I feel like a drama queen."

"Hey man, anyone would have thought that, with what you had going on!" Shirou exclaimed, giving him a thumbs up. "Don't sweat it! Aren't you relieved that you're just as much a victim as we all are~?"

"Lord Archer is, perhaps, the most abysmal motivator I have ever met." Eleanor remarked blankly.

Shion couldn't help but laugh, "He's never been very good with words, Elen, forgive his poor soul."

Shirou gasped as the others laughed, "Like you're one to talk, you bumbling introvert! Tell me again how many days you spent preparing for the three seconds you needed to ask Saeko-chan out when you saw her in highschool!"

"You're right, words have never come easy to him either." Tatsuya and Erston remarked, glancing at Howl.

Caleb couldn't help but grin, "I hear his squirly awkwardness is what makes him so charming."

"Hmph." At the mention of Saeko, Airiel looked away from Shion.

Shion gave her a brief glare, "Don't even right now, Airi!"

He looked to the guys, "And screw you guys! You don't know what the hell you're talking about!"

"Right, of course we don't~" Responded Shirou, with a playful shrug.

"...Step outside, bastard." Shion growled, rolling up his sleeves. He took a step forward, stopping as all of them burst out in laughter.

He looked around at them, his irritation quickly fading as he found their laughter contagious.

"So the long and short of it, is that mistakes have been made, but we're still stuck right where we were?" Emilia wondered, skipping over to hug her boyfriend's arm.

Ward crossed his arms with a proud smile, "Yes, and we can always rely on the wisdom of My King."

Prinny smiled at them, "I think we...understand a lot more about Caleb now, so that's what matters."

"Uh, that." Shion pointed at her, blushing as Sumire grabbed his hand and pulled it to her chest. He gulped nervously, feeling the jealous eyes of the rest of his harem.

Pulling his hand and arm free, he stepped away from Emi and Sumi, motioning to Prinny. "All's as good as can be, Caleb, so go be alone with your girlfriend! I'm sure you've got a lot to talk about!"

Yuna sighed a bit, "I'll abstain for now."

"Oh?" Bakuto looked at his sister in surprise.

Before Howl could respond, he and Prinny were both physically ejected by Cirilla and Airiel.

"You uh...think they'll be okay?" Shirou wondered.

Shion nodded immediately, "Yeah, I do."

He sat on the floor, sighing deeply. "What a rollercoaster this night has been...and not the kind I expected when I woke up this morning."

"I know what you mean, Shion." Luciela noted, getting on the floor to crawl over to him, her tone making it clear how much she loved saying his name. "If it pleases you, I'd be more than happy to help you process all the excitement today has brought~"

"The hell you will!" Emilia and Sumire exclaimed.

Airiel coughed a few times, "What makes you think you get to help him process anything, Luciela?"

Tilting her head, Luciela wrapped her arms around Shion's neck, pulling herself close to him as she sat in his lap. "Last I checked, Shion chose ME as his Shrine Maiden, not you~ I am the sole Priestess that serves him, so you could say that his pleasure IS my business~"

Gulping loudly, Shion leaned back, as if it would make much of a difference. "L-luci, nothing like what you're saying is in your job description-"

"Shhh, don't waste your breath, my love~" Luci leaned in, trying to kiss him, but was stopped.

Eleanor, Quelaan and Mordred grabbed different parts of the woman, pulling her from their leader without hesitation.

"Well done, ladies." Bakuto helped Shion to his feet, putting an arm around his waist. "If you'll excuse us, we have very important bonding to get to."

Yuna whistled as the women all gave her brother a sharp look, "I wouldn't try that with them right now~"

Panda sighed, "I don't know if I should let Beverly near Shion."

Snorting awkwardly as he pushed Bakuto away, Shion turned to him. "C-come on, dude! She's your daughter! She's, what, like 12?! What kind of opinion do you have of me?!"

"Panda has a daughter?" Sumire tilted her head.

Panda nodded, "I do, and she's 14, Shion, not 12."

"Big difference!" Shion shouted in irritation.

Sighing again, Panda looked at him. "The issue isn't exactly with your actions, but you yourself. Just look at the way you've enthralled so many women! Beverly always tells me you're her role model, but I don't know what goes through her head! Her admiration could easily become adoration, if it hasn't already! I noticed how nice you are to her!"

"I'm nice to her...BECAUSE SHE'S YOUR DAUGHTER!" Yelled Shion, his face turning red. "She's like a little sister to me anyway, and-"

He twitched as the worried father stared at him with somewhat vacant eyes, "How much have you had to drink?"

As if on cue, Panda collapsed onto his side, everyone looking at him.

"Ah, the woes of a father. I know them well." Corvo remarked, stroking his chin.

Bakuto sighed, he and Yuna going to pick Panda up. "Unfortunately, I can't protect you from those sultry temptresses, my dear. Do put up a fight, will you?"

"Later, everyone!" Yuna blew kisses as they left with Panda.

Shion just sighed, some of the ladies leaking killing intent after his friend's comment. "You know what? I've had enough frustration tonight, I'm going home."

"Allow me to accompany you." Ward requested, bowing to him.

"No need, he's my cousin after all." Sumire noted, grabbing Shion's hand. "I'll tuck him in and what have you, so the rest of you can go ahead and get home yourselves-"

"Fat chance!" Emilia and Mordred exclaimed, pulling on Shion's arm together.

Cirilla blushed, standing with Quelaan and Eleanor as Airi and Luci joined the argument. "Um...you're all bothering Ao-nii..."

"Know what...?" Shion looked at all the girls. "Come along if you want to, I don't really care right now. Whatever anyone does, just be aware we're meeting in the afternoon."

Escanor whistled as Shion left without another word, all of the women ending up trailing after him. "Our most sublime King is truly a master of the female heart."

"Aye, he may be in a league of his own." Eizen agreed.

"Even Eleanor accompanied him." Erst pointed out.

Tatsuya smiled at them, "I'm more surprised by Quelaan's involvement."

Chuckling, Corvo ran a hand through his hair. "Such is the spingtime of youth. Young Shion and young Caleb are enjoying theirs to the fullest, so I suggest that you boys do the same."

Shirou blinked as Corvo left ahead of them, "Did he just like...tell us to go hook up with random chicks?"

"His wisdom as an older man?" Erston tilted his head.

A few years before PSO, in the real world. A large apartment complex with high quality housing, in one of the luxury penthouses.

Shion partially opened a window to let in fresh air, glancing over his shoulder as he heard a grunt almost as soon as a sliver of light shot through. "You really are a vampire, aren't you? Did you get bitten when we were separated?"

"You're the only one allowed to bite me..." Whispered his companion, Saeko, while lazily raising a hand to block the ray of light. She paused a moment, "Did I say that aloud?"

"You've said much more than that at other times, so it's fine." Shion responded, going to sit on the bed near the girl, brushing his hand against her cheek and jolting a bit. "Whoa, you're burning up!"

Saeko turned over onto her back while kicking at the sheets to remove them, "Yeah...I don't feel that well suddenly..."

She grabbed his hand, staring up at him. "Check my temperature, Dr. Aoba..." She pulled on his hand when he made to stand. "Not with a tool, the other way."

"O-oh..." Shion blinked a few times, blushing as he noticed her nightgown was halfway off. "Uh...okay."

He lowered his head to place his forehead against hers gently, yet firmly.

Saeko, despite how lightheaded she felt, couldn't help but smile at the sight of his cheeks turning red. "Why are you so cute?"

"Aunt Shiena asks me the same thing every day." Claimed Shion, while lifting his head slightly and brushing some hair from her face. "You have a really high fever...you were fine yesterday though, weren't you?"

Nodding slowly, Saeko released his hand and pushed up against him lightly. "It's probably because you refused to spend the night here when I asked you. This is Satan-sama's devilish punishment, as he inflicts suffering not upon the one who deserves it, but the one whom would hurt the individual most~"

"I know that's your thing, but that's not funny." Shion whispered, grabbing her hand this time. "And I would've, I just-"

Saeko sighed a bit, "I know, you promised Airiel-san that you'd help her with her dissertation, or whatever. How DID that go?"

Sweating as he sensed hostility from the girl, Shion gulped lightly. "If you're thinking we were doing something other than work, you're wrong. Airi and I were serious through the whole night, we didn't do anything outside of academics."

"How surprising, Sumire-chan told me that Airi's a witch who likes seeing you submissive." Remarked Saeko, blinking once.

Gasping, Shion flicked her forehead. "Don't listen to what Sumi says!"

"What a way to treat a sick person..." Saeko muttered as she rubbed her forehead, turning over for her back to face him. "Anyway, you should go. I obviously won't be attending classes today, and if you stick around, Satan-sama's dark will shall spread to you as well."

"Maybe, but I don't mind if I get what you have." Shion answered, laying behind her and putting his arms around her waist. "I'd never leave you alone when you're like this."

Saeko was the one to blush this time, as he pulled her close against him. She hesitantly touched his arms gently. "I don't want you to get sick though...and I know university means a lot to you...just go, okay?"

"Like I said, I don't care if I get sick." Shion responded firmly, rubbing his chin against her neck to clear her hair from it, before kissing her there. "Being absent a few times won't kill me, and that class is boring when you're not with me, anyway. Besides, I'm too stupid to get sick~ And even if I do manage to, it means that I'd get you taking care of me for a change~"

"Too stupid...as if..." Whispered Saeko, rubbing her thighs together subtly with a shiver from the kiss. "You...really want to stay, though?"

Shion released her, fixing her nightgown in the process, before sitting up. "Yeah, Emi, Tatsu, Rou and Erst can take notes for me in the afternoon class. I can't stand the idea of you suffering alone."

"That's an exaggeration, though." Claimed Saeko, turning over to look up at him. "This is just a minor inconvenience, it's nothing like...that."

"Still, I don't like it." Shion insisted, stroking her cheek. "I promised that I'd protect you this time, didn't I? That promise has no limits you know, I want to protect you from anything and everything. Even if it's just a cold~"

His response caught her off guard, prompting Saeko to pull the sheets back to cover her face. "Okay then...thank you, Shion..."

"It's not like you to be so bashful," Shion quipped, kissing her forehead. "You don't have any soup right now, so I'll run down to the corner store real quick, okay? I'll let the others know about this too so they don't come running when we don't show up."

"Alright..." Saeko sat up against the bed frame, watching him leave the room and return a short moment later with a glass of water. "I don't think I deserve you, Shion."

Shion chuckled, going to fix her pillows up for her to rest against, before feeding her some water. "I think that you deserve better than me, but that's why I'll never give you anything other than my very best~"

Gasping, Saeko shook her head. "T-that's not true at all! You're perf- Ow."

Chuckling more, Shion ruffled her hair as she rubbed her head. "Don't get so worked up, you need to rest. I'll turn the morning anime on for you, the Death Note rerun marathon should still be going, right?"

He turned on the TV, which as suggested, was playing the anime in question. "Thought so. Anyway, just relax okay? I'll pick up some medicine while I'm out, but it shouldn't be more than 20 minutes. See you soon, Sae-tan~"

After he left her with a tender kiss, Saeko rubbed her lips, staring after him. {You're the one who deserves better than me... I don't do anything but drag you down. You put up with everything I say or do with a smile, never getting angry...even though I can't help getting so jealous when you're with the other girls. I hold you back so much...you turned down so many opportunities because you feel responsible for me...}

Later on, as the man returned from his shopping trip.

Shion made his way up to the penthouse, approaching the door just as it opened and a familiar man with shoulder length black hair exited. "Morio...san...? What are you doing here?"

The man, Morio, Himeragi Morio, was the older cousin of the woman in the penthouse. He looked at the other with a smile. "Shion-kun, it's good to see you again! Saeko told me you've been taking very good care of her all this time, so thank you~"

"Uh, right..." Shion scratched his head, nearly dropping one of the bags and scrambling awkwardly.

Morio chuckled heartily, "You're as entertaining as ever, huh? No wonder she rejected my care, she already has her well-meaning boyfriend to tend to her~"

Laughing a bit, Shion nodded. "Always...but why were you here? You're almost the last person I expected to see today."

Morio pointed toward the door casually, "I came to discuss the inheritance with her, but she's so sick I don't want to bother her with it, you know?"

"The inheritance..." Shion repeated softly.

Morio nodded, "Yeah, you know about it, right? Saeko's turning 21 soon, so she'll have to participate in the family meeting."

"What? Why? She's already the heir to her parent's fortune, there shouldn't be anything to discuss..." Shion replied in confusion.

Morio shrugged, "You know how big families like ours get-"

He covered his mouth, blinking. "Uh, wow, that was rude of me. I'm sorry, I didn't mean to-"

"N-no, it's fine..." Shion shook his head. "I don't...really know from personal experience, but I've seen plenty of examples. Then...people in your family want to dispute the inheritance?"

Morio nodded, sighing. "It's always like this when money's involved. Those greedy bastards get so damn narrowminded as soon as they catch a whiff of a big score~"

He walked past, patting him on the shoulder. "Anyway, take care. Father will probably come around after she feels better~"

"Right..." Shion turned to watch him, bowing after his back. "Thank you for showing concern for Saeko-san."

"Any time~" Morio waved back without looking.

When the man was gone, Shion went inside and set the bags down. {I guess he was the most pleasant of her relatives when I met them in middle school...}

"Sae-tan, I'm back." He announced, going into her room to find her buried under her sheets. "Aren't you...hot?"

"...Just a bit, maybe." Saeko answered, sitting up after a few more seconds to reveal herself. "Did you...see him?"

Shion nodded, opening some medicine and feeding it to her. "He said your family wants to dispute your claim to the inheritance, even though it should be in your parent's will...but it does sound like he's on your side?"

"Yes...on my side..." Saeko responded, pulling his hand to her cheek with a slight smile. "I love you..."

Shion's heart skipped a beat as he leaned in, "I love you too...I have since the day we met..."

Saeko's smile grew as he gently pushed her down, "Shion, will you spend the night? I don't...want to be alone..."

"Of course, I'll never let you feel lonely~" Shion answered, lowering his face to hers to kiss her again.

"And..." Saeko blushed again as his lips went to her neck. "Maybe...at least for the next few days, too?"

"Gladly~" Shion replied immediately, laying by her side and kissing her hands. "I'll go get some stuff later in the evening, and I'll stay as long as you want me to."

{I don't want you to ever leave...} Saeko thought, curling up against him.

Shion chuckled a bit, rubbing her back.

Over the next few days, Shion stayed with Saeko just as she requested, much to the chagrin of Sumire. They binged anime and various shows, read manga and played games together. Meanwhile, he tended to her every need and desire without question, spoiling her thoroughly. Shortly after she got over the cold, her uncle, Himeragi Yuji, came to visit.

Shion entered the den, setting tea down for the two.

Yuji took a sip, smiling. He was a distinguished gentleman with neat, short black hair and a well-groomed goatee, stylish glasses on his nose. "Delicious, thank you Aoba-kun."

"No problem, I'll get out of your way now-" Shion answered, turning to leave until he was stopped. "Saeko?"

Saeko had grabbed his shirt gently, tugging at it. "It's fine if you stay, Shion."

Yuji stroked his chin as he watched the boy sit by his niece, who immediately held his hand. "Just as I heard from Morio, it seems you two are closer than I remember you being?"

Saeko spoke before her boyfriend could, smiling slightly. "Yes Uncle Yuji, Shion practically lives here most of the time."

"Is that so?" Yuji observed the two. "And you have no issue with him overhearing the details of this situation?"

"None whatsoever." Saeko answered without hesitation.

Shion looked at her, keeping hold of her hand, which was shaking. {She's really nervous...am I missing something? Now that I think about it, she was a bit like this after Morio visited her the other day...}

Yuji watched Shion put an arm around her waist gently, before speaking. "Well, you must know about our relative's desire to prevent Saeko from inheriting my brother and sister-in-law's fortune?"

"Yes, your son told me when we spoke before." Shion replied with a frown. "Is that even legal? It's in their will."

"Indeed, but the circumstances of their death..." Yuji fixed his glasses. "As you know, Saeko..."

Saeko interjected, looking down. "Because I...killed them... The others in our family think that it has grounds to invalidate the terms of the will."

Shion visibly grimaced and shook, clearly upset from any view. He pulled her closer, stroking her hair. "As if they have any room to judge...they're the ones who left you alone when they knew what you were...!"

Yuji watched them as the boy glanced at him, "Don't stop on my account, it's true. They stood aside and did nothing to help her. She was pushed into a corner, when my brother's rage turned upon you, Aoba-kun."

He removed his glasses with a sigh, "I feel guilty over this as well, for not having been there to protect my niece the way you tried to. That's why both Morio and I are on her side in this matter. Regardless of their dispositions, our family can be reasoned with. It's just that they'll only see that reason with...certain conditions."

"And that's why I don't want to deal with it anymore..." Saeko admitted, laying her head against her lover's shoulder. "I don't want to see them, Shion...I don't care about the money...I just want to stay with you...that's all..."

{If I can always have you, then nothing else matters...I don't need money if I'm with you...} She shut her eyes tightly, holding on to him.

"Sae-t...ko..." Shion whispered, stopping himself from using his petname for her. "Then...part of those conditions, requires her to be in the same room as them? Morio-san mentioned a family meeting the other day..."

Yuji's eyes weren't visible for a few moments as he returned his glasses to his face, nodding. "Correct, Aoba-kun. That is the first condition. Beyond that, they will likely ask a number of things of her to consider changing their minds. What comes to mind most, of course, is you yourself."

"Me...?" Shion blinked at him, stroking Sae's hair gently. "Because I'm the one she...?"

Yuji nodded again, "That's right, they're upset that she's spent these years with you, and some actually seem to believe it's your fault that Saeko felt compelled to kill her parents. As such, I-"

"Please leave..." Saeko whispered.

Yuji frowned, "Saeko, please. You-"

"Get out!" Shouted Saeko in irritation.

Gritting his teeth rather loudly, Yuji got to his feet. He looked at his niece and her boyfriend for a few seconds, before leaving without another word.

"Sae-tan..." Shion spoke after hearing the door close. "Was that wise?"

"I don't care...I don't care at all..." Saeko answered immediately, clinging to him. "All of it...every moment...I dealt with so much...because I believed I would see you again... I...I won't..."

She was in tears as she spoke, struggling to stay coherent. "I...I won't ever...let them take you from me...not again...never again...nobody...!"

Biting his lip, Shion wrapped his arms around her tightly. He just held her for a long while, comforting her as she broke down. He was in pain with her condition, and confused about the things she'd said. {The way she was when Morio was here...the way she was when Yuji-san was here. And now this...what am I...missing...? What happened between them?}

After a couple of hours, as the light of dusk drained from the room, the girl finally spoke.

"Shion...I'm sorry...I'm so sorry..." Saeko said softly, weakly, shifting slightly.

"For what...?" Shion wondered, stroking her hair. "You don't have anything to apologize for...you got upset because I'm what your family members-"

"No..." Saeko interrupted, shaking her head as she looked up at him. "I'm sorry...because I've...I've hidden things from you...for so, so long... I've lied to you all...these years...telling you that I...was okay...when I was actually..."

She sniffled loudly, "Shion...I have to tell you...something...and you... Y-you won't...like it...at all...or me...anymore..."

"That's bullshit, Saeko." Shion stated sternly, setting his hands on her cheeks. "Nothing could ever make me stop loving you the way I do...nothing, okay? You don't have to explain anything, all I want is for you to be okay..."

"I love you so much..." Saeko mumbled, wiping her eyes. "Shion...I told you that...nothing special happened at the institution...but the truth is-"

Back in PSO, present day and early morning. Within the quarters of the Guild Master of the Flames of Lordran.

Shion sat up in his bed, touching his head with a bitter smile. {That dream...the beginning...}

He held in a sigh, looking around to find all the ladies who had followed him the previous night. {I can't believe this happened...when did things escalate so much between us? E-even Quelaan and Elen... I didn't create this Guild to pick up women...}

He looked directly down at Luciela, whose head was over his crotch with a weirdly satisfied smile. {She did something to me while I was asleep, didn't she...?}

The Whispers came on in a brief, intense flood of white noise, focusing as he winced. "You're not a saint, or a hero. If they knew what you did, none of them would ever look at you the same way again..."

"I'm well aware..." Whispered Shion, who rubbed his head slowly, looking aside to see the specters of two men he'd just recalled in his dreams. "So hallucinations really are a part of it..."

"We're not a part of it, but you..." Another voice answered, the second of the men. "We have been, and we always will be. You can run all you'd like, but you'll never escape what you did to us, will you?"

Smiling weakly, Shion stared at the two. "Great, I've got not one, but two Adrian Chases in my head now. Oliver Queen thinks he has it bad?"

"Oh Shion-kun..." Morio leveled a dark smile at him. "When we're done with you, you'll be wishing to be tortured the way that Adrian handled Oliver~"

Yuji fixed his glasses, chuckling. "Indeed, we intend to have a grand old time with you, young man. You will rue the day you tarnished that oh-so-innocent soul of yours."

"Sumire, was it?" Morio sat on the bed, by the girl in question, grinning down at her. "Your cousin's a real looker. All of them are, really, but just look at her. Nobody could blame you for screwing her, incest or not-"

Shion shouted as he lowered his hand, "Don't you dare touch her!"

"Whoa, scary, scary!" Quipped Morio as he leapt away.

"I wonder, Aoba-kun." Yuji stroked his chin thoughtfully. "How long will you survive the games we choose to play with you from now on? Maybe, by the end, you'll see the world the same way that Saeko does."

"You don't have the right to say her name...!" Growled Shion viciously, sparking movement.

"Yu-chan...?" Sumire was the first to awaken, rubbing her eyes as she sat up to look at her cousin. "What are you screaming about...?"

"Sumi..." Shion gulped lightly, looking around to find the specters had vanished. He shook his head, reaching out to touch her cheek. "I'm sorry...I had a bad dream...it felt so real, I just..."

"I understand, Yu-chan." Sumire noted, moving closer to him. "Do you want to talk about it? It may not be the same, but...we both bear similar burdens."

"Yeah...maybe later..." Shion whispered, kissing her on the forehead.

Airiel kept her eyes closed, pretending to still be asleep as she listened to the cousins. {Who was he talking to? He specifically mentioned hallucinations and Adrian Chase...the Whispers... It should have only been auditory, even at its worst. They lied about the nature of the game, so they must have about that too... Then who is Shion hallucinating? Would he talk if I asked him...?}

Kilcliff, in the chambers of the leader of the Scourge of the Seven Hells Guild.

Saeko sat atop the steps before the altar to the Dark Deity, knees to her chest as she rocked back and forth slowly. She glanced at a group of unconscious men and women for a short moment. {Why won't that memory go away?}

She rubbed her head, "Shion...Shion...I want to... I need to see you...I need you..."

A tear dropped from her eyes as she curled up, "Shion...didn't you tell me that...you would never leave me...? I have to be with you..."

The grand city of Ashborne, within the main base of the Magistrates of Absolute Justice, the Palace of the Magisters.

Keita read messages on his Guild Channel, browsing a number of reports as he made his way through an extensive passage. {The Flames have done a shockingly good job of preventing anyone from entering the Riahst Expanse. Hm, Riahst. I recall reading on the ancient Eldar Empire a few months ago, in the Lawful Archives. The Siege Boss this time was the former King of Riahst, according to Airiel-san. I'll have to initiate a dialogue on the subject with her in the near future. At this point, I find I can hardly wait to join Aoba-kun and the others on the Frontline once again.}

Pushing the thoughts aside for the moment, he checked other reports. {I see, Vijay rescinded his official inquiry. I wonder which Guild he hired to find those ladies. Were we not so busy with preserving the order, I'd be happy to aid him in the search.}

His eyes widened upon reading a specific report, {The elusive Hermit was spotted in Kilcliff yesterday? I thought for sure that he would appear to us once we pushed deep enough into the new lands... And Strength was last seen departing from Moonmaw with the Band of the Hawk... If Guts challenges the barricade, Aoba-kun and I would be the only Players capable of stopping him. I'll fill him in, just to be safe. Speaking of, I wonder...has he had any contact with Saeko-san in secret from Sumire and I? That girl was and always will be his greatest weakness. I'm sure he thinks he can still save her, and while I would personally like to endorse that line of thinking, she's done far too much to others.}

While sending a message through a special, private, encrypted channel, he passed through a door which was opened by his subordinates. Emerging into a highly secure, impregnable prison, the Justicar's Dungeon, he eyed the four within a specially isolated cell, divided into four parts, one for each. "I do hope you gentlemen are prepared to shed some light on the situation now?"

Nabu scoffed without looking, his back to the Grand Magister. "We've nothing to share with a narrowminded simpleton such as yourself, Greivor."

"Ditto that~" Zachariah commented nonchalantly, currently reading a popular magazine printed by a Journalist Guild.

Dean took a deep breath, "Listen, pal, we just did as we were ordered."

"Oh, I see. Then you believe you're free of guilt if someone else gave you the order to pull the trigger?" Keita crossed his arms sternly. "That night, The Tower was released back into the Phantasmal Realm, yet you tried to take it by force from the White Walker. Considering the crimes you all committed in your quest, I'm well within my rights to call for your executions posthaste. I was thinking to make it public, very much so. I've wondered what will hurt more, Nabu. The Guillotine, or the moment your precious reputation is shattered in millions of pieces."

He sighed as Nabu visibly jolted, grunting but saying nothing. "The only thing I loathe more than being told 'no', is silence as a response when addressed. I'll see you gentlemen at the spectacle."

"Please wait, Greivor." Zelgius spoke up, rising to his feet.

"Zel..." Dean looked over to his friend, a look of uncertainty on his face.

Zelgius ignored looks from Zach and Nabu, focusing on the Grand Magister. "No amount of apologies will ever be enough for the crimes we committed. At the time, I had thought... No, I was certain that Nabu would either get his way, or even more would be hurt."

He closed his eyes, "I shall share with you the reasons for all our actions."

"I see, you're as reasonable as rumored." Greivor remarked, nodding to him. "I've the general idea, after conferring with Nightingale, but I'd appreciate you filling in the blanks."


Back in Barnemouth, in the afternoon. At the designated time of meeting, within the office of the Emperor of the First Flame.

Almost the entire group was assembled at that moment.

Emilia scratched Puck's ears as she sat with Mordred, "Howl-chan's late, huh? You think he's exhausted from whatever he and Prinny did last night?"

"I'm genuinely surprised that YOU girls are in such tip top shape." Eizen quipped, a subtle grin on his lips.

Eleanor jolted awkwardly, turning bright red. "Y-yes, we are all perfectly f-f-fine!"

"Tell that to your...well, everything." Shirou remarked, glancing at her.

"Ah, the springtime of youth." Mused Corvo, who sat alone, his legs neatly crossed.

Luciela held her cheeks with a bright smile, almost literally glowing. "To be perfectly honest, we were all very drained in the aftermath. In fact, we were so spent that we only woke up a short while ago~"

Quelaan pushed her fingers together nervously, her cheeks a dark red. "Last night was...it was..."

"Mindblowing?" Escanor inquired, raising an eyebrow to her. "Surely so, for our most sublime King must have been thorough and attentive beyond reason or measure."

Ward nodded eagerly, "My King has attained perfection, flawlessness in all things. I'm sure he utterly destroyed every last expectation set out for him."

"Destroyed, hm?" Sumire crossed her legs seductively, seated atop the desk beside her cousin, while running a finger down his face. "He certainly did his fair share of destruction last night. Right, Ciri?"

Cirilla blushed, looking away shyly. "D-don't say things like that, Sumi-chan..."

Mordred laughed heartily, "Last night was the most fun I've had since we ended up here! Now I get why Emi's so possessive!"

"Right, right!?" Emilia looked at her excitedly. "Shi-chan's...! Shi-chan is...unbelievable!"

Airiel cleared her throat, seated primly at their leader's other side. "Shion, I'm interested in Sumire's reason for exist- I mean, being present."

Glancing at the girl, Sumire flashed a playful smirk. "You really are lucky, Airi. Beautiful as you are, my cousin is the only man in the entire world who would ever deign to lay hands on such an uptight, cold shrew~ Lia may be the most powerful Ice Mage in the game, but you're far more of an ice queen than she'll ever be~"

With a sharp whistle, Puck chimed in loudly. "Savage, Sumi! Should I make you some ice for that burn, Big Sis? Or do you already have that covered~?"

Shion's face was red with all the comments from the girls, clearing his throat loudly as Airi glared at his sultry cousin and his first girlfriend, whom her familiar fled behind when she burst out laughing. "S-shut up, all of you. That's an order! Stuff happened last night, but we're not to talk about it so openly! And calm the fuck down, all of you!"

He rubbed his head as the ladies all stared at him, the men smiling in amusement, save for Ward.

Morio whistled as he leaned over Shion's chair, "Man, you go bro. What I wouldn't give to pound just one of those delicious beauties, but here you are, just after smashing all eight of them!"

Yuji was now behind Luciela and Quelaan, taking a deep whiff of them. "Ah...the scent of these ladies is to die for. How wonderful it must be to lose yourself inside of them."

He moved as if stroking Luci's hair, grinning. "This one though...she suits my fancy most splendidly. It's the same for you, isn't it Aoba-kun? Why else would you make this young lady your Shrine Maiden? Her looks are totally different, but she's just as beautiful as Saeko in her own way. Did the vulnerability she always showed to you awaken some sort of primal lust? I wonder what happens when the two of you are in the Shrine to the Abyss~ Ah, what happens in the Abyss, stays in the Abyss, right?"

Morio laughed loudly, smacking Shion's shoulders energetically. "Now there's a good image! I can see Shion-kun ravaging Luciela in the dark, just like he did to her that time~"

"............................................." Shion was twitching uncontrollably, gritting his teeth loudly as he tried not to respond to the antics of his new mental companions.

"Yu-chan..." Sumire said hesitantly, watching him. "You don't have to get that upset..."

Shion sweat as he looked at her, then the others, who were surprised to see him looking so upset. "I...I'm sorry, I just remembered a bad dream I had last night-"

He paused as he noticed Morio now vigorously pelvic thrusting at Eleanor's face. "A really, really, really, horrible dream, actually..."

"Jesus fucking christ, dude!" Morio shouted, starting to unzip his pants. "This Elen chick's got SUCH a fuckable mouth! How was last night the first time you fucked her?!"

"King Artor-" Eleanor began, shaking her head subtly as she noticed him staring at her. "Shi...on-san...is something the matter?"

"Maybe he's still surprised by how good you look naked~" Mordred suggested.

Puck jumped to Emilia's head as Elen gasped, "Nah, our Shi-chan's seen plenty in his day."

"Are you speaking from memory, Puck?" Emi wondered, smiling darkly as the temperature plummeted in the room and sent chills through all. "Are there any specific names that you can think of~?"

Erston looked at their leader, "Shion, please."

"Assuage her suspicions posthaste, dear friend." Tatsuya requested, already equipped with a set of ice-resistant armor.

"R-relax, Lia!" Shion exclaimed, waving at her nervously. "Nothing like what you're thinking happened!"

"I certainly hope so." Airiel whispered coldly, as Emilia settled down.

"As do I," Sumire admitted, twirling her hair around her finger. "You girls are one thing, but I won't abide my adorable cousin being a total slut."

The door opened suddenly, and the missing member finally arrived, drawing all eyes immediately, given that the leader himself seemed so eager.

Howl blinked as he found everyone staring at him, "Did...I miss something?"

Shion saw the Father-Son Specters now hovering around his best friend, making faces at one another while trying to mimic Howl's. "...No, not really."

He looked Howl in the eyes, "How'd it go with Prin?"

"It went." Caleb answered with a slight smile, able to clearly see his brother was distracted. "And how about-"

"Earth-shattering." Sumire interjected with a grin, having already accurately predicted his question.

Whistling, Caleb extended a fist.

Sighing a bit, Shion extended his fist immediately, the two both doing a rather unique hand motion in unison.

"What was that?" Luciela wondered, tilting her head.

Cirilla smiled at her, "It's Yu-nii and Cal-nii's secret handshake. We don't really know what it means."

"Well, there'd be an issue if you did." Caleb claimed, patting Ciri on the head as he sat by her.

Shion couldn't help but smile as Ciri hugged Howl, feeling relief upon finding the crazy Specters vanished again. "Well, let's get to business."

"Is it okay that I'm so late, then?" Howl asked in surprise. "I expected one of your long lectures."

"What a privilege it is, to be lectured by My King..." Ward and Eleanor proclaimed in unison.

Shion glanced at the two without responding, looking to Cal. "It's okay, we're not that strict unless a situation's serious. Which...well, this isn't. It is important, though, so thanks for joining us."

"Of course it is," Airiel remarked as Howl smiled. "As our King, everything you share with us is held with the utmost importance. Isn't that right?"

"Aye!" The Flames called out, minus Howl.

Ciri whispered to him, "Eizen-san got us all replying like that, it's sort of an inside joke, but you'll understand over time~"

"Thanks." Caleb smiled at her.

Sumire chuckled as she poked Shion's cheek, "How tightly knit you all are~"

Shion grabbed her finger gently, "So a number of our people are escorting the Survey Parties as we speak. They're making steady progress with emphasis on safety. They'll notify us when they find an optimal place to set up the first Transport. I'd like everyone to make preparations to set out. You'll go in groups on a shift rotation, to assist where you're most needed on the way. Our goal is to find as many Dungeons as possible before we allow public access. The focus is on thorough exploration right now, the time for adventuring will come a bit later."

He looked around as they all nodded in acceptance, "As I mentioned yesterday, I might need to take a few days off to investigate the disappearance of my friend's Guildmates. If I do end up taking off, I'll leave you in charge, Airi."

"I understand." Airiel answered.

Shion looked to his cousin, "Sumi, I was hoping to have Hisoka, Selene and Kenji accompany you for the time being."

"I don't mind, but are you okay with that?" Sumire asked curiously. "Hisoka is one thing, Kenji is another, but Selene is..."

Howl shrugged when the identical cousins both looked at him.

"I'll put aside my own grudge toward Selene for now." Shion decided calmly. "You trust her, so that's enough for me at the moment. Just let her know that she'll be dealing with me, if she ever dares to pull another stunt like the last."

"Duly noted, I did chastise her for that, in case I didn't make it clear before." Sumire responded, tossing her hair over her shoulder.

"Care to share with the rest of the class?" Emilia wondered, smiling at them.

"No," Shion answered curtly, causing her lip to twitch. "It's also family business, that's all I'll say about it."

Howl scratched his head when Emi looked over at him sharply, before Puck licked her cheek.

Cirilla spoke up next, "Yu-nii, what are you doing to investigate those girls?"

"I'm going to call all their friends and question them first," Shion replied calmly. "I'll mostly be playing things by ear."

He looked to Caleb, "You're free to do as you please for now, but if I run into something dangerous, I'll call you. You should spend as much time as you can with Prinny, though."

"I'll consider it." Caleb replied, looking at him.

Ward sighed, "My reason for existence is to protect you, My King. You really won't reconsider my accompanying you on your quest?"

"...Sorry Ward. I get it, but I'd prefer to have you contributing on the Frontline." Shion replied with a smile. "I'll be okay, I'm not going to do anything reckless."

"Besides, my Shion would be fine even if he stumbled upon something horrific~" Luciela claimed confidently. "The Abyss burns more vibrantly in none, than he~

Some time later, after the first shift in the rotation went out, comprised of Tatsuya, Ward, Eizen and Quelaan. Meanwhile, Howl went off alone, presumably to Prinny. Sumire went off to speak with Kenji, Hisoka and Selene, enlisting their help as requested by her cousin. With Airiel remaining at the Flames' HQ, the others split off to relax in their own way until their shift would start.

On the other hand, the Guild Master kept a low profile while contacting all the friends and known associates of his friend's missing Guildmates. He sent and received thousands of messages, participated in a number of voice and video chats, compiling all of the information he'd learned as investigative notes.

Shion sat in a quiet forest, a secret area accessed through a high-level Dungeon. It was a secret he'd kept between himself and the woman he'd discovered it with. The forest was a place he returned to, whenever he wanted to be alone, or when he had something to think on. He leaned against a tree, sorting everything he'd already found out. "So Araxie and Brunern recently became recognized as the strongest duo in the Devas of Anarya. That does explain why Vijay didn't mind that they'd gone off on their own. It also explains their incredible popularity...guess they were more than just a pair of pretty faces, after all~"

He chuckled a bit, bringing up a new screen to browse an album of photos sent by a number of the girls' friends, from parties and gatherings, as well as pictures taken in and after battles. "Heh...they used to be so scared to fight, too. That Guild is small, but the Devas are pretty elite and closely knit. For these girls to be called the strongest of them is quite the achievement. I wonder if they surpassed Vijay~"

"Damn, look at them!" Morio whistled, leaning over Shion. "I've always wondered what it'd be like to fuck a mermaid! Does she have a pussy to screw, Shi-chan? Or do you just have to skull fuck her to oblivion?"

Sighing deeply as he rustled his hair roughly, Shion spat venom. "Don't call me that, you sick piece of shit."

"Harsh~" Sang Morio, pinching his cheeks.

Yuji pushed Morio aside to take a look, fixing his glasses. "Well, well, well! I've often fantasized about hooking up with a sexy little Dark Elf, much like her! Tell me, Aoba-kun, when you penetrated her, did you do it from the front or the back? And when you did the deed, did you pull on her hair like she's a horse? Or did you work those ears like handlebars? I simply must know!"

"I didn't sleep with them, your horny twats." Shion growled, glaring at both of them for a moment, shaking his head. "Whatever..."

He stroked his chin while plotting their reported movements over the last month, "They didn't stop in at their home for too long, they spent a lot of time exploring and adventuring. They cleared an impressive number of Dungeons by themselves. They camped out most of the time, but they seemed to be spreading their movements out in a specific way...were those girls looking for something? Maybe they had a special Quest, or perhaps they'd found a Treasure Map..."

"You're quite the detective, Shion-kun!" Morio chirped, sitting in front of him. "Were you thinking this hard when you planned it back then?"

Shion tapped his chin thrice, before tossing his arms out and fell onto his back lightly, the screens shutting. "A little nap should put things in perspective. After that, I'll see about contacting more of their friends."

Yuji chuckled as his son frowned, "You've been ignored, Morio. Maybe if we tied your hair up like Saeko likes to?"

"Oh yeah!" Morio snapped his fingers. "I could never pull the woman look off the way Shion-kun does with Sumire, but Saeko's my cousin, I'm sure I can get pretty close!"

"Do whatever you want, just shut up for an hour, you complete wastes of air and space." Shion said blankly, shutting his eyes as he rested with his hands beneath his head.


Izaya's The Boss:

Stomp That Shit!:

Shizu-chan's Seismic Toss:

Chill Izaya/Poor Izaya:

Last edited by Sangios on Wed 16 May 2018, 11:17; edited 1 time in total
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He Who Was Born With the First Troll and Shall Perish With the Last

Age : 25 Registration date : 2011-08-16 Number of posts : 106 Location :
Race: Human

PostSubject: Re: When the shit hits the fan   Wed 16 May 2018, 11:16

Back in the past, in the penthouse.

Saeko sat by her boyfriend, staring at him as he struggled to process what she confessed. "Shion...please...s-say something..."

"I..." Shion held his head in pain, staring at the ground.

His mind was plagued by her words, made worse by the fact that he was rather clearly visualizing it all. How his beloved Saeko had been tortured in the institution, how her own uncle and cousin had used her to satisfy their repulsive urges, first beating her, and later raping her. He couldn't get the image out of his head, of the girl screaming and fighting, and suffering more for it. Her shutting herself down to emotion eventually, her mind a mess with the endless abuse. Safety and many other things, taken by her tormentors, who owned the staff and did as they pleased without repercussions, not a soul daring to act against them.

"What...am I...supposed to say...?" He wondered, clenching his fists so hard they bled, gritting his teeth so hard that his gums did. "Saeko...all this time, I...I...I didn't even know what you...!"

Saeko set her hands over his gently, "I didn't want you to...I didn't want to risk you looking at me differently...I couldn't stand the thought of you leaving me..."

She looked up at him, "You were...what got me through it all, Shion... No matter what they did, I could always...always bear with it...even when it hurt so much that I wanted to die... I knew...that one day, I'd...finally get to see you again...and thinking of you became the safe place in my mind... Even when I wanted to let myself break, I didn't...because I only cared about coming back to you..."

Shion was in tears as he wrapped his arms around her, hugging her tightly. "Nothing...nothing will ever...make me leave you...!"

With his words, Saeko clung against him, breaking down in tears once again.

The two were again silent as they cried together, for what felt like ages. It was only when the sun began to rise the next morning, that words were spoken.

Shion broke the silence, stroking her hair. "Sae-tan...I won't let them get away with this..."

Saeko rest her head on his shoulder, sitting in his lap. "Your feelings are enough, Shion... They have too many resources... My family can cover up almost anything and get away with it... I don't want you to risk yourself...or waste your time trying to avenge me..."

She paused a moment, smiling bitterly. "You already gave up a full ride to Tokyo University because of me...and countless potential job offers in the process...I can't be responsible for holding you back again... You shouldn't have to settle...for anything, or anyone..."

Shion looked down at her, "You're right, I shouldn't settle... I shouldn't settle at all... Even if things were different, just going after them legally isn't enough."

"What...?" Saeko looked up at him in confusion.

"No, you're right, Sae-tan..." Shion touched her cheek lightly. "After everything they did to you...I just can't let them get away with it. I can't let them keep enjoying their lives, and I especially can't allow them to ever touch you again. I'm going to uncover every single disgusting act they've ever committed in their lives, I'm going to destroy them, both publicly and privately... I'm going to crush every last thing those shitstains have worked so hard to build up... And at the end, when they've fallen to the ground, from their seats atop the world... I'm going to look them in the eyes...I'm gonna look into their eyes, and I'm gonna watch what little light remains in their eyes fade out...as I squeeze the life from them with my bare hands..."

Saeko felt a piercing chill, freezing up as she stared at him. "S-shion, that's... D-didn't you listen to me!? It'll never work! I-it's not worth it, they have too much! And that's so...d-dangerous, you can't...you just can't... Not...for me...you can't..."

"I can...and I will." Shion replied sternly, lifting her chin when she looked down. "It'll work, it'll all work. I'll make sure of it. I'll take my time....I'll play nice with those two freaks, as much as I have to. I'll gain their trust, I'll learn everything I need. I'll devise the perfect plan to bring about their end, in every last aspect of life. I'll do anything I have to, to break them in every conceivable way. And I'll act so carefully...so subtly...that all the time in the world...wouldn't be enough for law enforcement to ever follow a trail to me. No...I'll be so thorough, that the only explanation will be suicide... Yes, I'll plan the entire thing, from start to finish...and the end result will suggest beyond reasonable doubt, that those bastards took their own lives."

He smiled at her, "This is how we win, Sae-tan. I'll make sure of it, no matter what I have to do. I'll even pray to your Satan-sama."

"Shion..." Saeko just blinked at him, over and over, until something came over her. She pushed him to the ground, sitting atop him as she looked down. "We'll...do it together, then... I won't allow you to do this alone, Shion... I'll do anything you ask of me...so please, use me as much as you want..."

Shion sat up, removing her top as she took his pants off. "Together, then...but no matter what, I'll never permit them to lay their filthy hands on you again. Nobody will ever touch you that way again..."

Opening his eyes, Shion found himself sitting up under the evening sky, his hands outstretched. {Saeko...}

He looked around, finding his ghosts were absent. Lowering his hands, he looked at them. {I wonder what everyone would think if they knew what I did... What would Howl say if he found out that I killed two people IRL? He always acts like he's some kind of monster, but even when things were bad he...clearly didn't kill anyone.}

A bitter smile stretched across his face, "Some hero..."

"Shion..." A woman called out.

Shion froze upon hearing the voice, familiar and nostalgic. "No way..." He slowly turned around, starting to stand as he looked over his shoulder, stopping as he laid eyes on her.

Saeko crashed into him, knocking him over before he could rise. "Shion...you really were here..."

"Saeko..." Shion was beneath her, staring up at her. "What are you...why are you here...?"

Saeko got up to sit atop him, touching his chest. "I wanted to see you...I needed to see you..."

Shion sat up partially, blinking. {This isn't like before...not like the last time. She felt so unhinged...so inhuman then...but now she's...she feels like...acts like...sounds like...just like my...}

"Sae-tan..." He leaned forward as if drawn in, putting his arms around her waist. He felt tears roll down his cheeks, as he held her tightly.

Saeko immediately relaxed, laying her head on his shoulder. "Shion...it feels like we've been apart for so long..."

"Yeah..." Answered Shion softly. {Because we have been...why now, so suddenly? What made her change...back to the woman I love...? Did something happen to her...?}

The two held one another in silence for some time, as if afraid to speak the words in their hearts. The silence was broken when a chime went off, signalling that one of them was being called.

Shion extended a hand to open his menu, gulping a bit nervously as he saw his second's name.

Reaching out, Saeko caught his hand before he could interact with the call options. "Shion...please don't..."

Looking at her sullen eyes, Shion felt his heart tighten, taking a deep breath. Pulling his hand free, he declined the call, quickly sending a message to Airiel. "There, I told her that I'm busy with something important, so nobody should expect me anytime soon."

He lifted the same hand, setting it on her cheek. "Sae-tan...what's going on? Did something happen recently? Where have you been?"

Holding his hand against her cheek, Saeko leaned in to brush her lips against his lightly. She pulled back quickly, hesitant to move again, but then delivered a quick peck to his lips.

As if something had snapped free, Shion kissed her, invading her mouth with his tongue as he shifted to push her to the ground, the soft grass parting beneath them. Now positioned on top, he continued to take her lips with passion as vibrant and hot as the rays of the sun, pushing her hands to the ground at the sides of her head. As he pulled his lips from hers, he transitioned to her neck.

Saeko submissively followed his lead, shutting her eyes and moaning as she felt the clear sensation of his lips and tongue on her neck, her breath turning hot and steamy. "S-shion..."

"!" Blinking once, Shion pushed himself off of her, shaking his head. "I'm sorry! I... S-something came over me, and..."

"You don't have to stop there..." Suggested Saeko, her cheeks red as she sat up, pulling at her top.

"N-no, I do actually..." Shion insisted, gulping loudly as he looked away nervously.

Crawling a short distance, Saeko smiled. "You're so adorable...it's not fair~"

Shion's body relaxed as she sat in his lap, initiating the kiss this time. As their roles were reversed and he was pushed to the ground, he didn't put up a struggle as they kept their lips locked in a more sensual manner.

After roughly 10 minutes, Saeko ended the kiss and sat up, rubbing her lips tenderly. "I'm really curious about the Frontline. Why don't we go do our part to explore? Just you and me~"

"H-huh, so suddenly?" Shion sat up as well, watching her in confusion.

Nodding a few times, Saeko ran her hands through his hair, brushing it out gently. "It'll be just like old times...and we're both stronger than ever before, aren't we? Just the two of us can go anywhere, and clear anything, even Events that take fully equipped Parties~"

His body trembling at her affectionate touch, Aoba felt a refreshing chill. "Alright...let's do it. Just you and me."

Revealing a beautiful smile, Saeko kissed him quickly, before standing. "It'll be fun, I promise~"

Shion quickly got to his feet, rubbing his arm as she sent a party invite and skipped off toward the secret area's exit. He glanced around, ensuring his despised companions weren't around before accepting the invite. {She's suddenly back to the way I remember her most fondly...but she still seems to be aware of everything we've learned in PSO. Does she still remember everything she's done...? Should I test her a bit? Should...I...tell her that I'm...seeing the two that...I killed for her...?}

With a rough groan, he roughly rustled his hair out, hurrying after the girl as he equipped a new Overwear Item known as the Sovereign's Wisdom, a beautiful gold and black thick cape fit for royalty. Beneath it was a new Armor Set known as the King's Raiment of Valiance, an extravagant medium armor with silver plates and topaz jewels embedded in the joints. Topping it all off were a variety of Accessories, all bearing high-level Enchantments with Magic bonuses.

Saeko glanced over her shoulder as he caught up, having already changed up her gear. She was dressed in the Raven Queen's Shadow, an Armor Item which filled every set piece, a raven black robe-like dress with elegant feathery patterns and fur at the shoulders, the chest bearing a cleavage window and the lower half of the dress open toward the back, right over the rear. She wore a number of Accessories with similar functions to her partner's. Due to the Armor, her hair was styled in a long ponytail, somewhat similar to Shion's.

She smiled as she observed him, noticing his eyes drift low. "Don't worry, I'm wearing pantsu~"

"I wasn't worried," Claimed Shion with a glance aside, somewhat disappointed to see her undergarments when the dress shifted.

Turning to walk backward, Saeko faced him with her hands at her back. "I've never seen any of those before, are they new?"

Shion nodded, smiling a bit bitterly as he modeled a bit for her. "I got this Armor and the Overwear from the Siege Boss. Or rather, I got the Armor from that, the Overwear went to Lia, and she gave it to me."

He scratched his head, "I'm hesitant to wear this gear in front of anyone in my Guild, since it makes me look just like a King. Apparently, the Siege Boss was once a mighty War Sage, so the Armor provides a significant defense bonus all across the board, along with a huge strength buff. And when combined with this cape, which grants a giant Magic boost, both effects are multiplied."

Giggling as she looked up at him, Saeko covered her mouth. "That's really cool~ And you look amazing, you know? You look like a proper King of the Heavens, rather than the Abyss King~"

"Y-yeah?" Shion blushed a bit. "You look as amazing as ever when you're wearing that...I remember getting frustrated when you used it in front of other people."

"Other guys, specifically." Quipped Saeko, wagging a finger at him.

Blushing more, Shion pushed her finger down while walking past. "We'll just have to get through the checkpoint my Guild set up quietly, I'd rather not let Airi know we're going there."

Saeko's smile faded at the mention of the eldest Riannon sister, but quickly returned. "By the way, I just realized I was acting selfish. You only come here when you're thinking about something important, right? Are you really okay to be with me right now?"

Shion blinked a few times, smiling at her. "I am, don't worry about it."

He took a breath as she sighed in relief, before turning her back to him. {She's right, though. And yet, though I should be focused on finding Araxie and Brunern, I feel like being with Sae-tan might be the best thing I could do. I wonder if she might know what happened to them...maybe I'll bring it up when the time is right.}

In the ruins of the Siege Dungeon, just before the Riahst Expanse.

Seated upon the throne with a calm smile, Luciela hummed a gentle and alluring tune. Her legs were elegantly crossed, not a hint of tension in her body.

She was awaiting the arrival of those she was to set out with, along with those she would replace. Her humming went on for some time, slowly stopping as she heard a commotion. {Is something happening outside?}

Lifting her head to look toward the entrance to the throne room, her heart soared the moment she laid eyes on the one entering, while nervously waving off the men and women at his back. "Shion, my love~ And dressed so...g-gloriously!"

"Hey there, Luci..." Shion smiled a bit weakly at her. {Nobody should've been here right now...}

"Why are you here so early? Your shift doesn't start for another hour." He pointed out as he approached her.

Saeko covered her mouth, "Luci was always on point and on time. She was always the first of us to arrive anywhere we'd decided on."

Luciela blinked as she noticed the girl, "L-lilith! It's been so long, how have you been~?"

Saeko smiled, a natural smile, unlike that which she'd show the vast majority of Players. "Sorry I didn't keep in touch, I've been...busy. I'm glad to see you, though. And I see you've learned this one's name?"

"Worry not, I understand~" Luci smiled, hugging her leader's arm. "And yes~ Shion~~~ What a beautiful name, for my perfect King~ It simply rolls off the tongue~"

"Doesn't it~?" Saeko giggled a bit, moving closer to hold his hand.

Shion's nerves immediately faded, a smile coming to his lips as he watched the two girls laugh together. {That's right...shockingly, Sae-tan never hated Luci. She was her closest friend, back when she was still with us. I hate to consider those fuckers, but it's true. Sae-tan and Luci share quite a bit of common ground, though it isn't immediately obvious. Thankfully, they attracted, rather than repelling.}

Laying her head against her love's shoulder, Luciela smiled at Saeko. "So, why are you two here? If you're on a date, shouldn't you stay in town~?"

Shion smiled at her, "This is our idea of a date, actually."

Luciela looked up at him, "You two are going outside, aren't you? Lilith's equipped for battle. If I may be so bold, weren't you working on finding those girls for Vijay?"

{Vijay?} Saeko tilted her head as she listened to them. {Oh, right. The Devas. Hm...why does thinking of them make me feel sort of uneasy?}

"I was, but it's on hold for now." Shion claimed. "Greivor asked us to look into a certain rumor in the new zones, so we're together to handle that. I wasn't expecting you to be here, I thought I timed it so none of you would see us..."

Luci blinked once, "I see, is this a secret mission, then?"

"You...could say that, yes." Shion answered. "I asked the others not to tell anyone already, but-"

Luciela hugged him, "Say no more~ I'd die before I betray your trust, my sweet love~"

Chuckling lightly, Shion stroked her hair gently. "Thanks, Luci. It means a lot to me."

Saeko nodded, "And me, too~"

Luciela smiled at them, "If you don't mind, would you repay with me a favor?"

Shion tensed up a bit, gulping. "It...depends on the favor..." {Crap, what's she going to ask for?}

Cheeks turning pink, Luci took a step back, holding her hands at her back rather shyly. "If it isn't too much trouble, Shion...from now on...at least when we're alone...would you call me Leti?"

"Is...that your real name?" Shion wondered, blinking at her.

Luciela nodded slowly, "It's Letizia, but my loved ones call me Leti..."

Gulping again, Shion stared at her. {She's so cute when she's acting bashful...}

"So you're Italian." Saeko declared.

"Yes, I am~" Luciela confirmed.

"That's hot..." Shion whispered, glancing aside. "And...yeah, that's a pretty easy request to grant... Leti."

Luciela squealed a bit, holding her cheeks. "Hearing my name from your lips is so provocative~"

"Ah, I don't mind if you use my name either, Lilith~" She added.

Saeko smiled at her, "Then you can use mine, too. My real name is Saeko~"

"Ah, what a pretty name~" Mused Luci.

Shion blinked again, looking between Leti and Sae as they smiled at one another. {Luci...Leti might be the only person Saeko's ever been legitimately friendly with, since everything... If I'd been able to keep Sae-tan with us back then, I wonder...what would their relationship look like today?}

Taking a breath, Luciela grabbed their hands. "I would love to intrude in your party, if I'm being honest. But I won't abandon my duties, Shion~"

"Ah, I...know." Shion smiled warmly, kissing her on the cheek. "You always work so hard for me, Leti. I can't explain how much it means to me~"

Blushing, Luci smiled up at him. "There's nothing I wouldn't do for you, because nothing can make up for what you gave me when we first met. Hope~"

Saeko smiled at them, seeing her boyfriend was flustered.

"I didn't do anything special, that day..." Shion claimed, scratching his head.

"You may not think so, but you saved my heart and soul, when I had already given up on living." Luciela explained. "That's why I'll use this refreshed life, for you and you alone~"

"We should get going, before he shuts down with all your love~" Saeko suggested.

Giggling, Luciela nodded. "I wish you both luck on your mission, please come back safely~"

"Uh, yeah." Shion let Saeko pull him along, looking back. "Thanks again, Luc- Leti~"

"It's my pleasure~" Luciela responded, waving after them. "Let's catch up next time!"

Saeko waved back at her, "I'd like that!"

Shion smiled this time, waving back at his ally.

Back in Barnemouth, the base of the Flames of Lordran.

Airiel sat in her office, staring at the message she'd received after calling her boyfriend. {Why do I have a bad feeling about this? I agreed to leave him to his business, but...am I just being insecure, because he rejected my call?}

"Onee-chan~" Emilia called out as she entered.

"Are you busy, Airi-nee?" Cirilla inquired, following her sister.

Airi looked up from the screen, "Just the two of you together? How rare. Did you need something from me?"

Cirilla smiled as she skipped around the desk, hugging her. "Do we need a reason to want to see you, Airi-nee?"

Airiel hugged her back, stroking her hair and glancing at Lia. "I can never be sure, considering how easily she talks you into things."

"How rude, Onee-chan." Quipped Emilia as she sat on the desk by her. "We're just bored, because Shi-chan's off finding those girls, Howl-chan's with Prinny, and the others are preparing for their shifts. And Sumire's-"

"What about Sumire?" Airi interjected immediately, her tone cold.

Cirilla laughed a bit, Emilia jumping a bit. "Sumi-chan's not doing anything bad, don't worry~ She's with the friends that Yu-nii asked her to summon~"

"Ugh, then that Hisoka is here now?" Airiel sighed deeply. "That woman certainly keeps questionable company."

"I don't think she'd be very happy if she heard that~" Emilia suggested.

Airi took a calm breath, "As if I care. Anyway, the long and short of it, is that you two are bored and want your big sister to entertain you, because she's your last choice."

"It's not like that, Airi-nee~" Ciri quickly answered, kissing her cheek. "We just want to spend time with you~"

"Yeah, that's all~" Lia agreed, kissing her other cheek.

Taking another breath, Airiel smiled at them. "Fine, I don't have anything specific to do either. And I suppose it has been a while since the last time we were together, just the three of us."

Emilia and Cirilla cheered, pulling their sister from her seat. "Let's go eat snacks at the Marketplace, then~"

In the Riahst Expanse.

Black flames and dark matter particles subsided in a wide trail, the two Players side by side and walking through a sea of monsters, which broke down into digital dust.

"They're very high leveled, but they aren't too bad~" Saeko claimed, looking around. "And what a pretty place for PSO~ This is the most vibrant zone we've encountered~"

Shion nodded in agreement, the Abyss withdrawing behind him. "Yeah, we don't have any big threats to worry about now, because we already killed the Area Boss yesterday. It probably won't respawn for a week or so."

"How boring, so there's only fodder here?" Saeko set her eyes on a distant mountain range, seemingly covered in frost. "Let's make that our goal~"

Shion looked over, smiling a bit. "As good a goal as any, I guess. Just remember we're exploring, we're not going to enter any Dungeons by ourselves~"

"Or, we can loot all the Dungeons we find, because we're invincible together~" Saeko suggested playfully.

"Be that as it may," Shion began, humoring her. "We're not taking any risks today."

"Tomorrow's another day, so I guess that's fine." Remarked Saeko with a giggle.

Shion took a breath, grabbing her hand. "Let's try to avoid the Survey Parties, okay? As we move, we'll compile our observations and send info back to base in bulk whenever we stop to rest."

"I'll leave that complicated stuff to you, just let me kill a bunch of things~" Saeko responded lyrically.

"Fine, fine~" Shion looked to the mountain range again. "I guess we can try to find out what's at the top. And maybe...if I feel good about it, we can check out some Dungeons if we find some interesting Quests on the way."

"That's my Shion~" Saeko pulled on his hand, making him walk faster with her.


Izaya's The Boss:

Stomp That Shit!:

Shizu-chan's Seismic Toss:

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Age : 28 Registration date : 2008-09-20 Number of posts : 738 Location : .............
Class: Rouge
Race: Half-Dwarf
Affinity: Darkness

PostSubject: Re: When the shit hits the fan   Sat 22 Sep 2018, 09:44

That night[i/]

Prinny walked with Howl her arm wrapped his as she layed her head on his shoulder, they continued on in silence. Enjoying each others company, but even as Howl found it within himself to smile a tinge of guilt was welling inside him. Prinny wanted to ask what was on his mind until she saw the tears streaming down his face. Choosing instead to kiss his cheek breaking him from his own trance he curtly sighed “I’m sorry, I just feel so vulnerable right now”. She smiles back as she strokes his cheek and replies warmly “It’s ok your not used to opening up like that”.

They had finally reached Prinny’s home and as she opened the door she started to say. “I know you’ve been through a lot pouring your soul out. [i]{It really is for the best we let them accept this as the truth Caleb}
But there is something I really need to tell you …” she is interrupted by Howl Pinning her against a wall and kissing her. She pushes him back as she continues, “Caleb! This is important I can’t let us go any farther without saying”. He kisses her again as he whispers, “No more talking, just for tonight I’ll listen in the morning I promise”. They then bounce into wall after wall tearing at each other's clothes, as Prinny sighs “But” only to silently agree with him. They then burst through the bedroom door as Howl tosses a now topless Prinny onto the bed.
He gives into his primal urges allowing him to ignore the whispers of “Broken toys” until the woman underneath him turns into Wicca. “I bet you enjoyed lying to your cousins” she spat as Howl began to thrust harder. “How would they react if *she strokes a scar under his left pectoral from when he tried to stab himself in the heart and she smiles.* They knew how many of your near-death experiences are you trying to kill yourself”. She continued as he pinned her shoulders and thrust even more brutally causing Prinny to whimper. “I’m sure mama Sumire would love to know how your crippled ass snuck into her room and stole a kiss just to be sure. Come to think of it didn’t you also cop a feel you monster” Wicca cackles as Howl pins her wrists against the bed boards. Prinny starts to cry out in pain as Wicca practically bellowed “Or should I tell poor Pricilla how he *She does air quotes as she says he* plowed her sister Liv in the night like a regular Urusu!”

Wicca then stared into his eyes as he continued violently until the screams of pain made him realize what was going on. However, Wicca remained as Howl panted “Prinny I’m ….. so sorry”, she tried to say it was okay as he slowed but was too choked up on her tears. His lip trembled as he whispered, “I can’t see you”. {then I’ll assist you dear sweet Caleb} He then saw soft hands cover his eyes as he felt the warmth of a woman on his back. And he somehow found a way to finish the deed even after all the pain he caused Prinny. Upon finishing he collapsed beside her saying “I’m sorry”, Prinny hugged him and whispered, “It’s ok, I’m just not accustomed to that kind of loving is that how Himiko and Wynne liked it”.

Howl broke from her embrace and started to leave the bed only to be grabbed by Prinny from behind. Pressing herself against him as she whispered “I didn’t mean to”, {you should set her straight Caleb. Tell her how she only loved you when the recovery drugs were fresh in her system. Or how Wynne turned the lights out every time you did it hehe. No no, tell her about that time you found Sumire, Himiko, and Shion in bed together! That’s my favorite one}. Tears start to roll down his cheeks as Prinny goes from apologizing to downright begging him to stay in bed. He looks to the mirror on her dresser and sees the smiling devil looking back at him. Howl wants to open his mouth and put her mind at ease but can’t seem to get his mouth to cooperate with him. But he refused to be a coward and turned to face her pinning her on the bed. Prinny released him thinking the worst, only to have him kiss her deeply letting her know he would stay. She answered back by pulling him down beside her and snuggling up with him. He wrapped his arms around her and kissed her neck calming her even though his heart is going 100mph.

{You must be so tired Cal, you’ve been awake for so many months. You need to release yourself to the sleep before you do something stupid again}. Howl flinches in silence causing Prinny to hug him tighter. {Don’t tell me you angry with me for not letting you tell them the whole truth? I let you tell them our real name and have all these months in control with little to no intervention and this is how you thank me? You think they love you, Cal? Then tell me this, where were they when you needed them most? When Mom and Dad died? When we were lab rats for the doctor's experiments? When Himiko tried to kill us and herself? Or how about when her aunts and uncles had us arrested and took all the money our parents gave us and made us homeless? What about when all the grants that we earned were revoked because we are considered Mentally unstable and violent? I’ll tell where Shion was with her not giving a fuck about us or our well being! You may ask what about Sumire and the others and the answer is still the same! Even now they smile to your face and snicker behind our backs because you are weak! You constantly hold back even if it puts us in danger, and don’t forget the elephant in the room you don’t have Arcana! In fact, the only reason Shion allowed your entrance to his guild is to keep you in check like a dog in a carrier! Some family we got Cal.}

Howl closes his eyes as tears rolled down his face as he began to silently chuckle for a few seconds. Only to stop suddenly as a smile creases his lips, his eyes snap open glowing a royal purple. “That’s a good Cal, enjoy the rest while you can “. Before getting up he makes sure Prinny is fast asleep before getting up and heading to the mirror staring at his own reflection with a smile. There were no scars or altered features from multiple reconstructive surgeries. In fact, if someone were to see him now they would think he was Shion’s or Sumire’s brother. He stared closer seeing the scarred visage of Caleb in his eyes and smiles. Until he notices the room around him glitching. Turning his smile to a frown as he says “Looks like someone is trying to manipulate us Cal, and I for one plan to put a stop to it ”

With that Howl dons “Whispers of Daein” donning Sothe’s gear from radiant dawn and leaves Prinny’s house. He quickly enters the shadows as he sees a chosen undead patrol. His stealth stat kicking in making him one with the shadows, as he waits for them to get a little closer to the house. And as they stop to survey the area he walks from the shadows to theirs and then across the street unnoticed. Once there he sprints from shadow to shadow passing several other patrols until he reaches the guild gate. Heavily guarded and well lit, and looking like he won’t be able to slip in unnoticed. When luck should have it a shadow cascades down from the guild master’s chambers. Which is unmistakably Sumire arching back as she rides it, cowgirl. With a smile Howl dances from the shadow of her hips to the tits and twists through the hair down to the ground outside. From here he makes his way down the streets until he reaches his destination Wicca’s apartment in the cheap district.

Wanting to leave no trace of his presence he usesShadow Melting and melt’s through the shadows to the darkness in her house. Howl then stalks to her bedroom where she lay intertwined with Dick, ignoring them Howl opens his hand and hacks Wynne’s UI disabling some features. Before walking back into the kitchen taking the poison Black sisters kiss. And replacing it with an unmarked ancient bottle of the highest rarity as he whispers. “if Ariel knew we were wasting a near impossible drop item on you Wicca. There is no telling what she would do to me”, with a smirk before Shadow Melting back outside.
Having no other reason to be out here Howl takes his time on the way back to the guild gate. The moment the torches on the gate become visible he equips Noctis and breaks into a full sprint. Waiting until the last moment to toss the dagger over the gate as he teleports a mere millisecond before becoming visible to the guards. He exits the teleport in a roll to his feet as he continues his sprint back to Prinny’s house. He closes the door behind him as he swaps out the Whispers of Daein for Vestaments of Rest. When his stomach started to grumble so he cooks himself some breakfast. And as he eats he pulls and a book out of his inventory and picks up where he left off page 300 of 900.

Hours must have passed as the light of dawn pours through the window warming Howl’s skin, with a sigh he closes the book. Memorizing that he stopped on page 475 before getting up and heading back into the bedroom. At the sound of the door, opening Prinny is woken up and feels she is alone in the bed. Freaking out she starts to twist around looking for Howl sho takes this moment to sit on the bed beside her and stroke her cheek. She glances at him and lets out a sigh of relief as she groggily says “where did you go?” Howl turns his gaze from hers and says “I….. got hungry so I made myself something to eat…….Sorry”. Prinny sits up and hugs him running her fingers through his hair. “You don’t need to apologize, Caleb, I….. I thought you were still upset about what I said last night”.

Howl lets out a sigh as he swipes his hand in front of his face in a downward motion activating Disguise self. Contorting his face back to it’s normal scarred visage that he is known for, “I’m sorry…… I made you feel that way Prinn. I never seem to do anything right”. He then contorts his face to the trembling smile and tears as Prinny squeezes him tighter. “Don’t say that you didn’t do anything wrong, you shouldn’t have to hold back your love if that’s how you like it”. Her words make him smile like the devil himself, as he slides his hands down her back and past her ass. And grasps her thighs as he lifts her up and softly slams her against the bed. She looks up in surprise as he pulls her into him with his right and strokes her cheek with his left. He leans down and kisses her softly as she whispers “Was your scar missing earlier”, his eyes now back to normal start to water as he sighs “So it does bother you then”.

Her answer is gently biting down on his lip as she pulls his shorts off hoping that provoking his primal urges will erase her stupid question. He literally pulls her on it as she instinctively wraps her legs around his abdomen. She releases his lip and turns her face to the side seeing the time she gasps “Caleb your going to be late to the meeting”. He answers by lifting her up and pressing her against the wall and starts thrusting. As he grunts “Shion will understand” She digs her nails into his back as she whispers “but” right before she let’s out a moan. Time passes, positions continuously change as the two become a primal tornado leaving the bed and moving throughout the house. And before they knew it they were inches away from the front door.
Prinny is gasping for air as her fingers nails leave hundreds of slices across his back as she starts to moan more vigorously. What was once pleasure is now a mixed between pleasure and pain as she sees a prompt that her stamina is about to burn if she continues. “Ca”… “Cal”…”Caleb” …..”Stamina burn”. She just barely pants out as every muscle in her body locks up, as her body lights up with a burning sensation and the pain of overtaxed muscles. She gasps in pain as Howl releases inside and falls limp with a face of ecstasy. Howl, on the other hand, scrambles to his feet as clothing is equipped and runs out the door.

While his body runs towards the guild hall his eyes become devoid of color, as the other half goes into their mind. Appearing before a sleeping Caleb the other half says “Shion needs you”. The second the words are spoken a powerful burst erupts from the sleeping Caleb. His eyes turn glacier as he sprints faster down the courtyard, {“What did you do?”} he screams in his mind. {I put your new girlfriend's mind at ease about how you feel about her and checked on Wynne.}[i]. {You did? Why?}, [i]{Does it matter what my motivations if it works out in your favor?}. {I guess not} Howl responds in his mind as he enters the hall to see Shion’s eyes light up to his presence.
As he walks up Howl feels faint aura’s around him, {Who are these fuckers supposed to be}. {I got no idea}.

Meanwhile at the Base of the Deep: Mastodon Camp

Hiruuki is awoken by a splash of icy water, “Again with the Drinking? What am I supposed to do with you dad?” asks Beverly

“It doesn’t count because this is a game”, he grumbles only to open his eyes to see her glaring back at him tapping her foot. With a grunt, he sits up and says “I’m just gonna say this once you're not going out like that” before letting out a belch.
Beverly stamps her foot and shouts “You said as long as it covers my bits and is classified as clothes or over clothes that I could wear it.”
With a sigh, Hiryuki replies “That’s not how that conversation went in the slightest baby girl and you know it”. Beverly growls and stamps her foot screaming “Your impossible”, “No, I’m your father and I am trying to protect you”. He responds solemnly as he stands to look off towards the ravine of graves. “So Howl is actually Gouso Kisabe, which makes him your mothers guardian angel. Our family has raped his sister, lead to the death of his parents and Shion’s, beaten him within an inch of his life countless times. And that’s just what we know of but even so, we aren’t the only ones that have wronged him. We may well be the worst, and even with all of that, he would gladly give his life if it would save everyone. Wouldn’t hesitate for a second, just straight up slit his own throat like it didn’t fucking matter. *He pauses for a second as tears roll down his face* Shion would never admit it but he is terrified it will come to that, and that was before he found out that they are cousins. If I were to measure the impact of him losing Howl, I would have to compare it Shion holding Saeko in his arms as she breathed her last breath. So Shion, in turn, puts 90% of his focus on completing this game in the hopes of being the Hero Howl believes him to be. Then there is me the coward and washed-up martial arts champion that has to have his daughter hold the mantel”.

Hearing her father’s words washed away all of her pretentious teenage angst and she ran to hug her father crying on his shoulder. “Those that regret are slaves to their weakness and those that only face forward leave themselves open to defeat”. Hiryuki comforts his daughter as he replies calmly “that’s my girl, always hold those words in your heart. I need you to lead the pack for a few days, that means your on call for The flames of Lordran. If all goes well I should be back in a few days I asked Yuna to tag along with you”.

Beverly releases her father her face starting to go pale “Your not going back to the ravine of graves again are you dad”. Hiryuki pats her head and says “Like you said those that regret are slaves to their weakness and I think I’ve put enough of the heavy lifting on your shoulders, it’s about time I reconnected with the beast inside we can’t play it safe anymore”. Her voice cracking Beverly says “But dad it nearly killed you last time”, Hiryuki nodded and replied “It’s not going to this time.”….

In the dungeon of Ashborne

“Shall I start at the beginning Greivor?” asked Zelgius

“Yes” replied Grievor

“Ok, well in order to start we need I’ll need access to the admin panel you confiscated” continued Zelgius

“Pathetic worm, repent before Nabu” screeched Zach

“Do you think I’m stupid enough to give you a tool to escape this place Zelgius” Replied Greivor sternly

“I have no intentions of touching the device, but it’s the only way to see where this all began. But if you prefer to take my word alone that is fine as well”. Responded Zelgius

Grievor kept his eyes on him as he pulled the panel out and asked “Now what “
“Put in username DongKen Kong and passcode 6969DKK” Continued Zelgius

Grievor gave Nabu a side glance and shook his head as the panel came to life with Nabu’s personal Admin screen. “What am I looking for Zelgius,” asked Grievor calmly.

“Open the Trial of Caleb Howl and you will know what we know” replied Zelgius

So Grievor clicks the file and sees his hud filled with files some of them video recordings. Looking at the dates Grievor finds the first entry and selects it, as it starts he sees a surgery taking place. The procedure is placing several neural uplinks into the back and attaching the cords to the spine. With two being placed by the base of the skull and carefully attached to the brain stem. The subject is labeled Patient 00, the clip then switches to the net in line showing at least thirty patients wirelessly attached to a STEM CPU. In mere seconds all of the Patients start to shake violently as the neural links glow in their bodies. Only to stop fidgeting as their brain signals flatline. Next video is filled with a man cursing off screen when a deafening screeching fills the air as P00’s brain signals come back. Elation follows as he cries “Finally someone has taken to the first part of the key”. A door opens and Grievor is surprised to see Ariel enter shouting “What’s going on in here?”. Grievor’s heart then skips a bit as the man who was cursing draws a gun and points it at her.

The video suddenly ends making Grievor lean forward anxiously as he notices the next video taking place at least a few hours later. Red lights are flashing in the lab all the patients are flatlined save for 00 who is missing several security soldiers and some yakuza are dead in the room Ariel seems to be unconscious but otherwise alright. And a man in the lab coat with a gun in his hand is writhing on the ground. As more Security soldiers enter the room, and like that the video ends. Next is a picture of the White Walker in game his whole spinal column glowing as a monster swinging on Shion seems to be missing by an odd Margine. This is followed by several other pictures depicting similar things. Then comes Nabu’s notes, “It is day 23 and the supposed saviors of us all the Kingslayers are being widely praised. I’ve checked on the two subordinate members Joshua and Shion and they check out. But in my attempts to get a read on Caleb an unknown in the social world of gaming. I keep finding this fragmented code playing and have yet to decipher it. Day 63 The code keeps increasing in length and process and seems to be feeding out of the game somehow. It has been hard to research him with the insurrection but I refuse to let this go. Day 78 So it appears that Caleb is the sole survivor of his squad that covertly weekend the insane players. Day 92 I directly caught him hacking a monster and quickly reversed it. He needs to be stopped or he may end up breaking the game, 6 hours later. The Kingslayers have disbanded due to player death and Caleb is no longer showing up on the server. Day 120 Tower Arcana is missing from the server the only cause can be Caleb, such interference cannot be tolerated. He is the biggest threat to our survival and as the Lord of Order, I must put this mad dog down.

The rest of the notes begin to show how crazy Kenny has become, and Grievor was about to dismisses them when something caught his eye. “Zelgius what is this black box that Nabu speaks of?”.
“Oh that, well Nabu hacked Caleb’s code and found out that irl he has a black box of everything on himself. And that he made a digital version of it for the game, according to Nabu he gave a piece to Shion and a piece to Joshua, keeping the final piece on himself and should anyone want to access it. They need to have all three pieces, Nabu believed that this device would reveal the intentions of the vile White Walker”. Replied Zelgius.

“Looks like I need to have a talk with White Walker then, return to your cell Zelgius” replies Greivor.

"I sense a seeker of the bright path in you Grievor so I'll give you this boon in the sake of knowledge, the only way to find the truth that happened in that lab is through Ariel. More specifically through her teams Admin codes" spouts Nabu with a snicker afterward

"What are you implying Nabu" growls Grievor

"Would you trust the words of a madman? Or does it concern you that much that the Matriach of the Rinnanon sisters could be dirty!" cackles Nabu.

Grievor grabs him by the throat and starts to squeeze his neck as voices in his head scream for him to "do it snap the little picks neck", "End this psycho", and "Show him the power of the god Grievor" He shakes his head and releases Nabu, regrettably

"If you are truly the hand of the righteous you'd behead Caleb and save us all", rasps Nabu

4 hours later

Sumire and her group are combing an area when she suddenly hears squabbling and runs over to it. She is shocked to see a younger version of herself with Himiko and hears herself say, “I’ve been patient with you Himmi but you just push further and further away. I know you’ve been through a lot but if continue to refuse to let me in then I’ll leave”. Younger Sumire is met with silence, so she turns Himiko to face her and says harshly. “If you're not even going to try then this is it Himmi, I’ll walk out that door and you won’t see me anymore is that what you want?” Himiko turns her face away from her and she losses it cursing at her for a few moments before finally saying bye and slamming the door.

The scene then changes to Himiko walking with little Caleb on a leash in what looks like a ward under construction. Sumire’s heart skips a beat when she sees young Caleb almost fall off the edge. Luckily Himiko pulls him back to her and says softly “You need to be more careful Caleb”. Only to stab Caleb in the stomach with a scalpel, as she screams “She left me because of you, you little monster no one wants you”! She then starts to drag it up as Caleb fights her the best he can causing it to snake up his torso. Until he is able to push it out and away and out only for her to stab it into his left hand. As she pulls it up his arm, Caleb stands up on her legs and leaps forward as she slices his shoulder open. He goes over the side as the leash pulls Himiko after him.

He lands first a rhubarb pipe going through his shoulder and the side of his neck, with the back of his skull cracking causing blood to pool underneath him. It is here that she sees the first time he ever did the body shuddering laugh and crying. Himiko lands over him having the rhubarb go through her side as she screams out holding Caleb in her arms. The whole sight makes Sumire sick to her stomach, she stares into little Caleb’s eyes seeing that one is green and the other grey. Tears roll down her cheeks as she screams out “Why couldn’t you just reach out to me Himiko God Damnit”.She then turns her head about to hurl when she hears a voice she never heard before say “I told you she would turn her back on us Caleb no can or will ever love you”. The words well up rage in Sumire as she turns to face the scene fist swinging. Only to see Liv stumble backward onto her ass looking up at Sumire a little terrified, her fist trembles as she turns around and leaves Liv their with just questions.

Her veins feel like ice as she starts to run in whatever direction she is going, knowing that what she saw was not connected to the Arcana but a memory that was not her own and could only be one persons!

Meanwhile somewhere else

Shion blinks for a second and he is no longer adventuring with Saeko anymore, no he and Josh are running to the lockers trying to get their bookbags so they can leave school quicker. It only takes a few minutes before they have their bags and are running to the entrance. They reach the front gate and Shion stops in his tracks, causing Josh to turn around and asks “What’s the holdup Shi, don’t you want to play the new Warriors Orochi”? “Of course I do numbnuts, I just remembered I promised Cal we were going to walk home together” replies Shion. Josh sighs before saying,“Wasn’t that before he got Detention for punching Troy in the nose and getting spartan kicked out of the 2nd story window”?

“A promise is a promise Josh, besides I’ve been neglecting him lately because of the girls and this is the first step in the bropology”. Retorts Shion much to Joshes dismay and he quickly chimes “But he would totally understand the circumstances and not hold it against you Shi and you know that”. Shion gives Josh a stern shove “No Bueno bro, you know that’s not my style”, Josh growls and punches the gate shouting “Fuckers”.

“What’s he so mad about Shi,” asks Howl out of nowhere surprising them both. “But you had detention Cal” blurts out Shion. Howl shrugs and says “Fuck detention, let’s go”, Shion glances around a little unsure about it but decides to go with it and says “Ok, let's go”. The three-run down the sidewalk trying to make it to Sumire’s house as quickly as possible. Until they all notice a burning building stopping them in their tracks. Shion instantly recognizes it as the orphanage and shouts “We should help”! Josh pulls out his phone and calls 911, Howl grabs Shion’s shoulder and says “It’s not our problem Shi let’s just go”. Shion gives him a shove and looks into his grey eyes “If you want to look the other way then so be it I’m going in”. Shion then runs up to the house trying to kick the door open.
It takes three tries but he finally kicks it open as Howl spears him out of the way as Flames shoot out. As the two get to their feet Shion notices Caleb has his over shirt wrapped around his mouth like a mask and does the same. As he asks “I thought you said this wasn’t our problem”, Caleb replies “doesn’t matter, no one goes in alone Shi”. They fist pound as Caleb points to a window and then leaps through it landing and going into a roll. Shion dives in after him and the two start to get as many kids out as they can. Handing them to

Josh who is manning the window, the rubber on their shoes are starting to melt as they believe they got the last kid.
When a Kid crying can be seen down the hall where the roof is starting to collapse, Shion and Caleb charge to him. Caleb gets their first lifting the kid up and tossing him to Shion who twists around and starts running as Caleb roars “Run”! Shion sprints harder and faster diving out the window and landing in a roll. He lets the kid go as he drops the shirt mask saying “damn that was close Cal”. Hearing no response her turns around thinking Caleb is fucking with him. But doesn’t see him and he feels his guts tie up in knots feeling anxious. He starts to run back to the building only to fall over coughing from all the smoke he inhaled. Shion tries to roll to his feet but can’t seem to do it right, his gaze on the building the whole time. The firefighters get there and start to make preparations. As Shion tries to form words only to wheeze out smoke, he starts crying feeling weak again.

When he hears Josh shout “No Fucking way “, She tilts his head up to see Caleb on fire dive through the third story window. Slamming into the grass on his shoulder causing it to flop around as he rolls down to the street still smoldering. Next thing Shion knows he wakes up in a hospital bed. Ariel seems to be ranting at Joshua as the other sisters try to calm her, Sumire is staring out the window. He alerts everyone with a cough causing them all to turn and look at him with their eyes filled with joy. Crillia glomps him as she gets chewed out by Ariel, Emilia pulls her off and hugs Shion causing them to fight. Overtop of Shion and to his surprise Ariel jumps in the rumble. Joshua waits for an opening to jump into the mass and put a newspaper in Shion’s face shouting read read.

And some who in all that Shion is able to read the headline, local boy saves the orphans, he goes on to read. Local boy Aoba Shion saved thirty orphans before local firefighters could make it to the scene saving lives. Something seems off to him as he reads the next article that reads Howl Caleb is a father!?. And it hits him hard as he shouts “Where is Cal”? The girls stop fussing and Josh falls off his bed but no one is looking him in the eyes. “Seriously where is he? *the silence starts to make him nervous as he tosses the covers* “Just tell me where he is, anyone just say something”. He tries to get out of bed only to be sent floundering to the floor, lucky for him Sumire catches him. Shion looks up at her tears starting to form in his eyes “It’s all my fault, …. He didn’t want to go in. But he did because I went”. Sumire hugs him close and says “Caleb is still in surgery, it’s been three days, we don’t know if ….. if”. She can’t finish the sentence and Shion just goes limp closing his eyes wishing it all away.

When he opens his eyes he is back with Saeko and for a split second, he sees Hero burning on the ground in front of him. His nostrils fill with the smell of ash as he silently prays Caleb hasn’t done something dire. Disembodied voice scream out, "Please be with Prinny", "You know he's not", "I should message him", "He's gone I can feel it", "No he's fine I'm worrying for nothing", "He's dead", DEAD", "Gone", "All Alone", "Dying", "Frying", "Crying", "Gone", "Gon?", "Your Fault" , 'You did this", "You left him", "Alone", "Caleb is all alone", "Whose a hero", "Your the hero", "He's the Monster!", "Cal's A MONSTER!!!!!!" Shion's head starts to feel like it's splitting as tears roll down his cheek and blood down his nose. As the event monster Efreet spawns in front of him. The sight of him makes Shion tremble in rage as she sees the melted flesh of Caleb superimposed on him. And starts gathering wind around his knuckles wanting to make this monster pay for bringing back a memory he rather forget.

At the Clan infirmary
“So, an entire town is demolished and turned into some kind of Galdr monster before disappearing into a broken bonfire. In what can best be compared to a nuke going off, and during this whole thing Wynne tried to kill herself. But was only able to take a Ultra rare drop that is literally a .000000001 chance that is a fake death/ resurrection potion. Which she is incapable of getting on her own making her the only possible person to know what in the Fuck is going on” States Ariel very angrily

Beverly, Yuna, Prinny and Cirilla nod and chime “That seems to be the case madame Xerxes”

Ariel takes a deep breath and asks “So the Fuck happen to Dick?”

The girls shrug in response. Before Cirilla asks “Should we inform Shion ?”

Ariel shakes her head “No, or at least not until we actually know what happened. Much as I would like to say this is odd for Caleb. It’s more like a slightly escalated Norm, notify me when the bitch queen is conscious. If we are lucky we’ll have this all solved by the time Shion returns.’ (I hope).

Nomiz adelphous tous alethinous philous
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He Who Was Born With the First Troll and Shall Perish With the Last

Age : 25 Registration date : 2011-08-16 Number of posts : 106 Location :
Race: Human

PostSubject: Re: When the shit hits the fan   Thu 27 Sep 2018, 21:39

A step back to the beginning of this tale, even before the waking nightmare had first sunk in. When PSO was first being populated at launch, when millions upon millions of eager players were hungrily donning their Nervebral Gear to be among the first to take steps within the hauntingly gorgeous Phantasmal Realm. In droves, the people amassed, some breezing right through their initializations and character creation menus, others taking their time. Either way, all roads led to the same destination, The Labyrinth of Timeless Damnation.
It was there that the millions converged, all caught up in the euphoria of the exceptional experience, which even from the beginning, surpassed that of all previous games in the DDRPG genre. Countless threads intertwined in stunning ways, the individuals having no way of knowing just how impactful it all would turn out to be. Those they observed and addressed in passing, as a way of being polite or showing curiosity. Nobody at the time, had any way of knowing that the ones they interacted with would one day become the very cornerstones of their survival. And for some...that they would be right there alongside the ones to save their hearts...

A group who would one day become famous in different ways, was in the midst of gathering together in the starting area of The Labyrinth. As they awaited those yet to join them, they marveled at the stunning sense of dread they felt, merely being in the lifeless darkness of the starting hub.

Off to the side of the hub, they were relaxing in their own ways. Like the rest, as well as awaiting their late comrades, they were waiting for the first GM address to officially kickstart their adventures. All they'd gathered, was that The Labyrinth should've been the secret tutorial area they'd been informed of in advance.

Emiya Shirou was spinning his chosen starting weapon, a simple bow made of bone and ivory, much like the equipment of the rest. "Wow...it feels so real. Nah, I genuinely can't tell any difference between this and the real thing."

"Curious, no?" Erston Outway held his first nodachi high above his head, swinging it carefully. "The care which went into the design must've been immensely intricate. It's the first time the weight stat has been so...impactful."

Shiba Tatsuya spun a pair simple iron-forged pistols between his fingers dextrously, a smile on his face. "I'm already blown away, if I'm being honest."

Emilia Riannon sat atop a broken pillar, her legs crossed as she stroked her hair, playing with her menu. "I don't really get the attachment you boys have to your equipment, but it does feel nice to just be here."

Cirilla Riannon leaned against the pillar beneath her older sister, looking around curiously. Her purple eyes seemed to shine as she took in all the crowds. "I've never seen so many Players in one place before~ PSO's servers are immaculate, there isn't the slightest sign of hitching~ In some ways, it feels even cleaner than reality, somehow~ The Beta had felt great, and this is way better!"

Setting an arm around her neck, Kanou Sumire rubbed her head against hers. "That's right, my adorable Ciri~ The devs weren't joking, when they said we might not want to go back after playing the full release~ I can't wait to get my first taste of combat!"

Giggling, Ciri looked up at her. "Did you really choose to go barehanded, Sumi-nee?"

"Of course, I'd prefer not to have any buffers between my fists and my foes." Sumire immediately answered, as if it were obvious.

Shirou sweat slightly, looking at her. "I feel bad for whatever we find first, even masochists don't like getting hit by you."

"Are you speaking from experience?" Wondered Tatsuya, a wry smirk on his face.

"I'm not a-" Began Shirou with fluster, until he was cut off.

"Onee-chan! Over here!" Emilia called out passionately, her voice carrying across the hub and drawing all eyes.

Airiel Riannon's cheeks turned red as she stomped over as fast as she could, hearing laughs and giggles directed toward them. "Must you announce us for the entire world to ridicule?!"

With a spirited laugh, Emi dropped from her perch to hug her big sister, the one she most loved to tease. "I just wanted everyone to know early on, that Onee-chan and I are totally lovey dovey, that's all~"

"Yes, Airi, that's all Emi wanted~" Sumire rephrased, covering her mouth to stifle a rough snort.

The youngest Riannon waved her hands at the eldest, the moment she glared at the other woman. "Airi-nee, it's all in good fun~"

"Right," Sumire agreed, running a hand through her hair. "But my, do you look amazing here. That's quite the attention-grabbing dress you chose to start with."

"I'm an Alchemist, I should dress the part." Airi replied coolly, looking her up and down. "You truly have no qualms with flaunting your body, do you Sumire?"

Sumi looked down at her revealing outfit, "I've never been very self-conscious, that's all."

"That's an understatement." Shirou, Erston and Tatsuya quipped in unison, chuckling as she gave them a somewhat dark grin.

"Ah, there you guys are!" Joshua Gale shouted, running over ahead of three others. "Well, it was pretty hard to miss you after Emi's loving call~"

"Shut up." Airi hissed venomously, directing a dire look toward him.

"Chill, Onee-chan." Requested Emilia, rubbing her back.

Wynne Nanoki laughed as she joined them, "Even on what should be such a fun night, Airi's more than happy to be the witch we all know her as~"

"Better a witch, than a-" Began Airi hostilely, though she stopped herself from saying something rather vicious upon seeing the one behind her.

Caleb Howl scratched his head, glancing aside for a few moments. "Shion isn't here yet?"

Itou Keita fixed the glasses upon his face, standing high above his friends as he scanned the crowds. "Saeko-san, too."

"Oh, Shion didn't tell you?" Josh, who'd hidden behind Caleb when Airi looked at him, peeked out. "Saeko-chan's old Gear had some issues, so they picked up a new one for her. Shion was helping her calibrate it, but it shouldn't be too much longer."

"Tch, then they'll be Diving together." Airiel growled lowly, sending chills down the spines of all, even Wynne knowing better than to speak on matters between the eldest Riannon and the other woman in question.

Taking a deep breath to calm herself, she looked around at her friends, taking note of their Race choices over their starting Classes. "Some of you went in surprising directions. I never figured you for a Demon God, Keita-kun. And I see you found the Eldar choice, Caleb."

Crossing his arms, Keita looked at her. "I merely wished to try something new."

Caleb glanced up at him, then looked at Airi. "I couldn't decide what to choose, and then the option sort of just...showed up."

"Wait, that's a thing?!" Joshua gasped, clutching his cheeks. "I chose Dark Elf immediately for the badass renegade factor!"

Sumire chuckled a bit, "Yeah, there are hidden options in the system, but they only show up if you take your time. I was pleased to find Yuki-Onna as an option~"

"That fits Airi a lot better than you, though." Suggested Wynne with a grin.

Airiel's eye twitched erratically, "Wynne, are you perhaps curious of how pain translates here?"

As the group grimaced for Wynne, who shrieked a bit, their attention was drawn elsewhere as the entire hub went silent apart from excited hushed whispers. "?"

"Seriously? THE Artorias?"
"No way...right? In the Beta, he was just Artorias."
"Yeah...and besides, there's thousands of copycats all over. Hell, just here right now, there's about a hundred different ones!"
"But even they seem to be wondering?"
"You don't...think it's REALLY him, do you?"
"I mean it's...it's been what, a year?"
"A bit more than that actually, but yeah. It's been a long time since anyone's seen or heard from him..."

Himeragi Saeko kept close to her boyfriend, glancing around with an amused smile. "Wow, Shion, they don't believe you're the real deal. Maybe you're a lot shorter than they thought you'd be?"

"Fine by me..." Muttered Aoba Shion, his cheeks pink with all eyes glued to him, his hand awkwardly blocking direct line of sight to the masses. "C-can they stop looking at me already? And where is everyone...?"

Saeko looked around, touching his hand and pointing as she spotted the group waving to them. "Right there. Rejoice, for Satan-sama's seen fit to grant you early mercy~"

"If it was Satan, wouldn't he be making sure we don't run into them until the last second?" Shion gave her a blank look as they approached their usual group.

All eyes went to his Game Name, "Abyss King Artorias..."

They observed him curiously, "You really chose Human?"

Shion nodded, relaxing once he was with them. "Humans don't have special skills like the rest, but they're capable of easily getting into any specialization. I plan to get into every possible option, so this was effectively my only choice."

Saeko smiled at him as the others accepted his thought process, smiling enough to reveal her teeth when they looked to her.

"Ah, a Vampire!" Shirou laughed heartily, "That fits you wayyy too well!"

Wynne nodded in agreement, "Unsettlingly well, actually. I always thought she drains Shion of his blood when they're alone."

Glancing away, Saeko very purposefully ignored the woman, whom she'd never once even made a single attempt to get close to.

Airiel cleared her throat as Wynne half glared, "I suppose calibration took a while, hm? It's a rather simple process, if you care to look into it yourself."

Blinking once, Saeko smiled at her, holding Shion's arm after he greeted the rest. "Sorry, Airiel Onee-sama, I'm not as independent as you are. I'm much too weak to survive on my own the way that you do, but that's why I'm so lucky to have him in my corner whenever I need him~"

"...Yes, Vampire is truly fitting." Airi decided, her eyes cold and fixed upon her. "There isn't another Race which so naturally matches you, a perfectly pure and simple leech. Here, you leech off blood. In reality, you must leech off of potential."

Every member of the group covered their mouths in shock, all very well aware of exactly what Airi meant. Of course, they also knew better than to get between Airiel and Saeko, if their last name wasn't Aoba.

Eyes open wide, Saeko's grip on her friend's arm tightened, her body shaking rather violently as an enraged glare struck the woman who'd spoken.

Gritting his teeth, Shion touched her hands, yelling. "Airi!"

With a pained expression, Airiel took a deep breath, shaking her head as her sisters touched her arms. "You're right, Shion, that was too much. I apologize, Saeko-san."

"Whatever..." Whispered Saeko, who turned to Shion and hid her face against his arm.

Emilia frowned as she watched, {Saeko-chan looked like she was about to cry...}

With an irritated grunt, Shion held his head as it began to throb with pain.

"Ugh..." Josh and Shirou looked around as everyone got quiet, exchanging glances before deciding to change the subject. "So! Isn't it totally crazy that the legendary Artorias is our best friend, and everyone's so hard-pressed to believe it?!"

"Ah, yes." Tatsu blinked a few times, relieved by the shift as he smiled. "It's rather surreal to hear how everyone discusses him so seriously, when we've pretty much always been with him."

Erston tapped his chin in thought, "People seem to believe Artorias to be some supreme demigod of a man, when the genuine article is nothing more than a bumbling introvert."

"You guys suck..." Shion whined with a pouty expression, looking down. "Everyone makes a big deal out of nothing, anyway."

Sumire walked over, poking his cheek. "So you still think that Multi-Diving seven different games simultaneously is 'nothing special'?"

"Anyone can do it if they practice..." Shion whispered, pushing her finger away.

That was his standard response to the matter, which was the most remarkable legend in modern gaming. Multi-Diving referred to being logged into at least two different games at once, and playing them at the same time. The term didn't exist, until it was created on accident by the man in question.

8 years ago, Shion had been invested in seven different games. Very different games. To maximize his time in each, he tried logging in to multiple, ending up with all seven at once. This should've been exceptionally difficult and mentally taxing, given that every single DDRPG has vastly different systems, settings and forms of feedback which would make it next to impossible to actively adjust to. However, one day following a special Raid that he had streamed for his classmates primarily, Shion had been interrupted by Emilia coming over. She Dived with him afterwards, and he'd forgotten to turn off the stream, though he'd put the overlay off. Thinking it was downtime, he Multi-Dived the seven games to advance his dailies all at once and do heavy grinding in each. His classmates, realizing that what he was doing, spread word, and within an hour, he'd gone from about 50 viewers to 100,000. His closest friends hadn't even known what he was doing, as he sometimes Multi-Dived even while playing with them. A few hours later, he had over a million viewers and Josh freaked out when he found out while hanging out with Caleb. The two rushed over in the dead of night, forcing their way into Shion's room, to the shock of he and Emilia, telling him he was streaming the whole time. Shion thought they were mistaken, checking his stream to find that he now had tens of millions of viewers and subscribers, along with a ridiculous amount of patron donations. The boy promptly fainted.

The streaming miracle went viral around the entire world by the next day, even the most major media outlets covering the insane phenomenon, which was at that time coined Multi-Diving. Logged in as Artorias in every game, his name became a legend, which grew as he later completed seven different Raids at the same time, causing him to be touted as the God of Diving. Over the years, his praises were sung and everyone wanted to be like him, many trying and failing to emulate. Countless copycats sprung up all over, none able to live up to the myth and legend himself. His record of seven at once was unmatched, as even the best and brightest could barely manage three Multi-Dives simultaneously, where he could easily do seven with the highest content in each.

While his friends kept his identity secret, his old classmates constantly tried to inform others that they went to school with Artorias himself, something believed by none. His reputation grew until every gamer in the world knew his name, and a multitude of rumors about him circulated. Some said that he never slept, because he was so enlightened that he never got tired. Some thought that he was actually a computer. Some believed the entire thing was staged, each and every time he appeared to the world. Along with many more, everywhere he went, the entire gaming community followed after him. This was mostly because of his stubborn love for Artorias from Dark Souls, and though he'd alter his names in every game, the Artorias part always remained. People always knew when it was really him, as he'd always be at the very top of rankings all over, on the best teams, securing world's first accolades in countless categories.

"Hm, I've been practicing for years now, but I can barely handle two games at once." Keita admitted, sighing. "Aoba-kun doesn't know his own strength, even after all this time."

"Yu-nii has always been like this, though." Cirilla pointed out. "Even though he's so amazing, he gets so embarrassed and defensive when it's brought up."

Shion sighed deeply, "Because it really isn't as great as everyone makes it out to be! I just wanted to maximize my gains, that's all! I spent so much time Multi-Diving that it became easy! It was hard as hell for me too, for a long time! I just got better over time, you know this!"

"Yes...but we also know that nobody else has even come close to accomplishing the same." Sumire added, a proud smile on her face. "I have the most incredible cousin in the whole world~"

"It's too bad that you aren't even a tenth as smart as him." Tatsuya suggested.

Sumire blinked, "I'd hit you so hard your mother would feel it, if you weren't totally right."

Saeko lifted her head, "Shion gets annoyed when his channel gets flooded by people begging him to explain his secrets, when he's told them that exact thing every time already."

Airiel, who'd been quiet, glanced at the girl before nodding. "Though I'd say that he has no room to complain, considering he could live a life of luxury on nothing but streaming, as things stand."

Caleb finally started speaking again, "Shion also thinks it's weird that people care so much about what he does, when he never becomes the leader of anything he's involved in."

"That's true, he's always the strategist." Wynne agreed. "Because for all his talent, he's incapable of leading anyone~"

"Hey now, I don't think that's true." Josh admitted with a grin. "If Shi put his mind to it, he could do anything. I have to believe that, considering he's the reason I passed that advanced applied physics course with an A!"

He pointed to the man, "Teaching is a god-tier skill, you know?!"

"I don't know about..." Shion shrunk away from them all, blushing as they directed smiles at him. "W-whatever! Let's take a look around until the GMs show up!"

With a mixture of laughs, the group followed along with the one who always kept them together without realizing it.

"Ah, look!" Shion, suddenly excited despite his previous mood, pointed across the way.

All looked to a girl with a few friends. Eleanor Hume.

Erston chuckled heartily, nodding. "Ah, a Tales of fan. I see that she's a woman of culture."

"Bruh, check out THAT one." Shirou exclaimed, pointing out a tall and ripped man, posing for some women.

"Holy shit, he must've worked really hard to perfect the Escanor Avatar!" Josh exclaimed.

As they walked about the hub, they took note of many others, some whom they'd one day become close to. A master of the martial arts alongside his daughter, a swordmaster and his sister, a lonely redhead with few friends, a woman who'd later open their favorite pub, a brash yet protective lady warrior, an elderly assassin, a cheery pirate, a chaotic manager, an obsessive shield.

Without knowing, that day, which should've been the best in their gaming careers, became the worst of their lives. Nobody could know that things wouldn't go to plan, that things weren't as they seemed, that this game was, even then, not in fact just a game. When the GMs appeared to deliver them to the start, and as everyone embarked within The Labyrinth, they had no way of knowing what would happen. The moment it all blew up before them was one that no Player could forget. While many Players were in the roughly same vicinity, and the first to fall came at a silly mistake. Everyone laughed then, musing that they must feel silly for such a lame death. Assuming the Player would respawn, they thought the corpse remained for stylistic choice... And then more fell...and they quickly came to understand that they would get no second chances...

In the aftermath of a heated Event, the landscape was scarred, as if Titans had brought upon it their gargantuan cleavers. The Event Boss Efreet, its scorching remains scattered on the cold mountainous winds. A mad gale blew vigorously, as its controller let out heavy pants.

There was silence, only one other present for the spectacle. Saeko kept her distance, aware she might get hurt if she got close. "Shion...?"

Her voice snapping him back to reality, Shion rubbed his head as the Tempest flickered and faded away. "Sae-tan..."

Quickly moving closer, Saeko helped support him as he staggered. "What's wrong? Did you...see something?"

"I...remembered something that I..." Biting his lip hard enough to draw blood, Shion turned to bury his face against her neck. "I saw something that...!"

He took a deep breath, "I'm sorry...for losing my head like that..."

"You don't have to apologize," Saeko assured him, stroking his hair. "I understand completely...what it's like to be forced to remember...and see the things you wish you could forget..."

Blinking, Shion looked up at her to see her melancholy smile. "Sae-tan...sorry, I know you-"

Saeko shook her head, "Like I said, you don't have to apologize. Besides, nothing would ever ruin my opinion of you, Shion. Nothing. We've...been through way too much for that, haven't we~?"

"...You're right...thanks." Shion whispered, exhaling as he stood upright.

"Any time~" Saeko answered with a brighter smile. "You've saved me more times than I can count, so I'll never turn on you~"

Shion scratched his head, "Right..."

The two traveled a bit further up the mountain range, encountering Monsters which were promptly removed, until finding a good place to make camp for the evening. As they sat around a fire quietly, each succumbed to their own thoughts. Memories of a past which had never felt more distant than it did then.

Back in Japan, following the focused man's decision to mete out justice for what was done to his girlfriend. His friends would later describe that time, a period of over a year, as the time where he was most distant from them. He had more or less quit gaming, supposedly to focus on his life.

In the middle of the Himeragi Family meeting, which was held to decide the matter of the young heiress' inheritance.

The meeting had taken place across a few days over the weekend, and the guest of honor had hit the ground running, thanks to her boyfriend. With Shion's aid, Saeko had blown her entire family away, even Yuji and Morio, who had actually made it clear they supported her, being in the same boat. She presented herself as a changed woman, focused on moving past what had happened, to become someone she could be proud of being. With support from Shion, she forced them to accept that she was different, offering myriad proof into how she'd bettered her life, how she was giving it her all to graduate and pursue a career of her own, alongside him. Shion himself was the secret weapon even beyond that, as the family's many members had hired private investigators to dig around his past, uncovering only accolade atop accolade. His perfect academic record, fit for the prestigious Tokyo University, the many high-end job offers he'd received even before entering college. The tale of how he'd turned down TokyU to help their heiress as much as he could, pierced their cold and calculating hearts. Against all odds, the family had been completely and utterly charmed and won over by the affectionate and driven couple's resolve to push one another. Of course, a big part of it was also how Shion turned his life around so grandly, even after the tragedy with his parents.

"Jesus, this is terrifying..." Morio whispered, staring in disbelief as the outsider male was swarmed by their relatives, who were eager to keep talking to him.

Yuji fixed his glasses, a subtle smirk on his face. "I have to admit, when you suddenly called to agree to this, I never for a second considered that things would end up...like this."

He glanced at his niece, "Aoba-kun is something special, to be sure. I've never seen those fools take to anyone so feverishly."

Saeko stood nearby them, a warm smile on her face as she watched her love and best friend. "Shion is a miracle worker."

"..." Morio and Yuji both glanced at her, likely wondering the same thing.

The battle had been won from early on, the remainder merely a victory parade extended. The matter of the inheritance was unanimously decided on in Saeko's favor, the Himeragis openly supporting her choices from then on, all looking forward to the day they'd get the couple's wedding invitations. In the aftermath, Yuji and Morio approached Shion with awe, praising him for winning the family over with such splendor, where so many others had miserably failed. Saeko was nervous through it all, but said nothing as her past tormentors grew friendlier with her love, constantly inviting him out to different places to enjoy his company. Shion had calmed her through it all, even as the two brought him into their company, Promethean Pharmaceutics, starting him as a consultant, and then even a Partner in less than a month. They touted him as their fixer, the guy who got shit done. Whenever a tough deal looked to fall through, they'd send him to grease some palms. When a stubborn client refused to budge, he moved them with his wit and charm. His talent bloomed in the business world, and the company thrived for it. And just like that, three months had passed.

Saeko was worried, again and again, as Shion grew closer and closer to her uncle and cousin. And each time, her fears were assuaged by her love's stunning skill and adaptability. He acted as if his two greatest enemies had become his best friends, spending much of his time with them and their families, along with coworkers. He seduced them, much the way he'd seduced her family, and so many others along the way. Yuji and Morio quickly became comfortable around him, even letting their guards down on multiple occasions. Saeko secretly wondered if, maybe, Shion had truly come to like them, the very way that the entire world saw. But of course, she never spoke those thoughts aloud. She wondered what she'd do, if he had indeed gotten in too deep...

In the secure smart house home of Himeragi Yuji, where a Sunday get together was underway.

Saeko was in the kitchen with her aunt and her cousin's wife, while the men were busy elsewhere.

Yuji fixed his glasses, head held high. "Tell me, Aoba-kun! What do you think of my castle~?"

He spread his arms, as if to beckon across the urban scenery beneath them.

Shion scratched his head, drinking some wine with a smile. "I could get used to a view like this, honestly. This is quite the amazing place you've got here, Yuji-san!"

Morio leaned on the railing of the balcony they stood atop, "Hey, you've gotta check out my place next time, too! It's not as big, but the location's a lot more romantic!"

"Hm, now that is true, admittedly." Yuji agreed with a chuckle, extending his glass to tap to his son's.

Shion laughed a bit, watching them. "You know, I've been meaning to ask. How long have you two been working together? Did you build the company together?"

"...Nah, Dad started the company just out of high school." Morio replied, with minor hesitation. "His keen business sense helped him establish himself."

Yuji smiled at him, "Of course, you're no slouch yourself, my boy. Aoba-kun, when Morio came to work for me, I never thought he'd prove himself a most adequate partner. After two years, I promoted him and rebranded the company~ Of course, you more than just matched his accomplishments in far less time."

Glancing aside, Morio nodded slowly, a somewhat bitter smile on his face. "That's right...Shion, you're insane! I still can't believe that you're our Partner! It only took you a month man, what the hell?!"

Shion blinked a few times as he caught the reactions of the younger one, laughing nervously. "Uh...I just gave it my all! I guess things just happened to work out for me?"

"No." Yuji disagreed calmly. "No, no, you were born for this, Aoba-kun. You are...hm. You're remarkable, there's no such thing as a fluke for you. Do take my word for that, will you?"

"...Alright." Shion nodded, tilting his head a bit. {There's some things they're still holding back...not just from me, but one another. Guess I have to take more time to bring down their barriers. The dirt I've got is far from being enough.}

"Ah, Shion-chan, is my husband gloating to you~?" The woman who led the way out to the balcony was Yuji's wife, Morio's mother and Saeko's aunt, Himeragi Kaori, a gorgeous model of a beauty in her early forties. "He never gets tired of showing off to his associates~"

"More or less, Kaori-san~" Shion replied with a friendly smile.

Yuji glanced at her, setting a hand atop Shion's shoulder. "He's my Partner, Kaori, not my associate. This young man is the key to our success! Well, after me, of course."

"Of course." Morio whispered.

"You aren't jealous, are you Mori~?" The next was his wife, Himeragi Michiru. Like her mother in law, she was a stunning beauty who belonged in magazines.

Saeko nudged her with a smile, "I doubt it, Mori-kun seems to have fallen for Shion since some time ago~"

Morio blinked once, before laughing and putting his arm around the man's neck. "Got that right, you'd better be careful, Sae-chan! I might just steal this one from you!"

"Not if I steal him first~" Sang Michiru, her long strawberry blonde hair swaying about as she pushed against the flustered boy.

Saeko just smiled as her boyfriend blushed, nervously trying to answer to the four around him. {Michiru-nee and Aunt Kaori too...Shion didn't talk much about his interactions with them, but it seems they're also attached already.}

"Anyway, Shion-chan?" Kaori pulled him aside, holding up a bite-size snack. "Do be a doll and tell me what you think?"

"Uh, sure-" Shion began, the snack pushed into his mouth without warning, nearly causing him to gag. "That was...oh wow..."

He quickly devoured the morsel, a bright smile on his face. "That's really good! What is it?!"

"It's a secret specialty of mine~" Claimed Kaori with a wink. "I'd be happy to share it with you, though~ Sae has always loved it too, so I'm sure you'll win even more points if you can make it for her too~"

"Awww, that's not fair!" Michiru explained, pushing between them as Shion eagerly accepted the lesson. "I've been your daughter for years, and you still refuse to teach me!"

Saeko smiled slightly, watching the two girls tease one another over Shion, who quickly became embarrassed again.

Yuji cleared his throat, right as Morio opened his mouth, walking over and pushing Shion along. "Come, let me show you my prized cellar. I'll even let you take a bottle or two, for enjoyment with Saeko~"

"Really?" Shion looked at him as he followed along.

Saeko touched her lower lip thoughtfully, the other two ladies staring after them in surprise, while Morio was left scratching his head. {Uncle Yuji...he really does like Shion. I don't think I've ever seen him act that way before...was it actually jealousy? And Morio...}

On a simple night roughly a month later, when the main couple was home together.

Saeko ate some chocolate-covered pretzels as she watched a bad live action movie, laughing. "This is so stupid! I knew this wouldn't work in live action~"

"Does anything really work in live action?" Shion wondered, sitting behind her on the couch, legs crossed as he alternated reading across a few different books.

Frowning, Saeko turned to look at him. "Shion, what are you doing? I thought this was our night to screw around."

"It was, but...sorry, I'm just really interested in this right now." Shion answered with a small smile.

Crawling over, Saeko picked up one of the books, blinking. "'Hypnotics 101'? I thought you didn't believe in occult stuff like this? You constantly make jabs at Satan-sama, but now you're interested in hypnotism? And wait, I recognize this book! It's Aunt Kaori's, isn't it? She's always been curious about these kinds of things!"

Shion nodded, setting a book down to look at her. "That's exactly right, Kaori lent these to me today, after I brought your uncle home. He got a bit wild at the after-work party, so I helped her get him to bed. That was when I noticed that book. She caught my eye on it, and told me about her hobby involving that stuff."

He didn't notice her frown, as he looked back to the book. "I did think it was silly before, yeah, but...I dunno, something clicked when she talked to me! I'm more than prepared to be in for this for the long haul, but I've been thinking long and hard about HOW to pull this whole thing off, you know? I was thinking rationally all this time, but maybe...what if THIS is the way? What if hypnotism is the answer?"

{Just Kaori, huh...I've thought so, from the way she talks about him, but Shion's starting to spend a lot of time with her...and Michiru-nee too...} Saeko's expression turned pouty for a few moments, her eyes widening as she registered the rest of what he said. "Wait, what? Did you just say what I think you said?"

Shion nodded again, poking her nose lightly without looking. "You sure did, Sae-tan. What if I can just hypnotize Yuji and Morio? If I can get the hang of this, and master it, I might be able to settle everything a lot sooner, rather than later. Then we can put this all behind us properly."

"Behind...us..." Saeko whispered, before speaking louder. "Do you even want that? For all of this to be behind us, I mean."

Shion blinked at her, "What are you saying?"

Biting her inner cheek, Saeko glanced aside for a few seconds, taking a breath before looking at him. "It's been over four months since you've really seen anyone, did you realize that?"

Blinking again, Shion looked at his phone. "Huh...so it has. Time has really flown by, surprisingly."

"That's it? That's all you feel about it?" Saeko wondered, leaning in closer to him. "Sumire-chan constantly asks how you're doing, her and Aunt Shiena are worried that you're neglecting your health, working all the time. Not just them, Josh, Caleb, Shirou, Tatsuya and Erston are always wondering about you too, but they don't want to bother you since they know you're working really hard for Uncle Yuji. Of course, Himiko... Emi-chan and Ciri-chan, too. Ciri's the one most conscious of distracting you, but Emi's been restless. I see them frequently, and I never really know what to tell them. And...even...Airiel...seems to be out of sorts. Apparently, she's been losing herself in her job now, trying to keep her mind off you..."

Shion stared at her in surprise, especially since she seemed to even be showing regard for Airi. "Sae-tan...you're right. I decided to devote everything to this when we started, and for the last few months, I really have. I was careless, though. I shouldn't have neglected everyone the way I have..."

He took a deep breath, rubbing his head in exasperation. "They must think I'm such a damn asshole...that I'm leaving them behind to move in a different direction... Shit, I am an asshole. What have I even been doing...? The whole point of this is lost, if I lose all of them while I..."

Grabbing his hands, Saeko pulled them from his head to his lap, looking into his eyes. "It's not like that, Shion. They all understand, they think you're pouring everything into making your own path, a new career. They're proud, extremely proud of you...even though they couldn't even imagine what you're really doing. They love you, you know? And I...like them, too. Mostly."

The face of the eldest Riannon flashing into her mind made her blood lightly boil, and she shook her head. "Anyway, you just have to show them that they're still important to you. Why don't we invite them over, or something? We can play games like old times, and talk about silly, stupid things, just like we used to in high school..."

Taking another breath, Shion pushed his forehead against hers gently and firmly. "Saeko...yeah, that's what we'll do. I don't want to worry them, and I definitely don't want them to think that I...don't want to associate with them, or something. Let's have everyone over, like you suggested. I'll go all out to show them I'm still the same silly, fun-loving Shion that they know. And from now on, I'll try a lot harder. I'll make more time, to talk to them, to hang out with them... Losing them is the last thing that I want..."

"I know..." Saeko replied, hugging him tightly. {Maybe this is for the best in another way...maybe seeing them all again, might make him change his mind. It isn't too late, he can always turn back... And maybe, he shouldn't get any further involved with my family from here on...}

The next morning, in the camp.

Shion opened his eyes, sitting up and looking to his side, where Saeko was holding on to him tightly. {Sae-tan's...thoughts...? Is my subconscious filling in what I think she felt back then? Or...}

"But my, were those days glorious!" Yuji announced heartily, sitting in the nude nearby, legs crossed and barely covering his junk. "The parties we had, the adventures we embarked on! The escapades! The raw debauchery! Ah, I...I live for those memories. I LIVED for those memories."

"Yep...I mean, we ARE dead." Morio chimed in, not as chipper as he'd been beforehand. Fully clothed, he was sitting on his knees on the other side of the fire, eyes on the sky. "I gotta wonder, Shi. Didn't you know? Didn't you catch on? Didn't you see it?"

Shion avoided looking at Yuji, who seemed to vanish into smoke. "...See what?"

Taking a light breath, Morio looked at him. "The truth. About me, and HIM. I was just...always... Didn't you know it all? Didn't you learn it all? And yet you still...even though I... Even though I loved you..."

"You don't know the first THING about love!" Yelled Shion, eyes flaring with anger as the second specter went up in ghastly flames, leaving him to himself.

He grabbed his head in pain, a persistent throbbing within. {Shit...I'm really letting them get to me... Come on, Shion...you put them behind you, right? You won, you beat them at their own game back then... You won...}

Saeko kept her eyes closed as she held him, his shouting having woken her. {'You don't know the first thing about love'... It couldn't...be, right? Shion...he must've just had a dream about them, like me...right? Yeah...that has to...that has to be it...definitely.}

As the two once again withdrew into their own minds, a detail went unnoticed. A shifting, negligible shadow. A subtly sifting machination of thoughts, returning to its source. A single pair of eyes looked down upon the two from the highest point of the mountain range, observing with cool interest amidst the chilling and piercing winds. Were the two just puppets on his strings?

Later on, the powerful pair resumed their journey up the mountain range. Along the way, they saved a group of NPC teenagers and children beset by ice monsters, receiving a new Quest to find and rescue their father, who had been taken away by the monsters. The two accepted and chased the trail, which led them to a new Dungeon, which they decided to enter.

Within the Fractal Continuum, a very special area with a frigid domain.

Shion cast Shroud of Warmth, providing the two with more than adequate body heat. "Emi would like this place, huh..."

"Yeah, she would." Saeko agreed, walking a bit ahead of him while looking around at the strange space. "Shion...something's off."

"I noticed..." Shion moved closer to her, extending a hand as if trying to touch something. "Somehow...I can tell. It's like the seams between realities is weaker, here. It's similar to the sensation we all felt back then, isn't it?"

Saeko looked down, her thoughts wandering to the moment where she, Shion, Sumire and Keita had taken on the Trials of the Arcana, the challenges having taken them to a place beyond the Phantasmal Realm. "Yeah...like then..."

Taking a deep breath, she slapped her cheeks hard. "Whatever, we're here for a Quest! We've got to save those kids' father and reunite them! The loot is just bonus, right?! There's nothing to fear, when you and I are together!"

"Ahahaha!" Shion smiled brightly at her, nodding. "Yep, the loot is bonus, a nice bonus. And we can overcome anything together, just like always~ Let's get a move on, then, this Dungeon won't explore itself! Don't let your guard down, okay? We won't know what to expect!"

"My guard is eternally up~" Replied Saeko, before skipping off ahead of him, forcing him to chase after her. She heard her message tone go off, opening it quickly to find one from a Player named Obelisk. {"Caleb Howl is out of the way for now." Huh? What does that even mean? Who is this person? I don't remember meeting anyone with that name.}

A lone man let out a soft chuckle, spinning his hat around his finger as he observed the entrance to the Dungeon. "Right about now, the starcrossed lovers must be passing the point of no return. At long last, we'll all see for certain, just what the boy is truly made of."

The image of a woman with blue hair came to his mind, inciting a nostalgic smile on his lips. "I do apologize, Shiori-sensei, for putting him through so many trials that would sicken you. However, were you still with us, I'm sure you would feel the same as I. That boy, your darling Shion...he turns up everywhere, even where he's least expected. There must have been more to your affection for him, than mere motherly love. Even from young, he's always been a special little rascal, hasn't he? After all, you even abandoned the path you set us all down back then, so that you could nurture him. I simply wish to prove what I knew from the moment I laid eyes on him. That he's your most worthy success, your unrivaled masterpiece, a fact certain to be bolstered by the one who happened to choose him~"

"Hopefully, my dear won't be too upset, once she catches on herself." Setting the hat back atop his head, he looked over his shoulder as a sensation akin to a tugged string touched his mind. "Ah, the beautiful cousin is here? Never do the two stray too far from one another, whether they realize it or not. Perhaps I'll pay her a visit~"

Spinning on his heel, he took a single step away, his body disintegrating into a dull purple gray dust, which scattered on the winds in a controlled stream.

Within a dark, dreary space, a lifeless and lightless void of black and gray, covered in primordial storms of shifting dust and mist. A shattered realm unknown to logic, where the rules of the world bore no meaning, and broken structures and landmarks floated about without support, drifting along a mysterious current. It was upon one of the many unnatural islands, that the two made landfall, one and then the other.

Hitting the ground with a rough tumble, Shion shifted with the momentum, entering a high speed roll which ended on his feet in a low crouch. "Heh, 11/10, perfect landing-"

With an awkward grunt, he was thrown forward and off his feet by the one who launched into him with the force of a cannonball.

After the two came to a violent, tumbling stop, Saeko sat up shakily, rubbing her head. "That would've been a lot more fun, if it didn't end with such a wicked fall...Shion?"

The man was beneath her, his hand raised rigidly and twitching as she sat atop his back. "H-heavy...!"

"H-how rude!" Saeko gasped, narrowing her eyes on him while sitting up and pushing her knees against his spine roughly. "I bet you would never dare to say something like that to AIRIEL!"

Yelping loudly and sharply as he flailed, Shion smacked at the ground. "S-stop! Stop it! You're gonna kill me! I'm sorry!"

A few moments later...

Gasping for breath as he rubbed his back vigorously, Shion's teary eyes fixed upon the girl. "I didn't even mean you were overweight or something, Sae-tan! Do you even know how hard you hit me on the way down?! I was suffocating under you after that tumble! I could barely speak, I was just trying to get you to get the hell off of me before I passed out!"

Her cheeks turning red, Saeko glanced away with a nervous smile. "Y-yeah, I guess I overreacted a little bit..."

"JUST A BIT?!" Demanded Shion angrily, glaring at her for a half second, before his expression changed to one of shock.

"I-" Saeko began, cutting off the moment she saw his face. It prompted her to finally take a look around, bringing surprise to her own face. "T-this is..."

Getting to his feet slowly, Shion wiped his mouth. "Yeah...this is definitely it...the place we entered back then, when we received the Arcana..."

He paused a moment, seeming to hesitate before continuing. "I asked Airi about it a few months ago...she said this is the Ascendant Plane. It's the dark dimension where the Gods and other Deities of the Phantasmal Realm, like Ciri's Primals and Divine Ones, can fully manifest. Or rather...apparently, it's an interconnected network where their individual domains are located."

Stretching out to relieve the pain in his back, he looked to her. "It seems they chill out here when Ciri doesn't need them. Familiars as powerful as Puck also make their home here...in what Airi referred to as Throne Worlds. This is the home turf of the Gods, and they're even more powerful when they're here."

Putting aside her hatred for the mentioned woman, Saeko listened carefully, crossing her arms. "I get it, we've ended up in a really, really messed up place. How did we even get here, anyway?"

She turned to look in the direction they'd fallen in from.

Lifting a hand to his head, Shion rewound his memory to a strangely luminous pit which the two had come across, and leapt into when they couldn't find another path. "We were falling after we jumped, and suddenly everything went black. Before I knew it, I was here and you crashed into me. I...I don't get the feeling that that was supposed to happen, though."

"...Right, Satan-sama whispers the same thing to me." Saeko answered, taking a few steps away from him. "We're clearly not meant to be here."

Extending a hand, she opened her status menu with a small smile. "It's different from the last time, Shion. I have this weird status effect..."

"!" Shion quickly followed her lead, spotting the affliction with ease. "'Burden of the Unworthy'... Before, we had the effect called 'Weight of Destiny'. I feel off...like when I move, it's through a membrane of thick jelly, or something."

Nodding to him, Saeko replied. "I feel the same. The 'Weight of Destiny' had stacks that increased as we progressed through our Trials, and when we capped it out, that was when we moved on to the final test. It was a buff, though."

"Exactly, it seems this one is the opposite." Suggested Shion, while moving his arms about. "My intuition tells me that this debuff is applied because we don't have the qualifications to be here. And look at your stats."

Saeko blinked as she checked again, "-30%? Isn't that really harsh?"

"Yeah...that's why we should try to get out of here ASAP." Shion noted, motioning to her. "Let's stay cool and calm, keep our heads and look for a way back. We have no idea what's happening, this might even be a wicked bug, for all we know. The worst case scenario right now, would be being forced to fight. In the event that we meet resistance, hold nothing back. Depending on the circumstances...our Arcana might be our only salvation right now, so take no chances."

Taking a deep breath, Saeko nodded in agreement. "You're right, I'll be mindful of everything as well. Even Satan-sama doesn't want us to die in a dull place like this..."

"I'll...take your word for that." Shion whispered with a nervous smile, before pointing off to the side. "There's a path over there, but watch your step and take your time. If we fall into the abyss around us...well, I think even I'd be in danger."

"Coming from the Abyss King, that certainly is worrisome~" Remarked Saeko, as she went along with him.

Last edited by Sangios on Thu 11 Oct 2018, 06:51; edited 3 times in total
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He Who Was Born With the First Troll and Shall Perish With the Last

Age : 25 Registration date : 2011-08-16 Number of posts : 106 Location :
Race: Human

PostSubject: Re: When the shit hits the fan   Sun 07 Oct 2018, 10:53

The pair passed over the void of the Ascendant Plane together, carefully platforming their way safely while moving from island to island, which were all connected by random scattered geometries. Their brief exploration was cut short as they came across a structure similar to a gladiatorial arena on a gargantuan scale, comparable to that of the Expanse they'd passed through not long ago.

"Hmph, so you've finally made your way here." A gruff, inhuman voice called out from high above the two, cutting through the space like thunder.

Their eyes cast upward, fixing upon the individual. A giant, demonic entity with fierce spiky features and wings, dyed in black, red and gray, with gnarly horns atop his head like a crown.

Saeko blinked as she studied him, "He...looks very Keita-esque. His version of Satan-sama, maybe...?"

Shion felt cold sweat as he stared at the being, observing his details. "Urizen, God of Demons- Horns of ???... That name is..."

"It is as you must have surmised," Urizen called out, standing from a throne upon a balcony overlooking the field, revealing himself to be roughly 10 times the size of the Human male below. His massive wings spread, unleashing a powerful gale as he leapt down, the entire arena rumbling as he landed, standing up straight to look down on them. "I am, indeed, the very same Urizen of whom you've heard the tales. I am the progenitor of the Mortal Race known as the Demon Gods, as well as all even vaguely related to them."

His eyes glowed a blood red, fixing on them. "One Human, and...a Shinso Vampire? It has been centuries, since I last encountered one of your kind. You lack the elegant grace and nobility of your ancestors, child."

"Shion...I think he just insulted me." Saeko whispered sharply, nudging him.

Glancing at her nervously, Shion looked up at the Ascendant Deity. {This is bad...according to his legends and lore, Urizen is a warring conqueror who's never known defeat. A Wargod of the highest tier, who subjugated even the ancient Eldar race... The Siege Boss, Airi said he was the final King of the Riahst Kingdom. Even for all his splendor, he was just a subordinate of this one... He probably commands the fear and respect of all beneath him.}

Keen Sight. Focusing his gaze, his eyes shimmered with a dim light as he used his advanced observation skill to get a read on their counterpart's level and stats. He felt his fingers tremble as he took it all in. {A-as expected...he's tens of times stronger than the Siege Boss... His level is off the charts, even my Skill can't determine what his stats actually are... It took Caleb and I, and everyone else, working together to win before...how are Saeko and I supposed to fight him, just the two of us, when our stats are cut by a third...? Think, Shion...think! There has to be a way out of this...somewhere, somehow...!}

{That expression tells the whole story...} Thought Saeko, as she watched her friend. {He must more than live up to the myths surrounding him. What a fitting Deity to stand atop the pantheon of Keita-san's Race. I don't know what the deal with that ??? part is, though. If we combine Nemesis and Tempest, can we maybe stand a chance?}

"Silence. Understandable, given you were suddenly beset upon by my supreme visage." Remarked Urizen calmly, a low, dark chuckle gurgling in his throat. "I heard from a reliable source, that I'd meet a most satisfying adversary, were I to lurk around this place. Imagine my delight...as the two of you entered my web of your own volition. Considering the prior movements of the other Chosen, you two must certainly be a cut above the rest. To enter the Fractal Continuum on your own, you had to have been very confident in yourselves. I would have you demonstrate your valor, here and now."

Wincing a bit, Shion bit his lip. {To make matters worse, he just outright admitted that he's responsible for bringing us here. But...someone told him to expect us? My bad feeling about all this is...just getting worse and worse. What if this entire scenario was a trap from the start... No. Even if it was, I can't let that get to me right now. He wants a fight, and we have no choice but to respond as he wants.}

"Lilith." He called out sternly, taking a calm breath as he Equipped a number of items. High-level Accessories, along with a glistening silver longsword engraved with divine etchings, accompanied by a massive bladed scabbard on his back. Radiating brilliant holy power, it was known as Ludwig's Holy Blade, one of the great Holy Swords of the Phantasmal Realm, famous for being used to strike down the Undead Dragon Vorgeth, dealing great damage to dark denizens and sustaining its wielder by returning health for all damage dealt.

The moment she heard her Game Name, Saeko Equipped all of her best Accessories, instantly serious with sharpened focus. "I'm ready, Artorias. And if you must know, we're the two strongest Players there are."

Subtly nodding to her, Shion spun his weapon in hand thrice, before gripping the hilt with both and pointing the tip at their foe, his eyes fiercely narrowing on him as he inched closer.

A wicked grin worked across the face of the God of Demons, who roughly swatted at his battle raiment, which shifted menacingly as his claws radiated a dark aura. "What pure, steadfast resolve you both bear. Ye Chosen Children stand before the God of Demons, Urizen, Aspect of War itself! Come at me, or perish!"

His boast assailed the atmosphere like a storm, shaking the tainted air itself, as a raw aura of absolute domination spewed forth.

"That's the plan!" Shouted Shion, who lunged directly at him without fear or hesitation, even as the pinnacle of all demonic power burst from his enemy's body. The concept of losing, the fear of the unknown, overwhelming power before him, none of it so much as fazed the man as he made the first move, his eyes already set only on victory which laid ahead, at any cost. {I won't allow this to be the end. We're both going home, no matter what we have to do. No matter how strong he is, winning is all there is!}

"Tempest Arcana." Resplendent, emerald green winds stormed forth around his frame. An almighty field of omnidirectional wind flowing powerfully about him, both his shield and his sword in one, along with much more. The wind forged itself around the longsword as his speed and momentum instantly skyrocketed, bolstering and enhancing it significantly, combining the powers of the very concept of the wind and air, with the majesty of the illustrious Holy Sword.

Urizen's demonic eyes widened at the majestic sight, his grin somehow stretching further. His claws thickened and lengthened as he thrust his left hand forth like a vicious spear of the gods.

The wind caressed Shion, who shifted just enough to evade the thrust. It protected him even as an extraordinarily volatile and destructive force surged past, splitting part of the arena and rending the atmosphere itself. With a flourish of steel he swung his blade in counter, loosing it upon the throat of his enemy, whose grin remained as he shifted down flexibly and swiftly, counter to his size, avoiding the blow without so much as a graze.

The sudden response only surprised the Abyss King for but a fraction of a second, his mind immediately refocusing his resolve and intent as he twisted along the same axis of movement, lining up their actions with a vertical spin, from high to low, bringing the blade down with a circular cleave.

"!" Urizen lifted his right arm, receiving the blow upon his wrist, which produced a number of wicked thorn-like horns and resisted a swathe of razor sharp wind that broke against him and split off into the ground beneath him. He felt elation as he felt the ground split in two separate directions, opening up halfway across the arena. {Splendid!}

A slithering tail revealed itself at the base of his back, whipping out with immense force and slamming into the King of the Flames, launching him with greater momentum than he'd ever experienced.

Parrying the strike with his sword, Tempest intensified, growing extremely dense and compactly concentrated at the moment of impact. Afterwards, it thinned and spread out as its wielder was hurled aside at mach 10, catching him with such suddenness that a sonic boom resounded deafeningly. Shion recovered with a back flip, his entire body shaking for a second. He didn't return to the ground, instead kicking off a wall of solid wind at his back, launching himself even faster, like an arrow which would pierce even the Primal of Wind itself. {He's the real deal! A single direct blow, and it's Game Over!}

He thrust his sword directly into the Deity this time, piercing and cutting right through his skin and drawing blood while boring on relentlessly. He didn't even notice his own lips curl into an amused smile.

Having managed to guard with an elbow, Urizen's joy grew at the sight of the smile, his tail supporting him as he performed a stunningly crisp acrobatic twist off. Stopping the man below, he rose above and brought his right heel down upon him with insane accuracy.

Driven down to the ground, Shion projected the Tempest outward and above, the emerald winds storming in an upward dome. The earth beneath him upheaved brutally, mountains suddenly rising through the arena, from the massive crater beneath him. {This is...insane!}

Saeko had watched speechlessly for a few seconds, 8 to be exact, in which the entire exchange had taken place to then. {Crap, I was too allured by the sight! Seeing Shion fight a God has always been one of my dreams, but I can't indulge myself in it!}

Taking a deep breath, she exhaled. As she exhaled, she produced a chaotic boundary, a field of influence which spread like a virus which engulfed the entirety of the arena with ease. Almost immediately, the God of Demons and the Abyss King both felt opposing effects. The first sensed that his own domain would threaten to undo him, while the second sensed the hostile domain showing favor to him. "Nemesis Arcana."

Urizen's wings spread to maintain his position and weight upon his direct adversary, eyes shooting toward the woman. {This is her power? How curious! As if my own might now wishes to unmake me!}

{Took her long enough.} Mused Shion, exhaling strongly while pushing up with greater force and repelling the enemy from him with a mighty stream of solid winds.

"Hmph!" Resisting the stream with his body, Urizen was carried high into the ascendant skies, wings beating outward to catch him as massive vessels of menacing darkness crackled into existence, launching off at the two.

{What ridiculous power he packed into those~} Saeko observed with a subtle smile of her own, raising both hands as the incarnation of chaos came forth within her sphere of influence. The Unseen Hands of the Nemesis Arcana manifested and aimed for the Demon God, traveling at extreme speed, 30 in all, each roughly a third the size of his giant frame.

{What is this sense of uncertainty?! Danger approaches, my senses only vaguely capable of perceiving them!} Urizen mentally noted, watching as some of the vessels were caught against the invisible forces and squeezed down to nothingness, while others were repelled with great force across the Ascendant Plane.

He moved both arms this time, swiftly in various directions, striking out at the unseen threats to repel them, feeling each was paradoxically light as a feather, yet heavier than a mountain. {How profound! Whatever it is, it seems to shatter the concept of reality itself with every slightest motion it makes!}

Shion inadvertently grunted at the sight, sensing what had happened. {He was caught off guard, and he still managed to deflect them like that?! He's handling them even better than I did back then!}

Whistling sharply, Saeko's smile grew as she drew the hands back. "You're definitely worthy of your title, Urizen-saaaan~"

Moving her hands out in random directions quickly, she controlled the 30 Hands expertly, as if each were her own limb. They weaved and wrapped about the Deity, each's palm directed toward him now. "How about this?"

Each Hand unleashed its own wicked wave of Chaos Energy, in a swirling stream form, all converging upon their foe at once and uniting in a cataclysmic explosion which leveled all of the recently erected mountains instantly and spread far beyond.

Shion sweat as he watched, Tempest carrying him out of the blasting zone as his smile strained. {There it is...that's the strongest Arcana User for you... Even The World fears the depths of her power, no matter how he tries to deny it. I'm again reminded of the sheer difference between us. Sae-tan never once rejected her power, she embraced it unlike the rest of us. Her lack of fear enabled her to experiment and develop more than anyone else... I really am glad that she's back to my Sae-tan, I don't know if I could possibly withstand her by myself like the first time.}

His focus slipped slightly, as he looked down at his hands, the longsword gripped in them. {She must have the right of it, though...should I just let go, after all? If I really don't care what happens to myself, so long as I can protect everyone...then shouldn't I just give in and allow myself to fly free from now on?}

Whistling again, Saeko stared up in awe, as chaotic dust blew away from the blasting zone. "I'm not exaggerating when I say that this is the first time that anyone has ever survived my chaotically induced matter~ Just what are you made of, Uri~?"

Through the dust, Urizen was revealed to be in one piece, his wings wrapped around himself as darkness faded. His giant frame was riddled with injury on the surface, a glowing purple substance flowing from a few. "It's been ages since I last bled..."

He looked down at her with clear curiosity, tilting his head. "Child, you weren't jesting, after all. I rescind my claims of your diminished nobility. You bear power over the purest forces of Chaos, which significantly exceed even the authority of Elucifur himself. Surely, you two represent the very best of The Chosen Children! It was worth the effort to bring you here, after all!"

Shion blinked once, {I've thought so since we laid eyes on him, but...something is weird. Putting aside his insane strength, he's...different from everyone else we've met so far. The Siege Boss was an impressive one too, but he's...much further ahead. There's something...very unsettling about him... Almost as if he's...almost like he's actually- No, stop it Shion. Don't let your mind race off without you! There'll be time for thinking when we're out of here and safe!}

"I wonder if you'll be singing that same tune in a few moments?" Saeko mused, raising her arms again as she produced even more Hands, larger than before.

"See that your confidence doesn't devolve into base arrogance, Child!" Answered Urizen with a booming bark, threatening armor cladding his body as horns twisted and forged around his arms and legs to produce gauntlets and greaves, his wings becoming slimmer, longer and sharper.

{I may lose out in power, but I can't let her do all the work.} Decided Shion, the Tempest as he lifted his sword high above his head, the winds funneling around the Deity to produce a massive tornado which would encompass entire mountains. As the winds overtook the God of Demons, much to his surprise, he swung his blade down to cleave the tornado in two with a tremendous blade of air.

Saeko watched in awe as well, smiling again. {That's my Shion~}

The battle between the three raged on for over 30 hours, in an intensely sustained clash of overwhelming forces. Wind and Chaos made manifest, clashed against the raw dominant Darkness of the Demon progenitor, remaking the entire arena a hundred times over as the time dragged by. Lilith maintained her distance, and even when attacks reached her, she was able to fend them off or evade enough to avoid certain death, her natural Shinso Regeneration allowing her to quickly recover, allowing her to support her partner and cover for him with Shroud of Bats, which granted her brief invulnerability while assaulting her foes. All the while, she manipulated probability as much as possible, in Shion's favor and Urizen's downfall. Artorias himself wielded his winds at a level which he'd never before approached, his Skill rapidly leveling by the minute as he danced with death, never allowing the God of Demons to get too far from him when he was on the prowl. He'd retreat briefly in the windows Saeko could offer, then leap right back in after the slightest time to recover HP or replenish Mana. Likewise, he'd cover for her when she required the same consideration. Atop Tempest, he began to incorporate his personal Skills, the ones which had earned him the Title of Kensei, for the first time ever in conjunction with the Arcana. His extended time on the doorstep of his own demise seemed to heighten his already fabled perception to untold levels, somehow elevating his already lofty and extreme skill even further as he swiftly began to learn the ins, outs and intricacies of his own ultimate power.
There was a point in the relentlessly combative dance, where Artorias and Urizen clashed blow for blow, both completely attuned to the actions of the other, attacking, defending and countering seamlessly in perfect tandem, neither able to harm the other even slightly. Her watchful eyes carefully yet eagerly taking it all in, Lilith bore witness to the evolution of her partner in real time, noticing the clear advance in all his abilities, despite the fact that he should've been getting more and more tired by the moment. What caught her attention most, was the odd transition of the Tempest's color, from its emerald green to a vastly paler shade.

With a rough laugh, Urizen completed a spectacular acrobatic twisting spin kick, almost breakdancing as he blitzed his opponent away from him with crazy striking power. Landing with a spry bounce in his legs, he lunged forward with godspeed, aiming to deliver a brutal uppercut as his wings, tail and Darkness fended off the Unseen Hands.

Barely managing to recover and land shakily, Shion skidded back over a few kilometers before catching himself. Looking up to see his charging rival, he felt his consciousness transcend the limits of his Human body, elevating and sharpening in tune with the Winds as he found himself raising the longsword and inserting it into the scabbard at his back. {Give in...surrender to the flow of the Tempest. Become one with it...take command of it. Fear not your own strength.}

The scabbard locked itself around the inserted sword, almost as if encasing and bolstering it, as the edges sharpened even further and shimmered with holy light. Pulling it from his back, it took the form of a greatsword as he hoisted it effortlessly in spite of the weight, allowing the momentum of his own movements to lead and guide him. {Be just like the wind you control... Free...unfettered...unbound.}

Urizen's uppercut connected with the descent of the greatsword, his gauntlet cracking on contact as Wind stormed against him viciously, his Darkness teeming forth from below. "!"

Shion's silver gray eyes shone brighter than ever, as he found in himself the strength to stop the blow in its tracks...and more than that, to overcome it. Carrying through, Ludwig's Greatsword cleaved the entire gauntlet in two, splitting apart the horned hand of the Deity, beckoning his purple blood to spray like a fountain.

{Amazing...} Saeko just gaped at the sight in awe, unable to look away as she observed the realtime advance of her boyfriend's already godly skill as a Player. Due to her distant perspective, she also noticed something before he could. "Artorias, up high!"

His eyes shooting upward instantly, Shion seemed to fluidly adjust the trajectory of his cleave, redirecting the blade before it could hit the ground, and aiming it right back up in the opposite direction. Pitching his sword into an uppercut of his own, he met the other arm of his opponent. Tempest surged around him, projecting away from his body and gathering completely in the greatsword, which got faster and faster by the instant, until it both caught up to and overtook the downward punch which had been thrown long beforehand. The pale, gentle, vicious winds streamed freely from the blade, as the Holy Sword's edge split the gauntlet and the Demon's entire arm, all the way up to his shoulder. Carrying beyond it, Tempest's wind forged a primal blade which cut into and all the way through the Demon Deity, going even beyond his gigantic frame, beyond the ground and the bounds of the gargantuan arena, rather far across the Ascendant Plane's infinitely shifting void of space.

"How...?" Muttered Saeko in disbelief, eyes wide as the God of Demons collapsed, his armaments broken as his severed body fell with deafening rumbles. She looked past him, to the now split arena, and the disrupted corruption of the Ascendant Plane's atmosphere. {I know I was boosting his probability of success to the max, but that was just...unreal. The way he reacted just now, it was like he...transferred all his momentum upward...but that doesn't... No...unless he...became one with the Wind? Did Shion just harmonize his Arcana for the first time?}

Overcome with exhaustion with his adrenaline dropping, Shion fell over with his greatsword, onto his back. He panted heavily as he sat up immediately, wiping dirt and blood from his face as he looked at their mutual enemy, whose blood threatened to produce a river of its own. "W-we...won...!"

"YOU won!" Saeko exclaimed excitedly, leaping into him as she dropped upon him, nearly knocking him over. "That was sooo awesome! How did you do all that?!"

"I...don't really know, honestly." Shion admitted, touching her back gently. "I was sort of...in the zone? Everything just kinda came to me...it all flowed like never before... It might sound silly, but it was like I somehow...became one with Tempest?"

"It's not silly!" Saeko insisted, leaning in close to him. "It's exactly what I was trying to tell you a year ago! When you embrace the Arcana as a part of you, and stop fighting it, its inordinate power is all laid bare to you! My ability to manipulate probability by controlling Chaos is how mine manifested! Yours did so in...well, whatever the hell you just did! Satan-sama is proud of his Knight, for certain! Try not to forget the sensation you just felt! If you hold on to it, you'll find yourself becoming stronger than ever!"

Shion blushed as he stared at her, shivering a bit. "I've...never seen you THIS excited before, Sae-tan...it's sort of scary..."

"Splendid..." Urizen called out. "Remarkable. You fight with astounding power...your skill with a blade may surpass even that man's. Ahhh, how long it's been since I've engaged in such a fulfilling contest."

His body, to the shock of the two, emitted a black gaseous substance, similar to the mists of the Ascendant Plane itself, everything connecting and dragging back together. His HP, which had hit zero in the last moments, replenished rapidly as he sat up, and eventually rose to his feet, though he was half the size he was before.

"No...way...!" Shion and Saeko both croaked in despair, unable to believe their eyes as they watched him recover with ease, from what should've been his death at the hands of the Holy Sword-wielding Kensei.

"Were you Children unaware?" Urizen wondered, tilting his head as he crossed his arms, his wings folded at his back as his tail whipped about to reflect his emotions. "The Ascendant Plane is more than just our domain, it is our seat of power. Ascendant Deities cannot die in this place. At least, not to conventional means of destruction. Perhaps if you mastered those mysterious abilities you both possess, things may be different."

He let his head return upright, looking down at them. "You are both interesting beyond measure. You're nothing like the other Chosen Children I've encountered until now. It has truly been fortuitous that we would meet here today... He will be pleased to meet you, for certain. I would have you accompany me from here on."

Gritting his teeth loudly, Shion pushed himself to his feet, Tempest flowing around him once more. "We'll have to take a rain-check on that!"

Unlinking his arms, Urizen lifted his right hand beckoningly. "If you must struggle once more, I happily oblige-!"

He cut off, falling to his knee as he coughed up blood, his repaired body shining where he'd been cut by the blade. "Ahh...I see now... I thought that steel felt nostalgic~ You wield quite the Holy Sword, Child!"

"This is unfair..." Whispered Saeko in distress, grabbing Shion's arm.

Blinking twice, Shion looked down at his greatsword. {I thought it was having no effect beyond restoring my HP, but...was the smiting effect just delayed because of his peerless power? Either way, this is our chance!}

He grabbed Saeko roughly, pulling her against him as Tempest surged violently, propelling them up and out of the arena, far off across the Ascendant Plane's skies.

"...Then it's to be a hunt." Suggested Urizen, who took a seat on the ground, resting instead of chasing them.

"Master Urizen?" A voice called out, as a demonic creature materialized nearby. "You insisted on challenging them yourself, but I don't understand. Even in the face of their exorbitant power, why did you restrict your strength? If you didn't hold back, they would be the ones on the floor now, even with that Holy Sword."

Letting out a light chuckle, Urizen gazed at his subordinate. "It was a test."

"A test?" The Demonic Subordinate blinked at his master.

Nodding, Urizen shut his eyes as Darkness swirled around him wickedly, devouring the Light smiting him from the inside out. "Correct. The Drifting One shared the arrival of those Children with me, a week ago. I waited here to be the first to meet them. He told me they would surpass my expectations, and he was right to a stunning degree. They may be capable of appeasing His Lordship, should their full capacity have not been revealed yet."

He paused a moment, "More importantly, our battle would have alerted the entire Ascendant Plane for certain. Assemble our forces and hunt them down. Capture those Children at all costs, before any of the Others get a read on them. This glory belongs to me, and no one else."

"Your will be done, Master Urizen!" The subordinate announced proudly, its wings spreading as it took flight.

Urizen opened his eyes, looking down at himself. {Even holding back, for me of all Deities, to be injured in such a way. Truly curious, indeed. Lilith Branwen, Abyss King Artorias... Is that name coincidence? Did he choose it, unaware of the implications? Or could it be that Artorias is really the one His Lordship has awaited since The Fall? I am most eager to see for myself.}

The Town of Barnemouth, in the courtyard in the local base of the Flames of Lordran. An hour after the Efreet Event Boss was decimated elsewhere.

With the commotion of the mysterious events surrounding the recently installed Lord of Cinder, the Flames were busy dealing with the fallout on various fronts.

Airiel stroked at her hair, taking deep breaths as she struggled to remain calm. {Things would be a lot easier if the others could be recalled, but I can't have them go against the orders their King gave them. I'll work with what I've got.}

She looked aside, where Beverly and Yuna were conferring with their subordinates in Mastodon and The Hand respectively. Glancing in the direction of the infirmary, where Prinny was entrusted with caring for Wynne, she shook her head silently. She then turned her attention to her younger sisters, who were reassuring the NPCs of the town that all was under control. {At the very least, Eleanor should be returning this evening. Things will be a lot more manageable with her here.}

"Lady Xerxes!" Beverly called out, approaching her with a bow.

Looking down at her with a slight smile, Airi responded. "Thank you for your aid, Beverly. And please, drop the formality while we're alone."

"Ah," Smiling herself, Beverly nodded. "Alright, Airiel Onee-sama. And it's only natural for us to help, when you're all stretched so thin! After all, your Guild is always leading all the efforts on the Frontline~"

Airi's smile faded immediately, as the smug face of the woman who was the oil to her water flashed in her mind, but returned almost as quickly. "I forgot to ask, where's your father? It's not odd that Bakuto would refrain from showing up when Shion isn't here, but I was surprised that Hiroyuki didn't."

Beverly took a breath, "Dad is...refining himself. He asked Yuna to help me out while he was away."

"I see." Answered Airiel curtly, crossing her arms and glancing away briefly.

"Um...about him, though?" Beverly tilted her head. "Where is Shion-chan? Dad didn't mention he was gone, but if he was here, I can't imagine that he wouldn't be going crazy right now."

Looking at her again, Airi replied. "He's busy searching for some missing women for one of his closest friends. There's no need to bother him with this. Besides...I get the feeling that he wouldn't answer even if we contact him."

"Really?" Blinking a few times, Beverly scratched her cheek with a slightly nervous smile. "That's-"

Both ladies had their attention caught as a new arrival made great waves in everyone present.

Keita made his way across the courtyard, his figure cutting a stellar contrast from all others, given that he stood very clearly above them all. Clearing his throat sternly, he projected his voice in the commanding tone which struck others with a combination of fear, respect and anxiety. "Xerxes, we need to talk."

He looked around curiously, instantly recognizing that they were in the middle of dealing with the missing town his subordinates were investigating. "Where is Artorias? This is something I would like to have his input on as well."

The moment she laid eyes on him, Airi's pupils seemed to narrow slightly, the other girls quickly moving closer. "It's been a while since we've had the pleasure of meeting in person, Greivor. Unfortunately, our King is busy handling the request you refused to accept for Vijay."

Keita blinked a single time, clearly caught off guard, though he relaxed very minutely upon ensuring they weren't in earshot of others. "So Vijay turned to him instead, I see...that makes a lot of sense. In the first place, perhaps Aoba-kun was the one whom Vijay was most eager to request aid from."

"Um, why's that?" Beverly asked curiously, looking up at him.

Emilia held Puck in her arms, scratching his ears as he slept, his head against her chest and rubbing it. "Shi-chan's the one who helped Vijay-kun set up the Devas of Anarya. Araxie and Brunern were two of the ones with them at the founding. It's a bit annoying, but those girls were pretty clearly taken with Shi-chan since they first met. I hate to say it, really, but they did open up to him a lot too. Vijay-kun knows that, so he probably felt Shi-chan was the most capable of finding them."

"But Vijay-san was always really wary of asking Yu-nii for anything." Ciri pointed out with a slight frown. "Because he's always been under so much stress, since he founded the Flames back then. He probably felt there was no other choice, when his mind went to darker places..."

Yuna set her hands on her hips as she listened, "I see, that's understandable. Even my brother, though he'd never say so aloud, hates bothering Shion if he can help it."

"Hello, by the way~" She chimed, smiling up at the man who embodied the cruel strength of the law.

"I apologize, ladies." Keita lowered his head to them. "It's been some time since we last met. I would enjoy the chance to catch up, however my business with Airiel-san is urgent."

"Just Onee-chan?" Emilia wondered, as Puck let out a cute meow, his paws catching one of her fingers.

Keita looked down at the Familiar for a few seconds as the girls stared at him, nodding. "Again, I apologize for my manners. However, given that Aoba-kun isn't here, this is a matter for her ears alone. If you could forgive me, I promise to make it up to you in the near future."

Clearing her throat sharply, Airi cut off the girls before they could happily accept his promise. "There's no reason to show them such consideration, Keita-san, they're busy as well to begin with. Come, let's speak in Shion's office."

The women pouted as they stared after Xerxes and Greivor, who went inside the base.

In the office of the Emperor of the First Flame.

"So, what's this about?" Airi inquired without hesitation, looking up at her friend.

Keita nodded once, deciding not to beat around the bush. "I recently spoke with that menace Nabu, and learned of some...concerning details."

The moment he answered, Airiel knew exactly where he would probably end up going. Her suspicion was instantly confirmed as the man shared with her everything he became privy to, clearly having one singular question at the heart of it all.

She lightly grit her teeth, hands subtly shaking with anger. {I knew it...I knew it...! I should've hastened the removal of that fool Kenneth a year ago, just as my intuition told me to! There was no way that he wouldn't be working his own angles and threatening the safety of us all! That waste of space doesn't even know what's really happening here, yet he dares to speak authoritatively on Caleb, ignorant as he is? I shouldn't have listened to Alexander and Lethe when they told me to let him live. How can he be such a dumbass? I knew his blatant idiocy would come back to bite me. And with such bad timing, too...}

"I need to know, Airiel-san." Noted Keita sternly, eyes fixed on her. "What happened in that lab? How does it relate to PSO? And more importantly...how involved in all of this were you? I wish to reserve judgment until I hear your side, but...I have to admit, I have trouble with feeling certain that you AREN'T our enemy. Doubting one of my closest friends is...not something I'm proud of, however..."

"...No, it's in your nature to feel that way." Airiel suggested with a deep sigh, shaking her head. "Were our roles reversed, I would confront you with far less consideration. And in this situation, especially considering that you're the shield which guards all Players, it'd be odder if you believed in me blindly, regardless of how long we've been friends."

{The truth...I at least have to give him a version of it. One that he can accept.} She lowered her head, her red eyes on the floor between them. "I-"

Her reluctant confession was cut short as the doors burst open, the women they'd left barreling in.

"What's the meaning of this?" Demanded Airi, her voice a low growl.

"S-sorry Airi-nee!" Ciri exclaimed, going to grab her hand. "It's an emergency though!"

Yuna and Beverly sweat a bit as the other two tilted their heads, "Uh, the Band of the Hawk is here..."

"...Ah." Keita blinked a few times, looking to the woman whose jaw dropped. "That's right, I did warn Shion, but I suppose he wouldn't have been able to share the news with you."

He scratched his head as his friend glanced at him, "It's frustrating, but I understand. We should deal with this immediately."

Airiel nodded to him, "Yes, we should."

Back in the courtyard, where the Flames were attempting to contain the newly arrived Guild of grand repute.

The sole woman of the Guild, Casca, stood just behind their leader. Around them were Judeau, Pippin, Corkus and Rickert, the ones just beneath their Guild Master.

Guts, the Black Swordsman. He stood there confidently, as if he owned the place. His wicked Dragonslayer Greatsword rested on his back with shocking ease, his fabled Berserker's Armor already equipped and in its dormant state. Despite his Human Avatar, his stature was second only to Greivor himself, who approached with the women. "Oh? How interesting, I didn't expect to see you here, Divine Palisade."

Keita fixed his glasses while speaking, "Greetings, World Buster."

All grew tense with the two most intimidating Players in the game now face to face, inadvertently backing away from them with uncertainty.

Airiel ran a hand through her hair, noticing that everyone else was speechless. {Justice and Strength. With Shion gone, Keita is the only person who would be capable of defeating Guts if he goes berserk. Hopefully, it won't come to that.}

"It's been a while, Guts." She spoke calmly, looking up at him without the slightest hints of fear or concern. "To what do we owe this surprise?"

"It isn't like you to play dumb, Xerxes." Guts replied coolly, smiling at her.

Rickert whistled as he stared at her, "Wow...Lady Xerxes is even more gorgeous in person, huh..."

Corkus chortled, his cheeks red as he stared, eyes wandering behind her. "The same goes for Satella and Merascylla~ I'll be damned if they ain't the sexiest sisters in the world~"

"Corkus, please." Pippin gently struck his head.

Judeau smiled in amusement, "The Divine Palisade, the Queen of Fundament, the Witch of Envy, Nature's Princess, and of course, our World Buster. Is the Kensei around to give us the honor of bearing witness to a direct meeting of 6 of the Top 100 Players in PSO~?"

"Um, no...Artorias isn't here right now." Cirilla admitted hesitantly, looking at him.

Casca glanced at their leader, whose smile soured upon hearing the news. "That's unfortunate, we were really hoping to meet him today."

"He's busy with matters of his own, and he won't be back for a while." Xerxes explained calmly. "If that's what you're here for, you're free to stay in Barnemouth until he returns. We'll happily provide you with lodging, if you so desire."

"And if not, you can always state your business with us instead." Greivor added, crossing his arms.

Guts chuckled in amusement, looking at all of them. "It's not that big a deal, I'm just disappointed that I missed Artorias, that's all."

He casually motioned to them, "You work just fine, in fact. I doubt this should come as a surprise to Xerxes or Greivor, but we want to head out to the Frontline ourselves now. I was hoping I could convince Artorias to form a Joint Guild Party with us, but I can't help it if he's gone. You don't mind, do you? I assume you're in charge, Miss Second in Command. If we're there, we can push things along a lot faster."

He paused a moment, speaking again before anyone else could. "And of course, I'm perfectly willing to help out wherever you ask. If there's anything you'd like us to do, we will. You can give us any task you desire, it doesn't matter as long as we're out there and fighting. The Known World is too small for our wings, we need space to stretch them out."

"Hm..." Greivor stroked his chin. "Xerxes?"

Xerxes took a breath, feeling all eyes on her now. "It would be foolish to turn you away when you make your case so clearly. Moreover, it would make us look petty if we denied aid from our most notable Rival Guild. Very well, you may go to the Riahst Expanse and beyond, provided you make a concession in line with your desire to help us."

"As long as it isn't unreasonable." Casca called out, setting a hand on her hip.

Xer glanced at her, before up at Guts. "I would never ask for something that you can't provide. If you're to go the Frontline, I would accompany you."

"...Come again?" Keita, Emilia, Cirilla, Yuna and Beverly all gaped at her, along with nearly everyone else.

Airiel shrugged lightly, "It's only natural, no? We can't risk too many of our forces, but we also can't allow the Band of the Hawk to act without oversight in unknown lands. The Flames of Lordran blaze the way for all Players, but we're first and foremost the standing army of the Phantasmal Realm and all its friendly residents. Rival or not, we couldn't stand for model Players such as yourselves to come to harm on our watch. At the same time, I know that you all have trouble working with outsiders. I, however, am adaptable. So if you truly wish to go, it will only be with me along."

She pointed over her shoulder, "We'll have to wait until I can relinquish my post to Eleanor, one of our Chosen Undead. I trust you've no issues with this arrangement?"

Guts burst out laughing, reaching out to roughly pat her shoulder, something which surprised most, given that the ice queen herself didn't lash out. "This is why I've always liked you so much, Xerxes! I get you've got your reasons, but no matter what, you're also an adventurer at heart! Just as you say, we'll wait until you're ready to head out! We'll just be sampling the delights of the Town while we wait~"

"Yes, please enjoy yourselves." Airi replied with a smile. "I'll notify you in the instant I'm ready."

All were speechless as the other Guild vacated, its members as shocked as they were.

"Onee-chan...what was that about?" Emilia wondered, pointing after them.

"Right...is that a good idea?" Yuna asked hesitantly. "Everyone knows they're strong, but...those guys have a reputation for not taking too kindly to outsiders. And they're practically cursed, given how many outsiders have died around them."

"I'll be fine." Airiel claimed calmly. {This turned out to be perfect. I've set this up as part of my responsibility in Shion's place, so even Keita won't be able to stop me. I've wanted to observe them up close for some time now, and this also gives me time to decide how to answer Keita satisfactorily. It's the best move that I can make as things stand, and even if Shion returns before I do, Keita wouldn't bring this up without me being there. I'll have Eleanor handle my duties when she gets back.}

She looked up at Keita, "I'm sorry that things turned out this way, but...I promise that we'll talk more when I can come back."

"Very well..." Fixing his glasses, Keita looked down at her. "Just to be clear, I won't forget about this. And I won't permit you to, either. When we next speak, I'll be expecting you to hold nothing back."

"Of course," Airi answered with a nod. "I'm going to get my Inventory together, and I'll also need to make an Item run in Town to ensure I'm properly prepared for the journey. I trust you're aware of things on behalf of Caleb?"

"Naturally," Keita replied. "I'll have my people work with yours where possible."

He turned away, walking off to leave. {Is this fortuitous timing for her?}

"Are you sure this is a good idea, Airi-nee?" Ciri asked with a frown. "Guts-san is...scary sometimes."

Puck, who had woken up during the exchange, stretched out a bit, licking his paw. "He clearly does like her, right? Besides, this is Big Sis we're talking about! Isn't she a lot scarier than big ol' Guts over there~?"

"That...is true." Emi, Ciri, Bev and Yuna agreed, smiling nervously. "He's the one we'd be concerned for, if they ended up fighting."

"...Is that so." Airiel whispered coldly, sending chills down their spines, all of them quickly trying to double back on what they said. "I'm off. I've a number of things to get in order before I leave."

The girls smiled weakly as the woman stomped off without another word, everyone staying clear out of her way. "She's mad at us..."

With the return of the Secretary, the Second informed her of the situation and entrusted her with command until either her or the King would return. As she set out with her new companions, Greivor remained in Barnemouth as a guest of the Flames, where he'd decided to conduct his business from.

Upon emerging onto the Riahst Expanse, the Band of the Hawk and Xerxes hit the ground running. They blazed a trail across the expanse, felling hordes of Monsters along the way. Their actions triggered new Events, which they overcame with a mixture of their own strength and the genius of the Queen of Fundament. They stumbled upon a number of new and interesting Quests, met new NPCs and even took on new Dungeons yet to be discovered. All the while, Airiel observed the group carefully, taking note of their ability and capacity, their caliber as individuals and the incredible force they became when uniting their skills.

At the end of a high-level Dungeon with a powerful Boss...

With a mighty roar, Guts brought the Dragonslayer down into a rending cleave, severing the Dungeon Boss in two halves, its rotted blood spraying like a geyser in random directions as the Dungeon itself split ahead of the gargantuan blade. The Berserker's Armor clung to his frame, constricting his limbs in the form of a ghastly beast. He let out a blood curdling bellow which shook the entire zone, while stomping his foot atop and through half the Boss's head, opening up a crater beneath it.

Airiel gulped loudly as she stood aside, away from the Band as they passionately cheered for their leader. Her eyes were glued to him, in concern rather than admiration, as the blood of the Boss drenched him. {He's...even crazier than I thought... He fights with reckless abandon, throwing himself at his enemies without hesitation or thought. He's unnaturally strong, he powers right through the fiercest of attacks without issue. He looks like a hopeless musclehead, but his skill is the real deal. His passion explodes when his armor draws it from him. I haven't even seen him use the Arcana, and yet...it's easy to see that he's virtually unrivaled among all Players. He's a terrifying warrior of unfathomable depths... The rumors are certainly well-placed for once...he may indeed be the counterpart to Shion.}

Letting out a deep breath, Guts ruffled his hair a bit while glancing over his shoulder as the Loot was distributed. "Yo, Xerxes. You good?"

"I...yes, I am." Airiel answered with minor hesitation, walking over and waving a hand over him as an Alchemy circle appeared and cleaned him.

"Ah," Guts looked at himself in surprise. "That's certainly handy. Would you mind teaching that to Rickert? I pretty much always end up covered in blood and stuff by the end of any real fight."

Glancing at the boy in question, Airi nodded. "I can imagine. And he's a bright boy, so I have no issues with sharing some tricks with him."

Casca cupped her hands around her mouth while speaking, to get everyone's attention. "We're done here! Everyone, wait until we get back to camp before you examine your Loot! The battle isn't over until we've returned safely!"

Touching her cheek thoughtfully, Airi watched the Band cheer in response. {Putting Guts aside, all of them are impressive in their own way. At this point, I would be a fool to deny that they really do rival us in terms of Guild prowess. It's a good thing Shion turned down the Guild Skirmish a few months ago...facing them would be dangerous.}

In an autumn forest area on the Frontline.

Airiel sat aside in camp, observing her companions as they conversed joyously, many pleased with the Items they earned in the Dungeon and from the Boss.

Guts walked over to her side, looking at his friends then at her. "Mind if I join you?"

"Not at all, Guts-san." Airi replied calmly, glancing at him.

"Heh," Guts smiled a bit, sitting on the ground and leaning against the tree nearest her. "Feel free to call me Mihail."

Blinking a few times, Airiel turned to him in surprise. "That's-"

"It's not that big a deal to me, really." He quickly interjected. "I know how everyone feels about the netiquette we all decided on back then, but I don't particularly care for it. I'll observe it in public and in the field, but when I'm with the people I like? I'd rather they let loose with me, if possible. Of course, if you're against it, that's fine too. It's your choice, Xerxes."

"..." Looking down at her lap, Airi's fingers shifted together as she seemed to mull his words over. "My real name is Airiel...Mihail-san."

Guts was the one blinking this time, whistling sharply. "I half expected you to berate me for being so personal with you."

"To be perfectly honest, that was my first instinct." Admitted Airi without hesitation, letting out a light sigh. "But you know, even I get sick of keeping everyone at a distance, sometimes..."

"Yeah, I...can kinda imagine." Guts suggested, setting his hands behind his head and against the tree. "It's tiring to keep your guard up all the time, especially here. I think it's the same for everyone. That's why it's so important to keep the ones you care for as close as possible. When all the cards are down, and you don't have a hand left to play, your loved ones are the only ones who've got your back."

A small smile came to her lips, as Xerxes pictured her boyfriend, his cousin, her sisters, Caleb and the rest of their tightly knit family. "You're...probably right about that."

Chuckling lightly, Mihail looked up at the sky through the tall trees above. "Airiel, though. That's a beautiful name, it suits you, I think."

"Your name...Mihail seems a bit too calm to belong to you." Airi claimed, looking at her hands as he laughed, agreeing with her. {How strange...this is the first time we've really spent any time together, and yet he can so easily say that he likes me? Even though everyone likes to say I have more thorns than any rose does? The only person who's ever really been able to get close to me without being pricked is...}

She took a breath, looking to her new friend. "Mihail? May I speak plainly with you?"

"Huh?" Guts scratched his head. "You don't have to ask permission for something like that. If you want to say something, just do it. I'm not as smart as the ones you're used to being around, but I like to think that I can keep up decently well in most subjects."

"I see." Airi answered, crossing her legs. "I've been watching you, all of you, very closely."

Guts nodded, "I noticed. The real reason you joined us, is that it was the best chance for you to see what we're really like with your own eyes, right? Seeing is believing, and all that. And moreover, I get the feeling that you wanted to size us up properly, in case we ever became enemies."

Jolting awkwardly, Airiel glanced away from him, her cheeks turning a light red. {He's not wrong, he's sharp. And much smarter than I'd imagined him to be.}

She cleared her throat, "You're an impressive Guild, even by my standards. You lack the strong structure which ours boasts, you aren't driven by devotion or loyalty to a just cause. You're all...wild. You freely follow your passions, and you're all so close. The only thing you're loyal to is the bond you've fostered together. There's much less of you in comparison, and yet I can tell that we would have a very hard time if we faced you directly."

"Oh? Hearing that kind of praise from you is actually really significant." Mihail admitted, grinning a bit.

Xerxes looked at him, "Although our Guilds are polar opposites, I see an unexpected similarity. Faith...they believe in you, Mihail, just as we believe in our leader. You're very different people, of course, but...watching you reminds me of Artorias, somehow. Just like him, you...seem to be looking at something far beyond yourself. You...seek the greatest challenges you can find, to test yourself as you reach for some lofty pinnacle which eludes you. On the way, you don't care for what becomes of you. You wouldn't hesitate to burn all of your life away for a single objective..."

She took a deep breath, "He's the same way, did you know that? It isn't just the time that he risked his life for a single NPC when nobody else could be bothered to care, he's...always been that way. Always striving to improve himself, to be better than he was before, to do things that others don't want to get involved with. And the way his eyes are always set on something so far...it terrifies me. I often consider that he'll leave me behind, one day...to go somewhere far, far away. Where...my hands can no longer reach him."

She gripped her skirt tightly, "The will to fight for an ideal so strongly that you'd give your own life...I can't understand it... And I get the same feeling when I watch you. That you don't care if you survive, as long as you can achieve that ideal, whatever it may be... That drive is perplexing."

Sitting upright, Guts closed his eyes while pulling his left knee in closer. "Hey, did you know? Artorias and me, that day we clashed at Ryhx Walk, when Greivor had to step in and stop us from killing one another. That wasn't the first time that we met."

"It...wasn't?" Airi looked at him in surprise. "But he would've told me about you if..."

"Yeah? Well, we were too small to even make a blip on his radar at the time." Guts remarked with a bitter smile. "It was near the start of all this, back there. Do you remember how the Labyrinth made you feel, Airiel? How often do you think about what we all went through back then?"

Biting her lip, Airi lowered her head. "It's more like I can't forget, no matter how hard I try to... I...I think about it every day... How many we lost...those we watched die, too weak to make a difference...to save anyone... I'd never felt worthless...not until we found ourselves trapped there."

"Well...we feel pretty similarly, then." Guts suggested, resting his head atop his knee. "Those guys and I, we chose these Avatars and Names for obvious reasons. When we got trapped here, we resolved to try and live up to the legacy of these characters. I never thought that it would...be so hard. We went out almost every day, even while most were withdrawn and horrified. We struggled every day, but we always made it back, somehow. I felt like we were on our way to becoming truly strong...strong enough to make a difference. To do the things that we...couldn't find the power to do IRL. To help save everyone. I wanted to be a hero...someone that everyone else would look up to with admiration, that they'd call upon for guidance. I wanted to be that kind of man...and because things seemed to go so well, I...got a big head."

He paused a few moments, "The Reaper's Culling...that massacre which nearly claimed the lives of thousands of Players in a single day..."

"Were you...there?" Airi wondered, starting to connect the dots.

"Not just there...I was the idiot who convinced all those Parties to march together, kicking off the start of my curse." Guts replied with a sigh. "I was stronger than them, I thought that I could do the heavy lifting, and that them being there to support us would...give them hope, strength. That it would spur them. I really was an idiot, though. A fool who thought that he could race alongside the legendary Kingslayers, as a pillar of the PSO community. But my foolishness nearly cost me everything. The Reaper of the Black Vault...it was far beyond anything I could've imagined. I failed, in every way possible. I couldn't protect the ones I'd gotten to follow me, I couldn't keep my closest friends safe...I could barely even manage my own life... I hated myself more and more with every second, as that sadistic bastard reaped through us like a wheat harvest."

He looked at his hand, which was shaking visibly. "It was when all seemed to be lost, that it happened. That I saw him for the first time. Or rather, heard him... He was arguing the entire way...with the other two. I thought the group was on the higher depths, that was why I made my move that day. But he heard what was happening. It seemed that he'd ditched his two partners, who were adamantly against him being there on his own, without them. They cursed at one another like crazy, and he hung up on them. His presence reassured everyone...settled them. By himself, he turned it all around. That man, that day, he did alone, what thousands of us couldn't do together. The first time I saw Artorias, was when he 1v1ed the Reaper...and won. The sight of his unbelievable victory moved us all thoroughly...we were speechless..."

"And though he was injured through it all, he gave all of his Items to us...to make sure we could recover, that we could make it back the hub..." He continued, clenching his fist. "Since then, he's done lots more than that, things even crazier than that. Abyss King Artorias...he's the Hero of PSO, the Hero everyone needs and wants. He's the living manifestation of the concept of strength itself...that's what I thought then...and what I still think now. He always does the impossible, almost as if it's expected. The image of his resplendent figure and might...it drives me, sustains me. Artorias is more than a living myth, or hope, for me. He's the very representative of my ideal strength. I want to be like him...I want to match him the best I can...to be worthy of being called his rival."

"That's why I fight the way I do, Airiel." He looked over at her. "I want to make the impossible possible, just as he always has. I want to become someone whom others will find relief in, from presence alone, the way he serves as a beacon for all. I want to live up to his reputation, and more than that, I...want to surpass him. For my ideal...I intend to die trying, if I must."

"Mihail..." Whispered Airiel in awe, staring at him as he got quiet and looked to his Guild. {The guilt he bore back then, the pain of knowing it was on his shoulders. Shion...do you even realize what you really mean to others? Someone like Mihail, he grew this strong while chasing after you. Do you really understand, Shion...? Do you understand how the Player Guts, and so many others, are drawn to you? Can you even imagine that so many more must also see you as the manifestation of their own ideals?}

In the real world, a couple of years ago. When a brilliant woman found herself getting hopelessly involved with a grand design which would ultimately consume, not only her, but everyone that she felt most strongly for.

In the Japan branch of the famous company, Nirvana Games. During the interview which would serve as the beginning of her role in a plan decades in the making, which would change the lives of many in the end. She had no way of knowing at the time, just how far things would go, how much she would change, or whether or not her future would later be seen as a dream or a nightmare.

Airiel Riannon sat before a panel of managers, answering all of their questions for her to the best of her ability. Easy questions, simple questions, and later more complicated and difficult ones. The questions grew proportionally more complex as time went on, and though she felt apprehension at the implications behind some, she kept her wits about her, never growing flustered or losing her composure. It was in the aftermath of a serious discussion on the human consciousness, and what it really meant, that it happened. That she really got drawn into a massive web.

The door to the room opened, the managers bowing their heads and deferring to the one who burst in without warning. A man with shoulder length, messy red-violet hair and amber eyes, dressed in a long lab coat. In his mid 30's, he was someone that she recognized on sight alone.

The man, Moshe Krausz, was a famous prodigy that had taken the entire field of 'Quantum Brain Dynamics' by storm with his radical yet inspired ideas. Someone whose books she'd eagerly read in the past, books he'd written when he was only 15, after graduating from a prestigious European University. "Miss Riannon, I have a question of my own for you."

"Y-yes?" Sitting up rigidly, Airiel stared at the man she'd always dreamed of meeting one day, now a pile of nerves reminiscent of her constantly flustered boyfriend.

Moshe pulled a chair over, sitting and leaning over the backside as he stared at her with a curious smile, eyes lit up behind his spectacles. "Where do you believe the human soul is located? Please, take your time and answer in your own words."

"The soul...?" Blinking at him in surprise, Airi felt herself starting to sweat, suddenly face to face with and so close to one of her heroes. She shut her eyes, forcing herself to seriously consider the question, regardless of how odd its timing was. "Many don't believe the soul...is something which exists in a form that can be quantified, or observed... But if there's one thing I've learned while studying and seeing the current advancements in neurology, it's that life itself may just be a hyper-complex system of programs we've yet to gain access to. In that case, though I haven't really given much thought to it in the past, I..."

She paused, opening her eyes to see his smile, which seemed to invite her to speak honestly. "I...suppose that...no. If there really is such a thing as a soul, and if we humans all have one, then...shouldn't it make most sense for it to exist within the network we unravel every day? Taking into account your well documented Evanescent Photon Theory, the soul should be found in our brains, no? After all, it's the very center of our existence and awareness, where the Fluctlights gather."

Standing up without warning, Moshe stroked the light hair on his chin, nodding a few times before turning away from her.

{Did...I say something wrong?} Pushing her hands together nervously, Airiel looked toward the managers, who silently smiled, then at her idol. "Um...Professor Krausz...?"

"What are you waiting for, Miss Riannon?" Wondered Moshe, motioning to her. "Let's immediately get the tour started~"

One of the men cleared his throat as the woman blinked, "Krausz-sama, you're getting ahead of yourself again."

"Ah...ah, that's right!" Moshe snapped his fingers, laughing heartily as he scratched his head. "My bad, I often find my mind racing so far ahead, that my body can't keep up!"

He bowed his head respectfully, "If you're serious about working with us, Miss Riannon, you can start this moment~"

"...Seriously?" Airi's jaw dropped as she gaped at him awkwardly. "Just...j-just like that?"

"Just like that," Moshe confirmed with a nod, stretching out lightly. "I'll let them handle the details, but I dislike wasting time which can be spent productively. I'll show you to your office at the end of the tour, and-"

Another manager sighed deeply, cutting in. "It's happening again, you know. She hasn't even given you her answer, and you're suddenly making decisions for her-"

"Yes!" Shouted Airi, much louder than she'd intended, while rising from her seat. "This is the only place that I want to work! I'll be in your care!"

Chuckling as she bowed deeply, the managers watching in surprise, Moshe went to pat her shoulder. "Perfect! There's no need for that, though, okay? You and I will be working very closely from today on, Miss Riannon~"


Izaya's The Boss:

Stomp That Shit!:

Shizu-chan's Seismic Toss:

Chill Izaya/Poor Izaya:

Last edited by Sangios on Thu 11 Oct 2018, 09:29; edited 1 time in total
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He Who Was Born With the First Troll and Shall Perish With the Last

Age : 25 Registration date : 2011-08-16 Number of posts : 106 Location :
Race: Human

PostSubject: Re: When the shit hits the fan   Thu 11 Oct 2018, 09:27

Following the unorthodox interview and impromptu hiring, the eldest Riannon had immediately thrown herself into her job, which began with the aforementioned tour and ended after a meeting with Moshe and some of his VIP colleagues, one in which she was informed of the true goal behind Nirvana Games's lengthy endeavors. The Evanescent Photon Theory stated that there were light particles acting as quantum units of the mind, which existed in the microtubules of nerve cells. The light particle, the Evanescent Photon, exists in a state of indeterminism (meaning a state where actions might happen without apparent causes) and fluctuates according to the probability theory. A collection of these particles, a Quantum Field which Nirvana games has given the name Fluctuating Light (abbreviated as Fluctlight), is what comprises the human consciousness, in other words, the human soul.
Through the intricacies of the Nervebral Gear, the premier Deep Diving Technology of the age, it was observed that the soul was a gateway into untold layers of dormant potential, some of which could be demonstrated in various ways when the human mind was pushed too far. Nirvana believed that the Fluctlights comprising the soul could be selectively and intentionally stimulated, to forcefully control and regulate the evolutionary ascendance of the brain. Doing so would open up these mysterious layers, and theoretically give humans access to arguably supernatural abilities. Establishing this gateway into the soul itself, to further the evolution of mankind and push them to their perfect form...that was the goal of Nirvana Games.
Of course, these details were a very well kept secret, and it turned out that Airiel was one of a few hundred people around the entire world privy to that theory now. Moshe himself, as the one who primarily spearheaded the theory and substantiated it in various ways, was the very first subject to be involved with the research, while also being the man behind the plan; this because his vast knowledge would allow him to accurately inform the flow of the research and experiments. Airi's job was to support him as his assistant and partner. She would daylight as the Lead Lore Writer, when in reality she would be his handler/understudy along the way, involved in a revolutionary secret for the next step of evolution.

Time seemed to fly for those involved with Nirvana Games, especially for the few privy to the true designs, which were planned to be brought about through the release of PSO. Working very closely with him, Airiel had grown rather close to her mentor over the months, a natural occurrence given how much time they spent together. The two very quickly came to enjoy one another's company, and many of their colleagues frequently expressed envy over how strong their bond had become. For Airi, Moshe was the epitome of intelligence and vision, his thoughts capable of moving the entire world one day. For Moshe, Airiel was a young light who shone upon him in ways that only one other person ever had, constantly surprising him with fresh perspectives and input.

A few months into her tenure with Nirvana Games, a certain interaction took place, following a certain cousin pair's snooping.

Moshe let out a long yawn, covering his mouth as he walked along an elevated walkway. His attention was caught by some commotion below, as he passed over the main reception area of the building. "Hm?"

Stopping to look down, he found a head of vibrant blue hair, belonging to a person whom the receptionists seemed quite familiar with, as did many of his colleagues. He seemed to freeze, finding himself glued to the stranger, even as his precious understudy approached him.

Face bright red, Airiel rushed across the space desperately. "S-shion! I'm so sorry to keep making you have to do this!"

Waving his hands dismissively, Shion shook his head. "It's no trouble at all, Airi, don't mention it~"

Airiel felt herself turning redder, trying to ignore a number of amused grins from her coworkers around the area. "I...see that SHE isn't with you today."

"Uh, yeah, Sumi was too busy with a project to join me this time." Shion answered with a slight smile.

"How surprising, then she does know what it means to be responsible for something." Crossing her arms, Airi glanced away for a moment, before looking up at him.

"That's a bit..." Shion trailed off upon getting a good look at her, stepping closer and setting a hand on her cheek, pushing his forehead to hers firmly.

Jolting awkwardly, Airi's face somehow got even redder than before as she found herself nervously flailing. "S-shion! What are you-"

"How long has it been since you got more than a couple of hours of sleep?" Shion inquired, interrupting her. "You look exhausted, you were out of breath just from walking the short distance from your office to reception. You're clearly not eating properly, considering how often I bring you food. I know I've said this before, but I get worried seeing you like this, Airi."

He moved his hand from her cheek to her hair, gently running his fingers through it. "I know you're passionate and eager, and I love it, but you need to take care of yourself. If you carry on like this, your beautiful hair will start to fall out~"

Freezing up, Airi stared up at him shakily. "I...know... I'm sorry to always be a bother..."

"Not at all, you could never bother me~" Replied Shion with a warm smile, which seemed to strike her heart directly, while invoking a number of cat calls and whistles.

"!!!" Jolting once more, Airiel turned her attention on everyone else, who'd stopped what they were doing, moving closer and closer to watch the two with eager interest. "Guh-!"

"...'Guh'?" Shion tilted his head as she suddenly grabbed his hand, pulling him along as she made for the doors. "Uh, Airi?"

"I-it's a waste for you to just go home after coming all this way! T-the weather's beautiful, so eat with me!" Airiel exclaimed, practically mumbled, while dragging him.

"Yeah, go have a wonderfully romantic lunch date, lovebirds~" The receptionists cooed loudly, waving after the couple as Airi directed an awkward glare at them, Shion just laughing as he went along.

"Shion, hm...?" Moshe lifted a finger to his lower lip, staring after the two as they left under all eyes. "That face, that hair...could it really be her...?"

Roughly a month following the previous event.

Moshe laid on a couch, resting as he listened to energetic humming from the girl whom had become dear to him. "You're in very high spirits, my dear Airi. Did you enjoy your brief date with Shion-kun?"

Having been in the middle of high speed data input, Airiel's fingers hit the wrong keys as she jolted with the question. "W-was it that obvious?"

"Quite, you're always glowing rather spectacularly after spending time with that boy." Moshe explained with a calm smile, looking over at her. "Lethe seems to be jealous when she sees you on cloud nine, right after looking as if you're going to crash~"

Pushing her fingers together a bit meekly, Airi looked down after correcting her mistake. "Shion is...special to me. We've been together for almost my entire life to now... Between my little sisters, his cousin, and our mutual friends, I don't often get the opportunity to be alone with him, so..."

"You value your chances greatly, I understand." Moshe answered, chuckling as he sat up. "By the way, are you aware that Shion-kun has been getting rather close to two of our major collaborators?"

Blinking, Airi sat upright and alert. "Our collaborators? Who? What are the chances that he would?"

Smiling slightly, Moshe lowered his feet from the couch to sit properly. "The brilliant men behind Promethean Pharmaceutics, the explosively growing company involved with cutting edge medicine and technologies. Himeragi Yuji and Morio-kun, quite the impressive men for sure~"

"Himeragi...?" Airiel watched him in surprise.

Moshe nodded to her, "That's right, it's natural that you'd recognize the name, given that you're friends with the heiress to the Himeragi Family~ Yuji and Morio are her uncle and cousin, respectively~"

Cringing subtly, Airi covered her mouth for a few seconds. "Friend is a very strong word, in relation to Saeko-san and I."

"Yes of course, I've heard very similar claims from her in the past~" Moshe admitted with a light laugh.

Tilting her head, Airi replied. "I know Shion helped her through the meeting which secured her position as the heiress recently, so I suppose it's natural they'd have met. Considering how well the meeting went, in Shion's own words, it's not surprising that he'd form a strong relationship with them either. However..."

Tapping his chin, Moshe grinned a bit mischievously, an expression that only she ever saw regularly. "You're well aware by now, of the myriad individuals who have helped us along the way to developing our technology? Well, Saeko-chan played a tremendous role in laying the groundwork for us. I'd argue that she's the one we owe most of our success to, in fact."

He continued, noticing her eyes fix on him skeptically. "Don't let your feelings for her get in the way here, my dear. Saeko-chan, the mental institution she was placed in following that incident? It's owned by the Himeragi Family, and it's deeply connected to Promethean Pharmaceutics."

"...So that's what you meant..." Airi whispered, before speaking louder. "Saeko-san was experimented on during her time there? Shion said that she never talks about it, so should I assume that she was instructed to keep it secret?"

"Not...in so many words." Answered Moshe. "Saeko-chan spent extensive time under experiments...among other things... Anyway, we extracted an exorbitant amount of vital data from her Fluctlights while she was there, by putting her through a number of life-like or fantastical simulations. Her experiences very dramatically informed our efforts, in fact. However, her memories were modified in the process, so that she wouldn't remember the true nature of the experiments. I was in charge of her throughout it all. She believed that our work was rehabilitating her..."

Airiel caught a grimace on his face, but it quickly passed over, so she let it go. "I see...so Saeko-san was one of your most valuable subjects."

"More than that, she..." He trailed off as he decided against saying what he wanted, redirecting the conversation. "Saeko-chan and I spent a lot of time talking. About the incident, what she felt and thought. That's why I was already aware that you two aren't on good terms. She seemed to dislike you, even from back then~"

"The feeling was mutual..." Growled Airi, with a bitter expression.

Chuckling a bit, Moshe motioned to her. "Saeko-chan loved to spend the majority of our time together, speaking of someone. A Shion, who just so happens to be the same one you love so much~ She held back in many of the things she said, but never when it came to him. For Saeko-chan, Shion-kun was light itself. Thoughts of him...the strong love she harbored for him, it was the one thing which kept her going through everything. No matter how...difficult things seemed to get for her, she was sustained entirely by her thoughts of finally going back to him. She was always such a beautiful girl, but that wonderful smile of hers was only seen when she spoke to me of him. That girl would have lost her mind completely, if it wasn't for him meaning so much to her."

Looking down at her hands, Airiel felt a sharp pain in her chest as she listened, conflicted between the bad blood between she and the girl, and the fact that they both looked at the man between them with similar feelings. It was at that moment that something clicked. "Moshe...I didn't really notice until just now, but ever since that day you saw him, you seem to be very mindful of Shion. Why is that?"

Scratching his head as he slumped over a bit, Moshe contemplated his answer before responding. "Himeragi Saeko, her family, Caleb Howl, and even you yourself, my dear Airi, along with others. Do you believe that, under normal circumstances, there would be anything to tie you all together? No, I'm sure there wouldn't be. Because Shion-kun himself is the one who ties you all together."

"Well...that's true." Airiel admitted, stroking at her hair thoughtfully. "I only met Caleb through Shion. Honestly, he's the one who brought all of us, everyone that I cherish, together."

"Precisely, Shion-kun is the only one." Moshe began, resting his head atop his hand. "He's the singular constant, within a literal sea of variables. Someone treasured by Caleb and his sister, someone beloved by you and your sisters, a man who managed to win over the notoriously stubborn Himeragi Family as the lover of their heiress."

Holding her tongue with the last comment, Airi spoke a few seconds later. "It's true that it's...uncanny, now that I really consider it. For me, Shion's... I love him dearly, with all my heart. He's different, from myself and everyone else. He's...pure. Unlike the rest of us, he moves through life unblemished by the dirt which mars us all. He always shines, no matter what happens... He's seen the very worst of what humanity represents, with his own eyes, and yet he...never hated anyone... Not even the person who took his parents from-"

Moshe's eyes seemed to soften as he stared at the girl, who'd covered her mouth to stop herself from continuing. "I've been meaning to ask this for a while now, but I could never find a natural way to bring it up until now. Airi, Aoba is the family name of Shion-kun's father, no? What is his mother's?"

"Huh...?" Airiel blinked at him, lowering her hand. "Well...yes, Aoba is his- Was his father's name. Aoba Yusuke...Shion's middle name came from him. Uncle Yusuke was...well, that probably wouldn't interest you, Moshe. Sumire, his cousin, is the daughter of his mother's sister. Their surname never changed, because the father disappeared a long time ago, and they never married. They kept the family name Kanou. Shion's mother's maiden name would've been Kanou Shiori... Aunt Shiori was...so special. She was like a second mother to me, and-"

She was cut off by a sudden laughter, low and throaty. "Moshe...? What's the matter?"

His laughter sounding like pained croaks as it stuck in his throat, Moshe covered his eyes after removing his glasses. "Hahaha...I knew it... I knew it the moment I laid eyes on him that day... Perhaps I was scared to face the truth I knew, and so I allowed my mind to retreat from it... So Shion-kun isn't just yours, Saeko's and Caleb's, he's also...Shiori-sensei's..."

Leaning forward over her desk in shock, Airiel stared at him. "W-wait, sensei? Do you mean that Aunt Shiori is-!?"

Nodding slowly, Moshe answered. "That's right, my dear. Kanou Shiori is the mentor I've spoken to you about. She was my professor in university. She was a guest for a few months overseas, and her mind...her beautiful, brilliant mind...it shaped my own in ways I'd never believed possible. When she left, we kept in touch through correspondence. After I graduated, I chased after her to her home, back here to Japan. She was such a strange woman...she never wanted to be publicly praised for her accomplishments, the incredible strides she made in this field. Even though she was the genius behind the Nervebral Gear, she..."

"A-aunt Shiori was?!" Airi gasped in disbelief. "But she never- Shion never said anything, either!"

"Likely because he never knew." Moshe suggested. "If she told him anything, I assume it'd have been too subtle for his then young mind to piece together. I was her subordinate, she fostered my intellect, challenged me in ways nobody else ever had. She pushed me to be better, every single day that I was with her. Everyone praised her for her humility...even though she was so brilliant, she never acted like she was better than anyone else, even though everyone knew without a doubt, that she was. She enjoyed her life so much...so purely. She adored teaching others...she balanced every part of her life so...spectacularly, it was baffling. She always had time for her little sister, she even spent time with her estranged brother. When someone asked her for help, she did whatever she could, even though she should've always been so busy...and not once, did anyone ever see or hear her complain... No, she had no complaints...because she loved everyone..."

He paused for a few minutes, "Of course, as it turned out, even she could choose a favorite. Someone whom she loved more than others. A man that I fell behind, even though I'd been with her so much longer..."

Looking down, Airi whispered. "You were in love with Aunt Shiori, weren't you?"

"Yes...she was the only one for me, I thought. I still think that, in fact." Moshe admitted, hanging his head back weakly with a sigh. "I first noticed a change in her behavior, when she started showing up to work late. She never showed up late. She...somehow, she began to glow brighter than ever, and her work just kept improving along the way. I heard about him when I overheard her speaking with the other ladies about romance... Yu-kun, she called him...I'd never heard her giggle the way she did, when she said his name... And much the way that Shion-kun takes care of you when you overdo it, so too did this Yu-kun do the same for Shiori-sensei. The way she'd melt in front of him...it was so conflicting. I was happy for her, I really was...and at the same time, I hated the fact that I wasn't the one who was making her feel that bliss."

"I did some digging on him, about a month after meeting him. I tried to keep my distance, but my jealousy became unbearable, and I hoped it might resolve things somewhat." He continued, "Aoba Yusuke, an only child who took care of his sick mother, after his father passed in his youth. He was a strong man, a martial artist who quickly rose to prominence in Japan, a young champion in MMA. He used all the money from his fights, to care for his mother the best he could. She had brain cancer, and Shiori-sensei was consulting for her case, as a favor to doctors she went to school with. That was how they met, how they bonded. When his mother died, she was there for him every step of the way. I suppose they fell rather hard for one another... Yusuke-san had heard a lot about me from Shiori-sensei, he thought I could help him surprise her, since I knew her better than anyone else did. When he decided to propose, he consulted me alone...and had me help him devise the perfect romantic plan."

Airiel's eyebrow twitched a bit, biting her lip in pain as she listened, having a rough reaction despite the situation. "That...sounds just like him. Uncle Yusuke was always jumping into everything feet first, never really thinking about how his actions affected others... I bet he'd have known if he stopped to look...that you loved her too..."

"Maybe." Moshe mused with a bitter smile. "I considered sabotaging him, I really did, but...I guess I loved Shiori so much, that I couldn't, knowing she'd be the one hurt most by it. They were married just a month later, all our coworkers were at the wedding, like me. Can you believe that she wanted me to be her Maid of Honor? If Shiena-san hadn't stepped up in time..."

"Y-yes...Aunt Shiori could be very...dense." Airi said softly. "Shion got that from her."

"Indeed, that boy inherited his charm from his father." Claimed Moshe with a pained chuckle. "Everything went by like normal, over the next year. We made huge strides in our research, uncovered incredible discoveries. And suddenly, she announced that she was pregnant. I remember the keen sensation of my fragile heart breaking into millions of pieces at that moment. 'This really is it', I thought. There was definitely no chance that they'd ever separate and give me a shot..."

He let out a deep sigh, as the girl got up and went to sit by his side, holding his hand. He looked at her as he continued, watching him sadly. "Even pregnant, that didn't stop my Shiori-sensei. She took it in stride, and somehow...she was more beautiful than ever before. She was so energetic throughout the whole term. She gave her all in everything, never slowing down, even when Yusuke-san tried to make her rest. I'm sure you can imagine, but he didn't know what we were doing. He didn't know what Nirvana Games was after, and even if he did, he couldn't have understood. All he knew, was that we were all working toward the perfect DDRPG, PSO."

He looked aside at her, "Near the end of her pregnancy, Shiori-sensei spoke to all of us. She said that she'd been working so hard, so that she could wrap up...her story with us. And she did...Shiori-sensei, that brilliant woman...she created two things far beyond our understanding and current technology. Perfect AI...which we would later work with to significantly advance development on PSO."

Airi's jaw dropped, though she kept hold of his hand. "P-perfect AI...? What exactly do you mean when you say that?"

"Exactly what I said..." Moshe answered with a bitter smile. "Well, just saying so isn't enough for you to understand...but you will, when the time is right. Anyway, that's how it was. She worked so hard, so she could leave us in a position where losing her wouldn't hurt so much. She wanted to give everything she had, to a new project...her beloved child. She admitted she was having a son, and that she wanted to pour every ounce of energy she had into loving and raising him. We were all emotional as we made our peace with her decision, giving our blessings to her. She was effectively retired from then on, but even so, she never turned us away. Whenever someone had questions about her research, or needed help, she would give it. She didn't allow me to grow apart from her, she wanted me to stay close, because I was her best friend...she said that I was more of a brother to her, than her real brother ever was..."

Feeling even more pain in her heart, Airiel held his hand tighter. "That couldn't...have been easy to hear."

"It wasn't...but I was still relieved." Moshe noted, scratching his head with his free hand. "Because, to Shiori-sensei, I was second only behind Yusuke-san...and that was better than nothing, for me. Anyway, our whole team was there when she went into labor. All we crazy workaholics, tossed everything aside to be there for her. We must've harassed the hospital staff rather viciously while demanding information on her condition. Yusuke-san came out to see us a few times too, he was more out of sorts than we'd ever seen him. But we all got through, somehow, and finally met him, the one she loved so much. Shion-kun was such a tiny little thing back then...and honestly, adorable as all hell. He had his mother's face, for sure. So bright and innocent..."

He took a breath, "We didn't see her in person for a long while after that, though she net-chatted with us frequently. Sometimes, she'd confer with us while playing with him. Over time, our contact grew more...scattered, stretched out. It was hard for me, and I eventually did drift away, throwing myself into my work...our work...to carry on where she left off. Apparently, there'd been some trouble with her family, and she ultimately stopped getting involved with our projects. I assumed she was happy, living a perfect life with her perfect boy, her perfect husband. I wanted to believe that. And that's...why I just lost it, when I later heard what had happened to her... I couldn't believe it...I couldn't bear the thought that...my Shiori could've...that someone...that anyone could...have hurt her that way..."

He gulped loudly, curling up. "I was so angry...at Yusuke-san. He should've protected her from anything, what else was his strength good for...? I blamed him...but not for long. Because I knew I was also at fault...I felt that I was. No matter what, she did try to keep close to me...to always reach out...but I was so bitter after all that time, that I pushed her away. I don't know what I could've done, but...maybe if I...had stayed close as she wanted? What if I could've done something? What if...me being by her side, where her good for nothing brother couldn't...what if I could've helped to save her? I lost myself in those thoughts...and I gave up on ever having a life again. All there was, was our work. The projects that she and I...that WE truly began together...I promised her that I wouldn't stop until our vision was fulfilled...until I had brought about the evolution of mankind. I didn't even know anything about what happened to Shion-kun...I didn't know how to contact Shiena, who'd had issues of her own. I just stopped thinking about the pain...I ran away from it while fighting for our dream... I turned a blind eye to Shion-kun, even when he stood right in front of me. I...was so weak..."

Airiel moved closer, hugging him tightly. "Moshe...it wasn't your fault...it wasn't... That...was nobody's fault...aside from that man..."

She stroked his hair when he leaned into her, "One day...while Aunt Shiori, Uncle Yusuke and Shion were out together...they came across a homeless man... Shion was the one who acknowledged him...he wanted to help him, just as they'd taught him. They took him in...he stayed with them for over a week... Shion was always so proud whenever he talked about it...saying that he would help everyone he could, no matter what. He sounded so foolish, even to me back then, but...even at that time, I loved that boy...I treasured him... I never said anything to hurt him. Because it was...the only time I'd ever seen him so...certain of himself. Shion was an extreme introvert...he tried hard to get along with others, but...he was too different from the other boys. They treated him horribly, they hurt him and made him cry. Sumire and I both stood up for him frequently, but we didn't know then...that we only made things worse... That boy, who'd been hurt so much by people who should've been his friends...he was so proud that he could help someone...how could that be bad, right? Aunt Shiori and Uncle Yusuke must've felt far more strongly than I did...because I'm sure they were the only ones he'd actually talk to about being bullied...and they must've been so proud, that their son was happy to help someone. I guess we were all blinded because of that. I remember being shaken awake by my parents, practically dragged out of bed to get Emi and Ciri... We rushed to the hospital, and as I really woke up, I realized something was very, very wrong... The police were there...and so was Shion... Sumire and Aunt Shiena were already there too... It was one of the only two times in my life, that I've ever seen Sumire crying... Seeing Shion's arms bandaged up, I...cried too. I must've caught on to what happened... My sisters cried when I did, too. We...only heard the next day, from Aunt Shiena. That the man they'd taken in...had killed Uncle Yusuke and Aunt Shiori...and that he tried to kill Shion, too... He would've...if Aunt Shiori hadn't frantically called the cops when that man turned on them... They arrived just in time to save Shion...who was desperately fighting for his life..."

She trailed off, sniffling loudly as her tears flowed. "The investigation came up short...we never learned what drove that monster to do what he did... And Shion was...so scared from then on. Of everything... His bullies stopped hurting him, because of what happened, but he...couldn't deal with school. He was living with Sumire and Aunt Shiena, and he couldn't handle being away from her for a long time... He quit going to school completely. He never went outside, the only time we could see him...was when we went over ourselves... He was more timid than ever before...strangers terrified him...just the sight of blood, in any form...it traumatized him. Even if he saw it on TV, or in a game, he'd shut down...and freeze...and cry... Things...were like that for a very, very long time... But as we grew up, he...got a bit stronger. He'd been home schooled all through elementary school, but he found the strength to attend middle school...where he eventually met Saeko-san...and was forced to relive that trauma all over again, after what happened with her parents..."

She wiped at her eyes roughly, "He...Shion's been through a lot...but even so, he...never stops. He works harder than anyone...he tries so hard to be strong...to keep us all together...to protect us... And I know that...Saeko is the closest to him...because she's the only person who can understand what it's like to lose parents to the evil of a monster... Maybe that's...what I really hate most about her...that she doesn't need to try...that she doesn't have to do a single thing, to make Shion stay with her..."

"I see..." Moshe said softly, sitting up and setting a hand on her head gently. "Thank you for telling me...Shion-kun has...been through the wringer more times than any person should..."

He took a deep breath, standing and walking toward the room door. "Airi...please take the rest of the day off."

"Moshe...?" Airiel touched her head, looking after him.

Moshe glanced at her, "You know, you're...very similar to Shiori-sensei. Your mind works so much like hers...you're adaptable just like her... I'm sure her soul must've intermingled with yours, to some extent... And maybe that's why the descendant of that man would be the one who..."

He shook his head quickly, his last words having been too soft to be heard. "I have a lot to think about, and I'm sure that you do too. So take today...and tomorrow too, if you need... Take as long as you need...and when you come back... There's something important that I have to share with you. A secret...known only to the few of us whom Shiori considered to be her family."

In the camp set up by the Band of the Hawk.

Airiel opened her eyes to find the night sky above her, lifting a hand to wipe tears from her face. {That was where it really began, wasn't it...?}

She shut her eyes, curling up. {Shion...I want to tell you everything... I really do, but...I'm so scared of how you'll react if you find out... I don't know what I'd do...if you ever hated me... Wherever you are...whatever you're doing...please be safe...I... I can't lose you...!}

Within the Ascendant Plane, along a lifeless stretch of scattered, colossal rocks. A fierce confrontation was underway, between a pair and a large fighting force.

Pale winds stormed about as Shion loosed himself upon their foes repeatedly, like an arrow which never missed its mark. Upon piercing right through a demon of roughly 30 meters, he ended with a forward spin to land on one of the countless rocks.

He sharply looked over his shoulder as his battle senses alerted him, jumping aside into a butterfly twist to avoid a powerful long range fire spell. The moment he landed, he glanced at his partner before leaping back into the air.

Moving about the seemingly endless sequence of random rocks, Saeko's bats were in a shadowy form at her back, shaped as wings which granted her flight abilities. She kept on the move while the Unseen Hands flit about her, whipping and lashing at their enemies, decimating their bodies and breaking their offensive attempts.

Landing on the same rock as her after cutting through a few wicked demons, Shion spoke. "Lilith, you've noticed?"

"Yeah, every wave has been a lot stronger than the last." Saeko answered while positioning herself so they were back to back. "I don't have the ability to see their stats like you, but my Eyes of the Old Blood let me see the life force of others to estimate their power. None of them are anywhere near Uri, but they've been growing disproportionately, as far as I can tell. There's no rhyme or reason, some are a bit tougher, others are dramatically so. And speaking of that, I-"

"Yeah...I had the same epiphany during this." Shion interjected, eyeing their foes. "Urizen was the strongest opponent I've ever faced by far, but he still didn't live up to the hype. According to his legends, he's capable of annihilating entire continents in an unholy sea of demonic power... He was holding back on us, and quite a lot. It's the only way to explain why we could win with our stats cut, Arcana or not."

A red mass of hazy energy crashed down upon the rock without warning, shaking it as the energy took a solid demonic form. "Naturally... Did you believe that you fools truly had a chance of defeating our master? In his curiosity, he sought only to test your abilities. You are nothing before him."

Shion's eyes narrowed on the newcomer, called the Shade of Urizen. "A Mini Boss? A ridiculously powerful one, at that..."

"He's definitely far beyond the rest to now..." Saeko pointed out, staying close to him. "Shall we?"

The two exchanged glances, steeling themselves and facing the Mini Boss along with its allies. A couple of hours later...

The stretch of rocks were almost entirely gone, ground to dust on the voids of the Ascendant Plane. The corpses of hordes of demons scattered about, revolving around the last intact rock.

Shion ripped his holy greatsword free from the Shade Mini Boss as it let out one final, piercing screech. Taking a knee with a deep breath, he set the blade by his side and extended his free hand to use Keen Sight and Sage's Touch, combining the effects to produce an expansive analysis of the creature's stats and history before death, these details made visible to his ally as well.

Saeko leaned over him after walking over, fanning herself off as she read. "W-whoa, check out those disgustingly high stats..."

"This Shade of Urizen, he was one of his most elite warriors. He was absolutely devoted to Urizen, and believed that he could overthrow this...???." Shion explained, tapping his chin. "Then, even though Uri's so powerful, he's the lackey of someone higher on the food chain."

He looked up at her, "Sae-tan, Uri didn't just drag us here, he threw us so far out of the natural progression that...well, without the Arcana and our stupidly high skill in this game, we'd be dead right now. We've been up against literal endgame enemies this entire time...and Uri himself is most likely-"

"-Worthy of being called a Final Boss in his own right?" Saeko tilted her head a bit. "We're really in it this time, hm? Our Mythic-tier Gear and our Arcana are the only things keeping us in the game right now. Uri's relentlessly hunting us with his OP army, and he's the only idea we have on getting out of here. We've used a bunch of Items already, and we can't keep up our full power forever..."

She bit her thumb, "How long do you think we can hold out, Shion? I'm sure we've leveled up a bunch after all this, but...could this really be where we...?"

Frowning as he listened to her, Shion turned to face her properly, standing up and lifting his sword to his shoulder. "This is NOT where we die, Saeko. I don't care who we come across, who we fight, for how long or where. One way or another, we're getting out of this place. I promised you IRL, right? That I'd protect you. And that's what I intend to do. I can't if I die, so I won't. And if I don't die, you can't either. I'm scared too, but we can't lose hope. We'll escape and retreat to a Town, for sure."

He smiled at her, "We just have to keep fighting with everything we've got. If we can get a good grasp of the Ascendant Plane, we might even find a way to hide ourselves from its denizens, right? If we can create that Skill, it'll give us a lot more room to move about and find our way out."

"Shion, you...really are adorably optimistic~" Saeko smiled back at him, nodding. "Just to be clear though, I'm not scared at all. I'm concerned because we're in infinite danger, but as long as I'm with you, I don't really care what happens."

{The way she says that, it's like she'd be okay with dying if we do it together...} Gritting his teeth a bit, Shion opened his mouth to speak again, but stopped himself as something changed.

Light shone within the void, illuminating all and washing over the rock, blinding the two in the process.

"Unfair!" Whined Saeko in irritation, covering her eyes. "It's been too dark for that sudden light show! And my Vampire eyes are sensitive bright stuff, too!"

"Y-yeah?" Wincing in pain from the sight, Shion slowly opened his eyes, which quickly focused. He looked up in awe at a new sight, touching the girl awkwardly. "Uh...Saeko..."

"?" Saeko's eyes opened wide after she chanced a look, filled with glistening feathers amidst a resplendent shower of Light. Within it, at the heart of it all, was a beautiful being constantly depicted counter to those they'd just faced. "An...Angel..."

The Angel descended, clad in holy armor with 6 gorgeous wings at his back. His eyes were covered by a black blindfold, long flowing yellow hair hanging at his back. Upon stopping just before touching the rock, it was revealed to be similar in stature to the two. "I've been watching. Ye Chosen Children dispatched Urizen's Demon filth most splendidly, and for that, I do commend thee."

He lifted a hand, snapping his fingers as the vessel of light compacted before dispersing, Smiting all the dead Demons and erasing them to leave behind beautiful white particles, reminiscent of snow."I am Hayyel, Herald of Mael."

Saeko stared at him while keeping close to her partner, "Another Mini Boss, like the Shade of Uri...? His life force is immense..."

"Do not liken my grace to those filthy sinners." Hayyel hissed, his voice gentle yet menacing and commanding. "More importantly, Lord Mael has taken interest in you. As he would like to meet you, I would have the two of you accompany me."

"It doesn't sound like we have much of a choice in the matter, Hayyel." Shion mused.

Hayyel nodded, "My Lord's will is to be carried out without question, your compliance is unnecessary. Submit or face the consequences."

"We refuse!" Exclaimed Saeko and Shion in unison, as streams of dark matter and corrupt flames flared outward.

A shield of light protected Hayyel, who was flung away from the rock. His wings spread out wide as he looked down on the two, shaking his head. "Your punishment will leave you begging for mercy. Your actions ensure that you're to receive none."

"I think I preferred the Demons~" Saeko admitted with a shrug.

"I'm sure that makes Satan-sama very happy to hear," Shion added blankly, sighing. "Though I feel the same. At least they didn't pretend to be noble."

Hayyel's atmosphere seemed to shift, as weapons forged from light manifested all around him. "An insult to me is an insult to my master... You sinful Children shall be made to repent, henceforth!"

Smirking, Saeko covered her mouth tauntingly. "Hit a sore spot, hm~?"

"A Holy Sword wouldn't fare too well against an Angel, right?" Shion lowered Ludwig's Holy Blade, which disappeared and got replaced by Kurogane an obsidian-forged katana with lava-like veins flowing through the blade, which ran up his hands and arms once he gripped it. It was a high-level Cursed Blade with malicious energy that would bring misfortune to its wielder. In the hands of the weak, the sword was known to curse them to death.

The Angel's eyes shone through the blindfold, two glistening orbs of great intensity, which fixed upon the sword as the man's whole body was overtaken by the veins. "Heathen!"

"He's just jealous of how cool you look when you use that weapon~" Saeko claimed, waving her hand dismissively.

"I really don't care." Shion deadpanned, taking a simple Samurai stance while lifting the blade aside his head in both hands.

Extending his hand, Hayyel unleashed his weapons of light without hesitation while advancing at high speed. Artorias was covered by wind, launching toward him as Lilith's invisible limbs reached out.

Kilcliff, home to the Scourge of the Seven Hells. Back after a certain dream was shared by two.

Awaking within the dark temple of the Night's Queen, Saeko clutched her arms, her nails tearing through her flesh with ease as her fangs pierced her lips. {Why did I have a dream like that? It's been years since-}

"Ah, and so Sleeping Beauty awakes." A voice called out in amusement, belonging to a man who sat atop a dresser in the chamber.

"!" Saeko's eyes shot to him instantly, her pupils narrow predatory slits, her irises glowing a chilling blood red. "Oh...it's you. How did you get in here, Hermit?"

The Hermit, Ardyn Izunia, waved a hand at her casually. "You know me, I go where I please, barred entry by none~"

He motioned to the bed when she looked to her sides, at the Dark Elf and Mermaid with her. "Those lovely dolls of yours won't be getting up any time soon, so don't worry about them overhearing us~"

"Do you have business with me, then?" Saeko wondered, tilting her head as her self-made injuries regenerated.

"You certainly make no attempt to treasure yourself..." Whispered Ardyn, before speaking more loudly. "Are you curious about the dream you had? Did you maybe notice something strange?"

Saeko blinked twice, before a low chortle escaped her throat. "I was wondering why I was hearing his thoughts, but it was because of you. That Arcana of yours sure is frustrating... Did you give him the same treatment?"

"No, the treatment he's getting is very different. Very...visceral. It is a situation of his own making, however." Ardyn answered with a smile. "He is the business, though. Saeko-chan? What I want is to help you get what you want."

"What I want...what do you think that is, exactly?" Wondered Saeko.

Ardyn tapped his chin, "There's no need to play dumb, Saeko-chan. I know better than anyone, what it is that you want. That you try to distract yourself from by embracing the darkness of this savage Guild you founded~"

He extended a hand to her, "You want to be with Shion again. Both of you do, but this is the way you deal with the knowledge that you can't~"

"...You've always thought you were very smart, huh." Stated Saeko aridly, while rising from the bed, without care for the fact that she was nude and his eyes wandered. "But did you know this? What you all did to us back then didn't just go away the way you planned. Saeko was always oblivious to it all, but I never forgot, just because you wanted me to. You could even say that those experiments were what created me in the first place..."

Ardyn stared at her, his eyes seeing past her physical body and focusing on her psyche, which presented itself to him in a clear, visual manner. "Aha...so it really was true? You should be proud you could hide this from me so long, Saeko-chan~ So the experiments we conducted back then, were the beginning of your split psyche. The memories we thought we erased, they didn't go away, but instead remained with you. You were always dormant within Saeko-chan, until the episode which saw you take control while leaving Shion-kun behind."

"More or less, yeah." The woman confirmed calmly, rubbing her neck. "Saeko lost herself under the weight of all this shit that was dropped on her. In her peril, I grew stronger and became the dominant personality. She doesn't know about any of the fucked up things that we've done, because it wasn't her, but me, and I'd rather she not have to deal with more. She should just sit back and fantasize about the old days innocently...it's fine if she alone, remains the way Shion loved..."

"I see, I see." Stroking his chin, Ardyn stood from the dresser, pacing a bit. "So Saeko-chan is totally unaware of it all, because she's been on the sidelines all this time. How utterly fascinating! When one's psyche breaks down, it's...well, it's extremely rare for a case like yours to come about! You have the ability to control what she remembers, and you use that power over her to stay in control while ensuring she stays the innocent, dark flower she always was~ Meanwhile, you've taken on all of her vile impulses and acted upon them without restraint! Had I noticed back then, things might be very different today~"

He stopped, looking at her again. "You specifically refer to her as Saeko, so am I correct in assuming that you'd go by another name? Lilith?"

"...Satan." She answered after a moment's pause, lifting her hand and pointing a finger at him, her lips curling into a wicked smirk. "You really have some nerve, showing your face in front of me~"

Ardyn couldn't even gasp, as he was mysteriously lifted from the ground, feeling something constricting around his throat. He quickly reached for his neck, feeling out a number of limbs. {Fingers! This is her-!}

Unleashing a shrill, piercing, shrieking laugh, Satan hunched over a bit. "You're oh soooo smart, but you didn't even consider that this was a bad idea~? Did you think that I cared about you, Sensei~? Did you think that I liked you even remotely~? You were allllways playing nice, acting like our friend, even though you knew~ You did, didn't you? A genius like you, there's no way you didn't know, right~? You knew what Uncle Yuji and Morio were doing to us, alllll that time. But you never once tried to help us, because the only thing that you cared about was those stupid fucking tests of yours~ Those fuckers were sick, but you were just as bad~ And you know what...?"

"I'm a lot worse than the whole lot of you~" She added, shifting her fingers as the Hands gripped the Hermit's limbs, slowly pulling and twisting at them. She giggled as he grunted in pain, his joints being twisted out of place steadily. "Do you know what it's like to be beaten and broken, again and again, no matter how you cry and struggle~? Do you know what it's like to be all alone after some sick freaks have had their way with you countless times? How it feels to know that nothing you do will change things? That even though you're surviving solely by the thoughts of the one you love, you don't deserve them after what was done to you?"

"Everything we went through, and everything Shion had to do after it, all because he had to love someone as disgusting as me...do you think you're innocent in all this?" She walked over slowly, one step at a time, each one causing his limbs to bend more and more, bringing more and more pain. "I'm sure you'd like to make your case, and explain your side. And maybe you could spout some convincing drivel, but it wouldn't make a difference to me."

She roughly stabbed her nail into his chest, one of the Hands colliding with his stomach with immense force that instantly made him throw up blood. "You're confused, aren't you, Genius-sensei? Your Arcana should make you the master of our minds, but you couldn't even tell that it was a bad idea for you to be anywhere near me. You actually thought it was safe...that whatever sick fucking story you're thinking to write, could involve us at your leisure. The simple truth, is that I, Satan, am The Devil~ You don't get to outwit or outplay The Devil, no matter how smart you are, because The Devil has countless tricks up her sleeve~"

As the Hands slammed the man to the ground, which shattered on contact, headfirst, she stomped down atop his head brutally, her body trembling with arousal as his blood splashed about. "My Nemesis Arcana manipulates probability, and reality itself~ I've forced countless others, NPCs and Players alike, to conform to my twisted standards~ Because I can use this power to ruin the mentality of others~ I control them all, and it's for that reason that Keita and the others can never come after me here~ Because to outsiders, there's nothing wrong in Kilcliff~ And this power can even counteract yours, naturally."

Moving her foot, she bent down to touch his left pinky, which was twisted and ripped off in one motion, causing him to squirm violently. "I'm sure you're screaming like never before~ I'd love to enjoy and relish it, but I'm sick of hearing that voice of yours~ And knowing you, you could find a way out of this if you could speak~"

"Moshe-sensei?" She tilted her head, as he weakly looked up at her with tear-filled eyes, her own gazing back with a frigid lack of humanity. "You really fucked up, huh? You really thought you'd come here to find that everything was an act, huh? That you could convince us to play a part in whatever stupid script you're writing for our Shion? That you could use him to manipulate us? Maybe that would've worked...if it weren't for the fact that I've been the strongest Player in PSO for over a year now? I could kill anyone and everyone without so much as breaking a sweat, but dainty little intellectual you, dared to believe he was superior~? It's not funny."

Reaching out, she pierced his flesh with her nails, tearing it out inch by inch as he flailed erratically with muffled grunts and cries. "I know, I know, you really want to say something. I just don't care...ah!"

She stopped, snapping her fingers as his blood splashed onto her face. "Since you stood by as I was raped thousands of times, why don't I return the favor? Hehehehe, I can be a genius too, you know~?"

Standing up, she spread her arms, the Hands pulling his body out rigidly while keeping him on his face, some holding him down while forcing his ass to raise. "This might come as a surprise to you, but I actually HAVEN'T done this yet~ I have been dreaming about what'll happen though, if I fist someone like this~ This should probably be a lot worse than being anally violated with a dick, right?"

Ardyn was ghostly pale as he barely managed to look up at her pleadingly, screaming as hard as he could, though it came out muffled as it caught in his throat.

"Oh, don't worry, I don't intend to kill you yet~" Satan admitted, smiling brightly. "It'd be a waste to end it so soon, given the role you played in ruining our life~ Whatever you had planned for Shion, I suggest you forget it~ I'm the only one that's ever going to get to play with him, from now on~"

She paused a moment, making a fist and raising it as one of the Hands became visible for him to see, hovering about his asshole. "I think Airiel Onee-sama will be the next one to join you, Moshe-sensei~"

Lifting her fist, she prepared to drop it, but stopped in the middle of it, grabbing her head in pain. "W-what are you...? You stupid girl, don't get in my way! This is...the least that he...deserves...! They all...have it...coming...!!!"

"N-no!" She croaked while falling forward.

Ardyn's eyes bulged, flailing about as he was released, gasping for air desperately while crawling away in fear. He backed into the dresser, looking again to see her on her knees. {I made a grave miscalculation...I didn't know the full depths of what she could do with her Arcana... Saeko-chan is the second greatest danger in this entire world...but...}

He held his neck, producing a high-level Potion from his inventory and drinking it to cure all his injuries instantly. He let out a deep sigh as he felt immediate relief, focusing on the girl. "Wisdom Arcana!"

A subtle force projected from him, pushing through the girl, whose eyes went white as she collapsed. "That was...the closest I've ever come to dying..."

His power over the mind revealed a number of things to him, regarding his would-be tormentor. {I see, so Saeko-chan...the good half, gave me that opening. It's as Satan Saeko said, she still retains her innocence, warped as it was. She didn't want to hurt me, one of her few allies of the past, and so she resisted just long enough to disrupt...that.}

He shivered unsettlingly, shaking his head. {That was horrifying. If I hadn't subdued her, she really would've gone after Airi next. I...should definitely keep her out of this.}

Using his Wisdom, The Hermit modified the mind of Saeko, establishing her as the dominant personality to suppress Satan. Following this, he left her outside of Kilcliff without being seen, a ways away and close to a secret getaway. This leaving her in a position to go where her heart would lead her upon coming to. To the secret space known only to her and the man she loved.

Ardyn watched the confused girl take off without hesitation, his body trembling, still feeling the sensation of the pain he'd been put through.{She must feel as if she was drawn to Shion-kun, there. It was far from going according to plan, but it's more or less on track now. With Shion-kun's new affliction of the mind, meeting Saeko-chan now will make him move the way I anticipated. It'll be easy to guide them to Urizen now.}

{In the Ascendant Plane, after proving their worth time and time again, they'll be taken before that one.} He took a deep breath. {I'll keep watch from a distance for now, just to make sure that all my cards fall into place as determined. I do hate forcing you two to dance as I demand, but it's for the sake of us all. If those two, of all Players, are to fail there, then there's no hope for the rest of us. If you succeed, however...the happiness you two deserve will certainly be within your reach. This is a sacrifice for the best possible future.}


Izaya's The Boss:

Stomp That Shit!:

Shizu-chan's Seismic Toss:

Chill Izaya/Poor Izaya:

Last edited by Sangios on Mon 03 Dec 2018, 10:25; edited 1 time in total
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He Who Was Born With the First Troll and Shall Perish With the Last

Age : 25 Registration date : 2011-08-16 Number of posts : 106 Location :
Race: Human

PostSubject: Re: When the shit hits the fan   Sun 14 Oct 2018, 09:40

Within a treacherous barren zone known as the Rashkakh Sandfalls, a sprawling desert field of varying elevations, filled with lethal Monsters. It was one of the Areas connected to the Riahst Expanse, and was currently being canvassed by the Blades of the Darkmoon. Specifically, the Dark Sun and 3 out of her 12 Darkmoon Blades.

Hisoka stroked his chin with an interested smile, as he watched Selene and Kenji try to keep up with Sumire, who was getting farther and farther ahead of them by the moment. {She's really worked up right now~ Is it because of Shio-chan? Or is it Caleb Howl?}

Stomping up a steep mound, Sumire ignored her allies while focusing on her sight and looking everywhere she could see. Upon reaching the top, she stopped in preparation to survey from the height. "What the..."

She froze as she came across a beast larger than any she'd ever laid eyes on, a colossus much larger than any mountain she'd encountered.

"What's wro...ng?" Selene and Kenji began, both trailing off as they caught up, their jaws dropping in disbelief.

Hisoka arrived a minute behind with leisure, touching a hand to his hair and looking out, eyes widening on seeing what they did. "Oh my, what a...magnificent specimen of raw nature~ It must have quite the remarkable cannon tucked away somewhere~"

"You sick freak!" Spat Selene in disgust.

The creature in question was an Area Boss, one with rough rocky features and the very vague frame of a mammoth, its four limbs sporting thick forests of dark brown fur from its knees down to its hooves. Its body was a lighter brown, a tremendous shell encasing its massive torso with spires tall enough to touch the sky on its back. Its neck was rather long, its face round with gnarly tusks protruding from its jaw. It also had a serpentine tail with muddy features that dragged across the sands behind it. It was kilometers away from them, and scattered all around it were gigantic pits which sand poured into like water.

"It's like the love child of a...Jyuratodus and Adamantoise." Whispered Kenji in quiet awe.

Sumire tapped her chin as she stared at the creature, using Eagle Eye to enhance her sight and reveal a significant amount of information. "Its aggro range is suitable to its magnitude. We might be able to avoid it we..."

"Nightingale?" The three looked at her as she trailed off.

Sumire's fists clenched upon looking at the Area Boss's back, where a familiar man was seen waving a hand directly at her and blowing kisses. "Him..."

"?" Selene and Kenji looked at the creature in confusion, unable to see anything specific from the distance.

Hisoka felt a piercing chill, a nervous smile on his face. "Perhaps you should wait just a moment?"

He scratched his head as the sand exploded outward in a cloud which blew through them violently, swatting a hand out to blow it away from him. "Or not~"

Kenji and Selene both gaped as they found their leader nowhere near them, instead flitting off at breakneck speeds, barely a dark blur as she cut across the Sandfalls while leaving a trail behind her and kicking up a storm with her Flash Step Skill. "Wow..."

The moment Sumire entered the aggro range, she felt the oncoming presence of a horde of monsters, a mixture of twisted scorpions, antlions and serpents which swam through the sand. She extended her left hand while slowing to a still superhuman sprint, equipping the Lifehunt Scythe, the obsidian black pole shimmering under the blistering sunlight as its ominous blood red blade curved and jagged in a lengthy crescent.

As the horde converged upon her from the front, a quarter of her HP and Mana were drained by the scythe, which emitted a spiritual purple aura. Gripping the base of the pole with her right hand, she shifted into a forward slide across the sands while pivoting and winding up. Swinging the mighty scythe forth she unleashed a thin conical purple streak which surged out like a solid wave, passing right through all of the monsters ahead of her. Spinning forward with the swing's momentum, she shifted again to continue her forward sprint without losing any of her previous momentum and speed. In less than a second she was clear into the brunt of the horde, all visited by the streak falling apart upon being bisected.

As a multitude died instantly, breaking down into misty dust, she charged ahead and down the middle, ignoring all at her sides. Scythe now in her right hand, it shone as she lunged off her feet and forward with a beautiful and swift vertical spin, turning herself into a beyblade which seemed to bounce into and through some Monsters, moving forward in sharp zig zagging angles. Upon completing the spin after a final bounce, she landed in the aftermath of her vertical movement, feet sliding forward violently. She shifted her weight to turn the momentum to her favor and continue as the Monsters were cut apart, some cleanly in half and others to big chunks, along with some of the serpents which had been in the process of jumping. Interestingly, while none spawned so much as a drop of blood, the dead Monsters spewed an ominous blue energy, which launched out and trailed toward her, restoring her HP and Mana to full as she surpassed the initial horde with ease.

Her eyes shot upward as she continued forward, never losing track of her surroundings as she sensed even more Monsters spawning from a nearby pit with deafening screeches. "HERMIT!"

Biting at his nails as he looked down at the woman, Ardyn shivered as he turned a bit pale. {Good lord, both cousins are absolutely monstrous in their capacity. Airi really wasn't kidding when she told me that, regardless of the way they argued, she would never want to fight with her. She looks so much like Shiori, but she's not even 1% as elegant.}

He began to chuckle as he heard her scream, her voice carrying in spite of the distance given his seat atop the Area Boss. "As beautiful as she is absolutely crazy~ Even Shiena isn't like that, so I do wonder where she got that disposition from~"

He observed with interest, expressing amusement as the girl quickly reached the Boss while tearing through the fodder. "Still, what an incredible sight it is, to watch Death itself dance across a battlefield, corpses left in her wake~"

Trailing behind the Dark Sun, the three Darkmoon Blades leapt into battle at her back. As their leader focused on the Area Boss, they resolved to deal with anything else to let her do her thing.

"I don't understand why she's so angry..." Muttered Selene while tearing into the hordes with the Darkmoon Razor.

Kenji's kodachi were covered in the same magic, shimmering blade of black crescent energy, speeding through their foes, each swing releasing a slew of projectile razors. "Me neither. She was fine up until she took a swing at you."

He stopped, smirking as he glanced at the woman who constantly got on his nerves. "There's a thought, Miss Self-Proclaimed Best Friend. What if YOU did something to piss Nightingale off~?"

"Wha-" Selene glared at him viciously. "What the hell would I have done, you stupid, worthless fuck!? Maybe she finally got fed up with the way you chase after her like a lovesick puppy!"

Jolting with the comeback, Kenji stumbled and turned to her angrily. "Fuck you! You're jealous that I don't have any interest in a butterfaced whore like you! Maybe you're used to drawing in men by the droves, but it takes a woman of high class and beauty to move my heart, and honey? You AIN'T it!"

Left eye twitching, Selene stopped and turned to the man, who could practically hear the sound of her snapping. "This god forsaken desert's as good a place as any for a waste of space like you to disappear...!"

"Hah!" Scoffing rudely, Kenji turned to face her with a dark smirk. "Now you're speaking my language, you petty bitch~ Nobody's gonna miss you when you're gone, don't worry about that~!"

The two boiled with killing intent as they bared their weapons at one another, intensely focusing their senses on each other as the Razors tempered and lengthened.

"As much as I adore the way you kids show your blossoming love~~~" Hisoka began with a lyrical tone, setting foot past them as they both immediately sought to snap at him. "You should be a tad bit more mindful of where you are, in the future~"

His hands were stretched out at his sides, with bubblegum pink energy looped out all around them like a spiral net, all extending from his fingers. As he pulled in his hands toward his chest, the Monsters that had surrounded them had just collided with the net, which whipped toward him as he activated the Razor as well, all of them being shredded to pieces. Pushing his hands forward to keep the whipping momentum, he launched the cords out the opposite way, making them lash against more Monsters and tear them apart brutally with a storm of blood and guts. It was his unique and signature skill, Bungee Gum, one famous for its overwhelming adaptability and versatility in every possible situation.

He glanced over his shoulder with a playful smile, now drenched in blood, his eyes set upon the two as all the Monsters changed tactics and reorganized themselves. "Tell me, would you rather support our gorgeous leader, or shall I have some fun with the both of you right here and now~? The choice is yours~"

Cringing in fear, both Selene and Kenji instantly released their hostility for one another, as their mutual fear of the man who was second only to Nightingale struck them coldly. "N-no, of course not..."

Hisoka smiled rather innocently, a sight which would give them nightmares while soaked in blood and guts. "Do your best now, kids~"

Their fear driving them, the two resumed their fight against the Monsters with extreme vigor, causing the jester to laugh in amusement.

Upon engaging the Area Boss, Sumire was beset upon by inordinately powerful and massive AoE attacks capable of nuking entire landscapes.

An immense spout of mud and sand exploded from the ground and soared high into the sky. The mud hardened at its apex, the sand forming around it as it fell in clumps which turned into sharp weapons and rained down on the area.

Having evaded the initial spout, Sumire looked up. {A two stage attack, how troublesome.}

Lifting the scythe, she spun it above her head with such speed she produced a whirlwind. The objects rained down all around, those directly targeting her being slowed by the updraft of wind and deflected upon meeting her weapon. The moment the rain ended, she crouched within a column of sand raised by her defense. Flitting out with such speed that the column was split without warning, a line opened up in the desert as she blurred directly into the Boss, hooking the scythe at the approximation of its heel and tearing it free with an aerial spin. Sparks flashed with a loud sound as she spun forward, looking back to see minimal effect. {Its even tougher than it looks. Physical damage won't be very effective.}

The Area Boss's tail lashed out with surprising speed, producing a mighty wave of sand in its wake.

Blinking once, Sumire retreated a few 100 meters with Flash Step and unequipped the Lifehunt Scythe. Standing her ground now, she held her fists to her side firmly as she activated Gigantic Force, Adamantine Skin, Way of the Wraith and Coldheart. The first created a golden aura around her, significantly increasing her strength and magic resistance. The second caused her icy skin to take on a lustrous metallic shine as her defense skyrocketed. The third enveloped her in a shifty shroud of tempered darkness energy, which drastically increased her speed and reaction time, atop of invoking a high-tier Illusion ability which would create afterimages with every move she made, throwing off enemy perception. The last one froze her heart completely, something which would naturally be lethal if not for her naturally immense resistance to the Ice Element, considerably multiplying her innate power over Ice as a Yuki-onna.

Extending her left hand to touch the wave of sand, it completely froze over in a fraction of a second, spreading around her as well. Throwing a right straight, the frozen wave shattered and her fist connected with the Boss's tail. The impact didn't even budge her, her eyes narrowing as a deafening boom accompanied a powerful vertical shockwave which pulsed out and split the desert for hundreds of meters. {It's just as strong as it looks.}

Pushing off from the tail, she leapt onto it and ran up its length at extreme speed, shadowy images of her filling the space she moved through to obscure her movements. She looked down as tendrils of crystallized sand launched up at her, spinning to swipe her hands out as the dry and hot air itself froze and produced a mist which spread out, engulfing the tendrils and freezing them as well. As she kept moving, the tendrils shattered and the tail began to frost over under her steps.

The Area Boss let out an incredible bellow, producing deafening soundwaves which struck against everything around it, propelling her from it just before she reached its back.

Clicking her tongue as she received the blow directly, Sumire was hurled back like a missile, arms raised defensively and the damage minimized by her top-tier Buff Skills. Leaning into a back flip, she landed gently and looked up to find the Boss had already spun to face her, its frame starting to slim down as mud and sand shook off from it. {It recognized that it needs to be more mobile, so it's shedding off the unnecessary weight? The AI behavior continues to astound, even at this point. Yu-chan would probably be having a nerdgasm over such a reaction...}

The Area Boss now exhibited surprisingly nimble and dextrous movements as it clashed against the Dark Sun. Powerful sand-based attacks assaulted everything around it as the woman countered with her body and boosted Passive Ice Skills. She would employ the startling Illusion Magic she was famous for, disorienting the beast even further alongside her Wraith Skill. The battle went back and forth for well over an hour, with Sumire clearly having the upper hand in the sustained duel. When she pushed the Boss to half health, it began to spawn legions of sand serpents while summoning gigantic masses of sand from all of the pits to turn upon her.
Finding herself overwhelmed, Sumire activated her Extinction Arcana to manifest a black aura which governed Death itself. The aura projected to deal with the onslaught of foes, keeping them at bay by rapidly causing them to wither, rot, weaken and perish at incredible speed. Using her absolute control over decayed matter, she made use of the dead Monsters through the unparalleled aspect of Necromancy, turning them into her personal army and forcing them to attack their own master without mercy. The Area Boss displayed a startling level of emotion, clearly shocked that its own underlings were attacking it, and its panic caused it to launch attacks indiscriminately and wastefully much of the time. Striking through its blind spots, Sumire rained blades of death upon the colossus by combining her Arcana with the Darkmoon Razor. Every time the Boss's sands met her Arcana, it lost out and became even more decayed matter with which she tormented it.
The battle was fierce and unrelenting, but after a mere 30 more minutes, Death reigned supreme.

Now a ways off from the other three, Ardyn knelt at the head of the Boss as it painfully breathed its last, withering away. "Rest, noble creature..."

He looked up as the woman stomped down its frame, a fiery glow in her eyes which ran counter to her cold nature. "Hello, Death. It would seem you've become even crueler in the time since we last met. Did you feel nothing as this child expressed the pain of betrayal? Were you unmoved as it desperately fought for the sole sake of...defying its inevitable extinction?"

He rose to his feet, shaking his head with a bitter expression. "You've let all that power go to your head, young lady. You are not a God, you don't reserve the right to play judge, jury and executioner with these indigenous creatures, the way you so happily toy with our fellow Humans!"

"Spare me the holy sophistry, Hermit." Commanded Sumire with fierce conviction, jumping down and slamming her foot atop him. On contact with the ground, the sand exploded outward in every direction, producing a massive cloud. She looked through it to the man, who'd withdrawn like a specter. "One of my Skills allows me to estimate the aggro range and zones of even Area Bosses. We're far beyond its most comfortable domain now. In fact, I'm certain that it was actually trying to flee from me when it realized I control the dead. YOU'RE the one who used his disgusting Arcana to force it to fight a losing battle. One that I was more than willing to allow it to survive, if not for you and your silly antics."

"You wound me, referring to my Wisdom Arcana as something so hideous and cruel~" Ardyn claimed, tipping his hat downward as he vanished from sight, seemingly disintegrating into ashes.

He reappeared behind her, leaning against the dead Boss. "Why do you always treat me so harshly, Sister Nightingale? We're both fellow Arcana Users, and you should be well aware that I value my fellows more than anything else~"

Spinning in a flash, Sumire threw a spinning hook kick which ripped his head right off his shoulders, a strong gust blowing out from the strike. "The only thing you care about is making others dance to whatever senseless farce you've thought up. You live to manipulate others, all of us are nothing more than puppets in your eyes. You're a sociopath who doesn't know what it's like to feel affection for anyone."

"...Now that is just rude and uncalled for..." Whispered Ardyn in genuine irritation, as the decapitated frame disappeared. He now appeared all around her in countless number. "I didn't come here for a fight, but I must admit that you're truly hurting my feelings here."

Gritting her teeth roughly, Sumire took a deep breath, managing to keep herself under control as she looked around, unable to tell which was real, if any. "True or not, I'll take a stab at your reason. To observe me in the aftermath of the weird shit you put in my head, isn't it?"

The Ardyns smiled a bit, "As a matter of fact, I had nothing to do with that. You know how messed up and unstable poor Caleb is, don't you? He's your cousin, you know it better than most. It just so happens that the bad day he had this time, sort of...snapped him apart? Yes, his fragile psyche fractured, and his strong feelings for the two of you must have caused his essence to be drawn to you~"

"I could have prevented that, or even made it much worse if I wanted." He shrugged lightly. "But I didn't bother, as I was curious to see the way you would react."

He chuckled a bit, "The way you pursued me, believing me to be the culprit...it was honestly chilling~ No pun intended."

Sumire bit her lip, touching her head. {Caleb...! What the hell happened to him, then...? Even for him, that's a bit unnatural...!}

"Wait, 'two of you', you said?" She took a step forward. "Shion saw the same thing?!"

"Oh no, my dear...he saw something much more difficult and harsher to bear." Ardyn answered, all of them waving their hands dismissively. "Well, it may be more accurate to say that Caleb's essence drew out things which he very desperately wished to forget...that poor boy has a number of horrifying recollections buried away. Actually, did you know that the cousin you love with all your heart, is actually a cold-blooded murd-"

"SHUT UP!" Shouted Sumire in anger, a fierce glare directed all around her.

Ardyn had backed up on instinct, sweating a bit. "Well...that's my fault, nobody wants to hear such shady things about the ones they love most, I suppose. Still...I feel the need to inform you, Sumire-chan. Poor little Shion didn't handle what he faced, remotely as gracefully as you did. He did some rather heavy remodeling, in fact."

"Where is he?" Sumire demanded, clenching her fists.

"Hm...you know, you and Shion...you two are something else, to be honest. You cousins are very unfairly capable. Unrivaled, in your own ways..." Mused Ardyn while stroking his chin. "Of course, Shion is much more special than you are, even so. You know that...you know that better than anyone else does, I think."

"Where...IS he?!" Sumire answered with a vicious growl.

Shaking his head, Ardyn sighed. "Even if I told you, it's too late for you to reach him. As such, I'm choosing to spare you from the inevitability of your future, crushing disappointment and regret. Trust me, this is for the best."

"Trust me..." Sumire began, her voice cold and almost inhuman, as an icy wind blew over the area. "You don't want to know what I'm about to do to you."

She immediately pinpointed the single one who reacted to the cold, reaching him in a flash with eyes devoid of light.

Letting out a low gasp, Ardyn awkwardly scrambled away in fear as she drove her fist into the ground. He slipped away like a ghost, a much greater distance away and shivering as he saw her fist had cleared away all the sand in a wide circle. "You really are terrifying..."

He shook his arms out a few times, cringing. "Out of respect for you, your startling abilities and power, I can at least tell you one thing, Kanou Sumire. It's entirely possible, in fact it's very likely, that you will never see your beloved Aoba Shion again."

He turned his back to her, starting to walk away. "At least...not the way you and the rest of your closest companions remember him."

{No...} Sumire dropped to her knees as the man faded from sight, leading her to question if he was really ever there at all. She lifted her hands to her head, shutting her eyes tightly. {No, no...he's messing with me, just like always... Yu-chan is...Yu-chan's the strongest of us all...he IS the most special person I've ever seen...he's fine... That bastard is just rocking the boat...but...what...if he's not...? What if Yu-chan ran into some kind of trouble while searching for those girls...?}

"Sumire!" Selene shouted, running over as fast as she could.

"Sumire...?" Kenji blinked as he approached from behind her. "Is that her real name...?"

Hisoka was suddenly by Sumi's side, shocking the other two since they'd been very far ahead of him. He gently set a hand on her shoulder, whispering. "It was the Hermit, correct?"

When she nodded silently, lightly touching his hand, he took a breath. {Ardyn must have told her something that really got to her.}

He looked over at Kenji and Selene, speaking before either could. "Don't ask, your prying will only frustrate her more."

"What?" Both just blinked at the clown, thoroughly confused by the entire situation.

Taking a deep breath, Sumire got to her feet. "Thank you, Hisoka..."

She looked at the other two, "I have to make a call, please handle the Area Boss's corpse while I do."


Selene and then Kenji responded, both with a sigh over being left out as Hisoka pushed them along and away.

Back in Barnemouth, in the base of the Flames of Lordran.

Emilia and Cirilla both let out a sigh of relief as they returned together, fresh off their first shift.

"We really got lucky, Emi-nee~" Ciri sang, hugging her arm.

Emi smiled brightly, kissing her little sister on the cheek. "Didn't we? I never thought we'd end up on the expedition that would establish the first Transport~ And that we'd find it so quickly, too."

Cirilla looked up at her happily, "The other Players will be really happy. In a few days, the Transport will be properly connected to the main system, and then everyone will be allowed to start entering the Frontline~ I can't wait to see what kind of town the builders decide to raise around it~"

"Nor can I-" Emilia agreed, getting cut off as she heard something. "Sorry, I've got a call."

She looked at Ciri, who nodded and released her, before opening her comms menu to answer. "Sumi-chan? What's up?"

She got quiet as she listened, gasping suddenly. "H-hold on!"

"Huh?" Ciri blinked as her big sister dragged her into the base, all the Flames moving aside upon seeing them in a rush. "Emi-nee...?"

Emilia pulled her into Shion's office, locking the door and changing the call to speaker. "Go ahead, Sumi-chan!"

"As I was saying...I have good reason to believe that Yu-chan may be involved in something very dangerous. And I was made aware of something concerning about our resident troublemaker." Sumire explained, sighing. "I tried contacting Airi, but she didn't answer, which is very unlike her of course..."

"!" Ciri and Emi both began to sweat, exchanging looks before they explained their own situation for the woman.

Sumire sounded exasperated as they spoke, "That Guts would arrive with such timing...and for Airi to join the Band on their journey...how ominous. Did HE have something to do with this...?"

She sighed deeply, speaking before either could question her statement. "And that certainly does sound about par for the course, when it comes to Caleb... As for Wynne...well, no great loss."

"Sumi-nee, give us some time to contact the others." Cirilla requested. "We can't do anything about Airi-nee right now, but maybe some of them saw or spoke to Yu-nii."

"Yes...you go ahead and do that." Sumire agreed. "Call me when you know more, okay? We need to get a move on for now, and find a safe place to make camp."

"No problem, we'll talk to you later." Emilia replied, ending the call and looking to her sister. "Let's split up and talk to Erston-kun, Shirou-kun, Tatsu-kun and the others. We'll meet up to talk to Elen-chan, since she's the only one here right now."

Ciri nodded to her, "Okay."

Some time later...

After speaking with the other Lords of Cinder and the Chosen Undead, the younger Riannon Sisters called their close friend back.

Accepting the video call immediately, Sumire spoke up. "Status report."

"A-are you okay, Sumi-nee?" Cirilla wondered, sweating a bit. "You sound on edge..."

"...Sorry, we found a camping spot quickly, so I've had an irritating abundance of time to think about Yu-chan and Caleb." Sumire admitted with a sigh. "More importantly, what's the verdict?"

Emilia smiled slightly, "I know it's hard...I'd be the same if I wasn't kept busy the whole time..."

She took a breath, "You first, Ciri."

Cirilla nodded, speaking immediately. "I spoke with Quelaan-chan, Escanor-san, Eizen-san, Ward-san and Corvo-san. All of them have been busy with either preparing for their expeditions, or they're still on their expeditions. None of them have heard anything from Yu-nii since he left us a couple of days ago."

Emilia looked at her as she spoke, then to Sumi. "I talked with Mor-chan, Luci-chan, Tatsu-kun, Shirou-kun and Erston-kun... Similarly, they've been very busy and none of them have heard from Shi-chan. I also had Puck go ask around in town, but he came up empty too. Beverly-chan, Yuna-chan and the others haven't heard from him either."

The sisters spoke together, "We spoke to Elen together, but she's been the busiest, since she's currently in command of the Guild. She's gotten a lot of reports from our Guildmates in other areas, but nothing about our King."

"How frustrating..." Sumire remarked, lowering her head a bit weakly. "While you two were doing that, I did keep buzzing Airi. Even if she were being a bitch to annoy me, there's no way she would ignore me more than 2 times. Whatever she's doing with Guts and the Band of the Hawk, it's much too hectic for her to take time to herself. Knowing their penchant for encountering exorbitant danger, I'm fully expecting that they came across some Dungeons already, maybe even a Raid..."

"Sounds about right..." Cirilla sighed. "So we completely came up empty."

"Well...the absence of news can sometimes be said to be a good thing..." Sumi suggested sadly, clearly trying to convince herself rather than them.

Emilia frowned when the other two both got quiet, "Actually...Luci-chan's response has been on my mind."

She continued when they tilted their heads, "When I asked her if she knew anything about Shi-chan, she seemed really flustered and nervous as she said the same thing as everyone else."

"Luciela-san?" Cirilla blinked at her. "She never gets nervous or flustered, though...and she loves getting lots of attention, too..."

Emi nodded, "Yeah, I know, that's why it stuck out. But she apparently had a hard time on her expedition, according to the ones who were with her. They kept running into trouble at every turn, and had no time to rest at all. It could very well be that she's just exhausted, and she wasn't expecting to have to talk to anyone. I did catch her while she was going back to the inn, and she was in a rush to leave."

Taking a breath to stay calm, Sumire watched her. "That's certainly understandable, anyone would be out of sorts after having a difficult and stressful time with their life on the line. It could easily be nothing. And...it could also be everything. We have nothing else, so...maybe you should try pushing a bit. Apply some pressure, and see if she breaks under it. If not, then you can apologize to her on my behalf."

"I...guess you're right..." Ciri's shoulders drooped a bit. "I don't like thinking that she's lying, though..."

"It's fine, Ciri." Emilia pat her on the head. "Mor-chan's returning in a couple of hours, so I'll get her to help me put the screws to Luci-chan. If she has nothing to hide, she'll have no issue with spending time with us."

Smiling slightly, Sumire laughed a bit. "True enough. I'll try to stay positive, the best I can. You two should do the same. Again, let me know if you find out anything, okay?"

"Yes, you too Sumi-nee." Cirilla nodded to her.

"Of course, I'll call you immediately if I do learn something." Emi assured them, before the call ended.

As she promised she would, Emilia enlisted her best friend, Mordred, in trying to pry any secrets out of the Abyssal Shrine Maiden.

The two approached the woman the moment she exited the inn the next day.

Luciela smiled at her friends, "What a pleasant surprise it was to run into you two~ Are you also heading to the base now?"

"Hm, we were thinking we'd take a break." Emilia claimed, looking up in thought.

Mordred glanced at her, nodding. "Yeah, we wanted to go buy some good liquor for Shion-sama. Do you have any thoughts on what he might like?"

"Ah, for my Shion~?" Luciela smiled brightly at them. "Unfortunately, he hasn't told me much about his finer tastes~ If I only knew, myself~ How I envy you, Emilia, for having the highest blessing of being his childhood friend~"

Emilia smiled at her, "Being with Shi-chan has definitely been the highlight of my life~ From what I know he isn't picky about his drinks, but I figured you might know something I don't? When he's all stressed out, I bet he likes to drink to take the edge of. Usually in the Shrine to the Abyss, right?"

Luciela's smile grew a bit more, "Shion~ He does tend to drink there a lot, now that you mention it~ I think the best liquor would be one with a pleasant taste. One that goes down as smoothly as his big, strong hands strokes my chest~"

Mordred laughed loudly as Emi snorted awkwardly, twitching. "He really is good with his hands, huh! Especially when-"

"S-s-stop it!" Emilia exclaimed, her cheeks red. "Now's not the time to be talking about that!"

"Really?" Luci tilted her head. "I think it's always a good time to speak about Shion's prowess~~~"

Emi held in a sigh as Mor laughed more, "Luci-chan, you really love saying Shi-chan's name, don't you?"

"More than anything~" Luciela announced proudly. "I'll never tire of saying that beautiful name~"

Mordred looked down as Emilia elbowed her sharply, then looked at Luci. "I wonder where he is now. I'm sure he's working hard to find those other chicks, but hopefully he won't be gone too long!"

Emilia hummed a bit, glancing at Luci as she stumbled a bit. "Right? Ideally, we'd leave the bottle of liquor on his desk too, so he can be surprised when he comes back. It would be nice if we knew what he was doing right now."

Jolting a bit, Luciela cleared her throat. "Yes, I also wish that I knew...but I don't. As his Shrine Maiden, I hope that, one day, he can tell me everything, though. And anyway, I'll let you two get to it. I have business to tend to at base, see you later~"

"Eh?" Emi and Mor stopped, staring after the woman as she walked off quickly, almost jogging at the speed she moved. "...Wait!"

"Eek!" When they called out, Luciela started running, the two immediately chasing after her. {I made an oath to my love, I can't break it! Especially since he's with Saeko, and they're on secret business from Lord Greivor! I can't betray their trust, I refuse to! I have to avoid them for as long as I can!}

On the Frontlines, in a treacherous expanse covered by a veil of darkness through which even the sun, moon and stars could barely pierce. The Zone was known as the Crossroads of Dusk, a particularly dangerous area filled with dark creatures never seen in any other zone. They were individually stronger on average, but the mobs were all inclined to team up and use the terrain to their advantage, aiming to isolate and pick off enemies. This established the zone as one which would be later restricted when free adventuring was permitted.

There stood a castle with four massive round towers which stretched up through the veil. It was all set in a strange red stone, which was glowing in the natural darkness. In the courtyard, completely cleared out after a fierce battle, the Band of the Hawk had made camp, all in high spirits. The location was known as the Shattered Citadel, the site of the highest level Raid ever handled in PSO history. The Guild had fought a long initial battle in the grounds, before they had to challenge each of the four towers, each one leading them through a number of intellectually demanding puzzles and encounters, with extremely powerful foes across varying dimensions. At times they had to split up and do certain tasks simultaneously. Thanks to the Lord of Cinder in their company, they were able to quickly figure out the mechanics while moving along. In the end, when all four towers had been cleared, they opened a portal to a very wicked realm, where they'd gone up against the most powerful and difficult Raid Boss yet. The battle was long and hard, but during their fights together, the outsider had melded with them very well, and their teamwork won them the day.
With the Raid cleared, the courtyard was converted into a new hub, which would later be able to be settled and made into a proper safe haven for Players. If the Raid were to be attempted again later, they also discovered a mechanic which would allow Raid Parties to enter an alternate reality.

The Hawks were drinking and eating happily, talking about the moments which stuck out most for them as they sat around a large bonfire and took turns.

Airiel wore a slight smile as she sat with the man who, against all odds, she'd come to count as a friend. She was sipping at a mug of ale that he'd recommended.

Guts looked down at her, smiling as he saw she seemed to be enjoying herself. "I don't think other Players would believe it, if we told them how you get along with us."

Her body jolting slightly, Airi looked up at him. "No...I suppose not. It seems many people are scared of me, though I couldn't imagine why."

"Uh...yeah?" Guts sweat lightly, laughing a bit nervously.

"Hey, Xerxes!" Corkus shouted. "Get over here!"

Casca smiled over at her, "We're curious about how you figured out the trick behind the last tower. Even now, we can't quite piece together what led you to the answer."

Guts chuckled as the woman let out a sigh, but went to humor his friends without resistance. {What a woman she is, though. Everyone's taken to her completely already. They'll be hassling her to join us for good, later.}

After some time of mingling with the Guild, the Lord of Cinder withdrew to one of the distant corners of the courtyard.

Airiel Riannon took a seat against a tree, with a good view of the mysteriously shimmering darkness above them. {It's always surprising to observe the level of detail that goes into every structure in this world. I wonder what Shion and everyone else would do, if they realized the truth behind the many things they've been suspiciously considering. That the NPCs are all artificially produced Fluctlights, virtually identical to our own.}

{I closed my own heart to it so long ago, that it doesn't bother me that much.} She lifted a hand to touch her hair. {But surely, they would all be conflicted if they knew... That even the Monsters feel in similar ways to us. Considering the way Shion's always treated NPCs, it certainly feels like he's aware on some level. He acts like they're just like us...and he isn't wrong to.}

{I suppose most wouldn't believe the truth to begin with, though. Not without knowing what lies beyond it all.}

Back to the past, a couple of days after the conversation between the close colleagues.

Airiel glanced around her place of work as her other colleagues went about their days as always, greeting those who weren't too busy to notice her. {I wonder if Moshe's really here now. Was two days enough for him? I...don't really think it was enough for me, but...}

The face of her beloved boyfriend came to mind, {I could barely bring myself to talk to Shion since then... Whatever this secret is, I must know. For him, as well as Aunt Shiori.}

Making her way to her mentor's office, she knocked and waited for a few minutes before entering. Upon entry she was greeted by a projected message from a monitor. Moving to the back of the office as requested, she found the man she idolized, in the middle of a Dive. At his side was a second Nervebral Gear, apparently meant for her, according to the note attached to it.

She stared at the man for some time, before she sat by his side and put the Gear on, activating it to enter a Dive as well.

As the euphoric vibrancy of the Diving experience overtook her, a sensation she was very used to, she awoke in the Virtual World.

Coming to quickly, Airiel found herself in an office filled with fantastic items and objects. She sat up atop a couch she started on, looking aside to her partner. "Moshe, this place is your-"

"Precisely, my dear." Moshe cut in calmly, turning in his seat to face her. "This is my virtual office, the hub database where my consciousness is uploaded whenever we conduct our experiments. It's from here, that I've always been sending you my direct information. It's also where I keep all of the special data I have, including the secret I mentioned the last time we met."

"...Right..." Airi leaned forward a bit. "About that, are you okay? You were understandably vexed before..."

Smiling wryly, Moshe scratched his head. "I appreciate your concern, Airi. I promised that I would never lie to you, so I won't claim that I'm fine. I'm still grieving, processing, in my own way. But then, I have ever since the day I lost Shiori. Regardless, I'm not so weak that I'd stay still because of that."

He motioned to her, "If you don't mind though, when I do feel better. When I'm up to it, I...would very much like to hear more about your time with Shiori-sensei. I imagine the two of you were adorably close, given the way you spoke of her last time."

"Ah...yes, of course." Airi smiled at him, nodding. "I would be happy to. Shion isn't too fond of speaking of Aunt Shiori anymore, so it would be nice for me as well, to tell you about us. My sisters weren't as attuned to her as I was, so they aren't an option for me either."

Rubbing his cheek, Moshe responded. "Well, I can understand how Shion must feel. To some extent, at least."

"Anyway, please relax Airi." He requested while pulling up a panel projection. "This secret known only to a handful of us...I'm going to have your Fluctlight interface with the records at an accelerated rate."

He smiled again as she obediently laid down on the couch, watching him. "First, I want to go back to something we touched on before."

Gulping lightly, Airiel nodded, already aware of exactly what he meant. "The AI...right?"

"Right," Moshe confirmed, leaning back in his seat and pushing the panel aside slightly. "Shiori's was truly...the greatest mind of our age. As I said then, she secretly created two AI from the top down...two perfect AI which are every bit as capable as her. Every bit as...human as us, save for their lack of a physical body."

He smiled to himself as the girl stared at him in surprise, "We were completely shocked, the first time we met them. We had no idea what to expect when she suddenly invited us to a special Dive that time. And then we met them, the two children she'd created with her own hands. They were young then, curious...we were the first humans apart from Shiori that they'd met. Immediately, we realized that we couldn't tell that they weren't human themselves. Gwyn and Manus, Shiori had named them. Despite their youth, having just been completed not long ago, they were so...brilliant. Some of us cried as we spoke, unable to put into words what we were feeling that moment~"

Airi sat up, blinking. "Gwyn? Manus? Those names are from...?"

Moshe chuckled, nodding to her. "As you noticed, those are indeed names from the Soulsborne Series. Whenever we spoke about games, Shiori never missed her chance to gush about her favorite of all~ I recall how pleased she was, when she discovered that her beloved baby shared her overflowing love for it~"

"Yes...Shion and Aunt Shiori were both completely obsessed with those games." Airi noted with a sad smile. "That's where Shion gets nearly all his names from, in fact. His main, Artorias, in particular. That character's story moved him so much~"

Chuckling again, Moshe commented. "I remember Yusuke telling me he didn't know why their son liked the creepy doll Shiori made for him so much. Artorias in his corrupt state, I believe?"

"Oh, yes~" Airi chimed cheerfully, shrugging. "Shion carried that thing around everywhere~ He slept with it, bathed with it, it was never far from him~ Sumire and I both found it funny, how passionate that shy boy would get, whenever someone asked after it. Many of the adults in our old neighborhood used that to get him to talk, since their options were so limited~ My younger sister, Emilia. She got jealous when Shion seemed to care more about the doll than her, so she made him cry quite a few times when she hid it from him. He forgave her every time, though..."

"My, it must have been quite the sight to watch such a small child, enamored with something so grotesque~" Mused Moshe.

Nodding in confirmation, Airi wiped her eyes. "Yes, it really was..."

Moshe smiled a bit bitterly, taking a breath. "Anyhow, Gwyn and Manus. They had complete access to the internet, so when nobody was with them, they spent their time learning as much as they could. Shiori thought it was adorable how the two would try to emulate the characters they were named after, though she constantly told them that they shouldn't take it as far as becoming foes. Unfortunately, they only listened to her for so long. The once adorable boys, formerly inseparable, did grow apart, with Gwyn coming to embody the light, while Manus came to immerse himself in the deep. Still, even as they pit themselves against one another, it was...strangely considerate. They competed as rivals, they spawned a number of new Fluctlights over time, many ages within their world. It wasn't until the final stages of the project when the love between the brothers seemed to fade..."

He trailed off for a while, sighing. "But you're about to see it yourself, now. So you know, we had very limited input with what you're about to see. We monitored and recorded it all from start to finish, of course, but it was our last promise to Shiori, that we wouldn't interfere with anything major. There were times even after we'd drifted, where Shiori interacted with them, but those moments are recorded only within the hub database of Shiori, so we can't access them."

"I see..." Airiel laid back down, considering what she'd heard. "I...think I'm ready. As ready as I can be, at least...hearing what you just said."

Moshe scratched his head, "Worry not, you're more than brilliant enough to safely experience the records. Feel free to highlight anything that stands out, if you're able to without being overwhelmed by what you see~"

His last lines caused the girl to open her mouth to voice a concern, but it never came out, as she was swept away into ages upon ages of ancient history.

The beginning, when Gwyn and Manus were born, the two AI boys being reared by her adored aunt, who treated them with as much love as she did her actual son. How the two grew together, how they reacted to meeting Moshe and the rest of the primary team which Shiori loved as her family. Many virtual years were spent in their youth and adolescence, interacting with Shiori, Moshe and the others over time, all within an isolated world. Things changed when they were brought into a fresh new virtual space, one completely empty. Told that they could do whatever they wanted with it, the two worked together to create a world of their own.

Their new world was named the Phantasmal Realm, when they asked their treasured creator to christen it for them. Airi saw the steps they took in creating the world she had been working with since she joined Nirvana Games, a breathtaking and inexplicable process. With limited influence from the developers, they were responsible for almost everything in the game, save for some of the systems which they learned were built upon the foundation of countless human brains, along with a few other things. She saw the two raise their own pantheons, producing new Fluctlights with blank slates, to try their hand at what Shiori had done for them. They made children of their own, who continued the cycle by having children they would raise, and eventually the world was populated. By humans, elves, dwarves, a number of different beings beneath them, within a beautifully varied world filled with equal parts light and dark.

As multiple millennia passed, civilizations rose and fell under the brothers' watch. At times they involved themselves in the lives of their creations, offering wisdom and other services as they felt was necessary. They were in turn deeply influenced by the way their mutual children interacted, often clashing...which led them to begin clashing. As she'd heard, it remained friendly for a long time. Like contests between close rivals, sometimes aided by their disciples who had raised them up as God of the Sky and God of the Deep. In time, their rivalry intensified to match the fiery interactions between their creations. They eventually entered an all-out war, as each began to feel more and more defensive of their children. Each fighting for the Mortal Races they'd fathered, their conflict gave rise to the Monsters which later filled the world's lands.

There was a period of time, a respite from the endless war, when the brothers came together. The reason was unknown, but it seemed that they'd found something to show love for one another over, once more. Their subjects followed their wills during that time, the fighting coming to an end. This came to be known as the Age of Tranquility, the era in which the Phantasmal Realm was most beautiful and peaceful, when all beings got along and created societies with mixed races, those born of light and dark coming together as their makers had. Unfortunately, something equally mysterious came between them. Despite having been equally matched from the dawn of time, Gwyn found some way to triumph over his brother. He defeated Manus in their final battle, casting him down as a disgraced deity and becoming the absolute Exalted King of the Phantasmal Realm, who went by many names in different cultures.

The Exalted King took over nearly everything his brother had, writing history in his image afterwards. The aftermath had Manus consigned into the deepest depths of their world, where he created a number of dark pockets in space-time, with treacherous rules and nature. The Labyrinth was the greatest of his making, serving as his tomb which would also connect it all. While his brother had embodied the light of the sky, Manus faded into the darkness of the deep. He embodied it...an overwhelming force which he referred to as the Abyss.
It was from there on, that the stories she and others had penned, would later factor into the incredible history of the complex world. Never again, would the brothers who brought it all about, stand together. For the stronger Gwyn became, the weaker Manus seemed to grow...

The span of this woeful yet beautiful tale was great enough that the girl had to revisit it numerous times over the next two weeks in reality. Every time she began and ended a chapter, she found herself fraught with awe and many questions, along with plenty of comments. She expressed a fond wish, for the rest of the world to see the beauty that she was allowed to be privy to. To limitless potential of virtual reality, perpetuated by the brilliance of her aunt and her family.
Moshe often told her that the world would certainly come to know it in the future. On the day that the one to embody their goals would arise from within the world of PSO. The process dubbed Awakening, when the first human with unnatural abilities would be born. It would mark the time when all others would finally know that the mind and soul were their gateway to greatness beyond their mortal coils.

The eldest Riannon had become even more immersed in her work, from then on. She, along with only several others, knew the most sacred truth of their company, and she eagerly awaited the day when the rest of their colleagues would be invited into the fold. As it would mark the moment when all others would as well.

Airiel looked up to the sky of the world, as her thoughts progressed to the early days of their time within.

Once it had become clear that they couldn't escape, she had been the first of her new family to realize that it had to be the doing of one of the two brothers. As they were stuck in the Labyrinth, she frantically searched for traces of Manus. She wished to enter the Abyss, to speak with him and learn of their predicament, why it came about. She had scoured the deep underworld on her own, coming up empty every time. Around the point where she'd been on the verge of giving up all hope, she was discovered by her love.
Shion appeared to her, out of nowhere. And he now possessed the power of the deep Abyss. She had been so desperate to meet the dying deity, yet it was him that did, not her. That was the first time she truly considered what Moshe had thought. That Shion may have been some kind of existence special to the fates of them all.

{It's strange...} Airi thought, pulling a knee to her chest. {Of those experimented on, Caleb possibly has the strongest connection to the systems of PSO. He has the ability to disrupt functions of this world, to a noticeable extent. Shion must be the opposite though...where Caleb disrupts, he stabilizes. They're something of a new twist, on the relationship between Gwyn and Manus. If Shion had been there, I'm sure he could have easily helped Caleb through the problems he struggled through earlier... Under the sign of Manus...I wonder if Caleb actually resides there, as well.}

She closed her eyes as she felt a cool wind blow over her, her thoughts wandering further.
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