Hey everyone! Another chapter! Getting close to the end of book 2!
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Mourad was alive, in excruciating pain, but alive. She was aware her situation could be a lot worse, and felt grateful for her continued existence. Now it was time to secure her future.
After fighting with the freakishly strong, dark skinned woman wielding an enormous hammer, Mourad had forsaken the battle, eventually leaving behind all the sounds entirely. Nobody from her team had checked on her after she’d been knocked into the fog. She knew the lack of loyalty was usually just part of being a mercenary, but it still rankled. She’d hated working for Liangyu, and with everyone distracted, she knew she might be able to make some of her own luck.
She’d been spending the last few days watching carefully for opportunities to exploit, opportunities exactly like she currently found herself in. The big, armored woman limped along, nursing her side and cursing softly. The dark skinned girl had hurt her badly, and it hadn’t even been a solid blow!
The world wasn’t fair. Even as skilled as Mourad was, against an orb-Bonded opponent, she’d only roughly been on the same level. Maybe she could fix that soon. The warrior woman smiled grimly. She fought through the pain and made her way back to the military outpost that Liangyu had been using as a base.
Mourad wasn’t sure, but she had a strong suspicion that Liangyu hid all the team’s valuables and treasure, probably because she wanted to only wear her sheer, fancy robes to maintain a certain look. Mourad snorted. Vanity was for fools.
The building Mourad was heading to was a small, locked outbuilding behind the cabin that Liangyu had been sleeping it. Mourad had observed that some of Liangyu’s thralls had always happened to be loitering nearby.
Liangyu probably thought that by keeping her treasures in a different place than she slept, they’d be safe. Mourad rolled her eyes. The Death Witch had fallen victim to a common trap for the intelligent and powerful–she’d begun to believe her own hype. Especially being so long lived, that was a long time to develop glaring blind spots.
Mourad slowed her pace and crept around the side of the cabin near her target. The rough, splintered logs scraped her exposed arms as she hugged the side of the building. She was trying to be stealthy as possible but she was badly hurt. She’d lost her sword too. That stung, it had been worth a fortune. The only option now was to find another, larger fortune.
She creept up to the corner of the building, peeking out and darting back, smiling broadly. One of Liangyu’s thralls was standing in front of the outbuilding, more of a shed. The undead creature was strangely still and staring into space. Mourad shrugged, the thrall’s immobility just meant her job would be easier.
She pulled her trusty throwing spike from the rear of her belt. The weapon had cost her a great deal of money in the distant past, but it’d been one of the best investments she ever made. The low level enchantments on the spike made it weigh more after it left her hand, and maintain speed better in the air. It had taken her a long time to master throwing it, but after she had, it was was the best ranged weapon she owned.
She breathed deeply, concentrating on the target she knew was only about thirty feet away. She had to attack as fast as possible so hopefully Liangyu wouldn’t notice the loss. She had no desire to tangle directly with the Death Witch. That path led to certain death.
Mourad kissed her throwing spike for good luck, cocked her arm back, stepped from concealment, and threw. As soon as the spike left her hand, she relaxed–she could tell the throw had been true. The spike took the thrall–some sort of arachnid monster–directly in the head and dropped it without any fuss.
A second later, Mourad’s entire body lit up with screaming nerve endings. She bent over in anguish, hissing as she waited for the pain to pass. She’d forgotten for a moment that she was so badly injured.
After she could walk again, the big, muscular woman crept forward, retrieved her spike, and forced open the door to the outbuilding. It didn’t take her long to find the loose board on the floor and she shook her head. This is child’s play, she thought.
Her eyes lit up as she regarded the crushed velvet bag full of Dolos orbs, Spirit Stones, and magic jewelry that Liangyu had taken from their victims. She quickly tied the bulging sack to her belt and limped away as fast as she could.
She desperately hoped Liangyu got herself killed, but that was wishful thinking. Barring that, she wanted to be long gone by the time the Death Witch realized she’d been burglarized.
Jason was tired, frustrated, shocked, but above all, utterly furious. His group had been attacked without provocation, and he’d never felt so useless and powerless in his life. He couldn’t use his magic in the fog, he’d been forced to run. Then, finally, the fog began to clear.
He’d teleported forwards a few times, tired from running so hard and so far, even with his Endurance skill. As he flashed forward, he’d learned some terrible things.
He passed by Yanno-ibbi, lying in a pool of his own blood. He hadn’t stopped to check on the Mo’hali man. He felt guilty, but he didn’t know how critical the timing of his arrival could be.
When he got closer to the main group, he’d felt his heart drop. Everyone was down. Everything looked terrible. He’d seen the scrolling information over his left eye about Liangyu. He’d listened in to the terse exchange between Biivan and members of his group. He learned that Aodh and Henry were gone.
Henry, his best friend, the person who’d had guarded his back and kept him sane from his first day on Ludus…was gone. Jason hadn’t been there for him. He hadn’t been there for his best friend in his time of need.
All his other friends were hurt and bloodied. Some might be dead for all he knew.
Jason had failed. He had catastrophically dropped the ball. The way he’d let his mom down as a kid paled in comparison. He’d told himself he’d never fail anyone he cared about again, but Henry was gone.
His friend was gone.
And someone was threatening Uluula, his wife. Someone. Was. Threatening. His. Wife. The sweet, white haired Areva woman who’d questioned her own culture to be with Jason. The brave, honest, loyal, beautiful person that Jason had been lucky enough to meet on a hostile planet. The woman Jason had rescued from a lonely cell, who’d become the most important person in his life, the woman he wanted to spend the rest of his life with.
They were threatening his wife.
Jason had heard enough. He called Uluula back and began stomping forward, feeling the rage overtaking him again. He only slightly cared that he was heading towards a High Priestess.
She was threatening his wife.
Uluula fell back, looking between Biivan and Jason. “My love, I–”
Jason shook his head. “No, go with Keeja. I’m sorry. I’m sorry I let you all down. I won’t do it again. Never. Again.”
Jason stalked forward, his thoughts turning red. His heart burned like a volcano, producing magma that flowed through his veins at a quickening pace. Jason fed the rage. He gave it everything he had. All of his other emotions went into the fire. All of his rational thought fed the blaze. When he ran out of things to shove into the growing inferno of his terrible anger, he began feeding it magic, dumping raw power into himself, into his soul.
He thought he could hear voices at the edge of his mind. He ignored them, focusing on his sword, Breeze. He grip tightened.
He just kept feeding magic to the growing wildfire inside of him. When racking pain came, he welcomed it. When he felt his soul grow dark, he embraced the change.
They were threatening his wife!
Jason’s eyes narrowed and gave into his darkest emotions. He gave into the power and became something new.
Uluula had conflicting emotions as she watched Jason glide past. Overall, and it shamed her a bit to admit, she felt overwhelming relief. At least she wasn’t alone anymore, the last standing member of the group. A part of her knew that her husband might be walking into danger, but she’d been willing to risk her life just moments before, too.
She didn’t know what Jason was going to do.
Deep down, she felt hope. Henry and Jason had somehow managed to keep themselves and the rest of Delvers LLC alive since they’d been on Ludus. Uluula desperately wanted to believe in her husband. He surely wouldn’t be foolish enough to attack a High Priestess…right?
However, as Jason continued forward, she could feel his anger coming off of him in waves, almost like a physical thing. She wanted to support her husband, but she didn’t know what to do. Jason was their only hope of surviving the situation with any kind of answers about where Aodh and Henry went.
Deep in the pit of her stomach, she suddenly felt dread. Uluula’s eyes few open. Henry. Jason’s best friend…was gone. Missing. Oh no! She silently screamed in her mind.
She reached out to her husband, opening her mouth to call him. She took a step forward, her heart lurching in her chest, her entire being being overcome with a mixture of love and fear. She was too late.
His form burst out like a living cloud. Inky darkness with pinpoints of light provided a mesmerizing kaleidoscope of moving patterns before snapping back to where Jason had been standing. Uluula gasped.
Where her husband had been a moment before now stood a shadow person with silver eyes. Jason’s dark silhouette roiled, flashes of light randomly zigzagging from one side to the other. The only way Uluula could have known the new figure was even Jason anymore was because he was still holding his sword, Breeze.
However, even Breeze had changed. The low level enchantments Thirsty had put on the weapon had never been visible, but now Breeze crackled with energy, arcs of electricity leaping off the blade to Jason’s shadow form with no obvious effect.
But most disconcerting at all, Uluula heard music. Just like when Keeja had used her power in the past, Uluula heard and felt music when she focused on Jason. It was a song she recognized, one of Jason’s favorites, I Stand Alone by a Terran band with a ridiculous name. Godsmack.
Uluula immediately knew what she was experiencing–she was hearing Jason’s soul song. How is this possible? Only Holders like Keeja could manifest a soul a soul song…Uluula put a hand to her mouth, tears in her eyes. What is happening?
Biivan’s haughty expression under her cowl dropped. She took a half step back. Uncertainty had replaced all the venom she’d had in her voice before. “What is this–”
She didn’t get a chance to complete her thought. Jason, or whatever Jason had become darted forward, Breeze descending in a glittering arc.
Jason was dimly aware that what was happening to him was not normal. However, he was too angry to think much about it. In the back of his mind, he dimly heard a Godsmack song stuck in his head. He thought it was appropriate.
He knew he was going to do his best to kill a High Priestess, now. He was past lying to himself at this point.
She had been threatening his wife. Unforgivable. His thoughts were heavy and dark.
He would destroy anyone who threatened his family. He felt this truth in his bones. Jason dimly recognized the electricity arcing off his blade but paid it no mind. Limitbreak, a corner of his mind murmured. The whispers around his spirit grew louder and Jason listened.
He was going to destroy his enemy, anyone who hurt his friends, those who THREATENED HIS WIFE!
He flickered forward, closing with his enemy. Every cell of his body resonated with his rage and indignation. He slowed his perception of time as he moved, noting every flicker of emotion that crossed Biivan’s face. Based on the number of expression changes he saw in the span of a moment, the rational part of his mind deduced that Biivan had enhanced senses too.
Jason delivered a devastating cut from a modified vom tag stance. He felt grim satisfaction as the blade descended. Biivan was not a woman to him anymore, she was not even a person. She was an obstacle to destroy. However, somehow Biivan’s hand came up and materialized a glowing sword, blocking Jason’s blow. Her eyes widened as the two weapons met and stopped, the null-time layer on Breeze’s blade countering Biivan’s obvious strength.
The High Priestess snarled and batted Jason’s sword away from the side, flat to flat, and changed her motion to strike impossibly fast at his throat. Jason was dimly aware that he could hear a thrumming melody now from Biivan, sounding something like old school Earth opera music but with more percussion.
Jason’s heightened awareness warned him of the glittering, curved blade on a crash course for his neck. He flexed his magic and teleported away. The corner of his mind that still retained rational thought knew to move the fight away from his friends and his wife.
…threatened my wife! He mentally screamed in fury. Outwardly, he snarled, teleporting above the shore of the nearby lake. Biivan made a beeline for him, flying at a breakneck speed, the air around her growing hazy from the power rolling off of her body.
Jason dispassionately waited for her to come, noting that he was effortlessly flying in place, manipulating time and space. It was as natural as breathing for him now. He lifted a hand, his fingers pointed forward, and unleashed hell. Wicked needles of null time shot out at Biivan who avoided them at the last second, flinging her body to the side.
Jason darted forward, his silver eyes wild as he followed up with a few swift, brutal cuts, chasing Biivan toward the ground. The woman snarled, a corona of energy erupting from her body to incinerate Jason, but he’d already teleported away.
Jason felt deep, suffocating rage as he darted in, aiming a thrust at Biivan’s back from an ochs stance. Somehow, Biivan spun in time to block the attack with her scintillating blade. The small corner of Jason’s mind that could still think clearly noted the sword looked like shotel from back on earth.
He bared his teeth as he threw a null-time needles blast into Biivan’s face, but she somehow generated a marigold colored shield that stopped the attack. The next couple seconds, Jason’s glowing eyes narrowed as he traded blows with Biivan. He had a longer reach with Breeze, but they were flying, his opponent was more skilled, and Biivan was also faster and stronger than he was. By a lot.
Before Biivan managed to cleave Jason’s head from his shoulders, he teleported away, slashing forward with Breeze and unleashing a dark arc of destructive energy at Biivan. This time, the demigoddess couldn’t create a shield in time, and crossed her arms as the attack struck.
Jason felt savage glee, hoping he’d destroyed his enemy, but Biivan uncrossed her arms and glared at him. She hadn’t suffered any damage at all other than her destroyed robe fluttering to the ground. She’d been wearing some sort of metallic singlet underneath, revealed now along with her dark, sharp featured, beautiful appearance.
“I don’t know what you are, or what–” Biivan began, chewing her words. Jason’ didn’t care what she had to say. He wanted her to die.
He teleported behind her, too close to use his sword, but smashed Breeze’s null-time enhanced pommel on the back of her head. The High Priestess yowled like startled cat, falling out of the sky.
Jason didn’t relent. He followed up with another slashing arc of energy. Biivan blocked the attack, waving her hand and shielding herself with yellow energy. Jason teleported next to her and slashed with Breeze, the sword’s blade alive with spitting electricity. Biivan blocked with her shotel and the dark-skinned Areva woman snarled. Her eyes were crazed as she thrust a hand at Jason, generating a brilliant, golden orb of energy.
Jason flexed his mind, willing a field of time to surround the attack, slowing it. He flew past the energy orb, putting his closed fists together before violently separating them towards Biivan. The attack ripped apart time and space itself. Biivan crossed her arms, defending herself again.
Jason teleported, simultaneously releasing the time dilation he’d placed on Biivan’s energy orb. The projectile zipped off into the distance, generating a bone-jarring, golden explosion on the horizon.
Jason’s big attack hadn’t noticeably damaged Biivan, but it ripped apart a swath of trees on the ground below, made the water of the lake explode into mist, and violently tore asunder a rock outcropping below.
He bared his teeth, listening to the voices muttering around his soul. He needed more power. He needed more weapons. He ignored his growing headache and the pains shooting through his body from his neck and shoulders.
Jason’s fury ran through his body like an electric current and he embraced it. He wanted to rip his enemy apart. He just needed more power!