20 Chapter 18: Sacrifices Repaid
Before stepping out of the more brightly circle, Diana took a final gulp of air: she would be unable to breathe after this moment because the potentially lethal red mist remaining in the area. The two injured Mimics, a Bruin and a lion, noticed her exiting Combat and followed her to prevent her from escaping.
Holding her breath, Diana |Sprint|ed away, knowing she could last around two minutes without new air at best even with her physique as a trained [Knight]. Making sure the rather slow, injured Mimics were a whiles away, she rifled through three fallen cloaks, trying to last as long as she could without breathing. Her lungs began to burn, and her movements became more frantic.
To her surprise, she quickly found an unadorned wand Artifact in each. A close inspection would have revealed these were no ordinary wands, but clearly ancient things covered in hidden glyphs. Had she been in the right state of mind, she would have recognized that each could have easily reached several hundreds of thousands of Seedz on the open market. Just these three could rival her entire family's wealth. Setting them aside, she continued looking through the cloaks, desperately hoping to find something that could save her companion who she so desperately wanted to have sex with after this. She blushed at the strange thought. Why was she thinking about such things at this moment? She cursed. While valuable, these wands would not save Kira's life. It was a similar problem to a starving billionaire. When what mattered wasn't the value or power of one's gear, but the utility. The clock ticking, she picked up each cloak and ran her hands along them, trying to find anything useful. Surely such powerful men would have something useful for healing… After all, everyone got injured, right?
Meanwhile, Kira fought for her life while covered in blood, at this point, mostly hers. A few turns earlier, Kira had traded a throat shot at the ogre for a punch on her right arm. Luckily, the ogre had lacked any weapons, preventing it from cutting the Hersha's arm off. While the ogre had fallen, Kira had been concussed and slammed against a wall. Still, within a Round, the Hersha had been able to start attacking again even if she seemed increasingly confused and lost due to her extreme state of HP deprivation. [Berserker]'s |Status Resistance| was truly miracle breaking. At this point, Diana guessed that once Combat ended, Kira would immediately die. It was very possible that Kira was in the low tens but had artificially kept her HP at high levels by using |Health Sacrifice|, allowing her to use her near-future HP regeneration as collateral for gaining some HP in battle.
Trying to ignore the tightness in her chest both due to the lack of oxygen and her sorrow at Kira's fate, Diana dodged to the side, billowing the cloak over the lunging injured Bruin. Luckily, the blind Lion was far less coordinated, merely swiping at her, which she managed to roll away from. Diana grimaced. Without a weapon, she'd be almost defenseless when compared to these Mimics. There was almost no way for her to kill them… She glanced at the three wands she had left on the ground.
Now, she had a plan.
Letting out a gasp, Diana inhaled a breath of the gas. She choked, trying to force out the red mist but experienced no pain. In fact, she was almost completely unaffected. Suddenly, she wondered what it'd be like to have sex in the middle of a battle. Pushing the thought to the side, she briefly wondered why she'd even had such a thought when she was normally focused in battle. Too panicked to consider the implications, she instead glanced back at Kira's fight that the [Berserker] seemed to have entered a complete |Berserking| state for.
It seemed that when the [Knight] had left combat, Kira had received a slight Perk that allowed her to increase her mobility and occasionally use a second turn with less difficulty. Kira had managed to drop the enemy count to three although pieces of her bone were now showed through her bloody fur, and she was literally wavering where she stood. Still, Diana was surprised that Kira remained fighting, but more than that, she was greatly worried. She suspected that Kira had used some type of |Final Stand| Skill. As soon as combat ended, Kira would likely die as the damage she had been staving off caught up to her. Diana glanced down and saw the familiar golden glow that came with |Savior of the Oppressed| radiating off her form.
Shame surfaced in her. Why had she been given a Skill like this? She was no savior… She was just a useless Human pretending to be a [Knight]. She had no weapons to fight evil. In fact, this was the first true challenge she had ever faced in her career. Luckily, before she could truly waste time wallowing in despair, something attacked her.
As the Bruin that Kira had previously assaulted thrust its claws at her, Diana blasted a wand shot at it, creating a hole where half of its face had used to be. It made no sound as it went down. The blind lion pounced at the noise Diana had made when she had shot the wand, its gaping jaws preparing to snap over her head. Diana stuck the second wand in between its teeth, propping it open for a brief second. Then, she flared |Sprint| with everything she had back into the circle.
Sensing something caught within its maw, the lion crunched, thinking it had caught a bit of Diana's body. A burst of pure mana pushed Diana back into the circle as everyone besides her lost a Turn staring at the explosion. The lion was completely erased, leaving only a crater behind. Diana used the last moments of her Turn to fire a beam at a Humanoid looking Mimic, sending it crumpling to the ground with a gap in its chest. The final two Mimics, an unidentifiable, vaguely humanoid shape and the Servant Mimic, hesitated, fluctuating between attacking Kira and Diana. Finally, the two seemed to simultaneously decide that Kira was the easier target compared to a [Knight] armed with ancient Artifacts.
With a guttural roar of despair, the two raced toward the Hersha even as she swayed on her feet, her bloodshot eyes barely even seeing them. Coughing up a bit of blood while roaring, the [Berserker] stepped forward instead of retreating. Rage had blinded her to any common sense or instinctual self-preservation. At this point, pain would only infuriate the [Berserker] further, increasing the damage of her attacks. The only way to kill an enraged [Berserker] was to literally cut off their head, erase them from existence, or flee combat and let their wounds bleed out. Fortunately, their opponents were too stupid to realize the third option. In Combat, a [Berserker] was nearly unstoppable.
Bashing a fist at the twisted humanoid, Kira traded hits, allowing it to slice through her shoulder with its gnarled claws attached to a scaly gaunt hand. At this point, Kira resembled a bloody swiss cheese as she slammed it into the wall behind her, slumping to the ground. Shaking herself into an upright position, Kira growled at the humanoid Mimic, her muscles almost seizing up in exhaustion, tension, and pain. Somehow, the Hersha managed to face her opponents once more.
Diana nearly cried: her heart felt like it was slowly dying. Kira was trying so hard to fight even as she was slowly dying, for her. Never had anyone risked their life for her before. Diana felt a rush of sorrow and affection for the Hersha.
The Servant, though, aimed straight at her head. Diana guessed it had retained a bit more of its intelligence, so it could identify where to attack Kira best. Diana watched in horror as its claws seemed to slow down as the creature relished in finally ending the fearsome [Berserker]. No doubt, it would Rank-Up for killing a warrior who had defeated so many of its kin. This was literally how the Monsters of legend were made.
Diana looked at Kira's eyes, hoping to see some glint of a plan. There was nothing: only blank rage and confusion. Diana knew that she had to act in order to save her friend who had already sacrificed so much for her. Diana stepped forward, grunting as she willed her arm to raise, resisting the System's power over her. She would deny the System's Rules!
She willed herself to save Kira, to repay the Hersha's bravery, to follow her [Knight]'s code, she could and would sacrifice anything. Diana felt a rush of guilt: it had been her who had suggested they go on this inane Quest. This was all her fault. If only she could be the one paying for it rather than Kira. Suddenly, time itself seemed to pause.
At this moment, Diana realized that if she focused, she could attack three times in a single Turn. In fact, she felt like she could attack a dozen times. At last, her wand aimed straight at the treant, a twisted being of black wood. With an explosion, she stumbled back from the recoil, and the golden light around her whished out as she Interrupted the treant's turn by attacking. She stumbled, kneeling on the ground, feeling like she'd just lost something. She spat out a bit of blood. She wasn't sure whether it was hers or if it'd been in her mouth since sometime in the fight. She felt dazed, a sound ringing in her ears.
Just as the treant's lips curled into a smirk, its hand blew off. Quickly recovering, Kira bit and scratched at its head, ripping off most of its features before body slamming it and both lay still.
Boom! A section of the ceiling fell down on the final slowly standing Mimic. A hail of… something seemed to impact the ground, throwing up clouds of dust. Diana tensed, ready to face the dusty figure that walked out of the debris. Seeing her, the man grinned, tipping an imaginary hat. "Sorry, Diana. I'm not too late am I?" Combat ended.
Diana broke out into sobs, and a bit of unwilling arousal. In fact, she realized she desperately wanted to touch herself at this moment. Looking at James, she felt like she had found the perfect solution to fill her ache.
The man looked around, confused. "Are you alright?" Spotting a few wisps of red mist, his eyes widened as he stared at Diana.
Reaching in his pocket for something, he hurriedly asked Diana, "Where's Kiara." He glanced up in worry when Diana didn't answer and only blankly stared past him. He turned around.
Then, he spotted the bloody, light-orange Hersha silently lying on top of a Mimic. Immediately, he stopped looking in his pocket for whatever he'd been looking for and sprinted toward the still form.
Warning! Over-flaring of |Savior of the Oppressed|. Regression to |Protector of the Innocent|
Level 23->24 (Combat)
Level 24->25 (Questline)
Level 25->26 (Bonus: Completing Knight's Oath: Protection)
Warning! Mutation: |Protector of the Innocent|->|Heroic Effort|
Skill Gained: |Basic Wolf Strike|