Dantega:Volume 5 Chapter 7

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Chapter 50: Checkmate


(PART 1)


Satan sits on his usual throne in the dark room. The familiar sight of the chessboard that signifies the way in which the main characters of the world are moving, sits on a table right in front of him.

The game has taken a turn for the worse for him and the look on his face shows it.

He only has three black pieces left on his side of the board and they're almost completely surrounded by the white.

His pieces are a rook, a queen, and of course the king. Each piece is in place as Sturgess, Dice, and Red Spektor. The white pieces are the game’s version of the Ten La’Juutian Knights, Lelaine, Zurvick, Gile, Diana, and Noah.

“Things sure are getting tight isn’t it Noah? But you know, it’s not over yet. You’ve traded strategy for outright numbers in this game and it just might cost you.” Satan’s voice echoes in the dark room as if he is talking to the darkness itself. “You see, chess is a fickle game. If one makes the right moves, he can win with far less pieces than the other. The key is sacrificing the right pieces in order to get to that point in the first place. I’ve done it multiple times already just to get myself out of ‘check’. And I’m going to have to do it again to win.”

He moves the black king piece forward two spots and in turn has it surrounded by the white. Satan does this so confidently because the shift of position leaves his last rook piece resting on the square adjacent to the king.

This could only mean one thing...

Castling.

“I’ve used almost all of my power maneuvering my way into the lives of the pawns. So much so that if I were to lose, I would most likely not be able to send my powers to Earth for quite a long time. That being said, I’ve naturally made it to where I have the best chance in winning simply in light of the facts that go along with my loss. All I need is for one of these pieces to break through your defenses and it’s all over for you... Just one.”

Knock Knock Knock

The sound of someone knocking on the door echoes in the room. Satan doesn’t give whoever it was permission to enter but the man does so anyways. The light from outside peers through the room and hits Satan's face, causing his eyes to shine an even more menacing red.

In comes Amon, the 4th ranked demon of the Hierarchy.

Being met with a glare that can kill, he skips the formalities and gets straight to the point. “I remember hearing you mention something about some kid on Earth with a certain power giving you problems.”

“What of it?” he sharply replies.

“I also recall you saying that that kid said he got that power from one of the people Damien sent to Purgatory right?”

“.....”

Satan stays quiet but his expression indicates that he wants know where his underling is going with this.

Amon throws his hands in his pockets and his lips faintly rise, he is happy that he is the one that gets to reveal the news before anyone else.

“Man oh man how I’ve got a story involving a certain priest for you...”




“So how was it!? How was my superhero like entrance!?” Olin shouts, giving the puppy dog eyes to Allia and Celestia.

The three of them along with Jessiah are standing safely on the part of the staircase that hasn't collapsed.

Allia sighs and says, “As much as it pains me to do so, I have to thank you guys.”

“Yeah no kiddin', we were in some deep trouble back there. So what's the reason why you two came here to back us up?” Celestia asked.

Jessiah swings around his spear and explains, “Well we actually got done with our missions a lot earlier than we expected. I mean, we took out eleven of those monster bastards before we knew it.”

“Eleven!?” Allia and Celestia shout simultaneously.

“Well yeah.” Olin responds, “They weren’t that tough after all, other than a couple tricks, most of those people were untrained noblemen trying to benefit from the results of the war. They couldn’t hold a torch to us.”

“No way, weren’t they spread out over all three countries?”

“All of them were around the borders so it wasn’t that hard to get from one to the other. The furthest one away is this bastard down here in the south.”

Celestia sighs and says, “I think we got the short end of the stick in this. The one that Allia and I took out a few weeks back wasn’t a slouch, and this Captain Red guy is flat out ridiculous.”

“Or it could be that we are just that much more bad-ass than you are?” Jessiah asked while striking an arrogant pose.

“Yeah right.” “No way.” The two girls say at the same time.

“Whaaaaaatever.”

Olin walks up to the broken guard rail and looks down, revealing an expression full of seriousness. Down a couple stories below on one of the metal walkways above the lava is Red, and he is beginning to stand to his feet.

He gestures the others to come take a look and says, “We’re not out of the clearing just yet, if that guy is as tough as you say he is then we’d better end this quick.”

“I agree.”

“But before that, I gotta ask one thing.” Olin says, his eyes so full of intensity that it makes Allia and Celestia’s body stiffen up.

With the same face, Olin looks to Allia and asks, “Why isn’t your bra black?”

The whole atmosphere around him shatters like glass falling on the ground and the two girl’s mouths drop instantly.

“HAH!?”

“Don’t you get it? Purple is weak, black is beauty!” he shouts, fists clinched as though he is proving an important point.

“What the hell are you talking about at a time like this!?” Allia yells in a flustered manner.

“There is no time where this proven fact doesn’t take precedence over everything else! Purple? Really Allia? This is the first time I’ve seen you topless and I gotta say, you have a perfect rack. How could you ruin this moment for me with a purple bra!?”

Allia covers her chest and her face turns bright red. She didn’t give it much thought before when it was just her, Celestia, and the enemies. But now looking at it, she comes to the realization that this is the first time any guy has ever seen her like this; it’s bad enough it has to be these two knuckleheads.

“Y-Y-You pervert!!”

“I’m not perverted at all!” Olin shouts, “I’m just stating the obvious here, if you had a black bra on there’d be nothing holding me back from having a nosebleed! Don’t you realize how powerful of a weapon you have?? You’re wasting it right before my eyes! Such a tragedy!”

Allia hides behind Celestia and says, “Celestia, do something about this guy! He’s embarrassing me!”

She sighs and replies, “Well you shouldn’t have thrown away your shirt. It’s your own fault.”

“Whhaaaa don’t say that! You’re a girl too so you should know how I feel!”

Olin’s disappointed eyes switch to Celestia, and looking at her he finds that for the most part she is dressed pretty skimpily as well. Her white shirt is almost transparent due to the heat of the room and her bra can be seen too.

“Hmmm, pink huh?”

“Eh?” she mutters as she looks down on her chest. “Kyahh!”

In a flash she uses her shield to block his view.

“Photographic memory, okay!” he shouts, taking a picture in his mind. Wriggling around in a creepy fashion, he continues, “Your chest isn’t nearly as big as Allia’s so a cute pink bra suits your kiddish appearance perfectly.” He then holds his thumb up and smiles stupidly at her. “Nice touch!”

A flame begins to brew in Celestia's eyes; the sound of her teeth grinding together is similar to a nail on chalkboard. With the strength of a thousand men she grabs onto Olin’s neck and begins to strangle him.

“I’m going to kill you.”

Judging the terrifyingly dark expression on her face, it would seem she is actually going to do it.

Sensing the force of the wrecking ball that is Celestia Letrova, Jessiah is forced to intervene. “Now now, don’t get your panties up in a wad.”

Celestia turns her head like she is possessed by a demon impossibly to the side and scowls at him. Her grip on Olin’s neck doubles and he begins flailing his arms and legs around in a panic.

“...WHAT ABOUT PANTIES?”

The horrid voice exiting her mouth scares Jessiah into complacency and he shrivels as he takes frightened steps back. He glances into the pleading eyes of Olin and shrugs his shoulders as if saying, 'I tried.'

Olin flips him off, sending a message of his own implying sarcastically, ‘Thanks for the effort!!!’

Jessiah bows to him and politely says, “May you rest in peace.”

Before Olin passes out of asphyxiation, a loud noise from below snaps Celestia out of her angry death mode and she releases her hold.

Having his life saved, Olin takes a deep, well needed breath and hops up to his feet, smiling stupidly like usual. That’s when he notices that everyone else has dropped down, guarding themselves.

“What’s up?” he asks.

“GET DOWN!!!” They all shout.

“Huh?”

BANG! BANG! BANG!

Multiple shots ring out and debris from the rock wall to his side scatters all over as if someone threw grounded up chalk into the air.

“Whoah!! What the hell was that!?”

Looking down, they can see that the remaining twenty men who work on the assembly line are pointing strange objects at them and shooting projectiles that fly at an incredible speed.

“These are the weapons that they are planning to overthrow La’Juune with!” Alla shouts while a cloud of debris from the fragile rock above her head falls down on top of her.

“This is insane! If we get hit by one of these things we’re toast!” Olin points out.

“Then let’s move! They suck at aiming but if we just wait here we’re bound to get hit!”

After Celestia’s order, they all get up and jump off the staircase in different directions. Below them are numerous walkways that are rather wide, but to hop off without any hesitation knowing full well of the presence of the magma below takes extreme amounts of courage.

None the less, they each end up in different parts of the factory and the workers scramble along firing pop shots in every which direction they can. Although the bullets ricocheting off the metal rails of the walkway seem close enough, in reality, the Knights aren’t even close to getting hit.

In addition to their moving speed, the fact is, the men wielding these weapons have no clue how to actually aim and fire efficiently. They have yet to even use the guns they manufactured. That’s like handing a pistol to an adolescent who’s only seen one in an action movie and asking him to shoot a bird out of the sky. He’s got a better chance of holding it sideways and having the clip fall out after the first shot than actually hitting the target.

With ax in tow, Olin reaches the main walkway that holds the five assembly line factories which spread all across the inside of this furnace. The main force of workers are on this particular walkway and begin firing as Olin makes his way toward them.

Now having a target moving in a straight line and getting closer to them with each second, the men have a proper grasp on how to take him out. A few of them shoot at him and are shocked to find that the bullets are brushed off by the ax of Olin as if they were flies.

"W-What!? How!?” One of the men shouts in surprise.

While running, and continuing to knock away even more bullets, Olin answers with a smile, “This isn’t that special guys. Just cause you’re shooting shit at me at such a speed doesn’t mean I can’t knock them away.”

He takes a big jump and does a couple flips before landing right in the middle of the ten or so men. “I can tell where the attack is coming from by simply looking where you’re aiming.”

The ten men all point their weapons at him and fire simultaneously.

Olin takes a big sweep with his ax and sends some of the bullets ricocheting in multiple directions and having them strike some of the men in the chest.

After dropping three of the men, he uses his ax to take out a couple more.

Still, having men with guns pointed at him puts him at a severe disadvantage, but he shows no worries as he gestures the men to look behind them.

Naturally, they don’t look and prepare to fire.

However, they are all cut down by the spear of Jessiah.

Jessiah had used this moment of confusion to leap across a couple of the walkways and jump behind them unnoticed.

And with that, half of the gun carrying men are taken out by two people with an ax and a spear.

Seeing that their guns are of no use against these freaks of nature, the other ten workers begin to run away, firing pop-shots in order to gain some distance. In a flash, three heads go rolling on the ground as Celestia’s shield swings horizontally into the fleeing group of men.

It would seem that Celestia has no intentions of letting them go so she chases after them and their scared screams grow more frantic.

“Just let em’ go. They aren’t gonna do us any harm outside in the snow.” Jessiah said, scratching his bald head in an exasperated fashion.

Though Celestia would normally never listen to him, she decides that he’s right. Useless killing is not what she gets paid to do; once they are done attacking, they might as well be normal citizens. Although she worries about them making more guns once they escape, she quickly realizes that they most likely wouldn’t be able to replicate them without the technology of this top notch plant.

She turns around to walk to where Olin and Jessiah are when she suddenly hears the horrified screams of the men she had just showed mercy to. She twists around to look and sees that the fleeing men have been cut off by a certain captain with flaming red hair who’s surrounded by an abundance of black liquid.

“Hey hey, leaving me behind huh?” Captain Red says, a distinct evil shines in his eyes. “You know I read this book once, some old story about some old fort in the middle of dick-fuck nowhere in some old war. They were being attacked and it became obvious that they’d lose... Do you know what happened?”

The men don’t answer; they just quiver in fear as Red’s darkness inches its way towards them.

“They fought. All the way down to the last man. That’s courageous aint it? I mean, imagine being that guy. All alone, surrounded, totally fucked and knowing it. Don’t you wanna be like that guy? Don’t you wanna die like a bad-ass? Haah!?”

Red holds his arms out and shakes his head when no answer again comes. “Dying can be cool if you do it the right way. You guys on the other hand, are gonna go out like shit flushed down a toilet. What a bummer, shame, tragedy!”

Red slams his foot onto the metal walkway and a loud noise ensues. The middle of the fifteen foot wide walkway split and sharp edges violently stretch up like jagged teeth towards the ceiling. The remaining men are caught in that wretched deformation of twisted metal and are skewered from between their legs. This of course doesn’t result in an instant death, a few of the men scream in agony whilst others squirm and make gurgled screeches through the back of their throats.

The jagged metal twisting upwards along the middle of the pathway doesn’t stop once it impales the men; it picks up speed and zooms its way toward the three Knights.

Not wanting to end up like the unfortunate people in front of them, they once again jump off the walkway in separate directions.

Jessiah barely latches onto the bottom of one of the walkways about ten feet above him and pulls himself up.

Celestia uses her shield and swings herself up a couple of stories onto a different walkway.

But Olin stays on the same platform; he hops up on the thin railing and runs across it as though he was on regular ground. He is just one inch in either direction from falling to his death in either the magma or the twisted metal but seems unafraid as his thin smile grows wider.

“Get out of there you dumbass!!!” Celestia shouts with all her might.

But it seems that her words fall on deaf ears as Olin hops off the railing and swings his ax for a downward strike atop Red’s skull.

Red holds out his hand and grabs the sharp end of Olin’s ax; using that as an anchor, he pulls Olin in and viciously knees him in the gut. Olin spits blood out of his mouth and misses out on a couple breaths when his lung’s functionality grinds to a sudden stop.

Red releases his grip on the ax and clasps his hands together; using them as a clever he hammers down on the top of Olin’s head, sending his face screaming into the metal ground.

FONNKK!!

“Gbbbhhhhh!?”

“Hahahaha what a thud! Hey hey, I wonder if I can pound you through this bridge and into the magma with one kick?”

Red lifts his leg and prepares to stomp on the top of Olin’s head.

Considering how devastating his last kick was, which deformed the metal of the bridge into skewers, there is no doubt that Olin’s head will become mush if he takes this hit.

Celestia clicks her tongue and sends her shield flying down at a tremendous speed in the direction of Red’s leg. The mad Captain catches a glimpse of the shining gold projectile heading his leg’s way and moves it as quick as he can. Not being able to move it fast enough, the sharp edge of the shield slides across his shin and sends his blood flying.

Under her control, the shield retracts back towards Red’s neck but he uses his hand and knocks it away. She regains control of her shield and begins running off in the opposite direction.

“Ohoo big daddy Red loves playing tag!” he shouted cynically as he uses his hand and points it at her moving frame.

He intends to send the strange black liquid chasing after her in order to blow her to bits like he did the stone staircase earlier. That’s when he feels a dull pain in his shoulder and finds that a six foot long spear is protruding from his muscle.

“!?”

Jessiah had thrown it from his position atop the overhanging walkway above.

Before Red can pull it out, the pressure grows deeper as Jessiah runs from a couple dozen feet away and follows his javelin throw by kicking the wooden butt end of the spear, sending the blade pushing through the other side of Red’s body.

Red stumbles forward and prepares to face Jessiah when another dull pain is felt, this time in his stomach. Looking down he finds the sharp back end of Olin’s ax stabbing through the area just above his naval.

“Kahh!?” he hisses, spitting out blood in the process.

Olin is under him, smiling once again even though his whole face is covered in blood. “Let’s face it, even with these powers of yours you have no chance against all of us.”

“Hahahaha you think so!?”

Jessiah rushes at Red’s back for another attack.

As if predicting this, Red turns his body at a sharp angle and twists the ax out of his stomach. The wooden shaft of Jessiah’s spear swings along with his body and strikes Olin directly in his face, knocking him back a couple feet.

Jessiah, still in his full sprint is met with the big fist of Red slamming into his chest. The black liquid surrounds his arm and as though it was some kind of spring, it coils and recoils along with his punch, sending Jessiah flying back the entire length of the walkway until he slams into one of the large factories holding the assembly line.

BAAAAAM!!

The sound of his body crashing into the factory echoes throughout the furnace room.

Red pulls Jessiah’s spear from his shoulder and begins swinging it at Olin, and doing it quite skillfully.

Olin is narrowly avoiding being hit as he dodges, and blocks the spear with his ax. Now pinned between Red and the jagged metal holding the skewered men, Olin is stuck between a rock and a hard place. His only option now is to go on the offensive; he catches a firm piece of footing and lunges forward.

The two take swings at each other and sparks fly when the metal of their weapons meet.

“You’re quite good for a guy who doesn’t see combat.” Olin says as he drops his level and swipes at Red’s ankles.

Red jumps just high enough to avoid having his feet cut off and swings Jessiah’s spear down. “I’ve killed enough people to know how to kill people. You know?” Red replied in his unusual vexing manner.

SHHIIING!!

The two weapons clash, pushing at each other, their arms uncontrollably shake as sparks fly between their faces.

“Well you’ve never killed anyone like us.”

“I think a certain amount of numbers adds up to the quality of death that you Knights carry. It’s like a game where you collect coins for each monster you kill. Sure you get more coins for taking out the boss, but you can get just as many by taking out a bunch of the small fries.”

“Che... You sure have a fucked up way of thinking pal.”

“I don’t think so. I happen to be the most rational person who’s ever lived. It’s as simple as realizing that everyone dies one way or another. It doesn’t matter if they die in a fire, in a flood, disease, murder, war, famine, hell even a damn lightning strike. Death's just death no matter how you dress it up.”

By now Red’s strength begins to overwhelm Olin and the tip of Jessiah’s spear gets closer to his face.

“With that logic, I find that I’m best suited to be the person doing the dressing, rather than being the one who’s getting dressed. Makes since right? Of course it does. Kind of like a kid who plays with dolls, would you rather be the one who owns the doll or be the doll itself?”

Olin can’t help but smile, even though he knows his position in this fight is leaning more towards the losing end, Red’s words still make the tip of his lips rise. “Like I thought, you’re out of your damn mind.”

Even though Olin is an oddball himself, he isn’t clinically insane like Red is, he can still function. Adding to that, the man in front of him has sold his soul to the Devil for no other reason than the fact that he wants to kill, he’s even working on destroying his home country in order to do so.

Red simply smiles at him as if saying ‘I know’ and uses the rest of his strength to bring down the sharp edge of the spear upon Olin’s head.

Completely overwhelmed, Olin’s leg’s buckle and his struggle for survival gets that much more severe.

Sensing that he can’t hold out much longer he shouts,

“ALLIA, TAKE THE DAMN SHOT!!!”

BANG!!!

A gunshot rings from the assembly line factory on the other side of the mountain of skewered bodies.

Red’s attention is instantly moved towards the sound of the blast; and perhaps due to the influence of power in his hand, everything turns to slow motion.

Looking carefully, he notices that there is a gap, a stupidly small gap in the formation of the jagged metal connecting a spot of air between him and a certain girl pointing a rifle at him.

This little gap is no bigger than two inches and he can see the bullet spiraling perfectly towards the area directly between his eyes. Unless he moves quickly, his brains will be scattered out the back of his head.

With eyes following the bullet intently, with all his might he pulls his head to the left but the effect of slow motion is moving it at a dragging speed.

His eyes still follow the bullet, his mind still knowing full well what will happen if it connects. He watches it slide past his lips and rip skin as it slides across the right side of his face.

In a flash, time speeds back up to its regular pace and the bullet zooms by faster than the speed of sound.

Blood falls down Red’s face as he backs up and drops Jessiah’s spear to the ground.

“Krrrrrgghhhaaah!?”

He removes his hand from the wound and finds that almost half his face has been blown off; the bullet had enough force to peel the skin and take a chunk out of his ear.

Olin jumps to his feet and postures up in a battle position, much to his surprise, a deep blood curdling laugh begins to brew in Red’s bloodied mouth.

“Huahahahaha! That bitch! That was an amazing shot!”

Red abandons Olin and jumps over his head, and the rest of the impaled men onto the side of the walkway where Allia is.

He walks toward her and says, “I was wondering where you disappeared off to. You were waiting for me to be distracted so you can take me out. I gotta say, I’m amazed that you can shoot one of those things. I find using them to be a colossal pain in the ass.”

Allia points the gun at him and replies, “I’m an expert marksman. I’m the best in the world with anything that involves aiming and firing.”

Her bloodied left hand is still hanging down but she holds the rifle in her right hand without any wavering, its steadiness never sways as the barrel continues to point at Red’s forehead.

The pressure on the trigger tightens and,

BANG!!

A dull shot rings out and the bullet screams forward.

Instead of using the inhuman heroics of the last time he was shot at, he simply smiles and keeps moving one foot in front of the other. The bullet that was on a collision course with his skull is met first by a mass of his black liquid. The bullet is engulfed and dropped harmlessly to the metal ground.

“It ain’t gonna work twice.” Red said, pointing at the horrific wound on the side of his face.

Allia huffs an arrogant air out of her nose and responds, “I thought as much.”

She quickly re-aims the rifle and fires yet another shot; but this time however, the bullet zooms three feet off target to Red’s right.

This was either a terrible shot or some kind of weak diversion. With these thoughts running through Red’s mind, he feels a burning sensation on his back.

He had been shot.

“!?”

Even Red would reveal a shocked face at this as his body jolts forward from the impact. He turns his head and catches glimpse of Celestia’s shield spinning off in the distance.

“Let me guess, you thought that I missed you for a split second there right?” Allia asks, smiling confidently and pointing her weapon three or more feet to the left of him now.

Celestia’s shield takes a sharp turn as if it was a boomerang and comes flying at the Captain; he clicks his tongue and ducks, and the shield zooms over the top of his head.

“I told you right?” Allia continues, grabbing his attention once more. “I’m the best at what I do.”

BANG!!

She shoots again, and just like last time, the bullet flies past Red; and if one listened carefully, they’d hear a ‘tink’ noise followed by a whooshing sound. Immediately after that, a thud is heard as blood comes spraying out of Red’s side; he had been shot from behind once more.

Allia has actually been intentionally missing Captain Red and hitting the Celestia's fast moving shiel in motion, causing the bullet to ricochet off and hit Red in his blind spot. Judging the velocity, angle, and the direction in which the bullet needs to hit the shield in order bounce off and land on her intended target is borderline impossible. This truly shows her skills as a marksman that allowed her reach the position as one of the Ten Knights of La’Juune; she really is the best in the world.

Red falls on one knee as the warmth of the blood from the wound in his side rolls down his leg.

“Amazing.” he said in a low pitched tone.

“Do you see now? Against four of us there’s no way you’ll win.” Allia said, her rifle moving along with the flow Celestia’s shield.

“Hehehehehahahahahaha! Don’t be so full of yourself now, this is just gettin' started!”

Red stands back up and spreads his arms out, all while laughing in a distinct manner different from anyone else.

“I heard somewhere that people like you are able to make an absolute dime of a shot under the worst kind of pressure... Well how about we put that to the test!? I’ll leave myself wide open for you, but just know that if you miss you’re fucked!”

“Tch.” Allia clicks her tongue in annoyance at his ridiculous attitude.

For a man who’s missing a chunk of his face and has multiple other wounds to be acting this way is beyond the point of insanity. She almost pities the state of his mental health.

She readies to take the shot when out of nowhere a severe quake forms in the lava below and the metal walkway begins to shake uncontrollably. A few more seconds of this and her balance will surely be twisted and she’ll end up on the ground. She needs to take the shot before that happens. Trying to refocus as quickly as possible, she again reaches proper aim; and that’s when she finds that Red is standing in the middle of what seems to be a tornado of magma.

“!?”

“Haha, what’s wrong? I thought you said you were the best?”

Allia frowns; she can’t shoot him through that swirling inferno of lava because her bullet would melt and veer off course in a random direction. There is literally no way she can inflict any damage on him; even though she senses that he’s only doing this to make fun of her abilities as a marksman, there is also no way anybody else could lay a hand on him.

“Don’t worry I’m gonna give you a free shot. I’m actually quite honest you know?”

“.....”

“Oh come on don’t give me that look... Here.”

Red spreads his arms and the tornado of lava opens up and leaves him wide in the open. As if coaxing Allia into shooting him, he sticks out his chin and smiles.

Allia isn’t one to let opportunities like this slide by; she’ll make him pay for his taunting. She puts some extra pressure on her trigger finger and is about to pull when Red slaps his two hands together and an intense wave of heat is felt on her face.

As if it was some kind of wall, the tornado of lava flattens itself and shoots forward at her like it was shot out of a cannon. The mere heat from it alone melts the metal of the walkway as its speed increases with each foot.

“The only way this is gonna stop is if you can shoot me! So what are you waiting for!? Take the fucking shot woman!!!”

This is the intense pressure that Red was talking about; he is testing her to see if she can accurately hit her target under such critical circumstances. If this wall gets much closer to her, the charring heat alone will torch her skin and she will melt once she makes contact with the magma.

She is left with a simple decision; shoot or die.

Allia narrows her focus the best she can until she reaches the intense sensation of tunnel vision. From there she can see a small gap in the lava, not much bigger than the last little area she shot between before. She knows that if she shoots through this, the destination of the bullet will be Red’s heart.

Without any more preparations needed, she pulls the trigger and sends the bullet flying. The sound of the gunshot is overrun by the screeching of Red’s attack so for a moment she wasn’t even sure is she had fired or not. Allia only becomes certain that she did because of the small recoil felt against her shoulder; now the only thing left is to wait to see Red’s lifeless body fall limply to the floor.

However...

After an instant, the sickening feeling of a miss jolts her shoulders worse than the recoil of the shot. The bullet had missed that gap and Red’s attack proceeds toward her unhindered.

"!?"

Her eyes reveal the shock that her body is feeling after missing a target for the first time in many years; and the convulsive manner in which her knees shake reveals the pain in her heart that knows this can only mean one thing.

She is going to die.

All it took is one shot; one missed opportunity will spell the end for her.

The wall of death screams forward and the only thing left to do is shut her eyes and await the inevitability that’s rapidly approaching her. But instead of doing that, she stares blankly in a state of incoherence; the thought of her missing still brewing freshly in her mind.

With limp fingers, she drops her rifle to the ground and remains motionless.

The moment in which she collides with the wall of orange and red reaches her position, engulfs her, and mercilessly flies by, destroying the walkway and makes its way to a collision course with the three story high assembly factory.

But something is off about this; Red feels an odd tinge of disappointment as the high he gets from taking another’s life doesn’t reach him. And the reason for that can be seen out of the corner of his eye.

Two girls fly over the magma and slingshot out of his vision and land atop a higher walkway.

“Haah!?” he groans with the most dumbfounded of expressions.

“Are you alright?” Celestia asks, twisting her hand wearing the chain-mail glove and causing the shield to swing back into her grip.

She had used the shield as a hook shot to shoot herself to Allia’s position, grab her mid-flight, and propelled herself with momentum all the way to the safety of a separate level of the plant. All this while avoiding the oncoming wall of magma shot forward by Red.

Allia is still in a shocked state, her mouth chatters as she is about to answer when,

BAAAAAAAAAAAAMMM!

The wall of lava from Red’s attack hits the factory holding the assembly line and tears it apart. Either due to the speed in which the wall was moving, or the destructive power of the lava alone caused the over-sized structure of the metal to melt and fly off in different directions.

The innards of the intricate assembly line can now be seen and out of the many crates and other holders, all the rifles and bullets slide down the mountain of rubble and fall into the lake of magma. Each weapon or bullet falling into it makes a distinct popping sound upon entering.

“That noise...” Celestia mutters, deep in thought as she glares at the weapons being destroyed. “Why is it making that noise?”

“Guuah you’ve seriously been busting my balls!” Red shouts, glaring at the two girls above. “How many damn times are you gonna come in for the late rescue with that stupid shield of yours!? It’s such a pain in the ass! Piece of shit! Fucking annoying!!!”

Celestia pays him no mind and keeps her glare at the destroyed factory, that’s when she notices a rather large mountain of black powder that has been spilled from a silo and is slowly making its way down the rubble like an hourglass.

“That’s it!” she yells suddenly, “Nyahaha I’m such a genius!”

She quickly lifts Allia to her feet and smiles at her, with her hand still holding on, she pulls Allia and begins running away from Red.

“Hey hey! What the shit!?” Red shouts in annoyance at the fact that they’re fleeing.

Red begins to give chase when he is met by two vicious kicks in his torso.

While being sent flying he finds that the two footprints left on him are that of two smiling Knights named Ollin and Jessiah. He clicks his tongue and tries to regain his footing but is met with quite the quandary.

There is no ground below him; he had fallen off the walkway in which he destroyed.

“!?”

The twenty foot decent towards his death begins and for the first time he reveals an expression of worry. He hurriedly points the hand holding the pentagram upwards and shoots out the destructive black liquid towards the adjacent walkway.

“Don’t tell me he’s gonna do what Celestia did!?” Jessiah shouts, thinking that he’s somehow going to get out of this by sling shooting himself to saftey.

To his and Olin’s surprise, he didn’t do anything of the sort.

The black liquid latches on to the girth of the metal pathway and Red pulls back his arm with all his might. The walkway is literally yanked off its connection to the surrounding walls and a large chunk about thirty feet long zooms in his direction. With a twist of Red’s body, the entirety of the metal walkway takes a sharp turn and narrowly avoids a collision with the falling Captain. The tail end of it lands in the lava at a 45 degree angle and Red miraculously lands on the top of it.

“WHAT!?” The two Knights shout in disbelief.

The pure momentum of such a large structure moving at such an angle swings like a closing door in the direction of the ruined factory. Even with the lava quickly melting the tail end of the walkway, Red is given just the right amount of distance for him to make a ten foot jump and land safely on the other side.

“Are you shitting me!?” Olin yells.

From what they thought he was going to do, to him doing what he actually did, was so far away from their comprehension level that it added a heavy weight to their chins as their jaws drop in shock.

Captain Red Spektor, the man who had been shot three times, sliced and impaled by an ax and a spear, was able to pull off an impossible feat.

This fearsome man stands up astutely and puts his hands on his sides. “Huahahaha, what are you guys looking at? Did you think I had the finesse to do what that girl does with her shield? Na, I don’t roll that way. I’m a wheel and deal, ground and pound kinda guy, a cool guy. I’m awesome, strong, brilliant!”

“This guy... Is seriously ridiculous.” Jessiah said, an odd tinge of seriousness in his tone.

Perhaps now they actually see the monster that their two comrades were warning them about.

“Huh?” Red mutters as he looks around, he scratches his head in a confused manner and asks, “How the fuck do I get off this thing?”

“Eh?”

Red has found himself stuck on somewhat of an island; the walkway leading up to the facility had been destroyed, and the one nearest to him has just been sacrificed as well. He’d normally walk through the facility holding the assembly line but that has turned into a three story pile of sharp and jagged rubble. If he really had to he could probably scale that rubble and get through it unscathed but that’d take some time. And time is something he currently doesn’t have with Celestia and her shield lurking in the shadows to pick him off while he's defenseless.

He sighs and shrugs his shoulders. “Well it looks like I only got one way of doing this.”

He holds his hands up and with that gesture, the entire plant begins to shake wildly.

“Don’t you dare do what I think you’re doing.” a deep voice echoes. The snake comes out from the back of Red’s hand and slides down his arm, its eyes glowing an even more sinister red than usual.

“Why not?”

“You fool! Do you want to destroy the entire plant!?” it shouts.

“Do I want to?” Red replies, “No I don’t; but I want to kill these damn Knights! If the plant goes down with them, I couldn’t give two shits.”

“Have you gone mad!? I’ve given you the knowledge needed to produce a weapon that has the ability to rule the world! You’re going to just throw that away!?”

The earth shaking rumbling grows as the black liquid surrounding Red floats above him and shoots itself into the lava.

“That knowledge ain't going anywhere! It’s in my noggin; I’ll just have to rebuild the plant later.”

“Nonsense! There is no gain from doing this! This is madness!”

“Hahahahahahahahahahahaha! You’re right! Didn’t you know that already when you formed the contract with me?? No fucking shit I’m crazy, you dumb fuck!”

“YOU!!!”

“Hey! You bastard Knights! I’m sure you all know that we’re inside of a dormant volcano right? Well, what do you say I activate it just to see what happens?”

“!?”

“Huahaha that’s right! I’m no volcanologist but I do know that on certain occasions an earthquake near the base of a dormant volcano can stir it into blowing up.”

This is actually correct; dormant volcanoes always have some form of magma flowing at the deepest pits of its base. With the right amount of pressure, these turn into geysers that push its way upwards towards the surface. In reality, all it needs is a little push from below to send it over the top. Nature’s way of fulfilling this process is certainly much slower, and could take up to thousands of years.

But in Red’s case, he doesn’t have the entire volcano to deal with because the magma is just twenty feet below him.

That being said, it has become obvious what he intends to do; he will violently shake the deepest parts of the volcano with all his might and cause an eruption.

“Jessiah...” Olin says.

“Yeah?”

“Run.”

“Roger that.”

The two turn around and dash towards the exit. The flight of stairs leading up to the door has been taken out but the two jump up between the gaps and desperately escape. The two get up atop of yet another walkway only to find that they have another two stories to go, and that’s when they run into their two comrades standing there.

“We gotta get going!” Olin exclaims.

Celestia blocks their path and replies, “We can’t!”

“Why!? He’s going to blow this place up!”

“Exactly! This is the biggest weapons plant in the world, if we abandon it our soldiers on the front-lines will be starved for weaponry.”

“Then what do you suppose we do?”

Celestia looks over to Allia, who is still zoned out and staring at the floor. She walks to Allia's side and without a second’s hesitation, rips off the remainder of the white shirt she's wearing.

The two guys can’t help but look in amazement at her sudden boldness, even in a situation like this seeing a cute girl strip like that is still stimulating.

Celestia then pulls the canteen she used earlier for warmth and for Allia’s wound and pours the remainder of the alcohol onto her shirt.

Holding it out to Allia, she says, “That black powder behind Captain Red Spektor... That is what is used to shoot the projectiles out of those strange weapons. It is extremely combustible, perhaps even on a level par with Seiri’s bombs.”

“Are you serious?”

“Yeah, I’m sure of it. Looking closely it’s actually quite simple really, it makes perfect sense. Though I don’t know what that powder really is, I’m sure once more people find out about it everyone will be wondering why they haven’t thought of it first.”

What she is referring to is gunpowder. Even in this day and age a thousand years after the Apocalypse, the human race has yet to discover gunpowder. Thus the reason why guns have yet to be made. That is, until now.

The rumbling in the plant gets much more severe and all the walkways begin to shake like a windblown bridge throwing their balance out of whack. To add to the urgency of the matter, the lava below them begins to bubble and pop sending pockets of scorching hot air pressing against their skin.

“Allia! If we want to stop that monster from doing this we need to take him out now! Once we light this shirt on fire you need to connect it to the tip of your arrow and shoot into that pile of black powder. We can beat him with this!”

“B-But...” Allia mutters.

“But!?” The other three shout simultaneously.

Celestia grabs her shoulder and looks her square in the eye. “What are you talking about?”

“I-I can’t take the shot...” she replied, her eyes shifted away.

“???”

“I’ll miss... Between my hurt arm and my broken confidence, I’ll most certainly miss.”

Celestia clicks her tongue and frowns. Even through the rumbling of the plant, the next sound is heard as plain as day.

SLAP!!!

With her open palm, Celestia slapped Allia’s cheek as hard as she could.

“Get your damn act together!!! We can’t all be perfect Allia, we can only be who we are!”

“.....”

“Your country needs you right now... But more importantly, your comrades need you! So you ‘are’ going to take the shot!”

This goes back to the conversation they had earlier when Celestia was hanging off the broken staircase. By letting her insecurities get the best of her, she has forsaken the words that she herself said. And by doing that, she will have sacrificed the lives of her precious comrades. Is she really willing to let something like that happen over a simple miss?

“You’re right...” Allia says as she stands astute, a new wind of determination brewing in her chest.

She then pulls out an arrow and connects it to her bow.

Celestia sighs, “Huuahh good... I was getting a little nervous ya know?”

Tying the last remainder of her shirt onto the tip of Allia’s arrow and pouring the alcohol on the cloth, she smiles confidently.

“Nervous!?” Olin shouts, “I was shittin’ bricks!”

“Seriously, that’s why I told you that girls are useless.” Jessiah added.

“Shut up you two. Don’t ruin our moment.” Celestia hisses as she lights a match and sets fire to Allia’s arrow.

By now the room is shaking so violently that the foundation of the walkway in which they stand begins to crumble and break apart.

It is now or never.

Lava bubbles explodes all around Red’s position at the downed assembly line factory. But when the molten hot rock hit anywhere near him, they are repelled by a stream of black liquid swirling around his feet. This is obviously how he plans to survive the eruption he’s attempting to cause; though everyone else will be melted, he will end up just fine.

Looking up at the Knights he sees that Allia is again pointing her arrow at him.

She hasn’t used it at all since the hallway because of its ineffectiveness so he begins to laugh at her fruitless effort. “Hahahaha come on not that shit again!! You’ve already shown me that you can’t shoot under pressure! Don’t you feel it?? That amazing feeling of death breathing down your neck!? You’ve failed once when it was just your life on the line, now you have you’re comrade’s lives teetering on whether you hit me or not. You have no chance!!”

Allia takes her aim at the mountain of black powder that’s covered in rubble and pulls back the string of the bow as hard as possible. The left arm that’s supposed to be the anchor to an archer's shot is tattered and bloody. And when the pressure squeezing onto it by the mere action of the shot hits it, pain is sent like lighting through her whole body.

But this won’t sway her; she narrows her focus and goes through all the mental preparations to take the shot.

This is what she has trained her whole life for, the one shot that can change the world.

With one final inhale, she releases the string and the arrow is sent flying in Red’s direction.

Red smiles and prepares to use his mass of black water to block when all the sudden it disappears completely, leaving him wide open.

“What!?”

The snake's voice echoes in his head and all the events just like earlier begin to move in slow motion.

“I didn’t think I’d have to do this.”

Allia’s arrow makes its way towards his position and he’s watching it get closer and closer as if it were walking towards him.

“What the fuck is going on!?”

“It’s a termination of contract.” The snake answers. “By you betraying my side of the deal so blatantly, I’ve decided that you have not held up your end of the bargain.”

“Fuck that! That’s shit, garbage, nonsense!”

“Is it my fair Captain? I do believe I stated that if I gave you the abilities you possessed in order for you to kill, you’d carry out my will by creating guns and distributing them across the world. Your attempt at destroying the one plant that can produce those weapons is an obvious breach of that commitment. For that, there is a special place reserved for you in Hell. A place that’s best suited for the punishment of people consumed by ‘Wrath’.”

“Hey hey... Do you really think you can do this without me!?”

“You’ve left me with no choice.”

“Hahahahahaha you conniving bastard! Fine then, I’ll see you in Hell so I can fuck your shit up personally!”

“I’ll be waiting...”

The snake disappears along with the pentagram and time moves back to normal; the arrow that was so slowly moving towards him is now seen at moving at its regular fast speed. Even with it doing so, he notices that something is off; the arrow isn’t actually going to hit him. It instead flies over his head and lands in the destroyed factory behind him.

“Hahahaha what kind of a shot was that!?” he yells in an attempt to mock them.

That’s when he sees the four of them hit the deck for some reason as if guarding themselves from something.

He quizzically turns around to find out where that arrow actually hit. The flame hit a wooden post directly above a pile of black powder. Watching the flame of the arrow burn into that post and inch its way closer to the powder he quickly realizes what she meant to do all along.

Knowing what it takes to make these guns, he fully understands his carelessness in this whole thing; and by not considering his surroundings, he’s left himself completely defenseless.

“Ahhh…” he groans solemnly as the wooden post splits and the fire is only a moment away from igniting it.

“They got me.”

BBBBBBBOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMM!!!!

The mountain of gunpowder ignites and explodes sending a shockwave even more powerful than the earthquake shaking the innards of the facility. With Red only being a few feet away from the source of this blast, he is disintegrated. The suspended walkways shake even worse than before and break apart before falling into the already churning lava.

“We better get going!”

“Right!”

The four of them make their way to the door, and once there, the rumbling finally stops. It would seem that Red’s attempt at causing the volcano to erupt ended in failure and an eerie silence befalls them.

They collectively take a sigh of relief and bask in the feeling of no longer being in danger.

However, that feeling is short lived when the entirety of the facility once again shakes and the walls begin to crumble and fall. Looking down, they can see that the magma that they had thought to be dormant is rising at an exceptional pace. In fact, it’s moving upwards in a pace that can be described as the movement of the water in a cup after a large ice cube has been dropped in it.

“What the!? I thought the eruption stopped!” shouts Jessiah as a cold sweat falls from his bald head.

“He must have done enough damage beforehand! That or the explosion Allia caused made it even worse! We need to get out of here!” Celestia yells, running through the door and back into the bulk of the weapons plant.

"H-Hey don't blame that on me! You're the one who told me to do it!!!"

Seeing how quickly things are about to get messy, the others follow as well.

Once in the hallways of the plant, they try to shake off the feeling switching from an extremely hot atmosphere to one below freezing. Keeping composure in such a drastic change is not the only thing they have to worry about; at the end of the hallway are the rest of the soldiers stationed here at the plant.

With weapons in tow, they have come to help their Captain after hearing all of those explosion from below their feet.

The Knights grind to a stop and find themselves in a stare down with the remaining forces. The intensity of this moment cannot be put in words as the path to life for the Knights is being blocked by the determined faces of these soldiers.

“I need you all to listen to me.” Celestia addresses the soldiers sternly. “Your Captain is dead, and the volcano below the plant is erupting...”

The men all look at her with skepticism as she continues.

“At any moment, a huge amount of lava is going to be flowing through these hallways. And once that happens, I don’t know if we’ll make it out of here alive no matter how fast we sprint. So as fellow La’Juutians... We need you to let us pass so we can all escape together.”

The men still hesitate at first, but they slowly spread out as to give the Knights a passage way through. Of course they didn’t want give up so easily, but at the same time they know just how fierce the Knights are to be able to kill off Captain Red and all the others like that. A group of around 50 men fearing four people shows just how much they respect them.

The Knights walk through them cautiously and are sent to a flying sprint when from behind them a loud bang is heard.

BBAAAAAAAAAAASSSSSHHH!!!

Lava comes flowing towards them like a river going down stream and whatever doubts the remaining soldiers had are replaced with fear.

Together, just like Celestia said, they all run for their lives.

Of course, some of them simply don’t run fast enough to get away, others trip and fall in panic and are trampled by their fellow countrymen. The ones unlucky enough to not remain upright are engulfed by the fast moving current of lava and are melted into nothing.

Having its foundation destroyed from below is causing the entirety of the weapons plant to lose its structural base. Bits and pieces of the roof and walls begin to crumble and fall apart, adding more obstacles to impede the paths of those who are fleeing.

Easily avoiding everything blocking their path are the four Knights; they move along at speeds that far surpasses the rest, and they go about their business as quietly and focused as can be whilst the others scream in panic.

After winding their way for what feels like miles through the innards of the world’s largest plant, they reach the massive double door of the main entrance. They find relief in the fact that they’ve made it here alive but there are still plenty of problems they need to overcome.

The two doors are sealed shut by a mechanism built solely to keep the bitter cold air out of the building. The doors likely weigh over three tons each so prying them open is out of the question. The only thing they can hope for is that the button used to open this door automatically hasn’t had its wiring compromised due to the damage caused by the terrible state of the entire structure of the plant.

There’s a high possibility that the innards have been burnt by the intense heat flowing through the vents by the volcano, or that it has simply fallen apart due to the earthquake. None the less, with an immanent flow of scorching hot death coming toward them, they have to hope for the best.

The Knights, along with the last remaining group of about twenty soldiers all stare in angst as Olin walks straight faced toward the door and holds out his hand to push the button. Even though his expression exudes calmness, he’s sweating profusely as his nerves shake uncontrollably under his skin.

He understands that if this button doesn’t work, they’re all dead; there would be no way to escape the fast approaching river of lava.

With a deep inhale, he presses on the big red button and waits for some kind of reaction to the door. And to their relief, a light ‘Beep’ sound is heard and a rush of cold air from the outside world hits their faces.

“Let’s go!!!”

They unhesitatingly rush out into the white land of the south; with perfect timing too because right when the last man left the plant, the lava came rushing out and the entire structure of the plant comes crumbling down in a towering inferno.

Pillars of flame fly up as if they were an octopus tentacles and swirl off in multiple directions. The sounds of explosion pop off from within the inferno like popcorn and the true sight of destruction singes their eyes along with the unbearable heat.

The valued weapon’s plant that Celestia and the other Knights wanted to protect has been destroyed and this will no doubt put them in a bad spot concerning the war.

Celestia sighs and takes a seat on the cold snow, her body steaming from the heat left on her by the plant. “Damn it all... I don’t even know if we could say that we accomplished our mission now.”

Allia walks up to her, still out of breath she responds, “We definitely did what we came here to do... At least now we don’t have to worry about those weapons reaching anyone else. It might’ve been a good thing that all of those were destroyed.”

Little does she know that what she had said is spot on. The world has literally dodged a bullet in the fact that it doesn’t have to worry about the mass production of these weapons... At least for now.

Jessiah swirls his spear around and says. “I’m not too into thinking deep on things---“

“We know.” The other three interrupt.

He clears his throat in annoyance and continues, “Soooooo, I say we go home and think about all the other stuff later.”

“Hahaha.” Olin laughs, “That’s actually a good idea.”

They all stand to their feet and smile at each other, they have just made it through another deadly mission and the last thing they want to do is dwell on it any longer.

Not caring about what the others plan on doing, the four Knights walk of in an almost triumphant manner.

But the sparkling air around them is broken by the ground under their feet shaking violently once more.

GGGAGAGAGAAGASSSSHHH!!!

“!?”

“What the hell is up with this shaking! It’s ten times worse than before!” Olin shouts as he tries to regain his balance.

Jessiah helps him up and says, “Remember when I said that I’m not too good at thinking??”

Glaring at him quizzically, Olin quickly comes to realize what he meant by that.

Jessiah starts booking it and shouts, “That’s right! Fuck thinking! Let’s run awayyyyyyy~~!!”

Everyone runs as fast as they can through the shin deep snow; naturally, their movement is slowed by this and they don’t gain much distance from the plant when...

BBBBBOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMMM!

The volcano under the power plant ends its surge and officially erupts; sending bright orange lava flying into the sky thousands of feet upwards. The shockwave itself knocks some men to the ground and the ensuing rainfall of lava lands atop them and they are melted in a flash.

It’s as though they are being chased by a meteor shower, hundreds of falling balls of molten rock lands all around them, melting the snow as they tread through. One of these lands directly in the path of a fleeing soldier and the mere heat from it engulfs him in flame. Others share the same fate as the sound of hundreds of explosions hit the ground and melt the Earth’s surface. The debris alone from one of these is enough to rip through one’s body as if it was a hot knife through butter. A few other men are hit and their lives end so quickly that they’re dead on their feet as they run until they finally collapse.

Narrowly avoiding the torrent of hellfire are the Knights; they hurl over miniature lakes of lava that landed in front of them out in the distance and dodge whatever they can see from the corners of their eyes. Only a single track mindset is being used by them, and that is putting one foot in front of the other as fast as possible, everything else is just reactionary. The sheer intensity of the moment is enough to keep them from panicking; with the hailstorm of lava they simply don’t have time to be afraid, they must continue moving in order to stay alive.

By now there are only five soldiers left from the plant along with the Knights when they reach a large frozen lake. Not worrying about whether the ice is thick enough to hold their weight, they begin to run and slide across it as the ash and flame filled sky continues its relentless pursuit of them.

A huge falling comet of lava lands about twenty meters to the right of them and instantly melts a huge chunk of the frozen lake as a smoke screen of hot steam envelopes them. Numerous others land as well and that’s when they realize that the ground in which they are running on spiderwebs as if it were glass breaking.

This poses an entirely new threat in and of itself; not only do they have to worry about being melted from projectiles above, now they have to worry about falling in a below freezing lake. One little dip in there in this weather is enough to freeze someone to death within minutes; being out in the open of this Antarctic desert will make any chance of surviving an impossibility.

With that in mind, a couple of the other men tread carefully and look down, desperately trying to avoid falling in. And that will be their downfall because they aren’t paying attention to what’s above them. A ball of lava crashes on their left and sends shards of thick razor sharp ice zooming in their direction. Not being able to avoid such a thing in this short of a time-frame, their limbs are sent flying and the red of their blood adds to the hot colors of the already crimson sky.

Another soldier is running separately from the rest, and he is actually feeling quite secure in the fact that the melee coming from above seems to be ineffective in his area of the lake. But of course that is simply a false sense of security, he is in just as much danger as everyone else, he just doesn’t know it yet. The source of his danger lands around a hundred feet in front of him; this time however, it wasn’t a ball of lava, rather, it was just a stupidly large rock that likely weighs hundreds of tons.

The impact of the rock causes a huge crack in the ice in front of him, and then the sensation of being catapulted hits his senses. The boulder made the thick ice under the man’s feet break apart in a solid block and flipped it over like a pancake. As a result, the force of which sends the man hurling into the air hundreds of feet high.

There is no escaping his fate now; looking down as he falls he can see where he is going to land, the area of the lake that was destroyed by that giant rock. Normally one would find comfort in knowing they’d land in water because falling from such a height on anything solid would surely result in a splat. But this might as well be the same thing, assuming he keeps his consciousness once he lands in this freezing cold water there’s no way he’d have the strength to find his way out and warm up in time before a severe case of hypothermia. Seeing his death get closer with each passing second, he closes his eyes as he screams.

SPLASH!!!

The last two remaining soldiers are running alongside the Knights as the relentless beat of fire from above lands all around them. Even the cold water from the splash of that giant rock adds to the sensations felt on the skin and blur their vision in a mix of different colors. They take in as much air as they can as the ash from the volcano enters their lungs and steals away the strength in their legs. It’s becoming ever more obvious at how bad their endurance is holding up when they fall behind and the cracks in the ice become wider. At their pace there is no way they are going to make it and their disposition dawns on them with horrifying reality.

With their eyes solely on the path in front of them, they notice that Celestia has formed quite the distance between herself and her other three comrades as well. She must be feeling the effects of the tarnished air too; though this isn’t going to do them any good, they still feel a little comfort in the fact that it’s not just them.

That’s when another huge boulder lands between her and the other Knights, sending a huge wall of thick ice towering down at her. Showing an almost insane amount of composure, she throws her shield as hard as she can over the wall and sticks onto the other side, she twists her wrist violently and the wire holding the shield retracts, pulling her over the wall and she lands on top of it. From there she makes a colossal leap and sores over the gap made by the boulder and back onto the ice, never stopping even for an instant she keeps running and catches up with the others.

The shadow of that wall of ice is closing in on the two men who found themselves deadlocked after that last impact. Chances are, they're probably thinking, (You’ve got to be kidding me) at that ridiculous feat of that girl.

This is the difference between the Knights and them; they just aren’t the type of characters to live through a situation as insane as this. The falling wall of ice lands on their position and flattens them into the lake with a giant thud.

Now it’s come down to the final four survivors; the falling lava begins to slow but that doesn’t make their sprint for survival any less threatening. The ice atop the lake is completely shattered now and the gaps between one ice pad to the other is widening with each second. They have to use their tired legs to leap six to ten feet at a time in order to not fall in the water, and they have to avoid sliding once they land in order escape the same result.

With their focus on an otherworldly high level, they notice that in less than fifty meters the lake comes to an end. Once they reach the shore, they’ll be out of the range of the hailstorm of lava and finally reach safety. The only problem is the narrowing spots in which they can move on; there’s no telling how much longer they have until there will be nothing left but water to fall in.

The shore is tantalizingly close and the first to reach it is Jessiah. In an obvious overreaction, he does an unnecessary belly flop into the snow.

The second is Olin, who instantly throws his hands on his knees and takes a huge sigh of relief.

The third is Celestia, who since the outstanding feat of survival she displayed earlier has seemed to gather a ton of momentum before reaching her final destination.

The last is supposed to be Allia, but to the other’s chagrin they find her marooned on a small piece of ice about fifteen feet away.

Perhaps due to her injury that slowed her down, she was unable to reach the shore before the ice splintered apart.

Swimming to the shore is out of the question, so all she can do is glare at Celestia as if telling her to do something.

Answering that look, Celestia’s face turns a blue as she yells, “Allia jump!!!”

“Haah!? I can’t make it that far without a running start! Can’t you just use your shield or something??”

“Didn’t we go through this earlier!? JUST DO WHAT I SAY!!!”

Allia clicks her tongue and hesitates until she feels an intense heat on her bare back. Not fully turning around to look, she catches glimpse of a smoking chunk of molten rock travelling on a direct line to where she is standing. This is plenty enough motivation for her to use the last bit of her strength to leap toward shore.

Like she said, she can’t make it that far and gets about half way when,

BBAAAAMMMMM!!!

The chunk of molten rock crashes into the area in which she once stood and the force of the impact shoots her forward as if shot from a cannon, the impact was so great it knocked the other three back as well.

Allia is helped by this and flies to the shore and they all slide across the snow like sleds until they come to a screeching halt, only to look up and see that hundreds of shards of scorching sharp debris from the molten rock is raining down on their position.

Something like this renders their incredible abilities completely useless, all they can do is cover themselves and hope not one of these orange shards drills a hot hole in their bodies. The sound of melting ice sizzling away from all over reaches their ears until it suddenly stops.

The four of them lift their heads and look around, checking themselves in the process.

“No way.” Olin said in disbelief as he finds that he and the others aren’t hurt at all.

Allia flops onto her back and roughly inhales. “I guess the saying 'the more you sweat the luckier you get' is really true.”

“Pfft...”

“Hahahahahahahahah!”

The four share a knee slapping laugh as the thought of them actually making it out alive through this whole thing finally hits them.

Fighting back tears at just how crazy all of this was, Celestia finally gets her head back on straight and she realizes that they are not out of danger just yet. In fact, they are far from it; Allia’s arm is still in horrible shape, Olin likely has a concussion from the head injury he received earlier, they have no way to get home, and to top it off, both Allia and herself are only wearing bras in negative degree weather.

With those facts now out in the open, she can clearly see that they are completely screwed.

“Wait wait wait, how the hell are we gonna to get home!?” she exclaims, sharing her main thought.

Jessiah and Olin stand to their feet and point off behind a small hill a couple hundred feet away.

There, tied to a rock are a group of a dozen dogs connected to a sled.

“Whaa!? Is this action-packed chapter really going to end so conveniently!?” Celestia shouts.

“Well what did you think was going to happen?” Olin states nonchalantly. “We conveniently got here didn’t we? It’s not like we walked through the snow to get to you guys.”

“Hahaha yeah duh!” Jessiah reiterates.

“Oh and by the way, we have extra clothes and a killer first-aid kit for you guys too.”

Celestia and Allia look at each other and then back to them, taking a large sigh of resignation, they quietly stand up and start walking to the sled.

“What’s this!?” Olin shouts, “No thank you!? No ‘Kyaaaah! Olin you’re so cool!’ talk!?”

The two girls ignore him and keep moving, rather fast at that. Almost as if it finally dawned on them that they are still half naked with guys like Jessiah and Olin around. They run to the dogsled and Olin gives chase, begging them for some kind of acknowledgment. Jessiah scratches his bald head and laughs as he begins jogging as well.

This is how the battle for the weapons plant ends. Whether they think of it as a failure because the plant was destroyed; once all is said and done, there is still no doubt that this surely is a mission accomplished.

Somewhere in Hell at this very moment, Satan hisses in anger as a black chess piece is knocked off the board and falls to the floor.




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