The Essence of Battle
Trading stealth for speed, Lucca dove through the open space between
the capsules, allowing Brandt only a moment to try to make the shot. Fortunately, he always fired. Lucca hoped that meant he'd have to reload
soon. She'd heard him do so several times already. The downside was, of course, Brandt's skill. Each shot was closer and closer to hitting the
inventor, and Lucca knew it would only take one shot to disable or kill her.
Brandt, however, suffered no such disability. Even as he cursed when he missed her, a smile stayed on his face. He'd get her sooner or later. They
both knew it.
Lucca growled in frustration as a small, cat-like demon
leapt toward her. Lucca's gun was between them in a moment, and in another
moment, the creature was gone, blasted out of existence. And, in the
background, so much quieter than the explosion, was a click. Lucca gasped.
He's out of ammo. She smiled. A moment of distraction was all she really
Making sure she was securely hidden behind a capsule, Lucca
placed her back against the wall. Leaning against it for support, she raised
up one boot and placed it against the capsule. Once that foot was planted
firmly enough, she lifted her other leg, and placed that foot against the
capsule as well. As silently as she could, she began to push against the
capsule, trying to tip it over, so that it would fall onto Brandt's portable
shield. If the capsule hit the shield just right, it would sap enough energy
that a shot from her
Wondershot might be able to make it through. Her pistol
didn't stand a chance, and she knew it, so she didn't bother pulling it
She stifled a gasp as she heard Brandt finish reloading, a clack
resounding through the air. She smiled. At that moment he was most likely
looking around, trying to find her. She was utterly silent, and she was, fortunately, not being attacked by any creatures, so she had the element of
surprise, at least for a while. As she strained to push over the
surprisingly solid capsule, she watched him, securely hidden in the
He was walking unhurriedly through the capsule-lined corridor,
searching for her through the green tint of the force field. The huge gun in
his hand was cocked, and he was aiming it around carefully, trying to catch
a glimpse of her. A strange contraption sat on the floor, which Brandt
picked up and carried wherever he went. The shield generator. On his back
was a backpack, bulging with grenades. A demon moved through the shadows on
the other side of the hall, and Brandt turned and fired, apparently on edge.
The recoil of the gun knocked him back a step as the sharp-nosed bullet was
discharged. A faint glimmer of energy accompanied it, allowing the bullet to
break through the shield so that he wouldn't have to compromise his defense.
Smart, Lucca thought. Too damned smart. The bullet slammed into the chest of
nearly blowing it in half. Brandt cursed as he realized he'd
wasted ammo. Lucca grimaced. Ouch.
Brandt stood silent for a moment,
as if in thought, then placed the gun on a shoulder-strap fitted for that
purpose. Lucca winced. She knew what that meant. Almost casually, Brandt
reached into his backpack and drew out a grenade. He knelt beside the
generator, and paused, looking around for a good target. Then, in one swift
motion, he primed the grenade, threw it, pressed a button on the generator
to disable the shield, then swiftly pressed it again as soon as the grenade
was out. It was so quick that Lucca had thought it a bad idea to try to
shoot and possibly give away her position, so she didn't react other than to
watch the grenade as it sailed by. It landed about twenty feet away, and
clattered loudly as it hit the ground. It stayed there, silent for a moment,
before it exploded in a flash of heat, light, and sound. Brandt instantly
pulled his gun, in case Lucca were to be seen running from the area, but he
was disappointed to see nothing at all.
A little angered, he pulled
out another grenade, and looked around, trying to figure out where to throw
it next. Lucca's eyes widened as Brandt's gaze happened to randomly settle
on her location. Time seemed to freeze. In slow motion, Lucca glanced at the
energy levels of her gun. Half full. She could shoot the grenade in midair,
with a little careful aiming, but then she'd give away her position, and
she'd be back to square one. She felt a momentary thrill as the capsule
shifted a little, giving her hope, but it was moot if she gave away her
position before she managed to push it over.
Slowly, Brandt primed the
grenade. His other hand slammed down, on the generator, shutting it off for
just a moment. The grenade slowly rose into the air, and the field snapped
into place just as the grenade passed its radius. Time stopped.
smiled. She had a plan. She was, after all, a genius.
Christina parried the blow as best she could, but it was like
standing under a waterfall. You could only shield yourself so much before
you were overwhelmed. And overwhelmed she very nearly was. The Frogmasamune
was light, for a broadsword, and certain magical properties allowed it to
slide through the air with more ease, but despite the sword, Christina just
wasn't the warrior her sister was, and probably never would
Assuming she survived to try.
Her arms were growing heavier
every moment, while Schala seemed only to get more determined as time
passed, her face impassive, belying the warrior's rage that burned within
her. Christina simply didn't have the drive, or the experience, or the
physical power. She was a thief. She wasn't a warrior, or even a sorceress,
though she tried using both aspects. They didn't work.
Though she was at
least as fast as her sister, her strength faltered under the strength of
Schala's never-ending attacks, and she was hard pressed simply keeping the
long sword away from any vital areas. She was bleeding now, from a dozen
superficial cuts, while Schala wasn't scratched. Hell, she wasn't even
breathing very hard. On the other hand, Christina had tried using magic,
hoping her sister was a master only of the physical, not the magical. No
such luck. Every attack thrown out by Christina was simply dodged, or more
often effortlessly blocked with only a moment's concentration on Schala's
part. Christina had a feeling that if Schala had wanted to take this to
magical levels, she'd already have blown her less experienced sister into
pieces too small to see with the naked eye. Schala would have given any of
the original Travelers a run for their money, save perhaps Crono or Magus,
but neither of them were around, and the one
original Traveler here, Lucca,
was dealing with odds Christina wouldn't have gone up against if she had a
gun put to her head.
Christina squinted, her vision blurring slightly as
her blood loss began to affect her. She was only a thief. And against a
fully-trained warrior, there was nothing a thief could do. She gave thought
to using her magic to hide, but decided against it. This was more than
win-or-lose. This was her only way to prove herself, and she suspected it
was the same for Schala. In a last act of desperation, she charged forward,
swinging her sword in an
upward arc towards Schala's head...
was the easiest thing in the world for Schala to swing her sword in a circular motion, and knock the Frogmasamune out of her sister's hands. The
magical sword whistled as it flew through the air, finally clattering uselessly against the Generator, not harming the giant device. Christina
turned to defend herself, only to find Schala's sword at her throat, not more than an inch from a vital vein. She stayed very still, and waited for
the end, the only kind of end that her warrior sister would
But, much to her surprise, Schala let the blade drop away,
and effortlessly placed it back into its scabbard. Her face was
expressionless, as always, as she told her sister, "Enough. This fight is
Christina blinked, relieved but wary. "Why?"
continued to stare at her, or through her. "You are not yet strong enough to
defend your beliefs. One day, you shall be, and then we shall fight again.
Until then, there is no point in it."
Schala began to turn away, but
Christina stopped her. "Why must we fight? Isn't it enough that what I
believe makes sense? Must I defend myself to prove it?"
her head knowingly. "If you cannot defend your beliefs, you have no right to
Christina closed her eyes, human and electronic. "And what
do you believe, Schala? What do you fight for? What's so important to you
that you would be willing to fight to the death to defend? This Kingdom,
with all its injustices? Tell me."
Schala turned away, looking off
into the distance, as if seeing through the walls. "My beliefs are my own. I
hold no allegiance to the Kingdom. I hold allegiance only to honor, and to
the one I serve." She turned her head slightly, and observed Christina with
one eye. "Believe me when I say that this is how it must be, sister. Destiny
has given us our roles, and we must play them through to the end, no matter
how abhorrent. I wish I could leave the sword behind, but it rules my life.
As it shall rule yours."
Christina blinked. "The one you serve? But,
don't you serve Parsa?"
Schala's mouth softened in what might have been a
small smile. "I serve destiny. I am given over to enforcing it." She
abruptly began to walk away. "I suggest you pick up your sword. Without me
around to hold them back, the demons will soon decide to attack you. You
must live to fight me again, Jara," she finished as she walked through a
crowd of demons that Christina realized had gathered around the two sisters
as they had fought. Very slowly, Christina, backed toward the quiescent
Frogmasamune, and picked it up, just as the demons
Same Time Period
It all happened so quickly that
each action seemed to last an eternity in comparison. As the grenade flew
through the air, Lucca's right hand aimed the Wondershot at the base of the
capsule she was pushing so hard against. At the same time, her left hand
undid the strap on the holster of her pistol, as her magic increased the
power of her eyesight, giving her approximately 20/6 vision. In one fluid
motion, she drew the weapon,
switched off the safety, pulled back the
hammer, aimed at the grenade, slowly rotating in the air, and fired. The
bullet seemed to take forever to hit its target, but it hit true. The bullet
nicked the edge of the grenade, reversing its spin, and turning it
Without sparing further time on the grenade, Lucca turned her
attention to the capsule. Dropping the pistol, she grabbed the Wondershot
with both hands and pulled the trigger. This time, though, instead of
rapidly tapping the trigger, she held it, releasing all of the gun's stored
energy in a single long stream of power, which slammed into the base of the
capsule, instantly vaporizing some of the more delicate wires, and blasting
away large chunks of glass and metal, which acted as flying shrapnel,
cutting her across her arms and face. She ignored it. As the fluid streamed
from the hole in the glass, the weight of the capsule lowered considerably,
enough to allow her to push the capsule from its damaged base.
loud groan, the capsule tipped over, heading straight for the energy field
before it. At that very moment, the grenade struck the field, the energy of
the field causing a chain reaction which prematurely detonated the explosive. As the energy pounded against the shield, the generator shifted
its power away from physical attacks, and focused on energy defense-just as the capsule came swinging down. After a moment's pause, the capsule broke
through the field. Brandt jumped to the side, just barely avoiding the heavy object. However, it still crashed down onto the generator, crushing the
small device instantly. The field crackled, then disappeared.
long moment, neither of them did anything but stare at each other. Lucca had
fallen to the ground after the capsule tipped over, and was now sitting with
her back against the wall, the drained Wondershot in her hands, her pistol
about three feet away, disturbed by the rushing liquid. Brandt was standing
in shock of what had just happened, and stared blankly at the cause of his
sudden troubles. The moment seemed to last forever.
Then time crashed
back to normal. As Brandt reached for the rifle in his shoulder holster,
Lucca dove to the side, her hand scrabbling for the pistol that lay so very
close. As Brandt pulled the heavy gun out of its holster, Lucca managed to
get a hold on the water-slicked grip of the pistol, and rolled over. They
both aimed at the same time. They both fired.
The two bullets ripped
through the air at speeds well past sound, and crossed the equal distance in
less than a second. Brandt's bullet flew forward, and Lucca cried out in
sharp pain as she felt a lightning bolt streak up her arm. She thought she'd
been hit, but remembered the power of the gun, and realized she wouldn't
have had her arm anymore, had she been hit. The bullet had come close enough
to feel the air ripple as it passed by, doing no damage, but the energy
surrounding it seared her skin in a straight line, leaving an instantly
cauterized, and painful, scar.
Lucca's bullet hit Brandt underneath his
rib cage, and went through at an upward angle, until it lodged in a muscle
in his back. He grunted in pain, and fell to the floor, his gun clattering
down and sliding a few feet away. He died without another sound. He had been
a Hellbound, but he'd never really been much more than human.
winced as she sat up, unable even to grin at her victory. It had been hard
earned, but she'd used up most of her energy. She was tired. She still had
her magic, but that was taxing on the body and the mind, and she didn't know
if she was up to it. She still had her pistol, but her Wondershot was out of
energy for the moment, which meant that if she were pressed into battle...
Her back stiffened. Now that she was no longer hidden by
the capsules, demons of all shapes and sizes had surrounded her, blocking
off all escape routes. She took a deep breath. "Damn," she muttered, and
struggled to her feet just as they pounced.
Janus cried out in pain, real pain, as his wife slapped him across
the face. No, not my wife, he corrected himself. A thing in my wife's body.
And for that reason he'd been trying to avoid any seriously damaging spells,
but he didn't have many defensive spells to begin with, and fewer still
dealing with physical attacks instead of magic. Which meant he either had to
kill her, or avoid her until he could figure out something else to do. Not
very easy when you're surrounded by demons.
He'd figured out that in
close combat, surrounded on all sides by demons, Lucca's speed didn't mean a
whole lot, but her strength did. It was much greater than Janus' merely
human strength. And Janus' staff was good against her, but it meant nothing
to the demons that surrounded him. Janus' nose was bleeding, there were
marks on his face and arms of claws, and he kept having to spit up blood.
But he wouldn't give up. It wasn't in him.
Lucca suddenly rushed forward
and grabbed her husband by the shirt. Effortlessly, she lifted him off the
ground. Janus gritted his teeth as best he could, trying to keep his wife
from knowing the truth, that as she watched helplessly, her body was killing
"Please," she begged him, "Defend yourself, Janus. I can't break
free of the chip, and you can't beat me unless you start using some serious
Janus shook his head as best he could. "I... can't. I won't kill
Tears were streaming down her face as she swung Janus around,
slamming him into a wall. "Janus, you'll die!"
"I can live with
that," Janus replied. He smiled, or tried to. It looked more like a grimace.
"Very noble, father," Schala noted aloud, surprising the two
of them. Neither of them had noticed her come to stand behind Lucca. Lucca's expression of hope differed from her body's tense readiness to turn and
strike her daughter. Schala continued, "You would die so that she may
Janus looked at her sadly. "She's my wife, Schala. And your
mother. A world without her wouldn't be worth living."
Schala," Lucca begged. "Kill me."
Schala considered it. "I have a better
idea." And she snapped her fingers. Instantly, Lucca's arm dropped Janus. In
another moment, they were hugging each other tightly, as they both realized
Lucca was free. Schala continued, "This is my last gift to the two of you.
Enjoy it. I only regret that I shall not be there with you to treasure
Janus and Lucca looked towards her, only to find empty space where
she'd been a moment ago. But before they could wonder about that, the
demons, no longer held back by Schala's presence, charged the two. Or four.
Janus and Lucca were surprised to find Christina and the other Lucca at
their side, poised for battle.
Silently they all assessed the odds.
Earlier there had been too many demons in too dark a setting to count, but
now that their respective battles had whittled down the numbers, their
numbers were closer to fifty, perhaps as few as thirty. Thirty against four.
At best. And their backs were literally to the wall.
and demons stood still as stone for a moment, measuring each other up. And
then, on some unseen signal, the demons charged, a collective roar rising
from among them. And the four Travelers prepared to defend themselves.
"Some days things wouldn't go right if you paid
them." -Owen Deathstalker, Deathstalker
To Chapter 83
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