The towering Emerald Weapon hovered above the Pack, immobile and grotesquely frightening in its own horrific appearance. Raine had gotten them into their standard full fighting formation, yet the beast wasn't attacking right away. Julia looked directly at it, knowing full well what it was. It was one of six, or rumored seven, beasts of war used and created by her ancestors during the Centran Wars. This beast, all on its own, had claimed thousands upon thousands of Centran lives, and now she naturally found it downright terrifying to see it face to face. Without the Emerald Blade, there was no way to control the beast, and it would follow Virados' orders, and terminate them.
Andraia made the first assault. She drew out her summoning energy, and it pulsated as a fiery red flame surrounding her arm. She released it into the air, and it grew greatly in size and shape. Soon, electricity crackled with the fire, and from the pulsating mass of energy, came a firebird adorned in colors ranging from fire red, to pale white. This was Tritoch, the tri-elemental firebird, who was Andraia's strongest summon. It arched its beaked head back, and let out a shrieking call.
She had made sure the summon was at full strength, letting it perform its strongest attack. The gigantic bird flew back a few meters, then electric energy formed in front of it. Fire soon joined, and wind energy followed. A large sphere of red hot energy now was rotating in from of Tritoch, and the bird flew back even further. It shrieked again, and flew through the chaotic mass. The energy joined the body of the bird, and Tritoch flew rapidly past Emerald Weapon, and banked up a centimeter before hitting it. The energy left the firebird, and spread dangerously onto the Mysidian war beast. Normally, this red hot energy, Tri-Dazer, would have incinerated people, or even a Behemoth monster, yet the attack seemed to have little effect on the war beast. Tritoch swooped around behind Andraia and awaited another command.
True, the attack hadn't damaged Emerald severely, but it did have an effect. Emerald growled darkly, and lowly. It's eyes turned bright green, and it began to slowly move. Raine took this as a sign that it was now active, and ready to kill. "Watch it! Cover yourselves when it attacks! Lilliana, Andraia, cast Protect and Shell on the whole group!"
The two girls nodded, and at the same time, the areas around each soldier, one-by-one, turned shades of blue and pink, signifying that magical protection had been granted to them. The aura vanished a moment later, but the spells were still active.
A green beam of energy shot forth from the eyes of Emerald, hitting Zion square in the chest, though some energy was absorbed by his Shell spell. Still, despite the protection, he rocketed backwards and hit the wall behind him. He staggered up afterwards, quickly being cured by Edea. The healing magic didn't have quite the effect as it usually did, yet it was enough to get him back on his feet.
Julia raised her free arm into the air, gathering enough mana energy to cast a deadly yet effective spell. She only used it a few times, in the most desperate of situations due to its draining effect that was caused by her losing at least a quarter of her magical energy. Green waves gathered around her arm, and her wings outstretched as she rose a few feet into the air. Once charging was finished, she released it. A yellow orb formed in the center of Emerald, and energy rushed inward. A few seconds later, it exploded rapidly, in a green mass that was deeper in color that Emerald's skin. The explosion grew further still, until it engulfed the Weapon's entire body mass. Ultima, it was her deadliest of spells, and even Edea had a difficult time casting her less powerful version. The explosion, having lost its energy, dissipated after a few moments.
To her displeasure, it seemed to have little effect as well. However, it didn't surprise her. After all, it was suppose to have stood up to the likes of Hyne himself. Raine burst to alert when she saw twin green beams of energy forming at the beasts shoulders, if they could even be called that. They shot off to the sides, and began to rush towards them.
They did as she commanded, and aside from the gunners who were already out of harm's way. The melee attackers and the mages leapt into the air, and the beams passed directly under them. The ground lay scorched underneath, twin scars having formed in the stone from where the beams had hit. The area when they first came, the sides of a room, had been completely obliterated and torn to pieces. That room now laid in ruins to their far right. That attack would have severed any body part mercilessly.
Tritoch, still summoned out, began to furiously claw and try to maul the Weapon with it large talons and beak, yet nothing was left, not even a scratch. Emerald began to grow annoyed at the large firebird, and decided its time had come to a close for the battle. With Tritoch gripping Emerald's torso with its talons and having it strike the Weapon in the face with its beak at lightning speed, it growled deeply in warning. Tritoch paid no heed. The Weapon let its shoulders separate, and a brilliant but deadly forest color flash extended from within the dark regions of those shoulders. Tritoch flew backwards, and let out a pain filled cry. The bird vanished as its temporary life force was exterminated. It would take Andraia much rest and patience for the summon to recover.
Lilliana was resolved in her decision to attack next. She might as well put her new beast of war into use. Calling upon her newly acquired dragon king, Bahamut, she awaited his return. It came eagerly. It was like an old foe going to battle with a rival long forgotten, then remembered. Bahamut soared with his mighty wings out of a newly formed black sphere of power. The dragon and the Weapon took one glance at each other, and saw pure red. Bahamut first took to a high altitude, forming a large sphere of energy in his mouth. He inhaled greatly, building the energy. Emerald began to shoot out several beams of green energy, but the dragon was so swift, he merely swerved out of the way.
Bahamut arched his neck, and released the giant sphere of plasma energy. It rocketed down to Emerald, and exploded against its flesh and exo-skeleton. It grew and grew to a size much larger than Julia's Ultima. The Weapon was pushed back several feet as the energy blasted against it like a nuclear bomb. Bahamut was as well forced back as he attacked, and once the blast was finished, landed gracefully against a nearby platform, sinking his claws into the stone in order to stay in his place.
Still, the Weapon was barely damaged. It growled angrily, and sent off a half-dozen rays of emerald colored energy towards Bahamut as a counter attack. The graceful dragon spread it wings and dove off of the platform he was stooped on, diving down into the darkness. The rays impacted the platform, turning it instantly into dust and rubble, along with a few structures beside it. Emerald, tracking Bahamut with its small but sensitive eyes, attempted to attack again. Sending even more energy rays towards the bottom of the structure, illuminating the bottom floors with a pale green light as each shot downwards towards the dragon.
Raine took this opportunity to get a few words in. "Does anyone have their limit break charged up? Can you make a heavy attack when it comes back up?!"
Epsilon and Lancer raised their hands, and Raine immediately ordered them to the front. "Epsilon, load up your rifle with some pulse ammunition and blast the sucker as many times as you can. Lancer, use one of your strongest magic attacks. Got it?"
The two men nodded, awaiting the return of the Weapon so they could attack. Julia and Edea both charged up their mana reserves in order to cast magic against it at the same time, hopefully doubling the damage inflicted. For a time, however, all they could hear was Bahamut's screeching and Emerald Weapons roars as the two exchanged attacks below the walkway the Wolves were on.
Suddenly, almost causing some of the Pack members to topple over as they jumped back, the dragon king flew vertically upwards towards the roof. Barely missing the edge of the platform, his wings scraping the side of it, he ascended to the top of the sealed ruins. Expecting Emerald to follow, Epsilon had his rifle ready to fire, pulse ammo having quickly been loaded in seconds before.
The giant shape of Emerald slowly lumbered upwards, after Bahamut. It's ascent halted as a pillar of sapphire light plowed into after the pulse ammo in Epsilon's rifle exploded after being fired. The beast, after being hit, turned towards him. However, another beam hit, and then another. Soon, Epsilon had gone through all of his ammunition with a pulse core. He discarded the empty shells on the floor, and Lancer quickly took Emerald's recovery time to attack as well. The blonde blue mage soon felt his magic reserves charged, and he let loose with his strongest of all spells, Blue Nova. This attack was like a super-charged holy spell, and it soon flew and wrapped around Emerald from every direction. The energy rushed inward, burning flesh, ripping protective scales and putting the Weapon into a world of pain. At the same time, Julia and Edea both released two charged Flare spells, further damaging the Weapon.
Emerald, having held back earlier in order to stall the team from follow Virados, now had had enough. He gathered a great deal of power into his shoulders again, and this time aimed his energy towards the Pack. Raine's eyes widened, and she yelled out an order. "Get behind something! Quick!!"
They dove behind the nearest debris, covering their heads and face from the impending attack. As Emerald released the energy, their entire view, even when covered by their arms, turned a bright green. Soon, after the light, the pain came. Luckily, most was absorbed by the stone slabs they were hiding behind, but even then, their flesh burned under the light. Some soon felt welts forming from it, and most began to scream. Though it endured for a mere six seconds, the blast to them seemed like near eternity. When it cleared, some were writing on the ground, unable to do anything else.
Edea and Andraia quickly healed those near them, and Lilliana handled the others when she had been revitalized by the other healer's magic. Though still badly damaged, they were ready to fight, yet were too afraid to leave the safety of the debris. Emerald roared at this, sending rays of energy blasting out randomly in their direction, yet fortunately they all missed.
Raine looked down at her new sword, Ultima Blade. A thought struck her. Virados could summon this monster from Emerald Blade, so I should be able to summon Ultima Weapon from this! But, what if it's on the other side of the world? Oh, please work!
She grabbed a hold of the hilt, and prayed. Ultima! If you can hear me, help us! Get Emerald out of here! Just let us get out alive!
A few seconds of silence followed, but was then interrupted by a great rumble from below, similar to what they had felt when Emerald first arrived. Raine smiled, for both Weapons must have been sealed away in the ruins after the Centran Wars were over. There was a great splashing sound, followed by an ear-piercing screech like roar. Emerald panned his view down, only to see a great dark shape flying towards him. This was Ultima, a centaur-like beast with the torso of a humanoid creature with demon wings, but the body of quadruped monster. A large blade, almost exactly shaped like Ultima Blade, rested in its hand. Emerald began to back away, thinking his former ally during the wars was here to aid him. However, he was sadly mistaken.
Ultima reached up with his spare hand, clasping the dark claws around Emerald's outer skeleton. Emerald began to shriek at Ultima, yet the only thing the latter did in response was close his outstretched wings. This prompted Ultima to fall back towards the pool at the bottom of the ruins, taking Emerald with him in Ultima's deadly iron grasp. The two fell down, deep into the blackness, until another giant splash was heard. Then, nothing but silence followed.
A few minutes later, after the shock had passed, the team got up. Lilliana returned Bahamut to his world, letting the dragon fly back into his dark summoning portal. Raine placed her hands against a stone slab, leaning against it for rest, her face looking towards the floor. It had been a hard battle. And they would have lost, as well, had it not been for Ultima Weapon.
Andraia, naturally, broke the silence. "Whoa! What in the hell was that thing?"
"Emerald Weapon." Julia informed her, placing her bladed staff into its holster on her back. "It was a Mysidian war beast used in the Centran Wars. Didn't know that thing, or Ultima for that matter, was still alive. That thing ate summon monsters for breakfast, we're lucky we got out alive."
"No kidding!" Corin agreed enthusiastically. "How were we supposed to kill that thing?! And how'd that other 'Weapon' thing get up here? It got bored and wanted to help?"
"I summoned that." Raine said, not looking up from her leaning position. "My sword is Ultima Blade, his was Emerald. We both can control those beast with the swords. I'm not releasing Ultima from here, though. If I did, and I died, it would probably run amok. We couldn't have that."
Lancer shook his head. "This is like a rebirth of the Centran Wars. Mysidians, Weapons, the extermination of the Centrans.... it doesn't get much worse than this."
Julia laughed with humor in her voice. "Sure it does! Hyne's floating around out there somewhere! My dear old daddy gets back, and we're all screwed."
"Thanks for being so uplifting." Edea replied sarcastically, then smiled. "If you are Hyne's daughter, you would feel pain if holy water came in contact with you, correct?"
"Holy water?" Julia said with a slight fear in her voice. "That stuff is like acid! A stupid priest nailed me with it once, for I don't know what reason! Hurts like a bitch..."
"Whatever." Raine broke in. "We've got to keep tracking Virados. If what he said was true, about using that crystal to open a portal to Gaia, and letting Hyne's forces get through.... we don't have much time to waste."
Celeste nodded. "You're right, we should get back to the ship. It'll take us forever to get back up those floors as it is, and Virados is probably leaving by now, heading for only god knows where."
"Everyone, move out. I'll give more orders back on the ship. Let's go!" Raine said in a powerful voice. They obeyed hastily, putting their equipment away, and forming up behind her.
As Raine led the team up back towards the top of the ruins, Zion held back a ways with Julia, walking up with her. The two were silent for a few minutes as they were climbing the fleets of stairways that led to the top. After a bit more, once they were on a flat surface and they were once again walking at a slower pace, he slid his arm around her waist. She looked to him, gave him an amused smile, and spoke.
"What are you doing?" She asked with a smirk. Not used to having anyone grab her around the waist (unless it was a teasing action by one of the Wolves), she found the gesture a bit odd.
He shrugged and smiled. "Why? You don't like it?"
"Just not used to it."
He laughed, "Hey, don't worry, I'll fix that!"
Upon saying this, he pulled her closer to him as they walked. He brought his head down level to hers, and softly kissed her on the cheek. She rolled her eyes as she did so, laughing a tiny bit. Little did she feel that his hand was creeping up towards her shoulders, and he suddenly bent his arm so that the palm of his hand was near her face. Before she could react, he joked.
"Don't you hate it when people do this?" Following his comment, and ran his hand forcefully but playfully from her forehead to her jaw, squishing her nose towards her face.
He took off at a run, knowing full well she'd retaliate. She too, took off at a sprint after him. "Hey! Come back here, mister! I'll make you pay for that!"
The team exited the blasted door, which Julia had destroyed hours before. It was now dusk, and the sun was sliding down behind the ocean, turning it and the sky a bright pink and orange. The Valhalla sat where they had left it, and ready to be launched again. The team, much to their delight, agreed that they would never come back to Battleship Island if they could help it.
As the team lowered the ramp and began to bored, Andraia spoke up again. She pointed to the two couples. "Now see... here's your difference between Julia and Zion, and Lancer and Celeste. Lancer and Celeste are the calm, loving couple who constantly hold each other and kiss. Now.... Julia and Zion are a different story. Anyone else see them chasing after each other and yelling when they came out of the ruins? And this in the first few days of the relationship!"
On cue, Julia stopped trying to threaten Zion by tickling him, which for some reason was the equivalent of torture to him. "Now, come on! It's only play fighting! We're sweet and crap... but only when you guys aren't around 'cause you'll make fun of me."
Raine shook her head, and closed the ramp behind her as the last Wolves got on board. Once they were all in, Julia and Lilliana began to depart for the bridge in order to start the ship up and get off the metallic island. She stopped them by holding up one of her gauntlet covered hands. Rejoining the group, they gave her a puzzled look.
"I.... have something I want to say to you all." Raine began. Seeing their curious faces as to why her voice had gone soft and she was being sincere, despite a situation where they thought she would be stern and ready to command.
"What's up boss?" Lancer asked, crossing his arms.
"I'm not too good with words... but here it goes. I want to say... thank you. For everything. You guys have stood by me, even though we haven't been ordered to do what we are. It's a true sign of loyalty... I never thought I would have friends who would do that for me."
"Aww...." Andraia couldn't help but say, but Raine ignored her and continued.
"This person we've been facing... Virados... he's much stronger than we realized. I don't exactly know why the Mysidians, who once wanted to stop Hyne, are now with him... but they're trying to take over Terra with Hyne at the lead. I think, now that we know this, that we simply can't back away from this kind of fight. If Virados gets away with his plan, then I think it pretty safe to say, that with all this Sorceress War crap, we won't have much of a force to fight them off."
Seeing Corin nod in agreement, though Julia looked a bit downtrodden, she went on. "I think this whole thing is bigger than we realize. I don't know the whole story, but we've got to stop this part of it from happening. The only way to do that... is to kill Virados and stop the invasion before it's too late. It's going to be a very difficult thing. That's why.... that's why I'm giving you guys a choice. Since it's so hard, and I'm not going to lie, some of us might possibly die, I'm letting you decide. I'm going for him, regardless. But, if any of you want to back out now... here's your chance. I'll drop you off at your hometown... and you'll be safe there. At least... I hope so."
A few sighed angrily at this. Julia stepped forward, a quiet tone to her usually outgoing voice. "Raine... you should know by now. We aren't going to back out. We're with you to the end. That's what a friend does. I, for one, won't leave this thing right in the middle of the adventure. I want to finish it to the end. I'm sure, most everyone else does too."
They nodded quickly. Corin shook his head. "Man, commander, you sure have a lot of faith in us! Thinkin' we're gonna abandon you right in the middle of something, where the whole friggin' world is at stake!"
Raine laughed, "Okay, okay! Sorry! I didn't know you'd all take it that way..."
"What are you, the least observant person on this team?" Celeste teased. "Now come on, Raine. What do we do next?"
"Go straight for Virados, and don't let him escape." Raine said. "But... I think with all that's gone on, we need some rest. Julia, I want you to land us outside Timber, in the forests where no one will see us come down. There, we'll stay the night, and find and go after Virados in the morning. I have an idea as to where he's going to go."
Julia nodded. "Sure thing! Come on, Lily, let's get this crate moving!"
The two women ran off to the bridge, their men in close pursuit. The rest hung back with Raine, going towards the lounge area. The Alpha Wolf sighed. She had honestly expected most to stay with her, but the thought of possibly losing all of them in a fight was almost unbearable. Still, with every new day they lived, there came more hope for the future. *******************