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After cleaning and sheathing his remaining blade, Vier wrenched his shoulder into place, stumbling from the shock to his nerves. He turned to the axe wielder, swaying a bit. This could’ve been so much worse. I don’t doubt it for a second. If I had dueled him, I’d be dead. His fellow Roses were the only reason he was still standing. And internally, he was forever grateful for the help he had received.

The red haired man didn’t bother to check the damage, he knew what the result would be. His heart finally began to slow down, as he watched their opponent clutch his wounds. Vier knew it was over, but he heard the man, Alfrid, begin speaking. Vier wasn’t really one for honor, but he respected a man’s right to speak his last words. Despite himself, he smirked slightly at the words of praise, and moved a bit closer.

”My name is Vier Alma. It was a challenging time fighting against you.” Vier simply left Flueri and Alfrid to their own devices, and went to retrieve his other blade, wincing at the movement of his shoulder. Definitely something that he would need to give a more thorough look at, in case he had somehow cracked the joint or set it back improperly in his haste. He knew he needed both hands to hold his own, especially without his longsword and armor.

Steffen’s concern was mostly warranted in Vier’s eyes, but it was a lesser issue compared to the fact that their compatriots still hadn’t come back from below. Whatever was happening down there had to be of great importance, considering there were five of them down there. Okay, this is definitely a very dangerous situation. So no fooling around, Alma. While Steffen went down to the lower levels, Vier quickly checked his twin blades for any nicks and folds in their edges, or stress lines in the middle. Nothing too worrying in the present moment, but enough for him to run reinforcement magic through them before he went down.

As he walked down, he saw a…rather confusing scene. First, there were an alarming amount of undead, which was a problem that seemed to be dwindling away. Then, there was the necromancer and a hostage behind a magical barrier: definitely a top priority. Then Vier noticed a woman pointing lightning at Steffen from the far end of the room, which was surprisingly not the scariest thing in the chamber. That honor went to what seemed like the corpse of Erich Cazt, the Demonbreaker. Fanilly and Gerard seemed to have a good handle on the situation, so he tore his eyes away and attempted to slowly sneak around to the necromancer amidst the chaos, layering sharpening magic on top of the reinforcement magic as a way to try breaking the barrier on his own.

But there was no need. The witch did the work for them, and shattered the necromancer’s barrier with a bolt of lightning. An unexpected development, but not at all unwelcome. Vier heard their captain give Lady Cecilia an order, and decided to capitalize on his own sudden arrival, waiting for an opportunity to surprise the necromancer with a strike from both blades if Cecilia didn’t do it for him.
Can I hop in this? Love the concept.

Vier was sent rolling across the ground by the Barukstaedian’s explosive axe, losing his sword and most of the feeling in his preferred hand. The good news was that he was mostly ambidextrous thanks to practice, but without his shield or a defending hand, it wasn’t going to make much of a difference. He propped himself up onto his knees, then pushed to his feet, whirling his remaining blade.

Okay, that was a bit of a bad move. Who am I kidding, I’m monoplegic. That was an amateur mistake. Time to think, Alma.

He took in everyone and everything that had occurred in the last few minutes, building up a general idea of what the Barukstaedian was capable of. That axe would most likely kill Steffen if it hit him in the head, and Fleuri would be right in the line of a second attack if the Ingvarr decided to move. The giant man was also smart, and more durable than any of the knights. But the axe seemed to be his ace in the hole, and his lack of real speed was obvious. Throwing the Barukstaedian off balance seemed to be what worked best.

Vier forced himself to focus past the pain in his right arm, folding it behind his back. After a few moments of concentration, he imbued sharpening magic on his blade and ran at the Barukstaedian to take a stab at his neck. He used his forward momentum to make the thrust that much more precise, twisting his body to keep his frame small. Regardless of his speed, that axe was always a threat to keep note of.

”Gods, the smell of this place is enough to make the dead walk away.” Vier actively resisted the urge to gag at the smell of rot and decay, but his general discomfort with being around the rotting dead was obvious. It dredged up memories he’d rather not have to deal with in the middle of a fight, so he repressed them for the time being. It was unhealthy, but it was also the best he could do in the moment. For now, he assessed the situation.

Between getting tossed like an old toy, and having to hit zombies until they decided to get back to being dead, Vier was not having a good time with the battle. To be frank, Vier wanted to just beat on the giant until it stopped moving, but he took a shallow breath and calmed himself down. Magic took focus, and using it in combination with swordplay made that even more important. Alright, this is an absolute behemoth of a man. His armor is runic, so I can’t just batter him until it gives. I’ll stick with the more reliable method: cutting the tendons.

He noticed the armored man swing his runic axe at Fleuri and moved up to deflect the strike with his right sword, imbuing it with reinforcement magic to make sure it doesn’t shatter on impact. He would use some of the inevitable recoil to make a quick swing at the armored man’s dominant wrist, heating up the blade of his left sword to make the stab easier, and in case of leather padding underneath the runic armor.
Vier had a few options as he just finished cleaning the undead gunk and viscera off his twin swords. It was an odd habit, but his father taught him that a dirty blade was as bad as a dull one. He stopped for a moment to wait for more threats or new orders as the other Roses killed got rid of the other undead.

Then the bright silver light appeared, Vier wiping his eyes afterwards to adjust. He watched as the axe streaked by, taking a step then jumping back as it exploded. ”What now?” The exasperation in his voice was obvious as he watched the rune-clad knight come forth. Vier tossed his now-dirty rag away, slowly twirling his blades to get his blood and mana flowing, them now glowing a soft red and blue.

”Well. Any ideas?” Vier moved into a defensive stance, knowing there was no conceivable way he could outmuscle the giant. So, he waited for it to make a move, moving in for a counterattack when the man began to swing the axe. He would aim to slice into the giant man’s wrist to keep it from causing further damage.
Can I hop in on this?
@Letter Bee@Creative Chaos Collab RP

The gray haired Arms Master was training in the woods, mostly to focus his attention away from the past few days. It had been utter chaos after Tian Fei was…annihilated. Honestly, Nico was more surprised by the fact the volcano had diamonds than the fact they won. He wasn’t usually one to care for money or shiny things, but he grabbed a few small chunks, if only for insurance.

It was a windy day out, and Nico was doing his usual practice with Helios Rod. Between swordplay and unarmed combat, he trusted his hands far more than his blade. That was an issue in his eyes. “My sword can cut steel like air, why can’t I just use it? Wait…that’s exactly why I’m careful.”

“Merde.” His punches sounded more like artillery fire, their impact increased by his Noble Arm, which was balanced on a rock to keep from burning the ground.

He could hear someone approaching him, not even bothering to hide the sounds of his movement. The blond man wore only a tank top, trousers, and combat boots; he had no pistol or other mundane arms. He then muttered once in hearing range, "So this is the person the First Arms Master is seeking; doesn't seem like much, to me..."

This man then called out, "Oi! As one volunteer to another, wanna spar?"

A test of the man's ability to tell friend from neutral or foe.

Nico stopped mid-swing to look at the newcomer, giving a short wave. He picked up his sword from the rock it was on and lazily pointed it at the stranger.“I’m going to need a reason for you to know me.”

The man introduced himself, "I am Diligence, shard of Industria of the Seven Virtues."

He then stretched out his right arm and hand, and a golden hammer appeared.

"This is the Hammer of Creation, the twin of the Hammer of Masters, and I don't mean the destroyed organization," he named his weapon. "I am here to test your resolve, and if your resolve is found wanting, I will make sure that The First Arms Master cannot have his hands on you for his unknown goals."

He then grinned, "So, want a scrap?"

“Huh.” He squinted at the newcomer, Diligence. “Great. I actually ran into a Seven Virtues goon.” At best, Nico actively tolerated the organization. He agreed with the message, but not the methods or reasoning. But what the blonde said about the first Arms Master made Nico think a bit, then burst out laughing.

“Are you joking? You’re saying the first Arms Master is after me. Me. I mean, I’m always up for a scrap, but at least come up with a better lie than that.” His Greek and English accent was thin but noticeable.

"The fact that you don't feel any pride from what I've said proves you're worthy of a scrap," Diligence said as he held out his hammer, gripped it with both hands, and said, "But no, I'm not lying, including about testing your resolve."

And with that, he swung his hammer down onto the ground, and as the hammer's head hit the floor, a bright flash of light sparked and from the ground burrowed out a giant spider, twice as large as a full-grown man and just as tall.

"As said, Hammer of Creation," Diligence said before gesturing for the spider to rush at Nico, it’s maw dripping with venom.

“Hey!” Nico hopped to the side and moved around the spider, taking a moment to catch his balance before taking up a fencer’s stance while looking straight at Diligence, the Helios Rod pointed right at him.

“Did you get donated that hammer by those Seven Virtues pricks?” His gaze was hardened , but his stance was a little wider than the typical fencer, keeping Helios Rod’s edge far away from his body. “At least it isn’t a snake.”

“Also, why a giant spider?”

"The Hammer can be donated to those who sign up for our cause," Diligence said, "But no; a Noble Arm as important as this must be wielded by a fragment of one of the Virtues. And by that, my main body is in a more exalted plane of existence; this form is merely a fraction of the power of Industria."

He then chuckled as he swing sideways in the air, and several snakes were hurled at Nico.

"You don't understand what I'm talking about, do you? As for spiders and snakes... To test your resolve, you have to confront petty fears."

Yes, he had been stalked.

“But there aren’t any-Oh no!” He froze at the sight of flying snakes, the fear in his eyes obvious. He shivered a bit at the sight, but swung wide in an attempt to burn as many of them to ash as possible. He squirmed and stabbed the ground to kill any snakes that he might have missed.

He turned to the giant spider and stabbed it behind the head, twisting Helios Rod a bit to make sure the arachnid stayed dead. He stabbed it again, just to be safe about it before turning to Diligence, any trace of respect gone from his voice. “Okay, none of that! I don’t care about you being a fragment of Industry or whoever! Why do you know me? Be truthful about it, you bellend. If you know me so well, you should know what my sword can do.”

The man sighed and said, "The Seven Virtues have slots filled for Charity, Kindness, Patience, Chastity, Temperance and yes, Industria, also known as Diligence in English. However, they don't have someone to fill the 'slot' for Humility/Humilitas, making them only six. Get what I am trying to say?"

Nico let go of Helios Rod, the sword vanishing before it hit the ground.“You want me to work for you? What are the perks?”

"Umm, no; we want you to become our leader," Diligence said a little testily. "Basically, you get to transcend your physcial existence - That means losing your body and becoming energy - but you can send pieces of yourself back to this world with powerful Noble Arms instead!"

Then the man continued, "However, in order to become our leader, you have to keep yourself humble despite the temptation to not be humble."

Diligence hid the fact that Nico would have to give up his name, his worldly status, and his possessions, hoping that the man would not catch on.

Nico walked up to Diligence, looking him right in the eye. He took a deep breath, actively trying to calm down, but his eyes still showed his inner anger. “You want me to turn into energy, lose my life, and become your leader? Really? What a boring existence that must be.”

"Truly humble people are hard to find," Diligence said back, his tone firm, "And the Seven Virtues' goals are to find out if there is an Afterlife, Gods, or a God and coexist with all three peacefully if there are, and if there isn't an Afterlife, to create one. Either way, it's actually good that you don't want to be our leader; this means you're even more qualified."

“I want to know something.” Nico stepped back and turned away, putting his hands behind his head. “If I actually do decide to be your leader and become energy, then what? Do I get to head back to Athens and see my family? Can I go back on my journey? Can I still save people?”

"Well, as our leader, you can rewrite the rules we live under, just don't change the theme we go by and our goals," Diligence explained as best as he can. "So yes, you can send an avatar of yourself to see your family, go on your journey, and save people all at the same time, with seperate avatars."

“But I’d be energy in some random place. It wouldn’t be me, just an imitation.” Nico turned around, looking up at the sun. “Regardless of the likeness, an avatar of me wouldn’t be me. It’s like playing a video game and saying that I did everything the player character did.”

He looked to Diligence. “Why does the first Arms Master want me?”

Diligence muses, "Two reasons; one, he wants a 'control sample', aka a normal Arms Master to serve as an example of what normal Arms Masters who don't have abnormal psychologies or Noble Arms are. You see, he is interested in that girl's sapient Noble Arm and that small boy's mental 'reprogramming'. As for the second reason, once he has... examined those two, he plans to test your resistance to temptation to see if you are really humble..."

“So you’re saying all this to just me even though there are actual children at risk? Why didn’t you warn Sison about it?” Nico clenched his hand but took a deep breath. “Alright, alright.”

“If I go with you, can I keep my lucky button?”

"You're accepting that quickly?" Diligence wondered. Then he stretched out his hand, saying, "Sure, take my hand."

“No, I asked if I could keep my lucky charm. I just got a couple diamonds and I’m looking to keep them as a nest egg. Can I keep my stuff if I go with you?” He didn’t move to shake Diligence’s hand.

"Sure," was the answer. "You're not doing this because of pride, and you're not supposed to be Charity/Caritas, so sure."

“Alright, here’s my answer.” Nico manifested Helios Rod, pointing it at Diligence’s forehead. “I’m sure you can find someone who is more worthy than me. I’ve got priorities to take care of.”

Diligence smiled and said, "You really are humble. This makes you more worthy than ever to be our leader, but if you must refuse, then you must refuse."

He then swung his hammer again, and the snakes and giant spider vanished. His next words were, "Until next time; there will come a moment where you'll have to accept."

Then he just faded into thin air.

“And don’t come back, you prick!” Nico let Helios Rod disappear before heading back to the barracks. “Alright, a lot of shit happened. No more waiting for future me to solve my problems. I have to do this.” He shook his head and started to wrap his knuckles.

Vier had simply been standing around and watching, as he wasn’t much good at interrogation. But he stayed on guard while the others did their squabbling and guesswork. He has his own thoughts about the situation, but his focus was the Nem assassin.

Who gave her the crossbow? Who cut her vocal cords? And who was smart enough to plan and set up this scenario? That last question stumped him to no end. Someone has to either sneak her in, or leave a way for her to get in. It’s something that he’d have to look into once the buzz of an assassination attempt died down and everyone was calmer.

What the prisoner intruder wrote down got his attention. ”A sister? Mind giving us a bit more detail on that. You did just try to kill a princess, after all.” His tone was quiet and relaxed, but his expression was a lot more serious.
Everything happened all at once.

At first, Nico’s general plan was to wait for Tian Fei to start back talking, and hope that his senses would be able to lead him in the general direction of their assailant. He considered grabbing one of the black and green volcanologist suits he saw a few people wearing. If not for his safety, maybe just for the ventilation. Nico had heard what volcanic ash does to tourists who try Mount Etna, and it wasn’t a good thing. Then he snapped back to reality, and saw something that shocked him to his very core. It caught him so off guard he lost his footing, stumbling around on the beach. It didn’t seem like a delusion, but it was the one thing that made him feel genuine terror, through all the adrenaline and pure chaos of the situation.

He groaned, putting his comms in his pocket for safekeeping. “Why is it snakes?!” Out of everything that could happen today, “snakes” were not on the list. He figured Qingshe being the Zodiac’s Snake was just metaphorical, but this was flat out excessive. There were even massive onyx and green snakes being used as megaphones on a dark spire, definitely the work of the A-Rank. He turned and took slow and deep breaths, trying not to panic or hyperventilate. And then a glacier came and hit the volcano, throwing him out of his panicked state.

You know what, I’m not going to ask now. This is yet another issue for future Nico. For now, Nico considered a new plan. If he knew anything about volcanoes, it’s that them being cold made them dormant. And a good-sized chunk of very cold stuff happened to land around where the artificial volcano was. The gears in Nico’s head began turning, as he formulated a new scheme.

Helios Rod can slice through anything like butter. But I never tried it on ice. Maybe I can- He’d ask Qingshe to help him, or maybe the twins, or-. Then Tian Fei came out of her hidden hole, probably to gloat. Nico prepared to go on the when Noel beat him to the punch. Someway, somehow, the stars aligned and they got a clean chance. His new issue became what would happen to that lava, and the literal ton of snakes around him. He ran as far as he could from the volcano, hoping for it to not collapse if or when Noel kills Tian Fei.
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