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Overheat

Execute: 1100100

Delete All: Friendship

"Wake up." Icy cold water was splashed on her face. The shock woke her instantly and got her blood pumping. Spending the last week in a dark, isolated room, tied to a wall that was spiked with diluted anti-crystals, had taken it's toll on her psyche and body. Her lips were ruptured, her throat was dry and her eyes was blood-shot. Prisoners had no rights in a war like this. For six months had she led the troops at the front lines, fighting enemies that might have been her friends at one time.

A war that didn't differentiate between adult or child, former friend or foe. An all-out struggle for dominance over all the shares. Six months ago, the four goddesses that ruled over the four dominant nations of the world came together, agreeing that further military struggle for shares would be counter productive. The ceremony of Grand Fealty, uniting the lands under an non-aggression pact.

Nobody knew who the true perpetrator was behind the act that destroyed all hope for peace. Minutes before the execution of the oath each goddess had to swear, urgent news of armed forces attacking the capital of each nation under the banner of another nation reached their ears. Accusations escalated quickly into arguments and finally ended in an all-out fight between four enraged goddesses, each of them suspecting the other three of conspiring against her.

The following battle burned the neutral town of Metas to the ground, costing tens of thousands of people their lives. Unable to reconcile, the nations went to war. Borders were closed, trade relations were abandoned. The world was at war with itself.

Each of the four powers couldn't outmatch the other three. Battles were fought, territories were lost and gained, countless lives were lost and yet a stalemate was inevitably reached each time. Until the battle of Kanomi roughly a week ago. Leanbox had attacked a metropolis a short distance south of Lastation's capital that shared it's nation's titular name. The fight was largely in favor of Leanbox due to their newly developed phase rifle technology. When victory for Leanbox seemed all but inevitable and Black Heart, the goddess and ruler of Lastation, took to arms and personally ravaged the battlefield. Her desperation was met by Green Heart, Leanbox ruler and goddess, who was capable of keeping Black Heart occupied while her troops continued to flood into the city.

It was a third force that not only ended the fight but also delivered a devastating blow to both Leanbox and Lastation at the same time. A chemical agent, poison gas that caused devastating internal bleeding and dissolving of vital organs, was spread thorough the entire city. Suicide agents from Planeptune had infiltrated the metropolis and detonated large containers of the chemical agent. Within minutes, both armies received orders to retreat. Trying to assist her troops with extraction from the battlefield, Green Heart was ambushed. A large troop that was seemingly trapped and in danger of being hit by the still spreading poison gas were actually elite soldier of Planeptune, laying a trap for the goddess of Leanbox. Using anti-crystal layered nets and binds, they captured Green Heart, unbeknownst to her own forces.

For the past week, she, Green Heart, had endured torture and questioning beyond anything she could imagine. Unable to transform, Vert was reaching her limits. If something didn't happen soon, she would not only die but all of Leanbox would fall prey to Planeptune's ploy.

Facing the same interrogator as the days before, she knew what was coming. Her body reminded her just all too well of it. Despite the brutality of the torture, they had avoided permanently scarring her. Vert suspected that after all of it was over, the broken shell that would remain was to be Purple Heart's plaything. She would rather die than end up like that.

But that day, Vert noticed something else, a second person that kept herself to the shadows of the possibly underground cell, yet, Vert recognized her. "Come to see the fruits of your labor, Nepgear?"

Vert's head was brutally flung to the side when the fist of the interrogator hit. A trickle of blood started to run from her forehead and mouth. "You talk when you're asked and only then, scum!" A little more, and she might have broken Vert's jaw.

"Stand back. I will talk to her." Nepgear had changed. After the war had begun, her sister had not returned to being Neptune even once. She had been Purple Heart all this time. The times and the situation forced her little sister to change as well. Nepgear had, just as her sister, not once transformed back. Purple Heart and Purple Sister were their sole known persona now.

Standing in front of Vert, Nepgear felt nothing but contempt for the ruler of Leanbox. Countless people had lost their lives in the war between Leanbox and Lastation and she was one of the two people responsible for it. Ramming her foot into Vert's stomach, the blonde gasped for air in pain and coughed up blood for several seconds before recovering. "To fall for such an obvious trap. You're not fit to rule a country, Vert."

"I never thought I'd see you fall so low as to use chemical weapons, Nepgear." Vert knew that whatever she said wouldn't change her situation. If she made her oppressor angry enough, at least she could find a quick death.

Pulling Vert up by her hair, Purple Sister plunged her fingernails into Vert's right shoulder, leaving deep and bloody holes behind. "Don't bother. I'm not going to kill you. Even if you don't talk, my sister gave me direct orders not to scar you. But I'm sure she won't mind a few small ones." Increasing the pressure on her fingernails, Vert cried out in terror. Just as the pain was about to make her pass out, Nepgear spit in her face and let her go, slowly turning around. "Has she talked at all up to now?"

Vert was barely conscious, her vision shrouded in mist from the intense pain. She couldn't tell what they were talking about as all what she could do was hang on to her consciousness.

"She is more stubborn than I expected. Neptune won't be pleased with this. Fine then, continue to interrogate her and avoid scarring her. She might not talk at all, but she will make a great toy with that body of hers. I will-" Nepgear was disrupted when the ground shook so violently that part of the ceiling came down, killing the interrogator instantly. "What is going on?"

The outside was complete chaos. Vert had been held at a top secret facility for political prisoners and that very fact had been leaked. Large armored vehicles on both the ground and in the sky were approaching the base from several directions. Troops were gunned down by the superior firepower without mercy. "I can't let them have Vert." Using a single punch to the stomach to knock Vert unconscious, Nepgear unlocked the chains, pulling Vert up and carrying her away.

She got as far as the emergency exit, when she ran straight into a trap. "White Heart!" Nepgear saw herself slightly outclassed right away. Even for her sister, an one versus one fight against the ruler of Lowee was more than just risky. But what was she doing here? Leading an attack on a base deep in Planeptune's territory was just asking for Lastation to attack Lowee! Was it possible the people of Lowee didn't even know what was happening?

"Hand her over. I ain't asking a second time you sorry excuse for a goddess candidate!" Blanc's motive was all but pure. Holding the ruler of another nation was a great political asset. It was unfortunate that of all the goddesses, the one she hated most, Vert, had gotten herself captured and was thus up for grabs, but she wasn't too picky about her methods. Alternatively, she could take Purple Sister hostage and put extreme pressure on Planeptune and Purple Heart that way.

She couldn't hand Vert over, she was too valuable. And getting captured herself was completely unacceptable. Neptune would rather see her dead than become a prisoner to one of the other nations. Pointing her gunblade at Vert's head, Nepgear took a step back. "You're here for her." It wasn't a question but a calculated observation. There was no other reason to attack an outpost like this. "Move even one step and I blast her brain out."

"You fucking numbskull, did you think I didn't expect you to pull something shitty like this?!" Yelling at Nepgear, Blanc remained exactly on her position. "Do it, you stinkin' lot!" Yelling her orders, Nepgear felt a sensation that was uncomfortable and painful beyond reason. Her transformation was forcibly undone but she couldn't understand how or why. She couldn't see any anti-crystal around her.

It became clear when something lifted her up and then smashed against the solid wall. "Optical... optical camouflage? Damn you... I should have seen... that coming."

"Take that bitch away. And pick up the big boobed garbage on the ground! We're leavin' this shit hole! But first, kill everyone! Let not a single of those fuckers out of here alive!"

Several female voices replied at the same time. "Understood!"

"Fucking Vert, making me come all the way out here. I should freaking kill her right here and now!" White Heart's personality had become even more violent than before the war. Her normal form was unaffected, unlike Planeptune's Purple Heart.

Raising high into the air, Blanc prepared for a heavy low orbital magic strike. Unlike Lastation, Lowee didn't have any satellites in orbit, but they didn't need to. Technology was diverse. Arriving at roughly two thousand meters height, Blanc stopped, invoking the gathering. Each of the armored vehicles on the ground deployed a large cannon, all of them directly aimed at Blanc.

"Sammlung!" Raising her ax above her head, the cannons on the ground simultaneously started charging. "Ausführen!"

The cannons colored the sky in white energy, rapidly approaching White Heart. Her weapon worked like a lightning rod for the destructive blasts. "Now get the hell outta here before I blast all of ya to hell!" Not that anyone could actually hear her yelling that far up.

Amassing even the last remains of the energy, Blanc focused it into into her ax. It was weaponry at the very peak of Lowee's technology. The more armored vehicles she could tap into, the more destructive her ultimate technique would become. The power of the masses. The glowing white light that spelled doom for all that were close to the outpost was radiating in the sky. Even dozens of kilometers away at Planeptune, the titular capital of the nation, Purple Heart could see it. And she didn't need to guess what exactly it was.

"Atomare Vernichtung!" As if she was moving a mountain with sheer force, Blanc swung her ax downwards until it was pointing straight down. A beam that was over thirty meters in diameter erupted from her weapon, slowly descending onto the outpost that had served as prison for many officials from other nations, among them even the very leader of Leanbox, Green Heart.

The attack itself was as destructive as several tons of explosive. The building evaporated at impact, the ground liquified, plant life was scorched until nothing but charred, lifeless shells remained. The attack itself was powerful but the true damage behind it was invisible.

To create a lasting warning that all would heed, Lowee had developed weapons of mass destruction that created enough radiation fallout to contaminate the area for years to come. Only the goddess of Lowee, White Heart, was both immune and capable of removing the Blithering Death, a type of radiation that had been brought into existence by their weapons research.

Floating above the smoking crater, Blanc could tell with just a glance that nothing but her would be capable of existing within a ten kilometer radius for more than a dozen years from now on. "Time to get home and see what I can get out of that bitch, Vert."

=== Overheat ===

"Lowee did?" While inferior in terms of raw numbers, Lastation had the upper hand in the information war. Any kind of advanced technological attack was met with an even more advanced counter attack. "For Blanc to have developed such a horrifying weapon... What is Planeptune doing?" Noire was looking over the results she had requested from her analysts.

"We have intercepted communication that states Purple Sister was present when the attack went down. Supposedly, the ruler of Leanbox, Green Heart, was the target of the attack. It is unclear whether termination or rescue was the primary goal." A masked soldier was reporting to her goddess.

"Knowing Blanc, both are equally likely. She despises Vert for her body. Jealousy is such an ugly thing. Has Planeptune moved since?" Opening a direct connection to the analytical department, Noire sent all the new info there.

"They have sent armored scouts to the scene. Our satellite surveillance has shown them to be dying within minutes after reaching a specific threshold of 9,670 meters surrounding the estimated center of the blast. The causality rate is 100%."

"What is the state of Leanbox? After this affair, surely they can no longer hold up the pretense of Green Heart simply not showing her face in public but still ruling." Noire stood up and walked to a window that let her look towards the south-west. "First poison gas, now weapons of mass destruction."

"The oracle of Leanbox, Chika Hakozaki, is the current interim ruler of Leanbox. They announced this shortly after the info leak that Green Heart had been a prisoner of Planeptune for the past days. They have also employed the services of the special ops group Red Ring."

"I see, Cave has joined hands with them. I expected them to eventually join as they originated in Leanbox in the first place. Anything else?"

"That's all."

"Good work. You may go."

Waiting for the soldier to leave, Noire transformed. It was important to keep up appearances in times like these. Opening a maximum security channel to a top secret branch of her weapons research department, a branch that not even Uni knew about, Noire input has password and waited for the other side to do the same. A young woman with a four-colored, square shaped hair clip showed up on the screen. "Progress report." No names, no identification, no details.

"80%. We are finalizing the energy consumption and renewing details." Several dozen schematics popped up on Noire's main display, showcasing the fruits of Lastation's best and brightest. "No matter what kind of weapon the other nation's throw at us, nothing will be able to harm Lastation with this, Lady Black Heart."

"You are all doing well but I must hurry you. Lowee has employed weapons of mass destruction against Planeptune. It is a matter of time until we're their next target."

"We will do our best." Knowing that there was nothing else to be said, the connection was lost and all traces of it ever having happened were being erased by extremely delicate security protocols.

The land of black regality would not kneel before any other. And once the threat of the other nations was resolved, it was a race of technology to see who would emerge the victor. Noire was certain that no other nation could match her scientists pride, skill and intelligence.

The large double winged doors that were the entrance to Black Heart's room opened briefly. "Noire." Only very few people had the necessary privileges to open those. There was no risk of infiltration via that route.

"Uni? How did it go?"

Black Sister, Uni, was Noire's second in command and in charge of the first artillery unit. She was also the only one in Lastation that enjoyed the full and unchallenged trust of her sister. "The mission failed. Leanbox knew we were coming and ambushed us. I managed to keep the causalities to 36 people but we had to retreat."

"Then the mission was a success. I had suspicions that we have a mole here in Lastation and the fact that your details were leaked to Leanbox confirms it." Walking up to her sister and hugging her, Noire apologized. "I'm sorry for not telling you about this beforehand, but you needed to think it was a real mission. Dangerous times call for tough decisions."

Uni was slightly uncomfortable with Noire lying to her, but she understood the necessity of it. "There is a lot of unrest among the people. Did something happen while I was on the mission?" Separating from her sister, Uni walked over to one of the chairs and sat down.

"Lowee used a weapon of mass destruction against Planeptune. There is also a high chance they took Green Heart and Purple Sister hostage."

"Nepgear?" Jumping up, her expression turned very serious almost instantly.

"Don't even think about it, Uni. I know about your infatuation with Nepgear. She is the enemy, you know that."

"I'm capable of keeping my feelings separate from my duties and you know that!" Uni rarely raised her voice against her sister. The war had forced her to grow up fast. A lot faster than she would ever have. And it had made her more like her sister than she wanted to admit.

"Can you kill her if it comes down to it? What if she is holding her gun to my head? Could you shoot her?"

"Its not fair to ask me that, Noire."

"I know. But war isn't fair. I could never handle losing you. And I don't think Nepgear thinks of you as anything but an enemy."

"This is all the war's fault..." Uni hated the fighting. She knew that the chance for peace had come and gone and that by now, there was not a single way left to reconcile. Lowee had used weapons of mass destruction. Planeptune had used chemical weapons. There was no way to tell what Leanbox had still up their sleeve.

"Even if we goddesses reconciled in some way, the people won't forget the countless dead and their losses. This war will only end when only one nation remains standing. When Lastation remains as the sole survivor."

"Genocide should never be the only solution, Noire..."

"Soon we will be able to shut ourselves off from the rest of the world. But even then, people won't forget. With the weapons they have developed, Lowee and Planeptune are on the direct path to destroying each other." Noire walked over to the same window as before. "If there was another way, I would take it."

=== Overheat ===

"Radiation contamination? That Blanc isn't as stupid as I thought. Any word from my sister?" Purple Heart stood on a balcony, towering high above even the skyscrapers of Planeptune, the capital of the equally called nation.

"There hasn't been any. Due to the lack of survivors and our insufficient technology to withstand the radiation poisoning, we are unable to approach the site of the impact to look for clues."

"Cease operations towards the site. They must have set that weapon off knowing we would try to look into it. It's merely a fool's trap to dwindle our numbers. Order the third special operations squad to get ready for deployment within the day. Lowee will learn the hard way that Planeptune is the one and only nation fit to rule this planet."

Purple Heart's eyes were like frozen ponds, staring at the distant Lowee with nothing but indifference. It was just one of three obstacles that stood between her and peace. She had tried her hardest to bring about peace with diplomacy once. As that had failed and war forced it's way into the hearts of the other three goddesses, Neptune was given the choice. To shoulder the weight of surpassing the others rule or to surrender. Neutrality was not an option Planeptune could chose. Nor was diplomacy.

Fighting in this war had changed her drastically. Locking away her carefree attitude and way of life, Purple Heart had become all she was. The powerful and unrelenting ruler of Planeptune, the sole savior of it's people. It wasn't she, Neptune, who was becoming a monster, but Purple Heart, a someone that was now only a means to an end. Once the war was won, she would relinquish her duties as goddess.

No matter what means she had to use, she would emerge victorious. She didn't despise any of the other goddesses and nations. They were not lands full of people but merely obstacles she had to overcome in some way. She had planned to destroy Lastation first, before they became a bigger problem than they already were. But with Nepgear captured, she had to change her plans. She needed her, a valuable asset to her campaign.

Opening a direct line to the research laboratory from where she stood, a display floating in mid-air, Purple Heart saw face with the chief researcher of the project. "How is the reconstruction coming?"

"We're still trying to piece together the exact sequence of DNA. It is proving more difficult than expected, given that this is no ordinary human we're talking about."

"Hurry up. Once we've achieved completion on this, there is nothing the other nations can do to stop us."

"Lady Purple Heart, some of the researchers are starting to have safety concerns regarding the sharicite upon completed reconstruction. There are no precedents for something like this, so-" The researcher almost bit his tongue when Purple Heart glared at him. "I understand. I will tell them that their concern is unfounded." The connection was closed and the display disappeared.

"Histoire. Are you certain that there will be no dominance contesting after reconstruction is complete?" Turning around, Neptune looked at the fairy being that served as Planeptune's oracle.

"In the technology itself, there is no problem. There is no accounting for personality however. Even I don't know the full effect of the project."

"We will see. I trust you to erase her from existence under my direct order as goddess of Planeptune if she runs out of control." There was no way she would go through with a plan as risky as that without having some foolproof contingency plan.

"Yes. I have already registered the deletion process. I pray we won't need to utilize it."

"So do I. If you will excuse me, I have a war to fight and a nation to subdue." Turning around and walking towards the balcony handrail, Purple Heart jumped over it, taking the fastest way to the ground.

=== Overheat ===

"How many times do I need to fucking tell you two?! You're not allowed to participate in the war and that is that! End of the damn discussion!" Yelling at Ram and Rom, the White Sisters, Blanc rubbed her forehead. She couldn't let them be tainted by the cruelty and horrors of the war. After she had united the nations, someone that wasn't corrupted by death and suffering of millions would need to take over. Ram and Rom were ideal for that.

Running off, the twins were loudly complaining and shouting childish insults at her sister. They knew that a war was raging in the outside world, but they had been confined to the castle and it's grounds. Blanc had gone as far as placing indestructible wristbands on each of them, the insides diluted with anti-crystal. It could never hurt them, but it would prevent them from transforming.

Opening a communication window, Blanc gave quick orders to the prison guard. "Bring the Leanbox prisoner up to my chamber." Calming down, her violent and rude streak was taking over too often lately. She didn't want things to escalate when she questioned Vert. Lowee wasn't as crude and barbaric as Planeptune, and no matter how much she personally held a grudge against Vert, she wouldn't stoop as low as torturing her.

Briefly leaving her room, she addressed the guard detail. "Do not enter my room after the prisoner has been brought up. No matter the reason, nobody is allowed to enter, especially not Ram and Rom."

"Understood." The guard saluted. Each of them was armed with a full-automatic rifle and special bullets made from anti-crystal contaminated iron for use against enemy goddesses and candidates only.

Waiting in her room, Blanc wondered how exactly Vert had gotten captured and how long she had been a prisoner. The most obvious opportunity would have been when Planeptune first used their poison gas to decimate the forces of Lastation and Leanbox during the fight for Kanomi. That would put her time in prison at roughly a week. The physical and psychological stress must have been high but she couldn't afford to pity the leader of an enemy nation.

Her door opened and Vert was pushed in, conscious but tied up with anti-crystal handcuffs. To Blanc, she was still a prisoner. Her gaze towards Blanc was not as hate or spiteful as the ruler of Lowee had expected. "Sit with me. You must be hungry after a week of imprisonment."

"You know better than to think you can buy my cooperation, Blanc. So why are you doing this?" Vert couldn't believe she had ended up in Lowee of all places. Blanc despised her, she knew that. She just didn't know why. Getting up and walking over to the long table, Vert stood in front of it, hands tied in front of her.

"Because Lowee is not Planeptune. We treat our prisoners like people, no matter who they are. And even prisoners don't deserve to die from starvation. I won't undo your cuffs, so you'll have to manage this way."

"Why am I not dead? I know you hate me and Leanbox. It's unnatural for you to rescue me."

"Things change. I don't like you, but that by itself is insignificant to the danger Planeptune and Lastation pose to my nation. You were there. You saw the devastation Planeptune caused with their chemical weapons first hand."

"That still doesn't explain why I'm here. With me gone, Leanbox is much more vulnerable. Lastation and Planeptune are much more likely to attack there and leave their back wide open."

"You seem awfully intent on dying. Now sit the fuck down and eat some of the goddamn food!" Taking a deep breath after shouting, Blanc stood up and walked aimlessly around for a bit.

Vert didn't want to take orders from Blanc, but the food looked too appetizing to ignore. She hadn't eaten anything in several days, only barely kept fed with water and some kind of nutritious but disgusting goo. Sitting down, it was difficult to use a knife and a fork with her hands chained but she managed. She paused, just before putting a piece of meat into her mouth.

"It's not poisoned. I told you, Lowee doesn't stoop as low as Planeptune." Blanc was slightly irritated just looking at Vert.

"The war changed you, Blanc." Vert hadn't met face to face with who she had for a long time deemed her arch enemy for a long time. "To think you would offer me food."

"What did you tell Planeptune?" Blanc was concerned that Planeptune might take over Leanbox and become a much bigger threat than before.

"Nothing of value whatsoever. They tortured me and tried various truth serums, but a goddess physiology is different than that of a normal human." She didn't divulge that she had come extremely close to cracking under the torment she had experienced. If Blanc hadn't attacked the outpost, surely she would have told them everything, eventually.

"It is difficult to obtain information regarding Leanbox due to Planeptune and Lastation being between us."

"You might treat me to food but that doesn't mean I will thank you with information on how to conquer my nation." Vert was still eating, knowing that if she angered Blanc, it might be some time before she would be able to get her hands on food again.

"Even if you don't talk, keeping you locked up will weaken Leanbox. You might even be useful as a bargaining chip with Lastation." She didn't reveal that Purple Sister was in her possession as well. Black Sister would offer a great deal of information, surely, to obtain her lover in one piece.

"The narrow way you think about things hasn't changed, Blanc."

"Is this where you make me an offer to save your big ass? If not you should watch your fucking mouth!" Raising her voice again, the door opened ever so slightly. "Didn't I fucking tell you not to disturb me?! Get out of here you shitty piece of dogoo!" The door was slammed shut immediately. Blanc was fuming with anger already.

"You've been talking about Lastation and Planeptune a lot. They're also the enemies I, and Leanbox, are primarily concerned with."

"Are you suggesting what I think you're suggesting? Because you can forget that. I'm not letting you leave Lowee."

"Don't you know the saying The enemy of my enemy is my friend, Blanc? We could profit greatly from each other."

"I was never able to tell what you were really plotting. I can smell you stabbing me in the back within minutes of me agreeing to some kind of truce."

Vert was getting desperate. She couldn't help but think that Blanc was denying even the possibility of it working out to their collective advantage because she still hated her. "Fine. Tell me what I would need to do to make you agree to an alliance with Leanbox until both Planeptune and Lastation are destroyed?"

Blanc started laughing loudly the second Vert had said the word alliance. "You and me, working together? That's rich! The people would turn against me and you! Nobody profits from that!" Looking at Vert, Blanc calmed down a few seconds later, returning to her normal attitude. "I can't think of anything that would make me trust you."

Vert wanted to save her people, even if it meant feeding her pride and self-respect to the dogs. Looking away from Blanc, Vert could think of something that would make Blanc trust her. She just couldn't get herself to say it.

"It seems you're done talking. I've heard enough for now. When you decide to talk, call for a guard and he will bring you to me." Blanc was finished with Vert for now. She was sick of looking at her. Walking towards the door, she stopped when Vert virtually jumped up and knocked her chair over.

"If... if you ally with Leanbox, I'll... I'll become sworn to be your aide." Vert knew that there was no taking back such an oath. It was binding, no matter who took it, human, goddess or candidate. It was an unbreakable spell that forced absolute loyalty upon the one swearing it.

"Not enough." Blanc didn't care much for Vert's opinion but she was enjoying seeing her so desperate.

"What more could you possible want from me?!" Shouting at Blanc, Vert's breathing was going faster. She didn't want to be stuck in prison indefinitely until she died. And the oath of fealty was the only thing she could think of and she had offered that.

"Give me Leanbox." Blanc smiled at the distraught expression on Vert's face. A devilish smile played around her lips as she realized an even better offer. "I have a better idea. I will take you."

"That doesn't even make any sense!" Vert couldn't follow Blanc's logic anymore.

"It does. If the goddess of Leanbox is the lover and betrothed of the goddess of Lowee, that will not only let me control Leanbox but also control you. Of course, you'll also have to swear the oath of fealty towards me." Blanc's face didn't give away how amused she was by the visible horror on Vert's face. She knew the girl wouldn't agree to it, and she counted on that, but it was fun to see her despair over thinking about it.

Waiting a few seconds and enjoying herself, Blanc turned around and walked past to the door, leaving Vert behind, despairing and shivering with anger. Opening the door wide, she called for her guards. "Take her to the cell. See to it that she isn't hurt. I will personally behead anyone who decreases her value as a hostage."

Two guards, taller than Vert, marched into the room, grabbing the ruler of Leanbox by her arms, pulling her away. They were just passing Blanc when Vert suddenly resisted. "Don't make them use force, Vert. They're under orders to not hurt you, but they will if they have to."

"I'll do it."

"It's your problem if you get hurt. My soldiers follow my orders but they take their job very seriously."

"No. I'll do it."

Blanc couldn't quite make sense of what Vert was gonna do. Sighing, she nodded towards the door, a sign for the guards to take her away. Turning around and heading to her table, she heard noises of Vert resisting again.

"I'll do all of that. I'll... become yours. But I have one condition."

Blanc first thought she didn't hear right. "What?"

"I'll... give you Leanbox... I'll be your betrothed... I'll swear the oath. If... if you promise to let my interim ruler govern Leanbox civil operations. You can have control over the military." It had taken all of her determination to say those words. Throwing away all the pride and dignity she had to protect her people and their lifestyle, she sold herself to Blanc.

"Don't be stupid. I only said those things to screw with you. Take her away."

"Blanc!" Vert could be heard shouting the name of Lowee's goddess all the way to the prison cells far below the castle.

"Me? Being betrothed to Vert?" Blanc remained silent for a few seconds as she unwillingly contemplated the outcome. She wanted to dismiss it as nonsense, but that Vert was actually willing had left an impression.

=== Overheat ===

"I see, Lowee has taken Lady Green Heart hostage. Strengthen our defenses towards Planeptune, we don't know what they have learned. We need to be prepared for an eventual attack." Taking on Vert's duties, Chika was all but comfortable leaving her goddess at the enemy's mercy. But what choice did she have? Lowee was on the other end of the continent and going through Planeptune or Lastation territory with anything larger than a handful of well armed soldiers was completely impossible. And as a high profile political prisoner, Vert was surely kept very close to Lowee's goddess, White Heart.

Fighting White Heart was not the issue. Leanbox was the only nation that could effectively kill all goddess and their candidates with ease. Shortly after Green Heart had vanished, they had finalized their research into the cultivation of artificial anti-crystal and put it to use as a weapon. Special assault units, each trained to assassinate a specific goddess or candidate. Leanbox didn't hold weapons of mass destruction like Planeptune or Lowee and lacked the technological power of Lastation. But none of those things mattered if they could destroy the leaders of the enemy nations. Their leader gone, the nations would fall apart.

Just as Chika contemplated her next move, a soldier came running into the room, completely out of breath. "What is wrong? Why aren't you using a secure communication line?"

"I was... ordered to not speak to anyone but... you. We have captured primary objective six!"

Chika immediately stopped everything she was doing and grabbed the soldier by her shoulder. "When? Where is she now?"

"She was captured during a scouting routine near our border. She was with a troop of Planeptune soldiers that our unit ambushed and eradicated before capturing PO6. She is being brought to research laboratory three as we speak."

Letting the soldier go, Chika left in a hurry, heading towards laboratory three. The anti-crystal research had brought something interesting with it. While anti-crystal were used to disrupt and seal a goddess power, if the atomic structure was altered in a specific way, it was possible to store absorbed goddess power and forcibly infuse it into normal humans to make them temporarily into a pseudo goddess.

Primary Objective Six, Yellow Heart. A goddess that didn't rule over any nation and was affiliated with Planeptune for unknown reasons. Capturing her was vital for the success of the artificial goddess program. Entering the laboratory, she could already see the target. Her human form was that of a little kid, no more than possibly eight or ten years old. Her goddess form was drastically different, and that form was the only one Chika was interested in.

She knew that it was possible to forcibly cause a transformation but it would damage the host. There was no way to tell yet if that damage was permanent or not. Even if it was, most of it was limited to mental damage and they didn't need her to function as a human being. Only as an energy source for the project.

Two grown women were forcing the little girl onto a structure that was designed to hold both her human and goddess form. Rings of artificial anti-crystal were attached to the machine, ready to suppress any and all action from the goddess once she was transformed.

"Is the project ready?" Chika wanted to create her temporary army of goddesses as soon as possible. The sooner she could destroy Planeptune, the sooner she could force Lowee to give up Vert in exchange for being spared destruction.

"We're about to run the first few test runs. Starting forceful activation of goddess transformation in ten..."

Chika could see the terror in the little girl's face. She had been gagged to prevent her biting her tongue and she couldn't understand a word of what the girl was seemingly screaming. As the scientist said zero, a syringe extended from the structure's innards and injected the girl with a liquid.

The one way to forcefully cause the transformation was to induce an artificial sensation of impeding death. The body and psyche would react to protect the life of the goddess and transform them, no matter what. However, it was incredibly painful physically and putting enormous amounts of psychological stress on the subject's mind. The little girl's eyes were wide open with horror and Chika's expression changed slightly when a dark spot grew bigger and bigger between her legs. The girl was so scared that she had wet herself. It took several more seconds of psychological nightmare until the transformation kicked in. The goddess lost consciousness due to the forced activation just as she changed.

"Activate the crystals." What the forced activation lacked in physical pain, the artificial anti-crystals more than covered. They were less powerful than real anti-crystal and didn't break the transformation but absorbed just as much of their life energy. It was an completely inhumane experiment and Chika knew that. But they all had their burden to carry. Leanbox couldn't afford the luxury of high standards with Planeptune and Lastation at their borders.

"Watch her vitals. It'll be a huge loss if she dies. Try to fill as many pseudo CPU crystals as possible." Seeing that the experiment was a success so far, Chika didn't want to keep watching. She knew exactly what was happening so she wasn't running away from the pain and horrors she inflicted on a child. She just had other things to attend to.

=== Overheat ===

Vert had lost all feeling for what time it was. She wasn't too cold, wrapped in two blankets, but she cursed herself for falling for Blanc's trap. Giving up all her dignity and pride just to be laughed at had hurt. Unable to sleep with her hands cuffed like that, she wasn't sure what to do next.

She couldn't feed Blanc information about Leanbox and it was pretty much impossible to escape from a high security prison while unable to use her goddess powers. The guards would put her down immediately if she tried to fight her way out as normal human.

"Vert." Looking up, the ruler of Leanbox could barely make out some white outside the dark of her cell.

"Haven't you humiliated me enough, Blanc? What more do you want?"

"You would give up yourself and your country to protect your people?"

"I said I would and you laughed at me. What of it?"

"Prove it to me."

"I can't exactly swear the oath of fealty while in prison and handcuffed with anti-crystal."

"Spend the night with me. If you're serious about becoming my betrothed, I will hear you out."

"So I have to become your lover just to have you hear me out? No guarantee you're not gonna throw me back into prison regardless after?"

"Do I seem like that kind of person to you?"

"You didn't use to."

"I'm only telling you one more time. Prove to me you can become my lover and I will hear you out."

Vert bit her lip. How humiliating was that! Selling herself like a whore just to make a serious plea for her people? Hitting the mat she was sitting on, Vert opened her mouth and closed it again. Looking to the ground, she gave up. She had already lost all respect for herself. "I'll do it."

Blanc waited for a few seconds to see if she wouldn't change her mind. She had long since realized that she was jealous of Vert's body. If she couldn't be like Vert herself, she could still own her. When Vert didn't move or say anything else, Blanc took a single key out of her pocket and opened the cell. "Get up."

Getting up and leaving her blankets behind, Vert felt worse than as if she was going to her own execution. She was contemplating if having died back then at Nepgear's hand would've been a better end than becoming Blanc's plaything.

Ascending a lot of stairs, silently following Blanc, Vert didn't want to think about what kind of tortuous things Blanc would do to her to amuse herself. She couldn't imagine even for a second that she was genuinely interested in her love. It all seemed like another elaborate ploy to humiliate her again.

Entering Blanc's room, Vert was surprised to find literally nobody there. It wasn't cold either. One of the scenarios she had imagined was Blanc sitting there, forcing her to strip and stand naked in the cold. But the ruler of Lowee didn't do anything out of the ordinary.

Going past her work place, Blanc stopped in front of her large bed and started to undress. "You can start undressing." Having stripped down to nothing at all, Blanc felt suddenly very embarrassed. Getting into her bed ahead of Vert, she looked at the still fully clothed girl. "Vert, undress."

Undressing the best she could with the handcuffs hindering her, Vert eventually managed to stand in front of Blanc's bed, completely naked. She still suspected some kind of scheme, some kind of setup that was designed to ridicule her.

"There is no need to be suspicious." Her attitude reminded Vert a lot of the days before the war. Polite if a bit stoic. Could there really be no trick? Cautiously getting on the bed, Vert didn't quite know what to do next. "Just lay down and let me rest my head on your breasts."

Doing what Blanc asked of her, Vert was surprised to find her old adversary quietly and calmly resting against her chest. Laying on her side, Blanc's head face first resting against her chest, the taller girl felt somewhat relieved. There really seemed to be no catch or trick.

Looking at Blanc's thin neck, she almost wondered if she could use the situation to kill the goddess of Lowee. But seeing the satisfied and peaceful look on the usually so easy to anger girl, she couldn't bring herself to continue thinking it.

"Why did you change your mind?" Vert wanted to know what prompted Blanc to come and get her.

"Do you know why I always hated you?" Blanc had only her right eye open, her voice calm and composed. "I was always jealous of the way you look. I wanted to be like that myself but some things you just can't have." Moving her right leg between Vert's legs, Blanc enjoyed the silky smooth skin of hers. "Making you my lover is the next best thing. If you're mine, nobody else can have you and that is enough to quench my jealousy."

Vert didn't say anything until Blanc laid both of her arms around her waist. She had never slept with anyone, despite Leanbox' oracle, Chika, making many advances on her towards that end. "It probably doesn't mean anything to you now but I never thought you weren't beautiful the way you are."

"You're right, it hardly means anything. You're still the goddess of an enemy nation and I'm still the one holding you prisoner." Letting go of Vert, Blanc moved up slightly, coming face to face with the taller girl. "Why throw away your pride, self-respect and dignity like this?"

"A goddess is nothing without her people. And if protecting my people means becoming just another plaything for you, then that is what I have to do."

"It was painful to say those words, wasn't it?"

"You're not going to tell me you're sorry for making me do it, are you?"

"No. Right now, I'm not even sure if this was a good idea or not."

Bending forward, Vert's breasts pushed against Blanc's much smaller ones. Their faces were so close to each other that Vert could feel Blanc's breath on her skin. "If you had asked me to go out with you a long time ago, we might have ended up in this very same situation."

"Don't cling to what-if scenarios and the past, Vert. It is unseemly." Laying her hand on Vert's left cheek, Blanc kissed her old enemy, her lips just a little colder than Vert's, a faint taste she couldn't quite place flowing from Vert's lips to her own. Her heart beat a little faster as she pursued the unknown sensation and moved in, traces of passion appearing in the kiss. Feeling Vert's large breasts on her own turned her own just a little at the same time. A hair thin line of saliva reached from Blanc's lips to Vert's when the brunette moved away. Just looking into Vert's eyes, Blanc's determination wavered for a moment. She knew there could be no true peace between the nations anymore, but for just a second, she wanted to have Vert desire her without forcing her to.

But it only lasted for a moment. Blanc knew that she had a responsibility as a goddess to her people and even though Vert was selling herself to her, at best she could invade Leanbox and make it part of Lowee's territory. But it was out of the question to ever let Vert return to being a goddess and freely rule over her people and the nation. It was too big of a risk.

"I'm going to sleep." It had been a very long day. She needed some rest to think things over. Turning her back to Vert, Blanc backed up until she could feel Vert's body touching her own. "You won't have to spend tomorrow in prison, but you will be confined to this room and outside my working area."

Vert couldn't make sense of what was going on in Blanc's head. But for now, she had to play the role of her lover. Eventually, somehow, she would find a way to escape.

=== Overheat ===

Waking up to the bright rays of the sun as it rose far to the east of Lowee, Vert first noticed the pain around her wrists. Sleeping with handcuffs was all but comfortable. Blanc was already gone from the bed, despite how early it was. Noticing clicking from a near table, Vert found her captor to be having breakfast while working via laptop.

"How did you sleep?" Blanc was, that early in the day, still composed and reliably so.

"My wrists are killing me."

"The guard should be here soon. It is unpleasant to keep treating you like a prisoner when you're supposed to be my lover." Taking a sip of coffee, Blanc knew that a long day was ahead of her. Planeptune surely wouldn't sit still and let the humiliation that Lowee had inflicted rest.

"What am I supposed to do while you work?" For now, she had to play the role of the cooperative prisoner. The more Blanc would trust her, the easier it would be to get out when the time came.

"My library will be accessible to you as soon as the guards have changed your chains." Blanc looked up and towards the bed where Vert was, covering herself with a blanket due to a lack of clothes. "You won't be able to transform or go near any places that are of military importance, Vert."

She expected that much. It would've been too easy if she was able to actually spy on Blanc while being her prisoner. Getting up, unable to carry the large and heavy blanket with her, Vert picked up her clothes but had trouble getting some of it on. She wasn't looking forward to the guards seeing her in such a miserable situation.

Just thinking that, three loud knocks announced the presence of said guards but the door didn't open. Getting up, Blanc assumed her goddess form and headed to the door herself. Opening it, the guard simply stood there, slightly confused that she was being received by the goddess herself. "Hand the stupid thing over already!" White Heart was, even early in the morning, quite foul mouthed.

Slamming the door shut after receiving several pieces of metal, Blanc returned to normal, extremely uncomfortable handling the accessoriesin her goddess form. "These are specially made restraining devices for goddesses and candidates." Walking over to Vert, she nodded towards the bed. "Please sit."

Vert was looking for an opportunity to turn those binds on Blanc but she knew nothing about how they worked. It was too big a risk to simply try and overwhelm Blanc with physical power while they were both in human form. The instant Blanc became White Heart, she didn't have a snowball in hell's chance to survive. Sitting down on the bed, partially naked, she waited for Blanc.

"Put your hair up. I don't want it caught below the choker." Waiting for Vert to follow her order, Blanc left four of the five rings on the bed. Only specifically authorized people were able to activate and deactivate the anti-crystal effect on them. The only ones in all of Lowee that had authorization that high was White Heart and the White Sisters as well as their corresponding human forms.

Putting the choker around Vert's throat, it made a quiet humming noise for a few seconds and became silent after. The next two devices Blanc took were clearly anklets. Kneeling down in front of the bed, she hesitated a moment. "You have beautiful legs. I never noticed that before."

Vert remained silent while Blanc put the anklets on. They repeated the same activation process as the choker before falling silent. The final two pieces were bracelets Putting them on, Blanc noticed that the tall girl's wrists were hurt more than she expected. As soon as all five pieces were in place, she pulled another key, similar to the one from the night before, from her pocket, unlocking the handcuffs. "When I'm not here to look over you, four guards will accompany you." There was no animosity in Blanc's voice. "You're free to use my personal bathroom, library and bedroom, but you're prohibited from going anywhere else and leaving through that door." Blanc knew that she was taking a risk. The guards she had picked to look over Vert were hand selected and sworn to secrecy. There were too many uncertainties about treating the ruler of Leanbox like her lover when it came to public opinion.

As soon as Blanc turned around, finally freeing Vert of the embarrassing state of being stared at while she was partially naked, the blonde got dressed, putting on the remainder of her clothes. "Are you going to attack Planeptune again?" She was probing for information. If Lowee attacked Planeptune or Lastation, it meant either of those nations was too busy handling Blanc to consider attacking Leanbox.

"You don't need to know that." Blanc was still troubled by her own decision. She felt no longer jealous of Vert, considering that she practically owned her now, but she was an enormous security risk, even with the anti-crystal restraining devices. Worse than all of that, Blanc was wondering if she wasn't fooling herself, only making herself think that making Vert her lover got rid of her jealousy. Sitting down at the same table as earlier, Blanc resumed working, not without those doubts gnawing at the back of her mind.

=== Overheat ===

After three forceful transformations, Yellow Heart's vitals had reached critical levels, forcing the scientists to suspend the collection of energy temporarily. The girl had long since lost consciousness and was hanging lifeless in the structure. Using injections to both stabilize the condition of the subject and force her to heal faster, the scientists felt no remorse. What they did they did for the welfare of their country, even if it meant endlessly torturing a little girl for power.

Arriving in the laboratory while two scientists administered agent that were supposed to help with the healing, the oracle of Leanbox was in an excellent mood. With the progress of the artificial goddess project, Planeptune and Lastation both ceased to appear threatening. No matter what kind of weaponry they had, they would crumble before Leanbox's power. "How many crystals have you harvested?"

"Enough for three squads. We're hoping that once the subject becomes used to the regeneration process, we'll be able to increase production."

"Start phase three of the project. We need to be aware of what side effects using the power crystals will bring." There was still much they had to test. The exact extent of the power a soldier would received from a power crystal and the side effects. There was no time to research the long-term effects of it. The other nations were surely up to something as well, Chika was sure of that. Ruling Leanbox in Vert's absence had been quite a daunting task. Most of all, Vert didn't have a sister, so there was no true interim ruler. As oracle, she didn't have the combat prowess to replace Vert.

A single soldier was waiting for Chika outside the laboratory. "Oracle." Many simply used her title to address her.

"What are the news on Planeptune and Lastation?" Handling military matters was something she had still trouble getting used to. She was no tactician after all.

"Lastation is quiet as usual. Planeptune is showing suspiciously high activity in their capital but our spies are unable to confirm anything specific. Whatever it is they're working on, it is a highly classified project."

"Planeptune is dangerous, but I'm more worried about Lastation. It isn't like her to just sit back and wait to be attacked."

"Her?"

"Black Heart, you idiot. The goddess of Lastation. She is normally much more aggressive than this. There is something weird going on in Lastation."

"I will see to it that we increase our number of spies."

"No. Lastation is highly secretive about it's technology. Simply sending more spies will do nothing but jeopardize our own plans when they get captured." Chika fell deep in thought for a while. "Leak this information to Lastation via remote channels. We have obtained primary target. Infiltration into LS successful. Awaiting orders for extraction."

"Understood."

Returning to what used to be Vert's room and working place, Chika was desperate to get spies into Lowee. She needed to know if the information regarding Vert being a prisoner there was accurate and how she was being treated. Few knew of it but Chika was insanely in love with Vert, to the point of obsession. If Planeptune or Lowee had damaged her chastity, she would use the full extent of Leanbox's power to destroy them.

=== Overheat ===

"You will not report to anyone but directly to me. This includes my sister. I won't tolerate any mistakes." Closing the connection, Noire felt slightly guilty about hiding a project from Uni, but it was something she certainly wouldn't agree with. The UMD aside, Lastation had another ace up it's sleeve. Something that could turn the tide of the war easily.

She was still wary of Planeptune. If they stooped as low as to use chemical warfare without warning, they would not stop at anything to win the war. It was a big problem that Uni refused to let go of her infatuation with Purple Sister. Thankfully, their extremely different fighting styles had not let them collide on the battlefield until now. But Uni was pushing to be deployed to the front lines more often.

It was difficult to keep her in check. After the war had started, she had grown more confident, more stubborn and headstrong. With the information that Lowee had captured both Vert and Nepgear, Uni had been constantly pressing to attack Lowee. Leaving their back wide open towards Leanbox was something Lastation couldn't afford.

"Noire." Thinking of the devil.

"What happened to morning training, Uni?" Noire couldn't handle everything herself these days. It was physically impossible. Having Uni oversee the troops training in the morning was one of the duties she had handed over.

"They just finished." Walking past her sister and sitting at Noire's table, Uni sat down. "The troops are worried, Noire. Planeptune is using chemical weapons, Lowee is using radiation and Leanbox has been too quiet as of late. Everyone is on edge."

"The UMD will be finished within days, Uni. As soon as the prototype has passed it's final exam, I will announce it to the public."

"We can't win the war by hiding behind the UMD, Noire."

"I make the decisions, not you. I know you want to attack Lowee because Nepgear is supposedly there, but it might be a trap. I cannot risk losing you or giving Leanbox a chance to invade again. Kanomi has still not recovered from Planeptune's attack a week ago."

Feeling insulted, Uni grit her teeth and swallowed her words. No matter what she said to her sister now, she wouldn't change her mind. Not saying a word, Uni got up and marched out of the room, visibly angered.

But Noire had other worries than to care for her little sister's moods. She had never admitted it to anyone, but a long time ago, she had carried feelings for Neptune. The carefree airhead that was more often than not acting quite stupid. But what had become of her, the Purple Heart that sanctioned a poison gas suicide attack on a metropolis, was no more than a monster that had to be taken down.

Continuing to work on tactics and damage control, Noire was interrupted again only thirty minutes later. One of her most trusted subordinates was reporting to her via a high priority communication line. "What is it? You're disrupting my work."

"Black Sister left the Lastation capital borders just now. As per your orders, I am reporting this."

"Which direction is she heading?"

"Towards Platina, just short of the Lowee border."

Slamming her hands on her keyboard, Noire jumped up. "Order all troops to stop her! I approve the use of anti-crystal devices if she or her squad should initiate open hostilities with our own forces!" She couldn't let Uni attack Lowee all on her own, it was far too risky.

"At once." The line closed instantly. Transforming into Black Heart, Noire bit her thumbnail. Uni had disobeyed a direct order, she couldn't let that go, not even if she was her sister. "I'm going out. Call Kei and explain the situation to her!" Ordering her guards, Noire walked out to the balcony and flew off, heading after her sister.

=== End of Line ===