50 『The Second Floor』
Going up the staircase didn't bring them to the next level of the biomes, but instead an entirely different location. They were no longer surrounded by lush colors of plants and petals of flowers. Instead they found themselves surrounded by what looked to be a no man's land. Trenches, craters and the smell of burnt dirt.
The sky was yellow, spotted by dirty clouds with a pale greyish-green tinge to them.
In the very center of the no man's land was a single small temple, which was more like a shrine. There was a multitude of female figures in white and red Japanese Miko outfits, they were priestesses. This shrine was decorated in what appeared to be paper origami.
Standing however over everyone around the Shrine was Genji, an intelligent golem-like being three times the size of the average human being. It would've towered over even Gagaran who was already tall compared to normal humans.
"This is an interesting scene..." Dyne stared at the massive being who seemed to be made of earthy colors and appeared to have a humanoid form.
However he knew, they all knew, that thing was not human, even as its eyes shifted to look towards him. It was a golem, but it was also a man, one that couldn't speak its mind out loud.
Peter glanced behind himself towards the stairs, before uttering, "This is nothing like the last floor..." He was having a hard time computing the fact that they had passed the biomes.
"The castle has strange dimensions compared to the outside world... Don't let it bother you," Vertum snickered quietly as he looked over towards the leader of the Swords of Darkness.
"What made these craters...?" Ninya had walked over to one of the craters that ruined the eerily strange landscape that already graced their presence. "Meteors?"
Vertum chuckled hearing her guess of what could have caused them. "That's not a real sky... Though it does rain every few hours..." His eyes traced over the trenches, which were in reality traps for invaders to climb into.
"Really?" Ninya stared at the sky above, "It looks real..."
"SairentoOnna crafted it," Vertum said with soft chuckle, "They had a thing for apocalyptic settings, though I can hardly understand their infatuation considering the circumstances."
"That sounds... Ironic," Ninya looked over at him and gave him a few blinks of curiosity and disbelief. She had a hard time believing someone had created all this... They had to be on the level of Gods if this was even possible! She stared at him for a few more seconds before turning her gaze to Genji who still hadn't moved.
"So who is that?"
"Genji, the Guardian of the Second Floor. He can't talk, yet anyway. I have yet to acquire a suitable voice for him," Vertum was thinking of using a lip bug in order to give him a voice.
"How does he communicate?" Dyne asked as he walked over towards Vertum, stroking his chin as he let one hand hang at his side.
"Sign language, it's hard to understand if you're not trained in it. His creator was the same way," Vertum let it slip that the being right there was created by the person who made the scenery.
Ninya slowly nodded to this along with her friends. "How many floors are there?"
"You'll see, there are a multitude of Floor and Area Guardians go along with them," his eyes traced over the Miko Priestesses which were equipped with Samurai-related weapons such as traditional Japanese spears and short swords.
Her eyes seemed to shine up at him. "We're going to go to all of them?"
Vertum shook his head slightly, "No, just a few. We have to find your sister, don't we?"
Blinking up at him now, the shine in her eyes dimmed but never went out. "We can find my sister from here?" She asked as she looked around then back up at him.
How far can his divinations go? How soon would he find Tuare? When was he going to do this? She wondered these things in the back of her mind, knowing very well the answers would come to her momentarily during their time here.
Genji began making his way over towards the group of five, leaving footprints behind in the ruined soil of the no man's land, which would slowly fade away.
"What's up big man?" Vertum raised a brow as he looked at the guardian.
Genji moved his hands about, signing. "Master, Who are these inferior beings? Why are they here?" The half-golem then lowered his arms as his eyes traced over the much smaller human beings.
"They are visitors Genji, friends. They shall be protected during their time here." Vertum informed before his eyes wandered over towards the others.
Ninya stared up at him in return, as did Peter and Dyne.
Lukrut however was wondering over towards the Mikos who were standing around chatting with one another. The first thing he would notice was the fact that they were all Japanese, black hair and black eyes, and they all looked the same by design.
"Are all of you mighty fine ladies, all sisters?" He asked with a smile forming over his lips, using his natural 'charisma' as he flaunted his fist at his hip.
Peter and Dyne just stared at the man that was their friend.
Ninya had a blank expression on her face, she could hardly even make an expression at this point due to Lukrut's demeanor. All he did was flirt, he was quite the ladies man, too bad he always said or did the wrong things. An ambient frown found her lips to be a cozy home.
While no one else was looking through, Vertum leaned over and blew across the tip of her ear.
Immediately Ninya jumped and looked to Vertum with wide eyes, putting a hand over her ear. "Wha...?" She watched as he just winked, putting a finger over his lower lip for silence.
The two of them then looked over towards where Lukrut was standing, the girls were all looking at him with sharp blank expressions. All of them were all Automatons, which was why all of them looked alike and very human.
"Are my dashing good looks too good? I've struck you all speechless, haven't I?" Lukrut seemed to take this as they were into him, but they said nothing in return.
"He's always like this..." Ninya spoke quietly as he placed her staff on her back and crossed her arms over her chest. "They're not going to kill him, right?"
"No, they won't unless he draws his bow." Vertum dismissed with a light wave of his hand.
Genji then began wandering back over towards the shrine where the Mikos were all standing about, staring at blonde male.
"Genji-sama," one of them turned to the golem and spoke in a childish voice, "Can you make the rude man leave? His presence upsetting and completely disrupting our equilibrium."
Almost immediately for Lukrut, it felt like someone dropped an anvil on his head from on high.
"Ooo, harsh," Vertum snickered as the rest of the group also found themselves chuckling at this.
Genji just looked at Lukrut for a few seconds before placing a seemingly sympathetic hand on his shoulder, before shoving him in the direction of Vertum and the others.
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Stumbling back from the shove, he nearly fell on his bum.
"H-hey! I wasn't done talking to--" Lukrut watched as the girls all scurried away from him, their wooden shoes hardly making a sound as they moved like the wind across the dirt. "Huh..."
Ninya walked over with the other three and looked up at Lukrut, "You should really behave... We're in Vertum's home..." She flexed her eyelids at him, straining them slightly to emphasize a glare of sorts, "You... You don't want to make him mad, do you?" Even though she wanted to appear threatening, she was still soft voiced and humble.
Vertum just rolled his eyes, but couldn't stop himself from smiling.
"We should probably head to the next floor," he proposed as he placed a hand on Ninya's shoulder, cocking his head to the side as if to tell her to follow his lead.
The group did just that, turning to follow him. Ninya however remained in front beside Vertum, seemingly by his wishes.
Lukrut eyed the back of Vertum's head before looking to Ninya. She was looking up at the dragon, smiling and even talking. The more he looked at her now, the more he could see the truth, the truth in which Peter seemed to want to deny rather quickly. His eyes went to their leader who was standing on the opposite flank of Vertum than Ninya, he seemed to be intimately listening to their conversations.
"Hm..." The ladies man then looked to Dyne, who was in turn looking down at him.
"Ninya isn't wrong you know, it's rude to flirt in someone else's domain, especially when they can hear you from miles away..." Dyne spoke of the dragon senses that Vertum would undoubtedly have, considering he was a Dragonoid known as a Mirage. A type of dragon he never heard of.
"Such a wise sage you've become in your old age," Lukrut grinned as he spoke sarcastically.