Counter 17: Crimson Flood
Thirty-five minutes after two o’clock in the afternoon
Emil, Primrose and Duke are lowering their guards after Wrie got rid of the threats. It is probably due to the momentary feeling of safety that they are subconsciously relaxing their defenses. After all, they are not sensing any unfamiliar presence around the area.
Prim knocks on the library’s door. “Knock, knock,” says she. “Whoever’s in there, could you open the door? We need to talk.”
“Hey, just leave them alone in there.” Emil prompts.
She turns her gaze at him pausing for few seconds. “I got a message from Azalea.” She answers casually.
“You should have said that first!” A vein pops on Emil’s forehead. “Tell us what she said.”
“Hmm… She sent me a message,” she responds while taking another bun from her bag.
“There is someone inside we have to protect. Also, it got some attached files.” She looks into her phone and then she forwards the message to Emil and Duke. “Something is coming this way.”
Their relaxed state is shaken when the creaking door suddenly opens. From the narrow opening of the door, they see the light of the afternoon sun reflecting on the person’s apricot colored hair that is covering her eyes. “Umm,” a female voice rings from the inside. “I was told not to let anyone in.”
“Don’t worry, we’re good people.” Prim answers in her usual monotone before stuffing her mouth with a meat bun. The girl appears to be hesitant and doubtful as she only keeps the door narrowly open, just enough for her to peek outside. “Ah, I think I know you. Aren’t you acquainted with Blair Lisiantha?”
It is as if her expression lightened. “Y-yeah,” she responds shyly as she unconsciously widens the opening of the door. “I-I just r-remembered you too. You’re her f-friend?”
“We met last time in the third floor reading area. Your name is… Snitz Magnolia.” She recalls while she continues to stuff her mouth.
“That’s not… exactly…” Schnitzel mumbles with a very small and thin voice.
“Hey,” Duke walks closer and then taps Prim’s shoulder. He stands tall behind her. “Do you know this person named, Pana Panahon?”
Schnitzel looks at Duke, her gaze is directed on his head that looks like it is covered by a dark helmet-like exoskeleton. “She’s a senior librarian here.” She responds without averting her gaze. “She’s the one who told me not to let anyone in.”
“Well--” Duke is about to say something but he gets cut off in the middle. He turns his head facing to the direction of the shore. “That’s better, I think.” He mumbles while making an expression full of dismay.
Prim stops eating and touches Duke’s hand that is resting on her shoulder. “What is it, brother?”
“Shhh--” Duke gestures. “Emil, can you hear it too?”
Emil responds with a nod; his eyes are fixed in the same direction as Duke’s. Little by little the sound of heavy machineries stomping towards them becomes clearer and clearer.
“Prim, get inside, please.” Duke says with a firm tone.
“Sounds like those are the metaghosts from Azalea’s intel.” Emil mumbles while looking far ahead.
While Duke and Emil stands on their defensive post, Prim simply opens a pack of gummy worms.
Duke sighs before marching forward. When he reaches Emil’s side, he taps his shoulder. “I’m doomed if those things touches me, so I’m entrusting close combat to you.”
The sound of the machines’ heavy steps are becoming louder as it comes closer.
“Get inside and close the door, Snitz.” Primrose says while standing unmoved in front of the door.
“My name is Schnitzel.” She says with a small voice. She can only stare at them as she peeks through the door's narrow opening.
“Wrie,” Primrose calls, “can you fight those?”
“Wait-!” Duke interrupts after taking notice of what Prim is trying to do. “It’s dangerous to stay here, go inside and hide.”
“It’s dangerous here, that’s why I’m staying.” She answers with a determined expression. She looks around, the grounds in front are so plain; there is no place to take cover. “I want to see… if I find you in danger, I’ll have you pull back… brother.”
“Ah, their roles seem to have taken a different turn.” Schnitzel mumbles before slowly closing the door. “This girl’s yashou looks exactly like her except for the hair color. They could pass as twins. Her brother though… he feels kind of different.”
After they heard the lock of the door click, another explosive noise alarms their senses. It is followed by a loud crashing sound behind them. They all turn their sight towards the door. Prim, being the closest, notices what it is first. A huge bullet hole digs deep into the concrete wall of the library. It did not pierce through but it did bury itself deep, a few more of those and it is possible that it could destroy the walls. As far as their goal is concerned, their top priority is the safety of the person named Pana Panahon.
A flash of the metaghosts’ headlight glints, Emil runs towards its direction and relentlessly attacks. One punch made the first metaghost stop advancing. He then follows it with a spinning kick making it fly back to the direction where it is from. It crashes with two other metaghosts before exploding to pieces.
“Wow,” Duke says with amazement as he walks closer to Emil. “That is very effective. You just took down three of those giants at the same time.”
“I just got lucky,” he responds humbly while looking at his fist. “Be careful, those bots got some pretty high caliber machine guns in them.”
“What are you guys doing there?” A mature-toned female voice calls their attention from behind. They turn towards the voice to find a woman with shoulder length black hair who might be at her late twenties standing by the opened door of the library. She wears formal white blouse inside her gray blazer, and a gray skirt. “Students shouldn’t be outside at this time.”
“Ah-!! Madam, please don’t leave the library.” Schnitzel quickly follows her. She holds the woman's sleeve to stop her from going outside.
“What are you kids doing?” She continues while patting Schnitzel’s head. “I don’t see anyone of you being part of the Balaam Knights, why are you fighting those?”
“Hmm, you must be that person.” Primrose blurts out while focusing her eyes on the lady. “The librarian, Miss Pana Panahon.”
“At least you know your librarian,” she answers while she inspects the girl who is loitering and eating beside the door. “Leave those metaghosts to the BK and other staff. You kids come inside.”
“No,” Primrose answers firmly while Emil and Duke has gone ahead to stop the metaghost from getting closer. “You go inside, ma’am. As you can see, we don’t have enough staff… err, actually there’s none at all around here, so we’ll have to handle this.”
“You’re just standing there, aren’t you?” Schnitzel mumbles.
Primrose directs her gaze at Schnitzel and pauses for few seconds. “You too,” she says casually, “the two of you should go in.” She then goes ahead and pushes the two inside. “Hey Snitz-something, help me.”
“E-eh?” She gulps and then grabs Pana’s wrist to pull her inside. “I’m sorry madam but I—both of us can’t fight so please…” As Schnitzel pleas, Pana decides to concede. For that reason, Primrose also ends up getting dragged inside by Pana and Schnitzel.
As the door closes Primrose turns her gaze outside, “Wrie, please watch over Duke,” she commands softly.
Wrie nods and then she runs ahead to catch up with Duke and Emil.
Duke is very careful not to touch any part of the metaghosts. Emil cannot use his surface strengthening magic so he is purely relying on his physical strength to fight. They believe that they are in a very disadvantageous situation. But then, Wrie just dashes right in front of a metaghost to grab its left foot with her small body, which does not look like it could lift one sack of rice. She pulls the metaghost by the foot and then raises it up, she spins it three times before throwing it away. The metaghost flies in mid-air before dashing ten meters on the ground and then exploding.
“That’s sick!!!” A loud voice rings then flames burst up in the middle of the fighting ground. “I didn’t expect to see such valiant warriors around here.” A guy with red hair reveals himself from the direction of the dorms. He is still wearing his uniform which is proof enough that he is from the blue-zone. “What’s with those dumb look?” He grins while walking confidently in the middle of the battlefield.
“Red hair,” Emil says softly as the noble’s features become more distinguished. “And… red eyes… Just like Blair.”
“How rude,” he smirks while tilting his head slightly to the right. “You don’t know who I am exactly?”
“It’s not that we don’t know,” Emil replies looking unpleased, “we just don’t give a fuck.”
“Wad’ya say, punk?” His grin turns into a frown and his eyebrows crosses while he marches closer to Emil. “I’m from the House of Rouge, Zacharius Rouge. Remember that! Little shit.”
“Huh-?!! You want me to beat the crap out of you, spoiled ass noble?!” Emil grunts back.
“Okay, okay~” Duke cuts in between the two. “Let’s not fight amongst ourselves here. See that over there?” Then he points somewhere near the library, Wrie is there defending –not letting any of the metaghosts to get past at her. “Our friend over there is doing her job right so let’s not be so shameless by standing over here scowling at each other, okay?”
Zacharius snorts. “Don’t go telling me what to do, creep.” He pushes Duke by the shoulder making him fall a step back. But then Duke quickly pushes him hard enough that he falls on his butt. “What the fu--!!” His anger is cut short when a metaghost flies over his head. He would have been hit if Duke did not push him hard. “What the actual fuck is that?!!” He follows it with his eyes to see it crash and then explode.
“I’m sorry,” Duke humbles himself while offering a helping hand to Zacharius. “I should have warned you but there was no time.” He smiles kindly.
Zacharius pays no mind to Duke’s words. “Yeah right,” he mutters before he knocks Duke’s hand away. “I can stand on my own, creep.”
“He’s one hell of a spoiled brat!” Emil grits his teeth.
“I don’t want to waste my time with your crap.” Zacharius snorts. “Thanks to that barrier, I’m able slip away from my aides.”
“Yeah, like we care.” Emil responds coldly as he turns his back away and prepares to fight. “If you don’t wanna die then take care of yourself. I’ll bear no responsibility towards some spoiled ass noble.”
“Shut up. I’m looking for that red monkey,” Zacharius says while looking around. “I heard she’s fighting somewhere. Damn, this school is so confusing.”
“Red monkey? He got a pet or something?” Emil mumbles. His mind is a little distracted.
He is about to turn his head towards Zacharius but he is able to redeem his concentration back when the light from two metaghosts flashes at the corner of his eyes. From that direction, simultaneous flashes followed along with the rattling sound of a machine gun.
“Duke! Wrie! Take cover!!!” He shouts while tumbling down covering the back of his head with both hands.
When Duke hears Emil’s shout he quickly runs away from the area where the bullets would possibly hit. While Emil is already preparing himself to dodge, Zacharius is still startled resulting in a little late reaction from him. In no time, bullets comes flying from two points of nearly the same direction which leaves Zacharius with less space and chance to evade them.
They cannot tell what is happening next, they can only hear the boisterous rattling of the machine guns.
When they lift their head to check the situation, only Zacharius is injured. His shoulder is dripping with blood. It seems that he is lucky enough to bend down on the ground to avoid most of the bullets raining from above. He only has few scrapes on his left shoulder.
Though there are bunch of trees in the forest at the side of the library, the area around the front is mainly plain which gives no place for them to hide in. From the ground where they are fighting, there is no place to hide or use as cover. It is has both advantage and disadvantage. One is that they can clearly see the approaching enemies and prepare for the incoming assault however in some urgent cases, they will not be able to take cover from a massive barrage of attack.
“Argh-!” Zacharius grunts while pushing himself up with his right hand. “Damn it, that dumbass mage! You should have warned me too! Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!” He keeps cussing while wiping away some blood from the wound on his left shoulder.
“You fuckin’ heard me, didn’t you?” Emil refutes with a mocking grin on his face before leaping closer to the metaghosts that shot them.
In a flash he is already in front of the metaghost. He then he follows up with a full-force hawk punch blasting the giant robot up. While it is suspended on the air, he grabs its head and then, with his weight, slams it on the ground leaving it unresponsive. When he looks beside to take down the other one, he just finds the metaghost sinking in a pool of lava. He turns his eyes to Zacharius. Just looking at his smug look, Emil can clearly tell what he just did.
“How’s that, mage-punk dumbass?” Zacharius brags as the lava losses its heat and turns into hardened mud.
The extreme heat of the lava is enough to melt the inner circuits of the metaghost making it dysfunctional. It takes at least a second for the metaghosts' trandium to react and negate the effects of Zacharius' ability and that is enough time for him to immobilize those machines.
“No wonder it kinda felt hot here.” Emil clicks his tongue. “How’s Wrie, by the way?” He recalls that Wrie did not flinch a bit when he shouted his warnings.
Both Zacharius and Emil turn because both of them wants to confirm the yashou’s condition. Their eyes widen and jaws almost dropped looking at her. Wrie is standing only a step away from the same spot that she stands on when the bullets rained at them. It is not all that surprising if that is all, yet one clink after another, she starts to drop bullets from her hands.
On the ground, without going over the line of where she stands are piles of bullets stranded as if those were simply laid flat there.
“Sick! How’d she caught all those?” Zacharius blurts excitedly. “She’s so fast! And she caught all them with bare hands! Hey, hey, your buddy looks awesome strong there!”
“Yeah, I can’t believe it.” Emil responds with a rather serious tone. “Wrie is a Yashou so she should dematerialize if she makes contact with that metal.” He says softly. “Not only did she throw one of those, she also caught all of those bullets which are made with the same Trandium.”
Zacharius smirks after hearing Emil. “Who cares about the shitty details? She’s one hell of a yashou, that’s all there is to it.”
Knowing that there are more metaghosts coming, Emil decides to ignore Zacharius and proceed on trashing the enemies before they get flooded. He continues to attack with physical strength alone because Trandium negates the effect of his strengthening magic.
Every time he attacks, his armor also gets damaged greatly, thus leaving him with limited time until it fuly breaks. If Azalea did not order the armor, not only his ability would have been useless, he would not be able to fight like this too.
“You're doing great, Emil.” Duke says when they bumped backs. “I can’t find anything I could use as a weapon here. My armor will be destroyed if I touch those rusty robots. All I could do is order some insects around to infiltrate the inner circuits and corrupt their system from the inside.”
“Isn’t that pretty awesome too?” Emil responds before pounding another metaghost and he then throws it crashing to another one.
“B-but I kinda feel sorry for those little ones… because once the circuit is destroyed they end up getting fried too.”
“Ugh… is that all you’re worried about?” He sighs and then points at Zacharius. “That idiot over there is making more of those lava pools, be careful not to fall in, okay?”
Duke laughs as he dodges an attack from the metaghost. “You’re quite the worrywart, aren’t you?” However, he is unable to completely hide from Emil the fact that he is worried about something. Those that could highly disrupt the flow of his mana circuit are of great concern for him, thus it makes him unusually alert over everything. While on the other hand, Wrie simply keeps on fighting the same way, wearing the same straight face like Prim's; without any fear of the Trandium. While keeping a lookout to the changes around him, he suddenly senses something that makes chill run down his spine. “Emil! Zacharius!” He makes a sudden call, purposely raising his voice louder. “We’re in a real pinch now… I can sense more of those metaghosts coming towards this area, they are about to flood us here.”
“Tch-! Will we be able to hold on?” Emil asks.
Duke pauses for few seconds. “Well, if I were to sa--”
“OF COURSE WE CAN!” Zacharius interrupts with a carefree smile on his face. “Enough with the shitty banters, just trash them all! Just beat ‘em a--!!”
His loud declaration is cut short when they hear an explosion from behind. Three metaghosts have just fired several rounds of machine gun on the library walls. Those three did not pass through Emil’s group, neither did they get over Wrie. By looking at the situation, they concluded that it is highly possible that they came around from behind the library.
While they are busy from frontal offense and defense, they have neglected any attack that might come from another direction. That short moment that Emil and Duke’s mind is caught up between analyzing the situation and processing action in response, Wrie, without a trace of hesitation, just dashes towards the library with nothing but the pure determination to protect her master inside. One of the metaghosts is already braking through the door. In a flash, Wrie reaches their ground however the two metaghosts are blocking her way in. She cannot see Primrose or Pana. With a reaction that is nothing short of being in panic, she punches one of the metaghost with full force. She is clearly not holding back, as her fist along with her arm up to the elbow cracked and crumbled like terracotta breaking apart, leaving a large number of metal pieces and dust fly in the air.
“WRIE!” Primrose voice rings loudly from the inside but Wrie cannot discern where she is exactly because the sound of the metaghost crashing on the ground is louder impairing her hearing. The sound enveloped the next words from her contractor. She tries to hit the other metaghost that is blocking her way but due to being in panic she forgets that she broke her right arm resulting in her missing the target.
“Emil, hurry up and assist Wrie!” Duke shouts in dread while he surveys the surrounding area. “I won’t be able to fight like this-!” He sounds irritated.
“Hey, shitty mage!” Zacharius calls while Emil is running towards the library. “Protect that person called Pana Panahon at all cost!”
Emil continues running and only looks back for a split second. “That again?!” He recalls Azalea’s message. On his way, he notices two metaghosts going after the three unconscious intruders that they have set aside a while ago. “The heck? Are those here for rescue?” He knows he does not have any time to waste on others so he decided to go forward.
More metaghosts are coming from the front where Zacharius and Duke are busy fighting. Back to Wrie’s situation, she again lost another arm after hitting the second metaghost sending it flying. The second metaghost hits the one that is already inside and then they crash at each other. Although, the damage dealt from it is not enough to cut their functions down. Wrie observes the surroundings looking for her master while the metaghosts are getting back in action. She spots Primrose standing near the stairway; she is assisting Pana and Schnitzel so that they could escape to the second floor. They are less than five meters away from the metaghost. Judging the difference in speed, Wrie should be able to outrun them to get to Primrose’s side. However, on her way she notices the sparks coming from their busted circuits. The metaghosts that are coming closer explodes right beside her, sending gusts of scorching hot air with metallic shrapnel that burns and pierces through all the light materials around.
Meanwhile, Emil, who is about to enter the library, is pushed aback as well. If not for his armor, the shrapnel must have severely injured him too.
The ear-piercing blast also alarms Duke and Zacharius making them look back. They are left in awe as they catch the blazing blast of air pushing Emil away from entering the door. Duke runs towards the explosion to check on the situation. On his way he notices a couple of metaghost shooting the three intruders that Wrie had knocked out beforehand. They must be being silenced for failing their mission. He wants to stop them but he is also stopped by Zacharius.
“Those small fries are of no concern to us,” Zacharius says while tapping Duke’s shoulder. He is matching his pace to run beside him.
“Yeah,” Duke agrees with hesitation. “Sorry…”
When they get closer to the entrance, Zacharius swiftly takes control of the flames, collecting it all into a ball of fire before slowly suppressing it until there is nothing left. Emil goes in first and Duke follows. Broken pieces of the furniture on the ground mixed with shrapnel from the metaghosts, burnt curtains and books, smoke covering the interior, and the suffocating smell of gun powder and smoke are welcoming them in their first step inside. All three run around looking for the girls while the thick smoke dissipates in the air. The first one they find is Wrie’s crumbling body. She is still conscious as if all the damage dealt on her does not bother her at all. While Duke helps her to get back on her feet, Emil and Zacharius proceed to march ahead looking for Primrose, Schnitzel and Pana.
Wrie is just a few meters behind Prim's group but she could not make it in time to protect them. Just as they thought that the three girls are gone, they witness something abnormal. They cannot take their eyes off from the giant armored arm covering Primrose as if it is protecting her from any harm. That arm is big enough to cover her whole body.
“Prim!” Duke calls while hurrying towards her. Wrie follows closely behind. “That arm?...” He grumbles.
Primrose holds her collar tightly. “Sorry brother,” her voice croaks, “I can’t restrain it… Wrie, come help me.”
“Help--!!” A voice alarms them while they are stunned at the sight of that arm. “Anyone there?…” The familiar voice is owned by none other than Schnitzel. “S-she’s not breathing!” She wraps her arms around Pana’s body. There is no blood but the burn and the explosion caught her bad. She got blown away and shrapnel pierced through her body making her look like a crumbling porcelain doll. The wounds pierced by the shrapnel are evident on Pana's back while Schnitzel has few bruises. “She… Miss Panahon protected me. W-what should I do?”
Zacharius quickly runs to her aid. “This is bad. If Miss Pana dies here, the barrier that protects the academy will fall.”
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