29. Chapter 20: The Dark God, Part 3

Chosen | By: | Genre: Fantasy, Drama | Rating: M | Series: Evangelion | Status: Complete | Tags: Crossover, Alternate Reality | Summary:

An elsewhere story. Evangelion fantasy style!

A large pulse of energy expanded away from the Northern Wastes, moving to cover the whole world. Wherever the pulse passed over - city, village, or forgotten places - people felt a moment of nausea. However, the energy was not for them.

RISE!

Since first appearing as fallout from Adam's sundering in the Black Wars, the undead had been a plague the world was cursed to endure. No sage knew what called a small percentage of recently killed people to undeath, but the results were well known. Ghoul, zombie, ghost, specter, vampire: whatever the name of the beast, at some level all had an unquenchable desire to utterly dominate, consume, ravage, and ruin. They had once known life, and something fundamental about them now completely hated what they had lost.

RISE!

Humanity, however, had fought back. Burial customs sanctified the ground and prayers for the dead put troubled spirits to rest. Flare ups appeared now and again, but for the most part the walking dead were a threat like troll infestations, orc attacks, rampaging dragons, or tsunamis: unpleasant and very dangerous, but, with luck, skill, and determination... or else a very good head-start... survivable.

RISE!

Now however, the pulse of energy from Adam blanketed the earth. Violently shattering all attempts to give peace to the dead, the malignant energy poured into dead human corpses wherever they lay. Twisting the flesh, empowering it, the vile power drove into its spiritual essence two simple commands that could not be refused:

RISE!
AND FEED!

It should be noted that the recent invasion had caused Tokyo to just suffer its worst loss of life ever. Taking care of the living had occupied everyone's attention; the cleanup had been put off for the time being.

That left a lot of corpses in the streets.

With a terrible groan, bodies pulled themselves upright all throughout the Holy City. There was a moment of unnatural quiet, then screaming began. The feasting followed a second later.

X O X

The sky over ruined Tokyo was tumultuous, with rumbling clouds and disturbingly sharp winds. The ominous weather would have put anyone on edge. But for the dark elf army being held in the Greenwood garrison, they had other things on their minds.

"It doesn't make sense!" Kimiurel said. "Why would they lie?!"

"They're humans! We can't trust them!"

"But we're their captives! If they wanted us dead, they could do it at any time!"

"It's... it's some kind of trick!" Sammael replied, sounding agitated. "Some kind of horrible, human trick to get us to trust them so they can betray us again!" His eyes blazed a furious red. "They have done nothing for us... we must hunt them down, stalk them, kill them..."

"But... what about that spell," Soriel said, shivering. "To heal an entire city... if they had that kind of power, why didn't they destroy us?" As they thought back to that, the fury in the dark half-elf's eyes waned a bit and he shook his head as if shaking off something unpleasant. "And yet," she looked up, "I overheard the guards say that it was some kind of miracle from Lilith. Why would she help us? Us!"

"I don't know!"

And that was the question haunting the dark elven prisoners: why? Why would Lilith help the race Adam had selected to replace her weak children? Why would the humans - after millennia of raids, theft and murder -- offer them a homeland. All around the compound groups of dark elves and half-elves were in debate over the Queen's proposal.

Without the clear leadership of either Lady Armisael or Weapons Master Bardiel, the dark clans fell into conflict. Trust the humans? There had never been any agreements with the humans, so how could they be trusted to follow through with their end of the deal?

But why offer the deal, if they only planned to break it? The dark elves were already at their mercy, what did it gain them?

Some scheme... some human joke... not worth the risk... we must not be taken in... the clans must survive...

But... can the clans survive like we are now? As prisoners here, the army cannot protect those who remained in Neriak. If we say no, won't they kill us, and then our children die in the Wastes?

...can't risk it... too dangerous... we must fight on till the end... only the strong survive...

A horrible pulse of vile energy flowed over the compound, but the dark elves were too focused on the burning question before them to notice.

But what about that spell... from Lilith supposedly, that healed the humans... and us as well? I... I didn't want to fight after that... it felt like... there was... another way...

... d-don't be taken in... human trickery... let our guard down... some horrible plan...

Makinami looked up. "Is that-" she started to say, before every member of the clans stopped talking suddenly. They could hear something happening beyond the walls: cries, clashes of metal, and... screams. The human guards moved towards the outer walls and out of sight of their prisoners.

Adjusting her glasses, Makinami looked intently at the barred gate. Sammael came up to watch as well but was distracted as he noticed her eyes faintly glowing red. He glanced around and saw she wasn't the only one affected.

"Kimiurel, take a look at the pure," he said.

"They seem a little... fixated."

"T-there's something in the air," Soriel said, starting to breath uneasily. "Something... wrong. It-it's like that enormous healing spell... only inverted. Perverted, turned in on itself and twisted into something vile."

Kimiurel motioned for others to take up positions. "What's going on out there?"

"I smell... blood," Makinami said, her mouth split into a feral grin.

There were more screams. A moment later the incarcerating barrier that diminished magic inside the prison flickered, then died.

The dark elves paused only a heartbeat, then they struck. A team of commandos burst into motion and using mystic enhancement jumped atop the wall of the gatehouse. They disappeared into the building while casters invoked a vast cloud of darkness, lowering the ambient light to near blackness. Another group scaled the barracks, then jumped to the outer wall to take out sentries and scout an escape path. Everyone else scattered into teams, ready to strike out towards the soon to be opened gate.

"No, wait!" Sammael said loudly. "Something's not right!"

There was a scream from the gatehouse, and one of the commandos jumped back out, twisting around and landing awkwardly in the courtyard before springing back. A moment later something else followed him out of the building, throwing itself down from the wall landing on all fours and hissing at the assembled forces.

"Ghoul!" one of the half-elves identified.

"One of ours?"

"No, there were all destroyed," Makinami said. "Necromancers! Take control of it." A half-elf stepped forward, his hands glowing a cold purple. A wicked magic circle appeared beneath the undead and began to slowly rotate.

"Cold corpse, heed my voice; you have fallen where I have not. I still breathe, I breathe words of power; and to these you submit. Your will is ice; my words are heat. Thrice I demand: obey, obey, ob--Aaahh!"

With a powerful leap the ghoul burst forth from the entrapping necromantic control circle, shattering the spell. It flew and landed upon the necromancer, its cold talons and teeth sinking into the half-elf's flesh. The young man screamed once then had his chest torn open and was dead before he flopped bonelessly to the ground. The ghoul howled in triumph, then broke into pieces as lightning bolts from four separate casters slammed into the beast.

After the resulting thunder rolled over the enclosure, a strange silence overcame them. One of the pure dark elves laughed cruelly, her eyes glowing. "Half-human weakling."

"That... shouldn't have happened," one of the other necromancers said. "His spell was perfect. No undead of that strength should have been able to resist the entrapment field."

"Well, this one obviously could," the dark elf said. "How long till the corpse rises?"

"The body must cool before necrotic energy can infuse the flesh."

She walked over the dead half-elf, towards the gatehouse. "Leave it then, we'll be long gone by the time that happens. It will be a nice parting gift to-" The dead half-elf grabbed her leg, dragging her down to the ground. The half-elf - no, the newly birthed ghoul -- jumped upon her and before anyone could act, tore her spine out.

Seven lightning bolts, three fire bursts, and two javelins of solidified shadow removed the newly risen ghoul. There was a moment's pause, then one of the necromancers shouted. "What in Adam's name!? There's no way there was enough time for necrotic infusion to-"

The dead dark elf woman, minus her removed spine, hissed and started to crawl on its belly towards the living in the courtyard. Four fireballs, six lightning bolts and a shower of head-sized stones obliterated the body.

"Scouts!" Makinami demanded, causing the ones on the wall to jump down to her. "Report."

"Our jailors are either dead or fighting for their lives. From what we can see there is fighting everywhere in the city. There appears to be a massive undead force in the streets, uncontrolled and killing at whim."

"I-it's that feeling in the air," Soriel said, shivering. "It-it's a huge necromantic effect, a reverse of that healing spell the humans used." She looked Makinami in the eyes. "Th-that spell healed us, made us calm and p-peaceful. This... does the opposite. I can see it in your eyes, how they glow, how it m-makes you hunger for death and battle. It's also..."

"Raising the undead," Sammael finished. "Raising them as an uncontrollable horde." He looked towards the wall nervously.

"And one thing our invasion did succeed in doing was leaving a lot of dead bodies lying around," Kimiurel noted, grimly. "Soriel, how big is this effect? The whole city?" She shook her head. "The nation?" She shook again. Kimiurel's eyes widened. "The whole world?"

Makinami snarled. Now that she wasn't distracted by arguing over the Queen's peace offer, she could feel an unnatural bloodlust pressing against the inside of her skull. She could see the glow in the eyes of the other pure dark elves. It was a call to battle, a desire to fight. And with the dead stalking, the dark elves finally had their chance.

But how to most effectively use this chance? They had no mages left capable of long distance teleporting, so there could be no quick jaunt home. If they wanted to flee they would have to fight their way through the humans and the undead. It could be possible if they used the humans as cover and just ran; but then what? If they escaped Tokyo what life lay before them? A furtive race through human territory, with undead around every corner and human strongpoints everywhere. It would be a terrible struggle before they could find a safe place to hole up and let the undead and humans battle for supremacy. Even if they survived through all of that, what of the children, the future of their race, back in Neriak? Could they somehow last long enough to be rescued?

And then there was the offer from the Queen: a home, a green home away from poisoned lands. A bribe to be sure, but a bribe of everything the dark elves truly desired. If they ran, would that chance ever come again? Or was it just some trick from the humans to begin with?

Part of her longed for the thrill of battle, to use this chance to prove herself the master of blade and conflict. Adam's children were born for battle and this chance would allow them to repay the reversal they had just suffered. Use every chance at your disposal, exploit every weakness: that was Adam's creed.

Yet... part of her also hungered to feel like she had when that spell from Lilith had touched her. It had felt... bad?... but bad in a way she kind of wanted to experience again. It had been different and unusual and painful, but in some strange way not the least bit alien.

"Orders, commander?"

Her leaders weren't here. The choice was hers.

X O X

Having awoken from her long stupor, Asuka proceeded to burn Arael's bedroom down. Furious, the master vampire gave orders to his servitor vampires to bring her to heel. The three that were still with them threw themselves at her, but the Chosen's burning sword sliced into the moving corpses, purifying flame combusting dead flesh. There was a flash of light and a torrent of flames shot through the room, consuming all it touched. The dress and jewelry he had provided for her vanished into the heat, leaving her instead clad in a suit of burnished red plate, a stylized firebird with a ruby for a beak prominent on the breastplate.

Sword held aloft, Asuka took control of the sea of flames from the burning tapestries and furniture and turned it against the room itself. Arael screamed in blind rage, then abandoned the chamber as flames raced around like battering rams. Walls softened under the heat, and the door to his secret chamber burst apart.

Inside lay his coffin, carved from a single stone slab. With an almost contemptuous gesture from Asuka a great stream of unending fire poured into the small room. The stone ran and deformed like wet putty while the grave soil inside flashed into ash. A terrible shriek tore itself from the vampire's throat.

Asuka pointed, and the streams of flames turned like a physical thing, darting through the door Arael had escaped through. The hall outside was normally swaddled in thick shadows, not having seen anything more than feeble candlelight for uncounted years. Now a roaring blizzard of fire burst in, slaying the gloom that had clung there for ages.

Arael hotfooted away from the flames, bounding on all fours like a beast, howling. Asuka burst into the hall, her body surrounded by an aura of bluish-flame swirling around the warrior like a chorus of protective spirits. Arael twisted in mid-jump, throwing bolts of razor-edged shadow towards the Chosen. Magically hardened shadow touched mystically enhanced fire, and the darkness parted like cotton to the blade.

"NO! Not this time! I did not fail! I will not fail! I had to learn what fire really is! It is hope, it is life, it is freedom! It is a passion, passion for all that I love! But do you know what else fire is?" She pulled her free hand back, shaping the fingers into a claw. A globe of energy furiously swirled there. "Fire is fire. It is burning, it is destruction! It is all these things, and I will show them to you!" She thrust her hand forward. "Love is Destructive!"

Fire engulfed the hall, and this wing of Arael's ruins exploded.

X O X

"Aim for the brain!" shouted Misato. "Ignore the body and go for the head! If you can't cut the head then let someone else finish the job!"

As if to demonstrate, Misato swung her sword and decapitated a revived soldier that was trying to feast upon her. The head fell and immediately tried to snap at Misato with its teeth. A frying pan broke its jaw and another cracked its skull open. Misato shuddered as two small maids finished smashing it to a pulp. She'd definitely need to be wary next time she tried to steal a midnight drink from the kitchen.

Still, the sight gave her hope. Her commands, yelled for the umpteen time, kept the castle defenders focused. They didn't have time to think about how tired they were, or how grim the situation was. They just had to think about defeating the next ghoul; and there was always a next ghoul.

Misato knew enough about the casualties caused by the last battle to have a rough idea of how many undead were running wild through the city. Compared to the number of survivors... Their only luck was that a lot of refugees were already gathered in relatively defensible locations like Tokyo Cathedral and Tokyo Castle.

Still... how many had been caught unaware in the initial attack?

There was a scream as one of her men fell, having overextended his reach and giving the opportunity to the undead horde to seize him. Those around him were quick to react and to dispatch the zombies assaulting him, but it was too late. This throat was ripped open and bleeding out.

"Kaji!" called Misato. There was no need, the sweaty, gasping rogue was already underway.

"I'm sorry friend," said Kaji as he knelt by the mortally wounded man. "May Lilith welcome your brave soul."

The man gave Kaji a grateful look, before the unshaved man slammed a dagger through the man's eye and into his brain.

There was no time to mourn, however, as the undead pressed on.

Again, Misato barked her orders.

Again, undead fell.

They would hold out, as long as they could. She could only hope that the other groups would manage too.

They had to hold out... until the Chosen won.

X O X

Spitting furiously, a ghoul threw itself at Kensuke, clawing at his face. The bard desperately stabbed at it with his rapier, but only got a hit in on the thing's shoulder. What would have been a debilitating wound on a living being only resulted in the ghoul twisting and jarring the blade from his grip.

Tripping over his feet in his haste to withdraw, Kensuke scuttled back. His scrambling hands closed on a mace dropped by an unlucky cleric. As the ghoul sprang at him again he smashed the weapon into the thing's head. As it staggered from the blow he slammed it again and again, until the skull finally spit and the undead dropped.

"Get to the Cathedral!" he shouted as he got to his feet, his breath catching in his throat. The stench of blood filled his nostrils. "Back to the Cathedral!" he repeated to the depressingly few still with him.

When the dead had started to attack, people fled wherever they could. The way bodies were still scattered from the invasion had made flight dangerous, but still people tried. Most attempted to reach holy sites, thinking they would offer some protection. Kensuke had no idea if that was true or not, but when some had arrived at the Grand Cathedral, he'd offered to go with some holy knights and clerics to see if they could hold the square open so others could reach the safety of the church.

Breathing heavily, he limped over and recovered his rapier before joining the small number of knights and clerics left as they hurried back. The attacks had been relentless, frantic. He'd fought undead before, such as at that lady vampire's castle, but this was different. Never had he seen such bloodlust drive them beyond all restraint. He'd watched knights be torn screaming from their armor, only to have them rise up a moment later and attack their one-time comrades. Clerics had tried to blast the dead flesh with holy powers, only to have the touch of Lilith be almost ineffective. Too many had paid the price for that and been ripped apart, rising seconds later to join the feast.

They'd saved who knew how many, allowed some to rush past the defenders as they put a wall of steel and spell between the desperate and the undead, but his group of defenders was now down to a bare handful.

Worse, they could hear screaming all throughout the city. And it galled Kensuke to know that there was nothing he could do about it.

Streaked with sweat, he and his group limped back to the Cathedral. At least when he arrived he saw more knights, clerics and mages than when he had left. He sent his troops off to find some water and hobbled in through the main doors to the Cathedral. Worse than before, the place was now an overflowing sea of humanity. Where there had been some kind of order, now there was just teeming masses.

Ignoring the cries and frantic talking all around he leaned against the statue in the center of the main room and rubbed his face. Everything ached, but he knew he would have to go out again soon.

"Kensuke," he raised his head to see Mayumi, her arms filled with bandages and her dress stained with blood. Nearby, another priestess in white was healing a man who only had a stump left for a leg. "How... how are things outside?"

He leaned close and dropped his voice. "It's bad. As bad as the dark elf invasion was, this is worse. People who fall rise against instantly, but on their side." Mayumi's eyes widened and she clutched tightly at the bandages she was carrying.

"I-immediately? Th-that shouldn't happen."

"Tell that to the knight that tried to eat my face."

"But... but the limitations on necrotic infusion... the half-life of the soul's residual echo should prevent physical infestation until it's decayed enough... this can't be." Kensuke gave her a glare and she bit her lip. "I mean... I don't doubt you. But... the Church has been fighting undead for a long time, and we gathered a lot of information. I've read the treatises on them; things shouldn't happen this way."

"Shouldn't? After all the strange things we've run across, I guess this is just one more." He sighed. "Something else the Church got wrong."

Mayumi clenched her jaw, and Kensuke felt a jolt of shame and anger run through him. He felt so helpless, like nothing he could do would make anything better. He couldn't help Mayumi and he couldn't stop these attacks. Just like that nightmare...

"Where are the Chosen?"

"They... they left." He stared at her in shock. "I don't know the details, but it sounds like something really important happened and they had to go."

Kensuke took a deep breath and tried not to think about what was so important that it would rank higher than a city-wide undead plague on the Chosen's to-do list. The possibilities... weren't pleasant.

The man with the stump for a leg began thrashing and crying out. The priestess with him put her hands against his chest to hold him down. "I need some help here!"

Mayumi moved to assist. "What can I do?"

"I need a blood purifier prayer while I seal up the wound."

"I... can't cast."

The priestess cursed. "Then what good are you?" She raised her voice. "Cleric!" she shouted over the room's noise.

Mayumi got to her feet as another priestess rushed over to answer the request for aid. Her muscles were tightly clenched and terrible frustration was written all over her features. Suddenly she turned to Kensuke and buried her face in his shoulder. Hesitantly, he raised an arm and half-hugged her.

The bard was at a loss: there was no way to make any of this better.

X O X

Touji had known the moment he decided to fight Bardiel alone that he was in trouble. When he felt Adam's wave, he guessed things had just gotten worse.

After his successful opening gambits, the battle had inexorably shifted to Bardiel's favor. The Weapons Master's attacks were relentless, but calculated. He would move, strike, then move out of counterattack range all in one fluid motion. He gave ground and surrendered meaningless territory, forcing Touji to keep the pressure up if he didn't want the large elf to sprint out a side exit and elude him. He fought smart and fought carefully, going as far as avoiding direct contact between his scythe and Touji's sword. The dark elf had immediately adapted to the possibility that the shaft of his weapon might not withstand a clash with the Earth Chosen's heavy blade. As dangerous as his scythe was, something Touji was discovering thanks to a number of shallow cuts that were adding up, it was only useful if it remained in one piece.

And worse, Bardiel didn't seem incapacitated, or even slowed down by that hard hit Touji had landed on his right arm. He was still favoring it but it hadn't taken him out of the fight, or made Touji's life much easier.

Though Bardiel had yet to strike a serious blow, he had also denied Touji any more good hits. And that was what would probably give him eventual victory. Inevitably, Touji was running his horded power down: at every new swing he more and more felt the true weight of the sword in his hands. Focused, Bardiel no longer seemed in a hurry to win. Suddenly, he was the one killing time.

That all changed when the wave of dark energy passed over them. Instinctively Touji jumped back waiting to figure out what the wave had done, while Bardiel went rigid. Touji thought about pressing forward, but something seemed dangerously... off.

The big elf suddenly shuddered, putting a hand against his face. "No. No! I won't...I won't listen... I won't lose to... my flesh... I am... Bardiel... I will not... give in... to...to..."

"Yo, dude? You okay?"

Touji saw just how wrong things were when the dark elf let out a fearsome, animalistic howl. Crazed eyes stared right at Touji as the Weapons Master bent forward and charged like a mad bull. So surprised at this change of tactics Touji barely avoided the clumsy but powerful charge. The Earth Chosen couldn't believe it. This wasn't Bardiel's fighting style: it was almost as if the dark elf had turned berserker on him!

Touji's eyes widened as the colossus turned around and threw his weapon at him. The scythe spun and hit Touji square in the chest, fortunately with the blunt side. Nevertheless, even protected with armor Touji reeled from the impact. More importantly, he didn't see Bardiel close the distance, nor did he see the fist before it hit his abdomen with inhuman strength. The following kick sent him flying, leaving him incapacitated and struggling to breathe. With horror Touji saw the now crazed warrior approach, drool dripping from his chin like a rabid animal.

"Kill... kill... killllll..."

Having lost his sword in the attack, Touji was cut off from his reserve of magic power. Struggling to get up, he knew he was vulnerable.

"KILL!"

As the giant charged again Touji knew he only had one alternative. He opened himself once again to the power of the earth. Energy surged within him. Tainted, but energy nonetheless. Ignoring the darkness greedily clawing its way through his body, Touji commanded the earth below. Stone spikes shot from the ground right in front of him, right at Bardiel. Though they didn't penetrate the monster's armor, the violence of the assault still threw him off his feet.

Shaking, Touji did his best to get up. A wave of nausea and dizziness hit him, both from the result of Bardiel's last strike and dark energies he'd just been swimming in. Touji stumbled towards his sword. He had to take out Bardiel somehow, and he had to do it fast.

Touji never reached his weapon as Bardiel shot back at him. Before he could react he found himself with the huge dark elf's powerful hands grabbing at his throat and squeezing. Touji tried to focus, tried to channel the power of the earth again, but the foulness polluted his mind and shattered his connection. Hikari's face flashed in his mind as he grabbed Weapons Master's thick arms to try and break the hold, but without success.

The world was rapidly going black.

X O X

Hikari felt useless. The situation as it had been told to her was grave; the dead rising with unconstrained hunger everywhere. Her people were fighting for their lives and there was nothing she could do to help them. All she could do was sit on her throne and wait.

It was frustrating.

She wished she could have been on the frontlines with her troops, but knew well enough that any weapon in her hands was little more than dead weight. As for magic... Mayumi had forbidden her to even try: the results couldn't be predicted.

Even helping the wounded or refugees was out of the question. Leaving the castle meant leaving its relative safety. The Royal Guard would not leave her unattended, and any guard watching her was a man away from the battlefield. Nothing she could offer was worth that cost.

Not for the first time she wondered if her father had felt like this. Had he too been trapped by the weight and responsibility of the crown? Had this been why he hadn't been able to fully make his vision of a just and peaceful kingdom a reality?

The queen tightly clutched the scepter she had inherited from him. Had such thoughts been on his mind when he chose to sacrifice his life? Could she do it? If all hope was lost, could she do it too? Would she be here, sitting on her throne as the world she loved turned to ash... as her nightmare had shown?

No! She wouldn't let her thoughts go in that direction, not as long as there was still someone standing. If she couldn't fight, if she couldn't help, then she would believe! The city would stand, her people would survive, the Chosen would win.

Touji. He was out there, fighting. He was uncertain, desperate even, but kept fighting. She could feel he was in trouble, sense he was fighting an enemy he couldn't defeat. But despite all the uncertainty, he would still try.

In the end, her thoughts kept coming back to him. Touji. Even with a horde of monsters attacking he was the one she worried about the most. And the one she could do the least for.

Had her promise to him helped? A kiss, and a promise for him to, "come back alive and we'll do this again." Men were simple minded. Or at least, that was what Kodama used to say. But still... she hadn't exactly given it much thought before saying that.

But what else could she do for the big lug that she... she...

Hikari gasped, getting the attention of everyone in the room. Her mother gave her a worried look.

"Hikari?"

She ignored it all and tried to appear calm and in control. In truth, she was anything but. Touji was hurt, and hurt badly. She could feel it, feel it through the link that kept her alive. He was worried in a way he hadn't been before.

Touji was in trouble! And she couldn't help.

Again! Hikari could almost taste the blood in her mouth. He was hurting again.

The queen closed her eyes and prayed. Prayed to the goddess for him to be safe, for him to come back alive. It wasn't fair. He had given her so much... why couldn't she give him something in return?

Hikari gritted her teeth and straightened her back. Prayer was important, but prayer alone hadn't brought them victory; and it probably never would. To hell with it, she told herself, let's try something.

Reaching into herself mentally, she examined the flow of magic inside. She had been trained as a priestess and so had some scholarly understanding of mana flow. She could sense the earth magic that bonded her to Touji as a strangely intriguing foreign thread inside her, and could feel the energy of it trickling into her soul. At the end of the thread closest to her it broke into innumerable, thin strands where it was surrounded and eventually absorbed by her own mana reserves.

To cast spells, mana flow was directed to the hands were it could then be shaped, actualized and then cast into the real world. She mentally grabbed the earth magic flow and shifted it inside her, as she would any of her own mana. It was like trying to move a boulder.

Fine. Let's try something else... she released the hold, and instead grabbed her mana that surrounded the thin filaments that connected her to the earth thread. She shifted her mana, and tried to pull the filaments and thus the thread with them. It was hard, the thread was very stable, and like the earth itself, very stubborn. But as anyone who knew the Queen could attest; Hikari was very, very stubborn.

Slowly, with sweat standing out on her forehead and a feeling like she was running uphill, the thread of earth magic glacially moved inside her soul. But what to do with it? She could move it, but did that really help? Moving it to her hands... could she cast a spell with it? Was that any good? Could she send it anywhere else?

Wait... it was earth. What would happen if she...? Teeth clenched and mind focused, she slowly inched the mana through her body, towards her legs. She took a deep breath, made a quick prayer, and used her knowledge of white magic to link the foreign filaments inside her to the stone floor beneath her feet.

To Hikari's surprise, her prayers were answered by a rush of energy. Like a fountain it swelled up from the ground and filled her with power. The Queen was stunned, but didn't question this development. What was important was that she could help Touji. She could feel it. She focused on him. Focused on giving instead of receiving. She didn't know if their link would work with such distance, but she had to try.

Touji!

X O X

The Earth Chosen was on the verge of passing out when he heard Hikari's call. Strength suddenly filled him, chasing away the darkness that had been threatening to devour him. Filth and foulness was blasted away as clean earth energy fortified him. With a surge of determination Touji commanded the rocks beneath his feet. Columns of stone erupted from the ground and assaulted Bardiel from all sides. The dark elf grunted and was ripped away from Touji, who fell and coughed as he tried to breathe again. With another mental command he erected a wall of stone right in front of him, blocking another mad charge. The enraged Bardiel began pounding his fists on the wall in fury.

Familiar power flowed within him. But he wasn't the one channeling it, and it wasn't tainted. Hikari. It had to be her somehow.

"You idiot! Mayumi told ya not to use magic! Ya could die, ya dumb broad!"

Touji clutched his fists. The girl was stubborn as a mule. Even if he could somehow tell her to stop, he knew she wouldn't. Fine! He just had to put an end to this then!

Touji punched the wall, causing it to explode outwards. Bardiel was peppered with stone shrapnel. Most of it bounced harmlessly against his armor, but some reached his face opening a nasty gash. This only seemed to enrage the mad dark elf even more. Worse, Touji saw the injury heal a moment later.

Suddenly it explained why the earlier wounds hadn't really slowed Bardiel down. The bastard had some kind of healing power!

"How is dat fair?!"

As he avoided another charge by the berserk warrior, things started to click in Touji's mind. Bardiel's unusual size for an elf, his healing ability, the timing of his going berserk when that weird wave of dark energy had hit. Bardiel was probably half dark elf and half... something... Like that Myssa chick had been half human. And that dark energy was driving that half something nuts! If he was right... he could win this fight!

[To be continued...]

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