Chapter 30 – Maiden Battle Part 1

What was that feeling? It wasn’t quite excitement. It wasn’t quite fear. No, that feeling of allies rushing past you, fireballs flying through the air, illuminating the battlefield; the feeling of catching the enemy off-guard and piercing their heart with blades. A feeling that had no description. Either way, Gin relished every moment of it.

Focus.

Each second slowed down. Shouting filled the battlefield. Orders flew across the air, telling everyone to attack in a certain pattern. Another stealth bestial found, another one dead. Even the armoured utility types played their part, wasting the enemy’s element of surprise when they hit the hard stone. Gin would have found the scene wonderful if he could step back from the chaos.

Lead by example.

For every mage Gin killed, his confidence grew. His attacks grew more fluid. His body danced on the desert stage. The yellow sand reddened in the onslaught. The crimson of blood splattered around him. He became a spectacle to his allies; a bladed demon to the enemy. But beyond the instructions be tinoos, Gin only fought his own battle, unwilling to get distracted by the happenings of his teammates.

His eyes darted every five seconds to look above, waiting for the –

Horizontal.

‘Formation twenty-one. Spread out and conquer!’ he bellowed out a command, followed by the echoes of his subordinates.

Faster next time.

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Gin stabbed. One fell down.

Their bodies are frail.

He sliced. A head fell off.

Barely any muscle.

He jabbed multiple times. Shock sent the next one to the floor.

They lack armour.

With each passing fireball, more hidden mages were revealed. The enemy’s only strength of stealth gone in an instant. But that didn’t stop them attacking in their desperation.

With each passing fireball, more hidden mages were revealed. The enemy’s only strength of stealth gone in an instant. But that didn’t stop them attacking in their desperation.

Gin felt the scraping of nails on his chest but his chest plate protected him. It was as if the only place the enemy could aim for was his heart. A futile attempt that did nothing but reveal the mage’s location. Another foe dispatched.

Not a moment’s rest as another stealth bestial pierced Gin’s shoulders. However, the Xernim1XernimA parasitical entity that sometimes benefits its host prevented any damage this time. Now stuck, he used the opportunity, spinning around, dragging the invisible foe off its feet. His next strike materialised a man before an ally finished him off.

‘Thanks. There’s another one five metres ahead of you,’ Gin ordered.

‘Yes sir!’ the mage obeyed, running and mowing down the target with her flaming arms.

Gin touched the marks the enemy left on his Xernim. Was this why the Xernim grew? he wondered. But that lapse in concentration proved reckless as the sands below him shifted, unbalancing him.

A fireball rushed towards him. He didn’t have time to move. He raised his shield in reflex but somebody held down his arm, leaving him open to the projectile.

A hairy bestial stepped in, blocking the fireball, reducing it to mere globules that still landed onto Gin. His armour stopped most of the damage but some sneaked inside, searing the flesh on the inside.

‘Ack!’ someone screeched in agony behind him.

Gin forgot his pain and swivelled around, knocking the saboteur off his feet before plunging his blade into the chest, leaving the enemy lifeless.

‘Leader! Are you Ok?’ the bestial asked, getting in front of him to cover.

‘Get two more and cover for me,’ Gin replied, grimacing as he did so as the pain returned.

He deactivated the blade on his right arm and put his arm behind his shoulder. In the heat of the battle, he knew he shouldn’t stop for even a millisecond, but the burning oil prevented him from moving let alone fighting properly.

‘Enemy three metres at thirty degrees. Two more at two-seven-five,’ Gin instructed, making himself useful despite his inactivity.

The mages noticed as they deflected projectiles that came their way while shifting into a defensive formation to protect Gin. ‘We see them!’

‘Good.’

Gin didn’t waste the time they bought, thinking of the Xernim moving around his body. It listened, slender branches wrapping around his torso, stopping at where the oil resided. The Xernim curved, wiping off the hot liquid. A sense of relief filled Gin as the pain stopped, albeit a bit of throbbing from the scorched areas.

‘I’m fine now. Back to formation!’ he commanded with his allies nodding and returning to their positions.

That brief pause made Gin realise how tired he was. Sweat dripped from his forehead, mixing with the blood. He noticed his panting. Compared to the hundred one versus ones he fought, this was on a whole different level. This time his opponents didn’t stop coming. For every one he slew, another two popped into view.

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You idiot! Gin snapped back at himself, remembering and regretting at how his lapse of concentration almost led to his demise. Concentrate!

Gin steeled himself, degrading the grown branch and reactivating his blade. He let his unconscious take over, drowning out the fatigue but losing his long-term memory in the process. All he could remember were the constant slicing, dodging and split-second decisions that he needed to make. He harboured no feelings for his victims. He couldn’t even remember their faces. They all fit into the same generic mould.

Morality played no role. Hesitation meant death. If he didn’t do the killing, they would have killed him instead. The more he killed, the less that could kill his fellow Eurasians. He already lost too much to the AAA. He couldn’t afford a repeat of the past where he was never there. Not this time. The enemies’ lives paled in comparison to those that meant too much to him.

He killed and killed and killed.

‘Leader!’

Gin twisted his body, swinging his blade for the next kill. His attack aimed for the neck.

‘Ah,’ he heard the same voice whimper.

Gin’s arm froze. It stuck to stone armour, cutting a few centimetres deep into it. His eyes widened as he realised who he almost decapitated.

‘Sorry, Sam,’ Gin apologised, lowering his blade. He then turned to his block and bellowed, ‘Formation three!’

An echo of “formation three” made its way around the battlefield as his battalion repeated the order, making sure everyone heard. They moved around Gin, displacing him from the front line and shuffling both him and the messenger towards the middle of the block. Away from the front lines and safe from a sneak attack from the back, they resided in the safest place to be in their situation. Gin looked forwards, turning his back to the messenger and prepared to defend him, just in case a stray fireball flew towards them.

‘Did you want to report something?’ Gin asked, adding a ‘Now!’ when Sam hesitated to answer.

‘Y-Yes,’ he replied, still tense from his near-death experience. ‘The utility group spotted the group of juggernauts bestials approaching.’

‘How many?’

‘Three-hundred mages. All at least B ranked’

‘Still that many?’ Gin confirmed, batting a fireball out of the way. ‘How much longer till our reinforcements?’

‘Um, about an hour,’ Sam confirmed, reading a letter he held.

‘Tsk.’

‘Your orders, leader?’

‘They’re much stronger than us. We’ll get decimated if we continue to be spread out like this. Execute group formation five.’

‘Understood.’

Same ran off towards somewhere but a minute later, the tinoo formation turned into that of an inverted pentagon. The shouts of “formation five” soon led to the battalion shifting position once again, tracking back into a more defensive position. The several blocks meshed into a singular compact one, arcing in front of the artillery group. A sea of bodies laid in front of them. Beyond that, the enemy fire elementals looked on in horror as their surprise attack had been so easily dealt with.

But that changed when the enemy’s artillery team split down the middle, allowing three-hundred tall, beefy mages to march their way towards the battlefield. This was the AAA’s last attack. This was squadron W’s last stand.

- my thoughts:
Trust your instincts with this chapter. If it feels one way, it probably is. Then you got to think "Why is that the case?"
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