Adgito gripped her bare toes around the brim of the soldier’s helmet as her foot made contact, turning the kick into a huge step forward that slammed the soldier backwards onto the ground. The impact made the metal brim dig into the underside of Adgito’s foot enough to trigger a transformation, flattening out her features to become more masculine and rapidly reshaping Adgito’s body into a living metallic juggernaut.
He now looked more or less like his basic male form, except his body gleamed with the same shining white metal that the Elpis soldier's armor was made out of. He appeared as a statue of himself, and it became clear the metal wasn’t for show as the soldier he stepped on pulled out his dagger and clanked it uselessly against Adgito’s calf.
Well, mostly uselessly. It did succeed at tearing a hole into Darron’s on-loan pants, but Adgito was frankly feeling lucky they had lasted as long as they did.
The two soldiers on either side of him quickly had their swords out and moved to cut him down. The full-size blades were much heavier and swung with far greater force than a dagger from a pinned man, staggering Adgito with their combined weight as they crashed into his backside. They failed to pierce his metal body, but the impact still hurt.
Shara was on top of one an instant afterwards, knocking him five feet back with a punch that crumpled the front of his armor into scrap. Adgito’s brain had to do a bit of a double-take at that one. She punched his armor into scrap? What kind of milk did this girl drink?
Before he could finish processing that, Shara grabbed Darron under one arm, hooked Adgito’s waist under the other, and leapt– soaring over the heads of the soldiers and into the rapidly-panicking crowd with a crash.
“Aelius’s piss you are HEAVY!” Shara growled as she broke off into a crowd-scattering sprint, still carrying both men. The incredible speed she was able to travel startled Adgito almost as much as her absurd punch.
“Of course I’m heavy!” Adgito countered back, “I’m like, solid metal! You shouldn’t be able to lift me at all! What kinda crazy ogre girl are you?”
“I’m crazy??? You just started a fight with a nation in the middle of their own parade! Not that I’m not flattered, but seriously? Not the best time!”
Adgito looked across Shara over at Darron, who was dangling in her arms with a bored expression that indicated he’d traveled this way many times before. He shrugged.
“It looks like you’re outpacing them, at least, even with the extra baggage.” Darron observed. “But I suspect it’s a temporary thing.”
“Very temporary!” Shara huffed, “Adgito, how long are you going to stay like this? You weigh almost as much as a cow!”
“If you move your hand so you’re in contact with my skin, a transformation should trigger soon enough.” Adgito explained, letting the claim that he was just baggage slide for now. Couldn’t Darron just be grateful that Adgito tried to help?
“That’s not really what I mean by ‘temporary,’” Darron grumbled. “I mean that there’s only so long we can run from a nation. It won’t be hard for them to surround us with their men stationed all over the city.”
“Then we’ll take the quickest route out of the city,” Shara said, “and book it to Mount Phlegethos. Adgito, where are we going?”
Huh, where were they going? Adgito had to admit he hadn’t really thought this one through. He just didn’t like how those guys were picking on Shara, so he kicked them in the face.
“Eh, we’re near the west edge of the city so just keep taking side-streets that head that way and you’ll hit the outer wall pretty soon,” Adgito said. “You guys can leave me here. I’ll be fine, I’m just an accessory or whatever, right?”
“An accessory to murder.” Darron clarified. “Or at least an accessory to conspiracy to commit murder, but either way with over two hundred counts you’ll probably get a life jail sentence. At minimum.”
“Don’t forget assault and battery on a military officer!” Shara chimed in.
Oh. That actually sounded rather bad. Adgito had gone to jail before for getting in a tussle, but looking back it was mostly with other homeless people and undesirables, never anyone important. He would sit back and enjoy his three hots and a cot for a few months and get out on good behavior most of the time. This… was starting to look a little more serious than that. Did he just become a terrorist, or something? He really didn’t think this through.
Was it so bad, though? Sure, Adgito’s life had stabilized recently. Thanks to Mrs. Garnersworth, he’d finally managed to get out of the worst of his depression and start living a comfortable enough life. But… he wasn’t doing anything. Today had been one of the most interesting and memorable days of his life, even before he became a maybe-terrorist.
Speaking of maybe-terrorism, though, Adgito wasn’t sure how innocent Shara really was. She was kind, attractive, intelligent, patient, and thoughtful, but… innocent? He really couldn’t be sure. She certainly left a nice first impression, and Adgito had acted on that, but now it was starting to look like she was also absurdly powerful and dangerously emotional. But, wouldn’t he be kind of emotional too in her situation? Something about these guys killing her family?
Eh, it didn’t really matter, Adgito decided. He threw his chips in when he threw that kick, and it was too late to recoup his losses by folding now.
“Um, is it okay if I come with you guys?” Adgito asked.
Shara grinned widely, leaping over a few terrified bystanders.
“Oh, yes please! I’m counting on you to get us through the outer gate.”
“Well, you’re super heavy right now, right?” Shara asked sweetly, barreling over a nearby guard.
“And, on a scale of one to ten… how injured would you actually end up if someone slammed you super hard into a giant wooden door? Hypothetically.”
On second thought, maybe it wasn’t too late to fold after all.
“...It would still hurt,” he replied.
“But no permanent injuries?” Shara pressed. “I don’t want to use you like this, but I don’t have a lot of options here.”
Adgito really, really didn’t think this through.
“I would probably be fine,” Adgito conceded, “but don’t you think you could use literally anything else for your battering ram instead?”
“Sure, but I’d need a free hand,” Shara explained, “Which means dropping you or Darron and feeding you to the army. Even carrying your fat butt I’m fast enough to outpace all the soldiers you pissed off, but I doubt you could keep pace. And I know Darron certainly can’t!”
Darron shrugged nonchalantly as Shara wall-jumped up an alleyway to clear a hastily-strewn blockade, leaving boot-shaped holes in the side of the brick buildings. Adgito had to admit… he could not do that, or anything even remotely close. He was honestly shocked that anybody could, and was generally having a hard time processing that he was a participant in this absurd situation rather than just a bystander.
“Everything about this is terrible,” Darron informed Adgito reassuringly, “and I’d be fine with Shara just dropping you. But since that’s probably not happening, can we at least count on your help in getting us out of here? It’s sort of your fault that we have to do this.”
“...Darron, this was pretty much guaranteed to happen as soon as Elpis put false charges on me,” Shara countered. “Adgito just upped the timetable. It’s my fault we’re in this mess, not his.”
Darron grunted in response but didn’t press the issue, for which Adgito was grateful. He honestly kind of had to agree with Darron in this case: he’d screwed up bad. The least he could do was try to pick up the pieces. He opened his mouth to ask what he should do to help.
“Just try and stay as stiff as you can,” Shara said before he could make any noise, “They’re ready for us, and this is going to get rough.”
Adgito did as instructed, and Shara brought him around to the front of her body, holding him up like a shield. She did the opposite with Darron, holding him upside-down behind her back. It wasn’t an elegant formation, as Adgito’s larger body ended up completely blocking Shara’s field of view, but it at least made firing on Shara or Darron from the front a very difficult prospect.
Now that he was facing forward, Adgito could see that they had reached an open square, apparently evacuated except for the solid gathering of Elpis soldiers and town guardsmen lined up before the west gate. The great walls of Terranburg stood firm behind them, with the wooden door that signified their freedom directly ahead. Crossbows of various sizes were in pointed their direction as an Elpisian officer called for the trio to stand down or be fired upon. With nothing but flat, empty ground between them, Shara sped up.
“Eyes forward!” Shara commanded, “Keep your attention on the guys with the biggest weapons! Anything that can punch through you, I need to know about!”
Adgito did as instructed, scanning the rank of attackers before them. Metal crossbow bolts would sting, but he doubted any could punch through him in this form. He was far more worried about mages– a solid spell would not only hurt like the mother he never had, it would likely also force Adgito to change forms, thereby making him vulnerable to crossbow bolts once again. While Adgito seriously doubted he’d be killed personally, being made of, say, lightning would probably work out badly for anyone trying to hold him as a shield.
Fortunately, Shara’s inhuman speed seemed to allow the three of them to reach the west square before any Elpisian mage lines could arrive. Adgito saw only a single line of crossbowmen, and with a command from their officer all fifteen of them fired upon the approaching trio.
The bolts struck true, but most of them clattered uselessly against Adgito’s body, damaging little more than his outfit. One or two connected a glancing blow against Shara’s arm, which was wrapped around his body to hold him up, but got rejected by an invisible force that Adgito assumed to be the girl’s barrier. A single bolt hit her forearm dead-on, however, piercing through her defenses and inciting a hiss of pain from behind him. After thinking for a moment, Adgito moved his own arms to cover Shara’s for the next volley, embarrassed for not thinking of it sooner.
A thunderous crash suddenly tore into the ground next to Adgito, kicking up cobblestones and sending chips of the ground clattering against his frame. What looked to be a giant spear had impacted the earth next to them, coming from... utop the wall?
Adgito looked up for the first time to see that the army had rotated the titans-damned ballistas that were used to repel monsters to point inside the city. Quite a few more were aimed in their direction, and an Elpisian officer politely informed them to once again stand down or face more than a simple warning shot.
Now, see, that could punch through Adgito. Even if he ended up being tougher than he thought, the force of a ballista round would absolutely knock Shara off her feet and send this whole escape plan to a crashing halt. He opened his mouth to warn her, but she cut him off again. Rude.
“Okay, that was exactly the kind of thing I needed to know about!” Shara yelled between his shoulder blades. “Eyes up! Keep watch on all of those ballistas! Don’t let a single bolt catch you by surprise! Focus!”
At this point, Adgito just wanted to surrender. But in the heat of the moment he did as instructed once again, watching on in horror as the half-dozen ballistas aimed their way unleashed death around them.
Shara kicked into high gear, weaving left and right with such force that Adgito felt he had been caught under whitewater rapids, yanked and slammed and twisted seemingly at random as the ground exploded around them. Through the dust and the chaos Adgito felt another dozen crossbow bolts clatter against him, and heard Shara hiss out another grunt of pain. Yet they pulled out of the madness, and Adgito saw that bare seconds separated them from the gate. It was closed, naturally, and while the large door was wooden rather than the solid stone of the rest of the walls, Adgito doubted even a brute like Shara could just knock it down on a whim. What the heck was her plan?
“I’m throwing you!” Shara suddenly called out.
“Sorry, what?’ Adgito asked.
Shara hefted Adgito up with a light toss and re-grabbed him by the ankle. Before he could start falling properly she yanked him around, spinning him like a discus. Even Adgito’s metal body felt like the centripetal force was going to pull him apart before he was finally hurled, with the full extent of Shara’s considerable might, at the gate before them.
Traveling at speeds he never imagined possible, Adgito crashed into infantry and scattered them like bowling pins. He collided with the gate hard enough to make a catapult blush in embarrassment, rocking his body with a devastating vibration that left him completely stunned. The wood splintered significantly, but the gate held.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Shara manage to pass her way through the opening he made in the military line, using her now-free hand to flip Darron right-side up. He attached himself to her like a desperate and terrified backpack, legs crossed around her waist and arms wrapped just above her chest. The crossbow bolt from earlier was still wedged inside her arm, and she was bleeding heavily from a new gouge in her thigh. Nonetheless, Shara continued her sprint towards Adgito without slowing down, and right when his stunned mind started to wonder how she was going to avoid running face-first into the wall, she jumped.
Twisting backwards in the air, Shara coiled her legs back, aimed the soles of her feet at Adgito’s impact spot, and…
Adgito’s hazy mind had tried to get him to stand up in his post-collision confusion, placing him smack in the middle of the weakened wood and the one-woman wrecking ball. Shara’s dropkick caught him square in the chest, launching him the rest of the way through the splintered gate and causing him to tumble a couple yards out from the city before skidding to a stop. Shara herself continued her flight through the new opening as well, but had a somewhat more elegant solution to slowing her momentum. Twisting around like a cat, she lightly tapped the ground with both arms and legs, turning her would-be faceplant into a second jump that ended with a perfect land on her feet. A horrified Darron clung to his sister for dear life, cuts and splinters dripping light touches of red down any part of his body that hadn’t been protected by heavy clothing.
Immediately after regaining her bearings, Shara ran over to where Adgito lay crumpled on the ground and, for the first time since asking about it, made made contact with his metallic skin.
“Hey, you okay? I’m so sorry!” Shara asked as Adgito’s battered body gratefully accepted the transformation, blossoming into womanhood once again as crumpled metal melted away into skin.
“Just… peachy,” Adgito groaned. The transformation process healed most of her actual injuries, but now she was just feeling sick.
She really, really, really didn’t think this through.
“Okay, I’m picking you up again,” Shara informed her, and scooped Adgito up in bridal carry. “Sorry about that. But... also thank you! You saved our butts.” Before Adgito could respond, Shara was off and running again, hugging the west wall to the city as she traveled so the remaining ballista couldn’t get an angle to fire. By the time the soldiers picked themselves back up and made their way through the hole in the gate, Shara had put a considerable enough distance between them that nobody thought they’d be able to successfully chase. A few errant crossbow bolts headed their way, but none found their mark.
“Darron, be my eyes behind and try to stop me from bleeding out,” Shara instructed. “Adgito, could you try to pull the crossbow bolt out of my arm in a bit? It’s gonna be a nasty sprint once we hit the north edge of the city, and I’d like to have all my limbs ready. Nothing but foothills between us and the mountains, they’ll have a pretty clear shot.”
“Speaking of the mountains,” Darron said as he began to weave a spell, “what exactly is your plan when we get there? Are you just going to run us both all the way to Hydronia? We’re not going to be able to gain much ground going up and over Mt. Phlegethos.”
“Right, of course not,” Shara responded. “We’re going through Mt. Phlegethos.”
Darron paused for a beat.
“Um, no? Mt. Phlegethos is an active volcano.”
“Yeah, sure, there’s lava, but it doesn’t erupt violently,” Shara said, “It just kinda slowly trickles out or whatever, right? The salufidi made some cave system as a shortcut through the middle of it, it’ll be fine.”
“Shara, the salufidi can travel through there because they are thermotrophic. They eat heat. Pathway or not, the temperature inside the mountain would cook us alive!”
“Oh,” Shara said.
The awkward silence that followed gave Adgito some time to adrenaline crash and truly begin processing how absurd her situation had suddenly become. She had just been used as a living shield-turned-battering ram to help a possible mass-murderer escape from incarceration, as best she could tell? Returning to the city she once called home was a borderline impossibility. Overall rating: not great.
She’d probably never even get to see Mrs. Garnersworth again.
Adgito supposed it was not the first time she’d royally screwed over her entire life before. So far, it wasn’t even the worst. Besides, despite the accusations and the apparent evidence that Shara probably could kill hundreds of people if she really wanted to, Adgito couldn’t bring herself to believe someone that had been so kind to her would be… that kind of person.
Besides, what were her other options? At this point she could keep traveling with Shara or try to plead out as short a prison sentence as she could with no lawyer or knowledge of the law whatsoever.
And hey, maybe this time, scrambling her whole life around will cause her to end up somewhere even better than before!
“Well Darron,” Shara suddenly said, “I guess you have a few minutes to figure out some kinda spell that lets us travel through volcanoes, cuz otherwise we’ll probably die.”
Maybe not, though.