Chapter 12:

Chapter 12 - Into The Fray

Of Heroes and Royals

"Terra. A God. They... really wanna kill us that bad, huh? Haha... but how... how could they even manage that...? I thought you said Stratus killed the Old Gods?"Bookmark here

Apollo's mind was racing a thousand miles per second as he tried to process what Mirri had just told him. He hadn't even known about the existence of "Gods" until yesterday, and today, here he was, stood before one. And not only that, but he and everyone else were essentially at its mercy.Bookmark here

"They did... that's why... it doesn't make sense. But it has to be." Mirri explained, her voice trembling. "Even beyond that, though... Terra and the first King were friends! Even if he was brought back to life, he wouldn't attack us! He wouldn't... cause all of this devastation..."Bookmark here

"If they can kill Gods, perhaps they could figure out a way to control them..." Apollo thought aloud.Bookmark here

It was because he was lost in thought, however, that he didn't notice the boulder come flying toward them and La Riviere from another one of Terra's attacks.Bookmark here

Thankfully, Mirri did.Bookmark here

"Stasis!" she yelled, loud enough to bring Apollo out of his deep thought, raising her arm toward the boulder as she did.Bookmark here

It froze. In mid-air, the boulder stopped completely - a yellow aura now being emitted from it.Bookmark here

"Quick, Apollo! Hit it with something!" Mirri called out, her voice strained.Bookmark here

In an instant, the young man warped into the air, and punched the boulder with all his might. He winced as he did so, pain filling his hand from hitting such a hard surface.Bookmark here

"Release!" Mirri yelled as Apollo warped back to ground level.Bookmark here

All of a sudden, the boulder went flying off in the direction in which Apollo had hit it, leaving the pair, and La Riviere, safe for now.Bookmark here

"Was that Time Magic?" Apollo asked.Bookmark here

"I'm impressed you could tell just by looking." Mirri chucked in response, giving a smug smile. "That's my Signature Spell, Temporal Stasis. I can freeze time for an object, and then any momentum it would've gained from being hit is stored and stacked until I release it. And then... whoosh! Like that."Bookmark here

Apollo smiled, rubbing his chin. "So, we both have an affinity for Time and Spatial Magic, huh?"Bookmark here

"That's right!"Bookmark here

"How fitting..." Apollo whispered quietly.Bookmark here

Mirri couldn't quite hear what he said. "What was that?"Bookmark here

"Oh, nothing... anyway, let's go report to the Captain!"Bookmark here

And so they did. Upon returning indoors to the resistance base, the pair explained the situation, the faces of the Captain and the rest of the resistance growing grim as they listened.Bookmark here

"So, Stratus is using the Old Gods. The odds of us getting out of this are looking... not great." The Captain commented once they had finished.Bookmark here

"What do we do, Cap?" asked Wallace.Bookmark here

"What do we do? I'll tell you what we're going to do." The Captain began, taking a deep breath. "Stratus thinks they can wipe us out for good by using Terra. But they're endangering the lives of civilians in the process, and we can't let that slide. So, here's the plan... we hit 'em hard, and we hit 'em fast. Anyone ready and willing to fight, give 'em hell. If anyone wants a shot at the big guy, be my guest - otherwise, focus your attention on the troops. Anyone who isn't up for fighting, aid in evacuating the town. We absolutely will make it through this. So... let's get out there and give them everything we've got!Bookmark here

Everyone in the room began to cheer triumphantly, their hearts filled with hope.Bookmark here

"Let's do this!"Bookmark here

"Stratus is gonna pay!"Bookmark here

"Let's get those bastards!"Bookmark here

And other such things were yelled as the resistance members gathered their weapons and spread out into Fiorir. At the same time, soldiers were beginning to disembark from airships - fully armed with protective armour, automatic rifles, and other kinds of deadly weapons.Bookmark here

Soon, the sounds of gunfire filled the air throughout the town as fighting ensued.Bookmark here

"Captain, what are you going to do?" asked Mirri, once the room was significantly emptier.Bookmark here

"I think I owe the Mayor a visit. He needs to announce a full evacuation, and... I get the feeling he can answer the question of how they got our location."Bookmark here

It was subtle, but Mirri and Apollo could both hear the quiet rage in the Captain's voice. Clearly, he was suspicious of the local government, and the idea that they may have played a role in initiating their current predicament was not something he took lightly.Bookmark here

Benson threw the Captain an assault rifle, and he followed the rest of the resistance out of the building to make his way toward the Fiorir Town Hall.Bookmark here

Apollo walked over toward the exit hallway himself. "Mirri, I need to go find Alice. What are you going to do? Will you come with me?"Bookmark here

"No, I... I'm going to stay here and make sure no one gets inside La Riviere. And that it isn't destroyed." as she spoke, she noticed a book on a nearby table and picked it up. A proud smile grew on her face as she tilted her head. "Remember, Apollo... it's my duty to protect the books."Bookmark here

Apollo seemed pleased with her answer. "Right!"Bookmark here

"Don't worry, we'll protect her!" Benson called out, as Apollo took in a sprint toward the exit.Bookmark here

"Counting on it!" he called back.Bookmark here

As Mirri muttered something to herself, she felt her cheeks become warm. "Come back safe, won't you...?"Bookmark here

Bookmark here

"What... is that...?"
Bookmark here

Elsewhere, Alice and Ciela were frozen in fear as they watched Terra ravage the town of Fiorir from their hotel balcony. Ciela could no longer hide her emotions, and she trembled just as much as the girl beside her.Bookmark here

For a moment, they tried to disconnect themselves from the situation. The God of Earth was so far off, and all of its powerful strikes against the ground and the shockwaves that ensued continually missed their location.Bookmark here

This didn't remain the case for long, however.Bookmark here

Suddenly, the two were knocked off balance as one of the boulders that came flying out of Terra's arms came flying through the walls of the floor below them. The sounds of shattering glass and the explosive collision of rock against wood filled their ears as the hotel began to topple over.Bookmark here

"Momentum Burst!"Bookmark here

Almost instinctually, Alice grabbed Ciela's hands and jumped off the falling balcony, activating her magic and soaring over the town's signature river at high speed - Alice leaving behind very brief, wispy afterimages in the air as she flew. Unfortunately, their landing was not as smooth and stylish as their jump, the pair crashing into a rooftop on the other side causing tiles to become dislodged and fall.Bookmark here

"Ow!" Alice yelped. "Sorry for the rough landing, Ciela..."Bookmark here

"Are you kidding me? Nice save, Alice!" the woman replied with a smile. "Now, let's get going! We should find Apollo!"Bookmark here

Without another word, Ciela scooped up Alice in her arms and jumped down into the street below - the red aura of the Guardian appearing around her ankles and cushioning her fall from the two-story building they had landed on.Bookmark here

"Whoa, cool!" exclaimed Alice, blushing both from the embarrassment of being carried in her friend's arms and how cool she looked.Bookmark here

Noticing soldiers off in the distance, Ciela carried Alice into a nearby alleyway and set her down.Bookmark here

"You know, it's pretty lucky you slept in your clothes, huh...?" Ciela noted. "Imagine if you hadn't..."Bookmark here

Alice's whole face shot red. "W-Why are you thinking about that?!"Bookmark here

Ciela chuckled mischievously. "What a sight that would've been, you Momentum Bursting through the air in your underwear..."Bookmark here

"W-Well, that didn't happen, so let's just move on! Ngh..." Alice complained, clearly deeply embarrassed by her friend's words.Bookmark here

Their playful banter didn't continue for much longer, however.Bookmark here

"Civilians! Down this alleyway!"Bookmark here

A soldier had appeared at the alleyway's entrance, having heard their voices. His weapon was aimed right at Alice.Bookmark here

"Sorry, our orders are to shoot on sight." said the soldier, his voice muffled by the helmet he was wearing.Bookmark here

What took place next happened so fast it took Alice a few seconds to process what had occurred.Bookmark here

The red aura of the Guardian flowed through Ciela's body as an angry look grew on her face. She leapt toward the soldier, closing the gap in an instant - not giving him the chance to fire - before landing a powerful blow to his face. The soldier was sent flying into the nearby river, as his comrades looked on helplessly.Bookmark here

"What was that you said? Shoot on sight? You want... to shoot Alice? Haha... I don't fucking think so, you bastards."Bookmark here

Alice was almost frightened by Ciela's tone of voice. She looked (and sounded) just about ready to kill someone. The Guardian's aura was fluctuating chaotically, almost like it was mirroring the woman's emotions.Bookmark here

Having realised that Ciela was no normal civilian, she was soon swarmed on all sides by groups of imperial soldiers.Bookmark here

"Let me handle this, Alice," she called out, turning toward the alleyway for a brief moment.Bookmark here

All of the soldiers had their weapons aimed at Ciela.Bookmark here

"Light her up!" one of the soldiers called out.Bookmark here

The instant the entire group began to fire, Ciela jumped high into the air and in the direction of some of the soldiers. As the woman began to make her descent, coming closer and closer to the soldiers - who were completely taken aback - she readied her fist.Bookmark here

And as she landed...Bookmark here

...took yet another grown man out of the fight in a single blow.Bookmark here

Thus began Ciela's rampage. Now that she was within close range, the soldiers had a harder time lining up a clean shot that wouldn't result in friendly fire, and all the while this single woman continued to kick and punch her way through them.Bookmark here

Bullets flew and the sound of metal being crushed filled the air. However, the woman didn't even flinch, and barely took a single hit. She snapped their weapons in two and shattered their armour in a single punch. It was noticeable that her attacks were very haphazard, as Ciela had no kind of combat or martial arts training.Bookmark here

This didn't matter, though. Against such overwhelming strength, the low-level soldiers of the Stratus Imperial Army didn't stand a chance.Bookmark here

"What the hell is this?! It's just one woman! Kill her already!"Bookmark here

"She's like... a one-woman army!"Bookmark here

All the while, Alice watched from the alleyway as her friend defeated foe after foe. She gazed in awe as the soldiers' bodies flew through the air again and again as the woman knocked them off their feet.Bookmark here

"You know, I've always wondered about Ciela's Signature Spell..." the girl thought to herself. "Guardian of what? Or who? I don't know how it works... but either way, it's working! Right now, she's guarding us both!"Bookmark here

As for the woman herself, she was shocked and excited by all the power at her disposal.Bookmark here

"This is great!" Ciela exclaimed, shoving a nearby soldier into one of his comrades, knocking them both out. "Our lives have never been in danger like this before... now, all of a sudden, I'm so full of energy! Energy for beating the crap out of losers like these, that is!"Bookmark here

The soldiers of the Stratus Imperial Army weren't going to go down uncontested though. just as Ciela was beginning to thin out the troops before her, another group of soldiers ran up the street - and with zero hesitation, a couple of them opened fire on the woman.Bookmark here

Catching the woman off-guard, the attack hit its mark. The bullets tore into her skin and the woman cried out in pain.Bookmark here

But not too much pain.Bookmark here

"Hey, wait a second... it doesn't hurt too bad. Is... the Guardian really that strong? I can get shot at... and be fine?" Ciela wondered, letting out a nervous chuckle. "Heh... perhaps... I should've expected this. After all, my feelings would be stronger than bullets."Bookmark here

However, Alice wasn't aware of this. All she saw was her friend being shot at. Fear and anger rushed through her body. As warm tears began to form in her eyes, the girl's legs moved without even a thought. She had seen those men shoot her friend, and in her mind, she had seen what had to happen next.Bookmark here

She leapt forward, heart pounding.Bookmark here

"Momentum Burst!"Bookmark here

And unlike what happened in the battle with Capri, this time, she didn't lose control. In an instant, her fist made contact with the face of one of the soldiers, sending him flying backwards into his comrades and all three of them into the Fiorir river.Bookmark here

"Ciela! Are you okay?!" Alice pleaded with tears in her eyes.Bookmark here

"Oh, I'm just fine, sweetie," she responded, kicking yet another soldier into unconsciousness. "Nice work!"Bookmark here

"O-Oh. I mean, of course! You're strong! I should've known." Alice stuttered in response, trying to hide how relieved she was. "W-Well, anyway... I can't believe I just did that! it's just like that time, when I went from the truck to the checkpoint... I managed to use my power without losing control..."Bookmark here

Losing herself in her thoughts, Alice began to ponder how she had managed to do this.Bookmark here

Each time she had successfully done a full Momentum Burst, it was like everything else had disappeared.Bookmark here

All that was on her mind was her destination - her fist to her foe's face. In her head, she was already there. She had already seen her attack hit its target, felt the impact of her knuckles against the enemy's skin, and felt the magic power flow through her body. And then it was almost as if every part of her worked in sync to ensure she did make it there.Bookmark here

"How peculiar..."Bookmark here

"Hey, Alice."Bookmark here

Alice's Signature Spell, Momentum Burst... she had much further to go in order to master it.Bookmark here

"Alice! For goodness' sake!"Bookmark here

"Uh... huh?"Bookmark here

"Hey, while you were zoning out... I finished off the rest." Ciela spoke with a cocky smile on her face, the red aura from the Guardian slowly dissipating. There was blood slowly dripping off the woman's fingers, and neither could tell whether it was hers or from the soldiers.Bookmark here

Regardless, what Ciela said was true. Alice's eyes widened as she looked around to see countless unconscious bodies in armour on the floor around them.Bookmark here

"No way... just how strong... are you, Ciela?!"Bookmark here

Unbeknownst to the two girls, elsewhere, a mad scientist had watched this encounter unfold.Bookmark here

"The Hero Queen... and her Guardian, is it?" Azazel began, thinking aloud, pausing to take another sip of his tea. "How interesting! How wonderful! Can you protect her through this, I wonder...? Can you guard her against Terra's might? Oh, I just can't wait to see."Bookmark here

He stared down at Alice from his high-flying airship, almost in the same way a scientist would watch a mouse run through a maze for the purposes of an experiment.Bookmark here

"That's right, I got to see that power again, too... even just for a moment."Bookmark here

After soaking in their inconsequential victory, the girls set off to continue trying to find Apollo. And while Ciela had defeated numerous soldiers, there was still an incredible amount swarming the streets of Fiorir... far more than there were resistance forces. And of course, the God's rampage would persist all the while.Bookmark here

For you see, the sun had only just risen, and the battle against Terra was still only in its early stages.Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.