The mass of snow crystals being crushed under their feet and the gentle howl of the freezing wind were the only sound that was reverberating inside her head. Maintaining a normal pace, Stardust scanned the area with her eyes from left to right, not letting her guard down just one bit.
Reese's body tensed, his hand flying to the handle of his gunblade, Consequence, instinctively. He looked around. Sounded like a Gayla...
The screech echoed again, this time only moments before a huge white and black striped monster flew into the area, straight into the gap between Stardust and Gone. Reese unsheathed Consequence and brought it up just as two more Gayla entered the area.
He swung his gunblade in a high arch, the sharp edge slicing a long cut along the left wing. The Gayla screeched in pain and flapped its wings more wildly, its injured wing causing unbalance.
He took the opportune moment to swing Consequence around another time, this time pulling the trigger on the revolver just as the blade passed over the right wing. The blast splattered Gayla blood over the snow just before the Gayla fell to the ground, lifeless.
An enormous winged-creature landed before Stardust as she wheeled around and reflexively took a step back.
She brought out her Ciceronian just in time for Reese to dash in front of her and slice a long cut on one of the Gayla’s left wing. With a loud bang, its lifeless body fell to the ground tainting the white snow crimson.
She looked at Reese, then to the creature. Her heart was pounding. It was then that another Gayla let out its deafening howl and started to swing its tail, advancing towards her. She quickly held out Ciceronian and aimed for the Gayla's head. But it was too fast that all she could do was evade and kick it away from her. As soon as the striped monster flew past Stardust, she fastened her grip on Ciceronian and aimed once again. Stardust didn't miss her chance this time. Showering the creature with poisonous arrows, it gave in and collapsed on the ground.
Stardust cleared her throat and took a deep breath. She shot one last arrow straight to the monster's head, just to be sure, smearing the snow red once again. She turned to the others. "...one more."
Gone stopped trying to catch stray snowflakes with his tongue when a Gayla landed between him and Stardust. He brought Vayu, his double-ended halberd to ready without thinking. The Gayla was soon efficiently dispatched by Reese. Soon after another of the beasts attacked Stardust, Gone was attacked a moment later. A Gayla came at him from the left, he reacted instantaneously his halberd slicing through the creature's chest. It backed off for a moment before coming back for round two. Gone killed it with ease, stabbing his halberd like a spear into the creature’s chest, then quickly pulling out and severing its head. He quickly scanned the area for more of the beasts.
He didn’t see any.
“You alright, love?” Gone asked, as he took out an oil rag and began to nonchalantly clean the blood off his blades.
Reese knelt down and shoved the bloody blade of Consequence into the snow. After letting the icy bed wash most of the Gayla blood from it, he sheathed it at his side again.
He reached up and adjusted his bowler, then rubbed his arms, glancing around. He heard Gone saying something, but wasn't really listening.
I wonder what she's doing right now. he thought. Memories of her face soared through his mind. Memories of the past. Memories of them kissing. Memories of her smile. Memories of the way she cleaned his wound. He could almost smell her perfume...
/Reesie, snap out of it. She's probably fine!! You want to freeze to death out here?!/ Perish squealed scoldingly.
He started, ripped from his daydreams by the kitten GF, and abruptly turned around to face the small group. "Alright, lets keep moving. Keep an eye out for more." he said stiffly. His eyes briefly passed over his coat on Stardust before he turned and trudged ahead through the snow.
/She'll get cooties on it Reesie!!/
Better hers than Sym's, or Tomoe's, or--Hyne forbid--Blaze's. he thought.
"Alright, lets keep moving. Keep an eye out for more." Reese announced, casting a brief glance over his jacket on her before trudging ahead of the snow.
"Roger," she replied in a low tone and followed along. She lowered her eyes to check on his black coat. It was still fine, not a drib of Gayla's blood in it. It was also warm the only thing that was keeping her body from jittering. Glancing ahead, the only moving figure that she could see in front of her was him, looking bare with his white t-shirt and a bowler hat that matched his jet-black hair. She watched Reese for a sign of any discomfort on this cold atmosphere.
/He said he's used to this kind of weather, there's no need to worry about him./
She swung her gaze away from Reese. I-I'm not. said Stardust. It's not that.
/As you say so./ Diwata's voice was soft. Stardust looked up at the cloudy sky. It had that certain hue in it that gave her a hard time figuring if the night was still at high or dawn was at hand. Listening to nothing but the wind and their footsteps, she eyed the others behind her. Dan lighted a cigarrette which nauseated her a bit as the asthmatic scent coming from it reached her nose.
"Don't smoke here," she ordered at the widower. "You're making me sick."
Gone watched as the widower Dan lit up a cancerous cigarette. Gone looked around for Blaze, before remembering that she had gone with Zacke. Damn, that means I have to do something. He thought. Gone stepped forward to snatch the small roll of poison but he was interrupted.
"Don't smoke here," Stardust ordered at the widower. "You're making me sick."
“Hey, love, I was going to say something like that!” Gone said indignantly. He then reached out and snatched the cigarette from Dan, ripped in half, threw it on the ground and then jumped on it like a child for good measure. “Dude, I know you lost your wife but if you want to kill yourself, there are more immediate ways. You could like fall on your gunblade or something. But just don’t smoke! ‘Cause your killing us too. And I don’t plan on dying just yet.” Gone said harshly
"‘Cause your killing us too. And I don’t plan on dieing just yet.” Gone ended his rebuttal.
Reese's lip quirked in amusement.
"Sure you're in the right line of work then, Vacc?" he called back as his trudged through the snow. "You know at least five SeeDs die every day now, due to the war. I myself wouldn't be suprised if I were to be killed before Vlahos's cigarette even had a chance to do any damage at all to my lungs..."
"And that's why SeeDs do the best they can to live," Stardust continued. Her eyes were on the foot-deep crust of snow that she was trudging on. "We can't die yet whether the odds are against us or not. As long as there's a mission to finish, you can't die. It's that simple."
She shot a glance towards Dan. "Because if you did, then you're nothing more than a weed who couldn't even make a difference...and that's even lower than a chain-smoker who pollutes the air everyday." Forming a slight wrinkle on her nose, she glanced ahead.
Jun watched in heightened amusement as Gone snatched the cigarette from Dan's mouth and stamped on it.
The disgusting smell of cigarette smoke never failed to plant a violent impulse in her. She looked at her fist, slowly unclenching it, and saw that it was covered with sweat... when the rest of her was rapidly turning into a "Junsicle".
Just as well. I don't want to get my ass into trouble for hitting an Ex-instructor.
She waded through the snow, quickening her steps until she had caught up with Gone.
"Well done, Gone." She grinned gleefully, patting him lightly at the back to demonstrate her approval.
Alaxia trudged through the snow, shivering slightly. She wasn't used to such cold, and the sun being reflected by the snow blinded her. She winced, but continued her trek. She knew that the others were heading in this direction--she had seen some faint footprints in the snow that looked much like that of Stardust Infinity's. Also, her keen hunter's ears had picked up some very faint sounds of battling ahead, and she was sure she was getting closer. She picked up the pace, grunting softly as her feet sank deeply into snow.
Her foot suddenly slipped beneath her, and Alaxia tumbled; she had stepped into a deep snowdrift. She landed harshly on her back and she lay there, stunned for a moment, before struggling to her feet. She dusted melting snow off her shoulders and turned back to continue tracking Reese's group.
However, her vision of the field ahead was suddenly blocked by something big. Alaxia blinked, then tilted her head back.
A monster stood before her, grunting softly, with long arms that ended in wicked, gleaming white claws, and fangs that jutted upwards from its bottom lip. It stared her down with beady black eyes, and it didn't look friendly at all.
"My my, grandma...." Alaxia whispered softly, "what big teeth you have."
"Sure you're in the right line of work then, Vacc?" Reese called back as his trudged through the snow. "You know at least five SeeDs die every day now, due to the war. I myself wouldn't be suprised if I were to be killed before Vlahos's cigarette even had a chance to do any damage at all to my lungs..."
“Yeesh, you’re such a cheery ray of sunshine. I aspire to be as optimistic as you.” Gone said jokingly. “Lighten up, it won’t kill you. ‘Course I’m in the right line of work, I’ve nothing against killing people, or monsters.”
Gone ignored Dan, as he ranted on in the wonderful language of gibberish. He just turned and started walking again. Soon, Jun caught up with him. He grinned he’d wondered where she had been. Gone hopped she wasn’t going to give him more ‘advice’. It’s not like he ever listened.
"Well done, Gone." She grinned gleefully, patting him lightly at the back to demonstrate her approval. Gone blinked in disbelief. She wasn’t going to lecture him. Wow, this is my day.
“Well, love, when I die, I want to go out with a bang! Not frail and hacking up a lung on a hospital bed because someone else wants to die a slow agonising death.” He said, then in the distance he heard a cry. It didn’t sound good.
“So what say we go rescue that poor hapless soul?” He said grinning.
Yeesh, you’re such a cheery ray of sunshine. I aspire to be as optimistic as you. Lighten up, it won’t kill you. Gone's words echoed in Reese's mind.
A small smirk of amusement crossed his face, one that no one could see what with his back to them all. Well maybe it won't kill me, but if it makes me act anything like you, Vacc, I'd consider myself better off dead anyway. he thought.
He overheard Gone rattling his mouth. Again. Why, Perish! He's almost as annyoing as YOU! Reese exclaimed.
/Summon me! I dare you!/ Perish squealed indignantly.
Oh but I'd have a heart attack, since your such an intimidating little black kitty cat. Reese replied sarcastically.
Perish didn't reply, but chose to pout instead. Without his GF to distract him, Gone's voice filled Reese's ears once again. Mouth still running..."Fvcking hell, somebody take out his batteries." he muttered, stomping through the snow.
He clenched his jaw to keep his teeth from chattering together, rubbing his arms with his hands and quickening his pace. He instinctively reached for the left side of his chest, but realized his alcohol was in his coat. On Stardust.
"Hey, Stardust, could you pass me the flask in the left breastpocket of my coat?" he asked, turning his head to look behind him at her, extending his arm back, out to her.
Gone watched as Jun hurried across to where the ‘hapless soul’ was and attacked the beast. He quickly took off after her. Gone cringed slightly as she attacked the snowlion. She wasn’t being very careful.
“Don’t get blood on my jacket!” He shouted.
Gone then leapt into the fray with a gusto, he had to make sure his jacket didn’t get defiled by beast blood, and well making sure Jun and Alaxia didn’t get hurt was like a welcome bonus. As the icy blast headed for Jun, Gone leapt in front of her, taking most of the blast. He suddenly wished he had worn more than a wife-beater under his jacket. At least my jacket hasn’t been wrecked.
“Hey, Reese, leader boy! Help would be hot right now! Or are you too scared of dying?” Gone shouted as he sliced at the beast with Vayu.