As the White Martyr stood, Lucretia’s eyes narrowed. Based on their movements, these four were powerful, but not on the class of the Earth Golem she had faced at the Minister’s residence all those years ago. These were the distraction, while the closer would come in later.
Unfortunately, one of the foolish two that were attacking the surrounding people was making a beeline for Lucretia and Alta. Time seemed to slow.
With a below, the White Martyr leapt forward to attack the assailants and ripped a huge gash in one’s side. Immediately, their attention focused on the task at hand. That moment of focus was all Lucretia needed to justify her movements.
Smiling slightly, Lucretia allowed her two long talons out of her dress. By this point, they were finally done growing and spread out three meters in each direction around her. In the darkness, the assailant probably didn’t even seen the talon streaking into his temple before he died. Lucretia always took great care to keep the dangerously sharp talon’s slightly rough so they didn’t reflect light well.
The body fell to the ground with a thump, and Lucretia tensed. But it seemed like for the moment, the general chaos of the restaurant floor was enough to hide the fatality.
Several seconds had passed since the attack began, and most people had either been killed, found a door, or settled in to cower and wait for something to change. The fight between the White Martyr and his four attackers was swiftly getting out of hand for the assailants, so the leader whistled and the remaining runner who was attacking patrons twisted and went to help.
Not that it seemed like it would be enough to help. The White Marty allowed a wound on his shoulder in order to decapitate one of the other attackers, and it was not either of the two he had wounded previously. Lucretia’s eyes scanned the surrounding area. If she wanted to strike, she would be…
A patron, at one of the nearby tables. Waiting for vulnerability.
As if on cue two of the assailants ignored the grievous wounds they suffered and slammed against the White Martyr, knocking him backward and to the nearby line of booths along the restaurant wall. Like ghosts, two figures rushed out of a booth with an intent to kill that seemed to freeze the air.
Lucretia paled and surged into motion. These two were definitely the ones she had worried about. But they were also the ones who would have concrete information that Alta so desperately desired.
However, if they were able to kill the White Martyr safely, Lucretia didn’t quite trust her chances to survive and protect Alta. She needed to intervene and keep the fight closer to even.
She need not have worried. A ferocity that hadn’t been there previously burst out of the White Martyr and he cut the two tackling him to pieces. Then he turned and slashed at the two new assailants, splitting them as all three passed harmlessly by each other.
The first landed, the shadow resolving itself into a slight Spriggit man. “Will you not reconsider, Ancient One? You cannot triumph alone-”
The second figure landed and straightened right in front of Lucretia. She was tall and shaggy and appeared to be from one of the beast tribunes among the Monster people. Lucretia’s talon cut her left leg off at the knee, and her arms windmilled as she collapsed in a growing pool of blood.
All three of their gazes turned to Lucretia.
She smiled. “My master was enjoying a meal before you came. Please, depart so the meal may continue.”
“...Don’t involve yourself in something you don’t understand,” The Spriggit said with a grim expression. It was clear that this surprise was a distinctly unpleasant one. His eyes furiously dug at Lucretia, intent on understanding her place here. “If you truly wish to protect your master’s life, step back and forget everything you have seen.”
“They will hunt you down and kill you if you do no assist me in ending them,” The White Martyr said calmly. “Retreat is a short-sighted action.”
That certainly raised Lucretia's eyebrows. For someone named Martyr, he certainly seemed unwilling to die here.
“She smells like blood,” The female monster said, and to Lucretia’s surprise her leg wiggled and grew rapidly back. She stood and stomped on the foot as if to test it. Then she backed up toward the booths again so she wasn’t standing between Lucretia and the White Martyr. “I doubt that she truly is here accidentally. I also doubt this ‘master’ truly exists.”
Lucretia just smiled. Not only could she regenerate, but she also called Lucretia on her lie? That certainly was unpleasant. But since these two appeared to be in a talking mood, Lucretia was of a mind to let it continue. The more information that she could gather, the better.
“The hard way it is. So that we may break free of the shackles of our world. Heed my will. Erupt!” The Spriggit seemed to glow with a strange energy and pointed at Lucretia’s feet. As he did so, she could feel the world shifting around her, bending to his will.
Lucretia almost fell over. He was invoking Randidly’s Incendiary Eruption Skill? Truthfully, she had relied on Randidly’s other Skills in the past, but if it was the case that you could utilize them more directly-
Needless to say, Lucretia dodged to the side to avoid the explosion of molten lava. But, the reality was somewhat different than what she expected. Instead of the geyser of superheated air and metal, there was just a… bubbling of the floor, and then it popped. The heat was very real, but the area of effect and speed was very lacking compared to Randidly’s true ability.
So much so that Lucretia laughed, even as the female monster attacked the White Martyr. The Spriggit continued to point at her, but Lucretia could feel the flow of this world’s energy. As someone deeply connected to Randidly, very little in this world was hidden from her. Even as the Spriggit started pointing at spots he wasn’t using the Skill, she avoided his true strikes and only laughed harder.
“What’s so funny?!?” The Spriggit snarled as he walked imperiously towards Lucretia. The White Martyr seemed to be on the losing side of his fight, as even as he ripped the monster to pieces she grew back body parts and inflicted wounds on him. So Lucretia didn’t want to waste much time with this guy.
“You are an idiot. Incendiary Eruption is supposed to look like this.”
Although she wasn’t too familiar with it, Lucretia reached and touched the essence of this place. As she did so, something... changed. Where once the world felt vibrant and full of life, now there was dryness and sense of loss and hollowness. The energy tasted like ash.
But it answered Lucretia’s call. Beneath the female monster’s feet, the ground erupted, a spray of molten metal burning away her skin and bones of her left side. She fell to the ground screaming and the White Martyr pounced on her.
As Lucretia opened her mouth to engage in a harmless quip, something else happened.
The ground began to shake. Once more, all eyes turned on Lucretia as the trembling of the ground became true staggering vibrations. Lucretia just became tight-lipped. She hadn’t done this... Right…?
Soon, the vibrations were so violent that the building around them began to groan and creak. One of Lucretia’s talons snaked out backward and seized Alta’s waist. After all, a wall falling on the foolish girl and killing her was a real danger.
“Fuck! Rialta, we are leaving!” The Spriggit bellowed. He produced a dozen or so metal disks and flung them at the White Martyr. He could easily dodge the disks, but the spots he moved to were dotted with the lava bubbles. Overcome by pain from one of the attacks, the White Martyr staggered sideways.
The Spriggit made a beeline for the female monster, but how could Lucretia allow it? Even though beams above them were splintering, her right talon slashed forward to intercept him. Hissing, he twisted away from the attack, but with sheer force, she smashed him backward away from the moaning figure.
“This will mean the end of you,” The Spriggit said quietly. Lucretia wasn’t sure whether he was talking to her or Rialta. But then he turned and leapt out the window, leaving them in a rapidly collapsing room.
Lucretia cut her way out, not bothering to hide the ability of her talons to expand and tear everything to pieces. Hopefully, the damage would just be attributed to the earthquake.
She also carried out Alta, the wounded Rialta, and the White Martyr, who seemed to accept her intentions weren’t malicious. Without bothering for subtlety, Lucretia uses her talons as giant legs to walk across the splintering and cracking suburbs of Taft.
Even when they arrived at the Bounty residence, they were not yet safe. Quickly, Lucretia used some of the engravings she had managed to bind the monster woman and used drugs to knock her unconscious. There wasn’t enough time now to talk to the White Martyr, but they did the best they could to wait out the Earthquake, but it wasn’t until the morning that the tremors stopped.
After a long conversation with the White Martyr, Lucretia went to find Alta.
It was almost midday, but neither Cierce and Danz came to work in the morning, likely due to the quake. Across Taft, the damage was catastrophic. And early reports were that it struck the entirety of the seven lands. As she expected, she found Alta in the workroom.
What she hadn’t expected was that the exposed vein of sap they had found would have ruptured in the quake. Most of the room was covered in the energy-rich substance, which resulted in the papers and recordings and experimental technology they had sitting in the area being reduced to nothing. It was a steaming pile of metal and glowing orange sap.
All the years of work melted away in one tragic accident.
Lucretia’s heart dropped out of her chest. “Alta, I have spoken to the White Martyr. Finally, we have some solid leads on the Council of Fates.”
Alta didn’t respond. She simply looked at the strange, orange-green liquid that had reduced half of the workshop to slag.
Taking a step closer, Lucretia said. “Although the research was important, if we can figure out who is the cause of-”
“Creta,” Alta interrupted. “Do you know how long I’ve stood here?”
Lucretia fell silent.
“Almost six hours,” Alta said, answering her own question. “And this sap… it's throwing off a crazy amount of energy. Everything that was here was destroyed. Look at the warping of the ground at such even distances. Even the high water marks of the voltage from before doesn’t match this. Something changed in the world tree. And it…”
Alta gestured helplessly. Lucretia’s eyes didn’t miss that Alta’s hands were burned. Without the resilience that Lucretia borrowed from Randidly’s Skills, the energy radiation thrown off by the exposed sap was enough to char the edges of Alta’s body.
“I’m sorry,” Lucretia said quietly. And she meant it.
But to her surprise, instead of speaking, Alta just turned and looked at her. Her eyes were sparkling with joy. Within her chest, the was a shudder. Then the blooming pale flower soon became two flowers, and then three.
“You don’t get it,” Alta whispered. “The energy radiation, Lucretia. It’s been constant. For six hours. Look at the lines! If this stays… hell, with this much power, I could make a reactor that will ruin war. The power will be so frightening that no one would dare step out of line. With that power… what does it matter who we are facing? They all will… turn to ash.”
The pale flowers in Alta’s chest looked increasingly grey, to Lucretia’s eyes.