"Using a hack to reactivate portals? That's interesting."
The girls looked to their side to see the figure of a familiar person standing close by. He was probably the one who deactivated the portal.
It was Lyngvi, dressed in a black long sleeve turtleneck and white pants. He looked more like the singer Vi from the real world than the crusader Vi they knew in Aries.
"I guess you weren't satisfied with your peaceful lives trapped inside the guild headquarters." Lyngvi met Lyria's gaze. "I'll give you another chance, Lyria. Come with me. I will keep you safe. I promise." He extended his hand, offering her to take it.
Lyria shook her head.
She shook her head again. "I can't. I don't want to leave my friends behind."
"Yeah, Ling Ling! How can you expect a girl to go with you when you're running around non compos mentis causing the extermination of player-kind?" Amelie pointed at him accusingly.
Vi closed his eyes. "Very well. I'll just take you prisoner."
"Prisoner!?" Amelie didn't like where it was going.
"We have to hurry to the nearest gate. I doubt Lyngvi disrupted that one because it's the gate the Knights Alliance is using and he seems to favor them," Astrid whispered to her friends. "It's located in the mountain village near here."
"OK! Run away from the crazy Ling Ling!" Amelie shouted.
The Noctis Noir girls dashed to the wooden bridge that connected the mountain they were on to the next mountain where the village was. As they ran, Lyngvi was catching up to them at an alarming speed.
"He's faster than us!? This isn't fair!" Amelie screamed.
Luna tried not to look back. "What do you expect? He has the codes to buff up his abilities."
"I'm getting tired!" Amelie was falling behind.
"Don't give up, Amelie!"
"It's Chris! C-H-R-I-S!" The princely mage was running out of breath. She had to stop and catch it.
"Not so fast." Lyngvi jumped in between them and activated Ground Break. The middle of the wooden bridge crumbled from the sheer force of the skill, separating the girls from Lyngvi and Amelie.
"No!" Luna shouted.
"You girls go ahead! I'll catch up somehow." Amelie pretended to be cool.
Lyngvi went up behind her and delivered a strong kick to incapacitate her. Amelie fell to the ground coughing up blood.
"Don't hurt her!" Lyria shouted.
He picked up the mage by her neck and held her up, effectively chocking her. He said nothing as he looked upon Amelie's suffering.
At the top of her lungs, Luna screamed desperately, "Chris!"
Amelie turned her head slightly towards Luna's direction. She was smiling despite the pain she was in. "Heh. You finally called me Chris."
With one swift move, Lyngvi threw her aside like a ragdoll and sent her falling into the abyss below.
"You monster! How dare you hurt my friend!" Luna was filled with rage. This heartless man just committed murder right before their very eyes. She was about to jump to the other side of the bridge, but Astrid held her back.
"Don't do it, Luna. It's dangerous. We have to escape quickly before we run out of time." It was hard keeping Luna in place, but the guildmaster knew she had to do everything to stop Luna from putting herself in harm's way.
"I doubt she survived that fall. She sacrificed herself for us to escape. We can't let her effort go to waste."
Lyria agreed. "Astrid is right. You're running into a sure death if you fight him. We don't need another casualty."
"Let's go." Astrid guided the girls to the pathway that led to the village. She eventually caught sight of the portal. "It's still active! We can escape through there!"
"Sorry, pumpkin girl. I can't let you and your friends out of here."
The guildmaster of Jupiter who had been missing since the ball finally made his appearance. He jumped down from a tree with his black cape fluttering behind him.
"Magnus!?" The girls exclaimed in unison.
"Who knew you had a little trick up your sleeve? I'm rather impressed by your plan. However, all the gates you just opened are going to be deactivated in about a minute."
"You're on their side?" Lyria was shocked. "I can't believe you!"
Anna stepped forward and put up a barrier. "I'll hold him! You girls run and escape."
"Please stay alive, Anna," said Lyria, hoping her words would bring the bard some good luck.
"Run to the portal if you can before it closes," said Astrid.
Anna smiled. "I wish we had more time together. Thank you for letting me in the guild. I had the best time. Live on, my lovely princesses!"
"That's very noble of you, fangirl bard." Magnus readied his staff for a fight. "However, you don't stand a chance against me."
"We'll see about that. I have to survive and see the grateful faces of my cute princesses!" She was already nosebleeding from the thought.
The remaining Noctis Noir girls managed to reach the gate. Without hesitation, Luna and Astrid plunged right into the portal home to assure their safety. It was Lyria's turn to enter the gate. However, she was suddenly pulled away by a large wolf. She had no way of defending herself without her abilities.
"Lyria! Take my hand!" Pio suddenly appeared running and extended his hand.
The moment she took it, he swung her to the direction of the gate with all his strength.
"Pio! No!" Lyria shouted. She was tired of seeing more people sacrificing themselves.
He did a little wave. "Don't worry about me."
The gate's force sucked her in. Its opening gradually became smaller until it was fully closed. Everyone who stayed behind had no other way of getting out.
When Astrid came to, she found herself lying face-up on her bedroom floor. She turned her head and stared at the gate. She made it. She was safe. But what about the others?
Just how many of us survived?
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