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As Alex had been initially running away from the fight between Ombrix Masserk and Kitsiyuna, he found himself finally remembering what that book he had read all those years ago told him about Somnights and their powers. The old book he inherited among many others went into great detail about a Somnight’s ability to utilize the thin layer of dust that is constantly growing on the surface of their skin as a way of messing with one’s senses. Depending on the Somnight, they could utilize their dust for any manner of trickery, including inducing hallucinations, rendering themselves invisible, numbing or amplifying ones sense of touch, or even forcing people to fall asleep, earning them the nicknames of Sandmen and Dust Devils.
Within in the margins of the old book, Alex remembered notes written in a green pen that had been left behind by the previous owner. While most of the notes were musings and ramblings of personal experience about the particular Spirit in question, some of the notes were helpful tips for things you could do should you ever find yourself getting attack by said Spirit. For Somnights in particular, the notes mentioned covering your face up to lessen the effectiveness of the dust, because after all, it can’t make you think you’re seeing something if it can’t actually get into your eyes. It also mentioned, that despite the nickname Dust Devil, Somnights were particularly susceptible to wind magic, as it could easily blow their dust away, rendering them largely helpless.
With these facts in mind, Alex tried to formulate a plan as he ran back in the direction of the fight, with Kitsiyuna screaming in pain spurring him to run back and assist her. While he didn’t have any kind of mask to cover up his face, Alex decided he would make do with squinted eyes, a held breath, and a focused mind. And, though he didn’t have any kind of wind magic to speak of in his tiny arsenal of spells that he actually could cast, he did have a plan to get rid of the dust so that his lack of any kind of facial protection wouldn’t be an issue.
“Try to keep your breathing to a minimal and stay focused… Don’t let him mess with you…” Alex thought to himself as Ombrix stared him down with a malicious grin.
“Well well well… It’s the innocent bystander in all of this, come to rescue his rescuer! It’s so touching; I can almost feel myself tearing up…” Ombrix said in a sarcastic tone. Another dust cloud was building around him as he held out his blades in a ‘come at me’ manner.
“Don’t get cocky you jackass! I know just how to deal with you!” Alex boastfully shouted, keeping himself pumped up to keep his mind focused.
“Do you now!?” Ombrix blurted out in a hysterical fit of laughter. “The toddler here knows how to deal with me does he!? You sound far cockier than me you dipshit! I already beat your little Spirit friend there into submission easily! What can a little shit human like you possibly do to beat me!?” Ombrix launched his dust cloud forward in a massive wave as he gloated. The dusty air began to whirl around Alex as his vision grew hazier, like he was trapped in the middle of a silent sandstorm. Despite the intensity of the dust storm, Alex remained stalwart as a grin began to form on his face.
“Well, for starters, I have just the thing to clear out your stupid gimmicky dust!” he shouted. Alex quickly focused his mind as he once again recalled the process to cast Dispersion Wave.
He ran the matrices and formulas in his head as fast as he could process them to lessen his exposure to the dust storm. Everything in his head began to coalesce together as he began to levitate his tome in the air once again, freeing his left hand. He then angled his left palm downward, letting the adrenaline build inside of him.
The adrenaline quickly converted itself into Spirit Energy, far more than Alex had ever used up to that point, as blue wisps began to radiate from his body, focusing around his palm. His body was telling him that the amount of effort he was trying to force into the spell was too much, but his mind knew if he wanted to win this, it needed to be the strongest Dispersion Wave he had ever cast. His battle high forced his body to ignore its natural limiters, as he finally cast the spell.
“DISPERSION WAVE: MAXIMUM!” Alex screamed from the top of his lungs as the raw energy began to rip loose from his left hand.
Rather than a shotgun blast like last time, the force Alex emitted felt like a bomb going off. The shockwave that Alex shot down was quickly redirected off of the grass and dirt beneath his feet, transforming into a colossal updraft. The nearby trees shook violently, with their leaves and branches tearing off and flying in every direction.
Gale force winds bellowed through the surrounding forest, forcing both Ombrix and Kitsiyuna to go prone and brace themselves to keep from getting swept off of their feet. Even Alex himself found it difficult to maintain his balance, as even though the spell was his, providing him with protection from most of its effects, the winds it generated were just a tad too strong. But, most importantly, all of the dust that Ombrix had been allowing to stagnate in the air was blown far up into the atmosphere as a result, completely clearing the nearby air of Ombrix’s advantage over them.
Despite the extreme winds Alex managed to create in that moment, they died down within seconds. Pain instantly shot through Alex’s entire left arm as a massive bruise formed all over the surface of his palm, a result of the recoil for forcing himself to cast such a powerful spell. He began to feel a numbing throb in his hand, like a 200 pound weight had been dropped directly onto it. Even though he barely had any feeling left, and it hurt like hell for him to do so, Alex clenched his hand tightly into a determined fist. Despite the tears running down his face from the pain, he still scrunched his face up into a confident smile like he was just getting started.
Kitsiyuna, who was still recovering from the dust and now Alex’s magic was left kneeling over the ground in sheer amazement. Though her senses were still on the fritz, her ability to sense Spirit Energy was able to pick up something from Alex’s soul. While his soul didn’t seem any stronger than when she first found him, something emanating from it definitely felt different. His soul seemed just as quaint and weak as before, and yet, Kitsiyuna felt a willpower behind it that was burning stronger than anything she had felt before, forcing it beyond its limits.
“His soul… It might be just as weak as any other human’s soul… But it feels like its burning brighter than any Spirit’s…” Kitsiyuna thought to herself as she tried to regain her composure. She wasn’t quite sure what it meant, but she suddenly felt a lot less worried about Alex holding his own against Ombrix.
“How do you like that you dusty bitch!?” Alex gloated, wincing in pain as he talked while pointing a bruised finger in Ombrix’s direction. Ombrix merely stood there, mouth agape with a dumbfounded look on his face.
“What the hell…? There’s no way when that spell was made it was supposed to come out with that much force when cast… How the hell did a weak little human like you luck into pulling something like that off in the first place…!?” he said in disbelief.
“Well wouldn’t you like to know chalk-top! Unlike you though, I’m not the kind of guy who just blabs about how my magic works to my enemies…!” Alex replied.
“I suppose it ultimately doesn’t matter in the end. When compared to her, a little human like you is nothing more than a mere infant. I don’t need my dust to deal with the likes of you… ALL I HAVE TO DO IS CHOP THAT scrawny neck of yours WIDE open!” Ombrix shouted as he charged forward, drawing his blades as he prepared to take a slice at Alex’s head. Alex was undeterred by this however, as he too ran forward, ready to meet Ombrix’s advance. Just as he was about to reach Ombrix’s blades, Alex quickly dropped to his knees as his momentum carried him forward, allowing him to safely slide underneath the blades as he readied his dagger to counterattack.
“All right. Look for an opening. Don’t just give him a couple of stabs, REALLY tear into him!” Alex thought to himself mid-slide, preparing to stab at Ombrix’s right leg as it passed by. Within the brief moments Alex was sliding, he quickly saw a gap in between the chains and armor Ombrix had wrapped around his legs and took it as his opening. Alex held his dagger out as he plunged it into Ombrix’s dusty flesh, tearing a large gash into his leg as he slid by, blood spewed from the fresh wound. The second Alex’s dagger was no longer making contact; he quickly pulled his arm back in, jumping back to his feet as he rushed forward to safety. Ombrix responded to the new cut with an angered growl, finding it more annoying than painful.
“This is how you’re going to beat this guy Alex… Dodge his attacks, then strike him around his joints when you see an opening! …He might shrug most of it of at first, but eventually he’ll HAVE to slow down.” Alex strategized in his head.
“Come here you fucking little shit!” Ombrix yelled out as he tried to hack away at Alex in retaliation. Alex kept a sizeable distance from him as he dodged and sidestepped Ombrix’s onslaught, mimicking the motions he saw Kitsiyuna do to defend against the Cornossa earlier. Due to his lack of speed in comparison to her, Alex also kept his tome at the ready to intercept any slashes he was too slow to dodge. While the tome didn’t completely nullify all of the attacks, as some of Ombrix’s swings still left small cuts and nicks on Alex’s upper body even when blocked, the cuts were shallow enough that it was still preferable to getting hit by the real thing.
“Ignore all of those little cuts, they shouldn’t mean anything to you! Just stick to his injured leg and keep circling around him! Even if the bastard is a Spirit, him having to constantly apply pressure to that leg in order to turn will get to him eventually!” Alex continued to think to himself as he proceeded to dodge in a circle around Ombrix, taking care to dodge in such a way that Ombrix would have to exert himself even more to keep on the offensive.
“Right there! He left himself open!” Alex exclaimed in his head, after ducking out of the way of a slower than usual attack. Ombrix’s slow swing in that moment left his arm exposed just long enough for Alex to jab his dagger into the inside fold of his elbow. Alex didn’t take any chances, barely digging into the surface of the skin before quickly backing out, giving him enough time to avoid Ombrix’s retaliation.
“GRAAAH! Die you damn brat!” Ombrix vented out in anger.
Alex continued to circle around him faster and faster, enabling him more and more openings to attack. While his stabs weren’t very deep, he meticulously aimed each hit of his dagger to make moving around as irritating as possible for Ombrix. He jabbed him in between his ribs, in his waist, wrists, elbows, knees and even his arm pits. If any part of the body he was aiming for was covered with armor or chains, he would take extra care to angle his thrusts in such a way that it would slide underneath the armor or through the links of the chains. Here, Alex was being absolutely meticulous, unlike with the Wightling earlier, where he merely stabbed as fast as he could.
“He’s doing okay so far, but the problem is none of his hits so far have been anywhere close to being life-threatening.” Kitsiyuna thought to herself as she watched kneeling from the sidelines, still trying to regain herself. “That spell he cast at the beginning sure was powerful, but the way it messed up his hand, I don’t really know if he can follow it up with more magic that’s just as effective. He might be able to outpace him for now, but if he can’t deliver some kind of serious blow to Ombrix soon, his human stamina is going to end up letting him down in the long run…” She began to slowly clench her fist as her breathing picked back up again.
“Damnit Kitsiyuna! Keep your head focused and clear the rest of that damn dust out of your system! You need to get in there and help him finish this fight! I mean, what kind of Spirit are you if you’re just going to force a 15 year old boy to solve all of your problems by himself!?” Kitsiyuna continued in frustration at herself. She took her clenched fist before slamming it into the ground, as she used it to slowly push herself to her feet, immolating the air around her with her fire magic.
“Enough of this!” Ombrix shouted in great annoyance, having just been stabbed by Alex for about the 30th time. He held his blades horizontally as he performed a series of continuous 360 degree spins as he advanced towards Alex, kicking up another ever growing dust cloud as he went.
Alex was prepared for this change of tactic however and quickly doubled the distance he had been keeping. Though it was hard to see through the cover of the dust cloud he was whipping up, Alex kept his eyes on Ombrix’s feet as he fell back further and further. After a few rotations, as Ombrix was about ready to radiate out his dust cloud once again, Alex finally made his move. He noticed how Ombrix was maintaining his footing through his spinning attack, and chose to capitalize when his injured right leg was the only one touching the ground.
“DISPERSION WAVE!” Alex shouted again as he fired off another shockwave, having already done the incantations for it in his head as soon as Ombrix started spinning. The spell was only about as powerful as when he used it on Angela, but it still caused searing pain in his already bruised left hand as he used it, Alex trying his best to power through. However just like with Angela, the spell was still effective enough to knock Ombrix off of his unstable footing, sending him flying a considerable distance backwards, while once again dispersing his accumulated dust cloud.
The spell had sent Ombrix on a collision course with another nearby tree. Rather than smash right into the tree however, Ombrix quickly dug his blades into it, using his momentum to swing around the tree’s circumference as his blades carved a ring into its bark. Just as he completed his orbit around the tree, it’s trunk snapped in half from the incision he had made, causing the whole thing to collapse. He then kicked off of the trunk with enough force to alter the direction it was falling, launching himself into the air on a direct course back to Alex. All of this occurred in the span of about 3 seconds.
“Fucking die already!” he shouted as he flew through the air, his blades ready to strike Alex from out of the air. Alex had been so caught off guard by Ombrix’s ‘rebound’ that he wasn’t able to move out of the way in time. Thankfully for him, Kitsiyuna’s reflexes were even faster as she propelled herself forward with a blast of fire, allowing her to intercept Ombrix, once again meeting his blades with her bracers. Much like the initial clash between the two Spirits, both of them tried to push the other back, with neither side being able to make any kind of head way.
Alex happily broke the stalemate however; as he quickly jammed his dagger into Ombrix’s left shoulder, wedging it in underneath his shoulder armor before quickly ripping it down the length of his upper arm. More blood oozed out of Ombrix’s arm as the pain caused him to lose his concentration, allowing Kitsiyuna to shove him back before decking him in the face with her burning fists.
Not allowing Ombrix any kind of reprieve, she quickly hurled a fireball at him like she was pitching a fastball, knocking him into yet another tree with enough force to uproot and topple the whole thing. Alex and Kitsiyuna weren’t allowed to celebrate however, as Ombrix slowly got himself back up from the newly fallen tree. Though he had clearly taken quite the beating, he wasn’t anywhere close to giving up.
“Is that it!? I was told your magic was way stronger than that Kitsiyuna! The damn tree hurt more than those flames!” Ombrix yelled as he slowly tried to get back to his feet.
“Are you kidding me…? If this guy was human, at the very least he should be freaking paralyzed at this point…” Alex said in annoyance.
“That’s a Spirit for you. Our bodies tend to be able to endure a lot of punishment. I also wouldn’t be surprised if all the dust that’s covering his body helps dampen the effects of our magic on him…” Kitsiyuna replied back.
“What we need is for you to completely incinerate this guy like you did for the other bounty hunters…”
“Well, like I said earlier, I’m not exactly fighting at top form, and the near asphyxiation from the dust certainly hasn’t been helping. It might take a bit of time and uninterrupted concentration for me to incant a spell strong enough to one shot him right now…”
“So what you’re saying is you need someone to keep this guy distracted…?” Alex replied back with a certain eagerness to his voice.
“Well, someone keeping him busy wouldn’t hurt but…” Kitsiyuna answered with a hint of hesitation, as she knew exactly what Alex was planning to do. Before she could even finish her sentence, Alex charged forward at Ombrix with his tome floating behind him.
“Then I’ll keep him distracted while you get ready to roast his ass into ashes!” Alex confidently yelled back to Kitsiyuna as he continued forward in attempt to get the jump on Ombrix before he could completely recover.
“Cocky little shit! You’ll regret ever getting involved in this!” Ombrix yelled as he swung his blades, whipping up more dust before Alex could reach him. Alex halted his movements just in time to block the attack with his tome. Ombrix continued attacking him as Alex continued to block, moving his tome almost in rhythm with Ombrix’s swings. After the fifth attack, Alex quickly pulled his tome back and redirected it straight into Ombrix’s face.
Ombrix proceeded to reel back from the hit, like he had just been sucker punched in the face, giving Alex an opportunity to lay into him. Alex continued to essentially slap Ombrix across the face with his tome, alternating sides with each swing to get the most speed he could into each hit. Just as Ombrix was about to wise up and use his blades to block the tome, Alex anticipated the move, quickly switching targets to Ombrix’s legs. Alex’s tome completely swept him off of his feet as it cleared his legs, causing him to fall over onto his side. Before he could hit the ground though, Alex slammed his tome directly into his stomach, dunking Ombrix directly into the ground as he was sent tumbling backwards in a clumsy heap.
“Holy shit, this is taking a lot out of me…” Alex thought to himself. Though he was putting on a brave front to show no weakness to his enemy, the constant dodging and use of his tome were causing him to run out of steam. “But you have to keep this up as long as you can! Don’t let him know you’re so tired you feel like you wanna die! Just keep up the pressure, even from a distance if you have to!”
To mask his growing fatigue, Alex cast another Dispersion Wave from quite a ways away from Ombrix, utilizing his non-bruised hand this time to avoid hurting himself further. The spell was considerably weaker than last time, and the fact that he wasn’t using it pointblank didn’t help with its power either. But fortunately for him, Ombrix was so uncoordinated from his injuries that Alex was still able to send him back a significant distance. Knowing his tired state, Alex purposefully aimed him into yet another tree, hoping that constantly knocking him into foliage would make up for the lack of power.
“That one was definitely weaker than the last one… You’re definitely slowing down, HUMAN!” Ombrix confidently remarked as he dislodged himself from the tree he was currently partially embedded in.
“Oh damn it, he’s already catching on!” Alex thought to himself in distress. “Come on Alex! Keep it together. As long as you can keep him at bay, Kitsiyuna should be able to bail you out so… JUST. DO. SOMETHING!”
In a mix of frustration and desperation, Alex pulled out his dagger again. He quickly hurled it at Ombrix, putting his entire body into the throw and almost falling flat on his face in the process. Despite the desperation behind Alex as he made the throw, if there was one thing he knew how to do with a knife; it was how to hurl it at somebody.
The dagger rapidly spun through the air as it flew directly towards Ombrix, who was too distracted pulling himself from the tree to see it coming. Alex could feel his heart stop as he watched the dagger fly through the air in slow motion. Every rotation it made felt like an eternity to him as it slowly dawned on him that he might miss the mark. Just when it seemed like Alex had misjudged the throw entirely, Ombrix turned his head at the last second, causing the dagger to fly straight into his left eye.
“AHHHHHHHRRRRRRRGGGGHHHHH!!! YOU FUCKING BASTARD!!!” Ombrix wailed out, dropping both of his blades as he clutched his bleeding face. That one throw had apparently inflicted more pain than anything else Alex and Kitsiyuna did the entire fight.
Ombrix stood there screaming in agony, writhing about in pain while grasping onto his face as Alex merely sat back and stared, too amazed that he actually managed to hit him square in the eye. Alex quickly came to his senses however, as he recalled the dagger with his magic, telepathically ripping it back out of Ombrix’s eye as he pulled it back to his hand, causing even more blood to spew out as he did. It seemed the dagger hurt just as much going into the eye as it did getting pulled out, as Ombrix’s pained screaming only got louder and angrier. Ombrix let go of his face as he pulled his blades back into his hands, staring at Alex with a murderous look on his face while blood continued to stream from his left eye socket.
“YOOOOU!!! I’m going to make good on my promise of skinning you alive you midget FUCK! I’ll flay off every single inch of skin from your scrawny body while i break each and every single one of your bones before i RIP them all out and grind them to dust! then, I’ll rip that damned soul of yours from whatever’s left of your rotting, FESTERING corpse, cram it into another body and do the EXACT same FUCKING thing all over again!!!” Ombrix shrieked at the top of his lungs in the most intimidating voice he could muster as a huge dust storm began to build up all around him, far faster than any had done before.
Just like when he was inside the barrier, Ombrix’s dust quickly started to glow bright orange, causing the air to distort and simmer. Sparks flew through the whirling dust storm as it grew larger and larger around Ombrix. He then thrust one of his blades forward, triggering the entire dust storm to funnel forward into a giant whirling beam, radiating off lightning in every direction.
“FLESH EATER STORM!” Ombrix screamed out as he finished the incantation to an exceedingly powerful spell in his head.
Alex merely stood there and tried to cover his face with his tome as the beam barreled its way towards him, knowing full well he wasn’t going to be able to move out of the way in time. He closed his eyes in anticipation and fear, realizing that the dust storm that was rapidly approaching him would probably strip the flesh from his bones. Just like Ombrix had threatened.
The storm quickly consumed the space around where Alex had been standing, hurling the glowing dust all over like they were burning embers as bolts of lightning crackled through the air. The air around the entire forest started to darken as the dust was churning so violently, it made it momentarily impossible to see. Eventually, the dust finally settled as the storm dissipated into nothingness, leaving only a few particles left that slowly dissolved into the air.
With the storm clear, Ombrix found himself looking on in shock as there was not a single trace of Alex in the area the cloud had consumed. He slowly glanced over some distance away, quickly realizing that Alex had managed to get out of the way. Kitsiyuna had apparently been able to rocket herself forward with her magic and pushed Alex and herself to safety at the very last second.
“Like I said: NO WAY IN HELL I’M GOING TO LET YOU DO THAT!” Kitsiyuna boasted as she held Alex in her arms.
She quickly set him back down directly behind herself, before turning around to face Ombrix. She held her hands open below her waist, with intense fire burning in either palm. More flames began to engulf Kitsiyuna’s entire body as she raised her two palms up, pointing both of them forward as she pressed her wrists together. Her fingers tensed back as she prepared to let the flames raging around loose onto Ombrix.
“INFERNO!” Kitsiyuna shouted, finishing the incantation for the spell she had been readying that whole time. A colossal flamethrower, around 20 times the size of Kitsiyuna spewed from her hands, incinerating every inch of forest in its path. Ombrix was quickly consumed by the flames as the inferno raged forward in a continuous stream of fire, charring the ground and vaporizing trees as it went.
As the fires roared, so too did Kitsiyuna as she yelled at the top of her lungs in unison with the inferno, pumping more and more Spirit Energy into it as she did so. Alex did not move an inch from his position behind her, as he stared at the fire in both fear and awe. The inferno that was raging in front of him was larger than anything he had ever seen before.
Eventually, Kitsiyuna finally allowed the flames to subside as she stopped casting the spell, revealing a massive patch of blackened earth where forest used to be that stretched back for several hundred feet. She turned her attention back to Alex as she let out a long exhale, clearly a bit winded from such an intense spell. She looked over Alex and saw his face was absolutely red as sweat ran down his face from all of the heat. He starting to hyperventilate as it seemed he was dangerous close to passing out from heat exhaustion. She calmly pressed her palm onto his head as she wiped his forehead down. Alex could slowly feel himself starting to cool back down to a regular temperature, almost like Kitsiyuna was siphoning off his excess heat.
“Are you all right? I didn’t accidentally burn you or anything, did I? It’s been a long time since I’ve been forced to use that much of my power before, so I couldn’t exactly keep it controlled…” Kitsiyuna asked in a caring voice, moving her hand to caress Alex’s cheek.
“…Yeah. I’m fine… I just have to say, HOLY FUCK, that fire was even more impressive than what you pulled off on the roof…!” Alex replied back as he lowered Kitsiyuna’s hand from his face before stepping forward to look over just how much damage Kitsiyuna was able to cause.
It appeared as if acres of forest had been consumed by the flames as an entire field of charred earth lay barren in front of him. Just as with before, there was no trace of any kind of ashes from the burnt up foliage around them nor any kind of smoke from them burning. While there still remained some tiny smoldering embers here and there, they mostly remained on the bushes and trees lucky enough to be just outside of the flames. Alex reached down and patted the earth, quickly realizing the black was simply a very large scorch mark, as no trace of soot or charcoal got onto his hand, just a little bit of dirt.
Before the duo could celebrate their apparent victory, Alex saw something off in the distance that caused a pit in his stomach to form. Off in the distance, among all of the half burnt trees that Kitsiyuna’s flames just barely touched, Alex could make out Ombrix still standing among them. Though his body was still very charred up, covered in burns and almost smoldering in places, he was still very much alive.
“Are you kidding me!? He survived that!?” Alex shouted in complete disbelief.
“No freaking way…” Kitsiyuna said, almost at a loss for words as she quickly located Ombrix slowly approaching them across the scorched field.
“…Well… I’d be lying if I said that one didn’t hurt even worse than getting stabbed in the eye… That one was actually pretty damn impressive…” Ombrix replied in an unnaturally calm, even raspier voice than usual as he slowly dredged forward a single foot at a time.
“…When I agreed to hunt you down, the guy who hired me said there was no way I’d be able to take you down all by myself… Said it might not even possible even with all of my men helping me fight you… So they gave me something that would make it easier for me to subdue and capture you…” he continued, lumbering forward with each step like he was in a trance. Unsure of what he was doing, Alex and Kitsiyuna continued to hold their ground, as Kitsiyuna once again put herself in front of Alex to keep him safe.
“…To be perfectly honest… I thought they were talking out of their damn ass… But clearly I was wrong… That little “toy” that they gave me to deal with you… I’ve used it a couple of times before… It’s pretty powerful too… It almost felt like cheating using it… So I wanted to keep thinks fair, and see just how well I would do without it…” At that point, Ombrix had cleared about half of the distance between him and the duo before he suddenly stopped in his tracks, staring dead-eyed at the ground.
“…But now…!? Now I don’t give a FUCk about keeping it fair! Now, I just want to capture your damn, infuriating ass and get this FUCKING hellish job over with you bitch!” Ombrix yelled as his composure finally broke. He reached into his torn up trench coat and pulled out a strange object.
The device, barely larger than Ombrix’s palm, was shaped like a four-sided diamond with a circular hole in the middle and appeared to be metallic in nature. Four prism-like buttons were on each tip of the diamond with glowing red lines running from each button to the hole in the middle, converging into a ring around it. Ombrix pressed his thumb and ring finger onto the left and right buttons as he pointed the device in the duo’s direction.
The red lines began to glow brighter as a rippling effect began to form in the device’s round hole. Red electricity and Spirit Energy began to emanate out from the device as the part surrounding the hole began to spin. The spinning grew faster and faster as more electricity came out. After a few moments of just spewing out randomly, the electricity began to focus on a spot right in front of Ombrix, causing a large egg shaped object to materialize like it was being printed out.
The egg floated in the air for a few seconds before seams began to form on it, releasing thick jets of steam that began to fill the surrounding air. Parts of the egg slowly began to bulge out and shift around as its surface began to fold out, revealing intricate looking mechanisms that lay inside. As the egg continued “hatching” its murky chrome surface began to change into a partially translucent white porcelain texture. Something that resembled a face began to emerge near the top of the egg, as an angular black display was carved out of the surface which began to project an eye-like red ring.
More steam fired out as the face rapidly extended out, forming a rounded head with three triangular points jutting from the bottom, reminiscent of the upper jaw of a beak. The head was still connected to the main body by a long, snake-like neck, with rows of spikes emerging on either side. The neck began undulating as the head started twitching and seizing as it began to emit a low, clicking mechanical drone as the rest of the odd machine’s body began to emerge from the “egg”.
The droning amplified as a pair of bulky arms jutted out. Three gigantic segmented blades were embedded into both forearms that were equal distance across around the arm’s entire surface. The blades had blood red edges and ran all the way down to the palms, acting as claws for the machine. A torso emerged as the central mass of the egg shifted around into something resembling a rib cage. Within the ribs, a large marble like core was nested, with azure flames burning inside. Three large plates hung underneath the core in place of any kind of legs that slowly spun around in a kind of orbit at the base of the body, floating well above the ground. Finally, two bulb like structures near the back of the machine’s shoulders split open, forming a set of eight large, razor sharp spines that hung menacingly behind the machine.
As the machine quickly finished unfolding into its intended shape, its head stopped fidgeting and quickly focused on the duo. It stretched out its neck in their direction as its eye began to dilate like it was zooming in on them. The droning noise it had been making was quickly augmented by a mechanical whirring and harsh electronic soundwaves that rose and fell intensity at regular intervals. The machine rose its arms up as its hands spun around rapidly in their sockets before eventually locking into place with a hefty chunk sound. It then lowered its arms back down, pointing its claws straight at Alex and Kitsiyuna.
“What the hell is that…?” Alex asked as he looked on at the machine in a mix of amazement and dread. Kitsiyuna stood there as her body started to lock up. Shudders of fear ran down her body as she looked on in abject horror at the machine. She knew exactly what it was.
“That’s a Specter. A kind of artificially constructed Spirit designed solely to hunt down other Spirits… There’s only one group out there who makes them, so I know exactly where it came from…” she replied with a grave tone, her voice getting more and more uneasy as she spoke. Alex quickly clued into the fear he was hearing in Kitsiyuna’s voice as he recalled the conversation she had with Angela. Whoever Angela initial suspected had hired Ombrix, Alex quickly figured out that she was probably right.
“…There’s no way we’ll be able to take that thing on! We have to run!” Kitsiyuna continued as she quickly scooped up Alex into her arms and began running.
“Oh no you don’t!” Ombrix shouted as he shifted his fingers to the up and down buttons on the device. Blue flames erupted from the open pods on the Specter’s back as it quickly shot forward, intercepting Kitsiyuna’s attempt to escape. In one instantaneous tackle, the machine rammed into Kitsiyuna with its bladed arm tearing into her body. Kitsiyuna kept her grip on Alex as best as she could as she was launched back, tumbling over the ground as blood trickled out of her newly opened stomach wound. Despite the attack, she was able to hold onto Alex and land on her feet, but the Specter gave her no time to recover.
It quickly rushed in again, almost like it was teleporting directly to her, and swung one of its massive arms down at her. With her hands full, Kitsiyuna quickly lifted her leg up into the air in an attempt to block the swing with her greaves, but with little success. The armor barely stopped the brunt of the attack, as the uncovered parts of Kitsiyuna’s leg were still torn right into and the impact from the hit was still strong enough to once again send her hurling backwards. The Specter’s assault on her didn’t let up as it once again zipped in and slammed into her.
More and more blood came out of Kitsiyuna as she got progressively carved up by each attack. Each attack followed the next one with no second of reprieve, and each one hit hard enough to send the duo careening across the canopy of the forest. Despite all of this though, Kitsiyuna held Alex close to her, trying to defend him from the attacks for as long as she could.
Eventually, the Specter drew its arms back before swinging both of them forward into a massive cross slash that shot across its surroundings, shattering any trees caught in the accompanying shockwave. Despite their distance from the attack, the force emitted from it was so intense that Alex and Kitsiyuna were sent bouncing across the forest floor at high speeds like they were pebbles on a lake. Kitsiyuna finally lost her grip on Alex as he was sent tumbling across the ground away from her, inadvertently smashing his entire body along the floor as he went.
Cuts and bruises battered Alex’s body when he finally stopped, his body screaming out in pain as blood poured out from his many wounds. His face was half buried into the dirt as his fingers twitched with waning feeling, desperately trying to push himself up from the ground to pretty much no avail. Kitsiyuna, who had landed some distance away from him, didn’t fare much better as blood continued to flow out of her body at an increasing rate, soaking her once purple dress a dark red. Though, because she was a Spirit, she could still bring herself to move unlike Alex.
“GAHAHAHA! What did I tell you, yah bitch!? This Specter is incredible! I haven’t even told it to do anything special yet, just basically ram into your stupid asses and it’s already roughed you up something fierce!” Omrix gloated, laughing hysterically as Alex and Kitsiyuna lay thrashed on the ground. “Why don’t we up the ante a bit? Specter, do me a favor, and shoot that damn son of bitch’s eye out! Actually… scratch that… Blow both of his damn eyes straight outta his sockets!”
Ombrix once again shifted his fingers on the device, pressing in the top button with his thumb. The Specter responded by releasing a mechanical groaning noise as its neck shifted and contorted to better stare down Alex’s limp body. Shifting parts could be heard as the Specter raised its arms up, pointing its palms straight at Alex. More steam and blue fire erupted from the joints in its arms as its blades there began to shift around and separate, revealing a set of three cannons on each arm. The cannons began to rotate around as if they were revving up with an off putting droning sound. It then let off an incredibly loud roar that was garbled with mechanical whirring, static, and low-bit sound waves as its eye focused on Alex, indicating to him that it was ready to fire upon him.
“Fuck…” Alex weakly said out loud as he tried to cover his head with his barely responsive arms.
He was effectively a sitting duck as a hail of energy bullets was fired in his direction. Each bullet exploded into a destructive burst of blue vapors and charred earth, eating away at every single bit of terrain that got hit. The whole hail of gunfire was a cacophony of noise as the Specter’s cannons emitted an almost banshee-like wail with each shot fired and each bullet let out a chunky, throbbing static sound whenever one hit something. Despite the chaotic flurry going about all around him, none of the bullets actually ended up hitting Alex, as Kitsiyuna moved in just in the nick of time to shield his body from the gunfire.
“Keep your head down!” Kitsiyuna shouted over the gunfire as she laid down on top of his body, acting as a meat shield for him. She attempted to slice the bullets out of the air much like she did before with her “tail” but to far less success this time. Every shot Kitsiyuna managed to block sent a jolt of pain through her entire body as an ever increasing trickle of blood starting emerging from thin air right in front of her. Kitsiyuna’s defense was effective enough at keeping the two of them just barely alive, but she knew she wasn’t going to be able to keep it up for long.
Kitsiyuna kept her hands pressed against Alex’s back and head as she kept him covered. Alex could feel a warm sensation coming from her hands, like she was using her flame magic on him. The painful numbing sensation that had been feeling all throughout his body slowly began to ease in severity, like all of his pain was literally being burned away. Alex found himself once again able to collect his thoughts despite the chaotic hail of bullets going all around him. He quickly realized this warm and pleasant sensation he was feeling was a result of Kitsiyuna using healing magic on him as they took cover.
“She knows healing magic too?” Alex thought to himself as he could feel all of the cuts on his body quickly resealing. “It’s a shame healing magic doesn’t work anywhere near as well when you cast it on yourself, because she probably needs it more than me right now…” he continued, feeling the steady flow of blood still dripping from Kitsiyuna’s torso onto his body. “…She’s not going to be able to hold like this for much longer… We have to do something… And fast…!”
“This stupid piece of crap… That asshole is using that dumb remote thing in his hand to control it, right…? Do you think if we can get it away from him, we can stop this damn thing!?” Alex shouted as he lifted his face from the dirt to allow Kitsiyuna to hear him.
“I don’t know. I’ve never seen anyone control a Specter directly… All of the other ones I’ve run into all operated autonomously… it’s possible that even if we do something about the controls, it could still act on its own…!” Kitsiyuna said directly into Alex’s ear so as to not be drowned out by the gunfire. “…That said… It wouldn’t hurt to try!”
Using the flashing gunfire all around her as a cover, Kitsiyuna stealthily formed a fireball in her hand while still maintaining her position on top of Alex. As she remained under fire for long and longer, Kitsiyuna was able to get a feel for the rhythm of the bullets firing, allowing her to partially deflect the Specter’s assault without having to keep her focus on doing so. This freed up just enough of her concentration to aim her fireball directly at Ombrix.
Without any hesitation, she quickly hurled the fireball at him as soon as she found an opening. Just when it seemed like the fireball was ready to hit him, the Specter released some kind of eerie pulse from the three plates rotating at its bottom, snuffing the fireball completely out of the air. Kitsiyuna’s attack did fail, but it also forced the Specter to stop firing upon them.
“Now now, we can’t have you fighting back any more, now can we…?” Ombrix once again gloated in response to Kitsiyuna’s failed counterattack. “You seem to be familiar with what these Specter’s can do Kitsiyuna, so why don’t we just move along to just what makes them so overpowered…!” Ombrix moved his fingers along the remote again, pressing down the top, left and, right buttons in completely.
The Specter began to lurch and shift with uneasy twitching as it emitted more uncomfortable mechanical noises. It moved its three plates forward, pointing their center at the duo, revealing eight round crystalline spheres embedded the underside of each plate. The mechanism controlling the plates’ rotation began spinning them faster and faster, like a massive centrifuge powering on, lightning sparking off with each ever faster rotation.
“Activate the jamming field!” Ombrix yelled, signaling the Specter to proceed.
The orbs began to rapidly vibrate, emitting a swiftly expanding field that distorted the air around it. The field the Specter was generating quickly manifested as a gigantic energy dome around Alex and Kitsiyuna that prompted the duo to their feet. An overbearing white noise quickly flooded the duo’s ears as their vision was warped and distorted. Colors on the visible spectrum rapidly shifted as everything grew dark. The ground began to pulse and throb like a heart’s beating as everything began to violently vibrate. The sensation from the field quickly overwhelmed Alex and Kitsiyuna.
“What… what the hell is this…!?” Alex shouted, unable to control his voice over the discordant chaos that was enveloping them.
“It’s a special kind of field that Specter’s were designed to generate…” Kitsiyuna responded, cupping her ears as her body began to shake while also being unable to control her voice. “…It completely nullifies Spirit Energy…! So we can’t cast magic, and pretty soon, our bodies won’t be able to respond, period! This is why I said we needed to run! Once we’re caught in the field, we can’t do anything to stop it!” As Kitsiyuna kept talking, her stance lowered closer and closer to the ground until she eventually collapsed. She ended up falling to floor, writhing and screaming like she was in unbearable pain until she started coughing up small amounts of blood.
While the effects were much slower for him, Alex quickly realized just what Kitsiyuna was talking about. He suddenly felt like he was under a tremendous amount of pressure, like he was being slowly crushed underneath something. His ears began to ring as he lost control of his breathing. Slobber dripped from his mouth as he desperately tried to breathe. He soon dropped to his knees as he could feel his nose starting to bleed intensely. Every single unpleasant sensation he felt brought him closer and closer to collapsing just like Kitsiyuna.
The worst part to Alex however, was the sensation of all of the Spirit Energy he had stored up in his body slowly being eroded away. He could feel his senses dull as a result as a thin wispy vapor evaporated from his skin. The process of the Spirit Energy leaving his body left his skin feeling bone dry and irritated, while his body’s temperature dropped to unhealthy levels. It left him with an unnatural chill going down his spine as the sensation of his skin touching anything overloaded his senses. He was being slowly transformed into a cold, dry lifeless husk. It didn’t take long before he almost fell to the ground completely, holding himself up at the last second with his weary hands.
“This is exactly what I was talking about! Once a Spirit gets trapped in that field, they’re as good as dead!” Ombrix continued to boast over the roar of the jamming field. “…I never really found much joy in using it before today… But you two… You both were such a FUCKING pain in my ass, that watching you both slowly getting eaten away by that field is the most satisfying thing I’ve watched in a LONG TIME!” Ombrix started laughing hysterically. What Alex and Kitsiyuna did to him killed what little ounce of sanity he apparently had left.
“DAMN ALL THIS STUPID ANTI-MAGIC BULLSHIT!” Alex thought to himself in a rage as he struggled to climb back up his feet. “Of all the ways I could die… Going out at this guy’s hands like this… IS NOT AN OPTION!” Through sheer willpower, Alex forced himself back to his feet as he slowly lumbered forward, his tome ready in his hand. The weight that the field was putting his body under slowed his movement to a crawl, but Ombrix was so busy laughing that he didn’t even notice.
“Kitsiyuna collapsed pretty much instantly even though she should be way tougher than you… It must be because she’s a Spirit, and her body is almost nothing but Spirit Energy in some form or another… Mine’s different though… It’s just made out of regular matter. It feels like because of that… I’m not losing my Spirit Energy as quickly. Maybe I can still pull something off here…!” Alex plotted in his head.
Alex could feel the adrenaline in his body starting to kick up again. He could feel his very soul starting to burn, defiantly pumping out more Spirit Energy to make up for the amount he was losing to the field. He grit his teeth as he tried to concentrate, desperately holding onto the Spirit Energy he had left to cast one final spell. He shut out all of the chaos swirling around him from the jamming field. He ignored all of the pain and wear his body had been going through. He didn’t allow anything to distract him as he once again forced the spell as hard as he could.
Alex was always used to struggling whenever he did anything. Learning some magic had been no exception to him. To most magic users, it was something that was supposed to be natural, like going with the flow of a river. That was something Alex could never do. The power to use magic never “flowed” naturally for him. It was always more like he was in caught in an ocean, being thrown about by its waves. Alex quickly learned that if you ever wanted to make headway against an ocean, you’d have to be able to overpower its waves. For as long as he was doing it, Alex always had to force his magic with as much might as he could muster in order to get even the simplest spells to come out. It was always a strain on him, and always a struggle.
Remembering his past difficulties, Alex asked himself, “Why should trying to cast magic under an anti-magic field be any different?”
Wanting the best chances of success, Alex lifted up his right hand and aimed it at the Specter. In spite of Kitsiyuna’s efforts to heal him, it seemed she wasn’t able to do anything about his own self-inflicted bruises on his other hand. A familiar pain shot through his arm very similar to when he used the spell to clear all of Ombrix’s dust as he prepared the casting.
As he focused his mind on the incantation, he felt like his arm was being torn apart from the inside while his nose bleed worsened with each step of the spell completed. Despite all of this, he ignored the pain and the pressure for just long enough to let the spell loose in as powerful a form as he could muster.
“DISPERSION WAVE!” Alex shouted with unwavering resolve.
The shockwave violently swept out, the brunt of which nailed the Specter right in its core, sending it careening backwards straight out of the air and cutting off its jamming field. Whatever the force was that was keeping the Specter afloat off of the ground was temporarily interrupted as it rolled across the forest’s surface, tearing up chunks of earth and dirt as it went. Alex’s attacked quickly enough to catch Ombrix off guard, leaving him no time to respond to the large machine now barreling towards him. Within in an instance, the Specter collided with him, both of them slamming into the ground with a loud and resounding metal “THUNK”.
The Specter impacted the ground with enough power that it ended up getting itself partially entrenched, shaking the entire forest surrounding it. Though Alex wasn’t sure of the exact weight of the Specter, he could still tell based off of how hard it landed, it probably had some serious mass to it. So even if it didn’t crush him to death, Alex knew that at the very least, Ombrix was going to be in some serious hurt pinned underneath it.
“How did you… manage that…?” Kitsiyuna asked in disbelief as she finally got back to her feet while wiping off the blood she had been dribbling from her mouth off of her chin. She looked down at Alex’s right hand to see that it was just as battered as his other hand, but she could tell from the way he was acting that he didn’t seem to care.
“I’m not really sure… Maybe the fact that I’m still a human let me hold onto my Spirit Energy for longer… But maybe, it’s just because my whole life so far has been like one obstacle after another, that I’m not just going to let another one like that stand in my way…” Alex responded, trailing off towards the end. He looked at his bruised hands and began to wonder himself how he pulled it off.
“So, you’re one of those people who just never gives up, huh…? No matter how hard the struggle gets…” Kitsiyuna replied solemnly, quickly finding herself lost in thought.
“…The fact that his tiny soul burns as bright as it does… It has to be what drives him like that…” Kitsiyuna thought to herself. “If his soul is what let him overpower that Specter… I have no choice but to reconsider…”
“Um… Alex…” Kitsiyuna meekly started talking, but got cut off before she could finish her sentence. The seemingly inactive Specter suddenly sprung back to life as it proceeded to dig itself out of the ground, making mechanical grunting and shuttering noises as it went. It’s neck once again fidgeted about until it finally refocused its gaze back onto Alex and Kitsiyuna. With a quick thrust of its arms, it pulled itself out of the ground and resumed levitating ominously as it stared the two of them down.
Alex and Kitsiyuna were completely silent as they looked on in horror. Despite all of his best efforts, Alex’s spell had left the Specter undamaged. He only had succeeded in briefly stunning it, and he knew from the condition of both of his hands, eh wasn’t going to be able to do it again.
“You two… really are just the WORST…!” an incredibly bloodied and battered Ombrix groaned from within the Specter’s impact crater who was too injured to stand at this point. He clearly had been torn up and impaled by the spines on the Specter’s back after it had landed on him.
“And you… You damn fucking Specter piece of shit…! They told me that jamming field was unbeatable… How the hell does a damn human overpower it…!? What are you, just a useless steaming pile of fucking dog shit…!?” Ombrix used the last of his strength to hurl the remote he had been using to control the Specter at its head, causing the controls to break into pieces. The Specter, keeping its cannons aimed at Alex and Kitsiyuna, swiveled its neck around to look at Ombrix in response while letting out more garbled machine noises.
“Oh, did that annoy you…!? Well I’m even more annoyed that I have to rely on a defective piece of shit like you to finish my job…! What are you just sitting there for!? Go kill ‘em!” ombrix continued to chastise the machine in a very pained and tired voice, coughing up piles of blood as he yelled. The Specter once again responded with a low, almost dog like growl.
“JUST DO IT! I DON’T CARE HOW AT THIS POINT! JUST! GET IT! DONE!!!” Ombrix hysterically screamed his orders to the Specter as loud as his dying body would allow.
He was completely unconcerned with the amount of pain it caused, nor how much blood it was forcing him to cough up. In his fury and anger, he just wanted to scream as loud as he could. The ring that server as the Specter’s eye dilated as a small dot appeared in its middle that quickly stretched into a claw mark shaped pupil. Its low growl increased in pitch as steam started to spray from its long neck. Then, without any kind of hesitation, it quickly plunged its bladed arm all the way through Ombrix’s torso.
Ombrix let off one last bloodied scream as he was lifted from the crater by the Specter’s claws. The Specter than began to spin its claws around like it was a drill, completely obliterating Ombrix. The chunks of his flesh were quickly stirred into dust until all that remained of him was a pulsating light blue ball of flames that was radiating of a steady aura of wisps. Ombrix had been reduced to his very Soul.
After a brief pause, the Specter crushed the Soul in its claws. All of the Spirit Energy from the Soul could be seen visibly traveling up the Specter’s arm all the way to its flaming marble-like core. Once Ombrix’s energy reached the core, the whole thing ignited, engulfing the entire Specter in an almost blinding blue flame. It then finally turned its menacing gaze back to Alex and Kitsiyuna, who had intelligently started to run away as soon as they saw the Specter stab Ombrix.
“What the hell!? What did that thing just do!?” Alex yelled out in a panic as he clung onto Kitsiyuna’s back who was running away as fast as she could go.
“It ate his Soul to power itself up! This is what Specters are designed to do! They tend to not like it when people find a way to bypass their jamming fields, so when this one assumed autonomous control when its remote broke, it decided that the best course of action was to engage us at full power so that it wouldn’t happen again! They never let their prey escape! …Even if it means destroying themselves or their handlers!” Kitsiyuna shouted back to him as she rushed through the nearby foliage, keeping a lower profile so at to make them harder targets to hit.
“These things willingly eat Souls…? Just like that…!? That’s the one line I know most Spirits would never cross! What kind of a sadistic asshole would make something that does that…!?”
“…An inhumane creature that you should hope you never get to meet…”
“SHIT! Here it comes!” Alex shouted while he looked back to see the Specter propelling itself forward with massive jets of blue fire as it incinerated everything behind it. The plates beneath the Specter once again started to spin, generating another far more massive anti-magic field, putting everything within in it through a red filter with the contrast maxed out. Despite their best efforts to keep ahead of the machine, Alex and Kitsiyuna still ended up getting caught at the field’s edge.
“GAHHHHH!” Kitsiyuna screamed out in pain as the field formed around her. Though she stumbled a little bit after the initial activation, she quickly resumed a faster pace as she did her best to ignore the pain the field was causing her.
“Damn it! We’re not going to be able to outrun it like this!” Alex shouted as his hands began to tremble from the field’s effect.
“We don’t have to keep this up for long…! If we can stay ahead just long enough to make it back to the hideout… We could lose it…!” Kitsiyuna gasped out in exasperation as blood gushed from her mouth as her speed slowly started faltering.
“How will we be able to do that…? The damn thing is faster than us!”
“We’ll use the terrain… to our advantage…!” Kitsiyuna replied with desperation in her voice.
She quickly started to veer off course, darting the two of them around as many trees as possible. The Specter continued to mindlessly barrel forward, shattering ever tree the two of them ran past as it charged forward, with every tree it hit slowing its momentum down bit by bit. Were it not for the jamming field, their serpentine pattern through the forest might’ve been enough to keep the two of them ahead, but unfortunately for Kitsiyuna, it was forcing her to slow down even faster.
“GRGH! Damn it!” Kitsiyuna shouted out in frustration as she dropped to her knees in pain, blood still spewing from her mouth.
“No Kitsiyuna! Come on! You gotta keep moving!” Alex shouted as he patted her on the back to keep going, ignoring just how much it hurt his hands to do so.
Kitsiyuna looked on in fear as the Specter closed in, it’s bloodied claws ready to strike. Just when it seemed like the Specter was about to charge into them, at the very last moment, Kitsiyuna was able to force her body to roll the two of them out of the way. It took the Specter a few moments to register it had missed its mark as it continued moving forward, before it quickly turned back around and corrected its course. Determined not to let the Specter’s mistake to go to waste, Alex helped drag Kitsiyuna forward as he supported some of her weight by resting her arm on his back.
“At this point… I think we’ll move faster this way…!” Alex shouted as he encouraged the two of them to pick up the pace. Kitsiyuna’s weight felt exceedingly heavy on his back, but he refused to let it get to him as he willed the two of them ever closer to the hideout.
“Thank you…” Kitsiyuna answered back in a somber and tired voice. In the distance, the familiar sound of the Specter’s cannons revving up could be heard. Alex looked back in horror as he saw the massive machine once again flying at them, this time, with its guns literally blazing as it was firing wildly in their general direction.
“Oh come on…!” Alex yelled out in exasperation.
“Get in front of the trees! We’ll use them as cover!” Kitsiyuna shouted.
The Specter’s bullets felt more like missiles this time as they zipped through the air seemingly at random. All around Alex and Kitsiyuna was a storm of magic bullets rushing past them as they reduced everything to clouds of flaming debris. The duo did their best to always keep a tree directly behind them as they continued forward relentlessly. A single tree withstood the storm of bullets just long enough for them to get in front of another, allowing Alex and Kitsiyuna to continue their advance.
“I think we’ve almost made it!” Alex shouted out in celebration as he could make out the hideout through the clearing just ahead of them. Though their goal was seemingly within their grasp, a look of horror still shot through Kitsiyuna’s eyes as she checked the location of the Specter trailing behind them.
“Oh no…” was all she said in a defeated voice as the Specter finally converged upon them.
The ground all but evaporated underneath the duo as they found themselves launched into the air as the Specter’s barrage hit its mark. The shrapnel from the blast tore at their flesh as the shockwave battered their limp bodies even further. Despite having hit its target, the Specter did not slow down on its charge forward as it rammed into Alex and Kitsiyuna as they were falling helplessly. Both of them had been so worn down by the field that the initial blast that sent them into the air almost knocked them unconscious.
Alex could feel the entire world around him fall to black as his body began to shut down from the pain as the Specter ended up slamming into him with its immolated frame. From there, Alex was unable to make sense of anything that was going on around him, unable to tell if he was still even awake.
Faint images of the preceding chaos flickered in and out of his vision, but his brain was unable to put them together into anything coherent. He felt the sensation like he had just been thrown into something made of concrete. The sound of collapse rubble surrounded him before he felt the worst head pain he had ever experience. Alex quickly realizing he took a severe blow to the head and was losing a dangerous amount of blood. The pain was unbelievable, like he had taken a wrecking ball square to his temple. The contents of his stomach began to churn as he felt the need to throw up, but in his state, he had no idea where up even was.
He could tell his body was still moving somehow, but knew he wasn’t doing it on his own. Either something was dragging him, or he was still falling, he couldn’t tell which. Even time itself was incomprehensible to him at that point, as he had no idea whether seconds or hours were passing. The possibility that he was dead entered his mind, but quickly realized he was still barely alive when he felt a sharp pain burst straight through his abdomen.
“GRAAAAAAAGGHHHHHHHHHHH!!!” Alex screamed out in miserable agony. He had finally regained his senses only to realize he had a large metal spike, about an inch in diameter, shoved through the right side of his stomach.
Tears began to flow down his eyes as he instinctively tried to pull it out in desperation before he quickly noticed he had been impaled completely on the spike, and it was far too long to pull himself off of on his own. His screams of pain quickly turned into desperate wailing as he started to sob uncontrollably, crying his eyes out like he was six years once again. In his panic, he kept his hands pressed down around the spike in a feeble attempt to keep his blood inside of him despite how much pain it caused him.
“SOMEBODY… HELP!!!” he cried out uncontrollably into the darkness around him as a torrent of tears streamed down his eyes. The blood from his head injury began to mix with his tears as his nose became runny due to a mix of him crying and a combination of all the dust floating in the air around him. He was a pathetic, sniffly, weeping mess as he lay there slowly bleeding out. He never had felt more afraid or helpless in his life.
“IS THERE ANYONE THERE…!? PLEASE… HELP ME!!!” he continued shouting, having no idea if there actually was anyone else there to save him. His eyes began to adjust to the darkness as he finally realized, based off of the tiled floor and all of the dust around him, that he somehow got knocked into Kitsiyuna’s hideout. While at first, the idea that he made it back to the hideout brought him just the tiniest bit of relief, a very unpleasant sensation began to override the pain he was feeling from his impalement. He realized was still somehow within the Specter’s jamming field.
“ANYONE… PLEASE!!!” he cried out hysterically in an increasing panic as he trailed off into more sobbing.
“Grandpa, Mom, Selina… Please, someone save me…” Alex pleaded in an every weaker voice. He had gotten so hopeless, he was begging for people to save him that he knew never would be able to.
Just as Alex began to close his blood and tear filled eyes and resign himself to his fate, he felt something shift him up just ever so slightly. Suddenly, he heard the metallic clang of the spike being cut underneath him while he dropped to the ground. Utterly confused, Alex didn’t move at all as he lay on his side, still clutching his stomach while a good two feet of metal was still sticking out of it. He then felt someone drag him back a few inches, propping him up against a pile of destroyed concrete slabs.
“Don’t worry Alex… I’ve got you…” a worn and battered Kitsiyuna replied in the most soothing tone she could muster, kneeling down next to Alex as she finished sitting him upright.
“Kitsiyuna…?” Alex remarked in seeming disbelief. “You’re here…? What… happened…? Where’s the Specter…?”
“We got blown into the mall’s basement I think… And as for the Specter, I think the debris from the blast covered the hole we fell in through so it couldn’t follow in immediately after us… But listen…” Kitsiyuna quieted her voice as the two of them listened in to the faint sound of the Specter’s cannons firing from somewhere outside. “…It’s trying to shoot its way through the rubble to get at us…”
“If that’s the case… You need to get this thing out of me! WE NEED TO RUN!” Alex pleaded to her as his voice slowly cracked.
“In a minute, but… listen. Even if I pull that out of you and stop you from bleeding out, we’re not going to be able to outrun the Specter… it’s just going to hunt us down. And we’re still within its field so we can’t use magic to fight back…”
“Then, is this it…? Are we just dead here…!?”
“We still have one chance…” Kitsiyuna answered with a serious tone as she got a hold of the spike coming out of Alex. “I’m going to use what middling strength I still have left and pull this out of you… Once it’s out… we forge a Pact.”
“Yes. You do know what happens when a human and a Spirit first form a Pact? It would create an intense and almost overwhelming burst of Spirit Energy for us to temporarily use in a process that’s called Spirit Ignition. Our wounds would heal in an instant and our bodies would be completely refreshed. And most importantly, it’s the one thing I know for a fact that can overcome a Specter’s jamming field… Sure. It’s possible that it could fail and rip your Soul apart… But we’re both definitely dead if we don’t try it, so might as well give it a shot right!?”
Alex swallowed a huge breath of air as he tried to clear his runny nose. Though it wasn’t how he expected it was going to happen, Kitsiyuna accepted his offer. It was a lot for him to take in, so he hesitated to reply at first. His hesitation was quickly cut short though, as the distance wall the two of them were facing blew open, revealing the Specter silhouetted by the setting sun outside as it slowly descended upon the duo. Alex quickly bared his teeth in a smile as he prepared himself for what was going to happen next.
“RIGHT! LET’S DO THIS!” he screamed out in determination.
“Get ready then, because this is definitely going to sting!” Kitsiyuna replied with resolve as she quickly got into position in front of Alex. Wasting no time, she began tugging on the spike as Alex tried to muffle his pain as best he could. After some small resistance, she quickly pulled the whole thing out in one go and quickly tossed it aside. Alex was obviously reeling as he clutched the bleeding hole, but quickly forced himself to power through the pain. The Specter’s cannons started to rev up as Kitsiyuna held out her hand to Alex.
“Now grab my hand!” Kitsiyuna shouted to him as her palm began to radiate Spirit Energy. Alex swiftly slammed his hand onto her out-stretched palm as he tightly gripped it. Kitsiyuna similarly wrapped her fingers around his as a glowing blue aura began to illuminate the two of them. The Specter was just about ready to start firing upon them when time came to a complete halt.
Suddenly, Alex found himself floating inside of a void tinted by light blue wisps swirling around in the distance. His entire body was gone, with only his small little flickering Soul remaining. Before him lay a colossal Soul, completely eclipsing his in size while it burned with Spirit Energy as if it were the sun itself. Alex could feel intense pressure pressing down on him from all directions, but he didn’t feel like he was being crushed. It merely felt like he was being embraced by someone.
“So why is it that you want to forge this Pact?” the giant Soul echoed in a commanding and godlike voice. While it did sound similar, the voice was different from Kitsiyuna’s.
“Well… obviously so that that damn Specter out there won’t freaking kill us!” Alex responded.
“That’s all? That sounds rather… shortsighted… unambitious… A Pact is not something you can just use for a single moment in time and simply forget it… A Pact is a promise… A goal to strive towards! A Pact will not work if you only think of it in the moment… Now, why do you REALLY want to forge this Pact?” the giant Soul once again echoed. Alex floated there for a moment as he considered his answer.
“…Because I’m pathetic and weak… People avoid me like I’m a plague to them, and deep down, I know they’re right to do so… I want this Pact… because I want to better myself and become a much stronger… and hopefully better person…” Alex replied meekly.
“…Is that so…?” the other Soul asked, pausing for a moment before she continued. “It’s selfish in some ways, but also selfless in others… It’s very human of you, and no Spirit should be demanding of any better… Very well then. Let this Pact… BE FORGED!” the Soul shouted out as the entire void lit up in a blinding light.
Rays of light shot out from the larger Soul as they bended and warped their way to Alex. The lights converged on his diminutive Soul as he could feel himself being overwhelmed, like the large Soul was slowly pulling him in. Alex resisted the pull with all of his might however as he held his ground, allowing the lights to dig into him, slowly stretching his Soul out in every direction. Rather than letting it tear his Soul to shreds, he allowed himself to bask in it as he could feel the comforting glow of the other Soul’s power flow into his. While there were moments were it felt like too much for him, Alex willed his way through it, and allowed the link between his and Kitsiyuna’s Souls be formed.
Alex broke from his trance as he once again returned back to the real world where the Specter was about to open fire upon them. Suddenly, a colossal vortex of Spirit Energy opened up underneath Alex and Kitsiyuna, completely engulfing the two of them as it dissolved any shots the Specter tried to fire at them. Within an instant, Alex could feel all of his pain go away as all of the wounds on his body, no matter how severe they were, quickly seared shut. He felt completely reinvigorated as he quickly stood back on his feet. It reminded him of the time he first successfully channeled Spirit Energy, like his body was temporarily succeeding its prime, only this time, it was being amplified by a factor of one million. As the vortex subsided, Alex and Kitsiyuna both emerged gleaming with new found powers. And they both never felt more alive.
The Specter momentarily halted its fire as it stared down the newly forged team, like the machine was in disbelief. It emitted mechanical grunts, like it was in anger at their Pact. The Specter then raised its cannons once again as it revved them up in preparation for another volley. Alex almost instinctively moved to take cover behind the rubble pile behind them, but Kitsiyuna signaled to him to not worry as she calmly walked towards the machine.
“You don’t need to take cover now. I’ve got this.” Kitsiyuna said in a confident stride. “…Now that I’m your Spiriter, I guess I don’t need to hide my true form from you anymore…” Wild flames suddenly swirled around Kitsiyuna as her entire aura became enflamed. The flames whipped around as a large fox tail suddenly emerged from her back while furry ears grew from the top of her head, revealing herself as a kind of fox Spirit known as a Kitsune.
“You’re a Kitsune?” Alex asked as he looked on at his partner in awe. Aside from the ears and tail, pretty much nothing else changed about Kitsiyuna’s body, and yet Alex couldn’t help but feel like her true form was magnificent. Of all the Spirits he had heard about when he was younger, he always liked Kitsune the best.
“Yep! I know my kind isn’t exactly a common kind of Spirit, so I’ve been conditioned to hide my true nature. But now, I don’t have to hold back!” she shouted while beaming with pride as more and more flames wrapped around her body. The bottom part of her dress flaps began to taper off in orange flames as a wreath of fire formed around the back of her neck, while draping around her arms similar to how one would wear a boa. Hot embers embedded themselves into the floor with every step she took as she confidently sauntered forward.
The Specter responded to her advance by unleashing another full powered barrage. Kitsiyuna wasn’t the least bit worried, holding her position as her tail wrapped around to the front of her body as it grew to a massive size. She then rapidly flailed it about in the air in front of her without having to move the rest of her body an inch. Her tail rapidly streaked through the air as brilliant flames trailed behind it, completely deflecting any and all projectiles the Specter fired in her direction back at it.
Alex watched Kitsiyuna’s tail intently as it twirled about in the air, absolutely shredding any projectiles it didn’t manage to reflect back at the Specter. Her fiery orange tail had a snowy white end with a tiny bit of black at the very tip making it look not all that dissimilar to a paint brush streaking across a canvas as it moved.
Alex was in absolute adoration of it as he finally got to see its magic properties in action, as all the previous times Kitsiyuna had been using it, she had kept it obscured. Despite being able to literally slice bullets out of the air, her tail still looked soft, fluffy, and inviting, no doubt due to its magic nature allowing Kitsiyuna to alter its characteristics. It shimmered beautifully in the air as every single bit of fur on it was coated in a tiny flame. It was a pretty good indication why Kitsune’s tails are considered their crowning feature.
“All right, that’s about enough of this!” Kitsiyuna boasted confidently as she started to get bored of the Specter’s projectile spam.
Her hands became completely engulfed in fire as she hurled her own barrage right back at the Specter. Every single fireball nailed the Specter, pushing it back inch by inch as she focused her efforts on its right arm. The marble-like substance making up the bulk of its arm began to glow red hot as it was becoming more and more malleable.
Kitsiyuna hurled one last fireball at its head, causing its neck to jerk back violently as it let out more garbled roaring. This hit provided an opening for Kitsiyuna as the Specter’s cannons momentarily stopped firing yet again. With great force, Kitsiyuna leapt high up into the air, rapidly extending her tail as she went. Just as she reached the height of her jump, she quickly flipped forward, sending her tail cleaving down as it sliced the Specter’s entire right arm off all in one clean cut.
Kitsiyuna’s jump landed her within range of the Specter as it extended out its claws in an attempt to swipe at her with its remaining arm. Though its arm was heavy and swings fast, Kitsiyuna expertly parried each blow as she danced around it. Every attack the Specter attempted, she countered. She swung molten hot punches and blazing kicks at the machine’s massive arm, peppering in blows with her tail as she used it punch holes into its armor, like her tail was a lance infused with magma.
After numerous blows, she stung her tail right into the joint holding the Specter’s elbow and punctured it all the way through. The Specter’s entire arm seized up as it screeched in static white noise. Kitsiyuna then dug her hands into the hole she just made, reached around all of the broken joints and connectors on the inside and quickly took hold. With one quick motion, she ripped the machine’s arm clean off before tossing it aside like it weighed absolutely nothing.
With its primary means of attack thoroughly “disarmed” the Specter resorted to firing up its rear jets in an attempt to ram into Kitsiyuna. She wasted no time as she burrowed her heels into the floor as she braced herself for its charge. Rather than completely bowling over like before, Kitsiyuna easily held fast as she held the Specter in place with her outstretched hands. The jets of fire that had been propelling it suddenly ramped up in intensity, creating a giant blue inferno behind the Specter as it tried to gain some head way against Kitsiyuna. It was very slight, but Kitsiyuna was actually being pushed back. Rather than surrender any further ground, Kitsiyuna pushed back the Specter with as much power as she could muster: by punching it straight in its core.
The first hit stalled the Specter’s jets, if only for a second, so Kitsiyuna followed suit with more and more, with each punch coming out faster than the last as her flurry sped up exponentially. At first, she delivered a single, powerful blow each second. Then two every second. Then four. Then eight. Faster and faster she got, with inhuman speed and power, she laid into the Specter. Eight became sixteen. Sixteen became thirty-two. It wasn’t before long that it was impossible to keep track of how fast she was going, as her fist became a blur. Fire spewed out in every direction as she used her flames to accelerate her fists like they were rockets. Soon, every punch resulted with a mini explosion going off as plumes of fire erupted from the Specter with every single blow. The explosions soon began to feed off of one another until eventually a massive one shot out, hurling the Specter all the way to the hole it had blasted into the building.
Alex looked on in utter amazement as he watched Kitsiyuna thoroughly dissect the machine that had almost been their undoing. While he wasn’t sure if he should cheer out loud or not as Kitsiyuna destroyed the machine, he watched the whole thing with a massive grin on his face. Though, when the explosion that sent the Specter flying happened, Alex found himself instinctively ducking for cover. Sensing the concern in her partner, Kitsiyuna temporarily halted her rampage against the Specter as she turned back to give him some reassurance.
“You don’t have to worry about my flames. Now that you’re my Spiriter, my magic can no longer hurt you.” Kitsiyuna said with a big smile on her face, while giving Alex a hearty thumbs up. Alex exhaled in a half chuckling manner like “Oh right, I should’ve known that…” as Kitsiyuna turned back around to finish off her target.
The Specter was on its last leg as its core now had a large hole blown into, causing Spirit Energy to leak out of it at an alarming rate. The remaining parts of its body were jerking and twitching as if it were short circuiting while the whole machine’s structure was slowly melting. The plates that were generating its jamming field were no longer spinning as it barely hovered above the ground.
As Kitsiyuna slowly marched towards the machine to finish it off, it jumbled and contorted its neck to stare her down as blue fire and steam bellowed out from every hole and remaining joint in its body. It then let out an ear piercing screech garbled through heavy layers of static that was constantly fluctuating in pitch. The scream was loud enough to give Kitsiyuna pause, forcing her to cover her ears while the Specter’s ocular display started flashing red.
“Oh no you don’t! The only one who’s going to be exploding here is you pal!” Kitsiyuna yelled out as she raised her fist in the air while angling it down at the floor.
She then punched the ground with meteoric force as she created a massive crater, shaking the very foundation of the entire mall as the entire place shook, knocking down loose bits of dust and debris from all over the ceiling. Streaks of orange light began to radiate from the ground as then began to make their way to right underneath the Specter’s position through the cracks that were forming. The light streams quickly congregated right underneath the machine as a few diffracted out in various directions, though most of them focused on the Specter as they slowly illuminated it from below. A growing burning sound could be heard greatly rising in intensity from beneath the ground until it finally reached a fever pitch as Kitsiyuna finished her incantation.
“FLARE PILLAR!” she shouted out as a maelstrom of swirling flames erupted from underneath the Specter. While Alex had witnessed Kitsiyuna’s Flare Pillar before, getting to see it without having to take cover from its sheer intensity made it a spectacle to behold. Everything looked bitch black in comparison to the swirling hurricane of fire that quickly filled the entire room. It roared more fiercely than a lion as the flames fanned out and spread. Though, just like with before, Kitsiyuna made sure that, despite the colossal stream of fire she just unleashed, the only thing that was getting damaged was the Specter.
Just as quickly as the flames emerged, they eventually subsided as the tower of flames snuffed itself out. In the middle of the massive scorch mark the spell had left on the floor, the Specter’s failing body remained, if only briefly. Not long after the fires vanished, the blue flames that still remained in the Specter’s core began to whisk around violently within their container. The melting and charred remains of the Specter’s body began to violently spasm and twitch like it was a having a seizure in the final throws of death.
It left off one final shriek, more garbled and distorted than any it had let out before that quickly repeated itself like an error sound. Then, the machine finally exploded into a gassy ball of ghostly blue fire. Unlike Kitsiyuna’s explosions, this one was far more ethereal as its shockwave shot out, darkening the very air as it went.
Just as the explosion was about to reach Alex, Kitsiyuna quickly got behind him and wrapped her tail around him like a shield. She then fearlessly stood between Alex and explosion with her arms outstretched, protecting her Spiriter from the destructive blast. The explosion shot by Alex, leaving him completely unscathed as Kitsiyuna pulled back her tail from around him. Though she had taken the entire brunt of the explosion for him, the only injury Kitsiyuna had to show for it was a couple of faint bruises on her back.
“Holy… crap…that was… amazing…!” Alex said in an almost complete lost for words and breath. Suddenly, he lost the feeling in his knees as he found himself falling into Kitsiyuna’s arms. As his partner tried to hold him steady, everything around him slowly started to fade as he eventually lost consciousness. It seemed that the Spirit Ignition had finally worn off as the fatigue from his hectic day finally set in. He then took a well-deserved nap as he quickly fell asleep in his partner’s arms.
About a half an hour later, Angela arrived at the scene as she was greeted by the massive hole in the wall the Specter made that had only gotten larger due to its destruction. Though it gave her brief pause, she quickly got back on track and stepped inside the destroyed basement.
“Sheesh… I’m only gone for 30 minutes hunting down those last two bounty hunters, and I come back to find a big gaping hole in out hideout. Just what the hell are you getting yourself into Kitsi…” Angela said in a jovial tone. She turned her attention to Kitsiyuna, who was sitting her weary body on the floor.
“Look Angela! I finally found my Spiriter!” Kitsiyuna replied with a heartfelt smile while tears streamed down her face as she cradled the sleeping Alex in her arms. Angela couldn’t help by smile as the sheer joy and relief in Kitsiyuna’s face warmed her heart. In all the time Angela had known Kitsiyuna, she never saw here as happy as she was in this moment. The duo’s adventures were about to begin.