Etherno

Chapter 23: Exit Light

Kasai gripped Onryo’s hand as the memories played out in front of her. They were all the same. Black-clad figures that she now knew to be either Natas or agents of the Natas came after her. She grew white wings and a tail and fought them off with fire.

“All this explains why people were suddenly afraid of me,” Kasai said.

“Yeah.” Onryo twitched her tail. “Why don’t you remember any of this?”

Kasai shrugged. “Genetics. I’m crazy. Take your pick.” She sighed. “Probably both. All that is a lot for a little kid to take in.”

Onryo took Kasai’s other hand and looked her in the eyes. “And now?”

“Now…” Kasai took a deep breath. “Now I think I can deal with it. I’m sorry I dumped all this on you and hid within myself when life got tough. Forgive me?”

“Sure.” Onryo giggled. “I’m you, so, yes, I forgive myself.”

Kasai smiled and hugged Onryo. Her surroundings faded to white.

dragon

Onin pushed extra power to the servitors on his hands and flew sideways. The dragon’s claws sliced through the air inches away from him.

“Now!” Amaryllis shouted.

Onin looked up. She was in position above the dragon across from him. Onin fired a blast of lightning, and sent a mental command to the clusters of servitors high above the dragon. They released the ton of rocks they carried, which hurtled down toward the dragon.

“Saija, Tannin, go!” Onin whispered.

Tannin jumped up and sliced off the tip of the dragon’s tail. At the same time, Saija portaled away the dirt under the dragon’s paws. The load of rocks slammed into the dragon. Several of the jagged points disappeared in a shower of shattered ruby scales and the dragon bellowed in pain.

“Yes!” Onin pumped his fist. They’d finally managed to injure the thing.

Onin jumped up and pushed power to the servitors on his feet as the dragon swung its tail around. It had already pulled its feet out of the ground and opened its mouth to bite at Tannin.

“I’ve got it!” Amaryllis dove down and held her staff up in front of the dragon. A blast of green dragonfire enveloped her. Onin’s breath caught in his throat. It felt like forever until the stream of fire abated.

The last wisps of flame flowed around an invisible bubble that surrounded Amaryllis. Onin let out a sigh. Her reflexes were fast to be able to get a shield up that quickly.

dragon

Saija’s chest heaved. She bent down and leaned on her knees.

“You okay?” Cerina asked.

Saija looked over at her. Concern? From Cerina? That was uncharacteristic. “Yeah. I’ll be fine.” She took another deep breath. “Just used a lot of energy moving all that dirt. Not sure how, but I think the dragon is making it harder for me to open a portal near it.”

“That’s not—Look out!” Cerina pointed behind Saija.

The dragon’s tail swept toward them. Saija swore and dropped to the dirt. Not low enough, it was still going to hit them. She could portal out of the way, but she didn’t have enough energy left to move Cerina and Kasai as well.

Saija glanced over her shoulder and swore again. Kasai was still unconscious. Saija grimaced and braced her hands and one foot on the ground, and held her artificial leg a few inches off the ground.

“What are you doing? Run!” Cerina yelled.

“It’s gonna hit Kasai!” Saija didn’t take her eyes off the dragon’s tail. It would probably hit in less than a second.

“Stupid sleeping half-breed freak.” Cerina muttered as she slid feet first in the dirt next to Saija.

Saija kicked out and up at the dragon’s tail. It felt like a building had fallen into her. Cerina shoved her guitar under the tail as it skimmed over her and played a high-pitched note. A visible distortion formed and shoved the dragon’s tail upward. Saija pushed harder. A sharp cracking sound came from her leg. It exploded throwing metal and plastic shards everywhere.

dragon

Onin flew upward. The dragon had spun around and leapt at him. He generated another servitor and flung it back at the dragon. The dragon snapped at the servitor, and Onin signaled it to explode just as the dragon’s mouth closed around it.

There was a loud bang. The dragon slowed just enough for Onin to gain some distance. He swung around in an arc. If the dragon continued to follow him, Amaryllis should be able to shoot some more ice into the gap in the dragon’s scales that the rocks had made.

Onin spun around to face backwards. A rock hung in the air next to Amaryllis. A series of portals opened in front of the rock. A second later the rock shot through the first portal. There was a blur of motion between the portals, and a loud boom sounded.

The dragon slipped in mid-air, and a stream of clear liquid erupted from the dragon’s back. It roared in pain—or frustration, Onin wasn’t sure which—and turned to loose another blast of fire at Amaryllis. It turned in mid-air, and its tail slammed into Onin’s legs, instantly popping the servitors covering them.

Onin flailed in the air, attempting to regain control as he spiraled back toward the ground. He tried to generate more servitors for his feet, but nothing happened. This was a fine time to run out of energy. He applied thrust via the servitors on his hands and managed to tumble down to the ground more or less gently.

Onin staggered to his feet. His legs hurt all over, but nothing felt broken. Onin shook his head and looked around to see how the others were doing. Onin winced at the sight of Saija’s broken leg. Cerina looked fine. Amaryllis fired continuous ice blasts at the dragon, leading him away from Cerina, Saija, and Kasai. Onin’s breath caught in his throat. How long was Kasai going to stay unconscious?

He struggled to his feet and took a few shaky steps toward Kasai. He must be even lower on energy than he had thought. Onin patted down his pockets. One energy bar left. He’d brought more… and an energy drink would help now, too. He looked around for his backpack but didn’t see it anywhere. It had probably been lost during the fight. He sighed, ate half of the last energy bar, and shoved the other half back into his pocket.

dragon

Amaryllis flew up and to the left, narrowly avoiding the blast of dragonfire. A hissing noise and the acrid smell of burnt metal told her she hadn’t been entirely successful. She groaned inwardly. If only they had enough onicranium for a full set of armor. Oh well, the stuff was expensive, and some armor was better than none.

She spun around and loosed a blast of ice-lighting at the dragon. As soon as it impacted on the dragon’s scales, she opened a portal and dropped through it. Amaryllis emerged on the other side of the dragon. She fired off another blast of ice and glanced over her shoulder.

Kasai was still unconscious. Amaryllis frowned. She’d better wake up soon.

The dragon swung his head around, eyes searching for his prey. Amaryllis frowned and flew past his nose, out in front of him. Hopefully she was enough of a distraction to keep the dragon focused on her.

She glanced over at her staff. “You’re sure about Kasai, right?”

As sure as I can be. Ryogin-sama paused. We’ve done everything we can. The rest is up to her.

“All right.” Amaryllis sighed. “If—if she doesn’t wake up in time—“ Amaryllis swallowed. “I—I love you.”

Amaryllis dodged left and shoved out with telekinesis. The dragon’s paw narrowly missed her.

You know how I feel, and why I can’t say it. Yet. Ryogin-sama’s mental voice quivered. I promise, after your birthday…

Amaryllis growled. Him and his virtue. It was one of the things she admired and loved about him, but… She sighed. One thing at a time. Survive the fight first.

Something flashed behind her.

dragon

Onin took a step back. Another flash of light surrounded Kasai, and then faded away. A wave of red color flickered through her hair, and white wings and a tail grew from her back. She blinked a few times and sat up.

Onin blinked a few times. “Onryo?”

“Hmm? No, it’s me, Kasai.” Kasai yawned and flexed her wings. She startled and looked over her shoulder. “Oh.”

“So, uh, things went well?” Onin reached out to her, then stopped. “Um, I mean…”

“Yeah, I think so.” Kasai looked over her shoulder while she extended a wing and waved her tail back and forth. “This is going to take some getting used to.”

“Anything I can help with?” Onin winced. Yeah, that didn’t sound dorky at all. “Uh, I mean, uh—”

“AIR!”

Onin and Kasai both looked over at sound of Tannin yelling. The dragon had taken a step forward. Tannin lay gasping for air at the bottom of a small crater formed by the dragon’s footstep.

Saija waved a hand. A portal formed under Tannin, and he fell through it. Another portal opened behind Saija, and Tannin dropped through it.

“Wow.” Tannin took another breath and half sat, half fell to the ground. “If it wasn’t for my reinforce gift, you’d’ve needed a squeegee to get me off the ground. Those things are HEAVY.”

Onin blinked a few times. “Um, sorry, I didn’t even see it step on you.”

“That’s okay.” Tannin waved a hand dismissively. “You were busy dodging claws and morning breath of doom at the time. I’m fine.” He yawned. “Super tired, though.”

“Are you sure you’re okay?” Kasai asked.

“Yeah, I’m fine.” Tannin yawned again. “Oh, Kasai, raise your hand.”

Kasai furrowed her brow, but raised her hand.

Tannin high-fived her. “I’m tagging you in. I need a nap before anyone drops another building on me.”

Kasai turned her hand around, stared at it, and blinked a few times.

“Does anyone else hear screaming?” Cerina stood and put a hand to her ear. “Amaryllis, incoming.”

Onin opened his mouth to ask what on Gesara she meant. Before he could say anything, Amaryllis crashed into the ground in front of him and skidded to a stop, leaving a sizable rut. Her right ear was torn, several pieces of armor were missing, and blood ran down her left leg.

“Ow,” she said.

Kasai ran over and knelt beside her. “How badly are you hurt? Do we need to get you to a doctor?”

Amaryllis lifted a hand. Her arm shook as she pointed behind Kasai. “Dragon.”

Onin turned to look at where Amaryllis pointed. A large blast of dragonfire headed straight at them.

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