Pumpkin King

Chapter 71

Pumpkin King was running down the hall. The lacrima were bright enough now that they could advance without worrying about tripping over rubble or holes in the ground.

"They can't be far." Jack called to them. While he ran, Peeko flew at his side. Surprisingly, the crow didn't caw once since they had gotten there. He seemed to know that they couldn't draw attention to themselves. "I can feel a large source of magic up ahead. They might be waiting to ambush us. Stay alert."

Erk wanted to crack a joke. Not that he found anything funny at the moment, but because he wanted to lighten the mood. The air had been thick with tension ever since they got there. Probably natural since they were walking into the proverbial lion's den, but still. Unfortunately he couldn't think of anything. This wasn't the first time he had attacked another guild. But he was still nervous. Every step he expected something to explode or an enemy to burst out of the floor or something.

Looking around, he could tell that everyone was nervous. Will and Crest hid it best. Probably because they had the most experience in these kinds of situations. Will actually didn't look nervous at all. He was calm and collected with no hint of distraction. His time in a dark guild had probably made him used to these kinds of situations.

Dante had a determined look on his face as he ran. His confrontation with Becky had kept him from moping. Instead of trying to get captured like Lorelai, he was going trust that she and Azusa will catch up with them.

Becky was trying to be stoic, but she was angry. You could see it in her face. Her eyes burned and her mouth held the smallest of snarls. Erk almost felt bad for anyone that tried to fight her. Because she wasn't going to hold any punches.

Charlotte was surprisingly calm given the circumstances. She was a completely different person than the shivering leaf he had met when he first joined the guild. When they had faced off against Alec, it had really stiffened her spine. He was worried about her, but she had plenty of friends to call on when she was in trouble.

Jack was well…Jack. Hey, you try to read a guy who wears a pumpkin over his head. He could only assume that this was nothing new to his Master. He didn't even want to think of all the things he had done that were probably worse than this.

That just left Erk. Honestly, he wanted to do what he does best. Run. Run as far as possible away from there. But then there's a little voice in his head that wanted him to run into the nearest enemy and make them hurt. Make them hurt for what they did to Latran…oddly enough, that voice sounded a lot like Tamashi in his head. "Great." He muttered. "My inner psycho sounds like Tamashi."

Dante glanced over at him with a raised eyebrow. "You say something?"

"Nothing, nothing." Erk replied blandly. He didn't want anyone else knowing that Tamashi was in his head…it sounded weird just thinking about it.

Dante looked like he was going to say something, but before he got the chance, the hallways suddenly went black. All at once, the lacrima switched off. Well switched off might not have been the right words. It was more like all the light simply vanished from the hall.

Erk stood completely still. In a darkness this thick, nobody would be able to see anything. But noise could still give him away. And while he couldn't hear or see anything, he could feel the others doing the same…except for one. When the lights went out, Charlotte let out a startled squeak. It gave her away so that even Erk could tell where she was.

Several things happened at once then. Before anything else, Erk was pushed backwards by a strong force. It almost pushed him on his back but he managed to keep his balance. He could hear a couple of the others staggering near him. Then three sources of light blossomed in front of him. He had been pushed back far enough that he wasn't enveloped in it. His eyes hadn't yet gotten used to the darkness, so the light wasn't blinding.

His jaw dropped when he saw the sources. Erk, Dante, Becky, and Charlotte were pushed back by a glowing Jack, Will, and Crest.

The eyes of Jack's mask were practically bonfires as fire spouted out of them. The candles scattered across Will's body were all lit, casting a blue light down the hall. Crest was aglow as a golden magic circle enveloped his body as he was clad in the El Cid, the brilliant light brighter than the flames of both his Master and Will.

Erk's stomach clenched in fear. What were they doing? They had pushed everyone else away and now they were glowing as bright as suns. All that would do was-.

He stopped that line of thought midstream. They were purposefully making targets of themselves. When Charlotte yelped, it had given away her position. She would have been targeted by anyone waiting to ambush them. Rather than let her be attacked, they were blatantly putting themselves on display. All thoughts on attacking Charlotte would be forgotten.

He officially held the three in higher respects. They didn't even have time to come up with that plan. All three of them reacted to save their guildmate without pause or thought.

And their plan didn't go to waste.

Barely a moment passed before a shock of green lightning raced through the hall. When the green streak got close enough, it forked to hit each of them. It slammed into the three lit guild wizards with enough force that they had to brace themselves against it. Jack simply raised an arm while Crest raised his shield. Unfortunately for Will, he had no such defense. The blue flames from his candles rose before him like a barrier, but the lightning ripped through it like it was paper.

Crest was being pushed back as the lightning arced across his shield. Jack looked completely unphased by the attack. But Will took the blow head on. He let out a scream as electricity ran through his body like a freight train. Both Jack and Crest's eyes snapped to Will, but neither seemed able to move to help.

Will's fire extinguished immediately as a green glow emanated from his body. He kept screaming and lightning arced out of his open mouth and eyes and across the various candles on his body. That's when Dante jumped forward.

"Earth Make: Gauntlets!" He intercepted the lightning by blocking it with his palms. The pressure almost pushed him back into Will but he stood his ground, his earthen gloves dispersing the electricity harmlessly. Behind him, he could hear Will collapsing to his knee. But he didn't look back to see.

The steam of lightning ended just as Dante's gauntlets started to crack from the strain of the attack. They were meant for hand to hand combat…or hand to leg in the case of Demon Horn's giant spider. They weren't meant to last long. He didn't design them that way. They were a fast, low magic spell. Good when you're in a hurry and you want to punch something real hard. Not as good as an impromptu shield. So when the attack finally ended, his gauntlets crumbled to dust.

Will staggered to his feet, swaying slightly. He glared into the darkness. "Enough of this charade." With a burst of effort, all of his candles flickered to life with their blue flames. "Ghostly Inferno!"

The fires from his candles exploded into a blue vortex. They spread through the area rapidly, passing over the Pumpkin King wizards harmlessly but eating away at the darkness around them.

But when the darkness was dissolved, they all had to cover their eyes as it was replaced with light. They didn't freeze like they did previously. They put their backs to each other so that they couldn't be attacked by behind. When their eyes adjusted to the light, they found themselves out of the hallway and in a large room. There was dirt everywhere. The walls seemed to be made entirely of it and piles of it suck out of the ground. There were also large, crystalline lacrima protruding at odd angles scattered throughout the room. That would explain the light. Oh, but there was one more feature of the room they quickly took notice of.

They were completely surrounded.

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