Chapter 44 - Battlegrounds
“Come on, children! Put your backs into it!!”
Sanpu and Fuun’na leapt to opposite sides, wanting to surround Shinyaki, and swung their weapons shut. He blocked the strikes with each scythe’s grip, pushing and spinning the scythes into slicing at them but they each span out of the way, to further encircle around Shinyaki as well, and thrust their swords to gut him at each side. But Shinyaki jumped up, allowing the blades to clash against each other.
“Come on, now,” he yelled from on high, looking down at them. He span, sliding the scythes on his hand until he was grabbing them by the tips of their handles, taking advantage of that motion to slice them separately at the twins, who back-rolled to avoid them.
He landed, saying “I want you to at least make me sweat!”
“Oh don’t worry,” Sanpu said, grinning his teeth in anticipation, his eyes filling up as he engaged his rage, “you’ll be sweating blood in no time!”
“Hahahhah!” Fuun’na laughed as she imitated Sanpu’s rush, pulling back her heavy axe as he pulled his sword, both closing their weapons on Shinyaki.
Meanwhile, in the next room, Fiahra was sitting in the dark, observing a light purple orb in the middle of her hands. She turned her head up at the sound of steps.
Casually, she asked “did you kill Shinyaki already?”
“No, but the twins are on it right now,” Jomiko told her, “we need to go stop this war by pummeling the hell out of your boss. Are you going to let us pass or do we need to put you down?”
“You’re a Fea!” Pixa yelled out, before she could answer, “how can you condone this war on your own people?”
“My people?” She asked, rising to her feet, casually patting her robe to get rid of the dust, “there’s no such thing, little girl. Just because I came out of my mother in Fea soil, looking like a Fea, does not put me under some kind of eternal contract with them. Honestly, the idea itself is ridiculous. I don’t have some kind of predetermined responsibility towards people that happen to be a part of my race. People that happened to be born where I was.”
None of them had any words to say to that. That was a pretty objective way to deal with patriotism, or rather, the lack there of, and it was hard to argue with.
“I have things that are important to me. Maybe one or two persons, though they’re ironically not of my race. Race is meaningless. Katsuryu’s claims about Rei superiority have a bit of objective, even scientific sense to them. But they’re still laughable. There’s no kind of collective superiority to any group. Racial, religious, political, none. One might have more power than another…and that’s the only thing that matters in the end, really.”
She raised her staff and crushed its butt against the ground. Her body flickered as if she wasn’t there, and smoke erupted from the butt of the staff, obscuring her visage.
“Power being money, of course,” she split into several clones as the smoke spread, silver and shining, to occlude her. “And Katsuryu has a lot of it.”
A beam of light then flashed, almost blinding everyone around its source, which was Pixa. The beam of light pierced the smoke, opening it up around it.
The smoke stopped surging, and the farthest clones started disappearing at the same time as they heard her crashing across the floor.
“Cute story, lady,” Pixa said, angry at something, or perhaps just acting on the spite she had been accumulating from Kazuki’s betrayal. Not even she knew. “Go, guys, I’ll handle the mercenary…”
Jomiko nodded, “let’s go.”
“Be careful, damn you,” Arata told her.
“The day a soulless merc gets the better of me is the day I give up on life, Arata. So I guess it’ll work out in the end either way,” she joked, sarcastically, “ha ha.”
“Don’t do that to yourself, Pixa,” Arata yelled back, “you’re better than that! You’re a hero!”
Pixa didn’t reply what she felt like replying. A tear just slid down her eye as it squinted in frustration.
“Soulless?” Fiahra asked, as she walked out of the now dissipating smoke, with a smudge on her robe which showed where Pixa had hit. “You really are a child.”
“You…you’re what’s wrong with the world. If being an adult means…means having your mentality be, like, accepting…”
She joined hands and shook her head, too upset to even talk straight. Instead, she focused another beam of light, “then I won’t ever grow up!!”
Meanwhile, Arata, Jomiko and Persephonai made their way across the corridor between Fiahra’s room and the next. They saw the door to the next, and upon opening, it was clear who they were going to fight.
There was no light on that room, except for a very small, flickering candle in the middle of it. The candle partially illuminated the face of Danatcia, who had her eyes closed and seemed to be sitting down. In waiting.
She opened her eyes, noticeable due to the fact they went as black as her surroundings. She looked at the Xia in that silent emotionless manner she had before.
“I’ll take her on,” Persephonai said, touching his two staffs lightly against his legs. Their tips lit up like flashlights. “No discussion,” Persephonai added.
“You’ll get none from us,” Jomiko said, “you’re welcomed to her.”
“I’ll give you one chance, Dana…” Persephonai said, accidentally sounding a bit too intimate with her name, “come with me peacefully.” He pointed one of the staffs towards her, like pointing a sword, as if to threaten her. The flashlight spread across the darkness, showing that she wasn’t sitting down, but crouched.
She was, unlike the others, at the ready.
Danatcia looked at him with a quiet and thoughtful gaze. She was thinking, but it was impossible to know about what.
She still managed to give a silent reply though: she blew off the candle and rolled out of Persephonai’s light, vanishing from sight.
“As you will,” he joined staffs and made the flashlights into a large beacon that went all the way to the opposite wall. He moved them looking for the door, and when he found it, he told them. “Go.”
They nodded and ran through the light while Persephonai rotated one of the staffs, leaving the left one to illuminate the two. He spun the staff around above him, generating a dome of light around him, just in case Danatcia decided to attack him.
That light wasn’t normal light, simply simulating sun’s illumination, but magical light. It directly countered magic that involved anything messing with eye perception, because it filtered the area it covered so nothing but what was true and real, would be visible.
This allowed him to dodge a dagger, and parry another one, without having to worry about hidden daggers, which was what really hurt Arata when he first faced her. It would also disrupt Danatcia’s in-plain-sight stealth skills that didn’t involve simple physical prowess.
“Before we end this confrontation, Danatcia,” he told her, trying to sound intimidating through his very serious voice, and as the two reached the door.
Persephonai shot his left arm to the right, catching her just about to throw a dagger. “You’re gonna tell me why you’re helping this maniac.”
She jumped out of sight again.
Jomiko and Arata made their way across the corridor.
“I’m having doubts about this next one,” Jomiko told Arata, as they ran.
“What is it? I’ll take Agathon, if you wish.”
“The thing is…I really want to be the one to take him down. But I really want to beat Katsuryu up too.”
“I think we should take them both together. Agathon is very powerful by himself, and he might have a stone with him, since he’s Katsuryu’s last line of defense. And Katsuryu has the stones, and is going to be pretty pissed when we manage to ruin his plans.”
“You said when, not if,” she gladly told Arata, content about his certainty of success.
He smiled back at her.
“I learned that from you. The lesser confidence I have that something can be done, the less chance there is I’ll be able to do it.”
She blushed a bit, and punched his shoulder.
“I’m glad you’re finally learning something, nitwit.”
“You know me…” he said, massaging his shoulder, “may take time, but I always come around.”
“Yeah,” she said, as they walked up to the door.
She grinned, excited, and kicked the door open. Even though it was twice her size, it flung and snapped out of its hinges, crashing through the floor for a good dozen feet.
Inside, the bull waited, sitting in a lotus position, meditating. There was an aura of magic around him, wind that, almost peacefully, was oscillating his huge robe around him. His rob enveloped him so that he looked like a bulging monster.
Agathon opened his eyes, his robes settling down. He snorted while squinting his eyes in challenge.
Jomiko grinned and punched her left hand, wind blowing outwards from her due to the strength of the strike.
“I bet I can break off his horns before you,” she said.
“I’ll take that bet,” Arata said, crossing his twin swords, chained, in an attack position.
“Let’s drop this behemoth!” Jomiko stepped, denting the floor as she rushed towards him. Arata concentrated, and did the same half a second later, following her in.
Agathon uncrossed his legs, hopping in the air, and opened his arms…awakening a wind torrent around him, which more violently oscillated his attire around, making him one very intimidating visage.
But they wouldn’t be intimidated. Not now, at the end game.
And while that was happening, Kazuki was standing on a tree, hidden from sight, watching the front lines of the Rei and Fea clashing against each other.
All manners of lights and elemental attacks clashed as blades and arrows pierced both ways with the trees coming alive all around them. In fact, Kazuki himself was very much attentive to his tree’s movements, lest it lunge at him because he had been noticed.
I never thought I’d have to watch out for a tree…
But he did. The trees were massive, and a wave of a vine could easily clear a row of soldiers. Katsuryu was, though, still in front of his army, taking the blunt of the attack and dishing it right back, seemingly with little effort.
“THIS IS THEIR LAST STAND!” He screamed, taking a giant fireball to the face. It crashed and broke apart around him, showing a spherical shield that didn’t show signs of weakening one bit. “PUSH HARDER!!!”
“Aren’t we going into that?” The once-pan asked him, axes at the ready. Kazuki just kept looking in silence.
“Do you see a way in?” Kazuki asked, his eyes viewing the battlefield with complete discretion and attention to detail…to no avail. “Because I don’t.”
“Let’s just go and figure out something once we’re there.”
“Like Fotyr did?”
“Hey, he almost killed her.”
“She didn’t even see the arrow,” Kazuki told him.
“Yeah, like I said--”
“Idiot. She didn’t see the arrow, but it was blocked, wasn’t it? The trees are acting on their own. I think using the power she and the rest are giving them. I think that’s all they’re doing…infusing them with their power, and suggesting things.”
“I don’t see what that--”
“Because you’re an idiot.”
“Oy, stop with that.”
“She may very well be feeling us. This tree may very well be participating in that, and just isn’t killing us because it thinks we’re Fea. We’re gonna stay put and wait for an opening… The Fea will budge, and when they break lines, we’ll go into the skirmish. But until there is a skirmish, I’m not getting anywhere near that cluster-mess of death…”
As he finished, about five Rei next to Katsuryu were swallowed up by the ground, and three Fea spontaneously combusted, burning for about two seconds before literally exploding, taking a whole squad with them.
“Not unless I see some chance of surviving past five seconds.”
Meanwhile, I need to think what to do about you if the battle starts going sour for us. What is the better way to kill you without getting wounded, or drawing their attention…I wonder…