Metaworld Chronicles

by

Wutosama

Chapter 159 - Between Concrete and a Hard Place

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A note from Wutosama

This one was better than I thought , not much editing needed 

Warning, cliff no. 2 


It was Kitty who intervened, sparing Gwen from finding out whether her non-newtonian shield was capable of absorbing the impact from an iron girder falling from the N(th) storey of a high-rise.

As the frontal lobe of Gwen's Shield cracked, taking on the likeness of frosted glass, Kitty instantly completed the circuit for a Wall of Ice which erupted underfoot from where Gwen halted the strike, diverting the momentum of the terrific blow aside, shattering as it consumed the kinetic energy.

The foursome then turned their gaze upward, where the transmuted aperture of the ceiling gaped like a dark maw with folded iron for teeth.

There was first a smell of burnt flesh, then a girl-Mage descended through the air.

“Lulan?!” Gwen spluttered with shock and bewilderment, her Divination Sigil screeching like a cat dragged across a chalkboard. “W-what are you doing here? Were you in that room?!”

The girl was half-naked and half-baked. Her Earth-enchanted riding leather destroyed by the baptism of lightning, her intimates and her singlet reduced to ashes. Her beautiful head of hair was a charred mess, smoking in clumps and missing most of its mass. Her eyebrows were gone as well, giving her a comical expression, while her skin wept from a dozen wounds gooey with mangled heat-rash. There was blood seeping down from her ears and her nostrils, but even so, her irises were two glowing orbs of molten iron locked solely onto Gwen.

When she opened her mouth to speak, Gwen swore she could see smoke billowing from Lulan’s throat.

“Gwen Song… Daggers… give me back brother’s daggers," she murmured, spitting splutters of scarlet with every rise and fall of her chest.

“…” Gwen felt an impulse to lie - to delay until they had the time and convenience to sort out Lulan without a dozen Slavers rushing toward their location as they dallied. She had no doubt that by now, the other Slavers knew their monster was a smoking mess of ravaged offal, how long would it take them traverse three levels? "Lulan, are you wit-"

“Cao! We don’t have time for this.” Kitty hissed. “Glacial Spike!”

A conic missile of ice materialised with a crinkling clatter of frigid air, then launched itself with terrific velocity toward Lulan.

“Parry!”

Effortlessly, Lulan raised a hand. From thin-air formed a slab of iron which took the force of the blast full on. A rush of cold air filled the space between Gwen and Lulan as Kitty’s spell exploded, half covering the blade with rime.

The blade barrier barely moved.

Kitty’s brows knitted. That was a tier 4 Evocation spell, and Lulan wasn’t an Abjurer. Was the girl using the weight of her blade as a form of defence? How stoic was a slab of iron ripped from the bowels of the Elemental Plane of Earth!

Gwen attempted to disarm the girl verbally.

“Lulan, listen to me, now’s not the time to discuss Kusu’s implements. If you could just calm down for a minute-“

“Don't lie to me!” Lulan's face was a mask of anguish and pain, livid with suffering. “THRUST!”

Another girder of iron took a split second to materialise, then sped toward Gwen’s Shield with the momentum of a rockslide.

“Fuck!” Richard snapped, his patience depleted. He felt supremely irritated that his water Shields were weak against a specific type of magic: pinpoint, solid-core projectiles, and it just so happens that Lulan specialised in that very attack. In a manner of speaking, Mages of Lulan's style were the scissor to his paper. Now he had to resort to cruder methods to deal with the girl.

He had wanted Gwen to continue her training - but it looked as though circumstances had rapidly changed for the worse.

“LEAVE HER! Regroup! Back to the tunnels!” he shouted at the others. The worst case scenario would be if they ended up being boxed in.

Seeing as his Water Shields were ineffective, Richard turned to Lulan, who was mercilessly hammering away at Gwen while parrying projectiles from Kitty. Without a healer, Gwen dared not over-utilise her Void Abilities, by that same measure, she could not both defend against Lulan’s sword strikes while also cast her own spells. Given a few seconds to recover, Gwen could bring out her Familiars and turn the tide, but her cousin should hold her cards close to her chest. The Slavers had to be related to the sudden appearance of Lulan in their midst, for all he knew, she could be in cahoots, though that seemed unlikely, knowing her history and the modus of the Clans.

He had to make this quick.

“Lea! Elemental Form!”

Silvery Conjuration filled the air as Richard’s Undine manifested in full. It was the first time Gwen had seen Richard Conjure Lea in her entirety - and the effect reminded her of when her Master brought forth Sufina's full power.

A resplendent goddess in blue materialised, hovering six feet from the floor, instantly drawing every mote of elemental water toward her consolidating form. Lea’s impossibly beautiful face, ethereal and elven, solidified from the aether. First, a head full of rope-like cobalt hair, followed by a long, elegant neck, a serpentine waist and two pale white stalks for legs. As her elfin form solidified, motes of bean-green mossy liquid dripped from her toes.

“Human! Release your weapon and begone!” Lea commanded Lulan, her fluttering, inch-long lashes opening to reveal sapphire-blue eyes without pupils. Her voice was ethereal, unearthly, informing the young Mages in front and behind that indeed, she was a higher-order being, a denizen of the Elemental Plane of Water.

What greeted Lea was a Sweep, cutting her watery torso in half.

Water was the most harmonious of all elements. The very weakness that ensured Richard’s Shields could not block Lulan’s attacks, also implied Lulan could not harm Richard’s familiar. Lea scoffed, how could an apish brute assail the likes of a water Goddess?

"Lea!" Richard urged his familiar to attack more, posture less. Elemental manifestation consumed mana at an atrocious rate.

Lea’s eyes flashed. She called upon her contracted partner, and Richard allowed her the liberty of taking whatever she required. Unlike Caliban, Lea knew her Master’s limitations.

She opened her mouth, and what emerged was a string of strange invocations innate to creatures of her Elemental race.

Unlike the magic of men, the Undine was herself a creature connected to the Plane of Water, a place of infinite mass and space. As a creature of the estuary and the river, Lea’s link to the Plane was with the brackish flow of streams fecund with life.

With a simple gesture, she opened an elliptic portal four-foot in diameter. A jet blast of water, forced under the immense pressure of the near-infinite tonnage of the watery Plane, erupted horizontally and struck Lulan across the chest, blasting her off her feet and launching the unsuspecting Sword Mage into the furthest concrete wall.

Four seconds later, Richard was stumbling.

“Lea!” He called out weakly.

Wistfully, his Familiar closed the elemental gate.

Dark and tenebrous waters thick with reeds and silt, now knee-deep, sloshed back and forth across the filtration room. The party turned their attention toward the concrete wall, where Lulan’s body had been pressed against the rebar-reinforced concrete.

The Sword Mage's arm was twisted in impossible directions, broken in two places, one leg now hung limply.

With an almost comical slowness, like a mannikin with its joints smashed, she slid from the wall into the water.

The only indication that she was still alive was the dull glow of wine still circulating in her eyes, glaring at Gwen with a dark and resolute passion.

Lulan made an attempt to move, but a racking pain seemed to overcome her twisted body, sending a jolt of agony into her face despite her most ardent effort to remain stoic and impassive. When she attempted again to lift herself from the floor, a torrent of blood gushed from her nostrils, indicating extensive internal damage, or a punctured lung where a rib had been dislodged.

I should work on that spell some more. Richard thought. So much for a one-hit kill.

The others could scarcely believe Lulan was alive as well.

Richard’s eyes moved from Gwen to Lulan, then to Kitty and Mayuree, pondering the possibilities.

If he could get Gwen to be alone with Lulan, who had a rare ability indeed, then…

But how could he convince Gwen to perform the deed?

It would have been perfect if Lulan had attacked them first, but now everything was muddled - who would have thought she would have burst into the Crawler’s room at the final second of Gwen’s Elemental Sphere? If they had more time for Lulan to wear down Gwen's Shield, that would have likewise worked Gwen's blood up.

But not now.
Now was the time to regroup and reassess.

Lea returned to Richard's side, again becoming ethereal and invisible. Manifesting Lea in her full glory was no easy task for a Conjurer without the necessary expertise to control a high-tier humanoid spirit, much less utilising her innate ability to such a degree.

Richard materialised a mana potion and injected himself in the thigh, feeling his reserves revitalise. Alchemy fatigue implied that his next dose would only be half as effective before the potion’s cooldown ticked off.

“Gwen, you alright?”

“Y-yeah. Strewth, where did Lulan come from? Jesus…” Gwen muttered, still shaking herself from the rapidly escalating events of the last two minutes or so. "By the way, bloody impressive spell, Dick."

Richard watched Gwen dispel her damaged Shield. The fact that she tanked Lulan’s sword-spells as a tier 1 Abjurer with nothing but a Signature Shield and her mana reserve was a miracle in itself. In a manner of speaking, she was the Rock to Lulan's scissors.

“Are we finishing her off?” Kitty turned to Gwen. “Your enemy, your choice.”

“Gwen,” Richard wondered if now was the right time to broach the subject of waste not, want not. After all, they had to go.

“!”

“!!!”

His morbid advice was interjected by Gwen and Mayuree suddenly tensing. Gwen looked about bewilderingly, while Mayuree glanced straight upward toward the hole where Lulan had come through. By now, Richard had seen their reactions enough to know that this meant another episode of potential danger would soon follow.

“DODGE!” Mayuree shouted, moving to the side.

“Shield!” Richard called out to his familiar. “LEA! MAKE A DOME NOW!”

Lea instantly formed an umbrella-shaped Shield large enough to cover both himself and Gwen, but still, the flood of milky white liquid that came from above splattered off the walls and splashed on the Shield, frothing as it slid into the knee-deep water.

Besides Richard, Kitty had done for Mayuree what Richard had done for Gwen, erecting a wall of ice that momentarily protruded from an adjacent wall to act as her cover while she herself floated elegantly, effortlessly dodging the incoming tide of viscous fluid.

When the foursome looked up, they could see five aberrant silhouettes imposed against a blinding backlight of Dancing Lights descending toward them.

Five Carrion Crawlers, each more massive than the one Gwen had slain, were roving downward toward them, adhering to the smooth sides of the hole shaped by Lulan when she had earlier intruded into the chamber.

Fucking Five?! Richard felt his mind reel with an unpleasant realisation. So they were breeding them! This wasn’t just a single creature being reared for whatever nefarious reason! This was a large-scale professional set up! They had all underestimated the criminal undercurrent running under the ferroconcrete of the Lost Districts!

BUT wait! Richard felt his own rationality challenged by their precarious circumstance. None of this made any sense. What would some ruffians from the Triads gain by attacking them? Did these fools have a death wish? Are they not afraid the entire District could be purged? They were LCSS candidates. Mayuree was a scion from the House of M! Kitty was from God knows where, and Gwen…

He scanned his companions.

Was it for Gwen? Is that why these Slavers were here? Did the Slavers have some kind of network where they communicated and exchanged information on ‘rare specimens’ akin to how collectors traded secrets on the location of rare and exotic Magical Beasts? He knew from his experience in Prince’s that some of his schoolmates would pay hundred of HDMs for the location of rare fauna, like the Glass-Winged Butterfly, just so that they could have exotic Familiars or boast to others of their collection. Wouldn’t someone like Gwen be the pinnacle of that sort of collection? Like a real-life Chimaeric Birdwing or the elusive black-white Panda Bear?

Richard circulated a mote of mana through his body, then assessed his condition. If he took the second injector now, he could likely persuade Lea to open with a second blast of water which would eject these creatures entirely, or at least reduce their number by two or three.

It would be a precarious move though, Richard regarded the space behind the creatures, covered by the glittering mass of Dancing Lights. Was this group the ones who they'd seen before? Or were they another party? If they had a tier 4 Transmuter up there...

* * *

Lulan felt the red mist fall away.

The berserker’s haze had not departed by choice. It was forced to retreat by her battered body, no longer capable of sustaining the stress put on by the Heart of Iron.

Then came the pain.
Searing, burning, scalding pain that oppressed the breath in her body.

Barely lucid with torturous injury, she watched the Water Mage who was with Gwen erect an impressive dome that splashed the milky liquid all over, splattering the walls and herself. Where the liquid touched her bleeding body, it quickly frothed, soaking into her skin.

Numbness, paralysis, then incapacitation, Lulan recognised the symptoms but was glad for the anaesthesia they provided. Without the chemical insensibility, she would have likely perished from the shock.

She recognised the beasts as Carrion Crawlers - specially bred ones with a highly potent dose of the paralytic saliva. From the bestiary, she knew that despite the aberrant nature of the crawlers, they were often bred for the many medicinal agents that could be extracted from their body. Their saliva could be distilled to become poison, or used as an agent for morphine, or synthesised into alchemical gas for use in the battlefield against the armoured troops of Demi-humans like Orcs or Hobs. Their ichorous blue blood was likewise a precious reagent used in healing magic or even distilled to produce a potent opioid.

Her thoughts drifted.

With a wet plop, a Crawler landed beside her.

Lulan was covered with wounds and on the verge of death.

That made her its favourite sort of prey.

The pallid-fleshed aberration approached. From either side of its teeth-lined maw, extended two pairs of suction-cupped tentacles barbed with jaundiced teeth-hooks.

Lulan felt the birth of a new awareness press upon her brain, one that only now she knew in its entirely - despair. The despair of knowing one died for nothing.

Was this how her life was going to end? Like a dog with its legs snapped, fed to a monster like carrion?

Kusu… she had caused him no ends of trouble.

As the Crawler’s tentacles grappled her flesh, Lulan wondered if her brother would cry.

* * *

The party had made it no more than a dozen meters back the other way when they ran into the ‘ambush’ party that they had seen in the upper chambers of B4, ratifying Richard's worst fears.

The Mages in the enemy party immediately opened up with a barrage of Flaming Hands, Magic Missiles, and Scorching Rays. An Abjurer in the ambush party brushed away a few Water Bolts Richard sent his way, erecting a half-dome Earthen Shield, forming a pincer attack with the Mages from the other side.

“Shit!” Richard now knew the meaning of one step wrong, then every step you're fucked sideways. He had placed too much faith in Mayuree’s detection spells and vastly underestimated the complexity of the tunnels that had been worked into the basement by the locals.

Mayuree’s demonstration of her prowess had proved too impressive. Her seemingly omniscient knowledge of the lay of the land had made them all lower their guard. Locating the creature and scouting the tunnels that lead to it was one thing - but they should have had the patience to also scout out the other tunnels with her Arcane Eye.

Then there was Gwen's proposal.

Was it her fault then? She was the one who had urged that they immediately slay the creature and extract themselves from the level for 5 quick CCs. In and out. It was Gwen who had refused to hunt down the Mages first, group by group. If that had been the case, they wouldn't be in this precarious situation.

Or was it Lulan's fault, or were greater powers at play?

He glanced over at his cousin, who was firing off Lighting Bolts at the Crawlers. As usual, her spells were supremely effective against Magic Creatures, and the deranged worms screeched and screamed as they fried.

Kitty likewise, was flitting back and forth through the air, nimbly firing off darts of ‘Glacial Spike’ that on impact, snapped off tentacles and slowed the Crawler’s movements.

Mayuree now exhibited the classic weakness of the single-class Diviner, she had to rely on her expendable Wands, blasting away at the Crawlers and keeping them at bay with Scorching Ray and Magic Missiles. In addition, it was up to Richard as the Abjurer to protect her, as her unfortunate Lightning affinity made her shields paper-thin, unlike Gwen, she both lacked her absurd mana capacity and Gunther's tutelage.

“Gwen! Can you get us out of here?” Richard implored his cousin. “I can keep us Shielded while you work the Dimension Door.”

Gwen could teleport one of them at a time, with her mana pool, she should be able to take Mayuree and Kitty to safety. As for himself, Richard was confident that should he flood the tunnels with Lea, he could at least escape.

“I can-”

‘THUMP!’

Gwen’s answer was lost as a blast of explosive air discharged in the middle of Richard’s Shield, displacing the flowing mass of water for a split second. To her horror, a few splattered drops of the vicious, creamy Crawler phlegm landed across his face and arms.

“Fuck!” Richard immediately directed a stream of clear water to his face and limb. His timely action was sound, but the venom was most potent.

Gwen watched as Richard’s face drooped, losing all expression.

“WEER!” Richard called for his Familiar once more.

Lea manifested and took over Richard’s Shielding of his companions, demonstrating one of the supreme reasons Creature Conjurers were unmatched. Richard fumbled in his Ring and produced a Remove Poison injector and slammed it into his thigh.

“Garrrgh!” He grunted as the magical adrenaline dispelled the paralytic alchemical effect. "FARRRK!"

“Blizzard!” Seeing Richard taking a hit, Kitty could no longer hope to preserve her mana. She turned upward the front of the party where the second group Slavers were trying to close in, then opened up a long range, wide radius AOE.

Instantly, shards of ice and slivers of arcane frost pelted the Abjurer’s Shields, turning the ground to slush and rime.

“Gwen! Help Kitty!”

By now, Gwen had taken enough of a breather to resummon both her familiars. Caliban she had to be wary of using, for she no longer had the Kirin Amulet, but Ariel she could use to its full extent.

“Caliban! Keep them off us! Clear a path!”

Caliban had taken on its most mana-efficient form, the scorpion-spider.

Her netherworld fiend leapt into being, taking with it a chunk of her vitality no longer offset by her waning supply of Druidic essence, then charged the crawlers with its scything limbs.

“Ariel!”

Her marten emerged in its Mongoose form, doubling the firepower of her Evocation Lightning.

Between their Glacial Spikes, Lighting Bolts, Wands and Richard’s Shielding, the second ambush party slowed to a proverbial crawl, becoming entrenched by their defence. As for the other side, the carrion feeders were fighting a protracted battle. To the student Mages, it meant that the Slavers had someone capable of controlling these creatures, likely a specialist handler skilled in rearing these things.

“Blast BOLT!” Gwen gritted her teeth and channelled a sizeable portion of her mana through both herself and Ariel. The twin blasts of arcing electricity connected with the group of Crawlers, striking three in a row. Immediately, the tunnel filled with fumes reeking of cooked flesh.

“KEEEeeeaaaAAAAAA!”

The creatures' screech was like a mob of insane infants.

In the next moment, the party had expected the things to explode, or fall, or topple over.

Instead, the whole group of Crawlers glowed a shade of emerald, then came on with redoubled effort.

“Healing Magic!” Mayuree cried out in dismay. “They have a healer with them!”

"Oh, you gotta be shitting me!" Gwen gnashed her teeth! That was almost a quarter of her mana!

The party regarded one another with looks of doubt and disbelief, hesitant at this new information, A Combat Healer? The Slavers - ruffians and scoundrels of the undercity - had a Cleric with them? It was already absurd that some mid-tier Mages from the Lost Districts were pinning them in a tunnel with sedan sized maggots. But now they also have a healer capable of casting ranged AOE heals? That would make the healer at tier 6 at the very least! Why would a Magus traffic with these scum, and of all the Mage classes, a Cleric?

As one, they thought about Secretariat Choi’s offer of 20 CCs.

If this hidden prize was what the CCs were for, then it made perfect sense.

The problem now was that rather than celebrating their find, they were stuck between a rock and a hard place. The escalation of their already dire circumstances meant they could be injured and sent back in disgrace.

As for death or capture? The risk was not high.

Gwen could escape by herself, though she would refuse. Her mana pool and her Dimension Door made her the least likely to be caught.
Kitty could also escape by herself, but likewise, she would not leave Mayuree.
Moreover, Gwen could take one of them with her, which meant Mayuree.
As for Richard, he could escape with Lea's help via the vents.

The problem was that should they split the party, they risked putting themselves and each other in greater danger. What if they escaped the frying pan, only to find themselves in the fire?

If they were caught alone, it would truly be the end.

Had Secretariat Choi anticipated this? Would the smiling villain come to their rescue? Most importantly, if the students were maimed, would he be held accountable? As far as Richard could deduce, fear of disadvantage to himself was the only reason why the Major would send someone to aid them.

‘Crack!’

The student Mages became aware of another impending crisis.

“WOCAO!” Even Mayuree was losing her cool. “Someone’s using Stone Shape on the walls! They're trying to box us in!"

She quickly materialised her Stone Shape wand and countered with her own Transmutation. Comparatively, her wand was at the minimum tier required for the spell, possessing only ten charges, meaning a maximum of eight odd minutes. The opposing Transmuter, assuming they were of average talent, could keep casting until they were OOM, furthermore restoring themselves with injectors.

“Kitty?” Gwen turned to their Transmuter. "Can you Stone Shape?"

“I am an ICE MAGE!” Kitty snapped at Gwen cattily. “AIR and WATER!”

‘Crack… Crack!’

The walls were moving in closer.

“MAO!” Mayuree knew then that her wand lacked the potency to compete with the affinity of the Mage on the Crawler's side. The Wand spells were meant as conveniences, like opening a hole or moving a wall, not for construction nor extended spell-duels.

“Gwen! Take Mayuree out of here with your Dimension Door!” Kitty yelled.

“We'll be fine!” Richard affirmed Kitty's call for an expeditious retreat. “Pop a potion, take Mayuree, and get out of here. Go!”

Gwen looked toward Mayuree, who shook her head angrily.

“I am not leaving the two of you!”

“Now’s not the time, you idiot!” Kitty was losing her patience. “Richard has Lea, and I can fly and Blink!”

The walls closed in.

FUCK! Gwen’s mind screamed with frustration. FUCK! FUCK! FUCK! I got us into this shit hole. I was too busy pussyfooting to murder these assholes in cold blood, and now they’re trying to fuck us! No, they’re fucking us right now! God damn it!

She needed to get them out of there somehow.

ELEMENTAL SWARM - she thought immediately. The Void variety.

But that was a double-edged blade.

If she drained her vitality and sucked dry her druidic essence, she was confident she could clear everything within a radius of fifty meters. The problem was that the Swarm could not identity friend-foe other than herself, the chances of her summons attacking her allies were high.

Elemental Sphere? The AOE was too small to encompass both front and back, not to mention she now lacked the Druidic Essence for the version Ariel had manifested earlier. She could invigorate a Lightning Bolt or two though, as a last resort.

‘Crack!’ ‘Crack!’ ‘Crack!’

The walls shuddered.

If only they had an Earthen Transmu-

Gwen felt the light of epiphany ignite in her mind, paralleling the twin blasts of lightning she was feeding front and back.

Who said they didn’t have an Earthen Transmuter? Didn’t one just fall through the roof? She wanted her brother’s daggers, didn’t she?

Gwen turned to Richard.

“I am going to get Lulan! She got us into this, and she can get us out of this!” She shouted over the ding of Crawlers, the crumbling tunnel, the splashing of poison on Shields, and bursts of blizzard and ice to their front and back.

“How do you know she’s not with them?” Kitty shouted back.

“You think Lulan is capable of laying a trap like this?” Gwen fired back. “We need her - there's no time! I am going to make her an offer she can't refuse!”

“That's absurd! Don't waste your fucking time, get Mi-"

“Kitty! SHUT UP!” Mayuree screamed at her friend, causing her to flinch. “Gwen, go! You can do it. I know you can.”

Kitty looked at her friend, who looked apologetic, then glared at Gwen with her jaws clenched in vexation.

“Gwen, are you sure?” Richard asked. “I can manage one more push with Lea. We can bullrush the rear. What if Lulan is dead?”

"She's alive," Mayuree said suddenly. "I can sense her still. She's in bad shape though."

The party turned to Mayuree.

“It'll work,” the Diviner reminded them cryptically. "I have a good feeling about this."

"Thanks, Mia," Gwen turned toward the direction where she had last seen Lulan. The girl had been wounded badly, but Gwen had a solution for that. So long as the Sword Mage still had breath, Gwen was sure she could bring her around. “Caliban, distract them! Ariel! You help!”

“SHAAAA! Shaa!”
“EEEeee! EEee!”

Gwen stabbed a mana potion into her thigh and felt her reserves tick over three-quarters.

“Enhanced Strength!”
“Enhanced Agility!”

Gwen shook out her reinforced body, feeling the empowering magic encompassing every sinew and muscle. Gwen then produced her Chameleon Cloak and wrapped it around her shoulders, covering the top half of her body.

“Be careful out here. If it doesn’t work or Lulan refuses - come back and Dimension Door Mayuree out first,” Richard advised.

Gwen affirmed Richard's wisdom with a nod.

She was confident her plan would work as well. It was a win-win for herself, for Lulan, and for her party. If the girl was idiotic or thick-headed enough to refuse, then the onus of what happened next was on her.

Gwen readied herself.

Her heart was pounding at her chest with a cadence that would have driven her old world physician wild with panic. She was the one who got them into this mess, and now she had to dig them out of this hole. From the moment she had dealt with Lulan with timidity, a scenario such as this was put in motion. She had to become stronger, but it didn't mean she had to resort to the lowest denominator. There were other ways that one could become strong.

Gwen took a deep breath.

“Dimension Door!”

With her growing command of the spell, she could teleport further and more accurately. She calculated precisely the distance to where she had last seen Lulan, then released the spell.

Her exit was a slight wrinkle in space, but her arrival was a tenebrous burst of inky Void. Though precarious, she preferred the Void version of her Dimension Door, because unlike the Lightning's thunderclap, the vitality-expanding variety was whisper quiet.

She appeared a safe distance away from the slavers.
Gwen orientated herself and looked down toward Lulan’s body.

JESUS! Her mind reeled and recoiled as she caught sight of the Sword Mage a few feet away, half submerged in the brackish water.

Lulan Li was missing an arm and half-covered in viscous white-goo. From the looks of the stump, one of the Crawlers had chewed it off a few moments ago. Were it not for the fact that somehow, Lulan’s reinforcement Magic still coloured her pale complexion with a reddish shade, Gwen would have teleported back already.

Gwen materialised a thick blanket, ready to wrap the girl.

The only part of Lulan’s corpse-like form that moved was her eyes.

A pair or pupils the colour of wine glared at Gwen with a resentment that could set the world on fire.

Gwen met Lulan's eyes without hesitation.

"Lulan Li," she spoke with absolute certainty. "Come with me if you want to live."

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Wutosama

Bio: I write on the phone and edit at home. Times are tough!

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