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[Project Asna] Silver Bound

Chapter Text

A Journey Begins

 

Asna, a world divided of two races: beast and human. After many centuries of getting to know each other, the two coexisted peacefully, helping out the other if needed. A beast’s greatest strength is communication with nature; they are directly born from the earth, after all. Before their peace, the only ones who know how to utilize magics and enchantments were the beasts. They had shared this knowledge with the humans, so they could do it themselves without bothering the beasts too much. A human’s greatest strength was their will and curiosity. Beasts were like mentors to them, since they knew nothing about nature, and almost all the things they know were taught to them.

 

Beasts were quiet and simple, they wanted nothing more than a community they can fit in, a soulmate, and a place to settle with plentiful food. Humans strove for something better; they simply could not accept the simple lifestyle. Exploring into the unknown and restless, they ventured into every corner of the known world. Gradually, territory conflicts began to rise, as the humans who wanted to settle down wanted to do so in land that was already occupied. But this wasn’t the only problem; food started to lessen on the beasts’ side. The humans were growing in a rate too overwhelming for the beasts, and so the humans hunted more and thievery emerged.

 

As if there was not enough problems to deal with, the last straw for the beasts were drawn. In the middle of Evain, Asna’s central continent, there grew a tree with silver leaves and trunk that shone in moonlight. Commonly known as the Silver Tree, there is a legend circulating around it stating that the tree was blessed with the moon’s tear. It was a regular tree until one day, a shining silver droplet descended upon it, granting the tree immortality and a brilliant hue. Beasts had a direct connection with the tree, so sometimes they can talk to the tree. The Silver Tree ultimately symbolized Asna’s tranquility. Perhaps one of the most famous tales about the Silver Tree was that it granted everyone in Asna at that time an extended lifetime.

 

The Silver Tree was protected and endeared by the beasts, and it was a miracle if they had let a human close to the tree. Humans were curious of the tree, but they had territory to discover, so no one had really thought about it; but then someone did. A human who was skilled in the arts of staying in the shadows sought the tree one day, and seeked its sap, which that human presumed can grant anyone eternal youth. The human brought a sword, and cut the tree with it. Several times the person did slice, deeper and deeper the blade carved. Gradually, the tree lost its shine, and when the human reached its core, the tree completely withers, its leaves giving into the grasp of gravity. Upon noticing this, the beasts panicked and frantically looked for who had done such an atrocious act; but could never find the culprit.

 

Furious beastclans started blaming the humans, which the humans did deny. Foul words were exchanged, and that turned into punches, which turned into weapons. Steel clashed steel, and no one had paused to wonder who killed the tree; all the hatred humans and beasts bottled up for each other now erupted, blinding any logical mind. More centuries passed, and humans industrialized along with dominating the beastclans, as the cities and towns they built were enforced with heavy artillery and defensive magic barriers. Sure, the beasts had taught them how to use the magic, but they had evolved it, making themselves stronger and stronger.

 

The land the beasts had once thought they could protect fell into the hands of the humans, and the humans carved their own territories, and called each portion of their territory “countries.” The beasts could do nothing but watch as their home gradually degrade into something horrible. Humans have yet to cover every nook and cranny of the world, but claimed more than what they were entitled to. Some areas remained untamed while some parts were unrecognizable, hard to believe they were once simple plains. More time passed, and train rails that ran on and protected by magic streaked across the humans’ countries, connecting cities and towns to each other, piercing through natural terrain wherever possible. This made the beastclans more enraged, but they could do nothing because their magic was inferior to the humans’.

 

Naturally, humans who deeply hated the beasts created guilds and recruited those with the same opinions, and started to hunt down the beasts, showing almost no mercy along the way. What they had found out was that both their magical and physical power rose as they defeated more and more beasts. When the discovery had been made, more joined the cause, and more guilds rose to build their own fame and strength. Steadily, the humans forgot about why they had hated the beasts in the first place; the desire to fulfill their own greed for reputation and power overpowered the memory.

 

The story of Asna is still continuing, for the beasts never forgot that day, and neither did their future generations. The loss of the Silver Tree was a blow dealt harshly to them, ruining their pride and trust in the humans. And the human who started it all had blood running in the current generations, and they were the only humans who still remembered. The moon’s tear was never seen again; at least, not by everyone.

 

And it just so happens that a little hero is about to find out something she never thought possible.

 

 

Art of the Ironhunt

 

Entertainment is an important of a human’s life. Whether it be watching others suffer or simply enjoying a play about three pigs running away from a wolf, it was enough to satisfy the humans. And Ironhunt is the most illustrious entertainment of them all. In the most simple form, Ironhunt is a competition between individuals or guilds that wish to gain fame.

 

Ironhunting is considered a sport much like hunting down beasts, but humans are put up against each other in teams of or more than seven. Ironhunt is based off chess; it has pieces and an objective to eliminate the leader of the opposite team: the Ironlord. The Ironpieces, those who are subordinates to the team’s Ironlord, can either defend or attack, and that choice is up to the individual. There are a total of 33 Ironpieces an individual and choose and play, and each has its benefits and downfalls.

 

There are certain Ironpieces that require a specific type of damage, that being either physical or magical... or sometimes both. Some Ironpieces have a special ability that can only be activated with a certain condition. Long ranged, short ranged, defensive, offensive, bulky, agile, whatever one’s preference is, there is an Ironpiece that can fulfill that priority. There is no such thing as being tied down to an Ironpiece, the individual is the one who decides what they want to play as.

 

There is a rule of no two same Ironpieces in a match. That means, if an Ironpiece is taken by the opposite team, no individual, whether same team or not, can choose it again. This may be a disadvantage to some, and that is where being useful in more than one Ironpiece matters. The settings of a match is varied, from frozen peninsula to humid rainforest, the arena can generate all terrains.

 

Eliminating Ironpieces or Ironlords are simple, but complicated once put in an actual match. In a match, no one can kill each other, and no blood will be drawn, thanks to advanced magic. Every Ironpiece and Ironlord carries a shackle, either around their neck, hand, leg, or waist. To eliminate is to break that shackle. You cannot eliminate someone from your own team, as your weapon will not make contact with the shackle; it will simply pass through like air. The Ironlord has an especially large and heavy shackle, and puts a limit on their mobility, putting them at a disadvantage.

 

When eliminated, an Ironpiece’s name is called out across the map, along with their affiliation. Once the announcement is made, the Ironpiece will begin to fade, and teleported back to their team’s headquarters, where they can spectate the rest of the match from multiple screens. However, when the Ironlord is eliminated, the match immediately ends, and everyone remaining will get teleported to the lobby of the Coliseum where the match is held.

 

Ironhunt is an event that can only happen in the presence of sponsors and a thriving economy. Betting and paid entrance is a default way to keep the Coliseums funded and the games running. Coliseums can be built in any city, though it requires a bit of space, depending on its intended audience capacity. Small cities and towns cannot afford such necessity, but international services keep the watchers in contact. Television and national betting, in the courtesy of advanced magic, are ways to keep updated.

 

Although Ironhunting does not result in experience, it does reward gold and fame. A certain percentage of bets goes to the winning team. 50% of every bet lost goes to the Coliseum itself. Anyone can bet on either the whole team or one individual. If the whole team they bet on wins, they get 50% more than what they originally betted. If the whole team they bet on loses, all of the amount they had put in goes to the winning bettors and the Coliseum. Betting on an individual is the most riskiest, since in order to win, that individual has to still be in the match after winning.

 

There are normally three types of matches: random placement, guild war, and duels. Random placement puts seven or more individuals around the same level that enlisted themselves to a match into one. Guild Wars take entire amounts of guilds against each other, but will keep the numbers on both side balanced. Duels are basically player versus player, where the map is only ⅓ of what a normal map is.

 

Once in four years, there is a special event that renames Ironhunt into Moonhunt, where there are major changes within the game. Ironpieces and Ironlords also get renamed to Moonpieces and Moonlord. Matches take place <i>only</i> at night, and last until dawn if necessary. Moonpieces who are only available for this event are packed with brand abilities and unique attributes. The wide array that the arena can be is narrowed down into three types of arenas: a cliff next to a beach, a dark forest, and inside of a massive cave, all held in the artificial setting of a full moon. This chance is almost once in a lifetime, as only certified individuals can enlist in matches. The victor or victors of the event is given a Moon Wing and Moon Ring, both magnify every attribute of the one who wears them. And of course, they also gain their name being known to every corner of the known world.

 

Ironpieces

 

Rogue Judgement (RJ)

Known for their highly isolated personalities and high damage capabilities, these solitary individuals often only value their own opinions over others and go off by their own. Sometimes they’ll show up to save their own teammate and the next second, they’ll be gone.

 

Phantom Thief (PT)

Quiet and unknown, this highly sophisticated shadow does their best to remain hidden and unnoticed, staying as true to their titles as possible. No one expects them, but Phantom Thieves know what goes on in their environments; staying on top while still veiled by darkness.

 

Gemini (G1-2)

A team-up inside a team, they are comprised of two individuals who must have experience in the position and as well as knowing their partner. Tied together by a chain between their shackles, Geminis are rarely seen during the field, and they both will be ousted even if one of them gets hunted down.

 

Assaix (AX)

Knowing the difference between Phantom Thieves and Assai are difficult, but Assai allows magical users. Staying in the shadows and using their best abilities to stay invisible, these attackers eliminate quickly and efficiently; that is, if they can manage.

 

Zero (ZR)

Similar to Rogue Judgement, Zeroes have a more shady aspect to them. Wandering off by themselves are frequent, but they pack more damage than anything. Zeroes are reckless and love to indulge themselves in risks, even if it takes them out of the game.

 

Bloodlord (BL)

The main fighter of Ironhunt. Relying on damage and most often the leader of the game, Bloodlords are mature individuals who have a ton of leadership in them. Of all, Bloodlords are expected to lead their teams into victory, and if not, are shamed to not take the position again.

 

Tenebrae Outlaw (TO)

Magical damage dealers who like to live on the wild side, these Ironpieces are generally a little bit crazy when it comes to eliminating others. Disobeying orders and neglecting teammates are their hobbies, as their thirst for victory leads them far away from their responsibilities.

 

Soulless Reaper (SR)

Not limited to any type of dealing damage, they simply exist to reap enemy pieces and do their best as they serve under their Ironlord. These individuals are given a white mask which they can hide their identities, and instead of being ousted by their shackles, they get ousted by the very object given to them.

 

Saint Sinner (SS)

Fallen angels is one synonym, but that does not change the path they have chosen. Specializing in damage and defense, they are hybrids of two opposing attributes. It takes a lot to master this Ironpiece, those who are not worthy will not last long in the Ironhunt.

 

Raw Renegade (RR)

It’s a good idea to stick with physical dealers for this Ironpiece, but magical is just as effective. Known for their speed, Raw Renegades charge and value their Ironlord before anyone else. They are daring explorers, rushing into the unknown and dangerous lands for their team’s sake.

 

Paladin Vanguard (PV)

Usually in the frontlines of the battle, they endeavor to achieve victory through their advantage of high stamina and defense, two factors which compliment each other. Paladin Vanguards and Bloodlords have a close connection with each other, so having both in one team may increase chances of winning.

 

Archknight (AK)

These Ironpieces prefer to stay close to their Ironlord. No matter the situation, they are there to protect their master and are willing to put themselves on the line. A guard dog if you will, Archknights have plenty of faith and patience for their teammates.

 

Ruin Hunter (RH)

Long-range physical damage dealers who are annoying if they catch you off guard. Ruin Hunters are dynamic in speed and agility, making them even more hard to hit. They are part explorer and guard, and have a good deal of critical chances up their sleeves.

 

Card Master/Set Mage (CM)

These Ironpieces are lent a special ability: the ability to manipulate their surroundings. No matter what their name is, whenever they set down a card, the effects of that card are applied onto the ground and immediately affect those within range. The real table-turners, these individuals are even more dangerous with special sets of cards.

 

Nechron Venger (NV)

Not very conversational, they lurk around like shadows, occasionally helping with fights and eliminating enemy pieces.If matched with a Soulless Reaper, their capabilities double. Furthermore, at anytime and anywhere, they can revive one of their ally Ironpieces, though they will have to sacrifice their own life in the process.

 

Thunder Seeker (TS)

Much like Raw Renegades, these Ironpieces only seek speed. Often boastful and loud-mouthed, they lack the teamwork that is needed to win the game. Nevertheless, these individuals do not lack in ambition for victory, and would love nothing more than to crush Star Slayers.

 

Star Slayer (SL)

A star who is a slayer or a person that slays the stars? Both. Star Slayers are the ultimate rivals for any Thunder Seeker. These Ironpieces specify in stamina and damage, making the best of both worlds. A showdown between a Star Slayer and a Thunder Seeker are ones to spectate.

 

Macabre (MC)

These mischievous Ironpieces specialize in shape-shifting, as they can transform into a personification of rugged shadows to grotesque creatures, they are physical-root-magical damage, meaning they spend their magic to create physical damage through their various shapes, though ultimately, they rely on their own magical damage.

 

Eclypso (EC)

The very opposite of Macabres, Eclypsos can deal magical damage for a short duration, but sooner or later, they will still have to depend on their own physical damage. They cannot shape-shift, but they are potent in short, medium, or long ranges.

 

Whitefang (WF)

One of the two Ironpieces who are granted dire abilities, they have a white werewolf form which they can transform to only one time. In normal form, Whitefangs are robust in speed and defense, an unlikely but deadly combination. After all, they need all odds to be in their favor against the Blackclaws.

 

Blackclaw (WC)

The second Ironpiece who is allowed another one-time form, they are black werewolves who contradict the Whitefangs. Blackclaws generally have severe damage and critical chances, naming them the most potential damage dealer. Their rivals may be strange, but they have a sequence unmatched.

 

Crimson Phoenix (CP)

Limited to magical damage, they are ones built from their own ashes. Crimson Phoenixes have one more shackle after their first is taken, making them a major table-turner. Though after the second shackle, there is no other to revive them.

 

Fault Breaker (FB)

This Ironpiece requires critical thinking and great endurance, as they are the only ones who can bend a rule. There are a few rules to their range of manipulating in the rule books, and their existence alone puts a huge target on their back. Though they can only bend one rule, that rule applies for the rest of the game, and requires a huge deal of mana and concentration. A support Ironpiece for a Fault Breaker is highly recommended if a Fault Breaker were to be in a game.

 

Pagan Iris (PI)

A unique magical damage dealer, these Ironpieces are able to see the entire map, plus they have an increased Ironpiece detection range. Pagan Irises are indeed omniscient, but they aren’t as able as the other pieces in terms of any attribute. Having them in a game certainly creates uncertainty.

 

Shadow Saga (SG)

Using arcane magic, these Ironpieces can enchant themselves to grow wings and, if powerful enough, can copy an enemy Ironpiece’s special aspect and use it for their own benefits for a limited duration. They may lack in every field, but they gain mana immensely, making them a risky Ironpiece to have.

 

Russet Recker (RK)

First child in the Armageddon Trinity, these Ironpieces bathe in the blood of their enemies. Their damage is supreme, and most often conflicted with Bloodlords, whether enemy or ally. Russet Reckers bring nothing but destruction.

 

Maroon Ravager (RV)

Second child in the Armageddon Trinity, all they see are red. Exceptional in both damage and speed, these Ironpieces have an unexplainable grudge against their kin. Another nickname for them might be demons, but let’s not jump into conclusions.

 

Morbid Carnager (RC)

Third child in the Armageddon Trinity, they are the most solemn and quiet. Under that facade though, is the most gruesome and corrupt Ironpiece in the entire selection. Possessing abnormal levels of defense and resilience, they are walking heavy weapon wielders who seek victory and subjects to torture.

 

Demon Blade (DB)

Often overlooked, Demon Blades are Ironpieces who can have a form of any weapon. From scythes to a hybrid of hammer and sickle, they can transform to it all. They do not require a master, but they do grant the Ironpiece wielding them bonus power ups, depending on their form and their master’s will.

 

Arcane Herald (AH)

Not restraint to any type of damage, these Ironpieces do require a lot of mana to warp and lay down wards to teleport to. These wards provide a short Ironpiece detection range, too, and are very small to detect, but they can be taken down if dealt enough damage. They act as messengers to their teammates, using their wards to their best and support any ally Ironpieces.

 

Tide Sage (TT)

Another unique magic type Ironpiece, these individuals can rewind time once, and therefore is another major table-turner. They cannot reverse time once their Ironlord has been eliminated, but they can revert time prior to that, assuming they know what is happening.

 

Grim Joker (JK)

The only thing they’re good for in terms of attributes are their high mobility and evasion. Though, if you choose to stay on the bright side, Grim Jokers can turn into the Ironpiece that they’ve recently eliminated, which proves to be a powerful ability in the end.

 

Hellhounder (HH)

On anyone’s opinion, Hellhounders are annoying but are advantageous to play as. These Ironpieces prove as an effective support and solo, but that’s not why they’re irritably favorable. Once a Hellhounder has a locked target, it will attempt to follow that Ironpiece and eliminate it as quick as possible. Some Ironpieces who experienced this report being watched or whispered to.

 

Moonpieces

 

Cresent Omen (MC)

Mainly a magical support, this Moonpiece is capable is turning the tides in a team fight. Able to buff their own teammates, they can heal and help from a long distant. Annoying is one adjective opposing teams give this Moonpiece, and they take it as a compliment.

 

Night Eye (MN)

These Moonpieces have been given their name for a reason. Their detection range is increased dramatically, as well as their superior sense of every corner of the map. Relatively agile, they act as scouts, and tend to scatter themselves across the match, and are notorious for stealing eliminations.

 

Lunar Berserker (ML)

Exactly as their name is, they are physical tanks or warriors that either defend or deal damage well, respectively. Damage as well as critical chances are the two bonuses for this Moonpieces, and it fits them well.

 

 

 

Time and Life

 

For the most part, Asna’s time flows as evenly as Earth’s; a year consists of four seasons and twelve months. Beasts naturally have a longer lifetime than humans, averaging in the 200s, while humans in Asna have not lived further than a hundred.

 

To beasts, it did not matter how long they lived, as long as they have contributed to their community and experience a life full of simple things. Humans, however, know not of staying still. They were always moving, ever changing. They strove to find the better things to do than sit around.

 

Beasts have been hunted ever since the day the Silver Tree fell, cutting their lifespan almost by a twofold. That isn’t to say there aren’t any sufferings on the humans’ side, but beasts have been disappearing a lot faster than humans are. Humans fail to recognize this as a problem, and only embrace it as a victory for themselves. Humans are also blind to the fact that they had depended on the beasts for almost everything, beginning with the art of magic. Food, natural resources, and common knowledge are the few of many things that the beasts have provided humans with.

 

The humans count years beginning with the fall of the Silver Tree, and it has been five thousand since then. Beasts have no need to measure time, so they do not count the years according to the humans.

 

In Asna, no one ever essentially grows old. When it is mentioned, the word “old” has a negative feel to it, because a picture of wrinkles appear. Humans remain in their prime until the year they die. Until their adult stages, there is still an infant and teenage stage for each human.



City Life and Education

 

 

Cities in Asna are interconnected by rails, which are busy daily with trains on top, transporting humans to their desired places. Major cities with a thriving economy and wealthy managers are often the most populated, as shops and entertainment centers company the streets. Asna has no other transportation other than by train, so the streets are streaked with two rails for two trains going opposite ways. The pace of the train is slow and relaxing, which adds to the tourist side of major cities.

 

Major cities are circular in territory size, and take up around four thousand square miles. As the most crucial and largest city in the world, Central is an international attraction. At day, there are lots of things to do and see, as Central sits on top of a moderately high plateau, offering a view that is deemed invaluable. Delicacies of all kinds are brought to Central, and of course there are some native dishes, all are appealing to tongues of any preference. At night, streetlights lazily illuminate the streets, and the train activity dies down just a bit, perfect for dates or just to hang out.

 

In cities, open-firing is forbidden, and there is advanced magic to enforce that law. So far, no one has died inside a city. Dueling inside a city is the Coliseum’s job; to enlist in a duel, you must go to the Coliseum to do it.

 

Gold is the official currency for every human in Asna. Primarily, gold is dropped by beasts or dug up by miners. Secondary ways of obtaining gold is to work in places or create a place that pay, get it as an award from Ironhunting, or trading various goods to others.

 

Daycares and orphanages aren’t as crowded and abandoned, as some school centers usually take them in. Children under 16 are expected to take part in classes, but it is not mandatory for everyone. Subjects like math, science, geology, and many more are taught, and all classes are optional and are personalized by the individual who is interested. For those older than 16, a small fee is charged.

 

Of Combat and Weaponry

 

Weapons are forged in the hands of blacksmiths, and are not bought for a cheap price. Beginner weapons that are wooden, brass, or copper have relatively cheap prices, but as soon as steel, iron, or any other special mineral is wanted, the prices will soar like the central buildings of each city. Custom made weapons are even more costly, sometimes by a twofold or triplefold.

 

Any combination is welcome, as long as the individual is skilled at it. Sometimes there are special mentors and/or shamans that take on apprentices worthy of their knowledge. There are classes offered at some cities for a low cost on the course. Self-teaching is also another option, as there are massive libraries containing books on endless topics, including the mastery of weapons.

 

Steel is the leading material for weapons, as it is both light and strong, and can be mended into any density and design. Iron is the runner-up, and close behind the two is titanium. Titanium is projected to beat steel, but it has made little progress since its creation, to add onto that, it is costly. Of course, weapons can be made of any material, but metals are more preferred.

 

Weapons were enchanted with magic to make them easier to transport. Weapon Keys, as they are known, are somewhat what they sound like. For a cost, a weapon can be turned into a miniature form of itself, and the user is able to keep it in their pockets or attach it to something else. They are not literally keys, but it could be made possible for a weapon to completely turn into a key, just pay the local key magician three more times.

 

 

 

Hunter Classes

 

As with all humans, they always divide themselves into a class system. Two major classes are the Hunters and Civilians. Hunters are those who have a passion for slaying beasts. Over time, those who wield a certain weapon is created a title of, and as more time passed, titles turn into classes that Hunters organize themselves to be.

 

Beginner sword or spear wielders are generally called Warriors. As they get more advanced with their choice of weapon, they ascend into their respective new titles. Dragoons are those who wield spear, and Warlords those who wield two-handed swords.

 

Those beginning the art of wielding dual swords are marked as Bladers. Unlike Warriors, they have to stick to one weapon choice, that is, their double blades. Once experienced enough, they are newly titled Striders. Striders have the option of training to be a Blademaster, those who control two levitating blades with only their minds.

 

An Archist delves into the art of handling bows or crossbows. There are two weapon choices for them: the crossbow and the traditional bow. When their skills are developed, crossbow users are regarded as Treasure Hunters while bow users are Ruin Walkers.

 

Beginner Knights are specialized in either a one-handed sword, mace, or dagger with a shield. When their skills are honed enough, one-handed sword and shield wielders are Order Knights while mace and shield users are Terror Knights. Dagger and shield users become Lawful Knights, and only they have an option to advance to Solitair Paladin, which unites a knife and a dagger together.

 

Sorcerers are beginner magicians, with the option of either a staff or an orb. The difference is that with a staff, you have more mobility flying on it but casting spells take longer than when casting with an orb. Elemental Masters enjoy their hovering orbs while Archmages have their personal ride home on their staffs.

 

At first they sound ridiculous, but Bards are beginner guitarists that are another type of magical damage. Once they are tuned and adjusted to their lifestyle, they are called Minstrels, and are one of the two Hunter Classes to coexist with Civilians, bringing them music while slaughtering beasts with the same vibrations. Minstrels have the choice to furthering their magic with training to become a Maestro, who carries around a thin baton as a weapon with style.

 

Guardians truly have the most underrated fighting style of all time, and that is because they use knuckles or claws. Those who wish to fight with knuckles become, with time, a Crusader while those with claws rise to Berserkers. Both Crusaders and Berserkers have an option to become a Brutus, one that need no weapon, which means they will be magical damage dealers, fighting with their raw fists and inner “beast.” Only a Berserker has the advantage of becoming a Highlander, those who wield claws in the formation of a wheels, called spiral blades.

 

Although not necessarily running from the law, Outlaws do possess dual guns as a beginner. They are often seen doing everything by themselves, and returns as a Duelist, an advanced gunslinger. Duelists have an opportunity to train for Judgment, those who wield gunblades.

 

Ironjaws depend on metal scrap works to fight for them, from simple retractable boxer gloves to accidental explosions, they can build them all. Programming their first android will bring them the title of Silverfist. If a Silverfist contributes enormously to modern technology, they may be recognized as a Fullmetal. There is a second way to earning the Fullmetal title: creating a friendly android that can assist and be useful in combat.

 

Of course, there are no Hunter Classes police or automatic system that can grant an individual their title, but becoming a Hunter requires honor and truthfulness. If an individual lies about their class, it will be shamed upon.

 

Civilian Hierarchy

 

 

Of course, there are those who value peace than bloodshed, and they are the Civilians, also commonly called city-dwellers or tree-huggers. They have normal lives inside the barriers that guard the cities, and they deliberately chose to not to involve themselves in the feud that is humans versus beasts. Not to say that they lack strength or courage, but they believe in tranquility can be achieved nonviolently.

 

The order of Civilians are based on how much an individual earns. At the bottom of the pyramid are the everyday workers, like those from shops and restaurants. Their checks are small, but are enough to make a living out of. Right above them are managers or teachers, requiring a bit of experience before they can earn that job. Superior than them are the more complicated jobs, like industry leaders or secretaries. Needless to say, the ones sitting at the top are those who do the actual protecting of the city, referred to as the Headquarter Civilians. Politics are their area of battle, and they are the ones who makes the laws and enforces them.

 

 

Beast Categories

 

There are endless species of beasts, and new ones are discovered everyday. The secret to their diversity is that they all are mutants; mistakes that keep jumbling up. To avoid confusion, humans have created generalized categories for the beasts, relying on appearance to be the factor that sets each category. There are twelve overall, and they are made easy to remember.

 

Aries beasts are those that resemble rams, and they can stand on their four hoofs. They come in a wide range of sizes, though they are dominantly large, and their horns are the most distinctive, it curves around in a spiral.

 

Taurus beasts are even more massive than Aries beasts, and their horns do not form a spiral, but either curve up, stretched to the side, locked in front of them, or pointed down(for some reason). Unlike other beasts, they’ve developed the intellect to pick a favorite weapon: the axe.

 

Gemini beasts are those with two or more heads, especially if they are from different animals. The Ironhunt makers were careful to avoid the option of fusing together two players and having them sharing one body but have different heads.

 

Cancer beasts are ones that originate from the sea, and are often in the form resembling a crab, though their multiple legs are the main factor that sets them apart from other beasts. A true Cancer beast has some kind of oceanic debris on their hide, like seaweed or mussels.

 

Leo beasts are often deemed the most terrifying of all. Wrath is their specialty, and they aren’t afraid to show it in front of humans. Their feline-like characteristics are what defines them, though some Leo beasts couldn’t be recognized at first because of how many mutations they’ve gone through.

 

Virgo beasts are opposites to Leo beasts; they attain the traits of a canine. Standing on four or two legs, they are fierce and agile, and only the most experienced Hunters can take them down. Virgo pelts are quickly becoming popular in the markets for their mysterious shine.

 

Libra beasts take forms of distorted birds, and their plumage cannot be described in just “ugly.” Their heads are generally replaced for another animal’s, and whatever it may be, the head(s) can breathe fire.

 

Scorpio beasts are exactly the same as Cancer beasts, but they are not from the sea, they are from land. And they usually have poison in their bodies that can be utilized as a weapon. Any Hunter has to be careful around them.

 

Sagittarius beasts almost always have a solid body of a horse but their neck is replaced with another animal. The animal they have as their head, no matter what it is, seems to be anthropogenic, and possesses thumbs along with four fingers.

 

Capricorn beasts are generally small but their stamina exceeds all other beasts. Difficult to kill and chase, they resemble goats, their horns are barely noticeable because they are that miniature compared to their body proportions.

 

Aquarius beasts are especially difficult to kill, because they possess similar form to that of a serpent. Sometimes they have wings, and have other parts of beasts infused into them, but how to tell if it is an Aquarius beast is that they get around by slithering..


Pisces beasts are extremely rare, and extremely hard to kill. They have two lives, and the in their second life they can morph into something much more grotesque. Fins are their most apparent trait, and if a Pisces beast is ever located, it might take an entire guild to take it down.

Chapter Text

“Toss the comb, Leyna.”

“Not done yet, just wait.”

“I have been, for the last half hour.” A sigh followed the voice.

“Then wait a bit more.”

The black haired female glared at her reflection in the mirror, her purple eyes spoke of a hidden annoyance. She had let her hair down to restart on her signature style, the Side StarWave, basically just all of her hair in a ponytail on the side of her head. Truly, she was fine with her hair down like this, but this was a special night, so she had to look her best.

She wore a horizontally striped sleeveless shirt that had a collar with a pomegranate-trimmed-gold cravat, and the shirt split into two triangles that reached the middle of her thighs. On top of it she wore a black open vest, a matching bow decorated its lower back, and from it extended a flat tail, all trimmed yellow. The female slipped on the dark fingerless gloves that was part of her uniform, guiding it over her skin, stopping when the white ruffle had reached her elbows and doing the same to her other arm. Her silky, pleated skirt reflected the mauve color of the sky during evening.

“You’re not going on a date, Leyna.” She twisted around, and focused her frown on the girl sitting behind her on her own vanity table, the brown-haired female intent on her mirror.

“You should buy another comb, Angella.” Leyna answered, shrugging and gave her wavy hair one last stroke, “This one’s about to break.” With that, the sorceress threw the comb from across the room.

The baby blue comb spun toward Angella fast. Reaching out her right hand, she captured the thin plastic between her index and middle fingers, hanging her head in defeat when she saw what had happened to the poor object. “You always break the ones I buy…” She murmured, “Even the ones I bought for myself.”

“It’s my job as the younger sister, isn’t it?” Leyna smiled, but the mischief hiding behind the smile was obvious to the two.

“Sorry to have to put you through her, comb.” Angella rolled her eyes, “I’ll give you one last go.”

Their living space was large for an apartment━after all, they had asked for the best one. As long as there was enough space for the two of them, Angella and Leyna could get along. A simple livingroom, kitchen, bedroom, closet, and a bathroom was all they had expected, anything else would’ve been a bonus. Sure it was expensive, but it was worth every gold they had saved up.

Sighing as she gazed lazily at herself in the reflective material, Angella quickly reviewed what she wanted to say. Hi, I kind of just defeated you in a match, so you want to join my guild? She shook her head at the directness. Putting the comb down, she reached for the white ribbon that she always used and started to gather her black cascade to her left side.

A moment she never thought would come. This would definitely be it. Where to begin? Angella and Leyna moved into Central a few months ago, starting with the apartment purchase. Of course, it left a gaping hole in their bank, but the two managed to bring most of the gold back, from harsh days of doing nothing but hunting beasts and enlisting in Coliseum matches. The furniture was yet another problem they couldn’t solve yet; the previous owner of the apartment left almost nothing behind except silverware, couches, a coffee table, and a wardrobe in the bedroom. They couldn’t have asked for more.

Around the same time they decided to move into Central, the two wanted to start a guild… which also costed gold. To be deemed as an official one, they had to go through tedious paperwork and harsh payments. But through all of that, MidnightBound was born. They had wanted the guild to be a friendly group, just for hangouts and such. In the first month, they recruited three girls, who happened to also be sisters: Elise, Aileen, and Kimmie. They were intermediates, but knew their way around Asna enough. Since then, the five had fun getting to know one another and enjoyed each other’s company. Originally, Angella planned for the headquarters of MidnightBound to be placed in her and Leyna’s hometown, which was all the way in Ixonara, the southwest nation of Evain, but she chose Central instead. Elise, Aileen, and Kimmie had promised they were moving to Central soon, and Angella hopes Elise can hold back from spending gold on jewelry or other beauty products.

“Thought about what you’re gonna say?” Leyna spoke up, adding the top coat to her light blue nails.

“Thinking right now.” Angella replied, finishing up her Side StarWave.

“They’re celebrities, you know…”

“Thanks for the additional stress.”

“Anytime.”

Angella only planned on bringing Leyna with her, since Leyna was kind of like an advisor to Angella in the guild. Leyna would’ve been the Vicemaster, but Angella had special intentions for that rank.

Last week was Angella’s turn to Ironhunt. Leyna had begged to get a day off, and Angella reluctantly gave it to her. Leyna claimed to be shopping furniture for the apartment, but she only bought clothes and little things for herself. While enlisting, Angella noted one of the screens the Coliseum put up around the lobby was of a discussion surrounding two major figures in Ironhunt: Blue and Jack. Blue was a female dual blader, and Jack, her counterpart, was a male dual blader, and those who wielded double swords were called Striders. The two have been known to notoriously hog the Gemini piece, and completely deck everyone in a match. One Strider was enough to stir up trouble, but double that and you’ve got a whole other situation.

On that same day she encountered them in the match she had enlisted for. To this day she’s still wondering if it was a coincidence. Blue and Jack were on her team, and of course, they had won that match. Angella had chosen the piece Zero, since someone had already picked Rogue Judgement, her best position. She was facing off with an enemy Assaix, who looked to invade the area Angella was placed. Everything was going great, Angella was ensured a kill. But then, like lightning, someone else had stolen the elimination, leaving the Zero in the dust. When she had realized what happened, Jack’s smirk was the first thing she recognized.

Pushing herself up, Angella quickly tidied up her desk, which was more like a vanity table every day. Snatching her Weapon Key, her obsidian combat boots overlaid with dark gray leg warmers made muffled thudding sounds as she walked over to Leyna, tapping the brunette’s shoulder, “Time to go. Don’t tell me you’re not finished.”

“Yes, yes…” Leyna nodded absentmindedly and positioned her loose ponytails to drape across her shoulder, “‘Kay. Sweetheart Cafe, was it?”

Angella gave a brisk nod. “Want to walk there?”

Standing up, Leyna frowned. “What?! But it’s too far!”

“Well, it’s a good night for walking. It’s not too hot or too cold.” Angella insisted, pointing at the window that was next to Leyna’s vanity table, “I just thought it’d be fun. Plus, we need to familiarize ourselves with the neighborhood.”

Leyna kept her disapproving face at the black-haired girl some more, but gave in and sighed, “Fine… but we’re taking the train home, right?”

“You got it.” Placing her hand on the bedroom door knob, Angella twisted it and exited.

 

Her second encounter with the two was more unpleasant than the first; that time they were on the opposite team. The only good thing that came out of that match was that she could choose Rogue Judgement and Leyna was there to support as a Set Mage. The two fought like she’s never seen; probably because she never saw two Striders as a Gemini piece. Their minds spoke in a language unseen to others, and their collaboration was unmatched. She couldn’t help but think Gemini was perfect for both of them. She never liked it herself… cooperating was a hassle.

There were a lot of words exchanged on both sides, Angella was surprised they recognized her from their first confrontation with her. Jack had replied saying that he never forgets who he had stolen a kill from, and he definitely received a furious answer. Angella dealt a good amount of damage, but their speed was too much for her, and it was something even Leyna couldn’t slow down. In the end, Angella and Leyna were both eliminated, but Angella learned from her mistakes, and the next time she were to meet them again, she had a jist of what to do.

“See?” Angella grinned, turning to Leyna, “The walk wasn’t so bad wasn’t it?”

Leyna rolled her eyes, opening the door to the cafe shop, “Yeah, yeah, whatever.”

The Sweetheart Cafe sign shone brightly above the entrance, and were joined by so many other shop titles, decorating the busy streets. The shop was in a corner of the street, so there were plenty of seats inside arranged right next to the windows. The peach tile floor matched with the light pink tables and its chair, the lightning a pale yellow to fit the mood. Sweetheart Cafe wasn’t a very rich place, but the drinks they made spoke for their missing wealth. The center of the shop was two steps below street level, so there was a little square hole designed for all the people who were ordering, the higher ground reserved for those would be drinking in the shop.

“They should be here soon…” Angella looked around, noting that there were only a few people, “Grab a table for four. I’ll go greet them.”

Nodding, the two separated, Angella opening the door to go outside, but staying beside it so as to not get wiped away with the flow of the crowd. Even at night, Central was as busy as it was in the day. The breeze brought coolness with it, toying around with the loose strands of Angella’s hair.

The third time she encountered Blue and Jack was this afternoon, and it wasn’t a coincidence at all; they all knew this. Leyna was, too, in the match. It looked like Blue and Jack deliberately requested for the match the two sisters were in, and they expected that, too. The four had sought each other out immediately after the horn sounded for the match to begin. No one even bothered to interfere in the faceoff━even the audience knew that this was a battle left untouched.

How they had managed to defeat the Geminis were still unknown even to them. Angella had taken Rogue Judgement, as always, but Leyna had been training nonstop ever since she saw how Blue and Jack fought together, and unlocked the Shadow Saga Ironpiece. Leyna had never tried it before, but she fought as well as any experienced person in the position.

If it wasn’t for Leyna, Angella didn’t know if she would be here right now. Shadow Sagas have an ability to copy an enemy Ironpiece’s special skill, which in this case was a Gemini’s communication to its partner. Using that, Angella and Leyna had formulated a random plan to trap Blue and Jack and break the chain that held the Geminis together, which would only be visible if stretched to its full length. Leyna pulled up a twister between the Geminis, and ultimately forced them apart, the chain clinked in stress as it showed up. Angella had cut it with a swipe of her hybrid spear, breaking the telepathic communication between Blue and Jack.

Her eyes lit up as she recognized a certain blonde girl’s wild hair in the crowd, accompanied with a dark purple-blue twister that was Jack’s hair. At least they didn’t show up in their battle armor. Blue looked less like she wanted to kill everyone in range, but Jack still looked arrogant in his big shades. They both wore casual clothes, and looked like any other person walking around the streets for fun. Angella made sure not to comment they looked like a couple, because she had a hunch Blue was going to really eliminate her for sure.

Lifting up a hand to wave to them, she received a nod from the female Strider, and, as if confirming Angella’s suspicions of Jack being what everyone called “player,” a wave from the questionable Strider.

“Thanks for coming,” Angella started, as the two reached earshot, “I honestly thought you wouldn’t.”

“It’s nothing, we had nothing to do anyway.” Blue replied, shrugging. Her outfit was definitely different from the warrior Angella had seen in the arena. Black leather jacket wrapped the white-and-black striped shirt underneath with black jeans and matching black shoes. Anyone would’ve mistaken her for a normal lady, especially with the bow that adorned her blonde locks, which were more or less separated into two wavy ponytails that was her Rolled Hair style.

“Nice place… Though I’ve never heard of it before.” Jack glanced up at the shining shop sign, and took a quick look around. His hoodie had beige fur lining its hood, and reflected the color of his hair. He wore a white T-shirt underneath, and black jeans with matching black sneakers that had a white rubber edge.

“It’s not a famous shop or anything, just a quiet place to talk at.” Angella pushed the door, but it wouldn’t budge. She pushed with a bit more force the second, frowning at the door wouldn’t open.

“It’s… a pull door…” Jack offered, quietly.

Blue sighed.

“Right…” Angella chuckled nervously, and pulled on the handle, gesturing for the two Striders to enter first, and she followed them, silently blaming the door as she closed it.

Turning around, Angella saw that Leyna had taken a table to their right, and the said Elemental Master was trying her best not to burst out in a fit of laughter. Sending a death glare her way, Leyna flinched and cleared her throat, standing up to shake hands with the Striders. Exchanging polite words, they all settled down around the square table, Angella and Leyna on one side while Blue and Jack were on the other.

“Let’s start over again…” Angella closed her eyes tightly, trying to erase what just happened at the door, “...I’m Angella, a Dragoon. Guildmaster of MidnightBound.”

“I’m Leyna. It’s nice to meet you.” Giving a little bow, the brunette’s blue eyes shone, “Elemental Master, also Captain to MidnightBound.”

Offering a little smile, Blue softened her gaze, “Aren’t you sisters? It’s hard to believe when Leyna is more formal than you, Angella.”

“Oh no, you haven’t seen anything.” Angella shook her head, narrowing her eyes at Leyna, “She’s a money-eating monster… It’s a miracle we could afford an apartment here.”

“She has a secret side? So does Blue.” Jack grinned, but that disappeared from his face when Blue stepped━no, stomped━on his foot. Gritting his teeth, Jack only let out one whimper of pain.

The two sisters blinked at the bluntness. They both concluded not to piss off Blue too much.

Anyway,” The female Strider almost growled, her presence dwarfing those around her, “I just wanted to say… Good job outwitting us in the match. Now the media’s going to go after you.”

Angella nodded slowly, not sure if that was meant as a compliment or threat, “Ah… I wouldn’t say outwit…”

Cutting off the chain that bound the Geminis together wasn’t enough to eliminate them, but once it was pierced, Geminis no longer enjoyed their secretive planning or buffs that the position gave them. Their speed decreases while their damage almost halves, basically meaning they are no longer able to pull any tricks or perform any miracles. All that was left was to take advantage of the situation and target their shackles.

Angella and Leyna could finally use the experience they have with weaker pieces, and their accuracy was, at that moment, superior to Blue and Jack’s. There were some desperate struggles and dangerous risks taken, but Angella finally broke the shackle around Jack’s neck.

“Ah, have you ever been to southern Central before?” Angella changed the topic, “This is your first time right?”

“More or less.” Blue answered, “We took the street train all the way from the west side to the east, so we passed through here, though I didn’t pay much attention to anything.”

“We’re currently checked in a hotel on the east, but I guess it won’t hurt to come down here once in a while.” Jack added, “There are a few shops I wanted to check out…”

“Cool, we can show you around one day.” Leyna smiled, casting a wary look toward her sister, “Though don’t expect much of us, we’ve been too busy trying to earn gold.”

“It’s fine.” Jack dismissed it, with a flick of his hand. “So, tell me about this guild of yours.”

What…? Angella blinked again. After Angella managed to eliminate Jack, and as the two were about to disappear off the arena, she didn’t know what came over her, but she had shouted at them to meet her at Sweetheart Cafe, like they knew where it was. She didn’t even know what they were going to talk about, let alone trying to meet up with them. Maybe she wanted them on her guild. But what good will that do? They were celebrities, she was a mere face in the crowd. She had to try, nonetheless. Nothing will come out of doubting.

“Oh, you… you’re interested?” She finally spoke, after a moment’s pause.

Jack rested his elbows on the table, creating a platform with his hands and brought his head on top of them, “Many people have been meeting us for the reason of them wanting us on their guild. We were planning to cancel them all today, but we figured it was time to join one.”

“How much do you want us on your guild? For what purpose? There are many guilds that would want us, so how would yours top the list?” Blue joined in, her face stoic as her eyes locked in on Angella’s, an unspoken fierceness traveled through the contact.

“I…” Angella started, flinching from the staredown. Calm down… Be yourself. Honesty, right? They’re expecting you to be someone they can rely on. Clearing her throat, she mustered all the courage she could, and returned the glare. “I have nothing to offer you but friendship. The term might be foreign to you two, but my goal as a Guildmaster is to ensure MidnightBound’s safety. I may not look like much of a leader, and I don’t want to be deemed as one. The guild’s one objective from the day I created it is to bring individuals together and to be a place where one who doesn’t belong, can.

“To be honest, when I told you to meet me here I had no idea what I was going to talk about. I’m not the one to speak, but running from the media must be hectic for you. Not that I can do anything about that, but I can offer you a place to relax or just hang around. Of course, other guilds can also provide you that, but… I don’t think they can guarantee you trustworthiness.”

...I hope I didn’t make myself further a fool. Angella bit the inside of her mouth nervously.

A bit of silence passed between the four, but it wasn’t an uneasy one. It was rather peaceful, filled with the two Striders thinking about their decision. Blue and Jack never had an easy life from the start anyway, and dealing with the media was even more stressful. Many guilds wanted their name on their memberlist, and would try to talk them into it with bribes and false smiles. But there was something in Angella’s words… no━tone that they wanted to believe. That they want to be true.

Blue closed her eyes. Angella swore it was just a figment of her imagination, but there was a small, genuine smile on the blonde female’s face.

“That was one hell of a speech your sister gave, Leyna.” Blue spoke, opening her eyes second, “...Wasn’t it?”

Leyna jerked, as if awoken from an unknown state of mind. Her blue eyes blinked at Blue, then, as though remembering where she was, Leyna broke into a smile, turning to Angella and giving the black haired girl a soft punch on the shoulder. “Oh… Yeah. Nice one.”

Angella was too flustered to notice the absentmindedness from Leyna. All of her confidence was suddenly sucked away by a river of uncertainty. She was going to be humiliated after this. Blue and Jack were going to make fun of her forever. Speeches weren’t her forte. She wasn’t too experienced in the area let alone deliver one out of the top of her head. She winged it, and now she was going to get embarrassed.

“Sounds nice.” Jack reflected his partner with a little upward curve of his lips, “We’ll return to our little hideout and then I guess we’ll━”

Suddenly, the night sky that was captured in the windows bursted into a fiery mix of red and orange. Following that was a quake, unsettling the delicately placed decorations inside the shop. At this point, there was no one else in the cafe except for the four and the workers. The four immediately stood up, trying to comprehend the situation. Screams began to echo, and another vibration sent the earth around them shaking.

“What…” Blue quickly strode out the door, falling into her footsteps was Jack.

A harsh burst of wind greeted the two Striders, and they watched as the magical barrier that was normally invisible visibly shook in front of them. A giant boulder was launched in the sky, and the places it hit on the dome-like shield highlighted blue, breaking the heavy projectile, separating it into fireworks, sending furious smaller parts across the sky like lethal fireworks. Around them Civilians rushed to the inner reaches of the city, yelling at others to move along or hurry it up.

“Hmm. An attempt to breach the city…?” Blue smiled, crookedly. Reaching into her pockets, she grasped her Weapon Key, which was a key ring holding onto two miniature sticks, which were blades. Tossing it into the air, she willed for it to transform, which, in a white flash, from the mobile form grew two silver blades made of pure titanium with slight accents of blue. As they fell, Blue’s two hands readily received them, and held them firmly at her sides, in a battle stance.

“Honestly… Interrupting my sentence…” Jack sighed, and repeated Blue’s actions. His blades were of a dark green hue with hints of black, and were a bit thinner than his female partner’s. Casually wielding them, he cracks his neck, the familiar popping sounds reaching his ears.

Still inside the shop, Angella and Leyna sought to evacuate the workers. “Avanna, was it? Gather your employees, I’ll make sure you guys get somewhere safe.” Leyna smiled toward the shop manager, and received a nod in reply.

“Are you sure you’d be okay without me?” Angella asked her sister, even though she already knew the answer.

“I’ve been okay without you for a long time.” Leyna rested her hand on Angella’s shoulder, “Just go. Though I expect a gift from you.”

Rolling her eyes, the black haired Dragoon nodded, “Sure, sure.”

Watching her sister throwing her Weapon Key and it turning into Angella’s spear, Leyna turned to the counter, where the girls in the shop gathered behind, awaiting Leyna’s instructions.

“Who’s ready for a girls’ night out?” The Elemental Master grinned, pushing the half door that only workers were supposed to have access to.

 

“Hey, Angella,” Jack spoke, noticing the said female joining them, “If we join your guild are you going to rank us as beginners?”

“Of course not,” Angella replied, making the best explanation out of the current circumstances, “I’ve never known what to do with the empty Vicemaster positions…”

Jack’s smile grew, “Now you do.”

“Let’s go, Jack.” Blue narrowed her eyes at the next spherical projectile, and started dashing toward the area where the barrier and ground met, her blades pressed flat together behind her.

“Then, we’ll see you after this.” Jack said, before bolting toward the nearest building and climbing up to the ceiling to run atop it in an agile manner.

You did it.

Sighing, Angella positioned her spear behind her and started after the duo, wondering if they were really going to launch a counterattack. Of course, there were other Hunters who seeked to benefit from this fight, and they were all racing toward where the boulders were fired from. Beast hunting was different from Ironhunting… You don’t know if you were going to die that day.

Shaking the negative thoughts, she built up her own adrenaline, only accepting her footsteps on the stone floor. But as she passed a narrow valley, something caught her eye. White. Was it… white silk? Hastily halting her run, she ran back to the opening of the alley. Squinting, Angella took a step in the narrow hall’s direction, trying to verify what she was seeing. It was a girl, in a plain white night gown, laying still on the ground.

Just as Angella decided to help the abandoned human, a Virgo beast a meter taller than her dropped in front of the girl, the concrete underneath it cracked and exploded to the sides of the buildings that sandwiched the alley, a few scratching Angella herself. Had beasts already broke through the barrier? But boulders were still deflected by the barrier, so how? The Virgo beast was a dire one, standing on two legs and its front two legs were poised at Angella, preparing to rip the Dragoon to shreds.

Rotating her spear in battle stance, her thoughts ran like wild. But one stood up all the others: the way that the beast had dropped between Angella and the girl… it was as if… as if the beast was trying to protect the motionless girl. But…

If the beast wanted to kill the girl, she would’ve been crushed to death already

Angella widened her eyes, the revelation shaking her very belief foundation. The human and beast stood in their battle posture for a moment, Angella’s purple eyes staring into the ice cold ones of the Virgo beast’s. None of them made a move, and Angella wondered if the beast could read her thoughts.

Suddenly, a black streak flashed through her vision, and a another Hunter had entered the feud, striking at the beast horizontally through its chest. Letting out an anguish howl, the beast staggered, and did not step on the still sleeping girl. Angella’s eyes flicked to the Hunter that managed to inflict pain onto the beast. He had a black cloak, and there was not much to say about his attire except he wore all black except for his white T-shirt.

Under the half moon night’s lighting, Angella wasn’t sure if she saw an emblem of the Central Headquarters on his cloak.

Reassuring her grip on her spear, she started to advance toward the beast to contribute her own slice of agony onto it. But before she could, her spear was deflected off something metallic, sending her backwards into the air, but she quickly recovered, landing on her feet.

“What now…?” She murmured, gritting her teeth as she tried to make out what had stopped her in her path.

A green eye belonging to a blonde girl stared into hers fiercely, her right eye was veiled by an eyepatch in the form of a rose. Her blonde hair was neatly tied into a single thin braid, which trailed on her back. Judging from the dagger and knife she was holding in each hand, she was a Solitaire Paladin. She wore a vintage shirt, with the lower portion being brown and the upper white. The shirt was attached to a leather circle that wrapped her neck, which in turn was connected to the semitransparent sleeves that loosely surrounded her arms. Her jeans matched the brown of her shirt, and was accompanied by peach leg warmers at the bottom.

By the looks of it, her weapons were custom made, too. Her dagger had a lightning shape to it, and the knife on her right hand was a blue one outlined in black. Angella had no intentions to mess with a custom made weapon; she had learned better.

“Leave this to us.” The girl in front of her spoke, her voice firm, “Go and help your sister; she’s being attacked.”

Angella’s eyes glinted with worry. Who was this stranger? How did she know about her sister? How does she know Leyna’s in danger when she’s here and not there? Who was the guy in black? What about the girl?

“You’re asking a Hunter to back down from a fight they started?” Angella hissed, raising her spear.

“This is not your quarrel. Go before you regret your decision.” The Solitaire Paladin frowned at the Dragoon’s resistance.

Behind her, skills only belonging to a Crusader unleashed at the beast, flashes of blue and white resulting as metal clashed with hardened fur. Angella wanted answers, but there were none to be found, only more and more questions. The girl in front of her showed no signs of getting out of her way, and Angella knew better than to pick a fight with a Solitaire Paladin.

Letting out a grunt of frustration, she dashed the opposite way she originally had wanted to go; back to the direction of the shop and the inner cities. What the girl had said to Angella… If Leyna was being attacked, she could handle it. But what if she couldn’t? What if it was a beast much more terrifying than the Virgo one she had encountered?

The street she was running started to slope upwards, and as she reached on top she recognized the cafe shop she was in earlier. Leyna and the others couldn’t be that far away. Keeping this in mind, she increased her speed a bit, jumping over debris that had been toppled over in the wake of the numerous quakes.

“Leyna!” Spotting the group of girls in front of the doors of a restaurant that served as a safehouse for the Civilians, she joined them, barely panting, “You’re okay?”

“Of course I am…?” Leyna narrowed her eyes warily, “I was just going to join you. Why are you here? You wasted your breath.”

Cursing slightly, Angella sighed. I've been tricked.

 

“Interesting…” A voice sounded, its tone masculine but had a sly hint to it.

Its owner was a male, his fiery red hair was the only thing that stood out in the dark room that was his office. He sat in a large chair behind a table made of the most expensive wood. Bookcases stood at attention all around the room, containing articles of mystery. He wasn’t supposed to be here in the late hours, but something had called him here.

He was in his casual black vest without the tie, and his usual blue suit. Though the color contradicted his red hair, he still chose to wear it. At least his pants weren’t blue━they were black━else it would’ve been a fashion disaster. With a push of his feet, he navigated the chair over to the window behind them, to survey the scenery of the southern Central city. Explosions and tiny dots could be seen, rushing toward the interior of the city.

Placing his right elbow on the armrest of the chair, he settled his chin on his hand, his gold eyes calmly looking on at the landscape. He knew this attack would happen sooner or later… he was the one that provoked it, after all. But he didn’t have to be on the receiving end of the consequences; the foolish Hunters would, believing that they were protecting the Civilians.

The door to his office behind him bursted open, and at the entrance stood a girl of light blue hair that faded into pink at the tips. The light of the hallway was behind her, so her face couldn’t be made out correctly, but she was wearing a military hat and her right eye was veiled by an eyepatch that held the Central Headquarters emblem. She leaned against the doorframe, her hot pink eyes glaring down the back of the chair that was turned away from her.

“Ares… We’ve retrieved her.” She simply said, crossing her arms and legs.

A crooked smile appeared on the red-haired male’s face, “Good work. And Dagger, I’d like you to mark the Dragoon and Elemental Master girls. They look… interesting.”

The female named Dagger scoffed, “Yeah, yeah, whatever. I figured you’d be, so I marked them ahead of time.”

“Honestly.” Ares rotated his chair around, gold eyes connecting with pink ones, “You know me too much.”

Chapter Text

Angella and Leyna got a chance to meet the stars of Ironhunt! Blue and Jack, the famous duo who dominates the arena with the Gemini Ironpiece! Blue and Jack were interested in Angella's guild, MidnightBound! Angella gave a speech about the friendship of guilds and for some reason, Blue and Jack had listened and were convinced. Before they could go on with their conversation, Central was under attack from the beasts surrounding them, and Blue and Jack had rushed to the front lines to help stop the assault. Angella followed their lead, but was distracted by... A sleeping girl in an alleyway? A Virgo beast had stared down Angella, but before they could fight, a cloaked figure and a female Solitaire Paladin had arrived and effectively tricked Angella to backing off. What will happen this time...?

“Just a little longer, Kimmie!”
“Hang in there!”
Hearing her two sisters’ voices did nothing to help Kimmie’s lowering her speed. The teal haired girl was running with not one, but two weapons, if you count a shield as a weapon. Though, she was a Knight, it was her job to be the ones with heavy artillery and be the bait. Strengthening her grip on her weapons, she narrowed her eyes at the spot between two large oak trees in the distance, where Elise and Aileen were waiting. Good thing Kimmie tied up her hair before running this much. The dense forest they were hunting in got darker and darker by the minute, so this was bound to be their last beast of the day.
The Gemini beast behind her was pounding on her tracks, its labored breathing pressuring on her neck. Before she lured it, Kimmie noted that it had the head and neck of a bird and the head of a goat, both compiled on the body of a black leopard. More than twice her height, it had detected her immediately, resulting in the monstrosity charging directly at her. Kimmie’s job had been simple enough: she had to act as bait and lure the beast to where her sisters were waiting, so all of them can ambush it.
The bird head reached out to try and clamp onto whatever article of clothing it was closest to, but Kimmie sprinted as the branches of the oak trees emerge in her vision, and her two sisters were perched on top of each oak tree, patient. Grinning, the teal haired Knight gave a little leap to her last stride, as if running through a banner first place in a marathon. Planting her feet on the soil she twisted around, and was glad to see the familiar hair colors of Elise and Aileen; two icy ponytails with a bow on one of them and a sky blue fading to purple cascade, respectively.
Aileen was holding the beast back with continuous rounds of bullets, each submerging through the beast’s skin, forcing it to stagger back. The Outlaw’s green hat that was part of her Paper Girl set was on the ground, flipped up, the rest of its family, Aileen was wearing. The green-bodied dress shirt had white long, rolled up sleeves and surprisingly fit with the yellow of her skirt. Kimmie couldn’t see it, but she knew the white ribbon bow that replaced where a tie would normally be on a dress shirt was there. Usually, Aileen wore a pair of white-tipped brown western boots that didn’t belong with the set, but since she was hunting today, she wore the brown combat boots that went with the set.
“You okay, Kimmie?” The icy haired Elise asked, stopping in her own assault of ice spells on the beast. She stepped back toward the kneeling Knight, confident that Aileen can keep the beast at bay with her bullets.
“Yeah, it’s nothing.” Kimmie smiled, using her shield to bring herself upright.
Elise raised her black-and-blue guitar, which looked it like belonged to a rock band than anything, to a more comfortable position, and began to trail her fingers across the strings in a precise manner. Instantly, her sisters felt better, as the familiar resonance of the healing melody filled them. Though annoying at times, the fashionista proved useful in combat. Her titanium alloy armor was something she chose to fit her guitar. Brown lined with blue, all she was missing was the hat and shoes of the set, but she substituted them with a bow and a pair foreign footwear that was only a gold wire shaped like a snake spiraling up her legs, accordingly. Basically it left her bare-footed, but Elise said she didn’t mind. It’s a miracle that she didn’t have a weird feet disease or something.
“Go, we’ll support from the back.” Elise said, giving Kimmie a reassuring pat.
“Dang.” Aileen retreated backwards, smoke escaping from her dark, multi-barreled guns, her teeth gritting in an annoyed grin, “I hate it when I run out of magic.”
The Gemini beast shook its two heads, as if to rid of itself the tiny projectiles shot at it, and, to the best of its ability, roared at the trio. Kimmie gave a nod at Elise and stepped to the front, rotating her mace to find the best grip. The mutated creature in front of her finally noticed the female Knight, and its gaze hardened, as if to exclaim, You! Which was totally understandable. Its second roar was short-lived, and it began charging at Kimmie. Expecting this, the Knight retaliated with her own charge, bringing her shield in front of her. As the two collided, she focused half of her magic on the defensive move. As the two collided, they both held their ground, the dust around them disturbed and rose upwards.
Kimmie felt the aftermath of the impact, the goat and bird head still pressed firmly against her shield. Clamping down on her teeth subconsciously, she forced her legs to toughen so she could come out victorious in the little push-of-war she was having with the beast. Putting her shield aside in a swift manner, she managed to strike both of the monster’s heads with her mace, the momentum causing the balance of the beast to shift to its left. Elise willed for ice to form on both of its heads, enveloping them in the frosty glass, then exploding the magical matter, causing damage to the Gemini beast. Following Elise’s lead, Aileen followed up with another load of bullets, earning a screech from the bird head.
The three worked together like they have always been, attack followed after attack, not giving the beast a chance to defend itself. Kimmie made use of both her weapons, bashing with her mace and making downward hits with her shield. Elise would split her time damaging and healing her sisters, while Aileen focused on getting good shots at their opponent. They were most often light-hearted to others, but when it came to hunting beasts, they had an undying amount of sincerity to do so.
Finally, as the ground around them quaked with the weight of the beast falling onto it, all three sisters collectively sighed with relief, lowering their weapons tiredly. The gloomy atmosphere didn’t help either; it only made them more worn out.
Elise lifted her head to look at the dark blue sky, a cold wind beginning to rush past through the forest, sending chills running through the girls. “I really hope that was the last one… for the entire month. I deserve a spa trip after this…”
“Talk about spas later, let’s loot this thing and go because I do not want to be here much longer.” Aileen rubbed her arms, beginning to shiver.
Using a knife Kimmie brought with her, she placed it on the hide of the beast, cleanly carving a portion of the black fur off of it. What was underneath that piece, Kimmie didn’t want to explain in detail. In Calemn, how you would receive rewards for hunting beasts was to bring back physical proof that you actually hunt down the monster, and that was through cutting out their hide in a clean square. It shows that there was no rush retrieving it, because the beast was dead. Depending on the type of beast, the reward varies along with it, but nonetheless is very benefiting.
Storing the fragment of pelt in her pockets, Kimmie willed for her shield and mace, which were on the ground on either side of her, to return to their Weapon Key form. Kimmie had remembered when all three of them got their own miniature version of their weapons. Elise was freaking out over how cute it was while Aileen and Kimmie played around with theirs. Stashing the keychain that was attached to a little shield and mace in her other pocket, she straightened herself up and waited for her sisters to finish checking the beast for any signs of stolen gold or other valuables.
“Good job, girls. Let’s hope we reach seven hundred gold.” Elise nodded to her sisters as she finished inspecting the beast, spinning the Weapon Keychain around her finger and stopped them by the grasp of her hand.

“Finally!” Aileen exclaimed, throwing her arms into the air at the calculations of the lady behind the glass.
“Whew, this is the largest amount of gold in our bank ever.” Kimmie grinned, amused by Aileen’s celebration.
“Sure is,” the woman that had announced their total in their bank commented, “what are you girls planning with it?”
“We’re moving to Central.” Elise replied, bringing Aileen’s hands down to her sides, “Our Guildmaster requested the relocation… She promised us all something when we get there.”
“Ah, I see. I hear the living spaces in Central just gets more and more expensive.” The woman replied, “Well, congratulations, good luck, and have fun at Central. The town will grow silent with you three gone.”
“Thanks, Renee.” Elise bowed, her two sisters following her lead.
After waving goodbye, the trio swiftly returned to their home, where they will be spending this night as their last one there. The wooden building wasn’t much, but the sisters made it warm and welcoming. The bathroom, bedroom, and closet were all shared, but they didn’t mind.
They had a few minutes until their curfew, which wasn’t very forcefully regulated anymore, though they recovered the limit just for today, only because they had to get up early tomorrow to catch the train to Central. Angella had made them recover it, too, because missing trains were crises to avoid.
As usual, Elise got the bathroom to herself first, being the clean-freak she is. But before she did, she told Aileen to call Angella and report on their goal accomplished.
“Yeah, yeah, just go already.” Aileen gestured with her hand for Elise to go. Willing for a little magic to trail along her right index finger, she began to draw a symbol of an eye with it. “iRis, connect me with Angella25.”
The eye she had drawn glowed white, signaling that it was doing what it was told. Walking over to the couch where Kimmie was, Aileen plopped down alongside her younger sister, the still glowing eye following her. Finally, the eye was replaced with a moving image of their Guildmaster bounded by a rectangle. Angella’s hair was down and the background looked to be her room.
“Hey, I hope it’s something good this time!” Angella greeted, making a peace sign with her fingers.
“It is, it is. We’re not always bad news, you know.” Aileen replied, “Guess who made it to seven hundred gold in their bank?”
“Finally, it’s about time.” Angella grinned, clapping her hands together cheerfully, “You’re taking the train tomorrow dawn, right?”
“Yup.” Aileen nodded, pushing herself straight on the couch, reaching for her hat on top of her head. Except, there was no hat.
Her hand met air.
Noticing the action, Angella tilted her head, “...What’s wrong?”
“I think I left my hat…” Aileen slowly turned her head toward the window next to the door, where the the general direction of the forest is, “...in the forest…”
Seriously?!” Both Kimmie and Angella shouted at the same time, Angella leaning close to Aileen’s floating image and Kimmie gaping at her sister.
“Isn’t it late over there?” The black-haired Dragoon asked, “Do you really need to get it?”
Aileen nodded her head, imaginary tears streaming down her cheeks, “I don’t care if I have to lose sleep, I have to get my hat back!”
“I’m not going with you.” Kimmie crossed her arms, “The forest is too dark.”
“Afraid of it?” Aileen raised a brow.
“N-No.” Kimmie shied away from the Outlaw’s accusing stare.
“Fine! I’ll just go on my own.” Aileen stood up, the iRis panel hurrying to catch up to eye level with her, “If you receive a ping, though, make sure to run as fast as you can to me.” She said, directed at Kimmie.
“How can you run if you’re asleep though?” Kimmie grinned.
“Just… tell Elise what I’m doing.” Aileen sighed, returning her attention toward Angella’s image, “See ya, hopefully with a hat on my head.”
Angella nodded, “Be careful.”
“I know.” Aileen smiled, and swiped her hand up, dismissing the iRis panel. Stepping toward the door, she grabbed her trench coat along the way, and glanced back at Kimmie once more, annoyed to find that the Knight was already waving her goodbye in a light manner.
“You’re the worst.” Aileen said, before closing the door.

“What happened?” Leyna entered, with a towel wrapped around her hair and body, her skin glistening with water as she just came out of her shower.
“Aileen doing something absurd, is all.” Angella sighed as she closed her eyes and turned around to face her sister, “I hope you didn’t waste the conditioner.”

“Geez…” Aileen shivered, watching her breath collect and trail behind her, “Where are real sisters when you need them?”
It was an extremely cold night, and Aileen was forced to walk around in it in an area infested with beasts. Most of them aren’t nocturnal, but still, the creeping feeling of something lurking in the shadows freaked the Outlaw. She tried to think of other things, like how she was going to tear Kimmie up when she got home.
It was around here somewhere… She arrived at the place where the Gemini beast was brought down earlier. Though its carcass was gone, she could still see the marks on the ground where it had collapsed. She was between the two oaks from earlier, everything from the grass to the bushes had been the same since she was here. Looking everywhere within the range, Aileen became more frustrated by the minute; it was nowhere to be found!
Suddenly, a noise reached her ears. My iRis pinging? No, it’s not that. Lowering herself into a defensive stance, she watched her surroundings with caution, trying to detect where the noise came from. There it was again!Now that she had a second chance at hearing it, it sounded a lot like something pounding on the ground. The sound multiplied in volume as well as frequency. Footsteps…! A beast’s foo━
Aileen felt an enormous force pushing her to the ground. She gritted her teeth as she felt the ground clash with her back, and opened an eye to see what was going on. Amethyst eyes reflected her aquamarine ones, soft, white-pink hair tips rested on her face. Who was this girl?!
“H-Hey, get off!” Aileen exclaimed, retracting her legs to kick the girl off of her.
“S-Sorry!” The girl apologized, her white double blades glinting in the night, “It’s just that━”
A roar emitted from the bushes in front of them, and through it charged a Capricorn beast, its red eyes fueled with rage. It focused on the nearest human, which was Aileen, and blindly rushed in her direction. Letting out a yelp, Aileen got up to her feet and quickly dodged in time, leaping to where the stranger was.
Quickly transforming her Weapon Key, she turned her head rapidly to meet the light pink haired girl, “What the hell?! Why are you messing around with a Capricorn beast?”
“I thought I could take it down!” The girl replied frenziedly, “Watch out!”
The two jumped away from each other, away from the place that they were previously, and the destination of the Capricorn’s horns. One moment later and they probably wouldn’t have survived.
“Are you crazy?! This is a Capricorn beast!” Aileen shouted at the girl, “You can’t defeat it that easily!”
“Before it turned to rage mode I managed to get a few hits!” The girl gripped her double swords and evaded another charge from the beast, landing next to Aileen, “It should be weakened a bit?”
“Honestly!” Aileen sighed, “I’ll help you take it down, but you’ll have to find something for me.” Raising her dark guns, she aimed for the beast’s legs.
“Sure!” The Blader grinned and lifted her own weapons, in a battle stance, “How are we going to do this?”
“I’ll try and disable its legs, when it’s down, try and scratch its skin… I heard Capricorns have tough hide. Even if I don’t manage to cripple it, I should be able to create confusion at least.” Aileen said, as the beast begun to prake the ground two times, unsettling the sand that rested there, preparing for its next assault.
“Got it.” The female Blader nodded, and re-ensured her clutch on the hilt of her swords.
Without another warning, Aileen fired at the beast’s legs, effectively halting it in its path of destruction. The bullets flung off of its pelt, but Aileen counted on the upset sand around the beast to blind the beast. She kept herself stable, and the only thing Aileen worried about was her accuracy; she had to hit the ground near the hooves of the Capricorn.
Once she felt the first empty shot, Aileen yelled to the girl, “Now!”
Jumping down of the branches of a tree, the Blader put her swords together in a parallel position, and dove directly at the beast. She struck downwards on the Capricorn, and spun two more times in midair, with another two downward strikes connecting rock hard skin. Landing on the ground again, she bounced right back at the beast, unleashing a fury of combos too quick for the human eye to see. The beast remained unmoving, but seconds later it actually began to stagger back.
A-Amazing…! Just who is this girl…? Aileen’s jaw dropped slightly, unbeknownst to her. Aileen had never seen a Blader this fast. Wait, was the girl even a Blader? This ferocity has to belong to a Strider. Bladers can’t do this type of thing!
Suddenly, an audible crack was heard, like metal ripping apart. Widening her eyes, Aileen realized that the incredible pelt of the Capricorn was broken. With a last slice of the stranger’s blades, the beast fell on the ground, sending more sand in disarray, shaking the ground around it.
When the scene finally cleared, the girl looked over at Aileen and grinned. “What a relief!”
Remaining speechless for a moment, Aileen blinked two times before regaining her voice. “W-What was that?! Just who are you?! You didn’t even need my help!”
“No, no, I did! If it weren’t for you, I’d be dead!” The girl stepped toward Aileen, turning her hands up in a gesture of harmlessness, “How can I thank you?”
This girl... Aileen let out a deep sigh, “Help me look for a green hat. It matches my shirt.” Moving her trench coat out of the way, she pointed to the hue of her Paper Girl set shirt, suddenly reminded that the weather had been cold. All the action makes her forget everything.
“Oh, that hat? It belongs to you?” The girl reached in a small messenger bag she had around her, and pulled out the article of clothing Aileen had been looking for. Never before has Aileen felt so happy to see an inanimate object.
“Oh, thank goodness!” Aileen rushed toward the green hat, snatching it from the girl’s hands, “I didn’t think I’d find it… Where’d you pick it up anyway?”
“Around here somewhere.” She replied, turning her head both ways, scanning their surroundings.
“So basically…” Aileen arched a brow, “...you went in circles trying to run away?”
“I guess. I’m really useless when it comes to these things.” The girl offered an apologetic shrug.
You weren’t useless a minute ago. “What are you doing out here, anyways? It’s late and extremely cold. You’re not from Calemm, are you?” Aileen hugged herself tighter, trying to stop her teeth from clattering.
“I kind of lost my way back.” The female Blader scratched her head, “I’m not from Calemn, I was just exploring all the cities in Ixonara before I go back to Central.”
“A traveler, then?” Aileen assumed. Travelers were solitary people, and you don’t notice them too much. They were pretty much like frogs, hopping from city to city, never really settling down.
“No, I want to see all the cities before I choose a place to stay.”
“Oh.” Aileen took this into consideration, “Well, thanks for returning my hat. I’ll show you the way back to Calemn.” The Outlaw started to take a step back toward the direction of her hometown, but paused and looked over her shoulder at the girl, “Wait, you said you were going to Central, right?”
The Blader snapped to attention, “Yeah, though I’m probably going to miss the train there…”
Aileen huffed, smiling, “Well, my two sisters and I happen to be going to Central tomorrow dawn. If you want, we can go together.”
Immediately, the girl’s face brightened, “Really? Wow, thanks! If your sisters don’t mind, I’d like to take your offer.”
“They won’t, I’m sure.” Aileen grinned, “Wait, what’s your name?”
“Eve.” the corner of the girl’s lips curved upwards, “What about you?”
“Aileen.”

The Sweetheart Cafe was peaceful as always when Angella and Leyna visited; they never seemed to catch it in its busiest days, nor had they ever understood why the shop never had more than ten customers at once. The quality drinks were delicious, and the two sisters would spend thousands of gold if they could. Upon discovering the place, Angella and Leyna knew they were going to like it. The manager was kind, and so were the employees… it was kind of like a dream coffee shop; too good to be true.
When Angella made MidnightBound, she wanted to set the Headquarters somewhere in Calemn, since it was the city she knew and the only place where all five of the members resided. After getting some advice from travelers and other guildmasters, though, she was convinced to check out Central. She still had no idea where to find a proper Headquarters─that is, until now.
Taking a sip out of her favorite drink, the Frozen Moonbean mix, Angella stared out the window where they were seated next to. There was a lot going on in her head; things like how to balance the bank, what to buy, how to save, and all the calculations she had learned in advanced school. She had no idea how much of a hassle a guild can be, but she was still up to the challenge. Stuff like fame or reputation were only bonuses, she only wanted a group she can fit in.
“You wanted to talk to me?”
The two sisters’ heads turned away from the window, looking up at a another black-haired girl, her hair in two high ponytails held up by hair ties with plastic cherries on them. She wore a plain dress shirt with jeans and a beige apron. Sitting down on the seat next to Leyna in the table meant for four people, she smiled at the two.
“Ah, yeah, you’re Avanna, right?” Angella returned her own smile, “Leyna’s told me about you.”
Avanna chuckled, her green eyes bright, “Yes. What was it you wanted to talk about?”
“First, I just wanted to apologize for what  happened two days ago… I’m sure it was quite fearful for you.” Angella offered acknowledgingly.
“No, it’s fine! It’s not your fault this whole humans and beasts feud thing started.” Avanna held up her hands and shook it, “Really. As long as the workers are fine, I’m fine.”
“I see. Well, it’s good to hear that. So,” Angella began, resting both her elbows on the table, “I’m running a guild and I was wondering if I could set the headquarters here. I mean, this is a nice place, and I’m glad we found it. It has a nice atmosphere, and I’m sure we’d both benefit from it.”
“Hmm…” Avanna softened her gaze, “I see. I’m glad the shop caught your attention. So when you say headquarters you mean…? I’m sorry, I’m not very experienced with Hunter terminology.”
“No, no, that’s okay.” Angella grinned, “Well, not all guilds have to have a headquarter. It isn’t like an official term or anything, it’s just a creative concept. A headquarter for a guild is somewhere where all the members can walk in without being awkward or feeling insecure. Some of my buddies back in Calemn were guildmasters, so they explained it to me. It sounded pretty fun, because the guild can fund the place that is hosting the headquarters, ending in advantage to everyone.
“For example, we could expand your shop or get you into commercials, so you can earn more gold, all for the exchange for the comfort of your place.” The Dragoon explained, making sure to put on a light face as she did, “Maybe a few upgrades, too?”
“Really?” Avanna blinked, her curiosity apparent, “Well… It does sound fun, doesn’t it?” The manager said, half to herself, “I’ll have to talk with my employees. Do you mind if I did that?”
“Go ahead, we’ll be waiting.” Leyna spoke up, glancing at the group of girls whispering behind the counter, “I’m sure they’re pretty interested, too.”
“Excuse me, then.” Avanna rose from her seat and gave the two a bow before walking over to the cash register, making gestures at the other girls to gather around the manger.
Leyna lowered her eyelids casually, “She’s a bit too young to be a manager, isn’t she?”
Angella closed her eyes as she took another sip out of her drink, leaning back against her chair and crossing her arms,“She seems to be doing fine, and that’s all that matters… By the way, this means we’re going to be saving money again.”
“Again?!” Leyna shot out of her chair and angrily faced Angella, both her hands slamming on the table, “But I didn’t even get a shopping break!”
Opening an eye, the Guildmaster shrugged, “You’ll get one… in the far future.” She sighed, lifting herself from the chair’s backrest, “Besides, it won’t be as intense as last time. We do have two rich, famous, and responsible Vicemasters after all…” She looked away, a sinister look shadowed her face.
“For once, I’m glad I’m not a Vicemaster… and weren’t you the one who said you weren’t in it for the fame or whatever?” Leyna lifted a brow, eyeing her sister peculiarly, “When the three sisters arrive tomorrow I’m taking the well deserved break.”
“You better not spend more than a hundred grand.” Angella’s stern look appeared, directed at the Elemental Master in front of her, “We still need to buy new furniture.”
“No promises.” Leyna grinned, sitting back on her seat.
“I’m back.” Avanna’s voice reached the two sister’s ears, its tone upbeat, “And we accept your offer. I still have to talk about it to the other employees, but it’s a deal. Are there paperwork to sign?”
“That’s great!” Angella stood up nonchalantly, “There is none that I know of. Again, it’s just a creative concept, though I hear the Central authorities are thinking of making it official. But then, there’s gold transfer and expansion papers probably waiting for us…”
“Just what I’ve been fearing…” Avanna hung her head, her voice dropping down to depression levels.
Angella joined in on the funeral meant for both of them, “I’ve just finished Blue and Jack’s joining forms, too…”
“And that’s why I don’t lead things.” Leyna shrugged, laughing wickedly in the background. The Elemental Master slowly scooted toward the gloomy, hunched over creature that was Avanna, “By the way, now that we’re on good terms, how about you talk to that young man who works for y━”
“Yo!” A masculine voice sounded, along with the bells that chimed whenever someone opened the door to the shop. Jack entered first, and after him was Blue, both of them wearing their casual outfits so as to not stick out. As usual, Jack was the one to make a weird entrance, both his hands holding up peace signs with his fingers, “Angella, did we tell you? We dragged another person to join the guild!”
At first, the Guildmaster was elated to see the two, but immediately sunk back to despair island as she heard “another person” and “join the guild” in the same sentence. “More paperwork…” she uttered.
“Hey!” Leyna shouted from a distance, “You interrupted my sente━”
“Sorry, sorry.” Jack dismissed Leyna with a wave of his hand, “Didn’t mean to.”
“When you said it was rowdy in here, I didn’t think it’d be like this.” Another voice joined the conversation, young and manlike.
“Wait until later.” Blue replied, holding the door for another guest. He stepped through the door, wearing a pink button up, but most of it was covered by the blue vest he also displayed. The shorts he wore matched the shade of blue his vest were, and the whole set was completed by brown shoes and lighter mocha knee socks. He reached ontop of his head to pick up the black top hat resting on his head. But it wasn’t just any magician’s top hat, two white bunny ears with pink insides were jutting out on the front brim of the hat. It looked funny, but it mysteriously coordinated with his uniform. Patting his icy blue windswept hair, his electric blue eyes scanning the shop.
“Nice to meet you,” the boy’s eyes connected with Angella’s mauve ones, “my name’s Kennan.”
Quiet one. Angella noted, smiling as she catched his name, “It’s my pleasure, Kennan. I’m very sure you’ve already been told my name, but I’m Angella.”
“You know, you don’t have to do the paperwork.” Kennan said, “It’s not customary for the guildmaster to worry themselves with a recruit’s business.”
“Ah, no, no, it’s fine.” Angella chuckled, “I figured you three must be really busy with your reputation and all, so I’ll be filling them for you.”
“But… I’m not that━” Kennan started, before getting his mouth closed by Jack.
“━good with people.” The male Strider finished, grinning, “Shouldn’t you be starting on those paperwork, Angella?”
Narrowing her eyes, the Guildmaster had guessed what Kennan was going to say, but dismissed it. “It’s polite enough I’m doing the paperworks, but I don’t need to be bossed around some more.”
“Get your hands off of him, Jack.” Blue stared down her male companion, and something tells Angella the glare was only the beginning of the female Strider’s impending rage.
Obeying the command given to him, Jack let go. “That look right there was what stared me down when we got eliminated by whats-his-name.”
“...What’s his name?” Angella arched her eyebrow, suddenly curious.
“Strike, wasn’t it?” Kennan looked at the ceiling, as if searching for the answer there, “He was a pretty good Soulless Reaper for a Duelist…”
“Nevermind about him. I hoped you earned some money from your matches, because you’re going to be using them pretty soon.” Angella sighed, “I got us a good headquarters, and you’re standing on it right now.”
“Ah, I always thought this was a good place to hang out in.” Jack nodded approvingly, looking around at the empty shop. “Oh… did we scare off the customers?”
“Probably…” Angella slowly turned toward the stunned manager that watched the whole scene without speaking up, “...Sorry.”
Avanna first blinked at the sudden attention she got from everyone, and at first, she could contain the laugh that was going to explode in her with a hand across her mouth. But the black-haired girl opened her jaws to let out a good hearted laughter, leaving the others in mute. Her fits died down, and she wiped the little droplets of tears from her eyes as she straightened.
“Honestly… I’m just glad you chose to be weird here instead of other places.” She said, dropping her hands to her sides, “It’s already eight in the evening. The shop’s going to close soon.”
“...I have to say, I can’t wait to return.” Kennan held an impressed face, his blue eyes glinting, “Do you think the other guilds have something like this, Blue?” He turned toward the blonde Strider, his voice inquiring.
“Nah.” Blue shook her head, pushing herself off of the door she leaned on. She lifted her closed eyelids, her sky blue eyes warmed at the sight of Leyna yelling at Jack to apologize to her for disrupting her sentences. “Not in a hundred years.”

Ares’s gold eyes stared pathetically at the Virgo beast as it knelt down before him, the chains that connected its arms held up tightly by the pillars that stood sentry on each side of the horrible creature. Its head was bowed, and from several places it bled, blood pooling where it was positioned. When the beast was brought to him, Ares wanted to execute it on the spot, but upon further thinking, he decided to let it live for a while; the sadistic side of the Central City Commander had finally emerged after being dormant for years. He was going to beat the information out of the profane monster, and the beating he did, though the information he had yet to receive.
The room he had put the beast in was a special room, capable of sealing air and sound inside of it. Circular in infrastructure, Ares designed it for particular cases like this. There were five of them total, and all were hidden from the public for certain reasons━he didn’t want any noses poking where they didn’t belong. On the inside, it had dark steel floor and walls, only lit up by a single light bulb.
“I know you can speak.” Ares growled, crouching down to achieve eye level with the mutated being, his custom maize-and-midnight colored two-handed sword clinked as it made contact with the hard floor, “I know all there is to know about you horrors. You can’t pretend around me.” He grinned slightly, picking up his sword to put it under the Virgo beast’s chin and lifted it up, wanting to see the pained eyes of his prey.
“Eza…” It was gruff, but the creature’s tongue could still create words, “Eza… belongs with us…!” When its eyelids shot open, its white sclera was almost drowned in the blood channels that streaked the visionary organ. Its gray eyes constricted along with its slitted pupils, creating an insane look to it. Its canidae teeth grated against each other as it pulled back its lips to reveal the war-proven fangs it possesed.
“Eza doesn’t.” Ares simply replied, tilting his head to get a different view on the beast, “She’s human. Well, part. But she’s more human than you’ll ever be. You don’t need her power; you’ve already got your own.”
The Virgo beast dared a scoff, “It’s hard to believe such a hopeless being like you compare yourself to a superior like Eza.”
In one swift shove, Ares forced his steel and iron blade up through the beast’s jaw and even penetrated through the thick cranium of it, earning the red-head a yelp of agony. Jabbing the sword upwards slowly, the blood began to spray at his face, but the Warlord did not care; he only paid attention to the increasing volume of scream emitting from the monster before him. Raising his sword further and further until his sword’s golden cross guard pressed against the chin of the brute it punctured.
After pausing for a second, Ares removed his sword from its monster sheathe in one move, spewing more metallic crimson across the steel floor. Ares had wanted to rupture the arm muscles and tear off the limbs that held that Virgo beast upwards, but he guessed his irritation took over instead. Straightening himself on both legs, he looked at the miserable heap that was the dead creature, and spat on it as he dragged his sword with him to the wall, the only sounds that echoed now in the circular room was his footsteps and metal scraping against metal.
Raising his right hand, he willed for his magic to create a door in the wall in front of him, and it obeyed his command. Pushing the piece of steel, his eyes laid on the dead monstrosity, the chains bound to both of its arms were the only things holding it up.
Pitiful.
He slammed the door closed.

Chapter Text

Oblivious to the siege on Central, Elise, Kimmie, and Aileen finally reach their goal to buy an apartment in Central so they can move there. While looking for her missing hat, Aileen stumbles across Eve, a female Blader with astonishing skills too extreme for a ameteur, but she didn't ask about it. The four girls then boarded the train to Central. Angella manages to convince Avanna to have Sweetheart Cafe as MidnightBound's headquarters, promising the manager funds on expansions and upgrades. Kennan gets introduced to the guild, and Jack kept interrupting Leyna, which only resulted in anger from the Elemental Master. Ares was keeping the Virgo beast who protected the girl captive… Her name is Eza.

"Geez, did they have to call a meeting this unexpectedly…?" Jack frowned at the intricate chandelier hanging from the ceiling. Its white fluorescence bathing the room meant for ball dancing.

He and Blue were in their usual battle gear, and wore the faces that everyone admired about them: cold and void. Blue was leaning against a round table covered with a white tablecloth, eight seats surrounding the circular framework. A few of the people who attended the meeting was sitting down, though most of them were standing or socializing. Jack chose to sit on the table slightly, his hands pressed flat against the alabaster silk, complaining that his bottom hurt. The blonde Strider next to him had crossed her arms and closed her eyes, not in wanting to regain the sleep she had lost, but in complete concentration. Jack's green eyes were flickering around the room, but no one knew because he wore his signature big shades.

"Whatever, they have to have something interesting or else I'm leaving." Blue grumbled, opening an eye to peek at the veiled disdain, "I don't need to waste my time for anything with politics."

"I wish I could say the same, but the drama kind of grabs my attention." Jack shrugged, deciding to stuff his hands in his pockets.

Blue was never interested in politics to start; too many deceivers. Lies, secrets, and ambition all were behind the mask, waiting to control people's minds. There was only one reason she was here: the meeting she was at addressed the events of three days ago. Everyone was interested on what Ares was going to say, though Blue was a bit suspicious because they did not open the meeting for the public press. There it was again: secrets. She never liked them.

The emergency gathering only called for those with great power and reputation. Only ones with an accomplished history with beast hunting and Ironhunting could come. To enforce that, two of his comrades, or pawns as Blue liked to address them, stood at the entrance and were inspecting those who entered. They were still there beside the five meter tall double doors, too thin compared to its width, of the ballroom.

Suddenly, the said gateway began to close, the two that were checking people off were now closing the doors with great caution. Finally, the giant wooden structures sealed the room from the outside world, the only natural light that came in had to permeate the glass windows. Blue recognized both of the pawns when no one else did: Kaos and Rose, a Crusader and Solitaire Paladin, respectively. Powerful and stoic were supposed to be Blue's unique onstage personalities, but it seemed they shared those, too. Ares's pawns never involve themselves with the public, they chose to remain within the shadows.

Thinking about them made a corner of Blue's lips curve upwards in a slight smirk. People who choose to become a tool for another… should just disappear.

"Many apologies to keep you all waiting." A commanding voice echoed through the grand room, masculine and a little too familiar for Blue's tastes.

Ares was entering from a door that was directly on the other side of the building, following him was another one of his puppets: Dagger. Blue had never faced any of them in battle, but she knew they were far stronger than she was, but they were younger than her. Dagger's black military-like outfit made Blue want to unhave her lunch, if she had any in the first place.

"As you know," Ares continued, stopping in front of his audience, Dagger still behind him, "three days ago, Central was attacked by beasts. I was planning to commission fireworks, but I guess they went off early."

The crowd rippled with slight chuckles, but the joke only earned Ares an eye roll from Blue.

"The guy's got humor." Jack mumbled, low enough that Blue had heard.

"...Dumped in the sewers." Blue extended his sentence, her eyes practically glaring at the red head.

"The barrier has been reinforced, and the search team I've sent out is inspecting the exterior damages as we are standing here. What has been inferred from the attack, however, the beasts are getting stronger and stronger with their offensive magic. That shouldn't worry anyone, since we, too, are getting more powerful, twice as fast as they are." Ares reported, "I wanted to gather you all here to thank you for your services; I have seen all of you racing to meet the enemy in order to halt the raid and protect the Civilians in Central. In order to repay my debts on behalf of the city, this party is dedicated to you all, with plenty of exquisite food and drinks from all over Asna. Do not hesitate, everything is on me."

"Well, I guess there was something interesting after all." Jack jumped off the table, turning his head this way and that, "Free food!"

"No, idiot, we're leaving." Blue straightened herself, her cold gaze watching the people who now started to migrate to the meal-filled tables, "We'll pay for our own━"

"Aw, come on, Blue!" a teasing female voice came from behind them, "It's free food! Why do you have to pretend to not want to eat them?"

"Kris, you know I don't like things that are handed to me seemingly without cause." Blue turned around, facing the girl that approached them.

The girl had long, light cinnamon hair, and on both sides of her head she had on black cat ears that were pink on the insides and had white tufts sticking out of it. Kris wore black punk fashion, sleeveless shirt with white collar and a faded red tie and pants that had chains from the silver buckle of her red belt reach her left side pocket. The color scheme was mainly, if not all, black, silver, and red, so her boots were red with black treads. Like Angella, she had fingerless forearm gloves, but the glove ended in two slitted cat eyes that covered the top of her hand. Her hot pink eyes were playful as she stared at Blue.

Blue wasn't all into making friends and being soft around them, but Kris is the most acquainted.. Not really a best friend in her book, but Blue appreciated Kris's efforts to get her to open up. The thing about Kris was there wasn't a lot of Highlanders in Central (or anywhere else in Asna, to be exact) so Blue didn't know what to think of Kris's class. Normally, the female Highlander would be bragging about her strengths but only to disprove them when she gets defeated in an Ironhunt match.

Kris pouted in a mocking manner, "Honestly, you can just eat if you want, he did say it was on him, after all." She said, referring to Ares.

"Why would I want something with more fat in it than me in the morning?" Blue crossed her arms, eyeing the fried turkey that sat in the middle of the table, "Besides, I've another place to eat at."

Kris held up another dish of steak from midair, "Filet Mignon?"

"How did you even━"

"Fugu?"

"I don't want to die━"

"Cione's best lasagna."

"I would but it's breakf━"

"Andros's Sheperd Pie?"

"Can you stop interrupting m━"

"What's the matter over here? The table can't hold up all that weight." Ares was walking toward them, hands behind his back and his golden eyes had a worried look to them.

Kris has been squeezing in dishes onto the table, and even managed to balance some of them on top of each other. She was attracting attention, too, people from other tables eyed the food like they were going to snatch them at any moment. A few decided to take action and head toward their way; they probably were from the table Kris stole the dishes from.

Just when Blue moved her feet to face them, Rose popped out of nowhere, her uncovered green eye kind as she approached them, effectively halting their path and she even managed to steer them another way. Blue risked a wary glance toward Ares, though was returned an equivalent gaze from the woman behind him, namely Dagger.

"Ares!" Kris composed herself, facing the Central City Commander, "Well, you see, Blue was going to skip out on your party so I thought I'd convince her to participate."

"Oh, really?" Ares raised an eyebrow at the Highlander, then swiveled his head to meet the said female Strider's gaze, "May I ask why you choose to exclude yourself?"

Blue closed her eyes and scoffed lightly, "As much as I'd love to indulge myself on these, I prefer simpler means of mornings. Plus, I've got to keep Jack on diet."

Abruptly getting attention, Jack flinched, "Uh… what diet?"

"The diet you've been dying to tell me to keep you on." Blue sent a grin from death toward Jack's direction, and suddenly, her teeth looked like fangs.

"Ohhhh," Jack nodded fearfully, feeling small in size, "that diet… why didn't you remind me?" Jack still had no idea what the diet was or when he ever even thought of going on a diet, but he felt the dire need to agree with what Blue had said.

Ares chuckled, "Ah, if it's that way, then I can't force you. Kris, I thank you for your efforts. You can go and grab yourself something, though."

Nice mask for a psychotic man. What Blue learned from life is that not all things were what they seem. Everyone around her was someone she couldn't see. Even Jack has a dark side she wouldn't want to know about, and this was true to anyone and everyone. The fanciest veils hide something truly horrifying… and Blue wanted to know the terror behind Ares.

"Ah, that reminds me of something…" The female Strider held her chin, as if trying to remember something, "I heard a rumor that's flying around about you… Apparently, there was a girl around our age abandoned in an alleyway and someone kidnapped her and that person was wearing the crest of Central Headquarters. I'm a rational person, so I'd rather hear it from a reliable source. Mind debunking or explaining it, Ares?"

It was fast, but it was there: the disturbing hesitance from the Commander. So Blue had hit bullseye. In truth, she had heard that from Angella, but there was no need to reveal names in front of the man. After the events on that day, Angella contacted everyone who was in the guild in Central to meet her in front of a well-known restaurant, but of course the Guildmaster had to send Blue and Jack the full address. The two were reluctant to leave the concrete wall that bordered the city, but there were other Hunters out, so they had no choice but to meet up. Angella had told them everything in an extremely hushed voice, so Blue figured it might be something worth hearing.

To everyone else, Jack's expression was vacant, but Blue knew his green eyes widened in realization. She liked to challenge authority too much, and it could lead to her potential downfall, but she got a hell of adrenaline rush whenever she knew her nose poked into something unusual.

"Kris, I think you need to go Ironhunting; your skills are getting worse by the day." Dagger was the first to speak after Blue, walking toward Kris and beginning to drag the Highlander away.

"But━Hey, my fighting style is just fine! How many times do you see a Highlander as accomplished as I am? None!" At first, Kris offered resistance but frowned at the Solitaire Paladin afterwards as the two retreated from the scene.

Dogs of the military… not bad, but pawns still suit them better.

"Ah… that." Ares answered, his eyes immediately darkening, "It's mostly correct. The girl was a beast offspring. One of our elite officers saw her and brought her back to Central to inspect… She created a mess in our labs, so we eliminated her."

"Why not bring this to the public press? I'm sure all of Central wants to know what went down at that night. The city's still buzzing about it." Blue shrugged, crossing her arms, "And what were you planning to do to her in your 'lab'? Forgive me, but it sounds sick."

"Some matters are meant to be kept sealed." Ares put a special emphasis on his reply, as if it was a dart filled with poison, "And as for the labs, we were just transporting her through the building and she escaped."

"Some kind of security you have." Blue tilted her head slightly, "Thank you for your clarification, Commander. You've definitely shed some light in the rumor." Sending a soft smile toward Ares, she turned to Jack. "Let's go, I wouldn't want to fall behind Kris on the Ironhunting."

Chuckling quietly, Jack stuffed his hands in his pockets, and walked toward his accomplice, closing his eyes as he regained his unconcerned aura, "On the way, you're buying my breakfast because you made me miss a good one."

"Sorry," Blue shrugged, pulling open the massive door open, stealing a glance behind her, "I couldn't help but pick another choice."

"Thank you for ordering, your drink should be out in a bit." Avanna gave a smile toward her customer, punching in the last digits into the cash register, "Next, please."

Days in Sweetheart Cafe seemed to fly by too fast for the young manager. She was employed four years ago, and become friendly with all of the workers there. Initially, she worked to earn money to save up for a university she wanted to enter. Since it was private, she had to save up twice the money as regular colleges. Not soon after she was employed, though, her parents disappeared suddenly, and along with them went their treasures and their house. Kyle, her older brother, and Avanna had nowhere to go except the streets of Khaso, their birth city.

Yes, she wasn't afraid to admit it but, they stole from people. They joined gangs temporarily. Avanna never belonged in the world of thievery or savagery, and Kyle recognized it. When they had enough, they were going to buy two tickets to aboard the train that would take them to Central, the city of hopes and new beginnings. To them, Central was a beacon of light in the middle of despair and agony. It was there that famous people rose from nothing to something, without having to reveal their past. The brother and sister yearned for that life.

Sweetheart Cafe wasn't the first place she came to for employment; there had been countless others. She once got fired for feeding a boy in the streets and taking clothes off a rack just to offer it to a girl who was shivering in the rain. Avanna was never fond of businesses that look down upon others just because of status or appearance. It was kind of like a test from her to the manager of the place she would work under; and every one of them failed… until the shop she's been working at for four years.

"Thank you, your order should be out in a bit." Avanna bowed slightly to her customer, after he accepted the change that she gave him.

She wasn't sure how it had happened, but one day, she was informed that she was promoted to manager━by the manager himself. At first, Avanna wasn't sure if she was going to accept the position. To any normal person, they would've grabbed the opportunity on the spot, but she was hesitant. She had wanted to see what the shop was like a little bit more before these kind of steps happened. And besides, wasn't she supposed to be an assistant manager first? A lot of questions were buzzing around in her head at that time, but she decided to push them aside and look at the bigger picture: she can help any person in the streets with manager powers. It sounded a bit malicious, but the outcome wasn't so.

From then on, she had hired a lot of new employees, and found their backstory as interesting as any other. She tried to make it a friendly environment, to provide the workers not a place of boredom and robotic labor, but a place of reassurance and laughter. She didn't have many working for her, but they all try their best to help support the little shop. There were seven in total, and all of them were her friends. Right now, working with her were Mason and Eryss, two of the experienced workers here. Mason was a hard-working blonde who worked the morning and noon shift, and an attractive guy, according to Leyna. Eryss only worked the noon shift, and tied her long purple hair up when she did; Avanna thought it was better down.

"We'd like to see the manager." A stern voice disturbed her thoughts, shaking her out of her moment of reflection.

Don't daydream in a time like this! Pay attention! After scolding herself, she looked up to see two men dressed in all black suits, their matching black shades covered their eyes and their hats concealed their hair. They were approaching the counter, and did not look like they were here to order coffee. Maso and Eryss eyed them warily, too, but stayed quiet.

"Yes, I am the manager." Avanna walked to them, pushing the waist-high mini door as she did so, "Is there something I can help you with?"

"You are Avanna, right?" The one that had spoke up before stepped in front of her, firmly.

"Yes." She nodded.

"We are officers from the Central Headquarters," showing her their certified badges, he continued, "and we're here to inspect the safety of your perimeters. Ares passed a new order and having the entire city checked."

"Oh, really? Funny, I didn't hear it on broadcast or anything." Avanna knitted her eyebrows slightly, "Thank you for your time, please, inspect anything to your concern."

"This will also include your kitchen as well, are you willing to agree?" He pressed.

"Absolutely." Avanna nodded again, with more strength, "Go ahead."

"Thank you for your cooperation. We'll be done with this in a few minutes." He returned his own slight nod, and told his partner to look around the area, while he himself will go to the kitchen.

Avanna opened the mini door for the officer, and he tipped his hat in acknowledgement, slipping into the back area of the shop without further hesitation. Avanna resumed her position at the cash register, stealing looks occasionally behind her back, to check if the officer was doing his said job. The one inspecting the tables and chairs was still buzzing around.

"Wouldn't Ares let everyone know if he passed a new requirement?" Eryss said in a hushed voice to Avanna.

"That's what I said." Avanna replied, "I thought they were bluffing at first, but they are wearing the badges of the CHQ after all…"

Eryss sighed, "How about you talk to your brother? See if they did the same thing for him?"

"I was thinking about that…" Avanna raised a fist underneath her chin, "...Hmm. I will… After they leave though, because I don't trust them."

When they left, it definitely wasn't after "a few minutes"; it was almost half an hour. They told her that everything was to the new standard's requirements, and to keep the good job up, which confused Avanna because why would they say that after all their stone cold tones? As she said she would, Avanna left the shop to Mason and Eryss's care to visit her brother, which was right next door to Sweetheart Cafe.

Kyle sometimes recommended places for Avanna to ask for a job at. He had a permanent one after his third try, that was, as an prosthetic engineer. Many people lose limbs everyday, like legs or arms, and it's his job to create metal ones to replace it. It had a good income, because all of his metal limbs were handmade and exclusive. Like Avanna, he had started an employee but only to be boosted into manager sometime later. Kyle was recognized for his excellent hand skills, which could create metal limbs of any type. He got popular only in the surrounding neighborhoods, but Avanna had bet that he'd gain reputation all across the world one day.

Considered cute to local females, Kyle was dedicated to his work. Avanna would've never guessed he was into metal limbs, but was surprised when Kyle said he never knew it'd be interesting to him. Avanna inhabits most of their mother's kindness, but that didn't mean there were none for Kyle. He once said to Avanna that there was something in helping people recover their lost things that he liked. Their faces would light up brightly, he would recall, and he liked seeing people happy. Avanna was glad he shared the same perspective as hers.

Avanna opened the door to his own shop, which was a little smaller than hers. It was narrow but big enough to host a business as complicated as Kyle's. For the most part, her brother worked alone, but he did have some apprentices accompanying him from time to time. Avanna tries her best to be with her brother, but Sweetheart Cafe got her hands full. The only time they got to talk was when they were in their tiny apartment, and that time wasn't long either… They both were tired after work and would rather sleep.

The cafe shop manager had planned to make up their time with a great night out, with just her and her brother. They could go look at Central's wonderful scenery and eat at the most fanciest restaurants. To this day, she kept that goal to heart, and whenever she felt hindered, she would seek the dream, and consult herself.

"Brother, I'm here!" Avanna smiled, closing the door behind her, "Sorry I haven't been visiting in a while."

Kyle's hair had grown a little longer; he hadn't cut it in years. The only thing keeping him from looking like a wild monster was Avanna's telling him to brush his hair or wash it. He was hunched over a workbench, his hands were black with the metal limb he was working on. His dark green eyes brightened when they connected with Avanna's lighter ones, "Avanna! It's a surprise seeing you here." He stood up, abandoning the half finished leg he was fussing over a moment ago to walk over to his younger sibling.

"Not really, I'm next door so I can walk over anytime I want to." Avanna shrugged as she accepted the warm hug of her brother, closing her eyes, "Sorry to interrupt you."

"It's still a sweet thing to celebrate over. And that's all right, I needed a break anyways." The two broke the tight embrace, "Isn't this the busy hours of the cafe? Why aren't you helping your workers?"

"There's no such thing as 'busy hours' for Sweetheart Cafe." Her smile broadened, "At least, not yet. And I wanted to talk about something."

"Before you go on, I'll brew us some coffee." He held up a hand to gesture for Avanna to stop, "Do you want any?"

"Sure, but just a little cup." Avanna nodded, chuckling, "Working in a coffee shop sure sores your tongue of the beans."

"Right." Kyle rolled his eyes and walked over to the counter where all of his papers and cash register lie, abandoned at the other side of the narrow room. The tall counter obstructed her vision, so Avanna couldn't see what kind of coffee he was brewing, but dismissed the curiosity as she grabbed a seat and dragged it to the workbench the solid unfinished contraption lay.

Her brother began to walk over, in his two hands a mug and a smaller cup, handing the latter to his sister before sitting down on his seat himself. Avanna looked at the deep brown mix, the steam gently tickling her nose. Taking a sniff, her eyes widened as she remember the smell and then the texture, and looked up at her brother with astonishment.

"Early Rise? How'd you manage to find dad's favorite coffee?" Avanna asked, amazement written all over her face.

"I had to go to Khaso to deliver. I figured might as well buy some. I was going to tell you about it, but I always fell asleep before I could…" Kyle scratched his neck guiltily.

"How long has it been?" Avanna made a face at her brother.

"A few weeks." Kyle shrugged, offering an apologetic smile, "Look, you're here now enjoying it, aren't you? Don't I deserve a little thank you?"

"Thank you." Avanna grinned, tilting the cup against her mouth as she began to sip it, "Oh gosh… the memories are flowing…"

"Right?" Kyle's smile seemed a bit sad now, "To reflect on the past and see where we've come…"

Avanna nodded silently. Their dad was always traveling to different places, but nevertheless he came home to stay a while. Every morning, his favorite drink was Early Rise's Morningstar. When they were younger, Kyle and Avanna had tried the coffee, but coiled because of the bitterness. Upon seeing their reactions, their dad had laughed, and told them to try it when they were older. Avanna had shook her head back then, but look at her now.

Look at me now. She thought, solemnly. She longed for the days when her mom would cook her favorite meals and her dad would lift her up in the air and swing her around, pretending that she was flying. Back when Mom would read the brother and sister bedtime stories and her dad would scold the two when they stayed up late. Kyle was a walking memory of those times, but Avanna was sure Kyle viewed her the same way.

Not here to talk about that. Concentrate!

"A-Anyway," Avanna shook her head along with her thoughts, clearing the cloud of melancholy that threatened to take over, "I was wondering… did two guys in black walk into your shop? To check on safety or whatever?"

"Oh, yeah, them?" Kyle answered with a question, "Yeah, they were here. Said there was a new order Ares passed?"

Avanna nodded grimly, "But didn't you think it was funny that Ares didn't announce it?"

"That's what I told myself, too." Kyle agreed, setting his mug down, "They eyed my example limbs funny and checked the back of my shop."

"They spent a half hour looking at the tables and the kitchen of the cafe." Avanna said, "It was weird… I felt like there was something… off about them."

"Same here." Kyle slowly nodded, "I asked the shops next door and the ones across the street; apparently they visited those shops, too, but only spent a few minutes with them."

"Weird." Avanna frowned, taking another gulp out of her cup, "Was there really a new order passed?"

"Do you think we should contact the officers at Central?" Kyle tilted his head.

"I…" Avanna held her tongue, reconsidering the circumstances, "...don't know. I mean, we could try? Though they'll probably put us on hold and reply six years later."

"True." Kyle ran his finger across his metal project, a habit of his when he was thinking. "For some reason I feel like it had something to do with the attack a few days ago."

"There could be a connection." The cafe shop manager shrugged, "I don't know. I just wanted to tell you that I feel like something's being hidden."

"You always smell out the chocolate father buys us from other cities." Kyle grinned, "I bet you can still smell out secrets."

Avanna returned the cheerful gesture, "Guilty as charged… I have to return to the shop. Sorry this wasn't really a bonding time…"

"Don't worry about it. Drinking Early Rise with you was all the bonding I need." Kyle stood up, Avanna straightening herself as well, "Tell your workers I said hi."

"Will do." Avanna nodded, holding onto her cup, "I'll be stopping by every morning to get my share of Early Rise. Don't think you can hog it by yourself."

"Dang." Kyle shook his head, "I figured you'd say that… Oh well, it was about prime time you knew."

They exchanged a lasting goodbye hug, and Avanna returned to her workplace, filled with questions she couldn't answer. At least the coffee is helping me relax…

Angella and Leyna were sitting on the benches that decorated the Southern Central Train Station, watching the people that passed by and keeping a wary eye on the train tracks far off into the distance. The train to Central from Calemn should arrive, but they were still waiting. In their hands were half empty Sweetheart Cafe cups, its cold plastic numbing their palms. Leyna was super impatient, since this was the day she wanted to go shopping with the three sisters. As for Angella, she was bored… the female Dragoon could've been Ironhunting.

Besides being impatient, Leyna was thinking about something that's bothered her. When Angella was talking with Blue and Jack about the perks of MidnightBound, Leyna found herself staring out the window to something that captured her eyes. There were people walking around, as always, but there was one person that stuck out to her. At first, he seemed like just another droplet in a rain. But the moment he stopped a little ways from the window of the shop, Leyna's eyes flickered toward him. The first thing she notices was that he wore a black cloak with the hoodie draped over his head.

When he turned around, she couldn't get much out of him because the of the cloak covering his appearance. What she did see, though, was more bizarre than any other event she witnessed. Red eyes. And not just any red eyes; glowing red eyes. His sclera was black, and the iris was a luminating red. It transfixed her own blue gaze, but in a strange manner. She didn't even know she was staring at him; something about the guy made her feel… sad. Sure, his eyes were freaky, but the atmosphere he gave off… it wasn't normal.

When Blue had snapped the Elemental Master out of her fantasy land, Leyna had almost forgotten about the meeting with the two Striders. Leyna would've paid attention to Angella's speech, but staring at red demon eyes were apparently more entertaining. She had kept to herself about it; she felt uneasy telling anyone about it… even Angella. The two had a long history together, but somehow, she felt like shutting her mouth about this matter… for now.

"Honestly…" Angella sighed, her eyes tired from looking around, "Does every train to Central have to be late?"

"Our train was late, too, right?" Leyna blinked, leaning forward to get a better view at the train tracks in the distance, seeing if there was something in motion.

"By a day." Angella's veins popped at the memory, "I hope it doesn't pull the same trick again… Or else I'll write a full report on it."

"Don't you have other paperwork to do?" Leyna arched a brow at her sister.

"Don't remind me…" Angella shrunk, lowering her head.

The commotion in the station suddenly picked up. Sensing the abrupt excitement, Angella and Leyna stood up, pushing themselves on their toes to see what was happening. Sure enough, a train was approaching in the horizon, the magic-powered engine's hum reached the ears of the people in the station soon after it was spotted. The people around them rushed to the edges of the marble that held up the train tracks, eagerly waiting. Angella and Leyna waited in the back, as the two have told the three sisters to wait until everyone got off until they get off themselves.

"Better than a day late." Angella murmured, her eyes on the train as it entered the station. Its efforts to stop created creaking sounds from the friction of wheel and metal.

People in the train peeked their heads out and some occasionally waved to the audience. When the train finally stopped, they poured out of the transportation, and squeals or loud shouts could be heard.

"Angella!" A voice called, barely audible above the bustle.

Immediately, the Guildmaster recognized it to be Elise's. Whipping her head around, she quickly spotted the said girl's icy ponytail head jutting out of a car train, waving in Angella's general direction.

"Elise!" The female Dragoon answered, waving back.

Leyna was first to jog down to where the train car was stopping, the joy clearly obvious on her face. "Elise! Over here!"

Angella walked up to Leyna, and waited for them to leave the train car, with smiles on their faces. Elise exited, followed by Aileen and Kimmie. Though Angella hadn't expected another person with them. The girl who was conversing lightly with Kimmie as they left had white hair that had a little pink hue to it. She wore a white T-shirt underneath her denim jacket and her navy jeans were a bit worn down. Leyna was looking at the girl with a curious expression, the stranger's pearly white tipped blue converse shoes hadn't escaped the Elemental Master's gaze. The azure hat that casually sat on the girl's head was definitely something she couldn't have afforded herself; it was a custom one, and every one knows custom made things were expensive.

Elise ran over to Leyna and almost tackled the poor brunnette, but Leyna managed to survive. Aileen walked over to Angella and hugged the Guildmaster warmly, Angella doing the same in return. Friendly words like "I missed you!" or "You look nice today" were exchanged, too. Aileen and Elise switched, Aileen squeezing Leyna and Elise embracing Leyna. Kimmie was last to arrive, and quickly gave Angella and Leyna their hugs from her.

Stepping back, the Knight grinned as she gestured her hands toward Eve in a greeting connotation, "We didn't tell you, but this is Eve. Aileen found her in Calemn's hunting grounds and we became friends."

Angella blinked at the story, but her kind eyes rested on Eve's amethyst ones, slightly bowing in hello. "It's a pleasure to meet you, Eve. I feel like that's not all to this story… When we go to our headquarters you'll have to tell me the whole thing."

"Are you going to be coming with us?" Leyna asked, tilting her head at the Blader.

Eve timidly scratched her chin, "Well, I have nothing to do anyways… Why not?" She shrugged.

"By the way, she's joining!" Elise grinned toward Angella, "We convinced her on the train."

The female Dragoon's face expression immediately dropped, crouching on the ground, "Not more…"

Leyna went over and patted her sister, "There, there… Don't forget to save up money, too!"

Continuous lines of tears streamed down Angella's face, turning her face in Leyna's direction, "Why did you have to remind me…?"

"So, where's this new headquarters at?" Aileen rested her hands on her hips, looking around the almost empty train station.

"It's a sweet place, trust me." Leyna assured, still trying to console her sister.

"It's always nice to know MidnightBound has a new addition." Avanna smiled, nodding slightly to Eve, "Welcome, Eve."

"Thank you." The female Blader bowed return, eyeing the little shop with interest, "I've never been in a guild before…"

"Oh? This is your first guild?" Avanna asked, "Then you'll get along with everyone."

"You were right!" Aileen blinked at the mocha drink she sipped from, looking up at Leyna in amazement, "This beats any coffee from Calemn!"

"What did I tell you?" Leyna had a smug expression on her face, as if some sinister plan she set up was working, "Aren't you glad I showed you?"

Aileen nodded, taking another gulp of the light brown beverage in front of her.

"Everyone here sure is nice…" Elise commented, her eyes flickering around before connecting with the manager's, "It must be nice to work here."

"Don't take it from me, take it from the workers." Avanna gestured her hand at Mason and Eryss, who were quietly conversing with each other.

"This is a nice place…" Elise nodded her head slowly, drinking from her cup and looking at the two employees prepare coffee.

"I'm on a rightful streak today," Leyna chuckled malevolently, "I'll show you all who's the wise one here…"

"Eve, try it!" Aileen nudged the female Blader sitting next to her, "It's really good!"

"Okay then." Eve shrugged, before indulging in her own refreshment, which was the same as Aileen and Leyna's.

"Angella, may I talk to you? It's about the expansion." Avanna said, toward the Guildmaster looking warmly at her companions.

"Oh, yes." Angella untangled her crossed legs, lifting her right one down to the ground and straightening herself before walking in the cafe manager's direction.

Avanna led Angella to the back of the shop, into the kitchen. Angella had promised the manager an expansion, and she had upheld it. Since Blue, Jack, and Kennan all have more lavishing gold amounts, she had convinced them to fund the shop's upgrade. Blue and Kennan had given up their share without hesitation, while Jack clinged onto his wealth. After a scold from Blue, the stubborn male Strider had finally decided to pitch in his portion.

Walking further into the kitchen, Angella noticed there weren't any difference in the building structure. Their shop size was still the same; no development or even a clue of any upgrade had presented itself. Getting a little suspicious of the manager, Angella chose to trust Avanna anyway.

"Sorry, it's not about the expansion." Turning around quickly, the girl apologized, "I sent the request for the expansion, but it's still being considered."

"I thought it was weird the shop wasn't renovating or anything…" Angella sighed, shaking her head in amusement, "So what's this really about then?"

Avanna began to describe the peculiar event that went down in the shop this afternoon when Angella and Leyna were gone to pick up the four Guildmembers. She told Angella about the men in dark suits and their intentions, and how they had "inspected" the cafe in accordance with the new "orders" that Ares had passed. The Guildmaster listened intently, nodding at every detail Avanna gave her. Finally, Avanna recalls her conversation with her brother, about how they checked his shop for almost half an hour while it was only a few minutes with other stores around the streets.

"It's… definitely interesting." Angella narrowed her eyes at the floor, crossing her arms and resting her chin on her fist, "I've got something to tell you two, but I'll hold a guild meeting about it."

Before Avanna could answer, the bells that hung above the shop door rung, its chime alerting the two girls that someone had entered the shop. They walked toward the door to the shop, and was just in time for Jack's declaration.

"Yo!" His familiar entrance catchphrase reached their ears, "We got some juicy news."

"You interrupted me… again." Leyna immediately stood, slamming her hands on the table, sending her best death glare across the room to the male Strider.

"Didn't mean it!" Jack shrugged her glare off, raising his hands high in feigned innocence, "Where's Angella?"

"Right here." Closing the mini door that was extended from the counter, she walked toward Jack, looking at Blue once the female Strider closed the door to the shop behind her, "What's up?"

"Remember the girl you told me about?" Blue's smile seemed more dire than anything, "I've dug around and I think I sniffed out something good."

"Really?" Angella knitted her brows in disbelief, "How did you do it?"

"What are you talking about?" Leyna rested a hand on her waist, looking at Angella expectedly, "We're all right here, you know."

Suddenly remembering she still had an audience, Angella chuckled nervously in reply to her sister. Walking toward the table she had left earlier, she offered apologetically, "Ah… perhaps it's time to explain everything…"

Jack and Blue had followed their Guildmaster to the meeting. Jack pulled off his shades and put them on the table as he stood behind Angella. Blue leaned on the window the table was next to, crossing her arms and closing her eyes in wicked contentment as the guild prepared to hear the problem that Angella was about to address.

"Really? It didn't look like the city was under siege." Kimmie blinked, looking out the window at the darkened metro, the streetlights and shining store signs were the only things illuminating the city.

"Ares probably cleaned all of it up in under twelve hours." Jack shrugged, "Given his power, he's bound to do the impossible."

A Central City Commander does not simply have power in Central; the person who held the title could control the whole nation of Evain. But getting to the position wasn't easy; one had to be extraordinary in both combat and academics.

"Wait, so this cloaked guy and Solitaire Paladin girl just… took the sleeping girl or something?" Leyna narrowed her eyes, wanting an answer.

"I'm not sure… I didn't stay behind because my strength was miniscule compared to theirs… I didn't want to risk a fight." Angella scratched her head, "But one thing's for sure… The Virgo beast didn't look like it wanted to kill the girl. I have a feeling it wanted to protect her."

"But why?" Aileen stared into her empty cup distractedly, having finished it when Angella was storytelling, "Beasts hate humans… do they not?"

"Maybe she was a special case." Eve offered, blinking at Angella.

"Maybe so." The Guildmaster nodded slowly. She then turned her head to Blue, who still looked comfortable leaning against the window with a pompous expression, "What was your news?"

Pushing herself off the cold glass, Blue walked toward the Guildmaster, pleased with herself. Stopping in front of the female Dragoon, she grinned maliciously, leaning close to Angella, "Ares has the girl captive."

Angella took a step back from Blue, "...He does?"

Blue nodded, "Yes. The black cloaked man and the Solitaire Paladin you talked about happen to be… pawns of the sadistic bastard… Kaos and Rose, respectively." Reclining to a casual position, she continued, "I have no idea where they came from, or how they became so powerful, but one thing I know is, they're stubborn. They'd die for Ares. Anyday, anytime. Dogs, if you will."

"Do they owe Ares something?" Angella asked, narrowing her eyes.

"Who knows." Blue shrugged, "But they seem to know the man well… acting out invisible commands like they have some type of telepathic connection. Pretty curious."

"Blue was stepping in dangerous areas just for that." Jack chuckled, shaking his head, "Ares looked like he was about to execute her right on the spot."

"It was worth it…" Blue grinned wickedly, "The look on his face when I hit bullseye… was glorious."

"You shouldn't do that, Blue…" Leyna sighed, "You could really get in trouble, you know."

"Yeah, I know." Blue smiled at the Elemental Master acknowledgingly, "But I like secrets." Turning to Avanna, her face changed into a solemn one, "About those men in suits… Did they say when that 'order' from Ares was passed?"

Avanna faced the female Strider, shaking her head earnestly, "They only told me they were here to check on the shop."

"Did you send the expansion paperwork?" Blue pressed.

"Yes. They're still under consideration."

"And your brother's store… he hasn't been skipping payments, has he?"

"N━" Avanna started, but immediately recoiled, suddenly realizing the things she didn't catch herself. She's never seen Kyle doing taxes or calculating anything. All he was ever concentrated on were his projects. "I… I don't know."

"Bingo." The female Strider shrugged, looking at Jack expectedly, "Learn from the expert."

"Indeed." Jack sighed, "I think those guys might be looking at your shop to see if the expansion you requested can be achieved through… How do I put this in the nicest way…? Kicking your brother out of business?"

"That was so not nice." Elise stared at Jack in a preposterous manner.

"Unbelievable…" Leyna hung her head, giving up all hope.

"What…?" Avanna widened her eyes, looking at Jack and then Blue, and then at Angella.

"Or at least, that's the most likely scenario." Blue reached out to rest her hand on Avanna's shoulder, "Better exposed to the truth now than when everything's gone awry."

"So…" Kimmie spoke up, "Strange girl with white night gown, a Virgo beast protecting her, Ares capturing her, Central officers popped out of nowhere, Avanna's brother possibly getting fired… Am I missing anything?" In a little voice she added, "Sorry, Avanna."

The manager dismissed the apology with her hand.

"Are we the only ones to notice?" Angella looked around the meeting, "There has to be others… These things are just too obvious to be ignored."

"We're treading on dangerous grounds, Angella." Blue turned toward her, "The girl you came across… You weren't supposed to know about her. No one was supposed to. That girl had something to do with Ares's business, and you've stumbled across it. I bet the bastard's planning to make us suffer for it…"

"But… I never wanted anyone to be in danger." Angella looked at Blue alarmingly, her mauve eyes practically begging the female Strider, "I just… I just wanted to live peacefully in Central."

Placing both her hands on Angella's shoulders, Blue said firmly, "You can't back out now. The secret is only merely revealed. You've only seen a speck of the action. I know for a fact Ares is planning something. I've felt it ever since I've felt his gaze. Underneath those gold eyes is something more horrific."

"To be honest, I knew it, too." Jack stepped next to Blue, "We wanted to uncover it for ourselves. We never wanted to drag your guild in. You don't have to become a part of this; you can move back to Calemn and continue to build your group there. You have the option to completely forget about this."

Angella was about to reply, but she finally acknowledged the six sets of eyes that was following the conversation in respective silence. Straightening herself, the Guildmaster gently removed Blue's hands from her shoulders, and turned to face the mute girls. Looking at everyone of them, she asked, "What do you guys think?"

Leyna was first to reply, "I barely call you this, but… Sister. Based on what Blue said, Ares is scheming something that's bad. I don't know about you, but I definitely want to protect the Civilians; a job that I've been given to the moment I began my life as a Hunter. And if Ares was as barbaric as Blue described… I don't want to work for him."

"Same here." Kimmie smiled, shrugging, "Besides, I think I know what Blue means by liking secrets…"

"Same goes for me." Aileen spoke third, giving a thumbs up, "As much as I don't want the guild to be in danger… I want to fight for it."

"I'm for uncovering whatever this is." Elise gave her opinion, "I think it'd be more exciting than just hunting beasts and Ironhunting all day."

"I know I'm just a manager of a cafe shop but…" Avanna sighed helplessly, "I'll do whatever I can to help."

"You've done a lot already." Angella nodded at Avanna, and smoothly turned her head to the newest member, "Sorry to freak you out… You don't have to join, you know."

Eve blinked at the sudden attention she got from everyone. Smiling a bit, she waved both of her hands from side to side, gesturing that she didn't mind, "It's fine! It's getting interesting, what you guys are talking about. At least, more interesting than hopping around from city to city… I'll keep my decision to join you guys. Plus, I don't think I can get out now… The drinks here are too good."

Angella smiled broadly at the white-haired girl, chuckling softly, "If you guys are for it… then I guess I have no choice but to go with what my guild agrees to." Turning back toward Blue and Jack, she said firmly, "You heard them. Whether you want it or not, we're getting involved in this, too."

Jack grinned brightly and held up two thumbs up, "Great! This is going to be an adventure I definitely don't want to miss out."

Blue stood for a moment, speechless. Sure, there were a lot of people she met. Sure, she traveled to cities that she'd never thought she would be in, and ate all kinds of exotic cuisines. But nothing could compare to this moment, where all minds were united as one, despite differences and secrets. All uniting for a bigger goal. Her blue eyes softened as her lips curved upwards in a small, truthful smile. "Well… Don't complain to me that I didn't warn you how serious it can be."

You're getting attached again. Blue silently reminded herself, Remember what happened when you did that before?

 

Chapter Text

Ares held a party for the Hunters who risked themselves in battle in order to protect the city and its Civilians. Jack was more than happy to try the food, but Blue coldly denied them, even if Kris brought over dishes from other tables. Ares and Blue face off with fake smiles and hidden intentions, and the female Strider had hit bullseye with her words. Sweetheart Cafe gets an inspection from two mysterious men, as well as Kyle’s shop. Angella and Leyna pick up Elise, Aileen, and Kimmie as well as an unexpected guest: Eve. In their headquarters, they discuss the danger that Ares is possibly creating, and Blue asks for Angella to reconsider MidnightBound’s safety. Everyone, including Eve, agreed it’d be a shame if they abandoned all their knowledge. Blue’s subconscious scolds her for attaching herself.

He was only seven when it had happened.
His family mansion… engulfed by flames of hatred. The obsidian sky had exploded into  vibrant hues of red, orange, and gold. He was sleeping a second ago, and suddenly, he was being carried away from his bedroom by the family butler. He felt the fires lick his face as it hissed in its objective to devour the living space into ashes… along with his parents. Luckily for him, he escaped with half of his face burnt. He had watched helplessly as the maids try to put out the fire with water, but all efforts were futile. The siege that had started wasn’t from a natural cause; it was the wrath of the beasts.
Flashes of his father and mother appeared, their smiling faces, their joyful laughter, and their wonderful praising upon seeing his grades in school. They were kind, loving, and precious to him, but the beasts have taken it all from him. The family manor was something that his father had built, standing for over a decade, but it was in ruins now. His infant clothes his mother made, all from scratch silk or some signature fabric, but they were all wiped from their physical forms.
The guild that his father had led almost lost its footing the day he died. Fortunately, there were Vicemasters to take the leading position. Originally, his father had planned to give him the Guildmaster seat, but the flames extinguished that before it could happen.
His hair wasn’t red or shaped like a forward mohawk back then; it was clean cut and blonde. It gave him a scholarly look, and he accepted it to satisfy his parents’ expectations. His eyes weren’t gold either; they were a lustrous light brown. Back then, he was a child: weak, helpless, innocent. But as he grew and reality slapped him in the face several times, he changed. Red and the fiery hairstyle suited him more and recently, he’s been favoring gold above all other colors.
It was like a reminder, kind of, his new look. The red, gold, and untamed hairdo. If it was a reminder, it wouldn’t be his house or his parents.
Ares had sworn to annihilate every beast and anyone who dared to interfere with his mission.

Opening his eyes slowly, the Commander was looking up at the ceiling, his back stretched broadly across his bed, the linen fabrics stuffed with cotton draped over his abdomen. Gold eyes stared intently upwards. He  remained there for a while before he let any thought come through his brain.
The dream again… Ares sighed, pushing himself up to a sitting position on the bed.
Whenever that same dream plagued his mind in his sleep, he had no intentions of sleeping after, not that his brain allowed him to, anyway. It happens at least two or three times a year, but it felt like he had it daily. The day was going to be a tedious one, because of losing his sleep. He hated it when the politicians criticized him for being fatigued and he knew that they start to wonder if he was even suited for the Commander position. As always, Ares has proven them wrong, but he wondered how long it would be until the madness takes over and he ends up killing them all.
Slipping on his blue blazer, he decided to leave the pink bow tie that he’d normally wear with his outfit on his desk. When he did wear it though, he put the bow tie on the left side of his neck; it got very popular with the ladies at parties he would attend. Snatching his Weapon Key and stuffing his hands in his pockets, he left his room. He walks out the hallway of his mansion, glanced briefly over his belongings before he shut and locked the front door. Of course, there were always two guards standing on each side of his front lawn, even if he had ordered them to or not.
“Commander━” The one on his left began to argue against his intentions.
Stopping, he held up his left hand and closed his eyes, as if he didn’t want to hear anything else. “No, no, don’t start. I don’t need it. You two go home and get some sleep yourselves.”
“But the General━” the guard continued to disagree, which was a bad decision in front of Ares.
“How do I put this in the simplest way?” Ares turned toward the guard now, opening his eyes and securing a deadly gaze on him, “Leave your positions or never have one again.”
At this, the two guards froze and hesitantly glanced at each other, as if deciding whether to obey the General they worked directly under or the Commander of the entire City… The choice is too obvious.
“I expect you gone by the time I return.” Ares retreated his hand into his pocket, and continued to walk down the steps of his mansion. He stopped again when he placed both his feet on the sidewalk, concealing his eyes under his eyelids again to enjoy the midnight breeze. Turning to his right, he started his stroll. The pitched thuds of his boots on the concrete echoed around him in the silence of his neighborhood.
He lived in the innermost of Central, a place where only government or military officials could enter and reside in. It wasn’t his choice to live there, he was forced to. Ares could defend himself readily, but those inferior to him insisted that he have guards everywhere in his house. He already had three able persons as his guards, but they didn’t stop their begging for him to place soldiers around the Commander’s mansion.
Sighing, Ares wanted nothing to do with guards or soldiers around his home right now. The white structure was half as large as his childhood home, the one his parents had built for the entire family to reside in. Unlike the Commander’s solid white mansion, his parents’ had the outer walls made of gray bricks, while the rectangles around the doors were a maize color. One thing the two massive houses had in common were the wooden floors… at least he had that.
Lifting up a hand to cast a spell as a key to opening the enormous iron gates in front of him, he paused to glance back at the little wealthy area before exiting to resume his walk. Noticing a familiar presence behind him, he firmly placed his feet on the ground again, and looked up to the sky, not needing to know the person’s face to know their name.
“Dagger, you know better than to accompany me on my walks.” Ares said, his golden eyes scanning the beautiful sight of the sleeping sky.
“Are you going to tell me to go to sleep like those guards, too?” The female Blademaster chuckled behind him, crossing her arms, “I know not of sleep when my master is awake.”
“There you go again…” Ares sighed deeply, “Using those cliché phrases.”
“I may overuse it a little, but I have no choice other than to do so to pound it in your head.” Dagger replied, “What else would you want me to do? It’s midnight.”
“Sleep.” Ares shrugged, still not facing her, “I want to have a peaceful walk alone. I’m in my own domain; I have nothing to worry about.”
“What if the attack happens again?” Dagger asked.
“Then I’ll make it so the attack stops.” The redhead answered, easily.
“Ares━”
“Honestly, why are you people so stubborn?” Ares turned around, exaggerating the action a bit to display his exhaustion of the argument, “I don’t want to cut off sentences, but you make me do it anyway. And for what? Just to hold my hand, walk me down yourself and treat me like a kid?” He paused, placing his palm on his forehead and shaking his head, “Listen, it’s just one walk. It’s not like it’s going to kill me.”
“All right, all right.” Dagger rolled her eyes, “Though, now I wonder whether or not I should tell Kaos about this…”
“If you do, I will personally suspend you from your missions.” Ares’s shoulder rose. Kaos was a stalker, and everyone should leave it at that. He was quiet and lethal, and especially protective over Ares. There was little effort in convincing Dagger or Rose to not follow him, but Kaos never listens. He  trails Ares without a warning. The redhead has a hunch whenever one of the three was near him, but it was extremely difficult to detect Kaos.
Dagger grinned mischieviously, “Just be glad it was me and not Kaos.”
“Yeah, yeah, whatever, go.” Ares waved for Dagger to leave, knowing her words were true.
Instead of going back to where she came from, the Blademaster sat on the concrete, crossing her arms and legs, “I’m just going to wait here then.”
“What?” Ares stared at her in confusion, “Until I come back?”
Dagger nodded, “You said it, not me.”
Ares rotated around angrily, his veins popping, and finally resumed his walk, not bothering to glance behind him. Clearing his mind by shaking his head, he stared out at the city that lay in front of him. Where to go… Hmm… Those sisters lived in Southern Central, do they not…? Finding his destination, the Warlord began to walk in that direction, throwing away his worries for now.

The majority of the walk up until this point was silently serene. Ares wondered why he hadn’t taken these types of walks often. But the answer was always the same: Because you’re the Commander. You can’t go into the city without attracting a mass world gathering. Scratching his head, he looked at the various closed shops, impressed at how neat they were and how clean the sweepers kept the streets. Eliciting a small smile, he pressed forward, the sound of his boots still resounded off the hushed road.
Suddenly, his eyes opened, its golden shades alarmed. Glancing around warily, Ares could see nothing that was out of the ordinary, yet he felt something upsetting his stomach. It was different from the feeling he had when he noticed the presence of Kaos, Dagger, or Rose, but he was definitely sensing someone. It made him want to ravage and torture it. It drew out the inner sadist in him.
Dragging out his Weapon Key and willing it to transform into its true shape, the black-and-maize two-handed sword’s handle fell on his palm, and he took it with no hesitation. The two fire opals that was fused into the weapon hummed with power, almost replying to Ares’s growing madness. Now that he thought about the feeling more, he felt like a predator closing in on a prey. The only difference was he didn’t know what his prey was, but it seemed like a good one.
Pivoting his head to the left, he immediately darted in the direction. His instincts were the only sensation that told him where to go. The bloodlust he kept inside of him boiled, threatening to spill at any second. Careful not to make contact with the concrete through his sword, he slipped through narrow alleyways, jumped over walls, and climbed up assorted buildings, all in order to find out what his prey was. Ares only hoped it’d be more lasting than a Virgo beast.

Alpha had arrived at Central in the afternoon on the train from Maddox to Central, but he didn’t expect for himself to be roaming around in the city━at midnight, too. He planned to take the Southern Train to the city of Tiberius, but it left without him. Why were trains to Central always so late? There were constant slows or even complete stops on the way; all of the trains had one or both of those problems. The Strider should’ve thought his journey through more carefully.
Walking through the streets, his icy front mohawk was slouching from the lack of gel. The weather at Central wasn’t cold, but he had count on his sky blue and yellow scarf to keep the cold out. He wore a blue jacket over his dark navy long sleeved T-shirt and teal pants held up by his golden belt, which, the extraneous parts separate into two, dangling on the right side. Although not on rugged terrain, the orange treads beneath his navy boots felt light as he walked on even ground, specifically the concrete streets of the city.
By now, every store he saw was closed, and everyone was sleeping peacefully in their beds or doing other activities. Alpha’s green eyes lost their hyper glow, and was turning duller with every passing minute as they yearned for sleep. Alpha had to fight the urge to collapse on the ground right then and there. He didn’t know what else to do; the Strider had no idea where he was even at in the city let alone seek out a hotel. So he figured he would walk a little until he stumbled across… any store that was open, essentially.
If it wasn’t for his late arrival at Central, he would’ve been in Tiberius, and then he could’ve boarded the train from Tiberius to Vresa, too. He wanted to get as far as possible from where he left. As if a flame exploded in his mind, Alpha started to walk a little faster, frowning as he stared at the ground. The city of Myla was at the outermost fringes of both the Evain Nation and the the Estaria Union. Basically, one of the coldest cities in Asna. All there was were snow, snow, and even more snow. The tourists from other regions gape when they see it falling down, but Alpha gets disgusted by them whenever they do that. To any foreigner, snow is a wonderful thing; but to the natives, it was monotonous.
Alpha had wanted to escape from the everyday alabaster scenery. His life was filled with snow. The cold material was everywhere he looked, and he had wanted to visit other areas and see if they had snow or something else that’s the complete opposite. But he was caged in his own city. Myla was the city of the Descendants, a guild that is on the brink of extinction. Alpha never understood why, but the Silver Knights, an extremely popular guild in Central(why, they even had the Central City Commander as their Guildmaster!), and Descendants had a millennia long grudge with each other.
The icy haired Strider was supposed to be the heir to the Guildmaster seat. Alpha had to go through all kinds of training━both mental and physical. As if the snow wasn’t already annoying him by the day, his rigorous training began to make him wonder if he could escape. It did not help that his mentors were grumpy, either. They told him that double sword wielding was a tradition in the line of Guildmasters of Descendants━every single day. He wanted nothing to do with the “long line of Descendants Guildmasters” or the unexplained grudge that just happened to be there; he wanted a life of his own, filled with choices that he wanted to make.
They say Central City was the city of hope and new beginnings, where people rose from nothing to something without revealing their history. Alpha wanted to believe that, but he also started to lose trust in things that are too good to be true. Besides, he couldn’t live in Central City… it was the Silver Knights’ territory. They made it very clear to the Descendants that Central was theirs and theirs alone. Alpha doubted the Civilians even questioned their authority; they simply accept it. Alpha had to hurry up and find a way out of the city, but he couldn’t do that because he was walking through it at midnight. When no one was awake.
Out of nowhere, his head swung to the right, his green eyes immediately contracting with fear. Alpha didn’t know what was happening himself, but he felt something monstrous was coming his way. The fear continued to build up, but he was still frozen in place. Prey━that’s what he was. And where there was prey there was bound to be predators. Fangs… sharp ones at that. He started to run from his unknown doom, feeling desparate as his feet carried him up buildings or above barriers. The panic began to settle in as his breathing became more labored and audible.
No! His mind screamed at him, </i>Don’t stop running! The monster’s getting faster!</i>
Turning around a corner, he saw a bridge stretching across the street he had brought himself to. It was substantially a perpendicular intersection between two roads, but one of the streets were raised onto a bridge, allowing the two to coexist on different planes. As much as Alpha would like to jump onto the construction and walk across it, he had other matters to worry about; like a wrathful presence breathing on his heels.
He almost missed it, but there was a person underneath the bridge. All he could make out was the person’s head, which had long black hair. Approaching the structure, he realized that it was a female, and she looking at the bridge like she was inspecting it for a hidden treasure. His mind formulated a quick plan. At first, he wanted to throw the plan away for the sake of his morals, but he had no other choice… the pursuer would reach him soon.
Trying to run quietly when his breathing was out of order was difficult, but he managed it anyways. Walking toward the girl, she still had her back to him, completely transfixed with the bridge. Oh well, it made the job easier for him. Nice outfit, was the last thought on his mind before he willed his hands to move, grabbing the girl’s shoulders, and turned her around to place his lips on hers firmly.

“Wake up.” A voice called to her, its tone dreamy and almost like a river, “He’s here.”
When Angella opened her eyes, she was standing in one of the streets of the city, its moon-washed concrete ground created a hazy aura in her eyes. She was directly facing a bridge that arched across a road on the ground, forming a concrete arch above the street it soared over. When the Dragoon started to walk toward the structure, a figure appeared on the walls that lined the edges of the bridge. When she looked closer, it was a gray cat with white underfur sitting on top of the stone rail.
Taking more steps toward the bridge, she stared up at its sky blue eyes, the black slitted pupils of the felidae stared back as intently as her mauve gaze. It wasn’t a normal cat with faded stripes on its back… the feline had markings. The spirals extending from the corner of its eye to the middle of its cheeks were black and three thin stripes from its belly arching up onto its flanks. On each of its four paws, one toe was black and its tail had markings similar to a snow leopard.
Angella raised her arms, reaching up for the petite feline. Its tail curled and the cat got on all four, its eyes watching the road as if measuring the height. Finally, it decided to jump into Angella’s arms; and the Dragoon held the gray felidae close to her chest. The cat’s fur was short but fluffy, and petting the soft hairs made her want to stay in the dream she was having.
“He’s here.” The cat seemed to be saying, but its lips didn’t move, the only sound coming out of its throat was its content purr.
“Who?” Angella tilted her head, getting a better view of the cat’s deep eyes.
The cat lifted its head off Angella’s arms and perked its ears. Its lovely blue gaze seemed to be looking at something behind her. Noticing this, the female turned around, wanting to know what was behind both of them. Her eyes rested on the two animal figures that was sitting on the ground in front of her. On her left was a wolf, its pelt like hairs of obsidian, its green gaze connecting to hers in a hopeful manner. Next to the wolf, on Angella’s right, was a golden lion, though the lack of natural light made the brilliant hue fade out a bit. His lighter mane flowed as an invisible wind played with it, his eyes were the exact same shade as the wolf’s, and she was on the receiving end of both of their stares.
Before she could open her mouth to speak, everything turned to black and a pair of ice cold eyes opened underneath silver eyelids. When the eyelids completely peeled back to reveal the full glare of the harsh eyes, the dream shook Angella awake, her eyes flung open as the sight of her bedroom’s ceiling greeted her.
Everything was dead silent in their apartment. Even through closed curtains, the half moon’s light managed to pierce through the fabric. Pushing herself up into a sitting position then eventually getting off the bed herself, Angella peeked behind the cloth that draped over her windows. The city was quiet, there was not a sight of anything moving. Sighing, she looked over to her sister’s bed, at ease to find that Leyna was still sleeping comfortably underneath her blue blanket.
Slipping her usual uniform on, Angella decided to let her hair down because it was midnight━no one would be up to see it. Silently picking up the Weapon Key she hid under her pillow, she slipped out of her apartment without a word to the Elemental Master; she seemed too carefree to be disturbed.
Angella recognized where the bridge from her dream was; and she was glad it wasn’t far away from her. Her combat boots made muffled sounds against the stone ground as she hurried in the direction of the location. She forgot what the bridge was called, but she was going to find out soon. Her eyes were a bit sleepy, but she didn’t need any coffee to wake her up; the confusion from the dream alone can keep her curiosity peaked.
Distracting her mind a bit, she noticed the city was quite serene when it was sleeping and the commotion had died down. There were no slow walkers or rude people to interrupt her walk at midnight, which was a relief, because she hated those kinds of people. Slowing down, she drank in the lazy scenery, a bit glad that she chose to seek out the bridge at this crazy time.
There were some pet stores she noticed, and made a mental note to visit them sometime. Seeing the cat in her dream made her feel like cuddling one for real. There was something about cats that she liked; their soft fur, the way they purr, and the way they believed that they were the owners and not the pets. Angella hoped she wasn’t allergic to cats.
Ah, she caught the bridge in the distance, there it is.
Accelerating into a quick jog, she soon found herself staring up at the structure. Angella half expected for there to be a stray cat sitting on the rails. Looking around, she found no wolf or lion, either. Maybe there’s something on the bridge itself. Pressing her hand on the cold stone, she let her nails trail on it and her eyes were looking around at the same time.
Featherspirit Bridge, huh…? The Dragoon looked everywhere on the bridge, but found nothing. She climbed onto the bridge, too, but found even more nothing on it. Jumping down onto the road below, she glared at the structure with a slight pout, not knowing what she was looking for or why the architecture was in her dream. Hmm… Maybe standing under it and looking up…? Testing the bridge one last time, she did what she suggested herself to do.
At first, all she could see were stone, but when she squinted her eyes, there was something visible. A rune? Marking? She raised herself on her toes to get even closer, but still couldn’t figure out what it was. Putting her heels to the ground, she stared at the spot on the concrete bridge, trying to ponder on what she could do. It was useful if she could use her magic to form a light bulb or a flashlight, but her magic didn’t have that type of potential.
Angella would’ve loved to ponder more, but suddenly, she was twirled around forcefully and before she could register what was happening, she was being kissed by a stranger. She only saw a glint of the green in his eyes before he closed it. What the?! She panicked and automatically assumed he was drunk, but there was no sign of alcohol in his mouth, though there was a taste of… train food?
Refusing to open her mouth, she instead bit on his lower lip hard, earning herself temporary release from his grasp. As he let go, Angella stepped back, wiping the trace of their kiss on her lips away, “What are you doing?!” She shouted at him, willing for her Weapon Key to transform, holding the tall spear in her hands in a defensive stance.
His icy mohawk was almost white, drowned in the moon’s light, but his determined green eyes never lost their glow. He had a Weapon Key of his own, and his double blades appeared in his hands. Throwing one at Angella, he aimed for her but he targeted  for her spear. Angella spun her spear to counterattack the spinning blade coming towards her, effectively knocking it out of its planned path. What she didn’t expect was the guy’s swiftness; he shot in her direction right after he threw his blade, knowing Angella would have her attention on the blade before he got to her.
Taking a hold of her weapon, the Strider yanked it out of her hands and threw it out of her reach, the steel screeching across the stone as it slid further and further away. He grabbed her right hand, stilling it with his own strength. He still held his other blade, and he pressed the flat side of the blade against her back as he snaked his arm around her waist. The female Dragoon tried to make best of her knee by attempting to hit a man’s greatest weakness with it, but before she could, the man shoved her against the concrete wall of the bridge.
Her back didn’t make contact with the solid structure, but if it did, Angella was sure she would no longer be a Hunter. The female Dragoon had assumed worst of worst, that he was going to force himself onto her, but he didn’t make any attempts to hurt her. His grip on her dominant hand had loosened, but she still couldn’t break free of it.
“What are you trying to do?!” She tried to ask his intentions again, knowing she could still very well deliver a lethal strike, but she held back. He didn’t hurt her, so what…?
“Trust me.” He only replied, his green eyes desperate and begging for Angella to cooperate with him. Alpha figured out who was hawking him: Ares. There was no other person that his blood would react this enraged to. His father was a Guildmaster, so he guessed the reaction through his vessels, too.
Angella had no idea what the two words meant, and it definitely didn’t answer her question completely. They stared at each other for a few moments more, and by that time, Angella knew he wasn’t a guy with bad intentions, but that didn’t justify his actions for suddenly attacking her like this. She’d never been touched by anyone like this, and when the thought finally crossed her mind, her cheeks flared a brilliant pink, her mauve eyes widening. The sound of her heart pounding in her ears made them turn red, too.
The ice-haired man noticed, and whispered, “I’ll explain after… Pretend you’re my girlfriend. Please?” He blinked pleadingly, grinning in an apologetic manner.
Before Angella can turn any redder or open her mouth to speak, the sound of something dropping from a tremendous height sounded to their right, and the sound of rubble scattering immediately followed. Alpha knew who is was making an entrance, and Angella was starting to get the situation. Wait, is this guy a criminal? Why is he being chased? The two questions were among the first to pop in her mind after making assumptions off of the circumstances.
Looking back at Angella, Alpha stared at her urgently, the panic in his eyes only comprehensible through their eye contact. Widening her eyes again, the female Dragoon gulped in reply under his compelling green gaze. So heis being chased… by who…? Should I trust him? Before she could consider on his intentions, he gently captured her lips again, much softer compared to the first one.
Deciding to just go with it, Angella complied with his kiss, timidly spreading her mouth apart. It was awkward, since this was her first kiss and the first time that she was pinned by a guy. The feeling of tongue on tongue was disgusting to her at first, and their noses sometimes got in their way, though it was mostly Angella’s fault. As they deepened the kiss, Alpha guided her a little, tilting his head to where he wanted hers to tilt to and successfully getting rid of the nose complication. His grip on her hand completely melted away but the female Dragoon was too busy to notice as he smoothly brought her hand to the small of his back. Her fingers grasped onto his blue jacket on instinct, as if to keep her from falling.
The girl was cute, Alpha had to admit, but he couldn’t take it further than this; at least, not right now. He had met beauties back in Myla, and all of them shared the same traits: pale skin, blonde hair, and secretly dark eyes. And yes, during his earlier years, he has dated and made out, so this was nothing to him, but he was dealing with a first timer. Alpha was just glad she understood the situation and offered no more resistance… and he was grateful for her not hitting him.

Ares straightened himself, patting off the dust that had collected onto his clothes, kicking the ruin of pebbles that was once part of the concrete street. Dragging his blade now, the overwhelming urge to destroy and contort was gnawing at him. The titanium and obsidian sword made a metallic sound as he pulled it across the stone. He knew the name of the bridge he was approaching, but the hysteria building up in him had completely drowned the name of it away.
Descendant scum… His inner voice growled, How dare you step into my city…?
It was rather anti-climatic, the sight that revealed itself before him. Absurd and ridiculous were close runner ups, but weren’t sufficing. He had expected the Guildmaster of Descendant himself to make some type of dramatic entrance in front of Ares; not that the sight wasn’t dramatic already. Ares also expected some guy who was buffer or more badass looking, but the world doesn’t give you what you want. He paused in his approach, and stood to look at scene in a blank expression. The demons of his mind completely dispersed, leaving it barren and without thought. All of his predatory cravings were gone in just a split second.
Then, he let out a loud laugh, holding his stomach and throwing his head back to the sky. Throwing his head forward, he tabbed the ground with his sword and used his weapon as something to hold onto, as if he’d collapse from laughing at any moment. Tears started to form at the corners of his eyes, and he hugged his stomach with one arm tightly. If anyone who regarded him with great admiration saw him now, they might lose all of their hopes in him.
Alpha slowly broke their intimacy, his green eyes lingering on hers a little before he hardened them at the sight of Ares’s laughing fits. Angella was about to lose herself but the feeling of cold wind against her lips shook her back into reality. Turning her head to where the green-eyed man was glancing, she was shocked to see Ares, let alone him maniacally laughing like this. Retracting her hand from Alpha’s back, she straightened herself, blinking at the scene, still blushing like crazy.
Alpha stepped back from Angella, letting her have the space that she owned, but still held onto her hand. From what he heard from his mentors, Ares was nothing but a barbaric bastard, resorting to bloodshed anytime he could. Alpha didn’t want the girl to get her life in danger because of him. So why aren’t you letting  her go so she can run away from Ares? The question bothered him, and he didn’t know why he couldn’t answer it.
“Oh, Ares,” He started, a calm expression washed over his face, “I didn’t know you enjoyed midnight strolls.”
Wheezing out his last fit, Ares stood up, wiping the tears from his eyes, “Me neither!” Letting out another bough of laughter, he shook his head, “This is the most eventful I’ve ever seen the city!”
“I’m glad to be under the spotlight, then.” Alpha gave a little bow, his look turning smug.
“Certainly, being in a Silver Knights’ city and trying to steal yourself a girl?” Ares’s voice pitched in amazement, “All in front of the Central City Commander… how daring you are.”
“What can I say? I live to greet death.” Alpha shrugged, “And you’re talking as if she belongs to you, when clearly, she thinks otherwise.”
“Is that so? I apologize.” Ares bent over exaggeratingly, “Anyway, now that I know I have a scrawny rival, I have nothing to worry about. Why are you here?” He glared at Alpha ridiculously, “To try and take the city? Because good luck, you won’t be able to beat me with your two blades cast away for the urge of a woman.”
“Who knows? The power of love can be pretty daunting.” Alpha grinned in reply, “And I’m not here to take the city. I wouldn’t want to rule in such an unambitious position.” He shrugged, “I was merely making a visit to my girlfriend and pick her up to go to Tiberius together.”
Tiberius?! Angella glanced at his green eyes briefly, Good thing this is all just an act… right?
“Do whatever you want, just know that my guards will have your full description written down and they’ll be looking for you.” Ares smirked, “Honestly… you disappoint me, Descendant. Here I thought I was going to be tested and… you show up.”
“Oh, don’t worry, I’ll be back to kick your ass one day.” Alpha promised, though he wasn’t sure if he could keep it, “I’m just picking which places in Central to lay no mercy on.”
“Go ahead and browse through it all.” Ares stretched his arms, as if offering Alpha the whole city, “I’m sure you’d find something.”
“And I will.” Alpha replied, and turned toward Angella, “Let’s go to a more private place.”
Suddenly receiving the attention, Angella blinked in confusion for a second, but sighed and only nodded to the man. Alpha placed his arm around her waist as he guided them away from the bridge and away from Ares. Angella had never seen Ares in person before, only in broadcasts, but when she did, she could see why everyone talked about him so much. The dominating atmosphere he gives off would make anyone submit to him.
Ares commanded for his weapon return to its Key form, his hand closing over the key chain and his miniature sword. Walking the opposite direction Alpha had, Ares grinned madly, barely able to hold in his amusement.
His rival and his mark together… Ares wondered how many times things can go wrong.

“We’re safe.” Alpha cautiously looked behind the two, confirming that there was no one nearby, “Sorry for that… I panicked.”
Angella stepped back from his arm, glaring at him, “What the hell was that? Why were you talking with Ares like you two are familiar with each other? And what did you mean by taking over the city? I didn’t agree with you just so a criminal can take power by force.”
“Calm down.” Alpha held up his hands, taking a little step towards her, “Can you promise to be quiet when I explain, though?”
“Just go.” Angella demanded impatiently.
Alpha explained from the beginning, and he told her about him being the heir to the Descendants guild and where he came from, about how Descendants and Silver Knights were longtime rivals. Why he left, how he left, why he was stuck in Central, almost everything.It bothered him that he didn’t just give the girl a short one-sentence summary. So why hadn’t he?
After he finished, Angella glared at him for several seconds, testing if he was telling the truth. The whole story seemed very detailed, and it was just a lot to take in. Ares being his rival? Him denying his rightful position? Being a Guildmaster, herself, she thought about who was the “heir” to her place. Guilds technically did have a successor, and that was the most experienced Vicemaster in the guild. But from his perspective, an heir was the offspring of the previous Guildmaster. She never thought such systems existed, but the person in front of her (might) be a living proof of it.
The sun was beginning to light the sky from the west now, signaling the official start to a new day. Soon, stores would be open and Civilians would flock the streets. Suddenly, Angella wanted to return to the night sky and walk under the moon some more. The two were walking toward where Angella’s feet took her, since she learned from Alpha he had no idea where to go. And her feet seemed in the mood for Sweetheart Cafe, and she was more than happy to go there.
“Okay…” Angella finally spoke, pushing all of the facts aside for now, “...You still haven’t told me your name. And don’t think about faking it, or I’m reporting you to the police.”
“Please don’t.” He pleaded, “It’s Alpha.”
“Alpha.” Angella tested it with her voice, “I see. So I’m not going to Tiberius with you, right?”
“If you want to, we can.” Alpha arched an eyebrow.
“No!” Angella made a face, “I already decided to move here.”
“Shame.” Alpha sighed, “You would’ve made good eye candy.”
“Sh-Shut up.” Angella turned her face away, “I don’t want to go there.”
“Why?” Alpha tilted his head, his voice pitched, “I heard they have great scenery.”
“I’ve got a guild to run. One filled with… unique problems.” Angella hoped she chose the right word, first impressions were everything. Wait… first impressions? Why did she want to make her guild impressive? It’d be nice if I could make her guild impressive to everyone, but…
“Problems?” Alpha echoed, “What kind of problems?”
Angella hesitated in telling him. On one side of the argument, he was a stranger; he shouldn’t be trusted. But on the other, he was rival to Ares, which means he’ll be a surplus to their guild.
“Your thinking face is cute.” Alpha commented, staring wide-eyed at the Dragoon.
That earned him an unfriendly punch, but he also got a hushed explanation from her as well.

“Honestly…” Leyna paced around their bedroom, the iRis panel rushing to keep up with her, “Where is that idiot?”
The Elemental Master has been trying to contact her sister in the last two hours. Leyna was rarely a morning person, but for some reason, today she woke up earlier than usual to find Angella gone. At first she thought her sister went to the bathroom or gone to the kitchen to get something to eat, but after checking both places, Leyna grew worried. Angella wouldn’t leave without telling her.What if something happened to Angella?
Giving the Angella’s iRis ID one more call, she frowned when it wasn’t picked up. Dismissing the floating transparent eye, Leyna decided to go to the headquarters to ask Avanna if she knew anything. Looking out the window, the bright orange sun almost blinded her. Checking the time, she noted it was almost five in the morning. Letting out a frustrated sigh, she draped her two ponytails over her shoulder and plucked her Weapon Key from a hook jutting out of the table designed for the purpose of keeping it.
Locking the door to her apartment and walking out onto the streets, which began to be littered with people, she opened her iRis once again. On her way there, Leyna sends the whole guild a message to meet her at Sweetheart Cafe when they wake up. She hoped Angella would see it. Her blue sneakers tapped on the solid ground as she walked, and the Elemental Master picked up her speed when she saw the Cafe in view━and what a surprise: Avanna was standing outside the front door, unlocking the store.
“Avanna!” Leyna called, waving her right hand.
Turning around, the manager’s face lit up and she waved back, “Oh, hi Leyna!”
Running up to the black haired girl, Leyna asked right away. “Have you seen Angella around?”
“No, why?” Avanna tilted her head in confusion, opening the door for Leyna.
The brunette entered the shop backwards, so as to keep their conversation, “She’s been gone since… I don’t know! I woke up to find her gone and I can’t contact her iRis.”
“That’s weird.” Closing the door, Avanna made a straight beeline for the tables with the chairs resting on top of them and started to put them down gently, “Are you sure you couldn’t contact her?”
“Yeah,” Leyna sighed, starting to mimic Avanna’s actions for another table, helping the manager, “Ugh, I can’t help but feel panicky.”
“Don’t worry.” Avanna finished putting down the chairs for one table and started on another, “Angella can take care of herself; nothing bad will happen. She’s strong.”
“I hope you’re right…” Leyna placed a chair on the ground and pushed it into the empty space beneath the table, stopping when the backrest clunked with the edge of the table, “I’m going to give her a good slap for making me worry…”
Avanna chuckled, finishing the tables on her side, “Can you put down the rest of the chairs, please?”
“Sure.” Leyna shrugged, already on the case anyway.

“Sounds complicated.” Was all Alpha could say, “Whoever this girl is, I’m sure Ares is using her to get some objective… Any villain would, or else he would’ve killed her.”
“True…” Angella nodded, “But for what? He has everything in the world.”
“He does, doesn’t he?” Alpha chuckled, turning his head to face Angella, “But… does he have the world?”
Stopping in her tracks, she stared at Alpha in disbelief, “What… do you mean?”
“People like him… don’t stop at having everything in the world.” Alpha explained, walking forward as Angella catched up to him, “Some people who want the world in their hands become maniacal. Like him.”
“So… he wants to control the world?” Angella asked, “Sounds like what a storybook would be about.”
“But this is his reality; he can make it happen.” The male Strider argued.
“Ah, I see it.” Angella changed the topic, “You see the sign? ‘Sweetheart Cafe’?”
“Yup.” Alpha nodded, “It opens this early?”
“It’s a coffee shop, idiot, of course it would.” Angella rolled her eyes, walking ahead of him, “I’m not paying for you.”
“Dang.” Alpha grinned, hurrying up to match the Dragoon’s pace, “Is it worth the gold?”
“Let’s just say it has more worth than you.” Angella answered deviously, not knowing why she was so defensive toward him.

“Oh, I think I see her!” Leyna stood out of her seat, putting down her Weapon Key which she had played with in boredom. “Wait…” She squinted her eyes and moved toward the door, peering out of its glass, “Or rather…them.
“...Them?” Avanna’s head popped up from behind the cash register, suddenly alert. Walking toward Leyna, she spotted Angella in the distance, walking with… “Ohhhhh.
“Yeah.” Leyna’s face turned wicked, the Elemental Master rubbed her hands, “I hope they didn’t do anything funny.”
“Oh, gee…” Avanna sighed, but couldn’t help the smile spreading across her face, “This is going to be an interesting guild meeting…”
“Oh, yes it is.” Leyna pushed the door open, waving both of her hands in the air, “Hey! Angella!”
“Leyna!” Angella waved back, but then froze in midstep as she watched Leyna’s expression turned malevolent, “...Oh no.”
“Oh no… what?” Alpha raised an eyebrow at Angella, puzzled.
“Oh no…” Angella only repeated, her hand withered, a shadow washed over her face.
“What’s the matter, sister?” Leyna asked, though to Angella the brunette had gleaming eyes and grinning to reveal fangs, “Why won’t you come closer?”
“</i>Ohhh…</i>” Alpha nodded in comprehension, “It’s one of those sibling things right? Whenever one of them brings a date home?”
“W-Who said you were my date?!” Angella punched Alpha again, her voice nowhere near a normal girl’s, but closer to a speaker on full volume.
“If you’re not coming, then I’m coming for you!” Leyna called to them, teasing her sister.
“All right, all right, hang on!” Angella shouted, choosing to ignore the Civilians that stared at her strangely.
Avanna shook her head, “Just a normal day, huh?”


“It’s good.” Alpha replied to Angella after she’d asked him of his opinion on the coffee he ordered, looking at the gradient of brown to white it displayed.
“It’s the Winter Caramel Mix!” Leyna exclaimed, her widened eyes glared at the Strider, “It’s more than just ‘good’!”
“Calm down, Leyna.” Angella consoled her sister, blinking, “Everyone has their own tastes.”
Pouting, the brunette leaned back onto her chair, “Why can’t you bring a guy with more coffee appreciation…?”
“Hey! If you want a guy, then go ahead and search for one!” Angella’s veins popped, “It’s not like I wanted to bring him anyway, he just tagged along.”
“Yo!” By now, everyone (except Alpha) knew who had entered the shop. “What’s up?”
“You didn’t interrupt me for once.” Leyna turned toward the opening door, Jack entering first and lastly Blue.
“Who’s this?” Jack pulled off his shades and placed it on the table they were all sitting at.
“An idiot off the street.” Angella replied, casually.
“How endearing.” Alpha rolled his eyes, “I’m Alpha.”
“Jack.” The two male Striders shook each others hands firmly, smiling in greeting.
“Angella, Jack’s stealing your boyfriend.” Leyna whispered in a not-so-quiet voice.
“Go ahead, I wouldn’t care.” The Dragoon shrugged.
“You have a boyfriend?” Jack smiled mysteriously at Angella, his eyebrows perked.
“Nope. Single and proud.” Angella answered.
Avanna looked at the table fondly, their voices barely reaching her thought-heavy mind. She had no idea that MidnightBound would be so serious and that she would actually befriend the people in it. It made her want to create a guild, but she guessed she was already in one; the Sweetheart Cafe. Every group has its unique people, and Avanna was sure that went for everyone. Sighing, she went on with her work.
Hearing the chime that was the bell of the door, she hoped the customer wouldn’t be weirdened out by the commotion in the corner of the shop. She put her smile on, and began to greet the customer. “Hello, welcome to Sweetheart Cafe, how may I help…” Avanna trailed off as she recognized her brother in front of her, “...you?”
“Can I just have a cup of dark coffee please?” Kyle smiled at her benevolently. He had on a trench coat and a briefcase, as if traveling somewhere.
“You’re going somewhere?” Avanna nodded at the order, preparing it as she asked him.
“It looks like I haven’t been keeping my store in balance with the bills…” Kyle started, his tone apologetic, “...So I’m closing it and moving back to Khaso.”
The shop went silent as the sharp sounds of ceramic shattering to pieces made everyone’s ears twinge, and the fragments of the coffee mug lay on the ground, as broken as Avanna.