Canshira of Darkness
“Come on, Reah! It wasn’t that bad, Mi!”
There were only two individuals in that room. The girl had her face buried in a pillow, so that clear voice could only have come from the creature hovering mid-air near said pillow-buried girl. The creature could have passed for a Japanese Marten, if perhaps it’s head and tail weren’t so big, and if not for the strange symbol pattern on its forehead or even the fact that it’s fur was not shades of purple. The fact that it was currently floating, peeking curiously at the girl, did not help. It could, however pass for a stuffed animal and passed off as a stuffed animal it had been for the past few weeks.
The schoolgirl on the bed cried out a muffled line that sounded like, “Yes, it was!”
‘Reah’ turned around suddenly and grabbed the floating marten, dragging it struggling into her embrace as she started stroking, unaware of the pain inflicted the poor creature. The girl was sitting upright now. “Come on, Chimi, you were there too!”
“I was in your bag the whole time, Mi!” the marten, Chimi, gasped out, trying to break free. “You said I couldn’t let anyone see me while you were at school, Mi!” The tone came across as more than a little accusatory.
Unfortunately, ‘Reah’ didn’t seem to realize.
“So, you see… I really wanted to stay,” ‘Reah’ rambled on, oblivious to the poor mystical marten’s discomfort, yet seeming to recap for Chimi’s benefit, “Hiromi looked like she was feeling sick, I mean when looked at her face, she was so pale that my first thought was “Uwah! Hiromi’s going to cross the Sanzu!””
“That’s how friends act, Mi?” Chimi quipped but was rewarded with his fur being ruffled twice as hard for his trouble.
“So, I asked her if she was alright and she was so overworked she nearly fainted right there! So, you see, I can’t let just her perform her managerial duties when she’s so sick, right? That’s why I offered to take over her duties today!” ‘Reah’ continued to justify her actions, if only to herself. Then, without warning, she smashed a fist into her bedsheets.
“Then… then… Then that big idiot Cuide had to attack the town right then!” ‘Reah’ let out a loud wail, “And it was the soccer club’s big game too! I had to ditch the game the soccer club- The game Hiromi entrusted me with!”
Chimi realized that this was probably the right time to bounce and managed to escape in the nick of time before ‘Reah’ smashed her face into her pillow and wailed anew, shouting muffled lines that sounded along the lines of “Mirei, you big idiot!” and “Hiromi probably hates me now!”
Chimi was only allowed out of ‘Reah’’s bag after she left school, and so only had memories of their confrontation of the emissary of darkness, the Bloody Behemoth Cuide Deathrager Warmoth. Chimi recalled that ‘Reah’ had acted rather snappy as she transformed into her guise as Pretty Angel☆Magic Reah, then attacked the unsuspecting evil minion with surprising hostility for a so-called Pretty Angel of Purity.
“Wasn’t Cuide rampaging in a pretty crowded street, Mi?” Chimi asked.
“Yeah…” came ‘Reah’’s muffled reply.
“So, we shouldn’t have gone there to stop him, Mi?” Chimi tilted his head in question as he came to a rest on ‘Reah’’s table.
“No… You’re right.” ‘Reah’ turned to look at Chimi at last.
“Lots of people are safe thanks to Magic Reah, Mi!” Chimi went on, “If Magic Reah wasn’t there when those emissaries from the Primordial Chaos attacked all those times, many more people could have gotten injured, Mi! Turning into Magic Reah and fighting the Primordial Chaos is an important job only you can do, Mi!”
“Yeah… But, I just wish I didn’t have to keep leaving everyone high and dry like that…” ‘Reah’ mumbled as she reached over to her bedside table to grab her charging phone. “When I told upperclassman Iizuka I had to leave, he was all “Do as you wish.”” ‘Reah’ did an impression of their school’s infamously serious soccer club captain as she navigated her way through her phone’s menus. Then, she thrusted it into Chimi’s face.
“Look! Hiromi hasn’t replied to any of my e-mails!”
Chimi startled backwards at ‘Reah’’s suddenness, but skimmed through the various E-mails with desperate titles such as “Please forgive me!” and “I’m sorry Hiromiii!”, each sent less than 3 minutes apart the other and could only stammer out, “D-Desperate, Mi! I don’t think I could reply when faced with this either, Mi!”
“What do I do? Has our years of friendship come to an end just like that?”
“C-Calm down, Mi!” Chimi tried consoling a paranoid, wailing ‘Reah’, “What if she just hasn’t seen… all these, Mi?” Chimi tried recalling everything ‘Reah’ had ever told him about Hiromi.
“W-Wait, Mi! Isn’t today Thursday, Mi?”
The room finally fell silent as ‘Reah’ came to a realization.
“Hiromi has cram school today. She doesn’t usually check her phone until after she’s done.”
“That’s right, Mi! Maybe she’ll see these E-mails any second now, Mi!”
Right on cue, ‘Reah’’s mobile phone buzzed, signaling that an E-mail was received.
“Ah.” Both glanced at buzzing object.
Quickly recovering from her surprise, ‘Reah’ unlocked her mobile phone’s screen and read the new message, a smile quickly forming on her lips. Chimi sighed with relief, believing the saga to finally be over. Chimi floated over to ‘Reah’ where the girl now sat cross-legged once more. Chimi landed on ‘Reah’’s lap and tried to look at the screen
“Hiromi only just read the E-mails, but she’s not angry!” ‘Reah’ announced happily. ‘Reah’ started stroking Chimi’s fur once more, gentler than she had done all night.
Chimi nodded, and laid down. However, as ‘Reah’ typed away at her reply, Chimi looked up hesitantly.
“Hey, ‘Reah’, Mi? I’m really glad you and Hiromi are still friends. The battles are only going to get harder. I can’t help but feel that… the Primordial Chaos has only just getting started, Mi. Like… something terrifying is coming, Mi!”
‘Reah’ was only half-paying attention. “You’re so dramatic sometimes, Chimi.”
“I’m dramatic?” Chimi was aghast, “You should look in a mirror, Mi!”
“Alright!” ‘Reah’ set down her phone, her usual energetic plastered on her face, “Pretty Angel☆Magic Reah will work hard tomorrow too!” She pumped a fist into the air.
Far away, across many dimensions lie the world called Orbis Aurea. Once, the world had entered the Age of Prosperity, a time where knowledge was abundant and there was finally peace among the Seventeen Nations, after a long and treacherous history of uneasy truce. During this age, trade had prospered, and food had been abundant and the people happy. The arts flourished and through an intermixing of culture, more and more new works of art, writing or music were created each day, and spread by the increase in wanderers. However, all of that was wiped away and you would be hard pressed to call that Orbis Aurea and this one, the very same.
A far cry from how things were at the peak of Orbis Aurea’s prosperity, wastelands and abandoned battlefields now litter the landscape where proud castles, the capitals and strongholds of the various city states that once ruled over the five continents, once stood. Where animals and nature spirits once roamed free and played were now packed with abhorrent shadow monsters that killed enemy soldiers or uncareful traveler with no distinction.
This was a place where villages could be decimated overnight and knowing all the magic in the world would do you no good. The Primordial Darkness had returned to the land and begun devouring it.
When the first shadow monsters first appeared, it was near a mountain village on the edge of Venero, the smallest nation in Orbis Aurea. Within a night, the town was gone and the region rife with the strange things that exist as shadows living yet without pulse. The greatest wizards of the continent hastily gathered to make sense of this new threat. It was upon an examination of the strange alien properties of the shadow monsters themselves, and consultation of ancient texts did they realize that the Great Nothingness, the Primordial Chaos from which all worlds had sprung, was returning to consume the world, destroying it bit by bit and reverting Orbis Aurea to nothing.
The council of great wizards began spreading this fearful knowledge to the kings and queens of the nations who would heed them. At first, no one had really wanted to believe that the peace that had come to Orbis Aurea was at an end. However, even those nations that did make preparations to deal with the growing threat of the shadow monsters, now dubbed the Obscura, of the primordial Chaos, could not prepare for the onslaught that was to come.
First, the Obscura began slowly spreading from Venero, leading the various nations that aided the invaded kingdom to believe that the threat could be contained. However, the battle turned stale as weeks turned into months, with the threat not seeming able to leave the hapless Venero. Yet, a worrying trend was occurring all the same. The great wizards that aided the nations in developing measures to combat the shadows were dying one by one. Someone was clearly targeting them. The nations began to heavily guard their esteemed wizards but to no avail. Survivors who witness the assassinations, however, claim that the perpetrator of the murders were human and used weapons of tangible matter.
Indeed, the troubling trend was occurring over in the frontlines in Venero as well. Initially, the Obscura appeared as mere uneven masses of shadow. However, within weeks, they have taken on the properties of the various wildlife of the forests of Venero that they have eliminated and shortly after that changed to suit their needs by further growing or mixing and matching various wildlife parts like claws or wings to create strange monstrous mishmash wraiths. All these changes were worrying enough, but months later, tangible creatures and humanoid creatures making mockery of humans joined the ranks of the primordial chaos, quite unlike the other incorporeal shadows that have been present since the very beginning.
It was discovered that the Obscura can assume control of various objects – or even living creatures, now.
Be it a simple rock, a tree, a wild animal or even a human, certain Obscura can latch itself on to them and with the abilities it already possesses, mutate its poor victim into a stronger more fighting fit form under the complete control of said Obscura. And while fusing with anything would mean the Obscura loses its advantage of being freely changing in battle, it gains a more disturbing advantage. When the Obscura’s host is destroyed, the Obscura itself is not destroyed.
This ultimately meant that the Obscura was free to escape in the confusion and possess a different host before rejoining the battle.
The strikes against civilization on Orbis Aurea began piling up, but it all came to a head roughly two years after the first Obscura appeared in Orbis Aurea. Without warning, Obscura began appearing en masse around the five continents in their various incarnations and overwhelmed the Seventeen Nations. All too busy defending themselves to go the aid of others, the city-states, each with long histories spanning across several millennia, fell at last one by one.
And out there in the smaller towns and great wilderness, that found themselves no longer governed by the nations of old, it became every man for himself. While certain pockets of resistances still remain, just what can they do against such overwhelming odds, other than struggle to survive and how long will it be before they tear each other and themselves to shreds in despair?
As things stood, no one knew where the Obscura really came from. The people started with the belief that the Obscura came from some unknown region in Venero and could only spread from that area, but that idea proved untrue when they started appearing all across the five continents. Unless they found out how the Obscura came to Orbis Aurea, every Obscura they destroyed would be swiftly replaced by ten or twenty others.
What now? Take out the Obscura’s leaders? Sure, it has been noted that Ranked Obscura have been observed in the battlefields. All of these Obscura had corporeal forms and were witnessed to have controlled the weaker, more numerous mindless Obscura, and were hence dubbed ‘Ranked’, assumed to be higher in position somehow. Strangely enough, these Ranked Obscura possessed personalities and the ability to speak in human tongue, thus showing off a higher level of intelligence than your average Obscura. However, these Ranked Obscura were also inhumanly strong. They were capable of effortlessly destroying platoons of soldiers on their own, so it would be a Herculean task in of itself to do them in. Even then, without a Ranked guiding them, the Obscura lacked the instincts of any normal animal and so would merely continue to rampage, rather than flee in terror. Eliminating the Ranked may not solve anything at all, and, no one can say for sure just how high the hierarchy goes, if there is one.
Yet, it is certainly a fact that the presence of these Obscura have created an adverse effect on the world of Orbis Aurea. Returning to the areas that the Obscura have dwelled the longest, with the effects clearest in the now infamous Venero, reveal that the land has now been tainted grey - the dead trees and rock crumble to ash over the slightest touch and the waters of the rivers and lakes poisonous and undrinkable. Orbis Aurea is dying and returning to the Primordial Chaos it was.
Surrounding on all sides the once beautiful Venero Fjord, now a bubbling, smelly grey murk, are the crumbling Durus Mountains. This was the place now widely despised by the survivors, the Nations-in-exile, the Resistance groups and the various nomadic communities, and yet it was a place they all turn a wary and hopeful eye toward. Even should the origins of the Obscura lie somewhere else, as the place the Obscura first appeared on Orbis Aurea, it still must hold some clue or information that might prove vital in the fight against them, perhaps?
With most of the great wizards dead or in hiding, nabbing some clue from the Durus Mountains that will turn the tide on this planet-genocide was the only hope they had.
That is why a certain team of scouts, sent by the court-in-exile of the neighboring Nation of Fidei, is travelling on the Durus Mountains, in search of the exact location the Obscura had first sprung.
It has been nearly a week since they arrived, and yet they have made little headway. They had kept hidden from view and travelled in short bursts for the most of their journey, not wanting to alert the Obscura, Ranked or otherwise, to their presence. Following a now outdated map of Venero, they travelled along the Venero Fjord, toward their first location of interest – the village the Obscura first attacked - Caveo.
The first signs of Caveo came in the form of the abandoned guard post some distance in the woods away from the village itself. The scouts found the small building in a dilapidated state half collapsed. There were signs of the battle in the crumbling trees and stone from the day Caveo had finally been outright overrun and the skeletons of the poorly outfitted guardsmen that remain tell of how the battle went that day several months past. Unfortunately for the scouts, there was nothing that could be salvaged from the guard post. The food rations had all gone bad by this time and what hadn’t been damaged in the battle, the strange greying effects of the Obscura had done its work on.
The village itself was abandoned, save for the various Obscura that infrequently wander in and out. Several buildings had collapsed and many others have burned down. Few buildings were left standing and none had escaped entire unharmed at all. Doors had been left unlocked, the furniture overturned and personal possessions left lying around, all signs evident of the panicked mass evacuation that had occurred shortly before the Obscura attack.
Here, the scouts found a relatively sturdy building that had once been the town hall and had decided to stay there for the night. The initial plan had been to use the town as a makeshift base for a few weeks yet. However, their supplies were running low. The Scout Captain had counted on the fact that they might be able to forage some food, but the situation in Venero had turned out to be worse than anyone expected. The land was nearly completely grey and dead. The Scout Captain recalled in their past few weeks of travelling that they have not seen any wildlife save the Obscura. Their trek had been eerily silent, devoid of any sounds, not even those of birdcalls, at all. Even the birds knew to stay away from Venero.
As the Scout Captain evaluated that it was probably for the best that they cut their investigation short to two days at most before turning back, he was approached by the scout currently on watch. The Captain sat up briskly upon noticing her and noted how she had took great pains to move even more silently than possible, yet her expression frightened and wide-eyed.
“Captain… W-We- W-We’re-” the scout mumbled her report the best she could before biting her lip. She gripped both hands tightly to stop them from trembling.
“Calm down and start over. Are more Obscura headed this way?” The Captain ordered.
“C-Captain. We’re being watched. By a Ranked.”
The scout managed to whisper out her observation, one that made the Captain’s blood run cold. The Captain caught himself before he swallowed and instead, asked for further information, so as to not alarm his subordinates further, by showing signs of fright.
“Calm down, Araya. We’ve set up an awareness diminishing spell, haven’t we? The Ranked won’t be able to truly know where we are.” The Captain reminded the shaken scout, who slowly nodded. “Take a deep breath and continue your report.”
Araya did as she was told. The seconds slowly ticked by and the Captain waited patiently for the details. “Captain… The Ranked is watching us from up in the sky, hidden in the clouds. Jocain mentioned it to me that he caught a blur offhandedly at the end of his shift and thought he was seeing things, but it’s there. It’s a humanoid figure in the clouds. Captain… w-what do we do?” The scout was distraught.
The Captain leaned closer to the broken windows of the building as much as he dared and glanced up toward the darkened skies searching for the humanoid figure the scout mentioned.
“Captain? What are we going to do?”
The town looked more derelict in the darkness, if that was even possible. The moon wasn’t out and the stars were dim, mostly covered by clouds. The Captain couldn’t sense any presence at all, even with a quick Sensor Spell, meaning there were two possibilities. The first suggests that whoever is watching them concealed their presence thoroughly, even warding themselves against the Sensor Spell. In that case, didn’t it mean that the presence could have been following them for quite some time? The second possibility and the one the Captain found himself wishing to be true, was that both Jocain and Araya were mistaken.
Alas, that was not to be. Eventually, the Captain’s eyes found themselves landing on a strange tiny spot in the middle of the dark sky that seemed humanoid in shape. The Captain had to give kudos to Araya for spotting it in the dark. Without knowing what to look for, the Captain himself may have never spotted it.
And floating there it was.
Was it waiting for them to show themselves? The Captain reasoned that if the Ranked knew where they were, it would be upon them in an instant. Evidently, the various concealment spells that they had cast on themselves managed to conceal their presence from the Ranked to some degree, but it weakened at some point, allowing the Ranked to catch a whiff of them.
“Wake the others,” the Captain said at last, “Be prepared to move off at any moment.”
The Obscura had no need for food or drink and presumably that goes for the Ranked as well. It could wait for them to emerge indefinitely. However, the scouts didn’t have the same privilege of time. They couldn’t outlast the Ranked with their rations already running low. The longer they waited, the window for their survival shrunk with every passing moment. They certainly wouldn’t be able to make it back out of Venero with what they’ve seen of the country.
Yet, the Captain decided that they would only try making a break for it when daybreak came. It was generally understood that the Obscura thrived in the dark. They could see as clearly in the dark as they could in the light. Leaving under the cover of night would only impair the scouts’ own vision and grant them no advantage. Unfortunately, this leaves them in the agonizing position of waiting.
As the minutes slowly passed, each hour crawling by, the small party of five kept their silence in the paranoid fear that the Ranked turned out to possess ludicrously precise hearing as well. The scouts took turns to keep watch on the Ranked floating in the sky to make sure the Ranked hadn’t moved, but each ended up turning to look at the Ranked restlessly outside their shifts anyway. Apart from rare moments of movement that betrayed the fact that the humanoid looking dark spot in the air really was alive, the Ranked hadn’t moved from the spot Araya had first spotted it at.
“Captain,” Jocain hissed, urgently, “We need to recast the concealment spells! They’re not going to last!”
“They’ll last us another hour yet.” The Captain recalled the last time he had the most magic-proficient member of their group cast the various concealment spells on them. He continued to mutter without turning, eyes trained on the Ranked, “Let’s not take the risk.”
The casting of magic usually results in the release of a mana signature that anyone with a Sensor Spell or magical creatures like the Obscura with the innate ability to sense magic can pick up. That is what makes a good concealment spell so difficult to pull off. The spell must be performed precisely and with utmost concentration so a mana signature isn’t fired off at all, thereby defeating the entire purpose of the spell. A concealment spell was not an invisibility spell after all. It prevents those who are unaware of the caster’s presence from picking up the caster’s whereabouts easily, and wouldn’t work if the caster’s location was known.
Ulric was the most magic-proficient member of the team who’d perform the various concealment spells, but the Captain feared that should Ulric perform the magic right now, he’d crack under the pressure and end up revealing their location to the Ranked instead. They were better off waiting to cast the spells until they were ready to set off from the building.
Jocain bowed his head silently, respecting the Captain’s decision, but biting his tongue in anger. The atmosphere in the room was palpable, the group of five not daring to even move more than necessary lest the minute actions were somehow spotted by the Ranked. Each found themselves hoping that morning would soon grace them and by some unlikely miracle would appear – revealing the floating figure to be some mundane object suspended somehow or a natural phenomenon in Caveo. However, each time the figure moved unpredictably, the group’s fear that the figure would soon find them grew. The scouts realized that this might possibly be the very last mission that any of them would ever be undertaking.
“It’s not going to last… it’s not going to last…”
Not even an hour later, Jocain started urgently muttering once again, starting out softly and slowly increasing in volume when it became clear that his fellow scouts were trying to ignore his anxious droning. None of them wanted to acknowledge Jocain’s panicked warning, not only because all feared the same thing coming to pass, but also because they were worried that doing so would only cause the situation to escalate.
“Stop it!” Ulric finally said at last, moments before the Captain could give in and admonish Jocain. “The Captain has given his orders!”
“So, you’re just going to sit here and wait until the concealment gets so weak that she’ll find us?” Jocain spat out angrily, as loud as he dared, a clenched fist ready to strike something.
“That’s not going to happen!” The normally silent Ulric yelled back as well, surprising everyone, “We need the concealment to last us as long as possible when we’re making our retreat! If I do it right now while we’re still-”
Jocain’s fist found its target in Ulric’s face, knocking the smaller man over into a table that broke and partially crumbled into dust. Soon, Jocain had thrown himself on Ulric and was pounding his face in. Startled, Araya and the Captain froze for a second before rushing over to try and pull a manic Jocain off Ulric. Ulric coughed and tried to sit up, before noticing the red stuff in his hands and frantically wiping at his bloodied face. Jocain struggled to get Araya and the Captain off of him. Araya obliged as the Captain pushed Jocain away from Ulric to check his injuries leaving the Captain to confront Jocain.
“That was out of line,” the Captain whispered in a low voice.
But Jocain paid no attention to the Captain, instead, continuing to address Ulric. “Oh, you think you’re the only one who can pull off a powerful concealment spell, do you? Huh? You think you’re hot stuff, keeping us all on the edge of our seats?” Jocain spat in Ulric’s direction, but it failed to hit its mark, lending in the destroyed table.
“Stop.” The Captain clamped a hand forcefully on Jocain’s shoulder.
Jocain smacked the Captain’s arm away and scooted backwards. “With all due respect, Sir, you’re going to thank me later. You’re all going to thank me later!”
“What are you-”
Jocain stretched out a hand and invoked a magic circle.
The Captain took a step back.
“No!” Ulric cried out.
Araya made to move forward, but the Captain raised an arm to block her path, stopping her in her tracks. Araya glanced to the Captain, fear evident on her face. “If you interrupt him now, before he completes the concealment spell, the mana used will surely leave a mana signature!”
They could only watch as Jocain muttered the concealment spell, concentrating as he weaved the mana into the spell and tried his hardest to prevent any used mana from escaping the spell weaving, leaving mana signature. A misstep would send a beacon out signaling their location. More sweat broke out on Jocain’s forehead as the significance of what he was trying to do after talking so big hit him at last. Casting the base concealment spell, along with various other supporting spells, took about a minute, but it was the longest minute any of the five within the room have ever experienced.
At last, the spell was completed and Jocain slumped to the ground in relief, the concealment spell in place. However, his relief didn’t last long as the Captain grabbed the man by his collar and pulled him up to meet his face.
“You disobeyed my order.” The Captain said, trembling with rage.
“I saved our lives!” Jocain countered.
Their conversation was unfortunately cut short by the final member of their group who had kept silent the entire time, intently keeping watch on the figure in the sky. Both turned to look at the speaker, but the scout who had been keeping vigil moved on regardless. The final scout scrambled away the window toward the rest and uttered out his warning that made their blood turn cold.
“It’s moving! It’s moving! IT’S MOVING HERE, FAST!”
Before they could process the words that would turn out to be the scout’s last, the window behind the scout smashed in and the few glass panes that had remained in the window shattered into many pieces, raining into the back of the scout who screamed before several neat slices dismembered his body into several pieces. As the scout’s scream died, the group lowered their arms they had raised to shield themselves from the glass shards to see the humanoid figure they had grown so accustomed to seeing as a tiny spot in the horizon standing before them on the window sill life-size.
The first thing to strike them was the silver eyes of the Ranked standing before them, followed by the messy white shoulder-length hair the Ranked had. This Ranked appeared to be a young girl around fourteen years of age, but her true age was anybody’s guess. She was wearing a long black dress that looked impractical for her to fight in and seemed it would be a detriment in battle, but as the various faded stains on the dress that didn’t wash off suggests, that was really not the case. In her left hand, she wielded a long blade.
“…It’s the Void Goddess,” mumbled Araya, recognizing her from one of the rumors of the powerful Ranked Obscura.
“…Yes,” the Ranked said lightly, “I am Canshira Shadow Feather.”
Then, the Void Goddess Canshira Shadow Feather lunged at them with her glinting blade.
Both the Captain and Ulric threw up their hands, creating magic circles that activated the spells they cast – Barrier, to protect the remaining scouts. However, the impact of the blade on the two barriers carried enough force to smash the scouts through the weak walls and out of the building, barriers and all.
Araya coughed out the dust she had accidentally inhaled and pushed herself up unsteadily, before looking around wildly to look for her other companions. She noticed Ulric close by and scrambled desperately to his side as the building they had taken shelter in the whole night collapsed behind her. While steadier than most other buildings, the blow had been the last straw for the decaying building. The wooden frame crumbled near the corner where the scouts were blown out of and unable to support the weight of the roof that hadn’t already collapsed, the rest of the building finally give way, with wood splintering and tiles and pieces of the walls flying everywhere, the weaker materials crumbling into dust the moment it made contact with the ground or other buildings. Araya watched transfixed for a moment before noticing a shadow in the dust of the collapsing building. She turned to locate Ulric and ran the rest of the path toward him, screaming his name, “Ulric!”
The others weren’t present. They must have been blown further away or in a different direction. As for Ulric, he was breathing heavily, having released too much mana in the spell in panic after the ordeal with Jocain and in the suddenness of the Void Goddess’ attack. Araya knelt beside him, at a loss for a brief moment but then decided to start by trying to prop Ulric up. At once, Ulric cried out, startling her and grabbed at her shirt before realizing who it was that had him. He relaxed slightly but tried to choke out a panic message to her.
“Talk l-later!” Araya gave up trying to make out his message through his slurring and coughing, “R-Right now, we need to get out of here!”
Araya fumbled as she tried forcing the weak, struggling Ulric to stand. Ulric tried communicating in more fits, but Araya finally got Ulric to stand in the end. Supporting most of Ulric’s weight, Araya outlined her next course of action as she tried to stand unsteadily. “We need to fall back to point B13 like we discussed! Come on! You-”
In an instant, a boot connected with her stomach, the surprise and then fear hitting Araya before the pain even registered. In the next instant, Araya found the world a blur as she flew backwards at incredible speeds before crashing through a weak wall in a neighboring building. Ulric cried out and fell backwards onto the ground where he continued to breathe heavily and splutter as a shadow loomed over him. Frightened, Ulric kicked weakly with his legs into the dirt and pawed at dirt in an attempt to propel himself away from his assailant. It didn’t help. Mere moments later, Canshira’s blade was driven straight into his heart and Ulric screamed in the pain. He gripped at the sword with his gloved hands and pulled to no avail as the blood started issuing from the deadly wound.
That happened to be the first image Araya saw after stumbling to her feet and looking through the hole that she flew through. Unable to help it, she let out a shocked scream as she supported herself with the edge of the wall, “No!”
Canshira left the struggling Ulric and turned her attention to Araya. With a sweep of her hand, she sent a magic circle toward Araya that expanded until it was underneath the entire building. With a start, Araya tried climbing out of the hole she came through, but the magic circle started to exert its effects. Gravity turned intense within the magic circle and Araya tumbled from the wall and slammed into the ground. Araya tried to stand, but every fiber of her body pressed itself firmly into the ground. She found she couldn’t move at all. Above, she heard the creaking of the weakening building foundations and before long, this building too, gave way.
Canshira watched as the building folded under the intense gravity, walls and wooden support crumbling into numerous pieces, crushing the unfortunate occupant within. Araya’s dying shrieks of pain was lost in the noise of the second building collapse. When at last the dust had settled, Canshira swept her palm upwards, reversing gravity so all the debris were flung upwards into the air. Satisfied, that Araya didn’t survive, Canshira retrieved her blade carelessly from Ulric’s body, which had long stopped moving. She pulled at it sideways rather than upwards, thereby nearly severing the corpses’ torso and actually severing the arm that was in the path of her blade.
Effortlessly, Canshira took off into the air in search of the remaining scouts, heedless to the debris that crashed into the ground behind her, some of which now wet with fresh blood.
Only the Captain heard the sound of the falling debris, and had already turned to look in its direction after hearing Ulric’s scream. As he heard the second building collapsing, he turned his attention back to the other scout left nearby. Jocain had landed close to him, but he crouched where he landed and was lost in his own thoughts, mumbling incoherently ever since the Captain found him. The Captain grabbed Jocain and forced him to his feet, but Jocain resisted the Captain’s pulling. Jocain eventually wrested free of the Captain’s grip.
“I did it right… I know I did… I did it… I saved us… I did it properly… It was complete… I didn’t…I only…”
On and on Jocain droned as he looked fearfully at the Captain, trying to justify his actions as defiant tears streamed down. The Captain, expression stormy, made forward to grab Jocain and carry him away from the town by force if he had to. However, Jocain ducked away in panic, each time the Captain’s made his move.
The Captain threw a punch that ended up hitting Jocain squarely in the jaw. Jocain staggered backwards and tumbled over a low broken wall.
“There’s no time for this! We have to fall back!”
“I was right! She was coming! I was right!” Jocain roared back at the Captain as he regained his balance, suddenly lunging at the man.
Jocain knocked the Captain backwards and the two men tussled on the ground briefly, struggling through dirt, mud and ash, with Jocain trying furiously to exact his vengeance on the Captain’s jaw screaming about that Ranked Obscura’s approach wasn’t his fault and the Captain struggling to throw the manic Jocain off. Neither man held the upper hand until the pair hit into a run-down well, with Jocain smashing into the uneven bricks head-first. Jocain tried and failed to suppress a scream of agony and both of his hands were immediately cradling the spot where his head met stone. Free at last, the Captain got to his feet and stood over the writhing Jocain. He bent over to pull him up.
“We’ll see if everyone think so when we get back. Don’t think you’ll get off easi-”
The Captain noticed with a start that Jocain had stopped moving and was looking over his shoulder and past him. On a hunch, the Captain turned around immediately and threw a magic circle invoking Barrier, just as Canshira’s blade fell forward striking the newly created protective spell. The moment the steel came into contact with the barrier, immense waves of dark energy seeped forth from the blade, adding to Canshira’s power. The Captain, teeth gritting, held his ground but found himself being slowly but surely pushed back. He glared into the face of the Ranked, but contrasting his, Canshira’s face was devoid of emotion.
The Ranked Obscura’s expression wasn’t one of grim determination to kill him, nor was she smiling confidently over her clear advantage. She was not furious that her surprise attack had failed nor was she displaying disgust at the executions that she had been tasked to oversee or even acceptance of her job. No, hers was an expression that suggested that the person wearing it thought nothing at all of the task at hand. While Canshira was managing to fend him off rather easily, he was barely an annoyance to her at all. This was the difference in their strength.
As the Captain tried desperately to maintain his barrier against the Ranked, Jocain backed away from the clash between the two, his face twisted in fear. He shouted more denials that were lost in the sound of steel against magical barrier and turned tail and fled, nearly tripping over the edge of the well as he did so. The Captain, fully concentrated on defending himself from the enemy before him failed to take notice, but said enemy did.
Canshira broke away from the Captain, finally letting up her attack. However, before the Captain, tired from the ordeal could process what to do next, Canshira had already lifted her right hand before which a magic circle was already forming. With dread filling his heart, the Captain followed the direction of which Canshira’s hand was pointed toward and noted the retreating figure of Jocain. With a cry of alarm, the Captain drew his own Spellblade, which burst into flames. With its fire magic invoked, the Captain swung it at the Ranked.
Canshira parried the attack with her own blade and the effects of the Captain’s spellblade were seemingly negated. The Captain’s eyes widened as Canshira knocked his blade away and sent it flying. As he subconsciously took a step back, Canshira was suddenly upon him, appearing much closer to him and laying into him with a good dozen high speed punches and several kicks before finally sending him crashing into a nearby wall. She then returned her attention to Jocain, who hadn’t appeared to have made significant process in this time. A moment later, a beam of dark energy twice of Canshira’s size in diameter issued from the magic circle formed in Canshira’s hands.
“No-! Jocain, watch out!”
As the Captain watched helplessly, the beam of dark energy tore up the ground as it rushed forward, moving faster than any animal he had ever seen. It was seemingly a beam comprised of pure chaos, and it made the world seem visibly darker just by existing. Within seconds, it had reached Jocain who didn’t even have the time to turn and see what had caught up to him before he was engulfed and ripped apart, like every other object that stood within the beam’s path. If he had screamed, the Captain didn’t hear it, not even after the beam dissipated into nothingness.
He had Canshira’s undivided attention now.
“I saw five within when I entered. Am I correct in my assumption that you are the last?”
“Last? Then Ulric and Araya too-?” Noticing his Spellblade lying close by, the Captain grabbed it and noticed that it had been chipped off near the top. It hadn’t managed to protect anyone, and even when it finally saw some use, the blade had been flung aside easily. As he rose to his feet, feeling the wall behind him for support, the Captain felt the anger rise within him that masked the terror he felt before this enemy. Unable to contain himself, the Captain let out a mournful cry – a cry for how his team had perished and how it would be impossible for them all to return home now. His arm trembling with anger, he pointed the Spellblade at the Ranked.
“You’ll pay for this.”
“Is that a yes?”
The Captain now knew that it was impossible to survive this encounter. He might have been able to defeat a normal Obscura, but his meeting with a Ranked Obscura, a being that was able to think, a being that had access to incredibly powerful magic and possessed skills beyond that of a human’s, had been doomed from the start. However, if he was to go down, he would not do so quietly. If he was able to even take this one Ranked with him, it might change the tide for the Resistance some battles down the line. With renewed determination, the Captain launched himself from where he stood, Spellblade at the ready for his last great battle with the Ranked.
Through all this, Canshira didn’t move from where she stood, not even moving to defend herself. There she stood watching the Captain charge at her with the same expression on her face. The moment seemed to last forever as the Captain invoked the fire of his Spellblade and raised it high above his head, getting ready to strike the moment he came into range of the Ranked.
Suddenly, a fireball crashed into the Captain, crushing him in an instant.
“And that makes five.” Canshira noted, finally sheathing her blade. Flames leapt up from the place where the fireball crash landed and the dust and smoke billowed outwards past Canshira, impairing her view. Canshira waited and her patience was finally rewarded when a voice rang out from the inferno.
“Ugh! What did I just step in? It’s all wet and mushy!”
The owner of the new voice stepped out of the flames looking completely unharmed. The voice had belonged to a girl who looked to be a few years older than Canshira. Indeed, she could have been mistaken for an older sister. She had similarly wild silver hair, though hers reached below her shoulders, ending halfway down her back. Her eyes were a fiery red, as opposed to Canshira’s silver. She wore a black dress similar to Canshira’s but while Canshira’s outfit covered nearly every inch of her body, the newcomer’s outfit was more revealing.
“Rankura.” Canshira acknowledged the newcomer.
“You’ve been here all night, Canshira?” Rankura asked as she repeatedly wiped her shoe across the dirt in hopes that she could get rid the remains of the Captain on it that way.
“I thought I detected intruders.” Canshira nodded.
“So you stayed here all night?”
“I wanted to make sure.”
“Wait, you received the orders too, right? And I tried communicating with you telepathically, did you hear that too?”
“But the reason you didn’t reply was because…?”
“Because I was keeping watch.”
“Because you were keeping watch all night, of course.” Rankura sighed, “Couldn’t you have just attacked the region you more or less detected them around? So I don’t have to come find you?”
“I wanted to make sure I got them all.” Canshira said, matter-of-factly.
“And did you?”
“Yes. All five.”
“Wow. All five. Good job. And here I was wondering why you were giving me the cold shoulder.” Rankura sighed in an exaggerated manner, shaking her head. “Did you even get the gist of our new orders?”
Canshira nodded as she ascended into the air, Rankura following close behind. “We’re to head to another one of the six worlds, Orbis Terrarum to aid in the invasion of that world.”
“The natives call it Earth. Apparently, the group sent there isn’t making any progress. At all.”
They were high above the town now. Canshira could see all of Caveo from where she floated. As she came to a stop, so did Rankura, “Is something different on Orbis Terrarum?”
“Sure, the natives can’t even use magic! And they don’t even have any other innate abilities! They’re as ordinary as they come.” Rankura scoffed, “The group they send there must be pretty pathetic if they can’t even take on these people.”
“I see.” Canshira closed her eyes and drew on her innate ability to sense the presence of living beings and use of magic. She did a sweep of the town and the environs. Nope. She wasn’t picking up anything except the Obscura. All was well.
She opened her eyes to find Rankura looking at her.
“Let us head to Earth.”