57: The Idiot
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The angel crew had more to the plan than simply flying down out of the mountains. They had a plan to force our enemies to split themselves up. Since we had far better mobility than them with our wings, most of the group went for Vallas, while a smaller decoy group flew south towards Santarriral and the Duchess of Parcosia.

Being high up in the sky, it would be impossible for our enemies to tell which group had the crown and which was a fakeout. The more obvious choice for a good leader was to the south, and it wasn’t hard to see we were the type of people who actually cared about that kind of thing. Sadly, we knew we wouldn’t make it there, so we were heading towards Vallas and the next best idiot with power.

Once the two groups had flown enough to force our enemies to make a choice between chasing the southern group or not, they would wheel back around and rejoin the main column. Everyone without wings was obviously headed west, and people would be able to see it. Hopefully the doubt would be enough to draw some people off our asses.

The flight was tough on my wings, but the way Dawn clung to me was simply divine. I loved feeling her all pressed up against me, it was so fucking good.

Civette looked like she was glued to Ethilie in a similar manner. It was kinda cute to see, although I hoped the angel woman would be gentle with our broken little healer. She needed love and attention first and foremost.

As we began to lose altitude, we could see converging parties from all directions, and I felt my excitement rise as I saw each and every one. This was going to be a fucking shitshow and I was so here for it.

“This is going to be a rough landing,” Dawn yelled into my ear as we saw the enemy gather at where we would be forced to land.

An evil thought occurred to me in that moment, and with a spreading grin, I asked, “Say… how about we make this a rough landing for them instead. You can survive this fall right?”

“Yeah, definitely… and also yes, definitely,” she laughed, placing a kiss to my cheek. “This will be awesome, let’s fuck their shit up, babe.”

“Okay should I just, throw you at them?” I asked, loving every part of this idea already.

“Do it.”

My wings were pretty tired, but with a little help from my speed boost I was able to get some height back. Enough for a proper dive, right into the face of oncoming fire. Arrows and spells flew past, thankfully missing us as I made for center mass of the grouped enemies on the road ahead. Looks like they weren’t fighting each other, unlike the clusterfuck outside the dungeon.

I released Dawn and watched as she was pulled away above me. Huh. Dunno what she was doing, but I had my job. I pulled as many abilities as possible out, electrifying my whole body and accelerating my speed to ludicrous degrees. Both rocket drives kicked in with intense force, combining with my momentum amplifier to make my descent truly cataclysmic.

My impact was heralded by the boom of thunder, my fist rupturing the cobblestone road with devastating force. My emergency shield exploded, but took enough of the damage to keep me whole. Interestingly, the lightning within my body discharged in a wave from the epicenter, shocking anyone who was hit by it and temporarily locking them in place as their muscles seized.

Standing, I glanced around with a smile of exquisite joy. That was when fire began to rain down from above, scorching anyone and anything that wasn’t me. I think this lot were just every random opportunist, because my word they were so much squishier than that first group.

My eyes blew wide when I saw Dawn, embodying her name in the way a goddess does. Her body was as black as night, cracks of burning heat showing through all over while her eyes blazed like twin suns. Out of her back sprouted to massive wings of molten fire, the limbs cracked lava while the feathers were bright flame.

Her sword was nowhere to be seen, instead each wingbeat rained balls of white hot flame, her hands joining in with scorching beams of death. Jesus, I guess I wasn’t the only one with some sort of ultimate form. When the hell had she gained that?

She wasn’t invulnerable though, so I got to work taking out any attempt to shoot her down. My first target was a girl trying desperately to take aim with some channeled spell or other. My rocket powered fist took her in the face, sending her cartwheeling backwards. Flashing past her, I spun in a kick that put her into the ground, almost literally. That problem was solved.

Her friends were none too pleased with me though, and I found myself fending off a very grumpy tank. Too bad for him I had a girlfriend who was just as protective of me as I was of her. He cooked in his nice shiny armour, the game yanking the plug on him before he could experience the hell that dying inside that deathtrap would have been.

The rogue in the group thought he was being sneaky, but his blade hit air as I dropped into a crouch. He stared at me in confusion as my fingers closed around his ankle, then squealed in fear as I leapt back into the air with him still very much in my group.

Reuniting him with his healer probably happened in a way that neither of them would have preferred, and both exploded as the lightning I’d charged into the rogue detonated.

Mage, Tank, Rogue and Healer... taken care of. Good, onwards.

The Ravensmiths fell on our enemies amongst this chaos, and I watched with glee as none of them were able to put up a credible defence against the onslaught of holy feathered warriors. It was a fucking massacre, and I was able to sit back with hand on hip as the slaughter spread.

“Wow,” someone whistled, and I turned to find Ethilie gently touching down next to me, depositing a Civette who didn’t quite look ready to let go of her yet. “You’ll probably have to pay the Duke for the road, I hope you know that.”

“Worth,” I grinned, cycling some of my gauntlets’ components to get chunks of said road out of them. The whirring crunching sounds they made were satisfying on a primal level.

“Typical,” Civette muttered, making a great big show of dusting herself off.

Goodness, the girl was adorable. Adorable and grumpy, that is. “How was the flight, was Ethilie gentle with you?” I asked, thoroughly enjoying the wide eyed blushing look that I got in return for my words.

“It was… fine,” Civette muttered, refusing to look at both me and her taxi angel.

Ethilie’s face took on an expression of shocked hurt, and she placed a hand over her heart. “Just… fine? I did everything in my power to make you comfortable!”

“Okay, it was more than fine! Thank you for flying me here,” Civ blurted quickly, evidently not catching the angel’s playful undertones.

“I was joking, dear healer,” Ethilie said, breaking out into a grin, hand going out to ruffle the blonde girl’s hair. “Just joking, although I was glad to be of service.”

Civette still refused to meet either of our eyes, choosing to continue pouting at the ground. She was saved from further teasing by Lauric and Taylor touching down beside us. The latter letting Millie off her back.

Lauric began speaking immediately. “This is the hard part. I’d like to keep Taylor and the rest of your party in the center of our formation while we move for the city.”

“Some of my chat moderators just messaged me,” Taylor said, staring at a messenger window. “Looks like the duke has gotten wind of this, the ducal guard is mobilising and we don’t know if they will be friendly or antagonistic.”

“Shit, alright…” Lauric frowned, watching as his guild cleaned up the quick battle and began to form ranks around us. Dawn was still flying around raining death on the stragglers. “Okay, tell the other party to come and make to reinforce us. If the duke and his boys aren’t friendly, we’ll pivot and go south.”

That would absolutely suck, and significantly lower our chances of getting that crown and sword to someone who’d actually reward us. I really hoped the duke was friendly.

As they continued to talk, Dawn dropped down next to me, extinguishing her crazy fire form in the same moment. “Hey,” she said, giving me a cocky wink. “What did you think?”

“Hot,” I replied, cheeky grin on full display. I leaned in, cupping her cheek to hold her steady for my lips to make landing. The kiss turned deeper than I’d intended, with her grabbing me by the head and holding me there.

When she released me, it was to give me an adoring stare. “You’re a dork and I love you.”

“I love you too,” I smiled, feeling my heart flutter as her words reached my soul.

“Come on lovebirds, we’re moving!” Taylor called, and sure enough, the Ravensmith’s column had begun to make its way down the road.

The fighting was tough, and trapped as we were on the ground, we began to take casualties. Several times, Dawn and I were called upon to break an enemy formation, Lauric having loved the initial strike we did earlier. We needed the follow up support of his guild though, our tactic might have killed a few and sent them into disarray, but there was a point each time where they began to gather themselves again. That was the point where the Ravensmiths hit them, dashing and chance they had of regrouping.

Afternoon wore on this way, every few miles we’d meet another group that wanted to test us, and each time they failed. We began to get reinforcements too, the first Ravensmiths who’d fallen having respawned and made their way back to us.

As soon as the enemy realised that we were respawning, most began to back off, realising that we were all but farming them at this point. It was pretty satisfying to see them stand back and simply watch us pass them by on the road. Yeah, that’s right… don’t fuck with us.

I was tired as a sparrow trying to fly into a hurricane as the city finally came into, and I groaned in weary resignation as I saw the Duke’s men all lined up in front of the gates. Dude better meet us with a smile or I was going to orphan his fuckin’ kids, I swear.

We pulled up to a halt about two hundred meters from their lines, and Lauric called our party up to the fore with him. “We’re going to walk out there and wait halfway, see if someone comes out to meet us. I hope to god that they do, because we’re fucked if we have to fight them. Those NPCs are OP as fuck.”

“Good a plan as any,” Taylor commented, shucking her shoulders as she readied herself for whatever was to come.

Heading out into that flat stretch of road between the two formations was nerve wracking, especially when it became clear just how outnumbered we were. There must have been a full thousand of the ducal guard standing before the city gates.

It wasn’t long before we saw a matching party move out from their ranks, and we waited with anxious, bated breath as they made their way towards us.

I saw several regular guardsman with their group, but also three men who were obviously important. Directly at their center was a man whose golden armour bore a small circlet atop the helmet.

“Holy shit, that’s the Duke himself,” Lauric muttered, passing a meaningful look to Taylor.

“I reckon that means we’re in business,” my sister said with a note of relief in her voice.

Lauric nodded agreement as the other party arrived, coming to a slow halt several meters away.

“Greetings, Blessed adventurers!” the Duke called, stepping forward. His tone made it sound like he was giving a grand announcement rather than meeting a potentially hostile force in parlay.

“Greetings, your grace,” Lauric bowed, motioning for the rest of us to do so as well.

As we did so, the man gave a chuckle, “Oh, no need for that. If what I have heard is true, each and every one of your brave band is a hero! A hero, I dare say!”

Okay… not what I was expecting…

“Oh, uh… yeah,” Lauric blinked, clearly taken aback by the duke’s strange enthusiasm.

“Tell me, did you really find it? Did you really delve deep into the cursed caves and find the crown?” he asked, lowering his voice to as much of a whisper as he could without us losing the ability to hear him at all.

“Uh, yeah… we did,” Taylor said, summoning the crown from her inventory. “The six of us,” she continued, pointing to our party. “Then my guild, the Ravensmiths came to help secure it for you, as well as another called Hale’s Hope.”

“By the gods,” he breathed, staring at the dusty golden relic. “It’s really true… after so many years. You six… you six will live in legend.”

Oh-kay… that was… a bit much, actually. This guy sounded like he was going to nut over the whole thing.

“We also found the sword that the old king originally went down there to find, by the way,” Taylor said, summoning the sword as well. Damn that thing was pretty.

This time, the Duke really did make a sound like he was having an orgasm. “May I step closer, to see them?”

“Uh… sure, but we’d really like to know what the plan after this is,” Taylor said cautiously, eyeing the enthusiastic duke up like he was a dude she’d just met at a club and she was trying to figure out if he was hitting on her or just really friendly.

“Ah, rewards!” he exclaimed, slapping himself in the side of the head like he’d forgotten it. It made a ringing sound and I had to stifle my amusement as I saw him shake his head to clear the sound from his ears. “Yes… rewards,” he mumbled, clearly having brained himself with that little maneuver. “I would not dream of taking these incredible relics out of your hands until we have discussed proper reward for your heroics.”

“Okay, that’s a relief. We’ve been fighting people who wanted it for themselves for like a day straight now,” Taylor said with a sigh, although she didn’t entirely drop her guard.

“Yes, vultures, the lot of them!” the Duke exclaimed with an emphatic wave of his arm. “If they had been true heroes, they would have gone down into that wretched pit themselves and retrieved it! You six are true heroes however, and as I said, you deserve a reward to match your valor! I ask that you please stow the relics until we have discussed the details.”

“Wait, you want me to put them back into my um… inventory?” Taylor asked, her confusion mirrored in the faces of our entire group.

“Of course!” the man opposite us exclaimed. “To ask otherwise would be to tempt their loss to others, and I have no need to take them from you by force, nor would I ever want to! It wouldn’t be very kingly of me now would it?” he said the last with a wink, and it was about then that I realised something.

This guy was an idiot. A good one, but he very clearly bought into the whole knights in shining armour thing. He wanted to be a king of legend, the ones that fought to protect their borders, took care of the sick and was loved by all. It looked like he really truly believed all that crap. Which meant… he might just be perfect for the role. So long as he could find a set of good advisors and ministers. Ones that wouldn’t manipulate him into doing evil shit.

“So, what’s the plan then, uh… your grace?” my sister asked, and I could see she had come to the same conclusion that I had.

“My guard and I will escort you, your party and your guild through the city and to safety,” he said, puffing out his chest. “There, we will discuss the just rewards that you all deserve. Then, of course… we will feast!

Oh, now he was speaking my language. I wonder if he’d let me shadow the chefs to see how they did things. That would be super interesting.

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