Chapter 21 - Murakumo

The elevator ride down made Noel nervous, each passing minute putting her more on edge. Every little creak and clang made her jump, her hands clasped tightly together across her stomach. The further the elevator dropped, her heart dropped with it, every part of her body radiating the same message back up to her brain: turn back. Despite her fear, Noel stepped out when the elevator hit the bottom, gathering up what little courage she could muster as the doors hissed closed behind her, sealing her in this strange basement. As she wandered around, she noticed chunks of the walls were missing, the support beams ruptured in places and large pieces of metal machinery thrown to the ground without purpose. It looked like a junkyard, all of the debris leading her to a single point, a massive pit in the floor that extended far into the darkness.

Noel approached the pit with trepidation, careful not to get too close. She knew that one false step would send her plummeting to her death. "What is all this…?" she muttered in disbelief, staring down. The pit bottomed out thirty or forty feet down, a large circular contraption spanning its width and closing it off. It looked like some kind of bird to her, wing-like structures sprouting out from the walls to cover the bottom of the pit and protect whatever might lie underneath.

As if stirred by her words, the ground began to shake below Noel's feet. Much to her surprise, she stumbled backwards instead of forwards, a powerful energy from the pit forcing her back. She held up her arms to block the force, but it snaked around her, wrapping around her body and trapping her in its hold. She wanted to struggle, scream and fight back, anything… but she didn't. The moment the force came into contact with her body, Noel's mind shut down, thoughts of escape leaving her mind with all her other consciousness. Instead, her mind was filled with images, each one a kernel of knowledge that grew in her head, sprouting like a great flower before it exploded into haze the second it formed. It felt like her brain was on fire.

Clutching her head, Noel stumbled back, trying to hold herself and her being together, each explosion of information rocking her much harder than the unstable ground below her. "Ah…" 'Static. Creation. Knowledge. Awakening. I am. Brother.' "Ahhh…" 'Existence. Number Twelve. Kusanagi. Confirmation. Destruction. Cycle. Help me.' "Ah…!" 'Experiment. Birth. Targeting. Mu. Original. Ragna. Eradication.' "Ah!"

Just as suddenly as they started, the images stopped, leaving Noel struggling to keep her balance. The ground had stopped shaking, she realized, and then she stopped swaying, her body taking over the same way it did when she wielded Bolverk. The guns, however, were absent from her hands. Noel felt her gaze turn upwards, in the direction of the pit, and she let out a mental gasp. The pit had opened up, the muted brown light now bright and orange, refracted all across the room in shades of rainbow color. In place of empty air, the pit had sent out a brilliant crystal pillar, chained and locked to metal support pieces that sprouted up from its base. As Noel watched, something rose out of the pillar, unfolding like a paper kite in the wind, slowly floating down to the floor in front of her.

Noel's eyes automatically adjusted to the light, treating it as though it didn't exist, and she was finally able to see the thing before her. It was a pale young woman, her long hair braided sloppily down her back. She was wearing some kind of body suit, talisman-studded fabric draped over her shoulders like a shawl, balancing on her bare feet without seeming to touch the floor. Slowly, the woman met Noel's gaze, her one visible eye matching the red-capped eye patch clamped to her face.

It was like looking in a mirror. They had the same face.

"Loading… Loading… Loading… Loading… Complete." The woman's voice was robotic, lifeless, a mere echo of her own, but it sounded almost exactly the same. "Target Acquired. Analyzing Target. Analyzing… Analyzing… Analyzing…"

"Analysis Complete," Noel answered, her voice flat. 'What? W-what am I saying?' "Target match confirmed."

"Target identified as Boundary Interface Prime Field Device. Requesting specifications."

'A… what device? I'm not a… a machine…' "I… I… I am… Dimensional Boundary Contact Medium Number Twelve. Anti-Sankishin Core Unit… Requesting verification of objective and intended target."

"Acknowledging existence of identical unit. Request confirmed. Dimensional Boundary Contact Medium Number Thirteen. Anti-Sankishin Core Unit… Nu. Request for verification of intended target denied. Existence of current target is a violation. Immediate Self-Destruction is advised." Noel could almost see Nu's face twitch, something between irritation and self-satisfaction, her blank face resuming its emotional void before she could process it.

'S-self-destruction…? She wants me… to kill myself?' "Request Denied. Existential sustainment is priority."

"Acknowledged. Processing… Searching Secondary Protocol for unauthorized target activation. Termination is suggested. Murakumo… Activate." As soon as the words left Nu's lips, something sent a powerful hum of energy through the air. A giant sword emerged from the crystal pillar and embedded itself in the ground behind Nu, sending out a burst of dust in its wake, smothering Nu in a grey cloud. Noel tried to shield her eyes, but she found the dust didn't reach her, her body not even responding to her simple desire. The dust cleared, and Noel saw the sword was gone, leaving behind only Nu in some sort of battle suit. It hugged her figure tightly, emphasizing the curve of her hips and shoulders as it latched onto her body. Her feet were wrapped in some sort of metal boots, allowing Noel to finally tell that she was levitating less than an inch off the ground, her arms wrapped in similar armor that protruded from her forearms in sharp blades. More blades floated behind her in a lethal fan, spread out like the wings of deadly butterfly, each sharp edge glinting in the light from the pillar. A metal visor covered her face, one red roving eye that stared into her mind flashing over her. "Activation Complete."

"Target Confirmed as hostile," Noel responded blankly. She felt Bolverk's familiar weight in her hands, some of the stress on her head lessening. All of the confusion running rampant in her brain died down until Noel could finally think, Bolverk taking the lead. "Activating defensive programming."

"Commencing Target Extermination Protocol."

Nu launched right into her assault, two of the swords on her back swinging out at Noel like thrown daggers. Bolverk reacted without hesitation, meeting each sword with a shot of distorted space, knocking them to the ground, and firing another at where Nu was standing. Much to her surprise, Nu charged right at it, disappearing just before the shot connected and reappearing on the other side, swinging her fan of swords downward, the two fallen blades rising to resume their places as she attacked. Noel brandished Bolverk and held the guns before her, letting each sword scrape harmlessly down the sides and swoop back to neutral position behind Nu.

Nu slid back, disappearing and reappearing across the space, but Bolverk was faster, collapsing together in Noel's hands to form a giant cannon. A massive amount of space condensed around Noel, changing the density in the air so drastically that she thought it was going to crush her, before Bolverk released it in a flurry of powerful shots. Nu brought up her swords to block, but the first two shots had such a velocity that they knocked the swords away, slamming Nu into the wall and hammering her deep into the concrete. When all the collapsed space had been released, Bolverk split apart again, leaving Noel to watch Nu's limp form crash to the floor, little chunks of concrete landing on her back.

Much to her surprise, though, Nu stood up again, not a scratch on her. "Damage minimal. Continuing with directive." Nu swung one of her hands down and Noel heard something ripple behind her. Bolverk kicked into overdrive, twisting Noel out of the path of one sword and counter the other with a shot, causing it to disintegrate. These swords were unlike the others, Noel noticed; they were thicker, a metallic red the color of blood, appearing out of nowhere to slice into whatever they hit, disappearing on contact. Nu waved her hand again and more swords rained down on Noel, Bolverk narrowly dodging each one, some more narrowly than others. Two cut her arms, tearing into her uniform, and one nailed her in the chest, throwing off her balance for a split second. Nu didn't waste that second, swinging out both her hands. A giant sword dropped down from the air, Bolverk barely able to pull Noel out of the way, dropping her to her knees as the sword cut into the air in front of her.

Before she even had a second to grasp her surroundings, Noel found herself rolling forward, the shifting air behind her propelling her forward. She managed to catch a glimpse of another giant sword dropping down behind her before Bolverk made her stop, dropping her heel against the ground as the guns swung out, firing off a concentrated shot. Nu was caught in the blast, the space around her condensing so tightly that she could only twitch slightly in her attempt to escape. Noel didn't give her a chance. "Releasing Armagus." Using her momentum, Bolverk flipped her up in the air, firing off more shots that left tighter pockets of distorted space in its path. Each shot was instinctual, each movement natural. Noel felt her body flow through each action like a dance, landing daintily on her feet before she danced back around Nu, firing off more shots until she could feel the distortion around Nu trying to pull her in. With Bolverk in hand, Noel stopped on a dime. "Valkyrie Veil!" She brought Bolverk together with a loud click, feeling the seithr whip past her like a wind. The distortions surrounding Nu all released at once, expanding the space again with a bang. Nu's body hit the floor again.

Noel wobbled on her feet, finally released from Bolverk's control despite still holding the guns. 'I… I can't believe I did that… Bolverk… Bolverk and I… did that… How?' She held Bolverk to her head, the cool metal pressing against her forehead, sobering her up and bringing her back to reality. Her heart was pounding in her chest, blood rushing through her ears, but her heart nearly stopped when she heard something beside her move. 'What?'


Noel barely had time to turn her head before a volley of swords came hurling at her from a portal in front of Nu, who was back on her feet, not even a single scratch visible on her armor. She tried to block, but the swords were much too fast, slicing along her arms and legs, colliding sharply with her torso with such force that it pushed her off her feet and sent her flying into a support pillar. The world spun before Noel's eyes and she hit the ground on her knees, her long hair spilling down her shoulders as her hat hit the floor beside her. She tried to move, to run or fight back, but Noel's body didn't respond, her mind stunned into silence.

Nu smiled a thin, victorious smile as she raised one hand over her head, her voice still monotone. "From beyond the realm of souls and birth, I call upon Ur's sword to bring ruin upon my enemies!" The air above Nu's hand rippled and split, the tip of a giant blade protruding out from the darkness. "Perish!" She lowered her hand, the sword moved forward from the darkness, and Noel could only close her eyes in fear.

'Why…? Why is this happening…? Why does she… want me dead…? I'm so hungry… I wish I could see Tsubaki and Makoto again… I wish I could see my parents again… I don't… I don't… want to… I… don't want to die!' She cringed, her grip on Bolverk tightening as she waited for her life to end, unable to save herself. Instead of death, her ears were met with a masculine roar of effort and a loud grinding sound that vanished in a metallic shatter. Her shoulders shaking, Noel finally managed to open her eyes and broke out into uncontrollable tears.

Her vision was filled with red, someone's back taking up her entire frame of view. He was so tall, towering over her crouched form, his broad shoulders raised, one hand holding his massive sword, the other cloaked in the blackness of his red-tipped claw. Even though she couldn't see his face, something about him seemed so familiar, so nostalgic and comforting that the mere sight of him brought tears to her eyes. She wanted to jump to her feet and pull him into an embrace, hold him close and never let him go, no matter how much her rational mind protested. All she could do was stare at his back, the back of her mysterious savior who had swooped in like an angel of death to protect her, and cry her eyes out.

He quickly glanced over his shoulder at her, her tearstained gaze meeting his red eye. She could see the surprise evident on his face, but it passed as suddenly as it had appeared. "Just stay where you are," he told her, something soft in his eyes that seemed almost like kindness, "This'll be over soon." Then he stabbed his sword into the floor beside him, turning back to face Nu. "Sorry I'm late. Dealing with that masked bastard took longer than I thought."

Nu hovered in place for a moment, completely still, before there was a bright flash and her armor retracted, reforming into a sword behind her. Her robotic neutrality had been replaced with a bright smile, her eye wide with excitement. "Ragna!" she cried, her voice filled with childish glee. Noel felt a shiver run down her spine. "You finally came, Ragna! You came for me!" She let out a giggle. "I'm so happy to see you, Ragna. Did you come here to kill me again?"

Noel felt her throat constricting. 'Kill her… again…? Ragna… Ragna… the Bloodedge…?' She found herself staring at Ragna's back again, feeling more tears spill down her cheeks. 'Rag…na…? Why… do I feel like… I know you? Why… is all this happening…?'

Ragna clenched his fingers tightly, the claws digging into the black void of his hand. "Not kill. I'm here to destroy you. Plain and simple."

"But that's the same thing either way," Nu said, tilting her head in confusion. She smiled again. "That's alright. Since Ragna's late, we have more time to play. …You know… last time hurt so much. Ragna plays so rough with Nu. Nu couldn't speak last time, but you slashed at me so hard that I thought I was going to die! You got blood everywhere!"

"Shut up," Ragna hissed, barely audible.

"You slashed and stabbed at Nu so hard. Stabbed right into me. Right through. There was so much blood. But I know, Ragna… Nu knows it."

"Shut up!"

"Nu knows, Ragna. The way Ragna stabbed so hard… You were enjoying yourself, weren't you? I could tell, because-"

"Shut up!"

"-You were smiling, right? Right at the end, weren't you laughing, Ragna…?"

Ragna made a disgusted grunt in reply, twisting his head slightly to look down at his arm, flexing his clawed fingers.

Nu ignored the distraction. "But this time…! This time Nu has a body, so Ragna can be as rough as he wants. Ragna can slash at Nu all he wants! Or…" her smile dropped into a more sinister grin, "would you prefer if things were the same as last time…?"

"Shut up!" Ragna roared back, his voice echoing off the walls. Noel nearly jumped out of her skin, watching the back of Ragna's jacket crumple between his shoulder blades. She could almost feel the anger rolling off him in waves. "I told you to shut up! That face…! That voice…! Don't you dare talk to me! I'm here to end you! Understand?"

Noel flinched. 'Her face… My face… Her voice… My voice… Why is he so angry…?' Her hands shook harder, Bolverk having dissipated in the argument. 'Why… does he hate her so much…?'

There was a moment of silence before Nu broke into a mischievous smile. "As I thought," she chucked. Her visible red eye narrowed to match her grin, making her look smug. "Ragna is the same as Nu. You just want to end everything. You just want to destroy everything. Nu… Anyone who stands in your way… This entire world… Isn't that right, Ragna? You just want to destroy, right?" She let out a shrill laugh and the sword behind her collapsed into armor, coating her body in a flash of light. "Come to me, Ragna! Come into my arms and we'll destroy this world together! Because only I can give you what you long for! Only I can satisfy you!"

Accepting her invitation, Ragna tore his blade from the floor and charged, roaring in effort and rage. Nu dashed forward to meet him, disappearing and reappearing behind him. She swung her arms out and a sword dropped from the ceiling towards Ragna's face. Swinging his sword out, he cut it in half, using his clawed hand to follow up. Nu used the swords of her armor to knock his hand up and away, leaving him wide open. Another portal opened up in front of Nu as Ragna was regaining his balance, launching a volley of swords at its new target. Ragna swung his blade upwards, a black monstrous head of dark energy rising up out of the floor, disintegrating any swords it hit. As the blades cut through the head, Ragna swung his clawed arm up, another massive wave of dark energy shattering every sword it touched. That, however, was shredded faster than the first, and Ragna swung his sword down, another almost wing-like energy wave cutting down through the seemingly endless projectiles.

Somehow, even that wasn't enough. Nu's swords cut through the air unhindered, slicing through the last wave of Ragna's attack. Unlike the swords from before, these ones were solid, embedding themselves in Ragna's body, in his shoulders, in his legs, and in his chest. Ragna skidded across the floor, bumping up against a support post, hunched over in pain. Slowly, Nu slid across the floor, her arms wide. "Now, Ragna… Join with me…"

"Like hell!" Ragna shouted, swinging his clawed arm up. It clamped down on Nu's head and he lifted her up as high as he could, long needles of dark bloodlike energy jabbing out of ground, each one slicing through the air and breaking a piece of Nu's armor with an earsplitting screech. The claw shattered and Ragna dropped Nu's body to the floor, panting heavily. "Sorry."

Noel felt her heart skip, tension rising in her chest. 'No… No… She's not done! She'll get back up!' Just as she expected, four more swords appeared behind Ragna and stabbed into his back as Nu rose to her feet, her long braid unraveling behind her.

Even though Noel couldn't she her face, she knew Nu was smiling. "You can't change it, Ragna! You can't change anything! This was meant to happen!" She slid forward and pulled Ragna into her arms, stifling his shaky attempts at escape in her firm grasp. "You and I… We're destined to become one! So come to me, Ragna… Fall into my arms! Let's melt together in the Cauldron… and destroy everything!" Behind her, the shattered pieces of Nu's armor rose into the air and formed a large sword. It stabbed Nu through the back and she let out an excited laugh, ignoring Ragna as blood began pouring from between his lips and his eyes twitched and fluttered closed, the sword buried deep in his chest. Then, slowly, Nu began sliding forward, pushing the two of them towards the pit in the floor.

Noel heard her own scream of terror, but it sounded hollow and far away. She could feel her heart thudding in her chest, feel the stinging of her eyes as rapidly blinked away her tears, and the pounding of blood through her veins. She couldn't comprehend a thing around her except the unexplained terror in her heart until she realized she was running and threw out her hand.

Ragna opened his eyes to brilliant sunshine. It was summer, the warm air wafting through the trees. The sunlight filtering through the leaves was a light green, soft and gentle. He could hear all the sounds of home around him, the calm rush of the river, the Sister calling out his name, and the cicadas filling the air with their usual summer song. Ragna felt perfectly at peace, unable to remember just what he'd been doing minutes before. He figured that, whatever it was, it wasn't that important. He didn't usually forget important things so easily.

He felt tired as well. The shade under the tree was his favorite napping spot, where he would come day after day, avoiding all the useless chores the sister tried to foist on him. He was about to close his eyes and sleep when a soft shadow fell over him, blocking out the sun's light.
"Huh?" Ragna blinked, trying to make out who it was, but their face was blocked out by the sun. Something about them felt familiar, though. They smiled, and Ragna could see the edges of their mouth rise in a warm smile. "Oh, hey. It's you, Saya. Feeling any better today?" She was always getting sick and, as the older brother, it was his job to worry about her well-being. She was far too kind to deserve getting sick so often.

Saya, however, didn't speak a word.

Ragna felt his eyebrows knit together. "What wrong? Has Jin been picking on you again?" 'If he has, I'll certainly have a lot to talk to him about… Maybe… a nap first, and then I'll lecture that little pest…' An image of Jin's face, a cruel, deranged smile playing on his lips, flashed in Ragna's head, but he quickly brushed it away, not knowing where it came from. His mind was clouded with sleep. "I'm exhausted," he mumbled, stifling a yawn. "I can barely keep my eyes open…"

"…the… n't… p…"

Ragna blinked again, looking at Saya's face. Her long blond hair shielded her eyes from his view. "Huh? You say something…? I didn't hear you. Sorry."

Saya opened her eyes in a wider smile, eyes green eyes meeting his own as she spoke. "Brother, don't give up."

"Give me your hand!"

Ragna's eyes snapped open and everything came back to him, feeling the sharp point of the sword buried in his chest. Without waiting to collect himself, he swung his arm out with all the remaining strength he could gather, latching on to the outstretched hand above him. With his other arm, he grabbed at the sword in his chest and pulled, the blade's smooth edges slipping cleanly from his skin. Nu, unable to wrap her arms around him again, reached out and grabbed for his arm as she fell, but Ragna yanked his arm away, meeting Nu's eyes one final time before she disappeared into the flames. 'I'm sorry… Saya…'

Collecting as much strength as he could, Ragna pulled himself back out of the Cauldron and collapsed on the floor, his breathing ragged around the gaping hole in his chest. His savior, the girl he had rescued, was kneeling on the floor beside him, her long hair fanned out around her shoulders. Ragna found himself staring at her, watching her wipe the tears from her eyes. 'She really does… look like Saya…'

Then she opened her mouth. "What do you think you're doing? How can you do that?" She started tearing up again, her clear green eyes hazy with unshed tears. "Please don't scare me like that! I was so worried about you…" Her lips started to quiver, as if she were suppressing sobs. "Seriously, how can you scare me like that? I… I…" The tears began flowing freely from her eyes. "Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid!"

Ragna could only stare at the girl as she started crying and pounding her fists on his chest like a little kid having a temper tantrum. "Hey, what are you-?"

"Stupid! Stupid! Stupid! Stupid! Stupid! Stupid! Stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid!"

"Will you cut it out?" Ragna snapped at her. Each fist she slammed against his chest was making it harder to breathe, his injuries flaring up more. 'For someone who said she was worried, she doesn't care she might kill me…'

Startled, she flinched, pulling her arms back to her chest. "…Stupid…"

'Oh crap, now I've really upset her…' "I mean… I guess I'm… sorry," he muttered, feeling immensely awkward. "My bad…" 'Though I don't really understand what I'm apologizing for…'

Unfortunately, his apology had the opposite effect. The girl started sobbing louder, burying her face in his chest. Ragna could only watch as she cried, her shoulders shaking. Something tense inside Ragna's chest lightened and he shrugged, giving the girl an awkward one-armed hug. 'She really does remind me of Saya…' he thought, managing a lopsided smile.

Eventually, her tears stopped and she grew still. Ragna lifted his arm off her shoulders and looked down at her face, seeing her damp face pressed into his shirt as she breathed. 'She's asleep, huh? Geez…' "What the hell's going on…?" he wondered aloud, carefully detangling himself from her hold and lying her gently on the floor. Looking around, he walked over and picked up Blood-Scythe, giving it an experimental swing before returning it to his back, grateful to have his weapon back.

There was a familiar sound behind Ragna, and he turned around to find Rachel standing behind him, carefully balancing her Nago umbrella on her shoulder as she fixed her hair. Something about the casual way she strolled in really pissed Ragna off, even though his heartbeat pounded hardest in his chest at the sight of her. She cast a cursory glance at him before she turned to the girl, looking down at her. "You are always asleep when we meet," she said with a sigh, shaking her head slightly.

"Hey, rabbit. Who's this?" Ragna asked, his chest aching even more than before.

"The new eye," she replied, as if that explained everything.

"'Eye'? The hell's that?" He stretched, rolling a kink out of his neck. "As expected, you wouldn't dare explain it in words I could understand."

Rachel turned, staring at him levelly. Ragna felt her eyes meet his, their firmness and beauty commanding all of his attention before she spoke. "She is the one who inherits the true Azure, not that pitiful fragment of an imitation you have now."

'What…?' As if stirred by her words, Ragna finally realized that his arm was reacting to the girl, drawn towards her as it had to others with the power of the Boundary. Through it, he could feel the power of the Azure radiating from her, much stronger and clearer than anything he had ever drawn on. 'This thing… is a fake? And… a piece of a fake…? But…' Ragna found his mind reeling, unable to wrap his head around just what kind of lie he'd been living.

"The world will change."

Ragna looked over at Rachel as she tapped her umbrella on the toes of her shoes, much to Nago's disdain. She looked up at him, her eyes much softer than before, almost natural rather than cold, a slight twitch of her lips making her smile. "A great deal will happen that is beyond my understanding. I cannot say I enjoy the prospect, but something about it… excites me."

"While you stand on the sidelines, watching, making everyone else in this world your playthings… There's nothing exciting about it," Ragna snapped back, glaring into the Cauldron, if only to avoid looking at Rachel again. 'It's hard to stay mad at her when she… when she looks so…'

He heard Rachel giggle. "I suppose so. It is high time I step away from the audience and join the actors on this stage." Without another word, she warped out again.

"Hey, Rach…el…" Ragna tried to stop her, but she vanished before he could call her, leaving him standing alone, watching the girl who had saved him sleep soundly on the floor.

When Rachel stepped out of her warp portal, she stood in absolute silence, suspended in midair. She was standing above the city of Kagutsuchi, as if she had waltzed out onto an invisible platform someone had placed there in preparation for her. The air was much colder up that high, and Rachel took a moment to imagine Ragna's warmth beside her before she dashed the idea from her mind. 'This is hardly the time for such distractions. If I wish to save Ragna's life, then I need to focus on the task at hand.' "Nago, Gii."

"Yes, Princess?" they answered in unison.

"A moment please. It would be best if you moved to a safe distance."

Nago shuddered. "Princess?"

Rachel felt what she was waiting for, feeling its energy drawing closer. "Quickly!" Not wanting to disobey her, they both vanished, leaving Rachel on her own. Slowly, she took a deep breath, drawing the magical energy flowing around her into her fingertips. 'I had not expected to be pushed to this kind of extreme. I must say… this is very entertaining. But Ragna… I believe your actions will be far more entertaining…' "Come, child. I believe I shall be your playmate this time."

In response, the energy above Rachel concentrated and released, speeding down from beyond the atmosphere towards her. Rachel casually listed her arms over her head, feeling the air around her tremble, feeling the blood pounding through her veins humming in excitement.

"Nulliplex restriction mechanism release, dimensional interruption imaginary number developing," she chanted. Above her, a giant golden crest formed; not her own, but one immensely more powerful. Its power filled her body and flowed through it, each second of its activation like a miniature electrical shock to her system. "Connecting to congenital border. Activating Tsukuyomi Unit."

From the sky, a giant beam of energy blasted through the clouds and warped its way down towards Kagutsuchi, the golden crest the only thing between them. As soon as the energy beam hit the crest, it stopped and coalesced on the surface, condensing into a white ball. With a twitch of her fingers, the ball split and diverted, each piece flying in a different direction, changing the landscape wherever they landed. Below, Kagutsuchi remained untouched.

'It's useless. Not even a Nox Nyctores of that size could penetrate Tsukuyomi's absolute defense.' "It will be four years until you awaken again, young one. Until then… rest."

Noel was already half awake when the ground started rumbling, but what really woke her up was the loud voice.

"Whoa, what the hell…?"

Stretching her sore limbs, Noel sat up and rubbed her eyes, looking around. Slowly, the large red and black blur in front of her became a person, and she was able to make out two mismatched eyes looking down at her. "Oh, you awake now?" he asked, sounding a bit relieved.

She stared at him blankly, looking around at the ruined scenery before returning her stare to his face. '…Where…? Who…?' Finally, she remembered exactly where she was, her eyebrows shooting up as far as they would go as she finally registered just who was standing in front of her. "Ah!" Noel scrambled to her feet, holding her empty hands out in a battle pose, not noticing that she wasn't holding Bolverk anymore. "R-Ragna the Bloodedge! You're under silent! You have the right to remain arrest!"

Ragna stared at her, one eyebrow raised in confusion. "You're not making any sense. Just… calm down, alright?"

Suddenly, there was a chill in the air, making Noel's skin tingle. Ragna reacted more violently, his shoulders rising as he crouched down and reached back for his sword. There was a loud laugh, one that chilled Noel even more, and she turned around.

In that moment, three things happened. Noel heard a strange warping sound, like something Bolverk would make, and a female voice shouted "Noel! Do not look at him!", sounding very proper. Despite the warning, Noel managed to turn halfway, her eyes catching a glimpse of Captain Hazama, his eyes open, each golden orb staring deep into her own. She saw his lips move, but she didn't hear anything, a red blur passing her with a loud scream of rage.