Fiori returned just before sundown, having followed the stray man back to their “hideout” that was apparently just under an hour walk away, she quickly went to work telling the three of them of what she found.
Amethyst was shocked at the amount of information Fiori had managed to gather in such a short time, if the camp had been an hour walk away that meant even at a full sprint through the woods it would still take them 20 minutes to get there, given she was only gone for two or three hours she couldn’t have spent more than thirty minutes there before returning.
Fiori informed them that the bandits are held up in a small cave on the border of the Dragon maw mountains, though they already knew the general location from the request, and that there couldn’t be more than a handful of them left. She said seven at the most, apparently having overheard them saying that the group Ethan had taken out in the woods had been half of their band that was returning to camp, having apparently just happened upon the party of adventures and hoped to take us out quickly.
Fiori also told them that tonight would likely be the party’s only chance to attack them given how handily Ethan had cut their numbers in half, the band would likely cut tail and run at sunrise if they didn’t pack up and leave right now, which was a possibility given how panicked the man that got away had been.
At the end of Fiori’s report, they all looked to Amethyst, asking if she was still up to completing the request. None of them would have blamed her if she said she wasn’t ready, especially after taking an arrow to the face, but they had already come all the way out here.
Amethyst took a deep breath through her mouth as she peeked around a tree to see the opening of the cave. She didn’t know if she was happy to see two men standing in the opening or not, but she was relieved to have confirmation on whether or not the bandits had remained. That particular argument had taken up the entire walk here, Ethan had bet they would stay while Fiori was positive they would flee before the party arrived.
Amethyst turned back to see Ethan happily nodding to Fiori who handed him a small pouch. She rolled her eyes at their completely carefree attitude before looking back to the mouth of the cave.
Honestly there was no way of telling how deep the cave went or if there was another entrance, hell they couldn’t even be sure how many people were actually in there. But the simple fact was, it was the only way in which they knew about, meaning they had very limited options on how to clear them out.
One option was to have Mira collapse the cave though, that wouldn’t get Amethyst her trait she needed for her promotion, and there was no way of telling if there were anyone other than the bandits in the cave. Fiori hadn’t heard of any captives but without revealing themselves there was no way to be sure before they made their way into the cave.
There really is only one option, Hecatolite yawned in her mind. Just run up there and wipe them out so we can head to bed.
The sun just went down…
There's only two reasons to be up after dark, and unless you plan on getting really cool with a lot of stuff really fast, I doubt we are going to do either of them.
I don’t even want to know, do I?
Let’s just say Ferrari would enjoy herself.
That’s what I said, Floaty.
You’re… you do that on purpose don’t you? Amethyst sighed as she watched the two men standing watch. She didn’t want to admit it, but Hecatolite was right, given the situation there was only one option if they wanted to be done with this tonight.
Of course, they had the option of waiting until morning and hope to surprise them while they fled. But even Amethyst knew their best chance of a surprise attack was tonight, even with the bandits’ increased attentiveness, at least one man in there was worn out from today meaning they had one less fighter…
“Our best bet is probably just to rush them, isn’t it?” she whispered, turning back to her companions.
Fiori shrugged, “probably, or we could wait and see what they do in the morning.”
“We could try and take those two out silently and sneak in but,” Ethan rubbed his chin as if thinking, the action looking a bit strange given he didn’t have a beard. Apparently, Mira disliked facial hair, a sentiment that Amethyst could honestly agree with after Applejack attempted to grow one. She didn’t mind his fur but once the hair got to a certain point it was… unpleasant. “Honestly it’s a cave, once we are in, we’re probably going to wake the whole damn place.” He tapped his foot on Amethyst's armored boot.
She had noise canceling enchantments on her armor, but his point still stood. There was no way the four of them were going to quietly enter that cave without alerting someone…
Holy hell you’re still standing out here! Hecatolite yelled in her mind surprising her, apparently, she had “zoned” out while the party deliberated.
We are planning, you know, the thing mom keeps telling you to do.
Pff, hurry up, I would like to get this done “before” we turn 15. Go on, chomp chomp.
I mean sure, you can chop them too if you like.
“Fine.” Amethyst shook her head as she looked to her companions. “Let’s go in now, no point in putting it off more.”
The three of them shared a few looks before they all nodded. “Ok, I’ll take the guy on the right.” Ethan pointed at Amethyst, “you get the guy on the left. Don’t worry about being quiet. Fiori you watch over Amethyst as well as taking care of anyone who runs for it while Mira and I clear the cave. Got it?”
None of them protested, though Amethyst was a little insulted that he seemed to think her fight would take that much longer than his own.
Don’t let it bother you, just think of it as an opportunity to show off to the kitty cat. Hecatolite apparently now fully awake as they all made their final checks.
Amethyst didn’t reply to her sister as she pulled her sword from her spatial storage, though she wore two separate spatial rings as well as a storage bag on her waist, she had grown use to keeping her sword in her personal “spatial pocket”, the spell that served as the base for the spatial rings. Sure, it meant she needed to constantly feed a small amount of mana into the spell, a negligible amount as long as she didn’t attempt to store too much given her traits for space magic on top of her ever-growing mana pool, but it was comforting to know that as long as she had mana she would always have her sword no matter what.
She couldn’t help but shiver as she felt the weight of her sword appearing in her hand, she took a deep breath before looking at Ethan and nodding. She had already prepared herself as much as she possibly could, now she just needed to follow the plan.
She followed Ethan out of the cover in a dead sprint, both of them readying their weapons as they charged the two unsuspecting men.
The man on the right didn’t even get a chance to react as Ethan passed him, in one fluid motion he slashed the man’s throat without slowing, he died without ever knowing what happened. His entire body went slack as Ethan vanished into the cave mouth.
The man on the left however, had been much more fortunate, drawing an ax before Amethyst could reach him, her shorter legs giving her target more time to react as his fellow watchman collapsed.
Amethyst's sword rattled in her hands as it collided with the man's ax at an awkward angle causing her swing to pass wide as it was deflected upwards.
Amethyst, shocked that her sword had been blocked, quickly attempted to backpedal to create any space between them as her blind charge ended with her too close to swing her long sword fully. The man however, showed no signs of allowing her to do that as he fell onto her in a flurry of powerful strikes.
The man’s ax repeatedly bounced off her sword, his strikes though powerful felt… slow to her. not slow enough for her to make use of the openings but slow enough for her to easily block them, not that it was doing her much good as each strike sent painful vibrations up her arms. She didn’t even have time to think as she parried his attacks while being pushed back. each one of his blows forcing her to step back again and again.
She had hoped to create space by backing away, but every time she would step back, he would press forward not needing as much room as her given his much shorter weapon.
Her eyes trained on the broad head of the ax, each strike she parried leaving a slight dent in the crude weapon, the glint of the blade coming down capturing her full attention as a very real fear crept up the back of her spine. The fear that she may have over judged her capabilities.
Just as the fear was starting to seep in, as the pain in her arms was growing to be too much, the man made his move.
Just as she had done a dozen times at this point, she raised her sword to block a downward swing only for the man to suddenly extend his arm slightly. The barely noticeable movement caused her sword to pass below the head of the ax before he pulled downwards, hooking her blade with the head of the ax. The motion caught Amethyst by surprise as she was violently thrust forward, her sword nearly being ripped from her hands as her entire body lurched…
I… I made a mistake. Was the only thought she had when she noticed her fatal error. She had been so focused on the ax she didn’t notice that he was only swinging it one handed.
Her mind went completely blank, aside from the defining alarms from her threat detection, as she watched the second blade of an ax traveling toward her face in slow motion. All of her enchanted armor, all of her training, her sword, her worries... It was all for nothing.
Amethyst's vision went completely dark as she heard what sounded like metal grinding against stone. She figured that was just the sound of the ax grinding against her skull as her entire body relaxed. she was thankful it hadn’t hurt… wait…
“I AM NOT A SHIELD HECATOLITE!” Babylon’s robotic voice bellowed though the silent night.
The sound of Babylon yelling sent a jolt through Amethyst's body as she opened her eyes to see the obsidian slab before her. The terminal gave her a much-needed moment to finally look around.
The man had backed away when his attack was blocked, a look of shock on his gruff face as he looked on in disbelief. She looked to see Fiori standing a few feet away, her arm outstretched as if reaching for something… no she had thrown something. A look of horror on Fiori’s face that quickly melted away as she noticed Amethyst with her head still firmly attached to her body.
No one had expected the invasion of a world screen, the sudden obstacle causing the man's ax to bounce back just in time to cause Fiori’s thrown dagger to miss, leaving everyone stunned as Hecatolite’s voice ran through Amethyst's mind.
Why are you still playing with this guy?
Playing!? Is that what you think this is? She screamed internally as she panted for breath.
Well… yea. I mean I wont judge, but you really shouldn’t play with your food.
“I am not going to eat him!” She screamed out loud causing the man to jump, snapping out of his daze as he looked around.
Really then why the hell is this taking so long? I figured you were trying not to ruin the meat. If we’re not eating him, cut him in half and let’s go. Hecatolite punctuated her words with a clapping sound.
If you hadn’t noticed I’m kind of fighting him with everything…
The hell you are, if you were fighting with half of everything you had, the vultures would have to drink this guy through a straw.
Are you serious right now! Amethyst froze as the man turned to Fiori, clearly realizing her as the bigger threat. The feline woman… easily blocking the man… is she that much stronger than me?
Of course, she is! Or did you forget who the hell you are when that arrow cracked you in the nose? That’s it, I’m making a face guard!
What do you mean who I am? I know who I am? Amethyst watched as even with one dagger Fiori danced around the man as he bellowed obscenities at her. Amethyst wondering briefly why Fiori wasn’t ending the fight before realizing her companion was waiting for her….
Do you really? Could have fooled me.
Your point Hecatolite. Amethyst growled as she grit her teeth, feeling useless as she watched Fiori putting herself in needless danger for her sake.
Well for a second there I thought you were under the impression you were dad.
Why would you think that!? Amethyst could no longer hold back her frustration as she felt her blood start to boil, for the first time she was… mad at Hecatolite. The feeling was alien to her as she felt her sister… laughing.
Well, why else would you willing go toe to toe with a dude three times your size! I mean look at the guy, he looks like an over inflated balloon. Hecatolite laughed in her mind before she felt her sister’s anger, the emotion causing even Hecatolite to pause before she sighed. Amethyst, you’re not strong like dad, or fast like mom, nor do you have the control of Alexa. So why are you trying so hard to copy how they fight?
Amethyst's anger instantly snuffed out at her sister’s word, her question finally making sense as she watched Fiori dodge another attack. A simple fact dawned on her as she recalled her blunder earlier when she stood up out of cover.
There you go, Hecatolite’s voice was calm and even as she made a simple exclamation. You are Amethyst Lapidary; you’re not a swordsman, so stop fighting like one.
The entire world seemed to stop as a wave of mana exploded from Amethyst, the pulse forcing its way through the forest sending creatures scattering as the nearby trees bent as if trying to escape from the young woman, the two-battling people before her freezing as they turned to look at her.
Fiori was the only one who saw her, Amethyst standing aside a floating world screen, the marks of the devils slowly etching their way onto her face as she opened her radiating purple eyes. Fiori locked eyes with Amethyst for a brief moment before Amethyst vanished, a loud cracking sound echoing though the forest, the world screen flashing to life a moment later as it announced, “Trait gained; Lethal.”