Dantega:Volume 3 Chapter 12

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(PART 3)

Ubica now sits alone by the little pond; Daey has left to head back to join the group. He lets out a nervous sigh as he plops his back onto the soft grass.


A voice comes from above the bank where he is laying, prompting him to sit up quickly and turn around.

"Ah, Trojia" he says as he readies to stand.

“Daey said you wanted to talk to me.”

Trojia puts her hand out as if telling him to be at ease, he sits back down. She takes a seat next to him and now the two are shoulder to shoulder.

“Yeah, I figured it’d be a little tough to talk in front of everyone else.”

As much as he struggles to bring this up, he’s forced to address something that has been intentionally avoided these last couple days.

They’ve all collectively shied away from bringing up Niomyo’s death in an awkward dance of protecting each other’s feelings, and this has resulted in Trojia stewing over it by herself.

“How are you feeling?”

"You mean about what happened to Niomyo?"


She purses her lips in reluctance at first, but then lets out a saddened sigh before answering, "You know... it's my fault that she's gone."

"What do you mean?"

"That night, I sent her to look for you guys because I was angry at her and wanted her to leave me alone... my spoiled attitude ended up costing Niomyo her life."

He can sympathize with her feelings, he’s been blaming himself for what happened from the beginning.

Trojia throws her head into her arms and says, "How am I supposed to live with that?”

Trojia is an only child, unlike the other Princes and Princesses who have siblings of a similar age, she had no one to turn to for advice except for her mother. But when she and Lelaine had their falling out, the only person she could confide in was Niomyo, and whether or not her guard told her what she wanted to hear, Niomyo was always there for her no matter what.

"The last thing I said to her was so cold and mean, even though she was only trying to help me I rejected her efforts and sent her off to die."

Tears start running down her face as she sinks into her arms pressed against her knees.

"You don't have to live with it alone." Ubica answered sternly.

He can't help but reach out to her, he puts his arm over her shoulders and delicately pulls her towards him.

This catches her off guard, now being held so close she tenses up.

Ubica feels this and says, "I’ll shoulder that blame with you, I didn't protect Niomyo from what I was doing, and she was caught up in my fight with Mammon. So we can share the guilt together and get out of here for her sake."

"No, that's not fair on you..." she said, the tenses in her body melted like ice under the sun upon hearing his words.

"You simply being here now isn’t fair on you. Because it’s not fair, the only thing I can do is share in the emotions of your heart. If you’re in pain, I promise I’ll take half, if you’re sad, I’ll take on half of your sadness, and if you find the occasional happiness while here, I want to share that with you and double it.”

Trojia remains silent underneath his arm, as genuine as his declaration was, the silence makes him feel a little embarrassed.

He knows that now isn’t the time to worry about his own feelings, but he can’t help but think those words were a little too sappy even for him.

“Hmph..” Trojia puffs, her head still hidden in her arms. “You’re something else you know that?”

Flustered, Ubica cringes and averts his gaze.

“But…” Trojia lifts her head up and looks to him. “This is who I know you to be. If only Niomyo could’ve seen what I see in you. You’ll have to continue to prove her wrong, that way she can rest in peace.”

Ubica doesn’t know of Niomyo’s animosity toward him before she was killed, so he’s a little confused. But when Trojia smiles at him through her tears, there’s no way he could find it in him to pry. Instead he reciprocates her smile and replies,

“I’ll do whatever it takes.”

"You made it here Aria..." said Achille Gallo in a hoarse voice.

He lies weakly on his back and looks up at Sora and the girl he raised as a daughter.

"That's right... thanks to your map and all that you've taught me."

He faintly smiles with a face full of pride, he scans his eyes around and witnesses the battle and the people involved in it.

He notices the absence of his adopted son and asks, "Where's Stauphius?"

"We got separated, but he'll be here soon!"

Achille coughs a little and tries to raise his upper body, Aria and Sora try to help him but both think that it wouldn’t be wise to put out any excess physical effort.

Once upright, he shoots her a serious glare and says, "It's good he's not here... listen to me Aria, you must get out of here immediately."

"Huh? Why would I do that?"

"Don't ask questions and just go." he answers with a rough cough.

"B-But we've trained all these years so we could get here..."

"I'm sorry Aria, but you must go."

"I don't understand, why are you telling me this now? After all this time!?"

"Because it's pointless to pass the Gate!" Achille shouts, expending almost all the energy his voice box has left. Aria stares at him, surprised by the fervor of his tone as he continues, "There are still four more Gates once you get past this one... think about how long it took me to find this Gate, imagine starting anew four different times before you reach Earth again... It's impossible."

"N-No way... They never told me anything about that."

When she says 'they' she means Rage and the others; when they first met it seemed like they were clueless about how to get out of Purgatory. So for the first few days she thought that they were completely dependent on her and Strauphius, but not too long after it became obvious that Rage was much more knowledgeable about this world.

The group the twins joined knew exactly what it took to get back home but just didn't know the direction; so it's a surprise to her that they never bothered to mention to her that their situation is much more implausible than it already is.

Achille glares at her again and tries to tempt her to leave by giving her one final warning.

"But that's not all... that man, the Gatekeeper... he is unbeatable."

The lights surrounding Phoenix exude the energy of violence, if anger had a natural color it would shine like this as it illuminates so bright that it could be seen as a beacon beaming up towards the heavens as far as the sky can stretch.

The feeling coming from this is not what you'd expect from a man of God, but rather, to Rage, it feels more similar to the feeling that comes from Ubica when he allows himself to become absorbed by his power.

(This power... What has happened to the Messiah!?) Rage thinks to himself as he stares in awe.

His first instinct is to protect the rest of the group, so he raises his scythe and forms a black cloud that surrounds himself and the rest of them like a lantern would a candle.

"What in the world is going on out there!?" shouts Cyrus in confusion.

The truth is, Rage doesn't even know how to address that question, so instead he just clicks his tongue and shuts his eyes.

"How is Phoenix able to do these things!?" asks Xavier, his tone demanding an answer.

They all bombard themselves with unanswerable questions that Rage thinks are directed towards him, he grows increasingly frustrated until the breaking point in which he shouts in anger,

"Shut up!!"

The group instantly stops their babbling and looks at him in shock, he takes a deep breath and calmly says, "That man, is not who you think it is... as to how and why he is doing all this, I do not know. So stop pestering me with questions that I can’t give you the answer to."

His cold glare makes them all jolt back in nervousness; his reaction reminds them of a playful warning from Ubica about how upset Rage gets when asked too many questions.

There is a reason why he is so short when it comes to things like this, throughout time the one thing that is most likely questioned more than any other is one way or another involving 'death'. Along with it comes hate and love, some people fear death immensely and some welcome it with open arms, and some poor souls seek it as salvation from the struggles of living.

These feelings are directly implanted within the soul of Rage, he has been repeatedly questioned for thousands of years about what he really represents and so on.

The hatred for an existence long interrogation from the masses is one of the reasons why he named himself Rage in the first place, whether it be the fault of Heaven or Hell, the result will always be the same.

One person does not tremble in fear at Rage, but instead presses forward and asks yet another question.

"Shouldn't we help him?"

This unusually stern voice comes from Luke.

Rage glares at him and answers, "If you had any kind of eyesight you'd see that the way he is right now, help is the last thing he needs."

"But even so, I can't just sit here and not do anything about it."

Luke stands strong, such a rare performance of conviction coming from the shy Prince has the group more in shock about this than the situation that is occurring just on the other side of the cloud.

"Well you don't have a choice in the matter, you're stuck here."

Luke sighs and looks to the floor, after a moment of silence he clenches his fists and his shoulders tense up, as if struggling to convince himself to speak he mumbles, "L-Let me out."


Rage twitches his eyebrow at the boy's open defiance.

Luke raises his head and reveals a face full of determination. "You know... since I got here I noticed something strange going on with my body... I can do things, incredible things that I never could before."

"Wait... you don't mean--"

Rage is interrupted by the continuation of Luke's declaration, "I have always been a shy kid, maybe that's why I never told anybody about it. But the guilt kept building the more and more I saw everyone get hurt while I stood aside and did nothing... This time is different, I've known Phoenix for all my life, and it would seem like he has been hiding something as well, but he decided to reveal it and fight to protect us. So now, as a friend, I'm gonna fight alongside him!"

Rage huffs air out of his nose and sarcastically smiles, "A touching speech, but that isn't going to make me let you leave."

Luke smiles and turns his back to Rage, he takes a couple steps and says, "I didn't think it would."

He holds his right hand out and touches the wall of black smoke surrounding them, a white light flashes on the five fingertips and within a second a huge gap in the smoke appears and Luke casually walks through.

The gap suddenly closes back up and Rage is completely surprised, this kind of thing has never happened before. It is incomprehensible for even a demon to break through the cloud, much less a regular human.

He once again becomes angered and says under his breath, "Fighting to protect us... Foolish child, that man whom you have known your whole life is fighting only for revenge."

Xavier's jaw is dropping to his collarbone, his brain is exuding a large amount of effort in an attempt to understand what had just occurred. Not only his spiritual adviser has been keeping secrets and powers from him, but his own little brother has been secretly growing into the type of person who would stand up to death and reveal his own amazing ability just to defy him.

Having no clue how to react to all this, he lets his thoughts exit his mouth in a shout,

"Seriously just what the fuck is going on!?!?!?"

"Look at you... I do believe that you have forsaken yourself." states Pontius as he readies himself in a defensive position.

Phoenix holds his hand out at points down at Pontius; the multicolored flame forms into a huge ball and immediately shoots toward the direction in which his hand points.

The ball screams toward the surface at such a speed that there is no way Pontius can avoid it, so instead of attempting to flee he lifts his arm and takes the hit directly.

A huge explosion rips through the hard ground as if it was a large boulder being dropped into a body of water. Rocks and debris are sent flying in all directions and mercilessly crash into the surrounding objects.

Aria and Sora shield Achille the best they could and luckily take on only a little bit of damage.

A dust cloud forms over the area and Phoenix allows himself to gently float to the ground; his face still looks rough when he says, "It was not I who has forsaken myself... now, and just like always... It was 'him'."

"Interesting... this is not something that I can speak with confidence about because you are much closer to the almighty than I'll ever be. But I think that something went terribly wrong, and you were the one who changed for the worse because of it." said Pilate.

His voice came from the dust, and in a flash that dust gets blown away by an intense wind.

Standing on a very small piece of land surrounded by a huge crater, the former judge is unscathed, not even the ground directly below his feet showed any sign of damage.

Phoenix looks shocked but he chooses not to ask how, sensing that Pontius will explain it, he just stands there and glares at him.

"I believe I have already told you this... It's my job to judge who is allowed to pass through the Gate, those who I don't deem fit shall never enter. Do you want to know how I know when someone is fit to pass?"

"Tch." Phoenix hisses, he grinds his teeth as though he knows where this is going.

"It is as simple as whether or not they can physically touch me."

The route in which Phoenix thought the conversation was going has been completely shattered, he was under the impression that Pilate was going to say that it was the will of God or something to that effect.

"Huh?" he mutters in confusion.

Pontius spreads his arms, "My power is very unique, those who wish to pass for any kind of ill intentions can never touch me, I guess you can say that my body is a repellent for people like you..."

He then points out toward the crucified men and finishes, "As you can see, the majority of people who came to me were rotten as well."

Phoenix frowns and rushes Pontius.

Out from his arms comes the form of a flame sword that readies to stab through whatever comes in its way.

Pontius stands calmly and doesn't budge from his position, the sword strikes his chest and a loud popping noise is heard.

Phoenix's flame is instantly extinguished, the fire that once emanated so terrifyingly bright is reduced to nothing more than a candle flicker.

He is now standing defenseless in front of the Gatekeeper with a surprised look on his face.

Pontius continues his statuesque glare when he speaks, "Indeed, something went terribly wrong with you. Your intentions for passing the Gate are driven by vengeance and spite, you are no different from all of those people who lay dead behind me. For that, I shall not allow you to pass."

Pontius grabs his standard issue Roman sword and violently swings for Phoenix's neck.

"You heard what the Gatekeeper said... anyone who wishes to pass that has any kind of selfish thought cannot even touch him." said Achille as he addresses Aria about their hopeless disposition.

"B-But... there's gotta be some way."

"There truly isn't, Aria, his standards are too high. The slightest negative thought in your head will turn you into an easy target."

Aria frowns as she pats some of the dust off her small shirt left over from the most recent explosion, she stands up and pulls the long-sword off her back.

"I learned something about myself last week when we were attacked by a demon... it's something that I must change in order to protect these people who I now consider my friends."

Achille looks at her with eyes pleading against her actions, "You're not actually going to fight are you?"

She glares at him in determination, and that is enough to answer his question perfectly.

Fearing the worst he tries to shout with all his strength. "No! You mustn't do that! He'll use your own motives for being here to kill you!"

Aria frowns and quickly retorts, "I don't believe that for a damn second!"

Her shout makes his shoulders jump, he stays silent as she continues.

"I refuse to believe that everything me and Strauph worked so hard for can be defeated like that. Besides, my motives for passing the Gate are now not only for myself, it's for my friends, and for their friends, for their family, for everyone back on Earth!"

It would seem that Aria has grown from a young thief into a fine young woman. She has caught a glimpse of the bigger picture and now that she realizes how grand the happenings around her actually are.

This past month has shown her what is truly important and what her role has to be in order to protect it.

She smiles at Achille and turns away, this is the new Aria that now has more than just her brother.

This is the new Aria who is willing to risk her life for her friends and for people she has never even met.

This is the new Aria.

The Aria who will fight.

Pilate's blade rips through the air at a blinding speed, Phoenix has no time to avoid it and will most certainly have his head rolling on the ground in mere moments.

This situation is the exact opposite of how he expected it to go.

In terms of strength, it was obvious that Phoenix was so far ahead of Pontius that it felt as though he was a tiger facing off in a fight against a small deer in an enclosed space.

In a matter of fact, what he revealed wasn't even his full strength, yet no matter how much power he fought with it still wouldn't mean a thing.

Pilate's unique ability to negate an attack that has negative feelings behind it means that Phoenix is now the helpless deer.

(Damn it!!)

He shuts his eyes and waits for what will definitely be an interesting sensation when his head is sent flying.

But, that feeling never came and the sound of a huge blast rings through his ears and forces his eyes open.

What he sees is a white light that hit Pontius in the chest and sent him flying away into one of the large pillars of the Gate.

He turns towards the light's source and sees Luke standing there with both hands pointed out.

"Are you okay Phoenix!?" Luke asks..

Phoenix stares at him and softly asks, "Your attack... It worked? How?"

He is amazed that an attack hit Pontius and caused him so much damage, even more so than finding out that Luke has the ability to do such a thing to begin with.

"I don't know how... but since I got here I've had the ability to solidify heat, whether it is a small amount of heat or a lot, I can maneuver it into any form I want." Luke explains.

He's basically saying that if there was a fire, he'd be able to take the heat from that fire and turn it into a white hot beam of energy and send it zooming at a target.

In this case, he used his own body heat to shoot it toward Pilate, saving Phoenix just in the nick of time.

Phoenix chuckles a little and regains his kind composure. "Thanks Luke... you really saved my neck there."

Luke smiles and shows his pleasure in Phoenix's appreciation, but that smile quickly turns stiff when a flash is seen out of the corner of his eye.

A sword is flying through the air at such a speed that it seems more like a bullet, it's a standard Roman issued short blade that's being used as a projectile.

The only thing that can possibly stop the movement of the sword is Luke's face, the two are on an unavoidable collision course and neither Phoenix or Luke can do anything about it.

Luke flinches and slams his eyes shut when all the sudden...


The sound of metal against metal is heard.

He opens his eyes and finds Aria standing in front of him, she had just blocked the short blade's path with her huge long-sword and saved him at the last second.

She turns around to him and says, "Hit the deck, this is gonna be a big one!"

Aria snatches the spinning short blade right out of the air before it could hit the ground, and in one swift motion she chucks the sword right back towards the direction in which it came.

A short moment later...


A massive explosion shakes the ground like a large quake; shards of rocks, stone, wood and marble are sent flying at them.

Seeing that Luke didn't hit the deck at all because the whole incident happened far too fast, Aria dives on him and protects him.

But her efforts ended up being unnecessary, Phoenix used his cloth and turned every last piece of debris into flames; with one simple swing, any kind of projectile was deflected as if someone had swung a flyswatter into a swarm of flies.

"Are you okay?" she asks Luke, who stares up at her with a flushed face.

Her chest is rubbing on his shoulder so it makes his heart beat extraordinarily fast, at a closer look he sees that her small shirt has ridden up towards her neck.

Despite the life threatening situation they’re in, the feeling of her chest and the sight of her bare stomach has actually done the most damage to him.

"Umm-ehh-ahh I'm fine!!" he shyly replies with his eyes fixated on this never before seen sight.

Aria's eyebrow raises as she follows his eyes down to what he's looking at, she immediately covers herself up and yelps.


She instantly stands up off of him, pulling down her shirt at the same time.

"S-Sorry, I didn’t mean to look." Luke said, he looks more embarrassed than she does about it.

Aria huffs air out of her nose and replies, "You should be honored! You’re a lucky bastard!"


She smiles and sticks her tongue out at him, she then turns away and holds up her sword in a battle stance. Assuming that her attack did nothing to Pontius, she knows that the odds are stacked against her as she waits for the smoke to clear.

An unpleasant sweat runs down her temple when she thinks about all the recent times she used her attack on someone and failed to inflict any damage.

The initial attack was on Napoleon, who due to a miscalculation in Aria's placement of a mine had miraculously survived. The second, was when she used it on Rage, only to get it deflected right back at her like a tennis ball. The third was against the great Demon Belphegor, who literally nullified it as if it was nothing.

These memories make her doubt her ability and all the years of effort she put into it, but she shrugs it off when she understands that no matter what, she must do something.

The smoke begins to clear and the silhouette of Pontius can now be seen, she tenses up and waits for him to do something, but his lack of movement makes the seconds go by even longer.

He is simply standing there like a stone, the smoke finally dissipates and what's left standing there shocks Aria.

Pontius is standing statue-like just as she expected, but what is amazing is his appearance.

A huge hole can be seen on the right side of his chest where Luke's light hit him, and the rest of his body is covered in cuts and bruises. A couple of his ribs can be seen through a wound in his side and his face is completely bloodied, his arms and legs have shards of debris sticking into him like leeches.

"I-It worked?" Aria asks, amazed at the fact she finally did some damage to her target.

Pontius takes a step closer and blood falls from seemingly every point of his body.

"Tell me woman, tell me boy... Why do you want to pass through the Gate?"

Pontius already knows the answer to this question the moment they attacked him. Their intentions were rushed into his body. But he still felt compelled to ask as if to confirm it.

Luke stands up and looks determined, he and Aria glare at each other and smile, they turn back to Pontius and simultaneously reply, "To protect our friends!!"

Pilate cracks his lips up ever so slightly and holds out his index finger.

"Very good, you have my approval to pass."



"You are saying that we can go through!?" Aria asks.

She and Luke both smile as though they had just won a great prize in an arcade game.

But their celebration is cut short by Pontius saying, "But... I must ask you, are you willing to leave the rest of them behind?"

Luke and Aria glare at him in confusion as he continues to speak.

"You are approved, but of course they are not. Your approval shall depend on whether you wish to leave them behind or not. So which will you choose?"

They stay silent for a moment and then Luke frowns and shouts, "Fuck that!!!"

Aria looks at this new side of Luke that she has never seen before and smiles, she readily agrees with his statement by explaining to Pontius why they have come to this conclusion.

"Is that a joke? We say we are fighting for our friends and then all the sudden you ask if we will leave them behind?"

She lifts her sword and points it at him.

"I accept the fact that you'll let me pass, but I'm taking all of them with me!!"

"Very well then... all of you shall be crucified for your ill intentions."

Phoenix takes a step back and frowns as if he is thinking of a way that he can kill Pontius himself, but for now he can only hope that Aria and Luke can hold him off until then.

Pontius takes a step forward and begins to walk toward them with no worry.

Aria nudges on Luke's shoulder and says, "After this battle is over, I want you to act tough like this more often..." She turns to him and smiles, "If you are always this cool... I may just end up falling for you.”

Luke's face turns bright red and he mumbles in embarrassment because he has no clue what to say back to that.

After a moment of thinking over what she just said, he shakes off the fuzzy feeling of her words and reveals a confident smile.

"Okay I will... we'll have to win first though."


As though that was a cue for an attack, the two rush toward Pontius with a battle roar.

Luke points his hand out and a white light comes shooting forward.

The beam rushes at Pilate but he easily avoids by jumping up and off to the side, his movements continue to be as limber as ever despite the grievous injuries he suffered.

But Aria is standing right where he is going to land, stuck in the air, he cannot avoid whatever is about to happen.

Aria picks up a rock and throws it up at him.

Pontius understands that she has some kind of ability that causes explosions so he figured it'd be wise to dodge the rock at all costs; he twists his body and the rock flies right past him.

Aria smiles and the rock blows up right behind him, causing him to shoot toward the ground, and where he is falling, her huge long-sword awaits to skewer him.

Pontius once again holds out his index finger, and the tip of it collides with the tip of Aria's sword.

Surely his hand will be cut off.

However, this results in his miraculous display of acrobatics.

He is balancing atop the sharp blade with one finger.

While doing so he explains, "Other than my power of 'Judgment', I have no abilities of my own, so in order to make up for such a thing I have undergone thousands of years of physical training. So much so that no one would be able to defeat me in hand to hand combat."

He flips over the sword and kicks her in the back, making her fall face first into the ground.

"Aria!" shouts Luke as he runs to her aid.

He helps her up and makes sure she is okay when Pilate continues to speak.

"Knowing that, what do you think I'm going to do to thwart your efforts?"

He holds his hand out, taking a stance that shows he is prepared to fight using just his body.

"That's right, all I need to do is stay close to you, and your deaths will be imminent."

Luke frowns and sends another light beam at him, Pontius dodges it and does a couple back hand somersaults to get away.

Upon regaining his footing he looks up and finds that they are running away from his range.

He stands and says, "Oh that's right I forgot... I guess I have one more trick up my sleeve."

He holds his hand out as if presenting someone’s arrival and then a bony hand comes from the ground and grabs Luke's ankle.

Not noticing what had just happened, Aria continues to run and unintentionally leaves Luke behind.

"What an idiot right Luke? Why would he be stupid enough to tell us exactly what his plan is on fighting us?"

When no reply comes, Aria laughs a little.

"Oh come on, you actually don't have to act cool all the time Lu---"

She happened to glance over to her side and sees that Luke is not there.


She stops in her tracks and turns around, what she sees is something that makes her face turn blue.

Luke is standing there with two skeletal Roman soldiers holding on to him.

But that is not what has gotten her so frightened, they aren't holding him with their bony hands, but rather their rusty steel swords that are impaling his gut and his chest.

Aria can't help but shout his name in horror,


In the black cloud is Niera, Cyrus and Xavier, all of them are looking confusedly at Rage, who looks as though he was just hit with something hard. It wasn't an attack or anything that got him rattled, but the sight of seeing Luke impaled by the two bone soldiers.

Rage can see outside his cloud whereas to the others it is simply a black wall, he has been watching their battle in great interest while the rest have been forced to use their imagination.

(This is bad!) he thinks to himself.

But he knows that if he goes out to help it would leave the rest of them defenseless against more of those creatures. Not to mention if he were to attack Pontius himself it wouldn't do any good either.

A man such as Rage would never pass the test that would allow him to inflict any damage.

(Damn it! No wonder why none of the 7 Demons of Hell just waited for us here... If they did they would easily be slain by the Gatekeeper.)

This is very true, nothing that belongs to Hell would ever be able to defeat Pontius, this truly makes him one of the most frightening beings to come across.

It would seem that the only ones capable of defeating him are Aria and Luke, two normal humans.

"VANISH!!" Phoenix shouts, and the two bone soldiers instantly turn to dust.

He immediately rushes to Luke, after dropping her sword Aria runs in to help as well.

Luke coughs up blood and falls to the ground.

"S-Shit..." he quietly says to himself as he rolls onto his side.

Aria reaches him and assesses the damage done, she turns pale at the sight. The two wounds are placed perfectly over vital points of his body, one in the lung and the other in his liver.

These two injuries combined make it so there isn't much hope in him surviving.

Frantic and scared, Aria desperately tries to figure out something that she can do but it's no good, she's only good for causing explosions.

Phoenix hisses in anger, there isn't anything he can do either because he no longer has the ability to heal people, it's not like he personally wanted to trade it for the powers he has now, it's just that the ability he had was taken back by God so he can fight with his words during the battle of Armageddon.

Showing no mercy, Pontius leaps forward and kicks Phoenix square in the face, it sends him flying and now the only one left to attack is Aria who's pretty much a sitting duck in her position alongside Luke.

But before Pontius can reach his target, he is once again interrupted by someone, but not just one this time, it's two.

Sora has sliced his side with her blade and Achilles stabs him in the ribs with Aria's dropped long-sword.

Now kept from attacking his original target, he switches his attention to them.

With his right foot he kicks Sora in the stomach and sends her flying as well.

The strength in this standing kick was incredible, it only goes to show how much a few thousand years worth of training can do to the body. It would be a miracle if a couple of Sora's ribs weren't broken.

After shooing the girl away like an insect he pulls out a dagger from his waist and lunges at Achille.

Being old, tattered and weak, Achille used his last bit of strength to plunge the sword into Pilate's body, so avoiding the dagger is an impossible task.

He smiles and then...


The dagger slams into his throat and the tip of the blade protrudes out of the back of his neck.

However, this horrible impact doesn't affect his grip on Aria’s longsword.

In fact, Achille uses his free left hand to grab the left arm of Pontius, this was a trap, and the Gatekeeper fell right into it.

The smile still remains on his face, leaving Pontius to wonder just what in the world he's smiling about when from below him a white light starts shining.

Luke is grabbing his leg, this and the sword does not allow him to take even a step closer to Aria.

"I can tell by the look on your faces that I'm a goner..." Luke said with a strained blood stained smile.

"W-Wait... what are you guys doing?" asks Aria, who's in full on panic mode after seeing the man who raised her just get stabbed in the throat.

In a gargled tone Achille tries to speak, "I now see what I've been lacking all this time... I can now see what's truly important... Make sure to keep an eye on that idiot brother of yours Aria..."

With blood flooding out of the corners of his mouth, he smiles at her in a way only a father can smile to his daughter.

He is able to inflict damage on Pontius because after all this time he finally realizes that he has been going at his dream all wrong. The selfish thoughts he once had of returning to Earth and back to the arms of his widowed wife should never have been there; the important things in life he so selfishly sought were in the form of two little twins he happened to come across one day trying to steal his wallet.

It only took him all of these years to realize that everything he's done should have been solely for their sake, and now, here is his chance to right the wrong he's done to them.

Now is the chance to truly show how much he loves them.

By giving his life for them, he will come to understand the true feeling of love.

This was actually the most important thing in life he wanted to find, and at this very moment, he's finally found it.

She begins to shake and her voice struggles to leave the back of her dried throat, "W-Wait! Wait wait wait! What are you talking about!?"

A faint voice comes from where her feet are, "Speaking of brothers... promise me that you'll take care of Xavier. I know he's brash and immature, but he's going to be the King one day so he must live on."

Luke finds the strength to smile, even as the light fades from his eyes.

“And one more thing, tell him my last words to him are... 'Grow the fuck up'."


The only thing that can come out of her mouth is the word wait.

All of this has happened so fast that it's like she is begging for things to slow down so she can process just what exactly is going on.

Struggling to breath, Luke says, "You need to go Aria."

The light grows larger and the sense of urgency becomes more clear as Pontius begins to really try to get away.

Aria stands stiff as she mutters, "N-No..."

"You have to run, otherwise you'll get caught up in this..."


"Please Aria... don’t keep me from being the cool guy now… let me be the kind of guy you could have fallen for."

Aria starts to cry hysterically as her shaky legs begin to rise into a stand, she takes a slow step back and looks at him with eyes full of sorrow. Luke needs her to get away as fast as she can, so he uses the final bit of air in his punctured lungs to shout,

"RUN, ARIA!!!!"

Aria turns and sprints away, leaving a trail of tears in her wake.

Her mind is blank as she moves so fast that the feeling in her legs is no longer there, she feels more like she’s floating atop the ground as she gets further and further away.

She shuts her eyes and grits her teeth when she shouts from within her heart...


The emotion of it all expands from her chest and then out of her mouth,


A blinding white light begins to glow from behind her and her shadow can be seen in front of her.

Chasing it with all her might like it stole something from her, everything turns an eerie quiet for a split second, and then...


The shock wave from the explosion knocks her to the ground and she slides on the soil until she comes to a grinding halt; she turns on her back to see what happened and finds the most beautiful aftermath of a blast she has ever seen.

The white and gold light has a plume similar to a miniature atomic bomb, a big mushroom shape with a circled ring surrounding its neck. Aria lies there in silence as she watches the light slowly dim until it's no longer there.

As an explosion enthusiast she can honestly say she has never seen anything like it before.

She shifts her eyes toward the spot where Pontius, Luke, and the man she called Papa were once intertwined with each other.

There's nothing.

Only the black and charred ground remain.

It is without a doubt the evidence of the deaths of those three, the blast was so powerful that nothing remains.

In somewhat of an entranced state, Aria raises her hand to the sky and says, "What a grand finale, Luke..."

Tears fall from her eyes and she sniffles through her nose when she finishes.

“You really are so damn cool.”

"Are you okay?" asked Phoenix while covering both himself and Sora with his flame cloth.

"...Yes..." Sora replies as she holds her ribs that are throbbing in pain.

The two of them gander at the damage done and can only widen their eyes in amazement, two humans defeated such a fearsome Gatekeeper. Though, unfortunately, they lost their lives in the process.

Phoenix slams his fist into a nearby stone and frowns.

He is angered at himself for not finding a way to defeat Pontius himself, he is very mad at the fact he wasn't able to exact revenge with his own hands.

But he is even more angered at the fact he let someone he cared about die because of it.

"... Aria..." Sora says as she begins to walk toward her friend.

Aria is standing at the point of the explosion in the charred soil, nothing is left of the three men, not even a memento; that is, until she kicks around the dirt a little and finds a piece of something shiny. She leans over and picks it up, but quickly drops it when the heat of it burns her hand. Looking down on it she sees that it is a little shard of her once huge long-sword.

It is nothing close to a weapon now but it is at least something to remember Achille and Luke by, she picks it up again, not caring about the heat and clenches her fingers around it.

"Heyyyy did you guys win!?" shouts Xavier.

He and the rest are running toward them, excluding Rage, who is slowly walking behind them.

Phoenix clicks his tongue and looks away, "I guess you can say that..."

"That's good right!? Now we can pass through the Gate!" Xavier exclaims.

Phoenix, Aria and Sora all stay silent as Xavier keeps speaking.

"This is great! I feel like I'm one step closer to home! Right Luke!?"

Being used to having his little brother by his side to smile embarrassingly and agree with him, he speaks as if he's been there the whole time. Phoenix and Aria's shoulders jump as they watch Xavier look around the area confusedly once he doesn't hear a reply.

"Where's Luke?"

The priest and the thief look at each other, their eyes asking which one of them wanted to explain what happened when from behind they hear a voice saying,

"He's dead."

Before either of them could say it, the harsh words come from the mouth of a cold Rage as he walks through the group and towards the Gate. Phoenix scowls at him but it doesn't affect Rage one bit as he continues his walk.

"W-Wha?" Xavier mutters.

The questioning voices don't only come from him, Niera and Cyrus have no clue what's going on either.

To ease the sting from the sharp words of Rage that happened to be oh so reminiscent of the time when Damien told the two Princes that their father had died; Phoenix walks to him and puts his hand on his shoulders.

"He died protecting all of us, he is a true hero."

"Huh? What kind of sick joke is this?" he inquires.

Phoenix takes his hand off his shoulder and shifts his eyes away once again as Xavier continues to deny it.

"Come on Phoenix, that wasn't funny at all."

He takes a step back and his eyes start to move from side to side in a frantic motion.

"Lies!! This is a damn lie!"

They still don't say anything and Xavier really begins to feel with certainty that he is telling the truth; the thing is, he just doesn't want to believe it.

"Liar! What kind of a priest would lie to a Prince so blatantly!?!? When we get back I'll have your head for such a thing! I wi---"


Xavier's face is hit hard by the open palm of Aria.

She has tears running from her eyes when she says, "Before he died I made two promises to Luke... And one of them was to tell you his last words to you."

Shocked and stiff, Xavier can't speak so he softly groans.


Aria grabs his collar and shouts point blank in his face, "His last words to you were grow the fuck up!!'"

This may seem cruel to say to someone who had just lost his brother, but that attitude of his is exactly what Luke’s dying wish was to see come to an end; so no matter how rough it is, how rough she has to be with him from now on, Aria is going to make him change no matter what.

Her mind is set. To show Luke her thanks, she will do whatever it takes to fulfill that promise she made to him.

Xavier will become a person Luke would be proud of with her help.

Rage is close to the Gate when he hears a voice come from behind him saying, "Hold on a second! What about the others? Shouldn't we wait for them to arrive?"

The voice comes from Cyrus, who is standing in front of a silent and distraught Niera.

"Absolutely not, we must leave immediately." Rage bluntly replies.

"But! Princess Niera hasn't seen her sister in months, she doesn't even know if she is safe or not! Can't we wait for them to get here so we can all pass to the other side together?"

After finding out that Luke had died, a soft spot in Cyrus' heart has been squeezed, if something were to happen to Daey, Niera would probably break down.

So he wants to make sure that Daey is alright before moving on to the second level of Purgatory.

He assumes that Aria would really want to see Strauphius as well.

But this plea falls on deaf ears when Rage bluntly responds with a resounding,


Cyrus' shoulders drop.

Assuming that he wants an explanation, Rage speaks, "I've come to the realization that the first Gate is the only Gate where all Demons of Hell know the location. Because of the strength of the Gatekeeper they didn't decide to simply wait for our arrival. If they sense that the Gatekeeper has been defeated, they could come here while we wait for the others to arrive. If that happens, then there is no guarantee that another one of you won't die. And I'm not willing to take that risk, so let's go."

Though he can’t be for sure, he’s assumed correctly. The Hierarchy knows the location of this Gate because it is the only one that remains stationary, all of the rest will change periodically in time.

It's not as though they can't find their way to the other Gates, they do have so much power over Purgatory after all, they can commute straight from Hell to any random part of each of the 5 Levels if they wanted to. It's just that the process of finding the other Gates is no different from how someone like Rage would go about it; they can get an idea of where it is but it doesn't mean it's going to be easy, or find it in a time frame that's relatively reasonable.

That being said, they know of this location on the first level already, if they find out that Pontius has been defeated they could literally appear here out of nowhere in a split second.

That's more than enough of a reason to leave the others behind and hope that Damien and the others don't catch on to the Gatekeeper's demise before the rest arrive.

The rest of the group slowly follow and Rage turns away from them, he truly isn't happy at the way things have turned out. This includes both Luke dying, and the true identity of Phoenix.

"Tch..." he hisses, and then says to himself, "Ubica... I can only hope that things have gone smoother for you."

The next day, Ubica and his group are walking up the trail that leads to the Gate, after a few minutes they finally reach their month long destination. A huge sigh of relief can be heard from the group, but a serious aura quickly sucks up the air when they think that they will most likely be fighting the Gatekeeper.

Scoping the area they see all the crucified bodies, some of the crosses are still intact and some are broken and the bones that were once nailed on them are scattered all over the place. There are signs of numerous explosions that happened so it becomes quite obvious that a serious battle has already taken place.

"Do you think it was Rage and the others?" asks Napoleon.

"Yeah..." Ubica answers, "But there is no sign that Rage fought in this one though, I’d be able to sense the remnants of his power otherwise."

"If Rage wasn't the one fighting then who was it?"

"I don't know... I have a funny feeling about this place."

Napoleon's eyebrow twitches. "Is it important?"

Ubica shuts his eyes and rubs his temple. "No not really... it's just this smell, it's very distinct... it smells like---"

"Sulfur." Messor interjects.

Her expression is intense, and she is experiencing the same kind of feeling that Ubica is.

"But it's not like any other kind of sulfur, it's just like the..." Messor takes a gasp of air before finishing her sentence.

Her and Ubica's eyes meet and it looks as though the both of them have just realized something at the same time.

"It can't be..." Ubica grumbles.

"You don't think that it's the same as--"

"Hey look over here!" shouts Tsubiri.

Her voice interrupts their train of thought and they walk to where she is pointing.

"I'm sure we’re just letting our noses fool ourselves..." Ubica says to Messor, his voice full of doubt.

She turns to him and sighs, "...Yeah, you're right. It’s got to be that."

Tsubiri is pointing at some writing that was left in the dirt, it states, 'We have gone on ahead of you.'

"That's good, that means that they made it." Daey said with a relieved sigh.

Scrolling below the large letters are smaller ones that are a little hard to see without leaning over, these spell the names of everyone who is still alive in Rage's group.

Both Strauphius and Daey turn and look away quickly, they are too nervous to read it themselves so they ask Ubica to read it for them. Of course he was wary to learn of the results also, but he obliges.

"These look more like signatures."

"That means it was written by them separately, that's good." Trojia added.

"Um... Starting from the top it says: Cyrus, Aria, Niera, Xavier, Sora, Phoenix... and at the bottom it says Rage but it's written all sloppy."

An even bigger sigh of relief comes from both Strauphius and Daey, both of their siblings are okay, the heavy weight of worry has been lifted off their shoulders by this confirmation.

"Wait, where's Luke?" Trojia queries.

Reading the list again, they find that his name is nowhere to be found.

"That doesn't mean that---"

"He died..." Napoleon interjects, he grits his teeth and flares his nostrils.

"I'm sorry Napoleon." Ubica said with a saddened expression.

Napoleon turns away and starts walking toward the Gate.

"It's not like we're related or anything... It's just that as a General, having a Prince die under my tenure is unforgivable."

The rest leave him alone and simply follow him toward the light under the arches.

Though Tsubiri didn't know Luke all too well, they spent a good enough amount of time around each other that she knew he was a good person. "I kind of see where he's coming from... though I don't like him, I don't know what I'd do if Prince Xavier died. Especially since I'm supposed to be the one protecting him."

Ubica doesn't respond, he doesn't know how to associate himself with the honor code these soldiers follow, but he does know the feeling. When Niomyo was killed he felt like he had failed her, the only thing he can do is vow that he will never let it happen again and never look back.

Trojia comes up to Ubica's side and asks, "What do you think it will be like on the other side of the Gate?"

"Beats me... I just hope it's not cold."

Tsubiri snaps out of her deep thought and shouts, "I think it'd be great if it is cold! Then I can buy you another jacket!"

Ubica pulls on Tsubiri's ear. "If you buy me another one of those jackets I'll smother you with it."

"Owowowowow that's a little violent don't you think!? How can you say that to such a fragile girl!?"

“You are about as fragile as the toughest guy I know!"

Tsubiri flails her arms around like a little child until she grabs a hold of Ubica's thumb and pulls as hard as she can. "Do tough guys fight like this!?"

She opens her mouth and chomps down on three of Ubica's fingers, causing him to scream.

"Ngggyyyaaahh that hurts!!"

Trojia can't sit idly by and watch her attack him so she jumps in and tries to pull Ubica away.

“How is it possible that you live your life perpetually shameless!? Jeez Tsubiri!" she shouts.

Ubica has turned into a rag doll that is being yanked on in every direction, his eyes are spinning as he is being manhandled.

A black aura surrounds Messor as she watches this scene with a forced smile on her face.

Strauphius has a slight tear in his eye and wishes he could get bit by Tsubiri.

Daey laughs at the scene, relieved that a dangerous battle was just avoided and that they’re able to make it through to the next level in such high spirits.

Hearing and sensing all the commotion behind him, Napoleon can't help but smile, he chuckles a little and says to himself, “As hard as this last month has been, with you guys around... I actually look forward to our next adventure."

Napoleon, and the rest of the squabbling group all enter the Gate and disappear into its light.

The next stop is the second level of Purgatory, where a completely new world awaits.

Different people are there to be met, and different battles will be fought.

They have been bonded by a situation none of them could have foreseen, but as a result they have become a group of friends strong enough to get through it together.

The Ransom: (END)

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