The barrier constantly shook from the seemingly endless storm of blasts. Then, as suddenly as it came, it stopped. Avalel was bewildered as he saw the rows of drones in front suddenly lowered their weapons. As the smoke cleared, he saw an unconscious figure, lying in a pool of blood, hiding behind a boulder that was thinned from the chipping of the bullets and blasts. He saw a huge pile of shrapnel and empty shells of ammunition piled up in front of him, partially melted and deformed from the heat of the plasma and the energy of the strong barrier.
Seems like they finally stopped, the voice spoke softly, unfortunately, I think they’re preparing for something else. Also, I believe the unconscious figure there is the girl. Lower your barrier. I will divert some of the energy to protect her.
Avalel was nervous. How can she be injured when we have identical armor?
I believe the reason is that the power of the Anapadeia have mostly been diverted to the barrier, and therefore, the armor left her. From her burns, I believe she has been struck by plasma. Her arms almost entirely useless and burnt out. It will take long to heal.
Avalel shuddered at the thought of Kavlina being hit by the plasma, her mouth screaming in pain. He felt rage and guilt building inside him. How can I be so careless? The energy barrier slowly lowered down, and the smell of burnt flesh and grass reached him. Just then, there was a huge rumbling in the distance. Avalel saw the entire army racing towards him, their melee weapons gleaming in the dying light. If I die here, then so be it. As long as I continue attacking till my last breath, I am glad to die for Achien and know that I have tried.
Don’t give up so early, the voice advised, don’t let your emotions control you. Channel it, and you will find yourself calm and composed. I will try my best to protect and heal the girl, but that would make your armor disappear. There will still be six hovering blades and your wings will not disappear, but your powers will greatly diminish.
Then let it be done, Avalel replied, As long as I can continue attacking with the Anapadeia, anything is fine. Immediately, the armor slowly disintegrated into six blades surrounding Avalel. The wings’ light was now diminished, but Avalel found the Anapadeia resting in his palm again. The army was now only a dozen steps away, but Avalel felt a surprising sense of calmness. His legs firmly rooted to the ground, he raised up the Anapadeia, preparing to strike.
“Sire, the barrier has shut down!” a soldier cried to Nasition, “It seems the child has given up!”
“Stay cautious,” Nasition ordered, “The brat may be up to something.” He looked closely from a display showing the battlefield from the perspective of the main gun. The army had broken formation and was running wildly towards Avalel. So much for being cautious. Still, Nasition was excited to finally see the end of his enemy. Looking at the battlefield from another display, he could clearly see the army bearing down on Avalel, the first lines within the reach of a pike. Any moment now, Avalel will be shred and punctured with thousands of pikes, swords, and daggers. Then, he could finally focus his war effort on cleaning up the other rebels.
A bright light shone from the crater. Even from the far position the fort was in, Nasition felt the light was blinding and covered his eyes in pain. The whole battle headquarters became flooded with light as if the Elyfesta had descended upon them. The crew and army all shut their eyes in an attempt to shut out the light, and the army was, for a moment, immobilized.
Avalel had done it. The strike of the Anapadeia towards the ground had temporarily blinded the army, and even if it was just a moment, it gave him precious time. Releasing the Anapadeia from the ground, he immediately swung it towards the first dozen of the troops. The stunned troops collapsed without any resistance. Avalel quickly went to work, zigzagging between the now tightly packed and stunned Achien troops. He felt the movement of the sword and his own warping being much easier as he effortlessly cut through the troops. Even as the troops had now recovered from the initial shock of the light, their recovered vision gave them a new surprise. Two surprises, actually. Not only had Avalel disappeared from their eyes, but the troops were also collapsing at an alarming rate. The troops witnessed their fellow drones surrounding them being cut cleanly in half in mere moments, only to be cut themselves a split second later. Even if they had seen Avalel stop for a moment, he disappeared when they tried to thrust their daggers or pikes into him. They cannot gain the upper hand, even with their overwhelmingly superior numbers.
“Sire!” A commander worriedly reported to Nasition, “Dozens of my own troops are being cut down in mere seconds! Please give the order for retreat, or we may be annihilated!” A display of the troops under the commander is shown to Nasition. Many were disconnected, showing that they have been cut down, and more were suddenly disconnected. The last moments of the drones only show confusion, a flash of light, and then silence.
Nasition nervously went to the loudspeaker. “I demand no retreat until there are only 1000 troops left in our ranks!” He commanded, “If any disobeys, then I will make sure your career in the army is over!”
Although every commander tried their best to regain form in their troops, it was impossible for such a chaotic situation. Now, Avalel simply lured the troops into stabbing each other - a risky move. The army was now in disarray, cutting each other down in confusion and with no direction to head. Finally, the army was dangerously near the 1000-unit line. From the proud and overwhelming number of almost 10,000, the army’s ranks were now almost depleted. Entire regiments were simply annihilated, their commanding drones lying inanimate among its subordinates. The artillery batteries and the plasma cannons were ready, but they had no target to direct at. The planes above were hovering, their guns aimed at the ground but afraid to shoot at their own comrades. The situation was now spiraling downhill and Avalel had no intention to stop it from going down further.
A frightening report came to Nasition. Less than two minutes after Nasition had made his command, the army now numbered less than one thousand, with no sign of the casualty rate slowing. Nasition took a deep breath. “Retreat with order!” he shouted. Slamming his fist on the displays, he was furious. He had almost flattened Thille and demolished everything there, but now he had to retreat in humiliation, with even his plasma cannons and fort, the most powerful land-based weapons of the Achien military, defeated at the hands of a young adolescent.
As the army slowly retreated back to the relatively safe bounds of the artillery and fort, one of the drones saw something odd lying on a boulder they had entirely missed in their charge. Looking closely, he found what seemed to be a badly burnt body lying in a puddle of blood. Its arms seemed to be so burnt to the point there was clearly no complete heal.
“I found something,” he called to a nearby comrade.
“What is it?”
“A burnt and unconscious body. I have no idea how did it get here, but should we report it back?”
The other did a quick scan of the body. “The figure seems to be a female. She’s still alive, but arms are almost entirely burnt. Some of the ribs are broken. There is no place in the body where it isn’t burnt to some degree. Seems like our victim survived being engulfed by a fireball.”
“I think we should call the medics.”
“Wait, we have medics?”
“Oh, right. Better to report to our commander.”
Nasition sat, barely controlling his anger over the failed campaign. A further hundred or so drones had perished in the retreat from various reasons. He must not give hope to any potential rebels, and this isn’t a good way to snuff out the flames of rebellion. Suddenly, the face of a commander appeared in his displays.
“I deeply apologize for interrupting, sire,” he began, “but our soldiers have found something that might be of interest.”
“Tell me and quickly get on with it,” Nasition impatiently replied.
“It’s a female casualty that we picked up from the battlefield. With quick examinations from me and the troops who found her, we are positive she might be the one who fought us with the kid Avalel. She’s badly wounded, her arms now virtually useless. We were planning to execute her on the spot, but decided that we should report this first.”
“Bring her back to the capital if that is possible,” Nasition ordered, “If it isn’t, go to the nearest hospital and I personally will lead an escort to pick her up.” He smiled. He may have not defeated his main target, but he has found a person who will greatly assist in his war efforts.
He contacted a military scientist in the capital. “I have someone who can be a suitable candidate for your tests.”
The voice at the other end chuckled. “You think this would work, unlike the many others who have failed me before?”
“I guarantee it. However, she has to be first hospitalized before the tests can proceed.”
“I earnestly thank you for giving me another chance, our great Common Leader,” the scientist gratefully replied. He then whispered so that his voice was inaudible except for Nasition, “All hail the Klarodeis!”