It was a bright, sunny morning within the city of Aldebaran. Daring Merchants ventured into the Alchemist's Guild to learn a new trade; fledgling adventurers sought to unlock their inner potential through the Super Novice, and myriad parties ventured into the Clock Tower to keep it clear of dangerous fiends. And throughout the city, talks about the Emperium Frontier was on everyone's mind. What happens next? And what great battles await the big three?
A young lady with long, blonde hair that practically went down to the floor would rise from her bed as the rays of the sun broke through the blinders, welcoming the promise of a new day. She would gaze out the window and observe the goings-on within the city - a seemingly normal and uneventful day. It was a pleasant sight, but this young lady wouldn't settle for the day-to-day minutiae of the city, for this lady was none other than Curly Sue, a tried-and-true Kafra employee, and hand-picked member of Kafra Nora's Krew. She had a grand idea, and she was eager to tell her boss about it!
After the usual morning routine of showering, teeth brushing, choosing what to wear (because she has a lot of uniforms despite looking the same), and tying her hair as per her namesake, she made her way downstairs from her chambers within Kafra Corporation Headquarters where she would first be greeted by a clipboard to the face.
"Hey! Watch it, sister!" Curly Sue exclaimed as she rubbed her forehead. The woman moved the clipboard away to reveal the lovely Kafra Blossom, shaking her head and helping her colleague up to her feet.
"And a good morning to you as well, Curly Sue," she greeted. "What's with the rush? The morning's just started!"
"I've got a grand idea that I'm gonna present to Miss Nora!" Curly Sue answered proudly. Blossom chuckled.
"First you confirm the Frontier's return, then you face certain death over the skies of Rune-Midgarts, and now you have something to offer to Miss Nora? You're awfully ambitious!" she stated. "I'd say you're trying to be her favorite while our backs are turned!"
"N-No! That isn't the case at all!" Curly Sue immediately dismissed. "Whatever, let's just go and tell her!"
"Tell me what, dear?" spoke a voice coming from behind Blossom. Both she and Curly Sue jumped in surprise at Kafra Nora, standing tall with a smile on her face. "I'm all ears, love! Whatcha got?"
"U-Uh, you didn't hear the part about us trying to be your favorite, did you, ma'am?" Blossom gulped.
"What? Why would I do that?! I love you girls all the same!" Nora replied. "Now, let's see what ya had in mind for ol' Nora!"
The three would make their way to Kafra Nora's office to discuss matters. To the North was the Capital of the Schwarzwald Republic, Juno, where the three famous guilds from Rune-Midgarts made their new base of operations within their capital ships. The Battle Vixens commandeering the War Star wasted no time to establish their dominance over the land by venturing into the nearest dungeon they could find. The Odin's Will carried the elite of the Holy Saviors, who are serving as deputies for the local authorities to help safeguard the city during times of peace. Upon the Shining Heart, Ray, Lee, and Raien of White Trinity were returning from a shopping run, where they meet up with Thiji in the lower decks…
Ray: We didn't do too badly with our supplies, gents!
Raien: We were lucky enough to find an Alchemist to make some water stones just in case. I don't usually do Suiton a lot, so these help.
Lee: And you can never get enough White Potions, either! These things are a lifesaver!
Ray, looking over to Thiji: Hey, you didn't come with us. Something wrong?
Thiji: No. I just didn't see the point of gathering supplies when we're fully stockpiled here, along with the Yggdrasil Berries we'll be receiving from Kafra Headquarters.
Ray: True, but you know as well as we do that you can never be too prepared!
Thiji: Now you're thinking like a strategist.
Ray: Hey, it's rubbin' off on me!
Raien: So, bro, what were you able to dig up while we were away?
Thiji: I received a call from Lady Youmei the other day.
Ray: Wait, what? The Saviors' Commander?
Raien: You didn't tell us?!
Thiji: You three were enjoying the sights; I did not want to intrude.
Lee: What did she say? It had to be something important.
Thiji: Let's go to the bridge; I saved a recording of the transmission just for this.
Following the High Wizard above decks, the four would waste no time assuming their proper seats inside the bridge of the ship. Thiji would work his magic on the console and, after a few short moments, brought forth the recorded conversation between himself and the Paladin…
Youmei (Recording): Sir Thiji…
Thiji (Recording): L-Lady Youmei… To what do I owe this pleasure?
Ray: Courteous as always, dude. Even to our enemies. Y'know, that's why we have such a good image!
Thiji: Oh, hush.
Youmei (Recording): I wanted to commend you yet again for your intellect winning you the day, despite your attacks nearly striking one of my comrades' ships. I knew it was not intended to hit its mark, but again, we appreciate you taking our livelihoods into consideration.
A brief pause as her grin turned into a frown…
Youmei (Recording): I wanted to inform you of the aftermath of the skirmish, if you will allow me.
Raien: Oh, shit, we didn't zap anyone on accident, did we?
Lee: No, I'm sure no one was hurt by our hand; we just hit the airship hull.
Ray: Well, let's listen in on the rest of the video…
White Trinity listens intently on the conversation, and after it concluded, Ray displayed utter annoyance on his face…
Ray: Those Vixens have problems! But I'm even madder we didn't get up there in time to help our allies!
Lee: Well, they're all fine, at least. No one turned up dead or missing. But you're right, Ray – those girls take fighting way too seriously.
Raien: Should we strike back? I mean, they're always the ones to shoot first.
Thiji: I saw what you did there. But you're more than willing to fight them now, if you wish. Just don't do it within the city limits – it's a sanctuary, and the Holy Saviors were granted the ability to arrest delinquents and lawbreakers during peacetime.
Ray: Then we'll go to a dungeon and take 'em on! The El Mes Plateau is nearby; we'll intercept them there!
Lee: Hell yeah! Let's do it – huh?
Suddenly, a button would flash on the console – an incoming transmission.
Ray: Helmsman! Open transmission!
Without hesitation, Thiji would turn back around and do his thing as Ray chuckled.
Ray: I always wanted to do that!
Lee: It sounded cool.
The High Wizard would turn on the screen once more, and on it showed Kafra Nora sitting behind a desk with folded hands. On her left was Kafra Blossom, and on her right, Kafra Curly Sue, both greeting White Trinity with a bow.
Ray: The Kafra Corporation! Two calls in one week? Wow, we're extra special, it seems!
Thiji: Well, we are but a stone's throw away from their headquarters.
Lee: To what do we owe the pleasure?
Kafra Blossom: Good morning, White Trinity! We of the Kafra Corporation would like to request an interview with your guild in an effort to broaden your fame throughout the new country of Schwarzwald!
Ray: An interview!
Raien: Kick-ass! But… I'm not that good with public speaking.
Thiji: Where did you plan on this interview taking place?
Curly Sue: We would like to cordially invite you over to Aldebaran to conduct the meeting – completely free of charge!
Ray: Aww, thanks, ladies!
Curly Sue: We would also like to again thank you for your service the other day when you – huh?
The screen would begin to stutter and break as the transmission slowly faded. Before White Trinity or the Kafra Krew could react, the screen went dark!
Curly Sue: What the heck?! Resend the transmission!
Blossom: How -?
Nora: Glaris, what happened?
Glaris: I'm working on it now, ma'am… It seems we're getting interference from someone.
Nora: Can ya find the source?
Glaris: Almost… got it! It seems to be coming from Lighthalzen.
Curly Sue: Lighthalzen?! So far west?!
Blossom: But who would try and butt in on Kafra Corp.?!
Nora harrumphed and rose to her feet.
Nora: I know who - Zonda Corp.!
Curly Sue: No way! They wouldn't…!
Nora: Oh-ho, they would! Glaris, bring back the transmission. We're not lettin' 'em steal our thunder!
Glaris: Right away, ma'am!
Back at the Shining Heart, White Trinity would find themselves speaking to Maximillian, representative of Zonda Corp.
Maximillian: A most pleasant morning to you, elite warriors of White Trinity. Maximillian of Zonda Corp., here! I come before you today to inform you all that we of Zonda Corp. are willing to conduct an interview with your guild!
Ray: Wow, isn't that the coincidence!
Maximillian: Coincidence? What do you mean?
Lee: We just received a call from Kafra Corp a few seconds ago asking the same thing from us.
Maximillian: The Kafra Corporation, eh…? (Clears throat) Well, surely you were going to consider – what the…?
The transmission would begin to distort and pick up interference for a brief moment before both Kafra and Zonda Corp. appeared on screen!
Thiji: This is going to be a long day, isn't it…?
Blossom: We're back online, Miss Nora! I see White Trinity!
Curly Sue: And Zonda Corp., up to no good!
Maximillian, chuckling: "No good," you say? We were only attempting to improve relations with the famous guilds from Rune-Midgarts!
Curly Sue: Well, you didn't have to barge in on our communications systems like that!
Maximillian: Oh, that was you trying to speak with them? My apologies – I thought it strange when it took longer than expected to establish a connection.
Raien: So, not only do we have rival guilds fighting against us, but rival corporations fighting over us! Man, what a time to be alive…
Nora: Ya got some stones cuttin' us off like that, Maxie, but we still go by "first to the finish" here!
The Zonda Corp. representative threw his arms in surrender and gave a sigh.
Maximillian: Very well, Kafra. I concede. We will let you have your victory this time. But there is still the dungeon election, which we still intend on winning!
Curly Sue: After this interview, you'll be lucky to get even half of our votes!
Maximillian: So you say. There are still the Battle Vixens and Holy Saviors to enlist.
Thiji: If I may interject here for a moment – while I appreciate you taking the time to seek us out, Maximillian, I'm afraid that I must side with the Kafra Corp. as they were the ones to contact us first. We of White Trinity are impartial judges - not ones to play favorites.
Maximillian: I understand completely, Mister Thiji. You and your guild are indeed fair in your judgment, and we of Zonda Corp. shall honor and respect that. Until then, Kafra Team!
Curly Sue: That's Kafra Krew to you, Blondie!
Maximillian: That makes two of us.
The Zonda representative chuckled lightly as his transmission faded out, leaving the Kafra Krew the only party remaining on-screen. White Trinity stared at each other awkwardly for a brief moment before Glaris broke the silence with the clearing of her throat.
Glaris: We apologize for that altercation, White Trinity. We've reason to believe that they were attempting to sabotage our efforts despite Maximillian simply brushing it off.
Ray: No problem, Glaris! We'd still like to proceed with this interview of yours.
Blossom: We will send over our Krew's Roxie and Jasmine to grant you free passage to Aldebaran shortly. Once you're there, we'll take you to Kafra Headquarters where we will commence with the fun part!
Lee: Which one were they, again? Sorry…
Glaris: Kafra Roxie has short orange hair, and Jasmine has straight, long black hair.
Nora: We'll see ya soon, Trinities! Kafra Krew out!
Their transmission ends, leaving behind an energetic White Trinity. With the storm still calm, it was as great a time as ever to get the good word out for the guilds. Throughout the floating city, fledgling members of the Holy Saviors – namely Swordsmen and Acolytes – were out patrolling the streets; Youmei deemed this an excellent opportunity to spread their guild's good name as well as provide the greener Saviors with some training. As the four made their way into the city, they would be greeted with two familiar faces. One distinction, however, was their headwear: nurse caps bearing the crest of Juno…
"Hail, White Trinity! Blessings of Odin be with you this day!" They spoke in unison. It was the Priestess duo of Momiji & Botan, greeting White Trinity with a bow.
"We would like to express our thanks again for your timely efforts!" Momiji stated. "We look forward to continuing this campaign, and of the battles ahead!"
"Of course, ladies," Thiji replied. "You all seem to be keeping yourselves occupied."
"For a marvel of a city as this, and the recent monster activity, the guards were starting to become short-handed!" Botan explained. "Sister Youmei offered our guild to assist with keeping the peace whenever we're not out fighting in the Emperium Frontier!"
"That's noble of you two!" Lee complimented. "We were just about to head over to Aldebaran for a… meeting!"
"We would be more than willing to escort you to the city limits!" offered the priestesses. Their uncanny tendency to speak in unison stumped White Trinity for a brief moment. However, before any of them would be able to answer, the two could practically taste the air tensing. They would then look to the south and see four women marching into the city, weapons hoisted over their shoulders save for one, whose katars were sheathed and hands were folded in front of her.
White Trinity met the priestesses' gaze and saw the Battle Vixens, led by Lupi, the elder sister and scarlet-clad Lord Knight. As they closed in the air would intensify, their hearts beating triple time until they came within a spear's length of Botan & Momiji.
"Check it out, girls - the Priestesses are here to arrest us," Lupi mocked in a soft tone. Her sisters chuckled after her.
"So long as you don't cause any trouble with the city limits, we will not be forced to do so!" Momiji responded as she reached behind her to grip her half of the Divine Cross.
"Big talk for someone within goring distance…" Lupi said as she approached them. Botan would ready her weapon as the Lord Knight took slow strides towards White Trinity, who were also on high alert. "We've some business to settle, boys. And we Vixens don't leave business unattended."
The four young men simply stared their adversaries down; the Priestesses watched on, unflinching.
"Look at 'em, sister! They're so scared of you that they're speechless!" Aege called out. A chuckle barely escaped Lupi's lips as she took a step forward to face the High Wizard, who was the only one who barely felt any shift in the air. His pensiveness was what kept Lupi on her toes, and she would scan him up and down, eager to divulge this spellcaster's intent.
"What ever could you be thinking about, I wonder…" she whispered behind clenched teeth. Heal-Do noticed him as well, a small grin made apparent on her face. Thiji simply stared back into the deep red orbs of Lupi's, and all went quiet for a moment until Ray thought of a way to cut the tension.
"Now kiss!" the Gun-Knight shouted, which made Thiji laugh softly to himself as Lupi grumbled and replied, "Take a picture, boys – it'll last longer." With a turn of her heel she disregarded it and continued leading her sisters back towards the War Star.
"Tah-tah, everyone! We got a date with Zonda Corp.!" Elua spoke as she and her falcon waved farewell. The Assassin Cross kept her eyes on Thiji until they were out of view. Botan & Momiji bowed their heads and resumed their patrol.
"The Battle Vixens have wasted no time to flex their muscles, I see," Raien pondered. "They came in all sweaty and whatnot. Speaking of which, Lupi's kinda hot.
"Duh, Raien - that's kind of, like, her thing!" Ray pointed out.
"We should probably do the same, Ray," Lee followed, turning to his brother. "We haven't really gotten much time to master our new techniques."
"Yeah, Lee's got a point…We haven't been upgraded for too long, and we have all these new weapons to break in," spoke the Gun-Knight, analyzing the situation.
"I already know where this is going," Thiji interjected, "and I am all right with it; go on ahead and train. I am perfectly fine with conducting the interview on my own. Remember: the two closest areas are the Nogg Road to the southeast – probably where the Battle Vixens just came from – and Juperos in the El Mes Gorge."
"Suit yourself, Strategy Man!" Ray chimed immediately with a pat on Thiji's back. "But if you get finished before we do, you'd better come down and reinforce us!"
"I'll take that as an order," Thiji coolly replied. Ray gave the High Wizard a two-fingered salute and went back to the Shining Heart to stock up. Thiji continued making his way out of the city, greeting various Merchants and receiving invitations to join the Sage's Guild. While he was flattered to be recognized as a spellcaster of incredibly high prowess, he had already made his decision long ago when he took the path of the Wizard. This would, however, remind Thiji about the tournament in Geffen that was approaching, and kept a mental note to attend it whenever possible.
After a few moments of waiting, a warp portal would slowly manifest several feet away from the High Wizard. Stepping out of it were two Kafra employees. On Thiji's left was the orange-haired Kafra Roxie, and on his right, Kafra Jasmine, the brunette…
Jasmine: Good afternoon, White Trinity! The Kafra Corporation is always thankful for your patro –
Kafra Jasmine looks around and noticed that only Thiji was present, which struck her as odd.
Jasmine: Where's the rest of your guild?
Thiji: Good day. Kafra Jasmine and Kafra Roxie, I take it? I'm afraid my companions are making preparations for a dungeon run in the El Mes region.
Roxie: Oh. Sorry! We had no idea that you already had prior engagements. If you'd like, we can reschedule the –
Thiji: No, no. That will not be necessary; I am perfectly capable of conducting the interview by myself.
Roxie: Excellent! We will bring you to Aldebaran posthaste, then! Step inside this warp portal when you are ready, and you will arrive inside the canal city!
Thiji, feeling about as ready as ever, stepped inside the portal, crossing the aetherial plane with Roxie and Jasmine. Within moments, a beauteous city came into view, with streams of limpid blue water running within and without. The first building of note Thiji noticed was the large clock tower in the center of the city - it was over a quarter past noon. He also noticed the Alchemist's Guild and Super Novice Society, nearly chuckling at the notion of a Super Novice. Though simple they may have sounded, they were no less fierce than any other warrior.
The High Wizard and his Kafra escorts would land 50 meters (or about 54 yards) from the Kafra Corporation's Headquarters, at the foot of a shimmering red carpet which led all the way to the entrance. Flanked on each side was a Kafra employee, ready to greet their guest with their signature bow. While the occasion seemed a bit too grandiose even for Thiji, he was humbled by all the praise. He knew that Zonda Corp. couldn't possibly mirror if not match such enthusiasm that only the Kafra could provide – especially if Nora was at the helm!
At the top of the stairs leading into the headquarters proper was a vacant podium with a microphone; Nora's Krew (save for Jasmine and Roxie, of course) were carrying studio equipment, as if setting up for a show. Flanking the podium was Kafra Nora on Thiji's right, and an unknown figure on the left, sporting mid-length rose red hair and pale yellow eyes, with rectangular glasses. She seemed like a Kafra lady, but her uniform was different: the skirt was much shorter than the normal Kafra apron, revealing long, black boots, and the "apron" was more akin to a white corset with a belt around the waist, tied in a large and pretty bow behind her. A brown short jacket and belt-like "collar" were also made apparent, and the only similarity he could spot was – of course – the headband.
"If only Raien were here to see this…" the High Wizard thought as he slowly made his way down the carpet. Nora and the rose-haired Kafra would meet with Thiji halfway and welcomed him with the signature Kafra bow.
"It is an honor to meet you at last, Mister Thiji," greeted the rose-haired Kafra in a sultry voice. "I am Scarlett, from the Kafra Corporation's Schwarzwald Branch. On behalf of my sisters, we welcome you to the canal city of Aldebaran."
"A Schwarzwald Branch? This is definitely a surprise," Thiji said. "To what do I owe this pleasure?"
"Kafra Scarlett here's been tryin' to spearhead our efforts to outperform Zonda Corp.!" Nora explained. "They've been winnin' the elections several times in a row, and after hearin' of White Trinity's arrival, she wanted to see you personally for this interview!"
"Kafra Nora – we're all set to proceed, ma'am!" Kafra Glaris declared after helping her sisters with the studio equipment.
"Awesome work, girls!" Nora cheered. "We're gonna show 'Cool Event Corp.' that they've contested with the wrong Krew today! C'mon – let's get this goin'! Curly Sue, you ready?!"
"Leave it to me, ma'am! Zonda Corp. won't know what hit 'em!" Curly Sue acknowledged with a salute before she ran inside the headquarters. Scarlett gestured over to the podium, leading Thiji over to it.
Meanwhile, back in Juno, the Battle Vixens made it back home on the War Star, preparing for an interview with Zonda Corp…
Aege: All right, Max – remember to get Lupi's good side!
Maximillian: My apologies, which side was that again?
Aege: All of them! (whispers) especially the rear end…
Lupi: Aege, don't you start…
Aege: What? It's no secret that you got the best ass-ets out of the four of us!
Lupi: And don't you forget it…
Elua giggled to herself, which made the elder sister arch a brow quizzingly. Heal-Do whispered in her ear what was so funny and explained the pun to her, making Lupi glare fiery daggers at the Whitesmith. Aege simply whistled nonchalantly as Maximillian chuckled.
Maximillian: It is undeniable that the Battle Vixens possess both strength and beauty, and Zonda Corp. means to highlight those traits during this interview!
Elua: You picked the right ladies for that, then! We love these sorts of things!
Elua's falcon gave a nod in agreement, followed by a triumphant caw. On the Odin's Will, the Priestess twins returned from their patrol to report to their Commander…
Youmei: Welcome back, Captains Botan & Momiji. What news from the city?
The two greet Youmei and Tsubaki with a salute, then stand at ease.
Tsubaki: With such discipline, they could pass off as Knights for the Prontera Chivalry…
Botan & Momiji: Thank you for the compliment, Lady Tsubaki!
Tsubaki: You're… welcome?
Botan: Ma'am, the new recruits sent to safeguard Juno have made good efforts in safeguarding the City of Sages!
Momiji: They are saying it is a great experience for their burgeoning career as adventurers!
Youmei: Good, good… any news on the Battle Vixens' movements?
Botan: We actually encountered them earlier this morning, ma'am!
Youmei: What…? Elaborate.
Momiji: Thankfully, not much happened, ma'am. A mere stare-down at the least, but their leader did mention something of note.
Tsubaki: And that would be…?
Momiji: An interview – conducted by the Zonda Corporation!
Tsubaki: So they mean to show Schwarzwald's people their mettle through media… When will this interview happen?
Botan: We think it's soon, ma'am. They were eager to get started with due haste as they left.
Youmei: I'm curious as to how they carry themselves on the media. Tsubaki, can you tune us in?
Tsubaki: I may be a Witch, but I know a thing or two about technology.
Back in Aldebaran, everything was in place to commence with White Trinity's interview. Thiji stood patiently behind the podium. He noticed Kafra Scarlett and Kafra Nora conversing with the rest of the Krew on their plan. It seemed like a sound one, and he was more than willing to help execute it if it benefits the Kafra Corporation.
"I definitely prefer this over fighting right now," Thiji said to himself. "At least we need not fear the Vixens' wrath for a bit."
"Ya ready, darlin'?" Nora asked the High Wizard as she approached. "We're just about ready to commence with the interview."
"Where is Kafra Curly Sue?" he asked back.
"She's the one broadcastin'! That's why she went back inside!" Nora answered. "The others have calmed down about the whole thing after I told 'em that tryin' to be my favorite was never the goal o' the Krew!"
"Why are they so fervent in gaining your favor, anyway?" Thiji followed.
"Y'know as well as anyone else that a little friendly competition never hurts!" Nora replied. "But I love all my Krew equally! Whether they compete for my 'favor' or whatever is up to them!"
Nora then placed a finger to her ear before nodding a few times. She then gave Scarlett a thumbs up, to which she would give one in kind. "Looks like Zonda's already begun their interview o' the Battle Vixens, sweetie."
"Then let us tip the scales," Thiji declared coolly as he straightened his posture. "Ladies, you may seize the airwaves. We are prepared to begin."
Back at the Odin's Will, the Holy Saviors elite watched the broadcast unfold…
Maximillian: We are here aboard the War Star, the grand vessel which carried the Battle Vixens into the heavens to reach the City of Sages. With us today are the elite – the four deadliest warriors in all of Rune-Midgarts: the Assassin of Waves, Heal-Do; the high-flying Huntress of the Winds, Elua; the Earthen Whitesmith, Aege, and the ravishing beauty that is Lupi, the Fiery Scarlet Lord Knight!
Botan: Is there no end to their boasting…?
Youmei: Took the words right out of my mouth, Botan. That man is practically enjoying himself.
Tsubaki: The savages are up next to speak…
Before Lupi was given the opportunity to speak, the screen would begin receiving interference! This puzzled Tsubaki as the other three looked at each other in confusion.
Youmei: Tsubaki, I know our dislike for the Battle Vixens is shared, but that does not justify the use of your magic!
Tsubaki, turning back to Youmei: This is none of my doing, sister! I've no hold over technology – especially one as advanced as this country's!
Lupi: Hey! Is this some kind of joke?!
Maximillian: N-No! Not at all! Technical difficulties, I assure –
Their transmission ends abruptly for but a moment until it re-establishes to reveal Curly Sue of the Kafra Corporation!
Momiji: Oh, I know her! That's the cute one!
Youmei: Well, this day just became interesting.
Curly Sue: Good afternoon, people of Rune-Midgarts and beyond! This is Kafra Curly Sue! Due to the erratic movements of the energy signatures around the Schwarzwald Republic, the Zonda Corporation's interview of the Battle Vixens was brought to an abrupt end! While they work towards reestablishing their network, we of the Kafra Corporation are proud to offer you all something very special today! At the scene is one of our sisters from the Schwarzwald Branch – Kafra Scarlett! Over to you!
As the broadcast switched over, the Holy Saviors gasped at the familiar faces shown on screen – namely the High Wizard standing on the podium. Botan and Momiji immediately pointed out Thiji as the rose-haired Kafra was beginning to make her report. Youmei simply grinned as Tsubaki watched with anticipation.
"Thank you, Kafra Curly Sue!" Scarlett said. "This is Kafra Scarlett, live from the canal city of Aldebaran, where Kafra Nora and her highly-revered Kafra Krew have secured an interview with White Trinity's own Thiji Higuri, Master Strategist and High Wizard!"
"I wouldn't go so far as referring to myself as 'Master' just yet…" Thiji thought. "But if that is how they wish to embellish…"
"The citizens of this tranquil city have gathered into a gaggle of excited fans and inquirers seeking to learn more about the guild at large and of their thoughts on the Emperium Frontier!" Scarlett said further before approaching the High Wizard. Though there was a sort of… swagger about her, Thiji noticed. He paid it little mind, however, as Kafra Scarlett ascended the stairs and flanked Thiji on his right. The interview would commence and everyone frantically rose their hands and called out to the High Wizard to speak their piece. There were some minor questions regarding his mannerisms and demeanor, though some inquiries stood out more than others…
"Mister Thiji, how did one of such impeccable mastery over ice and snow form the name White Trinity? Many of your fans and supporters have been curious as to the origins behind the name!"
After pondering the question for a moment, the High Wizard would speak…
"That is a very good question, I must say," he commented. "Yes, the origin behind the name intrigued even myself at first. You see, Ray Kaza, the first of a unique breed of Gunslinger Knights, was the one who created this guild when the Frontier began. While many people are aware that a trinity usually consists of three participants, concepts, etc., he saw through the semantics of it and founded it based on the unity of brothers and sisters in arms. With our magic and might combined, there are very few obstacles that to us are infallible."
The crowd cheered and applauded his answer, and the Holy Saviors' elite were nodding in approval. As the applause subsided, Kafra Scarlett would descend the stairs to pick out another eager citizen from the crowd.
"Mister Thiji," started an Alchemist, "the strategies you employed contributed much to your guild's progress. How are you able to pull off such complex tactics?"
The High Wizard smirked and gave his answer.
"There are many ways to answer that," he said, "but the best one I can provide you all is this: all warfare is based on deception; know the enemy and know yourself, and you need not fear the result of a hundred battles."
The crowd went silent for a moment, digesting the words the High Wizard just spoke. The Holy Saviors were a tad mystified as well. It made sense that Thiji did a great job keeping himself from being assailed by his adversaries, but he was hardly laid a finger on compared to everyone else that has participated in the Frontier thus far.
"What I wouldn't give to have someone like him on our side…" Tsubaki mused, petting her shikigami evil villain-style.
"Growing attached to the High Wizard, Tsubaki?" the Paladin teased with a chuckle. Tsubaki harrumphed and turned her head away from Youmei. The Priestess twins laughed in response.
"Regarding the Battle of Britoniah, what are your thoughts on the outcome?" asked a young Merchant. Thiji took longer than usual this time to gather his thoughts on the Emperium Citadel. He even passed Nora a glance, and she simply responded with a nod. The High Wizard would then turn back toward the crowd, cameras flashing around him akin to a Paparazzi ambush…
"Britoniah…" he sighed. "Yes, the Emperium Citadel. That great struggle for the precious Sapphire Emperium – it was a fantastic stage for a battle. Trinities, Vixens, Saviors – each of us fought with all we had. These facilities are as unpredictable as this entire Frontier. What was even more unpredictable, however, was the performance of the Battle Vixens' Assassin: Heal-Do. Her prowess as a warrior shone brightly during this battle, and she more than earned her guild their victory. Though things… could have gone better in the aftermath, I harbor no regrets as to the outcome of the Emperium Citadel. Mt. Mjolnir, Pharos Island, and the Payon Forest paled in comparison to Britoniah, but we aim to see this through to the end, and if possible, claim ultimate glory for White Trinity."
The crowd applauded once more, and some even rose their hands wildly for the next question. Over at the War Star, Heal-Do had tuned in discreetly while the other sisters were busy with Maximillian. She couldn't help but smile at the words he spoke, placing a hand to her heart. The Assassin Cross did not say a word; she only continued watching in earnest, elated that she at least knew he had no ill will towards her, which was what she feared the most.
"One final question from the Kafra Corporation!" Kafra Scarlett stated. "What does the Emperium Frontier mean to you?"
This question made the crowd gasp. Thiji was somewhat caught off-guard as well, and it was made apparent on his face. He still had a mission to complete in this world, and the Emperium Frontier has been both a blessing as well as a distraction – at least to Thiji, anyway. Kafra Scarlett gave a wink to the High Wizard as he met his gaze, and before he would give a response, Kafra Nora interjected.
"Now, now, everybody! We can't go and disclose everything in a single interview!" the teal Kafra began. "We're gonna have to keep that one in the air for now! Sorry, everyone, but we're outta time!"
The crowd gave groans of disappointment as Scarlett gave a soft chuckle, turning back to the camera to close the scene.
"Well, you heard it from Kafra Executive Nora! That's a wrap for this interview. We'll be looking forward to the many deeds that White Trinity and its adversaries will undoubtedly accomplish! Back to you, Curly Sue!" she said with a curtsey.
As the interview drew to a close, the crowd would slowly disperse, with some stragglers staying behind to take pictures with the High Wizard and have autographs signed. Once they have all left the scene, Curly Sue would reunite with the others outside of the headquarters…
Scarlett: Kafra Curly Sue! You were amazing!
Curly Sue: Thanks! And we're very grateful that the Schwarzwald Branch came down to assist us today!
Scarlett, chuckling: Never a problem, sweetie. Oh! Which reminds me – (to Thiji) Mister Thiji, you will not be seeing any of Kafra Nora's Krew while you're in Schwarzwald.
Thiji: May I ask why? Is there something amiss?
Nora: Nah, Scar here is takin' care o' this portion o' the Frontier since it's fallen under the jurisdiction of the Schwarzwald Republic, so her girls'll be the ones you'll see when the new installations open up, so get used to seein' their uniforms!
Scarlett: A nickname she made for me; makes me feel tough.
Thiji: I'll take your word for it.
Scarlett: Of course, Kafra Nora and her Krew have free reign to go as they please given Miss Nora's status in the corporate ladder. Which also reminds me – I'd like to speak with and your Krew once Mister Thiji leaves.
Nora: No problem, Scar!
Scarlett: Mister Thiji, I thank you again for your service today, and for choosing the Kafra Corporation… (Nora, Curly Sue, and the rest of the Krew join in) … for all your adventuring needs!
Thiji: Ladies, it was an honor. Though before I go, I must ask about those Yggdrasil Berries we were supposed to receive.
Curly Sue: We were just about to send it to the Shining Heart this evening after we finished teardown! Do you need some?
Thiji: If you don't mind. Uh, three should be good. I just recalled the rest of my companions being in the El Mes Gorge right now; they might need a refreshment.
Nora: Say no more, dear!
The teal Kafra claps her hands twice and Kafra Glaris, Pavianne and Blossom each hand him one Yggdrasil Berry, which the High Wizard then pockets. They gave him a bow and they would receive one in kind. Kafra Nora claps her hands again and a warp portal appears beside her.
Nora: We'll even take you there to the El Mes Gorge! Step inside this portal when you're ready, and you should appear some distance away from the caves through which they went!
Over at the War Star, the Battle Vixens had just completed their interview with Zonda Corp., though it wasn't as well-received as White Trinity's…
Maximillian: So sorry for that interruption earlier, ladies. This usually doesn't happen!
The fiery Lord Knight scoffed.
Lupi: I knew you guys' technology wasn't all that if it can get jammed so easily.
Elua: What Lupi meant to say was: "Thank you for taking the time to interview the Battle Vixens!"
Lupi: You said it, not me. But… that was interesting to hear that Wizard boy talk about us like that. Especially you, Heal-Do.
The Assassin Cross looked away, almost as if she were embarrassed. Aege then wrapped an arm around her shoulder.
Aege: You don't need to say anything, baby sister. Your actions in Britoniah speak volumes!
Maximillian: At any rate, we thank you again for allowing Zonda Corp. to provide you this service today! We hope to have your vote for the dungeon election!
Lupi: I'm not really one for politics, but… we'll see.
The blonde-haired man bowed and would make his way off the vessel, leaving the Battle Vixens alone. Once he was out of sight, his countenance turned into one of annoyance as he hung his head in shame…
Maximillian: I didn't expect this from the Kafra Corporation… I had hoped the Battle Vixens' interview would cement our victory in the election! But I suppose now this leaves the Holy Saviors as the remaining factor…
As he continued moving through Juno, he caught a glimpse of Botan and Momiji patrolling once more. He was out of their view, so he was able to eavesdrop without worry…
Botan: That was quite the interview from Sir Thiji, wouldn't you agree?
Momiji: Yes! Maybe when this is all over, we could all be friends! He seems like a good guy.
Botan: "Good guy"?! He nearly turned us into Priest-cicles last year!
Momiji, dryly: We were Acolytes then, Botan.
Botan: I know, but still! I've never seen a Storm Gust like his! I consider it a blessing that we survived! But… your words have some truth behind them! Speaking of, who should we vote for in the dungeon election?
Momiji: Hm… I do appreciate the local authorities deputizing us and all, but I can't turn away from the Kafra Corporation! Especially that Miss Nora – she's so energetic!
Botan: Good point!
Hearing this made Maximillian slap his face with his gloved hand with such force that it left a red mark, knowing that the Saviors were now out of the question. It was made clear that the Kafra Corporation had their number this time.
To the southeast of Juno, deep within the El Mes Gorge, a vast network of caves revealed the ruins of what appeared to be a technological marvel of a city to rival even that of the City of Sages. The dilapidated ruins were absolutely littered with dismantled machinery and razed buildings. Yet, all throughout the ruins were engravings of a familiar-looking crest – the very same crest borne by the Schwarzwald Republic.
At the very heart of the ruins, the sounds of battle could be heard. Numerous mechanical body parts were being flung in all directions, and gunshots and electrical discharge filled the air.
"Juperos… must… be… pro…tec…ted…" spoke a decapitated android on its last vestiges of life before shutting down. This particular automaton is known as Apocalipse, and the ones responsible for its destruction were none other than White Trinity's elite. They had gone on a rampage through the entire span of the ruins, and have found themselves at the very center of the Juperos Ruins, the reactivated machines converging on their position from three different entryways – to the west, to the east, and to the north. Ray, Lee, and Raien were slowly backing away southward, driving off any encroaching enemies that would get too close…
Raien: This place is some type of crazy! These aren't your normal mechs!
Ray: They still break like any other machine when you do enough damage!
Lee: Is that why you brought a gatling gun?
Ray: That's exactly why! Otherwise it wouldn't be called "Gatling Fever"!
Lee: Well, I'm up for another round if you both are!
Raien: Like we got a choice!
A large beam of plasma would then shoot forth from the northern passageway, vaporizing the other automatons caught in the blast. With quick thinking, Raien utilized his Reverse Tatami to deflect the beam, redirecting it into the ceiling, causing debris to fall and block off the eastern and western passages. Ray took this time to reload his gatling gun with a new belt, knowing that the fallen debris wouldn't be enough to stop whatever was coming. A mechanical behemoth whose size dwarfed the other automatons they've faced thus far lumbered down the hall, its "head" exhuming blue and red flames.
"INTRUDERS DETECTED IN JUPEROS CORE!" it alarmed. "VESPER UNIT: ENGAGING! TRESPASSERS ARE ADVISED TO PREPARE THEMSELVES FOR IMMEDIATE DISINTEGRATION!"
As the behemoth known as "Vesper" approached White Trinity, it charged another blast in its right arm. Thunderhorse charged in front to shield her companions in an electrical barrier. Vesper would then fire upon reaching full charge, but before the beam could find its mark, the temperature would suddenly drop to below freezing! A large wave of ice and snow would then shoot forth, enveloping the northern passage with frost and rime. The beam, too, would be overwhelmed by the volume of ice that it became encased in it, creeping all the way to Vesper's arm, immobilizing it!
Ray, Lee, and Raien turned around and saw three Yggdrasil Berries – one for each of them. After they took one in their hands, they would look up and notice a raised platform and a certain High Wizard standing atop it, brandishing a unique "staff" made of ice. Behind the High Wizard was a hallway strewn with ice spikes lodged into the bodies of wrecked machines. Lifting his head to reveal his face, it was their companion and strategist, Thiji, ready to help with their dungeon run.
"Gentlemen," he greeted suavely with a wink.
TO BE CONTINUED.