Finn was anxiously waiting. All three of them had gotten down from the tree now, Oswald and Finn waiting together a bit back, Jennifer in the front. Finn could see the mist wisp around her hands, she was conjuring spells, throwing them left and right. He had levelled his cultivation more, and he could see the world a bit different now, through his mind. He could see Jennifer throwing spells to the ground this way. To the trees, to rocks. Intricate designs, and soon after they landed, they disappeared. Finn was sure they were still there, just very hard to detect now. If he tried very hard to focus on where he saw them come down, he could detect a faint trace of Aum, but that was all. Again he was amazed by Jennifer’s skill.
“Don’t worry lad, it will be alright.” Oswald sounded calm, and that irked Finn even more. How could they be so calm? So sure of themselves.
“It is just.. Sam..” Finn tried to think of what to say, to make them understand his worries when suddenly Mira arrived.
Mira looked like she had been through a storm, but she looked much better than before. Much livelier as well.
“You were near death an hour ago,” Jennifer said, only slightly curious.
“Yes, but not anymore.”
“I can see that, how?” The hate was seeping through her voice, through her charade, but Jennifer didn’t care anymore. Her curiosity in how Mira had recovered was quickly losing ground to her hate for her.
“My guild is not without resources,” Mira smirked. Sam was standing behind her, scared, confused. Her eyes caught Finn.
“Sam! Quickly, come here!” Finn waved at her to move to him.
“What? Why? Finn these people… they are-”
“I know! They are good! Or not bad at least. Mira is bad though so quickly come here!”
“What? Finn, what are you saying?” Sam looked even more confused now, she turned to look at Mira and found her smiling at her. Not a kind or nice smile, a vicious smile. A victorious smile. “Mira?”
“Oh shut up child. My friends are here soon, then you and that brat over there,” Mira said as she glared at Finn. “Come with us and just do as you are told to do.”
“What do you mean?” Sam asked, tears welling up in her eyes. The situation, the last few days and weeks. All the stress and emotions, they were getting to her.
“I mean, dumb child, that your little boyfriend over there is right. I am bad. My friends are bad. And we are going to take you with us and do bad things to you. Do you understand it now? Or do you want me to spell it out? Draw it out maybe?” Mira glared at Sam and raised her hand, preparing to slap her.
“No!” Finn screamed, in a second he conjured a spell, almost without thinking. The spiralling fire from before shot from his hand, straight at Mira.
Mira cursed as she quickly conjured a small shield. The fire smashed harmlessly against it.
“Haha, silly boy, did you really think that such a-” Her sentence stopped abruptly as Mira groaned in pain. As she conjured the small shield, distracted entirely, Jennifer had conjured her own spells. Fast ones, weak ones. Hard to detect, even harder to detect in time to defend against them. And Mira had failed to do just that. Two purple shards, made out of energy, jutted out of her side now. The wound was not deep, but enough to hurt her.
“You fucking bitch!” She said between gasps and groans. Jennifer was already conjuring two new spells, the same purple shards were forming at her hands. Mira cursed and conjured a second shield, moving the both of them. Just in time, to catch the thrown shards. The shards pierced the small shields and all of it shattered.
“You are going down,” Mira said from between teeth, her glare focussed on Jennifer. Her focus shifted to Sam again though when a soft shimmer appeared just at the corner of her sight. When she looked back at Sam, a golden wall stood in between them. “What the-”
Oswald grinned as he kneeled down on one knee, his hands outstretched towards sam. The golden dome was small, but comfortable enough for Sam to stand up in.
“Now, as long as that dome is up, nothing can hurt your friend.” He said, winking at Finn.
“Thanks, Oswald!” Finn said, truly grateful. He started to conjure up his own spells as well, determined to help Jennifer and Oswald now. He looked at the two women fighting as he waited for his spells to ready. Somehow, he felt useless at that moment. He had neither the speed, skill or power to compete with either woman. But sometimes the smallest marble is enough to break the balance, he told himself.
Jennifer roared as she conjured shard after shard, hurling them at Mira. The shards propelled themselves forwards with magic as well once thrown, impacting with great speed and force. Mira screamed in turn, conjuring shields or shards of her own, throwing them back. But all she could do was go on the defensive, block and destroy Jennifer’s shards as they came in a never-ending flow.
As his spell finally was ready, Finn released it. A new spell from the last few days, one they had only tested a little bit so far. Three small balls of energy appeared above Finn. Emanating a white light, bright. Finn pointed at Mira and one of the balls suddenly shot forwards, hurling towards her. It moved so fast that by the time Mira noticed it, it crashed against her ribs a moment later. The ball impacted her hard and then retreated, moving back to its place above Finn. Finn grinned as Mira cursed and took a step back, clearly hurt from the attack.
“Good lad, keep it up!” Jennifer screamed. Finn knew it was honest praise, but with Jennifer’s voice filled with rage and hate, it sounded weird, almost like an insult.
Jennifer did not hesitate and attacked Mira as she stepped back Not with magic however. Instead, she dashed forwards, incredibly fast and punched her in her other side. Mira groaned and screamed, jumping back and releasing a sudden burst of magical energy. Jennifer screamed too as she jumped back as well.
“What was that?” Finn asked, confused. He hadn’t seen magic like that. There had been almost no fog, no preparation, almost no structure.
“Crude magic we often call it. Or Quick magic. We’ll explain later son, now focus on beating her, this working is strong. It will keep Sam safe, but I can not keep it up indefinitely.”
Finn nodded, focusing on the situation again. He saw Mira and Jennifer, sizing each other up. Mira was holding her ribs, where Jennifer just had punched. Jennifer looked hurt too, some cuts and scrapes on her arms from Mira’s sudden magical outburst.
Finn pointed at Mira again, this time all three balls short forth. They moved parallel to each other, in a straight line at Mira. Finn was sure he could make their movement more erratic and independent of each other, but for that, he’d need far more time and study. Now, the balls just went at Mira in a straight line. Continuously speeding up.
Mira saw them coming and conjured a shield, large enough to catch all three balls at once. With a loud smack, they crashed against the shield and bounced off, only to immediately accelerate again. Moving to the side and then towards her. Mira cursed as she moved the shield. The balls came for her again and again. Smashing against the shield, trying to get past it. Finn was starting to sweat under the strain.
Jennifer conjured spells again and went on the offensive as well, throwing low-level spells at Mira. Shards, small elemental balls and energy blasts. Mira cursed as she had to use two defensive shields at once, moving them around as well as Jennifer moved around as well, changing her point of attack each time. Mira was forced to step back as she moved her shields around. She was clearly strained by it all and she realized she was again on the losing side. But still, she was grinning. That wasn’t right. Jennifer was too in the fight to notice it at this point, just laying a barrage of spellfire on Mira.
“Why is she grinning?”
“What?” Asked Oswald as he looked at Finn.
“Mira, she is grinning,” Finn said as he directed his orbs in another attack. “Why? She is losing so why would she be grinning?”
Oswald looked at Mira and frowned. “You are right, why would she?” He was thinking for a moment as Finn kept helping Jennifer. “Wait, kid, did you hear what she said before? To Sam?”
“Not really, something about doing bad stuff to Sam and me?”
“Yeah, something about her friends too right?”
“Ah, yeah, she said her friends were coming.”
“Damn it, that means her guildmates. Jennifer!” Oswald screamed, but Jennifer did not hear him, or she ignored him. “Damn that woman!” Oswald turned to Finn. “Finn, listen. Her guildmates, they are not weak. Jennifer and I can perhaps handle them if there aren’t too many, but I can’t protect Sam and fight them at the same time. You need to get Sam away from there okay?”
“Okay, but… how?” Finn asked as he groaned under the strain of the spell.
“I am going to end my working and start a new one. One to attack Mira. She will be busy enough with Jennifer alone when I join, she won’t have time to even look at Sam. You go to her, and get her behind us, safe from Mira’s reach, okay?”
Finn gave a worried look at Oswald and then looked at Sam. He couldn’t hear her, but she didn’t seem to be speaking anyway. She looked scared. Watching the fight between Jennifer and Mira, looking at Finn next. She saw he was watching and she waved, her eyes filled with fear. Finn signed to her to wait.
“Okay, do it.” Finn ended his spells, the balls crashing a last time against Mira’s shield and then exploding. The explosion took out both her shields but didn’t manage to hurt her as she jumped back. The opening allowed Jennifer to land a hit, before Mira could conjure up new shields. Mira cursed but with only Jennifer attacking now, she was having an easier time defending herself.
Finn didn’t waste any time and started moving towards Sam, the golden globe a beacon in the night. As soon as he was close, Oswald ended the working. The globe seemingly vanished into the ground, without a single sound.
“Finn!” Sam screamed as she ran at him, Finn ran towards her as well, grabbing her and holding her in his arms.
“Sam! Come, follow me, we need to get back. It isn’t safe this close.” He said as he took her hand and started to run back. Sam followed but not that fast, hesitating.
“Finn… what is happening? Why are you with them? Why are you helping them attack Mira?” Sam’s voice was cracking.
“It’s a lot to explain Sam… But… I never trusted Mira. And these two… well, they made their case,” Finn said, knowing full well that it was just as much a stretch to trust Jennifer and Oswald as to trust Mira. “And I trust them. I believe them. Besides, you saw how Mira reacted, what she said. Do you need more proof?” Finn asked.
“I.. no… it’s just, why? Why Finn?”
“I don’t know Sam…. I don’t know.” Finn said as he pulled her along with him. Halfway back to where Finn stood first, Mira suddenly realized what was happening. Enraged she let out another burst of crude magic, forcing Jennifer back again. She aimed at Finn and Sam, releasing a twisting, red, black and green torrent of energy. But Oswald jumped in between them, with a shield of his own. Mira’s spell crashed against it, trashed for a while and then died out with a sizzle. Oswald groaned under the strain but then released his shield and conjured another working. Golden hammers of light soared towards Mira. She tried to dodge them, but some of them still landed, crushing her ribs. She fell to her knees, arms clinging to her ribcage as she bit her teeth.
“Fuck! Bastards!” She shot her arms out, preparing a large spell. But she was too slow, Jennifer dashed towards her, channeling. She was there in a heartbeat and conjured a small spell. Weak, too weak to do any real damage. But from up close, it was enough. Jennifer’s hand was an inch away from Mira’s face when she released the spell. A small explosion. Enough to maim Mira’s face and knock her out.
Mira sunk down on the ground and Jennifer put her hands on her knees, resting. Catching a breath. Oswald let go of his workings as well while Finn stopped and hugged Sam.
“Okay… it’s over….” He said to her softly.
“No, not until this bitch is dead!” Jennifer screamed. The three of them looked up at her, watched her walk conjure another spell. Stronger. She aimed her hands at Mira’s torso, and let go. A blast of pure energy shot forth and crashed into Mira’s back.
Suddenly a bright light flashed, Jennifer’s blast exploded and knocked her a few metres away. The light blinded the others for a short moment.
When the light finally receded Mira’s back had a small trail of smoke moving up, but she seemed to be okay otherwise. Behind her stood two new people. Two men, hooded. Each one had a ring that looked exactly like the one Mira had.. Finn gasped as Oswald and Jennifer prepared for battle immediately.
“Look Sam, their hands. The rings. The same as Mira’s. They are bad too, from her guild.”
“That must be the friends she talked about!” Sam said.
Finn wanted to say something but a loud bang interrupted him. They both looked up to see Jennifer and Oswald exchanging spells with the other two. Shields were conjured and released in quick succession if they were not shattered by spells. Both sides seemed to be equally matched and equally skilled. Unlike in the fights before, this time both sides measured their spells better, only adding just enough power to it to overcome the defences of the other side, or only making their defences just strong enough to overcome the attack. This was a quick, dangerous gambling game and did not always work out.
Aside from his spell-like workings, Oswald conjured weapons made of light and attacked with those as well. He could channel as well, it seemed, as he moved and struck with superhuman speed.
Further away a light flashed, dark and purple like. Another person came from the woods, a woman this time. She screamed and joined the men in their attacks.
“Fuck, we have to help them!” Finn said and started to conjure a spell. Sam cried out frantically but joined him as well. Their spells managed to hit the men, but they did little damage. Often they were deflected by shields as well. They felt utterly useless and grew more desperate with each passing moment. Jennifer and Oswald fought like lions, and the three others had a hard time matching their pace. Sam and Finn attacked with all they had as well, enough to distract the enemies, but not to do any real damage to them.
Another flash and bang followed and two more people joined the other three. It was five against four now, which in reality was more like five against two and a half or something.
Sam started to panic, hyperventilating. Finn kneeled down, holding her, trying to calm her. Not really sure what to do, he just held her and cooed her while watching Jennifer and Oswald try their best to fight off five foes at once. They were managing, but poorly. They lost ground with each passing second. And soon they would be defeated. And then Sam and Finn would get taken.
That couldn’t happen, right? Finn tried to think of something. But he came up empty. There was nothing he could do. He cursed the world. The day he unlocked the system. His decision to drag Sam into this. He cursed the angels.
Another loud bang came, along with a flash. Finn felt his own resolve break now too. Sam was already sobbing, crying, and he couldn’t bring up the energy to hold back his own tears anymore. He looked up, expecting to see even more of them have arrived. He held his breath.
And then exhaled.
There was another person there now, but he came from the other side. At first, Finn thought he would attack Jennifer and Oswald from the back, but he walked past them. Extended his hands to the two Players that were closest to him, and then magic shot forth. Beams of destructive energy smashed into their chests, ripped them open. Blood splattered around them as they sank to the floor, holding the gaping wounds. They were still alive, but Finn could tell the wounds were deadly.
The other three shrieked as they jumped back, regrouping. Jennifer and Oswald sunk onto their knees, more out of exhaustion than respect. Yet they both greeted the man.
“Master, welcome..” Jennifer groaned and then added. “Finally.” She smiled and then fainted.
“You did well, rest. Oswald, take care of her.” Thomas said, then glared at the three others.