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This article, The War of Four: An Eagle's Cry, is property of Mangetsu20.

This article, The War of Four: An Eagle's Cry, is property of Achrones150.

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The War of Four: An Eagle's Cry Act I

Total Recall! The Echoes of a Bitter Past...

It had only been a few minutes.

As in, a few minutes after our volunteers of the most recent battle and hastily constructed alliance between V-14 and the Soul Reapers were made that they had left. Leaving the majority of the winded and the wounded to take care of their duties and get on with their plans.

Even if things had a silver lining in the whole debacle, things almost took a few wrong turns to a very dark place...especially for the young Soul Reaper Lieutenant and the aledged woman responsible for the catastrophe that slaid tens of thousands of Reapers and Spirit Citizens of the Soul Society.

With each group now parting ways after breaking for a few hours, they turned back to their respectively opposite directions, with V-14 returning to their anonymous HQ in the Soul Society's Rukonagi Districts and the Soul Reaper guarded Caravan headed to Yūrei Ōkoku.

However, Fate, it seems wasn't to leave any spare grace for what was to await a certain young man...a broken, young man...

VVVVVVT! VVVVVT!

The vibrations in Oliver Holmes inner pockets, would detail an incoming and unexpected call to him. One of which would be both sudden and without desire, despite the situation he'd be in. Tidings were not in fair joys to the poor gunslinger, even as they wearily traveled back to HQ. Thankfully, with their Avian Transport with Rika as their pilot, it wouldn't take nearly as long as it would've the long way back on foot, despite the long lecture made by Angelika at the "Failure" of a mission they had. Good news, however, was that they all recieved large checks to the respective members involved in the mission, so it dampened the bad news to a certain degree...

"Oh, what in the fuck..."

At the moment, Oliver wasn't in much of a mood to have his phone going off - especially in his agitated state of mind. They had managed to survive their respective encounters. But even so, the American could not get the nature of what they had faced. Two apparently had the ability to distort time and space. Two more could pry into their heads without so much as a second thought. It was disturbing and infuriating to know that he was being superseded by such dangerous enemies. But what made it worse was that one of them knew more about him than even his leader wouldn't have picked up.

Never before had he felt so... helpless.

So it was natural that he was feeling rather irritable.

He gritted his teeth, reaching into his shirt pocket in order to pull out his own respective phone. The ringing caused Anton to look over in slight surprise from his seating position besides Hyōryu. "Someone calling you?" He questioned rhetorically, cocking a slight eyebrow. "Have to admit, that's a bit new..."

Oliver scowled. "Really. Just when I think I'm not going to be bothered, something has to bother me!" He yanked out his cell-phone, flipped it open, pressed the talk button and raised it to his ear. Had it not been for his current mood, his greeting to the one on the other end of the line would've been humorous.

"Piss off."

"Wow," Hyōryu couldn't help but snicker, noting the upset tone Oliver used in speaking to the incoming caller, "if it happened to be a hot girl for once, Oliver has quickly become the world's biggest asshole upon default just now..."

"2nd Officer Holmes," a terse, eerily familiar voice spoke over the phone, "I suggest you check the ID now. In case you have another greeting you wish to give to your superior officer...."

That was the hammer that shattered through Oliver's bitter mood.

His eyes widened in shock, and he lowered the phone from his ear in order to check the said ID. But considering what he had just heard on the other end, there was no reason to. The voice was as familiar as the very daylight itself. What was showing on the LCD screen confirmed that it wasn't his imagination running away with him.

When he raised it back up to his ear and spoke again, his voice had a smooth and cold edge that would've contested the likes of Yashin and Angelika. "...you have a lot of gall to still call yourself my superior officer. I thought you would've realized that ship sailed long ago. I know it's been years since we've spoken to each other, but surely you can't be going senile already?"

"Watch your mouth, you piece of shit!" The voice spoke with a growling tone of contempt towards the young man whom he was speaking to, "You're lucky I even greet you by phone instead of an armed squad, or you're not being tracked by a Paladin for the horrors of what you've committed that night! The fact I'm calling you, as both a superior officer and an equal, can only mean one thing, and we both know what that is. Don't we?!"

By this time, Oliver had clicked on the speakerphone, allowing the man's voice to escape to the hearing range of his comrades. With the exception of Rika, all of them had turned towards a grinning Oliver as he continued to speak. "Well, truthfully, I haven't the slightest idea. Maybe you've seen the extent of my proficiency for yourself and want to take me back? After all, the casualties I caused were in the hundreds. I mean, that must put me high in the ranking system, right?"

"Don't play coy with me! We both know your record is showing a similar parallel interest to that of that infamous traitor Kenta Sonoda of Yūrei Ōkoku. I don't think I have to remind you of all the blood on your hands from that base you massacered! Do I, 2nd Officer Oliver Holmes of the Royal Aethian Corps?!"

This was something that caught various expressions of surprise from most of the compatriots.

"Wait a minute... you were an Aethian soldier?!" Anton asked in disbelief. The behavior Oliver exhibited was not someone of a disciplined military operator moreso than it was of a freelancer militant. But then again, it would've explained Angelika's reason for hiring him. After all, Aethian soldiers were highly skilled in combat, even by themselves.

"The Aethian Genocide..." Yusuke muttered, his eyes regarding Oliver warily. "It was said that there was an incident in Aether where a base was decimated by one soldier known as the "Black Eagle". Its identity had disappeared off of the map afterwards, and people claimed that the individual had died of wounds sustained during the battle. I... I never would've thought that I'd be seeing that very same person up close...!"

"What?" Oliver smirked smugly, ignoring both of their comments for the moment. "Did you call me to guilt-trip me or something? For the record, I don't regret killing any of them. I mean, who could ever regret hearing those screams as I plugged them full of new orifices? Who could regret leaving that place in flames? All in all, I think that was the greatest day of my entire life."

"That's the Black Eagle?" Shinshin spoke with increduality, as he looked to Asuka and then back at Oliver, "that hot mouthed fool? How would he have survived against an entire batallion of Soul Reapers and armed guards, let alone murder that many people is beyond my speculation..."

"It would explain his parallel interest in killing people up close," Hyōryu said with a grim fascination, as well as a cheeky grin enamoring her face, "I guess that's why he's a lot like me, and I him. Except, I have more balls than he does, and I got myself a gorgeous boyfriend, and I haven't ever seen him go out with a girl...maybe once, and then it was over...like that...no joke."

"You arrogant fool," a sudden counter tone of both grueling hatred and a knowing smugness of his own broke through the phone, "how do you think I got this number?! You're being watched by the Paladinus Decimus as we speak, and I'll have you know...she's not in a very good mood...considering whom she's partnered with today..."

"Frau Hartmann," Shadō spoke in her ear piece, being one of the sole entities to remain off the Dragonbird to keep an eye on things on the ground, "there's some disturbances of an unusual anonymoly to your 11 O'clock and 3 O'clock, nearly a solid kilometer away. Something is watching us, and I can't pinpoint their exact location. Whoever they are, they're good...very good..."

"What?"

"Paladinus Decimus?!"

Both Angelika and Oliver's eyes widened at the new information that reached them, voicing their own respective exclamations. Both of them looked over the edge of the bird in order to sight out the supposed watchers for themselves. Because of their aerial standpoint, they were able to spot both of the entities, with Oliver looking to their 11 o'clock and Angelika looking over to the 3 o'clock.

Sure enough...

There was a man standing on the roof within Oliver's view. He was donned in complete military gear, fit with a black set of combat armor, boots, gloves, and a gas-masked helmet. There was a set of bright blue lens that served as the "eyes" of the mask, staring directly at Oliver. The individual's arms were folded across the chest. All in all, he really didn't look too friendly.

But it was the realization of who he was that caused Oliver's face to pale slightly.

"Paladin Four of the Holy Decimo..." He said, his voice controlled but clearly showing his shock. "Percival Chapman, the "Theta" of the Royal Aethian Corps...!!"

In Angelika's veiw, the Paladinus Decimus stood in a black hooded cloak with various armored scales along its exterior, almost nigh invisible to the eye with the exception of a light pair of pauldrons over it. Barely hidden were her large claymore Seelenbracher sheathed on her back, along with an unual obsidian enamored bow wrapped over her chest and shoulder lines. While barely seen by anyone less of Angelika's considerable eye sight, she had a single silver eye radiating grimace and irritation while her left eye...was seared shut by a black, sorching burn-mark scar from a previous injury.

"Holy F***!" Hyōryu's eyes widened, moving her gaze back and forth from the two entities watching them with apparent bloodlust and predatorial anticipation, "where the F*** did they come from?! How the F*** did we not see 'em coming?! F***!"

"This isn't good," Shinshin voiced the obvious, as he turned his gaze to and fro of the two apparently skilled hunters, voiced now as Paladins, "I've heard only faint rumors of the Holy Decimo...they're supposed to have more collective might than the previous generation of the Gotei 13 Captains and Lieutenants, in every fashion and sense. We shouldn't engage them, with our current wounded to account for..."

"Now do you get it, Ollie-boy?" The superior spoke in a thick, irritated tone of barely restrained contempt in his voice, "it would be a real shame if you were to get your precious little gang killed if you decided to make a run for it. But really, even if you tried to fight, they'd never let your friends leave alive and you'd probably be maimed before being brought here for your trial for the monstrous crimes you've committed, you sonuvabitch!"

Oliver's teeth clenched as he heard the infuriating words spoken. His grip tightened on the cell-phone, and his breaths became audible and expressive of his growing fury. He knew that Shinshin had a point. Even with the number of troops still active, their wounded and exhausted was a weak point that the Paladins could exploit if they didn't get what they want. Once again, they were trapped... and this time, there wasn't a thing any of them could do about it.

He wasn't the only one to loathe the situation.

Anton looked over at it all with an angry expression of his own, a scowl and narrowed eyes prominent on his countenance. It was a lesser degree than his American friend, but it was still clear. He himself had a resentment for any government, and the presence of such enforcers did not suit well with him. "The Aethan Genocide was years ago, wasn't it?" He said disdainfully. "Why in the hell would they bother with Oliver now, of all times?"

"W...what do we do...?" Rika said nervously to Angelika, who kept a contemplative frown on her face. "I can attempt to make an escape... but considering how skilled they are, they could easily bring down the Dragonbird." The last thing she wanted was a weapon pointed in her face, especially after what had happened with Shidai.

However, Angelika did not respond immediately - something that slightly unnerved the pilot even more.

"Angelika-san...?"

"Oliver."

The German directed her tone towards Oliver, earning his surprise. Slowly, she allowed herself to turn towards him, extending an expectant hand out towards him. "Hand me your weapons." She said, a cold edge lacing her voice. "Once Nakamura lands the bird, consider yourself excused from my organization."

It was the most chilling statement he would ever hear her say. His eyes widened in shock, his anger quickly receding.

"W-what?!"

"What the Hell did you just say, boss?!" Hyōryu shouted in surprise and borderline horror, suddenly showing her support for the condemned man riding with them, "are you seriously going to go through with this?! Throw Ollie to the wolves?! I may think he's a bastard, but he's OUR bastard!"

"She's making the best tactical decision," Shinshin nodded with grim admittance, looking over at the slumped, unconscious form of Shinji and the others, "with our Soul Reaper allies nowhere close to even rush to our aid and all of us completely outclassed by these military marvels, this is a politically delicate situation.' Protecting Mister Holmes with us could potentially complicate our legality and alliance with the Gotei 13. Not to mention Aether would probably get on our trail and make us their new Most Wanted. Preserving the organization comes first before Mister Holmes safety, no matter the situation, that's the way it should be..."

"W-wait a minute..."

Anton was not so quick to agree with Shinshin. He spread his hands out defensively, trying to get Angelika to reconsider her decision. "This is a friend we're talking about here, a comrade. You can't just cast him out into the hands of prosecution just like that--"

However, he regretted saying anything when Angelika whipped her head around, giving an ice-cold glare to both him and Hyōryū. "This isn't up for debate." She said lowly. "When I want the opinion from my subordinates... I will let you know. Do you understand?"

"...yes, boss..." After a moment of silence, Anton breathed out a heavy sigh and spoke his words of relent. He lowered his hands back to his lap, resuming his silence. He didn't even waver when he felt the Dragonbird descend downward - something due to Rika understanding the subtle order given.

"...so this is really it?" Oliver narrowed his eyes, glaring at Angelika. "You're really just going to sell me out, just like that? Discard me like a piece of trash, just like you did with Heigo? That's what's gonna go down right now?"

Angelika remained silent, returning his stare with an impassive one. But the words didn't need to be said, and Oliver understood the silence correctly. He lowered his head, taking a deep breath and reaching into his holsters to grasp the grips of his twin pistols.

"Should've seen this coming miles away. You really are no better than Yashin..."

Pulling out both of them, he tossed them towards Angelika. In turn, she caught them out of the air and placed them on her lap. "Once you're finished talking to your friend..." She said calmly. "I'll be needing the phone, too."

"Whatever..."

"This is ****ing Bullshit, I tell you," Hyōryū muttered as she turned her face away from Angelika, placing her head against Anton's shoulder, wrapping her arms in a empathetic gesture as she couldn't help but feel her lips quiver. She had never felt this way about Oliver...but the thought of losing him, made her heart begin to break in two.

"I'm getting the sense your comrades are seeing reason, Mr. Holmes?" The voice on the other line sounded expectant and less irritated, no doubt the onlooking Paladins reported their actions and the descent as a means of resignation rather than retaliation.

CLICK!

"Fuck you." Oliver said bitterly, abruptly silencing the connection with a click of the button. He didn't want to give his former superior the satisfaction of gloating in his face. It was something that he would probably do at the trial, but at least he would delay it as long as possible.

He tossed it to Angelika, who once again deftly caught it just before the bird descended to a safe landing zone. He turned away, preparing to stand up and get off when the wings folded back. He passed a look over to Hyōryū and Anton, with the latter looking over at him solemnly while having an arm wrapped around the female's shoulders. As much as he wanted to say something to reassure them, he couldn't find the right words. So he simply remained silent, waiting for the two Paladins to come and get him.

And sure enough...

With a WOOSH!, Percival appeared before them. In his hands was what looked like a scoped rifle, and he had it aimed towards Oliver with what looked like the intention of firing when he came close. However, he was quick to lower it, looking over his shoulder and taking a hand off of his rifle to motion his partner to his side.

SHFT!

"Oliver Holmes," Rosalina Seraphim, appearing within a flash of near blinding movement next to Percival, spoke in a still, dauntless tone as she appeared before Oliver with no weapon drawn, though both were within easy retrieval as they were strapped over her shoulders, "due to the nature of the...severity...of your trial, we are to take you the rest of the way. Our form of transportation is only a couple kilometers from here, in the event you or your comrades intended to be...difficult."

"What am I supposed to do? Punch you?" Oliver snapped, slowly standing up and lowering himself off of the Dragonbird. His feet landed with a heavy thud. "All my weapons are gone now, courtesy of my former boss. What could I possibly do to you?"

"For one..." That was when the male spoke up with a distorted and rather inhuman voice. But one could easily recognize the irritation behind the words spoken. He stepped forward, the bright blue of his lens glaring into Oliver's eyes. "You can keep running that mouth of yours and risk being snapped in two. Our commanders gave us the order to take you in alive. But they didn't say whether or not you had to be taken back intact. So it'd be wise to keep your mouth shut and your lip kept to yourself, lest you want . Got that, prisoner?"

"Yeah, yeah..." Oliver rolled his eyes. "I promise to be a good boy and keep quiet. Honest."

"Oh you will," the cloaked Paladin spoke, before producing a dark sack object from the folds of her uniform, "but you aren't going to be comfortable. This isn't procedure, but this is mine. Put this over your head and keep still as I carry you. Or," She nodded over to the said masked Paladin, "my associate will incapacitate you painfully and carry you himself. Your choice."

For a moment, Oliver stared at her in silence.

Then, he turned towards Percival with four words.

"Please knock me out."

He didn't need to say it twice.

WHAM!

The butt of his rifle slammed into his skull with what as might have been the force of a sledgehammer. Oliver sank like a stone in water, his body dropping lifelessly to the ground. The sight of it made both Rika and Yusuke wince in pain, and the sound of the rifle clashing against bone sent a chill down their spines. Sure, Yusuke was used to killing, but he never enjoyed hearing such sounds of weapons interacting with flesh.

Holstering his rifle, Percival bent over and hefted Oliver horizontally over his shoulders, each of his hands having an arm an a leg within their grasp. "You shouldn't have given him a choice..." He muttered to his compatriot. "The Royal Aethian Corps have always regarded this defector as one of the most rebellious types. You can't deal with them in any other way other than through disciplinary action."

Anton gritted his teeth, wanting to cut the man's throat for blatantly talking about Oliver right in front of the V-14 in such a manner. But he knew that he would just be risking the rest of them with his actions. So, for their sake, he remained silent and looked on.

Rosalina just closed her eye in acknowledgement to the man's choice, putting back the bag into her cloak, before turning in a swift 180 degree, not commenting on the man's choice of slightly insulting words, "Let's go. You can talk to the others about your problem with ethics and freedoms there, I just want to finish this degrading mission."

"I wanna kill 'em, I wanna kill 'em, I wanna kill 'em..." Hyōryū began to whisper in a murderous, low tone that only Anton could hear, her eyes wide with tears rolling down her face and a murderous grind of her molars could be faintly heard.

"You think your associate will allow this?" Shinshin spoke to Asuka and Angelika pointedly, seeing that the two Paladins were going to carry the man that was formerly their comrade by foot, suggesting they're as physically adept as they appear, "Shou Yoshizawa, I mean. From what I understand, they had a strong bond of comradery and if he hears about this..."

"He will do nothing." Angelika said bluntly. "He knows when he's going out of line and when he's not. Unless I give the order to, he will not move an inch out of my jurisdiction."

The only one who seemed to be unaffected by any of it was Asuka. She had her back turned to the rest of them, her hands folded within her lap and her head hung down. Her eyes were closed, and it appeared as if she was asleep. However, she was doing nothing but meditating, currently in a deep trance. It was one of the many requirements in order to keep the nervous system steady and stable. Although she wasn't speaking with any of them, she would be able to hear all of what had transpired.

Percival swiftly allowed himself to turn away from the group, the sound of his feet grinding against the dirt serving as the signal for Rosalina to lead the way.

SHFT!

Within a single blur of motion, Rosalina disappeared utilizing a Flash Step, leading the way for her companion who bore the load of their acquired objective and began heading off to their chosen transports. Leaving V-14 alone and by themselves to ponder the life changing decision they had just made. Oliver Holmes has been taken, and they won't raise a finger to save him...

There was a momentary silence, one who no one dared to break.

That is, until Angelika opened her eye back up and stared at her group. And when she spoke...

"V-14... be prepared to move out first thing in the morning to Aether. We're going on a rescue mission."

...the majority of her heads turned towards her, faces expressing complete shock and surprise at the change into her tone. It was a complete change from what she had relayed to both them and the Paladins a while back. Gone was the cold and ruthless edge, replaced by a commanding but assuring tone that dominated both voice and her expression.

"...are you sure that's wise?" Asuka cracked open an eye to look over at her former student. "Such a move would be considered an invasion of territory, and considering our stance with the Gotei 13, it would probably disrupt the alliance we have. Are you sure you want to risk making the Soul Society our enemies again for the sake of one person?"

"I could care less about the alliance." Angelika answered firmly. "Do you think I'm the one who would just step back and let genetic test tube experiments do whatever they please with one of my best soldiers? I already have the Inner Circle attempt to make me their bitch. I'll be damned if Aether thinks it's going to do the same."

"Hell yeah!" Hyōryū pumped her fist into the air, before pointing in Oliver's direction, "Oliver's my bitch, and he's going to stay that way! No one takes my nut cracker and gets away with it!"

"If we're going to go against Aether, we'll need all the help we can get," Shinshin spoke in a reserved tone, looking towards Asuka, "I think we should call Zaii and any others that are attending the base. If we're going to be potentially stuck going to war with the largest military in the Spiritual Realms, we're going to need every contingency plan available to us in the event the Holy Decimo adds us to their Bingo Book along with the Royal Aethian Corps."

"Of course." Asuka said coolly, closing her eye again.

"We may not have to go to war... that is, if we pull this off correctly." Angelika commented, turning her head towards Rika. "Get this bird in the air, Nakamura. What are you waiting for?"

"Oh--!!" That seemed to startle the girl back into her senses. "M-my apologies, Angelika-san..." Quickly, she turned forward, gave a few clicks of the tongue, and got the bird to ascend into the skies once more.

Angelika herself turned back towards the group in order to continue to explain. "Based from what we saw out of the Paladins..." She began. "It is most likely that they'll possess high security. The last thing we want is direct confrontation with any of these Paladin characters. So this will be strictly a stealth infiltration mission. That means all air support will be able to do is insertion and extraction. So we'll have to stick together as a team at all times." She momentarily turned her head towards Rika. "Understand that, Nakamura?"

"Yes, ma'am!" Rika gave a nod to signal.

"Shit..." Anton gave a weary stare at Angelika, the frown of disapproval clear. "No offense, boss, but you were really starting to scare me. I get that was nothing more than a means to fool the Paladins from sensing any deception, but you almost had us, too! Besides... now Oliver thinks you really expunged him from the V-14!"

"That was the idea." Angelika said simply, causing his eyes to widen in surprise.

"Wha--?"

"There's always the event that we won't get to him in time. Maybe it'll be due to outside conditions or our misconception of the potential time we have. In that event, I made sure to leave our newfound friends one last trick. Now that Holmes has assumed that we've betrayed him, there'll be nothing stopping that old psyche from rising to the surface."

Slowly, a smile crossed her face - one that conveyed nothing but a malevolent satisfaction.

"I think Aether's going to have fun reuniting with its "Black Eagle", don't you think?"

"Somehow that doesn't sound like a good thing," Shadō spoke aloud, appearing out of the shadows of Oliver's former seat, crossing his arms nonchalantly, "but it may be interesting to spectate."

"Stupid stealth missions again," Hyōryū spoke with a sour note, before snickering, "but I hope it turns out like that mission in the Rukon outskirts. That mission was a blast, hehehehehe!"

Shinshin could only assume a meditation stance of his own as the bird began to take off, flying with haste and purpose towards Aether. Having never personally traveled to Aether, he could only imagine what awaited them there. For whatever reason...he could smell blood in the wind...

Oliver's Trial! The Black Eagle's Last Stand...?

SMASH-SMASH-SMASH!

"ORDER! WE SHALL HAVE ORDER!" The Noble Judge smashed his hammer against the pedestal, creating reverberating echoes that grated on the outrcries of the attending crowd, which had become packed beyond belief. And who could blame them? This is to be one of the biggest trials of their era, as the infamous Black Eagle had been found through various anonymous sources and tips before tracking him wandering the wilderness, surrendering arms when realizing he was outmatched by the Holy Decimo's might, or so it was told that way...

With a British-accented courtroom, much more appealing to the 18th century decor, with instead of 46 random anonymous judges were actually made up from the Noble Families that held the popular power throughout Aether itself and its various territories it covers. The only difference, was that none of the judges had white fluffy wigs nor all had thick british accents, but rather a culmination of several Midwestern to European cultures involved in their attire as well as their nationality.

Oliver was held up in a podium, bound in durable chains comprised of Kidō-based materials rather than Sekisekki as the latter material would not be needed for someone with such little Spiritual Power. Surrounding him were a number of high ranking volunteer guards, made up of the Eleventh Corps, otherly known as the Prime Cohort, were the Elite and renowned professionals among the Corps. Should Oliver even twitch, they were given orders to have no discretion and maim his body.

After the outcries died down, the Center and Highest seated Judge rose to his personal stone carved balcony with each of his opposing flanks composing of slightly elevated podiums holding at least four or five other Noble Judges, each of them assuming various stances for various reasons.

The Highest Ranked Judge, Judge Stronghelm, spoke in a deep revered tone towards the convicted, "Do you foreswear to uphold the best behavior that is expected of an Aethian citizen within these revered and hallowed courts as we take these proceedings? If you do not, we will grant you the right to be silent, and we shall start and end the trial without need of your words or defense to be voiced."

It was as if they were expecting Oliver to defend himself.

Within his chains, he stared ahead of him with blank and seemingly weary eyes. The bangs underneath them conveyed the visage of a jaded man, and the chains made it seem like he was more frail than anything else. As of his position, he had plenty of reason to feel miserable. His leader had callously dumped him into the hands of his enemies and dismissed him. It was a perfect message of just how valuable he really was to V-14.

Unable to bring a fire to the courtroom, he brought a subdued and controlled voice instead. "What is there to defend? I have no reason to defend myself. I'm the Black Eagle, the one who massacred an entire base and is responsible for the lives of hundreds of soldiers. The Royal Aethian Corps knows my face, the Paladins know my face, and so does everyone else. As far as I'm concerned, this trial is nothing but bullshit to make yourselves look democratic."

"Watch your tone, Holmes!" One of the lower aligned Judges, Judge Corsair, pointing his finger with a angry vehement tone in his voice, "we are not monsters or anarchists like you! We do things in a much more civilized manner, and you will abide by our La-"

"You're wasting your time, Judge Corsair," one of the higher aligned Judges, Judge Dorado, spoke with a bemusing tone as he looked down upon Oliver, "if he truly is the Black Eagle, he will not and shall not abide by the Law that we've strived so hard in laying down. Might as well give him his sentencing now and be done with it-"

"Don't interrupt me like a fool, Judge Dorado!" The other Judge snapped back with venom, now yelling back at the other Judge, "you're in no position to speak of Laying down the Law, when your own House was responsible for the near destruction of this great Society!"

"How dare you accuse House Dorado of being associated with that mad, rabid dog-!"

SMASH-SMASH-SMASH!

"ENOUGH! BOTH OF YOU!" Judge Stronghelm smashed his hammer harder this time, his voice bellowing and commanding, with enough ice through his tone to thoroughly end the petty argument between his fellow colleagues. Turning back to Oliver, he cleared his throat before speaking in his favored, revered tone, "with that said, Mr. Holmes, I will begin to read you your crimes so that this Court, its Jury, and its witnesses here shall be clear for what you are being sentenced for..."

Judge Stronghelm then looked at a sheet of paper in front of him, putting on glasses to read them off, as he continued to speak in said tone:

"7 Counts of Resisting Arrest, 17 Counts of Sabatoge to Aethian Military Property, 26 Counts of Destruction to Military Property, 347 Counts of 1st Degree Murder, 7 Counts of 2nd Degree Murder, One Count of 3rd Degree Murder in regards to one Genesis Holmes, and One Count of High Treason to the Royal Aethian Corps whom serves the Sovereign National Society of Aether," Judge Stronghelm then looked to Oliver, still intending to keeping things official as he spoke, "any last words may the accused speak to this Revered Noble Court?"

"Granting me my last words?" Oliver asked rhetorically. "You're too kind."

He slowly turned his head, his eyes meeting each and every one within the courtroom. "The Black Eagle wasn't some highly trained assassin or some powerful super soldier that had some militant reason to destroy Aethan HQ. He was an entity born from madness, and that madness was born from the nest of the Royal Aether Corps. They made me the killer I am, they gave me the skills needed to slay each and every one of that weak bunch you call an army. So the next time you claim how much of a monster I am or how great this society is... know that you were the ones that allowed me to exist in the first place. Know that there are and will be plenty more of me among you. I'll see you in Hell."

SMASH!

"Oliver Holmes! You are hereby sentenced to death for your crimes against your King, your Country, and your Comrades! Method of execution will be public hanging, as is custom to all who bear the shame of being a traitor and a murderer! Court is now adjourned!" Judge Stronghelm spoke aloud in a bellowing, condemning tone. As he finished, the Judges rised and began to leave through their individual exits from which were carved archways while leaving Oliver to be escorted publically to prison, before he awaits the time for his execution.

"I'm being hanged."

The ghost of a smile came across Oliver's face as he heard the words.

Hanging. It was one of the most universal and widely known methods for execution. The noose which could hold anyone's neck was a symbol of death within itself, used widely for both intimidation purposes and a signal for someone's approaching demise. To die in such a manner might as well have been an honor for him, as dying in battle was the honorable way to end a soldier's life. Any other method would have been insulting. It was the way it had to be.

"I never did have a chance to say anything before you went ahead of me, did I?"

He waited patiently for his guards to escort him to his personal cell, eyes closed and head hung down.

"Hang on, Allison. I'll be with you soon..."

The guards formed a box formation, escorting him as well as protecting him from any potential violence the crowd might have on him before his sentence can be carried out. Leaving the Courthouse was already a trying task, as a number of the audience shouted and snarled at him, almost anxious to see him dead and be done with the likes of him. Others, mostly women and children, tried to keep away at a safe distance in the event the Black Eagle sprung actual wings and began to devour anything in hsi path.

The large lines that were awaiting Oliver and his escort outside, were no less violent or anxious with an entire row of Prime Cohort troops dividing the crowd from the escorting prisoner. While it became impossible to be kept from being hit by the occasional rotten food or drink thrown by the average citizen, the Cohort made sure to dissuade any attempt of attacking the traversing convict.

Meanwhile, on one of the highest points of noticing near the courthouse was the elevated Victoria Cathedral, based to the Paladin Order that served the Royal Aethian Corps. Looking down from one of the arched stone balconies, Rosalina watched the passing escort with feigned interest as she watched her prior assignment be lured to his cage before awaiting his execution.

"Enjoying the view?"

The distinct voice of a male spoke behind her, and the figure of the source moved from the shadows of the inside to stand beside her.

It was not that of the one who had accompanied her for Oliver's arrest. Instead, she would be greeted by a Caucasian man with silver hair that was somewhat wild, a black scarf around the neck, a purple coat overshadowing a white and plaid shirt, purple pants, and what appeared to be black shoes. He looked over at her with a slight curiosity, folding his arms across his chest.

"Can't," she spoke barely without turning her face to give him a feigned sideglance, nodding towards him with her scarred eye towards him, "not without this eye. I'm merely observing the area for any potential hostiles that might utilize the chance of such an open space to rescue the accused."

"Your diligence is admirable." The man remarked, leaning over the balcony in order to take a look for himself. "Though, I personally hold doubt about the necessity of you even being here. Considering the security is held together in a tight and secure fashion as well as the very presence of us... well, I am unsure that anyone would dare to preserve this man's life."

"V-14 is plotting something," she spoke with assurance in her voice, though it was subtle at best, as her stoic gaze matched the fluid tranquility in her voice, "you could tell that they held a deep bond with him without even looking at them. I could hear their leader's heartbeat dance irregularly for a few moments when they were descending and I could see a few telltale signs from where I was standing. She's not aiming to sell him out...or at least, not that he knows it."

That sent her companion into silence, and he took to looking down at the man in question. As he peered down and squinted his eyes, he could see nothing than a weary and defeated look. All of them had claimed that he was the Black Eagle, the murderer and destroyer. But all he seemed to see was a broken soldier, a veteran who had come back with a burden on his shoulders. It was somewhat disturbing when you took into account the crowd's anger and fury against him.

"Now that you bring that up, it could be a primary concern..." He murmured, turning his gaze back to Rosalina. "Have you taken the liberty of alerting our associates of the possible predicament of their interference?"

"Yes, she did," the voice of a familiar comrade spoke, walking in behind the both of them, unsurprising to Rosalina whom merely acknowledged her presence with a backwards nod, "Rosalina has a keen sense when things could go awry. If we are to put our faith in anyone's gut of my Paladin brothers or sisters, its her, Simon."

"Ah!" The said Simon's eyes widened in surprise, and he instinctively turned towards the sound of the voice. "Master Saras!" Quickly, he recomposed himself, placing a hand on his chest and giving a short but respectful bow. "Please forgive me, I did not mean to speak any ill or lack of faith within my compatriots..."

He had plenty of reason to watch himself while around the woman that had come in. Her name was Aesa Saras, Paladin I of the Holy Decimo - the name of the group they were all in. Although other members would consider her as nothing more than an associate, he regarded her as their impromptu commander-in-chief. She was also one of the most respected and feared out of their organization, considering her status as well as the way she carried herself while on-duty.

No one sane would want to incur her wrath...

"Its alright, Simon, relax," Aesa allowed her impassive stance and stare to soften into a empathetic smile, placing a hand on his left shoulder with a light grip in emphasis, "she only does so because of the importance of who is being executed. Its understandable if it was a fool's errand or if his comrades wouldn't reach him in time. That's why they didn't give him any hope, you see, of rescue," she walked over past Simon, before looking out towards the escorted man's progress, "however, there is another reason why I'm keeping us on our toes..."

"Hm?"

After allowing himself to relax, Simon turned himself around with Aesa with a slightly quirked eyebrow. "And that would be...?" He inquired.

"The Blood Coat is on the move," she spoke in an ominous, almost dreading tone, as she explained, "it wasn't but two days before we got the tip on the Black Eagle. Paladin XVII was on patrol near the outskirts near here, in the Capital City. However, her and her unit found a strange unknown anonymoly near one of the abandoned building alleyways. It happened so fast but...he...it..." Aesa spoke with grief, clogging her throat keeping her from revealing the gruesome details as she bowed her head in reverence, covering her face with one of her hands.

Much to her chagrin, Rosalina filled in Simon with a turn of her head, showing him her steely, dispassionate gaze, "Paladin XVII was disembowled before her head was snapped off in a counterclockwise fashion. Her men were brutally crushed and torn apart in similar effects, covering their remains thickly in their blood, his most prized MO."

"Disem...boweled?" As he repeated the word, Simon's eyes dilated and the expression of slight horror was clear. "And decapitated?" After a moment of regarding Rosalina, he clenched his teeth and turned away. His face changed to a look of disgust and resentment of what he had just heard. "Typical." He growled, shaking his head. "The murder isn't a murder unless it's made as gruesome as possible. If there was a worse psychopath than the one we have in custody, it would have to be that man!"

He quickly shifted his tone to a lighter one once he raised his head up to see Aesa. In return for the gesture that she had given him, he raised a hand up and placed it onto her shoulder sympathetically. "Rest assured, this will not go unanswered. The Blood Coat may have evaded our watchful eyes, but he cannot run forever. We will bring him to justice, whatever it takes."

"I know," Aesa spoke in a low, menacing tone that voiced the true underlying wrath hidden under her composed tone and stance, sliding her hand off her face to show shining, eery silver eyes, staring off into the distance for emphasis, "he will pay. Just as all scum of the earth, they will pay. Whether its by my fist or my blade, I will crush them all. And if I cannot do it, my brothers and sisters will!"

"If we could only find him," Rosalina spoke with a impassive tone despite the severity of the news, "the man is akin to a wraith. He's whispered, even within the Prime Cohort, as a nightmare that sings an eery tune, signaling your demise before you drown on your own blood. At least, that's what's rumored anyways..."

"Rumors and whispers are not enough to intimidate the likes of us." Simon furrowed his eyebrows as he took his hand off of Aesa's shoulder. He directed his gaze to the horizon, walking over towards the balcony and allowing himself to lean on it once again. "All this murder has done is made us more alert of his presence. The next time he strikes, all will know before he has time to sink his teeth into our flesh."

"I'm going to attempt to contact our fellow brothers and sisters of the Holy Decimo," Aesa spoke as she turned on her heels, moving back into their headquarters, using the form of a place of holiness into a headquarters of the most terrifying Black Ops Commando unit in all of Aether, "we're currently only five strong in the Capital, with only twenty seven Paladins guarding the Palace, the Royal Aethian Fortress, the Noble Court, and the Prison, we're taxed at capacity, even with us five watching from Vitoria Cathedral."

"We have nearly five Knight Captains here in the Capital at all times, with nearly seven Knight Lieutenants working also at all times," Rosalina spoke with a lax, impassive tone as she continued to monitor the area in her sight with the convicted still being escorted towards the prison down the cobblestone road, "we also should be expecting our Knight Commander to observe the execution personally, even if from a distance. It will be unlikely the Black Eagle will escape his demise, but we might have potential casualties from the failed attempts..."

"I will descend to the ground level and keep watch on security stability." Simon said calmly. "Now that the Blood Coat has made himself known once more, it is unwise to let down one's guard at any time." Folding his arms across his chest, he turned away from the balcony and moved to follow Aesa. "I shall see you another time, Rosalina."

Rosalina impassively locked her eye on Simon as he retreated back into the sanctuary, before turning her gaze back at the crowd. Something amiss came to her attention, but she immediately knew it was an isolated threat, completely uninvolving the main threats she was looking for. With a hand reaching back to grasp the rare and unique black staff, she unholstered it in a fluid movement, sifting blue-black Spritiual Energy into it, causing it to take the form of a dark, glowing bow blue kanji symbols running up and down the shaft.

With a single hand, she raised her bow towards the crowd, before forming what appeared to be thin, condensed spiritrons to form the bow's "thread" before condensing a glowing white arrow appeared above her aiming finger, pulling the "string" back past her cheek, her right eye narrowing at the target.

With a sudden release of the arrow, she spoke, "Verzehren," before releasing the projectile and string...

THWACK!

SHEOOOOOOOOW-SHOOP!!!

...sending the dark, contorting arrow directly towards a single, rage-filled civilian who was holding a weapon partially concealed in his coat. What Oliver would see, or rather hear, would be the slight startled scream of the man before a shadow formed from the man's insides pulled on his insides and made his entire being implode, causing a few gasps of shock and screams, sending a good deal of the proximate crowd running from the sudden disturbance.

"You may see me, Simon," she spoke to herself, lowering her bow down as she impassively stared down towards Oliver with near perfect clarity, "but they never see me..."

Inflitration Immininent! The Plan for Rescue Unfolds!

"Are you done in there, Angel-chan? Come on!"

"...do I really have to wear this?"

"Oh, don't be such a baby! You're acting like I'm making you wear a maid outfit or something!"

"This might as well be the equal of it."

"Besides, you said yourself that we needed to not look so familiar, and thus a change of clothing style had to be made. I went through so much trouble of picking out that outfit for you!"

It was a rather humorous scene back at the V-14 HQ.

Asuka was standing in front of what appeared to be a dressing room, her arms folded across her chest and her foot tapping against the floor in a somewhat impatient manner. Instead of the standard kimono, she had switched to a less feminine attire. Her new clothing consisted of what looked like a blue and sleeved tunic, black wrappings that fit around the entirety of each arm, a white sash around the waist, and black pants. Compared to her kimono-style attire, she looked more... lanky.

"C'mon, Angel..." Asuka complained. "I know we're early, but I told the others that we'd only be a few minutes! By now, they're probably going to send someone up and complain!"

"Is there a problem, Asuka-dono?" Shito came up next to the second commander of the operation, with Shinshin flanking him. Shito already took the liberty of wearing a dutchman's hat to cover his obvious scar overlapping his forehead and skull. Along with a ruffles white sailor's shirt that was unbuttoned three to the top which gave a hint of his well developed physique that was already showing somewhat from the belt tight jeans and shirt itself. He even wore sailor black boots with brass buckles, "is Angelika still not finding a suitable attire?"

Shinshin on the other hand was silent. His attire made himself appear more like a medieval witch doctor with his long hair draping down his back and shoulders, with a black flat-top hat and the protruding white mask he utilized to make himself out to be a old-time doctor. Only difference being is that his sword was kept in a very large carrying case which he held with no difficulty.

Asuka sighed heavily. "Yes, she's found something. But she's being fussy about it!" She said. "I've tried to convince her that she won't look bad in it, but she just won't budge!"

"Should I enter and give her a second opinion?" Shito asked with an honest query, placing a hand on his chest while locking his eyes with Asuka's. Apparently, he did not fully understanding the ramifications on walking in while a lady was dressing.

"I--"

Asuka immediately stopped herself, falling into silence for a moment. She immediately stopped herself from giving him a look that made it seem like he had two heads. A smile came across her face, and she gave him an encouraging smile and nod. "On second thought..." She said, her tone carrying nothing but innocence. "I think that's a good idea. Go in there and check on her, would you?"

"Alright," Shito smiled with a nod, walking past Angelika to her dressing room door, and knocked a few times, "Miss Hartmann! For the sake of expeditiousness I am going to assist you in giving you a second opinion. I promise not to look at your person below the neckline in the event you aren't dressed, as well as give you an honest opinion on your chosen attire. I'm coming in now," he spoke aloud in the most gentleman manner he could, before opening her dressing room door and quickly shuffled in before closing it behind himself.

"This isn't going to end well," Shinshin thought silently, as he could only observe a man willingly approach his surrogate sister's door and could potentially see her exposed skin. If anything, if Shito ended up doing something untowardly to her...if he survived Angelika's wrath for any reason...HE would be the one to make him regret any disgusting thing he did to her.

There was a few moments of silence. Asuka held a hand to her mouth, for she could already see Angelika giving Shito a death glare as soon as he stepped into the room. She almost fell sorry for the boy and his apparent obliviousness. "And the fireworks should be coming right... about..."

Click.

First the cocking of what could only be Angelika's gold-plated HCA-50 pistol. Then...

BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM!

Gunshots followed shortly afterwards, a few of them piercing the door.

"WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU?!?!" Shito shouted in horrified alarm, the door comically opens with Shito clinging to the door with one hand while an inverted position with opposite. A neat outline of bullets carved his figure in the door, making a comical appearance for Asuka.

"You did just walk in on a woman dressing, you know this, right?" Shinshin asked in a very dry manner, clearly irritated Shito walked in dumbly into not only their leader's dressing room, but his surrogate sister's dressing room.

"Well Asuka-dono didn't tell me that Ms Hartmann would try to kill me! Why would she send me?!-" Then, with sudden, horrified exclamation, Shito turned his gaze with shock at Asuka, "why are you trying to kill me?! What ever have I done to you?!"

The response to this?

"Hahahahahaha~!!"

Asuka was now holding her stomach and bent over with shameless laughter. All of her sympathy for the man had now vanished, replaced by mirth at his misfortune. She could barely bring herself to speak a response to the shaken-up Shito. "I...I had no idea you were clueless about dressing room etiquette, dear!" She exclaimed. "That should've been greatly obvious! You don't just walk into a room when you're a guy and there's a female changing on the other side!"

She looked over at the now open door to see Angelika angrily place on the top half to what would've been her new outfit, turning herself around to give an annoyed glare at both her and Shito. "You are very lucky I had my lower extremities covered already, Herr Shito. Otherwise, I wouldn't have bothered to actually miss you."

Compared to her common attire, this had a much more feminine feel to it in contrast to Asuka's. She wore an olive green and plain kimono that was covered by what appeared to be a dark green haori. It was combination of elegance and a look that made her seem like a poor, homeless woman. She had one hand on her hip, a slight blush over her face.

As she approached, Asuka slowed her laughter down. "Oh, you really were being picky!" She chided. "You look great!"

"I look like some sort of hobo..." Angelika muttered, spreading her arms out and letting the sleeves fall back over her forearms. "And this kimono alone shows off too much of my leg."

"It does not! It's no different from my kimono. You are fretting over nothing, honestly..."

Shito's jaw dropped and felt himself comically freeze at the realization. He had entirely intended on being a gentleman in helping a lady, and he ended up looking like a perverted scoundrel. Falling to the ground with a thud, he whimpered at his assumed foul play, "I'm...always...failing..."

"You look quite stunning, actually," Shinshin cleared his throat, trying his best to smile while not looking at her legs, causing his cheeks to sport a rare flush of crimson.

Asuka bent her knees to lower herself beside the fallen Shito, reaching over to place a hand on his shoulder. She gave a cheery smile. "You just didn't know any better, that's all..." She was quick to get back up, directing her gaze over towards Angelika. "Hear that, Angel-chan? When you hear a compliment like that from a guy, you just can't look that bad, can you?"

"W-well..." Now it was Angelika's turn to look somewhat flustered, a faint blush spreading over her face. "I suppose so... thank you for reassuring me, Herr Fūten. I can only hope I'll get positive reception from the rest of them..." With that being said, she placed her hands on her hips and started walking away from them to begin the walk downstairs. "Come on. The others are waiting."

Shito sighed, sweatdropping in embarassment as he got up to his feet before acknowledging Asuka as he followed, "Sorry...I never really knew it wasn't polite to enter dressing rooms. I've never heard of people using them often enough to hear the courteousy involving them..."

Shinshin stayed silent, as he regressed back into impassivity to forget his own bit of shyness, walking down the hall after Angelika, more than welcome by entering after Angelika to meet the whole gang in the debriefing room.

The briefing room wasn't some overly done place like the Sect's, mind you. It had a walls/ceiling combination of a light blue color and a carpeted floor of brown. There was a large table in the center of the moderately big room with enough chairs to seat just about everyone within. There was a large TV-like monitor hooked to the wall opposite of the door and a computer terminal right beside it sitting on a desk. Although it could easily be described as a rather casual visage, it was still very clear that this was solely meant for business.

"...so you're telling me that this chick took on one of these guys? One on one?" Anton was asking Shou, in slight disbelief.

Shou nodded. "He was extremely intoxicated, from what she told us." He explained, his hands folded on the table as he looked at his "audience". "Even then, he still put up quite the fight against her. She managed to defeat him, but ended up sparing him afterwards. So yes, there are ways to subdue such powerful enemies despite being potentially lacking in the stopping power necessary to contend with them."

"Guess regular troops weren't enough for Dad, huh..?" Genesis muttered quietly from a seat, underneath her breath.

Or at least, she tried to.

"Uh, what?" Apparently, Anton had heard it, as he quirked and eyebrow and leveled a slightly surprised gaze in her direction. "What was that you just said, Gene?"

"Huh?" Genesis's head abruptly snapped up. "I didn't say anything."

"No, I swore you just said--"

"Ahem."

Thankfully, Genesis was saved from explaining herself when Angelika cleared her throat to make herself known. "I hope I'm not interrupting anything..." She said calmly, walking into the table with the rest of her compatriots in tow.

"No, not at all, though some of us don't know when they're really talking or not!" Hyōryū spoke in an annoyed tone, being the most proximate nearest to Anton and being between Genesis and her boyfriend, sideglance glaring at the said Daitenshi girl. Her attire looked that of a biker punk girl, with studded black leather jacket with a sleeveless muscle shirt underneath and worn, weathered jeans to go along nicely with her stained leather brown shoes. Her guns were clearly concealed in her jacket rather than the usual shoulder holsters.

"Actually we're being told what was spoken of an actual battle between one of your Sect buddies against a Paladin, though we're not certain what Rank or Skill he possessed, as he was plainly told by your associate, Shou-san, incredibly intoxicated," Zaii spoke with great interest, for once not donning his mega-large sword but rather just assuming a more "tucked-in" appearance of his usual Gi outfit, making himself out to be more of a touring martial artist than a ingenious swordsman of incredible Spiritual Power. He was seated only a couple seats perpindicular and on the end from Shou's placement.

"As informative as that would be, Shou," Angelika remarked, stepping into the room and allowing the ones following to enter. "I doubt that any of the Paladins would dare allow themselves to be caught under the influence at a time like this. Especially considering that they have the likes of the Black Eagle in their clutches. They'll be more alert, coordinated, and one of the more dangerous threats that we'll be dealing with during our infiltration."

"Is everyone here?" Asuka questioned, looking over the occupants within the room.

"Just about," Mōka spoke aloud, walking over to meet Angelika and Asuka, lightly remarking visibly with a smile at their new attire before nodding her head back, "Yusuke and that Lieutenant chick are patching up Shinji in one of the medical rooms. Don't know what he did, but he's shaking like a rattlesnake whenever he's not knocked out..."

"An old Client with a bad vibe about him," Shinshin spoke lowly, before nodding to the table, "we'll fill you in sometime."

"Damn! Finally got dressed, did you? What, needed to add some perfume to accent your pretty features?!" Karitori sneered at Angelika, having to sit still for so long made her irritable, as she sat next to Yajū who looked equally irritable but less vocal about it. having sat directly across from Genesis, Anton, and Hyōryū, they were the most proximate to the arrivals.

"Shut your goddamn trap for once, Kari!" Shito snarled surprisingly, stepping in front of Angelika and Asuka as his glare bordered menacing and threatening, "you don't get to run that shit-trap of a mouth just because your girlfriend is here!"

After taking the brunt of the outburst, Karitori blinked surprisingly but before glaring at him, her body faintly glowing of the unusual Dark Energy before she caught a disapproving stare from Mōka, causing her to just roll her eyes before slamming her head audibly against the table, "Can we please just get on with this?!"

"Woah."

Anton now regarded Shito with a look of absolute surprise, matching the looks that both Angelika and Asuka was giving him behind his back. He was expecting his leader or their leader to come back with a rather snarky remark, but not Shito to defend them both with such passion. Inwardly, he knew Oliver would've cheered at the display. It was enough to make him smile and chuckle a little, even if it was at the expense of Karitori.

"Remember who it is you're talking to that way, Frau Karitori." Angelika was quick to switch from surprise to a quiet anger, leveling a withering glare at the female who had dared to talk to her in such a scathing manner. For a few seconds, she held that glare for just enough time for discomfort. Then, she turned away and proceeded to walk towards the terminal. Her hands were folded behind her back until she reached the terminal itself, where she unfolded one of her hands in order to begin typing.

"A-asuka-dono..."

The quiet voice of Rika brought Asuka's attention to the currently mousy girl, who had her head down and her eyes directed towards leader as she sat down. She had to keep herself from smiling at the girl's attempt to make eye contact willingly - and failing. "I took the liberty of informing Yusuke-kun about the mission so that he could come with us... is that okay?"

Asuka's eyes widened slightly in surprise - something that make Rika flinch involuntarily out of the fear that she did something wrong. However, the next words spoken were quick to remedy that. "Of course! After all, where would a wounded team be without the medic? We all know that..."

The girl nodded in turn, grateful that she had not done anything stupid. "O-of course..."

"Courtesy of Herr Valentine," Angelika's voice spoke out, gathering both of their attention back to the front. The "TV" was projecting what she had brought up on the computer was a blueprint-style satellite layout of their destination. "We've managed to obtain a bit of detailed information regarding the layout of Aether. The target destination will be the capital city Shinhae, the place where public executions are normally held."

"How do you know he's going to be executed?" Anton asked, quirking an eyebrow.

In response, Angelika regarded him with a look that should've made it obvious. "Well... I'm certain that genocide and defection combined would contribute to that belief, are you?"

"If they sent the Paladins I hear you told me about, then they must be executing him," Mōka spoke with certainty, as if she had personal experience with them, "they don't send members of the Holy Decimo to pick up a common criminal. If Oliver Holmes is more widely known as the Black Eagle, they'll hang him for all of the citizens and troops to see, to make an example for anyone who revolts against the system..."

"It sounds like you've dealt with them yourself too," Shinshin inquired, speaking for the first time since he's arrived with the others, catching the gaze of Omega Team's leader, "what do you know of these Paladins, and of their Holy Decimo compatriots?"

"The Holy Decimo is the equivalent of what was planned to be Anti-Knight Captains of the Paladin Order," Mōka spoke as she looked to Angelika and Asuka, shifting around in her usual attire that hadn't changed despite the majority shifting their appearances for the upcoming journey, "while the Paladins are elite commandos of Royal Aethian Corps, their potential is not to be overlooked. Should the Royal Aethian Corps fall, or be split apart by another Civil War that was instigated, the Paladins are supposed to purge the enemies and take the place of the deceased and absent Knight Captains.

The Holy Decimo, are the only qualified entities who can successfully surpass the powers and skills of the Knight Captains. Their strongest I fought nearly twenty years is named Rosalina Seraphim, the Paladinus Primus, designated as the Hawk," she looked over at the entiriety of the briefing table as she spoke in truth, "those who possess the rank of Paladinus Primus are potentially capable of exceeding the strength of Knight Commander or your Gotei 13 Head Captain..."

"...our Gotei 13 Head Captain?" A slight scowl came across Anton's face, and he leveled a rather annoyed stare in her direction. "Look, we may be allied with them, but don't make it sound like he's leading us."

Hyōryū scrunched her face up at the implication before nodding back to Mōka, "Yeah! Who said that guy's OUR Head Captain?! Last time I checked, we were not wearing black & white like a bunch of sissies!"

"I never insinuated that he was your favorite man to take to parties, nor did I say he was your boss," Mōka said with a slight note of irritation, though she didn't stop to debrief Asuka and Angelika, "in any case, a direct confrontation with any of the Holy Decimo is a bad idea. Knight Captains, we could outmaneuver and use tactics against, but Paladins are bred to kill those who use underhanded and coordinated tactics. Loners, nearly all of them yet are incredibly capable of collescing into an indestructable force when necessary. They are the true Vanguard of Aether's Military."

"Indeed." Angelika agreed. "As a matter of fact, direct confrontation is a negative until we have obtained our cargo, and even then we will have to lower to a strict minimum. The last thing we want are the Paladins breathing down our necks before we even begin to reach extraction."

She turned back towards the computer terminal, typing in a few more codes. Upon the calculative command, the screen zoomed in on the capital. There were certain points that were marked with a blinking red dot. "There are two points of entry into Shinhae. One is through the main gates, which will require the use of the forged documents each you were handed. Most likely, there will be a Paladin guarding at least one of them. So if you're thinking of going through there, make sure that you remain inconspicuous. Another route is through the underground river system that runs through to Shinhae's natural water system. That route will require those that are much better suited for stealth purposes."

She turned herself around, away from the computer and towards the table. "There will be three teams. I'll lead the team that takes the underground. Asuka and Mōka will take their teams through the main gates, with each team going through a separate gate. Make sure to stay in radio contact at all times and keep your situations updated. Are there any questions?"

"What about our equipment and weapons?" Hyōryū spoke out, nodding to Anton and the others, "I don't know about the rest of you, but I'd rather have bad odds with a gun then being unharmed with the same odds."

"When we regroup inside the city, there are a number of locations Herr Valentine has set up for supplying purposes," Angelika explained, motioning towards points that were indicated with a blinking green dot. "If you can't bring any weapons and equipment with you into Shinhae, you can head there in order for some. Just make sure to keep your money with you. Just because we're affiliates doesn't mean that anything's free, after all..."

Genesis gave a heavy sigh, resting her cheek on her fist and expressing slight agitation. When she spoke up, there was a slightly exaggerated tone of exasperation. "All these locations and points are becoming harder to remember than my ex-wife."

Shou and Anton were quick to regard her with surprised looks and the same vocal reaction.

"Wuuuuuut?"

So she decided to follow up with a curl of the lip and two more words.

"Fat bitch."

Once again, her rather strangely placed comment earned chuckles and laughter from the likes of the two males, along with Asuka and Rika. The latter of the four had to stifle themselves from laughing at it by covering their mouths with their hands.

"Somehow, I doubt you'd ever be married," Shinshin spoke bluntly, sighing at another joke he seemed to be left out of the loop for, only knowing someone as unappealing as Genesis would never attract any desire for a long-lasting relationship such as marriage.

Zaii could only snort and laugh at the implied joke, along with Yajū, with the latter speaking aloud in emphasis, "I can't believe...you just ****ing said that! HAHAHAHA!!!"

Shito rolled his eyes, having to cover his face to stifle his own unfortunate giggles to his chagrin, before attempting to clear his throat and get everyone back onto topic, "I have another query: Since we will need to scope out the city for both security routes, location of Mr. Holmes' execution, and what guests we should be expecting, are we going to regroup all at once or separately and work independent of each other in order to accomplish our goal?"

"Independently." Angelika answered readily, after rolling her own eye at Genesis's joke. "Which is the reason why it is required to stay in radio contact. Each group will work separately until the event of emergency - particularly, a moment in where it seems like our cover is blown. Hopefully, that will not be until after we've obtained Oliver."

"What if we are unable to reach him? What then? Is there a backup plan in the event we can't approach him by ordinary means?" Shadō asked stoically himself, as his own appearance remained unchanged as well, looking almost very Aethian in how his usual get-up protrays his essence.

What if we are unable to reach him?

Only an exceptionally good eye would've caught the flicker in Angelika's gaze when she put on a grim smile. "As much as I'd like to say that there's always a back-up plan... there isn't." She answered. "If we don't reach him, then he will die. Simple as that."

"I see," Shadō bowed his head, grasping his hat to put it deftly on his head before smiling slightly in understanding, "I guess we could always wing it from there, eh? Eye for an eye, and all that..."

KNOCK-KNOCK-KNOCK!

"Hey you guys!" The unexpected voice of the Burning Knight himself came as he knocked just outside the entrance to the moderately sized debriefing room, clad in his usual black robes with his passively worn Fullbring along with his blade on his back to boot, "here I was thinking, as long as I'm here, why don't I pull my own weight? You guys certainly make that hard when you guys leave half the time I'm napping...can we make an exception for that this time around?"

"Who's this?! A Ryoka?! What's he doing here with an active Fullbring?!" Zaii suddenly spoke out with suddenly interest, as well as surprise as an entirely new person walked through the door and began to talk directly towards Mōka, Asuka, and Angelika as if they were old drinking buddies.

The three women (two of them, at least) would help to enforce that fact.

"Oh, I see that you've finally managed to stop pretending to be a bear..." Angelika muttered dryly as she looked at the figure who had walked in. "Herr Kodai, I just got done explaining everything. You're quite late if you wish to join us..."

Asuka gave an exasperated sigh. "For someone with so much power, you have a habit of doing nothing but eating and sleeping. It is a wonder you haven't grown fat yet, dear!"

Mōka smells the air a few times, chuckling as she leaned her head over to Asuka as she thumbed to him, "At least he groomed recently. From how clean shaven he's now, I bet he's forgotten to clean himself up for the past week or so he's been here..."

"One thing your should know about Fullbringers, my dear," Kenja spoke with a roguish grin, winking at her as he took smooth steps with the jingling of his armor resonating in the room, emphasizing with his arm gestures, "we have probably a lot higher stamina and metabolisms than Soul Reapers do. And I happen to have even more than the average Fullbringer, meaning I need to work out and eat as often as I can, otherwise I'll end up losing the edge my Fullbring had when I took on all of you."

"Wait! He took on all of you?!" Shito suddenly, made a time-out sign before looking incredulously at all of the gathered people in the room, before scrunching his eyes, realizing it might've been insane if he really had taken them all now as they were.

"We were a third the size group we are now, to be fair," Shadō spoke with mild interest in the man's boasting, amused that the human actually decided in participating now instead of the other times they needed man power and assistance.

"And you were totally going to get your ass handed to you when I got there!" Hyōryū pointed out at Kenjai, with a protruding vein on her forehead, infuriated that he'd go on about actually beating them when the fight had barely begun between them.

"Definitely sounds like the story I should hear about," Zaii leaned back with a smile of fascination, as he studied the man in black armor and then at the others' reactions. He could already tell this man was capable, despite circumstances, but to earn their respect after facing them must've been an incredible feat in of itself.

"Maybe some other time..." Asuka said gently, regarding him for a brief moment before turning her attention back to Kenja. "For now, Kenja-san, the very least we could hope for is that you happened to be listening in the whole time. After all, I don't think Angel-chan is too keen on explaining the same thing twice--"

"Stop calling me that." Angelika interrupted.

"Yes, Angel-chan."

Asuka had to resist the urge to smile cheekily when she saw Angelika's eye twitch.

Then...

WOOSH!

"Oh, you don't need to worry about that, boss ladies! I already told him before he came here."

The newfound voice came from Yusuke, who had used a Flash Step to appear in the room. However, he didn't appear in the standard standing position. Instead, he was sitting on Kenja's shoulders with a paper held in his hands - presumably Shinji's medical report. But he was carrying himself as if everything was normal. "We crossed paths a while back in the hallway, so I decided to fill him in on everything just in case he wanted to join us." He explained. "I mean, everyone seems to want to go on a field trip, right?"

"I... don't think "field trip" would be the best word for it..." Rika muttered, looking over him with a slight frown.

"Sure it is!" In return, Yusuke looked at her with genuine surprise. "I mean, we're going to Aether, another spiritual society! Meet new people, see new sights, all the like! I've always wanted to check out the secret underground river close up!"

"Sounds like I know who my partner is," Shadō spoke in a bemusing tone, nodding to Yusuke from his seat position.

"Yeah, so you don't need to worry if I'm clueless or not," Kenja gave a toothy grin, pointing a thumb to his chest, declaring outright, "this my way of paying back the debt I owe you. The debt, for sparing my life and allowing me sanctuary...this will be more than enough payment to all of you."

"I like this guy already," Mōka said flatly, smiling ruefully to the other two female leaders, "so? Who's to say we don't one of our own Black Knights on our side? Might tip the scales in our favor just by that much..."

"Well, I suppose it couldn't hurt to have additional reinforcements." Angelika said in admittance. She folded her arms across her chest, looking over at Kenja in an expectant manner. "I guess you'll be coming with us, Herr Kodai. But just remember that as long as you're on this mission, you're under my jurisdiction. So make sure not to get any funny ideas..."

"Yusuke-kun." Asuka inquired, catching the said boy's attention. "How is Shinji-kun doing?"

"Hm? Oh, yeah. Um..." Being surprised by the question, Yusuke had to switch his attention over to the said topic. He looked down at the paper's words. "Well, according to the medical report that I wrote out from basics, it seems like he's stable. But he's having periodic panic attacks after abruptly snapping from unconsciousness. The times varies from several seconds to a few minutes before he's knocked out again." He beamed a little. "Keikai-chan was nice enough to take up for me so I could come with you guys!"

"W-wait a minute..." Anton allowed himself to turn and look at the boy, quirking an eyebrow. "Are you saying that you loosened the collar to some degree and allowed her to use powers? Isn't she supposed to be a prisoner?"

"Well..." Yusuke shrugged. "Now that V-14 and the Soul Society are allies now, I don't think there's much reason for her to be kept on a tight watch. Besides, I only loosened it to the point where she could heal efficiently. Wasn't sure how the boss ladies would've reacted if I did otherwise..."

"She's not a bad gal," Kenja waved a hand insistantly, after nodding to Angelika in admittance to her command, "I can vouch for her. Despite her undying loyalty to her Captain, it seemed that she valued you as both as a group and people. She's a lot more heart than mind, and I think her willingness to heal your wounded shows that, don't you think?"

"She might pry for information from the poor slob," Yajū spoke in a guttural, suspicious tone as he propped his gloved knuckles against his jawline, narrowing his eyes at Kenja before looking to the three female leaders, "who's stopping her from turning us in as leverage if things go south for this arranged alliance of ours with their kind?"

"That's right!" Karitori nodded, gritting her teeth as she got off her seat and walked over to Mōka, speaking in a barely restrained voice of venom as she pointed pass Kenja, "are we going to have a stranger give us his word and expect to take it like cheap hand-outs?! That bitch tried to KILL Ollie boy-"

"So did you, to be fair," Shito piped in, much to the butch-dressed girl, before she continued.

"-and tried to take the boss lady, Angie down, not to mention didn't have a problem with using her blade against any of us as well-"

"She did stop that Yashin fellow from vaporizing us blindsidedly," Shadō, much to the increasing chagrin of Karitori, made by the usually stoic and withdrawn man he is within a group.

"-so are going to put that much faith and leave this place virtually unguarded by some Gotei 13 bitch?!" She finally made her point, glaring at the prior men who interrupted her before growling lowly at how much effort she made into trying to verbally convince her lover.

"You have a point, Kari-chan," Mōka nodded in admittance, cupping her chin, dramatically pacing back and forth next to the other two female leaders, "I guess we'll need someone just as strong, if not stronger, than her to be left behind to keep watch. Someone who has the personal trust of myself, as well as my two partners, wouldn't you say so?"

"Damn straight!" Karitori said with a rueful smile, looking to Kenja expectantly, almost suspecting the volunteer would be staying to pay for his mistake.

"Great!" Mōka unexpectedly hugged the prior woman, recieving a bulging-wide-eyed experession, as she suddenly realized what her next words were to be, "I'll be counting on you, Kari-chan! Make sure I don't find this place wrecked or any of our occupants and guests!"

"B-B-But...I...what...the...fuck...?!" Karitori could barely function, as she suddenly felt herself guided back to her seat, with slowly building and simmering anger, but knowing that she'd kill herself before challenging her lover and mutual boss's command. That, and she'd looked stupid in front of the collective V-14 organization...

"Karitori-san."

Yusuke, in a moment of rarity, lowered his happy-go-lucky attitude to replace it with a somewhat stern look - or as much of a stern look he could give off without making it seem like he would be completely out of his usual character. "I won't forgive you if you do anything hurtful to Keikai-chan. So don't do anything stupid, okay?"

With a prompt clearing of the throat heard by Mōka, Karitori rolled her eyes as she sighed, raising her right hand before crossing her left over her heart, "Cross my heart and hope to die a painful death to be tortured mercilessly in eternity in the clutches of the Bitch Queen of Hell, so help me Spirit King."

Shito couldn't help but snicker a little, covering his face as he turned his face away from her, "I can't believe she actually said that...omigosh this whole moment is priceless...!"

"I only have one question," Shinshin raised his voice to supercede any future conversation, as he looked to Asuka and Angelika, "when do we leave?"

That was when the two leaders looked at each other.

Slowly, a smirk stretched on both of their faces.

When Angelika turned her eye towards Shinshin, she spoke the words that would wipe out any thoughts of potential waiting.

"Well, I know we're a bit early from the time. But since we're done with the meeting and understand what we need to do, we can leave right now if everyone wishes it. The Dragonbird is already prepared and waiting for us."

"Whoo!" It snapped Yusuke out of his momentarily serious demeanor. He pumped a fist in the air, letting out a cheer. "Going on a field trip! Gonna have a good time! Gonna rescue our buddy!" Quickly, he directed his hand down and slapped Kenja's head, although not in a painful manner. "Giddyup, stupid horse!"

"...I think I'm gonna get used to having that kid around." Anton muttered to Hyōryū, chuckling as he allowed himself to stand up from his seat.

"Splendid!" Mōka said with a clap, rubbing her palms together as she walked out of the room, snapping her fingers as she walked to the exit, "let's go, let's go, let's go! Can't wait to get the party started!"

Despite having himself grinning at the boy's childish eagerness, Kenja couldn't help but ask as he walked after the V-14 mutual team leader, "Aren't you a little old for this game, Yusuke?"

"Don't forget about our kid, lover boy," Hyōryū grinned ear-to-ear, hefting a large, conspicuous black case onto the table with a proclaimed thud, "cause I spent EXTRA time in making sure each of his parts were disguised as nothing more than painting supplies, and other misc. articles..."

"Good Lord, what the Hell is in that thing?!" Zaii's eyes nearly shot out of his head as he spotted the large case, seeing its length was about as long as his own behemoth weapon.

"Death in a box, my friend..." Anton said simply, inwardly grinning at the surprised reactions at Hyōryū's case. "That's all you need to know. I'd be spoiling the surprise if I gave out any more details." Sticking one hand into his pocket, he lent an arm for Hyōryū to grab so that he could walk her out in a gentleman's fashion.

However, he stole a glance at Genesis as she walked out to follow Shou as he moved to follow Asuka and Angelika.

"I could've sworn that she said "Dad" just now... did I hear correctly...?"

Commence the Rescue! Mission Impossible?!

"Its a good thing we parked our ride a few miles away," Shito spoke to Angelika, as her assembled team approached as a traveling sight-seeing group towards the guarded gate of Shihae. Much like the imposing security Sekisekki walls of the Seireitei, they stood tall and wide, with various marching squads moving across the top of the city's line of defense.

The soaring jetstreams above indicated Shinhae's air force, maintained by members of the Royal Aethian Corps, driving much more sophisticated air ships than the ones seen in Tendan's, as well as squads of jet-troopers that transcended the appearance of the so-called Black Bat group that met its demise during their prior mission.

With a small squad checking the passerbiers of the people coming and going from the city, a tall stalwart masculine man with a flowing grey cloak and chain-mail-like army with the mark of the Paladin armor bore directly on his collar area.

All-in-all, the city looked well defended for any hostile force that'd foolishly attempt an assault on this fortified city-society.

So it was good that this wasn't an assault operation.

Angelika folded her arms within her sleeves, taking in each and every detail of the security. "Tendan was nothing compared to this..." She commented coolly. "Military and law enforcement seems to hold a stronger presence here than anywhere else." Seeing it all up close made the necessity of stealth all the more clear, lest they wanted such a force to come down on their heads.

"Aether is mostly known for this criminal regime within," Shou commented, "The presence of enforcement is rather surprising, to say the least. Then again, we are heading towards the capital, so I suppose it would be more important for a fortified position to be held here than anywhere else."

Anton had his eyes narrowed slightly, a slight scowl on his face as he walked with the group, "I'm starting to hate this place already..." He muttered in disdain, keeping a steady pace with Hyōryū.

"I promise not to go apeshit as long as they don't ask me to strip," Hyōryū said firmly, waving her left hand in emphasis while looking to Anton with a slight smirk, "I only save that for our special nights..."

"Please don't be descriptive," Shito spoke with a sigh, comically sweatdropping as he emphasized his point with a flourishing hand gesture towards the front gate, "we're about to infiltrate one of the most secure cities within Aether, let alone all of the Spiritual Realms, and you're talking about your fetishes?!"

Anton cocked an eyebrow at him after raising both of them at Hyōryū. "Of course you would act like that's something unusual, rookie..." He said coolly, putting on a smirk and quirking an eyebrow. "With a little bit more time, I'm sure you'll understand."

"I've done missions where infiltration was a must, but Karitori never talked that much, and Yajū would just grouch about anything close to small talk, but seriously. This is what you come up w-"

"Shut your dumbass mouth!" Hyōryūsuddenly whispered vehemently, noticing five guards blocking their path with the Paladin in question stepping forth to raise a hand to them.

"I'd like to see your travel permits please and the reason for buisness," the Paladin, a young blonde looking man with a large, muscular figure plainly displayed behind the muscle-tight mesh of armor and accessories, asked in a much more cordial manner than the Tendan patrol officer had.

It was time to put on her happy face.

Angelika walked up towards the Paladin, reaching into her green and haori-like coat to pull out a roll of the said travel permits. She unfolded and handed them to him while keeping them piled neatly on top of each other. All the while, she kept a pleasant and kind smile on her face. She had dropped her dry and serious tone for a positive and somewhat eager one. "We're tourists, come here to see the sights, sir. I've heard that the weather's good for tourism this time of year..."

"That's your opinion," The Paladin spoke in a brusk, almost irritated manner as he took his time to look over each ID, not appearing to look suspicious as the traffic of colorful individuals was to be expected, "with this mess with the Black Eagle's execution, I got a bad feeling the crowd might turn murderous and strangle the poor slob before they get a chance to put a noose around his neck."

"..."Black Eagle", you say?" Angelika's eyebrows furrowed in confusion as she looked at the man. She placed her hands on her hips as she looked at the Paladin. "I'm... afraid I have never heard of that particular term before. A code name for a supposed criminal, perhaps?"

The Paladin smirked, the first sign of amusement close to joy since they got there, nodding to the group with a distinctive stare, "You really are tourists, aren't you?"

"You could say that," Shito spoke with a nonchalant, casual attitude, placing his hands in his pockets while looking around idly.

"Well, if you should know, there was a Civil War many years back," the Paladin explained with a slightly excited tone, as he found something to speak about other than the usual jargon with passerbiers, "some soldier was being escorted out of town with his family and a number of fugitives. Everything was chaos everywhere, so no one could spare extra man power. From what I heard, the sick psycho lost it due to something with his family, shooting his daughter and proceeded to screw things over for the 3rd Cohort, the division he worked in the Royal Aehtian Corps.

Somehow, he managed to sneak into one of the F.O.B.'s that was staged against the enemy rebels, and began to cut loose, killing everyone in his path. It didn't matter about skill or rank, or equality in force or power, this guy butchered them all, and from the story went, swooped in with a scream that almost sounded like a bird of prey. That and the dark matte attire he wore when he went commando on everyone, he slaughtered almost several hundred men before fading from the darkness, including an uncounted amount of refugees taking refuge in the base. He's been hunted and called by the title of the Black Eagle ever since, until now that is..."

At that point, Angelika might as well have earned herself a career in acting.

Her expression went from slight curiosity to a subtle apprehension and wariness. Her mouth opened slightly, and she fell silent for a few moments after he was finished. "I...I see..." She muttered, averting her gaze away momentarily. She closed her eye and took in a deep breath before exhaling. "Maybe what I heard about the weather being nice was a bit off, after all..." All of it conveyed an extent of anxiety, something that the knowledge of the criminal's detainment didn't remedy.

After she finished exhalation, she looked back up with a weary look and smile in her eyes. "W-well, I suppose if he's detained now, everything's fine now, right? The criminal will be executed and justice will prevail..."

"Yeah, well the city is more secure than before due to this execution, I just wish there were more of us Paladins keeping watch," the Paladin spoke out with a nervous tone, not really knowing why he was sharing that particular information other than to share his feelings on the matter, "with only Five of the Holy Decimo keeping watch and less than two dozen of us maintaining guard at all key areas, I don't know if we could handle mass riot without collateral damage to take into account for."

"Aren't the Paladins a little tougher than your average Soul Reaper?" Hyōryūspoke, suddenly playing along with a curious tone as she scratched her head with feigned interest, "I met a bum who claimed to be a Paladin who was drunk off his ass but still managed to beat a bunch of highly trained thugs...wouldn't a little riot be easy for you guys to handle?"

"Well there is the worry about...certain elements entering and disrupting the execution," the Paladin looked over his shoulders and forward, noticing the guards weren't really paying attention anymore, allowing him to lean in to whisper to Angelika, "the Blood Coat has been said to be on the move. Between him and the Black Eagle, the Blood Coat's body count is nearly three times higher, and it ranges from civilians to military, to even tourists. I'd stay locked indoors if I were you."

"Yes, yes..." Angelika closed her eye and fervently nodded in agreement. "That would be the wisest thing to do while we're here. As a matter of fact, I would feel better if I got everyone within a respective hotel as quickly as possible." To emphasize this, she reached out and gently took the papers back from the man. "I do wish you the best of luck dealing with these men, sir Paladin..."

"As do I!" Shou added in, giving a respective nod to the man.

"Oh...yes! Of course," the Paladin nodded with a smile, moving aside to let Angelika's group by while waving to them as they passed, "enjoy your stay in Shinhae!"

"We will!" Angelika flashed one last smile and a wave to him as the group passed by, entering the boundaries of Aether.

Once he was sure they were out of earshot, Anton let out a whistle of impression. "Well, shit, boss..." He commented, grinning from ear to ear and chuckling a little. "Did you get your lessons from Heath Ledger, or what?"

"Yeah..." Shou agreed, folding his hands behind his back and regarding her with a quirked eyebrow as he walked in step beside her. "That was quite an impressive ruse. For a moment, I was certain that you were actually a clueless tourist."

Angelika chuckled, closing her eye for a brief moment. "You're talking to someone who's been in the "acting business" ever since her late teens. It's one thing that I can be proud of..."

"I have to say though, they didn't choose a clever member of their Order, did they?" Shito spoke in a curious tone, silently admitting Angelika's suave, cool restraint allowed her to appease the young Paladin whom appeared to be very wet behind the ears, "why did he just spill all that intel to us? That's seriously not their only Front Gate man, is it?"

"Who cares?" Hyōryūspoke in jubilious cheer, as her carrying case wasn't even looked twice over by the proximate RAC guards or the Paladin himself to notice, "we got extra intel without being harassed, and we got another person to worry about. This Blood Coat...ever heard him, Anton?"

A slight frown came over Anton's face at the inquiry. "Hey, I may be the foreigner around these parts, but it doesn't mean I know everything you don't." He complained lightly, before regressing into a more casual tone. "To tell the truth, I haven't heard that term before. But from the way the Paladin put it, he seems like a serial killer. From the words said, the pattern of killing he takes seems sporadic at best..."

"Or made to look sporadic to hide traces of his contract kills," Shito guessed, putting his hand up to his chin to cup it, looking up as he pondered aloud, "why does the name Blood Coat sound so familiar though? How long has he been killing? Is he a myth or a legend? Can't be, since his name is mentioned by the Front Gate Paladin and too coincidental for it to be something that happened years ago..."

Reaching into her coat, Angelika pulled another rolled-up sheet of paper. She unfolded it, inspecting it closely for a moment. It was the Aether travel map that she had acquired as a means for easy location. She wasn't sure if any of them had been in Aether prior to this visit, so it was necessary that they had a back-up plan in the event that they got lost.

"According to this, the nearest inn is just a few blocks ahead." She reported. "Asuka and her group will be residing within another."

"Speaking of Inns," Hyōryū spoke aloud in thought, looking over to Shito with a furrowed stare, "what's this so-called Tendan Spill you told Ollie you'd be serving him? Some kinda alcoholic rarity?"

"Actually, its a common drink that's a favorite at nearly any bar or club you go to," Shito spoke with a sly grin, rubbing his chin as he looked up in a reminiscent way, "from what I can call its basically a hard liquor with an unusually attractive scent, with a highly erratic mental disruptance chemical that leads to instaneous indisposed beahvior-"

"Whoa, doc, speak smaller words!" The tomboy suddenly waved her hands comically, her eyes as wide as dishes as she slightly regretted asking the straightforward man in explaining the drink, "I meant to ask is it a good drink as much as you talked about?"

"One of the best I've ever tasted, and by reputation, something very few people can stomach, men or women. I think I remember that conversation about the drunk Paladin? Due to their Genetically Enhanced bodies, it would've taken at least three bottles straight to cause someone like him to be drunk, let alone raving. For you or me? Drinking large gulps would lead you to start ranting in a alcoholic induced cry that'll make you sound crazy..."

"You don't understand the depths of my pain!! Neither of you do!! I must drink it all away!! That is my destiny!! You cannot turn me away from it, you vile heathen!!"

One of Shou's eyebrows twitched at the mention and the memory of Genesis. "Yeah, I think that "sounding crazy" would be a big understatement..." He muttered, looking towards Shito. "I didn't tell you about what happened during that whole talk about it, did I?"

"What? What are you talking about?" Anton turned his head to look over towards Shou to listen.

"Well, it just so happened that Tōketsu-san had a bottle with her, right?" Shou decided to start using hand gestures in order to explain. "Two bottles, to be exact. She gave one to Genesis as a token of appreciation for keeping her alive throughout the whole ordeal, she drank it, and..." He took in a deep breath, lowering his head and pinching the bridge of his nose. "Yeah. I'm grateful that she didn't start bouncing off the walls or anything like that..."

"So allow me to get this straight..." Angelika muttered, looking over her shoulder with an unamused look at Shito. "You offered to give him a drink that would've potentially made him... "crazy"?"

"No more than any other drink would!" Shito defended, shaking his hand in emphasis in a restrained burst of pride, "you'd never feel more enlightened than when taking a drink from Spill! Its probably one of the best sensations of elation that you'd ever feel!~"

"Yeaaaah, forget I asked about it," Hyōryū rolled her eyes after she heard what happened, blinking only to see the Inn mentioned by Angelika just to their right, "let's just try to get through the day without drinking mind-spasm alcohol, shall we?"

"Agreed." Angelika added, quickly shifting to her right and walking towards the building. As she looked up, she could see the words "Sarin's Haven" hung in big, neon letters over the entrance. Had it been night-time, they would've been glowing. "The last thing we want is for one of us to go clinically insane..."

Once she reached the doors, she reached out and pushed them open. As she stepped aside for her compatriots to enter, she took a moment to look at their new surroundings.

For the main lobby, it was quite massive. The fact that there were only a few other people currently within the area emphasized the size. The walls were made orange by the many chandeliers that hung across the ceiling. It was somewhat cooler than it was outside due to air conditioning, but the temperature was still kept to a comfortable level. Overall, it seemed like a pleasant place to stay...

"Nice and cozy," Shito spoke aloud in wonder, looking around as he scratched his chin as he blinked at the chandliers, "a bit too premium for my tastes, but at least it smells cleaner and feels nicer than I'd expect it to be."

"Guess being in the Capital of a large society allows you some extra privies," Hyōryū muttered aloud, looking around herself, finding it such a large and nice looking establishment.

"Excuse me, ladies and gentlemen," the Innkeeper, according to the nametag, Johanne, spoke to them with a well established buisness suit, with a jet black combed crop of hair and a clean shaven, strong jaw, smiling a pair of winning smiling teeth, "welcome to Sarin's Haven! The best place of sanctuary and comfort in all of Shinhae! Please, allow me to aid you into getting yourselves any room of your choosing," he ended up looking at Angelika, winking briefly, as he caught her appearance as the most commanding as well as the most attractive of the group.

At this point, Angelika had to admit that maybe she didn't look too much like a hobo.

She gave a nodding bow in return to the statement, picking up where he had left off. She kept a formal, but relatively light tone in her voice as she spoke. "Thank you very much. All of us will be preferring single rooms, with the exception of the couple." She nodded her head to indicate Anton and Hyōryū, the former of which raised his hand to give a light wave.

"Very well! I'll arrange for the Gentleman suites available for all of you using your own rooms, and the Lovers Suite for the lovely couple," Johanne spoke in a fetching, polite tone as he began marking down spots for each of them, smiling approvingly to Hyōryū and Anton, the prior blushing heatedly and tried to look away in embarassment.

After signing a few things, he looked over his shoulder to a woman, dressed in an assistant's uniform with a nametag of her own, and spoke out to her with a beckoning tone and gesture, "Angel! Will you be a dear and hand these lovely guests their keys and show them to their quarters?"

It was here that Angelika turned her gaze over towards the one who had immediately reacted towards the command.

She was a woman of Caucasian descent. Her long, blonde hair was swept back behind her in a neat fashion, going past the neck and a little past the shoulders. Her uniform was standard, with a black dress coat, the purple collar exposing the existence of the shirt underneath, and a black skirt. Her high heel shoes clapped softly against the ground as she walked towards them in a coordinated fashion. One leg moved in front of the other with enough of an angle to cause a slight hip sway - something that would definitely be noticeable to the males of the group.

"Sometimes, it sucks having a girlfriend." Anton thought, trying to look as innocent as possible.

"Those are some rather... expressive... legs..." Shou was doing the same... with a bit more success, considering that he didn't have to worry about anyone slapping him in the face.

"Of course, sir." The woman in question spoke with a clipped and light tone, giving a nodding bow to him. She turned towards the group, raising a free finger to quickly count out the number of people. In the other hand was what looked like a binder, presumably for the storage of active key cards. It only took a few seconds before she lowered her hand back down, giving a small smile an a nod to each of them. "If all of you would, please follow me!"

Smoothly, she turned on her heel and began to lead the way, her heels continuing to make that a rhythmic click.

"She has lovely eyes," Shito thought with a smile, his mind going in a completely different direction, as he couldn't get over the long, smooth and silky looking blonde hair that hung down her back and shoulders, but most of all her eyes were captivating when he momentarily locked onto them, "crap, I think I'm crushing on her and I just met the gal...!"

"Well aren't we miss show-off?! Stupid bitch cheerleader hostess!" Hyōryū glared heatedly, with eyes that were locked onto the back of her blonde head after doing a once-over the casual, yet subtle flirtatious walk she did. Sideglancing, she thought she saw Anton spying on her legs but dismissed it, intending on making her collateral damage should the enemy track them down here.

Although the blonde didn't notice it directly, it was hard not to feel the sudden animosity that bore into the back of her head. She half-lidded her eyes, her brows furrowing in a hidden expression of humorous discomfort. There was even a comical sweatdrop, as she was completely oblivious to what she had done. It was a perfect moment for her hair stereotype to fit. "Is one of them glaring at me? What'd I do?"

When she stopped at an elevator, she turned her head back towards the group. The expression of comical anxiety had vanished, replaced by a pleasant and positive smile. "So I see you've already met with Johanne." She commented, pressing a button. "Hope his demeanor didn't get to you in any way. He just wants to make sure all of the residents of this inn are comfortable living here."

"...right." Anton deadpanned, his snarkish attitude distracting him from his former thoughts. Inwardly, he was grateful; any more, and he was certain he was going to get caught. "Well, the next time we meet, could you tell him not to wink at us? That shit can carry many different messages, and the one I'm thinking of isn't the best of them."

"I'm pretty sure it was directed to Frau Angelika and Hyōryū-san, not us, Anton," Shito leaned his head over, whispering to him in emphasis of what he was certain wasn't directed to him or everyone as a whole. The man certainly didn't meet the visual he'd take for a man interested in both opposite ends of the gender.

Hyōryū however, managed to drop her smile to a lopsided grin of humor, snorting as she elbowed Anton as she joked, "Yeah, I'm pretty sure since he arranged the Lovers Suite that you weren't his type, hehe!~"

"Ow." Anton was quick to rub the spot in where he was hit. Truthfully, though, it didn't hurt him that much. "Yeah, I bet..." He rolled his eyes, folding his arms across his chest and working his neck out for a bit.

Ding!

The elevator's doors closed, and Angelika was quick to step inside first. This was followed by Shou, then Anton, and then the rest of the group. As a result, they all ended up having to sit in the back in order to make room. There was plenty of it, but just enough to keep anything from being suffocating or crushing. After all, Sarin's Haven did have awareness of potential claustrophobia...

Once the blonde stepped in, the doors swiftly closed around them. With a slight shake, the elevator began to rise up towards its designated floor. Quickly, the blonde took the time to hand them all their respective keycards for their doors.

"So..." Shou was quick to begin talking afterwards. "I have a joke to tell. Why did the chicken--"

"Get out."

The interruption by Anton was enough to cause the lot of them to start snickering. Even Angelika couldn't help but chuckle, folding an arm across the chest and placing the other hand over her mouth.

"Anton, you've told everyone that chicken joke too many times," Hyōryū gently sighed, rolling her eyes as she smiled, chuckling along with everyone else.

Well, except Shito, whom just furrowed his brows before looking back at Anton, "What? Why did the chicken...what?! What did I miss?!"

"I guess not enough yet," Hyōryū lowered her head, starting to have a hard time believing Shito was actually a professional in any line of work. He seemed like a complete dunce! What, did he just focus on work and not socialize at all?!

"What?" Anton sported a slightly surprised look, even as he kept chuckling. "Don't look at me! I'm not the one who said it this time, it was Shou!"

In turn, Shou took in a deep breath in order to quell his own laughter. The grin was still on his face as he turned towards the rest of the group. "You didn't even let me finish what I was going to say! I could've said "Why did the chicken get eaten by the wolf" or "Why did the chicken lay an egg"? I might've even provided an in-depth answer of why it crossed the road!"

"Oh, really?" Anton cocked an eyebrow. "And what would that very deep answer be?"

"Well, maybe the chicken was a rooster that had a well-paying job, but no transportation. Maybe he had to run through traffic, dodging cars and big rigs just to get to his workplace. Then he has to run all the way back just to get to his nest where his beloved hen and two chicks are residing. You guys never think about that kind of stuff, do you?"

"And what type of job would involve making annoying noise in the morning?"

There was a thoughtful silence.

Then, the blonde of all people, had to speak up.

"...telemarketers?"

This time, Shito had to laugh aloud. He laughed so hard that he had to hold his gut and place a hand on his knees from falling forward embarassingly on the elevator's floor, "HAHAHAHAHAHA! WOW! I can't believe she said that...ehehehe!~"

Hyōryū couldn't help but laugh as well, not just about the truism joke that was told, but that Shito finally got a joke someone was telling, "Nice one Shito...you just might have some hope after all, hehe!~"

Inwardly, the blonde cheered for her addition within the conversation, even if it was only one word.

Ding!

At that moment, the elevator doors opened back up to reveal the hallway that would be accomodating their lot. The attendant was the first to step forward, turning herself and walking backward so that she could face them. "This is the fifth floor, which you all'll be staying on. For you two..." She pointed towards Anton and Hyōryū. "Your suite will be a while back from the rest. You understand, don't you?"

"Yeah, I suppose..." Anton shrugged lightly. "But..." His eyebrows furrowed, his expression taking on a look of disdain. "Seriously. Lover's Suite?" Briefly, he opened his mouth stuck his tongue, making a "blech!" sound. "That is just so... cheesy! The least your hotel could do is make it a bit more subtle..."

"Yeah, sure...it would be nice if it was that...subtle...ahem...," Hyōryū, however, was finding it hard for her to meet either Anton or this Angel's because of the awkwardness thrust upon her. Even as Shito gave her a shit-eating grin and a thumb's up, all she could do was lower her head, hoping her bangs would cover her blushing, crimson face.

"Have fun you two!~" Shito spoke in a sing-song voice as he exited with Angelika and Shou, allowing the assistant to take the couple up a ways before they'd get to their own personal suite, "remember: Safety first!"

"Piss off, virgin!!" Anton shot back over his shoulder.

Ignoring the giggling coming from the attendant, he turned his head back to face forward as they turned the corner. However, Hyōryū's face caught his attention. He couldn't help but smile a little. Her blush was rather adorable, to be honest. He allowed himself to lean his head downward to whisper in her ear. "Ey, don't get so stressed out over something like this..." He said gently. "We've all got a day of free time, and the least we could do is enjoy it. Relax..." For emphasis, he reached up and wrapped an arm around her shoulders. His hand gave her shoulder a comforting squeeze.

"Y-Yeah, you're right," Hyōryū smiled sheepishly, clearing her throat to renew her confidence, glad that Anton could be so reassuring to her, "after all, we have to set up shop and make sure we got a good view of the city so we can get in all the sights. After all," Hyōryū then leaned away slightly, asking Angel politely, "your Suite does have a good view of Shinhae, doesn't it?"

The woman was quick to give an affirmative nod, following the stop right outside the door of what would be their room. "Of course! You'll be able to get a bird's eye view of the main area of Shinhae, to be specific. It's also where the "Black Eagle's" execution is supposed to take place. If... you're into the public execution thing, of course..." The last bit of this was said with a tone of slight nervousness, which was emphasized by a light chuckle.

Once she pulled out the keycard for their room, she inserted it into the slot and retracted it once it let out a confirmation beep. She handed the card to Anton. "So, if you need anything, please don't hesitate to buzz us up. An attendant will be right with you."

"Thank you very much." Anton nodded in approval, giving a grateful smile all the while.

"I hope you will enjoy your stay..."

The woman extended her hand out towards Hyōryū's, clasping it in a formal shake...

...and that was when her voice, clipped and pleasant as it ever was, held the undertone of a person who knew more that they let on. The way she lowered her volume and pitch was enough to send a slight chill down Anton's spine. "...and I hope to see a good result of your future--" She took a brief, but subtly expressive glance towards the woman's case. "--endeavors."

She released the hand, promptly walking away from the two and whistling an innocent tune...

All Hyōryū could do was gulp nervously, before smiling as innocently as she could back to her, watching her sawshay away while whistling her carefree tune. As soon as she was out of earshot, she began walking towards the door where their Suite number was supposed to be, before looking over her shoulder nervously before whispering heatedly to Anton, "What the Hell was that about?! How in the world did she catch onto any of us?!"

"I..."

But Anton was unable to produce a straight answer. He could only watch as the attendant sauntered off, his pupils dilated slightly. How had the woman figured out who they really were? He was certain that everything had been hidden. They had even double-checked to make sure that no wire could be seen by the naked eye. It was next to impossible for anyone to identify them. So how did she know? And how long...?

"I don't know..." He muttered, after a brief silence. His eyes continued to follow the woman, even as she turned the corner and disappeared from their sight. "We took extreme precautions before we left. There was no way that she could've known. But... why did she act so... calmly about it? It's almost as if she's... encouraging us. No normal person would behave like that if they knew..."

"Whoever she is, we shouldn't act out of place. If she's an old friend of Angie's then it should be alright for us to proceed as if nothing happened," Hyōryū sighed, trying to slow her heart rate from the nervousness she felt when the woman departed their company.

"If she's an old friend..."

Anton's foreshadowing reply was followed by the opening of the door, and he allowed himself to step through. He stepped aside in order for her to enter. For now, he knew they would have to keep an eye on the girl. Something just wasn't right about her. Not only that, but she seemed vaguely familiar. Had they met before...?

Oh, well...

______________________________________________________________________________________________

Only a floor between Angelika's selected rooms...

"This hotel is niiiiiice!~" Zaii spoke out as he stretched out, looking out the window and over most of the residential neighbourhood they passed through in, "can't believe Asuka found such a great place to stay!"

"And the lady who led us up here wasn't a bad looker," Yajū spoke with his usual guttural tone, his smile leered as he looked out towards the door, remembering how often he was able to get away with looking at her body, "she's got a mighty fine pair of legs to go with that nice pair of jugs on her chest, mhmhmhm!"

"Yeah, she's hot, that's for sure!" Zaii nodded in agreement, strangely bonding with the Omega team member as he smiled with an equally lewd smile of knowing, turning around to face him with a twinkle of agreement that sparked between their eyes for their mutual lust.

"You two are repulsive," Shinshin spoke flatly, his eyes narrowed comically in a dry manner as he had removed his mask from earlier after entering the city, his hair now pulled back into a high-rise ponytail, giving him an effeminite appearance, "the fact you two don't even consider how easy it would be for you to be seduced by a potential spy or an assassin is laughable. Or did you not even notice the telling signs of how it appeared she knew something awry was with our company?"

"The only thing awry here is the fact you still have a stick up your ass," Yajū spoke with a disapproving growl of annoyance, before turning to face him while crossing his arms over his Aethian spellcaster coat he donned before entering the city, but kept his gloves intact, "why did she stick us in a room separate from the ladies anyways and kept us with someone as dull as you?"

"Perhaps so that white haired chick Genie wouldn't bloody your ass all over the walls for trying to molest her?" Zaii spoke in an almost snorting tone, trying not to make fun of his new teammate as to incur his wrath upon him.

"I just offered to be a little friendly with her during our down-time," Yajū spoke in an attempt to sound innocent, though the leering grin present on his face when he thought of the snow-white haired Daitenshi, it was all too clear what friendliness he would intend it to be.

"In any case, separate rooms gives us an advantage anyways, as they're stationed in the opposite end of the hotel but on the same floor," Shinshin spoke logically, trying to steer the path of speech to the intended reason they were all here, "Asuka will come get us when they're done setting up so we can start our assignments."

"I just hope they get done soon!" Zaii spoke in anxiousness, looking out the window with the anticipation of a little kid wanting to explore, "I want to see this city! Its so enormous, I can almost see it rivaling Tendan in size easy!"

Things within the ladies' quarters were a bit less than positive... at least, on Genesis's side.

Currently, she was demonstrating an ability that was natural for the Daitenshi: shape-shifting. It was a means to allow for the Daitenshi to openly spy on the populace above Hell without worry of being sighted out by others. The form she was donning was that of a woman with raven hair that was at neck-length and tinted with white, freckles on her face, and her skin a creamy color in contrast to the ghostly paleness of her usual form. For clothing, she wore a more casual attire; a gray hoodie with a black, four-pocketed vest, and a black skirt. She sat on the bed with her legs crossed, her hands folded within her lap. There was an expression of anxiety on her face, her eyes closed and her eyebrows furrowed slightly.

Click!

"Are you sure you're all right, dear...?" Asuka asked quietly, shutting the bathroom door behind her. Her expression was one of motherly concern as she walked up, sitting beside her. The motion seemed to jolt the Daitenshi out of her anxious trance, and her head snapped up immediately towards the "older" woman's direction. It took several seconds for her to register the question fully, and when she did, a smile was quick to race up on her face.

"Who, me? C-c'mon, you old hag, of course I'm all right! Why wouldn't I be?"

But both the smile and the tone she took clearly conveyed her undertone of nervousness. The expression on her face had faltered under Asuka's knowing look, and so they both knew that she wasn't "all right".

"You've been acting a bit strange ever since you saw that Angel girl..." The woman spoke up. "It's not good to keep stress-causing feelings to yourself--"

"Oh, and who do you think you are?" Genesis was quick to cut her off, her wary look immediately replaced a somewhat resentful one. She fixed the woman with a glare, which only intensified when she saw that it had no affect on its target. "My counselor? My mother?"

"A friend and a comrade." Asuka said simply, slowly raising her hands up in defense. "You don't need to get so defensive. I was only worried about you." Much to her displeasure, all this earned was a snort from Genesis.

"A friend and a comrade, huh?"

The female Daitenshi stood up, folding her arms across her chest and took a few steps away from Asuka. "I barely know you people. We've only been around each other for a few damn days and you're already calling me "friend"? That's a load of bull crap and you know it. You're a criminal, a scumbag, someone who does dirty deeds just to pay their rent. Someone like you shouldn't even have those two words in your literature!"

She swung herself around to face the expression of a slightly hurt woman.

"Besides... even if all of it was true, what are friends even good for? All they're going to do in the end is stab you in the back and throw you away when they're sick and bored of you? For a woman that supposed to be older than me, you are so fucking naive. Makes you wonder what that Angelika chick was thinking when she hired you, huh?"

Silence.

Then, Asuka gave a heavy sigh and pulled herself off of the bed. Her expression conveyed a weary disappointment, but it was clear that she wasn't going to push the argument any further. "All right. Sorry if I delved too far into personal issues... I suppose you're ready, then?"

It was something that made Genesis drop almost the entirety of her anger. There was no malice, no sarcasm within the tone Asuka took with her. As a matter of fact, there wasn't even much irritation. It kind of unnerved her, as she was expecting some sort of backlash for her rude and uncalled for outburst. Not that she had been saying stuff just to get the other woman riled up...

"W-well, yeah, I guess..." All fire had gone out of her tone, and she was left scratching the back of her head. "Let's go, then..."


Knock, knock, knock!

"Pizza delivery!" Genesis's voice came from the other side of the men's room. "All hot and ready for you--!"

SMACK!

"Ow!"

Tap-Tap-Tap-Tap-Tap-SKIIIIIIID-C-CLICK!

"I don't know what pizza is, but please give it to me!" Zaii, with the hyperactive overload of a child ran across the suite room's floor, before skidding before the door and swinging it open with a big smile and wide saucer eyes.

What he got was the deadpan stares of both Asuka and Genesis. The fact that Zaii seemed so ready for something that he didn't even know about was rather... brain-defying, to say the least. Then again, most of it was justified. Maybe it was simply due to the customs and culture he had been around.

Unfortunately, Genesis was not going to forgive him simply because he was raised around a certain society.

"...can I kill you now?"

"You can try," Zaii winked at Genesis, smiling toothily as he was seemingly unaffected by the dry stares, "but many have failed! Now seriously where's the pi-"

"They don't have pizza, ya idiot!" Yajū growled from inside, walking casually over while wearing a blank stare of his own to match the ire of both of his female companions, "she's just acting like a bitch is all. Its called sarcastic lying, if you must know..."

"Dammit!" Zaii swore aloud, pouting his head at realizing it was all a joke.

"I thought that's just her passive emotion," Shinshin spoke with a neutral tone of understanding, turning around to stand just beside Zaii as all three men unintentionally barred the women from entering. However, Shinshin turned a courteous smile to Asuka and nodded, "hello mother. Did your room get the vantage point you wanted?"

"Yes..." Asuka allowed herself to nod politely, her hands folded behind her back. "Thanks for asking, Shin-chan. But I prefer not to talk while we're standing out in the hallways. Could you please let us in?"

"Sure thing," Yajū spoke in interruption, grabbing the door and opening it in an unnaturally gentleman gesture of good will to the ladies. This allowed Zaii to walk over before flopping onto the bed, face first, groaning aloud in boredom as he kicked the bed while waiting for the girls to get in. In the meantime, Shinshin showed them in like a good host, while glaring at Yajū for looking at both pairs of legs entering the Suite.

"Is there a particular plan you had in mind for us, or are we planning as we go?" Shinshin asked in query, as he took the wall proximate to the window, crossing his arms within the folds of his large sleeves, his black matte attire and black high-rise ponytail made him almost meld into the darkness save for his fair complexioned face.

Asuka let out a heavy sigh as she stepped in first, with Genesis briefly following her lead before breaking off from her path. "I'm afraid this is a case in where we'll have to plan according to how everything is revealed to us." She said, closing the door behind her. "Details on the security patterns aren't exactly clear as of this particular minute. Because Oliver's execution is a big deal, security keeps shifting patterns in order to throw potential assassins and disruptions off track. It's going to be tough securing a position in such circumstances..."

"Pfft..." Genesis scoffed, placing a hand on her hip as she looked over in Yajū's direction. "You look at us as if you haven't seen a woman before in your life. Desperate, aren't we...?"

"No, but I know what I like," Yajū smiled leeringly with a full set of teeth, growling at the back of his throat as he walked around Genesis, eyeing her up and down while keeping out of arm's reach just barely, "and you're more than a handful from what I've seen."

Shinshin chose to ignore Yajū and Genesis' dialogue, nodding to her with certainty, "We should try avoiding contact or being seen with the other teams. That way, if one of us or one team is caught or finds no way out, we can let them assume they were working alone."

Asuka had to admire Genesis for not sweating under the gaze of what might as well have been the gaze of a predator.

Out of the corner of her eye, she watched as the girl smirked in return and began to shift her weight on each leg in accordance to where Yaju's positioned. "Oh, am I...?" She purred, meeting the man's gaze evenly. "I make you hot under that collar of yours, don't I? My presence makes your skin tingle, your fingers electric, and every part of your system boil. You just want to pounce and sink your teeth into me, don't you?"

"Oh, for the love of--"

Mentally facepalming, Asuka tried her best to keep her attention to the subject at hand. "Direct contact, at least." She added in. "That was the reason why we needed to stay in radio contact. If any sudden developments were to occur, we could easily get in touch and know about it..."

"Should we contact the others now and see how they're doing, or wait until we found some feasible information to exchange with each other?" Shinshin asked, fluently holding his concentration flawlessly under the overlaying dialogue laced by his compatriots.

"Ohhhh you know I do," Yajū growled back, smiling ferally as his eyes locked onto hers, continuing to draw closer as he circled around her, "I'd like to pin you down, make you beg to have the tenuous, arduous pleasure I'd give you. Then I'd make you want to fight back, draw blood, and tie me up and give yourself the impression that you're still the one in control. Then...I'd wrip that leash right back from your hands and pull you down on me..."

"What...the...hell?!" Zaii's eyes widened to a comical pair of saucers, as he momentarily raised his body up to see what was happening. On his left, Asuka and Shinshin talked serious about their plan of action. On his direct center was a circling Yajū, exchanging words of such thick sexual innuendo Zaii would have to use his sword to cut through it. He couldn't believe what he was hearing, let alone witnessing. It almost looked like the start of what would appear to be a rape scene...something that made him sweatdrop in witnessing such a debaucherous act, "what are you...two...doing?!"

Genesis did not bother to grace the shocked man with a response.

Instead, she placed both her hands on her hips and began to follow Yajū's path, resulting in both of them circling around each other. Briefly, she shuddered under the man's words, grinning all the while. "I like the way you tango, tiger..." She whispered. "But, really. Do you think you'd play with fire and get away unscathed? This bitch'll make you writhe and scream... just like a newborn baby..."

Asuka's eyebrow started twitching.

"I... think it'd be best to contact them now. In the meantime, could you be a dear and make sure that Genesis-san and Yajū-san don't do anything... inappropriate?" She asked sweetly.

This time, Shinshin could genuinely smile as he was given official power to do as he pleased to keep the two from messing around. Especially in a way he detests. "I'll make sure there won't be too much of a mess for you to clean up...I'd hate to dispose of their personal items onto the street below."

"Please," Yajū chuckled, suddenly bare inches flush with her, but not touching due to certain aware people from stopping them from having real fun later, whispering in a predatorially erotic tone, "By the time I'm finished with you...I'm going to make you wish you could scream...baby bitch!"

Zaii's eyes rolled to the back of his head and passed out, comically faceplanting onto the floor just over the foot of his bed, with his lower half still lopsidedly laying over it, and his arms flopped on either side. Twitching, gasping, and gurgling, the scene made him completely lose it due to the shock. How tragic.

"...now would be good." Asuka muttered pointedly.

With that being said, she turned away from the scene to click a finger on her hidden earpiece. "Hello, Angel-chan? This is Asuka. How's everything going down there? Over..."

SHFT-SNK-SNK!

"Back away from each other slowly," Shinshin spoke in a neutral, slow tone with his hidden palm blades extended out to hold bare centimeters away from both of their throats, "and I won't be forced to clean up the mess I'll make out of your throats, without killing you."

Yajū could only blink, barely restraining the urge to maim his comrade for interrupting his moment with his unofficial mate. Then, with a low growl, he spoke only two words that spoke his resentment of withdrawing, "Boner Killer..." before backing away from Genesis, only narrowly avoiding the blade's edge as he licked his lips at looking at Genesis one last time before walking over to his own bunk to pout.

"W-wha--"

Genesis, initially just as annoyed as Yajū was at having been interrupted by Shinshin, dawned a slightly surprised look when the man pulled out blades on them. Although she was barely aware of her own regeneration powers, she stumbled back out of instinct. "Woah, what's wrong with you?" She complained, folding her arms across her chest. "First you get confused at all the jokes I tell people, and then you threaten to slit our pipes when we're just flirting with each other?"

"That wasn't flirting..." Asuka thought, sweatdropping as she picked up the words. "That was downright verbal molestation of each other! How could you call that flirting?!"

Once the Daitenshi relaxed, she folded her arms across her chest and stared with a confused frown at Shinshin. "Who taught you your social skills, dude? A pack of wolves?"

"If you must know I was abandoned as a child by my mother," Shinshin began, speaking flatly to her with a unwavering stare, "then was found by my teacher who then in turn left me to fend for myself. Forced to become one of the most notorious swordsmen and killers in all of the Eastern Spiritual Realms, I became the right hand man for a murderer and a thug. I also made sure to disconnect my emotions in order to use them as my weapon to cut down my enemies instead of crying every night due to the emptiness within my heart and soul," he then spoke flatly as he gratingly, and morbidly sheathed the blades back up into his arms, a testatment to how vividly painful the life he endured, "I was never given an option to become social, Genesis, but was given a chance to learn to feel life again."

"Wow...this guy's life sound so sad I might actually start feeling less likely to kill him in his sleep, boner killer," Yajū thought sarcastically as he rolled his eyes at what he was hearing Shinshin speak of. He bore the physical pain as a means of enjoyment and way of eliminating his targets. He had no need for proper etiquette himself, but he knew enough street smarts when to listen to people telling you things you should do.

"...sorry I asked..."

Although she was somewhat expecting such an answer, Genesis couldn't help but feel a bit of the usual fire dim down against the melancholy of his words. Her expression softened, and she looked down at the ground for a brief moment in shame. Despite her rough nature, she never wanted to feel like she was a bad guy. She had just possibly and unintentionally struck a nerve with the man, and the last thing she wanted to do was create too much resentment for her.

Even if all of them were criminals...

But before she could say anything else...

"Everyone..." Asuka's voice was serene, but held a rather serious tone within itself as she turned towards the three. "There's been a bit of development Anton-san and Hyōryū-san discovered. Remember the blonde attendant that saw to us?"

Her eyes darkened slightly.

"Apparently, she's caught onto us. Though they don't know to what extent... she knows who we are, and possibly why we're here..."

"I suspected as much," Shinshin spoke finally, in a admittant and unsurprised tone as dropped any note of resentment he might've bore to the female comrade whom he was speaking with, "she seemed to drop too many tells to be an ordinary attendant..."

"The Hell do they know?!" Yajū spoke aloud with a chuckle, though irritation could be heard in the tone of his voice, emphasized with a dismissal wave of his hand, "how do we know they aren't completely paranoid? That chick didn't say anything to us suspicious, did she?!"

"Uhhhh," Zaii suddenly looked a little sheepish, as he came to and heard what had just happened and what was going on made sense behind his wide eyes, "I think...she knew...who I was...somehow..."

That was when all eyes turned towards him... and the two females' eyes were on him in particular.

"...please tell me... whatever it was wasn't some obvious, novice mistake." Genesis deadpanned, giving him an annoyed glare.

"Please tell me you didn't brag about your exploits did you?" Yajū spoke in a equally annoyed tone, glaring heatedly at him if he was the cause of their cover being blown.

Zaii's eyes widened further at the accusatory stares and shouts, waving his arms in panic as he emphasized his innocence, "NO! It wasn't like that! You all remember when we were in the elevator right?! We were all making jokes, laughing, well...," he sideglanced at Shinshin, "some of us were...and then when we got off onto our floor, I realized dropped something. It turned out to be nothing but a few coins I thought looked cool on the street but had pocketed them improperly. When I rose up, she was kinda looking me weird like with this eery smile. She then said, 'I hope you get your excercise here on your trip...it seems you're aching to take on the competition. Have pleasant stay,' and then she walks off, whistling creepy! I didn't know if it mattered or not because she was so vague, I swear...!"

"...you fucking idiot...!" Genesis was tempted to slap a palm on her face. "She probably saw your wire when you were bending over! And this was over some coins that "looked cool"?! Give me one reason why I shouldn't ram my fist down your kleptomaniac throat!" She was almost ready to walk right over to the man and follow up on that particular threat.

"Now, now!" Asuka's eyes widened slightly in alarm, and she raised her hands up in defense. "It was something with Team One. In any case, whatever it was, I'm pretty sure that it wasn't anyone's fault. Our attendant in question may have just been extremely intelligent and observant." A frown came over her face as she continued to speak. "But... I asked Angel-chan if she knew the woman, considering she has a considerable amount of moles in good places. Turns out that she's not affiliated with us an that she could be a leak..."

"Would you allow me the chance to dispose of her?" Shinshin spoke aloud and upon instinct, "if she's as intelligent as you claim, we'd need to send someone that can be subtle and track her down with ease. Whether she should be killed or not, it would be a good start to find out who she's working for and how long we have before our cover is exposed."

"I vote for killing the mole bitch as well!" Yajū spoke in a heartless, annoyed tone, finding it irritating some good looking babe became a possible cover as a way to take them down, "in my experience, whenever you find a spy, you decorate their hideout with their insides and take pictures with their equipment and send it back to their boss. It ususally sends the proper message fairly well..."

"Is it really necessary?" Zaii asked in query, realizing they were in a tight bind inadvertently due to his clumsiness, but also due to the fact they really could be in serious trouble.

It was a query that Asuka had to think about.

Of course, killing the girl right away wasn't an option. Murdering someone was something that couldn't be simply done and done with. Obviously, there would be people who would notice her sudden disappearance. Considering that they had just arrived on scene, people would quickly put the pieces together. Offing Angel right off the bat would prove to be more detrimental than helpful.

But obviously, they couldn't let her off the hook. Angelika knew this, and thankfully, she had known what to do.

"Killing her isn't." She said coolly. "But detainment is. We'll need to get her back here and have her tell us. We were left with the task of capture and interrogation, provided we have...well... more of the intimidating type out of our group than anyone else."

She then glanced over towards the four occupants of the room.

"Uh... no offense to any of you, of course..."

"The Hell it is!" Yajū growled, hopping up to his feet as he walked across the expanse between him and the pair, glaring at the woman in front of him before pointing nearly proximate to her face, "you saying we're not cut out to be intimidating enough?! Is that it?!-"

"I don't have a problem with it," Zaii shrugged, placing his arms behind his head in a carefree attitude, not particularly earnest into doing dirty work such as interrogating and torture.

"Me neither," Shinshin spoke nonchalantly, but smooth toned, as he turned his gaze back to Genesis and then Asuka, "who did you have in mind?"

"...it's rude to point, Yajū-san."

With that somewhat cheeky comment, Asuka gently pushed his finger away from her face before speaking to Shinshin. "We'll have to wait until nightfall. When that particular time comes, you'll be going out to fetch her. Tracking her won't be much of a problem, considering all you need to do is keep an eye on her spiritual signature. From there, incapacitate her and bring her back here. But make sure not to leave any long-lasting harm..."

"I'll be as gentle as I am able," Shinshin spoke with a hidden smile, his eyes twinkling with mischief only he could project to his mother, and his mtoher alone.

"Its rude to interrupt too," Yajū growled, turning around and faceplanting on the bed with a sigh.

Zaii then blinked, looking over at Asuka as he raised a hand in question, "So...what do we do in the meantime?"

"Well..."

This was where Asuka had to trail off. She looked down thoughtfully for a moment, trying to figure out what exactly it is they were supposed to do. Angelika had not supplied them with any specific orders on what to do, other than the upcoming detainment of the potential mole. So having racked her brain, she eventually allowed herself to shrug.

"I guess we can do anything we want, considering we're essentially tourists now..." She answered smoothly, allowing herself to stand up from her seat on the bed.

"YAAAAAAAY!!!~" Zaii shouted for joy, comically leaping off his bed and making a mad dash to the door, opening within a heartbeat before shouting back to the others, "I'll stay in contact! See ya laters!"

SLAM!

Shinshin could only blink. He couldn't believe how hyperactive Zaii had become over the course of arriving here. While the splendor and architecture was surely nothing like Tendan, the Soul Society, or Yūrei, it was almost as if he found the whole place like his personal theme park.

Yajū sighed, getting up from the bed before walking to the door himself, "If the hyperactive nutcase swordsman wants to see the sights, no need for me to stick around," he briefly smiled ferally at Genesis, winking at her before walking past her and the other two, waving back without looking, "I'll go check out how good the bars are around here. Chime me when something goes wrong...laters..."

______________________________________________________________________________________________

At the exact same time, in a more ground level area...

"Ahhhh! Fresh air!" Kenja spoke out with relief, walking out of the alleyway from which they've navigated away out of the secret entrance from the river system they've spent the last hour or so maneuvering through. With nothing changed other than a black hood covering his head, Kenja's naturally medieval appearance looked like a common attire someone within Aether to wear, whether they were military or not.

Shadō graced their presence as he withdrew from the shadows, thankful he didn't have to bear the scent of some of the areas where the "bad" water was redirected away from the city while traveling with the "good" water stream path. The realms from which he traveled had no real senses required, but just the sense of energy. He looked around in his usual attire, save for the rather large sword being replaced with what looked like a musical instrument strapped over his shoulder.

"Wonderful to be back to a place where I was almost murdered by Paladins," Mōka spoke glibbly, maintaining a positive attitude despite being morbid with her choice of words as she looked around. Her swords dematerialized and now sporting an exotic dress, hidden only by an olive green robe that covered herself more than Kenja's, and her hair pulled back in the same way, you could tell she was a visitor just by looking at her.

"Yippee--!!"

CLATTER! BANG!

Yusuke's entrance... was less than spectacular.

Although he had approached flawlessly behind his compatriots, he had purposefully lagged behind to see if he could jump three trash cans they would've passed by otherwise. Luckily for him, all of them were empty. So at the risk of tripping on it, he performed a physical running leap.

The result?

His foot getting caught in the an open trash can, and him promptly crashing to the ground.

Now, he had a palm to his face and was laughing, his chest heaving with each and every vocalization. "I... I think I sprained my ankle...!" He managed to get out. Apparently, the thought of making a monkey out of himself upon his first impression wasn't a shame-bearing one.

Kenja couldn't help but chuckle at the childish sight Yusuke protrayed. Walking over, he bent down ruffled his hair, asking him in good humor, "When you're done laughing at your own clumsiness, are you able to stand, or do I have to play horse with you again?"

"I can't believe this boy managed to hold of someone as strong as Zaii," Shadō thought in a nervous, almost comically disbelieving line of thought, sweatdropping at the sight of Yusuke laughing his head off after landing without grace after tripping over his destined obstacles. He could only hope he didn't accidentally trip during a stressful or critical point throughout their mission.

"No, I--" Yusuke had to fight through his snickers in order to speak. "I'm good, I'm fine..."

He rolled himself over and (due to his own laughter) had to struggle in order to get on his feet. He placed his hands on his knees, trying to recover himself. "Ah, jeez..." He said mirthfully, shaking his head. "I'm sorry about that, but... I just saw those trash cans, and I couldn't help but think to myself, "I have to jump those cans." Well, now I know I can't!"

"Let's hope Paladins don't rig traps involving trash cans then, kid," Mōka spoke aloud with a snicker of her own, nodding to him and the others, leading the way into the populated cobblestone streets of the marketplace, making sure to allow them plenty of time to catch up and within ear shot, "our objective is to pay attention to the little details. From what it sounds like, the other teams are handling the unknown variable and the patrols bordering the area of interest with where we'll pick up the package."

"We'll need to check some of the local Inns and Taverns around here then," Kenja nodded, looking around with a casual gaze, making sure he could see them even within the densely populated street.

"Good," Mōka nodded with casual acceptance to Kenja's offer, "feel free to do so. Just, try to hold back from being too casual. It would be such a shame if you got into a bar fight and drew attention to yourself, or passed out with us having to drag you along..."

"I'll have you know I have an excellent resilience to liquor of any kind, thank you," Kenja spoke insistantly, raising his head with pride before smiling widely as he spoke, "besides, I need a whole lot of casual talking before I even get tipsy..."

"What place would you suggest first, boss lady?" Yusuke questioned, hands folded behind his back. His eyes were doing exactly as Mōka told them to o; inspect the little details. This was done through the guise of a sightseeing gait and attitude, with him paying special attention to the more prominent ones.

"We should start with that Inn first," Mōka nodded to their upcoming left, a fairly large establishment approached with a large chimney on its roof. It read out in bright, light-reflective letters, The Merry Men Inn, and from the tone of the music and the hustle being sounded within, it certainly gave off that aura. Still, Mōka knew to be careful about appearances, as they could be monitored by anything or anyone that could give them away if they asked the wrong people the wrong questions.

"Should I stick to the shadows for additional recon?" Shadō asked smoothly, looking to the guidance of his assigned squad leader.

"Do it," Mōka spoke casually, but held a hidden note of command in her tone as she rolled her neck passively, cracking a few loose knots in her upper back as she did so, "make sure not to kill anyone unnecessarily. We don't want people to check for people not checking in."

"Understood," Shadō nodded, splitting off into the shadows within the alleyway, soon after disappearing from all sensation and sight.

"Now gentlemen," Mōka spoke with a smile, looking to Yusuke and Kenja as she wrapped an arm around each of their own as she walked in with a hearty spirit in her eyes, "let's go in and have some fun!"

Yusuke didn't bother to question why.

"Whoo~!" He let out a cheer, pumping his fist in the air. "We're gonna get wasted!" However, he abruptly stopped himself, a confused expression on his face. "Uh... that's a good thing... right?"

"We're trying not to get wasted, dear boy," Kenja corrected Yusuke with a laugh, as they entered the smoke-filled atmosphere of the loud and boisterous atmosphere. Many tables scattered around, with various wooden carved pillars holding up the roof and floor of the next few floors up the vast heighted tavern, there appeared to be a small elevator shaft that sent bartenders up and down each counter to the various floors. All-in-all, while it wasn't packed uncomfortably, it was very busy, "we're trying to see why everyone is celebrating in here. Then, we can get wasted..."

"Whoo~!!!" Cried Yusuke as he scurried off to enjoy the writhing atmosphere of the alive, excited bar. As the three went their separate ways to act casual, Mōka couldn't help but feel a little...trepidation...when mingling with the commoners. Was there someone watching them? Someone disguised? She knew she'd have to take that chance, as she sat at the bar counter and asked around, little knowing a sharp eye watched her from the darkness.

An eye...that seen her once too many times...

In the Middle of the Night, Twilight Hour of the Eagle!

CLANG-CLANG-CLANG!

"Holmes! You have a guest!" Yelled the jailor, a man impartial to both sentencing and to what all prisoners have done within the dark, damp, and cold cells from which he imprisons them. Balding, overweight, and looking forward to the day of retirement from his dreary and morbid job, he hadn't spoken a word to Oliver since the Prime Cohort guards deposited him into his cell. With no special weaved cuffs other than being nearly impervious to shattering with brute strength, he was pushed into a ten foot by ten foot steel room, with no lights to speak of as well as anything to sit on other than a purposely studded floor.

The door separating him from the outside was also made of similar material, retaining only a few creases to allow ventilation and little else.

Needless to say, it wasn't the best of places to say.

Because of the lack of material within the cell, Oliver couldn't really do much other than sit down. However, the cold temperature that he was in forced him to eventually get up and pace around occasionally in order to build-up warmth. It wasn't a very fun position to be in, and he might as well consider it an insult to injury considering that he was going to be executed. But it wasn't exactly something that would break him. He would live... for the time being.

He had been pacing around once more when the jailor banged his baton against the steel bars. Slowly, he turned around and regarded the man for a moment, tilting his head to the side as he approached the barrier. In contrast to the tongue-lashing he had given the judges, he had been strangely cooperative and silent during his stay. Maybe it was because of the inevitable?

"Wonder who exactly would visit the big bad Eagle?"

As the door opened, a soft voice could be heard but not audible to the prisoner, as it was directed only to his warden. As soon as the door opened, the slight and stubby form of the jailor could be seen, followed by the blonde, blue eyed caucasian visage of the man's former superior. Wearing grey matte fatigues instead of his usual colorful attire that befitted his Knight Captain position, the man bore no usual cheer or playful gleams within his eyes. They only bore a solemn, stoic sadness that was barely restrained from the neutral tone in his voice.

"Oliver," he spoke firstly, walking in to face him, not wearing any weapons or armanents upon his person as per procedure, "its been awhile."

And unlike the rest of them, Oliver would personally recognize the man.

"Captain Xavier Longstreak of the First Cohort..." He answered readily, meeting the man's gaze with a serene and casual look of his own. "The years seem to have been quite harsh on you, haven't they?"

"And to you, if what I've heard is accurate," Xavier spoke back smoothly, crossing his arms as his eyes met his without flinching, looking at his long prodigal subordinate's appearance and the disposition he held himself in, before responding next, "you haven't changed a bit from what I remembered. Except...broken, now that I see you standing on death's door and with no one to come to your aid."

"Broken...?"

Oliver repeated the word as if it hadn't been written in the dictionary, as if he had heard incorrectly. But when he spoke again, his smooth tone conveyed a slight bit of annoyance. "You obviously don't know the meaning of the word, then..." He spoke. "I have been twisted. I have been bent. But I have never, ever, been broken. If I was indeed broken, I would be in a mental asylum right now instead of a jail. Unless, of course, Aether's sense of discrimination between the lost and the found are still as blurred as I remember them to be..."

"Your confidence is gone, Oliver, that is what I'd call broken," Xavier spoke without fault, closing his eyes briefly, an indication of regret before opening them again, "you were always a man that saw things outside the box. You refused to be held down by the order and the way of things. While you may be deemed too dangerous as a normal, common soldier, you had...potential. Looking back now, I realize that it wasn't the kind've power we should've tampered with. Your powers are still hidden from you, but your potential for destruction and death...still hangs over you, Oliver Holmes."

Oliver's upper lip curled slightly at the first sentence, and for a moment, anger flashed within his eyes. He didn't like the fact that Xavier was speaking to him as if he knew him from the inside out. But of course, it could be justified; at the time of his service, Xavier was a father figure and a mentor to his troops, caring for each and every one of them as though they were his own children. It was a result of their closeness that allowed it.

But then he remembered what it led to.

The anger was quick to recede.

"Yes, potential..." He said back, a small smile crossing his face. "I only needed "potential" to slay an entire base of Aethian soldiers, didn't I? And it's all thanks to you, after all. You were the ones who gave me the tools, the skills, and the ability to kill in cold blood for the sake of destroying our enemies. Aren't you proud of me, my teacher? All of "them" were my enemy, and I killed them with efficiency and without hesitation. The higher-ups must've been thinking of giving you a promotion when they heard that one of their elites blew up an HQ all by himself, right?"

"You may have been giving the means, but that has never given you the right, Holmes," Xavier spoke with a sudden shift into a guttural growl, lowering his hands to his sides. The audible squeeze of his leather gloves indicated the barely restrained menace held in his tone, something none of his subordinates present and past had ever seen within him. When confronted with the most bitter and unpleasant work, Xavier ofte had to push himself into this disposition, shown from the cold glare in his eyes and the slight curl of his lips as he spoke venomously and without restraint, "I hope you're satisfied with how your life turned out. Not only have you murdered your family, your friends, and your comrades, you were able to kill and maim for years after, under the work of someone who's no more innocent than you are. My only regret now is that she isn't the one hanging next to you, Oliver Holmes!"

"And she never will be." Oliver answered readily, shaking his head for emphasis. "If you couldn't catch me in all those years..." He paused for a moment, briefly lowering his head to take on a smile and a chuckle before he raised it back up. "Well, you're obviously not going to catch her. She's too cunning, too smart, and too slippery for those pudgy little fingers of yours. So yes... my life under her was far better than someone who had the gall to mess with the inner workings of my head. But at the very least, you got your "perfect" soldier, didn't you?"

"I never got that soldier," Xavier spoke lowly, turning his back upon Oliver, as he opened the gate and left the prisoner with only a sparing glance, "all I got was a monster instead..."

SLAM!

With the sudden slamming motion of the cell door, all became deathly quiet once again.

That was when Oliver allowed himself to smile - a gleaming, toothy smile that seemed to shine even within the darkness of his cell. He retreated back into the shadows and continued his idle pacing motions, satisfied with the outcome of the conversation. Even if it was his last moments, he wouldn't care. He would use every bit of it to instill everlasting terror into the ones who would come to his execution, making sure that his legend stayed afloat for another millennium. No one would ever forget the Black Eagle, the atrocity that the military created. No one would dare to forget the ones lost at his hands.

"That's what soldiers are, teacher... that's what soldiers are..."

______________________________________________________________________________________________ At the same time, at a particular Inn's lobby...

"I have her in my sights, mother," Shinshin spoke in a low, subtle tone as he casually read the paper while keeping his keen senses locked onto the woman as she looked as if she was turning in for the night, "she appears to be ending her shift here at the Inn. She doesn't seem to be hurried or stressed as I can see...she might be keeping her cover so no one expects anything."

"They always do." Asuka answered readily on the other end. "Wait until she makes the move to either exit the building or head towards the dormitories. Then apprehend her."

As for the girl, she let out a heavy sigh as she leaned over the counter, a rather weary expression on her face. It would've been hidden from everyone else, but the execution tomorrow had a rather negative effect on her. One could say that she simply abhorred the taking of life in any way. But if one looked deeper, they would understand that such was only part of the reason why she was so tired. Of course, she wouldn't let that slip...

She pushed herself off of the counter and drew in a deep breath. She shut her eyes, folding her fingers together and stretching her arms over her head. "Jeez, I'm so tired...!" She complained. "Feels like I haven't slept in days... oh, well. That's gonna be remedied once I go home and pass out on my bed..." She allowed herself to turn around, making her way to the exit.

"Heading off, Angel?" The Innkeeper spoke aloud, washing his hands from helping out in the kitchen behind the counter. He had a curious, yet still lighthearted tone, as he was naturally pleasant with all the help he came across, Angel being no exception.

"Yeah, I might as well..." The girl muttered, stopping for a moment to place a hand on her hip and turn her head over her shoulder. "Since I'm done sorting out the luggage now, I should be going home and preparing for the big event tomorrow. As... morbid... as it is, it's also going to be quite a popular event. The journalists are going to be all over it..."

"Yes well, nasty buisness. No matter the sins of another person, I still think its quite...barbaric...stringing poor souls up like that," the man spoke in an honest, disdainful tone before looking up at her with understanding, "still, I'm glad to see you're doing your part in witnessing it. Suppose to be history in the making, from what I've been hearing..."

"Yeah... history..." A resentful sigh came from Angel in response to it, and she turned her attention back to the door in front of her. "Of course. I'll see you tomorrow, Johanne..." With that being said, she pushed the door open and stepped out into the cool, night air.

"I'm following her out," Shinshin spoke lowly as he put away the paper, taking slow, purposeful strides out to the exit, reaching it in only a few seconds.

Johanne, however, looked over to see Shinshin and called out to his attendent, "Hey, Angel dear! Considering the watch for the Blood Coat has gone up, why don't you have this fine gentleman accompany you home?"

"Dammit..." Was all that Shinshin could think, but maintained his stoic and passive features as he looked to Johanne in particular before looking out the open door which the said Angel was standing out in the cool open cobblestone streets.

"Uh--!!"

That was enough to take her by slight surprise.

She abruptly turned her gaze to Shinshin, a subtle expression of disbelief on her face as she regarded him. For one thing, she was surprised at the quickness he had displayed within the few seconds. One moment, he was sitting at a table. The next, he was right in front of her? She would've assumed that such a display would've tipped Johanne off to something to suspicious. But then again, he might've assumed that he was with her...

Slowly, she put on a slightly bashful smile. "W-well..." She began, chuckling nervously. "I guess I forgot about that... if it's not too much trouble..." She looked over towards Shinshin - a hidden inquiry of whether or not he wanted to accompany her.

"I wouldn't mind at all," Shinshin spoke in the most courteous tone, nodding to Johanne smiling slightly, indicating to the other man he was indeed with her. Turning to the woman with a knowing look, perhaps being the face she somehow keyed off as a earlier, he couldn't care at this point. At least it would give reason to see what this woman knew instead of attempting to chase her down through the streets, "shall we be off, Angel-san?"

Angel gave an acknowledging nod. "It's going to be a long walk, though. Just follow me..." She let go of the open door to let it close, closing her eyes for a moment as she headed down the sidewalk. The cold air made her shiver a little, but it wasn't much to pay attention to. As a matter of fact, it was a bit refreshing to be out... even with the threat of the "Blood Coat"...

Shinshin then walked in step with Angel, leaving Johanne behind as he waved them off before finishing up to close up the Inn. They walked down the cold, autumn air of Shinhae, with relative peace. With the occasional squad of RAC men patrolling the streets and a few stragglers getting home in the twilight hour, it was a very quiet and tranquil setting.

It wasn't until a good fifteen minutes passed of silence between the two came until Shinshin broke it, speaking in a inquiring tone, "I assume Angel is your forged identity you chose to work with at the Inn?"

"Angelina McKenzie..." Was the response that she gave back, looking over her shoulder. The tone in her voice conveyed that she had been ready to answer - something that could be justified with the time given. "Johanne calls me Angel for short. But yes... that's the alias I go under here..."

"Ah," Was all that Shinshin responded verbally, walking another minute within silence, waiting until another question became more prompt.

"You seemed to know our female companion, the one with raven hair and speckled skin." Shinshin looked over with a still nonchalant attitude, not ready to press for a full interrogation when simple small talk might get him what he needed, "was there a reason for that?"

Here was where Angelina stopped herself, her eyes widening in slight surprise.

"The raven haired..."

She turned herself around, regarding Shinshin with a look of genuine confusion. "No, I... I'm afraid I didn't know her, per say..." She admitted, turning herself around towards him. She knew that she had to keep her conversation shifted, for she knew the R.A.C. were listening on everything. "I guessed by the shape of the supplies she was carrying. My job requires that I myself handle those types of cases when dealing with customers..."

"I don't think so," Shinshin pressed, his eyes now looking at her eyes, noticing the shifting of her eyes before nodding in understanding, "how about we continue this conversation at your home over a cup of tea? That is, if you think this information is best left away from prying eyes, do you?"

"Of course..."

Though she was a bit unnerved at the judgmental gaze, the girl simply confirmed agreement and resumed walking. She knew that if she wanted to pass this little session, she would have to spill a bit of truth to him. It was risking her true identity as well as the reason why she was here. But it was better than getting the answers forced up her throat via interrogation methods...

It didn't take too long to reach her abode. With only another quarter of an hour's travel, they eventually reached one of the several residential districts, this one being the most proximate to that of the market district they came from. Shinshin nodded to the girl promptly, allowing her to guide him up to the door step of the house that would be hers, one of the many town houses similar to that of what is commonly seen within City residences within Aether.

Quickly, Angelina reached into her pocket and pulled out her key ring, picking out the right one. "You'll have to forgive me if it's a little warmer in here than usual, I have a habit of keeping the heating vent on just in case the night's cold..." She said, pushing the key in the hole and twisting it the right way. Then, she grabbed the handle and pushed her way in, clicking on the lights.

It was a rather informal place. The walls and ceiling were colored blue, while the floor was colored in a tile's mix of black and white. In rooms such as the living room or the dining room, there was a green carpet placed on the floor. There was a flight of stairs that led upwards - presumably to her attic. All in all, it was a simple place.

"I'll get the tea ready..." The woman said softly. "Um... sit anywhere, I suppose...?"

"I'll sit here," Shinshin spoke with assurance in a soft tone of his own, walking over to sit next to the fireplace and sat in a atypical Indian meditative stance, sitting on his calfs and knees, keeping in an upright passive stance. He looked quite comfortable, hence the calm tone he turned to her as he asked, "do you have any Oolong herbal tea?"

"No, but I do have green..." The woman looked slightly thoughtful as she disappeared out of sight, presumably on her way to the kitchen. "Is that good enough?"

"Quite," Shinshin nodded, finding himself smiling slightly, despite the nature of his visit with this woman, "are you a woman with an acquired taste for such drinks?"

Though he wouldn't see her expression, he would hear the slight increase in mirth in her reply. "Oh, I'm a bit of a traveler, to be honest!" Her voice rang from the kitchen, clear for him to hear her. "So I've have the chance to be around multiple types of drinks, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic included. Would you like it cold or warm?"

"Warm, please," Shinshin spoke with a nod, even though she couldn't see his expression other than the neutrally polite tone, "ever made your way to the Seireitei or Rukon Districts of the Japanese Soul Society? I've actually traveled past there from the East, if you can imagine, so this is my first time here in Shinhae, Aether."

"I actually do business in the Seireitei when I'm out of Aether..." The girl's voice explained. "You see, journalism and hotel service are simply side things for me. My real job is situated within the Rukon districts. I serve as a gunsmith and armorer for Kidō gun manufacturing, and we've gotten quite popular with both enthusiasts and government-based individuals alike. It's gotten to the point where I've needed a few helping hands in order to help me pull through and not stress out..."

It was at that moment she came back into view, entering the area he was in. After looking down on his position with slight interest and curiosity, she moved closer and shifted herself into a sitting position in front of him. Her legs were positioned underneath her in a parallel-leg seating posture. "When I said that I could tell who she was, at least to an extent, by the supplies that she was carrying... I wasn't lying to you. I deal with them regularly."

"I see, that makes sense," Shinshin spoke in a passive tone, though his piercing eyes gazed into hers, as he tried his first attempt of making an accusation, "Even the girl who came in after us on the same elevator? The one who was carrying a large case made to appear like a art supply case, that was concealing a highly illegal ranged armanent within your gaze?"

"Not that one, no..." Angelina explained, using her hands to gesture out her words and feelings. "The one she had held a weapon of a different company other than mine. The heavy caliber rifle I had designed was the G1A1 Crusader - something that was meant to contest it in terms of firepower and accuracy. As a matter of fact, I had one delivered to your doorstep along with two H1NO Archenemy Pistols... did they ever get sent through?"

Shinshin now understood. Still, he had to pause as he just realized who this woman was to them, as V-14's main source of Kidō tech and armanents. With a smile of recognition, he nodded, "Yes, actually, the man who recieved them fairly recently was able to employ them in the field. I had no idea that our other supplier was none other than the Head of the Taikodansō Company. Oliver never did tell me that such a capable woman was the source for his new, errm, toys..."

"That's..."

This was where Angelina's casually positive mood faltered a little. There was a wistful look in her eyes, and she momentarily averted her gaze away. "That's because he... didn't know about me..." She muttered. "I made sure the shipping package was labeled as anonymous before it was sent. He still doesn't know that I'm the one who sent those weapons to him..."

"I apologize," Shinshin bowed his head, feeling like he hit a nerve unintentionally when it was supposed to be a compliment, "I didn't know. I'm actually a little new to this little group you've supplied us with armanents. I only know vague details here and there besides specs. Speaking of which," he then looked back up at her, attempting to divert the conversation, as unpleasant as the subject might be, to the seriousness at hand he intended from the start, "what's your connection with him? Oliver Holmes, the accused Black Eagle who's going to be executed tomorrow?"

Silence.

Angelina folded her hands in front of her mouth, with only her blue eyes visible. They conveyed a mixture of apprehension, nervousness, sadness as they looked at him. She didn't bring herself to speak to him in that moment, fighting over the idea of telling him or not. Would it be a risk? Or would it be something that could be taken to her advantage? Could she really trust this man and hope that nothing would go wrong?

In the end, she decided to go for it.

"...let me say up front... that I'm only telling you this on the hopes that it won't be taken out of the boundaries of your group..." She said lowly, lowering her folded hands to her lap. "I never planned on telling anyone this, and I wanted to keep it a secret... but now that they've got him, I guess that's not much of an option anymore."

She took in a deep breath, closing her eyes and blinking away the salt water that had accumulated within the corners. When she opened them, she leaned forward, almost as if she was fearful that what she would say would somehow reach the ears of someone outside.

"The man that they're going to hang tomorrow... he's my father."

Silence followed once more as those words were said softly.

"It all makes sense," Shinshin thought, even as his normally stoic gaze widened at hearing this revelation, with the audible hitch of his breath gasping at such a proclamation made by the woman, "the way Genesis was acting after she saw her must mean they're related as well, especially with the latter young woman's reference to Oliver being Dad. The reason she'd ship high grade weapons anonymously to him without a name. The fact she knew about all of us and gauged our intentions for being here as well as her usual base of HQ being in the Soul Society's Rukon Districts: To save Oliver Holmes, her father."

"I see," Shinshin spoke softly, trying to be as delicate and as well as empathetic as he could with the woman, a basic stranger to his case, as well as one whom has been unknowingly aiding them from the shadows. After considering for a few moments, Shinshin nodded, "so I assume that's why you're visiting Shinhae? For the most historical event of Aether since its Civil War?"

"Yeah..." Angelina nodded. "My father was a good man... he really was. Even through the hardship that he suffered with the R.A.C.... he always did his best to look after Mom and us. He always put himself in front of us when we were in danger, always taking the brunt when times were too rough. He always made sure his daughters grew up to be independent and able to stand up on their own two feet, while at the same time making sure we grew up in a good environment. He did all the work..."

She closed her eyes, placing a palm to one half of her face and lowering her head slightly.

"I have a debt to repay to him. I don't care about the massacre he committed. No one, let alone Dad, deserves to get hung from the gallows and have his body strung up like some artwork in a museum. Tomorrow... even if I have to face down the wrath of the Paladinus Primus herself, I'm going to save him."

Shinshin reached out with his right hand to place it on her free one, squeezing it empathetically and reassuringly as he spoke in a smooth, confident tone, "That is why V-14 is here. We're here to rescue your father, our comrade, from certain death. While I've never known him to be a morally straight or socially polite individual, I know that he has heart for serving the woman whom saved him from despair. This is her way of returning the favor once again, as is my own debt I must repay..."

"!"

The contact made the woman's eyes open back up, a slight blush crossing her face as she felt Shinshin's hand squeeze hers. But this was nothing more than a brief reaction, before her surprise receded. She smiled in appreciation, turning that hand around so that she could give his hand a return squeeze. "...thank you. Thank you so much. I know that you're not doing this just to help me now... but it's nice to know that you, of all people, would be quick to grace me with some encouragement. I swear... I'll make it up to you... all of you... somehow."

"Your father's mutual comrade, Hyōryū Fūsoku, the one whom you saw carrying the concealed armanent is a regular buyer all things Kidō weaponry. Give her some sales or deals on some latest and greatest custom worked arms as well as the rest of V-14, and you might consider yourself repaid in full," Shinshin spoke with an intuitive spark in his eyes, smiling slightly at having thought up a way for her to be relieved of her "burden" to them.

In response, Angelina gave an acknowledging nod. "I'll be sure to talk to her once I meet back up with her."

Then, her eyes widened in surprise, and she abruptly turned her head towards the direction of the kitchen. "Oh! That reminds me, I need to go check up on the water. Might be done now..." She allowed herself to get up from her seated spot, quickly making her way from the main room and back into the kitchen. "It'll take just a few minutes, I promise!"

As she disappeared out of sight, Shinshin's earpiece would crackle back to life.

"You... seem to have gotten comfy, huh, Shin-chan?"

If Shinshin was in a TV show, he would hear glass cracking in the background in a rude awakening moment.

With a few subtle twitches of irritation, Shinshin cleared his throat to compose himself before he raised his right hand to his own earpiece, "How much have you heard, mother?"

"Only the whole thing..." One could practically hear the grin within Asuka's voice. "I know you told me you'd be as "gentle as you're able", but I didn't assume you would be having tea with her. If I knew you were going to get charmed by her, I would've sent you earlier!"

Shinshin could feel the faintest of blushes creep onto his face, for the second time in his life lately, before he scowled with widened eyes of embarassmen, "I didn't know what kind of woman she was! I was prepared for the worst outcome and here I find myself having an honest conversation with a common ally and a most capable, attractive woman. How was I supposed...what do you mean charmed?! You're not insinuating I'm...falling for her are you?!"

"Well, I can tell you this." Asuka chuckled. "You referring to her as "capable and attractive" isn't really helping your case if you're saying you're not..."

"Unless you want something, I'm going to cut my connection's audio to end this pointless jeering at me," Shinshin glared at the wall, his face completely red as he clenched his left hand to almost audible snaps and cracks to be heard in the room.

On the other end, Asuka just had to wince at the cracking being heard after the rather harsh statement.

"...ouch. Really hurting my feel-goods, Shin-chan..." She muttered, giving a mock sigh of sadness. "Maybe I was just wanting to check up on you and see how you were doing. Everyone else is busy with something or other right now, and I'm all by myself. You can't blame me for wanting to talk to someone and alleviate boredom."

Her tone was quick to regress to a more serious one, although still containing its mirth. "But, there is a legitimate question I wanted to ask you. When exactly do you think you'll be back? It's not a necessity to come right away, considering it's still early in the night... but we need to make sure that none of us sleep in or anything like that. The execution's going to be at 12:00 noon, and the last thing any of us want is a crucial person out of place due to trivial reasons."

"Hardly a problem," Shinshin spoke with a huff of slight irritation mixed with seriousness, relieved to feel some of the blood regress from his face to its normal color, "I've trained my body when working for Xanxus to allow me to extra vigilant without the extra necessity of food, water, or rest for a good three days maximum. I only require a full twenty four hours of sleep and the following day and I can resume normalcy afterwards. However, shouldn't be long," looking over at the kitchen where he assumed his hostess was fixing tea, he couldn't help but pause for a few seconds, "if I don't check in the next five minutes, assume I won't be back for several hours."

"Right. Have fun with your date~!"

With that sing-song statement ringing in his ear, Asuka cut the connection with a click of the button.

At the same time, and coincidentally enough, Angelina walked in holding two saucers. Each one held a mug with the respective and steaming green tea contained inside. "By the way..." She began, kneeling down to set his cup in front of him before she sat back down herself and placed her own in front of her. "I don't think I got your name. Mine's Kaitlyn."

Shinshin cleared his throat after hearing his mother's voice, before smiling appeciatively up at his hostess. Upon hearing her name being declared to him, he grasped the handle of his mug, bringing it up to his lips before speaking aloud, "My name's...Shinshin. Shinshin Fūten," he nodded to her with a smile, sipping on his tea while his glimmering, stoic eyes locked onto hers.

He would certainly be more than five minutes.

______________________________________________________________________________________________

"Something isn't right," Hyōryū whispered as she looked out the scenic balcony view of the Suite she and Anton were in. Dressed in her short jeans, black tanktop, and her hair let down onto her shoulders for once she felt incredibly light without any gear or weapons on her person. However, it wasn't the lightness that was bothering her as she gazed out into the nearly still, quiet night...

"A million things aren't right. Which one would you be happening to think about?" Was Anton's readied response.

For him, he was dressed in the usual attire of a black shirt and white pants. He was laying on the bed with his hands folded behind his head, a casually curious gaze directed towards her as she looked out the window. A lit cigarette was in the corner of his mouth, its smoke creating a thin trail that led up to the ceiling.

"The Midnight Hunger," she spoke vaguely, turning her head back to Anton's direction, nodding to him in emphasis, "that's what Oliver and I used to call the feeling you get when you can feel bloodlust in the air during the middle of the night. Its like a predator is out, ready to leap from the shadows to sink its teeth into something. Usually, we'd pretend that we were the predators and that's why we would feel a sense of apprehension of our own wanton for carnage. But not tonight," she looked down towards the empty, nearly deserted alleys below near the Inn and the surrounding marketplace, "tonight, I feel like something...more menacing...than Ollie ever felt before is out there, waiting to pounce on something...maybe us? Them? Him?"

A slow grin crossed Anton's face. "You non-spirituals have a way with picking up the things we do, huh?"

Slowly, he got up from the position on the bed, feeling a jolt of cold when his bare feet hit the floor. He folded his arms across his chest, sauntering over to her side and stopping to stand beside her. A look outward presented a rather beautiful view of the lights of the buildings beside and below. He exhaled a breath, puffing smoke out of his mouth as he did so. Sure enough, he himself could feel the distant aura of that need for destruction, murder, and carnage. A slight shiver went down his spine at the feeling.

"Never could get used to it myself..." He muttered. "Right now, I can bet you that the said "Blood Coat" is the one that's emitting that... that feeling, hunting for some unsuspecting victims. After all, it's the dark of night, and everyone's out partying or asleep in their beds. It's the perfect time for a life to get taken." Upon finishing this sentence, he took the cigarette from his mouth and held it between his two fingers.

"I wonder...I wonder if Oliver was like that," Hyōryū murmured as she folded her hands and leaned down, looking straight down upon the cobblestone streets, watching only a few passerbiers walk on by, nothing conspicuous about them as they moved onwards into the night, "he...he never told me about his time as a Aethian soldier. I don't think he told any of us about how Angelika found him, or how Shou managed to stop him from going psycho on them too. I wonder if his Black Eagle side felt like this...cause at times," she looked up right at Anton, a slight smirk with a hint of her canines could be seen with a shiver of anticipation felt within her, "I felt like he could kill me without even blinking. That's how enthralled...and terrified I was of him when I first worked next to him on missions."

That caused Anton's eyes to widen in complete surprise.

"You... were afraid? Of Oliver?" He repeated, turning his attention completely towards Hyōryū. Out of all the things she would've said about him, he would've never suspected her of being afraid of the man. "I didn't work with him immediately, but I had always assumed him to be nothing more than the common freelancer. What was it like, working beside him in those early years?"

"He wasn't always the dumbass you see him as of now, probably why I'm so pissed at him most of the time," Hyōryū spoke with a shrug, smirking as she looked to Anton, "if you ever saw him the way he looked on that last mission, the way he mercilessly slaughtered all of those Soul Reapers and took sword wounds, jabs, and punches all in stride. That's how he acted nearly all the time, except with hardly any outwardly projected emotion.

He was just...cold, efficient, and withdrawn. Not like Shadō or that Shinji guy...but, more like he didn't want to have socialization period, as if it was a burden to him. However, after I began to work up the nerve I began to work with him closer, I began to get him to open up more and allow him to let down his shoulders a bit. We became mutual rivals, and thus the illogically dumbass Oliver was born," she snorted at her last line before turning around and leaning back against the balcony, allowing the full moon above her bathe her in its luminiscent rays, giving her an exotic appearance as she looked at Anton with a crooked smile, "not exactly what you expected out of Ollie, huh?"

"...well..."

Anton looked thoughtful as he regarded her, furrowing his eyebrows and lowering his head for a moment to ponder. "To be honest... it wasn't entirely unexpected." He admitted, shifting his gaze back to the outside. He shifted the cigarette back into his mouth. "I was always hoping that he would've had a serious, professional side to him. After all, Angelika had to have some reason of letting him into a group that demands nothing but the best. Any foul-mouthed, gun-toting mercenary wouldn't have been enough. Of course, I always had my doubts here and there..."

"He never is one for first impressions, that's for certain," She chuckled swinging herself around to bring her body against Anton's side, briefly taking his cigarette out of his mouth to allow her to puff a few before placing it back in, "you know what?"

For a moment, a humorous look of indignation came across Anton's face when she took the cigarette out of his mouth. However, it was quick to pass away. "Yeah...?" He inquired, slowly bringing an arm to wrap around her shoulders.

"I don't think that Midnight Hunger is coming from me or you," she whispered, looking up at him with a serious gaze that was kept half lidded, "its coming...from above us..."

At first, there was a raised eyebrow.

Then, his eyes widened in realization at the meaning behind her words.

Slowly, he nodded in acknowledgement and slid his arm off of her shoulder. "Then I think it's a good idea for you to get back..." He whispered back, settling both hands on the balcony. He directed his gaze upwards to the sky, taking in a deep breath. The sudden change in the conversational pace was unexpected. But he could understand why that was so. Hyōryū's statement was not a metaphorical one.

As of this minute, there was someone above him.

Somehow, he could tell that the presence was not here to be friendly.

"Let me get some snacks while its still hitting us," Hyōryū spoke out from inside, walking casually over to her large case, unpacking it swiftly but not rushed, assembling the many disguised parts of the tool she needed. The tool for war that is...

It was then at this time, that the presence emanating the "Midnight Hunger," decided it was done hiding. With a front flip off the roof of the Inn, the entity righted itself up with perfect poise and precision, so that it landed near weightlessly onto the balcony, directly in front of Anton. With arms crossed, a single silver eye luminously glaring at him with a sign of absolute recognition, Rosalina, the Paladinus Decimus stood before Anton with a menacing and currently towering form.

"Why are you here, V-14 lackey?" She spoke with a low, guttural tone, with a semblence to a snarl as her single eye locked onto Anton's upraised eyes.

"So she recognizes us..."

Anton's mouth curled into a slight scowl as he returned the glare at the woman, retreating back before she could land. Truth be told, he was slightly taken back by her height. She was practically a head taller than he was, and it was imposing to see a woman taller than a guy. Still, height difference was only something minor and pointless to worry about.

He shifted his hands into his pockets. "To enjoy the sights of this wonderful city..." He answered casually. "I don't think there's a crime against that, do you?" To add to this, he put on a smug smirk.

"No one based in the East comes to the West simply to enjoy the sights," Rosalina spoke in a low tone, narrowing her eyes as she picked something up from his words, "your accent doesn't sound foreign, and I feel a surprising amount of Spirit Energy within you. Were you a soldier of the RAC or an intiate of the Magus Order?"

Anton had half a mind to tell the woman to piss off right then and there. The corner of his upper lip twitched slightly, wanting to turn that scowl into a disdainful sneer. But he was smart enough to keep it in within him. Anything that he said could be used as an excuse to detain both him and Hyōryū, as well as the rest of the team. He had to play it cool.

"I... figured that I wouldn't be in your record books..." He muttered smoothly. "If you're so desperate for knowledge that you'd come right up to your enemy and hope for a proper answer... I'll humor you. I was, very briefly, an initiate of the Magus Order. That is, until the squabble that was the civil war began. Then..." He shrugged. "I was on the losing side..."

"I see," Rosalina narrowed her eye, raising her right hand up to the large hilt of the claymore on her back, "that makes sense I suppose. In that case, I can charge you personally aiding and abetting a known sociopathic murderer and deserter. I also can charge you for desserting your post from the Magus Order, as they don't particularly like it when their initiates up and walk off. And I can most certainly execute you here and now with no grief given to me for being involved in the Civil War...on the scumbag's side...!"

TK-SHIIIIIIINK!

"V-14 will all now be tried for aiding and abetting a known war criminal of the RAC. Any final pleas would you like to make?" Rosalina asked in a promising tone, unsheathing the large Seelenbrecher on her back before hefting it towards Anton's neck, the moon glistened off the smooth, well-kept metal with a sinister gleam.

"Oh, put that thing away."

If anything, Anton was annoyed by the show of intimidation displayed by Rosalina. His scowl deepened, and his glance shifted to the cutting edge brandished at his neck. "You can't charge me for any of that..." He answered defiantly. "You don't even have a warrant for even being here, nor do you have any proper evidence of your claims. As far as I'm concerned, the only one who should be arrested is you. Considering you just waltzed in here without permission or authorization gives me free reign to call the authorities. I do remember the law of this state, mind you. So..."

He pulled a hand out of his pocket and slowly pushed Rosalina's blade away from his neck, never leaving her gaze.

"You can either leave now, and we can forget about this whole thing... or I can have your friends haul you out of here. Which would you prefer, madame?"

At first, all Rosalina could do was stare wide-eyed at the man, for both pushing her weapon away as well as speaking so indignantly to her. She'd almost have half a mind to believe it, due to the man's uncanny charisma, but he pushed to far by saying she'd be hauled out. Treating her like a policewoman was the worst mistake he could've made to a Paladin.

"You've obviously forgotten how Paladins deals with criminality," Rosalina snarled, raising her blade upwards, her eye narrowing upon his form, "we don't enforce the law..."

SSSSSING!

"...WE ARE THE LAW!!!" Rosalina swung her blade down upon Anton's form, intending on severing everything on his left side, not to mention create a sizeable trench into the Suite from the force utilized by the cutting power and hefty weight of her weapon.

Time stopped.

Anton's eyes dilated when he saw the blade swung down on him. From that point on, he knew that any more attempts to avoid direct engagement would be unavoidable. He knew that strike would do some serious damage if he didn't do anything. The easiest thing to do would've been evade. But he knew that would only allow potential damage to spread. And Hyōryū was right behind him - an immediate target for collateral damage. But if he made an attempt to use bursts of his energy, it would be an immediate exposure of evidence she could use against him in the long run. The only option he had was to gamble.

So, with a grit of his teeth and a narrowing of his eyes, he thrust his forearm in the path of the blade.

When the forces collided, he could feel the blade cut into his muscle. He shut his eyes as he felt all of the wind generated from the attack momentum hit him full-force. However, it wasn't enough to cause immobilization for his arm, though it did force him to dig in his feet. There was no denying that the woman he was facing down was powerful. He knew that holding back would've been suicide.

With a grunt, he threw Rosalina's blade away from him and leaped away, his back near the wall when he stopped himself. His eyes held a seething glare towards the Paladin as he stared her down, ignoring the blood dripping down his arm.

"He blocked my blade...with his arm?!" Rosalina was stunned as she witnessed what her target had done. With eyes widened as her blade was thrown aloft, she knew this man's body must be well trained if he just blocked a decapitating blow from the likes of a Holy Decimo Paladin.

"That's some body you have there," She remarked offhandedly, swinging her blade to the side, flicking the blood off her weapon before readying herself for another attack, "but I wonder if you can handle two dozen of those attacks and see how well you hold up afterwards-"

C-CLICK-WHIRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!

"Hey bitch!" A distinguishable, snarling voice was heard with a mixture of sadistic glee, as the fully equipped and large form of the Executor was held in Hyōryū's arms, "flinch your tits an inch and I'll guaruntee the Executor is the last thing you'll be saying hello to!"

"Smeyu vas, suka!" The Executor spoke in a eerily semi-sentient Russian tone, as if the weapon in Hyōryū's arms had as much yearning to have the trigger pulled as she did.

"How in the Hell did you get such a...high-tech contraband weapon in here?!" Rosalina queried with incredulously, taking a step back as if visibly hesitating to move as such a large Kidō armanent was pointing in her direction.

"That's not important." Anton was quick to speak up again, his voice low and in a state of quiet fury. "What's more important is whether or not you live to tell about it. All depends on your next set of choices, Paladin. What's it going to be?"

"I...I will not cower to the likes of you...again...!" Rosalina glared viciously at Anton, her body becoming enraptured in a thick, vibrant Spiritual Powered aura, the blue energy cracking and shattering the balcony from which she stood upon, allowing her body to levitate in the air even as she raised her blade to attack again, "I am Rosalina Seraphim, the Paladinus Decimus of the Holy Decimo! I will not waver to the likes of scum like y-"

"Do svidanʹya, shlyukha!"

CRACK-BWOOM!!!

And with that, the Executor's main gun fired a bright, crimson aura slug across the air. In its wake, the entire Suite rippled with concussive force, shattering the glass and ripping the doors off its hinges, as well as deicimating the walls five meters in width in each direction as it exited the balcony's open space.

With inhuman perception, only gifted to the likes of her, Rosalina swung her blade in sync of the movement of the enemy projectile colliding her Spirit energy coated blade to the energy discharge. The immediate collison caused a excess concussive blast but didn't detonate immediately, as it continued to push Rosalina across the air space for a good fifty meters, even as the soles of her boots scraped across the spiritual planes she intended to catch a foothold on.

"RAAAAH!" Rosalina swung her blade in a figure eight arc before turning around and throwing the colliding bolt into the sky, letting it loose into the air, high above the sleeping city below....

BOOOM!!!

...before exploding in a luminous, bright explosion, sending a buffeting wind in excess of the destructive shockwave it created in its excess.

It was something that would rattle the ones below.

The pedestrians walking the streets stopped and stared in a mixture of awe, shock, and alarm as they saw the blast illuminate the sky. They could see the silhouette of the Paladin within the bright lights, and instantly they understood that above them was a dangerous situation. It was as if the whole area had stopped simply to watch the event unfold.

But some would not be pleased with the outcome.

Percival, the one who had accompanied Rosalina earlier, had been hopping from building to building for monitoring purposes when the explosion happened. Abruptly, he stopped in his tracks and jerked his head towards its direction. At first, he was genuinely surprised. But upon sensing the release of energy and remembering who exactly was in the area, he was quick to transition to anger. His fists clenched tightly.

"Damn it...!"

WOOSH!

Within an instant, he was off.

Slowly, Anton allowed himself to walk up to what was left of the balcony to look up at Rosalina. Briefly, he glanced down at the ground to see the remnants of the balcony scattered across the sidewalk below. Fortunately, any residents underneath had enough time to avoid it. With his uninjured hand, he reached out to take the cigarette out of his lips and exhaled a cloud of smoke through his nose. Then, he tossed it away and into the open air.

"Dammit!" Hyōryū growled as she walked over to Anton's side, cocking her rifle's loading mechanism back, allowing a large slug clunk to the floor in a steaming, gleaming display as she walked next to her lover's side, holding her weapon ready, "I was hoping to fry her crisp with that shot! Instead, she used it as a F***ing flare! Clever bitch!"

Rosalina observed her targets from a distance, narrowing her eye with disdain that she was forced back by such a crude choice of weaponry. Twirling her Seelenbracher, she flipped it up in the air so it would sheathe onto her back with well-honed precision and ease, before she grasped the black staff on her back raising it out before surging spirit energy into it....

SPRRR-SHINK!

...turning the staff into the arched handle of an obsidian, ornate bow.

"If they're going to try and keep me at a distance," she thought as she created a white spiritronic string, as well as a red-white beam that would be the arrow between her handled thumb and forefinger, before she began pulling it back with her free hand, "then I'll just utilize my favorite choice of combat. Long range marksmanship...!"

The unexpected was soon to happen.

WOOSH!

Anton's eyes widened when the figure in black re-appeared beside their enemy, his arms folded across his chest and the artificial light of his eyes staring down at the two. "Oh, no..." He muttered, unconsciously taking a step back. The Paladinus Decimus was bad enough. But another one six ranks above her had abruptly shifted the tide in their favor. "This is not going to end well for our security..."

However, he was slightly surprised by the next action he saw.

Percival swung his hand out in front of her bow. "Stay your hand, Rosalina." He said firmly, emphasizing this command with a shake of the head. "Now is not the time and place for the likes of your bow to be..."

"They have a Artillery Grade Kidō armanent and the male blocked my Seelenbracher with just his arm," Rosalina spoke impassively, shifting her eye to Percival, growling in resistance, "I say its very necessary to utilize my best form of offense against the likes of them, or the city will be torn apart by their rampaging!"

"Do you honestly think that they'll risk firing, now that there are two of us within the area?"

Percival slowly lowered his arm, the machine-like effect on his voice the already cold tone even more intimidating. "If they were truly "rampaging", I would assume this battle to be well under way. But look at them. Neither of them are moving from their spot. They understand that fighting within an area like this is nothing more than detrimental for them... as well as us. So unless you want to explain to the Primus why you antagonized an enemy at the risk of causing a panic among the masses, put away your weapon. Now."

"They're here in numbers and across the city!" Rosalina raised her voice for the first time, pulling back her string in defiance as she glared at Percival with a vehement tone, "they are trying to free the Black Eagle! If we don't stop them now, they will interrupt the execution, I guaruntee it! I've already spoken with the Paladinus Primus myself..."

SHFT-CRK!

Moving with daunting, effortless speed that'd be on par with any of her brothers or sisters of the Holy Decimo, she aimed her arrow directly at Percival, narrowing her eye with anger, "...this is a direct mission assigned to me by her! V-14 are known murderers within Aether, and Aesa wants them to be taken in, Dead or Alive! Step aside, or I will be taking your actions against me as a sign of insubordination, Percival!"

"Heh," Hyōryū smirked, raising her weapon to bear the sights of the Paladins whispering to Anton, "they're too busy arguing, I bet they wouldn't notice until too late when this baby plugs them. What do you say?"

However, it was here that Anton slowly shook his head. "Oh, no... that'd be a worse idea." He said readily. "Trust me. There were instances where it seems like a powerful enemy is off guard. They might look like they're arguing now... but I can guarantee you that the moment you fire, they'll just turn their attention back to us. I've fallen for it one too many times to count..." He kept pensive eyes on the Paladins, even as the Fourth slowly turned to face his partner.

"Insubordination?" He asked, a slightly sharper tone in his voice. "More like preventing foolishness. Your actions may have already alerted the rest of the rats scurrying within this city. Tell me, what do you think rabbits do when violence occurs near their area? They flee deeper into the hole, making it harder for them to be caught. Striking down these two at this moment will only make the rest of them move their positions and change their strategies. But..."

He trailed off, turning his gaze towards the two.

"If you really want to kill them... if you're really eager to sate your anger at the risk of compromising what's left of our advantage... then by all means..." Unfolding one of his arms, he motioned outward to the V-14 members. "Fire away. I won't stop you."

"Party pooper," Hyōryū grumbled as she raised her rifle to rest on her shoulder, comically making her look disproportioned in comparison of her choice in armanents, "what do you think we should do now?"

"Tsk," Rosalina clicked her tongue, retracing her string and her arrow, dissipating them both but kept her bow ready as she spoke, "then what do you suggest we do then? I already have a confirmation that most of them are in that Inn and we can grab most if not all of them now. Strategies?"

Percival returned his arm to his chest, turning himself back around to face the two. But he kept his unchangeable gaze on the V-14 members. "We wait." He said simply. "The moment of the Black Eagle's execution will draw out the rest of their operators from the woodwork. The only way they will ever be crushed. "Most" is not enough. "All" must do."

Then, he turned his tone towards the ones not too far away, raising his voice a little. "Do you hear this, V-14?!" He shouted. "Consider this a warning and a chance to leave while you still can. We know where you are and you know where you stand. Even you cannot stand a chance against the likes of the Holy Decimo. If you dare to interfere with the scumbag's death, we will not only hold his head to the crowd, but yours as well!!"

"F*** YOU, ASSHOLE!" Hyōryū spoke to the the Paladin that warned him, but turned away immediately on her heels and walked back in, setting the Executor down carefully after arming the safety, growling as she flopped onto the nearly ruined bed.

"You're right, Percival," Rosalina spoke with a bored tone, turning around before speaking to him by his side, "they aren't worth it. Not until I see them committing the crime I know they'll commit..."

SHFT!

And with that sudden movement, Rosalina's form disappeared, shifting away from the scene as well as the would-be battlefield that would've transpired in that neighbourhood had they continued. Once again, the city fell silent.

Percival made it a mental note to talk to her.

WOOSH!

After briefly regarding Anton for a moment more, he vanished from the air and left nothing more to see from the populace below. Hesitantly, all of them began to resume their prior activities and return to normal.

It was here that both of their radio earpieces crackled to life.

"Hartmann to Fūsoku and Semenov! What just happened up there?!" Her voice was sharp, expressing a commanding nature even through the alarmed tone she was taking with them.

"Paladins happened, that's what..." The Russian muttered bitterly, folding his arms across his chest and turning away. The air that blew in sent a slight chill down his spine and caused slight goosebumps to form on his arms. "They know we're here. One of the Holy Decimo decided to attack both me and Hyōryū in an attempt to... you know, I don't even know if she was trying to capture or kill us!"

"What do you mean, "know we're here"?"

"Just exactly that, ma'am... I think they knew we were coming the whole time. Don't know how in the hell they managed to figure that out, but... damn, they're good..."

"F***ing great! I bet this is all that flaming battle-junky's fault!" A gruff tone came from Yajū, displaying his vehement accusation towards Zaii.

The latter man, didn't take the accusation kindly...

"OH sure! It had to be me when a friendly lady, who happened to be on our side, decides to let me in on her secret that she knew who I was! Yeah, totally sounds like its MY fault!"

"Quiet, you two! We need to stay calm," Shito spoke over the comm, though still rubbing the bridge of his nose with his eyes closed as he seated himself properly before continuing, "if they know we're here, they probably won't jump all of us unless we're together. As long as the rest of our groups try to stick to their plans and maneuver around the crisis, we still can save Oliver and get out in one piece..."

"S***, I almost forgot!" Hyōryū swore aloud remembering what the Paladin did to Anton before leaving. She tumbled off the bed before tapping her bare feet across the floor, as she ran from the bed and grabbed a first aid kit from her pack, running to Anton's side,speaking in a soft and concerned tone, "you're getting blood all over your shirt, baby. Let me wrap that up for you..."

"Huh--"

That was when Anton looked down at his arm. In a display of humor, his eyes widened in surprise at his bloodied arm. He raised it up to view, blinking once or twice at the blood that covered the entirety of the limb. Then, he shifted his expression to a deadpan look of exasperation. "Oh, right..." He muttered. "I did get wounded, didn't I? My mistake..."

"The mole." Angelika said, allowing herself to regress to a calmer tone. "What's the status of your mole, Asuka? Has she coughed up any information?"

"Well, there might be solace, depending on how you take this..." The woman in question answered, a slightly optimistic tone in her voice. "According to what Shin-chan's recently told me, the spy's not working for anyone in particular. She's independent, not working with the Paladins. In addition, from what he's told me, she can even be considered an ally."

"An ally?" Anton questioned, placing his free hand on his hip as he let Hyōryū work on his arm. "What reasons could she possibly have for saving Oliver?"

He would not be expecting the answer given back to him.

"Apparently... and this is particular to you too, dear Hyōryū," The last bit Asuka said had a bit of a teasing edge to it. "He did have a girlfriend at one time. Matter of fact, he took that girlfriend and made her into a wife. Our mole just happens to be one of his daughters. She goes by the name of Kaitlyn Holmes, and her "Angel" name's just an alias for keeping her cover."

SQUEEZE!!!

"Oliver did what and had who?!" Hyōryū sputtered, accidentally squeezing the bandage wrap a little too tightly as her eyes nearly bulged out of their sockets at the revelation. She was quick however to whisper a quick, "sorry," for hurting Anton, before she continued to clean up the blood and mess Anton made on himself.

"This is...surprising, to say the least," Shadō spoke next, his tone merely a muttering whisper, as he himself was expressing shock in his own way.

"Oh-ho! That upstart actually DID strike gold at one point in time, huh?! Good show, Ollie! Guessing that didn't last long though," Mōka spoke with a slight jubilious cheer, followed by an assuming tone.

"Wow, now I feel kinda weird checking on Ollie's spawn," Yajū shivered.

"Why do you think that? I still think she's hot..."

"Zaii! Why?! Just...NO!" Shito, blushing furiously where no one could see, angrily shouted back at his comrade over the mike for bringing it up.

"All I want to know is how this Shinshin guy managed to get her be so compliant and trusting to him, let alone allow this information to be leaked to the whole gang," Kenja asked in a surprised, incredulous tone as he leaned back in his own chosen place for resting.

"Apparently, she's been a supporter for V-14. The G1A1 Anti-Material Rifle that he used in the assault on the Gotei 13's convoy was delivered on Alpha Team's doorstep by her gunsmithing and armoring company, the Taikōdansō. That may have been one factor of it. But..." Asuka chuckled slightly. "But another was... well, when I told Shinshin to take it easy on her during expected interrogation, I suppose he took it a little too lightly. Right now, they're sitting at Kaitlyn's home and having a cup of tea."

"A-wha?!" Yusuke, having established his own connection to the network, decided to add his voice into the fray. "That's not even an interrogation! That's just a friendly conversation! Matter of fact, it sounds more like a date! What if they decided to start running the bases and--"

"No!" The vehement tone of Genesis was quick to cut him off. "Shut up, or I'm coming over to where you are and beating the tar out of you!"

"Hey, take it easy chrome locks! He's just being a little childish is all," Kenja spoke out in an effort to calm the distant, yet angry female teammate. In emphasis, he cuffed Yusuke on the head, speaking in a reprimanding tone, "the heck is wrong with you? Shinshin is as likely to kiss a girl as he is to fight bare handed. Bonofide samurais don't get girls that easy..."

"I don't know...I wouldn't be surprised if this becomes Shinshin's first time in every base," Mōka spoke in a suddenly inquisitive, yet assuming tone, "if this actually does become a thing for him, I wonder how Rika would feel if she knew that ol' swordsman master decided to sheathe his blade into Kaitlyn's scabbard?"

"I'm not listening to this! Debrief me on the importanst stuff in the morning, I'm taking the first nap shift," Shito spoke in a flustered tone, turning off his comm before flopping onto his bed, taking the Inn's pillow and covering his head to block out the conversations being had.

"I don't get why Gene here would have a problem with that. Its not like she's related to either to Ollie or his spawn, right?" Yajū asked without worry, not believing the shape-shifting she-devil was even remotely related to Oliver.

Silence.

Assuming the question was directed towards the Daitenshi, she had fallen into complete silence. But the sound of a palm slapping over the mouth could faintly be heard over the mutual connection. If that hadn't been enough to answer the question, Asuka's next words were.

"When Shinshin asked about it, she told him that the other daughter had been murdered prior to the destruction of Aethian HQ. Her body had been retrieved from an alleyway nearby the location where the base was. According to what was released in autopsy reports, she was shot point-blank in the head by--"

"By the round of a 9-millimeter Little Bird pistol." Genesis finally allowed herself to speak up and interrupt, her voice solemn and bitter. "Her killer would go on to destroy the Aethian HQ, kill a total of three-hundred and forty seven plus people, and disappear from the city. She would be left behind in a three-day fucking coma before passing away."

She let out a derisive snort.

"Yeah, nice to know that the worst moment of my life became headline news, huh?"

"Uhhhh...S***...yeah, sorry," Yajū said awkwardly, being one of the only ones able to speak after hearing what they all heard.

"I think we should all just turn in for now and proceed to plan out with caution. With the Holy Decimo and any available Paladins alert to our activities here, security will be extra tight. Not to mention Angie and Asuka's place might be watched a little carefully from now on, I have the only team that hasn't been spotted by miss bird's eye. The only bad news I can think of is that she's not the Paladinus Primus I was worrying about..." Mōka spoke aloud in trying to steer everyone from the bad spell of silence that fell after Genesis' secret was revealed unplesantly to everyone who knew her.

"Y-yes..." Asuka muttered hesitantly, suddenly feeling a bit guilty for having said what she said. "I wish you all a good night and good luck on what happens ahead..."

"Uh...yeah...." Yusuke agreed, his tone also showing slight hesitation and awkwardness at what had transpired. "Go team?"

Genesis simply sighed. "Sorry for killing the mood you guys had going on..."

With that, the transmissions cut off.

The War of Four: An Eagle's Cry Act II

The Red Dawn, The Trap Laid in Plain Sight!

DONG-DONG-DONG-DONG-DONG-DONG!

The bells rang aloud, indicating the time and the approaching hour of execution. With only several hours remaining, V-14 had little time from their discreet and subtle maneuvers throughout Shinhae. After figuring out a good idea where the execution would be based, nearly an hour ago, a good portion of Shinhae's RAC forces emptied into the streets to keep those who weren't attending the execution to stay indoors as well as check for suspicious persons.

"This is going to be difficult," Shadō spoke within the safety of his shadows, looking out to see a vast array of patrolling troops belonging to the RAC as well as a Paladin within almost every perching area within a square mile of Shinhae's infrastructures, "Frau Hartmann. I'm looking at the layout now and I already see nearly half the garrison emptied out into the streets to keep order. I also see at least a single to a pair of Paladins overlooking the city from the highest points possible. They must have enhanced vision with those helms as well, for most of the non Holy Decimo anyways..."

It was a very tense situation.

With the defenses in place, there was little to no chance for a direct confrontation. With the positioning of the guard, any ground forces positioned by V-14 would be overwhelmed right away. Considering the observational position that the Paladins possessed, any individuals that directly interacted with the Paladins would've been identified immediately. The only relief given was that they had a few more hours until the execution. For Angelika, it was all that she needed.

"Understood, Shadō." She reported back to him from the safety of her own room. She was sitting in her room beside the doorway that would lead to her own personal balcony - a perfect sniping spot. Her sniper rifle rested in her lap, waiting patiently for the time when it would be used. For now, she would simply be issuing commands to the few that could be stationed on the ground and remain hidden from detection. "Shou, Genesis, how is your status?"

"Seems like my new form has thrown off any chance of recognition." Shou answered smoothly. "None of them has seemed to pay any attention to either me or Genesis."

"Go figure..." The girl muttered. "Glad I switched out of my "disguise" before I came out here. Don't think people would ignore the fact that a girl confirmed dead was still walking around amongst the populace like nothing happened."

"And the rest of you?" Angelika inquired.

"I utilized Kidō to mask my presence, both physically and my own Spiritual Pressure," Shito spoke confidently, weaving through the crowded and constantly patrolled streets, "even to a Paladin's keen eye and perception, I'll be nothing more than a walking camera loop to their vision. I should be able to get fairly close to Oliver in order to extract him that way."

"I'm just a visiting Magus as far as all the guards are concerned. Apparently, I must've dressed in a higher ranked member of the Order cause they keep saluting me and giving me space. Might able to use that to my advantage," Yajū spoke with a surprised, then pleasantly malicious tone as he walked his own way towards the Execution area.

"No one thinks much of a man unless he exerts Spiritual Pressure and keeps his presence concealed," Kenja spoke with a jubilious tone, walking confidently in his Fullbring form, enraptured with a black cloak and a recently purchased helmet to make himself look like a knight errant of Aether, "I should be able to blend into the ground, if nothing else..."

"I'm sticking to the taverns and keeping to the crowds. Only Kaitlyn recognized me, and I wasn't present inside the Inn when miss Paladin went balistic. I should be safe to observe from a distance," Zaii spoke out himself, retaining himself inside the bar as his background music, while keeping an eye on the patrols occuring outside, "it doesn't seem any Paladins are indoors either. Dumb slobs..."

"Searching building to building would be next to impossible for the small force that the Paladins have in a city like Shinhae," Mōka chided lightly, before clearing her throat and giving her own report, "from what I gathered from Anton & Hyōryū's little chat with our current Paladinus Decimus, it means that some of the ranks have changed over the last fifty years since I've been here. She's the only one who would recognize me, as the front gate Paladin didn't even gawk on me other than my attractive features. Should allow me to gain a fair distance as well as incapacitate, discreetly, a few of our watchmen Paladins..."

"Show off!" Hyōryū hissed over the intercom, but looked over from her own perch, though albeit much lower than the ones taken by the Paladins, "I'm sweeping the alleyways for any potential escape routes as well as a place where I can provide immediate aid to Ollie if we get in a bind from nabbing him initially. Hopefully between me and Anton, we should be able to find a back route entrance we can slide or blast through to get to him."

"Shinshin here. I'm maneuvering my own route with Kaitlyn-san. I'll inform you if we have an official lead on a good route on rescuing Oliver. Shinshin out..."

"Yusuke to all teams! I'm navigating with Kenta and I'm setting up my wires. The forces down below aren't gonna know what hit 'em. All I need is the order."

"Rika here. I'm in position to be called for extraction once you rescue the target, over."

Angelika couldn't help but smirk at her positioning. "Excellent. Oliver should be arriving within a transport soon enough. Once he is at the stage, Shou and Genesis will proceed to attack first and ambush any guards closest to him. Once they move in close, they'll escort him through one of the decided exit route towards the extraction point. The rest of us will move and provide support, holding position at the point. Until then, stay sharp."

"Where are you going to be, boss? You gonna watch this play out, or you disguising yourself as a Paladin?" Hyōryū asked incredulously, just realizing Angelika hadn't told anyone what she was up to.

"Still not used to being around Alpha Team after all this time, Hyōryū?" Angelika was quick to answer her with a sarcastic drawl. "I'm not in view right now, but I've taken up a sniper position in one of the hotel balconies. Where did you think I would be?"

"Tch! Didn't Shadō say we should avoid the rooftops? You know?! Because of the f'ing eagle eye Paladins?!" Hyōryū asked indignantly, trying to prove a point as to why it wouldn't be a good idea to move across high places.

What she would get as a response was a momentary silence.

Angelika furrowed her eyebrows and put on a scowl as she heard the rather heated response. If there was one thing that she resented, it was her subordinates taking on an argumentative tone with her, even if they were justified. But Hyōryū, regardless of whether she knew it or not, was implying an insulting undertone. It was somewhat expected, considering that it was once again one of the more hot-headed ones. But it wasn't enough to shake of the feeling of indignation she herself felt at the accusation.

"I am well aware of the situation at hand, Fūsoku." She said, initially with clear irritation. But as she continued speaking, the venom that seeped into her words became clearer. "If I was in such an obvious position, those Paladins would have noticed me immediately. So unless you have any other pointless questions you'd like to share with us, I suggest you shut up and focus on your own matters. Or would you like to be the second mouthy punk I've had to make an example out of?"

"Sorry, I'm just....ugh!"

"Its just nerves, Hyō. No need to doubt our co-leader now," Kenja spoke in an empathetic tone, quickly switching subjects, "where's Asuka by the way? What's she up to?"

"Yeah, she's surprisingly quiet," Shito spoke in a slightly concerned tone of his own, expecting her to be one of the first to respond.

"Oh, I'm a bit quiet? Sorry, you all..."

That was when Asuka's voice, surprised and seemingly caught off guard, came into their hearing. The slight sound of a mic positioning itself could be heard before stopping. "I was just listening to you and keeping an eye on my surroundings at the same time. After all, I'd like to keep my head on my shoulders in the event that I get suddenly ambushed. And considering what had happened last night..."

"Yeah, I hear you there, sister..." Anton muttered. "What the hell's gotten into Aether's security? I don't remember Paladins being able to bust into someone's home and start chopping heads off when I was under their service!"

"150 years ago, Aether's Knight Commander, Elizabeth Stronghelm, enabled the Paladin initiative to be created," Mōka began telling them all, "it was to ensure if another Civil War occured within the RAC, or if a foe that was stronger than the RAC's combined might, the Paladins would either quell the threat or temporarily take up the duties left behind by the higher ups within the RAC. At first, they were only there as a external border patrol unit, keeping the peace and hunting Hollows with incredible skill. However, I arrived here 50 years ago and I had, well, accidentally had been sensed and deemed a hostile threat. I fought the Paladinus Primus of that time and nearly killed her," Mōka spoke in a low tone of understanding, "her name was Rosalina Seraphim, the current Paladinus Decimus."

"So she was an ex-leader of the Holy Decimo?" Anton's voice inquired. "Huh... I guess that if you look at it from that way, it makes a bit of sense. Taking matters into her own hands, taking the initiative... makes it easier to understand why she accused the fourth Paladin of insubordination and turned her weapon on him. Still has those leadership traits within her being. But... who succeeded her? Why was she demoted?"

"And how come you weren't able to kill her?" Shou questioned curiously. "Your power is that of being able to dominate anything within existence. Surely, nothing would've kept you from smiting her off the face of it..."

"I didn't ask for this power, nor would I use it so carelessly!" Mōka spoke in an almost reprimanding way to Shou, sighing in exclamation as she explained, "I...felt bad for her. She was right. My Shinsei Pressure feels wrong, and anyone who has the skill or rare capability of sensing it would describe it as nothing but sinister or foul. Dark Shinsei has that affect on people. So I let her live...hoping that she'd move past our battle and grow stronger because of it. But it turns out, only a few years later I learned that she was demoted due to a significant drop in her effectiveness as being Paladinus Primus. I didn't know who replaced her, but the lower three had superceded her reports and effectiveness in all leadership requirements. I didn't know she became the lowest ranked though..."

"Must have been awful..." Yusuke said, the sympathy clear in his tone. "Being taken down like that because your superiors didn't find you useful anymore... it might as well be the worst things that could happen to someone within the military. She must've been really torn up about it..."

"It's just a reminder that if this goes to shit, we're going to be neck-deep in it." The Russian muttered, his own tone shifting to that of a disdainful one. "I don't think any of us, apart from Mōka, could fight the likes of any of the top four Paladins if they decided to challenge us."

"Hey now! Anton, you and I held our own against a former Paladinus Primus!" Hyōryū spoke out indignantly, assuring everyone she could blow away the next one that said they were Holy Decimo material.

"No, he's right," Shito spoke aloud with concern and logic behind his tone, "the only ones here besides M'ō'ka-san that are qualified with fighting the upper four, let alone the Holy Decimo in general, is: Mōka-san, Zaii-san, and maybe Shou with Genesis' help. Other than that, unless we're paired up, it'd be foolhardy to even attempt to fight the Paladins when any one of their comrades could come swiftly to the assist. Being overwhelmed by their kind is not something I'd want to experience firsthand..."

"...you have the absolute best of faith in us, don't you?" Genesis said sarcastically. "Don't mind the fact that we're Dai-fucking-Tenshi, the Vanguard of Hell and the angels of the underworld! Obviously, we're going to be a lot weaker than some test tube experiments with A.S.P.D! Fucking GLaDOS wannabe..."

"Then I guess you want to face the Paladinus Primus? The Queen of Blades, someone who's supposedly as strong as the Knight Commander herself, someone who is now on par with your majesty, if I recall," Mōka spoke aloud with a sigh of frustration, "point being, we should never under any circumstance fight any Paladin alone. The quicker we kill one, the quicker we leave the scene before his/her buddies show up..."

"It wasn't intended as an insult. We have no idea the capabilities or potential each of the Paladins possess outside of the Holy Decimo. Any one of them could be as strong or weaker than the big guns here. Sorry for upsetting you," Shito spoke in an apologetic tone, sighing sadly that he caused one of his most volatile teammate to be irritated.

There was a moment of silence on Genesis's end, before she exhaled a heavy sigh. "It's fine... I'm just a bit moody." She muttered, her tone quickly regressing to a more sullen one. "Not exactly very thrilled that my death was broadcasted for all of you V-14 guys to hear."

On her end, Asuka winced and was quick to retaliate with an apology of her own. "If I had known, I wouldn't have--"

"Yeah, yeah, I know." Genesis grumbled dismissively. "Not your fault. I understand, it's fine. The delivery was unexpected, but I can get over it. It's a cakewalk compared to what I had to deal with before I became a Daitenshi."

"I can't help but wonder..." Anton said, a bit of questioning within his words. "How come you're helping us? If Oliver was the one who shot you in the face," The lack of sympathy made her curl her lip slightly out of anger. "Then shouldn't you be wanting this execution to take place? No offense, but you don't seem like the forgiving type."

Once again, Genesis sighed. "I... I honestly don't know why I'm sticking to you all. Common sense should be telling me that it's fine to see my murderer get strung like a Christmas turkey. But there's also the part of my mind that's telling me that if I don't stick around, I might just miss something very important. Don't know why, but I'm feeling a bit compelled to help. And that's voiding the presence of my sis..."

"Well, if its any big deal, at least you'll be able to give your pops a smack in the face for what he did. Probably you'll get some answers from him as well while you're castrating him," Hyōryū spoke aloud, trying to console her in her own way, understanding where Genesis came from as far as rotten parents went.

It worked... in an odd way.

Although it was a light on her mood, Genesis didn't welcome the exclamation with open arms. "Wait a second, what?" She said incredulously. There was the clear tone of surprise and disgust. "Easy does it, lady! I'm a gunman, not a Norman!"

"So am I, but doesn't stop me from enjoying the thrill of using my knife on my enemies," Hyōryū spoke matter-of-factly, however she did chuckle at Genesis' reaction to it, "you a little squeamish? I thought you Daitenshi like eviscerating people and stringing them upside down with their flesh detached from their bodies?"

It disturbed the "teenager" somewhat to hear the woman speak of such things as if they were a natural thing. A slight shudder went down her spine, and she was once again reminded that she was with a group of grade-A psychopaths. It made her wonder what exactly her boss saw in their leader. Despite these thoughts, she simply allowed herself to chuckle. "You thought wrong, then. We may be a 24/7 Punishment Force, but it doesn't mean all of us are going to be psychopathic sadists. I'll shoot people, but it doesn't mean I'll flay the skin right off of their bodies..."

"Meh, I guess its just your boss that likes that kinda kinky stuff-"

"Hold on! I see something!" Shadō spoke aloud, his eyes locking onto a company of soldiers flanking a prison like carriage big enough for a single person, towards the designated execution area, "I think Oliver's being moved now. It seems they decided to place him inside a transport of some kind, with a company of RAC troops surrounding him. Gauging from their insignias, I'm thinking their from the 1st Cohort."

"Everyone, get ready..." Angelika's voice was quick to interrupt the jovial conversation between the groups.

"What's their positions and where are they going, Shadō-san?" Mōka quickly queried, she herself immediately setting back into her professional tone.

"Moving from the prison block from the Northwestern sector, moving through the trade sector through the West sector. They seem to be using that route to link up in the midwest partition which makes up the Grand Square near Stronghelm Fortress, which is only a few city blocks away from the Victoria Cathedral. From what I seen earlier, the square is perimetered the heaviest and is being blocked off by a couple companies of RAC soldiers, most of them being part of the 1st and the Prime Cohorts. That's all I know for now..."

"So they're just starting their route." Anton summarized. "Good. They'll be coming within our area soon..."

"Yoshizawa. Genesis." Angelika instructed. "Get ready to engage on my mark. We'll need a distraction down below for both the ground forces and the Paladins up top. I'll need only a second to take them down once they focus on you. Once they're down, we start moving into the streets, break through their defenses to the carriage, grab our package and move out. We need to move quickly, though. Any lost time is a good opportunity to get overwhelmed."

"I'll cut off their exits on the halfway junction turn. Should anything go wrong, I should be there in a heartbeat," Mōka spoke aloud with confidence, moving with speed and purpose as she disappeared from the majority of the crowd.

"Finally! Something to shoot at," Hyōryū breathed out her anxiety audibly, even as she pulled out her Jackals, readying herself along Anton, "what's the plan of action, boss? Neutralize by lethal force or incapacitation?"

"Incapacitation. Considering that these are official forces we're dealing with, we want to take caution. Only use lethal force when you are sure there is no other route."

"Yes maam! Let's just say a lot of knee caps are going to be officially uncapped once I'm done with them, hehe!"

"Do you guys need further assistance, or just want me to put up a perimeter around that area?" Shito inquired, wondering if he should be there should the team need immediate extraction to regroup.

"Why the hell are you asking us for?" Genesis demanded. "Hey, Dominatrix! You must not be doing much of a good job as a leader if one of your henchmen has to ask us que--"

"Genesis!" Shou hissed, abruptly silencing the subordinate. Although subtle, but it was a demonstration of the respect he held for Mōka as well as the need to keep his own subordinate in line. "Cut the chatter, stay frosty!"

"Oh, uh... yes, sir..."

Mōka sighed, rubbing her eyes as she heard the ancient joke that the Daitenshi used on her. She almost wished she could have any other title than the one annointed to her at birth. Still, she pressed forward, keeping a confident tone and tried not to look weak in front of her associate leaders, "Shito, I want you to stand by and place barriers on excape routes once you sense I'm at the designated holding spot. I don't want them to get away, and I certainly don't want party crashers from additional reinforcements to come in once our two Daitenshi allies distract the majority of them."

"Yes boss! On my way now!"

"Yajū! I want you to hold back unless something goes wrong. Once it does, I want you to divert attention away from our extraction squad and hold off any enemies until reinforcements come to your position or I give you the order to pull back. Understood?"

"Yeah yeah, I get the gist..."

"Zaii. You're my heavy hitter. Should the Holy Decimo decide to make an appearance, I want you to take one of them and do not hold back. I want you to aim to kill. These aren't people that are highly regarded here, so incapacitation is out of the question when they're dumped aside as trash later. Got it?"

"You can count on me! Can't wait to see what these guys are made of!"

"Kenja! I want you to stay where the crowd is. You are not by any circumstances come and aid us. Should things go awry, I want you near the place they're taking Ollie to. You'll be probably our last chance of springing him out..."

"No pressure right? Yeah I gotcha, I'll lay low for now..."

"And Shinshin-"

"I'm still maneuvering into position. Its better if I'm not directed by any particular overseer at the moment. Just keep me updated..."

"-okay," Mōka cleared her throat, as she was unexpectedly cut off by one of her associate's own surrogate son, before she announced her intentions to the other two team leaders, "if worst comes, I'll imbue the surrounding area with my Shinsei and create an opening for all of us to retreat, with or without Oliver. That should buy us enough time in the event we need to pull back and consider our options."

"Hopefully, we won't have to--"

"Heads up! Here comes the convoy!" Shou was quick to interrupt, his voice low and hushed. "Genesis, are you in position?"

"Yes, sir! Standing by." Genesis's voice spoke back, having lost any jocular nature in the face of their objective.

"Prepare to engage in three..."

A tense pause.

"Two..."

The sound of a rifle's safety being clicked off could be heard faintly.

"Three!"

BLAM-BLAM-BLAM-BLAM-BLAM!

POW-POW-POW-POW-POW!

And just like that, the peaceful setting erupted into chaos.

From a concealed location, Shou and Genesis let loose a stream of fire from their own respective rifles. Both of them kept separate from the rest of the group as possible and stuck only with each other. They made sure to keep up a constant barrage of suppressing fire, doing their best to keep the defense of the carriage on their toes.

"It's working!" Genesis crowed, even through the sounds of gunfire. "They're turning their attention to us! You guys are good to go!"

"Protect the carriage! Do not let the enemy retrieve the prisoner!" The RAC forces around the carriage began to mobilize immediately. Drawing swords and unholstering Kidō armanents, the enemy ground forces began to spread out and lay down their fire back at the nearly ominiscient-directioned volley of shots. For the most part, all they could do was keep their heads down near their road's layout, hiding within currently abandoned homes, and what few were left used the dense shielding on the Carriage as cover.

Unfortunately...

SHFT-SNAP-SNAP-SNAP!

...they didn't anticipate enemies coming from their own shadows...

BAM-WHAP-WHAP!

...as within a few moments, Shadō had managed to incapacitate nearly all of the unsuspecting RAC forces clustered around the carriage, making sure to employ swift hand strikes to their pressure points as to not arouse suspicion. That, and he dared not use his blade against them, for fear of causing a mess afterwards for them to deal with. He didn't want to have a repeat of what happened with the 10th Division in the Rukonagi District base...

"Frau Hartmann, this is Shadō," Shadō spoke over the comm, placing his hand over the exterior of the carriage itself, trying to sense Oliver's presence, "I've neutralized the RAC troops taking cover around the carriage. Its not Sekisekki shielded, so I'm getting a fairly positive reading that Oliver is unharmed, but he might be incapacitated right now..."

"Hyōryū here," Hyōryū spoke on the comm, being close with Anton to have a look through an alleyway where most of the RAC troops are being held up and holding their ground, "Anton and I are in position to engage. Just tell us when and we'll go in guns blazing!"

POW-POW!

"Shadō, you move in and secure Oliver." Angelika reported, retracting herself back behind the building after she had dealt headshots to both of the hawk-eye Paladins. "Once you do, give us the notification. Anton and Hyōryū, that'll be your cue to move in."

"On it!" Shadō exclaimed, taking his sword out and began prying it on the deadbolts on the carriage's only door, attempting work fast as to not alert the other RAC troopers from taking their eyes off of the Daitenshi's rapid surpressing fire. As soon as he snapped off the third bar, he then wrenched open the gate, speaking lowly, "come on, Oliver, we must-"

SHIINK-POW!

"-GRK!" Shadō didn't have the chance to react. Within a shining bright light from within the carriage, a crystaline spear flew out, extending with enough force to send the squewered Shadō across the street, haphazardly crashing into the side of a nearby building.

"My, my," A voice came from the blonde Knight Captain, bearing striking and hauntingly similar features to that of Oliver himself. Being taller, more well built, and garbed in colorful Noble Knight Captain's raiment, the man was far from being anything like the hot shot, marksman that is V-14's companion. Turning his gaze around to where the key members of V-14 were in, especially Hyōryū and Anton, "you really are his companions. I gave you a chance to flee, and you couldn't help yourselves. Well then..."

CLAP!

"...its time I teach you a lesson you'll never forget!"

SHOOOOM!!!

Within moments, the entire area lit up vibrantly in a shine of silver and gold, stretching all the way past the culminated and gathered forces of V-14, stopping just short in front of Mōka's face...

SPRRRRRACK!

...before forming a large, circular barrier that cut off the majority of V-14's forces within, with various kanji symbols enamoring the skyline visible for all to see.

"A trap?!"

Angelika's eye widened in surprise, and she abruptly allowed herself to stand up on her feet. She stared at the shimmering and transparent wall of yellow in front of her, somewhat frozen by astonishment. But this would only last for a few seconds, courtesy of the voice that would erupt within her earpiece.

"Shadō?!" Although Anton's eyes were focused on the newly foun enemy, his voice was directed towards the victim of the attack. "C'mon, talk to me! Are you all right?! What's your status?! Was Oliver within that carriage?!"

"A barrier?!" Genesis yelled, the source momentarily stopping her gunfire and casting her own eyes on the barrier that had formed. "Oh, hell... this was a fucking trap all along!!"

"Analyzing..." Asuka muttered, her eyebrows furrowing as she lowered her katana. She leaned against the wall, a slight bead of sweat falling down her face. Fighting non-lethally was a lot harder than fighting normally, and the tension of making sure not to deliver a fatal blow was getting to her - at least, to an extent. "This barrier only extends to protect the area of the kill zone. Alpha, Beta and Yajū, you're within its confines. The rest are cut off from reaching you."

"The source of the barrier is right within Alpha and Beta team's proximity." Angelika added. "It seems that the 1st Cohort's Captain had been waiting for an ambush. All outside forces, see if you can find a way to force your way through or break this barrier. Interior forces, focus on clearing the area."

"We... have a habit of running into these barrier things, don't we?" Yusuke's voice commented hesitantly.

"It'll take quite a bit of juice to get through the barrier," Shito commented, having just arrived only a meter outside its perimeter, "its been preemptively laid out and fully incantated. He planned to take this route and knew we would try and box him into the road near these buildings. This Knight Captain is smart, I'll give him that much..."

"I am in pain, but not dead, Anton-san," Shadō spoke over the comm, briefly before pulling out the three meter long crystalline forged weapon, tossing it aside while clutching his shoulder, "I managed to maneuver at the last moment...had it hit only my left shoulder. Should still be able to fight if need be. But, to answer your question, no. I didn't see Oliver inside the carriage..."

"Why don't you all come out now? Its not polite to cower in the shadows like rats when you're in the presence of someone of my position," Xavier asked aloud, raising his voice so that the Daitenshi and everyone within the block could hear. With his men stopping from retaliating any further, as well as gawk in amazement that they were escorting their superior instead of the prisoner just baffled their minds.

"Boastful, isn't he?" Shou murmured in slight amusement, keeping himself with Genesis and behind cover. Neither of them dared to move for the time being, understanding that the battle between them and the R.A.C. troops could resume at any time. The last thing that they wanted was to get caught off-guard by another nasty surprise.

On her side, Asuka kept herself to a defensive position as she watched her bunch of R.A.C. troops turn away from her. Tactical logic demanded that she strike them down while they were distracted. But the honorable side of her refused to allow such an action to come to fruition. So she lowered her sword to her side, keeping her guard up as she turned her head towards the man. "Hope this doesn't turn into a repeat of what happened with the encounters with those two Inner Circle Dragons..."

"Where's Oliver?" The Russian demanded, almost storming as he made his own presence known. He knew hiding was a ridiculous option now, considering they had been found out. In addition, he had been more than ready to beat the living daylights out of him, or at least someone who had the status of a government militant. But before that, he knew that they needed to get information out of him. And considering his outgoing entrance...

"Yeah! Where the F*** did you bastards take him?!" Hyōryū snarled out, raising her two Jackals to bear upon Xavier's form, growling in sync with her hate-filled eyes locking onto Xavier's dispassionately ignorant ones.

"Holmes?" Xavier asked rhetorically to Anton and Hyōryū, smiling nonchalantly as he walked casually towards them, not intimidated in the slightest by the unkempt rage emanating from the would-be rescuers, "he's taking a different route than planned. He will be executed on time, but I wanted to take this little battle away from the populace. Hope you understand," he chuckled, pulling out his sheathed sword from the insides of his cloak and hanging it aloft with his left gloved hand while staring him undauntingly down.

"Angelika, Asuka, do you see any way for me to break in there? All I need is a few seconds and I can create a distraction that'll allow them to pull out now, but this barrier is something I haven't dealt with before," Mōka asked Angelika and Asuka, hoping they would help and give her some insight on how to proceed.

"That's a negative!" Asuka said back, tensing up even further when she saw the Captain approach. "I could go to the barriers edge and try to "connect" with the barrier itself in order to find a weak spot, but with all of these soldiers in front of me, I don't think I'm going anywhere! Especially now that one of their Captains are in the area!"

"Shinshin, Do you think you can hand miss Holmes the radio earpiece for a moment?" Angelika questioned. "She may know more about this situation than we do..."

"...oh, I understand..." Anton growled, his lip curling into a snarl. He summoned his energy to his hands, forming his trademark Kiriken swords. He kept his glare bearing into the impassive stare of Xavier's as he approached. "But as of here, you're going to regret thinking of getting into that carriage in the first place. Hyōryū, cover me!"

WOOSH!

With that being said, he threw himself forward and swung his blades at the Captain. Angelika's order meant nothing to him now. Right now, all he cared for was blood, and he would do everything within his power in order to ensure that this man died a grisly, gruesome death.

Hyōryū on the other hand trained her triggers on a handful of incoming RAC troops, attempting to rejoin their leader. Without looking or changing sights on her left handed weapon, she moved her right hand and pulled the trigger, firing off a few warning shots at their feet with ease, discouraging them from coming closer, "Go kick his ass, Anton!"

With a smile on his face, Xavier slid back his left foot, assuming his infamous stance known throughout the RAC. Grasping onto the hilt of his blade, he swung it out to meet the first pair of blows of the Kiriken blades, his blade expertly matching Anton's swings blow for blow. In terms of strength, his skill was equal if not better with the blade than Shindō had been. And he did it all, without having to move more than a step or so back...

"Understood," Shinshin spoke fluidly, taking the earpiece and giving it to Kaitlyn who was proximate to his positioning.

At first, the blonde woman reacted in surprise. But it took only a second for her to realize what he was doing. She reached out to fetch the earpiece, securing it within her ear. "Hello?"

"Greetings, Frau Holmes." Angelika's voice was quick to greet her. "As much as I'd like to get more acquainted with you, now simply isn't the time to do so. Seeing as you're an Aether resident and a daughter of a former military soldier, I'm assuming you have knowledge and insight of their tactics and technology. Is that correct?"

Kaitlyn reflexively nodded, a proud smile crossing her face. "Yes, ma'am!" She confirmed. "You want me to help you out with the barrier, right?"

"Correct."

"Well..." As she directed her attention up towards the sky, she paused for a moment to look out at the structure. "Half-sphere barrier constructs like these are usually one of the easiest to get through, if you know how to do it. The weak point is at the very top and center. Once you get to it, it'll collapse inward on itself and shatter. The energy shatters usually long before the barrier hits the ground, so any of your inward forces should be safe and sound."

"You getting this, Mōka?" Angelika switched her tone direction to the lesser leader. "I'm doubting that she wants to repeat herself."

FWHOOSH!

"I'm on it!" The Hankami responded instinctively upon hearing Kaitlyn's instructions over the comm. Flying swiftly high into the air, her form was nothing but a red haired blur before she reached the top of it. Floating only a few meters above it, she readied herself, unsheathing both of her blades, preparing to utilize the force necessary to shatter the obstacle between her and her comrades...

SHFT-SHFT-SHFT-SHFT-SHFT-SHFT!

"Don't even think about it," grated the voice of a familiar entity Mōka. When she raised her head, six Paladins, including the one who they all passed by the gate earlier the other day, had cross-slit metalic helms with drawn blades, "move a muscle, and we'll sever your arms!"

"Guys, I have a problem here," Mōka whispered over the comm, her eyes widened with surprise on how subtle the approach the Paladins had made, "I got some company to deal with before I can collapse the barrier..."

"Hold on! I can get to you-"

"Negative! I can handle them myself, Shito! That goes for everyone out here! Leave the Paladins to me! We can't afford to have unnecessary casualties at this point with so many already cut off from us inside!" Mōka shouted, not even the locking her eyes at the Paladins as she spoke, unnerving a few of them that she took the situation she was in with such casual demeanor and still give commands.

"Give 'em hell, Mōka." Asuka encouraged, swiftly turning her voice to the ones trapped within. "interior forces, let's mop up! Take down the rest of their forces for our reinforcements!"

Bad Blood in the Water, Vendettas Escalate and Old Wounds Reopen!

"Byakurai!"

In the midst of Anton's swings, he lifted a finger to point towards the stone-walled Xavier at a potentially exposed point. Once he called out the command, the blue bolt of lightning-like energy shot forth from his fingertip. The attack would cut through several targets behind Xavier, regardless of whether it connected or not.

SHFT!

Xavier's eyes widened at Anton's perceptive aim, having to utilize his Flash Step to narrowly avoid a blow to the head. As he reappeared to Anton's left side, a hissing layer of steam came from cooking flesh, causing a defined, cauterized cut to form on his left cheek from the Kidō spell. Raising his left hand fluently, all he had to utter was one word in retaliation...

"Sōkatsui!"

SPRAAAACK-BLAM!!!

...discharging a bright blue wave of destructively volatile energy towards Anton, intending on catching him off guard while prematurely detonating in the exact spot he stood, which was a handful of meters away from the dauntless Knight Captain.

Meanwhile up above the commotion...

"You sure talk big, miss," The Paladin, recognizeably the one who greeted the two teams initially, but had no real recollection on what she was rather than who, stepping towards her across the air with sword drawn and raised in her direction, "you haven't really fought many Paladins, have you?"

"Oh, just one," Mōka said in a coy tone, rubbing her head in a show mock sheepish attitude, "and she was pretty strong. I'm fairly certain she's stronger than all of you combined..."

"Oh really? Who was that?!" The Paladin asked humored, though the ire in his tone could be heard as the other Paladins twitched, anticipating on lunging at her all at once.

"Oh! What was her name? I can't remember...errrrmmm...ah yes! That's right!" Mōka palmed her fist, a comically elnightened expression dawned on her face. Then, it shifted into narrowed eyes and the voice spoke low with absolution and certainty, "Rosalina Seraphim...the Paladinus Primus of your Order fifty years ago, was the one I fought..."

"W-What?!" The Paladin gawked, almost disbelieving if her tale wasn't so factual about the events that led to their former Paladinus Primus' downfall.

VOOOOOM!!!

Taking a step back, one of the Paladins if not all six, felt a shiver run up their spine, as Mōka purposely generated a wave of Shinsei pressure at the end of her sentence, causing them all to feel wrong and suddenly very still. Their minds began to feel as if they were being pulled into flames, and their eyes gave way into seeing something that wasn't what they saw before. What stood before them wasn't a red haired crook...it was a goddess, burning and flourishing in the aura of power unlike they've ever felt before.

"I am the Dominator! Daughter of the Punisher and the Nihilist! Your Wills are surrendered to me, and your bodies are at my disposal," she spoke in a commanding, ominiscient and hollowed tone, her eyes brightly lit aflame as her body broiled in a thick Shinsei aura, "kneel before me."

Without control of their minds, let alone the knowledge of how to move without being told to, all six Paladins kneeled in sync with her command. Their eyes were tinged with red around their irises, a sign that her debased dominating aura had them totally under her control. They all spoke in unison, "We are at your service, Lady Joseijōi..."

WOOSH!

With a speed that would've challenged the masters of Flash Step, Anton vanished from the path of the attack. The winds generated from the attack was enough to send ripples through the entirety of his clothing even as he moved away. As he landed back on his feet, he swiftly turned back around and settled into a stance. He took a grim satisfaction in seeing the cut, for that alone told him that his opponent wasn't an invincible one.

"Tzusuri Raiden!!"

When he swung his swords and called out the name of the next Kidō spell, a network of yellow lightning arcs raced forth at his target.

No longer smiling, Xavier looked towards the path that his opponent took. When he saw the familiar currents being summoned, he knew his opponent was trying something. What he didn't expect was the employment of adapting what was known to be a close quarters Kidō...into a long range one.

Moving with innate speed, Xavier twirled the blade around his right hand, bringing it forward before halting it to when it was an inverted grip. His eyes stoically stared down the webbed currents of yellow-tinged lightning, he spoke out in a declaration to match the ire of his opponent...

"Tenran!"

BWWWWHOOOOOSH!!!

Discharging a strong, spiraling gale force wind in the form of a twister, enough force was utilized backlag the electrical currents away from his form. The twister rushed and consumed anything within a good ten meter radius, pushing forward until a handful of buildings, the ones shot by Anton from before, would be bulldozed by the microburst attack.

"What the Hell is going on?! What is this...Pressure...your boss is emanating?" Kenja had to ask, as he felt the damning waves emanating across a good portion of the city, which unfortunately, made it like firing a flare to any Paladins within Shinhae. However, its incredible daunting force and emotionally corruptive empathic waves made it hard for anyone to Will to come close to her or the barrier covered city block.

"That's the power and energy of a god, Herr Kōdai." Angelika replied readily, backing away from the window. She turned around, making her way out of the room and to the exit of the hotel. A smile crossed her face as she felt the waves resonate throughout the city. Mōka's power would be a clear demonstration of what exactly the Paladins and the military of Aether was dealing with. "If the Paladins decide to come to us, this will be the sign of the odds they face."

PLOOM!

Anton placed both swords in front of him, bringing one leg behind the other. When the force of the winds collided into him, his feet dug into the ground and held themselves there. But even through the power colliding against him, he could still feel the waves of energy emitted by the Hankami above them. As he swung his swords out to dispel the last of the attack, he stood tall and leveled them at his side.

"It was only a short time within the Mages' womb..." He commented. "But I've managed to learn a few tricks before the Civil War. I guess with that entrance you took, you probably thought that this would be a matter of mopping up, didn't you? It's a shame, too... I thought that the Loyalists would've cleaned up their act after all these years, too..."

"The Dominator, eh?" Xavier spoke aloud, smiling once again as he noticed who was above him. Looking forward, he chuckled, "you honestly think just because you have a Hankami on your side you have the advantage? You obviously have never met...just what kind of people have assembled under the RAC's banner, and within the Paladin Order..."

SHFT!

"My, my. What a ghastly aura you emanate," a voice that spoke so lowly, yet filled with tranquility and certainty, caused the Hankami to turn her eyes to see another Paladin walk across the air towards her. With no sword drawn, and almost a peaceful aura within her gait, she obviously was one of the big shots, "why don't you and your friends just walk out of here? I'd rather not have any blood spilled. We can still end this peacefully, and no one has to suffer..."

"Men," Mōka spoke levely, causing all of them to look up attentively at their new mistress and overseer, "that woman over there. Who is she?"

"She's Aesa Saras, the most powerful of all the Holy Decimo. Her rank is that of Paladinus Primus, a rank capable of succeeding the Knight Commander's during a time of crisis. Her strength is unrivaled, superceding that of the former Paladinus Primus, Rosalina Seraphim-"

"Kill her."

SHINK-SHINK-SHINK-SHINK-SHINK-SHINK!

"As you command," they all spoke eerily in unison, moving in front of her with their weapons raised.

A raised brow seemingly the only thing that Aesa made as a response to the threatening gestures, all six Paladins charged with swift speed, all aiming to strike Aesa from multiple directions, overwhelming her with both man power and tact.

But then...

SHFT-SNIK!

...Aesa reappeared directly behind all six of the Paladins, her eyes cool, and her face bore a neutral, calm visage. Most of all, her sword was drawn, signaling that...

SPLUUUURCH!!!

...she slashed each of them deftly in the hamstrings and shoulders, directly and precisely through the armor weave on their bodies, causing them all to fall limply to the ground, grunting in shock at what happened. After a series of loud crashes below could be heard, Aesa looked over at the Dominator, with a shocked expression donning the latter.

"You and I have some buisness to discuss I suppose. After all, you're the one who made poor Rosalina suffer," Aesa said coldly, raising her blade to point directly at her, "I'm going to make you personally regret ever returning to Aether, Joseijōi!"

"We'll see about that," Mōka snarled back, unsheathing her blades from her back, before lunging at her, clashing weapons against her own, signaling that the battle above had just begun.

"Well, isn't someone pretty gutsy today." Anton muttered, momentarily breaking his attention away from his own fight to look over at the new fight. He couldn't help but hold an extent of respect for the Paladin. Despite her serving as one of Aether's puppets, as he would've put it, he found amazement in the woman attacking what was deemed to be a god among the world. But then again, Mōka always held reluctance about using her full power - something which her mother didn't possess. Would that be a factor there?

"Attention!" Shou's voice called all of the V-14 teams to the new update. "The Holy Decimo have started moving into the area and engaging. Their leader is engaging Mōka!"

"Shit..." Genesis's voice conveyed frustration. "We don't have time to wait around!! We need to get to Oliver!!"

SHFT-SHINK!

"You have your own problems," Rosalina spoke aloud, having appeared directly above Genesis' position, ergo, proximate to both Daitenshi's current perched position. With a fluid unsheathing motion, she unleashed a pressurized swing to cut Genesis vertically in half from her left backside, intending on finishing her off before moving onto the other Daitenshi.

Speaking of which...

Xavier raised his hand fluidly while Anton took his eyes off him momentarily, his hand glowing vibrantly before an audible clicking sound could be heard. With a sudden discharge of energy, what appeared to be several ice pick sized crystal blades of nigh unbreakable material manifested just a meter in front of him, throwing at him at high speeds, intending on catching him off guard undoubtedly.

Much to his chagrin, however, it didn't make Hyōryū lose sight of watching out for Anton. Briefly, her eyes widened at seeing the projectiles launch seemingly from nowhere, raising her gun to fire at them, she knew it would be too late for her to completely stop them. "ANTON!!!"

Genesis's heart abruptly stopped when she heard the voice of the Paladin.

For her, it was far too late to react.

SPLURCH!

The blade tore straight through the middle, and all she could do was present a shocked visage on her countenance. Blood sprayed out of the cut, spilling all over the place. Shou's eyes widened in shock, and he couldn't help but voice his concerns out. "GENESIS!!!"

But fortune had yet to turn on him.

As the two halves fell apart, the split face was quick to change from horror to fury, pupil-shrunken eyes glaring at the one who dared to deliver such a gruesome blow to her. From the gap, bright red tendrils could be seen emerging from the innards of each half. They reached each other, tying themselves together and reeling both of them halves inward. Once they connected, the cut sealed up from the head down. Within several seconds, the fatal blow was sealed and healed.

Her anger wasn't.

BLAMBLAMBLAMBLAMBLAMBLAMBLAM!

Switching her gun back to normal fire, Genesis unleashed a storm of bullets on the Paladin in an attempt to kill her. It was clear that she as well as Anton would cast aside non-lethality in favor for satisfaction of their violent moods. And speaking of Anton...

CLANGCLANGCLANGCLANG!

His eyes widened in surprise at the sudden attack directed towards his person. But his hands moved, twisting his swords around in defensive motions once he heard Hyōryū's cry. Although the blades that were thrown towards him had high resistance, it didn't mean that he couldn't defend himself against them. With surgical precision, he deflected them away from his person and cast them in separate directions. His body twisted and turned, allowing him to evade others. In the midst of this evasion, he materialized several smaller Kiriken swords. Each of their hilts was held between his fingers in the manner similar to claws.

With accuracy of a sniper and immense force, the Russian hurled the Kiriken swords at Xavier in a return-fire gesture.

CRRRRRRK-SHINK-SHINK-SHINK!

With another gesture and a flash of bright light, a crystalline wall formed right between Xavier and the incoming Kiriken blades. Though the force could be felt, and the crystals snaked web-like fissures along its tall, transparent surface, it held firm against Anton's counterattack. "I guess playing it safe isn't going to cut it anymore..."

SHFT!

"...here, the gloves come off!" Xavier voiced aloud, preforming a vividly swift Flash Step, appearing directly in front of Anton during mid-swing. Within the swift and pressurized slash towards Anton's chest, he released a vibrant discharge of cutting, volatile spiritual energy, cutting a waft through the earth and directly into several buildings behind him, severing them in half and crushing them from its chaotic energies.

Rosalina, however...

SHFT-SHFT-SHFT-WHOOSH!!!

...began employing Flash Step in between swift bursts of powerful muscles, avoiding the deadly barrage of near-hit attacks sent by Genesis' powerful rifle. However, even as she ran, her eye kept a trained fixated stare on her and Shou nearly the whole time. An eery tranquil, predatorial aura radiated off her form even as she dived and spun in the midst of a terrifying situation.

She then jumped directly upwards, rearing her blade up to reflect a few stray shots, before throwing her blade in a pinwheel motion. The saw flowing sword moved to cut Genesis in half, even as Rosalina grasped the staff-like weapon on her shoulder, unholstering it from its brown pack. Turning around in motion, even as the blade flew towards Genesis, she sifted energy into her weapon...

SHK!

...forming a black bow, the namesake of her once fearsome reputation as the Paladinus Primus. Forming both a silver energy string and arrow, she pulled back meticulously as she lined her sights up with Shou, her right eye narrowing as she pulled it back to her cheek. She then uttered her choice word...

"Blitz Sprung!"

SPRACK-WHIIIIZ!

...sending the arrow hurtling at stunning speeds, coated in electrical voltages exceedingly lethal energies. Just before striking, the arrow transformed...

CRAAAACK-BOOM!

...into a vividly powerful blue lightning bolt, with enough power to decimate the building he stood on, as well as level the others nearby, spiraling upwards in a significantly powerful display of electrical energy. She shimmered up above both of her enemies, scanning their positions to check their conditions and if they had perished for good.

Genesis's counter was immediate.

Shifting her fire tactic from the hip to down the sight, she aimed for the disk that was headed her way. With a single pull of the trigger and an impressive display of marksmanship, she deflected the spinning blade away from her person and paused to reload just as the Paladin unleashed her next attack at her commander. However, she didn't allow herself to get alarmed, even when the building Shou was on had been destroyed. Instead, she allowed herself to take a breather, watching as her opponent took to the skies.

Sure enough, Shou himself was quick to recover.

Within the fading smoke, he stood tall and regarded Rosalina with narrowed eyes and a faint scowl. There were fading blue flames around him - a telltale sign of his defense against the lightning bolt. In both of his hands, he held his trademark twin scimitar swords in a readied fashion. "I see..." He thought to himself. "Mōka wasn't joking around when she spoke of this one being the former Paladinus Primus. If she's so strong... how powerful are the top four, I wonder?"

WOOSH!

Xavier's blade managed to deliver a shallow gash across Anton's chest as he used a Flash Step to avoid it. He landed in a crouched position, staring down his opponent. "The gloves coming off, hm...?" He muttered. "I should've known the first thing you'd do is treat this like a cakewalk. For someone of such a revered position, you sure are one arrogant son of a bitch..."

"From my reports the last time you fought a powerful opponent was that of Shindō Takuji and his 10th Division within the Seireitei's Rukonagi Districts. You displayed prowess and strength that rivaled one of the most prodigious Captains within the Soul Society. However, you were beaten by the released power of his Zanpakutō's Shikai, despite your best efforts in overcoming that obstacle. So yes," Xavier narrowed his eyes, smiling lightly as he raised his blade to be more perpindicular to his form, while readying his guard, "when I heard you were beaten by a simple thing as a Shikai, I knew exactly what your limits were. That, is why I believe you're nothing more than a nuisance to me. The only mistake I made was treating you like I did that barbaric ilk I dealt with first. I'm now going to focus...on destroying you utterly...Anton Semenov!"

VOOOOM!!!!

With that said, Xavier released a voluminous force of Spiritual Pressure, initially enough to break the ground around him for a good five meters in radius. The Spiritual Pressure rippled and cracked anything around it, sending dense, cool waves of focused tension being released all at once. With a bright light blue aura surrounding his body and projecting from his eyes, Xavier showed him his commitment in destroying him and the others that composed of V-14.

It was enough to make Hyōryū to fall to one knee, raising her arm to cover her face from the immense amount of energy released by their opponent. She knew she wouldn't be much help now, with as much pressure being released as it was. She'd possibly disable Anton, or end up getting herself killed. If he was anything like Shindō was, then she knew it would be a mistake to fire blindly like last time...for Anton's sake moreso.

"Be careful Anton...we haven't even seen this guy's Zanpakutō's true form. Who knows what he's capable of..."

Rosalina reached near the highest point allowed by the barrier, briefly looking up to see something that made her briefly freeze. The very face, the very woman that caused her fall from her rank and position, was combatting the very woman that succeeded her. While she felt a sense of apprehension, she knew her duties were clear. Grinding her teeth together tightly, she turned her gaze away, knowing it wasn't her battle...not anymore...

Looking down at the two Daitenshi she began to analyze and speculate on how best to defeat them. With their morbidly displayed regenerative ability and their specially equipped weapons, she knew it would take some effort, even on her part at the level she currently held. However, she made no immediate move to attack just yet, and her eye could see them with perfect clarity from the height she assumed, giving her the advantage temporarily.

Beneath Shou and Genesis however...

"PSSST! Hey, Gene!" Yajū whispered directly below her perch, hiding within a building that wasn't entirely demolished, "need a hand? This bitch seems kinda strong..."

"Yeah! Let us help, Shou!" Zaii asked, assuming his own hidden position behind the superior of the two Daitenshi, realizing that he was the better one to talk to of the two. That, and he rather not face Genesis' wrath, should she find error in his words...

The voices of the two men caught the attention of the two Daitenshi right away.

Genesis almost turned around at the sound of Yajū's voice, and only her training allowed her to keep her focus on Rosalina. "As much as I hate to admit it..." She growled. "She is. Kind of expected when you're facing down the former Paladinus Primus. But this isn't something we can't handle..."

"Indeed..." Shou agreed calmly, taking only a minute glance towards Zaii. "Besides, there will be more on the way. It's best not to focus too many of our forces on one particular target, especially when there will be potential enemy reinforce--"

Time slowed down for a second.

Shou cut himself off as soon as he felt a disturbance within the air. Over the power generated by Xavier, he could feel the faint presence of another. But it wasn't someone of their side, and that was what threw his mind into overdrive. His eyes widened, and he was quick to issue out a warning to the one who had spoken to him.

"ZAII, LOOK OU--!!"

But it was too late.

Within the gap of a second, a gloved hand grasped the back of Zaii's head, lurched itself forward, and hurled the man into his rougher counterpart with the speed of a bullet. The two would crash through several buildings and structures before finally stopping. Shou's pupils dilated in horror at the display of force, and he reflexively raised his own weapons up in order to attack the being.

But apparently, that was anticipated as well.

With a fluid and rapid movement, the enemy twisted itself around and sent a leg colliding with Shou's chest. The result was him getting the same treatment as Zaii and Yaju, his body being blown through several structures before slamming into the wall of the barrier. Genesis's face was one of horror as she watched it all, taking in the sight of the new figure straightening itself out. When it spoke, it would be recognized right away.

"Worthless pieces of trash..." The Paladin said vehemently, the eyes of his helmet boring holes into Genesis's head. "And here, I was under the impression that the V-14 was one of the most powerful criminal organizations within existence. Yet, dismissing three of them was as easy as making two simple movements. I'm almost tempted not to waste my power." Slowly, he lifted a finger to point at the horror-stricken Genesis. "You're next, little girl!!"

"Destroying me... huh?"

A dark smile crossed Anton's face as he heard Xavier's challenging words. One of his hands went to grasp his shoulder. "That's the funny thing about it..." He said, his eyes overshadowed by the bangs of his hair. "You see, the reason I lost to the Captain was because I got too careless and jovial about the fight. I didn't take it as seriously as I should've. So it was easy for him to strike me down when I kept turning my back. Now, that's changed. I'm not joking around anymore. This time, I'm going to show you just how much I'm capable of once I want to get serious..."

Slowly, he opened his eyes, meeting Xavier's stare head-on.

"So come on. I'm going to crush you and every bit of power you have within yourself. Just like all those years ago, just like the war we waged against each other... show me just how much of a nuisance I am, Xavier Longstreak!!!"

"Have it your way," Xavier spoke levely, his eyes stared into Anton's as he raised his blade to vividly divide his facial features in a symetrical line.

"Kneel before Divinity..."

SSSSIIIING!

"...Kensei!" Within a bright shining light, his sword was wrapped with a blue-white aura, making it glow and shine vibrantly before his eyes as well as Anton's. Lowering his blade to his side, the ominous sensation of the blade's subtle Spiritual Pressure leaking into the air could be felt. It felt foreboding, powerful...and almost nigh omnipresent with its presence surrounding all around Xavier.

"Your move, Semenov," he spoke lowly, his eyes eerily calm and his stance taken in full readiness for whatever the Russian was to throw at him.

"WHA-?!"

Zaii's eyes widened with surprise, barely able to comprehend what happened before it was too late. Only capable of absorbing the blow with his forearms, from which Yajū did the same, sending the pair off into a mountain of rubble, creating a large shockwave in its wake.

"G-Get off me!" Yajū growled, as he groaned with pain at having been slammed in by the muscular man-turned-projectile.

"S-Sorry about that," Zaii said sheepishly pushing himself off his comrade and standing to his feet, acting less than affected by the maneuver. Turning vividly excited eyes back at the Paladin, he finished about speaking, "I've just decided...that I want to kill this guy!"

TAP-WHOOSH!

Moving at speeds Yajū could barely see, Zaii rushed like a whirling blur towards Percival. Reaching him within less time than anyone would anticipate, Zaii struck out his han in a palm-heel gesture, intending on striking the Paladin in the mask and return the favor for attacking him.

"!!"

Percival did not anticipate the endurance his enemy would display upon that attack. The helmet mask hid his surprise when he saw Zaii rush him and use a hand-to-hand counter of his own. But none of this would affect how he reacted to the strike itself. After all, he was one of the Holy Decimo's top four. It was a requirement for him to be prepared for anything.

With one of his hands, he caught Zaii's wrist and pulled the arm to make him lose balance. With the other hand, he reached behind him and drew a massive and rather uniquely designed cleaver sword. He only needed a brief moment to raise it in the air before swinging the blade down on Zaii with immense force. The pressure would be enough to not only cut him in two, but obliterate his very body.

The Paladin would not have qualms getting the innards of his enemy on him.

Likewise, Anton would not have qualms starting off the attack.

Forming several more Kiriken daggers, he unleashed them upon the wires above them. Predictably, they sliced through, causing the electric wires to dangle and fall. What would happen next would be an unexpected follow-up; the electricity sparking from the wires increased in voltage to lethal amounts, and the resulting bolts were unleashed upon Xavier's position. It was a makeshift lightning storm and a rather clever way of using the environment and his Kidō spells to his advantage.

"How cunning of you," Xavier spoke in a demeaning tone, losing any chance of it being a compliment, as he swung his blade up into the air, "but you see, in this battle..."

CRRRRKkkkkzzzzz....

Within a single swing of his blade, Xavier pulsated the strange ominous energy surrounding the atmosphere, causing the electrical energies created via Kidō to cease discharging. This also strangely caused the Kiriken blades up above where the power lines were cut to dissipate.

"...I control the terms of which we fight!"

Zaii however didn't want to be shown up by his new opponent.

TAP-FLIP!

Using deft acrobatic prowess, Zaii instinctively propped his body by his free extended left hand, pushing him off the piece of rubble-mounded eart, spinning away just in the knick of time to avoid the upburst of shattered and cut debris. Skidding across the ground on all fours, Zaii grinned with a predatorial grin, his eyes locking onto the barely seen irises that would be Percival's.

"I like you!~" Zaii said in a bloodthirsty tone, clawing his hands into the earth, rearing himself back as his eyes widened along with a feral laughing set of canine-set teeth, "let's HAVE SOME FUN!!!!~"

BWHOOOSH-CRACK-WHAP-CRK...!

Zaii then took off with even greater speed, this time moving with such take-off speed the debris-laiden earth erupted in a miniature shockwave, sending a cloud of ashen dust into the air. He appeared in front of Percival within an instant, throwing out a series of powerful punches, knife hands, palm-heels, and kicks, intending on taking him on with his adaptive, unpredictable style of close-quarter combat, intending on overwhelming the disciplined warrior with his own vast experience in the battles he's fought.

Rosalina percieved all of the following battles below, and unconsciously, the one above. However, from what she saw between most of the battles, was that the Daitenshi were confused and currently occupied of watching out for her colleague. A mistake on their part...

CRRRRRRK!

Drawing her string back and glowing silver arrow, she aimed for the one called Genesis, intending on taking the dangerous sharpshooter out of the game before she got lucky. Unlike her She-Devil opponent, Rosalina didn't have the advantage of instaneous regeneration, so she needed to make sure...she was entirely blown away...

"Durchstechen Wellen!"

THWAP-SSSSSSIIIIIIIIING!!!

Within releasing her arrow, the energy suddenly stirred the winds, expanding and replicating into dozens of screaming sparrows, all of them descending with pressurized cutting force that would annihilate anything Genesis was standing on within a good fifteen meter radius.

It was the sound of the bow's crack that would attract Genesis's attention back to her enemy.

With a growl, she let go of the rifle with one hand and extended it forward. From her sleeve, a multitude of Hell's chains swept forward. Each of them moved to strike the arrows that would've hit her otherwise while letting the other arrows soar forth. They continued to soar through the skies, on a path of impaling Rosalina herself. "Gonna have to try harder than that to kill me, cyclops!!" She jeered, a toothy sneer on her face.

"Ugh..."

Slowly, Shou got up from the roof he had collapsed on after bouncing off of the barrier. As he peered from his location, he could see what was happening. Even then, he didn't really need to due to his senses. Rosalina had now collided with his subordinate, and Zaii had taken to challenging Paladin IV on his own. As he reached deeper, he could literally feel the adrenaline pulsating through Zaii's body as he attacked. That alone was enough to make him feel alarm.

"He's challenging Percival alone?! There's no way he'll win!!"

With that thought in mind, he rushed forward in order to get back into the fray.

At first, the irregular moves seemed to be working.

Percival was forced to drop his sword and raise up his arms in accordance to Zaii's attacks. He found himself pushed back right away against the onslaught, retreating in an attempt to gain some breathing room. A few blows would strike him, increasing the pressure that Zaii was using on him. But in return, the armor in conjunction with a tremendous amount of endurance would also cause a bit of backlash damage to the man's fists.

But the advantage would be brief.

Quickly, the Paladin began to anticipate and counter Zaii's movements with his own. In conjunction with defensive elbow blocks and kicks, he began to utilize parry and batter away his enemy's strikes with his own, striking whenever there was an open spot. In contrast to the wild and aggressive style of Zaii, Percival was relying on coordination, precision, timing and reflexes in order to fight. The movements became natural to the point where the Paladin could take comfort in speaking.

"It seems you need to be taught a lesson in warfare..." He spoke with a cold and bitter tone. "It will be my pleasure in teaching you, rabid mutt!!"

When one of his hands caught a fist flying towards his face, he tightened his grip enough for the bones in Zaii's fingers to snap. Then...

WHAM!

WHUMPF!

Two concussive punches collided with Zaii's face, causing the man to stagger back and allow the Paladin enough room for a ferocious counterattack. He threw himself forward, launching a series of punches and kicks in a display of Hakuda mastery that would've been enough to pose a threat to the masters themselves. His attacks were vicious, aggressive, and relentless, refusing to give any quarter to his enemy.

"My Kidō was dispelled?"

Anton frowned, his eyebrows furrowing out of slight tension as he regarded the weapon that Xavier was wielding. The demonstration of power was enough to convince him that direct attacks wouldn't work. The blade seemed to act like an EMP to his abilities, and as long as Xavier could react accordingly, any attack aimed towards him would be next impossible to connect with. He would have to think carefully...

"Oh, really...?" He muttered disdainfully. "Tell me, what exactly are those said terms of this fight?"

"Your precious Kidō-natured abilities are Forbidden," Xavier spoke aloud, smiling as he said this, "as long as you're fighting me with my Zanpakutō is released, you cannot utilize Kidō abilities of any kind. You can try, but I wouldn't advise it. After all, refusing to obey Authority often gets you Punished. What is your move now, Magus?"

"Hell Chains...!"

SHFT-SHFT-SHFT-TAP-WHOOSH!

Rosalina quickly shifted to and fro through the air, her cunning perception and inhuman reflexes all that kept her from being stabbed, crushed, or wrapped around by the blood-rust stained black chains. Drawing back her bow through several employments of Flash Step, she discharged a condensed bolt of energy several times at Genesis quickly before catching a glimpse of the charging Shou.

Pulling back her bow in mid-dodge, even allowing a chain to cut the side of her face, she fired her projectile while uttering out, "Blitz Sprung!"

THWAP-SSSSSRRRRK!

Discharging the arrow of electrifying abilities, she intended on hitting Shou where he'd almost be aiming to intercept Percival. A promise of another pyre of lightning energy was well on its way, though it was unknown if the entity would dodge, strike it down, or nullify it in some way...

Zaii felt pain.

From the time he felt his fists actually get pressured by this physically endowed, disciplined warrior, he felt a series of nigh unavoidable strikes hit his body. Every time this opponent struck him, a nerve in the back of his body began to instinctively pulsate within him. After what seemed like a straight minute of relentless attacks...

VOOOM-CLANG-CLANG!

...Zaii released his Spiritual Pressure. The Pressure was so monstrous, and unnatural, even though it had yet to fully manifest itself, it stopped both of the Paladin's fists with a audible cracking sound. Sparks would fly off the Paladin's knuckles, as a bloodied yet standing Zaiir grinned wildly at his opponent, his eyes beginning to glow with revelation.

"I haven't ever felt this excited in a long time. You're actually capable of killing me! THIS IS GREAT!!!!"

VRRRROAAAAR!!!

Zaii suddenly shouted out, incredibly ecstatic and projected malicious intent through a sudden blast of Spiritual Power at point blank range, unintentionally sending his opponent back from him. Reaching to tear off his right sleeve, exposing a tattoo on his right forearm of an italic nature melded with Latin figures, he said with barely contained excitement as he raised his left forefingers up in a handsign of sorts, "I'm sorry if this becomes too much for you, but I'm so damned excited! Let me be fair and bring out..."

SSSSPRAAACK-CLAK-WHUMPF!

"...Akire!" Zaii projected a stunning light show, suddenly manifesting his large bandage-wrapped cleave weapon, being caught with ease in Zaii's right hand and easily much larger than the weapons the Paladins themselves used. Hefting it, he propped it onto his shoulder, grinning with blood-stained teeth and cut visage, making him all the more unbelievably intimidating.

"Excited?"

Percival repeated the word with unrestrained contempt. He walked over towards his own sword, keeping his eyes on Zaii the whole time. "Are you so addicted to war that you would smile, even as the very fabric of your body is annihilated?! Do you really think that this is nothing more than a game, that you have a chance of killing me?! You will never reach me, V-14 mutt!!"

Grasping the hilt of his sword, he raised it upwards before slamming the tip into the ground. With this and the straight stance he took, he conveyed nothing but defiance and grim determination. "Come!! I'll break you and that precious sword of yours!!"

In response to the attack directed towards him, Shou stopped his movement and swung his hand out towards the blast. A wall of blue flames raced up to meet the lightning, and their collision resulted in a massive explosion that lit up the entire area. This was nearly enough to catch Genesis off-guard after she avoided the attack directed towards her. However, it wasn't enough to keep her from performing her own counter-attack.

VOOM!

She reappeared behind her target, pointing the gun barrel directly at her target.

"Burn!"

BLAMBLAMBLAMBLAMBLAM!

Even in the midst of the explosions around him, Anton kept his gaze on his opponent and his opponent alone. Slowly, he clenched his fists and tilted his neck to the side in order to pop it. Even without the use of his Kidō, he wasn't the least bit undeterred. Being a soldier taught him the ways of pushing on even in the face of seemingly unbeatable odds. He wasn't going to falter just because one of his primary weapons had been ripped from him.

WOOSH!

With a Flash Step, he leaped in front of Xavier and threw a spiritually enhanced punch towards his face. He was going to keep fighting, even if it meant he had to rip the Captain apart with his bare hands.

CLANG!

Repelling the fist deftly with his blade, Xavier let his smile widen, even as his fist made contact with his glowing blade. Even as he parried the fist and stepped back, skirting the ground, he raised his blade up and spoke aloud, "Sayū"

All at once, Anton would feel his left arm stop moving and contract against his Will. With a mental command, Xavier maneuvered the said arm to move up and strangle him, intending on defeating his opponent without needing to move again. "My Zanpakutō's power lies not in purely, brute force or energy projection, but in the ability to control any form of matter I desire. From restricting the flow of Spirit Energy in the atmosphere, to controlling the exact movements of anything my blade cuts, that is one of my Zanpakutō's favored techniques. You may command respect on the battlefield through sheer force and martial prowess, but I command much more through much more elaborate means. You...are finished!"

"Gefrorene Heulen!"

FWHOOOSH!

A sudden release of a frozen gale force of freezing energy released within one arrow by Rosalina, even as her eye widened in reflex of seeing more hailfire. The force resembled that of a giant wolf's head, barreling through the various Kidō slugs, dissipating and cracking the slugs while barreling its way towards Genesis, intending on freezing her solid in the wake of the powerful arrow technique.

RRRRIIIIIP!

"You don't understand, Percival! I've fought in hundreds of battles, and I've never fought any close to my physical equal for long. Now, I have a reason to use this," Zaii spoke aloud, in a much more sated but malicious tone, his body oozed a crimson aura as the air crackled with his Spiritual Pressure even as he ripped off the sealing cloth around his sword.

But as soon as he done so...

SHIIIINK-BRRRROAAAAR!!!!

...a massive shockwave was discharged, sending debris and earth all around him in such a magnanimous manner that it would surely interfere with the Daitenshis' battle with Rosalina, as well as shake the very fabric of the barrier filled city block. With the blade released, his aura manifested in a nightmarish demon-like avatar over his form, even as his eyes glowed with sadistic glee.

"...now...I can fight you without holding back...Paladin!"

It was here that Genesis's eyes widened in slight surprise.

She had to keep herself from turning towards the battle between Percival and Zaii as she felt the shockwave wash over her. The reason that she didn't flinch and grit her teeth was because of her nature. The Daitenshi were accustomed to horrendous environments, stressful situations and suffocating environments. Zaii's release of his energy would not overwhelm her, nor would it affect Shou as he stared his opponent down.

What it would do, however, was blow away the mass of water that would've hit Genesis otherwise.

What once was ice had been melted down by Genesis's bullets. The gun she wielded could not be labeled as something so simple as a Kidō firearm. It was a vessel and a channel for use of Hell's flames in their most destructive form. All of the weapons that came from the depths of the underworld were designed in that manner. Because of this, the bullets that connected with the dragon ended up melting it down into the water state. The shockwave that Zaii had unleashed would do nothing but spread it out, allowing it to rain on the ones below.

But Anton, at least, would not pay attention to it.

His attention was directed towards the hand that had been wrenched out of his control.

For a moment, his eyes widened as he watched his hand shakily and slowly raise itself up to his throat. His fingers moved in a wild and sporadic manner as they struggled against the will of his enemy. But they were losing, and as the seconds dragged by, his hand inched closer to his own throat. It seemed as if Xavier would get his wish.

That is, until his demeanor abruptly changed from apprehension to anger.

He swung his "controlled" hand forward.

BOOM!

A burst of focused spiritual pressure was unleashed from him to his enemy, sending his target crashing into a nearby building. The force, however, would also cause the building itself to collapse inward on itself. It let out a groan as its foundation buckled and broke, falling on top of the spot where Xavier would collide. The Russian watched with a disdainful scowl, although he took a sadistic pleasure in watching the display.

"I almost want to laugh at you, Xavier." He said darkly. "Did sitting up at the top give you too much pride? Or is it that the result of your hard work make you think that you couldn't be beaten? Whatever it is, you've clearly gotten soft in the head." He raised his hand up to reveal that it was unscathed, courtesy of the spiritual energy that he summoned as an enhancement. "I'm not so stupid as to deliberately and unnecessarily risk myself."

He lowered his hand. "And "control anything you desire"? Don't bullshit me. If there's something I learned in the midst of combat, a lesson that I learned in my time with the Insurgency, it's that control only extends to those who don't have the will to resist it. The reason you can control the spiritual particles in the air is because they don't have a will of their own. That isn't the same with the likes of an enemy with nothing but the thought of killing their enemy."

He took a step forward, cracking the knuckles within each of his hand. "Now get up, you pompous fuck." He growled, emitting forth a bit more of his fury within his voice. "This would be a humiliating way to fall in front of your troops, and I'd be real disappointed if just the emission of my spiritual pressure could bring you down."

The shockwave would not shake Percival, either.

"You talk too much, boy..." He said condescendingly, pulling his blade out of the ground and readying it. "If you'd rather run your mouth than attack, then I will come for you!!"

WOOSH!

A high-speed movement, and he was within reach of Zaii. He swung his blade, ready to begin what would be the clash of blades.

CLAK-BWOOM!!!

With a single blinding movement of his large sword, with just one hand, Zaii countered the slash of his opponent with ease. Ushering enough concussive, pressurized force to possibly crack the opposing blade if not send his opponent flying, Zaii continued to swing in well-honed and masterful strokes of his sword. An almost contrast style from his earlier display of Hakuda, Zaii would move with more precision and deadlinesss with his swordsmanship than even what his opponent would be capable of, while also creating similar shocks and discharges of cutting pressurized gales from each movement he made with his blade.

"Figures," Rosalina said in an admitant tone, pushing out of the air, somersaulting until she reached a power-line tower, turning around to face Genesis and Shou respectively, "it appears what has been said about you is true. Hell-Forged Kidō armanents are indeed a cut above the rest. Fighting you two will be a perfect handicap to myself..."

"WHA-?!" Xavier's eyes widened in surprise as the fist was able to move, let alone strike enough force for an effective attack. With his face being struck openly and his body slamming directly into a building to his 5 O'clock, he could do nothing but quell the shock at first. Not from the pain, but of the sheer increduality that he met a man capable of resisting his Zanpakutō's first point of Authority. But as he heard the taunts, he could do nothing to stop the anger from flooding into his veins...and releasing it outwards...

"FOOL!!!"

BWOOM!!!

"You have a lot of guts to talk as if one strike takes down a Knight Captain, you arrogant punk!" Xavier snarled out, releasing his Spiritual Pressure to blast the rubble and debris away from his body, his form bristling with a vibrant aura of Spiritual Power as his eyes narrowed at him, "if you want to die so badly...I'll be happy to oblige!"

SHFT-SINK-SHFT-SRK-SHFT-SINK...!

And with that said, Xavier took off, utilizing a series of Flash Steps on all flanks of his opponent, slashing out massive gales of pressurized cutting Spirit-emblazoned swings of his sword. He let his mastery and expertise within the arts of Hohō and Zanjutsu come into play, showing just how outmatched this mere criminal really was. Underestimation wasn't Xavier's problem now...it was how many times he could deliver enough pain upon this man until he was satisfied his Honor had been regained after being disgraced so terribly!

WOOSH!

Just as Xavier made the first move on him, Anton made his move to counter it.

With a series of Flash Steps, he moved in accordance with Xavier and deftly avoided the strikes made towards his person. Every time he moved, the cutting energy that was released ended up wiping out structures around them. There was no doubt that the ones around them would have to race for cover in order to evade the attacks themselves. In the times that he got closer to Xavier, he swung out with his fists and legs in several brief and direct engagements with the Captain before leaping away.

"At least I wiped that smile off of his face..."

"Stop calling it Kidō, stupid!"

WOOSH!

Following Genesis's jeer, Shou re-appeared behind Rosalina and swung his blades. He moved aggressively, trying to funnel his opponent to his advantage. He attacked with thrusts, overhead swings, and underhand swings. If she had better ability within long-range, then he would force her to engage in close-quarters. Meanwhile, Genesis herself would aim her rifle, preparing to fire once she had a clear shot.

It was here that, once again, Percival found himself on the defensive.

His hidden eyes widened in shock as Zaii pushed him back, his footsteps carrying him backwards. He was force to trade his aggressive style for a more defensive and passive one, his blade blocking its counterparts' with a quickness that defied the size of his weapon. Under normal circumstances, this method of defense was supposed to wear down the enemy's endurance for proper counter-attack. But he didn't intend on waiting that long.

Once he got the chance, he briefly stabbed his blade into the ground and swung it upwards, flinging up dirt at Zaii's face. Then, he pulled his blade and thrust the tip towards the man's heart.

"NGH!" Zaii, having his fair share of having opponents use that tactic, reflexsively closed his eyes the moment he saw his opponent dug his blade into the ground. As soon as he felt the dirt hit his eyes, he moved. Swinging his blade around in an arc while pivoting his heels to instinctively avoid the sword thrust which sliced through his gi sleeve, before pummeling the blade of his opponent into the earth with immense force.

Then, came his counterattack within an instant afterwards...

"Kaen Sakugen!!!"

SSSCRRRVOOOM!!!

Discharging a bright crimson arc of cutting, volatile energy, he intended on landing his first wound on his powerful opponent, with enough pressure and force behind the wave of fiery energy to cut nearly all of the buildings behind him in half, slamming with a thunderous explosion against the far end of the barrier, shaking it and nearly cracking it from the inside.

SHFT-SHFT-SHFT-SHFT!

Rosalina once again found herself on the recieving end of the ferocious series of attacks by Devils. Using innate reflexes, with inhuman perception of her opponent's movements, she backpedaled and purposefully directed her dodged towards her fallen blade. Once there, she initiated a Flash Step, grasping her Seelenbracher, and then swung it with a vicious flurry of her own, easily using one hand to match the vigor and talent the latter Daitenshi posssessed.

Xavier never had felt such pent-up aggression towards any one entity in a very long time. He never expected V-14 to be this formidable, but he had to admit now they had much stronger resolve than beforehand. It is probably the reason, in his mind, why they fought so much harder than before. Their comrade, their ally, is in danger and he was in their path.

"Why do you go to such lengths," Xavier asked, as he managed to back away in sync with his own enemy, staring him down with a confused glare at Anton, "to save such a wretched man?! He indiscriminately slaughtered hundreds of innocent civilians and comrades! He shot his own daughter because he couldn't handle being connected to what was left of his family! Why on God's earth, would you all risk your lives so willingly to save such a Damned Soul, Semenov?!"

"Sounds like someone hasn't let go of their past..." Anton said back readily, standing up from the crouched position he had landed in. "There's always a man behind the soldier, Longstreak. There's always someone behind the mask of a killing machine. That's who I as well as the rest of V-14 have grown to know as our friend. None of us will just sit here and let him get strung up like a turkey for all of your beloved populace to see. Besides..."

Momentarily, he lowered his hands and tilted his head to the side. "Wasn't it you that created the Black Eagle? The one who recruited him and trained him to be who he was? He was your responsibility. The reason why all of those civilians and soldiers were killed was because you didn't take the proper steps in stopping him. If you're referring to him as a "damned" soul, then you are just as equally condemned for making him in the first place."

WOOSH!

Barely, Percival managed to get away from the strike.

But his form wasn't entirely unscathed.

The front of his torso armor had taken severe burns that just barely grazed the skin of his flesh. The hole within glowed an amber red, and the smoke still emitted over the damage. But despite this, it was not what he was surprised at. The fact that the man had shaken the very fabric of the barrier with his power had struck a chord within him. Just how powerful was this man...?

"Well, brigand..." It muttered, a tone of loathing respect in his voice. "It seems you are not as much of a dog as I thought you are. Who are you? I'd like to remember the name of the man whose head I will personally hoist over the crowd!"

"Zaii," Zaii spoke with a smile, though a tone of eagerness was heard behind it as he saw he managed harm his elusive foe, "Zaii Futō. If you know anything about the wars in the East, near Tendan, I've fought in many wars spanning all corners of the Spiritual Realms. If you are one to believe in myths and legends...you would know me as Gunshin. Now...what is the name of the enemy I am going to defeat utterly?"

"He knows...?!"

Slightly taken aback of how informed one of Holmes' associates were of his past, he could only snarl. Gripping his fist his eyes glowed of anger and contempt, "You know nothing! That man was totally uncontrollable, unreliable! He would've never listened to reason or obeyed any principle or law laid down! We educated him, corrected him, and eventually made him into a fine soldier. I am not responsible for what he did to himself! The only regret I have is that he didn't kill himself when his mind snapped back to his former, wretched abominable self!"

"You took an open rebel and attempted to force him to cooperate with your propaganda?" Anton was quick to retort, seeing the opportunity to increase the pressure on his enemy. "That's like taking a fish out of water and expecting it to live with the rest of us. A mind can only go so far before it's pushed off the edge. But you didn't think about that, did you? So concerned over making a perfect soldier, you didn't think about simply discharging or killing him once his intentions were made clear. You pushed him off of that edge, kept him clung to you in blind hope for your goal, and handed him the skills that allowed him to commit a massacre. Face it, Longstreak..."

He spread his arms out tauntingly, smirking a little. "The blood of the innocent is on your hands as well as his. You failed to see the signs and you're denying it right in front of me and your men. If I, a mere criminal-for-hire, can understand that.... then what does that say about you?"

"My name is Percival Chapman - a name that fell off of your tongue not too long before."" The Paladin answered, slowly lifting his blade and pointing the tip at Zaii. "But the name I go under in the field of combat is "Theta". So, god of war, let's see how you fare up against death itself!!" Following that statement, he pulled back his sword and swung it down, unleashing a fissure of his own cutting power at his enemy. It would leave several miles of a deep ditch in its wake, tall enough to match a fourth of an apartment complex.

Zaii eagerly swung back with his own cutting power, delivering Akire's capabilities to the maximum. Sending his own rift of cutting force, from what could be desribed as a rippling wave of shredding wind, striking the Paladin's own cutting force, caused nothing short of a unnaturally destructive phenomena.

SSSSCRRRR-CRACK-CRACK-CRACK-CRACK!!!

The result of the colliding forces sent tendrils of flames, exploding chaotically around them, as well as split the earth each and every way it could. Zaii smiled ferally and with great anticipation of how dangerous his opponent really was. If he was to kill those who are at the top, become the strongest...he knew this man would be the pedestal in ascending to that league of power.

This act alone caused Rosalina to gawk with both caution and fear of what the two combatants were doing, as well as what happened to the barrier before. "Those idiots!" She snarled out, being a safe distance away from Shou and Genesis in order to pause briefly to observe what was happening, "if they keep this up, they might collapse the whole city block with everyone in it!"

"That is exactly why he must be silenced! He had a choice and he took it to the extreme, and he should've died long ago!" Xavier growled out, his body quaking with rage as his eyes stared at his opponent, raising his blade into the air....

SIIIING-CRACK!

..."and that is why you must join him in the Underworld, bastard!"

What happened next was nothing short of dramatic. The energies that was so ominously present within the area they were in suddenly surged underneath Anton, crackling and screaming out, blindingly...

BWOOOM!!!

...detonating in a raw potent explosion of flames, causing all of the matter within the cobblestone street to detonate into a pillar of fiercesome, overpowering volatile force.

"Oh, boy--"

Anton only had time to form that thought, put his forearms together in front of his head, and summon his own spiritual pressure to his aid before the explosion occurred, enveloping him within its light.

The bright lights that were triggered by both attacks was enough to garner the attention of everyone within the barrier. Asuka, in particular, had long before stayed her hand once she saw the R.A.C. pay more attention to their Captain rather than her. She had her sword sheathed, her arms folded across her chest as she observed from a safe distance. Even as her hair and clothing rippled in the intense winds, she only allowed herself to pay attention to the barrier itself. "If we knew the collateral damage would've been this great, we wouldn't have Mōka to go up there..." She whispered to herself, her voice nearly overpowered by the howling winds.

"Holy shit..." Genesis whispered, warily looking at the fight between Percival and Zaii. "Look at 'em down there. I didn't even know that guy had so much power in him." She took a look over at Shou, who had momentarily lowered his swords upon Rosalina's retreat. "That's only the fourth H.D. Paladin, right?"

"Indeed." Shou muttered grimly. "The Paladins are a breed of warriors to be feared..."

And that's when all things turned over...

CRRK-CRK-CRRAAACK-BLAAAAAM!!!

As the skyline view of the barrier extending all over the wrecked city block suddenly collapsed in on itself, with a fiery enraptured Dominator dropping to the ground, her two swords transformed into a large elegant cleaver blade. Turning to speak to everyone there, "We're leaving! Now! The other Knight Captains are gearing up to come intervene in this matter!"

SHFT-BRACK-BRACK-BRACK-BRACK...!

What happened next was within only a few seconds. Shito's form, with his hat flying off his scarred head, threw a number Kidō Void cards, stabbing in front of each member of V-14, unconscious, standing or fighting. Shito then spoke aloud in a augmented voice, "Sorry ladies and gents! We're going to have to take a rain check on any personal duels and vendettas you started! I'm taking us out!"

SHFT-CLAP!

And with a series of glowing ribbons of energy, wrapping around all members of V-14, blocking anything that would possibly endanger them or pull them from it.

"Well about time!" Hyōryū spoke aloud, seeing a smoke covered Anton being enraptured by the same energy as she was, "I was getting worried we'd have to actually kill somebody. That would be awful!"

"The F*** is this?! Dammit!" Yajū spoke aloud, growling as he was about to rush out into the fray, only for him to be wrapped up in a semi-paralytic energy field, "I'm going to seriously kick your ass for this, Shito!"

"Ah crap," Zaii spoke aloud, raising his arms up to see his whole form was enraptured by the energy field. Looking over to the Paladin, he smiled with recognition and gave the man a half-hearted salute, "looks like we'll have to tango another time. I'll be waiting for you until then!"

"NO!" Rosalina shouted out, seeing nearly everything fall apart before her eyes, in sync with the desparation with the Knight Captain's, "I won't let you leave!"

CRRRRK-FWAP!

Rosalina quickly shot out an energized arrow directly towards Shito, intending on stopping the fields from fulfilling their purpose...

CRACK-FZZZZT!

...only to have the arrow repelled away from his form, as he himself was surrounded by the same field, causing her to snarl aloud, "DAMN YOU ALL!!!"

To the end, Percival remained silent.

But he kept his gaze on Zaii the whole time. It would've been easy to turn away and ignore what should have been pointless words. But because of the nature of the battle as well as the duel between Anton and Xavier, he was beginning to reconsider his view of the V-14 as nothing more than criminal scum. Their tenacity allowed them to escape the trap set for them and survive even the wrath of the Paladins. That was something that had to be admired.

So, he stood with his blade on his shoulder and watched to the point of Zaii's last words. "Zaii Fūto..." He thought to himself. "I'll remember that name the next time I see you, if there is ever a possibility."

"Damn it...!"

Anton was not so pleased to have his battle interrupted.

As the smoke started to clear, he would be seen through the gaps of the ribbons. His shirt had been reduced to tatters on his torso, and the cuffs of his pants had been reduced to nothing but scorched ribbons. There were multiple mild burns on his body, but none of them would prove to be a hindrance to him. He slammed his fist into the ground, glaring daggers at the Knight Captain. "You got lucky this time, Longstreak!!" He snarled out. "Next time, I won't be so forgiving!!"

"Well, look who decided to make a big dramatic entrance..." Genesis muttered, lowering her gun in sync with Shou as he lowered his blades. As the ribbons of energy wrapped around them, she turned her attention towards her boss. "Guess this means we can go see Dad now... if they haven't hung him up yet..." She said this with a slightly bitter tone, causing the man to look at her in slight surprise.

"You'll be fine, right?" He asked quietly, to which Genesis gave a weak nod.

"I'm hoping that I don't get all sappy and emotional seeing my sis again..."

ZZZZOOOM!

And with that, all members of V-14 were teleported away from the battle scarred city block. Miraculously, there were no fatalities on either side, but wounds were plentiful for both RAC troopers and on the respective members of V-14. Despite the collateral damage no death had been delivered...something unusual for their reputation of heartless killers.

This fact alone made a frustrated Xavier take pause, even as they left them. Turning around and sheathing his blade, sealing its radius-length powers, he made sure to withdraw, hand gesturing to his men as they left.

"If they want to save him badly, I'd say let them," Xavier growled in admittant defeat, his eyes still cold with hatred though, "I'm done trying to clean up his messes. I won't take anymore responsibility for such trash any longer. Its in their hands now..."

The Final Hour Cometh, What lies under our Feet?!

SSSSCRRRRAAACKBOOM!

Within a bright, violet blast, the city square was suddenly filled with a number of Prime Cohort soldiers flanking the acclaimed and bound Oliver Holmes. Beside them, however, was none other than the Adrian Rivers, Head of the Magus Order. Rising from his prone stance of utilizing the Space/Time Kidō, he then looked at Oliver with a solemn tone, before bowing his head, "I hope you find peace in the next life, Holmes. It seems this world has not been kind to you, and I regret being part of your undoing."

Kenja's eyes finally adjusted, along with the rest of the crowd, after the blast of light to see Oliver indeed standing next to the gallows, surrounded by Prime Cohort soldiers in full Kidō armor and large lances in hand. As well as seeing a powerful member of the Magus Order, the leader of it himself, he knew his chances of getting Oliver out in one piece was slim to none.

Reaching up to his earpiece, Kenja spoke aloud in a hushed tone, "Guys! Do you copy?! Oliver just got transported here via Space/Time Kidō! I repeat, our package has arrived and very tightly secured!"

"We read you 5 by 5, Kōdai-san." Asuka's voice was quick to answer him. "It seems we escaped their trap at the nick of time. Their forces weren't too keen on pursuing us, thankfully..."

Yusuke, who was standing right beside Kenja, gave a quiet sigh of relief. "That's good news... I was starting to give you guys up for lost!" He admitted. He looked towards the stage, watching Oliver as he turned his gaze towards Adrian. "Are you guys all right?"

"Nice to know that at least someone's kind enough to see me off..." Oliver muttered.

"We've suffered a bit of injury. Semenov-san's covered in burn marks, but he's alive and kicking. Compared to the rest of us, he's suffered the worst of it. What about the forces outside of the barrier? Everything okay with you all?"

"What fight have you been watching? Zaii's beaten and bloodied all over. I think Anton got off lucky in comparison to this guy-"

"Its fine! I can walk it off-ow! Everything hurts right now...just...owwwww..."

"I rest my case..."

"Shortly before we saw Oliver arrive on stage, we lost contact with Shinshin and Kaitlyn. Some kind've interference they're putting up around their end, but they said they got it covered. We've laid low like you asked, so Yusuke and I have remained untouched. Glad to say you guys are okay, however..."

"I bid you farewell, Holmes," Adrian walked away, back into the shadows to watch from a distance and not up close, "it is time..."

The Prime Cohort guards grabbed Oliver from either side, holding their lances with their opposing hands, while forcing him up the wooden steps, high up to where the noose lied waiting. Bloody and gnarled, the rope projected a long going tradition of hanging the worst kinds of criminals. Now, as Oliver would be pushed towards it and slowly be fastened around his own neck, it would be his turn...

As the noose slowly made his way around his neck, he did the one thing that surely no one else would've done in that situation.

He laughed.

From the start, it was nothing more than a simple chuckle. But it only took several seconds for that tone to escalate into maniacal, hyena-like and hysterical laughter. To be honest, it was rehearsed. This wasn't genuine. But the nature and the knowledge of his mental state would be enough to convince anyone that the final thread had snapped. He would make sure that all of them remembered the maniac who laughed even within his final moments.

From the crowd, Yusuke's eyes dilated and a shiver went down his spine. Unconsciously, he took a step backward, beads of sweat falling down his face at the horrible sound coming from the soon-to-be executed. "Whatever those guys do, they better do it fast..."

"YOU MURDERED MY HUSBAND YOU BASTARD!"

CRASH! CLANG! CRACK!

The sound of a enraged, grieving woman as she threw a glass bottle over the guards, narrowly missing Oliver, despite the shards that exploded at his feet, as well as other pieces of debris. More cries to demand for his blood were heard as they all held nothing but hatred for him after the suffering and death he was personally responsible for. The Prime Cohort troops kept them back, and consequently, kept Kenja whom began to try and force his way to the scene.

Kenja could only watch as he saw the guards form a near unbreakable barrier in between him, the crowd, and Oliver. He could only hear his heartbeat echoing in his head, as he watched Oliver laugh aloud in his uncharacteristically manical tone. The Prime Cohort trooper reaching for the lever, grasping it, and then pulling it back...

CRRK-FLAP!

...allowing the trap door beneath Oliver's feet to open up, which would allow Oliver to fall to his death...

Time stopped.

On a rooftop nearby, a single muzzle flash could be seen.

Within the crowd, a single gun blast could be heard.

POW!

One gun bullet would go through the rope connecting the loop and the body of the noose, freeing Oliver's neck from the oppressive hold. His eyes would widen when he realized that he was falling through the trap door, not being caught in the death grip. However, the military instinct that kicked in told him to do something, anything to recover.

And he did.

With his cuffed hands, he reached out to grasp the ledge before he could fall through. With immense strength, he vaulted himself back up to the surface in a front flip. He could consider himself lucky that they focused moreso on the amount of guards near him than the bindings he was wearing. Instead of the chains, his hands had been fastened with rope. He couldn't blame them if they didn't see any of it coming.

He hadn't, either.

But he sure wasn't going to let that go to waste.

"HE'S LOOSE--!!"

That was when Yusuke allowed himself to make his presence known.

With a simple leap, he jumped up and and swung his hands out, drawing the attention of the guards surrounding Oliver. What they wouldn't expect was his wires to come towards them, ripping through their armor and impaling them. For each one, multiple wires worked their way into the nervous system. Each of them started screaming in agony, their eyes rolling up to the back of their head. They would live... but it would possibly cause severe mental trauma due to the extent of the pain.

"Shake in fear, children..."

Yusuke had a clear smile and squinted on his face as he landed on stage, earning the attention of both the crowd and the guards who hadn't been struck by his attack. His voice carried a calm and gentle tone within as he spoke, which may have matched the creepiness of Oliver's laughter. That, as well as the fact that he had a number of guards under his unwilling control, would clearly present to all of them that he was a threat to be feared.

"The Boogeymen have come for you..."

And with that the crowd panicked. Knowing that both the Black Eagle, a known murderer on a genocidal level was loose, as well as more accomplices were at work, it made it hazardous for the Prime Cohort to react while such a mass of people were running each and every direction they could. This allowed Kenja to maneuver, as he preformed Bringer Light to approach the other approaching guards, handling them with his immense strength in sync with his martial artistic graceful gestures.

"Oliver is loose! I repeat, Oliver is loose!" Kenja spoke aloud, even as he began to tangle with the Prime Cohort troops that were off their game due to the chaos.

Adrian Rivers, despite being on watch, chose to secure the crowd and protect the lot. He knew they'd be pushing their luck if they continued to detain him and the rest of V-14. Whoever decided to bring the known acclaimed criminal here to be publically executed was a fool. He knew that now, and he would definitely voice it once the Knight Commander gets wind of this debacle...

However, that chaos was about to become much worse...

BOOOM! BOOM! BOOM!

Somewhere down the direction the crowd descended towards, vibrant pyrotechnic explosions could be heard, as well as terrified screams as bodies and troops alike flew everywhere. The only problem was, none of V-14 were to be heard acknowledging the series of indiscriminate attacks, fueling the chaos into a wildfire affect.

"Woah, woah, woah!!!" Genesis's voice yelled. Apparently she at least saw or at least heard the explosions. "What are you guys doing?! We want to nab the target, not blow up the place!!"

"I... don't think that's any of our doing." Shou muttered hesitantly.

"Whatever it is, it's providing quite the distraction..." Asuka informed. "Move in and secure the perimeter. The faster we can get Oliver out of here, the better!"

Yusuke decided to put his puppets to good use.

With flicks and curls of his fingers, he unleashed his puppets on the ones that were attacking Kenja. They swung their lances down on their targets like clubs, aiming to disable and incapacitate them rather than killing them outright. He understood that the non-lethal rule still applied. They had to minimize casualties, lest they wanted to end up ruining a potentially good outlook by Aether.

Oliver himself, despite being surprised, knew that there were bigger things at hand than the question of the V-14's presence.

He raised the ropes binding his wrists to his mouth, using his teeth to tear apart the fibers. When they were weak enough, he pulled them apart and let the broken bindings fall to the stage. As he worked out his wrists, he looked at the crowd as they fled. He couldn't help but shake his head a little in disdain. They were only brave enough to stand up to him after he was in chains.

CLATTER!

His eyes widened slightly when he heard the sound of something clattering next to him. He turned himself around to see his trademark pistols laying beside his feet, having been thrown from the building that had been nearby. Naturally, he looked up in order to see who gave him the weapons. But when he cast his eyes upon the rooftops, there was no one there.

Oh, well...

At least they were helping him.

As he walked up to grab them, Asuka's voice rang out once again. "Heads up, Kenja-san and Yusuke-kun! We're coming to reinforce you!"

"Roger that," Kenja finished off his last opponent, snap-kicking him towards a far off building, causing the face of it to collapse along with the prone armored guard, "we've incapacitated and disabled all the guards in this sector, but I suggest we find a place to hide and regroup until we retreat. For all we know, all the Knight Captains are going to gear up for this conflict and eventually get into an unavoidable battle royale with us."

"Not to mention someone's going apeshit with napalm and explosives! The whole city is being lit up like a old-fashioned fireworks show!"

"We'll get to you soon, Kenja. Just hang tight and we'll reinforce your area..."

"PSSST!" A voice hissed from the shadows of a nearby alley, showing a dark cloaked and mysterious figure hiding from within, "are you the guys here to rescue that Black Eagle fella?! I can help find a safe place for you guys to regroup, if you're all interested?"

"Huh...?"

As Yusuke retracted his wires, he turned himself around to look upon the silhouette within the alley in slight surprise. "My boss told me not to do business with strangers..." He said, eyeing the man warily. "Especially ones wearing black and creepy-looking cloaks..." Briefly, he glanced towards Kenja in wonder of his output.

CLICK!

But he was forced to turn back to Oliver when he heard the sound of a readied pistol. His eyes widened in further surprise, and he opened his mouth in an attempt to stop the blonde. But he was abruptly cut off.

"Tell us who you are," Oliver said with a lax yet sharp tone, keeping the barrel of his pistol level with his head. "And I just might not be tempted to add you to the casualty list today."

"I'll gladly tell you my name once we're in safety, but I'll have you know that series of beautifully sounding explosions to add to your temporary smokescreen was my doing," the voice spoke in an urgent, if not temporarily prideful tone.

"Oliver," Kenja placed a hand on the man's shoulder, nodding towards the alley, "most if not all of our group knows where we are. I say we just go with this guy and wait for the others to get back. We can then plan our escape from there, if necessary..."

For a moment, Oliver didn't move from his position. He didn't pay attention to Kenja, keeping the pistol leveled towards the stranger's head. In fact, it looked as if he was about ready to pull the trigger out of sheer distrust. But after a few seconds of fighting on what to do, he decided that he didn't have much of a choice in the matter.

He let out a light scoff, lowering his pistol. "Fine..." He muttered in a slightly vehement tone. "But if you try anything, and I'll kill you right where you stand. Got it, pal?"

"No problem, Ollie," an eery nostalgic tone carried through the man's voice, as he turned around and kicked away a loose lid to a sewer entrance. After nodding their heads to the opening of the manhole, he hopped down without hesitation, disappearing into the darkness that it had created.

"To team leaders, this is Kenja! We've found the man responsible for the explosions and we're checking out the safehouse he has in the sewers. Track us to our location and meet us their ASAP," Kenja spoke immediately, removing his hand from Oliver's shoulder before walking towards the manhole, sniffing a few whiffs before coughing, "yup, still smells the same since I left it. I'll go first," he then proceeded to use the ladder, and carefully descended down the manhole, utilizing his enhanced senses to guide him safely down.

"Acknowledged." Angelika said. "We're on our way..."

"You took your sweet time getting here, didn't you?" Oliver questioned, allowing himself to drop down with Yusuke following his path. "Took the sceneric route?"

"We were the back-up plan," Kenja spoke up, his voice echored along the tight interior of the manhole's descending ladder, "we were originally going to spring you en route to your execution square, but your dear ex-Knight Captain sprung a trap on us and temporarily trapped a good portion of the team. It was a miracle no one died in the fighting, as fierce as I and everyone else felt it being..."

"You seem rather... not angry..." Yusuke muttered. "Considering what you said to boss lady earlier--"

"That was before I remembered Nazi had a really messed up sense of humor." Oliver answered immediately before Yusuke could finish his sentence. "I should've known you guys would never leave me to the dogs. But you really cut it close..."

"That's some messed up relationship you got with your boss," Kenja remarked as he continued down, chuckling as he went, "I'd almost think she enjoys watching you squirm or suffer before telling you she's kidding."

"You have no idea..." Oliver answered readily, a bit of humor sliding into his voice. "Matter of fact, there was a former member of the crew that got real heated up about it. She took out her sword and gouged her eye out right in front of me and Shou."

Yusuke winced a little. "No foolin'?

"No foolin'. She wasn't too shaken up about it though. Carried on like nothing happened. Still cracking those kinds of jokes, too..."

"Interesting times we live in, for certain," Kenja spoke solemnly as he carried on climbing down. It wasn't until just a few moments later, Kenja's boots hit the bottom, walking forward before bringing out a piece of cloth, lighting it up and the dark, dimly lit sewer, "okay. We're here..."

"Took you guys awhile," the shadowy man commented, having taken a leaning stance against the far side of the sewer wall, just across the sewer water trench, "what's the matter? You don't spelunk down manholes often?"

"Well, excuse me, Mr. Alligator..." Yusuke said sarcastically, raising his hands up in mock defensiveness. "We don't make it a habit out of wading through nasty stuff to get where we are. Sorry if you're into that sort of thing and we're not..." He folded his arms across his chest as he came closer. "So, you were responsible for those explosions, huh? What's with the sudden interest in us?"

"Oh, those?" He vaguely pointed upwards, chuckling before putting his hands back into his cloak's pockets, "I was going to trigger them with our without interference. You could say its a little payback I've been playing with Aether's Military and its populace that lives off the scum that the poor and disbenefited have done. I delayed the charges though, because of Ollie-boy's execution. I wanted to watch and see what would happen. Sure enough, he somehow miraculously cheats death yet again! Oh you do still surprise me..."

"You act like you know him," Kenja spoke out pointedly, his eyes narrowing, holding up his makeshift candle up towards his direction, casting a reflective glow off the water and catching the figure's lower shoes and trenchcoat, "who are you? What is Oliver got to do with you?!"

"Well...isn't this dramatic?" The man spoke in a sarcastic tone, bearing an almost semblence to Oliver's own but a little more lighthearted and nonchalant, "you want me to step into the light as I voice my identity? Show my face to the man over there? Very well...I was going to do it anyways..."

With a few more hauntingly slow steps, the light crawled up the black trench coat form of a tall, lean man. Finally reaching his face, a red eyed and haired man with an angularly well built facial structure, smiling towards them all with an unknown motive behind his eyes. His eyes, however, were locked more onto Oliver's than any of them.

"Hello, Ollie-boy," he spoke aloud, smiling vividly eery white teeth as he spoke in a cool tone, "its been awhile..."

Those blue eyes widened, and for the first time since the reunion, Oliver allowed himself to express his surprise to everyone.

When he cast eyes upon the red ones of the man, the pearly whites of his smile, the crimson hair that only he would've recognized, and the aura he gave off had hit his mind like a flying brick. "Well..." He muttered, a ghost of a smile crossing his face. "Why didn't you just do that sooner? I might've not been pushed to point a gun at your head..."

"Who is he?" Yusuke questioned.

Readily, Oliver made a gesturing motion with his hand towards the stranger. "Kenja, Yusuke... I'd like to introduce you to Jamie. He's my brother."

Kenja couldn't help but cough, sputtering and then look stupidly between the two of them. They had the same air, the aura, and atmosphere from which he could believe they were related. But...they looked so different! "This guy is your brother?! But...but...," he then pointed towards Jamie, even as the latter began snickering, "he looks nothing like you!"

"Oh, you mean this?" Jamie gestured pointedly to his eyes and then curled his gloved hands around his bangs, grinning satisfyingly before releasing his hand and flourishing it in emphasis, "brother and I are genuinely related, blood and all, but we never knew our parents. I deduced our mother had red hair and perhaps our father had blonde hair, but you'd never know after being alive without them for so long," he shrugged nonchalantly, before looking back to Oliver, "but Ollie-boy, do you really have to ask? You know I like to be a little mysterious and then come out of the shadows. Its how I scared you as a child so many times, after all..."

"Scared?" When Yusuke asked the question, it was clear that he was amused and anticipating an explanation.

Oliver gave a slightly annoyed sigh, turning his gaze away briefly from the rest of them. "Peek-a-boo was a game we played real often, seeing as we were too poor to do anything else. Of course, he was an early bloomer when it came to smarts. Nearly ended up as the kid who died because of a heart attack." He was quick to snap his gaze back to Jamie afterwards. "I see he still has that part within him, at least when it comes to the populace..."

"Yeah, we both got our own little nicknames, haven't we? You get to be called the Black Eagle, genocidal terror born from the military! I on the other hand," raising his hands in either direction, his eyes wide with glee as well as his smile as he spoke in a dramatic tone, "am none other than the Blood Coat! Mass Murderer born from the darkness and garbage of this Land, slaying and punishing those who live in mass bountiful wealth!"

"Y-you're the Blood Coat?!" Yusuke's mirth faded away immediately, and his eyes dilated as he switched his gaze over towards the red-haired man. He took a reflexive step backwards. It didn't exactly please him that he was in the presence of a serial killer who had caused such a panic within the masses....

Oliver was quick to raise his hand up before the younger V-14 member could do anything rash. "Yeah, pretty title..." He muttered. "Just another name to add to the associates of V-14 that also happen to specialize in unethics."

"You certainly do have colorful company, Ollie-boy, that you do," Jamie spoke admittantly, lowering his left arm before raising his right hand towards Yusuke, "you got a decievingly innocent looking boy from the 4th Division, whom I saw string up some men's bodies like puppets," he then turned his hand to Kenja, unnerving him as he spoke next, "and then you got the Burning Knight himself. An aledged Vigilante whom has one of the highest bounties from all known criminal organizations and cartels, both Spirit and Living! I can't imagine whom the other lads and lassie could be as well..."

"Yeah?" Oliver questioned rhetorically. "Well, get comfortable. You just might find out soon enough. Hope none of them gets antsy over meeting such a prestigious character..." He said the last bit with an obvious note of sarcasm. "You got an escape route for us?"

"Hm? Oh right! The lair!" Jamie spoke aloud in a comical scene of realization, hopping over the gap between the three and himself, landing right before Oliver, before turning towards their right and his left, "to the SECRET LAIR!"

"At some times, I see how they can be related, but then again, I'm so sure," Kenja sweatdropped, as he looked towards the long dark corridor, where the polluted sewer river went towards. It almost appeared like a ancient dungeon, with torches lit all the way down the plaster and decaying brick laden arched sewer tunnel.

Oliver was quick to take the lead, with Yusuke following behind him. His eyes looked around, observing the area he and the others were entering. "You sure the rest of the team will be able to follow us down here?" He questioned. "I doubt that they'll want yet another obstacle in their way..."

"They don't come down here, trust me," Jamie spoke aloud, chuckling in a eery happy-go-lucy manner. Waving his left hand in emphasis as a floating, rotting corpse drifted by, "they usually dump the poor or the scum of Shinhae in this sewer and never come down. They say this place is haunted ever since the genocide victims were dumped all into the sewer's waters, saying a Demon was awoken deep within," he then looked back at Oliver and Yusuke, laughing incredulously, "At least, that's what they say and its enough to keep them away."

"Glad to know you live with such pleasant company," Kenja drawled on, as he looked over distastefully at the floating body, cascading over the murky red-green waters.

Yusuke exhaled a breath as he shared Kenja's gaze. "Oh... this is just wrong..." He said, a mixture of disgust and grief within his voice. "No one's body should get thrown aside like a piece of trash. Why don't they just give respectable burials? These aren't criminals! These are innocent people here!"

"The authority doesn't care much for the civilians, despite what they say." Oliver said bitterly. "All they're focusing on is feeding power and strength to the military. It's how I got roped up into their business. They sweep the poor and homeless off of the streets and forcibly recruit them into the ranks. If they had their way, every resident within this city would be serving under the army. Either the citizens of this place are too into the propaganda, or they simply don't want to pay attention to that fact. Either way, it shows just how much of a trash heap Aether's become."

"Technically speaking, they were all supposed to be reverantly cremated but due to the ongoing war that wasn't over, they left the disposal of the bodies to a strange group of fellows. Volunteers, they said. Scavengers is what they really were," Jamie spoke, speaking with venom about the ilk he spoke of enough to spit into the garbage and body filled sewer water before continuing down the dark corridor, "turns out nearly every body that wasn't torn to pieces by the genocide incident was looted before being tossed into here. Too bad the 1st Cohort didn't think about what would happen to their dead until much too later..."

"It makes me sick just thinking about it..." Oliver muttered in equal distaste. "The Insurgency should've ripped this place apart and burned it right off the map." He looked behind him towards Jamie. "Not that I'm curious... but what exactly turned you into an omnicidal maniac?"

"You think I'm crazy just because I bathe in the blood of my enemies?" Jamie asked Oliver with a sarcastic tone, turning his head back before winking at him, chuckling with humor before walking forward further as he spoke, "this became possible through a series of events that would be far too complicated for your mind to comprehend, little Ollie-boy. I didn't gain my abilities to kill and prowl the streets at night by just being smart. I recieved training, guidance, and teachings far and wide. Both in Aether and the South Lands, I've learned how to become the person I am today. Unfortunately for everyone in Aether, my hobby became more of a serial killing streak when I'm not working..."

"That's a pretty sick hobby, I'm not going to lie," Kenja spoke aloud, as he followed as their vanguard. Despite the fact he had reveled in hearing the screams of agony for his father's killers or the men who serve the Inner Circle, he never once would've taken personal joy in his violent acts. He believed wholeheartedly, that unlike Oliver, Jamie is an even more debased and sadistically cruel man.

"I was being sarcastic." Oliver grumbled, sparing him an annoyed glare. "In contrast to the popular belief, I'm not a moron. I didn't get to where I was and successfully destroyed an Aethian HQ just because I could shoot a gun. With all your smarts, I'd figure you'd see that..."

"I never said you were dumb, Ollie-boy," Jamie stopped walking, effectively halting the group as they were in the middle of the sewer tunnel, of which seemed to lead forever into the darkness. Turning around, Jamie's face was faintly alight by the torch, showing a eery stare from his blood red eyes, "but sometimes you don't cover all your bases. You wouldn't be my brother if you aren't where you are today, now would you?"

"Yeah, yeah." Oliver merely rolled his eyes and turned away, folding his arms across his chest. A slight shudder went down his spine as soon as he met those eyes, however. But considering he had to deal with intimidating stares throughout his life, this was nothing new. "Why'd you stop for?"

"This..."

THUD-THUD!

"...is our stop," Jamie spoke, as he knocked onto the aged brick wall to the group's right. After a few moments the wall opened up, splitting the bricks apart to reveal an intricate and archaic gate pulling the wall back into a recessed part of the wall itself, showing what looked like another tunnel, though cleaner smelling and a little brighter than the corridors of the sewers themselves.

"Ooooh~!"

Eager to escape the morbidity of the sewers, Yusuke was quick to take the lead. He moved past Oliver in order to look inside, his curious eyes taking in everything. "Now this looks like what I'd expect from a movie!" He exclaimed. Partially, he had been expecting something like this. An easily accessible route would have been the continuation of going down the sewer trench - something anyone could do. Something like this, however, was much more subtle.

"Nice place you got." Oliver commented, allowing himself to step inside after Yusuke. "Happen to have an armory in this place? I only got so much munitions on my person right now..."

"Sure do!"

FLIP-CLICK-CLICK!

"I need ammo for these babies anyways!" Jamie spoke in pride, as he revealed with a sudden hidden flourishing motion of two nearly identical handguns, "say hello to Bonnie & Clyde, Ollie-boy! C'mon and follow me and I'll tell you about this place..." Jamie spoke aloud as he took the tunnel to the left, whistling to Yusuke to follow him as Kenja wordlessly, if not cautiously followed them.

"This place used to be the first Knighthood of Aether's most chivilarous warriors. They had a fully stocked armory, bedrooms, kitchen, and navigation system," Jamie explained as he they walked into a dark room. As they all walked in, automatically, the lights turned on to show wooden shelves, racks, and stone-laiden areas where makeshift weaponry of all kinds were scattered about.

The workbench on the far end, showed noticeable work with tools of a more modern assortment, as well as pieces of busted or in-process weaponry, from which Jamie walked over and leaned against, "I've been keeping a collection. Anything from Firearms, Spirit Blades, Armor, you name it, its probably here. Both Kidō and other materials were used to make a great deal of these armanents. Help yourselves, but don't be greedy..."

"I think the only one needing weapons will be me..."

Oliver approached what appeared to be a sub-machine gun, picking it up and inspecting it. Then, he turned his attention over to the reloads stacked beside it as well as a respective holster. He wasn't about to pick a weapon up without making sure it wasn't rendered defective for some reason. The last thing he wanted was for his weapon to jam or blow up and take his hands off.

After making sure it was okay, he supplied himself with a total of seven reloads as well as five for each pistol. As he slipped one of the SMG reloads into the chamber, he looked over towards the rest of them. Despite having wires as his own trademark weapon, Yusuke seemed to be eyeing a weapon of his own. "How come they abandoned it?" He questioned, cocking a slight eyebrow. "For someone that anticipated where V-14 was, I'd figure they know this would be a potential risk factor for security."

"This place is older than Shinhae itself, back when this was a mere trading post for passerbiers with a Tavern filled with smugglers, bounty hunters and the like," Jamie spoke knowledgeably as he walked around to the workbench, taking a few parts and pieces, readjusting his two custom made handguns as he worked, "your reputation is probably why they wouldn't expect you to be here. Everywhere you go, you always end up blowing the place up or wrecking this very loudly. Stealth is something everyone underestimates you on..."

"That'd make sense," Kenja smirked, realizing from what he heard and seen from his encounter with V-14 that they were entirely capable of stealth, but are quickly preferred to throw it to the wind when things go to Hell, "you guys didn't exactly try to keep your cool when you hunted me."

"Yeah?" Oliver quirked an eyebrow, frowning. "Well, it's kind of pointless to hide when you're found out by some supernatural sense all you superpowers have. Besides, blowing things up is one of my specialties. Everything's better when it goes up in flames." The cool and calm tone made the last parts of his retort all the more eerier to hear.

"And a rain of blood," Jamie added without fault to Oliver's comment, making Kenja shiver with dread being around the two of them, "hey, Ollie-boy! Have you ever strung up your enemies over a vaulted ceiling after skinning them alive? IF there are reinforcements coming, it will scare the shit out of their pants! I'm telling you, once I set the exits and walls on fire and I came in with a knife in each hand, they practically all lost the will to fight back. It was just so...funny! HAHAHA!"

This time, Oliver had to lower his head in order to hide his amused smile, shaking it slightly. "If I ever had a party hosted for Halloween, I know who to invite for decor." He commented, sliding the submachine gun within its respective holster.

"And I know what party I'm not going to!" Yusuke exclaimed, briefly turning his head to look over his shoulder before returning his attention to the weapons on the table.

"Who could blame the people for wanting to string these guys up by their necks? But then again," Kenja looked over as he saw the two of them sharing a mutual, even if slightly disturbing, pleasant reunion, "it was the city and its inhabitants that made them into what they are. They are only doing what's natural to survive and thrive. My drive for vengeance isn't so much different from their wanton for destruction and manslaughter...I'm not one to judge in the end."

"H-H-Hey, Ollie-boy! Check this out!" Jamie suddenly spoke in an excited tone, attaching what looked like a spike-flared-out muzzle extension over his Bonnie handgun, before clicking it into place. Holding it up for Oliver's view, Jamie explained, "this is a mod I developed. It basically transforms the energized slug into a string of napalm shrapnel blades, with the homing accuracy and velocity of a man-handled missile launcher. It rips them apart while also combusting them into flames!"

"Ok, you just lost my attention at the word "homing"." Oliver took a few steps back, raising his hands up in a gesture of refusal. He regarded the mod itself with slight disgust. "If your bullets have to home in on your target, then all that does is show you can't aim at all. Take off that particular function, and that extension would be great."

"Hold that thought," Jamie spoke without fault, dismantling the attachment from his gun while setting the latter down on his workbench, before taking off what looked like a silver ring on the black, spike-flared muzzle mod. After he was finished, Jamie held out the mod to Oliver, saying aloud, "no homing included, Ollie-boy."

"Ooooh~!"

The reaction Oliver gave off was almost similar to the one Yusuke gave when they first entered the room. Even more so, it made Yusuke roll his eyes slightly when he watched the blonde man take it from Jamie and look at it in wonder. "Sheesh, it's like I'm at a gun otaku convention or something..." He complained, lifting a pistol up and cocking back the slide. "Calm down, you two!"

"I got loads of mods for handguns, rifles, SMG's, you name it," Jamie spoke aloud after smiling ear-to-ear at seeing his brother's pleased expression. Reaching underneath his workbench, he unlocked a few doors within the cabinet's space before pulling out and stacking three different wooden or metal crates stacked to the brim with mods and attachments, "have at it!"

"Well aren't you the Santa Claus for gun geeks around the world," Kenja mused as he saw the large array of weapons around the room and then the mod boxes he set onto his workbench.

"Well, I suppose it doesn't hurt to come prepared..." Yusuke muttered, folding his arms across his chest and tapping an index finger against the pistol he was holding. "These are probably enough weapons to take on a small army. I guarantee you that at least some of them will do against the likes of the Aethian Military..."

"Careful with that one!" Jamie pointed his hand to Yusuke's weapon, waving it towards him with a comically frightened expression, "that one has a explosive mod built into it! One wrong move and you'll detonate hundreds of fully stocked and armed weaponry!"

"GAH--!!"

Unfortunately, that nearly made Yusuke throw the thing up within the air.

Thankfully, he managed to keep a firm grip on it. However, he was thrown out of his relaxed stance. Immediately, he set the gun back where had gotten it from. "W-why didn't you tell me that before I picked it up?!" He stammered, quickly taking a few steps back from the table.

"BUAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!~" Jamie couldn't contain himself, as he held his chest and laughed heartily, almost crying from the vaguely implied humor, "oh geez! That was a good one! AHAHAHAHAHA!"

"What the Hell is so funny?!" Kenja asked, comically sporting a few protruding veins from his forehead, as he hid behind one of the gun racks despite how ill fated it would've turned out to be.

"This," Jamie said, walking over to the gun, raising it levelly to Yusuke before pulling the trigger...

CLICK!

"...is an empty pee-shooter. You picked up one of the most basic handguns and you thought I stuffed a nuke in it! Oh you guys are so gullible," Jamie continued to chuckle as he set the gun back down before wiping the tears from his eyes.

"Oh, for the love of--!!"

As Oliver rolled his eyes, Yusuke threw his hands up in the air. "Really, who would joke about something like that?!" He demanded, shooting a glare at the laughing Jamie. "Jeez, what are you trying to do, give us a heart attack?! We're trying to make it out alive, not die trying!"

"Sorry about that, squirt," Jamie snickered, placing his hand onto Yusuke's hair, mussing it up as if he was his little brother, "I get carried away sometimes..."

"Hey guys! We're all inside the sewer but it says that you're behind this wall. Are you alright?" Mōka asked on the comm.

"Yeah, just tap it twice and it'll open," Kenja spoke aloud, confirming their arrival.

This was the moment of reunion.

As Oliver heard the communication, he gave a light sigh. He moved over to one of the nearby boxes, made sure it was something stable, and sat down on it. He clapped his hands together, intertwining his fingers and placing them at mouth level. His elbows rested against his knees. All of it conveyed a sense of slight apprehension, despite the fact that he was about to be reunite with his comrades once again.

Yusuke only turned a brief eye towards it, for the thought of reuniting with his allies once more overruled Oliver's apparent thoughtfulness.

TAP-TAP!

The door opened, and the first figure that stepped through was that of Asuka. "I heard someone had a little birdie of ours." She commented mirthfully, looking behind her to motion the others in. She moved deeper into the room, hands folded behind her back and her idle eyes surveying the room in general. "That, as well as two others..."

"Asuka-dono!"

Immediately, she was greeted with a semi-tackle hug and caught in surprise, courtesy of Yusuke. "I'm so glad you guys managed to make it!" He said cheerily, quickly releasing her. "Is everyone all right?"

Asuka nodded, smiling at Yusuke's greeting. "Zaii and Anton might need some attention, but other than that I think the rest of us are fine..."

"That Russian sure is a tough bastard," Kenja spoke with a smile, remembering his own battle that he had briefly with the powerhouse of V-14, "I heard a lot of the explosions and rocking of the barrier was their fault. I guess they know how to cut loose, don't they?"

"Oi! Now why didn't you tell me of this beauty?!" Jamie asked Oliver, looking back at him, before looking to Asuka with a handsome winning smile. In emphasis, he straightened his trench coat's collar before smoothing his hair back as he walked over and bowed before her, taking her hand before planting a gentleman's kiss on it, "pleasure to make your acquaintance, Miss. I can't believe Ollie-boy's been keeping such a rare blossom in his company and not even telling me."

Asuka rolled her eyes at what seemed like the umpteenth time that a man bowed to her and kissed her hand. But she smiled and laughed for a brief moment. "Well, it's nice to know such a gentlemen's helped keep our dear Oliver safe and sound." She answered pleasantly.

"Well, is he here?"

The voice of Anton came in, as well as his form. Despite the extent of damage on his person, he seemed to act like as if nothing happened. The anger and frustration at the battle's interruption had faded away now, and he was quick to express it. Once he looked at Oliver, he let out a light sigh of relief. "There you are." He said, lifting up a finger and lightly shaking it. "My friend, you do not know the lengths of which we went to pull you out of the fire!"

Oliver chuckled in response. "Must've been pretty nasty for you to come in like that. Who'd you fight with?"

"The Captain of the 1st Cohort." The Russian explained, placing his hands into his pockets. "Pretty strong, but the guy's got an ego the size of the entire Russian continent! Would've put him in his place, too, if not for the fact that the other Captains were going to converge on the area. Maybe now they'll realize that V-14's not a group to be trifled with."

"Doesn't mean that they'll use any means to stop you now." Oliver lowered his hands to his lap. "With me out of their leash, they'll use any means necessary in stopping us from getting out of here. And seeing the show you guys put out there, I guarantee they'll be getting desperate."

"Oliver!" Hyōryū walked in, sounding pissed as she walked in beside her injured lover, wrapping an arm gently around him while she looked at him with a curled lip, "do you realize the F***ing S**T we went through to get your neck out of the noose?!"

"Quite frankly, a lot of S**T actually," Yajū spoke frankly, a slight cut adorned his forehead, but otherwise looked perfectly able.

"Well, to be blunt, I could care less."

The rather harsh tones taken with him stirred up a bit of irritation within Oliver. He slowly stood up, regarding Hyōryū with a slight scowl. "You're alive and you're still kicking. So how about you shut up and be grateful that it was Anton fighting the Captain and not you."

"Hey, hey!" Anton's eyes widened in surprise, and he lifted his free hand in between them. "Let's not start fighting now of all times. Save it for the time that we're out of this shithole. Then we can kick each other's balls and ovaries all we want."

"...yeah..." After regarding Hyōryū with a momentary glare, Oliver turned his head away from the two in order to regard the group in total. However, he did spare a brief glance at Shou and Angelika as they entered the room. "In any way, it's good to see that you all survived the wrath of Aether." He pointed a finger over towards Jamie. "Thankfully, this guy's managed to secure us an escape route."

"And he is...?" Shou questioned, cocking a slight eyebrow.

And Oliver smiled a little.

"He's my brother Jamie. But you all may or may not know him as the "Blood Coat", the highly feared serial killer of Aether."

"Th-The what?!" Hyōryū's eyes widened and her face actually lost a bit of color when she heard it. Looking over cautiously at Jamie, gulping down as she whispered, "and here I thought the Midnight Hunger was coming from Oliver..."

"The what-what?" Jamie blinked, clearly perplexed by the term of which the Hyōryū used to him.

"Just an in-between term." Oliver said dismissively, waving a hand away. "Don't mind it."

He would not notice the blonde woman that had cautiously stepped in with a bolt-action sniper rifle in her hands as he spoke. "Now that we're all here, we may just have enough firepower to punch our way out. Once Anton and Zaii get squared away, we can get moving. In the meantime..." He gestured over towards the weapons. "You happen to have any ammo shortages or just need a better weapon, you better use this time to check and restock. Matter of fact, there's even some add-ons to give extra killing power if you need it."

"All right, Zaii-san... come over here and I'll see what I can do..." Yusuke said softly, walking over to the said man with glowing hands. "Your injuries won't allow you to fight for very long without succumbing to them..."

"Just get me patched up, skirts, and I'll be able to go another round with ten of those guy-eeezzzz!" He sat down, only to feel his back and aching bruises, on top of cuts and slashes, he chuckled sheepishly, "make it fight of those guys, ehehe!"

"Yeah, about that," Hyōryū spoke, before her eyes totally took in the entire armory. Her eyes changed into stars immediately, and she just realized how many toys were all around her. "OMIGOSH! I'm in Heaven!" She squealed with joy as she walked over to a large mini-gun, hefting it up and noticing its weight similar to that of the Executor, "ohohohoho! I'm definitely going to enjoy using this!"

"Ah! A fellow gun lover has made her way into my humble stockpile," Jamie spoke in a dramatic tone, grasping a handful of mods he knew would go well with the large weapon, "go ahead! Attach a few of these babies to the muzzles and you'll get a nice rounded combo to rip apart an army and then some!"

SNATCH!

"ANTON!" Hyōryū looked over at her lover, with tears running down her cheeks, "we need to have this man over for drinks! My baby is going to be pimped!"

Anton couldn't help but roll his eyes and chuckle. "Nice to know that you're already taking a liking to the guy..."

"Nice to know we're all, more or less, okay from our skirmish," Mōka sighed as she walked over to Angelika and Asuka's side, placing her hands on her hips as she looked to the red haired man whom seemed to be a little engaged with the others, "how the Hell do two brothers turn out to be the Most Wanted in all of Aether is beyond me..."

"Stranger things have happened." Angelika said calmly, her arms folded across her chest. She watched with a rather relaxed gait, looking over the Blood Coat as he spoke to her subordinates. "In any case, though, I'm glad that nothing detrimental has come out of this rescue mission. I was starting to think that our forces would've been cut off for a longer period of time than they did."

Then, her eyes drifted over towards Kaitlyn as she made herself a little more present within the room. The blonde female walked over towards Oliver, still keeping that slightly wary and cautious gait about herself. She stopped, propping her sniper rifle on one of the boxes before continuing to approach the man. He was oblivious to her presence, silently watching the interaction between his brother and friends. But it only lasted until she made her presence known to him via a simple statement.

"I guess none of the family could get away from holding a gun for very long, huh?"

Instantly, Oliver froze up at the sound of her voice.

For the first time since he had been rescued, his stoic features were broken and pushed away. Abruptly, he spun around to face the one who had spoken to him, a mixture of shock, wonder and even fear on his face. Once he took in the shy smile, those blue eyes and her blonde hair, he couldn't deny his first thoughts. He took a single step forward towards her, and she was almost tempted to take a single step back out of fear of unreadiness. "K...Kaitlyn...?" He whispered hesitantly, his eyes pleading for confirmation.

She nodded. "Took me ten minutes to get out of that burning base and back to you and seventeen years to get back to you... but here I-- Ah!!"

She didn't get to continue her sentence, for she was swept up in Oliver's bear hug. He buried his face into her shoulder, holding her close to him. "Oh, God...!" He whispered, his breaths shaky. "I... it really is you, isn't it? I thought I lost you in that burning blaze. That damn driver wouldn't turn around, he wouldn't let me save you! I saw you and--"

"Easy, easy..." Kaitlyn said gently, returning the embrace readily. "I understand. I'd never hold a grudge against you for something you couldn't control. It wasn't your fault."

Just outside, Genesis let out a light scoff. "'Course you'd be quick to show forgiveness..." She muttered under her breath.

"What's stopping you from telling him off, then?" Shito asked, his own form having been standing away from the rest as he wasn't eager to meld into the crowd with the suspicious, if not too pleasant form of the Blood Coat being in the armory. His tone wasn't filled with contempt nor with empathy, but just more curiosity.

"I've never taken you to be the affectionate kind, Holmes-san," Shinshin spoke, having an approving tone as he appeared just beside the two with a rare smile as he crossed his arms, "glad to know you surprised me here too..."

It was here that Oliver was aware of his companions.

"Tch." In a way that almost made Kaitlyn started laughing out loud, the man pried himself away from his daughter. "Don't get too soft. It's only for my kin."

"Just look at him!" Genesis's gaze softened as she took a peek inside. "The guy's just reuniting with his... treasured daughter," She grimaced in disgust as she said the words, turning her head away. "I don't have it in me to ruin his good mood. Besides, this isn't exactly the best of times to start drama. After all, you guys have a whole military force on your backs. Focusing on getting them off should be the biggest issue right now..."

"Suit yourself," Shito spoke in a seemingly uncaring tone, placing his hands in his pockets as he turned around and began to walk the opposite direction, more interested in the base than reuniting with everyone, but stopped walking to look back at Genesis with a knowing sideglance stare, "just to let you know. If I knew my father was alive, for better or for worse, and this was my last chance to get things off my chance when I could assuredly die or see him do so, I would rather get it over with than live with regret. Just saying..." he then turned back and began to walk nonchalantly to explore the rest of the archaic, remodeled base of the Blood Coat's.

"If you insist," Shinshin couldn't help but surpress a usually a uncharacteristic chuckle of his. Turning to Kaitlyn, he smiled and nodded to her before moving to see Asuka. His gait calm and his form untouched, he carried the usual stoic gait he normally did but with a bit more...confidence than before. "Hartmann-san, Karitori-san, Mother," he said in his usual tone, but held a bit more cheer than usual.

"Fucking asshole makes it sound like they're all going to die here. Wonder how their boss would get by with defeatist stuff like that." Genesis clenched her teeth inside her mouth, glaring into his back as he walked away. "Bet he wouldn't dare come up talking like that in front of his boss, now would he?"

Inwardly, however, she knew he had a point. Despite their intentions on getting out of here, there was always the possibility that Oliver would end up dying. It was a horrible thought and something she should've never crossed her mind. But it was a real possibility. Despite being able to take down an entire base by himself and killing a total of 347 plus troops, he was not invincible. She knew that if she wanted to tell him, she would have to fight with all of her might. She would have to be ruthless and unflappable. She would have to make sure that everyone got through this intact.

"Shin-chan..." Asuka answered softly, smiling a little. "So...? How did the talk with Kaitlyn go? I hope you didn't go and do anything... exceptional during that exchange..." She followed this with a chuckle, earning a roll of the eye by Angelika.

"She's a very charming woman," Shinshin spoke with a smile, but kept his tone low enough so it wouldn't carry to the female in question just a few meters away, "but she does carry herself with a very, admirable professional attitude. But she is also quite empathetic, an opposite in fact when it comes to Genesis. She does dearly miss her though and she is quite forgiving. Mother," Shinshin leaned forward, hushing a little quieter as he spoke aloud, "I believe I am sincerely taken by her."

"Well, that's great, then!" Although Asuka was obviously enthused by her confirmed hope, she was mature enough to lower her own voice to his level. "What are you going to do?" She was also considerate enough not to start prying right away for details. Shinshin was a young man, after all..."

"I'm only a hundred and twenty seven mother," Shinshin spoke in a comically, albeit low, childish tone towards Asuka, "you make it sound like I lived seven lifetimes already..."

"Well, the Civil War happened about 150 years ago right? If Kaitlyn was a kid at that time, and she's an adult now...that would make her about...just a few decades your senior, Shin-chan!" Mōka spoke, with a slightly creepy analysis of the two different would-be couple's ages.

"Okay, now you're making me sound juvenile!" Shinshin spoke aloud in an irritated tone, his forehead protruding an angry vein of frustration.

"Oh, don't be so logical about it." Asuka rolled her eyes slightly. "The only age that counts is within the mind. You said it yourself. She's charming, admirable, professional, and empathetic. If you've taken a liking to her, you shouldn't let such a measly issue get to you."

"B-But I...I've never had a relationship with another in a romantic sense before," Shinshin admitted, his face blushing hotly as he tried to divert his gaze away from his mother, clearly looking uncomfortable, "I've only just reunited with you, and I've only started to integrate with the organization. What...what if she rejects me?"

"You're a nice guy!" Asuka reasoned back, reaching up to place a reassuring hand on his shoulder. "You're polite, you're chivalrous, and you're not that bad looking. And she seemed quite comfortable talking to you before. What reason could she possibly have to reject you?"

Sighing, Shinshin nodded his head, taking a few deep breaths to calm himself down once again, "You're right, mother. I'll...think about it. I want to concentrate on my mission, so once we all get out of here I'll make sure to properly request to court her..."

"With that attitude, who could say no?" Mōka said in an encouraging tone, winking at Shinshin, which only caused the latter roll his eyes.

T-TAP-BADUMP!

"Okay! Before you guys make yourselves TOO comfy, I just want to let you know that I'll do everything in my power not to allow the RAC bastards up above to pain the streets in your regard. Regarding the subject, I am NOT going to wear YOUR blood for the duration of your mission, as you are all Ollie-boy's friends, cool?!" Jamie spoke aloud to everyong mostly gathered in the armory, standing atop a few crates of ammo to over see them. His eerily lighthearted demeanor mixed with nonchalant comedic intent created a naturally mixed batch of feelings of his so-called "encouragement speech."

"You couldn't kill us even if you tried." Angelika said simply, fixing a slight glare within his direction and turning her attention away from the conversation between Asuka and Shinshin. "But if that's how you propose assurance for success, then yes. We're "cool"." She said the word "cool" with a light emphasis on it, the quotes almost audible. It wasn't long before she turned towards Yusuke and his work. "Are you almost done, Saruwatari?"

"Just about..."

After finishing up with Zaii, Yusuke was now seated over beside Anton. The healing energy he put was much more effective, and the wounds were quicker to disappear than the ones that had been on Zaii's person. Whereas Zaii's healing took several minutes, Anton only needed a few before he was rendered stable and almost unharmed. As soon as the last burn disappeared, Yusuke quickly allowed himself to stand up and look over at his boss with a nod. "Done!" He reported. "Zaii and Anton are good to go now!"

"Good..." With that being said, Angelika turned her attention to the ones that had stopped to gather ammo. "I take it you all are finished resupplying yourselves and double-checking your armaments?"

"Locked and loaded boss!" Hyōryū spoke out with affirmation, hefting the large and modded mini-gun onto her shoulder, while sporting a bandoleer of a wide variety of weapons. All-in-all, she looked like she could take on an entire Division of the Gotei 13 if not the RAC themselves.

Shito appeared by the entrance, crossing his arms while looking at the whole group, but gave his own thumbs up to Angelika, "Good to go, on my part, boss!"

SHINK!

"Let's kick ass!" Zaii snarled with anticipation, a wide feral grin adorned his facial features as he stabbed his large sword into the ground before him, wearing his Gi jacket.

"Let's do this," Shinshin nodded, speaking in a solemn tone as he took his blade in his hand, readying himself for the mad rush they would be making to their exit.

"Alright!" Mōka shouted out, her hands waving out to them all, "this is it! We've got our insufferable bastard and made the RAC look like chumps! They're going to be coming at us with a vengeance! Don't expect the Paladins to sit back either! This will be not a battle to the death, but a battle to get us home! Is everyone ready?!"

"Boss just asked that, you idiot." Oliver was quick to respond before anyone else could confirm, provoked by the "insufferable bastard" comment. He passed a slight glare in her direction for emphasis. "For the record, we've all been ready. Did you happen to go deaf while we were talking?" Without waiting for a response, he switched his glance over towards Jamie. "Jamie, take point. We'll be right behind you."

"I can see why you haven't gotten any ladies since you've joined the buisness, Ollie-boy," Jamie rolled his eyes, leaping off the ammo crates and flipping himself forward, landing acrobatically directly behind the three female leaders and, with surprise of Shito, landing directly in front of him, "follow me!"

Mad Dash to Freedom! The Last Leg to Victory!

"You must've stirred up a lot of chaos for the boss of the Holy Decimo to come out and show her face..."

Having taken up a position on a nearby building rooftop, Oliver could spot out the entire area without worry of being spotted himself. Through the binoculars he was looking through, he could spot a plethora of activity. Even from his position, he could see the majority of the sites where Jamie's bombs had gone off. He could also sight out Aesa, who was standing on a building overseeing the area, and brief flashes of Rosalina as she passed from area to destroyed area. He grit his teeth together slightly within his mouth, knowing that if they were going to punch through the enemy's defenses, they would have to be quick and hard about it.

"What's the situation up there, Holmes?" Angelika questioned via radio.

"I've spotted the Primus and the Decimus within my immediate F.O.V." Oliver reported, taking in each and every bit of their movements. "Seems like the Decimus is occupied with your handiwork, James. But the Primus is stationed within a high point of the Victoria Cathedral - the church-like structure that practically towers over everything else. I'm guessing that there are other Paladins stationed to monitor the civilians and make sure no harm comes to them."

"Copy. Nakamura, are you in position?"

"Yes, ma'am!" The voice of Rika could be heard within their ear patches. It sounded slightly hesitant as she continued speaking. "But, I'm not sure if it's safe to stay here for very long. I'm not too keen on repeating what happened with Shidai, so whatever you do, please make it fast!"

"You just worry about being ready to pick us up." Angelika answered matter-of-factly. "We'll take care of the rest."

"Yes, ma'am. Understood."

"We're gonna need a serious distraction in order to keep the heat off of us." Oliver muttered. "Jamie, you all set up on your end yet?"

"SSSSSSH!" A brief exclamation came at an obnoxiously loud tone, before the comically irritated tone came over t he comm, "big brother is working....and watching...and working..."

"Will you just do it already?!" Hyōryū snarled over the tone, equally worked up by his idle chatter, "gah! You're even more annoying than Oliver!"

"Thank you," Jamie responded in a chipper tone, before the sound of clicking and beeping could be heard, "the next distraction should knock the queen off her ivory tower, as well as alert everyone else..."

"Keep talking sis, give me a reason to give you a new asshole for Anton to stick his "humongous sword" through." Oliver muttered back to Hyōryū, lowering his binoculars and picking his own particular automatic rifle back up. "Rika, how's the radio tap going?"

"Just about done inputting the decryption code..." Was the ready response. "Establishing comms.... now!"

They would all hear Percival's distorted voice as it spoke to the soldiers under his command. "All units. This is commander Chapman. Intel has indicated that the explosions that leveled the sites were activated by remote. There are a number of locations presumed to have these same bombs within their helms prepared for detonation. Send squads out to find and defuse those bombs. Civilian casualties and location of the Blood Coat are top priority."

"But sir," One soldier was quick to question the nature of that particular order. "Shouldn't we be focused on looking out for the V-14 and the Bla--"

"Are you questioning my orders, trooper?!" Percival snarled. "Do as you are told, or I will have you terminated here on the spot!! Do you understand me?!"

"Y-yes, sir, but--"

"No buts!! Get your team going and get out of my sight!! NOW!!"

"Sure is a touchy one, isn't he...?" Oliver muttered, rolling his eyes slightly as he listened. "Either he's being really stupid right now, or the Fourth's decided to purposefully let us off the hook. Don't know if that's going to fly with his partners..."

"That is just one particular channel. Percival set his to private so he can communicate with them without the other Paladins listening in." Rika reported. "If you want, I can set it to another channel for you to keep an eye on the others."

"Do it," Mōka spoke aloud, knowing she would like to know her enemy's strategies spoken aloud before they begin their run, "I don't want them to give us anymore surprises like before..."

Once Rika would tap into the comm, the low tone of Aesa could be heard, taking firm commands but not in such a harsh mannerism as her 4th, "Paladin IVX! I need you to sweep entrances that could be taken subtly behind Bomb Sites B-E. If V-14 has an associate or an unknown ally, I want to know where they went..."

"Yes maam!"

"Paladin XIII, I want you to keep monitoring the incoming traffic through the Northeastern sector. If any of them seem suspicious, I want you to detain them immediately. Do not use lethal force, understand?!"

"I'll do my best, Paladinus Primus..."

"Rosalina! I want to know how you're coming!"

"Its as I thought," Rosalina's thoughts gave birth over the grave, stoic tone over the comms as she rushed at high speeds with ease, "apparently this was an unknown party. Up until now, V-14 has been purposely restraining themselves from using lethal force. This is too violent and sporadic to be their doing. It must be the Blood Coat..."

"I wonder what gain besides more chaos and bloodshed would he gain by giving V-14 cover to go underground?"

"He probably sees the Black Eagle as a mutual artist in violence and bloodshed, considering what they were going to hang him for. That, or he's actually related to him in some way, its beyond my scope of imagination..."

"If the bitches only knew, hehehe!~" Jamie spoke in his own comm, as he continued to work, "just give me two more minutes and the fireworks can start!"

"For now, we need to deal with the possiblity of encountering the Blood Coat. Orders stand at kill on sight. I don't want that bastard to get away!"

"And V-14? The Black Eagle?"

"Should they resist, use lethal force as a last resort. I want to know how large their network is and if they have any others waiting outside or within Shinhae. But if they're too much trouble, I'd like a quick and silent death. Try to refrain from causing too much collateral damage like before-"

"I had them in my sights! They would've been too weak and uncoordinated if I took them out last night-"

"Should you have done that, they would've been going out of their way to spill blood! More blood than is already being shed over this ridiculous matter! Do not question my 4th's motives, as they were wise and well spoken. You are not going to bring this matter up again, Rosalina, understood?"

"..." Slight silence could be heard over the comm before a brief terse, "yes maam," before her connection was cut from the rest.

"She should apply cold water to that burn." Yusuke commented, earning a few snickers in response. Even in a tense time like this, the V-14 could still find time to laugh. It was just another way of easing what would've been an apprehensive atmosphere.

"Kaitlyn..." Oliver looked over towards the sniper he was temporarily spotting. She had taken up a position on the roof-top's edge, crouching and keeping her scopes lined up the Paladins. She had taken to switching from Aesa to Rosalina as soon as the latter came into view. But she had lowered the sniper rifle when she heard the worry within his voice. She looked at him with slight confusion. "You have a business of your own, right? You lived here for all of your life. Are you certain you want to risk it doing this?"

Kaitlyn gave a small frown, but her eyes held understanding. "My business means nothing compared to my blood." She answered readily. "Even if it means that I'm running the risk of being a criminal, I'll do it if it means my family can live just a little longer. That's what Mom and Sis would've done, it's what uncle would've done... and I'm sure that's what you would've done, too."

That caused Oliver to lapse into silence for a brief moment. Then, his worry began to fade into thoughtfulness. She was right, and he knew it. He would've put family over anything else. It was the reason why he had chose to search for Kaitlyn and Genesis in that burning base rather than evacuate quickly with the soldiers. It was the reason he kept himself true to Allison for refusal of betraying her even in death. Of course, that led to constant teasing from his teammates since they hadn't known about her. She was simply following his example, as any child would've done for a good parent.

"Yeah..." He muttered. "You've really grown up. If only Allison and Jean could see you now..."

"Oh, you have no idea..." Genesis thought, rolling her eyes slightly. However, even her heart couldn't help but flutter under the words the two shared. Suddenly, chewing the guy out seemed like a worse idea than simply talking about it.

"All right, I'm switching to the 6th Paladin's channel..." Rika said, feeling somewhat guilty for possibly interrupting the tender moment between father and daughter. "Standby for--"

TZZZT!

Abruptly, her voice was cut off by a sudden static noise - something that garnered the attention of everyone listening in.

"What in the...?" Oliver muttered. "Rika! Rika, report! What's going on over there?"

Silence for a few seconds. Then...

"S-someone's tapping our comm system!" Rika's startled voice finally came through. "I can't force out the incoming connection!"

A scowl came across Angelika's face, and she exhaled a slow breath. "Patch it through. If they've entered that far into the channels, they could very well be listening into the conversation."

What they heard next would be a feminine, pleasant, shocking and spine-tingling voice throughout the entire V-14's comm-links.

"So I see now you've garnered the fury of Aether upon you. Is it a common hobby for such a supposedly secret group to garner so much attention from your very enemies?"

"Oi! Who's the new lovely lady on our bloody broadcast?! Friend of yours?!" Jamie asked as he continued to work, simultaneously blinking in surprise as he set the "surprises under the sewer junctions and manholes properly.

"She isn't," Shinshin spoke lowly, gritting his teeth, "she's none other than Brina McTavish, formerly a member of the Onmitsukidō Militia as the Lieutenant that replaced Marechiyo Ōmaeda. Unfortunately, she is part of the very organization wanting our heads...I've had the unfortunate disposition of crossing blades with her during her latter occupation..."

"Peachy," Hyōryū muttered with disdain, "just what we need...more surprises!"

"Glad to know that you've heard of me..." The Dragon's voice on the other end spoke with a rather satisfied tone. Despite her pleasantry, it was the kind of tone one would use when purposefully grating on one's nerves. "Saves me the trouble of introducing myself. Of course," Her tone trailed off into a bit of mock disappointment. "That also ruins any chance I get for a mysterious and awesome introduction. Killjoys..."

"I suppose Yashin told you how to tap into our comms?" Anton decided to say his piece, equally as annoyed and apprehensive as the rest of the group at the intrusion.

"Oh, no no no!" But Brina was quick to correct him on his guess. "Yashin gave us all a good amount of intel on you. But prior to his second meeting with you, I was the one who cracked your decryption code. I've been listening in all this time. Don't worry, though. I haven't gotten the idea of sharing this with either him or Kunō. Don't want them to get too enthusiastic over hunting you, after all--"

"You're wasting our time, wench!" Oliver growled, making Kaitlyn flinch slightly at his vehement tone. "Are you going to tell us something worthwhile, or are you just going to keep running off your mouth?"

"All right, all right!" For a moment, Brina sounded like she was wincing at the tone he was taking with her. However, she was quick to regress straight back to that calm and distrustful tone. "The reason I took the time to actually speak with you is this. You've all done a good job surviving the wrath of two Dragons, so I'm going to reward you with a little intel from me. As of now, the majority of Aether's being pulled along on a string, courtesy of my Greencoats. The Paladins and the higher-ups of the R.A.C. have yet to realize this. But they will in a couple of hours..."

Her tone darkened slightly.

"So if you're planning to make your escape, you'd better do it fast. As soon as the first mortars hit Shinhae, no one's going anywhere but six feet under. Consider this both an act of mercy and foresight for both what is to come to you and to the Soul Society you so shamelessly allied yourself with. I look forward to see you all on the battlefield in the future. Buh-bye~!"

With that disturbingly upbeat shift in her voice, she cut the connection and left all of them in silence.

"W-Wait! Does that mean she's going to make my surprises look like firecrackers?! That bitch!" Jamie snarled over the comm, clicking and winding the last of his devices before saying, "alright boys and girls! We're going to skip the whole peeping tom routine and just launch our fireworks! Get ready on my mark!"

"Damn it..."

Knowing that she would have to put aside her newfound apprehension, Angelika focused on the matter at hand. "We're in position. All V-14 units, remember the means of engagement. We head straight to the LZ. Neutralize only defenses and counter-measures standing in our way. Make sure that they're still alive and breathing."

"Solid copy, kachō..." Shou said back. However, he was quick to turn a slightly warning tone to Oliver. "Hear that, Holmes? No killing civilians this time."

Oliver scoffed. "You worry about yourself, Jap..." He shot back readily, readying his rifle and quickly maneuvering himself back down to his comrades. He shot a glance over towards Kaitlyn, who would stay on the roof and provide sniper support while doing her best to evade any eyes at her level. After regarding her for a brief moment, he turned to make his way back down.

"Be careful, Kaitlyn... I already lost Allison, I don't want to lose you, too..."

"LET'S GO!!!"

BOOM-BOOM-BOOM-BOOM-BOOM-BOOM!!!

"What the Hell?!" Aesa's eyes widened as a series of firebombs skyrocketed around the perimeter of the Victoria Cathedral. While the damage didn't strike anything of importance, it created a encroaching wall of flames, and a large smokescreen to block off the head of the Paladins within Shinhae, "the Blood Coat was still able to lay down more bombs?! Dammit! He blocked off my view of the city!"

"More explosions?!" Rosalina's eyes widened, looking towards the Cathedral, gasping aloud as she turned tail and rushed towards the area, "Aesa!"

"I'm fin-crrrrk!"

"Aesa! I can't hear you! You're breaking up!"

"crrrrrk-ge-crrrrrk-citizens-crrrrrk-understand?!"

"Right," Rosalina growled, stopping herself to move towards the known populated areas, "understood, Primus..."

BRACK-CLUNK!

"Hyōryū here! I've just breached the market highway," Hyōryū spoke aloud, turning around to see a number of startled RAC soldiers, aghast at the weapon she was holding, "and I got some chickens to chase!"

"Th-Th-That's huge!!!"

"What kind've weapon is-"

"RUN FOR IT!"

WHIRRRRRR-BA-BA-BA-BA-BA-BA-BA...!

"Run chickens! BOK BOK BOK!" Hyōryū shouted out in a comically manical manner, as she ran at tops speeds while unloading a outlying barrage of molten metal, explosive shots, and penetrative rounds around the buildings, forcing any further RAC squads to fall back in fear of the "tank" that was heading their way.

That was the start of what would be a mad dash for whoever couldn't (or preferred not to) use Flash Step. Any gunfire was directed towards non-lethal points, and the gunners made sure to hold their fire in case that was impossible. Angelika's sharp-shooting was quick to render targets helpless before the group could hit them head-on, allowing for an easier trek.

Those who could would provide the role of blitzkrieg attackers.

Anton was putting his 'Kiriken knives to good use. Instead of skewering his opponents, he used precision, force and trajectory to pin the ones he encountered onto the walls and the floor to make sure they didn't get back up. Other times, he had to use CQC in order to knock them out and/or disarm them when they got too close. But he kept himself mobile, moving with the others in a slightly separate formation.

He couldn't help but sweatdrop at the crazed tone Hyōryū was taking with her own targets. "I almost feel sorry for the bastards..."

Yusuke was pushing through with just as much natural effort as Anton.

His wires sliced through their weaponry, wrapped around their forms and slung them around to slam them into walls, in trash cans and just about everywhere else that could provide a hampering to mobility. He moved with a frightening quickness, overwhelming his targets before they could react properly. But the most intimidating part about it was the cheery smile he wore as he destroyed their defenses. It was a rather chilling sight to see.

Shou and Genesis had taken to working together once again. While Genesis blasted them up-close with her pacified rifle, Shou utilized his chains in order to strike from a longer range. This served to both cover Genesis and use her as a distraction so that he could attack. Their tactics were making the number of enemy reinforcements drop with the seconds.

Asuka, despite only having a sword within her hands, was thinning out the ranks just as easily as the superpowers were. She moved with quickness, grace and agility as she attacked, striking down targets before they could even put up her guard. Those who could had their defenses shattered and were taken out within seconds. With each and every soldier that she took down, she could feel the excitement rise within her. To be pushed to such an extreme was always a fun experience for her.

However, she never forgot the objective... and she made sure the rest of them didn't, either.

"Keep pushing towards the rally point! Go!" She ordered, making sure she moved with them.

"Rosalina? Aesa? Talk to me, what's going on over there?!" The voice of the 6th Paladin could be heard, slightly alarmed and frantic. "I'm seeing flames as high as houses from where I am!!"

"Aesa is fine, but someone is jamming our communications with her!" Rosalina spoke aloud, rushing alongside the buildingsides, making sure she would cut off the enemy where the running crowd of panicking civilians and troops would be, "they're trying to keep the Paladins blind with the chaos and confusion! I'm going to try and contain the mess at the Front gate, in case they go out that way!-"

BRACK-BRACK!

Just as soon as she was finishing her speech, two gunshots could be heard emanating just from the shadows of an alleyway to the left of the 6th's position, with enough incendiary power to set the 10 meter radius of discharge to light up in flames. Emerging from the shadows, was none other than Jamie, with glowing gleeful yet menacing eyes with a wide grin on his face.

"Hello gov'nor!" He rang out, yelling out to him whether or not the shots hit their mark, "you still alive?!"

Shinshin meanwhile had been mimicking similar actions Asuka had. Utilizing just his innate speed, grace, and skills of his swordsmanship, he managed to cut through his enemies' armanents or disarm their Zanpakutō from their hands. Leaving behind a line of broken, incapacitated, and moaning men in his wake, he continued to rush towards the goal, he made sure he wasn't to be left behind...

SMACK! CRACK-FWHOOSH!

"Outa my way, pansies!" Zaii shouted out, wielding his large behemoth blade, now garbed in the special protective sealing bandage wrappings, keeping it only as a blunt weapon to bash his enemies out of his way. Bodies could be seen haplessly flying away, managing to crush any who were brave enough to stand in his way.

With Shito and Yajū reacting in tandem of knocking down their own opponents with just team work and hand-to-hand combat, as using their other spells would most likely maim and possibly kill them. Still, they did so without uttering a word, as well as without question.

Mōka in the meantime began surging her Shinsei energy into the earth and landscape. Everytime Paladins or Soul Reapers would close in on her location, large trees or rock formations would rise suddenly, errecting a field of nigh impenetrable energies. She even used it to box in fleeing soldiers, trapping them and keeping them from following her comrades.

"Kaitlyn? How are you holding up there, sweetie?" Oliver called out.

"Just fine, Dad! Kinda hard to stay mobile and snipe, but I'm getting there!"

As he looked up, he could see the blonde leaping from rooftop to rooftop in order to keep herself close to the group. When they had to stop momentarily, she stopped herself and took the opportunity to sweep the area. Her bullets were merely ones that induced paralysis, as the regular bullets were too high-caliber and would certainly inflict mortal wounds on targets. She was carrying the air of a professional sniper - a result of being raised on a military base. He couldn't help but smile.

"I won't lie..." Shou commented, even as he pushed through the enemy's defenses. "Despite the nature of the distraction, the Blood Coat certainly has a way with destruction, doesn't he?"

"Sounds like you're happy stuff's blowing up." Oliver sniffed. "I thought you were supposed to be the morality of Alpha Team, huh?"

"Doesn't mean I can't appreciate a good explosion now and then. I'm no saint, Holmes. You should know that by now..."

POW-POW!

Simon's eyes widened at the sounds of gunshots behind him. Reflexively, he jerked himself out of the way, raising his broadsword in front of him defensively. At first, he was simply alert. But when he lay eyes on the one that had aimed for him and recognized the form, he narrowed his eyes and grit his teeth in fury. His hand clenched around his broadsword to the point where his palms started to bleed.

"You bastard!!" He seethed. "I should have assumed you would've shown yourself the moment V-14 reared their ugly heads. No matter..."

VOOM!

A pillar of indigo spiritual energy erupted from his body, rising into the sky. His rage could be felt by everyone within the proximity, especially the one that fueled it. His hair and clothing billowed in the intense winds generated from his power, his eyes glowing purple. He pointed his sword at Jamie threateningly, not bothering to restrain the wrath within his words.

"This is going to be the time that I avenge Paladin XVII for the crime you've shamelessly committed against her!! Prepare to be wiped from existence, Blood Coat!!"

"Oh, is that so?" Jamie asked in a eerily, distastefully calm manner as his smile widened a fraction and his eyes widened at the mention of one of his victims. Raising one gun to scratch his head, even as his hair and coat billowed violently as he looked onwards with awareness as he spoke, "geez, I'm sorry. Here I thought you were all as cold as steel the moment they slap those uniforms and hand out those shiny swords to you. Didn't know you could be chums with each other. I'm sorry I...NAAAH!"

CL-CLICK!

"The feeling of drenching my face in her blood was far too satisfying! She felt much different from most people I've ravaged in the past, only in the fact I didn't hear her scream in pain before I snapped her head off. I wonder if you're blood is as tainted as I believe the rest of you bloody lot are?!" After lacing his tone from mock apology to quickly turned sadistic satisfaction, Jamie armed his Bonnie & Clyde handguns, both of them primed towards Simon's direction.

Even if those words had been genuine, it simply enraged Simon even further.

He did not grace the man with a response.

"AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH~!!!"

WOOSH!

He swung his sword in an upward backhand, unleashing a force of cutting wind towards Jamie. The winds generated were powerful enough to slice the building behind him in two. He was not so lost in his rage as to not consider the lives of the civilians. His area had been abandoned by the residents in exchange for shelters first. That left plenty of space to unleash his fury on Jamie - a good thing, considering the man refused to hold himself back in the face of his most resented enemy.

"You know..." Yusuke let out a shiver as he listened in the conversation. "With those words in mind, I don't think I know who to root for..."

"The one who's providing the distraction." Angelika said bluntly. "Now cut the chatter and keep moving!"

"You got it boss!" Hyōryū spoke aloud, now running at full pace, as most of the men that had been running away had now become incapacitated by the debris she detonated with her new toy.

Jamie's eyes remained in focus, calm, and surprisingly analytical as he saw the anticipated attack of his enemy. Leaping in a sideways manner, narrowly dodging the distortive cutting wind that dug a wide trench in the alleyway he had been standing on just a few moments ago.

BAM-BAM-BAM-BAM-BAM-BAM-BAM-BAM-BAM-BAM-BAM-BAM...!!!

Clapping the soles of his boots onto the side of the building, he began to fire rapidly and with keen accuracy upon Simon, moving at nearly unbelievable speeds, as his feet ran across the sides of buildings with no consequence of the assumed force of gravity. Leaping to and fro, around and above the Paladin's flanks, he intended to create enough of a barrage of pyrotechnic rounds to which the enemy couldn't fight back effectively, especially due to the unkempt rage he was venting into the air.

Instinctively, Simon bent himself down and let the side of his blade do the talking. He spun his sword around within his hands, using both the size of his blade and the wind to deflect the fires that threatened to envelop him. Once he was surrounded, he pulled his blade back and began to spin around. His spiritual energy began to pull on the flames, drawing them towards the metal. His sword was the eye of a black hole, pulling in the fire and drawing it into his domain.

Then, he attacked.

With a swing, he unleashed all of those flames upon their very creator. They aimed to ensnare, trap, and incinerate him with their tongues. It would have been a satisfying and karmic way for Jamie die, enveloped by the very chaos that he created. But of course, he understood that the fight would not end so quickly. If he managed to kill a Paladin, there was always the chance that he would easily survive this attack.

Jamie smiled as he saw the flames rush back towards his body. Twirling his guns around, he quickly holstered them back into the billow sleeves of his coat before reaching out with his two gloved hands, baring them towards the flourishing fireball...

BWOOM!!!

...as the pyrotechnic explosion billowed violently, creating a sickeningly visual stimulation for anyone watching. However, the visual victory would be short lived, as a audible voice broke through the flames and the crackling tongues of ember of the blown apart building that took the brunt of the attack.

"Is that it? Is that all a Holy Decimo is capable of?"

SHFT-TAP!

Appearing just below the billowing embers and large hole that was created by the fire that was redirected towards him, Jamie's form looked surprisingly less than harmed. With fiery patches cracking along his trenchcoat, his gloves, and slacks, he appeared almost untouched by the redirected flames. Despite this, something else looked slung over his shoulder, wrapped in a untouchable black cloth with a foreboding presence on the gun-toting individual.

"I'm incredibly disappointed if that was really your finishing blow," Jamie kept his eyes half-lidded, lightly expressing his irritation but kept his stoic smile fixated towards Simon.

"Hardly." Simon seethed, swinging his blade into a readying position once again. The lack of considerable wounds did not phase him, contrarily egging him on. "You would be so lucky if this battle were to end so quickly. No, your demise shall be far worse than simple incineration into ashes..." Despite his talking, he could not help but note the strange object slung over the shoulder. Immediately, he could assume that it was a backup plan in the event that his pistols wouldn't destroy the target completely. Was it a sword of his own? He would find out soon enough...

"Reveal that weapon on your back, you foul beast." He growled. "I'm going to crush you and whatever arsenal you may bring to this conflict!!"

"Eh?!" Jamie's eyes bulged, comically nervous as the Paladin picked up on the covered object slung over his shoulders, "but...I'm not sure. It might piss you off a little if I show you what's under the cloth...you might get queezy," Jamie emphasized with a mock fanning of his face before pointing to his mouth, his tongue hanging out as he made gagging sounds, "you probably don't have a good stomach for these kinds of things..."

A slight amount of apprehension shot up within Simon as he listened. But he was quick to force it aside. "There's nothing that could be worse than the acts of terrorism you have performed on Aether's citizens and military alike. I assure you only eternal scorn and not squeamishness to whatever atrocity you have under that veil..."

"Oh well," Jamie shrugged, unlatching the strap holding the object over his shoulder, allowing it to fall with an ominous thud in an upright manner, "you asked for it," Jamie turned around to unwrap the black cloth. Allowing the Paladin to see it, Jamie pulled off the last layer, revealing a blood soaked blade that embodied something of his recently acquired righteous vengeance, "this is your precious Paladin's former weapon of choice. I call her, the Blood Ash!"

Simon's eyes widened in surprise.

It was something that had always been a terrible possibility. Unlike Zanpakutō, which their they were modeled off of, Seelenbrachers did not disappear or dissolve away once the user died. Unless they were destroyed by another source, they would be free to use by the enemy. It did not help that each blade reacted differently from one another, dependent on the wielder itself. With a Paladin's weapon in the Blood Coat's hand, there was no telling what would happen.

But the surprise only lasted for an instant, before it regressed back to fury.

"You intend to fight me with a weapon foreign to you? Do not make me laugh, Blood Coat. Your skill cannot compare to the skill she used when she wielded it. Your tainted hands will only prove to soil its very nature. I would rather see it destroyed along with you rather than leave it within your dirty claws..."

"You've mistaken me for someone who's incredibly stupid and scavenges anything that he comes across," Jamie drawled on, grasping the hilt of the blade, pulling it out of the earth with deft precision while speaking, "I'm quite intelligent. Its not a boast, but fact. I have come across hundreds of weapons in make, both here in Aether, the Soul Society, Yūrei, Tendan, and the South. I've made, modified, and crafted many weapons and nothing is in comparison to the feel of a beautifully crafted Spirit Blades. This Seelenbracher, is no different, except it only has two requirements. One, it needs someone with deft control over his/her personal Spiritual Energy. And secondly, in order to use its truest capabilities," he then narrowed his eyes before smiling thinly, "you need that person's said blood either running through your veins or literally soaked onto the weapon itself!"

VRRROAAAR-FWHOOSH!

Within an instant, Jamie's body exuded a terrifyingly, uncanny high amount of Spiritual Power, exuding a deep red blood color as it roared and created a near deafening shockwave around his form. Raising the blade towards his enemy, the blade crackled to life, the tell-tale emblazoned signature of the Paladin's insignia upon the weapon itself acknowledged its wielder and released its true power. Within mere moments, the blade itself began to be bathed in a thick, hot bath of flames.

"Feel the power of my rage against all your ilk, Holy Decimo!"

VRRRR-BOOM!!!

Jamie snarled out with glee, as he swung his blade out with expert precision and skill, releasing a powerful surging torrent of incredibly hot orange-yellow fire towards the Paladin, intending on searing his skin along with the armor protecting his body.

It was a horrifying sight to see.

Simon's eyes widened, but he quickly raised his blade up in defense against the flames. Once the fire collided with his metal, he crouched and dug his feet in. He had to shut his eyes, for the brightness of the fire as well as the heat would get to them. He could feel the tongues of the flame lick at his hands, causing him to hiss at the burning sensation. But he refused to falter, not in the face of this particular foe.

"Rage, you say?"

Even in the face of the burning embers, his reply was strong and loud. "You, one who takes nothing but pleasure in the destruction of lives, claims to know what it feels like to be angry? You, a person who takes no regard to the value of human life, declares that he wields that very anger against me? No... that rage you think you feel is nothing but a small sliver compared to the hatred I have for you and your generation. It is onlywhen you know my power," His blade's outline glowed with a brilliant indigo, signaling his own Seelenbracher's activation. "That you will truly! Feel! RAGE!"

He swung.

VOOM!

A fissure of pressurized wind was unleashed, blowing away the flames and racing towards its target with speed relative to a bullet. Not only was it enough to tear a deep ditch in the ground, it was also enough to extend to the length of a football field and half the height of an apartment complex.

Jamie's eyes widened at feeling the immense Spiritual Pressure being projected by the Seelenbracher in the hands of the Holy Decimo's Paladinus Sextus. Within an instant of the man's bellowing words, Jamie moved...

SHFT!

...barely avoiding the jetstream detonation that wiped out everything behind him, shredding and tearing apart the infrastructure of the alleyway's two buildings, as well as a number behind it, turning it into nothing but a field of rubble behind where Jamie was initially standing upon.

SHIIIINK-BWOOM!

"You really are taking this a little too personal, Paladin!" Jamie spoke aloud with a disturbing nonchalant attitude, even as he swung the blade down towards Simon's back, discharging a point blank explosion of pyrotechnic force, before backpedaling away to a safe distance, "you take the disbenefited and the overlooked children, indoctrinate them into little machines, and then have them preach around as if they are gospel incarnate! You kill, maim, and ravage anything that gets in your way! Admit it! You're no different than what the world turned me into! Why should you care if one or twelve of you die?! You're nothing but secondhands for the RAC anyways!"

"You would think that, wouldn't you?!"

PWOOF!

After blocking the strike, Simon swung his sword and cleared the flames away from his space. His eyes glared daggers into his opponent's. "Rest assured that we never were and will never be like you!! Our swords destroy only the wicked, punish the forever corrupted and overthrow the brigands who dare defile what we stand for!! You, however, have committed nothing but acts of terrorism!! You wear the very innards of your victims as if they were nothing but trophies!! All of it, for the sake of what?! What good cause could you possibly have within this senseless infamy?!!"

"I embody a prophecy of things to come, for you, and all Spiritual Societies!" Jamie waved his sword aside, his arms outstretched in emphasis with his eyes widened, "there is a force you cannot comprehend that will wreak far greater havoc than what I could do in a thousand years! You will soon find yourselves wanting to claw out your eyes from the atrocities that will be committed, the horrors unleashed, and the blood that will be shed in the wake of this new higher power that will arise above your country's ash-laden fields! It will be the embodiment of Hell on Heaven! And soon," Jamie narrowed his eyes, taking the flat side of the blood covered blade to divide his features evenly, "I will be watching it all with the utmost delight!"

"Prophecy?! I will not hear such things from the likes of a psychopathic mind like yours!!"

WOOSH!

And with that, Simon decided to switch tactics from long-range to close-range combat. Gripping his hilt in two hands, he swung his blade and battered at Jamie's defenses with relentless aggression. He ignored the sparks that flew as the blades collided with one another, his eyes never leaving Jamie's. "Those are the words spoken by a disillusioned man, someone who had long ago lost their touch with reality!! So prepare for a very rude awakening!!" As he continued to swing, he summoned the wind to his aid. It moved across his cutting edge, sharpening it and increasing its cutting potential. He wanted to slice that blade in half, straight through to the killer he so desperately wanted to destroy.

CLANG-CLANG-CLANG!

The force utilized by Jamie was nearly equal to that of his Paladin counterpart, causing billowing flames and wind to flourish abound. Jamie's eyes looked cooly into the eyes of a man with righteous zeal and anger. He swung his blade with cool, collect instinct and grace, matching the predictable anger-filled swings of the enemy. It was when the pressurized wind-based blade came towards him, that Jamie acted upon instinct.

CRACK-BWHOOSH!

Swinging his blade directly towards the hilt and base, Jamie halted the effectiveness of the swing, while simultaneously letting loose a pressurized explosion of fire to meld with the wind, further affecting the pyrotechnic filled blast. The force yielded was great enough to force Jamie and Simon apart, delivering a long, shallow cut up his chest from the cutting power initialized by his opponent.

Skidding backwards, Jamie chuckled, raising his blade up before propping it onto his shoulder with a sign of relenting, "As fun as it is to exchange verbatum on morals and madness, I have to run. My next prophecy is that Shinhae will be feeling a storm of molten rain that will undoubtedly cause quite a mess under the hour. Ta-Ta!"

SHFT!

And just like that, Jamie's form vanished from view, and allowing the battle between the two entities to remain undecided, and assumedly to the chagrin of Simon's.

"This is Jamie, Ollie-boy! I bought you enough time to keep the Paladins busy with me, so your LZ should be clear for take-off!"

"Good." Oliver said in reply. "Because we have just reached it."

Indeed, the group had managed to reach the extraction point, much to Rika's relief. She raised a hand to wave them over, an enthusiastic smile on her face. "Here! Over here!" She shouted, guiding them over. "Thank the Spirit King you're all right. I thought the Paladins would have gotten to you first."

"Thanks to Jamie, we didn't have to worry about encountering them." Oliver said calmly, quickly climbing on board. "Mount up, everyone! We're getting out of here!"

WHAM!

"DAMN it!!" Simon banged his sword against the ground in frustration, unable to do anything for his enemy's sudden retreat. He raised a finger up to his earpiece, tuning into his channel. "All Paladins, this is Father Teresa. I just engaged the Blood Coat in combat... but he managed to get away. Does anyone copy? Over!"

"Hawk here! The Queen of Blades is being jammed and smokescreened at the Victoria Cathedral! We're currently running independantly right now!" Rosalina spoke aloud. 

"I can't manage this crowd! The most recent explosions has them in a panic!"

"Hold on, I can relieve you, I just got done cleaning out one of the explosion sites!"

"Where the Hell did the Blood Coat get all these explosives?! Bastard slipped under out noses while we were focused on those blasted mercenaries!"

"This is Paladinus Cinque! I'm overseeing the Western half of Shinhae and I see V-14 gathering in a evacuated space. I believe they are evacuating from the city..."

Meanwhile, in said evacuated square lied the V-14's LZ...

"We're all here," Mōka spoke aloud, landing on her feet, casually raising a Shinsei barrier around their points of entry to cut off any unexpected guests, "I've blocked off our enemies from pursuing. We're all clear."

"For the moment..."

Oliver's rather dark statement caused Anton to look over at him in slight confusion. "Weren't you listening? One of the Inner Circle's higher-ups have us zeroed." He said bluntly, folding his arms across his chest. "She had us zeroed from the very beginning, before that encounter with the 10th Division. From the assembly of Gamma to the alliance with the Gotei 13, they heard it all. No matter what move we make, all of it will be perceived by each and every one of them. There's not a damn thing we can do about it."

"They're sparing us for now, aren't they?" Shito asked aloud incredulously, crossing his arms as he locked his eyes narrowingly at Oliver, "I don't think we should look a gift horse in the mouth, especially when a Dragon happens to be that gift horse. The fact she gave us a warning meant she, as well as the others of the Inner Circle, have a much bigger plan in motion."

"I agree," Mōka nodded to her subordinate before looking to the other two female leaders, "we should continue as planned. While they have been monitoring our radio communications, they don't know everything. If that was true, they could've beaten us at the Black Blood Sect Meet, or in the Soul Society. I think we should take our breaths while we can before the plunge comes...for all of us."

"You would agree with anyone over me, wouldn't you?" Oliver muttered under his breath, resisting the urge to roll his eyes. But there was a slight scowl of displeasure on his face.

"Now that I think about it," Anton muttered, putting a hand to his chin in thought. "If the McTavish claimed to be listening the whole time... how come Gamma Team's HQ hasn't been sacked yet? How come we haven't been cut off from reaching Aether? I'm pretty sure that they had plenty of time to send a squad out in order to terminate us. It's pretty clear that they have the resources, and I'm not one to underestimate the intelligence of a former Stealth Force member. They had plenty of opportunities to hit us where it hurts."

"That, and the fact that were signs of the Inner Circle purposefully pulling out from the assault on the HQ." Angelika said coolly. "Too many slip-ups from an organization so secretive and precise as the Inner Circle. This can't be something so simple as errors in judgement."

WOOSH!

With a flap of its wings and clicks of the tongue by Rika, the Dragonbird had taken to the air.

"If that Yashin guy wanted to take us all out, why didn't he use all that man power he acquired for the battle at the Meet for the Soul Society? Like, no one would've been able to stop him because I didn't see any alarms ringing when Yashin and Shadō were tearing the place up," Hyōryū asked incredulously, before looking at Shadō whom was mounted a few "seats" behind her, "no offense..."

"You bring up an excellent point, Hyōryū," Shadō spoke in a grave tone, "every battle we've won against the Inner Circle feels like it was set up. Almost as if they purposely tipped the favor over to us, so that they could accomplish something else or keep us from seeing the bigger picture..."

"If I was an enemy who loved to cling to the shadows," Yajū spoke his mind, clencing his scythe in emphasis as he looked over at the burning scene he saw that was Shinhae, and was relatively unscathed due to the sheer mass the city made up, "I would like to keep my enemies thinking they knew everything there was to know about me. I'd even let them have a few wins, making them believe they are winning but needing help. Then, I'd kill them all when they'd least expect it..."

"Whatever the case may be," Zaii spoke his mind, leaning his head back with a sigh, "we got Oliver out and none of us are dead. I'd say that calls for a celebration when we get back, don't you think-"

"No," Shinshin interrupted, looking over at Zaii then promptly to the others on the avian steed, "none of us are going to be able to return to the HQ until we get the Alliance situated with the Gotei 13..."

Angelika promptly nodded in acknowledgement, turning her gaze over her shoulder. "Tomorrow, we'll be heading to the Seireitei in order for negotiations and future plans. Considering that we won't be needing the Lieutenant as a prisoner anymore, we'll be taking her with us and returning her to Shindō. So I hope all of you aren't completely anti-social when it comes to reconciliation..."

"Say, Nazi."

Oliver's voice turned the German's attention over to the blonde man, though she didn't bother turning towards him directly. "Come to think about it..." He muttered, a casual and conversational tone in his voice. "I never did manage to say my piece about you pulling that stunt on me. For a second, I thought that you were actually going to let me hang..."

"You can complain all you want to about my bad sense of humor later." Angelika said bluntly. "I have more important matters at ha--"

What happened next was something that would probably go in the record books.

Before she could complete her sentence, she felt two fingers placed on her cheek and push her head to face Oliver's direction. But before she could say anything, Oliver abruptly moved in and shut her up by planting his lips on her own in a momentary kiss. Her body abruptly froze, her eye widening and all thoughts stopping abruptly.

Oliver was kissing her.

Before she knew it, he pulled away with a rather smug smirk face. "Thanks."

In one of those rare instances, Angelika had been completely shocked into silence. Her mouth was reasonably agape, and she was regarding Oliver with a mixture of disbelief and surprise. She simply could not get any words out of her mouth, only able of blinking once or twice as she stared at him. Out of all the things she thought he was going to do, an... affectionate... gesture like that was at the very bottom.

"D-D-Did I just see what I think I saw?" Hyōryū's widened to comical proportions at seeing her boss, the tough-as-nails, in charge leader reprimanding for inappropiate behavior...was kissed by the rebel of rebels. She had to ask Anton if she was still in the now, or if she had passed out and was having a whacked out nightmare or something...

Sighing, Yajū pulled what sounded like a bag of coins and placed it into Shito's hands, "F'ing bastard actually knew what he was talking about..."

"Wait?! You guys knew about this?!" Zaii's eyes widened to his other two comrades, surprised that they could've possibly forseen this bizarre occurance.

Mōka shrugged, chuckling in a knowing tone, "I didn't say anything to them, if you're worrying about that..."

In contrast to the two that had apparently foresaw this event, the rest of them shared Angelika's shock.

Anton had his mouth agape, his pupils dilated, and his body tilted back just a little out of reflex. Out of all the things he could have seen from Oliver, this absolutely topped it. Not only did he kiss Angelika, but he had also gotten what could have been possibly the most priceless look out of her. Part of him wanted to laugh, and another part wished that Shou could've been on board just to see it.

Yusuke, Rika and Kaitlyn had somewhat lighter variants. While Yusuke was indeed surprised, he also had a clear smile of approval on his face, while Kaitlyn observed with a bit of intrigue In contrast, Rika had a hand to her mouth and a faint blush across her cheeks. But none of them spoke, simply because they felt it was somewhat impolite to do so.

Oliver briefly turned his head towards the rest of them only to quirk an eyebrow, before turning back to the stunned German. "Oh, what's the matter? I didn't happen to get your tongue, did I?"

That seemed to snap her out of her reverie.

"...shut up."

With those two words that expressed composed embarassment, she turned her head around and did her best to ignore the laughter of the ones around her.

Even Shinshin laughed along with them. It was the first time, he realized, that he shared a mutual humor with the others. To this, he allowed himself to smile a bit warmer. Looking to Kaitlyn, he briefly wondered what it would be like if they were to share a kiss...

"With all that said and done, it seems like despite all we've gone through, V-14 is back in buisness!" Mōka spoke aloud with a jubiliant cheer, pointing onto the horizon, "onto the Soul Society! Let's make history, people!"

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