Ragnarok Chronicles

By Thiji

Fantasy / Action

The Sograt Desert Dance of Death

The White Trinity guild, led by the Gun-Knight Ray Kaza, along with his fellow members Lee the Monk, Raien the Lightning Ninja, and Thiji the Wizard, braved the recently opened Emperium Frontier to embark on a quest for great fame. They have found a new rival within the Battle Vixens guild, led by a group of four sisters representing a specific element: Lupi, the Knight of flame; Aege, the earthen Blacksmith; Elua, the Hunter of the wind, and Heal-Do, the Assassin of the waves.

White Trinity engaged in heated battle against the band of warrior women and through superior strategy and teamwork, emerged victorious as they seized the Ruby Emperium that was nestled deep within the Emperium Fortress. This victory alone has earned them a great deal of notoriety, especially after beating back a formidable guild such as the Battle Vixens.

It has now been two weeks since the beginning of the Emperium Frontier. The boys of White Trinity spent their own individual time during their "hiatus".

Ray and Lee were always seen together, battling beasts or showing off their skill in the coliseum.

Raien Kotetsu had spent a majority of his time socializing with every buxom woman he encountered, and wooing them if possible.

Thiji Higuri had gathered a small order of apprentice Mages, teaching them how to properly wield and handle the flow of magical currents.

As time went by, however, the four of them had considered moving in to the Emperium Fortress and making it their home. Plus, they would be able to better defend the Ruby Emperium in case someone would lay siege to their already fortified structure.

Meanwhile, in Amatsu, the Battle Vixens have been training more frequently in order to compensate for their loss. Once they have decided to call it a day (which by that time the sun had already set over the Land of Destiny), they would return home to bathe and proceed to their living room, each adorned in their own colored bathrobes, except for Heal-Do, who was somewhere else…

Lupi: Geez… I can't believe we got our asses handed to us like that. We need to stop those Trinities! They've gotten their hands on the Ruby Emperium!

Aege: It's not like the loss is irreversible, big sister.

Elua: Yeah! Can't we just steal the Ruby Emperium from them?

Lupi: No… As much as I want to, those bastards would have fortified that place with Guardians and barricades by now.

Aege: Damn… she's right.

Lupi: Plus I have a feeling that the next installation is gonna reveal itself soon.

Elua: No argument there. It has been a while since our battle at the Fortress!

Lupi: Don't remind me… The memory is still fresh in my mind.

Aege: It's only been two weeks.

Lupi: (shouts) I know, dammit!

Aege: All right, all right, calm down. All I can say is that we find out where the next place is going to open before White Trinity can get a head start. That way we'll have an advantage to take the next Emperium Stone!

Elua: And in so doing, secure victory for the Battle Vixens!

Lupi: I love it! Brilliant idea! Though there's something wrong…

Elua: What is it?

Lupi: There's that boy among them that is different from the other three…

Elua: Wait a minute, sis. Where's Heal-Do?

Aege, looking around: Huh? Oh, yeah… Where did she go?

Outside of their headquarters/home was a small garden that the sisters tend to. By the garden was a pond whose waters were as clear as they were still. Heal-Do was meditating in the center before the other three sisters would meet up with the Assassin, who then opens her eyes…

Heal-Do: What is it, sisters? Do you need me for something?

Lupi: Yeah, your input, for starters; you were missing a meeting.

Heal-Do: My apologies, Lupi… I was just… thinking.

Lupi: Anyway, about that boy I was talking about… *ponders for a moment* Er, who was he again?

Elua: That lightning Ninja, Raien?

Lupi: No, I hate his freaking guts… I was talking about the Wizard!

Heal-Do: (hesitantly) I… you must be talking about Thiji Higuri, Lupi.

Lupi: Ahh, right! That guy! That Wizard is something else… did you see how strong he was when he fought? He practically demolished us with his superior prowess over ice! And because of that, I so want my revenge against that bastard.

Aege: Indeed. He appears to be the quiet yet sensitive type. But when it comes to battle, his combat efficiency shoots through the roof!

Lupi: Well, he got lucky… He hasn't seen me at my best yet!

Elua: That's for sure. Wait, Heal-Do, why are you blushing?

Heal-Do was unable to speak a word.

Lupi: Gah! Anyway, we should just focus on incapacitating their Wizard friend. He is without a doubt the brains of the unit!

Aege: Makes sense. We take him out, the others fall apart. Sounds perfect!

Elua: Yeah, but come on, sisters! We can't just simply challenge someone like him willy-nilly! Did you forget about that Ice Titan he sent out on us? Who knows what he could possibly have up his sleeve the next time around!

Lupi: I could care less at this point! We just need to make a plan of attack to stop him! Then we can deal with that Ray Kaza fellow and the rest at a later date!

Aege: Lupi's right. What do you think, Heal –?

The Blacksmith turns around and finds that their baby sister had vanished!

Lupi: What? Did she cloak herself or something?

Elua: I think so… But Mukuhawk can track her! *whistles*

Her falcon swoops in through an open window and lands right by the pond. He sees wet footprints on the cobblestones leading west, out of Amatsu.

Elua: I think Muku's found something! Yeah, here are some footprints left behind by her soaked feet!

Lupi, shaking her head: Why does that girl choose now to go off on her own?! Let's hurry up and get dressed, and follow her trail before the footprints dry out!

Aege: Good idea.

Meanwhile, back in Mt. Mjolnir, Thiji stood upon a balcony, leaning against the wall as he watched the moon rise over the hills and mountains…

Thiji, thinking: It has been a good couple of weeks for us. We have managed to gain control of this section of the Emperium Frontier, and we've even made it our home and headquarters. Those Battle Vixens must be rather annoyed over the fact that an up and coming guild such as ours defeated battle-tested veterans like them. Speaking of, I wonder if they know where the next establishment's location is yet… I can only hope that they have not.

Ray, Raien, and Lee approach the balcony.

Ray: Thiji, my man! How goes it?

Thiji: Hello, everyone.

Raien: Do we have any news on the next facility?

Thiji: Sorry, no.

Raien: Damn… Well, have you spotted any lovely ladies anywhere?

Thiji: I doubt there would be many wandering Mt. Mjolnir at this hour…

Raien: Just thought I'd ask.

Lee: Well, since we're all here, why don't we have a nice little "party" of sorts in… shall we say, Niflheim?

Ray: Ooh, Halloween Town sounds excellent!

Raien: Uh, "Halloween Town"?

Lee: It's the nickname he gives the place. I say it fits, honestly.

Ray: Enough talk! Let's go and fight something!

Lee: See you two later!

The Gun-Knight and the Monk hurriedly make their way down the Emperium Fortress to speak with their Kafra specialist, who then takes them to the spirit world. Raien and Thiji remain within the confines of their newly-conquered Fortress…

Raien: All right, brother. What's on your mind?

The Wizard remained silent for a moment.

Raien: Anything at all?

Thiji: Well… I have been consulting various sources regarding the emergence of the next facility…

Raien: And…?

Thiji: Nothing. I have had no luck in disclosing its whereabouts thus far. And yet I have this strange suspicion that the Battle Vixens may have more information on it than we do. It will only be a matter of time, at this rate.

Raien: I am sure it will open sometime soon. When it does, we will take on any obstacle that it may throw at us!

Thiji: Indeed, but you must keep in mind that this Fortress was merely a maze; the others may be more challenging.

Raien: Hm, yeah… good point.

The Ninja paced the floor for a moment until he had an epiphany. He would then turn to his brother.

Raien: Hold on a moment. I noticed that the Emperium we control is red-colored. Why is that?

Thiji: It was more than likely fused together with ruby minerals, making it a Ruby Emperium.

Raien: Oh, that's pretty cool!

Thiji: Yes. From what Nora has told me, there are seven Emperium Stones and each one lies within their own particular establishment. There is the Ruby Emperium – which we currently possess; the Sapphire Emperium; the Citrine Emperium; the Amethyst Emperium; the Topaz Emperium; the Emerald Emperium; and the Lapis Emperium.

Raien: Those must fetch quite a pretty zeny at the market. But wait… they all seem to represent the colors of the rainbow!

Thiji: Indeed. And that is the hidden 8th.

Raien, in disbelief: There's… an eighth stone?

Thiji: Yes. When the seven Emperium Stones are obtained, the final hidden facility will be revealed. She says that it will be the most difficult of them all, and will hold the Rainbow Emperium. The guild that grabs that stone will become the most famous guild ever in Rune-Midgarts history.

Raien: I see, I see. Now, we control this one right now, the Emperium Fortress. Would that deny any of the other guilds to acquire the Ruby Emperium for themselves?

Thiji: According to Madam Shuji, the Emperium Frontier allows other guilds the opportunity to seize control of the Emperium Stones. These facilities are nothing more than regular castles that you see in your average War of Emperium. Guilds are able to seize control of another facility by taking the Emperium Stone for their own, but seeing as how there is only one open so far, there is not much commotion at the moment. Soon, there will be others ripe for the picking.

Raien: Thanks for the explanation. Uh, say, I'm going to Morroc. I hear that there is a brothel there somewhere. Want to join me?

Thiji: Apologies, brother. I have my own matters to attend – wait, Morroc has a brothel?!

Raien: For a town that has a Thieves' Guild, I'd imagine so! You never knew? Those female thieves are hot!

Thiji: … You… go on ahead, Raien.

Raien: Your loss, bro.

Raien vanishes in a cloud of smoke as the Wizard left the balcony and took a harp from off the wall. After passing the Guardians that were stationed in the corridors and hallways, he would make his way to the golden-brown-haired Kafra specialist stationed outside of the Emperium Fortress.

Roxie: Greetings, Thiji of White Trinity! The Kafra Corporation is always happy to serve you! I am Roxie. How may I help you this evening?

Thiji: I would like teleportation to Prontera, if you please.

Roxie: Certainly! Thank you for using our convenient services!

Kafra Roxie placed a warp portal beside Thiji, which he would then step into, whisking him away to the capitol. Once there, he immediately headed south out of the gate, where they would run into Nora once again.

Thiji: I did not think you would still be working at such an hour.

Nora: Please! If you do what you love, the hours fly by faster than your energy depletes! So, what brings you here?

Thiji: Well, the others are off doing their own thing, so I figured I would do the same and take my mind off the Frontier for a bit.

Nora: Oh, that sounds fun! (sweetly) Maybe you'll play a little music for me?

Thiji: Something like that.

The Wizard and his Kafra friend exit the city and walk a short distance down the Prontera Fields. Nora sat at a nearby bench as Thiji took out the harp he acquired back at the Emperium Fortress. After a moment of preparation, he would begin to play a soft tune that attracted the nearby creatures. Nora swayed slowly in the background to the rhythm as the Wizard lost himself in his song. Meanwhile, in a faraway bush was the Assassin, Heal-Do, who had come all the way from Amatsu to find Thiji. When she heard him play, she sighed with passion and listened to the beautiful tune that resounded from his harp. Moments later, her sisters would finally catch up to Heal-Do…

Elua, whispering: Heal-Do! What the heck, girl? Why'd you run off like that?!

Heal-Do: I'm sorry, sisters… Forgive me.

Aege: Why should we forgive you? Look; you practically led us to Thiji!

Lupi: Yeah, Aege's actually right on that one. How did you know?

Heal-Do: I didn't, really… I just –

It was then that Aege grabbed the hems of her sisters' uniforms, making them crouch down behind the shrubbery.

Lupi: What gives, sis?!

Aege: I just remembered something! That Wizard is an observant one! He might see us!

Thiji would look over toward the bush that the Battle Vixens would be hiding behind, thinking that a creature had run inside. He would then shrug his shoulders and continue playing for a few more moments before completing his song, and giving a bow to his audience of Porings and Lunatics.

Heal-Do, thinking: What wondrous sound he makes from his harp… I want him to play for me like that someday…

Elua: Whoa, whoa, whoa! Heal-Do! No, what are you doing?!

Lupi: Baby sister, would you get down?! You'll get us spotted!

The Knight yanks the Assassin back into the bush, which causes Heal-Do to fall to the ground with a thud, making loud rustling noises all the while, which would then alert the Wizard once more…

Thiji: Hm? Is someone there? Your cover is blown, so I suggest you give up hiding.

Aege, whispering: Shoot! He saw us!

Elua: Retreat, much, sisters?

Aege: Yup!

Lupi: But we can take him out right now! Come on!

Elua: No! We can't! We might hurt that teal-haired Kafra lady!

Lupi: Tch… Not like I care about her anyway, but fine. Let's go.

Heal-Do: Oh… r-right.

Thiji would then see four silhouetted figures sprint through the trees and heading south out of the fields.

"Spies, perhaps? Or it could have been those Battle Vixens…" he thought to himself. He put his harp away and turned to Nora, who lifts herself from her seat and approaches him.

Thiji: Madam Shuji, I have a question for you.

Nora: Ask away, dear boy!

Thiji: How close can you get me to the Ice Caves?

Nora: Wha -? You're goin' that far Northwest?

Thiji: Yes. Are you able to take me?

Nora: Well, I'm sorry to say, Thiji, that despite all the wondrous powers I have as a Kafra executive, we cannot take you many places save for the major cities.

Thiji: Curses… There must be another way!

Nora: There is, actually! There is another company that is able to take you to places that the Kafra Corporation cannot! They're the Warpra!

Thiji, in disbelief: Really? They just added "-ra" in front of the word "Warp"?

Nora: Hey, what can ya do? Anyway, they don't charge for most dungeon teleports, but if you're goin' straight into deeper levels, then the fees are modest at best!

Thiji: Excellent! Where may we find one?

Nora: There should be one right inside the city! Let's go and find an agent right now! They wear an orange midriff and skirt as their uniform!

Thiji: Great! Thank you, Kafra Nora. Let's get started now.

Meanwhile, in the spirit world of Niflheim, Ray Kaza & Lee were hard at work fighting off demons and other shadowy threats, including a witch resembling a young girl sitting upon a crescent moon known as a Loli Ruri, and demonic knights with helmets that covered their black faces known as Dullahan. Though they've been fighting for hours, they had finally decided to find a "safe" area within Niflheim and took refuge there, watching the hostile monsters roam about as they ate a light meal of chicken and apples.

"Hey, Ray," spoke the Monk. "Do you have any idea where the next Emperium will pop up? We have been waiting for nearly three weeks now."

"I dunno, really!" the Gun-Knight replied with a shrug of his shoulders. "But Thiji did say that it was going to turn up sometime around. We just have to be patient, I guess… and I'm not entirely fond of patience."

"All right… I was only asking because we haven't heard or seen those Battle Vixens for a while now. That first fight at the Emperium Fortress was a tough one."

"I know it was! That's why it was so awesome! I'd gladly relive that battle if we could! But I have a feeling that the next one will be better than the last."

The two chuckled at each other as they finished up their grape juice. They nodded at each other and, at the count of three, launched themselves back into battle, seeing if they could fight their way to the end.

At the Frontier City of Morroc, a certain lightning Ninja was seen walking out of a building with a harem of ladies following him, giggling and swooning over the man – apparently there is a brothel in Morroc.

"Oh, I just love this town! Thiji totally was missing out!" Raien chuckled as he waved farewell to the ladies. It was a dark and starry night as the silvery moon lit up the town and the surrounding area. Since he was out and about, Raien decided to leave the city after his fun was over and go on a little stroll southwest of the city, which would eventually take him deep into the Sograt Desert.

As he walked across the dunes, he thought to himself, "I wonder if any of those super-sexy Battle Vixens girls have a crush on me. Maybe one likes Thiji, even? The guy could use a nice lady. He focuses too much on his work. He should loosen up like me, but whatever…"

He had wandered aimlessly about the Sograt Desert for at least a good hour now, thinking aloud about his buxom women and humming his favorite tunes to pass the time. It was then that he felt a disturbance from deep beneath the earth. This startled the Ninja as the sands shifted in response to the tremors, which then increased in intensity to the point where Raien would be unable to maintain his balance and falls, eating some sand in the process. A large structure had begun to rise up from the ground and Raien would frantically scramble to his feet so that he would retreat to a safe enough distance.

After roughly five minutes of tumbling, the quake would finally cease, and the lightning Ninja would set his eyes upon the silhouetted structure…

"Th-This could be the next establishment of the Emperium Frontier!" he exclaimed. "I need to let the others know! But… but how will I do that before the Battle Vixens catch on? I am miles away from civilization!"

The Ninja was too exhausted to teleport out of the Desert, especially over such long distances. Frantically looking around for a faster means of transportation, luck would be in his favor as a wild Peco Peco came into view. The beast stopped in its tracks and gave a questioning squawk as it looked at the Ninja, batting its eyes. Without hesitation, Raien took some rope and used Sonido to close the gap between himself and the bird and hopped on its back before it would notice, and then as it reared back, he quickly threw one end of the rope around the bird's mouth, and pulled on the makeshift reins to control it, and with a swift kick, ordered the bird to run to Morroc posthaste.

As the Ninja made an effort to find his friends before the Battle Vixens would catch on, the Ice Wizard would be seen exiting the Ice Caves before what felt like a jolt of electricity run through his mind…

"So, it has finally arrived… a lot sooner than I had anticipated."

From the darkened depths of the cave was a pair of piercing blood-red eyes. A low growl was heard from within the cave as a breath of frost exited the beast's maw. After taking a look back at the red eyes, Thiji's entire body became surrounded by a pale blue aura as he turned toward the beast and re-entered the Ice Caves. His Arc Wand would then break as a result of the intense magical powers he was exerting.

"But first, I need to find myself a better staff…"

Back at the Battle Vixens' base, Elua & Heal-Do felt the same jolt in their heads…

Aege: Huh? Lupi! I think they've sensed something.

Heal-Do: It's here…

Lupi: What? What's here?!

Aege: What do your elf-ears detect?

Elua: Southwest of Morroc… I heard faint trembling in the earth.

Heal-Do: Yes, I did, too.

Elua: This has to be it, sisters!

Heal-Do: The next facility… It has arrived!

Aege: Wait, Elua! I felt the same disturbance in the earth as well… But I also saw someone riding on a Peco Peco heading towards the direction of Morroc!

Lupi: That's gotta be one of those Trinities! We have our lead, then!

Elua: Mukuhawk! Come here, boy! *whistles*

Heal-Do, thinking: Are you there, too… my Lord Thiji?

The four warrior women hurriedly equip themselves and head out to pursue the trail set before them. Ray and Lee would soon hear a powerful howl echoing from within the spirit world…

Ray: Hey, Lee, did you -?

Lee: Yeah, I did. What do you think? We've made it to the end of this dungeon.

Ray: I think that new installation may have finally revealed itself!

Lee: Agreed! What's our next course of action?

Ray: Get the hell out of here and follow the trail, of course!

Lee: Right behind you!

With overwhelming force, the two stormed out of the Valley of Gyoll, pushing aside any and every monster that stood in their path as they made a mad dash out of the realm of the dead and plotted a course for Central Rune-Midgarts. With Ray & Kaza from the West, Raien from the South, the Battle Vixens from the East, and Thiji from the North, it was now a race to the new building's location as the elites of both guilds pursued their quest for glory.

From the East, the Battle Vixens had just landed in Alberta, and were heading out West into the vast Payon Forest…

Elua: You know what? We never did a lot of exploring of this city, Mukuhawk. We should do so sometime!

Lupi: Later, sister. We gotta move!

Aege: Now you said it was to the west, baby sister?

Heal-Do: Yes! I am sure of it. (Thinking) But I sense another presence somewhere…

Lupi: Good! Onward, dammit!

It was no surprise that Lupi led the charge toward the Sograt Desert, and as they traveled further into the Payon Forest, the presence that Heal-Do had picked up became stronger and more apparent to her to the point where she broke formation and headed northward.

Lupi: HEY! Heal-Do! I thought you said "west"!

Elua: Yeah! Why the sudden change?!

Heal-Do: There's… there's someone else nearby. I want to go and check it out.

Aege: Fine, but we're going on! Elua, you'll have to be our guide.

Elua: Leave it to me! Mukuhawk, to the skies!

Mukuhawk: Caw!

The Hunter's falcon took to the skies to scout ahead as their pursuit continued. Not too far north of the Battle Vixens was Thiji, who had arrived at a large ravine with a bridge connecting the border between the arid desert to the west, and the verdant forest to the east. He seemed to have been followed by a pair of little puppies whose body was made entirely of ice, and sported beady black eyes. These babies jumped off the cliff and into the river that ran straight down the middle of the area.

"Those two should be capable of making it to wherever Ray and Lee are to inform them of the establishment's arrival…" he thought aloud, looking down at the waters below. Lifting his head upward, he would then see the figure of a woman in blue Assassin's garb on the opposite side of the bridge – it was Heal-Do! Acting defensively, Thiji ran toward the bridge and put his right foot forward, taking a Swordsman's stance.

Thiji: It is you again…

Heal-Do: Wait! I… I do not wish to engage in battle with you.

Thiji: Pardon?

Heal-Do: Please understand that the words that I speak are the truth.

Thiji: Question: you are part of the Battle Vixens, are you not?

The Elven girl gave a nod.

Thiji: Then why have you come? Surely you have arrived to intercept my companions as well as the guild I represent. Or have you perhaps come all this way to assassinate me?

The Wizard conjured frost in the palm of his hands, poised to strike. But Heal-Do responded with a shake of her head.

Heal-Do: No! I have come on other terms.

Thiji figured she was telling the truth, and stood down to hear the girl out.

Thiji: Very well. Speak.

Heal-Do: When I last saw you at the Emperium Fortress, I… I don't know what came over me. I felt as though I wanted to fall to my knees and express my feelings for you. I do not yet know if it is because we are of the same element, but… I feel that I am head over heels with you.

Thiji: Ah. That explains why you were faltering so much during our previous battles. However, I am afraid to tell you that I am not interested.

Heal-Do gasped.

Heal-Do: Wha…? Why not, Thiji?

Thiji: I am a professional. I am not one to let my emotions take total control over my actions.

Heal-Do, walking along the bridge: Are you so afraid of me that you do not wish to talk? I already said that I do not wish to fight you.

She made it to Thiji and would rest her head upon his chest, slowly closing her vivid blue eyes slowly. Although she is very beautiful, the Wizard's resilience played to his favor as he lightly pulled away from the Assassin and before she could say another word, leapt off the cliff and into the waters below.

"Oh, Thiji… What could possibly be the matter? Are you perhaps hurt from past loves? I should perhaps consult his closest friends… That lecherous Ninja might shed some light on the matter," she thought to herself before dashing back the opposite way to reconvene with her sisters.

Ray and Lee had fought their way through western Prontera Fields and hurriedly ran due south toward the Sograt Desert, hoping to catch up to – if not – shoot ahead of the Battle Vixens.

Ray, panting: Geez…! Sometimes I wish I didn't have to lug around such heavy armor!

Lee: Hey, you guys have it easy. Crusader armor is much heavier! Not to mention that they carry a shield around all the time!

Ray: Oh, don't give me that crap! Come on, we have to pick up the pace or we'll fall behind for sure!

Lee: Let me take care of that… Agility… Up!

A burst of energy surrounded the Monk and the Gun-Knight, and they would begin to travel at a faster speed as dust kicked up and blinded the nearby Desert Wolves from their trail. Minutes later of running, the enchantment would wear off and their running speed would return to normal, but they would pass through the city of Morroc and found Raien riding along on a Peco Peco.

Raien: Yes! I found you guys! But… we're short one.

Ray: Don't remind me. We have no idea where Thiji went since we split up!

Lee: We don't have time. We can only hope that he is already on his way to the next facility before the Battle Vixens get to him.

Raien: Well, let's get to him before they do! Hyah!

The trio made their way southwest of the city limits and back into the Sograt Desert. They seemed to be fine as there were no threats within the immediate area, but not far to the East were the Battle Vixens hot on their trail!

Aege: Ugh… Why didn't we rent Peco Pecos?!

Lupi: Because that promotion is only available for us Knights!

Aege: Gah… stupid Prontera Chivalry…!

Heal-Do, catching up to the other sisters: Look, sisters! Footprints on the sand!

Elua: Oh, yeah! How about that? But just to be sure that those prints belong to who we think they belong to – Mukuhawk! We need eyes on 'em! Fly out and scout ahead! Detect!

Sending her falcon off into the skies, Mukuhawk soared across the desert like a jet in an effort to pick up on the trail of footprints. The Battle Vixens would then hear the sound of barking from behind them. Two small puppies with a body made entirely of ice speed past them, not even minding the fact that they were in their path.

Heal-Do: What are Garm Babies doing out in the middle of the desert…?

Aege: Who cares! Those little things are helping us out! I say we follow them!

Lupi: Yeah! Come on, girls!

Meanwhile, at the White Trinities…

Ray: I have a bad feeling, guys.

Lee: Why? We're well ahead of those stupid Battle Vixens!

Ray: I don't know. I just feel like something's about to happen.

Raien: Speaking of which, where the hell is Thiji? He'd be with us by now!

Lee: I don't know! We assume that he's far ahead of us at the moment.

Raien: That can't be possible; I found the darn place first and ran back to Morroc to alert you guys!

Ray: Well, we can only hope that he hasn't fallen behind – or worse – got himself hurt.

Raien: Ha-ha! I doubt it.

A shadow cast itself over the trio as Lee looked over his shoulder to see what was responsible for casting it.

Lee: Um… guys? Please tell me that's a vulture overhead.

Ray: Your guess is as good as mine at this point.

Raien: Hold on… I just noticed that we're leaving tracks! And the wind is calm, so they haven't been covered!

Lee: (Sarcastically) Oh, that's just perfect! Then what's that bird doing over our heads?!

Raien: That's not just any bird… I think that's –

Upon closer inspection, the Ninja discovered that the "vulture" Lee was referring to is actually Mukuhawk, Elua's pet falcon! It gave a loud screech as it tucked in its wings and retreated at full speed.

Raien: Shit! That was Elua's pet falcon! We've been spotted!

Ray: She sent the bird to scout ahead! Dammit all! Oh, look, Garm Babies.

The pair of ice puppies caught up to the three and barked alarmingly at them.

Raien: Wait, what are those?

Lee: They're called Garm Babies. But what are they doing in the middle of the Sograt Desert?

Ray: I don't care, but apparently they're trying to tell us something!

Raien: Probably the fact that we've been spotted just now?!

Back at the Vixens, Mukuhawk had just returned from its scouting mission and descended to low altitude, flying beside its master.

Elua: Mukuhawk says he's found them! Those tracks belong to White Trinity!

Lupi: YES! Draw your tools! It's time to go hunting!

Aege: Whoo-hoo! Let's crush 'em!

Heal-Do: I am right behind you, sisters!

Unsheathing their weapons, the quartet picked up their pace and would eventually see three people in the distance – it was without a doubt Ray, Lee, and Raien of White Trinity.

Lupi: It looks like their Wizard friend abandoned them! Perfect! We can take them out now while he's away!

Aege: Agreed! We're too far out into the desert for that ice boy to catch up to us!

Elua: Let me fire a warning shot! Double… Strafing!

Taking a second to line up the shot, the Huntress fired two arrows into the wind, straight toward the Trinities.

"Do you guys hear that whistling?" asked Ray to the others.

"Maybe it's the wind?" Lee answered in a worried tone. The arrows fired by Elua drew closer and closer until they would find their mark in the backside of the Peco Peco that Raien was riding on!

"Shit!" cried the Ninja as he was flung off the bird's back and ultimately colliding with Ray and Lee, causing the three to tumble down a steep dune. The Peco fell over and crushed the poor Garm Babies into a million pieces.

"Hell, yeah, a direct hit!" Elua spoke triumphantly with a fist pump into the air.

"Good shot, little sister. Let's finish them now!" Aege commanded, dashing forth with axe in hand, boosting everyone's movement speed with Adrenaline Rush. Things looked grim for the trio as they did their best to recover before the Vixens would reach them, but it seemed too late as Lupi sped ahead of the group as her lance began to pulse with fiery energy…

Lee, groaning: What the hell was that…?

Raien: My Peco got shot down! Sorry…

Ray: I don't think it'll even matter… We're screwed either way!

Lee: I didn't think it would end like this: getting killed by four beautiful yet crazy warrior women…

Raien: Speak for yourself! At least these ladies are hot!

Lupi and the others made it to the top of the dune, where they saw the downed Trinities below, prone to potshots. Lupi smirked and did the honors, preparing to launch her weapon at the three as she took a vaulting stance.

"Say goodbye, you neophytes!" cried Lupi. "Magnum…!"

Suddenly, the sands would shake for a moment or two before the dune in which the Vixens were standing on had burst and exploded as a mighty roar shook the earth! The four warrior women screamed as they were sent flying by the impact, and the rising sands would soon make way for a large dog whose entire body was made of ice!

"A Garm…! And a very large one at that!" gasped Ray as the beast leapt overhead. As it landed, it turned back around toward the White Trinities, and a familiar face would be seen sitting right beside it leisurely – except he looked different. His wand, robes, and shoes were all an ocean blue color, and floating beside him was a navy blue orb that harnessed the power of water, and his wizard hat was no longer on his person…

"Thiji!" cheered Raien, Ray, and Lee as they got back up on their feet. Thiji would disembark his glacial steed and approach his three friends.

"I apologize for my late arrival. My previous staff had broken, so I needed to find replacements. I swam my way toward the southern shores when I came across several glowing objects in the river. And as for the angry Garm, I had to charm it from the Ice Caves and make my way down here as fast as I could, though I was stopped by Heal-Do," the Wizard explained.

"Ow! That was rude! You'll pay for that! Take this! Arrow Shower!" cried Elua as she pointed her arrow up into the sky. Upon release, the arrow split into a hundred identical ones to descend around White Trinity. Just as they seem to be hit by the attack, the Garm rushed to their aid and took the full brunt of the technique; pieces of ice began to chip off of its "mane". With another roar, it charged toward the Battle Vixens head-on, only to be stopped by Lupi's Magnum Break, slowly melting it into water…

"Heh… just like that titan," scoffed Lupi as she spat at the puddle. "Come on, sisters. Let's get 'em!"

Thiji conjured a cloud made of frost and hopped on it as Lee took Ray and Raien by the shoulder to teleport a short distance ahead for a quick strategy discussion as the Vixens recuperated…

Ray: Well, you're here now, Thiji. What do you have planned?

Thiji: It will involve you and Lee buying us some time. About 30 seconds. More is good.

Ray: Say no more. Let's go, Lee!

Lee: Roger!

The two head out toward the direction of the pursuing Battle Vixens.

Thiji: I know that it isn't usually your area of expertise, brother, but I'm going to need some Suiton for this little plan.

Raien: I'll do what I can!

The Monk and the Gun-Knight go out to meet with their adversaries and kept their backs to each other as the four ladies surrounded them…

Lupi: Only the two of you? Did the others abandon you sorry fools?

Ray: Why would they want to abandon us?

Aege: Because! You're about to have a bad day. We've finally caught up with you…

Elua: And we're finally going to get our payback from last month!

Lee: Whatever. Come and get some already! *takes to the Strong Fist stance and does the "just bring it" gesture to the Battle Vixens*

With a smirk, Lupi ordered her sisters to strike them simultaneously. As the four of them closed in from all directions, Ray would raise his sword high as Aura energy enveloped it. He would then cry out, "Bowling… Bash!" before slamming his blade down into the sands, causing a shockwave to burst forth, the sand adding more effect to the initial attack. The sisters would be knocked back to their original position as a result.

"Tch! Fine, then. Let's see how they like this!" scoffed Aege as she would take her cart and jump high into the air. It was as if she were about to slam it down upon the two's heads with great force – which she was.

"Cart Revolution!" yelled Aege. The heavy metal cart would be flung over the Blacksmith's shoulder and down upon Lee, who didn't have time to properly evade it, but backstepped just in the nick of time, though the dust obscured his vision somewhat. The shock of the attack caused him to lose balance and fall to his knees.

"Yeah… I like that. Just the way you are now: on your knees, gazing upon the incredible power of the Battle Vixens!" chuckled Lupi, raising her Lance for a follow-up attack. "Eat red-hot flame!" Without hesitation, Ray countered with a Bash to Lupi's chest, though her chainmail absorbed the brunt of the blow, she was sent skidding backwards along the shifting sands. "Grr…! You little runt!"

"Venom Knife!" cried Heal-Do, wasting no time to retaliate alongside her sister Elua, who fired two wind arrows using Double Strafing. Ray deflected the Knives with his plated gauntlets, but the arrows caught him and the recovering Monk off-guard as a small sandstorm formed from the burst of air from Elua's arrows. The Gun-Knight and the Monk were sent flying helplessly backwards, several meters away from falling down the steep dune that they were defending…

"Ray… you think we bought enough time for those two?" groaned Lee, spitting out some dust.

"That had to have been more than thirty seconds. I just know it. Let's meet up with them," Ray answered, picking his companion up. Before they would retreat, however, the two would turn their heads to witness a shocking revelation…

Ray: Geez…!

Lee: Those two are capable of doing that in the middle of a desert like this?!

Ray: *turns his head back toward the Vixens* Uh-oh… we probably shouldn't let them catch on, Lee. Let's retreat now while they're still oblivious!

Lee: Right. Hold on… Body Relocation!

The two had managed to escape safely from harm's way – for now. Elua and Heal-Do gave a cheer for their minor victory, and in Lupi's unmitigated hubris, she gave a hearty, triumphant laugh as she pointed her lance toward the blue sky…

"Look at you two! You can't even beat a bunch of girly-girls!" the fiery Knight taunted. "They should call you White Fail-ity! Tell you what, Fail-ities: you guys can keep running like cowards so you can keep us ladies entertained! Let's go, sisters! That Pyramid's as good as ours, now!"

The four sisters gave a cheer and ran full speed toward the summit of the dune, but as they reached the top, what they saw next made them stop dead in their tracks. What laid before them was a pool – not just any pool – a lush oasis. The Vixens were awestruck by this sight, and without a second thought, they leapt off of the dune like a springboard, and splashed into the waters without a care in Rune-Midgarts. Even for battle-trained women such as them, the Battle Vixens were still fatigued somewhat from being exposed to the heat for so long. After a minute of enjoyment, Heal-Do had noticed something was wrong the moment she had touched the waters – she was moving at a snail's pace!

"Sisters!" the Water Elf cried. "Hold on a moment! There's… something wrong here!"

"What could possibly be wrong with an oasis in the Sograt Desert?!" squealed Elua, splashing water on her pet falcon.

"Wait a minute… Heal-Do's right," spoke Aege as she scooped some water into her cupped hands. She looked at her reflection closely and saw… nothing. She took a sip, but she would not feel the water flowing through her system. "This isn't an oasis, sisters…"

"Come to think of it… I feel a little slow. Like, slower-than-a-turtle slow…" Lupi said, trying to move her feet with great effort. Taking to the air, Mukuhawk gave a mighty flap of his wings and kicked up a gust of wind that would blow the "oasis" into thin air…

"It was… a fake?! But how?! Are we going crazy?! W-We haven't been out here t-that long, have we?!" shivered a worried Elua.

"No, Elua…" spoke the Blacksmith as she calmed down her green-haired sister. "You're right about one thing, though: we haven't really been out here that long to the point where we would start hallucinating. It must have been –"

"An illusion!" Heal-Do exclaimed. "White Trinity distracted us to make an illusory oasis to widen the distance between us and them! Damn… We fell for that so easily!"

"WHAT?! Those little…! I'm gonna flambé them once I am through with their asses! Let's go, girls!" shouted Lupi, picking up her weapon before continuing their chase. The others followed suit and fell in behind their big sister.

Several minutes ahead of them were White Trinity, whom had nearly traversed the entirety of the Sograt Desert, and stopped before what appeared to be ruins of a large provincial area. The four of them took this time to catch their breath…

Raien: I think that went well.

Lee, panting: Yeah, that was fun!

Ray: We're not done, yet, though…

Thiji: Ray is correct. We still have a ways to go before the Emperium Pyramid is available to us. If we are where I think we are, then it should be just beyond this complex.

Raien: Where do you think we are, then?

Thiji: Sandarman Fortress. I would tell us more about this place, but we still have that quartet of crazy barreling down towards us.

Ray: Well, if you say so… Where do we head from here, then?

Thiji: We will have to head west in order to clear the Fortress; that will lead us to the Pharos Lighthouse on Beacon Island, where the Emperium Pyramid is located.

A small battalion of masked, winged creatures equipped with bows and arrows stood in the way of White Trinity.

Lee: It looks like we'll have to get past these Gargoyles before we can even cross the damn bridge to get to Beacon Island!

Ray: Not a problem! Endure!

The Gun-Knight drew from his inner focus and steeled himself for the inevitable Gargoyle assault.

Ray: Get behind me, Trinities! As long as I'm in front, the Gargoyles will be focused on me! Lee, give me some support, would 'ya?

Lee: Sure thing! Spiritual Endowment!

The Monk sent his Spirit Spheres to revolve around Ray Kaza, who felt physically empowered as a result. After giving the command to charge forth, Ray took to the van and rushed through the Gargoyle menace on their way to the bridge, enduring the barrage of arrows all the while. They would finally make it to the bridge as well as create some distance between themselves and the Gargoyles.

"Everyone," spoke Thiji. "Keep going! I'll hold them off. Just leave it to me."

With that, Raien, Ray, and Lee continued down the bridge and left the Wizard behind. Focusing his wand at the edge of the bridge (and keeping himself from being punctured by enemy fire), Thiji would begin conjuring a spell. A split-second before the Gargoyles managed to access the bridge, however, they would find themselves obstructed by a barricade of frost! In their anger, the Gargoyles took their weapons and threw them on the ground, flying away in shame (though… they could have simply just flown around the wall, anyway).

With the immediate threat before them routed, the four adventurers slowed down their pace in order to keep their morale high. As such, Lee decided to bring up the previous question once more to Thiji.

"So, Mister Iceman. What's so special about this place, anyway?" he asked. Just as the Wizard was about to answer, a familiar voice was heard nearby…

"I can answer that for 'ya!"

It was Kafra Nora! She had made it all the way out into the Sograt Desert? She greeted the guild with a huge wave and welcomed them to the Fortress as they made it to the other end of the area.

"Nora…?" gasped all of White Trinity.

"This place, as you already may know, is called Sandarman Fortress. It was named long ago after a Norman called Sandarman, who occupied the province at the time! However, due to constant invasions by desert vagrants, the citizens began to fortify the province in an effort to defend themselves."

"I see… So, what what happened to them?" asked Raien.

"Well, not too far west from here is the cave town, Comodo! Back when it was under construction, the people here had begun to migrate there once they learned that Comodo started expanding with quick results! It would not be long until everyone that once lived here had abandoned Sandarman altogether, and hostile desert creatures now inhabit it!" Nora replied.

"That explains the Gargoyles…" Lee and Ray thought to themselves.

"So! The Emperium Pyramid's right around the corner! Lemme take you all there!" Nora offered, gesturing over to the west. They all agreed collectively with a nod and followed behind the eccentric Kafra lady. The Battle Vixens, meanwhile, had eventually traversed the desert, though they entered the northeastern reaches of the Sandarman Fortress, where they ran into a plethora of Goblins and Kobolds as they carved their own path southward…

Lupi: Dammit! I can't believe we lost their trail! What the hell?!

Aege: Don't look at me! We were just heading west, as instructed!

Elua: Don't worry, sisters! Mukuhawk just came back and said that he spotted some footprints to the south of here! I think we're going the right way!

Heal-Do: Good boy, Mukuhawk! We're not too far, then!

Lupi: Then let's double-time it, girls! Aege, let's show them why they chose the wrong day to mess with the Battle Vixens!

Aege: Coming right up, sis! Power… Thrust!

Raising Aege's axe in the air before slamming it down with great force, a shockwave burst forth; its energy enveloped the weapons of hers and her sisters' weapons, causing them to glow a dim white.

Lupi, chuckling: Yeah…! Now we're talking!

Elua: We'll head South, and then head west! That should take us to the Emperium Pyramid!

It was a long trek for both parties. The Battle Vixens had finally begun expediting their pace in an effort to catch up to their rivals. White Trinity had finally made it out of Sandarman Fortress (with little problems) and heaved a sigh of relief before gazing upon the gloriously huge structure towering above the Beacon Island – the Emperium Pyramid.

"There!" Nora exclaimed. "The Emperium Pyramid sits atop the Beacon Island beside the Pharos Lighthouse, which serves as a small port for trade ships and preventing passing boats from otherwise being ran aground; named after the Pharos Lighthouse that was built long ago by an ancient civilization!"

"Astounding…!" Thiji gasped in awe. "But wait… I thought the Kafra were unable to teleport beyond cities and select dungeons?"

"What?" Nora questioned the Wizard.

"We figured you were here to help, after all!" Lee said afterward.

"Yes; you understand the gravitas of this mission, do you not?" Thiji continued.

"I do, but I'm a Kafra! I can only lead you guys to the doors. Y'all are the ones that have to walk through 'em! If word got out that I was helpin' you guys directly in this competition, that'd put a bad image on not only White Trinity, but the Kafra Corporation as well!" the teal Kafra explained.

"Then… how did you even get here in the first place?" Ray inquired. Nora responded with a beckon and took the four further down and gestured to some small boats on the far end of the island.

"See those boats?" Nora asked. "I didn't come here alone, you see. While I was in Alberta tryin' to fill in for some fellow employees that were on break, I was greeted by a small force of Swordsmen and Acolytes. They were led by a Swordswoman who was side-by-side next to two Novices that appeared to be twins! I was wonderin' what the heck she was doin' with them two. Anyway, they begged me to help them get here when they heard of the Emperium Pyramid's appearance; they simply wouldn't take 'no' for an answer! So, I helped 'em buy a ferry ride to Beacon Island, and on the way, they mentioned that they knew you guys and of your actions since last month. They said somethin' about returnin' the favor for your heroism. I thought it was just cute, seein' how you guys made such a name for yourselves in such a short time! I figured they were fans, so, why the hell not, right?"

"The only question that remains is: whom are the three that you speak of?" Thiji interrupted before Nora stopped them. She pointed over toward the aforementioned force and answered, "These three," and to their surprise, it was the same brown-haired Swordswoman (and her two Novice accomplices) they had liberated back in the Mt. Mjolnir area! The young woman greeted them with a bow, and her followers did the same.

"White Trinity. We are pleased to fight for you once more," greeted the Swordswoman. "We wish to repay you for your aid and of the good you have done for Rune-Midgarts. Let us hold off the advance of the Battle Vixens; we must exact retribution for the casualties they have wrought upon the other adventurers."

Pointing over toward the island, there were two large bridges that connected it to the mainland.

"Those two bridges over there are the only way in and out of Beacon Island. My forces will try our best to delay the Vixens so as to give White Trinity as large of a head start as possible."

"We will destroy one of the bridges to make your lives easier; it will be less of a hassle to defend one bridge instead of two," spoke Thiji in response. The Swordswoman admired the Wizard's strategic wit and nodded, but Raien, eager as ever, lightly pushed his brother aside and approached the woman.

"Who exactly are you, and why are you trying so hard to help us?" he inquired, sticking a finger at the Swordswoman. With a light chuckle, she would attempt to grace the Ninja with a response, but from the east, where White Trinity had arrived, were none other than the quartet of pain that were the Battle Vixens, weapons glimmering in the light of the blazing sun. They have spotted their target, and it would not be long before they would come charging into the fray.

"I am afraid I do not have the time – nor is this the place - to answer the first question for you. However, I shall answer the second; we wanted to extend our thanks as fellow adventurers to your guild. Very few have actually mustered the courage to stand against warriors as fierce as those of the Battle Vixens' ilk. You may even go so far as to say that your actions have inspired us to do our part in the Emperium Frontier. For that, I could not be any happier to lend my sword to the cause," replied the mysterious Swordswoman before raising her sword and swinging it in the direction of the bridges. "Now go! If you act fast, we can keep their attention on us!"

"Right!" said the four White Trinity members.

"But before that…" interjected Nora, "I may as well tell you about the latest information I've received from my colleagues about the Emperium Pyramid: there are seven levels total within the Pyramid. Each level contains a trap of some sort that must be cleared before reachin' the next level, and each floor becomes more difficult than the previous. On the very top of the Pyramid lies the 2nd Emperium Stone – the Citrine Emperium! But I'm afraid that's all I can do for y'all at this point! I gotta return to Prontera soon and help keep things in order for the surge o' people flocking just to see the competition!"

"That is all right, Kafra Nora. We already owe you for accepting our request to make it here before they did!" said the auburn-haired Novice twin. White Trinity nodded at one another and took off toward the bridge closest to them. The Swordsman and her forces went to engage the Battle Vixens head-on. Taking precautionary measures, her Acolyte followers increased everyone's agility to help even the odds against the more advanced warrior women.

As the Swordswoman closed the distance between them and the Battle Vixens, the Swordsmen and Novices formed a defensive line to keep their foes at bay. Nora walked over toward the Battle Vixens disarmingly and offered to shake their hands.

Lupi, shaking Nora's hand: Uhm… Hi?

Nora: Good to meet 'ya! The name's Nora!

Elua: Hello, Kafra Nora! Here to tell us about that Pyramid over yonder?

Nora: You're a smart one! Indeed I am!

The Kafra gave them the rundown on the Emperium Pyramid before wishing them luck and continuing on her merry way out of the island. After that short dialogue, everyone focused back toward the fight…

"You little weaklings again?!" taunted Lupi, raising her augmented lance at the Swordswoman. "I thought we taught you and your kind a lesson back at Mt. Mjolnir!"

"Please…" the Swordswoman scoffed. "Only through cowardice and cheap tricks! At least here – now – we can do battle whilst we are on even ground."

"We have nothing against you, Miss Lady, but… we kinda have to go to that pyramid over yonder!" Elua remarked as her pet falcon pointed a wing over in that direction.

"Yeah, so would you mind… you know, moving over, before something bad happens?" Aege followed, making a scooching motion with her free hand.

Refusing to take their taunts any longer, the Swordswoman ordered her Acolytes to fire volleys of Holy Light at Heal-Do, who took the full brunt of the attack, yet remained standing, shrugging off the damage.

In annoyance, Lupi shook her head and murmured, "Someone's always got to be the fucking hero…" before charging headlong into the defensive line. As they clashed blades, White Trinity would hear the sounds of battle in the not-so-far distance, signaling them that the divisionary tactic had gone underway – and that they should probably expedite their march…

Thiji: It was a success! That brave woman and her forces are holding off the Battle Vixens!

Raien: That's good! Though I still think we should help her out a bit…

Lee: Sorry, Raien, but she blatantly put her life on the line just to protect us.

Ray: And I don't think there was any changing her mind even if we tried. She looked dead serious to me!

Thiji: Well, we are almost past this bridge. Although we will most likely be detected once we sever this one, it will be a lot easier for those adventurers to defend this location as they will have more ground to cover. Once we clear it, Raien will sever the ropes keeping the bridge together, and we can begin our head start on the Pyramid.

Raien: Leave it to me!

Back on the frontlines, the Battle Vixens were slowly breaking through, but they did not let up, for they would buy White Trinity the time they needed to successfully make it beyond the bridge.

"Take heart, my brothers and sisters! We can't let them breach this line!" commanded the Swordswoman, whom was now face-to-face with Lupi.

"Tch! You've got a lot of guts for a mere Swordsman! And to think that I mistook you guys for a minor threat…!" grunted Lupi, actually complimenting someone, which was rare by her standards. Aege & Heal-Do joined the fray to make things go faster, but Elua was surveying the battle, still, pondering over something…

"Why are all these people back? And why would they come all the way out here just to impede us?" the Wind Elf thought to herself. Looking around the immediate area, her vision was obscured by the line of Swordsman and Novices, with the Acolytes providing whatever ranged support they could.

Give or take a moment later into the skirmish, Mukuhawk came back to his master's side, giving Elua a brief "report" to the Huntress. Smiling and nodding, she turned to the battle before her and hailed her sisters.

"Hey, girls!" shouted Elua. "Mukuhawk says that White Trinity is just about to cross the bridge to the Emperium Pyramid! I think these people were trying to hold us off!"

"Well, that much was already obvious, sister…" Heal-Do sighed. Lupi saw past the line of adventurers and would see White Trinity clearing the bridge, as her younger sister mentioned. She would also see Raien preparing kunai knives to sever the bridge from the other end.

Taking this opportunity, the brown-haired Swordswoman would attempt to use a Bash attack on the crimson Knight, but Lupi was keen enough to block the attack and ultimately deflect the blow, causing the Swordswoman to skid backwards along the ground. The resulting shock, however, caused the Swordswoman to fall to her knees as she tried to keep her balance using her sword.

"It… It is done," she panted. "Our ploy was successful. And yet you've still… not been able to break through our line. Is this the extent of the Battle Vixens' strength…?" Lupi's ruby eyes would then light up, as if a fire was set within them – she was just taunted by a lower-tier adventurer!

"No!" gasped Aege. "We were stalled?! Dammit! Lupi, let's just break through this line already!"

The elder sister wasted no time in doing so as she rose her spear in the air, causing flames to envelop the weapon, and reared it backwards, as if preparing to charge once more. Lupi would then yell the words, "Spear… Stab!" before lunging her weapon straight toward the Swordswoman, who knew she couldn't properly defend against such an attack (especially one imbued with fire!), so she used her own sword to redirect the attack slightly toward the left where it grazed her hip, and setting her armor aflame. The resulting impact caused the flames to explode in all directions, causing the others to let their guards down by shielding themselves from the heat. The Swordswoman, however, was rolling along the ground toward the cliffs.

"Sister!" cried the Novice twins, trying to run to her side in a desperate bid to save her. However, just when they would reach her body, the earth beneath her would begin to break!

"White Trinity… The rest is up… to you. My brothers… sisters… retreat…" groaned the burning Swordswoman. The earth had now crumbled beneath her, causing the brave woman to fall down the cliffs and into the ocean below…

"No! Sister!" cried the Novice twins again, looking back toward the Battle Vixens in anger.

"We must fulfill her dying wish!" ordered one of the Swordsmen in the defensive line. "We must retreat! These women are too strong!"

As much as they wished to avenge their friend and mentor, the Novice twins knew that this was too much for them, and followed their forces northward out of Beacon Island as they made their retreat.

"Hmph! And stay out…" Lupi scoffed before spitting on the ground that they treaded upon. "I can't believe they actually held us off so long; now the bridge is gone…"

"There is still another bridge on the far end that we can use!" Heal-Do pointed out.

"I'll go in first, if you'll let me, big sister. I think I can scare them off before they break the other bridge!" Aege volunteered. Lupi nodded and fell behind the Blacksmith. "Adrenaline Rush!"

Aege's increased speed would carry her feet across the field as swift as the winds, closing in on their target. Meanwhile, Thiji and the others had just witnessed the fall of the brave Swordswoman that gave her life for them.

Raien: Shit… they took her out, bro!

Thiji: I know. That woman… she truly was a brave one.

Lee: I'll say a prayer for her later, but now we're justified in defeating the Battle Vixens once again and seizing the Emperium Pyramid for ourselves!

Ray: Yeah, because that Blacksmith woman is barreling down towards us right now! Get inside!

The Gun-Knight attempted to slow Aege down with a few shots of his revolver, but she deflected the bullets with her axe. She was advancing on their position fast with no letup! In a last-ditch effort, Ray absorbed a coin into his barrel, took a deep breath, and waited for the right moment to strike…

"You're mine, now!" Aege shouted before taking out her cart once again. "Cart…!"

The Blacksmith was now several meters away from Ray, who then yelled, "Cracker!" before squeezing the trigger, causing a quick flash of light to emit from the gun, and stopping Aege in her tracks.

"Ngh…! What…?! Not this shit again…!" Aege groaned, falling to her knees. Ray took this time to run into the Pyramid until he rendezvoused with his crew again, allowing Thiji to conjure another barrier of frost at the entrance of the Pyramid so as to buy them more time.

"Sister!" cried Elua, running over to Aege's side. Lupi and Heal-Do caught up to her.

"I'm… I'm fine. I don't seem to be hurt, though," the Blacksmith replied. "I think I was immobilized again… that's the second time that's ever happened to me since White Trinity showed up!"

"That Thiji… he truly is not like other Wizards…" uttered the Assassin, slowly approaching the melting wall of frost covering the entrance. "They've made their ways inside. We have to stop them, sisters! And I have an idea…"

The 1st level of the Emperium Pyramid was a simple room filled with Familiars. After some efficient crowd control efforts, White Trinity cleared the room and began their advance. However, they would hear the sound of the wind rushing into the Pyramid…

Raien: Wait, guys… you hear that?

Thiji: The wind? It must be because the air is circulating back into the Pyramid.

Ray: Raien's got a point. This wind actually sounds like it's coming to us!

Thiji, slowly turning around: You don't possibly think that –

As soon as Thiji turned his head back, he and the others would find themselves swept off their feet by a sudden burst of wind, causing them to spin uncontrollably in the air before falling hard on the floor.

"Good plan, Heal-Do!" said the three sisters before rushing into the Pyramid. They saw the incapacitated White Trinity and laughed.

"Elua! Heal-Do! You two are the fastest! Keep on going! We'll take care of these boys!" Aege commanded.

"Leave it to us, big sister!" Heal-Do replied before taking off, though stopping abruptly to mouth the words, "Forgive me…" to Thiji, whom was still recovering. Once they cleared the first level, the Wizard would finally come to and stare down the Knight and the Blacksmith, whom was barring passage to the next level. The rest of White Trinity would come to as well, falling in beside Thiji, though they didn't have much time to waste…

Lupi: So… we've caught up to you guys at last. And this time, we have the upper hand!

Thiji: It's only a slight disadvantage for us.

Aege: Does your strategist always try to talk so tough?

Ray: Only when he needs do, darlin'.

Lee didn't want to take extra time throwing words at each other, and dashed forth to encounter Lupi with a barrage of blows, which she would then counter and deliver her own. Her lance would eventually become deadlocked with Lee's knuckles as sparks flew out from the immense friction…

"You harmed yet another adventurer only trying to help! She did not deserve the fate that you laid upon her!" Lee cried before charging his right fist with ki, preparing for a heavy attack.

"Excruciating… Palm!"

With his ki-augmented fist, he would deliver a powerful punch toward Lupi's face, but would be intercepted by Aege's axe, saving her sister from a crushing blow. However, the resulting power from the Excruciating Palm attack caused not only Aege, but Lupi as well to be pushed back several feet, and become stunned by the explosion. Using his remaining Spirit Spheres to absorb into his body, Lee kept his ground as his spirit burned with vigor.

"You Battle Vixens will stop at nothing to achieve your own ends! You must be stopped!" declared Lee. "Even if I must fight you alone, I won't falter!"

"What?!" questioned the other three White Trinity members. Lee turned his head and nodded.

"Go. I'll deal with these two myself. I'll meet up with you guys later. This just became personal…"

Without hesitation, White Trinity abandoned their Monk compatriot and chased after Elua & Heal-Do, whom were on the 2nd floor that was rife with fireball traps.

Elua, dodging a few fireballs: Whoa! Whoa! What in the hell?! Heal-Do, do something about this, would you?! Mukuhawk will become Sunday dinner if this keeps up!

Heal-Do: Uh, right! I'm on it!

Using her cloaking abilities, the Assassin was able to slip past the room, being careful as to not step on the pressure plates that would trigger the fireballs to spew forth from the walls. After a short minute of waiting, the lever on the far end of the room would be pulled down, causing the room to be cleared, and the door to the 3rd level to open.

"Yeah! You did it, baby sister! Good job!" cheered the Huntress as she skipped over toward the end. It was then that Ray, Raien, and Thiji entered the 2nd level and saw the two sisters about to head up.

Raien: Dammit! They've already cleared this level!

Heal-Do: We have company, Elua!

Elua: Oh? Why, hello there, boys! Sorry, but we don't have time for you right now; we have orders to take that precious Emperium Stone for ourselves! Toodle-oo!

Just before heading up, Elua pulled the level back up to seal the doorway and reactivate the fireball traps, putting White Trinity at an impasse.

Ray: No! They're getting away!

Thiji: There is no way that I am able to create an ice layer thick enough to withstand this constant barrage of fire, and using Storm Gust at this level would damage the mechanism at the far end…

Raien: Guys, I have an idea. I think I know just the technique to get over there fast enough to avoid the fireballs, but…

Ray: But…?

Raien: I can only use this technique once at a time. Any more after that and that'll put a strain on my body.

Thiji: It is the only chance we have at this juncture; you're the swiftest of the three of us.

Raien: Okay, then. Stand back…

Once they were about five meters away from the Ninja, Raien would make signs with his hands before focusing his chakra into a thin veil that surrounded his being. As the aura expanded, lightning began to radiate from his body.

"Whoa!" exclaimed Ray, stepping back a few extra feet. Thiji was undaunted as he watched Raien do his thing. The shinobi gathered his chakra and directed it all into his right hand, holding onto his arm with his other hand to keep it from shaking too much from the raw power emanating from his palm.

"Here goes… Time to use one of my people's special techniques: the Kaminari Ha!" shouted Raien. He took a moment to stabilize the frantic lightning dancing around as Ray beheld the spectacle in awe.

"I've never seen Ninja do that!" the Gun-Knight uttered in astonishment.

On the floor below them, Lee was holding his own against the two powerhouse sisters that were Lupi & Aege. He had strength to match, but he could only accomplish so much fighting alone, plus he had not fully recovered after their little scuffle in the Sograt Desert.

The Monk found himself in a deadlock with both women, fighting off their combined strength using one hand each to do so (holding off Aege's axe with his left and Lupi's lance with his right). In a bid to escape this, Lee delivered a low kick with his left leg to Aege's right knee so that she would lose balance, freeing his left arm to strike at Lupi, who then blocked his punch with her gauntlet and parried with it, causing Lee to stagger a bit and giving the Knight a chance to attack with her Lance. However, Lee was able to somersault away from her slash attack and made some distance between himself and Lupi.

Lee gathered his energy and conjured five Spirit Spheres to circle around him. With an outstretched palm, he shouted, "Occult Impaction!" and sent one of the Spirit Spheres to assail Lupi, who scoffed at his silly ranged attack.

"Oh, please…!" laughed Lupi. "What's that silly little ball going to do against –?”

As soon as the sphere collided with the Knight, she was hit with what felt like a strong punch to her stomach, and with force great enough to send her flying into a wall! Aege regained her balance and watched as her big sister was hit with such a deceptively powerful attack, trying to comprehend what precisely just happened.

"Uh… would you… mind telling me what the hell you just did?" the Blacksmith asked, still dumbfounded.

"Gladly!" answered the Monk. "Occult Impaction does more damage to someone depending on how high their defenses are. In other words, the more heavily armored the target, the heavier the damage!"

Sending a Spirit Sphere at her this time, Aege rose her axe to defend against it, and felt a powerful punch of similar strength, though with moderately less strength, forcing the Blacksmith back several feet.

"Okay…" Lupi groaned as she got out of the shallow hole in the wall. Properly situating herself for a moment as she stood upright, she gave a light exhale, and in the blink of an eye, charged straight for Lee, causing her crimson hair to fly in all directions from the sudden burst of speed.

The Monk rolled to the left and evaded Lupi's telltale attack, causing her lance to bore into the walls of the Emperium Pyramid.

"I've got to get to the others… I'm running out of steam fast holding these two off." Lee thought to himself, panting softly.

Two levels above them, Heal-Do and Elua had made it to the 3rd floor, which seemed to have been just a regular room. Looking around for a moment, the Huntress began to whisper to her pet falcon as Heal-Do tried to ascertain the issue.

Heal-Do: What do you think, sister? This room doesn't look very dangerous if not at all.

Elua: That's what they want you to think, baby sis! To the untrained eye, this may be just a normal room with nothing special happening! But I'm not dumb enough to see that! Mukuhawk, Detect!

With an acknowledging "caw!" the falcon made a swift, linear sweep down to the opposite end of the room, revealing black tiles on the floor (the regular floor tiles were a brownish color). Mukuhawk then immediately turned back around and perched itself on Elua's left arm.

Elua: Good boy! *points down to the floor* See those, sister? Those must be pressure-sensitive plates that'll trigger a trap of some kind!

Heal-Do: Well done indeed, Elua and Mukukhak! But, what do you suppose the trap may be when it's sprung?

Elua: I'd… rather not find out. Let's just advance carefully!

As they traversed the level with caution, below them Raien was just about ready to commence his own little plan.

"Now!" he shouted, kicking off from the ground hard. In the blink of an eye, he sped his way down the room with his lightning-infused hand outstretched in front of him, piercing through the fireballs that were closing in on them, turning them into ash. It was then that Thiji had an epiphany.

"Oh, no…" he murmured.

"What is it, Thiji?" asked Ray in alarm.

"He's not trying to aim for the mechanism at all…"

"Then what is he trying to do other than clear this room?!"

"Brace yourself, Ray…"

With a powerful yell, Raien zoomed toward the end of the level and demolished the door that led them to the 3rd floor. The resulting crash caused the Pyramid to rumble slightly… which would spell danger for the two sisters above them.

The tremor had made them lose focus, and more importantly, their balance (except for Mukukhawk since the bird was airborne). Elua had fallen backwards from the shock, making her collide with Heal-Do. As they fell to the ground, their elbows would touch one of the booby-trapped tiles, but nothing happened…

"Ow…! What on Rune-Midgarts was that?!" Elua groaned, rubbing her bottom.

"I… I don't know!" the Assassin followed, getting up from the fall as well. "We didn't touch any of the exposed tiles, did we?"

The sound of rock moving against the ground filled the room when Elua would then see the walls starting to move – they were closing in on them!

"OH, SHIT!" shrieked the Huntress as she desperately grabbed hold of Mukuhawk and dashing madly down the hall without a care in the world. Heal-Do followed suit and went right after her. It was close, but the two Vixens managed to survive the 3rd level (relatively) unscathed. Elua heaved a sigh of relief and headed up the stairs as the walls retracted back into their original position.

On the 2nd level, Thiji and Ray make it toward the end and reconvene with Raien.

"Not the way I would have done it, but…" remarked the Wizard, patting Raien on the shoulder. "Come on. We need to continue our chase."

As they headed up, meanwhile, back on the 1st level, Lee was beginning to suffer from fatigue as he was kept on the defensive at this point; Lupi and Aege were putting up a fierce fight.

"Man, you got some balls, kid… and here I thought Acolytes were total pansies!" Lupi goaded with a chuckle.

"I'm a Monk, for your information!" he shouted back, fighting off Aege as he did.

"Monk, Acolyte - same dif'. You're still gonna burn either way!"

Aiming her lance at the Monk's chest, Lupi charged again at Lee whom was still trying to get out of his deadlock with Aege.

"D… Damn…!" he grunted with effort. He was beginning to run out of options, and he was given little time to breathe and recuperate. Using more of his energy, he waited for just when Lupi's lance would be but a few inches from him, and grasped the tip of the weapon while doing the same to Aege's.

"Root!"

"Not this technique again…!" Aege grunted. Though Lee is used to this skill on single targets, it was a total gamble to use it on multiple, but he barely managed to succeed. As a result, Aege and Lupi were frozen in place as well as he, and he took this time to gather more strength for a counterattack!

"Excruciating Palm!"

He struck Lupi with great force and pushed her back with such force that the Knight fell on her bottom and would skid across the ground. Now he could focus primarily on the Blacksmith! He had precisely one Spirit Sphere left in his possession, and he knew just how to utilize it…

"Raging… Trifecta… Blow!"

The Monk began his counterattack with a three-hit combo with his fists, and with the Blacksmith immobilized until he actually used a subsequent skill, she had no ability to defend herself from Lee's onslaught.

"Raging… Quadruple… Blow!"

With four back-to-back punches to the stomach, Lee had completed the second of his three-part retaliation. Lupi tried her hardest to get up, but the power from the Excruciating Palm stunned her for a moment – enough time for Lee to finally lay some hurt!

"Raging… Thrust!"

Absorbing the Spirit Sphere he had remaining into his body, he would throw his entire being at Aege in one final finishing move. A clean blow to the chest would deliver Aege flying – and crashing on – her big sister. But those Vixens were resilient; they weren't done yet. However, this would give Lee the opportunity he needed to recuperate for round two.

Immediately taking an Indian sitting position, he brought his fists together and whispered, "Spiritual Cadence…" as hefocused his energy on himself in order to recuperate from his wounds.

Meanwhile, on the way up to the 4th level, the other White Trinity members saw Heal-Do and Elua just as they cleared the stairs. Raien immediately pushed them back down and hid under the shadows of the wall as he took a peek… though he would find the view very pleasing as he had a good view of the girls' bottoms while they were standing there figuring out what to do in this spike-trap-filled room…

Ray: Raien, what do you see?

Thiji: Is it Heal-Do and Elua?

Raien, huskily: Oh-ho-ho, it's them, all right… I got a good view from here!

Ray: Uh, what's he talking about?

Thiji: He's staring at their asses, no doubt…

Raien: Hold on, though… I see something else.

Heal-Do was attempting to find out the riddle behind this room while Elua stood there looking befuddled. The Assassin then points to a stone ring resembling a target on the wall of the opposite end of the room.

Raien: Okay, apparently Heal-Do is pointing at some stone circle at the far side of the room…

Thiji: That must be the key to passing this level. I am sure of it. However, it is going to take precise timing and speed – both of which the three of us can fulfill.

Ray: What do you have in mind?

Thiji: It'll be tough, but you must follow my instructions exactly as I give them. If we are too slow, or ruin the strategy, we will bring ourselves into an unnecessary battle against the Battle Vixens…

After a minute of debriefing, Thiji and Raien kept their heads down while Ray slowly moved into position. With their backs turned, the Battle Vixens did not detect the Gun-Knight slowly creeping toward them in the shadows…

"Ray will make his way closer to the two sisters while remaining undetected. By that time, Heal-Do will rely on Elua to use her arrows to shoot the target; the falcon will not move from its spot or it will otherwise ruin Elua's shot. Since a bullet can travel farther than an arrow, Ray will have to use his sidearm to land the perfect shot just as Elua draws her bow back as far as she possibly can. Once the shot is fired, they will immediately be alerted to our presence, during which that the Huntress will attempt to shoot at us. I must create a thin ice wall so that the arrow will not shoot through it but instead shatter the wall, giving Raien the cover he needs to zoom straight through them. However, he will be tunnel visioned as he is making the dash toward the end of the room as the spike traps are deactivated. When he runs past the two, Elua will undoubtedly attempt to shoot him down. Once that happens, I must conjure another ice wall in order to stop the attack. Ray will then go second and incapacitate the both of them simultaneously, which will allow me to get through them without any issues… My timing is crucial to this strategy working, for if I conjure a layer too thick, it will impede Raien's advance, and alert the two to Ray."

Thiji went over the entire plan in his mind, making sure that the proper ramifications would take place should it succeed. All that it came down to was the execution. Once Heal-Do pointed out the ring to Elua, the Huntress gave a nod and positioned herself properly to get a clear shot. Mukuhawk got out of the way to help facilitate this.

After inhaling, Elua took her bow and drew the arrow back – this was it. As she drew it back further and further, Ray would detach the revolver from his blade and close an eye to improve his aim – he had a clear shot at the target, and whispered, "Tracking…" to take these extra few seconds to guarantee his next shot landing perfectly. Raien anxiously waited for his move as he rocking back and forth on his heel, ready to go.

And now the moment had finally come when Elua would draw her bow back to her fullest. Trusting his skill, Ray opened his eye and gave a grin, absorbing one of his three remaining floating coins into the gun's barrel as he uttered, "Bull's Eye," And pulled the trigger.

The shot was fired, and the sudden noise caused Elua to lose focus and sent her arrow flying off to the side. Reacting quickly, Ray rolled into the shadows before the two sisters would turn around.

"Now!" ordered Thiji. Raien kicked off on his right foot and began his dash.

"Tch! Why you…! Take this! Double Strafing!" Elua said as she launched a pair of arrows at the Ninja. Thiji rose his hand in the air quickly to conjure a wall of frost that stopped her attack, and the ice would shatter – he was halfway complete.

"Lord Thiji's –"Heal-Do gasped before Raien would make his way past the sisters. The Huntress scoffed and took out another arrow that was going to hit Raien square in the spine. Thiji had placed another ice wall just as the Ninja cleared the center of the room and neutralized the attack once more.

"Yes!" Thiji cheered in his mind. Ray then took out another revolver, cocked it, gave them a twirl and appeared right in between Elua and Heal-Do.

Absorbing his remaining coins into each barrel – one coin in each – the Gun-Knight coolly uttered, "Cracker," before firing bullets of light at both of them and stunning the two sisters. This gave Thiji the window to conjure a small cloud of frost and rode on it as Ray ran down the room the catch up to Raien.

However, Thiji was not one to forget his gentleman side. As he passed the two incapacitated ladies, he tipped an imaginary hat and bid the two girls farewell before speeding off after Raien and Ray.

"Oooh…! We totally got played just now!" Elua growled as she saw White Trinity advance into the 5th level. "He isn't like other Wizards, I tell you!"

"He's… amazing…" whispered the Assassin, completely awestruck at Thiji's talents.

As they ascended to the 5th floor, Ray asked Thiji, "How did you figure that Heal-Do wasn't going to react?"

"Bragging aside, I knew that she would be astounded by my brilliance," Thiji replied coolly.

Upon reaching the 5th floor, they came to a large yet empty room. It seemed nothing was going to happen, until Ray laid his hand upon a pressure plate on the wall while he was catching his breath, which caused eight large, bipedal, undead jackal monsters wielding scepters to emerge!

"Anubis! And lots of them!" alarmed Ray. After a collective roar, the monsters began to close in on them, surrounding White Trinity in the center.

"Frost… Nova!" cried Thiji as he sent out a wave of ice outward to attack the band of monsters. It slowed them down, but the spell did not have the effect Thiji had intended. "They're undead; they can't be frozen!"

"But they can be burned! Ray, on my signal!" Raien spoke as he took out a Fire Stone from his pocket, focusing chakra into it.

"What signal?!" Ray yelled as he pointed his guns toward the enemy.

After uttering the word of "flame" in another language, he would raise the Fire Stone into the air and cry out, "Blaze… Shield!" and summoned a firestorm that shot forth and enveloped the Anubis pack in crimson flame. As the beasts writhed in agony, Ray took out his other revolver again, he told his two companions to duck, assuming that this was the "signal" that Raien was referring to.

"Desperado!" yelled Ray as he wildly shot his pistols in all directions, pelting the burning monsters with dozens of bullets until they would eventually fall into pieces before White Trinity's teamwork. They gave a cheer and went on to the 6th level, wasting no time to make some distance between them and the two recovering sisters.

Meanwhile, all the way back down on the very first level, Lee recuperated as much of his strength as he possibly could before Lupi & Aege were lucid again.

"That was a cheap trick you did there, you know…" Lupi snarled.

"You fight dirty. Kind of unexpected, but it's commendable," Aege continued.

"But you've stalled us long enough! It's time for you to burn!" Lupi said before aiming her lance at Lee, enveloping herself in aura, adding fire to the mix. "Charge Attack!" With great speed, the Knight barreled towards the Monk, who put up a defensive stance by covering his chest with his arms. Once she connected, the impact would send Lee in reverse until his back would collide with a wall.

"Wh… What…?" the Monk grunted in surprise.

"You're not the only one here with tricks up his sleeve!" the female Knight had stated. "Charge Attack's strength increases the further I am from my target when I use it!"

"And now you'll feel the might of earth!" the Blacksmith would shout before taking out her large maul and bringing it down upon Lee. "Hammer Fall!"

"Flee!"

Acting quickly, Lee had avoided the brunt of Aege's Hammer Fall, but the force of the impact interfered with his balance, long enough for Lupi to retaliate with another Charge Attack, which he would barely deflect with his knuckles and fell to the ground due to his disrupted balance.

"I've bought enough time for the others… I've done all I could do with these two. My only option now is to meet up with them!" Lee thought to himself as the way up the Emperium Pyramid lay open before him.

"Don't you dare run away!" the angry Knight roared as she picked up her lance.

"Who knew White Trinity were a bunch of cowards?" commented the Blacksmith with a shrug of her shoulders. Lupi gave a light chuckle and chased after him. Aege followed suit.

At the 4th level, Heal-Do and Elua had finally recovered from their stunned state…

Elua: Oh, man… Lupi's not gonna be happy when she sees that we let them get ahead of us!

Heal-Do: She won't! As long as we catch up to them, we can seize the Citrine Emperium before they do!

Elua: Right! C'mon, Mukuhawk! We have Trinities to catch!

Upon entering the 6th floor, Thiji, Raien, and Ray enter a room where the floor before them was lava save for several platforms that were able to be accessed by jumping.

Raien: Who the hell puts lava in a Pyramid?!

Ray: Like we're supposed to know the answer to that?!

Thiji: There's no time to be asking questions. We have to cross this pit of lava if we're to get to the final floor!

Raien & Ray: Right!

But before they even made it onto the first platform, Heal-Do and Elua had entered the scene, wasting no time to use Blitz Beat to attack them!

Ray got in the way of Mukuhawk's strike and was pushed onto a platform (very fortunate for him).

"Bro, get to the end! We'll have to hold them off!" Raien commanded. Without another word, Thiji got onto a platform, watching the spewing lava all the while as he rode his way across.

"Huh?! That Wizard is getting away!" the Huntress had pointed out before firing a charged arrow of wind at him, only to be deflected by Raien's kunai.

"I've been waiting to fight you…" the Ninja chuckled as he jumped onto the platform with Ray. Heal-Do used her agility to wall run her way through the room, dodging Kunai knives from Raien as she did. Firing a warning shot past his left ear, Elua reprimanded with a wink, "If that's the case, then you would be wise not to lose your focus on me!"

Ray finally got up and reloaded his gun before re-attaching it onto his sword. It was not a moment later that three more would join the fray as they came up from the 5th level – it was Lee (being chased by Lupi and Aege, of course)!

Jumping over Elua, he landed on the large platform that Raien and Ray were situated on, kneeling down from all the batters and bruises he had endured – and the heat wasn't making this any better for him.

Lee: Hey, guys… Sorry to keep you waiting. Where's Thiji? And that other girl?

Raien: He and Heal-Do went on to the last floor. We're staying behind to do the dirty work.

Lee: Really…? Well, I've held two of them off – barely… I think it'll be a hell of a fight now with three of us taking on three of them.

Ray: In your condition?! Hah! I don't think so, old pal!

Taking out a white potion, Ray removed the cork and poured the contents on Ray's body, rejuvenating him with a white glow. Feeling reinvigorated, Lee got up to his feet and gathered his Spirit Spheres and absorbed it into his body. With a mighty stomp, he cried, "Fury!" and a burst of energy came forth, increasing his offensive prowess.

Lupi, Aege, and Elua got on another platform and it would drift them into the center, where White Trinity would await them…

Lupi: Looks like the shoe is on the other foot this time! Now you're really gonna catch a nasty burn!

Lee: Your flames may burn bright, but it will be doused by the strength of my spirit!

Aege: You know nothing of fighting spirit! Allow us to teach you!

Ray: Well, I hope you don't being taught a little lesson in underestimating your opponents!

Elua: You already played us for fools once! You're not doing so again!

Raien: Then if you want us so badly, come at us, sisters!

Lupi: With pleasure…

Stabbing her lance into the ground, Lupi split the platform into three smaller ones for the girls to ride on. Lee gave another stomp on the ground and split their rock in a similar fashion. Their individual platforms would drift toward one another as they braced themselves for combat…

At the 7th and final level, Thiji had dusted the ashes from his robes and saw a powerful orange-colored light emanating from the far end – the Citrine Emperium, no doubt! However, Thiji was never a glutton for punishment, so he carefully approached the stone as Heal-Do had caught up to him, attempting to jab him with her katars, but the Wizard moved to the side and defended with his Aqua Staff, and countering with a blast of ice from his Aqua Orb floating beside him.

"Ngh…!" grunted Heal-Do, brushing the frost from her face.

"They sent you to battle me?" sighed Thiji, lowering his weapon.

"You underestimate me, Lord Thiji?" asked the Assassin.

"No. I just thought they would send Lupi over, but not you."

"My big sister has always found home on the field of battle… but not me. But like the seasons change, so does the water for which I am named! You will feel the might of the ocean!"

"Not unless you feel the chill of the north first…"

Getting into battle stance, the two contestants were poised to fight for the Citrine Emperium. However, an eerie moan would fill the dimly-lit room. The two lowered their weapons once again and scanned the room as to find the source of the noise. The moan appeared again and something began to manifest right before the radiant Citrine Emperium.

A large throne would appear with what seemed to be a pharaoh whose feet were bound in chains was sitting upon it. On its right hand was a scepter with a large, red gem on the top and sported a crown similar to the one on the pharaoh's head.

"The guardian of the Citrine Emperium is… the pharaoh spirit of Amon Ra…?" gasped the Assassin. She and Thiji attempted to step back toward the door, but Amon Ra banged his staff on the floor and pillars of flame shot up from behind them, barring their entrance! He would bang the staff again, summoning two pill bugs; a skeletal soldier wielding a rapier whose form was barely holding; and a pair of demonic treasure chests that sported sharp teeth and creepy arms – Arclouzes, Khalitzburg, and Mimics, respectively.

With a loud moan, Amon Ra pointed his scepter at the Wizard/Assassin duo and ordered his minions to attack.

Thiji: I think Lord Pharaoh wants to play…

Heal-Do: Yes. The enemy of my enemy is my friend… for now.

The Assassin decided to team up with the Wizard in an effort to take down this boss of a monster. On the floor below them, White Trinity and the Battle Vixens were locked in combat atop a boiling lake of lava. Elua had kept her distance as she fired upon Lee, who was preoccupied with Aege that would attempt to scare the Monk using Hammer Fall to kick up a wall of lava. Ray and Lupi were clashing steel, firing potshots at Elua to keep the pressure off of Lee. Raien offered support whenever possible. When he saw the wall of lava rise, he took a Water Stone out and chucked it, causing the contents to burst and reduced the lava into steam.

Elua took their time to recover to her advantage, as she ordered Mukuhawk to harry the three Trinities while she prepared an Arrow Shower imbued with wind energy, causing pillars of lava to shoot forth and entrapping them. Aege advanced and shouted, "Power Maximize!" and reinforced her axe with a layer of steel that would increase her damage output.

Ray attempted to fire at Mukuhawk, but it was too fast, and the lava was closing in. They needed to do something to turn the tables fast!

Calling more Spirit Spheres, Lee pointed at Aege and cried, "Finger Offensive!" and launched spheres at all of his opponents, driving off Mukuhawk and repeatedly striking the Battle Vixens with holy power.

The daring Gun-Knight took his revolvers out once more and jumped through a lava pillar and appeared atop the Battle Vixens. Pointing his guns downward, he began to spin as he cried out, "Desperado!" and fired a hail of bullets down upon them. When his assault finished, Ray landed on a vacant platform behind the Battle Vixens, resulting in a pincer formation; he kept his guns pointed at Aege to the far right, and Elua to the left; Lupi rose her lance against Ray; Raien kept his sights on Elua and Mukuhawk whom had her bow aimed towards Lee whom kept his focus on Aege. The Blacksmith kept her eyes on Raien as both teams fought hard for their cause.

Back on the 7th floor, Heal-Do was concentrating her attacks on the minions while Thiji had a magical duel with Amon Ra. The two would seem to be evenly matched until the gem on the pharaoh's scepter began to glow, and summoned a meteor storm to assail the Wizard, who then countered with a Storm Gust centered on himself to douse the molten space rocks. Thiji kept his focus to keep the spell going and occupied Amon Ra's gaze.

Heal-Do had some trouble considering that she had to deal with the minions on her own, but she was able to manage when she raised her arms in the air and summoned a deadly poison cloud!

"Venom Dust…" uttered the Assassin. The poison would effectively overwhelm the monsters and melted them from the inside out, reducing them to a pile of viscous ooze.

"Now, Heal-Do! While he's focused on me! Deal a decisive blow against Amon Ra!" the Wizard commanded.

"Right!" she acknowledged as she coated her katars with the power of Heal-Do was poised to strike against the pharaoh. With a quick burst of speed, she jumped up in the air, which caused Amon Ra to set his sights above him, breaking his spell, and falling prey to the Storm Gust, which sent him – and his throne – airborne. "Now's my chance…!"

With a front flip, Heal-Do came down upon the pharaoh spirit with a slash of her katars, dashing through the blizzard to deliver quick and deadly strikes in a splendid combo display of water and ice. The spell ended in an explosion of snow, and Amon Ra came crashing down to earth. With a pained moan, the spirit's body would slowly disintegrate as the scepter began to break along with the throne Amon Ra was perched on. The monster had crumbled before the might of Thiji & Heal-Do.

With a sigh of relief, Heal-Do sheathed her katars and stretched out her arms.

"That was an impressive battle, Lord Thiji!" she commented. However, she heard no response. "… Lord Thiji?" she called again.

In utter shock, she turned her head toward the glowing Citrine Emperium and saw the Wizard right before it. With a gasp, she immediately took out her katars and shouted "No…!" at the top of her lungs as she rushed to stop him.

The battle on the 6th floor was about to reach its climax as all three members from both parties abandoned their own respective platforms that kept them safe from the lava and jumped high in the air to meet each other in aerial combat, going no-holds barred.

Unfortunately, it would appear that such a battle would not take place as the entire Pyramid was washed in an orange light. Moments later, everyone found themselves outside of the Emperium Pyramid with a crowd surrounding the entirety of Beacon Island. A group of Kafra employees were standing before White Trinity – one of which was Nora, who approached them and raised Thiji's arm in the air with the Citrine Emperium.

"Here it is, folks! This is the Citrine Emperium, the second of the Emperium Stones, and it has been claimed by White Trinity!" she announced as the crowd gave a roaring applause. "Their superior skill and teamwork have earned them this precious crystal, and control over this area!"

On the sidelines, the Battle Vixens wore disgusted looks of shame and defeat on their faces…

Lupi: Bastards… that should be us receiving the glory…!

Aege, bashing her axe repeatedly against the ground: How! Did! We! Screw! Up?!

Elua: This cannot happen… Not to us!

Heal-Do: …

Lupi: It seems that we'll have to train even harder if we're to win the next one! We will get the glory we deserve! Come on, sisters… let's go back home.

Aege, picking up her axe: Right behind you, sis…

Elua: Yeah… Come on, Heal-Do.

The Assassin was silent.

Elua: Heal-Do? Don't worry about it… we still have a shot! We have to keep working at it, is all!

Elua took her baby sister by the shoulder and followed Lupi down to the port for a trip back to Amatsu. White Trinity, on the other hand, was enjoying all the love.

"Come on, Trinities! You've all worked hard in takin' this! Everyone put your hands on the stone!" Nora urged. With a nod, all four members of White Trinity raised the stone as high as possible with one hand as the crowd cheered and clapped like crazy. Later, when the sun had finally set over Rune-Midgarts, White Trinity returned to their base in Mt. Mjolnir at the Emperium Fortress. They had invited the locals of Prontera to join them in a victory party (with Raien getting his fix of women, of course)…

Ray: Well, Trinities. A toast! We've struck another blow against the Battle Vixens, and continue our path to fame and fortune! To a job well done!

Raien & Lee: To a job well done!

Partygoers: To a job well done!

Thiji was away from the merriment in his personal chambers, watching the moon rise over the mountain. With drink in hand, he paced the floor until he was spotted by a group of Swordsmen and Acolytes.

"This must be the place, brothers and sisters!" said one of the Acolytes. "There is Thiji of White Trinity!"

The small band of adventurers cheered for Thiji and his victorious guild, and in response, he raised his drink to them and gave a light smile.

"The party's inside," he directed them. As they made their way into the Fortress, Thiji affixed his gaze back on the moon… "Another battle done – another victory won. We'll have to keep our eyes open, and our minds and our bodies ready for the challenges to come. Once the winds of war blow back down upon us, the Battle Vixens will return fiercer than ever…"

He would then hear a knock on the door as Nora walked in and informed the Wizard that Raien was beginning to seduce the female partygoers. With a sigh and the rolling of his eyes, Thiji responded, "Here we go again…" before following Nora out of the room.

Back at Amatsu, the Battle Vixens had just reached their destination after a long ferry ride from Beacon Island. Lupi was silent, staring at the moon with her lance hoisted on her back…

Elua: Uh-oh… big sis is quiet again.

Aege: And it's never a good sign when she's quiet.

Heal-Do: The elite of White Trinity are not to be trifled with, it seems. They counter our brute strength with tactics and wit; they use strategy to overpower and get the better of us…

Elua: Hm, perhaps… though I think I'm starting to like that blonde-haired Ninja boy…

Aege: I'll just assume you're trying to say that you're waiting to shoot an arrow through his heart.

Elua: Of course! Right, Mukuhawk?!

Mukuhawk: Caw!

Aege: But we really need to work on improving our skills; even we have to keep on honing them.

Elua: Yeah, Aege! We'll train even harder and longer to get back at those Trinities! They're just people, after all!

Lupi: (solemnly) No.

The other sisters turned to Lupi when she spoke.

Lupi: They're not just people… they're an organized force. They're not regular adventurers, that much is true. It's not just the Ninja, the Monk, or the gun-wielding Knight… it’s also that damn Wizard of theirs, scheming in the shadows where no one can see him...

The crimson knight turned her body and faced her sisters. They lowered their heads down in deep thought, absorbing Lupi's words…

Lupi: We've been thwarted not once, but twice because of that Wizard. He's the main threat in this competition. Without him, their little unit would turn to ashes. That Wizard alone is what is keeping them at the top of their game; he alone is what allows them to squeak out such clutch victories. No other guild has caused us so much trouble in the past, and we have learned from the best trainers possible; we've honed our battle skills and synergy as not only warriors, but elemental users as well. They are the first – the only – guild to actually take a stand against ours and beat us on our own terms.

Lupi then turned back around, dropping her lance in front of her, placing her hands on the butt of the weapon. She stared out into the horizon as the wind blew through her hair, her deep red orbs burning like fire under the silvery moonlight…

"They have forced us to try our best whenever we encountered them because we now know in our heads that they have what it takes to beat us if we get too smug… they are more than just mere cowards at this point; they are more than just our competition; more than just a threat…"

Her eyes squinted, and her grip tightened on the lance. After a moment of silence, the other sisters would look up and notice that the sail had caught on fire! They were astonished because they never saw such a side of Lupi before – one where she was so solemn yet reserved… It frightened them, almost.

The three of them looked back at their big sister with expressions of utter intimidation on their faces.

"As of tonight… White Trinity… is our rival."


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