226 Facing the Storm
Following Saigo's goodbye's, on the other end of the connection, Zoey stood there for a moment, anger coursing through her body. She was angry at herself for getting her crew stuck in this situation, forcing them to make a sacrifice like this. If she had been stronger… Maybe it would not have come to this.
Now, she had to walk into that deadly chamber, knowing that she could survive with her abilities, but also understanding that Saigo would not make it back, and the thought of it was suffocating her. But despite the tightness in her chest, Zoey knew that her anger and sorrow were nothing compared to Baiken's, and she also knew that this had to be done one way or the other if they wanted to save the Asurai clan in time.
So with a deep breath, Zoey focused her anger, channeling and controlling it into something more useful as she spoke again over the comm-link to the others, "Okay, everyone else, step back from the doors, even being close could kill you. Saigo, your Eve will be torched by the energy, but the magic essence Praesidio left inside will still work, just get to the terminal and touch the Eve to it."
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"Understood. Good luck, Zoey. Please take care of everyone," Saigo quietly replied with a peaceful look on his face.
"I promise I will do my utmost," Zoey replied with sincerity to his request.
Then the two of them got ready to open the doors that blocked their way while the others retreated to a safe distance. On Saigo's side, Baiken still maintained her impassive mask as she stood back, Azai's face showed sadness and acceptance as he followed her, and Markus was still pulled along with a stunned, uncomprehending look on his face.
With Zoey, Viridi was sitting a short distance away, her emerald eyes watching her friend with concern. Viridi could sense the inner turmoil Zoey was feeling, and was worried about her, but at the same time she knew that she could not do anything in this situation to help with the problems they faced.
With a final check to make sure everything was in place, Zoey steeled herself and spoke to Saigo, "Okay, we will open the doors at the same time, at that moment, Praesidio will activate a countdown of one minute. We need to find the terminals and get to them so Praesidio's program can initiate the shutdown of the city's factories and free the Stella Tenebris."
"I understand. Any idea what these terminals will look like?" Saigo asked.
"Check the image I just sent you," Zoey said as she sent him an image of the other command terminal that they had encountered before. "It should look something like that, and it may be hidden by machinery like that one was. It's hard to say what we will find in there without being able to scan ahead."
Once he had studied the image for a moment Saigo nodded and readied up by the door, preparing his innate talent for the task ahead as he replied to Zoey, "Alright, I'm ready."
With the confirmation from Saigo, Zoey wasted no more time and activated a five-second countdown began right away and stood at the door on her side, ready to move once the timer hit zero.
5, 4, 3, 2, 1!
At the same moment, both Saigo and Zoey activated their abilities and wrenched open the doors to the deadly chamber, stepping inside quickly and closing the door behind them with simultaneous bangs.
Baiken, Azai, and Markus watched the General disappear into the vibrant orange glow of the light in the chamber, all of their hearts heavy for different reasons, but all of them shared the sorrow of knowing that he would not return. On the other side, Viridi's intelligent emerald eyes were focused on the door Zoey had disappeared behind, worried about her friend, but certain that the person that her soul was linked to would return.
The moment Zoey stepped into the orange light inside the chamber and closed the door, she was already fully channeling her Mittra Regen Rune through her entire body, a torrent of godly power rushing from the Arbiter's Mark through her inner world and flowing through her body to fuel the incredible amount of energy she was consuming.
Despite the magical healing energy that suffused every cell in Zoey's body, not even that could prepare her for the potency of the superactive energy storm that awaited her. It was as if she was suddenly standing before a Nova Blast Furnace going all out, and a Gemini Absolute-Zero Cooling Core, all at the same time. Her outer layer of skin felt like it was blistering away from the heat and freezing solid at the same time, all the while her Mittra Regen Rune furiously worked to repair the damage as it happened.
Zoey was an old friend to pain, but the fusion of searing heat, deathly cold, and revitalizing healing energy flowing through her almost made Zoey pass out. But the thought of her crew and the sacrifice that Saigo was making refocused her mind back to her mission. She had to find that Terminal! With clenched jaw and fists, she started to move, one foot in front of the other, deeper into the chamber as the energy storm howled silently around her.
At the other location, Saigo had entered into the chamber at the same time Zoey had with his innate talent already active. His talent, born from a common Asurai Heritage, was simply known as Diverting Tides. It was a talent that if trained properly, provided one the ability to reflect and redirect incoming attacks. However, Saigo had long ago discovered that rather than reflecting and redirecting attacks, this innate talent had far greater applications. As he had with Serena's magical sound attack, and more recently with Baiken's magical fists, he could control the flow of magical energy itself by utilizing Diverting Tides, becoming like the ocean waves as they come and go upon the shores.
He did not know how well this would work on the deadly energy that he now faced, but his mind was set, and his mission was clear as he slammed the door closed behind him. Like Zoey, he was instantly subjected to the ruthless barrage of molten heat and blood-numbing cold that filled the chamber. As familiar as Saigo was with the ebbs and flows of magical energy, he had never in his long life experienced a force so tyrannical and oppressive as this!
It felt to him as if a storm of fire and ice was suddenly raging through the very marrow of his bones as he struggled to redirect the flow of ruthless energy slamming into him, invisible winds of fury threatening to rip the flesh from his body with violent power. However, his will was hammered steel, and with his teeth bared against the pain, his eyes alight with determination, and his hands swirling in the movements associated with Diverting Tides, he strode into the chamber, his eyes searching for his goal even while it felt like they were blistering in their sockets. He knew already that he was a dead man walking, but so long as he cycled Diverting Tides and maintained his will, he could weather the storm. If he dared stop, even for an instant, Saigo knew that death would claim him into its cold embrace.
Hi everyone, sorry for the long delay on this chapter. Life has a way of kicking you while you are down, and I had little time for writing the last few days.
We should be back to normal schedule now, so next chapter will be tomorrow.
Thanks for your patience, and thank you for reading!