Uploaded 28/01/2011

Summary: Uses both anime and manga characters - What if the people of the Lost Ground had been more organised and had fought back against Holy, using their Altars. How would things have been different and who would have been on each side?

Eternal Conviction
Jade Tatsu

This is our home.

That's how it started.

They refused to listen to us, they refused to believe that we would do whatever it took to defend ourselves, and to defend our home. They came into the battle knowing we had powers, 'Altars' as they called them, so did they think we would back down? Did they think they could match us?

I don't know.

By the time I entered the battle, the first causes were lost and it was no longer minor skirmishes between armed troops and random Altar Users but a full scale war, Altar versus Altar for control of the ground they call Lost.

This is our home.

That's one of the two absolute truths I knew then.

It has not changed.

Kazuma will always come back to me with his jaunty salute and single greeting, 'Yo!'.

That was the other truth. It has not changed either.

And so, all those years ago, clutching those two truths close to my heart, my palm sweaty on the gun Kimishima had given me, I went into battle because this is my home and I will do whatever it takes to defend it.

In hindsight, I didn't stay long on the front. Open war lines are not the best place for a twelve year old and as soon as my gift, my Altar was discovered, I was pulled back from direct combat and put into planning.

Well... what planning we had then beyond the day to day effort to drive back Holy.

Truth be told, I had felt safe on the Front because Kazuma was with me. I always feel safe when he is around but I know he was thankful when Command pulled me. He'd have never made the arrangements himself, he knew how important it was to have every fighter available but no matter how much he fought with Command, this time he wasn't about to look a gift horse in the mouth.

I regretted it then but it was necessary I suppose. I know we wouldn't have reached this point if it hadn't of happened. Once I was within Command, with my gift, it didn't take long before I was Command, the youngest General on either side, all at the tender age of fourteen. The matronly woman of the iron fist and steel voice handed it all over to me with a little smile and the assurance that I'd do all right because I knew what was important in life.

I guess that was true. I only wanted the battles to stop because this is our home and we should be able to live in peace. It wasn't until they tried to kill me that I became serious about it.

I hope they regret it.

I know I regret it because after that day the war, Holy versus Lawless for control of the Lost Ground was never the same.

Eternal Conviction had met Eternal Fidelity and once that happened, the world itself was not enough.

It was a surgical strike. It would have been a precise blow and I wouldn't have felt a thing as I died. I get a chill on my neck as I remember and know that I wouldn't have even felt that.

I never saw it coming.

Kazuma did.

I don't know how because everyone was surprised when he moved. I guess it was a premonition from the raw emotion he was to feel from his relationship with Ryuhou.

The shock wave for the first bullet drove the ribbons of Zetsuei from their intended target. After that there was a panic with the realization that Holy had gotten so close and the Treasoner took on one of the more infamous Altar users Holy possessed.

I didn't see the battle. I felt it though, in my soul and in my heart.

I really don't know how I got away but I guess Kimishima and Ayase did it. At the time I was too controlled by emotion to move.

Burning absolute rage that made the colour red look pale.

Absolute hate that they had dared to attack something so precious without even the chance to fight.

There was no thought.

The desire to kill so strong it was not thought, it was not instinct and I hesitate to call it emotion.

Fourteen years old... I didn't understand it then. I was scared.

It's funny how things change so quickly.

I didn't understand it then but I felt it myself within a week.

No one really saw the first battle between Kazuma and Ryuhou and for that I am thankful. As strong as the Treasoner was, he was not ready to face an opponent of Ryuhou's calibre. It would have been better if he had of been defeated by someone within Lawless but that couldn't happen. Kazuma was stronger than us all. Akira and Hannish could have come close...

In the end it doesn't matter.

The first battle between Eternal Conviction and Eternal Fidelity ended with Kazuma's defeat but the battle was to serve as his spur.

As I said, I hope Holy regretted that day, not just for what it did to me but for what it did to him.

I say the battle ended in defeat but I guess that depends on what stance you take. Kazuma took to the field to protect me, and since I survived that battle without a scratch, unharmed and still free to direct Lawless, then I guess the battle could be considered a complete success. From that point of view even I have to admit that but I do not accept the loss of our warriors.

If Kazuma had of been wounded but escaped, that would have been acceptable... barely... since I do not ever want anyone wounded. He was taken though. That was a loss I could not accept.

Losing him was to me the loss of all Lawless and the final prod I needed to truly embrace my position as General. I know they regret it for what it did to him. I hope they regret it for what it did to me.

For the two weeks he was gone, I don't think I was awake for more than an hour at a time. I read so many people and I discovered so many fears and I used every one of them to get us into the city. In the end we met him escaping. He never was one to sit still and wasn't surprised to see us.

He saluted me, with a smile that said he'd been waiting. 'Yo!'

And so the two gates we had just cleared, we turned around and blew them apart as we left.

Ryuhou had followed him. Take a hostage from the mainland and you'll be dogged forever it seems but Cherise remained behind. I'm not sure what she did but I guess Eternal Devotion is enough to hold at bay Eternal Fidelity and she had sworn that she would never allow Kazuma to be captured again. She followed us out, exhausted. Cougar brought her and Holy did not pursue.

We'd used a lot of resources to get Kazuma but we needed him. No one denied that however when the next attack came, lead by Ryuhou we were not ready. One more Kazuma took on Ryuhou and I know the mainland loyal Altar user thought it would turn out the same.

He never reckoned with on Kazuma's pride.

I was too far away to hear what he said but I felt Kazuma's reaction. Rage, anger, determination; with the Altar Eternal Conviction they are not emotions, they are power. I'd like to say it was the last mistake Ryuhou ever made as Kimishima joked at the time but it wasn't. It might come close though.

Whatever Ryuhou had awakened within the shell bullet user, it took both forms of Zetsuei to match it, and even then the two of them were still gaining power.

They opened the gate.

It was only a millisecond but it was enough. The entire Lost Ground felt it as did pieces of the surrounding Mainland. The seas rose, the air ripped as a hurricane sprang from nowhere and the earth trembled. It was only a millisecond but everyone felt the power and as quickly as it had appeared, it was gone taking both Ryuhou and Kazuma with it.

Both sides retreated that day. Humbled.

It was a pity their awe did not last.

Ryuhou might have been the pre-eminent Altar user for the Mainland but unfortunately he wasn't the only one. Despite claims that the others weren't quite as skilful they were powerful never the less.

We fought back but we were forced to pull back at the conclusion of every battle.

Many of the attacks were directed at me personally. Not to the position of General but at me, because of my power. I guess they finally worked out how we were holding our own. We pulled back after every battle, true but we didn't lose anyone.

I really don't know how Kimishima did it but some how he kept everyone together. We always had enough food and we always found a place to sleep. We were a lot better off than others.

It couldn't last though.

It didn't last.

The Mainland had more resources and eventually they got tired of chasing us as we scuttled around. Jigmal came himself. I guess that is a testament to how seriously they had finally decided to take us. It took them long enough, a fact for which I am glad.

I'm not sure of the opening moves of this battle. They don't really matter but we quickly discovered that our escape routes were cut off. Holy was never one to adhere to the phrase 'never corner your prey'. If they had, what happened next probably wouldn't have happened. I can't guarantee that though but it is an interesting quandary to consider.

I was surrounded. I could not fight any further and that was not weakness, that was fact. I would have tried to fight, I was preparing to fight and in my preparations I couldn't help but ask Kazuma if there was anything that could have been different.

I think I asked aloud.

Imagine their surprise when I got an answer.

He didn't appear like a Knight. He wasn't even conscious but the gate he and Ryuhou opened those months ago was opened again. The force was no less incredible and through it this time a white and black Altar appeared, carrying both Kazuma and Ryuhou.

Eternal Fidelity was given back to Holy and I caught Eternal Conviction.

After that everything went black and when I came too there was only Lawless around me. Holy was gone and the land which was the Lost Ground had changed again. For one instant I knew a joy so strong very little could eclipse it but it was soon tempered by the knowledge that Kazuma was injured.

Kazuma has been injured before. In fact in all the time I've known him I don't think I'd ever seen him without an injury. But this was worst. We couldn't wake him up and we didn't know what was wrong. We tried everything, we even tried cursing him, he never did like it when I called him Kazu-kun but nothing seemed to reach him.

When I was told there was nothing more we could do and that we should attend to his last will, I think I cried for three days solid and darn any sign of weakness. I wasn't the only one who cried but by the time I thought to use my Alter it was too late.

I will always remember Cherise for the irreplaceable gift she gave to me and the life she gave to Kazuma.

Eternal Devotion.

No one ever saw its true form. The day after she'd used it Kazuma awoke as if there had never been anything wrong, his jaunty salute and cock sure 'Yo!' not withstanding.

He was angry when he learnt the truth and cursed her but it was only in private that he cried.

And then he honoured her will and struck back at the Mainland but there was sometimes a certain sense of sadness in him.

It seems we could do nothing without Kazuma but with him we quickly defeated those Altar users that had caused us so much grief and before I knew it we were once more in sight of the city, the lands behind us ours.

Fate always turns the other way.

The Mainland learnt about that when Mimori leaked the information to us.

They had learnt enough, they had lost enough and we were dangerous enough that they had decided to wipe out the Lost Ground once and for all. They would start anew later with what, if anything was left, after they had nuked us back into oblivion.

We almost didn't believe it.

The warning signal was cut off abruptly and the concept of a nuclear strike on what were essentially mostly civilian targets was almost unthinkable.

To this day, surgical hah! As if a nuclear weapon can be precise or that discriminatory strike or not, I don't know how they managed to convince the world it was in their best interests to allow it and all the environmental damage it entailed.

We almost didn't believe it but Kazuma vouched for Mimori's words and we had not choice but to act.

We could not stop the strike. Even if we all surrendered they had decided. We could not intercept it. There would be missile rains first to distract us from the real danger. We had no choice but to hide.

At least the Lost Ground served us well here. Left over, from an age past were shelters. They were old and solid. They weren't the best, they weren't well stocked but they were better than nothing and we were out of options. We moved as much of the civilian population in there as we could and still we could not take them all.

It was heartbreaking to watch the Gaffas and Grans without so much as a tear, hug their grandchildren close, pass them one last treat and walk away.

At that moment the Mainland need not have struck use for we would have given them it all to not see that again.

And then on the appointed day, we waited.

It was too late by the time we noticed Kazuma was missing. In the rabbit warrens that were the shelters, we were spread out, all of us consumed with our own tasks. We should have checked.

I know what he did and I know why he did it this is our home I do not know how he did it.

Somehow, he stood alone against it all.

Alone against all the missiles, alone against the power of the atom.

Eternal Conviction prevailed.

Cocky bastard that he is, he even smiled at the satellites observing it all, offering Ryuhou a salute that was so much an insult and challenge that it could not be ignored.

The Mainland could not ignore it either. With their ultimate attack a failure they fell back on more conventional means. They sent troops, and Alter Users in numbers that seemed preposterous. You could barely breath they were packed so close.

I sent Holy a message, the place where we would make our stand. I could feel it, I had dreamt it. If we won here, the Mainland and Holy had no choice. The world was tired of the war. If we won it was over and we would stand alone, free. The battle lines were drawn and we would all fight.

I did not ask for a formation. That didn't suit Lawless, I knew and we did not need a co-ordinated victory to win. We could all die and still win, we just had to show Holy the true cost of fighting us. There would be no holds bared and no quarters given until it was over.

On the morning of the battle, Kazuma left me as silently as he always left me, no goodbyes because he would be back. He had one opponent that day and he was looking forward to the fight.

Eternal Conviction versus Eternal Fidelity, when there could only be one.

Neither side held back. Waves of Altars rippled back and forth across the field, as first one side then the other seemed to gain the upper hand. Gunshots came in a rapid stattaco so fast that it was impossible to tell the shots apart. The cries of battle were deafening as each side fought.

Despite everything, the shock wave of the first clash between Ryuhou and Kazuma silenced it all.

Anticipation gave way to desire, and then desire gave way to the enraged frustration they both felt at the other. It was an emotion, only the two of them could evoke in the other.

I have never felt anything like it. A frustration so like the other that it is almost understanding. A hatred so strong that there are no words and self assurance and self belief that puts the world to shame. They didn't even speak this time. What had gone before was word enough and both of them believed in the dialogue of actions.

They started small and worked their way up until the perfect form of Eternal Conviction was before them, brilliantly honed like a lion.

As I have said, I hope Holy regrets what they did to him to push an Altar User, ranked C by their means into a lion they could not fight. Ryuhou had been Kazuma's spur. Kazuma had been Ryuhou's spur for the lion was soon challenged by the panther. The two of them fought, a battle between power the licks of which had never and to this day has been never been seen.

It was inevitable that that much Altar ability gathered would attract attention.

The Gate opened and the metamorphosis of the Lost Ground continued. Their hatred for each other gave them the strength to fight the gate and it grew as they continued to draw forth power.

Others weren't so lucky and they banded together in the struggled against the gate. It wasn't just the Lost Ground that felt the Gate this time though. The whole world did.

It wasn't until Kazuma and Ryuhou pulled back from each other that they realised their mistake. The gate became unstable. It began consuming everything.

There is a hunger in that world, a hunger that cannot be sated but a hunger that drives it to consume anything it can. Vast tracks of land were ripped up and consumed as both sides struggled to withdraw.

Kazuma laughed and while the distance was great, I swear he turned and smiled, offering me that jaunty salute that so was him before he turned back and once more challenged Ryuhou, daring the Holy Officer to retreat.

Zetsuai's master looked stunned for an instant before they charged at each other with a battle cry that somehow managed to echo over everything.

They clashed in front of the opening of the gate, before the lion grabbed the panther and pulled him in.

It was silent then.

The light from the gate winked out and everything stilled. Two armies, drawn up across a ripped and torn battle field just stared at each other. Neither Holy or Lawless would back down.

The first one to blink lost.

The mainland blinked.

It was over.

It pained Jigmal but he had no choice and the preliminary treaty was signed a week after that day and the Accords of Eternity one month later.

It's funny you know. They have confined us here on the ground that they call Lost. There have been no further battles, there has been no further aide or interference and we are beginning to build the future.

This is what he wanted. This is what we all wanted. This is our home. That's how it started. This is how it ends. They think we are trapped here, prisoners, when in truth we have never been more free.

It is our home and we are building our future, the future he would be proud of, the one he always wanted. I know he can see it and I know he will set it because he said he'd come back to me.

I have always known two truths.

This is our home. One unchangeable certainty.

He will come back to me. The other eternal conviction.



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