There is no mistake that White Trinity prevailed in their endeavors in Rune-Midgarts against foes as fierce as the Battle Vixens. It was not through luck or some divine intervention, nor was it through just the courage and determination of its members. White Trinity owes the majority of its success to their superior knowledge of the battlefield and tactical execution, and the two that serve as testament to these factors were the cunning and swift Shinobi known as Raien Kotetsu - well-known for his manipulation of the very heavens to bring lightning down upon his enemies – and Thiji Higuri, the Wizard and strategist of White Trinity, whose wisdom and icy-cold intellect contributed greatly to his guild's accomplishments.
However, two major event occurred in recent days that struck a decisive blow to White Trinity's morale. First, prior to the Battle of Britoniah, the Holy Saviors, led by the newly-appointed Commander Youmei, reluctantly stormed the site of their first-ever victory that started it all – the Emperium Fortress. Although it was defended with Guardians, the strength of Odin's chosen overcame them and they were able to usurp the Ruby Emperium and the Fortress itself, securing their own base of operations in Prontera. Secondly, at the conclusion of the race to the Sapphire Emperium, Thiji had managed to cut off Lupi of the Battle Vixens as she reached for victory, but plummeted to the lake below in defeat, only for her youngest sister, the Assassin known as Heal-Do, to emerge from below and surprise him, sending the Wizard to the waters as well, and culminating in the Battle Vixens winning the battle.
In the beginning, White Trinity's defiant stand against the Battle Vixens sent a succinct message to the adventurers of Rune-Midgarts that they were not as invincible as people were led to believe. After Britoniah, however, those who still supported the Vixens became reinvigorated, for a message was sent in kind that White Trinity can be beaten. But the power of Thiji's intellect showed when he revealed that everything that transpired since the Frontier's inception – the campaigns against the Vixens; enlisting the timely aid of the Saviors twice; losing the Emperium Fortress and the Emperium Citadel to the Saviors and Vixens respectively – was all part of his plan to "divide the land into three," emulating a famous strategist from ancient times.
A considerable amount of time has passed since the Emperium Citadel's conclusion, and throughout the hiatus, Thiji and Raien spent most of it aiding the land however possible, as well as keeping up to date with recent activity regarding the Emperium Frontier.
It is now midday in the Rune-Midgarts kingdom. In the port city of Alberta, the streets were filled with Merchants of all kinds lining the main thoroughfares. Whether someone needed some equipment tended to, or had to buy some extra potions for longer journeys, there was plenty to be found. In his aqua robes, the Wizard Thiji could be seen by the docks, occasionally being visited by fans of White Trinity for autographs and adventuring advice. Given the opportunity, however, he would gaze out into the sea, reflecting on past events.
"Oh, there you are, Mister Thiji!" said a voice. Approaching him was Kafra Roxie, who was the Kafra representative stationed at the Emperium Fortress. At first he was surprised to see her so far south, but he was then presented with a letter sealed in a silver envelope, bearing a familiar-looking crest. The Wizard recognized the scent permeating from it, and graciously accepted the letter. "I was asked to deliver this to you from… an acquaintance in Prontera."
"Thank you, Miss Roxie. Much glory to the Kafra Corporation," he replied softly. Roxie bowed and teleported away, leaving Thiji alone once more. Scanning his surroundings for a moment, he opened the envelope and started to read it…
The Holy Saviors and I owe you a debt of gratitude for your assistance in aiding the land. Rune-Midgarts is fortunate to have selfless warriors such as you and the others of White Trinity watching over it. Perhaps one day we may all even call each other 'friend.' I've not forgotten the words you spoke to me at Niflheim. At any rate, I pray that your training is going as well as mine, and look forward to meeting you and those savages on the field of battle once more."
Odin Be With You,
The letter made Thiji smile. He never minded helping others during his mission, and it was an excellent opportunity to flex his brain muscles as well. He kept the letter in his robe pocket after he finished reading and looked to the sky. Standing atop a flagpole was a figure cloaked in black and gold. Sensing no danger or ill intent from the figure, the Wizard averted his gaze and looked out to sea for a brief moment before the same figure appeared by his side – his brother Raien had arrived…
Thiji: Good to see you, brother.
Raien: Likewise. Things have been utterly boring since this whole hiatus thing started.
Thiji: I can tell – you've had a nice romp around Rune-Midgarts in recent weeks, I hear.
Thiji: I received word from Madam Shuji that you're wholly responsible for helping the Battle Vixens gain power.
Raien paused for a moment, trying to come up with a defense. Then he would notice the parchment in his brother's hand.
Raien, pointing at the letter: What is that?
Thiji: A letter from Youmei of the Holy Saviors. She's thanking me for assisting her a while back in regards to the threat rising in the Realm of the Dead.
Raien: Realm of the Dead… that Niflheim place, right? So you were helping our enemies gain power, too, you damn hypocrite!
Thiji: Technically I was helping Kirkena.
Raien: And who the hell is that?
Thiji: Kirkena is a witch that has taken residence in Niflheim. She caught wind of my talents and enlisted my aid in keeping the evil spirits at bay.
Raien: So… she's a female Wizard.
Thiji: I know – I said that to her as well. She and her guild wanted to be different. But that is beside the point, and I'm not upset at all for your actions – you're my brother, after all.
Raien: Thanks, man. I was just taking Thunderhorse out for a walk, mostly.
Thiji: And besides, those women only know war. It's in their guild's name, after all; they would have achieved higher levels of strength with or without your supposed "aid."
Raien: Exactly! But we're getting off-topic. You got anything to report on your end?
Thiji: Several. For one, I hear our fearless fighters Ray and Lee just came back from a tournament and won.
Raien: They both came out of there victorious? Damn, that must have taken some effort.
Thiji: I'll say. From the information Madam Shuji gave me, everyone has been performing spectacular deeds during their hiatus and have acquired some new power and/or a higher state of enlightenment. From this I can already divine that whenever we hear news about the Frontier being reopened, that it will be a lot more difficult than ever.
Raien: You have a point there… And then there's the fact that our own facilities can be taken from us during the actual conflict. But at least those pillars of light have some purpose as they keep outsiders from taking them.
Thiji: But who knows how long that will take, and if they will even remain in such a state when the Emperium Frontier returns? I feel our deeds may have even stirred other guilds into action.
Raien: Yeah… this mission's getting serious all of a sudden. And we still have no leads!
The Lightning Ninja struck an incredible point. Several moons had passed since he and Thiji both ventured into this new land, hoping to make quick work of whatever was causing problems in this realm. Presumably at first, the Battle Vixens were the supposed threat that the Snow Flower had mentioned since their assignment began, but surprisingly they weren't, according to Kafra Nora, and that there was a much more dire threat on the horizon.
But the Wizard was smarter than that. He knew that a simple guild of warrior women couldn't possibly cause this much turmoil in the land. However, despite the incredible opportunity to flex his brain muscles in the aesthetics of strategy and tactics, he and Raien spent months running around Rune-Midgarts "ignoring" their objective to deal with some competition that was hosted by the Kafra Corporation.
"You all right, Thij?" Raien asked him after a long pause. "You're starting to space out again."
Snapping out of his trance, Thiji looked to the Ninja and nodded.
"I'm fine," the Wizard responded. "I was just reflecting on everything that's happened." He then turned around, now facing the city, looking around for any stragglers or eavesdroppers.
"Should we head back, then?" the Ninja asked.
"No," Thiji replied with a light shake of his head. "We should meet up with Madam Shuji."
"Okay, then. Let's go and head to the Emperium Pyramid!" Raien suggested. Again, the Wizard shook his head.
"We can't do that; the installations are all blockaded by a barrier of energy because of how long the pillars have been active," he explained.
"Where would we even begin to look for her, then?" asked Raien as he casually balanced a kunai in his hand. Thiji tapped into the recesses of his mind for any hint as to where Nora would most likely be. After a few seconds of contemplation, he recalled Nora mentioning that she enjoyed the locale of a certain beach; where their first battle took place since their mission began, and where Thiji had somehow tamed and domesticated an Ice Titan. He snapped his fingers and turned to the Ninja.
"Comodo," Thiji simply stated. "We will look for her there." The Ninja jumped in excitement and followed his brother to Kafra Pavianne, who politely accepted their offer for a teleport to Comodo Beach.
As they traveled through the aether, Kafra Nora could be seen relaxing on the beach (in uniform, of course) with several of the locals fanning her and her crew with large umbrella leaves. Curly Sue and Roxie were building a sand castle whilst Leilah watched Blossom draw schematic blueprints for aforementioned sand castle. Moments later, Thiji and Raien would appear several hundred meters away from Nora and her posse, which startled some of the locals at first until they recognized whom they were.
Wasting no time, Thiji made his way down the shoreline as Raien could only follow for a few seconds before veering off to chat with some Dancers. Nora and Glaris would no longer feel the cool air from the leaves which would cause them to lift their shades and rise from their recliners, discovering why they stopped to find White Trinity's finest approaching them.
"Hey, there, gentlemen!" Nora happily greeted before jumping out of her chair. "Good to see y'all takin' a break from all that fightin'! Enjoyin' the beach?"
"Actually, we just got here," Thiji replied. Glaris arched a brow.
"Sir Thiji, we only see you," she said. "Who is 'we'?"
The Wizard looked over his shoulder to notice Raien had vanished. With a sigh he would turn around to fetch him, but then jumped to the side when a bolt of lightning struck several inches from his feet. Raien appeared in the flash.
"Don't worry, I didn't forget why we came here," the Ninja said with a smile. The Wizard acknowledged with a nod and turned back towards Nora.
"We wanted to speak to you, Nora," the Wizard said. The teal lady knew exactly what Thiji meant, and politely asked her crew to stay behind while they made their way to the far end of the shore where no one was present…
Nora: All right, boys – what do y'all need to know?
Thiji: Though we don't mind participating in the Emperium Frontier and messing with the Battle Vixens and Holy Saviors, I've just been wondering if we've had any leads as to our objective.
Raien: Surely you should have found something out over these past several months, right?
Nora: Now, now, boys, I assure you that my crew 'n' I have been lookin' into this strange activity since those pillars 'o' energy shot up! And your actions in this whole contest are helpin' us get closer to the source!
Thiji: So there are some leads. Excellent – that is quite the relief.
Raien: So you have a clue as to what's going on?
Nora, nodding: Mm-hmm. Come meet me north o' Prontera at sundown and I'll share what I know with you two.
Raien: Don't have to tell me twice!
The Ninja immediately storms off to catch up with the ladies while Nora teleported away, leaving Thiji to himself. He didn't mind it much; he was used to it. Plus he always worked best when alone. Gazing out at the ocean, memories of the incident in Comodo flooded back into his mind, almost reliving it as if it only occurred yesterday. He and Raien showed exceptional teamwork as they saved the denizens of Comodo from a menacing force of Clock Tower Keepers. Shifting his gaze downward, he noticed the waves freezing over as they made contact with his boots, and his mind immediately thought of Icerend – how it did the same thing to him whenever his hand got close to the shaft of the halberd. Even after all his accomplishments in Rune-Midgarts, even after all this strategic and tactical victories, he was still found wanting…
"With you by my side, our strategies would never fail…" he thought to himself, talking about Icerend. The Wizard sat along the shore, patiently waiting for sundown to arrive so that he and Raien would head back to Prontera. They immediately headed North as they appeared in the town square, and as they made their way out, Thiji began to recall the Swordsmen he overheard as they conversed about seeing a quartet of warrior women heading out North of the city, which at the time he was ignorant of said women being the Battle Vixens setting up simple traps to weed out the competition, and eventually overpower the contingent of Holy Saviors that Youmei led as she was a Swordswoman.
"It's been a minute, hasn't it?" Raien uttered, snapping Thiji out of his own little world again.
"Yes… it all started here, in this very region," the Wizard replied. "I made the silly conclusion that the Battle Vixens were the ones causing problems in Rune-Midgarts. Yet I am glad I was wrong – this was definitely a good learning experience for all of us."
"Hey, don't sound like we're already finished here, bro!" the Ninja laughed as he gave Thiji a hard pat on the back. "You said it yourself: there's more to this Frontier than meets the eye!"
The Wizard chuckled lightly in response.
"I suppose so. Anyway, let us not keep Madam Shuji waiting."
Traversing through Prontera Castle to reach the North entrance, the two brothers walked a few miles away from the city where they found Nora standing by the base of a familiar-looking hill – this was the site where the Battle Vixens made their relentless push to the Emperium Fortress, and where Thiji showed off his intellectual prowess for the first time. All these recollections were testament to how much the Wizard had learned and grew, and this knowledge made him smile only in the slightest…
Nora: Brings back memories, don't it?
Thiji, contently: Yes. It does.
Raien: We're awfully close to enemy territory, Nora. You sure this is a good meeting spot?
Nora: Positive! The Saviors've been restin' all day after fendin' off an Orc invasion in the Geffen region – we won't be bothered by 'em!
Thiji: That is good to know.
Raien: All right, then. Lay it on us.
Nora nodded and gestured to the mountain range further North, past the Emperium Fortress.
Nora: As y'all know, that there's Mt. Mjolnir, named after the weapon wielded by Thor. It has two peaks and it's planted right in the midst 'o' the Asgard Mountain Range, and it connects Prontera to the territories in the North through an area known as the Muriniel Pass, which the Emperium Fortress sorta "protects."
Thiji: Are you implying that in losing the Emperium Fortress to the Saviors, we've lost our only way North?
Raien: Nah, that can't be true…There's two peaks to this mountain, so we can always go around the Fortress, couldn't we?
Nora: Very astute 'o' you, Raien!
Raien: Hey, I'm not just a knucklehead Ninja that likes women!
Thiji: Brother, they could call you whatever they want and it still wouldn't make a difference once they find themselves on the floor completely charred.
Raien: Damn truth!
Nora, giggling: Anyroad, the reason why I gave y'all this little history lesson is because I've been workin' tirelessly with my crew and the other Kafra stationed 'round Rune-Midgarts, and we've compiled our findings into one conclusion: the Emperium Frontier's gonna take y'all northward!
Thiji and Raien threw glares at each other, weighing the severity of this discovery before turning back to Nora.
Nora: It seems that the pillars 'o' energy shootin' outta the facilities are feedin' whatever that strange entity I mentioned before is!
Thiji: That's right – you are using the Frontier to lure out whatever is causing this disturbance.
Raien: I've been noticing a lot more monsters appearing lately as more facilities appeared. Something to do with the Emperium Stones, perhaps?
Nora: Maybe so, but we've been workin' to triangulate where this energy is bein' fed to!
Thiji: Sort of like ley-lines, and the facilities are serving as conduits to power the source. And you stated that it's coming from the northern territories. What lies there, if I may ask?
Nora: The heart 'o' the Kafra Corporation – Al De Baran! Our secondary HQ is at Comodo! But Al De Baran's where the real boundary's at, and because 'o' this, it's completely neutral!
Thiji: Well, that makes sense.
Raien: But there's just the Rune-Midgarts Kingdom, right? What other countries could there be?
Nora: My dear Shinobi, this world is bigger than you think! Past Al De Baran lies the Schwartzwald Republic, ruled by President Karl Theodore Weierstrass!
Schwartzwald. A new country. Would the Emperium Frontier take them there? They would definitely need more power if they were to keep up, but Nora's tone did not seem as bright as it did when she mentioned the country's name, and Thiji immediately took notice.
Thiji: You aren't very enthusiastic about Schwartzwald, Madam Shuji.
Nora, sighing: It's because there's another group up there just like ours called Zonda, or as some people like to call 'em, the "Cool Event Organization." Tch! Our Emperium Frontier is so cool that permafrost looks warm!
Thiji: I can be the judge of that.
Raien: It's just a rival corporation, though. After how things have been going, Kafra Corp. should have no problems!
Nora: If only that were completely true. Y'see, they're backed by the Rekenber Corporation, and they're the ones that unofficially control Schwartzwald. Those Guardians you built to defend the facilities? They're responsible for inventin' 'em!
Raien: Interesting. So we have them to thank for keeping our backs secure!
Nora: Either way, they're cheatin'! But it won't stop us! My crew's gonna show Zonda Corp. that it's the Kafra runnin' the show! But what's important is that the energy signature gets stronger, comin' from the North.
Thiji: Then it appears that we have our lead at long last. The Emperium Frontier must go on so that we may complete this complex puzzle.
Nora: That's the spirit!
Raien: Wait… I sense something.
The Ninja took to the trees to scout out for the source of the sound – or sources, as he heard numerous footsteps approaching from the West and South. Thiji remained focus on the ruby-colored beam of light shooting from the Emperium Fortress. As he gazed upon it, he recalled his conversation with Raien back in Alberta, stating that the barriers created from the pillars of energy were preventing them from passage, yet wondered how the Holy Saviors can comfortably rest and recuperate there as an actual base. Then it hit him – teleportation. These pillars disrupted the natural flow of energy in the land, causing issues whenever someone attempted to walk through the aether, causing them to resort to getting from point A to point B on foot – but only if they were near one of the installations!
Now looking up to the trees, Thiji had awaited Raien's return, but he assumed the worst – a battle was approaching, and it was about to erupt here, of all places.
"Madam Shuji," Thiji said with alarm. "We should get going." The Kafra arched a brow as she turned her body. Raien emerged from the shadows in mere moments to share what he had found.
"Guilds of various banners are marching here as we speak," the Ninja reported. "They're colors I've not seen before, but I'm not sure what they aim to do."
"Certain other guilds have formed alliances based on their ideals and have been fightin' under each 'o' the big three guilds since the year-long hiatus started," Nora explained. "People must be that bored, I guess! Or probably a fanbase thing."
"We cannot simply run past them, and the way North is surely defended by Guardians created by the Saviors," spoke the Wizard. The adventurers were fast approaching, and Thiji tried his hardest to come up with some sort of plan, but Raien laid a hand on his shoulder and took out several lightning-infused kunai.
"I got this, brother," the Ninja said calmly. Thiji nodded and stepped back until he was right beside Kafra Nora, and watched eagerly as Raien threw his weapons into the clouds above. A moment later, the sky would darken, and the sound of thunder is heard. Just as the adventurers would emerge from the forest, Raien would bring down the wrath of Heaven as lightning bolts crashed around the forest, frightening the adventurers. A few struck down various tree branches and shrubberies, resulting in small fires to erupt through the forest. The startled cries of the adventurers filled the air as they hastily retreated from Mt. Mjolnir, putting the survival of their companions first.
Thiji was impressed by his brother's work, and took another look at the sky as rain began to fall after the freak lightning storm had passed. Nora had taken out a convenient umbrella (that's also teal) to keep herself happy and dry.
"I see we got us some intelligent boys!" Nora complimented, though giving most of the credit to Raien for his tactic of manipulating the weather. He had singlehandedly prevented their cover from being blown, as well as spur an unnecessary conflict between adventurers. But as per the norm, hero – or heroine -worship can be unhealthy.
As the rain died down and the sun's rays broke through the clouds once more, Nora received a call from her crew. After a few short moments, she folded her umbrella and rested it over her left shoulder, now heading up the hill that led to the Emperium Fortress.
"Well, boys, it's been fun!" Nora exclaimed. "I'm headed forAl De Baran – the crew 'n' I are lookin' to find out more behind these strange energy signatures. Y'all enjoy the rest 'o' the year!"
Nora waved farewell to the two young men as she made her way North, past the Emperium Fortress, humming a tune quietly to herself (It was the Prontera theme).
"Wait!" shouted Raien, reaching out to the Kafra. "Don't you want us to escort you or something?"
"Raien," Thiji interjected, "Madam Shuji is a Kafra; the Saviors won't act hostile towards her. Besides, in case you forgot, she punched out a Clock Tower Manager when Comodo was under attack."
"I knew that," Raien replied after a short pause. "But we've learned a lot today. I say we head back."
The Wizard agreed with a nod, and followed his brother back to Prontera. In the middle of their trek, Raien stopped and turned to his brother, recalling something that would have helped earlier…
Raien: Thiji? Don't you have those Fly wings to teleport us around? We could have used that to escape the battle!
Thiji: I know we could have, but your actions proved to be more beneficial.
Thiji turned to face his brother, whom was bracing himself for another cryptic phrase regarding a strategy fitting the current situation…
Thiji: We would have been able to escape with the Fly Wings – that much is true. But with you manipulating the weather to drive everyone away, you not only kept ourselves from being compromised, but you also prevented unnecessary conflict amongst the adventurers; you saved more than just us three – you saved everyone involved.
After a pause, Raien smiled and puffed his chest out a little in pride.
Raien: Well, we're "intelligent boys", after all!
Thiji: Indeed we are, brother.
They chuckled lightly as they made it back to the Land of Snow for some R&R. Raien immediately made his way back to his homeland to rest, leaving Thiji alone. When no one was present in the Winter Palace, he made his way back to the secret chamber behind the throne room, where Icerend was levitating on its pedestal. Taken by its stark beauty, he reached out to the halberd, feeling the chill emanating from it as he drew closer and closer, but all those months disciplining his mind and body trained the Wizard to where it did not faze him nearly as much as it did on his previous attempt. He laid a finger on the halberd's shaft, and it gave off a faint pulse of blue light – perhaps his time was approaching...
He eased away from Icerend and turned back to the entrance, thinking back to all that has happened…
"Soon, we will all acquire new strength. I am more than anxious for the Frontier to reopen. Fulfilling the mission is paramount, but until we find more leads, we'll keep giving the Vixens and the Saviors hell. So until then, everyone… we'll be waiting."
Thiji, with a confident smile, leaves the chamber and retires for the evening.
The Tale of Raien & Thiji - End