Quick lil A/N here: Starting with an apology for not updating. I haven't had the inspiration or plot to tie in the ending so far, if that wasn't obvious by now. This chapter has been a pain for me and has undergone heavy editing about four times. And it seemed like it came out rather...boring. And it doesn't make a lot of sense...But here it is, after more editing and revising. There will also be small to non-existent fluffy moments between Yuri and Rita as I'm getting to the heart of things. On a side note, there is probably about...two more chapters and an epilogue before it's finally over.
Hope this chapter is good enough for you guys. Because I'm seriously doubting it. .~.
The sun had barely begun to rise when Yuri woke up. He blinked the sleep from his eyes and looked over to his side. He had felt someone crawl over to him in the middle of the night so finding Rita passed out on his chest wasn't a huge surprise. Her face was buried in his shirt and her fist was loosely gripped to his vest. He was slightly reluctant to do it, but Yuri moved the arm she lay on and curled it around her before starting to shake her gently.
"Rita. Wake up," he whispered.
After a couple seconds had passed, the girl shook her head slowly and held onto him tighter. She mumbled something at sounded a lot like a "I don't want to".
Yuri sighed and started to sit up. Stubbornly, Rita continued to cling to him. Yuri frowned and plucked at her cat ears. This got her to look up at him, her eyes pink and brow furrowed. He smiled.
"There you are. Come on, we've got a rough day ahead of us." He patted her on the back and she loosened her grip. "We have to wake up the others. The enemy is not just going to wait for us to take our time."
Rita gave a long exhale and wiped at her eyes before stretching quickly. She grumbled under her breath and got up, heading for the sleeping Estelle to wake her up. Yuri took to waking up his boss, the little boy sprawled on the ground and snoring loudly. Yuri knelt down and lightly gripped the little boy's shoulder. "Hey Boss. Time to storm the castle." he said quietly.
Karol's brown eyes shot open and he sat up quickly, nearly hitting Yuri with his forehead. He scrambled for his sword furiously. "Where are they? Let me at 'em!" he yelled.
Yuri grabbed Karol by the back of his shirt and pulled him into a sitting position. "Easy there, Boss. No one's here." he chuckled.
Karol looked around, his eyes adjusting to the dawn. The young boy blinked a couple times before laughing nervously. "O-oh yeah...heheh, I knew that. I was just testing you."
Yuri stood back up, observing the small campsite. He frowned after making a quick headcount. Judith had taken to fixing together a quick breakfast, Karol had moved to wake up Patty, Flynn was polishing his sword, Rita sat by Estelle and Repede was now by Yuri's side, stretching and shaking off his fur.
"We're missing someone." he said, looking around again, "where's the old man at?"
From the other end of the small site, there was a very loud response. "Who the fuck cares where the hell he ran off to?" Rita had taken to violently digging through the item bag. Estelle nervously touched the mage's back with her fingertips in an effort to calm her down. It wasn't working. The brunette continued her rant. "He's probably doing something really stupid anyway! Like...harassing some women or just being a pervert and disgusting as usual. That stupid piece of shit can just go d-..." She cut herself off and threw the bag aside. She stood up swiftly and put her hands on her hips. "He...he can take care of himself. Come on, we have to get moving."
"But, Rita... isn't Raven in a lot of danger too? Shouldn't we look for him?" Estelle asked, standing as well.
"I don't even care anymore! All I care about is kicking those guys asses and teaching them a lesson about soiling the Aspio name!" the mage retorted.
"I can see that you're not in a good mood. But charging in there recklessly and loud will ruin everything we've planned," Flynn said sternly, putting his sword away.
Rita just gave him a glare. "Shut up. The more time we waste here, the less of an impact our stakeout will have on those jerks. Let's stop asking stupid questions about stupid people and just go already!"
The brunette hurled the item bag at Karol, who caught it with a small grunt. This earned a few raised eyebrows and a surprised cry of "Rita!" from Estelle.
"Come now. We must direct that temper elsewhere. Perhaps at the enemy?" Judith said, taking a slightly aggressive step forward.
Rita glared back at her, fists clenched tightly and Yuri could almost feel the sparks that flew from her stare. He took a glance up at the skyline which was getting lighter by the second. With a small sigh, he clapped his hands loudly twice to break the tension.
"We're going to lose our cover of darkness if we stand around, yelling at each other," he stated, "that is if any darkness lasts by the time we make it there. We've still got a bit of ground to cover. Let's get going."
The party collected their things and began off in a separated, but close group. They stuck to a V-formation which tightened as the patchy woods opened up to the large empty plain. The broken Tarqaron stood out plainly before them in the distance. Luckily, the huge tower blotted out the dawns light, bathing the plain in shadow. From their distance, a few lights could be seen on the ground, unblinking and unmoving.
"What do you think those are?" Estelle asked quietly.
Patty jumped ahead of the group and pulled her binoculars to her face. After silently observing, she held them away from her eyes and turned to her group of friends.
"It's dark, but it does look like there are guards, nanoja," she commented, "but not very many. What do you think we should do about them?"
"You would think a place like this would be more heavily guarded..." Flynn mumbled, putting an armored hand to his chin.
There was a small shuffle and Yuri turned to find Rita had moved closer to him, her green eyes locked onto the field. He raised a hand and rubbed her back quickly before moving ahead. "They look pretty spread out. All we can do is avoid them." he said.
The group of eight continued on and into the open plain. They used tall grass patches for cover when available and quickly approached the fallen fortress. Through pure luck they were able avoid all the guards. And even though Yuri was glad to not encounter any of them just yet, he couldn't help but feel on edge. He found himself looking around more than usual for the pair of eyes that seemed to be on his back.
"Is that it?" Karol asked quietly.
Yuri looked at the boy for a second before where he was pointing at. There was a rather large stone gateway with dim golden runes etched all over. Behind it was a dark tunnel, leading to what appeared to be the destroyed tower. The young leader approached the gate first on tiptoe, reaching out to one of the stones with a gloved hand. He braced his body as his fingertips touched one of the rune-clad stones. The group tensed up, expecting the worst. A few moments passed where nothing happened.
"I...I think it's safe." Karol said in a quiet voice.
The little boy stayed in the lead and entered the cave first, the rest of the group following close behind. The tunnel grew darker with each step with a steadily declining slope. Yuri squinted as he followed Karol, trying to catch come kind of glimpse of his surroundings. He scoffed at the blackness. With visibility at zero, it was all he could do.
The group walked for what felt like eternity. Their footsteps, once muted by the tunnel now echoed more with more metallic clinks. Someone's footstep made a hollow clunk and a few large red pillars lit up, casting the area in a dark glow. Yuri blinked to get his eyes adjusted.
"Is everyone okay?" he asked.
"What is this place...?" Karol asked quietly.
"We're definitely in Tarqaron," Judith answered, squinting as she observed the area, "but something definitely feels...off."
"Like how no one has come to attack us yet." Yuri added.
He scanned the red room slowly, double and triple checking every nook, shadow and darker area for the enemy. He noted crumbled structures and what appeared to be stairs scattered about. From what he could tell it definitely looked like Judith was telling the truth. He was hit with a harsh flood of memories from their first venture into the tower. It was a lot brighter then, and filled to the brim with monsters.
"Which way are we supposed to go?" Estelle asked, cautiously moving forward a few steps.
Repede took the lead now, his nose to the ground, sniffing the ground for a lead. The dog seemed to pick up on a scent, for his ears perked up and he froze. His nose twitched slightly as he took a couple small whiffs of the air.
"Repede? What's the matter?" Yuri asked quietly.
The dog turned to look at him for a second before casually heading off in the direction he was looking at. Yuri followed his companion, the rest of the group cautiously following. Not too far ahead was a small lump of something on the floor. Yuri held out his arm to stop the party and gripped his scabbard with his other hand, ready to flip his weapon into an attacking position. He moved forward with Repede closer to the lump.
"This is..." Yuri knelt down and picked it up. The small lump unfurled in his grasp, dangling limply. The thing felt somewhat crusty in his hand, like a very old towel that hadn't been washed in a very long time. Even though it wasn't very bright, it was easy to see the familiar shade of purple...
"That's..." Estelle started in a voice barely a whisper.
Rita's voice rang out as her body darted forward, the girl nearly tripping over her own two feet since her body couldn't match the pace she wanted. But she made it to him and snatched the object out of his hand. The mage stared at the torn sleeve in her hands, eyes wide. For a good minute, no one said anything. Finally, Rita clenched her fists and straightened up. She turned to face the large group.
"We don't have time to fuck around anymore," she said in a stern tone, "We have to get moving. Quickly."
The young girl hastily folded the tattered sleeve and tucked it into the sash she had around her waist. She then took big strides as she walked towards the rest, who parted for her.
"Now wait, miss Mordio, we can't just wander around. That's far too dangerous." Flynn stated. Rita stopped and turned her head a little bit to show she was listening. The commandant continued. "We have no idea how much of the enemy is in here. Or how many monsters, if any. This is why we waited until now to strike. Like I said to you before, recklessly changing our plans will end badly."
Rita scoffed and folded her arms, looking away from him. "...Fine," she snapped.
Flynn ignored her comment and took a quick look around. "Now then...we had to ascend many flights of stairs to reach the top last time, did we not?"
"Do you think that will work again?" Karol asked the knight.
"It's the only lead we have," Flynn answered.
"Then let's find some stairs," Yuri added, walking to rejoin with the group. He turned to look at Judith, who returned the look for a second before smirking.
"And I suppose you want me to be your seeing-eye Krityan?" she asked, placing a hand over her chest.
"You do have better eyesight than humans, right?" Yuri asked with a grin.
Judith let out a dramatic sigh. "I suppose I'll ignore this treatment for now, until we solve our little problem."
Estelle quickly approached her, clasping her gloved hands together. "Oh thank you, Judith. We'd be lost in here without you."
The Krityan smiled at her. "That makes this job more bearable. Thank you, Estelle."
The princess smiled back, a light hue appearing on her cheeks. Judith then looked over the party before turning away, scanning the dimness for leads. She started forward slowly, scanning the entire perimeter. The rest of the group followed the lead at the same pace, hands on weapons, ready to fight.
"I think that's a staircase...that way," Judith said, pointing in a direction.
Just as everyone turned to look, Rita plowed through them to get to it.
"Miss Mordio, wait!" Flynn called out.
Rita didn't listen. She was on a mission. The staircase was only about ten feet away. Rita smirked and started to climb it, ignoring the party calling her back. The teen had managed to make it up five steps before stopping. The staircase stopped before her eyes, broken off to a dark pit below. She froze in place, eyes widening.
Then came the crack—a loud snap that echoed through the room. And the top step Rita stood on began to fall. She immediately tried to step back, but the stairs continued to crumble wherever she placed her feet. The girl was swiftly pulled back by a couple hands and against a hard body.
"Are you crazy?!" Karol's voice rang out.
The brunette turned her head up to look at who caught her. A very unhappy Yuri's gaze met her own and she shuddered a bit in his grasp. Estelle took a couple steps closer to the two, worry etched on her face.
"Rita, we're all upset by finding that. But...but we need to stay calm and not rush into things." she said.
Yuri ended it with a scolding of his own. "We've already lost one of our own. I'm not letting another one go." With that, he released her and turned to rejoin the group. Rita sheepishly followed with Estelle in tow.
The rest of the group didn't say much to her. Anything needed had already been said. Yuri noticed Flynn casually walk closer to Rita. Maybe to keep her better in check. Though he couldn't really blame the girl. Raven had left a large impression on everyone.
"You don't think all the stairs are like that, do you Judy?" he asked, getting their thoughts back on track.
Judith squinted and quickly looked around the room. "Most of these stairs seem like they're broken off at some point or another..." she said as she finished her scan, " even I'm having a little bit of trouble here."
The group continued to move on, Yuri and Flynn both flanking Rita now. The younger girl didn't seem to pleased with the situation, but only expressed it with a scowl.
"W-wait guys!" Karol's voice called with a slight echo.
The party stopped and looked at each other for just a moment before realizing Karol was standing a couple feet behind them. The young boy had taken to staring at one of the red-light pillars, which was located fairly close to him. He frowned at it.
"Something's been bothering me. L-like these things. What's even keeping them powered?" he asked.
"Let me see," Rita said, once again forcing her way through. Only this time, Flynn was right behind her, keeping a close eye on her. Rita noticed and rolled her eyes at him before stopping in front of one of the red pillars. She leaned in close to it and stared at the light with heavy concentration. Everyone waited patiently for the genius's evaluation. It wasn't much longer before her eyes widened and Rita backed away from the light. "No way..." she said heavily.
Flynn was the first to ask the question that was on everyone's minds. "What is it?"
The young mage didn't answer him. Instead she spun around and walked up to Yuri.
"Are you still wearing that sorcerers ring?" she asked sharply.
Yuri blinked a couple times and looked at his right hand. There it was, to his surprise. He had forgotten he was wearing it, it had been so long. He held up his hand to her to show it off.
"Yeah, it's right here," he said.
Rita grabbed his hand and pulled him over to the pillar. She held the ring on his hand up to the glass and waited. Soon, the ring began to glow and shine, just as it had when it's properties changed in the past. The brunette let Yuri's hand go and he let it drop back to his side.
"This is not good," Rita said, shaking her head. She turned around and faced the party. "That red light is Aer. But it's not...natural. While it is true that the rest of the supplies of Aer in the world are being depleted and replaced by Mana, there isn't enough to create all the energy in these pillars."
"So...what does that mean, nanoja?" Patty asked nervously.
"It means..." Rita stumbled on her words, placing a hand to her chin. "...If I can get a sample of this stuff, I could tell exactly what it's composed of and where it originated from."
"So why don't we just smash this open?" Yuri asked, readying his blade.
"No! You can't! That is very concentrated stuff in there!" Rita yelled, pushing his sword away, "if any of that spills out, it could suffocate us with its density." She took another look at the red light, watching it carefully. "...If we can get to the source of the flow, there might be a better chance of examining it. Maybe even getting the formula. Now, the way it wants to flow is upwards, and you can kind of see that near the glass. But there's a force pushing the flow downwards. That's more obvious to notice."
"So the source would be...upstairs?" Estelle asked.
Rita nodded at the princess. "Precisely."
"Then what are we waiting for? Let's go up!" Patty said happily, jumping in the air.
Yuri turned to Judith, who gave an over-exaggerated sigh. "I suppose you want me to begin looking again," she said, unable to hide her smile.
"If you'd be so kind," the dark swordsman grinned.
Judith chuckled to herself and looked around, squinting her eyes. "Over there looks close to the entrance when we first entered the place," she commented, nodding her head in a direction.
"What are we waiting around for then, nanoja?" Patty asked, taking a few long strides in the direction Judith acknowledged, "I want to find the leader and save my buddy! I know he's still alive I just know it!"
The party started to move onward, following Judith and Patty's lead. And as much as he wanted to believe the young pirate and trust that the oldest member of their party was still okay, he couldn't help but shake a nagging feeling that it might have already been too late.
It didn't take very long for them to reach the first set of stairs in the maze-like dungeon. Flynn stopped the party and walked ahead, testing out the steps gingerly. Though they were broken and in a much worse state than last time, the set seemed sturdy enough to climb. The rest followed him up past the floors, nearly retracing their every step from the last time they climbed the tower. Yuri kept his blade ready for action, his dark eyes constantly darting around the floors. They would pass by a monster tube and Yuri would start to move into action, only to find the once-live monster had died in the glass, leaving only a half-decayed body.
"...It's strange how nothing has come to attack us yet," he commented, taking his eyes off yet another monster corpse.
"M-maybe everything that was here died after the tower crashed back into the mountains," Karol suggested.
"As true as that sounds, it's weird that no monsters have moved in since then. It's...I don't like it," Yuri added.
"Let's just hope they continue to stay away," Estelle said.
The group continued to travel upwards and around bends, through the towers remains. However, it wasn't long until Judith came to a stop before a doorway, the others stopping right behind her. The Krityan made a disappointed noise and folded her arms.
"This looks like the end of the line, unfortunately," she announced.
Rita started to move ahead to investigate, but Yuri wasn't going to have any of that. He quickly took a couple strides to get ahead of her and turned around to face her.
"Nuh-uh. You're gotten in enough trouble today as it is," he said sternly.
Rita gave him a pout but shrugged it off. "Fine," she replied sharply.
Yuri stood there for a moment longer before turning his back on her and the party, facing the doorway. It was obvious this door lead to the outside as it had done before. The sun had risen a bit more, but still kept the majority of the mountains in shadow. The floor looked sturdy and he tested it by gingerly pressing some weight just on the other side of the threshold. Nothing was giving way so he decided to venture out further. Only by a few steps. The floor was fine, and in nearly the same condition as before. When he looked up and to the left, however, he frowned.
"Umm, guys? We have a problem here," he called back to the group.
The ex-knight turned to find Flynn had followed him out and looked in the same direction. Flynn exhaled sharply as he too saw the problem.
"There are stairs alright," the commandant sighed.
"Up there. The rest are broken off. Unless we want to do a little mountain climbing, we're not going to reach them." Yuri finished. He walked back to the group, Flynn right in front.
"Oh...now what are we going to do?" Estelle asked with a whimper.
There was a few seconds of silence before Karol spoke. "Judith! What about Ba'ul?"
Judith looked at him for a second before touching the side of her head and closed her eyes. She remained in that state for a second before letting her arm drop back to her side and re-opened her eyes to look at Karol.
"He says he would love to, but he's scared of this place. That it doesn't feel right," she answered.
"Well then how are we supposed to get up higher?" a now frustrated Karol asked.
A loud yell came from behind the party. Everyone turned to see Patty, stomping around, huffing and growling. The young pirate had moved to one of the dead tube monsters not far away from the group and was pacing in front of it.
"Damn it damn it! How are we supposed to rescue Gramps now, nanoja?!" she yelled, practically throwing a tantrum, "this place is stupid, these mages are stupid...It's not fair!" The pirate pulled her gun out of its holster and continued her vent. "All of you idiots are too cowardly to show yourselves, huh?! You have to sneak around like...like...wimps, nanoja?" She pointed her pistol at the monster in the glass. "I hope you're watching! This will be you in just moments!"
Before anyone could react, Patty unloaded five rounds into the glass, sending echos of each blast through the large room. The glass shattered, and the body of the once encased monster tumbled out onto the floor. Patty stood there now silent, staring into the broken glass tube.
"Patty! What are you doing?!" Estelle cried, running to the small girl. As she moved, her body began to glow brightly from the healing spell she began to cast.
"I'm fine, Big sis," Patty said after the princess knelt by her side,"but..."
Estelle gave Patty a questioning look before turning her attention to the broken glass.
"Y-Yuri! Everyone come here!" she called.
The party moved quickly to the two's location, Yuri in the lead. "What's the matter?" he asked quickly.
"There's runes of some sort in there!" Patty said, pointing at the inside of the tube.
Yuri grabbed part of the fallen monster and, with the help of Flynn and Repede, pulled the beast fully out of its prior cage. When he returned to investigate, he saw Patty was right. Strange and colorful symbols were etched into what looked like more glass under where the monster had been. He turned to Rita, who simply nodded before squatting in front of it to take a look. She mumbled some words and waved her hand slowly across the surface of the runes. The symbols responded and began to glow brightly. The light grew brighter and lifted from the runes themselves, floating above their glass floor.
"...What is it?" Estelle asked breathlessly, her eyes glued to the phenomenon before her.
Rita frowned at them. She muttered a few more words and drew a circle in the air with her finger around them. The symbols rearranged themselves and settled back into the glass as if they were carved in that way all along. She chuckled to herself and straightened up, a smug smile on her face.
"Problem solved," she smirked.
"Great. Now tell us what the hell you did." Yuri said.
Rita gave him a look before squatting back in front of the ruins. "Can everyone see?" she asked, "the way the ruins were before I messed with them spelled out 'stop' in ancient Maxian. But the same four symbols in a different order can also mean 'upwards'." When no one jumped on her explanation, the young mage sighed. "I basically turned this into a teleport. A crude one, but it should still work."
"Where is this going to take us?" Judith asked.
"Well...up. If there were more runes, I could probably have made it more specific..." Rita answered.
"That's a big hit-or-miss," Yuri commented, folding his arms.
Patty tapped her boot on the ground, her pistol still in hand. "We don't have a choice if we want to find the leader and Raven, nanoja. I'm voting we go and use it," she said sternly.
"She does have a point..." Flynn added.
"Oh why not? We don't have any other options. And I for one have faith in Rita," Judith smiled, turning to the mage.
The compliment made Rita blush lightly. She stood up and brushed off her uniform and cleared her throat quickly. "Well? Are we going in or what?"
Patty was the first to step onto the glass, keeping careful about it and testing her weight with one foot before finally fully standing on the plate. "It's safe enough, nanoja," she announced.
"With Patty in there, it looks like only four people can fit in at a time," Yuri observed.
Estelle stood up and entered the tube, careful of the broken glass around it. "I want to go with Patty. To make sure she'll be safe," she said, determination in her voice.
The young pirate looked up at her and smiled widely before giving the princess a hug. Estelle returned it with one arm, looking out at everyone else. Karol started moving towards the tube, but he was cut off by Flynn, who had moved fast and climbed onto the teleport first.
"I'm going with Lady Estellise. It's still part of my duties to keep her safe, even if she no longer lives in the Imperial City," he announced.
"And I'm going first too because I'm the boss!" Karol added, squeezing his way into the tube.
"When you guys get there, don't move," Yuri warned, "just wait for us to get there before anyone does anything." He focused on Flynn and added, "I'm trusting you to keep everyone safe, Flynn."
The knight nodded once and gave Yuri a small salute as best he could in his cramped quarters. Rita then stood in front of the tube and her friends inside and reached out her arms, palms out. She closed her eyes and began to speak a spell.
"" The tips of her fingers began to glow and the runes once again began to shine brightly. "" Light began to shine up from the feet of those inside the tube. "" Yuri furrowed his brow as he watched his friends. He locked eyes with Estelle, who gave him a worried look before the light engulfed all four of them. There was a snap, a bang, and they were gone.
The light quickly died down and went out shortly afterwards. Rita doubled over, putting her hands on her knees as she tried to catch her breath. Yuri stood next to her, a hand hovering just above her back.
"Are you alright?" he asked.
"Y-yeah...that was tougher than I thought," Rita panted.
"I suppose it's our turn then," Judith said, stepping into the tube.
Repede sniffed at it and whimpered quietly. He looked at his master, as if asking if it was safe.
"You'll be fine, Repede," Yuri assured the dog. He turned his attention back to Rita and helped her straighten up. "Ready to go?" he asked.
Rita nodded and entered the tube, Yuri right behind her. When Repede tried to follow, they found out his body was too long to fit in snugly. Yuri kneeled down as far as he could and scooped his companion up and on his shoulder so his front paws rested on the back of his neck.
"That better, Repede?" he asked with a smile.
The dog just barked in response and wagged his tail.
"Stay close, everyone. I'm about to cast it again," Rita said, holding out her arms once more. She repeated the spell, causing the light to engulf the small group.
Yuri felt his stomach flip and drop to his toes as the light got brighter. Then suddenly, he felt lighter than air. The weight of Repede in his arms disappeared and he found himself squeezing his arms tighter to make sure he didn't lose him. Wind began rushing through his ears and for a moment he thought he would go deaf from it. Then, in a second, everything stopped. His stomach returned to its spot and he almost stumbled from Repede's weight returning to his arms. The long-haired male blinked and waited for vision to return. It wasn't long of a wait at all. He set Repede down and took a better look at his surroundings.
Rita and Judith were still by his sides, and appeared to still be recovering from the trip. He looked past them and around the room they arrived in. The room was large. Very large. If it weren't for the bright red vertical lines in the distance, Yuri would have sworn they were outside. Large bright lines were engraved everywhere in the floors walls and ceiling. Some were small, and the ones by his feet looked at most a foot wide. But others appeared much much wider. He followed the lines patterns to where they all met up in a close-knit cluster ahead of him .The lines climbed a circular platform and into a large red sphere that rested on it. Yuri took a step backwards as he looked up above it. Hooked up to the orb was a large barrel that resembled one on a cannon.
"...Where are we?" he whispered.
He returned his gaze straight and spotted the others not too far ahead. They were close together and all looking at the weapon before them. He speedwalked to them, Rita, Judith and Repede not far behind.
"Hey," he greeted.
The first to turn and face him was Karol. The young boy was shaking and his eyes were wide.
"Y-Yuri...what is th-th-that...thing?" he squeaked.
"A weapon to re-revolutionize the world."
A deep and menacing voice came from behind the party. Everyone spun around, and Yuri threw his sheath away, ready to fight. There was a figure standing behind them. They were covered by a dark cloak with the hood down and stood just far away enough to keep his face hidden.
"Is that you, Rita Mordio?" the figure asked again, "I'm glad you decided to come here and join us...we could have used your help before. They might still be alive if you just helped us from the beginning...but as you can see, we figured it out without you."
"Who are you? Where's Raven?!" Rita yelled at the man.
"All part of the plan...The one with the Heart is serving his purpose as we speak. But it doesn't look like he will last much longer." The man opened his arms, as if looking for an embrace. "So I'm going to ask only once for the Rizomata Subject with you. After all, we can't afford to lose power because the one with the Heart is too weak."
Rita's body began to tremble. Yuri placed a hand on her shoulder in an attempt to calm her. It wasn't working.
"You... I'll kill you! I'LL KILL YOU!" Rita screamed.
The young girl darted forward towards the man, her fists raised.
"Rita wait!" Yuri called, running after her.
The man let his arms fall back to his sides. "...Then I'll use force." He moved quickly, pointing at the charging Rita and Yuri who was right behind her. There was a spark and a row of flame sprung forth from his hand. The flame quickly took the shape of a very angry Chinese dragon and rocketed towards them. Yuri didn't even think. He jumped and tackled Rita, sucessfully pushing her out of the way of the attack. Just in time for her to be safe. And only her. The flame dragon barreled into Yuri, sending him flying backwards. He cried out in pain for a second before the flames entered his lungs, forcing him to shut his mouth. He was carried upwards by the force until the flames died out. He was suspended in the air for a second before gravity took hold and sent him crashing to the ground. He felt a flare of pain spring from his back up to his neck, then nothing.