|Little Witch Academia: Witches of Midgard Chapters|
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Trial of Blade Storm Valkyrie is the sixth chapter of Little Witch Academia: Witches of Midgard.
To Akko and co.'s surprise, Amanda revealed herself to be latest heir of Marmora armor and her intention to join the group in search for the meaning behind phrase "Franang's Falls". However, Asger, Diana, and Newt remained skeptical with her resolve due to her rebellious personality, so they decided to put it into a test.
"Clarisse, are you sure about this? She doesn't seem to have what it need to be a protector."
"I know what you mean, Master Newt. Amanda went through a lot since political drawbacks related to magic. Because of it, her relationships with her parents become strained and as you know it, she ended up become Luna Nova' juvenile delinquent. It was fortunate I was there for her and prevented it from getting worse. To tell the truth, I don't like her parents. Those pain in the necks cared more about politics than her well-being."
Few weeks prior to her passing, Clarisse, Amanda's step-cousin, had an important conversation with Newt at the balcony of O'Neill residence. She told her mentor about her decision to pass down both the title of Marmora the Blade Storm Valkyrie and the quest for "Franang's Falls" to Amanda, having a faith that she would continue what they had started together. It was a decision that surprised Newt, as she already heard about Amanda's reputation as Luna Nova's resident troublemaker beforehand.
"It surprised me Amanda is more than eager to help me in this quest, but I feel bad involving her without telling her everything. Not to mention I have little time left", Clarisse mused sadly before suddenly coughing up blood, much to the already concerned Newt's shock that the older witch cried, "Clarisse, are you okay?"
"I'm okay", Clarisse reassured weakly. "To be honest, I don't want to force her to carry this great responsibility. But if she wanted to fight in my place, she must know what lies ahead. And Master Newt, please... Take care of her for me."
"I will", Newt nodded.
Akko, Lotte, Sucy, Diana, Ursula, Newt, Holbrooke, and Asger held the meeting at Holbrooke's office, with Newt concluded her story about the night she spoke to Clarisse, Amanda's step-cousin, prior to the latter's passing. Mixed reactions spread across the room about how much her passing greatly affected Amanda. It's turned out that they are not the only one who trying to solve the mystery behind the phrase "Franang's Falls": Clarisse and Amanda had been investigating it for quite some time prior to the latter's enrollment at Luna Nova. Solving the said mystery and Clarisse's support have been Amanda's drive to enroll at the campus since Clarisse managed to prevent the fallout between her and her parents. Not surprisingly, the salmon-haired witch greatly devastated by her death, but it further solidified her resolve to finish what they had started together.
However, the most shocking part of Newt's story was Clarisse herself, who also a Valkyrie known as Marmora the Blade Storm Valkyrie and have chosen Amanda as her successor. Whereas Akko and Lotte thrilled by the news, Asger and Diana questioned such decision considering Amanda's reputation.
"Master Newt, is it wise to let Miss O'Neill inherit Blade Storm Valkyrie title?", Diana asked. "She doesn't seem to be responsible enough to carry such burden."
"What are you saying, Diana? Wouldn't it better if we have many people fighting the enemy as possible?", Akko said enthusiastically. "I mean, what can be wrong?"
"Should I remind you not all witches can be a Valkyrie?", Newt said. "Becoming a Valkyrie means to selflessly carry great responsibility as a protector. It's true it will be helpful if we have more allies in the fight against Naglfar. I agree with Miss Cavendish that O'Neill may not responsible enough to succeed Clarisse as the heir of Marmora, but there's no denying that she has the potential."
"I don't see her fit to be Clarisse's successor, captain", Asger said. "Miss O'Neill is still a teenager, and from what I heard, she's too brash and less disciplined just like Clarisse herself. It is also because of her Naglfar confirmed we are on pieces of Confinement Staff. "
"I and my roommates also still teenagers", Akko pointed out.
"It's because you received special permission from Headmistress, Akko", Ursula explained. "In normal circumstances, only witches around at least 18 may allowed to become Valkyries. The reason why Diana began her training much earlier was because it being her late mother's final request so she can properly inherited her armor and title. You and your roommates on the other hand, was because Naglfar know our part in restoring Yggdrasil along with the fact that you once wielded the power Shiny Rod. Not only that, you three are the latest heirs of 3 of legendary Elemental Valkyrie Armors, which gave them more than enough reasons for them to destroy you."
"Chariot, Headmistress, Captain Newt, even though I impressed with Akko and her friends' performance in stopping Croix Meridies' monstrous creation and their first combat on the field, I still disagree with the idea of involving them in the fight against Naglfar", Asger said with a frown. "They're still minors. It's no different than sending them into war as child soldiers who would constantly face suffering associated with their roles. The only exception here is Miss Cavendish, since she is a prodigy and better prepared for her role as a protector. Even though Naglfar no longer what they used to be, fighting them is no different than fighting in a war, because they have Dark Valkyrie on their side, creating more war machines for their cause as we speak. You three know very well what kind of hellish ordeals you would put them into, don't you?"
Ursula wanted to argue Asger's statement, but found herself at a loss for words. While she impressed with the young witches' prowess as the new generation of protectors, she still worried with their well-being because they still very young, and battles ahead might too much for them to handle. Not only that, Naglfars are not some small group of bad guys that can be dealed on ease. They were once a great faction with enough power to challenge Thapoli and the rest of magical community. Even though they now nothing more than shadows of their former selves as result of their loss in the aftermath of Thapoli-Naglfar War, along with rumors of infighting among themselves, they still pose considerable threat to magic community.
"I understand why you objected the decision of involving Miss Kagari, Miss Yanson, and Miss Manbavaran in the fight against our ancient enemies and questioning O'Neill's worth as Clarisse's successor", Holbrooke finally said. "It's true these young girls are still minors, but they were instrumental in restoring magic back to Midgard by using both World Altering Magic and Claiomh Solais, something no other witches were able to accomplish. Not only that, they chose to take their newfound roles in their own volition as much as Miss Cavendish do, which is why Professor Callistis have faith in their abilities."
"The same can be said to Amanda as well", Newt added. "As the matter of fact, Marmora armor accepted her as its new master, which means she indeed has qualities of a protector in spite her rebellious behavior. Oh, along with Amanda, Headmistress, I would also like Jasminka and Constanze to come along as well. Based on Chariot's reports about their roles in stopping Noir missile, even if they were small, I believe they will be a great help to us."
That surprises everyone, including Holbrooke.
"Captain Newt!", Asger cannot believe Newt would involve more young witches in the fight against Naglfar.
"My suggestion in recruiting Amanda's roommates might be reckless", Newt continued. "Neither of them nor Amanda know the full scope of our situation, let alone whether Amanda understand her new destiny and the truth about who Clarisse really was. Right now, she must be anxious enough as it is."
"It's not reckless. It's madness", Asger pointed out.
"Madness? Maybe. To tell the truth, I only know Amanda from Clarisse, but it's more than enough", Newt said. "About Constanze, her skills in mechanics may be viable in this fight, as I heard she created many useful machines for Luna Nova in spite of high-tech devices strictly forbidden in the school. I know little about Jasminka on the other hand, but I can tell she won't stay quiet seeing her friends in trouble just like Miss Yanson."
"Those are valid points. But we're no—"
"I said I wanted to have those three to come along, but the decision whether they will join us lies on their hands alone", Newt said firmly. "As of now, I wanted to see how good they are in combat. This can also be the test for Amanda to see whether she can live up Clarisse's expectation as her successor. The rest is up to them."
"If they able to survive like in the battle against the dreaded Noir Rod, it would be a worthy tale."
Everyone in the office turns around, and sees Harr who enters the room, intrigued by the topic of their meeting.
"Jarl Harr!", Asger exclaimed.
"Your concern to those younglings' well-being is understandable, Asger. But holding them back won't do any good", Harr said. "They already have experiences together which allow them to work as a team efficiently. I am sure it will benefit them in this fight."
"But you know they will face something more horrifying than a possessed missile, sir?", Asger asked.
"Which is why they need our experience to overcome it all", Harr answered. "Give them a chance. Let's see what happened."
After careful consideration, Holbrooke finally said, "Master Newt, I hereby allow you to test the resolve of Amanda O'Neill, Jasminka Antonenko, and Constanze Amalie von Braunschbank-Albrechtsberger. You are free to determine both time and place where the test would be held."
In spite of his senior's reasurrance and his (Harr) and Newt's points are just, Asger still uneasy whether the young witches would be able to overcome whatever ordeals that lies ahead because of their roles. He wanted to objected this further deep inside, but decided against it as a decision has been made.
Newt smiles happily. "In that case, I and Chariot should go to tell those three to prepare", she said before turned on Akko, Lotte, Diana, and Sucy. "And as for you four, get a good night's rest. You fought well tonight. If you have any questions in mind, keep them for tomorrow."
"Thank you, Newt-sensei", Akko nods happily.
Just as Akko and her friends about to reach the door, Asger suddenly intercepted them, "Wait a minute, Miss Kagari. There's something I'd like to ask you."
"What is it?", Akko wondered.
"I need to know, Akko. Why you chose to become a Valkyrie?", the ratatoskr asked. "You should've known that this isn't a game. This is about life and death, and about the future of everyone in this world and the rest of Nine Realms. As of now, it's too late to turning back even if you wished to."
"I already know that", Akko said. "Well, to be honest, I'm scared with my life when figuring out that becoming a Valkyrie means fighting as if my life depend on it. I've been through a lot ever since I came Luna Nova, which includes how I found Shiny Rod and finally met the one who inspired me to become a witch, Shiny Chariot, who turned out to be my own teacher all along. And if I've learned anything during that time, it's not to give up on your dreams. This might sounds naive, but I always believed magic being the most wonderful thing in the whole world."
"However, I learned that magic can also be something terrible. It sickened me to see someone who use it to bring harm to others or worse, tricking a role model to commit something awful with it. Because of them, many innocent lives ruined... ", Akko's voice was strangled. She gritted her teeth and squeezed out the last few words. " ...and felt betrayed by magic they cherised."
Ursula can feel the rage curdling inside Akko. The awful night when Croix betrayed her and revealed her role model and mentor's part in crippling her magic 11 years ago still fresh in her mind, as if it all happened just yesterday. She refused to believe her hero had intentionally harmed her and ruined her dreams seconds after it was born, and in some ways, she was right: It was Croix, who tricked Ursula, who at that time still a stage performer under the name Shiny Chariot, to use experimental magic called Dream Fuel Spirit to strip her audiences of their magic for her selfish agenda, with young Akko and Diana among those who affected. It was fortunate damage done by such awful magic can be reversed through reworking it from the beginning, something that Diana discovered and later, revealed to Akko upon finding her sitting alone in the snowy night. Akko had learned more details about the truth behind Dream Fuel Spirit from Croix herself in the aftermath of the Noir Missile crisis. Even though she and Croix had made amends with each other, the tension between them still remains.
"I don't want to see people crying because of them anymore. I walked on this path for sake of their happiness. It's not just to make them smile, but also to protect them. That's my answer", Akko concluded.
Ursula, Lotte, Diana, Newt, Harr, and Holbrooke can't help but moved by Akko's firm answer. Everything she said was clearly not something they would hear from a naive and childish girl. Putting her bubbly and impulsiveness aside, the quest for Seven Words of Arcturus and World Altering Magic, coupled with her time at Luna Nova, and reality of her longtime idol and mentor never flawless to begin with, allowed Akko to matured considerably. Even though Sucy appeared to be indifferent, she actually impressed as much as her friends deep inside. Asger on the other hand, rendered speechless by Akko's answer, as he didn't see that coming as much as everyone else.
"I see", the ratatoskr nodded. "It seemed there's nothing that can change your mind once you set up your goals, then? If that's the case, Atsuko Kagari, don't push your luck."
With that, Asger let Akko and her classmates return to their dorm.
Meanwhile, in the green team's dorm room, Amanda told her roommates Constanze and Jasminka about the recent events along with her step-cousin's legacy in form of a runic shortsword, an azure Valkyrie Gauntlet with a symbol in form of round red symbol with yellow outline, and the quest for "Franang's Falls". Constanze and Jasminka listening their roommate's story while content themselves with what they're doing; the former tinkering magic-mechanical equipment on her hands while Jasminka, as always, munching her bag of chips.
Constanze is a quiet short girl who rarely talks, but greatly excels in mechanics and able to craft tools and equipment which combine aspects of both magic and mechanics, which made her stand out among her peers. Her full name is Constanze Amalie von Braunschbank-Albrechtsberger, which is why her friends just call her "Constanze" or simply "Cons". She always seen with a small robot called Stanbot resembling GameCube around her, which she uses to assist her in performing tasks or speak on her behalf. Due to her frequent use of the little robot and rarely speak, there are rumors that her behavior might be result of a terminal illness which resulted her soul had to be temporarily removed from her body and placed in a container until she able to recover, with the said container being the Stanbot that always seen with her. However, the said rumor turned out to be false, as when Akko accidently destroyed that Stanbot during the preparation for Wild Hunt last year, it didn't negatively affect Constanze aside making her mad.
Of course, the plausible explanation why she rarely speak is due to her prone to stuttering and teased for it when she was young. If she really had her soul transferred into her Stanbot, its accidental destruction by Akko supposedly killed her, considering damage she did on that little robot.
Like Akko, Constanze has great dedication and drive towards her passion where in her case, its about manufacturing hi-tech tools and equipment which simply enhanced by magic or tinkering tools and equipment which combine aspects of both magic and mechanics. It is known that she had repeatedly break Luna Nova regulations for her works, but the professors' opinion about her somewhat mixed: While some (which includes Finnelan) disapproved her due to the school's regulations, the others have different opinion because her works proved to be useful. Her passion for technomagic allowed Constanze to bond with the former modern magic professor Croix Meridies through to their similarities, though their relationships eventually went sour after Croix revealed to be reason of Akko and Ursula's troubles as well as being creator of dreaded Noir Missile. In spite of what had happened, neither of them gave up the respect to each other and Constanze and Croix maintained contact through letters.
Jasminka on the other hand, is munching on something as usual. Nothing make her happier than eating, and she also physically strong. Little did everyone know that she had a dark secret which explain her above-average appetite and love for eating: When she was a child, Jasminka accidently ate a fairy beast causing it to live in her stomach like a parasite, forcing her to constantly eating while awake to keep it appeased. Akko at first skeptical to her story until she accidently caused the creature to awaken by forcing Jasminka to fast, resulting it possessed her and transformed into enormous version of itself. The fairy beast then went berserk, eating everything on sight until stopped by Akko who force-fed it with a jar full of umeboshi.
Jasminka's backstory indeed sounds tragic, which also contributed to her cheerful behavior as she doesn't wanted anyone around her to worry about her well-being. She has had to accept the fact that she is not normal human anymore. On the outside, she still looked normal, but had to maintain the control over her unnatural condition.
After the gang saved the world from Noir Missile and restored magic back to Midgard, Jasminka's luck changed upon receiving a letter from her parents where they stated that they found a way to improve her condition. Unwilling to afford the incident where the fairy beast inside her possessed her to happen ever again, Jasminka promptly returned home in hopes of either removing the fairy beast inside her or at least make peace with it somehow. By the time she returned in time to see Akko finally float with her own broom for the first time, Jasminka had achieved equilibrium that she sought: She now able not to eat for longer periods than she used to be, enabling her to diet for the first time in years. While she did not disclose whatever treatments her parents gave to her during her absence, it's obvious that the said treatments enable her to do more than enhanced strength.
"That's what happened", Amanda concluded. "I know it sounds crazy, but all shit that happened back there was like something you guys usually see in Japanese action anime or comic books."
"It is", Jasminka nodded, still munching on her bag of cookies. "But the scary lady aside, did you said something about four witches with glowing armors? Do you think they are some kind of superheroes?"
"Are you kidding? Superheroes only exist in comic books and movies!", Amanda argued. "Although, they looked and acted just like one. Appeared out of nowhere to save the day before disappeared all of sudden. What a cliché."
The salmon-haired young witch then looked sadly on both her step-cousin's gauntlet and shortsword on her hands before sighed, "It's not that I wanted to stick my nose on others' business. I just wanted to know what "Franang's Falls" really is and why Clarisse wanted to solve the mystery behind that stupid phrase so badly. Can't afford to let that chance slip away from my grasp."
"Come to think about it. The reason why I became this school's resident troublemaker might because my parents pushed me to enroll here. They cared more about politics than her own daughter. I always thought no one can understand what I truly feel until Clarisse showed up. We had a rocky start, but the more I know her, the more I realized we both not so different. She taught me many things including swordplay and broom flight, and even managed to prevent our family from falling apart. Even though we're not related, she's like an older sister that I never had. However, after she passed me these before her death and looking back at the recent events and that night, I realized I didn't really know anything about her."
"Amanda... ", Jasminka whispered sadly.
"But... I don't care with that", the redhead continued. "I have decided from right there and then to finish what we had started together, no matter what it takes."
Just then, the doorknob begins to twist, and the door itself suddenly pushed open. Turning around, the three friends are surprised to see Ursula and Newt entering their room, with Jasminka and Constanze quickly deduced that the latter is not one of the professors of Luna Nova.
"Professor Ursula?", Amanda wondered. "And..."
"Newt Astridottir, the captain of Alioth at your service", Newt introduced herself formally before noticing Jasminka and Constanze. "And you two must be Constanze and Jasminka, Miss O'Neill's roommates I presumed?"
"Y-yes?", Jasminka replied nervously, followed by Constanze who simply nods.
"Professor Callistis told me about your part in stopping Croix Meridies' creation from destroying a neighboring nation while simultaneously assisting Miss Kagari and Miss Cavendish restoring magic back to the world few months back. I must say I'm impressed in spite of your minor part in it", Newt explained. "And it has recently come to my attention that Miss O'Neill just have inherited something that belonged to my apprentice Clarisse Harden."
"You mean these?", Amanda guessed while showing Newt her late-cousin's gauntlet and shortsword. "How did you know I inherited these? Wait... You know my cousin, did you?"
The older witch simply smirks. "That's right. I was the one who show her the ropes. I would like to tell you the truth about your late cousin Clarisse, along with the reason why she passed those items to you, Miss O'Neill. But before that, I need to put you and your roommates' resolve into a test."
"Putting our resolve into a test?", Amanda wondered. "What do you mean?"
"I wanted to see whether you three are qualified for what happens next."
On the next day after the afternoon class, Amanda, Constanze, and Jasminka are gathered in front of a giant door which led to the dungeon beneath the New Moon Tower as per Newt's instruction. The dungeon itself is an ancient, multi-storied labyrinth utilized as a training ground for Luna Nova students to hone their skills in exploration, retrieval, and combat. The students would be tasked to retrieve treasures scattered around the dungeon while at the same time, evading and if necessary, combating monsters that infested the area. There are no monsters that harmed in the training, as they are actually golems modeled after real monsters and deliberately designed with same abilities and resemblance with monsters in question. Although, real monsters were once used until the change was made due to it deemed too barbaric.
As the trio waiting for Newt, Amanda takes her time practicing her swordplay with her late cousin's shortsword, displaying incredible prowess in spite of her somewhat unorthodox and aggressive style. Constanze installed something into her Stanbot's system, giving it a new configuration in form of chainsaw sword coated with emerald flames, impressing Jasminka who holding a bag of cookies. The cookies she carry are actually not ordinary snacks, as they have been mixed with special powder to help maintain her fairy beast's hunger.
After what appeared to be 15 minutes, Newt finally arrived, accompanied by Akko as they descend from spiral stairs. Noticing the two, Amanda put her cousin's sword to her belt sash and sighed, "About time."
"I see you three are eager to participate in this trial", Newt said to the green team. "Before we begin, I must let you know it would be more difficult that a simple Treasure Hunting."
Pulling out her crystal ball, Newt projects what appeared to be a three-dimensional map of the dungeon on the air with it. Five green dots, which obviously representing Akko, Amanda, Constanze, Jasminka, and Newt herself, can be seen on the entrance part of the map. The map also shows what appeared to be a red dot moving in a random pattern at the 7th floor. "For this trial, you will go down to the dungeon and take down the enemy together. As of now, it still roaming around the 7th floor, but it's just the matter of time before it moves to the deeper parts of the dungeon or worse, reaching the exit. Do not take this task lightly, as you are going to fight as if your life depend on it. And Amanda, as part of this trial, I will keep your cousin's gauntlet until your return. You may keep the sword however, as it will come to handy once the time comes."
Amanda hesitated to give Newt Clarisse's gauntlet, but only for a moment before she eventually complied, "All right, but promised me you'll tell me why "Franang's Falls" was very important to her."
"It depends on whether you three can overcome your trial, but I'm sure you three can do it. I will monitor your progress through this crystal ball from here", Newt said firmly, before turns on Akko and continues. "Miss Kagari here will accompany you in case of you three need any help and to make sure your trial went smoothly. I supposedly assigned either Professor Callistis or Miss Cavendish for this task, but regrettably, they had important business to take care of that they decided to appoint her in their stead. In any cases, give it you all."
With a flick of her wand, Newt magically opens the entrance, prompting the green team to usher in with Akko follow closely behind.
"Amanda, slow down. There's no need to rush", Akko pleaded as they exploring the dungeon.
"This place is huge. We need to get the lay of it", Amanda said.
"Geez", Akko sighed before noticed something approaching them. "Amanda, wait!"
Acting fast, Akko magically combined her Valkyrie Blade with her wand into the Blade's active form before swiftly rushed past the Irish-American while simultaneously shifts the Blade into its round shield form in a quick motion, deflecting what appeared to be an oncoming magical projectile fired on the green team. Assuming caution mode, Constanze's stanbot scans its surrounding before its sensors picked up a signal from the direction where the projectile came from. "Something's wrong. Be careful everyone!", the little robot warned.
"Amanda, I told you to calm down!", Akko reprimanded.
"It's okay! I could've avoid that", Amanda reassured, before noticing something amiss. "Hey, I thought you'll do something reckless like the last time."
"And ruining you guys' trial? Nope. Not this time", Akko replied.
Just then, the stanbot projects a video feed of the latest event recorded by its optics onto the wall so the four girls can see it. The video reveals that their attacker was a blurred figure that swiftly retrating into shadows after attacking. Perhaps due to them either using Invisibility Magic of simply moving too fast, it's hard to tell what they actually looked like.
"It looks like someone is targeting us", Akko said, before asking the Irish-American about the ornate shortsword on her hands. "Um, nice sword by the way."
"Thanks", Amanda replied, before explained. "It is called Sumarbrandr, Sword of Freyr. Clarisse found it in an ancient ruins somewhere at Norway when she began her quest for "Franang's Falls". She was thrilled when one of her colleagues figured out that the sword was once in possession of an Old God, a Vanir named Freyr. It is said that the sword has the power over the light, not dulled easily, and able to fight without someone wielding it, though unfortunately, most of its magic had been diminished by the time she found it. In spite of their best efforts, the sword no longer able to fight on its own. It would be cool if this sword still has it, right?"
"Of course it would. Who don't want a powerful sword that can fight for your behalf?", Akko agreed. "Um... You know how to use it, don't you?"
"I'm not sure. She never allowed me to touch it", Amanda groaned. "It made me even wondering why she changed her mind."
"I think it's because at that time Sword of Freyr might be too much for you", Akko said. "I mean, such powerful weapon is clearly not something to be toyed with, which is why she kept you away from it until you responsible enough for the power you carry with it."
"A great power carries a great responsibility, bla bla bla", the Irish-American rolled her eyes. "She obviously pissed when figuring out both of us infiltrating Appleton Academy. Even though we're not so different, she's mature beyond my imagination. Compared to her, I'm still a kid."
"I think she's right. You still a kid, you know?", Akko said flatly, earning her a growl from the Irish-American. "Anyway, we'd better get going. Once you guys take out that thing, we're done."
"And go get some takeouts together!", Jasminka added enthusiastically.
Constanze gives an affirmative nod as Akko added, "Yes we will, Jasna."
Back at the entrance of the dungeon, Newt is monitoring the four girls' progress through the magical map while eating a cup of udon. As she eats, the White Valkyrie recalled on how she met Croix Meridies, the young lilac-haired witch who once her apprentice Chariot's best friend, and introduced her the said food which eventually become one of her favourites. She also found the friendship between Chariot and Croix heartwarming, and even initially believed both of them can be great sisters-in-arms as Valkyries. Unfortunately, those thoughts had been corrupted following the fallout between both girls as result of their dispute over the quest for World Altering Magic, which culminated to Croix tricked Chariot to use the experimental Dream Fuel Spirit on her audiences, severely handicapped their magic potential in process. Such incident was bad enough to smear Chariot's name both as a witch and the Guardian of Luna Nova, and the fact that more conservative witches already saw Chariot in negative light due to her career as magical star doesn't help either. It was fortunate Newt managed to prove her apprentice's innocence to Thapoli by exposing Croix as the perpetrator of the incident, though by the time Chariot was freed from the charges, Croix already went into hiding and Chariot herself too wracked by the guilt from touching her armor again, especially after she scarred the moon with an overpowered Shiny Arc which resulted Claiomh Solais withered on her hands.
Upon learning the news that Croix had returned to Luna Nova, Newt suspected that the Italian witch was up to no good and offered Chariot (who had assumed the new identity Ursula Callistis) some help, only for her said apprentice rejected it out of guilt from her own part in allowing Croix's fall from grace in the first place. Though dismayed, she nevertheless respected Ursula's decision to personally stopping Croix and set right what went wrong in the past. The Master Valkyrie was relieved that the feud between two former best friends ended peacefully where Croix, after realizing her errors, decided to make up with Ursula by finding the cure for Wagandea exposure and even assisted her and the seven witch students of Luna Nova destroying her creation that went out of control. Newt's distrust towards Croix is not simply because of her deception on Ursula, but rather the similarities between her and her former apprentice Helviti, though unlike Croix, Helvity never has redeeming qualities to begin with.
As she continue monitoring the witch students, Newt noticed Ursula who striding purposely along the stairs to the entrance of the dungeon. "Let me guess. They assigned you for another long chores again?", Newt guessed, her eyes still focus on the magical map.
"Yes. Being the youngest teacher in Luna Nova is suffering", Ursula replied before hung her head dejectly.
"Oh, come on. Long chores are nothing for the Guardian of Luna Nova. Besides, they are good for keeping yourself fit", Newt reassured. "Anyway, so far your favorite student did good in accompanying the green team. I guess choosing her in this assignment was a wise decision after all."
"Really?", Ursula said in disbelief. "How are they now?"
"There's a brief disturbance, but they able to handle themselves pretty well so far", Newt replied while switching the map to a floating screen which shows the girls' recent activities including how Akko deflected an oncoming magical projectile that fired towards Amanda moments earlier. "Although, having a magic bolt fired at you from the shadows like that is nothing compared to what they would face next. Clarisse wanted it to be as brutal as possible."
"As brutal as possible?", Ursula repeated. "Would that be too much for them?"
"If they failed, then that's the end of it. Besides, it's never about defeating the enemy", Newt said firmly, before offering her apprentice her cup of udon. "You want some?"
"Just one bite", Ursula replied as she pick up some noodles with Newt's chopsticks. After a few failed attempts, the red-haired French managed to lift the noodles into her mouth before sucks, chews, and swallows them in one swift motion. "A bit salty, and it's ramen."
"Croix's favorite", Newt nodded with a smile, before gazing back quietly to the display as she switched it back to the three-dimensional map of the dungeon. "You know, I never wanted to hate Croix for what she had done to you and anyone else. Do you remember how she was when you brought her to Thapoli?"
"Of course, Master Newt. Timid, reserved, and gifted", Ursula nodded.
"Yes. Similar with Helviti in many ways, and even share same potential and power", Newt agreed. "But out of two, Helviti was the worst, as I sensed that she was dangerous even from start. When I figured out Croix betrayed you at Japan, I was worried she had become as worse as Helviti did. It was fortunate that you... No, both you and Akko proved that Croix can still be saved. Het frustration on you and Woodward was understandable. Woodward may be one of legendary Nine Olde Witches, but it doesn't change the fact that she never a perfect role model to begin with. After all, it's never wrong to look up on your idols, but it even better if you surpassed them instead of living in their shadows. Even role models makes mistakes, you know?"
"You're right. Akko was the only one who look up on me when nobody else didn't... and even succeed what I failed", Ursula agreed.
Just then, two white dots suddenly appeared on the map and approaching the green ones, alarming the red-haired French. "Master Newt?"
The White Valkyrie simply smiles. "Yes. This is the moment where they must display their resolve."
Meanwhile, Akko, Amanda, Constanze, and Jasminka finally stepped into the hall of the 7th floor of the dungeon. It is surprisingly spacious, almost four times the size of Luna Nova's auditorium. Entering the hallway, they found what appeared to be slashing marks all over the hall's floor. Using her stanbot's scanner, Constanze analyzed the marks and found some metal residue on them, indicating that they were made by sharp metallic objects. Oddly enough, the scan results implied that the they might actually footprints instead of result of an intense fight judging from their pattern. Unsure about her findings, the German mechanic showed her friends the scan results.
"Hey Akko, what exactly are we looking for here actually?", Amanda wondered.
"I'm not so sure. Newt-sensei told me it is some sort of persistent killing machine, I think", Akko replied as she look around the hallway cautiously, then on the slashing marks on the floor where she sensed something familiar on them. "Is it just me, or they seemed familiar somehow?"
"How should I know? We don't even know what we're up against", Amanda said indignantly.
"I think I know what created those slashing marks, but I just can't place the-"
The four witches suddenly startled by a silhouette that seemingly appeared out of nowhere before them, giving them a quick fright. They composed themselves however, and positioned themselves accordingly to show whoever in front of them that they aren't playing around.
"Who are you? Show yourself!", Amanda demanded. Without missing a beat, the mysterious figure responded with a familiar voice.
"Hello, Amanda", the voice greets in a lighthearted tone. The figure stepped out from the shadows and revealed herself to be a young woman who, to Amanda's shock, none other than someone she familiar with. She has long glossy black hair, tanned skin, blue eyes with tint of pink, and wearing an outfit that comprised of white collared shirt, red buttoned sweater, black pants, brown shoes, and a tribal headband reminiscent to Native Americans'.
"C-Clarisse?!", Amanda yelped unexpectedly, much to her friends' confusion that they exchange a look.
"Clarisse?", Akko repeated. "Amanda, is that really her? Your cousin Clarisse?"
"I thought you said she already dead", Jasminka added.
Amanda began feeling the guilt weighing down her heart, but she shook her head to clear her thoughts and demanded, "Is that really you, sis? Why are you here?"
"Yes, Amanda. It's me, your cousin", Clarisse replied with a smile. "I don't remember how or why am I here, but I'm surprised you participate in the trial to prove your worth as my successor in your own free will. This isn't like you."
"I made a promise to finish what we had started together, remember? You know, the mystery behind the Franang's Falls?", Amanda explained. "Besides, you owed me one, and I wish I can repay you for that."
"I see", Clarisse nodded. "But Amanda, you don't have to keep this up."
Amanda frowned. "What are you talking about?"
"The quest to find the meaning behind Franang's Falls might be impossible for you to solve", Clarisse said sadly. "No matter what you do, you won't be able to figure it out. Just... forget about it and go out with your life."
Clarisse's pleads confused Amanda, moreso than why she appeared before her. Realizing that something definitely wrong on the young woman before her, Amanda argued somberly, "I can't do that, sis. Not until you tell me why you obsessed over Franang's Falls in the first place!"
"What are you talking about?", Clarisse wondered.
"I wanted to know why... and who you really are", Amanda explained. "I remember the night when you told me about that quest, along with your secrets. It was in the summer holiday, a year before I enrolled at Luna Nova. We were staying at our family's cabin in the mountains when my parents went overseas so I won't bored myself to death at home. You weren't return when the dinner time came during our first night at that cabin, and it made me worried that I went out to look for you. That's when I saw a strange green light on the woods, and the next thing that happened I found you badly injured that you barely able to stand on your feet."
"And you also figured out I received those injuries from fighting a horned giant all by myself which made you suspecting that I hid something from you?", Clarisse continued. "Why are you brought up that incident?"
"Because Clarisse I know received a scar on her left cheek from that fight and won't discourage me from fulfilling our promise!", Amanda exclaimed before suddenly pointed Sumarbrandr at the young woman before her. "You may looked like her, but you lacked the same scar with hers! Who are you?"
"Clarisse"'s eyes widen in shock as Constanze and Jasminka ready themselves on their leader's side. By that point, she realized that her disguise lacked something: A scar that supposedly present on her left cheek not unlike the original. Realizing that Amanda had seen through her disguise, "Clarisse" smirks before suddenly explodes into mass of gray, segmented metallic ribbons which instantly converge into a short, armored creature with a long jagged spear and a single glowing green eye that staring at them coldly.
In appearance, the mysterious creature before them looks like an anthropomorphic squirrel, except it being around the size of an average cat and dressed like an archetypical assassin from generic role-playing games. His full-face mask has design which reminiscent to that of medieval knight helmet, with its upper half being red in color and has holes on the sides for its ears to stick out. Underneath its sleeveless, hooded gray tunic, it wears what appeared to be a form-fitting bodysuit that also covers both its neck and base of the tail. It also wears a pair of light gray shoulder plates, charcoal gray and red greaves and matching gauntlets, bandages on the feet and toes, a brown belt with what appeared to be strange device with a button and a spool of gray ribbons, and knives stored on holsters around its thighs. Reminiscent to Valkyrie armors, it also has neon green glow on its clothes.
The armored squirrel's appearance rendered Akko speechless. She honestly didn't know anything about this creature, but something in it reminds her from a certain article in one of chronicle books she found at the library in Alioth, the one about the legendary soldier of Sword of Laeradr who famed for decimating dozens of Naglfar settlements during Thapoli-Naglfar War all by himself. Though unsure whether they are facing the said soldier, one thing is certain; that thing is not part of the green team's trial. She turns her Valkyrie Blade into its bladed bow form and prepared for the worst...
"To think you're not completely fooled by my disguise, I must say I'm impressed", the armored squirrel suddenly speak in low, deep voice.
"It talked?!", Amanda yelped, before turned on Akko and asked, "Hey Akko, is that thing supposedly part of our test?"
"Everyone, looked out! That thing is-", Akko warned only to be interrupted by the armored squirrel who suddenly appeared before her and pointed its spear on her throat. She could've sworn that thing was just few feet in front of Amanda seconds ago and not even seeing it rushed towards her. Was it teleported with magic?
Acting fast, Constanze manually switches her stanbot's configuration to its machine gun mode and open fire on the armored squirrel. To her surprise, it single-handedly deflected every single one of the oncoming projectiles with its weapon without even turning on its attacker, prompting the German mechanic to stop firing. As this happens, Akko slashed her bladed bow against the armored squirrel, but it jumped out of the way and sends her flying towards the entrance with a single kick. Fortunately, she managed to switch her Valkyrie Blade's bladed bow form to its axe form and slammed it on the floor to anchor herself from getting thrown too far. As she returning to her feet, the armored squirrel projects multiple black ribbons from its left hand, creating a mesh-like wall that separated them and the green team.
"What are you doing?!", Akko demanded.
"Change of plans. Your job is over", the armored squirrel said.
"My job is to ensure my friends' safety, and that barrier won't change anything", Akko insisted.
"This is as far as you go", the intruder insisted darkly.
Constanze switches her weapon's machine gun mode to its blazing chainsaw mode and attempted to cut through the ribbon wall, but her weapon had little to no effect on it. Even Amanda's Sumarbrandr and magic bolts cannot damage it, as ribbons the wall comprised of reinforced by magic. Seeing the wall extremely resistant, if not outright immune to everything her roommates thrown at it, Jasminka decided to try something out. Putting her bag of cookies on her sash, she focused both her magic and that of fairy beast inside her into her left arm, causing it to sprouts multiple glowing sky blue tentacles that coalesce around her said arm into gelatinous-looking armored fist enveloped by bluish aura.
"You two, stand back!", Jasminka cried out before charges towards the ribbon wall.
The short German mechanic and the Irish-American move out of the way as their Russian roommate valiantly rushed towards the ribbon wall and slammed her transformed fist against it. To their surprise, the brute force of Jasminka's armored fist succesfully punched through the seemingly impenetrable mesh-like ribbon wall, creating a large wall on it and made the entire wall to brittle in process. Amanda and Constanze stared at Jasminka with a mix of shock and awe as she pulled her transformed fist out of the wall: They knew their Russian roommate briefly returned home because her parents found a way to improve her unnatural condition due to fairy beast inside her and even mentioned how the said treatments enable her to fast for the first time in years, but this? They had no idea their roommates now able to do much more. The mesh-like wall in front of them, which they thought impenetrable, have been successfully breached.
Whereas Akko can't help but awed by her friend's astoundishing feat, the armored squirrel was visibly shocked. He had magically reinforced those ribbons so witches around their caliber won't able to scratch it, but he had underestimated the chubby one whom he thought useless compared to her peers. To see one of them having such powerful fairy beast inside her, he obviously didn't see that coming.
However, the feeling of awe vanished in the next instant, as they heard loud scraping noise from the darkness in the hall of the dungeon. Second passed as the sound grew closer and closer before a large creature suddenly lands behind the green team and let out an ear-deafening screech, startling everyone except the armored squirrel who remarks, "About time. Seems you no longer need to track down your target, as it just came for you."
The second creature that appeared before everyone is obviously not something that either Akko or the green team expected like the previous one. It basically resembles a screamer, sentient amalgamation of torture devices with body comprised of iron maiden with mask that sit on a giant chair acting as both torso and head, and scythes on both arms and legs as well as a single core inside it's body. However, there are some differences: First of all, this mechanical monster's mask takes the appearance of a fanged skull with glowing pink eyes instead of a round face with large red lips and closed eyes with golden eyelids. Its iron maiden torso also lacked a heart-shaped hole which exposed its core and has 3 spikes on top of them. Not only that, the mechanical monster has glaives mounted on its arms instead of scythes that extend its attack range, the chair has thorn-like protrusion on it, and its leg had been replaced with mechanical ones that possess joints for better mobility while retaining its leg scythes.
"A screamer?!", Akko 's jaw dropped upon upon recognizing the mechanical monstrosity in front of the green team. "But... something is different."
"Different? Yes", the armored squirrel nodded. "I know you're here because those three are undergoing a trial to prove their worth by overcoming a seemingly unbeatable adversary. Well, that's their prey, kid. A Screamer Beta. And you have no right to interfere."
"But it doesn't explain why you are here", Akko pointed out. "Did you the one who attacked us?"
"Some things are so unexpected that no one is prepared for them like what happened right now", the armored squirrel said as he walked towards Akko intently. "I hope I was mistaken... You didn't take the mantle of Kara the Fire Valkyrie just so that you could protect people's smile, did you?"
The armored squirrel stopped in his tracks as he casted a spell on Screamer Beta where to the girls' surprise, causing it to be enveloped by circuit-like green glow all over its body with its blades burst into flames. As this happens, he took up a combat stance in front of Akko. "Let me tell you something: Valkyrie title and armor are never meant for naive upstarts or a faint of heart. I'm not here to ruin their trial. I am here to show those three what lies ahead and to see whether you able to truly live up your title. Come Fire Valkyrie, prove to me you are worthy as a protector!"
This is madness. First he attacked them from the shadows, then interfering her friends' trial, and now challenged her to a duel? Not even mention that he somehow knew her Valkyrie identity and obviously tougher than he seems to be, if sending her flying with a single kick was an indication. Looking at Amanda, Constanze, and Jasminka, Akko sees uncertainty in their eyes, as their already powerful enemy has been magically enhanced by the mysterious intruder in front of her. While she was thrilled by the news of Amanda and her roommates being chosen to be the new Valkyries, it doesn't change the fact that she worried about their well-being. Even so, it doesn't mean that they stopped trying, as they already faced similar odds when stopping Croix's out of control Noir Rod that had possessed a missile. Knowing that they need a push, Akko cried out, "Listen to me! You three just have to work together!"
"H-hey, what are you saying? There's no way we can take on that thing. I mean, look what he just did to that screamer!", Amanda protested with Constanze nodded in agreement.
"It doesn't look like it'd be tasty at all", Jasminka added.
"That doesn't mean you can't still try! Newt-sensei chose you three for a reason. Clarisse chose you for a reason, Amanda", Akko exclaimed as she prepares to summon her armor. "I know you can do it!"
With a single abrasive rub on her Valkyrie Gauntlet and verbal incantation "Venta Herkleda", the Japanese summons emerald sparks that she formed into two circles each on her side with combination of Object Control Magic and a double twirl of her bladed bow, creating twin portals from which multiple red lights swirl around her. The red lights then assemble around Akko into a suit of armor Amanda recognized instantly. "It's all you, guys", all Akko said before closes her helmet's visor and charges towards the mysterious armored creature.
The sight of Akko transformed into one of armored witches from the construction site on the other day surprised the green team, especially Amanda who gasped, "No way! Akko is... one of them?!"
"That's so awesome! Akko is a superhero now!", Jasminka exclaimed enthusiastically.
Charging towards the armored squirrel, Akko clashed her bladed bow against his jagged spear with a loud clank. Both combatants struggled for a few seconds before both of them burst through the ceiling as they bring their fight to the upper floors, leaving the green team alone with the magically enhanced Screamer Beta. The torture device-like mechanical monster stopped looking like a statue and leaped forward, swinging its blades with murderous ferocity on the three witch students. Amanda, Constanze, and Jasminka jumped out of the way, avoiding getting sliced into a pile of minced meat.
"Shit! We're almost forgot that thing!", Amanda exclaimed.
"What do we do now?", Jasminka asked in worry.
Looking at the hole from which loud noises echoing throughout the dungeon, Amanda knows Akko can handle the intruder. "Akko will be okay. That Screamer is ours", the redhead replied as she ready her sword. "Cons, Jasna, get ready!"
Amanda attacked first by chanting out with her wand pointed towards the mechanical monster, "Slohon Deance!", conjuring multiple flowers that popping out all over its skull-like face. The flowers effectively blinding Screamer Beta long enough for Jasminka to summon a blue and purple magic sigil beneath its bladed legs which slowed it down with strong gravitational force. Switching her weapon's blazing chainsaw mode to its RPG configuration, Constanze fired several rockets on Screamer Beta, damaging it slightly.
As soon as Jasminka's Gravity Binding circle disappears, the Screamer regained its footing and charges again, prompting the three friends to engage it in melee combat. In a swift motion, Constanze shifts her weapon back to its blazing chainsaw mode and hacks Screamer Beta's bladed legs as Amanda and Jasminka rapidly slash the mechanical monstrosity with their shortsword and dual-pronged claw made of fairy beast tentacles respectively. In spite of being overwhelmed by the girls' furious blade attacks, the mechanical monster still persisted, and eventually retaliated by sending its opponents flying with clawed tentacles made of purple energy projected from its core. The mechanical beast then proceeds to abrasively scratches the floor with one of its leg scythes, conjuring purple sparks that turn into floating needle-like energy javelins on the air which then launched at the trio, scattering them.
The clawed tentacles and spark projectiles however, were just the beginning of Screamer Beta's devastating counterattacks. Opening up its iron maiden torso, the mechanical beast shoots out torrents of magic missiles from its core, giving Amanda, Constanze, and Jasminka a hard time evading and parrying the oncoming projectiles. Screamer Beta then ceased firing before projecting something else, this time dozens of clawed tentacles to crush the girls. Acting fast, Jasminka sprouts multiple blade-tipped tendrils from her arms to decimate Screamer Beta's tentacles. A furious brawl of tentacles ensued, but only lasted for few seconds before both combatants' tentacles abruptly tangled to each other, giving Screamer Beta the chance to hoist the Russian witch upwards before rapidly smacking her against the marble floor like a rag doll. Fortunately, Amanda managed to cut her chubby friend free and took her away for safety before the mechanical monstrosity could do further harm.
"Thanks, Amanda", Jasminka said weakly.
"Anytime", Amanda replied before both of them hear a loud growl, prompting the duo to turn around and see Constanze valiantly rushing towards Screamer Beta.
On Constanze's hands, the technomagic chainsaw shifts to another configuration where to Amanda and Jasminka's surprise, a large rotating drill resembling Grand Charion's. The German mechanic leaped towards Screamer Beta with the drill thrusted forward to punch a hole through the mechanical monster. To her dismay however, Screamer Beta jumped out of the way at the very last second, resulting her hitting the empty air and fell flat on her face. Frustrated, Constanze slammed her left fist with a loud grunt which obviously means 'I can't hit it!'. Little did she know that Screamer Beta positioned itself behind her as she lower her guard, with its reformed clawed tentacles ready to tear her apart. This prompted Amanda to do something that both very brave and very stupid: She took a great running jump and managed to climb her way to the top of the mechanical monster, diverting its attention from her little roommate. Unable to reach the redhead above it with its glaives, the mechanical abomination employed its clawed tentacles instead to stop Amanda from plunging its mask with Sumarbrandr, but unfortunately, it was not fast enough. By the time its clawed tentacles only an inch away from Amanda's skin, the sword had thrusted its way through the mask's forehead.
Letting out an ear-deafening shriek, Screamer Beta's clawed tentacles dispersed into nothingness as the neon glow all over its mechanical body died out. It swayed on the spot before fell to its side, with a loud thud that made the whole floor tremble. Returning to her feet, Amanda helps Constanze standing up as Jasminka ready her wand and wrist claws.
"Did we got it?", Jasminka asked.
"I don't know", Amanda replied uneasily as she cautiously bent down and pulled her Sumarbrandr out of the Screamer Beta's damaged face. It is covered in what looked like oily substance.
"Eww... lubricants", Amanda said as she wiped it clean with a flick of her wand.
Unsure whether Amanda really has defeated Screamer Beta, Constanze scans the seemingly deactivated mechanical monster with her Stanbot's scanner where its end results startled her. Before she could tell Amanda about it however, Screamer Beta suddenly spring to life with neon purple glow and lashed out on the girls. Fortunately, Jasminka managed to pull the two away from its scythes' reach with her fairy beast's tentacles at the critical moments, saving them.
"What in the world?!", Amanda yelped before Constanze tugged her sleeve, prompting her to turn around and having the German mechanic showed her the scan result of Screamer Beta. Amanda looked at it—her mouth dropped. "Seriously?! It has two cores?"
Opening up its iron maiden torso, Screamer Beta sprouts multiple purple tentacles from its remaining core which then combined into an enormous, ethereal quadripartite jaw in a quick motion. Using the enormous jaw, it proceeded to focus an immense amount of magic power into a single spot before it and aimed the energy build-up at the green team. Acting fast, Jasminka dragged her roommates out of the way just as Screamer Beta's energy build-up being released in form of a huge cone-shaped, destructive energy hose fired at the space where they'd been. Though the energy blast missed the trio and not devastating enough to level entire dungeons, the attack nevertheless inflicted catastrophic damage that the whole area shudders, causing a brief earthquake that even affected the school above them...
... right when the professors are having afternoon tea party.
"Nice", Nelson stammered indignantly.
"GAHH!! Was it an earthquake?", Badcock cried out.
"I have a good feeling about this", Lukic said with her casual creepy grin.
"Don't start it!", Finnelan yelled.
"Damn, that was pretty close!", Amanda exclaimed.
"What do we do now?", Jasminka asked frantically.
"We have to stop that thing somehow", Amanda answered. "Not just us, everyone in the school are in danger if we take too long!"
"But how?", Jasminka demanded.
"I... I don't know", Amanda said in defeat, having realized the vast difference between their strengths and that of mechanical monster before them.
Constanze pointed something in Screamer Beta's scan result to tell the redhead that they just need to destroy the last core, but Amanda argued, "It's easier to be said than it's done, Cons. Only if we have more power to defeat that thing!"
A sudden realization hits the Irish-American as soon as she finished her last sentence. Looking at her sword, the Irish-American realized that she does has something to turn the tide of their battle: Clarisse's Sumarbrandr. The only problem is how she tap on its powers. She recalled on how her late cousin performing impressive light magic with the said weapon with no incantation at all, just closing her eyes and the sword suddenly glowing with power which she then released as powerful energy attacks.
Wait a minute... Was she actually focusing on the sword instead of simply closing her eyes to make it work? If that's the case, it means sheer focus is all she need to tap on Sumarbrandr's powers. Though unsure whether it will work, Amanda decided to give it a try. Closing her eyes, she imagined the sword glowing with power just like Clarisse did, calling forth its magic within. Taking a peek on the sword, she sees nothing unusual happen on it, much to her dismay.
However, Sumarbrandr's blade suddenly glows in yellowish hue with faint humming noise, and the Screamer Beta chose that very moment to charge on the green team.
"Amanda, watch out!", Jasminka cried out.
Instead of jumping out of the way, Amanda instinctively swings the Sumarbrandr towards Screamer Beta's direction. To her and her roommate's surprise, it released magic build-up within the sword in form of crescent-shaped yellow bolt that sliced one of its arm glaives off, staggering it. Surprised with what just happened, Amanda makes another swing where again, Sumarbrandr released another bolt that cuts off Screamer Beta's remaining arm glaive, stripping it of one of its weapons.
"Whoa... what did you do?", Jasminka gasped in awe.
"I'm not sure, but I think I know how to use Sumarbrandr's magic", Amanda answered as she looked on her cousin's sword, then Screamer Beta. "That piece of junk must've spent a lot of magic power for that blast. There's no way it can continuously attack us with that one, right?"
Constanze nods in agreement whilst reconfiguring her technomagic drill to chainsaw mode that wreathed in intense emerald flames.
"Then let's all out, shall we!", Amanda exclaimed.
With their reinvigorated resolve, the green team rushed towards Screamer Beta to finish their battle once and for all. Jasminka attacked first by conjuring a powerful gravity laser fired from the tip of her wand that blasted one of its iron maiden door off before swiftly tearing another with her bladed tendrils. Screamer Beta attempted to counter the Russian witch's assaults with its clawed tentacles, but due to low on magic power, they ended up dissipate on the air upon being conjured. This gives Jasminka an opening to hoist the mechanical monster upwards with her own tentacles and slammed it against the floor thrice, giving it a payback from the beating earlier. The process effectively disoriented Screamer Beta long enough for Constanze to chopped its bladed legs off one by one, rendering it immobile. Holding both her wand and Sumarbrandr parallel to each other, Amanda magically combine both into a runic zweihander-like greatsword wreathed in fiery aura. Amanda's smile widened into a cocky grin.
"THIS IS THE END!!!", the redhead rushed towards her target, and thrusted her blazing greatsword right onto Screamer Beta's exposed core.
In a last ditch effort to protect itself, Screamer Beta accumulated its remaining magic power which then released into a multi-layered barrier that clashed against Amanda's blazing greatsword. The struggle between Screamer Beta and the Irish-American ensued, with the former appeared to gain the upper hand with its barrier. Even so, the multi-layered barrier abruptly weakening that Amanda's blazing greatsword not only pierced through it on ease, but also finally struck Screamer Beta's weakpoint with a loud clank.
For a moment, the was a silence. Then suddenly, the crippled Screamer Beta let out another shriek followed by a powerful magic pulse that sends both Amanda and her blazing greatsword sailing. The oversized weapon lands on its owner's side, separated into Sumarbrandr and magic wand with a flash of green light. The damaged core then briefly caught fire as the mechanical abomination feebly attempting to stand up with its crippled legs, only for it to collapse once again. As its last core seemingly died out, its crippled mechanical body begins to rust into nothingness.
With the stress of the fight gone, Amanda's legs finally give out, prompting Constanze to aid the exhausted redhead before she fell flat on her face. "Amanda are you okay?!", the German mechanic asked through her Stanbot.
Looking at both Sumarbrandr and her wand on the floor, Amanda murmured weakly, "I'm... at my limit... Never thought... Sumarbrandr taxed my energy that much."
"Really? You looked like me back when I made myself skinny from mastering my fairy beast's powers. Had to eat a lot of food to regain my weight", Jasminka said in disbelief before unexpectedly clasped her mouth with her eyes wide open. "Oops! I shouldn't told you that."
"Guess I yet to get used with it", Amanda agreed, seemingly ignoring Jasminka's embarrasment as she retrieved both her wand and Sumarbrandr while looking on both the rusting Screamer Beta and damage from the aftermath of their battle. "Wow, everyone at the school will not believe this."
"I'm here and I don't believe it", Constanze agreed through her Stanbot.
Unfortunately, the green team's victory is abruptly cut short by the sight of something that rising from corroded remains of Screamer Beta: To their shock, the mechanical monster's surviving core, though damaged by Amanda's attack earlier, is still active, shedding away its metal casing as it forms a new, ethereal body around it which resembling a hunched classic grim reaper. Twin scythes materialize on its hands, ready for another battle with the three girls.
"Oh, come on!", Amanda groaned in dismay, before she and her roommates notice a rush of movement from the darkness of the dungeon.
Suddenly, a flash of emerald light shines from behind Screamer Beta's spectral form, followed by a mysterious figure with emerald scimitar that leaping through the air with what appeared to be a grey and white Valkyrie Armor assembling around her. The Valkyrie landed directly on the Screamer Beta specter's back and plunged her scimitar into its core. She then backflips away before somehow floating on the air for a moment and charges, rapidly slashed Screamer Beta specter's core with swift and graceful swipes of her sword before lands in front of the green team, at which her opponent unceremoniously explodes into nothingness behind her. The surprise doesn't stop right there however, as the Valkryie soon disengaged her armor which then disappeared into a portal above her head, revealing herself to be a teal blue-haired Luna Nova student the three girls instantly recognized as she swipes the lubricant off her scimitar with double graceful swipes.
"Molly?!", Amanda, Constanze, and Jasminka exclaimed at the same time.
"Alright, I get it. So it's all about whether we have the resolve to face the seemingly unbeatable adversary instead of defeating them, wasn't it?"
"That's right. Most candidates before you gave up when things went awry, but you three didn't. You really are exemplary sisters-in-arms."
Returning to the entrance while accompanied by Molly, the green team are congratulated by both Ursula and Newt as they have passed the test, revealing that their trial was meant to test their resolve instead of outright defeating an enemy. To the three girls' relief, Akko has survived her fight against the mysterious intruder with little harm, as the brunette managed to force him to retreat just as the dungeon shuddered by Screamer Beta's magic blast. Akko's duel against the mysterious armored squirrel-like creature, coupled with Molly's sudden appearance, turned out to be part of the scenario Newt arranged to show the green team the picture of dangerous path of Valkyries. Though happy that she and her roommates managed to pass their trial and even discovered how her cousin's magic sword works, Amanda recalled that their success was partly because she used the weapon to turn the tide of their odds, which made her feel that she didn't really accomplish anything in her own part.
"No, ma'am... We made it because I used my cousin's sword instead of my own strength", Amanda argued. "Even though I'm glad I figured out how it worked, I felt that I was cheating. Compared to Cons and Jasna, I'm like a half-measure."
"Cheating? Half-measure? You think I didn't expecting you would use magic in Clarisse's sword?", Newt wondered before patting her shoulder. "As the matter of the fact, that sword is also part of your test. In spite of your moment of hesitation, you didn't try to run. You stood up to defeat the Screamer Beta. It was that very resolve which allow you to find the way to access Sumarbrandr's magic as well."
"What are you talking about?", Amanda wondered.
"Clarisse was the one who staged this trial", Ursula added. "She didn't tell you about how to use Sumarbrandr's powers so you can discover it by yourself... and to verify your own."
Newt clears her throat before returning the azure Valkyrie Gauntlet to its rightful owner. "Well, a deal's a deal. Now is as good a time as any to tell you this, Miss O'Neill. About your cousin Clarisse and why she obsessed with the mystery behind the phrase 'Franang's Falls', so listen carefully."
"Alright, I'm listening", Amanda nodded.
"Clarisse and I are members of an elite group of witches called Valkyrie Corps., founded by Thapoli to protect humanity from magical threats, especially ones that too powerful for normal witches and wizards to handle. She was the latest heir of Valkyrie title called Marmora, the Blade Storm Valkyrie, and my apprentice... And now you have the chance to step into her shoes. I believe you already saw other Valkyries besides her on the other night, and I found it funny Miss Antonenko compared us to superheroes in movies and comic books. Well, in some ways, it's true. But trust me, unlike those superheroes, we have strict codes and great expectation as protectors, which is why there's no going back once you step into this path. 'Franang's Falls' on the other hand, is a mystery that only both Thapoli and Valkyrie Corps. that privy to it. For reasons unknown our predecessors deliberately erased most of records pertaining it, which for Clarisse, was a mistake. And she was right, as our enemies, Naglfar, are looking for something in that place. We have to figured out what 'Franang's Falls' really was and why Naglfar after it."
"Now you know the picture about perils Valkyries constantly face, you and your roommates should carefully consider whether or not to become one of us", Molly added. "You can still continue having a normal life but in condition where you must keep everything about Valkyries and Thapoli a secret. The decision is yours."
Amanda looked on Newt, then Constanze and Jasminka. While not thrilled with the prospect of responsibility she would carry should she become the next Blade Storm Valkyrie, on the bright side, she now has the chance to fulfill the promise she and Clarisse made together. After some considerations, the Irish-American finally spoke, "I might not have a great attitude, nor even as responsible as Clarisse ever did. But, I'm being serious about continuing what she and I started together. If becoming a Valkyrie means fulfilling our promise, then I will do it!"
The Irish-American then turned on her roommates and said, "Cons, Jasna, you guys don't have to come with me."
"Geez, don't be so dramatic, Amanda. Besides, we're your friends and friends should help each other the best they can", Jasminka reassured, followed by Constanze who nodded in agreement. "Which is why I and Cons are with you until the end!"
Impressed by Amanda and her roommates' resolve, Newt smiled genuinely, "That's what I like to hear! Miss O'Neill, you may bring your friends with you, though if you do, it will take some doing as you are the only one who already have armor. Magical armors utilized by us Valkyries are not regular artifact to be chosen at a whim. You do not pick the armor; the armor will choose you."
"I don't get it", Amanda said.
"The armors were enchanted that way so they won't be easily fell into wrong hands", Newt explained. "Now, come with me. I'll show you guys some armors that might suit for you."
As she and the green team prepare to make their leave, Newt turns on Akko, Molly, and Ursula. "Miss McIntyre, Miss Kagari, I'll take it from here. You did good, especially you Miss Kagari."
With that, the four left the bespectacled professor and the two students alone near the entrance of the dungeon. After a while, Ursula finally speaks to both Akko and Molly as they leave the New Moon Tower. "Good work down there, Akko, Molly. I know I can count on you both."
"Thanks, sensei. I can't do this without Molly's help though", Akko replied sheepishly.
"Glad to be of help, Akko", Molly said. "I was surprised you didn't screw up like you usually do. Everything you did was perfectly on the script just like what we and Captain Newt planned."
"Did I? That's good to hear", Akko relieved. "Anyway, I was happy to learn that you also a Valkyrie, Molly. I thought Ursula-sensei and Diana are only Valkyries besides me, Lotte, and Sucy in this school. "
"Same. Too bad I can't tell Elsa and Amelia about this. I wish I can do it, as the last time I keep secret from everybody, it didn't end well."
"It can't be helped. We can't tell our Valkyrie identities to anyone outside the Corps", Ursula agreed. "Although, you're no longer alone in carrying this secret this time, Molly."
Just then, Akko recalled on her confrontation with the mysterious squirrel-like creature back in the dungeon. Though the said confrontation was supposedly a scripted event Newt and Molly arranged as part of the green team's trial, Akko felt that the said creature went off the script from the way it challenged her. Not only that, its suit of armor and weapon looked familiar for her somehow. She wanted to discuss it with Molly, but decided against it, for now.
Unbeknownst to Akko, Molly, and Ursula, something is silently observing them from bushes near the school yard. If someone is there to see it, it'll be described as a large faint outline resembling either a large cat or dog, but is difficult to see due to perfectly camouflaged with bushes around it.
After a while, this hidden presence decided to quietly slipped away, its whole body still perfectly mimicking pattern and texture of bushes it hiding at earlier. Once it's on the outside of school grounds and confirmed that no one followed it, it shed away its disguise; bush-like pattern and texture around it faded away, revealing a mechanical body modeled after a canine. The mechanical canine then looked around, and sees a shadowed figure approaching it among the trees. Cautious at first, the mechanical canine soon composed itself and sits before the shadowed figure upon recognizing her as its master; a hooded girl with white hair tied into a loose braid at the right side and a small braid hanging on the left side of her face.
After briefly petted by the girl, the mechanical canine projects a video feed of Akko and co.'s latest activities in the dungeon beneath the New Moon Tower to the shadowed ground from its optics for its master to see. As she studying her mechanical minion's recording feed, she sensed the presence of someone approaching them from the shadows. "You pissed that school instead of retaking those gauntlets, Elder Erik. Things would go differently if I help you out that night", she chided.
"Hmph, as if you know how desperate our current situation is", Elder Erik scoffed. "Although, you have the point. My excitement to fight the latest Ice Sword Valkyrie had blinded me to my utmost priority. How could I be that stupid?"
Ignoring Erik, the hooded girl produces what appeared to be a piece of raw meat from her bag pouch and eats it as she continue watching her mechanical canine's recording feed. "I heard that the young witch who restored magic back to Midgard and her 'girlfriend' are enrolling at that school, so I came all the way here. It surprised me she also the one who beat you up with Fire Valkyrie armor without knowing how to use it first hand. From what I can tell through observing her covertly for the past few weeks, she's pretty good."
"Good enough to deter us from achieving our goal as much as that Cavendish scum", Elder Erik rolled his eyes. "Anyway, I guess I'm lucky to find you here. I heard from Helviti you're good at what you can do, and even better when it comes about dealing elite warriors of Thapoli and Sword of Laeradr."
"And let me guess; you wanted me to rid of her and her friends just like I did to their predecessors?", the hooded girl guess. "Unfortunately, they are the least of our problems, as he's with them right now."
The hooded girl paused her mechanical canine's video feed right on the moment of Akko, in her armored form, fighting an armored squirrel-like creature that Elder Erik recognized in that instant. "It can't be... It's... Blood Squirrel?!"
"Yes. Sword of Laeradr's top assassin and one of the greatest heroes of Thapoli-Naglfar War, the one who slaughtered many of our brothers and sisters like cattle", the hooded girl nodded. "And I've been waiting for this day to come."
"If he's here, this is worse than I thought", Elder Erik said uneasily. "We have to take care of him somehow fast!"
"Rest assured, Elder Erik. I, The Last Gray Wolf, shall tear him apart like what he did to my family!"