It was frighteningly beautiful, floating above the war.
The tattoo-bubble was much stronger than anything she created from water and fire. It held Kyuuen's weight easily, but also shut out all of the sound around her. Rain splashed against the shell, rolling along in wild streams before dripping off the bottom.
Below, fire flashed, lightning split the sky and the earth tore itself from the ground. The alliance forces were pushing hard now, trying to drive themselves past the walls that held off the entrances of the valleys. Each discharge of chakra roiled the atmosphere, twisting the clouds into even-darker clusters. It soon spat out its own lightning, raking the world with blue-white branches.
Kyuuen stared up through her bubble, her focus willing it to stay on course despite the winds. Her target, the medical airship, plowed through the storm with unrelenting determination. It wouldn't be long before she was close enough to board it.
Getting down would....be...
She shook her head a little, shaking out her doubt. No, she hadn't really thought through this plan as much as she should have but there was no time. She had to get Katsumi. The best thing to do would be to take out everyone on the airship, secure her and the ship, then take it back to the tower. A built-in escape for the rest of her team.
If she could pull it off, there would be no way that Ryou would be angry at her.
Kyuuen felt the bubble lurch upward, tipping into the wake of the ship. She saw the hull whip by, and soon she could see the top deck, barely sheltered by the airship's balloon. The few crew standing there had heavy rain slickers over their armor and weapons, moving with a hasty caution from one end to the other.
It was time.
The bubble popped over the edge of the rail and the rain and sound washed around her all at once. The deck splashed beneath her foot and her body careened forward into the closest crewman. He yelled in surprise, hitting the deck hard. Kyuuen skid across the slick surface a few inches, using a small jolt of chakra to catch her momentum. There were only two left on the deck, one was rushing to and open hatch on the surface while the other withdrew a long, thin sword from his side, advancing at Kyuuen.
“Tell me where Lady Hazama is!” Kyuuen lowered herself, snapping a pair of kunai from her belt. The crewman looked more terrified than angry, the blade extended too wide to one side. He took one unsteady step forward, losing any semblance of form to his fighting stance.
This was just sad.
A kunai sunk into his thigh, forcing a cry out of him and sending him kneeling to the deck. The sword dropped out of his hand and slid across as the wind shifted the ship to one side. She walked toward the hatch, readying herself to fight through the interior.
Her arm snapped backward, nearly twisting out of its socket. She slipped on the deck and grunted and scrambled her feet beneath her as she was dragged back to the rail. She turned to see a crouched figure holding the other end of the chain that was strangling her wrist and squeezing out blood from her skin. His chakra was potent.
“Another traitorous bitch who has forgotten the order of things. Bite the hand that feeds you and all that, eh? Well you should've waited till you were a little stronger before trying to-”
Kyuuen leapt with the momentum of his pulling chain, slackening it and pouncing in front of him before he was expecting her. Her kunai swiped hard at his chest, but rang against the other end of the chain that he stretched in front of him. The chain surged with chakra and suddenly had its own strength, tightening around her arm and throwing her backward to the deck.
“Whoah, feisty thing there eh? You should wait until your elders are done scolding you-”
Kyuuen's free hand clapped into the bound one and formed the required signs. The flame tattoo on her arm twisted around her fingers and followed the chain. Once near the end, the red colored ink suddenly glowed to life, bursting into true fire, punching into his chest. He screamed and fell backward, still alight in a blaze as he careened to the ground.
Three down. Not bad.
Her fingers had just started to loosen the chain around her wrist when the other end of it sprung up like a viper and struck her in the face. A wide gash opened up where her nose met her forehead, blood rushing down her cheeks and into her eyes. One hand rose with emerald chakra instinctively to close it up, but the chain strangled that one as well, pulling it to her side. Soon the chain was weaving itself through her limbs, tangling her frozen.
“I apologize for the manners of my apprentice. He was...an idiot.”
Kyuuen felt herself turn. Rain sprayed around the balloon and on to her face, clearing her vision for a moment. A man stood two dozen paces away from her, standing in an almost lazy stance, hands buried in his slicker pockets. He was older, in his forties, and was too calm for a warzone.
“But unfortunately, you are still the enemy. I have to make an example of you.”
Kyuuen realized too late how the chains were being controlled. Magentic chakra was made of lightning chakra, and that lightning rippled to life. It surged through every nerve of her body, a cold empty pain filling her. The agony amplified when the lightning stopped, her nerves blazing. Her mouth opened, a sob trying to escape but instead a dry cough escaping instead.
The chains compressed, then unraveled, hurling Kyuuen over the edge of the airship. For a moment, she was free. Her mind started to race, looking for a way to save herself, realizing that she had to create another bubble.
But a chain snaked around her ankle and pulled her sharply into the hull of the airship.
She hung dazed for several moments – maybe even a minute, she wasn't sure anymore. Rain mixed with her blood, dripping steadily at the world below.
A new pain clouded her mind – burning along her skin. She realized what it was – her tattoos had been defeated at the tower and returned to her, bringing with them all the pain and damage they had endured. She cried out, the wail drowned out in the sound of the rain and wind.
Lightning surged through the chain again, sending her body into convulsions.
Then she hung again.
“Damnit...this was stupid...”
She shut her eyes to stop them from burning any longer. Lightning surged into her again.
- - -
The golden blade of justice snapped off the end of a protruding spear. Moxie stepped in and snapped a kick hard into the attacker's hip, sending him backward into a group of following soldiers. Once again their advance was stalled until they could right him and get him out of the way.
Defending the top of a tower was pretty easy.
She glanced one golden eye over her shoulder, watching Toya unfurl the scroll. Only a few more minutes and then they could make their way out, down the side of the tower and into the expanse of the city.
It was so close. So very close.
She could see the end of it all.
“Wait! That message, you heard it right? Somebody's seized an enemy airship- it's Kyuuen, she's gone, they're the ship- we have to help before they-you can't detonate it yet, we have to get on this ship!”
Moxie turned. She hadn't heard, but she could see the panic in Ryou's eyes. She swept her gaze upward, squinting past the rain. There were many airships in the sky, from both sides, but one was floating ever closer to the tower itself.
“That one,” Moxie pointed, then glanced down at the stairwell. They were ready for their next push.
“Toya, get the scroll ready...this is going to be tight.”
Moxie sheathed her swords and leapt down into the next floor. Lightning flashed out in a circle around her, sparkling between the soldiers and sending them convulsing to the ground. Chakra threads swarmed around the fallen soldiers, gathering up every scrap of clothing they could from beneath the heavy armor. Some started to stir back to life, but Moxie had everything she needed. She rushed back up the stairs and beside the boys, gathering up the scarves from their outfits to add to the length. She cursed herself for not keeping the rope she had made earlier.
“I...I don't know if this is enough.”
The airship was looming closer now, but it seemed so far away. She stretched out the fabric into a cord and shot it upward. It lashed near the rail, then retreated backward.
“Not long enough! Damnit! Toya quick, try to shove the airship closer with wind, it might be-”
Blue-white light flashed along the side of the airship, gathering into a figure at the end of a chain. The body flickered and convulsed bright in the storm.
She turned to look at Toya, knowing the frantic fear was evident in her eyes.