Holding out just a little longerNSFW
Miah and Tala struggle with the Empire's Crown Princess, Zenae, and whoever it is that keeps calling them. Leave a message already!
The last two who hadn't been 'called'... whatever that meant.
Tala and Miah had promised each other that they could not fail. That whoever had taken Reina and Katrja and knocked out Alisaie and Y'shtola and all the rest would be brought to justice, and their souls restored. And they, the last remaining holdouts, would continue to keep each other company, even with everyone else lost.
It was looking to be a challenge, however.
"I thought you would be swatting us like flies," Miah said, a smug smirk on her face. She casually loaded another shell into her gunblade and cocked it, leveling it at the Crown Princess.
Zenae's face registered confusion behind the mask. Behind Miah, so did Tala's.
What in the world is she talking about? She twirled a knife. "She's right, you know. Pretty sorry display."
Zenae snorted. "It is clear I'll need to take the kid gloves off."
"I'm insulted," Miah said, keeping her sword arm steady. "How many times do we have to kill you before you take us seriously on sight?"
"Tch." Zenae's eyes widened for a moment behind her mask. "What's this? Being called, are we?"
Tala looked to Miah, but the latter didn't answer. It took only a few seconds to understand why, as the same blinding, crushing pain threatened to devour her.
A woman's voice, pleading with the gates to open, resonated in Tala's head as if every syllable was being chiseled directly into her skull.
And then Miah fell.
Her sword arm fell limp first, the gunblade clattering to the ground at her feet. And then she started to tilt. Her body made a feeble, automatic attempt to catch itself, and then she hit the floor.
Or, she would have had Tala not rushed to her side. Through the blinding pain, Tala strained to make sense of Miah's condition. A trick. An Empire trick, merely a wound that could be healed. Not this. Please. Not this...
The headache started to pass. Whoever was calling seemed to have gotten what they wanted.
"You told me you weren't going to leave me to do this on my own," Tala whispered, shaking Miah lightly. "Come on... come on...!"
"A pity for them," Zenae said coldly, drawing Ame-no-Habakiri. "You won't be answering."
The blade fell toward Tala's neck. In the span of an instant, Tala vanished in a puff of smoke, reappearing ten yalms away with Miah in her arms. "I don't feel like playing with you right now, Zenny," Tala shouted over her shoulder. "I got bigger things to deal with!"
Like how to get her out of here, Tala thought miserably. "I told you all of those girls you ate were going to come back to bite us someday," Tala told Miah's unconscious form, trying to keep the humor in a desperate attempt to keep her head. "If we both die here, it's because you're too heavy to carry and run with."
But run or not, Tala was still determined to get as far away from the Crown Princess as possible. Even if it meant dragging Miah. "I promised Yogurt I'd look after you. You know how seriously that woman takes her promises. You wouldn't want to be the reason she's angry with me, would you?"
Tala's pleading met with silence. Silence, that is, other than the clanking of Zenae's heavy armor as she strode slowly toward the two Warriors of Light. "It's all too little, too late," Zenae mused, raising her blade once more.
What would have certainly been a clever retort was cut off by another searing blast of pain, stronger than any Tala had felt before.
I guess I don't have to do it alone after all, Tala thought bitterly, and the pain and the voice swallowed her up, just in time to watch the sword raised over herself and Miah.
Tala started awake, her heart racing. She'd been sent back. She touched her arm, confirming it was real. Yes... she'd really been returned to her body.
"Tala's awake!" came a small voice, scampering out of the room.
Behind her, her sister followed, thumb in her mouth and her free hand clasping her sister's.
Miah's twin girls... Then, did that mean...
"Tala!" Miah appeared in the doorway, holding herself back. "You're all right. You're all right..."
"I could say the same about you," Tala said. "What happened to us?"
"Mimi and Sami happened," Miah said. She moved to sit on the bed beside Tala. "It seems they came to help out in case we collapsed like the other two. And when we did, they came to our aid."
"Remind me to thank-"
"Tala!" Amah rushed into the room, crushing her big sister in a hug. "You're alive!"
"Careful, now, she's still weak, if you keep hugging her like that she won't be for long," Miah said.
Amah released Tala, but the smile didn't leave her face. "Sorry. I just..." Tala could see the red in her eyes. "When Miah came to and you didn't, a few days..."
"My body is accustomed to handling..." Miah looked at her fingernails. "... foreign aether. So it got to me easier than it did you. But on the other hand, I recovered faster for the same reason."
"So those girls you ate were involved," Tala mused. When she looked up again, Miah's entire family had formed up around her, smiling at her with curious eyes. "Er... wh-what's all this?"
"We're just happy you're okay," Yogurt said, patting Tala's thigh through the blanket. "We missed you."
"Mom did too," Izi said from where she was acting as Amah's hug outlet.
"So you're not mad," Tala confirmed. "After all, I did let your beloved wife pass out."
"She's with me now," Yogurt said, her hand going to Miah's. "So as far as I can tell, you kept your promise."
Tala smiled distantly, thinking of Lixia. The woman's voice had claimed her some time ago, and Tala's head and body had felt so empty without her.
But now, surrounded by Miah's family and her own... that emptiness didn't seem so bad. They were going to get to the bottom and get their friends back, all of them!