Chapter 26 (or, "Front and Center")
The Baby Flame aimed its fire straight at Rikimo, but it was intercepted before the girl could be hurt. Looking up, Rikimo noticed that it wasn't the Alpine Queen in the way, but...Sen Tohr?
"Get them, Sen Tohr!" Storm yelled across the room, a sense of excitement filling her lungs. She had never been in a Digital Merge match like this before, and while it was certainly strange (why should the heroes be fighting against each other?) she was glad to be standing up to this creep in the suit. Who dares try to step on Rikimo and her castle of icy awesome? Yamazaki Arashi will help take him down!
Canberra's face was as solid as stone. "Go, Trio of Light Dogs!" he yelled, and the three dogs from before bounded out to defend against the Baby Flame as well. Storm couldn't help but remember...a few short seconds ago, Jason, Rosa and Jaci were all still here. Where were they? What had happened to them? Canberra hadn't mentioned anything about it, so for now, she wasn't asking questions...but it was still something she was curious about.
Were they dead? Was this for real?
“You’re outnumbered now,” Canberra told the man, and Storm realized he was right, snapping back to the game that was taking place. The Trio of Light Dogs had a high enough power attribute that they alone could overpower the Baby Flame. This game would be over soon.
The man just laughed. “Do I look like I’m scared? This is just a game to all of you, just a child’s game. You need to learn to stop playing games and start to fight for what you really want. Rise above, my Queen!”
Storm looked up at the castle’s ceiling, high above them. The entire castle shook, and she strained to see as snow began to fall inside. When the dust settled, there was another Alpine Queen of Snow, this one dressed in dark robes, standing in front of the man. He had his own Alpine Queen card? This wasn’t good.
“Canberra,” she yelled. “We need a better plan. I don’t think hero points are going to count here. Should we just throw all of our cards in?”
No sooner had she spoke than the dark Alpine Queen raised her hands toward the ceiling, and the huge frosty glass chandelier broke away from its cord and hurtled toward the ground, right towards Storm.
She jumped back as the chandelier hit the ground, making the entire castle shake again. She scrambled to find her footing, getting the ground beneath her feet again and surveying her surroundings. Her Sen Tohr and Canberra’s Trio of Light Dogs were blasting away at the Baby Flame, but the man in the suit had sent out a Granite Golem against them. The two Alpine Queens stood face to face, neither one moving in a stalemate. It was an even playing field right now, and normally, a dice roll could change everything.
But those two kids had disappeared. Where had they gone to? One moment they had been standing by Storm, and the next, they were gone without a trace. There hadn’t even been a flash of light like there sometimes was on television. Would the same thing happen to her? Canberra? Rikimo? Then who would go after the guy fighting against them? He would win by default, and --
Storm gasped. This man in the suit had to be the one causing the disappearances, but now she knew where she had heard his voice before. He was the one who had ruined this world. He was the reason Tomoyaki Erika needed to step in and save it. And now, he was here to pick on Canberra and Rikimo and ruin her castle. It as such a beautiful castle, as well -- and he had no reason to ruin it.
She had to do something. But what?
She pulled out the cards she had collected, looking them over. What card could help in this situation? Any card would help, but could she just throw them all out onto the battlefield? She had never been so scared, so unsure of her own actions. What she wouldn’t give right now to be with her grandmother, back at home?
She turned at the sound of that voice. Rikimo never screamed. Never had. She was always so quiet on television. The Ice Queen had finally spoken.
And the man in the suit had Canberra cornered, away from the battlefield, surrounded by shards of ice from the chandelier. Canberra’s tall form was pinned against the wall, and the man had him by the neck, staring into his eyes. Storm panicked. Would Canberra disappear? He couldn’t do that. He knew more about what was going on with this world than Storm did.
She had to make sure Canberra didn’t disappear. How else would they get all of these cards back to Erika? How would they stand a chance against this man in the first place? Canberra was a hero. She was just a kid...but even kids could help, as well.
She found her footing on a shard and stood on it. Even though it looked as sharp as glass, it had the consistency of ice, and the boots that went with her mimono gripped and held fast. She ran her hands over the tall ice. “You, monster in the nice suit! You sad excuse for a salaryman!”
The strange man turned from Canberra, who took the chance he had and pulled free from his grip. “Arashi-chan, what are you doing?” Canberra called out.
Storm smiled, then pointed at the man. “I’m putting an end to this game, once and for all. It’s against the rules. You can’t battle like this! If you think you’re going to get away with ruining this world for the rest of us, then you have another thing coming! You have so many people against you, and even if you somehow find a way to make them all disappear, we will still come after you! Because goodness and justice will prevail, no matter what! And in the name of the moon and the stars…” At this point, she did a pose, hand on her hip just like she had seen the superheroes on television do. “In the name of the moon and the stars, we will punish you for what you have done!”
The man was shocked for a moment, then laughed. “Oh, so you think there’s really something you can do about this?”
Storm kept her hope up. “I do. You think you can catch me?”
“There’s no reason to worry about that.” The man moved so fast that he was on Storm in a second, jumping over the glass ice wall that separated her from Canberra, Rikimo, and the battle. “I’ve got you right where I want you.”
“Of course you do.” Storm grinned. “Takeru Yamato, deliver what’s left of the chandelier to the ground!”
She threw down the Takeru Yamato card, and, with a great flash of light, the entire floor started to shake. Storm put the rest of her cards together and pulled one of her braids out of its knot. She used the elastic to tie the cards together and threw them over the man’s shoulder, towards Canberra.
“It’s up to you now,” she whispered as the man finally came for her, and the world shifted around her.