Arc 2: Chapter 38: Nearing Flames

Laurie: “You are going to face me alone, stalling me for the two of them to go ahead?!”

With a condescending glare, the Hellfire questions the Aural.

Laurie: “Well, how noble of you, but do you think I will just let them go ahead like this? Do you take me for a fool?!”

Not even trying to hide her oppressive aura, Laurie Brown presses her feet on the ground, an unnecessary and egotistical move done with the sole purpose of mocking her opponents as she makes the ground beneath their feet tremble.

Sneha: “Tsk!”

Clicking her tongue, she tries to maintain balance.

Ethan: “Geokinesis, huh? You sure you’ll be able to deal with this woman alone?”

He questions her, not feeling very confident about her chances.

Sneha: “It’ll be fine.”

But, even with the ground underneath her feet trembling just to make her fall, she stands strong and says so without any concern in her voice.

Hearing it,

Ethan: “Hah! Well, you are currently the powerhouse of the third faction. Don’t lose to her!”

The man with the Eyes of Truth finally makes up his mind to put his faith in his comrade once again and leave.

Laurie: “Did you not hear me earlier, or are you just a suicidal?”

She says, rather annoyed.

Laurie: “I’m not letting you or her go anywhere.”

Hearing that very predictable line, Ethan tries to make a retort but,

Gabriel: “Well, I’m going.”

Before Ethan says anything, the Hellfire temporarily on their side speaks up.

Laurie: “You? … Fine, whatever! I don’t get anything from keeping YOU here anywhere.”

She says, not worried about anything as she knows Gabriel is a person who minds his own business and now that he no longer has a purpose to protect these two others with him, he would no longer come in her way.

That is, at least, what she thinks.

Gabriel: “I’ll be taking Ethan Kales with me.”

Ethan: “Huh?”

Sneha: “Huh?”

Laurie: “…?”

With a plain and business-like tone,

Gabriel: “If Kesley really is in that state, there’s something I would need his special eyes for. So, I’m sorry, but you’ll just have to make do with Sneha Stone.”

Laurie: “You don’t get to-”

Gabriel: “I’m not asking for your permission. I’m telling you what I’ll do, as a sign of respect. That’s all.”

He says, and without a word more, teleports Ethan away.

Seeing one of her targets disappear right before her eyes, Laurie finds herself enraged but,

Gabriel: “You should stick to your basics if you want to overpower her. Her fighting style is quite similar to yours after all.”

He gives this last piece of advice to Sneha, and finally, teleports himself away as well.

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“!!!”

Wordless surprise holds the Spectres in its grasp as they reach the Vermilion Tower, and see the upper floor of it blasted and scorched, confirming the estimation that the blast came from inside there. 

Dyne: “I don’t really feel Rosevelt’s presence anywhere.”

As he scans the entire tower for the presence of anyone remotely on the same level of power as the Phoenix, he comes up with no results.

Dyne: “I think it’s highly unlikely he is in there.”

Which, only begs the question of what happened to him.

Who did this and for what reason?

“Commander?”

While Dyne is thinking about that though, a scout of his addresses him as he comes running back to the group.

Dyne: “What are you doing back here? You should be scouting the area.”

Dyne, surprised that the Spectre went against the principle of ‘never leaving a job unfinished’, a principle that is so carefully programmed into every Spectre’s brain, questions him so.

So,

Scout: “There’s someone … who’s been following this battalion.”

Dyne: “What!?”

Scout: “H-He’s just one person, but he seems to be very intent on keeping an eye on you.

Considering that the Spectre came out of his way to inform them of this, this ‘someone’ who’s been following them must seem rather dangerous.

Dyne: “Does this guy … look like a Vampire?”

He asks so, knowing that they are his biggest concern.

Scout: “Not from afar, he didn’t seem like a Vampire. But, to be honest, he did have a pretty strange outfit, with completely dark clothes and a devil mask on his face.

Dyne: “Ah … I see.”

The leader of the Spectres sighs as realizes the identity of the person in question.

Dyne: “Walter had told me about a guy who is targeting Hellfires. The appearance of the guy that he gave had very few details, probably because he had never actually seen the guy, but it seems to fit with everything you have said.”

It doesn’t really make sense for ‘that guy’ to follow them randomly though, which means, he should be following them because of the location they were heading to, the tower they are standing in front of.

Dyne: “Well, this might be something worth coming here for then.”

A nightmare he had seen, or rather, a nightmare that had been shown to him, haunts him regularly. So, it is only natural that he checks to see who this Abgere is since there is a chance that he would be the demon he had seen within his nightmare.

*******************************

Eshin: “Well, well, isn’t that an interesting story?”

He says with a grin as a member of Heise, from the fear of torture, tells Baise and Angela everything about their plans, their goals and their reasonings.

Angela: “They are gonna go meet the Phoenix and ask him some questions? As if that would work!”

She says, trying to hold back her laughter.

Angela: “But, more importantly,”

With a malicious grin, she asks,

Angela: “You said Abgere’s aunt is with you, right?”

For anyone planning to kill Abgere, a hostage like her is a golden opportunity, and an opportunity like this is not to be missed.

Angela: “Let’s meet her then.”

Eshin: “Indeed, that should be interesting.”

Eshin Mir, too, having only joined her to gain the position he could gain by her becoming a Hellfire, eagerly wants to make sure that this hostage is theirs for the taking.

However,

Li Wei: “You fool!”

The leader of the fallen group derides the two’s enthusiasm,

Li Wei: “Do you have any idea who the people you are messing with are?!”

Eshin: “A bunch of wannabe-Aurals who are our prisoners now?”

Li Wei: “I’m not talking about us, you idiot! Do you have any idea what Abgere and the third faction is capable of?”

At that, even Angela Holystone, as she had seen Sona in action once before, silences herself. However,

Eshin: “What about them? They are five capable people. Big deal!”

Mocks the leader of Baise.

Li Wei: “Ha! Stupidity like that is the reason why you always end up falling behind us.”

Then mocks the leader of Heise.

Eshin: “Why you little …!”

Angela: “Stop!”

Angela, as she looks at Li Wei with a look of contemplation, tells Eshin,

Angela: “Take that woman hostage immediately. That’s far more important than arguing with him.”

Even though she says so herself, she feels a sense of dread, one she is not able to shake off, and the words of warning just said by Li Wei only keep ringing in her mind, again and again, leading her down her own path of destruction.

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Ross: “You understand now why you can’t win, right?”

Tsk!

Ross: “You can understand now why you have no chance of winning against me, right?”

Whatever I try, nothing seems to work.

Ross: “You get why you are the inferior Psychic here, right? Right? RIGHT?”

I always deal some damage to him but then he heals himself completely within a second.

It has happened at least 10 times now. Each time, I have tried something different to stop him from healing or finish him before he gets the chance to but he always manages to not be knocked down and then heal.

He’s the worst, most annoying opponent anyone could face, which reminds me of a different Psychic, who always ran away from his fights despite having the power to fight, much to all his opponents’ annoyance.

Kais: “Tsk! Bastard!”

Well, the thing I hate the most in my life is Ozyllus and his plans.

But you know what, Ross Green? The thing I hate the second most is my past self.

So, reminding me of that annoying shrimp really isn’t good for your health.

Ross: “Now, what next? You are giving up, right?”

He asks, clearly looking down on me.

Ross: “You aren’t going to try some other trick, are you? You realize by now it’ll be pointless, right?”

Kais: “You and your ‘right?’ needs to understand that, sometimes,” 

I charge straight towards him.

Kais: “it’s better to shut up!”

I charge with the speed of a cheetah at its prime. But, it still is not fast enough that a Hellfire wouldn’t be able to dodge.

Hence,

Ross: “You lost your mind and now aren’t even thinking about strategies? Is that it?”

He mocks me as I stumble down on the ground as my attack is easily avoided.

Ross: “What a foolish-”

But, just then, his neck is chopped with a glass pane and he comes stumbling forward right towards me, where I put a heck of a lot of energy into my fists and chop on his throat, making blood spew from his mouth.

My chop sends his body flying backwards, where the glass pane is used to break his neck once again, an action that floors him on the ground, and gives the glass pane-user ample time to continue chopping on his neck so he is finally able to behead him.

Chop! Chop! Chop!

And so, the glass pane-user does continue.

Blood gushes out of him like it’s water while his hands and legs are tied down by my Psychokinesis. 

He isn’t completely immobile but his throat has been destroyed enough that he can’t make out words and he’s tied down enough that he can only move enough to make the chops he’s getting become more painful.

Kais: “I hate to do this to anyone, even a psycho like you, but this is what you get for going against me.”

Ross: “B-blurgh! F-fcjk y-y-yu! … Y-tu on-nli wun c-cux l-luuc-ck!”

He barely makes sounds but I can kinda understand what he is saying, and it’s the most classic ‘loser’s speech’ if I have ever heard any.

But, 

Kais: “Why, in the world, do I sense deceit in your words?”

This should be the end. This should have been enough to take him down. And these words he is saying now should be genuinely spiteful murmuring of a loser.

Yet, it feels like he’s only acting like this. It feels like he doesn’t actually think he’s lost.

But, why!?

Ross: “O-O-O vel, u f-f-fuul!”

Kais: “Tsk!”

Alerting myself, I look around. 

Could it be that there’s someone else in this room? I try to sense it and pick it up from reading Aura. Yet, I don’t sense anyone except the three of us – me, Ross and my Psychic body-double playing the executioner on Ross’ neck.

But, I know what he is saying isn’t just a bluff. 

There must be something up his sleeve still that he believes can get him out of this situation.

I’d love to have the confidence that it won’t be anything I need to worry about but the cautiousness is ingrained in my head far too much for it to not start ringing now.

Ross: “Y-yu l-l-luuz!”

And then, he says so, making me click my tongue, and right on cue, the whole ceiling comes crashing down out of nowhere, with absolutely no warning or indication beforehand.

The marble roof weighing tons of pounds falls on us.

Even while reading Aura a few minutes ago though, I never really felt anything wrong with this roof.

So, why?

In the brief moment I get before this dome of marble crushes me beneath it, I question that.

And, as soon as the marble touches my skin, I get the answer.

Kais: “You bastard!”

There was nothing wrong with this roof because there was everything wrong with it. 

It didn’t feel out of place because a weed growing in a farm that is full of weed doesn’t necessarily draw attention.

Maybe that example isn’t the best one though.

Maybe, a more accurate example would be how it’s not surprising when a politician turns out to be corrupt if he belongs to a party that is full of corruption.

Ross: “Now, you finally realize that you are the loser here, don’t you? You are finally going to admit that you lost, right?”

This man – earlier I thought he had come to the shrine before all this because he predicted or was cautious enough to realize that he would need to teleport here at some point. 

But, that was short-sighted of me.

When he had come here earlier to make it a place he could later teleport to, that wasn’t the only thing he did. 

Back then, he took the entire shrine apart and then put it back together like it’s made of lego toys.

Because of that, because the entire structure of the shrine was meddled with, the structure changed and the unconnected roof or walls or pillars that should have felt out of place seemed normal, as if that was the niche it was built with or something, allowing him to use them when he needed.

But, even though this was an incredibly clever move, the thing that I am more surprised about right now is the same as before.

Within the short amount of time he got between my body-double getting distracted by noticing the roof falling and the roof falling on us, he healed himself completely yet again, and even teleported himself away, leaving me here to be crushed as I am.

Kais: “…”

Strangely though, even as my legs are turned into mint and my entire body is pulsating with incredible pain, I don’t get the natural urge to scream in pain that anyone should be getting in this situation.

In fact, instead of that urge to scream, I am calm enough to rationally think about all these things.

Ross: “What’s wrong!? You would at least scream, right?”

Ethan has countless times mocked me on how I get trapped in self-introspection, on how I always end up thinking too much about my mind, on how I spent too much time trying to figure myself out.

Well, if there’s anyone in the world who can explain why I don’t feel like crying in pain right now even though every inch of my body is burning with pain, if there’s anyone out there who can explain why my physical pain and the stimuli reaction have become disconnected, I’d be happy to stop trying to figure myself out.

Ross: “A-a-are you for real!? You seriously have no reaction to THAT!?”

I have been told that I have the potential to change the course of this war, even though I never felt anything particularly special about myself.

I have been told that I have the potential to right all the world’s wrongs, even though I never felt anything particularly special about myself.

I have been told that I am someone who basically has everything one needs to become a hero of an epic, even though I never felt anything particularly special about myself.

And then, add to that my general ease with which I accept anything inhumane, and my emotions not coming out in situations like this, and Ethan Kales, you still think it’s wrong for me to spend time trying to understand the enigma that I am?

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