Chapter 23: My Heart is My Own
A cyan haired girl with unnaturally symmetric features, though her inhuman air is beginning to dissipate as she matures through her adolescence, fidgets constantly on a bench in a sort of transportation station surrounded by concrete and metal. She appears around 13 or 14, just past the end of puberty but not yet mature enough to be considered a young lady instead of a child. That doesn’t stop her from trying, though; a pair of heeled shoes and long skirt demonstrate her desire to be seen as a mature adult to any who look at her.
A sound echoes in the chamber as a metallic sphere rolls into the station, causing the girl to jerk her head up and watch it intently until an older couple step out, hand in hand. The pair of lovers, or at the very least close friends, are monitored from the corner of the girl’s eyes until they disappear into a tube heading up through the ceiling. Sighing, the almost fourteen years old Arcane starts tapping her foot continuously on the hard floor, not minding the perhaps worrisome bending of her shoe’s heel as she does.
Several minutes later another sphere of metal arrives in the station and attracts the same intense scrutiny from Arcane. When it opens to reveal a pale haired girl, with features almost identical to Arcane herself, she leaps to her feet and rushes over to grab the girl’s hand.
“You’re late!! Let’s go, hurry!” Arcane yells, almost pulling Fate off her feet in her enthusiasm.
Fate gapes at her, regaining her balance and trying to slow the half running form of her sister still grasping her hand. “Wait, Arcane, stop, hold on a second.” She says, pulling the other girl to a stop just before they fall into one of the shafts piercing the ceiling.
“No time now, we have to hurry!” Arcane replies, yanking Fate into one of the shafts and then jumping in herself. The two shoot up out of the station and into a crowded city block. “Come on!”
Fate, realizing she’s not going to get anything from her sister/friend in this state, follows after her with a exasperated sigh. It was little wonder, too. First she had been imperiously summoned to meet Arcane here with no explanation except that it was of paramount importance, and then when she finally did arrive the other girl was so obviously impatient that she was unable to get even the simplest answer to the question of what exactly was going on. Arcane herself, meanwhile, constant glances towards the timepiece in the corner of her eye and pales. It is almost impossible for them to make it on foot now, she decides.
“Fate, we’re flying.” Arcane declares, coming to a sudden halt and bending her knees, still clutching her sister’s hand in her own.
“Alright- wait, what?! In the middle of a city, are you completely insaaaaaa-!!!” Fate screams as Arcane kicks the ground with both legs and sends the two of them shooting into the air, before they seem to bounce off something and rocket down the passage between the buildings.
Still screaming, Fate holds tightly to Arcane and closes her eyes against the intense wind. Arcane doesn’t, still needing to see where they are going. Every few streets, the pair seem to bounce again and turn their reckless flight in a different direction. Flying cars of both magical and non-magical nature slow to watch the insane exercise, along with many pedestrians trying to figure out if that was legal and if so how they could do so as well. Or even if it wasn’t so, for that matter.
Luckily for Fate’s sanity, they only bounce six times before Arcane slows down and lands them gracefully in front of an immense temple, opulent with the wealth of countless worlds. Once landed Arcane lets go of Fate, who stumbles over to a bench to catch her breath, and begins to straighten her own clothes out.
“So… Are you going to, let me know, why you called, me out, yet?” Fate pants, narrowing her eyes at her cyan haired and far too reckless sister.
“Faith called. She asked me to do something for her, but I have trouble doing it on my own.” Arcane explains evasively. She pointedly does not look directly at Fate while talking, but still feels the suddenly piercing nature of her sister’s glare.
“Faith is a priestess, correct?” Fate hisses in a venomous tone.
“Yeah, but she’s also a friend and…” Arcane starts to rationalize until Fate cuts her off with an even more dangerous whisper.
“You did not agree to anything yet, did you?” Fate asks, making it pretty clear the answer had better be no.
“Uh…” Arcane groans, thinking quickly. “I mean technically I didn’t really agree to anything, but I can’t really say no… Could you just give me a hand-”
“No. Absolutely, one thousand percent, unconditionally, definitely not.” Fate snaps, shaking her head repeatedly. “Come on, we’re going home right this instant.”
Fate walks over and grabs Arcane’s hand, pulling hard while trying to remember the way back to the station. To her surprise she is the one sent off balance, as Arcane refuses to budge in any way. Turning around, she stares at her sister, who guiltily bows her head and looks away.
“Fate, I’m doing this.” She says in a soft tone.
“No, you’re not. We’re going home right this second even if I have to knock you out and drag you there.” Fate replies without a trace of doubt or uncertainty.
Arcane continues to shake her head and doesn’t move. Fate drops her hand, finding physical force useless, and gathers a black magic power to herself.
“Fine.” Fate says in a flat tone. “If you won’t come back by choice, I have no choice.”
Arcane doesn’t do anything, but a golden energy falls from the sky and covers the temple and the region around it. Fate’s black magic is suppressed considerably, though she still has enough to cover herself with it. Gasping in fury, she whirls towards the entrance of the temple to see a golden girl kneeling on the top steps, surrounded by several robed figures of indeterminate age and sex. Behind her, only visible to the magically attuned eyes of those like Fate and Arcane, is another golden figure, a male holding a set of scales and a book of law.
“Purity.” Fate spits at the girl, turning back to her sister and continuing in a vicious tone. “Is this harlot the one who tricked you into this, sister?”
“It’s my fault, Fate.” Another voice says, this one similar to the pair of sisters albeit slightly different. Fate and Arcane look up to see another girl with similarly symmetric features and unnaturally colored hair and eyes, though hers are a mixed of black and white that resemble the starry sky at night. Faith bows to both of them, first in greeting to Arcane, then far lower in apology to Fate. “And my mistake that requires her help to correct.”
“The you should know better!” Fate screams, stepping aggressively towards the bowing black haired girl before glancing at Purity and her golden guardian. Thinking better of it, she stops, contenting herself with the most deadly glare yet.
“I do. As powerful as your sister is I have no misunderstandings that she is invincible. However, the current situation…” Faith starts to explain, but Fate cuts her off again.
“We can’t kill a god, Faith!!” She howls, slamming her arms to her sides and causing the temple to tremble. The golden guardian flickers, its power weakening though Purity begins to chant something that stabilizes it.
“Maybe we should speak further inside.” Arcane says into the silence after Fate’s attack, looking around at the growing crowd of bystanders. Faith raises her head slowly and bows again, turning and leading the way to the temple. Purity, as well as the priests beside her, lets the divine protection fall and retreats into the holy sanctum as well.
Fate glares at Arcane before moving, making sure her sister was looking into her eyes before speaking. “You’re insane.” She spits before whirling around and marching after the other two champions into the temple of some god.
Arcane watches the others vanish into the temple, before turning around and waving her hand towards the gathered crowd. They exclaim in shock as they find themselves unable to move forward, slowly falling backwards with several accidental motions and clearing out the area in front of the temple. Satisfied with her work, Arcane follows the other two inside.
The four participants remain silent as priests serve them tea and cakes, Fate fixing a glare on Faith, Purity cautiously watching Fate, Faith bowing her head and looking at no one, and Arcane seeming to look at nothing while observing the other three with the corners of her vision. Once the refreshments are served, the servants bow and leave the room, allowing the four the privacy to discuss whatever it was the need to without disturbing others or drawing attention to themselves.
Once they’re gone, Fate is the first to speak. “I don’t care what you’ve been told, killing a god is impossible no matter how many people try.”
“That’s obvious. Not even death can touch a god.” Purity replies, her voice melodic and filled with kindness that somehow does not interfere with the clear antagonism she directs at Fate.
“Purity! Let me handle this.” Faith reprimands, staring down the other girl until she gets a reluctant nod. “Fate…”
“I don’t care what you have to say, you-!” Fate snarls, leaning forward with her hands curled like claws. Yet before anything can escalate the situation further Arcane cuts her off with a wave of her hand, silencing the other girl.
Fate turns furious eyes on Arcane while opening and closing her mouth soundlessly. “Faith has requested that we weaken a god enough that it can be sealed, Fate. Not kill it.”
“More precisely, I need it to lose it’s malice.” Purity interrupts. “It would be much preferred if it wasn’t sealed, but returned to the path of righteousness.”
“And I told you we don’t have that kind of power.” Arcane snaps at Purity, shaking her head.
“Sealing it will do just fine. It is Purity and my fault that she learned malice.” Faith explains while bowing her head.
“Your fault, you mean.” Purity corrects, raising an eyebrow.
“Of course, all my fault-” Faith starts to repeat, until Arcane cuts her off and glares at Purity.
“A priestess could not infect a god with malice, Purity. It must be a believer who did that, or a contractor.” Arcane declares.
“Are you saying I-” Purity raises her voice, jumping to her feet and opening her eyes to their limit.
“Shut up.” Fate snarls, black magic throwing Purity back into her seat with uncalled-for force. “I can’t believe I’m listening to this; who gives a damn whose fault it is, how are you going to fix this?”
“The god has only slightly been infected by malice, enhanced by its destructive acts after the first infection. It should not be too difficult to undo that damage…” Faith says while Purity struggles to rise and glares hatefully at Fate, neither of whom is paying any attention to her.
“Oh, for the love of humanity, would you all please just shut up?” Arcane growls, a torrent of magical power erupting around her and suppressing the black magic of Fate, the golden god Purity is trying to summon, and the slight power Faith is using to enhance her voice. “Purity, you tried to summon a god that was in a state of being slightly infected by malice. Faith, you tried to use another god that was antagonistic to that one to suppress it, reinforcing that malice. Both of you screwed up, so stop arguing about it.” Receiving nods from both of them, Arcane turns her eyes to Fate. “Fate, the deity in question is a low level nature god disturbed by recent turmoil on its source worlds. It can barely bring out enough power to match either one of us…”
“Sure, but-” Fate interrupts.
“Let me finish.” Arcane says calmly, staring Fate down until the other girl nods. “The deity in question cannot bring out enough power to match both of us. Further, because the connection is unstable, it can easily be severed by your death magic and the manifestation destroyed, effectively sealing it until the malice can be cleansed. Is that clear?”
“In theory yes, buthowdowedelivermymanatoaspiritualconnection, Arcane?” Fate speaks extremely quickly, the words tumbling over each other in her haste to get them out.
“... What?” Arcane asks, confused.
“How do we get my mana to a spiritual connection, Arcane?” Fate repeats, more slowly this time. “I don’t know if you noticed, but I’m not exactly a priestess.”
“Oh.” Arcane says, nodding in comprehension.
“Oh? Arcane, that’s kind of a big hole in your plan, you know?” Fate says incredulously.
“Not really. I can manipulate your mana if you let me, and I can interfere with a spiritual connection as well.” Arcane says flippantly, though both Purity and Fate freeze at that admission.
“Just a few months ago you could barely establish your own, and you can already interfere with others…” Faith mutters. “The path of talent is truly unfair.”
“...” Fate says nothing, looking at Arcane’s calm face and finally nodding. “Alright. Even so, just in case you’ve forgotten, we’re talking about fighting a literal god with nigh infinite power until we cut that connection, which it will not appreciate, and then destroying a manifestation of said being with energy able to match either one of us alone, not to mention the fact that we’ll be drained after using all our power to cut the connection…” She trails off, seeing Arcane’s face not moving. “Are you getting any of this?”
“We’ll be fine, Fate.” Arcane says confidently, taking one of the cups of tea and sipping it gently. Then she spits it out, making a face. “Blegh.”
“If you don’t like it, why drink it?” Faith wonders from the side, waving her hand to clean up the mess with a wave of holy energy.
“Because she thought it would look cool.” Fate sighs, hanging her head.
“That totally ruined the mood.” Purity comments, sipping her own tea elegantly.
“I hate all of you.” Arcane complains jokingly, putting the cup on the table and pushing it away to grab one of the cakes. Inspecting it, she takes a small, nervous bite before devouring the rest, leaning back with a much better expression on her face.
The four girls then exchange glances and start laughing, unable to hold it in anymore over the repeated funny incidents of the last few minutes. They trail off a few minutes later, wiping tears out of their eyes and looking around with much less animosity than before.
“So, Fate… you in?” Arcane asks, only her eyes showing her internal pleading.
Sighing, Fate nods. “I guess I can’t leave you alone on this one.”
“I am most grateful for your assistance.” Faith says, bowing to everyone in turn and wiping a tear out of the corner of her eye.
Purity takes another sip of tea as everyone’s eyes turn to her, then shrugs and bows her head. “Haa… Humility is a virtue. Thank you all for cleaning up my mistake.” She says, placing her hand over her heart and bowing to all three of the others, who smile back at her.
The four girls finish the snacks and then rise as one, summoning the servants back into the room. An elderly priest, perhaps a bishop of some sort Arcane decides, bows to Purity as he enters. “Milady.”
“We’re leaving. Look after the temple.” Purity orders, sweeping past him and into the hallway. Faith shrugs and follows her, clasping her hands and bowing to the bishop with Arcane and Fate trailing behind her.
“Thanks.” Arcane whispers as Fate passes her. “You don’t know how much this means to me.”
Fate shrugs and slows her pace to walk beside her sister, watching the backs of Faith and Purity ahead of them. “We’re friends, right?”
“Yeah.” Arcane says, smiling until Fate quickens her pace and leaves her trailing behind. “Friends…” She mutters, seeming dissatisfied for some reason.
The four girls easily evade the attention still focused on the temple, albeit from much further away, and board a flying car in the yard. Whirring to life, the hunk of metal activates its anti-gravity engines and pushes off from the ground, rising into the air and slowly ascending past the towering metal structures that make up the city in which the temple lies.
“So, how have things been with the wonder nine?” Faith asks when they are above the city skyline, the vehicle orienting itself towards their destination.
“‘Wonder nine’?” Fate asks, rolling her eyes. “Assuming you’re talking about my sisters, we’re doing well.”
“Figures as much. Haa… It’s nice you all get along so well.” Faith complains.
“Are you still on about that?” Arcane wonders from next to Fate, the four girls sitting in a line so she has to lean past the pale girl to see the priestess, who sighs.
“Yeah. I mean in addition to everything else, I just think it’s seriously unfair.” Faith whines, shaking her fist at nothing.
“What are you talking about?” Purity asks, rotating her seat on the end so she’s facing everyone else. Fate looks equally confused, glancing out of the corner of her eye at Arcane.
“Faith and I were talking a while ago.” Arcane explains. “We noticed that most of the paths are competing over a limited resource, except the paths of battles and magic. And with the path of battles being, well, the path of battles, that means only our path can get along with our own kind.”
“That’s not entirely true.” Purity comments, shaking her head. “I mean, sure Draco and Aria are going after the same things, and the line between beasts and sea beasts is a bit blurry, but we all still get along pretty well. I’m pretty sure the Wielders are similar.”
“Seriously? Is it just priestesses?” Faith asks, collapsing back onto her seat. “Of course it is.”
“To be fair, the Saints I know get along pretty well. It might just be you, honestly.” Fate comments, avoiding Faith’s sudden glare. “I mean, except for cultivators, nobody else really tries to sabotage each other except in actual matches.”
“Have you met a lot of the Saints? I haven’t.” Arcane comments, frowning.
“A couple. One was Mercy, though, so that may play a part.” Fate answers.
“Of course it does. That girl’s too nice for her own good.” Faith agrees, shaking her head. “Not as bad as Charity, of course, among others, but still way too nice.”
Purity looks at Faith oddly and shakes her head. “In other words, most of your kind are too nice… Doesn’t that make you the odd one out?”
Faith gapes at her, opening and closing her mouth while Arcane and Fate suppress their giggles. Frowning while looking around at all of them, Faith folds her arms over her chest and shrinks back into her seat. “Whatever.”
“Alright, enough about how the other champions get along with each other, and Faith’s surprising cultivator like tendencies.” Arcane says with a smile, eliciting another groan from Faith. “Anybody hear any interesting rumors?”
“Not really, but there is something I’d like to ask you.” Purity says from the other side. Arcane leans forward to see her, gesturing for her to continue. “Have you heard about the New Revolt?”
Arcane frowns suddenly, sitting back and facing forward. Faith and Fate look between the two of them, uncertainty on their faces at the strange reactions from both Purity and Arcane.
“I can see that’s a yes.” Purity mutters, closing her eyes briefly.
“I’d prefer not to discuss it now, to be honest.” Arcane says firmly, still looking straight ahead at the open sky.
“What is the New Revolt, Purity?” Fate asks, sensing she’ll get no answers from Arcane.
“Fate.” Arcane says quietly, drawing the rests’ attention as she shakes her head deliberately. “You don’t need to know.”
Fate frowns and opens her mouth to respond, but Purity beats her to it. “Don’t need to know? I don’t know what information you have, but my sources say precisely the opposite.” the golden girl remarks.
“Purity, enough. It’s not a problem.” Arcane maintains, not flinching in her position.
“Well, I for one would like to know. Given that you have no authority over me, you can’t stop me asking, Arcane. Purity?” Faith declares, turning to the golden girl who is still staring at Arcane until the other girl shrugs and bows her head. Fate watches her sister for a bit longer before turning to join the other two.
“The New Revolt is the term for a series of pure human democracy movements in the Dominion and Empire, along with most of the federated nations and republic states. Except calling it that is too simple; they’re a group of pro war factions trying to incite intergalactic conflict and subjugate all other races in the name of human supremacy and equality of all intelligent beings.” Purity explains, causing Fate and Faith to stare at her in shock. “In other words, it’s code for the universe moving closer to war.”
“It’s already at war.” Arcane whispers softly, but all three hear her quite clearly in the silence.
“I thought you didn’t want to say anything.” Fate points out.
Purity, on the other hand, frowns. “That’s impossible, I would have…”
“It didn’t start recently, Purity.” Arcane explains softly, her face frozen into a mask. “Finale’s been at war ever since the champions program was initiated. The Dominion, Vegetal, the Clans, even the Theocracy; they’ve been shielding us from the worst of it, but there is no doubt the universe is at war.”
While the other three were silenced by her cold tone, Arcane turns to stare at Purity with a cold, harsh mask of a face. “And that war will never reach us. It will not be allowed to happen. The New Revolt, the Crusaders of Equality, the pure human coalition; none of them will reach us. It is nothing to be concerned about in any way, shape, or form. Is that understood?” Arcane asks, staring all three of her companions down one by one.
“Why do you sound so worried- nevermind.” Purity starts to wonder, then thinks better of it and shakes her head at Arcane’s frozen glare.
“Excellent.” Arcane says in the same cold voice, before sitting back and placing her hand on Fate’s shoulder, who flinches. “If you could forget everything you just heard, that would be great, sister.”
Fate slowly nods, not wanting to cross this version of her sister, and Arcane lets the mask melt into a smile, nodding and changing the subject. “So, any more information about this god we’re hunting?”
The girls relax and discuss the god they are planning to attack, though all of them have trouble forgetting the ominous warning Arcane had let slip. Fortunately or unfortunately, their ability to forget it was temporarily enhanced by the sudden explosion of their car.