Georgius had a somewhat uneasy feeling as he cut down another misshapen golem in front of him. Though their number were much fewer than the ones he had just battled in the courtyard, he had still run into a number of them moving through the halls and terrorizing anyone they happened to run into. As of yet, there were still only injuries and not deaths, something he was thankful for, but he couldn't quite place what the constructs were doing. At first he thought that this might have been a sort of death curse the thief had unleashed upon his demise, trying to get vengeance on the one who had slain him, but it didn't added up. Mostly because of how the golems behaved around the servants.
They didn't try to kill them like the rest of the mages they encountered, nor did they simple ignore them. Instead they chased them around much like the others, but never did more than wave their arms menacingly or make overly slow, ineffective swipes. It was like they had been instructed to make a show of it with the serving staff, but not to actually hurt them. He wasn't certain what this said about the thief's character, but he had other concerns at the moment. Namely, that it was more and more looking like that the true purpose of things was to be a distraction.
He ducked forward to avoid a blow from one of the human shaped lumps of rock behind him before he sprung back, spinning so that the back of his fist collided with its 'head'. The blow caused it to crumble like all the others, but there were still two more behind it. These showed a slight bit more intellect than the previous one though, as they did not try to immediately charge him. The hallway they were in was lined with a number of what Georgius had thought were metal statues, but had quickly realized that they were suits of armor when he found that they were hollow. He would have been more interested in their construction if the two remaining golems had not started to launch pieces of them at the solider.
Still, it was not a cause for concern. Georgius swiftly dodged the pieces or swatted them aside with his spear as he closed on the pair. In short order he was within range and a quick thrust destroyed one's torso, and a follow up swipe cut the other in half. He spared another glance around and saw there were no golems left to be found. That left him free to attend to the other important thing in the hallway. He turned at said "Are you alright?"
A butler then crawled out from under the table he had been hiding under. "Yes! Thank you!" He exclaimed. "Don't know what would have happened to me if you hadn't come along."
If I am right, not much, Georgius thought to himself before saying "Do know if there are any more of those golems around?"
The man shook his head. "I don't think so. I've been trying to get all the other servants to a safe place away from these things, and I ended up drawing these few away from some of the other staff. I haven't heard any more screams or loud noises since then."
Georgius nodded. "Good. See if you can find the others and find a good place to hide." As the other man thanked him again and ran off, the soldier was left to ponder what to do next. He had to operate under the assumption that the mage was still in the academy, mostly as with the alternatives, that the mage was in fact dead or had already escaped, there was nothing he could do. Although if the smaller golems were a distraction, then Georgius did not have long before the thief did make an exit. He could only hope that injures and exhaustion were slowing the other man down.
Georgius needed to think. Just how would this mage escape? It possible that he would simply walk out the front gate amid the chaos that currently reigned over the Academy, but it seemed unlikely. There was a chance that he could be seen, and the thief had already proved that walls were not a hindrance to him. He probably wouldn't be making that giant construct again to make his escape either, as Georgius imagined that he would have done so already if he could have. Still, given that he had shown considerable skill with earth magic, it could not be discounted that the thief would simply try to go under or through the walls. Georgius had no idea if such a thing were possible considering that the walls themselves were likely enchanted in some way, but he did not want to underestimate this man.
So, given all this, it was probable that the thief had created the distraction of the golems and had run to the courtyard on the other side of the main tower to capitalize on it. Georgius couldn't be sure of this of course; it was a conclusion drawn from much guess work based on what he had seen and speculation on just what the mages of this world were capable of. Still, it was the best he had for the moment, and he knew that he didn't have much time if his suspicions were correct. Without another moment's pause, the solider took off for the Vestai Court, the one where that boy had insisted the two of them duel.
It seemed that Georgius would be dueling someone there today. Justice would demand no less.
Fouquet took deep and steady breaths as she hid in a gardening shack she had found near the Academy wall. For the moment at least, she was safe and allowed to recover somewhat. Making that many golems, crude as they were, ended up being more taxing than she thought, and she only had enough to lower herself down from the tower before she was spent. She didn't dare want to try escaping from the academy without any Willpower, so she had found this place to spare a moment to recover.
Unfortunately, time was against her, as she felt her constructs being destroyed one by one. Fouquet had hoped that they would by her a little more time to recover, but she would have to make do with what she had. The woman estimated that she would be able to cast several dot level spell, and maybe a line or two. That should be enough to dig her way under the main wall and into the woods beyond.
She briefly considered burying the bloody staff and coming back for it later, but she decided against it. She was pretty sure she could make her escapes now, and she wanted this job to be done with as soon as possible. With the case tucked under one of her arms, Fouquet carefully crept out of the shed and trotted the moderate distance to the walls. Once she was close enough, she raise her wand to start burrowing through the earth and-
"It seems that I was right. You are quite skilled." A familiar voice said from behind her.
"Oh come on!" She shouted in frustration before turning around to see that Void damned soldier that was the cause of her current troubles. He stood there holding a spear about 30 feet away. She knew that he could clear the distance before she could create a stable tunnel and close it behind her. She blearily wondered if this man was made simply to make her life harder.
"I shall ask you one last time to stand down." The man said. "If you-"
Fouquet didn't have much Willpower left in her, but a skilled mage could do a lot with a dot spell. Wasting no time, she whipped out her wand arm towards him and turned the ground at his feet into quicksand in an attempt to slow his movements. Unfortunately, it seemed that he had not let his guard down like the last time and jumped as soon as her arm moved, clearing most of the distance between the two of them in a single bound. He almost made it to her, spear first, before she managed with a quick word and gesture to launch a pillar of earth at the man and roll backwards to avoid the attack. The spear was deflected, but the man himself was merely slowed as he crashed through the raised earth.
She then opened a hole unearth him with the intent of trapping him, but as he fell he managed to tilt his spear horizontally, bracing the hole to keep himself from falling in fully. The metal pole creaked as he swung himself back up, launching himself an impressive distance into the air before the hole could close around him. Fouquet then once again found the man coming down directly at her. She swiftly made a half dome of earth to protect her, but she knew that if wouldn't be enough. As she backed away again, she saw that the man had moved in midair such that he was falling both feet first, and he crashed through the barrier like it was made of sand.
"How?" She couldn't help but growl as she kicked up a wave of dust to blind him. "How in the merciless Void can you shrug off magic like water!?"
A quick twirl of the spear cleared the cloud and brought the man into sight again. "My faith in God is a shield to protect me." He said before he launched himself at her again. "Though I will admit, repeated testing of that shield has made it stronger."
She brought up a short wall to defend, but it merely slowed down the sweeping horizontal blow of the spear. Her enchanted robes absorbed most of the force, but she felt her abused ribs crack at the strain. This, as well as his response, wore at her fraying nerves. "Oh please, do you take me for an idiot?" she spat, pushing herself to make another crude golem to place between the two of them. "'God' doesn't favor commoners. He cares too much about his precious mages to give a shit."
Strangely, rather than advancing again, the soldier paused. He remained tense and ready to move at a moment's notice, but he did not advance on her. Instead he merely stood his ground and said "So it is true. I had hoped that Louise was exaggerating."
Fouquet blinked. "What are you talking about?"
"The tenants of God in this land are far different than what they should be." The soldier said, taking slow steps towards her and her golem. "I do not know how it started, but the idea that the Lord would exalt mages over others is both wrong and immoral."
She blinked in surprise before she barked out a laugh of amusement, slowly moving herself and her construct back in kind. "That's a pretty heretical thing to say." She remarked. While part of her was a little intrigued by what he was talking about, she recognized that there was no easy way out of this one. In her tired state, she couldn't help but lose to a man who could resist magic and move and strike faster than a normal human. Still, something about the current subject had piqued his interest, and that gave the woman precious time to come up with something. Her mind raced to come up with something, anything!
She started to slowly circle the man, knowing that she had to keep him talking. She said "I don't know what it's like where you're from, but here magic's all that matters. After all, why shouldn't those who can bend the elements to their will and subjugate the rest rule?"
A small frown crossed the man's lips. "I suppose I could explain it to you, but somehow I don't believe I have to. You say that with such distain that it's clear you don't agree with it either."
Fouquet had to suppress a frown of her own. That was a little more information about herself then she wanted to give. Still, it was hard to keep total control of herself while half of her mind was spinning away to think of an escape. A half formed idea was already coming together in her mind. "Yes, well, I've seen firsthand the 'nobility' of the ruling class. One of the side benefits of my occupation is that I like to think that I'm balancing the scales a bit." Her circular motion around the other man had now left her facing the walls of the academy. With her gaze still on him, she carefully and subtly tucked her wand behind her back, creating yet another golem a short distance out of sight. She lost focus slightly from the strain, but persevered.
His expression grew a bit harder. "I fail to see how stealing something from a school and nearly killing several of its students is ''evening the scales a bit".
"Oh please, it's not like they deserve anything less." She snapped, her temper slipping away from her more. "All that wealth and jewelry and art is just waste in their hands. And those students you are so concerned about will just grow up to become like their bastard parents." Even in the mist of this, she managed to send a command to her last golem to return to the shed which she had been hiding in before.
As she guessed though, the man before her was did not enjoy her logic. "You cannot possibly know that. Besides, your actions will not change anything for the better. You are little more than a rogue working for his own ends."
A small amount of bitterness crept into her heart at that statement. As much as she enjoyed taking from the nobility, it didn't change the fact that he was right. She had never set out with the goal of actually changing things, but to be reminded that her efforts had little weight in the grand scheme things still hurt a little. "Heh, I guess I am a bit of a hypocrite…" she said in a low voice, thinking of how even this job was for some shadowy noble, even if he supposedly aligned with certain… revolutionaries in Albion. Her head perked up as an idea came to her and reached her mouth before she could think about it. "Alright. Why don't you come with me?"
"What?" the man said in surprise, clearly not expecting Fouquet to say that.
What? She thought to herself, having not expected to say that either. It had just kind out popped out. However, a certain giddiness welled up inside of her at the thought, so she kept going. "Yeah, ditch that brat that calls herself your master and join me. Hell, I'll even give up stealing if you want. I don't know just what the hell you are but you're certainly a cut above the normal lapdogs that work for the mages, and you sure don't like the way things are either. There is something happening right now that will shake up the nations. Come on, you and me together, we just might be able to actually change things." The man before her had stared down her massive golem without even blinking. She could see that sheer determination in him even now, the drive to accomplish no matter how daunting the task. It was based on a feeling she had in her gut, but maybe… just maybe they could actually change the world.
The solider paused for several moments, never looking away from her, but it was clear that he was processing her invitation. However, eventually his face fell a little bit and he said "An interesting proposal, but I cannot accept. I have already pledged my service to Lady Françoise till she releases me, and I will not break my oath. Besides, I don't believe that the mages of this land are as irredeemable as you seem to think." His expression softened a bit. "Although, you are correct that I take umbrage with certain parts of this land. Perhaps if you came with me instead…"
Fouquet was about to argue with how he couldn't be so lenient and passive on the matter before she caught herself. What the hell am I doing?, she thought to herself, the brief sway of her body reminding her just how light headed she was getting. The Willpower Depletion is making me delirious. Why in the merciless Void would I ever think that just two people could change things? She gave a sigh and shook her head, before retuning an irritated glare at the man in front of her. It was just as well he turned her down, but now she felt a small amount of anger at him, separate from the trouble he had already given her. She wasn't quite sure why, but she pushed it aside and said "And let myself get thrown into prison? I think not. It's a pity. We could have been something grand. I suppose I'll have to use my back up plan then."
The soldier could tell from the finality in her tone that the conversation was over. There was a long moment of silence between the two where neither of them moved. It was ended with a sudden burst forward from the soldier and Fouquet raising her wand arm from behind her back. The man was able to slice apart the golem separating the two of them in an instant, but she was not far behind in casting her spell. Rather than spears or walls of rock coming into existence, she simply had the broken construct of rock explode into a large cloud of magnesium dust.
Magnesium in itself was a highly reactive metal, burning very brightly if lit. However, she had learned though conversations with farming peasants that there were such things as dust explosions; a spark among a dry grain silo could cause the entire thing to explode in an instant. Such a thing was possible with any combustible particulate.
And judging by a brief glance at the other man's face as she cast a spark from her wand, he knew it too.
The explosion wasn't terribly big, but not only was the man in the center of it, it was also extremely bright and loud. Fouquet was on the edge of the blast and jumped away from it, but she was hardly unscathed. Her cloak had been put through so much that day that even with its protections it became shredded and burned, and the woman herself became a little disoriented. However, there was no time for that. She knew full well that this would only slow the man down a bit.
Fouquet somehow managed to pick herself up and stumble/run towards the shed where she had sent her last golem, case still tucked under her arm. As she burst into the structure, she tore off the remains of her cloak, revealing her disheveled secretary outfit underneath, and cast both it and the case to the side. Calling up the last dregs of her Willpower, she tore a sizable hole in the earth beneath them, not bothering to make it structurally sound. Naturally it collapsed in on itself. She fumbled for a handkerchief in her pocket and gaged herself with it. He vision started to blur, and so she more or less tossed herself at her golem, it catching her and holding the woman in such a manner that it looked like it could crush her at any moment.
Her plan was quite simply to make it look like the 'thief' had kidnaped the poor secretary as a backup plan. While the soldier was distracted with her as a hostage, it became reasonable that the thief had escaped by digging a tunnel and collapsing it behind him, albeit father from the wall which he had originally intended.
It was not the best if plan. In fact, if the woman was pressed she would admit that it wasn't even a good plan. Anyone with sense would at least try digging up the ground where she had clearly 'escaped' to find clues, and as such the Staff of Destruction would be out of her grasp. Furthermore, a clever or suspicious man could likely figure out she had something to do this all this if they stopped to truly analyze the situation. Still, it was the fastest plan she could come up with in her exhausted state, so she would just have to hope that no one was feeling particularly bright for the next few hours.
The world started to drift away from her as she finally let herself succumb to Willpower Depletion (hopefully it would help sell the bit that she had been accosted), though she was vaguely aware of the door slamming open and that man standing there. A whisper of a laugh came to her lip as she thought about if he had actually said yes to her inane proposal, the two of them traveling the world and booting the nobles out of their mansions and castles and onto the streets where they belonged. It was a childish fantasy at best, though she didn't know why she felt that flash of anger when he turned her down.
A final treasonous thought crossed her mind before the blackness took her. Maybe it was because, for the first time in a long while, he let you feel hope.
Jean gave a weary sigh as he laid down the last student into the set of rows they had made on the grass. There was a good two dozen or so who had been injured and rendered immobile, thus necessitating that the Academy nurses come out and preform triage right in the courtyard. Thank the Founder, none of the injuries were immediately life threatening, but if not treated correctly and soon some would develop infections or have bones set improperly. The man himself was of some assistance, having knowledge of basic aid to treat the smaller wounds, but the real work was done by the healers.
For not the first time, the professor felt displeasure at his element. True, fire had been useful in coming to the defense of the students, but unlike the other elements it's applications outside of combat were limited. He had been making strides ever since he had become a teacher to find other uses for the element, though his successes were small. Regardless, for the time being he would have to simply do what he could.
"I need some more bandages here!" he called out, tending to a rather nasty cut on a female student's leg. A short while later a servant with short black hair came to him, her arms laden with various supplies. "Thank you my dear." He said as he took what he needed from her.
However, rather than leaving the maid stayed for a moment. "Pardon my intrusion sir, but are you sure that we are safe? I heard from some of the other servants that more of those things were seen wandering through the academy."
He looked up at her worried expression and tried to put on a calming smile. "Please don't worry. One of the student's familiars has gone to dispatch any others that may have gotten away. And rest assured, I have full confidence in his ability to do so."
"His?" She said in confusion for a moment before her eyes widened. "You mean Sir Georgius?" she blurted out.
Jean blinked as he looked at her. "Oh, so you know him?"
A light blush crossed her face. "W-we are acquainted. And not that I don't have faith in the man, but how are you sure?"
Jean gave a small chuckle and swept out his hand. "Well, aside from saving the many of the lives you see here, I was told that he faced down a golem half the size of the tower and lived."
The maid looked awed by this fact, but before she could say anything, a familiar voice said "We can talk about such things later."
The two of them turned to find the knight in question walking towards them, though he had traded his spear for a figure cradled in his arms. Jean bolted to his feet in alarm when he saw who it was. "Longueville!" he cried as he moved towards the other man. "Is she…?"
"Worse for wear, but she will live." Georgius said. "It… seems that the thief had taken her hostage in case things went wrong. He threatened her to gain time for his own escape."
Twin emotions of guilt and anger welled up inside the professor. Guilt for failing to uphold his promise to the woman to protect her… and anger at the man who would do such a thing to her. "Am I to assume that the thief is in fact alive and has escaped?" He said, his tone staying on just this side of dangerous.
For whatever reason, Georgius paused, a small frown crossing his face as his eyes flickered down to the woman in his arms. After a moment he said "So it would seem. However, perhaps it would be best if we checked the area in which he made his escape."
Jean nodded. "It might be possible to find clues as to which way he went."
"Something like that." Georgius muttered under his breath as he put the woman down at the end of the row. He then looked back at the professor. "Tell me, what will be the fate of the thief if he is caught?"
"I cannot be sure, but if he is who I think he is, then I imagine that he will be thrown into a dungeon to rot for the rest of his life." Jean said coldly.
The soldier's brow furrowed somewhat at this, but he said nothing. Eventually, he turned to the maid and said "Siesta, could you please take me to my master. It would be remiss if I was not present when she awoke."
"Of course, Sir Knight." She said as she turned.
Even as the two walked away, he could hear the man say "I told you to call me Georgius."
"When you defend a castle from an assault, you should be referred to by title." The woman replied primly.
Jean arched an eyebrow at this. He had not known that the man was a knight, be he could hardly say that it was surprising. Still he had other things he had to think about. This attack on the Academy would no doubt send ripples throughout the country. Sure, it was in fact a heist by a very powerful mage, but he doubted that many of the noble families that sent their children here would remember that fact. They would wonder if their children were actually safe within the walls, there would be inquiries as to the staff's competence, which was to say nothing on what if anything the thief actually took. Needless to say, the princess's visit in a few weeks would probably be canceled.
Above all else though, this event only deepened the mystery of a certain soldier and his pink haired master.
Louise knew that she was dreaming. She was not surprised at all by this, as the last thing she remembered was casting a fireball/explosion at a golem before things went black. She did feel a little put off though. She had never once felt tired from casting too much (the fact that all the spells cast previously were miscasts had no bearing on this), and now she had suffered from Willpower Depletion twice in just as many days. Not only that, that stupid Germanian floozy was probably making fun of her right now and she couldn't do anything about it.
One might have questioned the young noble's priorities considering that she had been in the midst of a battle when she had lost consciousness, but oddly the girl was not overly concerned about such things. She had just seen her familiar turn aside a golem half the height of the main tower; he could most assuredly protect her from this rabble. She would have to deal with her sudden and newfound respect for the man she had summoned when she woke up. But at the moment she had to deal with the strange dream she was having.
It was a montage of images and scenes at first, all taking place in a city she did not recognize. The architecture was elegant, with columns and arches and buildings of stone, but also somewhat simple in a way. It reminded her somewhat of early cities created by man shortly after the days of Brimir. The scenes also seemed to be focused on a young boy, who grew up in a large house with his parents and servants. It was hard to make out anything other than small details, but it was clear that the boy's life was a happy one.
Then it shifted. The dream became more concrete, and now she saw the boy sitting before his father, the man's expression serious.
"Son," he said. "Whatever your life may have in store for you, whatever dark path you may find yourself on, you must never forget your faith." The man held out his hand, and Louise was surprised to see a metal pendant in the same shape as the one the maid had, though of better quality. "Remember, God is always with you. He loves you always, just as he loves all of his children."
Before Louise could ponder this, the dream shifted again. The family was now in a forest on an outing, laughing and being merry. The boy trotted off to chase a rabbit. Suddenly, there was fire. It came from everywhere, surrounding the boy and getting closer. He screamed and ran, ran as fast as he could from the flames until he found himself alone among the ash. He cried and shouted for his mother and father, but he couldn't find them.
Just when the boy thought hope was lost, there was a woman standing before him, in dark robes and with long red hair. He asked her where his parents were, and she replied with sorrowful words that that had been taken by the flames. The boy cried harder then, and was in no state to resist when the woman bent down to hug him. Her words were like honey, but Louise could see a dark gleam in her eye.
"Don't worry. I'll take care of you from now on."
A/N: There was some confusion as to what exactly powers George's magic resistance last time so I hope this clarifies it a bit. His faith is why he has it to begin with, but it's all the experience he has having magic cast at him which makes it so good.
I was arguing with myself for a while whether or not I would add the dream cycle to this fic. It's really the Grail System that did that, so it technically wouldn't happen here. However, I realized that there is a lot of untapped potential in George's past that would normally never come up or be given proper explanation in story, so I decided to do it anyway. I have a few interesting ideas on that front.
On another note, I will probably be focusing on Soul and Birth in the immediate future. It's been about half a year since I started to bounce around with fics, and while it's been fun, I want to bring all of my attention back to a single story (or in this case, two fics that share a story).
Also, someone gave me a rec on TVTropes! Thanks!
Till next time.