Chapter 97

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A lance struck Elrith’s shield, causing him to let out a hiss. He was supporting his towershield with his broken right arm while maneuvering it with his left. His opponent relentlessly struck at him, not giving him a second to breathe. Elrith charged forwards, ignoring the screams and clanging metal behind him, and swung his shield outward, knocking his opponent to the ground. He panted and said, “Damnit, Owen! Listen to me!”

Owen climbed to his feet and used the back of his hand to wipe the blood leaking from his nose. His eyes were clear. “Forgive me, Sir Elrith,” Owen said as he charged at Elrith, brandishing his lance. “I have to do this for Lady Raea.”

“Help me rescue her, you blockhead,” Elrith said as he deflected a stab with his shield. Sweat dripped from his forehead. Behind him, the crowd of demons were steadily pushing through the army of halflings.

“If I lose to you here, Ishim will kill Lady Raea,” Owen said as he grunted and swung his lance again.

“Where is she?” Elrith said. He planted his feet on the ground and rotated his body to deflect Owen’s continuous strikes.

“Ishim keeps her in the building by the harpies,” Owen said as he gestured to the side with a tilt of his head. A group of twenty harpies were rolling boulders onto a net with their talons.

Elrith gritted his teeth and nodded once. He roared and swung his shield, bashing Owen towards the harpies. Elrith chased after Owen’s flying body and hit him again, causing the pitiful angel to roll towards a wooden building. The nearby harpies let out shrieks of alarm and flew into the air, leaving behind the boulders. Owen climbed to his feet as Elrith kicked open the door to the building. The inside was dark, only lit up by the sunlight pouring in through a tiny window.

“Raea!” Elrith shouted. There was no response. Elrith furrowed his brow as he inhaled through his nose. He walked inside the building with Owen following after him. The sounds of battle coming from outside dimmed as the two explored the first floor.

“She is upstairs on the third floor,” Owen whispered and gestured towards the stairs with his lance. “There is a single armored lizardman guarding her.” Elrith nodded as he bolted up the stairs, three steps at a time. He turned a corner and shouted while raising his shield. The hallway in front of him was silent. He furrowed his brow and approached the only door on the third floor. Owen appeared next to him. “Did they move her?”

Elrith shrugged and kicked the door. It swung open, causing a cloud of dust to swirl on the floor. “She was here?” Elrith asked and turned around, separating his body from Owen’s with his shield. “This room hasn’t been used in years.”

Owen’s mouth fell open. “That is not possible,” he said. “I saw Raea here just yesterday. The day before that they let me talk to her.”

“What the hell are you saying?” Elrith asked. “Raea was captured today. I came here chasing after her.” He eyed Owen who dropped his lance onto the ground. “Did you fall for an illusion?”

“Illusion,” Owen mumbled as he stared into the dusty room. “Then all this time…?”

Elrith’s eyes widened as black smoke billowed up from the stairwell. “Move!” he shouted. Owen turned his head and froze when he saw the smoke. Elrith pushed Owen into the dusty room and ran past him. He held his breath and charged down the stairs. A wave of heat engulfed him, causing his eyes to dry and itch. A black sea of flames encompassed the floor. The flames flickered and danced, spreading up the walls. Elrith ran back up the stairs. The smoke was getting thicker, obscuring his vision.

“How—“

“Too dangerous,” Elrith said, cutting Owen off. He stepped inside the dusty room and raised his shield while lowering his posture. He let out a shout and charged forward while clenching his teeth. His towershield collided with the wooden wall, shattering it. Sunlight poured into the room as Elrith’s body disappeared through the hole he created. Owen looked at the black flames that were crawling up the stairs behind him before running to the shattered wall. He saw Elrith, his body kneeling and arms clutching his leg. The ground looked awfully far away. A wave of heat brushed against Owen’s back, causing him to grit his teeth. He jumped. He screamed. He landed.

Owen gasped as he landed on his feet with his knees slightly bent. He doubled over and fell onto his side, clutching his ankle. A searing pain gnawed at it, eating away every other feeling in his body. Behind him, the building continued to burn, the black flames reaching the roof. Elrith was still kneeling, his body next to Owen’s. Elrith ground his teeth together. His face was smudged with soot. He raised his head and saw a group of harpies approaching him. “This sucks,” he said as he sucked in a breath and forced himself onto his feet. He staggered to the side but managed to prop himself up with his shield. The harpies stopped ten feet away from him, staring at him. “Back off”—Elrith straightened his back—“you don’t even have arms to carry weapons.”

The harpies glanced at each other before flying away. Elrith blinked and looked at Owen. “That worked?” Owen asked as he shuddered and crawled away from the burning building. He arrived next to Elrith. A flapping sound drew their attention towards the sky. The group of harpies were flying towards them, their talon’s holding the net with boulders. Elrith sighed as he looked at his possibly broken leg before looking back up at the sky. The harpies were above his head now. Time seemed to pause as the harpies made eye contact with each other and nodded. “Well, fuck,” Elrith said and raised his shield, bracing himself for the impact. The harpies released the net.

Owen raised his hand, attempting to manipulate the earth to create a shield. It didn’t work. The flames engulfing the building had also vanished without the two angels noticing, leaving behind a charred framework that creaked and groaned. The boulders collided against Elrith’s shield, instantly lowering his posture before covering his body along with Owen’s. The harpies let out a cheer before flying down to retrieve their net. One of the harpies rolled a rock away and picked up a corner of the net. She waited for her sisters to do the same.

A dull pain blossomed in her chest which caused her eyes to widen. She looked down and saw a pair of bloody hands sticking out from between her breasts. The hands moved away from each other, tearing her body apart. She opened her mouth to scream but no sounds came out, her lungs having been punctured. She fell forward, her wings splayed to the side, a pool of crimson spreading out from the gap in her body. A demon stood over her body, licking his hands while staring at the remaining harpies. Behind him, a group of demons and angels were rushing towards the boulders. The harpies let out a shriek and flew away without sparing a glance for their dead sister.

Tuic approached the net. His face and armor were smeared in blood. Bits of entrails hung from the tip of his lance. He grimaced and kicked the dead harpy away. “Clear the boulders and retrieve the general!” he shouted. “Demons prepare to break through the enemies again!” The surrounding forest seemed to tremble as more halflings began to appear at the edge of the camp. “Retreat after we secure the general!”


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