A/N: It seems that both the voting majority and the vocal majority both wanted normal releases, so that's what I'll go with...at least for this chapter. At least the last chapter and epilogue will go together in any case. What happens in between? Nobody knows. Also, for those that are worried about the Enemy's form, he'll keep shifting during the fight according to the situation, so no worries. As usual, point out any typos you see, and I hope you'll enjoy.
Gabriel obliged Neleh’s command and ran her power into the enormous magical formation beneath her feet. As the formation begun glowing, several magical formations appeared above her. The magical runes formed several circular glowing streams rotating slowly; forming what looked like a glowing tunnel. Gabriel lifted her hands above her head and aimed down the open center along the tunnel. Above her hands appeared a rapidly growing orb of golden energy. After few seconds of packing power into the orb, Gabriel released the orb that shot towards the sky with a speed impossible to perceive, leaving behind a stream of golden energy.
The stream showed that the golden orb had taken a slightly arcing path, homing towards the intended target. After several seconds the sky was lit with a golden explosion of energy that covered most of the sky despite the obvious distance to the explosion.
“Flashy as always.” Khali commented from the side.
“I’ll have you know that was a spell designed by Neleh, so don’t blame me for it.” Gabriel replied with a small grin.
“In that case, I stand by my statement even more. The two of you wouldn’t recognize subtlety even if it kicked you in the head. She’s even worse than you sometimes.” Khali scoffed with some disdain.
“Hey, I resent that statement! I’m nowhere as bad as Neleh is!” Gabriel said in mock outrage.
“I simply understand the value of theatrics. The psychological effect can be just as important.” Neleh pointed out from the side. “Can anyone tell what the result was? I lost my searching spell in the explosion and you two jokers don’t want me casting any extra spells.”
The two got more serious and both sent their senses towards the sky. “Well, as expected the Enemy is still there, although I did get a direct hit. Not that we expected to win with just that. The Enemy is heading this way, so we did get his attention.” Gabriel finally said with a distant look.
“The two helpers are also still there. It seems they are separating.” Khali added.
“I’m guessing they’re planning on dividing our strength. Assuming we had only one or two people capable of putting up a real fight, that wouldn’t be a bad idea. Now it suits us just fine. Well, you know what to do.” Neleh guessed, giving the signal to pick their targets to Khali, Asariel and Shiori.
“It seems one of them is aiming for the beastmen continent while the other seems to be going towards the elven lands. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.” Gabriel reported.
“Right, I’ll take the one going to beastmen lands. We have much easier time getting to our target since we are much faster fliers. Since the doorways in the beastmen continent are few and far between, I’ll try to intercept the target before it gets there.” Asariel commented and took off with a blinding speed towards the doorway they had prepared in advance.
“That leaves the other one to me and the girl.” Khali commented, pointing at Shiori. “Luckily the elven lands are peppered with doorways and arches. Odds are it’s aiming at Nan Yanoi anyway.”
Shiori was lagging behind as the two took off, looking longingly at Neleh. The two knew this could very well be the last time they saw each other. “I love you.” Shiori silently mouthed while running towards the doorway.
“I love you too.” Neleh mouthed a reply, looking after the doorway as it closed behind her lover.
“Come, we have an enemy to kill.” Gabriel finally said to bring Neleh out of her daze. Her expression was unreadable, but within she was jealous of the words of goodbye Shiori had gotten. At least Gabriel would be the one to face the real threat alongside Neleh. What more could she ask at this point?
Asariel was the first of them to reach her target, but the target had already been engaged before she arrived. From the distance she could see the celestial stationed on the beastmen continent engaging an enormous red skinned demon. The blood red skin of the demon was covered in black runes, as were the leathery wings behind its back. The demon was wielding a long fiery whip along with equally sized battle-axe in its other hand. The celestial seemed to be having trouble, and the demon looked to be toying with its prey.
Asariel could hear the demons voice booming in the distance. “Bwahaha! You celestials are always so amusing to kill. Your feeble spells almost tickle.” The demon seemed to be right as the celestials spells seemed to fizzle as they came into contact with the rune covered skin.
Asariel tried to speed her approach but knew she would not make it in time, as the demon sensed her approach and stopped toying around. The celestial fighting the demon was primarily a mage, and could stand the onslaught only so far. Finally the demon’s axe slipped behind the celestial’s defenses, cleaving an enormous gash through the celestial’s chest. It was as if the celestial’s gleaming magical armor wasn’t even there, and the wound seemed fatal as it almost split the unfortunate man in two.
Asariel could only watch as the celestial’s body dropped into the ocean and the demon turned to face the approaching Asariel. For a moment, she considered diving after her underling but decided against it. If he was dead, then she would only allow the demon to attack her from behind, and if he was alive he had more chances of living if Asariel distracted the demon whole he healed himself.
“The Blood God I assume?” Asariel asked, if unconcerned by the apparent death of the other celestial.
“You assume correctly. How nice of you nuisances to deliver yourselves to me one at a time. Usually you weaklings try to swarm at me, trying to combine your feeble powers.” The demon replied looking disdainfully at Asariel. To him, these celestials all looked alike.
“We’ll see how much fun you will be having after a while.” Asariel said simply, not rising to the provocation.
Instead, she unleashed one of her more powerful and complex techniques at the large demon. ‘Let actions speak louder than words.’ She thought to herself as thousands upon thousands of small crystalline blades suddenly floated around the demon, surrounding it from all sides.
The demon gave another disdainful laugh. “What a disappointment. I thought you would’ve learned something from the death of the other one. Your feeble magic won’t be able to even scratch my skin.”
The demon confidently flew forwards into the field of blades, completely relying on his skin that was impervious to almost any magic. As it touched the first floating blade, the crystalline blade exploded into a million shards that all came towards the demon instead scattering everywhere. The demon growled in pain and shock as its skin was torn by the shards, and the surprise made it back enough that its wing touched another blade. That set off a chain reaction of explosions as any movement made by the demon caused further explosions and the force of the explosions forced the demon to move further.
“Well, it’s a good thing then that I’m not a mage.” Asariel said quietly, looking at the bedraggled form of the demon.
The demon’s wing had been shredded and the skin it was so proud of was full of wounds and gashes. However, the explosions didn’t have the power to cause serious wounds, and the smaller ones were already starting to recover. “A psion!” The demon spit out in disgust.
“HIIIYAH!” Khali yelled her battlecry as she leapt off the outer wall of Nan Yanoi at her enemy. She had just managed to cut off the attacker before it reached the elven capital and started attacking the shield barring its entry.
Khali’s blade was expertly guided to the side in a perfect parry that neutralized the leaping momentum from the powerful swing. Khali jumped back immediately as another large blade countered swiftly with a wide swing from the side. She could sense the crackling energy along the large blade as it passed just barely in front of her stomach.
She got a better look of her opponent as she backed away. She had jumped into battle almost blindly, trying to catch her enemy in her momentum, but had been expertly countered. Her enemy showed no features, as his whole body was covered in a shining silver plate armor that covered him from head to toes. The armor was beautiful and ornamental, and wouldn’t be misplaced if worn by some heroic paladin in a story. The only things that somewhat spoiled the impression were two black wings decorating the back of his helm, as well as two glowing blue orbs that Khali assumed were his eyes barely visible through the eye slit of the helmet.
Her enemy also wielded two large blades that would normally be used as two-handed weapons by normal people. However, the quick and expert movements of her enemy showed that he had no trouble swinging the large blades. The blades were surrounded by crackling blue energy. Khali had a nasty suspicion that these were some sort of holy swords designed to kill demons like her. Or at least that’s what the cold sweat at her back hinted at. The enemy also had two small shields floating next to his shoulders, levitating by some unknown force, which Khali assumed was part of the armor’s magic. The shields were made of some weird blue transparent material she didn’t recognize.
Khali had rushed here at top speed, leaving Shiori behind, assuming the stealthy assassin girl would arrive soon enough and make her presence known when the situation called for it. She tried to goad the silver warrior into a discussion to fish for some information, but the warrior stood mute and ready to counter any move made by her. ‘Well, standing around won’t do anything, and I need to get back to help against the Enemy.’ She thought to herself.
She started by making a few quick attacks towards her target, just to judge his level of skill and strength. To her annoyance, her enemy was more than capable countering her small probing attacks and only used just enough strength to deflect them and not a bit more. It was obvious her enemy was an expert in the use of those large blades.
As she increased the speed, strength and frequency of her attacks, her enemy matched her perfectly, using one blade to defend while countering with the other one. To her shock, it seemed as if her enemy was able to see through her attacks and even anticipated them. Sometimes his attacks seemed to move to counter hers before she even launched the attack. The only reason she hadn’t been hit by the counters yet was because she knew not to overextend and pulled back from her attacks early enough. That said, it was clear she was being pushed back.
This was particularly annoying to her, because usually she was the one that could expertly read her opponent and do what he was now doing, by reading the flow of ki within her opponent’s body. However, the annoying shiny armor of her opponent made it impossible to read the flow of ki. She was now put into the position that her opponents were usually in.
‘Well, no risk, no reward.’ Khali thought and dove straight into her opponent’s reach. Her plan was simple. Her opponent’s weapons were larger and would not be able to be used at extremely close range, whereas she was also an expert in unarmed combat. She used the edge of her blade to deflect her opponent’s first strike, and the pommel of her blade to slightly redirect the aim of the second. The second attack managed to clip her shoulder, and she knew immediately that the blades really were holy swords as her shoulder suddenly felt numb, and the numbness would’ve spread if not suppressed by her ki.
However she had managed to get inside her opponent’s defense, and slammed her hand filled with ki towards his chest. To her shock, one of the shields that had been at his shoulder just a second ago suddenly blocked her strike. The shield shattered into tiny fragments, but the power of her attack had been lost. Her hand still struck his chest, but it merely pushed him away, helping him create distance. She looked on in annoyance as the shield she had just shattered started slowly reforming.
She looked at her hand in suspicion. Even with the low power of her attack, the feedback to her strike had been weird. She couldn’t’ explain what was wrong, but there was something odd about her opponent.
“Do you think you can manage another shot before the Enemy gets here?” Neleh asked Gabriel.
“Timewise probably, but I don’t think this magic circle can handle another shot. I’d rather not have it explode right in our face.” Gabriel replied, looking skeptically at the magic circle that had notably deteriorated.
Neleh also checked the magic circle and agreed with the possible risk. “Well, it’s not like that attack was the most efficient way to go, even though it was powerful. It was mainly meant to get his attention, and it accomplished that job.”
Gabriel answered by drawing out her large blade and golden shield. “He’s coming. You have an operation to lead, so get to it.” She tried to get Neleh out of the immediate line of fire.
“Fine, fine. I never knew you were such a worrywart. Here, something to keep you safe.” Neleh replied with a rueful smile, knowing Gabriel was trying to protect her. She closed her eyes for a moment, as the golden light of one of her favorite defensive holy spells surrounded the both of them.
Gabriel could of course recognize the protective light of ‘Fateguard’, that would protect her from a certain amount of attacks regardless of their severity. The upside was that the light would block even an attack from the Enemy, but a layer could be lost to a stray pebble just as easily. There was also no real way to know the number of protective layers.
Neleh pulled away towards the side of the valley, where she could use her power to attack the Enemy, while Gabriel distracted him. She prepared to summon some of her spirits to support Gabriel in the battle, while another golden layer of power surrounded the celestial, this time belonging to Gabriel. The golden light would protect her by reducing the strength of the attacks aimed at her, while for the rest she would rely on her shield and armor.
They both looked up as they felt the approaching enemy, and saw the hazy form of a black cloud in the rough likeness of a monster made of smoke. An oppressive aura spread over the battleground, messing with the emotions of everyone present. The aura lessened their strength, confused them and tried to find the emotions it could draw on for more power.
“Well, I guess you get to shine before me after all.” Gabriel sent a magical message to Neleh.
As the Enemy could change forms, it was Neleh’s job to force him into something more concrete as well as get him grounded. Their plans wouldn’t really work if this turned into an aerial battle. The dark cloud settled above the valley, and they felt as if he was about to speak, but Neleh was not about to give him the chance.
Suddenly a large hole in space opened above the dark cloud and tons upon tons of lava suddenly flowed through the opening straight into the cloud. This was why they had chosen this spot for the battle. The volcano below their feet was not in danger of erupting, but that didn’t mean there was no lava within the rocky ground below their feet. While teleporting large distances was not feasible, creating a gateway across the distance of few hundred meters wasn’t impossible, it just took a lot of power. So Neleh had positioned several wells magical power into the ground, and channeled that power into a large portal entryway within the lava. The exit point was above the cloud.
As the black smoke got bathed in lava, it suddenly coalesced into a large form while landing on the ground. The reason for the form became immediately obvious as it stood unharmed among the molten rock. The Enemy had taken the form of a large red dragon, a race that not only didn’t get hurt by heat like this but positively enjoyed it. This too had been within their expectations as it fit their plans perfectly.
A deep booming voice suddenly sounded within the valley. “That was a rather impolite greeting Destroyer. Is that how you greet all your old acquaintances?”
“Only old enemies that don’t have the decency to stay dead. Besides, complain to Gabriel instead. She almost killed me a few decades ago when she found me.” Neleh replied lightly, alluding to her Awakening ceremony that got interrupted by Gabriel so many years ago.
Gabriel of course had not been dumb enough to stand under the rain of molten rock. The lava parted before her as she moved closer to the large dragon. “Gabriel. How kind of you to gather all my most dangerous enemies in one place. That was Khali I felt earlier wasn’t it? How rare to see the three of you cooperating. Where did she run off to?”
“You won’t need to worry about her. I’ll make sure to kill you before she gets her turn.” Gabriel’s words were only answered by a deep laughter. She replied by running golden power into her blade, which tripled the sword’s size, and swung at the dragon.