Chapter 34:

A Lesson to be Learnt

Code: Zero Defect

Along the outskirts of the Arch of the Immortals, a chase was ensuing. No matter what corner or turns Loki took to shake off her pursuers, they stayed on her tail.

"Ya-hoo!" cheered a voice as Loki tilted her blade to deflect what seemed like a massive shield barreling at her.

Nonetheless, she was sent rolling across the ground. She gently lifted her blade and plunged it, using it as a crutch to support her rise.

Every breath felt shallow. Her vision was getting blurrier by the second. She couldn't help but think that none of this would've happened had she not been left with Strider weighing her down. Even then, she did not regret anything, so she stood her ground and faced the enemy.

"Yo, Loki!"

She looked up to see a young boy sitting at the very top of a lamppost. He had one leg up with the other dangling. A pair of goggles wrapped around his messy black hair, which went quite well with his oversized red jacket. Hanging off his shoulder was a platinum scabbard.

"Fancy seeing you around here again," the boy chuckled. "You really do have a death wish, huh?"

Loki pondered for a moment. He looked familiar yet unfamiliar at the same time. Her brows were crossed until they shot upwards. Suddenly, it hit her.

"Ah!" she exclaimed as she pointed at him. "Ram Lover!"

The boy's eyes visibly twitched.

"Who the hell are you calling Ram Lover?!" he shouted. "My name is Jason! Jason! How is it that after ten years, you're still the same dumbass?! Hey, are you even listening?!"

Even as he was talking, Loki subconsciously shut him out. Old habits die hard. He was always the loud one anyway.

"Loki," yet another voice called from behind.

She turned around to meet a girl who stood at just about her height. Long locks of pale purple fell from her head, nearly covering those cold eyes of solid ice. A white cape wrapped around her entire body, and in her hand was a simple black rifle.

"Well, well... If it ain't Atalanta," Loki chuckled. "Now there's a face I've been itching to see for a while now. How's life been treating ya?"

Atalanta said nothing. Instead, the spiteful frown on her face grew.

"Ya know... You ain't hiding your murderous intent all too well, kiddo," Loki smirked.

"There’s really no need to in the face of a traitor."

"Haha. Traitor, huh? That's a funny name to call me."

"Such a name is fit for those who desert the Queen's Guards, wouldn't you agree?" asked yet another voice.

From the rooftop of a nearby building, a young man appeared. Like Atalanta, he set his sharp, gray eyes on Loki with obvious displeasure. His blonde hair was slicked back, forming spikes like the fins of a shark. He wore a white tunic accented with blue. Stuck in the ground next to him was a javelin.

For once, Loki was pretty annoyed at the sight of an old friend.

"You still talking like you're some kind of philosopher, Creon?" she scoffed. "I don't know what I expected, to be honest. You always were such a... tyrant, as they would call it."

"And your foul mouth still knows no bounds," he growled.

"Chill out, Creon," giggled a woman's voice. "You'll scare the kids."

From a hidden alleyway, the subtle glow of red eyes shined. The girl stepped out, revealing herself in a short dress with a heavily cropped, sleeveless jacket. Her long, wavy hair was like a crashing sea of crimson. No weapons in sight. Even though she seemed happy to see Loki, a malicious aura surrounded her.

"How are you, Loki?" she asked.

"You tell me, Medea," Loki chuckled. "How do you think I feel seeing all my juniors pointing their weapons at me?"

"You've nobody to blame but yourself."

"You think so? Look at you kids. You could easily be living a good life somewhere out there right now. Instead, the High Order took you, bought you, kidnapped you, whatever—just so they could experiment with their fucking augmentations. Aren't you just a little bit angry?"

"The High Order liberated us," Creon said. "They brought us in when we had nothing, and the Queen gave us powers to become something. We are indebted by our own free will."

"Then you, like everyone else who serves that bitch, are brainwashed beyond saving."

The Argonauts lifted their weapons as soon as Loki took a step forward. Much like Calypso used to be, they are a squad that belongs to the Queen's Guards. Once upon a time, they served side by side. Through the thickets of the city and even beyond the barren planes of the outer lands, they, along with many others, fought alongside each other. However, those days are long gone.

As Loki stood in the middle of those whom she once cared for, consuming their hatred that burned like the brightest star, she couldn't help but reminisce. Unfortunately, it was short-lasted.

Bygone days will remain as such, so steadied herself, ready to take their lives.

"Well, then, Argonauts..." she muttered. "It's been ten years. Show me. Show me how much you've grown. Of course... that's 'if' you've grown at all."

"Hah," Jason smirked. "Raise the sails, Argonauts."

What happens now is all that matters. Loki tilted her head to the sky, letting out a rejuvenated sigh. Her eyes loosened while she tightened her grip around her sword. All the while, that sinister smile stayed on her face.

The quiet before battle always seemed to exhilarate her, and she never understood why. Instead of fearing the outcome and what could happen, she embraced it and forged it into her own sadistic desires of what she could get away with.

"Code: Berserk," she smiled as an explosive red aura began to rotate around her like a vortex.

Finally, the stalemate was broken. The ground beneath Creon exploded as he shot himself at Loki with his javelin pointing at her. All it took was a step forward, and the blade narrowly passed her by.

Loki reached for the spear, taking hold of it, before launching Creon away. Immediately after, Medea lunged forward with nothing but her fists. Every slash was met with total evasion as neither of their strikes landed.

Suddenly, a bullet whisked past Loki's head. She turned her head for a swift second to see Atalanta loading another bullet into her rifle, but she was given no time to react when Jason flew in from above.

After pushing Medea away, she swung her blade straight up at the defenseless Jason.

"Code: Golden Fleece!" he shouted.

A transparent shield of shimmering gold suddenly amassed from his right arm, and he used it to effortlessly block the strike. Even with the shield, he flew back and landed next to Atalanta.

"You like it?" he smiled. "The Queen gave me this code. Nothing, and I mean 'nothing,' can penetrate it."

"A shield's just a shield, Ram Lover," Loki winked. "Just like your pride, it'll come crumbling down once I crush it."

"You aren't nearly skilled enough to do that."

"Says who? You? Last I checked, you've never once won against me in our sparring matches. That goes for every single one of y'all. But, who knows? It has been ten years. But... best believe none of you will survive today if you can't even take me out. Do your best, kids."

"Tsk... Creon. Kill her."

With a mighty hurl, Creon sent his javelin flying. While Loki was able to deflect it, the force of impact caused her to kneel. Creon then jumped up and snatched his javelin right out of the sky.

"Code: Unyielding!" he roared.

An explosive light emitted from his arm as he once again threw the javelin at lightning speed. Loki could not react in time, and the blade pierced through her stomach, rapturing the ground beneath and forming a massive crater.

The Argonauts stood their ground as they watched. Despite having gravely injured her, the uneasiness they felt only grew.

Despite having a javelin piercing through her body, she was still standing. Drops of blood trickled from her wound, and when she coughed, more came out. The pain she felt was immeasurable, so much so that she began losing control over her entire torso.

She grabbed the tail end of the javelin and, with a wail of agony, pulled it right back out. Splashes of blood covered the ground, but it didn't bother her. She could still stand on her own two legs, and that was enough for her.

"You're a maniac," Creon grumbled.

"Hehe... Dear me, did you only figure that out... just now?" Loki giggled.

Yet another bullet pierced through her left leg, forcing her to her knees for once. She turned up and looked at Atalanta with apathy.

"You always acted so high and mighty, but you fell so easily," Medea laughed. "Code: Illusory Veil."

The next second, Loki found herself surrounded by a hundred apparitions of Medea, all with the exact same expression.

"It's a shame you had to defect," her voice resonated.

The clones lunged. Loki quickly picked herself up and began slashing aimlessly. For every one she blocked, three landed successful hits. A mark on her arm, a gash on her chest, and small, bloody cuts everywhere. All the while, the bullets from Atalanta's rifle were penetrating vital points all across her body.

Nonetheless, she fought. She kept her ground and continued. No matter what, she would not fall.

When the last of the clones made their rounds, Jason appeared and slammed his massive shield into Loki. She flew across the sky and crashed into a building.

When the cloud of smoke faded, it revealed Loki's dismal state. Cuts and bruises dotted her body, all spilling blood.

"Did... did we get her?" Atalanta gulped.

Suddenly, the sound of crumbling steel echoed in the vicinity. Her body twitched, and her breaths were so shallow that she may have as well ceased to breathe altogether.

Every part of her body ached, but she did not let it control her. Instead, she lifted herself out of the rubble and stood once more.

"What...?" Jason gasped. "How the fuck... is she still standing?"

"It's because she's a goddamn monster," Creon grunted.

"No... She's more than that," Medea mumbled. "She's a demon."

Loki coughed as her body tumbled, yet she managed to slam her foot against the ground to regain her balance. Weapons from the army and the coatsmen were never able to hurt her. To finally feel her flesh being torn apart... It was exciting to her.

"Hehe... Not bad," she chuckled before coughing again. "You guys... sure have improved... Nemmy would be proud."

"Is that what you believe?" Creon scoffed. "Unfortunately, that remark holds little meaning to us now. Nemesis... is nothing but a traitor and a good-for-nothing disgrace to the Queen's Guards."

Loki bit her lips. "... The fuck did you just say...?"

"I don't believe I stuttered, but I will say it again. Your former captain, Nemesis, was a coward. She betrayed us and the city. She defected and died for it. My only regret is that I allowed her to sway me with kind words back then. If I could go back... I would rip her tongue out."

Loki kept her silence as a chilling gust of wind swept past them. Atalanta instinctively took a step back. Deja vu struck her as fast as a racing bullet. She had felt this before a very long time ago. To this day, it is her most terrifying memory.

"Creon... Do you stand by those words...?" Loki muttered dangerously.

"Hah! And what if I do?" he taunted.

"Creon," Atalanta said. "That's enough."

"Don't tell me you feel pity for her. Nemesis was a parasite to the order of the city. Death was too kind for the likes of her."


Suddenly, Loki giggled. For something that was supposed to represent happiness, it only struck fear into the Argonauts. That giggle then turned into a harrowing cackle. A massive smile stretched her cheeks apart, and when she finally calmed down, that smile abruptly faded.

"This is what I get... for believing in my juniors," she muttered. "In the end, it didn’t even matter. No... You’re beyond saving. So I guess all that’s left is to tie up loose ends.

She then lifted her head with an eerie glare. She knew what would come if she released the fullest extent of her code, but she didn't care. Kids ought to be taught a lesson, and who better to teach these kids than the teacher herself?

"Don’t hold it against me, hm?” she smiled. “Code: Berserk... Overdrive."

A gleaming flash of light engulfed her as the crater that surrounded her only grew larger. What began as a minor whirlwind quickly morphed into a violent vortex. The Argonauts stared at her, their eyes trailing up as they went.

"Alright, Jason, you knew her the best," Creon muttered. "How do we fight that?"

"... I don't know..." he gulped.

Thunderous booms shattered the vaults of the heavens, parting the clouds that gathered to block out the sun. The heavy gale flung hundreds of debris into the air, laying waste to all the surrounding buildings until they were nothing but ruins. A pillar of the bloodiest red took to the skies, and there, it was as if a towering silhouette was looking down on them.