077 Encounters · 12
distinctive ringing sound rang out and a small mote of light appeared in Chain’s left hand. In response Pan pulled back the hammer of the flintlock mechanism on the rifle butt of his saber and the blade took on a blue glow. His and Chain’s actions seemed in sync at first as he brought his sword around, but Chain surprised the Mouser Brothers as she split the mote of light in half by drawing her sword through it in an upward motion. The light of the mote disappeared as it coated the blade of Chain’s sword and she took it in both hands directly above her head. Smiling brightly, she took a half step forward.
“So, is everyone ready? You can’t all three come after me at once without getting in each other’s way. So, who is going to try and stop me?”
“Bold Chainmaid, taking advantage of this impasse.”
Giving Chain a sidelong glance, Pan coolly complimented her, his anger hidden behind his professionalism. Lute was less calm than his brother and he practically bristled with rage. Zhenir seemed unaffected by the scene playing out before him and seemed to have infinite patience. It was going to be on Chain to act and she was more than ready.
“Heh heh! I guess it’s ladies first then.”
“You are most assuredly not a lady!”
Lute’s proclamation ended up an exclamation to Chain finally taking action. Her sword came down hard and with blinding speed, the gathered Light being released as a wave of energy. She did not bring her sword straight down however, instead opting to bring it down in a swooping motion as she turned to face Zhenir. The wave did not travel fast enough to be a threat to the Foreigner, though it traveled fast enough to force him to dodge by bending over backwards. He did not linger in that pose for long, snapping back upwards with an arcing horizontal swing to his front. Chain was anticipating it as she charged Zhenir and was already mid twirling flip through the air above him. She was not the only one who charged the Foreigner, but Lute was less prepared for the telegraphed counterattack and had to block Zhenir’s sword. Naturally, Pan supplied the next step of his and Lute’s combination attacks and pulled the trigger releasing the blue light on his blade towards Zhenir’s unguarded side. Zhenir’s strength was every bit as superhuman as the Sa·B·ers, if not more so, and without breaking his lock with Lute, he stepped out of the way with the slightest of twists. This also put him in position to deal with Chain who was about to land before she could prepare a full attack. His attack of choice was a simple back hand to punctuate his dodge. The blow took Chain full in the face and she was sent flying with a stream of blood tracing her path. Despite the excruciating pain, she still smiled even with tears in her eyes. It was obvious why of course to the Mouser Brothers. She was careening right into the abyss with the Mouser Brothers in no position to stop her. Waving as she went, Chain made sure to offer a cheerful parting.
“And now I can deal with those competing with me for my prey.”
“No, I can deal with you. Lute, I leave the Chainmaid to you.”
“Of course, brother.”
Spurred on by Pan, Lute moved to pursue Chain regardless of Zhenir’s intentions. As he was directly holding his blade it took no time at all for the spark that signified the coming explosion to travel from his ring to the pommel of his sword. The explosion was as impressive an affair as ever and easily broke the sword lock Lute and Zhenir shared. Before Zhenir could recover Pan had slid into place between him and Lute, his sword blade glowing blue.
“Now Foreigner, see what it is to face a professional.”
Leaving Zhenir to Pan, Lute ran up to the edge of the abyss to see if he couldn’t spot Chain down below. An amused expression crossed his face as he spotted Chain using the monsters as steppingstones, with many a raging winged swordsman chasing after her. She made quick work of the monsters that caught up to her though and continued apace across the abyss and down towards the canopy of flame petaled flowers below. Shaking his head, Lute couldn’t help but laugh as he shrugged.
“You truly are amazing Chainmaid. Still, it is nothing I can’t account for.”
Leaping from the edge and into the abyss himself, Lute hurled his blade out and impaled a winged swordsman. Needing to lower himself quickly he did not pull himself to his blade, but instead swung down. A series of deft kicks kept any monsters that neared him at bay and when it was time for him to finally release his grip on the monster above him, a spark traveling up the unseen Ambrosial wire resulted in a spectacular detonation. That particular explosion however finally alerted Chain to his pursuit and she looked back with a pout.
“Why won’t they just leave me alone? Hrm~. I could use my bow, but I better concentrate on getting away. The drop off in the enhancement spells is really noticeable falling down this abyss.”
With her mind made up, Chain focused on her descent, every jump, grapple, and flip growing less impressive for a Sa·B·er as she descended. The difference was not lost on Lute who was catching her at a faster pace than she would like as his descent required far less effort. It took so little effort that he could afford to look back up the Abyss as he commented on the decrease in Chain’s magical enhancements.
“Could it be that someone is aiding her? –⁈ Wha-what⁈”
It was perhaps because he and Pan had been too focused on the hunt, or even that they attributed the unusual green light to the Foreigner, but as Lute looked back, he saw the Foreigner city that had seemingly descended into the abyss. Gritting his teeth, he denied what he was seeing.
“That’s impossible. The Foreigners– No, that knight is unquestionably a Foreigner. The blue blood dripping from his arm… But if he has an entire city behind him why fight alone?”
Lute couldn’t come up with any answers that satisfied him. It seemed all the more likely that the Foreigner city was just an illusion and Lute treated it as such, turning his attention back onto his pursuit of Chain.
“She doesn’t seem particularly bothered by it, so it must be just an illusion. A useful one seeing as it distracted me. Now, just how far ahead of me has she gotten as a result?”
The answer to Lute’s question was quite far. Chain’s feet touched down on a large branch that was more than large enough to be a walkway, and it was covered by a sky full of flame petaled flowers below the Foreigner city. Chain wanted to celebrate her arrival, but her senses were completely overwhelmed by images of the same dragon that had been haunting her vision and the whispering of the Lucifalz. Clutching at her head, Chain fell to her knees unable to push out the images and whispers.
“Stop it… Get out of my head! Get out of my head! You’re too loud! I can’t think! I can’t think!”
How much time passed as Chain yelled at the intruders of her senses was irrelevant to her. It was too the point that it was painful, and she couldn’t think at all. Rising to her feet was entirely due to sheer will power and instinct driving her towards her goal. There was perhaps anger as well driving her forward as her grip on her sword tightened. Taking an unsteady step in the direction the whispers seemed to be coming from, Chain gritted her teeth and threatened whatever it was that assailed her.
“Shut up… Shut up. Shut up! You’re too loud. Too Loud! Shut up or I’ll kill you!”
“That’s a different response than I would have expected from you in our short time together Chainmaid.”
Looking back with widened and stressed out eyes, Chain laid eyes on Lute who had caught up with her. The silver-eyed redhead smiled as Chain acknowledged his presence, but the look on her face wiped it away.
“What exactly is wrong with you Chainmaid. That expression is very unbecoming of a maid who has enthralled brother and I.”
Exhaling slowly, Chain lowered her sword to her side and clutched angrily at her left temple. Lute expected a nasty retort, but the strained words out of Chain’s mouth surprised him.
“…it’s too loud… …I can’t hear you… …but, I saved my friend due to you… …thank you…”
“Well that was unexpected. But I must admit that I fail to hear what it is that has you so on– Wait.”
Lute failed to finish and demanded Chain to stop as she turned her back on him and started walking deeper into the tangle of branches they stood within. His demand for her to stop went as unheard as everything else he said, and a curious expression crossed his face.
“Could it be that she didn’t hear me when I first addressed, but rather that she sensed my presence? Curious. What could be distracting her so? It doesn’t matter, I guess. If it is of any importance it is for the client to deal with. I need simply retrieve her. –⁈”
As he spoke, Lute lowered his blade from his shoulder and readied to throw it. Distracted as he was by his own thoughts, he did not notice at first that the weight of his weapon was different. Looking down as he did finally notice, the Ambrosial wire between the gem in the ring on his finger and the pommel of his unique sword was clearly visible. Lifting up his weapon, Lute studied it with unbelieving eyes.
“What is this?”
Lonely Root Colony ~ Lower Floors
Early Autumn ~ Early afternoon
Early Autumn ~ Early afternoon
“This is most unpleasant. Most unpleasant. I am surrounded by more monsters than I can reasonably aim at, no less have ammo to fire upon. I’ve been running at a full gallop nonstop with a nāti man whose shortness belies his weight. And I am cooperating with a she-devil for reasons I can barely wrap my head around.”
“Will you cease with the incessant whining! Do you think I want to be in this situation any more than you do⁈ I’m riding bareback in case you haven’t noticed while trying to maintain a constant flow of Nectar to a copy of an idiot I grew up with who I’m holding in my hands.”
“Exactly why I have been unable to do anything but run Master Pilgrim. I’m not large enough to have adults riding me like some beast of burden and yet here we are with me giving it all I have. Her Eminence be praised that the sisters who cast these enhancements on me were so skilled. Without their spells we would have never made it this far.”
“Instead of praising some fools who are not present, you should focus on catching us up with the idiot so we can both put this mess behind us.”
“I find I agree with you Master Pilgrim. Yet my heart demands that I bemoan my situation. I wonder why.”
“Are you not a nun yourself? What ever happened to the discipline of the Cardinal Church⁈”
“I take afront to that Master Pilgrim. Though perhaps you are right. Whatever possessed Mother Osprey to listen to a heretic is beyond me.”
“And now you are on that again! Absolutely unbelievable!”
“Please don’t throw me.”
As Squawk barely contained himself from throwing his arms up in the air, Drop was provided the opportunity to say something as she feared being tossed aside. Squawk did not take kindly to the suggestion that he was anything but careful.
“If you want me to throw you just ask this fool to be more reckless! She’s impressed me enough already with how every time I didn’t think she could be more reckless she has found a way to surprise me!”
“Are you implying something Master Pilgrim.”
“I’m not implying anything! I’m simply stating the facts.”
“If you don’t like the situation you could always get off my back.”
“Are you mad⁈ Do you even realize where we are⁈”
“Then I advise you leave any complaining to me Master Pilgrim.”
“Actually, it might be better now for you to be a little more reckless.”
Asking in unison nearly set Maye and Squawk at each other again, but the absurdity of Drop’s statement kept them focused on the tiny mermaid version of Chain. That they were effectively speechless for even a hair of time though gave Drop the opportunity explain what she meant.
“It will be hard for you two to believe, but my human counterpart has just entered Ambrosia.”
For a second time Maye and Squawk spoke simultaneously, echoing their question, albeit far louder. Squawk was immeasurably louder than Maye however, and anything the centaur had to say was drowned out by the nāti’s disbelieving shouts.
“Entered Ambrosia⁈ Absolutely impossible‼ No one has ever set foot in Ambrosia save for the Sister Goddesses, Father Icarus, and the Saint, Lady Cardinal Herself‼”
Drop was not sure if she had the chance to, or if she was being unwise, and lowered her hands from her ears to attempt explaining.
“This part of us agrees with you, yet it is why we were able to meet ourselves before we became as one in our songs and self.”
“Are you claiming this is not the heretic’s first-time setting foot into Ambrosia.”
Maye was quicker to speak than Squawk for a change and slipped in her question. The pout that Drop dawned was not visible to the centaur, but it told Squawk more than he wanted to believe.
“It’s not a claim. We met ourselves in Ambrosia, and our human counterpart’s intrusion is what drew us to them in curiosity. It is as unheard of as you claim, yet we can do it, and if you are willing to be reckless and trust me, than we can take you two into Ambrosia as well.”
“And what would I have to do?”
“Are you MAD⁈ What do we really know of spirits, no less Ambrosia, to believe that we can so casually just walk in⁈”
“Are you not the one who told me to stop doubting everything that the she-devil has said Master Pilgrim?”
The words to counter Maye seemed to have gotten stuck in Squawk’s throat and Maye allowed herself a satisfied smile. It was unbecoming of a nun, but she found the entire situation unbecoming as it was and was also in desperate need of an out. Even with the enhancement spells still surging through her, she could fell the strain against her muscles for pushing them so hard through an environment that her lower half was not built to traverse at such a pace, especially with a person larger than she could normally handle upon her back. Then there were the growing numbers of monsters and the shrinking selection of escape routes. Deciding there was no better time to put her faith in Drop, Maye restated her question while Squawk still choked on his retort.
“So again she-devil, what would I have to do?”
But a few moments after Maye asked for a second time, Squawk’s voice echoed all throughout Deep Root Colony and out into the dust covered sky above.
“ARE YOU MA~~~~~~~~~~D!!!!!”