39. Lament of Lucerna
Hot, burning ash came falling down on me. It was molten— almost liquid— and it poured down like rain. The column crashed down as I activated [Double Step], throwing myself into a nearby building. The wooden roof of the house immediately burst into flames, the weakened structure already on the brink of collapse from the weight of the ash.
Drips of the molten ash seeped through the ceiling, sliding off an invisible barrier on my shoulder. I grimaced. It felt hot, even through the magical aura protecting me. However, I had to get a move on. I glanced out the broken window and saw Lucerna aiming a finger at me.
Smoke shot out in a plume straight in my direction. It had enough force to break through what was left of the window, and nearly struck me. I moved out of the way in time, hurriedly tossing myself out of the building as it finally collapsed under all the damage it had taken.
I exploded out of the falling structure just in time to see the [Djinn] barring my path. He turned a single eye towards me.
He brought down my Spear of Flames, aiming for my head. I rolled under the attack and swiped at his legs with two [Fire Strikes]. He roared as I went under his legs, whirling back around to stab him with a fire hammer I just created—
An explosion of smoke sent me flying back. I caught a glimpse of my Ring of Lesser Protection flickering, the barrier acting as a second skin momentarily overwhelmed and letting some of the smoldering gas through. It burned parts of my body, although it wasn’t as bad as I remembered it back when I fought Lucerna the last time.
My clothes were set on fire, but it quickly snuffed out as I rolled on the ground to a stop. I glanced up at the [Djinn], aiming a clawed finger at him as he loomed over me. [Fire Blast]!
The streak of flames knocked him off balance for just a moment, long enough for me to hurriedly put some distance between the two of us. I felt the ring on my finger, sensing the little amount of mana it had left. Only a few more hits, then I’ll be fully exposed.
I whirled around as Lucerna charged me, sprinting down the street and turning a corner. Balls of ash flew over my shoulder, the [Djinn] screaming in a rage as they missed. Once I was around the corner, I took a moment to grab a healing potion from my bag and chugged it. I frowned at the taste, but ignored it and watched as the burns on my body vanished.
So it really does work, huh? I mused to myself as I heard the approaching heavy footfalls. I readied two fire daggers as Lucerna followed right after me—
And an ice beam blasted him back. Mistshard flew over the [Djinn], sending large icicles down at him. His gaze snapped up and he took a swing at the [Elemental]. He missed and bellowed as she led him further down another street.
I sighed in relief, watching the Greater Demon crash into a building while chasing Mistshard. However I did not get to rest for long. Edithe stumbled down the street towards me, helping Druma hobble over my way.
“Salvos. He’s hurt— he needs a healing potion, now!”
I nodded and quickly threw two vials of red liquid their way. The Human woman caught the first and immediately handed it to her summon. She took the next, but she didn’t drink it. Instead, she pocketed it.
“I have my own.”
“That was a powerful Skill.”
I commented simply.
“It is. Let’s hope he won’t be able to use it again anytime soon.”
I looked over at Edithe as I created orbs of fire and tossed it at Lucerna, still being distracted by the bird-like Spirit in the distance.
“He won’t. If he could, he’d have used it immediately.”
One of the small fire orbs knocked the [Djinn]’s head back. He whirled around and glared at me, only to be met by a blast of wind by Edithe.
“I don’t know. Go find him, see if he’s hurt. You’ve got the potions, I’ll hold this Demon off in the meanwhile.”
I glanced back at the Human woman. She wasn’t even looking at me. All I saw there was a hate filled gaze pointed in the direction of Lucerna. I nodded.
“Alright. We’ll be back soon. Stick to the plan!”
I quickly scrambled out of the way as a roar resounded at us. Lucerna had been barreling at me, until a ball of fire exploded on his face.
“I’m your target here! Come at me and die!”
She screamed, drawing the attention of the Greater Demon with a volley of magical projectiles as I ran back in the direction I had come from. My footsteps marked itself on the ash layering the brick road, leaving a trail for Lucerna to follow me from. However, I wasn’t concerned about that. What I needed at the moment was to find my other Human companion.
I returned to the epicenter of the explosion that had blasted apart the ground. I looked around, searching for where Daniel could have gone. I heard a groan as he peeked out of an alleyway.
I ran up to him, pausing right in front of him and staring at the blood pouring down his side. His gambeson had been torn open, exposing a large wound to the left of his abdomen.
“Got… a bit… too close…”
He gasped, nearly falling to the floor. I caught him from falling, steadying him back up.
“Smashed all my potions… damn Demon…”
I handed him my bag of healing potions. He quickly dug one up and poured it over himself. I watched the wounds on his body stitch itself close as his breathing relaxed.
“Man, it’s such a good thing these things exist. I’d be dead many times over otherwise.”
There was an explosion. I glanced back at where Edithe had been fighting. Smoke and ash now filled the air— but not the same kind that had been unleashed earlier. It was a regular [Burning Haze] blast.
“Come on. I can finally use [Double Step] again.”
We returned to the scene of the battle. Lucerna was cut and wounded all over, but Mistshard was flying away. She had picked up Edithe and was fleeing as Druma ran under them. The Greater Demon had been pursuing them until we arrived. He turned to me and screamed.
“This is all your fault!”
A plume of smoke shot out my way. I stepped out of the way as the Human man raised his sword to block it. The gas was split in half, cut from the blade he swung down. The [Djinn] ran up to us as we readied ourselves for his charge.
He tried to rush at me, but Daniel intercepted him. The Human man parried a hit from his spear as I stepped forward, striking a fiery fist at his nether region. Lucerna barely flinched and I scowled. Doesn’t work on him, huh? Should’ve expected it.
I went under a kick as Daniel sliced at his abdomen. It barely grazed his skin, spilling no blood and only revealing the black insides of the Greater Demon. I threw two flaming daggers at his face, aiming for his one remaining eye, but he blocked it. Daniel stabbed at his kneecaps—
And Lucerna grabbed the sword mid strike. He picked Daniel up by the hand and flung him into a blazing fire. I watched him disappear amongst the flames as the Greater Demon turned to me.
“Just you and I now. No more [Fiend]. No more Humans.”
He grinned savagely down at me as I stared back up at him with a single dagger.
“What are you doing to do about it?”
“Come back here, coward!”
The [Djinn] pursued me as I made a break for it. I spun around city corners as he chased after me, the gray and orange landscape melding into one jumbled mess in my eyes with only the blue Demon clearly defined in this blurry world. Twice, he nearly caught up to me using his [Spheres of Ash and Cinder] to cut me off. The first time, I evaded him with a [Double Step] into a nearby alley. The second time however, I wasn’t so lucky.
I still couldn’t use the Skill. I whirled around, sending a [Fire Blast] at his face, aiming for his eye. He ducked under it and punched me. I was sent reeling back as a flash filled my vision— the aura of protection around finally dissipated.
I raised my fire dagger up and struck twice at the Greater Demon’s legs. He ignored it and brought the Spear of Flames down at me. I tried to deflect the hit, but it still knocked me back. I stumbled and managed to parry the next one as well. However, I didn’t see the kick coming.
I found my back against a broken wall, screaming in pain at me as I turned my dizzy head up. I saw the city walls just in the near distance. It was only up ahead, standing next to the gate we had passed. I tried to get up, however Lucerna loomed over me. I’m so close—
I rolled away from the strike that collapsed the rest of the wall. I flicked fire spikes at the one eye of the [Djinn] while backing up, however he simply raised a single hand to cover his face as he pressed forward. [Fire Blasts] bounced harmlessly off his skin, and even the fire orbs left nothing more than a scorched mark on him.
My fire weapons would not be able to deal much more damage than that. He laughed at me as he stepped forward. He swung and I jumped back. I need to be able to hurt him. I need my fire to be hotter!
I pointed a finger at him while backing up, sending a wave of flames at him, not a [Fire Blast] but created by [Basic Fire Creation]. The fire deterred him more than anything else I had thrown at him. But still, it did not bring him down. It only slowed him.
“You can’t kill me. No Skill or magic of yours can even harm me. You are too weak!”
I found myself only empowered by his words. I poured everything I could into the flames at once, feeling it burn more and more. The red fire shifted. It morphed, changing colors. It turned into a more focused flame— glowing with a contrasting pale blue to the orange surroundings.
It was hot now. I could feel the heat emanating off my own flames. And yet, it didn’t even stop Lucerna. He came forward still, a mad smile spread across his face. When he got close enough, an explosion of smoke knocked me back as the [Djinn] pointed to the sky.
“Your Skill is on cooldown. You won’t be able to escape this this time. [Pillar of Er—”
“I won’t let you take any more innocent lives!”
Daniel yelled as he ran up to the Greater Demon from behind. Wisps of energy flowed through him as he pushed Lucerna, knocking him off balance. His eyes widened as a brilliant glow engulfed the Human man’s sword.
“What is this—”
My companion’s blade arced up. It cut deep into the flesh of the [Djinn], spilling more blood than I had seen from any other attack before. The shining sword grew longer, even going as far as to slice off half of Lucerna’s right shoulder.
He stepped back, dropping the Spear of Flames and grasping at his limply hanging arm. Daniel stumbled forward, panting with labored breath. The Human man raised his sword once again and stepped into the Demon’s guard.
Lucerna kicked Daniel, sending him flying back into the air. I watched as my companion crashed into the rubble of the city walls. The [Djinn] aimed at him.
“[Pillar of Eruption].”
I shouted, throwing myself at the Greater Demon. I used as much force as I could to make him miss. It must have worked, since the column of molten ash crashed into the city walls next to Daniel. I grappled onto him, holding on as he tried to pull me from his back.
I struggled to cling on, scratching at his skin, while he stumbled just in front of the city gates. I felt his entire body tense, and I knew what to expect. I threw myself off him as the explosion of smoke came, propelling me even further.
I felt the searing pain covering my entire body. It scalded me— even if it was one of his weaker Skills, the level difference made it that much more painful. I held back a scream as I grabbed what I was aiming for just as I landed.
He whirled around as I grinned, holding up the Spear of Flames. He opened his eyes wide.
I threw it as hard as I could at him. The Greater Demon raised his good arm, blocking his face as he tried to duck. It came fast, and pierced through his good hand. Blood splattered on his one eye as he tried to blink it away.
Lucerna screamed, looking down at his bloodied palm. His gaze snapped back up at me, but I was no longer there. [Double Step] had brought me right under him, and he turned back down just in time to see me jumping up with a clawed [Fire Strike] to his eye.
He staggered back as I landed back onto the ground lithely. I avoided the large bumbling Demon’s footsteps, quickly going around him and grabbing for the chains hanging loosely off the gates.
I picked it up, avoiding one of Lucerna’s wild swings as I hopped onto his back. He grasped for me while I climbed further up onto him, eventually reaching his neck. I tugged at the chain even more, pulling the portcullis up and giving me more to work with. I wrapped the iron links around his neck once, twice—
And I leapt off the Greater Demon’s back as he exploded in a haze once again. I pulled the chains with me, setting aflame the metal closest to his neck aflame with [Flame Coat]. Lucerna couldn’t grab the chains with his stabbed hand, as the spear still protruded from it. So he raised his limp arm, reaching for the chains. He flinched as he came into contact with it, but still he pulled.
I felt my entire body almost fly in his direction with his first tug. But before he could pull harder, I tossed the chains at the two figures waiting atop the crenellations on the city walls. Druma and Daniel caught the chain mid air and together, they pulled at the chain holding Lucerna.
The large Demon was lifted off his feet. He hung off the ground, pulled by my two strong companions on one end, and the city gates itself on the other. I watched him struggle, like I was a Giant Spider and he was the prey tied in my strings.
Mistshard flew down from the city walls, carrying Edithe with her. The Human woman was let down next to me, giving me a nod.
“Took a bit, especially after Daniel took a bad hit. But we got them up there. Now all that’s left is…”
She glanced over at Mistshard. I nodded back.
“Aim for his joints. They’re the most vulnerable spots, even if your opponent is made out of rocks. Especially his right shoulder— it's weak.”
Mistshard readied her beam of ice as Edithe raised her staff to her face. She closed her eyes, and whispered softly.
“[Borrow Skill: Mistshard].”
The Human woman and the [Elemental] aimed at the struggling Lucerna. He raised his right arm, trying to pry the Spear of Flames from his left palm. Dual beams of ice shot out at him, freezing over the limp shoulder.
He screamed in pain as all movement was lost on that hand. He tried to melt the ice off with a smoldering gas, but the two continued their assault. I created a fire hammer with the last of my mana, waiting for the moment the ice completely took the threads of skin holding his arm onto his body. There!
I threw the hammer as hard as I could at the ice. It shattered, and off came Lucerna’s right arm with it. He screamed and roared, exploding into gas, then ash as he dangled there. But none of his Skills reached us.
He couldn’t tear the chain off him. He couldn’t even close his one remaining hand with the Spear of Flames sticking out of it. All he could do was swing and shout, wasting all his Skills as we waited. Until finally, there was a snap.
Lucerna stopped moving. He stopped struggling. His body was just there, hanging. Then Daniel and Druma let go, and it fell onto the ground with a loud thud. I finally sighed, releasing the breath I didn’t even know I had been holding.
I glanced over at my exhausted companions, letting a small smile slip onto my face. Then it slipped off as I remembered what I came here to do. Slowly, I walked up to Lucerna.
I stared down at the fallen Greater Demon. He was dying. Somehow, he was still alive. Of course— with his [Vitality], even this wasn’t enough to completely finish him. But he could no longer move his body— it was far too broken. Edithe stepped up beside me as I grasped his neck with my clawed hand.
“Tell me how to get back to the Netherworld, and I will give you what you want.”
He did not look back at me. Both his eyes were gone. And yet, I could still feel his gaze boring into me, as if he was scrutinizing my every movement. He said nothing for a long time, even after I repeated the question. Finally, when I lowered his head, he spoke.
“To return to the Netherworld, you need… a summoning collar.”
“A summoning collar?”
I cocked my head, confused for a moment. The [Djinn] smiled.
“Yes. A summoning collar. It is a gift my King bestows to all his loyal followers. It was what allowed me to come to the Mortal Realm numerous times. However—”
He spat, and black blood landed on my face. I wiped it off, frowning.
“You broke it! You came with me when only one can travel through the planes of the Nexeus with it! You destroyed our only hopes of returning to the Netherworld!”
I blinked, slowly registering his words as he broke into laughter.
“That’s right. No matter what you do, no matter how hard you try, you will never be able to return! And knowing that you will suffer and die here in the Mortal Realm— and that knowledge will continue to bring me joy, even in death! Now end it. Finish me as you promised, imp! And when you join me in death, I’ll be waiting—”
Edithe spoke sharply, cutting him off. A lance of ice went down his throat. He convulsed, struggling to lift up his one remaining arm, but he couldn’t even move. The Human woman stared at him for a moment, watching him bleed and die.
Finally, after Lucerna stopped moving, she turned to me as if she was about to say something, but stopped. I continued staring, opening and closing my eyes in rapid succession as I tried to process what just happened. I turned to Daniel who had just arrived behind me. He had a dark look on his face.
“He’s lying, right?”
I glanced between my two Human companions. Neither spoke up.
“He was lying, wasn’t he? I mean, why would he be telling the truth? There has to be a way to return.”
They remained silent as my voice grew more frantic. And yet, there were no reassuring words. There was nothing I had come to expect from Humans from them.
“But… what about Haec? He’s still in the Netherworld! I can’t just leave him alone— he’s my companion!”
“I… I’m sorry, Salvos.”
Daniel steadied me. He met my gaze, and I knew it was true. Lucerna did not lie. He had relished in his words. He had embraced death, knowing that it would come. I—
I can’t return to the Netherworld.