((Collab Post between Letter Beem BrokenPromise, and FamishedPants))
Before Gris could get too close, Belrigger slammed into him and knocked him off course. The two disappeared down a street. This gave Alistair enough time to throw up an ice shield around Ashton.
But the ice shield was melting quickly. Not only because of the fire nova, but because she had a lot of heat flowing around her. But ashton was able to throw his knife at this range, and slice her arm. That was all the distraction Odessa needed.
"I hope this works!"
Using dark magic was always incredibly risky, because some people were just too magically potent to be affected by most of it. Fortunately, Odessa was not an ordinary spirit, and she managed to get Sandra under control. Sandra sunk to her knees and her weapons fell from her hands. The heat and fire around her started to dissipate. It seemed like whatever Odessa was doing, it was working.
”What is the meaning of this?” Sandra said through grit teeth. Alistair, you’re helping a murderer! He’s not like the rest of you, he’s been brainwashed by Od Laguna to attack me on sight. Why else would he be prioritizing me over everything else going on? But there wouldn’t be much time for debate, as Sandra’s body was being swallowed up by the earth.
"Who’s doing that?" Odessa cried.
”That would be me!” Vaux landed in front of Sandra. Her head and arms had been covered in earth, and only her torso was visible. The churning earth had sheared the armor off of her stomach, exposing her white flesh. ”I had my doubts as to if I would be able to subdue the witch myself. She really didn’t want to join all of her sisters, which we rounded up years ago. I had hoped lust would weaken her to the point I could capture her alive, but you fools were able to do that for me! We finally have them all!” With a laugh, the rock Sandra had been pulled into started to take shape. It was a throne that Vaux promptly sat in, where Sandra’s exposed stomach was used to cushion the back of his head. ”Oh now that feels nice!” The throne was raised into the air by the massive golem it rested on top of. ”Now let’s try this: My golem, AND the witch’s fire magic!” The golem roared as fire poured into its body. Magma flowed along the outside of it’s body like blood vessels would inside someone’s arm. The golem was soon encased inside the same protective heat barrier that Sandra was. ”Thank you for reuniting me with my love, gents.”
"I think you’re going to need this." Alistair cast a healing spell on Ashton, restoring him to perfect condition. He could use his perfect self again if he wished.
”And now, you can all perish!” The golem stomped iots way towards Ashton, attempting to burn everyone up in it’s aura of heat and fire.
Transforming into his ideal self, Ashton rolled his way out of the golem’s path, even as he processed the information quickly. Sandra was a Witch, but opposed to the High Council. And now his actions have made things worse by benefiting the latter, and the Cult were one step closer to ascendancy. But thankfully, he had a plan.
“Change of objectives!” He cried out. “Alistair and your Spirit, keep that Golem distracted - I’m rescuing Sandra!”
Ashton didn’t have to announce that last part, in fact, he may have even compromised the new objectives somewhat by alerting Vaux. But he felt that he had to reassure the person whom he had unwittingly betrayed, a person who, though an Artificial Witch, clearly did not want to be a pawn in a truly evil plan.
As Alistair hopefully followed the changed objectives, Ashton used his ideal form’s enhanced abilities to climb up a house and onto the rooftops - When he was on them, he began running and hopping towards Vaux’s position on top of the golem, then leapt high towards the throne the Archbishop sat on, aiming a kick at his smug head, even as his hands and arms were held back to defend against any counterattack, or perhaps even attack in turn.
And there was a counter attack.
Although Alistair and Odessa were able to keep Vaux occupied, He was able to throw up a wall of flame on Ashton’s approach, which the boy was able to dive away from. ”What are you trying to do?” he laughed. ”You must be mad if you think you can kick Vaux Maximilianus, Divagro von Theodoric und Hieronymous when he is commanding so much magical energy!” Several stone pillars coiled around the throne, protecting Vaux from further attacks. ”I could burn you to a crisp before you even get close!”
Alistair cast his stimulate spell on Ashton, which boosted his capabilities even further than his ideal self would normally allow. And it happened just in time, as the dirt under Ashton was starting to turn into smaller golems, reaching out for the boys limbs.
Ashton cut with the enchanted daggers that came with his ideal form, severing the hands and bodies of the smaller golems, before leaping up to the rooftops once more, darting and feinting at Vaux’s position, trying to test his readiness. He’d wait to leap for real, trying to time his next job with Alistair’s next major attack, hoping to get through the pillars and the fire and rescue Sandra.
Vaux did not move from his throne, instead relying on his magic to defend himself. When ashton threw a knife, it would be blocked by a wall of earth. When he attempted to jump in, his flame aura would flare up. He was relatively safe in his current position.
But just because Vaux wasn’t moving didn’t mean the giant golem he was riding wasn’t. It took large, monotonous steps towards the wall of the city. A man would never get anywhere moving like that. But the massive golem could clear several city blocks with a single step. He had what he came for, and there was no reason to stick around.
Thanks to the ‘stimulate’ spell, Ashton was able to keep up with the giant golem, feinting with fake jumps, throwing the occasional dagger, but not making any headway. With every step the golem took, the boy’s chances of redemption faded away, even as he found himself without options. Or did he?
Shouting at Vaux, Ashton revealed his trump card, “Hey! Cultist! Wanna know a secret?! I and my group of ‘foreigners’ come from -”
The unnatural fear washed over Ashton, but the young man powered through it as he continued to speak to Vaux, hoping that the chaos of the battle was such that no one else overheard, “I and my band of foreigners come from another world, thanks to the Artificial Witches! And the Witches’ powers allow us to reset the timeline when a specific one of us dies!”
”And what of it?” The entire golem turned around to face Ashton. ”You know what? I think you might be just as mad as I am. That’s the only way you could possibly spill your secrets like that, or believe them!” He cackled. ”I wonder if you know his name too? I can’t say it, but you know who I’m talking about right? Oh yes, you must be mad if you know about him.” He folded his hands together. ”I’m not sure what the point of your secret was, but I think that someone like yourself should come with me!” And so he swung his hand, and Ashton’s body was pulled to Vaux’s side, within the heat aura.
”Jiwald!” Ashton shouts, trying to enchant his body to withstand the heat aura, he was prepared to strike Vaux with his daggers, hoping to kill the Cultist. If he was injured by the heat aura enough to revert him to his normal form, but was still conscious, he’d try and use what knowledge of unarmed combat he received from Bellrigger to punch Vaux’s lights out and strangle him to death. And if he was knocked unconscious by the heat aura, which was always a possibility, Ashton hoped that he’d be imprisoned with Sandra Fotos - He was not good at planning escapes otherwise. In fact, it was a blind spot.
But it wouldn’t come to that.
Ashton’s aura was able to hold out just enough to get him close and stab Vaux in the chest. He screamed and fell backwards off of the golem, and the fires seemed to die down instantly. But while Ashton was able to resist the flames for a time, it caused enough damage to make him revert to his normal self. But he would not be harmed further by the flames. The stone around Sandra broke away, and her unconscious body came tumbling out. But it wasn’t just Vaux’s throne that was collapsing, the rest of the golem would fall too. Ashton needed to get down safely, and without the help of his ideal self.
Ashton quickly grabbed Sandra’s falling body with his right arm as he said, “One... More… Jiwald!!”
This last buff gave him more strength as he carried the ‘Artificial Witch’ bridal-style, trying to do one rooftop-hop with only Belrigger’s training, his own relatively-fit body, and the strength of his remaining magic - The latter was still further enhanced by Alistair’s ‘stimulate’ spell.
If he landed on a slate roof, if he managed to not fall, if he managed to successfully rescue Sandra even with her additional weight, Ashton would lay Sandra down to rest, mumbling, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry…”
Ashton had cleared the obstacle, just in time to watch the golum collapse to the ground behind himself. The lower half of Vaux’s body was trapped under the rubble, and Alistair and Odessa appeared to be approaching him. But the sound of a thick leather boot stomping the ground caused Ashton to turn around. Gris was standing before him. His arms were folded, but his sword was no longer drawn.
Ashton said to Gris, “Why… Aren’t you executing me right now?”
He then looked around to check on Sandra’s unconscious form, instinctively trying to see if she was all right. If she was, he’d turn to Gris once more, undefeated but utterly exhausted, and try to stand up on the slate roof.
“If you still must insist on killing me,” he said as he curled his fists, “Let me face it standing up, as I said before.”
Gris stepped past Ashton and picked up Sandra. ”Boy, let me just be square with you.” He had Sandra over his shoulder. ”I have no idea what is up with you or any of your friends. You teleport all over the place, trouble seems to follow you wherever you go, I just, I can’t..” He sighed before stepping away from Ashton. ”I knew flame was seeing you. I’m a little burnt that he would do something like that, but it’s clear people look up to you and trust you. Even that young man down there. Alistair was it?” He pointed at him. He seemed to be watching Vaux struggle to break free, but if the giant ice spear was anything to go by, he planned on ending him. ”There is no me and you anymore. But it’s clear that trouble has a tendency to follow you wherever you go.” He started to walk away. ”Let’s regroup with your friends at Vertti’s mansion. Once you do that, I want you all to leave. I don’t ever want to see your lot around here again.”
Ashton couldn’t help but chuckle as he said, carrying Sandra bridal-style once more, “To be honest, I’m sure many of us would like to return home and never think of Lugnica again once this is over - Let’s go.”
He then follows Gris.