Tavia's first instinct was to get to Evos. He wasn't making any movements on the other side of the bench, but Tavia wasn't sure what to make of that. Could Evos even be hurt? He wasn't really a person, right? At least, not one like Tavia.
Unfortunately, Abram knew Tavia's intention, and he wasn't about to let her regain her fighting ability.
A chill settled into the air, collapsing on the park like a heavy weight, as Abram cast again, but unlike the time in RIOAR, he didn't coat the ground in ice. Maybe his experience with Audri had taught him it wasn't an effective tactic against people trained as Martials, Abram wouldn't know Tavia didn't have the same skill set as Audri.
She would have to thank Audri later for— No, never mind. It wouldn't matter if she didn't thank Audri. The woman wouldn't remember anyway.
Ice crystallized in the air around Tavia—small shards, but deadly sharp. They danced around Tavia in circles as if daring her to try to escape the cage they formed. She glared at Abram. He was a fool if he thought this was enough to scare her now. After everything she had been through, she wasn't going to give up now.
She jumped up onto the bench, and shards of ice shot at her from all directions. She dropped down, lying flat against the bench until they passed above her, near enough their chill brushed against her back. More ice shards immediately formed in the air, their fine, dagger-like points taking aim at her. The water in the air was all Abram needed to form the ice, as long as he had the energy to channel and spells in his grimoire, he would have unlimited ice to play with.
Tavia pushed herself back up to her feet and then with one hand, pushed herself up and over the back of the bench. She didn't land on the other side, she fell, letting gravity do its work to get her to ground faster. Another round of ice struck the other side of the bench.
Evos was just a few inches from her, his eyes closed, and his body still. He wasn't breathing, but, now that Tavia thought about it, had he ever? She shook her head; not important now.
She grabbed his hand.
"Please," she said, and in the next moment, she was holding the Ageless Sword.
Tavia channeled, but though she could feel the Althier drifting through her body, the Ageless Sword didn't react. The Althier was there, but without an aura or Evos, there was nothing Tavia could do with it. She stopped Channeling as the Althier began to build up within her body, burning at her hands and feet.
"Wake up," Tavia shouted at the sword, giving it a slight shake.
A shard of ice flashed by, scratching her cheek. She was lucky for the near miss, it warned her of the next incoming attack, and she rolled out of the way just in time to avoid being skewered by the shards that followed it.
Tavia stood, and looked over the bench at Abram. He made an annoyed sound, and then flipped to another page in his grimoire as the one he had just cast disappeared in a glimmer of cyan light.
She held the sword before her, but without the sword being active her strength was just that of a normal girl and the weight was almost too much for her tired body to handle. She tried not to show the strain, but she was tired, and Abram was relentless in his attacks.
She dodged another flurry of ice; this time, the shards were long like javelins, and they flew toward Tavia with a piercing scream that tore at her ears. She needed to close the distance or Abram would eventually hit her. She couldn't keep dodging forever.
Tavia charged towards Abram, sidestepping the ice when possible, and blocking what she couldn't dodge with the flat of the sword blade.
"Evos," she said as she ran. "Wake up, please wake up."
There was no response.
Abram switched tactics again when she was only a few steps away. Spears of ice shot into the ground in front of her, barring her way. She almost swung at them, but the dull edge of the Ageless Sword was no more than a bludgeon, it would never be able to cut through the ice.
Tavia was forced to waste valuable time, and ran around them. Abram was using the time to retreat, but she was faster and she caught up after a few extra steps. She lifted the heavy sword brought it down on Abram's back. He grunted and fell to the ground, but the attack wasn't enough to end the fight, and he was only stunned.
Tavia held the sword in her hands, watching Abram. He grunted and then rolled over onto his back. He glared at her, seething with hatred for her.
"I won't be stopped by you," Abram spat. "I won't be stopped by someone who can't think beyond what she's told."
He reached a hand into his lab-coat pocket and pulled out another vial. Without any sign of hesitation, he downed it. Immediately he began to spasm and twist, his body contorting in ways no human body should bend. Tavia took a step back, unaware of her own movements as she stared at the horrifying scene.
Abram's convulsions stopped, and he got to his hands and knees. He looked up at Tavia, panting, and his eyes dancing wildly. Light poured from them, the brilliance swallowing his body. He screamed as whatever he had ingested began to attract the Althier in the air and it began to condense within his body. She shuddered, backing away from him. Althier was radiating from his body with an intensity that surpassed even Dieos. She fell further back. She couldn't get any closer; the Althier coming from him was too much to stand.
"I—I'll become a god," he said. "I won't let you take this...away...from—"
His voice disappeared into a hiss, and the pulsing Althier grew in strength. Abram stood, his body still bathed in an oozing cyan light. The grimoire he had dropped when he fell exploded in a shower of sparks, the spells detonating within the tome from the sheer amount of Althier he was casting off. He took a step towards Tavia, stretching out his arm. How was he not dead? This amount of Althier should have killed him. It was enough to kill anyone who even got close.
Abram stumbled forward. He was slow, and Tavia supposed she could run away and he wouldn't be able to catch her. Even as tired as she was, she could still outrun him, but what would happen to Abram? He was showing no signs of succumbing to the Althier, and in fact there was only more and more Althier gathering around him as the moments passed. If someone unsuspecting encountered Abram and tried to get close, they would be poisoned before they could even reach him.
Tavia gritted her teeth. She couldn't cast spells, and Evos was still not waking up, but there had to be something she could do. The Althier from Abram surged against her body, it was a familiar feeling. Similar to the roar of the Scarver, but much more intense. She had endured the Scarver roar though, hadn't she? What had Evos said about it? Something about how the Althier in her body had protected her from the Althier without? He'd called it dangerous, but it was worth a try at least.
She groaned, but she took a deep breath, channeling even more Althier into her body. It was a struggle to get Althier, as if she was competing with Abram for the little of it remaining in the area. The Althier filtered in slowly, filling her limbs first, and then spreading to her chest where it tore at her insides like fire and blades of steel. This wasn't something she could maintain for long, but would even this much be enough?
She took a step forward, pushing into the dense Althier around Abram. It was like trying to force her way through a strong headwind, only one that burned her skin. She raised her arm, protecting her face from the Althier that caught in her throat and singed her lungs. Abram didn't react to her approach, but Tavia wasn't sure if that was because he didn't notice her, or if he didn't care. It didn't matter as long as she could get close. She continued her advance, until she was within striking distance.
She raised the Ageless Sword above her head; it was still as dull as it had been since the beginning of the fight, but maybe the weight would be enough to strike the man unconscious.
Tavia swung the sword down on Abram. She felt the blade hit him—the cyan light so bright she couldn't even see the moment of impact—felt bones cracking under the sword, and then Abram fell to the ground. The intense glow around his body began to dim, and the air turned light and free again.
Tavia shuddered and began to shake, before she fell to her knees with a grunt. The Althier outside was dissipating, but the Althier inside her body had nowhere to go. Without Evos awake to siphon it out of her body, it was trapped.
Her sight dimmed. Her breathing became harsh and ragged, and the world turned cold and distant. The only thing she felt was the fire burning inside her chest. Her hand curled around the Ageless Sword, and just as she was about to lose the strength to hold on, the edge of the sword, began to shimmer and glow.
The Althier in her body drifted into the sword, releasing her from the pain. Tavia took a deep breath of the cool night air. Evos's confusion and alarm filtered through her mind, and Tavia laughed.
Really, what was it that was so funny?