Golden Ray's Breakthrough
Two minutes after three o’clock in the afternoon
“You’re the one who shouldn’t get too overconfident.” Azalea answers in a sardonic tone as she looks at the man kneeling. “At this rate, you’re going to die, you know.” Silence engulfs the place while they simply stare at one another as though they are trying to read each other’s next course of action. “Please leave. We won’t get in your way if you back off now.
“How about we even out the numbers?” A female’s voice chimes as the wind blows. “I might as well be a pretty good opponent, you know.” Beside Lyrus is a portal opens. From within the portal, a girl covered in dark cloak with fluttering white hair comes out.
“Asna--?!” Lyrus screams softly while turning his surprised face towards the newly arrived girl. “What the hell are you doing here?!!”
“I got bored,” she answers willfully. She then snaps her fingers and then points in front of Azalea and Evan. “I wonder what kind of monster I should call next?” She maliciously grins as a small portal slowly opens.
Azalea originally thought that if they can make Lyrus retreat then she can go and help the students in the dorms. The Kharite staff has been repaired and adjusted so that she is allowed to use up to elite-tier spells however she has gone beyond that when she dealt with Elen. Small cracks have already formed on the staff’s large orb. If she continues to take the offensive, then there is high probability that it will break and her mana will go berserk. When she loses control on her mana, she will not be able to use healing spells. Furthermore, the throbbing and burning pain in her right arm is greatly affecting her concentration.
She stares blankly at the forming portal in front of them. She has a lot of things in her mind.
“This girl--” She mumbles while taking a step back. “Such strong power must require a lot of mana. Is she crazy?”
“Oi--!! This isn’t part of the plan.” Lyrus warns her. Drops of sweat roll down his cheeks while his bloodied hand is trembling.
“Azalea,” Evan calls with a low toned voice while wearing a very cold half-smile. “What cut do you prefer, length-wise or cross-wise?”
“Don’t be absurd,” Azalea answers without turning her eyes away from the widening portal. “Have you ever killed anyone before?”
“You aren’t supposed to be that naïve, Azalea.” Evan responds with a calm tone while tightening his grip to his sword.
Azalea turns her gaze to Evan briefly then back to the portal again. She frowns. “Don’t tell me what I’m supposed to be.” Then a multi-layered magic circle glows in front of them.
Asna laughs mockingly. “You think you can stop me that way?!!” Another mini-portal starts to crack at the space beside her as she laughs more.
“That’s enough, Asna.” A different male voice suddenly resounds at the same time a hand materializes grabbing Asna’s right arm. Thin black smoke gathers beside her until its figure forms something more human-like. “We’re done for today,” says he. Another black cloaked man becomes more distinct.
“B-brother…?” Asna mumbles while looking surprised at the man beside her. With her concentration becoming distorted, the opening portals also vanish. “Why are y--”
“Yhor-!” Lyrus cuts in immediately. “Did you get it?”
Yhor laughs out of the blue as he looks at Azalea and Evan. His gaze momentarily pauses at the unusual sword by Evan’s side. “How delighting…” He whispers as he let’s go of Asna’s arm. “Azalea Blakewood, did you kill it?”
Azalea calms down, the multi-layered magic circle disintegrates. She then fixes her piercing gaze towards Yhor. “Were you the one who made that insane spell?”
He keeps his silent while focusing his observing eyes on Azalea. “That arm… those marks… I see…” He deliberately ignores her question. “Judging by that burned mana circuit in your right arm… you used a forbidden spell, didn’t you?”
“Forbidden spell?” Evan repeats while turning his puzzled face at Azalea.
“Even though there shouldn’t be anything that could restore torn mana circuits,” Yhor continues wearing a disturbing smile. “Just looking at you proves the greatness of Hol. How majestic. A mage as talented as you possessing the ultimate healing spell, doesn’t that make you invincible?”
“Hearing that doesn’t make me happy at all, you know.” Azalea sneers.
Yhor raises his left arm showing fresh blood dripping at the tips of his fingers. “I am praising your ability, mind you. That guy… He, who looks so harmless and useless, was able to inflict such damage on me because you had carefully sewed up this plan.” He continues while his comrades look at him with worry. They are refraining from asking anything as they listen to him talk. “You have already anticipated a situation where an enemy who could mask his presence would directly go after Acheron, that’s why you assigned someone with clairvoyance to that man who is using a rifle with bullets made of trandium as weapon.” He grins, an expression that looks sinister and taunting. “Your analytic and strategic skills are magnificent, it’s as though you could predict the future. Why don’t you join our side instead?”
“I was expecting a teleporter or a shapeshifter or maybe an invisible man to do that job, though.” Azalea thought to herself. “I was right to give Tristan something to protect himself, after all. And those trandium bullets, it’s worth buying them.” She exhales languidly. “You talk too much and you know too much about me. You possess the traits of a person I’d rather not get involved with.”
“I see, I see…” Yhor relaxes both his hands. “Let’s keep up with our negotiation, Azalea… About that Hol you have.” The corners of his lips curve; a confident smile that gives off an infuriating sensation to anyone who sees it. “If you let us study that highly complicated spell, then we might be able to reproduce it. It can cure anything, damaged tissues, regenerate cells, it can even restore a burned mana circuit! Above all, it can also revive a person who is almost dead! Just imagine how many people it could save! That Hol is the closest thing to immortality that we have and we can reproduce now. Azalea--”
“Shut your mouth already,” she cuts in; her smile has turned into a frown. She glares at him; the coldness in her eyes can send chills to anyone who would look directly into them. “Don’t give me your bullshit reasons. You lying bastard. Since you have already failed your mission, why don’t you just scram back to your base?”
Asna grinds her teeth. “Biiitch-!!”
“We still have a bit of time.” Yhor keeps his composure. “Why don’t you just accept my offer?... since I’ve gone through the trouble of asking nicely.”
“Go fuck yourself.”
He scoffs. “How about I give you a minute? Let’s play a bit. If you can hit me within sixty seconds, it’s your win.”
Azalea gives him a displeased expression.
“Oh~ you don’t look amused enough. How about a bonus?” His sinister aura seems to be growing stronger as he continues to talk. “I’ll tell you who killed your mother.”
She snorts and then laughs. The chilling sound of her laughs resounds with a feeling so ominous. It is as if she is desperately hiding behind that laugh all of the possibilities that she struggles to keep at the back of her mind. “My mother and I were caught in a traffic accident where she lost her life. You make terrible jokes.”
“Oh you didn’t know?”
Those words that came out so naturally from his mouth are enough to plant a seed of doubt in Azalea’s mind. She can feel the tips of her fingers grow cold.
“Your mother did not die because of that accident.” He smiles slightly as if he can read through Azalea’s expression. “While you were in coma, Luna Blakewood was in critical condition. Her life was hooked to those machines.”
“He’s only trying to provoke me. I’m not going to… I mustn’t fall for it.” She tells herself while clenching her fist tight.
“One night, I visited her… I made sure that no one noticed my presence. All I did was mess a bit with that—what’s it called? Life support system?” He fixes his gaze at Azalea. “I turned it of just for a bit.”
“You piece of shit!!!”
A sudden gust of wind explodes. Azalea’s flow of mana is starting to become chaotic.
“It made loud noises alerting everyone. I left before the doctors and nurses rushed in. It seems that little incident made her condition worse. Well… in the end I’m not really sure what actually caused her death.”
For a moment, Azalea’s vision darkened as if all of her blood is rushing into her head. She can feel an explosion of emotions from within. It is like the mass of dark clouds she has always kept in check inside her chest has suddenly transformed into a raging thunderstorm. The throbbing of her heart is out of control. The gems embedded in her armor are cracking one after another.
Before Azalea can leap forward, something warm has enveloped her cold hand.
The sound of that voice seems to have restored the colors back in her vision. She turns her head following where it came from while holding onto that warmth surrounding her hand.
Her mana that has unknowingly gone berserk is now slightly calming down.
“Can you hear me? Can you see me?” He asks.
She looks around and finds that her staff is not floating behind her anymore. She was so caught up in her momentary rage that she did not even notice when she lost the magic that keeps her staff float close-by. It must have made a loud noise when it fell on the roof and then slid down, but she did not notice at all. She is terrified realizing that she almost lost control. She is disappointed at herself for being swept away by her enemy’s provocation.
“You’re just going to stand there? How disappointing, Blakewood.” Yhor’s vice resounds again.
She takes a deep breath. “You’re lying.”
“Right… For now, let’s assume that this man is lying. He wants to provoke me so that I lose control. There is no way to confirm what really happened… my memories of that time are blurry.”
“As I thought there are way too many people around you now.” He mumbles. “I look forward to the day I see you break.”
Azalea looks straight into his eyes. Her eyes are still dead cold but hidden deep within is the burning desire to break every single bone in that man’s body. “I do not know what exactly are you trying to gain by telling me all these. But, you sure did piss me off so well.”
Yhor scoffs, then the three intruders slowly vanish like black smoke diffusing in the air. Evan and Azalea are only watching them disappear since they have no intention of prolonging the battle. They are just staring at the place where the intruders used to stand. It is to make sure that they are truly gone. Azalea turns her back at the dissipating smoke to look towards the direction of the green dorm.
“Is that blood?...” Evan frowns.
She turns towards him while wearing a smile so bright. “Don’t worry, it isn’t mine.”
Evan swallows the words that he is about to say as he fixes his gaze at her smile that is never genuine. “Mhm. I see.” He smiles back, aware of the fact that they are simple fooling each other. “What about your arm?”
“It’s nothing to be concerned about.”
Evan silently watches her pull her hood up, hiding half of her face. “Then, please allow me to accompany you.”
“Do whatever you want.” She responds without sparing him a glance.
One explosion after another continues to erupt from the direction of the green dorms.
Watching the rising flame-colored smoke gives them the idea of the situation there. They are in big trouble. The battle is far from over.
This time, she is not going to retrieve her staff. She no longer plans to fight. They have to stay on defensive and buy more time.
“It’s great that you were able to fend off the enemies away,” Malikk suddenly talks again amidst the continuous explosions. “However, you can’t be winning all the time, right?.. Let’s have you lose something.”
Hearing those taunting words, as though she suddenly stops thinking, Azalea just leaps with all her might towards the dorms. Evan watches her jump from one magic circle to another, hastily moving forward. Knowing where she is headed, he also disappears in a flash.
Eleven minutes after three o’clock in the afternoon
An aircraft above Nalkad Island
“I would have wanted to see more…” Yhor says softly while looking down at the academy.
For the last time, he is masking their presence while they ascend back to their aircraft. From there they are all watching the chaos that the metaghosts and monsters are doing.
“Brother,” Asna calls; her tone is low and sad. “Why didn’t we attack?”
“That’s something you have to find out on your own. Let that be your lesson for today.” Yhor answers bluntly.
“But, with this result…” Lyrus says while looking down. “With just this… We haven’t really accomplished anything, have we?”
Yhor knows that the way they think of this outcome is a failure. However, looking at the big picture, it is the other way around –or to put it in better terms, this is just the beginning.
They have returned to the aircraft. After returning, they quickly proceed to the monitor room where the communication device that can connect them to their leader is being kept.
“Worry not,” he declares with confident tone. He watches the events in the academy through the monitors. “We have obtained what we need.”
Lyrus looks at the same monitors, following Yhor’s gaze. “We sure did a great deal of damage but I feel bad that we cannot take anything home.” He frowns while applying pressure to his wound. “After all these… we failed acquiring Acheron and the Heaven’s Wing.”
“There were quite a number of annoyances around.” Yhor says softly and then he starts reflecting. He falls silent as if he is recalling the events of their mission.
Even though they have expected many of the scenarios that happened today, some troublesome incident also came up. Azalea has anticipated that he will show up in the fourth watch tower and she even prepared something to take care of him. They are expecting that there will be more casualties but as things are unfolding now, that seems to be unlikely. The barriers around the dorms are not meant to simply protect the students. She set it up so that once it is lifted; the students have already got enough time to prepare. They have organized themselves into groups to maximize their battle potential. Furthermore, all these steps are merely to buy some time. The ones to finish and clean up this invasion will not be the students.
It is a waste to leave a person so talented as is. It is like she can make miracles. However, this is the kind of miracle that is achieved through considering every possibility followed up with relentless planning, and preparing for those possible scenarios. By pushing herself to the limit, she opens new options that can turn the situation around.
“Brother, what’s wrong?” Asna calls looking up at her brother who has become silent.
Yhor chuckles. “Nothing.” He pats his sister’s head before taking a deep breath. “Had she been alone, then we would have been able to take her back with us. Had she acted on my provocation then she would have exhausted herself and we could have easily captured her.”
He adds softly while keeping his eyes on the monitors. “We were unable to catch her when she was still wandering alone so ICA managed to reach her first. What a pity… For now, this is enough. You can close the portals now, Asna.”
“M’kay.” Asna closes her eyes while clasping her hands together. “It’s done, brother.” She says softly before collapsing unconscious.
Yhor catches her feeble body and then carries her. He turns his sight towards Lyrus who is mumbling something.
“The world has always been unfair to us.” Lyrus’ tone is deep. “The witch should belong to this side.”
Then one of the monitors buzzes before the image it shows changes into something blurry and dark. A barely recognizable figure shows up along with the soft sound of multiple machines beeping in the background.
“How’s the situation, Yhor?” A muffled voice resounds in the room.
“We failed to get our main objectives.” Yhor reports. “Their reinforcements are arriving soon, I believe… it’s the Kirihara’s fortress.”
“We will now proceed with the final phase. Within five minutes, all objectives from the Ik’zimu International Prison will be acquired. Your mission there is complete, proceed with a clean retreat.”
“Understood. May Sentinel bring about a new world.”
The monitors then buzz one after another before turning completely black. Their aircraft then disappears with a camouflage. All the flying cameras they left in the academy are exploding leaving no useable evidence to tract them back.
“Sir Yhor,” Lyrus calls with soft trembling voice. “We could have trapped the witch using Asna’s portals. She was near exhaustion so her power wouldn’t have been a problem.”
“The man beside her is the problem.”
He looks confused. “The boy from Naoe? What can he do once we get our objective and retreat far away?”
“The only reason we aren’t being pursued right now is because we did not get anything worth taking back.” He lifts his sister then starts walking to leave the room. He gives Lyrus a look that signals him to follow. “Did you have a clear look at the sword that the Noae boy carries?”
“That creepy looking thing on his side?” He recalls while following Yhor’s steps.
“It’s my first time seeing that thing for real. That sword is an Ancient Artifact. It’s something that was created by the ancient race during the age of gods. Those things were then passed down to a select few before the ancients completely left this world.”
“Then we should have taken it.”
“We can’t.” He stops in front of a door waiting for it to open. This is the room that serves as infirmary. “That artifact, Cursed Soul of Se’er, chooses its own master. Once it has chosen, then it must be carried or at least be close to the person at all times. From what I’ve read, if anyone who is not its master unsheathes it, their soul will be burned. Records also say that it has the power to destroy the world… though I cannot tell which of these information are true and how much of it is just an exaggeration.”
“If that’s true, then that guy should have used it.” He follows Yhor inside.
Two people that look like medics immediately assist them. One helps Yhor lay Asna on the bed while the other checks on Lyrus’ wound.
“It has ‘cursed’ in its name so I can only imagine that there must be some kind of price to pay if its power is to be unleashed. Either way, that thing was not part of the calculation so we cannot gamble any farther to test its power. We have reached the required objectives, there is no need to take more unnecessary risks.”
“Mhm.” He ponders for a while. “In the future, must we avoid that creepy guy?”
“Just follow orders and don’t bite more than you can chew.” He fixes his sister’s bangs to the side. “Asna will need a lot of rest. You should rest while you can too.”
Fourteen minutes after three o’clock in the afternoon
Front yard of the green dorm
Azalea reaches the front yard of the green dorms. Smoke and ember spread across the ground mixing with the air. The students are in panic, stunned and confused amidst all the explosions. She observes the surroundings with caution; her head moving left and right. Her eyes are rolling at the boundary of her sight. Her feet are going faster in every step. A lot of students are injured down on the ground. Most of them are struggling to get back on their feet while a number of students are out cold lying down. Few of partly baffled students are doing their best to help the wounded and move the unconscious ones. The nearest metaghosts are either not functioning or greatly damaged.
Worried and distressed, Azalea can almost feel her heartbeat thumping fiercely as if it could jump out of her chest any time. Her breath is heavy, as if racing for more air every second. Her shadowed figure that traces the lines of her armor and robe stands out in the middle of the unorganized crowd.
She is looking around while keeping her senses on full alert.
Cries. Worried shouts. Pleading voices. Painful coughs. Rumbles. Inaudible appeals.
Metal scraps. Cartridges. Rubles. Blood on the ground.
Smoke. The taste of dust. Metallic scent. The sultry breeze.
“Azalea--!!” The familiar voice she is searching for rings out of nowhere. “Is that you, Az?!”
She turns around to find the defining silhouette of a friend. “Blair?..” She mumbles as her eyes wander towards the bloodied person that she carries beside her. “What happened?”
Blair, with few bruises on her, falls and kneels while supporting Emil with her shoulder. “I-its… those robots suddenly went crazy,” she tries to explain while panting. “Ah—but, before that… You could heal Emil, right? He’s--”
“Don’t worry,” Azalea quickly replies while evaluating Emil’s injuries. He is barely conscious; more than half of his armor has been destroyed. His back and left side is mostly burned.
“Okay... Let him rest down.” She takes a deep breath while Blair lays Emil on the ground. “He got third degree burns… Healing Aura.” She whispers as magic circles form above the burned skin appears simultaneously. “So what actually happened?”
“Well…” The space between Blair’s eyebrows knit as she recalls.
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