The Son of Arlene and V probably didn’t realize what kind of legendary treasure he'd landed on, Gustang thought as he stared at Evolet. A large scale uprising was most certainly a possibility if the words of her worth were leaked, people would be scrambling to grab ahold of the trump card to change the tides. Though even if it did, then it will be in the far future since no sides were willing to disclose the old legend that Jahad erased from the Tower’s history.
Evolet was half paying attention to the live stream of the Growth Tournament on FUG and Sweet and Sour coverage while typing about on her Lighthouse, most likely cooking up some sort of scheme. No doubt Madoraco would be taking a hard hit from whatever she’s planned. Gustang wasn’t blind to what she’s been up to these few years since she entered the Tower. He was much aware of the connections she steadily built, of what she’s been doing behind FUG’s back with their ignorance. The minority who were informed of it was simply because they were on her side.
Gustang could tell what kind of price Evolet was paying to support Bam. As it stands with her recklessness, FUG would start moving against her to chain her down and control her movements. He was certain Evolet would never stand down should FUG attempt something, most likely she's to retaliate harder and at that point FUG wouldn't be able to handle her reins anymore like they did now. Believe Gustang when he says Evolet was dealing with FUG rather… "mildly" right now.
But should FUG take drastic measures, he was aware that Evolet would survive it either way. But that would also mean she'll change. She breaks but at the same time she didn't, just like before. Jahad won't miss the chance if that happens. It was better for him if the Son of Arlene managed to keep her by his side, but Gustang couldn’t be sure of that when Bam was climbing the Tower for such reasons. Which meant Gustang himself had to prevent Jahad from getting her no matter what. He was certain he wouldn’t be the only one either.
As he observed the movements of the FUG team and Mad Dog team, he briefly wondered when FUG would realize they're playing straight into her hands. He still remembered the abrupt call from Evolet last night, hurriedly asking him about the Living Ignition Weapon that's been let loose from the Workshop and figuring out details of her plan accordingly to the changes. They didn't stand a chance from the start, no matter what kind of card they pulled.
Gustang himself originally didn't have plans to interfere in this whole matter. After all he already got them to back off their hands on the Workshop Battle and all that's left to do was to see how Bam will overcome this, to see if he was truly fit for the Thorn. That plan was quickly thwarted when Evolet came into the picture. There was no way anything would go as planned with how hellbent she was on protecting the golden-eyed brunette. And Gustang didn't need her to do anything reckless that'll get her discovered this early.
Almost abruptly, the bluenette stopped typing as a dark glint swirled in her blue-violet eyes. Evolet frowned as she noticed how Bam's string flickered slightly. He was hurt. When she wasn't by his side, no less. Turning her usual Lighthouse back to invisible mode, she replaced it with a Compact Lighthouse that she specifically prepared for this occasion. Alarms rang as the prisoners in the Intruder Containment broke out along with the start of the battle's Semifinals. Her Pocket beeped, signalling a new message that made her smirk ominously. Without wasting any time, she quickly typed in a reply before turning to Gustang.
"Shall we go now, Gustang-san?"
Hwaryun was long involved with this plan. By no means was she a part of Evolet’s faction in FUG, whether officially or unofficially. She simply acted accordingly in the best interest of her god based on the paths she saw. And that coincidentally matched up with Evolet’s plan this time. Though she supposed if she had to say, their intentions and plans matched up for most of the time. The only difference was that Evolet prioritized Bam as himself while Hwaryun was viewing Viole as a god.
Khun might think they were taking a risky plan. But Hwaryun was confident it wouldn’t fail. Because she was aware of who was lurking around the Archimedes and getting a certain someone’s cooperation to foolproof the outcome. Not to mention the other one who was already heading here. Their victory was already guaranteed from the start, all they had to do was execute it. Which was why she was standing here disguised as Yuto, dealing with Reflejo.
“You suddenly disappeared without a word, but you came back of your own accord. What are you up to, Yuto?” The man himself didn’t look like he was over the moon, now clearly skeptical of “Yuto” who was supposed to be on FUG’s side.
“I wanted to talk to you for the last time.”
“...talk to me? Don’t try to pull anything sneaky. If you’re thinking of betraying us, give up. All the entrances have already been blocked off. There’s nothing you can do with them. I don’t understand why someone sent by the Elders is doing this. Especially at a time like this.”
A smile curled up on her lips, used to having knowledge that others don’t as a Guide. It was too late to give him a warning either way and she didn’t have any obligation to do so. “This plan of yours will lead to your downfall.”
Reflejo only scoffed, borderline seeming as if he wanted to break out in mocking laughter with that stoic mask of his. “Downfall? That’s funny. This is a revolution. Finally, we’ll obtain the power to beat Jahad and the Heads of the Ten Great Families. The experiment is already finished and no one can stop this plan.”
On cue to his little explanation, the “Angel” of Mad Dog– Ron Mei emerged from the shadows with her Lighthouses at the ready. “It’s too late to change your mind. Soon, the solution hotter than lava will pour down and melt Viole… creating a weapon infused with the power of an Irregular. The weapon will work as a catalyst to bring revolution to the Tower! And it won’t come about in the hands of some rookie Slayer Candidate, my great master Karaka will be the one to bring about the change!!”
“...Karaka… He’s only recently become a Slayer but has already plotted such a scheme...” Hwaryun’s words trailed off as a line of thought interrupted her, Reflejo looking somewhat confused from her words.
Such a pity. Svalinn probably will never help him now that he’s turned on my god once. That’s another King candidate off the list.
“Did he think himself a god just because he was called one? How foolish you are! Shadow of Karaka.”
Confusion turned into surprise as “Yuto” took off her mask, revealing the crimson red hair and a single scarlet eye courtesy of Bam from the Crown Game incident. The trademark features of a Red Witch Guide. “That red hair… You are- How did you get in here? You’re not Yuto…!”
“The “Yuto” you know completed her mission long before this tournament began. Her mission was to be chosen by the Elders and be replaced by me after delivering the fake Thorn. We knew from the start that your wager was just bait. We pretended to be lured by your plan.”
The gaze in her eyes sharpened, gaining a hostile glint to it as she continued. “I don’t think you get what I’m saying. Your plan had already failed the moment you trapped Viole in there. Why do you think we gave him the fake Thorn?”
“The fake Thorn in his body isn’t just a replica. It is a container to house the real Thorn. It should have begun to react to and be summoned by the Thorn by now. From the moment you trapped Viole in there… the owner of the Thorn was already decided. I told you. Your plan will lead to your downfall. If your plan fails and rumors of it spread… I wonder how the Elders, who have trusted you, will react.” The smirk on her lips more than enough to tell what’s to come.
“Damn it… How dare you…!! Stop her!!” Ron Mei quickly jumped into action, rushing with her Lighthouses. Without thinking twice, Hwaryun already jumped off the ledge with a knowing look.
“It looks like she killed herself…?” The blonde Lightbearer asked hesitantly as she stared down at the darkness.
Reflejo had started panicking, aware such a thing wasn’t possible. “She wouldn’t do that!! She’s a Guide! She wouldn’t kill herself!! What about the Thorn?!”
“Well… I can’t seem to reach them?”
“Crap! How did they get in?! Call in team Mad Dog! Don’t let them escape!!”
On the other hand, Bam watched in a mix of confusion and awe as the Thorn compressed in front of him. His restraints came loose, the compressed Thorn hovering beside him. Still somewhat lost, he stared at the new addition for a while longer before promptly snapping out of it once he heard shouting outside the door.
Bam didn’t waste any time getting up, jamming the key into the door as he summoned three Baangs with maximum output. Once the door cracked open, he immediately told Novick to move away. The Level 85 Patrol Blue Titan was blasted away in one go. Horyang and Novick approached him as the Blue Titan collapsed, sparking up questions to see if he was fine. Their attention shifted to the Thorn, still floating beside Bam.
"It's all wrapped up and doesn't look that special to me. Is it really that amazing?" Novick asked skeptically, tempted to just poke the Thorn.
"It is." A new voice replied from the entrance. Hwaryun was standing there, clad in black and carrying Yuto’s mask in her hands.
“It only looks like that in its container. But nobody knows what kind of power it’ll show once it turns into its real form.”
“Who are you?!” Their attention was completely focused on the redhead who disregarded Novick’s question as she resumed speaking.
“Although I’m not sure if our Rookie Slayer Nominee will be able to control it well.”
Bam, on the other hand, knew well who she was although he was no less dumbfounded. “Hwaryun…?! How did you…?”
Seeing their reactions, Hwaryun sighed as she put on the mask again. Realization quickly came to them as they exclaimed “Yuto”’s name. Though Hwaryun herself claimed that she simply walked Yuto’s path to give the Thorn to Bam. The brunette narrowed his golden eyes at the revelation, doubtful and suspicious.
“So...you knew everything from the beginning?”
“Yes. We knew everything from the beginning. Including what Karaka was planning with some of the Elders and what’s gonna happen to you in this tournament. I disguised myself as Yuto as part of the plan, waiting for the right time while staying by your side. Blame Svalinn for taking such a dangerous gamble just to get your freedom back.”
“Eve did…?” In an instant, the suspicion quickly faded away from Bam as he heard Hwaryun’s nickname for Evolet.
“You finally got the power. And now I think you’ve become a man… worthy to be my god.” Though the skepticism returned the moment the Guide said so. Of course, he thought. He should’ve expected that from Hwaryun.
“I’m not interested in becoming your god.” Bam answered as he walked away, tired of the expectations they had for him. He was no god, nor did he have any intention to become one. He briefly remembered how Evolet had told him to always remember who he was no matter what the others called him and pushed on him. That’s right, he was the 25th Bam. No more and no less.
Already knowing that was his answer from the start, the redhead shrugged it off. "Fine, now let's go back to your friends. Follow me. I'll show you the way. Your friends have probably already arrived near the Calling Center by now. I told them you got out. They'll summon you soon."
That completely took Bam by surprise. "Why would you…?!"
He was worried, anxious, terrified that FUG would only act harsher on this matter if he went back to his friends. He couldn't let all that years of suffering go to waste just because he wanted to go back. But Hwaryun only raised an eyebrow when she saw his reaction.
"Why do you look so surprised? Didn't Svalinn already promised to you?"
"No, she…" His words trailed off, remembering what Evolet said to him at the Hand of Arlene. Was this what she meant back then?
"Your enemies have already begun to move. They'll be the strongest you've ever fought and they'll try to stop you from returning at all costs. You need to win this tournament to go back. It'll be dangerous for both you and your friends. Do you still wanna go back?"
"I do." A determined answer from him. Hwaryun smiled slightly at that, although there was a hint of exasperation behind it.
"Even if things get difficult, I have people to be with. So no matter what comes my way, I'll go back to where I belong." He continued, golden orbs burning with a fiery resolution.
"Then there's no need to worry about anything. The path has been made, all you have to do is win your way out of this competition with all the allies gathered to support you."
"...I understand, please tell me the plan."
"Wise choice, my god."
The summoning was a rough ride, if nothing else. Bam was sent ahead first to the Well while Hwaryun, Novick, and Horyang stayed behind in order to stall the Mad Dog team who were in cahoots with FUG. Things had gone rather fine up until that point. Both Bam and Wangnan had arrived at the Well and the Store respectively, ready to summon Bam back. It started going downhill from there.
Reflejo hadn’t seen through their scheme immediately, but Beta did. And the blond arrived just in time to prevent Wangnan from summoning Bam by stabbing him. They did somehow manage to salvage the situation, thanks to Rak, Yihwa and Laure when they defeated the parasite spearhead Beta had. By now Shibisu had also somewhat figured out what was happening, giving out orders to his team to summon Endorsi while a few of them went to the Store to provide backup.
It was still far from the end though, especially when Beta has no intention to give up on his revenge. Laure could only grumble as he fended off Beta’s Partial Ignitions several times. It was obvious to the Wave Controller that the opponent he’s facing was not human and instead a monster created by the Workshop. Beta didn’t stop there, already on his next Partial Ignition and planning to blow up the whole Calling Center which made Khun endlessly frustrated and stressed out from the command center since they can only either choose to protect the Well, themselves, or give up the game.
“Poor Viole. You finally found your friends but you can’t do anything except watch. Wait for me. I’ll finish you off when I get there.” There was a crazed look in Beta’s eyes, one of them glowing an eerie red with vengefulness.
“...That’s enough…!” Behind the screen for the summoning, Bam could only grit his teeth at the threats Beta spouted to his friends, his eyes darting from the Well to Beta and urging the summoning to go faster so he could protect his friends.
Just as the blond grinned, about to shoot down on the Calling Center, the Workshop personnels came rushing in along with Sophia who was in charge of Beta’s experiment. She tried to stop him, not understanding the reason behind his violent actions. Khun might not know who she was, but he was grateful for the extra time at least.
“Beta...stop right there and return to the lab right now!! If you ever do this again, you…!!”
“Shut up. Don’t treat me like that anymore. Can’t you see? The monster you created? I’m not a human. I’m a weapon. She told me everything. The reason why I became a weapon is for revenge. So, with my own power, I’ll destroy Jue Viole Grace!! The reason why all of this started!!”
Khun clicked his tongue at the sheer craziness that was unfolding, furiously typing away and trying to find a way out of this. In the midst of it, he caught sight of the competition status on his monitor. His eyes widened, noting that he hadn't realized this was already the Semifinals because team Snake withdrew from the game since he turned off his communication. He hurriedly contacted Shibisu, telling him to forfeit the game immediately so that they could summon Bam without the load time.
Within the next moment, a big explosion resounded in the Store. Shibisu watched worriedly from afar, hoping that he made it in time to resign. Just on cue, a pillar of light shot up to the sky as Khun smirked.
Summoning of Jue Viole Grace… complete