Chapter 182: Eye of the Tiger
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“How’s life, Alicia? We haven’t really had our usual chats in months.” Maggie said, daintily folding herself to be at eye level.

Anger long since buried began bubbling to the surface like crude oil, ready to be lit on fire. Her decision to kill Maggie had unlocked emotions she couldn’t admit she had two months ago.

“How’s selling your nieces to politicians for profit and power? Still going good?”

“That was my fault. You got a bad egg, Al. Benedette’s-”

“Do not call me Al.” Alicia hissed.

“Ms. Denton.” The young-ish inquisitor said, glancing over at Maggie. “If you could wait until we subdue her. The girl is wearing at least three Artifact Grade magical items.

“Lit up like a Founder’s Tree.” The other one, a man with a bushy black beard said, staring at her.

“Nonsense, She’s my niece. I can talk sense into her.”

Alicia glanced between the men and Maggie. If she was caught, Garth would tear up her contract, and she wouldn’t be able to tell them anything. Not even why she was there. Perfect. All she needed to do then, was kill Maggie.

Then she’d most likely wake up in an interrogation cell with no memory of what she’d done, unable to reveal Garth’s true identity, Aunt out of her life.

Works for me.

Alicia put her legs under her and jumped, her body sailing fifteen feet up in the air, reaching eye level with the banister overlooking the first floor.

Can’t try to kill her right away, not while they’re standing between me and her. Alicia thought. They would most likely move to block, and once her goal was revealed, there was no way she’d get past them.

She caught the bannister, which gave a hideous creaking noise as she swung over it, up onto the second floor. She dropped to the ground and began sprinting down the hallway at full speed, always keeping her position relative to Maggie’s last known location.

Alicia passed directly over it, and considered sending a bolt of lightning straight through the floor and roasting everything in a wide cone beneath her. After a certain level, her master had said, walls lost their meaning.

A prickle on her newly refined sense for mana warned her before her eyes, as a Binding Chain screamed through the air from the direction she’d come.

Alicia drew Guile and shoved raw mana down its edge, causing it to crackle with lightning. She let out a scream and annihilated the chain in midflight, drawing her crackling blade down on the construct and reducing it to sparkling chunks of mana.

Behind the chain was a stunned looking Inquisitor.

Where’s the other one? Is he trying to cut me off from the other side of the hall?

Alicia looked, but there was no one there.

The floor beneath her exploded in an all-encompassing wave of shrapnel as the ancient floor gave way before a shimmering chain. The wooden shrapnel bounced off the invisible shield created by the enchanted disc between her shoulder blades.

Oh right, walls have no meaning.

The chain wrapped around her legs and dragged her back through the hole, wood shrieking against her magical armor.

She should have been hurt badly by the rough handling, but between her Abilities being upgraded by the status band, and her Force armor, she felt like they hadn’t even gotten started.

Alicia drew her wand in midair, an instant before she slammed roughly into the first floor again. She crunched a couple inches into the wooden floor, but it wasn’t that bad, the force had been spread out evenly, and Alicia was a lot tougher than wood.

“Stephen! She’s got spells!” A voice echoed from above them as Alicia channeled raw mana through Cunning, creating a gust of wind that picked the inquisitor up and slammed him through the wall behind him.

“I can see that!” The bearded man’s voice echoed from the hole in the wall.

Her master had said, ‘no matter how high someone’s strength gets, their weight stays the same.’

Alicia cut the chains from around her legs, and made a sprint for the side wall, boosting her speed with a relentless gust of wind. Walls have no meaning.

The other inquisitor was dropping down through the hole in the second floor when Alicia hit the wall like a train with her elbows in front of her. The wall of the dilapidated mansion shattered in front of her way as she dove through.

An instant later, her hips encountered an instant of resistance as they shattered their own way through the wall. Then she was tumbling through the weed-choked front yard of the Campbell house.

Not wasting a second, Alicia whipped around, slinging one of Garth’s bombs out of her Status Band and straight through the hole she’d just gone through.

An instant later Moss shot out of the hole and covered the side of the mansion face in an instant.

Moss? MOSS?

Alicia should have vetted those bombs.

The two Inquisitors dove through the hole in the wall, one after the other

She stood and leveled her adamantium blade at them, Cunning behind her in her left hand. She needed to stall them long enough to stop them.

Should have known Garth’s bombs were just pretty foliage. My master likes covering things in plants so they look nice. I swear, he probably sleeps with them.

…Maybe I should wear green?

“Now Ms. Denton,” the bearded Inquisitor said. “If you allow us to help you, we can remove whatever hold this man has over you.”

Alicia chuckled, spotting the moss turning yellow behind them.

“Save the leniency talk for peasants.” She said, stalling for time. “I know what’s in store for me. If you want this heretic, you’ll have to work for it.”

They started advancing toward her, which wasn’t what she wanted. She wanted them to stay still. Better yet, have them get closer to the moss, because it was red.

Alicia funneled all the mana she could manage through Cunning and sent a vicious wind toward them, hoping to knock them back into the moss.

Both inquisitors held up shields of force, pressing forward against her wind.

Damn!

The moss exploded, with far more intensity than Alicia was expecting. The Campbell Manor turned into a raging ball of fire and shrapnel, sending out a wave of pure force that pummeled all three of them to their knees.

I wonder if Maggie was still in there. Nah, she wouldn’t be polite enough to stay there and get torn to shreds.

The force of the blast was far more than she was expecting, but at least Alicia was expecting something, allowing her to recover faster, she used the Inquisitor’s forward stumble to lunge forward, hoping to skewer the man and turn this into a fight she might actually win.

The Adamantium blade hit the gold armor and slid off, sending up a curl of gold metal as the armor shrieked in pain.

The blade finally found a chink in the Inquisitor’s armor, catching on his shoulder and puncturing through.

He gave a pained cry, and Alicia found herself grinning, until she saw a gold gauntlet cinch down around the blade. The bearded one gave her a feral smile as he held the adamantium rapier in an iron grip.

She gave one wholehearted attempt to tug the blade free. He’s stronger than me. change strategy. She focused her will and began charging the blade with mana, creating lightning along the blade.

The Inquisitor’s jaw clenched, and his fingers tightened over the blade, refusing to let go. Out of the corner of her eye, Alicia saw the younger on charging her with his sword unsheathed. He drew his sword backhand and aimed at the back of Guile, to catch her wrist and torso with a strike that would surely cut off her hand and cleave her in two.

With a snarl, Alicia let go of her sword and jumped over the strike.

Normally, jumping is a bad idea, as once your feet leave the ground, your trajectory is clear as day, leaving you at the mercy of your opponent.

Normally.

Fly

Alicia dodged the Inquisitor’s follow-up strike by using fly to arrest her fall just outside his range. his swing went wide and Alicia flew closer in a burst of speed, ramming her sharp wand toward his eye.

The inquisitor cursed and held his armored hand up in front of his eye, the hardened wand screeching as it collided with the metal.

Damn, missed again. I can’t keep this up for much-

No sooner had she thought it, than the younger Inquisitor reached up and snagged her ankle as she flew past. She tried to bend down and stab his arm or face while he was holding onto her, but the man swung her downward so hard it flattened her body out, impacting against the soft earth hard enough to knock the wind out of her lungs.

Damn it all!

Alicia switched her wand to her right hand and began building a charge of raw mana, filling it as full as she could, trying to emulate the magnificent destruction she’d seen Garth accomplish.

It wasn’t nearly as impressive, a wobbling flicker of compressed mana at the tip of her Wand. Somehow it needed to be stabilized, and Alicia had no idea how to do that.

The Inquisitor who’d slammed her to the ground followed up with a downward strike that buried itself in the ground, sending up a cloud of dust as she rolled away.

The other one was on top of her before she had a moment to stand, spearing down at her with her own sword, the silvery-blue blade sparkling in the sunlight.

That is my sword! Alicia thought with indignant rage as she brought the wand up to meet it, the adamantium blade stopping at the wand’s basket grip. With a vindictive smile, Alicia released the compressed mana through the familiar length of adamantium, sending a bolt of lightning straight up into the man’s uninjured arm.

The bearded Inquisitor, Stephen, stood stock still, smoke erupting from his burned fingers. Rather than let go of the sword like She’d hoped, he reddened and let out a guttural scream before kicking Alicia with every ounce of his strength.

The power of the strike overloaded and shattered her Force Armor, forcing Alicia to catch the kick with her ribcage. She was sent flying through the air, hitting the rusted gate of the Campbell manor hard enough to punch a hole through the wrought iron with her back.

Fly

Alicia tumbled through the air, gritting her teeth and desperately trying to hold on to her wand. Her hips and legs tingled ominously, but strangely, the pain all over her body…invigorated her, making her blood rampage through her veins with all the violent energy of an earthquake, supercharging every part of her body. Her arms, her legs, Her…

Not important. Fighting right now, she thought, ignoring the silky warmth spreading between her legs.

***Garth***

Great, Garth thought, eating his lightly salted popcorn as he watched Alicia’s manic, lusty grin. My first girlfriend since resurrecting is a masochistic battle-junkie. How does one even deal with that? Am I supposed to beat her up every time we make out? Sock her in the jaw?

Ah well, I’m sure I’ll figure it out. I’m a genius. The question now is…Cal glanced over at Caitlyn, who was watching the fight in abject terror.

He had to design a Trial to Caitlyn’s specs too. She wasn’t a masochistic battle junky, she was a voyeuristic gear-head.

Maybe I could have her make some spy gear for me, then arrange for her dad to be arrested. She would then steal aforementioned spy gear and try to break them out. But how would I make sure she wears the Amulet of Endeavor?

Ah well, the idea needs refinement.

Garth popped another bit of popcorn into his mouth as Alicia stabilized in midair, unaware that her pants had been torn to shreds, exposing large swaths of her smooth white skin.

Alicia whipped out Caitlyn’s pistol, glaring down the inquisitors in a two-fisted stance that was sure to make the highlight reel.

“Are the seeds done?” Mrs. Banyan demanded beside him.

“Yup,” Garth said, nodding at a house-sized crate full of tiny saplings. “I made sixteen different types and then took cuttings to make clones.”

“Lazy,” she scoffed, but a couple dozen of her picked up the crate and started taking it out of the city anyway.

I get no respect. Nyuck nyuck.

Garth leaned over and spoke into a plant-based microphone. “You ready with plan B?”

“Just give me the word,” Paul’s voice emanated from the long-range microphone.

“Give it a minute,” Garth said, eyes on the big screen. “Gotta let her do her absolute best.”

15/20, the ordeal of chapters is 75% complete.

I know you may be sad to see it go, but these mass releases are exhausting, emotionally.

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