Chapter 68: An Old Poverb
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They awoke at sunrise and began making their way towards the temples entrance, thanks to her fractured sleep Mari was still plagued with exhaustion and her muscles ached with every contraction. 

The forest was humid and thick but with some luck they quickly arrived at the entrance managing to avoid anymore of those grotesque creatures along the way.

The temple lied in the deep within the northern part of the forest it was overgrown with vines and smelt like festering shit.

 The entrance was little more than a hole that been blown wide apart in one of the stone walls.  
				"That's an awfully big hole isn't it?" Madoka asked.
                  	"Let's just pray we don't meet whatever made it." Aeolus said.
                            "I concur" Lilith nodded.

Mari marched behind them without uttering a single syllable she had no business contributing to the conversation after her disgraceful behaviour last night. 

They crept inside the temple with only narrow beams of light to guide them as inched their way deeper into the unknown ruins.  

			    "So guys I have a question?" 
                      "What's up, Lili." 
                      "We're here to retrive a crest right?" 
 "Yep that's why we're in this shit heep."  Aeolus said kicking away some debris. 

			    "Do any of you know what it looks like?"
                      "No clue, according to Yoshiki we'll know."
                     "Cryptic bastard ain't he."  Lilith sighed
                     "Yoshiki never gives a straight answer does he?"
                     "That would be totally out of character." Madoka laughed

All of this had been a nothing more than a training mission Mari didn’t concern herself with crests nor why they were so coveted no her mind was focused on her objective retribution against those who had aggrieved her. 

Truth be told she was rather terrified at the prospect of losing control again though it had been but a short while she was already growing rather fond of her team mates.  

Usa’s chipper disposition and unconditional kindness, Aeolus composure and subtle confidence and Lilith being well, Lilith.  The second person to steal her heart since coming to this accursed world. 

It’s funny I have the mental age of a disgruntled middle aged boomer yet I’ve proven to be vastly more immature than these kids.
No I shouldn’t call them kids after all most of them are older than I am now.  

Mari felt her heart flutter as lightning fast visions of Shinobu flickered before her eyes making her grit her teeth and coil her fingers into a fist. She may have failed to protect Shinobu but she would never let anything like that happen again.

She needed to get stronger, much, much stronger because as much as it wounded her girlish pride to admit it at her current level of skill she can’t even manage to protect herself let alone anyone else. 

“Might controls everything and without strength you cannot protect anything, let alone yourself.”  Mari said taking a breath. 

				        “That’s not sinister at all.”  

Lilith draped her arm around Mari and brought her into a cordial embrace as the two traveled together. 
					“It’s just an old proverb I heard.” 

I’ll definitely protect everything no matter how soiled my hands get for everyone’s sake and for her memory I will get stronger than anyone else.  Even you Yoshiki.

					“Four vermin and one traitor, it’s my lucky day.”
A shrill voice caught everyone of guard it was a voice that was seared into Mari’s mind. 

						“Daphne!”  Mari grunted
                                                “Hello there, Little Stray.”