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Kurome should have felt bad for Wave, honestly. He was being punished for a well-planned escape by her Tatsu-nii despite not being able to stop such a daring feat. But rather than feel guilty by association, she found herself happily taking part in the lesson being taught to the foolish white knight.
"I'm deeply sorry. I have no other way to say it, but I'm sorry." Wave apologized through his own tears. He was only wearing his blue-striped boxers atop a sitting block with grooves cut into it, forcing his bare shins to press against the block's raised sections with painful accuracy. His situation wasn't helped by the three stone squares currently resting in his lap while being tied to a pole behind him to ensure he remained upright. In an act of secret mercy, Kurome had sanded away the actual sharp edges, leaving irregular rolling sections that wouldn't potentially maim its victim. "I've reflected on my actions and realized the error of my ways."
Esdeath looked down at him from her seat, a look of mild annoyance in her eyes. "You were distracted by the wildlife and let Tatsumi escape. That alone was bad. But then you let a Night Raid member escape after you ambushed him? Deplorable." The ice-cold general looked at Kurome. "Stone please."
Kurome rushed to obey, lifting the large stone up before dropping it onto Wave's lap on top of the growing stack. "Sorry." She whispered to him as he cried out in pain. Truly, it could be in the process of starting for him if the rumors about Esdeath's sadism were true.
"Wave, you are skilled. I concede to that. But your mind is too weak." Esdeath leaned in, ensuring that Wave made eye contact. "Own up to your mistakes."
"Ye-" Wave's apology was cut short by the doors to the room being thrown open. Kurome along with everyone else looked over, and were surprised to see Tsu of all people standing there. He looked clearly annoyed, a strange sight considering how little emotion he normally let anyone see.
Esdeath was the first to recover, questioning his intrusion, "What brings you here? I'm in the middle of something." He spared her a glance that Kurome guessed was his dismissal of her question.
"Advisor Tsu of the Department of Spiritual Affairs and newly appointed member of the Jaegers squad, reporting." He replied, his annoyance fading as he walked in and began to circle past the suffering Wave. "Though it seems that the unit not only lacks discipline, but skill as well." His comment was clearly meant to incite Esdeath, Kurome observed. She stepped back, not wanting any part of the approaching ego battle.
Esdeath broke the silent fight first. "Please enlighten me as to why I would even accept your appointment."
Tsu let a single eyebrow raise before he replied. "The Emperor decided it would be my punishment for the Amholt incident. Not that I would object to it, considering it is a chance to work with my dear protégé's group."
Kurome frowned at Tsu's explanation, questioning his answer. Is he saying that the attack on him and Aria's disappearance are connected? Anytime she had asked about either incident, she and any of the other Jaegers were stonewalled. How was she supposed to learn anything of importance to Night Raid?
"Is that so?" Esdeath seemed slightly amused at Tsu's admission of his punishment. "Then would you care to enlighten us as to your skill set and Teigu's capabilities?"
Kurome watched as resignation flashed through Tsu's eyes at giving up his most precious secrets. "It's rather unexciting. My specialty is defense-support of my allies, aided by my immortality and centuries of experience. My Teigu is quite simple. Lo Shira, as it is named, grants me control over my position in the fabric of time. Often referred to as time manipulation."
The collective group held back a gasp of shock as Wave's punishment completely faded from their minds. Kurome found herself trying to stop her hands from shaking at the revelation. Tsu's power was supposed to be impossible for any Teigu. He was claiming a power that put him at the same level as ancient gods. If what he was saying was true, then the Emperor should have used it and become immortal instead of needing any other Imperial Arms.
"Of course, if anyone besides me were to try and use it, they would die horribly." He continued as if they weren't in total shock. "Luna ―the Danger Beast that was used to make it― was also the one I served as a prophet. He gave off a unique aura of pure killing intent that slew everyone other than myself that approached him. Even his remains, preserved as a Teigu, still emit fatal levels to anyone other than me. But that is to be expected. Ultra-Class Danger Beasts have to acknowledge each other." Everyone remembered the villager's begging, and shuddered at how quickly he dismissed it with the revelation of his true nature and display of brutality.
"Very well." Esdeath walked over to the advisor, towering over him before extending her hand. "Welcome to the Jaegers."
He grasped her hand and shook it, ice crawling up his digits. "Wouldn't have it any other way." They released each other and Tsu broke the ice from his fingers with a quick flex. The chill that ran down Kurome's spine were the only warning she got that it wasn't planned. We're really in over our heads, aren't we?
Wave slipped out of the ropes that had kept him from escaping his punishment, glad that no one else had noticed his escape. He looked at the door, and noticed Seryu was about to come in. He motioned to her to keep quiet before slinking out past her.
I am not dealing with this! He thought emphatically.
Akame and Tatsumi stumbled through the forest towards Night Raid's base, their attentions too focused on each other to notice anything else. They spoke breathless apologies to each other between intense kisses, their brokenness calling out to be healed. By the time they had managed to find the right clearing, their lips were bruised from the intensity and their souls cleansed by the confessions uttered.
Tatsumi recovered first, looking at his girlfriend and letting out a small chuckle. Akame took a second to realize that he was chuckling at her and the fact that a large amount of leaves had gotten stuck in her hair. She immediately began clearing the foliage from her black locks, a mild blush joining the already passionate flush of her face.
"What about you, Mr. Shrub?" She asked Tatsumi, pointing to many leafy branches that were stuck in tears throughout Tatsumi's coat. He took notice and became rather embarrassed, hurrying to clear himself of the natural camouflage. She laughed as a particularly clever branch eluded him, having worked its way into several spots in his coat.
They failed to notice that their return was spectated by the remaining members of the assassin group. Mien watched the good-natured scene with a sliver of guilt, stuck between her own feelings on the matter and her best friend's happiness. Leone was much less reserved with her emotions, mumbling her own guesses as to what had taken Tatsumi's rescue so long and just how long the two lovebirds would wait to announce their return.
Screw it. The blonde thought to herself before racing towards the pair, her greeting already yelled. "Welcome back my little ones!" She swept the two into a bear hug that threatened to finish off Tatsumi's already damaged ribcage. "Now get inside so we can eat. Big Sis has a lot of questions." She let them go so they could walk in on their own.
As Tatsumi and Akame walked past Mien, she flipped her ponytail and half-turned away before giving her own greeting. "You two are late." They understood what she meant and smiled before hugging their less-than-honest friend. While she recovered from the shocking display of affection, the others went inside to begin to unwind from their previously heightened states. The four gathered around the base's dining table, helping themselves to an assortment of fruit and other cold finger-foods.
Once they were properly settled in, Tatsumi began to explain his "capture" by Esdeath and everything else that he knew. He watched as their faces went through the full range of expressions, from angry to confused to horrified to worried until finally returning to normal. At least as normal as they could manage.
"Damn, this is…" Leone shook her head, "Not quite unexpected, but still pretty horrifying." Akame nodded her agreement, seeming content that what she had seen between Tatsumi and Esdeath was nothing more than an alliance against Tsu. But Mien wasn't entirely convinced. "Something's off. If Esdeath knew Tsu from before even you, then doesn't that mean she could be a loyal pawn of his too?"
"No." Tatsumi looked adamant, stating, "She might be working for the Empire, but it's definitely because of Tsu alone. He isn't asking for her loyalty, only obedience."
"Then if we get rid of Tsu, we kill two birds with one stone!" Leone declared, jumping to her feet and striking a victory pose.
"Doubtful." Mien crushed the idea, her ponytail swinging in time with the shaking of her head. "If he can control someone as strong as her, what's to say he can't make her fight for him?"
Leone slammed a cup on the table, stopping anyone from having time to worry. "Let's stop the depressing talk and get back in a good mood. Tatsumi's back, we know what's going on in the capital, and Boss is coming back in a few days! Let's drink to today's success!" The blonde knocked back her drink before reaching into a nearby cabinet for a large bottle of rum. The three could only watch in awe as she uncorked it with her mouth before pouring the entire bottle for herself.
Lubbock had finally recovered from his harrowing journey to return to the rebel headquarters, and decided to celebrate his freedom with a treat for his eyes. A quick question to a courier and he knew where Najenda was. Truly, nothing could be a better post-recovery than such a feast! he thought as he ducked inside the indicated tent, only to be met by the hard end of a staff knocking between his eyes.
He yelped and jumped backward, cursing, "Fucking hell! Who does that to someone visiting?" he rubbed the spot, feeling it start to swell.
"Susanoo, I thought I mentioned Lubbock," Najenda's voice reached him from inside the tent as a large man with blue hair and bull horns stepped out, staff held in one hand. He grunted in acknowledgement of the order, holding the tent's flap open as Najenda stepped out. The one-eyed commander smirked at the information specialist, enjoying his wincing look.
Lubbock shook himself to regain some lost dignity and squarely looked Susanoo in the eyes, "Just remember, I'm the senior one of us newbie."
"Considering he's a Teigu I don't think that applies." A female voice spoke up from behind the green-haired pervert. He whipped his head around, startled to find an incredibly cute redhead standing there. Her eyes glinted with what the tactician decided was mischief. "The name's Chelsea. Fellow assassin, specializing in infiltration." She took out a lollipop and quickly began eating it.
Lubbock found himself uneasy with the cute girl, something instinctively warning him about her. But Najenda seemed relaxed with her, so he put aside the feelings and extended his hand in greeting.
"Lubbock, of the Capital Assassination Squad, known as Night Raid," he introduced himself properly, not missing a chance to make a good impression.
"Oh, the pervert strategist?" Lubbock nearly cried at her insulting and accurate assessment.
Najenda nodded at the sight, pleased to see the new teammates already getting along. But she quickly composed herself, refocusing on why she had needed the new assassins to join her team, "Lubbock, you mentioned that our little problem had turned on us, and our spies managed to catch wind of the Stylish Army preparing to march. The only thing that can mean is that our base is likely compromised. Prep for a quick extraction and relocation before meeting at the Sky Manta in 2 hours."
Lubbock took the news as seriously as he could, glad to be doing what he could to help her and even deciding to hold off on his recovery meal until the rest of his friends were safe.
Damnit Tsu, I thought you were going to help us covertly, not sell us out. Once a bastard, always a bastard!
Akame finished laying the last tripwire between her room and the eventual invasion point of the Night Raid base by Stylish's Army, content that her time spent learning the art from Lubbock hadn't gone to waste.
"Do you think we set up enough traps?" She heard Tatsumi ask from the other end of the hallway, where he had rigged enough spice and throwing knife traps to cut down anyone foolish enough to consider attacking one of their friend's bedrooms.
"The point of the traps is to give us an edge, not win the battle. Especially since…" Akame stopped herself from reopening the wound of Lubbock's death. Tatsumi pointedly looked towards Mien's room, where the pinkette was keeping watch over a stumblingly drunk Leone.
"We'll protect them long enough to wake up, then we make a run for where Najenda will land, right?"
"Yes. Stylish has a few stronger soldiers, but we can beat them. Is there anything else you can think of us needing to destroy to cover our tracks?"
"No, and I've said my final goodbyes to Ieyasu and Sayo." Akame had honestly forgotten about Tatsumi's friends and their graves, but nodded her understanding. She might not have known them, but they were important to her boyfriend and that meant she could respect the impact of their loss.
"I'm glad. We didn't have any warning last time, but now that we do I know we can take this invasion on without all the problems of last time."
"So, we take out the more advanced soldiers, avoid the poison gas, and try to take out Dr. Stylish before Najenda arrives with reinforcements," Tatsumi recalled, trying to plan out each action that they could take to win the coming battle.
"Any other preparations that we can make?"
"No… What do we do until the battle starts?" Akame had to sit down to think about his question.
Wave should have known better than to question the situation he saw. Every time he walked through the door to the Jaeger's base, there was always something odd. Whether it was Bols enjoying time with his irrationally cute wife and daughter, Run and the advisor verbally and physically fencing against each other with hardcover books, or even Kurome simply enjoying an unnatural amount of food, he was certain he could handle it.
But by every bizarre standard he had come to judge everyone by, he was not prepared for every working member other than Esdeath to be sitting in a circle around the advisor while he silently read from a small blue book. There was no sign of the perverted doctor, a small mercy for Wave's mind.
"Is it story time?" The sailor questioned without even giving the scene any deeper thought. Five pairs of eyes fixed him with a blend of annoyance and expectation.
"It is now that you've finally arrived," The white-haired official answered, his monotone suggesting that he was back to the consummate professionalism he had preferred to display. They waited for a moment to let Wave sit next to Kurome, who pointedly shifted her snack bag away from him.
Run smiled and nodded to the advisor, "Thank you for doing this. I know it must seem like a small thing to you, but as a teacher it is something I would love to hear."
"No problem. Now to catch our slow sailor up, what we are all here for is a bit of a history lesson on the Civil War. Specifically, my involvement as both an administrator and military General." Several eyebrows shot up at the mention of the military activity.
"You held the rank of General?" Seryu questioned, nearly bouncing at the thought of her superior bringing justice to rebels on a battlefield. The slight bounce of Koro in her lap gave it an unnatural air of innocence despite the implied bloodshed.
"For a time, but at first, I served as an ambassador to both sides, keeping civilians out of the armies' paths and trying to instill the need for peace talks. The rebels were citizens of the Empire, even if they simply didn't agree with the way the nobility acted. Can't blame a commoner for wanting to move upward in society without being abused for the thought."
A reasonable excuse, but not something to cause war over, Wave thought to himself. Memories surfaced, reminding him of the arrogance that he saw from aristocrats in the Capital every day since he arrived. Could he truly say he wouldn't have fought to put an end to it if he was the one suffering?
"The turning point came down to my family. My descendants fought on both sides of the conflict, often as the Teigu Wielders in their respective armies. But as they couldn't bring themselves to kill each other, the battles were drawn out and bloody with so many weaker fighters slain. The war went for years, generations of soldiers rising and falling around them, weighing them down with the pain of survival. They all agreed to a peace summit at one of my country homes, hoping to end the senseless bloodshed. Everyone who shared even a drop of my blood was present that day, meaning 12 Teigu and their wielders were there as well. We settled out a potential call to peace under the potential power of those Teigu and my bloodline's vast influence in the Empire."
Something churned inside Wave's stomach. He could hear the soft undertones of affection that the advisor spoke of his family with and the slow corruption of bitterness seeping in. He felt his stubborn smile twist into a grimace, before something sweet and sharp was jabbed into his mouth. Going cross-eyed to look at it, he recognized it as one of Kurome's variety of candy sticks. A quick glance revealed Kurome had her own hand full of the sugary treats, eyes locked onto the advisor.
"That night, we celebrated our accomplishments as a family and drank to future peace. The food and drink had been drugged with a slow acting narcotic, and none of us noticed before we were unconscious. Not even I was expecting that, marking a lapse in my judgment. I awoke in a rebel command tent, a spike forced through my hands and my legs chained together. They had caught us off-guard, and I was supposed to be ransomed back to the Emperor as part of their attempts to make the Emperor surrender."
"What about your family?" Wave was beaten to the question by Bols, though he knew why.
"Executed by the rebels as traitors or dangerous prisoners of war before I awoke. Even the children and newborns weren't spared." The room became tense as everyone shared a complicated look. The mix of disgust, understanding, and cold curiosity that everyone was swallowed in by the story warred with their various understandings of justice in the face of war.
The advisor had closed his glowing mother of pearl eyes at this point, but continued on, "I slaughtered my way out of the camp and back into Imperial territory. I begged the Emperor to allow me to lead a campaign against the rebel's base camp, and he readily agreed upon hearing my reasoning. I formed an elite unit that would strike down the leaders and move the war towards its end. Twenty-five soldiers were shaped into my ultimate vanguard and we marched. Straight through the battlefield, rebel-claimed lands, and into the bulk of their forces before arriving at their command base. Not one of them was hurt during our advance."
"How? Surely even the Teigu users amongst the rebels would have given you some trouble," Run inquired, naturally curious. Even the weakest Teigu outranked any elite soldier, much less a group of Teigu users battling against a small unit.
"Lo Shira. Using it with a little bit of tactical knowledge turned my immortal body into an impassable wall and I moved right alongside them. The Phantom Wall, was what they called it, after my own nickname as the Phantom General. No harm could reach them, and my soldiers' own weapons easily found their marks with that certainty. Approximately 60,000 rebel soldiers, officers, and leaders were killed in that march. The rebels were nearly destroyed and surrendered only months later."
He turned to Run, a soft and cold smile on his face as he closed the blue book, "And that Run, is my involvement in the Imperial Civil War. I hope it was enlightening."
"Very." Run was the first to stand up, quickly followed by Bols and Seryu. They left, eagerly chatting about their plans for the rest of the evening. But Wave found his legs wouldn't rise.
How could they stand, when someone so strong still sat in from of him?
To most fighters, the mere idea of a spice bomb trap would be crude, ineffective, and unsophisticated. For Tatsumi, it was the most devastating weapon he could wield without stabbing the person himself. As the scent of Fireball Sand filtered through Incursio's helmet, he felt a smile form while he cut through another wave of Stylish's incapacitated soldiers.
A quick glance confirmed that Akame was holding her end of the hallway. He returned to his position slaying the numerous pawns, wondering when Mien would finally wake up from the commotion caused by the fighting, various traps, explosions, and the occasional scream about food allergies.
As if in answer to his thoughts, the distinct sound of Pumpkin charging and firing barked out behind him, followed by the panicked scream of an armored man who exploded through the wall of the hallway. Finishing off the last of the wave, he found a new hole in the side of the fortress with a clearly irritated pinkette firing at the attackers.
"Next time, try waking us up newbie! That guy almost snuck up on me!" She hollered at him, her pink nightdress fluttering in the breeze alongside her shoulder-length hair. Even in the middle of an invasion of their home, she had something to critique him about. But he had accepted that side of her and couldn't do anything except turn it into banter.
"Sure, and maybe I'll have a banquet set up for our guests. And Leone can share her booze with them!" He fired back, leaping out of the hole to engage the main body of the enemy forces outside. He heard the light steps of Akame following him, their landing area cleared in an instant by their two blades. The man that Mien had shot appeared again, his limbs replaced with mechanical blades. Tatsumi didn't even concern himself with it, trusting that Mien had already fired. He wasn't disappointed when the man's head vanished into the light streak of Pumpkin's bullet, letting the body tumble and trip up more of Stylish's pawns with a theatrical blood spurt. The unexpectedly light landing of Mien was the signal that the battle had moved outside the base.
The rhythmic rumble of a large person approaching alerted Tatsumi to the danger before he saw it. A back handspring to dodge gave him enough room to identify his opponent. A large, ridiculously dressed man with a mustache and manic grin had landed where he had been fighting, clearing the area of the pawns that had been there. It took Tatsumi looking at the man's weapon to realize who he was.
Akame had warned him, prepared him for the shock of the sight, but he couldn't hold back a growl of fury. Ecstasy, Sheele's Teigu, were being wielded by his opponent. Thankfully, the pawns nearby were willing to explode into bloody piles to alleviate his rage. But it was not his battle to fight. That honor fell to the sniper who had called Sheele her closest friend and would put the miserable wretch down without a problem. He watched as Mien stepped forward, an almost tranquil expression on her face as the man noticed her. He smiled, clearly thinking that he would get an easy kill by striking the pinkette down. He didn't even take her raising the sniper rifle as a serious threat.
He wasn't prepared for the power of Pumpkin's full blast, his failed attempt to block the attack sending Ecstasy flying from his hands before they disintegrated. The instant devastation of a Stylish high-ranker stunned the pawns, giving Tatsumi and Akame more than enough time to clear a wide area where they hoped Najenda would soon land. Even as the Stylish army resurged, he was comforted by the knowledge of Mien's success. He didn't even worry as another specialized Stylish soldier attempted to leap towards Mien, only to find Leone's foot caving in his ribcage midair. The high-pitched scream of the defeat echoed for a moment before the body slammed into a tree and went silent.
"All you assholes who woke me up, prepare to die!" The partially-drunk blonde howled before tearing into the Stylish Army near the sniper. Tatsumi couldn't believe that they were doing so well, especially since Dr. Stylish had not been prepared for them to know his ambush was coming. He felt light as he cut into his faceless enemies, feeling hope swell within his chest. But when the lightness of his limbs turned to numbness spreading from his toes, he remembered the last thing Akame had warned him about with her previous experience in the siege.
"There's poison gas! Cover up!" He called out, turning to find his allies. But his words came too late as Mien, then Leone staggered and slumped into the area that he was defending. Even Akame, who had wrapped several filtering cloths over her mouth, was slowing down and being forced back by the sheer number of opponents. He offered up a prayer, looking to the moon above for a sign that Najenda was on her way. He would protect them. Even if it cost him his life.
Imperial Palace Library…
Esdeath arched her back, feeling the wooden chair beneath her shift as she stretched. While most Generals would not deign to waste their time in the Imperial Palace's library researching, the blue-haired warrior had learned at her father's side the importance of understanding prey in its fullest. Especially when that prey is something as vicious and cunning as the Moon Demon that pranced its way through the halls under the guise of a wily immortal advisor. She couldn't even rely on the dedicated teacher Run to do the research for her, as Tsu had already sunken his figurative claws into the scholar.
She closed the book she had been using, exhausted from the failure it had turned out to be. Nothing she had access to could tell her anything about his earliest times serving the First Emperor. She had found some records that referenced far older works from the dawn of the Empire, though the originals seemed to have been taken by the ones responsible for the loss of the advisor's assistant. Thankfully without her around, the time that she had to spend in his presence was reduced so he could take care of the purple-haired child he had adopted. If anything, it seemed that the Demon had been thwarted by something beyond his control and had petulantly demanded the attention of her Jaegers to make himself feel important and powerful again. An acceptable trade for her.
She shook her head, letting her hair sway to clear the bad air caused by thinking about him. If she could find anything that could help her, it was within the Forbidden Section of the Imperial Palace Library. Deciding to return to the unenviable task of studying ancient history, she opened a book discussing the court politics of the Second Emperor's reign. A few minutes of skimming turned to gold when a reference appeared.
"'The Moonless Incident and Proceedings,'" She chuckled to herself. Maybe history wouldn't be so boring after all.
Najenda reveled in the night air blowing past her standing frame, letting herself embrace the joy of flying behind her stoic appearance as the boss of the greatest assassins the Empire had ever known. She knew that this was just a way to distract herself from the seriousness of the current predicament. Her team members, her Night Raid, was under attack. A quick glance to the three assassins with her gave her the hope that it would turn in their favor and they could escape. She chided herself for the defeatist mentality, but she knew that while Tsu could provide information on their whereabouts it would be impossible to survive. Which left her with the only option: flee.
The sounds of the battle under the moonlight reached her first, echoing up to the heights of the Sky Manta. A glance down confirmed that the forest and her base's clearing were filled with corpses and still living members of Stylish's private army.
"Go." A single word that commanded all three of her waiting assassins to move. Chelsea slipped off the Sky Manta as it cleared the trees, gracefully soaring into the skies above the battlefield. According to the fortune-telling Teigu, Stylish was hiding on top of a cliff southwest of the base. The perfect infiltrator that was the Gaia Foundation user had been tasked with silencing whatever creations were protecting the mad doctor. Her work would clear the way for the final push.
Lubbock and Susanoo jumped down towards the circle of assassins protected by Tatsumi and Akame, reinforcing him with a tactic unique to the situation. Lubbock launched his threads, building a mid-air bridge to stand on while countless garrotes descended into the fray to sow confusion into the army. Meanwhile Susanoo crushed the soldiers on the backside of Tatsumi's small circle, clearing more room for them to fight and protect their downed teammates. When some of the soldiers detonated, Lubbock was thrown further up into the air, forcing him to hastily construct a swinging zipline back to the circle. Susanoo was only deterred for a moment before his regenerative properties healed the damage, making even the lost arms moot in a mere second. They were safe and clearly winning this battle, even as Lubbock began to treat the two downed members of Night Raid.
Circling over towards the hiding place of Stylish, Najenda found herself almost nauseated when the doctor began to transform into a hybrid monstrosity that would likely haunt her for some time. Its flesh bubbled and grew, throwing out arms that crushed the nearby reconnaissance specialized Stylish soldiers before bringing them into its maw. While it didn't grow tall enough from the feeding to threaten the Sky Manta, it would be a threat to her assassins.
"Susanoo crush the abomination that Doctor became!" Her orders were shouted as she returned to the previous battlefield. She could see the biological Teigu blur into motion, following her orders without hesitation. But she knew it wouldn't be enough, which led her to the rest of her plan. A signal to Lubbock saw him grab Mien, who seemed shocked that the green-haired man had returned. Najenda noted what looked like another circle of chaos brewing at the forest's edge, cutting off the last of the Stylish Army as the soldiers tore each other to pieces. She could assume several things but defeating the enemy in front of them came first. A quick toss from Lubbock had the pinkette sniper land alongside her, giving the former general a chance to steady the girl.
"Boss, just now... was that really…?" Mien couldn't formulate a coherent sentence, likely still fighting off the poison gas.
"Don't worry about it now. Just do what's necessary to win." She observed Tatsumi racing off to join with Susanoo and Chelsea, leaving Lubbock and Akame to a nearly empty battlefield and the opportunity to recover everything vital. Especially Leone.
She directed the Sky Manta back towards the monster Stylish, impressed as Susanoo and Tatsumi tore through limbs while Chelsea and her needles kept other appendages and tentacles from flanking them. Stylish turned to grab Chelsea, exposing his human form affixed to his monstrous forehead.
"Aim for that human piece Mien." She ordered, holding her protégé by the waist as the pinkette aimed. With a small sigh, Pumpkin fired. The energy of the shot immolated the entirety of Stylish's remaining humanity, wiping him from existence. The titanic body of the monster he had been sagged and fell towards her three chosen fighters, prompting them to run back towards the base and their comrades. Mien slumped into Najenda's embrace, panting with exertion from the overcharged shot.
"You did well. All of you did." She shifted the girl in her arms, giving her a light hug, "I'm proud of what you've done."
Traitor... Who's the real traitor? Aria stepped lightly over the viscera of countless Stylish enhanced soldiers scattered across the clearing before the Night Raid base. She had taken days to circle around back to the base after escaping the Capital, wary of the pursuing forces and her former Master. She bit deeply into the scabs on the inside of her cheek to force the memory back long enough to figure out what had happened to Night Raid. She could only hope the invasion had nothing to do with her failed information gathering.
She found Leone and Akame being tended to by Lubbock, apparently not as dead as Tsu claimed. She brought a hand up to her head, catching a drop of blood that slipped past her lips.
"Was Tsu behind this?" She asked, making the three assassins turn to her. The look of betrayal in Akame's reds, and deep anger in Lubbock's greens told her all she needed.
"It's not your fault," Leone gave her a half-smile, "But we should thank you for taking out so many of these guys," her arms swept over the corpses littering the area.
Aria felt the ghost of a smile form, giving a flash of her likely bloody teeth, "It wasn't intentional. I guess I was focusing so hard on those memories they just ended up overpowering Emparthos to that point." She looked at several of the limbs that had been torn from their rightful place, "It looks like that made their own minds tear themselves apart."
"So, what did you actually do to set him off? Only you have any clue as to what happened." Akame's eyes went flat as she hid her emotions again, trying to regain some professionalism after the harsh battle.
Aria shuffled her hands inside the cloak, her final remaining tie to Tsu, for the ultimate prize. Her fingers caught the edge and swiftly pulled free the First Emperor's journal, letting the book's black exterior soak in the moonlight and the others' gazes.
"I found the truth. About him. His Teigu. The First Emperor. Everything." She stepped closer, offering it to them. This was her way to tip the scales.
I will uphold our promise. Even if it means destroying the current you to save you.
Secrets and lies abound as the world slowly careens onto the unknown path presented by Tsu. Will they be able to stop him and his dangerous plans?
Author's Note: It's been a long time and for that I both apologize and acknowledge that you may have forgotten or dropped this story. Since the last chapter was posted a lot of life events have happened on my end. Graduations, career changes, deaths, and location changes. But it is simple. I didn't drop this story and it will continue, albeit slowly while real life continues to spin me around like a runaway carousel. But thanks to all my readers for staying, reviewing, favoriting, and everything else you all have done for this story. See you soon!