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Astrid - Alrest Endangered: Chapter 2: Treason

by Mechanist Gamma


Torna has fallen into the ocean, Prince Addam is dead and Malos continues to spread his wave of destruction across Alrest. Six months after the Aegis has fallen, a mysterious order spreads across the land. Unified by a mysterious girl and a quick-footed outlaw, can a rag-tag group of heroes do what the heroes of the world couldn't, and find a way to stop Malos once and for all?

Chapter 2: Treason
On their way to Mor Ardain to investigate what the letter Penny recovered means, the party is met with a shocking revelation - Emperor Haurlein Ardanach has been murdered! Can Colonel Lachlan and High Elite Commander Grail track down the killer? If they do, do our heroes stand a chance against the criminal?
"Emperor Haurlein!" A soldier crashed through the door. "It's an emergency! You have to leave, now!"
"What?!" The Emperor stood up quickly. "What do you mean?! Who would dare-"
The Emperor was cut off by a streak of light blazing past the guard. The soldier dropped to the ground, unconscious. "I'd rather not kill those I don't have to. That man was only doing his job. You, however..." A man stood in the center of the throne room now, a sword in his hand.
"Who are you?!" Haurlein demanded. "And how dare you encroach upon royal ground without permission?!"
"My name is not important, and permission is given to me by justice alone." the man said, his brown hair standing almost still and his blue eyes locking with the Emperor's in a steely glare. "Haurlein Ardanach the Fourth, Crown Emperor of Mor Ardain, I accuse you for high treason against your people."
"How dare you! On what authority?!" The Emperor explained.
"My own." the man replied. "And through that authority, I strike to end the betrayal and deception of you and your followers once and for all. As I have done with Special Inquisitor Vill Ethelmar, I now do with you. I hope Lady Brighid and Lord Aegaeon find better Drivers in their next life."
At that call, Aegaeon dashed forwards from beside the Emperor's throne. Aegaeon clashed blades with the man before the vigilante struck at incredible speeds, disarming Aegaeon and injuring his arms. He ended by blasting Aegaeon with electricity, sending the royal Blade crashing into the wall.
"You... you cannot possibly hope to survive this! We will have vengeance upon you!" the Emperor tried to huddle up next to the throne, pressing his back into it to try and move farther away from the intruder.
"Let them come. I'm killing them next, anyways."
The man dashed towards the Emperor at astonishing speeds, his blade shining.
CHAPTER 2: Treason

Penny yawned, walking out into the main hall. "Good morning." she said to no one in particular, headed towards the cafeteria. When she saw Naust in the corridor, she gave a wave. "Oh, morning Naust. Is Athell up yet?"
"Not at all, she's still sleeping." Naust responded.
Lisette, yawning, walked by the pair. She went to the port-side walkway, seeing the Praetorium in the sky. "Such a beautiful titan... I wonder what those mint-purple coloured crystals on the wings are for."
When Penny and Naust entered the cafeteria, she saw Dalton and Sai sat down already. Sai was seated right next to where Dalton had sat down. The Blade felt happy to have a familiar face near him.
"Good morning Sai." Dalton said with a yawn.
Penny waved over to Dalton and Sai. "Good morning! Mind if Naust and I sit with you?"
Dalton turned to Penny. "N-No not at all, good morning." he replied.
"Good morning. How is your arm?" Naust asked.
Penny came over and sat down beside him. "Still feeling drunk?" she asked. "I knew Ardainians could drink a lot, but..."
Dalton looked them both. "1. My arm is feeling a lot better. 2. No, I'm sobered up now hehe."
"I'm glad. So, what's on the menu for breakfast? Do either of you know?" Naust wondered.
"No, I just got here actually." Dalton said. The thought hadn't crossed his mind.
"I see. Oh well. I hope my driver wakes up soon." said Sai.
Penny heard Lisette and Eclipse entering the room, merely glancing back at them dumb-struck. For some reason, Eclipse seemed to be assaulting Lis with a… tickle attack?
"You get a good night sleep?" Eclipse asked, halting the tickle torture for the time being.
"Er... Yeah, I did. How 'bout you?" Lisette said, getting up with her Blade's help and fixing her clothes.
Eclipse smiles as she sighs "I, well… y-you might know..." she said, blushing. She was referring to how they woke up next to each other.
"Ah, I did notice that~" Penny said teasingly.
"Ah, uh..." Sai turned to Penny. "I should probably introduce myself to you and everyone, shouldn't I? I only know a few people here..."
"Oh, right. I never did get your name. Uh... Janitor Boy?" Penny made a joking guess.
Sai frowned. "I am not a janitor. I am a fabulous Blade." Sai fluffed his bangs. "A heartfelt warrior of love! ....But thanks to my driver I suppose I am also a heartfelt warrior butler at times… Oh, and my name is Sai."
Penny chuckled.
"Butlers and janitors are two different things. Butlers serve the nobles, janitors serve the FLOORS." Colonel Lachlan said, marching into the room. Like the night before, he had his helmet off, revealing his long black hair and stubble. Lady Brighid was with him.
"Good morning, all. I believe now that we're all alone and awake, we should discuss what we know of the strange men you met in Gormott." Brighid said, sitting down at the table... purposefully on the opposite end of Sai.
Sai weakly waved at Brighid to try and be friendly.
"Ahh, Lady Brighid, it's an honor to meet you." Dalton bowed his head.
Eclipse smiled as she laid eyes on Brighid. "Hello, Lady Brighid." She said, bowing her head.
"Good day." Brighid replied. "You're one of the men that fought with the cloaked men alongside Penny, Naust and Athell correct?"
“Indeed.” Eclipse smiled.
Sai once again turned his attention to everyone at the table. "So....Colonel Lachlan, how are you today?"
"Feeling fine." Lachlan replied. "Got a bit of a hangover though."
"Is it big enough to forget you let the amazing Blade you dropped be bonded to a nopon?"
Lachlan glared at Sai.
Sai winked.
"You all and your alcohol, you need limits." Naust says jokingly.
"Such loud shouting..." Sai winced
"So, what would you like to know, Lady Brighid?" Penny asked. "I was there for all of the encounters, I believe, and Naust should be able to double-check."
"Perhaps we should talk about what these people were like, exactly." Brighid replied.
"Well, they seemed to be a group working together." Penny replied. "Matching outfits, similar combat styles, all that. They wore robes and masks a mixture of purple and black, mostly using spears."
Dalton added to Penny's explanation. "They also seem to have people from everywhere but Mor Ardain, at least for now they don't."
"As per the letter. But, hm... That's a bit strange." Brighid said. "These people sound a bit like-"

"Let them come. I'm killing them next."

Brighid's eyes opened wide. She cut off mid-sentence as her body glowed a bright blue... and vanished. Brighid's dormant core crystal dropped to the ground. Penny and the Colonel stood up instantly, a shocked look on their faces.
"LADY BRIGHID!" yelled Penny
"W-what?" asked Sai "What happened to her?"
Eclipse’s eyes widened, holding Lisette close to her.
Dalton stared shocked as Brighid's core hit the ground. "Oh god."
Sai began to tear up as he realized Brighid was gone.
Lachlan grabbed the core crystal, holding it at eye-level. "She's...returned to her core crystal...? But that means...!" Lachlan dashed off to the command center, taking the crystal with him.
"The Emperor... he's dead." Dalton quietly said.
Penny merely stood in shock. "Only time will tell..." she whispered to herself, closing her eyes.
"...oh, Architect." Eclipse said in shock. "Who could have done this?"
Athell felt her whole body go cold... "Brighid is... No..." She says, the horror showing on her face.
"Someone killed Emperor Haurlein." Penny said. "Someone just killed the core of Mor Ardain itself and the second most guarded man on the planet, save the Praetor himself."
"We have to hurry. How quick can the ship get to Mor Ardain!?" Dalton started frantically shouting.
"Y-You're joking, right? That can't..." Lisette looked at Mor Ardain, expecting it to be swarmed with gargoyles or sunk. However, neither were the case. "I don't get it. Who could've possibly done that? Even Malos would have to put in at least a reasonable amount of effort to do that!"
"WAKE UP, ALL YOU LILLY-LIVERS! TO STATIONS, NOW!" Lachlan yelled over the intercom, waking up all the soldiers in the facility. "WE NEED TO BE AT MOR ARDAIN YESTERDAY!"
That was when Dolidoli walked in, holding his wings from the panicked running of the troops. "What I miss? Why friends shouting?"
Sai went to DoliDoli. "Brighid is gone..." Sai was teary eyed.
"Meh?! Blue flame lady gone? Where to?"
"Her core..."
"She was returned to her core, Dolidoli. The Emperor is dead." Penny said solemnly.
"Meh?! What we do then? Is destination Mor Ardain safe?" Dolidoli questioned.
Sai looked a bit worried. "If not....I'll protect you.”
"Thanks Sai-Sai!" Dolidoli said, smiling.
"Maybe, maybe not. Who knows?” asked Eclipse. “All we know is that we gotta get there as soon as we can."
"Whether it's safe or not, the Colonel is dead-set on returning." Penny said. Suddenly, the ship lurched as they went into war speed, pushing their Titan for the fastest speed possible.
One of the soldiers ran into the room. "The Colonel sent me to make sure you all are ready to disembark. At our current pace, we should be in Mor Ardain in half an hour."
Eclipse nodded, looking down at Lis before hugging her tight.
"I don't have much - everything I brought is on me at the moment. I'll go see if I can help the soldiers out while you all pack up." Penny said, before dashing off.
The group disbanded, each member heading out to collect their personal things.
"DoliDoli, should we... go with them?" asked Sai. "I am a blade of this empire if I were on this ship..."
"Meh, Dolidoli guess so."
"So....Should we ask the Colonel or....or what?" asked Sai."Do we need to prepare to? Do we have items?"
"Dolidoli not have money."
"..." Sai blinked. "Okay...looks like we are relying on my weapon.....Maybe we should rethink this......"
Maybe he should stay.... Sai thought...
"Uh...DoliDoli, do you want me to go and you stay here? Or....I could guard the ship..."
The Blade was becoming increasingly uncertain on what to do.

After packing up, Dalton moved up to the command center of the Commodore. He moved up to the colonel. "What will you do with the Core Crystal?"
"As the ranking officer on the ship, it's my job and obligation to keep the core crystal and journal of Lady Brighid safe and secure until the time of which a new imperial heir can be found."
"Journal?" Dalton asked.
"Lady Brighid has recorded all the details of her past lives within a journal." Lachlan explained. "It's an imperial treasure more valuable than my life, as it contains a wealth of history on the royal family."
"Huh, interesting." Dalton said.
The rest of the party soon entered the command center, all their belongings gathered. Eclipse sighed, looking over the cloud sea, still shaken. "Whoever did this...is going to pay."
"I'm gonna beat them 'till they bleed. For Brighid." Lisette vowed. She turned to Brighid's dull core, noticing something. "Hmm?" She knelt down to pick up Brighid's diary. "I guess she's just the same as many other Blades who try to keep their memories…”
"What if they had a reason?" Penny spoke up, having overheard the talk and decided to speak up. "What if they had a justified cause for killing the Emperor?"
“A reason, you're sayin? And what kind of messed up reason would they have to kill the emperor?" Lisette asked.
"I-I... It's just a thought..." Penny shrunk down.
Dalton walked over to Penny, Listette and Eclipse. "Whatever the assassin's reason was, it was good enough for him to murder. We should definitely be cautious." He added.
Sai sighed heavily. "Great.... Stay behind me at all times DoliDoli"
"Meh, okay!"
"Do you really think they were targeting Brighid?" Penny asked. "They went after the Emperor. Brighid was likely just collateral."
"The Emperor was definitely the target here. I don't believe the blades were part of the assassins plans." Dalton said, supporting Penny’s theory.
"Most likely.... at least, it sounds like it." Eclipse said, rubbing her arm. "If they were targeting her though... Maybe they want to attack this ship next." She remembered what the robed figure said before dying. She repeated his warning. "You all will burn..."
"I suppose that's fair." Penny turned towards the Colonel. "When will we be landing?"
"Right now." Lachlan explained. The ship pulled into a turn, slowing down as it pulled into Port Anangham..
"Then we should stay on guard." Dalton said.
"I need the strong fighters in case we encounter the murderer." Lachlan replied. "Besides, we should be meeting up with Grail there. I'll be parting when we do."
"Who is Grail?" Naust asked.
“The current High Elite. He’s apparently a fearsome fighter with a flaming blade.” Dalton answered.
"The janitors will stay here with the soldiers." Lachlan replied. "Now, we're going! Lisette, Penny, Dalton and Naust! MOVE!" Lachlan grabbed his gun, slung it over his shoulders and headed down towards the loading bay.
"Ah...I think he meant me...the janitor." Sai looked at the nopon.
"Meh....." Dolidoli replied. "No worries, Dolidoli guess...."
"Good luck everyone!" Sai waved to the group.
"Yes Sir!" Dalton followed Lachlan and waved bye to Sai.
"Everyone ready to go?" Penny asked.
Everyone nodded. “Let’s kick brass!” Eclipse said with a pump of her fist.
"Let's get going, then." Penny nodded.
Team Lisette: Lisette, Eclipse
Team Naust: Naust, Athell
Team Penny: Penny
Team Dalton: Dalton
Others: Lachlan

Eclipse sighed as she stepped off the Commodore. She bit her upper lip as she looked over at her Driver. Penny soon walked off the boat, gripping her coat tight. "The gates are closed, right? How will we get to Alba Cavanich?"
"I'll handle that." said the Colonel, carrying a bag with him. "Watch me. No one can be allowed to steal from this bag no matter what."
Eclipse and Penny both nodded in response. The Blade looked over to Lisette once again to affirm she was ready. Meanwhile, Naust and the rest of the party follow them from behind.
"Mehmeh, wish you goodest of luck!" shouted Dolidoli.
After the Colonel made it over to the gate leading to place known as Chansagh Waste, two guards approached. They were on high alert from the morning’s events. At least they were trained enough to recognise another soldier. Lachlan assumed these were new recruits and that the regular guards he knew were at the palace.
"Colonel Macauley Lachlan here with urgent news! I need this gate opened!"
"I'm afraid we can't do that, Sir."
"Wh- Why the hell not?!"
"Under orders from High Elite Grail, the current ranking official, no one is permitted to enter or leave Mor Ardain for fear of the assassin slipping past." the guard replied. "Though I suppose I may be able to get you through the lower entrance..."
"Then do that! I have Lady Brighid's core crystal with me."
One of the guards beckoned for the group near the base of the gate to follow. Dalton, who had been closely listening to this conversation, moved in front of Lisette to follow the guard. Eclipse rolled her eyes before following the guard.
“Rude,” mumbled the Blade.
The guard opened a small, rusty door. The Colonel nodded, leading the others through. It was rather dark. Not many people used this particular route. Arachnid monsters usually occupied it. Hopefully those had been cleared for the month...
“Stay behind me, Lisette," said Eclipse, proudly taking the lead for her Driver.
“You stay behind me,” said Dalton. “I’ll protect you both, if something happens.”
"This barrier is hopeless... How do they not realize it?” asked Naust, grabbing Eclipse’s attention. “If the man who killed the emperor got in without a trace, what good will this do?!"
“Whatever can be done, will be done,” Lachlan replied. “Protocols are protocols, unfortunately. Besides, does the murderer really think he can take me?”
"The Empire has protocols for situations exactly like this one, they have everything under control, promise." Dalton chimed in, trying to join the convo to distract himself from the chance of a spider attack.
"Alright, if you insist," said Naust, still believing the culprit was long gone by now.
Once Colonel Lachlan and the others reached the other side of the building leading out to the wasteland, he directed all Drivers to take the lead. Their Blade’s weapons were to be readied for any attack at any time. The Chansagh Wastes were a harsh landscape with even harsher monsters.
Athell reluctantly agreed to the colonel's request. She wasn't excited about fighting a bunch of monsters, but there wasn't time for her opinion to be a big deal. Whatever moaning and groaning she had needed to be saved for later. "Naust and I will help in any way that we can."

“How far away is the capitol, Colonel?” Penny asked.
“Not that far.” Lachlan replied. “We’re sure to make it before brunch. You can see it on the horizon. Monsters may delay us, however. That’s what you lot are for.”
Dalton looked out on the horizon. "You weren't kidding." He laughed. "For as long as I've lived in Mor Ardain, I've only been in this area twice. They weren't fun." Dalton said.
"You'll still know more than I do, I've never been here in my life." Naust says as he looks around.
"I feel I was more busy trying not to die then learning the environment." Dalton replied.
Penny remained fairly silent. "So we pretty much just stick to the path, then?" she asked.
A Growsa Aspar slithered in front the party, its long body trailing behind it. It seems it was feeding time.
"Uh oh, we got trouble. Eclipse, you ready for the first fight the morning?" Lisette smiled, still as confident as earlier, holding her sword.
Dalton looks up at the giant Aspar. "Oh boy, that's one big snake." He exclaimed. He lifted his gun and pointed at the enemy ready to fire.
"Oh, shoot." Penny drew her Blade. "Time to fight, then!"
The Aspar targeted Penny. It struck at her legs by launching its head forward a little and trying to grab her with its tongue. Penny let out a small shriek, quickly jumping out of the way. "I'll Break it!" she said, preparing Ampitheatre.
At the same time as Dalton fired 3 rounds at the long body of the Aspar close to its head, Athell jumped forwards and sliced downwards at the aspar's tongue, hoping to help out her comrade. "Naust! Let's do this!"
The Aspar retracted its tongue quick enough to dodge Athell's attack, but didn't see the gun shots coming. It was knocked back, temporarily dazed. As it was dazed, Penny placed her four charges and mime-pressed her hand against them. "AMPITHEATRE!" she said, launching a powerful electrical blitz.
The electrical charges connected with the Aspar, which seemed already weak. It shed its skin, restoring its health, boosting its defenses. The skin would feel like metal for the next few minutes. The Aspar stood tall with its long body and shot poison from its mouth, raining down on the party.
Dalton quickly covered the top of his head with his jacket. "Watch out guys!" He exclaimed. Lisette quickly pulled her cloak's hood over her head but to no avail. The acid burnt through any clothing covering someone's head. Next, the aspar slammed itself down, unaffected due to its hard skin, and sped towards Dalton, attempting to coil around and surround him. While he was busy throwing his jacket down to not be burnt by acid, Dalton became trapped in the Aspar's coil. "Shit!" He fires off the last few rounds in his revolver right at the aspar's face in attempt to be freed. It quickly tightened its grip on him, savoring the kill before going to finish him off. Most of the bullets deflected off the skin but one entered its mouth.
Penny yelped, knowing she couldn't let herself get hit by the acid. She was mainly out of the danger zone, thankfully, and used her sword to block what came. The sword was slightly burned away. Penny then saw Dalton. "Naust! Topple it!"
The Aspar seemed motionless, its grip slowly loosening on Dalton, before it coughed up a disgusting substance on him.
Aspar Saliva.
Dalton was covered in the saliva. "You've got to be kidding me!" He shouted.
Let's give it a Cleaving Trip!" Naust said, unleashing his art and toppling the aspar.
Athell held her blade out as it glowed brightly. "Tear-able!" She shouted before multiple beams shot from her blade, heading towards the aspar. The Aspar's hard skin protected it for one last hit against topple, however it was finished off by Tear-able. The Aspar was now a loose, lifeless coil of meat around Dalton. Dalton easily got out of the coil mostly because of the saliva covering his body.
"And THAT's why we don't come out here that often." the Colonel said. "Like the girl said. More dangerous than Gormott's wildlife. You'll want to get that saliva off as soon as possible. I'll see about getting you a free pass to the hot springs at Mor Ardain."
"The hot springs, can't say I've heard of those." Naust said.
Lisette laughed a little. "You ok, Dalton?"
"I hate everything." That's all he said. His favorite jacket was ruined, he was covered in saliva, things just hadn't been going his way.
"Things should be better at the city." Penny nervously chuckled. "Shall we keep going?" Her sword seemed to be undamaged now, for some reason.
Dalton yanked his gun from the ground and walked towards the city. Now only wearing a white t-shirt.
Lisette noticed Penny's sword. "Hm... Oh, yeah we should, before we run into more trouble." Lisette walked in front of the group now as opposed to how she was previously walking behind most of them. She walked quite quickly for someone her height. She had her cloak back on, but the hood had been cut off. Dalton walked a few feet behind her, making sure the stench if the saliva wouldn't cause her much trouble.
"Guys, we gotta remember to focus on what we came here for. The emperor's been killed. We can't be gettin' sidetracked." Lisette said, refocusing them on the task.
"Right, let's get a move on then." Dalton picked up the pace.
Penny looked up to where they were headed. "Is that... a cargo elevator?"
"Yes it is, we use it to get to different areas of Mor Ardain safely." Dalton explained.
"This is such a fun impression to Mor Ardain. You have a lovely Titan Dalton." Naust said.
Dalton smiled at the complement. "I'm proud to say I was born and raised here."
She was slightly surpised no one thought to suggest it. "Why don't we get on the elevator then, and take it to A- A... A . . . Um. The town?"
"We're already almost to Alba Cavanich, it would take us longer to go find one." Dalton explained.
"I'll secure us an express elevator." the Colonel said, walking forwards. "Hey, men! We need a ride up to Alba Cavanich! Express priority!"
The soldiers halted the current load of equipment, allowing the party through. "Let's move! Double time!" Lachlan said, urging everyone onto the elevator. Penny walked in, looking around. "This is a big elevator..."
The party followed Penny in. Once everyone was inside and settled alongside the cargo, the soldier sent the elevator up. "It shouldn't be too long until we arrive in Alba Cavanich now." Dalton said.
"We're here." Colonel Lachlan said, the doors slowly creaking open to reveal the vast city before them.

Colonel Lachlan found himself walking out of the elevator leading up to Alba Cavanich, quickly looking for the inn. "Where's that blasted inn...?" The man needed to get everyone there and settled so he could head to the palace.
A few paces behind Lachlan, Dalton looked out at his home. He stopped and waited for everyone to get off the elevator when he looked back and saw a weapon infused titan blocking their path. Lisette looked at the town, after the damned creature moved. She compared the quaint feeling she got from seeing it to how old Torigoth used to make her in her feel. "It's so different, I guess that's what being on a different titan does."
The party quickly moved to catch up to everyone else as they realised that titan had slowed them down so much. It was a wonder Lachlan hadn’t completely abandoned them. Soon, after practically running across the titan, they came to a large hotel like building made of metal. Finally, the Colonel could get them set up and leave.
Penny pointed towards the building. "Is that the inn?"
"Ah, yes it is. It's been a while since I've been back home." the Colonel said. "Follow me, then. We'll get you all situated."
"We'll need some time to recuperate and plan our next move. I think staying at the inn sounds like a great idea." Penny reasoned. "Plus, Dalton can take a much-needed bath."
"What kind of bath does it have?" Eclipse asked.
"It's a hot spring. But there's also a normal bath." the Colonel replied. "When you all are set up, I'm off to meet with Grail about Brighid."
"Sounds good, if you can keep us informed." Dalton asked The Colonel.
"Of course. When I get back, you'll be the first to know about the situation." Lachlan replied. He headed inside the inn.

"S'cuse me." the Colonel walked into the inn. "Where's the innkeeper here?"
"That'd be me." an Ardainian woman walked to the front. "Who's- Oh! Colonel Lachlan! It's been months. How've you been?"
"Stressed, especially in these troubling times." Lachlan replied. "I've got some adventurers helping out with the hunt for the criminal. Mind putting them up for the night? Put it on my tab."
"Alright, then. Who's the crowd?" the innkeeper asked.
"I'm Penny." Penny replied, curtsying.
"You know who I am." Dalton said, waving to a familiar face.
"Dalton! How've you been?!" the innkeeper asked, grasping his hand and shaking it. "Thought you weren't comin' back to Mor Ardain for a while."
"Well..... plans have changed a little." He said hesitantly.
Naust walked in a bit late taking in the views of the town, and since he was new he had to introduce himself to all he saw."Hello there! My name is Naust, and this is my Blade, Athell!"
"Lisette." Lisette introduced herself. "My Blade is Eclipse." Eclipse courtly nodded in acknowledgement.
The innkeeper nodded. "Nice to meet you all. Naust, Dalton, you two will be sleeping in a room. Lisette, Eclipse, Penny and Athell will have a double-sized room."
At the inn, Athell followed behind her driver with an excited expression on her face. The Blade’s hair silky hair shining in the light of the lobby. "This place is really cool! Way different that gormott," said Athell, walking in front of everyone.
"Ah, Athell. Allow me to give you all your room keys." The innkeeper produced some keys. "For the boys, your keys are for Room 202, for the girls your keys are for Room 200."
"We'll need some time to recuperate and plan our next move. I think staying at this inn sounds like a great idea," said Penny, as Lachlan handed her a room key. "Plus, Dalton can take a much-needed bath."
“Yeah…” Dalton could only nod in agreement. The man just buried his face on his hand. He remained seated on a nearby red couch that was close to the sign in desk. His pride…damn it! He was going to shower until he shriveled away!
"When I get back, you'll be the first to know about the situation," stated Lachlan, before he headed out of the inn to make his way deeper inside of Alba Cavanich.
"I'm off, then." the Colonel nodded. "Have a good time!" The Colonel headed out to find Grail.
"It's been great Colonel, see you seen." Dalton waved.
"Dalton." Penny pointed towards the stairs. "Upstairs. Your room. Bathroom. Bathtub. Wash. Now."
“Y-yes ma’am!” Dalton followed orders and went straight up to his and Naust’s room - and to the bath.
"I say we should head to our own room." Penny said. "Get our bearings, figure things out a bit more. Room 200, she said? That should be on the second floor..."
Athell gave a nod to naust before taking off up the stairs. "I'm gonna go check out the room!" She called, practically flying up the steps.
"Hold on." She walked upstairs to look for the room. The rooms went in reverse, the lower numbers being at the end and higher numbers closer to the staircase.
Penny walked over to her door, following behind the others. "So who's opening it?" she asked, looking to Room 200 right next to the stairs.
Lisette opened the door with the key. Eclipse glanced inside before walking in. "It looks nice." she said, dropping her things on the bed. "Does the inn have towels?"
Lisette. put her stuff down on the bed next to Eclipse. "I hope so." After looking out the window at Hardhaigh Palace for a minute or two, she said, "Wanna go check out the hot springs then?"
Lisette nodded with a smile. "I do, Lisette."
"Geez... Hey Athell, wanna go? Of course I do!" She said slightly sarcastically before giving a genuine smile. "I'll be down there in a bit, go try it out for me."
Penny nodded. "I should stay here and try to figure out what that letter means, then." Penny pulled the letter out of her pocket. "Now that we're here, we should have some better context."
"Okay, let's go Lis!" Eclise smiled, leading Lisette out of the room. "I've never been in a hot spring before... wonder what it will be like?"
She looked around for a minute until she eventually found a door in the back of the 2nd floor leading to the hot springs. "I found it, it's just over there."
"Hey, Lisette, Eclipse!" Penny ran up behind the two, two white towels held in front of her. "They left the towels in the bathroom. Thought you might need them."
"Oh, thanks." Lisette said, taking the towels.
"Have fun in the tub. I'll work on the note." Penny headed back to her room.

Grail held Aegaeon's core crystal in his hand as he stood over the blood covered floor. He didn't get there in time... Because of that, the emperor is dead. He felt the soldier inside of him pull him towards solving this and he wasn't resisting. His train of thought was only broken when footsteps approached him from behind.
Colonel Macauley Lachlan walked up behind Grail. “Elite Commander Grail. Colonel Lachlan, personal captain of The Commodore, reporting. I have Lady Brighid’s Core Crystal and diary in my possession.”
Grail turned around to face the colonel. He held his other hand out for Brighid and her diary. /]]
"Good work, colonel. I'm trying to figure out some leads to this murderer. Whoever did this has skill but didn't mop up very well." He said.
“They did everywhere but here.” The Colonel reasoned, handing over the bag that held the Blade and the book. “There’s no signs of entry or combat elsewhere, save for the few body marks I saw... and there was no blood there. I’d argue our Assassin was trying to leave a message. But for who?”
Grail took the bag, gently placing Aegaeon within it beside Brighid. "...It's impossible to tell..." Grail mumbled, stepping around the chalk outline of the emperor's place of death. "What would you make of this, Colonel?"
“I’d say it was a targeted strike. Specifically tailored to take out the Emperor. Were there any other fatalities aside from his guards?” The Colonel asked.
"No. It seems the emperor was the assassin's real target. Aegaeon, Brighid and the guards... They're all just collateral damage." He pauses for a second. "Colonel, I'd like to address this issue personally when we get a clue."
“Sounds good to me.” The Colonel replied. Suddenly, a soldier ran into the room.
“High Commander Grail! Colonel Lachlan! It’s an emergency! Special Inquisitor Vill Ethelmar was found dead in his home!”
Grail's blood went cold at the clamouring soldier's words. "The special inquisitor... Colonel, we need to go."
“Right.” The Colonel nodded, running towards the Inquisitor’s home in Mor Ardain.

Back at the Commodore Titan ship, Sai bent over to DoliDoli. The Blade was intently staring him over to inspect his Driver’s size and arm length. Afterward, Sai summoned his weapon, but smaller so it could be used by the round, ball like creature. The Blade minimized the weapon and shortened the chain to a small stubble at the end of a hilt.
"Let’s start with you practice using the bladed part of my anchor. DoliDoli, you could use your ear...thingies to hold the openings at the bottom part of my anchor to swing it around."
"Meh, Blade weapon is more than just a chain?!" shouted Dolidoli.
“Yes, its a chain, an anchor, and, with a bit of imagination, a sword when you use the long side of it. Kind of dull since it would normally be slammed around so much….”
"Me get it,” said the nopon. “Now, me use brain to come up with cool stuffs. Sorry if hurty hurt, but Dolidoli use you as dummy decoy!"
"Wait!” yelled Sai, quickly running across the Commodore’s training room. "Here you go."
Sai returned to his Driver carrying one, medium sized dummy. He knew better than to bring over a large one. Dolidoli extended his ear arms to reach down for the sword like anchor Sai left on the ground.
"MEHMEHMEHMEH!" shouted Dolidoli, suddenly swinging the weapon around frantically and beating slashes into the dummy. Apparently, the nopon was stronger than he thought he was. As time went on, the nopon slowed his strikes and loosened his grip on the weapon. DoliDoli closed his eyes at this point and remembered what moves Sai had used on Lachlan. Then, the nopon let go of the weapon and thought about the chain growing a bit. In response to his thoughts, the chain lengthened as he opened his eyes. DoliDoli then moved his ear arms to make the weapon cut the dummy while he jumped a couple steps back.
"Very nice!" said Sai, clapping.
“Is nothing...Just use Sai Sai’s epic defeat as muse.”
Once a thorough amount of back and forth took place, Sai winked and created a miniature yellow heart that dispersed into the air and went into DoliDoli's chest. He also de-summoned the anchor part. The Blade wanted to test something before the session ended.
"Now you should have more attack power thanks to my Heartfelt Wink skill,” said Sai. “Try using the boost with one powerful whip on the dummy."
"MEH!" Dolidoli shouts, hitting the dummy with all his strength and snapping it in half.
"Perfect!" yelled Sai. "We really can be Driver and Blade."
“Meh, course! We friends after all! Only natural.”
Once the two finished training, they separated for a bit. Sai headed off to find some cute soldiers to talk to as DoliDoli went off to grab a quick snack. Something about a uniformed armor caught his attention. After rounded a corner, he found what he wanted.
“Amazing what happened to Torna,” said an ardain soldier with a deep voice.
"Did something good happen?" asked Sai.
“Not at all. Torna fell to Malos’ attacks, if you didn’t hear already,” said the soldier.
"Oh...This...Malos. He sounds dangerous..."
“Aye,” said a higher voiced soldier. “The higher ups have been in chaos too. Our Prince Hugo died in that attack.”
"Ah...I remember Brighid returning to her core....I guess that was the reason why, huh?"
“No she returned to her core because Emperor Haurlein was murdered,” said the first soldier. “Someone needs to stop this Malos. But the murderer of the Emperor needs to be stopped too. It’s clear neither is going to stop until we’re sunk.”
"Yes, I have to agree...But let's chat about something happier. We can't always be worried about looming threats. Tell me about Mor Ardain. I was a blade on this ship before my Driver resonated with me. I want to learn some about Mor Ardain because of this."
The Blade’s core was glowing a green color. He was quite happy to chat with the soldiers. DoliDoli and he had spent the rest of the morning cleaning the ship, after they finished training. The two soldiers had actually seen him doing that and had even heard of the Blade’s infamous acts on the previous day. They were quite surprised the Blade had approached them...even more surprised at his attempt to mingle when when they were on guard duty.
"Anything interesting you could tell me about Mor Ardain?" asked Sai.
“Mor Ardain is a powerful empire, with a strong military force and holds some of the strongest blades in history,” said the deep voiced soldier.
"Could I have been one of those blades?" asked Sai, as he summoned up a yellow heart. It split off into several smaller hearts that quickly dissipated away. Basically, he did a party trick to show off. However, it didn’t really have an effect on the two soldiers.
“No idea,” said the deep voiced soldier.
“Who are you?” asked the other.
"Sai. The protector of love and his driver's heart. Also, a shiny, fabulous stealer of the hearts of men."
“Uh-huh.” said the soldiers. “Never heard of you.”
The two walked off shortly after that. Sai frowned, but brushed it off. His core was now glowing a tad grey on the corners of the core crystal in his chest. As he walked off to find his Driver, Sai thought about Lachlan and what he may be doing. The core turned a more pinkish color once Sai made it to the front exit of the Ardain Titan ship.
“DoliDoli? What are you doing here?”
“Meh, just wakey wake from five minute nap.”
“I see,” said Sai, kneeling down to be closer to his Driver. "Do you maybe....want to explore outside? It’s not like Lachlan forced us to stay on the ship."
"Dolidoli had plans on doing so," replied the nopon.
"Ok. Well, lead the way!"
Soon after stepping out of the ship and onto the port, the Blade suggested they leave to find someone in need in order to show Lachlan they could be useful. Unfortunately, when the two stopped to ask for directions, they met a rude pink nopon. She started to flirt with DoliDoli, before she found out about his money situation. Instead of romance, she turned her attention to giving a quest. It was a simple quest as well.
“Lady, maybe next time tell us your friends are in danger before you make useless conversation!” exclaimed Sai, before running off toward a trading post alongside his Driver.
“Meh...how rude,” said the pink nopon, watching the two spring into action.
Jumping straight into action, Dolidoli took out his coin pouch and began attacking a hairless wolf like creature known as volf. It bit at the nopon’s ears, but Sai wrapped his chain around the beast and slammed against a nearby railing. It responded by dashing across the pathway and jumping up toward the Blade’s face. DoliDoli jumped up to and slammed his coin purse into the volf’s head.
"Meh, is not anchor, but pound like one!"
“Indeed,” said Sai. “Let’s wrap this up!”
"Sai-Sai attack together, maybe?"
“Together is the best,” replied the Blade, before putting his weapon into sword mode from earlier. DoliDoli jumps up and grabs onto the weapon by using the holes near the bottom of the anchor. Before striking, Sai’s core turns a solid orange color. A flush of light then bathes over the of the bladed side of the anchor.
“Light splice,” said the duo, before bringing the weapon down upon the volf.
It dissipates into light soon after. The two worked together to defeat their opponent as if it were the most natural thing for them. DoliDoli took to checking on his fellow nopon while Sai inspected the ground. The Blade found a silver key lying by an aux core just as a soldier came running up to him. He explained that the volf had knocked the core and key out of his hand.
“Well, here,” said Sai, before handing the two objects to him.
“You know, for beating that monster’s ass the way you two did, keep the aux core,” said the soldier. “You’ve earned it.”
“Meh, meh. Thanks bunches,” said DoliDoli, approaching the two. “Can escort to Mor Ardain too?”
“Certainly. Just follow me. I’ll lead you to the elevators we use at the top of the hill,” replied the soldier, before taking the duo on a calm walk.
“Thank you so much for this,” said Sai, the pink nopon from earlier watching the group walk away.

A bit later, Lisette and Eclipse came out of the hot tub, fully refreshed. Naust had been waiting, and as soon as the girls left he ran back to his room. Dalton was just out of the shower. "Hey, Dalton! The hot spring's free!"
Dalton chuckled. "Great. Let's go." The two men moved over to the hot spring, the spring completely free. The two men dropped their clothes before setting into the water.
“Aaaaaaaah, this feels great!” Naust said, relaxing in the warm pool.
“This hot spring never gets old.” Dalton nodded. “We deserve this.”
Suddenly, a loud yell came from the entrance to the hot springs. It wasn't a yell of terror... It was... A battle cry? Athell came charging through with a towel tied around herself and around her neck, simulating a cape. "HOT SPRINGS!" She shouted, diving through the air and cannonballing into the water, splashing Naust and Dalton with water.
Dalton's face got hit hard with water. "T-The bloody hell!?" He shouted. He wiped his face of water to look at the source of the massive wave of water.
And that's when they saw who was in the water.
Dalton's face grew red, he didn't notice the plushie at all. "WOAH!" He turned around quickly before he saw more than he wanted to of Athell.
Naust just sat there as normal and just grabbed Dalton's fist, balled it up, and then fist bumped it.
Athell stood in the middle of the water, her towel around her drifted off from the impact. She looks around. "Eh...? Girls? Where are you?"
"The girls time ended already! Why didn't you come earlier!?" Dalton yelled with his head still turned.
"Now Athell what are you doing here?" Naust asked since he's still the innocent boy he is.
Athell's head snapped towards her driver's voice. She quickly crossed her arms and sank into the water. "I... I... I t-t-thought it was still the girls' turn..." She stuttered, her face turning red. This was bad.
"Look just... We won't look, get out of the spring and leave, the next time for girls should be soon you can come back then." Dalton explained.
"Yeah it's our turn in here Athell." Naust said. He then picked her up and carried her to the changing room before returning. Dalton couldn't help but become beet red in the face.

Grail and the colonel burst into the special inquisitors house and meet the guards that have already been investigating. "... We're going to find who did this and give them imperial justice..." Grail says as his hand instinctively squeezes his sword on his side.(edited)
The Colonel walked over towards the scene of the crime. Ethelmar still had his helmet off. He removed it and touched the Inquisitor’s neck. “Cold. It’s been hours since he died.” Good riddance to that uncaring bastard. the Colonel thought.
Grail wasn't a fan of all of the officials either but his duty overides any personal emotion he had. He was to protect mor ardain, punish criminals, and maintain the peace. He was fully intending on doing that. "Dammit... Mor ardain is going to fall apart if we don't fix this." Grail says as he surveyed the room around them. No signs of a struggle. It was a quick death.
“The Special Inquisitor worked extremely closely with the Emperor. Is there anyone else like him the assassin might have attacked? What of the other officials?” Lachlan asked.
“We’ve already checked - everyone else is safe and secure.” The soldier replied. “Estimated time of death is 6 AM.”
“Ethelmar died before the Emperor...”
"Maybe ethelmar was getting close to something or the plan changed. We need to be thorough. Soldiers, go ask around town and find out where ethelmar was before he came home." Grail orders. "This assassin can't be far... Check the ports for any recent activity. We are going to pick mor ardain until we find who did this."
“I’d wager this man attacked Ethelmar because of how close he was to the Emperor.” Lachlan reasoned.
Grail folded his arms, nodding. "That's a reasonable conclusion. I want every person interviewed, documented and asked questions. Don't do it forcefully though, we're here to protect these people not scare them."
"Roger." The soldiers said.
"We need to stay calm about this, Commander." Lachlan said, putting a hand on his fellow's shoulder. "Making rash choices might give our enemy exactly what they want."
Grail closes his eyes and breathes deeply. "You're absolutely right colonel. I shouldn't let my fear for the people force me to make harsh decisions. Alright, new plan. We will keep the ports closed temporarily and watch out for any suspicious activity. Colonel, contact me if you find anything new. For now, I'll go check on anything that I can think of."
“Of course.” The Colonel nodded. “When we find this criminal, we’ll have to discuss what to do with the current situation. We do lack a ruler, after all.”
Grail nodded as he gets closer to the door. "We'll figure this all out in due time friend. Until next time." He said before walking out.
The Colonel nodded, heading out. “Let’s see about getting my ship moved up here, then.”
Before Grail turned the corner, he looked back at the colonel. "Do as you need to, just be wary of frightening the people. They are in enough distress." He said before leaving around the corner.

Within the inn, Lisette made her way to Dalton’s room. She knocked on the door.
“How can I help you?” Dalton asked from inside.
"Is it alright if I ask you something?" Lisette questioned.
"Yeah sure, c'mon in." He said, stepping aside to invite her into his shared room with Naust.
She hesitated for just a second, before she entered the room and took a seat at the table. "So. You're a pretty skilled fighter, even exceeding some Drivers and Blades I saw in Old Torigoth. I was wonderin' why you haven't... awakened with a Blade yet." She put her hands in the pockets of her cloak.
Dalton sat down on the other side of the table. "Simply put, I don't think I'm ready for that kind of relationship. Someone's life would be connected to mine, that just seems like a lot of stress for me." He replied. "A lot of people seem to be asking me that question, am I really that good a fighter?" He asked.
"Yeah, you are. And for someone who could beat a Driver and Blade single-handedly in battle, you'd benefit a lot from a Blade. I understand how it would be stressful though. I had Eclipse's core crystal for a couple of years before awakening her... Torigoth being burnt down was what made me go for it. See, my family used to run a shop there, and that was our main source of money, so when that was burnt down... Drivers and Blades earn a hell of a lot more money than a salvager. That's what made me finally go for it." She was looking at Dalton blankly, as if she didn't realise she was because she was too engrossed in remembering when Eclipse woke up.
"Sounds like a rough time." Dalton clenched his hand into a fist on the table in between him and Lisette. I'm... I'm not sure I should. I'm never really sure about anything to be honest. It sounds like awakening Eclipse was kind of a spur of the moment thing for you. I have no real reason to bond with a blade." He looked her in the eyes. "Do you think I do?"
She thought for a while, before responding. "Definitely. Not only will you become stronger, you'll be able to earn loads more money because people will trust drivers with their requests, and you'll have someone to rely on, not just in battle but outside too." She looked down and smiled to herself. "There's other reasons, but it'd take way too long to say em all... The short version is, awakening Eclipse was the best thing that ever happened to me, but it happened too late. If... If only I became a Driver before the bandits attacked, everyone would still..." She breathed deeply. "Anyway, don't just wait until you find yourself desperately needing a Blade to do it, like I did. Having a Blade might just one day save your life."
Dalton smiled looking at Lisette and nodded. "Maybe you're right. Thing is, where would I even find a core crystal?" He had to ask.
“I’m not really sure. Maybe Lachlan could give you one?” Lisette pondered. That’s when her stomach growled. “Ack, what time is it? We haven’t eaten all day…”
“Maybe we can fix that. I know a fairly good restaurant nearby.” Dalton suggested.
“That sounds fantastic!” Lisette’s face lit up. “Lead the way!”

Upon arrival at the inn, Lachlan inspected the surrounding area. He never could stop working. At least there was the excuse that a criminal lurked about this time. Lachlan didn’t really need an excuse though.
“Meh, look out!”
“Wha--NOPON! DAMN--”
Bam! Lachlan found himself lying on top of a familiar Blade. His helmet had come off revealing long, black hair. Looking down at the pair of dark blue eyes staring up at himself being caught between extreme rage and embarrassment. A very small part of him wanted to stay on top of Sai, but the logical side screamed to get off. They had just met!
“Am I comfortable?” asked Sai, blushing as he looked into Lachlan’s brown eyes.
The Colonel did not reply to that. Instead, the man forced himself up. Lachlan immediately turned to DoliDoli and grabbed the nopon by the ears. Beat or scold? His mind raced for a conclusion…
“I thought I told you to stay on the damn ship.”
“Meh, was bored,” replied DoliDoli. “Felt like we could have grand adventure! End up helping others along way for proving Blade and Driver combo extra special! ...You know, Colonel face feels like peach....”
Oh, big mistake! That last part was said with DoliDoli actually touching his face. Now the Colonel was full on mad. Lachlan had enough of this..this cursed creature! How dare he bond with an Ardainian Blade!
“You piece of--!”
Lachlan suddenly found Sai holding onto the arm he had raised into the air. The Blade could feel Lachlan was snapping for some reason and he wanted to help. Their fingers now intertwined together. Lachlan’s skin was as cold as to touch as it seemed at sight. They began to shake as Lachlan dropped the nopon.
“Sorry, I’ve had a long day,” said Lachlan, pulling out of Sai’s grip. “You two are free to do as you please...I’m going to get a drink.”
Lachlan moved to get his helmet, with Sai giving a worried look. The Blade wondered what kind of day he had to have experienced to make him so angry. Sai’s core glowed pink as Lachlan went inside. The warmth Sai thought about earlier returned. Glancing back at Sai one last time, the Colonel felt a similar feeling.
That’s when a soldier ran over to Lachlan. “Colonel! Urgent news!”

While the exchange between Lachlan, Dolidoli and Sai happened, Lisette and Dalton were headed to the restaurant. Lisette glanced around as they walked down the streets.
"Have you enjoyed your Alba Cavanich tour?" Dalton asked.
"Yeah. It's really lively compared to old Torigoth. Even during reconstruction, Torigoth is more lively than it was back then... So Mor Ardain's got a lotta machines. Do you think they're gonna make Gormott basically a factory like they did with this place?" She was referring to the recent-ish Ardanian victory against Coeia near Gormott.
Dalton thought for a second. "No, I don't believe so. Whatever the plans are for Torigoth, I don't think anyone would make it like Mor Ardain." He said.
"That's good. I'd miss the beauty of the vibrant greens of Gormott too much." She looked at Port Anangham’s wilderness and saw a Driver with his Blade, who was performing manual labour while the Driver relaxed. "Sometimes, I really don't like this world."
He walked up next to her. "Sadly, it can't always be beautiful. But we should make the most out of the moments that are."
"But, everyone always treats Blades like they're tools." She looked at Dalton, wondering how he would treat a Blade if he had one. "They don't care whether those Blades are people, just like us... And so those Blades don't get to enjoy those beautiful moments. I just feel kinda guilty whenever I see something like that, like I'm partly responsible for not doing something about it. Like those poor Blades deserve happiness way more than I do... What about you - what do you think?"
"Sadly we can't always be sure everyone will live happy. Blades will always be tools to some people's eye, which is a horrible thing I wouldn't want that on anyone. And if you feel guilty for not doing anything, then change that. Do something, speak out about this. I'm just as guilty for the same reasons, but if I could I would do everything in my power to make sure every blade gets to enjoy the beautiful moments." He said as he noticed the same horrible driver. "This world may not be perfect, but if anyone can make a difference, I believe you could." He smiled.
That’s when Eclipse appeared behind the pair, putting her hands on their shoulders. “Miss me, nerds?” That’s when she noticed the Driver. “Oh, c’mon. Just give me a second.” Eclipse walked down to the Driver, standing in front of him. “You know, you can help your Blade.”
The lazy man with dirty hair and stubble growled at Eclipse. "What do you want, Blade? Can't y'see I'm busy here? Get away, go on, go!"
"I want you to help your Blade. He is your partner, not a slave.” Eclipse growled.
"And who're you to decide that? Unless yer gonna put yerself to use by helping, get away, ye damn Blade!"
"Don’t you care for your Blade? Blades are more than just a cool weapon. They become part of your family.... A good driver taught me that. However, you don’t seem to have that trait.”
"Oh, great, get a load of this!” yelled Arla Bob. “Driver's probably off their nut, so they awakened a damn eccentric. An extra. This is your last warning, leave, you pest!"
Eclipse made her hand into a fist, after that. The Blade was not afraid of such a useless excuse for life. Humans just had to be annoying today, of all days.
“You’re the only pest here....You damned slave Driver! You can’t treat a human being this way or anyone like this!"
The Ice Blade was now seriously fighting an urge to clock Arla’s face. Nearby, a man was leaned against the wall. “That’s a Blade with experience. She knows what she’s talking about. You’re the lazy bum who’s wasting his potential.”
"Well, this is certainly something. Being attacked by a Blade even though its driver is elsewhere. You really think you can take me alone?" Bob took out a pocket knife, which was clearly not a blade weapon. Eclipse sighed as her core crystal started to glow. All around Bob, his head experiencing her illusion power, was 10 Eclipse clones. Her weapon was drawn as the real one takes a step back. "Yes, we can."
“You’re the one attacking. But if you really want to...” The mystery man dashed forwards, drawing a Blade from the scabbard beside him. At astonishing speeds, he disarmed the man and held his Blade to his throat. “I’d rather not kill if I don’t have to, but keep going like this and you’ll be spending a lot of time in the medical ward.”
"What?!” exclaimed Arla. “Such speed...And by a human too! And then- No...Just what are you two?"
The man stumbled back, retreating from everyone else. He signalled for his Blade to get in and help. The Blade followed the orders, rushing in front of its Driver with its weapon out. Like any good Blade would: One hundred percent ready to defend its Driver.

Lisette, who had looked away to talk to Dalton, was now looking in the direction of her Blade again. "What? What the... Eclipse! What is she doing? And who's that other guy with her?" Lisette ran off in the direction of that area but had no idea how to get there since she hadn't been there before.
"Wrong way," said Dalton, he beckoned her to follow him as he ran off.
"Leave us alone,” said Arla’s Blade, weapon drawn. “My master does not wish to fight you. He simply wishes for you to leave us be."
"Can you put the weapon down?" asked the Eclipses. The real Eclipse walked closer to the blade slowly, in way that was not threatening. All of her clones disappeared with the glow of her core dimming.
“I don’t want to fight, but I’m willing to teach him a lesson if needed,” said the mystery man.
“No,” said Eclipse, changing her mind on how to handle the situation. “Lisette...would want me to do this differently. Blade…”
"I only take orders from my Driver.”
“...Please, lower...your weapon,” asked Eclipse, her tone of voice completely calm.
“His wish is for me to defend him from you two. I will ask you again, leave us. You have no reason to be bothering my Driver, so go."
With this scene playing out, Dalton took Lisette on the fastest route he knew to the port. The two were running frantically in order to reach Eclipse. Lisette was in particularly frightened at what her Blade may do…
Back at the scene, Eclipse had made her way in front of the slave Driver’s Blade. She had her hand extended with the smile of an idiot plastered across her face. Lisette would do the same. She knew it.
"Bloody 'ell, damn Blade, use your common sense! They ain't goin away so just kill 'em!" screamed Arla Bob.
The Blade obeyed its Driver, running towards the mystery man, bashing its shield hammer into him. The Blade then moved back and used a guard / block art. Eclipse winced a bit in shock as she drew her blade again. She created another illusion as well. This time, only one clone. It walked up to the other blade and wrapped her arms around it. "This...is a hug. My Driver gives me these frequently. It’s a form of love ...all people and blades should know what this is like. Calm down, ok?"
Unfortunately, the Blade started to turn into a white light as Eclipse’s clone faded. The real Eclipse teared up witnessing the savageness of the mystery man that had stepped in. After being attacked, ha had made his way over to Arla Bob. “You...bloody...bastard…”
At this point, Dalton had grabbed Lisette's arm to run as quick as he could. Shortly after the mystery man stabbed the driver they arrived. Dalton wheezed trying to catch his breath, but fell silent when he saw blood pooling at the man’s feet.
“Damn it.” The man sighed. “Didn’t mean to...out of practice, I guess. Never attack a wild beast.”
"What...happened?" asked Lisette, also wheezing between words.
“Make sure that core crystal goes to a better Driver,” said the mystery man, before he walked off toward the desert.
Dalton fell silent for a few seconds. Death. He really hated death. Once the mystery man had left, he said the following: "He might've been a bad person, but that doesn't mean he deserved death. Encouraging that kind if behavior makes you no better then the people who act on it..." Dalton sighed. "Let’s go back. We don’t belong down here."
"...It’s not right for a blade or anyone to he treated that way," said Eclipse, as she sniffled. She rubbed her eyes and just followed Dalton as she looked down at the Blade’s dormant core crystal. Lisette also eyed to the core as she followed.

Meanwhile, at Hardhaigh Palace...
"Come quickly! QUICKLY!"
Colonel Lachlan dashed down the halls. "You're serious?! One of the soldiers is still alive?!" he demanded.
"Yes! We've contacted Commander Grail as well." the soldier replied as they ran.
"At last... we'll know our attacker."
Grail came through the door, not breaking his walk until he met up with the commander. "Where is the survivor?" He asks. He was worried for the soldier's life but was glad that he had survived.
"The Medical Bay." the soldier replied. "We're headed there now." The soldier broke through the door. The single soldier seemed to be okay.
"Soldier. Name and rank?" The Colonel asked.
"Corporal James Stone." the soldier replied. "Assigned to the Emperor's Personal Guard, but off the record, I think he was kind of a douche."
"Could be why he was spared." Lachlan reasoned.
"Truth be told, none of us liked the emperor that much. However, a crime is a crime." Grail said. It was pretty obvious that the emperor was a douche.
“Fair. Which is why I’m going to help the investigation however I can.” James replied. “My assailant was a man. About six feet tall. Brown hair, blue eyes. Extremely fast. He wore some sort of black hooded vest with yellow lightning-bolt marks on it and carried a strange short sword.”
"Would you say he's a Blade?" Grail asked. It sounded like odd enough clothing to be considered a unique Blade.
“Wouldn’t be too far-fetched, but it’s hard to say. If he’s got a core crystal, that hooded jacket of his hides it well.”
"At least we have a description now. Thank you soldier. Go get some rest and food, you've earned it." Grail said. "Can we have our artists draw up posters based on that description?"
“On it.” One of the soldiers replied.
“Commander Grail, may I have permission to dock the Commodore in the Emperor’s private dock?” Lachlan requested.
"Permission granted colonel. Be careful out there. We don't know if we're going to be targets too." Grail responds. Protection was definitely needed in a time like this. "Take a few more soldiers with you if you think you need them." he suggested.
“I brought some Drivers with me. I’ll be fine.” The Colonel replied. He ordered one of the men to go relay orders to the Commodore, wanting his ship docked soon. Lachlan himself decided to scout the town, searching for clues.

Colonel Lachlan walked the town, looking about. He looked back and forth as he walked. “‘s good to be home.” He said.
The Colonel walked into the town square, wandering past another man. “Good day.”
“Good day indeed.” The man replied, walking past.
The Colonel did a double-take of the man who had passed him. Blue eyes. Brown hair. Black hooded jacket with lightning bolt markings.
“Hey, you! Freeze!” Lachlan commanded, taking out his blaster. The man put up his hands.
“What for?” The man asked.
“You’re under arrest on suspicion of the murder of the Emperor.”
“...well, shit.”

A soldier spontaneously dashed into the room. “I’m looking for men and women by the names of Lisette, Naust, Penny and Dalton!” The soldier said. “Where are they?”
“We’re right here. Well, everyone but Dalton.” Penny replied. “What’s the situation?”
“Approximately three minutes ago, Colonel Macauley Lachlan located and attempted to arrest the assassin. The Commodore is now repositioning along the side of Mor Ardain’s outer edge to combat the assassin. The Colonel said he wanted you all to get there as soon as possible!”
Dalton, with the intention of getting food, walked downstairs to see the soldier talking to Penny. "What's going on?" He asked.
"The assassin was caught to our understanding." Naust says with a grain of salt, since he believed the true culprit was long gone.
“No. He’s at large and escaped the Colonel. He took down a full squad on his own.” The soldier replied. “The Commodore plans to bombard the edge of the city once the citizens are evacuated.”
"A full Squad, taken down?!? What in the blazes is this man!" Naust says actually surprised.
"How powerful could one man be?!" Dalton exclaimed.
“Pretty strong...” Penny whispered. “We’ll have to step in directly. Let’s go, guys!”
"So we have to fight this guy?" Lisette said, stepping up.
Eclipse smiled. “I mean, you only need me and Lis. We can take him easy." she said, lightly punching her Driver in the shoulder.
Penny looked at her. “This one man wiped out an entire Ardainian squadron...”
"I was messing around." Eclipse sighed. "Do we know what this dude uses as a weapon?"
"They weren't Drivers like us though, right?" She said in an attempt to repair her confidence of beating the guy.
“He had a sword. Looked kind of like a blue-grey, pretty short.” The soldier replied. “We can’t wait around anymore though. Is this everyone?”
“Yes, this should be everyone…” Penny stated.
Dalton check his current ammo to make sure he has enough for a fight. "I should be good." He said to himself. The rest of the party made all the preparations they needed to.
Penny nodded. “Let’s go!” Penny dashed out to Alba Cavanich in search of the criminal, the rest of the party behind him.

"What the hell!?" exclaimed Dalton, Eclipse coming up behind Penny.
Penny glanced over the horizon. She saw, towards the edge of the city, the top of the Commodore popping up. "What the... Is that our ship?!"
"So where are we going? Across- woah!" Lisette followed closely behind Penny, but suddenly stopped when she did.

Meanwhile, Colonel Lachlan was breaking into a sprint. He leapt off the end of a Salvaging dock, landing on the roof of the Commodore. He headed towards the roof side entrance, moving towards the command deck.

"That soldier said they were going to bombard the edge of the city..." Penny thought. "IS THE COLONEL LEADING THE ATTACK?!"
Out near the port, a single man was standing, looking at the ship. He was decently tall, being 6’0” and keeping in good shape. He wasn’t very muscular, but not fat either. The mystery man had neck-long poofy brown hair with some spikes on the top. Dawning a black hoodie with lightning bolt markings on the side, he remained incognito. His blue eyes sparkled with excitement as he looked onward.
"Brought out the big guns, huh?" asked the man, as the Commodore aimed its cannon at him.
"Ready to begin the attack, Colonel!" the major announced.
The cannons blasted towards the man, ripping up the street. The vigilante, however, sped out of the way with astonishing speed. He left an electrical trail behind him as he ran out of the way of the cannons. Sai, nearby with DoliDoli, dodged behind a building to avoid stay cannon fire.
"W-Wait, how did he move so fast?" asked Dalton, his jaw dropping.
"We have to stay back!" Penny said, ducking behind cover. "A stray shot could hit any one of us!"
Dalton and Lisette ducked for cover behind the same building as DoliDoli and Sai. Everyone else went in different directions to avoid the cannon fire. The party members managed to stay near their Blades, however.
"Uh? Dalton?" said Sai. "You're here to?"
"Sai? Dolidoli?" Dalton said, looking over to the Blade and Driver.
Meanwhile, the man was still dodging the strikes. "Modem talking, modern walking in the streets / New desire / Take me higher, lift me higher with your speed / I need fire!" the man sang, drifting in and out of the strikes. He saw a curved platform and made a dash towards it.
Sai worried for his driver’s safety as the bombardment continued to wait things out with Dalton and Penny. He thought about how it may have been foolish to run off with him, but couldn't really do anything about that now. He also hoped Lachlan would stay safe.
Suddenly, Penny's eyes opened wide at what happened next. The man dashed against the crooked platform, running so fast he was dashing up the sides. He leapt off, landing on the side of the Commodore. Taking out his sword, he hit the ship running, slashing at the cannons.
"Meh! Man is not normal!" Dolidoli exclaimed. Eclipse took a step back in shock.
"How is he doing that?" Sai questioned.
Dalton didn't take a second to think. After the cannons were destroyed, he mad dashed toward the Commodore.

"What the hell?! Status report!" the Colonel demanded.
"We've lost all upper cannons- no! The lower ones are gone! All port-side offense is down!" the major replied. "We can't attack him anymore!"
"Pull back!" Lachlan ordered. "We'll have to loop around!"
The Commodore headed out towards the Cloud Sea. Taking his cue, the man leapt off, rolling and landing on the street. As he did, he saw a man to his right.
"You're that Elite Commander, right? Grail?"

"We follow now, right?" Sai turned to Penny.
"Yes." Penny nodded, dashing forwards as she drew her sword. Suddenly, a large tower collapsed down in front of them. "Son of a-! We can't get to them now!"
"Shit!" Dalton shouted.
"Agh...Uh..." Sai looked around and saw a street lamp hanging over. "I might have a way for you to get over there, but it'll take a second." Sai used his chain and wrapped it around the part of the street lamp hanging over the collapsed tower. "Let the other end wrap around a few times and you can get over. Then you can use my chain to scale over the tower."
"Good idea, Sai!" Dalton quickly started climbing the chain to get over the tower.

The man standing on the street was indeed the elite commander. His face was serious and his longsword rested in his right hand. "Yes, I am... You've made quite the mark on Mor Ardain." He said, shifting slightly. "If you want to surrender, we won't have to fight."
"If I could, I'd consider it." the man replied. "I've got work to do, though. Afraid I can't have you stopping me. So considering I basically just took down an Ardainian war vessel on my own, are you going to let me go, or are we doing this the hard way?"
"Us soldiers are very stubborn when we have our minds set on something. Don't say I didn't warn you." He said, taking off towards the man at a surprisingly fast speed for his size. His form was solid and he didn't appear to have any fear of the man.
The man quickly blocked the strike. "Sorry, pal. I know the Ardainian tenacity." The man's hood fell back, revealing his Ardainian skin. "Which is why I'm shocked the Emperor had neither the tenacity nor the honor."
Grail's eyes widened. The sudden shock of the reveal put down his guard. He quickly backpedaled, holding up his sword. "You're an Ardanian...? Why would you... Sure the emperor wasn't the greatest but the entirety of Mor Ardain is in chaos! How could you betray your homeland..." He said. He didn't know how to process this new information.
"I saved it." the man replied, suddenly gaining a gravely serious look on his face. He dashed behind Grail, launching his sword towards him.

As Dalton and Sai climbed the tower, Lisette glanced over to the situation with the man and Grail. Lisette was also, but not equally as, surprised by this new information. "Wait a second... If he's an Ardanian, how is he..."
Dalton finally got over the fallen tower. He looked to check the fight and saw the man was Ardainian. "W-What!? But why?" He questioned to himself. Penny followed Dalton up, looking shocked.
Sai moved to take the chain from Dalton. "You two, grab onto me. With my hands covered by my outfit, I can slide down this chain like a vine and you two can go help him when we reach the bottom."

The sword landed just at Grail's feet. The man smirked, holding out his arms. They suddenly crackled with raw electricity. He smashed his hands forwards, the electricity surging towards the sword... and into Grail. "LIGHTNING ROD!" the man shouted, simultaneously inflicting Break and Topple.
Struck, Grail fell to his knee, the electricity numbing his body and freezing him a bit. "B...Bastard!" He growled through gritted teeth.
The man dashed forwards, grabbing his sword. He moved straight into his next art. Gripping his blade, he spun up into the air from right underneath Grail. "CIRCUIT SPIN!" he shouted, flying upwards with Grail intact.
Grail never let go of his sword, but he knew the fight was over. Even if he tried to fight for real now, it was too late. All he could do was brace the best he could. The man finished up with a final attack, ending the combo by smashing the hilt of his sword into Grail's chest. The Break-Topple-Launch-Smash Driver Combo was complete as the man landed, Grail getting smashed into the underground portion of Alba Cavinich. The ground caved in and a large explosion came from below. The fight was over. The fate of the high elite was unknown.

Penny climbed over the top, dropping down. "You may have taken them down, but you still have to deal with us!" Penny said, drawing her sword and pointing it at the man.
The rest of the group climbed over, Dalton's half via Sai's chain and Lisette's half via a hole in the fallen water tower. "That man. He's using elemental arts - he can manipulate electricity!" Lisette checked his skin again, questioning how it was possible. "But if he's Ardanian, how can he be a Blade?"
Athell stood at Naust's side. "Naust, please be careful! We don't know what this man can do!" She said cautiously.
"It'll be alright. Together we can do anything. Isn't that right, guys?" Naust said, attempting to rally the group.
"Meh, Dolidoli have something up sleeve!" the Nopon said.
Dalton decided to jump down and land next to Penny, his aim already at the man. Dalton was completely silent as he faced him.
"Even if this guy managed to take down a few cannons, he won't beat all of us. That's for sure." She took Eclipse's Blade weapon, sheathing her own one, preparing to fight.
"I just took down Mor Ardain's best. What makes you think you've got the chops to deal with me?" the man asked.
"Because you're fighting a team!" Penny replied, keeping her sword pointed.
"Alright then." The man held up his own sword to mimic her gesture. It was the same blade. "Bring it!"

"Let's go!" Penny shouted, dashing forwards. The man ran past them, headed straight for Lisette.
Dalton watched the man rush for Lisette. "Watch out!!" He warned them.
Eclipse raised her hand, creating an illusion, and Lisette suddenly vanished. The man quickly jumped. "Think you're clever, huh?" he said to Eclipse, creating a large ball of electricity connected to the tip of his sword. "ELECTRON!" He sent the orb straight at Eclipse, disrupting the illusion.
Lisette took aim at the man, shooting her salvaging anchor at his legs in an attempt to halt his movement. "Anchor Shot!" The man got caught up in the anchor, being in the air limiting his maneuverability. He got pulled to the ground. She retracted the anchor a little whilst circling around to the other side of a gate, before retracting it as fast as she could, trying to smash him into it. The man groaned as he was crashed into the gate. He had his footing again, though, and the anchor was loose as well. He blasted off at incredible speeds. Penny was suddenly flung into the air.
Dalton stood frozen, he knew he wouldn't be able to fight the man. "Shit!" He said to himself.
"MEH, NOT THIS TIME! Sai-Sai, do thing!" Dolidoli said, tossing the anchor back to Sai.
"Got it! Anchor Chain!" Sai's weapon hit ground in front of the man in an attempt to trip him.
"Time for a Sweeping Lancen! This'll break em then time for a Cleaving Trip!" Naust said, performing a combo. The man quickly leaped over the anchor, but got hit by Naust's combo, getting tripped.
“Eclipse, now! Freeze 'em to the ground." Lisette threw the sword back to Eclipse.
Eclipse leapt into the air, small ice shards appearing with her and flying towards the man. "BLIZZARD STORM!"
Athell leapt forwards, performing an upwards slash that shot out a little orb, soon combusting. "FLARE!" She shouted.
The ice hit first, freezing over the man's body. Flare sent him careening into the sky. Penny landed, dashing forwards and swinging her sword down. "LIGHTNING STRIKE!" she shouted, the bolt of lightning smashing the man into the ground.
"So that's what that feels like..." the man groaned, making a dash to try and get the frost out of his system.
"Galatic Shift!" Sai's chain wrapped around the man's body. He slammed the man into a nearby building, and a giant light erupted.
The man groaned with the impact, feeling light-headed. "Urgh... Oh shit. Blade combo." He dashed towards Penny, both the Ice and Light orbs flying around him. Penny clashed with the man, the strikes from her identical sword practically matching his blow-for-blow.
"Naust, Athell!" Penny yelled.
"Not on my watch! I won't let you hurt a friend!" Naust slammed his Change Blade, shifting it into a shield hammer, into the side of the man.
Athell, who had raised her affinity, was ready to launch her level 4 special. "ALL TOGETHER NOW!" both Athell and Naust shouted out, firing off Glistening Aura. Several beams and blades of light flew towards the man.
The man was blasted from the attack. “ARGH!” He yelled in pain, falling to the ground before being hit by one of Dalton’s bullets. “Time to finish this.” He went into high gear, speeding around the battlefield and slashing at the others. As he did, Penny dashed forwards and swung at where he was going to be. The man blocked the strike. “Why are you here?!” He hissed under his breath. Penny merely stared him down.
Penny dashed back, swinging her sword down. “LIGHTNING STRIKE!” A bolt of electricity came down from the sky, but the man barely dodged it. The lightning illuminated him completely. To Eclipse, Lisette and Dalton, he was the man that killed the asshole driver. To Naust, it was the man he had passed by in Gormott.
"It's that guy!" Lisette exclaimed.
Dalton's eyes widened. "Him again?!"
Wait, I recognize you! I saw you glare at me in Lacham Cove." Naust said.
The man breathed deeply, holding his sword low. Suddenly, he untensed himself, standing up straight. “Well then.”
Lisette pointed her Blade's weapon at the man. "Tell us who the bloody hell you are, now!" She was confused as to why someone who killed the Ardanian emperor would actually care about justice. But then, she realized that it might have been his passion for justice that lead to the emperor's death.
“Name’s Jay. I’m a vigilante.” Jay said. Suddenly, a loud whirring sound could be heard from below. “That’s my cue. Exit, upstage!” Jay gave a small salute before falling backwards off the edge of the platform. Penny let out a cry of shock, reaching her hand towards him.
Dalton ran to the edge of the platform. "Wait!!"
Suddenly, the man seemed to... fly back up? He was casually kneeling on what looked like a flying platform. “I’ll see you around!” Jay said with a wave, as the platform flew away from Mor Ardain and out into the Cloud Sea.
“WAIT! JAY!” Penny reached out towards him, dropping her sword.

Dalton stared at the man until he was out of sight. "Who was that?" he asked.
"Penny- do you know him?" Naust asked.
"That guy... He murdered a Driver earlier. Well, the Driver did bring it on themself, but still..." She looked at Penny.
“I...” Penny didn’t respond. Her sword lay there, seemingly evidence to her knowledge. “I’d prefer not to say.”
"Well, at least this is over for now."
"It's about that letter from the ship isn't it Penny?" Naust says as he saw barely a name on it as it floated away.
Penny gave no response. “Let’s go back to the inn.” She said.
She picked up her sword and sheathed it, heading back to the inn in silence.
CHAPTER 2: Treason

Happy New Years! Consider this a New Years special if you want. I'm kinda just happy I could get something out at the tail end of December. ...hey, it's been exactly one month since the first chapter was released! yeah don't expect chapter 4 in february, two of our lead rpers getting jobs kinda makes that one progress at a snail's pace :p
Mor Ardain is personally one of my favorite, if not just outright my favorite, location in Xenoblade Chronicles 2. It's home to some of my favorite characters, enemies and story events. So when we got there in Alrest Endangered, it was a TON of fun. hey so a small insight into the process for this chapter, we actually completely cut two other hot spring scenes, one because of a subplot we nixed entirely and the other because uh
Be hyped for the next chapter, though! That letter isn't forgotten, and the two stories collide. Just what is Jay after...?
I have to give special thanks to @SailorInSpace for helping me in transcribing and writing new segments for this chapter as well as creating the character of Sai (and being an awesome ball of positivity :D), as well as the RP creator Pyra745 (and creator of Lisette) and the RPers; namely Lunar the one true rock 0 (creator of Eclipse), Toasty.jpg (creator of Naust and Athell), Swelp (controller of Athell and creator of Grail), GrapeGod (creator of Dalton) and Littlepon (creator of Dolidoli). Penny, Colonel Lachlan Macauley and Jay are my own creations, Emperor Haurlein Ardanach is based on the unnamed Monolith Soft character but is my creation as well, and the rest of the characters - including Lady Brighid, Aegaeon and High Inquisitor Vill Ethelmar - and the world are owned by Monolith Soft.
Thanks to Monolith Soft for inspiring this project by, well, making Xenoblade Chronicles 2!
See you all next time for some other projects!
  1. Mechanist Gamma
    Mechanist Gamma
    Jan 1, 2019
    Godjacob likes this.