"They're sleeping?" Tavia asked as she approached Ikarios. "Why didn't you do what you did to the prince at my place?"
"The prince?" Ikarios asked. He nudged the man who'd first approached him with a foot as he answered. "Hmm. What I did to him is much more difficult, but putting the prince to sleep in that situation would have only led to more awkward questions for you to answer after I left. I was being considerate I suppose. Also, they won't be asleep for long, so we'll need to hurry."
Considerate? Is that what he called barging into someone else's house and interrupting a conversation by taking over the other person's mind? What did he think being rude was like?
Ikarios stepped over the collapsed form of the sleeping man, heading straight for the barrier ahead of them. There was no one else near enough to have noticed what happened, but patrols were coming around every so often, it wouldn't be wise to linger here and get caught. Tavia stepped around the man and the other fallen Shields as she hurried after Ikarios. She stopped before before the scarlet barrier watching it for a moment in silence before she realized Ikarios was staring at her.
"Your turn," he said, gesturing at the barrier.
She looked at the Ageless Sword and then up at the barrier. This close to the barrier, she could see somewhat through it, but it was like looking through murky water. The building inside was distorted, and the image rippled as crimson light flickered across its surface.
"You said the barrier is time? That Dieos...stopped?" Tavia asked. "Is that really something the Ageless Sword can cut through?"
"Your doubting it at this point?" Ikarios asked, letting out a heavy breath. "No, it isn't as if the sword can cut time itself or anything like that, but you don't need to. God-like as his power may seem, Dieos is still a Demi. He uses Althier, corrupted though it may be, to control the time within his domain. Because this barrier is just a mass of time that isn't allowed to move on, anything didn't already exist at the point of the barrier before the barrier reached it, can't get in." He reached forward and tapped the barrier. "We can't just push our way through, but if we waited long enough, for it to reach us, we would sync up to it and be able to pass through it."
Ikarios pulled his hand away from the barrier.
"If we let his barrier devour us, we'd just end up under his influence. We need to break through his ability, or we'll just be more victims, helpless before Dieos. And for that, we need you, because—"
"Because the Ageless Sword can cut through Althier," Tavia finished.
She couldn't cut the time itself, because honestly what kind of ridiculous concept was that? But she could destroy the Althier keeping the time stopped. There was a lot about the concept she didn't understand, but it was something she could grasp at least.
Tavia took a deep breath and began channeling. Althier flooded her body and flowed into the Ageless Sword. The now familiar cyan edge began to glow, the light more vibrant and steady than ever before. She didn't have control over how steady nor how powerful that edge was. That was up to Evos.
"It'll only stay open for a moment," Ikarios said, "so we need to get through as soon as you make the cut."
She nodded as she raised the Ageless Sword, barely noticing that Ikarios turned to look behind him.
She brought the sword down on the barrier, grunting as she put all her strength into the swing. The sword's edge stopped for just a moment as it struck the red light, but Tavia poured more power into the strike and after a moment, she felt the barrier begin to give way.
The edge of the Ageless Sword flickered as it met with the crimson Althier in the barrier. Rust colored sparks flew into the night, and a sound like metal being sheared off screamed through the night. Ikarios clapped his hands to his ears, but Tavia could only grit her teeth and bear with it.
Her sword moved through the barrier in slow motion; it was fighting her, resisting being split.
"Hurry," Ikarios shouted over the noise, "It'll seal back up before you even finish."
She put all her weight into the job. The sword moved a little faster; she had almost finished, and she was nearing the point where the barrier met the ground. The top of the split was beginning to fluctuate, rippling and swirling as Althier gathered to repair the tear.
She grunted with the effort of pushing the sword through the barrier. She channeled more Althier, feeling her body burn as the temporary excess flowed through her limbs. The edge of the sword burned even brighter, blinding Tavia. She looked away from the edge.
The screaming metallic sound cut off, replaced by the sound of something shattering. The barrier gave way and she staggered forward. The sword tip touched the ground as she struggled to keep it in her hands. She looked up at the barrier, where a narrow opening led straight inside, but Tavia was too seized up by the excess Althier in her body to take the steps necessary to cross over.
"Hurry," Ikarios said again.
He brushed past her, darting through the crack and beyond it in just a moment. Tavia looked at him and grimaced. The barrier was already beginning to close.
Something grabbed the back of Tavia's coat and hauled her forward. She caught just a flash of silver light, an aura, before she was thrown through the crack, and the owner of the helping hand followed right behind her. Tavia lost her balance as she arrived on the other side and tumbled to the ground. The hard pavement of the courtyard outside the institute greeted her shoulder, and she rolled to try to prevent injury.
The barrier closed behind them with the sound of a can being sealed. On this side, the barrier was almost opaque, and Tavia could see barely anything of the outside world. She looked up. The sky was completely obscured, but it was brighter within the barrier than without. The red glow from the Althier around them, was casting them in more than enough light to make up for it being night beyond the barrier.
"Whew," Audri said. "That was close. I thought we'd have a bit more time than that."
Tavia looked over towards the voice. Audri was, of course, standing just inside the barrier, her hands on her hips. She was breathing heavily, but seemed to be more exhilarated than tired.
Tavia stood up. Why was Audri here? How did she always manage to show up when Tavia least expected her?
"Oh, don't look at me like that," Audri said with a grin. "I knew you'd be coming here eventually, and besides, Izak is my friend too. I told you I'd be coming along too, I'm not going to just leave him here, or leave this," she pointed to the red sky above them, alone."
"You being here is a bad idea," Ikarios said. "You won't be able to resist Dieos's abilities. Even if you come along, you won't be able to help."
"Well, I'm already here," Audri said. "Or what, do you want Tavia to open that thing again to let me out?"
There was no way that was happening. Ikarios looked as if he wanted to ask, but Tavia shot him a cold glower and he shook his head instead.
"Then it would be better for you to wait here," he said. "If you get caught up in Dieos's ability, you'll be helpless."
Audri grimaced, but her eyes flashed with defiance. Without another word, she bounded off ahead. It was only a few yards to the entrance, and she was inside before Ikarios could say another word. Ikarios scowled after her, but held his tongue and trudged toward the entrance.
Tavia followed. The edge of the Ageless Sword dimmed, until it was only the barest flicker of light on the blade. Evos was staying ready, but not wasting energy. He really was reliable.
She entered the lobby a step behind Ikarios, and she almost ran him over when he stopped just past the doorway. Audri was a short distance away, a dark expression twisting her features.
On the other side of the lobby, blocking the only usable hallway, Abram was watching them with a wide smile on his face.