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From the Ashes

#1
Wind carried ash across Death Mountain, spreading the most common natural resource of this land just like it would any other day. Like the sands of a desert or the waves of the ocean, the constant flow of ash slowly removed any evidence that there had been any sort of battle. But the wounds on the surface of the mountain were there, buried beneath the fresh coat of dulled embers.
 
There was a metaphor somewhere in there.
 
A gloved hand reached through the blood soaked substance, parting the black powder as it reached for anything that it could grasp to. Finding nothing, it settled for a handful of burnt ash, and pushed down. This was leverage enough, and Zack Fair rose from his shallow would-be grave. He still couldn’t stand completely, but he was able to at least rise to a seated position. Congealed blood and the namesake resource of this verse fell from him as he merely sat and gathered his strength.
 
Zack had no idea how much time had passed. He also didn’t really know exactly where he was, or what had happened to the others. It was wildly apparent that the battle had been lost, but whether there were any survivors besides himself was not obvious at the moment. Surely Volvagia had spared as few as possible. He hoped Nealaphh had gotten his message, and that Beta and Gamma teams were aware of Alpha’s defeat.
 
It the distance, a roar could be heard, along with the sounds of battle. Zack nodded to no one in acknowledgement of what that meant. Maybe his warning had been irrelevant. He wanted to jump back to action, and to take another shot at the dragon. That wasn’t a possibility at the moment, loathe as he was to admit it. He was never one to quit a fight, and he’d certainly beaten bigger things in his life. That was before the balancing act of the Omniverse, however. Not that “balanced” was a word Zack would have used to describe the insane power that Volvagia had hurled at them. Had they stood even the slightest chance?
 
Slowly, he reached back into his resting place, finding the handle of the Buster Sword and pulling his weapon from the coat of ash as well. He then found and removed his phone from it. Though the sword only had a few nicks and dents, the phone was certainly inoperable with the damage it had taken. He’d fix it later. As much as he wanted to call to his allies, it was more important to assess the casualty count up here, and then get the hell off this summit before Volvagia came back to add to the numbers.
 
That was a very demanding task for the man who had just barely survived the battle with the beast who was better described as a force of nature. Truly, Zack appreciated the urgency and how critical time was. It would have to wait, though. He sat there ignoring the pelting of the windblown ash on his wounded body, paid no attention to the possibility of the wyrm returning, and disregarded the sounds of distant battle.
 
He just needed one more moment to rest.
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#2
Ashes rained down from the heavens. Blood bore down from his wounds. And gravity burdened the Prime’s shoulders, who had still yet to stand. After Gildarts’ hand had reached the skull, the Prime’s single, bloodshot eye had widened, with what was something only akin to fear. He could not find it in himself to throw it aside, as though it were just another rock, nor, could Gildarts simply set it in the stones in which he had come.

His lips were dry, and caked with hot blood, which was streaming down from his temple. Gildarts held the skull in his hand, and perhaps, had the strength, he may have set it to rest. Gildarts had to set it aside, for he felt the pouring drain of fatigue rinse from his muscles, and could no longer be tasked to even take a second to halt upon his way. In the distance, the dragon flew, laying siege for cause of their own instigation. Somehow, in his heart, he wished he could have stopped it. Yet there was nothing left, for the Prime, who only originally had one working leg and arm, was now reduced to a place lower than his own knees.

Blood gurgled once more in Gildarts’ gut. Sulfur continued to burn in his single-open eye, and the pain, the bone-hollowing pain, formed a burning tear in the corner of the Prime’s eye as it trickled downward, and fell upon the ashen ground of this all too broken verse. Dust flurried from the air, the sky, and anything above his shoulders, and it smelt like the dust of the dead.

A heavier burden crunched on the mage’s shoulders, as he attempted to lift himself upright with the last shreds of his arm. Two decent sized gashes could be seen thinning the man’s once sinewy arm, though they had been burnt over to cease the bleeding, Gildarts, the mighty Prime, could not even stand, and looked like a haggard shadow of his once-strong self.

He had not even the strength to turn his own head over his shoulder, in order to regard the dead. The mage wondered, if he had even the strength to roll down the mountain at the expense of every still-solid bone in his body. Blood trickled onto the whites of his teeth now, while his mouth hung open, rasping for each and every breath, and spraying out some with each exhale. The man’s face and body looked rugged, kissed by death once, and beaten endlessly by all the forces that resulted defeat.

His own strength had diminished, Gildarts, perched with his back against a rock, with but a single hand moving, and only one eye blinking, may have forgotten to breathe, had his view not fixed on something remarkable, donned in black, and struggling on his own to stand. Zack Fair, one of his companions had lived.

The burden of the Strongest Prime was lifted, and Gildarts heard his own relieved breath leave his lungs, and fill his body with a happier reason to live again.
[Image: -Gildarts-fairy-tail-35651033-300-180.gif]
"I have never met a strong person with an easy past." -Atticus
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#3
Time heals all wounds.
 
Or, more appropriately in this case, Omnilium heals all wounds.
 
Though it was far from a fast process, Zack could feel basic abilities beginning to come back. Severed tendons, though still weak, were at least reconnected. He could move limbs, though the pain was no less excruciating. At some point he was going to have to suck it up and power through the agony to get off this mountain. Might as well be now.
 
There was one small comfort, and that was the fact that he wasn’t alone. Not far from him was the powerful mage who had fought alongside him and the others. It appeared that they were the only two survivors, though it was not for any of their own merit. They had simply escaped the kill zone by being defeated sooner than the others. Just another quirk and unpredictability of the battlefield. Such was life.
 
“Gildarts!” Zack called out to his friend. The term “friend” might have seemed premature, given their slim interactions, but after the experience they had shared there was no way they wouldn’t stumble off Death Mountain with some sort of brotherhood established between them.
 
“Zack!” Gildarts returned the shout, still favoring his prosthetic appendages as he leaned against a boulder, for they made the pain slightly less unbearable.
 
“Hey, we gotta get the hell out of here!” Zack was straight to the point as even the effort it took to work his vocal cords was unbearable. Such a simple task now seemed like a great challenge to overcome. “Before that thing comes back. Are there any other survivors?”
 
“I don’t know,” Gildarts admitted, closing his eyes briefly. He blinked repeatedly, to remove the blood that pooled slightly on his eyebrows when he did. “I doubt it.”
 
Zack stabbed the Buster Sword into the ground, and shifted his fully body weight onto it as he managed to get to his feet. The massive blade served perfectly as a temporary crutch while he came to terms with the incredible feat that was standing on his own two legs. Blood continued to run down him, and he could actually feel it pooling inside his boots. Every open wound continued to scream as he put the intense demand of movement on his own body.
 
There was a barking sound, not entirely unlike that of a dog. Zack glanced over to see the Chain Chomp he’d lost mid battle hoping around wildly. The untamed beast didn’t know what to do with its newfound freedom, and Zack admittedly didn’t know how to manhandle it back into submission in his current state. When the metal monster came close to him, though, he pressed one foot down on its dragging chain. The Chain Chomp yelped in surprise, and Zack echoed it in pain. However, the monster was clearly tired from its shenanigans, as it paid no mind as Zack picked it up and returned it to its resting place on his belt.
 
With his arsenal recovered, Zack listened to the sounds of battle in the distance. It sounded like Volvagia was at the Goron village. That couldn’t be good.
 
“They’re still fighting,” Zack observed aloud. It was an obvious conclusion, but he felt the need to voice it.
 
“We’re in no condition to help,” Gildarts took his own turn stating the plain truth, but also contemplated the battle. “The others must have pursued it.”
 
“Yea, let’s worry about us,” Zack agreed, knowing there was no possible use they could be against Volvagia’s might in their current state.
 
The former SOLDIER ripped his massive sword from the ground, and stumbled over to his surviving ally. Gildarts looked up as Zack offered a hand down to him. A weak smile met a weak smile. Gildarts took his hand and they both groaned as Zack pulled the Crash Mage to his feet. They would recover, and they would move on, one step at a time.
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#4
The words spurted forth from his lips before he could even realize what he was saying. His ears were ringing and his mind was softly rattling, elsewhere.

Suddenly the younger of Gildarts' comrades, Zack Fair, was before him. The soldier's expression was hopeful as he looked at the wizard, whose expression surely mirrored the same. Zack Fair neared Gildarts close enough to pull him from the ground which his body was groveling, and while he did so, the soldier got close enough to see the veteran's eye, congealed shut with his own blood.

As Gildarts stood, a white chunk flew from his lips, and fell to the ground and hid itself within a crack of the many rocks that lay around them. In the mage's mouth, his tongue felt around the gap, and did indeed note that the reason that one had been pushed out, was because a new, non broken one, was slowly growing. "It isn't a good fight until someone loses a tooth," Gildarts offered a hint of a smile to the youth Zack, but the vet's eye remained firm and stoic, as he looked down at the kid's wound, causing the uplifted corner of his cheek to crash back into a low dipping frown.

Gildarts may have looked like he was covered in blood, but some was not his, and other parts of his body had started to numb themselves. The veteran was used to this sort of pain, and perhaps that was what he feared the boy Zack to eventually become... Like him.

Drip drip. The soldier's blood spattered a bit, "Best cover it, and of course add pressure." Generic advice, sure, but it let the boy know that the older prime was looking out for him.

Gildarts looked through his eyepatch of hardened blood, and didn't bother to attempt to loosen it to free his gaze, the blood from his temple had stopped spurting and instead had formed itself into a soft glistening layer.

Luckily, now, Gildarts was standing, testing his foot and prosthetic in the uneven surface caused the burns around his leg to chaff. No wince was evident on his face, for he contained it, but the strongest Prime had learned today, that everyone bleeds.

The ringing in his ears grew louder, this time Gildarts, however, knew the source. The malefactor from within him was calling loudly, asking for permission, then willing itself to take it. It grew almost unbearable, and Zack had started his first few steps down the shifting mountain of rocks when Gildarts suddenly stooped, and cringed as he fell on one knee, not from the physical pain, no, the mighty prime would never be defeated by something so mundane... Instead the mental strike of a sinister creature infiltrated the prime from behind his visage, trying to get control.

"Let... Me... In..." she whispered so coyly in his ear. He shook it away, his hair was too greased by charcoal and flame to even shake a millimeter.

Zack had found the strength in him to retrace the last steps he'd taken, to come back to the bent over prime, he was going to ask 'Can you stand (alone)?' but Gildarts was already grunting his way into a forced stand. His brown eye held on Zack, remarking the boy's noble intentions quite highly, and as though reading his mind, Gil responded simply, but leaving little room for doubt, "Aye, I'll be alright. But what do you think will happen to them?"

The brown eye wandered to the rubble of the mountain, where surely, their comrades bones lay buried. The skull that had stuck to his hand lay protruded atop a red-rimmed rock. Gildarts, despite his experience, may not have been informed on how frequently Primes respawn in the Nexus, and given his condition, he might've just forgotten in his consideration for the dead. Gildarts had not barely been introduced to them, and had barely picked up Zack's name on the way up here.

Piqui's howls finally breached Gildarts' ear, from her position, buried in the satchel. Her creamy fur looked particularly sooty, as she popped out from the large Prime's shoulder and with an attitude, bit his ear in protest, "GILDARTS! What was with all that rumbling I was taking a nap! You're lucky this bag seems to be magic or else you'd be in for it," the kitten with wings unsheathed her claws and took up a position too close to the stubble on the Prime's chin.

After, Piqui continued to pout, but the young she-kitten seemed to taste the blood on her mouth, and was no longer blinded by her anger, for she now saw Gildarts as he was: Beaten to a pulp.

Gildarts had winced at the nibble she'd done to his ear, but it seemed he always expected pain when it came to dealing with that of the opposite sex. "I know Piqui, I'm sorry, luckily you were safe for the most of it. The dragon is down there now," he informed her, "We can only hope it does not lay waste to the town from which we came."

It was almost comical to see a warrior of Gildarts size, with a below-average sized kitten perched on his shoulder. Her eyes wobbled for a moment, "You could've--- I COULD HAVE DIED! Humph! Trouble and peril just seem to follow you everywhere, don't they!? Hey.... Who's he?"

Her nose pointed to Zack, while Gildarts had tuned out the nagging, for his eyes fell on a bone-perhaps human, perhaps not- not far from his feet.

The kitten's mind was spinning, "WHOA THOUGH, just you two guys fought a dragon!?" Piqui exclaimed.

"There were others, sadly they did not make it." Zack interjected when he thought Gildarts' pause too long. No doubt Gildarts was nobly regarding the fallen.

It was always a sad occurrence, to be deserted by the dead. But, always a miraculous one, to be able to join the living.

Guilt grinded at the Prime's bones, while the took his first step over another's.
[Image: -Gildarts-fairy-tail-35651033-300-180.gif]
"I have never met a strong person with an easy past." -Atticus
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#5
Step by step they worked their way down the mountain. Zack was a little surprised that the cat-like companion of Gildarts had managed to seemingly sleep through the entire fiasco, but it was far from the strangest thing he’d seen in the Omniverse. They supported each other as they made the trek, making sure to leave neither man behind. Zack was appreciative but couldn’t help roll his eyes at some of the older man’s advice. It really wasn’t the time to tell the combat mage that this was far from his first rodeo. He just allocated his energy towards movement, and maybe he’d hear a little advice that was new to him after all.
 
They moved past corpses of humans, gorons, koopas, and many other species that had been dragged up to Volvagia’s domain. It seemed like a sick privilege to be able to walk away of their own free will. Certainly they didn’t appreciate it with each agonizing step they were forced to endure as they departed.
 
Time passed, and they made their way down to the original point where the three teams had split off from each other. It still wasn’t exactly safe in this location, but it was infinitely more secure than the peak that the fearsome dragon called home.
 
More sounds of battle rang in the distance. There was still little they could do to help. But they had moved enough for the time being, and now that they had transitioned from the “immediate danger zone” to simply the “danger zone” they could take a breather and utilize Omnilium to heal themselves up just a little bit.
 
Gildarts dropped to a seated position on a rock, while Zack was more than content to simply plop to the ground. Though they were both still in bad shape, they were already much better than they had been upon first awaking after the battle with Volvagia.
 
“Last time I got my ass kicked this bad, I never stood back up from it,” Zack joked, supporting himself with his arms as he leaned back. At least they were strong enough to support him, again. “Well, until I showed up in the Nexus, that is.”
 
Gildarts nodded in brief understanding. He understood what Zack had meant. He’d died on a battlefield before arriving in the Omniverse. The older warrior did not immediately respond, even if the younger one was so flippant about his fate in his own world.  Instead, they simply took the time to silently rest.
 
Hopefully there would still be allies and a Goron village at the bottom of this mountain to help them get some serious medical attention. Before they could ponder that any further, a sharp hiss from an unknown location caught the attention of all three of them. Footsteps could be heard around them as well. Some were close, others were farther. There was definitely activity stirring on this mountain in the wake of the battle.
 
“What’s that sound?” Piqui asked, and almost demanded to know.
 
“Scavengers,” Gildarts announced, and Zack silently nodded in agreement. “We should keep moving.”
 
Easier said than done.
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#6
"I would hardly call myself a scavenger, Mr. Gildarts", a voice would reply mildly nearby the two wounded warriors. Behind a rock the tall, cybernetic prosthetic woman rounded, as wounded as these two were. In her steel claws she dragged the corpse of a bandit, who had hoped to capitalize on the chaos the burning dragon brought. She stepped closer, looking them over. Her head was still light, and with that her memory had nearly failed her. In either case, it took her a few moments to realize that these two were survivors of Alpha Team. She sighed and dropped the criminal into the packed down ash, moving to assist the two before her.

 She had abandoned her coat during the skirmish with Volvagia's brood, revealing the full mechanics of her steel skeletal arms and legs. She had yet to cover the extent of her injuries, fully revealing the gaping hole in her stomach under her barely wearable, blood-stained shirt. Crimson caked over her face  as her organic eye had been taken from her. Blood loss was a bitch, but she had her cybernetics and iron will to thank considering she was still standing. Behind her scratched mask she smiled, reaching down for Gildarts first. She slipped one of his arms around her shoulders, allowing him to stand much more efficiently. 

 "Nealaphh and the others are wrapping up the battle down below", she stated in a cool manner as she reached down for Mr. Fair. Memory was starting to slowly return to her. No. Only her memories of that man were coming back to her. In this place, it was good to have someone she could call "Friend". She exhaled and lifted Fair to his feet and began to walk down to battle below. Surprisingly enough, the second wave of Nealaphh's forces were starting to overcome the great dragon, though at a terrible cost to those who could not escape the village. The Gorons who did would never look upon them the same way again. At least they could rebuild and expand much easier without that damned dragon breathing down upon them.

 "From what I've seen, they are doing quite well. My only regret... is that I am not in the shape to join in", She sighed, focusing hard on her balance now that the path started to steepen. It would do them no good if her hold upon them slipped. Though she was sure they'd laugh about it later. This place was too dark and grim. Something needed to liven this place up.
"I've been here before, used to this kind of war. Crossfire grind through the sand. The orders were easy: 'It's kill or be killed'. Blood on both sides will be spilled."
[Image: DeathMountain.png][Image: blades.png][Image: Darkdata.png]
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#7
Gildarts looked quizzically at the extended hand, which belonged to a face he didn't quite recognize. It had one eye, which he looked at through the seems of his own blood-encrusted lid, and held the hand firmly in his own as he took to standing. Already, he was being surrounded by a shimmering glitter of light, which had started to heal his wounds. Thread after glowing thread, the tan skin of his body started to stitch itself back in order, as so he noticed on Zack.

Their camaraderie was almost instant, as it usually is with those who have fought the same battle, and endured the same suffering. It didn't need words to ask the girl where she had sustained her injuries, she had fought the good fight and had nearly been slain along the way. Her expressed regret was something the Mage could relate to, though hearing that the menacing dragon's life was almost over, would be a relief both to him and to the fallen.

Gildarts stood on his own prosthetic leg, which had more or less been melted in places due to the splashings of magma. They were about halfway down, and their joints were taking their sweet, aching time. Gildarts stayed solemnly silent but cast a glance over at Zack only once, which Zack caught in the corner of his eye.
[Image: -Gildarts-fairy-tail-35651033-300-180.gif]
"I have never met a strong person with an easy past." -Atticus
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#8
Doing well. That was a hell of a concept, right about now.
 
The three of them stumbled down the path, knowing they were only getting closer by the increasing volume of the battle. They came to a bend, one they all recognized for how sharp it had been on the ascent. It had given them a good view of the village below, and had served as a reminder of what was at stake. Now, it would be a revelation of what they had done.
 
They approached the ledge, so they could gaze down at the Goron settlement. The natural healing power of Omnilium had taken over and made things much more manageable, so they separated from each other as they stepped up to the cliff. Zack walked to the left side, propping his left leg up on a rock and leaning forward. Miranda stood in the middle, weakly crossing her arms as she gazed over. Gildarts stood beside a large rock on the right side, leaning his shoulder against it.
 
The sight below was incredible. Volvagia was in battle with many others. It was hard to tell who from this altitude, but it couldn’t be any other than remnants of Beta and Gamma teams, along with plenty of Gorons. What stood out was Volvagia’s mannerisms, and movements. Zack was no expert on demonic wyrm biology, but he was pretty sure that the beast was struggling.
 
And then it happened. The three watched from on high as Volvagia was driven to the ground for the final time. The chaos stopped, the air grew quiet. They knew they had just witnessed history.
 
“They did it,” Zack broke the fresh silence.
 
“We did it,” Gildarts reminded the two younger warriors. “The others did not fall in vain.”
 
“Yea,” Zack agreed, with a firm and confident nod.
 
Zack glanced back to Miranda, before once more looking down at the Goron village. Though she had forgotten most of it, they had traveled the Ashen Steppes together for some time. Dragons, lava, and other dangers were always present. Now, without Volvagia, things would surely change. Granted, this would always be a dangerous ‘verse to walk through, but the power dynamic of the Gorons would change, and the Koopas might have something to say, too. Not only that, but the Institute had established a definitive foothold.
 
But, at a more basic level, Zack still hurt all over. That was the only thing that mattered to him, along with fixing his wounds up. The rest of the fallout would come in due time.
 
“Let’s keep moving,” Gildarts voiced Zack’s exact thoughts.
 
Miranda went ahead and began to move down the trail, while Gildarts followed a few steps behind. Zack cast one more look at the destroyed village, and then departed after them.
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#9
What seemed like a few more feet to the oblivious prime, carried him all the way to what was left of the village. Gildarts continued to walk until he got to the storefront of the bar he had first been escorted to, and it just so happened to be one of the last buildings standing. Piqui sat on his left shoulder, calmly looking around in a dazed fashion. Inwardly, she had wondered what had happened, but when Gildarts had that determined expression on his face, he didn’t like to have to answer questions. The young kitten’s ears twitched as her whiskers quivered at all the sooty smells of burnt ash in the air. Her eyes looked to Zack and Miranda who were following close behind and blinked a small greeting.

Around him, though his eyes did not tell him, Zack’s were gazing at the wreckage with horror at the immense destruction. The younger male almost didn’t see when Gildarts disappeared through the doorway, and quickly followed. A fret had since broken on his brow, but now, Gildarts was hobbling up to the bar and after recognizing (uh, somehow) the bartender’s face, who was an old man with kind blue eyes, the Fairytail wizard started the conversation he’d left up on, “Mind if I have that water now?”

His lips were cracked from being so very parched, and though he was blood spattered and covered in soot, the old man gave him a once-over and didn’t think twice about serving the Prime his drink. Gildarts downed the glass, Adam’s apple bobbing up and down as he indulged in gulp after gulp. Zack looked at those who had gathered indoors, and what had become of the room, which half of it had now been without a roof. This building had gotten off lucky, but wouldn’t they blame the two Primes for being the catalyst for the destruction of their homes and stores? It was, after all, their livelihood. Eyes did not glue to the hot-haired Prime, but instead fell on Zack with minor ridicule. That was the reaction he had expected, but why were they looking the other way for Gildarts?

The question wasn’t immediately answered for the young warrior, who had sat beside Gildarts, who requested, “One for him here, too.”

There was a thick coldness about the room, but it was, reluctantly served. Zack drank it with some hesitation, and let the condensation accumulate on the glass. Sooner rather than later, Gildarts turned around with a bright smile on his face, despite the blood that was still caked in his left eye, and asked Zack if he was feeling better. Sensing the discomfort in the lines of his face, Gildarts then let his eyes wander around the room, and finally noticed the cave in, and scorch marks all around. As well as this building (just about the only one still standing) was being used as the infirmary for the town.

It was then when the Prime truly saw the devastation of it all. The devastation they had caused.
[Image: -Gildarts-fairy-tail-35651033-300-180.gif]
"I have never met a strong person with an easy past." -Atticus
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#10
This place was truly a terrible place to use as one's plaything. Omni was toying with powers normal mortal men and women could not quite control themselves, putting themselves and what they stand or stood for at great risk. It was wrong, twisted, so very inhuman, but then again Omni himself was not human himself was he? For all the evils he introduced to the world of his design, there had to be some good too, right? Miranda herself knew that to make finding the "True" light, one must take away many of the lights that were near it. Against the darkness the true light could be found. Many here, the one-eyed warrior noticed, lacked purpose, lacked that one light to make them whole. If there was any good to what Omni had done, bringing those lights here to fight for that one piece they missed was one of them. When Miranda first arrived here, she assumed all was just an illusion, with each persona she came across a reflection of what they were at home. When faced with bloodshed and the passion of battle, however, she realized she was deathly wrong. Her steel hands were stained a metallic crimson, but not just in the blood of her dragon enemies, but in the innocence that had perished that day.

Those same tainted hands brushed over the scorched walls in which a nearby body had attempted to find shelter against Volvagia's wrath. These innocent lives needed not to die, but only did so when Nealaphh, no.... Miranda failed to live up to the plan and bargain. They had failed and all this death was the price. Her hand fell from the wall back to her side. The only way to crawl back up from the pit of failure was to succeed. Therefore, she would have to never fail again. A tough goal for someone as human as Miranda was, so she would have to become something much more or something much different.

She turned to the others, a crimson glow giving the dark room light. "I did not remember the horrors of war, so I offered my help to Nealaphh lightly. On the battlefield I lost myself... I loved it, and now so many had perished.", she spoke softly, slowing backing up to the wall to support her weight. She was tired in more mediums than just the physical one. "If I had taken more care, would even a few more lives be saved?"
"I've been here before, used to this kind of war. Crossfire grind through the sand. The orders were easy: 'It's kill or be killed'. Blood on both sides will be spilled."
[Image: DeathMountain.png][Image: blades.png][Image: Darkdata.png]
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#11
Zack shook his head, looking at the glass of water. They were fortunate to be given such a precious resource in this desolate verse, especially after all they’d done. It was a decision that would be debated for ages to come likely. They could have continued to live under the threat of Volvagia’s attack, and it might have emerged when there were less primes willing to fight it around. Had the battle been the right choice? It was too hard to tell, especially in the immediate aftermath. That was why he shook his head at Miranda’s question.
 
“There’s no way to tell,” Zack tried his best to be reassuring. “We all did the best we could.”
 
Miranda didn’t seem convinced, but Zack’s sights were locked on one of the open beds. Fortunately, in this infirmary, there were more beds that patients. It was mostly Gorons, but a few humans and other races had wandered a bit too close to the carnage and were now recovering as well. Zack could feel the Omnilium healing him up, but he still had some time to go before he was back at one hundred percent.
 
He shook his head and finished his glass of water, silently standing up and moving over to the nearest bed. He set his massive sword down, then collapsed to his back on one of the cots. Laying down on something that wasn’t rock sure felt good, and he could doze off on this thing. That was what he needed to do. Hopefully it would help the Omnilium speed his recovery a tad.
 
He couldn’t help but notice the Gorons packing their remaining possessions out in the ruins, on the way in. It seemed like more than a recovery, but an exodus as well. If they were leaving their home over this, Zack would feel another bit of guilt. He’d have to find Daruina and speak with the chieftain in person, before leaving. After that, it would be time to get away from the village and let the dust settle with the Gorons for the time being. Time to find the next adventure.
 
But first, he needed to sleep. So that's exactly what he did.
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#12
There was no telling how long it had been. Time was so strange in the Omniverse, Zack had given up trying to make sense of it. All he knew was that he’d dozed off right away, and whenever he had woken up, he felt like a new man. The natural healing properties of Omnilium were certainly no joke. They sure would have been nice back home.
 
It was far too late to concern himself with that, though. He tested his healed body out by springing from the cot and landing beside it. He returned the Buster Sword to its rightful place on his back, and stretched out as he looked around. There were still others recovering. Unfortunately, some secondaries hadn’t made it, though others were stabilized. There was no sense in letting them suffer.
 
He made a few laps through the complex, laying hands on the wounded and helping to channel his energy into them. Omnilium was fortunately able to be transferred in such a way, so he was able to help heal some of the more grievous wounds. He couldn’t do this forever, as it was much too draining, but the least he could do was make sure no one else was going to die.
 
After thoroughly exhausting himself, Zack stepped outside. He didn’t see Gildarts or Miranda around immediately, but that might have been just as well. Chances were they’d cross paths once more in the future, since all three of them seemed to be the type to answer the call to action. Zack took a glance to see Gorons rounding up supplies and gathering into groups and caravans. It made sense, as there was really nothing left for them here. Once the few Gorons in the clinic were rested, they were likely departing this place and the horrible memories associated with it.
 
It was tragic, but Zack decided that he’d done all he could for now. The time to make amends would come later. For now, he reached up and touched the handle of the Buster Sword for just a moment, then departed out into the ashen wastes once more. One thing was for sure, he was getting tired of lava and brimstone. Maybe he could find that gate, somewhere around, and head to a place with a little more sun and water.
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#13
"I know. I know[i] you hear me Gildarts. The [i]strongest prime and S-class Mage of the lost guild, Fairy Tail. Soul survivor. What does it mean to you? To be but a man with only his memories to carry him." Her voice slithered into his mind, finding all the nooks and crannies of weakness only to exploit them.

"Gildarts, what will you do now? This town is in ruins just like the last. Will you run back to Ambrosia, only to destroy them too?Come now, you're no fun when you don't respond. You know you want to. Defend yourself, go ahead, I'll grant it. I may be power hungry, but I'm still a nice person, well, voice. Don't you think it's sad? How I've been reduced to a voice inside a nobody's head? Disgusting, isn't it?"

The voice paused, then turned cynical. "You can't ignore me forever. Not as an immortal. Ha-ha. You'll crack one of these days, and when you do, that's when it will be my turn. Oh, and I'll make sure to enjoy it. Especially when I'm killing the young, the innocent, and those you loved, but could never be with because of your curse."

The voice smoldered into the receding tide of his darkest dreams. Gildarts woke to a puddle of cold sweat, pooling on his brow.
[Image: -Gildarts-fairy-tail-35651033-300-180.gif]
"I have never met a strong person with an easy past." -Atticus
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