B2 — 28. President and Vice-President

Svalinn immediately shimmered into existence, crystals surrounding Eyia as she held up her right hand, mist exploding around the Valkyrie as the shell of ice formed in a fraction of a second.

The Daēva smashed into the barrier, yet all Sora’s twitching ears caught was the sound of crunching ice, cracks spider-webbing down its length; it took the brunt of the attack, but by the damage, Sora could tell Eyia’s energy was faltering.

Lifting their sickles and crossing them over their chests in utter silence, the figures radiated a malevolent aura that darkened the already pitch black room, distorting Sora’s spiritual sight.  These creatures were on an entirely different level than Eyia’s previous opponents, coming closer to how she felt when Jin was on a rampage.

Vision compensating again, the air in Sora’s lungs locked while watching shadowy threads leave the creatures’ weapons to sink into the shell protecting Eyia; fractures broke across the ice, umbra strands digging into the magical ice like nothing had before, and two seconds later, Eyia’s barrier collapsed.

Concentration reflected in Eyia’s still, sapphire irises; Sora’s fingernails dug further into her palm upon feeling her radiating power multiply, clearly not able to counteract these entities in the same way as the dragoons.

She thrust toward the nearest Daēva, Dáinsleif’s mirrored and dark pressure erupted, exploding with bloodlust; the shadowy energy flowed down Eyia’s hand and stopped at her elbow, blotting out the multicolored glow of armor as Svalinn’s cool white surface frothed mist.

Her sword snaked up to strike one of the Daēva, yet the shadow swiftly moved out of the way, sickles leaving its chest to rake Eyia’s unguarded back; the dark mist surrounding Eyia’s black sword shot out in a thin blade, twisting to follow the pivoting creature.

Redirecting its sickles, the two unholy forces met, space and time compressing at the blow, and the Daēva was the one sent flying back, noiselessly passing through both pillar and wall.

Eyia held up her shield to block her left side as the second attacked, her sword redirecting to catch the third’s blades; the sickles that struck Svalinn instantly started to frost at the tips, and the shadowy aura around her blade combatted the sickle’s misty threads as they engaged one another—Dáinsleif gaining ground with the Valkyrie’s total concentration, pushing it back up its length to the Daēva’s smoky hands.

Standing her ground in their initial attack, both Daēva retreated to the edge of the room as they hung suspended in wait for something, Eric hissing darkly beside her after moving beside Aiden.

“They were able to stave off both Dáinsleif and Svalinn’s attributes…  Outclassed, yet still able to push them to draw out more than Eyia wants…  This won’t end well after all the energy she wasted earlier.”

A weary edge replaced Jin’s calm attitude.  “These aren’t some simple creatures, and yes, I’m aware I took a lot out of her…  Daēva had enough power at one point to be recognized as gods.  I thought they were all annihilated in this universe…  It looks like the story I heard was wrong.”

“Yeah,” Sora muttered, watching the Valkyrie try to pursue the creatures for them to keep their distance and continue to wait, “but Eyia’s amazing!  She can handle this, right?  I mean, she’s not backing down…”

A forced smile twitched at the corners of Jin’s mouth.  “Eh-heh… I think you underestimate how hard it was for Eyia to keep you all safe from me…  I didn’t think she had it in her, but we’re starting to see her limits.  No, even she can’t handle this… not in a drawn-out fight against three Daēva, and they know it—”

She paused as footsteps sounded down the hall, and Eyia seemed to notice because she ceased pursuing the Daēva to take up a defensive position between them and the colossal, semi-broken steel door—the red dragoon had moved to the blue armor against the wall, hand caressing the breastplate in a heartbroken way.

Sora swallowed as the standoff continued, eyeing Eyia, and now she was standing still, she could see the sweat on her brow and pumping chest.

Is something stronger coming…  C’mon, Eric!  You said this was all what the Herald of Sakura had foreseen, right?  Why is everyone and their mom trying to put a stake in us?!  The Herald could kill all of them—easy—yet she sits back and is eating popcorn!  I just want to have some time to breathe!  Is that so much to ask?

She glanced back at Aiden as he redoubled his efforts, and once again, she felt her woven defenses around the humans multiply; his own lungs seemed to be running ragged, yet the small smile he gave her helped to calm her nerves—at least she had some people helping her.

Sora glared at Eric as everyone centered on the settling haze near the door; he had just been watching Eyia handle everything, yet he was strong enough to jump in and help, of that she was sure.

Again, she was unsure about his true motivations, but maybe it really was just for Kari and he was staying back to defend her if needed because he could care less about the rest of them.  If that was the answer, she could partially understand that position, yet Eyia was clearly their best chance of survival, and mitigating her stress helped everyone.

Puffing out a tired stream of air, she returned to the oddly still shadowy fiends, tails flicking left in agitation; they were a big problem.

Whatever energy these Daēva use… it’s super lethal against unprotected spiritual bodies.  Just being this close to them, I can feel their creepy hands trying to dig past Aidan and my protection.  How long can I keep Wendy and Mary protected?

My energy is draining faster than it can replenish…  Efficiency-wise, I’m only making gains, but not at the speed I need…  I bet it’s the same for Aiden; we can’t keep this up forever.

And why are they just hovering there?  At least turn off your stupid, destructive atmosphere!  No… if Eyia can’t win this alone, should I try to support her before all my energy is drained?  I don’t know if I can keep up, though…  No, I definitely can’t keep up… but I could funnel her some of my own energy.

She grimaced while studying Eyia’s impenetrable shield of a spirit; there was no chance for friend or foe to send anything into that icy shell, and she had no clue if she did that for a reason because Jin was the same.

Her attention was soon diverted when a group of several men walked behind the floating Daēva for a second party to follow; the first pack’s skin began to age dramatically, yet for some reason, they seemed willing to give their life force to the creatures.

Diane and the tall man with the machine gun were present with the few guards in the second, and it was only them that appeared protected from the shadowy fiends as a man in the center provided some kind of deep red light that bathed them in an unholy shell.

“Great…”  Sora puffed out an annoyed growl; surely, this wasn’t good.

Jin and Eric studied them with a low groan, yet the Valkyrie’s teeth flashed in a sharp hiss.

“They carry the powers of Hel with them…”

“Hell energy,” Jin explained in disdain.

“Well, isn’t that wonderful,” Sora sighed as the man producing the deep red light protecting the second group scanned the scene with a calculating smile.

“Well… this is quite rare to see…  I’m honored at the quality of entities this room currently possesses.”

Diane cleared her throat.  “I apologize, Vice-President.  Several… unexpected things occurred, and I tried to keep Sora in the, umm, containment area.  Has… the President arrived with you, by chance?”

Jin popped her tongue with agitation while studying the man.  “Am I the only one that feels like we’ve overstayed our welcome?”

The calmly man shook his head.  “No, Diane, yet he will arrive shortly.  Mmh, you said there was a troll captured, Benjamin?  He was trying to force his way out?”

“Yeah, hehe, he was pretty lively until we showed him his hide wasn’t as thick as he thought.”

“Mmh… wonderful.  If you could have him guided here…  Ah, and bring the canvas that arrived with me.”

How can they even see in this total darkness?  Can Hell’s energy, or whatever it is, really do all of that…  Uh, Hell’s real?!  I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised.  Do we get an angel—mmh, Eyia is kind of an angel…

A bit lost in her bitter mind, Sora followed his gaze to Jin as she gave a reluctant wave.

“Ursel,” he leveled at the red dragoon, “it is quite regrettable that we’ve lost Dustin… one of our best; we will need to return the loss.  If you could bring Dustin’s armor back with us, we will perform the proper rituals for one of his stature.”  

His head tilted to Eyia.  “And I apologize Ms. Valkyrie, but… there is a bit of preparation required of me; I am sure the Daēva will provide plenty of entertainment in the meantime.”

The Vice-President looked up to address the shadows.  “The Valkyrie seems to be the most dangerous; you can absorb her if you wish, but I request you leave the others… there are plans.”

Sora’s gut tightened as Eyia’s sword flipped around and stabbed into the ground without resistance, causing silence to take the throng.

The first Daēva faded before launching out of the concrete five feet away from her, backing away to where the other two floated, and Dáinsleif’s dark beam followed, tendrils reaching for the creature.

Its companions rushed forward and slashed at the trail of energy, beam dispersing back to the blade, yet the end remained in pursuit of the first, forcing it to block the baleful blade with both of its sickles.

Spatial and temporal compressions reverberated in the space, sucking a portion of the Daēva’s sickle into it, and again, it was flung back into the wall.

Yeah!  Wait, no!  Eyia can’t attack because she’s guarding us for—

Sora winced, ears folding down as a loud shriek struck them; it sounded like an amplified whistling steam kettle, but much harsher; she swayed for a second, feeling slightly dizzy before Aiden rushed forward to support her, warm energy filling her to counteract the biting edge attacking her resistances.

Jin’s voice was dulled in her head as Sora tried to cover the weaknesses in her spiritual defenses that they’d exploited, allowing Aiden to remove his hands from her shoulders.

“They’re acknowledging Eyia as a threat…  They’re going to get serious.”

“Can we do anything?”

“Eh-heh, pray?”

“Great…  My aunt?”

“I was thinking more Nüwa…  You do you, though…”

The three Daēva drew closer together as the troll was escorted in by several armed guards; two of the Daēva folding their sickles over their chests while the third extended its own out, touching the handles and tips together.

Shadowy wings dispersing into lines of impervious darkness, they collected between the middle of the touching weapons, and danger shot up Sora’s tails, weight collapsing against her chest—time and space blurred to her enhanced vision, swirling into the ball of energy.

“No!”  Jin yelled.  “Eyia, you can’t let them finish it!”

Her voice died in the chaotic mass of cycloning force, and even Sora’s spiritually acute hearing could barely make out her words.  Are they preventing Eyia from hearing Jin’s warning—no, it’s like they’re somehow straining time and space?  How powerful are these creatures?!

Sora’s vision shifted to Jin as a shift in air pressure pulled Sora’s hair toward her open mouth, the dragon inhaling nearly half the room’s air supply once again to the point she found it difficult to breathe and tight vents above them kicked into overdrive to fill it again.

The dragon pulled the elements into her lungs, her spiritual energy molded in her mouth into some kind of bubbling inferno of hyper-amplified raw force, changing its very nature as Jin roared in the Daēva’s direction.

A savage gale devastated everything in front of her, missing Eyia by a foot, the resonation vibrating the elements to their core; the closest Daēva turned before she could shout, and slashed at the air with both sickles.

The torrent of spiritual energy-laced air blew their distortions away, yet was met by its sharp slash, splitting it to deflect the dragon’s attack, yet Jin was already preparing something else, hands resting at her stomach, palms up.

Breathing a slow breath, raising her hands to her chest, the elements in her lungs weren’t nearly as compressed as her last attack, but the difference and style of spiritual craft was on another level.

Twisting it in a sharp spiral, she hissed out a beam of radiant red light from her lips, which instantaneously bypassed time and space, skidding across the top portion of the black ball and chewing through concrete, stone, and earth in an impossible path—yet it barely missing the Daēva’s sickles—aiming for the gathering ball instead.

The sphere folded and erupted into shards of solid darkness, piercing the holder’s black frame to deliver a devastating blow as the dragon used their own power against them.

Nice!  Eck—

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Another screech, more deafening than the first, jabbed through Sora’s spirit as the Daēva that took the brunt of it dispersed into nothing; the remaining two cried out a terrifying scream, but Sora’s ears were adjusting to their harsh offensive notes.

She was more concerned for Jin as the dragon doubled over, clutching at her chest as blood sprayed from her mouth in fits of coughs, spreading across the devastated floor in front of the small Korean girl.

Jin knew it was extremely dangerous and couldn’t warn Eyia…  Despite how weak she is right now, she still interfered to save Eyia…  Why can’t I do anything but defend Wendy and the others?  I know it’s important, but I need to help somehow!

Her instincts told her that one of the Daēva was coming to kill Jin, while the other held off Eyia; tails bristling as her mind fixated on what needed to be done.

I can’t let this happen!  I can’t, but what can I do?  Jin knew she wasn’t strong enough to attack the Daēva directly, so she refocused its energy to strike itself.  What can I do on my own?  What if…  What if I try something like Jin did?  They’re shadows, so I’ll try light and use what I saw my aunt do.  How did Inari spin that magic…

Thoughts turned to her aunt, strength filled Sora and her jaw set while flipping around her tails—the spheres Inari created were far more than simply lamps, and she knew that now—she just needed to follow her example.

Wrapping her tails around one as her aunt had to produce her blue spiritual spheres; she molded the force passing between them into a tight ball and alternated it in the way her instincts guided.

A brilliant smile lightened her lips as a similar ball formed, yet it held a raging, ruby hue instead of blue, and, knowing it was barely controlled and could collapse at any time, she focused trying to stabilize it; still, this would do!

Twisting her hips into a short spin as the Daēva loomed over Jin’s hacking figure, helpless to defend herself and Eyia struggling against the other to help, she caught a spark of a smile from the Valkyrie that told her she would succeed.

The sphere whipped out from her tails to come between the dark creature and dragon, sickles piercing the flaming orb to blaze into a radiant star of warm light that eradicated every shadow; blinding herself in the attempt.  Sora saw spots as she swayed, experiencing what she assumed was a light spiritual backlash.

Still, when opening her eyes, in shock, she found Eyia panting on one knee, body shaking and breathing harshly; for the first time, there were gashes on her smooth skin, and the mark on her left leg seemed far more serious than any other, yet the Daēva were gone.

Recovering, Jin gasped, “Way… to go—Sora.  It will take—at least a few minutes for them to reform…  Ack—heh, where did you learn something that advanced?”

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“What do you mean?”  Sora asked.

Hesitantly, Eric answered, Fen appearing utterly in shot at what she’d just witnessed.  “Mmh… you drew spiritual energy into an external malleable form, added a magical seal using True Vulpes magic—far more potent than normal Fox Magic—and banished them into a subspace of pure light.”

“No way…”  Fen mumbled, clutching at her breast.  “I’ve only seen…  Only Lady Inari does magic like that.”

Aiden whistled, puffing out a sigh and giving her a thumbs up.  “Nice!  Wooh… just give me a second… I’m still seeing spots.”

“Eh-heh, well… I did copy what I saw her do when guiding me to her sanctuary, so…”

Every head turned to the Vice-President as he began clapping, the sound echoing around the area; it was then she saw all the brought humans in the second group, excluding Diane, spread out inside a large canvas with bizarre patterns spaced across it—the troll beside it, guns pointing at the creature.

“Now, I am quite impressed, Sora…  You really are a blessed Founder to perform something like that at your age, which makes all the sacrifices we’ve made worth it.”

Sora’s lips parted in disbelief; the second he ceased speaking, his hand lifted and made a slashing motion at the troll.  It didn’t even twitch as its head dropped to the floor, the following thump of flesh hitting the ground and spraying liquid making Sora’s stomach twist to watch the pool crawl into specific patterns around the frozen men.

Only Diane seemed unphased as Benjamin took a step back, realizing his men were unable to move from their stunned positions.

“What…  Vice-President?”

Jin rubbed her throat, glaring at the symbols.  “Hell’s language…  A summoning circle.”

However, Sora was more concerned for Eyia; the panting blonde girl was currently trying to stop some kind of miasma digging into her spiritual network from the nasty wound the shadowy fiend had made against her leg.

“S***…”  Jin bit her lip, attention moving to Eyia.  “They marked Eyia… she’s trying to purify it, but until she does, my girl can’t d—”

“Wait…  Jin, you’re sure that’s a summoning circle?!”

“Hmm?  Yeah…  It’s nothing special—eh, the Second Ring of Hell—somewhere in there, I think?”

“It’s… no!”  Face turning white, he transformed into his complete Fenris Wolf and launched at the design; all while they worried about Eyia, the Vice-President had been instructing Benjamin on the canvas.

The Vice-President’s focus drifted to Eric’s beyond fast advance, yet had somehow predicted it, tossing a red marble into the air; the Fenris Wolf instantly struck a shell of crimson lightning and cycloning black flames.

Eric’s head struck the wall, slowing as he slowly pushed through; clearly, it wouldn’t hold him long, causing the man to hum.  “Fenris Wolves… haaa… far too resilient for your own good—even taking Hellfire from the First Circle—huh?  Mmh… hurry, Benjamin.”

The tall man looked unsure as he glanced at the corpse of the troll, his men, and the bloody canvas.  “This is…  Diane, what’s going on?!”

Diane was silent, hands behind her back and face unreadable as the Vice-President responded.

“I will not lie to you, Benjamin… I will make you stronger than you can imagine—strong enough to fight Eric—this is the purpose, nay, your destiny, and the reason why I selected you to join the organization…  Benjamin, you have an extraordinary lineage that I can make full use of.”

Taking one look at the massive seven-foot brown wolf breaking past the Hellfire before gritting his teeth and looking at the circle, Benjamin made his choice and jumped into the center.

A smirk lifted the Vice-President’s lips as he muttered a deep sounding phrase that made Sora shiver.

“Nedro-groma-ka’la-sumi…”

The blood on the canvas rose, latching onto Benjamin and sinking into his skin, making his chest heave, eyes going wide; Sora’s breath caught as the white in his eyes turned red, then black before crimson irises settled into place.

Eric broke past the lightning, jaws closing around Benjamin, yet the figure vanished in a spray of blood that shot across Eric’s head; the pool shifted at Eric’s shoulder as he thrashed to swallow the twitching guts for Benjamin to appear at his side with a smirk on his twisted lips.

“Mmh…  Not strong enough, Boy…”

Foot rising in half a second, it met Eric’s side, sending him through the Hellfire barrier and splitting a pillar for dust to fill the area once again, vents kicking into overdrive.

Sora blinked, unable to process what she’d just seen—Eric—the seemingly uber powerful, evil Fenris Wolf—had just been treated like a puppy trying to bite a man’s heels.

Working around his jaw, Benjamin licked his lips as he turned to the now kneeling Vice-President.  “Ainmire… hehe, you actually did it.”

Ainmire’s head lowered further as an ashen-faced Diane dropped next to him.  “Yes, Mr. President.  It has taken some centuries, Lord Bathin, but all the appropriate steps fell into place like clockwork.”

“I can imagine why,” Bathin said as he glanced toward Aiden.  “This is quite the surprise, though…  So many Founders.”

Eyia shakily got to her feet, setting herself into another defensive stance and making Bathin chuckle.

“You all are too much.”

Examining Eyia for a moment before speaking in the odd language Sora recognized as Asgardian, Jin huffed as she positioned herself against the pillar, still wiping away the blood that ran down her neck before doing a quick take on Eric’s condition.

“You want Eyia to back down?  Hah!  Even if we aren’t in any condition to fight, you should know a Valkyrie better than that, being a Devil,” she spat blood to the side.  “What are you doing out of your Realm?  Didn’t the Founders put you in your place with the rest of your kind?  I know you’ve been losing control as of late, heh, but operating so openly?”

Bathin’s lips became a line.  “Do not assume to preach to me, little dragon.”  Sora had no idea who Bathin was, but for Jin to say they couldn’t fight him put unease in her stomach.

Jin lifted an eyebrow.  “Really, I don’t need to preach to you?  Then I guess you haven’t forgotten about the little conditions treaty your boss signed with a few of the Founders when you upset the balance?  Do you genuinely want to open that can of worms?  Right here,” she pointed at Sora and Kari, “are Founders.  Do you think their parents will sit idly by while you kidnap their children?”

Bathin laughed heartily at her words.  “Sit idly by?  You don’t seem to be aware of the bigger picture, young dragon…  That’s exactly what I expect them to do.  You see, there’s quite a bit of strife brewing at the moment, but how could you understand beings of such power?”

“Then again…”  He examined her a bit closer, “maybe you do have some idea…  Humph.”  He clapped three times.  “I am surprised that you know about the treaty and even a small portion of the specifics; however, I am a very busy person.”

His eyes shifted to Eyia as she slowly inched between him and the group; she looked perfectly stable again, at least on the surface and wasn’t breathing heavily, but Sora could see she was exhausted and fighting the corruption still.

Bathin’s vision narrowed to slits.  “I do not like repeating myself.”

He didn’t make a single gesture for an enormous eruption of force to shoot at Eyia; the girl held up her shield but was carried off her feet, a gasp leaving her mouth as she was carried back to strike the wall to their right.

Sora winced as she fell to the floor; she wanted to run over and help, but also needed to be close enough to protect Mary and Wendy—her energy was returning in spades after the shadows sealing, yet she couldn’t let her guard down.

“Eyia…”  Sora whispered, making the girl give her a strained smile in her direction while struggling back to her feet with shallow breaths.

“I… am fine, Sister…  Give me a moment and we will escape this place together…”

“Eyia,” Jin muttered.  “To think it would go like this for us, and after I saw just how much strength you were holding back…  You blockhead…  I guess we both are.”

Bathin snorted, and the same focused pressure returned curving around the group to smash into Eyia’s right side, making Sora cry out as Svalinn took the brunt of it, yet still the Valkyrie soared over the rubble to the opposite wall, skidding down its length.

“Stop it!  Why are you doing this—I don’t—grrrr!  No…  Eyia!”

The girl’s weapons and armor vanished in dazzling light; she didn’t stir, but Sora knew she was still alive by her spiritual pulse and heartbeat, even if they were weak.

Taking a shuddering breath, Sora turned back to the grinning man.  Jin called him a Devil; not a demon?  Regardless, he obviously has some plan or purpose, so…  

“Umm, can we—”

He cut her off with a raised hand.  “I’m done with talking, and…” he looked around her, “Mmh… I don’t need any of them…  Fenris Wolves are a dying breed in any case.”

Sora’s eyes focused on Ursel, stomach tightening as she walked toward Eyia, spear dragging in her hand.  “Please, if I cooperate you’ll get more out of it.  Won’t you?”

A dark chuckle moved through Bathin’s shaking chest.  “I couldn’t care less if you comply or not.  All I need is you.”

His attention went to Eyia with a sneer.  “Do whatever you want with her, Ursel… heh, but make sure it’s appropriate for our loss.”

I need to stop—

Sora took one step toward Eyia before Bathin was in front of her; she didn’t sense him at all, and a force locked her spiritual network so she couldn’t move.

“Tsk.  Tsk.  Tsk.  No, I think this will be a good lesson for you, Sora.  I am sure you will all understand what becomes of defiance.”  His tone grew menacing and deep, displaying a second voice underneath.  “And with your father still in the picture… I’d behave, Girl.”

Reaching Eyia, Ursel kicked her in the stomach, sending the Valkyrie flying a few feet away, tumbling along the ground.  “Filthy thing…”

Coughing, Eyia began to shift as she came to a stop, hands moving to her leg rather than her stomach before trying to lift herself with shaking arms; Ursel brought her spear around and slammed it against Eyia’s back, making Sora cry out inside and try to wince as if feeling it herself.

Eyia was forced to her elbows, yet she didn’t drop to the floor, defiance still in her focused gaze; the situation was finally catching up to Sora, tears gathering in her eyes.  Everything always gets worse…  There’s always a glowing hope before it’s snatched away…  It’s not fair!

“Haaa…”  Losing interest in Eyia and Ursel, Bathin shifted to scan the area, Diane and Ainmire still close by as annoyance touched the Devil’s dualistic voice.  “Where could those incessant Daēva have gone…  They should have destroyed the restrictive seal and reformed by now…  Haaa.  Perhaps they materialized elsewhere and got lost.”

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