In retrospect, it might not have been the best idea he'd ever had. After all, who would really be insane enough to jump into the center of the only cleared spot in the entire battlefield and yell at the top of their lungs, “Come and get me”? Well, besides Nighthand of course. Most people who knew him well, knew that he would do just such an action. He was known, somewhat, for being foolhardy, and yet somehow coming out on top. He died a lot, sure, but he came back stronger for it. Death in combat simply made you aware of your mistakes, in this World. That is, save for one sole exception, that being death by the hands of the Elites. They kill too quickly and too easily for anything to be learned from their battles.
Nighthand was quickly surrounded by the press of the enemies, monsters and knights alike. Though some, here and there, hesitated to go into the circle of death that had just appeared in their midst, many more charged recklessly in. His blade swung in great arcs, monsters flying this way and that, diving out of the way or being thrown by the impact of the massive bar of steel. Flames licked his arms, the heat from the blade practically bursting from its surface and making the blade even more deadly. The monsters weren't a challenge to him, except for the giants, and they only should they get lucky and catch him off guard. He kept a watch for them, though, so they couldn't sneak up on him in the press of bodies.
Still, now and then, a monster would get a lucky hit, and he didn't have the SP left over for a repth. He was getting tired, getting worn down. It was getting really, really close to time that this war had to end, at least for them. His thought more and more left the battle at hand and focused on escape. Hah. Him, running from a battle... If it weren't for the rest of the party, and his responsibility to them, in all likelihood he would have stayed to fight to the end. As if he could beat six elites and four admins. HAH. Simple bravado, overconfidence, arrogance. He might kill one, perhaps, before he was killed. Not the simple death, either. His deletion, his end. Not even Unbreakable could save him from the combined wrath of the masters of this field.
Finally, Nighthand took the blow, the straw that broke the camel's back. Was that even the right metaphor? He didn't know. All he knew was that the pain was suddenly more than he could bear and still fight effectively against these masses. These endless masses. He jumped, as high and as hard as he could, and opened his wings to their fullest. Up he rose, and up he flew, up into the smoke and the clouds and the lashing of spells. Up above the reach of all save the most vigilant of wavemasters. The occasional spell erupted around him, but lost in the clouds and the smoke as he was, there was little they could do to have accuracy to their attacks.
Suddenly he broke into a 'clearing' of sorts. A place where the smoke billowed around a clear path of sky. A place where two other figures stood, seemingly on nothing, sending spell after spell crashing to the ground below. Tritoch and Kelvin. The one admin that might be on their side, given time, and the one admin who would never be more than a berserker attacking them.
Nighthand entered the clearing more fully, and felt the air solidify under his feet. So. They weren't actually floating, but had placed an invisible platform up here for them to stand on. Smart, really; it allowed them to see their targets, but acted as a shield from any up-coming spells. He furled his wings back tight against his back, and approached.
”Kelvin. Tritoch. Do you see now what we fight?”
”YOU! What are you doing up here? TAKE YOUR ALLIES AND BEGONE!” His wand glowed, and he directed it at the heavyblade. Lanceor took form in the air above the Wavemaster Three, the terrible shape of the dragon rising to crash down on him.
”I AM IN NO MOOD FOR YOUR GAMES, TRITOCH.” Nighthand shouted. He reached out and gave the spell a twist, one he didn't use often, one that simply broke the spell. It was incredibly difficult to pull off, even more so with the infection and the instability in his powers, but that didn't matter. Not now. His will forced it into working, ignoring the pulsing fluctuations in the Twilight of his character. The Lanceor fell, diving for him, and passed right through him. It dealt no damage, now. The spell that had cost the Lord of the Three the SP to cast had been rendered nothing more than a pretty, and harmless, graphic.
Before the wavemaster could let off another spell, Nighthand was in front of him, glaring into the man's twisted and insane eyes. ”Do yourself a favor and busy yourself with the battle below. Unless you want me to alert my so-called friends to your location. I could care less about what you think, Tritoch, nor that you don't believe me. You and I both know I can beat you at your own game, and you and I both know you have bigger things to worry about.”
Tritoch's eyes flashed through a dozen emotions. Hate and anger, rage, fury, contempt and arrogance. Fear, suppressed with more anger. And finally, realization. Submission. The wavemaster knew Nighthand was right, at least that he had bigger things to worry about than the heavyblade. Without a word, but with a glare that spoke death, Tritoch moved off through the clouds, quickly disappearing.
”Not many can handle Tritoch like that. I agree, though; we do have larger problems than you at the moment. Who are these six, what are they doing here? How do they have the gall to attack a root town and to do it while we're stationed here?
”Shocking, isn't it Kelvin? Those are the hackers, the real threat to the world. Myself, and Nall, and our little band has been fighting them. We've killed two of them. That's why they're here; because we are. They're here to kill us. You're just a bonus on the side. They don't care about you or your powers; you're nothing to them.”
”We are far from nothing. You have yet to see the full extent of our powers.”
”You forget, Kelvin. I have been around these hackers more than you have, far more. I can tell you now that you, too, have yet to see the full extent of their powers.”
Kelvin looked at him, then downwards. The battle was as thick as ever. One significant change had taken place, however. Tritoch had attracted to them attention they did not need. His descent from the clouds had allowed one watchful elite to see where they were, the one shining spot in the darkened sky. Rugudorull's cry could be heard even from on high.
”DEMONIC PULSE! SUMMON INNER DEMON, RAIKIRI!”
Where once had stood a blacked-cloaked man, his raven beard reaching to the ground, became a frenzy of terror. ALL of the monsters nearby scurried away. The very words, the voice, shook fear through their digital hearts, and they knew they must escape or die. Rugu's hair stood out everywhere, gripped in a massive burst of static electricity. His earrings, the Earrings of Raikiri, were glowing bright. A pulse of invisible force knocked everything around the hacker to the ground, everything loosing footing in the force of the transformation.
Then, standing in the center of the devastation, stood Raikiri, the demon of thunder. Fifteen feet tall if he stood at all, with great tattered wings. His face was twisted and evil, eyes glowing deep red, fangs dripping with saliva. He had two horns atop his head, which twisted slightly downwards and conducted electricity like the rest of his body. Scaled all over, with black fur on top of some places, his body was heavily muscled. His arms were long and bulged with more muscle then necessary. His hand's were as normal as possible, except for their massive increase in size. Silver, spiked gauntlets outfitted his hands and most his arms. His leg's also bulged with muscles, but they were shorter on him then they would be in proportion. His feet were large hooves, which were armored in silver spiked boots. Around his neck, a silver, spiked choker was in place.
With a roar that shook the ruins of the town, Raikiri launched himself into the air, hurtling directly for the place where Nighthand and Kelvin stood. Kelvin's eyes widened a fraction, but his confidence was unshaken.
”Go, now, if you can. Get your party out of here, if you can. I've set scripts in motion since these players arrived, wearing away at the blocks they put in place over the town. It should be a help to you.”
Nighthand studied the Admin, seeing the man's sincerity. While Kelvin might not believe their story, at least part of it was proving true. The heavyblade just hoped that the admin wouldn't pay for this with his life, now.
Nighthand backed off the clouded area in time to see Raikiri arrive. Kelvin stood his ground. His wand, formerly a simple brown wooden shaft topped with a red jewel, transformed. The wood was coated with a white surface, smooth and uniform. The jewel pulsed once and turned golden, emitting a faint light.
”So, you're a thunder elemental, are you hacker? Then taste of darkness!”
The wavemaster directed his staff and great pulses of energy flew from it. Nighthand's eyes widened now, watching. The Admin didn't even bother casting spells. His wand simply converted the SP into elemental damage. Blast upon blast shook the demon as he flew, but Raikiri laughed. Thunder arced from the demon's hand and solidified into a whip, the one known to them as the Million Volts.
Nighthand dove through the clouds and was gone, Kelvin's scream fading into the sky.
Tritoch watched in horror as the demon flew past him, utterly ignoring him. Why was he being so left out? What was it about him that they all saw fit to ignore?
”I WILL NOT BE IGNORED!”
Great wings arched out from Tritoch's back, his form still stationary in the air. Wings of Yellow, Red, and Blue. The skies crackled with thunder, more than Raikiri's presence would have caused, and while it certainly wouldn't help Kelvin, Tritoch didn't care. The flames Klive had called forth were intensified, and a hot wind swept the town. Despite the heat, chill snow began to fall from the skies. The combination of elements Tritoch preferred.
The Wavemaster three, his great wings of energy sweeping behind him, found the perfect target for his spells. One of the s-called leaders of the group stood on the ground, amidst a pile of corpses she could not have possibly killed. The woman in black, the one who had emerged first. He directed his falcon-winged staff at her.
The great dragons formed on either side of Tritoch, his own special skill taking place. Doubling the spells. That was the hidden power that had served him best in the fights with Asgard and the rest of his troupe. Twin Lanceor Pha's shot from their position to the ground, on top of the woman.
The woman who seemed to flicker and disappear.
”Remember the name Royce, Tritoch. Remember it is I who killed you.”
Royce, poised in the air mere inches from the Wavemaster Three. She leaned in and, almost lightly, placed her palm on the admin's chest.
Tritoch's eyes widened, first in shock, then fear, then pain. A burst of light filled the sky, and Royce returned to the ground. Of Tritoch, there was no sign.
Balmung was having a hard time himself. Nothing had been this challenging, this damaging, this tenacious, since the One Sin. Perhaps even that was child's play compared to what he faced now... What he faced now in one man.
Leave this game, hacker! Leave or I'll be forced to kill you here and now!”
The skeletal face of the man he fought, the single golden eye that watched his every move, was twisted in humor, the grinning death's head.
”Ssssilly Balmung. Even if I wanted to, I cannot leave thissss game. It issss far too amussssing. HAHAHAHA”
Balmung sighed. Reason was useless against these hackers, and against anyone in this god-forsaken town. Looking beyond the hacker, his heart was filled with sorrow. The beauty of Mac Anu... destroyed. The buildings were rubble, there was nothing as far as the eye could see but combat and death. Mac Anu truly was forsaken by god, now.
The blademaster, the Descendant of Fianna, dashed forwards once again, his blade tracing a complex pattern in the air as it flew for Melzas. The hacker laughed again, the bitter, hissing sound enraging the admin. Their blades met, parted and met again, and again and again. Every move Blamung could make, despite having the faster class and the speed advantage of Ap Do, was matched. It was like the heavyblade of his opponent was always there, always where his blade would be. Like Melzas knew his every thought, his every plan. Strike after strike was dodged, blow after blow met nothing but metal.
”GiRue Crack!” The blademaster cried, and the heavyblade was hit.
Or at least, he seemed hit. His hand had left his heavyblade, and come up, and... stopped Balmung's blade? The blademaster yanked, trying to loose his blade from the hacker's grasp, but he couldn't.
A shriek from the sky caused Balmung to raise his gaze. A speck fell, growing and resolving into human form. It was followed by a darker shadow in the sky. The human landed on the ground without the benefit of something to slow him, and landed nearby. Balmung gasped to realize it was Kelvin. The fellow Admin screamed in pain, and screamed again as Raikiri landed on top of him, hooves crushing the wavemaster's arms. His hands reached down and picked up Kelvin as a man would a doll, and a few great flaps of the wings and they were airborn again and gone.
”That issss not your fight, Balmung.” Melzas said, and Balmung looked back. ”Ssssaturnsss Ringssss!”
The hacker's finger traced circles in the air, each resolving into a ring of dust motes. The motes grew and formed snow, then ice, then full rings of ice, hovering in the air. Melzas smiled in a death's-head grin, and tapped each ring in turn.
Balmung screamed to match Kelvin as the razored rings sliced through his arm, ripping it from his body. The shoulder was instantly numb, frozen with cold, and the severed arm still grasped the blade Melzas held. Melzas's sword was nowhere to be seen. The hacker tossed the arm and sword away, and moved like a flash. His arm reached out and grabbed the wrist of the blademaster, who had been about to cast a spell with it. A squeeze and a snap and Balmung was left with one broken arm and one severed. Melzas laughed again, and kicked, sending Balmung crashing into a pile of rubble. The remains of what had once been the weapons shop shuddered and fell like a landslide, burying the admin.
Kamui was seeing her worst played out in front of her. Her knights were turning against her, hackers had overrun the town, and there was nothing she could do about it. She slaughtered monsters by the hundreds, no, by the thousands, and yet they still came. Try as she might, though, she was unable to damage one of the chaos gates. All her admin powers were useless to do a thing to the gates, the hackers, or even the monsters. They refused to be deleted. All of them. What was going on?
In her rage, she braved the fires of the clownish-looking elite. Flames licked her skin and she shuddered, knowing their source. Hideous hackers... She dashed through the fire, quickly centering on the hacker himself, standing calm and wielding the fire as though it were his weapon. She didn't pause, didn't slow, as she ran full-tilt for the hacker. Her spear slashed at his unwary torso, but the blademaster's sword was up and blocked the spear easily. She vaulted, flipping over the hacker's head spinning and landing on her feet some distance on his other side.
Again without pause, she ran for him, her spear thrusting out. His blade rose again for a block, but she twist herself and stopped, spinning around and going for a swipe across his back.
The red-dressed hacker calmly reached out and grabbed the shaft of her spear, holding it tight.
”You should play elsewhere, little girl.” He said, tossing her aside.
Enraged, she climbed to her feet and charged again, her spear aimed for his gut. The strike was driven by all of her rage and pain, all of her humiliation. Normal players would die just looking at it. Unfortunately, Klive was no normal player.
The hacker's hand burst into flames and a huge wave of fire erupted from it, engulfing Kamui. She bore the pain, the fire, knowing it would die out like any other spell.
But it didn't.
It grew and grew until it was more than she could bear. She raced from the fire area, the few knights still alive and under her command watching in awe as their leader, burning alive, ran past them and up onto the bridge.
Two giants were guarding the bridge, but she didn't stop to kill them. She ignored them completely. They, however, didn't ignore her. They turned as she raced by and slammed their clubs where she was. Where she would have been, that is, if she were fighting and not fleeing. Their blows landed on the bridge, and it crumbled, it's already damaged surface finally collapsing. The giants toppled and fell with the rubble. Kamui's scream echoed through the town before it was cut off in a hiss of flames, taking an unnaturally long time to quench themselves in the water.
Nighthand witnessed all this from the air, and knew then that their time was gone. He hit the ground running, heading for the group, only to find them split once more. Some were fighting monsters still, while others...
”Haha, silly little freedom fighters. Attacking me was perhaps your worst move, you know. I've been watching you.” She had successfully dodged the spell from Rayo, the lanceor being of little concern to her. Her Treeweaver jabbed into the ground, and vines rose from cracks in the cobbles; perhaps the only life in that deadened city. The vines shot out like Reinier's spires, jabbing in to Zan's thrown blocks and directing them to the ground. The smaller debris was dealt with easily, and the larger chunks as well. Finally the largest chunks flew at her, and the vines reacted differently, forming a mesh to catch the great blocks. These she simply tossed aside, to crush the various fighters of the armies under their weight.
Zan's following Dek Vorv didn't take hold, nor had he expected it to. Effects rarely did anything to the elites. Her spear was pulled from the building she stood on, and it went up to simply parry the attacks Zan threw at her. Attack after attack was met with the firm stop of the Treeweaver.
His final skill had a bit more decimating an effect than he'd intended; She blocked it, and the force of the blow landing on an immovable object shattered the building they stood on. Vines protected the pair from the rubble, however, and they landed unharmed in the rubble, Zan not even noticing as he continued his clawed assault.
”You see, in watching you, I've seen that you have your own weaknesses. You're protecting people. And so I grant you the ultimate curse... To fail! AHAHAHAHAHAHAAAA!”
Xenobia abruptly let the Treeweaver fall, loose in her hand, and let Zan's attack come. He swung for her head, and she stepped forwards, her hand touching the werewolf's cheek ever-so-lightly, a caress that meant more than any he'd ever felt.
Zan stopped, frozen in his assault, then turned to face the group. He roared and leapt from the rubble, racing past Rayo, past Phoenix, to find the one he'd claimed as his own. Dien suddenly found himself under the same ferocious assault the lycanthrope had intended for Xenobia. The blademaster fell, crying out in pain, and Zan stopped. His control was gone. He was left to himself now, knowing what he had just done, and how powerless he had been to stop it.
Xenobia wasn't done, however. She seemed to take a single step, but was suddenly in front of Rayo. The wavemaster's wand rose to ward off whatever strike would come, but she merely laid her hand on his, and he too was hers to command. Rayo turned, without a word, unleashed another Lanceor. Zhao might have felt the odd prickling on his skin of the charged atmosphere before he was destroyed, but it wouldn't have given him the warning he needed to escape.
The long arm mistress of nature reveled in her command, and released Rayo. Another step and she was in front of Reinier. A touch to him send him flying, under his own power, to search out Canti. The twin blade noticed his ally in the air, and was almost comical in the way he reacted in disbelief at the twin spires of earth that shot from the ground, impaling him.
As if simply having fun, the long arm didn't release her control, but rather had the winged warrior fly himself into the ground before letting him to his own devices. Smashed against the rubble, Reinier didn't even seem to mind that he'd just killed off one of his own, so concerned was he with the damage he'd taken to his face from the impact with the oh-so-cruel world.
”Stop this, Xenobia!”
”Oh, so nice of you to join us, Nighthand. Just in time for you all to die.”
Nighthand stood on the edge of the semi-clear area Xenobia and the party occupied. He threw out his cloak, running fingers along the lining and pulling scrolls from their pockets.
”I won't let you continue this! THIS ENDS NOW!”
”How right you are.” Nighthand's eyes grew wide and he spun, but too late; Garaa's mace slammed into him from the side, sending him crashing into the rubble. Nighthand rose, staggering, but Garaa was already there, the mace slamming him back into the ground.
The group, seeing their strongest and their brightest so easily defeated, began looking at each other. How could they win against this kind of opposition? Was it even possible? Were the deaths of Kuja and Jett merely flukes? How had those two even died? It was Nall, all Nall. The blademaster wasn't even here anymore, was he? Where was he?
”You may have beaten me once, Garaa, but not twice.” Came Nall's voice, as if on cue. His blurred form passed by the great demon that was the darkness elite, and a line of blood appeared on the elite's chest. Another and another joined it, and Nall shouted the words of his skill for a final blow. ”RUE CRACK!”
At the calling of the skill, Garaa's laughter filled the area. The form Nall had so easily assaulted disappeared, melting into the shadows around the rubble. Nall crouched, pulling Nighthand's battered body, still with a couple points of HP, from the rubble crater. A dash and a blur, and Nighthand was left in the care of the few gathered fighters remaining. Nall stood at their head, then charged again, where Garaa had reappeared.
Garaa leaped into the air, his mace held high above his head. Nall looked up, eyes wide, and dashed away. Or rather, would have dashed away, except that the shadows he stood in were like superglue. He couldn't move. He strained, and heaved, and shouted with exertion, But to no avail.
”Once more you perish, Nall!” The demon cried as he descended, his mace slamming into the blademaster. Nall was crushed to the ground, and the entire town shook. The rumbling continued, deep into the foundations of the city.
Massive forces were at work, as Garaa pulled his mace from the hole it and Nall had sunken into. The rumbling grew, and a massive CRACK! Shook the city. Or rather, what little was left to it. The cobbled road split apart, a yawning chasm forming in the center of the town. It stretched from end to end, from chaos gate to outer wall. A rushing roar filled the air as the river drained into the new hole, mixed with the screams of those caught as they fell in.
”You cannot have them, Garaa! Nor can you, Xenobia! Not now, not ever!” Yarthkins and Lanceor appeared in the air, one slamming into Xenobia and one into Garaa. The two seemed unhindered, but they didn't attack again, at least.
Raine stepped from the alleyway and, without another word, held her wand up high. A beam of sunlight struck it from a break in the clouds, and it was reflected everywhere, like a massive fractured mirror. When the light cleared, the Hackers were alone as could be. Surrounded by their armies and their defeated enemies, the regrouped. Garaa checked his hole in disgust, finding Nall gone with the others. Somehow, they had escaped.
“Retreat!” came the call, and the knights fled as well, a myriad of golden rings falling over them as they logged out of the game. Klive and Xenobia released their controls, and the remaining knights disappeared. The monsters were banished and the chaos gates destroyed, the original one slowly pulling itself back together from the pieces. The autoscript ensured that the only thing pristine after this would be the gate.
”Next time, Nall. Next time you'll be ours.” Muttered Royce, as the elites gated themselves out, their monstrous minions fading to dust as the sky began to clear, a new day breaking over Mac Anu's broken spine.
(ooc: we're poofed. New thread, and new quest, coming tomorrow probably. Until then, you can read and re-read and realize just how much of a challenge we're up against, when any one of the elites could manage this much destruction alone. Sweet dreams. ^__^)