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Chapter 38: Rage Mode
As it turns out, the supposed tests were putting the groups into simulations to increase their stress levels and see how the blot affected their bodies. Having copies of their close friends mocking them was unpleasant to say the least, but odd occurrences happened during all the tests. The simulation had glitched each time one of the boys was pushed too far, revealing the undisguised virtual world. Idia was frustrated to say the least since every time he tried to analyze the problem, it vanished. Still, they managed to get good data from the tests, so while the boys rested, the Shroud brothers reviewed their findings.
"Those are very astounding numbers!" Ortho exclaimed
Idia nodded in agreement. "Sir Leona might be spoiled, but he is royalty. And you know royalty, they don't scrimp on quality education. His magical activation speed and overall magical energy are extraordinary. He's very in tune with his magic, and he knows how to hold his ground against similarly powered enemies. He reacts accordingly, which means that he produces less Blot than the average mage."
"We've also got to commend him for not letting external factors affect his performance."
"Yeah, but I don't really have much to say about it, really. It's obvious that he doesn't really get fazed, but...I'm concerned about those glitches." The older boy's frown grew. "I can't test if he can hold out against fear, anger, and other emotions if it came from an internal source with that kind of interference."
The robot boy seemed equally baffled by it. "Oh, I see. It is odd since the system has been completely perfect up until this point. As for the test, Leona has a strong mental fortitude overall, but when faced with a wave of overwhelming emotion, it's more likely for him to produce Blot."
"Like Sir Vil, Sir Leona seems like he'd do well as a tank. I mean, his whole "leader of the pack" vibe doesn't suit the tank class, but whatever. Their personalities totally don't match their job descriptions, but our little team of SSR's is gonna be so OP. LMAO."
"Oh, what about Jamil? What RPG class do you think would suit him?"
"Sir Jamil is... I mean, he can practically do any kind of job, but on the surface, he's most similar to Sir Azul. He prioritizes accuracy more than speed and power. According to his records, Sir Jamil didn't take specialized lessons prior to enrolling in Night Raven College. I just can't pinpoint if he's doing this to conserve magic or if he's scared of running out.
Ortho nodded. "To quote you, "Pros: He's calm and efficient. Cons: He'll need to wait for others to make a move so he can buy himself some time."
"Yes, but he's pretty quick to deploy defensive magic. He is Sir Kalim's retainer, so I'm assuming it was an acquired skill."
"He'd do well as a tank with an offensive set, or maybe even as a healer."
"Oh, for real. He's definitely not a beginner-friendly character."
"Hehe~ It doesn't matter who you pick. It's always fun to level up all kinds of characters."
""Night Raven Quest" sounds like a good title."
"I wanna try playing it~! Let's make it an open world game. How about starting with seven nations first."
"Hold on now, my boy. An open world game is too expensive to maintain. I was thinking more along the lines of a 64KB ROM game."
"Aww... I know you can make it happen though."
"Yeah, I can. But it's too much work, so no."
There was a pause before the younger brother looked up shyly at Idia. "Say, Brother... Have you tried inviting the other Prefects to play that online game you always do with CrimsonMuscles?"
"What!?" Idia nearly fell over. "Hell no. What are you saying? These people aren't remotely interested in games. Plus, anyone who's been involved with S.T.Y.X. will need to pass through the "Lethe River" eventually. The Lethe River allows us to erase our existence from both available data as well as people's memories. It's impossible for us to be forming friendships with the people who live in a world outside of ours. It ends the same way... We'll all have to pretend that it never happened in the first place..."
Unlike the other captives, Grim had been completely isolated in one room for further study. The fire cat lashed out, writhing to escape.
"Ugh... Wha... Oof... Let me go... Wha–! Wh-where am I...? The VDC ended, so I went out... I was hungry...And then..." Grim stop struggling as the memories came rushing back: the darkness, an unending hunger, and the feeling of his claws slicing flesh. "Why would I do that to (Y/N)...? Am I locked up because I attacked (Y/N)...?" The memory of the battle at Ramshackle also came back to him, how (Y/N) had been taken out and the boys were crushed under the rubble. "They got themselves hurt...Ace, Deuce, Epel... (Y/N)......I'm not coming back to Ramshackle Dorm, am I......?"
As Grim began to cry, a small body rubbed up against him, beeping comfortingly. Lifting his head from his paws, he saw Rotom, its usual smile now gloomy.
"Rotom?" The Pokémon beeped again, this time sounding much more encouraging. "I-is (Y/N) here too?" The Pokémon shook their head. "No. She's coming?"
Rotom chirped happily before suddenly disappearing into the circuit board. Grim wrapped his tail around himself.
"(Y/N), I'm sorry. Please come quick..."
After they had their wounds checked, the boys were once again gathered in the lounge, waiting for further testing.
"Remind me to murder Shroud when we get out of here." Leona growled.
Azul adjusted his glasses. "If we get out of here."
"I wouldn't worry too much about that." Jamil said. "I'm pretty sure help is on the way."
Riddle tilted his head. "How can you be sure?"
"Rotom? I saw you earlier. You can come out."
The Plasma Pokémon burst from the computer, laughing maniacally.
Vil smiled. "I never thought I'd be so happy to see one of (Y/N)'s monsters besides Vulpix."
Rotom zipped around to greet everyone, stopping on Azul's shoulder as the octopus gave him a head scratch.
"Clever little ghost. Did (Y/N) send you?"
The ghost beeped as a yes.
Leona smirked, putting his arms behind his head. "Well, where one of those beasts are, the Herbivore isn't far behind. Looks like Shroud is in for an earlier butt kicking than I thought."
They all began smirking as a warning alarm began sounding, Rotom cackling in the background.
Idia and Ortho were in the hall when the alarm went off. The older Shroud picked up his phone as it began to vibrate.
"This is Idia Shroud. Speak.
"We are being attacked by an unknown faction." One of the operators warned.
"What was that? What happened to the invisible shield?"
Ortho began to analyze the equipment. "The invisible shield is active. It shouldn't even be possible for us to be under–,"
"Charon Hepta Unit has been deployed." The operator said. "Drones have been activated to monitor the situation."
"Roger." The younger Shroud responded. "Connecting the drones to the external monitoring system. Projecting the footage in 3, 2, 1..."
The minute the screen cleared, Idia was face to face with an incredibly pissed off (Y/N) riding on a dragon that was also angry. Even through the screen, Idia could feel the intense rage and urge to kill from the girl.
"Idia..." She did yell, but the coldness in her voice was more than terrifying.
In the lounge, Rotom was kind enough to hack into the drones so the boys could watch the show. Leona was loving this.
"Ooh, the Herbivore looks so pissed. Shroud's a dead man."
Riddle was kinda scared. "Honestly, I didn't think I could see her more mad than when I Overblotted."
Back in the hall, Idia was having a heart attack.
"WHAT THE–?! LADY (Y/N)!? Wh-what is she doing here?! HOW did she even get here!?"
"Hepta Unit is on standby." Another operator announced. "Beginning counterattack."
"All right, time out. I'm sure we're on the same page, but hold that thought! Capture them!"
The Ferrymen raced out to face the intruders, but a few unlucky souls got sniped out of the sky by Dragapult.
"Rook. Epel." Both boys sat straight. "Leave this to me. Do not land."
"Yes ma'am." They both agreed.
(Y/N) then turned back to the drones, looking sharply at the camera.
"Open the gate." It was low and threatening.
"Sh-she's not serious, right?" Idia asked.
As if she could hear him, she repeated the command. "Idia. That wasn't a request. Open the gate, or I will do it myself."
"S-she's bluffing." Idia tried to convince himself. "Restrain her!"
The Ferrymen pointed their weapons at the girl as she pulled out a Pokeball. "Drop your weapon and come quietly!"
She sighed. "All right. We do this the hard way then."
Azul, who was also enjoying the show, suddenly recognized the Ultra Ball in her hand. "Wait, isn't that-?"
The sphere flew open as Gyarados appeared with a fearsome roar. The Ferrymen were caught off guard by the sudden appearance of the sea serpent.
(Y/N) pointed forward. "Gyarados, rip them to shreds!"
The Atrocious Pokémon roared, charge forward, laying waste to anything unfortunate enough to be in his path. He remembered these pesky little insects and unlucky for them, they couldn't gang up on him like they did at Night Raven College. The Ferrymen tried to stop the rampaging beast, but taking a direct hit from an Aqua Tail while flying was a good way to face plant into the dirt. (Y/N) in contrast was calmly flying to the nearest building, the one Idia happened to be in.
The Shroud brothers were panicking as they could feel the vibrations of Gyarados attacks from where they were.
"GAH!" Idia screamed as they ran towards the entrance. "I DIDN'T MEAN TO TRIGGER A SECRET BOSS! WE'RE NOT HIGH ENOUGH LEVEL FOR THIS!"
"Sir, she's approaching!" Even the operator sounded scared. "What do we do!?"
Ortho tried to calm him and himself. "Um brother, it is unlikely even the sea serpent could penetrate the base."
"Y-your right." Idia said. "Even Stone can't pierce pure titanium."
At that exact moment, a large, blue, steely leg pierced the door like a hot knife through butter. Idia slightly screamed as the leg pulled back to reveal angry red eyes. (Y/N) then stepped through the hole, grabbed Idia by the collar of his shirt, and dragged down to her eye level.
"Shroud. Where are they?"
"I'll take you! I'll take you! Just call off the monsters!" He pleaded.
She let him go. "Good boy." She hopped back outside to get Gyarados under control.
"Sir! We can't allow outsiders in!" The operator proclaimed.
Ortho nodded. "It is against protocol."
"She's a fully maxed out SSR Hero! She will destroy us if we don't play along! You can tell her hell beast they're not allowed in!"
(Y/N) returned with Rook and Epel in tow as the trio followed the Shroud brother below. Mercifully, (Y/N) returned Gyarados and Psuedo legendaries to their balls in exchange for Swampert, who was glaring down Idia the whole way. As they walked, the girl heard a ringing in her ears as she drifted into a daydream. There was a beautiful young woman and a blue skinned male with flaming hair like Idia's.
"Looks like it's game over." The woman taunted. "None of your curveballs worked."
The male chuckled. "Oh, really? He's got to have a weakness, right? Even Wonder Boy's got one or two things that turn his knees into jelly. Go and look into it for me, will you? I'll reward you with something that you've been fighting tooth and nail for. I'm talking about your freedom."
(Y/N) shook her head, refocusing herself.
Idia was uncomfortable with all this. "God, you do understand that you don't respawn if you die in real life, right...?"
The girl crossed her arms. "Bold of you to assume you could get rid of me that easily."
"I think you shouldn't risk your life doing something so stupid. If I weren't the Acting Director, you guys would've gotten a one-way ticket to the underworld."
"I'd love to see your little Ferrymen try. By the way, you owe me a new dorm while you're at it."
Epel, ignoring his friend intimidating the Ignihyde dorm leader, stared out a nearby window. "Whoa... There's a whole city under the sea...!"
Rook nodded. "Yes...! We are really here in the flesh. Hello, Island of Woe!"
Idia led the group through Old Town, muttering the whole way.
"Sorry to burst your bubble, but this isn't a vacation. Stop being so excited like you've come here to see the sights or whatever! Is your head screwed on tight?
Epel leaned towards (Y/N). "Idia-san's really here. It's hard to believe."
She nodded. "Looks like Malleus was right."
Rook then gave him a stern look. "Idia Shroud... You are S.T.Y.X's, as well as the Island of Woe's, Gatekeeper. I must say I am beyond surprised..."
"That should be my line." He replied indignantly. "How did you even get here?"
Rook subtlety glanced at (Y/N), who motioned her head at the flaming haired male. "Would you please entertain our question before we disclose everything? Are the students you've captured unhurt?"
Idia rolled his eyes. "I'm tired of this whole secret organization schtick, so I'm gonna be upfront with you. They're all doing great. Annoyingly so."
"Terrific!" The blonde beamed. "My heart has been pounding with anxiety ever since they were taken away."
"Our Ferrymen beat you guys up badly back at school, right? What even motivated you to chase us this far?"
(Y/N) growled, causing him to cower behind his little brother. "You kidnapped my friends, threatened my Pokémon, and trashed my dorm! Did you think you weren't gonna have me to deal with!?"
Rook held her back. "As I've mentioned, I am here to come to Vil's aid."
"Dictionaries define "dire" as something that poses an immediate threat to one's life or safety." Ortho said, still protecting his brother. "You've mentioned it once or twice, but... Is Vil Schoenheit suffering from something life-threatening?"
"Fortunately, he is not. However, given enough time, he might be... We have come here to prevent it before it escalates into something worse. I wouldn't hesitate to sacrifice myself if it meant helping my beloved friend. Would you hand these over to Vil...?"
The blonde then handed the two brothers an armful of beauty products.
Idia raised a brow at them. "What are these? Medicine... No, that's not it."
"Scanning all of the contents." His brother announced. "Moisturizer, Vitamin C, collagen, essential oils... I think I know what these are...!"
"Indeed!" Rook proclaimed. "They are Vil's favorite skincare products!"
"MAKE IT MEAN SOMETHING, DAMN IT!" Idia screamed before a stern look from Swampert quieted him down. "Huh...? Are they really just lotions and stuff...? They're not potions that you hexed to get back at us or something...? Are you sure...?"
"I just finished scanning them all, and they didn't contain anything toxic or poisonous." Ortho assured him. Some of the lotions were charmed to produce better results. They're just make-up, that's for sure."
"Oh, wow... I don't even know where to begin...You know, there are better things out there that are worth risking your lives for, and it's certainly not this..."
"I get you're a recluse, but do you really understand Pomefiore so little?" (Y/N) asked genuinely.
Rook ignored her. "I would dare to disagree, Roi de la réclusion! As you said, there is nothing more precious to us than our own life! However, there are many people out there who are willing to risk their lives for their own policies."
Epel shivered. "You judge us only because you haven't seen how scary Vil-san is when he misses his skincare routine! Y'all would rather wish you were dead!"
Idia shrugged. "I mean, explain all you like, but uh...Wait, is that really all that you came here for?
Ortho was in complete disbelief. "You came all the way out here just to deliver some skincare products...? Even if I examine all of the data within S.T.Y.X's super computer system, your methods are still out of the ordinary...It seems like we'll need to look into this rare case some more."
Idia shook his head. "I know what they came here for, but I can't say I understand it one bit. Moving on... Hey, Ramshackle Dorm's Prefect. What's your purpose here? Are you here to hand deliver some cat food for Sir Grim? Maybe even a special hair brush?"
She cracked her knuckles. "No, I am here to get the boys back and maybe add thrashing you out of revenge, but you can still avoid that one."
"Yes ma'am!" He squeaked before whispering under his breath. "Damn, problem children who like to act like heroes despite being helpless really do exist, huh..."
She gritted her teeth. "Helpless, you say? Wanna tell Gyarados how helpless he is?"
Idia bit his tongue before whispering something to Ortho.
The robotic boy then turned and bowed to the trio and Swampert. "Hello again~! Rook Hunt-san, Epel Felmier-san. Oh, and (Y/N) Stone-kun. I have a lot of things I want to ask you, so please come with me.
Rook nodded. "Of course. But, would you permit me to see Vil even for just a moment? I would feel very assured if I see him doing well."
"Unfortunately, I cannot allow you to see him until all the tests are finished. I'm sorry. We'll arrange for you to meet them as soon as the observations are over, so please wait for a little bit longer."
"Yes, I understand. Accommodating us here is more than generous already."
Idia sighed in relief. "All right... I'm heading back inside...Please don't cause any more trouble. Behave and listen to Ortho's instructions. See you..."
"No promises." (Y/N) said spitefully.
Idia took the care products and left as a vehicle suddenly appeared before them.
Epel whistled. "Whoa! What was that!? It's so cool!"
"It's a magical vehicle tailored for S.T.Y.X. use." Ortho explained. "The locals call it "Chariot". Most of the people who live here don't reside in the Old Town. The residential area is located by the outer walls, and we call it Okeanos. We have monorails and elevators present, of course, but a flying vehicle is the most convenient mode of transportation.
"The outer walls...?" Epel repeated. "I see nothing but the sky, but... We are under the ocean, so it makes sense. It feels a little weird seeing a sky under the sea though...
"A human's body requires not only nutrition but enough sunlight in order to function well. In order to maintain physical well-being, we've used the latest technology to create an environment that's similar to the lands above. The outer walls are equipped with engineered machines that can replicate changes in weather as well as the four seasons. We have forests and rivers here, too."
"Well, I'll be..."
Rook looked quite impressed. "What an astounding use of technology. It is boggling to imagine that we are under the sea.
Ortho chuckled. "It is, isn't it~? This place is more agreeable than the surface!"
"Speaking of marvelous... The architecture around us is breath-taking as well. These columns resemble those that I've seen in the Kingdom of Heroes." Rook pointed out.
"The Island of Woe used to be a part of the Kingdom of Heroes long, long ago. The buildings you see here are a relic of the Old Town."
"Goodness! You mean to say that we stand in the presence of the very historic ruins themselves!? They have been very well-preserved!"
"What's the big, white pillar in the center?" Epel asked.
"It's S.T.Y.X. Headquarters. It's connected to Okeanos Hall, the entrance that brought you inside the Island of Woe. The pillar goes all the way down."
(Y/N) eyed the pillar. That had to be where the boys and Rotom were.
"Countless Phantoms are buried all the way down the pillar." Ortho continued to explain. "Although, they are under cryostasis right now. I understand your curiosity, but I'd advise against coming near them...That is, if you don't want to end up like me..."
That quick, melancholy look was not lost upon Rook and (Y/N). It was quiet rare for such an expression on Ortho's face.
"Monsieur Doll?" Rook asked. "What's the matter?"
The boy perked up immediately. "It's nothing~! This island has a lot of dangerous areas, so please don't go wandering around without supervision! Alright, come and follow me."
Ortho led them underground and had them sign forms while explaining what they were doing to the kidnapped students. He tried getting a footprint from Swampert, but the water type was far too big. (Y/N) was also forced to reveal Rotom to the young boy, who was quite fascinated with the Pokémon.
The younger Shroud gathered all the forms from them. "Thank you for signing the NDA. Thank you very much for explaining how you managed to find us and the island as well." He tilted his head to the jittery ghost type. "But... It is very strange, so I don't know how helpful it will be for future security upgrades."
"Truly?" Rook said. "I do believe we ventured here with the most natural of intentions."
Ortho looked at all of them. "A person who came to deliver skincare products. A young man who seeks to avenge his friends that got hurt. And then, we have another one who came here to rescue test subjects...and also revenge. Humans are so complex... Rather, you're all very unpredictable...What surprised me the most was how you got to the island in the first place. I didn't imagine Stone had a monster that was essentially a living computer virus! Though, that also means you know everyone's locations and have the method to bypass security."
(Y/N) smirked. "Guilty."
Ortho stamped his foot. "I knew it! Brother was right when he said that you Night Raven people don't know when to give up!"
Rook stepped between them "We had planned on being firm had Vil and the others been subjected to unsavory punishment. However, you have explained the situation quite clearly, little Ortho. I was aware that they were undergoing special care and treatment after they went into Overblot...But I feel relieved after hearing that you will be providing them with even better care here at S.T.Y.X."
"Why did you guys go out of your way to abduct them so violently though?" Epel asked, still a little angry. "If you weren't planning on hurting them here, then explaining the situation would've been enough to get them to come with you."
Ortho bowed his head shamefully. "We're really sorry. Most subjects we've handled before have lost their sanity enough to not listen to reason. It's why the first step in our protocol is to restrain and capture. After that, we move on to explaining...Most mages who have gone into Overblot turn into monsters. A shell powered by desire and violence, one could say. They're dangerous beings who will stop at nothing to achieve their goals. Moreover, never have we encountered so many Overblot cases happening in a concentrated area. S.T.Y.X. was just exercising caution, too. It's good and fortunate that the test results show that they've regained their senses and reason, but we had to be prepared for the worst. It's common for those who go into Overblot, as well as those around them, to lose their lives. To leave alive is very lucky.
Rook nodded. "Indeed, We consider ourselves to have been very fortunate. Seeing Vil go into Overblot seems more like a distant dream with every passing day. I had sworn to watch him closely, too. More than his mirror, and certainly more than his 5 million followers. What have I been doing all this time, I wonder..."
"Rook-san?" Epel said.
"Pardon me. It is but one of my regrets. Moreover...We still do not know if my interference would have saved him from Overblotting. My presence there being able to help save him is but one of my many fancies. Vil's anger and his pain belong to no one but himself. We are merely observers...
"Um, if you understand that much, then why did you come all the way here?" Ortho asked.
"It is so I can proudly say that I did everything that I could."
"Did everything you could...?"
"Yes. I am doing this merely to satisfy my own policies."
Ortho shook his head. "You are quite the difficult one to grasp..."
(Y/N) crossed her arms. "That's all you could do, Rook. Back on topic, my Pokémon. Your Ferrymen attacked them and attempted to abduct them too."
Ortho now looked like a child being scolded by his mother. "Yeah, that was too far. Our scientists were baffled by the biology of your monsters. Given that your arrival with them happened right before the first Overblot, they may have incorrectly hypothesized they were connected somehow."
"...okay, I see the thought process. Still doesn't excuse my dorm being leveled."
Ortho flinched. "We'll...have it fixed. Anyways, thank you for providing me with very interesting forms of data. I need to return to Headquarters soon. Lunch and dinner are scheduled for 12 noon, and 7PM respectively, but if you feel like having them earlier, please feel free to push the button near the door. It will connect you to our operators. If you speak to the screen in front of you, the virtual assistants should activate. You can play some games or even watch a movie. It's better than being bored, yes?"
Epel was already fiddling with the devices. "That's amazing! They already have the latest movies here."
(Y/N), sated with the half apology, smiled at the young boy. "Thank you for your hospitality, Ortho."
He nodded back, glad she was no longer murderous. "Please wait here until we're done with all the tests."
Ortho left, once again being trailed by Rotom.
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