A/N: Oh dear, it's been so long! I had a sudden urge to update this story so I managed to finish this chapter despite my claim that it was on hold. I do apologize for the long wait. Managing multiple ongoing stories is difficult.
Anyway, enjoy the latest chapter!
Aaron, feeling guilty and anxious, looked rather bashful as he waited for Bea's answer to his question.
The woman raised an eyebrow and crossed her arms. "Eh? What happened to all yours, kiddo?" was her reply.
Grinning sheepishly, the young gunslinger nervously rubbed the back of his head as he said, "Well… I – We spent all our Soll on weapon materials and supplies."
The older Guild member raised her eyebrow even higher and formed a smirk. "By 'supplies' you mean 'food', don't you?"
Aaron pouted and shook his head. "No, I mean supplies! Necessary supplies! Healing supplies!" the boy tried to clarify.
Chuckling softly, the woman smiled at the younger one's answer. However, she soon shook her head with a slight frown. "I'd like to lend you some money but our funds are running a little low because of the preparations we're doing to enter New Culican."
"New Culican?" Aaron exclaimed in surprise. "I thought you guys weren't going in until Lucian and I make a distraction first."
"That's still the plan. Right now we're doing recon work – mapping out the areas we can reach and investigate without being detected and listing the type of monsters that guard the inside," Bea explained. Her expression became serious. "After what happened to you and Lucian we decided that we should do whatever we can to lend you guys a hand. We don't want you guys killed… so we're doing everything we can before you two are ready to take out the Duke."
The young gunslinger smiled warmly at the news. "Thanks, Bea."
She waved a hand at him. "Don't thank me, kiddo, thank everyone. Everyone here is willing to help bring an end to the Vampires' reign of terror. If anything, we owe you and Lucian – Where is he, by the way?"
"Lucian? He's… I think he's waiting outside."
The woman pursed her lips. "Oh? Now why doesn't he come in and say hello?"
Once again, Aaron rubbed the back of his neck and let out a short, humorless laugh. "Ah, well, I was supposed to get some money and head right back out so we could start training with our upgraded weapons." He gestured to Knight's holster strapped to his hip. Frowning, Aaron wanted to ask again to make sure: "So the Guild doesn't really have any money to lend?"
Bea let out a sigh and shook her head. "I'm sorry, Aaron. Money's real tight right now. We're also rebuilding the Guild." Then an idea lit up her face. "I know! If you're desperate for cash why not help out one of our clients? We're short on manpower right now so how about helping with a few missions around here?"
The boy hesitated on a decision, knowing for sure that Lucian would not like the idea of doing another 'pointless' mission. Especially if their payment didn't consist of Soll. "Hmm… I guess we can take a few jobs," Aaron mumbled.
Noticing his hesitation, Bea added: "I'm sure some of the clients will pay Soll if you request it."
That brought a wide grin on the boy's face. "Okay, then. We'll do it!"
"Great! Thanks, Aaron! Just talk to Jenn and she'll hook you up with a client," explained the woman as she dabbed a thumb towards the stairs that led to the Guild's main office room. Files, blueprints, maps – practically everything that was on paper or recorded as data was stored and organized in that one huge room.
Bea smiled as she started to leave. "I'm off to rendezvous with Earnest. So be careful, all right? May the Sun be with you!"
She was out the door just as Aaron waved good-bye.
Taking a deep breath, the boy let out a sigh. Lucian probably wasn't going to be happy, hearing that they had another mission to help someone in need.
Well, that's too bad! the boy thought with a little smirk. If it was the only way to make money fast then they had no choice but to do it.
Turning towards the office, Aaron was suddenly stopped short when someone appeared right before him. Startled, he let out a yelp and stumbled backwards.
"Oh! I'm very sorry!" the person quickly apologized. She was a young woman, possibly the same age as Bea. A Guild member too. Aaron had seen her around a couple times but never got her name. "I didn't mean to scare you. I just wanted to ask you something, if that's okay?"
Aaron straightened, regaining his composure. "Oh? Uh, sure!"
"Well, I overheard your conversation with Bea," she began, fidgeting with her red gloved hands. "So I have a favour to ask of you… Um, will you do an assignment for me? I will pay you 300 – no, 500 Soll if you do."
Shock was Aaron's immediate response. Normally an older Guild member would never request help for a mission from a younger one. But now that Aaron was well-known within the Guild thanks to the defeat of some of the most wicked Vampires, he had to suppose that his reputation was finally catching up to him.
The boy broadly grinned. He was nearing his goal of being the best gunslinger in the Guild!
However, 500 Soll was hardly much now that Professor Sheridan required more parts to upgrade Aaron's Solar Guns and Lucian's dark weapons. And not to mention the number of healing and recovery items they needed to survive in monster-infested areas.
"Uh, well… 500 isn't really enough," Aaron hated to say. He didn't want to sound selfish.
"Then how about 1000? 2000? Would that be good?" the Guildswoman offered.
"2000?!" the boy exclaimed, surprised at the sudden dramatic increase.
She nodded. "Yes. I'll pay you 2000 if you do this assignment for me."
"Is it the Guild's money?"
"No, it's my own savings."
Aaron quickly shook his head. "I can't take that…" he told her with a frown. Taking her savings would be stealing!
"Don't worry!" she assured him. "It'll be more useful to you than to me. And you are desperate for Soll, aren't you?" She raised a blonde eyebrow.
"Then why not lend me a hand? Bea assigned me on a ghost hunt but I'm far too busy rebuilding the Guild. So will you go in my stead?"
"Ghost hunting?" the boy questioned, rather curious. That sounded kind of fun. Maybe hunting ghosts would be good for training. Aaron was itching to try out Dragoon and he knew Lucian wanted to test out his newly acquired weapon, Jormungandr, on some more monsters.
The Guildswoman adjusted the goggles she wore as she explained; "Frightened witnesses claim to have seen a scepter in the sewers of Old Culican. From the number of sighting reports in the past few weeks, I believe it does exist. It's been giving folks a scare in the middle of the night."
Aaron couldn't quite comprehend it all. "Who hangs out in the sewers at night?" he had to ask.
The woman laughed and shrugged her shoulders. "Who knows! Reports have been anonymous."
"Well…" Aaron began before he heard the entrance door open. Glancing over, the boy immediately flinched at the sight of a frustratingly impatient Lucian. Turning back to the woman, the gunslinger said in haste; "A-All right! I'll get right on it! Thanks!"
He left her without hearing her reply as he met up with Lucian halfway to the door. Ignoring the older boy's glowering red eye, the gunslinger cheerfully said: "Guess what? We have another job to do!"
Lucian was in a somewhat bitter mood as he traversed through the foul depths of Old Culican's sewers.
He was expecting the brat named Aaron to borrow money from his guild, not be forced to earn it.
Reluctant at first, Lucian was not overwhelming with joy when the damn kid informed him of their new job.
Well, times were tough, the swordsman had supposed, the attack on the Guild had left considerable amount of damage to headquarters so there was obviously no spare money to lend. Adding to that, the brat provided a decent explanation as to why they should take on the task of hunting a single ghost.
The only good point was that it was extremely good pay: 2000 Soll for the destruction of one stupid ghost? Now that was absolutely a deal.
The boy also mentioned how they could 'train in the sewers as they hunted the ghost.'
An ignorant assumption… Monsters that dwelled within the vile place were nothing more than disgusting rats, putrid slimes, pesky bubbles, dumb ghouls, annoying bats, and ugly venomous spiders. There were a few lonely Hounds but they were easy to take down by surprise. None of the creatures were good enough to put up a fight.
How were they supposed to train on weaklings?
Another point Lucian hated was the fact that they were in the stinking sewers again. To lessen the awful stench of the wretched place, the swordsman had commanded Sheridan to alter the climate to Frigid Arctic. It was cold in the sewers now; his breath was visible and there appeared to be thin layers of ice forming on the surface of the murky waters.
Feeling cold was hardly an issue with Aaron practicing with his Solar Weapon, Dragoon.
Powered with Ursula's element, the boy spewed hot, orange flames at a line of Frost Ghouls, decimating the weak monsters instantly. All that remained of their enemies were smoldering piles of ash.
Aaron wiped the sweat off his forehead with the back of his gloved hand and moved his goggles back on top of his head. "Phew!" he sighed wearily, adjusting the large flamethrower and its thick strap so it was on his back. "Man, Dragoon's heavy!" he groaned, rotating his arms.
Lucian snorted. "What'd you expect from something as big as you?" he questioned.
The gunslinger broke into an amusing laugh. "Ernest doesn't look like it but he must be really strong since he uses Dragoon all the time!"
"It takes a lot of strength and skill to use it properly," the swordsman commented, moving past the remains of their former enemies. "And you need to be wary of your solar energy," he added, facing the younger boy with a stern eye. "Dragoon consumes more of your solar energy than any other weapon. You wasted a lot in that last attack."
"It's hard to gauge how much I'm using," was the gunslinger's honest reply. "But don't worry! I'll get used to it after some more practice!"
With that, Aaron ran ahead in search of more targets to fry. Lucian smirked at the kid's enthusiasm and silently followed, propping Jormungandr over his shoulder as he walked along the sewer's pathways. He left Vanargand behind, not wanting to burden himself with the extra weight as he honed his skills with the dark lance. The ancient weapon was difficult to handle – it didn't move like a sword. Strikes were swift with Vanargand but slow with the lance.
From his experience, Lucian surmised that Jormungandr was meant to be a mid-ranged weapon built for piercing through thick armor and hide. Fighting multiple foes and close-combat were out of the question since it was far too cumbersome to swing the long shaft around quick enough.
He allowed Sheridan to examine it when they had returned to the mansion and quickly learned of the dark lance's hidden potential. Much like Vanargand, Jormungandr's true power was locked away.
It was a pain that he needed to search for a way to unlock his weapons' true forms but in the end, it would be very rewarding. Duke Dumas would never stand a chance against the Legendary Dark Swordsman.
Deep into the sewers the warriors traveled and they had yet to find their target. They searched every corner of each section they passed and found nothing resembling a ghost. Lucian had grown irritably frustrated with the search while Aaron, having exerted so much of his energy due to Dragoon, had worn himself out.
Lagging behind and resorting only on his smaller Knight (having left all his other guns behind), Aaron followed behind the swordsman, shivering from the frigid air. It felt colder the deeper they went, probably due to the Frigid Climate.
After effortlessly defeating two Lizardmen single-handedly, the older boy muttered his annoyance: "There's no damn ghost anywhere. This is becoming a big waste of time!"
Well, not exactly a big waste… Lucian broke off a few pieces of armour from one of the dead reptiles and placed them in his satchel. The adamant in their armour was exactly what the old man, Sheridan, needed for alchemy.
"We haven't searched every room yet, you know," Aaron pointed out with a sigh. Lucian, in return, gave him a scowl. "There's still the room where we fought the Poes and…" The boy visibly tensed, his eyes growing wide. He suddenly thrust his hand forward, pointing at something behind the swordsman. "L-Lucian! Look!"
The older warrior sharply turned around, gripping the shaft of his lance tightly, prepared for any oncoming attack. What he saw was a big disappointment: a Frost Ghoul. Lucian was a little surprised that he did not see it standing on the path that connected the two separate platforms before. He didn't even hear it crawl out of the ground.
Lucian bared his teeth and narrowed his eyes at the monster. There was something different about the fiend compared to the other ghouls they've encountered.
For one, the Frost Ghoul simply stood in place, not bothering to attack. Secondly, normally ghouls had empty black sockets for eyes but the monster before him had hollowed eyes that glowed a deep blue. It was staring at the swordsman, its cold, eerie gaze was unnatural and disturbing.
What was most unnerving about the monster was its shadow. It disregarded the direction of the many sewer lights, casting instead one complete shadow instead of many. The shadow itself was not in the shape of the ghoul's body but of something else – something much larger that the undead zombie.
It was definitely not an ordinary Frost Ghoul.
There were strange crackling sounds coming from the monster. "Lucian," Nero hissed in the swordsman's ear, "Everything is freezing around it. Look at the water!"
Lucian spotted chunks of ice rapidly forming on the surface of the dark waters right below the pathway the monster stood on. It wasn't just the water that was freezing but the metal floor around the undead beast as well. Ice was slowly spreading around its frozen feet, covering the walkway with a shimmering blue layer.
"Do not draw near it!" the Dark Terrennial warned both warriors, but mostly to Lucian. "This creature is capable of freezing anything around it in a matter of seconds."
"It's not an ordinary ghoul either," Toasty needlessly added. "I sense an abnormal power from it."
Aaron soundly snorted. "Oh? You think?" the Guild member uttered sarcastically, his voice shaking, either from the cold or from the ghastly sight of the unholy monster.
Lucian hoped to believe that it wasn't the latter.
"Look at its shadow. It's obvious not its own," said the Dark Swordsman as he watched the black form carefully. It was moving despite the ghoul standing perfectly still. Lucian soon figured it out. "It's possessed! Aaron, take it down! We found that stupid ghost!"
"Oh! R-Right!" the younger boy quickly replied. "Ursula!" The Flame Terrenial instantly powered the boy's Solar Gun. Countless Flame bullets were sent flying directly at the standing ghoul.
The frozen monster took all the hits and unexpectedly disintegrated into a pile of half-frozen, half-burnt remains. It was as weak as a normal ghoul.
But it was not over yet. The black shadow suddenly emerged from the floor where the undead ghoul once stood. Large, globular and ending with a wispy tail, the shadow was the ghost they were searching for.
Lucian hesitated. Aaron did not even move.
The ghost's pair of eyes… they were round, white and distantly empty. Its haunting gaze was capable of sending shivers down the Dark Swordsman's spine.
It then made a horrid sound, completely freezing Lucian in place. Its deep, resounding howl sounded like the blowing wind in a long tunnel.
A haunting cry, it made the area around them seem colder than before.
The specter continued to howl as it glided backwards, never taking its frightening stare away from the unmoving warriors.
When it vanished through a wall, everything became silent save for the flowing waters and the hum of the underground generators.
Lucian exhaled his breath, never realizing he was holding it. Cold sweat covered his body and his heart was racing with anxiety. He was shaken by the ghost's presence – he had never felt like that before.
No monster, not even the Vampires, have ever made him tremble with fear.
A familiar weight rested on his left shoulder and he noticed Nero's worried frown. Lucian sighed heavily and brushed a hand through his purple hair, regaining his composure. He gave the winged cat a slight nod, indicating he was all right.
He turned to Aaron, seeing the pale, shivering boy quietly listening to his Light Terrennial. Wide blue eyes blinked when they met Lucian's. The gunslinger straightened and forced a smile. "Th-that ghost… Man, it's… It's scary!" he stammered, rubbing his arms to keep warm.
The older boy slightly frowned and glanced back at the wall where the spirit disappeared. "It's unlike anything I've encountered," Lucian muttered in truth, keeping his voice steady.
"It wields the power of ice," Ezra spoke up as she appeared before the warriors. "However, its power differs from that of mine."
"Different? How?" Aaron inquired, sounding quite uneasy.
The winter fox lightly shook her head. "It feels… ancient. Like the power of old. Nero," her eyes fell on the Dark Terrennial, "were you able to sense anything?"
Nero took flight so he could face both Lucian and Aaron. "The darkness? It was very weak – I hardly noticed it before it escaped."
Hearing that troubled Lucian. If the ghost possessed some sort of dark power then was it possibly a spirit of a long-forgotten Vampire?
It was Aaron who first voiced his concern, relaying the exact thoughts of the older warrior; "Do you think it could be a Vampire?"
Both Ezra and Nero shook their heads. "Although it may be possible," Ezra began, "but I doubt it is a Vampire's spirit."
"An ancient creature, perhaps," Nero suggested, his red eyes narrowing at the ice that covered the floor. "Dark beasts once roamed the lands ages ago before they were slain by warriors of light."
"Hmph," Lucian snorted, not wanting to dawdle any longer. "It's no use standing and talking about it," he muttered, crossing over the frozen pathway and passing the remains of the ghoul. "Why not find out ourselves?"
Aaron quickly caught in step behind the other. "It passed through the wall so there must be another room on the other side we might have missed when we first came here," he informed.
It didn't take long to find out that the younger boy was right. Across the next platform, they discovered a gaping hole in the wall. Judging by the burnt marks and rubble, it was obvious that someone or something had blasted it open.
"Oh yeah, this was definitely not here before." The gunslinger peered into the large hole.
On the other side was a dimly lit tunnel. Chilly wind blew through, generating a sound similar to the ghost's wail. Aaron frowned at the wind, his teeth chattering and his body shaking.
Lucian smirked. "Are you still scared?" he asked, his tone low and mocking.
Pouting, Aaron put on a brave face and glowered at the Dark Swordsman. "N-No! Not at a-all!" he hastily cried in protest. "It's just so cold! Why'd you have to change the climate?"
"So it wouldn't reek so much in this filthy place."
Aaron snorted in response but then his expression became smug. "Are you still scared?" he shot back, his tone matching that of Lucian's.
The swordsman glared dangerously at the other, making the boy nervously shrink back. Did the brat notice Lucian's display of weakness when the ghost appeared? "Don't be ridiculous," the dark warrior growled, turning away from the grinning whelp. He entered the tunnel with Jormungandr propped above his right shoulder and added, "I don't get scared like you, kid."
It got noticeably colder when they entered the room at the end of the dark, abandoned tunnel and the reason why was probably because everything was covered in blue-white ice. It was truly an amazing spectacle under the few still functioning lights in the ceiling.
Appalling as well. There were frozen bodies of monsters, some lay dead while others were statues caught in time. Even the ice-based creatures such as the Frost Ghouls were encased in solid ice. Seeing such a scene, made Aaron gulp with worry – it was the ghost that froze everything in place. The same fate of the monsters could fall on Aaron and Lucian if they weren't strong enough to take it down.
Aaron had to assure himself that he would not fall victim to the ghost's power. He was scared when he saw the haunting spirit; there was no doubt about that. Lucian was too – Aaron had seen the other boy shudder when the black spirit released its terrifying howl.
Lucian could deny it all he wanted but Aaron would always know the truth. Aaron kept silent about it, knowing that the Dark Swordsman hated to portray any signs of weakness around anyone. (But it wouldn't hurt to poke fun at him from time to time once they finish their mission.)
The floor was slick and hazardous; Aaron slipped and banged his knee when he didn't caution his steps when they entered a dark, nearly sightless room.
Adding to his misery was the decreasing temperature.
Sniffling his running nose, the solar warrior was clutching Knight close to his body to stay warm in the freezing sewers. Ursula's power fortunately heated the barrel, keeping the boy's hands and chest a little warmer. But still, it was so cold! Aaron would have brought some thicker clothes if he had known they were going to pursue a powerful ice spirit.
He adjusted his red shawl so it covered his mouth and nose.
Breathing heavily through the cover, the boy carefully followed the older warrior through the shadows, hoping that the ghost was not lingering in the same room. After hearing Nero announce the room to be empty, Aaron let out a sigh of relief.
The next section they entered was a small, thankfully lit room that resembled just like the others – covered in ice. It differed by the presence of a dark, endless pit waiting below an overhanging platform.
There was some sort of mechanism stationed near the center of the platform – one that greatly resembled the machine that controlled the elevator platform back in Rymer's Mansion.
"Hey, is this…?" Aaron examined the large center tile of the floor. He squinted through the layer of ice, recognizing the familiar shape and design. "It's an elevator. The ghost must've come from down there."
He heard Lucian snarl behind him. The older boy was fuming at the frozen controls, trying to move one of the levers but to no avail. "Damn thing's frozen," he hissed. "Ursula, can you heat this up?"
At the sound of his name, the Flame Terrennial appeared. "Of course! Leave it to me!"
Ursula floated near the control panel and started to glow a bright orange. Steam surrounded the Terrennial followed by waves of visible heat.
Aaron smiled at the warmth, glad to finally be rid of the cold biting his skin. The ice covering the controls melted fast as did the frozen layers around the area. Water pooled on the floor and dripped off the edge into the abyss.
Once finished, Ursula returned to Aaron's Knight even though the boy was in no longer desperate for heat.
Lucian pulled the same lever he attempted to move before, looking rather satisfied when the panel came to life. Pushing in a few commands, the Dark Swordsman nodded at the other warrior as something mechanical groaned beneath them. The elevator platform rose slightly from the floor, breaking the weakened ice that still remained.
"Let's go," Lucian ordered, his red eye gleaming with murderous intent. "We have a damn ghost to hunt."
A/N: In the game you don't actually get to do a ghost hunt mission in the sewers. After someone had suggested using one of the bosses from the past Boktai games in the form of a ghost, it gave me this idea so I hope you liked the change! Can you guys figure out who the boss is? It'll be revealed in the next chapter!
I apologize for any inaccuracies in both the sewer details and the characterization of Ursula - I haven't played Lunar Knights in a long, long time. I'm writing mostly everything based off of my memory and from the maps and information on Gamefaqs.
Well, Thank you all for reading. I hoped you all enjoyed it! If anyone has a suggestion for the last guardian - one to guard the Bomber - I'd love to hear it!