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Thread: Final Fantasy Chronicles of Exigo: The Fall of Spira

  1. #31
    Valvaris

    “Val I think your skills will be more useful to Joseph's group and Mishka and Cyan you two should go with Gideon's group. Kyra you are with my group. If we're lucky then the paths should join together at the other side, stand around and you'll get killed.”

    “And what if they don't? What if it's a dead end?”

    “I can't believe I'm going to fucking suggest this, but if it's a dead end I either suggest blasting through it, or calling out to the unsent girl, I have a feeling she's watching us.”

    “That's your plan?!”

    “Do you have any other fucking ideas?!”

    “Mummy, you're so clever.” said a voice the little girl once again appeared before them. “But do I really have to help the boys if they get stuck? They stink.” Kyra bent down to the girl's level.

    “Well that's why they need help, because you are so much more clever then they are.”

    “Oooh okay, by the way you have to move now” the space they were on was beginning the shake as if it was about to move and with that Nikki threw a lot of chocobo feathers in the air casting haste on everyone and ran for it.

    The few Albheds, Joseph and I dashed towards the left path and began running. Some platforms began to rise as we pass through them, while some are spinning downwards, slamming against the platform. After some time, all of us managed through the deadly path as we stopped right in front of an entrance to a small cavern.

    Joseph stepped his right foot forward, intending to enter the cavern. I held him by his shoulder, "An evil energy is emitting from within."

    "But this is the only exit," he turned around and pointed towards the back, "The path we took to get here is gone."

    I turned around, just to find that some of the platforms has lowered itself, and it is impossible to reach a further platform unless we could fly.

    "When we stepped on the platforms, it must have triggered something. This cloister is deadlier than I thought."

    "Let's go. We have no time to waste."

    Joseph took the lead and walked into the cavern. I followed right behind him, while the others followed behind me. We treaded cautiously. Joseph has his hand on his sword, seemingly ready to unsheathe it anytime soon. As we enter the large inside area of the cavern, we realise it is a dead end -- the cavern has no other exits other than the one we took to enter.

    "A dead end," Joseph said, "Lets search..."

    "AHHHHHH!"

    A scream stopped Joseph's words. We all looked behind, but nothing seems wrong.

    "What happened?" I asked.

    "I'm not sure... there was a scream, but I don't see anything else."
    "No wait! Someone is missing! There were 10 of us when we came into the room! Now there's only 9?"

    "BOOOOOOOOO!"

    A loud bellow strike through the cavern, the walls and floor began to shake and tremble. Joseph unsheathed his sword and thrust it into the ground to hold still. He reach out his hand to me and I grabbed his arm in order to stabilize myself. An Albhed fell down and rolled towards a wall nearby. As they are reaching the wall, it suddenly opened up and swallowed the Albhed whole.

    "BWAHHHHHH!"

    Another loud sound is heard, in which immediately after, the wall opened up again, and the Albhed was thrown out and slammed onto the ground.

    "T'was deesgusteeng!"

    The wall began to move as a 9feet tall figure broke apart from the wall while shaking dirt off his limbs. He has a small head but a huge stomach, where a slit can be seen. The monster seems to be made of rock, with rather bulky and short limbs, but a long body.

    "Hungar! Why were you so impatient?!"

    Another voice is heard from behind us. We turn around to find a 7ft tall winged monster hovering behind us. It has a black helmet over its head, with a slender body and thin, long limbs and fingers. He has dark leather skin, with a pair of black wings on its back.

    "Levi! T'was too tempteeng! I was hungar...eeeeee...."

    The stone giant looked down on the floor in guilt.

    "Are they fiends? They are... rather peculiar." I asked Joseph.
    "I do not know. But they are definitely not here to help!"

    He brandished his sword and deflected something in front of him.

    "Oh!" the winged Levi said, "Good reflex you have there."

    Upon close inspection, I see a few really long and thin needles between its fingers.

    "Those struck by these needles will experience excrutiating pain, and dissolve into puddles of water! I love waters!" It explained, and then twisted its face, which I assume is a smile.

    "The stone golem seems more susceptible to spells than the winged one. You take that one, I'll try to take down the golem."

    Joseph gave a nod as I leaped to the side of the giant. I fired a few bullets on it, hoping to take it on by surprise. The giant turned and the slit on its stomach opened up, swallowing the bullets. Immediately after, it swings its bulky arm at me. I sidestepped and raised my left gun at it. A red magic circle appeared as I said, "Hodan!". A red missle-shaped energy emerged from the circle and flew towards the giant. As it made contact, it exploded, throwing the giant onto the floor, causing the cavern to tremble somemore. As the smoke dissipates, it threw another swing at me. I leaped backwards, missing the punch by milimetres. The gust from the swing still pushed me further behind, causing me to slam into the wall.

    The giant began running towards me, and the slit on its stomach began to stretch open, revealing the teeth hidden inside.

    "Fire has no effect on it," I thought, "Stone..... maybe water."

    I raised both my guns at the charging giant and a large blue magic circle appeared in front of me.

    "Charge-cast: Suihou!"

    A large liquid rock emerged from the center of the magic circle and launch itself towards the giant. As it made contact, the momentum also threw the giant back while the rock dispersed into a large body of water, enveloping the giant. As the giant was about to reach the wall, the body of water began to spiral in front of the giant, causing extra force as it slams into the wall behind.

    Immediately after, I ran up to the giant and pointed both guns at its head. I pulled the trigger and see as the magic bullets pierce through its small head, shattering it into pieces. The giant's body then began to melt into the ground, and slowly disappear out of sight.

    I sat on the ground, tired from the fight.

    "There is no time to lose. Joseph may still be fighting against that winged monster."

    I stood up and turned behind.

    ***To be continued

    ********************
    New Spell:

    Suihou 水砲Water Cannon, Water series -aga spell

    ~ AUTO-MERGED POSTS ~

    Joseph
    Thought I never regretted becoming a samurai, there were times when I did regret that decision. Right now was one of those moments. The flying fiend Levi was keeping itself out of reach of my sword while throwing down those needles. I’ve either deflected or avoided the needles but the battle was going nowhere.

    “Just give up. You will tire out and you will die a painful death. The pain will only last a minute or two before you melt and become water. Isn’t that exciting?” Levi taunted, throwing more needles at me. I dodged the majority before deflecting the last couple. I jumped up, hoping my speed will carry me to within striking distance of Levi, but it just flapped its wings and gained altitude, causing me to miss. I dodged aside the moment I landed, avoiding more needles.

    Levi threw another wave of needles not just at me, but towards the Al Bhed as well. I blocked them as well as the Al Bhed, but one was not as lucky as it struck him in the chest. He dropped and started screaming in pain. Levi landed in front of him, extending an arm and touching his face.

    “What an exquisite face you make when you’re in pain. I’ll rem…” it said before flapping its wings and taking off again, my sword missing my mere inches.

    “That was so rude! Now die samurai,” it said, tossing out a large amount of needles. I deflected them with my sword. The last couple struck my lower left leg. I dropped my sword and cried out in pain. I could hear the footsteps of Levi as it approached.

    “Now didn’t I say that you will die here? But you’re probably the strongest I’ve faced in quite a while so…” it began as it stepped right in front of me. At that moment, I grabbed my sword and decapitated it, causing its head to fall to the ground before the rest of it faded into pyreflies. The Al Bhed and Val ran up to me, fearing the worst.

    “We need to get you to the hospital immediately! Whatever was in that needle needs to be cured right now!” one Al Bhed said, grabbing my arm. I quickly grabbed him back, stopping him.

    “I’m fine. The needle didn’t actually hit me. Sometimes deception is a powerful thing,” I explained, lifting the leg of my pants, showing that the needle was actually in the greave. I carefully pulled out the needle and tossed it to the ground. The other Al Bhed that was struck has dissolved into water, leaving just his clothes and other possessions behind. I did a quick prayer before searching for an exit.

    Part of the wall collapsed to reveal a passageway. We continued on, keeping vigilant of our surroundings. The passage opened up to a cliff. I looked around to see the only way forward was a narrow strip of rock alongside the wall of the Cloister. We had to walk single file so Val took the lead while I was around the middle. After 15 minutes of walking, some good news came from Val.

    “Hey, there’s another open platform ahead of us,” he reported. Just when I thought that some good came, I heard a noise behind us. The group looked back to see that the rocks started collapsing into the darkness below. My heart seemed to pause for a second.

    “RUN!” shouted the Al Bhed at the end. We all ran as quickly as we could towards the platform. The rocks were collapsing at an accelerated pace, catching up towards us.

    Val and most of the other Al Bhed made it to the platform, just leaving me and another Al Bhed on the collapsing cliff. Just then, the haste spell provided by the chocobo feather suddenly stopped on the person in front of me. Since the rock underneath my feet was starting to collapse, I grabbed him by the arm and stuck my sword into the stone wall. The rest of the walkway fell into the darkness, leaving me and the Al Bhed I saved dangling.

    “Joseph! Are you alright?” I heard Val ask.

    “Yeah, just fine. I’m only dangling here holding onto a full grown man without any way to you. Yep, just fine indeed, ” I sarcastically replied. I looked around to see if there was any way out of this mess. Seeing none, there was probably only one way to get out.

    “Val, I’m gonna toss this guy to you and then swing myself to you guys. Be ready to catch us,” I said. I started to rock back and forth, creating momentum. The Al Bhed I held on to also swung in rhythm, creating more momentum. With one last swing, I tossed the man towards the platform. He managed to catch the edge and the others pulled him up to safety.

    Just when I began to do my swing, a noise from above made us all look up. The sight made my heart drop quite quickly. I could see large platforms falling towards the group. I pulled my sword out just as a platform fell in front of me. I used the split second to kick off it and dodge another platform that was aimed right at where I was. Using all my senses, I managed to get on top of a platform and started to jump to the platform which the others were on. Just when I did, the haste spell ran out on me. That caused me to miss the timing on my jump, causing me to miss my target and instead send me plunging towards the darkness of the Cloister.

    ~ AUTO-MERGED POSTS ~


    Upon entering the Via Infinito, Kyra noticed a difference right away. From the events that had happened mere moments before, to that very moment. There was a complete change in tempo it seemed. There was also a different scent in the air. None too pleasing; by any means. The smell of death was more evident than the last time they had been there. It seemed to have taken a darker turn while they were gone.

    The girl was on them moments after the group entered. She explained how the Via Infinito has changed while they were gone, and there were treasures to look for. That wasn’t before the little girl started to act strange after losing a pyrefly. Kyra watched as Nikki shot some arrows to keep her away, but her efforts were useless. Kyra was powerless to do anything. She noticed the pain Nikki was going through, it was far more evident in her then what she had felt from here last ‘possession’. As far as she remembered, she felt an emotional distress, but nothing like what Nikki was feeling.

    “No Nikki. Please leave her alone, you're hurting her.”. Kyra cried. She hated seeing Nikki in so much pain.

    “Kick her out Nikki, you can do this, you did it before!” the twins cried.

    “But I'm trying to help her, Mummy has forgotten stuff, if I help mummy she'll help me!” the girl cried desperately while rummaging through Nikki’s memories. “Oh poopie wrong one”. It seemed she didn’t have much control of her abilities, thus the memory from Macalania appeared.

    Kyra still felt helpless to watch. It was hard enough to hear the story from Nikki herself. To actually see these events take place was a whole other nightmare.

    “No anything... but this one.” Nikki croaked through the pain. Kyra took a step forward, finally regaining movement in her legs, but she was stopped. Joseph put a hand on her shoulder.

    “Let Nikki handle it. There’s no telling what could happen if you interfere” Paine whispered.

    Kyra nodded in compliance as she helplessly watched Nikki endure probably one of the most painful memories in her life. It seemed to have finished pre-maturely as the girl was suddenly pushed out of Nikki’s body. In the girl’s frustration, she left an Elder Drake in her wake.

    Kyra immediately saw the urgency of the situation, but needed to check if Nikki was okay to fight first.

    “Are you okay?” She asked. Nikki just gave a nod signaling she was alright. That was enough for Kyra really.

    She prepared herself quickly to fight this feisty dragon. She made her way behind the dragon. She had faced enough of these to know what they were capable of. The world she had faced it on didn’t make much difference.

    Watch for the tail!” A female voice called out from somewhere. Kyra chose to ignore it and continued to attack from her current position. The Elder Drake began to shift its weight from side to side, preparing for an attack. It reared backward and smashed into the walls. Kyra knew what was coming next, but realized it too late, taking the full force of this attack to her body. She let out a cry as she was hit. As the beast released her from a trapped position, she fell to her knees. Fortunately, she felt a cure spell shortly after, which dulled the pain slightly. She also heard Nikki try to distract the beast using swears and shooting arrows at it so she could get away before it had a chance to hit her again.

    She’s Cute.” The voice piped up again with a slightly sarcastic tone. Kyra was slightly confused. She didn’t have the time to deal with this, but she had an idea of who it was she heard this voice the last time she was here.

    Kyra caught a glimpse of what Val as he was firing his guns, sending a bullet infused with magic rifling toward the fiend. She knew what was coming next.

    “Get Behind it” Paine yelled.

    Nikki questioned why as Kyra pushed her out of the way. No time for Questions, Nikki. She thought. She knew she’d realize what was to come when she’s see it for herself.

    After the blast was finished, Mishka advised the group to move again before the dragon decided to go back its earlier tactic of smashing walls. It wasn’t long before the twins revealed a plan they had after the dragon unleashed its Pyroplexy attack. They had found a way to hold the dragon in one place. This made it easier to attack, but there was still something wrong. The monster was abnormally strong. Their attacks were barely making a dent.

    Kyra, Stop ignoring me!” Kyra’s eyes squinted as she realized what was going on in her head. Whether it really was just a mere memory, or the voice actually had a mind of its own, she didn’t know. She stopped attacking and listened to what the voice had to say. “You know how to deal with this. You’ve seen this monster before. You’re an analyst. Go do what you do best.” The voice called out.

    Kyra nodded. She knew what she had to do. “Alright, I think I can do this.” She said before running for the fiend once again. Nikki yelled at her not to go, but Kyra already had a plan. She ran up to the immobilized fiend and stabbed it in the eye. It roared pain as it lifted his head in an attempt to escape. She swiftly plucked her sword out and swung horizontally, slicing its jaw. She lifted her arms above her head, and delivered an overhead stab infused with magic. Ice was her poison of choice. She knew full well what the result of that was going to be. The beast roared again and flames began to erupt from its mouth. She leaped from her spot to get away from the flames. She held her blade to her side until she reached the peak of her jump. She readied her blade and held it more like a firearm rather than a sword. When the flames reached a certain point, she clicked her trigger sending vibrations down the blade. With that, she was able to catch the flame, and manipulate the flames around the blade. As she descended, she spun which created a wheel of fire. When the new weapon reached its full length and momentum, it sliced through the fiend’s skull.

    Kyra landed on her feet, but started to topple. Her legs were exhausted. Luckily, Nikki was there for support. “Do me a favour and don’t do that again” She said. Kyra gave a small smile and a slight chuckle. She regained strength in her legs and wanted to say something, but she noticed something was happening to the fiend she thought was supposed to be finished. It sprouted another head from its body. What the hell?! She thought.

    “It oversouled!” Mishka gasped.

    Nikki started firing again and moved back. Kyra readied her blade, but didn’t know is she had enough in her to be able to do another attack like that. "Damn it, the Via Infinito is really going to kill me."

    Na ah, don’t think like that. The voice appeared in her head.

    "...Right." Kyra thought as a response. With what was happening, that was far from believable.

    Just then, a bright light careened into the fiend and caused it to explode into pyreflies, signalling its death. Everyone turned around to see who had done it, and it was none other than the Legendary Nooj. The one that Nikki was trying to ensure stayed on the surface. Kyra noticed Nikki was about ready to explode with anger.

    “I'm unsure as to the necessity of my presence at this juncture.” He said, limping past Nikki to Paine, “I wouldn't want to give the impression that I just wanted to die.”

    Nikki clenched her fist at this remark and was about to move. Kyra put her hand on her shoulder and said, "Woah Nikki, hold on," She paused. "I don't think he's here to die. Did you see what he did just now? We could use someone like him on our team.”

    Kyra let those words sink in but Nikki was still contemplating. "That isn’t going to work, Kyra. Try flirting." The voice came back.

    "Damnit Aiko, do I really need to do that here?" She thought. The voice in her head giggled, and then disappeared again.

    Kyra stepped in front of her and smiled, "Hey! Weren't you worried about me just a moment ago? Why are you so worried about Nooj all of the sudden?"

    “That, I, err..” Kyra watched her cheeks fill with embarrassment as she rubbed her forehead. The leader quickly regained composure and made her way in front of the group. “We're moving on!” and jumped down to the next cloister. Everyone followed after.

    Kyra was immediately shocked at the site of Cloister 41. This cloister was completely different from the rest of them. There were multiple paths, platforms that moved in different directions. There was no possible way they could get through this as a whole group. It also became clear the Yuki and Yuubou weren’t able to teleport the whole group including the Albhed. Nikki quickly got together a plan. The girl came out and stated Nikki’s cleverness before warning them that they needed to move again, and fast. Nikki threw a bunch of Chocobo feathers and everyone dispersed just as the platform began to crumble away.

    Kyra followed Nikki on the path they were on. They needed to move fast. Each step was only temporary as each platform began to crumble with any amount of weight put onto it. The fact the most of the platforms were moving made it difficult. The Albhed that were with them had a hard time keeping up, but none of them had fallen yet as far as Kyra saw. They eventually made it to a somewhat stable platform.

    “How many do we have with us?”

    “Ten.” One of the Albhed said.

    “Good, that’s plenty. Keep moving.”

    “Hey Kyra....it’s Kyra right?” a familiar albhed asked.

    “Yes that’s me, we don’t have time to chat though.”

    “I know. Rey asked me to give you this.” It was a letter with an albhed potion.

    Kyra sighed. "I can’t deal with this now."] She accepted the letter and put it in her pocket. ”Let’s keep moving.” The others nodded.

    “Would you guys stop fucking chatting and move it!”

    The rest of the albhed made some whispers. Kyra wasn’t in the mood. Having Rey on her mind was the last thing she wanted.

    Kyra noticed that the air started to feel colder. Perhaps the Via Infinito was reacting to the current situation, she did know. Suddenly, there was a familiar roar just ahead of them. An Elder Drake was emerging from the darkness and was heading straight toward them. The dragon started to barrel its way towards them making the ground shake as it did so.

    “Shit, go back!” Nikki yelled.

    The group ran in the opposite direction, but there was a dead end where they came from and the ground was starting to give way again. Kyra noticed an opening in the wall that she believed wasn’t there before. She grabbed Nikki’s hand and dove into the opening in the wall. Most of the albhed followed, but two of them didn’t catch her movements and disappeared into the darkness. The massive fiend had made its way to the opening, but noticed they weren’t there and stopped just in front of them. Since they were somewhat hidden, they weren't seen just yet.

    “Don’t bloody move.” She whispered harshly. She waited for it to pass them completely before she gave a signal to move again. The large beast noticed the group again and gave chase.

    “If it keeps fucking chasing us like this, it’s going to take us all fucking down!” she bluntly stated.

    I know, hold on. I have an idea.” She said as she turned to face the fiend. “Hit the ground!”

    The albhed looked confused, but did as she said.

    Nikki attacked the ground with an Ultima Arrow, but something was wrong. The floor cracked, but because the powerful attack was at such close range, the bow didn’t release all of the power into the arrow and backfired, sending Nikki back. Kyra was helpless to do anything.

    “NO!!”

    Fuuuuuck!!

    Kyra stopped her attacks and rushed to her side. Nikki had already passed out from the explosion, but she was still breathing. The beast was still barrelling towards them. Kyra rested Nikki upright against the wall and resumed what she was doing. She used the cracks that Nikki created to her advantage and struck her blade on them. She clicked her trigger and sent a thunder attack down her blade. “SHOCKWAVE!” she yelled. The attack sent a wave of electricity down the hall and struck the fiend itself. Before it had a chance to release a counter attack the ground gave way sending the massive fiend to the depths of this cloister. She sheathed her blade and ran in the opposite direction, picking up Nikki on her way.

    The ground started to catch up to them as they were running away. The eight remaining albhed ran ahead of Kyra. As they kept going, they noticed that the hall was about to end, and there was no way out. There was another familiar roar behind Kyra as she reached the final platform before the dead end. A red claw had reached itself onto the platform. The dragon that fell wasn’t gone yet from the looks of it. The Albhed let out multiple shots from their weapons, but this monster had some unfinished business. It reached its head high enough the platform and unleashed a pryoplexy attack directly at them. Kyra couldn’t do anything due to an unconscious Nikki in her arms. She backed herself onto the wall behind, but the floor gave way sending all of them including the dragon to the darkness.

    The fall was short, but nothing short of painful. Every muscle in her body ached. She noticed that Nikki was no longer in her arms. She immediately got to her feet and looked for her. She wasn’t far away, but she was in danger of being crushed by a falling piece of debris. Before Kyra could even think, her instinct took over and she was able to move Nikki to a less dangerous spot. However, the stress on her body was too much for Kyra, and she fell unconscious on top of Nikki.

    -------------------------------------------
    New Ability: SHOCKWAVE-Thunder based. Kyra pulls her trigger sending vibrations down the blade and sends a thunder attack along with it. If she can hit the ground hard enough, it sends a wave. Really effective with combined with water. Straight Forward Attack.

    ~ AUTO-MERGED POSTS ~


    Her heart raced as she jumped from one platform to the next, the platforms behind would either shoot to the ceiling, crumble away or come down from above ready to squash them to death, as well as haste, the timing had to be right for any platform that moved. Nikki felt she had been running for a while, she glanced back, while she was running to see the others were keeping up, especially Kyra.

    Seeing a stable platform ahead, it looked like it wasn't moving and that it wouldn't crumble, she jumped from one platform to another focusing on that one platform ahead, but she saw one platform move in front of it, it was coming down from above, they had to move fast if they wanted to get there, otherwise the way would be blocked.

    Yes it's a puzzle, you need to get from one side to the other without falling,” the little girl's voice again flowed in her head.

    Not now,” thought Nikki while leaping and running, she then did one last leap and landed on the stable platform, she bent over to catch her breath and looked around to see every had made it too before the other platform had come down and blocked their way.

    “How many do we have with us?”

    “Ten”

    “Good we keep moving” It seemed like the voice in Nikki's head was keeping quiet again, which she was glad for she didn't need any distractions she looked ahead to see which way next that they should go.

    “Hey Kyra... It's Kyra right?”

    “Yes that's me, we don't have time to chat though.”

    Too right we don't we've got to fucking move.” thought Nikki, she was feeling stressed and urgently looked at the path ahead and began planning the best way to approach it. They were moving a lot, these ones didn't crumble.

    “I know, Rey asked me to give you this.” Nikki turned to see the albhed appeared to hand over some kind of letter which Kyra quickly accepted Nikki, Nikki rose an eyebrow at this.

    Who the fuck is Rey?” she thought.

    “Let's keep moving.” Nikki finally lost her patience with the albhed who seemed to treating this like a trip.

    “Would you guys stop fucking chatting and move it!” she noticed the others has been chatting a lot. She turned around and noticed the path ahead of them had stopped moving and the platforms had all aligned to make a corridor. She felt the air around them get colder and her face paled when she heard a roar. An Elder Drake was ahead of them slowly coming towards them, it snarled, it's weight was making the floor beneath it get unsteady cracks were appear, and the worse thing? That was the only path leading to the exit.Oh for fucks sake the Via Infinito is fucking with us now!” she thought. “Shit go back!” she turned around but then realised that the pathway was blocked. SHIT!” she could feel the floor beneath her begin to crumble. Suddenly she felt Kyra grasp her hand and pull her, to what looked like a small crack in the wall.Where the fuck did that come from?” she thought. It was a small space she was behind Kyra and noticed she was very close to Kyra. Her heart skipped a beat.Fuck it, not now.” she willed these feelings to go away since it could distract her. Nikki watched quietly as she heard the fiend come closer and closer, but surely it could not get close to them because the platform that lead to the opening had gone.

    There was a sound of moving stone echoing from the depths, and Nikki saw it a platform has risen from the depth and now the fiend just sniffing right outside the opening. Oh you've got to be fucking kidding me.”

    “Don't bloody move.” Nikki looked back behind them to see there were only eight of them now.

    “Shit.” Kyra was the only one who could see the fiend clearly Nikki gathered, because Nikki could only see it when it was at the front of the opening. She then gave the signal for the group to move on.

    See there's no monster, I checked.” The path was left free but the platforms that once stopped moving for the fiend, began moving again making them run again, Nikki could hear the footsteps of the fiend pound behind them. They wouldn't be able to last long like this.

    “If it keeps fucking chasing us like this, it's going to take us all fucking down!”

    Monsters aren't real!” Nikki had no idea what this very young girl's voice was talking about, but it wasn't helping matters.

    “I know, hold on. I have an idea.” Nikki saw that she had stopped running and so stopped with her as did the others. She face the fiend along with Kyra. “Hit the ground!”

    This needs to be done quickly and powerfully,” with little option Nikki drew her arrow. I just fucking hope I can control it this time.” The arrow glowed a black aura as it powered up, the bow glowed as well transferring the energy from Nikki to the arrow. Nikki concentrated hard on the energy will it to flow inside the arrow, but there was no time left the fiend was about to lunge. “Ultima arrow!” Nikki quickly let go of the arrow and quickly noticed that the tip of it hadn't sparked a green flame. That, can't be good.” she thought but to her amazement as soon as the arrow struck the ground the spell consumed it and cracked the floor, but to her horror she noticed the bow was still glowing a black aura, the spell hadn't finished, and the bow unleashed it's own small Ultima spell throwing her back. She felt incredible burning from the spell, it was if her soul was on fire.

    “No!!”

    “Fuuuuuuck!” and with that she felt herself hit the wall and blacked out.

    Are you okay?”

    “It's that voice again,” she decided to respond this time since she had the time now. “I don't know, I need to get back there, that fucking bitch of a fiend. Who are you? What's going on?”

    “I don't know, what am I going to do with you?” There was a pause before the voice said again. “There all better.”

    “What the fuck you just ignored everything I fucking said! Now tell me who are you?!” she was getting pissed off now she hoped that she would be revived soon.

    “If it makes you feel better I know where the maid stashes the cookies.” Nikki decided to not to respond then to this, after all how could she, the voice continued to speak. “I watched her, I don't think she knew I was there, I know they are your favourite.” Nikki then knew this voice wasn't talking to her.


    The voice then seemed to fade and the first thing she could feel was a body lying on top of her, groaned, her body ached but at least she was fucking alive. She felt the body on top of her move and Nikki opened her eyes to meet her eyes with Kyra's. It took a moment for it to sink in but Nikki's cheeks began to heat up she could feel Kyra's heartbeat. What seemed out of shock for Kyra she quickly stood up and apologised.

    “Ah! I'm sorry I didn't mean to collapse on you.” Nikki just scolded the part of her that wanted Kyra to stay there for a little while longer. She rubbed her forehead and stood up.

    “It's fine.”

    “Aww don't worry Kyra, we think Nikki liked it.”

    “Shut up!” Nikki quickly responded.

    “That was a very quick response.” said Mishka teasingly. Nikki just turned to glare at her, but she was glad they had made it.

    “Mishka, really I don't think now is the best time.” said Cyan.

    “I'm sorry, I can't help it.” Nikki looked around them the twins group and Mishka's group were here so that just left... Her thoughts were quickly interrupted by Val jumping down from above along with the rest of the albehd, but there was very few albehd with him.

    “Where is Joseph?” asked Nikki Val looked worse for wear the twins immediately went over to the group and broke a mega potion on the ground to heal them. Val was trying to catch his breath.

    “He... Dammit he fell I should have done something!”

    WHAT?!” thought Nikki.

    “No...” gasped Kyra, Mishka stepped forward.

    “Tell us everything.”

    Val then explained to the group what had happened, Nikki picked up on a few words such as the “fiends made of stone”, but by this time Nikki wasn't really listening she was franticly trying to calm her mind from blaming herself, and trying to figure out where he ended up.

    He better not have bloody well died.”

    “No one could have survive a fall like that, could they?” the twins asked. No one seemed to dare answer. It seemed unlikely that he did survive who knew how far the depths went down, Nikki didn't even know if the depths did just go down to the next cloister or whether they were just a bottomless pit.

    “I found him!” sang a familiar voice, a swirl of pyreflies came before the group and revealed the little girl and beside her a fiend, a dingo. The fiend just growled at them. “Sush doggie” she said to the fiend she then patted it as if it were a pet dog. The fiend then surprisingly stopped growling and laid down.

    What the fuck?” thought Nikki, the fact it was wagging it's tail was also disturbing.

    “What do you mean?” asked Mishka, Nikki took her eyes off the fiend and looked to the girl.

    “Silly, the stupid boy landed on one of my pets that mummy and sissy were playing with earlier.” The girl then suddenly gasped and turned around to the dingo who was now standing looking at the girl. “No, you can't eat them! I wont have anyone to play with otherwise. Bad doggie!” The fiend them seemed to whine and lay down again which sent shivers down Nikki's spine, such a thing was unnatural, it took all of Nikki's strength not to strike the fiend. But she knew if she did this would probably anger the girl.

    Great now she's calling them pets and not friends.”

    “Where is he now? Is he okay?” asked Cyan.

    “Yep, he only went down one, he's alive but my pet was angry.”

    “Tell me, can you hear what the fiends say to you?” said the Meyvin. The girl pouted at him, the dingo suddenly growled at him, and she suddenly poked out her tongue and blew a raspberry.

    “I don't like boys so why are you here? I don't know you.” She paused and suddenly tilted her head to one side. “But... I don't like boys” She paused again as if she was listening to something. “I can? Well okay if it's for mummy and sissies.” The fiend next to her stopped growling.

    Okay who the fuck was she talking to?” thought Nikki.

    “Yes I can hear them they are very hungry a lot, I give them lots of food but they just keep getting hungry. They don't like you.” Cyan stepped forward.

    “Who were you talking to?” the girl tilted her head to one side again. And then suddenly smiled and giggled.

    “It's a secret.” she suddenly dispersed into pyreflies and reappears next to Kyra. “I hope you like the voice I made for you sissy, I used your memories and magic and boom she can talk to you. But it's not forever she'll only last a short while...” the little girl then seemed to smile more menacing this time a more menacing voice took over. “Goodbye!” Kyra gasped at the sudden change in voice. She then dispersed into pryeflies and so did the dingo.

    “What happened?” questioned the twins.

    “She gets more insane as we go down.” said Gideon.

    “Let's quickly get to Joseph.” said Nikki and with that she dropped to Cloister 42.

    ~ AUTO-MERGED POSTS ~

    Mishka.png


    Once all of us had reached Cloister 42, we ensured ourselves a safe route through. This cloister was covered in thick fog, which made it near impossible to see the ground beneath our feet. Several Al Bhed sent relay machinas into the dense cloud and began capturing sonar data from them, mapping out a route. It was from that data that we discovered mapping out the landscape was completely unnecessary. We were on a filled platform, the only hole being the entrance to the next cloister, which was further down a twisting hall we'd encounter later. As for enemies, well, their relays hadn't been attacked, which most of us took to be a good sign.


    “I don't like it.” Gideon said, taking the first steps into the fog.



    “What don't you like about it? If all we have to worry about is this fog, this could be the easiest one. Down here, you don't second guess a straightforward cloister.” Paine replied, walking further.


    “What I meant was that this fog has to be here for a reason.” The warrior clarified, catching up.


    If it weren't for the fact Joseph could be down here injured, I think more of us would agree to his withdrawal. However, we had a teammate to find and, after these latest encounters with the girl, the sooner we found him the better. Deep into the central room, the fog was so thick we began losing sight of one another, something we all knew was a danger. The furthest along slowed themselves and we began keeping our eyes open for assailants from all sides. Though the relays hadn't triggered anything, fiends weren't drawn to dead machines anyway. A group of the living, on the other hand...


    “Large group of pyreflies ahead!” The twins shouted, sending a dazzling firework spell into the same direction.


    The spell lit up the incoming fiend for us, its lustrous armour glimmering off of the sparkles. It was coated in the blue tinted metallic plates and stood on its hind legs, though it was clear it typically remained on all its haunches. Its head was black as pitch, the details upon it made clear only by its glowing mouth littered with rows of teeth. The faint glow lit up the wing-like ears it had, which I could only guess allowed it to locate us as it didn't have any eyes.


    “Watch out!” I shouted, pushing the Meyvn out of the way as the creature swiped down with its claw, falling back on all fours.


    “Defensive positions!” He ordered, though that only pissed Nikki off.


    “We figured that out already! Just don't get in my fucking way!” She growled, firing a Triple Foul group of arrows at it.


    “Looks like it isn't weak to any elements.” Kyra said, pulling out her sword.


    “Hayahou!” Val proclaimed, firing several rounds at us. As I had done before with the bullet, the rounds were the equivalent of a White Mage's Haste. “Any ideas from the veterans?”


    “Never seen one of these things before. Don't know how to operate against it.” Paine admitted.


    “Never mind! Can we just fucking attack it already?!” Nikki ordered, firing a few more arrows.


    Cyan and I decided it would be best to surround it and took some Al Bhed with us. It tried to strike us down with its forward haunches, but the Haste effect let us dodge it with ease. When we were behind it, it tried to turn, but the Al Bhed began firing grapples at it, pinning its rear haunches to the ground. In the meantime, Cyan and I began slicing into its underbelly, where the back and front portions of its thick armour met. Using the hooked portion of Blurry Moon, I managed to pry the sections open just enough for Yuki to cast Blizzara into it, which caused the creature to writhe in pain.


    “Looks like it has a weakness!” I announced, nodding to Kyra.


    “We'll keep it busy. Go for it!” Nikki said, running toward the creature's mouth to get its attention.


    As it growled at her, she fired an ice arrow into its mouth, angering it enough for it to turn in her direction, leaving the exposed area on its side in line with Kyra. She charged at it, holding her sword like a gun again like before. Cold began to swirl around the weapon until she reached the fiend and stabbed into it, freezing it from the inside. The creature wailed in pain as its body began breaking apart and the glow from its mouth began to die. However, just before it did, another creature erupted from it, much smaller and of a humanoid shape. Hovering in the air, it illuminated itself, its entire body bathed in flame. Before any of us could react, it unleashed a bright spark, igniting the fog and sending us into a tunnel just as the first area collapsed, killing the fiend.


    “Well, that attack was pointless.” Paine said, getting to her feet and dusting herself.


    “There's still some fog left. It almost looks as if part of it moved into the tunnels with us before it could catch fire.” I noted, pondering its odd behaviour.


    “Be glad it did. Doesn't look like we'd be alive if that fiend lit it all up.”


    “I suppose.”


    “Hey, isn't that...?” One of the Al Bhed began to say before falling unconsciously onto the ground.


    As he did, we noticed that the other Al Bhed had fallen asleep, as well, and so had the twins. Cyan rushed to one of them to check on his vitals, but it seemed they had simply been rendered unconscious. Further along towards the exit, Kyra discovered what that Al Bhed had been pointing us to. Although he was walking rather oddly, even in the dark and blurry fog, the rest of us could identify it to be Joseph. Val quickly rushed to his side to help keep him on his feet, but Joseph began clinging to him uncharacteristically close and even had a smile about him that was unlikely.


    “Hey there, Valley ol' boy! What's the news?” He haphazardly asked, patting our confused teammate on the cheek.


    “Joseph? Are you feeling okay?” Kyra asked him, checking his vitals.


    “Sure, I'm okay! ... Why are there three of you?” He replied, nearly toppling over onto Kyra as he asked his next question while pointing at her.


    “Is he... drunk?” Cyan asked.


    “I think we crossed that line several drinks earlier.” Paine said, walking to them.


    “Is this from the fog?”


    “Oopsie, I let out too much.” The little girl said, appearing in front of Nikki, “That stupid boy was going to get eaten all up so I thought I should calm the lizzy down.”


    We turned to the dingo fiend beside her and it too was definitely pacified on this level. However, we had been down here, too, breathing in the fog in great quantities given the battle we had just had. Was it going to affect us, as well?


    “Well it worked now get rid of this fog!” Nikki shouted at her.


    “Sorry mummy, I don't know how! But the stupid boy has been sucking it all up and its a lot less now. Maybe you and sissies can suck up the rest and it will be gone if you do! Okay then, have fun playing. The grumpy secrets want me to go now. They get very cross if I don't listen.” And with that she was gone.


    “That can't be good.” Val stated.


    “Val, you're nostrils are big.” Joseph interjected, causing the rest of us to place our hands over our faces.


    “I think we should be on the next cloister before we end up like that, don't you?” Paine said, walking off.


    That was until, “1 2 ready and go!!


    Turning back to the twins that had woken up, we found them arranged in front of the Al Bhed in three expanding rows. All of a sudden, there was music all around and they began to lead in an abrupt dance performance while the rest of us watched with mouths dropped agape.


    “Hmmm...” Kyra voiced, that being the only verbal reaction any of us could make.


    It wasn't too difficult seeing the twins jumping and bobbing to the music, but a few of the gruffer Al Bhed males behind them made for quite a spectacle, especially the parts where they all courtesied. Although, I had to admit, it was an upbeat tune for such a dungeon and made the atmosphere about it much lighter and more welcoming.


    Once they were done, Val and Joseph both applauded, Joseph even whistling while Val called for an encore. Paine was frowning as expected, but Nooj looked about three shades to the wind, barely keeping to his feet as he tried shaking the effects. Nikki tried hard to keep from breathing in any more of the fog, as if holding her hand over her mouth was going to do her any good. Silly.


    “Paine, you're silly.” I struggled to get out the words, my vision seeming to be distorted, “I told you something was up about the fog.”


    Stumbling forward, I found myself really close to her all of a sudden, which surprised me. My eyes focused really close to her and I confirmed to myself that, yes, this really was Paine. Why was she that close?! I immediately pushed her, but that made her lose her balance and fall down. Was she hurt?


    Looking down and trying to keep my head from weighing the rest of me down, I noticed she was sitting on the ground with her hands holding her up from behind. It was a good look for her. She usually wasn't in such a compromising position. It was a kinda hot. I realised I had walked right up to her and now my feet were on either side of her waist. Slowly, I knelt onto the ground, my legs brushing up against her sides as I did.


    “Hey there, cutie, did you fall down?” I asked, pressing my hands next to her shoulders to keep myself up. It was hard.


    Really hard... Really really hard... And that's when I found myself lying on top of her. Her earring tasted funny.


    “No sleepovers! She's mine!” We suddenly heard Cyan say right before she tackled me further along on the floor.


    “Cyan?” I started to mumble.


    “Yes Mishka?”


    “My navel's getting all itchy from Paine's breathing.”


    “Then get.. off.” She said underneath me, which only tickled me more.


    “Again... hmmm...” Kyra said.



    “Alright, enough of this shit! We're going! Everybody up! I said GET THE FUCK UP SO WE CAN GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE!” Nikki roared, picking Cyan up off of me as Kyra helped me to my feet.


    Nooj got the dancers to congo their way to the next cloister, each of them sort of toppling over into the hole when they reached. Paine was with him. With him...


    “Nooo! Mine!!” I squealed, kicking at Kyra.


    “You can play with her once we get to the next cloister..”


    “No she can't!” Paine grumbled, jumping down.


    It took a while for the effects to lift, but once they did, I shuddered at my earlier behaviour. Well, most of it. It was hardly comparable to how drunk I was when I was leading the Fangtastic! Ronso have quite a high tolerance for...


    “Cyan?” I asked, noticing her next to me.


    “Yes Mishka?”


    “Don't ever let me drink anymore.”


    “Got it. Likewise.”


    “I don't know about that.” I replied, a mischievous grin appearing on my features.


    “Back to normal, I see.”


    “We're not to speak of this again, right?” Joseph spoke up, rubbing his forehead.


    “Definitely not... and my nostrils aren't that big.” Val replied, causing Joseph to let out a low groan.


    “Something I don't get. Why weren't you affected, Paine?”


    “Who says I wasn't?”



    “You were the one under me.” I replied, hinting at what I thought her drunken behaviour should have been.


    “If I had to guess, the fog just makes us all feel content.” Paine suggested.



    “That was content?”


    “You've never relaxed with the Crimson Squad.” Paine explained.


    “So contentment turns me into that?” Joseph groaned, “I suppose it'll be grouchy for me then.”


    “I'm going to guess the longer you stay, the worse off you are. Who knows how long you were there, stumbling about.” Paine suggested to him.


    “So that was contentment...”


    “Well, hope the lot of you are good for rage because we've got company.” Nikki called over, her bow raised against several tonberries headed our way.


    =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

    Posted in response to a spam post by a user named Odin whose account was hacked. xD

    Note: Underlined text is original text from Odin's post.

    As soon as Nikki got our attention, we were back on our feet. The tonberries were pouring from all sides, this new cloister a flat hall with open sides for the fiends to appear. Their numbers were thankfully not endless, but given the sheer amount already present, we were in trouble. Our best chance would be to cut a path through the hall and find the entrance to the next cloister. It seemed simple enough; the hall was fairly straightforward and it was wide enough to navigate. The trouble was having everyone run past the tonberries we pushed through before they could recover. One easy jab from any of their knives and we'd lose another member. The fiends never seemed imposing, but they were hard to manage and powerful enemies.



    “Val, think you can scatter them to the sides?” Joseph asked, pointing out that the walls were still open.



    “No, I don't really have anything meant to push back the enemy, just to defeat them where they stand.” He replied, looking through his bullets to make sure.



    “What if the twins used their telekinesis?”He then suggested.


    “Too many. We wouldn't be able to control where they might go.”


    “Which means they could just as easily end up closer.” Paine said, having thought of that move, as well, her Garment Grid in hand.


    “Anybody want to actually come up with an idea?” Nikki growled, her bow still drawn, though she was unsure just what she was going to do with the arrow poised to strike.



    “Guess that means we fight.” Cyan proposed, going to Nikki's side with her broadsword at the ready.


    I slowly took hold of Blurry Moon, but I knew we'd lose many rushing into battle like this. We all did, but it would seem we had no choice. Walking beside Cyan and followed closely by Paine, Kyra, and Joseph, we began to approach the tonberries.


    "Step aside, lesser folk. I am here to save your terminable lives."


    Immediately, all eyes went straight up to where the sound came from. Down from the earlier cloister, a short man dropped before us, half-staggering as he assumed a sort of lopsided swagger as it were. At first, none of us knew what to make of it. It was clear he had been heavily impacted by the fog on the previous cloister, but apparently his contentment led him to believe he was our only salvation.


    It was then I figured out the identity of our would-be saviour, having neared for closer inspection, “Oh no...”


    I had encountered this one some time ago, at a local pub one night. He was drunk just as he was now and making a nuisance of himself, convinced he could take on all the other men in attendance. Once they trounced him, I chose to step forward and take him from their clutches, having dealt with the silly notion men had about proving their might while with Teraan and the other ronso. This ended up costing me, though, because the idiot was passed out the entire time and once he had awakened and the others left him alone, he figured he must have... rescued me... his princess... He was unconscious for another few hours after that remark, but he never got over it or forgot me.



    “Who is this fool?”Joseph asked, shifting his eyes back and forth from the advancing fiends.


    With a sigh and a shrug, I answered, “My... hero...”



    “I don't want to impose, but your hero's about to become sushi.” Nooj pointed out, noticing that the moron was stumbling towards one of them.


    “Hey...” Blast, what the hell was his name?“Lo! Oh Mage of Grandieur, that will save our mortal souls. Thank you for your Yevon sent arrival.” To ensure he'd buy into my words, I knelt at his feet and pulled him back behind Nikki.



    “That is enough, Mishka.” The fuck? How did he know my name? “You may be wondering how I, your master, know your lowly name.”


    “I'll show you lowly...” I grumbled under my breath, balling up a fist.


    “That is because I know all! All there is, that was, that ever could be! Also, the bar wench told me after your presence threw me into another stupour that night.”


    “That night?”



    That's what they were taking from that?!


    “Hmmm...” Kyra added.


    “Stop saying that!”


    “Mishka, your lover's at it again.” Paine commented, pointing out the fool that was back at his spot, facing the tonberries.


    Despite our compromised position, all I could think about was having to pull him back again and could only press my hand to my forehead. That was, until it came. Dropping down from above, an Elder Drake arrived, its jaw moving in one swift motion and tearing the drunk in two right in front of us.


    As the top half of his body fell, we could hear him blindly speaking what would be his last words, “Your praise comes as no surprise and I know you ladies are smitten, but I live for my princess... I... Joossttt... Einbee... bah... will triumph... The worst... is yet to come...”


    “It's back!” Kyra shouted, getting her weapon into a defensive stance.


    “Now they follow us? Damn, just how much has this place changed?” Nikki grumbled, rolling from its fire breath.


    Ironically, as his arrival was followed shortly by the Elder Drake's and as its arrival had unintentionally crushed most of the tonberries in its wake, he actually had been our salvation. Of course, his clicking of the fingers while mumbling something about warping time with reality with his lips hadn't helped. It was the type of thinking the Elder Drake advantaged because the poor drunkard was turning into an unsent. In this stage, his pyreflies were still weak from death and hadn't reorganised into his unsent form, which were now being taken in by the Elder Drake along with all of the tonberries it had crushed. The surge of pyreflies pushed it past Oversouling to a new evolution in its fiend nature. The wings on its head shrunk into horns, but two new ones sprouted from its back. Its bright red scales darkened and thickened into skin that appeared almost like molten rock, the softer red tissue hiding underneath layers of rigid black scales.


    The lot of us looked at Nikki, waiting for her to curse what she had just asked, but Paine would point out that the hall was much too small for it to properly move, let alone fly. With that, we ran through the hall, the now scattered tonberries easy to dodge. Luckily, the end of the hall was the entrance to the next cloister and we jumped through with ease.


    It was a long fall to Cloister 44. We even had time to hear the dragon clawing its way through. Once we landed, we found ourselves in a very bad place. The entire cloister was bathed in fire, our only ground being a few rocky ledges that hadn't yet been dissolved by the flames. The cloister had no walls and the ceiling was quite high, which meant that once the dragon found its way to us, it would have full advantage of the terrain. What was worse, several creatures of fire much like the one that had appeared on Cloister 42 were coming onto the ledges. One final dilemma was posed for us, as well. As Nooj would alert us, the exit to the next cloister had been placed on the ceiling several ledges away and encased in crystal.


    Turning to Nikki, I said, “You had to ask, didn't you?”


    “Shut it.” She spat as the bellow of the dragon above grew louder.


    =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

  2. #32
    Joseph

    The battle was getting worse and worse by the moment. One of the Al Bhed told me about the weakness of the blue armored fiends. Since the only way to hurt it was to first destroy the armor, I’ve been hitting the ones I could see with Armor Break. While this allowed the others to do damage to them, it was burning through my magic.

    The roar of the Elder Wyrm shook the entire Cloister. It shockwave actually sent all of us including the fiends onto the ground. I turned to see its head through the portal. It took a moment to gather its breath. Our group dove to the side, mere seconds before it breathed out, and fire engulfing the area we were just now. Some of the fiends were caught by its attack, burning and becoming pyreflies. We got up just as the fiend began squeezing its way through, seemingly absorbing the pyreflies as it emerged from the portal.

    “Oh this is not good,” I said, raising my sword.

    “Shut up and attack it already!” Nikki cured, raising her bow. I dashed in with Kyra and Cyan at my side. I hit the scales, but my sword just glanced off. The others also hit the scales with no result. I stood back and held my sword up high, charging an Armor Break. The spell went into the scales and dissipated, not taking effect.

    “Physical hits are doing nothing to it!” I shouted, jumping back to avoid a swipe from the claws

    “Damnit! Val! Yuuki! Paine! Hit it with spells!” Nikki ordered. A barrage of spells hit the fiend but only served to anger it further. The Elder Wyrm let out another roar, actually sending Mishka flying back due to the pressure wave. She landed right on one of the blue armored fiends. I quickly rushed to her, hitting the fiend with an Armor Break before killing it.

    “Joseph! Mishka! Look out!” I heard. I turned to see the Elder Wyrm bearing down on us, about to use its fire attack. Having no time to dodge, I planted my sword in front of me, the bladed side facing the fiend and me bracing the sword. With this, Mishka should be able to survive the attack while I’ll be seriously burned but alive. Just before the attack came, I felt someone casting something on me and Mishka. I turned to see Yuubou had thrown something at us. That was all I could see before fire engulfed us.

    The blade split the fire down the middle, leaving a small void behind us. I didn’t feel any of the flames burning me, as though I was immune to the attack for some reason. The flames let up, allowing me and Mishka to retreat back to the others. She also seems fine despite the attack just now.

    “Yuubou! What was that just now?” I asked.

    “Tetra Elemental. One of the few we have left” the twins said. Well that explains why that attack left us unharmed.

    The Elder Wyrm suddenly turned, its tail came whipping at us. Most of the group dodged it but a couple of Al-Bhed were caught by the attack, sending them over the edge and down into the fire below. There was no time to mourn them as the fiend turned around again, swiping its claws.

    The tide of battle was against us. Most of us can’t damage the fiend due to its very hard scales and the few people who could were rapidly running out of magic. I ran in front of Val as another claw swipe came at him. I blocked the swipe but it in turn launched me back a few feet. That’s when I noticed Nikki staying in place, bow up and ready and concentrating really hard. She was waiting for the right moment to launch an arrow but to where? Every physical hit so far has been a complete waste of time.

    Nikki released the arrow and I watched it fly through the air. The arrow went straight into the Elder Wyrm’s eye. The fiend roared in pain, almost deafening to hear.

    Of course! Not all parts on it are armored! Why the hell didn’t I realize that sooner?’ I thought, covering my ears. The Elder Wyrm now looked very angry. It moved forward, attacking everything that moves including the blue armored fiends. It looked at Nikki with its good eye before breathing in, about to use its fire attack again. She waited till it released its attack before dodging. The attack missed by mere inches.

    Sighing in relief, I turned to think of a way to deal with this fiend. I realized that there may be only one way to do so. I ran to Val who was getting up from dodging a previous attack. I shoved a Turbo Ether into his hands.

    “I hope you have a very strong Thunder spell in reserve. This may be our only chance to defeat this thing,” I said before dashing off.

    The Elder Wyrm was still concentrating on Nikki. I moved in to block a claw swipe at her. While I was helping Nikki fend off the fiend, Val prepared his spell. A large yellow sunburst symbol appeared under his feet. With that, a man wearing a royal crown and having a large horn on his forehead appeared, dressed in full body armor and wielding a large spear. As the figure starts spinning his spear, Val began spinning his guns.

    Meanwhile, Nikki and I dodged and defended against the Elder Wyrm. It seems fed up and began inhaling, charging for its fire attack again. With that, I grabbed Nikki by her collar and threw her to the side, safe from harm.

    “Joseph! What the fuck are you doing?!” she screamed as she flew through the air. I looked back to see the fiend about to attack. I ran at it, seemingly in a suicide charge.

    One thing I noticed about the fiend was that whenever it used its flame attack, it would always lower its head till it was just a few feet of the ground just as it released it. I would use this to my advantage right now. Just as the Elder Wyrm released its attack, I jumped high into the air. The flames just missed my boots and I landed on the fiend’s head. I took my sword and rammed it straight into the undamaged eye. The fiend roared in pain and began to wildly thrash its head around, trying to get me off of it. I hung on for dear life.

    “VAL!!!!!” I yelled. He knew exactly what to do. He stopped spinning his guns and aimed them at the fiend.

    “RAITEI – ZANMABAKURAI!!!!!” and pulled both triggers. I channeled a Mental Break through my sword which this time took effect before letting go.

    The figure behind Val slammed its spear into the ground. Small sunburst symbols appeared under the Elder Wyrm before small bolts of lightning began to rain down on it. While some missed, most of these small bolts hit my sword which in turn went straight into the Elder Wyrm, paralyzing and damaging it. With a final large sunburst appearing under the fiend, a large bolt of lightning went straight into the fiend. This final bolt killed the Elder Wyrm, leaving it in a crater while it slowly faded into pyreflies.

    Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see the final demise of the fiend. When I let go of the sword, the fiend had flung me right near the edge of the platform. I landed and skidded right off the edge, grabbing the ledge at the last possible moment. I managed to hang on while some small rocks fell into the flames below. I began to raise myself with my arms to get back onto the platform. But suddenly the ledge I grabbed on to weakened and broke. For a second I thought I was going to die in this place. A moment later, I felt 2 sets of hands grabbing me and stooping my fall. I looked up to see that Kyra and Nikki grabbing my hands, saving me.

    “Hold on Joseph, we’ll get you back up,” Kyra said, straining to hold on.

    “Don’t think for a second that I’m gonna let an idiot like you die down here. A LITTLE HELP HERE WOULD BE FUCKING FANTASTIC RIGHT AROUND NOW!!!!” Nikki yelled, getting people to come help me up. With me on solid ground, I took a moment to look at the scene of the downed fiend before I felt my stomach churn. I turn back to the ledge and threw up.

    “Who would’ve thought that mister big, tough samurai would have a weak stomach?” Mishka teased. Some of the others laughed a bit, now that the tension was released.

    “Oh shut up you. I’d like to see you do that without throwing up. Geez, that was much worse than trying to tame a wild chocobo,” I muttered, getting back to my feet. One of the Al-Bhed game me a bottle of water. I drank it down, washing the taste out of my mouth. I thanked him before going into the crater and retrieving my sword. It looked a bit battered, but it was still in good shape. We spent the next few minutes checking injuries and helping the injured.

    “Good shot Val,” I said.

    “Well you did say to use my strongest,” he replied.

    With injuries sorted out, I looked up to see that the crystal on the exit had shattered, letting us leave this place. With a few jumps and close calls, we got to it and advanced deeper into the Via Infinito.

    ~ AUTO-MERGED POSTS ~


    Cloister 45 thankfully looked quite normal, a few platforms moved that you had to wait for, then jump and be carried to the ledge but nothing above or below, which relieved Nikki since this was the first time in a while they didn't have to fucking run for their lives. But still, something played on her mind as they quietly walked through the cloister, she mentally counted all the team again just to make sure.

    “What's wrong?”

    “Nothing.”

    “Nikki I've seen you count at least everyone three times now, something is bothering you.” Said Kyra hands on her hips smiling. Nikki stopped walking and turned to her.

    “I don't know, but I have this feeling that someone is...”

    “Missing? I've had that feeling too for a while now.” answered Kyra for her. Nikki nodded.

    “Umm... We've had the same feelings too, like someone that was meant to be with us isn't here.” Sad the twins they were less hyper they looked quite sad about it.

    “Now that you mention it...”

    “You too Joseph?” He just nodded. Nikki turned to the rest of the group.

    “Have you all had this feeling?”

    “Seems so,” said Paine

    “Should we ask the girl?” questioned Cyan voicing her opinion out loud. Nikki didn't feel that would be such a good idea, she was unpredictable at the best of times. Had they really forgotten someone? Or could it be the Via Infinito playing tricks on them.

    “It could be a trick” suggested the Meyvin, Nikki frowned. No one seemed to answer so he carried on. “We still don't know that much about the Via Infinito but we've been told they can make you hallucinate.”

    “Are you suggesting that the Via Infinito is making us feel like there is someone else?” said Paine crossing her arms.

    “Yes” Nikki shivered at that thought, she didn't like to think that it could get inside her head.

    Did you forget something?” the girl inside Nikki's head seemed to have surfaced again. Nikki still couldn't work out who or what she was. She had heard earlier that the unsent girl had done something to Kyra earlier, naming “her” as a present but one that would fade away. Nikki wondered did Kyra hear the voice too? Her eyes went over to Kyra who seemed to be engrossed in the conversation.

    “...should move on” Snapping out of her thoughts Nikki noticed that they were all now looking at her, it unnerved her.

    “WHAT?!” she snapped. She then felt a tug at her skirt and turned and saw the little girl beside her tugging at her skirt trying to get her attention.

    “Mummy...” she quivered, “the secrets did something bad.” Nikki bent down to her. She heard her talk about
    these “secrets” before. The dingo seemed to whimper beside her, the fiend's behaviour still unnerved her.

    “What happened?”

    “Well, you see, I locked the broken toy in his room so he could never come out because it goes on and on forever. But then the secrets told me to give him a toy because he would get bored and then I don't remember. What did I do mummy? Did I do something bad?” The girl was now getting high pitched and hysterical the pryeflies buzzed angrily around her the dingo burst into pyreflies and turned into a bigger version of itself, and it growled, the girl was too busy crying to notice. Nikki knew that if she didn't calm down she could go berserk again. Kyra felt her bent down beside her.

    “It's okay, you've done nothing wrong, I'm sure.” Sobbing the girl looked up. She gave a little sniff.

    “Really?” She seemed to look round looking for reassurance.

    “Yes, you've been a good girl to come and tell us.” she heard Mishka say from behind. Although Nikki wasn't quite sure what the girl was telling them. The little girl gave a smile and the pryeflies seemed to slow to a gentle hum. She turned to the fiend and giggled.

    “Mr doggie, you've gotton very big” The fiend just wagged it's tail in response.

    “Can you tell us the room you put Auron in?” asked Cyan as Nikki stood up.

    “Oh don't worry sissy, he can't get out.” the girl said while petting the fiend beside her. “When he gets to the end, he goes back to the start and he goes like that forever.”

    “What was the toy you put in there?”

    “I don't know sissy the secrets made me go to sleep.”

    This is getting us nowhere”thought Nikki. The girl then suddenly looked from the fiend to the group. She then tilted her head to the side in confusion.

    “Where's the other smelly boy?”

    “AHH she knows who is missing!” cried out the twins suddenly, but as soon as they did they suddenly covered their mouths, but thankfully it didn't seem to bother the girl, but Nikki slapped her forehead in irritation and groaned. Suddenly she felt her feet sink into the floor.

    “Nikki!” cried out Kyra,

    “Don't come any closer!” yelled Nikki fearful if she did she would sink too. She saw Joseph grab her arm before she did.

    “AHHH!” Nikki turned to see the two twins sinking. And soon after one by one everyone began to sink regardless of where they were standing.

    “Oh no no no no, I told you too much, the secrets are angry.”

    “Don't struggle!” Nikki yelled at the twins. The twins were trying to wiggle their way out but were sinking faster because of it.

    “You struggle you'll go faster.” Paine added. The twins just nodded.

    “Yuki can you use your magic to teleport us out?”

    “Everyone's too spaced out!” cried out the twins.

    “Toy, toy, toy I need a toy, hmmm.” The girl seemed to sit down a ponder for a moment.

    Fucking great we're sinking and our only hope is her.”

    “Sweetie if you could hurry up just a little bit, we would all be grateful.” said Cyan, the floor was now at Nikki's waist.

    “Okay sissy” she said smiling, she closed her eyes and a glyph appeared before the girl as she began to summon something, the pryeflies began to come together, and it seemed to be taking quite a while. The floor was at Nikki's neck, the pryeflies came together to finally form an image of a person.

    RIKKU?!” thought Nikki but it was too late Nikki held her breathe as she slipped down and was falling, and had enough time to hear an “Oopsie” before she fell onto a hard floor from quite a way, she rolled as she landed, both the twins landed on top of her, as well as Mishka.

    “Oh we're sorry Nikki, are you al right?” asked the twins as she felt them quickly get off.

    “Fucking get off.” said Nikki to Mishka.

    “I'm sorry I can't hear you.” Nikki was on her stomach so she really couldn't see her expression, she imagine she was grinning at this point. She felt the weight of Mishka get of her though and Nikki sat up to see that Cyan had grabbed her by the arm and dragged her off.

    “This isn't the time Mishka, you can tease her when we get back on the surface” Joseph interrupted.

    “So anyone have any idea where we are now? And why we all saw Rikku up there?”

    “Most likely Rikku was just a copy she made,” commented Paine.

    “We're at Cloister 46!” said the twins happily. Suddenly the little girl came from above.

    “WEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE” she cried happily as her and the fiend landed slowly and softly on their feet. She suddenly stood stiff, “Oh no! No no no, we're in his room” she suddenly burst into pryeflies and floated away and right on cue Auron rounded the corner, along with someone in full armour with a helmet.

    “What the fuck?!” said Nikki.

    “Hey it's Gideon! We remember now!” said the twins cheerfully.

    “Does he never give up?” said Val she saw him get ready for battle.

    “Nice to see you all again.” said the one called Gideon who Nikki had never seen in her life. First impression, was that he was an idiot.

    “Introductions later, for now we run.” with that everyone ran with Auron following close behind she knew that they couldn't take him on not after last time, but he would soon catch up with them if they didn't think of something.

    “Nikki! The ceiling!” called out Joseph as they rounded a corner Nikki glanced up to see parts of the ceiling looked weak, she knew exactly what he was thinking then.

    “Okay everyone at this next corner stop turn around, and attack the ceiling a foot in front of us.”

    “What would...” began Kyra “Oh wait I see now!” With that as soon as everyone rounded the corner they stopped, turned and focused their attacks on the ceiling, Nikki fired triple arrows one after another at the ceiling and just as Auron approached the ceiling cracked and tumbled down in front of them. Nikki dove out of the way and when the dust settled she looked to see if everyone was okay.

    “Thank you Joseph.”

    “No problem.” Nikki turned to see a rock by them cut in half and Kyra underneath Joseph who had seemed to have protected her. Nikki clenched her fist and then relaxed it again, Joseph saved her, so why was she feeling angry at Joseph. She told herself she was being an idiot and looked around at everyone else who was getting up.

    “Gideon, Gideon, did you miss us, did ya?” said the twins quickly.

    “Well lets just say I'm relieved to see you all again.”

    “Oh, now it's coming back to me.” Said Val. “You see I was trying to figure out who you were.”

    “You forgot who I was?”

    “We're sorry but all of us forgot who you were.” said the twins. “But we remember now right Nikki?” Nikki walked over to them.

    “I don't know who the fuck he is.”

    “AHHHH oh no!”

    “Relax, she's joking.” said Paine who came over to join them. Nikki smirked at the twins dumb folded expressions. In the short space of time all her memories had been returned to her about Gideon. She couldn't really believe how they had all forgotten him.

    “Ah, so she can crack a joke now and again.” said Mishka.

    “Gideon do you know where the exit is?” asked Nikki. Gideon shook his head.

    “I feel like I've been going in circles for a long time”

    “The girl said it was never ending, do you think she meant this whole floor?”

    “And that wall we just made is not going to hold forever.” said Joseph.

    Fuck...” thought Nikki. “There must be a way out.”

    “Over here!” called Cyan Nikki turned and walked toward Cyan who had opened a stray treasure chest a blue butterfly fluttered above it.

    “A butterfly?” questioned Kyra.

    “Hey it's a blue one! That's lucky.” said the twins as Yuki caught it in her hands, but as soon as she did the wall in front of the chest lowered down and revealed a maze with the exit up ahead.

    “Well that wasn't there before.”

    “I think we just found our way out”

    Thank fucking Yevon.” thought Nikki as they walked toward the maze filled with fiends, Nikki drew her bow ready for battle.

    ~ AUTO-MERGED POSTS ~

    Joseph
    Usually, a Cloister should be a simple maze with some strong monsters blocking your path down. This was YuRiPa encountered when they first came down here. Unfortunately, this is not what we encountered right now.

    The entrance that we entered this maze suddenly closed, forcing us to complete this maze to get to the next Cloister. However, there were many monsters in our way in this maze. Yuki let go of the butterfly as we all readied our weapons. The butterfly would guide us to the exit but the fights ahead would not be easy. I muttered my Hayate spell, casting it on the people around me. More Haste spells were casted to make sure that we can keep up. We ran just as the blue butterfly turn around the corner.

    Around the corner were Spirits, Lacertas and Tindalos. Most of the time, we would fight our way through such a horde but since we had no time, I bashed them aside with my sword. Kyra and that Gideon fellow did the exact same while Nikki and Val shot the more annoying ones. The others also did what was needed to clear a path. Usually any person can catch up with a butterfly simply by walking but it much harder to do so when combating fiends.

    This went on for the next half an hour or so. We would catch up to the butterfly just as we needed to fight through another pack of fiends before catching up to it. We almost lost several people and the butterfly at several points throughout the maze.

    That would be the first and last time I try kicking a Humbaba in the head to get away,’ I thought, running to catch up with the others. We rounded the corner and continued chasing the blue butterfly, we slowed our pace down a bit since there were no fiends. After several more twist and turns, someone voiced what all of us probably had on our minds.

    “Where are all the fiends? There were so many not that long ago,” I heard the armored one say. He was right in that it was so strange that there were suddenly no fiends in this area.

    “That may mean that we are close to the exit. Keep an eye out for anything,” Mishka said. The butterfly turned a corner and when we rounded that corner, Nikki said exactly what everyone though.

    “Holy fucking shit.”

    The area suddenly opened up into the circular chamber but that was not what made Nikki swear. It was the fact that this chamber was filled with blue butterflies, hundreds of them. It would have looked beautiful in any other circumstances but this was not one of them. I watched as Cyan grabbed one of the butterflies in front of her. The butterfly simply faded into pyreflies.

    “So that girl must have been behind this,” she said, looking up at the massed butterflies.

    “But what now? It is not as if we can try to find the real one in this mass. We might kill it by accident and we have no way out,” Val replied.

    Parts of the wall suddenly slid open to reveal several passageways. There were eight in total including where we entered. I watched as several butterflies flew though different passageways.

    “That’s impossible. The blue butterfly should only go towards the exit, not in any random direction,” the twins said. That was true.

    “That girl must think of this as a game or something,” Kyra muttered. I decided to do something and stepped out.

    “Can you guys be quiet? Let me try something,” I said. I walked into the middle of the chamber and stood there with my eyes closed.

    “What are you trying to do Joseph?” Kyra asked. I ignored her and concentrated.

    I concentrated on my other senses. The world and my group seem to fade away into nothingness in my mind. The air seems to stop dead while I concentrated. This was one of the exercises that my sensei would do. He would just concentrate on how the air would flow. This allowed him to feel the difference in the woods, which would guide him out. I never really understood it until this moment. The air should be dead in this maze but I could feel the air move in one direction. I opened my eyes and looked around. The butterflies were almost all gone. I moved into one passageway and headed down it. The others were almost surprised at this. They gave chase and Nikki grabbed my shoulder.

    “Where the fuck are you going Joseph? We’re not sure that this is the way out,” she exclaimed.

    “This is the way out. The airflow was dead in the other passageways except this one. I can feel the air moving down this way which should mean that this is the way out,” I explained, heading further down the passageway. The others seem to trust my instinct and went along with it. After another few minutes, we emerged out of the maze and the next Cloister portal was in front of us.

    “See?” I said. Nikki growled a bit but decided not to press the matter. I shrugged and our group headed towards the next portal. Just then, something giant and black landed right in front of us. It turned out to be a giant spider. It was pure black and with what seems a lot of spikes on its body.

    “God damn stupid Cloister! Why the fuck can’t it just leave us alone!?” Nikki cursed as we readied our weapons again.

    ~ AUTO-MERGED POSTS ~


    “Can you guys be quiet? Let me try something,” And then Nikki watched as he walked into the middle and closed his eyes.

    What the fuck is he doing?” that was Nikki’s first reaction she didn’t see how closing his eyes was going to achieve anything.

    “What are you trying to do Joseph?” he ignored her, Nikki was getting impatient this was taking too long and time was of the essence, she could feel her anger rising until she saw Joseph suddenly open his eyes and then take off down a passage.

    WHAT THE FUCK!” and Nikki along with everyone else ran after him, when Nikki did catch up to him, she grabbed his shoulder forcing him to turn around. “Where the fuck are you going Joseph? We’re not sure that this is the way out,”

    “This is the way out. The airflow was dead in the other passageways except this one. I can feel the air moving down this way which should mean that this is the way out,” he seemed to look pretty certain about what he was saying so for now she trusted and walked along ith him, and true to his word they emerged out of the maze with the portal right in front of them. “See?” Nikki just growled she still didn’t like show offs.

    They then walked towards the portal but suddenly a black spider like fiend jumped down infront of them, with spikes on it’s back. Oh for fucks sake wonderful” and right on cue the voice entered back into her head reacting to the surroundings.

    Don’t be silly spiders can’t hurt you”

    “God damn stupid Cloister! Why the fuck can’t it just leave us alone!?” She heard a whimper beside her.

    “Oh no...” She turned to see Kyra slightly backing away.

    “Kyra?”

    “I hate spiders, I hate everything about them thier hairy body the fact that they’ve got those thing legs and there’s eight of them.” she whispered

    “Ah don’t worry we’ll cut off it’s legs it’s only one spider” The twins spoke too soon, just then alot of mini spiders came out of nowhere.

    Fuck” thought Nikki as she began shooting at them with her arrows.

    “AH get away!” Nikki turned to see Kyra furiously slashing at them and making quick work of them even using her stongest spells to tackle them even though she didn’t need to.

    “Gideon!” cried out the twins Nikki turns to see Gideon being caught in the a web Nikki shot an arrow at the web cutting it free but the big spider just fired more webs at him, most of them Gideon had dodged but the spider seemed to be ruthless, the more Nikki tried to distract it the more the spider seemed to ignore her and go for Gideon, even the rest of the team were now upon it, since Kyra seemed to be handling the little spiders pretty well and ere distracting all of them with her force. Another web was fired at Gideon catching him by the throat. Just as Nikki heart was caught in her mouth at the prospect of failing a comrade, he as enveloped into a bright wwhite and suddenly disappeared.

    “What the fuck, where did he go?!” she yelled.

    “Nikki watch out” yelled out Val but it as too late a web had caught Nikki’s arm and had wrap it around her.

    “Fuck” was all she said before the spider seemed to grin and flinged her high into the air and making her crash again down on the floor. Nikki fel incredible pain in her back and pretty sure that her shoulder was now twisted.

    “You let her go you ugly freak!!!” Nikki left the tension of the web cut off as she was cut free, she looked up to see Kyra charging in hacking at the spider before jumping back and pulling the trigger letting out a fireball that plunged straight into it. She only stopped when a small spider leaped on her which made her jump and cry out. “Get off me!” she then resumed to cut down any little spiders that came near her.

    The main spider however was still not down and ignoring the pain in her shoulher she picked up her bow which was on the floor and aimed a triple arrow for it’s eyes, it’s gave a deafening screech which left Nikki’s eyes ringing as it as blinded it seemed to be stumbling and Nikki yelled out “Now attack together!” Everyone, minus Kyra who hadn’t seemed to have heard as she was so focused on killing every last little spider, attacked the main spider, the Albehd unleashed a barrage of bullets, and Nikki focused on her arrows making sure many hit as quickly as possible. Finally the spider succumbed to Val’s finishing blow and it dissolved into pryeflies.

    “AHHH” heard Nikki from Kyra, she turned to see Kyra chase after a lone small spider which was trying to scuttle away from her she the brought down her gunblade on it and it let out a squek of pain before dissolving into Pryeflies. Nikki kne that Gideon was still missing but she went over to Kyra and put a hand on her shoulder, Kyra was heavily breathing.

    “Are you okay?”

    “I hate spiders, some even jumped on me, it gave me the shivers.” She was slightly shaking and so Nikki did the only thing she thought she could do to comfort her. She told Kyra to look at her and wrapped her arms around her into a hug.

    “It’s okay it’s over now.” Nikki gently said, she Nikki saw over Kyra’s shoulder a bright white light, and as it faded it revealed Gideon with hat seemed to be like a new weapon, he looked pretty out of breath and a bit beat up. Nikki suddenly let go of Kyra and strode over to Gideon. “Where the fuck- Ah” Nikki stopped in her place and grabbed at her shoulder and winced in pain.

    “Careful that fiend flung you about ten feet into the air.” Said Paine as she handed her a potion Nikki nodded her thanks and drunk at the potion. Nikki heard the other here he got the weapon and here he had gone to, he explained he was taken to a secret floor which hid a weapon, the unsent girl had explained to him that long ago arriors had left it here in a great battle and that he was free to claim it but before he could ask anything more the girl disappeared.

    Then the group moved onto the portal and found themselve at the start of Cloister 47, suddenly the pryeflies from the walls of the cloister gathered and flung themselves screaming into Nikki, she feel to her knees in pain grabbing at her head. “Ahhh!!”

    “Nikki, no what’s going on, it’s not her is it?”

    “No the little girl doesn’t appear to be here.” Then as quickly as they went in they drifted out and then proceeded to form to figures infront of them one made everyone gasp it was a younger version of Nikki, her as a 14 year old, in a full black outfit with her bo and arrow loaded, glaring at the group. Next to her an older girl appeared in a long black dress with long plack hair that reached her ankles, fear reached into the pit of Nikki’s stomach as she recognised her as Sanika, but as a 17 year old.

    “How lovely more targets for you little Nikki.” Said Sanika.

    “Run!” shouted out the little girl who had appeared behind the figures that had appeared the giant dingo next to her whimpered.

    “Oh come on there’s two of them and loads of us how powerful could they be.” The 14 year old Nikki smirked as loaded her arrow so quickly that everyone barely doged the attack which then turned into a hige fireballs as it exploded on impact on the floor.“Okay point taken.” Said Val. The little girl quickly used her magic to push aside the new creations as she yelled out to them.

    “Follow me!” she then jumped on the giant dingo. “Go doggie!” Not taking no as an answer Nikki yelled at them.
    “Get your asses moving she’s Sanika!” She then ran after the girl and the whole group followed her, but not before she heard the taunt of the 17 year old Sanika.

    “You may run but you can’t hide from me, I’m still coming, I’m always coming you can’t save your friend once you are on the surface!”

    Shut up” Nikki thought as they rounded a corner and up onto a ledge, noone sadi a ord as they hid and waiting til Nikki and Sanika ran past and hen they were sure they ere safe Cyan spoke.

    “Did you make these?” The little girl shook her head as the dingo next to her wagged it’s tail.

    “I didn’t make these toys, the secrets want them I think... I think” the girl sobbed. “The screamers made them.”

    ~ AUTO-MERGED POSTS ~


    Blast!”I growled, pounding the console unexpectedly hard.


    It had been unintentional and, as a result, garnered me less faith than I had even had before. Many of the guado were staring, having since been informed of my true disposition by Keema. She hadn't betrayed me to them, but she knew I would weaken the longer I remained so close to the Farplane and had me disengage the illusions that made me Iazek Guado. We were now all poised at finding Rin's criminal purposes for staying in the Farplane Glen, mining the machina remains of the hideous Vegnagun at the Farplane's core, and bringing in not taking away more machina.


    However, my presence, despite its altruism, was still ill-received by the other guado. There were the orthodox believers that could not be swayed the moment they discovered what I truly was. Though following the directive to keep watch over Rin's activities, they simultaneously watched over mine, as well. The consensus among them was that I was still unsent, a being existing only for its own selfish ends that drives its unendingly term on this living surface. My outburst had no doubt cost me and furthered their disfavour.


    Hey, what the hell was that?” Hunter whispered, having approached when my actions paused operations.


    What indeed. I had been in control. I had kept my abilities hidden and hidden well. The guado here made no notice. It was only Keema that had sensed my lifeless essence. None of them, not one of the others had suspected, but now this. Down in the Via Infinito, Mishka Guado had finally sensed my pyreflies within her. She told the others about me. What was worse, I had nearly lost all connection to them. If it hadn't been for the fact that they were my pyreflies, I would have no bridge to them, at all. What had happened to me?


    I'm sorry. It was an unnecessary and juvenile overreaction.” I explained to Hunter, though his concern kept, “The scan failed and it wouldn't reboot correctly.”


    Hunter placed a hand on my shoulder, “What's really going on?”


    As the others returned to their duties, I excused myself, telling him I was feeling ill and needed rest. He surmised that our other operations had been less than successful as of late, which brought on my frustrations. Though, it was true, I had been daunted by our lack of progress with Rin, this latest turn of events was equally, if not more, disturbing.


    Later, I would find my way to Keema to discuss her exact meaning about my becoming weaker the longer I remained near the Farplane. It was something I had already known, but I hadn't expected it to have affected me in this manner. What was I if not my unsent capabilities? My mission required it of me regardless of its abominable nature.


    Your pyreflies are being drawn into the Farplane. It is this unknowable force that draws them to create life and return once that life has been extinguished.” She explained.


    You mean to say the Farplane itself berates my presence?” I asked, oddly upset by this news.


    Yes. You must understand the unsent is an anomaly by nature. When a person dies, the pyreflies that had dwelled within should be released back to the Farplane to begin life anew. However, it is your own will, whatever haunts you, that forces them to stay. This bond is a curse on them. It enslaves them to a single entity and prevents the Farplane from allowing them to move on.”


    You mean to say... I've enslaved these pyreflies of mine?” I uttered, shocked that I had always known this, yet continued on this quest nonetheless.


    My apologies. I didn't mean to say it so harshly.”


    But that is the truth of it, isn't it? I'm a creature that counteracts the proper way of thing. I am a poison to these, my own pyreflies.


    You have yet a mission you have chosen to endure.” She eased.


    You are right. I do have a mission yet.I proclaimed, reinvigorated by those words, “I must double my efforts then!”
    Wait.”


    I grabbed her by both her shoulders, confidence seeping from my being that I hoped she might find some, as well, “Keema, I know my existence is a monstrosity, but it is a necessary evil for now. Once we've stopped Rin's plot, I will be able to rest and free these pyreflies from their plight.”


    Keema only nodded to me, her eyes widened by surprise. At least, I hoped they were of surprise. With renewed vigor, I felt we could accomplish our goal and stop Rin and his scheming. I would not take this in vain. My blight on this Spira cannot be unless it be for the greater good. I have, through determination and piety, become like unto my enemy, but I will make it a worthy sacrifice. Praise be to Yevon.

  3. #33
    Joseph

    I looked around the corner, trying to see if the young Nikki and Sanika were around. Seeing no one there, I turned to Nikki who was silent during the exchange.

    “Come on, we need to go now,” I said, placing a hand on her shoulder. I frowned a bit because I could feel Nikki trembling a bit. But after a moment, it passed.

    “Yeah. Let’s go before they catch us again,” she replied, shrugging my hand off before moving. I moved ahead a bit to make sure the path was clear. I signaled the others to follow me. We moved deeper into the Cloister, ever watchful for the young Nikki and Sanika. However, the halls seem deserted. That put me on edge even further.

    “Maybe they moved in deeper into the Via Infinito,” Mishka said, with a bit of a hopeful tone. I knew that this would not be the case. A sudden scraping sound made us turn around. Behind us was the young Nikki, with an arrow nocked and bow drawn. The arrow was covered in flame. The fact that it took a moment for her to aim gave the group time to move. I grabbed those close to me and pulled them down. A moment later, the young Nikki released her arrow, becoming a massive fireball, which flew straight as us. Most of us were able to get out of the way in time, but the flames caught several of the Al-Bhed.

    “RUN!!!” shouted Nikki. Deciding that doing that was probably the best choice, we all literally picked ourselves up before sprinting down the hall as fast as we could. The young Nikki had the advantage of the narrow corridor so it was unwise to fight right then. Our group ran through the corridors until we came across an open cavern. The exit to the cloister was at the other end, but the pyreflies made a barrier in front of it.

    “Damnit, now what?” I asked, turning to Nikki. However, something has happened to her. She was sitting on the ground, having brought her knees to her chest and was also shaking quite violently. I knelt next to her, quite concerned about her.

    “I can’t….. I just can’t…. We can’t beat them no matter what….” she muttered, shaking in fear. I growled, knowing that having a breakdown at this moment is an extremely bad idea. I turned to the others.

    “We’re going to have to take them out if we want to continue. Mishka, Gideon, and Yuki. I want you along with half the Al-Bhed to take on Sanika. Do whatever it takes to kill her. Cyan, Val, Yuubou and I along with the rest of group will take on Nikki. Kyra, see if you can help Nikki here. The sooner she gets over this, the better chance we have,” I ordered. Kyra was about to argue but seeing Nikki in her current state, she thought otherwise. I left her to move Nikki to a safer place while we readied ourselves for the fight.

    “Stopped running haven’t you? Good, now you don’t need to die tired,” Sanika said, entering the cavern with young Nikki. I held my hand up, signaling the others to not attack just yet. I waited until they entered the area before lowering my hand, signaling the group to attack. We rushed our targets.

    I reached young Nikki just a bit faster than the others, taking the opportunity to attack her. She blocked with her bow before grabbing an arrow and stabbed me in the gut with it. My armor took the hit without any issues, so I pushed her bow aside before trying to slash her. She jumped backwards before nocking an arrow and firing. I blocked it just as the others started attacking her.

    It was strange really; the way this young Nikki fights is very similar to the real Nikki only that the younger version was much more aggressive. She never stopped moving, already changing directions while nocking and firing arrows at the group. Occasionally, she would use techniques to try to kill but the others would evade just in time. Cyan and I would try to stop her movements but she would either fire more arrows and spells or evade at the last moment. I took a moment to assess the other group who were fighting Sanika. I could see that the fight was not going well for them. They had already last some of the Al-Bhed to her attacks. I would have sent others to help but we were just able to contain the young Nikki with what we had. I saw that Kyra has no luck with Nikki either.

    “Cyan, can you hold her off without me?” I asked.

    “I’ll try but I can’t promise anything,” she replied. I nodded and sprinted off towards Nikki. I stopped next of Nikki and Kyra.

    “Kyra, move,” I ordered. Kyra did not argue and moved to one side. I roughly grabbed the front of Nikki’s top and pulled her to her feet. Yevon, forgive me,’ I thought before saying one thing to Nikki.

    “Nikki. Grit your teeth,” was all I said before punching her on the side of her face. She seemed shocked and dazed at what I did.

    “Joseph!!! What that necessary?!?!” Kyra yelled.

    “Yes it was. Now listen up Nikki, you said to me that you fear losing someone down here. Now that will become a reality if you don’t stop your little breakdown episode. You fear this Sanika. It’s fine to fear her. My sensei told me that only an amateur would think about not being afraid. A skilled fighter knows the feeling of fear and does it anyways. Besides, you’re not alone in this fight. So snap out of your world and fight already,” I said in the calmest voice I could muster in the situation. The fire in Nikki’s eyes that was not there a moment ago began to reappear. She growled and suddenly drew her arm back and punched me back. I grunted a bit, feeling that pain in my head before turning back to Nikki.

    “Now that’s the Nikki I know. You feeling any better?”

    “Shut your fucking mouth Joseph. I now have a splitting headache and my jaw hurts like hell,” she cursed. But a small smile appeared on her lips. “But you know what? That’s fine. I almost forgot one important thing in life now.”

    “Good. Now can you and Kyra handle your younger self? I need to go support the people fighting Sanika,” I asked. She nodded.

    “But of course. That is me they’re fighting. But you better not get killed fighting Sanika because there’s still more for punching me that hard,” Nikki replied. With that sorted out, I ran to Sanika. She seemed to give Mishka and Gideon some problems. Since they were trying to keep close, Sanika was trying to keep her distance while using Psycho Bomb and Mazer Eye attacks to keep harassing the Al-Bhed. I charged straight in, using Hayate to increase my approach speed. I managed to get close enough to attack, but she blocked my attack with ease.

    “You’re finally here. Good I was getting bored,” Sanika taunted. I ignored the remark and attacked alongside Gideon and Mishka. However, it seems that she was able to read our movements. She evaded our attacks with ease. I looked to find Al-Bhed firing their guns, only for the bullets to bounce off a shield.

    Great, Physical Guard. That means she knows Magic Guard as well. So how do we kill her?’ I thought, rushing in to defend the Al-Bhed from a Mazer Eye attack. I then noticed something odd. Sanika was quite powerful, powerful enough to take us on without needing help. She had the skills to defeat us but she isn’t doing that, almost like she’s playing with us. All of a sudden, it made sense why.

    Of course. It was that simple. Ok, now the hard bit,’ I thought, going in and channeling an Armor Break. Sanika had just landed on the ground. I used that moment to clash with her shield. The shield shattered and I used that moment to punch her in the face with my free fist. That apparently made her very angry.

    “Ok that’s it! Now I’m going to kill you, you damn swine!!!” Sanika roared, suddenly disappearing. She teleported to another location before teleporting again. I swung behind me, not hitting her. I could feel that she was building up to finish me. I closed my eyes and calmed my breathing, holding my sword loosely at my side.

    “Accepting death now are we? Well then, at least you’re not as stupid as the others trying to fight in inevitable!” I heard. Sanika’s voice seems to be resonating throughout the cavern. I could suddenly feel the winds changing directions and the very faint sounds of something behind me, approaching at high speeds. Within a second, I reversed my grip on my sword and thrust it behind me. A second later, I could feel and hear someone impacting my sword which ran through them. I turned to see that Sanika had impaled herself on my sword, arms held high ready to kill me.

    “Arrogance is the downfall of any warrior. Remember that,” I said, pulling my sword out. As Sanika fell to the floor, I suddenly saw a large number of arrows impacting the floor around Sanika. The Thunderga spell in those arrows released, shoving all of us back. I got back up to see that the young Nikki was cradling Sanika, begging her to not leave.

    “You must survive young one,” I heard Sanika say in a motherly voice. “You are the stronger one and I will not let them take you from this world.”

    With that, Sanika used the last of her magic and teleported the young Nikki. Just then, the others caught up with Sanika. As she faded to pyreflies, she gave one last warning.

    “You think you have defeated me. What waits on the surface for you is much worse. You are all fools for not dying here,” Sanika said, before fading completely.

    ~ AUTO-MERGED POSTS ~

    Mishka.png

    “Running. Running. Running is a good plan. Everybody just keep running!”


    “I think we heard you the first time.” I said, coming alongside our leader.


    “If you did, you wouldn't be fucking making jokes at a time like this!”


    “This is unlike you, Nikki. Are these manifestations really so dangerous?” Cyan asked, having caught up to both of us.


    “Yes, dangerous! Very...”


    “...dangerous! Eek!” The twins shouted out, having narrowly dodged one of the younger Nikki's bolts.


    The others had been keeping pace, but as they were behind us, the little girl's two new creations were targeting them. Joseph and Kyra were handling things, but we were all rather tired after so many frustrating cloisters. We couldn't run forever.


    “Hey, little one. Want sissy to teach you something?” I said, moving towards Cyan to get her attention.


    “Hmm? Teach me something? Ooh, is it fun?” She asked as her fiend steed galloped along.


    “Yes, it is! We want to play a game!” Cyan told her, having understood where I was going with this.


    “Ooh, I do love games!”


    “Thought you might. Thi-”


    “Have you two completely lost it? That's Sanika back there and you're talking about a fucking game?!”


    I cleared my throat before continuing, “As I was saying, this is a very important lesson for when you play. It's called cheating.”


    “But I was taught that cheating is bad. Sissy is teaching me a bad thing.” She whined, the fiend she was riding on growing again with her being upset.


    “No, this is the good kind of cheating. It's all in fun, really it is!” Cyan explained, hopefully getting through to her.


    “Mm, okay! What do we do?”


    “You know how they're chasing us? What game do you suppose they mean to play?”


    She thought for a minute, then said, “Ooh, they want to play tag!”


    “Right, and we mustn't let them catch us!”


    “Yes yes, but they are so fast! We're not going to make it!”


    “That's where cheating comes in.” I explained to the girl, simultaneously motioning Nikki and Cyan to the exit down to Cloister 48, “If we just run like this, they're sure to catch us so we need to trick them.”


    Nikki finally caught on, seeing the exit a few more steps ahead. She turned her attention to the others who were close to us, though the younger Nikki and Sanika were catching up.


    Turning to the little girl, she said, “All of us are going to jump down into this exit. All you need to do is make sure those two go somewhere else when they jump.”

    “Ooh, we're going to be naughty! Alright, mummy, I hope we win!”


    “I hope so, too.” Nikki mumbled as we fell back into the same cloister.


    After we made sure they were nowhere in sight, everybody took a sigh of relief. Nikki was still shaken, but holding steady. However, none of us could feel safe and we knew we had to keep going.


    “Come on, we need to go now,” Joseph said to Nikki, patting her shoulder.

    “Yeah. Let’s go before they catch us again,”


    It was what everybody was thinking in the backs of their minds. Sanika had been the major threat. Nikki was terrified of her, but for the rest of us, I felt we couldn't shake how sinister this younger version of Nikki was. Was this how she used to be?


    Taking a cautious peek at the next turn, I chanced a guess and suggested that, “Maybe they moved in deeper into the Via Infinito,”


    No such luck. Seconds after I made that statement, we heard the echoes of an arrow tip streaking across the stone floor of the cloister. In the distance, that fake Nikki, eyes completely mad, lifted a blazing arrow at us. The last bolt she fired had barely allowed us time to dodge.

    “RUN!!!” Nikki screamed, taking off in the opposite direction.


    The lot of us took off behind her, hoping to use the twisting cloister to our advantage again. However, the little girl wasn't with us. We couldn't run for long. Still, getting to the next cloister would give us some time to think. As we rounded another corner, I saw the exit to the next cloister. Unfortunately, it appeared to be blocked. There was a wall of pyreflies before it, dense streams of the creatures so much so that we knew we couldn't pass. It seemed we had no choice but to fight. Joseph took command immediately and separated us into groups, one to face Sanika, one to face the other Nikki, and then he left Kyra to care for our Nikki who had all but given up once she saw the wall.


    “Stopped running haven’t you? Good, now you don’t need to die tired,” Sanika mused, stalking towards us with her companion just a few steps behind her.


    I readied Blurry Moon, though I had my doubts our band of three would do much against the telepath. I could smell the psi exuding from her form as they warped the path of the pyreflies near her. Gripping my sword tight, I extended my left foot to make a lunge, but Joseph would stop me, raising his hand so that we would go together. Looking to Gideon, Yuki, and the others, I nodded to them and watched closely for Joseph.


    As soon as his hand dropped, Gideon and I led the Al Bhed against her. We knew well enough that none of us were going to do a thing to her, but if we were lucky, we could distract her for Yuki to use her own psychic capabilities. No such luck. Sanika was very clever. She teleported the moment we got close and dispatched an unprepared Yuki in one fell swoop. With our team disoriented and our hope of defeating her gone, the Al Bhed all but scattered. Some used their Alchemist cannons to try mixing various chemicals into artillery. Others threw fragment grenades. Still others thought it best to fight her physically. None of these strategies were helping. Sanika simply grasped the grenades in her telekinesis and sent them into the barrels of the Alchemists, effectively stopping their concoctions from being fired while simultaneously detonating the devices. With those Al Bhed unarmed and anything thrown at her remade her own arsenal, they began to panic further. Gideon and I lost all control of the situation and even had to fend some of them off just to hold a position. Coupled with Sanika's reckless whimsy with her abilities, barely any of our Al Bhed survived and Gideon found himself immobilised by her Time Trip. I tried to make the best of the situation and sprung in to strike her with Blurry Moon's own abilities. Unfortunately, she was too swift and saw my attack coming. With a thought, she clutched my neck and I found myself struggling just to breath, never mind opposing her.


    Time Trip wore off as Gideon overcame its paralysis and he would come to my aid, attempting to slice Sanika down her length. This move forced her to teleport, which freed me from her touch. Suddenly, Joseph shot out from his end, hoping to strike her with his incredible speed, but this attack along with the following shots fired by his Al Bhed were easily blocked by her telepathic shields.


    “You’re finally here. Good I was getting bored,” Sanika purred, taking her attention to Joseph.


    I nodded to him, alerting him to our strategic position and the three of us launched separate attacks together. I struck down with Blurry Moon's Deathstrike. Gideon lunged high for her throat and Joseph swooped low to swipe at her middle. Even with this, all it took was for her to channel her energies and catch our weapons before they could make contact. Exhausted, I found myself trembling similar to Nikki previously. Gideon tried to continue the fight, but another Time Trip froze him in his step. Instead, the bout fell on Joseph alone. Somehow, though the battle had caused our spirits to wane, his only burned brighter. His strikes grew stronger and pressed against her telepathic barriers. Eventually, with one powerful blow, he would penetrate them, allowing for an embarrassing punch to Sanika's jaw.


    The simple stunt was all it took to unsteady her. She became furious at the humiliating bruise and her attacks turned sloppy. Finally, after mouthing off to feign her waning confidence, she would accidentally drive herself into his sword, causing her own demise.


    “Arrogance is the downfall of any warrior. Remember that,”


    Not a moment after, bolts of electrically charged arrows struck all about the dying illusion's body, the resulting sparks making it difficult to see. The younger Nikki had come to protect Sanika, but she was too late. With a few words shared between them, Sanika teleported the girl away.


    With her purpose seemingly fulfilled, she turned her attention to us and spat a warning with her final breaths, “You think you have defeated me. What waits on the surface for you is much worse. You are all fools for not dying here,”


    As the pyreflies cleared from her fading form, I took to Cyan for support in returning to my feet. The twins reunited and Val would prompt us to proceed into the next cloister, the wall of pyreflies having cleared.


    Once we all landed safely, the twins pointed out the Cloister 48 was rather straightforward. There was a hall that led to a platform surrounded by metal plates that prevented us from getting to the next cloister. Several platforms poked out from the walls, which we were to use to find a trigger that would move the plates and reveal the exit. With the rest of us exhausted from the previous cloisters and dealing with Nikki and Sanika, the twins took it upon themselves to find the trigger and allow the remainder of us to conserve our energy. Instead of needing to go up themselves, the twins could use their telekinesis and float up to the top, where the trigger was.


    “It's never that easy, though, is it?” Joseph grumbled.


    “Nope.” Kyra added, taking hold of her gunblade, “But right now, I wouldn't have it any other way.”


    Activating the trigger did release the plates and open the way to Cloister 49, however, it also released a Mutanjelly flan-type fiend on us. It was the worst time for the fiend to attack, though, as we had all been frustrated with the cloisters as of late. Kyra seemed to still be upset over the spider fiend while there felt to be tension between Nikki and Joseph standing on either side of her. Truth be told, I knew Cyan was still troubled by my not wanting to deal with Tromell, but I just wanted something to let loose on. Having my confidence returned to me after my time with Cyan and figuring out what had been the matter with me, that an unsent was hitching a ride inside, I wanted to relax. Nothing had been as difficult as I had thought it to be. Taking hold of Blurry Moon, I got into position.


    The fiend's attacks, despite its size, were pitiful. Most of it amounted to popping bits of itself at us, each glob of jelly creating a weaker flan that was easily taken care of. With Blurry Moon, I defeated them with a single stroke. Cyan, Gideon, Joseph, and Kyra were all set on targeting them. We left targeting the main fiend to the spellcasters and element users. Nikki poked through the fiend with her arrows, the resulting indents being used to send Val's bullets deeper inside it to cause more damage. The twins also went to work, using their magic to keep the Mutanjelly from doing much else. Paine had changed to Alchemist in order to keep their mana high and Nooj provided her with cover fire. Before long, the fiend dissolved and we were free to pass into the next cloister.


    Cloister 49 was tricky. There was no floor to the whole cloister, you see. All we had to walk on were moving beams of metal. We also knew that dropping down wasn't going to lead to any exit as below us appeared a river of black, which seemed to burn the lowest of the beams. What was worse, Lizalfo fiends were traveling the beams ahead, making their way to us.


    “Fuck.”


    “Couldn't have said it better.” I groaned, unsure of our next move.


    “That could help.” Kyra said, pointing to a console on a static platform on the right side of the cloister.


    “If we can get to it.” Paine added, noting how many Lizalfos were also making their way to it.


    “Don't worry about the fiends. We can cover all of you over here. Just get to the controls.” Nooj ordered, making Nikki visibly grit her teeth.


    It was the best plan we had, so despite Nikki's disdain over having Nooj with us, we agreed to the Meyvn's plan and set off. Getting from beam to beam was difficult enough, but with the fiends occupying several we could have made use of, the cloister became worse. Even with the cover fire from Nooj, Val, and the twins, it still didn't stop all the fiends and we found ourselves attacking them just to snag a good beam. However, eventually, we all made it. The console was actually the key. One set of controls opened the bottom of the cloister, emptying the river to reveal the exit. Another set changed the way the beams worked, even stopping them all together. Once we set the beams into a good alignment, the others dropped down to the bottom of the cloister and began making their way to the exit. Once Paine locked the console, we, too, made our way down to Cloister 50.


    “Does this look like Cloister 50 to anyone?” Kyra asked, once we landed.


    “Nikki?”


    “What?”


    “Now would have been a better time to use your swear.”


    “Fuck...” Cyan mumbled in her place.


    What was before us wasn't the Cloister 50 we expected it should have been. Instead, we were looking at the same lava pit that had been Cloister 44. The area appeared exactly right and even bolstered the same crystallised portal to the next cloister on its ceiling and the same elemental fiends.


    “It still has to be Cloister 50. I read reports that cloisters only appeared in random series of repeating patterns.” Joseph suggested, arming him with his sword to prepare for the fiends attack.


    “I hope you're right.” Kyra said, her voice sounding unsure.

    As we all took on the fiends, I was happy to note that, despite its similarity to Cloister 44, one key difference was the Elder Wyrm that we had had to defeat to shatter the crystal in that cloister was not present for this one. Once we had defeated the fiends again, the crystal shattered and we were free to jump to the next cloister. Cloister 51 was strangely just as Cloister 45 had been, a simple track of moving platforms that would take us further along. What was even stranger, Gideon was missing again. Cloister 45 had been the same cloister where we had first realised he had been taken to Sir Auron's winding tunnel. This time, however, the girl would not appear and we would not sink down to find him. We would only find the exit and drop down to 52, which eerily shared a layout with Cloister 46, the maze. Kyra was visibly upset by this as it was this maze that we encountered the spider fiend she hated. The fiend was not present this time, nor were there any other fiends, but Kyra kept brushing at her arms as though the spiders were there. Nikki and Joseph advised us to move quickly and get to the next cloister, seeing as how we already knew our way from our previous visit. The butterflies were also no longer present, but having remembered which doorway we had taken, Joseph led us back to the same area and we reached Cloister 53 easily.


    “This doesn't feel right.” Cyan voiced our shared discomfort.


    “We only have the one option to keep moving.” Nooj said.


    “It still doesn't make sense.”


    This cloister was just as Cloister 47 had been, the long passage that we had used to escape from the younger Nikki and Sanika. After that, 54 and 55 were exactly as 48 and 49 had been and after that...


    “Un-fucking-believable!”


    “We're back here again.”


    By this time, we knew we hadn't been traveling down further. This was not Cloister 56. It was still Cloister 44. We had been traveling in a loop, though none of us were sure why. Joseph had said that cloisters could repeat, but nothing like this. Following this cloister, we were again on the simple Cloister 45. Then to 46, and 47, and on and on until we were back, not surprisingly, in the lava pit.


    “Joseph, I think you picked the wrong path. That's where all this started to go wrong.” Nikki suddenly said.


    “What's that supposed to mean?” Joseph asked of her, walking right up to her.


    “It has to be. We were fine until you pulled that stunt and got us lost in this trap!”


    “Nikki, what's got into you?” Kyra asked with concern.


    Nikki brushed her off, walking a few steps before launching an arrow straight into the heart of one of the approaching fiends, “Nevermind! We have to keep moving. I'm sure of it.”


    Leading us back to the maze, she took us to where the room of butterflies had been and pointed out the doorway we had used before. As there were ten of us and six remaining doors, Nikki thought the best solution was to separate us and take every route. Nooj provided us with communicators and off we went. Cyan came with me to the farthest path, the twins stayed together, Nikki marched off on her own and Joseph took off for another, which left Kyra pondering what to do, what with both of them in poor spirits. With a little prodding from Val, she decided to leave it for now, as nothing she could do would help the situation at present. They both took a fifth passage, which left Nooj and Paine to take the sixth.


    “Do you think Nikki's correct? Did we choose the wrong doorway?” Cyan asked me as we headed off.


    “I think Nikki's furious.”


    “That's a calamitous emotion to have for a leader.”


    “She's only human. I suppose this place brings calamitous emotions into play.”


    “It does seem so.” Cyan said with a sigh.


    In the distance, we could see where the path we were on was leading and it wasn't good. Once we were out, I took to leaning against the wall while Cyan began investigating the other doorways, using her communicator to enquire where the others were. However, moments later, we both knew, as did the others. We were back in the same room with the passages, only we had exited out of adjacent doorways to the ones we had entered. Joseph took this opportunity to shoot a look at Nikki who simply growled another swear before taking us back to the same doorway we had originally used.


    Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I thought I saw movement and turned toward it to find nothing, “Did you see that?” I asked Cyan.


    “Did you see something, Mishka?”


    “No, I suppose I didn't.”


    The next cloisters followed the same pattern and round and round we went. We would stop once in a while on the quieter cloisters; Nikki knew we needed rest even if we were lost. However, none of us really could rest until we found a way out of the loop. The twins began suggesting theories that we were caught by Via Infinito just like Rikku and that was why we couldn't find her. It was the type of thinking that had us all on edge, but Nooj would find a way to keep the calm going.


    “Thinking we're trapped won't do anything except leave us that way. We've been going around these cloisters over and over again. That means that's all we have to work with. I'd say we've got to be more keen on our observations from now on.”


    “Nooj is right. If we're not getting anywhere by doing the same thing, we've obviously been doing something wrong. I did notice one thing already.” Paine added, getting everyone's attention, “The escape portals are all gone. The first time we came down here, some of the cloisters had exit portals back to the surface. Now, those are all missing from these cloisters. What does that tell you?”


    “We're trapped. What else should it tell us?” Val said, holstering his gun.


    “Thinking a bit more outside the box here.” Paine retorted.


    “You're saying we did choose the wrong door?” Nikki asked, irritating Joseph in the process.


    “No, there's more to it.”


    Nooj decided to offer another suggestion, “Maybe the right way was the trap. You told me Via Infinito is a labyrinth, right? Baralai told me Via Infinito's original purpose was to keep Yevon's secrets. I suppose if you want a secret kept, you set it into a maze with no right way out.”


    “Impossible. The Gullwings successfully investigated the whole of this labyrinth.”

    “The Gullwings didn't dig deep enough. They were only after Trema and the sphere he still had on his person.”


    “You suggest we've come upon a deeper secret?” Joseph said, inserting himself into the conversation.


    “That or, at least, it thinks we have.”


    “You say that like you believe this place is alive.” I had heard the scary stories a thousand times.


    “Your people believe it is.”


    “Don't buy into all the local legends.”


    “It's still the best idea I've heard. We'll go with it. Besides, Mishka, your friend Keema believes it, too.” Nikki noted, moving to scan every corner of the present cloister.


    “Mishka.” Cyan said, coming up to me and placing her hand on my back.



    I did already know it was alive by this point. There were so many happenings that made me a believer, but what could we have possibly seen that would make Via Infinito want us trapped down here? That's when I remembered all that I had seen down here. The quiet screamers, the Blurry Moon that suddenly found me, my odd new abilities, and something down here was still whispering to me. It was just that, at the time, I didn't want to hear it.


    While we investigated, I decided it was time to hear those whispers, but what happened instead was that I heard something else. There was something down here with us. Not to alert it to the fact that I was looking for it now, I let the others continue searching Cloister 45. As for me, I stalked about, hoping my ears were drawing me closer to the thing that was making those sounds and perhaps...


    “Mishka, I think we might have found something! The twins said, surprising me.



    “You did? Where?” Paine immediately asked, having them lead her.


    The disruption lost me my prey. I couldn't hear the sounds anymore and, after Paine identified what the twins found to be the broken rim of a sphere embedded against the lower corner of a wall, we decided to move on. The next cloister would take us the longest to search and Kyra began acting irritable. Joseph tried soothing her by telling her the spider fiend had gone and each time we came to this maze, it hadn't been there. However, Kyra was still worried and kept placing her hand over her arm where the smaller spider had touched. Eventually, by the time we arrived once again in the room with multiple doorways, Nikki set her mind as ease, tapping the spot on her arm with the tip of an arrow she said was an “anti-spider” arrow.


    There it was again. “Did someone hear that?”


    However, it was different this time. Before, it had sounded like a light tapping, as if someone was knocking on the ground with a finger. This time, I could have almost believed it was laughter, as if something was snickering in the dark.


    On the next cloister, I heard it even more distinctly. Something was there. While the others continued the task of searching the walls, I found myself wandering off into the narrow hall. After a few turns, I couldn't even hear the others anymore, but I was beginning to hear the snickering clearer. Finally, slowing my pace and staying close to one of the walls, I managed to peek to the next turn and see what had been following us. There, just a short distance away from me, was a monkey, just sitting by itself laughing. Before I even knew it, it stuck its finger out at me and snickered more. It knew I was tracking it. It wanted me to.


    “Alright, you got me. Now what do you want?”


    It didn't answer me. Instead, it simply picked up a pebble off the ground and threw it right at my forehead, pointing and laughing some more. I figured it deemed me harmless so I began taking steps towards it. Perhaps, the way out was to catch it. However, as soon as I stood directly in front of it, the small creature took off and I was forced to chase after it.


    With such a narrow hall, I could do nothing but go with it, stopping me from making any attempts at catching the thing. It kept going and I hoped I'd catch it before it jumped down into the next cloister, but as it would turn out, the monkey had taken me to somewhere new. Instead of the exit at the end of the hall, I found a door. Just a simple wooden door that you could find in any home on the surface, but this door had most certainly not been there before. On the other side of it, I could hear something and, with the monkey staying put for the moment, I chose to investigate.


    I could barely make out what I was hearing, but it was a repeating message. After a bit, I started mouthing the words to myself, though it turned out to be only a nursery rhyme. Looking down at the monkey, I saw that it was staying put.


    “Is this where I should go?” I asked it.


    Unexpectedly, the small creature began nodding in an enthusiastic manner, happy chirps letting me know I had guessed its meaning correctly. Slowly, and with one hand holding the hilt of Blurry Moon, I opened the door and entered. I found myself back in the room the “bongo bongo” creature had sent me to last, the one where Gideon's mother had said the unsent were trapped in. This time, there was no one to greet me. The room felt colder than last time and, as I would notice, one of the empty pictures had filled up. Before I had a chance to look at it closer, I heard a


    “Sissy sissy! You're here!” The little girl shouted, happily bouncing on what I could only assume was her bed.


    The room I was in had to be her room. It was littered with dolls and toys, even that same table she had used to “serve tea” to myself and Cyan before. Walking over to her, I could hear her mumbling to herself about the monsters not being scary, that she was not scared of them, and that that had been what her sister had told her to do.


    “What's the matter?” I asked her, sitting next to her.


    “It's the monsters, sissy! The monsters are hiding in the dark!”


    “Where are there monsters?” I said, going along with whatever she was on about this time, “How rude of them to scare you like this.”


    “There.” She said, pointing to her closet with a shakey finger, “The monsters, there are so many of them now.”


    I stood and went over to the closet, opening the door despite her plea, but nothing came out at me. With that, I turned and showed her the empty closet, “There aren't any monsters here. You see? Only shadows and shadows can't harm you.”


    “No, the monsters are hiding there. They come out only when it's dark.”


    I took a great big sigh. My friends were all caught in a loop by Via Infinito and she was on about childhood monsters in this fake room in this fake house that she had lured me into twice now. Without a second thought, I walked over to the wall and switched off the light she had on. Strangely, it seemed to have dimmed the faux natural light entering the room from the draped window. Once I had shown her that it was indeed dark in her closet, I threw it open as wide as it could go and, as anyone could see, no monsters.


    “See? No monsters, not even when it's dark.” I told her, even stepping inside the closet to prove to her there wasn't a thing in there.


    “But... it isn't dark.”


    Those words pierced through me and I honestly felt there was truth to her words. Even standing in the dark closet and knowing full well there couldn't have been a thing inside, my heartbeats quickened and I was put unease. Memories of that cloister surged back to the surface, those unvoiced shrieks of pain and despair that had permeated my entire being seemed to be gripping me tighter, though I knew nothing was there. In a start, I turned around to face the closet and found nothing, but my fear wouldn't alleviate.


    “Will you stay with me tonight, sissy?” I heard the little girl ask of me.


    Her innocent words evoked my courage and I realised how silly I was behaving. Swallowing my fright, I walked over to her and sat back down next to her as I had been earlier. I extended my arm and allowed her to tug it behind her shoulders, her tiny form cuddling close to my side as she let go of a shiver. We stayed like that for quite some time, the little girl never wanting to let me to stray even an inch. What had her so terrified? I found myself wanting to know, wanting to because I wanted to protect her from all the awful things.


    “Sissy, why are they trying so hard?” She asked me suddenly.


    “Who?”


    “All of our other friends. They keep winding it, but do they want Jack to come out of the box?”


    I guessed that she meant the others and how we were all still lost in the loop, “We need to see the Jack. If we don't, we'll have to keep winding until it comes out. We will have to wind it for a long time.”


    I hoped words like that might set her in the right direction to unveil some secret to getting us out of the loop, but she only said, “Maybe Jack ought to stay inside. Maybe the others really want it to stay inside.”


    “What makes you say that?”


    “Because they're still winding and it won't come out. It won't come out and they just keep winding.”


    “What else is there to do?”


    “Stop.”


    “If we stopped, then wouldn't the Jack stay in the box for sure?”


    “If they stopped, they could find another way to open the box.”


    “You think we can?”


    “You would have if you really wanted him to come out by now. But you don't want him to come out. When he comes out, it's fast. Too fast. Maybe they won't like the surprise. Sissy, please stay. I'm scared of the monsters. They speak of you. They say that you protect me. Sissy, will you...”


    “...stay still! It's bad enough you'd got us all back down here again. I won't have you walking right up to Sir Auron in this state!” Cyan shouted, holding me by the waist on the same side the little girl had been hugging.


    “Cyan?”


    “Finally! You're back with me, but you've really gotten us into a fix. How did you manage to find the sinkholes anyway?” She grumbled, letting me go.


    My eyes scanned the area before realising that we were back in the same tunnel the little girl had trapped Sir Auron in. Looking to find the others, I found Nikki and Kyra kneeling by the same treasure chest that had first led us out of here and into the maze of Cloister 46. I wasn't quite sure what came over me next, but I felt I needed to stop them and dove for the chest just before they could open it.


    “Mishka, have you lost your fucking mind? What are you doing?” Nikki roared, grabbing for my hand so that I would release the butterfly from the chest.


    “I'm getting us out of here! ... I hope...”
    .
    With that said, I took hold of Blurry Moon and slammed the hooked tip into the wall where I remembered the butterfly had opened the way to the maze. As luck would have it, that part of the wall was actually a weak spot. Using the hook, I pulled down and crumbled the rock, effectively creating a path out of the tunnel. In another surprise, doing so bypassed the maze completely and we found ourselves back on Cloister 44, finally a change to what had been going on before.


    Winding and winding, the level going around. Jack waits in the dark, he doesn't make a sound. Winding, still winding, won't they let him out? Once they see him, oh they see him, but why do they pout?”


    Those words echoed in my head and I took my eyes to all corners of the cloister. I saw my confused and worried friends and the fiends steadily drawing nearer. I recalled the words the little girl had said to me in her room, that perhaps we were trapped in the loop at our own behest, because we didn't really want to continue down this dungeon and I knew it to be true. It was fear. It was fear that this place thrived on. It was fear that it wanted us to have, but we were stronger than it had considered. And I used to break the box to get my Jack to come out.


    “Mishka, whatever you're going to do, do it.” Nikki said to me, drawing her bow at the fiends and firing her triple arrow.


    I nodded to her and kicked open the treasure chest. The blue butterfly flew out into the scorched environment, its wings glistening against the flames. As they fluttered, I felt the temperature drop and, within moments, the whole of the cloister froze into sheets of ice. The butterfly slowly glazed over, as well, and when it shattered on the ground that used to be a pool of molten ash, so did the cloister, until we found ourselves in a dimly lit space. One by one, glyphs began to alight and we could see that we had been taken to a new cloister.


    “Are we...” Cyan whispered.


    “Cloister 50. We're here.” Paine finished her sentence for her.


    “And we're not alone.” Nooj added, pointing to a figure standing in the distance.


    The figure was of a man and he was adorned in armour. He had only recently reclaimed his identity, having hidden it away under a mask and metal plating. However, as we would find, it isn't easy to lose masks.

    ~ AUTO-MERGED POSTS ~

    Upon entering the 50th cloister, Gideon felt a sharp shiver go up and down his spine, for, which he couldn't identify the reason, although something told him that either the unsent girl had something to do with it, or the Farplane style environment was getting to him.

    Looking around, he saw Nikki, Joseph and the rest of the team walking up to him. Letting his mind wander, he found himself thinking about his deceased parents....more importantly, his mother, who was the first to be lost to Via Infinito. He had never forgiven her for working within Via Infinito nor his father, for failing to search properly, and ultimately dying upon exiting the dungeon after fleeing, mortally wounded from a fight with a Tonberry King, which had wiped out the search team.

    Just as he brought himself back to “reality”, he saw that everyone had converged on him with weapons drawn. “What's up? I'm not being kicked out again an I?” He asked.

    “You’ve been a very naughty boy, naughty naughty.” came a child-like voice from behind him. Then on turning around, he found himself face-to-face with the unsent girl, then she walked straight into him, causing pyreflies to both surround him, and come out of him. Within his mind, he could hear the girl talking to him, “It’ll be fun to play with you.”

    As the girl entered his mind, he felt pain as though 10,000 needles were being thrust directly into his head. “Get out of me.” he heard himself say, although he found himself helpless to what she was doing. “Oooh. I like this memory. I'm going to watch it.” he heard her say, as she brought up a particular painful memory. “No! Not that one. Anything but that one.” he pleaded. “You can't stop me from watching it. It should be more entertaining that you are.” she said.

    “That’s right little one keep going unleash his rage” an older female voice said.

    “This is fun!” the little girl said giggling

    The area changed to Bikanel Island: “Mother, can me and Gideon take on that weird plant thing? I can show you how good I have got with fire spells.” asked Kane. “Ok dear, but remember to call us if the fight gets too much for the both of you.” replied Mother. At first the battle went well, the Sandragora was taking a lot of punishment from both Kane's spells, and Gideon's slashes, with Gideon healing his brother as and when needed. Unfortunately, just when they were in grasp of winning, the Sandragora put the confuse status on Kane and Gideon. Before long both lads were very low on health. Sadly, just as Gideon came to his senses, and the worried parents came to aid them, the Sandragora used a Seed Burst on Kane, killing him outright.

    After watching his body fall to the ground, Gideon's own anger erupted. Filled with revenge over his fallen brother, he leapt at the fiend, as though berserked, and literally tore it apart.

    Outside, the pyreflies that were swirling around him, started moving faster and faster. Within his mind, all Gideon could see, was that the team he was with, was replaced with Sandragora's, and in the middle, he could only see the limp body of Kane. “Get away from him.” he found himself saying, with an angry voice. Then getting up, shadows started appearing from behind him. As they took form, the team saw that each shadow was a copy of Gideon, and that they were being surrounded by each copy. “Get away from my brother now!” he shouted.

    “No no no this isn’t good, he’s turned scary!” the little girl said to the team. “Sleep little one,” Gideon couldn't hear the little girl anymore. “Now you are under my control” said the older female voice with a laugh. “DESTROY THEM!” As if a switch had been pressed, both Gideon and his copies entered berzerked status, and attacked the team. While the copies focussed on certain members of the team, Gideon went after the 2 largest “Sandragora's”, which happened to be Nikki and Joseph.

    With fire burning over his armour, Gideon released his poisonous wrist-blades and charged straight at Nikki, who was able to fire 2 triple arrows straight at him before he got too close, but these burned up by the fire before they hit the armour. It was only Joseph intervening with his sword that stopped Gideon skewering Nikki into the wall. Being knocked back, Gideon heard himself let out an in-human roar, as he slammed the wrist-blades into the floor, causing a fire quake to rip towards both of them. As they jumped apart, the fire quake exploded, where they had stood making a shock-wave that blew rocks and molten lava everywhere, narrowly missing the core members of the team, but hitting several members of the Al Bhed, killing them outright. Nikki shouted at Gideon “Stop attacking us moron. We aren't your enemies”.

    Charging yet again, Gideon set his sights on Nikki. When he was close enough, he jumped at her, with wrist-blades poised like fangs ready to strike..... Then with a “No naughty boy!” the little girl then tumbled out of him and fell down on her bum. She as she stood up and rubbed herself down she said “Owie!” A Behemoth appeared next to her and she climbed on it’s back and they dispersed together.

    Looking round at the dispersing clones, Gideon said, “I guess.... I never got over the death of my brother.” Then as he looked back at the team, he said “Fortunately, I found something else to protect and fight with.” Looking at him, Joseph asked, “What did you find?” Smiling, Gideon said “Well, simply put, all of you. And yes, Nikki...... even you. I have learnt, that my strength is the team. And as such, I have got stronger from being with all of you. I consider you as friends.

    With that, everyone dusted themselves down from the fight, grouped back together, and decided what to do next, and Gideon felt a lot stronger from the experience, though he didn't thank the girl for putting him through it.

    ~ AUTO-MERGED POSTS ~


    As the little girl possessed Gideon, Nikki got herself ready for battle, “Here we fucking go again” muttered Nikki under her breath. However as she did, the group also heard the older female menacing voice, they heard her a few times before but she seemed to be egging on the unsent girl on and who the fuck knew what she was.

    A painful memory of Gideon’s showed, one that showed how he had lost brother while training in Bikanel, Nikki was reminded of Kyra’s memory and how similar it was to this only in this one Gideon went into a fit of rage at the end of it.

    “Get away from him.” Shouted Gideon at the team, Nikki gripped her bow as the pryeflies spun angrily around. Shadows rose from the ground.

    No, it’s just a shadow, shadows can’t hurt you see.” The same younger voice entered her head at this point she had grown so used to it being there that she didn’t question it. The shadows then turned into copies of Gideon.

    “Get away from my brother now!”

    "Oh for fucks sake” thought Nikki.

    “No no no this isn’t good, he’s turned scary!” The little girl seemed to be panicking at this point.

    “Sleep little one. Now you are under my control, DESTROY THEM!” Nikki didn’t hear a reply from the unsent girl.

    Shit!” was all Nikki could think of in that moment because Gideon cam charging right at her his armor burned in fire which only seemed to strengthen his attacks, Nikki launched two triple arrows but they got burned before they hit, she had hoped to disarm him but that was a no joy. “Fuck” said Nikki as she saw her arrows burn to a crisp. Nikki flipped backwards narrowly missing Gideon’s poison wrist blade attack, that moment of distraction allowed Joseph to intervene. Gideon was knocked back but he let out a roar which sent shivers down Nikki’s spine. “Whatever the fuck is possessing him it’s far worse than just the unsent girl.” Nikki called to Joseph. They then both jumped out the way as a huge attack was sent their way releasing hot lava in a huge crack in the floor, Nikki barely missed it but she saw that some of the flying rocks had killed some of the Albehd. She noticed that Kyra was perfectly safe but the others were having a hard time with the clones, Kyra was facing five on her own and it didn’t look too good for the group. “Stop attacking us moron we aren’t your enemies!” That didn’t seem to do anything though and he seemed to be fixated on Nikki. Why the fuck is it always me!” thought Nikki as she waited for his next move, but it never came, the little girl had seemed to have woken up and suddenly shouted out.

    “No, naughty boy!” The little girl tumbled out of him and then landed awkwardly on the floor. “Owie!” she rubbed herself as a behemoth appeared. She then climbed on it and dispersed.

    How the fuck can unsent feel pain!”

    After the battle Nikki began to think on what exactly was happening to her, practically ignoring what Gideon was saying since it was only being egotistical, she had reacted badly to Joseph, she knew that but she was pissed off, really pissed off that she couldn’t quite remember the memory that was about the gang and Sanika, a memory that she had hoped to use her advantage. It wasn’t quite gone it was just blurry, she couldn’t remember details but she did know what had happened to her, she supposed she had told herself so many times and she had lived with it so long that those memories filled the gaps for her. It was only because of that and the fact that she dreamed about it that she knew exactly what had happened to her and how she dealt with it. However the actual memory of it was gone, every time she tried to remember she only hurt her head, it was much like when she tried to remember her parents or the first five years of her life, she couldn’t remember anything and had to live with that. She swore to herself she wouldn’t lose any other memories no matter how terrible they were. However it had happened again and that was the cause of her recent mood change.

    She tried to piece together what had happened in her head.

    Then the group moved onto the portal and found themselves at the start of Cloister 47, suddenly the pryeflies from the walls of the cloister gathered and flung themselves, screaming into Nikki, she fell to her knees in pain grabbing at her head. “Ahhh!!”“Nikki, no what’s going on, it’s not her is it?”“No the little girl doesn’t appear to be here.” Then as quickly as they went in they drifted out and then proceeded to form to figures in front of them one made everyone gasp it was a younger version of Nikki, her as a 14 year old, in a full black outfit with her bow and arrow loaded, glaring at the group. Next to her an older girl appeared in a long black dress with long black hair that reached her ankles, fear reached into the pit of Nikki’s stomach as she recognised her as Sanika, but as a 17 year old.

    Nikki remembered the pain but she also remembered the feeling of losing something, how she tried so hard to keep hold of something in her head but she grew more fearful as it faded until eventually it was gone and she was left in a nervous wreck., with little option left she had shouted at everyone to do as the little girl said. She supposed this was when she had lost that memory but why? And where did it go? These questions confused her, they only pissed her off more as they ran round and round her head to the point where she had lost her temper at Joseph, because not only was her head fucked up but they had gotten lost.

    Joseph, I think you picked the wrong path. That's where all this started to go wrong.” Nikki suddenly said.

    “What's that supposed to mean?” Joseph said with a hint of frustration.

    “It has to be. We were fine until you pulled that stunt and got us lost in this trap!”“Nikki, what's got into you?” Kyra said worriedly.

    Her mind was beginning to calm now she had begun to reflect and calm herself but now begun the next challenge but because of her lack of memory she begun to tremble a bit as she heard the words.

    “We think we all deserve a rest” exclaimed the twins, after all that had happened they had probably forgotten what was waiting for them on the surface. However even with Nikki lack of memory she could feel that familiar presence in her mind, letting her know that she was here and was waiting for them.

    “Sanika, she’s here, she’s waiting for us.” She started to shake as she remembered the double’s words and how she had reacted to her own double.

    Nikki was busy fighting her younger version of herself, the younger version only seemed to have eyes for her and was easily dodging everyone else attacks, but seemed to be fixated on Nikki only, every strike she pulled was intended for an instant kill. By this time Nikki herself was wearing down, with incredible speed the younger Nikki jumped and drew her arrow and was charging an Ultima arrow until suddenly she stopped her attack she instead brought down her leg on Nikki and kicked her in the stomach at full force pushing her away. Painfully Nikki grabbed at her stomach thinking “Bitch” she then heard her younger self cry out.

    “NO!” the first vocal words she had said since meeting the group, as Nikki shakily stood up she saw a cloud of electricity from where multiple thundaga arrows had been shot, and when it had cleared she could see her younger self crying cradling the double Sanika in her arms. “Please, please don’t leave me.”

    Sanika replied to her, “You must survive young one. You are the stronger one and I will not let them take you from this world.” Using the last of her power she then seemed to teleport the younger Nikki away. Before completely fading she looked right at Nikki and said “You think you have defeated me. What waits on the surface for you is much worse. You are all fools for not dying here,” Sanika said, before fading completely.


    But then she remembered Joseph’s words from before when she felt that she was in a pit of despair.

    Nikki was rocking back and forth, in a completely state of fear that there was nothing they could do defeat Sanika and what was more frightening was that she had lost the one memory that could have helped to defeat her.

    Suddenly she felt herself being pulled up and she heard the words
    “Nikki grit your teeth” she didn’t take any notice until a fist came flying at her jaw and she stumbled back a bit as she was in a state of shock, the fear slowly slid away as the pain went like a fire to her jaw and soon her voice came back to her as she thought.

    “Why the fuck do people keep fucking hitting me, it’s getting bloody tiring being hit all the time!”“Joseph!!! What that necessary?!?!” Kyra yelled.

    “Yes it was. Now listen up Nikki, you said to me that you fear losing someone down here. Now that will become a reality if you don’t stop your little breakdown episode. You fear this Sanika. It’s fine to fear her. My sensei told me that only an amateur would think about not being afraid. A skilled fighter knows the feeling of fear and does it anyways. Besides, you’re not alone in this fight. So snap out of your world and fight already,” Pissed at Joseph for punching her she then punched him back at which he just smiled and then replied. “Now that’s the Nikki I know. You feeling any better?” She then yelled at him.

    “Shut your fucking mouth Joseph. I now have a splitting headache and my jaw hurts like hell,”

    Nikki shook herself out of it she needed to be aware now more than ever, she wasn’t going to accomplish anything now by falling apart, the twins said a simple “Oh!” at the realisation of the next challenge. Nikki turned at the appearance of a bright white light and saw that Paine had already changed in the Psycher dressphere and she was now hovering which kinda unnerved Nikki a little bit.

    “We better not keep her waiting then.” Said Val, they were tired, exhausted but that didn’t mean that Nikki wasn’t going down without a fight, this could be their last battle.

    If it’s going to be the last battle it’s going to be a fucking fantastic one.” Nikki looked around at everyone, before turning to Kyra who had put a hand on her shoulder to reassure Nikki, with that they went through the portal that led to the surface.

    The surface was warm as Nikiki stepped out everyone was high on guard, it was quiet and peaceful, but Sanika didn’t seem to be there.

    “This is strange, wasn’t she meant to attack us by now” said Gideon after a few minutes of silence. Nikki was in a whirl of thoughts, she thought that she had felt her inside her head but now she felt nothing.

    The Lady Yuna and Sir Tidus came over to them. “We’ve evacuated all the children from the temple but there haven’t been any reports of anyone spotting Sanika heading this way” The Lady Yuna was also in her Psycher Dressphere. “I’ve tried to trace her magic but I can’t find it.” Nikki was relieved that all the children were out of harm’s way but was worried that Sanika hadn’t attacked yet.

    “Nikki is this what she normally does? Wait before she attacks?” asked Kyra, Nikki held her head.

    “I’m sorry but I can’t remember...” Suddenly Joseph let out a groan of pain and let out some choking noises, Nikki turned suddenly to see that he had been thrown against the wall and had made an indent with the impact. He was being held there off the ground and with an invisible force chocking him by the neck, with the sound of footsteps she saw Sanika walk towards them her right hand stretched out controlling the magic that was grasped at his neck. Her black hair was at the floor she was much older now she was 22 years old now and looked completely comfortable with her magic and more confident with it. She still wore that same long black dress with high heeled black shoes but her eyes now had changed colour to a light purple.

    Nikki could see that Yuki, Yuna and Paine were having great difficulty in trying to push her magic back, and a volley of shots came from the Albehd but a wave of her magic killed all of the Albehd that were left, Nikki shot triple artrow at her but they just bounced off her shield and she said simply without turning to her. “Little Nikki, I told you not to interfere.” Before pushing her so she skidded along the ground. She then turned her attention to Joseph. Ignoring the attacks being aimed at her, each attack was reflected back and it took all three of their psychic mages just to let Joseph breath but still being hung in the air. Nikki heard her say to him. “What a grievous crime you have committed against my father, you taunted him and his word is law, you also are the one responsible for stopping Nikki from coming home. For that I see no other punishment for you but death” she then seemed to take notice of the three mages that were letting him breathe. “I’m sorry but he has to die” she then sent another wave of her power to the mages knocking them off their feet, Sir Tidus ran at her but was flung like a doll at the wall. Nikki found the whole time that Sanika had already sapped all of her energy she hardly had any energy to stand but she did and she slowly tried to load her arrow. After Sanika seemed satisfied with taking care of the psychic mages she then started to choke Joseph again this time teleporting around so Nikki couldn’t target her.

    Time was running out Val managed to launch some sort of attack that Nikki hadn’t seen before it penetrated her shield, but she stopped the bullet with her hand and simply said “Clever boy” before launching it back at him, Nikki launched more arrows at her when she paused but she reflected them into a wall, she then suddenly turned her head straight at Nikki. “You don’t remember me like you should.”

    Fuck she noticed.” Thought Nikki, the good thing was though she suddenly released Joseph who fell to the floor gasping for breath, Nikki noticed that Kyra ran to him.

    “Joseph are you okay!?”

    She’s just concerned that’s all” thought Nikki even though her fist clenched a bit but this was no time to get jealous she knew this. Sanika waved a hand two people teleported either side of her both clad in black, one was a male and had his mouth covered intro a black material revealing only his blue eyes , one would think he was a ninja, but Nikki knew better even though he had the use of wrist blades he was in fact an experienced red mage, knowing both white and black magic spells. Sanika often called him “Uncle” she had been in the gang for a very long time. The other was a girl she was also clad in black, but her head was uncovered she had brown hair, brown eyes and hair was tied in a high ponytail, she carried a bow and also had a dagger strapped to her for close combat. She was younger and round about Nikki’s age.

    “I’m afraid you two must take care of these weaklings, I have much more important matters to take care of.”

    “Do not take long Sanika, you know what your father said.”

    “Yes Uncle I know.” Sanika waved her arms powering up the two so that the battle was now even, even though the two were outnumbered. Sanika then teleported right in front of Nikki. “Now this may hurt.” Nikki cried out in pain as once again her head seemed to ache in an incredible pain bringing her to her knees. “There, there little Nikki it’s okay just a few more minutes.” She could hear the yells of her comrades. “Oh your memory is completely gone! Now where did it go?” Magic surrounded Nikki and beams of light suddenly shot from her into the entrance of the Via Infinito. “Come, release her stolen memory to me!” Pain leaving Nikki she shakily stood up.

    What the fuck does she mean stolen, I thought it was just lost?” she thought.

    “Yes stolen little Nikki please keep up.” Said Sanika. Nikki saw the magic then come out of the Via Infinito making a glyph on the floor suddenly the fourteen year old Nikki appeared looking confused about how she got there, but then spotting Nikki she was about to load an arrow until Sanika waved her arms and sent the fourteen year old flying into a wall. The fourteen year old shakily stood up with her bow and arrow.

    “Sanika I thought they killed you” Sanika silently just teleported towards her, Nikki herself however had a spell put on her so her feet or arms couldn’t move Sanika was keeping her back so that she couldn’t help her friends who seemed to get severely beaten but also the other two didn’t look in a too good of a shape either. Sanika just flung the young Nikki again next to the wall.

    “How interesting you are so much like her.”

    “Why...” croaked out the fourteen year old.

    “Why? What a silly question because you have stolen a memory , you are fake.” The fourteen year old Nikki shakily stood up.

    “No... She’s the fake one and I can see now that you are too!” She tried to attack her but Sanika stood her still.

    “Shame it’ll be so easy to destroy you but little Nikki needs her memories back so back you go.” She flung her back into the entrance of the Via Infinito where she disappeared. Nikki suddenly felt herself able to move again and Sanika teleported to the top of the temple. “Now this will be fun to watch.”

    “Sanika stop playing.” Said the red mage.

    “Oh I’ll only play for a little while Uncle, you two can have fun while I’ll watch” She waved her hand to heal both of them to full health and Nikki charged back into battle thinking it will take a miracle to survive this.

    ~ AUTO-MERGED POSTS ~


    As more confusing events took place in this eerie place, Kyra was getting more and more anxious about getting to the surface. The thing that kept her from doing anything rash was the slightly small fact that Sanika was waiting for them. After their last run in, it was clear that she meant to kill Joseph. This thought alone scared Kyra.

    It was weird though. It really does seem that the Via Infinito can pull out one’s greatest fear. This place even pulled out a massive fucking spider. Kyra’s been afraid of spiders since she was little. The way the Via Infinito pointed out her weakness like that kind of scared her. It made the place all the more mysterious at the same time. What other fears did this team have? What more will this team need to fight down here?

    Gideon was standing in front of them now. The crew approached him with their weapons drawn. Soon after, he was possessed by the girl. She showed a painful memory of his. Was this girl really trying to help us? Or was she the one bringing out our greatest fears?” Kyra noticed the memory was pretty close to hers. She just couldn’t relate to the absolute rage that followed immediately after. The other voice came from the girl and showed its true intentions. Clones of Gideon, or in this case Kane, started to rise from the floor. They were all given berserk status. Kyra caught a glimpse of Gideon charging after Nikki and Joseph full of absolute rage. She would have gone to help, but she noticed two of the clones were charging toward her with a berserk status. Holy fuck...” she thought. She charged her magic and braced herself. They were strong, but still slow. She used this to her advantage and slashed one with a thunder infused blade. It didn’t make much of a dent, which worried her. Three other clones had made their way over to make things interesting. Change of Plan. What the hell is this guy’s weakness?” She thought as she avoided their attacks.

    Hey, since when do you swear so much?” Aiko noticed Kyra’s thoughts.

    Not now Aiko. I’m busy. “

    Kyra stayed on defence with these five clones. She figured using stronger attacks would be better in this case. She charged a Crystallum Nix attack and aimed for the closest clone’s arm. It froze just the arm and shattered the armour that surrounded it. She was shocked to see that the armour was just a hollow shell. She let her guard down and barely missed a swing from one of the clones behind her. Why are there so many?“. She worked out a water spell before doing a back flip to get away from the five clones. She charged her blade with a thunder spell and got herself ready for the Shockwave attack. The water caught the electricity and she successfully hit all five of them at once, making them disoriented. She did notice she made a huge crack in the floor and wondered if that was from her own attack or someone else’s. One of the clones made a seeming aimless swing and barely missed her head, cutting off a little bit of hair in the process. Fuck, that was close.”. She got fed up with fighting like this, so she jumped high in the air, and came down hard on one of the clone’s chest, shattering the armour entirely. That was when she heard the little girl’s voice say, “No, Naughty Boy” and she was able to get out of Gideon and disappeared on a behemoth. The rest of the clones disappeared shortly after.

    Kyra caught her breath and sheathed her Gunblade. She had a bone to pick with the voice in her head. She was also wondering why someone would say that they appreciate the team as friends, but just moments ago, he was attacking us with a blind rage. It made her think that whatever was controlling him was trying to tear the team apart. Kyra wasn’t sure about it, so she stopped thinking about it. Too much was on her mind at that moment. One thing in particular was Aiko. She gathered that this would be the final chance she would get to speak with this ‘gift’ whether it was real or not. Kyra looked over to Nikki with concern. It looked like she was trying to sort out her own thoughts before heading to the surface. Who knew what was going to happen up there. Maybe they could all die...It was another thought that Kyra didn’t want to think about.

    Hey, Aiko. You have no idea what I went through after your death. To be able to speak to you now is rather confusing to me. I started to swear heavily after your death. Got into some things that I’m not very proud of. Old habits die hard, you know?”

    I see, you did find those letters, right?

    I did. Only really recently though. It doesn’t matter what happened then. All I know is that this is where I belong, and she...” Kyra looked over at Nikki.

    Ooh, that look. I know that look. For all you know, I don’t even exist anymore, but I can still put two and two together. She needs you. You like her. This is what I was telling you about. It looks like I can’t spend much more time with you Kyra. Go get her...” before the sentence was finished, a single pyrefly left from Kyra and disappeared into the depths of the Via Infinito. A single tear fell from Kyra’s eye. She thought of saying a thank you, but it wouldn’t have been heard. Damn this place was confusing.

    Next on her mind was the situation she had between Nikki and Joseph. It was more than obvious that they both cared about her. She cared about the both of them as well. The comments they both made when they visited that spider room all those times made that clear. Kyra didn’t know why, but she felt something that wasn’t there. It could have been because the first time she was there, she went into a fight or flight mode and went on an all out spider killing rampage. Such an event can cause recurring thoughts and memories when they return to the place it happened. Joseph tried to soothe Kyra by pointing out the obvious, but that didn’t change what Kyra felt every time she entered that room. Nikki’s attempt to make Kyra feel better was a little more humorous. Although the ‘anti-spider’ arrow was probably the lamest thing on the face of Spira, it was the thought that counts. Kyra even got a smile out of it. The more Nikki changed, the more Kyra might actually start to develop strong feelings for the girl. That doesn’t mean that Kyra doesn’t care about Joseph. He is still a friend after all.

    Kyra snapped out of her thoughts when she heard the twins say “Oh!” In realization of what was waiting on the surface.

    Paine changed into her Psycher dressphere and hovered slightly off the ground.

    “We better not keep her waiting then.” Val said.

    Kyra made her way over to Nikki. She was nervous and Kyra could tell. Kyra was a little better at hiding her own fear, but if she had to admit it, she would say that she was fearful of these next events. Kyra put a hand on Nikki’s shoulder for reassurance. Everyone made their way to the portal shortly after.

    The temple was quiet. Almost too quiet. The anticipation in the room was almost deadly.

    “This is strange, wasn’t she meant to attack us by now?” Gideon asked breaking the silence.

    Yuna and Tidus had made their way over to the group. The children had been evacuated, but there was still no sight of Sanika anywhere.

    “Nikki, is this what she normally does? Wait before she attacks?” Kyra asked, Nikki held her head.

    “I’m sorry but I can’t remember...” Nikki said.

    Immediately after Nikki said that, choking noises could be heard from the direction Joseph was standing. In fact, it was Joseph. Before Kyra could react, he’d been thrown against the wall. Kyra looked to the other side of the room and found Sanika. She looked relatively the same as what they encountered in the Via Infinito, but she had a heck of a lot more confidence than before. The mages went in to try to defend Joseph, or at least let him breathe. Since Kyra’s magic was limited, she was a little helpless to their current situation. Sanika made a comment to Nikki after she shot a triple arrow, then sent her back. Kyra wanted to run to Nikki, but she couldn’t move. Why couldn’t she move?

    More attempts to make Sanika let Joseph go were made, but none were successful. Val even took a shot at her, but she caught it before any damage was made. The only thing that made her stop was the fact that Sanika seemed to notice something was wrong with Nikki’s memory. She dropped Joseph and set her focus to Nikki. The change in motive scared Kyra even more, but she went to check if Joseph was alright.

    “I’m...fine.” He said through gasps of air. Kyra handed him a potion. Two people who were dressed in black were teleported into the battle by Sanika. A male and a female both dressed in complete black. All you could really see was the male’s eyes and the female’s head was uncovered. The male had wrist blades and was proficient in white and black magic. The female was an archer. Kyra could easily take down either one of them.

    “I’m afraid you two must take care of these weaklings, I have much more important matters to take care of.” Sanika said.

    “Do not take long Sanika, you know what your father said.”

    “Yes Uncle I know.” Sanika had powered both of them up in order to take on the crew. Kyra was beginning to detest the magic of this girl. She’s having too much fun with this. Sanika was now preoccupied with Nikki, and left the rest of them to fight. Joseph initiated the attack as always. He and Gideon made their way to the red mage. Kyra decided to take the chance and head for the archer. Val kept his distance and made a few hits to the archer while Kyra had her distracted. Yuki kept her distance as well. Yuubou stayed back and helped Joseph and Gideon. Paine, Yuna and Tidus changed into a warrior dressphere and stayed on the offensive against these two.

    Kyra only stopped once when she heard Nikki cry out in pain. She hated that sound. Whatever Sanika was doing to her, Kyra hated it. That was when the archer had made a swift punch to her jaw knocking her back into this battle. I really need to stop losing concentration.”. Kyra slashed the archer. Although Kyra was quick, the extra power had made the archer a little faster than her. She kept doing back flips and sneaking in a few powerful shots to those attacking her from afar. “This is going nowhere fast...” Kyra said thinking out loud.

    “How about you just give up so it makes my job easier, bitch.” The archer said.

    “Keep dreaming.” Kyra smirked. She kept charging, but she wouldn’t be able to keep this up for much longer. She was too quick.

    “Sanika, stop playing.” The red mage called out.

    “Oh I’ll only play for a little while Uncle, you two can have fun while I’ll watch” She waved her hand to heal both of them to full health.

    Some familiar arrows had hit the gang archer in the arm. Looks like Nikki’s back, but these guys have been healed. Fuck, this is going to be a long battle.” Kyra thought as she pushed herself to keep going in this battle. How much longer did they need to fight like this?

  4. #34
    Joseph

    Even after a potion to help heal the wounds that Sanika gave me, it was still a little painful to breath. The red mage I was fighting was good. This person obviously had experience in dealing with people. I jumped back from the action a bit, looking up to where Sanika was perched. It was making me angry, seeing her gloat over our efforts to try to get to her.

    I sidestepped just as the red mage sent a fire spell at me. He compensated by using a water spell after another second. I ducked just in time to avoid it.

    “Sit still, samurai and die already,” he said, sending another spell at me. I dodged it before running at him.

    “In your dreams,” I said, trying to hit him with my sword. The sword was caught on his Protect spell.

    “Do you even think that you stand a chance here? Even if you defeat me, you still need to fight Sanika who you cannot defeat. You might as well just give us your head now along with Nikki and we’ll leave the others alone,” he said, hitting me with a Fira.

    I pushed through the fire spell, ignoring the burns it created to strike the red mage. He blocked with his wrist blades. Yuubou and Gideon closed in on either side to hit him, but another Protect spell blocked their attempts. I drew back and prepared an Armor Break. Just before I could swing down, my whole body suddenly froze up.

    “I’ll play around with the samurai a bit Uncle. You deal with the other pest,” Sanika suddenly said, floating down from her perch. The red mage nodded once before turning his attention to Yuubou and Gideon. I suddenly went straight into a wall, my arms and legs were pinned to the wall due to Sanika’s telekinesis.

    “Now before I kill you, how about letting me see what your thoughts are hmm?” Sanika purred. Since the force holding me to the wall seems to be exerting on all my body, I could not do much except grunt. I suddenly felt pressure on my head, as if my head was in a vice. Having no training on how to repel a mental attack, all I can do was concentrate hard on staying conscious.

    “Oh. Even though you want to live, it seems that you have an undertone of death seeking. That would not be surprising really, you samurais have always embraced death but you are determined to live. I wonder why,” I could make out Sanika saying in the haze of pain that I was feeling. The pain suddenly stopped and I could see Sanika start laughing, as though she found something funny.

    “Oh, this is hilarious! Who would have thought that you love the Kyra girl as well!” she laughed. “Oh that would explain why you fight so hard doesn’t it? Who would’ve thought that both you and Nikki could love the same woman!” she said, laughing. She calmed down from her laughing fit before looking at me critically.

    “Well since Kyra is so precious to both you and Nikki, how about I kill her first? No, that would be too merciful. I know what to do. I will torture her slowly in front of both of you. I will watch as you two lose hope and faith. I want to see the look in your eyes the moment I kill her and before I kill you. That way I can break Nikki as well,” Sanika purred. That got my blood boiling. I got so angry that I almost couldn’t think straight.

    “DON”T YOU DARE TOUCH HER!” I roared, willing my arm to swing. My arm came free from Sanika’s grip and swung down on her. Only her shield that she kept up was the reason she was not cut down immediately. Sanika instinctively teleported back to the top of the temple where she was safe, stunned that someone overcame her telepathy. I glared at Sanika who was on the roof. The look I gave her was made of pure anger and rage. Even the red mage and archer took one step back at the look I gave them.

    “I know that I’ve failed people in my past. I knew that back then that I didn’t have the strength or power to save them.” I said coldly. I switch the Gerbera Straight into my left hand and placed my right on the sheathed Tiger Pierce. “But now, I can make a difference. I will not sit ideally while you go harm people I love. If my life is what it would take to keep Kyra safe, so be it. But you will die in the process. I will make sure of it.”

    I pulled the sword I previously could not pull out of its sheath. The people close to me would’ve noticed that the moment the Tiger Pierce came free of its scabbard, it began to resonate with the Gerbera Straight. The two katanas I carry were originally part of a set of five. Each katana has a different unique ability to them. All the katanas would resonate with one another, strengthening them. Also, my style of swordplay was originally meant to be with dual wielding katanas. I’ve been using only one for the past few years for better precision, but I’ve always trained with two sword. There is nothing holding me back now.

    I took one step in Sanika’s direction before suddenly sprinting towards her, a Hayate spell increasing my speed. The red mage suddenly came in view, blocking the path I wanted to take.

    “You will not touch Sanika!” he yelled, firing a spell at me.

    “OUT OF MY WAY!” I yelled as I dodged the spell. I swung the Tiger Pierce at him. The katana slipped right though his Protect shield and into his wrist blade. The force of the swing sent him flying into the archer.

    “Look out Sanika! He’s much stronger than before!” The red mage yelled in panic. I reached the base of the temple and with two jumps reached the roof where Sanika was standing. I held both my swords behind me, charging a different spell into each one.

    “Sanika! PREPARE YOURSELF!” as I swung down. Sanika blocked both strikes with her shield. I was stunned that both did not work. I used both an Armor Break and Dark Buster but none of those worked. I was suddenly flung down into the ground. As I passed Sanika, I noticed that she was wearing a Ribbon, which made her immune to ailments. That made her virtually invulnerable.

    I slowly got up from the crater I made. As I did, the red mage charged at me. But he suddenly backed off as an arrow planted itself right in front of him. I turned to see Nikki and the others, ready to take them on. I also readied myself for both these two warriors and Sanika’s wrath.

    ~ AUTO-MERGED POSTS ~

    Mishka.png

    After Gideon had his little trip down forsaken memory lane, we agreed to take another rest above ground. For the first time, I found myself unwilling to abandon the mission, but understanding of the others' fatigue. I wasn't plagued by thoughts of the Slayer anymore. Cyan had seen to that and I felt like I was ready for anything. However...


    “Nikki is this what she normally does? Wait before she attacks?” Kyra asked as we waited for our enemy to arrive.

    “I’m sorry but I can’t remember...”


    That certainly took me by surprise. It had been Nikki that went completely nutters over Sanika's clone appearing. She had known and explained to us how dangerous the girl was, yet now she talks of not knowing Sanika's style? My first instinct told me to look back at my guado past, the fairy tales I'd been told about all that the pyreflies could accomplish. Could the fact that another version of Nikki had been formed from the little girl's interactions with our Nikki have caused this lapse in memory? It is believed by the guado that pyreflies aren't just the pieces that create life and all things, but that the individual pyreflies are actually separate memories, bits of a personality, that form together in order to build a being as a whole. Even with all I had seen about the Via Infinito, I just couldn't accept something so ludicrous, yet here she was, a Nikki that felt incomplete.


    To my left, we heard a muffled smash and Joseph groan in pain before gasping for air. The single action alerted us all to Sanika's presence and my wild theorising about Nikki's predicament was postponed. With a confident strut and draped in ebony, she stalked toward us, her violet eyes never leaving Nikki's form. However, despite such focus, I knew we could all feel her attention was not at all diverted from the rest of us. She was fully aware. We would never get close enough.

    The psychics of our group made attempts to counter her power, but it would prove less than futile. The defence only egged her on and soon, the entire field of battle was coated in an immense blanket of telepathy. Nikki decided on a more physical front, possibly hoping to battle her on better ground, but her own defences were impeccable.


    “Little Nikki, I told you not to interfere.” She would say before ramming her with an invisible wave of force, sending Nikki sprawling to the ground.


    After that, she turned her attention back to Joseph and the warriors of our group were forced to watch the battle happen before us. Yuki, Paine, and Yuna were all that could even pose a problem for her and she cast them off as though waving off a fly. It was then, Tidus couldn't stand by watching and lunged in recklessly. As expected, he was dispatched without a thought. It was why the rest of us hadn't made a move despite the danger she posed to Joseph. We were of no use dead. Thankfully, her attention span seemed lacking as she would turn her attention back to Nikki and release Joseph, who was immediately in the care of an arriving Kyra.


    “Are we just going to stand here all day?” Cyan grumbled, her grip on her broadsword tightening as she gritted her teeth.


    “I'm afraid we won't be of much use here. We can't even get close enough.” I replied, finding that my own teeth were clenched in frustration, “You saw what happened to Sir Tidus just now.”

    Yet as it would turn out, Sanika took to removing herself from battle to call others into play in her stead, “I’m afraid you two must take care of these weaklings, I have much more important matters to take care of.”

    “Do not take long Sanika, you know what your father said.” The blade-armed male advised, getting into position.

    “Yes Uncle I know.”


    With that, she went back for Nikki, which freed us to battle the other two. A recovering Joseph launched himself at the man Sanika had named “Uncle” so I nodded to Cyan and Tidus and engaged the girl.


    At mid-range, she utilised her bow to send bolts of elemental magic at us. After all we'd been through, this was a pathetic offence to be sure, even if I could smell the support Sanika had given her. Blurry Moon shattered the arrows with ease, gaining us enough momentum to have both Cyan and Tidus rush her, forcing her to fall back on her dagger. Cyan struck her hard, forcing her down on one knee before letting her go just in time to catch a stiff Spiral Cut from Tidus, which planted her into the ground.

    “Sanika stop playing.” Uncle scolded, having seen the tide of battle change.

    “Oh I’ll only play for a little while Uncle, you two can have fun while I’ll watch” Sanika mused, casting a telepathic version of Cure magic on them both.


    Even so, Uncle was having difficulties facing Joseph, who was being reinforced by Kyra, the twins, and Gideon. Despite the physical trauma that was evident in his step, Joseph was relentless in his attack and pushed Uncle to his limits.

    “Sit still, samurai and die already,” He growled.

    “In your dreams,”

    Back on our end, the girl had come into her own psychic powers, though they were far from comparable to Sanika's. With the addition of Val, her defeat was guaranteed. Cyan took to distracting her, keeping her from focusing on any one of us. I provided cover for the others with Blurry Moon, making use of its Deathstrike ability in an unorthodox way. I slammed the sword into the ground, the ability destabilising it and further hindering the girl's concentration while Val and Tidus shot and slashed away. She was again forced to use her dagger, but Val's potent magics rendered it useless and Tidus' combat experience in the battle against Sin made this bout a laughable contest.


    On the other end, Joseph had hit a ditch. Sanika had grown bored of monitoring the battle and returned to face him again. “I’ll play around with the samurai a bit Uncle. You deal with the other pest,”


    “Now before I kill you, how about letting me see what your thoughts are hmm?”


    With that, she did something and caused Joseph considerable amounts of pain and also provoked him into an odd glare, his eyes rapidly moving back and forth as if watching something rush past his eyes.

    “Oh. Even though you want to live, it seems that you have an undertone of death seeking. That would not be surprising really, you samurais have always embraced death but you are determined to live. I wonder why, Oh, this is hilarious! Who would have thought that you love the Kyra girl as well!” She suddenly cackled, the information she revealed more damaging than any of her previous actions, “Oh that would explain why you fight so hard doesn’t it? Who would’ve thought that both you and Nikki could love the same woman!”


    Both Cyan and I turned our attention to Kyra and Nikki, who were staring at the scene. Kyra seemed to be taken aback by this, but Nikki became distant. Taking my eyes to Cyan, we both agreed she must not have taken it lightly.

    “Well since Kyra is so precious to both you and Nikki, how about I kill her first?” She mused, turning her attention to us.


    I readied my Blurry Moon, but she wasn't finished, adding, “No, that would be too merciful. I know what to do. I will torture her slowly in front of both of you. I will watch as you two lose hope and faith. I want to see the look in your eyes the moment I kill her and before I kill you. That way I can break Nikki as well,”


    “Nikki, Kyra, don't listen to her taunts. That's just what...” Cyan stated, barring both from entering the fray.


    However, neither of them were who we should have worried about... “DON”T YOU DARE TOUCH HER!”


    'What an emotional response! Nikki, I'm sure you felt it, too.' The voice of Sanika echoed as she escaped back to higher ground.


    For a moment, I hadn't understood why I had heard it, but my attention would soon be drawn by the reverberations to the secluded corner of Bevelle's Temple where little Asuka's head peeked out, stunned by the fight.


    'Mishka Mishka! There's something you need to hear!'


    Her voice was disorienting and seemed to echo from all sides. The sounds of the battle were drowned by her and it couldn't have come at a worse time. The girl we had beaten just before was rising again. What was worse, she was amplified further by Sanika than she had been before. Now, her ploy was to split into several images, all placed at random about us, all with bows aimed and a different elemental arrow poised to strike.


    'Mishka, it's very important!'


    “Dammit, I can't be listening to this right now!” I grumbled, arming Blurry Moon and making the most of my other senses.


    I was just able to destroy the few bolts that were headed for me, but once all the arrows were released, the archer's various images shifted to different positions and armed themselves again. By this time, Joseph had gone on his mad rampage against Sanika, launching Uncle backwards with great force. He was ultimately defeated by Sanika, but it wasn't stopping him from charging in again.


    'Mishka! Listen to me!'


    With my senses useless to me, I quickly signaled the others, but Nikki already knew what needed to be done. Sending a Triple Arrow between Uncle and Joseph, she stopped the samurai's suicidal run and regrouped the sides. The archer's images faded and returned her to Uncle's side while Sanika loomed in the distance, healing them back to full health once more. As the others headed off to fight, I finally found myself with the opportunity to respond to the girl shouting at me in my mind.


    'How are you doing that?'


    'Doing what?'


    'Talking to me in my head!'


    'Oh, I can talk to anyone who is like us.'


    'Us? I'm no psychic.'


    'If you weren't, I couldn't talk to you like this.' She was being cute... at a time like this... 'Sorry, Mishka. We shouldn't talk about your mentalness now. I need to tell you something!'


    'You've been bloody going on about that for the past ten minutes! Say it already!'I spat, though I hadn't meant to be so upset, 'Sorry, it's just, now's not the best time to chat.'


    'Right! Mishka, the scarey lady is lying!'


    'Lying? How so?'I asked, though what I had really wanted to say was, 'You mean she's not really there and we're all hallucinating so we can all go run back down to Via Infinito now and have at the fiends that are much easier?'


    'She's not this mean. She's lying to make Nikki worried! Here, you should listen for yourself!'


    Not what I wanted. As the girl didn't know how to truly control her power, what she ended up doing was having Sanika's form emblazoned on my vision, her eyes glaring intensely at me, while her voice, much as Asuka's had previously, beamed out from all sides, 'How dare she deceive her like this. Father will not be pleased. I must cleanse her, make her see that she's been lied to. My poor dear sister. It will be alright now. I'm here and all will be set right again.'


    “Watch out!” Just as the vision cleared, I found myself underneath an overhead strike by Uncle, bearing down on me with his bladed arm.


    Blurry Moon lunged forth and caught it, suddenly evoking Slowstrike to allow me the opportunity to capitalise on his failed attack. Taking hold of the sword, I repositioned it for a horizontal slash, cutting enough into Uncle's middle to force him into retreat. However, directly behind him was the archer who timed her arrow perfectly so that just as he fled, the tip was upon me, far too close for me to deflect or destroy. Nikki's arrow came at me, as well, its angle sending it to my left just in time to split the other arrow down the center, its two halves harmlessly flying to either side of me.


    I took Asuka's words to heart and now knew Sanika's true plan. Though she had been assigned to murder Joseph, she had ulterior motives in recovering Nikki for the gang. Her move with Joseph had already worked, the normally composed samurai having been reduced to a raging savage, equipped with two blades that set him off balance even if it provided greater power. Meanwhile, Nikki seemed to have been conversely affected, fighting harder after hearing Sanika proclaim Joseph's love for Kyra rather than being weakened by it.


    Seeing how Joseph wasn't backing down no matter how dangerous his advances were, I moved towards Cyan and Gideon.


    “We have to stop him before he gets himself killed.”


    “Easier said than done.” Gideon said, pointing out how driven the samurai had become since Sanika's threat.


    “Looks like we need to try a different strategy.”


    “Just how sharp do you think those swords of his are?”


    Both Cyan and I answered, “Sharp.”


    “Bugger...”


    With the two of them on Joseph, I concentrated on Sanika and also had an odd plan in mind. While Nikki fired a direct hit on the archer, forcing her away with Uncle, I crept up behind her and took the hook of Blurry Moon to her nape. Nikki was surprised, to be sure, but I would soon make her understand.


    “You're the cause of all this, aren't you Nikki? Sanika's only here because of you!”


    “What do you think you're doing?” Sanika growled.


    “Taking care of loose ends, it would seem. You continue this attack, I'll make heads roll.”


    'And you know I can do it.' I said to her in my mind, having sensed the reverberations of her prying her way inside.


    Blurry Moon charged for Deathstrike and Sanika began backing away, taking worried eyes to Uncle and the archer. The peek into Sanika's true motives by Asuka was working well. I needed only keep true to the bluff and hold until they folded. We were ill-equipped to face Sanika as we were. We needed time and, if she believed Nikki's own teammates could turn on her at a moment's notice, hopefully she'd reconsider her direct approach. I only had to keep steady. I couldn't afford any distractions. Sanika had her sensors all about me and the truth of matters has a way of seeping out unwantedly.

    ~ AUTO-MERGED POSTS ~


    The archer was so focused on Kyra that Nikki found it very easy to just suddenly charge into battle with a triple arrow on her, however she instead found herself just firing one arrow into her arm, something had told her that this girl looked familiar, there was something inside her that was telling her to not to full blown attack her. Easier said than done.” Thought Nikki

    However with Mishka, Cyan, Val, Kyra and Sir Tidus against her it seemed like she was overwhelmed,Sanika is making this way too easy, what is she planning?” Nikki didn’t have too long to find out though, because suddenly Sanika entered her mind.

    Now little Nikki let’s see how easy it is to wind up this Samurai, I am a little bored now.” Nikki watched as she suddenly teleported down, Nikki was about to charge in front of her but once again Sanika kept her frozen there.

    Fuck it Sanika what are you going to do?”

    Just watch.”

    “I’ll play around with the samurai a bit Uncle. You deal with the other pest. Now before I kill you, how about letting me see what your thoughts are hmm?” She suddenly threw Joseph against the wall and had him pinned there while she looked into his mind. “Oh. Even though you want to live, it seems that you have an undertone of death seeking. That would not be surprising really, you samurais have always embraced death but you are determined to live. I wonder why,”

    Sanika!!!” screamed Nikki in her head.

    Shhhh little Nikki, this is getting to be fun, now let’s really push some buttons”

    “Oh, this is hilarious! Who would have thought that you love the Kyra girl as well!” she laughed. “Oh that would explain why you fight so hard doesn’t it? Who would’ve thought that both you and Nikki could love the same woman!” she said, laughing.

    “What...” said Nikki in a whisper.

    Poor, poor little Nikki, don’t worry I shall punish him.” But by this time Nikki was in a whirl of thoughts was what Sanika was saying the truth, but how and why?

    “Well since Kyra is so precious to both you and Nikki, how about I kill her first? No, that would be too merciful. I know what to do. I will torture her slowly in front of both of you. I will watch as you two lose hope and faith. I want to see the look in your eyes the moment I kill her and before I kill you. That way I can break Nikki as well,” Something inside of Nikki told her that she was lying but still that statement made Nikki even more aware, she gripped her bow, willing to die for Kyra if she had to, suddenly all that fear she had melted away, she wouldn’t let anyone hurt her.

    “Nikki, Kyra, don't listen to her taunts. That's just what...”

    “DON”T YOU DARE TOUCH HER!”

    What an emotional response! Nikki, I'm sure you felt it, too.” Nikki didn’t answer her. “Come, come dear Nikki do you think I meant what I said, of course I didn’t, but it’s okay now, you know the truth the girl doesn’t love you. Don’t you worry” Nikki stopped in her current thoughts at that.

    Is it true? Is there really no future, have I been fooling myself?” Sanika now didn’t answer her but that seemed to make Nikki even more determined to focus, a part of her was screaming at herself to not listen, and for now she pushed those doubts deep inside her, she found a strength inside her to face this head on. The archer that was defeated before sat up after being healed again by Sanika who had teleported high up, seemingly to ponder on something. The archer split into several images of herself, from afar Nikki could see she has surround Mishka and the others so Nikki decided firing arrows at the images to try and disperse them one by one. However Nikki was also aware that Joseph was charging for Sanika but she quickly threw him like a puppet to the side, he was about to charge into the battle again in a mad rage. Sanika was laughing in Nikki’s head saying how weak he was. Get out of my head.”

    Now, now little Nikki surely you don’t mean that.”

    Get out!” she yelled in her head.

    Sweetie, you poor thing, you’re so confused, don’t worry I’ll take you home after this, I’ll look after you.” Nikki ignored her and immediately fired a triple arrow at the ground between the red mage and Joseph, keeping him from making a stupid mistake. The archer returned all the rest of the images to herself and returned to the red mage’s side. Sanika once again healed both of them from the top of the temple, she was no longer in Nikki’s head which was a good sign. The archer’s attention turned to Nikki as she fired poison arrows at her. Nikki fired her own arrows blocking the poison ones. Kyra was now fighting the red mage aiding the twins, while at the same time trying to keep Joseph from doing anything stupid. Nikki was fighting with Val and Gideon while Cyan was with Mishka who was for some reason was in some sort of daze like someone was speaking to her. But Sanika was paying no attention her, actually Sanika looked quite bored she was swinging her legs and sighing.

    Shit she’s getting bored.” Nikki knew from when she talked about Sanika that when she got bored she would enter the battle herself. They were running out of time. An arrow struck Nikki in the arm and Nikki immediately used the last chocobo feather she had to cast haste on herself. She ignored the pain in her arm and pulled out the arrow, she hissed at the pain, and then ran at the archer dodging all the arrows being fired at her she nearly got close but Sanika pushed her back with her magic.

    Now, now Nikki I told you no.” This was getting ridiculous, Sanika wasn’t going to let her battle at all, all she wanted to do was to watch the others but not let Nikki protect her friends.

    “Watch out” all Nikki could do was watch helplessly until Sanika decided to turn her attention of something else as she watched Mishka block an attack from the red mage. However as she she manged to make the red mage flee Mishka was in grave danger of being killed by the archer who was close to her, Nikki fired her own arrow as the archer fired hers, the arrow splintered as they collided. Now that Sanika seemed to be not focusing on her Nikki fired a triple arrow at the archer, she dodged both of them but was hit by the third. She saw Gideon had now gone to attack Joseph probably trying to knock him out so he wouldn’t do anything else stupid.

    Suddenly Nikki felt someone grab her from behind and Mishka’s sword was lighting pressed to her neck.

    What the hell?”

    “You're the cause of all this, aren't you Nikki? Sanika's only here because of you!”

    This is either very stupid or very smart.” She understood now by threatening herself, Sanika would be at odds on what to do, but would it be enough to break through her barrier.

    “What do you think you're doing?”

    “Taking care of loose ends, it would seem. You continue this attack, I'll make heads roll.”

    “Mishka what the hell are you doing?!” From the corner of her eye she could see Kyra looking distraught but Paine was blocking her way. Sanika was looking worried, it seemed the plan was working, but then Sanika’s eyes sparked with anger.

    “You will not touch her slayer!” Nikki could feel her magic pounding onto the floor and a wave of it struck at the floor sending both of them flying Mishka’s sword flew into the opposite direction leaving her defenseless. Nikki sat up holding her head she looked around and saw that Joseph was now unconscious due to the fight between him and Gideon, the twins were now trying to revive him and Kyra came over to asking whether she was alright. Sanika kept advancing towards Mishka, holding her up with her magic much like she had done with Joseph.

    “Mishka!” cried out Cyan

    “How dare you touch her! You insignificant pest I should...” she paused and dropped Mishka who landed in a heap; Cyan went straight to Mishka who was now holding her head. But Nikki was more concerned with what had stopped Sanika, her eyes glanced around the room and fell upon Kyra, a pit suddenly entered Nikki . Nikki quickly stood in front of Kyra.

    “Don’t you dare!” Sanika however not listening to her threw her to the side and Nikki found her back burning in pain as she skidded across the ground.

    “How dare you! You lie to her, making out that you care for her, when you don’t. You little bitch I shall break you apart, you have broken her heart into tiny pieces so I shall break you into tiny pieces!” Nikki sat up to find Kyra slowly being lifted into the air.

    “But I-“ Sanika interrupted her.

    “Silence!” her voice boomed. Nikki quickly looked across the room to see that Joseph had been revived. They both ran at her from both sides, the only thought of protecting Kyra took control now but it wasn’t enough she threw both of them to the side.

    “Let’s see, how about your legs” A cracking sound was heard and Kyra screamed out in pain with tears running down her face, however Sanika seemed to laugh and was clearly enjoying it, Nikki stomach tightened, there was nothing she could do to distract her physically but...

    “Sanika stop this! If you truly care for me you’ll stop this right now!” However Sanika was as Nikki feared too far gone to be reached. And she began breaking Kyra’s finger’s one by one each scream and pain just made Nikki wallow more and more, not knowing what to do anymore.

    “Umm Sanika...” the archer seemed to have a conscious cause even she was trying to stop her.

    “Don’t interrupt her.” said the red mage.

    “But it’s the samurai we are after.”

    “Still don’t interrupt.”

    “Stop it! Stop it! Stop it! Stop it!” cried out a young voice Nikki turned to see Asuka run into the middle of the room.

    “Asuka stay back!”cried out Nikkki in fear, Kyra screamed out again Sanika had now broken an arm. Asuka shook her head. And she cried.

    “Please stop it, please someone help her!” she cried out. At that Asuka glowed a purple aura, she seemed to be gathering power, the whole temple seemed to shake.

    “What the hell is happening?!”

    “I can feel it, she’s gathering power, Sanika’s power. Sanika’s power is covered all over the temple, she’s sort of sucking it up. I’ve gotta help!” With that beams of purple light shot out of Yuki and went into Asuka. Kyra was suddenly dropped and Sanika stood back from the girl. Immediately Nikki went over to her, she seemed to be in an awful lot of pain so Nikki gave her a hi potion for her wounds, it hurt Nikki to see her like this.

    “Oh how interesting” said Sanika

    A sound of a clock rang through the temple three times, the area around Kyra began to distort.

    “What the fuck is happening now?”

    “I’m getting help.” Asuka’s voice seem to bounce from all sides due to the massive amount of power she was wielding.

    “I recognize this, it’s time compression, I can hear him.”

    “Hear who?” asked Nikki as she helped her sit up. But it seemed Kyra didn’t have time to answer, three orbs came from within Kyra and headed to the sky.

    “Impossible!” she heard Yuna gasp. Hundreds of bats seem to appear from nowhere, they gathered together and merged into a huge ball, the squeaking was deafening and Sanika ordered Uncle and the archer to stay back.

    “Something powerful is arriving.” Sanika said. Something began to lower from the ball, at first it looked like an Aeon but Nikki had never seen an Aeon like this. The beast had a red body with wings that were black on the outside but red on the inside. It had yellow eyes, a black face with what looked like black horns sticking out from the sides. It had fierce teeth, black scales and long claws, the legs had a tint of purple and it had a long thin body.

    “Diablos” said Kyra. The creature that Kyra had now called Diablos unfolded its arms and wings and glared at Sanika.

    “Now this will be fun, it dares to threaten me.” She laughed, it seemed she could communicate to it by telepathy.

    “An Aeon?!” questioned Yuna.

    “No this is something different, it came from Kyra’s time and i have a feeling this wont last for long.” Replied Paine. Diablos then reached his arm up and pulses of energy began flowing into the ball above him, he then suddenly stuck him arm in and with a roar flung the ball towards Sanika flung up a barrier to protect herself and the ball exploded on impact. Diablos just growled.

    Then a lot of things happened at once the red mage ordered the archer to strike Asuka, the archer quickly aimed for Asuka who was too busy concentrating, Nikki was too slow to notice and was too late when she did because the archer had already fired, but with a burst of speed Asuka was suddenly pushed aside by someone in a white cloak, a white mage. Asuka opened her eyes, the area around Kyra turned to normal and Diablos turned back into bats and flew away in a squeak. The white mage seemed to be struck in the arm, as both her and Asuka sat up Nikki could see that in fact it was Raine who had saved her.

    “Are you okay?” asked Asuka.

    “I’m fine.” She said as she took out the arrow in her arm she then aimed a holy spell at the archer who quickly dodged it. Raine then looked up and glared at Sanika. However Nikki was now once again in a whirl of thoughts.

    What’s Raine doing here, why would she come here?”

    “You’re group ruins lives! I’ve seen countless of families, shaken by fear of owing money, young girls come back shaken to the core by what you do to them. What gives you the right to take lives Sanika? What gives you the right to take away family and friends?! “ Raine hand balled into a fist. “You took away my best friend and turned her into someone I do not recognize anymore!”

    “We don’t take them, they choose to come, where they are safe and have a roof, you were the one that abandoned little Nikki.” Answered Sanika calmly, all the battle seem to have stopped Uncle and the archer were at a distance and all focus seemed to have drifted to this conversation.

    “But that was after, when she came back, and I’m not proud of that, but still you ruin lives, you hurt those girls.”

    “You know what she says in the truth.” Nikki turned to see Hayleigh smiling at Sanika as if she was greeting an old friend. “I heard you didn’t even didn’t stop Nikki from escaping,, that’s because deep down somewhere you know the truth Sanika.”

    “Sanika don’t listen to them!” said the red mage.

    “Yes I shouldn’t listen to you, Father says that you abandoned me, you lie to me and you are meant to be my friend.”

    “But I am your friend Sanika, this is why I’m telling you, did you ever wonder where those girls get those scars from, why you fear even looking inside Nikki’s head for the truth , she never considered the gang a family, she was frightened scared and alone. Much like that archer next to you who I believe is Suki’s sister.” Then Nikki remembered this was Rika, Suki’s sister, the sister that Suki was so desperately waiting for her to come home.

    “This is very troubling,”

    “Sanika we have a job here!” said Uncle.

    “Quiet!” Sanika then teleported away, leaving the teleport open to the other two. A sound of the temple door opening and Suki came rushing in, seeing her sister enter the portal along with Uncle she cried out.

    “Rika!!”
    Rika the archer paused and looked at her.

    “Rika.” Said Uncle forcefully, Rika then nodded and entered the portal along with Uncle the red mage, as the portal closed Suki broke down in tears crying out her sister’s name. Kai entered with his best friend Lian along with Lillia who rushed over to Asuka saying how worried she was about her. Nikki sat down in exhaustion not quite believing that they had survived the kids seemed to have gathered and were talking quietly to each other. Nikki’s heart pounded and Raine had now gone to tend to everyone’s wounds talking quietly to Joseph. Doubts began to fill Nikki’s mind now about the future between her and Kyra, what Sanika said had stung. Mishka and Cyan got up and began to leave, but not before Nikki commented that Mishka had the most “stupid fucking insane plan ever.” To which Mishka only grinned to annoy Nikki.

    Nikki got up the doubts getting to her she sadly walked away until Raine shouted over to her.

    “Don’t you dare run away! Not after I came here, not after it took all that courage to stand up against Sanika, you can’t run away from me, not now!”Surprised Nikki turned around Sanika looked a bit surprised at herself, she looked a bit embarrassed since she got the whole attention of the temple and she continued. “I mean... Please just sit down.” Hayleigh just smiled and walked over to them and put a hand on Nikki’s shoulder.

    “Perhaps a better idea would be if you Nikki go to Kyley’s, Tomoya rescued a girl who was part of the gang, we were hoping that you can talk to her. She seems very much scarred and is only fourteen.” She then turn to Raine.” Then you can catch up to Nikki later when you are done. Raine simply nodded and Nikki turned towards the temple doors past the kids. Lian was a cheeky fourteen year old but had more sense than Kai not to annoy Nikki, he had ginger short hair and freckles and was dressed in black trousers, blue shirt and had one ear pierced in a small silver stud, he had blue eyes. Nikki looked at Kai and saw something was troubling him.

    “What’s wrong?” Kai suddenly looked up and grinned.

    “Nothing sexy.” Nikki groaned and wacked him over the head.

    “Make sure he stays out of trouble.” She said to Lian.

    “Aye aye” he saluted, Nikki groaned again and walked out of the temple door.

    ~ AUTO-MERGED POSTS ~

    Kyra kept her concentration on the archer. She noticed that Nikki’s attention had gone to Sanika again. She was floating down and planning something.

    “I’ll play around with the samurai a bit Uncle. You deal with the other pest.” She said. Kyra was about ready to lose it when she heard what she said next. “Now before I kill you, how about letting me see what your thoughts are hmm?” Was this his time to die? No. Sanika was playing with him sifting through his thoughts. “Oh. Even though you want to live, it seems that you have an undertone of death seeking. That would not be surprising really, you samurais have always embraced death but you are determined to live. I wonder why.” After more sifting, she burst into laughter. Just what exactly was so funny?

    “Oh, this is hilarious! Who would have thought that you love the Kyra girl as well!” she laughed. “Oh that would explain why you fight so hard doesn’t it? Who would’ve thought that both you and Nikki could love the same woman?”

    Kyra was taken aback. Is this true? I get that he cared but is it love? What...the hell?” She felt a mix of sadness, shock, and fear. There could have been more emotions running through her, but she needed to keep her focus.

    “Well since Kyra is so precious to both you and Nikki, how about I kill her first? No, that would be too merciful. I know what to do. I will torture her slowly in front of both of you. I will watch as you two lose hope and faith. I want to see the look in your eyes the moment I kill her and before I kill you. That way I can break Nikki as well,”

    Wait! Kill me? Torture me?!” more fear poured into her body.

    “Nikki, Kyra, don't listen to her taunts. That's just what...” Cyan said.

    How do you fucking know that?. Kyra was shaking, but she had to keep her composure.

    “DON’T YOU DARE TOUCH HER!” Joseph yelled as he gained strength. Joseph had gone into a mad dash for the red mage, and eventually Sanika. She knocked him back like he was nothing.

    Kyra was lost in confusion, but she needed to fight. With Joseph rendered useless, she attacked the red mage flanking the twins. She rushed him as did with the archer, but he was stronger and more experienced. The twins cast protect and haste on Kyra which helped, but barely. His black magic spells were powerful and he healed himself after each heavy blow Kyra delivered. The battle was again going in circles. Other attempts to bring down the red mage were made by Joseph, but none were at all successful. All of his anger was coming out making him too strong. He was making too many stupid mistakes. Kyra made some attempts to stop him mid rage. Nothing lasted long. He was too stubborn to stay down. The red mage made a dash for Mishka when he noticed she was in a daze about something. Did it have something to do with Sanika too? Kyra didn’t know what to think anymore.

    Gideon shortly went to deal with Joseph. Mishka took a different approach. She crept up behind Nikki while she was distracted. Kyra watched. Too confused to use a logical sense. Before she knew it, Mishka’s sword was at Nikki’s neck. Kyra panicked.

    “You're the cause of all this, aren't you Nikki? Sanika's only here because of you!”

    “What do you think you're doing?” Sanika growled.

    “Taking care of loose ends, it would seem. You continue this attack, I'll make heads roll.”

    Kyra ran towards them, but was stopped in mid stride by Paine. “Mishka what the hell are you doing?!” she cried. Paine put a rational sense to what was happened which calmed Kyra down slightly. At least someone still had their wits about themselves in this battle.

    “You will not touch her slayer!”

    Kyra could feel intense magic build before a shockwave hit the ground sending both Mishka and Nikki back in opposite direction of each other. Cyan ran to Mishka and Kyra ran to Nikki to see if she was okay.

    Sanika was still advancing toward Mishka. She picked her up just as she did with Joseph.

    “Mishka!” Cyan cried out.

    “How dare you touch her! You insignificant pest I should...” she paused and dropped Mishka who landed like a ragdoll toy. She began searching the room slowly. Making sure every corner was checked. What was she looking for? Her eyes stopped at Kyra. Time felt like it almost stopped. Fear had completely taken hold of Kyra now. She watched at Nikki quickly stood in front of her and put her arms out. She didn’t hear what was said. Nikki was sent across the temple in another flash though. There was no escape for Kyra. There was no escape from death.

    “How dare you! You lie to her, making out that you care for her, when you don’t. You little bitch I shall break you apart, you have broken her heart into tiny pieces so I shall break you into tiny pieces!” Kyra started to rise slowly from the ground like Sanika had done with Joseph and Mishka just moments before.

    “But I-“ The magic vice around her tightened. She couldn’t speak. It was as if Sanika was squeezing her entire body.

    “Silence!” her voice boomed. Kyra didn’t know what to think. Too much was going on. She could almost feel Sanika searching for a place on her body to break. She was stuck there in mid air being tortured and picked apart like an insect.

    “Let’s see, how about your legs.” With a quick snap, pain entered Kyra’s body immediately. It was overwhelmingly horrible. Kyra let out a scream. She could feel tears running down her face. She was helpless to her own situation. Defenseless. Vulnerable. Is this what death feels like?

    More pain entered her body as each finger was broken. Just as she thought a person couldn’t endure more pain; it grew with each crack of the bone. One after the other. She heard Nikki’s voice, but she couldn’t understand a word. The pain was overwhelming. She wouldn’t stop. Kyra heard others try to get her to stop. All she could feel was pain. She wanted to get this to stop. How could this stop?

    Kyra was suddenly dropped and she saw Sanika step back. Pain was still surging throughout Kyra’s body. Even breathing hurt. Every movement hurt more. Nikki gave her a hi potion, but it barely helped. She was at her wits end.

    She heard a clock ring three times and what she thought was someone calling her name, but it was faint. She heard it again. It was the voice of what sounded like a brusque elder man. She recognised it, but it was voice she hasn’t heard in a long time. The pain in her body was slowly decreasing as she felt the voice grow closer. “My lady, I am here.”

    Diablos?! How?”

    “What the fuck is happening now?”

    “I’m getting help.” Asuka’s voice seemed to bounce from all sides due to the massive amount of power she was wielding.

    “I recognize this, it’s time compression, I can hear him.” Kyra could finally speak again.

    “Hear who?” Nikki asked as she helped her sit up. But it seemed Kyra didn’t have time to answer, three orbs came from within Kyra and headed to the sky.

    I’m healed?” She thought as she stood.

    Yes M’Lady. I heard your cries for help. Allow me to defeat this sorceress for you.”

    Sorceresses don’t exist here. This....is much worse. Do your best Sir.”

    Diablos’ entrance was dramatic as always. Hundreds of bats flew in from all sides and made a giant blob of black. When the blob reached its full mass, he lowered down to show himself.

    “Diablos.” Kyra said. After she said that, he stretched out his wings and roared.

    You dare harm my Kyra. I will smite you!” He snarled.

    “Now this will be fun, it dares to threaten me.” She laughed.

    Cocky. Filthy Human. He growled.

    He charged his Dark Messenger attack. He raised his arm and the large ball above him began to pulse. He reached his arm into the massive blob and threw it as Sanika with a roar. She immediately set up a protective barrier and just protected herself from the attack. The ball exploded on impact but she was left unharmed.

    IMPOSSIBLE! WHO ARE YOU?” he growled loudly.

    Sanika didn’t seem to reply.

    You’ve done well Diablos. You were always my best.

    Diablos Roared and dispersed when the time compression broke.

    Kyra noticed a lot had happened when she was concentrating. Someone in a white cloak had protected Asuka from getting hit by the archer’s arrow.

    “Are you okay?” asked Asuka.

    “I’m fine.” She said as she took out the arrow in her arm she then aimed a holy spell at the archer who quickly dodged it. Raine then looked up and glared at Sanika.

    Raine? How much did she see?”

    “Your group ruins lives! I’ve seen countless of families, shaken by fear of owing money, young girls come back shaken to the core by what you do to them. What gives you the right to take lives Sanika? What gives you the right to take away family and friends?!” Raine’s hand balled into a fist. “You took away my best friend and turned her into someone I do not recognize anymore!”

    “We don’t take them, they choose to come, where they are safe and have a roof, you were the one that abandoned little Nikki.” Answered Sanika calmly, all the battle seem to have stopped Uncle and the archer were at a distance and all focus seemed to have drifted to this conversation.

    “But that was after, when she came back, and I’m not proud of that, but still you ruin lives, you hurt those girls.”

    “You know what she says in the truth.” Kyra turned to see Hayleigh smiling at Sanika as if she was greeting an old friend. “I heard you didn’t even didn’t stop Nikki from escaping, that’s because deep down somewhere you know the truth Sanika.”

    “Sanika don’t listen to them!” The Red Mage called out.

    “Yes I shouldn’t listen to you, Father says that you abandoned me, you lie to me and you are meant to be my friend.”

    “But I am your friend Sanika, this is why I’m telling you, did you ever wonder where those girls get those scars from, why you fear even looking inside Nikki’s head for the truth, she never considered the gang a family, she was frightened scared and alone. Much like that archer next to you who I believe is Suki’s sister.”

    “This is very troubling,”

    “Sanika we have a job here!” said the red mage.

    “Quiet!” Sanika then teleported away, leaving the teleport open to the other two. A sound of the temple door opening and Suki came rushing in, seeing her sister enter the portal along with Uncle she cried out.

    “Rika!!”

    Rika the archer paused and looked at her.

    “Rika.” The red mage said sternly. Rika nodded then proceeded through the portal. As the portal closed, Suki broke down in tears calling out her sister’s name. This hit a heart string for Kyra. It was sad to watch. The others entered into the temple as well. Lillia went to Asuka to see if she was okay.

    Kyra was concerned about her own body. She moved her fingers one by one, then her arms and legs. I’m fine? How was any of this even possible? How am I not dead? And time compression? Diablos... Why is any of this possible on Spira?!” Thoughts like these continued through Kyra’s mind. She noticed Nikki get up from where she was sitting. She was in deep thought. Kyra wanted to talk to her badly, but she was already starting to leave.

    Then she heard Raine shout, “Don’t you dare run away! Not after I came here, not after it took all that courage to stand up against Sanika, you can’t run away from me, not now!” Nikki stopped. Raine’s face was turning red as she noticed she’d gotten the attention of the whole temple. “I mean... Please just sit down.”

    Hayleigh went over to the both of them and explained a better idea. It looked as though another girl was rescued from that gang. Kyra watched as Nikki turned to leave stopping to talk to Kai shortly. He seemed troubled, but didn’t say anything to Nikki. Kyra wondered why that was. As soon as Nikki left, Kai she noticed his anger grew. He then spoke.

    “She’s a coward!” He burst out.

    “Shhh, Kai not so loud.” Suki said in an attempt to calm him. She uses her hands in a downward motion in an attempt to lower his volume.

    “I don’t care Kyra’s a coward she hasn’t decided who to go with so she’s stringing both of them along.” He blurted out again.

    Hold on! Who does he think he is…?” She thought. He wasn’t finished though. Far from it by the looks of it. She moved closer to the crowd that was now forming around him, but it didn’t look like he knew she was there.

    Asuka started to quiver with fright. “Please stop yelling...”

    Lillia was also trying to calm him down for Asuka’s sake, “Kai Asuka’s right here...”

    Kai was still on a rant however, “She going to hurt Nikki and break her, I won’t see Nikki broken again, if she doesn’t she’ll move far from Bevelle. She doesn’t care who she hurts just as long as she gets what she wants.” She could see he was getting emotional.

    And what do I want exactly?” She thought getting annoyed with the assumptions.

    “I don’t think it’s like that...” Suki said. She was right. Asuka’s cried became louder. She was focusing a lot on Kai’s aura, but it was Kyra’s only indicator as to just how angry Kai was. She felt for sympathy for him.

    “KAI!” Lillia yelled trying to get him to stop.

    Kyra heard Raine try to calm her down. “Oh dear Asuka, she can’t help but feel Kai’s aura at the moment and his emotions. Try to channel that energy into something else Asuka focus on Lillia here.” It seemed to work for the most part. Asuka stopped shaking.

    Kai piped up again, “And do you know what we call people like her, WHORE that’s what!” He’d done it.

    “ Kai no!” Lillia yelled.

    “WHORE that’s what!” he repeated.

    Kyra was shocked. It’s one thing to assume, another to call Kyra a whore. Fuck you, sympathy’s gone.” She started to make her way over to Kai, making her presence known, if it wasn’t already obvious. NO ONE calls Kyra a whore and gets away with it!

    Lian noticed Kyra’s anger. “He’s a dead man,” He was standing close to Kai.

    Kyra still hadn’t said a word out loud. There was too much anger and irritation for her to. Her face was turning a mild red because of it. As soon as she was within arm’s distance of Kai, she slapped him hard, being sure to leave an imprint.

    “Ouch” Lian said.

    Kai’s eyes widened as he brought his hand up to his cheek.

    “Kai, go home you’ve done enough!” Raine said.

    Kai walks out of the temple without a word. Lian looked back at Kyra as they both left. Suki approached Kyra and gave an apologetic look.

    “I'm so sorry, I don't know, I don't know what's gotten into him." She said.

    Asuka and Lillia approached Kyra as well. "Kai didn't mean it, he's just really really upset and angry" Asuka said.

    No kidding.” Kyra thought, still pissed about the situation. Sure he didn’t mean it, sure the girls apologised, but it didn’t take back what was said. If an apology needed to be made, it needed to come from him.

    "Yeah but what got him so angry? He doesn't normally get angry like that." Lillia said afterward.

    Suki responded with an “I don't know..."

    Hayleigh approached the group. “Girls, Can I speak to Kyra?” the girls nod and leave chatting amongst themselves as they left the temple. Kyra sighed.

    “Don’t blame Kai, he’s very angry at the moment he overheard me and Kyley talking about the girl and he put two and two together and realised that Nikki was raped in the gang. I’m not condoning what he said about you, but a kid shouldn’t have to deal with that sort of knowledge.”

    ”Right. I’m also guessing he heard what happened during the battle. He shouldn’t judge me like that! He doesn’t know my situation! Where I even came from, OR how I feel about Nikki.” She said letting her own anger out. A tear fell from her eyes.

    Hayliegh sighed. "I know and again I'm not condoning what he did, you see Kai was only 8 when Nikki disappeared. Nikki was gone for a good two years. You see Nikki back then was very much a different girl to what you see now. She had a little bit of an attitude, but she was very fun loving and adventurous. When Nikki came back Kai saw a very different girl. She was a quivering wreck." She took another breath before she continued “Now I wasn't there, but from what Kyley told me Kai was very much upset to see her like this, but he would never show it in front of her. So when no one else could get through to her, Kai started to tease her. By teasing her Kai can get her to forget about the past even if it is just for a moment. And by doing that Kai was helping her Nikki. I really don't think even Nikki realises knows how much Kai truly helped her." She paused for another breath. "I hope that helps you to understand a little bit more, this is why he reacted badly, he's angry and scared."

    "It does help a little, but he shouldn't judge people he doesn't even know." Kyra said. She was obviously still upset about the matter.

    "I know and he will come round, I just hope he doesn't do anything stupid." She said

    "Thanks Hayleigh, I'll be around Bevelle. I have other things I need to take care of." Her voice trailed.

    "Okay but please make sure you talk to both Nikki and Joseph, I noticed she was looking very withdrawn when she left. She's probably thinking some insecure thoughts again; I think hearing that Joseph loved you shook her up." Her attention was drawn to Raine who had just come out of a door. "Ah you're finished."

    Raine looked nervous and fiddled with hands.

    "You know just standing there won’t do anything," Hayliegh said

    "You think she'll be done?" Raine replied.

    Hayliegh just smiled at Raine "I'm sure she will be."

    "Right... Umm okay." Raine took a deep breath and confidently walked on.

    “See ya Kyra!” Hayleigh waved as they exited the temple.



    Kyra exited the temple after what seemed like an eternity. Just what had gotten into the people of Spira lately? Joseph went insane and went on a mad rampage in the temple rendering him unconscious, Kai had judged Kyra to the max, and Rey found Kyra and now wanted to speak to her. Nikki is who knows where... Wait, I do know where Nikki is. I have to talk to Rey first though. Unfortunately”. What else could happen today? Seriously? And just what was that stunt Mishka pulled to get Sanika’s attention? Sanika almost pulled Kyra apart...The people of Spira are bloody mad. Kyra sighed and reached for the note in her pocket again.

    Meet me back at the shop when you’re out. Hope this helps ~Rey

    She let her hand heat up as she let out a small fire spell to burn the paper. She sighed. She really didn’t like this guy at all. The events that took place a year ago ran through her mind and angered her. I can’t deal with this right now, but it looks like I’m going to have to.” On the walk over to the shop, she somehow regained her composure thinking about what happened a year ago.

    The walk felt like an hour, but she made it in five minutes. She didn’t want to go inside the shop however. She took a seat on the bench outside. She figured Rey would notice before long. She tried her best to not make eye contact with the shop, or Rey as he exited the shop in a rush.

    “How long were you waiting?” He asked as he took a seat beside her.

    “Not long.” She replied quickly and calmly. There was an awkward silence between the two. Kyra got fed up, stood up and spoke, “If there’s something you need to say, say it.”

    “Someone’s in a bad mood. What’s gotten into you?” He asked.

    “I almost died a few too many times today. Am I not allowed to be upset? Why did you come here anyway?” Kyra crossed her arms.

    “Oh, the mission. To the point then. I’ve missed you. I searched everywhere for you. When I heard you were in Bevelle, I couldn’t help but set up shop here. Besides, Cid’s men could use the help anyway...Right?” He seemed cocky.

    “Don’t go in the Via Infinito. I warn you. That place freaks me out.” She said sternly. She wished this conversation would end soon.

    “Oh, okay fine. There’s more too. Look, I want you back. Yui’s been getting on my nerves and-“ Kyra interrupted.

    “Yui? The girl you CHEATED on me with? You’re an idiot. A fool for even coming here.” She uncrossed her arms now getting really frustrated with him.

    “Now that’s not nice to say.”

    Kyra sighed. “You remember that one night in Besaid when you gloating with your friend about Yui?”

    “You heard that?” he asked his face was now getting red.

    “Of course I heard it! The whole bloody town heard it!” Kyra yelled. She took a breath and calmed down before saying, “Look, if you’re here to apologise, do it.” She was getting fed up.

    “I’m sorry Kyra. I want you back! She’s long gone. Believe me.”

    “No. Can’t happen.” She turned around so her back was facing him.

    “Why?”

    “What’s it to you? I’m seeing someone.”

    “Who?”

    Kyra face was turning mildly red, “It’s a girl.”

    “A GIRL?” Rey balled his fist. “You’d see a girl. Of course you would! You little bitch!” He raised his arm to hit Kyra. When Kyra noticed, it was too late for her to react. She saw a man around Nikki’s age came in front of him and stopped his arm before it made contact with Kyra. His sword was pointed at Rey’s neck.

    “Who in the..?” Rey said unsuccessfully fighting back.

    “Didn’t your mother raise you not to hit girls?” The man said. “Especially nice ones like her.”

    “Hmph.” Rey said easing off. The mysterious man backed off as well. He was wearing a black vest with the collar popped up, black elbow coverings with a metal plate on the outside of the both of them with black fingerless gloves. His hair was short, spiky and also black.

    Wait, does he know me? I recognise him. It’s”... “Rhyse?”

    “That’s me!” he said. “Are you alright?”

    “Sure...” Kyra replied. Was she really fine? Spira was going insane.

    “Just what is going on here?” a female albhed walked behind Rey.

    “Oh, uh, Hi Yui. When did you get here?”

    “Just now. Oh, is that Kyra? What’s she doing here?” she said in a disgusted tone.

    Rey just gawked.

    “Yes, it’s Kyra, and I’m done here. Rey, don’t EVER talk to me again.” She turned to Rhyse. “Can we go?”

    “After you!” he said cheerfully. He followed as Kyra turned around and walked away.

    After a pause that consisted of Kyra collecting her thoughts, she spoke. “Thanks for saving me. I don’t know what I would have done if you hadn’t.”

    “No worries. What was that about anyway?”

    “Don’t even ask. It’s not important.” She said. He nodded not fully understanding. “How are you anyway?”

    "I'm good, just a little lost." He said.

    “Lost?”

    “Yeah you see I haven't been home in a year and I don't normally come this way. If I find the temple then I could find my place from there" He scratched his head.

    "Home? This is where you’re from then? I just left the temple not long ago. I don’t mind walking back that way."

    Ah would you like to come over to my place while you are at it, I haven't seen you in six months. It would be good to catch up"

    Kyra noticed Rhyse was looking happier than when she had last seen him. “Sure! I see you're happier now. It's good to see."

    "yeah I feel it too! Oh so it was this way!" he said finding his way again. "It'll be good to see my little bro and everyone again"

    Kyra nodded. The walk was short. It was odd to see him again though. The first time they met, it was Luca 6 months ago. They had a few conversations over coffee. Rhyse’s house was on the other side of the temple. It looked quite nice from what Kyra saw. Rhyse walked in.

    "And here we are... Hello!!! Anyone home? Raine? Sakura? No? A dog suddenly ran into the hallway and began to bark and wanted attention from both Kyra and Rhyse, “Oh hello there” Rhyse went to pet the dog but it went to Kyra instead. “She got a dog" he moaned.

    Kyra laughed. She kept petting the dog as Rhyse went over to the table to find a note left from Raine. "Shit... Sakura died not that long ago, I hope Raine is okay. I didn't know Sakura too well she only came over to see Raine but they were close."

    Kyra’s heart skipped a beat. He means that Sakura? They all know each other I guess. Raine, Sakura and Rhyse. I wonder if he knows Nikki too...”

    "Ah sorry Kyra forgot for a moment you were there, do you want a drink? I have pictures over there if you want to see what my ex looked like, and see my brother and the kids" He pointed to the side table by the couch.

    "Sure, water's fine"

    The dog followed him. "Please get this dog to stop following me" he moans. The dog just wagged its tail.

    Kyra went to the couch to sit down. She whistled for the dog to come here and got it to lay down in front of her. It seems to like girls. Obedient dog.” She smiled. She noticed the pictures on the table and looked at them. She saw a picture of what looked like a younger Rhyse and a female. He was kissing her on the cheek and she was smiling. He was also hugging her from behind. Both looked really comfortable with themselves. Is that Nikki? That can’t be Nikki. She looks so...comfortable...” She also noticed a boy that looked awfully close to Kai in another picture.

    "Hey, she looks familiar. This wouldn't happen to be Nikki, would it?"

    “Wait did I never mention that it was Nikki that I went out with? How do you know Nikki then? Is she okay? How is she? I mean does she mention me? Okay sorry, too many questions.” He brought over the water for Kyra while Rhyse was holding juice. “I don't know how you can drink water it's so bland.”

    "What's wrong with water?" She said. "No, I had no idea. I'm on a mission with her in the Via Infinito..." she paused. Kyra isn't sure what to say about Nikki. "She's...fine. It's been one hell of a confusing day for everyone."

    “Ah so I gather now wouldn't be the best time to go and say ‘hi’ to her, she gets pissed when she's confused.” He said. Kyra took mental note of that.

    "Right. And the boy, is he Kai?"

    “Yeah in the next photo that's my brother Kai, and...” He paused to notice something. He probably noticed Kyra change in behaviour. She was still a little upset over what happened earlier. “Okay what did he do this time? He's a good kid really.”

    "I know, I'm sure he can be. I think there's a misunderstanding. You see...hmm, how do I put this? I've taken quite the liking to Nikki. Something happened in the temple and someone else’s feelings came out. I'm guessing Kai found out about it somehow, he said some things and I may have slapped him....." she paused.

    “Woah woah woah slow down, rewind,” Rhyse looked down and noticed the dog had drooled into his drink. “You know me and you are not on a good start.” The dog looked up innocently and wagged its tail. Rhyse turned back to Kyra. “What do you mean you've taken a liking to Nikki?”

    "I like Nikki. Maybe a bit more than like, but there's something."

    "And how does Nikki feel about you?"

    "About the same last I knew. Something happened in the temple that might have confused her though. Someone else has feelings for me too. But, he's a little too late. I don't think Kai knows this either."

    “Wait... Nikki's gay? Well ... That explains a lot. So what exactly happened in the temple then I heard mumblings as we passed about Sanika”

    "It looks like Sanika wants Nikki back in the gang..."

    "Fuck... Haven't they ruined her life enough, after all she has been through?"

    "Mhm." She nodded. It seems he knows what happened then too.

    “So what did Kai do?”

    "He called me a coward and a whore..." She said with a noticeable sadness. She didn’t like having to repeat it.

    “... What why? I mean ok he heard another guy has feelings for you but what! This just seems so unlike him, I'm really sorry Kyra he's normally a smart kid.”

    "Hmm...Not your fault I guess. I wish I could talk to him"

    “He would only react this way i guess if he found out about something really shitty like i dunno...Oh shit.” He paused. “He always asked what if he...”

    "Hmm?". Kyra was getting confused with his thinking out loud.

    He stood up from the couch and headed toward the door. “I'm really sorry Kyra but I have to go, Nikki will probably make him a corpse if I don't find him before her”

    “Oh...Kay...”. She said still sitting on the couch.

    “...Uhh... Which way is his home again?” He opened the door and scratched his head.

    "Why don't I go with you?" She stood up.

    “Ah yes, just don't tell Nikki I had to be escorted by her girlfriend she would kill me for not remembering the way”

    Kyra laughed and exited the house with him. The conversation continued on the short walk to Kyley’s house. They arrived in no time at all.

    "Thanks and don't worry about Kai. By the way, before you go. You know that photo Nikki elbowed me afterwards for kissing her on the cheek?”

    Kyra nodded. Could he tell I was jealous?”

    “She told me she only agreed to cuddle for the camera. From talking to you I know that Nikki cares for you a lot after all you know her darkest secret, look after her."

    "You got it! Thanks Rhyse." She smiled

    "See ya around!" he waved and walked off to Kyley’s house.

    Kyra found the smile on her face didn’t last long. The events from today were slowly catching up to her. She found herself standing in front of Nikki’s house. She took a seat on the grass in front of the nicely build up garden that the kids had fixed up for her. Nikki...She’s been through so much. Too much. I can tell everyone cares about her in their own way. Even Sanika if I had to put that into perspective. But did I break her heart? Had I done something to hurt Nikki? If I did, I wouldn’t forgive myself. But Joseph...Why would Joseph like me too? He never said anything. I just always thought he cared...Was Sanika even telling the truth? I do like Nikki. I told her myself...didn’t I? Kyra sighed and stood up. Something was telling her to head around to the back garden. She followed her intuition and found that she wouldn’t be alone. She found Raine sitting against the fence reading a book and Nikki seemingly asleep in the hammock. She opened the gate and joined the two of them. She had to admit though, it felt awfully awkward.

    Raine gave her a smile. “You’re Kyra, is that right?” she asked softly.

    Kyra nodded. “You must be Raine.”

    “Yes. It’s okay. She’s sleeping. You can join us if you like.”

    “Thanks,” Kyra gave a small smile. She looked over to Nikki. “She looks so peaceful.”

    “You care about her a lot, don’t you?” Raine asked.

    Kyra took a seat on the grass not far from Raine. The awkwardness of the situation was washing away. “I do.”

    “Good.” She smiled. Raine continued to read the book she was holding.

    Kyra laid back and put her hands behind her head and relaxed. She looked to the sky and found herself thinking again. If there’s a decision to be made, I feel I’ve already made it. I feel bad for Joseph. I had no idea he felt that way.” She thought as she closed her eyes. But I wouldn’t have it any other way”.

    ~ AUTO-MERGED POSTS ~

    Joseph

    If the ordinary pedestrian looked at me, they probably would have assumed that there was something wrong with my mind. After all, the only thing I’ve been doing for the past hour was stare at my tea.

    After the events at the temple, I needed to get away from the others to sort out my emotions and thoughts. Bevelle was most often too noisy for me to have a quiet moment to think. But this teashop was a small place, tucked away from the noisy streets which gave me some solitude. I often come here for tea and snacks that this place does very well. However, today my mind was on other things.

    “I understand that you need somewhere to think in peace,” I heard a familiar voice say. I turned to see my sensei standing next to me. “But all you are doing right now is wasting some perfectly good tea,” he finished, sitting down on the other chair on my table. The server came along and took my sensei’s order. I sighed while taking a sip of my tea, grimacing at the fact that it has both gone cold and very bitter.

    The server returned with two cups of freshly brewed tea and some rice cakes. My sensei took a sip of tea and a rice cake. I was still in deep thoughts during all this.

    “So what happened? I know that something happened at the temple but I was not given any details on what transpired,” he said. I decided to tell him what happened from the lower Cloisters up to when Sanika retreated from the temple, leaving no detail out. By the time I’ve finished, the skies above have darkened quite significantly.

    “Hmm…… This is rather disturbing,” my sensei said after I’ve finished.

    “Yes it is. We threw everything at this psychic and we could not even scratch her,” I replied, thinking back to my fight.

    “That was not what I was talking about,” he said. I looked at him, confusion in my mind. “I meant you losing control of your emotions.”

    “Oh, that part,” I sighed, leaning back.

    “Joseph, do you remember the first time you came to me all those years ago? And after Sin took your brother away? I have always said that you should not lock your emotions away. I see that you still do that to this day. You should not do that. You have the skills and discipline to become a master samurai. Yet you still lack something. I guess you still do not have the answer to that yet do you?” my sensei said. I sighed, thinking back to that time. It was still a very painful memory to recall.

    “No. I do not have the answer or understand what I currently lack. I don’t think that I would ever find it in my life,” I sadly replied.

    “That is where you are wrong. The answer you seek is not as far as you think it is. It may be closer than you think,” my sensei said. He got up from his seat. “I must be going now. I need to catch the airship back to Luca.”

    “One final thing sensei,” I said. He stopped in his tracks.

    “What is it?”

    “I would ask that you use your contacts to try and find this Father that Sanika mentioned.” I said. My sensei had an extensive network of people who can help find anything or anyone.

    “Oh? Is this for revenge for what this Sanika did to you?”

    “No. This is for security for our mission. We cannot fight properly if we constantly have to worry about someone trying to kill us at the surface for one person.”

    “Hmmm….. I shall see what my people turn up with. Until then, I must be going. I will see you when you come back to Luca then,” and with that, he left to head back to the busy streets of Bevelle.

    I then left the teashop and went to Sugata’s place. The armor that I wore was quite banged up after all the events that went on. Even Sugata was amazed at the damage that I took.

    “Joseph, I know that the Via Infinito was dangerous but it seems to exceed even my best estimates on what it can do,” he said, looking at the damaged armor.

    “Part of the it was that most of the damage I took was not from the Via Infinito but from a powerful psychic,” I replied, explaining what happened after we exited the Via Infinito. Sugata was stunned by what I described.

    “Now that I could almost not believe. I didn’t think someone could possess so much power. Not since the days of Sin anyways,” he said.

    “Either way, this psychic will be back. I was hoping that this armor be not only repaired, but also have some enchantments placed into it. I need every advantage gained to fight her,” I said.

    “Indeed. Well the repairs shouldn’t take long but the enchantments would be harder to do in tamahagane. You know that tamahagane resists magic to a certain degree. It’s not impossible but will take considerable time. ”

    “I’m not certain when we need to go back in but I would say that you have at least until the day after tomorrow. I know it’s a tight schedule but please do your best.” Sugata nodded as he took the armor to his workshop.

    The sky was now black when I left the workshop. I decided to get something to eat and get some sleep. I stopped at a soba stall for something to eat before heading back to Nikki’s place. All seems calm when I entered the house. Everyone seems to be asleep or absent from the house. I walked up the stairs and found Kyra stepping out of Nikki’s room.

    “Hey Joseph,” Kyra greeted. I simply nodded before walking into my room. I knew that neither of us would get any sleep anytime soon without a discussion first. With a sigh, I went and grabbed a box from my bag. After that, I walked down to the living room. Kyra was sitting at the table, holding a mug in her hands. I sat down across from her, placing both swords and the box in front of me. I opened the box to reveal a cleaning kit for katanas. Inside contained a brass awl and hammer, blade oil, rice paper, a powder ball and an oiling cloth.

    Using the awl and hammer, I tapped out the pins holding the hilt to the blade. The hilt slid out along with the hand guards. I examined the blade of the Tiger Pierce closely, trying to see if any mold or dents clung to the blade. Satisfied that nothing was wrong with the blade, I took some rice paper and rubbed off the oil on the blade. Next came the powder ball, which I tapped every few inches along the blade. Using rice paper, I rubbed the powder into the blade, cleaning the surface of it. Oil was used after that to protect the blade. After making sure the coating was even, I reassembled the blade and slid it back into the scabbard.

    Kyra watched on as I cleaned my blade. She eventually breaks the silence that hangs over us.

    “You sure know how to take care of your swords,” she commented. I smiled a bit at that comment.

    “It was drilled into me from my sensei. He would always say that if we want the best care for our sword, we should do it ourselves. After all, if the blades are not in top condition, it would most likely kill us,” I replied, thinking back to those memories.

    Kyra smiled a bit as well. However, her eyes then took a serious note. I knew the question was coming.

    “Joseph, is what Sanika said true?”

    I stopped cleaning the blade for a moment, looking at Kyra. For a brief moment, I considered lying to her. However, doing that would damage the relationship and I knew that I couldn’t lie to her.

    “Yes it is true. I do love you Kyra,” I replied, going back to cleaning my blade.

    “But you never said a word. Why…” she began.

    “Did I never say anything?” I finished. She nodded. “Because I am a coward.”

    “What do you mean?”

    “Simply put, I could not express myself well emotionally,” I said, rubbing the oil into the blade. “I guess you blame it on the trauma and horrors I’ve witnessed growing up.”

    “Go on,” she encouraged.

    “I don’t blame you that you don’t know it since you didn’t grow up on this planet but you do know the stories of Sin right?” I asked, sliding the sword back into its scabbard. Kyra nodded. “Well you would know that there was constant fear and despair of Sin. So much so that even children were taught the pain and suffering of losing a loved one.”

    I sighed, getting up and heading out the patio doors. Kyra close on my heels. I stood out on the lawn, bathed in moonlight. “When children understand that pain, they would do one of two things to protect their emotions. One way is that they would go on rampages of emotion, having a lot of highs and lows and ultimately covering up their real emotions under a façade which they can never break out of.”

    “And the other?”

    “The other way is that they lock their emotions in their hearts, never letting them out for any reason whatsoever unless under duress. You saw what happened when we let our emotions completely out, it is so powerful that the person could not control it, no matter how disciplined the person is. You probably haven’t sensed it but everyone in this house would most likely fall under one of the two categories,” I explained, gesturing towards the house.

    “But they don’t. You can’t say that they do. The others display emotions quite regularly,” Kyra argued.

    “That’s due to the bringing of another Calm,” I explained, turning to face Kyra. “The Calms always bring with it a sudden bonding of people before they return to the previous mental states when Sin comes around. The only difference this time around is that this is an Eternal Calm. People are not afraid to show their true selves anymore. Yet there are people like me who cannot break that chain.”

    I looked up to the moon, contemplating my memories. “After my parents got killed, I was an emotional wreak. If it wasn’t for my brother, I don’t know if I would’ve made it past age 10. After he died, I almost lost it. The only reason that I can continue now is by locking my heart. It wasn’t as bad as 2 years ago but it’s still bad,” I explained, looking at Kyra.

    Kyra didn’t say anything but even under the moonlight, her slightly damp eyes spoke volumes. I headed towards the patio doors, intending to go back inside. Kyra turned around just as I passed her.

    “Joseph, wait..” she began when I suddenly turned and captured her lips with mines. Kyra was shocked, but she didn’t pull away. After a moment or two, I pulled back.

    “Ummm… sorry Joseph. I’ll umm…,” Kyra sputtered, her face turning very red.

    “I don’t expect your heart to change but know that those are my true feelings to you,” I said before turning back to head inside.

    “One last thing Joseph,” Kyra said. I turned around. “This afternoon…. I never want to see you like that again. Usually there’s a method to your madness. Today thought…. was plain stupid. You rushed in without thinking at all. If Gideon wasn’t there to knock you out, you might have been killed. That’s a scary thought, you know?”

    “I cannot guarantee anything but I’ll try,” I responded.

    “I see. And the other thing Sanika said, is that true as well?” I chucked a bit.

    “Yes and no. I’m not seeking death to join my parents and brother but samurais always try to complete their objectives, even if our death is required. That is the curse for those who live by the katana.”

    “Right. So why do you choose to stay alive? For me? I mean, I could’ve died today and there isn’t anything you could’ve done. Doesn’t that affect you too?” Kyra asked. I thought for a moment before responding.

    “I am currently alive because I have yet to find an answer to something. Something that has eluded me for the past 4 years. If you had died, it would’ve affected me greatly. Nikki would’ve felt the same but I would not seek death. I still have an answer to find,”

    “I see. Well goodnight then.”

    “Night then Kyra,” and with that, I headed back inside to collect my swords and kit before heading upstairs to rest my body and mind.

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