Before you read this chapter. I would to first declare once more, that not only did EternaCombOver's fic inspired this one. But it is also thanks to his editing, plot developing, that allowed this fic to come into fruition.
Chapter 3: Encounter and Meeting
"Geez, this is an even bigger dump than that Draco wreck earlier," noted IBRS as she and Nana hopped off the latter's bike, facing the ruins of a military base. Either from the invasion years before, or the endless snow and lack of maintenance, the Moscow UEF Base now stands in shambles with most of its electronic equipment blasted or ripped from its circuits. As the two sisters ventured deeper inside however, they stumbled upon something that immediately caught their interest.
"Oh? That looks important," remarked Nana with a smirk as she as she and IBRS came across a massive container with the letters 'UEF' painted on the side. Before IBRS could ask anything, Nana approached it and entered a number sequence on the electronic lock which then showed the words 'Access Granted'. As the lock came undone, Nana opened the container's doors to reveal a massive number of weapons, tools and parts hanging on racks and its inner walls.
"Well, isn't that a little too convenient?" asked IBRS as she entered the container with Nana. "I mean, how'd you even know to get it open? Wait, don't tell me! This is what Stella meant by you being special, right?" she continued, watching as Nana hurriedly moved over to one of the racks. She followed suit, her eyes tracing out what appeared to be some kind of rifle that piqued her interest. But as the twin-tailed girl was about to grab the rifle off of the racks, Nana slapped her hand away with a slight frown. IBRS responded in kind with a frown of her own. "Oh, so you own all the toys now?" she asked.
"No, but the last thing I want is for you to destroy everything in this emergency cache. Now, find something we can use to transport all this to the trailer... Please," requested Nana as she started making a mental list of the parts and tools she needed to repair the trailer, as well as upgrade it with a few weapons. It took only a few minutes before Nana's shoulder was tapped. She turned around, half-expecting IBRS to have dragged a sheet of metal or something similarly crude back to her, but was more than surprised to see IBRS with a makeshift but sturdy-looking cart, complete with wheels. "Huh... and here I thought you were going to find a crate with a hole in it. You built this in such a short time?"
IBRS smirked. "Well, what can I say? Daughter's got to find ways to impress dear old Mother," she said. She then pointed to the cache with her metal claw-like glove. "So, which thingamajigs do we need to get that rusty black bucket working? Or should we just take all to be sure?"
As Nana and IBRS started filling the cart, IBRS started asking with a hint of curiosity "So remind me again... you were made to fight against Mother, right?"
Nana sighed as she placed a series of different-sized wrenches and screwdrivers into the cart followed with a pair of Gatling guns. "That was the official stance from the army and the reason why they even funded the Cloning Project. Pap-... Dr Gibson actually wanted to fix us, to ensure our memories won't deteriorate but the army sent us to combat Sing Love's invasion anyway. That is why, so many of my sisters died. Some not even remembering how to fight, how to wield a gun, to use a knife, to stop the bleeding. I even thought he never loved us, save for Stella," Nana explained.
IBRS simply nodded as she added a blowtorch and cases of ammo into the cart. "But dear Stella showed you otherwise, right?" she asked.
Nana made a small smile before answering "She showed me Papa's recording in my bear, telling me the true meaning of my name. My sisters may be gone, but now I know they can rest in peace now that they're with Papa. But even though I have Stella, Beast and... you, I still wish tha-"
"That dear old Mother wanted us for more than just her game, right?" IBRS finished with a glint in her eyes.
Nana fell silent for a bit, seemingly taken aback by her statement before finally sighing. "That was my hope, and I still do," she answered.
"Then keep hoping, because that's not happening," scoffed IBRS. "I mean, look at me. I was made to love fighting, but even then, that wasn't enough for her precious game. Got one thing right, but I wasn't perfect enough. So I got pushed aside. Same thing happened to Beast, and I bet the same thing would have happened to you," she continued as she causally tossed a piece of armor plating into the cart. "I bet she just chose Stella because she decided to settle on anyone who could give her a good fight."
Nana looked at IBRS and wanted to ask more, but as she watched IBRS quietly continuing with her work, she decided to leave it be. At least, for the time being.
A few hours later, IBRS and Nana arrived back at the ruins of the Draco with their bounty. As she removed the steel cables used to connect the cart with the bike, IBRS started pulling the cart to the trailer with Nana pushing it from behind while ensuring none of the contents drop out from the cart or were covered with snow. As soon as they arrived in front of their target, the pair began repairing and upgrading the damaged trailer.
"Let's hope we don't have to make another trip back to that messed-up joint, I can't stand this cold any longer," IBRS grumbled as she handed Nana a blowtorch.
Nana herself rolled her eyes as she ignited the blowtorch "Trust me, we won't need a second trip." By the time they were done, Nana said as she and IBRS took a few steps back to admire their shared work.
Aside from retaining its size, paint and engine, the trailer was now completely different from its original design. For starters, its entire outer hull now sported additional armor with the option of ejecting should the possibility of irreparable damage occur. Four twin-barreled turrets were attached to the trailer's roof with 360 degrees rotation with settings of either automated or manual control from the consoles within the vehicle's weapons room. A series of mini cameras was placed all over the Trailer's outer hull to provide defensive surveillance during the nights. A back-up engine was installed inside the cargo hold. Finally, they added a retractable ramp to the rear of trailer, primarily intended for Nana's bike.
"Think dear Stella and Beast will like this?" IBRS asked with a satisfied smirk.
Nana herself made an eager grin before answering "I'm very sure even Stella won't see this coming. After all, this vehicle here was where she woke up." After loading the former's bike inside, Nana and IBRS then entered the driver and passenger seats respectively before starting the engine up with the ignition switch. As the engine finally started up after its long winter slumber with a low roar, Nana happily activated the heating system before setting' the Trailer's wheels' to those that suit the snowy landscape. As the tires changed its designs to suit the environment, Nana pressed her boot on the pedal and changed the gears for the trailer to make its way out of the Draco ruins and to Nana's house.
"Finally, and I thought my hair would get icicles on it before we could get warm," IBRS sighed with a relaxed smile on her face, to which Nana shared the same smile in agreement.
The final parts of the broken Brunhild were set down in what remained of the living room, with Stella and Beast looking over everything they managed to salvage one last time. "There was no saving the engine… but at least we've got spare parts in case we need them," Stella commented. She looked over at Beast, who seemed to be lost in thought rather than paying attention to what was laid out before her. "… What's on your mind?" Stella asked, raising her voice to snap Beast back to reality.
"Just… curious," Beast said, blinking a few times before she turned to face Stella. "Stella… you… strong… right?"
"Well… yes," Stella said. She raised an eyebrow, watching Beast with a quizzical expression.
"How… strong?" Beast asked.
"… Very," Stella said. She turned to face Beast, giving the girl her full attention and doing her best to avoid furrowing her brow. "Why do you ask?"
"You… Mother's… true… daughter," Beast said. Stella seemed to take offense at those words, a fierce expression taking over her features for a moment. Every hair on Beast's body seemed to shoot up for a moment, and she almost felt as if Sing Love herself had become annoyed with her, a strange dread accompanying her uneasiness that could only be described as eerily familiar. Stella, noticing the sudden air of caution Beast took on, quickly calmed herself and forced a smile.
"I might be the clone she was most interested in," Stella said, trying to clear the air, "but that doesn't mean you, or IBRS, or Nana, are inferior in any way. You're my sisters, and all of you are special."
Beast watched Stella carefully, still unsure of the odd feeling she got just now, but nodded in response to her statement. "Thank… you…" Beast said. "Still… I… want… know… strength."
Stella sighed, realizing that Beast probably had one thing in mind given how she and IBRS had chosen to settle their problem when she met them. "How would I show you?" she asked, despite knowing what Beast's answer would be.
"We… fight?" Beast suggested. "Not… serious… but… test… ability."
"… Alright. Follow me," Stella said, turning towards what was left of the door. She left the house wordlessly, with Beast hurriedly grabbing her large claymore and following closely behind. Fighting wasn't Stella's idea of a good way to learn about her sisters, but considering their very limited scope of knowledge, she decided it was as good a start as any to learn about them.
Trudging through the snow until they could barely see the outline of the house, Stella and Beast stopped a good distance apart from one another, facing off with nothing but the barren wilderness around them. "Here will be fine," Stella said, crossing her arms as she watched Beast. "We can start whenever you're ready."
"No… weapons?" Beast asked with a curious tilt of her head. Stella shook her head.
"I'll let you make the first move," she said. "Don't hold back, alright? Since we're fighting like this, I want to know how strong you are too."
Beast nodded, hefting her claymore into position in front of her as she watched Stella simply await her attacks. Once again, every one of her senses shot off warnings in her head, all accompanied by a creeping sense of dread. She grit her teeth and tightened her grip on her weapon, the flame in her eye shooting up as a crown of blue flames formed around her head. "We… begin," Beast said. Stella nodded, and Beast bounded forwards.
Snow erupted behind Beast as she moved, the show of raw power and physical ability impressing Stella as the distance between the fighters was closed almost instantly. Regardless, Stella suddenly uncrossed her arms and slid to the right almost as quickly as Beast moved, a faint trail of blue flames following her feet as similar embers trailed out of her eye. A large impact sent snow flying through the air where she was standing mere moments before, but Stella could tell Beast's assault was just beginning. She drew her Black Blade from her waist and bent her knees, already prepared for Beast's second charge through the falling snow.
The speed and ease with which Stella dodged immediately told Beast relying on raw strength would fail her. On her second charge, she dug her feet into the snow and slid to a stop earlier, dragging her claymore through it with ease as blue flames began to line the edge of the blade. As she got in range of Stella, Beast delivered a massive swing. Stella stepped back, the massive weapon leaving a trail of flames near her. Beast's attack was much more controlled this time, however, as the girl let out a grunt and brought her blade back around, swinging low to create a wall of flames in front of her that prevented any possibility of Stella charging back in while forcing her back even further.
Hidden behind the wall of flames, Beast raised her large sword overhead and twirled it around once, the flames around her rising up into a pillar before they coated her blade completely. She let out another grunt as she slammed her sword down, the pillar of flame crashing down with it. A burst of mist borne of instantly vaporized snow trailed outwards from Beast's attack, the girl slowing her own breathing so she could hear any movement around her. The faintest sound of a sharpened object moving rapidly through the air caught her attention, and she turned around just in time to block an overhead slash from Stella's Black Blade, the small sword barely managing to move her large claymore.
"It's no wonder you two managed to destroy the house," Stella said as a flash of light consumed her left hand. Beast looked down just in time to see Stella aim her Rock Cannon underneath both of their weapons, the barrel glowing a bright blue. Beast leapt backwards, barely avoiding the point-blank shot as she regained her footing. "Burst Shot," Stella said, the light from her Rock Cannon showing through the smoke in front of her for a moment before a much more powerful blast shot straight through it.
Unable to move in time, Beast used the broadside of her sword as a shield. The attack detonated on its surface, throwing her off balance as it struck closer to her raised handle than the brunt of the blade. "IXA Blade," Stella said as Beast tried to regain her balance.
Beast's eyes widened as Stella appeared before her almost instantly, the flame in her eye flaring as she delivered an incredibly swift strike. Beast could only stagger back as Stella struck near the handle of her claymore with immense force, her strike sending the weapon flying through the air. Again, the same creeping sense of dread rose up in Beast, and her instincts kicked in immediately as Stella's image blurred in her mind. "You're powerful, but-" Stella began, but she fell silent when Beast suddenly lunged at her.
Stella barely had time to move aside before one of Beast's clawed gloves passed by her face. She brought her sword up, half-expecting a second slice before Beast dug her claw into the snow, propping herself up on one hand as the flame in her eye grew brighter, fire tracing along her body and focusing near her boots. She tried to kick Stella with their back, the flames seemingly solidifying into what looked like saw blades at her heel. As impressive as the feat was, it was nothing compared to the fact that the flames had enough force behind them to push Stella back as Beast completed her flip, practically snarling as she rushed forth on all fours in an attempt to flank her opponent.
The sudden shift in ferocity put Stella on guard, and she quickly spun around and began opening fire with her Rock Cannon, aiming low so that even if she failed to hit her target, the uneven terrain could slow her movement. Blue balls of energy rocketed out of the barrel into Beast's path, but the girl zigzagged between the shots with ease. As soon as Stella's barrage ended, Beast pivoted using one of her claws as a brace, rushing past Stella in the opposite direction before she could readjust her aim. By the time Stella realized where Beast had gone, she was forced to act.
Thrusting her Rock Cannon up as quickly as she could, Stella barely managed to stop Beast from crashing right on top of her. Beast crashed right on top of her Rock Cannon, screaming wildly as she began trying to claw over the large barrel, her glove's claws burning as flames focused at their tip. Deciding against an outright power struggle, Stella instead dashed backwards, letting Beast's momentum carry her before she spun around and slammed her Rock Cannon into the floor. The impact sent Beast tumbling away into the snow as Stella skid to a halt with a bit of assistance from her Black Blade, the weapon piercing the ground and slowing her even more as she hurriedly took aim at Beast once more.
Beast rolled back onto all fours and went on the move again, rushing away from Stella's quick volley before she managed to snag her sword up from nearby and continue on two feet, her blade dragging along the ground's surface. Stella stopped firing again, now breaking into a run that tried to match Beast's pace. The attempt quickly failed, Beast managing to arc towards her while maintaining a lead over Stella before she suddenly skid into a swift pivot, aiming at Stella before bounding forwards again.
With Beast's massive sword set to split her in half, Stella had no option but to leap into the air, letting Beast pass underneath her. In the midst of her maneuver, she managed to turn and fire off a few stray shots in Beast's general direction before landing. Beast herself had dug her sword into the ground and forced herself to a quick stop, Stella's attacks detonating around her. Amidst their explosions, Beast hurriedly drew her pistol and began firing wildly at the area in front of her, its shots seemingly empowered by the flames around her body as they appeared more akin to beams than bullets, each shot leaving a massive streak of embers behind and detonating into small pillars of flame as they struck the ground.
Stella kept her cool under fire, knowing that Beast's responsive shots had to be defensive in nature. Tracking the powerful bullets, Stella sheathed her Black Blade as energy began charging in her Rock Cannon, the flame in her eye smoldering as she waited for the smoke to clear. Once Beast had her pistol's seven rounds twice, she swung her massive claymore wildly with one hand, a burst of flames around her dispelling the lingering smoke and creating a clear path between her and Stella. At that moment, Stella leapt into the air and raised her Rock Cannon overhead, a serious look on her face before she took aim at Beast, who had only then managed to notice her in midair. "Photon Shower," Stella said.
Beast's eyes widened as Stella's Rock Cannon glowed an incredibly incandescent blue, the attack brighter than the daylight around them. Her mouth almost opened in awe, the sight of imposing white wings and a massive red orb of energy that cast a dark hue over everything around it suddenly taking over her vision. For a moment, she felt the same crushing weight press down on her, her fire extinguishing with her breath as if a heel was crushing her throat. She blinked, and in an instant, found herself back in reality. She grit her teeth and holstered her pistol, letting out a roar as blue flames made a massive aura around her sword.
A massive torrent of energy erupted from Stella's Rock Cannon, heading straight for Beast as she stomped forwards and swung her sword upwards, her weapon meeting Stella's attack head on. The clash of energies released a destructive shockwave around them, the very ground cracking under Beast's heel as she threw everything she had into her weapon.
Stella grit her teeth, focusing on her Rock Cannon as the two clashed. The force alone was enough to keep her airborne, but she soon noticed cracks in the ground growing larger and larger as they fought. "… This is too much," Stella muttered as she glanced towards the house, wind whipping against it and already having cleared the roof of snow. Her Rock Cannon suddenly released a massive hiss of steam, the attack ending then and there as the last bombardment of energy fizzled out.
Once the pressure of Stella's attack faltered, Beast gave one last push as she swung upwards, unleashing an eruption of blue flames parting what was left of her attack and heading right for where Stella was. She let out a heavy breath as she watched her flames arc through the sky before they died down, her own strength fading along with them as she dropped to one knee. She heard slow crunching in front of her, and gasped as she looked up to see Stella slowly walking forwards, her Rock Cannon showing clear signs of slowly cooling down after her last attack. "You… how…?" Beast asked as she forced herself up.
"I fell back to the ground," Stella said as her Rock Cannon vanished in a flash of light. "As I was saying before… you're powerful, but you use energy far too quickly. It's even worse because you seem to use your own energy, not a weapon's, for most of your attacks. The longer a battle goes on, the weaker you'll become, especially if this is how you always fight."
"Stella… said… don't… hold… back…" Beast said, readying her sword once more. She huffed, steadying the blade in her hands as she stared down Stella. "I… still… fight…"
"… Then you win," Stella said. Beast blinked, a look of confusion on her face. "I surrender… I don't want to fight anymore."
"You're no fun," Sing Love's voice said in Beast's mind.
"… No…" Beast said, staring at Stella. "No… please… no…"
"Huh? Oh… do you not know what 'surrender' means?" Stella asked as she tilted her head.
"Didn't you hear me? I'm bored now," Sing Love's voice continued.
"Fight… fight me…" Beast said, the flame in her eye starting to grow as her crown suddenly lost its form, becoming crooked and uneven.
"We might hurt each other if we continue, and I don't want that. We both know how strong the other is," Stella continued with a smile.
"You're really something, you know?"
"All you'll do is break something again. I don't want to deal with your messes anymore," Sing Love's voice said.
"No! No! No!" Beast suddenly yelled, bursting into tears the flames around her began to whip around violently. Stella instinctively backed away, the raging flames almost searing her clothes and skin. "Fight! Fight! Fight!"
"Beast!" Stella cried, hurriedly drawing her Black Blade. Her cry was answered by a mad wail from Beast, the girl practically flailing her sword around as she ran towards Stella. "If you won't stop, then-!"
Braving the dancing flames, Stella charged at Beast head-on, rushing in as a trail of her own flames followed her feet. Beast tried to slam her blade down on Stella, but she quickly sidestepped it and took a quick slice at her arm. She tore through the skin, but the wound practically cauterized itself as Beast tried to strike again. Ducking under the massive blade, Stella got a slice in at one of Beast's legs, only for Beast to claw at her cheek, leaving three burning scars along the side of her face as they traded blows.
Despite the wound, Stella continued on. Beast spun wildly, the flaming saws she could form on her feet returning as she went for a low sweep. Stella managed to hop over her leg and cut through a portion of Beast's abdomen with a sudden dash forwards, dropping the girl to one knee as the wounds weakened her already unstable balance. She had gotten around Beast's defenses, and readied her weapon for another strike.
Driven purely by instinct, Beast drew her pistol once more, only for Stella to slice through her forearm and force her hand open in response, the gun clattering to the floor. With a mad shriek, Beast rolled onto her side and went for a wild slice with the flaming saw blade on her leg, this time catching Stella's leg in the process and almost cutting through to the bone. Stella let out a grunt as she raised her left hand, light encompassing it as her Rock Cannon formed above her head. "This ends here!" Stella said as she dropped down. Beast could barely gasp as the massive hunk of metal descended on her.
A dull pain filled her head as she slowly tried to open her eyes. It felt rather comfortable, but she had no idea where she was. Blinking very slowly, Beast took in the sight of strange metal against a wooden framework seemingly on the wall, more confused than before. She blinked again, and realized she was staring at the parts she and Stella had gathered earlier from the one cushioned chair they managed to salvage, her head laying atop a different cushion. "Are you alright?" Stella asked, her voice coming from directly above her.
Beast turned her gaze upwards, and quickly realized she had been laying on Stella's lap. "… Stella… what..?" she asked, still feeling groggy. Stella simply ran her hand through her hair and smiled in response.
"… You remember that we got a little carried away with our spar, right?" Stella asked. Beast closed her eyes, seemingly gathering her thoughts before she let out a gasp.
"Stella…" Beast began, but her gaze faltered. She looked away from Stella, unable to face her now that she remembered what she did. What she thought. What consumed her when she fought.
"It's okay…" Stella said, still stroking her hair. "I don't know what happened to you before… but if you ever want to talk about it, I'll listen."
"Let's see what's wrong with you," Sing Love's voice dully echoed in Beast's mind. She gripped the chair's cushioning, her claws digging into it slightly.
"… But only if you're ready," Stella said, noticing Beast's apprehension. She looked down, realizing that her smile was ignored and her hair stroking did nothing for Beast's state of mind. "Do you want to be alone for a while?"
The words rang out in Beast's head, creating conflicting feelings within her. She couldn't bring herself to hate Stella. Yet when they fought, she couldn't see Stella. Not the same one that spoke to her. When they fought, she saw Stella as what she had envied. Stella was Sing Love's true daughter, and challenging her quickly turned envy into fear. What made it even worse was that when they fought, she felt the same thing from Stella that she felt from Sing Love. They weren't looking at her. They were looking at her power, testing and prodding to see if they were worthy. That sensation of being broken down for analysis even when they were mere inches apart. It gnawed at her in a way she couldn't describe, the feeling crushing her spirit every single time.
Reluctantly, Beast rose up and nodded, surprising Stella. "… Alone," she said, refusing to look at her.
Stella's smile shattered, but she refused to let anything other than concern show in her voice. "Okay. I'll be in the garage if you need me," Stella said, slowly getting up. She walked away, but glanced back one last time to see Beast slowly move to a corner of the chair, still unable to look at her. With a final nod, Stella left her alone, though her discomfort with the entire situation was obviously apparent from her expression once she knew Beast couldn't see her.
They remained parted for almost an hour before the sound of a large vehicle approaching got both of their attentions. Stella headed for the living room once more, though Beast had already headed outside. She took a deep breath, gathering her thoughts and refusing to let her discomfort show as she headed out after her.
Beast continued her march forwards, the steady rumbling of something approaching having caught her attention. She gripped her sword as it hung over her back, her eyes focusing on the strange black object that seemed to be slowing down as it neared her. "… It can't be," Stella said as she approached Beast, her eyes widening at the sight of the vehicle.
"… Know… this?" Beast asked, glancing over to Stella.
"This was the trailer I woke up in, the one I told you about… it belonged to the PSS," Stella said as the trailer turned slightly and pulled to a stop. A wide door near the front opened, revealing a rather smug IBRS.
"One really big transport, ready for duty," she said. "But you have to thank me before I can let you on. It was a pain getting this thing moving."
"They can do that after we load up any spare parts," Nana said, walking around the other side of the vehicle. She grinned as she saw what could only be a look of disbelief on Stella's face, the sight alone making the entire trip worth it. "There was a lot of useful stuff hidden in the ruins of the Draco and the UEF base in Moscow… we put it to good use."
"No kidding… I never thought I'd see this moving again," Stella said, walking over and running her hand along the side of the vehicle. "… I can't think of anything better for the four of us."
"… Yeesh, none of you are-" IBRS began as she stepped out of the trailer.
"Thank you, both of you," Stella said, cutting her off. She turned to IBRS with a warm smile, catching the purple-eyed girl off guard. "I hope this serves us as well as it served my friends."
"… Well, we made sure to fix it up really nice," IBRS said, regaining her composure. She grinned. "If you're happy, I'm happy."
"Stella, try not to listen to too much of what she says," Nana said, getting a chuckle from IBRS. "Beast, could you help us load the trailer too?"
"… Okay," Beast said, quickly following Nana back to the house. The four girls all took their part in loading the rather spacious cargo hold that took up the rear portion of the trailer, filling it with everything Stella and Beast managed to salvage while still leaving room for Nana's bike near the rear hatch. Once they had finished and Nana updated Stella and Beast on what happened while they were out, everyone finally took their seats in the vehicle.
Nana and Stella took the driver and passenger seat, respectively, while Beast and IBRS each took one of the seats closer to the cargo hold, neither of them comfortable with the side-facing seats between them and the front area. "The first thing we're doing is leaving Moscow," Nana said as she started the trailer. "With the house destroyed, there's nothing left for us here… and we aren't going to wait around so we can be buried in snow."
"… We can head south, and see what's going on elsewhere," Stella said. "This climate isn't the best one to stay in… and this place is even more dangerous if there was a battle nearby like you said."
"For now, we'll just try to get out of Russia," Nana said. "If we're lucky, we can find out what's happened… and who those people were."
As the trailer started to move, Nana and Stella fell silent, both keeping a watchful eye on their surroundings. Further back, IBRS slumped forwards, looking bored out of her mind as the sun finally began to set. "What, did those two forget about us or something?" she asked. After a minute with no response, she shot Beast an annoyed glare, only to catch the girl staring at the floor without any hint of emotion showing. "Hey, not you too," IBRS said as she put a hand on Beast's shoulder, about to shake her.
The moment IBRS touched Beast, her hand was suddenly gripped by the girl's own after her sudden reaction, Beast turning on IBRS in an instant. "… Sorry," Beast said, realizing what had happened. She let go of IBRS' hand, but the purple-haired girl simply giggled.
"Did I pull you out of something fun?" IBRS asked, a devious smile on her face. "Reacting like that… what made you so jumpy? Is it something I can feel too?"
"… No," Beast said. "You… not… know… Stella..."
"Stella?" IBRS asked. "You're like that because of our little angel Stella? The one that didn't want us to fight and insisted even weak little Nana was special? What, did you suffer a case of heavy petting gone too far? It would explain a lot, and actually make this a whole lot more-"
"Mother," Beast said, giving IBRS a stern look. "Stella… Mother… same."
"… Stella is just like Mother?" IBRS asked. "Okay, now you've lost me… why would you think that docile little doll is the same as someone crazier than me? If she were like Mother, none of us would be around right now."
"… We… fight… earlier," Beast said. "Stella's… power… like Mother. She… looks… like Mother. She… fights… like Mother. She… speaks… like Mother. Heard… her… voice… when… Stella speaks."
"… So… you're saying Stella beat the crap out of you?" IBRS asked. Beast frowned as IBRS started snickering. "Oh, so that's what it was… you're just mad Stella beat you like Mother did, and you couldn't take it. Hah… you and your feelings are so entertaining sometimes."
"… You… horrible," Beast said as she clenched her fists. "Stella… scares… me."
"Was the beating that bad?" IBRS asked, smiling even wider as she leaned forwards to get a good look at Beast's face. "I mean, she did singlehandedly stop us from fighting… what were you expecting, taking her on alone like that? Remember, we couldn't be here unless Mother was beaten, and since Stella is awake with all that power… what do you think she did? Exactly what neither of us could… what Mother said we weren't even qualified to try, and then proved it by crushing us both. Knowing all of that… you thought it was a good idea to fight her? And I thought my name was 'Insane', ahahahaha!"
"… Watch…" Beast said, glaring at IBRS as she laughed. "… Stella… will… show. We are… still…"
Before Beast could finish her sentence, a loud series of beeps ran through the trailer, getting their attention. "Something moving… but it can't be Armamanets…" Stella said from the front. "They're moving too fast."
"… Vehicles, Stella," Nana said, the trailer beginning to accelerate. "We're about to meet the people fighting."
The trailer plowed through snow on an open field, leaving a large trail in its wake under the setting sun. Ominous clouds of snow dust began to converge behind it, circular rays of light piercing the cover like the eyes of predators fixated on lone prey.
"Didn't they just steal someone else's wheels?" IBRS asked as Nana put her foot down, the trailer picking up speed. "We went through all the trouble of fixing this one up, too…" she continued with a sigh.
"Enemies?" Beast asked, putting a hand on her sword. She glanced around the trailer, but IBRS shook her head.
"No, not in here. They're out there, and…" she began, but suddenly fell silent. A slight grin reached her face as she remembered something that could make this trip much more exciting.
"… How… fight… outside?" Beast asked, realizing that IBRS was thinking of a way to start fighting.
"You won't need to," Stella said, quickly looking over a few of the consoles in front of her. "There are turrets lining the top of the trailer, with gunner seats at the front of the cargo hold. You can each take one and shoot anything that comes near us, because whoever these guys are, they aren't coming at a friendly speed."
Beast looked confused at Stella's instructions and was about to ask a question, but IBRS put a hand over her mouth. "Roger that, Stella. We'll get rid of whatever's out there before they can take this too," IBRS said. "Or, before they can try, at least. I doubt they could beat us, especially with you here, so if you think about it-"
"I'm sure we could drive them off if they boarded, but we should avoid unnecessary damage to the trailer," Stella said, cutting her off. "We don't know how many parts we'll be able to find, and I'd rather not lose what we found so quickly. So please, keep them away. I'll join you shortly," she continued, apparently running through the trailer's onboard computer and what options it had available for assisted defense.
"Then we're off!" IBRS said, practically dragging Beast with her as she headed for the back. They marched right past the consoles that served as the mounted turret controls and headed for the back of the cargo hold. They reached Nana's bike, locked in place by small metal clamps on the sides that were attached to what looked like an elevated portion of the floor. "Okay, Beast… we're gonna go fight outside. Let's not listen to scary Stella and handle things our way, hmm?"
"… With… this?" Beast asked with a confused glance at Nana's bike. She gave IBRS the same confused look before asking "You… use?"
"Oh, I saw how it worked well enough. It didn't look too tough," IBRS said, readying her Cannon Lance onto her right arm before she got on the bike. "Hey, see that big red button over there? Hit it, and then run back here and hop on! If what the squeaky girl said was true, then this should be fun since we're already moving."
Beast did as instructed, hitting a red button on the wall before rushing back to hop on the bike behind IBRS, one hand on her claymore while the other rested on IBRS' shoulder. The sound of metal moving gave way to a cold wind, the back of the trailer opening up to reveal the snowy plain ahead and series of lights chasing after them. The ramp the bike was on slowly rose up, and IBRS grinned as she hit a button on the bike's handle, starting it up before she mimicked the strange revving Nana did before.
The console Stella sat at turned red, suddenly reading 'Hatch Open' as it interrupted her attempt at setting the turrets to auto-fire. Nana glanced over, and her eyes widened in horror as she realized what was going on. "They're going to wreck my bike!" Nana cried.
"If they go out there, we can't use auto-fire or it'll hit them too," Stella said, hurriedly making her way to the back. She burst through the door leading to the gunner seats and continued into the cargo hold, arriving just in time to see Nana's orange and black bike speed off of the elevated ramp with Beast and IBRS riding it, the vehicle swerving precariously as soon as it touched down before the hatch began to close. "Tch… what were they thinking?!" she grumbled, doubling back and taking the gunner seat that corresponded to the rear most turret.
Outside, IBRS barely managed to keep the bike going straight as she tried to aim with her Cannon Lance. "What, are you only allowed to ride or shoot?! Is doing both asking for too much?!" she complained as the yellow lights finally gave way to the shape of vehicles.
An armored pick-up truck approached them, a girl in heavy clothing riding in the rear bed behind what appeared to be a mounted gun.
"They let something out!" the girl yelled, turning the gun towards them. IBRS tracked her voice and began firing haphazardly, purple orbs flying out and exploding against the side of the truck with enough force to knock the vehicle onto its side.
The recoil of her shots would've tipped her bike over as well, but a last ditch swing of the handlebar made them accelerate her spin into a sudden U-turn, snow kicking up behind them as they ended up right next to a sleek and small tank, it's treads making travel across the snow a breeze. "It's a lone… no, a bike with two riders!" the tank's driver shouted, her face obscured by what appeared to be armored glass across the front. "I'll run them-" she continued, but she fell silent when Beast suddenly leapt onto her vehicle.
"In… there," Beast said as she rushed towards the armored glass at the front of the tank. The small cannon at the top of the tank turned to track her, but she made it on top of the glass much faster than it could turn. The driver let out a scream as Beast suddenly drew her claymore, flames erupting from her eye and forming her crown as the blade seemed to heat up. Before the tank could fire, Beast plunged her sword through the glass, the sound of it crunching followed by a shrill cry, ripping flesh, and something tearing as the tank fired. It immediately began to veer off course, but Beast simply ripped her blade out before rushing back to the side and leaping onto Nana's bike once more, IBRS having taken the chance to stabilize it as she drove. "… Next."
"Look who's back on their feet!" IBRS said with a glance back. She would have said more, but the sight of two more trucks with mounted guns ready to fire at them silenced her. Bullets whizzed by the duo as IBRS swerved, moving behind the trailer as Beast drew her pistol, flames flowing into the barrel as she took aim at their pursuers.
She would have fired if not for the sudden series of explosions to her left, almost throwing the bike off course as IBRS dug her Cannon Lance into the ground for temporary support. As she pulled her weapon back up and cleared the smoke, IBRS caught sight of what looked like a smaller version of their own trailer, the roof lined with heavily armored soldiers wielding rocket launchers at the front as lightly dressed girls in the back seemed to take care of reloading for them. On closer inspection, she realized the ones at the front were seemingly strapped in place from their waist down, and a devious idea crossed her mind as they prepared to fire again.
As Beast took out one of the truck behind them with a series of shots that burst into pillars of blue fire, IBRS turned and slammed the brakes, letting the second volley of rockets detonate in front of them before she aimed the back of her Cannon Lance towards the transport. A small harpoon-like anchor erupted from it, a long chain trailing after it as it dug into the back of the smaller trailer. "The other truck!" IBRS said as she stooped down and dug her Cannon Lance deep into the snow, a few bullets digging into her free hand and torso. Beast fired wildly over her head, emptying seven explosive shots in the direction of their attackers.
Three of Beast's shots caught the front of the trunk, the flames burning through the metal and superheating the engine. As the vehicle spun out and exploded, the chain on the strange harpoon-like anchor reached its limit. The small trailer that ignored the duo suddenly lost a decent chunk of its back, the vehicle spinning out and falling onto its side as it was torn apart. IBRS grinned, twisting her arm and recalling the anchor, its metallic edges thinning themselves into a large needle as it returned to the weapon. "Trailer… far…" Beast warned. IBRS scoffed, but took her warning as she hurriedly began driving back towards the large vehicle.
Stella saw the destruction IBRS and Beast were causing, but had no time to take it in. Girls on snowmobiles and armored bikes had gotten ahead of the pack, most armed with what seemed to be mounted guns similar to the ones on Stella's old bike. She had taken advantage of that knowledge, knowing there were only so many places they could line up a proper shot at high speed and focusing her shots there with a good success rate. She was about to aim at another bike approaching at high speed, but stopped when she noticed it was Beast and IBRS. "Nana, they're back with us!" Stella said as she turned her attention to a snowmobile that had tried to approach them. The turret atop the trailer unleashed a storm of bullets that easily disabled the vehicle, the riders tumbling into the snow as their craft spun out.
"Oh… so that's what they meant by 'turret'," IBRS said, glancing back at Stella's handiwork.
"Enemy!" Beast said, suddenly drawing her sword. IBRS looked to her other side just in time to see a bike fairly similar to their own bump into them, it's rider wielding a large black rod in their hand. As Beast tried to swing at them, the rider met her sword with the rod as it was coated in electricity.
As soon as their weapons made contact, Beast let out a cry of pain as electricity tore through her body, her metallic gauntlets doing little to stop the attack from affecting her. "That was dirty," IBRS said as she narrowed her eyes. The rider went brought the rod around for another strike, and she grinned. "But I fight dirtier!"
IBRS slammed her bike against the rider's, throwing them off balance before she drew her curved sword in a flash. With one swift motion, she took his hand clean off, blood spewing from the wound as a scream of anguish rang out. Beast had just managed to recover, and wasted no time slamming her claymore down on the wounded rider, splitting clean through them and wedging her blade into their bike itself, the vehicle moving with them. "… Throw," Beast said as she put both hands on her claymore.
"My thoughts exactly," IBRS said as she let off the gas and sheathed her sword, keeping in sight of the trailer but falling closer to the large vehicles at the rear of their pursuing forces. "Now, who looks like they… ah, there's a big one!" she continued, catching sight of what could only be described as some kind of snow plow with a reshaped front, now looking more like a spear made for breaking through something than a tray for clearing the area. "You see where the people are?"
"… Glass… break," Beast said, glancing back. IBRS sped up, getting a lead on the vehicle before she once again drove her Cannon Lance into the ground, pivoting the bike around as Beast flicked her sword in a wide arc, sending the remnants of the bike it dragged flying towards the vehicle. Two screams barely rang out before the bike crashed through the windshield, the vehicle suddenly turning before it slammed into an armored van, dragging it off course with it.
IBRS sped back towards the trailer once she finished her pivot, firing a few shots at the stray riders Stella seemed unable to hit and downing a few before a series of explosions went off behind her once more. "Didn't we kill you already?" IBRS asked with an annoyed look as she glanced back. Another small trailer with the same set-up as the last pursued them, along with what looked like a large van that had its doors altered to be platforms, girls kneeling down on them with large machine guns at the ready.
Before Beast could draw her pistol, bullets flew over both of their heads as the trailer's turret ripped the van apart with a series of direct hits, the girls on the sides bailing as the vehicle was about to flip over after a few shots struck the front tires. The stream of gunfire continued to the smaller trailer's top, a few of the girls at the back managing to climb down while the rocket launcher wielding girls could only fire off the last of their shots before bullets ripped their bodies apart, unable to move because of the straps that allowed them to wield heavy weaponry. IBRS whistled as Beast took pot shots at the new wave of approaching lights behind them, a few going out in bursts of blue flame. "Maybe Stella isn't as sweet and innocent as I thought… good," IBRS said.
"Nana, we're going to use too much resources if we take them all on… have you found a way out?" Stella asked.
"We're coming up on a ravine… it's a narrow pass that goes through a small mountain range," Nana said as she started to turn the trailer. "We can't lose them, but if we funnel them into one area, they'll be easier to deal with. If that's not enough, we can destroy parts of the mountain to block them off entirely."
"As long as those two can get back, I'm open to the possibility," Stella said, continually keeping away any bikers who tried to line up a good shot on the trailer.
On a hill overlooking the wide plain the chase took place in, a cloaked figure watched carefully as the trailer turned. "… If they're going in there, then… it looks like we'll have to try the other way," a woman's voice said. The cloaked figure held up their hand, revealing a large pistol she fired into the air, a flare shooting out of it. Soon after, numerous flares began to shoot out around the area of the chase all along the mountain, each one exploding into a shower of sparks in the air.
"… What… those?" Beast asked.
"Not our problem," IBRS said as she sliced through the rear wheel of a car that had been given a spiked grill, having just narrowly avoided a ram from the back as the vehicle seemed to unnaturally speed up while chasing them. "And if it's their problem, they should really be paying more attention to us!" she continued as the car spun out, leaving it open to a series of quick shots from her Cannon Lance that tore through its top and consumed all of its passengers in an explosion.
But as they entered the narrow pass with several mountains gradually coming into view, all four sisters were too occupied with their pursuers that they failed to noticed the large amounts of snow and dust accompanied with several yellow lights gradually getting smaller and smaller, until there were none at all. As the skies gradually darkens, only a few bikes, tanks as well as trucks could be seen pursuing the sisters as they were in a very close proximity with said sisters.
"They just won't give up, will they? Sorry, but we have no time for small fry!" IBRS proudly announced as she eagerly skewered the closest bike to her left with her Rock Lance cannon, impaling the rider and her partner to the controls before it exploded. As IBRS waved it slightly to wipe off the black blood on the blade, she started to laugh "Ahahahaha! It's been waaay too long since I've had this much fun! Don't you agr-"
"Trailer!" Beast yelled, trying to get IBRS attention. Before she could say more, she parried another biker's chainsaw with her Claymore, the rider seemingly coming out of nowhere as it slowed down to meet them. Pushing them back with her brute strength, she put some distance between their vehicles before slicing cleanly through the rider and their bike. Yellow lights illuminated the bloodied rider's corpse, but that only prompted Beast to focus her blue flames around her sword that set the bike ablaze. With one quick-thrashing motion, Beast launched the bike backwards, the burning vehicle splitting in half and crashing against whatever's lights were cast upon them.
As their pursuers seemed to pull back after Beast's attack, IBRS finally shifted her attention the trailer, catching sight of a large truck pulling up next to it. The top was lined with girls wielding saw-like weapons that each began to carefully eye atop the trailer, their intention clear to IBRS as she sped forwards to stop them. But as the truck got close enough for the first of the girls to try and make the leap, three of the Gatling gun turrets turned towards the girls and opened fire, bullets shredding them as they were caught unaware. Only those near the back managed to evade the shots by ducking, the truck hurriedly pulling back as the vehicle itself suffered heavy damage.
But before IBRS and Beast could do anything to assist Stella and Nana, two more bikes surrounded the orange and black bike. Just as the sisters were about to use their Rock Cannon Lance or Claymore, one of the the riders' partners takes out a sickle while the other aims her SMG at the the black and orange bike. Both IBRS and Beast nodded to another as the former glared at the bikes about to attack them before announcing "Fine them bring it on!"
"Dammit, they're going to drive us against the walls at this rate!" Nana said with a glare as she shifted the gears to allow the maximum acceleration. Stella however, was too focused on manning the turrets to even recommend any solutions. But when they thought things couldn't get any worse, the tanks began turning their harpoon cannons to the rear door of the Trailer. Even as the trailer gradually gained speed, the tanks' cannons were likely reach and penetrate the rear door before the trailer could even get out of range.
But before the harpoons were fired, a massive fireball came crashing down onto the tanks, completely vaporizing them and their crews. All vehicles soon came to a halt as a massive dragon landed in front of them with its wings stretched out, barring everyone's path. The Dragon was extremely tall with yellow eyes, black scales and wings. What was even more surprising was that a girl appears to be standing on top of the Dragon's head, holding the chains on its neck and triple horned head.
The girl herself possessed yellow pupils and long black hair that is slightly past her shoulders. Despite the darkness, a metal gauntlet can be seen on her right arm, wielding a large twin-bladed, two-handed broadsword with a small cross-guard.
"Woah, I so did not see that coming," IBRS admitted with her mouth agape. Beast could only make a slight nod in agreement. Even Nana was stunned but Stella decided to take action while everyone was distracted. With a flick of a switch, the turrets of the trailer sniped the remaining bikers. The sudden move snapped both IBRS and Beast back into reality as they then fired both their Rock Lance Cannon and Seven Shots at an armored truck. The barrage of firepower soon caused the truck to go ablaze, with the occupants tearing their way out of their vehicle.
But before any could escape, the sword-wielder snapped her fingers and the Dragon used its massive clawed hand to grab the truck. Unfazed by the burning vehicle, the Dragon proceeded to lift the truck up high and shake it repeatedly,resulting to all the girls in the truck falling straight into the Dragon's mouth. The Dragon then proceeded to snap its mouth shut before crushing the truck into scrap metal.
As Nana and Stella got out of the trailer, IBRS and Beast proceeded to parking the bike inside the trailer once more after Stella reopened the rear door. Once that was finished, the sisters watched as the Dragon-Riding girl petted the Dragon's head, resulting to the creature lowering its head to the ground for its rider to safely dismount. Upon closer inspection, the sword-wielder's attire consisted of a lace top under a bolero jacket, the former having a white strap crossed together as detail. She also appeared to be wearing a torn skirt revealing parts of a lace petticoat with a belt attached to the waist. She then made a curtsy and a warm smile before greeting them "I take it that everyone here hasn't suffered any injuries? Oh where are my manners, I am Dragon Slayer. I hope you didn't mind my little interference with your debacle?"
Stella quickly shook her head before answering "Of course not, we are grateful for the assist. My name is Ste- I mean...Black Rock Shooter. And these are my sisters IBRS, Black Rock Beast and-"
"Gray, Gray Sniper Seven. Just like Black Rock Shooter here, I too am grateful for your help," Nana said with a smile as she offered her hand to Dragon Slayer. The dragon's owner blinked her eyes once before happily accepting the handshake.
As soon as they ended the handshake, Dragon Slayer drove her sword into the ground before asking "So what are you girls doing out here anyway?"
"Well, we can say the same for you. What's a girl like you with an awesome pet like that doing here?" Asked IBRS with a half-grin on her face. Sure she felt something was off, but IBRS was paying more attention to the Dragon in front of her. In all her wildest dreams, never did she expect to see such a beast. Especially since she can tell that that Dragon, is worth killing.
But Dragon Slayer simply clapped her hands. The Dragon suddenly flew up into the air, revealing a crossroad in the pass leading to a nearby tunnel network "How about I show you rather than just explaining myself?"
Stella made a nod to her sister as she approached Dragon Slayer a small but sincere smile "It will be our pleasure." she said as Stella and her sisters followed Dragon Slayer and her Dragon with their trailer.
What they saw took their breaths away, for inside the massive tunnel network was a massive convoy of vehicles. From what Stella could tell, at least a hundred was in the cave. They ranged from armored jeeps and heavy transport trucks, to even mounts like smaller dragons, horse-drawn carriages and giant scorpions the size of a bus with what appears to be make-shift cockpits on their backs.
The biggest surprise of the convoy was a huge tank in the shape of a tortoise shell, with its size equal to Dragon Slayer's Dragon mount. "I am actually the caretaker of this convoy of merchants and the leader of this bodyguard troop. It just so happens that the path you were on is connected to this place. This place is also linked to a highway that leads to the convoy's destination: a town which the merchants here hired us to guide them to," She then walked closer to the sisters until she was right in front of their faces before continuing "That reminds me, you haven't answered my previous question."
IBRS made a half-grin before answering "Ain't it obvious? Those crazies wanted our sweet wheels and the toys in it."
Dragon Slayer took a glance at the aforementioned trailer before giving it a shrug as she said "Fair enough, feel free to have a look around while we're still refueling the vehicles and feeding the mounts."
As the sisters were busy admiring the convoy, they failed to notice Dragon Slayer's mount flying up to one of the rock cliffs and opening its mouth. Soon enough, all the girls from the truck that was laid to waste came out of the Dragon's mouth and got into a pack of empty vehicles before slowly driving off.
As she saw her pet giving her a nod from above, Dragon Slayer made a smirk before changing to a gentle smile as she approached the sisters "Since we're going the same way, how about the four of you join us in our short journey?"
"I'm in, so long as I get to stick by that big fella of yours!" IBRS said with a grin
Beast simply nodded before answering "Safety... in numbers."
Nana made a shrug before saying "If you're willing to put up with us."
Stella nodded and flashed a wide smile "We're looking forward to your company Dragon Slayer."