Disclaimer:I own no characters in this fic...save for Tash and I kinda own a little bit of Emily... Everything else belongs to other Society members.
A/N:This is a fanfiction for the Anti-Cliche and Mary-Sue Elimination Society. You haven't heard of us? Well you'd better not read this then – you'll be very very confused.
By Christ I am so sorry for the wait everyone! When left with the task of kicking season two into life, I fail to deliver at a speedy time. I owe my wonderful boyfriend so much thanks for doing the bulk of the fight scenes, which we all know I'm rubbish at.
Anyway, biggest point – this does push the plot forwards. Yes this fic upsets the status quo somewhat. But before anyone comes to whine at me like an old vacuum cleaner, I'd like to pre-emptively advise you to pop a continuity disclaimer at the top of your story if it will be affected. It's not that hard. Its just a little note saying "This fic takes place before Complicated Plot Twist". There. You see? Doesn't hurt. If it does hurt I suggest you take your computer to PC World, because it's clearly developing sentience and started eating your hands.
I wouldn't usually bother to warn everyone about the tiny paragraph of girl on girl making out at the beginning of this fic – after the Rule 34 contest I know that we all have no shame – but I know if I don't warn you, someone is going to come and whine at me for 'scarring them for life'.
Right, that's it. It's posted. Now if we could keep season two moving at a slightly faster pace than a colony of turtles crossing the Sahara that would be great...
Insert Complicated Plot Twist Here
The graze on Emily's knee stung worse than the one on her elbow, and she fought to keep still as Valerie dabbed antiseptic on it. The hospital wing was otherwise deserted, the swinging doors the only indication that someone had left. Jess had spotted Emily limping back into the building after school, and marched her straight to the hospital wing, before hurrying off to check on Leonard.
"So what did you do this time?" Valerie asked. "Climb the school roof again?"
The girl rolled her eyes. "Not this time. Just Natalie picking on Miki again. I took care of it."
She didn't sound proud of herself, which Valerie was pleased to hear. Still, it did beg the question of what she'd done.
"You got into a fight?" the healer guessed.
"She pushed me first!" Emily protested.
"And you got this?" Valerie continued pointing at the injured knee. "And then you pushed her back. What did she get out of all this?"
Emily thought for a moment. "I think from the way she landed I may have sprained her wrist...I'll know tomorrow if she's writing properly or not."
The healer's disapproving gaze seemed to register to Emily and she hastily shut up.
"You know this won't deter them," she told her.
Emily shrugged. "I know that. Ever since Aster paid Sonia a visit that time, her friends have just got worse. But I can't just sit back and let them talk like that to Anna and Miki. You didn't hear the kind of things they were saying."
She huffed, puffing the loose strands of her fringe out of her face, as Valerie went to retrieve a plaster for her knee. "Y'know, I think it's time I listened to the family motto again."
Valerie raised an eyebrow. "Which would be...?"
"Veni, vidi, eviscere lupa," Emily recited. "I came, I saw, I ripped the bitch's guts out."
The healer was surprised, but she supposed that given the Foxblade's angry feelings towards their creator, the motto made sense.
A vibration went off in Emily's pocket and she jumped as Valerie stuck the plaster down. Carefully, she scooted off the bed and rolled her trouser leg down.
"Thanks Val. I'll see you later."
She felt the healer's suspicious gaze on the back of her head as she hurried across the wing. Quickening her pace as the double doors swung shut behind her, she snagged the buzzing phone from her school blazer, and braced herself for the onslaught of questions that were bound to follow from her friends.
"...hello Palm Tree."
The phone slipped from Emily's shocked grasp, and fell with a clatter to the floor. Stumbling into a crouch, she scrambled to pick the phone up in her shaking hands.
She knew it was impossible. That there was no way it could be happening. But there was no mistaking the way her name had been spoken or the delicate way the next breath was drawn.
"Yes...its been a while," the voice was melodic, and reminded Emily of songbirds. It was the voice of her childhood, that had scolded her when she had misbehaved, and comforted her when she had nightmares. It was the voice that had sung the Sue to victory in Sue Factor three years ago. It was Willowe.
"You're alive?" Emily's mind had shut down, processing only the long lost voice of her big sister.
There was a pause. "I am. I...need to talk to you, face to face. Can you get out of the Library?"
"Yes," Emily was whispering now, fully aware that no one must hear who she was talking to, or what she was about to reveal. "I can generate my own plotholes."
"Come to the Twilight fandom," her sister urged. "I'll find you once you're in. Be as quick as you can."
And the line went dead.
Emily was becoming more familiar with the Twilight fandom than she cared to admit.
She had read the books after learning that it was where Willowe had spent the last of her days before the war. She also felt she should read it, after all the abuse she heard the Society throwing at it, just to see what all the fuss was about. She hadn't enjoyed it much – the feminist in her had screamed, stamped, and thrown things at the wall, while the rest of her had had trouble getting around the idea that these vampires sparkled. She was achingly familiar with the park in Forks, for it was where her sister's secret instructions had brought her to retrieve the hairclip she now never took off, and so it was here that she entered through the plothole, shivering as she sat down on the bench, wrapping her school blazer around her shoulders tighter than normal. Every nerve in her body was taut.
Emily felt goosebumps rise on her arms, and she wished that she had brought her supersoaker with her. She had forgotten when she rushed in that this was the fandom where the Pro-Cliche and Mary-Sue Protection Society had used to dump the fugitive Mary-Sues under their protection. She glanced nervously around, fully expecting someone to jump her where she sat, and she got up and paced, chewing her thumb nail as she did.
It was quiet in this corner of the park, and she relaxed slightly. The ducks were paddling leisurely across the pond, and on the other side of the field, was the playground and the park cafe, the faint sounds of screaming and laughing children coming from it. There was no one here but her and the ducks...no one except...
A tall auburn haired woman was walking down the path toward the pond. Her strides were unhurried, and as she caught sight of Emily, the most radiant smile imaginable blossomed across her face.
Emily's hands covered her mouth to catch the gasp before it could escape. Her heart was thudding against her ribs, and tears were scalding her eyes. She was vaguely aware of them spilling over onto her cheeks, and her quick hyperventilating against her palms. A gentle hand rested on her shoulder, and her body seemed to stop.
There was no flashy entrance, or impressive display of powers, but there didn't need to be. It was Willowe, her big sister, healthy, breathing, and smiling at her warmly, with tears in her deep violet eyes. That was all Emily needed.
Sobs bursting out of her, the girl seized her sister around the waist, and squeezed tight. Willowe's arms held her close and stroked her hair.
"I missed you Palm Tree..."
"Please? Just once more?"
Rolling her eyes, Tash smacked Phoenixia's naughty hands away. "I just showered. And besides, we've been at it for nearly two hours already. Emiushere is tapped...and so am I!" she added, seeing the hopeful look in the eye of the naked woman sprawled on the bed.
Pouting, Phoenixia turned her head towards the bathroom, where the sounds of Adrian in the shower were easily audible. "Not fair...I'm still so horny..."
"Sort it out yourself."
"Oh poor little Phoenixia...sad that now they've got what they want from you they're kicking you out of the bed..."
Phoenixia's eyes narrowed into a frown. "Shut up..."
"Why should I? I'm just speaking the truth."
"Nixie?" Tash was leaning over the ex-hologram, anxiety all over her face. "You okay? You're glaring at my ceiling like it just insulted you..."
Firmly shutting the malicious voice out, Phoenixia forced herself to smile. "I'm fine."
Tash's face fell, and she traced circles on the blanket. "I'm sorry...I'm just exhausted. I'm not immortal like you and Adrian. You guys seem to have super human stamina."
"Oh we do," grabbing the leader's wrists, Phoenixia pulled Tash back to the bed, and rolled on top of her. "Wanna see?"
"Nixie!" Tash squeaked. "I said..."
She was silenced by a kiss that had her melting back into the mattress. Phoenixia's teasing tongue made light work of any protests she may have had, and a soft moan parted her lips enough for the ex-hologram to snake her way in. Lightly she slipped her hands under the leader's tshirt and began to caress her sides, frowning at the bra that was now in her way again. She smirked as running her fingers along the cups drew a small whimper from the pinned young woman.
Her body went abruptly cold.
"What did you say?"
"You know what I said," the voice giggled softly. "You can kiss her, and talk sweet to her all you want. But we all know you're just a slut, trying to make yourself feel better..."
"I told you to shut up!"
"You think I care what you want me to do? You're just a whore. How could you ever hope to control me?"
"I beat you once before, and I'll do it again."
Tash smiled softly as the kiss broke. "You're wicked. But this proves nothing except that I have crappy resolve, Nixie..."
Vaguely she could see a smirk blooming across her friend's face.
"Oh I aim to prove a lot."
The voice was a dark and menacing hiss, but Tash barely had time to register, as Phoenixia's strong hands slammed into her throat, and squeezed hard. Gasping in shock she tried to draw breath, but failed as her windpipe was crushed. The pain was unbearable, and even as she grasped at the hands that strangled her she knew it was no use. The grip was just too strong. Panicking she pushed hard against the strong body that pinned her down, but it was no use. Her vision was blackening and she had no breath left to scream. A pair of triumphant pink eyes were all she could see.
"...Nixie..." she could barely manage her friend's name. She didn't know if she was begging for breath or trying to call her friend back from wherever the hell she had gone. The eyes seemed to flick between pink and violet. Knowing she only had a little strength left, Tash raised her arm slowly to stroke Phoenixia's cheek. The eye colour flicked back and forth like a strobe light, before suddenly snapping back to violet. Phoenixia ripped her hands away from Tash's throat with a frightened scream, leaving the leader to roll over and suck air desperately into her lungs.
Skidding on the wet floor, Adrian shot into the room, dressing gown loosely tied around his waist. He saw Phoenixia pressing both hands hard against her forehead, and Tash lying on her stomach coughing hard. His eyes narrowing, the Librarian took in the red marks on his girlfriend's neck, and the way Phoenixia's hands shook, even when braced against her skull.
"What happened?" he demanded. At the sound of his voice, Phoenixia's eyes snapped open again, violet and fearful. Kicking the covers away from her legs, she scrambled about the floor for her clothes.
"Phoenixia, what happened?" it had been a long time since the Librarian had felt this anxious, and he knew something was very wrong. Ignoring his question, the sentient computer darted from the room, not even noticing that she was pulling her clothes on back to front.
"Tashy?" worried and confused, Adrian crawled onto the bed and stroked his girlfriend's hair as her breathing evened out again. "Are you okay? What happened?"
The leader shook her head. "I don't know..."
"I almost killed her...I almost killed Tashy..."
"Yes you did," she could almost hear the smirk in the back of her mind. "You grabbed that pretty little neck of hers and you squeezed the life out of her. Didn't it feel good? Feeling her gasp? Feeling her struggle? Knowing that she was going to die by your hands..."
"Stop it! You're insane!"
"Takes one to know one, Phoenixia."
She was decent again, but she still felt naked to the voice. Tears were pouring down her cheeks, but she made no move to wipe them away. She could still feel Tash's throat in her hands, her pulse beating frantically against her palm...
Hearing voices coming from the other end of the corridor, she ducked into the monitor room, and curled up tightly into the chair, drawing her knees up to her chest, and resting her head in her arms. The squishy computer chair enclosed her, and she vaguely noticed Incadescent Silverreign where she had left it two hours ago, behind the door. The monitor screens flicked slowly through fandoms, showing no signs of threat. Their tranquil state seemed to mock her own chaotic thoughts.
"I'm a monster..."
"Look at you. Whimpering like a child. You're pathetic. Crying over people who don't really care. Who never will care, because you're just a slut. A slut who can't control her own mind, and who can't even stop herself from harming people she thinks she loves. People are going to die around you, Phoenixia, and you can't save them –"
The alarms blared from the screens, and the voice mercifully went silent. Phoenixia snapped her head up and scanned the screens, just as Tash and Adrian shot into the room. For an awkward moment, all three of them stared at each other, and the noise of the alarms seemed to fade into obscurity.
"Phoenixia..." it was Adrian who eventually spoke. "Are you...?"
"Yeah..." the woman nodded, more firmly as she resolved that she could hide this no longer. As soon as they sorted this alert out, she would tell Adrian everything. And see if Tash would forgive her. "I need to talk to you both...later."
"Sure," Tash nodded, a weak smile on her face, but her voice was faint. Phoenixia caught sight of the leader's neck, dark bruises already starting to form, and she instantly felt guilty again.
"Pull up the alert. Let's have a look," Adrian ordered, and Phoenixia hastily tapped a few buttons. A new window popped onto the screen, and all three of them gasped in horror.
"Emily!" Tash's voice was high pitched even when raspy. "What the hell is she doing in the Twilight fandom?"
"More importantly..." Adrian leaned over Phoenixia's shoulder, and froze the image in place, before pointing at the screen. "Who the hell is that she's with?"
"What flavour do you want?" Willowe paused in ordering, and turned towards Emily. "Its my treat."
Guiltily, Emily remembered that she didn't have any money – she had run out of the Library without her schoolbag. "Chocolate with raspberry sauce?"
"Coming right up," the young man behind the till gave a winning smile as he turned back towards Willowe. "And for you?"
As her sister handed the money over, Emily was struck by how normal this all felt. It had been so long since she had seen her sister, and even longer since they had had eaten together, but it felt comfortable. It was almost like Willowe had never left her sisters to go and find a home for them all...almost like she had never died.
"Your change, and your two cones." The cashier handed them over, and Emily quickly took hers and began to lick the melting bits off the side. Willowe meanwhile, took the change, and scrutinised the paper napkin that the young man had given her with a string of numbers across it.
"What is this?" she asked in an almost tired voice. The young man winked.
"Maybe I'll buy you ice cream next time."
Rolling her eyes at the less than subtle flirting, Willowe pocketed the number and headed for the nearest table. Emily pulled a face at the man before following her.
"Some things don't change," she commented, as she sat down across from Willowe, who was licking the ball of ice cream daintily. "Any time you're in public someone still asks you out."
"You don't get the same treatment?" Willowe asked. "You are my sister after all, and equally beautiful already."
Blushing, Emily bit into her ice cream, and felt the coldness lance its way through her teeth. "I'm only twelve, and I don't look anything like you..."
It was true. Where Willowe was tall and porcelain, Emily was short and her skin was still tanned from the hot summer. Her sister's hair was long, flowing and a rich auburn colour, where as hers was chopped just below her ears, messy and more brown than auburn. They shared the same nose, and face structure, but Emily didn't see that – she just saw violet eyes against her own blue.
"Besides," she added thinking of her classmates. "All boys smell."
Willowe smiled. "You're different now Palm Tree. More grown up."
Emily rubbed the bridge of her nose to get rid of her brain freeze. "Maybe I am...Anna says I'm too grown up." Seeing her sister's curious look, she added. "Anna is a friend at school."
"You started secondary school?" Willowe sounded surprised, only now seeming to register the navy blue blazer with the school badge sewn to it. "I would have though the Society would have homeschooled you."
Emily pulled a face. "I thought so too. Harriet said she wanted me to learn how to interact with other kids...or something like that. I wasn't listening too hard. Anyway, they found a school for me, and I started in September. Made a couple of friends. And a few enemies. So I guess that's normal."
"I see...and are you keeping up in class okay?"
Now this definitely felt like conversations of old. Emily knew she had always worried Willowe when she came home and found that Ashley and Aspen had been neglecting to teach her.
"I suck at English," she admitted. "And P.E. My P.E teacher hates me because I told her in our first lesson that netball was a stupid sport designed so that girls with no brains could feel special." She paused as Willowe laughed. "I like maths. And Phoenixia helps me out with IT. Science is okay, but I'm bad at the biology parts. And I love art." She smiled at this. "It's so much fun."
"I'm glad you're settling down," Willowe was nibbling at the edge of her ice cream cone now, almost nervous of where the conversation might head next. Deciding there was no point avoiding it any longer, Emily licked her lips, and drew a fresh breath.
"You said you'd explain once we had ice cream," she reminded her sister. "And we've both still got a scoop left..." she gestured to her own.
"So we have."
"How are you still alive Willowe? Everyone said you were dead. Tash killed you herself. She's still got the scars from your fight."
Chewing slowly on a mouthful, Willowe thought about her answer.
"I can't explain entirely what happened...it's too confusing. But someone brought me back. Someone very powerful. They gave me a new life, and a new chance to make things right." She smiled at her again. "I knew I had to make things right with you. You're my sister...we're the only family we've got left."
Emily frowned. That wasn't entirely true. She had the Society as her family now, and she supposed Harriet was sort of family, given that she was their creator. Maybe Anna and Miki, even though she had only known them a year, given time, could become something of a family. The way Willowe had said it was definite – an unchanging fact.
"Maybe...but I still don't get it," Emily shook her head. "This person...how did they bring you back?"
Willowe smiled her usual, beautiful smile. "I can take you to meet them, if you like? They'd love to meet you. You're my baby sister after all – the reason I wanted to come back."
The yes died on Emily's lips as she remembered just where she was, and who she was with. It was getting late, and pretty soon someone in the Library would notice her absence. She should really go home soon...but she didn't want to leave her sister now she had just got her back.
"I don't know..." awkwardly, she turned her wrist to check her watch. "I shouldn't stay here too long...I don't want anyone to find you..."
"You want to go back?" Willowe's voice was anxious now.
"No," Emily hastily shook her head. "Its not that. I'm just worried that someone will notice I'm not in the Library..."
She trailed off as Willowe reached across the table, her free hand cupping Emily's and squeezing it.
"We need to stick together now Palm Tree," her sister was saying. "Its only us in the world now."
"I know," Emily spoke slowly. "I know all the others are dead, and we won't ever get them back most likely...but I've got the Society, Willowe. They're my family too. They've been so good to me, and I love them all."
"You still love me too, right?" Emily had never heard her sister sound so unsure of herself, and she nodded furiously.
"Of course I do! You're my sister. How can I not love you? I just don't want someone to notice I'm gone and start checki..."
Her protest died on her lips, as her eyes locked onto a trail of melted ice cream which was trickling slowly onto Willowe's pale and flawless hand.
"...when did you start eating chocolate ice cream?"
A frown appeared on Willowe's forehead, and she glanced towards the dessert that was starting to drip down her wrist.
"What do you mean?"
"You never touched chocolate," Emily snatched her hand away from her sister's, her voice coming out faster and faster with each word. "You never ate ice cream because you worried about keeping your figure."
Now Willowe looked worried, and she stretched out a hand to the girl. "Palm Tree..."
"That's not my name!" Emily burst out, her eyes opening wide. "And you should know it's not. You know it, because Adrian told you what my name is now, when he saw you in purgatory!"
She pushed her chair away and got to her feet, dropping her unfinished ice cream cone onto the plastic table cloth. "You're not Willowe!"
For a second, the entire park cafe was quiet. The people at the nearby tables had heard the raised voices and paused in their own conversations to eavesdrop. Finally, Willowe lowered her hand and smiled darkly.
"Very good, Palm Tree."
Emily blinked, and the imposter was gone from her chair, a strong hand seizing the back of her school jacket and yanking her off her feet. She felt the world blur into flash step, and the cafe was gone, the world flying by in a haze of colour.
But Emily was getting used to flash step, after watching the leaders practise for so long, and swiftly she raised her arms skywards and slid out of her jacket. She landed hard on the ground, feeling damp bark sharp pine needs and press against her hands. The air around her smelt of pine, and when she looked up she saw towering trees. They were in the forest.
The fake Willowe reappeared in the clearing, Emily's empty jacket still clasped in her hand. Irritation twisted her perfect face, and she threw the clothing away before drawing a sword out of nowhere.
"What's wrong Palm Tree? I thought you wanted to meet the people who brought your sister back to life..."
"That's not my name!" Emily repeated, getting to her feet and dusting herself off. "And you're not my sister!"
The triumph of her deduction and discovery was wearing off fast as she realised how much danger she was actually in. She had no weapons, no gadgets, no one knew she was here, and this fake Willowe seemed to have similar powers to the real one. She couldn't possibly fight. She had to run. But there was no way she could outrun a flash step, and she didn't want to open a plothole back to the Library and risk the fake following her.
"Now now Yew, that's no way to treat our little friend."
Two figures flanked the fake Willowe, melting out of the trees like ghosts. The first had wavy brown hair, which floated down over a paint splattered artists smock. Paint brushes dangled from her waist, and she cradled a sketchbook in her arms, her dark green eyes locating Emily and smiling playfully.
The second had long ebony hair which tumbled down her back, and tight dark clothes which revealed a curvaceous body. Her green eyes were sharp and calculating, and as they took in the sight of Emily standing in the middle of the clearing, her face twisted into a wicked grin.
"Well hello Palm Tree. I've wanted to meet you for a very long time."
She had only ever seen the figure once before – in the Talent Show fandom, as a judge of Sue Factor. For so long before that she had only ever heard that voice over the monitor screens, and she had only ever seen the person as a faceless dark soul who helped take her sister away in her nightmares. There was no one else it could possibly be but the Lieutenant Mary-Sue herself.
"Runoa..." It was impossible for Emily to keep the fear out of her voice. She knew she stood no chance at all against the former Librarian.
"Indeed I am," the Sue nodded. "I'm glad Yew was able to bring you to me...though you show some spunk almost slipping out of her clutches."
"Cut the crap," Emily snapped. "What do you want?"
"No need for that language Palm Tree," Runoa tutted. "We're all fellow Sues here."
"My name is not Palm Tree!" Emily burst out angrily. "And I'm not a Sue either! I'm nothing like you!"
"Oh but you are," Runoa vanished from sight, and reappeared not a few feet from the twelve year old. Emily hastily backed into the nearest tree. "It doesn't matter what you change your name to, you're still a Foxblade. It is your destiny to be a Sue." She smirked. "I'm just here to speed the process."
She approached slowly, and Emily pushed hard against the tree, as though hoping it would absorb her.
"There's no need to be scared," Runoa's voice did nothing to assure her. "The Immaculation process is almost painless, as Creation here can tell you."
She nodded to the woman in the artists smock, who twirled a paintbrush idly between her fingers. The Willowe copy clung to her side like a loyal puppy, and Emily suddenly understood.
"Creation...she's a Sovereign! And that Willowe...she's a copy you made!"
She flinched as Runoa patted her on the head like a proud parent.
"Well done! You have your sister's keen intellect. Yes, Yew is one of Creation's better copies. True replication is impossible of course, but I just needed one that would fool the last Foxblade into coming out to this fandom."
She seized a handful of Emily's hair and pulled tight. Emily gasped in pain, and felt tears prickle the corners of her eyes.
"What do you want me for?" she repeated, forcing herself not to cry.
"I told you," Runoa was walking now, tugging the helpless girl behind her. "I've always wanted to see how powerful an Immaculated Foxblade would be...and since I've lost Death, you'll be a good replacement to my army. And even better, the Society will be reluctant to attack a girl who once lived under their roof."
She nodded to Creation, who flipped open her sketchbook, and began scribbling. To Emily's horror, the faint outlines of rope began to appear around her wrists, drawing them together.
"You can't..." Emily's voice was desperate now.
"Oh there's nothing I can't do, little Palm Tree," Runoa sighed, as though the very thought were a burden. She added as an afterthought. "You know, I offered your sister the option of the Immaculation process, before she went to attack the Library. She refused of course...she always did like to believe she was better than the rest of us."
Angry now, Emily twisted around to glare at Runoa. "My sister was twice the Mary-Sue you will ever be, and three times the person! You're just a spoilt child who wants everything her way!"
The forest air was split by a harsh crack, as Runoa swiped her palm across Emily's cheek. Emily's head snapped to the side, and she felt the sting burn across the left side of her face.
"Maybe I'm a spoilt child," Runoa hissed in her ear. "But you're still just a child, who should know to obey and respect her elders."
She threw the girl to Creation, who caught her and held her tightly, as the ropes finished solidifying around her hands. Emily tried to yank her hands apart, but they were bound tightly.
"Get her through the plothole," Runoa ordered, pinching the bridge of her nose. "My apologies for the slap, Palm Tree. I never did well with children."
The plothole ripped into life behind them, and Emily felt herself being dragged by Creation toward it. She tried to dig her feet into the ground, but the carpet of pine needles slipped beneath her, and she could not get a grip. At a nod from Creation, the copy of her sister appeared and took her other arm. Between them she had no leverage to struggle, and the plothole loomed closer. Once more she debated on generating another plothole to escape through, but that was out of the question now – she would rather die than lead Runoa and her Sovereigns to the Society.
A low whistling was her only warning. Creation and Yew stiffened, and Runoa let out an angry snarl, before Emily was yanked off her feet again and into the tight grasp of another set of arms. She smelt Lush and the giddy high of relief flooded her mind along with the wandering thought, "Ohno...they'regonnabesomadatme..."
Tash skidded out of flash step and released her grip on Emily. Across the other side of the clearing there was a clash of metal, as Adrian stopped inches from Runoa, his sword bearing down on the former Librarian, who had blocked inches from her face with her kodachi. Creation's sketchbook was flipped open and she was poised with her pencil inches from the paper, waiting for her boss's command, while Yew's sword had reappeared in her grasp.
Skipping away, Runoa's eyes darted around the clearing, taking in Adrian's battle ready stance, and Tash, who had pulled Emily behind her and drawn Nephthy's. Smirking, she gave a slow, mocking applause.
"A brave effort Librarian's, but even you must have realised you're outnumbered."
She was right, Emily realised. To take on one Sovereign with the whole Society had proven near suicidal in the past, and as powerful as Adrian and Tash were, they had no hope against a Sovereign, the Lieutenant and a near perfect copy of the most powerful Mary Sue ever to live. She closed her eyes and waited for the slaughter...
A bang shook every tree in the area to its roots, and Emily felt her heart trying to beat itself furiously out of her chest. Yew staggered backwards, eyes wide, blood blooming across her chest, before she fell to the ground convulsing. Creation was at her side, but she was too late, as the copy began to dissolve into motes of light.
"No..." Creation looked heartbroken. Her lip was trembling as she lifted her head to the trees, where Phoenixia crouched among the branches. The shotgun of Incandescent Silverreign was smoking.
"I just wanted the pleasure of blowing up Willowe myself," she explained, reloading with a sharp click. This time, she aimed at Creation and pulled the trigger sharply. Creation squeaked, at the same time Runoa made a swipe at Adrian with her blades. The Librarian skidded away before launching himself back towards her, sword drawn. A fierce glare lit up the forest as a white shield appeared in front of Creation and sent the bullet ricocheting off into a nearby tree.
The ex-hologram scowled and leaped off the tree, advancing on the terrified Sovereign. Creation's hand was flying across her sketchbook at lightning speed, and as Phoenixia aimed and fired again, another barrier appeared out of nowhere and shattered from the force of the bullet. Growling in frustration, Phoenixia snapped all of her guns together and peered through the scope. At such close range there was very little chance of her missing as the crosses in her sight locked onto four parts of Creation's exposed body.
"Block this!" she challenged, pulling the trigger. The gun exploded with noise and the bullets flew towards their target. Creation squeaked again, and a solid wall of thick concrete appeared in front of the bullets, circling its way around her like a huge protective snake. The attacks blew clouds of dusty smoke from the wall, sending chips of concrete everywhere. When the dust cleared, the wall was still standing.
"How are you doing that?" the sentient computer raged, raising her gun again again. At point blank range there was only so much abuse that the wall could take. But as she moved to pull the trigger, the ground beneath her feet seemed to give, the pine needles on the floor draining away down huge cracks that opened wide to swallow her whole. Phoenixia gave a leap and landed in a nearby tree, jumping clear to another as it crashed on top of the concrete enclosure. To Phoenixia's surprise however, Creation was nowhere to be seen.
On the ground, mother and son furiously slashed at each other in an elegant dance. Emily's eyes could hardly keep up with it as they flew from strike, block and counter over and over again. Tash however had no problems following it, and Nephthys flared like a torch.
"Get as far away as you can and then get back to the Library," she told the terrified eleven year old.
"What?" Emily could barely process the thought of escaping, but Tash was already sprinting towards the fight. Cautiously, Emily stepped back, but the ground crumbled in the wake of whatever it was that Creation had done, and she stumbled away from it.
Clinging to the branches of the tree, Phoenixia scanned the clearing for any sign of the Sovereign. If she wasn't in the concrete when the tree went down on it then where the hell had she gone...? Cracks were still spreading along the ground as she watched, and she wondered just how Creation was doing this. Control over matter maybe? Or was it something else...
The earth erupted into the air like a geyser, and Phoenixia shielded her eyes from the flying dirt. She opened them as she heard a screech.
"I wouldn't shoot Phoenixia," came the voice, and as the earth fell, Phoenixia saw Creation standing behind the crater left by the explosion, her smock smeared with dirt, and her arms wrapped tightly around Emily. The girl was struggling, but she was no match for a Sovereign. "You might hurt somebody."
Phoenixia gripped Incandescent Silverreign tightly in her hands, but she knew she had no choice. Throwing her gun into the soft carpet of pine needles below, she leaped from the tree and raised her hands. The Sovereign smiled, her eyes flicking between Phoenixia and the gun.
"That's better..." she nodded. "Don't worry. No one is going to die today. Runoa needs you ali-"
She gasped violently as Emily wriggled her arm free enough to seize the corner of Creation's sketchbook and ram it backwards with all her might into the Sovereign's stomach. Coughing, Creation staggered away, and Emily shot out of her grasp, the leather bound sketchbook still clasped in her hands. Smirking, Phoenixia kicked up her gun, sending a spray of pine needles into the air, and fired the shotgun. Creation gave a breathless gasp before jumping straight down one of her holes.
Fire whirled from the tip of Neypthys as Tash's slash missed the leaping Runoa, only for the flame to swirl up around the Sue and roar into a tornado. "Got you!"
A crescent of red energy dispersed the tornado as it ripped through and Tash flipped away, the impact of the energy blowing a small crater where she had been. "Not good enough."
The air crackled and Runoa skipped back through the air as lightning scored the ground, then several more bursts lanced after her, gouging out chunks of trees and the ground. "My, my...did your time in death lead to the Dark Side, my son? Tsk, Tsk..."
"Even black light is still light!" Adrian leapt out of the tree had been standing in as one of her whirling kodachi's slashed through it like it was butter. As he hit the apex of his leap, one hand traced a design in front of him and then he snapped a point at Runoa. Around him, six glowing seals snapped to life and then unleashed a staccato fury in the manner similar to a machine gun.
Runoa skipped and slid to avoid the first of the blasts, slashing through the rest with her weapons and then a burst of golden energy heralded the transformation into her Super Sayian three form, the shockwave bowling over a ring of trees and evaporating the remaining blasts before they hit. "This didn't work the last time we fought – you can't beat my powers with magic."
"Then about a nice sharp edge!" Runoa instantly whirled and unleashed a golden ball of energy that sent the Assistant Librarian back into the woods with a mild cry before trees began to fall. But as more of Adrian's blasts began to rain down and their combined power buffeted her into the air, she realized that Tash's blade had been faster than her words. Her Super Sayian glow vanished and she could see the once golden strands raining to the ground below.
"Why you...!" Light erupted from her chest as she tapped into the power of the Divine Dragoon Spirit, but then the Librarian swirled and twirled around his own attack, simultaneously yanking her around to take the brunt of the blasts while his hand tore the Spirit free from her neck.
Then they were both enveloped in the explosive cloud and both came tumbling out of it trailing smoke. Flame streaked across the sky as Tash swiftly caught her lover and deposited him on a tree top before circling back around to the opposite side of the falling Runoa. "Nice job, love! That's two powers down!"
"Fools!" Runoa righted in the air, landing heavily on it as if it were the ground and glaring at the blonde. "Do you think removing my hair gets rid of my power?"
"Well, that ugly hair style certainly matches you, you old hag!" Tash pulled down her left eyelid and stuck her tongue out. "Nyyyeeeeh!"
Runoa growled and then snapped out her hand, a white glow erupting from her extended fist and then travelling down her arm before wrapping around her body, changing her outfit to a white one. As the transformation completed, the outline of the god she had absorbed rose up behind her and let out a silent scream.
Adrian braced himself as the scream's shockwaves buffeted the treetops and caught Tash's eye. They exchanged the tiniest of nods and then he jumped into the air as the god's arm swipe destroyed the tree he had been on. Magic danced between his fingers as he slapped his hands together and then drew them apart, playing with the magic like it was string.
The god-creature rose to its full height, arms outstretched after him before the Librarian swept out his arms in an arc, the magic leaping free from his fingertips. A lattice work of raw power grew as it fell, draping over the creature like a net and then anchoring itself to the ground. Power sparked over its length and the god-creature roared silently as it was force to its knees.
"Useless effort!" Runoa swiped her hand through the air and the god-creature mimicked the motion, tearing through the magical strands like paper...only for them to snap back together or reattach to other broken strands. "Tch..."
White energy flashed up her arms and left a white plated hide over the limbs, ending in clawed hands. As it erupted out her back and formed a demonic and an angelic wing, she ripped through her limbs through the air. The motion unleashed clawed arc of energy at her son. "Let's see you maintain your net while in pieces!"
Adrian, who had his hands locked in a seal formation watched the attacks approach and then simply blurred out of sight, reappearing behind them before spitting out a single word that echoed deeply. Instantly, dozens of lances of power formed around him and then launched forwards into streaks of deadly light.
With no time to move, Runoa curled into a ball and folded her wings around to brace for the impact...only for it to never come and another silent scream shook the air. Whirling, she gaped at the sight of the god-creature looking like a pincushion. "Blast!" Then she felt the air move in a flash-step behind her and twisted her head to see the Assisstant Librarian right behind her.
"Jurai-Ken-Tairensel!" (Dancing Flame- Whirling Hell Blaze) Tash seemed to somersault forwards, but didn't come out of as she began to spin like a wheel, blade leading the way and in an instant she was completely ablaze with flames.
Runoa sneered and with a beat of her wings, drifted to the side enough to avoid the burning wheel. "Please. That attack is far too simple too-" Then she instinctively threw herself to the side as the still spinning Tash roared through the space she had just been. "How did you do that!"
She got her answer as Adrian was suddenly in front of his girlfriend, a sword of pure magic in his hand. As she watched, he somehow caught Tash as she spun, whirling her around his head and then slinging her at Runoa with twice the force and speed of before.
The ex-Librarian twisted out of the way again, growling she felt the heat singe what was left of her hair and then fireballs and magical lighting tore through the air and forced her to twist desperately to avoid most of them...only to nearly run straight into the spinning Tash again.
This fight was not going to be as easy she hoped.
Growling, Phoenixia clicked and reloaded her shotgun. Creation had popped up several times from different holes in the ground, and each time, she had vanished back before Phoenixia could blow her head off. It was the most frustrating game of Whack-A-Mole that the sentient computer programme had ever had.
"Would you just-" BANG! "-hold still!" BANG!
Several of the thick pine trees now had smoking holes through their trunks, and it was behind one of these that Emily now crouched, flipping her way through the leather bound sketchbook she had lifted off Creation. A single pencil hung by a length of fraying string from the spine, and the pages were crisp and white.
"Must be a spare," Emily realised. "Which means she still has one on her."
"Nix! She's still got a-"
Something twisted around her legs and she screamed at the sight of the thick brown snake-like root curling over her thighs and ankles and holding her down. From behind the tree, Phoenixia gave a yelp as the nearest clump of roots seemed to come to life and latch around her gun, yanking it from her grasp. She dove after it, seizing the barrel and tugging furiously against the tree, while from the hole behind her, Creation poked her head up and began trying to wriggle over the edge.
"Why am I so short?" the Sovereign muttered to herself, pushing herself up onto her arms and steadying herself with her knee. Snarling in frustration, Phoenixia yanked the gun, snapping some of the roots, and she turned around and fired again, causing Creation to fling herself ungracefully back down the hole. The bullets slammed into the tree behind Emily sending splinters of wood everywhere. Emily screamed and pressed herself against the forest floor to avoid any more misfires.
Roots twisted around Phoenixia's ankles and she flailed wildly for balance before toppling to her knees, where more roots crept from the ground. The trees around her creaked as their anchors to the already crumbling ground were uprooted and lashed around Phoenixia's arms and gun, pulling them apart.
"Phew..." Creation glanced up from her sketching, and from her bound position on the ground, Phoenixia saw what she was doing. Dotted all over the blank page were hasty drawings of tree roots, pushing up from the ground and wrapping limbs in their tight embrace.
"That's what she does!" Phoenixia realised. "Her power is to bring her drawings to life!"
"Right..." Plucking a fresh pencil from behind her ear, Creation chewed on the end musingly. "What now...oh yeah!" she snapped her fingers at the ex hologram. "Runoa asked me to kill you! Now how shall I do that...?"
Fear raced through Phoenixia's veins like hot water, and she yanked hard against the roots, but they held tight. She could see Emily moving around a few trees away, but she seemed to be having little success.
"Ooo! I know!" Creation snapped her fingers again, and began sketching again, her hand moving so fast that it was just a blur across the white paper. "I'll have the roots pull you down into the earth! That's easy to draw-"
A rumbling sensation made them all pause, and Creation yelped as her left foot suddenly collapsed beneath her into the ground. She struggled to regain her balance as large dark cracks opened up in the soil's surface.
"Uh oh...I didn't think this through..." the Sovereign gulped, backing away from the crumbling earth. The ground beneath Phoenixia's knees felt weak and she realised what was happening – without the tree roots to support them, Creation's underground tunnels were collapsing in on themselves. Stretching as far as she could she managed to clasp one hand around Incandescent Silverreign. A shadow fell over her and she turned to see the huge form of a pine tree coming closer and closer as the weakened ground could support it no longer and it toppled towards the earth.
Yanking as hard as she could, Phoenixia rolled clumsily to the side, the tree roots still wrapped around her, but with enough leave to miss the tree by a few inches as it fell to the earth with a thunderous bang. Phoenixa's whole body shook and she clawed furiously at the roots that bound her, snapping them away from her arms and legs one by one.
"You don't think things through, do you Creation?" she barked, but the Sovereign was too busy drawing to answer, and she paused only to squeak as another tree came toppling down, smashing hard into another one and sending chips of bark and pine needles everywhere. There was a loud snap as the extra weight proved too much for the second tree, and the trunk – already heavily abused from stray blasts by Incandescent Silverreign – gave a loud creak before breaking clean in two and sending the heavy top half plummeting to the ground.
Sitting beneath it, still bound with a look of terror on her face, was Emily.
Phoenixia scrambled for her feet, but the last root around her ankle tripped her and she landed badly on her left shoulder.
The crash shook the whole forest, and Emily vanished beneath a storm of twigs and pine needles.
Pale faced, Creation squeaked and covered her mouth with her hands.
"Oooh no! I wasn't supposed to kill her! Runoa's going to be mad..."
Phoenixia didn't hear her – all she could hear was her heart pounding in her ears. She couldn't feel her arms and legs – they weren't important any more. She wanted to close her eyes hard and maybe when she opened them again the tree would still be standing. But she couldn't close them. She couldn't take her eyes off that spot where Emily's screams had been smothered forever.
She felt sick and the forest blurred into tear filled confusion, colour swimming together until she wasn't sure if she was even looking anymore.
"I could have..."
Yes you could have.
"I was right there..."
I think it's time I took over, don't you?
Shh...go to sleep Phoenixia...just close your eyes, and I promise, when you wake up, this nightmare will be over...
"Umm..." Creation was twisting her hands – she had no room to pace for fear that the ground may start crumbling again. "Maybe I should move the tree..."
"Or maybe you should burn it..."
The Sovereign blinked – there was something not quite right about that voice. "What?"
She turned to find blazing pink eyes staring at her.
"That sounds like a good plan..." the woman hissed, snapping the last tree roots free with frightening ease and getting to her feet. "Burn it. In fact..." her whole body seemed to blaze with a pink aura, and Creation backed away as heat seared through the area like a knife. "I THINK THIS WHOLE FOREST NEEDS TO BURN!"
The flames engulfed the figure before bursting like a supernova, smothering the Sovereign and the forest from view.
The explosion seared the tops of the forest for miles, and the former, current and assistant Librarian's all felt the heat on their faces, as they balanced precariously around the canopy. Runoa and Adrian completely forgot that they were locked together, blade against blade, and Tash hovered in midair, watching the flames with a horrified fascination.
Runoa's eyes widened.
"Its her again!"
Shoving Adrian away, she whirled to face the epicentre of the blast, before glaring at her foe.
"This fight is on hold!" she declared, sprinting off the tree branch and leaping down towards the forest floor again. Confused, the Librarian and Assistant chased after her.
"Hehehe..." the figure trailed off, her hair buffeting around the breeze, her parting shifting so that two bangs draped down in front of her face. Burning trees and needles rained down like daggers, but she barely noticed them scorching her skin. "Nothing is more creative than destruction!" she gazed around at the flames that quickly jumped from tree to tree, slowly carpeting the canopy in a haze of orange.
She frowned at the ground for a moment before smirking. "So, the little worm is still alive?" she kicked at Incandescent Silverreign, and caught it with a flourish, twisting the gun into its sword shape, energy blazing up it. "No matter..."
Raising the sword like a hammer she smashed it down against the ground, tearing a huge gaping crack along the earth. Throwing her head back she laughed.
"Creaaaation!" she slashed again, cutting another gaping wound into the earth and tearing a burning tree to splinters. "Where aaaaare yooooou?"
She doubled over in laughter again, stabbing her sword deep into the ground. The blast shattered the pine trees and sent pine needles and bits of flaming bark raining down into the crater. Spreading her arms, the woman spun on the spot, a dark chuckle on her lips.
"So beautiful..." she crooned, her happiness morphing into a scowl. She twisted sharply, sparks flying as Runoa's kodachi slammed against the blade of Incandescent Silverreign and scraped down the length of it. A hard push sent the former Librarian skidding backwards through the pine needles and into the trunk of the tree behind her. She braced herself against the wood and snarled at the smirking pink eyes.
"Didn't your mother ever teach you not to sneak up on people?" the woman's voice was patronising as she stood with Incandescent Silverreign rested casually against her shoulder. Pushing herself off the tree, Runoa slipped into a battle stance, just as an anxious Creation popped her head out from a hole curiously.
"Oh my," the woman mock gasped. "You're scared of me! Now why is that? I wouldn't hurt you dear – after all, you're the one who brought the tree down on the brat's head-"
There was a gasp of horror behind her – Adrian and Tash had settled on the other side of the burning clearing, and the Assistant Librarian looked close to tears. Adrian's eyes narrowed as he pieced the situation together.
"Oh do catch up Librarian," the woman huffed. "Phoenixia is taking a little sleep." She tapped the back of her head. "A long, eternal sleep." She smirked and spread her arms wide. "You can call me Crickette. At least, that's what she calls me when she's begging me not to hurt anyone."
She vanished from sight, and Adrian and Tash drew their weapons. But they were not the targets. Faster than the eye could follow, Runoa crossed her kodachi in a block against Incandescent Silverreign, but one arm twisted free and blood spurted from Runoa's arm. Her grip slackened and the blade swept through her guard, a blast of energy shoving her straight through the trunks of two trees before she skidded to a halt in a pile of dirt and pine needles.
"Oh dear..." Crickette mocked. "You're not doing very well, are you?"
She snapped her arm to her side, and the deadly serrated blades seemed to shrink back into her skin as though they had never been there.
"Oh for goodness sake!" the irritated woman placed her hands on her hips and scowled at the Librarian. "I told you. The whore is safely locked up-"
"She can still hear me!" Adrian snapped. "She can always hear me!"
"Aww, how sweet," the sarcasm dripped off her tongue like poison. "Tell me Librarian – do you really love her, or is she just a convenient fuck?"
"That's enough out of you!" Adrian flash-stepped forwards, but Crickette's swipe with Incandescent Silverreign only cut through an after-image as he appeared behind her. He slammed his hands into her back and lines of light spread from his fingertips, snapping over the insane women into a net. Adrian jumped back and snapped his fingers, the net contracting instantly and forcing Crickette into a ball. "You think I haven't dealt with monsters like you before?"
"None of them knew you like I do, Librarian!" The woman strained and the net ripped apart easily. Giving off an insane giggle, she ran at him and drew back her weapon.
Adrian twitched his wrists and a pair of magical swords snapped into life in his hands. He vanished out of sight, kicking up leaves and dust in his wake and reappeared right front of Crickette, weapons already diving through the holes in her guard.
Then she was gone and he felt a hand on his collar before she hurled him skywards. Even as he tried to twist to gather himself, she was appearing above him and he belatedly realized she had stolen his coat and put it on. A twisted grin crossed her face and she caught him by the shirt front, licking her lips sensually and when she spoke, Phoenixa's voice came out. "So tell me, lover...do I look good in this coat you made for me?"
Then she was yelping in pain in her own voice as Adrian headbutted her and kicked free, skidding across the air. "Bitch, you can't even come close to fucking with my head. I'm already insane!" His eyes flashed and Crickette yelped again as his coat suddenly came to life, buttoning shut instantly and constricting like a vice, sleeves snapping themselves around her body like a straightjacket. "You aren't Phoenixia and if you have her memories, you know full well that I'm going to move heaven and earth to evict a bad memory like you out of her!"
"I am no memory! I'm the real deal, lover!" Crickette gave off her insane laugh and then spikes erupted from her body, tearing the coats to shreds before she vanished from view. The air shook as Adrian caught her outstretched wrist and halted her momentum instantly. "Oooh, aren't you a quick one?"
Magic split the air as a bolt of it screamed forth from Adrian's other hand and when the light from it faded, Crickette had a gaping hole in the left side of her chest, her arm barely attached to the rest of her body. The insane woman gave of a succulent sigh. "Oooh, that's good, lover!"
Adrian's eyes widened as the hole he had just made instantly sealed itself up and knitted itself back together, causing Crickette to laugh. "I see you were counting on that to take me down and Phoenixia could heal herself later. Shame that I've got much better control over this body!"
The Librarian flashed-stepped away, but she was right in front of him when he reappeared, her meter-long blade slicing through his magical weapons and scoring a line of red down his chest. "Whoopsie. Too slow."
"B-bitch!" Adrian was already forming seals in his hand magic was built up around, but Crickette was already in his face.
"Poor man..." She patted his cheek. "She's begging for you, so why don't I give you a chance to say goodbye?" She slammed her lips into his, but Adrian's body stiffened and as she pulled away, he gave out a gasp of pain. Extending from her breasts were a pair of serrated spikes. She giggled as they retracted and he began to fall, licking his blood from her lips. "Goodbye."
Then Adrian vanished from view and Tash reappeared him in her arms on the forest floor below. He coughed and spluttered in pain she helped him stand, but stand he did. He let off a low growl of anger and magic built in his hand, but then he dropped to one knee as blood spurted from his chest. "D-dammit..."
"Take a minute and stop the bleeding. I'll deal with-" The air hissed and Tash broke off her sentence to take a swing with Nephthys, the shockwave of the blow scattering the volley of spikes like they were twigs.
"Ooooh, such a fierce glare!" Crickette giggled. "Are you angry I hurt your man? You shouldn't be - after all, he likes playing around with this body! A little rough-housing shouldn't be surprising!"
"You're the one who tried to strangle me earlier. Not Nixie!"
"Round of applause for the blonde one!" a mocking clap followed. "Yes, that was me. And I cannot tell you how good it felt!" she crooned. "Squeezing that pretty little throat. Feeling your windpipe about to snap in my hands like a breadstick. And in the back of my head, Phoenixia screaming and crying like the pathetic little slut she is-"
Crickette never got to finish her sentence as Nephthys erupted out of her back, blood spraying in the blade's wake. Tash ripped the weapon free and whirled, the slash gouging open Crickette's chest and sending her flying backwards.
"Temper, temper!" Crickette sneered as her body instantly healed itself and she recovered in time to block Tash's slash with her own. "You about killed me there and that swing could have split my head open." She put her hand to her mouth and fluttered eyes in a innocent manner as Phoenixia's voice came out. "You wouldn't want to hurt me, Tashy. I don't like it rough..."
"YOU BITCH!" The yell erupted from the Assistant Librarian as she unleashed a flurry of sword strikes on the other woman, light sparking every time their blades connected. Crickette just laughed again and her eyes lit up as she found herself unable to keep up with Tash's skill and speed, cuts and slashes opening up only to heal before the blade finished its stroke. "Aren't you fun!"
Tash flash-stepped around of sight and reappeared a dozen feet away, whirling her sword in front of her. Flame trailed from the tip and formed into a blazing disc that Tash whipped at Crickette like Adrian had done for her earlier. Incandescent Silverreign easily cut through the attack...which then exploded and enveloped her in fire.
Crickette merely laughed, however, and caught the tip of Nephthys through her palm as Tash attempted to stab her from above. "You're almost as stupid as Phoenixia is. She helped you develop that attack, of course I'd know how it works!" Still laughing, she slashed Tash with her own sword and yanked the burnt-orange blade away from its own, sending it spiralling into the forest. Her laugh took on a twisted turn as she caught a few droplets of Tash's blood on her tongue. "Mmm, you dotaste good. No one wonder Phoenixia likes-"
That was all she managed as Tash's foot slammed into her jaw, the impact audibly cracking bones and snapping Crickette's mouth shut. The insane woman staggered back, coughing and spluttering up the tip of her tongue and blood. Her weapon dropped as she bent over, other hand wrapping around her stomach as her body lurched and she heaved, vomiting up more blood and her teeth.
Even as she growled and lurched back to her feet, her snarl already showing new teeth forcing their way free of her gums, Tash's foot slammed into the side of her head, the shockwave from the blow ripping the air and sending Crickette crashing into the forest floor, trailing her brand new teeth like confetti.
As she regenerated and pulled herself from the crater, her jaw sickeningly snapping back into its proper position, Crickette watched as Tash landed in front of her, a dark angry look on her face. "Well, well, well! You arefun! If you're this strong, I can see why the slut and the cat like it when you a get aggressive and-"
"Talking isn't going to help you, you know." Tash's heel came down at the end of her whirling bicycle kick, smashing into Crickette's skull and slamming her into the ground, the crater doubling in size.
Crickette pushed herself to her knees and for the first time since appearing, looked truly angry. "I'll see you BURN!" The pink light erupted from her body in all directions, morphing into flames that tore through the forest and turned it into a blaze.
Pink eyes widened as Tash stepped through the blaze with ease, cracking her knuckles. "Jurai-Ken Master, remember? I don't burn."
Crickette vanished and reappeared behind to slash in two at the waist, but Tash was still faster, dropping to her hands, her foot slamming into the blade and stopping it cold. "How are you doing this! You don't have your sword!"
"I'm not an idiot – after Adrian died, I made sure I could fight without magic or my weapon!" Tash kicked the blade away and then whirled on her hands, her split kick striking Crickette repeatedly across the face. As the pink-eyed woman staggered, Tash hand-sprang over her, whirling and landing a powerful knee strike that cracked Crickette's spine at an odd angle. The blonde-haired girl dropped and swept Crickette's feet out from under her, continuing her whirling motion as Crickette started to fall and turning it into a spiralling kick that launched her into the woods and through some of the few standing trees.
Tash flash-stepped into the air above the hurtling Crickette. "The Counter Guardians have been a group of jerks sometimes, but they can teach a girl how to fight!" The force of Tash's kick knocked down several trees and the ground beneath her cratered deeply.
"You nearly kill Adrian...you take over the body of my best friend..." Tash watched as the battered and disfigured Crickette haul herself up from the crater, her body creaking and cracking grotesquely as it snapped itself back together. "I'll punish you harshly!"
That laugh and grin erupted from Crickette. "Please do! I love it when you're this much fun!" She blurred forwards, Tash skipping back to avoid the hammer blow from Incandescent Silverreign and then landing an axe-kick down on the weapon, ready to smash the blade in half...and then staggered as her foot bounced off the weapon. Crickette grinned wickedly at her. "Indestructible weapon, remember?"
Tash gave no response, for spikes had erupted from Crickette's spine and punctured her body all over, several having nailed her left leg. Blue-eyes widened as the pain hit and she dropped limply to the ground as the spikes retracted.
"With your leg like that, you won't be moving much..." Crickette chuckled and stomped on Tash's hand as the blonde grabbed for her, flames licking around her digits. "Ah-ah-ah-ah...didn't mummy teach not to play with fire?"
She paused in mock-thought. "Oh yeah!" A swift kick sent Tash skidding across the ground, slamming into the side off a fallen tree. "What do you know, that IS fun!"
A chuckle escaped her as she watched Tash crash to a halt near Adrian, who had propped himself up on an elbow and crawled over to his lover. "Awww, how sweet..."
Then light snapped into place around her in a mismatched lattice work. "Oooh, my first plaything is still alive! What fun!"
"I suppose I should thank those two..." Runoa limped forwards, gripping her kodachi. "They bought me time to set this up..." With that, she flung out the weapons and the lattice work ends snapped onto them as they spun around Crickette, binding her tight before lodging sharply into the ground and anchoring there.
"An energy attack? Please." Crickette sniggered, ignoring the fact the bindings were cutting into her hard. "I have the power of your Sovereign's body. There's no way you can kill me."
"I'm not killing you." Runoa sneered mockingly at her. "For all your power, you still aren't very bright. I created Death and I'm not so stupid as to create something like my Sovereigns without a method to destroy them for disobeying."
Spikes erupted from Crickette's body again, but to her surprise, failed to pierce or damage the latticework. "And how do you destroy something that can survive having its atoms destroyed?"
"I don't have to tell you, fool. You're about to die and I wouldn't want to risk you somehow countering it if I explained it to you. My enemies as of late have an annoying habit of letting me monologue and then defeating my plans..." Runoa watched as the bindings snapped tighter, digging into Crickette to the point blood was coating her body. Then she snapped her fingers and five motes of light appeared in the ground, little beads of light forming a pentagram around Crickette and then racing across the interior to trace dozens upon dozens of symbols. "Goodbye."
Crickette gained a dastardly, psychopathic grin. "No thank you."
"It's useless. You can't-" Runoa's eyes widened as Crickette's struggles began to tear her body through the latticework and the twisted being literally sliced herself in to ribbons as she pushed her body through. And despite the situation, Runoa felt a thought flick across her head. I have got to stop saying it's useless. It never ends well for me.
A gargling laugh escaped Crickette as she finished ripping free of the latticework, her mangled body and ribbons of flesh pulling themselves together as she crawled towards to Runoa, still not having enough leg to walk.
"Twisted bitch." Runoa charged up a fireball and prepared to throw it, but it vanished as a meter-wide blast of energy slammed into that arm, leaving it charred and smoking.
"I can use the gun, too." Crickette lowered the smoking Incandescent Silverreign and then lurched to her feet and vanished from view, slashing Runoa across the chest with the sword from while spikes erupted from all over her body and pierced Runoa, their force actually throwing her back and into the ground in a heap.
Crickette retracted the spikes and casually swept her sword to the side, unleashing a burst of pink power that set whatever remained of the forest in area ablaze. She gave a soft croon. "That's better...blood and flames work so well together..."
"Well," she rested Incandescent Silverreign casually over her shoulder and stared musingly at the three broken bodies. "I suppose I could kill you first..." she jabbed the sword at Runoa, who struggled to raise her head. "But then again..." a wicked smirk crept across her face, and she twisted the sword to the Librarian's throat. "Killing you makes her hurt-"
There was a loud clang as her right arm swung and threw the sword away. It clattered against the upturned tree, and the pink eyed woman grabbed her traitorous limb.
"You bitch!" she snarled, serrated blades appearing down the length of her arms again.
On the ground, Adrian lifted his head, the cloudy haze of pain punctuated by a lightning bolt of realisation.
"Shut up!" she raged, her eyes flashing dangerously. "I am in charge of this body! Not her!"
Even as she spoke, her hands trembled against movement, and she crossed her arms in front of her body with the blades ready to slice at the Librarian's throat.
"Go to hell!"
Power exploded out of her body, and the pink eyes screwed shut in pain. The ground rumbled as though it were trying to tear itself apart, and Adrian was not sure for a second that the world could take such a struggle without breaking.
"NO! YOU ARE NOT IN CHARGE HERE!"
The words struggled out with another scream, and the trees around them evaporated into ash. Through flying dust and twigs, Adrian saw Tash flatten herself against the ground, and he could see all the trees still lucky enough to be standing were trembling. The figure was struggling, writhing and curling against herself as she fought desperately for control...
...and then the fire was gone.
Sweat-soaked and panting, Phoenixia opened her violet eyes to a charred and blackened world.
The ground itself had been scorched to ash, and there were no trees standing for miles. For a moment she wondered if she had died and entered hell. Then she saw Creation crawl from her hiding place and began to help Runoa up, and she saw Adrian and Tash, bleeding and broken on the ground, barely able to move. She felt sick and she wondered if she had really killed them all.
And then she felt her fingertips twitch at her bidding, and her eyes blink tears out of the corners. She could smell the burning in the air, and she felt the dead earth against her knees. Yes. It had happened. It was all real. She had control again...
...but for how long?
Her stomach turned and she shot to her feet, grabbing her mutated weapon as she fled the clearing.
She ignored the pleas of her friends and just ran blindly through the black wasteland.
"Nixie..." Adrian arm outstretched towards her as though he could somehow pull a string and make her return to him, slumped face first into the ground. He wanted to chase, but his body did not have the will – drained from fighting Runoa and Crickette, he had completely run out of steam.
With what looked like the last of her effort, Tash rolled over to face him. There were tears welling up in her own eyes.
"Where has she gone?"
Somewhere, Adrian dragged up enough energy to reach for her hand. His mind was travelling down a dark and terrifying road of worry and fear for his best friend, and he needed something to hold onto – something to help him focus. He squeezed her fingers, and from somewhere he found the strength to push himself onto all fours.
"We have to go after her..." he said. What had happened here and how could wait till later. He felt lost and a horrible feeling of being alone was starting to creep up on him. Carefully, he started to struggle to his feet, holding onto one of the trees for support. Groaning, Tash cauterised the last of her wounds before struggling to her own feet.
A scuffling sound was coming from beneath a fallen tree. For a moment Tash thought it was an animal – until she saw five fingers and the sleeve cuff of a white blouse clawing furiously at the ground and pine needles.
In the madness and shock of finding out at about Crickette she had completely forgotten their initial reason for coming to the fandom. Strength burst back into her, and she scrambled towards the magnificent pine tree. Wincing as she landed on her injured side, she began digging around the small hole made by the wrist. A terrified pair of eyes appeared in the gap between the ground and the tree trunk.
"Get me out of here!"
Furiously Tash scraped armfuls of dirt away, almost covering the Librarian in it as he crawled to her side to help. It almost seemed too good to be true – after what Crickette had said they had been sure Emily was dead.
"How did you survive?" Adrian asked. "Not that I'm complaining or anything..."
His answer came as Emily pushed her arms through the hole and began to wriggle her tiny frame out of the hole – clutched in one hand was the leather bound sketchbook she had swiped from Creation.
"Some of those shield bubbles she uses are drawn in there..." she explained, flopping onto Tash's lap and taking deep breaths. She was shaking, whether from claustrophobia or the beginnings of shock no one knew. "It must have activated when the tree fell on me..." she peered around the clearing. "Where's Phoenixia?"
"I don't know, but I'm going to find her," Adrian said firmly, getting slowly to his feet.
"Are you sure?" Tash held Emily tightly in her lap. "You're hurt, love..."
"I am not leaving without her."
The look on Adrian's face left no room for argument, and his assistant felt about three inches short for even suggesting he come home and rest first. As he strode away through the trees, battered shirt flapping, Tash felt the first raindrops splatter onto her arms, and she shivered violently.
"...we should leave..."
"But she's still out here..."
"Shut up Creation. I'm trying to think."
Obediently the Sovereign fell silent, clutching her sketchbook to her chest like a security blanket. Runoa was limping, but a heavy dose of magic was dealing with the worst of them, and Creation had mostly patched up the rest with her powers. The rain was quickly rinsing the blood from her skin and as she wiped the sweat from her forehead she smeared a crimson line across her face.
"I never expected this..." the former Librarian muttered to herself, as they pushed their way through the trees. The forest fire that had sprung from the battle had all but died away now in the rain shower, leaving tree tops smoking into the twilight. "What to do...?"
"Was that even Phoenixia?" Creation timidly asked. She shivered in her soaking smock and wished that Runoa would just decide to go home so she could get warm and dry...and safely away from the forest with the psycho lurking in it.
"I don't think so," Runoa admitted. "Not really...If I had to guess, a split personality."
"How did she get so powerful?" the Sovereign asked quietly.
"I don't know," not knowing was not something Runoa liked feeling, and she angrily kicked the nearest tree. A number of factors could have caused this – simple DID gone bad. Phoenixia's pent up grief and anger. I could even be a result of having Death's body. Nobody could say for certain. She was infuriated that this unexpected twist had happened, and she had not planned for it – now not only did she have to counter this new threat, but she had to think safely for the first time – not only was Phoenixia's darker side psychotic, but she was strong too. The way she had acted and the power she had exhibited today...it made Runoa shiver.
Creation gave a loud squeak, and Runoa glared at her angrily for disturbing her thought process...then went still and heard just what had frightened her.
Soft sobs, barely audible behind the rain, were coming from a few trees away. And neither of them needed to see the hunched over shadow to know who it was.
Runoa wasn't a stupid woman. Slightly insane maybe, but not stupid. She knew better than to pass up an opportunity like this when it presented itself to her. Admittedly in all her plans she had never factored in Phoenixia developing a split personality, but now was the perfect opportunity to take it in her stride and make some use out of this.
Maybe today wasn't a total waste after all...
The sobs were soft and desperate, and the former Librarian waved a nervous Creation back – the poor young Sovereign had had more action today than she had ever wanted to see, and she was terrified of the idea of approaching the woman. Runoa had no such scruples.
The tiny balled up figure was shivering as the raindrops splattered against her skin. Incandescent Silverreign was thrown carelessly into the carpet of pine needles, the metal dull in the dim light. Slowly, so as not to startle the woman, Runoa sat down on the floor of the forest beside her.
"...is she gone?" she asked cautiously. Phoenixia did not look up, and shook her head against her knees. Her voice was muffled as she replied.
"She's there...she's whispering...all the time whispering...what have I done?"
Comforting was not in Runoa's nature, so she watched the rain fall from the clouds as Phoenixia continued to sob. A few drops splashed against her cheek and she felt a shiver of cold work its way up her body. It was almost like the forest was weeping with her, she mused.
"She's too powerful, you know," she said, as honestly as she could. "She destroyed half this forest today, and she could have easily killed me." She shook her head. "You can't stop her Phoenixia."
The sobbing had turned into desperate and terrified pants, like an animal caught in a trap, and Phoenixia pressed her hands against her head, as though trying to shut the voice out.
The beginnings of an idea were beginning to form in Runoa's mind, and she felt her battered confidence begin to return.
"Help me..." the terrified woman had lifted her head, desperation flooding out of her eyes faster than the tears. "Please...before she kills everyone..."
Slowly, Runoa got to her feet and brushed the pine needles off her legs. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Creation scoot a little closer to hear, and she waved her back.
"There is...something I can do, which may help to stop her."
She had Phoenixia's total attention, and Runoa folded her arms sternly as she looked down upon her. She remembered again that Phoenixia held Death's body, and she wondered if this was how he had looked before his own defeat – standing at the edge of something horrifying and unknown with no end in sight. It had to be the most terrifying feeling in the world. Well, she thought to herself, she has every right to be scared.
"I won't lie," she said bluntly. "It won't be easy. And it will be painful...but there is a good chance it could silence that murderous little bitch forever."
"Tell me!" she wasn't crying any longer – only a desperate focus to hear her salvation.
She half expected Phoenixia to scream, or run away, but she just sat there, her eyes wider than ever. Runoa grudgingly had to hand it to Crickette – she had broken Phoenixia far further than she could ever have imagined possible. She could almost see the war being waged inside the woman's head.
"But..." she trailed off helplessly. "I'd be a..."
"You'd be powerful," Runoa said in a low voice. "Powerful enough to stop her – suppress her completely! Immaculation isn't as complicated as it sounds dear." She crouched down to eye level once more, this time facing her. "It simply takes the most dominant personality trait and enhances it. Everything else, is almost completely suppressed." She frowned and her voice took on a challenging tone. "But you need to be the dominant personality. Are you the one in charge of this body Phoenixia?"
For a long time, only the rain made any noise, dripping off the pine needles and splattering onto the forest floor. It trickled off Runoa's fringe and soaked her battle-ripped clothing, but she barely noticed it as she watched Phoenixia's expression for any hint of those pink eyes.
"...I think so," came the whispered reply, almost as though she were afraid to say it.
Runoa allowed herself to smile in satisfaction. She had what she wanted. She could see it in her face, and she nodded to Creation, who got to work on a plothole.
As Phoenixia raised her eyes from her thoughts, she found the former Librarian offering her a hand.
"Come with me Phoenixia. And we'll silence that voice of yours forever."
"Where?" Tash limped into the monitor room, still pressing gauze against her body. Emily had been hurried away by Harriet for a medical check and some cuddles, and so it was left to the Assistant Librarian to pace the corridors anxiously.
"I can't see," Red was fiddling with the static filled screen. "Visual feed is still gone from earlier."
"It was Runoa," Alice reported, scanning another set of monitors, where the graphs of Sue energy had just flatlined. "She and Creation have both left. I just lost both their signals."
"Adrian?" Tash pulled up Adrian's communicator on the screen and began talking. "I'm patching you coordinates for a plothole that was just activated – Runoa and Creation went through it..." She frowned as she heard no response.
A hand touched the smooth metal of the gun and drew a sharp gasp as the Librarian realised that this was not a dream.
"Adrian? Are you there love?"
"...what?" Tash sounded desperate over the communicator, but Adrian did not care. He wrapped his hands around the barrel of Incandescent Silverreign and laid is across his lap. The wet metal was freezing, and the damp floor of pine needles soaked through the Librarian's trousers.
The forest felt like it was closing in on him, and for the first time in a very long time, the Librarian felt tears in his eyes.
"I don't know..."