Banshee and Feyerous didn't know where the temple was, Banshee had only ever lived in the empty town, and Feyerous was merely passing through when Foce appeared.
"I'm afraid we can't be of any help with regards to the vault's whereabouts; supposedly the location lies somewhere only the Guardian of Light knows," Banshee explained, frowning as she worried about the detail, "her spirit alone can call out to the blade and it will echo back without fail...but only if she calls out to it. I don't know where she is, but I know that Vindicatus had ears in every major city, waiting for someone who speaks of past lives or seems to have an uncanny talent or unusually high affinity for light and dark magic."
"I think I should start searching for headlines..." Ray grumbled, rubbing his forehead.
"Well, there's always using the Infinity Crystal." Banshee suggested, noticing the winces and frowns from the others, "Equal light and dark flowing onto it at the same time in the presence of a crystal ball will allow the crystal user to trace significantly high pulses of magic that align with the elemental crystal, by significant I mean anything strong enough to activate the crystal's tracing ability."
"Okay...we'll need to come up with a plan." Jessie jumped out of her chair and stretched her arms, "First things first: How close to Infinity Tower do we get?"
"No one's gonna wanna answer that one." Sarah chuckled, shaking her head, "Too close and Vindicatus sees our approach in great detail, too far and we can't escape effectively, either way, there's no hiding an airship...we could always go into town together, but if he still has spies, he's probably got them ready to take us out."
"Then we approach at top speed and smack the roof right off the tower." Jessie offered the solution nonchalantly, "It's the best way to ensure we get there, keep the airship close, and expose the crystal."
"It makes us very obvious targets, too." Ray added, "We'll need to already be inside the tower for this to work, and that's simply not possible."
"Actually...we can already be inside." Foce announced, pulling together a plot, "We'll be inside the tower, no one will see us enter, because they're staring at the airship, waiting for us to land, mustering their forces, we'll slip in from the opposite direction, I saw you guys using magic crystals to talk to each other with, we'll use those to tell you when to ram the airship into the roof, with it exposed, I'll be able to fly straight to the top with the other two."
"Bold and counterintuitive as ever, milady." Banshee praised, while Feyerous applauded the vampire lord's plan, "Give them an obvious target to go after, while a smaller force breaks into the tower!"
"It may not be infallible, they might break into the front door even if we lock it, or an unexpected element maybe present, a guard...or Vindicatus himself." Foce squeezed her eyes shut, she remembered the pain he caused her the first time they met, and didn't want to chance a second encounter.
"Then I'll follow go in ahead of you and lead him out if he's there." Banshee offered, stretching her arms, "He may act with caution if he doesn't recognize me, and if he does, then I'll just try to give him the impression that I've grown even more dangerous than I was when he locked me away in the underworld."
"That's a solid plan we have," Jacob remarked, drumming his fingers against the armrest, "but there will be trouble, they'll recognize the airship and turn their cannons on us."
"I'll take care of the cannons ahead of the others, everything else will be up to those in the airship." Foce fretted as she considered any other potential compromises to the plan, "We should also try not to tear the roof off, if we can help it, there was another way to the top, right? One that you said wasn't good for my stomach?"
Jessie nodded as Foce addressed her, "The atmos; it'll launch you so fast, it'll feel like your stomach's about to fly off, but what happens when we get to the top? Vindicatus is probably still alive, and he's probably gonna be in his room."
"I guess Banshee will have to wait by the door to his room and surprise him if he comes out after we're using our powers on the crystal." Foce paused a moment and thought about the plan they had worked out up until then, "This seems as good as it gets with just a handful of us."
"We usually pull through somehow...though we've never laid siege on the Infinity Tower before." Jacob stood up and glanced around at the others, "If that's all, I'll set a course for the tower right away."
"I think that's everything." Foce confirmed, rising to her feet with the others, "If anyone has any other ideas, or if someone here is more proficient with dark magic than I am, or nearly, even, let me know so I can provide support to the airship instead."
The others had nothing further to add and they filed out to prepare for the mission.
Jessie watched as Foce left the room and thought about running up alongside her. It took her a moment to put those thoughts to action, "Hey, Foce-"
Foce turned around and spoke to Jessie's boots, unable to meet her gaze, "I'm sorry, I realize that was harsh of me, but-"
"Was I being overbearing? I mean, I know I was, I just felt bad about--Foce?" Jessie stared at the purple eyed girl when she finally looked up, shaking with so many emotions.
"I needed to be alone, I thought I could figure out how to accept this...but I can't...so I'm just going to ignore it, and pretend I won't outlive you." Foce clenched her teeth as she struggled not to cry, and turned away to leave. Jessie stayed beside her, and caught her attention when her hand brushed against the vampire's.
"You can have my shoulder, Foce." Jessie held out her arms and Foce stared, trying to work out why she'd need to bite the hero.
"I don't..." Foce closed her eyes and instinctively stepped forward.
"It's alright, Foce, I'm right here now; I'll stay as long as I can."
The words Jessie uttered echoed from deep within her memory, she held on as tight as she dared and closed her eyes. The smell of an old, dusty room filled her lingered along with the taste of blood; she shrunk in fear as she realized she had done something but couldn't remember what, even as she choked on blood and tears, "I'm so sorry...I didn't mean...I..."
"It's alright, Foce, I know...somehow everything's gonna work out." Jessie whispered, one hand on Foce's back, the other resting on the soft white hair.
Foce looked up at Jessie and smiled warmly before stepping away, "Thanks...I just...thanks, Jessie."
"It's alright, I couldn't just leave you alone like this." Jessie smiled back at Foce, holding her gaze until the nervous feeling that flared up made her look away, "I guess I should go practice left hand swings for a while."
"Wait, your hand's still...you made all that food with your hand like that?" Foce held out her hand and stared expectantly at Jessie, who held up her hand with a sheepish smile, "Give me you hand already!"
"Okay, okay!" Jessie lay the back of her hand on Foce's waiting palm and stared at the ceiling, blushing intensely, her hand occasionally twitching as the vampire's feathery touch tickled the side of her hand, "I'll be okay, Foce...I just need to be careful with it and it'll probably heal up...depending on what's in the potion he hit you with. I'm just happy you don't feel like that now."
"Yes...but I still remember how it burned, I want you to feel better." Foce murmured, slowly releasing the hand as though it'd fall to the floor if Jessie didn't catch it.
"I do feel better, though." the hero smiled as she headed to her room.
Foce walked with her, staring at her curiously the whole time, "How do you mean?"
"It's cheesy, but your smiles just patch me right up!" Jessie giggled as Foce's eyes widened, "I'm serious, I just want everyone to be happy, and that includes you. I'll find ways to ignore it...and yes, the pain does flare up sometimes, but if I can't fix it, I'll just try not to think about it."
"It just really wasn't your day..." Foce sighed, shaking her head.
"I wouldn't say it was all bad, everything that happened brought us here, we've discovered a deeper plot and the Guardians have told us about the sword that will can help fight monsters, with that, we may be able to level the field against Vindicatus, bring the Infinity Crystal back to Yggdrasil, and stop the Shattering."
"Could we really permanently break the cycle of the Shattering and Reforming?" Foce asked warily, "What if someone else moves the Infinity Crystal again?"
"Oh, they will, I'm sure of it, but at least we can try to set the record straight in this era, and give the future a better chance than what we've got now."
Valkyrie flew above the destruction below, and considering how many winged demons flew around her, she wasn't at all surprised when she heard someone flying over towards her.
"It's a shame we have to live like this, isn't it?" she stared longingly at the broken ground beneath her and shook her head.
"It is." the white haired vampire grinned when Valkyrie turned around, surprised to see her, "Long time no see, Valkyrie."
"Foce, I didn't know you were back already!" Valkyrie's surprise gave way to relief, "Should we try to take back the Infinity Crystal now?"
"Sure, we should ask Selena for help, lead on." Valkyrie nodded and started off towards the sea she last saw Serena near. She barely had time to notice the two vampire girls above her when two fangs pierced her shoulder. She flew erratically in an attempt to throw her attacker, but one of her wings was pinned down by Commander.
"Foce, why are you doing this? Get off me now!" Valkyrie demanded, summoning a blast of wind from above her. She turned to see Foce hit the ground and narrowed her eyes, "I see how it is, then." Valkyrie drew a flaming arrow, aimed for the vampire's heart, and released her arrow. The vampire cried out and the Guardian of Wind landed beside the shallow crater Foce made, "I can't believe it came to this Foce, I thought we were friends...why?"
"Because...in the end, you still want to help the humans, don't you? That kinda attitude will only...embolden them." The vampire slowly closed her eyes and Valkyrie turned away. Commander smiled and sprang up, with a beat of her wings she crashed into Valkyrie, who had turned just in time to see that the vampire wasn't dead.
While she was once again bitten, Valkyrie pulled out a silver arrow and stuck Foce with it, temporarily stunning her to pry her off. She shot an arrow into the air and drew another one to aim at Foce with, she charged a green aura around the arrow and shouted as she let it fly, "Arrow Storm!" a gale pushed against her as green arrows shot past her and struck the purple eyed vampire.
Commander stood again and smiled, "Believe you can kill me, but you don't even know me, I'm immortal, even Guardians have a form of death...but I am a goddess! Death cannot comprehend me!"
Valkyrie backed away as Foce ran at her, and took to the skies when Foce was close enough to spring on her, the beat of her wings staggered her attacker and her next few arrows easily found the center of Foce's chest, each one causing her to step back a little more, "This is impossible..."
"Do you think so? Foce hissed, raising a single rose from the ground as Valkyrie turned to flee, but before she could a rain of thorns struck her. As the guardian hit the ground, Foce ran up to her knelt as she raised the thorn covered, green haired flier's limp arm, "I see you've given up now."
"You've attacked me with a nameless power, quite unlike the Foce I knew...I will return for you, and when I do, I will return."
"Like I said, I cannot be killed; like you said, I have no need for words to cast spells." Foce bit Valkyrie's arm, but instead of an agonized scream, she received a sharp and derisive laugh.
"I don't need to kill you, just wear you out, just...make you suffer, until you realize it's not worth it...I'll die as many times as it takes." Valkyrie wheezed, closing her eyes before fading, leaving a green light behind.
"Hah, if only you knew what my plans were, there's no way you would've said that." Commander spread her wings and flew towards the presences that she knew to be her copies.
When she found her doubles, they stood by the edge of an eerie blue lake and reported to Thinker and Lover, "Valkyrie actually put up a fight."
Thinker turned to Commander and gave her a congratulatory nod, "I would've stayed to watch if I could, but you needed some way to find your way to the place Valkyrie was about to lead us to...and though I can't see her, I believe Selena is here; given the serenity of this lake, I theorize Serena is manipulating the water, perhaps keeping the water apart from the ground to prevent the transfer of energy that would otherwise propagate powerful waves here."
"So she's under the water, break her focus and chaotic waves will tower?" Commander growled at the difficulty of the situation and let out a sigh, "We'll just have to make do, we'll surround the lake and dive in at once, if you see her, pull her right out of the water, her screams will alert us to her capture; we won't let her walk away from this."
The other two agreed and they flew over the lake, on the way they could clearly see where the water was pulled from the shore, Serena was obviously careful to keep the large lake from forming towering waves.
Using wings as they would through water, the trio sought out the Guardian of Water, who sat with leg crossed under water, eyes closed as she focused on keeping the water elevated.
While Serena detected the presences, she wouldn't have guessed they'd be intruders, much less that she'd be suddenly pulled out of the water. Even given the situation, she couldn't help but smile as Foce sang her name, not breaking from her hug, but wrapping her arms around her ribs even tighter, "Foce! I wasn't expecting...hang on, set me down so I can levitate--" she silently screamed as she felt the fangs dig into her skin.
She tried to pry the arms off her, and slammed her open hand against the vampire's head when that didn't work, "Foce...why? Furious Flow!" she cried out over the soft hums
Lover sang out after a blast of water sent her tumbling to the lake alongside Serena, "I want your heart, and the surest way to the heart is through your blood--ah!" her song was interrupted when Thinker sprang from the water, caught Serena, and bit her, "Hey, Thinker, that was my catch!"
"She escaped you; Thinker caught her." Commander replied as Serena watched them with disinterest, silent as her life painfully ebbed away, "I was wondering if you'd even want to kill her yourself, I suppose this was...somehow reassuring."
"We should return to," Thinker stated, dropping the limp and fading Guardian on Water into the lake, "I swam past several sirens who were deep asleep, no doubt giving their power to Serena to help her keep the water separate from the land, they may be angry, and I'd rather not chance having to deal with them...they'll charm Lover here in a heart beat."
"Hah, too true, let's go." Commander flapped her wings and scanned the horizon for the broken mountain between them and the camp, "I hope the harpies and succubi didn't attack our army, I don't believe they would know of Valkyrie's demise until after I had arrived here."
"We'll convince them, they'll lead us on the attack to the sirens." Thinker assured with a smile, she anticipated complete victory, they'd drink the blood of their foes and initiate the next stage of the plan.ns 184.108.40.206da2