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[IC] TTG Chapter 5: Wrath

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Aries (Hiroki, Morgan, Mommo)

 

The exhibition had served its purpose with the people, restoring their faith in the gods' strength and their hope that Nil might be defeated by one of the competitors that had shown such strength to stand up to those gods. But it had served the opposite effect for the competitors themselves, and only three of them stood before him in his desolate throne room. He wasn't even sure what the point of this was, the tournament was over, it was a failed experiment, one that Aries hadn't supported it in the first place. How could he, knowing the truth of what they fought against? Yet appearances could be deceiving, and so he had let his indecision become a decision, allowing the tournament to progress. But he couldn't do it anymore, he had to do what he felt was right. It pained him, for he would become her enemy, but how could he ever face her knowing that he stood by and did nothing?

 

His thoughts were interrupted by Black Idol clearing her throat. She was certainly uncomfortable here, though really she had never fit in the first place. Just another piece of unnecessary spectacle.

"Um, Lord Aries?" She prodded again, "You've been quiet for several minutes now..."

"Get out." Aries commanded.

"What?" Black Idol was clearly taken aback. She looked around the room's dingy grey walls, as if trying to find someone else that Aries might be talking to.

"You heard me. Leave us."

"O-okay." Black Idol was still clearly confused, but complied, exiting through the room's curtained door.

 

Now alone with the competitors, Aries finally gave them his attention, lingering on Mommo as he looked them over. "In a few hours I'm going to make an announcement." He told them, "I have entered into an agreement with the Tenth God, the Plane of Wrath will support her in her efforts to escape from her imprisonment on the Sphere. In other words, the Plane of Wrath is declaring war on the rest of Tempest." He stood from his throne, a simple chair crafted from wrought iron and cushioned with cotton, "I extend the offer to each of you now, join us. The Tenth is not as malicious as you've been led to believe, she is nothing but a scared young girl trying to free herself from a dead world."

He doubted any of them would take him up on his offer, but he hoped dearly that at least Mommo would join him.

 

Tai

 

The frigid snow and ice of Gluttony, it hadn't been all that long since they had served as a battlefield for the tournament. In fact, it hadn't been that long since Tai had left them to fight in the first place. So much had happened in such a short time, it was hard to believe. But now, as he stepped off of a dimensional train for what he hoped would be the last time, he returned to them as his home again. It was a relief to be free of the gods' burdens.

 

As he walked through the city to the transporter hub so he could head home, he noticed several people staring at him. Though pictures didn't spread easily, it made sense that a competitor headed for godhood would at least have a few floating around and being shared. He couldn't help but wonder what they thought of him dropping out of the tournament.

"So you forsake your responsibility and choose to abandon all sides." A voice from an alley shared one possible answer. It was a familiar voice, a woman's voice that was strong and clear, even with a bustling city surrounding it. Tai looked towards the alleyway, trying to spot the source, but didn't see anyone. Perhaps it was just his mind playing tricks on him.

 

Grima

 

Though it was still her prison, a room in Queen's mansion was a whole lot more comfortable than the jail cell Grima had inhabited for the past few years. She still wasn't sure what had caused him to move her there, or to have her attend the exhibition between the Hellfire Knight and Lord. But clearly he had something in mind.

 

Just when she was getting tired of waiting for him to come explain himself, he came to explain himself. "Hello Grima, or is that too familiar?" He said while offering her a plate with a baked potato and some peas on it, "It's been a few years, but you used to be a pretty good fighter in the arena, didn't you? How would you like to earn your freedom with those skills?"

 

Nastasia

 

Nastasia still didn't know why she was here. The tournament competitors, the people Lain wanted her to ally herself with, were supposed to be going to Wrath. So it didn't make sense that he'd sent her to Envy. Envy was a terrible place, its god insisted that nobody could have any significant power over anyone else, with an exception for herself of course. If any group rose to power, Blink would quickly put them in their place.

 

For now, she was waiting in a restaurant for the person that was supposed to contact her and explain things. She had no way to know when they arrived, because Lain had only told her where and when to meet, not who she was meeting. Eventually a woman with short, pale blue hair sat down at Nastasia's table. Her face looked middle-aged and she was wearing a heavy coat, wide brimmed hat, and sunglasses, it was a rather comical disguise.

"Are you Miss Sinclair?" She asked in a hushed tone, apparently she was taking secrecy seriously.

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This place was a hellhole... Lain had better had a good reason for sending her here. lt was all Nastasia could think about as she waited at the meeting point. To think, asking her for a favor and then sending her to Envy... ENVY! of places. What a terrible plane this was. However, her brooding was quickly met with a new source of irritation. She assumed, this was the contact Lain had sent or was here to kill her something... but she'd take that over having to be in Envy any longer so she didn't really care either way. However, if this woman was trying to remain secret she was doing a poor job at it.

Regardless, Nastasia had to correct her on one point. "*ahem* Madame Sinclair to the likes of you. Now, what is this all about? What has that brainless flea Lain gotten me into this time? l expect you to speak quickly, or if you're here to kill me just get it over with already. l don't wanna be stuck on Envy another moment then l have to be. Death would certainly be preferrable."

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Grima

 

In all honesty, Grima was in a state of large confusion. She had accepted her role in society as just another prisoner, kept off the streets to make everyone feel safer, and had done so for the last few years. After all, she was, by nature, a criminal. A small one, but a criminal nonetheless. So when she was being transferred out into Queen's Mansion, it was met with confusion and NEARLY refusal to go. The only thing that stopped her from trying not to go along was the fact that Grima didn't want to cause any more problems than she had before. So, she was moved, and not only did she get a new, more... Lively 'cell', but she also was made to attend an exhibition match between one of the Gods and a contender named "The Hellfire Knight".

 

Needless to say, it was a lot more welcoming than her imprisonment had been for the last few years, which Grima had decided to take advantage of, moving a chair so she could stare out into the world. There was no will to try and escape, since no doubt thing would only get worse if she tried. It was only looking, and thankfully, there wasn’t anything that could distract her from the peaceful view.

 

At least, until the door to the room opened, revealing Queen himself, causing Grima to stand from her chair to meet him, “Well, it’s a lot better than ‘prisoner’” she replied, taking the plate with a quick “thank you”. She, thankfully, had become unpicky in her time in prison, so the simple food was a welcome sight. However, before she began to eat, she listened to what Queen had to say, moving over to a small table to place the plate down. Honestly, she had thought that her history of fighting was well over, all things considered. It turns out that was far from the case,

“I used to be pretty good, I’ll admit that. But it’s been a long while, I’m pretty rusty” she stated, placing her plate down before turning back to Queen, “What would you need me for, anyway? I thought you had thrown away the key for my cell a long time ago.”
 

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Morgan

 

"W-what?!?" Morgan was shocked by this statement, more than enough to not even feel any sort of embarrassment from such an outburst. War against all of Tempest... Is Aries out of his mind? Even considering Wrath's environment and how they could use it to their advantage, a war against the other planes sounds like suicide... Oh, wait. She forgot about the people who moved over to Nil. They would likely assist Wrath since the Tenth is involved. Still sounds like a bloodbath when you compare numbers, though.

 

"Lord Aries... a-are you sure about this?" She asked nervously. "I-I mean... I can understand wanting to help and protect someone, especially if what you say is true, but... i-is this really worth going to war over?" Aries could very well be leading his people to slaughter and ruin. She wanted no part in this, that much was obvious. And despite knowing his answer, she felt the need to ask anyway. She wanted to hear him say it. Not that it would really help much, but still. He'll be leading his people down what may very well be the point of no return. She wished that there was a way to keep this from happening, but she felt certain that he had no intention to.

 

She began to feel distressed as everything started to sink in. 

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Tai

 

...

 

No. It's not his responsibility. It was never his.

 

He was just told that it was his.

 

He glared at the alleyway long and hard. "Whoever you are... You don't get to say what I'm responsible for," he muttered. He turned his back on the alleys, and strode toward the transporter hub, his pace accelerating without him noticing. His eyes rolled back and forth, avoiding eye contact with curious passersby.

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Tai

 

"You are responsible for the consequences of your own choices. Did you not choose to compete of your own free will?" Another alley, but the same voice. Tai still couldn't spot the person it belonged to. He distinctly felt that he should know who it belonged to, it had to be someone he'd spoken to recently.

 

Queen

 

Queen shook his head. "You're just a petty thief." He explained, "No matter how many crimes you've committed, they were all extremely minor. You should certainly be given another chance. You have useful skills, it would be a waste to leave you locked up in a cell where you can't use them." He smiled kindly, "I value all of my people, even those that have committed wrongdoings."

 

Queen stood and motioned for Grima to follow, leading her out of the room. Just outside the door was a small leather satchel containing Grima's belongings that had been confiscated when she'd been arrested, as well as some dried food, a canteen of water, and a not-insignificant amount of dirks. "Though I'm sure you figured it out on your own while you were at the exhibition, allow me to explain the tournament. Eight of the strongest competitors from across Tempest were brought together to compete in a tournament, the winner would be sent to challenge the Tenth God, Nil, whose very existence threatens to destroy the Planes. If they were victorious, they would be granted their choice of the Planes to rule. However, most of the contestants have quit, leaving only three, none of whom are strong enough to challenge Nil. To become stronger, they must challenge powerful opponents.

 

"Though you're by no means as powerful as they are, your strength is still quite real and can be used to help increase their power. So I'm sending you to the Plane of Wrath to challenge them and help them grow their strength. If you do that and restrain your compulsions, you'll be granted a full pardon. If you fail to restrain yourself, that room you just left will become your new cell."

 

Queen waited to confirm that Grima accepted these condition before continuing, "There is one other thing, a personal favor. It is not a requirement of our deal, so it is entirely up to you if you wish to accept it as your responsibility. There is a certain facility in the Plane of Wrath that I'd like you to investigate for me, another individual who can help the competitors grow may be hiding out there. I already stored the coordinates in your HUD, so you may make the choice to go there any time. This individual is potentially dangerous, so be wary when searching for them."

 

Faerie

 

The woman raised her eyebrow at Nastasia. She had been forewarned that Gryffin was sending over a food magnate, but she hadn't expected them to be quite this irritating so quickly. "I'm not here to kill you, Nastasia." She dropped all sense of formality just to spite the brat, "My name is Faerie Cornair, I'm a friend of Blink's. I'm to take you to meet her. That won't be a problem, will it?" If this girl really would prefer death to staying in Envy any longer, then she would probably hate having to meet with the Plane's ruler. Fearie couldn't help but take pleasure in the girl's inevitable discomfort.

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Tai

 

"... That has nothing to do with... all this," Tai clenched his fists. He felt as if he was still getting haunted by the events of the tournament. He needed sleep, he thought, maybe a glass of milk as well. Or perhaps, just someone else to talk to. He began to run, to sprint. The voice only called for bad memories, and instinctively, he knew to run away. Not from the so-called "responsibility," but from whoever's imposing such guilt on him.

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Hiroki took a step back in startlement, nearly falling over due to her disguise in the process. She'd considered not wearing the thing, especially since she knew it was largely pointless due to the very public instances of her being in the ring without it, but it was familiar. It felt safe, even if it restricted her movement. This, though? This wasn't safe. Was this some sort of twisted joke? A test? "Aries," she began in her grating artificial voice after taking several moments to recover, "the Tenth is. . . dangerous. Unstable. She tried to kill her favorite competitor." She kept silent about her own role in that matter; Hiroki, at least, had the assurance that one or more gods would intervene before she actually hurt Supernova.

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Grima

 

Grima, as expected, chose to follow Queen out of the room. She’d get the time to eat her meal later. However, as soon as she stepped outside and saw the satchel, she knew that Queen wasn’t kidding around with the chance for her to ‘redeem’ herself. As Queen explained the situation, Grima walked towards the satchel and searched through it, confirming to herself that it was her stuff that she hadn’t seen for years. 

 

But, even if she was slightly distracted with checking her things again, Queen’s explanation caused Grima to frown. She had figured out the basis for the Tournament before, but the stakes being this dire? With only three of the top still being around, and the rest quitting? And a new God who can destroy the rest of the Planes? She was led to believe things were going well while she was stuck in prison, not worse.

 

For a good few seconds after Queen finished his explanation, however, Grima closed her eyes, thinking heavily to herself before nodding, opening her eyes again and turning to him, “Well, it’s not like I have much of a choice, do I?” she stated, closing the satchel as she did so, “If I don’t, then there’s a good chance that I die from this ‘Tenth God’” she added. The rest of the deal was something she expected. She just had to keep her urges from flaring up and taking control over her. She had some ways to stop it, but it was her chance to get over them. Which was more than she could’ve hoped for.

 

The other favor that Queen asked of her caused Grima to pause, before nodding again, “Alright, I should be able to handle something like that” she stated, picking up the satchel and slinging it over her shoulder, “Though, if I may ask, how ‘dangerous’ are they?”
 

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lt wasn't much of an answer for sure, just another lead to more meetings and with Blink of all people. What cruel irony... However Nastasia supposed it afford some benefit to her to meet this Blink. To perhaps better understand the plane of Envy, why it was the way it was, and to perhaps... better deal with the plane in the future. "Ohoho~" Nastasia place a hand over her mouth as she bellowed a prideful laugh for all those around to hear. "Problem? None at all, none at all. l'd much rather speak to the only person who matters on this plane. After all, she's the only one that has any power around whatever you'd call this... So, l'm sure she's the only with access to the information l so seek. So, lead away then. Get to it! clearly it's important business if it must fall across the desk of one such as Blink." she said, only gesuring towards the exit of the current establishment they were occupying.

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Tai

 

In his mad sprint to get away, Tai managed to veer off course, ending up lost among the alleys he had been trying to escape. Worse, the voice seemed to have kept up with him. "When you chose to join the tournament, you accepted the responsibility of defeating Nil, either by challenging her yourself or by helping the one who would challenge her to grow in strength." She said, "Do you honestly believe that responsibility is no longer yours? After helping Cardinal to further her agenda, can you honestly say you don't hold any responsibility to stop her?"

 

Aries

 

"The war has already begun, Lord declared it when she announced the tournament, I'm just changing sides." Aries answered Strider, "Cardinal is alone, desperate, and afraid. She needs to be saved, not antagonized." He didn't expect to turn their opinions, especially not the Hellfire Knight. He knew exactly what had happened with Supernova, Cardinal had told him herself how she'd lost her temper. She'd also told him how much she regretted it, but he was certain that her words would not sway any opinions, so he kept them to himself.

 

Queen

 

"I honestly can't say," Queen confessed, "I haven't encountered them myself. But suffice it to say, they could give me a run for my money. Try to recruit them peacefully if at all possible." While Grima was looking through the bag, she'd find a train ticket to Wrath and a set of instructions on how to reach Aries's audience chamber. Queen sent her off, being surprisingly trusting with her considering the sum of money he'd just given her. She easily could have stolen it and gone into hiding.

 

~~~

 

Wrath was quite the place, with blistering heat and a desolate landscape, even the main city felt hostile and unwelcoming. And it wasn't just the environment, the people all seemed to be glaring at her suspiciously. The private train carrying the contestants had arrived two hours earlier than the public train Grima had taken, so they were almost certainly meeting with Aries already. Grima just had to follow Queen's instructions to find where they were at.

 

The instructions led to a surprisingly small, single-story building made of the same grey bricks as basically every building in sight. Standing guard by the curtained door was a dark-skinned man clad in heavy armor, it seemed like a miracle that he wasn't baking in the heat.

 

Faerie

 

Faerie led the way out of the restaurant, heading towards the north end of the city. That was rather odd, considering Blink's palace was in the east. The transport hub was in the north, maybe they were meeting somewhere secret, Faerie certainly seemed to think secrecy was important. To help with that, Faerie's disguise seemed a lot more effective outdoors, with the Plane's heavy fog turning her into little more than a cloaked silhouette for anyone more than a meter away.  Eventually they reached the bustling transport hub, confirming that their destination was somewhere outside the city. Faerie input a set of coordinates and the two were whisked away to an unknown location.

 

The unknown location was a farmhouse with an apple orchard. It was nowhere near as efficient as the hydroponics systems Nastasia worked with nowadays, but it wasn't unlike the farm she started out with when she was younger. In the house's living room there were two individuals. A short girl with dirty blonde hair in a gold ball gown who was pressing buttons on an expensive portable game system that didn't appear to be turned on. And a comparatively tall but still rather short woman who looked like a female version of Lain, especially her purple hair. Nastasia quickly realized who it was. She'd never met Lain's mother, but the resemblance was too uncanny, this was Sarah Argyle. And if that was Future Seeker, then the girl in the golden gown had to be Blink.

 

"Welcome back Faerie, you got Miss Foodstuffs with ya?" Blink asked without looking up from her disabled device.

"She's here, yes." Faerie answered.

"Great. Nice to meet you Miss Foodstuffs, I'm Blink, this is Seeker. Hope you don't mind politics, because that's the shit we've got on our plates right now."

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"Ohoho~" Nastasia covered her mouth with a small fan she had produced from somewhere in the flash of an eye. "A bit more of the game of politics is but a trifle. lt is a healthy part of any meal, no? Though, perhaps it shouldn't be a main course for most. lt takes a refined palatte to appreciate after all." Nastasia said in response. lt was unclear if she meant anything by the last line due to it's unpointed nature and that was more or less on purpose. After all, it was good to establish how... touchy a subject would get or to gauge just how full of themselves they were if they assumed something that was but a vague slight had to be about them. 

She assumed the relaxed atmosphere was just something that was common of Envy. After all, they didn't really have a power structure so it'd make sense if they didn't see as much a point for formality. She found it interesting. Nastasia was glad as well cause they probably wouldn't care that she'd not bow or curtsy. After all, Nastasia would not lower herself before anyone, no matter how disrespectful it was percieved. "The pleasure is mine, l am Madame Nastasia Susanna Sinclair. So, as quaint and nostalgic this place is for me... we should get down to brass tacks. l've precious little information and require informing. Lain... only requested my assistance but has not told me what that assistance would be needed for. All to common when he asks my help l'm afraid, hardly the first time he's neglected that. l'm sure it will not be the last."

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Grima

 

Needless to say, Queen’s response made Grima frown again. Someone who could give Queen, one of the Gods, a challenge? She knew she was good, but she was nowhere near a God’s level. However, after a few seconds of frowning, Grima nodded again, “Right, peacefully if possible. I’ll keep that in mind when I go to find them” she stated, before turning around to head back into the room and get her food eaten. However, before she did so, she paused, then turned to Queen, “Thank you for this chance. I won’t let you down” she promised, sincerely, before heading into the room.

 

~~~ Later ~~~

 

Honestly, Grima had never had much of an experience with train rides, and if she was going off of this single one, she probably wouldn’t have gone for another.

 

It felt uncomfortable standing in a crowd, making Grima feel vulnerable and defenseless. In fact, it was uncomfortable enough that she forced herself to keep her mind off of it, taking out one of her dirks and flipping it, before idly doing several tricks with it, rusty as she was, such as rolling it on her finger, launching it between both of her hands, etc. Through, the action probably made her more noticeable than anything else.

 

Thankfully, while long, the train ride eventually ended, letting Grima off and into the Plane of Wrath, a place she had never gone to before, and like the train ride, was something… Uncomfortable to experience, what with the heat and suspicious glares she kept getting. Hell, she probably would’ve gotten lost multiple times, if not for the fact that she had the instructions on where she needed to go. Her actual plan was to simply meet up with the contenders, help them for a bit, then find the person Queen wanted her to recruit.

 

And soon enough, she found her destination, being guarded by one man in heavy armor. Honestly, she had to give them props, they weren’t melting alive here, while she was practically burning alive in the heat. But, thankfully, she managed to keep that hidden as best as she could as she approached, placing the instructions in her satchel as she did so,

 

“Hello, I’m here under the request of Queen, God of the Plane of Greed, to meet with the contenders of the Tournament. Am I correct to say that they’re still here?” Grima asked, keeping a respectful distance from the man, trying her best to appear as non threatening as possible.
 

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Tai

 

"She used me... Then the other gods used me as well... I did not see it then, but now it is clear - This is a game of gods. Whether it be to subject myself to Cardinal or the opposing gods... I am just a pawn in this game, sometimes a punching bag, sometimes a slave. The only winning move is not playing," Tai looked around him, searching for a way out. "And... You are here to drag me back to the game, aren't you?"


The alleyways all looked the same to him, and he might just run to a dead end soon, so he gave up running and stopped to catch his breath. "It's not happening. If you drag me back there I will punch my way out. So... Leave me ALONE!" He shouted. He felt like he was going mad, yelling at thin air.

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Blink

 

"Uh-huh..." Blink was clearly nonplussed by Nastasia's attitude, "That's a bit of a mouthful, eh, Sarah?"

"Oh Blink be nice." Seeker replied, "The girl came all this way to help us, you can show a little respect. She is a big part of Gluttony's food production as well." Seeker extended her hand to Nastasia, "It's nice to meet you, Madame Sinclair, I am Future Seeker, I appreciate your attendance."

"Moving on." Blink didn't even wait for Nastasia to shake Seeker's hand, "The plan was originally to have you fight the tournament competitors as a supplement for those that have quit, but as big a threat as Nil is, we've got a more immediate issue."

"Wait, Mel, back up." Faerie interjected, "You should explain the background first."

"Oh, fuck I forgot. Right, politics. So the short of it is, we gods are sort of split into three groups. There's Lord's group, the main alliance composed of Lord, Seeker, Gryffin, Wine, Bear, and Queen. They all have very good relations and well-established trade deals. Then there's Swag, Aries, and myself, who are not officially part of the alliance and have varied relationships with the members of it. For example, I'm on bad terms with basically everyone but Seeker and Bear. Lastly there's Cardinal, the Tenth God, who is the direct enemy of Lord's alliance as well as myself. Got all that? Good.

 

"So while Cardinal is a major threat, and we really need someone to put her in her place, there's another problem that's in the middle of popping up right now. See, Aries approached me with an offer: Abandon the alliance entirely and join him in supporting Nil. Basically, the fuckwit is switching sides. We'd like you to be our trump card when we fight him, as your signature directly counters his special ability. The sooner we can take him out, the sooner we can get back on task and stop Nil from blowing us all to shit."

 

Grima

 

G̛̛͟͝e͘҉t҉̨̧ ͏̷̷̸̀a̵͜͞w҉̡̡a̴̸y̵̛͢͠ ҉̕w̡͢͏̴̧h̢̕͢͞i̵͞l҉e̴̛ ̛͡y̸͞o̶̕͝͞u̷͟͟ ̴́c̡͡͝a̢̨͘n̸̡

 

Grima couldn't remember where she was, or how she got there. The last she recalled, she had been following Queen's instructions, but now she was lost. She couldn't escape the nagging feeling that something major had happened, but what it was eluded her. The best way to remember was probably to retrace her steps, but that was easier said than done. To make matters worse, the glares she'd gotten when she left the train were growing in intensity and frequency, despite the number of people about being significantly less than near the station. This part of town seemed to be especially averse to strangers.

 

Tai

Spoiler

 

"You talk of being a pawn, but a pawn would not be given the choice to quit the game in the first place." The voice now seemed to come from all around, "At no point did you lose your free will, you simply pretend you have to pass off the blame." The space in front of him seemed to distort, the alley splitting into four alleys and then merging back together. A woman in a white suit stood in front of him. Her eyes like glowing blue lights staring straight into his soul. "You fear going back, but there is nothing to return to. If there were, I would not have needed to awaken. The tournament has collapsed, the Planes are at risk of utter destruction." The world warped again and the alleys vanished entirely. Tai now found himself in the middle of a frozen waste, alone with this woman who seemed so insistent that he had forsaken a dire responsibility and who also apparently could teleport him wherever she liked.

 

"I am Chronos, guardian of Tempest." The woman announced, "Supernova, your actions in aiding the False God of Nil have directly threatened these lands, and your continued denial of them poses further risk. I give you a choice: Die now by my hand, or wander this endless white expanse for the rest of your life, however long that may be."

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Grima

 

Suddenly, Grima stopped in her tracks, blinking to herself, before looking around in confusion. What just happened? What was…

 

Where was she, even? She was pretty sure she had followed the instructions to the letter. In fact, she even checked again, making sure she had followed the path… And not even being sure if she HAD. She’d probably have to try and retrace her steps, get back to the train station. That was probably the best bet.  At least it would’ve been, if she actually knew where she was.

 

And to make matters worse, everyone was still glaring at her… More frequently than before.

 

Finally, Grima forced out a sigh. Alright, something was definitely up. This was far from normal. The glares she could get, those were normal, but the gaps in her memory… How lost she was… Nothing added up. Something had happened, and she couldn’t remember.

 

This realization caused Grima to turn to her side, beginning to walk towards what she hoped was the train station. She needed to get there, at the very least, before she did anything else.
 

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Tai

 

"Chronos," Tai stared into the guardian's eyes. After a short pause, he continued. "If I truly had the choice to quit, without having to be coerced to undo it or to compensate for it shortly after, would we be here now?"

 

"I choose myself. Strike me down if you will, trap me in this frozen wasteland if you will. No one can tell me what to do anymore, not Cardinal, not you," he said, with his last bits of confidence. He had nothing else to lose but himself, after all.

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Tai

 

Chronos didn't answer Tai, he'd made his choice and there was nothing left to be said. Tai experienced the world around him contorting again, but this time his body contorted with it. It was the end.

 

"NO!"

 

A negative color space spread out around Tai, and his body returned to normal. Chronos collapsed on the ground, apparently knocked out. Tai recognized the space, of course, it was her doing. She was still in his mind, perhaps she'd never left.

 

Grima

 

Grima was not headed in the direction of train station at all, and after walking for only a short while realized that she was even more lost. In any other plane she could have asked for directions, but the people here really just wanted her gone, so that could prove dangerous. But at the same time, it was that or wander aimlessly.

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Tai

 

Tai flinched. It was her again. The last person he'd ever want to owe anything to again. "... This changes nothing, you know," behind every word he just uttered was all the hatred and fear that he had of her. He didn't even want to thank her for saving his life. He backed away from Chronos, and wandered into the barren snowfield. He wasn't sure how he was supposed to wander here for an indefinite amount of time; the cold and the hunger were already starting to get to him.

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Cardinal

 

Cardinal was silent as Tai ventured out into the endless expanse of Gluttony. She kept her field up for as long as she could, preventing Chronos from reconnecting to its body. It was still in sight when she ran out of energy, but chose not to pursue Tai. It wasn't like it mattered, Tai would die to the cold well before he encountered any signs of civilization. Tempest never let those who had lost their way find it again.

Cardinal finally worked up the courage to answer Tai. "It doesn't have to." She said, her voice oddly devoid of stuttering, "I hurt you, and I'm sorry... But I understand that I have no right to ask your forgiveness. I just didn't want you to die."

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Tai

 

"This. Changes. Nothing. I'll still die," Tai kept walking. "This nightmare, as it seems, ends with either you or me. What you've done to me was horrible, and I would not hesitate to kill you were we on equal grounds, but we're not. You've cursed me... I was naive enough to collude with you. And now, Chronos is onto me. I'll either die in this coldness or to her hands."


"Look at me now. I've lost everything but myself," tears began to well up in Tai's eyes. "You're right about one thing - This tournament is a mistake. I should have never entered. I wouldn't have to meet you then, and I wouldn't have to suffer because of you, and I wouldn't have to suffer because of your opponents."

 

"... One question, by the way. Why are you still protecting me? What exactly are you trying to accomplish here?"

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Grima

 

... Alright, so walking in a random direction was not the best idea. Grima knew that now, considering the fact that she was only making herself MORE lost. Thankfully, she could at least retrace her steps back to where she was before... Even if that meant she would still be completely lost. Stopping in her tracks, Grima looked around, noticing how the glares she was getting was still increasing in frequency. They wanted her gone, probably because she was a stranger. Strange how an entire plane seemed like it was against her right now.

 

But, even with the hostility from everyone around her, Grima couldn't just wander around aimlessly. That would only make the situation worse. So, she knew she had to ask for directions. Maybe someone, if they really wanted her gone, would help her out, "Excuse me!" she called out to a random passerby, "Do you know how I can get to the Train Station?" she asked. At the same time, she tried to go through her HUD, trying to get a map of the place so she could figure out where the hell she was.

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Cardinal

 

"What am I trying to accomplish?" Cardinal reiterated the question, almost as if asking herself, "I don't know. Maybe I just feel guilty. Does it matter? You said it yourself, it won't change anything." She wanted to think that she actually cared, but after what she'd done, she wasn't sure she was allowed to claim that anymore. And worse, Tai was right, she hadn't saved him, only delayed the inevitable.

 

Cardinal looked around her plane, it's empty blackness even lonelier than her room in Raleigh. She wasn't exactly dressed for snow, but Tai wouldn't keep her long. She opened a spacial rift next to her, the other end appearing in front of Tai, and stepped through. She immediately regretted not changing as her bare feet were assaulted by the frigid snow and her exposed skin became dotted with goosebumps. She was in her casual clothes, which meant an oversize grey t-shirt with a skull graphic on it, her panties hidden beneath, and nothing else. Her messy hair and the bags under her eyes indicated that she hadn't slept well in several days. Attempting to stave off the cold at least a little, she instinctively started rubbing her arms to generate friction.

 

"If you're going to die out here, the least I could do is die with you." She said through chattering teeth, "Make it quick, I can't stay connected to this world for very long."

 

Grima

 

The man Grima approached started to give her a look of disdain and was probably going to tell her off, until he heard her destination, at which point he shifted to a much more helpful expression. "It's just that way." He pointed to the left of the direction Grima had initially headed, "Watch yourself going by Aries's audience chamber, there's been a lot of protests there lately, and with the tournament competitors actually being here today, they might pick up."

It was good she'd gotten directions, because Queen hadn't loaded a map of the place onto Grima's HUD, only the directions to Aries from the train station.

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Nastasia
Nastasia did shake Future Seeker's hand, a gesture that was at the least, one of mutual respect. lt did not force her to lower herself to another so she wasn't as opposed. She said nothing more but nodding politely towards Seeker, as she waited to hear what she was here for.

 

"Tsh." Nastasia released noise perhaps one of displeasure at such being the case. "That Lain, l suppose l should be flattered he thinks so highly of me." she wanted to insult Lain once more, however his mother was standing right there. lnstead she just defaulted to a more polite tone. lt was easy to do so since she always wanted to do so, and in this instance... no one would think anything of it more than she was just trying to remain civil around the young man's parent. 

"However, it's not the easiest thing for me to agree to." she didn't immediately explain her meaning at that, thinking if she should even say so. But she quickly decided that it was important she did so, it effected a lot more than her should the worst happen. "l will assist you, but let me make myself clear. This is a risk that could very well end up putting Gluttony into... economic collaspe. Or, at the least causing a lot of major trade agreements and trade routes disappearing. As l'm sure you're well aware my father has passed recently. l am the only heir to the Sinclair Congolmerate, and without me it vanishes. Now, as bad as is this for Gluttony itself it'll effect many other planes as well, causing major rifts in the network of food trade. l do not fear the worse will surely happen. However, if it does someone needs to take responiblity and continue what l have started. The planes, and more than just Gluttony depend on that." Nastasia paused for a moment after this to let it sink in, before she continued.

"Ohoho! Now, with that out of the way... you said that Shackled Ninefold Angel is your trump card? How is this so? Of course, l know about the gorilla Aries, who doesn't exactly use his head, especially if this is any indicator... however l cannot say Lain would've informed me on any of the workings of his mech over the years. What is it about Archangel's signature that serves as a trump card for our side against Aries?"

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Grima

 

With the directions and warning given to her, Grima nodded, "Thank you, sir. Have a pleasant day" she replied, before heading off. Well, it was a good thing she had checked for directions, considering she was not going the right way, and she could confirm that they REALLY wanted her gone, since he only seemed helpful because she had asked where the 'exit' was. But, his warning worried Grima. Protests near the audience chamber? Was there anyone there when she got there the first time? She remembered one, at least...

 

Suddenly, Grima brought a hand to the side of her head in annoyance. Why couldn't she remember anything straight? Everything felt off to her. There was even a nagging feeling that she had to get out of here, now, but while she wanted to, she had an agreement with Queen. A criminal that she was, she wouldn't go back on her word with him. She couldn't leave now, not until she finished meeting up with the contestants, and if she couldn't... She could at least try and take care of that other favor Queen asked of her.

 

So, that was why Grima picked up her pace, keeping an eye out for the audience chambers. If she couldn't find it, she'd simply follow the instructions to it from the train station, once she arrived.

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