Chapter 14: Lock to Position Two
“No! We aren’t leaving without her!” Checky screamed over his outer com, stepping out from his cover and firing both guns on his arms at Skeleth while the barrels slowly turned bright orange. Matthew growled in frustration, bolting out from his cover and charging for Skeleth to unleash a powerful shockwave, but that only dispelled around his hard scales. Jack and Olsen landed hard, skidding backwards until they were standing near where Jenny had taken up a cover.
“It’s no use! I can’t get through his scales!” Jack called, ducking to the right while Olsen grabbed Jenny and fitted away as his hand came crashing down where they stood a moment before. Helen summoned all the power she could stand, channeling it all into a concentrated beam of her Genesis Light. Unfortunately all the blast did was make Skeleth become even more enraged, launching a sweltering wall of flames at her, deflected momentarily by Lillianne’s wall of ice while Helen teleported them both away to a safe distance.
“There has to be a way of hurting these things!” Lillianne shouted.
“Thou art correct Lillianne, However such a way is something we possess not. We then must retreat until our power hath been increased.” Lillianne nodded, allowing herself to be teleported to the others: they had been fighting for nearly an hour and all they seemed to be doing was making him madder.
“Checky, we have to go now!”
“You can go! But I’m staying until I walk out that gate with Claudine in my arms!” He shouted, running out from his cover, leaping high into the air with the help of his boosters, forming his hands into a the large jet powered sledgehammer when one of Skeleth’s heads turned to him. When it opened its jaw, there were not flames but an orb of something growing on his tongue. Jenny looked up when she felt the itch of thick power, seeing Checky headed for the open mouth and knew that there was no way he would survive. She drew an arrow and forced every last ounce of mana she had as well as a huge portion of Emerald Crystal power into her bow, making the winds gather and howl around the arrow as she launched it, only to be dispelled in the light of the energy released. Checky screamed as loud as he could when the power Skeleth had gathered burst from his mouth and enveloped the mech, obliterating it as though it were a paper doll.
24 hours earlier
For the tenth time, Checky looked over her mech, greasing the joints, fine tuning the interface and loading every last inch of the mech he could with bullets and fuel. It had been a week since the attack on Edelstein; Dureau had been busy training to get his strength back and was rather pissed when he found out that Clytemnestra might have been there. He couldn’t blame him; he felt almost as much resentment for her right now as Dureau did.
“No more waiting for The Guardians to do anything about it.” he thought, slumping down into the cockpit and beginning the start up sequence, this time the turbine sounding more aggressive than usual. With a hard clank, he clamped the reloaded Hex Cannon on his arm and readied the auto pilot for the SG-88 to follow him, grabbing a spare power core for Dumia. Just as he was opening the garage door, he saw The Six standing there in front of him and blocking his path, each of them looking to be smirking.
“I don’t have time for a speech about how doing something like this is…”
“Hey wrench head, we didn’t come here to stop you. We came to help.” Jack shouted over the buzz of the external speakers catching Checky off guard.
“I had a feeling that you’d try this sooner or later, so we’ve been waiting. This is your mission Checky, we are yours to lead.” Matthew smiled, all six of them kneeling to the ground making Checky swallow the lump in his throat before calling over the heavy lift platform he was going to use in getting to Ereve.
“Get on.” He said with a growl, shutting the mech down and making his way to the controls while The Six and Jenny’s pet celion Alden filed onto the platform.
“Thanks you guys.”
“That tower is brutal! Please tell me we can use Shinsoo to fly up that tower again.” Ashura whined, slumping down on the ground and rubbing her calves as hard as she dared, wincing with each push of her palm into the muscle.
“I wish that I could Lady Asura, but even a dragon such as I can’t fly that height in a small area. I would have to fly all the way to the continent just to reach the middle, And none of you would survive the decent down because the air pressure changes would be too severe.” Shinsoo replied stretching his chest and reverting to his dragon form, stretching his wings as wide as they would go making his shoulders and wings shoulders pop multiple times.
“That’s always good to know.” Vondra laughed, looking around and taking a deep breath of the slightly damp night air of the Omega Sector.
“We should get going though and stop the creature in the portal: Arkarium is only getting closer to undoing the seal if we stall.” Starling urged, walking only a few steps when a wall of lights snapped on, blinding all of them with their cutting brilliance in the night.
“Freeze! You are about to enter a restricted space, put your hands up and walk slowly forwards!” a voice commanded.
“I am Commander Starling! My commanding officer Wence should have sent you a message that I and my back up would be coming!” Starling shouted, covering her eyes with her forearm.
“Commander Starling? Cut the lights!” The voice commanded as the sound of large gates unlatched and a man walked out from them dressed in dark blue battle scrubs.
“Sorry about the misunderstanding Commander; the General ordered Omega sector to be put on lock down since that portal appeared.”
“It’s alright, but it would have helped if you had sent out a warning. Is the portal really that bad?”
“Yes, and it has the Grey’s worried; even their rebuilt and buffed cyborg Zeno wasn’t able to take out that monstrosity.” Latimer whistled, looking back at the others, not sure if they would be able to even take on this creature, now that they were down one person since Yoshumari had yet to return. Even so, they had to defeat it to slow Arkarium down further, walking with the soldier through base and on to where the portal was, not far from the main base of the Greys. Patricia had heard from her parents how this was the place that they had first met Yoshumari as the undercover agent Dragon, and how he had overwhelmed them with a display of his Dark Nalcana.
“You guys ready for this?” Starling asked, shoving a new clip of bullets into her pistol, pulling back the slider with a grin. Patricia held her staff almost parallel to the ground, holding her other hand behind it with two fingers up and a calming blue aura lit up their armor plating.
“As ready as we’ll ever be.” she called as sparks fizzed from the top of her staff in anticipation. Ashura mounted Shinsoo’s shoulders, holding her spear back and taking a deep breath to calm her nerves.
“Relax your shoulders Princess, otherwise you’ll get tired too quickly.” Shinsoo thought to her, making Ashura nod and smile to herself as he repeated to her one of the many lessons that Dances with Bolrog had taught her. Vondra elected herself to be the first to go through as she had greater maneuverability than the others; a few moments passed until she came back out and nodded for the others to follow, indicating that it was safe for the time being. Once through, they all began looking for the creature that was supposed to be here, but everywhere they turned, all that seemed to be here in this particular portal was nothing except a recreation to part of the Omega Sector.
“I don’t get it. If this is where the creature is supposed to be, shouldn’t we have found it by now?” Ashura asked Latimer, who happened to be the closest one to her at the moment.
“There’s no telling how big these portals really are on the inside. For all we know, these portals go on for an infinite amount of space.”
“I don’t doubt your logic Latimer, but unless some other people came here before we did, there’s no telling where that creature could be.” Starling called, after she had walked up to the two of them when her sweep was complete. Shinsoo suddenly felt a prick of something, sparking his protection state slightly, grabbing both Latimer and Starling before jumping back to avoid the missile that struck where they had been a moment before. Within moments, Vondra and Patricia were beside them ready for battle when another missile careened in from the sky separating them all once more.
“Shinsoo; to the sky!” Ashura urged, pulling on his feathers as they ascended, tracking trails of smoke to the origin to see a large, black metal cyborg standing with huge fists dragging on the ground. Shinsoo growled when he caught sight of the perpetrator, his full Protection State kicking in when he saw him but hesitating when he felt Ashura’s small form pulling on his steel hard feathers.
“What?!” he growled angrily.
“Just be sure to let Latimer and Starling down before you attack.” She advised as Shinsoo turned his attention back to where the creature stood.
“That I will Lady Ashura.” He replied with a pleased, gravely thrum deep in his throat. Vondra and Patrica did the best they could to keep up with Shinsoo on the ground as he was almost bolting to the ground before tipping his nose up to the sky, setting Starling and Latimer down, then dropping to all fours, slinking around the cyborg ready to pounce. But before Shinsoo had a chance to react, the cyborg raised its hands above its head and slammed them down so hard that a wave of wind pushed them all back. Shinsoo dug his claws in, preventing him from being blown back, but no sooner had he done that then he was hit in the chest by a missile. Vondra rushed the cybrog through the smoke, holding her daggers to the side as she ran, quickly flipping her second dagger into a reverse hold and launching herself just as the cyborg brought his fist down again, hitting it with a few slashes as she drove past it. It looked down at its torso to the scars in its black metal skin, scanning them with a green light grid.
“Damage taken. Assessment: minimal. Shadow Zeno, Continue Mission.” It said, dropping its arm, opening doors on its shoulders and launching a missile for Vondra before she disappeared into the winds. Zeno scanned the horizon, looking for her when he turned around to face Patricia who ran up behind him and slammed the dark glowing head of her staff into his jaw, swinging it up, left, right, left, and back up before hitting him in the gut, sending him skidding back. When Zeno caught himself, he raised his fist, slamming it into the ground making the shock wave push Paticia back. Latimer looked over his shoulder to the Azure Gaia over his shoulders as his waited for a clear shot, standing guard over Ashura while she regained her bearings since Shinsoo had already taken to the skies.
“Alright Jenny, let’s see what this Gaia Cloak you gave me and this Emerald Crystal chip is capable of.” He thought, looking down at the leather bracelet that held the small gem, closing his eyes.
“OK, just think… I need to find a way to counter that fist action of his, something that will make an equally powerful burst of wind to cancel it out.” A small tingle on his back buzzed making him open his eyes to see the cloak burst into small balls of light, settling on his cross bow where the bolts would go in the shape of some kind of machine that was almost twice the length of the bow. When the light solidified, a narrow bell shaped cylinder had formed with gears and clock springs clicking and clanking on the sides of it, while stands had been formed on the bottom of the crossbow with sharp spikes on the bottom.
“ok… not exactly, what I had in mind, but let’s see what this can do.” He could see Vondra and Patricia taking turns at Zeno, periodically seeing Starling jump in and out of sight, cracking off rounds that would only ricochet off his titanium skin. Stabbing the legs into the ground, he looked down the scope that had formed on the side of the cylinder and set his crosshairs on him. The crosshairs then flashed red while ‘stand-by’ flashed across his sight. The gears then began spinning faster while air sounded as if it were being drawn into the back for a moment when ‘ready’ flashed in green letters across his sights. When he pulled the trigger, the gears locked to a stop, spinning in a blur the opposite way as the springs unwound, forcing forward a blast of wind that knocked Latimer off his feet and to the ground. Something felt like it was coming, making Ptaricia and Vondra jump back just before the powerful block of air hit Zeno, tossing him back as though he were a play thing. Zeno violently pushed aside the tree that had fallen on him, sparks flashing from his broken face plate before focusing on Latimer as he got up.
“Damage taken. Assessment: cosmetic and nominal operating system damage. Target: Located. Action, eradicate!” Zeno said, stepping out from his pinned spot and raising his hands up once again when Shinsoo crashed into him, his steely claws tearing his left arm off in a spray of hydraulic fluid and sparks. Starling didn’t waste any time while he was off balance, running in and firing rounds as fast as she could into the open ‘wound’, tearing wires and control cables with each bullet. Ashura spotted and opportunity as Zeno moved from getting hit with the bullets, bowing her head and holding her tri-spear behind her.
“Spirits of the ancient dragons, give me wisdom and strength to face mine enemies!” she called, her muscles swelling, multiplying her strength as she ran forward and stabbed her spear through Zeno’s hip joint, partially tearing his leg off. Just as she was about to turn and swing the tip of her spear at him, she was blown back when Zeno slammed his remaining fist into the ground again, only to be taken by surprise when Vondra dug her daggers into his back in as though she were a twister of black power. In his momentary disorientation, Starling jump across, hitting his shoulder with both shots from her pistols. He was just getting his footing again when Patricia wrenched him towards her in a whirl of dark gears and chains, meeting a whirlwind of dark power that Patricia was spinning in, knocking him into the ground. Just when Zeno came to a stop and was getting up, Latimer slammed his foot on his shoulder and shoved the end of his cross bow in his face.
“It ends here!” He growled, pulling the trigger as the winds that he had been charging blasted from the cylinder, blowing a hole into the ground and taking off Zeno’s head, kicking Latimer into the air. For a moment his body twitched, but fell still soon after as Latimer landed holding his shoulder hard and dropping his crossbow.
“You alright? What’s the matter?” Vondra asked, sheathing her daggers when she stopped next to him.
“My shoulder doesn’t feel right: that air cannon thing my cloak made has some mean kick.” He said, grunting in pain until his entire shoulder dropped and made a loud popping sound, dropping him to the ground writhing in pain.
“I think his shoulder was dislocated: We need to send him back to a town right now to get help from a healer.” Starling called, taking her scarf from around her neck and wrapping it around his shoulder.
“I’ll take him.” Shinsoo agreed as he landed once again in his calm state and extending a wing down to the ground; Ashura walked up to him and placed a hand on his muzzled.
“Take care of him, and come back when you get a chance.” She thought to him as Shinsoo nodded, walking with them back to the portal before taking off for the little camp they had set up when the Dream Fragments were still in effect. Starling drew a pistol and fired at the rock formation around the portal, breaking it into hundreds of pieces and closing the portal behind them when her ear bud went off.
“Commander Starling… We just dispatched it… Yes sir, we’re headed back now, E.T.A. 30 minutes… Yes sir, ee’re on our way. We have another mission, this time to the Nihal Desert.” Starling commanded as she shoved her pistol into its holster.
“Another Portal?” Vondra asked.
“What else?” Starling asked haughtily. Little known to them, two individuals watched them from a hill a few yards away, dressed in black cloaks. Both of them turned their heads up just enough so that the sunlight graced their chins; one of them an older man with a well trimmed grey beard, the other a shapely woman with elegant, dark red lips.
“So it’s happening just as it did before.” The woman said, as the man turned to her slightly.
“I wouldn’t count on that. Remember that Oberon’s future was altered once before.” The man replied sharply.
“Must you be so impetuously pessimistic?” the woman asked before both of them disappeared in a plume of dark vapors. Patricia stopped, turning this way and that when she felt a small brush of power burst in the air, but shrugged it off as something that was just a random happening.
Yoshumari finally pulled the last of the levers on the Time Gate waiting for the door to open, noticing the few bright orange leaves on the ground from the World Maple Tree, wondering if maybe this tree was finally going through the same life cycle as any normal one would.
“But this tree never did that; could something be seriously wrong?” he wondered, stepping back as the door opened, allowing him through the door and into the Center of All Time, a dull place with smooth grey rocks everywhere.
“Nexus, are you here?” he called, his voice echoing through the halls for a moment when the sound of a beast getting to his feet and walking towards him echoed, despite his soft paws.
“I know of many who have come through this place, but I don’t know you. Who are you that you call to me in such a familiar tone?” Nexus asked, his wise red eyes glowing in agitation when he met Yoshumari’s gaze.
“I am one who seeks possible answers to something that is happening in the timeline of Ossyria.” Yoshumari replied quickly, taking a defensive stance in showing his hands.
“You are, the Seraphim Prince are you not?”
“I’m not sure at this point, but I need your help with something.” Nexus eyed him for a moment, narrowing his eyes before sitting back on his haunches.
“I agree, however you inquiry requires a toll of my choosing.” Yoshumari nodded, holding his wings and arms wide while Nexus looked him over for a moment, then reached out his paw.
“Your feelings for your past love Eleanor.”
“What? No! Anything but my feelings!” Yoshumari protested.
“Yoshumari, believe me when I say that you are better off without these feelings you harbor for her. It will only taint the image you held of her in your heart. You memory will remain, but your feelings for her is what will be taken.” Yoshumari closed his eyes tightly, finally nodding as Nexus curled his claws inward, pulling from him a soft velvet red cloud before clenching his paw shut. It took a moment for Yoshumari to suddenly become used to an emptiness within him, but pulled himself together and began.
“As I’m sure you are aware there are portals appearing all over Ossyria. What I am wondering is why the portals contain Time’s Energy within them? Why would these portals need Time’s Energy to keep them open? Does it have anything to do with the creatures within them?” Nexus thought for a moment, and then slowly nodded.
“As you assume, the creatures within the portals indeed are connected to the Time’s Energy within the portals, but not in the way you think. Each of these portals corresponds to a certain time with the history of Ossyria when one of the major creatures were spawned or created.”
“So, then why is it that the existence of these portals is allowing Arkarium to easily break through the seal Frued placed over the Black Mage’s throne room? How are these portals and the seal connected?” Yoshumari asked, remembering that in this place, a hundred years could pass and he wouldn’t know the difference, so he better not waste time.
“The seal Frued placed in the Temple has twenty different layers, each one corresponding to different time periods of Ossyrian history, and only Frued would have known these times. These portals that Arkarium has created then correspond to the time one of the layers connects to and disrupts them making the seal easier to break; the creatures within the portals are its Guardians.” Nexus answered calmly.
“But that doesn’t explain why the creatures within the portals are stronger and only becoming more so.” Yoshumari retorted, making Nexus think for a moment.
“The further back the portals reach in time, the stronger they become because the influence of the Black Mage is stronger in the past. The strongest of the beasts will no doubt be the hardest since they will be disrupting the Center Layer of the seal, very close to the actual sealing of The Mage where his influence is the strongest.”
“So if we destroy the portals, we will destroy the creatures within them without having to fight them.” Yoshumari said optimistically until Nexus shook his head.
“As long as the creature within them is alive, the portal with remain open since the Creature’s life is the key-stone, so to speak, of the portal. You must destroy the creature in order to destroy the portal and rid the influence to the seal.” Yoshumari hung his head low, shaking it in disappointment: he was hoping that there would be an easier way to defeat these creatures without having to fight them, but it was only going to get harder unless they could enlist the help of the others who had learned from The Six and the Masters.
“Can you take me to where Starling is going? I need to get this information to them as soon as possible.” Nexus seemed to think for a moment, looking in the air around him, fixating on one portion of his cave.
“You do realize this counts as Time Travel and requires another toll.” Yoshumari slumped his shoulders; Nexus had already taken his feelings for Eleanor as a Toll for information, he couldn’t risk losing her memory.
“Then just send me back to the time portal, I’ll make my way from there. At least tell me that 100 years haven’t passed.” Nexus smiled as he swung his paw mightily, tearing open a part of the air and shook his head.
“No… it has only been a few minutes.” He chuckled as Yoshumari left as the tear repaired itself, folding his majestic paws and once again falling asleep when he thought he heard a familiar voice calling to him; he listened for a moment, but nothing came until he began to fall asleep again.
“Who goes there?” he asked, looking around and thinking hard about the voice that he was hearing when the memory struck him.
“Khaled! Khaled, I hear you!” he called, thundering through the caves until he felt that he was nearest to the sound, swiping his paw hard and tearing open another portal, from which a young man with a long, tattered coat tumbled through, being caught in Nexus paw.
“Khaled, what happened to you! You look like you’ve been to hell itself!” Nexus called, gently setting him down as he caught his breath.
“Nexus, I can’t stay long; Arkarium’s assaults are getting stronger and I’m not sure I can hold him off much longer. But I came to tell you that Mundus Arbor is in grave danger as is Ossryira. Someone HAS to find his Transcendence Alice soon, otherwise all of Ossyria will soon be in ruin!”
“What about your Transcendence Rhinne? Can’t she find her?” Nexus asked.
“Most of her powers have been sealed so that the Black Magic she was tainted with by Arkarium won’t affect her. Without her power, she can’t do much more than what ahs has been and fighting off Arkarium is the best I can do.” Nexus nodded, tearing open a portal once more to allow Khaled through once again.
“Very well, I will find a way of getting the message to someone.” He agreed, sending the black haired youth through the portal once again, gritting his teeth hard enough that they creaked.
“Corus! What have you done?”
Even with Phantom’s heart still healing from his final loss of Aria, he threw himself into training as hard as he could convincing Dureau to be his sparring partner saying that it would strengthen the both of them. Luminous felt that the house he and Lania had grown up in was no longer safe since the Black Wings had found it and attacked her: even after he had brought her back to Serenity to be looked over by Beuwon, he couldn’t find anything wrong with her. But he still wasn’t convinced that she was safe from harm, and so brought her to Edelstein where he was assured that the High Guard would be able to better protect her. While the heroes and Dureau happened to be resting, Belle came walking up to them with a message she had received from Ludibrum concerning a small town at the foot of Helios Tower.
“From what the message seems to say… forgive me it’s written in an older language that I never learned very well in school.” She said, turning the page this way and that until Dureau stood, pulling the paper out of her hands and looking it over, quickly reading the note that had been written in black soot ink on stiff parchment.
“This says that there is a nine tailed fox on in the forests of their town that has returned to his old ways and has stolen the soul of one of the inhabitance there, and are requesting help from anyone who will answer.” Dureau said flatly, handing the parchment off to Mercedes and crossing his arms.
“You can read that?” Belle asked with astonishment. Dureau only looked at her coldly making her skin break out in goose flesh.
“We are all from an ancient time if you remember Belle. Alright, we’ll go. Phantom, we’re going to need the use of your ship again.” She commanded, at which Phantom only nodded: his demeanor had changed so much in finally saying goodbye to Aria. No longer was he the grinning over confident master thief she had known all those years ago, now he was just a plastered wall of faked brashness and forced smiles.
“This has nothing to do with Clytemnestra; I will be waiting here.” Dureau said flatly when Luminous turned to him slightly over his shoulder.
“You’d be gaining strength from this.” He smiled darkly.
“Helping weak humans is not my idea of gaining strength.” Dureau shot back when Mastema jumped up onto his shoulder, brushing against the side of his head slightly.
“Come on master Dureau, you might even be able to find out some information about Clytemnestra.”
“Unless it has anything to do with Clytemnestra directly, I could care less.” Dureau responded back, leaning carelessly against a table and crossing his legs.
“Fine then, unless you don’t want to stay here in the garage anymore, you will go and help them out.” Belle commanded.
“I will not be commanded in such a way human. Do you even know who I am?” He asked, standing to his full height, a full foot above Belle.
“I know exactly who you are Dureau, but if you are assuming that you can use your position as a General or as Prince of Khyune, you are wrong since you denounced both of those positions.” Gritting his teeth raised his hands in rage, ready to wrap them around this human’s scrawny little neck when he felt Mastema’s fur brush against his cheek making him growl in frustration before shaking his head and turning to walk out of the garage.
“Let’s go.” He grunted, following Phantom to where the Lumiere was docked, standing on the bow as they left fuming silently as Mastema sat quietly at his feet. Phantom took the helm, telling Renault that he would be taking over navigation for a few days: Mercedes could only assume it was because it reminded him of the days when he was still a prized bounty thief who used his charm and gifts to try and win over the heart of Aria.
“How are you holding up?” Mercedes asked gently standing next to Phantom as he guided the ship through the skies, checking the compass every now and again for their heading since they were flying through a cloud bank at the time.
“I don’t know; between searching for Suu and seeing Aria disappear for good, my life, my existence has somehow become, empty. Perhaps what I need is a good raiding bout, those always got me excited: Christianne!” His command was cut short when Mercedes grabbed the communicator out of his hand and put it back on its hanger.
“Perhaps a glass of wine then to liven the mood.” He smiled, turning to a cabinet and pulling put a dusty bottle of the dark liquid, baring a name that Mercedes would never be able to pronounce, and poured it into a couple slender glasses, handing one to her before tapping the edge of his glass against hers.
“To absent hearts.” He said softly, taking a sip before returning to the helm to adjust the direction slightly. With a distant sigh he set the glass down on the consol, setting his arms on the top of the wheel then rested his forehead on them and just stared at the floor.
“What am I doing here?” he asked, closing his eyes and sighing. Mercedes pursed her eyebrows and set her glass down before walking over to him and setting her hand on his elbow.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean what am I doing here? The only reason I had joined you when you went to the Temple was to avenge Aria and protect the world that she loved. The idea of protecting the world still exists, but without Aria, without her memory, her presence, the task seems empty and useless.” Mercedes felt a loss for words: while she had already dealt with the fact that she was willing to end Orchid’s life, she still had her people to fight for.
“Phantom, you presence isn’t useless. The world that Aria wanted to protect still exists; we all were given the charge of protecting Ossyria and that mission is not yet complete.”
“But why would I be protecting Ossyria? After I had made the commitment to give up thieving to be with her, I wanted to protect her. After she was killed, I wanted to protect the only other thing that she loved as memory of her while searching for the one that had killed her. Now I have, and Aria was the one to protect me, and now she can finally rest in peace. With her gone forever, Ossyria has become a darker place, like a person from the Forest of the Dead.” Mercedes firmly but gently pulled him to a standing position and turned him to her.
“Then protect those who will be; don’t let the world Aria loved die with her. Don’t let it die without finding what makes Ossyria shine; don’t let those who care about you, die with Ossyria.” Mercedes answered. For a long while, Phantom just stared at her making Mercedes feel as though he were searching through her soul with those knife-like blue eyes as his familiar boyish grin began to turn up on his lips. Both of them started to slightly lean towards each other when a knock on the door stopped them both.
“Yes, come in.” Phantom said, putting his hands behind him and turning to the door seeing that it was Luminous who noticed the odd atmosphere in the room.
“I just spotted the town on the starboard bow; Are you two alright?”
“Never better Luminous. I’ll bring the ship down, and we’ll see what we can do about this, Nine-tails problem.” Phantom stated, turning to the helm and pulling down and lever while pushing on the helm to begin their descent. Mercedes swallowed hard and quickly left the room, trying to get her mind to better focus on the mission they had been assigned. But all the same: what was Phantom going to do really? Was he really going to kiss her? Or was he simply going to whisper something to her? All in all she pushed it to the back of her mind as they descended into town where they were greeted by a number of people, all of which speaking with nervous speed and pushing gifts onto them, begging for protection for their family, for their friends, for themselves. Their pressing in became too much for Dureau as he took his mace and slammed the top of it into the ground hard, the resulting pressure wave pushing everyone away making them all look to him in fear and confusion.
“Dureau! We aren’t here to frighten them further!” Mercedes scolded as Dureau picked up his mace and hooked it onto his belt with a cold stare in his eyes.
“People, please forgive my friend here; he isn’t exactly used to people swarming all around him. Now, we came in response to a request for help; something along the lines that someone has had their soul taken?” Phantom asked, standing before them while setting both hands on his cane.
“That would be my brother!” a man called from furthest back in the crowd. Luminous teleported to him, put a hand under his arm and teleported back to the front where Phantom could ask more in detail about the incident without having to shout at the man.
“I see; you must be worried about him then. What is your name young man?” Phantom asked, holding out his hand in the greeting to him.
“My name is Chil Sung, and yes I am very worried about my twin brother. The only reason that any of us found him was because I knew where he was going to gather herbs and how long it usually takes him.” Phantom nodded in understanding when Luminous began with his own question.
“What makes you so sure that it was a Nine Tailed fox? And what makes you so sure that his soul was stolen?” Chil Sung motioned for them to follow, leading them to his humble home where his wife and sister-in-law hovered over his brother on a cot. Mercedes looked him over while Mastema jumped from Dureau’s shoulder and sniffed at the man’s hand, but he remained unresponsive.
“The only thing that I know of to make a person so unresponsive is shock. But my brother is never scared that badly. That can be the only other reason for his actions.”
“I don’t think it was his soul that was taken, but this man is very close to death.” Mastema whispered to Dureau after jumping back onto his shoulder.
“Then I will ask again, what makes you so sure that it was a Nine Tailed fox that has done this?” Luminous asked once again, as Chil Sung walked over to a book shelf and pulled from it a scroll that once unrolled revealed a hauntingly beautiful picture of a white fox-like creature sporting red markings on the fur around its eyes and forehead.
“This is the Nine Tailed fox, Akhul. He has been living in the mountains for centuries, claiming to those that met him and lived that he was gathering human souls in order to transform himself into a human. His sins against this town may have been great, however when ‘The Guardians’ were training to bring down the Black Mage, he claimed to have renounced his ways, giving up on trying to become a human and offered his services instead to help them. But as everyone here suspected, his claim to accept that he would no longer try to become a human became naught when he stole my brother’s soul.” Chil Sung explained while Phantom looked over the picture, trying to read the words painted into the top corner of the page, but having no luck.
“I see; how do we find this fox?” Phantom asked; Chil Sung became silent, reaching up and scratching the back of his head with uncertainty on his face.
“I personally have no idea. The only thing that anyone knows of him is that he lives in the mountains.” Phantom nodded, knowing that their journey had just become that much longer to find something that lived ‘in the mountains’.
“Perhaps I can shed some light on your predicament.” And old man called, slowly walking into the center of the circle that had gathered around them.
“I am Chumji, headman of this small village. To the south west of this village is Black Mountain; at the summit of that mountain you will find an abandoned village where the three Goblin Kings have taken up residence. They should be able to tell you where to find Akhul.”