Chapter 6: A Clash of Wills!!! Part II
Ash spent the last 14 minutes having what he called a long-distance staring contest with Tuvira, who he actually couldn’t tell whether she blinked or not because she was a tiny blue speck against a green background, but that was besides the point. Ash wasn’t paying attention to his Squad’s plan, especially when it involved having Scott ferry them down the mountain.
The moment the ground opened up, and the realization kicked in that they were on top of a mountain of some sorts, Scott couldn’t even fully enter his Draconic State due to his fear. So that plan was a bust, yet it was the safest and fastest way to ensure they all made it down the mountain at a reasonable pace. It took Squad T a total of 5 minutes to get down the mountain, then another 3 just to get to the hill. So if they went by that logic, they’d be left with 17 minutes. Ash’s fight with Lissandra went well past that.
Which meant they had to blitz them. It was the only viable option. Yet without having spoken to one another, Lissandra knew that as well, but if Scott couldn’t get them down the mountain, they’d have to scale it like normal. She wasn’t going to risk losing two members should Scott lose control on the path down, even if he managed to sprout wings. They would just have to settle for taking 10 minutes to get down.
“Squad S, we’re going to execute Plan B.”
“S-sorry Princess,” Scott said, unable to look Lissandra in the eye.
“Don’t be,” Lissandra said as she got ready to climb down the mountain. “Doing things like an airdrop was already risky since we have no way of knowing if they’re waiting to pick us off one by one as we land.”
Scott knew Lissandra was just trying to make him feel better as he could easily tell with half-opened eyes over the cliff edge that Squad T was, in fact, not waiting for them. Actually, now that he looked out towards the hill, there was a faint trail of smoke. No one else was able to pick it up, but Scott clearly saw it, so when Dr. Windchaser yelled out over the microphone:
“Squad S may begin their assault!”
Scott signaled his team towards the cliff and pointed at the tree line in front of the hill. “Guys, I think they may be starting a forest fire.”
“Why would they do that?” Alexis asked. “Don’t they know our cloaks are fire resistant?”
“Damn it! They’re trying to stall!”
Lissandra had to think quickly in her Draconic State. She could probably make it down no problem and use Ignis to absorb the flames before the terrain became too difficult to traverse. Though their clothes were fine, they’d have limited air supply, not to mention the poisonous gases. And the only other way is to go around it, but that would take too long. Damn it! I wanted to do this as a team, but I don’t have a choice. Besides if I stop these four alone, then the five of us can stop her—
Lissandra’s thoughts were interrupted by what sounded like an engine running. Like right before it got ready to take off. And that’s when she turned around along with the rest of Squad S, only to see Ash with a crazed smile plastered across his face as his blade was jammed into the rocky platform.
“What are you—”
Once again, her voice was drowned out by the sound of Ash’s sword revving up each time he twisted the handle like a motorcycle.
“Sorry Princesss, but we don’t have time to waste. And I’m not letting you have all the fun to yourself.”
“What are you? Insane! You’ll kill us—”
“Too late! Royal Rose’s Raging Roar!”
With one last rev up, Ash felt that Royal Rose had charged up as much as possible, and when he pulled on the hand break, a bang erupted from the blade, making the ground shake. Cracks formed, splitting the cliff from the mountain, and there Squad S free fell like a meteor crashing onto the earth’s surface.
While Ash and Alexis both found the idea of using the cliff as some sort of ballute to soften their landing an exhilarating experience. Scott could only whine as he couldn’t even keep himself attached to the rock. It was only thanks to Ash grabbing hold of his hand that he didn’t fly off. The rest were able to stay on the falling rock thanks to quick thinking, like Ash using Royal Rose and stabbing her into the cliff. Baron used his scales to keep his feet planted while holding onto Alexis.
“Un-fucking-believable,” Lissandra muttered as she was the only one calmly walking on the rock as if she was magnetically attached to it. “Baron! Grab hold of the rock before we decorate the ground.”
Without hesitation, Baron threw Alexis into the air and detached himself from the rock landing ahead of them with irrelevant scratches—He was their Support, after all—so being the pillar he was, Baron grabbed hold of the rock, slowing it down to a halt. And where anyone else would have been exhausted, Baron knew his job wasn't over as he stared up at the sky, listening to the ray of light that screamed:
Baron didn’t attempt to move as Alexis landed on top of him, knocking the big guy on his back.
“You know Bear, it’s been a while since I’ve seen you break a sweat.”
“Yeah… I’d like to keep it that way if possible.”
“Boo, you’re such a killjoy.”
Lissandra, ignoring the couple, hopped down from the rock and looked up at the screen showing the timer. They had made it down the cliff in 3 minutes, surpassing her original expectations. With that, they had more wiggle room, but they still needed to stop that wildfire.
“Scott, give me the progress on the forest fire.”
“Sure thing Princess—” Scott puked all over the ground as another thing he hated was roller coasters. They made him dizzy and nauseous.
“Wyvernshit! This is why we don’t do things on a whim. What’s the point of getting down here fast but be left with two people who need time to recover! Now, what do you have to say for yourself, Human?”
Lissandra stood there in silence awaiting an answer, but to no surprise, Scott was the one who answered.
“Th-that’s the thing Princess….” Scott held onto his knees as, like Alexis, he too was thrown up in the air, but unlike her, he was not the type to find that fun. “Ash had jumped off before we even landed. Said something about not wanting to be lectured when he could be doing his job.”
“HE DID WHAT NOW?”
Lissandra’s roar was enough to silence the crowd who were just enjoying the show. But she didn’t care about that. What she cared about was the fact that her Vanguard was running off on his own. Unpowered against Dragonoids who managed to bring him to death’s door before. Now they were being told they could kill him.
“You know what, fine,” Lissandra said, sitting down—ensuring she was far away from Scott’s throw-up—to conserve energy. “Let him go. I’m waiting for you two to recover. Then we’ll make our move. Hopefully, the cannon fodder can at least soften them up for us.”
“Y-you shouldn’t call him cannon fodder Princess—”
“And you shouldn’t be calling me Princess, Scotty.”
With that, Scott shut his mouth and decided to sit down alongside Lissandra, away from his own throw-up.
“Sooo if we’re just going to be dancing around puke, why don’t we find another spot to rest,” Alexis suggested since as much as it was fun watching them shuffle around even under her hood, that puke was rank.
And so, in agreement, Squad S took a breather away from their landing spot, preferably a place with fresh water. While Ash was off doing what he does best. Being a total pain in the ass to anything that got in his way.
Meanwhile, on the Royal Floor, the faculty finally had something to talk about since previously it was just the analysts discussing the various plans the squads came up on the fly.
Tekka’s plan was indeed one based off stalling. In the old days, it was called scorched earth and was a useful tactic in slowing down invaders. Though Lissandra’s plan of a blitz countered Tekka’s strategy and could work if they moved fast enough. However, no one expected the earsplitting boom that came from Ash’s blade. Everyone, except Ms. Sparkfang, who chuckled at how quickly her pupil revealed his trump card.
“And with a roar reminiscent of our forefathers’ Squad S has made their descent!” Dr. Windchaser’s voice boomed throughout the colosseum. “Now I’ve heard of kicking off with a bang but wow! I wonder what our analysts think of the Human’s display?”
Being put on the spot, Ms. Sparkfang hid her excitement and simply said: “It was impressive.”
“Th-that’s it? You’re our analyst. Can’t you go into a bit more detail for our audience?”
Ms. Sparkfang raised an eyebrow, and Dr. Windchaser decided he should stop pushing his luck as he was not ready for his new life to end so soon. Though she could lighten up…. He thought as everyone on the Royal Floor heard her soft chuckle even when she tried to suppress it.
“What about you Mr. Fireheart? What do you think—”
“What do I think!” Mr. Fireheart stood up. His shirt turned to ashes. “I think there’s some favoritism going on here! I don’t remember steel swords having the ability to shake mountains!”
“I-I meant about the situation—”
“Ohohoho, just because you cannot fathom the beauty of a blade doesn’t mean it can’t accomplish such feats.”
“If it were a pact weapon, that would be one thing, but Cardinal Torchedgaze has already confirmed he’s failing Astrology!”
Dr. Torchedgaze let out a cough grabbing their attention. “Please do not drag me into this.”
“Uh, Mr. Fireheart,” Dr. Windchaser tapped onto Mr. Fireheart’s broad shoulder, which was about the size of his entire body. “Should you be putting a student on blast like tha—”
“I don’t care! This clearly gives an unfair advantage to Squad S. They made it down the mountain in record time! Thanks to the help from a faculty member!”
“Ohohoho, that’s where you’re wrong. General Fireheart. Young Spitfire came up with the idea himself and gave it form with the Tinkerers’ help. All I did was supply them with guidance…. And materials.”
“What was that last part—”
Another roar erupted from the arena. Though it was lower in scale, the crowd’s excitement kicked up a notch as Dr. Windchaser announced in quick succession:
“And there he goes again! The Vanguard of Squad S has just made contact with two members of Squad T! Breaking through their firewall! However, he may have bitten off more than he can chew. His cloak on fire, the rest of Squad S have decided to rest up at a nearby lake! I don’t know whose more insane!”
Ash sprinted through the burning forest at a breakneck pace. He wasn’t going to let Lissandra slow him down by waiting for the others to recover. It was already a gamble on whether or not his Royal Rose could break up the cliff edge. Though Scott and his new pals in the Tinker club assured Ash that Royal Rose’s Roar could break through Dragon Scales if it was revved up enough.
Man, the look on the Princesss’s face was priceless. I hope they can give me the replay of it.
Ash chuckled as he swung his blade cutting through the falling branches, and jumped over the burning logs that tried to impede his progress. This heat was nothing he kept telling himself. All his life, he had dealt with his mother’s touch, then dealing with Lissandra’s eye-catching fire and Ms. Sparkfang’s flaming Fangs. Ash was fully ready to run through a sea of fire, especially with Royal Rose’s thorns.
Ash had made some adjustments after Royal Rose’s completion. Nothing too crazy, just what he called thorns onto the handle of the blade so whenever he twisted it, he’d get pricked. Ash didn’t know why but he understood that when his blood was drawn and his emotions ran high, he entered a flow state. But he’d lose it if someone was to rain on his parade, so staying away from Lissandra was his best bet—
“Found you!” Ash said as he jumped through one of the denser flames, ensuring his cloak took the brunt of the blaze.
Taniss stopped pouring out the fire from his palms, his eyes wide as he stared up at Ash falling towards him. “How did you—”
Ash slashed at Taniss’s hands forcing him to scream out in pain as he backed away from him, leaving behind a trail of blood.
“Tch. Too shallow.” Ash clicked his tongue as there were no signs of Taniss’s hands or fingers, the source of his fire. Though that could be fixed since Ash closed the distance between them with his blade raised.
A squad’s Specialist was their heavy hitter. Typically stronger than both the Vanguard and Leader of the Squad purely due to being able to use their element. It’s why they’re more prone to becoming Faceless. Giving that much power to a child can cause accidents. But Ash would make sure nothing would get in his squad’s way as he brought down his blade only to find it deflect off ruby scales.
Tomsk stood firm in a boxer’s stance, having blocked the blow from Ash, creating some distance. Like Taniss, Tomsk was also taken by surprise by Ash’s sudden appearance. He had arrived far faster than Tinto had predicted after watching them fall. But that didn’t change a thing since Tekka had expected Ash would charge in alone like a mindless beast.
“Tanss!” Tomsk called out.
Ash smiled as there was no way Taniss would be able to do anything as the pain from conjuring up fire over a fresh wound would be too much for the little guy to bear—Ash’s eyes widened as his face heated up from the incoming fireball and with no time to dodge he pulled up his cloak.
“D-don’t look down on me… Halfbreed!”
Taniss screamed out, the wounds on his palms seared shut. Though Taniss was a Faceless, he still had his pride as a Dragonoid. His full name Taniss Sparkclaw never carried much weight as his family was seen as not even second best to the Sparkfangs. Who even after giving birth to a Dragonoid that used the tools of Halfbreeds was still better than having the child that burned fellow classmates, earning him the rank of Faceless.
Growing up, no one ever wanted to speak to Taniss out of fear. They didn’t know it was an accident, yet because of him, the Sparkclaws lost most of their prestige as a noble house to the point they became a vassal under the Bluefire’s. There he met the person he swore his life to. The one he could call his friend.
“This pain is nothing compared to what I’d go through for our dreams!”
“Wow, congrats, your lisp is gone.” Ash laughed as he threw his flaming cloak high up into the sky, watching it turn to ashes. “Man, that was my favorite one too.”
“Ssshut your mouth!”
“And it’s back again.” Ash shook his head with his sword stabbed into the ground.
Tomsk didn’t really know what was going on as Taniss sounded fine to him, but if fire didn’t work, he’d have to crush him with overwhelming force. Ignoring Taniss’s shouts to wait, Tomsk charged forward as he didn’t know that the roar coming from Ash’s blade meant he was about to test if his blade could cut through Dragon Scales.
“Man, how you ever got into this school… Will always amaze me.” Ash smirked. “Scales for brains.”
Ash drew his sword feeling Royal Rose’s Roar begging to let loose, yet before she could make contact with Tomsk’s fist, a blur of red passed him, and it wasn’t a fireball. Taniss would never hurt a friend with his flames ever again, and Tomsk was way too close to ensure he wasn’t caught in the blast. Meaning that blur was none other than Squad T’s Scout: Tinto Quickflick.
With his wings out, Tinto grabbed hold of Ash before he could make contact with Tomsk preventing the clash. Tinto could tell that his friend would lose an arm against that thing revved up. How they ever got the materials to forge that thing was insane, but luckily it had a weakness. And Tinto exploited it by taking Ash away from the fight letting its charge wear off while he laughed.
“Bwahahaha! You owe me one big guy!” Tinto said, jetting off with Ash grumbling.
Ash looked up at Tinto and wondered if he should try breaking free, but with how Tinto carefully avoided the treeline so that Ash didn’t get hurt, he knew that something was up. And his next words confirmed it.
“Bwahahaha! Don’t get so down. That was just a warm-up.”
“So a Vanguard Fight? Now we’re talking.”
“Bwahahaha! You know if you weren’t a dirty Halfbreed I could see us being friends.”
“Yeah well, with a laugh like that. I couldn’t be friends with you.”
“Dick,” Tinto muttered, remaining silent the rest of the way.
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