The team made their way through the armory, Akane telling Haruko that both herself and Arthur didn’t make it out of Shirokumo in Akabane’s timeline. This made Haruko fall silent in thought.
I...died in Shirokumo? What became of Kate and Cosmina after my death? How long after that did the Shinto invade? The reality of the situation was now dawning on Haruko. This wasn’t another low level mission for fun...it was a deadly affair.
When they got into the room with the shelves, Haruko nodded her head and glanced at Arty. “Your next line is ‘don’t get lost, Ruko’, right?” She said, pointing at Arty’s face. She let out a few chuckles. “Cosmina taught me that one recently. See you all soon!” And with that, Haruko began to look for the number.
As she looked, Haruko began to whisper. “Hey Akane...do you know what happened to my kids in this time? Or...my siblings in the HWIC? I’m worried about them now…” The seamstress asked, still keeping her eyes on the shelves. If there was someone else in here, she didn’t want them to hear them looking around as well.
"A group of people, then. Strong people. They'd have to be to survive if this is as nightmarish as you describe. But that's a good thing. If they're fighting Izanami as well and they're this strong, that should help us. Even if they have whatever weapon we're looking for, we just need to convince them to let us join them."
As the group entered the armory, Arthur looked at Haruko and started saying "Hey Ruko, don't-" before she interrupted him. "-lose... Your... knives, yes. That's what I was gonna say. Don't lose your knives in here, you need those, ehehehe..." He stammered out, having been foiled in his joke perfectly.
"Ahem, anyway..." He turned to Jun. "I'll look low, you look high. I think that's the simplest way to look through these, no?"
“Somebody stronger than us, then. Potentially many people.” Jun tried to block out distractions. The others spoke, but she did not hear them. Her ears were pricked only for the sounds of others in these dark hallways. But she couldn’t block out what Akane said next. “Jenifer? She’s alive in this universe!?” She couldn’t control her voice, rising with excitement. She blushed at her lack of control. “I apologize. She won’t be the same regardless. Arthur, help me look.” She mumbled, glad to slip away.
"Yes, there's a possibility we can work with them, if they want to destroy Izanami, chances are we can work together"
"We can't know for sure they are stronger than us, maybe they just came here with heavy machinery"-Akane replied to Arthur and Jun's statements as optimistically as she could. Hearing her ask about her sister made Akane realize Arthur hadn't introduced Jen to her, which only just now that she connected Akabane's memories to the other Akane made her realize she was Jun's sister all along.
"Oh boy, I think Arthur might have a thing or two to tell you..."
When Haruko asked Akane about the whereabouts of her family in this world, Akane shook her head.
"I'm afraid I don't know. The invasion of Tokyo that took place after the events of Shirokumo in our world was replaced by Izanami's attack. I know there are some human factions still fighting out there so, maybe your family managed to get to safety...I'm sorry if this isn't the answer you wanted to hear, Haruko"
Akane set her hand on Haruko's shoulder and smiled at her. The seamstress had a kind heart, these weren't exactly her people, but she still seemed to care just as much.
"heh, I just realized, the more I talk with you, the more I can't help to like you. Just wanted you to know that"-Akane told Haruko as she began to look at the iron containers, Musashi turned to a corner, and noticed two figures right at the end of the hall.
"Haruko...I think they have what we need"
One of the figures, right under 6ft with a masculine frame was carrying one of the containers, small, the size of a suitcase. The other had a feminine frame and was of average height. both wore rugged cloaks that covered them from head to toe.
Akane walked towards them extending a hand out.
"Now, let's not resort to violence. we are not you enemies, how about we-"
The two figures began to run away and Akane chased after them
"Don't let them get away, if we lose the compass we are doomed!" Arthur and Jun found themselves in a fully different part of the room but in an oddly similar situation. this time, there were two figures. A tall one, right at 6 ft, and another smaller. the conmotion on the other end of the room made them make a run for it as well.
"Oh boy, I think Arthur might have a thing or two to tell you..." Akane told Jun. Arthur looked at her puzzled. "I only know one Jenifer though. But she is Korean too... Um, your sister wouldn't happen to be a lycanthrope, would she? Cute, very long hair, has a cool halberd?" Surely not. Unlike Soon and Hyun, Jenifer and Jun don't look that much alike. And their personalities are miles apart. Besides, what are the odds that he'd be in this situation twice!?
Upon reaching the area Arthur and Jun were supposed to explore, they ran into what appeared to be the people who dealt with the monsters outside. Arthur heard the commotion in the other part of the room and so did the other group. They took off running right away and Arthur pursued. He was pretty speedy after all, but he wasn't going to make the escape easy for them. A wall of ice appeared some distance in front of them. "Wait, no need to run, we want to beat Izanami too! Let's talk!" he shouted after them.
Akane’s response was indeed not what Haruko wanted to hear, but there was nothing she could do about it. Before the seamstress could respond though, Akane put her hands on her shoulders and continued.
"Heh, I just realized, the more I talk with you, the more I can't help to like you. Just wanted you to know that." The warrior said. Haruko smiled back at the warrior.
“Aw, thanks Akane. It’s been lovely getting to know you too. Not going to lie, I never expected to become friends with a warrior princess like yourself, but I’m glad I did.” Haruko nodded her head.
When they turned the corner, the duo saw what they needed. Haruko gripped her gem and was engulfed in light, her frame beginning to change. It wasn’t long before the tall Opal Song stood next to Akane and kicked off to give chase as well.
“She’s right, we just want to talk, please! We saw you fought the shinto back there, and we want to do the same!” Haruko called after them, attempting to summon a neon pink wall in front of the duo to try and stop them in their tracks.
Jun was gloomy before Arthur spoke to her. She couldn’t get the idea that another version of her sister was here out of her head. Akabane had been very different from Akane, so how different would this Jenifer be? And of course there were so many years she hadn’t seen her in. She wanted to see Jenifer, no matter how different she was. But Arthur gave her a real chance. “That’s her! She turned, she got turned into a lycanthrope! That’s why she was, was disowned!” Jun scrambled for the right words in English, speaking faster than her mind could keep up. “Where? Where is she!?” She asked just before they turned the corner and saw the others. “Stop! We want to talk!” Without much thought, she raised a finger and speared it outwards, aiming just in front of them to block their path.
The taller figure examined the ice wall made by Arthur and slowly turned towards him, while the smaller figure was met with Jun's spike blocking the way.
"Beat Izanami you say? This is what i hate about Arthurs, they are always nosy regardless of universe. This version of earth is doomed, go back to your world, Cromwell-san"
Having said that, the individual faced the Ice wall and drew her weapon, one swift move made the ice wall seemingly explode into bits as fine as hail. She then tapped her companion's shoulder.
"Let them have it"
The smaller individual released an energy barrier that spanned the entire hall and pushed it towards them, threatening to pin both Arthur and Jun against the metal walls of the room.
"Huh, quite suprising to see they have a Jun on their team"-The smaller person told her companion as they both made a run towards the exit.
"Yeah, lovely, unfortunately though, they definitely mean trouble. Now that we know their objective, we can't let them have the compass under any circumstance"
Just as Haruko summoned a pink wall to stop their retreat, the taller figure made an ice wall between them. Akane drew her blades and sliced at the construct, only for her blades to be repelled, causing a deafening metallic noise across the room
*This thing is tough!*
Musashi hopped back and shook her hands in pain, in the meantime, the woman who accompanied the man began to tear through Haruko's energy wall with her bare hands.
"This isn't regular ice, it reminds me of Z's armor...I won't be able to slice this in time. Haruko, let's meet them at the exit!"
Akane made a run for the exit, but all four strangers in the building made it before her. When Akane exited the building, she saw them fly away into the distance.
"All of them fly?!"
The man who made the ice construct snapped his fingers and the frozen prison that held the massive shinto cracked.
The fact that Akane couldn't cleave through the ice surprised Haruko, for even most of Arthur's ice could be broken with a well-placed strike by her. Following after the warrior, Haruko watched as all four of the thieves began to fly away, far too fast for her to keep up.
"Heeeeeeey! Can we just talk, please?!" Haruko shouted after then, before giving a huff and turning to Arthur.
"Frosty Roxy! Can you chase after them? You're the only one that can keep up." Haruko asked, before turning to the ice, staring intently.
"What do you think Akane, can we take them? Or should we try to get as much distance between them and us as we can?" Haruko asked, ready to respond to any attack.
These guys were strong. Cutting through his ice in less than the blink of an eye. Creating an energy barrier that threatened to crush him and Jun. And... They knew about other Arthurs.
"Jun, hold on!" Arthur grabbed his companion and ran back the way they came before the pink wall could crush them. Akane and Haruko joined soon after and they could all see the others flying away. If his hunch was right, he understood how two of them were flying. The other two were either different than who he thought they were or they were being carried along. But just as he was about to give chase, the ice holding the giant elephants started cracking. Now he was given pause. Maybe he could reinforce the ice before the elephants got out, protect his companions. But Akane wanted them to get the thing the group took, plus even that group knew they could use it against Izanami.
Arthur was about to make his choice, to stay and help his friends, but Haruko encouraged him to go. "Damn, alright. Be careful, you three!" Ice wings formed on Arthur's back and a boom echoed as he took off after them faster than a speeding jet.
"Hey, hold on, you four!" He shouted after them. "At least explain what you're doing! Do it for a fellow Arthur, Arthur!"
“I asked you to stop kindly. Now I will- ack!” Jun was startled by Arthur grabbing her. She did her best not to wiggle as he dragged her to safety. She didn’t think she could break the ice rapidly encroaching upon them, and apparently Arthur couldn’t simply will it away if it wasn’t his own. Still, she broke away the moment they were regrouped back with the others, brushing herself off and attempting to hide her blush. Needed or not, being carried around like a child wasn’t particularly dignified. She looked up to see the people they were pursuing already in flight. Well, she couldn’t fly. She thought she was going to be left out of things until the ice was shattered on the great beasts around her. There wasn’t a moment of hesitation. She summoned her greatsword and sought to plunge it into the ankle of the nearest great beast. “Slake yourself on divine blood today.” She whispered. “I can also run away faster if I have to, so it is a good plan either way.” She explained to the others.
The group flying noticed Arthur chasing after them, when Arthur called for another Arthur, they all stopped on their tracks.
"See what I mean? You deal with this, we have to get to the blue forest before the sun goes down"-The woman with the taller frame said to the man who simply shrugged in reply.
As the rest of the group left, the tall guy faced Arthur.
"You are a decently fast Arthur, I'll give you that, but you are totally out of your element here"- The man took off his hood and Arthur would immediately notice his guess had been correct.
"Funny, you are probably the shortest Arthur I've seen. That's not a compliment by the way. Are you sure you should be wasting time here, chatting with me though? Those things I set free...they might be too much for your girls"
The adult looking Arthur made a single ice blade and charged at his younger version with blinding speed. Mach cones were destroyed as the ice mage looked to incapacitate his target in a single blow.
"No, only Arthur would be able to outrun these things, we stand our ground!"
Jun took the first step as she plunged her greatsword onto the beast's leg. Both creatures broke free from their ice shells and thrashed wildly, the first creature attempting to crush Jun with its foot.
The second Shinto opened its mouth and charged an energy beam aimed at Haruko, Akane dashed and sliced at the legs of the creature, which took the beast off balance, but it quickly regenerated. Jun too would notice the wound she had previously inflicted was now gone.
Power rippled through Jun, the monster’s blood feeding her blade and her in turn. “That is fine. We stand and fight.” She tossed her greatsword aside when she saw the injury heal. The boost was nice, but she needed something that would cause lasting damage. She stepped out of range, letting a massive foot crush the earth where she stood before while remaining just out of range. Her regular cutlass was drawn. Its curse normally prevented healing and increased bleeding. She wasn’t sure if it would overcome their supernatural regeneration, but it was better than nothing. The blue blade flicked out for a broad slash at the creature’s thick ankle, backed up by her increase in power.
Both Shinto broke free from their icey prisons, immediately charging at the team. The one Jun attacked attempted to stomp her, but Jun was skilled enough to dodge.
The other monster began charging a beam at Haruko. Akane ran over and sliced at the creature's legs, but it quickly regenerated. Was Jun the only one who could kill these things?
"Jun, aim for the head please!" Haruko called out, flying up and narrowly avoiding the energy beam. She then summoned a large rectangular block with a semicircle cut out of the bottom, shooting it downward to try and pin the creature's body to the ground and allow Jun access to the head.
Meanwhile, Haruko also held out her other hand and summoned a neon pink hammer that she attempted to slam into the other Shinto skull.
"Shortest and most handsome, I'm sure." Arty joked. Arthur had a point though, if these people froze them rather than killed them, they were dangerous monsters. But...
"I trust they can handle it. They're stronger than you'd think." Er, would they be? Did this Arthur have his own version of all the people here? Arty didn't have time to think about it before the fight started. This Arthur was fast! But so was Arty.
He made a sword of his own and intercepted the attack. But rather than attack back with it, he made his sword coil around and tried to have it grab onto Arthur's arm. At the same time, he tried to hit Arthur's solar plexus to stop him from taking over the ice. If successful, Arty would try to pin Arthur's sword arm and spiral them down to crash him into the ground at mach 5. Maybe after that he could interrogate him.
"Are they really? It would seem your Akane wasn't able to cut through my ice...Well,it will be fine, as long as they take them down before the sun sets"
The older Arthur was caught of guard by Arty's ice blade wrapping around him, but managed to catch the attack aimed at his plexus with his other hand.
"You really think you can beat me up close, with a body like that?"-The bigger Arthur had a grin on his face as both came down crashing towards the ground. In that same move, the older mage made multiple layers of snow to cushion the landing.
The ice mage made some distance between himself and the younger Arthur as they bounced on the ground and he looked around. The sun had begun to set.
If Arthur payed attention to his surroundings, he would notice the green grasslands were now a pale yellow. The trees in the area began to shed their leaves at an incredibly fast rate, it was almost as if they had transitioned between summer and fall in the span of minutes.
"Unfortunately, We have run out of time. If you must know, then I'll tell you. We are taking the sacred weapons from this world and redistributing them to our worlds. This timeline might be doomed, but I can still save everyone in mine. If you care at all for other worlds, you will convince the others in your group to stop coming after us"
The older Arthur reached for something inside his cloak, then took a lower stance.
In the blink of an eye, the older Arthur had seemingly disappeared, leaving Arthur alone to his thoughts, if he had time for that.
The battle between the girls and the beasts kept going on as the sun began to set. An expression of terror took over Akane's face as she witnessed the flowers on the field wilt.
"Kill them now! don't hold anything back!!!"
Jun's curse worked on the creature, drawing blood with every attack. while Haruko and Jun worked together to take down one of the beasts, Akane went all out on the second. The helmet on her virtual machine closed and her armor sealed itself completely as her next weapon materialized on her hands.
"Heroic Spear, First Flame!"
Akane's hair turned white and muscled up as she dashed towards her enemy, a line of golden flames was traced along her path as she became a meteorite of destruction.
"Shin Niten Ichi Ryu: Ring of Fire!"-Musashi pierced clean through the creature, leaving a massive hole in the middle of the creature which instantly colapsed.
Akane went to her knees as her spear disappeared and her helmet opened. she panted but quickly turned towards Jun and Haruko
And just like that, he was gone. After that brief clash, Arthur was left with 2 key pieces of information:
1. These guys weren't necessarily assholes despite their attitudes (they did want to help other universes after all) but they sure as hell weren't gonna make reaching their goal easy.
2. That Arthur... Was way stronger than Arty himself...
Sure, Arty had gotten that feeling from the ice that encased the beasts and Akane failed to cut through his ice. But the key difference was that this guy still had Accel Edge. Tch. Oh, and the sun was disappearing. Very not good. Arthur turned to go help his comrades. They had to finish off the monsters asap and find shelter before whatever horrors this darkness bore came after them.
But it seemed like they already had it all handled. Or almost did, considering one had a shouldering hole in it and the other was held tight while Jun prepared to attack it. So Arthur took to the air again to scan the surroundings quickly, just in case he could see somewhere safer than the ruined Musashi armory to huddle up in.
Jun prided herself on graceful fighting, drawing vast amounts of blood while not splattering herself. Today, she couldn’t manage that feat. The creature was simply huge, and the gallons she drew with each swipe turned her into a Jackson Pollock painting. Her nose wrinkled at the stench of blood, but there was no point in complaining now. Haruko opened it up for execution, and it was time to follow through. Jun extended a hand and her greatsword returned. She dipped it into the blood pooling around her to refresh its power and set herself in an odd stance. This wasn’t something she would normally do, but this was not a fight anymore. It was an execution. She wheeled both blades, bringing down the greatsword to make a cut, then sealing it’s permanence with her cutlass. If one round didn’t do it, she kept going, sawing through the beast’s neck in a whirling nightmare.
As Haruko had wanted, Jun turned her attention to the Shinto she had pinned down with a construct and began to chop away at its head with her greatsword. Looking over to the side, Akane had already cleaved a hole through the one she was fighting. Akane continued to exceed Haruko's expectations of what a warrior princess could do.
With the Shinto dealt with, Haruko turned to the vault. "Everyone, back into the vault!" She said, motioning for everyone inside. Not knowing how fast Jun was, Haruko swooped down from the sky, picked up the fighter, and began to fly back into the vault. "Sorry, but we don't have time right now!" Haruko said to her captive. She didn't know what specifically was going to come out at night, but it probably isn't good.
"Arty! Make sure Akane gets through, and make us some barriers behind the door please!" Haruko called out to Arthur, calling him by the slightly more formal nickname 'Arty' this time to reflect the more serious situation.
Both shinto colapsed and Haruko carried Jun back to the shelter.
Likewise, Akane extended a hand out towards Arthur so he could fly her into safety. As the Sun finally set, they would notice darkness engulfing the land, it wasn't a regular night caused by the setting of the sun, but rather an all encompassing darkness that was eating away the nightsky. random shapes twisted like a van gogh painting in tones of red and purple as creatures howled at the distance. The land was frozen solid in a second right as the group got back into the armory. "Fuck!"-Akane smashed her fist into one of the armored walls, they had gotten away with the compass they needed! Akane composed herself and thought through the next move.
"It's ok, not everything is lost...Arthur, you caught up to them, yes? any idea of where those guys planned to go next or what was their deal?"-Musashi said as she signaled them to follow her through the armory.
"Most likely, they will be laying low for the night...and we probably should do the same, the darkness fuels the Shinto's power multiple times over... but you all saw how fast they are. if we don't catch up to them tonight, they will be gone forever"
Akane rustled through some covers and found her motorcycle. It was dusty, but with the mods Mai made, it never needed any gas.
"Ruko, you brought transport with yourself as well, yes? And Arthur can fly...we should be able to get to them if we try"
Akane got to her bike in order to check if it was still functional and then looked at Jun a little hesitantly, the back seat of her motorcycle was, well, slightly small for Jun's...size.