I sincerely apologize for being away for so long. I procrastinated, real life got in the way and I lost inspiration along the way in the form of ponies. It was only because of a little song I listened to that reminded me how much I love you guys for reading my stories. I promised I'd finish this story, and I'll be damned if I can't keep that promise! (sound like anyone to you?)

So without further ado, here's chapter 18, and what a monster it is!

Themes are: Don't Think About Elephants (bonus track) - Inception soundtrack, Cold Blood – Silent Hill 6: Homecoming OST, For the New Lunar Republic - Hymn to the Moon VOCAL MIX (Miu vs. NotACleverPony) and Promise - Silent Hill 2 OST

Chapter 18: Promise

Grey clouds that had collected around the Legacy had yet again begun to spray rain onto the huge ship. Only this time, the raindrops were so tiny and fine that it created a light mist, combining with the already numerous amount of water in puddles and with the dew from the trees. The same occurrence happened in the Crystal Forest, where the water had begun to drip from the top tiers to land with a musical plop onto the crystallized floors below. All of the plip-plops of the rain falling through the towering spirals of glass made the air filled with the music of thousands of ringing drops.

One drop, however, did not chime out musically when it hit the crystal, for it didn't hit the translucent glass at all. It pattered onto a girl's shoulder silently; water soaking into the yellow fabric to create a darkened wet spot. The girl hadn't noticed the drop falling on her shoulder, instead focusing on putting one foot in front of the other. Her face was pale, and cool sweat had begun to create a light sheen on her forehead as her symptoms steadily came back.

Where was it…? The Everlight, where was it hiding? Norma thought, feeling her arm start to throb, the painful sensation starting to spread up her arm through the rest of her body. She didn't care what it took to continue, she just did. "I'll find it, Master… I'll find the Everlight for you. I'll show them… it's real." She told Sven aloud, continuing to walk down the echoing walkway deeper into the forest.

x x x

Back near the entrance of the crystallized forest, another crystalantula had been kicked aside by a well-placed kick. The enormous spider went sliding across the crystal, legs scrambling for purchase on the smooth glassy surface. With an inhuman shriek, it slipped off the edge of the suspended platform and disappeared into the depths below, pebbles and tiny shards of crystal following it in its fall.

Ready to smack any more monsters that came their way, Senel's fists tightened their grip, eres shining bright as ever. A few feet behind him, Walter stood somewhat unsteadily, but concentrating on casting what spells he did know, staying away from combat for the moment. Ever since the two entered the Crystal Forest, crystalantulas seemed to attack them non-stop, crawling out of every nook and cranny to defend their nests.

The blond finished chanting out his spell and not too soon afterwards huge balls of ice and snow swirled around the area like a swarm of hornets. The hailstones clattered roughly against the hard shells of the spiders, while others hit their marks against the softer parts of their exoskeletons. The few that survived the storm of ice were quickly dispatched by a few powerful attacks from the other eren.

Taking the moment to swallow down a pineapple gel, Senel looked over at the blond, who was closing his eyes for a brief moment. "Hey, are you doing alright over there?"

"I'm not completely useless, you know!" Walter bit back, sending a glare in the other's direction.

Senel leaned back slightly. Just as snappy as ever… "Fine, I was only asking…" Looking at the path in front of him, he said, "So where exactly is Norma in all of this?"

He heard his temporary teammate walk up behind him, stopping slightly beside him, "It was a ways in… She went down a path near…" Walter's eyebrows scrunched up in thought as he fought to bring the specific memory to the surface. "It was on the edge of a large flat clearing, with two long cracks in either side. It was near where the main path was."

Senel remembered the moment that Norma had first joined their party. Showing off her eres, she had split a wall of crystal to let them through to the other side. "That must have been where Norma destroyed that wall…" He mumbled to himself in thought.

"What was that?"

Senel shook his head and turned to him, "Nevermind, forget I said that… She must have gone to the very edge of the forest, right before the exit."

"Oh great…" Walter rubbed his face for a moment, and then started walking with a slight wince on his face. The other eren stared for a moment in thought, then continued after him. "This would have been so much easier if I could just fly there..." The blond muttered to himself aloud.

"You can't use your wings?" The white-haired eren asked, scanning the area ahead of them for any signs of more crystal spiders or other monsters ready to attack.

The Ferines rolled his eyes, "No, I can use them just fine at the moment. Even if I'm injured, I can still use my teriques, case and point being our fight in the Mirage Palace. I just don't feel confident in being able to fight off a horde of crystalantulas without a meat shield."

Senel nodded at his explanation, but stopped abruptly when he heard his last line, "Hey, wait a minute!"

x x x

Walter ended up eating his words a short while later, after the two warriors had been surrounded by a large group of monsters including a few Phyxs and Eryngi who wandered in from the grassy plains outside. A few brightly-colored Peepits watched from an overhanging platform, eyes gleaming but staying away from the fray until the other monsters had cleared out.

"What was that about being your meatshield, Walter?" Senel asked, peering at him from out of the corner of his eyes. "Because it certainly looks like it isn't going to do you much good with all of the monsters here…"

"Oh shut up, Senel." The Ferines growled back, glaring at a rather ugly Eryngi, shooting out plumes of greenish-violet spores as it moved from side to side.

"Any ideas on how to get ourselves out of this mess?" Senel asked, turning back to cautiously eye a hulking Crystalantula.

"Other than me flying off and leaving you here?"

"Not the time, Walter!"

Turning off the sarcasm at the moment, Walter thought for a moment. "…It's a rather large group, and most of them save for a few of the phyxes are slow and make for large targets. If we can take out the phyxes, we can move over to one of those higher platforms…" He pointed over to a platform hanging about ten feet off the ground above the clearing. "…Then you can hold them off pretty easily and I can use a few spells to take out the rest."

Senel nodded, "Sounds simple enough…"

Walter let out a breath, "Only problem is getting over there…" He looked over the tops of the monsters before getting an idea. "Senel, how good at you at skipping?"

The white-haired eren turned to blink at him in confusion. "…What?"

"3-2-1-Go!" Walter leapt up on one of the eryngi then propelled off of it onto another crystalaltula, the fungi monster collapsing in on itself in a cloud of spores. Before the Crystalantula could rear up and grab onto the leg of the Ferines on its head with a wicked-looking claw, he pushed off the spider onto another one, wings sprouting from his back in a flash.

Senel finally got what had happened, and turned to punch a phyx away from him before doing the same. Leaping over the giant arachnids, he saw Walter clearing the edge of the monsters and running at a dead sprint towards the edge of the platform. Senel cleared it not a moment after and was right on his tail. Walter paused for just a moment to look behind him, at Senel running in his direction and the hoard of monsters and fiends behind him. "…That's a lot of monsters…" He commented lightly, eyes wide, before flying up to grab the edge.

Senel saw his chance, and leapt up to try and grab the platform, realizing he was just short of reaching it. Instead, he tried again and grabbed onto Walter's foot. Part of him relished that surprised squawk of pain from the blond.

Walter looked down at the eren, who just realized he was still in charging distance of the stampeding crystalantula behind him. Shoving his pride off the edge of the cliff, he looked at the blond with wild eyes, "Pull me up! Pull me up!" Gritting his teeth, he swung forwards, then backwards and managed to swing both himself and Senel up onto the platform right before the huge spider crashed into the edge of the platform, thoroughly knocking itself out. Walter let his forehead hit his crossed arms in front of him with a small sigh of relief.

…Before he felt a shadow cross his vision and see Senel punch an incoming phyx away from the platform. Suddenly realizing the second part of his plan, he leapt into action and his hands glowed with light as he quickly chanted out an incantation in Relares.

Senel turned to swipe down another phyx who was coming after Walter with claws extended, and ended up being nearly run over by a peepit who began to enter the fray. With all this, on top of the monster below trying to reach up and topple over the platform they stood on, and the phyxes flying around, it was pure chaos in that small portion of the forest.

Suddenly, Walter finally finished his spell and waved his arm with a flourish and shouted, "Blizzard!" Tiny shards of ice began ripping through the air, shredding through the wings of the creatures in the air and ripping apart the thin gelatinous membrane of the few eryngis. A few crystalantulas has shards pierce the small spaces between their armor, but were otherwise unharmed.

Senel beat away one of the last peepits there while Walter cast an Indignation spell, taking care of the last of the crystalantulas. With a soft sigh of relief, he turned and looked into the depths of the forest. The two had barely entered the forest and it was literally crawling with monsters, and going any further would bring out even more and waste what precious time they had. Swallowing down his worry, the eren turned and looked over at the blond. "Walter…"

He looked up at the serious tone, giving him his attention (for once). Senel exhaled, "Look, this is taking way too long; at the rate we're going we'll be too late to save Norma." There was that look again. He was just as worried as the rest of them. He shoved his thoughts away before continuing on. "You go ahead of me. You can fly around all of the monsters and get there faster than running along the passaged with me."

Senel probably should have been pleased at Walter's expression. He almost seemed confused at Senel's insistence he leave him to go find Norma, and he hesitated for a few moments. "You sure you can survive without me?" There's the old Walter, snarky as ever.

He couldn't help but smile back, "Can you not collapse without me around?" The blond seemed to shrug it off the statement. Fair enough.As his wings flared out and he turned to fly off, Senel spoke up, "Walter…" He turned to lock eyes with him, his piercing gaze against his determined one. "…You'd better save her, or..." He finished weakly, letting his worry show through.

The blond gave him a grim smile with furrowed brows, "Or die trying." He finished for him, then took to the air and disappeared around a platform high in the air.

Senel stood there for a moment, watching him leave, then leapt off the platform and continued onwards into the maze of glass and monsters.

x x x

He lightly tapped down upon the crystalline ground, the glassy surface dull from years of being trodden on by monster and human alike. As Walter's wings faded away, he stood up from his crouched position and looked around at his surroundings. He remembered there was some sort of rift in the wall... One that had probably formed from one of the earthquakes, which led down to the lower levels of the forest. But where was it?

Eyes narrowing for a moment, he quickly scanned the clearing around the outer walls; it had to be here... ...There! Over by a large wall, an outcrop of icy-blue crystal had cast a shadow over part of the wall, shrouding a pathway from view. A few moments later, the blond was staring down a darkened pathway, cracked shards lying by the walls from where the wall had shifted and cracked open. Swallowing hard, he took one cautious step after another into the darkness.

Here, there was no sunlight shining down through blue glass. The walls were thick, and filled with what seemed to be veins of rock. What little light the entrance gave cast long shadows along the ground and the wall, creating the effect of dancing shapes. Soon, even that light was gone, and Walter had to use the light of his eres to see by. Icicle-looking crystals hung from the walls and ceiling, making shadows bounce across the tunnel and the light bounce off of the glass.

Or it would have, had there not been mist forming around his feet as he walked farther and farther down into the depths... The Ferines waved his eres-lit fingers at the mist, but it just fell back into place a moment later. Even from the small amount that was here, he still felt its effects on him. Nervousness grew in his mind, and he couldn't help but worry about Norma.

He felt doubt rising in his mind, about whether or not he could even save her from that woman... if she was still there. What if she had gone down another pathway, and he had gone the wrong way? What if his efforts were in vain...? Was it even worth trying then?

Walter reached into a pocket and felt the small vial filled with her antidote, the fluid sloshing around beneath the cool glass. ...No, he refused to give up. He would save Norma, no matter what. He made a promise to protect her, and he refused to break that promise. Looking up with resolve in his eyes, he stubbornly kicked away the mist and continued down the dark path. Strange shadowy figure be damned, he'd fight to the bitter end to save her.

Further down the path, the tunnel began to lighten up. The dark veins in the crystal seemed to disappear, and water trickled down one of the walls and down the path. The eres disappeared from Walter's fingertips as he walked down the path. The water cut across the path in a shallow crack, then flowed down the side in what looked like a ditch.

At the bottom, the tunnel's walls and ceiling arched outward as he entered a circular room, completely shrouded in black mist. The echoes of water pattering into a small pool was the only thing he could hear, which gave him something to focus on other than the loud silence in this underground area.

Walter's eyes flicked from side to side, before letting out a sigh. It was impossible to find anything in this mist, let alone his bubbly companion. Swallowing, he took one cautious step after another into the dark fog. Soon after he did so, the mist began to thin and disappear. Little by little, the mist vanished, and the room became clearer. Enough that he could see two shapes up ahead...

Two human figures. One was lying on their side facing away from him, clad in yellow clothing. Her brown hair had shifted away from her neck, and the yellow hair bauble she wore was clinging to her hair by only a few strands. ...Norma.

The other figure was tall, curvy and wore black; her face was hidden by a black mask, with turquoise hair in a long flowing braid atop her head. Her hand was stretched over the younger girl's form, and her hand was hidden by mist.

Tiny strands of light seemed to float around Norma's still body, spiraling upwards like trails of smoke, pooling into the woman's hand and fading away into the black mist. It was like... like Norma's eres was vanishing into the masked women. Her magic, her...

Walter's eres activated in a blast of light, swirling around his fist until they became a dark lavender color under his violet eres. Eres streaking behind him, he charged.

x x x

Another flurry of slashes from a knight's sword, and the dragon finally fell, slain by the combined efforts of Will, Chloe and Jay. As the frost dragon stopped moving, Chloe paused to catch her breath, beads of sweat beginning to run down her forehead. All around her, dragons lay where they fell, their various wounds created from axes, swords, magic and other unorthodox but none-the-less lethal objects.

After Walter had met with her and left, Jay and the Oresoren had arrived to help with the battle, and the tides turned. The citizens of the town, bandits, talking otters and the Fun Bunch combined forces and overcame the dragons that had swarmed their town. Bandits armed to the teeth fought viciously in the park, Oresoren took the western part of town and the rest of the citizens helped, especially around the shops and fountain areas. Hell, Moses and his gang even got to take down their second dragon; a huge behemoth of a monster, a dark-colored dragon spewing black fire everywhere.

Now, there were few dragons left in the city. What monsters that hadn't already fled or been killed were fighting the citizens who had taken up arms, and even then, there were few left. Chloe sidestepped the torn wing of a fire dragon, and went to find the others. As she reached entrance of the fountain plaza, she heard her name being called, and stopped in her tracks. Looking behind her, she saw Shirley running towards her, braids bouncing with her footsteps.

Turning to face her, the Merines slowed to a stop, pressing a hand to her chest as she tried to catch a breather. "Chloe! Good to... see that you're... ok!" She panted.

Chloe smiled at her, "Same to you, Shirley."

"Oi! Chloe, Shirley, there you are!" The two girls turned to see Moses and Grune running their way. Moses looked like he had been run over by a wagon and set on fire, but was otherwise alright, while Grune was mysteriously pristine and unharmed.

"Moses, Grune; good to see you two are... alright." The knight made a motion towards his hair, which was still slightly smoking.

He peered up at his hair and waved it off. "Eh, just another battle scar. Anywho, y'all know where Will, Senel and the twerp are hidin'?"

"Who are you accusing of hiding, Moses?" Jay and Will walked up to them from the fountain, tired but not too injured. Jay crossed his arms, ignoring the few strands that had escaped his ponytail and hung in his face, "Nice hair, by the way. It's a good look for you."

"Oh ha ha, ya ain't lookin' too hot yourself."

Will shook his head, "Alright, settle down, all of you. Moses, is the park cleared of dragons yet?"

"My crew's just finishin' up, up there."

"The wealthy district is free from any dragons, along with the shops." Shirley spoke up.

"And the Oresoren are taking care of anything up by the hospital." Jay finished.

Will nodded, and Chloe sighed in relief. "Well, now that this little mess was taken care of, let's go find Senel and get Norma that antidote."

While the rest of the group nodded, Chloe felt a feeling of dread flood through her mind. Walter had gone to find Senel, who had the antidote... Oh dear.

Shirley noticed that the knight standing beside her turned pale, and didn't seem as happy as the rest of them to go find Senel and save Norma. "...Chloe, are you alright?" This seemed to snap the knight out of her thoughts. "You seem a little... distracted."

"I-I'm fine! It's just..."

Now the rest of them were starting to give her concerned expressions. "Somethin' bothering ya?"

Well, better late than never. She might as well tell them why she was so nervous all of a sudden. "Well... You know that I gave Senel the antidote to hold on to, right?"

"Yeah, so?" Moses shrugged.

Chloe bit her lip. "...Well... Someone may have gone to go see him and get said antidote, to go and save Norma themselves..." She averted her eyes for a moment, her cheeks turning a little pink. Her fingers fidgeted with the hilt of her sword, idly running her fingers along the familiar metal.

Jay gave her a serious look. "...Chloe, who is this person...?" Somehow, he already knew the answer to his question, along with two other people in the Fun Bunch.

"..." She cringed. "Ok, maybe I told him to go get the antidote from Senel, but he looked so differentfrom the last time we fought or even saw him, and it looked like because Senel hasn't been around that he was with him too and it wouldn't be so bad if the two of them were togeth-"

"Chloe!" Will interrupted her out-of-character rambling. "Who was it?"

A moment of silence passed by. "...Walter?"

Will looked shocked, Grune was indifferent (a smile on her face, as always) and the other three shared a nervous look. Walter... and Senel... together?

"Oh, crap!" Moses exclaimed, while Shirley opted for one of the less offensive terms, "Oh dear... This won't end well."

Will narrowed his eyes at the three, suspicions starting to grow at their muted reactions. Chloe noticed this too, and stopped playing with her sword to stare at them. "Wait a minute..."

Jay shook his head in exasperation, "That idiot... Knowing him, he's just going to pick a fight with Senel."

Shirley looked over at him quickly, "Even if he was mad at him still... which he is, I doubt he'd let Norma's life be in danger though."

"You guys..." Chloe started, not believing what she was hearing. Not only had Walter met her... But apparently all three of them, and by the sounds of it, Norma too! And they had hid it from them? For how long? "You mean...!"

"Oh, so you three know Wally?" Grune chirped, her head tilting to one side with a smile.

The five shot flabbergasted stared at the tall woman, who seemed completely unaware of the situation. "You've met Walter too!" Jay, Moses, Shirley and Chloe shouted in unison, and then stared at one another in shock.

"What, you too?" Moses shouted, causing Jay to put a hand to his ear, "Quit yelling, you stupid bandit!"

"What about you three! You all knew about... you all met him and didn't bother to tell us!" Chloe accused the three, pointing a finger at them.

"Hey, don't look at me, I barged in on the two after the dragon; I never even knew he was alive until I saw him high-tailin' out of that forest." Moses defended himself.

"Wait... barged in on what?" Shirley asked, her cheeks growing pink.

"And you too, Shirley! How could you, deceiving Senel and the rest of us?" Chloe spoke harshly.

"Leave her out of it, Chloe. She was the one who helped head Norma and Walter after she nearly died trying to save his butt-" Jay started, before being interrupted.

"Wait, that was because of him!"

"-He would have died if Shirley hadn't been around!"

"So you mean to say that Norma's been hiding him all this time, and-"

"Did you interrupt anything they were-"

"QUIET!" Will's loud shout quieted the other voices, who turned to look at the surprisingly-calm historian. "You've all met Walter, and didn't tell any of the rest of us, I get it.We've got more important things to do, like saving Norma." The four instantly straightened, their faces hardened with resolve.

They made to walk towards the entrance to the duct, but he held a hand out in front of them. "Hold on one moment..." He walked up to the four, gave them all a hard stare, and clonked each of them over the head. "That was for later, when I give each and every one of you a lecture and another one of those for not telling me about Walter."

Jay rubbed his head, and then closed his eyes in submission, "Fine... For right now, let's go save Norma."

"Chaaarge!" Grune cheered, a fist pumped in the air with a grin on her face.

x x x

The woman known as Schwartz turned at the rage-filled scream, and saw a blinding light cutting through the black mist surrounding her. A young Ferines man, with cutting eyes the color of the icy crystal surrounding her, with violet light shrouding his fists in power. The same light streamed out behind him in the shape of wings, which propelled him even faster towards her.

"Get away from her!" He screamed, eyes blazing as he swung at her only for her to leap gracefully away from him. Standing near the girl's body protectively, he glared daggers at her and leaned down to check on the girl. His face softened and clenched up in pain when he looked down at her. Ah... so this was her guardian. Her so-called protector, whom stopped her last time.

The black mist curled around her form like a blanket, but she let it slide from her form and pool around the form, her form now clear in the misty chamber. "She has already begun her rest, and shall not awaken from your pleading." She stated, her voice cutting through the air like the mist was never there.

This only seemed to warp the young man back to the situation at hand, for he slowly stood to his feet and glared at her. Unfortunately for the emotional human, he could not kill her with a gaze. The powerful lights flickering in his hands swirled in the air as he spoke. "Who are you...? Why do you keep coming back, infusing monsters with your dark mist and trying to kill Norma?" His hard, frosty voice cut through the air as cleanly as hers did, perhaps more-so. He was confident, and was smart enough to acknowledge her as a powerful opponent.

Schwartz gazed back at him emotionlessly, "I am not killing her. The child simply realizes that there is no shame in giving up. So do all eventually... She will rest in an eternal slumber, free from worry and doubts."

"You're killing her!" The man repeated himself, eyes blazing. "That dark mist of yours feeds on negative emotions, and it makes her doubt herself and give up... You're taking advantage of her weakness, so you can steal her life away!" In cue with his words, the light around his fists flared with his anger.

The woman ignored his words, and focused on the dark emotions resting inside of him. There were so many to choose from... Hatred. Doubt. Sorrow. They made the mist swirl around his feet, eager to absorb the emotions flooding out of him. For this individual to have so many emotions in himself, yet still remain firm in his convictions was... admirable in a human, but in all irrelevant.

"I can see your thoughts, child... I can see your reluctance to continue protecting others, and what pain it has caused you then and now." Ah, there it is... The man's hardened mask cracked a miniscule fracture... It was enough.

"Life is difficult. It is full of pain, hatred... and despair." The crack grew; he was listening to her now. "You've lost much in your life, and know more than others how harsh life is. Why continue? Why risk feeling that same pain again, and again, and again? It does not end, child, but continues in an endless cycle of destruction."

The man faltered with his words, not able to say a thing. He bowed his head, and his hands went limp, light seeping out of them as the mist swirled around him. Schwartz continued. "There is someone from your past, whom you've lost and miss dearly. Constant sorrow surrounds every thought of this person. ...They would understand your ceasing of your duties. You could rest finally, and be free of the hatred, sorrow and pain that stab at you every moment. All you have to do is give up."

The man was motionless, the glow around his hands having vanished like the mist that surrounds him. The wings behind him had slowly vanished as well, leaving this one man staring at the floor alone and nearly defeated. Schwartz did not smile at her 'victory'; he was simply another child of man who chose not to continue the petty circle of despair that was life. Slowly, her heels clacked silently against the floor as she walked towards him, mist darkening in her wake.

Without warning, however, she felt a change in the air, like when he had first entered. A small shimmer of violet light flickered from one of his fingernails, then two. After a long moment, the room burst into light, blinding the woman and evaporating the mist around him. Backed away from him for a moment from the unexpected flash, she looked back towards him.

The blond man stared not at the floor, but at the girl he stood protectively over. His fists were flaring with bright light, and it reflected in his stern eyes as he looked back at her. His face surprisingly calm for one who's eyes blazed with the weapon who wrestled his doubt away from her grasp. Resolve.

"No." He began. "I refuse to just lie down and give up. Not now, not after how hard I worked my ass off sticking around with this girl. ...Not after I promised I'd always be there for her." He straightened, and stretched his arms into a fighting position. "I neverbreak my promises... and I'm going to cave your face in for making me ever think I could!"

The man was predictable in his next move. He charged at her, lashing out with his fists, but never landing a hit on her. She moved away, to the opposite side of the chamber from where he and the girl were. Sensing no other way to deal with the human, and still wanting the child, she gathered up the dark mist around her into a dark orb.

"I see there shall be no changing your mind..." The orb crackled with a white light within the pulsating dark. Pressing her hands together, the lights seemed to twist and conjoin with each other.

"Very well then... You leave me but with little choice." Her hands, closed like a prayer in front of her, slowly extended away from each other, revealing a glowing cylindrical shape, growing longer and longer as she pulled her hands away. Soon her hands had extended away enough that her hands opened, and her arms spread away from her.

The shape was a long glowing pole, with a strange shape on the end. The black and white light soon solidified into a weapon. It was a long black pole topped with gold caps, and the head of the halberd was made up of many lunar-like curves and sharp points. One end held four spear-like tips like a drawing of a sun, while the other end had a long, curved blade the shape of a crescent. These two joined in the center where a deep burgundy-purple orb was set.

The halberd fell lightly into her open palms, which twirled round the weapon in a combo that would slay most opponents, and stopped to hold it behind her, her other arm outstretched as if waiting to cast a devastating spell. "I shall grant you everlasting slumber, child... Back into that dark abyss from where you came from."

The man in front of her took a deep breath and steeled himself for a harsh battle, and then took the first move.

x x x

Senel punched yet another crystalantula off the pathway, leaving it to skitter for a grip down one of the other mushroom-like platforms of a crystalized tree. He had been right in that it would take longer on the ground-level then in the air; he had probably cleared out at least a dozen crystalantulas, and more monsters then he'd care to remember at the moment. He was exhausted, sore, and his fists felt like lead at the moment.

Still, he preferred fighting alone to the alternative of Walter being with him, and they got there too late to save Norma. At least like this, Walter had a chance of getting there in time, and when he reached them Norma would be as good as new. …He hoped that would be the case. Still, while Walter wasn't the easiest person to be around, even with their newly-found truce, he knew the blond wouldn't let a life slip through his fingers on his watch. Even Norma… especially Norma.

The sound of yelling reached his ears, and he turned to see a group of six dashing towards him. Senel had never been so glad to see his friends.

"Coolidge, there you are!" Chloe shouted in relief.

"Senel, are you alright?" Shirley asked when they reached him, instantly pulling out her quill and performing a quick first-aid spell when she saw the scrapes on his arms.

"I'm fine, Shirley, but thanks." He waved off his scrapes, and grabbed a pineapple gel from someone to get back a little stamina.

Jay spoke next, not noticing the blond Ferines that had apparently been with him. "Is Walter with you? Did you two find Norma?"

Senel shook his head, "No, Walter and I split off around ten minutes ago. It was faster to fly, and he couldn't carry me in his condition, so I went around and he flew straight through."

"Wait, 'condition'? Was he injured?" Will asked.

"Long story. And no, we haven't found Norma, or at least I haven't. I'm not sure where either of them is, though I'm sure he'll find her." Senel finished.

Chloe stared at him for a long moment. "…Who are you and what have you done with the real Senel Coolidge?"

He realized she was talking about his nonchalant attitude with the blond. "Again, long story, but we really need to catch up to him in either case; he might need help with some of the monsters around here."

Moses nodded, and held up her Relares notebook, "Geit has Bubbles' scent with this; we'll find her faster with this."

Will nodded, "We better hurry. Her symptoms are going to get worse without that antidote…"

Senel agreed. "Alright, let's go everyone!" The group agreed, and they hurried ahead, Geit and Moses leading the way. The white-haired eren felt more confident with his friends there, but still, a worrying feeling nagged at his chest. He knew Walter would find her… He only hoped he could defend both himself and Norma against whatever might be ahead.

x x x

The punch had been a bit obvious, Walter had to admit, though she shouldn't have seen the spell he had been chanting under his breath before hand! His Icicle Volt spell crashed into the ground between them, and she sliced the huge chunk of ice in half, leaping over it to slam her halberd into the ground. He barely rolled away in time, and then had to backflip away as she slashed at the spot he had been standing in before.

The woman brought her pole arm back towards her, and spoke, "I underestimated your evasive maneuvers… However, how long before you tire and I claim the final blow?" She swung her halberd around in circled before spinning around herself and bringing the weapon in an outward arc towards him. He backed away, but not before it sliced his forearm.

Walter fell back with a cry of pain, and had to activate his wings to fly back from her spear. He dashed back away from her, resisting the urge to look down to grab a gel. He couldn't afford to take his eyes off of her, from how fast she was and how long of a reach that bladed weapon had. He couldn't even get close enough to attack her. "Damn it…" He muttered to himself as she paused for a moment.

She brought her fingers up as if ready to perform at a symphony, but her fingers began to glow and a circle of energy rose up around her feet and made her dress flutter from the updraft. It was then he realized her intension. "Shit!" He dashed quickly towards her while she was distracted and tried to land in a hit, but she side-stepped his attack and by then her spell had reached completion. She made a throwing gesture and a huge ball of light shined almost to a blinding state above his head.

His eyes widened and he quickly ducked his head back and brought his wings up to shield him as it began to rain blinding flashes of light. A few hit his back, and he cringed from the sting but was otherwise fine. He couldn't help but smirk a bit. Didn't she know Ferines were resistant to light and sea-based spells? His wings parted as he launched himself at her, landing a few blows to her side and shoulder before she glided away. In just a split moment, he was on the defensive again, dodging away from her spinning halberd.

Having enough of this, he flew up towards the ceiling of the cavern and charged up a spell, "This outta hit her… Blizzard!" Shards of ice filled the room, pummeling the woman into submission. …Or it would be, if she hadn't been blocking most of them by spinning her blade in a circle against the wind. A few had managed to get through, shredding pieced of her clothing or slicing off a few strands of hair, but at the end of the spell she was practically untouched.

"What…? It didn't even faze her!" Walter exclaimed to himself. Gritting his teeth in frustration, he charged another Icicle Volt spell when she leapt up to his height, taking the blunt end of her weapon and slamming it into him without a word.

The blond hit the ground with a crash, shards of crystalized stone flying everywhere. Spiderweb fractures and cracks spread outwards from the small crater the blond lay in, dazed and in pain from the attack. The attack had him struggling to keep conscious, and he guessed he'd probably have a concussion from that. Not to mention there was now a sizeable shard of crystal stuck in the back of his shoulder.

Struggling to pull himself out of the rubble, he saw the black-formed figure glide back down to earth from where she leapt up. Gritting his teeth, he managed to stand up, aim a hand towards her and aim an Indignation spell at her. She easily dodged it and chanted a spell of her own. The air grew super-heated around him, and he barely had the chance to dodge away before a wave of superheated flame tumbled down onto the spot where he was. Cracks closed up as the crystal seemed to melt and bubble, leaving the small crater scorched and lumpy after the spell faded.

Walter let out a breath, and turned back towards the women, who had sped up to appear right in front of him while he was trying to regain his composure and easily batted him away, leaving him to slide away on the smooth floor.

"Are you losing momentum?" She asked lightly when he had shifted slightly; bringing a hand up to clutch at the ribs she might have broken but otherwise stayed in place. "I can sense a growing doubt in you, child. Why resist eternal rest?"

"Because I promised Norma I'd protect her!" Walter yelled back, biting back a groan as he got back to his feet, his resolve and determination refusing to waver one bit.

The woman seemed to raise an eyebrow, but her emotionless voice and masked face hid no such speculation. "A promise is but words from one person to another. In the end, they are meaningless and broken, so why continue on when it is inevitably in vain?"

Walter gritted his teeth together, ignoring her words, "Because. I. PROMISED! I won't bow down to your pretty words, and I won't abandon my friend!" Fatigue forgotten, he charged at her again, hands flaring with an almost blinding light. The black-clad woman was now in the defensive, dodging his attacks and bringing her halberd up to block a few of them. Even through this, he got in a few hits, particularly one to her mask, which had begun to crack apart.

After a while, the woman's hands seemed to glow and she batted him away with her weapon before leaping into the air, "Enough of this!" She let go of her weapon, letting it drift away from her while bringing her hands together. Her hands didn't glow, but seemed to suck in all the light around them, the black abyss flickering with a malevolent violet light that skittered across them like lightning. She brought them up and aimed it at Walter with a shout, "Nihil Solo!"

For a moment, Walter couldn't feel anything but a wave of pain, continuous and blinding. He managed finally to open his eyes and automatically move into a standing position. The attack had blasted him away from the area and slammed him into the wall, which explained the warm liquid dripping down his neck from the back of his head. His back spasmed when he tried to shift to his side, and he was probably black and blue all over. Even through all of that, he looked ahead of him and saw that the women had turned away from him and slowly walked away… towards Norma.

Trying to get to his feet, he used his wings to help himself up. He once again chanted out a quiet spell, then cast Indignation on the women. "I won't let you take her…" He whispered mostly to himself. He had to say, he was rather surprised the spell actually hit her, knocking loose her weapon out of her hands as electricity ran through her form. The bolt of lightning from the ceiling hit her dead center, and she fell to her knees. He couldn't help but smirk. "Finally, I can hit you!" Walter wasted no time in rushing over to try and take the advantage in their mostly one-sided battle, but as she got back to her feet, she ended it.

In a moment, she had vanished away from his sight. He turned around behind him, and heard a voice whispering in his ear from right behind him. "This battle is over." He turned to try and lay a hit on her, or even to try and dodge away like he had always done, but a cool sharp blade had stopped him in his tracks.

The darkly-clad women, mask cracking at the edged from where he had hit it before, brought her long fingers up to caress his face, careful to avoid the bloody edge of the halberd. "…This battle is over, child." She repeated. "While your infinite determination and resolve is admirable, one can only go on for as long as one's body allows them. You are injured, weak and tired. Rest…" She brought her fingers back to her weapon and with a swift tug, pulled the bladed crescent blade out of the Ferines' chest. The blond wavered for a moment before collapsing to his knees, a choked gasp finally escaping.

The woman swung the weapon in a wide arc, blood spattering the ground but no longer coating the black and silvery metal. She turned on her heel and turned to walk away, "Give up, and rest in that dark abyss from whence you came."

The entire time she had been speaking in that low, dark comforting voice, Walter had been trying to move, to do anything but be stuck on that weapon of hers and forced to listen to her. He choked and clutched at his chest, blood staining his clothing and dripping onto the floor. Damn it Walter, get up!He gritted his teeth and tried to stand, but only managed to fall forwards onto his free hand, fingertips barely sparking with his violet eres.

Come on, you idiot! You're doing exactly what she wants you to! Walter thought to himself. He looked past the shadowy woman to the prone form of the girl behind her. Norma. She needs you; she'll die if you don't help her. She needs to find her Everlight, and horse around with her friends, and...

Walter realized something in that short space of time when Schwartz was walking away and he was trying to keep from bleeding to death. You'd miss her, Wally.In a short amount of time, she's taken Fenimore's place and even more; she became his best friend. His roommate, his comrade along with all of her friends. So much that even if he were to survive this day, he'd never recover if he lost her. He couldn't think of not having her around.

'Save her, you idiot.'His mind gave one last push, and his resolve came back in full force again.

Gritting his teeth and pushing himself back up, the Ferines finally stood back up, so shakily that he nearly fell over again. Staring down the back of the women walking towards Norma, he activated his wings again and violet light drifted back into view. Giving an experimental flap with them and his hand clenching into a fist, he rose into the air and sped towards the woman.

She had launched the Ferines into the ground, used Nihil Solo on him and even stabbed him in the chest with her halberd. She had expected him to be bleeding to death, having given up. So, Schwartz was very surprised when she heard a cry of anger behind her. "Get away from her, you bitch!" She turned just in time to see the blond Ferines, bloodied and furious, slam a fist into her face and launch her backwards into the far-off wall.

Walter landed in front of Norma, widening his stance for a more aggressive stance in case she came at him with her halberd again. Sure enough, she stepped out of the dust and debris with fury in her eyes… which he actually could see now. Parts of her mask had broken off, and she was clutching at the last half of it, leaving part of her face uncovered. He was pleased to see her forehead had traces of blood on it, and anger in her eyes (for once, somewhat emotional).

"Why won't you die? Why do you refuse to part with this world and return to the abyss?" She asked her tone dark with fury.

Walter simply smirked, "Because I promised her I would protect her." Ohh, the reaction he got was priceless.

She made to dash towards him, ready to run him through and blast him into a thousand pieces when she suddenly stopped, a shard of her mask falling with the movement. She seemed to cock her head up and try to hear a distant sound, but before he had a chance to think of it further she turned back towards him. "My other half is here, and I must be gone. The time is not ready for this world's slumber. However, the girl's soul is safe for but a time; I shall return for her… and you." She let her weapon drop out of her hand and it vanished into a plume of black smoke when it hit the ground.

Walter stared right back at her, blue eyes piercing. "And I'll be waiting to knock you in your other cheek, lady."

She gave no response. The woman looked into his direction one last time, and vanished. The black mist surrounding the area faded away, leaving the battlefield's air clear and lit by the bluish hue of the stone around them.

It was in that moment that Walter let go of the tough-guy act and finally let out a shaking gasp, slowly sinking to his knees. He felt the adrenaline from the fight wearing off, and with that, the pain of his wounds came back in full force. Gritting his teeth, he didn't want to know how badly he was injured- well, more then he knew he was, anyway- but the blood splatters on the crystal ground around him didn't paint a pretty picture.

Slowly getting to his feet, the Ferines turned towards Norma. Even if that shadowy woman and her black mist was gone, poison was still coursing through her system; she needed that antidote. Finally finding the small bottle in his bag, he slowly limped over to where she lay, ignoring the pain flaring in his chest.

Kneeling next to the brunette, he hesitated when he looked at her face, looking as if she was just sleeping. Unfamiliar thoughts ran their way through his foggy mind, but he shook them away. After shoving the thoughts into a dark corner in his mind, he uncorked the top of the bottle, nose wrinkling at the smell.

Tilting Norma's head up, he slowly poured the medicine down her mouth, carefully making sure she swallowed every drop. Letting the bottle slip from his fingers, the hollow clattering sound filled the stifling silence of the room, mixing with the pattering sounds of water dripping and his shallow breathing.

A small relieved smile lit Walter's face when she began breathing normally again. Her flushed cheeks began to regain their normal color, and she slept easier than before.

"Norma's... okay again." Walter thought to himself, holding a hand tight against his chest and trying not to think about the wheezing sound in his voice as he exhaled. He gritted his teeth as he risked a peek at his wound. Biting back a choked whimper, he turned his attention to trying to find an elixir in his bag, or really anything, and found… nothing. From when he crashed into the wall, all of the bottles had been smashed and their contents mixed together. Knowing there were a few light bottles for repelling monsters in there, he didn't want to try his luck.

He let himself lean back onto the floor with a thump, a tired chuckle spilling from him, "Well damn…" He said to himself, trying to ignore that cold numbing sensation spreading through his arms and legs, taking away the sharp pains and replacing them with a dull throb.

Walter wasn't an idiot by any means; he knew what dying felt like. He turned to looked over at Norma for a moment, vision blurring a bit at the edges. He knew going up against that shadowy woman wouldn't have been a picnic, but she was gone and Norma was safe. Wasn't that what he came here for? …Was she worth dying for?

He finally closed his eyes and let himself drift off, a faint smile appearing on his face, "…Yeah, it was worth it."

x x x

Feel free to kill me now, readers… I probably deserve it.