Chapter 13 - To Forgive and To Forget, To continue to Fight

"The Grand Chase are heroes of all, loved and honoured by people~"A girl hummed as she skipped along the paths of the night. Only the dying streetlights guided her towards her destination. She then stopped singing and skipping when in front of her stood a pair of large men, staring down at her with lecherous eyes.

"Hellow there, beauty. Isn't this past your bedtime?"

"Why don't we bring you home? Or back to ours?"

But the girl remained her same cheery self, holding onto her backpack's strap like an innocent elementary student. She then continued to sing. "But when the Lord of Hell comes, boom goes their lives~"

At first, the two men questioned her unreasonably obliviousness towards the situation she was in by a silent and brief eye contact. Could she not read the fact that she was going to be kidnapped and be tainted? She had even finished her weird song of hers.

Her mouth opens and she now said it in her monotone voice, "Boom goes their lives~"

A claw from behind instantly pierced through the guts of the two men just a quick second after she ended her sentence and they scream in the horror of being decapitated from behind. Fear had told them not to look back, but their curiosity had dragged their eyes around. And they saw the most hideous, dark beast they could imagine.

The girl simply smiled as she watched the two men cry out in a mixture of pain and terror, getting ripped from their insides and minced until they become unrecognizable little pieces of limbs. When the beast, coated in a beautiful dye of red, turned around and looked directly at her, she spoke, "I found you~ I even brought some food too~"

"Irene." It snarled, crawling towards her whom still stood under the light from the darkness. It gradually pushed itself up and walked on its hind legs. Slowly, those monstrous features had sunk back into a body which seemed human. His claws had transformed back into little pale fingers and his face had reverted back into the handsome lilac haired teen he was once was.

"You skipped a lot of school days, you know~" She mock-scolded as she brought her rucksack in front of her and rummaged through it. "I've made sure the teachers think you're on a suddenly trip to Serdin for a relative's wedding and took notes in classes and-"

"Skip the useless things, Irene."

At first, the girl stopped and made a pouting face at him. But seeing the uncaring face of the teen, she huffed proudly and gave up in an arrogant manner. Then she continued to look through her bag. "I found out from my sources that that classmate of yours is leaving in the next month. We've got that much to decide her fate. As for the rest of the Grand Chase… It seems as if they're given these 'dreams' to initiate their awakenings."

"Nothing new there…"

"I took a trip to the Western Ranges District of Kanavan yesterday. I managed to get in contact with a traitor of the New-Order and brought back a souvenir~" Her voice tweaked into a higher pitch, making her friend cringe in the stinging pain in his ears. She then finally pulled something out from her pocket. It was a glass ball, tinted with light blue. The black eyes of the boy squinted to focus on it from the darkness. He thought he saw his own reflection in the glass ball. But smiled sinfully upon closer inspection.

Blue eyes under white bangs glowered back to the black eyes from the crystal ball.

"Lass…. Enjoying your little container?"

Muffled voices of anger expressed by the striker that was trapped in the ball replied back to the tease. Irene smiled at the satisfied smirk that appeared on the lilac teen's face. She then took his hands and placed the ball in his palms. "Here, boss. You take it." A questioning eye stared back at her and she smiled sweetly. "I risked my life to get this for you~"

Her eyes were hoping for something. But he denied it immediately.

"Get back to central, Irene." He turned away, still awed at the sparkle in the spherical soul, and walked back into the depths of the dark alleyways. Irene stayed there, staring at the teen disappear into the shadows of the world. And she sighed.

"…. Anything for you…"


"A-Aah!" The red head jolted immediately when a cold solid pressed onto his cheek. His gold eyes shot up to see the jolly grin of the black haired man. Then it followed down to his arms and to his hand, where a cold can of fizz was held. He looked at it with caution at first, but not a moment later, he thought it was for the best to accept it immediately and took it. "T-thanks.." He tried to say it properly, but had nearly choked on his own spit.

"No problem. Kids like you need the energy to head back, right?" He smiled, pulling of the ring of his own can of drink – the usual classic beer that he always bought from the nearest 24/7 convenience store. And then he drank without reservation, licking any traces of the cold liquid that trailed on his lips.

The red head stared at him, wondering who exactly this man was.

Not too long ago, he knew the man as simply PK. A great street fighter with a distinct style of fighting that was incomparable to any others. His speed and dexterity was quite unmatchable as well, as if he moved as swiftly as the speed of light. It took the red head a large number of fights to finally be able to see his exact movements. But he was still far from being able to predict anything and keeping up with it long enough to learn them. The raw strength in those fists PK had was also as deadly as his speed, as they could break more than bones. The feeling of the impact on one's body was so strong, that it was capable of sending many others to run off with their tails between their legs.

But such power wasn't the only thing that earned Leo's respect. It was how PK could see the actual battle in a different angle, like he had a mental map of everything around him from a bird's eye view. This enabled him to strategize quickly enough to make his next move and to utilize Leo's fast paced and unpredictable skills on the enemies to break their morale easily and win a battle efficiently. They could have enough energy to last them a full 24 hours of fights without feeling too exhausted.

That and the fact PK acted so gentle to the young lion. One may even call him a big brother to Leo if they saw how the older man treated the young fighter. He would cover Leo's back when necessary (though at times, Leo noticed some overprotectiveness) and throw out as much advices when Leo needed it, even in the midst of the battle. After a fight, he'd get them some drinks and share a hearty chat together until daybreak. But always, PK would pat the younger man by the head as a form of showing his brotherly affection.

Alas, that was the person he had known as PK. The man that stood in front of him now, who shared the same jolly face as PK, was someone he never knew could exist.

This man was a monster, hiding behind a mask called PK.


'R-round 4 winners: Leo and PK!'

The referee had desperately suppressed his stutter. Instead of the usual roars of cheers and support, there was an empty silence that filled the arena. Mouths and jaws were hanging down and gaping widely open. Eyes were literally popping out in fear, looking at the centre of the stage. And slowly murmurs of horror began to spread around like wildfire.

There in the centre of the stage was their new favourite young street fighter, Leo. He always came in the ring as a delinquent leader in a white cloak, wearing bandages from his fists, to his abs. He even had a bandage over his nose and a bandanna to give off a mysterious aura. Rumours say that he leads a silent deadly group of felons, having speed and power as similar as he did. But today, the crowd kept their tongues from screaming his name and cheering for him. Even he understood why the people said nothing.

Next to him was PK, also a rising star in the street fighting world and Leo's fighting partner. He was always decked in black and shrouded in secret and wore a smiling face as his mask. And after watching countless rounds, they've seen the man walk out every time without any visible or obvious wounds, giving everyone the impression that he was some sort of man of steel. Probably invincible.

But today, he was decked in blood. Not his own blood, but his opponents.

Never had they seen such a brutal street fight involving as much blood as what they had just the cruelty that the man had was simply terrifying.

The cries for mercy rang in everyone's ears long enough for them all to be scarred, bringing more than just nightmares for the evening. The way their eyes screamed for help to escape from the man's wrath paralyzed all at their spots. Their hands reached out for aid, but were left to claw the grounds to make a single bit of attempt to run away for none would dare to cross paths against the horrifying PK's wrath.

The signature laugh PK had sent everyone, even Leo, to tremble in distress as it was entwined with a sort of distorted madness.

PK snorted to the silence and walked away to the corner of the arena to pick up his jacket. He only turned around to see the red haired teen, ignoring the knocked out opponents on the ground, faces beyond recognition. Blood desperately hung over his clothes fell, leaving a startling trail of crimson. "You coming?"

"Y-yeah…" Leo nodded, half solemnly, half terrified to his sparring partner. The courage he once had inside him had shrunk into a bite-sized unshakable cube in the corner of his heart. But he forced his legs to move, even if it were awkward baby steps. In his mind, the same words repeated itself like a broken record.

PK was a monster.


"Hey kid."

Leo jumped when the man touched his shoulder. "Y-yeah?!" He spurted out, almost dropping his drink. Black eyes blinked in confusion to how the young lion was so startled to even the slightest touch. He seemed fine when he shook the hand of some of his fans outside the area as they left the place.

Now that he thought of it, Leo was acting a little jumpy after that fight. Looking at the young man now, his gold eyes were not as firm as it was once before. They were, as his body, shivering. It became distinctly clear when he noticed tiny drops of his fizzy drink spilled out of his can and dirtied a little of his white jacket and at the same time desperately covering all those little fears.

And PK swore inside to himself. It was obviously his fault.

"Sorry… I showed an uncool side of myself…" PK mumbled, reminding himself of how Leo cowered like all those he once knew when he had gone berserk once upon a time. "I was in a bad mood and well… By accident, I took it out on them… It's immature and I know it. And seemed to have scared the living daylights outta you. Sorry…"

A long silence hung over them. The older man scratched the back of his neck as he took a small sip of his beer, watching the lion's reaction. PK knew not of anyone who would forgive him so easily after exposing such a side to those around him. Only the exceptional group of eccentrics that he once called his family would understand how he worked.

A tiny bit of him hoped Leo would understand him as well.

And eventually, Leo exhaled and the shaking stopped. A wave of relief had washed over the older man when he watched Leo calmed down so quickly and actually tipped his head a little in curiosity. Like a little child, he looked as if he was more curious to why PK had become enraged instead of worrying over the fearsome side of his that emerged so suddenly earlier that evening.

PK was now, to Leo, just a normal human (ignoring his superhuman stats) who was capable of bottling up his own problems. And when the bottle broke, his fury was unleashed to those that seemed convenient. And those fighters earlier that night were simply victims at the wrong time.

So there were still some things Leo has yet to know about the man. The name PK was never a mask, rather, a complicated personality that was part of , he did say the nickname PK befitted him. If he recalled, Prime Knights were like a double edge sword in the ancient times. They were powerful and could destroy the gods themselves. That power was bestowed to them to protect those they love. But such power was so destructive that they could switch into a state of madness in unpredictable moments, usually brought about by their spiritual state.

PK had let out his wrath to balance out himself when he was unstable inside. That was the only explanation to that terrifying mood of his. And Leo could understand.

"N-no… I'm just not good with blood…" Leo muttered. "And I guess… I can forgive you… But… You must tell me why you were so angry…"

"I thought you would ask me that." The older man sighed reluctantly and slumped on the bench he sat. Watching the man sigh unwillingly once more, Leo moved himself in front of the man and crossed his arms, demanding the reason for his madness.

PK thought who the childish one here was.

"It's kind of my fault, really…" The black haired man sat up, grinning almost too sadly. "I… it's hard for me to forgive someone... After all these years, every time I think of her, all I want is to break her because she hurt me."

Leo blinked realizing that there was such a person who was capable of shattering this man's will to the point he would dredge around it for so long. But he quietly listened, knowing it was for the best for PK to release it all out without interruption, afraid that the man might change the topic.

"She's… A close friend of mine… Maybe closer? But she never saw it that way. She had her own flow and lived in her own world. It was hard for anyone to understand her, even for me. But the way she acted around us seemed like she considered us as friends. And when I thought I finally did get through to her, she left us…I know her best friend spent countless days worrying over her disappearance without telling us. Even I spent time being so distress, not being able to have a decent sleep."

"When she returned, she told us her reason for leaving – it was for her own personal ambition. The least she could've done was to tell us that it was going to be okay and she was sorry for worrying everyone. But instead, she was like a different person. Almost too much. I felt like I couldn't recognize her at all. Especially when she became so independent and reliable. It actually scared me a little to think that she might not need the same protection I once gave her. But nevertheless, she accepted any help offered."

"Only when we last saw each other, did she discard our trust. There was a… A sort of Mission we did together… But she acted so jumpy. Something was definitely wrong, but she wouldn't say a thing. She was our friend, she should've trusted us. You know? We could've worked things out together, share the pain to ease the burden. I would've even risk my life for her… Instead, she kept us all in the dark and... Let's just say we all fell apart… I lost my beloved relative that day, my juniors that I mentored along the way, even my stupid rival that I think should really have a good beating… They were all gone because she couldn't trust even me…"

"PK…" Leo patted the man by his shoulder. From the light of the streetlamps, the trickle of tears sparkled down the older man's cheek. Finally, the man was showing a bit of his true colours and it touched the young fighter. Leo couldn't think of anything else but give the same comforting pat on the head, like how PK would do to him. "Such a heavy burden you've been carrying around… No wonder it was possible for an invincible man like you to break…"

"Heh… Sorry I'm not as invincible as you think…" He tried to laugh, wiping his tears with his fingerless gloves. "Dear Starklin, my great granddaughter may actually kill me if she finds out I showed my weak side so easily.."

"PK, my elder brother always taught us to forgive and forget. Not just because it was the right thing to do or was it to make peace with others, but as a selfish action to find peace in yourself. That burden of holding a grudge on others will just drag you down. Like what just happened... And if you choose to instead, inflict pain to her, it will only be a never-ending cycle of hurt for the both of you. I know it is hard to forgive her for what she had done and forget the pain you felt for so long, but surely, you won't suffer as much as now."

PK looked up to the glowing gold eyes of the red head. And he couldn't help but smile. The boy simply represented someone of long ago that he knew – a young but experience-filled Rama who cherished inner spiritual peace, believing that it was the reason for a healthy stable life.

Then again, there was no better person to be the vessel for the Rama than Leo.

Yet something felt amiss with the boy. Sure, PK could clearly see so much resemblance in him. The red hair, the gold eyes, the roundish handsome face, the physique, the speed. There was still something else that was missing…

The older man stood and stretched out his hands before grinning childishly to the lion. "You're right… I think I should try to do that… We don't need this petty hatred amongst us Grand Chase now or for the time coming… Thanks, kid."

Leo wanted to ask the man further, about why he mentioned the last bit but something else came out of his mouth. "Your beloved relative… Was she you're great granddaughter…?"

"She was… And well…. She'd kill me if she knew I've been moping around like this… So thanks for making me realize it before that happens…" PK turned away, giving a light wave to the young man as he walked away.

He stopped, though, surprising the young man. Leo couldn't think of anything that he might have accidentally left behind (even if he did, it was always the empty cans of beer that ended up getting thrown by Leo).

"Hey, Leo… Why did you join the street fights…?"

A long silence hung over them. It was quite unexpected for the young fighter to be speechless. By nature, he always had a confident and determined reply, with a sparkle of courage and honesty in them. However, Leo was still, almost hesitant to actually answer that question.

"…. I don't really know…"


"Thank you for the tea…" She whispered lightly with a small nod as she accepted took the cute little china teacup from the tray. Fritz smiled back to her as he continued to serve to the rest of his midnight guests. Other than this blue haired girl who seemed to have cross-dressed as a young lad, the late night visitors of his consisted of a purple demon who seemed quite precarious, a young orange haired man that was getting a little prickly sitting next to the demon's thorns and a lilac haired woman who seemed quite uncomfortable by the formality in their meeting. Nevertheless, he tried his best to show a reassuring face to her to calm her down.

"Right…" The lanky man sighed as he set down the tray and sat on the couch, just next to his son. The silver haired had been quite idle ever since the four visitors entered the orphanage, cautiously watching every movement of theirs. Unlike the brunette man standing behind, back facing them all and arms crossed and deep in thought. Fritz then looked up to his guests. "So… What's this about Sieghart attacking you all….?"

It was the first thing he thought of. Well, he never imagined a group of four stumbling at the entrance of an orphanage, all quite exhausted and shaken, muttering that they were attacked by the one and only legendary Sieghart. He personally knew the man wouldn't act so barbarically as to assault his own comrades. Then again, he hadn't met the immortal for such a long time. And change was something thataccompanied time.

"Something personal. You know how Sieghart acts... Nothing to be worried about." The blue haired woman immediately answered, unwilling to let anyone else say anything else. As if she wanted to deal with the problem without any additional unnecessary worries. But Fritz believed her anyways. When the group had entered, she was the one who introduced herself as Mari M. Onette, the Grand Chase's La Geas. And he knew how Mari was personally close to Sieghart.

Then there was the man who called himself Dirge, claiming that he was the vessel of the one and only Dusk Bringer. It was obviously the truth, seeing as his whole body had become one with the demon himself. Dirge was slumping down and had been glowering at the brunette that stood behind his hosts since they had their seats. "So why the hell aren't you facing us, Rue?"

Rue did not answer.

Instead, the silver haired man chuckled at the demon, showing a glimpse of his teeth to them like a devilish imp. He pointed with his thumb to the brunette behind him and grinned evilly, almost out of his character. "You see, this sad bastard here seems to have hopes of becoming part of the Grand Chase as the one who has the Arbiter inside of him all because of you guys gave him the idea of him having his soul. And guess what? Apparently he's got nothing to do with you all and he's heartbroken inside."

"Th-that can't be true! Rue looks exactly like Rufus! He's supposed to have Rufus inside him!" The lilac haired, Aisha who claimed herself as the keeper of the Battle Mage's soul, protested against him, almost standing up from her seat if not for the fact her companion, apparently named Rivera who keeps the soul of the Vanquisher. He had held his hand over the woman keeping her down as he stared warily at the silver haired.

"And who are you to say that? You smell familiar but at the same time, unfitting to your appearance…" Rivera growled threateningly. When said, Dirge blinked and then directed his eyes towards the white haired with similar suspicion. All the while, Fritz sighed.

"Apparently, this man is whom you all are familiar with as Rufus," The lanky man coughed, a little embarrassed that his son's body was forced to act so mischievous. When everyone showed a face of disbelief, the silver haired laid back and pulled his legs up to the coffee table.

"Believe it or not, I, Rufus Wilde, am in this body."

The first person to show a decent, non-surprised and logical reaction was Mari, for she set down her tea gently and cleared her throat."Now that you point that out, the body you currently reside in does resemble you in several ways. But I'm not comprehending the fact your vessel doesn't look completely the same as you since our souls are only capable of being awakened by a vessel who is fully synchronized with us, like the rest of us. Unless-"

"Unless I ended up in Lass' supposed body," Rufus finished her sentence as he reached out to his neck and sighed drowsily. This continued to shock the other chasers but Mari, who seemed to have gotten more interested in the current topic. "Rue and I deduced that amongst the so-called New-Order Chaos Resistance, there is a traitor who stole Lass' soul. It seems like by accident that I ended up in this body."

"And who, do you suppose, is the traitor?" Mari questioned with full attention and theories appearing in her head as if uncovering the many little mysteries from a detective novel. "Surely as Rufus, you might have deduced this as well."

"Of course I did. You're lucky that you're smart enough for my acknowledgment. Otherwise, I would've blasted your head off for testing me," Rufus-in-Lorraine hissed in irk before he switched back to his cool detective state. He eyed the man next to him first. Fritz was looking down, almost unwilling to hear his coming words, but at the same time, was bracing for the answer that he needed to listen to. The rest of the chasers were tentatively listening, slightly leaning towards him with curiosity.

Only Rue, who stood behind him, was blankly staring into the space in front of him. But Rufus ignored it.

"The traitor should be the Guardian who's supposed to be watching over me." Rufus didn't turn to his left, but he could feel the serpentine jolt at the answer. The silver haired man then sighed. Any normal person right now wouldn't jolt, or show any signs of fear unless they knew the said traitor. And from Rufus' perspective, Fritz knew exactly who Rufus' guardian was.

But the Arbiter said nothing. To mention that information was the same thing as accusing the serpentine of being in cahoots with the whole shenanigan. And the group didn't need more than what they were facing now. However, what he wanted now was to know who exactly the guardian of the Arbiter was. But such an answer couldn't be given by the serpentine for he seemed to have been bounded by an oath to not reveal anything after a sort of betrayal happened in the previous Chaos Order Resistance (whatever it was called…).

Dirge then sat up, crossing his arms confidently. "Well. We'll look for this traitor, beat him up into a pulp and recover back this Lass person's soul and get you back into the body you're supposed to be in."

"It ain't that simple, Burning Canyon!- I mean, Steamrift." Rufus bit his tongue in his mistake. "That guardian might be somewhere 'guarding' an imposter or some sort, pretending he's still doing his job. And I can't just 'get back into the body I'm supposed to be in'. That's ridiculous."

"And why is that?!"

The serpentine next to the silver haired man lightly lifted his hand, like a shy student in class. "It's all my fault… It may have happened a long time ago, when the New-Order was made. I knew I was assigned to guard Lass' soul because of my lack of awareness, I hadn't realized I've been watching over Rufus' instead. I think by then, the guardian who possesses Lass must be long gone by now…"

"So…?"

"It is also the guardian's duty to guide the soul to their next body when the current body dies," Fritz continued. "Whoever's the Guardian of Rufus, must have brought Lass' soul to a body so incompatible, that he may never wake up. But that would show suspicion so that plan would be discarded. On the other hand, an alternative is to continue guiding it to a compatible body and when the time is right, you kill the person possessing the soul and keep the soul from progressing to the next body and stopping anymore awakenings…."

"H-hey… Does that mean Lass' vessel right now…." Aisha gulped at the cruel reality, but the silver haired shook his head.

"There's a chance." Rufus didn't let the librarian continue her sentence. It would destroy morale for all he knew. And with his strategic mind, he knew morale was something the Grand Chase needed right now. "But so far, there isn't any murder on anyone looking like me recently, is there? So we just need to act fast before anything happens."

"In other words… I shouldn't be here." The brunette behind them finally spoke and turned around; looking at the faces he actually thought of calling them his comrades. Only the silver haired man kept his gaze forward. Rue ignored it, tearing apart his gaze from the scene in front of him and towards the entrance. "I'll be a burden if I continue to stick with you all. You already got your arbiter here and this Lass person must be somewhere out there in needs to be saved."

Guilt consumed the librarian's heart when she witnessed the ex-detective drag his feet towards the entrance of the lounge. There was a huge feeling of angst that resided deep in his red eyes, everyone could see them. And they were the ones who caused it, by raising up his hopes (by a really tiny amount) and then breaking it relentlessly with the knowledge that he was never involved with all this in the first place.

"Rue…." It wasn't a call for his name to stay, as what Aisha intended to say. She was a little chocked on her awareness of being partially at fault. Instead, it was a threatening growl made by the undertaker. The demon had risen up to his feet, glowering at his childhood friend of 16 years. "You are not bringing your ass out of there…."

"Watch me." Rue grunted as he turned his back on them for the last time and walked out.

"Oh no you don-!"

BAM

The undertaker crashed clumsily onto the coffee table in front of him. Pushing himself up with irritation, he shot a glare at the first person he imagined to have tripped him into falling over. The blue eyes of the silver haired man simply looked back in defiance, and he shrugged pointing towards the orange haired man, who not only had his foot sticking out, he also flinched in fear of the consequences of defying the undertaker's desire.

"Why the hell did you stop me?!"

"W-well…. We all need to calm down, that's what… I think…." Rivera mumbled, desperately clutching onto his little courage that kept him from screaming in apology to the mad demon. "I mean… You're.. Angry at yourself for making him feel that way…" The elf then casted a gaze over the woman next to him, she was pale and distraught. "And… Aisha looks like she's been given a death sentence…"

"Rue obviously needed time out away from anything Grand Chase related too…" Mari continued for the vermillion haired man, sipping her tea like nothing happened. "If he remained here, he might self-destruct… He needs to sort out his thoughts without us interfering."

"And if doesn't?"

"That's not a problem." Rufus spoke, "It's a surprise to see him not my vessel when he resembles me quite a lot. Personality wise. But because of that, he'll definitely make things clear in his head when he's by himself."

"The problem lies in what he might do afterwards…"


Leo looked down on his palms, clenching them and relaxing them repeatedly.

"… I don't really know…"

His reply to PK made him think. There were really no other reasons for the fighter to join the street brawls. The desire to fight against the famed kings of the street fighting world didn't really burn in him. And the prize money didn't tempt him that much – he actually did well in his academics so any decent job was easily captured in his hands.

It could probably be due to his admiration for his elder brother, Isis. The man was the neighbourhood Brawler King, destroying anyone who crosses path with him. Because of that, people always had a negative outlook on him yet the man cared not for such thoughts. In reality, he used his brutal strength to protect those who were in need of help. A gentle man is who he was, with a huge noble heart.

Isis died protecting his two precious brothers.

Leo then caught sight of a small seesaw. And took note of the light smell of cigarettes in the air.

He was never a fan of smokers, but he always found himself attracted to the smell of tobacco. It wasn't a comforting thought, but it had become a habit for him to walk by himself in the night towards that smell. There was only one person he knew who smoked in these parts anyways.

"Cole."

The gold eyes blinked forward and then saw another pair of gold eyes. A teen was leaning at the jungle gym bars and smoking, having a similar shade of red hair with the only difference being the yellow shades at the end of his bangs. Looking at the multiple smoke butts on the ground, the teen had been waiting there for quite some time. With a couple of piercings on his ears and long suspicious sleeves over his arms, anyone would choose to avoid such a strange person. But the red head approached him instead.

"You're late, Joey."

Joey. That was the name he used outside the world of street brawling. Meaning it was his real true identity of the Burning Lion of the Street Fighting world was none other than Joey, another common brat of the Alstroemeria Orphanage, the younger brother of Cole and a survivor of arson.

"Sorry…"He cheekily smiled, scratching the back of his neck in a sheepish manner. "I got caught up in a little thinking…"

"Thinking is a much better activity rather than brawling… When will you stop this stupid shenanigan? Playing as the Burning Lion nearly every night? You know it won't do well if anyone else in the orphanage finds out…" A mouthful of scolding went straight from the older brother and into the fighter's ears. They were very annoying to listen to in the first couple of times, but now he was very used to such naggings.

"It's fine… No one has yet to find my late night outings suspicious, right? Besides I think people will misunderstand you more than me…" Joey snickered, pulling out the cigarette the teen had in his mouth and point out the many piercings in his ears.

"Yeah, well people need to learn that just because I'm into emo and I smoke, doesn't mean I do drugs and alcohol… Or rape or theft or crime or whatever shit people these days think I might be doing…" He snorted and plucked back the cigarette from the fighter. It was unbelievable, but like their eldest brother, Cole could care less of the negative thoughts others harboured for him. He lived by his own path and did what his guts felt right. It was probably because of him that their relatives refused to take the two in, especially when the older brother didn't want to see Joey grow up alone after losing the rest of their family. But the fighter didn't blame him. Cole still played the role as an older brother perfectly.

Joey couldn't help but look at the left arm of the emo. That arm was always properly covered up by the tight sleeves yet upon a closer inspection, one could see the light outlines of a large scar that ran down the arm.

If it wasn't for this Cole, the lion wouldn't be breathing in front of him.

It was a small mugging incident, just after they had started living at the orphanage. A few people whom had grudges against the Brawler King had been devastated to hear him long gone had gone to attack the next best thing – his brothers. At that time, the red head was taken by surprise, unaware of what was happening and unable to comprehend what he should do. His brother on the other hand was next to him, more alert and well, Cole couldn't simply let his brother die, did he?

"Come on… I don't feel great being out so long in the night…"The older brother droned, taking his younger brother by his arm and dragging him towards the orphanage. Joey simply complied and followed after him silently. His eyes still fixated on the scar.

Maybe the answer to why he had joined those fights in the first place was to just get stronger. Joey then stared into the moon high above him.

'No one else…. Should be injured by me…. And for that… I need to be stronger…' Joey then sighed. 'But now… It all seems pointless, huh…'

Why wasn't he strong back then? Isis gone, Cole injured. All he was is just a burden to their lives.

Why was he alive anyways…


Not one person could say another word. They had exhausted each other of what they thought could be a vital piece of information in this investigation. Fritz had even gone and explained how he felt amiss when he heard his son was suddenly called out by a pretty boy prior to the arbiter's awakening and had followed after them warily.

CRASH

The lanky man was the first to stand, with scales and fangs bore out immediately for battle. He then slinked out of the lounge and into the was at their feet by now with their guard up, and only by the mechanic's command, they were waiting for the next move.

Then Fritz walked back in, in his normal human self. "Sorry…. Joey and Cole came back through the kitchen window again and knocked over the trash again… I sent them immediately back into their room.."

"You should put a leash on those kids. That'll work really well." Dirge commented. But he was more interested in how the older man could transform back into a human, where as he remained a demon and couldn't revert back. Not to say he didn't like being a demon, but if he could learn that transformation trick, it would be easier for him to mobilize and help out in the search in broad daylight.

But in that small moment of relief, another deafening boom startled them, followed by a crash. Glass shattered from the window they stood behind and they took cover – Dirge being a winged demon used his wings to cover Aisha, Rivera and Mari (he later felt it was good he wasn't a human then) and Fritz being half serpent used his scales to block out the remaining from scratching even a little on Rufus (because he was still possessing his son's body).

The arbiter looked at the wall opposed to the window and saw the damage – a gun shot from a large bullet. Instincts told him whoever shot such a beautiful sound must have wielded a powerful shotgun.

Standing behind the window was a well-built man, holding a whopping Benelli M3S90. He was grinning from one ear to another, decked in a sort of survival outfit with a hell load of firearms strapped onto him and the typical war paint over his face. But no amount of paint could deny anyone of the many scars that were imprinted on his skin. He was, in a short brief description, a guerrilla warrior.

"C-Colbar?!"

Fritz was the first to exclaim, his eyes shined in recognition to the man's face. Their assaulter snorted at first, spitting out in a mocking fashion before he smirked."Hellow, ol' buddy. How long 'as it been since we saw each otha, eh?"

The serpent did not reply. Instead, he lunged out of the window with claws ready to rip apart the neck that attached the man's head to his body. A ferocious roar blocked out the sound of multiple gunshots. Bullets ricocheted away from the scales of the serpent and flew everywhere, breaking the wooden walls of the building.

"Dirge! Aisha! Keep the orphanage safe! Rivera, Rufus and I will get the children to safety!"Mari drastically commanded. The combination of a serpent and a man armed with more than hundreds of firepower simply meant utter destruction. And it wouldn't do good if they got involved with many young lives still sleeping soundly upstairs. It took them all less than a heartbeat to act quickly – the grave watcher skipped out of the windowsill and used his mighty wings and claw to cover the librarian who started casting a barrier around the orphanage.

In the hallways, Rivera had already rushed opposite to the stairs, clearing out anything that would become an obstacle in their escape route. The other two had run upstairs and found that there were kids, already awake and peeping outside of their bedrooms. And two young men stood in between them, in a sort of fighting was a silent and quick assumption that the two were Joey and Cole, considering that they were the last to have arrived upstairs.

"Lorraine, what's happening?!" The red head of the two chocked out first, recognizing the white hair in the darkness. At first, Rufus was puzzled but then he remembered that he had possessed the said man's body.

"We're under and I will stay up there to make sure no one's left behind." Rufus zipped passed the elf and stood at the top of the stairs. "Rivera, take Joey and lead the kids to wherever Mari's going. And whatever we do, we must keep as calm as possible."

"R… Right!" Joey chirped as he followed the orange haired man downstairs. The red tainted blond one on the other hand simply stared at the silverette before he shrugged and followed the man's orders.


Grey eyes stared into the distant night view. Sparks of azure and crimson splayed in the depths of the Nymph's Garden District. He then sighed, scratching his nape wearily.

"You're just going to watch them?"

A younger voice lulled from behind him. The black haired man looked over his shoulder to see a teen, lilac hair with dead black eyes. In his fingers, he toyed around a small glowing spherical ball.

"…. Yeap. No point in showing myself there." He grinned, turning away from the flashy show. "I've been waiting for the day that guardian shows his true colours anyways…"

"So it was also part of your plan to get this soul into the enemy's hands? Is it?" The teen questioned, gripping the ball of life a little too tightly. A choking voice could be heard from it, but neither men took notice of it.

"… But of course… Especially when the enemy's boss is the one and only-"

"Hmph… Insolent immortal… Then again, when are you not?" The teen smirked as he took a step towards the clashing lights. Step by step, his skin slowly peeled away, revealing the deranged, horrifying creature that resided inside of him.

"You know… I heard you pretended to feel hurt when the Arbiter shot you… Why don't you show them your true colours? It'll be pretty fun..." The man then laughed as he took a step away from the creature, walking towards an unknown destination that not even he knew.

The creature paused and then smirked. "But of course…"

As it closed its eyes, its body mutated once more. Its dark skin bubbled ferociously all over its deranged structure, becoming a monster far hideous than he was once was. However, there was a significant change in his shape. Arms were gradually becoming more slender and perhaps one could call them 'normal' looking. Even his head had become less irregular than it already had, creating a proper recognizable face. However, a variation from this transformation was the two large lumps that grew on its back, creating a new form of limb attached on its back.

When the bubbly mutation slowly ended, the creature had become a dark skinned male demon, complete with fangs, claws and the signature devilish smile. He almost looked like his human appearance albeit the fact his lilac hair had been tainted by black. The limbs at its back had even finished mutating, becoming mighty dragonish wings.

A rune circle suddenly appeared below the demon, glowing in a mix of crimson, violet and black. Then pieces of yellow rimmed lilac garments emerged out from the rune circle, floating around it. One by one, it latched itself on the demon and every piece fitted perfectly over its body, until none of his dark skin but his hands were covered. The last object that floated out was but a long sword, infused of three different metalloids. He then grabbed onto it with his free hand and awed at the fine piece of forgery.

In his new appearance, he chuckled almost too intimidatingly. The sound of his sword scathing the cobble streets echoed through the streets. And at the opposite end, the black haired man sighed.

"Well now… All Hell's going to break loose…."


Mari had volunteered to keep watch over the residents of the Alstroemeria Orphanage in a place that seemed like the children's favourite hiding spot from their caretaker. That alone was enough for the two men to be sure they were safe and rush back to the orphanage. After counting the heads of each little child more than three times, they were convinced that there was still missing someone.

"Mimi! She's not here!" Joey had realized a little too late, but it was enough for the two men to rush back as fast as possible.

But upon returning, they did not expect to see a fully grown serpent king locked in a ferocious fight with an enormous fanged king cobra. It was obvious that the giant serpent was Fritz, so they immediately assumed that their war painted enemy was the cobra. The two hissed and blasted their respective breaths of fire and ice. But at least they did predicted that Dirge had stopped covering for the librarian once the barrier was finished and had also engaged in battle, fighting alongside the serpent king.

"Damn it! Why can't I bring out the eyeteeth?!" Rufus snarled to himself, looking down onto his bandaged arms. Rivera next to him understood the anger he had. In a crucial time like this, being weaponless was the same thing as being useless. After listening to Fritz's story of how Rufus awakened in Lorraine's body, he could picture the eyeteeth disappearing into a wisp of dark flames and slowly tiny embers that died away in the wind, leaving the ordinary looking Glock in the fainted silver haired man's hand on the day Rufus had awakened. It must have been the unleashing power at that time that influenced the gun to change into suitable weaponry.

But now, Rufus' body was pretty much weak. And well, the elf regretted bringing him along rather than the mechanic who seemed to be more competent.

Nevertheless, the Arbiter was a good strategist as any military commander and that alone was enough. Rivera and he had sneaked into the building, towards the lounge that they were once in. The librarian was there, yes, but she was panting heavily. Who could blame her? From what the elf understood, she had awakened her Battle Mage powers about a week ago. And no one becomes a Mary Sue in that short amount of time. To suddenly make her create such a huge barrier to ward off the destructive powers of two overgrown snakes was more than what she was currently capable of. Even he took his time trying to control his transformations.

"Is everyone out in a safe place?" The librarian gasped. The elf shook his head, mentioning that there was still one last child somewhere. "Jeez… Fritz has been on the defensive far too long… Any second now, he could fall…"

"This is more than just a coincidence… Someone's been planning this battle to happen… That serpent would never hurt that cobra,"Rufus watched the battle, right next to Aisha, with his arms crossed. When questioning eyes looked at him, he started to deduce. "The Battle between the serpent king and the king cobra… It's too unrealistic."

"King Guang, the Serpent King, and King Fang, the King Cobra. They were the best of friends… It's not possible for them tofight one another… Even their appointed guardians wouldn't want them killing one another for the sake of the friendship they cherished so much…" The librarian muttered, watching the horrifying scene behind the barrier that separated them from the reptilian titans plus insane King of Destruction.

"Unless Cobra was controlled by evil this time, instead of Serpent."

The three immediately turned around, prepared to fight another opponent, only to see a small grey haired child, watching them innocently. But only her eyes proved to be innocent because in her hands was a pair of guns… And a long sword.

"Mimi." Rivera said, recalling the name of the missing child that forced them to return to this building. He wanted to ask the girl why she had such hazardous weapons in her grasp but something else came out of his mouth. "What do you mean by 'this time'?"

"I mean what I said. Serpent had learnt his mistakes and kept his guard high. So Cobra was targeted for having an easier heart to falter."

The first question that came to mind was why on earth does a little girl like her know of the problems those adults had. However, what she said did make sense when the librarian muttered of how King Guang was once a victim of the darkness – if he were to be tricked again, he would be the laughing stock. But to think King Fang had instead got manipulated was a ridiculous but strangely believable idea.

Mimi then ran towards them, desperately latching onto those weapons she brought in and jumped into the arms of the elf. She was trembling in his arms. His ears twitched uncomfortably when he heard the rhythmic beats of wings. Behind him was the sight of Rufus glowering at the entrance like a cat in full alert. Even Aisha seemed a little fearful.

When his gaze returned back to the entrance, he gaped.

Rufus gulped at the sight of their new opponent. His head didn't need to calculate their odds of winning. He knew they were dead meat, especially when they were in a disadvantageous state. The serpent king was slowly dying, the undertaker and the librarian had their energy draining by the second, he was pitiful, armed with nothing and an elf who was immediately burdened with the duty to protect a child.

A large pixie, dressed in dark blue with twin red braids.

"Black Fairy Queen.."

Chapter 13 - End


Yo~

Hishin here, feeling really happy cause NAGC finally released the 4th job of Zero, FINALLY!
I feel like my life is complete and I can die in peace... not really... I can't just die off now when I still haven't finished this story and introduced Zero in the story

21st September was Peace-One-Day, with the theme who will you make peace with? And I guess that event kind of influenced me to write up about Sieghart's problem.. I did get a little emotional when I wrote that cause the situation he was in was the same as an old friend of mine (I was Mari...) But in the end, we all made up. Because seriously, when you have a grudge, sometimes forgiving isn't really for others because sometimes they don't give a damn. So don't keep grudges cause they really bruden your life and forgive others for the sake of your own mental health (be a little selfish for yourself!) Peace~

In other news, I have continued to torture Rue and introduced the Grand Chase yet another set of badass enemies~! (I just contradicted whatever I mentioned).

And then... I don't... really have much of an author's not for this chappy, but to say thank you a million gazillion whateverillion times for the support by simply picking up this fanfic, reading it and following its progress.

Ja~