076 Encounters · 11
hain had no way of knowing that she had three different groups in pursuit of her. As she did not know or have any way of knowing, she instead focused on moving ahead as if she only had Zhenir to worry about. As he appeared to be a fairly straightforward hunter, taking the time to fight the monsters of ash and cinder that filled the deeper halls of Deep Root Colony was unnecessary. That they were also quickly becoming the only light source the deeper Chain progressed also gave precedence to not killing them.
“Heh heh. I feel like I’m not doing my job, but maybe just maybe they’ll make it harder to track me. But this creep seems to be able to track the Light inside of me.”
Looking down at her chest as she dodged monstrous dogs, bats, and even sword wielding humanoids, Chain tried to comprehend the Light. Her thoughts were blocked to her by a vision of a dragon of Darkness and the whispering of the Lucifalz became overwhelming.
“Ugh! Get of my head already! I can’t put my thoughts together with you in the way!”
Unable to think freely, Chain instead pressed on. The path of choice she settled on was based on the ebb and flow of the monsters, the idea being born of a memory where she had done the same before. There was a sense of helplessness at the end of that fragment of memory however and Chain did not want to linger on it. Fortunately for her, she soon found a distraction.
Blooming along the side of what was either once a doorframe or a collapsed wall was a single flower. What made it stand out to Chain though was that the petals were made entirely of fire. Cupping it in her left hand, her eyes shimmered as she looked upon the unique blossom.
“W~o~w! Is this because of the Ambrosial Beast or the Lucifalz. Ow–!”
Though there was no smoke, the petals were still flame and Chain’s chainmail absorbed the heat uncomfortably fast. Withdrawing her hand and trying to shake the heat away, Chain pouted as she looked around thoughtfully.
“The monsters seem to be avoiding it, so if I can find more, I might find the Ambrosial Beast!”
Excited and renewed, Chain took off again and noticed that the spells affecting her had grown stronger while she was observing the flower.
“That’s weird. I wonder what’s going o–⁈”
Chain’s failure to complete her sentence was due to the sight that awaited her as she found herself on yet another walkway along the abyss side wall of Deep Root Colony. That she could tell at all was because of the green light that filled the air illuminating the bottomless shaft. Walking as close to the edge as she dared, Chain looked up and her mouth fell open at the sight above her.
Exuding an ominous green light, the bottom end of a Foreigner city filled the abyss above her, red lights decorating the distant mechanized city. It was an unusual sight and even less believable due to the newness of the structure. It was known from observation that the cities of the Foreigners were in a state of disrepair due to the absence of their creators and were long since overgrown in vegetation. That they still followed the commands of the Poltergeists seemed a sick miracle, yet this city seemed brand new, red search lights sweeping the abyss below it. Fearing what might happen if those lights spotted her, Chain ducked behind a support column and peered out in hopes of maybe getting an idea of what the Foreigner city was looking for.
“I really hope it’s not me.”
Laughing at the possibility that the Foreigner city was looking for her, Chain took note of winged versions of the humanoid swordsmen she had seen wandering the halls of Deep Root Colony. They filled the sky along side the bats that she had been seeing as high up as the upper floors and she couldn’t help but wonder how she had missed them. Spinning around to the other side of the column as she dodged a search light, Chain looked down to see how far the monsters persisted and her eyes widened in amazement.
Down below, a tangle of massive tree branches filled the center of the abyss, lesser branches sprouting from them creating a canopy of foliage. The foliage was anything but normal as the trees were covered with flowers like cherry blossoms in bloom, except instead of the soft pink flowers it was a variation where the petals were made of fire. Watching the red searchlights sweep through the foliage Chain noted that there were no monsters that deep and smiled.
“I was right. In that case–”
Climbing up onto a pile of rubble and vegetation, Chain prepared to leap out into the abyss but instead jumped backwards. She barely evaded the giant spinning blade and was subsequently thrown back as a spark of Nectar reached its pommel and set off an explosion. Landing on her feet, Chain slid backwards and was afforded a clear view of Pan Mouser bursting out of the explosion born cloud. A flurry of parried strikes fell between the two before they locked blades and had a moment to exchange words.
“Not you two again! Can’t you see I’m busy⁈”
“Now, now Chainmaid. You should be grateful that Lute and I have come for you.”
Pan could not help but smile at Chain’s disbelieving look, yet it was Lute who clarified as he stepped into view with his blade resting on his shoulder.
“Come now Chainmaid, don’t make that face. We’ve seen the danger your opponent presents to your life. You know full well our client wants you brought back alive and that we are your betters. It’s only natural that you should be glad to see us.”
“I’d rather take a chance with the Foreigner.”
“You disappoint me Chainmaid. Had you come with us willingly we could have promised you your good health. Now…”
As he spoke, Pan’s blade took on a blue glow. An instant later he thrust it forward, the light being expelled as a spear colliding with a wall further down the corridor. Chain was well ahead of the attack having ducked down to avoid it but found herself in a bad spot. There were only so many options she had available in her current position and she didn’t like any of them. She was too exposed to Pan’s counterattack options to risk a fatal blow and was glad she had summoned her cape in a dramatic gout of flames of darkness as she dropped. Spinning into a leg sweep, she slammed her leg into Pan’s opposite the edge. As she suspected, he was ridiculously strong and she had all of no give against him. She knew she could push beyond her normal limits by exploiting the spell that bolstered her, the effects increasing the longer she stayed still, but she did not want to play that ace up her sleeve against them yet. They were both Sa·B·ers and as sworn to protect the races of mankind from the Foreigners as she was. This made them particularly good distractions for Zhenir if he caught up before she escaped deeper into the abyss. Thus, her decision was to apply just enough strength to test Pan’s and to hook her foot to him as she sprung herself forward off her free hand. The motion worked exactly as she hoped, but it launched her right at Lute who stood casually with a smile on his face. Unlike Pan, who still had her cape blocking his line of sight, Lute could see Chain clearly. Putting on a pout of intense concentration, Chain pulled herself into a tight spin. Her momentum assured that she would be attacking from Lute’s left shoulder, opposite the one he rested his blade on, but as his sword was nearly his own height and the blade of Chain’s sword was only the same length as her leg, he held the advantage. Chain knew she only had one option, and it would likely be playing into the Mouser Brothers hands, but she committed to it just to try and reset her position in relation with them. Dismissing her cape as she spun, Chain chose to swing early, and well out of reach of Lute, but he saw through her intentions and brought his sword around to meet hers and hurled her back away from the edge and into a wall.
As ancient as the mechanized wall was, it was astoundingly sturdy and fully withstood Chain slamming into it back first. The energy of her collision rebound back through her and Chain cried out, her cry cut off by the blood she vomited.
“Now, now Chainmaid. Did you not hear brother? We want to take you back alive; we couldn’t possibly let you jump into that abyss.”
“*Ha~* *Ha~* …What part of that attack was taking me alive? That really hurt…”
“Exactly Chainmaid. Lute did not kill you, but I did say we could only guarantee your good health if you came willingly.”
Chain wanted to pout defiantly at the brothers who both stood with their weapons resting again on their shoulders, but another blob of blood rose out of her throat and she couldn’t stop herself from coughing it up. She wasn’t quite sure how she was still on her feet after that attack, but still wiped away the blood from her mouth with the back of her left hand. She was breathing heavy as she watched them and they both seemed to simply wait for her to take her next action.
What the Mouser Brothers didn’t realize was that Chain was growing stronger due to enhancement spells on Drop being channeled into her. Chain did not know the source of her bolstered strength either, or that the reason she was growing stronger was simply due to the distance between her and Drop shrinking. The source of her power buff was inconsequential at the moment, as it was becoming obvious that she was going to have to use it if she did not want to be defeated. Taking a deep breath to steady her breathing, Chain brought her sword towards her left hand. She did not take the weapon in a two-handed grip, instead raising the blade so that her left hand was in front of it. The Mouser Brothers both frowned with disappointment, with Pan narrowing his eyes while Lute sighed heavily.
“I advise you not to continue Chainmaid. Brother is not so kind as me to try and be merciful. If you don’t give up now, then you should be prepared to lose a limb or two.”
“That’s taking things a little far isn’t it?”
“We’d rather not waste any strength fighting you when it is likely we will still need to fight the Foreigner.”
“Can’t you just kill him first. I have something I’m really trying to do while I’m here and it’s kind of important.”
“The nuns can attend to any business left here Chainmaid. Our only concern is you and the Foreigner.”
With a chilling tone of voice, Pan interrupted Chain and Lute’s exchange. The tone of his voice nearly made Chain lower her sword and she had to force herself to keep a firm grip on it. As she did, she noticed she was shaking. She still wanted to buy a little more time though in hope that the magical enhancements she was receiving would grow even stronger and tried to argue her point with the elder Mouser brother.
“If you’re going to have to fight him, wouldn’t it be better to do so while you’re at full strength and without dragging me around⁈”
“You really don’t get it Chainmaid. If we have to knock you out, then you endanger all of us and risk compromising your chance to stay alive. If you simply follow us willingly though, you can defend yourself with us as your allies and all of us the better off for–”
“You can stop trying to convince her Lute. She was stalling.”
Interrupted by Pan, Lute looked away from Chain and up the walkway they were on. Descending from the shadows was none other than Zhenir, his slow purposeful stride weighted with disappointment.
“And here I had hoped that you were laying a trap for me Chainmaid. When I sensed you join up with these two Light Touched… To see them attempting to waylay you disgusts me. Have you two no honor. To interrupt the hunt of another is an insult most grievous.”
“You’ll have to forgive brother and mine’s seeming lack of etiquette Master Foreigner, but you may want to familiarize yourself with the facts. You barged in on our hunt.”
Though he began with a flippant tone, Lute’s tone turned fiery as he accused Zhenir with interfering. Zhenir seemed simply amused and snickered as he seemed wont to.
“Hehehehehe… I see, we are two groups of hunters seeking the same prey.”
“Not quite Foreigner. We have reason to bring this prey back alive.”
Pan glared down Zhenir coolly as he lowered his weapon from his shoulder. Chain was not sure how to feel as she had hoped to use the Mouser Brothers to distract Zhenir. She did not expect the Foreigner to distract the Mouser Brothers. Regardless she was out of time and had to act. With a laugh, she smiled awkwardly at her situation.
“Not what I was buying time for, but I guess it doesn’t matter now. Here I go!”
With a snap of her fingers, Chain sprang into action.
Copyright © 2019 Joshua D Tarwater