"So," Kokoso turned to the newest member of the team and sighed, "you're, uh-"528Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡ4pxicBoIly
"Noel, my name is Noel." Noel replied to the unfinished question.
"Okay, but I thought you'd forgotten your name." Kokoso furrowed his brows.
"I did, but it's the name Maria gave me, so that's my name."
"Ha, looks like Cathryn and Byrd should've been up for that!" Kokoso smirked.
It was Noel's turn to be confused, "Huh, why's that?"
"They're the-ow!" Kokoso shot a glare at Byrd and punched him square in the shoulders, "Mommy, Daddy elbowed me in the ribs!" he yelled through stifled giggles, to Spring's great enjoyment.
"Now, now, Dad, don't hit Kokoso." Cathryn chided.
"Tell him that! First he hit me, then he turned around and acted like a child!" Byrd growled.
"If you don't want to be hit, then don't start trouble." Cathryn advised.
"Um, are those two...together?" Noel asked Maria.
"No, it's...oh, boy, what you walked into, Noel, is a product of last night's...I suppose team bonding time is what we'd all that?" Maria shrugged, "I don't know how we got to arranging the team like we did, but it was fun, I think it was Spring's fault."
"Great job, Maria," Kokoso chided pretentiously, "now we need to find a place for her in this crazy household."
"She might have been with the Company." Byrd sighed, "As much as we hope that's unlikely, remember, stranger things have happened...first Animen appeared, and then we were despised, branded monsters, is it really so hard to believe that a human would go through what Noel has just to play a part in our ultimate downfall?"
Noel folded her arms and hummed thoughtfully.
"Well, if the Company had such an intricate plot," Maria began, "then Noel has still forgotten it, and by joining our ranks she's probably undone whatever they had in store for us, unless the idea was to introduce a plague to us, but sending a predatory bug in makes more sense, and she hasn't so much as sneezed when she first showed up."
"Besides, what are you," Noel asked poking Byrd's shoulder, "if not human, I'm the same as you, I just don't have wonderful animal powers to call on, but I do have Company technology, some weird kind of gauntlet," she stared at her arm and shrugged, "the Company wouldn't let that happen, though, right?"
"Right," Kokoso cheered, "and if you'd let us practice fighting you, or watch you use your weapons, then we can figure out how to fight against Company weapons, maybe even have our smith arm our own people with better versions of Company weapons."
"I guess it is a heavy blow they've been dealt." Byrd resigned, "I just...guess I can't see a good thing for what it's worth, guess I'm...nearsighted in more than one way."
"The first step to a solution is admitting the problem." Kokoso remarked.
"Hang on," Spring flew ahead and readied her lance, "it's can't be further than a few yards hence, but...there's something here, something wrong!"
"I-I'm backing away," Noel decided, "just in case I'm somehow-"
Maria waved her back over, "We've had seemingly insurmountable surprise fights heaped on us before. Spring, where's this...something?"
"I think it's inside the Refractory Construct." Spring stepped forward and gestured for them to follow, "The place where we seasons take up our scepters and reign, two at a time, was built by a powerful spirit named Gaia to house us, and then Gaia fell asleep, nothing can shatter this building, not even the force of a thousand hammers could chip away at this, but no one knows why, exactly, even we don't know."
"An indestructible...hill? It looks like a humongous hill or miniature mountain." Kokoso noted, staring at the large, fin shaped rise in the ground.
"It's neither...it's 'made out of ten thousand gems and crusted by the four winds bearing nature, upon their crests, it ages and seeps as the rain distributes the decay of leaves, hardened by time and sun, blessed with stony beauty', or at least, that's what another ancient spirit said of it!" Spring laughed, "The spirit of history, if you wanted there to be one, if you needed one."
"There's a spirit for every day of the week!" Kokoso marveled.
"Actually...that gets complicated." Spring scrunched her face and nodded, "Let's leave it at that."
"What's this spirit of history's name?"
"Record," Spring informed, "she likes dressing her name in all kinds of ways, but enough on that, look at the sky over the mountain! I've never seen something so...unearthly."
"I've only seen that once before," Maria sighed, "we all have, the spring solstice."
"It's Autumn up north," Spring snapped her fingers, "wait, I was in the Spring spring as a phoenix, so Autumn is in the Fall waterfall, most like!"
"But what monster is she going to be?" Kokoso wondered.
"I don't know, but we'd better be ready for anything." Spring suggested, unsealing the entrance to the Refractory Construct.
"Hello, anyone home?" Kokoso called out.
"Summer, you here? Winter? Autumn?" Spring sighed and leaned over the large stone table in the middle of the room, "Guess not...where's my scepter? I need that!" Spring looked around frantically but found nothing.
"Okay, people," Kokoso clapped his hands together, "we're looking at an end of the world scenario if we can't find that scepter, so everyone split up and see if we can't find anything!"
Noel looked up at the ceiling and saw how parts of it were missing, with a smooth break near a column that rose up into darkness, she followed the edges of the missing ceiling and found a stone stairwell in a dark corner, "Guys, I found stairs, I'm going up."
"Okay, I'll keep looking around here!" Spring called back, then noticed Noel ascending the stairs, hang on, someone should go with you!"
"I'll follow." Maria announced, jumping up from her inspection of stone tiles with little bugs living under them.
Noel turned and waited for Maria to be close enough to help, but far enough that she could flee if there was something waiting at the top.
"Looks like that old abandoned store I used to read at, strange...someone's been living here of late." Maria approached a painting and sighed, "Nothing here, nothing behind it."
"A-ah, there's something up here!" Noel danced back from a large, hairy beast bearing massive claws, sharp canine teeth, slender tail, and a wild howl that sounded like a scream, echoed shortly after by Noel and Maria who ran to the stairs. As they reached the bottom the blood chilling cry echoed off the stone walls, the beast standing at the base of the stairwell, "Maria?"
"I've got this!" Maria stepped forward and swung her claws at the monster, but it blocked the strike and vanished, "Look out, Kokoso!"
Kokoso turned around and saw nothing of interest, until a shadow fell over the ground, "What is this?!" he lifted his shield and circled around, a howl sent him running to the stairs and he turned to see the beast had landed.
"Loud little monkey!" Byrd hissed, running up to the others, Spring and Cathryn close behind.
"Okay, that was thrilling!" Kokoso sighed, "Too thrilling, let's not do that again."
"Well, it's running from us, so let's follow it!" Cathryn decided.
"Agreed, we need to find out if it's Summer...or Autumn, or Winter." Spring added.
"Since it's probably one of the three under all that hair, may as well just go with she." Byrd remarked.
Cathryn nodded, "Right, it's not like there are others around of the same sort, so like Spring, she's a special monster."
"Can you use you magic vision to tell?" Spring inquired, staring at Maria hopefully.
"I'll have to meet her gaze first, but I could only barely confirm you were a human."
"Ugh, did I mention my back hurt last night?" Spring groaned, "I must have taken a beating."
"Byrd did flip you onto your back." Kokoso instantly covered him mouth and his ears flopped back as Byrd glared at him, but Kokoso's eyebrows betrayed his humored expression.
"Ow, that explains it." Spring winced, following Maria's lead to the only other door in the Refractory Construct, out the other side, and into a forest of trees, "Feels like Summer...but without her presence, it's like Autumn is trying to rule summer...but of course, it's really that she can't reign at the moment."
"Where's our monster at?" Maria asked, looking around."
"I don't know, but my prediction might not be wrong," Spring shrugged, "maybe she's just now getting there?"
"You did the same, right before you were a phoenix you were a hummingbird." Cathryn winced at the memory, "Right before you raised a volcano in the spring."
Spring turned to Cathryn with sad, apologetic lines on her forehead, a small frown as she stared at Cathryn's violet eyes, "Again, I'm so sorry I almost burned you alive, Kit--Cathryn."
"It's okay." Cathryn assured.
"No, it's not, I could have-" Cathryn smiled and ruffled Spring's hair.
"I meant the nickname, silly." Cathryn turned away after she saw Spring's grin, and started forward to catch up with the others, "As you said before, Fall waterfall is a likely destination, by then...assuming the Seasonal Girl in this domain is Autumn, following the pattern of the previous season lingering until the proceeding Seasonal Girl takes over, she will have evolved into a stronger monster."
"There she is over there, in those bushes!" Cathryn crouched low and enchanted her axe with wind and slowly stepped forward, until the man-sized monkey darted out and leaped to her. Cathryn stood and swung her axe up, the wind making the blade light, and pushed down on the far end of the handle, guiding the weapon's head into an arch that concluded with the monkey landing with a thud, and an axe to it's torso.
"Let's finish this before she evolves into something stronger!" Kokoso cried, enchanting his blade with lightning.
"Leave the ice to me!" Byrd dove in and Spring watched as the heroes charged into battle alongside Cathryn.
"They're pretty much experts." Spring remarked, "I was a phoenix, they still beat me."
"I wonder if I'll ever catch up to them." Noel followed Spring behind the battle and turned to watch the others.
"They barely have space to fight, Kokoso and Cathryn keep switching out." Spring looked up at the blood red sky and swallowed, "Sure is haunting."
"She's broken free!" Byrd yelled, stepping away from the angry monster.
"I'll stop you!" Spring soared into the sky to throw her shadow with the sun, "Sol's Valkyrie Dance!" Spring cast her lance into the air and dove down, while the weapon spun in the air, above the sun. When the spear crossed the sun, Spring waited for it to point down before extending her hand and gesturing it down, and flew in front of the monster.
The shadow of the lance and the weapon itself struck the monster after she turned around, and found their way back into her hand and fused into one, the monster crashing to the ground with a great thud.
"Whoa, how did you do that?!" Maria exclaimed.
"It's a special attack," Spring explained, turning to strike her foe, "maybe one day you can come up with one, that was a Spirit Strike, different from a regular special attack, for instance," Spring swung her lance like an axe, sending a slice of wind at the monster, "this, Wind Blade! Wind Blade! Wind Blade! Ah...ha...ha...takes a lot out of you, though, special strikes should be used...not frequently, but not rarely, just...they exhaust you quickly, but they ignore elemental defenses, allowing spirits with preferred elements to do as they will! You'll also have a better chance of inflicting an ailment on the monster!"
"How can we use these attacks?" Cathryn inquired, as the monster leaped up and tore through the woods.
"Well...I guess being a spirit helps...you know what, I've got you covered, vote a leader for your team and I'll be that one's Guardian Angel, a title bestowed upon the...well, it's kind of self-explanatory." Spring watched for a few seconds as the heroes calmed their breathing.
"I think I should be the leader," Kokoso smiled, "really, I'm over qualified, I'm fearless, funny, and one of those things is false!"528Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡVmesUWVqmn
Maria laughed and clasped his shoulder, "I think you could work-"
"No, no, no, we'd be dead within minutes!" Kokoso grabbed his ears and shook his head, "I'm here to dispense fun facts, not decide important team stuff, like...group attack, or should everyone split up?! O-or what configuration do we use, or what should everyone wear, important things like that!"
"If it was up to him," Byrd laughed, "we'd be the Sunshine Brigade, and parade around in yellow sundresses."
"Fun fact," Kokoso grinned, "our own Byrd looks excellent in a yellow sundress, really sets off his eyes!"
"Oh, really?" Byrd crossed his arms and huffed, "I...I can't believe you'd think that I need to borrow one of your dresses!"
"Ha, then don't suggest enlisting in the Sunshine Brigade, Sunshine!" Kokoso laughed.
"All this time I've felt like we've had a leader," Cathryn turned to Maria, "and since Maria's running the Wolfe, may as well make her the alpha wolf...Wolfe, she has to get used to ordering you two around somehow."
"I'm good with that!" Kokoso held out his thumb, a wry grin plastered onto his face.
Byrd nodded solemnly, "True, she asks Koko way too nicely if he'd be so good as to go mop up a corner after a particularly messy customer gets done eating."
"Okay, I'll...try to...well, you said you felt like I was already leading us, so I'll just keep doing what I've been doing, sleeping in late, five square meals, laughing at Kokoso and Byrd's comedic attempts at arguing." Maria struggled not to laugh as she spoke.528Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡuPUYAq8SsJ
"What about you, Noel?" Cathryn turned to her silent ally and waited for a response.528Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡPkL0dWegZI
"Um, looks like everyone's already-" Noel started, when Kokoso gave her a nudge towards Maria.528Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡwOln54u10T
"Go on, it's a team moment...Maria, can I still make up random team assignments?" Kokoso asked, holding his hands together pleadingly.528Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡQQJjdWZwYq
"Well, you can...suggest them." Maria said, scratching behind her ears, "How about it, Noel, any qualities, good or bad, should be brought forward for team consideration."528Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡPYUD5Qa7Bp
"I...I just wanted to thank you for letting me follow you, a-and trusting me and giving me a name to go by, so...yeah, I think you'll be a wonderful leader." Noel stepped back and looked at everyone looking at her, "Could everyone not stare at me, I feel like everyone expects me to start flying or something!"528Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡEoRZvOebm7
"Ahem," Cathryn stepped forward and drew the group's attention, "you know, Maria, you did go ahead and consider bringing Noel on, just out of unwillingness to send her away alone, despite suspicious circumstances you let her stay, and explained her situation, and argued her points, now if someone shows up out of the blue, you don't even have to run it by us first...but I have a feeling you will anyways."528Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡduRLqtWnEd
"Well, of course," Maria shrugged, "that's a lot of responsibility, and...I could use a few advisors to keep me from doing something stupid...so keep an eye on me."528Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡlkcp6ID1B5
"Very well, then, Miss Maria Alpha Wolfe, I take you as my ward!" Spring held up a necklace and Maria lowered her head until the light flower necklace fell around her neck, "And just for future reference, that speech I did was totally uncalled for, so...yeah, if you get another Guardian Angel, don't expect the same treatment!"528Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡMAzi3CN8NC
"Well, team, shall we be off?" Maria waited for the unanimous reply she expected, and wasn't disappointed.528Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡrIjZznB5IA