Ragnarok Chronicles: Tumult in the Magic City

Chapter 2

The Gun-Knight took the lead and slowly walked along the bridge, with Lee, Raien and Thiji close behind. The bridge seemed to have spanned for miles, and it was strewn with monsters. Being so close to the City of Magic, however, there weren’t any hostile ones roaming around, just the occasional Lunatic and a larva known as a Fabre, along with its imago form – the Creamy.

Due to the brawl Thiji and Raien had just escaped from thanks to Ray and Lee’s timely interference, and the inconvenience of the latter two having to return to base to obtain their equipment, the four members of White Trinity decided to take a break along the side of the bridge and ate a modest meal of assorted fruits, bread, cheese, and grape juice to wash it all down. This would give them plenty of time to collect themselves and think of a plan of action for their next endeavor…

Raien: I think the Battle Vixens are still trying to wrap their brains around what just happened.

Ray: I didn’t think they’d be that dense!

Lee: Well, Ray, we didn’t exactly know that that Ice Wall was an illusion either…

Ray: So?! We trusted Thiji and he delivered! He always delivers, right, Thiji?!

Thiji: Well, I wouldn’t go that far –

Ray: Oh, don’t be so modest! With your mind you could probably take on all four of them alone! I mean, it’s been nearly four months now; we’ve seen how they fight.

Raien: I kinda think that Elua is a cute one.

Thiji: She’s an Elf, Brother.

Raien: That doesn’t mean anything to me, except that it makes her that much more desirable.

Lee: What?

Raien: Come on, you never heard how Elves are in bed?! They’re practically masterful at –

Thiji: Okay, let’s not get too into that, please. We have to focus.

Raien, quietly: Killjoy…

Ray: I was kind of curious to know myself.

Thiji: With the Battle Vixens still in dismay and the Holy Saviors routed, we can clear the bridge before they catch up to us.

Ray: And, uh, what if the Holy Saviors do arrive? Then what?

The Wizard then picked up a cup of warm tea that he made for himself…

Thiji: It is the rule in war: if ten times the enemy’s strength, surround them; if five times, attack them; if double, be able to divide them; if equal, engage them; if fewer, be able to evade them; and if weaker, be able to avoid them.

The others stared at him in silence as they attempted to piece together what the enigmatic Wizard had just quoted. Thiji would take a small sip of his tea before anyone would make a response…

Ray: So… we’re equal, so we engage them?

Lee: But we’re also weaker, so we should avoid them…

Thiji: But you are forgetting the Holy Saviors. There are four of us, and four of them, which makes eight, and that doubles our potential odds against the Battle Vixens.

Raien: So we divide them… by making the Saviors attack them!

Thiji, with a smile: Precisely so. The Holy Saviors have a grudge with Lupi and her sisters; we can use this to our advantage and weaken them both as a whole.

Ray: Holy hell… that wracked my brain a little. But okay, if you say so. Let’s get this cleaned up and continue down the bridge.

The Gun-Knight shook his head of the thought and began packing up with the rest of his companions. After getting everything straightened out the four would resume their advance down the massive bridge. But it seemed too quiet at this point – far too quiet. The members of White Trinity looked around the immediate area, puzzled by the sudden silence, until they would hear something whistling in the air…

Lee: You guys hear that? That whistling sound?

Raien: Yeah, I hear it now…

Ray: Where’s it coming from, you think?

Thiji: …

The whistling got louder and louder, and the air became warmer as well. However, before they could realize what was headed towards them – a large ball of flame – it had crashed down right in front of their feet, taking them by surprise.

White Trinity: WHOA!

The impact knocked them on their backs, hitting the marble pavement with a loud thud as the flames would dance around them for a brief moment before dying out. Thankfully their supplies were mostly undamaged, and as they rose slowly to their feet, and the smoke from the flames cleared, they saw three figures standing side-by-side – two of which jumped off the back of some creature, and the third landing beside them after disembarking from a large bird. A fourth figure was mounted on the back of the creature and let out a loud squawking sound – sounding like a bird as well.

The figures on the city limits’ side of the bridge would be made apparent to White Trinity: Heal-Do, Elua, Aege, and their elder sister, Lupi, whom had now been mounted on the back of a large flightless bird monster known as a Peco Peco.

“You little boys just signed your death warrants!” taunted Elua as her pet falcon landed on her left arm. “Our Big Sister here is unmatched when she fights on the back of a Peco Peco!”

“Cross that bridge and you’ll be sorry!” threatened the Blacksmith with her axe hoisted over her shoulder. Lupi did not say a word; she merely stared daggers down at the members of White Trinity. Her already seething hatred for them had begun to grow to even greater heights as she would raise her lance once more, keeping her eyes on her targets.

“End them, girls,” the scarlet Knight commanded in a low yet intimidating voice before leading the charge to attack their sworn rivals. The Battle Vixens advanced upon them in full force, and their only means of escape was the other side of the bridge, but they knew for sure that they would be unable to evade or avoid them – so they would take the only possible action at this point – to engage them as well.

“So, they wish to end it here on the big bridge, huh…” Ray scoffed, attaching his gun to his sword.

“I feel like there’s a reference to something somewhere in that statement…” Thiji commented, “And some sort of music that goes with said reference as well.”

“They’re not beating us without a fight!” said Raien, charging his Chakra. “They’ll know the wrath of the clouds, even if I shall die doing so!”

“It was an honor serving with you gentlemen,” Lee spoke, cracking his knuckles and neck and got into a battle stance.

White Trinity had charged towards the Battle Vixens with all they had, and the distance would close more and more, until they heard a voice in the air…

“Forward, for honor!”

A large blast erupted just inches away from the two engaging guilds, forcing back both parties a considerable distance. All they would see is a blinding light at the center of the bridge, and a large holy symbol about 2 inches from their feet. But what they saw next would be even more shocking…

As the light faded and the smoke cleared, the Trinities and the Vixens beheld a slender figure with auburn hair flowing in the wind; silver Crusader armor, and a matching blade and tower shield that both gleamed in the sunlight. When she opened her eyes, they were limpid orbs of hazel and her face was nigh perfect with soft, delicate features – almost akin to a goddess; a figure whose beauty who rivals even that of the Battle Vixens’. A warp portal then emerged from behind the Crusader as three people stepped out of it and stood by her side.

“What… in the hell just hit us…? Another one of that Wizard’s dirty tricks?!” groaned Lupi, rising to her feet and climbing back on her Peco Peco, who suffered minimal damage from the blast.

“Trust me, Lupi, if it were me, it would be much less flashy…” retorted Thiji.

As everyone rose back to their feet, the Crusader lifted her sword and pointed it at the Battle Vixens, her focus fixed solely on the four sisters.

“At long last,” she began, “I have found you savages here, upon Geffen’s western bridge. The outskirts of the City of Magic shall be where I, Youmei, will exact retribution upon the Battle Vixens this day!”

“What in the hell is a Youmei?!” Aege asked in confusion. This disappointed the Crusader as she flipped her hair in response so as to get a better view of her assailants.

“Are you Neanderthals so dense as to forget the very face of the woman you defeated all those months ago?” Youmei chided, flashing back in her mind to when she was still a Swordswoman. “Three months ago, when this all started, you struck down numerous aspiring guilds using petty traps and cowardly ambushes. I was there, leading the charge against you and yours. Mt. Mjolnir was soiled by the blood of the fallen innocents that were engaged in a healthy competition for fame and glory! And even more recently, you routed my brothers and sisters once more at the Pharos Lighthouse on Beacon Island. That time I nearly died defending my comrades – namely these two promising youths before you.” The compliment she made to Botan & Momiji made them blush.

“The soldier from the desert…” gasped Lupi.

“But wait!” interjected Elua, “White Trinity also attacked you guys on that very same day! They should be just as guilty as we are; we saw the report!” she explained further, trying to throw a portion of the blame towards White Trinity. Youmei turned her head toward them, just now noticing the four, but she did not shoot and angry glares at them – save for Raien to whom she gave an arched brow as if something was wrong with the Ninja.

“At least White Trinity fights with honor, for they gave me back all my brothers and sisters,” the Crusader remarked. “None of them perished or became fatally wounded as they retreated from the island. For that I respect them. However, you ladies – if I may even so deign to call you such – could learn a few things from these gentlemen.”

This affront infuriated Lupi that she swung at the air in front of her with her lance as the Peco Peco reared back.

“You’ve got some nerve openly insulting us like that!” the Knight growled as her sisters surrounded the Crusader. “You clearly have a death wish by confronting us for the third time now. And if you nearly died last time… what do you think will happen here?!”

“Come forth and find out…” Youmei replied, raising her shield. With a loud yell, Lupi charged forth and focused her powers into her lance…

As the Battle Vixens charged the Crusader, White Trinity attempted to use this confusion to flee the scene, but were halted by a wall of green pillars of light.

“Not so fast, boys,” Tsubaki said. “You might actually want to see this!”

Without any other alternative, White Trinity sat down and watched the skirmish unfold.

"Pierce!” cried the scarlet Knight with her lance pointed at Youmei. The Crusader then planted her shield before her as two metal prongs sprung out from the underside, jamming themselves into the stone…

“Whoa, these shields have hydraulics?!” Raien gasped. “Since when did people have those?!”

"Shield… Reflect!” Youmei cried and her tower began to radiate a white light, and Lupi’s Pierce attack connected with great force. An impact of such magnitude would be sufficient enough to push back a giant or equally large monster, but the contrary had happened – Lupi and her steed suffered a large portion of the damage Youmei would have received and flew backwards. The Peco Peco let out a loud squawk as it was forced back, and Lupi had no choice but to jump off it, sliding against the stone from the momentum of their flight.

Heal-Do and Elua flanked Youmei from the left and right, respectively. The Elves attacked with a combined effort of Venom Knife and Blitz Beat, but Youmei easily deflected Mukuhawk’s strike with her shield, altering his course toward Heal-Do’s poisonous projectile which grazed his right wing and continued its path toward the Huntress, who ducked in panic and avoided potential harm. The falcon struck Heal-Do in the legs, tripping the Assassin, and spiraled out of control into the waters below. Botan & Momiji cheered their sister on as she gained the upper hand against the quartet of warrior women.

It was Aege’s turn now and she would engage Youmei in a melee duel, clashing axe with shield and sword. They would seem evenly matched for but a minute until the Crusader blocked an overhead swing from the earthly Blacksmith, giving Youmei the opportunity to stab her blade into the marble, and a large symbol manifested on the ground beneath them.

"Grand… Cross!” yelled the Crusader, and the symbol radiated energy that stung Aege’s body. After a brief moment, Youmei lifted her blade from off the ground and bashed the Blacksmith’s chest with her shield, sending her sliding backwards towards her elder sister. After the clash, the Battle Vixens gazed upon Youmei in awe whilst they rose to their feet…

“Whoa…!” Elua uttered in shock. “She fights like a demon possessed… and she slays demons!”

White Trinity’s members were utterly baffled at how this once-Swordswoman just handled all four sisters that their jaws practically hit the ground! Thiji, however, kept his composure as he studied the Crusader carefully; from his observations he would notice small signs of fatigue as the Crusader inhaled and exhaled harder than normal…

“The Mighty Battle Vixens, brought low by a solitary Crusader…” Youmei incited. Despite her small moral victory, she could not help but feel a tad disappointed in them.

“That damn shield of yours…” Lupi growled. “That shield you hide behind is doing all the work for you!”

“You always talk tough, but your ability to back up your words? I have found that rather wanting…” the Crusader replied, insulting the Battle Vixens – and Lupi, most of all – even further.

“The amount of confidence she’s gained is astounding,” Lee commented, almost enjoying the scene. As the Vixens and Youmei continued trading each other, Ray gave a silent gesture to his comrades, and they would once again slowly begin to back up through the “wall” of green lights – as an Acolyte at one point in his life, Lee knew that it was just a Pneuma spell conjured by the twins. Before they could get very far, however, Elua’s keen eyes spotted them trying to sneak away.

“Hey!” she shouted and pointed at the fleeing Trinities. Youmei immediately turned on the heel of her plated boot and rose her shield…

“Aww, that is some bullsh -! ” Raien groaned before he would be interrupted by Youmei who then shouted, “Shield Charge!” and zoomed down the bridge towards them at top speed.

“She’s coming in too hot!” Lee exclaimed.

“I will take care of this!” Thiji interjected as he quickly conjured up a blizzard in front of him. “Storm Gust!” he yelled, and a tornado of ice and snow manifested before him, and the Crusader went straight in; the others shielded their faces from the storm.

“Sister Youmei…!” cried the Acolyte twins in worry. Youmei was caught in the centripetal force of the Storm Gust that she began to move slowly in the direction of the blizzard, and had accelerated to speeds that’d make her image blurry to normal eyes.

“Were you… actually counting on that, Thiji?” Lee asked the Wizard.

“No,” he simply answered. “I just wanted to see what would happen.”

After the storm had begun to die dow, the Vixens regrouped and ran down the bridge as Youmei slowed to a stop, ruthlessly dizzy. Lupi took advantage of this and smacked her aside with the pole of her lance and continued onward, shooting hot stickers at White Trinity. Elua & Aege would charge ahead of them, but would be intercepted by Botan & Momiji for a brief second before they would be caught off guard and kicked aside as well. Tsubaki was blindsided by Mukuhawk as he escaped from the river beneath them and hit her left arm with his wings before returning to his master’s side. With quick thinking, Heal-Do jumped into the river and attempted an ambush maneuver, but Thiji saw through her plan.

“Heal-Do!” Raien exclaimed. “She’s trying to cut through the river!”

“Take care of it, Brother,” Thiji commanded before neutralizing the last of Lupi’s fireballs and preparing to cast a spell.

“We’ll cover you!” Ray spoke as he and the Monk advanced toward the Battle Vixens. The Lightning Ninja took out a Wind Stone, performed a series of hand signs, causing the stone to shatter and become the essence of lightning.

"Lightning Crash!” he cried as he called forth a bolt of lightning from the heavens into the river, causing the waters to become electrocuted.

“Sister!” yelled Elua as she coasted to a halt. “Mukuhawk, save her! Heal-Do’s in trouble!”

Despite his injuries, Mukuhawk obeys Elua without hesitation and flies past Tsubaki once more, avoiding her Shikigami’s strike as it made its way towards the Assassin of water.

“You idiot! There is no way your skill is equal to mine!” Lupi grunted as she clashed blades with Ray.

“Don’t make me laugh, Hotcakes!” he laughed in response. “I’m way better than you’ll ever be!”

The Gun-Knight would deliver a horizontal slash aimed at Lupi’s head, but she ducked, which is what Ray wanted as he expertly detached his revolver from his blade and aimed at Mukuhawk with his left eye closed. “Cracker!”

As Mukuhawk would swoop in and save Heal-Do, whom had just noticed the electric currents before she grabbed on to the falcon’s leg, his left wing would be hit from Ray’s bullet, paralyzing all feeling in it and losing control of that wing. Heal-Do looked behind her and gazed upon the light show in the river in which she would have been the main attraction.

“Dear Mukuhawk… you risked your life to save me,” Heal-Do thanked as she petted the falcon.

“That’s what sisters are for!” Elua said, picking her baby sister up. “You okay?”

“Yes, but we have to continue!”

“Lee! Now!” Thiji commanded as he fire a Cold Bolt of Ice at Aege so as to slow her down.

"Body Relocation!” cried the Monk, and he would immediately appear behind Elua and Heal-Do. He would show off the technique he learned from Kafra Nora again and hit them both with a Heavy Tackle, forcing them to run into the waters below and getting shocked in the process.

“Attack!” yelled Botan as she and her twin sister surrounded the Monk. He would seem to be in trouble until Aege finally joined in the fray.

“Let’s shake things up a bit, shall we…?” she said with a snicker before jumping high into the air, preparing her signature Hammer Fall attack. However, she wasn’t aiming for Lee or the Holy Saviors at all; the bridge was her target, and once she slammed down with all her might, it began to shake. This would cause everyone to lose balance as the Blacksmith ran down the bridge, dodging a Bash from Ray’s sword and counterattacking, but he quickly guards and forces Aege back with a magical bullet.

Once the shaking stopped, Raien and Thiji used the confusion to retreat down the bridge and into the forest; Ray and Lee followed suit, performing a Blade Stop on Lupi’s intercepting attack and immediately using Body Relocation to throw her off. White Trinity had successfully made it through the bridge. Heal-Do and Elua, recovering from the electric attack, chased after them, leaving behind Lupi and Aege.

At this point, Youmei would finally snap out of her daze and noticed her adversaries fleeing.

“After them!” she commanded the Saviors.

“Yes, Sister Youmei!” acknowledged the Acolyte twins, with Tsubaki leading the way.

“I don’t think so!” Lupi shouted as she rose her lance to attack, but as she swung down, she would find her body moving at a snail’s pace; Aege would feel the same.

“Why are we going so slow…?” the Blacksmith asked. The Priestess chuckled as she used Increase Agility to boost the speed of herself and her allies, leaving the two Vixens in the dust.

"Spear… Boomerang!” cried the Knight, and with great effort, she hurled her lance towards the Holy Saviors.

“Allow us, Lady Tsubaki!” Momiji said, facing down the incoming projectile. With her sister, they stretched their arms out in front of them and simultaneously cried, “Pneuma!” and a pillar of green light would manifest and block the attack, sending Lupi’s lance back to her.

“God, I hate that spell…” Lupi grumbled.

“Guess we’ll have to catch up to them… somehow,” Aege sighed.

White Trinity found themselves at a plains area, but knowing that they had people hot on their tail, they had no choice but to continue their flight towards Britoniah. Elua and Heal-Do would catch up to them after halfway through Geffen Fields, and began attacking them with a volley of arrows and venom knives. Knowing he couldn’t cast while moving, Thiji was forced to fight defensively as Ray and Raien returned fire with bullets and shuriken, which Heal-Do would deflect with ease.

As the chase continued southward, the Holy Saviors had also caught up with the two Vixens and struck at them with Holy Light blasts. Elua ordered Mukuhawk to strike at Youmei, harassing her with swooping attacks so as to prevent the Crusader from closing the gap with another Shield Charge.

It had become a race of epic proportions as White Trinity, Battle Vixens, and Holy Saviors made their way to Britoniah through the Kordt Forest, using whatever they had at their disposal to tire out their opponents.

“This area used to be filled with Kobolds…” Lee said. “Namely of the Blue Wolf Clan.”

“Where are they now?” asked Thiji.

“Somewhere not in Rune-Midgarts, that’s for sure.”

Their journey continued as they would lose their pursuers and soon notice a series of castles in the distance – the source of those beams of light surely had to be here. As White Trinity dashed down the path, they would meet with a Kafra employee, but this one looked different from the others. Instead of a skirt and blouse she wore a pair of marigold shorts and a midriff top of the same color. She sported lime green hair and her headband was greatly different than that of the regular Kafra employees.

“Damn, who is she?! She is delicious!” Raien spoke as he slowed to a halt with the others.

“Greetings, White Trinity, and welcome to Britoniah! I am Kafra Misty!” she introduced with the usual Kafra bow.

“Your attire is… different than that of the other Kafras we have seen,” Thiji pointed out.

“That’s because I hail from the Kafra Corporation’s Western Branch! Our attire is a lot different than those in the mainland, but we still work towards the same goals!” she explained. She would then teleport the four of them to the eastern portion of the area, atop of a hill that was blockaded by a barrier of magic. “Until this officially starts, all members are welcome to rest and wait while the other parties arrive!”

“Do your thing, Wizard,” Ray hinted Thiji. The Wizard stepped forward and kneeled down before the barrier, trying to survey the area from their vantage point. He had noticed not one, but five different castles, all of a different colored banner hanging upon the portcullises. Then he made note of the small islands surrounded by water, each holding a castle – the center held one, while the western and southern portions held two, and two bridges connected them with the central island.

He relayed this information to his comrades, and Ray pondered on the situation while the Holy Saviors had appeared, and were teleported to the southern portion of Britoniah. Lupi and Aege had finally overcome their encumbrance and caught up with her sisters, in which Kafra Misty would teleport them to the opposite side of the Trinities’ “starting point.”

“This doesn’t look too difficult…” Momiji thought aloud.

“Now we’ll crush them here, in Britoniah!” Lupi declared with a clenched fist.

“Prepare for an exciting battle, gentlemen…” Thiji forewarned, bracing himself for a long-winded introduction.

“Welcome,” said Kafra Misty, “to the Emperium Citadel! Tucked away in Western Geffen territory, the battlegrounds of Britoniah have become the staging area for this next leg of the Emperium Frontier! Behold now, the landscape before you: a series of five castles, each with a banner of a particular color! Inside of these structures is an elemental shard! The rules are simple: touch the shard and claim the castle for your guild! Each shard infuses you and your guild with a different effect; the fire shard will make your attacks more powerful! The water shard will bless you with quicker attacks! The earth shard will make your skin hard as stone, increasing your endurance! The shard of wind will make you fleet of foot, allowing faster movement! And the light shard will increase resource recovery!”

“Resource recovery…?” Ray said in confusion.

“Mana regeneration and the like,” the Wizard clarified.

“The first of the five areas has been made available! The others will activate after a certain amount of time has elapsed! Fighters, prepare yourselves for battle for the Sapphire Emperium!” declared Kafra Misty, snapping her fingers as the fire castle – stationed at the northern end of the area – activates with a red beam of light, “turning on” the fire shard within…

Ray: Okay, Thiji. What’s the plan?

Thiji: The wise warrior avoids the battle; ponder and deliberate before you make a move.

Lee: “Avoids the battle…” Wait, you’re saying we stay up here?!

Thiji: The Sapphire Emperium is shrouded from us; we do not know how to call it. But I’ve a hunch that these five castles hold the key to such a riddle.

Raien: So, what, let the Vixens take the fire castle and make their already-painful attacks become even more agonizing?

Thiji: I will provide support from afar. We will have to pick our fights more carefully considering the enclosed spaces we’re in. Carelessness will send us plummeting into the water…

Lee: Okay, so we’ll be short a man, technically.

Thiji: They’ll be more worried about finding me than focusing their efforts on you all for too long. But if we can find that light castle and claim it, I will not tire as fast.

Ray: So fight only when necessary and secure the light castle! Roger that!

Raien: For now, we wait…

The Lightning Ninja goes into a meditative position with Lee while Ray takes the time to flip some coins until he had five floating around his person; Thiji found some shrubbery and hid from within.

The time for battle was near as the Battle Vixens and Holy Saviors strategized in kind…

Lupi: Go straight for the fire castle, no ifs, ands, or buts! We already pack a punch; with the essence of flame under our control, those Failities won’t know what hit them!

Aege: Okay, but I was thinking that the earth castle would be good, too.

Elua: That’s only because you’re earth, Aege!

Heal-Do: But the water castle will make our attacks faster! Those heavy weapons of Lupi’s and Aege’s will be dangerous with the blessing of water!

Lupi: Not a bad idea, Baby Sister… Still, that Fire Castle is top priority!

Over at the Saviors…

Youmei: Sisters, we must deter the Vixens as best we can while we find the key to finding the Sapphire Emperium. We take whatever castles they hold, no matter the cost.

Botan & Momiji: Yes, ma’am!

Tsubaki: So we harass the Battle Vixens, but what of White Trinity?

Youmei: Yes, you’re right… I had forgotten about their strategist, the Wizard, Sir Thiji… he will definitely be a worthy opponent, especially after what he pulled back at the bridge.

Botan: We will take care of them, Sister Youmei!

Momiji: Yeah, leave it to us! We’re Acolytes for sure, but we’re not weak!

Once the three guilds had established their gameplans, they waited patiently as the barriers slowly began to dissipate. Heal-Do looked around for the other guilds, unable to find any of the Trinities or the Saviors due to their position. Once the barriers had fully vanished, however, the battle had officially commenced, and – without a doubt – the Battle Vixens jumped from their vantage point and immediately made their way towards the Fire Castle as they were closest to it. Suddenly, they would hear a voice in the air…

“Forward, White Trinity!” cried Ray, ambushing the Vixens from above alongside Lee and Raien. The Gun-Knight harried them with a barrage of bullets whilst Raien immediately headed straight for the fire castle. Lee backed up Ray with some melee interference, deflecting the Blacksmith’s attacks whilst Heal-Do chased after Raien.

“Get back here and fight, coward!” Lupi taunted, slashing at Ray with her lance, which he easily evaded. The Gun-Knight went straight after Heal-Do and shot at her with a Cracker, but it missed its mark, allowing Heal-Do to turn around and attack him with a swift slash of her katars. But suddenly, a hail of ice bolts struck at her feet.

“What?! Where did these come from?!” gasped Heal-Do, taking great care in avoiding the shards of ice. This gave Ray the window he needed to head straight into the fire castle after Raien, but would be greeted by a trapdoor beneath the two of them.

“Tch! I knew this wasn’t gonna be easy…!” commented Raien.

“I got this one!” Ray said as he stabbed his blade into the floor and pulled the trigger, launching him high into the air from the force of the gunshot, allowing him to easily traverse the trapdoor and towards the roof of the building. Lee was overpowered and retreated eastward while the Battle Vixens stormed the castle. Being the only line of defense, Raien steeled himself for the onslaught to come, but just as they were within feet of engaging the Ninja, a storm of flames emerged from outside the castle walls, knocking away anyone who wasn’t White Trinity back a considerable distance.

"White Trinity claims the Fire Castle!” declared Kafra Misty. “The castle of waves shall now activate!”

An Ice Wall would appear in front of the castle entrance so as to annoy the Battle Vixens, now wondering where Thiji was.

“I don’t get it, sisters… where is that Sapphire Emperium?” Heal-Do asked as she looked around. But she did not have much time as another volley of ice bolts began to chase them!

“We’ll have to figure it out ourselves. Let’s move!” Aege commanded, evading the Wizard’s attacks. Thiji was doing an exemplary job covering his tracks while still providing long-range support for his comrades. A giant pillar of water engulfed a structure, activating the shard within the castle of waves located within the southern portion of Britoniah.

“Down the bridge!” Ray ordered, but would be beset by a fireball launched by Lupi as a deterrent. “Dammit…!”

“Ray!” Lee and Raien shouted.

“Don’t worry about me! I’ll take care of this; go and get that castle!”

The Holy Saviors had begun their advance towards the Castle of Waves. Heal-Do jumped into the waters below and swam at great speeds to catch the Holy Saviors unawares.

“Oh, no, you don’t!” Raien yelled as he and Lee jumped down a cliff, using Agility Up by the Monk to make their movement fast enough to be able to run on the water, catching up to the Assassin who retaliated with her variation of the Grimtooth attack, shooting forth spikes of hardened water at the duo, which they would dodge with ease.

Lupi, Aege and Elua continued down the bridge, noticing the “dormant” castle on the center island before continuing down towards the southern bridge and toward the Castle of Waves. Meanwhile, Thiji took this time to rest and recuperate as he watched over the Fire Castle, watching Ray extinguish the flames with his brute strength.

“You’re dead meat, Saviors!" Lupi cried as she charged ahead with full force up the hill to engage the Holy Saviors. Heal-Do had made it across the lake and jumped high into the air, landing on dry land and continuing her ascent up the hill, passing Lupi as she scaled the rocky terrain, ignoring the winding path upward.

“Impudent little wretch…!” Tsubaki snarled as she fired a bolt of dark energy from her fingertips. The tunnel vision prevented Heal-Do from dodging effectively, and would thus receive the brunt of the attack to the face, sending her flying toward her sisters, colliding with them.

“Oof!” grunted the Vixens. Tsubaki chuckled and turned to enter the castle with her sisters.

“Hey, Chuckles! You’re gonna stop with that laughing or else!” Raien threatened.

“Or else what, little Ninja?” Tsubaki replied.

“Or else this!" Lee answered, preparing to deliver a powerful attack, but Youmei stepped in front of her sisters and cried, “Holy… Cross!” and slashed the air in the form of a plus, sending a cross-shaped wave of holy energy toward the Monk, stopping him as he rose his arms to guard against the strike, forcing him back as well. Raien retreated with Lee after he got back to his senses as Heal-Do returned for another round.

"I will not let them control my element…!” she thought to herself as she resumed her nimble ascent up the hill, her katars enveloped in water energy. Youmei rose her shield and cried, “Guard!” but then the Assassin tripped and landed on her face, causing Tsubaki to laugh…

Youmei: I… was not expecting that, honestly.

Botan: Wow, I feel sorry for her!

Momiji: Me, too…

Lupi: What the hell, Heal-Do…?

Elua: How… how does that happen? Especially to Baby Sister?

Aege: That was so embarrassing to watch…

Heal-Do, from behind them: You’re the ones who should be sorry!

Her sisters gasped and cheered Heal-Do on.

Tsubaki: What?! How did you…?!

Heal-Do: Cloaking has its uses! I made it so that you’d throw off your guard! And now for the stone…

The Assassin scaled up the walls of the Castle of Waves and found the water shard upon the rooftops. After gently placing a hand on it, the Holy Saviors were flushed out by a torrent of water.

“The Battle Vixens take the Castle of Waves!” declared Kafra Misty. “Now, back to the north! The Castle of Stone is now available! Hurry!”

“That’s our cue, girls!” Aege chimed, immediately taking point back up the bridge. While Raien and Lee recuperated, they hurried back down the lake with their enhanced speed while Heal-Do ran past the waterlogged Saviors to reconvene with her sisters. From his vantage point, Thiji watched the battle unfold…

"Still no sign of that precious stone…” he thought to himself. “And now our forces are scattered, and Ray is alone… I can’t give away my position just yet. I will have to find the proper moment to strike.”

Meanwhile, Ray had finally gotten through Lupi’s raging flames and jumped off of the roof of the Fire Castle, heading westward to the Castle of Stone. After taking the time to reload, he would be attacked by Elua’s Arrow Shower.

“Shit!” whispered the Gun-Knight, looking over his shoulder to see the Battle Vixens closing in behind him. “I have no choice but to use this…”

Pulling out a second revolver from his holster, he sheathed his blade as he absorbed four coins into his body, aiming them straight at the Vixens before crying, “Madness Canceller!” and “Rapid Shower!” before rooting himself and firing a continuous stream of bullets that would collide with the remaining arrows from Elua’s attack, and soaring straight through toward the sisters. Thanks to the blessing of flame, they would stagger a little from the continuous volley, still closing the distance, but at a much slower pace. Thinking on her feet, Heal-Do, who had seemed to be the MVP of this battle thus far, stepped in front of her sisters and took advantage of the blessing of the waves to deflect the bullets with her increased attack speed. Thiji attempted to intercept with another Cold Bolt of Ice volley, but he would see Lupi head into the Fire Castle amidst the confusion, and Raien and Lee had just made it back from the Castle of Waves.

“No…! I can’t let Lupi get that blessing!” Thiji said to himself with clenched teeth before he concentrated for a brief moment and conjured an Ice Wall directly in front of the castle entrance, barring Lupi’s path.

“Where in the flying fuck is that Wizard?!” Lupi bellowed, searching wildly for Thiji.

Back at the outskirts of the Castle of Stone, Aege and Elua, led by Heal-Do, had finally caught up to the Gun-Knight.

“Whoops!” he yelped in panic before quickly flipping a coin. With luck, it landed on heads and floated around him, giving a total of two coins, which was enough to activate his next trick!

"Cart… Revolution!” cried Aege, slamming down upon Ray with all her might using her Merchant’s cart she lugged around. But Ray was prepared.

"Adjustment!” he cried as he no longer felt himself stuck to the ground and instead felt more fleet of foot, dodging the Cart Revolution – as well as Heal-Do’s, Elua’s, and Mukuhawk’s attacks – and evaded with a backwards roll, heading straight into the Castle of Stone, avoiding any traps and pitfalls he could while Ray and Lee chased after Lupi, who had melted the Ice Wall with her fury.

"This is becoming a wild goose chase at this point…” Thiji thought to himself again, noticing the Holy Saviors now heading down the bridge. With their last burst of speed, Lee and Raien caught up to the scarlet Knight upon the rooftop of the Fire Castle, but she immediately forced the two of them back with a Magnum Break.

Ray, however, had made it to the top of the Castle of Stone himself, and just as he was seconds away from claiming it…

"White Trinity has lost the Fire Castle to the Battle Vixens!” announced Kafra Misty.

“That bitch…!” yelled Raien as he and Lee were sent flying out of the castle in a storm of flames. Acting quickly, Ray touched the earth shard and the castle was sealed in a wall of solid rock, claiming the Castle of Stone for White Trinity.

“Behold now, the Castle of Light! It has activated at the center of Britoniah!” announced Kafra Misty once more as a ray of divine light crashed down from the heavens and illuminated the light shard, “turning on” the castle. The resulting force caused Thiji to lose balance, trying his hardest not to break his cover.

“For Odin, my sisters!” Youmei boomed. “The Castle of Light shall be ours!”

“But where is that Wizard?!" Tsubaki asked in frustration. “Botan! Momiji! Find that Wizar –”

She turned around and saw the Acolyte twins frozen in ice. In a growl of anger, she broke them free with a punch from her dainty hands as they quickly crossed the southern bridge and headed for the Light Castle.

“I gotta stop them here…” Ray thought aloud to himself. “It’s now or never… Earth, be with me!”

With no other way around them, Ray jumped off once more from the top of the castle walls and charged at the Battle Vixens, reattaching his revolver onto his sword. Raien and Lee had rapidly recovered from their (second) tumble with their meditation and flanked the three sisters whilst Lupi was kept occupied by the still-hidden Wizard’s icy attacks.

“Take this!” Raien shouted. “Raiton Version: Fuuma Shuriken!” He flung a large ninja star at the feet of the Vixens, and upon contact with the ground, the star exploded in a ball of lightning, sending Aege up into the air. Elua and Heal-Do avoided it just in time and attacked Ray from afar. Lee immediately followed by a forceful stomp into the ground, causing it to shake as he cried, “Critical Explosion!” and absorbing the five Spirit Spheres into his body, increasing his power immensely. He sprung into the air on that same foot and focused on Aege as he began with a Raging Trifecta Blow to her stomach, and chained into a four-hit Raging Quadruple Blow before ending with a showy spinning kick move that sent her plummeting into the ground.

Ignoring Raien for now, Elua noticed the Holy Saviors from the corner of her eye and called Mukuhawk to her side, hopping on his back as she fired arrows infused with wind energy.

“Where is Lo… where is Thiji?!” asked Heal-Do as she clashed blades with Ray.

“Who wants to know?!” the Gun-Knight responded.

“I… I…”

The Assassin seemed at a loss for words until Lupi blindsided Ray with a fireball from her lance. Thanks to the blessing of earth, however, it did not hurt him as much. They helped Aege up as they stared down Raien and Lee…

Lupi: You’re slipping, Trinities!

Raien: We should say the same to you!

Lee: How’d you like that combo platter, Aege?!

Aege, wiping her mouth of blood: That was a cheap shot, Monk. I see you wanna play Hardball… so let’s play Hardball.

With a mighty yell, Aege rose her Slaughter Axe high into the air as energy filled it, and transferred that same energy to her sisters’, causing them to sparkle.

"Over Thrust! Maximize… Power!” Aege shouted to the heavens. Raien, Ray, and Lee looked over at the Fire Castle, and then back at the Vixens.

“Oh, shit…” said the three of them simultaneously before Lupi roared, “CHARGE!” and struck at White Trinity with their exponentially-powered-up weapons.

“Not so fast, Saviors!” Elua shouted, delivering a Double Strafing attack to Tsubaki, but Youmei rose her shield to guard her comrade. Elua jumped off her falcon and fought Youmei at mid-range, trying her best not to let the Crusader close the gap between them.

“With this, the Holy Saviors shall carve a path to victory!” chanted the Acolyte twins as they laid their hands upon the holy shard, causing a bright light to radiate from the castle that would temporarily impair the Huntress.

“You are mine now, Hunter! Shield Charge!” cried Youmei and showed off a little by rolling forward to gather momentum and bulldozed Elua with her tower, sending her off a cliff and into the waters below. Mukuhawk came swooping down shortly after and rescued his master.

“I owe you one, Mukuhawk…” Elua chuckled, petting her bird.

“With the Castle of Light claimed now by the Holy Saviors, the final castle – the Castle of Wind – has activated!” announced the partially-clad Kafra. A vortex of wind swirled around the castle, and the wind shard descended from the eye of the storm, landing upon the rooftop and “turning on” the structure.

"The Battle Vixens now control fire and water…” Thiji said in his mind. “This is indeed looking bad for us… I am running out of options.”

“We gotta hold out for Thiji’s sake!” Ray said to his two comrades, trying to deflect Lupi’s attacks.

“So you do know where he is!” Heal-Do replied as she delivered a kick to Ray’s chest, forcing him back. “Where -?”

Then she would look to the northeast, noticing a lone cliff that overlooked the entire zone. But this caused her to stop attacking all of a sudden, turning the battle into a two-on-three.

“Out of our way, losers!” Lupi shouted, sprinting toward the Holy Saviors. Aege punched Lee in the chest and knocked him on his rear, taking off with her elder sister.

“This… this is bad…” the Monk grunted with effort. Ray then splashed the Monk with white potion contents, healing his wounds almost immediately.

“Come on! We gotta catch up!” commanded Ray, once again giving chase to the Vixens. “Forget about Heal-Do!”

The Saviors would make their way down the southern bridge once again to reach the Castle of Wind, but the Battle Vixens were already hot on their tail.

“Sister Youmei, what do we do?” Botan asked in fright. The Crusader stood in front of them and rose her sword at the approaching enemy.

“We fight, sisters. This line must be held,” Youmei replied stoically. Tsubaki then pushed the Crusader aside, grasping a rosary that hung around her neck. “Tsubaki, what are you…?”

“The blessing of light is with us, is it not?” Tsubaki questioned. “I will take care of this… for the Saviors.”

“Lady Tsubaki…” Momiji spoke, awestruck at the Priestess’ self-sacrifice.

From below, Raien and Lee sprung out from the lake and attacked from above to assail Tsubaki, whilst the Battle Vixens and Ray continued down the bridge as the Priestess’ body would be cloaked in a veil of holy energy.

"Magnus… Exorcismus!” cried Tsubaki as a large grand cross appeared below her feet, damaging those on the ground with the sheer power of the light, and Raien and Lee was blinded by its power that they crashed into the others and would find themselves hanging from the bridge, with Lupi hanging onto the boards with Aege grasping her legs; Raien was tugging at her shorts while Lee held on to the Ninja’s left leg. Ray, however, was on the opposite end, hanging on for dear life.

“Oh, my God, if you don’t get your hand off of my ass, you pervert…” Aege threatened, trying to hide her shame. Elua swooped in and landed on the bridge to fire a wind arrow at the Saviors, but Youmei sent it back, causing Elua to cover her head so as to avoid being knocked off herself.

“Tsubaki… that was very unlike you,” Youmei complimented. “Perhaps you are beginning to see the light after all.

“Hmph…” was all that came out of Tsubaki’s lips as they continued unabated to the Castle of Wind. Using an updraft to make the trip shorter, the Saviors landed on the rooftop and approached the wind stone, touching it and causing a vortex to form around the castle, claiming it for the Holy Saviors.

“The Castle of Wind has been claimed by the Holy Saviors!” announced Kafra Misty. Shortly after, the whole zone began to shake, and beams of light from each castle struck the shards, causing another beam of light to shoot out towards the center of Britoniah. The elemental energy combined and manifested a deep, blue stone that levitated high off the ground as the residual energy formed a scalable path of dust that would be accessible from the castles’ rooftop. “The Sapphire Emperium! The Sapphire Emperium has now appeared before us!”

With the Sapphire Emperium now made apparent, the five castles’ shards were veiled in their element’s energy, preventing any further capture; the power of the Emperium Stone made this so.

"Now…!” Thiji shouted in his mind as he vaulted off the vantage point at last before immediately making his way to the Castle of Earth, distracting Heal-Do with a Frost Diver, which she evaded after snapping out of her stupor just in time.

“No…! I won’t let you!” the Assassin shouted as she jumped off the cliff once more and plunged herself into the lake.

Raien and Lee quickly climbed up using the Battle Vixens as a ladder and headed southward to deter them. Ray followed suit before the Vixens would have time to recover.

“Geez, we have been losing all day today…” sighed the Monk.

“What the hell do you mean by that, Lee?!” asked Raien.

“Oh-ho? So he did not tell you?” said Tsubaki from atop the wind-dusted path to the stone. With an evil giggle she continued and said, ”We stole your precious Emperium Fortress, and now Prontera belongs to the Holy Saviors!”

“WHAT?! HOW DARE YOU!” Raien yelled. “I’ve had enough of your shit for one day, Chuckles!”

Taking out a water stone, Raien performed a series of hand gestures and shattered the item, harnessing the essence of frost through his body, mixing it with his chakra. Meanwhile, Thiji had made it to the top of the Castle of Stone and begun his trek atop the earth-dusted path. Without wasting any time, Lupi had appeared nearby on the flame-dusted path to race against Thiji. But a strategist such as the Ice Wizard knew a few extra tricks. Blocking the residual flow of energy from the fire shard with an Ice Wall, the flame-dusted path leading to the Sapphire Emperium would begin to vanish into thin air, as Lupi slowly closed her eyes, coasted to a stop, and stood there until there was nothing left there support her. When she began her descent into the lake, at the top of her lungs, she howled…

FFFFFFUUUUUUUUU…! ”

… And finally splashed down. Raien had finished his concentration and called down an icy meteor upon the Holy Saviors and cried, “Hyouton: Falling Ice Pillar!”

The Holy Saviors screamed in terror as the icy meteor crashed upon their bodies, shattering into diamond dust as they lied there in a pile, only halfway towards the Sapphire Emperium.

“Now, Thiji! Go!” cheered Ray. The Wizard nodded and continued about his business. For a moment it would seem that White Trinity would secure yet another victory, but in an unexpected turn of events, Heal-Do performed a high jump from below and landed in front of Thiji, whom was mere inches away from touching the Sapphire Emperium. Aege and Elua pulled their elder sister from out of the water, but then they saw their baby sister confronting Thiji…

Elua, thinking: Oh, no… Heal-Do… No, I can’t doubt her now! (Aloud) Touch it, Heal-Do! Touch the stone!

Lee: No! No! No, no, no!

Ray: Oh, no, Thiji! Watch out, man!

Raien: Shit! Shit! Shit! Shit!

The Assassin’s sudden burst of skill amazed even Thiji, as he stood there, dumbfounded at his opponent…

Heal-Do: Forgive me… Lord Thiji… but I am afraid that this stone belongs to the Battle Vixens.

Thiji: What…?

Heal-Do: Sonic… Blow!

With blinding speed, Heal-Do, armed with the blessings of water and fire, struck at Thiji with eight consecutive blows. The Wizard’s light feet managed to help him evade seven of them, but on the eighth and final hit, the Assassin clipped his leg, and swept him off the earth-dusted path…

Raien, in a shaking voice: No… way…

Ray: She didn’t…

Lee: Out of nowhere…!

Time seemed to have slowed down for Thiji as he slowly felt gravity pulling him down. He gazed upon Heal-Do in great astonishment and shock, grabbing for the Sapphire Emperium, but to no avail. He could hear the distorted cheers of her older sisters as he continued his descent. But as he felt the perception of time return to normal, he closed his eyes and accepted his defeat, splashing down into the lake.

“And now… victory,” Heal-Do said, putting a little bass in her voice as she reached out to touch the stone. A soft, blue light engulfed the area, followed by a flash of light, and the castles deactivated, returning to their dormancy. The Battle Vixens reappeared by the Castle of Flames as White Trinity gazed down at the lake, looking for Thiji.

“Victory goes to the Battle Vixens! The Sapphire Emperium… is theirs!” declared Kafra Misty. The Vixens delivered a series of jeers and teasing gestures to their adversaries, shaking their rears and sticking their tongues out at them. After their little “celebration,” they found Thiji climbing back up to dry land, but he would be met with a lance to his neck. The Wizard gazed upon his conquerors with squinted eyes as he awaited an inevitable monologue from their long-time rivals.

“I don’t know who you think you are," Lupi started. “I don’t know who you think you were… and I don’t know who you think you were going to be…” She would then lean closer, tugging the collar of his robe and bringing him up against her face and gave a taunting grin before she whispered into his ear…

“But you. Ain’t. It.”

She kissed his nose (as per Battle Vixen customs) and kicked him in the chest, sending him back down into the waters below as the sisters laughed at him, walking away from the area with the Sapphire Emperium in tow.

“Oh, that’s just mean-spirited…” Ray commented, shaking his head. The Wizard swam back to his comrades, but instead of White Trinity helping him out, a plated hand reached out to him. Looking up he saw Youmei of the Holy Saviors offering him a hand. He graciously accepted and was wrested once again from the water’s clutches.

“You fought with great honor and dignity this day, Sir Thiji,” Youmei praised. “Those savage Battle Vixens may have their egos boosted to unimaginable levels thanks to this victory, but we know that yours is a respectable cause. We will prepare for the next battle, and when we next meet, I pray that it will be more memorable than this. Thank you.”

“Lady Youmei, I thank you for your respect towards White Trinity,” he replied, speaking on behalf of the guild. She bowed and walked off with her companions, though Tsubaki stopped and gave the Wizard a deep glance as if analyzing him before resuming. Thiji turned to his comrades and bowed to them in apology.

Thiji: Forgive me, my friends… I have failed you as a strategist.

Ray, patting Thiji on the back: It’s all right, man. We gave it a hell of a run.

Lee: We’ll get them in the future, right, Raien?

The Ninja didn’t say a word.

Lee: … Raien?

Raien: I don’t really feel like talking right now.

Thiji: If I may interject…

Ray: Yeah?

Thiji: I had hoped for this to happen.

Ray, Lee, and Raien: YOU WHAT?!

Thiji would proceed to pace the ground, his hands behind his back.

Thiji: Prontera, Capital of the Rune-Midgarts kingdom, guarded by the Emperium Fortress; Morroc, the Frontier City, watched over by the Emperium Pyramid; Payon, the Forest City, veiled by the Emperium Jungle; and now Geffen, the City of Magic, under the watchful eye of the Emperium Citadel. White Trinity in the South; the Battle Vixens to the West; and the Holy Saviors to the North… This was my grand plan to divide the land into three.

Lee: Are you seriously telling us that you planned this from the very beginning?!

Thiji: ’Tis a strategist’s job to calculate every possibility. And now each guild has a staging area for the battles to come.

Ray: And you wanted to apologize for “failing us?” If you can split the land into three with us holding more stones than the others, then I could care less if you “failed us!”

Thiji: Which reminds me… Raien, I have an idea that you might be interested in.

Raien, reluctantly: I’m listening…

Thiji: What do you say we trade with the Battle Vixens? Their Sapphire Emperium for, say – the Emerald Emperium?

Ray: But they hate the Emperium Jungle!

Thiji: Precisely. So here is my plan…

Hours later, back in civilization, the Kafra Corporation had just reported news of the recent battle and the victory claimed by the Battle Vixens to the public. However, the information that followed would not be so heartwarming…

"Kafra Nora here! Following the recent events in the Emperium Citadel, strange anomalies in the form of powerful signatures of energy erupted across the entire Rune-Midgarts kingdom! The Kafra Corporation is workin’ diligently to figure out the source of the problem! Our sources indicate that these ‘repairs’ won’t be fully dealt with for at least a year’s time! So for now, the Emperium Frontier is at a close! We’ll see y’all in the next year, where our three top guilds will continue their quest for fame and glory!”

Over at Amatsu, Lupi let out an enraged shout.

Lupi: I can’t wait a whole year! I can barely wait a single day!

Aege: You waiting for a day would be a miracle, Sister…

Elua approached Heal-Do’s room, holding the Sapphire Emperium in her hand.

Elua: Hey, Baby Sister?

Heal-Do: Y-Yes?

Elua: How are you holding up? You did great out there!

Heal-Do: I… I don’t know what came over me. It was as if my inner Battle Vixen had awakened and couldn’t sit still.

Elua: We could use more of that, especially for what’s to come, you know? Anyway, here. Take this. You deserve it since you seized the win for us.

The young Assassin took it out of Elua’s hands and smiled.

Heal-Do: Thank you, Elua. I am glad that we won… (Thinking) Though I hope Lord Thiji isn’t taking it too hard… he seemed so sad back there…

Shaking the thought from her head, Heal-Do placed the Sapphire Emperium by her mirror. She and the other ladies practically threw a party inside their own home and enjoyed their night. When it was finally time to rest, Lupi, Aege, and Elua were all sound asleep. Heal-Do, however, was still wide awake, and would thus leave home to take a stroll under the moonlit sky of Amatsu. Sifting through the cherry blossom trees she would encounter Thiji, who had been relaxing by a nearby pond…

Thiji: Oh. It’s you.

Heal-Do: Who did you think I was?

Thiji: Oh, nothing. I had just thought that I was alone, is all.

Heal-Do: Sorry to disappoint you, but you’re not.

Thiji: Indeed… congratulations on your victory, Heal-Do.

The Assassin blushed, hiding it behind her ocean blue tresses.

Heal-Do: You’re… congratulating me?

Thiji: Of course. You defeated White Trinity fair and square.

Heal-Do, slowly resting her head upon Thiji’s shoulder: Well, I am glad I was finally able to prove myself to you…

The Wizard respectfully pulls away from her.

Thiji: You’ve a ways to go before that, my dear.

Heal-Do: I know… and I also know that I cannot defeat you in battle, but that will not stop me from trying and trying until I come out victorious.

She then turned her back to Thiji and would begin making her way back home.

Heal-Do, thinking: Farewell, my dearest Wizard…

Thiji: Oh, and do enjoy your victory, won’t you?

Heal-Do, turning around: Huh…?

Thiji: While you can…

The Wizard would vacate the area and head into town, leaving the Assassin to her thoughts.

Heal-Do: I wonder what he could have meant by that…

She places her hands upon her hearts and continues her walk back. At the port of Amatsu Thiji would meet up with Ray and Lee…

Lee: You know, it’s been nearly a day and you haven’t given us an inkling of an idea what this plan of yours is, Thiji.

Ray: Yeah, what gives? We’re not important enough to be a part of it or something?

Thiji: Raien is the most agile out of all of us, and thus the most cunning. You will see tomorrow. For now, let us rest here and wait for my brother to report.

The three of them would find an inn to stay the night. Ray and Lee were fast asleep, but Thiji kept his vigil, staying awake for the remainder of that eve until the dawn greeted the land. The sun had finally began to rise and first light would arrive. Over at the Battle Vixens’ home, Lupi had risen from her bed, a big smile stretched across her face.

Lupi: Morning, sisters!

Aege: Morning, Big Sis. You’re awful cheery for once.

Lupi: Stop kidding around, Aege! You know damn well why I’m like this!

Heal-Do: A pleasant morning to you two as well!

Lupi: Let’s get the day started with a nice big breakfast! I think it’s Elua’s turn this week to cook, isn’t it?

Aege: Yeah, but… (Sniffing) I don’t smell anything.

Heal-Do: Me neither…

Lupi: That’s weird…

The three sisters knock on the door to Elua’s room, where they would receive no answer. Lupi would knock again – still no answer. They then opened the door to reveal a smiling Elua in her birthday suit, and her unmentionables scattered throughout her room. The light would hit her face and the Elf would slowly come to.

Lupi: You awake, Elua?

Aege: What’s up? You’re usually up first anyway, but you’re cooking breakfast this week!

Elua, drowsily: Oh…g’morning, sisters…!

Heal-Do: Aege is right. Elua is the early bird of the group – no pun intended. Something isn’t right at all…

Lupi: You’d be wide awake at this hour by now, Elua. You all right?

Elua, dreamily: Oh, I am just great! Ecstatic, even! (Giggles cutely)

Lupi: You’re… freaking me out, Sis.

Aege: Oh, yeah, and why are you naked? You’re not one to sleep in the nude… which would explain why all her undergarments are scattered about.

Heal-Do then gasped and recalled her moment with the Wizard last night…

Thiji: Oh, and do enjoy your victory, won’t you? While you can…

The water elf immediately dashed to her room, pushing Lupi and Aege out of her way.

Lupi: Hey -!

Aege: Heal-Do, what are you…?

Now worried, the two older sisters forget about Elua for a moment and rush to their baby sister’s room, where she is shaking in fear.

Aege: Breathe, Baby Sister. What’s wrong?!

Heal-Do, quivering: I-I-I-It’s… It’s…!

Lupi: What the hell is going on?!

Heal-Do: It’s gone, sisters! It’s gone!

Lupi: What’s “gone?!”

The Assassin points to the space by the mirror and they notice that in the place of the Sapphire Emperium lied the Emerald Emperium.

Lupi: So, that’s the Emerald Emperium. What are you so worried about?

Aege: Uh, Big Sis…?

Lupi: What?!

Aege: We didn’t win at the Emperium Jungle… remember?

Lupi: Wait… what?

After thinking for a minute, Lupi gasped and pointed to Aege.

Lupi: Aege, check outside now!

The Blacksmith parts Heal-Do’s curtains and finds White Trinity just outside of their headquarters.

Aege: White Trinity… they’re right outside of our home!

Lupi: Elua’s sleeping in the nude...

Heal-Do: The fact that she hasn’t woke up at all yet…

Aege: And the disappearance of the Sapphire Emperium…

Meanwhile, outside of their home…

Thiji: Any moment now…

Ray: I am still not getting this.

Lee: Hmm…

The Wizard would count down, “Three… two… one…” and on cue, Lupi gave a roar so powerful that she shook the land and drew her lance in anger, pointing it towards White Trinity and shooting flaming balls of fury upon them while releasing a relentless stream of swears and curses, which was their cue to escape from the town. Raien appeared and high-fived his brother.

Raien: Got it! The Sapphire Emperium – and Geffen – belongs to us!

Ray: Oh, now I get it!

Lee: That was well thought-out, Thiji. Nice!

Thiji: Everyone wins, you see: my brother is satisfied; we’ve secured one of the more precious Emperium Stones; and a particular female elf up there is feeling pretty good right now.

After escaping the heat (literally), they would arrive back on the docks and take the first ship to Alberta…

Ray: So, what do you guys think will happen from here?

Thiji: All I know is that when the Emperium Frontier returns, we will be more prepared to conquer its challenges.

Lee: For sure!

Ray: I think we’ll go and visit the realm of the dead to hone our skills.

Lee: You mean Niflheim?

Ray: Exactly! What about you two? Got any plans for this hiatus?

The two brothers looked at each other.

Thiji: We’ve our own personal business to tend to, you see.

Ray: Say no more. We understand.

Lee: You don’t think this means good-bye, do you?

Thiji: Definitely not. But when we do see each other again… it will be a year from now.

Ray: We’ll try and write to you guys, then!

The four of them laughed as they continued their journey toward Alberta. From her window, Heal-Do would have seen Thiji sailing away from Amatsu, and she would give a soft sigh in sweet sorrow. Before Lupi would have a chance to stop her, she dashed out of her home once more and made it to the docks as quickly as she could to see Thiji leave.

“You may be gone for a year, my Lord Thiji… but I will not forget you…” she whispered to herself. The Wizard felt eyes on him as he turned his head and saw the Assassin, who gazed almost longingly back at him.

"She is definitely persistent… perhaps she may prove herself after all,” he thought to himself.

She watched him sail until he was well out of her view, and vanished into the horizon. After about two hours of sailing they would make it back to Alberta where Kafra Nora was there to greet them.

White Trinity: Nora!

Nora: Hey, White Trinity! Sorry y’all lost, but hey, ya still got two stones under your belt!

Thiji: Precisely so.

Raien: Any news on the Emperium Frontier?

Nora: No, I already talked with my crew, and it’s official: there’s nothing else left to find here in Rune-Midgarts.

Ray: You’re not saying the Frontier is done, are you?! We saw the newscast!

Nora: No, no! We said it’d be a year before we’d come to some sorta lead! But until such a time, it’ll be all quiet.

She then looked at the orange and blue stones in their hands.

Nora: The Citrine and Sapphire Emperium Stones… two out of four. Definitely half, with the other guilds controlling one each!

Thiji: Which reminds me… Nora, should I -?

Nora: Oh, yeah! You and Raien need to head back home soon!

Ray: In that case, Lee and I are heading out. Thanks again for everything, you two!

The Gun-Knight and the Monk waved farewell to Thiji and Raien and left them alone. Nora would then teleport them to Prontera City where they would take the portal back home to their own world.

Thiji arrives at his homeland and meets with Princess Koyuki.

Koyuki: Prime Minister, you have returned! I am so sorry for your loss…

Thiji: It is all right, my lady.

Koyuki: What matters is that you have returned safe and sound!

Thiji: The Battle Vixens got just what they deserved, as well as the Holy Saviors. By the way, is Icerend still…?

The Princess nodded and gestured to where the room was. In the throne room, he would enter the hidden chamber once more, and would find the peculiar-looking halberd levitating on the raised dais as it was before. Tempting fate yet again, Thiji reached out to touch Icerend, but he would this time be repulsed by a chilling barrier.

“I am still not ready yet…” he sighed. “I will have to get more powerful somehow. And maybe, just maybe, you will lend me your power. Just like my brother, Raien, and my comrades, Ray and Lee, I will work arduously to prove myself to you… Icerend.”

Gazing down at his right hand, Thiji clenched it in determination before staring back at the icy halberd.

In a faraway land whose mountains towered high above the heavens, Raien would enter a hidden chamber behind the war room of the village leader. There he would find a powerfully-sealed case from within. The village leader – the Lightning Shadow, as they call him – picked up the case and with a simple hand sign, lifted the seal and revealed a no-dachi made of pure lightning. He had gazed upon it, and at the far end of the room was a black and blue lion with red eyes that slept by the Lightning Shadow’s side. It was a large creature of intimidating proportions, but something inside Raien knew that he would need all the help he could get for the challenges to come.

“Raien…” spoke the Lightning Shadow in a deep, booming voice, his face obscured by the yellow and white sakkat he wore, “You have grown well thus far, but you are not yet worthy of taking up this sacred treasure of our people… You must train; you must grow stronger if it is to heed your will. Learn more of the world, and gain in knowledge and strength. Only then will this blade accept you.”

“Yes, sir. I will do my best,” Raien acknowledged, rising from his kneeled position. He then looked out into the middle distance, thinking to himself, “I will do just more than that in a year’s time… White Trinity will return someday, and we all have to be ready. Chances are that the other guilds will work hard as well, but we’ll be back much fiercer than ever.”

“For honor!” cried Youmei.

“For ambition!” Tsubaki followed.

“For teamwork!” said Botan & Momiji.

“For power!” Lupi shouted to the heavens.

“For courage!” yelled Aege after.

“For freedom!” declared Elua.

“For passion!” exclaimed a determined Heal-Do.

“For glory!” Ray decreed.

“For skill!” Lee spoke.

“For discipline!” Raien growled.

"For strategy…” Thiji said in his mind.

Although the battles for Rune-Midgarts Kingdom supremacy have concluded, the flames of war still burn greatly within the hearts of these twelve brave warriors. Determined as ever, they prepare themselves for the impending obstacles to come in the future. There is no telling what awaits them from here on. The Emperium Frontier is far from over – some may even say that it is never over.

But one thing is certain: this war… had just begun to unfold.

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