XXII. The Rose of May
The woman's stern look softened a bit. "Of course, where are my manners; I am Beatrix, once the head of the castle guards of Radiant Garden, under the direct command of the Sage Ansem the Wise himself."
Cid slammed his left fist into the palm of his right hand.
"Now I can remember clearly, I knew that you were familiar somehow."
"Head of the castle guards!? Whew...so in short, this means that actually you should be in charge?" Yuffie pondered.
"Rank-wise, this could be actually true." Leon said in a low tone, somewhat unsure. "After all, I'm only an ordinary citizen."
Beatrix shook her head with determination. "No, the old ranks don't mean anything anymore. Those times are long over. I just recently returned here and needed over 3 months to finally settle in again. Furthermore, I would never step so low to hijack the good work of someone else. All of you put much effort in reviving this world and bring back survivors, I won't intrude in that just because I once held a high position."
"3 Months? Does that mean you were already here when the second heartless invasion took place a month ago?" Merlin asked.
"I was, but still recuperating from my odyssey, so I could only lent limited assistance to defend the hospital."
"Odyssey?" Cid mumbled.
"It's a long story...and surely not that important now. You said there's something odd in the secret laboratory down there, right?" Beatrix answered, turning back to Leon.
At the back of the room, Braig had gotten visibly paler, with Isa shooting him an amused side-glance.
"So that's the amazon you talked about once. She surely looks interesting."
"Interesting? AS IF, she's a monster. Ever since Ansem took in Xehanort and started his experiments and research on the heart she was broadly against it, fearing for the safety of the world and the people."
"A dutiful knight devoted to protecting her kingdom and citizens, it's not really surprising." Isa concluded, examining the female General from afar.
"Oh yeah, dutiful she is. She almost discovered our secret experiments twice and wholeheartedly supported Ansem as he ceased the research after befriending that King from the outer world. Xehanort was very pissed about her continuous interference. In the end, as she also won't give in to darkness, we had to banish her into the Realm of Darkness as well as Ansem before her."
"She didn't prevent you from banishing Ansem?" Isa raised a brow.
Braig let out a small laugh. "Nope, she couldn't. Dilan and Xehanort created a diversion by setting a pack of heartless free in the castle gardens, causing many casualties and she was so busy keeping the threat at bay we had free hands."
Isa snorted. "So if you banished her as well afterwards, why do you get that white like a sheet and worried? She should not be that much of a problem then."
Braig turned fully to him, his cocky tone totally absent. "As if blueberry, she would be a big problem. Underestimate her and you'll end up impaled on her holy sword. We banished her, yes, but it took the combined efforts of Dilan, Aeleus, Ienzo and me to beat her into submission first. She is not someone to take lightly. As a Paladin, she has a good balance of powerful physical and magical attacks, as well as high defense."
Isa eyed Beatrix with a more thoroughly glance at hearing this, before speaking again with unwavered confidence. "Shouldn't we already start the diversions then?"
"Screw the different time frames, start ALL of them at once. We need to get them away from here...and especially preoccupy Beatrix!" Braig answered, determined.
Leon in the meantime nodded at Beatrix' question. "Indeed, it seems there's a lifeform that suddenly appeared down there."
"We guess it could be another survivor who found his or her way back home." Yuffie added.
Beatrix made a thoughtful expression. "Possible, although it would then be quite interesting to find out how that person got there, as the main computer said it can be detected now if a dark corridor is opened."
"The main question would be how do we get there?" Cid Highwind interjected in a grumpy tone.
Leon raised a brow, turning to the computer. "Tron, can you open up a way down there?"
"There exists a set of routines that leads to the opening of the secret floor, but it is protected by six passwords and the form to enter those passwords is only reachable by putting in another password." Tron's voice answered over the speaker.
To that Leon rolled his eyes, Cid gave away some really heavy words while Yuffie made some annoyed sounds.
"Seems like more unnecessary troubles ahead." Merlin mumbled, seeing his dislike of computers and technology proven yet again.
"Oh old loon, having something locked by passwords or magical seals is not that much of a difference." Cid barked, fuming.
Merlin choose to ignore it this time.
"Tron, can't you just hack the routines and bypass the passwords?" Yuffie asked impatiently.
"I can search the files for a way to circumvent them, but that may take a while and I can't promise it will be possible." Tron answered.
Yuffie made another annoyed sound, while Leon put his hand against his forehead deep in thought.
Seven passwords!? That's quite a big deal of security, which is no wonder if that floor really contains the laboratory where Ansem's apprentices conducted their immoral and dangerous experiments on darkness and hearts.
Isa moved now towards the computer, paying attention not to bump physically into one of the Committee members or Beatrix, as this was not covered by Ienzo's illusions. Braig took a position directly before the Digitizer, ready to move into the data world of Space Paranoids.
With a devious smirk Isa snapped his fingers three times. Time for some action.
Alert beeping sounds immediately started as the sensors detected several dark corridors opening in the town and the castle.
"Several groups of heartless and lower nobodies have entered the town perimeter!" Tron warned.
"Damn it! Now of all times?" Cid Highwind yelled.
As a confirmation one corridor even opened in the computer room, to which Braig raised a brow questioningly.
Isa just shrugged as a big Large Body and two Soldiers appeared in the computer room.
"Tron! Try to bypass those passwords, we'll destroy the heartless." Yuffie shouted, brandishing her big shuriken.
"Aerith, trouble is on the way." Leon spoke into the small head-phone-esque communication device he was wearing, his Gunblade appearing in his hand.
"Already noticed it...I'll take the kids to safety, Tifa's going to hold them off at the town square." Aerith's answer was only barely heard through the noise of screaming kids and static due to a bad connection.
"Agh-it's one of those fatso's..." Yuffie grunted, slashing one of the Soldiers with her shuriken.
The other one leaped at Leon, got blocked with the Gunblade and then stabbed by Cid's spear.
The Large Body took two steps nearer as Beatrix stepped between Leon and Cid, cold fury in her visible eye.
"Not this time, not again will Radiant Garden be ravaged by the likes of your ilk! This time around, I'll eradicate all of you I can get a hold of!"
Her holy sword Save the Queen quickly drawn out of its scabbard, Beatrix held it upright before her face gathering energy.
"Take this!" Beatrix released a big blue-white energy blast, her "Shock"-technique, which blasted apart the Large Body in one stroke.
Yuffie whistled impressed. What an attack...
"No time to gape, let's move out to protect the citizens!" Beatrix shouted, already running out of the computer room, the blade of her sword shining.
"Right!" Yuffie and Cid agreed, running after her.
"You coming too? Merlin?" Leon asked, turning around shortly.
"I'm already on my way, I'll meet up with Tifa on the central square." Merlin answered winking, already in the process of teleporting away.
Seeing them running away, Braig got in a fit of cocky laughter.
They're so easy to distract.
"Now then blueberry, get that thing up and digitize me...time to travel to another world."
"What about this "Tron"-Program...looks like it can detect our interference immediately." Isa asked, his hands stopping a few centimetres over the keyboard.
"I will erase its memory banks when I disrupt the OS, as well as the videos recorded by the cameras, no issue. Maybe I'll even grant myself the pleasure and burn all buses so no data transfer will ever be possible again." Braig answered, grinning evilly.
Meanwhile Leon, Beatrix and the others rushed through the corridors, slaying dozens of emblem heartless which had spawned in there. Yuffie threw many smaller shurikens while keeping her big one for close range battle, enhancing its sharpness with magic. Leon alternated using his Gunblade and a plethora of fire and ice magic while Cid was proficiently aiding with his spear at mid range.
Beatrix already was quite a bit more ahead, concentrating on eliminating the bigger heartless like Large Bodies, Morning Stars, Defenders and Crimson Jazzes with her "Seiken"-sword arts.
Meanwhile at the central town square the kids who had helped Aerith with the flowers where gathered together in a group in fright, Aerith trying to shield them to her best ability, wielding her iron staff which also served to channel her magic.
That's not going to work...I can't shield all of the kids at once but I also can't let Tifa facing them all alone.
Tifa jumped backwards dodging the slash of an Armored Knight, then charged forward tackling it with her shoulder, felling two Soldiers and a Hammer Frame with a round-house kick afterwards.
As a Surveillance Robot started to swoop down she met it with a heavy uppercut, sending the heartless back trundling into higher air.
"They're far fewer in number, but still annoying as heck!" She shouted to Aerith, blocking the strike of another Armored Knight, blasting it with a Blizzara-spell.
In a swirl of golden sparkles Merlin appeared beside Aerith. "Now my dear, I can take over the protection of the children." He exclaimed, raising a dome-like energy shield around the group of kids.
"Thanks Merlin. Tifa! Let's do a combo-attack!" Aerith said with her voice raised quite some bit, a rare occurrence.
"Okay!" Came the answer from the martial arts expert, kicking another Hammer Frame away with a backflip-kick.
Aerith stepped three steps forward, raising her staff.
A big magnetic field was created amidst the heartless, drawing them in and immobilizing them while doing slowly damage.
Tifa gave away a knowing smirk at this, jumping high into the air.
"That's the end for ya: Final Heaven!"
Loading up her right fist with condensed neutral magical energy in a blue hue, Tifa dived right into the gathered crowd of heartless, causing a big energy explosion destroying all the heartless of this group in one strike.