Chapter 35:


Code: Zero Defect

From every point in the city of New Olympos, the Spire could be seen piercing through the clouds. Around it, a massive wall stood.

No matter what kind of technology one has at their disposal, they will never breach it. The only way in is through the Spiral Gates. To breach it is to face the entire military might of the city, and that is but child's play to facing the generals.

Even so, the Spire is the center of activity for the Queen's Guards. Who could be so foolish to attempt entry? What madness would drive them there? What goal could they possibly have that would bring them to the den of the most ferocious lions? Perhaps a lion with an even greater hunger.

At the foot of the gate, a young woman walked. Security cameras shifted as if in awe at her arrival. Her pink hair swayed with every step she took. The golden glow of her left eye radiated almost as bright as the sun itself, but, as the skies above would do, the luminescent blue of her right eye seemed to appease its explosive fury.

Holiday of Calypso. Bounty: Three hundred million credits.

She walked, and she walked, unchanging and unworried, confident in her own ability to face those who would dare to stand in her way. Overconfidence is often the key to one's downfall. That was the biggest lesson she had learned in her early days, and it seemed to her that young folks these days don't know a thing about it.

Holiday stopped in the middle of the path, an enchanting garden sprawled in every direction. Beautiful hedges rose to create a work of art. Flowerbeds encased in steel displayed numerous artificial flowers of every kind. All of it, surrounded by a wide variety of neon lights.

The beauty of the garden was not all that was to be seen, as dozens of Queen's Guard were loitering, standing, and sitting around. Among them were some familiar faces, but many unfamiliar ones as well.

Their eyes struck Holiday like knives, but she did not react. Instead, her gaze was fixed upon the Spire and its opened entrance.

"Look who we've got here," a boy chuckled along with his squad. "A stray defect."

He slowly approached with a steel bat over his shoulder. In his other hand was a small metal ball. Still, Holiday did not flinch. She tilted her eyes for a brief look. His face was one that she did not recognize. A new addition, perhaps. The pupils in his eyes were the shape of triangles.

Holiday pulled out her gunblade from her back and shoved it into the pavement below, and that was all she did. The boy waited, but he was met with an apathetic gaze.

"You gonna keep ignoring me?" he sneered as he tossed the ball up. "Code: Line Drive!"

When the ball came tumbling down, he swung his bat with the most perfect precision, sending the ball into a spiraling frenzy as it traveled in a straight line. Right as the ball was about to hit Holiday, it suddenly swerved off at an angle before crashing into the ground far beyond the hedges.

The boy stumbled back, confused at what he had just seen. When he turned back to Holiday, the confidence in his eyes faded.

"A triangle," she said.

"W-what...?" the boy mumbled.

"Your code. It is a triangle-grade."

"And? So what?!"

"Your lack of understanding is a weakness in and of itself. Unfortunately, the power gap between us is far too wide for a fair battle."

"What did you just say?!"

"If I wasn’t clear the first time, you don't even come close to me. With all due respect, please, leave."

"Fuck you! I don't need my code to smash your head in!"

The boy charged, jumping into the air while swinging his bat down. It only took Holiday a single step to dodge it completely. She grabbed onto the boy's arm and locked him in place.

"Shit! Let go of me!" he cried.

"Please, don't involve yourself with me," Holiday said. "It won't end well for you."

With that, she let go of the boy's arm, but he immediately twisted his body and swung his bat once more. Holiday lifted her hand, and as soon as the bat touched her palm, it snapped in half.

"Then, forgive me," she muttered.

With her hand balled into a fist, she hurled it at him, utterly obliterating his augmented chest. He was sent flying across the air, and when he landed, a heavy explosion shook the ground.

Holiday stood up straight once more, her knuckles dripping with foreign blood. 'Commendable bravery,' she thought to herself, but such a one-sided fight was avoidable. If only he didn't overestimate himself.

With that, she began her stride once more only to be stopped by yet another adversary. She looked up, and this time, it was a recognizable face with a pair of diamonds in his eyes, the same grade as her own code.

"That is enough, Holiday," he said in a deep voice. "Surrender yourself."

"You know that was never an option, Talos," Holiday said. "Not since you guys murdered my captain."

"Nemesis was a valiant warrior, an example to us all. As you know, defecting is a sin, and she chose to commit that sin. However, you need not follow her on the same path."

Holiday clenched her fist.

"I did not follow Nemesis," she said bitterly. "We walked that path together."

She then swung at Talos, shattering him into a hundred pieces, but she knew full well the power of his code. Her eyes trailed to the side, where she saw him standing in perfect condition.

"Our pain, our tears, our suffering... We went through all of that together," Holiday muttered. "Nemesis was the greatest soldier in this city. None of you could ever hope to match her."

"Dare I ask, who is it that stands alive today? Us. Not her. She defected. She has sinned. She was the greatest defect since La Senia. I believe that is far more noteworthy than being the greatest soldier, and that was not a praise."

"Hah... So stupid."

"And you are blind. Do you not see? Between you and your goal stands an army, yet you seem to be ignorant of that fact."

"An army, the generals, whatever. I can take it. If defecting is a sin, then I will shoulder it all. Even if the whole world is against me, I will become the symbol of that which you hate the most."

Calypso was regarded as one of the most powerful, if not 'the' most powerful squad in the history of the Queen's Guards. Each of their members became an icon in their own right, admired and praised by all who laid eyes on them. Because Nemesis was essentially a shadow member, Holiday took the center of the spotlight in her stead.

She is considered to wield the most powerful diamond-grade code since La Senia. Most of those who stood around her were awed into submission—enamored and helpless in controlling their emotions. She, as Holiday of Calypso, deserved nothing more than the utmost respect.

But she would not be allowed to continue. As servants of the Queen, the guards readied themselves and stood their ground.

"Will you not stand down?" Holiday asked.

Neither their mouths nor their weapons moved.

"Then, so be it."

Holiday threw her hand to the side as a signal. Suddenly, a crackling gunshot echoed in the vicinity, and thereafter, a whisking trail of smoke pierced through the head of Talos. Though, just like before, it was a mere subconscious creation spawned by the power of his code.

"Your code was always so cowardly," Holiday scoffed. "But I can't deny that it was effective against eidolons. Who knew the day would come when you would've had to use it against your own."

"You are not my own," Talos emerged from the crowd again. "Do not dare to speak such nonsense again."

"Hah. For once, you're absolutely right."

Holiday looked at the group of Queen's Guards once more. She couldn't help but notice the many unfamiliar faces. While the majority of them were young adults, there were also many teenagers whom she pitied.

"Unlike you, I will never accept Project: Augmentation," she declared. "Do you really think it's right to strip people of their freedom to choose? To cut open their limbs and force your stupid law upon them?"

"It is not a matter of choice," Talos said. "We are the Queen's Guards. We have a duty to serve the Queen."

"Then you are just as blind as the rest," said a familiar voice.

From behind the captain of Calypso walked a figure whose silhouette was cast by moonlight. Every step was filled with confidence like no other, especially in the face of so many Queen's Guards.

Slowly, the silhouette faded. First was her swinging legs. Next was the rifle looping around her waist. Last was that gleeful smile beneath the shining light of pale blue diamonds.

"So many familiar faces, but I can't quite put my finger on any of their names," she giggled. "It's alright, though. I can't be asked to remember a bunch of High Order slaves."

Finally, she stopped next to Holiday, and no one was spared by the rising anxiety that befell all who witnessed her arrival.

"Minerva..." Talos muttered.

"Oh, but I do remember that one!" she grinned. "Hey, Talos. How ya doing?"

"You were always a bright girl. To think you sided with the enemy is... unfortunate."

"Well, what can I say?"

Suddenly, the cheerful smile on her face was replaced by a menacing smirk. The hollowed diamonds in her eyes sprung aglow subtly. To the guards, it was perhaps the most threatening gesture for such an innocent face.

"You lot killed my captain. I have every reason to be angry, no?"

The guards took yet another step back, even Talos himself. Fear was something he never knew. The Queen's Guards are a group of the most powerful augmented individuals. Every single one of them has a code granted by the Queen, but most were triangle-grade.

Talos was always ready for the possibility of death in the field. He watched many of his comrades fall victim to the eidolons of the outer lands, yet he never felt fear.

However, standing before him were not mindless monsters who kill simply because it is in their nature. Holiday and Minerva are Calypso. They have a reason to kill, and that makes them all the more dangerous.

Revenge is an undeniably powerful motive, and he could feel the overwhelming bloodlust exuding from their intimidating posture.

"All of you, get back," Talos said, and they did as he commanded.

"Eh~? You're gonna face us alone?" Minerva snickered.

"Most of those you see here are my juniors who have neither the experience nor the skills to face you. Many of them weren't even around during your time."

"Then I suggest you tell them to run," Holiday said. "Otherwise, they will die here."

"Worry not. I will stop you here."

"Talos. Be honest with me. Are you sure you can take me, let alone us?"

He hesitated to answer, as Holiday's powerful glare left him in awe. Despite their codes being the same grade, he couldn't deny that Holiday outmatched him both in strength and in power. However, he remained vigilant, as there was one thing he could use to his advantage.

"I am," he replied.

Holiday sighed before turning to Minerva. "Remember what Captain Nemesis always told us?"

"Uh... Uhhh... Ah! Overconfidence will kill you!" she answered with enthusiasm.

"... Close enough, but yeah. You get the idea."

"Overconfidence, you say?" Talos said. "I am merely doing my fellow guards a favor. There is no better opportunity to show my juniors the power we obtained for pledging fealty to the Queen. Mark my words, our loyalty will not go unnoticed."

"Again with that prehistorical tongue of yours. Fine. Prepare yourself. We will not make this easy."

Talos positioned himself at a fair distance from the other guards, which was directly in front of the Calypsos.

Holiday dislodged her gunblade from the ground and rested it over her shoulder.

Minerva dropped the rifle in her arms and pulled out a pair of pistols.

It has been nine years since the Insurrection of Calypso. Nine years since they had to fight those whom they used to call their friends and allies. Such days are long in the past and only scornful remnants remain, baring scars that have now reopened.