Counter 21: Erupting Resolve
Forty-five minutes past two o’clock in the afternoon
Green dorm area
Blair and Daisuke have gone from the recreation area to the front yard of the green dorm where swarms of metaghosts are passing by. In that place, they notice two green-zone students who are not inside the dorms; instead they are fighting with the passing robots.
They are in a dire situation because they do not have any idea as to what is happening, and what those rusty robots might be. Blair rushes in to help and clear away several metaghosts that are surrounding them.
While observing the surroundings, they see one of the intruders earlier, lying lifeless on the ground. While Blair is keeping the enemies busy, or rather she is being kept busy by the enemies, Daisuke relays the intel he got in hand to the two students. Those two understood the situation without question.
“So these robots are weapons especially made to fight reveils,” says the girl. “My magic won’t be any use here… or rather, I should think of a different approach using my magic.” She smirks.
“Aren’t you a first year?” Daisuke inquires with a polite smile. “You are quite confident.”
She smiles, a smile enveloped with confidence. “I have some experience when it comes to fighting monsters.”
“I was there too! I was there too!” The guy with her joins in with such energetic tone. “We joined with a group of monster hunters after getting our license.”
“Oh, you got license too,” Daisuke responds while shooting a ray of ki on the ground creating a deep crater which tripped the metaghost down. “I used to hunt a lot back then but my license is on hold right now.”
“Ah, does that have anything to do with why you’re in the red,” the guy asks thoughtlessly.
Daisuke laughs a little, “You could say that. It’s kind of complic--”
“I know someone with a demon hunting license too!” Blair interrupts insensitively. “She goes to this school too!”
“You mean, the professor?” The girl asks.
“No, I mean a freshman just like us.”
“That’s impossible!” She strongly objects. “There’s no way anyone under twenty would go for a demon hunting license. Most demon hunters are around thirty plus, you know.”
“Is that so?” Blair replies nonchalantly. “But it’s true that Az--” She stops in the middle of her speech when a metaghost fires at them.
They all jump away from the spot, resulting in their separation from each other. If each one of them gets surrounded by the metaghosts, it will be difficult –most likely impossible –to defend from all direction. Maintaining ranged battles is the best strategy for them who mostly rely on their power. If they stick together, they could at least look after each other’s back. Furthermore, the metaghost is already moving closer to each one of them, making it difficult to get back to their previous formation.
“Dice!” Blair calls loudly while trying to break-through a crowd of metaghosts. “Can you manage by yourself?”
“Somehow!” Daisuke answers while trying to gain a little distance from the nearing enemies. “What are you planning now? Don’t get pounded like before, ok.”
“You seem strong so I’ll go support the other two.” Blair answers while cutting through the armor of a metaghost. The screeching, ear-piercing noise makes it very distracting which attracts more metaghosts closer to her. “Arrgh! Hey, the other two!”
“Don’t call us that!!” The girl answers angrily while struggling to get away from a couple of metaghosts. “We’ve got names! I’m Deeveen!”
“Is that so?.. By the way I’m Blair! That one is Dice!”
“I’m not Dice! It’s Daisuke!” He growls as he shoots another ray of ki to the ground. “And quit with the damn introduction! Get your ass together and then get rid of the shittybots!”
Blair laughs hard while dashing to attack one metaghost, then she starts slicing through the gaps in its leg-joints making it fall. She continues to attack the next one, using the same method over and over again making metaghosts fall one after the other. She keeps her way of immobilizing them until she reaches Deeveen and Vargas.
“That’s kind of effective, isn’t it?” Deeveen concurs.
“If you can fight like that, then you could have just done it from the start!” Daisuke barks.
“I’ve only thought of it just now!” Blair yells back.
“Ah, she’s dumb after all,” he mumbles.
“Hey, I heard that!” Blair says before turning her attention to Deeveen and Vargas. “You two, what can you do to fight these tin cans?”
“I’m a mage,” Deeveen answers. “Well, I’m not really sure what to do. I know plenty of spells but as you can see, I can’t use them against those robots.”
“I’m an esper,” Vargas follows up. “I can control sound but I can mostly only do support jobs.”
“You two are pretty much useless.” Blair says frankly while watching out for the closing in enemies. “Can’t you think of a way to fight without using your powers?” She turns her gaze at them.
They fell in silence. The drop of sweat that rolls down on Deeveen’s cheeks seems to give an unpleasant answer.
“I see, you are sort of in trouble, aren’t you?”
“I believe you mean WE, we are in trouble.” Deeveen retorts knowing that more metaghost are coming closer.
Blair clicks her tongue before attacking a metaghost. Using the same methods, slicing through the joints of the legs, she takes down another two. With limited fighters against hundreds of enemies, their stamina may not hold long enough to end this. Furthermore, it seems that Blair’s vambrace and blade are starting to chip off little by little; the metal bodies of the metaghosts are also made to be tough enough to endure explosions.
“Ah-! This is getting worse every second!” Deeveen shouts shouts while stepping back. “I have to do something. Not being able to fight, this is very shameful!”
“Maybe you could use an indirect attack using your elemental magic.” Vargas suggests. “You know like blowing up some stuff somewhere near them?”
“It’s not a bad idea but,” Deeveen responds while wiping the sweat off her cheek. “It’ll create more damage to the surroundings. I’m not really sure if that will be the right option, considering that we are currently not following the protocol given by the faculty earlier.”
“There’s no need to worry about that,” an unfamiliar female voice rings from behind. She got long straight shiny silver hair that extends down to the middle of her back. She has distinct two moles lined horizontally at the base of her neck. She is wearing a winged serpent designed earring. “The academy could easily repair whatever damage we cause here. It’s a bigger problem if those machines start attacking the dorms.” She flicks her fingers, and then a mass of earth flips from the ground throwing two metaghosts high up. “Hear this, no matter what, don’t let those things touch the dorms.” Then the metaghosts fall crushing loudly on the ground.
“Because if you do,” a girl follows up. She has shoulder length light brown. She is riding a floating chair operated by magic. “The barrier around the dorms will fall.”
“You are..?” Deeveen asks as if she is looking at something unbelievable. From the way they conduct themselves, she can guess that they are from the blue-zone.
“That look is rude, you know.” The girl in floating chair responds as if she is being offended.
“Don’t get too fired up,” a man that is standing beside the girl stretches his right arm to stop her. “Please excuse our sudden arrival. The truth is we’ve been watching you for quite a while.” His hair is dark violet, with long bangs extending slightly past his eyebrows.
“Ah--!!” Blair yells after seeing the new comers. “More people! Hey, hey, can you fight?”
“You insolent commo--!” The girl in the floating chair shouts aggressively.
The girl in front raises her hand to stop the other one. “We can fight just fine. And you are?” Her eyes are fixed at Blair.
“Me? I’m Blair.”
Her eyebrows cross. “Lisiantha? You’re not from the House of Rogue?”
“No,” Blair answers instantly. Her lips are slightly frowning. “Definitely not!.. So, who are you?”
“What whose name is strange?!!” Blair freaks out.
“My name is.”
“Your name is strange?”
“Yes,” she answers casually. “Actually that’s my surname.”
“Your surname is strange?” She looks confused. “You’re really strange.”
“Yes. I am Strange.” She replies with a teasing tone and a half smile.
“Aah--!!” Deeveen hysterically cuts in between the two. “Enough with this strange conversation! I feel like I’ll go crazy any moment now!” Then she fixes her eyes at Blair. “Blair, you should realize by now that you are being rude to a blue-zone student.”
“Who cares about that shit?” Blair answers in a boorish way.
“Insolence--!!” The girl in the floating chair angrily yells.
“Don’t keep yelling,” Herneihmys says calmly. “Introduce yourselves first then we’re leaving.”
“Wait--!” Blair says but is suddenly interrupted as a metaghost approaches them.
Blair quickly gets rid of the metaghost with a roundhouse kick sending it flying far away.
“W-what do you mean leave?!” She returns her attention to Herneihmys and company as soon as the threat is gone.
The girl scoffs. “I’m Athena.”
“My name is Rio.” The guy says with a gentle smile.
“Hey! Answer me!” Blair persists.
“Those robots are such a bore.” Herneihmys answers in a very lethargic tone. “I’ll go find something else that would be more amusing.”
“You mean you’re going to run away?” Blair says provokingly.
“Run way?!” Athena glares at her. “What shameful act to accuse Milady!”
Herneihmys sighs. “Fine,” says she. “How many of those have you destroyed so far?”
“Dunno. As if I’d keep count.” Blair responds uncaringly while turning her eyes away.
“Very well,” Herneihmys rounds her sight around the area. “As I can see… There are about 22 metaghosts lying unresponsive on the ground. Then…” She flicks her fingers and then huge mass of earth float from the ground forming sharp pointed cones. “Let me give you some tips,” she adds while the earth cones floats higher. “If you make a mana-imbued attack, it gets about two to three second lag before it dissipates and rendered unusable. If you could put enough force to crush them within two seconds then it’s your win.”
Blair frowns crossing her eyebrows. “What’s that supposed to me--”
“I see!” Deeveen cuts in while pushing Blair aside. “Just like the way you threw them in the air before trandium could react!”
“There there,” Herneihmys smiles dubiously then she releases her attack. “Earth Devil’s Fangs.” The pointed cones are then falling one after the other. “It seems that other than the brute red head, the others know how to use their brain properly,” she says as they watch the pointed cones skewer through the metaghosts and then explode. Each explosion either damages or destroys the nearby metaghosts resulting in a domino effect.
Blair, Daisuke, Deeveen and Vargas are stunned as they watch the seemingly endless explosions with astonishment. The series of explosions continued for more or less two minutes.
Blair and Daisuke have taken much time breaking those 22 metaghost one by one. Meanwhile, this strange girl only needed a couple of seconds to destroy the same number and she did it with ease.
“That’s more than 22, I believe.” Herneihmys says before marching amidst the smoke covered field. The two students are following closely behind her not minding the smoke. It appears as though the smoke is clearing away –or rather opening a path for them –as the three of them march altogether. “We’ve done our part here. Goodbye.” Her voice echoes as they disappear from their sight.
“Her way of talking,” Blair mumbles. “Like I heard it before… Sounds like the nasty tone Az have when she’s making fun of me.”
Forty-six minutes past two o’clock in the afternoon
The gym’s roof
“You have two flaws.” Malikk says while raising his fingers. “First, overconfidence.” He takes notice as Azalea’s expression changes from a stubborn look of disregard to a more annoyed kind of surprised.
“What?! I’m not overconfident at all. I’ve never underestimated my enemies.” She grits her teeth averting her eyes from his.
It is true she never underestimated her opponents… However, she has this uncanny tendency of overestimating herself. The situation right now is a good example. Azalea, at this moment, faces the enemies alone without assistance from anyone. Not because she believes that the enemies are weak, but because she thinks that she could somehow manage the situation alone. A stubborn thought. An arrogant feat. Such faithless deed.
“Second,” he continues speaking confidently, “you are way too reliable.” He hears her click her tongue.
“You’re mocking me… you’re just mocking me, aren’t you?!”
He decides to keep his thoughts to himself this time. “I guess she really hates me now. Still… it is true ---you are way too reliable… that you are left with no one else to rely on.” He lets put a sigh. “While you are protecting everyone, who is going to protect you?”
Thanks to Ren and Zen, the threat that Gaozu and Taka carries is now gone. But then, she just sensed more monsters and even a demon popping out of nowhere. At first she could not figure out how something like that is possible until she sees it with her own eyes. She suddenly feels a fluctuation of energy close-by, when she turns her head; there she sees a portal opening close to the gym.
A man is coming out of the portal. He jumps out and then lands on the roof with a bang. He is wearing a dark cloak that flutters along with his wavy medium blonde hair as the strong breeze blows upon him. He starts attacking as soon as he laid his eyes on Azalea. The noise of simultaneous explosions engulfs her surroundings, though none of those reaches her, they are still chipping away at her barrier’s strength. If it stays like this, her barrier will fall. No—it will not just be her barrier. She almost panics at the thought.
“What’s wrong demon hunter?!” He shouts. He sounds somewhat bored. “Aren’t you going to attack? Or is it that all those rumors about the Bewitched are false after all?”
She really is not fond of that alias. “There is nothing you’d get from me,” she replies with a stern tone. She squint her eyes to get a clearer look of him from afar. She cannot see much detail of his facial expressions.
“There’s nothing I could get from you?” He repeats with an arrogant sounding voice. “You are very wrong about that.” He then closes the distance between themm. He is close enough for Azalea to see his face clearly. Then with a smug look on his face and low pitched voice he adds, “Our objective at the moment is you. You’ll be coming with me in a little while.”
“Me? What about me interest them?” She asks herself.
But that is not the real problem here. As far as Azalea is concerned, the only reason the enemies would aim for her is to break the barrier and/or to crush the person acting as support. She is partly a healer too; in a battle, it is a must to silence the healer first else all damage taken by the enemy will be for naught.
“What’s wrong now?” He bolts with his brows raised. “Feeling nervous that your opponent is me?” He laughs loudly. Annoyingly loud with a very irritating look on his face.
“Are you an idiot?” Azalea sighs. “Wait, maybe he really is.”
His cheerful smile curves into a frown. “Bitch, you are too full of yourself!” His growling voice strikes angrily. He moves several steps back, distancing himself away from her. “Just wait until I smash your barrier down!”
Azalea giggles mockingly. “Very well,” she adds looking up at him with a vengeful smile, “try smashing this down, shithead!” She then creates a barrier around him. He looks really startled, beyond surprised, as the number of multi-layered magic circles instantaneously surround him. “You see, this barrier can also be used to imprison someone inside.”
“What the fuck!” He growls, gnashing his teeth while glaring at his enemy. “I’ll fuckin’ beat the carp outta you, BIIIIIITCH!!!”
“Calm down, calm down,” Azalea replies sarcastically as the corners of her lips curves upward. “If you’re a good boy, I’ll release you… when the time comes.”
“You seem to be having a lot fun there,” Elen’s voice chimes.
“Damn, I almost forgot she’s still there.”
“I’m almost done here too.” She continues while taking a step forward.
At first, Azalea wonders what she might be referring to. Until she notices that all her equipment is shut down.
“Hey, K’shirm’s commander over there.” He said pointing at Elen.
“You don’t have to keep barking like a mad dog,” Elen responds harshly.
Azalea fixes her eyes on her. She is holding something in her right hand.
“The spell is ripe,” she says while raising a two-by-two glass cube with multi-layered spell inside. It is arranged like planetary rings rotating around a tiny glowing sphere of dark and raw energy.
“Hey, what are you going to do with that?” She asks; a drop of sweat rolls down her chin. She has no idea what kind of spell it contains. She does not even think that an ubliss could make use of it since she has not awakened her Vis. However, she can feel something really bad coming from that thing.
“Proceed to your final mission,” that guy orders her without flinching.
“This time,” Elen’s eyes are fired up with determination. “We’ll win.” She then crushes the glass cube in between her hands.
A blinding light is making her avert her gaze from Elen’s direction. As the light subsides, she turns her head back to her. Her jaws drop, her eyes opens wider, looking at that far-fetched scene. The white light only lasted for a second. The dripping blood from her right palm looks like it is eating her arm away. From the arm, up her shoulder that blood… or it might not be blood, the black liquid envelopes Elen’s body. But then again it is not covering her body. Its more like it is eating her alive. From her hands it is taking over her arms, crawling higher up her shoulders and so on.
As Azalea watches everything unfold, she realizes that Elen is going through some sort of transformation. The black liquid that consumes her sips into her skin. She is turning into something else that no longer appears to be human.
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