Shimmering crystals surrounded Eyia as she held up her right hand, Svalinn appearing. Mist exploded around her as the shell of ice formed in a fraction of a second, the sound of expanding crystal echoing through the area. The Daēva smashed into the barrier, but the only sound was crunching ice as cracks broke down its length, but it took the brunt of the attack.
The figures lifted their sickles and crossed them over their chests in utter silence. Sora couldn’t breathe as the malevolent aura darkened with the already pitch black room. Again her vision compensated, showing threads of shadow leave their weapons and run along the crystal dome. Fractures broke across the ice as the strands of umbra wove through it and within a matter of two seconds, the entire shell shattered.
Eyia’s demeanor had altered completely, focus returned. She thrust toward the nearest Daēva. Dáinsleif’s dark pressure erupted, exploding with a lust for blood. The dark energy ran down Eyia’s hand and stopped at her elbow, blotting out her armor’s multicolored glow as Svalinn’s cool white surface frothed mist.
Dáinsleif’s black energy shot up to strike one of the Daēva, but the shadow swiftly moved out of the way; its sickles left its chest, lifting to rake Eyia’s unguarded back. However, the dark mist surrounding Eyia’s black sword shot out in a thin blade of razor energy, twisting around to follow the creature. Redirecting its sickles, they both met the dark beam. Space seemed to compress where they met and then the Daēva was sent flying backward, passing through both pillar and wall noiselessly.
Eyia held up her shield to block her left side as the second attacked and redirected her sword to catch the third Daēva’s blades. The sickles that struck Svalinn started to frost at the tips, and the shadowy aura around her sword combatted the sickles misty threads as it overtook them, sliding back up its length to the Daēva’s smoky hands. Both Daēva shot back to the edge of the room in retreat as they hung suspended in wait.
Eric breathed darkly. “They were able to stave off both Dáinsleif and Svalinn’s attributes?”
A weary edge replaced Jin’s calm attitude. “These aren’t some simple creatures. Daēva’s had enough power at one point to be recognized as gods. I thought they were all annihilated; it looks like the story was wrong. Eyia can’t handle this, not in a drawn-out fight against three…”
She paused as footsteps sounded down the hall. Eyia didn’t pursue the Daēva as she kept position between the groups. The red dragoon had moved to the blue armor against the wall, hand caressing the breastplate.
Sora swallowed as the standoff continued. What’s going on? Why is all of this happening now? Wasn’t the Herald manipulating events behind the scene? She could easily kill all of them, why is she sitting back and letting all this happen?
She looked back at Aiden as a dull white glow transferred from him to Wendy and the others, her own aura bolstering them. The energy the Daēva are emitting is lethal against unprotected spiritual bodies … how long can we keep them protected? The amount needed to keep them protected is draining me faster than can be replenished. I bet it’s the same for Aiden; we can’t keep this up forever.
Her eyes returned to the shadows. Why are they just hovering there … at least turn off your stupid, destructive atmosphere! Jin says she can’t win a drawn-out fight against the three of them. Should I try to provide support? I don’t know if I can keep up though … I might just hold her back, and I don’t know how to do any kind of long-range attack, maybe lightning, but that takes a lot of energy.
They all watched a group of several men walk behind the Daēva; Diane and the tall man with the machine gun were present with a few guards. Sora groaned as she saw the man in the center providing some form of deep red light to the others, protecting them from the harmful aura the shades produced.
He took a look around the area and smiled. “Well, this is quite rare to see.”
Diane cleared her throat. “I apologize. Several—unexpected things occurred. Has the President arrived with you?”
Jin’s eyes narrowed as she studied the man. “That’s not a natural power he’s producing.” She muttered.
The man shook his head. “He will arrive shortly. You said there was a Troll captured, Benjamin? He was trying to force his way out.” When Benjamin nodded, a smile lit his lips. “Wonderful, guide him here and bring the canvas I brought.” How can they see in this darkness? Does it have something to do with that red light around them?
His gaze swept the scene, settling on the red dragoon. “Loral, it’s quite regrettable. Dustin was one of our best; we’ll have to return the loss. If you could bring Dustin’s armor back with us.” His head turned to Eyia. “I apologize. There is a bit of preparation required of me. I’m sure the Daēva will provide plenty of entertainment.” He looked up to address the shadows. “The Valkyrie seems to be the most dangerous. You can absorb her if you wish, but I request you leave the others. There are plans.”
Sora’s gut tightened as Eyia’s sword flipped around and stabbed into the ground without resistance. The first Daēva faded before launching out of the concrete five feet away from her; it backed away to where the two other Daēva floated, Dáinsleif’s dark beam following after it. Both of the other Daēva rushed forward and slashed at the trail the energy left. The beam dispersed back to the blade, but the end kept perusing the first Daēva until it blocked with both of his sickles. The same compression struck the space, a portion of the Daēva’s sickle being sucked into it before it was sent flying back into the wall.
Sora winced and folded her fox ears down as a loud sound pierced the air, it sounded like an amplified steam kettle whistle, but much harsher. The resonation made her feel slightly dizzy.
Jin’s voice was dulled in her head. “They’re acknowledging Eyia as a threat. They’re going to get serious.”
In wonder, Sora watched the three Daēva draw closer together as the Troll was escorted in by several armed guards. Two of the Daēva fold their sickles over their chests, while the third extended its sickles out, crossing its arms and touching their weapon tips together. All of their shadowy wings dispersed into lines of impervious darkness as they collected between the middle of the touching sickles.
A sudden sense of danger shot up her tails and a weight shot against her chest. The dark room’s shadows began to blur and swirl into the ball of energy. “No,” Jin yelled. “You can’t let them finish it Eyia!” Her voice died as some kind of dampening field enclosed the area. Sora’s acute hearing could barely make out her words. Are they preventing Eyia from hearing Jin’s warning? How powerful are these creatures?
Sora’s vision shifted to Jin as a shift in air pressure pulled Sora’s hair toward her open mouth; Jin was inhaling. She seemed to be gathering half the room’s air supply as Sora found breathing starting to become difficult as the tight vents above them kicked into overdrive. She could see her spiritual energy being pulled into her chest at a rapid pace and closing her lips, her spiritual energy molded in her mouth, changing as she blew in the Daēva’s direction. A burst of savage air shot out of her throat with a mind-numbing roar. The gust and focused resonation broke apart the ground and rushed towards her target.
The closest Daēva turned even before she shouted and slashed at the air with both sickles coming together. The torrent of spiritual energy laced air was met by its slash and created a split in its direction, forcing it around the Daēva.
Jin was already preparing something else. Hands resting at her stomach palms up, she breathed a slow breath, while raising her hands to her chest. It wasn’t nearly as compressed as her last attack, but Sora could feel the difference in spiritual energy used, and she was twisting it. Blowing it out, a beam of radiant red light burst from her lips and almost instantaneously skid across the top portion of the black ball, barely missing its sickles.
The ball seemed to fold into its center and exploded into shards of solid darkness that pierced through the holder’s black frame. Another screech more ear deafening than the first shot through Sora’s mind as the Daēva dispersed into nothing. The remaining two cried out a terrifying scream, but Sora’s ears had adjusted to their harsh noise.
She was more concerned for Jin as she doubled over, clutching at her chest and coughing, blood spraying across the ground in front of her. She knew it was extremely dangerous and couldn’t warn Eyia. Despite how weak she is right now, she still interfered to save Eyia. Why couldn’t I do anything? I need to help somehow!
Her instincts told her that one of the Daēva was coming to kill Jin, while the other held off Eyia. I can’t let this happen! I can’t, but what can I do? Jin knew she wasn’t strong enough to attack the Daēva directly, so she refocused its energy to strike itself. What can I do on my own? What if I try something like Jin did? They’re shadows, so I’ll try light. How did Inari do that?
Thoughts turning back to her aunt, she set her jaw and brought around her tails. Wrapping them around one another like she saw Inari do to produce her blue energy balls; she molded the spiritual energy into a ball-like shape. To her amazement, a similar ball formed, but instead of blue, it was a raging red that alternated hues. She knew it was barely controlled and she needed to focus better, but this would have to do.
She looked up to find the Daēva over Jin as she coughed out blood, helpless to defend herself as Eyia struggled against the remaining two. Energy ball hovering between her tails, she whipped them around her back and flung it as fast as she could. The ball came between the Daēva and Jin as it slashed. It struck the blazing ball, and the entire area exploded into a radiant sun of energy that eradicated every shadow.
Opening her eyes, Sora looked around in shock. Eyia was on one knee, breathing harshly with her body shaking. A new gash was across her left leg that seemed much more serious than any other. However, the Daēva were gone.
Recovering, Jin gasped, “Way—to go—Sora. It will take—at least a few minutes for them to reform. Where did you learn that?”
“What do you mean?” Sora asked.
Hesitantly, Fen answered. “You—drew spiritual energy into an external malleable form and added a magical seal. It’s not true Fox Magic, but relatively close. I’ve only seen a five-tailed Kumiho do something like that.”
Every head turned to the man as he began clapping, the sound echoed around the area. The men around him had spread out a large canvas with bizarre patterns spaced across it, the Troll standing beside, guns pointing at him. “Now I am impressed. You really are a Founder to perform something like that at your age.”
They stiffened as his hand lifted and made a slashing motion at the Troll; it didn’t even twitch as its head dropped to the floor. Face ashen as her stomach twisted, she watched its blood pool across the canvas, and all the men around them froze. Only Diane seemed unphased.
“What…” Benjamin muttered.
“I don’t know what kind of magical formula they’re preparing,” Jin muttered. “I’ve never seen those symbols before.”
“I think I have in one of my mother’s books,” Eric whispered, knowing they could hear him. “I believe it’s a summoning ritual, but I don’t know which language it’s in. It’s in an archaic form though, old magic.”
“Should we stop him then?” Sora hissed.
Jin bit her lip, glancing toward Eyia, she cursed. “They marked Eyia … she’s trying to purify it. She can’t do anything…”
Eric gasped as his face turned white. “It’s … no!” Transforming into a Fenris Wolf, he launched toward them as the man instructed Benjamin to walk over the canvas.
The man’s eyes shifted to Eric, and he threw a red marble into the air. A red shell of red lightning encircled them. Eric’s body struck the wall and slowed; he was slowly pushing through it. The man hummed as the men fired at Eric, but it didn’t phase him. “Fenris Wolves are too resistant to magic for that to work, eh … hurry Benjamin.”
Benjamin looked unsure as he glanced at the corpse of the troll and the canvas. “What’s going on?”
“I’ll be making you stronger than you could have imagined. This is the purpose why I selected you to join the organization. You have an extraordinary lineage.”
Taking one look at the massive six-foot wolf breaking past the barrier, he jumped into the circle. The man smiled and muttered a deep sounding phrase. The blood on the canvas rose and latched onto Benjamin, sinking into his skin. Sora’s breath caught as the white in his eyes turned black then red.
Eric broke past the lightning, jaws closing around Benjamin, but he vanished in a spray of blood that shot across Eric’s head. A pool of crimson shifted at Eric’s shoulder, and Benjamin appeared; he held a smirk and the whites of his eyes were now black, irises a deep red. He kicked Eric’s side, sending him flying, he broke past the lightning barrier to smash into a split pillar.
Working around his jaw, Benjamin licked his lips as the turned to the man. “Ainmire, you actually did it.”
Ainmire kneeled with an ashen-faced Diane next to him. “Yes, Lord Bathin. It has taken some centuries, but all the appropriate steps fell into place like clockwork.”
“I can imagine why,” Bathin said as he glanced toward Aiden. “This is quite the surprise. So many Founders.”
Eyia shakily got to her feet, setting herself into another defensive stance. Bathin chuckled as his gaze shifted between Eyia, Jin, and Sora with a fascinated smile. “You all are too much.” Examining Eyia, he began speaking in the odd language Sora recognized as Asgardian.”
Jin huffed as she positioned herself against the pillar; still wiping away the blood that had run down her neck, gaze doing a quick take on Eric. “You want Eyia to back down? Even if we aren’t in any condition to fight you. You should know a Valkyrie better than that, being a Demon.” She spat. “What are you doing out of your realms? Didn’t the Founders put you in your place with the rest of your kind long ago? I know you’ve been losing control as of late, but operating so openly?”
The man’s lips became a line. “Do not assume to preach to me, little dragon.” Sora had no idea who Bathin was, but for Jin to say they couldn’t fight him put unease in her stomach.
Jin lifted an eyebrow. “Really, I don’t need to preach to you? Then I guess you haven’t forgotten about the little conditions treaty your boss signed with a few of the Founders when you upset the balance? Do you genuinely want to open that can of worms? Right here,” she pointed at Sora and Kari, “Are Founders. Do you think their parents will sit idly by, while you kidnap their children?”
Bathin laughed heartily at her words. “Sit idly by? You don’t seem to be aware of the bigger picture, young dragon. That’s exactly what I expect them to do. You see there’s quite a bit of strife going on right now, but how could you understand beings of such power? He examined her a bit closer; then again, maybe you do have some idea.” He clapped three times. “I am surprised that you know about the treaty and even a small portion of the specifics; however, I am a very busy person.”
His eyes shifted to Eyia as she slowly inched between him and the group. She looked perfectly stable again and wasn’t breathing with difficulty, but Sora knew she was still exhausted. Bathin’s vision narrowed to slits as he sighed. “I do not like repeating myself.”
He didn’t make a single gesture, but an enormous eruption of force shot at Eyia. She held up her shield but was carried off her feet as a gasp left her mouth, and she was sent flying back. She struck the wall above Jian, dropping onto his side, she slid to the floor. She stirred before struggling back to her feet with shallow breaths.
“Eyia,” Jin said with concern. “I think it’s over for us.”
Bathin snorted, and the same focused pressure returned curving around the group to smash into Eyia’s right side. She held up her shield again but was sent soaring over to the opposite wall, skidding down its length. Her weapons and armor vanished in dazzling light, she didn’t move, but Sora knew she was still alive by her heartbeat, even if weak.
Sora took a shuddering breath as she turned back toward the demon. Jin called him a demon; obviously, he has some plan or purpose. “Can we,” he cut her off with a raised hand.
“I’m done with talking, and,” he looked around her. “I don’t need any of them. Fenris Wolves are a dying breed in any case.”
Sora’s eyes focused on Loral as she walked toward Eyia, spear dragging in her hands. Stomach tightening Sora said, “Please if I cooperate you’ll get more out of it. Won’t you?”
Chuckling, Bathin said, “I could care less if you comply or not. All I need is you.” Looking back at Eyia with a sneer, he laughed. “Do whatever you want with her Loral, but make sure it’s appropriate for our loss.”
Sora took one step toward Eyia before Bathin was in front of her; a force locked her spiritual network, she couldn’t move. “No, I think this will be a good lesson. I am sure you will all understand what becomes of defiance. His tone grew dark and deep. “And with your father still in the picture, I’d behave.”
Reaching Eyia, Loral kicked her in the stomach, sending her flying back a few feet, tumbling along the ground. Coughing, Eyia began to shift, hands moving to her stomach, before trying to lift herself with shaking arms. Loral brought her spear around and slammed it against Eyia’s back. Sora winced as it struck, sending Eyia to her elbows, but she didn’t drop back to the floor.
The situation was finally catching up to her; Sora felt tears gathering in her eyes. Everything always gets worse … there’s always a glowing hope before it’s snatched away … it’s not fair!
Bathin seemed to have completely lost interest in Eyia and Loral as he looked around with annoyance. “Where could those incessant Daēva have gone? They should have destroyed the restrictive seal and reformed by now. Perhaps they materialized elsewhere.”