Devil Bringer of Zero
Chapter 1: No need to heed the call!
"Louise of house Valliere. It is time," spoke a voice gentle and firm, its balding, bespectacled originator nudging his staff in her direction.
Her mind had been wondering in circles for the entire day. And now that she was here standing on the precipice of her task, it was all that Louise could do in order not to choke upon her own bile. Tension knotting muscles tightly, teeth grinding with a subconscious force, as the youngest scion of the house Valliere valiantly… futilely... attempted to calm herself in the face of this the task before her.
~"Will she manage?"~ The murmur of the crowd.
After all, this was only the most important day in her entire career as one of the magi. What happened at this ceremony would only go on to define the entirety of the rest of her life. Success or failure allowing her freedom of choice and validation or the confinement of one doomed to be little more than a laughing stock, and if lucky be able to retire from public view as breeding stock till the end of her days, unremarked upon, unknown, forgotten...
She felt like crying.
~"I'm just curious to see if she can actually summon anything."~ A physical echo to the doubt which already pierced her.
She was going to fail. And it was all that she could manage to keep her hands from acting upon the turbulence which she felt here at the edge of her impossible that even court yard itself seemed leer at her. The brilliance of the sky's one eyed gaze looming over her in cold anticipation, its dire implications at odds with the tranquil beauty of the grassy court yard. Panic was rapidly setting in and ill omens seemed to sprout from every corner.
At the moment only the constant memory of her mother's stern decorum kept her backbone stiff, the dire understanding that failure was NEVER an option to be expressed kept her from breaking down in front of her peers. Win or lose, pass or fail, she would not dishonour the Valliere name with anything less than her best showing.
~"Zero will probably just screw up again... like always."~ The jeering verbal stabs of her peers pressing into already open wounds.
Grimly her teeth clenched.
She needed this time to be different. It HAD to be different. Louise Francois le Blanc de la Valliere couldn't bear the thought that it might not be different, that her dire nickname would continue to haunt her every facet of life with ruthless abandon, Louise the Zero.
Zero ability, Zero success, Zero hope.
"Valliere, after all your talk yesterday, I'm sure you can summon something more amazing than this child here, right?"
A voice rang from a few paces away; its red headed owner's teasing tone a savage affront to the young Valliere's senses, a foe both as a matter of family and personal pride, Kirche Augusta Frederica von Anhalt Zerbst. The sight of her knelt right next to her newly summoned Salamander as she spoke was a further poke in Louise's eye. Her rival's playful grin as she ran her hand over the proof of her own success was a further stab in Louise's side.
Anger coursed through Louise, galvanizing her to her task. For where need alone was insufficient, when combined with the inky red haze of the determination to prove wrong those who would decry her, the young woman would find herself forgetting about all else but the task. Stubbornness was very much a family trait which Louise exemplified. And so she forgot her nervousness. The red eyed rage of determination rapidly replaced the imposing pressure of near crippling self-doubt as she pressed onward to her task like a charging beast.
Composing herself she began, wand held stiff in a starter's position, she sought the words which in turn reached for her power.
"In the name of Louise Francois le Blanc de la Valliere, I beg of you!"
Power. She could feel its weight upon her, feathery soft. Here she spoke, almost a whisper. Now her words were forged into Magic.
"By the Pentagon of the five powers Elemental!"
Her words reached out ever louder by the syllable, forging her will into effect,the familiar tingle travelling down though her arm as limb moved in time with chant, the wands motions weaving speech into spell.
"My servant, who lives somewhere in the universe!"
A sudden jolt shocked its way through her; she'd almost dropped her wand in the process. It felt as if she had cast out a line into the sea with all her might, hoping desperately to troll the deepest depths for her catch. This alone left her arm feeling leaden, but all the same almost pushed her into the next motion.
"Oh my sacred, beautiful and strong familiar!"
She could feel it, in a way unlike no other spell she had ever cast, she could feel it working. The power which flowed from her congealed itself into the mold as set by her wand motions.
"From my heart, I plead to you my deepest of desire!"
She could not keep the need from her voice, its dire echo feeding will to magic and enforcing the shape of her power. Then suddenly she could feel it, a tingling grip, a sublime answer to her call, a pouring force which almost drove the breath from her, compelling her to inhale to complete her final shouted exaltation.
"Heed my Summons and come forth, MY FAMILIAR!"
...then as all too often her world exploded in a wave of white.
"My servant, who lives somewhere in the universe!"
Ancient eyes cracked open, a baleful yellow blazing from the dark crevices of its mask. For the first time in seven centuries it tingled with sensation, the shallow pool of its prison rippling with its movements... also for the first time in centuries.
Seven hundred years, of dreamless sleep and sleepless dreams as its prison restrained even reason. But such was to it a familiar prison even before its long time shackles were set. Deep here in the heart of its dungeon, the roots of its jailer pierced unfeeling flesh, draining nutrient and power in exchange for its traumas. Slowly the poison of thousands of years seeped from its heart, drained by roots of light. The irony of it all being that the very power which it had used to devastate, was being fed to its jailer to keep it imprisoned.
Still, though it had heard the call, this did naught but to stir it to wakefulness.
To follow the errant whims of an uncaring master once more?
To subject itself willingly to the rape of its will?
The ancient almost closed its eyes once more, to ignore the summons, and wrap itself again in solitude, a preferable alternative to slavery. Better imprisonment of body, than the binding of its will.
"From my heart, I plead to you my deepest of desire!"
Raw emotion poured in.
The psychic echo of a need bordering despair kindled a rare flame of empathy within the wakened beast. The desire of its caller wasn't of destitute slavery, but one of partnership, love and naked necessity. The warm intensity of feeling reminding the enlivened ancient of those times which it was allowed to slip its bonds ever so slightly, and project its power. The waiting smiles of love and fellowship with the one being it had come to cherish, but knew like all other things, would come to dust.
The instinct of a guardian, the fires of a destroyer, the love of a nurturer, the tender hand of a creator... like a ghost in the dark lay there to await it, everyone of them a path it could choose if only it would accept this one small thing.
To give service rather than to be bound in slavery. Distinctions which till even now in its long existence the ever young ancient had never pondered, but knew intrinsically on instinct.
And thus while reason slept... the monster chose to wake.
"Heed my Summons and come forth, MY FAMILIAR!"
Slowly the world faded back into view.
Yet another explosion... now the grandest of disappointments.
Resigning herself the scion of Valliere began to crack open her eyes, her small body laying prone upon her back, driving herself onward in dim hope beyond hope Louise would spy that the grand nature of her explosive spell had spilled over, rocking back the entire crowd, save one blue haired staff wielder, who had found it prudent to climb upon her own newly summoned familiar, away from the potential chaos...
The dimming light of hope dying as every spot of what now looked like a minor warzone was examined. All others lay groaning and or rising from the grass in a pattern which radiated from what had been her original position, the alert eyes of her balding teacher pointing toward the centre of the explosion, Louise's eyes followed suite.
That is where she saw it.
In the exact centre of the explosion it knelt.
The almost completely naked, mummified remains of what was once a person rocked back upon unmoving knees in a stiff mockery of prayerful reverence, its masked face searching upward toward the sun in seeming of worshipful adoration. Slick wet hair hung down behind its mask as its wrinkled hands faced palms up. And between its legs an egg of deep purple sat.
"No... no... no…" Louise whispered, an icy feeling prodding at her toes.
That sick sensation climbed until it rammed Louise in the gut, a bitter wrenching sensation which forced tears of frustration and defeat from her lavender eyes. A horrifying and grisly actuality, here destiny spoke to her in clear tones. It's cruel mockery of her culminating in this its most of spiteful jokes. Bitter bile washed up her throat as the idle consideration that maybe she HAD in fact reached her perfect familiar, alive and intact... only to kill it in the process of summoning it to her, clawed at the back of her mind.
"Louise... what have you done?" Zerbst spoke, hesitant horror burning at her lips. The newly summoned salamander curled about her and tensed in hissing defiance toward the desiccated remains.
Louise stared on in mute horror, she could almost scream.
Only the long years of having lived with her mother, the duchess Karin Desiree de la Valliere, allowed her to note the sharp alarm which suddenly radiated from her balding teacher at the corner of her eye. His hand clenching about the staff which he carried and the sharpening of his eyes reminding her of her mother's own hawkish looks when something was amiss. Small evocations of preparatory flame issued from his mouth, while his demeanor smoldered with the embers of potential action. This was not the professor Jean Colbert with whom she had become familiar, the slightly doddering, over enthusiastic educator. This was almost as if another man was standing there, wearing his skin. But, for the life of her Louise could not string together a why for the abrupt transformation. Maybe she had damaged him also in the blast, it morbidly occurred to her. One more sign that maybe she should give up on magic forever.
But even as she wallowed in her misery Louise turned her eyes back toward the shriveled figure of her failure. Strange motes of light hung like fireflies in the air around her, almost unremarked upon by her already shell shocked brain... a shell shocked brain which was just noticing that the corpse which had sat in the center of her disaster was now, first on hands and knees then struggling onto impossibly thin limbs to walk upright, shambling towards her. A growl of menace echoing hollow from its mummified throat, its hand full of far too thin fingers reached towards her in grim anticipation... and all the Valliere youth could do was watch in numb horror at this newest development advanced upon her.A yellow gleam shone out from the darkness of the mask's eyeholes. The horrific march of time seemed to slow as the abomination fell to its knees over Louise's waist, its shriveled hands reaching to grip her lovely face in a tender caress.
"Tenchi..." a creaky, yet feminine voice groaned so softly Louise thought that she might have imagined it.
The mask creaked and rocked upon its face as it leaned over Louise's prone form with all the tenderness of a lost lover. The strange horned, red mask first hung loose, then fell away from its face uncovering its shriveled facial features, the most prominent of which were the eerie yellow eyes which shone a feral gold against its sunken face, and far more importantly the large tapering ears which seemed elven for their great length but at the same time wrong in the way in which they terminated into square shapes. The limp still wet mane of cyan hair framed and accentuated its crumpled facial features.
And in an instant everything went to hell
"E... eh… e... ELF!" Someone in the crowd stammered, "It's an undead ELF!" the cry transmuting a current of shock as to an unknown into panicked, full-blown naked TERROR. Almost the entirety of the student body panicked as a single spooked animal, all but climbing over each other in attempt to run as far away as fast they could and forgetting in some cases that they could even use magic to help them escape the threat.
A ball of flame exploded into action just above the terror frozen form of Louise, knocking the frail figure of the undead elf from above Louise and flinging it back away from her. It was to her shock to feel an arm hook itself around her own, dragging her to her feet, and a greater alarm to see who the arm belonged to.
"Montmorency?" Louise questioned weakly, the blonde girl with spiraled tresses dragging and pulling her up onto her feet and trying to pull her into a run, away from the direction in which her summoned disaster flew.
Next to them a nervous Kirche readied herself with another spell to launch in case the thing got back too close. She had expected that her attack would only distract at best, be Countered at worst, but good fortune was to be embraced and if needs be, she would repeat. She had committed to the attack without even thinking about it, animosity toward Louise or not, she couldn't stand by and let the thing do whatever it was that it had intended to Louise and now committed Kirche the Ardent would not back down from the charge. Though it helped immensely to have a friend with a dragon, however newly summoned beating its wings nearby as a rapid means of escape.
Still she was otherwise worried. The motes of light which had been gathering since the mummified elf appeared seemed to be slowly collecting and growing in intensity, the separate embers merging together and flowing almost fluidly toward the…. Oh no.
A horrific scream of primal power shook the air, almost itself feeling of an evocation. The monster was alive, upset and charging down upon them in a flurry of motion. Worst yet, the glowing motes of light were flowing towards it gathering in its hands while its feet were not touching the ground as it rapidly propelled itself towards them.
The sound of impact sang out across the field, its sound matched only by the retched screech of the beast, as professor Colbert evoked fire with but a sharp jab of his staff. For a mage of his skill and power, no words were needed for the most basic of technique, the obedience of one's primary element as bound to one's will. Explosive force rushing forth at his soundless command, only motion was needed to evoke, to command.
"Please get back, children. I will cover your escape. Get the rest of the faculty staff, now HURRY!" he spoke, never once did his gaze waver from the crater which he'd created, one with the would-be familiar at its centre.
With quiet determination he faced off against the snarling incarnation of struggling limbs it rose again growling from the makeshift grave which he'd put it into,as it then charged once more. At first he'd waited. After all some truly dangerous things had been at times be summoned by his students, more often that he'd like to admit over the many years which he'd been teaching at the Tristain Academy of Magic. It had been his hope that this could be resolved with the simple meeting of Summoner to Summoned, and when the undead thing had taken no overt moves against the Valliere girl; he'd simply prepped himself and prepared a Flame Sniper spell, in case he was in fact needed. But before he could call out to Louise and recommend that she bind her familiar to herself, panic broke out amoung the of just what kind of mummy that it might be had driven them into an orgy of fearful panic.
"Can you hear me?" He asked it, "Can you understand what I'm saying?" The snarl which he'd gotten back in reply had been disheartening at best, "Please calm yourself. We meant you no harm," he spoke in a vague hope of resolving the issue, his arms outstretched and away from his body in a show of his intent not to attack.
Unfortunately his words seemed to fall to onto unyielding ears. He had hoped at least that Louise had somehow summoned some form of sensate dead, but the mindless fury of the creature's howl told him that there was no one at home inside. With a sad sigh, Colbert prepared himself; the creature would need to be subdued before it could get to any of his retreating students.
Again he pounded it with another explosive evocation, this one aimed to spin it on its guard and disorient. The trick only half worked. Upon impact the monster spun with the force of the blow, but he had underestimated severely just what kind of punishment was needed for disorienting the beast as it barreled down upon him. For in its spin one clawed hand took hold of several nodes of light which had begun to gather about it and used the force of its spin to throw a grenade of light almost directly onto the professor's feet. Colbert's experience on the battlefield and sharp combat instincts were all that kept him intact, having already begun his movements upon the moment of realization that there had been flaw in his old plan he'd switched over to a new one immediately.
With swirls of motion and intent, the warrior professor spoke of flame. The deadly dance of the white blaze matching his own motions, as the unforgotten steps came to him still so naturally after almost terminal disuse for so very long. Step, to counter step, trails of ragged white against streaks of uniform red flowed from act to act. To an outsider this would not appear a struggle, but as a thing of choreographed beauty.
Once again the ground exploded in shrapnel of light and earth right where his feet used to be, but Colbert had no time to take interest in something as trivial as that. Ignoring the sting of dirt and shards of rock as they impacted against his legs Colbert finished yet another evocation while performing a spinning thrust with his staff toward its solar plexus.
"Flame Shock!" it was one of his nastier small scale combat evocations, made to create a flame which sought to burn only things which were directly similar to its point of first contact, using them directly as fuel to persist and quicken the act.
This was a quick and easy evocation utilizing a very low amount of will power to start though it would quickly begin mounting up as the mage held the effect and it consumed more resources. A negligible issue, if the target were an enemy's skin. Touching skin almost always resulted in immediate third and fourth degree burns all across a target's body, flaying them alive with fire. Back when he'd been a more ruthless person he'd found it a useful tactic against powerful water mages, who could effectively guard themselves against even his hottest of flames, the pain and massive trauma quickly putting them down before they could put up much of a fight. In undead targets it was usually effective at quickly forcing them to fall apart. Besides that most undead had an utter fear of flame that retarded their reactions when set alight.
In every case he had ever utilized it would result in complete incapacitation, if not immediate death to the target, then at the very least an agony so intense that no other action were permitted. Only those immediately attended to by powerful square class water mages themselves had ever recovered completely. That number could be counted on half of one hand. And undead beasts not to have recoiled in existential dread, numbered zero. Thus when his blow struck solid and his spell raged true that his inhuman foe had not even flinched as its very skin set alight; it was surprise which coloured the Professor's face. A moment of hesitation as plans were reformulated to include its complete pain immunity and lack of concern to its own burning flesh into the equation would cost him, as the creature took hold of his staff during said flash of uncertainty, and brought down a glowing palm toward the good professor.
Only narrowly did he manage to avoid the explosive impact of its glowing hand, releasing the staff and reaching immediately for his backup wand as he slid backward from the last scene of confrontation, small gouts of flame exploding from beneath his feet. The wet slick of blood and a brief stinging pain would warn him of a gash which had opened up above his eyebrow even as the flame beneath his boots consumed the blackened trail of grass. A careful moment was taken to mop the blood from his brow to ensure that the bleeding drip would not reach his eyes. All across his body bruises ached from the explosive wash of power which he'd narrowly avoided. Even indirectly it was quickly racking up the damage on his body.
"EXPLOSIVE BARRIER!" he cried out, a frugal mixture of desperation and pragmatism prompting him to create obstacles between himself and the beastial power which bore down upon him. His salvation risen, in the form of burning barriers of explosive force.
The small breathing room which his shields had given him allowed him the luxury of standing back to assess the condition of his overly vital foe. The pounding which he had subjected it to was indeed showing. Bone and flesh shifted in what looked like an uncomfortable manner across its body, rent flesh hanging loose from several long tears in its limbs... but the burnt segments of its parchment dry skin seemed to be regenerating rapidly as more motes of light gathered to and caressed its body. More than that, the limbs seemed to be growing fuller and the wound flesh twisting back into place with a slow, but noticeable regularity. He could thus far overpower the threat... but he quickly concluded that he would not be able to outlast it.
It would be vital that he hold focus, but thus far the spells he had been low will power consumers, geared toward quickly striking and the enemy with vital damage and continuing on to the next one. What he needed instead here was artillery geared spells with which he could put it down quickly, despite the heavy willpower penalties which such evocations imposed. But without his staff he wasn't sure that he could get the specific motions necessary to the heavy nature of the evocation just right to pull it off with a low enough cast time to be effective.
All in all, the humble wand was dreadfully unsuited for what he needed. But it did give him another option. An option it seemed that would be augmented with the supporting fire, a rain of exploding Icicles launched from afar, and driving the beast back from its prey without exposing the caster to easy retaliation.
Colbert watched dispassionately as once more the beast made her berserker's charge, dodging her way through the deadly explosive crystal rain,getting back on top of the Professor's defenses then shattering the last of the shaped-charge flames which he had been using to buy himself time. Pushing his glasses up against his nose, the professor would begin a simple evocation, his wand sweeping about in grandly unique gestures as he created a personalized version of a very common flame trap spell. The original spell was a construct made to surprise foes with a pillar of flame, cutting them off and giving them light to moderate burns in the process. But Colbert was a man of study, even though he had been good at war; it had been his passion to apply his academic's mind to the process of creation. In this case the creation of spell variants.
It was a very simple spell, the inverse really of the barrier which he'd been using to keep her off of him. Her charge once more with savage glowing fists would bring her right on top of the spell location activating a twisting shell of flames which she would drive her powerful explosive fists right into. The ringing sound of a barrier of implosive flame collapsing upon its target sang music to his ears. The cage variation to the Inferno Trap was required quite a few extraneous motions which made it distinctly unsuitable for staves and rods, but with his wand, he had been able to cast the initial trap, and then layer it multiple times. The implosion of flame was designed to use the force of the attempts to struggle free of it to further fuel itself, only a water mage could fully counter and free their selves completely and easily from its constricting grip.
With but a wave of his wand, a quick bout of telekinesis retrieved him his staff. Quickly with staff once more in hand he would repeat his initial evocation, the one which he'd begun when first he'd laid eyes upon the undead summon of young Ms. Valliere. He'd discovered a long time back that a specialized version of the Flame Shock spell could be used to prime the air around him itself, using the consumptive properties to remove and concentrate substances found in the air he could effectively modify and control the intensity of his flames far beyond any regular will powered effect.
An old brother at arms from before Colbert had turned from that life, Bunsen who had been obsessed with creating a flame of the most intense heat and purity, had stumbled into the method by utilizing a clever combination dot class fire and wind spells to prepare an area for the mechanics of furthermore powerful fire spells to come. Despite only being Line class, his colleague had earned himself the Runic name of 'The Burner' and went on to become a feared name in Magical Combat, casting with triangle class power using only Line class magical ability. It was with the guidance of his friend that Colbert had established his own technique which allowed his spells to burn beyond their class.
"Burn Havoc!" He extended the field of his burning touch, using his flame to gather and shape the air itself, the spell would manage the act of concentrating the flow of air to absolutely maximize the power of his flame. He was ready to burn this threat to ash.
Allowing his head to droop in dire concentration he could only vaguely note when mid-way through it, that the final barrier had been broken faster than anticipated by the once more burned and regenerating monster, the condition of which spoke of it having found its way out without taking further damage from the trap. Idly he noticed that it had somehow gained a hole straight though the left side of its chest. But he'd managed to put the fear of him into it at least, and no longer did it blindly approach, not recognizing that this was finally the instant which it should have rushed him the beast circled, motes of light gathering to its body ever faster as it seemed swell in repair of damage so very long done. Only near the end of his chant, had the undead thing seemed to have caught on, though it was seeming less and less like one of the dead by the second, and more and more like a lovely, if feral, and very naked elf maiden. Even its tactics seemed to be changing, as instead of making a full on charge, the creature began to careful approach, allowing some of the gathering motes of light to congregate in its palm once more, but this time in a surprising twist it seemed to squeeze them into what became a recognizably sword-like shape of blazing red while the other hand seemed to continue gathering and compressing the motes into a radiant intensity. Its actions had become ever more lifelike in nature, the uncanny quality of its very sway seeming to soften into the rhythms of a living creature.
But he couldn't see how it could be anything at all that was fully alive, not after its continued function after all that he'd subjected it to, and the plain reminder of its ragged chest wound... besides if he started thinking of it as anything less than a monster now he didn't know if he could bring himself to do what it took to finish the fight. His killer instinct had been abandoned years ago.
Steadying himself Jean Colbert, would wait. The cold gleam of intellect burned brightly within his eyes, as he swallowed his reservations at the possibility of killing another a dour smile he spoke to himself, She's going to make me cut this close, then stopped himself as he realized something. In his thoughts, he'd already declared her a possible person. But it was too late to do anything else but carry through with his dire evocation.
Almost in exaggeratedly slow motion, Jean Colbert would bring down his staff and cry out for the greatest weapon in his arsenal, a chain of delayed evocations meant to devastate earth work entrenchments as almost a single mega starting with his signature spell, that for which he had earned his runic title.
"Come FLAME SERPENT!"
The lonely beast wept. Pulled from the dark confines of her ancient prison, too weak to stand, too weak to move, she could only tilt her head upward staring at and feeling the gentle warmth of the sun. The simple beauty of a planet side view moved something within the creature as she remembered. Between her legs sat a familiar egg of royal purple.
Free, free, free, free, free!
No rational though could breach the surface of her mind, yet... even the deepest core of instinct could feel it, for the first time in time over 2000 years; she was free in body, in mind, in spirit.
Almost automatically she began to gather the power needed to form a false gem. Even without the benefit of thought, her body knew what to do. Leaching energies from higher dimensions, it would begin to force them into a format which her three dimensional body could utilize. Motes of photonic energy gathered at the points of conversion from the higher dimensional barriers into three dimensional space.
She would need the energy gathered as a jump start for her anti-matter based energy extraction organ, a compromise between the carbon-based life form and the exotic-material beings from which she had been engineered. These would provide her a great boost in energy, but were none the less useless without even a fake gem to help with energy distribution and prevent localized the gems the risk of its utilization usually was just too much beyond the rewards.
"Louise... what have you done?" a noise rumbled though the air like many others made by the crowd, but this noise was different, this noise reminded her.
That first noise amid the rest of the noise string, a familiar sound, it was the noise of choice into freedom. And suddenly she knew. Like a sunflower tracking the sun, her face came pointed in the direction of her savior, watching the exotic spikes of energy which felt as gentle and welcoming as the visage of that boy, now so far away.
With a grand effort, with a body not yet repaired enough for even any of the basic vigours of living, she tried to get crawling, then in a stumbling unsteady gait she approached, a thought less need driving her steps, the caller of demons moved with all haste, with every bit of strength that she could muster toward the siren song of her savior. Her longing gaze drew a juxtaposition of all desire, all need, and all gratitude upon the youth who had given her freedom, whose own pure desire had drawn her across worlds.
With a tender smile upon hidden lips, ancient hands caressed the face of youth while gently uttering the most calming noise which she knew.
And from her face the mask fell. A moment of perfect tranquility fearful noise of gibbering beasts all too familiar surrounded her, and then was followed by the slam of impact, heat and consuming flame upon her face. Instincts shifted gears and the red haze of rage coloured her eyes as fight or flight instincts fought their way back up to the surface.
She couldn't have said what she did in that combat rage which had been invoked, only that she hurt and had been hurt in turn. That she had become fury incarnate, countered again and again as she lunged like an animal towards her goal, to destroy the one before her. But no intellect guided her hands. No mind guarded her motions. And at every step she had been coldly countered, frustration and damage mounting as brute force struggled to keep up with scholarly guile.
Once more confined.
The final straw.
The ancient beast raged itself raw... Raw enough that the young woman could rip herself free.
Pain flared, as a young woman groaned into wakefulness.
Her last memories were a jumble.
A duel, across planets, across the stars... against a young bastard of heaven...
A gentle smile and hopeful innocent eyes that melted her,far too long, cold heart...
The passion of an eternal perfect moment of connection, knowing her hope, her need...
Relentless, smoldering, passionate eyes directing the steps in a dance Macabre...
"Ugghhh... what hit me? Yosho?" words reached her mouth, as bidden. Thoughts begun to flow, assessments were made, and a lifetime of combat experience came to once more inform her actions, and words.
"Goddamit! Why am I ON FIRE!"
Though it wasn't a common state for her, despite the many hazards of her original occupation,as an ex-space pirate it wasn't exactly an unknown state to her either. Still it had been a while since the last time she'd turned off her alcohol immunity. Longer still since last she'd blanked out in the middle of a drunken brawl after trying to enjoy the simpler pleasures in life, booze and beating some bozo's brain's out. But here she was, and she ached. She hurt like mad in her... well everywhere. What wasn't burnt was battered, and what wasn't battered was bruised, and what wasn't bruised seemed to hang limp from the rest of her flesh.
Her energy reserves were shot to levels she didn't know she could get so low to, and the ragged hole in her chest suggested the destruction of her most difficult to regenerate organ. It seemed only by virtue of basic energy gathering techniques which were second nature to her from wearing the 3 gems for most of her life, was she able to free up enough energy from nearby higher dimensional space and utilize that to keep from falling apart. Even her regenerative abilities were at the most sluggish she had ever felt them, the fire retardants and reparations only just NOW starting to kick in, and without the gems she couldn't even create any higher dimensional backups of her brain. Hell simple systems like her ability to phase shift and short range teleport were shot to shit. She could have almost shuddered at the fact that this was closer to death that she had ever been in her lifetime.
Even the fight with Yosho had never brought her this far down. Though to be fair, it was mostly because he was powerful enough to keep her subdued without needing to bring her any lower. The simple fact was, the antimatter engine which had powered her though the fight had simply exploded due to heat stress and shock damage, thankfully it was designed to mostly contain such an event though in the process of doing so it completely ruined any chance of quickly salvaging its parts for future use, having vented the energy output in its final moments directly in its dense neutron molecular structure vapourizing the organ completely into a cloud of plasma and streaming the vented mass though the newly minted hole in her chest. Without her gems it could take months or even years for her body to transmute dense enough materials to forge a new one, compared to that, loosing limbs was a bloody cake walk. Unfortunately, loss of that organ had severely limited her combat options because she would now have to enforce recovery periods to make up for any excessive energy outputs, and with her now embedded in the heat of combat, she would probably need to waste much of the energy she had already gathered for the creation her false gems in fighting once she sprung herself free.
"Yosho, when I get outa this bloody cage I'm gonna skin you," golden eyes closed with a sigh, then reopened in the light of concentration.
"Alright, let's see what this stupid thing is. Ow, owowowow..."
Newly reinstalled pain sensors screamed out, the unnatural state of system wide damage adding to the pain. Sticking her damaged fingers in her mouth, she quickly continued to look at the structure of forces involved in holding her captive.
It was a fairly primitive force array, but the design was impressive. It was created to explode inward and shift so as to redirect the energy utilized on the barrier itself as a part of the attack. It was bloody clever, in a technical manner of speaking, for something as simple as utilizing an electromagnetic shell to contain a hot plasma the space-pirate though was not one to be impressed, and even less of one to think about the information which she almost instinctively could pick apart with a close look at her prison.
What she knew was simple.
What she knew made her smile.
The fire shell extended into the ground which she stood upon, but gave her enough room to move about without bumping directly into it. A human may well have fainted by now, either from the oxygen being eaten up by the room of flames, heat exhaustion, or having been concussed by triggering the trap itself. This was of little concern to her, only that the ground gave material for her use. The real issue with the barrier, she'd realized, was the mobility of the deflective forces it employed. Strike any single place and the barrier moved with the blow, setting up for and multiplying its explosive effects. The spell was useful for keeping an enemy from concentrating enough force to crush the barrier without devastating his or herself in the process. But the ex-pirate knew how to defeat this. And all it took was a little math, and a bit more dirt.
Attempts to rate the ex-pirate's skills at mathematical analysis would for the most part be bound for failure, her mind did not work with the symbols which others called numbers, though numbers it did express, and her attention would not be held for long enough for her to work her way into being able to show what she knew almost by instinct. But advanced senses and a mind capable of instantly assessing and utilizing variables at an intrinsic level gave rise to an immediate solution. All she needed was to disrupt the forces which allowed the barrier to work at multiple key points simultaneously,utilizing spikes transmuted from the dirt about her, each disruption setting up a resonating echo with the rest, forcing the barrier to explode in an imperfect shaping of its energetic charge and crack itself wide open, allowing her at that point to use force against force.
She REALLY liked the last part of that. And with a howl of victory her fist struck true.
She freed herself just in time to witness her opponent deep in concentration, probably some sort of psychic, readying himself for his next strike. Unbidden, memories of their fight trickled in in flashes between moments of blind rage. Caution was warranted against this one. At this low ebb in her power he was actually a match for her, and maybe more.
The fight raged before her eyes, disbelief warring with deep feelings of responsibility and uselessness. But one such as Louise the Zero could only gaze on, while the two titans fought. One wreathed in flames of white, the other bathed in motes of light.
The word was punctuated with deathly finality, as the blue haired Dragon rider descended to meet her closest friend and Louise, to convey them both to safety. But this was a word spoken at no expense to concentration, the young warrior waited with staff in hand to support their battling teacher the instant that a clear shot was provided.
The already tight grip upon her own staff grew tighter still as she witnessed the disarmament of her balding teacher. Forced to switch from Staff to wand his combat potential had been effectively halved.
Because of the short nature of the wand all evocation points corresponding to it were arcing sweeps and stabs, effective for short spells which the wand's expressive nature would allow nuance to flourish. Combat evocation tools were divided into Staves, Rods and Sword-wands. Staves were the most versatile of the combat tools, able to both perform the motions of artillery and simpler combat efficient evocations while sturdy enough to be utilized as directly physical weaponry as the need arose. Rods were thin switches of wood or metal, capable of Moving with the flexibility of a wand but the length needed for heavier evocation type motions. Sword-wands, which included dagger-wands were implements of melee combat meant to be utilized more as melee weapons than evocation tools, and while Artillery class spells were generally limited to them for the same reasons that they were a regular wand, it carried the additional benefits of a wand in evocation refinement. Few however mastered the range of skills needed to make complete effective use of the sword-wand, and the entire demi-evocation, demi-martial style which came with it.
Cold blue eyes flared, and shifted. Advantage would come soon. She just had to wait for it.
Louise glanced on toward the hawkishly watchful, ice blue eyes of her peer with a brief wondering of what went on beneath their usually placid surface. Tabitha had ever been a mystery to Louise. She was an apparently mousy, quiet child who never seemed to be without a book for every occasion of truly festive anti-sociality. Louise herself knew of a few attempts to bully and brow beat her by older students wishing to assert their own power and choosing the naturally quiet girl as their target of choice. After ignoring them quite pointedly several times, they decided that a more private session with the uncommunicative waif of a young woman would be more productive toward the results which they desired. The next day saw several boys with broken teeth, the only things not quickly fixable by simple evocation, no one could ever get them to speak of that night, though they were always noted to cringe when need placed them anywhere near her.
Tabitha's blue dragon cooed almost cutely, tilting its head to a side in a birdlike manner that would have been adorable if it weren't on a half a ton of apex predator. Still entangled in her arm, the blonde hair of the Montmorency heiress bobbed in Louise's face as the other girl attempted to pull her up onto the dragon mount.
"I know we don't get along to well Louise, but it's just not safe here. We have to go!" the blond spoke with grave urgency etched into her voice, the small frog familiar which she'd summoned earlier peaking from its resting spot within the unused hood of her cloak.
Behind her the worried figure of Kirche paid no heed to the two, watching the intense matchup with an equally intense stare, wand gripped tightly in her hand, almost to its snapping combat between the two was almost gouts and swirls of flame danced deadly with motes and orbs of light both leaving swaths of rent earth and burning, black grass with nary a pause in motion. Struggle, passion, strength all there pressed into service for combat...
It was awe inspiring.
It was glorious.
It was all she could do to force herself to look away, feeling like a moth caught on the draw of the flame... knowing how it ached to burn. Forcing herself not to look back Kirche turned her immediate attention to a matter closer at hand.
Louise just could not bring herself to abandon everything, to abandon the teacher who fought for her, and to abandon what was one of her greatest responsibilities, that of a Mage to their familiar. Before things had gotten out of hand she could have sworn even though her own fear, there had been a tenderness, before the inertia of the moment had schemed to steal her away, Louise had been on the edge of taking her wand to the task of finishing what had been started with the creature's summoning. She could not shake the feeling that if she ran now she might never have the chance again. At her side her small fist clenched around her wand with a grip so tight that crescent wounds formed where finger nails pressed to flesh.
Kirche watched Louise of house Valliere closely, it had become almost a hobby of her house to choose a target amoung the Valliere broods and learn them. A long tradition of this pastime had yielded some of the best entertainment possible for generations of Zerbst. Learning to annoy the stoic family line of Tristan, with whom so much blood both was shared and spilled together that they were practically one family across two countries, had long granted the Zerbst a proper vantage point from which to view the moods and mannerisms of the Valliere. And it was as much to annoy as it was a statement of respect that they made a habit of stealing away the male brood of the Valliere family as potential husbands as well as those who were deemed worthy to be welcomed into the family. It was as a result of these insights, that Kirche was prompted to take notice when she saw the stubborn light come alive in Louise's eyes. That was the look of a determined woman of the Valliere line readying herself to do something potentially very stupid. That was a look that spoke of passion and drive, and though the Zerbst scion could tell that it meant trouble, it was a trouble which she could never steer anyone, least of all herself, clear of. For when passion burned, Kirche Augusta Frederica von Anhalt Zerbst fueled its flames!
"I need to go back," thus when Louise spoke these words Kirche could not help but to nod in agreement, even as Montmorency shrilled in shock as to the insanity of the 'Zero'. Tabitha's quick downward glance would be the only expression of her own surprise, another glance cast towards her closest friend would galvanize her into action.
"Finish the ritual," two faces would turn towards her in shock and one in agreement. That Tabitha decided to suggest what had been dancing at the edge of Louise's mind rocked the young Valliere. Kirche merely walked over to her rival, taking in hand and straightening her cloak in an almost familial manner.
"It's ok Louise, we understand," the wide eyed look of her rival at the unexpected acceptance brought a smile to Kirche's lips.
Louise hesitated, and then turned a haughty look in Kirche's direction while attempting to shrug off the mothering being lavished upon her person.
"It is the duty of a Master to quell their familiar. No less could be expected of house Valliere," her mother's Rule of Steel danced about her head. Duty was an ABSOLUTE. She would make her name proud, her mother proud.
Kirche grinned sardonically at this declaration, so very typical of the Valliere scion. It was a trait both endearing and frustrating when dealing with her.
Then nodding to Tabitha she asked, "So. What's the plan?"
Fire filled the air. Murderous and ravenous the spectre of inferno loomed large. A serpent of Flame painted the sky with a pure white blaze as it coiled about its creator, ready to strike. It was his masterpiece of spell work, much like the golems of earthen mages; his serpent had been the result of relentless perfectionism and studious mastery of his craft, though a good many hints had come his way from his old comrade, Bunsen. Long hours of studying the spell mechanics of advanced golems and tweaking, adapting them to something with a completely nebulous form had paid off, spectacularly. He had cribbed more than a few notes on golem crafting in creating the cognitive engine for his creation and had invented an entire crypto-graphical key to shorten the evocation needed for its summoning. A chain of Bound Evocations, key words to which a mage could symbolically link to longer spells allowing their rapid execution, allowed him to summon it with all the speed and effort of lesser spells. Though, the costs in will power on the initial summoning were fairly steep as the act of calling up an evocation binding in itself caused the spell to cost more than it usually would.
And with the calling of this his most famous spell work, just two more spells needed to be unleashed. One a simple two stack evocation of Twisting Flame, it was the simplest one of them all. The other was a full four stack alchemical mixture of rare metals which would allow it the flame to reach a level of intensity unknown to anything thing else in the world, he called it Sun Fire. While not it would not cause wide devastation like his Flame Bomb, the Sun Fire spell could burn its way though several feet of solid steel, and with the twisting motion of the Twisting Flame motivating it into a drill of explosive forces which he would have as his sword. With the Flame snake as his shield, he would hold finally the power to put down the menace before him. With that synergy of spell crafting he would be able to overcome its incredible regeneration and put it down.
The young ancient Devil-caller grimaced. Before her was no mere fiery show of forces, it was a full on programmable construct of balanced bubbles of hot plasma and EM-fields. Together they formed what seemed to be a surprisingly complex computation able machine capable of receiving input, and creating outputs, in the form of movements. And with her lowered state of health, avoiding its deadly embrace long enough to take down the mage behind it was paramount to her success. This was especially so now that she would not be able to depend on her regeneration as extensively as she had before. She'd boosted her current condition to push all the necessary structures to top combat efficiency. It had consumed a fair chunk of the energy which she would not be able to recoup too soon... but would give her the edge.
Colbert too grimaced on his side of the battle field. The flame snake was his most deadly weapon. The snake's presence on the field gave him options and bought him time to finish his evocation chain. Without needing to do anything else but maintain it with his will, he could simply set it orders and rules to follow, allowing it free reign on the battle field. After the intensity of the combat, he could feel his will as it slipped lower. But his mind was none the less steel, tempered in the flames of his own desire to protect and nourish. He would endure until this deed was done.
One step. Eyes locked.
Two steps. One foot fell before the other, settling into a bounding leap.
Three steps. His mouth stirred, spinning utterances into fire. The holy power of the word made manifest.
Four steps. Guardian and Aggressor clash, fire and light once more dancing freely in a field of green streaked black.
No steps left. The deadly elfin girl danced though the weaving flame, accepting damage where it touched her now pale flesh to advance upon her target. The Warrior professor allowed her ever closer, weaving a path as vital to his purposes as the words which flowed from him in a stream of utterances.
With no space between them but the clash of wills,
With Sword of light and Serpent of flame as the last defense,
With all else stripped away but each other and the heat of the thrill.
The bright glow of the gathered light in her left hand pulse ever faster while her right hand struck out and parried blow after blow. The final words hung in the air as a grim eye of swirling white flame formed above him while about him the serpent of flame circled ever closer shielding blow after blow.
Then suddenly, so suddenly she could not see it coming. Should not have seen it coming, the white flame switched from defense to offense, wrapping itself about her. They both knew that this was only restraint of the moment, even the white heat and forces which constrained the body of the serpent would not hold for long against the strength on who had broken the Explosive Barriers of earlier. But it would give him a vital moment and with his final he flinched. A life lay in the balance, but only the surety that her rampage would bring harm to those who were in his care moved his lips for the final evocation.
He called down the fire!
Straight down the column of twisting white flame came, searing and rending its way right though solid earth without stopping. A strange noise barely audible above the roar flame went unnoticed. Relief blossomed through the professor's features, it was over. He'd done it. He'd ended th... a vicious swipe to the back put him down into the barely singed the elf maiden stood above him with a triumphantly, savage fanged grin. She swayed with a visible effort to stand, the hole in her chest still leaking smoke.
"I win," for the first time he'd heard her speak anything beyond animal growls and inhuman wails.
"H... how...?" Colbert groaned. The question key to both how she'd escaped the final trap, and how it was that she now seemed like a rational being, where before was only howling madness. She knelt before him, half in her exhaustion, half in order to reach his face and pick him up by the front of his collar, his face meeting hers. His long shattered glasses hung down loosely from his nose. Idly he noticed that she was still naked as a jay bird.
Anger lit her yellow eyed gaze, "Oh no, you don't get to ask the questions buddy. Now where are we, Who are you... and WHERE THE HELL IS THAT BITCH YOSHO?"
"Yosho?" he groaned in confusion.
"Gaahh... what are you, dim or something?" she replied, shaking him roughly as she spoke. She'd never been the patient sort, and the act of interrogating her victims after a drunken rampage had always been one her less stellar abilities. Also waking up in a place completely different from the one where she'd last been conscious always made her cranky.
"PROFESSOR COLBERT, Get away from him You MONSTER!" the cry brought the heads of both former combatants in uniform turn toward the swooping contingent of students one of which was the Valliere girl.
"Who the hell are you calling a MONSTE... AAHHHH!" the demonic woman began to object. A cry which was unfortunately for her interrupted most rudely, the girls did not wait for her splutters of outrage to properly begin before Louise utilized a failed spell to flash bang the yellow eyed woman in the face, knocking her over and effectively separating her from the fallen professor. Where she'd fallen shards of ice pinned her to the floor, a momentary distraction as the fallen professor Colbert was scooped up into the forepaws a rapidly moving blue reptilian beast, which promptly flew off. On its back the professor was drawn up by two riders, the blond of whom quickly set busily to work on healing his battered body.
Louise sent a quick thank you prayer to the Founder, she'd been aiming for the creature's shoulder with that failed fireball spell.
With all due haste Louise approached, wand flickering in hand as she excitedly put it though each motion while saying the words to the most important evocation of her life.
"Pentagon of the Five elemental powers,
Grant your blessings upon this creature,
And bind it as my familiar."
It was a haste which proved to be of necessity, for the ice pinning the demonic woman down had crumbed before her struggles. And even as Louise managed to close the damming gap between her own and the demon's lips, it would prove not to be enough. An impossibly strong grip clenched her throat but a second after the final word. Only that her wand itself had been still free had she gotten in the assigning tap which needed to proceed the final step of the contract.
"Now little girl, maybe you'll tell me what the hell is going... on..." a look of confusion crossed her amber-gold eyes, "...why do I know you?" the ex-space pirate asked. Louise had no answer for her.
"Why do I feel like I should know you?" she asked again, this time more slowly. Still Louise had no answer.
"Are you the one who came for me?Did you take me from the dark?" there were tears leaking from the woman's golden eyes. A sudden wave or recollection washed over her as she loosened her grip on the girl's throat.
"I was in that damp, dank hole a long, long time. It was dark... and lonely in there... 700 years I was lonely. No light anywhere. It was you wasn't it, you gave me my way out?" this time she spoke again, crying, pleading. Her grip on Louise completely loosened... but the young Valiere was herself entranced by the sound of sobbing, pleading. Each of her cries digging deep into the young girl's heart like a ballista bolt through light tin.
"There was Tenchi for a while, I dreamed about him coming to me, freeing me. But he never did. I can't even remember how old he was when he stopped being there. Or did I imagine that he was there in the first place? For a while I had my light in the darkness but it flickered and died...and then… and then... there was you," Louise did not understand even as brief fragments of information entered her mind. And to her chest she found herself cradling the other woman in a position bizarrely like that of a mother or caretaker. Her hand stroked its way through spiked cyan tinted silver hair, which for all its straightness felt like the softest feather down beneath her fingertips.
"You gave your heart to me, I remember now. Down in the cold and the dark you wanted me, you called me to freedom in your service," Louise stood stock still at that; all breath had caught in her throat at that declaration. Her throat grew dry as she considered the thousand and one things that she ought to reply with. Nothing came to her blank mind but the sadness when she spoke of her prison, the blunt panic at the idea of going back, and the pure joy with which Louise found herself being thought about. Even if she had had no plan before of taking the woman as her familiar, Louise would not now be able to abandon her for the world.
Unbidden Louise's lips moved, "And if you are to be mine, if I'm to complete your freedom," Louise spoke as if entranced, loosing herself in those golden eyes, "then tell me. What is your name?"
Gold eyes met pink with an intimacy deeper than either cared to express, "I am Ryoko, the Devil Caller. Scourge of the galaxy. And you?"
"I am Louise Francois le Blanc de la Valliere… I... I am Louise," she replied, a hesitancy crawling through her voice, "I... am nothing," her own tears began to fall, the feedback of Ryoko's own raw emotions pushing her over the very edge of control.
"No," Ryoko replied, her naked form pulling itself up face to face with the Valliere scion, one hand reaching to caress her delicate face. The tears in her amethyst eyes were adorable, a plain honesty of emotion which surpassed even the link they shared. Ryoko could only stare as Louise's eyes laid all bare before her.
"You are Everything!"
No other words were spoken as the Commander of Devils and her Summoner drew each other into a deep kiss.
For a few minutes they stayed that way, locked to each other in promise of better times to come. Only to pull away blushing at their moment of mutual pleasure. When the fires of pain came as the runes being etched were forging the link between their two spirits and minds, far stronger than it was before, the dire feedback began to loop between them both. Thundering pain echoing ever louder with each wave until neither could stand it any longer.
Both new master and familiar crumpled together as one, the cries of several approaching members of the facility washing uselessly over them on their way to the ground.