Counter 20: At the End of an Eroding Cliff
“Elen is transforming,” that is the only thought that Azalea have in mind as she witnesses that weird event uncover in front of her.
Elen's body gradually becomes more muscular, her hands grew claws as her fangs became more distinguished. Her blue body fit clothes stretches as her body grows and transforms. Cracking sounds resounds as if bones are forcefully breaking. Soon enough the black liquid, that covered her body is turning into a metallic-like armor protecting her vital parts. It looks as though it is tracing the curves of her body. The shadow-like spell envelopes her head then two horns spawn from her temples, growing forward up. At her back, wings attempted to form, though it only appeared as fleshless bones.
This situation is something Azalea could never have considered. Just what has she become? A monster?.. No—she is very well aware what that appearance resembles. Furthermore, the presence she feels coming from her, feels very familiar like… a demon but also something else.
Is that even possible?
“What the hell?..” words escape her breath while watching that black liquid alter the human form. Heavy breathing. Bones cracking. Still, she continues to transform. Her body is being covered by an armor, white and blue like the sky. Her head is being protected by a helmet with darker hues of blue.
“Has fear eaten your arrogance yet?” The irritating voice of that guy has reminded Azalea that he is still there. “The ubliss will complete her transformation soon. She’s turning into a demon… though I think you should already know that.” He smirks.
He is a little far, but Azalea can tell from his tone that he is wearing the kind of smirk she despises the most.
She only keeps glaring at him. “That can’t be possible. Humans can’t become demons.” She states after some observation. She is keeping her emotions in check. She cannot let herself be deceived. The chances that he is lying is pretty high.
“Believe it or not,” he responds in a sardonic tone, “that is the truth. If you don’t take the barrier down, you won’t be able to fight. Killing demons, is that not your job?”
“Right, my job is about killing demons,” she answers while fixing her eyes back to Elen who is almost done with her transformation. “It got nothing to do with killing humans.”
The almost completed demon-looking transformation of Elen is starting to move its head around. Azalea can almost see the foggy breath that sips out of her helmet. Elen’s breathing is slightly fast. She takes a step forward, and then she tilts her head from left to right a few times as though she is trying to recognize her surroundings. She pauses, her head facing the first human she finds.
Azalea cannot see her eyes clear enough; nevertheless, she can still feel it glaring. She has nothing to fear; as long as her barrier stands they cannot reach her with any of their attacks.
Then the demon-like creature's skeletal-wings start producing such distasteful cracking sounds. She is trying to stretch it back and forth. Elen lifts her right foot and then takes a step forward, closer to the human not far ahead. She is moving slowly.
After observing her gestures, Azalea assumes that she is not used to her new body, yet. One step after another, the sound of metallic boots pounding on the gymnasium’s roof is coming closer to the edge of her barrier. She can almost hear Elen’s deep breaths as she watches her march closer. Without a word; with silent voice overlapped by those monstrous clamors, she searches for the human's presence in front of her.
Meanwhile, that other guy is not backing down from where he stands. But then again, she can sense him trying to break the barrier where she imprisoned him. She is able to stop him from attacking her directly. Now, if he uses his explosive magic inside, it will also blow him to pieces. Still, this barrier is made to protect the person inside form outside harm. This guy seems to be quite knowledgeable with the foundation of magic and spells. In order to break the barrier without injuring himself, he is mixing his explosive spells from within into the standard magic circle formula for the barrier. He is disrupting the magic barrier by messing with its foundation.
“I am not a barrier nor defense specialist; I know for certain that my own spells have its weakness all over the place.” She mutters.
While Azalea is evaluating her current situation, a loud clashing sound snaps her back to reality. Elen’s demon form is attacking her barrier. Those heavy pounds of her fist along with the sharp sound of the scratches of her claws are effectively chipping the strength of the barrier away.
A bead of sweat on her forehead rolls down her left cheeks. If her barrier breaks along with that guy’s, it will affect the solidity of the ones she put up around the dorms. All the students will be visible and vulnerable to the metaghosts’ and monsters’ attack then.
Forty-two minutes after two o’clock in the afternoon
AB Academy Field
Isaw is keeping the demon’s attention on him. It is an A-ranked demon, Il Darvan. This demon is supposed to be residing in the dessert of Emp. It is a towering nine feet tall demon, heavily clad in yellow and brown armor. It is not yet considered as “threatening” so there are almost no data about its abilities yet. It looks very similar to the previous demon that resides in the same territory so Isaw can assume that it also has similar abilities.
However, due to the nature of Isaw’s power, he is having few problems fighting back. That is why all he could do is run around evading left and right while Il Darvan attacks him with his gigantic ax.
“If only I could touch that ax!” He groans while dodging another swing from Il Darvan. “Once I touch it, I could make it extremely heavy so that he won’t be able swing it again! Not ever in his remaining pitiful life!”
Isaw barely dodges the speed of Il Darvan’s swings. One wrong move and he could be split in half. Even though his stamina is strong, with this kind of opponent, fighting alone is not an option.
Il Darvan’s rampage is putting the field in disarray. The flat soccer grass field is now turned into messy grassland with mushy pits. Furthermore, it does not seem like it is going to stop soon. The angered demon, for whatever reason, is determined to crush everything in his way.
“Crownheit!” A familiar voice resounds from behind.
“Xaio?” Isaw responds while looking back. His colleague, Xiao Feng, has come to his aid.
“Yosh! It’s time for our ultimate teamwork!” Then they both jump to evade Il Darvan’s ax swing from the side.
“What are you talking about?” Xiao Feng questions him as a knit appears between her brows. “We’ve never teamed up before.”
“It’s fine, isn’t it?” He raises his brow while being smug.
Xiao Feng sighs. “So, what’s your plan?”
Isaw scratches his temple. “First of all,” he smiles cheerfully as he pointed at Il Darvan. “I like that ax. So, as much as possible, don’t destroy it.”
“That’s fine with me,” she answers. “Then?” She lifts her chin while fixing her eyes at him.
“Have you checked the files that the headmaster sent to us?”
Isaw can only avert his eyes while giving a forced smile.
“I see… You haven’t at all.”
Il Darvan lets out a deafening roar. Isaw and Xiao Feng return their sight back on the demon, alerting themselves for its next move. They watch its smoky breath leave its mouth like it just puffed a cigar. Both of them quickly take on their fighting stance as it sets its glowing red eyes at them. The moment Isaw hears the rasping sound of its armor, he swiftly moves away dragging Xiao Feng by her arm. Without any question, Xiao Feng cooperates and then they both leave their position, distancing themselves away from the demon. Before they can get enough distance, they hear another loud roar that is followed by a wave of strong wind. An explosive sound echoes behind them.
“Get down!” Isaw shouts while covering Xiao Feng. Then they both fall down on the grassy ground. “Damn it! This attack is more powerful than the previous ones.” He mutters then he turns around and looks up.
“What’s wrong, Isaw?” Xiao Feng turns as well. She finds herself in awe as she fixes her eyes upon the long deep pit on the ground nearby. “Is that?..”
“Looks like it.” Isaw replies while helping Xiao Feng stand up. “Had we been a little late, then we might have been turned into dust by now. We’re even farther from that demon than before. If only I could catch that ax of his.”
“Don’t sweat it,” she says. “As the intel says, that ax is made of Il Darvan’s blood and bones. You can’t change the weight of living organisms, right?”
Isaw suddenly pauses, with his eyes and mouth wide open. “…No, seriously?”
“You look really pitiful right now,” she responds coldly, then Il Darvan roars again, as if he is calling out to something. “I can handle this; just get out of the way.” She takes her stance while the angry demon starts to position its ax to swing again. “If we don’t destroy that ax, who knows what could happen.”
“Y-you’re… you’re really cruel, Xiao.” Isaw says while pouting like a kid.
“Just go find something else to toy around with.” She responds as she focuses her ki on her fists. “First, let’s see how tough that armor really is.” She then throws consecutive punches that shoot ki beams directly hitting Il Darvan. “I see, he really is tough.”
“There’s not even a single scratch on him or his armor,” Isaw observes cautiously while the demon swings its arm with the ax backwards. “Another shockwave, Xiao!”
“Relax,” Xiao Feng responded in her fighting stance. “Stay behind me, I want to test something.”
“Won’t that be dangerous?”
“Everything’s pretty much dangerous right now.”
Il Darvan swings his ax as forceful as he can. The shockwave from the swing blasts through the field like a hurricane. Its power blows dust, grass and stones alike on the field. Before they know it, they can be pulverized within seconds. Fortunately, when Xiao Feng senses the change in the air’s direction, she hastily flashes a three-hundred-sixty degree spinning side kick imbued with ki, which countered Il Darvan’s shockwave, neutralizing it. The explosive force of the two opposing attacks feel like it can tear even the space away from the center of the field. That same force has pushed Isaw and Xiao Feng a few steps back.
“I don’t think we can win against this demon.” Xiao Feng says while wiping the moisture of sweat on her forehead.
“W-wait, wait, wait--” Isaw contests, “it’s still too early to give up!”
“Yeah,” she replies calmly as the demon lets out another loud roar. “Forget about defeating it, we might not even be able to hold out any longer than the next five minutes.”
“S-SERIOUSLY?!!” He is rather hysterical.
Xiao Feng sighs in dismay. “Have I ever made fun of thi--” She cuts her dialogue short when Il Darvan makes a sudden swing of his ax. She swiftly counters with the same spinning side kick. “Stay on your guard, even if you’re useless right now.”
Isaw raises his brow, squinting his eyes at Xiao Feng. He is about to say something as a form of comeback but he stops before he can utter the first word. His attention switches away from Xiao Feng to follow the sound of Il Darvan’s rasping armor as it lifts the ax above head. The demon then rapidly moves the ax downwards, slamming it on the ground. It cut through the earth while producing a horizontal shockwave aimed towards Xiao Feng’s direction. The heavy ax that fell pounding the ground makes a pit, splitting the grass-filled ground as it treads straight up ahead. To counter the attack, Xiao Feng uses a ki imbued jumping axe kick which intersects with Il Darvan’s shockwave. The strength of the two forces crashing at each other spread throughout the nearby garden and gymnasium. It even sends shivers to the monsters making them panic for a moment.
Isaw watches Xiao Feng drop normally on the ground after being pushed back by the blast from crashing power of their attacks.
“Aren’t you pushing yourself a bit too much?” He says while he watches her wipe the drop of sweat rolling down her chin. “At this rate, you’ll exhaust yourself in no time.”
“No problem,” Xiao Feng responds then she takes a deep breath. “You still have five minutes to pray for your soul to be accepted in heaven.”
“The seriousness of your tone is going to give me a heart attack~” He forces a monotone laugh while rubbing his hair. “I’ll probably die first due to your dark humor tha--” He suddenly cuts his protest when Il Darvan raises his rear foot, taking a step forward. “This isn’t looking good at all.”
As Il Darvan changes his battle pose, Xiao Feng runs a few steps closer before reclaiming her fighting stance. The demon swings his ax up and down to produce an ‘x’ shaped wave of mana. Xiao Feng immediately answers with a consecutive spinning side kick and jumping axe kick; resulting in a cross-shaped glowing ki beam rapidly countering Il Darvan’s attack. This time a stronger blast of wind follows, blowing Xiao Feng far away backwards. Luckily, Isaw catches her before she crashes on the ground. While they are both lying down, trying to get back on their feet; Il Darvan swings his ax consecutively. There is not enough time to counter it. They could at least dodge however; those strong shockwaves will surely hit some buildings and may even endanger the staff in the admin building. They stare at the strong gusts of wind with eyes wide open as the force of shockwave pass through them. All they can hear is the crashing sound from behind followed by another strong gust raising the dirt, dust and pieces of grass to fly and chaotically dance with the ranging wind.
“Ouch,” a man’s voice cried from behind. “That must have hurt a lot.”
Isaw quickly turns around to only find himself surprised to see nothing there. Xiao Feng, not minding who it might be, steps up keeping herself alert in case another attack follows.
“I thought I heard some very nauseating voice back here,” Isaw says while scratching the back of his head. “Weird, none of the buildings seems to be damaged though.”
“Hey! Isaw, you idiot, UP HERE!” The same voice growls from above.
He is astounded. A man with green hair is riding a yellow dragon that is flying low above them. He is waving his hand at him. “So, who are you?” Isaw asked with his brow raised.
While they are busy chatting, Il Darvan attacks again. Xiao Feng is completely focusing her mind on the demon alone so she can counter any time. She nullifies Il Darvan's shockwaves with her ki.
“HUUUUUUUH--?!!” The green-haired guy yells before jumping down from the dragon without giving a single care about the demon. “It’’s me!” He falls standing on the ground. A thin cloud of dust covers him. “It’s me,” he smiles at Isaw, “your friend, Rajid Signas.”
“Nah, you're not!” Isaw answers with crossed brows. “Rajid has red hair.”
“Really,” Xiao Feng interrupts after countering Il Darvan’s shockwaves. “Doesn’t he have cobalt blue hair?”
“Hey! Aren’t we friends?!” Rajid protests stumping his foot. “How could you just identify me based on my hair only?! And to think that I’ve come here to provide a helping hand, aren’t you guys terribly cruel???”
Forty-nine minutes after two o’clock in the afternoon
“That’s right.” Azalea tells herself as she stares intensely at the unknown creature in front of her. “Keep your attention to me. As much as it is an inconvenience to me, it also serves as a good diversion for the others.”
Elen is pounding on the barrier while the other guy is combusting the barrier she put around him. In this situation, she has to decide how to handle both of them. If her barrier is destroyed, the spell on the barrier in the dorms will also be affected.
“I have no choice,” she mumbles.
She slowly reaches for her phone and then she dials a number. She can hear the rings from the other side; the silence before that man picks up is increasing the tension for her.
“Hello,” the old fart picked up. “Are you going to retreat now because you can’t handle the trouble anymore? Don’t worry, it’s okay.” He sounds way too cheerful for someone in a pinch.
“I want you to issue a command to BK,” she replies ignoring his stupid banter. “Please tell the BK near and within the three dorms to take command of the students and their formation.”
“I see… you’re still going to keep this up, huh.”
“Mhm. Send all necessary information to them. Especially the ones about the metaghosts, those monsters and that demon in the field.”
“Very well,” he sighs. Then a long silence from his side follows.
Meanwhile on Azalea's side, the pounding and screeching noises Elen is making does not stop. He must be able to hear it too.
“Done,” his voice is a bit hoarse.
“Thank you.” Azalea pauses before taking a deep breath.
“Are you sure about that?” That voice again. She wishes that he would just disappear. “You locked them up inside the dorms, and then now, you want to release them amidst such dangerous battlefield?”
Azalea does not want to talk to this spirit guy, really. “I will only keep the barrier for three minutes after this.” She continues while ignoring Malikk's chatting. “For three minutes… Please use that time to group the students, form a party of five to eight members with a reliable leader in command.”
"I'll let the in charge BK officers know about it." The headmaster replies without asking further.
Azalea does not have enough time to study and memorize the students’ abilities and personalities. She cannot assign them into groups so it is best for them to choose on their own. “All of them should have a general idea as to what is going on outside. It’s pretty clear.”
“They’ll get hurt, you know.” Malikk is sounding more and more like a devil trying to put more doubts in her head, tempting her to sell her soul to hell.
“Some of them might die, you know.”
I know that.
“Once the barrier is down, I won’t be able to put it back again.” She maintains the commanding tone of her voice; as though she has full faith that nothing could go wrong. “Be ready within three minutes.”
"Got it." The headmaster answers before ending the call.
“I doubt that there are even around ten percent of those students you can call as experienced.” Malikk remarks with his deep cold voice. “If you let an inexperienced person run around the battlefield, the result is something you should know well enough.”
“Of course I know that, I don’t need you to remind me.”
“Are you planning to protect everyone?” He continues to pester her. “You can’t. You won’t be able to… above all, you are not obliged to do so.”
“Please shut up,” Azalea replies coldly, “you’re annoying.” Then she faces him to look him eye to eye. “I have no intention of saving everyone.” She grips her staff tighter.
He tilts his head slightly. He looks skeptical. “Really?”
“I cannot save everyone. I was never able to, and I doubt I’ll ever be able to.” She says while moving her gaze back to the direction of the dormitories. Thin smokes are rising up from different directions. It's like the time is passing as quickly as the beat of her heart. “I have been through all that and all I ever got is failure one after another. I am not a god. I’m human.”
“I am alive because I fought to live. I struggled… and struggled, and struggled even more. Just like me, they are human too. That’s why…”
Please… please don’t die.
“If they want to live, they must fight… just as I did all this time.”
“It’s heavy, isn’t it?..” Malikk says softly.
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