Time was a tapestry and the threads were their lives.
Staring into space while the Nanaya bled into the ground and Kyuuen coiled like a snake, Moxie watched time bloom.
She had to get them out of there. There were too many variables, too many ways for the rescue to go wrong and they'd loes someone else. It was her fault that they were in this position, so it was her responsibility to find the way out. It was there, weaved into the fabric of time, weaved into every possibility of everything.
Her mind stretched itself. Beyond the future and to the present, exploding in a thousand narratives of what could be happening at that moment. A hundred Toyas died in a hundred ways. Ryous and Kyuuens and Rikas all died around her too but that sight had become too common to phase her anymore. Amidst the chaos and the death and the utterly impossible, she saw the truth.
She stretched it further. Into the past, into the events that could have caused the reality that confronted her. She saw nothing but the blinding golden vortex of everything that could have been and everything that could be.
There were not many options. If they were all to survive in one piece, she was going to have shoulder a mighty burden.
She thought of Toya and smiled.
The world returned, clear and finite. Her hands snapped through handsigns and one reached into the air, palm upturned. Kyuuen was already reaching out to stop her.
The sky cracked in scarlet.
Rika's blade dripped with crimson, one hand clenched around a scroll marked with the Yuki seal. The red lightning bolt struck the roof of the Suna embassy, hurling stone from the roof and igniting it ablaze. She ignored it, gritting her teeth and leaping out a window, hoping Ryou was behind her. They both shattered through an opposite window, rolling across a living room floor. She was on her feet and kicking through the front door, charging down the hallway and out the door to the street. She kept throwing glances over her shoulder, hoping Ryou would keep up.
Toya dug his fingers into the shoulders of the armored guard. Fatelines bent and split, tearing flesh and bone apart. He shoved him to the ground and broke into a dead run across the courtyard. His own shoulder throbbed with a pain that was too easily shoved away. The courtyard was filled with the cries of other guards. Arrows whistled across the air and bounced across the cobblestone near his feet. He had to keep running straight, never stopping, never waiting. It was his only hope.
Three red lightning bolts spindled from the sky, roasting guards, setting buildings ablaze, and turning an iron gate into a lump. Toya had never seen lightning like that before, but he didn't have to guess whose it was. Warm and deadly at the same time. That meant only one person to him.
Across the city, fires glowed. The lightning seemed as if it would go on forever to the citizens of the City of Seven Valleys. Thunder shook their skulls. Everything burned and melted and exploded around them.
Moxie fell to her knees, hand clawing at her chest. Kyuuen bent down to scoop her up over her shoulders. She was speaking, letting out an avalanche of medical words that Moxie ignored. She knew what was wrong.
Her curse mark was gone. Chakra use hurt like hell now.
But there was nothing to be afraid of. It was all as she had seen.
The civilians screamed in the streets. Guards hurled dust and sand into the buildings as fast as they could, trying to suffocate sand. Without water to spare, Rika wondered if the city would turn to ash within the hour. Could they put out this many blazes with just sand?
She didn't know. But she wasn't going to wait and find out. She and Ryou were standing in the main road leading to the many gates. They were all shut. Apparently amidst all the flame and chaos there was still enough semblance of order to be looking for whoever was causing demon lightning to raze the city inside. Kyuuen and Moxie wouldn't be waiting there. If they were going to get out of the gate, they'd need Toya.
Back to the castle.
The northwestern tower to the castle's inner walls had been bristling with arrows and archers, ready to unleash a hailstorm of sharpened death.
So Toya broke it.
A half dozen strikes to the walls and the tower fell in on itself, cobblestone crushing equipment and men with its tremendous weight. The same thing that gave the tower power was now what made it lethal. It wasn't the most subtle approach, Toya knew this, but subtlety had left when the red lightning started. Whatever their new escape plan was now, they were going to need a clear path to the gate.
Where was Moxie? She should've been along this part of the road by now, it was the fastest way from stable to-
His eyes caught a glint of something in the orange glow of the fires. A sparkle, a swirl. Something he had only seen once before but hadn't yet forgotten.
The Iron Soldier smashed his fist into the closest guard. The guard behind him stabbed his halberd clean through the Soldier's chest. The Soldier punched that one too, continuing his lumbering walk with halberd sitll hanging in his torso.
Kyuuen stumbled, keeping Moxie moving forward as much as she could. Stubborn girl, she was still directing her chakra through the lightning attack and causing her waves of pain in the process. She weaved her hands together, sending a pack of dogs leaping from her ankles and clearing the path ahead.
"Are you sure this is the way? Hell of a lot of guards this way."
"I'm sure. Just get us in."
The tiny elephant, who had been marching just ahead of Kyuuen, exploded in size and stampeded through the road until he broke through a large set of double doors that reminded Kyuuen of a barn. She and Moxie stumbled in after him, the dogs and Iron Soldier taking up a defensive position at the doorway.
"Oh you gotta be kidding me."
Ryou spread his hands apart, drenching the rooftop with blue light. The lightning leapt hungrily at the armored soldiers, embracing them until they collapsed. Rika let out a breath of relief.
Idiot. She had gotten them too fast across the rooftops, moving in the open and making too much noise and the enemy got the drop on her. Sloppy and inexcusable.
She hopped from the roof and onto balcony, then over the balcony rail and back to the ground level, crouching in the darkness of the alleyway. Ryou did his best to follow, climbing down with too much regard for safety and far too much hesitation.
"Are you sure we want to find bubbles?"
Ryou didn't answer. He kept pushing on.
The pain cleared from Moxie's head. Her chakra flow had ceased, and the lightning outside with it. But the damage was already done. Hungry flame blanketed the city, just as she had intended it to. The Iron Soldier let Toya in next, who bled from his shoulder. He wasted no time scrambling up the rope ladder and onto the deck. Rika and Ryou were next, both staring in disbelief and awe at their spoils. Rika shoved Ryou up the ladder first, jamming the document into his belt. She was up soon after, rolling up the ladder when she reached the top. Toya had already pulled a Nanaya blade and was cutting through rope.
The luxury dirigible started skyward. The vast hangar's roof was wide open, showing the millions of starpoints above them. The ink guardians at the doorway melted and soared through the air, sliding back onto Kyuuen's skin. She twisted her face in pain for a moment, then went back to the task of steering the thing.
The sides were marked with the Noriyuka family mark. The vessel itself was much larger than the ones Moxie had been used to using. Dad had clearly built this one as a gift. It reminded her more of a sailing vessel than an air one, with a long hull and multiple rooms.
Below, the City of Seven Valleys glowed orange. The cries of the citizens drifted into the wind, merging together as one mourning wail. No one would have died in the lightning attacks other than guards, but there was no way Moxie could guarantee the resulting fires wouldn't harm civilians.
When the airship climbed to its necessary height, it started forward. Moxie collasped onto the deck, rubbing the skin where the mark once was, and slamming her eyes shut.
She hoped that mom would forgive her for what she just did.