Chapter 63: Enemies (絶望することはない。私の子供たちは私の一部になる。)
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- [Priestess Ciali] -
Level: 30 Human

 

The night shines with vivid green light as an aurora cuts through the sky, tearing it apart like a rift in the blackened night. A slice, like a scalpel’s cut, slides across the heavens above — a tear in reality from which endless spirits of the wayward dead pour down like rain. Screaming faces and twisted shadows that cannot ever fully reshape themselves into the forms of men and women despite their best efforts to do so plummet like corpses from a cliff down toward the city below, which has come to life in the dead of night. Bells ring all around the city as guard stations and churches ring alarm, people moving this way and that, running in all directions toward bunkers and firing positions. The witching hour is rung in by the gong of gunfire, and as the first batteries begin cascading their salvos into the darkness above, flashes of firefly orange paint over the sickly green hue that covers the buildings of the city.

Troops of soldiers run in formation, escorting priests and casters of all manners to key node points of the defense — as had been trained for. The possibility of an ‘inside’ invasion had long since been considered and taken into concept for the trainings undertaken day in and day out by the defense forces of the world tree mesa. Black boots splash against the puddles of the rain-washed streets by the thousands as men and women move, shooting and screaming as the faces of the dead they once knew come to haunt them.

Ciali the priestess runs in the center of a group of riflemen who are escorting her as they move to the central position near the city hall, which is her purview to protect as designated by the defensive battle plan of the city. Packs and uniforms rattle, the metal clasps striking against one another as they move through the storm that flashes above them all. Her eyes carry to the sky, looking as a screaming harrow descends down over them. All of the gunfire and all of the anti-air barrages do little to nothing other than illuminate the night. Cracks and explosions echo around the valley, but Tango seems fully unaffected.

Her eyes turn back forward as they run, as the man to her front and left is pierced from above. A green bolt of spiritual energy, a screaming face that is compressed and distorted by its motion as if drawn into an elongated, pinprick-like drop of rain, pushes straight into his skull from above as if a hand had pressed a needle through the crown of a doll.

He falls, tumbling down onto the wet cobblestone street, clutching his head and screaming as his helmet flies off, rolling down the way — a scorching hole in its dome.

The priestess stops, rushing over his way instead, but a hand grabs her wrist and tugs her along. “Leave him!” yells the officer as the rest of them keep running, as all around them pelt down strikes akin to shards of falling, broken glass, the blades of which cut through houses, walls, and people. Rain hammers down over them. Ciali’s robe’s hood clings tightly to the sides of her face, the wet fabric muffling the sound of anarchy all around her. A vivid shine fills her eyes, and before they can keep moving, the man who had grabbed her wrist stumbles back, a clear hole pressed in through the side of his neck from above.

 

(Ciali) has used: [Holy Barrier]

 

Holding her hands above her head, Ciali quickly projects a prismatic, glassy barrier outwardly toward the sky. The wall hovers above her, several meters in length in all directions, but immediately starts cracking as the pelting spirits from above smash down against it like hailstones against a window. All around her, people are screaming as they run, moving to various places of cover that all seem highly ineffectual. Her panicked eyes look at the bodies falling everywhere, their fresh wounds starting to ooze — but not with blood.

Thick, coagulated black tar seeps out of them, pooling around their twitching corpses in dark, dense puddles. But just the same as this leaks out of them, so too does a strange, string-like color — carrying the same shine as the piercing souls that hammer down over the word from above. Like a parasite that has bored through its host, it now worms its way out of the useless, dead husk that remains. Terrified, she watches as, all around her, slivers of green intermingle with pools of blackwater, slithering and swimming around inside of them like serpents. The more people fall, the more and more these puddles collect and form, and the more she begins to notice something as the shield above her head cracks second after second.

Everyone she looks at around her who has fallen to the streets, lying next to wet rifles, are the people who had been inside the cathedral during the sermon.

Perhaps this is just a coincidence, after all. But in this most unfortunate of moments, the voice in her mind can’t deny the obvious connection.

Ciali lifts her head just in time, watching just as the glass breaks and a single needle cuts down through the shattered shield and pierces straight through her core from above.

Broken flakes of ruptured magic fall down all around her as she drops to the street, her head rolling and her eyes staring at the twitching fingers of her outstretched hand as a puddle leaks out of her. As her eyes grow dark, a slithering, worming shape drips out of her body.

All around her, these entities and these shapes begin to rise, to take shape and form.

Her eyes grow dark as her hand clutches her gut, and the last thing that she sees is the rising of a great hissing serpentine creature — half man, half snake — pulling together out of a weave of a hundred such green threads as her own.

A monster made entirely out of slices of human spirit.

In that last instant, a human guardsman with a large metal shield slams against the monster — a man she recognizes — but not one she can speak to as her senses fail, her consciousness slipping away into the same indistinguishable, bubbling blackwater that she lies inside of.

 


 

- [Officer Shalan] -
Level: 47 Human

 

“CIALI!” yells Shalan, looking from behind his shield at the priestess lying on the ground, bleeding out. A great hissing comes to his ear, overpowering his voice as long, sharp fingers grasp the edge of the shield from the other side.

Instinctively, he pulls his arm out of the strap that holds it to his arm, jumping back as a long, winding serpentine head strikes down with frightening speed. The fangs of a snake find only air.

Officer Shalan reaches for his belt, pulling out his guardsman’s sword as he looks at the monster — one of many — that has taken form here out of the mess of the dead.

It’s a creature akin to a serpent that has failed to masquerade as a man. It stands tall with a cobra’s flared head and neck, winding down into a grotesque torso that belongs to neither man nor beast. Its legs are the same manner of confusion, an amalgamation of two separate thighs and knees that melt and blend back into each other unnaturally. This creature isn’t one that is born of either raw monsterhood or humanity, but rather a failed corruption of both. He himself is a strong, large man. But with its elongated neck and strange, lanky body that seems indeterminate if it should slither or walk, it stands above him in several heads. Cold, loveless yellow eyes look his way, and it lunges again, striking toward him in the same confused manner with both its fangs and clawed hands that are shorter than the reach of the former. Shalan dodges, ducking down and striking out with his sword. The head shoots over his shoulder, the serpent’s claws sliding along the blade of his sword, sparks flying out as if they were made of steel — the same as his blade that had pushed toward its heart.

The beast has no ribs, and its skin is taut and scaled. The wrap sits so tightly around the bones and organs that it does have that he can see its bulging heart slowly pressing in and out through its exterior, coming closer toward him as they meet.

— His shoulder burns with wildfire, and he looks out of the corner of his eyes, seeing the long serpentine head that has wound its way around the back of his neck, pressing its long, sharp fangs through the padded guarding of his shoulders. Black, seeping fangs weep venom into his body that he begins to feel immediately.

A loud crack fills the air, the monster spasming, its fangs pushing deeper still for a moment as he screams, stumbling to the side.

The heavy body of the creature drops to the ground, its neck flopping and the curved fangs ripping out a section of his skin and flesh as gravity pulls the monster’s corpse to the ground. Officer Shalan stumbles, holding his shoulder with one hand, as his body begins to shake and burn with wildfire from the inside out. In his other hand is his sidearm, the pistol that he had pulled from his belt in order to shoot a single round through the monster’s unarmored heart.

Stumbling, he lifts his hand again, his vision spinning as he fires several more rounds into the corpse on the wet cobblestone street, only hitting a few of the shots even at this distance because of the swaying of his vision and his arms, all of which lose their sense of coordination.

The pistol clicks empty as he stumbles back, falling down the ground, gritting his teeth as he crawls over next to the priestess lying there, his hand grabbing her shoulder to shake her as he flops down, crawling over the black puddle and lying over her back as the poison seizes his heart as all around him reins anarchy.

His eyes look up toward another serpent that has formed for the mess of dead soldiers lying everywhere that approaches him. He doesn’t have the strength to get up or to reload his pistol — which he can’t even aim anymore. His sense of orientation is gone, the poison having worked its way to his brain. He looks at the monster, but his ability to decipher if it’s coming from straight ahead, from left, from right, from behind him, or from above is entirely gone. His vision fails, only identifying a great number of shapes that he can’t count or place — as if the cobblestone street had risen up itself like a wave, towering over the serpent.

He dies.

But if he had lived a little longer, if he had been in a more capable state of mind, he would have still been unable to process the sight of some tens of thousands of rats swarming together like a hive and crashing down over the serpentine Naga, eating it alive as they stream down the street.

Millions of rats pour out of the sewers, out of the pipes of fountains, out from below cobblestone facets, and out from basement windows and cellars. Rats pour down from rooftops that they have nested in and drop out of the fallow trunks of trees that they have hollowed out. Rats drop out of the heads of people — who they have hollowed out in much the same fashion.

The city falls into anarchy as its citizens — the monsters of the invasion and the creatures of the old world that had existed before this one — all begin to descend down on one another below the shadow of the world tree, the limbs of which do little to stop the pelting rain of damned souls.

 

 


Well, you didn't think I'd let everybody get out alive, did you? Sounds like you need to read my other stories. Or not. You know, you do you.

 

すべての母親はいつか子供を失う。 All mothers will lose their children someday.

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