“The perfect deception isn't achieved by hiding information. You have to paint the information in colours which suit you.”
***The Eternal Battlefield***
“As long as we have the spell projector, she should be mostly powerless.” Rufus smiles and strokes the device in his hands like a precious pet.
I chuckle, then I start laughing heartily. “I was right, though I am not sure exactly how you managed to spy on me.” Though, I always suspected it. Revealing all my plans was meant to draw out the rats, should there be any.
Rufus narrows his eyes. For a short moment, I hope that he might start one of those typical villain speeches, or to complain about everything I have cost him. He surprises me by doing neither. Rufus simply points at me. “She is mine. You can play with the other two.”
Jules, the Emperor, turns and glares at Rufus. “Who says that you can have her? We three barely got out of there alive; and only because of your ability. Marigold didn’t make it and because of that bitch I lost Wisen.”
Rufus hisses like an animal, barely keeping his rage in check. “I will leave her alive for you, just so. But before that... I'll teach her not to mess with me.”
I turn to Tristen, Fae, and Brian. “I suggest you three run as far and as fast as you can. This is the endgame. No place for mere mortals.” Then I look at Zane. “You take care of the lady, Sirra. She doesn't seem to be that strong.”
“What about the other two!?” Zane asks. His voice is stressed, but he didn't freak out.
“They will have their hands full with me,” I reply and stretch, popping my knuckles. “Training time seems to be over. Now I’ll show you my true colours.”
Our three opponents look at me with wide eyes, not believing that I don't take them seriously.
Fae and the others take off running, trying gain as much distance as possible between them and us. They have been with me for long enough to know that ignoring my advice isn't healthy. When they are a little farther away, they will be able to use their limited access to Illum’s control system to fly back to safety.
Sirra, the leader of the Sociocrathy, raises her hand, aiming it at the three retreating figures. Zane reacts immediately and positions himself so that he can block her attack. Smoothly moving his finger, he draws a rune into the air, summoning first a shield, then more and more buffs.
The Emperor attempts to take off to follow my retreating friends, but I cast teleport, appearing in his path. Smiling, I unleash the full power of the barrette in my hair. Pure power painfully floods through my nervous system, but I endure, channelling most of it into the barrier which is surrounding me.
Being fuelled by the excess energy, the tattoo on my shoulder also lights up, showing through my black and white armour.
Jules doesn't stop and our personal barriers collide, flaring up as orbs of translucent energy. Holding my ground, I stubbornly push back until the Emperor decides to take a step back. I have no exact idea of his abilities, but he seems to be a straightforward magic user.
The big wild card in this battle is Rufus, whose mysterious ability seems to be a lot more than a simple spacial pocket at his beck and call. Keeping my attention on the ability user, I raise my hand to taunt them. Jules is clearly willing to go after Fae and the others, while Rufus's full attention is on me. If I seem like a danger that can't be ignored, the Emperor might shift his priorities.
“Are you sure that you can take me alone?” My fingernails lengthen as I cast my newest spell. Something I came up with after Janice taught me about a soul's connection to its body. Violet claws superimpose themselves over my fingers and a green mist seeps off of their tips, a slight inefficiency of the spell's energy usage.
“What the fuck are you?” Jules looks at me, horrified.
By now I am drawing so much power that my eyes must glow like light-bulbs. He would be more horrified if he knew what my spell does. I beckon them again. “Your end.”
Jules and Rufus look at each other. Their eyes confirm for me that I achieved my goal. Their earlier bet is off and now they will go after me together.
Off to my side, Zane and Sirra are already fighting, blasting each other with spells. I have no idea how Zane is doing, but I don't dare to take my attention off of my own opponents. At least not until help arrives.
For the moment, Zane is on his own. I hope that he can at least play for more time until we can help him.
Jules starts the fight by firing off an orb of energy and I evade by channelling mana through my body, increasing my physical abilities. Dancing sideways, my feet dig up the ground which isn’t able to withstand the force of my body.
The Emperor takes off to my left side, while Rufus tries to get me from the right. He does something, and the spell projector vanishes from his hands.
Of course, I immediately try to access Illum's force fields, but the spell projector's effect is still active. Jules and Rufus should've been crushed like insects, but nothing happens. Clicking my tongue, I aim my hands to both sides to cast my favourite fire-spell, channelling as much mana as I can.
Two oversized jets of superheated plasma roar away from me to both sides, scorching the tortured earth. It’s not like I can cause any more damage to the environment than the nuke.
While the Emperor is pushed back, Rufus's image simply fades, turning incorporeal. He slips past my spell and flicks his hand towards me. A sword appears out of nowhere. Hadn't I twitched to the side, he would have gutted me like an animal. Instead, he only achieves a glancing cut in my side. The painful wound burns, but it's just skin and tissue.
“Fuck! A phase ability?” I cast teleport again, away from Rufus and next to the Emperor. Our barriers surround us and collide with a screech of discharged energy. Using the chance, I reach out and rake my claws over Jules's barrier. The hex on my hands is transferred to the Emperor's barriers, eating away at his energy.
I smile, smelling victory. It's much easier to fight a traditional mage.
The Emperor curses and retreats again, pushing his barrier away from his body. Together with it goes the hex which I slipped into his defences. It was the right reaction, but it will cost him time to rebuild his protections. This gives me a few precious moments to deal with the other annoyance.
With Rufus closing in, I teleport again to gain some distance. Fighting him hand to hand doesn’t seem healthy. The Emperor is a straightforward opponent, but I have problems to get the hang of Rufus's ability.
Janice had several speculations about it, but she wasn't sure herself. She only was sure that Rufus doesn't have a magical gift and that his strange ability is somehow limited in range and energy. I used my free time to read up on ability users.
My best guess is that Rufus lucked out with a strange hybrid-ability of spacial control and transmutation. A true game breaker, if it didn't have limits. So far, I am fairly certain that the ability has limited range. He somehow changed himself to avoid my attack and to close the distance. I also didn't fail to notice that he completely ignored my barrier.
So he can't protect himself and do something big at the same time. Otherwise, Rufus would have attacked differently. If his ability was limitless, he could have simply transmuted my body and it would be over. So his second weakness is limited energy conversion.
I reach to my belly and cast a regenerative spell while Rufus plays catch up.
“I have studied all the records about you. That fire-spell was your signature spell. You like to use it as an immediate answer to attacks. So very predictable.” He smiles victoriously and summons a spear. “In most of your encounters, you relied on elemental attacks. Without your force fields, you have no hope of harming me.”
Bugger. Maybe I shouldn’t have given him the knowledge about disruption fields. On the other hand… who would have thought that he has an annoying phase-ability and can take others with him?
I shrug and run my tongue over the edge of my teeth, showing him that he can't rattle me so easily. “Every good mage has a signature spell as a quick response to unknown spells. Fireblast is easy to activate, scales with the amount of used mana and covers a large area. Although it's a simple energy-based spell, it covers areas like heat, radiation and even a little physical energy.”
I raise my hand, showing off the violet claws. “If your ability allows you to evade such attacks, I simply have to turn to more metaphysical forms of attack.” Smacking my lips, I give the signal. “Lovely little pussycat, come here little kitty.”
Rufus looks at me as if I turned nuts, not realizing that I didn't mean to tease him.
My call is answered when Lucifer fades through the ground, appearing from below and behind Rufus. He is always nearby, even when he is out of sight. My familiar quickly grows, fed by the bond between it and me. Concentrating on the connection, I push more power to the ethereal energy construct.
Once the size of a house cat, Lucifer is now a proud tiger. Growling, he opens his jaw and heartily bites down on Rufus's left ass-cheek. The ability user yells in pain and tries to get away from Lucifer, but the cat closes its paws around the man's thigh. The claws rake into Rufus's flesh and the man screams.
The moment of satisfaction is taken away from me when Jules slams a spell into my shields. I frantically try to counter the rapidly unfolding spell matrix which is eating my energy. Realizing that I am not fast enough, I let go of my barriers. The barrier eating spell drills into my shields, shattering them, causing me to suffer the same fate as Jules.
Released energy from my own barrier slams into me and I am thrown onto my back, stunned.
Jules steps above me, victory in his eyes. He smiles and raises his hand to summon a spear of crackling energy in his hand, ready to end me in my unprotected state.
Looking over his shoulder, I smile.
Just in the nick of time, he sees the brightly glowing figure reflected in my eyes. His own shadow which is cast by the source of green light directly behind him is also a good indication for the appearance of a new player. His head whips around and a hand covered in green flames closes around his throat, not burning him – but clearly painful, since he starts screaming and battering the arm which is holding him in a vice-like grip.
Janice smiles, satisfied that the plan worked so well. I can feel the power radiating off of her and begin to understand why nobody should fight a necromancer on a battlefield. She is so supercharged by all the death around her that her soul’s aura started to become visible to the naked eye. “Took you long enough. How long was I supposed to keep their attention?”
She smiles rather cruelly. “I am sorry. Your plan to charge me with such a bountiful sacrifice was rather… overwhelming! I needed some time to get accustomed to all this power. Thousands… all in a single moment. Hopefully, I don’t get used to it.”
Jules’s breath rattles as he tries to suck in air. He raises his hand, aiming a spell directly at Janice’s face, but the gathered energy fizzles and is dispersed by the mere pressure of the Sovereign’s overwhelming aura. “Mo...hn...ster!”
Still smiling, Janice raises her sword and places the tip at the Emperor’s chest. Then, she slowly and very deliberately pushes it inside, and through his body, enjoying every sacred moment.