"Now I hope you enjoy your stay." Linoura remarked as she kept her grin.
Once she snapped her fingers, her squad bum-rushed Lirus and Nocta at a nightmarish speed. Nocta grabbed onto the dazed soldier, sinked into a shadow and veered towards the complex ahead in a blur.
"Hmph. I can't say I didn't see that coming, but this just makes the chase more interesting." Linoura mumbled.
She turned around to face her troops and immediately barked orders at them: "What are you just standing around there for?! Go hunt them down! I may have all night for this, but if you don't participate, I'll be coming for you next!"
The troops scrambled to avoid her wrath and rang out alarms that echoed throughout the area.
Meanwhile, the duo snuck away into a small dark grove concealed behind a stone wall. Lirus had a vacant look on his face as he slid the ground in a slump, his hands plastered against his forehead. The schoolgirl loomed over to him in concern.
"Lirus, is there something wrong?" She asked.
"No... It's just what Linoura said. I refuse to believe that woman is related to me, let alone everything else." He muttered in dismay.
"Well... Of course it's all baloney. She could just be a psycho for all we know. I mean, she saw us coming the whole way and lives all alone on an island full of cybernetic zombies. The warning signs were there from the beginning." Nocta stated.
"... Yeah, I know. But still, what are we going to do? We're practically uphill at this point." Lirus stated.
"Maybe we could sneak around and steal something Linoura made that could get us out of this tropical deathtrap. I mean, she did say she was a scientist, so she's bound to have some crazy high tech stuff here." Nocta pondered.
"If this were any normal situation, I'd say that's just crazy. But after what we've seen tonight, I'm not even going to argue." Lirus said as he stood back up.
"Right! We should keep quiet, though." Nocta whimpered.
The two of them sprinted through the cover of darkness only to come across a series of metal fences. Nocta carried herself and Lirus over the fence with ease, but kept close as they walked through the dimly lit complex. Small black buildings were placed together symmetrically, with unlit wooden torches placed beside each one.
They were sealed off by steel doors and the insides were too dark to see what was inside. In the middle of the road was a dirt path that led to a similar complex, locked off by a black metal gate.
"... Where are we?" Nocta asked as she looked around.
"My sentiments exactly. What kind of game is this woman playing?" Lirus whispered.
"I wish I were home right --" The schoolgirl said only to get cut off by a woman's scream.
Nocta immediately clung to Lirus in fear as he kept an unsteady grip on the knife he brought with him.
"Damn it! Just where are those coming from?" He blurted out.
"I don't know, but don't just stand there!" Nocta said.
The duo ran forward as their hearts beated against their chests. Half-way through their sprint, purple flames lit across each torch in the area. They were bright enough to reveal what was inside the buildings, and their sudden appearance caused the duo to stop in their tracks.
There were crowds of people locked inside of each building, all of them gangly and looked malnourished -- half of them were asleep, while the others crawled towards the bars as they screamed out pleas to Lirus and Nocta.
"What... is all this? Why are all these people locked up in here?" Lirus questioned.
"I don't want to know! Don't ask!" Nocta yelled out.
"Since you said that, I may as well tell you anyway." A familiar voice rang out.
Linoura stepped in from the south end of the dirt path. As she calmly walked towards Lirus and Nocta, the prisoners fell to an immediate hush. Out of shock, the duo jumped into a battle stance but were laughed off by the woman.
"Hah! I didn't come to fight either of you. All I want to do is to answer your question." Linoura said.
"Our question? Well... why do you have all of these people locked up here?" The soldier remarked.
"That's simple - they're our livestock." Linoura replied with a straight face.
"What do you - Oh! Please tell me it's a joke." Nocta stammered.
"They're only measly humans, after all. I said livestock for a reason, little girl." Linoura stated with a sharp glare.
Lirus's blood boiled while the schoolgirl ducked back out of fear.
"Where do you think all of your food comes from? We have to make sacrifices to survive, don't we?" Linoura remarked.
Lirus charged over to Linoura and pointed the knife right against her neck, her expression unamused.
"What in the hell is wrong with you, lady? You can't do something like this and expect anyone not to find out!" Lirus yelled.
"Hmph. With the exception of you two, nobody knows what we do here. We're under the radar, and even if we get found out, we'll still do this elsewhere. But what bugs me though is why this is getting you so angry, Lirus. This sort of thing shouldn't bother you." Linoura pondered.
"I'm not your brother! I don't want anything to do with a monster like you!" Lirus yelled out.
Linoura gave off a heavy sigh and closed her eyes.
"Alright... if you want to do it that way, I may as well use force."
She grabbed the knife by the blade and threw it out of his hands before he could even react. She punched him in the stomach right afterward, which propelled him a ways ahead into a face-fault against the dirt.
Breathless, he struggled to get up. Nocta sprang up to help him only to have Linoura suddenly appear right in front of her. Startled, the schoolgirl shot out blades of shadows against her only to have them bounce off Linoura's skin.
"I'm getting tired of the fancy little tricks. The way you two are now won't even serve as a challenge to me, so quit it. Just give up and come with me - you're not going to end up like these prisoners, I promise." The woman chirped with a sincere tone as she held a hand out to Nocta.
Nocta immediately sank into the shadows and slid past Linoura. Nocta consumed Lirus into the shadow as she passed and zoomed away into the distance. Linoura watched them leave with a small smile on her face.
"I'll be waiting, you two..." She playfully remarked.
The duo had slipped through various identical complexes and didn't stop until they felt they were far away enough from Linoura. They exited the shadows under the cover of a large bush, with Nocta panting heavily.
"All clear?" Lirus asked.
"I... think so. Lirus, that looked it really hurt. Are you sure you don't want to use that healing magic already? Anything?" The schoolgirl asked, worried for him.
"No worries. I've taken harder hits and survived... but damn did that hurt! She looks like a porcelain doll, but when she punched me... I haven't felt anything so deceptive before in my life! Anyway, never mind it for now and let's just check if there's anything here we can use." He said.
Lirus put a hand to his chest as it glowed with a pale white light.
"... If you say so." Nocta muttered in concern.
As they went out of the bush, they came across a different sort of complex.
There were several people being strapped against stone walls as Linoura's troops pierced their hands through the peoples' chests. They ripped out a pure white glowing orb that pulsated with energy. The victims shrieked at the top of their lungs all the while, which caused Lirus and Nocta to put their hands to their ears.
The scavenged bodies were dumped into carts and wheeled off into a path that led straight into the mountain. The duo stayed low as they slid out of enemy view.
"What are they pulling out of them?" Lirus whispered, still moving.
"I've done a report on this once... Those white things are called Life Cores. You could technically call it a soul. You and I have one as well, since it's the reason why we have control over the elements and magic... but what exactly could they be using them for?" Nocta explained under her breath.
"Hmm... They're harvesting these people in large numbers, so I assume they're attempting to use it for some sort of powerful weapon they have up their sleeve. That's why we have to stop this before it gets any more out of hand." Lirus remarked.
They ducked behind another bush only to see another brick building, except it was painted blue and completely isolated in the middle of palm trees.
"Hey, does anything seem off about that one to you?" The soldier asked.
"Yeah. It looks a bit different from the other cages. What do you say we check it out?" Nocta inquired.
"I guess so. There's no guards around, which should be a different warning altogether, but since we're this far anyway..." Lirus said.
The both of them sneaked their way towards the building and looked inside of the cage to see who was inside. To their surprise, it was a plump-looking bear humanoid girl curled up asleep on the ground with a small light overhead.
She had short white and black hair with two twin pigtails on the sides, white fur, long black nails, torn clothes, barefoot and a blue choker.
"A bear lady?" Nocta asked.
"Huh. Should we check who she is?" Lirus suggested.
"How are we going to get inside, though? Linoura threw away the knife you had and... I forgot I can bend shadows to practically do anything." Nocta said only to slap her forehead.
"Hey, at least I didn't have to remind you." He stated as he held back a laugh.
"I didn't want to hear it anyway. Now, stand aside." She muttered as Lirus moved out of the way.
She held her hands out and summoned the shadows to envelop the metal bars. When she balled her hands into fists, the shadows made a stiff grinding noise and yanked the door off the hinges before gently placing it down on the ground.
"Have I ever told you how glad I am that I bumped into you?" Lirus remarked.
"A lot. For now, we have to help this lady." Nocta stated as her heart pounded in and out.
She was deep asleep but was poked awake by the schoolgirl. In a drowsy motion, her blue eyes opened up in a daze.
"... What do you want now?" She yawned, half asleep.
Once Lirus got up close, he held a hand to his chin.
"Hmmm... have we met before?" The soldier mumbled as he observed the woman.
The bear woman took a good look at the duo and immediately sprung awake. She backed away and gave off a fierce scowl at them.
"Who are you?! Did that she-devil send you?" The woman frantically asked.
"Whoa! Calm down, lady! We're not here to hurt you - we're caught in a mess of our own because of Linoura too." Lirus stated.
"Yeah! We came to help." Nocta whispered.
"You are? Well... If that's the case, then thank god for sending you two my way!" The bear woman boasted out in relief.
"Well I'm glad we're here. So what's your name, miss?" Nocta asked.
"My name? Oh, it's Yumi Trescale. And yours?" The bear woman greeted.
"Wait... Yumi? Oh my god! It is you! How did you get locked up in here?" Lirus questioned.
"Lirus? How in the world did I not recognize you right away?" She said.
"Wait... You two know each other personally?" Nocta asked.
"Of course. My parents are part of the same army Lirus works in, so it's only natural that we'd meet each other eventually... By the way, who is this girl, Lirus?" Yumi explained.
"Oh uh, she's a witch-in-training that I met when my plane crash-landed on this island. I would have died by now if I didn't bring her along." He said.
"My name is Nocta. I'm pleased to meet you, miss Yumi." The schoolgirl stated as she stretched out her hand.
The bear woman shook her hand with a smile.
"It's nice to meet you too! It's nice to see someone other than those creepy guards." Yumi remarked.
"Well, okay. So how come you've been stuck on this island?" Nocta asked.
"... It's a long story. You see, a long time ago, I was ambushed and taken away from my home by those guards you saw back there. I couldn't even react and before I knew it, I was thrown in this cage." Yumi stated.
"So how long have you been here?" Lirus asked as he crossed his arms.
"Several months, I assume. The guards only feed me the minimum amount of food to keep me healthy for some reason and tell me that I'm their 'valued guest.' What can be so special about me that they had to go through this trouble?" She questioned.
"The other prisoners' Life Cores are being harvested out there, so I'm pretty sure you're not just livestock." Nocta pointed out.
"You don't say? I was wondering where those screams came from... I've always thought that was just me having night terrors, but looks like it was worse than I expected." Yumi said.
"Hey, wait... do your parents even know you're gone?" The soldier remarked.
"No, I'm positive they do. They must be searching around for me endlessly, but considering how out of the way we are, I don't think they would have ever found me either way. Speaking of which, is that why you two are here?" Yumi asked.
"Actually, we both came here by complete accident. My plane was shot down, and something compelled her to come down here. In fact, we were sneaking around here to find a way to get ourselves off the island." Lirus explained.
"I see... Alone, I wouldn't have dared to try to break out, but I think the three of us can do it. How about it?" Yumi asked.
"Of course. We're this deep into enemy territory, so we may as well find our stuff and wreck the place." Lirus replied as he nodded his head.
"Well, alright then. Let's get out of this musky place." She said as she gritted her teeth.
The trio ran out of the cage and jumped back into the forest of palm trees. They snuck out of the way of nearby guards and zoomed across the jungle only to come up against another brick wall. Past it was a large tower with multiple lights coming off it.
"Alright, now we should find out where they're keeping everything. When Lirus crash-landed, he told me all of his stuff got stolen... so Linoura must have stuffed it all somewhere. But a place that important has to be heavily guarded, so even with my shadows, it won't be easy. That is, if that place even exists outside my head." Nocta assessed.
"I... think I have something that can help. Lirus, Nocta, don't freak out, okay?" Yumi said as she reached for her neck.
"... What are you going to do?" Lirus stated, with a suspicious look on his face.
A lavender glow zoomed across her neck. In a swift motion, she popped her head off her shoulders with no blood escaping. Lirus and Nocta jumped back and looked on in bewilderment.
Nocta stuttered and muttered gibberish only to let out a small gasp. Lirus's eyes turned wide as beads of sweat accumulated on his forehead, whereas Yumi sighed.
"See, now what did I tell you? Guys, I'm just fine." Yumi explained.
"How?! You're a walking decapitated body! How does that work!?" Lirus exclaimed but kept his voice low.
"Yeah, I've never heard of this before." Nocta shook with anxiety.
"Oh boy... You see, Lirus, I know a little something called Limb Liberation. It's an ancient Luna element technique that allows the user to split their body into seperate parts, and I'm far from being the only person who knows it. My mom taught me, but so far I've only got this. I've never showed it in public because look at how you two reacted. That'd ruin our reputation as the Trescales." Yumi remarked as she rolled her head around.
"Hah... No wonder why I haven't heard it before - Luna users gets all the cool stuff. So you can take your head off as many times as you like?" Nocta asked as her mood jumped from appalled to amused.
"Why yes. Mom said that it would be useful one day. I wouldn't know if that's today, but I may as well give it a shot." Yumenshi said.
"That's so cool!" Nocta chirped with glee.
Lirus kept avoiding eye contact with Yumi and glared off to the left.
"Lirus, is there something wrong?" She asked.
"It's just that... People who can take apart their body and still live sort of freak me out. It's not right." The soldier muttered.
"Oh... I see. Don't worry, I won't do it - Around you, that is." Yumenshi remarked as she stuck out her tongue.
"Well, ok then." He grumbled.
"Ah... Alright, we need to know what we're facing here. Yumi, can you see what's up past that fence?" Nocta asked.
"In just a sec." She said.
Yumi raised her head to see what was on the other side. There were throes of mechanical creatures that scoured the area - they were grey in color, levitated with purple fire, had scythe-like arms and one red eye that emitted a laser-like vision.
In the center of the complex, there was a five story metal tower with windows that constantly flickered black and red that were sealed off with metal bars. Yumi ducked back down and popped her head back on her body.
"So? What'd you see?" Nocta asked.
"It's definitely not good. There's like a billion robots on the other side of this fence, and none of them look very friendly." Yumi said.
"Well, that's just lovely... What do you suggest, Lirus?" The schoolgirl inquired.
"I-I say that we sneak our way past them. Direct combat's too risky, especially with how 'popular' we're becoming in this place." He said as he still trembled.
"I could have told you that. But anyway - get in, guys. I've never transported two people before, so it may not be as comfortable." Nocta said as she opened a pitch-black rift in the ground.
"... Is it safe?" Yumi asked.
"Yes, but I can't tell which way is up or down in there." He remarked.
The three of them dove into the rift Nocta summoned. They moved slowly in the shadows as they creeped over the fence and moved onto the field ahead. Despite being in the cover of the shadows, they veered out of the way of the robots.
The shadow moved all around the rectangular building only to see no opening.
"... Did they really not build a door?" The schoolgirl complained in a whispered voice.
"... Hmm... What if it's locked off so we can't get in? These guys seem to have everything planned out from the beginning." Lirus assessed.
"If that's the case, then we're royally boned." Yumi replied.
"Wait... guys, look. How about we go up there?" Lirus said as he motioned towards an open window on the third floor.
"Aha! They may have everything laid out, but leave even small things like that overlooked and we'll be able to sneak in no problem. Hang tight, guys!" Nocta whispered as she made a victorious grin.
"I'm not looking forward to this." The soldier stated.
"I'd be quiet if I were you. They might hear us!" Yumi nervously warned.
"Oh, don't worry. The only way they'd be able to know we're here is if someone peeked their head out or something." Nocta reassured.
"Nocta, if that's a joke regarding my thing, that's not cool." Yumi muttered as she gave a cold glance at the schoolgirl.
"Sorry." Nocta apologized as she made the shadow climb up the wall.
As they began to creep up the building, one of the sentries from below noticed two long strands of white hair that dangled from the shadow cover. Suspicious, it propelled its metal body against the wall. The shock made Nocta lose her balance, with Lirus almost falling back out of the shadow.
He was quickly reeled back in by Yumi, but the sentry had already relayed its message to the other robots nearby:
"INFILTRATORS SPOTTED! GET THOSE THREE BEFORE THEY GET AWAY!"
"Aw crap! We're gonna die! Let's get in there before we get caught!" Lirus exclaimed as Nocta sped up the shadow towards the window.
The sentries fired multiple red beams at the trio only for each shot to miss as the shadow zigzagged inside.
Lirus, Nocta and Yumi abruptly jumped out of the shadow into a dimly lit room made of metal covered with a foul industrial stench. The only sources of light were the moonlight that came in from the window and the red pulses that came from alarm lights, with a long hallway at the end of the room.
"Well, that was certainly much better than what I expected to happen." Yumenshi groaned as she rubbed her forehead.
"Yeah, me too... Hey wait a minute. Guys, there's nothing in here." Nocta asked as she looked around.
"Of course, but what else did you expect?" Lirus stated as he got up from the ground.
"When you put it like that, I don't even want to imagine what could be ahead." Yumi muttered.
The trio made their way through the hallway. After what seemed to be a while roaming around in darkness, they eventually came across a decently lit room cluttered with all sorts of objects and two of the angel troops from before.
In the center of the room, there laid a large glass container that contained a royal blue broadsword with an upside down crescent moon on the purple handle.
"Ah! My sword!" Lirus called out while keeping his voice low.
"So that's where they kept it... But I don't see my lovely two weapons anywhere." Yumi mumbled.
"They must be in another part of this building. But as long as I get Crescent Excalibur back, the only thing stopping us is finding the way there. Come on." Lirus motioned forward, with Nocta and Yumi not far behind.
The trio hid behind the objects in the room and snuck around. As they looked ahead, they heard the conversations of the two guards:
"Guard duty again? Who cares about a stupid sword like this? Just because it's painted blue means that it's worth protecting?"
"You know... To tell you the truth, I actually want to go home and see my mom. It's been like, what, a year since I last saw her? And it doesn't help that miss Linoura is so ungodly scary."
"Don't get me started. All those rumors I've heard about her aren't very flattering. I heard that she's actually made composite monsters from the body parts that miss Candelabra brings her. And that's not even the worst one I've heard!"
"Freaky... Personally, I want to get off this place just as much as you do, but doesn't help much that if we fail to catch those two people running around, we're food for that creepy Replicator mole thing that Linoura keeps around. But anyway..."
Lirus observed the guards and turned back to face the girls.
"Okay, I think I know how we can get it now. You two try to go and distract them while I break the container and try to grab my sword back."
"Are you sure? I mean, even if there's just two of them, they're still pretty strong. I mean... even when I was fully armed, a group of them was enough to get the better of me." Yumi stated.
"Also, who's to say that there's not a whole bunch of them waiting in reserve? I mean, they should be expecting us considering all the ruckus we made." Nocta remarked.
"Then we'll just have to take that chance. Call me crazy, but we'll just have to do it." Lirus stated.
"I am going to call you crazy from now on. But alright, if you say so..." Yumi stated.
Nocta and Yumi jumped out of cover and caught the attention of the two guards. The guards hopped up from their seats and immediately dove in to impale the girls. Nocta used her shadows to attack them, but the blades she summoned bounced away once they collided against one of the guards' skin.
"What? Why didn't that hurt them?" She asked, confused.
"Of course... They're demons. In general, they're resistant to garden-variety elemental attacks like that." Yumi explained as she dodged a flurry of spear attacks.
Nocta charged up a ball of darkness in her hands as she slid away from her attacker.
"Well, what about this?!" The schoolgirl stated as she popped up behind him.
She put both hands together and fired a supercharged blast of darkness at her enemy's back. It shot him straight forward and slammed him hard against the metal wall.
"I'll admit, that sort of hurt." The boy nonchalantly remarked as he peeled himself off with nothing but a scratch.
"Whoa... You weren't kidding, Yumi. These little guys are built tough." Nocta remarked.
"Yeah, don't be fooled by their appearance - any demon like them is guaranteed to be deadly." Yumi replied as she ducked out of the way.
Meanwhile, Lirus snuck his way towards the container. His hands glowed with a lavender aura as he punched the glass only to have an invisible barrier reject him and threw him a few paces onto his back.
He shook his head as he got up only for an alarm to ring out. The room flashed with red lights as an automated intercom voice shouted out:
"CRESCENT EXCALIBUR IS BEING STOLEN! DETAIN THIEF!"
The wall ahead opened up and revealed squads of the troopers as they flooded into the room.
"Damn! Nocta was right. Better think fast!" Lirus muttered to himself.
He formed a thicker lavender aura around his right arm and kept smashing it against the glass barrier. Yumi and Nocta put their backs against each other and promptly created a shadow barrier with a glowing purplish underlayer that the girls hid in.
Nocta and Yumenshi kept close to each other, but constantly jumped as their barrier was pierced through by spears.
"Whoa! Lirus, hurry! This is getting out of hand!" Yumi yelled out.
With a powerful blow, Lirus blew away the glass barrier and quickly snatched his sword. Two of the troopers lunged at him with their spears, only for Lirus to cut off the blades and then slice the two boys directly.
The combined shield Yumenshi and Nocta made had cracked into pieces the more the squad attacked. It didn't last long enough before a spear zoomed in and nearly impaled Nocta.
"Yow! Lirus, we're about to get skewered! For the love of Ranthael, please hurry!" Nocta pleaded as she fell on her back.
The squad stopped once they heard fire crackling. They turned around and saw their numbers diminish as Lirus sliced his way to the girls. The troopers swerved towards him in retaliation, only for Lirus to cut down three of them in quick succession.
They yelped out anguished cries as the blade sliced clean through them, with their bodies propelling to the ground as they spontaenously combusted into purple fire. Their screams of agony echoed even as the flames vanished.
Lirus swung off the blood from his blade, which made the rest freeze in their tracks. He gave a sharp glare towards the squad before taking a short step forward. The squad immediately yelped out in fear and scurried away through the hallway the trio entered from.
Nocta and Yumi stood in awe of Lirus's presence as he held up the sword and panted heavily. Yumi pounced onto him and trapped him in a tight embrace.
"That was amazing! No wonder why you wanted your sword back so badly!" Nocta yelled out in praise.
"My god, Lirus! You really saved us back there!" Yumi remarked as she swung him around.
"Aww... Thanks, guys. I'm glad you feel that way. And it's all thanks to this baby right here!" Lirus remarked as he held out his sword.
Nocta took a look at the blade and was instantly enamored by it.
"Oooh! So Lirus, what kind of sword is this? It's certainly much more powerful than anything I've seen so far."
"Ah, you see... Crescent Excalibur isn't just your ordinary blade. It's one of many Sacred Weapons made to slay powerful monsters." He replied.
"No way! You have a Sacred Weapon? I've read about them, but I would have never imagined that I'd see one in real life, much less meet someone who has one." Nocta stated.
"And it's very special for Lirus to wield it, no less. I'm sure you know, but Sacred Weapons are selective among their users. The same applies to my two weapons - only I can use them." Yumi explained.
"Wow... That's really cool, I have to say. But we should probably keep going." Nocta asked.
"Of course. We can loot this room later." Yumi remarked.
"Yumi!" Lirus and Nocta yelled out in unison.
"I'm kidding. Besides, we don't have deep enough pockets anyway." She remarked as she shrugged her shoulders.