The dried leaves crunched. Then a silver-haired girl entered Maize’s sight. At each passing second, her figure grew smaller. Instinctively, Maize knew. He reached out his hands and shouted, “Your Highness!”
Amelia glanced behind in response. However, her lips were already moving. She didn’t speak loud enough for him to hear, but he understood that it wasn’t meant for him. She then turned her sight ahead and said, [I’ll leave this to you.] Then her figure vanished.
Maize threw his free hand and shouted, “Spread out!” Then as fast as they could, they jumped to their feet and rushed towards the blackened trees. A second later, blades struck the dirt they left behind. In different directions, towards the tamed portion of the burning forest, they’ve spread out and hid behind the trees.
They knew their actions would soon be fruitless. The trees would only last a few seconds from the brunt of the drizzling blades. Not even arrows can compete if they retaliated. But they knew they wouldn’t last that long against two enemies at once. Two of them were already dead even before the engagement started. Who knew how long for the remaining twelve of them, including Maize, to last.
A few seconds later, Barriers popped-up like mushrooms in mid-air. Over them were three figures of Amelia, each standing at a different barrier. It did not take long before the figures started jumping from one barrier to another. They flitted, dodging the blades thrown at them. They twisted, ducked, and flipped. All the while scaling the sky towards the angel in three different directions.
On the other hand, the angel remained calm. He flapped his wings and moved backward when the three figures closed on him and swung their swords. They missed. Regardless, the angel raised his two undamaged wings and swung it down. However, it passed through. Then as quickly as they appeared, they vanished.
“I’ll tell you where the Hero is if you can gut me alive!” shouted Amelia from a distance behind the Flameclad. She then threw a shard in her hand. The angel turned to her in response. To his surprise, a shard closed on his face.
He instinctively shielded himself with his wings. However, a few seconds came and there wasn’t an explosion to be heard. It was a fake. When he realized he has been played, he rasped his teeth and glared at Amelia. But Amelia didn’t take heed. she ran towards northwest and into the burning portion of the forest.
The angel retracted its wings and dove towards Amelia’s direction.
At the same moment Amelia ran towards northwest, the Flameclad took notice of her. It turned towards Amelia like the angel did. However, four arrows blinked from behind the trees. They struck the Flameclad in-between its large scales. In response, the Flameclad growled and turned to the source of the arrows.
One by one, Amelia’s Guards appeared and gathered at the northeast side. They then surrounded the Flameclad.
“Captain!” shouted one of Maize’s men. “What of her Highness?!”
“Let her be!” Maize answered as he pointed his sword towards the Flameclad. He then ran and said, “It’s our duty to protect her. But at this rate, it’s impossible. Not with those two at the same place. We needed a diversion, and that’s what she gladly accepted on her own!”
The Flameclad rushed towards Maize in response. It traced its shoveled jaw at a little distance parallel to the ground.
“But!” the man replied. He moved with another comrade and closed in on the Flameclad’s tail from two different directions.
“Just listen!” Maize howled. He then poured mana into his sword and activated reinforcement. He jumped at the same time and took a foothold of the Flameclad’s jaw. Then he took another and said, “If you want to immediately secure her Highness, then the only way is to eliminate this as soon as possible! Get to work!”
The Flameclad raised its head in response, but Maize had already drawn an arc towards its back. Maize shifted his grip on his sword before he landed. Then with two hands on the handle, he drove the tip of his sword deep into the skin exposed between the scales.
“GYAAAHH!” the Flameclad cried. Maize then kicked the handle of his sword and drove it deeper and deeper. He then took out a shard they used to quell the flames. Then he started pouring water into the Flameclad’s pores.
At the same, two of Maize’s men crossed each other’s path as they slashed the Flameclad’s tail. The tail wasn’t lopped off, but wounding it was enough for the Flameclad tried to scream in pain. But instead, arrows struck its open mouth and broke its cry. On the other hand, Maize remained at its back, using the sword as a measure to not get thrown.
The more the water entered its pores, the more the Flameclad swung its neck. It wiggled its body in hopes of throwing off Maize. However, Maize remained strong. The Flameclad then gave up and tried to fuel its pores, but only a bubbling sound came out followed by splashes of water. It can no longer light its flames. The air sac it used to fuel its flames were slowly filled with water.
The moment the Flameclad stopped, Maize’s men moved towards its limbs. They slashed at it and exchange with another person. At each slash, the wound became deeper and the blood that dripped became fluid. Maize then extracted his sword and slid down its back.
Meanwhile, consecutively, two powerful explosions were heard from two different locations. The rushing sound of wind followed.
On the other hand, the Flameclad could no longer take it and thus it instinctively used its habitual move. It laid to its side and curled its tail to its front. It opened its mouth and bit it, forming like a ring with a small portion of its tail dangling next to its mouth. Then using its weight, it rolled around while producing bubbling sounds.
The move was known as the Flame Wheel. A moved that Flameclads, a large beast considered as a lesser drake, are known to often use. However, it wasn’t effective. It aimlessly rolled around and crashed into some trees. To Maize and his men, it was an obvious result. After all, it was a move only effective at its original habitat, the slopes at the volcano in the center of the sea of Formos.
“Now!” At Maize’s command, shard-tipped arrows struck the roots near the Flameclad. Upon breaking, earthen spikes blasted from the ground. Some broke upon hitting the Flameclad’s sturdy scale, but some pierced through the gaps.
The Flameclad cried as it released its tail. It fell to its back and snapped the earthen spikes with its weight. It wildly threw its arms and legs around as it hoped to get back up. However, the bowmen are not kind enough to overlook this chance. They knocked arrows, and again, aimed at its open mouth. They drew another arrow upon releasing the first.
This time, Maize need not order his men. They immediately moved. Two at each limb and two for the neck and the tail. They hacked open the previous wounds on its limbs and tore its muscle fibers. They stabbed its underside of its neck repeatedly. The two others repeatedly slashed at its tail, gradually deepening its cut, but they stopped partway and move to the side. The same was true for Maize and his men.
“This is enough!” shouted Maize. The Flameclad was still alive, but its limbs were paralyzed. The inside of its throat was also bleeding. It only needed to wait for its impending death while water pooled from underneath its body.
A second later, a thin pillar of light landed from the sky. It pierced through the smoke and partly dispersed it. Gradually, dread crept up on Maize. “Move!”
Amelia moved towards the burning forest. Her sight was filled with nothing by charred trees and amber flames. Patches of flames flickered in a crackling tune around her. Trees burned from the trunk till its peak while some were decorated by pulsing red veins. Flaming branches also fell here and there.
She used her hand to cover her nose. She squinted her eyes as it darted, looking portion where fewer patches of flames were present. She then leaned forward and raised her speed. At the next second, her previous position was lobbed by blades. The angel was following closely behind.
Soon, beads of sweat formed on her skin. Regardless, she continued to run. She erratically increased and decreased her running speed to dodge the blades thrown at her. She also turned towards the trees and used them as shields. As a result, the angel quickly reduced the gap between them. It is only a matter of time before the angel reached her and shoot at an almost point-blank range.
“Cough! Cough!” Her lungs screamed in pain.
This should be far enough, Amelia thought.
The next moment, a horn took hold the right side of her head. It looked like a leafless branch with small flower buds around it. Subsequently, her silver hair emitted a calming light. It flaunted itself against the amber.
She then clasped the dangling necklace above her chest and thought, Please work!
Then, at her next step, her mana flowed towards her bracelet and activated Reinforcement. Immediately after, she took off. She left a trail of scattered dirt from behind and instantly boosted her speed.
While her speed jumped to a different level, white threads emerged from the necklace. It danced with the wind, but it laced and weaved itself around Amelia’s body. However, rather than form the dress she wore at the time she remained at Celes’s side, it interwove itself and formed a different form of clothing. It covered any portion of her exposed skin. It formed as an extension of her leather armor. It seemed like it has a mind of his own to protect its owner.
The angel was caught by surprise. His speed dulled for a moment and created an opportunity for Amelia to widen the gap. [You,] said the angel in a language different from a human. [What are you?] He glared while balling his fists.
The angel recognized the appearance of the horn. Although it was a single horn instead of two, It wasn’t something that any divine would forget. No, any divine would immediately recognize it. In contrast to its gentle and calm appearance, to divines, it’s a symbol of fear. After all, they were reminded of the time they tried Celestia when she gave birth to Elena. A moment where the tables were immediately turned onto them.
Amelia ignored the angel’s question and focused on widening the gap between them. Soon after, she headed towards a portion of the forest where flames burned wildly. She speculated that she was nearing the end of the burning portion. A second after, a loud explosion shook the forest from her right. The wind rushed like a gale and snuffed out a large amount of flames; like a flame on candle blown by a breath.
Subsequently, the trees near the explosion splintered and fell to Amelia’s direction. Amelia took the chance and ran underneath the falling trees. The angel, on the other hand, had twisted and dodged the trees. Not soon after, Amelia escaped through the wall of flames. She immediately took a deep breath and eased the pain in her chest.
What do I do now? Amelia thought while her sight returned to the calm forest. She hinted Maize that she had a plan, but it was a fluke. She had nothing planned ahead other than separating the Angel from the Flameclad. After all, she never expected what she thought was a myth to appear before her.
What do I do? she thought. From his injuries, it’s likely from the crystal I threw from before. But he survived that blast… I need something of that level or higher...
Amelia was running out of options. Her mana was being drained by the second. She had only had one last defective shard. There was nothing else she could rely on other than herself and the remaining shards in her pouch. She inserted her fingers into the pouch and scooped what was left. Using her mana, she identified which shard contained which magic.
The shards available were: Earth Spike, Fire Ball, Water Ball, Wind Ball, and Heal. It didn’t count her bracelet, the longsword, the dagger, and the rapier. She then placed the shards back into the pouch.
It’s useless. He survived that blast. An intermediate magic won’t cut it.
She knew a lot from both basic and intermediate level. However, she doesn’t have that much knowledge on advanced. After all, basic magic is enough to take a life of a human, at times, beasts. She also considered the frequency of the magic usage, which basic and intermediate levels easily triumphed over advanced.
[Speak! What are you?!] the angel bellowed. He halted from mindlessly shooting the blades. Instead, circular disks swirled behind. [You’re not human!]
“Why do you care?!” Amelia snapped. Her thoughts were pumped with ideas on how to take the angel down. Yet, each of them was shot down.
She darted her eyes around the forest and tried to look for anything she could use.
Think! What can you do in a forest?!
She couldn’t hope to rely on her Guards. She’d need to hide her horn and lose the opportunity to fight toe to toe with the angel.
[You who were once human, one that holds the blood of a True Divine! Speak your reason for interfering with our plans! Speak not and I shall burn you with divine light!]
“What are you even talking about?!” Amelia then pivoted towards west. “What do angels have to do with humans and divines?!”
[A divine like you holds no knowledge of the pact between divines? Such foolishness!] The angel then stopped. It retracted its wings and landed. [We angels hold dear our promise between divines. Lest you are wary and holds grudge against the pact, then I shall be forced to erase you.]
At the same time, Amelia halted and returned the angel’s gaze. “Then tell me what’s this nonsense of yours.” Amelia took this time to lean herself on a tree. Her chest heaved as she calmed her breathing.
[There are five rules agreed upon by divines. First, divines are to leave the races as is, an exception is made when that divine is made to govern or protect the said race.]
“Heh, so you’re claiming that angels govern or protect humans? But let me tell you, your actions do not hold true to your words.”
[We angels are a legion of divines. We are made to protect humans. However, it is not our cause to lead them.]
[Unlike you who knew nothing, we angels are prepared to sully our hands. We are prepared to sacrifice the few in order to bring prosperity to humans.]
“Prosperity? Really? Would the propagation of a false religion lead to prosperity?”
[We believe not.]
“There you have it.”
[You are mistaken. Humans are the ones who’ve started the religion of Libet. We are only aiding them for our cause. Nothing more nothing less. However, through our cause, humans shall be saved. Humans can be reborn anew at the hands of the Human God, our creator. The day for redemption for all humans awaits on the day his arrival. Humans must be willing to sacrifice their lives for their creator and their creator alone.]
“Your God has long abandoned this world,” Amelia shot back a reply.
[True. Which is why we’ve been calling the Human God through the Heroes.]
Amelia’s eyes widened in response. “… You. You’re dragging innocent humans from another world just for this?”
[If it shall bring prosperity to humans, we need not care about our methods. In case, the second rule is that divines must not interfere with another divines plan.]
Silently, Amelia listened.
[Third, if a divine’s plan intersects with another, the concerned divines needs to reach a common ground. Fourth, a failure to reach a common ground will subject both divines outside the pact. They are then free to be hunted regardless. Fifth, betrayal of the agreed upon decision between divines shall subject the accused to a punishment, and shall be removed from the pact.]
Why does this angel even consider me as part of this pact? Amelia thought. In response, Amelia’s necklace glinted then Celes spoke into her mind.
A new divine was never born since eons. This angel could have considered you as my child and considered to stick with the pact. After all, divines refused to fight against another unless needed. They no longer have a God that could retrieve their soul once they perish. But remember, till this day, your divine blood has yet to completely take over your body. You’re still human.
Amelia decided. “Then you consider me as part of this pact of yours?”
“And your aim is the hero?”
“Then, in exchange, I want you angels to release your aid on Libet.”
[Impossible,] he replied. The disks remained swirling. [Unless you are willing to summon heroes in our stead, we’d consider.]
Amelia further leaned herself on the trunk, hiding her right shoulder behind it. She then took a shard and fitted it between her fingers. “I’d be willing to negotiate with that.” Then she moved away from the trunk and slowly approached the angel.
She halted at about five meters away. “Is there any form of written agreement?”
The angel raised its hand. On its open palm, a circular sigil colored in blue appeared. It then separated itself, floated, and changed its orientation. It seemed like a magic circle, but several other magic circles formed it in a concentric pattern. Runes danced around its circumference. Several other circles were layered above it.
Amelia knitted her brows. She had never seen such a complicated pattern. No, she had, however, the pattern within her necklace was impossible for her to read. But she can’t deny her interest in the pattern before her.
“What do I have to do?” She tilted her head.
[Place your hand into this sigil. Then we shall state our agreement. It will serve as a notifier to all other divines once the agreement has been sealed. This will also serve as proof.]
So they call it sigil huh.
“Understood.” Amelia then approached. At each step she took, cold sweat ran down her spine. Her heart beat wildly. Saliva slid down her throat. Her breathing was deep yet calm.
On the other hand, the angel was wary. The sigil moved. It rotated as it neared Amelia.
At about three meters away from the angel, the sigil and Amelia stopped. She tried focusing on the sigil, trying to peer through its seams. She raised her hand slowly. Again, she gulped. Gradually her fingers touched its center. The sigil then halted. Its concentric pattern separated and surrounded Amelia’s hand. It kept rotating. Then it suddenly stopped.
It dawned on Amelia. She immediately drew her hand. She pumped her legs and activated reinforcement. The angel’s eyes widened in response. He realized it. The sigil didn’t take hold of Amelia’s hand. It was a failure.
Amelia’s boots raked the dirt. She rasped her teeth and reached out to her rapier.
Reach it! She thought.
Time seemed to slow. It was similar to when she saved Erina. With a flip of her hand, she pointed the tip of her rapier onto the angel. At her next step, she bent her knees and thrust forward. The angel spread its wings wide. It bent backward and tried to jump. Then a spike seemed to peer from the cylindrical disks.
However, the tip of her rapier reached the angel first. It pushed it punctured his white cloth. It pierced. At that moment, the spikes from the disks lengthened to a spear.
Amelia released her grasp on the rapier and immediately jumped backward.
The spears from the disk shot and formed thin beams of light. It grazed Amelia’s arms and legs in the process. Then time returned for Amelia. She bit her lips in pain. The beams seared through her armor and into her flesh.
[Damned human!] the angel hollered as his knees buckled. Then suddenly, a large magic circle formed underneath Amelia’s feet. She was at the center.
Amelia shifted her sight towards her feet. She was caught by surprise. Her mouth opened wide and the pupil of her shrank. However, she gripped her left hand. She shuffled her fingers and made the shard fall into her hand. Then as fast as she could, she threw it.
A few seconds later, a small explosion sounded.
Crack! Multiple objects were shattered like glass.
Then it happened. It ruptured.
The crystal ruptured. The crystal contained at the handle of the rapier ruptured.
Then it began.
A continuous crackling sound of lighting jolted the surroundings. It felt like multiple claps of thunder occurred in one place.
When Maize and his men arrived, Amelia lied on the dirt unconscious. She was bleeding in several places. A few inches away from her body, a large hole was present. Then further, a charred body of a man with melted quicksilver on his chest lied.